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Meet the Press transcript for November 6, 2011

Transcript of the November 6, broadcast featuring Jon Huntsman, Bill Richardson, Haley Barbour, Alex Castellanos, Kim Strassel, Chris Matthews and Maggie Haberman.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, can Herman Cain's campaign survive?


MR. HERMAN CAIN: Excuse me. Excuse me.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: New details emerge about sexual harassment charges against him when he headed a Washington lobby group. He struggles this week to get his side of the story straight.


MR. CAIN: I am unaware of any sort of settlement.

Yes, there was some sort of settlement.


MR. GREGORY: This morning, the impact on his campaign and the rest of the GOP field. Plus, debating the president's record. As a new jobs report shows the economy is still sluggish, is this another blow to his re-election effort? With us, two influential voices in their parties, Republican Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour and former Democratic Governor of New Mexico and 2008 presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

Then our Meet the Candidates series continues this morning with former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, Jon Huntsman. Can a more moderate Republican win the nomination in this political climate?

Finally, it's our political roundtable. Unanswered questions, where does the Cain story go from here? Is there a parallel to the Clarence Thomas saga as some conservatives allege? Plus, what are the leadership lessons President Obama could learn from President Kennedy? With us, author of the new book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," "Hardball" host Chris Matthews; Politico's reporter covering the Cain story, Maggie Haberman; Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel; and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Exactly one year to Election Day 2012 as Republicans battle for the right to take on President Obama, and some new signs this morning that the sexual harassment accusations, rather, against Republican presidential front-runner Herman Cain, first reported one week ago today, may in fact be affecting his standing with voters. A new online Reuters/Ipsos poll released just this morning shows Mr. Cain's favorability ratings falling 9 points from a week ago. Last night, appearing after a tea party debate fundraiser with Newt Gingrich in Texas, Mr. Cain visibly frustrated, tried once again to put this issue behind him.

(Videotape, last night)

MR. CAIN: Do you see what I mean? You all--I, I was going to do something that my staff told me not to do and try to respond. OK? What I'm saying is this, we are, we are getting back on message.

Unidentified Man: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

MR. CAIN: End of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts. Read all of the other accounts where everything has been answered. End of story. We're getting back on message, OK?

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: But how does he do that? How does he get back on message with so many questions still to be answered? Here with us to discuss this and the rest of the 2012 race for the White House, the governor of Mississippi, former chair of the Republican Party, Haley Barbour; and the former governor of New Mexico, 2008 presidential candidate and Democrat, Bill Richardson.

Welcome to both of you.

Haley Barbour, let me start with you, Governor. You said this week Herman Cain's got to get all the facts out on the table. Now he's saying, "That's it. I'm not talking about it anymore." How does he do that?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-MS): Well, I think it's very hard to get back on message if everybody is interested in these other issues. When I was at the White House under President Reagan, one time Henry Kissinger spoke to us, and he said, "In politics and government, when it's bad news, get it out fast. That bad news is not like fine wine. It doesn't improve with age." So I think what he wants to do is get back on message, and the way to do that is to get all the facts on the table, get it behind him.

MR. GREGORY: But nobody can say, Governor Barbour, that...

GOV. BARBOUR: Now, I'm not one of those that thinks this is fatal.

MR. GREGORY: Finish that point, I'm sorry. You do not think it's fatal.

GOV. BARBOUR: I'm not one of the people that thinks this is necessarily fatal. It's--but not hurt him at all. But he needs to know--but people need to know what the facts are. And that's, that's the challenge for him right now to get those out as quickly as possible. Get it behind him.

MR. GREGORY: And, and I didn't mean to interrupt, but I was trying to make the point that if you look at how he's handled this this week, there is no way that you can say this has been an effective, consistent way to just get the facts on the table.

GOV. BARBOUR: Well, there's no way you could say it's been good for him.

MR. GREGORY: And Governor Richardson, how do you see this? Does this disqualify him?

FMR. GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM): I don't have all the facts on this case, but sexual harassment is serious. We have to protect women in the workplace. I think Mr. Cain has to answer these questions. You know what is most disturbing is a poll that I saw, Washington Post poll, 55 percent of Republicans think this charge is not serious. I think it's important that he get the facts out. I don't, I don't have the facts. I think it's important also that we look at how women are faring in Republican primaries. Personhood amendments are sprouting out everywhere. The extreme right wing of the Republican Party has taken over to the point where we now have an amendment in several states that criminalize a woman's right to choose, that prevents in-vitro fertilization, that prevents birth control, even in cases of rape or incest. I think what you're seeing is a huge assault on women's rights in the Republican Parties and an extreme right wing that has taken over, that it's going to make it very difficult for anybody in a general election in the Republican Party to be a centrist...

MR. GREGORY: But, Governor Barbour, let me, let me, let me have you respond to that and put some context behind it.

FMR. GOV. RICHARDSON: ...and to win the election.

MR. GREGORY: Because this is the personhood amendment in Mississippi that says that life would begin at fertilization. And anti-abortion activists are now trying to push this now to a new level. You said you were uncomfortable with it, but you actually did support it. What concerns did you have?

GOV. BARBOUR: Well, look, I believe life begins at conception. I'm not a physician or a theologian. I just don't know any other way--any other time you can say life begins other than at conception. Some concerns that I had were about out of what I call ectopic pregnancies where the fertilized egg lodges outside the womb, say the fallopian tubes, but have been assured that there's no question in medical practice that that's two lives and the mother's life would, would be protected. But there's no question that the wording down here is what concerned people, not the idea that life begins at conception, but that the wording of it is. But I am surprised my friend Bill says that Republican women are doing bad in our primaries since a Republican woman won the primary and succeeded him as governor of New Mexico.

MR. GREGORY: Can I, can I ask one other question, though, to you Governor Barbour, just about Cain. Look, his fundraising's up, they say, this week. His poll standings seem strong, do not really hurt him aside from the favorability rating being down this morning. In some ways, do you see the Republican Party, at least an aspect of it, doubling down on him on this thing?

GOV. BARBOUR: Well, I think Bill Richardson made a point. When they--when people said in the poll they didn't think it was serious, I think most of them were saying they don't take seriously the charges. They don't believe they're true, that they believe that they are a political attack on Cain. If that's the truth, then what Herman Cain needs to do is push very hard to make those facts plain, get all the cards on the table face up. I do think you have the smell here of Clarence Thomas, of where people thought he was clearly just being attacked by somebody that for years and years and years and years had never said a peep about him until he became a conservative African-American nominee for the Supreme Court.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Yeah, although let's remember something here...

GOV. BARBOUR: I think that is more the issue here rather than it's bad.

MR. GREGORY: Let's remember something here. His accuser here has decided not to come public, to, you know, to put her face on this, did not want to come out and endure everything here. This was a settled matter. This was actually a settlement that did exist. She's not coming out here to hurt him any further.

GOV. BARBOUR: Well, you know, that's a two-sided coin for Herman Cain.


GOV. BARBOUR: It would be better to be able to confront your accuser just like you can in a court of law, and it may make other people say, "Well, gee, if she's not willing to say it publicly, I'm not so sure I believe it."

MR. GREGORY: All right. She did have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Governor Richardson, I want to ask you about something else. We've been talking about sexual harassment. The fact is that this was also a leap when Herman Cain made some serious rookie mistakes on foreign policy, including China, saying they had a nuclear capability--or denied they had a nuclear capability when they've had it since the '60s. He had lunch with Henry Kissen to try to shore up--Henry Kissinger, rather--to shore up those concerns about his foreign policy credentials. He's also talked about an issue that you care a lot about and that's immigration. Back in October he talked about building an electric border fence, and then I asked him about it the very next day on this program. Watch this exchange.

(Videotape, October 15, 2011)

MR. CAIN: Part of it will have a real fence, 20 feet high, with barbed wire, electrified, with a sign on the other side that says, "It can kill you." It'll be in English and Spanish.

(Videotape, October 16, 2011)

MR. GREGORY: On immigration, you said it at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they tried to cross illegally.

MR. CAIN: That's a joke, David.

MR. GREGORY: It's a joke. So that...

MR. CAIN: That's a joke. That's a joke.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: How egregious do you think that was to talk about immigration that way when this is a serious issue in this primary fight?

MR. GREGORY: Governor Richardson.

FMR. GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I think this totally irresponsible. What you're seeing is Republican candidates for president tripping over as to who is more anti-immigrant. This is going to be very costly with Hispanic voters in Florida and Nevada and New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona that are probably going to settle this election. And it's a, it's an irresponsible position. You know, you talked about foreign policy, every president has to have foreign policy experience. And this president has a great record. You talk about al-Qaeda, the elimination of al-Qaeda more in the last two and a half years than since 9/11. The president initiated the military operation against bin Laden. He's getting us out of Iraq, drawdown on Afghanistan, a Libya successful mission, a START treaty reducing nuclear stockpiles with Russia, nuclear materials initiatives, free trade agreements. This president has restored America's respect abroad. We've strengthened our alliances. He's leading in the European effort to restore the international economy. Herman Cain, when he talks about not knowing that China has a nuclear weapon, here China is probably emerging as the next superpower. You can't have presidential candidates and not have some kind of interest and degree and knowledge of foreign policy.

MR. GREGORY: All right, I'm going to leave--I'm going to make that the last word. We're going to continue the debate for sure. Governors, thank you very much.


MR. GREGORY: We're going to continue our Decision 2012 Meet the Candidates series with Jon Huntsman now, a man who is no stranger to the White House, having served four presidents over the course of his career. In 2004 he was elected as Republican governor of Utah, re-elected there in 2008. Shortly after that he accepted a post as the U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama. And he's making his very first appearance right here on MEET THE PRESS.

Governor Huntsman, welcome.

MR. JON HUNTSMAN: David, it's good to be with you. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Good to have you here.

I have to ask you about Herman Cain; he's your competitor. He's on top of the polls right now. He's a front-runner in this race.


MR. GREGORY: I talked to a Republican this week who, who said, after the events, "Is he disqualified, unqualified, or will the conservative base just love him more?"

MR. HUNTSMAN: That's totally up to Herman Cain, a person I've come to know as a decent, decent man and a good candidate. And now it's been said over and over again, it's up to Herman Cain to get the information out and get it out in total. But that's important because we've got some really issues to discuss in this campaign.


MR. HUNTSMAN: And this is taking all the bandwidth out of the discussion. So we're not able to talk about jobs, we're not able to talk about our position in the world. And that hurts, that hurts the American people.

MR. GREGORY: But you think he can't say "end of discussion" until he gets more information out?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Until all the information comes out. It's got to come out in total. Legitimate questions have been raised, and that information has to come forward.

MR. GREGORY: What is your bigger concern as a rival? The sexual harassment controversy or lack of foreign policy experience that he's showing?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I think, at some point, the substance really does matter. And you've got to have a commander in chief who actually understands the world in which we live. It's complex, it's confusing, it's unpredictable, and it's not going to get any less so as we move forward. So the more that we can spend time focused on the issues and plumb out whether or not the candidates have what it takes on the leadership side and on the experience side, and in terms of rebuilding trust in the system. The one thing that concerns me most, as I look at where we are, there is--we're running out of trust in terms of how the American people see our key institutions of power, whether that's Washington and Congress, whether the executive branch or whether Wall Street. And when you start running on empty in terms of trust, that puts our country in a very vulnerable spot.

MR. GREGORY: You know China well. Herman Cain said this week they didn't have nuclear capability. What does that say to you about the level of preparedness to be president on his part? That has to be a factor in how he's evaluated.

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I think there needs to be a baseline, a level of knowledge from a foreign policy standpoint. But specific to China, I mean, as far as the eye can see into the 21st Century, the United States and China are on the world stage. And whether that's in the economic realm or whether it's in the security realm, we've got to figure out how to make that relationship work. And it would be nice to have a president in office who actually had a head-start and actually knew them intimately well in terms of the economics and the security issues involved.

MR. GREGORY: Mitt Romney was the one who you were supposed to be drafting most closely. Everybody talked about Huntsman, Romney fighting this thing out in New Hampshire and beyond. You haven't come close to him yet. Yet, you think there's a real issue with whether he can beat President Obama.

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I, I think there is an, an issue on the flip-flops as it relates to trust. I don't know that he can go on to beat President Obama, given, given his record. I mean, when there is a question about whether you're running for the White House or running for the waffle house, you've got a real problem with the American people.

MR. GREGORY: And his big flip-flop to you is what?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I think there's a range of them. But when you have something as central as life that you flip-flop on, when you have a Second Amendment, when you have health care, you have a range of issues that--on taxes, for example, that he's been on both sides of. And I think that what the American people want today more than anything else is a level of consistency. They want trust. They want a level of trust in their elected officials.

MR. GREGORY: You think that's a reason why he's capping out at where he is among conservatives at 25 percent or thereabouts?

MR. HUNTSMAN: I, I think that could very well be the issue with not being able to break beyond a certain level. So, if you have 100 percent name recognition in a place like New Hampshire, everyone kind of has done the analysis and made their evaluation, you know, there may be something there that, that doesn't allow you to get beyond a certain ceiling.

MR. GREGORY: I want to ask you about faith and the Mormon faith. You're a Mormon, so is Romney. This was a poll that Quinnipiac took in May that indicated, if you look at the numbers, more than a third think that they're uncomfortable with someone of the Mormon faith being a presidential candidate. Do you think there will be a Mormon president, and when?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Oh, of course there will be. I think this election cycle you--we could very well prove that point. But I think it's a nonsense issue. I, I completely think it's a nonsense issue. There is no bandwidth left in our political discussion to focus any of our effort or time on religion when we've got jobs, when we've got an economy that's broken, when this country has hit the wall. I don't think people are spending a whole lot of time evaluating one's religion. They may have in years past, but I think we're beyond that point this election cycle.

MR. GREGORY: You've talked about other candidates in the race. We've talked about Cain, we've talked about Romney, but you've also talked about some who were too outside the mainstream, too extreme in their views to be elected president. Are you talking about some of your rivals right now in this race?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I'm talking about a Republican Party that dismisses mainstream science. I think in order for us to be successful we've got to win over some independents, we've got to do the math. The math has to be in our favor. You can't run away from mainstream science, for example, and expect, and expect to win the race. You can't be on an extreme end of politics and expect to win over the independent vote. That's going to be a critical calculus in making sure that the next president is a Republican. You can't avoid that reality.

MR. GREGORY: But you would not put Romney in that camp per se. Yet, you're saying unequivocally he cannot beat President Obama?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Listen, when I stand on the debate stage after the whole debt ceiling debate has been had and every single person on that stage was in favor of default, I mean, I don't think you can get any more extreme than that at a time in this nation's history where we've got to stand up as 25 percent of the world's GDP, we've got to fix the problems as opposed to default. A default would have destroyed this economy. Retirements and 401(k) programs would have been shipwrecked.

MR. GREGORY: But my question is, Mitt Romney in your view cannot beat President Obama?

MR. HUNTSMAN: I, I think when you're on too many sides of the issues of the day, when you don't have that core, when there's that element of trust out there, I think that becomes a problem, and I think it makes you unelectable against Barack Obama.

MR. GREGORY: You wouldn't support him if he were the nominee?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Oh, of course I would. Of course I would support him.

MR. GREGORY: But you wouldn't--you don't think that he'd be able to overcome...

MR. HUNTSMAN: But I think the electability issue is a, is a very real one.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about where you are on the ideological spectrum because I think some people may have some questions. You've talked about some candidates being outside mainstream issues of Republican thought. Here you were in 2008 at the Republican nominating convention, national convention, giving the nominating speech for Governor Sarah Palin.

(Videotape, September 4, 2008)

MR. HUNTSMAN: We are looking for a beacon of light to show us the way.

Our nation's challenges are real and daunting, but we will not despair. The future depends on leadership, the kind of leadership that carries a confident and independent spirit, borne out of experience, hardship, disappointment, and success. We are looking for Sarah!

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: You were under the weather, I should point out. Are you a Sarah Palin Republican?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, listen, I was asked to introduce her and nominate her because I think I was about the only person who actually knew her after John McCain had, had picked her as a running mate. I was chair of the Western Governors Association, I had worked to a limited extent with Sarah Palin. So when you're looking for somebody who can actually go up and nominate her, I was asked to do it, and I did as told.

MR. GREGORY: So you mean you pumped up the case there? You didn't really believe...


MR. GREGORY: ...that the country was waiting for Sarah Palin?

MR. HUNTSMAN: I, I wanted to help my good friend John McCain. I wanted to help his ticket. I wanted to move the Republicans toward victory, and I stepped up and I did what I thought was right.

MR. GREGORY: You think she was capable of being vice president of the United States?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Oh, I think she would--I think absolutely she was capable of being vice president. She was elected as governor. She served a couple of years well, and I think she would have learned a lot on the job.

MR. GREGORY: Do you share some of her views?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, I, I haven't put that to the test. I don't know what her views in, in foreign policy. I don't know what her views are in terms of tax policy and economic policy. But I assume that they would be in the tradition of conservative governances we have seen with a lot of good Republican governors.

MR. GREGORY: Here's the satirical paper The Onion with a headline on Thursday, "Huntsman Quietly Relieved To Be Polling Poorly Among GOP Voters." Quote, "`These People Scare The Bejeezus Out Of Me,' Says Candidate." That's a fake quote, but sometimes satire has a ring of truth to it. Are you a moderate?

MR. HUNTSMAN: You know, I don't think people should confuse a moderate attitude with, with a moderate record. I mean, just look at what I did as governor of the state of Utah. First of all, I was twice elected in Utah, which is a conservative state. The second time, 80 percent of the vote. I got all the Republicans, got a lot of independents, and won a lot of Democrats, too. That's called leadership. But you look at the leadership, and it's based on pro-life, always have been, pro Second Amendment, pro growth, the largest tax cut that state had ever seen in history, the second voucher bill ever in the nation, I signed. Healthcare reform without a mandate. I mean, the list goes on and on. You'd be hard pressed when you look at my governing record not to say that's a good, conservative governing record and style.

MR. GREGORY: I want to ask you about one of your own flip-flops that's gotten some attention, and that's on the issue of health care. Back in 2008, the issue of an individual mandate, can you compel folks to buy healthcare insurance under a reform plan, this is what you said, "I wouldn't shy away from mandates. I think if you're going to get it done, and get it done right, mandate has to be part of it in some way, shape, or form." Now you're saying a mandate is unconstitutional.

MR. HUNTSMAN: We had...

MR. GREGORY: Doesn't this smack of the same kind of flip-flops that you say...

MR. HUNTSMAN: We had...

MR. GREGORY: ...makes somebody unelectable?

MR. HUNTSMAN: We had--well, you have to see what I delivered as governor of the state. What I signed my name to was a market-based healthcare reform package. We had a wide-ranging discussion with health care--this is enormously large and complicated as an issue. And we still need to find a way forward to close the gaps--that closes the gap on the uninsured, that gets us more in the way of affordable healthcare policies. We still don't have those today. But we, we looked at both sides of the issue. We spent months and months immersing ourselves in the data, in the policy implications of what a mandate would do vs. a market-based approach, then we opted for a market-based approach.

MR. GREGORY: But should...

MR. HUNTSMAN: But did we live with both sides and debate those? Of course we did. That's what you do with government.

MR. GREGORY: You said in 2008 "you've got to look at mandates." Now you're saying it's unconstitutional.

MR. HUNTSMAN: But look what I signed. What I signed is basically where we were at the end of the discussion. I signed a market-based system. And today, although it hasn't completely closed the gap on the uninsured, I believe a market-based system with expanded choice and options is ultimately going to be right for this country.

MR. GREGORY: You have to compel people to buy insurance to make it work?

MR. HUNTSMAN: No, you don't. You have to have affordable policies. You've got to have affordable policies, which we don't have enough of today. And then you've got to break down the barrier state by state to allow somebody in the state of New Hampshire, for example, to access an affordable policy in the state of Utah. You can't do that today. That'll drive the marketplace toward greater affordability, and I think that's where we need to be longer term as opposed to a mandate.

MR. GREGORY: You've said that the 2009 economic stimulus was too small. Do you think government has to play a role now if it's going to help us get out of this cycle of slow economic growth?

MR. HUNTSMAN: We're not going to bail out banks anymore in this country. The quantitative easing programs have been proven not to work. They're proven not to work. We've blown through trillions and trillions of dollars with nothing to show on the balance sheet but additional debt. No uplift in the well being of our people, no improvements in joblessness. I say, you know, the stimulus that I thought was going to work and that we talked about initially was that directed toward more in the way of business tax cuts. That's the way it was talked about initially, at least a significant part of it, and I think that would have been a good step. But, beyond that, we've wasted a whole lot of money in this country. The will of the people is such that we won't do that again.

MR. GREGORY: If you were the deciding vote, you would have voted against TARP?

MR. HUNTSMAN: I would have voted against TARP.

MR. GREGORY: To bail out the banks.

MR. HUNTSMAN: I would have voted for...

MR. GREGORY: If you were the deciding vote, you would have voted against it with the Treasury secretary and heads of major banks saying we could be risking the entire economy.

MR. HUNTSMAN: Listen, it's...

MR. GREGORY: We don't know for sure.

MR. HUNTSMAN: You, you, you can't go back and relive those days. You can say that we've learned a lot, a lot of lessons from those days.

MR. GREGORY: But no, but you can, Governor. This is important, and I've asked other candidates this. It's easy now to look back and say, "Oh, I wouldn't have supported that." If you were the deciding vote under those circumstances when, when you have major figures saying we could risk the entire U.S. economy if we don't bail out the banks, you would have said, "Wrong thing to do. I'm going to vote against it."

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, let me tell you what I did say. I said we need more of a Chapter 11 reorganization step first, is what I said about the auto bailout and beyond. We don't have a Chapter 11 reorganization provision. We should have had something like it. I mean, I went on the record saying that about, about TARP at the time. And that's the way I feel today.

MR. GREGORY: Quick one on social policy. The personhood amendment that we talked about in Mississippi, for anti-abortion forces, kind of the next chapter, saying that life begins at fertilization. Do you agree with that?

MR. HUNTSMAN: I think it goes too far. I mean, I'm pro life and always have been. I have two little adopted girls to prove the point. But I think life begins at conception. And I, you know, have certain caveats or exclusions in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. But I've, I've always been--I've always been pro life and proud of my record.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about New Hampshire. You're betting the house on New Hampshire, doing well there. First look at your standing in the national polls with everybody, you've got Romney and Cain in front. You are down at 1 percent in the polls if we look at the national numbers. Here are some of the trending polls in New Hampshire just over the past month. You're still well below 10 percent. You're not catching on. What has to happen in New Hampshire for you to stay in the race? And what has to happen or, if whatever happens, that gets you out of the race?

MR. HUNTSMAN: We're going on number 100 in terms of events in New Hampshire in the next week or two. Our town hall meetings are packed; we're connecting with people there. I have every confidence that the work we're doing on the ground, coupled with some advertisements on the air, we're going to be up and we're going to be up considerably over the next two months.

MR. GREGORY: Will you put your own money in the race if you have to?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Yes, we already put a little bit in. But, you know, as with, with, with arms control policy, you don't want to unilaterally disarm. We've gotten the race off to a start, at least by putting some of our own in. But what is noteworthy is, as we go up in the polls in New Hampshire--you know, we've come from zero, and now we're at 10 or 11 in a recent poll--the fundraising as come up about 250 percent. So it follows the marketplace. And as we do better in New Hampshire, we do better fundraising, too.

MR. GREGORY: If you don't win New Hampshire, can you stay in this race?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, New Hampshire is it. I mean, we're, we're putting everything into New Hampshire, and we're doing it right. New Hampshire is the window through which the people of that state and, indeed, the people of this country, get to see, meet, and analyze the candidates. There's no artificiality. It's all the real thing. And they want leadership and they want real ideas.

MR. GREGORY: So surrogates in a campaign matter a great deal to any campaigner, and you've got three of the best. Your three oldest daughters making some fun about Herman Cain's smoking ad, and they've put it up there. This is what it looks like in part.

(Videotape of Jon Huntsman ad)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Wearing fake mustache, glasses) No one's ever seen a trio like the Jon 2012 girls. We need you to get involved to make sure our next president is based on substance.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Wearing fake mustache, glasses) Not sound bites.

Unidentified Woman #3: (Wearing fake mustache, glasses) Check out our dad at and follow us on Twitter@jon2012girls.

(Girls then, using bubble wands, blow bubbles in unison)

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: I don't think I've seen anything like that. What can your daughters do for you that you can't do for yourself?

MR. HUNTSMAN: Well, so you give a major speech on foreign policy, David, you know, changing America's role in the world, and you get three, three hits on YouTube. My, my daughters go up with some silly ad, and they get a half a million or whatever it is today. It goes viral. So this is the world of politics we live in today. You get your message out in different ways.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Governor Huntsman, thank you very much.

MR. HUNTSMAN: Pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Look luck on the trail.

And coming up, a wild week in Republican presidential politics. As Herman Cain struggled to get his story straight, will the events of the last week be a game-changer in the race, and can Romney pick up any more conservative support. Plus, the road ahead for Obama's re-election campaign as the economy remains sluggish. Our political roundtable weighs in. MSNBC's Chris Matthews is here talking about his new book on Jack Kennedy, as well as Maggie Haberman of Politico, The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Right after this break.


MR. GREGORY: Coming up, they're all here. Will the events of the last week be a game-changer in this rate? An assess--race, I should say--an assessment of the road ahead for Obama's re-election campaign as well. Joining me, Kim Strassel, Maggie Haberman, Alex Castellanos, and Chris Matthews is here. He's right here. They're all ready to weigh in right after this break.


MR. GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable discussion now. Joining me now, editorial board member and columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel; senior political write for Politico covering the Cain story, part of the team that broke that story, Maggie Haberman with Politico; Republican strategist Alex Castellanos; and our friend Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball" and author of the new book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," a book that really breaks new ground.

Chris, great to have you here for the first time.

MR. CHRIS MATTHEWS: Thank you, David.

MR. GREGORY: Welcome to all of you.

Well, let's talk about Herman Cain and where we are here now a week after Politico broke this story. He appears last night with Newt Gingrich, Maggie Haberman, and then comes out and talks to the press and lays it out there, as we said at the top. This is what he said.

(Videotape, last night)

MR. CAIN: Do you see what I mean? You all--I, I was going to do something that my staff told me not to do and try to respond. OK? What I'm saying is this, we are, we are getting back on message.

Unidentified Man: Thank you, Mr. Cain.

MR. CAIN: End of story. Back on message. Read all of the other accounts. Read all of the other accounts where everything has been answered. End of story. We're getting back on message, OK?

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: So how does he really do that when there are more questions, which are primarily what?

MS. MAGGIE HABERMAN: Well, I think among the questions are does he remember the second woman who we reported on? He says he has no memory of her whatsoever. Other media outlets have confirmed that there was another woman who had made some kind of complaint about sexually inappropriate behavior.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. HABERMAN: And Mr. Cain's campaign last night not only said they don't want to talk about this anymore, but they, you know, said they were going to email people the code of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists, and did to one of my colleagues. I think this is where you're going to see the pivot. They are going to say the media is out to get him. I think that it has served them well this week.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. HABERMAN: I think that's how he's gotten around some conflicting answers about what's happened. I don't know that he's going to be able to not answer or at least not get asked them anymore, going forward.

MR. GREGORY: Well, one of the issues, though, Kim, is that you have the women involved who are saying, "We don't really want to get involved." And it's kind of the final word on this, if it's the final word, at least coming from them is what Joel Bennett said outside his law offices on Friday. He's an attorney for one of the accusers who got a financial payout from the National Restaurant Association, and he said this:

(Videotape, Friday)

MR. JOEL BENNETT: My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically, and it had very specific incidents in it, and if he chooses to not remember or not acknowledge those, that, that's his issue.

(End videotape)

MS. KIM STRASSEL: But, look, I think the average American out there is not actually--I mean, the press is paying attention to all the details and the ins and outs of this.


MS. STRASSEL: I don't know if the average American has absorbed much other than the fact that Herman Cain potentially has some sort of scandal, they don't know what the details are. Look, if you're going to run for office, there's two things you have to ask yourself. One, do you have anything in your past that might come out like this? And--because it will come out. There is no way. It's just a function of modern politics. The second question is, if it does, how do you handle it? And I would argue that the real issue for Herman Cain right now and the problem that he has had is his handling of the entire sort of episode. Because people look at that, and they absorb it. They want to know how a presidential candidate will react in a crisis situation, and, and they seem to be prolonging this and making the problem worse.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Guys, Chris?

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, it seems to me--I have a basic rule about politics. If it's better than it looks, they'll tell you. And if it's worse than it looks, they won't. So if he has a story to tell which improves the image we're getting of this somewhat murky case, he'll let us know. And he hasn't.


MR. MATTHEWS: So he's probably looking at his polls, and he's probably saying, "As long as it stays like this, and I'm head-to-head with Mitt Romney, which is all I have to be, is the top alternative to Mitt Romney going into Iowa, I'm in like Flynn."


MR. MATTHEWS: So I think he won't change his pattern we're watching this morning.

MR. GREGORY: And I think it's just the opposite. I mean, I think there's like an alternative universe thing that they're doing here, which is to say, "Hey, not only are we not going to talk about the substance of this, not only are my answers going to be all over the place in the course of a week, but what this is really about is the press. What it's really about is official Washington. I'm an outsider. See, they're just trying to take me down." Alex, I mean, he--and he--it seems like he's--they say they've raised a million six in the past week. I talked to their Iowa folks who say they're getting new precinct captains. I mean, they've got a core group saying, "Right on. We're behind you."

MR. ALEX CASTELLANOS: I talked to the campaign last night, it's now up to $2 million since Monday morning. The campaign knows they stumbled all weeklong, and they think they've learned something from this. But yes, this is their anti-establishment strategy. It's much like the Obama strategy: Let's make this a choice, not a referendum on Herman Cain.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. CASTELLANOS: The other choice is the news media. Is it working? You bet. You know, these stories don't usually destroy a candidate in a--cost...


MR. CASTELLANOS: ...him his support right away. The first thing people do is freeze in place.


MR. CASTELLANOS: And they go, "Oh my God, bucket of cold water. What's happening here?" But if these charges aren't extended, if there isn't more information, what will happen is these antibodies that have rallied around him will actually make him stronger, protect him from future attacks. And Chris I think is exactly right. If Herman Cain wins Iowa, he could be the nominee.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me say, there's also the specter of race here. I mean, you heard Haley Barbour, Governor Barbour say this has a ring of Clarence Thomas to it. When Herman Cain was here a couple of weeks ago on MEET THE PRESS, it was very interesting. I asked him about the Supreme Court, and if he was--there was a foreshadowing going on in this race. It was very interesting if you look at this exchange.

(Videotape, October 16, 2011)

MR. GREGORY: Who's your model of the ideal Supreme Court justice, who you would appoint?

MR. CAIN: I would say that there are several that I have a lot of respect for. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of them. I believe that Justice Clarence 1homas, despite all of the attacks that he gets from the left, he basically rules and makes his decisions, in my opinion, based upon the Constitution and solid legal thinking. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my models.

MR. GREGORY: Has he been targeted unfairly, you think?

MR. CAIN: I think he has been targeted unfairly.

(End videotape)

MR. MATTHEWS: David, you said something before that was really smart, I think, double down is the right phrase. I think there's a mood in this country now, right now of crankiness. "Don't mess with me. I'm unashamed. Stop attacking me." America has to stop taking these blows. Remember with Chris Christie, with that caller that called into that talk show...



MR. MATTHEWS: ...and he said...

MR. GREGORY: About where he would send his kids to school.

MR. MATTHEWS:'s none of your business.


MR. MATTHEWS: That none of your business attitude, it's an attitude now. And this guy personifies it. He's the most self-confident man I've ever met. He can walk through thunderstorms, this guy. And maybe that's what America--he does happen to be black, but that is almost a happenstance. He's homegrown, he's Southern, he's conservative, he's a businessman.


MR. MATTHEWS: He's everything that the right wing wants.

MR. GREGORY: But can we bring up the Clarence Thomas thing because what's he saying? I mean, there's a message out here.

MS. STRASSEL: This is...

MS. HABERMAN: He prebutted, actually, this whole issue back in May...


MS. HABERMAN: ...where he raised Clarence Thomas, said that, you know, "I expect to be the victim of a high-tech lynching also." So he had, a while ago, brought up this concept. He has said he doesn't want to be, you know--have race be part of his, his campaign. That's not a factor here. He has introduced it. This is a difference, you actually raised it before with Governor Huntsman, this is not quite the same as Clarence Thomas because there were settlements, there were agreements with these women. And these allegations were made 15 years ago. It's not coming up just now.

MS. STRASSEL: I think the timing actually matters, too. This is not just race. This is a 1990 thing. You've got to remember when you had Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, this was early '90s when the--all those hearings brought this heightened awareness of sexual harassment, and the claims came flooding in.

MS. HABERMAN: That's right.

MS. STRASSEL: And if you look at all of the numbers, this was the height of when all these things--and I think as a result, a lot of voters in some way write off some of that period.


MS. STRASSEL: And they sort of say, well, this is just one of those things that happened at that time period. And that may also have something to do with the fact that people are not taking these claims as, you know, as, as a killer for his campaign.

MR. GREGORY: Can I just also point out that this was also a week when he had these foreign policy errors. You heard Huntsman say very clearly, you know, if there's an area disqualifying, it's going to be that. And that--so my question out of all of this, favorability down, is he a 25 percent guy, like we've been saying about Romney. Can he not really get above that?

MR. CASTELLANOS: You know, Republicans are going to have to make a compromise this year whichever way they go. If they pick Romney, it's going to be a candidate that they're just not passionate about. But if they pick any other candidate that's left, they're going to pick a candidate that they really think is not quite ready to be president.



MR. MATTHEWS: I think the right...

MR. CASTELLANOS: ...can one of the these candidates mature, or can Romney catch fire? Either way somebody's going to have to settle here.

MR. MATTHEWS: Not--to not know that Red China, as we used to call it, has nuclear weapons and has had them since the '60s is really a problem. It means you haven't read the newspapers for half a century. It's really dramatic. I mean, how could you pass over that fact?

MR. GREGORY: But there's also this issue--but there's also a--we talked to Darrell Issa from the House Government Oversight Committee. A former businessman from California--it was just part of our Press Pass conversation that you can see online--this was--he's a Romney supporter, I should point out. But this was his take on Cain that might be interesting as we go forward here in this campaign. Watch.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): I've always thought as a businessman turned politician that Herman Cain has the same problem I had in my first race back in '98, to go directly from being a businessman without substantial time in the government arena, both the vetting and the knowledge of it is really hard. It's virtually impossible. And that going directly to president seems to be a bridge too far.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: I mean, just the handling of this story may really be the evidence of that.

MS. HABERMAN: Right. I mean, I think that's right. Look, I think with Mitt Romney, especially, right, you're seeing the value of when you've run before and you have experience running it really does help you. I don't think that's the only thing at play here, though, with Herman Cain. I think that they had 10 days to respond to this. They couldn't quite figure out where they were going with it.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Right.

MR. CASTELLANOS: If Herman Cain--but if Mitt Romney collapses--Mitt Romney's about to get two months of brutal television. You know, some of Mitt Romney's flexibility and uncertainty's built into his stock price, but America's never seen $20 million worth of flip-flop ads. If he collapses, if he collapses, any of these Republican candidates could end up as the nominee because then you're going to be picking from a basket of fruit in which none of them are really ripe. Anybody could win.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me, let me get a break in here. We'll come back and talk more about the Republican race, but also about President Obama's standing and what leadership lesson from Jack Kennedy he can apply to his own presidency, former President Kennedy. We'll come back after this.


MR. GREGORY: We're back. We've talked so much about Herman Cain, but I want to talk about President Obama and his re-election effort and what he faces. These are the unemployment figures that came out this week, and the total, as you look at the arc of his presidency, now at 9 percent. Look at that flat line, if you look at 2011, and this is a real problem. I mean, we're talking about slow growth in the economy. The jobs bill doesn't really seem to have much prospect.

Chris Matthews, you write about former President Kennedy. I should just point out, I don't refer to him as Jack Kennedy, but I've been around you so much this week that I've just been saying Jack Kennedy, and I...

MR. MATTHEWS: That's all right.

MR. GREGORY: I know, but that's just not me. I mean, I just don't refer to him as that. But your book is "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero." And you write in Time magazine about what I call the leadership legacy of, you know, Kennedy to Obama. But even Obama's leadership legacy in his first term, you write this in Time magazine. "Word is out that Obama is a `transactional' politician; he cuts deals with people, but he doesn't forge bonds. When is he going to bolster this political forces? I keep waiting." He doesn't have a lot of time.

MR. MATTHEWS: I know. And he doesn't like the company of fellow politicians. You have to like their company. This forging of bonds is essential in politics. It's what I always thought politics was. You begin to--Jack Kennedy started to accumulate troops in high school, when he was in the Navy. He saved the lives of 10 crewmen. They, they looked up to him. He went out and risked his life in the, in the middle of the South Pacific to save their lives. He looked out for his troops. That--word like that gets around. "Hey, this guy looks out for his troops." The Kennedy party, which my old boss, Tip O'Neill, recognized was a unique party of people that looked out for one guy: Jack Kennedy. And he was their hero. They wore the tie clasp from the PT 109 days. They fought for him, they died for him, they killed his enemies for him. Bobby Kennedy was the number one enforcer. Who is Barack Obama's Bobby Kennedy?

MR. GREGORY: But also the leadership--I mean, the development of leadership, it's not just a style, but it's a core belief. That's really what you're writing about in "Kennedy."

MR. MATTHEWS: Right, it's command authority. And Jack Kennedy got it in the Navy. He was a commander of a, of a ship basically, a boat, and these guys looked up to him and he saved their lives. Then, of course, he started--he had to build his own political party in Massachusetts. The regulars were all against him. The Tip O'Neill crowd were all against him. And then he had to build his own political party to defeat the FDR crowd, the Eleanor Roosevelt crowd, the Adalai Stevenson crowd. And the LBJ crowd on Capitol Hill. He had to create a political party which was loyal to one person, him. And he built it from the ground up. Obama cuts deals. He raises money, he makes people ambassador, he does all the normal things. But there's no, there's no sealing there.

MR. GREGORY: I know, he makes, he makes guys like Jon Huntsman ambassador. Look how well that worked out.

MR. MATTHEWS: Right, and he pits them all against him, then he splits and runs against him. That's what--that's exhibit A. If the guy isn't mad at you personally...


MR. MATTHEWS: ..."I made you ambassador to the most important country in the world, and you come back and run against me in the same term?"



MS. STRASSEL: This is particularly dangerous with Congress. I mean, there's actually an active feeling among many Democrats in Congress, not only has he not built up, but he has done things that hurt them. And as you go along and if you have--remain 9 percent unemployment--this hasn't happened exactly yet, but you've got 20-some vulnerable Senate Democrats, you've got dozens of vulnerable congressional Democrats. When do they abandon this guy? Do they? When do they say he is an anchor? He's been going around to places in the country, they haven't been showing up to stand next to him.

MS. HABERMAN: That's right. There's been a--this theme all along where people do not fear this president also. There is no fear of retribution. It's sort of just like Jon Huntsman is able to go cut and run.

MR. CASTELLANOS: There's no Bobby Kennedy.

MR. MATTHEWS: No. When I sit and watch MEET THE PRESS every Sunday, which I sit and watch dutifully, I keep waiting for somebody to come along, and when you hit them hard with tough questions, I keep waiting for somebody to say, like Durbin, who basically grew up in the same territory with him, "This?now, this guy's a good man, damn it. Strop trashing him. He's great."


MR. MATTHEWS: And say it to the other guys and go after this--I never hear anybody do it.

MR. CASTELLANOS: That's not the culture of the Obama administration.

MR. MATTHEWS: That's not the culture.

MR. CASTELLANOS: He is, he is an intellectual. And sometimes you get those intellectuals in politics who think, "Oh, politics is this thing that is really beneath us."

MR. GREGORY: Why, and what about...

MR. CASTELLANOS: "It's something that other people do." And they don't play hard ball.

MR. GREGORY: And look what else you've got. How about the new Clinton book?

MR. CASTELLANOS: Kennedy did both.

MR. GREGORY: Look at the new Clinton book, right?


MR. GREGORY: "Back to Work." When, when I was covering Bush, he used to say "the shadow returns" when he was talking about Gore. And it was the shadow of Bill Clinton, which of course Gore was trying to fight from. And now here again the shadow returns and Obama doesn't like it either.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, how many Clinton people are out there today? There are more Clinton people out there today than there are Obama people. Today they're ready to move. If Hillary calls up and says, "I'm going," I mean they're there. She won't do it, but of course. But, I mean, it's--but they're ready. Eddie Rendell is ready this second for Bill to call, "She wants it. She's doing it."

MR. GREGORY: All right. I'm, I'm going to take a break here. I want to talk about swing states when we come back. And before we do that I want to point something else out. We are marking a special day here at MEET THE PRESS. Our 64th anniversary, the first MEET THE PRESS broadcast 64 years ago today, November 6, 1947. I, I was not watching that one. The longest running television program in the world.

MR. MATTHEWS: I was watching it.

MR. GREGORY: You were?

MR. MATTHEWS: That was a good show.

MR. GREGORY: You can take a look back, by the way, at some of the history-making highlights from six decades of MEET THE PRESS. It's on our website. You can also find an extended conversation that I'm going to have with Chris Matthews about his new book, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero." That's our Take Two web extra. It's all on our website, meetthepress.--mtp, I should

We have to take a quick break. We'll come back with our trends and takeaways, a look at what was said here today and what to look for in the coming week. Plus, the hot political stories trending this very morning. We'll be right back.


MR. GREGORY: We're back. A reminder of what made news here this morning. Jon Huntsman and the GOP fight for the nomination, taking on Mitt Romney in our interview. Watch:

(Videotape, earlier this morning)

MR. HUNTSMAN: I think when you're on too many sides of the issues of the day, when you don't have that core, when there's that element of trust out there, I think that becomes a problem. And I think it makes you unelectable against Barack Obama.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: He's saying that about Mitt Romney, Kim Strassel, echoing David Plouffe, who, on this program a week ago, said that Romney has no core.

MS. STRASSEL: Well, this is Romney's problem. I mean, you ask people in his campaign even, they will admit big problem is the reputation as a flip-flopper. And the problem is that this has put Romney in a box in that everything he comes out with, he, he's unable to respond to the dynamics of the primary, he's unable to respond to some of these things because people want him, for instance, to back away from Romneycare in, in, in Massachusetts...


MS. STRASSEL: ...or they want him to keep pace with 9-9-9 or the flat tax plan. But he is worried that if he goes out there and, and, and amps it up and changes his views, then he gets nailed again as flip-flopper, so.

MR. GREGORY: I'll come to you in a second, Alex. Here's our Trend Tracker. As you might expect, what we've been talking about, the sexual harassment controversy topping the list. The debate with Cain. I don't know if we can really call that a debate, the Cain/Gingrich debate. And Biden defending Romney, by the way, on the issue of, of religion.

But, Alex Castellanos, look at the swing states, according to USA Today/Gallup, that shows a widening field here on which to operate. And if you look at the approval rating for Obama, he's upside down in the key states that are going to matter. They say they've got numerous ways to win this thing, the White House does, but Republicans are looking at some pick ups there.

MR. CASTELLANOS: Yeah. I think, I think right now in all the swing states, look, no president has ever won being 10 percent below on the Consumer Confidence Index. When presidents usually lose, Barama's actually--Obama's under that right now. But here's the good news for Mitt Romney. If he's the nominee, he's running against a president who's also flip-flopped on a lot of stuff, whether it's the Bush tax cuts, taking money from lobbyists, having lobbyists working in the White House. He attacked McCain and Hillary Clinton for healthcare mandates and taxing Cadillac healthcare plans. He proposed both. So it could be one flip against a flop.

MR. GREGORY: And on that, on that note, thank you, all.

Before we go, a quick programming note. On Wednesday, you can watch the Republican presidential candidates at it again as they debate on CNBC, "Your Money, Your Vote," CNBC, Wednesday at 8 PM Eastern.

Finally, here today, we want to take just a moment and remember a legend in this business. Andy Rooney, who passed away on Friday night. If ever there was a Sunday evening staple, he was it. Most famously known for his commentary on "60 Minutes" where he would put a fine point on some of life's daily frustrations and, at times, say things that were controversial himself. He always considered himself a writer first, and he sat down with NBC's Tom Brokaw recently and talked about how he got into the news business after covering World War II for the Army.

(Videotape, December 2, 2010)

MR. ANDY ROONEY: I was there at Saint Lo. I don't know why I was there. I mean, I don't know--I risked my life. And--but I was--here I had this newspaper, came out every day, and I wrote my stories, and they were printed. And all the guys I was with every day, they--soldiers read my stories. I've never been seen or read like that since.

MR. TOM BROKAW: Well, that obviously led you into a career that we're all grateful for.

MR. ROONEY: I'm grateful for it. Yeah, I like being in the, the news business. It's the best there is.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Our thoughts go out to his friends, family, and, of course, his colleagues at CBS News. Andy Rooney was 92 years old. Terrific life.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.