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Video: Paul Ryan pick will widen window for debate

updated 8/12/2012 1:55:03 PM ET 2012-08-12T17:55:03

DAVID GREGORY:

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Let me turn now to the chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.  Welcome, chairman.  A fellow Wisconsin guy has gotten the nod.  You're certainly happy about that.  Let me ask you this.  Is this a game changing choice for Mitt Romney?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, I think it is.  And I think that what it shows the American people is that Mitt Romney has the leadership and courage to present to the American people a real contrast and a real debate in this country.  That the American deserve it.  We deserve to have a debate and the American people deserve to know the truth as to where we're at in this economy.

And I think most importantly, if you don't mind, I think what America's starving for is not only people have their word to run for office, but they're hungry for people to govern like they campaigned.  And what this shows the country is that Mitt Romney is willing to govern like he's campaigning.  It's not enough to win.  But we have to fix the problems that are facing this country.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

No surprise to you, it didn't take long for Democrats to express just how they feel about this pick.  Dan Balz, who'll be on our roundtable in just a couple of minutes, wrote in his piece this morning the following.  "There was no one on Romney's short list of contenders that Democrats wanted to run against more than the chairman of the House Budget Committee."

He is the architect, as you well know, of the Republican budget on Medicare.  On what to do about government spending.  The Obama team has already put out a web ad that I'm sure will be coming to a TV set near you.  And this is an excerpt of it.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Democrats might call that the rap sheet against Paul Ryan.  How's he going to handle this?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, first of all, I think if you look at the president's record, David.  I mean let's look at this.  Wait a second.  We've had a credit downgrade in this country.  We had a president who promised he was going to carpet the world and delivered nothing.  He said that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term and what did he do?  He put us on a debt trajectory that is more than all of the debt accumulated before him combined.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But chairman--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--in the deficits.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--I understand your position about the president, but I asked you about-- and the Democrats are going to take the fight to Ryan's record.  You talked about governing.  Well, Paul Ryan's been in the House for 14 years.  He has governed.  These are his ideas, his plan.  Evidently they're Mitt Romney's plans as well.

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, listen, I think that if you lay out the contrast and you lay out the choice of the American people, do you want to go down the road debt, decline and doubt?  And, by the way, taking $700 billion out of Medicare as President Obama did.  He stole $700 billion out of Medicare to fund European healthcare.  We can go down that route or we can put solutions on the table to big problems and have the debate.  I mean what do we want?  Do we want--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on.  I have to stop you, though, because what did you just say about healthcare?  The knock on the president's healthcare plan is that it cut Medicare spending for seniors.  What does Paul Ryan want to do?  What did he propose in his budget?  Which is to change Medicare as we know it.

That's an objective fact because he would change it from how it now operates as a pay-for-service into a premium support, is what he calls it.  Other people call it a voucher.  You give seniors a certain amount of money and then they have to get exposed to the private market.  That's a fact about what he believes.  In addition to the fact that on the general budget he certainly wants to cut federal spending way back.  That would hurt the social safety net.  All of those are facts, are they not?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

David, if we do nothing and if we go down the road that this president wants to go down and these Democrats, Medicare will be changed forever as we know it.  It'll be bankrupt by 2024.  Medicare is going broke.  Every person in America watching this now knows that that's true.  This president stole.  He didn't cut Medicare.  He stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare.  If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it's Barack Obama.  He's the one that's destroying Medicare.

We are the ones that are offering solutions as to how to, number one, preserve Medicare for seniors that are at or near retirement, and, number two, figure out a way the make sure that for future generations-- we're talking about if you're 54 or younger, how to save Medicare and Social Security.

Now these plans, Mitt Romney's plan, Paul Ryan's plan, this is a blessing to our country that we have people that are willing to have tough, serious debates about these issues, as opposed to a president who does a lot of talking.  He loves the sound of his own voice.  But he not only offers nothing, he makes everything worse.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

The Ryan vision on Medicare is Mitt Romney's vision.  Is that fair?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I think that Mitt Romney appreciates and admires the work and the ideas that Paul Ryan has done.  But Mitt Romney has his own plan.  The fact is I think these two gentleman together are showing this country that they're going to share a lot of ideas on how to get this country back on track.

And that Mitt Romney respects Paul's ideas and he has the leadership and courage to choose Paul Ryan.  And I think what it shows this country is that you're going to have a presidency of leadership and courage to solve the biggest problems facing America.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

One of the things that Paul Ryan has expressed, Chairman Ryan, to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker is that he was embarrassed about the Bush years.  Profligate spending.  Increasing the debt.  But let's also point to the record.  Paul Ryan was a reliable vote on TARP, the bank bailout, on the wars, on prescription drug benefit, on tax cuts.  Everything that he said he was embarrassed by, is he not accountable for those votes?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, I think that you have to judge a particular vote with the information that you have at that time.  And I think in particular--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

'Cause I thought he was about making a tough stand and saying--

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

He is about that.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--the tough--

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, wait a second--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--(UNINTEL) to say to voters.

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

There isn't anyone in America that's serious that doesn't think that Paul Ryan is willing to take leadership positions on tough issues and present this country with a budget and with a plan to get us out of debt.  If you contrast that to the Democrats who haven't passed a budget in three and a half years, which isn't in compliance with the current law that stands.

I mean the Democrats have committed malpractice.  Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have exhibited leadership and courage.  I think of the 40 headlines that we've seen this morning it's been pretty clear that people have said this is a courageous choice, but it's what the American people deserve.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Final question.  Is he ready on day one?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

He's absolutely ready on day one.  And the fact of the matter is that's the threshold test.  And he needs that test.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

No foreign policy experience.  No private--

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--sector experience?

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I think 14 years in Congress, many trips overseas, many trips over in the Middle East.  I think Mitt Romney's leadership, Mitt Romney's diversity, at the Olympics, as governor, as someone who understands international business, I think combined these guys are ready on day one and they're the comeback team and they're going to help save this country.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Chairman Priebus, we will see you down in Tampa at the Republican convention.

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Looking forward to it.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Appreciate you being here this morning.

                                 

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let's continue our conversation and turn now to the governor of Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.  Governor, welcome to you.

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Good to be with you.  It's great to have a fellow cheese head in the ticket.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.  The Wisconsin takeover as we say thank you to the chairman.  And I asked him--

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Actually, David--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--a tough question but--

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

--it's great for Wisconsin but it's even greater for America--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well--

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

--I think (UNINTEL PHRASE).

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--and I've got some tough questions for you too about Paul Ryan's record.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But I'm going to start with something else.  And that's a favorite of his is noodling, the sport of noodling.  What is that, exactly?

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

That's an interesting one.  You have to ask Paul a little bit more about that, but the nice thing about Paul, at least in our state, is we talk a lot about the Packers and we talk a lot about hunting in our state.  He does a lot of both of those.  And so in our area we've got the MVP in football and the MVP in sports.  We're hoping to have one of the MVPs, the next vice president of the United States, from Wisconsin as well.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You said something recently that raised some eyebrows in Romney's circles.  You appeared on Morning Joe last month and here's what you said about the campaign.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

I'll ask you the same question, then.  Was this a game changing choice?  A concession by Romney that he needed to change his approach in the campaign by choosing Ryan?

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

I absolutely think it is game changing and it's unique.  Paul Ryan offers something I think distinctively unique.  On one hand he has a tremendous way to inspire and (UNINTEL) off the base.  You'll see that going into the convention.  But at the same time, and we've seen it for years here in Wisconsin, he has tremendous appeal with swing voters and independent voters in states like Wisconsin that are battleground states because he's smart and he's bold, but he listens.

And he relates well to voters all across the political spectrum.  I think this is a game changer.  And I think it shows just out courageous Mitt Romney is.  Not just with this choice, but how courageous he's willing to be to take on our fiscal and economic crises here in America.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But talking a bit about Medicare, it's a signature issue for the chairman of the Budget Committee as you look at his budget.  It's also such a heavily politicized issues in any campaign, as you know well.   And I want to go back to something that I was going to show Chairman Priebus and that's the polling on this that we have done on the issue of Medicare and Paul Ryan.

The reality is, if you look at the polls, the majority of Americans, 53%, say it's just fine the way it is or only have minor modifications.  That's a huge thing to deal with if you're going to go voters and say, as Paul Ryan has, and as,  presumably, Romney-Ryan will, and say, "We have to change Medicare fundamentally."

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, I think what you're going to see, and this is it's a game changer, the reality is that the Obama campaign doesn't want to talk about their record.  They don't want to talk about the contrast.  All they want to do is attack Mitt Romney and now attack Paul Ryan.  I think Americans deserve better than that and I think the discourse you've seen in the past is that Paul Ryan will raise the stakes and say we need a true and honest debate.

The reality is-- you said reality.  Reality is voters in his district across the spectrum, everyone from a blue collar area like Jamesville, urban, rural, suburban.  Everything's included.  And it's one of the most competitive Congressional districts in America.  And even though he's talked about this for years, he consistently gets over 60% of the vote there.  Why?  Because voters appreciate the truth.  And the truth is seniors and people near retirement are not going to be touched under his plan.  And the bigger truth is in the end it's going to be Governor and then President Romney's plan that ultimately will prevail.  And he's going to protect Medicare for seniors.  He's going to protect Medicare and other programs for future generations.

What I think I care about the most is not only my parents and people like Paul Ryan and his mother, all of whom care very deeply about senior issues.  We also care about our children and our grandchildren and those are the ones that Governor Romney and Paul Ryan are going to be looking out for in the future, because the current administration has failed miserably to protect future generations.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  But you certainly understand, as governor of Wisconsin and what you've been through politically that taking on tough fights like Medicare.  In your case it was collective bargaining and pensions for state employees.  That it has a real political cost.  You face a recall, which you survived.  Politico has an interesting analysis piece by John Harris and Mike Allen.  And this is part of it I want to put on the screen for you.  "It's hard to overstate the risks Romney is taking in making a choice that virtually guarantees a far reaching debate about the broader role of government and the entitlement state."

"Simply put, it's a debate Republicans have almost never won when they put it directly before voters in the past.  As Gingrich learned when he squared off with Bill Clinton in the 1990s and President Bush learned with his politically disastrous effort on Social Security reform in his second term.  Voters may despise spending and deficits in the abstract, but they like many of these programs in particular."

And what I'm getting at, Governor, is that what you and others support so strongly about Chairman Ryan is that he's taken tough stands on big issues like the budget, federal spending, role of government and Medicare, the program for seniors.  It would all change under his vision.  Is that politically risky to a point that could actually imperil the Romney candidacy?

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Well, I think conventional wisdom maybe in the past in Washington is you can't take those tough decisions on.  But here in Wisconsin, a good example, a year ago those same sort of polls would have showed you that I probably would have lost a recall election if they predicted at that point and yet we won by a bigger margin with more votes cast than ever before in that election, because in the end if you put your faith in voters, if you give them they truth, you believe in the taxpayers, and in this case you believe in the American people more than in the government, ultimately those people will stand up and affirm you.

And I think that's exactly what's going to happen with the kind of courage, the kind of bold, direct courage that Governor Romney's exhibited both in this announcement of Paul Ryan and in the larger context of taking on a very specific plan to protect the middle class.  I think voters want leadership.  I think they're going to get that under (UNINTEL) governors and the next president.  I think that's good for all of us, not only here in Wisconsin but across America.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Before you go, about Wisconsin.  We can put it up on the screen.  Ten electoral votes.  It's an important part of the industrial Midwest.  But it's tough for Republicans.  1988 was the last Republican to win.  Is it up for grabs this year?

                                 

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

It is.  And actually '84.  The last time with Ronald Reagan.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah, I think I looked at it and I thought that was wrong.  But 1984.  Thank you.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

No, that's all right.  You're right.  In 2000 and 2004 it was the closest blue state in America out of about 2.5 million votes there were just a few thousand between Bush and Gore and a few thousand between Bush and Kerry.  Obviously a big win in 2008 when then neighbor U.S. Senator Barack Obama was a candidate.

I think it's competitive.  I thought it was competitive after our election.  I think it's even more competitive with Paul Ryan on the line.  And I think it's not just because Paul's from Wisconsin, but I think in the end to win Wisconsin, for a Republican to win, you not only have to secure your base, you have to reach out to independent swing voters.

In our state, you saw my election two months ago.  What they want more than anything is people who tell them the truth, who are courageous and willing to take on tough decisions.  And Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are exactly the kind of comeback team we need to make that happen.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.  Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin.  Our special coverage this morning of the Ryan pick.  Governor, thanks so much.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

Thank you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Joining me now, the top advertiser to President Obama's reelection campaign, David Axelrod.  Mr. Axelrod, welcome back.

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

Morning, David.  Good to be with you.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Thank you.  Let's talk about a game changing choice in Paul Ryan.  Is this everything that you and Team Obama wanted?

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

Well, look, I think it's a choice that will thrill the most strident voices in the Republican party, the Tea Party, the social conservatives.  I think it's going to be troubling to the mainstream of the American electorate.  You've got in Representative Ryan, in Congressman Ryan, as you point out, the architect of a budget that would shower trillions of dollars of new tax cuts skewed to the wealthy, $250,000 for the average millionaire, while he cuts back on college aid to kids and research and innovation and all the things that we need to grow the economy.  And on things that people rely on, nursing home care for seniors and for the disabled and so on.  So I think that it clarifies the choice for the American people.  And I think it clarifies the choice in a way that is going to be helpful.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

Paul Ryan has been on this program five times.  He's talked about these issues before.  I have raised with him the fact, back when Newt Gingrich was on the program, saying that the Ryan budget and his plan to transform Medicare was, in Gingrich's words, "Right-wing social engineering," something he backed off from.  That a lot of Republicans wanted to distance themselves, as they did, from the Ryan plan.  And this is what he said back in May of last year.  Watch.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So what he's now saying on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney is that President Obama will scare seniors about what they want to do about Medicare.  Here is now a duo finally saying, "Let's solve the problem before change is forced upon the people who need these programs most."

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

Well, let's be clear.  The president already has taken steps that added eight years to the live of Medicare.  His budget would add several more.  He's made some important choices that are going to help that program moving forward.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Eight years is not a real--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

--but the--

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

Eight years--

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

--no, there's no doubt--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--is not a real fix in the program that's totally broke.

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

There's no doubt, David, that we've got to do more.  But the question is are you going to do it in a way that preserves the program and the basic integrity of the program and the access to care that seniors need or are you going to turn it into a voucher program with ever decreasing value of the vouchers relative to healthcare costs and throw seniors onto the tender mercies of the private insurance market?

The question is do you really believe in Medicare or do you not?  I believe what Newt Gingrich said on your program.  I think it's right-wing social engineering.  I don't believe they believe in that program and I think it's interesting that if you listen to your guests today and the first thing that the Romney campaign put out yesterday, they're trying to distance themselves from this plan.

In terms of debt, I heard Congressman Ryan talking about debt.  As you pointed out, this was a guy who rubber stamped every aspect of the Bush economic policy, including not paying for two wars, a Medicare prescription plan, two big tax cuts.  And now he wants trillions of dollars of more budget busting tax cuts skewed to the wealthy.  He really isn't in a strong position to talk about this problem.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

David, let's talk more about what Paul Ryan is campaigning on now.  He was in Virginia yesterday and he talked about the reality of the Obama record.  This is in part what he said.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

He went on to say, look, President Obama, even though he campaigns against Washington dysfunction, got everything he wanted.  He got a stimulus.  He got financial reform.  He got healthcare reform.  We're at 8.3% unemployment.  That's the record.

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

Well, the record is when the president walked in the door he walked in the door he walked into 800,000 jobs a month being lost.  The quarter before he took office we had the worst performance since 1930.  That is the economy that Paul Ryan and the Republicans delivered to this president.  He took steps to stop that freefall but of course we have more to do.  And we have more to do not just to deal with unemployment but to rebuild the middle class in this country.

And the way to do it is not to give trillions of dollars of new tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, raise taxes on the middle class and cut things like college loans and research and technology, infrastructure, energy.  This is a prescription for economic catastrophe.  And what is surprising to me is that having been part of the first catastrophe that Congressman Ryan thinks that we should double down on that policy and do it all over again.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Bottom line.  Clear choices here for this campaign.  Big campaign.  Big ideas.  Big disagreements.  Will either side have a mandate to govern and make changes at the end of this campaign?

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

I think what's very clear, you can see the way-- there were debates in the Republican primary, David, where neither Governor Romney nor any of the other candidates even mentioned the word middle class.  Now they're sort of incorporating it into their rhetoric.

I think that that is a recognition that there's a national consensus that we need to pursue economic policies that will lift the middle class.  And we have a very clear choice as to whose will and who won't.  And I think that will create pressure for policies that will move our country forward in the right direction when the president is reelected in November.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

Those of us who cover these campaigns understand that even though there's a big choice here it's not as if some of the personal destruction back and forth is going to go away.  And we've seen a lot of that this week.  And Governor Romney has taken particular aim at an ad that's being run by the president's own Super PAC run by a former press aide to the campaign and in the White House.  And this is a campaign about Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain, even though the story that's highlighted in the Super PAC ad happened after Mitt Romney left.  Let me play a portion of this and also show you how Mitt Romney's responding to it. Watch.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

Disrespecting the office of the presidency is the charge from Mitt Romney about ads like that with the implication that somehow Bain and Mitt Romney was responsible for that woman's death.  How do you respond to that?

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

Well, I certainly don't think that would be a fair implication.  That isn't stated in the ad.  It's not a fair implication.  But what is true is that Governor Romney and his partners loaded that company with debt, walked away with millions of dollars and left the workers there bereft, without the healthcare they were promised, without the pensions and other benefits that they were promised.  And that is emblematic of the kind of--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

You don't think that ad--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

--of work that he did.  That is important.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

It doesn't cross the line--

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

But let me ask you--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--in the debate?

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

--ask you something, David.  How does Mitt Romney, in the very week that he's running an ad that he approves.  At the end he says, "I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message."  Millions and millions and millions of dollars accusing the president of removing the work requirement from welfare, which every single person who's looked at it, every expert, every news organization, every fact checker has said is patently false.

And he is lecturing people on the quality of campaigns?  He ought to be ashamed of himself.  He ought to tell his own campaign in the commercials that he controls, "Take that off.  It's not true.  It's not fair."  When he does that, maybe he'll have some standing to lecture other people on the quality of the campaign.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

We're in a new gear in this campaign, clearly.  David Axelrod, thank you very much.

                                 

DAVID AXELROD:

All right, thank you.

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

DAVID GREGORY:

That was yesterday on the campaign plane.  The new team.  Romney, Ryan now on the campaign trail.  We're back with our political roundtable.  Joining me, political reporter for The Washington Post, veteran of too many campaigns to count, which is amazing because you're only 35, Dan Balz.  Host and chief White House correspondent of NBC News, our political director, host of The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, Chuck Todd.  He broke the news about the Ryan pick as well.

Host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow herself.  Editor of The National Review, Rich Lowry is here, a big advocate for Paul Ryan in the closing days.  And joining us from North Carolina, Washington fellow of The Claremont Institute, Bill Bennett, for whom a young Paul Ryan once worked.  As if at 42 he's no longer young.  Welcome to all of you.

(MALE VOICE:  UNINTEL)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Chuck Todd, you can tell I feel old now.

                                

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, right.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

That's what I'm trying to say.  This is an exciting time.  We are in a new phase of this campaign.  You heard it from David Axelrod and from the top of the program.  There is this new intensity.  Let's go back to basics here.  Why did Mitt Romney make this choice?

                                 

CHUCK TODD:

He needed to re-launch his campaign.  I mean I think that is clear.  I think he made that decision.  If you think about what they thought this race was going to be, Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist, would argue this for months on end.  "This is going to be about President Obama and it's going to a referendum and it's going to be about the economy."

I think they made the decision that wasn't enough.  And what this pick does is it gives Romney some definition beyond just being this rich guy, which they were struggling with.  The president had spent the summer beating the daylights out of him personally.  We've seen it all of these polls.  You know what opened up in the polling is--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

I can show the polling as you describe it.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--clearly.  Yes, and we've seen some.  But what really opened up this summer was Romney's unfavorable rating.  And that's what, quote, "opened up."  And this is what--

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

A new political poll out tomorrow has it closer.  In the Fox poll, the CNN poll you were starting to see some distance between the two.  And so let me bring in Dan Balz here.  Not only was this widening in the race for President Obama, but with this choice, as you wrote in your piece yesterday, we have real clarity now.

                                 

DAN BALZ:

Well, we have perhaps the clearest choice that I can remember in a campaign.  The visions of these two nominees are as starkly different as anything we've seen in a long time.  And the choice of Paul Ryan sharply etches that in a way that without somebody like him on the ticket it would not have been quite as clear.  Both sides now recognize that.  Both sides now, interestingly, say this is the debate they really want to have.  We'll see which--

(OVERTALK)

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

And today we actually think that.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--we'll see whether that's the case in the coming weeks, because up to now we have not gotten that kind of debate.  But this is A, a big election and very, very big differences.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So here I've got Rachel Maddow and I've got Bill Bennett.  And both people are smiling this morning.  And we're going to get to why.  One of the things that happened in the age of Twitter-- the first V.P. pick in the age of Twitter.  And the social platform really lit up.  And I've got some sampling from both the left and the right that I think illustrates the point that you had.

Among liberals we saw from the likes of Donna Brazil who ran Al Gore's campaign.  She wrote in selecting Paul Ryan, "Mitt Romney fills a huge gap in his presidential campaign vision.  He embraced a radical GOP budget ideologue."  From Paul Begala, "Romney-Ryan double down on trickle down," with the hashtag, "#Romneyhood."

On the other side, from conservatives, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard writing, "What does Paul Ryan add to the Romney ticket?  Everything.  Ryan-- Romney is bold, not cautious and scared.  He's a man with a plan.  Ryan's plan."  Rachel, both sides smiling.  Why?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

I talked to a Democratic fundraiser on Friday before we knew that the pick was going to happen Saturday morning.  And I was teasing him about how much more money the Republicans are raising this year.  And he said, "Yeah, basically our plan at this point is just to pray for Mitt Romney to pick Paul Ryan and then any money that we do have we're going to spend on a margarita machine."

Democrats think that this is the best thing that could possibly happen to their campaign, because it's not longer, "Do you like the way the country's going or not?  If the answer is no, vote against Obama for a generic pick that we're going to try really hard to define."  Now the choice is, "Well, you may not like Afghanistan or renewable energy or Solyndra or health insurance coverage for contraception or something.  Fine.  Do you like Medicare?"  Now it is a choice.  It is no longer just a referendum on Obama.  And that's everything they wanted.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Bill Bennett, how do you see it?

                                 

BILL BENNETT:

Well, I see Paul Ryan is a serious man for serious times.  And here's what I think.  It is a clear choice.  There will be a serious debate.  If people will pause and think about the debate, think about the arguments and take Paul Ryan's arguments seriously that he will make and lead on.

And he's got a winning way.  This is one of the reasons he was picked.  This guy has a way of presenting things that makes people listen.  He's got that Jack Kemp style and wins over a lot of people.  If they pause and reflect on it and see the problems that we have and his solutions I think we have a very good chance of winning.

If we stay at the cheap shot level, that Mitt Romney kills people, Mitt Romney is a vulture capitalist, then we have a problem.  What Ryan does is gives the campaign definition, as Chuck Todd said yesterday, but gives it reality too.  You don't have a caricature of Paul Ryan now to talk about.  You have to deal with Paul Ryan.  And I very much look forward to that Biden-Ryan debate.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll get to that in a minute.  Your first impression, Rich Lowry?  Among the high profile conservatives really putting pressure down the stretch here to pick Ryan?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

I think it's a pick that really speaks well for Mitt Romney.  Shows he has a good eye for talent.  Shows he is bolder and more creative than some of us even supporters of his had given him credit for.  And shows, David, a real commitment to getting some big things done.

And he wasn't going to win a strictly safe or a strictly biographical campaign.  This pick puts the accent more on substance and puts the guy on the ticket who's perhaps best capable among current Republicans to defend a forward-looking agenda.

And the Medicare attack was going to come regardless, because Mitt Romney is already in favor of (UNINTEL) support for Medicare.  And, look, Democrats are already accusing Mitt Romney of killing someone and they haven't even gotten to Medicare yet.  So the Medicare attacks are--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

But you had Reince--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--(UNINTEL) to establish--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--Priebus say that the president--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--what.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--had blood on his hands about Medicare because of what he did in healthcare.  So I guess--

                                

RICH LOWRY:

Well, I think--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--(UNINTEL) has the chief (?) (UNINTEL).

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--Republicans should go on offense on Medicare, because the president, as part of Obamacare, passed $700 billion in cuts in Medicare.  And Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, including those cuts.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait, wait.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

So it's--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--so at the top-- hold on.  So at the top of a ticket Romney versus Obama, there's only one of those guys who wants any cuts affecting current seniors.

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait, wait.  There's--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

That's not Mitt Romney.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--Romney versus Ryan then.  The Ryan plan keeps the Obama cuts for Medicare.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

The Ryan plan--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

So which one is it?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--does.

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

The Romney or Ryan plan?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

The Ryan plan does mostly as a matter of just preserving the CDO baseline.  But the top to the ticket is Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney wants to repeal those cuts.  And the fact is, Rachel--

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait, that's amazing.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

The fact is, Rachel--

(OVERTALK)

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

--Romney versus Ryan--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

If the Republicans--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--on Medicare.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--were proposing--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

That's going to be awkward.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--$700 billion.  Had passed $700 billion in Medicare cuts, you'd be savaging--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--that president for their brutality--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

So what--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--to seniors.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--but you're saying--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

And that is--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--Barack Obama.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Is Romney running on the Ryan plan or not?  Is Romney accepting--

                                

RICH LOWRY:

He's running on--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

He said that (UNINTEL) he--

                                

RICH LOWRY:

--his own version of those ideas.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let it--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

That's--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Paul Ryan is--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Paul Ryan is--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--the second--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--pay cut.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--on the ticket.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, let me take a step back and get your impressions.  One of the things that we've already seen just on this program so far is that I don't think-- here were real allies of Paul Ryan who were not in a position to--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

I was just going to say--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--defend his position on--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--I didn't hear what Rich wants this morning so far.  Which is Republicans going out and defending the Ryan plan on Medicare in a way and going on offense.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

And let's be clear.  It's what Rich wants that matters.

                                

MALE VOICE:

No.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Reince Priebus today did not sound like a guy who wants to have that conversation.  Now I think that this is going to be the struggle.  I am fascinated by the fact that-- I don't read anything into this other than it's time that we were going to split Romney and Ryan off.  But I thought at first we were going to see Romney and Ryan together make a stop in Florida.

Look, the Medicare thing?  This is where it's not just a clear choice.  I actually think now the floor and the ceiling in this race is now expanded.  Where I thought the window of this race was a 51/49 race, really, no matter what.  I think the window is wider because now you're going to have a large debate and there's going to be--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

But--

                                

MALE VOICE:

--we're going to get a mandate election.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

I mean the reality is--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Right.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--that Ryan has not won this argument within the Republican electorate.  When you look at the polling on Medicare it's not just Democrats and independents who oppose the kind of change that Ryan is advocating.  And he is a very effective advocate for what he's trying to do.  But there are still a majority of Republicans who do not like the idea of a premium support program.

This will be a big test of whether Ryan and Romney can effectively make the argument that a lot of Republicans say has to be made.  Scott Walker, Governor Walker made this comment this morning that tough things need to be done.  And I asked a Romney advisor yesterday, "How are you going to deal with this question on Medicare?"  And they said, "We think that there are a lot of people who think these issues need to be dealt with.  And that we can win that argument on that basis."  But they haven't--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Bill--

(OVERTALK)

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

--Bill Bennett, go ahead.  Let me get you in here.

                                 

BILL BENNETT:

It's a little more complicated, though.  Let's bear in mind that you had the Ryan-Rivlin program.  Alice Rivlin was Bill Clinton's OMB director.  They came together on the Medicare program.  On the premium support proposal of Paul Ryan he's got an interesting ally in Ron Wyden.  We'll see how much pressure's put on Ron Wyden this way.

But what Ryan says, and I think, again, the case can be made, is that if you want to save Medicare then you have to do something.  Let's be clear.  No changes for anybody over 55.  People under 55 can stay with traditional Medicare or they can go to the premium support system.  Dan's right.  The argument needs to be made.  But he's not the only one making it.  And it's a (UNINTEL) problem that Democrats have backed Paul Ryan in the past.  We'll see if they still--

                                 

GREGORY:

Let--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get to a break here.  I want to come back, talk more about the politics of the Ryan pick.  Look at the battleground map as well as we see this race not only getting into a higher gear but really changing in its direction.  Back with more of our roundtable right after this.

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

DAVID GREGORY:

That was yesterday at the unveiling of Paul Ryan in Virginia.  Everybody got a good laugh out of that.  Well guess what?  Four years ago, then Senator Obama, this is how he introduced Joe Biden.

(VIDEO NOT TRANSCRIBED)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

So back with the roundtable.  Dan Balz, it does underscore these are nervous moments for the candidates.  They're big moments in the campaign.

                                 

DAN BALZ:

Well, and the other thing it reminds us there are certain phrases that we all get in our head, and I'm sure they do too.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

VOICE:

Well, think about it.  You're introduced every day.  You hear that phrase, if you're Obama and Romney.  Right?  You're introduced every day as the next president of the United States.  So the minute you see it in your script it's just like rote.

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Actually, there is no famous phrase in America that includes the phrase vice president.  One involving--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

And then he puts his arm around him and says, "Once in a while I make a mistake.  But this is not a mistake."  I want to talk more about pure politics.  Look at the battleground map.  And one of the things before this pick was made that you I know were talking about, Chuck, is that Romney has not expanded that battleground--

                                 

CHUCK TODD:

Not at all.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--map.  And now we're going to add in some of the older populations.  Walk us through this.

                                 

CHUCK TODD:

It is.  First of all, he hasn't expanded the map.  And Wisconsin has been teetering back and forth.  It's (UNINTEL) toss up and lean Democrat.  I think now you definitely take it out of the sort of light blue category and put it squarely in toss up.  I mean Ryan does help, particularly in the Milwaukee area, which is a little more of a Democratic area but he will help there.  His own district is one that Obama carried and all that.

But three of the oldest state populations in the country are Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania.  And Pennsylvania, by the way, is a state that Republicans want to try to get into the battleground and I think when you look at the 65-plus populations in Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania, I think you could just push Pennsylvania out of the battleground.

You don't see advertising on it coming from the Romney campaign now.  I don't think it gets in now because of the Medicare thing.  And I think now Florida, which is a state that some people thought pinking on the scale for the Republicans.  Now you have it is going to be a different conversation that takes place there.  And Iowa, another state that I think the president's very vulnerable in.  I think he is helped and reinforced in because of the overpopulation on Medicare.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, let me go first to Bill and then Rachel on this.  Just pure politics, Bill Bennett, I mean has this become a model of a very close election but with a higher risk choice as a running mate, has the potential for higher reward but also the higher risk then.  It just may not be as close?

                                 

BILL BENNETT:

Yeah, I think there is a potential higher reward.  I think it's nationalized.  I mean I think state-by-state analysis is interesting.  But I think with the definition this campaign's been given it's also been made a much more national campaign.  It's about big ideas.  It's about the future of the country.

A lot of us think President Obama is wrecking the country and we have to do some responsible things to fix it.  Protect the people who have Medicare now.  Protect Medicare from the president.  Give people a chance for the future and stick with it.  Or to go to the other system.  But things have to be done and I think the American people know that.

I think this is more on the level of Reagan-Carter than on a parsing state-by-state.  It became a national election yesterday and you'll see, as these ideas develop, that we're going to be having a debate.  And we will decide, on the basis of reflection and choice, what kind of country we're going to have.  That's how we started this coming.  Reflection and choice.  And that's how we're going to make this decision for the future.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Rachel, is there some part of you that says, "I understand all the arguments against Paul Ryan.  I also understand the hunger for big ideas and big solutions in the country.  That we are disgusted with Washington because of the smallness of their ideas.  And that, yeah, you know, maybe swing voters will respond to two guys standing up and saying, 'Look, we're going to do something really, really hard on Medicare.  We're going to do something really, really hard on size and scope of government.'"

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

If that where the character of the Ryan plan.  I mean the reason that the Ryan plan I think is more ripe for attack than it is for appeal to the broad section of the country is because it doesn't have very many (UNINTEL) in it.  The Ryan plan says, for example, on top of the Bush tax cuts we're going to do more than $4 trillion more in tax cuts, mostly affecting the wealthy.

And he says that's going to be revenue neutral.  How can that be revenue neutral?  There will be loopholes that will be closed.  And he won't say what any of those are.  He's not a fiscal conservative.  He's a supply sider, which says cut taxes for the richest people as deeply and as often as you can and then sit back and watch the magic happen.  That supply side magic used to be called voodoo economics.  I think people are still suspicious that it will work, especially if we're feeling like we need to get our debt and deficit under control.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Rich?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Democrats always refer to it as a tax cut but it's not a tax cut.  It's designed to be revenue neutral.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

How?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

It's based on a template, Rachel, of the Bowles -Simpson plan, which has been the subject of bipartisan acclaim, and the 1986 tax reform, which was one of the great bipartisan accomplishments in this town over the last 30 years.  And if you study the effects of that '86 tax reform, which lowered rates and closed loopholes, it actually increased the share that the rich were paying.  So this is not some fantasy.

                                 

MALE VOICE:

No, wait.

(OVERTALK)

                                

RICH LOWRY:

This is--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Bowles Simpson is to supposed to raise revenue.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Right.  Because depending on how you fool around with the rates and how many deductions and loopholes you actually close you can fiddle with the numbers.  And the whole idea the Obama campaign and the Democrats have been pushing, that Romney, because he hasn't said what deductions and loopholes specifically he's going to close, which no presidential campaign ever does, there he's going to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for lowering rates, is utterly a fantasy made out of utter--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--horse (UNINTEL).

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Well, (UNINTEL) was on the Simpson Bowles commission and dissented from it because it did raise revenue.  He dropped out.  He blew that up.  He blew up the gang of six.  He got zero Democratic votes for any of his budget--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Not only because--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--revenues but also--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

--said because he did not think it went far enough on healthcare.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Right.  And that's a key thing.  Even President Obama, who's cut $700 billion from Medicare, which I guess you support--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

But Paul Ryan--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Even--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you support $700 billion in cuts in Medicare over the next 10 years?

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

I'm not running for president.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Paul Ryan's running for--

                                

RICH LOWRY:

Do you?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

I'm not running for anything.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you?  Why (UNINTEL PHRASE).

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Paul Ryan is running--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Why can't you--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--for vice president.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

You can't answer.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

But wait.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

This goes--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

I'm not running for anything.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--to the key vulnerability.  Democrats have cut $700 billion--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Which the Republicans--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--out of Medicare--

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--would cut too.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--and you won't or can't defend it.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

What--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Defend it.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Is it work--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you support it?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--it's a (UNINTEL PHRASE).

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you support it?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

In (UNINTEL).

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Do you support it?  You can't answer?

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

But, wait, why are you asking me--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

You can't answer.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--if I-- wait.  Because--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Because you're an--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--opinion maker who's supposed to give us your opinion.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

My opinion is (UNINTEL PHRASE).

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

And you will not tell us what your opinion is.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

What I want to know is the logic of--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Democrats cannot defend that.

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

Wait.  I want to know--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

So--

                                

RACHEL MADDOW:

--the logic--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

--defend it.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--of-- what I want to know is the lo-- wait.  Rich, hold.  Wait, can you--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Just answer me.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--can I just say--

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

You're not answering.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Can I say something?

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

You can answer.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

Can I say something?

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Let her answer.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Okay.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

'Cause I want to go back to Bill Bennett on it.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

What I want to know is the logic of--

                                 

MALE VOICE:

Hey.  Hey.

                                 

RACHEL MADDOW:

--attacking somebody for something that you yourself are proposing to do.  Paul Ryan proposes keeping--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Mitt Romney is not--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, hold on.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

And those are--

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Rich and Rachel, I'm going to--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

--pull back-- I'm going to pull back (UNINTEL PHRASE).

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

One last point.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

No, no.  I'm going to pull back from this.

                                 

RICH LOWRY:

Okay.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to ask Bill Bennett a separate question.  This debate will go on.  One of the questions I think a lot of people watching, Bill, is they want to understand.  A majority of the country still doesn't know much about Paul Ryan.  His position, certainly, in Congress will be debated and will be taken on.  You've known him for a long time.  Since his 20s.  He came to Washington.  Tell us more about him.  How he'll approach governing.  How he approaches politics.  How he approaches these key questions about the economy.

                                 

BILL BENNETT:

Yeah, just listening to Rich and Rachel reminded me of the Irishman who walks by a fight and says, "Is this a private fight or can anybody get in it?"  I'd like to get in on it for a second, but I'll answer your question.  Ryan.  I think the person think about when you think about Ryan is Kemp.

He came to work for Jack Kemp.  He came down to my end of the office.  He said, "We do economics.  What do you guys do?"  I said, "We do sex, drugs and rock and roll.  It's pretty interesting.  Come back here."  But he was versed than the economic stuff.

He's got the Kemp manner.  He has a manner and a way of bringing everybody in.  You know, Jack Kemp used to really get 11 people in the huddle.  He could persuade people who didn't agree with him.  Paul is a guy who could persuade people.  Even the people he most disagrees with have high regard for him and his intellectual integrity.  People like Chris Van Hollen and others.  He is a worker.  Indefatigable worker.  Sleeps on the couch in his office.

I have been with him on a mountain trail.  He leaves me five miles behind.  He does that PX90.  Is that what it's called?  I don't even know the name of it.  But he's an extraordinarily dedicated and hard working person.  But I think what's emerged from Paul Ryan is not just the intellectual leadership but an ability to argue and to persuade, which I think is going to be critical given the enormity of the problems that we're facing.

                                

DAVID GREGORY:

Dan (UNINTEL)--

(OVERTALK)

                                 

BILL BENNETT:

The more people see him, the more people like him.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

Just about 10 seconds.  The week ahead.  What are you looking for?

                                 

DAN BALZ:

Well, I'm looking for the ferocity of the attack by the Democrats.  How quickly it comes.  I think the other is how quickly the Romney-Ryan ticket can now get back to the significance of the economy as an issue.  We haven't talked about that this morning, but that still is the president's big vulnerability.

                                 

DAVID GREGORY:

All right  We're going to leave it there.  Thank you all for an energetic discussion this morning.  That is all for today.

(OFF-MIC CONVERSATION)

                                

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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