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tv   Hardball Weekend  MSNBC  December 17, 2011 2:00am-2:30am PST

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mitt rising. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chuck todd in tonight for chris matthews. leading off tonight, is newt still the front-runner? the roller-coaster ride that's been the republican nomination fight has been even wilder this week. on monday, the question was, how strong was newt gingrich going to get? after the final iowa debate last night, the question has to be asked, is it really fair to even refer to gingrich as "the front-runner"? mitt romney, at least for this 24-hour period, seems to be embracing that inevitability campaign again. gingrich, who was probably disappointed romney chose not to attack him last night, instead had to fend off those behind him
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in the polls. the race has been so unpredictable that one poll has had five leaders in its last five surveys. the final stretch at the top of the show. plus, newt is certainly what military strategists call a target-rich environment. we'll take a look at some of the nastier things republican establishment types have been saying about newt. hoping to knock him off before president obama gets a chance to do it. also, a very important story that has been under the radar. a third-party run. our pollsters believe it now looks increasingly likely that no matter who is nominated, someone will make a serious independent bid. you think you know which party benefits? you may be surprised. and which republican candidate earned a 12th, count them, 12th pants on fire for yet another whopper during last night's debate? and at the end, we'll
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remember one of the most gifted, talented man of our times christopher hitchens lost his battle with cancer yesterday at the age of 62. we'll start with the republican field. john heilemann is a national affairs editor for "new york" magazine, and of course, an msnbc analyst, and susan page is the washington bureau chief for "usa today." welcome, both of you. john, let me start with you. mitt romney got a big old plane today, his first press charter. >> yep. >> loaded up members of the press, flew that nonstop flight that doesn't exist from sioux city to greenville, south carolina, got the most important rising star governor to endorse his campaign. mitt romney acting like a front-runner again. >> he is, chuck. i saw him this morning in sioux city at the one event at a steel company before he took off for south carolina. he had a very confident, very assured mien to him out there. as he did in the debate last
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night. and i think part of the reason for that is he had the nikki haley endorsement in his pocket. he's also, i think, starting to see some movement internally in their polling. some that's reflected in the public polling also, that seems like gingrich is softening. and he's also bending in iowa a little bit, and he's had a chance to look at the television in iowa, where he sees his pro-romney super pac pounding gingrich mercilessly over the air, alongside ron paul, who is doing the same thing, all of reasons which is why they might think he might just win the iowa caucuses. >> $3 million attack ads are airing right now again newt gingrich. he's fighting back with $275,000. there's no money in the gingrich bank account or i think we would be seeing it. right now we were showing pictures. mitt romney is campaigning in south carolina today. but gingrich did come under fire. michele bachmann is the one who was the aggressor last night. and i want to show this fight that she picked with gingrich over an issue that can go to the concerns of some iowa caucus-goers. here's what she hit. >> he had an opportunity to
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de-fund planned parenthood and he chose not to take it. that's a big issue. >> sometimes congresswoman bachmann doesn't get her facts very accurate. i have a 98.5% right-to-life voting record in 20 years. >> because this isn't just once. i think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over, through the debates, that i don't have my facts right, when as a matter of fact, i do. i'm a serious candidate for president of the united states, and my facts are accurate. >> it got testier. today bachmann was asked if there was a sexist element to how gingrich treated her last night. listen to how she responded to that question earlier today. >> i think that'd be an observation that people looking at that would have to make that observation. i'm a serious candidate for the presidency and i think it's important that i be treated as an equal on that stage. they've said this is a two-man race and i would agree.
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it's newt romney versus michele bachmann. >> it's interesting that she would not rule -- she wasn't shutting that door, which means she's doing this. yes, if someone wants to call it sexist, yes -- >> i think it's pretty clear she thinks it was sexist. and you know, michele bachmann did not back down last night. you know, she didn't just make her initial planned attack on gingrich, but she came back at him again and again. and on a couple issues. and this is great for mitt romney. because michele bachmann, you should definitely treat her seriously, but we don't see her as the likely nominee. but every vote she peels away comes from -- more likely to come from gingrich than from romney. the better she does, the worse gingrich does, and that's all good for romney. >> you know what's interesting here, in an informal survey of colleagues, this is splitting along gender lines. and some of my colleagues today, who are women, thought it was sexist. and some of the men thought, maybe she just gets under gingrich's skin. >> well, gingrich can be condescending to men and women. >> equal opportunity.
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>> yes, equal opportunity condescension. but when there's only one woman on stage and you're condescending to her, i think it comes across as sexist. >> john heilemann, this is one of those cases, i think your partner in crime tweeted this last night, mark halperin, maybe it was you that tweeted it, you guys have become one entity, like newt romney, right? but the way rick perry gets under mitt romney's skin, where he almost gets rattled with anger when he gets attacked, we're sensing that a little bit between bachmann and gingrich, no? >> yeah, i think so. i think the point you made about him being an equal opportunity offenders when it comes to arrogance and condescension is a fair one. but she does seem to have his number a little bit. and they are aware of that in the bachmann campaign, and they are going to try to exploit it. i think that all three of the second tier candidates last night had reasonably decent nights. i mean, i think bachmann had the best night at the debate. perry had not as good a night,
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but still a decent night for him. and rick santorum did okay. and as susan was saying, it's the case for all three of those candidates, if they start to inch up in the polls, that's all good news for mitt romney, because every vote they take either out of newt gingrich's current support or out of his potential support, it's all gingrich suffering in those situations. and a ron paul victory or a mitt romney victory, obviously, those are both good outcomes for mitt romney, as long as he can stop newt gingrich, he's the winner in iowa. >> you know, susan, timing's everything sometimes in a debate and gingrich got hit early with freddie mac. he was enjoying talking about his own temperment issues. here's how he handled one question, and he decided, i've got to get this temperament issue out of the way and here's how to do it. >> i sometimes get accused of using language that's too strong. so i've been standing here, editing.
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i'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany. >> of course, zany being in reference to the question about -- that jeff zeleny of "the new york times" asked mitt romney, whether zany ideas are coming out of the white house, and of course, mitt romney picked up that word "zany" with relish. did gingrich -- how is gingrich holding up? he seemed to be okay at the debate, but, boy, he's getting pummeled on the air. >> i think it's hard when everybody's attacking you and you're on the defensive, not on one issue that you have to address, but you have to address the freddie mac issue and then you have to address the abortion issue and the temperament issue. there is a cumulative effect. i thought it was an hour into the debate before he was able to find his sea legs and becomes the confident figure we saw there. that was pretty far into the debate. i had already filed two stories for "usa today" before that happened. >> there you go. timing a lot. john heilemann, what i feel like is a story that we can't fully report out yet until the
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fund-raising reports go in, but it seems clear to me that gingrich, while surging in the polls didn't get this online surge of money that we have seen other candidates get when they've surged, particularly look at herman cain, right? much less sort of presidential credibility when he surged, and he was getting all these donations. is the gingrich campaign just not good at this? >> well, that certainly seems to be part of the case, chuck. although, you know yesterday the las vegas billionaire pledged $20 million to gingrich obvio obviously not in direct contributions -- >> for, what it's worth, they do deny the $20 million figure, but then that's all they deny. >> okay. >> clearly some money's coming from mr. adelson. >> and i know the gingrich campaign thinks that that's the case. but they have not exploited that in terms of fund-raising, you're absolutely right, chuck. and i find the whole thing curious, even on a bigger level than that. put aside the fact that
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gingrich is getting attacked. he doesn't seem like he's really running for president, still. he is not in iowa today. everyone did at least one event here in iowa today. iowa is key to his success. he's not here today. nobody really knows where he is. he's going back to washington to go to church. there's an event for callista in virginia. why is there an event in virginia when the virginia primary's a long ways off. he's not planning to come back to the state in significant way until after christmas, and that seems just extraordinarily strange. he seems to have bought the notion that he can win this thing in a totally unconventional way. that when people wrote him off back in june, they were all foolish. he can do this his way. and i got to say, it looks very -- it's very curious. because he has enough support out here, even among some of the iowa establishment figures, he could run a pretty strong public schedule out here, but he's not really trying. and everyone's sort of scratching their head. >> thank you both. coming up, is 2012 the near we are going to see a serious
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independent run? it could happen. it could tilt the balance to a major party candidate. you're watching ha"hardball" on msnbc. through amber waves of grain, and i won't stop until i've helped every driver in america save hundreds on car insurance. well i'm out of the parking lot. that's a good start. geico, fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent, or more on car insurance. nyqui tylenol: me, too. and cougnasal congestion.ers? nyquil:what? tissue box (whispering): he said nasal congestion...
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will you promise, if you don't win this nomination, and you're doing very well here in iowa, that you will support the republican nominee and not run third party? >> well, i'll give the same answer i've given about 39 times now. that i have no intention of doing that. i plan to do my very best and see what happens in the next two months. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was ron paul on fox last night, leaving that door wide open on the possibility that he
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could run as a third party candidate. it's an idea that seems to be gaining some momentum as millions of americans expect to be distressed by their choice in november, no matter who the two nominees are. the latest "usa today"/gallup poll shows a majority of americans believe a third party is needed. in fact, 54% of americans nationwide believe the two major parties have done such a poor job that a third party is needed. if someone does run as an independent for president, which party gets helped and which one gets hurt? willie brown is former mayor of san francisco and michael steele is a former rnc chairman, who is also an msnbc political analyst. mr. mayor, i'm going to start with you. because i distinctly remember 1992, a very, very weak -- perceived to be weak democratic nominee limping out of the primaries, barely beating jerry brown in primaries, a guy named bill clinton. and you were among some who were saying, look, if this clinton guy's going to be this weak, let's just nominate perot, because you feared it would hurt
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clinton, but it turned out that perot helped clinton. do you sense that same feeling in '92 that you saw today in 2012? >> i do think that there's the distinct possibility of a third party candidacy in the year of 2012. i also think that the obama people would not really want that to happen. there are obviously some real difficulties with any third party candidacy, and with the predictability of which party benefits from it. my guess is almost all of the candidates would prefer for politics to be played between republicans and democrats and no independent involvement. >> well, it does mess up the math. you know, michael steele, it's interesting that mayor brown says that. only because i can't -- you do the numbers and you crunch this, and i go seven out of ten times, and i think a third party candidacy makes an obama landslide more likely than we realize. what do you say?
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>> actually, i kind of agree with the mayor there. and it's good to see the mayor again. and i think that he's on to something. i think it really boils down to who that third-party candidate is. i think in the case of the gop, if you're looking at a ron paul jumping into the third-party ring, yeah, he's going to have an impact, because he's going to have a lot of libertarian conservatives and conservatives generally who are not, you know, enamored with mitt romney, if romney is the eventual nominee, saying, look, i'm going to go this way, which opens up a real avenue with independents for obama. if it's huntsman, on the other hand, huntsman could very well eat into that very strong independent base that the president's going to rely on for his re-election, which would probably more likely benefit the republican nominee. >> you know, mayor brown, the other thing that i hear one of the theories of the case is, we should stop assuming it's going
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to be one. that we have such a volatile nature in the electorate, occupy on the left, which seems to be upset about a quarter of the american public, tea party on the right, another quarter of the american public. put them together, that's half. you can't imagine one guy or gal being able to appeal to both of those populous entities, so maybe we end up with two semi-serious independent candidacies. you guys out in california do this a lot. >> i think it would be a mistake, frankly, to limit the potential to just huntsman or paul. i genuinely believe that our friend, newt gingrich, is a more distinct possible third-party candidacy coming out of the republican operations than almost anybody else on the ballot. after all -- >> what gives you that? >> well, he's the guy that has no real structure, for running for president. he's the guy that appeared to have abandoned the race some time ago.
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he's the guy that has a considerable amount of the baggage. he's the guy that a number of republicans are already speaking about in a negative fashion. and newt is a real fighter. he doesn't take that easily. and he will view himself as being a viable candidate for democrats, for republicans, and for everybody else, and that he's without the need to have any of the usual party structure. and if he thinks that way, his ego, i think, is massive enough to propel him into the race, and for the first time, a real, serious, mainstream party politician running as a third party candidate. that persons should fear more than anything else. always a pleasure to talk to you both. >> thank you, chuck. up next, which candidate earned a pants on fire rating for not telling the truth at last night's debate, again. that's next on the side show.
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you're watching "hardball" on msnbc.
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back to "hardball." now time for the sideshow. first up, busted. during last night's republican debate, candidate michele bachmann found herself in need of some backup. where did she turn during that tiff with newt gingrich over the money he brought in from freddie mac after leaving congress? let's listen. >> the speaker had his hand out and he was taking $1.6 million to influence senior republicans to keep the scam going in washington, d.c. we can't have as our nominee for the republican party someone who continues to stand for freddie mac and fannie mae. >> what she just said is factually not true. i never lobbied under any circumstance. >> well, after the debate that we had last week, politifact came out and said that everything that i said was true. >> or maybe not.
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he's what the team at politifact did back up among bachmann's claim, that until recently, newt gingrich has been advocating for the individual mandate. but there was also this statement from bachmann at the last debate. "if you look at mitt romney as the governor of massachusetts, he's the only governor that put into place socialized medicine." well, that line actually earned bachmann her 11th pants on fire rating from politifact. and now that she's claim that the group endorsed everything that she said at the debate, politifact has awarded bachmann pants on fire number 12. i have a feeling the gingrich campaign may pass that around after last night's little back and forth with bachmann. also, rick perry may have gotten the least amount of speaking time at last night's debate. oh, how the mighty have fallen. but he did manage to give us one of the more standout quotes of the evening. the topic, would rick perry's debating skills really be able to hold up against president obama? here's perry's attempt at reassuring republican voters. >> i'm kind of getting to where i like these debates.
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as a matter of fact, i hope obama and i debate a lot. there are a lot of folks who said that tim tebow weren't going to be a very good nfl quarterback. there were people who stood up and said, he doesn't have the right throwing mechanisms or he's not playing the game right. and you know, he won two national championships and that looked pretty good. we were the national champions in job creation back in texas. but am i ready for the next level? let me tell you, i hope i am the tim tebow of the iowa caucuses. >> i have to say, it was pretty clever. i love "throwing mechanics." anyway, the trouble is tebow is known for the terrible starts and fantastic finishes, so, obviously, perry is hoping that he did the terrible start and he gets the fantastic finish. we shall see. by the way, the tim tebow shout-out wasn't also just a throwaway, being an evangelical, lots of evangelicals in iowa, which is the true focus of the perry campaign.
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finely, playing the not nazi card. when will politicians learn? alan west from florida is known for slamming his opponents with incendiary comments. but this one ramps it up a notch. yesterday west was asked to comment on a recent pew poll that found that a plurality of americans, 40%, blame republicans alone for the constant gridlock in congress. his response, "if joseph goebbels was around, he would be very proud of the democratic party because they have an let's think about that for a moment. west is comparing democrats to joseph goebbels, an anti-semite, the nazi minister of propaganda. when it became clear that germany had lost the war, he murdered his six children and then committed suicide with his wife. west's office released a statement saying that his comments were not anti-semitic and attempts to call them that are an example of the propaganda machine he mentioned originally. okay. that defense isn't holding up with many of west's colleagues, who are still calling for an immediate apology, and congressman west, a lot of
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floridians were jewish, that you represent. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. up next, "your business" with j.j. ramberg. i'm good about washing my face. but sometimes i wonder... what's left behind? [ female announcer ] purifying facial cleanser
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