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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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You are not only governor of your state, you are a veteran political observer of that state. You have won every race, I believe, statewide, you`ve ever fought. Let me ask you this question. Are you surprised by
the -- what looks to be a blooming support out there in your state for Ron Paul? And what does it tell you as an expert on the state`s politics?

GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: Well, in this caucus race, we`ve had more leaders than ever before. People are really disgusted with what`s going on in Washington, the lack of leadership from the president, the fact that we see the national debt going up more than $1 trillion every year. Obama`s health care is unaffordable, unsustainable.

I think Iowa voters want to send a real signal. We need to dramatically cut federal spending and have somebody that has the courage -- and Ron Paul has had the courage -- to vote against all these deficits and
all this manipulation of the currency.

We don`t want to be the next Europe. We see the disaster Europe`s in because of their excesses in spending...


BRANSTAD: ... and failing to manage their fiscal house. We don`t want to see that happen in America. And I think people are very concerned about it.

But also, as you pointed out, a lot of people are now starting to focus on Ron Paul`s positions on foreign policy, some other issues. And I think a lot of Iowans have some concerns, think he might be naive with
regard to Iran and some other places.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about that because four years ago, whenever he said something that sounded isolationist or anti-war, about the Iraq war, for example, Rudy Giuliani was there on the platform and he just whacked him and said, 9/11, and that was the end of it. He got the applause and Ron Paul was quieted.

This time around, Ron Paul -- is he benefiting from a bit of war fatigue, now that we`ve been over in Afghanistan for 10 years, we`ve been -- we`re just coming out of Iraq after 8-and-a-half years? Do you sense in Iowa among conservatives a sense of war fatigue on the part of our military?

BRANSTAD: No. I think, really, his appeal to conservatives is the fact that he`s a libertarian that`s been against all this excessive government spending and manipulation of the -- of the currency. I think that`s his real appeal. He wants to send a real message there.

Now, he`s getting some support from some nontraditional places, from the Occupy groups and some of those, who are just plain against defense and against the military. But he also does get some support from rank-and-file people that serve in the military.

So his support comes from a lot of different places. But also recognize, he`s now a front-runner.


BRANSTAD: And with being a front-runner comes more scrutiny.

Others that have been front-runners have been there for a while and dropped back. So I think the Iowa voters are looking for somebody that would be the perfect candidate. There isn`t such a thing as a perfect
candidate, but they want a better alternative.


BRANSTAD: They are convinced the country`s going the wrong direction. We can`t afford four more years of Obama. We need to have the strongest and best candidate.

MATTHEWS: It`s been a tough audition for all those guys.

Here`s Ron Paul, by the way, taking center stage. The NBC News political unit took at some of his let`s call them unconventional positions. He opposes any federal regulations, including those for car safety, medicines, even air traffic control.

He leaves it up to the states whether drugs like heroin, marijuana, and cocaine are legal or not. And he also says it`s for states to decide whether prostitution be legal or not. He says the Americans With Disabilities Act should never have been passed. And he believes Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unconstitutional.

Those -- it reminds me of being a kid and liking Barry Goldwater. I think a lot of young people love that stuff. Why do you think it`s grabbing not just young people?


MATTHEWS: Young people are love and healthy. Let me ride my motorcycle without a helmet, let me live my life. Is that what it`s about? Is that the appeal of Ron Paul in Iowa?


He`s got a lot of support from young libertarians, but, also, you have got to remember the Iowa caucuses are going to be held on January 3. The colleges are going to be on Christmas and New Year`s holidays. So not all of those people are going to be here to vote.


BRANSTAD: And it really depends upon who turns out. He`s got some very strident supporters, but also I think that have got to remember, too, there`s a lot of candidates in this race, and we`re looking at maybe the front-runner getting around 20 percent or something like that.


BRANSTAD: In the end, it could change hands another time or two before it`s over. It`s a wide-open race. I don`t think we should focus too much on any one candidate. Let the voters decide. I have a lot of confidence in Iowa caucus-goers. They will choose the candidate they think is the strongest and the best to be the leader of America.

MATTHEWS: Well, as you know, as a watcher, the more wide-open this election is, this caucus you`re having on January 3, the more everyone gets somewhere around 25 percent or less, the better it is for Romney, because that means dividing up the conservative vote.

Here`s Ron Paul getting front-runner treatment on CNN last night from Gloria Borger. She asked about incendiary language in a newsletter published under the name "The Ron Paul Report" back in -- here`s a 1990 newsletter that criticized Ronald Reagan for honoring Martin Luther King Day by creating a federal holiday called -- he called it, by the way, in the newsletter, whoever wrote it, the Ron Paul newsletter, "Hate Whitey Day."

Well, Borger asked Paul whether he read the newsletters. And watch what happened here next.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not all the time. Well, on occasion, yes.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: And did you ever object when you read them?

PAUL: We talked about this twice yesterday at CNN. Why don`t you go back and look at what I said yesterday on CNN and what I have said for 20-some years? It`s 22 years ago. I didn`t write them. I disavow them. That`s it.

BORGER: But you made money off of them?

PAUL: I was still practicing medicine. That was probably why I wasn`t a very good publisher, because I had to make a living.

BORGER: Is it legitimate? I mean, is it a legitimate question to ask that...


BORGER: ... your name?

PAUL: No. And when you get the answer -- and when you get the answer, it`s legitimate that you sort of take the answers I give.

BORGER: It`s legitimate. These things are pretty incendiary, you know.


PAUL: Because of people like you. Because of people like you.

BORGER: No, no, no, no. Come on, some of the stuff was very incendiary, in saying that in 1993 the Israelis were responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center, that kind of stuff. So, well...

PAUL: Goodbye.

BORGER: All right. All right. Thank you, Congressman.


MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it. I don`t know what happened there. But Gloria Borger is not usually that -- well, she was asking questions.

Are they legitimate questions, Governor, about what was published under his name in a newsletter that many years ago, 20 years ago?

BRANSTAD: Well, any time you get to be the front-runner, you`re running for president of the United States, you better be ready for a lot of scrutiny. That`s just the way it goes.


BRANSTAD: Politics is tough. You call this HARDBALL. That`s what it`s all about. It`s hardball, especially when you`re running for president of the United States. People have a right to know what stands
you have taken and even though it might be over 20 years ago.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think you`re rooting for Romney. That`s my hunch. But you don`t have to respond. My hunch is you want a winner in November next year, and you think the best bet is Romney.


MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. Right?

BRANSTAD: Well, listen, I think that Iowa voters are the best ones to decide.

I have confidence in them. I have tried to be a good host to all the candidates, want to treat them all fairly. I want to see a great turnout for the Iowa caucuses. And we can`t afford four more years of Obama. We
want a Republican that can restore fiscal integrity and focus on helping the private sector create the jobs to renew the American economy.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a pro, as you can tell.


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