MR. DAVID GREGORY: On this Super Bowl Sunday here on NBC, we are focused on the big political prize of the year, the GOP nomination. Governor Romney got another step close with a win in the Nevada caucus last night.
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FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): You know, this is not the first time you gave your vote of confidence and this time I'm going to take it to the White House.
MR. GREGORY: But is another Romney misstep about the poor only going to heighten anxiety among conservatives about his prospects for the fall?
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there.
MR. GREGORY: I will ask his primary challenger, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich when he joins me live this morning.
Then, tonight in Indianapolis, it's the New York Giants vs. the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl and we've got all sides here this morning. Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, independent mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, and Democratic governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick to talk about the economy, politics and yeah, a little football.
Plus, our political roundtable. The new jobs number shows unemployment down to 8.3 percent, another welcome sign of recovery even as Republicans argue the rebound should be much stronger. With us, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, New York Times columnist David Brooks, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus California Congressman Xavier Becerra, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Picking up his third win of the primary season, Mitt Romney scored a solid victory last night in the Nevada caucuses. The final votes are still being tabulated, but this is where the count stands this morning. It is Romney at 48 percent, Newt Gingrich a distant second at 23 percent, followed by Ron Paul at 19, Santorum at 11 percent. Last night, a defiant Gingrich held an election night press conference denouncing Romney and vowing to stay in the race.
FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): I am a candidate for president of the United States. I will be a candidate for president of the United States. We will go to Tampa. What happens is every primary day or caucus day, the Romney headquarters in Boston sends out the rumor that they believe I will withdraw, which is, of course, their greatest fantasy. I'm not going to withdraw. I'm actually pretty happy with where we are and I think the contrast between Governor Romney and me is going to get wider and wider and clearer and clearer over the next few weeks.
MR. GREGORY: Republican presidential candidate, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins me again live this morning.
Mr. Speaker, good to see you.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: It's good to be with you, David.
MR. GREGORY: Let's look at some of the exit polling. Among conservatives, true conservatives in Nevada and this is how it broke down, decidedly for Governor Romney, beating you in all of the categories, very conservative, tea party supporters, white evangelicals. This is supposed to be your base, Mr. Speaker. So what is the path for you to win this nomination and what's the rationale?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, this is a state he won last time, he won it this time. Our goal is to get to Super Tuesday where we're in much more favorable territory. As you'll note, even in Florida where I was outspent 5-to-1, we carried all of the panhandle area, we actually carried more counties than he did. And so we want to get to Georgia, to Alabama, to Tennessee. We want to get to states, Texas. We believe by the time Texas is over, we'll be very, very competitive in delegate count and I think that the key from my standpoint is to make this a big choice campaign. You just had a quote from Governor Romney that's a perfect example. He says he doesn't worry much about the very poor because they have a safety net. Well, the safety net in many ways has become a spider web. It traps them at the bottom. Conservatives, real conservatives, who've been trying for years to develop a trampoline effect where we help people leave poverty, we help them find better schools, we help them find jobs, we help them improve neighborhoods. And I think there are a series of very big differences about the level of change that we would bring to Washington.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: So my goal over the next few weeks is to draw a very sharp distinction between Romney's positions, which are very--the Wall Street Journal described them as timid and in terms of tax policies, being like Obama. So this, you know, I don't want to have a process campaign. I want to have an issue-oriented campaign and when we've been able to get those issues out in the open, we've done very, very well.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me come back on a couple of points there. You say you don't want to have a process campaign, what you've been doing primarily is complaining about the fact that you've been outspent and about the fact that Governor Romney has been incredibly negative. I mean, you've had all these opportunities on the debate stage...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: No. What I've been doing, David...
MR. GREGORY: You've had the opportunity on the debate stage to make this contrast...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: What I've been doing, David, is responding to questions.
MR. GREGORY: ...to make it about issues.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: OK. Right. And, and, and 15 out of the...(unintelligible)...people think I did a pretty good job of that. I suspect the next one will. But it's beyond that. I want to focus on how big the change has to be in Washington. I want to focus on the degree to which we need a tax policy that is very aggressively pro-jobs. You know, you cited going into the show today that unemployment has dropped. Well, it has dropped. You know why it's dropped? Because over 4 percent of the people who would be unemployed have quit looking for work. If we had the same participation rate we had a couple of years ago, we'd be at 12 or 13 percent unemployment. People just quit looking. That's not a very positive sign for the economy. It's actually a sign of weakness. We need a much more aggressive tax policy.
We need an American energy policy. Look what's happening in the Middle East. We are hostage to a region which is very volatile and in which the forces of Iran are gaining strength and the Obama administration's basically growing more and more timid and more and more inclined to withdraw. So I think there are very large issues at stake and my goal is to communicate those issues and to get them out there.
MR. GREGORY: I want to come back to each of these issues in turn, but one more process question about just the campaign. You said in your press conference last night that you want to make this a definitional campaign to disqualify Romney in the minds of conservatives. What specifically do you mean and how to you do that?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, I think if you look at his record as governor, as opposed to his advertising, his record as governor is very clear. He was pro-abortion, he was pro-gun control, he was pro-tax increase. He ended up third from the bottom in job creation, 48,000 manufacturing jobs left because the combination of Romneycare and tax increases made him, in fact, a very weak governor in terms of job creation. The challenge is to say do you really want to go into a fall election with a moderate candidate? The last two times we nominated a moderate, 1996 and 2008, we lost badly. A conservative candidate can offer a much greater contrast with President Obama, can offer a much bigger difference. And I'm prepared, for example, to talk about young people having the right to have a personal Social Security savings account, which actually saves Social Security, increases their income and eliminates about 50 percent of the disparity of wealth in the country within a generation. So I think the difference between timidly trying to manage at the margins a system that has to be profoundly changed and boldly taking it on is a very, very big difference. And I don't think a timid approach is going to beat Obama this fall.
MR. GREGORY: Let me go back to a couple of the issues that you've already mentioned, poverty and the economy, more broadly, 46 million Americans in poverty, 15 percent. You said there is a big distinction between how you would help the poor and what Governor Romney would do. I've been looking at this, researching your own positions, I don't see much difference. You believe as Governor Romney does that this should primarily be an enterprise of states in the United States to provide that social safety net to poor Americans.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, but one of the big differences is I believe there should be very dramatic increase in school choice for the very poor. I also--I'll give you an example that he himself mentioned on the very same day. He favors indexing minimum wage when virtually every economist in the country believes that further makes it difficult for young people to get a job. This is a country right now where 43 percent of young African-Americans are unemployed. In Nevada, it's 31 percent of all teenagers are unemployed. We should be making it easier for young people to get a job, not raising the cost of hiring young people, making it harder. I'm for much, much bolder tax changes than he is. For example, I would have a zero capital gains rate, he limits his capital gains tax break to people under 200,000. That means a million small businesses would not be eligible for his tax plan. I also have a 15 percent flat tax option modeled on something they've done in Hong Kong for the last 40 years. That's actually about the Romney tax rate. And look, Americans will be able to fill out one page, list the number of dependents they have, and end up paying about 15 percent on their taxes. My goal is to actually bring government down to the revenue level, not raise revenue to try to catch up with Obama's spending.
MR. GREGORY: Well...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: And I think that's a very bold difference from Romney.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the economy generally and this jobs report. I want to put up, as I often do, the unemployment chart for the Obama presidency. If you go back to 2009, February of that year, 8.2 percent, the high point in October of '09 at 10.1 percent. And here we are, January of this year back to 8.3 percent. And how is it that you can say this administration has not led economic recovery?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: It's very simple, David, you didn't include the number of people who've dropped out of the workforce. And when you include the number of people who've quit looking for work because they're convinced the Obama administration's economy's so bad they can't find a job, it jumps up to about 12 percent. When you include the number of people who have part-time jobs who wish they had a full-time job, it's at 16 or 17 percent. I mean, this is an administration which has actually shrunk the workforce fairly dramatically in the last few years. I think it's the lowest male participation rate in the labor force since the late--since the early--the 1940s, right after World War II. So when you take--there's a, there's a number called U6 which is all of these factors, it's still a very dangerous, very dismal situation. And the Congressional Budget Office has warned that they believe unemployment's going to go back up this summer and fall and they think it'll stay high through 2014. And I think the Federal Reserve has a very similar forecast of a weak economy through 2014.
MR. GREGORY: If there is job creation throughout the rest of this year, even if it is not profound, even if it doesn't keep up with population growth, do you think as a Republican it will be difficult to make the case against this president as he's vying for re-election?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, it depends on what the job creation looks like. I mean, if, if you're talking about we get down to 7.9 percent in the fourth year of a--of the longest recession since the Great Depression, you still got a challenge. If it all--it's combined with the highest priced gasoline in American history because of his anti-American energy policies, he's still going to have a challenge. And if we got to that level of recovery because he's borrowing trillions of dollars from our children and grandchildren, he's still going to have a challenge.
The very simple question to ask the American people: Do you think Washington's on the right track or the wrong track? By overwhelming margin, the American people believe that Washington's on the wrong track. And I think that's going to be a big burden for President Obama to carry this fall. His policies have consistently, I think, weakened the country. He has an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would raise the price of gasoline by 25 cents a gallon. There are very few Americans who want to see the price of gasoline raised by government to 25 cents a gallon. Furthermore, you know, he's--he has declared what--it's not just an economic election, you know, he's basically declared war on the Catholic Church, and that's the language of Archbishop Dolan of New York. And I think you're going to see a very severe reaction to the idea of a radical Obama administration...
MR. GREGORY: Well, let's--explain what you're talking about.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...imposing secular rules on religion.
MR. GREGORY: This is for insurance to be provided, including contraception, for employees around the country.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Right.
MR. GREGORY: And--but religious institutions would be exempted. How is this a war against religion...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: No.
MR. GREGORY: Well, religious institutions, churches and the like, would be exempted, and there are states that have very similar rules to ensure the health and safety of, of women that they get covered in their workplace, whether it be a Catholic hospital or other kind of institution.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, I mean, you, you just managed to precisely repeat the Obama administration's line, which is also the American Civil Liberties Union line. The fact is what you're saying is there cannot be a genuinely Catholic university, there cannot be a genuinely Catholic hospital, that in fact it will have to be subordinated to the rules of a secular government. I mean, I happen to oppose rules that, that have, for example, forced Catholic Adoption Services to be closed because they're only willing to have adoptions for marriages between a man and a woman. There are states that now close that. I think that is a tremendous infringement of religious liberty. And I think you're saying the same thing. You're saying basically, "Oh, you can have the name on it, but you can't actually be a Catholic institution. You can't actually be an evangelical Christian institution. You can't actually be an orthodox Jewish institution because we the secular government are going to impose on you." I think that's--I think this is a very profound moment for Americans to decide...
MR. GREGORY: And you predict a political cost for the president.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...do you really want to have a government impose on them?
MR. GREGORY: Do you predict a political cost for the president because of this?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: What? Very substantial, yes. Because, because every American who cares about religious liberty, and I've been talking, for example, with evangelicals here in Nevada, every American who cares about religious liberty recognizes that from, from, from judges who say you, you can't say a prayer in high school, you can't--the New York City decision recently--you, you can't rent an empty school building on Sunday morning--every time you turn around, secular government is closing in on and shrinking the right of religious liberty in America, and I think there are millions of people who are very disturbed by it.
MR. GREGORY: I want to ask you--back to some of the ideas in your campaign. "Saturday Night Live" had a little bit of fun at your expense last night. Let me show you a clip of it and ask you a more serious question on the other side.
(Videotape, last night, courtesy Broadway video)
Offscreen Voice: The year 2014 is a time of turmoil for America. Comfortably serving his second term, President Barack Obama no longer hides his socialist agenda. From the darkness, a visionary emerges and leads a group of pioneers to pursue a better future in space. He is: Newt Gingrich, moon president!
MR. GREGORY: You know, you, you have talked, Mr. Speaker, about keeping focused on big ideas in this campaign and a lunar colony would fit that bill. But you also said on this program back in May that "One of my greatest weaknesses is that part of me is a teacher analyst" because too often you talk like that more than someone who's disciplined to be president of the United States. Is there something that's incongruous about your campaign where you talk about fiscal sanity, you talk about contraction and age of austerity and then you talk about a lunar colony? Do you think this ultimately hurts your seriousness as you move forward in this campaign?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, first of all, David, I don't think you'll ever find me talking about an age of austerity. I don't think that's the right solution. I am a pro-growth Republican, I'm a pro-growth conservative, I think the answer's to grow the economy, not to punish the American people with austerity. Second, that's--you know, I made a speech on the space coast in Florida to serious people who've spent their lifetime trying to help America get into space. Every serious analyst understands that the Chinese are going all out to dominate space, the Russians today have the only man-rated vehicle available to the United States in space. And I didn't propose any additional federal spending, I opposed--I proposed a fundamental reform of NASA to engage the private sector in very bold and very dramatic ventures.
And I think Greta Van Susteren got it right, she interviewed me shortly after. She said, you know--she couldn't imagine President John F. Kennedy being met with the kind of attacks, the kind of ridicule, the, the lack of faith in America that has come up in the last few days. I believe it's possible to unleash the American people, to inspire the private sector, to encourage entrepreneurs and to have a dramatically better space program than we have today. And I think every American should wonder why we've spent billions and billions and billions on NASA and currently have no vehicle to put human beings into space. So I was calling--I think--this, this was not some slip, this was a deliberate effort to start a conversation at a, at a time when the Chinese, the Indians and the Russians are aggressively moving into space and we are bureaucratically mired down in red tape spending billions of dollars without making very much progress. So I'm not for a gigantic federal tax-paid program, I'm for a dramatic reform of the current program.
MR. GREGORY: How personally nasty is it between you and Governor Romney? Have you lost personal like and even respect for him?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I--look, I think that's basically the--an irrelevant question. Governor Romney's running a campaign that he thinks is right for him. I don't, I don't happen to think it's a very good thing to do. I'm very proud of the fact that the counties I carried in Florida, the vote was up. The counties he carried, the vote was down. In South Carolina we set an all-time record for turnout. I'm going to be running a campaign of big ideas, big solutions. I'm trying to draw people into politics, not carpet-bomb them out of it. We just have a fundamental disagreement about the responsibility of somebody running for president should have to the American people.
MR. GREGORY: And, Mr. Speaker, before I let you go, I was paying attention last night that you're rooting for the Giants today, and I just am shocked by one thing, not your support for their wide-receiving unit or their very strong pass rush, but that you would endorse a team that comes from the capital of media elitism.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, you know, my son-in-law and I have shares of Green Bay stock and we have an obligation, David, to honor the team that beat us, painful though it was. And I know it makes you and your son happy, so on this one I'm with you.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And coming up, more on this Super Bowl Sunday. The Giants and Patriots face off on football's largest stage on NBC. We'll have a special Decision 2012 conversation with three political heavy-hitters, the Patriots' home state Governor Deval Patrick, the Giants' hometown Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the governor of the host state, Indiana's Mitch Daniels. We'll talk politics and, of course, a little football, including how the Patriots' record in the big game might be a good political predictor of what's in store in the race for the White House in this election year. And later, our political roundtable on the X's and O's of the campaign. Maddow, Brooks, Becerra and Castellanos after this short break.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, yeah, we're a little football focused here, the Patriots and the Giants face off. We're going to have a special 2012 conversation. Joining me, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels up next, right after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: Joining me this Super Bowl Sunday, Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick, and live from Indianapolis, and site of Super Bowl XLVI, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels. Welcome to all of you. Nice to have you here.
GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D-MA): Good morning.
MR. GREGORY: I want to talk the economy first with everyone, and I want to start with you, Governor Daniels. You gave the response to the president's State of the Union address and you were very pointed about his economic record. Let me play a portion of it.
(Videotape, January 24, 2012)
GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R-IN): The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crisis that continue in America tonight but he was elected on a promise to fix them and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse.
MR. GREGORY: And yet, as I pointed out with Speaker Gingrich, Governor Daniels, 8.3 percent unemployment, close to where it was in February of 2009, that is a dramatic improvement. Just last month more than 240,000 jobs created. Do you stand by what you said?
GOV. DANIELS: Every word of it, David. You know, in today's parlance the economy is down 30 points, and we just kicked a field goal. I think I'd keep the champagne on ice. I only heard, heard a little bit of the previous interview but just look at the number of Americans, the percentage of Americans working, two-thirds of the jobs lost have not been regained yet. The participation rate is extraordinary low, the under unemployment rate is very high, and, you know, I'm, I'm as glad as anyone to see one good month, but it's way too early for a celebration, and as you know, most of predictions for this year about further growth are, are pretty gloomy.
MR. GREGORY: Well, of course, it's not just one month, Mayor Bloomberg. It is job creation throughout this year under President Obama. And here was a striking statistic that we saw in The New York Times/CBS poll. In terms of the optimism of Americans about the economy, it's up dramatically. Last year, 28 percent thinking that the economy is getting better. You're close to the economy in New York and beyond. How do you see both these numbers and the trajectory in the economy?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I-NY): Well, the economy is clearly better both in New York and across the country. As Mitch said, it's certainly not running away on the upside and there are lots of storm clouds that we have to worry about. What disturbs me is when you listen to all of the rhetoric in the campaign, nobody's really talking about how they are going to close an $8 trillion deficit over the next 10 years. Where is the revenue going to come from? How do you make it fair when you have to increase revenue, when you have to increase revenue, you cannot cut your ways out of this? And when you cut, what things are you going to cut? And every time I listen to the cut programs, it's, "I'll protect your program if you protect mine." What the president should do is just veto, I think, any extension of the Bush era tax cuts for everybody. We're all in this together. We should all pony up and help close the deficit and then adopt the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was done thoughtfully and it wasn't horse trading. It was trying to strike a balance between the things we need and the things we'd like.
MR. GREGORY: You don't think that the rich should pay the lion's share of this in order to lead on deficit reduction?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, if you only raise taxes or--on the rich, you don't get that much money. The only ways you get $4 trillion, which is half of the deficit that we need to close, is if you make sure that the Bush tax cuts go away for everybody. The rich do pay a disproportionate percentage of their share already, but the bottom line is there aren't that many of them. We're all in this together. If you think about it, almost everybody in this country gets some benefit from the federal government, whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, interest deductions, lower tax rates to encourage economic growth and capital gains and those kinds of things. And since everybody benefits, I've always thought you don't want to create class warfare, everybody should feel the pain a little bit, proportionately, up to their ability to pay, but everybody's in this together. That's what America is all about.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Patrick, how do you respond to Governor Daniels, to Speaker Gingrich, who says, in fact, the president does not deserve credit, that under him the economy has continued to be incredibly weak, and the evidence, of course, the fact that those jobless numbers don't even capture the fact that people, so many Americans have simply stopped looking and are no longer represented in those jobless numbers?
GOV. PATRICK: Well, first of all, I think sometimes it seems that facts are unwelcome things to, to the speaker and to many Republicans today. I want to align myself with the--with the comments that Mayor Bloomberg made. There is a way if we all act as if we are in this together to reduce the deficit and grow the, the economy and continue the 23 consecutive months of job growth that we have had under the, under the, under the president. And the president aligns himself with those same ideas. There has to be a combination, a balanced approach of increased revenue and also, and also cuts in government spending. But we have to invest in those things that we know grow the economy and make for a better future, in education, in the innovation sectors and life sciences and biotech and IT and financial services and so forth, and in out infrastructure. That's a, that's the strategy we pursued here at home and that's why our unemployment rate is well below the national average and I think below New York and Indiana's, as well.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Daniels, one of the things you hear from the campaign trail, Mitt Romney said it just the other day, is that the recovery should have been so much stronger. You know, it's very difficult to prove something like that, just like it's difficult for the president to prove the economy would've been weaker if not for his particular policies. How could it have been stronger had a Republican been in president, in your judgment? Been in the White House, I should say.
GOV. DANIELS: Well, for one thing, for one thing, national policy wouldn't have been so relentlessly anti-enterprise as it's been. If you'd assembled a team of Nobel economists and said design us a policy to stifle and strangle investments and small business growth and innovation in this economy, you couldn't have done better than what's happened the last three years. The mindless piling on of new regulations, every one of them very expensive, and in the aggregate extraordinarily so, that's all drained away dollars that could've been used to hire someone. New taxes and the threat of more, all the uncertainty that's come with that. What we know is this, David, I don't have--no one can prove what might have happened, but this is the weakest recovery, by far, from a deep recession that we have in--since the records have been kept and I don't think that's an accident.
MR. GREGORY: Mayor Bloomberg, as an independent voice in all of this, is that your judgment as well, that that's a fair criticism?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: I think I agree with most of what Mitch said. I think if you want to have growth, number one, you have to have the financial industry be strong and willing to take risks. And this relentless criticism and investigation of them, whether--regardless of the facts in the past, if we want to have a future, we have to have people have confidence. And what I see again and again is everybody out there dissing any progress we've made and what they're saying is they keep criticizing the president. Just let's put it in football terms. Can you imagine a coach who would put a back-up quarterback if all he did on the sidelines was criticize the starting quarterback? I don't think so. We need the president to succeed whether he's going to be in office for 11 months or four years and 11 months. We have to work together. And this partisan bickering, and there are no heroes here, both sides of the aisle, both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, they aren't coming together to focus on a real solution. All they're doing is trying to get ready for the next campaign or sadly, four years from the next election.
MR. GREGORY: Well, and of course, we're in the middle of this campaign and here is New York Magazine, Governor Daniels, that pictures all the candidates, the president, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, in the bloodiest campaign. Here you have a Republican nominee in Mitt Romney who talks about not being concerned about the poor, that there's a safety net there, having some difficulty connecting with voters. And then the, the negativity in the campaign between Gingrich and Romney. Do you feel like your party has a nominee that's worthy of the challenges that this country faces?
GOV. DANIELS: I believe we will, but I, I agree with those and I side with those who yearn for a more positive campaign. I think the dynamic, the constant debating and so forth, this process that somehow we've developed here, militates a little bit against that. But every chance I get, I call for what the, what the mayor just did. In order to earn our way back to leadership, it's not enough to point out failures that are visible to anyone, we have to offer a constructive program that promises to restore upward mobility in this country. And I, I believe and I certainly hope that our eventual nominee, once freed from this rather dismal primary process, will present that kind of affirmative message to the country.
MR. GREGORY: As you look at Nevada last night, do you believe that Governor Romney is the inevitable nominee of your party?
GOV. DANIELS: You're asking the wrong person. My, my prognostications about politics are even weaker than they are about football. And, and I've been surprised on, on a weekly basis by what's happened already and I've finally learned to keep my mouth shut.
MR. GREGORY: Governor, Governor Patrick, as you look at the negativity in this campaign, the president getting into it by making not so subtle jabs at Governor Romney, do you think that, that the nature of the primary fight between Gingrich and Romney will weaken the eventual nominee for President Obama?
GOV. PATRICK: Well, I, I agree with Mitch, it's been a pretty dismal primary season, and at a time when Americans need to turn to each other, rather than on each other. We do need to see ourselves as in this together and it worries me that so much of the national Republican rhetoric has been about elevating division itself to the top of the--of their political agenda. We've got a lot of work here to do. A lot of progress that has to be acknowledged, that's a fact, 3.7 million private sector jobs in the last few years is a fact and a positive fact. But when we see the people for whom the recovery has not yet proven itself, has not yet reached them, we have to see that not as a political opening, but as unfinished business and we have to come together to get that business done and I think we've got the right president to do just that.
MR. GREGORY: There's a lot of football tie-ins going on this week, including on some pretty serious issues. Mayor Bloomberg, you and Mayor Menino of Boston have come together for this ad. Let me show it.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Giants.
MAYOR THOMAS MENINO (D-MA): Patriots.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Eli.
MAYOR MENINO: Brady.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: We don't agree on much.
MAYOR MENINO: For example, the Red Sox.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Yankees.
MAYOR MENINO: Beans.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Bagels.
MAYOR MENINO: But we both support the Second Amendment.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: And believe America must do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. You know, over 600 mayors across the country agree on common sense reforms that would save lives.
MAYOR MENINO: Add your voice.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Go to mayorsagainstillegalguns.org.
MAYOR MENINO: It's a patriotic thing to do.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: You can make a giant difference in our country.
MR. GREGORY: Mayor, it seems like the national discussion about guns in this country has been overtaken by the politics of indifference, frankly, on this, and neither party really wants to wade in to decide with the country sort of split on this. What's going to change that?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, you'd think that if a congresswoman got shot in the head, that would've changed Congress' views. I can tell you how to change it, just get Congress to come with me to the hospital when I've got to tell somebody that their son or daughter, their spouse, their parent is not going to come home ever again. This, this week, sadly, even though the murder rate in New York is now so much lower than almost every big city, we still had a cop shot last week with a gun that somebody had, even though the federal laws prohibited that person from having a gun. You know, the federal laws say you can't get a gun if you have a drug problem, psychiatric problem, criminal record or a minor and yet Congress doesn't give monies to make sure that we can have a background check. They have too many loopholes, the background database isn't up to date, private sector sales of guns is something like 40 percent and they don't do background checks. I don't know who has to get killed for people to stop saying, "Wait a second"--start saying, "Wait a second, this is enough." We've had 400,000 Americans killed since RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. were both assassinated back in '68. That is more Americans that have died on the streets from illegal guns since then in America than Americans that were killed in World War II. Enough is enough.
MR. GREGORY: Mayor Bloomberg, there's also been a move afoot in terms of ads that have tied into the Super Bowl by veterans groups representing Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans, U.S. veterans, of course, who would like to see a parade in New York City to welcome home veterans from the Iraq War, particularly when there would be if the Giants win a parade for them. Do you oppose that?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: No. I think it would be great, but the Pentagon has asked us to postpone any parade as long as we still have our soldiers in Iraq getting shot at and sadly killed. I think I'll leave it up to the military experts and the Pentagon to decide when they think it's appropriate and then New York will give them a parade like we've never done before...
MR. GREGORY: But...
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: ...to say thank you for everything they've done.
MR. GREGORY: But does it make sense, we can, we can deploy to two different wars at the same time and fund two different wars, but we can't have a parade for two different sets of veterans?
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Well, you know, I think the military's very sensitive. They're the ones that are out there. They're the ones that have been in combat themselves. I'll defer to the leadership.
MR. GREGORY: Finally, Governor Daniels, let's talk football. Here are the stats. When you talk about politics and football and they are quite revealing, 2008, Giants beat the Patriots, President Obama wins. But if you go back to 2004, it's the Patriots who beat the Panthers and that meant that Governor Bush, Republican--President Bush at that point, wins re-election. Is the outcome today the indicator for the fall?
GOV. DANIELS: Undoubtedly. I think the evidence is overwhelming here. And so I plan to get a big bet down on the election as soon as the, as soon as the gun goes off.
MR. GREGORY: So if the Giants win, the president wins re-election? Do you buy that, Governor Patrick?
GOV. PATRICK: The president wins and the Patriots win. That's what I say.
MR. GREGORY: Oh. All right. And one more, hey, Governor Daniels, Peyton Manning, is he gone from Indy?
GOV. DANIELS: We sure hope not. I just can't imagine this town or this team without him and I just believe he's going to heal and we'll have 18 to--not only to cheer for, but what America should know is he--this guy is as great a citizen as he is a quarterback and I cannot tell you--in fact, most people will never know all the things he's done for this state. I, I, for one, fervently hope that we'll have him around for a good while.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We'll leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you all very much. Enjoy the game today.
GOV. PATRICK: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, decision 2012 and the politics of the economy. Mitt Romney rolls to victory in Nevada promising to bring his business experience to a failing economy, but will positive jobs numbers boost President Obama's standing and force Romney to rethink his strategy going forward? We're going to ask our political roundtable here, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, David Brooks of The New York Times, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.
MR. GREGORY: And we're back with our political roundtable. Joining me, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, host of MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," the aforementioned Rachel Maddow, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, California Congressman Xavier Becerra.
Welcome to all of you.
Rachel, you're, you're satisfied we've done enough about the Super Bowl so far?
MS. RACHEL MADDOW: I'm not sure that everybody's totally aware that there is a football game.
MR. GREGORY: That we're--there is a game. And it happens to be on NBC.
MS. MADDOW: It's apparently this afternoon.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. MADDOW: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: I'm going to only mention it 20, 30 more times.
MR. ALEX CASTELLANOS: Sorry we took our jerseys off.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah, exactly. We had to do that for the roundtable. OK, here we are, here's Nevada last night. We look at the results, Romney going away at 48 percent. I don't think this is completely final yet, we've only got 71 percent reporting, but obviously a big night for Governor Romney. Gingrich at 23 percent and Paul--here's the delegate count, David Brooks, Romney at 83, Gingrich at 28, the magic number, of course, is 1144. Where are we here after Nevada?
MR. DAVID BROOKS: Yeah. The big news, which you identify at the top of the show, is conservatives did so well for Romney. And to me, one of the things that's happened over the past two weeks is Gingrich talked about it, this issue with the Catholic hospitals and the Catholic service providers. It's not been a big story in the media and I think it's because we're too secular, but it's out in pulpits. In Catholic and Protestant pulpits across America it's a huge issue, the idea, the perception that the president is assaulting religious freedom. And what's happened, it's cemented the evangelicals not with Gingrich but it's the sense "We have to beat this guy, Obama, OK, Romney's good enough."
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROOKS: So I think it's, it's significantly healed any wounds that existed between Romney and the evangelicals and you saw that in Nevada.
MR. GREGORY: You see that? Yeah, go ahead, Rachel. You see that?
MS. MADDOW: I was just going to say, you know, 80 percent of people--roughly 80 percent of people say that insurance--anybody providing health insurance should be required to cover contraception, and so there is a way that you can try to make this into a religious freedom issue, but the--all of the Republican field has gone very, very far right, specifically on the issue of contraception and they get a great response for it from the Republican primary audience. But campaigning against the availability of birth control in America is going to run into a 21st century ceiling.
MR. CASTELLANOS: You can, you can try to make this a religious issue, the president of the United States, the administration, has said that even if you're a Catholic hospital or a Catholic university you can't live your beliefs. One of the things we're seeing that as government expands into every sector of society, it crowds out, you know, private life. Just because government gets into something, all of a sudden you lose your freedom of religion, I think it's, it's a, it's a--it is a for real issue, it's going to cut...
MR. GREGORY: But does that fairly represent, does that fairly represent the White House view on this?
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D-CA): No. It doesn't represent the Catholic view either. I'm a, I'm a Catholic. I, I think the Constitution got it right, protect religious liberty. But if my church wants to start being an insurance company, if my church wants to be an Internet company, it doesn't have the same religious freedoms to discriminate against women, not letting them become priests, and it shouldn't have the same rights as it has as a church to do business. So if it wants to be in the business of providing health insurance, it should, it should do what every other health insurer must do under our laws.
MR. CASTELLANOS: But isn't...
MR. BROOKS: But--so...
MR. CASTELLANOS: ...isn't it voluntary...
MR. BROOKS: That's not...
MR. CASTELLANOS: ...isn't it voluntary that you go to a Catholic university, isn't it voluntary that you choose a Catholic hospital?
REP. BECERRA: So you're turning--Alex, you're turning all these American...
MR. BROOKS: We have, we have--no, listen...
MR. CASTELLANOS: No, listen, I've had so many people--excuse me...
REP. BECERRA: ...you're turning all these American workers that have to leave the Catholic...
MR. CASTELLANOS: ...excuse me, Congressman--no, I'm not. What I was going to try to tell you...
REP. BECERRA: But if it's voluntary...
MR. CASTELLANOS: ...is that there are so many people--you know what, I agree, women should have the right to contraception, but there's choice in this country about how you live and what you believe, and we shouldn't limit religious liberty to achieve that.
MR. GREGORY: But is, but is there a distinction between paying for something and making it available?
MR. BROOKS: Yeah. But in the poorest neighborhoods in this country the Catholic service providers are doing incredible work and they're doing it out of a sense of religious devotion. And if the government tells them you can't do it and, and--in...
REP. BECERRA: They continue to do that.
MR. BROOKS: But you can't--what, what the government is telling them--the, the Obama administration had a perfectly available option to say, "OK, you're not going to provide contraception, but do it as other states like Hawaii do it, just tell people where to go. That way we square it with, with what you want to do, with your convictions, and we're realistic." But the government in, I think, in an act of bureaucratic greed said, "It's our way or the highway."
MS. MADDOW: The, the, the idea that, that, that the Catholic Church is being forced to do something that as a church it does not want to do is a misnomer. The initial exception in here is that the Catholic Church that--somebody that is providing the service of being a church, that's operating from the church, they're already exempt from this. The question is, as the congressman says, when you want to become a health insurance provider you must follow the rules of providing health insurance. And in this country, that means that you have to cover contraception, and 80 percent of Americans agree with that.
MR. CASTELLANOS: This is--this...
MS. MADDOW: This fits into--you guys want to make this only about religion, but listen, Mitt Romney is campaigning...
MR. CASTELLANOS: No, it is--no, the administration made this only about religion.
MS. MADDOW: ...Mitt Romney is campaigning saying that he would like to end--he...
MR. CASTELLANOS: Ask the bishops.
MS. MADDOW: ...he would like to end all family planning support at the federal level. He would like to eliminate federal--Title 10. Rick Santorum says that he would like states to be able to make contraception illegal. You can try to make this an issue of, oh, Democrats hate religion, but the fact is churches were exempt from this from the beginning, this is about providing health insurance. And the Republican Party is...
MR. GREGORY: Let me...
MS. MADDOW: ...waging war on contraception at this point in a way that the--where the--and that's where the discussion is going.
MR. GREGORY: Alex, I want to, I want to move this back, I mean this is a fascinating debate and it's not going to go away, but I also want to talk about sort of the state of the campaign. And David initially brought this up as a way of where Romney might be attracting more conservative support. How has he done this week, you know, having to deal with the fact that he talked about not worrying about the poor too much because there's a social safety net. And then he offered this in, in the wake of these job numbers that we've talked about here, 8.3 percent unemployment. This is what he said:
FRM. GOV. ROMNEY: This recovery has been slower than it should have been. Will it get better? I think it'll get better. But this president has not helped the process, he's hurt it.
MR. GREGORY: Is he going to be able to stick with that rationale? Is he going to basically say "Vote for me because I could have made the recovery even stronger than the current president did"?
MR. CASTELLANOS: I, I think the question still is what recovery? There seems to be one in Washington, there seems to be the beginnings of one in the White House, but when we all look at these unemployment numbers, it--we can understand why America doesn't feel like it's on the right track. You know, if I told you, Rachel, today that, "Hey, I've got great news, the rate of sick people, really old sick people in this country is going down," we'd all sit here and say, oh, that's wonderful. And if I then explained to you, "Yes, it's because a million of them died last month," we'd say that's not great. But that's what's happening in unemployment.
MR. BROOKS: That--yeah.
MR. CASTELLANOS: The unemployment rate's going down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 1.2 million people left the workforce.
MR. BROOKS: I think that's completely the wrong...
MR. GREGORY: David, go ahead.
MR. BROOKS: I think that's the wrong strategy for Republicans. You can't wage this on a cyclical--the cyclical ups and downs of the economy because it might get better, God willing it will get better. So I, I--if I were the Republicans I'd say cyclical we're doing a little better, we've got these huge structural problems, we've got the debt, we've got wage stagnation, we've got families falling apart and highlight the deep structural problems. The message for Romney out of these jobs numbers is, I can't cruise quoting "God Bless America," whatever song he quotes. I've got to actually have some big policies, and he's cruising on a bad economy, but that may go away, hopefully.
MR. GREGORY: Rachel, your point?
MS. MADDOW: I was just going to say, if, if you told me that it was 8.3 percent unemployment, I'd say, what was it before; and if you told me it was 10, I would say, good, things are going in a better direction. The internal numbers are better, the manufacturing numbers are better, healthcare numbers are better...
MR. CASTELLANOS: The 1.2 is better?
MS. MADDOW: ...professional services numbers are better. It's not just people dying.
MR. CASTELLANOS: Is the 1.2 is better?
MS. MADDOW: Listen, we've gone from 10 percent unemployment to 8.3 percent unemployment.
MR. CASTELLANOS: Except for that, except for the 1.2 million people.
MS. MADDOW: Eight-point-three percent unemployment is still bad, but I prefer this to what it was before. We're going in the right direction.
MR. GREGORY: Well, but the reality, Congressman...
MR. CASTELLANOS: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...we, we, we--there's a lot of people I talk to in business who say you can't obsess about jobs. You can't just look at the number of jobs, you have to look at overall economic growth. That's the engine of our economy. That has still been anemic. And as it translates politically, you talk about cruising, but this is the swing state matchup for 2012, and this is where Romney has an advantage over President Obama. There's a lot of Americans who look at these numbers and are hurting. Romney with a slight edge over Obama in the swing states as you look at a 2012 matchup. Congressman?
REP. BECERRA: David, I think the issue is will the Republicans try to run on pessimism. If that's what they're going to do, it's going to be tough, I believe, for them to win because we've never been a people of pessimism. And the president can say, you're right, we lost jobs, we lost a ton of jobs. But even Superman needed some track to stop a train. You got to understand that for the first 12 months of his presidency, just as the last 12 months of Bush's presidency, we lost jobs. For the last 23 months in a row, we gained jobs. And that's what you have to talk about is the optimism. If Mitt Romney and the, and the Republicans want to run on pessimism, let them do so.
MR. CASTELLANOS: And I have--you know, I've been fairly pessimistic, frankly, about Republican chances of winning this election. I thought of Obama having an advantage for a lot of reasons. People think he's a decent man. People think that we've gone to a better place in racial relations, and, you know, even the economy has flattened out. But this campaign for the first time is making me think Republicans actually have a better shot than I thought, and the reason is Republicans are making the case for growth out there and Democrats are making the case that the biggest problem of the economy is not growth it's maldistribution of wealth.
REP. BECERRA: That's...(unintelligible).
MR. CASTELLANOS: Obama and the Democrats are talking about Mitt Romney's paycheck. Mitt Romney and the Republicans are talking about people's paychecks. I've been in these campaigns when we start talking about this guy's money, that guy's money and voters...
REP. BECERRA: Alex, I hope they'll tell the Republicans in Congress to pass the payroll tax cut that they opposed for so long.
MR. CASTELLANOS: ...it's the wrong race to run.
REP. BECERRA: If they're talking about Americans' paycheck, then the biggest way to help Americans' paycheck, even millionaires, is to help us pass that payroll tax cut for the rest of the year.
MR. CASTELLANOS: And there isn't a strategy for growth coming out of the Democrats or the White House right now.
MR. GREGORY: What is the Republican growth strategy, David? I mean, what is it they say would have led to a stronger recovery had a Republican been there?
MR. BROOKS: Well, there are big policies there. There is a big fundamental tax reform, which, believe me, the president doesn't want to do for some reason I do not understand. There's a big entitlement approach we call Rivlin-Domenici, which is the Romney approach, give people different options. Those are big policies. And what--I think the advantage the Republicans have, and I can go plus or minus on whether they're going to win this thing, is they do have big policies. The president, for whatever reason, has decided to coast on reasonably small policies. This week a big announcement from the White House, digitalized textbooks. Big debt, big jobs problem, pro--problems, they're going with digitalized textbooks?
MR. GREGORY: Well, we're...
MS. MADDOW: But let me just...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MS. MADDOW: In terms of, in terms of a growth strategy, though, I mean, voucherizing Medicare, turning, getting rid of the, the guarantee that Americans have come to expect when they get older that their Medicare will be there for them is not a way to deal with economic growth. There's a problem right now.
MR. CASTELLANOS: But...(unintelligible)...is not a growth strategy.
MS. MADDOW: And the important thing, the, well, the important thing right now from the Democratic side is they're making the case, and I have hoped as a liberal that they would, that policy matters. That it does matter if you pass the payroll tax extension. It does matter if you have unemployment benefits because if people run out of unemployment benefits, it's not a charity issue, it's that they become a much more, a much bigger drag on the economy.
MR. CASTELLANOS: You're beginning...
MS. MADDOW: Policy matters, infrastructure spending matters.
MR. CASTELLANOS: But...
MS. MADDOW: That stuff matters and that's the stuff that the president talked about in the State of the Union.
MR. CASTELLANOS: That's not...
MR. BROOKS: (Unintelligible)...won't follow through on his plan.
MR. CASTELLANOS: Wait...
MR. GREGORY: OK. Hold on. Hold on.
MR. BROOKS: Which he's talked about, which is to simplify the tax code. That is a growth strategy and he has dropped the ball on that.
REP. BECERRA: But, David, he, he did make those proposals. He proposed the Americans Jobs Act, which was more than just a payroll, a payroll tax cut for $160 million workers. He did propose a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, which is more than what Bowles-Simpson, which I sat on, proposed. So he has. The problem is, of course, the Republicans have obstructed votes on those proposals all year.
MR. GREGORY: Can I ask one question? I've got about 30--I'm sorry to end this on process, but I do want to, having Speaker Gingrich on. Alex, is there a path for Gingrich, as he likes to say? Is there something, some rationale, something realistic that he can cling to at this point?
MR. CASTELLANOS: On the moon, yes, but here, no. He's disqualified himself, I think, from, from, and he hasn't demonstrated the stability or the leadership potential. He's all over the map. This--Romney is beginning to pick up momentum. He won every single demographic group except maybe divorce lawyers and narcissists, I think, in Nevada.
MR. GREGORY: All right, on that note, I'm going to end it there. Thank you all very much moch--much, excuse me.
REP. BECERRA: Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: A few programming notes here before we go. You can watch this week's Press Pass conversation with Newt Gingrich supporter, former Congressman J.C. Watts, on our blog, presspass.msnbc.com. He also talks a little football, too, Rachel. And this afternoon, Matt Lauer will sit down with President Obama for a live exclusive interview for a special edition of "Today" during NBC's pregame show. And of course, NBC Sports coverage of Super Bowl XLVI starts today at noon Eastern with kickoff at 6:30 Eastern here on NBC.
What a great day. I'm going to the hockey game, too, even before football. I mean, this is just fantastic.
That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.