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MSNBC Interview - Transcript


Location: Unknown

MS. MITCHELL: Three days after the election and five U.S. House races still undecided, district races in Ohio, Maryland, California, Washington state and Virginia have yet to be called. So far, the Republicans have lost at least a net of 19 House seats to the Democrats.

Connecticut Representative Christopher Shays is one of those Republicans who will not be returning for the 111th Congress and joins us today.

You were the last remaining Republican in New England, in the Northeast, in fact. You represented Connecticut's 4th District; I don't have to tell you this, for 22 years and lost to Jim Himes. Welcome. It's good to see you, congressman.

REP. SHAYS: Is the last time I'm going to be on this program?

MS. MITCHELL: No way. As far as I'm concerned, open invitation, in fact, I was going to ask whether you had any interest in joining the administration. One thing that comes to mind is the Peace Corps.


MS. MITCHELL: Directing the Peace Corps. I know you were a Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji and you've long been interested in foreign policy. There are a lot of other places in foreign policy. Would you be open to an invitation?

REP. SHAYS: Well, this is going to be a very exciting administration. I think, obviously, I'd be interested in doing something that the president was interested in and I think he's very interested in the Peace Corps. So that would be one opportunity I would certainly want to look at.

You know, I would be proud to help this president move our country forward.

MS. MITCHELL: Have they reached out to you? Have there been any soundings?

REP. SHAYS: No. Its been three days and -- has it been about three days, four days? They have so many important positions to fill and I think they're going to focus on that, but I have a lot of friends who have asked me if I would like to work in this administration and I said, you know, I would.

MS. MITCHELL: Let me ask you, congressman. What do you think was the main reason? Was it George Bush? What was the main anchor pulling you back, pulling you down?

REP. SHAYS: Well, I felt we were going to win this race. I felt we had a great two years. I thought my campaign was run really, really well. In the end, we couldn't get African American voters to split their ticket.

MS. MITCHELL: Bridgeport and Stamford?

REP. SHAYS: Well, in those towns, Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, I lost Bridgeport 26,000 to six. That's a stunning loss.

MS. MITCHELL: Oh, my God.


MS. MITCHELL: That really is.

REP. SHAYS: And the bottom line was they were pretty determined to vote for Barack and anyone on his ticket, and so that's where we weren't able to move the dial.

MS. MITCHELL: What does it tell you about the future of the Republican Party that Rahm Emanuel was chosen and within minutes, we were on the air live yesterday, we had John Boehner putting out a statement and the Republican National Committee, you know, basically attacking him, trashing him, at the same time, Lindsey Graham praising him.

What is the future of the Republican Party? How does it get rebuilt?

REP. SHAYS: Well, first off, brick by brick and understanding why we lost. We have to reach out to all races and we have to reach out in all regions and you have no Republican congressmen out of 21 congressional seats in New England. You only have three in New York out of 29.

So in New England and New York, you only have six percent representation and that's just not going to get you into the majority.

MS. MITCHELL: And we saw what happened to John Sununu, who had a lot of support, a lot of good marks in the Senate, but he couldn't go against what was going on in New England as well.

REP. SHAYS: But Sue Collins had a terrific victory.


REP. SHAYS: She got more votes than Barack Obama and she ran against a very competent opponent. So, I mean, I think our party is going to do fine. Ultimately, it's going to figure it out and it's not that they weren't conservative enough. Maybe in some areas being fiscal conservative I'd agree, but being socially conservative to the religious right. No, you're not going to be in the majority that way. You've got to reach out to African Americans. You've got to reach out to Latinos and you've got to be an inclusive party and we aren't right now, but we will be or we will be extinct.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, John McCain had a reputation going into the campaign for reaching out and for being a reformer on immigration. He took a lot of hits from the party's base for that.

Did he play too hard to the base? And was Sarah Palin the wrong choice?

REP. SHAYS: Well, I mean, I don't know. In the end, he was doing fine until the economy started to go under, and, frankly, you know, my district got hit by the breakdown in the financial markets more than any other district in the country. So I can tell you that's a big factor.

I think we would be making a mistake to draw quick conclusions. When you run against an articulate African American, it's hard to be able to reach out to African American votes and say, vote for us. So we should have done it sooner and we better do it in the future.

MS. MITCHELL: Now, there are reports today also that Mitch McConnell, in fact, Ken Strickland of NBC has confirmed that Mitch McConnell is reaching out, trying to woo Joe Lieberman over to the Republican Caucus. Any insights on that, your Connecticut colleague?

REP. SHAYS: Well, the only insight I can tell you is that he was rejected by the Democratic Party. He only had five people in the Democratic Caucus support him when he ran as an independent and he still sided with the Democrats and made Mr. Reid the majority leader. They should not forget that and if they want to ask him to step down, then my sense is he should join up with the Republican Party and run on our ticket next time around.

MS. MITCHELL: You have any interest in the Senate?


MS. MITCHELL: Okay. I know this must be a really hard time for you. Are you there packing? What's going on in your office?

REP. SHAYS: You know, to give you the reality and we knew this because we've seen it happen to other members and you say, you know, there by the grace of God goes I. You're given basically two weeks, two and a half weeks to clear out, your staff disperses and, you know, I really love my district. I love my constituents. They were wonderful to me. I'm going to miss the job immensely, but I'm going to miss my staff more than I can tell you. That's when I can get teary-eyed. Great staff. They work so hard. And I want to make sure every one of them has a job. Anyone listening, you want the best workers in the world, hire my staff.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, it's a hard time to be going through this with what's happening, 6.5 percent unemployment today, but they are a terrific staff. We know that. Our best to you and your wife and an open invitation to be here anytime.

REP. SHAYS: Well, let me tell you something. Elections are sacred and the election was decided for my opponent and I honor him and I congratulate him.

MS. MITCHELL: All right. Well, we'll be seeing you in the lame- duck session, too.


MS. MITCHELL: You've got a little bit more business to do before we let you go.

REP. SHAYS: That's true. That's true.

MS. MITCHELL: Thank you. Congressman Chris Shays, a class act.

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