MSNBC "Race For The White House With David Gregory" - Transcript
MR. GREGORY: A lot of negatives today -- negative campaigning in the presidential race and a gloom-and-doom day on Wall Street after last week's passage of the bailout bill.
Joining me now to face off and discuss today's developments are Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, who joins me from Nashville tonight.
Both of you, welcome.
REP. BLACKBURN: Good to be with you. Thank you.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, David.
MR. GREGORY: Thank you.
Congressman, let me start with you. This is new from our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. And the question was, "Who do you want to control Congress?" The advantage here goes to the Democrats, 49 percent to 36 percent.
As you survey the political landscape, do you fear that there is a throw-the-bums-out mentality that is sweeping Washington?
REP. VAN HOLLEN: I don't, because the people throughout this country have consistently looked at the Congress and discriminated between the actions of the Democrats and the actions of the Republicans. And when they looked at the Democratic agenda, they saw a party that was trying to get the economy moving again, trying to make sure that we finally restore some oversight over the financial markets, a party that understands the health care stress and the other stresses that are facing the American people around the kitchen table.
And that is why consistently you've seen polls saying, "We support the Democrats." People are frustrated because they've seen a lack of progress, but they've seen who's trying to make progress and who is supporting the status quo.
MR. GREGORY: Well, and Congresswoman, to direct the question to you, again, you've got Democrats in control, a big financial bailout package that has passed. It was very unpopular, and yet still that advantage for the Democrats. As a Republican, do you fear the wind of change means get the Republicans out of town?
REP. BLACKBURN: You know, David, one of the things that is so interesting to me is the American people have figured out that the Democrats are in charge of both houses of Congress. You have seen their advantage in the generic ballot begin to creep down a little bit, and that generic ballot, the difference between Democrat and Republican, has come closer together.
Now, there are a couple of things here that I think are pretty important. And number one, as you said, there is this change in Washington. And I will tell you what. There are so many people that say, "You know what? They're all the same, whether they're Democrat or Republican. They're looking out for self-interest." And they want individuals that are going to look out for the citizens.
And the second thing, this bailout package that Secretary Paulson and Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid were pushing through is incredibly unpopular. And, of course, the Democrats are the ones that took the lead on the bailout package.
MR. GREGORY: Let me get to the battleground map here and let you all face off on this issue; the new NBC News battleground map. And here's the real key point. There are 100 tossup votes, electoral votes, on that map. The tossup states: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Congresswoman, those are Republican states from 2004, where McCain's barn is on fire, as Mike Murphy, the political strategist, said on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Is there any question in your mind why McCain has decided to try to get focus off the economy and go negative against Obama?
REP. BLACKBURN: I think they -- one of the things that Senator McCain is trying to do and the campaign is trying to do is draw a distinction in character and trust. And certainly Obama's ties to two individuals that were part of the Weather Underground, certainly that is something the American people need to be aware of. It's something that they need to know.
The way he has approached that friendship and that relationship and working with the Chicago Annenberg Foundation, with William Ayers, all of that is something that should come to light. It's a consistent pattern of issues that call into question his judgment and his --
MR. GREGORY: No, let's not -- hold on. We're not going to go on and on. I want a response back and forth here. Congressman?
REP. BLACKBURN: Sure, absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: Are those fair points?
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, thank you. David, I think you saw in the answers the reason why the American people have greater faith in Democrats on both those issues. First of all, we were asked for a blank check of $700 billion from President Bush. It was the Democrats who said, "No way you're getting the blank check. We're going to write provisions in to protect the taxpayer." Nobody liked it, but we understood the cost of doing nothing could be economic disaster.
Number two, you've heard the McCain campaign say it today themselves; they admitted it. They said, "When we talk about the economy, when we talk about the issues that the American people care about, we lose. So what do we do? We change the subject. We go try and trash Barack Obama."
It's a fear-and-smear campaign, and it's a clear indication of how weak they are. And the reason the battleground states polls are what they are is the American people are under incredible economic stress. Only the Democrats have proposed something that's different from the Bush-Cheney economic policy. Barack Obama has proposed something different, and all they want to do is change the subject, just like Governor Palin changed the subject after she got the question she didn't want.
MR. GREGORY: All right, Congresswoman, I'm going to give you the final word here.
REP. BLACKBURN: Well, first of all, let me --
MR. GREGORY: Hold on, Congresswoman. The most important issue is clearly the economy in this race.
REP. BLACKBURN: Yes, it is.
MR. GREGORY: Specific on this question, what does John McCain have to do tomorrow, a town hall format, to try to even out the playing field on this issue?
REP. BLACKBURN: John McCain needs to remind people that he is the one who has been pushing for reforms of Fannie and Freddie for about five or six years now. Barack Obama has never opposed Fannie and Freddie. John McCain also needs to remind the American people he is the one that wants them to keep more of their paycheck every month and not have them send it to the government. And John McCain wants to reduce spending, and Barack Obama wants a trillion dollars in new spending.
And by the way, David, I'm the one on this show that voted against that bailout bill. (Laughs.)
MR. GREGORY: All right, I'm going to --
REP. VAN HOLLEN: David, it's interesting to see the new John McCain, Mr. Regulation, was the same guy who tried to get the regulators to back off of Charles Keating. And that is a much more relevant discussion in today's environment, where we're talking about deregulation versus regulation, other than this trumped-up thing that the Republicans have come out with out of total desperation.
MR. GREGORY: I'm going to leave it there. Congresswoman Blackburn and Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much.
REP. BLACKBURN: Good to be with you, David. Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Thank you; appreciate it.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you, David.