MSNBC - Transcript
MS. MITCHELL: Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, a McCain supporter, is here with us now.
These latest polls show McCain, Romney neck and neck. Of course, that was a web ad because John McCain, frankly, doesn't really have enough money - $2 million a week it's going to cost in Florida to keep up on television. How does he compete with Mitt Romney's deep pockets?
SEN. LOTT: Well, it'll be a challenge, but I think you're going to see the money will be coming better and better for John as people realize, more and more, that he is probably going to be the nominee and has the best chance of being elected the president of the United States. I'm going to be involved in that effort to try and help him raise that money himself.
But, the thing with John is, he's got the message. He's got the story. He's got character and courage and leadership skills. And the issues we face - not just in the foreign policy, defense area, but economically and in a variety of other areas - are going to take somebody that is willing to step up, take the tough stand and lead. You may not always agree with John - and I have not - but I've always given him credit for being willing to show the courage to take on the tough issues.
MS. MITCHELL: Senator, why does he have such a hard time with Republicans? Now, Florida is the first closed primary. Up until now, he won New Hampshire because of independents. He won South Carolina because of independents. What if he can't prove that he can with Republicans?
SEN. LOTT: Well, that is the reason he has some difficulties. He does have appeal to independents and Democrats because he has been somewhat of a maverick.
MS. MITCHELL: Now, that helps in a general election.
SEN. LOTT: It helps him in a general, but you've got to get there.
MS. MITCHELL: He's got to get there, right.
SEN. LOTT: But as Republicans really look at John's record - and my relationship with the McCain family and with John go back years and years, including the years we were in the House together when I was the Republican Whip during the Reagan years, where John McCain and I worked together on budget issues, tax issues, defense issues. He stood very strongly, time and time again, in the House of Representatives. When it comes to fiscal conservatism and, you know, being tough, John has given us all a hard time. I mean, he's made it clear that there's spending that's done by Congress that really shouldn't be doing. And I've been one of those that was doing some of that.
So, how does he do it? I think as Republicans really begin to look at him more - not just judge him on McCain-Feingold and not judge him, I think unfairly, on immigration. Look, he may have taken some wrong positions, but there's an example he tried, it didn't work out. He tried again and it didn't work out. We're going to have to try again. This issue will not go away and we have to deal with it in a responsible way.
MS. MITCHELL: But on these fiscal issues, again, on this hurricane insurance for Florida, he's refused to pander. Now, for the panhandle, which wants hurricane insurance; the Republican governor, Governor Crist of Florida, has made it a big deal. It got shot down. It didn't get passed, at the federal level. But, how does John McCain win against other Republicans? Rudy Giuliani is saying it's the best thing since sliced bread.
SEN. LOTT: You know, Andrea, I am from the coast.
MS. MITCHELL: You suffered personally.
SEN. LOTT: I am Southern Baptist. My wife and I lost our home. I have a very, you know, emotional negative reaction to, you know, the insurance companies and the way they've dealt with us - some of them in particular. And there is clearly a problem there.
And I have conveyed to John, be careful, remember, FEMA is a four letter dirty word on the Gulf Coast area and in Florida, and that there is genuine problem with affordability and accessibility to insurance. You must address it.
But, I think for him to endorse a specific bill would probably be questionable. But he has got to understand this is a very serious problem. It's not just about Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. In this country, we're going to have come to terms with how do we deal with catastrophic disasters, natural or manmade. And John is the kind of guy that would say, you're right, we have got to make FEMA work effectively.
MS. MITCHELL: Does the turn economic issues help a Mitt Romney who can say, I'm the turnaround king. I was Bain Capital.
SEN. LOTT: Look, first of all, he's attractive. He's got a record of success and I think that is helping him, but I think when it comes to getting the job done and the proper position on fiscal matters - the way he as voted; the positions he's taken on spending and even on tax policy - I think we'll wind up - I think John can hold his own there.
And certainly when it comes to foreign policy, defense issues, understanding how you get things done in Washington, John has the edge.
MS. MITCHELL: All right, thank you very much. It's good to see you Senator Trent Lott.
SEN. LOTT: Thank you, Andrea.