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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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I have to tell you I was impressed -- others of my colleagues were not, but I was very impressed that when you gave the Republican response to the president this year, the State of the Union, you were one who put cards on the table. Of all the -- in neither party, except for you -- you were out there talking about means testing some of these entitlement programs, for the very wealthy -- in other words, making the kind of rational decisions we have to make as part of any grand bargain.

Did you take heat for sticking your neck out in that regard, Governor?

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: Don`t think so, Chris. I got an awful lot of very nice feedback for that. I told the leaders of our party, when they asked me to make the speech, that, number one, I wasn`t much into red meat, try to be more constructive than that.

And number two, that they knew what I thought about these things and I would -- left to my own devices, I would be specific in a way I think our party has a duty to be. They said, Go ahead, and I did. As far as I know, they were pleased. And those I heard from were.

MATTHEWS: The one thing -- I mean, I`m not a Republican, but the one thing that`s united Republicans, center, left and far right, is an absolute belief in cutting government spending. There`s a real commonality. Forget the cultural issues for a moment and the foreign policy issues, which aren`t that salient right now -- a real belief that government spends too much money and the long-term debt`s a real, real threat to our country.

And yet the two candidates now standing at the top of the fight coming into Illinois are Santorum, who really focuses on the cultural issues -- he really does -- and Mitt, who`s not really credible because he is a former moderate governor of Massachusetts, who really was pretty much a moderate Republican. He wasn`t a fiscal -- a hard-liner, a fiscal hawk.

You, on the other hand, are the real thing. Isn`t it odd that the party`s not picking the one thing they all agree on in a candidate?

DANIELS: Well, I hope we ultimately will. I do think for the moment, it`s a little disappointing that folks aren`t thinking a little bigger, having a little more confidence in the American people that we can level
with them about the dangers we`re facing and about the practical steps we really have to take if we want this -- want to fight our way through this thing, not have a bad ending.

I think they`re being too timid, honestly. The president`s left the field wide open. He`s AWOL on the biggest danger to our country.

He gives us 70-some minute State of the Union speech, Chris, and never mentioned the debt.

I said to somebody...


MATTHEWS: I can argue with you on that, because there was an attempt last year from him to go at it, and your candidates, all of them said they wouldn`t even accept a 10-1 deal.

Now, you know no Democrat can go to the table and say I`m going to the table, but I`m not even going to get $1 for the $10 I`m cutting in spending in taxes. You know no Democrat can sign a deal. You have to come to the table with a reasonable compromise, some kind of debt reduction which includes some kind of revenues and a lot of spending cuts. But you need both ingredients. And your party said no deal on taxes.

DANIELS: I would be happy to tell you that I would have raised my hand, or maybe not raised, whatever the signal was, to say tell me more about that 10-1 business.

And I wish at least one of our candidates had taken that route. But, look, you can`t let the president off the hook. He`s proposing budgets that make it far worse. He commissioned and then totally ignored the
Bowles-Simpson commission, which made a pretty constructive suggestion, along the lines you just outlined.

No, he`s basically the candidate of national bankruptcy. So the door is wide open on our side. I agree with you that our candidates have yet to really fully take up the duty.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know -- well, since we`re getting political, now I will make the argument from the other side. The president said that Simpson-Bowles, although it has a hell of a lot of good stuff in it -- and
Durbin had the guts to support it and some other people stuck their neck out for it -- it did call for an equal taxation of capital gains and regular income.

How many Republicans are going to go along with something like that in the end?

DANIELS: I don`t know, but there was a lot in there that no Democrat presently is prepared to say they are for. And so it would have been an interesting starting point. And it was I thought incredibly disappointing
that the president, who set them the sail, then turned his back on them when they came back with a pretty decent report.

MATTHEWS: Well, my daughter worked on that report. So of course I`m with you.

By the way, I do -- in all seriousness, I do think it was a chance where he would have had a lot of cover if he had gotten -- by the way, some good people were for that on both sides. Coburn was there and so was

Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich in this race. Do you think it is good for the party to have a three-way when it really should come down to a two-way at some point sooner or later?

DANIELS: It`s not for me to say. These guys have poured an incredible amount into this. They all believe in what they are doing and what they are advocating. It`s not for me or frankly for anybody else to tell them to get out.

MATTHEWS: Do you think if somebody doesn`t get a majority of the delegates before the convention, that there should be a real debate at the convention as to who the -- should it start over again, in other words?
Should there be a real brokered convention?

If nobody has the majority, should there be a brokered convention where you really do look at outside possibilities?

DANIELS: Whatever it is, it wouldn`t be brokered because there really any brokers around. What you would have there...

MATTHEWS: Well, on the second ballot, there would be.

DANIELS: Well, you would have a lot of very willful people who sought to be delegates and have their own points of view. It would be a wide-open convention. We have not seen one, Chris. I don`t know what it would look like.

I don`t know if it would come out well or poorly for the party. I don`t think it`s very likely, for all the reasons that -- about which you`re more expert than I am.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not more expert than you because you`re elected.

But let me ask you about the whole ticket. Can Romney beat Obama?


MATTHEWS: Can Santorum do it?

DANIELS: I think anybody can do.


MATTHEWS: Can Santorum?

DANIELS: It depends on the campaign they run, entirely on that.

Of course a lot of Republicans are restless right now. In my frivolous moments, I will say the following. Given this economy, which is very weak no matter what they say, you have record low percentage people of
working today. It`s the weakest recovery we have ever seen from a recession like this.

Add on gas prices, add on the mounting debt, add on Obamacare, which fewer and fewer people like, I always say it would be really hard to lose an election to President Obama. But we have got just the team that could do it. And...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Did you see the poll numbers I just gave you? He is ahead, Obama is ahead substantially.

DANIELS: Yes. Well, I don`t think these things mean much of anything right now. Chris, they change by next week.

I think it depends entirely -- it`s not so much a question of the who we nominate as the what. What is it that we offer America? Do we have the confidence in the American people to say, listen, we are facing a truly
serious problem? It`s not a philosophical problem.


DANIELS: It`s all arithmetic. And there are things we can do that really won`t hurt anybody. In fact, they will spare us a lot of pain and here they are.

MATTHEWS: Let me give you two statistics you don`t need help with, because you know more about politics than I do. You have been elected.

More than men, women count in these elections. The Republican Party is getting some bad P.R. on that lately, somewhat because of Rush Limbaugh and somewhat because of the Blunt amendment going after the contraception issue. A lot of women take umbrage at that. They say why are the men telling us what to do? You have got 10 percent now for the first time ever of the electoral this coming November who will be Hispanic in background.

Mitt Romney has just gotten so far right on that issue in terms of self-deportation he`s talking about. Are you guys blowing a lot of numbers there you shouldn`t be with women and Hispanics?

DANIELS: Yes, potentially.

Let me just take the first one. I wish our teammates -- my teammates would stop taking the bait. They didn`t bring up this whole contraception, morning-after issue. The president did by what I believe was a very
radical trespass of freedom, the action that his department suddenly sprung on us all.

And the argument should not have been over -- it was incidental that it happened to do with contraception. The argument should have been, what`s the federal government, where do they get off telling people what
they will provide?

The fact that something is a right doesn`t mean that my neighbor should have to pay for it for me. I have a right to own a gun, but I don`t expect somebody else to buy me one or be made to by the government. And I think, honestly, my teammates were trying to talk about the big issues on the day that happened.


MATTHEWS: You know, Women don`t take it that way. You look at the polls, Governor, what women take it as is your party is telling them whether they should get financial help to pay for birth control, which,
obviously, men and women are both concerned with. But women say this is a really invasive thing to be told by men in politics you can`t have this covered, where other things are covered as part of your health care.

We`re just -- why did they -- you know, you know the issue.

DANIELS: Chris, I`m not disagreeing with you. Just as I think some of my friends here are pretty clumsy when it comes to connecting with average people, something that`s not hard to do if you like folks and work
at it -- and some of us do.

They are also very clumsy about issues like this. The invasion here was the invasion of people`s rights by the federal government.


DANIELS: The right answer would have been, what`s next, health club memberships?

MATTHEWS: OK. We have to go. We`re late.

Governor, the only thing I can tell you is that Rick Santorum said at the beginning of this campaign last fall he wanted to bring up contraception as a major issue. He thought it was an evil in our society and wanted to talk about it seriously. So it wasn`t just the left. But you have got a point in terms of the bill.

Thank you very much, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana.


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