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Meet the Press transcript for Jan. 22, 2012

Transcript of the Jan. 22 broadcast featuring GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Republican Strategist Mike Murphy, Co-host of 'Morning Joe' Joe Scarborough, BBC Correspondent Katty Kay and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday the South Carolina surprise. Newt Gingrich wins and wins big. A double-digit victory over Governor Romney in the first Southern primary.


FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): We've proved here in South Carolina that peoper--people of power with the right ideas beats big money and with your help we're going to prove it again in Florida. Thank you, good luck, and God bless you.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: We will talk to the winner himself live this morning.

Also, how does the Romney campaign now respond?


FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): This is a hard fight because there's so much worth fighting for.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: With Florida the next big test, how does Governor Romney connect to conservatives and make the case that he alone can beat President Obama? We'll ask top Romney supporter, the Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie.

Then our special political roundtable as we wrap up the results from South Carolina and analyze where this wild race goes from here. Plus, the president's standing two days before his State of the Union address. How will he use this election year to advance his agenda?

Joining me, the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough; Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy; anchor of the BBC's "World News America" Katty Kay; and NBC's political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd.

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

MR. GREGORY: Good morning. This thing could go on for a while. Here are the final results from South Carolina. Newt Gingrich coming from behind to beat Mitt Romney by 12 points.

The chant was "Newt can win." It is being called the South Carolina scramble. After three major contests this race has three different winners. The most recent, of course, Newt Gingrich. He joins us live this morning.

Mr. Speaker, last week we joked about you coming on every week. Here you are again. Congratulations on a significant victory.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, David, thank you and the people of South Carolina were very generous and very hospitable and we really had a wonderful evening last night.

MR. GREGORY: So what is the message that South Carolina has sent, and what does it mean for this race?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think they sent two really big messages to--which I wish the national establishment could pick up. The first is real pain. There's tremendous unemployment, people really are hurting. The number of people who walked up to me who've been out of work for a year, a year and a half. People who want to work hard, who want to have a better future, who want to provide for their families. That was really there.

The second, though, which I think nobody in Washington and New York gets is the level of anger at the national establishment. People who are just sick and tired of being told what they're allowed to think, what they're allowed to say. Again and again, it came up, as you know, in the two debates. The highest, the most intense passion in both debates was a head-on collision about what the news media was doing. And I think there's something real and deep there that happens all across the country and that we're seeing everywhere and certainly in Florida, which has had one of the most painful periods with housing mortgages and the price of housing and the difficulties in the housing area. As they look at the big boys on Wall Street they look at the guys in Washington, they know none of that help got down to average everyday Floridians. And I think that gap creates a real anger against the national establishment.

MR. GREGORY: You are running against the establishment, you're trying to run as an outsider. You talk about housing in Florida. You were a consultant or depending on your point of view, a lobbyist...


MR. GREGORY: ...for one of the mortgage giants. I'm wondering how you think you win that inside/outside game given...

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, David...

MR. GREGORY: ...your history?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...wait a second, wait a second, David. David, you know better than that. I was not a lobbyist, I was never a lobbyist, I never did any lobbying. Don't try to mix these things up. The fact is I was an adviser strategically and if you look at the only thing ever published by Freddie Mac I said, "You need more regulations." If you look at the only article ever written about my talking to the Congress it was in The New York Times in July of 2008 and I said, "Do not give them any money." Now I opposed giving money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I think they both should be broken up into four or five much smaller companies. And I've long felt that. And so I think that to jump from one to the other is simply wrong.

In Florida my case is going to be very simple. You have a clear establishment candidate in Mitt Romney. Look where his money comes from, look at his background, look what he did in Massachusetts. And you have somebody whose entire career has been a Reagan populist conservative going all the way back to the 1970s. I think that's a pretty clear contrast and I think Floridians would like somebody who speaks for them to Washington, not, not somebody who speaks to the establishment to them.

MR. GREGORY: You've raised questions about Romney's business background, particularly his time at Bain. As he was conceding last night in South Carolina this is one of the shots that he fired across the bow. Listen.

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against us tomorrow. And let me be clear, if Republican leaders want to join this president in demonizing success and disparaging conservative values, then they're not going to be fit to be our nominee.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: The question, Mr. Speaker, after all of these questions about Bain, is there anything beyond the questions? Where's the beef, as was once said in politics when it comes to his management of Bain?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, you don't get any beef because you don't get any answers. The fact is he is trying to cleverly hide behind an argument that no high school debater would ever let stand. The questions about the character, the judgment, the record of a presidential candidate, is not an attack on business. That's silly. That would be like saying that my critique of Romneycare as resembling Obamacare means that I'm against any kind of government involvement. That would be silly. The governor's trying really hard to avoid answering anything whether it's on his--the Romneycare, for example, where the news reports are that they cleansed every single computer, we have no real record of how they developed it, and we have no real understanding of the overlap between his advisers and Obama's advisers, although President Obama says they are the same people. So I think the governor keeps trying to make these kind of ad hominem arguments that even in high school debate he would lose if he can't do better than that.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, if it appears likely now that Governor Romney will release his tax records, as you called for him to do last week, will you be satisfied and do you agree with him that there could be facts in there that both you and President Obama would use against him?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I don't know. I mean, I think if there are things in there that can be used against him we better know it before the nomination. You don't--the last thing Republicans want to do is nominate somebody who collapses in September. Beating Barack Obama has to be the number one mission of the Republican Party. A second term for Barack Obama will be a disaster for this country and I am committed to beating him and I think I've proven in the debates I could take him on in a series of debates and undo his billion-dollar campaign. And I think it's very important that we have a candidate who's strong enough and tough enough to be able to take on President Obama in a series of debates.

MR. GREGORY: To give you your due on that electability question last night in South Carolina, you had the edge, not Governor Romney, who's had the edge both in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's important to say. Having said that, there are still real questions about your electability. Look at the most recent Fox News poll. Your unfavorability rating was still very high at 56 percent. And there are those that have worked with you, those that know you in the establishment who describe you as erratic or risky. This was something that Tom DeFrank wrote today in the New York Daily News. I want to put a portion of it and have you respond. "`The winner in South Carolina was Barack Obama,' a prominent Republican strategist glumly volunteered. `This plays perfectly into his hands. We've prolonged the process and that's good news for the president.'" It goes on. "`Newt's absolutely brilliant,' recalled an admirer who negotiated with him in Congress. `He has 100 ideas; 97 are real good, the other tree will blow up the world.' So look for more party leaders currently `neutral-for-Romney' to get off the fence to inoculate against a Gingrich surge. `Newt means losing 45 states,' a Mitt-leaning GOPer told the Daily News. `It would be a catastrophe for the country.'"

So that kind of sums up that establishment view of Newt Gingrich as the nominee.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, the establishment is right to be worried about a Gingrich nomination because a Gingrich nomination means that we're going to change things, we're going to make the establishment very uncomfortable, we're going to demand real change in Washington, real audit of the Federal Reserve, real knowledge about where hundreds of billions of dollars have gone. And I think if you look at a lot of these guys, they have really good reason to worry about an honest, open candidate who has no commitment to them, who has no investment in them. And I think they should be worried because we intend to change the establishment, not get along with it.

On the other hand, everything they just said and that you read was said about Ronald Reagan in 1979, 1980. In '79, Reagan was 30 points behind Carter. One of his Republican opponents described the Reagan economic growth plan as, "voodoo economics." You know, some voodoo. It created 16 million new jobs. We came back and used the same model when I was speaker, it created another 11 million new jobs. So I'm happy to be in the tradition of Ronald Reagan as the outsider who scares the Republican establishment and frankly after the mess they've made of things maybe they should be shaken up pretty badly. And one of the things the Florida voters get to decide is do you want the establishment's candidate, Governor Romney, or do you want somebody who stands for a conservative, populist approach that would profoundly change Washington. And that's Newt Gingrich.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, you were outspoken this week about your views of questions about your personal life. On this program in the past you've said that they were fair questions. We've had those conversations. Let me ask you more generally, if, if voters are going to consider your family values vs. the family values of Governor Romney, should they judge your conduct?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Sure, of course they should, and they should judge who I am. And I think the people of South Carolina did just that and they did it by a huge margin. And they repudiated the effort to go back and drag up things, particularly at the very opening of the national debate. Last night on stage Callista and I were together, we have a wonderful marriage. My two daughters and their husbands were there, they're tremendous supporters. My two grandchildren were there, my chief debate coaches. Everybody who's watched us knows I'm a 68-year-old grandfather. I've done things in my life that I regret. I've had to go to God for forgiveness and reconciliation, but I have a great relationship with my wife, a great relationship with my children, a great relationship with my grandchildren. And at 68, I think I'm the person best prepared to know how to get this country back on the right track. And I'm the person who's tough enough to take every single hit and keep coming and I'll do the same thing as president and we will get America back on track with the help of the American people. I always ask them to be with me, not for me, because this is going to be a very, very difficult job.

MR. GREGORY: Let me end with this, Mr. Speaker. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida whose nomination is highly sought after, he says he's going to stay neutral in the race, has called on all of the candidates to have a very positive tone and think about the independent voter as we move forward in the general election. I want to play something you said about President Obama last night and ask if you think you're consistent with that admonition. Watch.

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: The founding fathers of America are the source from which we draw our understanding of America. He draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and people who don't like the classical America.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Can you win independent voters in a general election campaign with that message?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Absolutely. Ronald Reagan did it by a landslide in 1980. He carried more states against Jimmy Carter than Franklin Delano Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover, and the reason's simple: What I said last night is the truth. Nobody in the elite media wants to cover it. Nobody's ever gone back and looked at what Saul Alinsky stands for. Nobody ever asks what neighborhood organizer meant. He wasn't organizing Boys and Girls Clubs. He was teaching political radicalism. It explains his entire administration. He is who he is. It's--you know, it's not that he's a bad human being, my impression is that he has a good family, that he really loves his children and his wife, that he's a very pleasant person in some ways. But the objective fact is he believes in a very radical vision of America's future that is fundamentally different from probably 80 percent of this country. And nobody in the elite media has ever wanted to dig into it, ever wanted--why would he veto the Keystone pipeline? Why would he kill jobs in America? Why would he have a National Labor Relations Board attack Boeing? Because it fits the model of Alinsky radicalism.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, before I let you go, there's news this morning. Governor Romney is saying on another network that he will release his tax returns on Tuesday from 2010 and an estimate for 2011. Are you satisfied?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think that's a very good thing he's doing and I commend him for it and I think it's exactly the right thing to do. And as far as I'm concerned, that particular issue's now set to side and we can go on and talk about other bigger and more important things.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Mr. Speaker, good luck on the campaign trail. We'll be watching.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.

Governor Christie, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): Happy to be back, David.

MR. GREGORY: Here, a top supporter of Governor Romney. Let me pick up on the news here. The governor made a decision to release his tax records. Should he go back further than that? Will he go back further than that?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Now listen, I think what people want to see is get a look into how Governor Romney has made his money, how much he's made and look at his tax returns. I think that's perfectly appropriate and I think you'll get a good view of that both in the most--two most recent years, in 2010 and 2011. And I think he's done a good job by making the decision this morning to put them out and I'm happy he's doing it.

MR. GREGORY: He waited. It made for a pretty bad week. You had advised him earlier in the week to do it sooner. I want to show something from the debate this week when he sort of justified why it was he didn't want to release more and release more sooner than when he planned to last April.


MR. GREGORY: This is what he said.

(Videotape, Thursday)

FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: I want to make sure that I beat President Obama and every time we release things drip by drip, the Democrats go out with another array of attacks.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Is there something in the tax returns that will hurt Governor Romney?

GOV. CHRISTIE: I don't believe so, no. And I think, listen, at the end of the day, you know, David, even in a, even in a standard tax return, adversaries like the Obama White House will try to pick it apart and make something bad about the success that Governor Romney's had in his life. So I'm sure that's what he was concerned about. But listen, I made my position really clear both publicly and to Governor Romney that I think he should release the returns. He's releasing them. And so, you know, now it's time to move on. I think what the American people are going to see is someone who's been extraordinarily successful in his life and I don't think the American people want a failure as president. I think they like somebody who's succeeded in whatever they've tried to do. And I think that's what you're going to see with Governor Romney.

MR. GREGORY: What is the meaning of last night?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, it's clearly disappointing. I--you know, I'm not going to say that last night was somehow good news for the Romney campaign. Listen, we had a bad week as a campaign and a bad result last night. So, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you get to Florida and you fight. And I still believe that Governor Romney's going to win in Florida on the 31st and that he's going to return to Florida in August as the Republican nominee.

MR. GREGORY: There's a couple of big issues connecting to conservatives in the party, the grass roots of the party, and what Speaker Gingrich says, which is this anger in the party. I want to show something that you discussed with Oprah Winfrey on her program as a liability for Governor Romney and have you talk about it a little bit more.

(Videotape, last Sunday)

GOV. CHRISTIE: I have a real sense that Governor Romney has a real depth of knowledge and experience and understanding about government and business, but he doesn't really communicate it all that well. I think people have a hard time connecting at times wit him. And so his challenge is going to be how to connect with people, how to make them feel what I do believe he feels inside.


GOV. CHRISTIE: Which is he wants to do great things for the country.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: What do you attribute that lack of connection to?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, he's a very reserved guy. And I think everybody comes with a different personality. I'm obviously not reserved, he's very reserved. Everyone can have success in politics with different personalities and every candidate, David, has liabilities. I mean, you know, the fact of the matter is the president's liability is he's got a lousy record for the last three years that he's not going to be able to defend or run on, so he's going to have to attack Mitt Romney. The speaker, and I heard his comments just now, a strategic adviser, that is the oldest Washington dodge in the book. That's because he didn't want to register as a lobbyist.

MR. GREGORY: You're talking about when he worked for Freddie Mac.

GOV. CHRISTIE: Of course. He got paid $1.6 million. First, he said he was a historian, now he's a strategic adviser. I mean, let's be serious. It's the oldest dodge in the book. He was using his influence that he obtained in public office to try to help them. That's why they paid him $1.6 million. He can call it whatever he wants to call it, but that's what it is. So every candidate will have liabilities. And what I was saying to Oprah in that interview was it's the challenge for Governor Romney. And as campaigns evolve, people meet those challenges. And I believe Mitt Romney will meet that challenge and he will connect.

MR. GREGORY: So you come back, though, to connection with conservatives. What, in your judgment, is Mitt Romney's greatest contribution to the conservative cause?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, this is a guy who has shown that the American free enterprise system can work and can work to create jobs across America. You look at places like Staples and Sports Authority, everybody who goes to work at those places today has Mitt Romney to thank for it. And he's going to know how to do that as president, to get government out of the way, to be able to let the private sector create those jobs that we so desperately need and haven't had in the Obama administration. That's his greatest contribution to the conservative movement, to show that the American free enterprise system, which is under attack by the Obama administration, does work for people--for real people, middle class people. Because let me tell you, the people going to work at Sports Authority and Staples today, David, those aren't the elite. Those are middle class Americans who are using those jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads and send their kids to college. Let the president attack that.

MR. GREGORY: When, when I moderated the debate in, in New Hampshire, I asked the candidates on the stage why shouldn't Mitt Romney be the nominee? What's disqualifying about his record? So now I ask you as a member of the establishment, right...


MR. GREGORY: ...why shouldn't Newt Gingrich be the nominee of this party? What's disqualifying about his record?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, the fact of the matter is from my perspective, not as a member of the establishment, David, but as a governor, I know that we don't need another legislator in the Oval Office. We've had one for the last three years who doesn't have the first idea of how to use executive authority or how to bring Congress together. We've had the worst years of Congress in my lifetime because this president refuses to get in the room, roll up his sleeves and get the hard work done. We don't need another legislator in the Oval Office who does not know how to use executive authority. We need an executive, someone who both in private sector and as a governor understands how to bring people together and use executive power. The speaker simple doesn't have that experience.

MR. GREGORY: You've been more pointed, though.

GOV. CHRISTIE: He's never run anything.

MR. GREGORY: You've been more pointed when you talk about in favor of Governor Romney. You say he will never embarrass you. Do you think Newt Gingrich will embarrass the party?

GOV. CHRISTIE: I think Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party over time. Whether he'll do it again in the future, I don't know. But Governor Romney never has.

MR. GREGORY: You say he's embarrassed the party. How and where do you worry he might do it again that makes him unelectable?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, David, we all know the record. I mean, he was run out of the speakership by his own party. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. This is a guy who's had a very difficult political career at times and has been an embarrassment for the party. You remember these times, you were here. So the fact of the matter is, I don't need to regale the country with that entire list again except to say this. I'm not saying he will do it again in the future, but sometimes past is prologue.

MR. GREGORY: Well, so, is this an issue that Governor Romney now makes more strongly? Is character an issue in this campaign?

GOV. CHRISTIE: I'm not talking about character. I'm talking about how you conducted yourself in office and what that record indicates. I'm not talking about the speaker's character. I take him at his word that he's a changed person. And I'm not attacking him on that, on that basic. I'm saying this is a guy who's never run anything, and never having run anything, I don't think on the job training should be the presidency of the United States. I've great respect for what he's done for our party. He's done some great things for our party over the years, and for our country. But the fact of the matter is, I don't believe his record stacks up to Governor Romney's record in that regard.

MR. GREGORY: What about this electability question? I mean, you heard what, what, what I challenged Speaker Gingrich with, which is there is this view in the party that if Gingrich keeps on going and if he consolidates support among conservatives, this is the best news for President Obama possible. Is that your view?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, my view is the worst news possible for President Obama is a Romney candidacy because Governor Romney will show with the executive experience he has, with the record he created in Massachusetts, and with the values he's articulating, has been articulating as a candidate for the last number of years, the best contrast we can have to President Obama. So I think Governor Romney would be the worst news for the Obama White House.

MR. GREGORY: But do you think that a candidate, a nominee Gingrich could also beat President Obama?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, could he? Sure.

MR. GREGORY: You don't sound as convincing, though. Certainly not about Romney, whom you support. But...

GOV. CHRISTIE: What, I answered, I answered your question.

MR. GREGORY: But you think he could?


MR. GREGORY: I want to ask you something that I don't think has come up in this race so far, and that is whether you would consider being on the Romney ticket as, as a VP. You've answered this a bunch of different times, but I want to ask it a slightly different way. You, you have said that you didn't feel that you were ready to be president right now.


MR. GREGORY: Would you be ready to be vice president? Would you have to be ready to be president if you were going to accept a slot on the ticket?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Sure. Hey, listen, everybody's misunderstood what I meant about saying being ready for president. I meant that, you know, being ready to leave the job that I had and being ready to run for president of the United States with all that entails. I didn't want to do, didn't feel ready to do it, and I think you have to be absolutely committed and ready to do that. Now as for the vice presidency, let me say again, I want to be governor of New Jersey. I ran to be governor of New Jersey. I absolutely believe that come November 2012 I'm going to be governor of New Jersey and not in any other office. The fact of the matter is, if Governor Romney, who's going to be our nominee, picked up the phone and called me to talk about this, I love my country enough and I love my party enough to listen, but in the end, David, if you were a betting guy--and I know you are, I know you are, David. If you're a betting guy, you should bet Chris Christie being the governor of New Jersey in November 2012.

MR. GREGORY: But you said once, who would want me as a number two?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, I still feel that way.

MR. GREGORY: But you'd be a good vice president, wouldn't you?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, listen, I think that certain personalities...

MR. GREGORY: Not to appeal to your ego or anything.

GOV. CHRISTIE: No, listen...

MR. GREGORY: I'm saying you'd be wonderful, wouldn't you?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, I think certain personalities are suited for jobs better than others. And I don't know that I'm the guy to stand behind, three feet behind somebody and nod my head. It's not necessarily in my character. But again, you know, you have to balance that against your love for your country and your love for your party and all the rest of those things. But you know what? There's one person who gets to decide that question. That's the nominee of our party. And if I'm--if I'm approached I will listen. But my inclination, to make it very clear, is I want to stay governor of the state of New Jersey. But I think it's wrong to foreclose that and to foreclose the nominee of our party from coming and talking to you about it because they may have a whole different view than I do and maybe they can convince me of something different.

MR. GREGORY: I want to ask you about the State of the Union and also about New Jersey. First, on the State of the Union, what do you think the president could say that would surprise Republicans and galvanize Republicans to try to work with him on something substantial, even though it's an election year?

GOV. CHRISTIE: He could finally embrace Simpson-Bowles. He asked for it, he put it on the shelf for purely political reasons, he showed political cowardice by doing it, and an absolute fear of confronting the big issues in our country. And I think if he came out on Tuesday and said, "You know what, I was wrong to put Simpson-Bowles on the shelf. I should take it off the shelf, I'm going to send it to the Congress and I want to have a vigorous debate and discussion about really tackling debt and deficit in our country in an honest and forthright way, the way Senator Simpson and Mr. Bowles suggested." It's not that I agree with every part of Simpson-Bowles, David, but it is a realistic plan that merits consideration and discussion. He never did it. That would surprise the nation if he did it, and I think it would show great leadership if the president was willing to do it.

MR. GREGORY: Where have Republicans been culpable for the paralysis in Washington? You've spoke about the president. What about...

GOV. CHRISTIE: I've spoken about both, David.

MR. GREGORY: ...what, what role do Republicans play?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Listen, you know, and I've said this before. I, I think that, that people are spending too much time talking at each other and not talking with each other. Look at New Jersey. Now in New Jersey I have a Democratic legislature. They say some of the most unspeakable things about me publicly. On the other hand, though, I do not take that personally. I still bring them in the room. We sit down, we talk and we resolve things because we're put in these jobs to accomplish things, not just to posture and pose. And so my point to Republicans has been to you've got to force those conversations. Now if the president's not interested in having them, and if he's not interested in developing those relationships, then there's little the Republicans can do. But to the extent that we've contributed to not having those relationships happen, then there's a culpability there.

MR. GREGORY: You talked about the State of the State and how you see New, New Jersey in the future. One of the things we've talked about at this table before, remember the, the, the federal state tunnel project which you were opposed to, you said, "Look, we're broke in New Jersey." And now you're calling for a 10 percent cut in income tax, would cost the state $300 million a year over three years. Why can you afford that?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, because first of all the tunnel project was going to cost us an additional 8 billion, so we still don't have that money to do it. It was a bad plan. And what we see is happening now is the federal government, New York, New Jersey, are working together to come up with another plan that will be more equitably shared by all the parties, not 75 percent of, 70 percent of the cost being on New Jersey. But the reason we need to cut taxes is think about what I inherited, David. I came in. We had $13 billion in deficits. We had had 115 tax and fee increases in the eight years before I became governor. We were ranked in 50th tax climate in the country and the worst business environment in America. In two years, we've balanced those budgets and brought ourselves to balance without any tax increases through very difficult, aggressive cuts. And now what I'm saying is it's time for the people to get some of their money back. Done reasonably, 10 percent cut phased in over three years, so you could do it reasonably and not bust the budget.

Think about this, David, in New Jersey, the people of New Jersey are going to know for the next three years every year their taxes are going to go down. If I had told you that when I came here the first time, you would have told me I was nuts. But we did it because of hard work and sticking to our principles and working together with Democrats. I think we're going to be able to do it again.

MR. GREGORY: Do the New Jersey Giants win today?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Yes. You bet they do.

MR. GREGORY: You didn't even flinch. You just totally think that they should be the New Jersey Giants.

GOV. CHRISTIE: Of course they are. Listen, David, the only thing New York about the Giants in the NY in their helmet. They train in New Jersey, they play in New Jersey, and most of their players live in New Jersey. And so the New Jersey Giants are going to have a great game today. Sorry to my friends in San Francisco. It's going to be a big win for the Giants today and on to the Super Bowl in New, in Indianapolis.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, I'll be watching for sure. I can tell you that.

GOV. CHRISTIE: I've got a bet on it, don't you, David?

MR. GREGORY: Governor, thanks very much.

GOV. CHRISTIE: Come on, tell me the truth.

MR. GREGORY: Coming up, the 2012 Republican race for the White House is recast and all eyes now on Florida. Full analysis on the meaning of last night and what to look for in the week ahead from our political roundtable. We've got MSNBC's Joe Scarborough. We've also got Republican strategist Mike Murphy. Also joining the roundtable, the BBC's Katty Kay and NBC's Chuck Todd. It's coming up. Don't go away.


MR. GREGORY: Coming up, a special Decision 2012 political roundtable. Full analysis on the meaning of South Carolina. Joining me MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, Mike Murphy, the BBC's Katty Kay and our own Chuck Todd. Coming up right after this brief commercial break.


MR. GREGORY: We're back with our political roundtable. Joining me, anchor of BBC's "World News America" Katty Kay; Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy; Morning Joe is here, the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough.

But first, we want to go inside the numbers from last night. Our political director Chuck Todd is here.

Chuck, the big points going inside those results.

MR. CHUCK TODD: They are. We're going to start with electability and two weeks ago if we told you electability would be the most important issue in South Carolina you would assume a Romney runaway. Well, guess what? In this case it was Newt Gingrich who won the electability argument. Half the people that said electability was the most important picked Gingrich, 51-37. Here's probably the more important reason why he won South Carolina. He became the conservative alternative. Look at this, 48 percent of those that describe themselves very conservative picked Gingrich; less than 20 percent, less than one in five voters saw Mitt Romney as the conservative. If he can carry that forward into other states that's how Gingrich becomes the alternative.

Now, let's look ahead to Florida. Florida's not quite as conservative as South Carolina, but it's a lot more conservative than New Hampshire. Four years ago, 61 percent of Republican primary voters called themselves conservative. This could be a recipe for why Romney might not have Florida as the firewall he thought he was going to have.

MR. GREGORY: Why we're watching it so closely. So, Chuck, you'll join us here.

Let me turn to Joe Scarborough. Why did Newt Gingrich win?

MR. JOE SCARBOROUGH: David, David. I love how you got the Newt treatment already this morning, right?

MR. GREGORY: Right, right.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: You're a part of the enemy.



MR. GREGORY: But when he talked about the media elite...


MR. GREGORY: New York he's talking about you. That's who he's talking about.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: It's all me. I will tell you one reason he did not win last night. It wasn't because he's a conservative, because Newt's not a conservative. He uses this resentment, these--the politics of grievance to actually hide a record that you can really identify very quickly on Google. You know, the remarkable thing, and this is why Republicans are panicked in Washington, D.C., for good reason. You know, yeah, Mitt, Mitt Romney supported an individual mandate. Newt Gingrich supported an individual mandate. Newt Gingrich supported cap and trade at one point, so did Mitt Romney. You can go down the list. You know, of course, you've got Ronald Reagan being brushed aside by Mitt Romney. But on this program just a year ago you had Newt Gingrich calling Paul Ryan a right-wing radical who was engaged in social engineering. It is a mess out there. And I think you're going to hear more people like Bill Kristol, Erick Erickson talking about a brokered convention. If Newt Gingrich wins Florida everything's up for grabs.

MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, look what we have here.


MR. GREGORY: We have three big contests.

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: We have three different winners. As I said at the top, this thing could go on a while.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, and you know from a delegate point of view we're only in the first inning here. If it becomes a delegate contest, which historically tends to be a momentum contest, Romney's in some real vulnerability now, but he's got a lot of assets, too. Chuck's right, Florida is not quite as movement conservative as South Carolina. I think the Romney guys made a forgivable error betting heavy on a state that was very bad terrain for Mitt.

But there is a bigger problem. Last five days he lost his message. He got on defense, and for a guy like Romney who's done well getting conservatives who are lukewarm about him to vote for him because he looks like he can beat Obama, to be up there in a defensive crouch apparently unable to release taxes and defend his wealth, sends a subtext message of maybe in the class warfare we know is coming he can't beat Obama. That's kryptonite for Romney if he loses that winability thing, and you saw in those numbers. So Monday night at this big debate tomorrow on NBC Romney's got to take this race back, he's got to tweak his message, he's got to do full offensive on Gingrich. You--there are no firewalls in primaries when it's--when you lose control of the agenda.

MR. GREGORY: The tax release, does this help now? Does it...


MR. GREGORY: ...put it to rest?

MR. MURPHY: It should have been earlier. I'd say wear a suit made out of your tax returns Monday night and defend and win that argument because that's what people need to see to think Mitt Romney can beat Obama. But Tuesday will be fine. They got to reclock the campaign, they got to go into Florida hard, they got to hurt Newt. But they can't fall under the complacency of a big campaign that "Hey, we got five more waves of mail than he does." It a message thing. And that's earned me the...(unintelligible).

MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk about message, Katty Kay, because Joe's been talking about this all week long, which is the politics of grievance. I keep asking when does the tea party sentiment really rear its head? Well, I think we now know. Listen to Newt Gingrich last night proclaiming victory.

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I believe the debate we're going to have with President Obama over the next eight or nine months, the outlining of the two Americas, the America of the Declaration of Independence, the America of Saul Alinsky, the America of paychecks, the America of food stamps, the America of independence, the America of dependence, the America of strength in foreign policy, the America of weakness in foreign policy.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: I mean, this is a grittier, angrier, more populist message than we're hearing from Mitt Romney.

MS. KATTY KAY: Which is why he won in South Carolina. I mean, for the man who styles himself as an intellectual, perhaps the only candidate out there on the Republican platform that self-styles himself as a grandiose thinker, this was actually a campaign all about heart. This is not about Newt Gingrich's policies that people elected him for last night in South Carolina, it's because they feel he's the one to be able to take the fight to Barack Obama. The conservative movement is feeling rebellious and Newt Gingrich has styled himself as a rebel. And that's exactly what people responded to.

Now in the past what you've seen with Gingrich is that he's had these peaks. We saw it way back in '94, and we saw it in December again during the course of this campaign and then he crashes. So the question's going to be can he and his personality, let alone the mechanics, the endorsements, the money, the ground war of this campaign, can he keep it all in check? And I think that's still a very reasonable question to ask about a candidate.

MR. TODD: And, you know, actually, and to pick up on that point, Newt Gingrich has a, has a gulf of nothing in February. There aren't a lot of primaries, there are not going to be a lot of debates, you have a few caucuses early, two primaries at the end. One is Romney's other home state, Michigan, so you're going to sort of write that off. So there'll only be really a battle in Arizona. And the last time there was sort of nothing, remember in between a debate in Iowa, that is when Gingrich sort of got a little too full of himself and did shoot himself in the foot. But this is--is this about Newt Gingrich or is this about Mitt Romney? This is still about Mitt Romney. He hasn't...(unintelligible).

MR. SCARBOROUGH: It's about Mitt.


MR. TODD: He hasn't made the sale to conservatives, and losing in South Carolina he can't dismiss it. This is the heart and soul of the movement conservatives, the--of the folks that show up at telephones, that knock on the doors and he doesn't have their support.


MR. GREGORY: Joe, can I just say one thing?


MR. GREGORY: Glenn Thrush on Politico covers the White House. He put something on Twitter last night that I thought kind of spoke to this. "Tonight's Romney loss parallels the Boehner-Cantor dynamic on last year's budget. GOP establishment blesses, party base revolts every time."

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, I mean there's no doubt about it, the party base is revolting, but they're revolting against the Washington Republican establishment anointing Mitt Romney, just like Herman Cain was not about Herman Cain. It was a rejection of Mitt Romney. Rick Perry, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Michele Bachmann, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich, wave one, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Now we have Newt Gingrich wave two, a rejection of Mitt Romney. Now, Mitt Romney could attack Newt for not being a conservative because Newt is not a conservative. Google it! It--we ran him out of Congress in 1998 because he sold us out on taxes, he sold us out on spending. He went to the floor and he sided with Democrats on his last speech calling us the perfectionist caucus. He'd call us jihadists. He's not a conservative. He's an opportunist.

But here is the problem, so is Mitt Romney. And the Republican establishment in Washington gave us $5 trillion of debt during the Bush era. They took $155 billion surplus, they turned it into a $1 trillion deficit. They engaged in radical foreign policy Wilsonian foreign policy. George Bush promising to end tyranny across the globe. The conservative movement is saying "No, stop. Gingrich is not going to be our final choice but we are not handing this off to Mitt Romney right now."

MR. MURPHY: The--it's a real dilemma for Romney because what Newt is doing is the simplest strategy in the world, and I agree with Joe. Romney can kind of hurt him on this. But what Newt is great at is kind of playing the piano with the music of resentment in the Republican primary electorate. We got a lot of mad people. But the reason that liquor sales in the last 24 hours have quadrupled in Washington is truckloads of champagne are going over to the Pelosi office and hard whiskey's going to the Republican office because Newt Gingrich cannot carry in a general election a swing state if it was made of feathers. This is a fact of politics. And primary voters, it's easy to emotionally get tied up in a campaign like this, but in a general election, it's a problem. So Mitt's got to somehow fend off Newt and stay viable.

MR. GREGORY: And, and you've actually said triangulate, go more to the middle.


MR. GREGORY: Even for the rest of the primaries. Why and how?

MR. MURPHY: Well, after he's got it locked.


MR. MURPHY: I thought he might lose South Carolina by two points, not 12. Mitt's got a problem, he's got to grab it back. It's probably going to take all of February. But if, if, if Mitt does that, fixes his message and gets back in charge, and he has a lot of assets to do it, if he can fix the message problem, he's got the mechanics, Newt's going to turn into Jerry Brown. He'll follow him around, he'll win some Guam caucus. That's an opportunity for Mitt to do what you got to do to win the general election. Because the Newt message is Democrats win the House, we lose the Senate in a general election. It would be a train wreck. Romney can't be contaminated by that, either.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: It's a very tough course for him.


MS. KAY: And he knows that the White House is loving all of this, of course. I mean, they're watching what happened in South Carolina and they see no way that this doesn't help them at all. The ads against Newt Gingrich write themselves, whether it's taxes and speech money or firing people, I mean, the language is all there, he said it. But Romney also clearly has a problem, this is something that you were suggesting earlier, David, that there's something about the kind of mood of the country at the moment and the strength of the message that the Occupy movement kind of put out there about inequality and financial insecurity and a middle class that is feeling insecure, that we are concentrating...

MR. SCARBOROUGH: You're sounding like Newt Gingrich now.

MS. KAY: Well, we can't say...

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Which is the most remarkable thing. Newt Gingrich adopts the language of Michael Moore?


MS. KAY: Right, right.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: And a week later he's the conservative alternative? No. It doesn't work that way.

MS. KAY: Right. But, David--Joe, look, you're not--I mean, people are not concentrating on Romney's flip-flops as much as they are on his money. And Mitt Romney simply hasn't found a way to be easy in this economic climate with his finances.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: They're not focusing on Mitt Romney. No. They're not focusing on Mitt Romney's money, they're focusing on Mitt Romney's tongue.

MS. KAY: Yeah. Because he can't--right.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: He can't answer a question that he knows is coming.

MR. GREGORY: So, Chuck, but I asked the governor, Governor Christie, what is his big contribution to the conservative cause? And it is, well, that he's been a good businessman.

MR. TODD: Yeah. He went to Bain.

MR. GREGORY: This is not how to connect to conservatives.

MR. TODD: No. It is not, although...

MR. GREGORY: Alone, alone I should say.

MR. TODD: ...I'll give--you have to give Governor Christie credit. How, how is it that Mitt Romney hasn't come up with the line, "Hey, those jobs at Staples, these are middle class jobs." And you're sitting there going, wow, so Chris Christie can actually make a better case for what Bain's done than Mitt Romney?

MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, maybe this is the case for him being on the ticket.

MR. TODD: I mean, it was, it was stunning at that. But you know, we've talked about this connection problem Romney might have with swing voters in middle class America because of his wealth and because of--and now he's got a connection problem with the base of the party. The problem that Mitt Romney's going to have over the next three weeks is this sort of hammering, while Newt, it's easy to sort of pile on Newt and attack Newt. That's going to be the easy party. The hand-wringing of oh, should there be other candidates that jump in?


MR. TODD: Don't forget that they'll be third party. You know, every time Newt's risen, those folks at Americans Elect suddenly get more phone call.

MR. GREGORY: Well, and let me take a break here, but come back to that point that--since it's a big football day, the fantasy football part of the GOP race, which is is there anyone else out there? We'll take a break. Back with that in just a moment.


MR. GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable. Mike Murphy, we now have this South Carolina scramble.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: And that view in the party and Joe talked about it. Is there anybody else out there? Jeb Bush is saying he's not going to endorse.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: He was a heavy recruit. And then there's Mitch Daniels who, oh by the way, governor of Indiana who declined to run, is going to give the response to the president's State of the Union address. Is there going to be more fantasy football here in the GOP race?

MR. MURPHY: It's inevitable. You know, there's a fantasy football industry, our friend Bill Kristol, I think his garage is full of Mitch Daniels yard signs that probably Mitch hasn't even seen. Yeah, it could happen. Flying saucer could land tomorrow, too, and aliens declare the primary over. I think it's highly unlikely. If Mitt Romney can get his message back and explain that making money for Bain is making money for working people and jobs, college endowments, pension funds so people can retire and go on offense and get the damn taxes out and defend them and win Florida, order will come back. It'll be a long slog but it'll be an orderly slog. If not, if, if this wildfire spreads and Newt Gingrich wins the Florida primary, then that speculation will explode. The plumbing and wiring of it is very hard, and a lot of it assumes that these miracle candidates will look very pretty in the showroom...


MR. MURPHY: ...when they get in, will be equally pretty, which is always a very risky assumption.

MR. GREGORY: But Joe, it's also about--yeah. There's still a lot of dissatisfaction with the field.


MR. GREGORY: But you know, everybody talks about near-death experiences. Mitt Romney will likely, if he becomes the nominee, will be a stronger nominee having gone through this rather than going 3-and-0.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: He will be. He will be. But if Newt Gingrich wins Florida and then everybody has a month to think about it...


MR. SCARBOROUGH: ...that's when somebody like Haley Barbour, who says a Newt Gingrich nomination would be a disaster for the party. I mean, he knows. Newt's approval rating this past week, 27 percent nationwide, disapproval 59 percent. In 1995, do you know what it was? Twenty-seven percent approval rating, 60 percent disapproval. He knows. Newt Gingrich...

MR. TODD: (Unintelligible)

MR. SCARBOROUGH: One point. He knows that that's a nightmare. Now there's another scenario that people like Bill Kristol and others will be looking at moving forward, and that is, and I've heard a lot of talk about this, favorite sons. A California favorite son, a New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Texas. You've got a lot of big states that are still open. Indiana, Arkansas. There is a real possibility that you could have different candidates, if Haley Barbour and others get together, that run.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Gunk up the process enough that nobody gets a majority and then Jeb Bush is dragged kicking and screaming to the convention.

MR. GREGORY: (Unintelligible)

MS. KAY: But...

MR. MURPHY: Well, it could happen, but you know, if Napoleon had nuclear subs, we'd all be speaking French. It's not impossible, but here's the one--here's a little detail, though.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: You know, Murphy, I--you're going to run out of these things.

MR. MURPHY: I know, I'm...(unintelligible)...the establishment. But I'll tell you...

MR. GREGORY: No, I don't think it's possible.

MR. TODD: No, I think he...

MR. SCARBOROUGH: But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you want. Ten, 10 days ago you could've used your Martians and your Napoleon subs...

MR. MURPHY: Right, right, right.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: ...on Newt Gingrich winning by 12 points in South Carolina.

MS. KAY: But, OK...

MR. MURPHY: One primary does not a primary make.

MS. KAY: No.

MR. MURPHY: Let me very quickly say one little footnote in the notes. The way most delegates are chosen, some are elected, some are elected by their own caucuses. They go and they're instructed to vote by who wins the primary. If you let them lose to vote who you want them to vote for...

MR. GREGORY: Watch out.

MR. MURPHY: ...a lot better for Newt. A lot of Romney delegates are not guys in Duck Pants who are looking for a moderate, they're pretty hard-core, even Christian conservatives who are instructed to vote by the results.

MS. KAY: OK, but let's get...

MR. MURPHY: You let that loose.

MS. KAY: ...let's get through Florida first.

MR. MURPHY: Of course.

MS. KAY: Because it's going to be harder for Gingrich in Florida. I mean, he goes into a state where it's going to be all TV ads, it's not the retail politics that plays to his heart stuff.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: (Unintelligible)


MS. KAY: And look what the Romney campaign did to him in Iowa with TV ads. They dump that on him again in...

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Actually, this is...

MR. TODD: Rick Scott's governor of that state.


MR. TODD: There are a lot of smart people who said and Rick Scott was the tea party guy, Bill McCollum was the Jeb Bush guy.


MR. TODD: They--you know, and Jeb actually went out on a limb to do everything he could to stop that guy. The establishment didn't do it. But we are in, and Mike keeps bringing--alluding to it, we've seen this movie before. It was 1992 and there was talk of in the Democrats of a brokered convention, Bill Clinton, oh, my God, he's going to blow this, it's an easy opportunity to beat the incumbent president. But it did lead to the creation of Perot. This is going to lead--the, the longer this goes on, I think the ideas of a brokered convention are sort of past, the, the Republicans would be afraid of it. But the idea of, of, of third party guys popping up, I think that's going to be...(unintelligible).

MR. MURPHY: (Unintelligible)

MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me get another quick break in here.

MR. MURPHY: Sure. Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Another quick break in. We'll conclude this with some final thoughts. More, of course, on the race for 2012, our trends and takeways, a look at what was said here today that made news, and what to look for in this very important week coming up. The hot political stories, as well, what are trending this morning. That's right after this.


MR. GREGORY: As we always do, we monitor the conversation on Facebook during the program, and this is what we were just talking about, some feedback. This is from John Coffren, "Christie is the exact type of leader we need. It's a shame he doesn't run." So that who else is out there thing is, is still going on.

MR. MURPHY: (Unintelligible)...take their time.

MR. GREGORY: The big story today, Mitt Romney saying he will release taxes on Tuesday after a bad week of stumbles on this answer. This is how Newt Gingrich responded to me on that point.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think that's a very good thing he's doing and I commend him for it, and I think it's exactly the right thing to do. And as far as I'm concerned, that particular issue's now set to side and we can go and talk about other bigger and more important things.

MR. GREGORY: It was interesting, Joe, last week on this program is when Speaker Gingrich said he ought to release them.


MR. GREGORY: Do you think he's leave it at that and say, look, he did the right thing. There's no, there's nothing to see here?

MR. SCARBOROUGH: No. I'm surprised he closed the door because Mitt's talking about releasing it for one year. You know, I'm--I suspect by the end he'll ask for the 12 years that Mitt's dad did.

MR. GREGORY: The other big factor here this week, of course, big event tomorrow night, our own debate, Brian Williams moderating in Tampa here on NBC. How does Mitt Romney use this debate when we know this is the life blood for Newt Gingrich?

MR. TODD: We already know one thing he wanted to do, he wanted to defang Gingrich on, on the tax returns. So get that out of the way. Do them for the day after so it's not part of the debate. Oh, by the way, release it on State of the Union day. You're not going to be able to cover that up but I think you're going to see then Mitt try to turn the tables, release your Freddie and Fannie contract, release your ethics report, try to sort of turn the tables a little bit. But you know what? Romney four years ago when he went on the attack was not good at it.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, that's the question, Mike. I mean...

MR. MURPHY: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: ...does he--is he in fighting shape to do this?

MR. MURPHY: Well, let's put it this way, he's in a corner with a broken bottle and somebody coming at him. He's going to learn to fight or he's going to lose.

MR. GREGORY: We haven't talked about Rick Santorum here. Is there a movement by Gingrich to try to get him out of the race?

MS. KAY: Well, the longer he stays in and splits the vote with Ron Paul, then the more it helps Romney. I mean, they've got to be pushing Santorum to get out of the race.

MR. MURPHY: He--I think--go ahead...

MS. KAY: But, you know, that's what, that's what Gingrich needs.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. Mike:

MR. MURPHY: The Santorum bet is big conservative vote that Newt has, Newt's nuke, he'll implode, then it's mine. So they're going to hang around.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: And some evangelical leaders even last night said they have got to focus the fire more on Newt and line up behind Rick Santorum. But, I mean, the bottom line is, I'm sorry, Newt is not sustainable. Nobody that's known him since '95 thinks he's sustainable. Last night was not about Newt, It was a primal scream by South Carolina voters against the Republican establishment.

MR. TODD: Yeah.

MS. KAY: If you had, if you had to put the vast Gregory fortune somewhere, you'd have to still put it on Mitt Romney being the nominee.

MR. TODD: Look, there's one...

MR. GREGORY: Let me establish who the media elite is, and it's Scarborough.

MR. TODD: Right. One piece of good news in Florida...

MS. KAY: You know, it's...

MR. TODD: ...just a quick break it down, snowbirds.


MR. TODD: Snowbirds are there. In January they show up. And by the way, these folks, the reason they moved to Florida was because they're rich and they don't want to pay so many taxes. These are Romney Republicans.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. TODD: They--he starts out with small advantages like that.

MR. MURPHY: And also, a tiny thing but it's important, there are probably 150 to 190,000 absentee votes already in back when Mitt had a 15 point lead, probably a million and one voters, but having those 30,000 already banked...

MR. TODD: Banked.


MS. KAY: And you know...

MR. MURPHY: ...that's a 1 or 2 point or maybe 3 point advantage. I say it's for Romney.

MS. KAY: Romney doesn't do well in the debates when he's trying to fight. It just doesn't seem to come naturally to him.


MS. KAY: But those super PAC ads of his in Iowa against Gingrich were pretty effective.

MR. GREGORY: And, and...

MR. SCARBOROUGH: And look for him also in Florida because just like Gingrich knew he had to beat him in South Carolina, they know they have to destroy Gingrich in Florida.

MS. KAY: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: This conversation, our conversation is going to go on. I just wish it were still on television, but we're out of time.

And before we go, two quick programming notes. You can watch our weekly Press Pass conversation on our blog. This week I spoke with Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Vincent Gray of Washington, D.C., about how cities are coping with tough economic times. That's on our blog,

Also, we've said it a few times but I want to remind you again, tomorrow night, the big event. Brian Williams will moderate a high stakes debate live from Tampa Bay, Florida. You can watch it right here on NBC. That's at 9 PM Eastern.

That is all for today. We'll be back next week, two days before the Florida primary. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.