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REP. TOM PERRIELLO (D), VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: E.J. Dionne in "The Washington Post" wrote something interesting today about your campaign of actually admitting to and sort of being proud of your voting record, on things like health care reform and the stimulus and the rest. He described it as a test case for populism surviving in a deeply conservative territory. I take it you agree with him.
PERRIELLO: Well, I still think we can outcompete, outwork and out-invent any country in the world. Unfortunately, the elites on the other side have given up you on this country. And some in our own party.
And I think what we need to do is get back to fighting for the working and middle class, and not be afraid to stand up for an agenda of building, making and growing things in America. I think what we"ve done in the last year is to make health care more affordable and easier for our businesses to afford it and compete.
We"ve tried to get ahead of China and India on the new energy economy where the other side has seemed to want to hand the keys over to the petro dictators and to China.
Now that we see whose funding their campaigns, it makes a little more sense. But for those of us who have to look in the eyes of families that are struggling and businesses that are trying to outcompete, we understand how urgent this is. So, we"ve got to stand up for an agenda and fight back for this ability to make things in America again.
OLBERMANN: Yes, you just mentioned the chamber. And they endorsed your opponent yesterday and they"re running ads against you that said your vote on health care is, to quote the ad, "hurting Virginia families."
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What"s your response to that?
PERRIELLO: Well, I mean, I think they have a few problems. One obviously, this money that"s coming in from Bahrain and China and Russia is, you know, a huge, huge breach in terms of what"s good for American democracy.
But I also just came from a local chamber event. And I think the disconnect between small business owners on Main Street who like that 35 percent tax credit on premiums that we gave them, they like the more than $1 billion that have gone out in the last two weeks through our Small Business Jobs Act. They like the fact that small businesses are going to get to negotiate the same kind of rates big businesses get.
So, I think when it comes to this agenda, whether it"s outsourcing or tax credits, you really see the chamber going not just off the rails but way to off to China, compared to the small business owners that are struggling in my community.
OLBERMANN: If you"re in a tie right now with Mr. Hurt, virtually so, why aren"t more Democrats doing it your way no matter what their district looks like?
PERRIELLO: Well, you know, for me, it"s got to come back to what called you to this in the first place. I got into this because if felt like people weren"t getting a fair shake, that our core, we were getting outcompeted as a country because we had stopped believing that we could do this better than other countries.
And the elites, in particular, in both parties, I think, were behind that. When we stand up for the people instead of protecting the powerful, we unleash an innovation and entrepreneurship that is second to none. I see it already happening with our dairy farmers, our poultry farmers and people inventing the next great car, an inventor in my district that just won the X prize for the 100 mile per gallon car, that"s what makes us great, not this race to the bottom with China the Republicans want, and outsourcing agenda, but a race to the top.
We can still do this better. And I think we should put that on the record, not just to win with it, but to have a mandate to come in in January and start to rebuild America"s competitive advantage.
OLBERMANN: Last point, the enthusiasm race. There is evidence in it from that "Hill" poll, there is an enthusiasm gap between the two parties in your district. It"s not overwhelming but it"s there. Have you observed it? What can you do about it? What can any incumbent Democrat do about it?
PERRIELLO: Well, we got to have the enthusiasm gap in reverse in our district. The conservatives don"t trust my opponent, Senator Hurt. They see him as kind of a career politician, close to the lobbyists and supporting outsourcing. Our side is very excited because I have stood up and fought back.
And I think independents are looking for someone with a plan to turn this around and not just hiding behind cheap slogans. So, I think we see that enthusiasm gap in reverse and that"s important.
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OLBERMANN: Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia, great thanks for your time.
PERRIELLO: Thank you.
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