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Video: Rep. Paul Ryan, roundtable

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    FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering .

    MR. GREGORY: Newt Gingrich set off a huge battle on the right over Medicare , the debt, and the GOP 's 2012 strategy. The target of that criticism, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan , whose plan to reform Medicare has made him the most talked about figure in Republican politics. And he is here this morning exclusively to respond to the controversy Gingrich created. Then, our political roundtable weighs in on all the fallout, Gingrich 's rough start and changing story.

    REP. GINGRICH: Those words were inaccurate and unfortunate, and I'm prepared to stand up and -- when I make a mistake, and I'm going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people that was a mistake.

    MR. GREGORY: How are the Democrats trying to take advantage, and what does it all mean for the rest of the GOP contenders who are making fresh moves in the campaign ? Mitch Daniels is now out, along with Trump earlier this week. Pawlenty is about to get in. And Huntsman in New Hampshire . Plus, the president's big Mideast speech and the rupture with

    Israel. With us: ranking member of the House Budget Committee , Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland ; Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy ; chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News , Andrea Mitchell ; columnist for The Washington Post Eugene Robinson ; and author of the book "Too Big to Fail ," now an HBO movie, The New York Times ' Andrew Ross Sorkin .

    Announcer: From NBC News in Washington , MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory .

    MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Breaking news in the 2012 race for the White House . Mitch Daniels will not run for president. The Indiana governor, who many thought would arrive on a white horse to buck up the GOP field , will not join the fray after all, announcing in a surprise statement overnight that family concerns made the difference. From the statement, he writes about his wife Cheri and his four

    daughters the following: "What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very

    simple: on matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women's caucus, and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country ; I love my family more." And with that, the field narrows. I want to begin here this morning, and I'm joined by the chairman of the House Budget Committee , Paul Ryan . Chairman, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS .

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Hey, good morning, David . Nice to be with you .

    MR. GREGORY: I want to get your, your reaction to the Daniels news because he is, in many ways, a kindred spirit on a lot of these fiscal issues, fiscal discipline . He won't be a part of that 2012 conversation as a candidate. A big blow to the party , do you think?

    REP. RYAN: Well, he called me last night and gave me the news about this, so quite frankly, yes, I am disappointed. I think his candidacy would have been a great addition to this race, and I think it's unfortunate that he's not going to run.

    MR. GREGORY: What about your own plans? There's a move afoot this morning, one of the big trending stories is whether you might actually join the race with a fiscal discipline message for 2012 . Will it happen?

    REP. RYAN: Well, look, I've been very clear about this. I'm not running for president. I feel, because we are in a big budget debate , I'm in a great position as chairman of the House Budget Committee to really weigh in on this debate . And I feel at the moment we are in, I want to stay focused on where we are right now, and that is getting our fiscal house in order.

    MR. GREGORY: So under no circumstances would you run or be on the ticket as a number two?

    REP. RYAN: Look, I, I'm not going to get into all those hypotheticals. I'm not running for president, I'm not planning on running for president. If you're running for president, you've got to do a lot of things to line up a candidacy. I've not done any of those things. It's not my plan. My plan is to be a good chairman of the House Budget Committee and fight for the fiscal sanity of this nation.

    MR. GREGORY: Understood. There's a little bit of door opening there, though, the door's a bit ajar. And you know how, you know how this works.

    REP. RYAN: It's not door opening, it's just -- I do know how this works, and I'm not going to get into all these hypotheticals in the future. My point is I'm not running for president. You never know what opportunities present themselves way down the road. I'm not talking about right now. And I want to focus on fixing the fiscal problems of this country . And I really believe, David , where I am as chairman of the House Budget Committee puts me in a great position to, to be a great contributor to this debate .

    MR. GREGORY: OK. Stay where you are , Chairman, please. The other big political story this week, of course , had to do with Newt Gingrich . He's in Iowa this weekend. He says his presidential campaign is alive and well despite a very tough week that began with his criticism of my guest, Paul Ryan , whose plan to reform Medicare is now the hot topic in Washington and on the campaign trail. We're going to continue our interview with Chairman Ryan in just a moment, but first some of the background. Just days after announcing his White House run, Gingrich made his 35th appearance on this program and shocked many by upending a centerpiece of the conservative 2012 playbook by calling Ryan 's Medicare plan "right wing social engineering ."

    REP. GINGRICH: So there are things you can do to improve Medicare ...

    MR. GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare .

    REP. GINGRICH: I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump.

    MR. GREGORY: Gingrich made headlines, but not the ones he wanted.

    REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): To somehow portray that as a radical step, I think, is a tremendous misspeak.

    MR. RUSH LIMBAUGH: Cuts Paul Ryan off at the knees, it supports the Obama administration.

    MR. GREGORY: He was even confronted by a voter during his first swing through Iowa .

    Unidentified Man: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

    REP. GINGRICH: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan .

    Man: Yes, you did.

    MR. GREGORY: By Tuesday, Gingrich began backtracking.

    REP. GINGRICH: I made a mistake, and I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close, personal friend, and I said that.

    MR. GREGORY: But other conservatives had already moved in.

    FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): And it sounded pretty clear to me that Newt Gingrich 's position, because he articulated this, was that Paul Ryan 's plan would be social engineering , and he didn't like it.

    MR. GREGORY: By Thursday, Gingrich moved on to denial.

    REP. GINGRICH: It was not a reference to Paul Ryan . There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer.

    MR. LIMBAUGH: Well, then what did you apologize to him about?

    MR. GREGORY: Missteps that gave political commentators and comedians alike material all week long.

    REP. GINGRICH: So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, and -- because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.

    MR. JON STEWART: You know, I, I've always found the hallmark of an honest conversation is one that begins with, "If you quote me directly, utilizing videotape of my comments in context, you're lying."

    MR. GREGORY: The bigger issue beyond Gingrich 's campaign is the sensitivity he exposed among Republicans to Ryan 's budget plan, including Medicare . Just how far will and should the GOP go to tackle the debt in this election season? And I 'm back with Chairman Paul Ryan . How did you respond to all of this?

    REP. RYAN: Well, first of all, his quote was deeply inaccurate. It was a gross mischaracterization of the House Republican budget plan. Newt 's acknowledged that, he's retracted it. And let's be clear what we're proposing here. This is as sensible and gradual as it gets. We're saying no changes for Medicare for people above the age of 55. And in order to keep the promise to current seniors who've already retired and organized their lives around this program , you have to reform it for the next generation. And the way in which we propose reforming for the next generation, it's in keeping with the Bill Clinton bipartisan commission

    that -- to reform Medicare, it's an idea that's been around for a long time called premium support: guaranteed coverage options for Medicare where the government subsidizes the poor and the sick a whole lot more than the wealthy, and people get to choose. If I could put it in a nutshell, we're saying don't affect current seniors , give future seniors the ability to deny business to inefficient providers. As a contrary to that, the president's plan is to give the government the power to deny care to seniors by empowering a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats...

    MR. GREGORY: What...

    REP. RYAN: ...to put price controls and rationing in place for current seniors . So I would argue that the opposite is true. We're being sensible, we're being rational, and we're saving this program . And you cannot deal with this debt crisis , David , unless you're serious about entitlement reform . And, unfortunately, I think we're going to have "mediscare" all over again, and that's unfortunate for the country .

    MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, we're going to, we're going to get to that, Congressman. Was this demagoguery on the part of Newt Gingrich ? That's what you warned happens on both sides when you were here in April on the approach to big problems .

    REP. RYAN: Yes.

    MR. GREGORY: This was demagoguery on the part of Newt Gingrich .

    REP. RYAN: No, I think that, that quote is deeply inaccurate. It's a gross mischaracterization. And again, Newt has already said that it was wrong, he was wrong to say it, and he's, he's basically retracted the statement. And he has apologized to me personally for that.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, but, but, here's the issue.

    REP. RYAN: It's not about me personally, this is about the House Republican budget .

    MR. GREGORY: Right. Right, it -- I don't think anybody thinks it's about you personally. The

    Wall Street Journal editorialized on Tuesday the following, I'll put it up on the screen: "Mr. Gingrich chose to throw his former allies in the GOP House not so much under the bus as off the Grand Canyon rim. ... "Our guess is that a politician as experienced as Mr. Gingrich knew exactly what he was doing and that as he runs for president, he wants to appear to be more moderate than he has sounded over the last, oh, 20 years, by suddenly triangulating against the GOP House he once led." The implication there, Mr. Chairman, is that he did know what he was doing because what he said out loud is what a lot of Republicans I've spoken to say privately, and they're scared to death about the politics of what you're proposing. They think it's just handing a huge issue to the Democrats .

    REP. RYAN: Look, of course people are scared of entitlement reform because every time you put entitlement reform out there, the other party uses it as a political weapon against you. Look, both parties have done this to each other. Here's the problem , David . If we don't get serious about these issues, if we don't get serious about the drivers of our debt, we're going to have a debt crisis . And the irony of this is all if we don't fix these programs, people who rely on these benefits are going to get cut the first, they're going to be hurt the worst under a debt crisis . We're saying, if we fix this now, we can keep the current promise to current seniors and people 10 years away from retiring. If we allow politics to get the best of us...

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    REP. RYAN: ...and if we allow the demagoguery to sink in and do nothing, then we will have a debt crisis . Then current seniors will get hurt. So who's being rational and responsible here? I think we want to get above all of this. Look, here in Wisconsin , people are ready for answers. They want leadership . The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days. So we House Republicans have put out a plan to fix this problem , save Medicare , and, in fact, pay off the debt over time .

    MR. GREGORY: All right, but, but Chairman...

    REP. RYAN: We have seen nothing of the like from the president and the Senate Democrats .

    MR. GREGORY: OK. But here's the problem . According to our polling, nearly eight in 10 Americans do not want to cut spending for Medicare , even in the name of cutting the debt. You, I assume, are not doing all of this as an intellectual exercise. You would actually like to get reform accomplished. There's the question of how much damage Newt Gingrich has done, former speaker of the House , presidential candidate . He was in Iowa and he was confronted by a voter, and I want to play a portion of that and get your response to it.

    Unidentified Man: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

    MR. NEWT GINGRICH: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan .

    Man: Yes, you did. You undercut him and his allies in the, in the House .

    MR. GINGRICH: No. I said...

    Man: You're an embarrassment to our party .

    MR. GINGRICH: Well, I'm sorry you feel that way.

    MR. GREGORY: How much damage has he done?

    REP. RYAN: I -- how much damage have I done?

    MR. GREGORY: No. How much damage has Newt Gingrich done to your effort to reform Medicare ?

    REP. RYAN: Oh, Newt . Excuse me. I didn't hear you correctly.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    REP. RYAN: Look, I'm not a pundit, I'm a policy maker . I'll let you and your panel figure that out, and that's up to the voters to figure this stuff out. The point is this, we've got to get beyond this and we've got to get on to a serious conversation about what it takes to fix the fiscal problems in this country . And if we don't tackle these problems now while we have time, they're going to tackle us. And our whole point here is we need to pre-empt and avert a debt crisis , and the way we are -- have proposed to do that is do it on our terms and prevent people who are currently retired and people about to retire from having severe disruptions in their lives.

    MR. GREGORY: Wait, but, Congressman...

    REP. RYAN: And so the people of Iowa ...

    MR. GREGORY: ...you're not a pundit.

    REP. RYAN: ...and the people of New Hampshire can figure this stuff out.

    MR. GREGORY: But -- yeah, but wait a second. But that, but that really is a dodge. You are the chairman of the committee , yes. You're serious about entitlement reform , yes. You're also a politician. You say you want to do it on your terms . Law does not become law without building political consensus and you don't have that. And now you've had a major figure in the Republican Party say this was right wing social engineering . So I'm wondering how much you do feel undercut...

    REP. RYAN: So...

    MR. GREGORY: ...in actually getting this passed, which I assume is your goal.

    REP. RYAN: First of all, if people are describing this accurately in polls, it's far more popular than the poll you've referenced. Second of all, leaders are elected to lead. I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls. And we are leading in the House . We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the president of the United States . The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days, and we have a budget crisis . So yes, we are going to lead, and we are going to try to move these polls and change these polls because that's what the country wants . I, I just did 19 town hall meetings , David , in, in the district that I work for that went for Obama , Dukakis , Clinton and Gore . People are hungry for solutions, and I really fundamentally believe that the people are way ahead of the political class. And I think they're going to reward the leader who steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems , no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much political parties try to scare seniors in the next election . I just don't think they're going to buy it this year, and they're hungry for leaders to fix this problem before it gets out of our control .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let me, let me follow up on that point. The president's communication adviser, Dan Pfieffer , put this on his Twitter feed this week. He wrote, "Biggest takeaway from the Gingrich flap, ending Medicare as we know it is the new GOP litmus test ." You'd expect that from Democrats , of course , and you'll hear a lot more of it. But also from the right, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe in The Wall Street Journal from FreedomWorks , behind the tea party movement, they write this, " Medicare reform has risen to the top of the national agenda and will be the defining issue of next year's elections. Any serious GOP presidential candidate must be absolutely clear on this issue. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option. A candidate who is timid on entitlement reforms is not qualified to be president." Is that your view?

    REP. RYAN: Yes, it is my view. I, I agree with that. And I do believe -- look, you cannot ever fully balance the budget and pay off the debt unless you address the drivers of our debt, our healthcare entitlements, our entitlements. And so we need a leader who's willing to talk about these things and actually do these things. We don't have that leader in the White House right now. We don't have these leaders running the Senate right now. And, yes, I agree with Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe in that op-ed, which is if you want a real leader to fix America 's problems , you've got to deal with these entitlement issues before they get out of our control . And so, yeah, I agree with that sentiment.

    MR. GREGORY: Then why don't you see more Republicans who want to be the country 's leader, standing up and saying, "I am for the Ryan plan, full stop , including Medicare reforms." Even Michele Bachmann has said there's an asterisk next to her support on Medicare because she has concerns that has been backed up by Congressional analysis suggesting that costs for seniors would go up under your plan, what would be -- you call premium support, others call vouchers, giving them money to buy insurance in the private marketplace.

    REP. RYAN: Well, look, first of all, I have no problems with somebody who's offering alternative solutions to fix this problem . I have problems with people who aren't offering any solutions, who are just playing politics. You know, as far as the costs are concerned, here's what we propose. If you're under 55, when you become Medicare eligible, you get to pick among guaranteed coverage options provided by and regulated by Medicare . We don't subsidize the wealthy nearly as much as middle income , and we subsidize the poor and the sick a whole lot more than everybody else . We think that's a smart way to go . Choice in competition, giving the senior the power to deny business to inefficient providers. The alternative to this, David , is a rationing scheme, are the 15 bureaucrats the president's going to appoint next year on his panel to ration Medicare spending. We don't think we should give the government the power to ration spending to seniors . We want to give future seniors the ability to make choices. And we want to subsidize people who are middle income and lower income and sick more than we subsidize the wealthy. And doing it this way, according to the CBO and the trustees, saves Medicare not only for the current generation with no disruptions, but for the next generation. It helps us pay off our national debt . These are the kinds of issues we've got to tackle if we're going to avert a debt crisis .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, are you willing to negotiate on this?

    REP. RYAN: And if you want to be a serious leader, you've got to do this.

    MR. GREGORY: Are you willing to negotiate on your Medicare plan?

    REP. RYAN: Say that again.

    MR. GREGORY: Because it's unlikely to pass the Senate .

    REP. RYAN: Of course . Absolutely.

    MR. GREGORY: You will negotiate.

    REP. RYAN: Of course , we would. I mean, this is the legislative process. But let me be clear , we're the only ones who put out a plan to fix this problem . We have nothing, nothing from the president or from the Senate Democrats that come anywhere close to averting a debt crisis and fixing our problem . House Republicans put out a plan that cut $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years to get this economy growing, to save our safety net, to guarantee health and retirement security, and to pay off our debt. We're offering details. We have no partners on the other side of the aisle offering anything but misleading scare tactics.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. Before you go, what about the debt ceiling negotiations? Do you think they'll be a deal, or will this go down to the wire ?

    REP. RYAN: Well, first of all, I think there will be a deal, and it'll probably take a while. Look, we have till August. It's May right now. This is going to take time. Our position's really simple. For every dollar the president wants to raise the debt limit, we're saying let's cut more than a dollar 's worth of spending. He's asked for a $2 trillion increase in the debt limit, we've laid out $6.2 trillion in spending cuts. So we can show the president plenty of ways and areas to cut more than a dollar 's worth of spending and it's very important for the credit markets , for our economy to show that we're going to get this situation under control , that we're going to get the debt stabilized and get spending under control , as we deal with this debt limit. Nobody wants default to happen, but at the same time, we don't want to rubber stamp just the debt limit increase that shows we're not getting our situation under control .

    MR. GREGORY: All right. Chairman Ryan , I apologize for that satellite delay. Sometimes that gets in the way. Thank you very much for dealing with that, and thank you for being on.

    REP. RYAN: Thank you.

    MR. GREGORY: And coming up, battleground 2012 , the changing GOP field . What the overnight news that Mitch Daniels will not run means for the rest of the contenders. Plus, more on the Gingrich fallout. Did he upend the Republicans ' 2012 campaign strategy, and can his candidacy survive such an early blow? Plus, rising tensions in the Middle East as President Obama delivers a big speech on U.S. policy in the region. We'll talk about the politics of it all with our roundtable. Joining us, Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland , Republican strategist Mike Murphy , NBC 's Andrea Mitchell , The Washington Post 's Eugene Robinson , and The New York Times ' Andrew Ross Sorkin .

    MR. GREGORY: Coming up, what does Daniels ' decision not to run mean for the rest of the GOP field ? Plus, analysis of Gingrich 's rocky week, and the riff between the U.S. and Israel after the president's big Middle East speech on Friday, and reaction to Ryan 's interview. Our roundtable, they're all here, ready to go and weigh in -- Congressman Chris Van Hollen , Mike Murphy , Gene Robinson , Andrea Mitchell and Andrew Ross Sorkin -- right after this brief commercial break .

    MR. GREGORY: We're back, joined now by our roundtable: Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine , Mike Murphy in from Los Angeles ; Democratic congressman and ranking member of the House Budget Committee , Chris Van Hollen of Maryland ; author of the new book -- not the new book, best selling book , "Too Big to Fail ," but it's now going to be a new HBO movie, The New York Times ' Andrew Ross Sorkin ; chief foreign correspondent for NBC News , Andrea Mitchell ; columnist for The Washington Post , Eugene Robinson . Welcome to all of you. Congressman, I want to start with you, fresh off this Paul Ryan interview. He's not giving ground on Medicare after patching things up with Newt Gingrich . Where does that leave negotiation on whether any kind of entitlement reform concerning Medicare can be agreed to?

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, you're right, David , it sounds like the Republicans are doubling down on their plan to end the Medicare guarantee. You know, Newt Gingrich had it right a week ago on this show. It is a radical plan, it is right wing social engineering , and it is, for this reason, because they take away the Medicare guarantee. They say to seniors , you've got to go into the private insurance market. And the independent

    Congressional Budget Offices point out two things: In that market, prices keep going up; and under their plan, support for seniors under Medicare goes down. Which is why it's going to cost seniors more and more every year as this goes on.

    MR. GREGORY: But he is saying that he is willing to negotiate, and he's also saying, accurately, that you Democrats don't have a plan and we have a budget crisis .

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, two things there. Number one, the president has put a plan on the table. And let's remember that the Affordable Care Act , the healthcare reform bill, had some significant Medicare reform . In fact, as, as Paul indicated, in the last elections, they ran all these ads against Democrats . We ended the overpayments to the Medicare advantage plans. We made some other reforms to incentivize provision of value of care over volume of care, and there are other things that had been proposed, and the president mentioned some of those. But here's where the Republicans have not come to the table. You didn't hear one word about how we need to deal with the revenue side of the equation. Every bipartisan commission that has looked at our deficit and debt problem has said you can't do it with a one-sided, lop-sided approach, which is what the Republican plan is. You need a revenue component. These guys won't even agree to get rid of the subsidies for the big oil companies. If you're serious about the deficit , why won't you come to the table and say, when you got record gas prices , record profits, you're not going to ask the, the oil companies to chip in and get rid of their subsidies.

    MR. GREGORY: Final, final point on this. The Republicans say, "Look, the prescription drug benefit under Medicare came in under budget and is very popular, and that the current path is simply unsustainable, to keep giving a guarantee to people that can't be paid for without absolutely busting the budget and increasing the deficit ." Is the Democratic leadership prepared to put reformulating Medicare in some dramatic way on the table?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: What we've said about Medicare is what the president said, which is that, number one, some reforms have been made; number two, additional reforms can be made. But that's not the place you start, by going to say, you know, beneficiaries are going to take the big hit . There are other reforms you can make. Let me give you one example. When it comes to prescription drugs, you mentioned Medicare Part D. In fact, under the Medicaid program , the taxpayer gets a much better deal in terms of the price for the purchase of drugs. We've said for folks who are on Medicare and Medicaid , dual eligible, "Take the lower price , save the taxpayers some money." So there's a lot you can do. And the Republican proposal , the reason it's such bad politics is because it's terrible policy.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to come back to this. I want to invite everybody now to weigh in, we'll weigh in on this. But I want to get to some of the big political news this morning, and we'll put up the headline this morning from the Indianapolis Star , Mike Murphy , Daniels decision, not running. "I love my country ; I love my family more." This is a big deal . I said at the top, this is -- he was seen that...

    MR. MIKE MURPHY: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: ...candidate on the white horse for a lot of people.

    MR. MURPHY: Old rule of politics, if you're going to run, make sure your wife is going to vote for you. And, you know, so I thought he had a great statement, and it's true. People were very excited about him as a candidate. He would have been a heavyweight in the contest. So now we're back to where we were. I think there's a little too much talk in Washington about there's not enough excitement. There may not be enough in Washington . For real voters, it hasn't even begun yet. And I think there's only one last Hamlet question, which is Chris Christie of New Jersey , who is a big Republican star, will he take another look at a late entry, which I think is possible. That would shake up the race. If not, I think you're going to have a lot of noise candidates around, but it's going to be down to Romney , Huntsman, Pawlenty , and then a kind of an entertaining candidate who won't get nominated, one of will emerge, maybe Herman Cain .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, Andrea Mitchell , what about Paul Ryan ? I mean, he didn't close the door completely to being on the ticket. He said, "I'm, I'm not running for president."

    MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: He didn't close the door . I think that because of the Medicare -- the toxicity really of what he's proposed on Medicare in terms of politics, that I think it would be very, a very big reach for him to be nominee of the Republican Party . But he ought to be considered. Certainly, I think that Mike would say for vice president, he could be in those sweepstakes. He -- when he said on -- to you that leaders change polls...

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MS. MITCHELL: That, that's leadership that people are hungry for.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

    MR. GREGORY: And he did say that anybody running in 2012 basically has to be either with him or against him, that he is that, you know, in that, in that center place.

    MS. MITCHELL: Or show leadership on entitlements.

    MR. GREGORY: Or show leadership , right. Gene Robinson , here's our list of who's in, who's out, who's on the fence. We've got -- our cork board here is moving around a lot. So, you see who's now out.

    MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: Mm-hmm.

    MR. GREGORY: You see who's in, including as of tomorrow Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain got in over the weekend. And then that additional list of who's kind of out there but not officially in. Mitt Romney is going to be in, but he's just not official. John Huntsman and Santorum, Rudy Giuliani , Michele Bachmann , and Sarah Palin . And look at the polling, as of now, just so we have some context around all of this. Romney is still at 20 percent. Palin at 12 percent. She said this week she's got fire in the belly. Gingrich at nine, and so on and so forth. Where does it stand?

    MR. ROBINSON: Well, it, it's very confused. Mitt Romney , everything that's happened the last few weeks has been very good for Mitt Romney .

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. ROBINSON: I mean, he, he is sort of the default option, I think, for the Republican Party . Chris Christie has made Sherman -like statements about not running this time. I think he -- I, I personally think he's serious about that, and I think one reason is that he can look ahead to 2016 ...

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. ROBINSON: ...and, and see that as a better, better chance.

    MR. GREGORY: What about the message, Andrew Ross Sorkin ? I mean, you cover Wall Street , you cover all things financial. A fiscal discipline message, a "We're going to get it right on the economy " message, that is still the right message for Republicans going into next year.

    MR. SORKIN: I got to tell you, I got an email while the show was going on, while Ryan was just speaking, and even though the Medicare plan may be unpopular, the view by a Wall Street CEO was this guy at least is proposing something.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. SORKIN: I think they like the idea of leadership . They want to get behind that. I don't know if Ryan is their man. I think from a money perspective you're seeing all the money go to Romney . But I think there's a real worry that there is a lack of leadership . And, and as one CEO said to me this week, "At this point, we are only playing for the Senate ." I mean, in terms of what our real opportunity is, because I don't think they have someone who has really ignited, ignited at least the business community .

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah, the Senate is the hedge on the presidential race .

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. MURPHY: Let me speak about Ryan for a minute to defend him, because there is a feeling in the country -- and it's right, I believe, at least a perception -- that a lot of people in Congress , you know, they're on the federal payroll, and they spend a lot of their time maneuvering to get re-elected. Paul Ryan , whether you like the plan or you don't like the plan, is about the bravest guy in Washington because he's taking on the entitlement monster, which is a huge threat. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, everybody agrees this spending thing is out of control . And so Ryan 's got a plan that involves a lot of political pain. Whether it's fair or not, it's incredibly brave. What I'd like to see is some grown-up politics for a change. So instead of the Democrats just doing the "mediscare," let's have an equally adult, somewhat scary plan from the left, so voters can have a real comparison because they're grown-ups. Pick the harder choice rather than the hard choice vs. the demography of the -- you know -- and Medicare as we know it, which is a scam.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: But, but, but...

    MR. GREGORY: Congressman -- yeah. Yeah.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Mike , Mike , political courage on the Republican side means taking on the revenue piece. That's why you've had a couple folks get in so much -- Senator Coburn raised his head on that. Grover Norquist tried to chop it off. It doesn't take a lot of courage on the Republican side to slash Medicaid by $700 billion.

    MR. MURPHY: Well, you know, I'm going to agree with you on, on the revenue thing. But...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: It doesn't -- but -- here are these guys that they won't even agree to say to the oil companies , "Look, you've got to get...

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah, I know. But look...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, but, Mike -- but, Mike...

    MR. MURPHY: But, Congressman, with all due respect, very, very quickly...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: ...this, this is the issue.

    MR. MURPHY: ...when you go to the oil company and all this stuff, you're going to the poll test and stuff to win the election , it's your job.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Yeah. Yeah, Mike, Mike...

    MR. MURPHY: But will you guys endorse Simpson-Bowles ? Because I will. I'd do it right now as a Republican.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Let, let, let's go to go in -- OK. I think there's...

    MR. MURPHY: I'm for a little bit of taxes.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: There's a lot of good in Simpson-Bowles , and what the Simpson-Bowles did was they took a balanced approach.

    MR. MURPHY: Right.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: The Republican budget is not balanced. In fact...

    MR. MURPHY: But where's the Democrat to balanced budget ?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, wait.

    MR. GREGORY: But let me, let me get in here for a second.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: The, the, the, the co-chairs of Simpson-Bowles , Simpson and Bowles , said that the Republican plan was not balanced. And they described the president's proposal the other day as more balanced and comprehensive.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let, let me just pull out -- I want to pull out on this.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: So let's be real here.

    MR. GREGORY: Congressman, I want to pull out on this because the larger issue here is what will be rewarded? Will it be leadership on seeking to solve the most intractable problems , or will too much pain be too painful? You said Newt Gingrich had it right. There are certainly those on the Democratic side who were listening, the, the professionals. And the group that's Priorities USA Action , formed by somebody -- deputy press secretary Bill Burton , now is doing an ad in South Carolina against Mitt Romney , putting the Gingrich flap at the center of it. Let's play that out.

    Ad Announcer: Newt Gingrich says the Republican plan that would essentially end Medicare is too radical. Governor Haley thinks the plan is courageous and Gingrich shouldn't be cutting conservatives off at the knees. Mitt Romney says he's on the same page as Paul Ryan , who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare . But with Mitt Romney , you have to wonder, which page is he on today? Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

    MR. GREGORY: So, Andrea Mitchell , this is where the debate is going.

    MS. MITCHELL: The debate is going exactly to that point, and the -- both sides trying to demonize the other. And what you're saying and what Mike Murphy is saying is that people want leadership .

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MS. MITCHELL: People want someone to show some guts here. Paul Ryan has shown considerable guts. But you're, you're, you're correct that nobody on the Republican side is showing any courage on the tax front. And unless taxes are part of the mix, every grown-up knows that it, it can't reach a solution.

    MR. GREGORY: Right. Andrew :

    MR. SORKIN: But I'm noticing, you know, Ryan opened the window today to actually come to middle . He wants another proposal. He wants a proposal from the Democrats . And I think they're -- if they can actually -- I think there's an opportunity to get there. So I think you give Ryan credit for at least bringing something to the table, and then when do the Democrats come and what do they come with?

    MR. GREGORY: Let me get Gene in here. Go ahead, Gene. Yeah.

    MR. ROBINSON: Just, just point out two things. Number one, the Republicans will not talk about tax increases. Democrats talk about a lot of budget cuts. They -- you know, the question for Democrats is how, how deeply do you cut the budget ? So, so -- and, and the second thing is on Medicare , people don't want it to be a voucher program . They don't want the kind of change Paul Ryan wants . So you can call that leadership , but if nobody wants to follow, it's not leadership . It's not what people want.

    MR. MURPHY: The Democrats talk about goals for budget cutting. They politically don't want to talk about actual budget cuts because they don't want their voodoo to be done to them. So you can argue, I think correctly, that the Republicans are, are very -- you know, they're not ready to take heat on taxes. But the Democrats aren't ready to take heat on any kind of broad- based tax or on spending cuts for real.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, actually, that's not true, Mike . You know that. A broad-based tax is exactly what the president and the Democrats proposed. We've said let's go back to the same rates that were in place during the Clinton administration for the folks at the very top. That's a broad...

    MR. MURPHY: That's not broad-based. You just want to tax the top.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, no, no. No, no, that -- it's going...

    MR. MURPHY: You can tax everybody in America over $100,000 100 percent, you won't pay the deficit this administration's racked up.

    MS. MITCHELL: And you're not going to....

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: That's -- well, look, look, that's over, that's over $700 billion.

    MR. MURPHY: Right.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: And that's a big chunk of the money. Now, look, the bipartisan groups have said you need balance. If you want to, if you want to have -- come to the table, we have a forum. Vice president's leading some talks. The Republicans have said that they're not going to deal with revenue as part of that. Democrats have said we're prepared to deal with the cuts, we're prepared to make cuts.

    MR. SORKIN: On the entitlement side?

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: We, we...

    MR. SORKIN: That, that's the issue. It's a two-way street , and that's the problem .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask this, Congressman. Let me...

    MR. SORKIN: It's -- the Dems go one way and the Republicans go the other way, and nobody goes halfway.

    MR. MURPHY: Right.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me get in, let me get in here for a second. Let me get in here for a second. I'm going to go to a break in just a minute, I want to ask one substantive question. And that is, will the idea of caps on spending survive to get us through this debt ceiling issue and then perhaps an agreement on the budget ?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: No. What, what the president's proposed is a cap on the deficit and debt. That's what we all are interested in. That's what we need to address is the deficit .

    MR. GREGORY: But the Republicans say, no, you got to cap discretionary spending , and then the appropriators can work.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: We, we say, again, it's the question of balance. We think we want to reduce the deficit . That would involve spending cuts, it involves the revenue piece. By saying spending, what you're saying is you want to whack Medicare and Medicaid only, you only want to deal with the spending side. Again, the bipartisan groups that have looked at this, every one of them have said any credible plan requires both.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, that...

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: That's what we're saying.

    MR. GREGORY: All right, so I can't promise that the debate won't continue during the commercial, but we're going to take one. And when we come back, I want to talk more about the politics, specifically the fallout for Newt Gingrich on this very rough week that, as we pointed out, started with his comments on this program last week. More with this roundtable right after this.

    MR. GREGORY: We are back with more from our roundtable. And when I say we are back, this weekend that's no small thing because there's a lot of talk about the end of the world . And so far, so good on that. So let's go back to politics and here was the cartoon out of Missouri -- Columbia, Missouri , from John Darkow , of Newt Gingrich shooting himself in the foot right after he announced, and that's the Medicare statement that is around the foot that he's shooting. Mike Murphy , how much damage has Newt Gingrich done to himself?

    MR. MURPHY: Well, Newt 's a lot of things, but very few people in practical politics see him as a dream candidate. He's just never been a real vote-getter. And that said, he's a powerful, intellectual force. He's had a very bad week. I have to kind of step away, though, because the maneuvers of Newt 's campaign is kind of like closely observing the maneuvers of the Belgian Navy . It's interesting, but it may not be that important. I don't think he was ever going to be a candidate who would get nominated. So the question is, when will the focus go to the guys who actually can get nominated? Newt could be a catalyst in all of this. He'll be a factor, but less of a factor, I think, than even people like me who didn't think he would be that powerful a week ago.

    MR. GREGORY: And Gene Robinson , you wrote this in your column in The Washington Post on Thursday, " Newt Gingrich 's meltdown on the launch pad. Prominent Republicans immediately grabbed their pitchforks, lit their torches and formed an angry mob. From opinion surveys and town-hall meetings, it was already clear that the Ryan plan to fundamentally alter the Medicare program is deeply unpopular and that ultimately it is likely to hurt the party at the polls. Now one of the best -known figures in the party , a candidate for the presidential nomination , was breaking ranks." You may be left of center , but the truth is my own reporting among Republicans is that that is spot on, that they are scared to death of the politics of this thing.

    MR. ROBINSON: Absolutely. They heard it at, at town hall meetings , they, they look at the polls. I mean, this is, this is really tough. This is an unpopular stance that Paul Ryan has led them to. It may be brave, but it's not popular. And so Newt Gingrich comes out and slams it. I, I think sensibly in terms of his own narrow political interests, perhaps. Or he, he could see it that way. But his campaign , I think, I mean, it's toast at this point. And I agree with Mike that maybe it wasn't going to go anywhere anyway.

    MR. GREGORY: And Andrea Mitchell , he hasn't stopped talking. He's still talking this morning. He told Rush Limbaugh , as we indicated, he wasn't even speaking about Paul Ryan , which, I mean, is just, on its face, absurd.

    MS. MITCHELL: He is twisting himself in the wind over this because he keeps changing the story and trying to create a new story and the importance of the politics that Gene was just pointing out, just look at the special election in New York . This is Jack Kemp 's old seat, the 26th. And the Medicare issue has become , you know...

    MR. ROBINSON: Mm-hmm.

    MS. MITCHELL: ...a pivotal issue that should, should be an automatic Republican seat and now is not automatic.

    MR. ROBINSON: There's a poll showing the Democratic contender actually...

    MR. MURPHY: But let me put a footnote there, there are two Republican candidates essentially and one Democrat.

    MS. MITCHELL: Right.

    MR. MURPHY: You give me that in any Democratic seat, I can grab it for the Republicans .

    MR. GREGORY: Well, but can I ask a...

    MR. MURPHY:

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: He's not now, but Davis used to be a Democratic candidate. So there's the third party candidate, but the fact is that what has really galvanized this race has been, has been the Medicare issue and the plan to end the Medicare guarantee. There's no dispute about that.

    MR. MURPHY: Jobs are what have galvanized this race.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, and can I make a point, though, about that? Well, thank you, Mike , because...

    MR. MURPHY: Which is the real issue anyway, you know, we all talk about.

    MR. GREGORY: ...here is, here is from the USA Today Gallup Poll this week on gas prices . And look at this, 67 percent has caused -- say it's caused a financial hardship. Andrew Ross Sorkin...

    MR. SORKIN: Right.

    MR. GREGORY: ...this is what I think is the difficulty for Republicans . You heard Paul Ryan say basically, you know, "You're with me or against me on Medicare ." That's a litmus test issue for Republican candidates, but it hurts them if they want to say, "Hey, we're the party that's going to get you back to work."

    MR. SORKIN: Right. No, that's the issue. And it's ultimately going to be about the math. It's going to be about what happens to the oil prices , and it's going to be about what happens to employment. And I truly believe that we're going to vote with our wallet when it actually comes down to it. And so the big question is, where are we in, let's say, six to 12 months from now when we actually have to...

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah. No, I concur.

    MR. SORKIN: When the rubber hits the road. And that's the issue, full stop .

    MR. MURPHY: I think it will be. It's a spending debate in Washington because that's the big long-term problem . It's a jobs election . And that's the president's problem . He's perceived by six out of 10 Americans as doing a lousy job on the economy . If the Republicans can get their focus on maybe not an entitlement war, but that, I think they can beat the president. If not, they may...

    MR. ROBINSON: But the question is, though, which party , which candidate can develop a message on jobs that connects with voters? I would argue that the president hasn't really done that. I would argue that the Republicans have not done that.

    MR. GREGORY: But the Democrats ...

    MR. ROBINSON: If the Republicans don't, I think the president....

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask you, let me ask you about this.

    MR. SORKIN: It's about trying to tell a jobs story...

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. SORKIN: ...and the Republicans are trying to tell a deficit story. Right? How do we reduce -- that's the distinction.

    MR. GREGORY: Right.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah, right. No, you're right. Politically, that's the big issue.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask then about another, another candidate, Jon Huntsman . He is, of course , the returning ambassador for the Obama administration in China . He was in New Hampshire this past week. He's positioning himself for a run. He's in a gun store in New Hampshire . He was a former governor of Utah , so he's trying to shore up those credentials. But what's interesting about him is that he's positioning himself not as a gun-toting conservative candidate, but as a more pragmatic candidate. Andrew Mitchell , is that going to fly in this Republican party ?

    MS. MITCHELL: It's, it's very much a big question, open question , as to whether Jon Huntsman can be viable in this party . Is he the place that the Bush family now goes having lost Mitch Daniels as a running horse ?

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

    MS. MITCHELL: He's opened a campaign headquarters or he will open his campaign headquarters in Orlando . Does that, does that raise questions about his authenticity? Is he running away from his Mormon faith as the governor of Utah , opening the -- it seems almost too cute, too obvious to open in Florida , your campaign headquarters, when you could choose any place in the country .

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Do Democrats think he's formidable? Do you worry about him?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: I, I don't really worry a lot about Huntsman. I mean, we're obviously just watching this Republican field play out, the thinning of the field . It would be great to have Don Trump back. But let me say this.

    MR. GREGORY: Right. But you...

    MR. SORKIN: Let me just ask, but who do you worry about?

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MS. MITCHELL: Who do you worry about, yeah?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: What's that?

    MR. GREGORY: Who do you worry about?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Right now...

    MR. MURPHY: Obama .

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, right now, look, the president -- no we don't because, as we were saying, at least the president, I mean, all kidding aside, the president has been focused on jobs. And as part of this deficit debate ...

    MS. MITCHELL: That hasn't translated yet.

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: ...he has said his number one priority is to make sure that we continue to be able to compete with our major overseas competitors, with China and India and all the others.

    MS. MITCHELL: The polling doesn't reflect that people are getting that, though.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah. He's focused....

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: But more so than anybody on the other side .

    MR. GREGORY: But do you worry , Congressman, that if unemployment doesn't get below 8.2, 8 percent, that he can't win?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: I don't worry that he can't win, but clearly, you know, the -- this election will be about the economy at the end of the day . But it's also going to be about people's vision for the economy and where they want to go. And again, so far we've seen nothing from the Republicans as to how they would do anything better than the present.

    MR. MURPHY: Yes.

    MR. GREGORY: Mike , can I just talk about Iowa ...

    MR. MURPHY: Sure.

    MR. GREGORY: ...which is something you were thinking about this week. You wrote about it in Time magazine -- I'll put what you said up on the screen -- in terms of Iowa strategy and how it's sort of influencing how the Republicans are starting to run and position themselves in the state. Do we have that ready? Can we put that up? It is that "the caucuses weed out about half of Iowa 's GOP -primary voters." You wrote, "[I]t attracts the intense and increasingly ideological voters who like their political meat served raw. And since the caucus vote is splintered among several candidates, as few as 40,000 votes are often enough to win. No wonder Michele Bachmann is out buying snowshoes." Your point being, Iowa should not have as much juice as it has, but since it has it...

    MR. MURPHY: Right.

    MR. GREGORY: ...does Michele Bachmann , does Sarah Palin have more room to run there and make a real dent?

    MR. MURPHY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm very fond of Iowa , I have many friends there. But I think the caucus has become a bit of a Harold Hill type thing, all its own now, where the Iowans are selling the band instruments with this big, expensive process. That's why I wrote about it. I do think, look, three million people live in Iowa , and if you get 40,000 of them together, you can win the caucus and get on a rocket sled in national politics. If I had to bet now, I'd bet Michele Bachmann in, in a field that's shrinking a little, but it'll have enough candidates, can win around a third of the vote, maybe a little less. That could help Huntsman as the kind of anti- Bachmann , the more moderate candidate in much more moderate New Hampshire , then the rest of the primaries become tougher for Huntsman. So I think Iowa almost becomes more of a disruptive factor now, that small turn out caucus for us...

    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hm. Mm-hmm.

    MR. MURPHY: ...than a helpful one. But we'll see. You know, I'm guessing.

    MR. GREGORY: Andrea , I want to ask you, you know, Mitt Romney in many ways had a good week. At the beginning of the week, he announced a huge haul in fundraising, over $10 million, which made it very clear that this is a guy who can keep on standing and still take a lot of punches over the long haul. And going back to Gingrich , on this question of the individual mandate, which is part, of course , of the president's healthcare plan, this was the exchange that I had with Gingrich over the individual mandate, which is something he supported back in the '90s. This is what he said.

    REP. GINGRICH: Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay -- help pay for health care . And, and I think that there are ways to do it that make most Libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond, or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable.

    MR. GREGORY: But that is the individual mandate, is it not?

    REP. GINGRICH: It's a variation on it.

    MR. GREGORY: He's given some cover here and this is the most, you know, the biggest issue here for Republicans . That got less attention.

    MR. MURPHY: Sure.

    MR. GREGORY: But he said he's not going to go after Romney on health care .

    MS. MITCHELL: If Romney can deal with the healthcare issue, and he hasn't yet, then Romney does become the last man standing and Mitch Daniels being out of it, Huckabee being out, of course , opens up that whole space for a family values , social conservative , which is why Michele Bachmann looks so good for Iowa right now. But Romney then could be the alternative. If Huntsman proves what a lot of candidates have proved in the past, that when -- if you're new to politics, it's not that easy to become the national candidate on -- with all the exposure and intensity of that stage.

    MR. GREGORY: Gene , point?

    MR. ROBINSON: I just want to point out that this is real confusion and chaos in the Republican field . However, when push comes to shove , as Mike knows, the Republican party 's going to have a candidate.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

    MR. ROBINSON: That candidate is going to have a ton of money, and unless there's a third party candidate, the Republican candidate is pretty much guaranteed of a floor of say 45 percent of the, of the popular vote .

    MR. GREGORY: And the candidate...

    MR. ROBINSON: So...

    MR. GREGORY: That candidate, that candidate on the right could be Herman Cain , who announced in Atlanta yesterday. Watch this.

    MR. HERMAN CAIN: Just to be clear , let me say it again, I'm running for president of the United States , and I'm not running for second.

    MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy , he had a big crowed out in Atlanta yesterday.

    MR. MURPHY: Yeah, I'll take a bet about whether or not he gets nominated.

    MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

    MR. MURPHY: I don't think he has a resume. But he could be the interesting other candidate. And the thing about Romney is, everybody in Washington -- he's a good friend of mine. I did his governor's race, but I try to be impartial about this. He is -- there's not a lot of excitement. He's kind of like Mondale . But we got to remember that the tough slogger often is the one who gets nominated, and there's no doubt the nomination in this economy is worth having. So there will be some interest in Christie now, but ultimately, Romney's still the front-runner.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. I'm going to take another break here. We're going to come back with our final segment, our Trends and Takeaways , what made news here, what to look for next week, and this rupture between the administration and, and Israel on a big day for the president speaking to the pro- Israel lobby . All of that right after this break.

    MR. GREGORY: We're back in our final minutes here, our Trends and Takeaways segment, what made news, this hour. My interview with Paul Ryan has a lot of people talking in the digital space, online. He said that he was disappointed that the big story here this morning, Mitch Daniels , governor of Indiana , not running for president, that Chairman Ryan was disappointed about that and even fielded some questions about his own future. Watch.

    REP. RYAN: I'm not running for president. You never know what opportunities present themselves way down the road. I'm not talking about right now. And I want to focus on fixing the fiscal problems of this country .

    MR. GREGORY: Didn't close the door here. Mike Murphy , if we go to our TweetDeck board here in the studio, a lot of people are talking about this online, including my colleague Steve

    Hayes from The Weekly Standard, who tweets this: " Mitch Daniels out. Expect the pressure on Paul Ryan and Governor Christie to increase dramatically." Quickly, you, you agree with that?

    MR. MURPHY: Well, the Paul Ryan thing is five guys at The Weekly Standard tweeting like mad right now. I take Ryan at his word, with all due respect to my friends there. I think there will be a moment for Christie , if he wants it. Easier said than done , and you peak the day you announce in this kind of politics, but...

    MR. GREGORY: Well, and certainly a lot of discussion, as you imagine, on Twitter about who fills that space, kind of mirroring the conversation that we've been having here. This from geekgirldiva, "At this point, Paul Ryan may have to toss his hat into the ring." So I say, a lot of that conversation going on. At the same time, what's happening today, we want to take you live here in Washington , D.C. , to the scene of AIPAC . This is the pro- Israel lobby , very powerful in the United States . The president will be speaking here, Andrea Mitchell , and this is on the heels of a rupture with Israel . The president said this week that any peace plan , a Palestinian state would have to go back to the borders of prior to the 1967 war. This was significant.

    MS. MITCHELL: He did have language that said there would be land swaps to protect Israel 's security, but it was taken as a red flag by Netanyahu . And what happened then was that even if this was implicit in things that previous presidents had said, Netanyahu seized on it. Even before he got on the plane, he criticized the president, and in such a fashion! He lectured him in the Oval Office . And if you look at that picture that you have up there right now, it was a stone- faced Barack Obama and Netanyahu basically treating him like a school boy. People even who work for Netanyahu , some of his Israeli officials, told him later that he went too far. That it was, it was really rude and that there would be blowback to this.

    MR. GREGORY: And, Congressman, you know this well, having run a lot of campaigns, and for the party , particularly with a big Jewish vote in Florida . You have Governor Romney , Governor Pawlenty and others saying, essentially, that the president threw Israel under the bus. Is there going to be blowback here politically?

    REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, I think that the -- this will, this will blow over pretty quickly. I think that they'll be a quick reconciliation on this point. Number two, I think the Republicans make a very serious mistake if they decide to politicize this issue. The support for Israel in the United States has always been a bipartisan issue, and I don't think it serves anybody's interests, not the United States' interest, nor the interests of Israel , to have this become a big partisan issue. And let's remember, the president in his speech emphasized the fact that the United States has an unshakeable commitment to the security of Israel . He made it clear he does not expect the Israelis to deal with a coalition government with Hamas , so long as they refuse to renounce violence and refuse to accept the right of Israel . And finally, he threw cold water on the Palestinian idea of going to the United Nations . So there was a lot in here for...

    MS. MITCHELL: But that's not what Netanyahu ...

    MR. GREGORY: Ten, ten seconds. Mike Murphy , does the president get a bad reception at this very important conference here in Washington ?

    MR. MURPHY: I think he'll be in full retreat, but I'll bet we pick up 75,000 votes in Florida , which could be a lot.

    MR. GREGORY: Which you think is, will be significant.

    MR. MURPHY: It was a clumsy move by the president. Just those sentences. The rest of the speech was great.

    MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. This conversation continues. Thanks to all of you very much. You can hear more from Andrew Ross Sorkin , by the way, in our Take Two Web extra today. He is going to discuss his best-selling book on the 2008 financial crisis "Too Big to Fail ." Now it's an HBO movie. It's debuting tomorrow. That's our Take Two Web extra. It's up on our website this afternoon, mtp.msnbc.com. That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS .

updated 5/22/2011 12:23:24 PM ET 2011-05-22T16:23:24

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  This Sunday, it started right here.

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(Videotape)

FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA):  I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Newt Gingrich set off a huge battle on the right over Medicare, the debt, and the GOP's 2012 strategy.  The target of that criticism, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, whose plan to reform Medicare has made him the most talked about figure in Republican politics.  And he is here this morning exclusively to respond to the controversy Gingrich created.

Then, our political roundtable weighs in on all the fallout, Gingrich's rough start and changing story.

(Videotape)

REP. GINGRICH:  Those words were inaccurate and unfortunate, and I'm prepared to stand up and--when I make a mistake, and I'm going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people that was a mistake.

(End videotape)


MR. GREGORY: How are the Democrats trying to take advantage, and what does it all mean for the rest of the GOP contenders who are making fresh moves in the campaign? Mitch Daniels is now out, along with Trump earlier this week. Pawlenty is about to get in. And Huntsman in New Hampshire. Plus, the president's big Mideast speech and the rupture with Israel. With us: ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy; chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, Andrea Mitchell; columnist for The Washington Post Eugene Robinson; and author of the book "Too Big to Fail," now an HBO movie, The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY: Good morning.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: Breaking news in the 2012 race for the White House. Mitch Daniels will not run for president. The Indiana governor, who many thought would arrive on a white horse to buck up the GOP field, will not join the fray after all, announcing in a surprise statement overnight that family concerns made the difference. From the statement, he writes about his wife Cheri and his four daughters the following: "What could have been a complicated decision was in the end very simple: on matters affecting us all, our family constitution gives a veto to the women's caucus, and there is no override provision. Simply put, I find myself caught between two duties. I love my country; I love my family more." And with that, the field narrows.

I want to begin here this morning, and I'm joined by the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan. Chairman, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): Hey, good morning, David. Nice to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: I want to get your, your reaction to the Daniels news because he is, in many ways, a kindred spirit on a lot of these fiscal issues, fiscal discipline. He won't be a part of that 2012 conversation as a candidate. A big blow to the party, do you think?

REP. RYAN: Well, he called me last night and gave me the news about this, so quite frankly, yes, I am disappointed. I think his candidacy would have been a great addition to this race, and I think it's unfortunate that he's not going to run.

MR. GREGORY: What about your own plans? There's a move afoot this morning, one of the big trending stories is whether you might actually join the race with a fiscal discipline message for 2012. Will it happen?

REP. RYAN: Well, look, I've been very clear about this. I'm not running for president. I feel, because we are in a big budget debate, I'm in a great position as chairman of the House Budget Committee to really weigh in on this debate. And I feel at the moment we are in, I want to stay focused on where we are right now, and that is getting our fiscal house in order.

MR. GREGORY: So under no circumstances would you run or be on the ticket as a number two?

REP. RYAN: Look, I, I'm not going to get into all those hypotheticals. I'm not running for president, I'm not planning on running for president. If you're running for president, you've got to do a lot of things to line up a candidacy. I've not done any of those things. It's not my plan. My plan is to be a good chairman of the House Budget Committee and fight for the fiscal sanity of this nation.

MR. GREGORY: Understood. There's a little bit of door opening there, though, the door's a bit ajar. And you know how, you know how this works.

REP. RYAN: It's not door opening, it's just--I do know how this works, and I'm not going to get into all these hypotheticals in the future. My point is I'm not running for president. You never know what opportunities present themselves way down the road. I'm not talking about right now. And I want to focus on fixing the fiscal problems of this country. And I really believe, David, where I am as chairman of the House Budget Committee puts me in a great position to, to be a great contributor to this debate.

MR. GREGORY: OK. Stay where you are, Chairman, please. The other big political story this week, of course, had to do with Newt Gingrich. He's in Iowa this weekend. He says his presidential campaign is alive and well despite a very tough week that began with his criticism of my guest, Paul Ryan, whose plan to reform Medicare is now the hot topic in Washington and on the campaign trail. We're going to continue our interview with Chairman Ryan in just a moment, but first some of the background.

(BEGIN TAPED SEGMENT)

Just days after announcing his White House run, Gingrich made his 35th appearance on this program and shocked many by upending a centerpiece of the conservative 2012 playbook by calling Ryan's Medicare plan "right wing social engineering."

(Videotape, last Sunday)

REP. GINGRICH: So there are things you can do to improve Medicare...

MR. GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.

REP. GINGRICH: I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Gingrich made headlines, but not the ones he wanted.

(Audiotape, Tuesday, WLS)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): To somehow portray that as a radical step, I think, is a tremendous misspeak.

(End audiotape)

(Videotape, Monday)

MR. RUSH LIMBAUGH: Cuts Paul Ryan off at the knees, it supports the Obama administration.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: He was even confronted by a voter during his first swing through Iowa.

(Videotape)

RUSSEL FUHRMAN: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

REP. GINGRICH: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan.

RUSSEL FUHRMAN: Yes, you did.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: By Tuesday, Gingrich began backtracking.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

REP. GINGRICH: I made a mistake, and I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close, personal friend, and I said that.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: But other conservatives had already moved in.

(Videotape, Wednesday)

FMR. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK): And it sounded pretty clear to me that Newt Gingrich's position, because he articulated this, was that Paul Ryan's plan would be social engineering, and he didn't like it.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: By Thursday, Gingrich moved on to denial.

(Videotape, Thursday)

REP. GINGRICH: It was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer.

MR. LIMBAUGH: Well, then what did you apologize to him about?

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Missteps that gave political commentators and comedians alike material all week long.

(Videotape)

REP. GINGRICH: So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, and--because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.

MR. JON STEWART: You know, I, I've always found the hallmark of an honest conversation is one that begins with, "If you quote me directly, utilizing videotape of my comments in context, you're lying."

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: The bigger issue beyond Gingrich's campaign is the sensitivity he exposed among Republicans to Ryan's budget plan, including Medicare. Just how far will and should the GOP go to tackle the debt in this election season?

(END TAPED SEGMENT)

And I'm back with Chairman Paul Ryan. How did you respond to all of this?

REP. RYAN: Well, first of all, his quote was deeply inaccurate. It was a gross mischaracterization of the House Republican budget plan. Newt's acknowledged that, he's retracted it. And let's be clear what we're proposing here. This is as sensible and gradual as it gets. We're saying no changes for Medicare for people above the age of 55. And in order to keep the promise to current seniors who've already retired and organized their lives around this program, you have to reform it for the next generation. And the way in which we propose reforming for the next generation, it's in keeping with the Bill Clinton bipartisan commission that--to reform Medicare, it's an idea that's been around for a long time called premium support: guaranteed coverage options for Medicare where the government subsidizes the poor and the sick a whole lot more than the wealthy, and people get to choose. If I could put it in a nutshell, we're saying don't affect current seniors, give future seniors the ability to deny business to inefficient providers. As a contrary to that, the president's plan is to give the government the power to deny care to seniors by empowering a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats...

MR. GREGORY: What...

REP. RYAN: ...to put price controls and rationing in place for current seniors. So I would argue that the opposite is true. We're being sensible, we're being rational, and we're saving this program. And you cannot deal with this debt crisis, David, unless you're serious about entitlement reform. And, unfortunately, I think we're going to have "mediscare" all over again, and that's unfortunate for the country.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, we're going to, we're going to get to that, Congressman. Was this demagoguery on the part of Newt Gingrich? That's what you warned happens on both sides when you were here in April on the approach to big problems.

REP. RYAN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: This was demagoguery on the part of Newt Gingrich.

REP. RYAN: No, I think that, that quote is deeply inaccurate. It's a gross mischaracterization. And again, Newt has already said that it was wrong, he was wrong to say it, and he's, he's basically retracted the statement. And he has apologized to me personally for that.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but, but, here's the issue.

REP. RYAN: It's not about me personally, this is about the House Republican budget.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Right, it--I don't think anybody thinks it's about you personally. The Wall Street Journal editorialized on Tuesday the following, I'll put it up on the screen: "Mr. Gingrich chose to throw his former allies in the GOP House not so much under the bus as off the Grand Canyon rim. ...

"Our guess is that a politician as experienced as Mr. Gingrich knew exactly what he was doing and that as he runs for president, he wants to appear to be more moderate than he has sounded over the last, oh, 20 years, by suddenly triangulating against the GOP House he once led." The implication there, Mr. Chairman, is that he did know what he was doing because what he said out loud is what a lot of Republicans I've spoken to say privately, and they're scared to death about the politics of what you're proposing. They think it's just handing a huge issue to the Democrats.

REP. RYAN: Look, of course people are scared of entitlement reform because every time you put entitlement reform out there, the other party uses it as a political weapon against you. Look, both parties have done this to each other. Here's the problem, David. If we don't get serious about these issues, if we don't get serious about the drivers of our debt, we're going to have a debt crisis. And the irony of this is all if we don't fix these programs, people who rely on these benefits are going to get cut the first, they're going to be hurt the worst under a debt crisis. We're saying, if we fix this now, we can keep the current promise to current seniors and people 10 years away from retiring. If we allow politics to get the best of us...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

REP. RYAN: ...and if we allow the demagoguery to sink in and do nothing, then we will have a debt crisis. Then current seniors will get hurt. So who's being rational and responsible here? I think we want to get above all of this. Look, here in Wisconsin, people are ready for answers. They want leadership. The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days. So we House Republicans have put out a plan to fix this problem, save Medicare, and, in fact, pay off the debt over time.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but, but Chairman...

REP. RYAN: We have seen nothing of the like from the president and the Senate Democrats.

MR. GREGORY: OK. But here's the problem. According to our polling, nearly eight in 10 Americans do not want to cut spending for Medicare, even in the name of cutting the debt. You, I assume, are not doing all of this as an intellectual exercise. You would actually like to get reform accomplished. There's the question of how much damage Newt Gingrich has done, former speaker of the House, presidential candidate. He was in Iowa and he was confronted by a voter, and I want to play a portion of that and get your response to it.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

RUSSEL FUHRMAN: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.

MR. NEWT GINGRICH: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan.

RUSSEL FUHRMAN: Yes, you did. You undercut him and his allies in the, in the House.

MR. GINGRICH: No. I said...

Man: You're an embarrassment to our party.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I'm sorry you feel that way.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: How much damage has he done?

REP. RYAN: I--how much damage have I done?

MR. GREGORY: No. How much damage has Newt Gingrich done to your effort to reform Medicare?

REP. RYAN: Oh, Newt. Excuse me. I didn't hear you correctly.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

REP. RYAN: Look, I'm not a pundit, I'm a policy maker. I'll let you and your panel figure that out, and that's up to the voters to figure this stuff out. The point is this, we've got to get beyond this and we've got to get on to a serious conversation about what it takes to fix the fiscal problems in this country. And if we don't tackle these problems now while we have time, they're going to tackle us. And our whole point here is we need to pre-empt and avert a debt crisis, and the way we are--have proposed to do that is do it on our terms and prevent people who are currently retired and people about to retire from having severe disruptions in their lives.

MR. GREGORY: Wait, but, Congressman...

REP. RYAN: And so the people of Iowa...

MR. GREGORY: ...you're not a pundit.

REP. RYAN: ...and the people of New Hampshire can figure this stuff out.

MR. GREGORY: But--yeah, but wait a second. But that, but that really is a dodge. You are the chairman of the committee, yes. You're serious about entitlement reform, yes. You're also a politician. You say you want to do it on your terms. Law does not become law without building political consensus and you don't have that. And now you've had a major figure in the Republican Party say this was right wing social engineering. So I'm wondering how much you do feel undercut...

REP. RYAN: So...

MR. GREGORY: ...in actually getting this passed, which I assume is your goal.

REP. RYAN: First of all, if people are describing this accurately in polls, it's far more popular than the poll you've referenced. Second of all, leaders are elected to lead. I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls. And we are leading in the House. We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the president of the United States. The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days, and we have a budget crisis. So yes, we are going to lead, and we are going to try to move these polls and change these polls because that's what the country wants. I, I just did 19 town hall meetings, David, in, in the district that I work for that went for Obama, Dukakis, Clinton and Gore. People are hungry for solutions, and I really fundamentally believe that the people are way ahead of the political class. And I think they're going to reward the leader who steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems, no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much political parties try to scare seniors in the next election. I just don't think they're going to buy it this year, and they're hungry for leaders to fix this problem before it gets out of our control.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me, let me follow up on that point. The president's communication adviser, Dan Pfieffer, put this on his Twitter feed this week. He wrote, "Biggest takeaway from the Gingrich flap, ending Medicare as we know it is the new GOP litmus test." You'd expect that from Democrats, of course, and you'll hear a lot more of it. But also from the right, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe in The Wall Street Journal from FreedomWorks, behind the tea party movement, they write this, "Medicare reform has risen to the top of the national agenda and will be the defining issue of next year's elections. Any serious GOP presidential candidate must be absolutely clear on this issue. Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option. A candidate who is timid on entitlement reforms is not qualified to be president." Is that your view?

REP. RYAN: Yes, it is my view. I, I agree with that. And I do believe--look, you cannot ever fully balance the budget and pay off the debt unless you address the drivers of our debt, our healthcare entitlements, our entitlements. And so we need a leader who's willing to talk about these things and actually do these things. We don't have that leader in the White House right now. We don't have these leaders running the Senate right now. And, yes, I agree with Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe in that op-ed, which is if you want a real leader to fix America's problems, you've got to deal with these entitlement issues before they get out of our control. And so, yeah, I agree with that sentiment.

MR. GREGORY: Then why don't you see more Republicans who want to be the country's leader, standing up and saying, "I am for the Ryan plan, full stop, including Medicare reforms." Even Michele Bachmann has said there's an asterisk next to her support on Medicare because she has concerns that has been backed up by Congressional analysis suggesting that costs for seniors would go up under your plan, what would be--you call premium support, others call vouchers, giving them money to buy insurance in the private marketplace.

REP. RYAN: Well, look, first of all, I have no problems with somebody who's offering alternative solutions to fix this problem. I have problems with people who aren't offering any solutions, who are just playing politics. You know, as far as the costs are concerned, here's what we propose. If you're under 55, when you become Medicare eligible, you get to pick among guaranteed coverage options provided by and regulated by Medicare. We don't subsidize the wealthy nearly as much as middle income, and we subsidize the poor and the sick a whole lot more than everybody else. We think that's a smart way to go. Choice in competition, giving the senior the power to deny business to inefficient providers. The alternative to this, David, is a rationing scheme, are the 15 bureaucrats the president's going to appoint next year on his panel to ration Medicare spending. We don't think we should give the government the power to ration spending to seniors. We want to give future seniors the ability to make choices. And we want to subsidize people who are middle income and lower income and sick more than we subsidize the wealthy. And doing it this way, according to the CBO and the trustees, saves Medicare not only for the current generation with no disruptions, but for the next generation. It helps us pay off our national debt. These are the kinds of issues we've got to tackle if we're going to avert a debt crisis.

MR. GREGORY: Well, are you willing to negotiate on this?

REP. RYAN: And if you want to be a serious leader, you've got to do this.

MR. GREGORY: Are you willing to negotiate on your Medicare plan?

REP. RYAN: Say that again.

MR. GREGORY: Because it's unlikely to pass the Senate.

REP. RYAN: Of course. Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY: You will negotiate.

REP. RYAN: Of course, we would. I mean, this is the legislative process. But let me be clear, we're the only ones who put out a plan to fix this problem. We have nothing, nothing from the president or from the Senate Democrats that come anywhere close to averting a debt crisis and fixing our problem. House Republicans put out a plan that cut $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years to get this economy growing, to save our safety net, to guarantee health and retirement security, and to pay off our debt. We're offering details. We have no partners on the other side of the aisle offering anything but misleading scare tactics.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Before you go, what about the debt ceiling negotiations? Do you think they'll be a deal, or will this go down to the wire?

REP. RYAN: Well, first of all, I think there will be a deal, and it'll probably take a while. Look, we have till August. It's May right now. This is going to take time. Our position's really simple. For every dollar the president wants to raise the debt limit, we're saying let's

cut more than a dollar's worth of spending. He's asked for a $2 trillion increase in the debt limit, we've laid out $6.2 trillion in spending cuts. So we can show the president plenty of ways and areas to cut more than a dollar's worth of spending and it's very important for the credit markets, for our economy to show that we're going to get this situation under control, that we're going to get the debt stabilized and get spending under control, as we deal with this debt limit. Nobody wants default to happen, but at the same time, we don't want to rubber stamp just the debt limit increase that shows we're not getting our situation under control.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Chairman Ryan, I apologize for that satellite delay. Sometimes that gets in the way. Thank you very much for dealing with that, and thank you for being on.

REP. RYAN: Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: And coming up, battleground 2012, the changing GOP field. What the overnight news that Mitch Daniels will not run means for the rest of the contenders. Plus, more on the Gingrich fallout. Did he upend the Republicans' 2012 campaign strategy, and can his candidacy survive such an early blow? Plus, rising tensions in the Middle East as President Obama delivers a big speech on U.S. policy in the region. We'll talk about the politics of it all with our roundtable. Joining us, Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, NBC's Andrea Mitchell, The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, and The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin.

(Announcements)

MR. GREGORY: Coming up, what does Daniels' decision not to run mean for the rest of the GOP field? Plus, analysis of Gingrich's rocky week, and the riff between the U.S. and Israel after the president's big Middle East speech on Friday, and reaction to Ryan's interview. Our roundtable, they're all here, ready to go and weigh in--Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Mike Murphy, Gene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell and Andrew Ross Sorkin--right after this brief commercial break.

(Announcements)

MR. DAVID GREGORY: We're back, joined now by our roundtable: Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine, Mike Murphy in from Los Angeles; Democratic congressman and ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; author of the new book--not the new book, best selling book, "Too Big to Fail," but it's now going to be a new HBO movie, The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin; chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, Andrea Mitchell; columnist for The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson. Welcome to all of you.

Congressman, I want to start with you, fresh off this Paul Ryan interview. He's not giving ground on Medicare after patching things up with Newt Gingrich. Where does that leave negotiation on whether any kind of entitlement reform concerning Medicare can be agreed to?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, you're right, David, it sounds like the Republicans are doubling down on their plan to end the Medicare guarantee. You know, Newt Gingrich had it right a week ago on this show. It is a radical plan, it is right wing social engineering, and it is, for this reason, because they take away the Medicare guarantee. They say to seniors: You've got to go into the private insurance market. And the independent Congressional Budget Offices point out two things: In that market, prices keep going up; and under their plan, support for seniors under Medicare goes down. Which is why it's going to cost seniors more and more every year as this goes on.

MR. GREGORY: But he is saying that he is willing to negotiate, and he's also saying, accurately, that you Democrats don't have a plan and we have a budget crisis.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, two things there. Number one, the president has put a plan on the table. And let's remember that the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform bill, had some significant Medicare reform. In fact, as, as Paul indicated, in the last elections, they ran all these ads against Democrats. We ended the overpayments to the Medicare advantage plans. We made some other reforms to incentivize provision of value of care over volume of care, and there are other things that had been proposed, and the president mentioned some of those. But here's where the Republicans have not come to the table. You didn't hear one word about how we need to deal with the revenue side of the equation. Every bipartisan commission that has looked at our deficit and debt problem has said you can't do it with a one-sided, lop-sided approach, which is what the Republican plan is. You need a revenue component. These guys won't even agree to get rid of the subsidies for the big oil companies. If you're serious about the deficit, why won't you come to the table and say, when you got record gas prices, record profits, you're not going to ask the, the oil companies to chip in and get rid of their subsidies.

MR. GREGORY: Final, final point on this. The Republicans say, "Look, the prescription drug benefit under Medicare came in under budget and is very popular, and that the current path is simply unsustainable, to keep giving a guarantee to people that can't be paid for without absolutely busting the budget and increasing the deficit." Is the Democratic leadership prepared to put reformulating Medicare in some dramatic way on the table?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: What we've said about Medicare is what the president said, which is that, number one, some reforms have been made; number two, additional reforms can be made. But that's not the place you start, by going to say, you know, beneficiaries are going to take the big hit. There are other reforms you can make. Let me give you one example. When it comes to prescription drugs, you mentioned Medicare Part D. In fact, under the Medicaid program, the taxpayer gets a much better deal in terms of the price for the purchase of drugs. We've said for folks who are on Medicare and Medicaid, dual eligible, "Take the lower price, save the taxpayers some money." So there's a lot you can do. And the Republican proposal, the reason it's such bad politics is because it's terrible policy.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to come back to this. I want to invite everybody now to weigh in, we'll weigh in on this. But I want to get to some of the big political news this morning, and we'll put up the headline this morning from the Indianapolis Star, Mike Murphy, Daniels decision, not running. "I love my country; I love my family more." This is a big deal. I said at the top, this is--he was seen that...

MR. MIKE MURPHY: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...candidate on the white horse for a lot of people.

MR. MURPHY: Old rule of politics, if you're going to run, make sure your wife is going to vote for you. And, you know, so I thought he had a great statement, and it's true. People were very excited about him as a candidate. He would have been a heavyweight in the contest. So now we're back to where we were. I think there's a little too much talk in Washington about there's not enough excitement. There may not be enough in Washington. For real voters, it hasn't even begun yet. And I think there's only one last Hamlet question, which is Chris Christie of New Jersey, who is a big Republican star, will he take another look at a late entry, which I think is possible. That would shake up the race. If not, I think you're going to have a lot of noise candidates around, but it's going to be down to Romney, Huntsman, Pawlenty, and then a kind of an entertaining candidate who won't get nominated, one of will emerge, maybe Herman Cain.

MR. GREGORY: Well, Andrea Mitchell, what about Paul Ryan? I mean, he didn't close the door completely to being on the ticket. He said, "I'm, I'm not running for president."

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: He didn't close the door. I think that because of the Medicare--the toxicity really of what he's proposed on Medicare in terms of politics, that I think it would be very, a very big reach for him to be nominee of the Republican Party. But he ought to be considered. Certainly, I think that Mike would say for vice president, he could be in those sweepstakes. He--when he said on--to you that leaders change polls...

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MS. MITCHELL: That, that's leadership that people are hungry for.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: And he did say that anybody running in 2012 basically has to be either with him or against him, that he is that, you know, in that, in that center place.

MS. MITCHELL: Or show leadership on entitlements.

MR. GREGORY: Or show leadership, right. Gene Robinson, here's our list of who's in, who's out, who's on the fence. We've got--our cork board here is moving around a lot. So, you see who's now out.

MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: You see who's in, including as of tomorrow Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain got in over the weekend. And then that additional list of who's kind of out there but not officially in. Mitt Romney is going to be in, but he's just not official. John Huntsman and Santorum, Rudy Giuliani, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin. And look at the polling, as of now, just so we have some context around all of this. Romney is still at 20 percent. Palin at 12 percent. She said this week she's got fire in the belly. Gingrich at nine, and so on and so forth. Where does it stand?

MR. ROBINSON: Well, it, it's very confused. Mitt Romney, everything that's happened the last few weeks has been very good for Mitt Romney.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. ROBINSON: I mean, he, he is sort of the default option, I think, for the Republican Party. Chris Christie has made Sherman-like statements about not running this time. I think he--I, I personally think he's serious about that, and I think one reason is that he can look ahead to 2016...

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. ROBINSON: ...and, and see that as a better, better chance.

MR. GREGORY: What about the message, Andrew Ross Sorkin? I mean, you cover Wall Street, you cover all things financial. A fiscal discipline message, a "We're going to get it right on the economy" message, that is still the right message for Republicans going into next year.

MR. SORKIN: I got to tell you, I got an email while the show was going on, while Ryan was just speaking, and even though the Medicare plan may be unpopular, the view by a Wall Street CEO was this guy at least is proposing something.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. SORKIN: I think they like the idea of leadership. They want to get behind that. I don't know if Ryan is their man. I think from a money perspective you're seeing all the money go to Romney. But I think there's a real worry that there is a lack of leadership. And, and as one CEO said to me this week, "At this point, we are only playing for the Senate." I mean, in terms of what our real opportunity is, because I don't think they have someone who has really ignited, ignited at least the business community.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, the Senate is the hedge on the presidential race.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. MURPHY: Let me speak about Ryan for a minute to defend him, because there is a feeling in the country--and it's right, I believe, at least a perception--that a lot of people in Congress, you know, they're on the federal payroll, and they spend a lot of their time maneuvering to get re-elected. Paul Ryan, whether you like the plan or you don't like the plan, is about the bravest guy in Washington because he's taking on the entitlement monster, which is a huge threat. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, everybody agrees this spending thing is out of control. And so Ryan's got a plan that involves a lot of political pain. Whether it's fair or not, it's incredibly brave. What I'd like to see is some grown-up politics for a change. So instead of the Democrats just doing the "mediscare," let's have an equally adult, somewhat scary plan from the left, so voters can have a real comparison because they're grown-ups. Pick the harder choice rather than the hard choice vs. the demography of the--you know--and Medicare as we know it, which is a scam.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: But, but, but...

MR. GREGORY: Congressman--yeah. Yeah.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Mike, Mike, political courage on the Republican side means taking on the revenue piece. That's why you've had a couple folks get in so much--Senator Coburn raised his head on that. Grover Norquist tried to chop it off. It doesn't take a lot of courage on the Republican side to slash Medicaid by $700 billion.

MR. MURPHY: Well, you know, I'm going to agree with you on, on the revenue thing. But...

REP. VAN HOLLEN: It doesn't--but--here are these guys that they won't even agree to say to the oil companies, "Look, you've got to get...

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, I know. But look...

REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, but, Mike--but, Mike...

MR. MURPHY: But, Congressman, with all due respect, very, very quickly...

REP. VAN HOLLEN: ...this, this is the issue.

MR. MURPHY: ...when you go to the oil company and all this stuff, you're going to the poll test and stuff to win the election, it's your job.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Yeah. Yeah, Mike, Mike...

MR. MURPHY: But will you guys endorse Simpson-Bowles? Because I will. I'd do it right now as a Republican.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Let, let, let's go to go in--OK. I think there's...

MR. MURPHY: I'm for a little bit of taxes.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: There's a lot of good in Simpson-Bowles, and what the

Simpson-Bowles did was they took a balanced approach.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: The Republican budget is not balanced. In fact...

MR. MURPHY: But where's the Democrat to balanced budget?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, wait.

MR. GREGORY: But let me, let me get in here for a second.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: The, the, the, the co-chairs of Simpson-Bowles, Simpson and Bowles, said that the Republican plan was not balanced. And they described the president's proposal the other day as more balanced and comprehensive.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let, let me just pull out--I want to pull out on

this.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: So let's be real here.

MR. GREGORY: Congressman, I want to pull out on this because the larger issue here is what will be rewarded? Will it be leadership on seeking to solve the most intractable problems, or will too much pain be too painful? You said Newt Gingrich had it right. There are certainly those on the Democratic side who were listening, the, the professionals. And the group that's Priorities USA Action, formed by somebody--deputy press secretary Bill Burton, now is doing an ad in South Carolina against Mitt Romney, putting the Gingrich flap at the center of it. Let's play that out.

(Videotape of political ad)

Ad Announcer: Newt Gingrich says the Republican plan that would essentially end Medicare is too radical. Governor Haley thinks the plan is courageous and Gingrich shouldn't be cutting conservatives off at the knees. Mitt Romney says he's on the same page as Paul Ryan, who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare. But with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder, which page is he on today? Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: So, Andrea Mitchell, this is where the debate is going.

MS. MITCHELL: The debate is going exactly to that point, and the--both sides trying to demonize the other. And what you're saying and what Mike Murphy is saying is that people want leadership.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MS. MITCHELL: People want someone to show some guts here. Paul Ryan has shown considerable guts. But you're, you're, you're correct that nobody on the Republican side is showing any courage on the tax front. And unless taxes are part of the mix, every grown-up knows that it, it can't reach a solution.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Andrew:

MR. SORKIN: But I'm noticing, you know, Ryan opened the window today to actually come to middle. He wants another proposal. He wants a proposal from the Democrats. And I think they're--if they can actually--I think there's an opportunity to get there. So I think you give Ryan credit for at least bringing something to the table, and then when do the Democrats come and what do they come with?

MR. GREGORY: Let me get Gene in here. Go ahead, Gene. Yeah.

MR. ROBINSON: Just, just point out two things. Number one, the Republicans will not talk about tax increases. Democrats talk about a lot of budget cuts. They--you know, the question for Democrats is how, how deeply do you cut the budget? So, so--and, and the second thing is on Medicare, people don't want it to be a voucher program. They don't want the kind of change Paul Ryan wants. So you can call that leadership, but if nobody wants to follow, it's not leadership. It's not what people want.

MR. MURPHY: The Democrats talk about goals for budget cutting. They politically don't want to talk about actual budget cuts because they don't want their voodoo to be done to them. So you can argue, I think correctly, that the Republicans are, are very--you know, they're not ready to take heat on taxes. But the Democrats aren't ready to take heat on any kind of broad-based tax or on spending cuts for real.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, actually, that's not true, Mike. You know that. A broad-based tax is exactly what the president and the Democrats proposed. We've said let's go back to the same rates that were in place during the Clinton administration for the folks at the very top. That's a broad...

MR. MURPHY: That's not broad-based. You just want to tax the top.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, no, no. No, no, that--it's going...

MR. MURPHY: You can tax everybody in America over $100,000 100 percent, you won't pay the deficit this administration's racked up.

MS. MITCHELL: And you're not going to...(unintelligible).

REP. VAN HOLLEN: That's--well, look, look, that's over, that's over $700 billion.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: And that's a big chunk of the money. Now, look, the bipartisan groups have said you need balance. If you want to, if you want to have--come to the table, we have a forum. Vice president's leading some talks. The Republicans have said that they're not going to deal with revenue as part of that. Democrats have said we're prepared to deal with the cuts, we're prepared to make cuts.

MR. SORKIN: On the entitlement side?

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: We, we...

MR. SORKIN: That, that's the issue. It's a two-way street, and that's the problem.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask this, Congressman. Let me...

MR. SORKIN: It's--the Dems go one way and the Republicans go the other way, and nobody goes halfway.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me get in, let me get in here for a second. Let me get in here for a second. I'm going to go to a break in just a minute, I want to ask one substantive question. And that is, will the idea of caps on spending survive to get us through this debt ceiling issue and then perhaps an agreement on the budget?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: No. What, what the president's proposed is a cap on the deficit and debt. That's what we all are interested in. That's what we need to address is the deficit.

MR. GREGORY: But the Republicans say, no, you got to cap discretionary spending, and then the appropriators can work.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: We, we say, again, it's the question of balance. We think we want to reduce the deficit. That would involve spending cuts, it involves the revenue piece. By saying spending, what you're saying is you want to whack Medicare and Medicaid only, you only want to deal with the spending side. Again, the bipartisan groups that have looked at this, every one of them have said any credible plan requires both.

MR. GREGORY: All right, that...

REP. VAN HOLLEN: That's what we're saying.

MR. GREGORY: All right, so I can't promise that the debate won't continue during the commercial, but we're going to take one. And when we come back, I want to talk more about the politics, specifically the fallout for Newt Gingrich on this very rough week that, as we pointed out, started with his comments on this program last week. More with this roundtable right after this.

(Announcements)

MR. GREGORY: We are back with more from our roundtable. And when I say we are back, this weekend that's no small thing because there's a lot of talk about the end of the world. And so far, so good on that. So let's go back to politics and here was the cartoon out of Missouri--Columbia, Missouri, from John Darkow, of Newt Gingrich shooting himself in the foot right after he announced, and that's the Medicare statement that is around the foot that he's shooting. Mike Murphy, how much damage has Newt Gingrich done to himself?

MR. MURPHY: Well, Newt's a lot of things, but very few people in practical politics see him as a dream candidate. He's just never been a real vote-getter. And that said, he's a powerful, intellectual force. He's had a very bad week. I have to kind of step away, though, because the maneuvers of Newt's campaign is kind of like closely observing the maneuvers of the Belgian Navy. It's interesting, but it may not be that important. I don't think he was ever going to be a candidate who would get nominated. So the question is, when will the focus go to the guys who actually can get nominated? Newt could be a catalyst in all of this. He'll be a factor, but less of a factor, I think, than even people like me who didn't think he would be that powerful a week ago.

MR. GREGORY: And Gene Robinson, you wrote this in your column in The Washington Post on Thursday, "Newt Gingrich's meltdown on the launch pad. Prominent Republicans immediately grabbed their pitchforks, lit their torches and formed an angry mob. From opinion surveys and town-hall meetings, it was already clear that the Ryan plan to fundamentally alter the Medicare program is deeply unpopular - and that ultimately it is likely to hurt the party at the polls. Now one of the best-known figures in the party, a candidate for the presidential nomination, was breaking ranks." You may be left of center, but the truth is my own reporting among Republicans is that that is spot on, that they are scared to death of the politics of this thing.

MR. ROBINSON: Absolutely. They heard it at, at town hall meetings, they, they look at the polls. I mean, this is, this is really tough. This is an unpopular stance that Paul Ryan has led them to. It may be brave, but it's not popular. And so Newt Gingrich comes out and slams it. I, I think sensibly in terms of his own narrow political interests, perhaps. Or he, he could see it that way. But his campaign, I think, I mean, it's toast at this point. And I agree with Mike that maybe it wasn't going to go anywhere anyway.

MR. GREGORY: And Andrea Mitchell, he hasn't stopped talking. He's still talking this morning. He told Rush Limbaugh, as we indicated, he wasn't even speaking about Paul Ryan, which, I mean, is just, on its face, absurd.

MS. MITCHELL: He is twisting himself in the wind over this because he keeps changing the story and trying to create a new story and the importance of the politics that Gene was just pointing out, just look at the special election in New York. This is Jack Kemp's old seat, the 26th. And the Medicare issue has become, you know...

MR. ROBINSON: Mm-hmm.

MS. MITCHELL: ...a pivotal issue that should, should be an automatic Republican seat and now is not automatic.

MR. ROBINSON: There's a poll showing the Democratic contender actually...

MR. MURPHY: But let me put a footnote there, there are two Republican candidates essentially and one Democrat.

MS. MITCHELL: Right.

MR. MURPHY: You give me that in any Democratic seat, I can grab it for the Republicans.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but can I ask a...

MR. MURPHY: (Unintelligible)

REP. VAN HOLLEN: He's not now, but Davis used to be a Democratic candidate. So there's the third party candidate, but the fact is that what has really galvanized this race has been, has been the Medicare issue and the plan to end the Medicare guarantee. There's no dispute about that.

MR. MURPHY: Jobs are what have galvanized this race.

MR. GREGORY: Well, and can I make a point, though, about that? Well, thank you, Mike, because...

MR. MURPHY: Which is the real issue anyway, you know, we all talk about.

MR. GREGORY: ...here is, here is from the USA Today/Gallup Poll this week on gas prices. And look at this, 67 percent has caused--say it's caused a financial hardship. Andrew Ross Sorkin...

MR. SORKIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...this is what I think is the difficulty for Republicans. You heard Paul Ryan say basically, you know, "You're with me or against me on Medicare." That's a litmus test issue for Republican candidates, but it hurts them if they want to say, "Hey, we're the party that's going to get you back to work."

MR. SORKIN: Right. No, that's the issue. And it's ultimately going to be about the math. It's going to be about what happens to the oil prices, and it's going to be about what happens to employment. And I truly believe that we're going to vote with our wallet when it actually comes down to it. And so the big question is, where are we in, let's say, six to 12 months from now when we actually have to...

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. No, I concur.

MR. SORKIN: When the rubber hits the road. And that's the issue, full stop.

MR. MURPHY: I think it will be. It's a spending debate in Washington because that's the big long-term problem. It's a jobs election. And that's the president's problem. He's perceived by six out of 10 Americans as doing a lousy job on the economy. If the Republicans can get their focus on maybe not an entitlement war, but that, I think they can beat the president. If not, they may...

MR. ROBINSON: But the question is, though, which party, which candidate can develop a message on jobs that connects with voters? I would argue that the president hasn't really done that. I would argue that the Republicans have not done that.

MR. GREGORY: But the Democrats...

MR. ROBINSON: If the Republicans don't, I think the president...(unintelligible).

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask you, let me ask you about this.

MR. SORKIN: It's about trying to tell a jobs story...

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. SORKIN: ...and the Republicans are trying to tell a deficit story. Right? How do we reduce--that's the distinction.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, right. No, you're right. Politically, that's the big issue.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me ask then about another, another candidate, Jon Huntsman. He is, of course, the returning ambassador for the Obama administration in China. He was in New Hampshire this past week. He's positioning himself for a run. He's in a gun store in New Hampshire. He was a former governor of Utah, so he's trying to shore up those credentials. But what's interesting about him is that he's positioning himself not as a gun-toting conservative candidate, but as a more pragmatic candidate. Andrea Mitchell, is that going to fly in this Republican party?

MS. MITCHELL: It's, it's very much a big question, open question, as to whether Jon Huntsman can be viable in this party. Is he the place that the Bush family now goes having lost Mitch Daniels as a running horse?

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. MITCHELL: He's opened a campaign headquarters or he will open his campaign headquarters in Orlando. Does that, does that raise questions about his authenticity? Is he running away from his Mormon faith as the governor of Utah, opening the--it seems almost too cute, too obvious to open in Florida, your campaign headquarters, when you could choose any place in the country.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Do Democrats think he's formidable? Do you worry about him?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: I, I don't really worry a lot about Huntsman. I mean, we're obviously just watching this Republican field play out, the thinning of the field. It would be great to have Don Trump back. But let me say this.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But you...

MR. SORKIN: Let me just ask, but who do you worry about?

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MS. MITCHELL: Who do you worry about, yeah?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: What's that?

MR. GREGORY: Who do you worry about?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Right now...

MR. MURPHY: Obama.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: No, right now, look, the president--no we don't because, as we were saying, at least the president, I mean, all kidding aside, the president has been focused on jobs. And as part of this deficit debate...

MS. MITCHELL: That hasn't translated yet.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: ...he has said his number one priority is to make sure that we continue to be able to compete with our major overseas competitors, with China and India and all the others.

MS. MITCHELL: The polling doesn't reflect that people are getting that, though.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. He's focused, but people don’t see it that way.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: But more so than anybody on the other side.

MR. GREGORY: But do you worry, Congressman, that if unemployment doesn't get below 8.2, 8 percent, that he can't win?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: I don't worry that he can't win, but clearly, you know, the--this election will be about the economy at the end of the day. But it's also going to be about people's vision for the economy and where they want to go. And again, so far we've seen nothing from the Republicans as to how they would do anything better than the President.

MR. MURPHY: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Mike, can I just talk about Iowa...

MR. MURPHY: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: ...which is something you were thinking about this week. You wrote about it in Time magazine--I'll put what you said up on the screen--in terms of Iowa strategy and how it's sort of influencing how the Republicans are starting to run and position themselves in the state. Do we have that ready? Can we put that up? It is that "the caucuses weed out about half of Iowa's GOP-primary voters." You wrote, "[I]t attracts the intense and increasingly ideological voters who like their political meat served raw. And since the caucus vote is splintered among several candidates, as few as 40,000 votes are often enough to win. No wonder Michele Bachmann is out buying snowshoes." Your point being, Iowa should not have as much juice as it has, but since it has it...

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...does Michele Bachmann, does Sarah Palin have more room to run there and make a real dent?

MR. MURPHY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm very fond of Iowa, I have many friends there. But I think the caucus has become a bit of a Harold Hill type thing, all its own now, where the Iowans are selling the band instruments with this big, expensive process. That's why I wrote about it. I do think, look, three million people live in Iowa, and if you get 40,000 of them together, you can win the caucus and get on a rocket sled in national politics. If I had to bet now, I'd bet Michele Bachmann in, in a field that's shrinking a little, but it'll have enough candidates, can win around a third of the vote, maybe a little less. That could help Huntsman as the kind of anti-Bachmann, the more moderate candidate in much more moderate New Hampshire, then the rest of the primaries become tougher for Huntsman. So I think Iowa almost becomes more of a disruptive factor now, that small turn out caucus for us...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hm. Mm-hmm.

MR. MURPHY: ...than a helpful one. But we'll see. You know, I'm guessing.

MR. GREGORY: Andrea, I want to ask you, you know, Mitt Romney in many ways had a good week. At the beginning of the week, he announced a huge haul in fundraising, over $10 million, which made it very clear that this is a guy who can keep on standing and still take a lot of punches over the long haul. And going back to Gingrich, on this question of the individual mandate, which is part, of course, of the president's healthcare plan, this was the exchange that I had with Gingrich over the individual mandate, which is something he supported back in the '90s. This is what he said.

(Videotape, last Sunday)

REP. GINGRICH: Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay--help pay for health care. And, and I think that there are ways to do it that make most Libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond, or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable.

MR. GREGORY: But that is the individual mandate, is it not?

REP. GINGRICH: It's a variation on it.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: He's given some cover here and this is the most, you know, the biggest issue here for Republicans. That got less attention.

MR. MURPHY: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: But he said he's not going to go after Romney on health care.

MS. MITCHELL: If Romney can deal with the healthcare issue, and he hasn't yet, then Romney does become the last man standing and Mitch Daniels being out of it, Huckabee being out, of course, opens up that whole space for a family values, social conservative, which is why Michele Bachmann looks so good for Iowa right now. But Romney then could be the alternative. If Huntsman proves what a lot of candidates have proved in the past, that when--if you're new to politics, it's not that easy to become the national candidate on--with all the exposure and intensity of that stage.

MR. GREGORY: Gene, point?

MR. ROBINSON: I just want to point out that this is real confusion and chaos in the Republican field. However, when push comes to shove, as Mike knows, the Republican party's going to have a candidate.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah.

MR. ROBINSON: That candidate is going to have a ton of money, and unless there's a third party candidate, the Republican candidate is pretty much guaranteed of a floor of say 45 percent of the, of the popular vote.

MR. GREGORY: And the candidate...

MR. ROBINSON: So...

MR. GREGORY: That candidate, that candidate on the right could be Herman Cain, who announced in Atlanta yesterday. Watch this.

(Videotape)

MR. HERMAN CAIN: Just to be clear, let me say it again, I'm running for president of the United States, and I'm not running for second.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, he had a big crowed out in Atlanta yesterday.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, I'll take a bet about whether or not he gets nominated.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. MURPHY: I don't think he has a resume. But he could be the interesting other candidate. And the thing about Romney is, everybody in Washington--he's a good friend of mine. I did his governor's race, but I try to be impartial about this. He is--there's not a lot of excitement. He's kind of like Mondale. But we got to remember that the tough slogger often is the one who gets nominated, and there's no doubt the nomination in this economy is worth having. So there will be some interest in Christie now, but ultimately, Romney's still the front-runner.

MR. GREGORY: All right. I'm going to take another break here. We're going to come back with our final segment, our Trends and Takeaways, what made news here, what to look for next week, and this rupture between the administration and, and Israel on a big day for the president speaking to the pro-Israel lobby. All of that right after this break.

(Announcements)

MR. GREGORY: We're back in our final minutes here, our Trends and Takeaways segment, what made news, this hour. My interview with Paul Ryan has a lot of people talking in the digital space, online. He said that he was disappointed that the big story here this morning, Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana, not running for president, that Chairman Ryan was disappointed about that and even fielded some questions about his own future. Watch.

(Videotape)

REP. RYAN: I'm not running for president. You never know what opportunities present themselves way down the road. I'm not talking about right now. And I want to focus on fixing the fiscal problems of this country.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Didn't close the door here. Mike Murphy, if we go to our TweetDeck board here in the studio, a lot of people are talking about this online, including my colleague Steve Hayes from The Weekly Standard, who tweets this: "Mitch Daniels out. Expect the pressure on Paul Ryan and Governor Christie to increase dramatically." Quickly, you, you agree with that?

MR. MURPHY: Well, the Paul Ryan thing is five guys at The Weekly Standard tweeting like mad right now. I take Ryan at his word, with all due respect to my friends there. I think there will be a moment for Christie, if he wants it. Easier said than done, and you peak the day you announce in this kind of politics, but...

MR. GREGORY: Well, and certainly a lot of discussion, as you imagine, on Twitter about who fills that space, kind of mirroring the conversation that we've been having here. This from geekgirldiva, "At this point, Paul Ryan may have to toss his hat into the ring." So I say, a lot of that conversation going on. At the same time, what's happening today, we want to take you live here in Washington, D.C., to the scene of AIPAC. This is the pro-Israel lobby, very powerful in the United States. The president will be speaking here, Andrea Mitchell, and this is on the heels of a rupture with Israel. The president said this week that any peace plan, a Palestinian state would have to go back to the borders of prior to the 1967 war. This was significant.

MS. MITCHELL: He did have language that said there would be land swaps to protect Israel's security, but it was taken as a red flag by Netanyahu. And what happened then was that even if this was implicit in things that previous presidents had said, Netanyahu seized on it. Even before he got on the plane, he criticized the president, and in such a fashion! He lectured him in the Oval Office. And if you look at that picture that you have up there right now, it was a stone-faced Barack Obama and Netanyahu basically treating him like a school boy. People even who work for Netanyahu, some of his Israeli officials, told him later that he went too far. That it was, it was really rude and that there would be blowback to this.

MR. GREGORY: And, Congressman, you know this well, having run a lot of campaigns, and for the party, particularly with a big Jewish vote in Florida. You have Governor Romney, Governor Pawlenty and others saying, essentially, that the president threw Israel under the bus. Is there going to be blowback here politically?

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, I think that the--this will, this will blow over pretty quickly. I think that they'll be a quick reconciliation on this point. Number two, I think the Republicans make a very serious mistake if they decide to politicize this issue. The support for Israel in the United States has always been a bipartisan issue, and I don't think it serves anybody's interests, not the United States' interest, nor the interests of Israel, to have this become a big partisan issue. And let's remember, the president in his speech emphasized the fact that the United States has an unshakeable commitment to the security of Israel. He made it clear he does not expect the Israelis to deal with a coalition government with Hamas, so long as they refuse to renounce violence and refuse to accept the right of Israel. And finally, he threw cold water on the Palestinian idea of going to the United Nations. So there was a lot in here for...

MS. MITCHELL: But that's not what Netanyahu...

MR. GREGORY: Ten, ten seconds. Mike Murphy, does the president get a bad reception at this very important conference here in Washington?

MR. MURPHY: I think he'll be in full retreat, but I'll bet we pick up 75,000 votes in Florida, which could be a lot.

MR. GREGORY: Which you think is, will be significant.

MR. MURPHY: It was a clumsy move by the president. Just those sentences. The rest of the speech was great.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. This conversation continues. Thanks to all of you very much. You can hear more from Andrew Ross Sorkin, by the way, in our Take Two Web extra today. He is going to discuss his best-selling book on the 2008 financial crisis "Too Big to Fail." Now it's an HBO movie. It's debuting tomorrow. That's our Take Two Web extra. It's up on our website this afternoon, mtp.msnbc.com.

MR. DAVID GREGORY: That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If

it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.


Photos: 64 years of ‘Meet the Press’

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  1. First ‘Meet the Press’ photo

    December 4, 1947: The earliest photograph in existence of the longest running television program in history. Sen. Robert Taft was the guest on "Meet the Press" that day, less than a month after the program debuted on NBC television at 8 p.m., November 6, 1947. James A. Farley, the former postmaster general and former Democratic National Committee chairman, was the guest on the first broadcast. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. All women

    December 10, 1949: With Washington's leading male reporters otherwise occupied at the men-only Gridiron Dinner, "Meet the Press" presented its first all-female program. Moderator (and program co-founder) Martha Rountree, panelists Doris Fleeson, May Craig, Judy Spivak and Ruth Montgomery question the guest, Democratic politician India Edwards. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Billy Graham

    March 6, 1955: Rev. Billy Graham’s first "Meet the Press" appearance. He tells panelist (and program co-founder) Lawrence Spivak "anything that makes any race feel inferior ... is not only un-American but un-Christian." (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jackie Robinson

    April 14, 1957: Jackie Robinson, the first man to break the racial barrier in Major League Baseball, also becomes the first athlete to appear on "Meet the Press." Robinson joins moderator Lawrence Spivak in a discussion about civil rights and Robinson’s work with the NAACP. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt

    October 20, 1957: Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in one of her six "Meet the Press" appearances. Here she talks about her trip to the Soviet Union. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Robert Frost

    December 28, 1958: Poet Robert Frost was introduced by moderator Ned Brooks as "the poet of all America. Indeed, it can be said that he is the poet of all mankind." Two years later, Congress awarded Robert Frost a gold medal in recognition of his poetry, saying it enriched the culture of the United States and the philosophy of the world. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Fidel Castro

    April 19, 1959: Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro appears on "Meet the Press" during his first visit to the United States since the revolution. Castro was annoyed that permanent panelist and producer Lawrence Spivak would not allow him to smoke cigars in the studio. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Martin Luthur King Jr.

    April 17, 1960: Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pictured here in one of his five "Meet the Press" appearances. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. John F. Kennedy

    October 16, 1960: After this interview, then-Senator John F. Kennedy calls Meet the Press the nation's "fifty-first state." (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Jimmy Hoffa

    July 9, 1961:This first "Meet the Press" appearance by Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa had to be rescheduled several times due to Hoffa’s string of indictments. After the interview, Hoffa was furious about being asked whether his insistence on dealing only in cash and keeping few records gave the appearance of impropriety. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Edward Kennedy

    March 11, 1962: Edward Kennedy’s first appearance on the program. The potential Senate candidate was coached by his older brother, President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy and his aide Theodore Sorensen prepared "Teddy" for his “Meet the Press” debut by staging a run through of questions and answers in the Oval Office. On the day of the program, President Kennedy delayed his departure from Palm Beach in order to watch the show, but later told his brother that he was almost too nervous to watch. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Bob Dole

    July 16, 1972: Bob Dole and "Meet the Press" moderator Lawrence Spivak prepare to discuss the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate. Former Senator Dole holds the record for the most appearances on “Meet the Press” in a career that included service as a Congressman, Senator, RNC Chairman, vice presidential candidate, Senate Majority Leader and finally, Republican presidential nominee. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Prime Minister Wilson

    September 19, 1965: "Meet the Press" conducts television’s very first live satellite interview. The guest is British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Ronald Reagan

    September 11, 1966: Ronald Reagan, making his first bid for public office, appears on "Meet the Press" with his Democratic opponent for the governorship of California, the incumbent Gov. Edmund G. Brown. Reagan appeared on "Meet the Press" seven times -- all before he was elected president. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Robert Kennedy

    March 17, 1968: Senator Robert F. Kennedy makes his ninth -- and final -- appearance on "Meet the Press" with Lawrence E. Spivak. Kennedy was assassinated in California less than 3 months later -- shortly after claiming victory in that state's Democratic presidential primary. He was 42 years old. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. John Kerry

    April 18, 1971: John Kerry, then a former Navy Lieutenant, makes his first "Meet the Press" appearance as a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He has since appeared on the program as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts 21 times. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Golda Meir

    December 5, 1971: Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, appears on “Meet the Press” with moderator Bill Monroe to discuss the continuing instability in the Middle East and the prospect of meeting and negotiating with Egypt’s leaders. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Prime Minister Gandhi

    August 24, 1975: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in one of her seven appearances on "Meet the Press" before her assassination in October 1984. After she was elected Prime Minister in 1966, Gandhi grew more concerned about her television image and contacted "Meet the Press" to request makeup samples used during her appearance on the program. The program’s makeup artist consulted her notes and sent Mrs. Gandhi a complete makeup set -- including sponges and instructions for application. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Gerald Ford

    November 9, 1975: President Gerald Ford becomes the first sitting American president to appear on the program. President Ford accepted the invitation as a tribute to "Meet the Press" co-founder Lawrence Spivak, who was making his farewell appearance as moderator of the program. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Jimmy Carter

    January 20, 1980: In one of the most dramatic newsbreaks in the history of "Meet the Press" President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. would boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics because of the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Despite initial outrage over Carter’s proposal, 60 nations eventually joined the boycott. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Richard Nixon

    April 10, 1988: In his first Sunday interview in 20 years, Former President Richard Nixon reacts to a comment on "Meet the Press. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Tim Russert's first show

    December 8, 1991: Tim Russert makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press." He has since become the longest-serving moderator in "Meet the Press" history. In the center of this photo is then-intern Betsy Fischer, who is now Executive Producer of the program. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Dan Quayle

    September 20, 1992: "Meet the Press" permanently expands from a half-hour to a one hour program. Vice President Dan Quayle is the guest. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Shaheen and Whitman

    February 2, 1997: The broadcast breaks television history as "Meet the Press" becomes the first network television program ever to broadcast live in digital high definition. Governors Jeanne Shaheen and Christie Todd Whitman share a light moment on the set that day. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Bill Clinton

    November 9, 1997: President Bill Clinton appears in studio on "Meet the Press" to mark the program’s 50th anniversary. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Al Gore

    December 19, 1999: In a live Democratic presidential debate, Vice President Al Gore challenges former Sen. Bill Bradley to a "Meet the Press agreement" to have weekly debates in place of running political advertisements. (Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Dick Cheney

    September 16, 2001: Five days after the September 11th attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney joins moderator Tim Russert in the first live television interview ever broadcast from Camp David. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Senate Debate Series

    September 22, 2002: "Meet the Press" kicks off its "Senate Debate Series" with the Colorado Senate race: Republican Incumbent Sen. Wayne Allard vs. Democratic Challenger Tom Strickland. At the end of the election cycle, the series of three senate debates was awarded the prestigious "USC Walter Cronkite Journalism Award" for "Excellence in Broadcast TV Political Journalism." The debate series continued in 2004 and 2006. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. George W. Bush

    February 8, 2004: President George W. Bush kicks off his re-election campaign in an Oval Office interview with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." Robert Novak went on to write about the interview, "no president ever before had been subjected to such tough questioning in the Oval Office." (Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. James Carville

    November 14, 2004: In another "Meet the Press" first, Democratic strategist James Carville cracks an egg on his forehead to demonstrate he's got "egg on his face" after his projected outcome of the U.S. presidential election was wrong. Carville predicted 52 percent of the vote for U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), 47 percent for President George W. Bush and 1 percent for Ralph Nader. (Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Jim Webb

    November 19, 2006: The first edition of "Meet the Press" to be available via video netcast on the show’s Web site. U.S. Senator-elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) joins moderator Tim Russert on that program. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Barack Obama

    November 11, 2007: "Meet the Press"celebrates its 60th anniversary live from Des Moines, Iowa with Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) for the full hour. (Eric Thayer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. June 15, 2008: The chair of late moderator Tim Russert sits empty on the set during the first MTP taping following Russert's death. He died June 13, 2008 of a heart attack while at the NBC News bureau in Washington. He was 58 years old. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Colin Powell

    October 19, 2008: A record-breaking 9 million viewers tune in to see Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican, announce his endorsement of Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. President-elect Obama

    December 7, 2008: President-elect Barack Obama makes his first Sunday morning television appearance since winning the election to discuss the challenges facing this country and the upcoming transition of power. (Scott Olson / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. David Gregory

    December 7, 2008: Interim moderator Tom Brokaw announces that David Gregory has been chosen as the new moderator of the show. (Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Rendell, Schwarzenegger & Bloomberg

    March 22, 2009: Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Penn.), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared exclusively on Meet the Press one day after meeting with President Obama to discuss the economy. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images for Meet the Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Hillary Clinton

    July 26, 2009: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears for a full-hour on Meet the Press. It's her first appearance on the program since joining the Obama administration. (William B. Plowman / NBC Universal) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. President Obama

    September 20, 2009: President Barack Obama sits down with David Gregory at the White House for Obama's first MTP appearance since taking office. (Pete Souza / The White House) Back to slideshow navigation
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