“MEET THE PRESS” CLIPS & TRANSCRIPT — SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

NBC News

September 23, 2012 — Today’s “Meet the Press with David Gregory” featured a debate between Obama backer Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and key Romney supporter Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); a roundtable conversation with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), senior Romney adviser Bay Buchanan, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Democratic strategist Dee Dee Myers; and a look at the latest battleground map numbers with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Below are highlights, video, and a rush transcript of today’s program. All content will be available online at www.MeetThePressNBC.com.

# # #

Patrick on Romney’s tax returns: “the more important issue is what is it he plans to do with my taxes and yours”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/QwX9rL

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: Well, I understand people’s interest and in fact curiosity about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. I think it was his dad who said that tax returns for presidential candidates should be produced way back many years. And I think he produced 20 years’ worth of tax returns or more when he was being considered for vice president. But the more important issue is what is it he plans to do with my taxes and yours and everybody else’s. He has a tax plan out there where he’s talking about $5 trillion in tax cuts, adding to the deficit. No way to pay for that. And no idea about what the impact is on the middle class.

Ayotte on “47%” comments: “that certainly was a political analysis at a fundraiser, but it’s not a governing philosophy”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/Q9J5ra

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: You know, David, that certainly was a political analysis at a fundraiser, but it’s not a governing philosophy. He absolutely has a vision for 100% of America. And that is really different from this president. Really getting our economy moving. We have to look back at the policies of this president and where we are as an economy right now.

Patrick on the notion of “common cause and common destiny”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/UtLSxG

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: I really believe in this notion, just as a president does, of common cause and common destiny. That we all have a stake in educating our kids. We all have a stake in assuring that this country is well defended. We all have a stake in investing in the infrastructure that creates a platform for economic growth and opportunity. And indeed we all have a stake in the American dream. And we used to come together around that. The kind of sharp, poisonous political discourse that characterizes so much of what goes on in the Congress today … I think that the country is hungry for kind of a conviction-based leadership.

Ayotte: Obama ran as a uniter but is now “trying to divide us”

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: The irony of this, of course, the president ran as someone who was going to unite people, but when you listen to the way that he’s trying to divide us. Whether it’s rich versus poor, have versus have not. … I agree with the Governor. We do need leadership that unites. … if you look at what the president has said and what he has done, of where we are, his leadership on his policies have failed and he has not been the uniting force that we need to get things done.

Patrick addresses 14% unemployment rate among black people: “Nobody is prepared to declare victory.”
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/SMR75G

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: Well, I respect the chairman of the Black Caucus and the fact that there is 14%, if that’s the right number, unemployment among black people. I can tell you that among young people the unemployment rate is higher than the national average as well. Nobody is prepared to declare victory. We’ve had the worst economic environment in a generation or two, since the Great Depression. … This president has turned that around. This president has shown that he is able to swim against the current and make some change. … Are we done? Of course not. Of course not. But we’re certainly on a better course and pointed in the right direction.


Ayotte dismisses Obama “needs more time” argument: “he tried, but his policies failed”

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: David, I guess what I heard was that this president needs more time. But where we are, if you think about it, this is the worst economic recovery since World War II. And it’s been an anemic recovery because when they had full charge of the Congress they pushed forward a healthcare bill where people are paying for premiums. … Make it a better tax climate for everyone. For everyone. And make sure that we get people to work. A regulatory climate where small businesses want to thrive and grow. It’s been the opposite with this president. I would say he tried, but his policies failed.

Patrick on education and teachers unions: unions were “right there with us” on reform
VIDEO: http://nbcnews.to/Q9JrOs

DAVID GREGORY: Governor, have we moved beyond this pro-union, anti-union debate in this political discourse?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK: We better. In Massachusetts our students are number one in the nation in student achievement and have been for each of the last few years. We’re in the top three in the world in math and science and we have the most unionized education system, I think, in the country. The unions have been at the table with us on reform for more than a decade. And, indeed, we moved a bill just a couple of years ago to try to close that achievement gap. And they were right there with us.

Ayotte on education: “Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last.”

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last. But most importantly I think Condoleezza Rice really hit it at our convention. That giving parents, empowering parents with school choice in underperforming schools, minority students, poor students, that is the civil rights issue of this time. And I think that, unfortunately, the president in the areas like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship turned his back on that. That’s really where we need to go and Governor Romney supports that.

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Web clips from today’s program:

Full debate between Gov. Patrick and Sen. Ayotte

http://nbcnews.to/QwX7A2

Chuck Todd’s battleground state breakdown

http://nbcnews.to/Uq46fg

Roundtable: Who are the 47 percent?

http://nbcnews.to/UtMrYs

Roundtable: Breaking down the role of government

http://nbcnews.to/Uq44UB

Roundtable: What developments remain in the race?

http://nbcnews.to/Vta6Gk

Roundtable: Analyzing the Romney campaign

http://nbcnews.to/OSV9sq

David Gregory’s post-show analysis

http://nbcnews.to/Vt2oMx


# # #

Below is a RUSH transcript of this morning’s broadcast — mandatory attribution to NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” A final transcript of the program will be available at www.MeetThePressNBC.com.

“MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY”
September 23, 2012

DAVID GREGORY:
Welcome to both of you.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:
And it’s good to have you here this morning. A lot to get to. Let’s start with the issue of taxes and Mitt Romney’s tax returns that he released showing that in 2011 he paid an effective tax rate of 14%. He didn’t have a job. This was interest income. Governor, should this end the debate or should there be more?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Well, I understand people’s interest and in fact curiosity about Mitt Romney’s tax returns. I think it was his dad who said that tax returns for presidential candidates should be produced way back many years. And I think he produced 20 years’ worth of tax returns or more when he was being considered for vice president.

But the more I think important issue is what is it he plans to do with my taxes and yours and everybody else’s. He has a tax plan out there where he’s talking about $5 trillion in tax cuts, adding to the deficit. No way to pay for that. And no idea about what the impact is on the middle class.

DAVID GREGORY:
But you–

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
And that needs to be dealt with.

DAVID GREGORY:
The question of more returns and what some of his overseas holdings were, you don’t think that’s really an appropriate place to delve further?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
I think it’s a perfectly fair question, but I think the bigger question is what is he plans to do with everybody else’s taxes. This he has not been forthcoming about.

DAVID GREGORY:
Ezra Klein, Senator, asks a bigger picture as well in his column in The Washington Post. And I want to put a portion of it up on the screen for our viewers and have you react to it. Here was the headline. “In 2011 Romney made $14 million while being unemployed.”

Klein writes, “Compare Romney to a single mother of two who works full-time at Wal-Mart, who takes the earned income tax credit and whose children get health insurance through Medicaid. Romney says she’s not taking personal responsibility,” going back to the 47% comments. “He says he couldn’t get her to take personal responsibility if he tried.”

“And yet Romney is someone who doesn’t even have to take personal responsibility for earning money anymore. He is beyond all of that. And he’s carried that belief into his policy proposals. His policy platform matches his comments. He won’t raise taxes on the rich but he wants to cut Medicaid by over a trillion dollars in the next decade.”

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, David, I think what Governor Romney wants, he wants to make sure that that mother has a good job, a better paying job. And where we are right now with this economy, think about it. We have added 15 million people to the food stamp roles during this presidency. We now have 47 million on food stamps. It’s really unfortunate.

These people want to get off of food stamps and have those good jobs, but where the economy is right now so many people have lost hope. In fact the last jobs reports showed that for every job added four people have left the workforce because, let’s not forget, the president and Democrats were in charge for the first two years. The policies they passed didn’t deal with where we are in the economy. You think about the stimulus. His team represented we’d be below 6% right now.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. I want to get to that. I want to talk specifically about tax returns. 14% in an effective tax rate. Does that make it harder for Governor Romney to reach out to average Americans and say, “I get you. I’m empathetic toward what you’re going toward. Vote for me.”

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Governor Romney’s reaching out to average Americans with a plan to get people working again because the president’s policies have not worked. He tried. But we talked about the stimulus. His team represented we’d be below 6% right now. We’ve had 43 over 43 straight months of over 8% unemployment. In fact the lowest labor participation rate, people are leaving the workforce. So what Governor Romney is saying to people, he wants opportunity. He wants that upward mobility for that mother.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. But –

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–upward mobility, that’s not something that we saw out of the speech that he gave back in July at a fundraiser to wealthy donors. This is where the 47% came from. And in context here, let’s play a portion of that to see exactly what his vision was. Watch.

(Videotape/May 17, 2012)

MITT ROMNEY: There are 47% who are with him. Who are dependent upon government, who believe that– that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s– it’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. //FLASH// I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for for their lives.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator, “They see themselves as victims.” He now says that he’s really for the 100% in America. Is anybody going to buy that given that dim vision of half the country?

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
You know, David, that certainly was a political analysis at a fundraiser, but it’s not a governing philosophy. He absolutely has a vision for 100% of America. And that is really different from this president. Really getting our economy moving. We have to look back at the policies of this president and where we are as an economy right now.

DAVID GREGORY:
But wait. Before we get to that particular argument, do you see 47% of the country that receives government dependence, do you think they see themselves as victims?

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
What I see is what the governor sees. I see 15 million more people on food stamps that don’t want to be there.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
I see 47 million overall Americans on food stamps that want a good job. They don’t want on unemployment. But where we are with the policies under this administration, the tax, regulatory, the more government spending. We’ve added $5 trillion to the debt. Those opportunities aren’t there for them. And that’s what this election is about.

DAVID GREGORY:
Government?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
May I just say, David, that it’s just shocking to me that a candidate could aspire to be president by turning his back on half the country. And I think that’s what came through. I can tell you as someone who grew up on welfare, who spent some time on food stamps, my mother was just the kind of person that I think the senator is describing.

Who was aspiring to get to a better place. To get her GED. To get a job. To stand on her own two feet. And the notion that she or we or people like us would be belittled while we needed some help to be able to stand on our own two feet is exactly what I think Governor Romney is conveying and exactly–

DAVID GREGORY:
Is this really–

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
–we should–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–any different. Do you think that President Obama has not said to a group of donors, “Look, there are certain segments of the Republican electorate that are just not going to vote for me.” Why shouldn’t this just be seen as, as the Senator says, political analysis and not a governing philosophy?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Actually, I don’t think that’s at all what the president has said or has ever said. What he has done, most importantly, is govern for all of the people. And the president has advanced policies that are not popular with his base, but he did them because he thought they were important for the future of this country. And that’s the kind of leadership you need.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let’s talk–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well–

DAVID GREGORY:
–specifically, Senator, about some of the issues the 47% gets to. This question of government dependence. As you referenced, here are just a couple of the snapshots of government dependence nationally that have raised some eyebrows and that indeed Governor Romney has talked about.

You talk about food stamps now. Nearly 47 million Americans on food stamps, up dramatically from four years ago. And here’s a broader picture from The Wall Street Journal and the Census Bureau. Over time, if you go back to the early ’80s and you look at that trajectory upward, 49% now receiving some kind of government benefit. Is government dependence at a place where it’s out of control?

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, David, I think where we are is that too many people have to rely on food stamps or unemployment benefits instead of a good job. I mean that’s really what this comes down to. To think that so many people have left the workforce, when you look at the August report where every job added, four people have left. Where there were 43 straight months of unemployment.

And let’s not forget the president and the Democrats had two years. What did they do? They passed healthcare reform where the president represented that premiums will go down. They have gone up. This week we get a report from CBO that six million middle class Americans will get hit by the tax penalties in the president’s healthcare reform.

So the policies that he pushed when they were in charge did not address the problems. And that’s why we need new leadership of making sure that we get people working again. And someone who has that private sector experience to turn the economy around.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
I want to agree with some of what the senator has said about the fact that there are more people on food stamps because we’re in a terrible economy and more people need a way forward. I would submit that most of those people, if not all, want a job and that we have to be about strengthening this economy.

I think adding some 4.6 million private sector jobs in the last two years, as the president has, more in that time than George W. Bush added I eight years, is a definite and indeed a profound example of the progress that we are making. And the policies that are on offer by Governor Romney are policies that have shown themselves to fail. So this notion of benefitting the very fortunate exclusively, and letting it trickle down to everybody else is something that has been shown to fail in the past. We should not go back.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator, there’s a bigger question and partly this is a political question. I know that you’re a supporter of Governor Romney. You’re campaigning for him in New Hampshire. But here’s the reality. He offered political analysis but policy analysis on 47% of this country including a lot of Republican voters.

People who receive entitlements through Social Security and Medicare that they paid into. And he’s talking about this group of people will not take personal responsibility. It betrayed a lack of understanding how the government works, how America works, the American work ethic. Do you think he needs to go beyond saying that this was inelegant to saying that he was flat wrong?

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, I have to say this, David. I fully disagree with your analysis of this. I’ve campaigned with him. I know that he cares about every single American in this country. And that he has a vision, unless this president, where we are today. We’re declining. We need to come out of this, to think about where we are. This president has more months of over 8% unemployment than the last 11 presidents combined.

And you think about Governor Romney. He wants opportunity. He wants upward mobility. He wants people to have that good paying job. And that is what his whole campaign is about. And, by the way, if you think of the policies of the last two years, all they’ve brought us is more unemployment.

What we need is people to have a good paying job. I heard from small businesses every day. The right tax regulatory policy. These are mom and pop businesses that feel really burdened by this administration instead of wanting to put people to work.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. But he was talking about 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax and who are too dependent on the government. His words. To do everything for them. Housing, food, et cetera. You’re not really being responsive to that point. But on the tax question, I posed this question in the Virginia Senate debate between Tim Kaine and George Allen. And they were talking about whether there should be a minimum federal income tax. And this is how Tim Kaine answered the question.

(Videotape/Thursday)

GREGORY: Do you believe that everyone in Virginia should pay something in federal income tax.

KAINE: Well everyone pays taxes. The statistics that have come out…I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone.”

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Would you be open to that, Governor?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Maybe. It’s the first I’m hearing about it. But, listen, I think–

DAVID GREGORY:
Should everybody have skin the game, in other words?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Well, that’s where I was–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–federal income tax.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
That’s where I was going. I think we go to this question of taxes, tax cuts, tax increases and so forth too fast. It seems to me the first question ought to be what is it we want government to do? And not do. And then what’s the sensible way and fair way to pay for that?

I really believe in this notion, just as a president does, of common cause and common destiny. That we all have a stake in educating our kids. We all have a stake in assuring that this country is well defended. We all have a stake in investing in the infrastructure that creates a platform for economic growth and opportunity. And indeed we all have a stake in the American dream.

And we used to come together around that. The kind of sharp, poisonous political discourse that characterizes so much of what goes on in the Congress today, and I mean no disrespect, senator, personal disrespect, no disrespect at all, in fact, not just personal, in saying that. But I think that the country is hungry for kind of a conviction-based leadership.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
But David–

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Frankly the kind of leadership–

DAVID GREGORY:
Go ahead.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
–that this administration has.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
The irony of this, of course, the president ran as someone who was going to unite people, but when you listen to the way that he’s trying to divide us. Whether it’s rich versus poor, have versus have not. And wanting to bring people together. And even just blaming Republicans or blaming all the problems on other areas or other people.

I mean think about the comment this week about, “You can’t change Washington from the inside.” He had two years in charge. I agree with the Governor. We do need leadership that unites. And we do need leadership of someone who’s thinking about making sure we have those opportunities so we’re not in a position where 47–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
You’re not really blaming the president for pitting–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
I think the governor–

DAVID GREGORY:
–for pitting classes against each other–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, I think–

DAVID GREGORY:
–after Governor Romney talked about–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, I have to tell you–

DAVID GREGORY:
–47% of the country that are–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
David.

DAVID GREGORY:
–freeloaders who won’t take–

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
I just see here–

DAVID GREGORY:
–personal responsibility.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Well, just to hear what the Governor’s saying here, I certainly respect what he’s saying but if you look at what the president has said and what he has done, of where we are, his leadership on his policies have failed and he has not been the uniting force that we need to get things done.

DAVID GREGORY:
I want to pin you down, Governor on one point, if I can. On this issue of the president’s record. And it has to do with high unemployment. And something that caught our eye this week as we were looking. This comment from the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emmanuel Cleaver, a Congressman, of course, from Missouri.

He spoke to The Root on Monday. This is what he actually wrote. “I’m supposed to say he doesn’t get a pass, but I’m not going to say that. Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus I’ve got to tell you we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With 14% black unemployment, if we had a white president we’d be marching around the White House.” Pretty stinging criticism from the chairman of the Black Caucus.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Well, I respect the chairman of the Black Caucus and the fact that there is 14%, if that’s the right number, unemployment among black people. I can tell you that among young people the unemployment rate is higher than the national average as well.

Nobody is prepared to declare victory. We’ve had the worst economic environment in a generation or two, since the Great Depression. And that was caused, by the way, by some of the very policies that Governor Romney is urging on the country today. This president has turned that around. This president has shown that he is able to swim against the current and make some change.

And so we see more people with healthcare in this country than ever before. More private sector jobs in the last two years than in the previous eight. We’ve seen the automobile industry saved. We’ve seen the financial industry saved. We’ve seen the country brought back from the brink of depression. Are we done? Of course not. Of course not. But we’re certainly on a better course and pointed in the right direction.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
David, I guess what I heard was that this president needs more time. But where we are, if you think about it, this is the worst economic recovery since World War II. And it’s been an anemic recovery because when they had full charge of the Congress they pushed forward a healthcare bill where people are paying for premiums.

In fact people are going to be hit, middle class hit, with that tax penalty. Where the regulatory climate for this country, small businesses feel strangled. They’re not going to create that job. And the governor has a plan to make sure that we simplify lower rates.

Make it a better tax climate for everyone. For everyone. And make sure that we get people to work. A regulatory climate where small businesses want to thrive and grow. It’s been the opposite with this president. I would say he tried, but his policies failed.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me end on one issue that’s certainly important to us at NBC News. That’s the issue of education. A big summit that we’re beginning, Education Nation, today.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Thank you for doing that.

DAVID GREGORY:
And–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–it’s important. We certainly are committed to it. Part of that is a conversation with President Obama that The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie conducted. I want to play a portion of that about where the political debate is now.

(Videotape/Today Show)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Mitt Romney said that, “President Obama has chosen his side in this fight,” that you’ve sided with the unions. At another time last spring, he said, “He can’t talk up reform while indulging in groups that block it.”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well– you know– I think Governor Romney and– and– a number of folks try to politicize the issue– and do a lot of teacher-bashing. When I meet teachers all across the country, they are so devoted, so dedicated to their kids. And what we’ve tried to do is actually– break through this left/right, conservative/liberal gridlock.

And that’s what– my– key reform’s been all about, “Race To the Top.”

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
More of that Education Nation interview with President Obama Tuesday and Wednesday on The Today Show, plus a live conversation with Governor Romney at Education Nation, that summit on Tuesday. Quickly from both of you. Governor, have we moved beyond this pro-union, anti-union debate–

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
We better.

DAVID GREGORY:
–in this political discourse?

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
We better. In Massachusetts our students are number one in the nation in student achievement and have been for each of the last few years. We’re in the top three in the world in math and science and we have the most unionized education system, I think, in the country. The unions have been at the table with us on reform for more than a decade. And, indeed, we moved a bill just a couple of years ago to try to close that achievement gap. And they were right there with us.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator?

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
I guess I would ask Mayor Emanuel whether, beyond the unions, where we are right now. I think this is clearly an issue that–

DAVID GREGORY:
In Chicago. That’s right.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
–important issue with Chicago’s strike. And, obviously, Governor Romney believes kids first, unions last. But most importantly I think Condoleezza Rice really hit it at our convention. That giving parents, empowering parents with school choice in underperforming schools, minority students, poor students, that is the civil rights issue of this time. And I think that, unfortunately, the president in the areas like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship turned his back on that. That’s really where we need to go and Governor Romney supports that.

DAVID GREGORY:
We will leave it there. Thank you both very much.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE:
Thank you.

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK:
Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:
Appreciate it.

(COMMERCIAL)

(Videotape/SNL Saturday)

SETH MEYERS: Good evening. I’m Seth Meyers and here are tonight’s top stories. Mitt Romney on Friday released his 2011 tax returns, which showed he paid a 14% tax rate, so just a little less than what restaurants add on for parties of six or more. The 14% tax rate Romney paid is less than the 20% paid by the average American. How did he pay such a low rate? He claimed 47% of Americans as dependents.
(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
We’re back. That was Saturday Night Live having some fun with Mitt Romney and the tax debate. We’re going to get into all of that with our roundtable. Joining us, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe Joe Scarborough, celebrating five years on the air. Five great ones.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Thanks. Thanks.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senior advisor to the Romney campaign, Bay Buchanan. Democratic strategist and former White House press secretary for President Clinton, Dee Dee Myers. New York Times columnist David Brooks. And the Democratic mayor of Atlanta, always great to have Kasim Reed.

But, first, you saw him lurking in the background of Dee Dee Myers’ shot, our political director Chuck Todd is here with some of the new polls in the background states. And when Team Romney says that the head-to-head matchup nationally is tight, that’s not the full story, Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:
It isn’t. And when you look at here, look at these battleground polls. This is everything that has come out in the last weeks in different states. And I just want to highlight a couple here. Look at Michigan, 14 point gap here for the president. Obviously the Republicans would like to try to put Michigan in play. Doesn’t look like it’s the case. Look at Iowa. And I highlight that because Iowa has been a tossup state, something that has been in the middle of the battleground. Well, guess what? We’ve decided it is no longer in the battleground. That eight point lead, you now put it in President Obama’s column.

So he sits there 243. What does that mean? It means now he’s just one state away from 270. If you just give him Florida, he sits at 272. But then you look at Virginia and Ohio, two states the president had seven point leads and you give him those two. And it puts him at 274. So now we’re sitting there. We’ve shrunk the battleground, David. We have put the president obviously sitting there with a tough lead.

And what has all of this done? It’s all because of one thing here and that is economic optimism. I want to show something from our last NBC/Wall Street Journal. 42% now have optimistic views that the economy’s going to get better in the next 12 months. The best number in almost three years, David.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. Chuck Todd, thank you very much. From the numbers, you also have the narrative. Here’s The Detroit Free Press after that tape recording about the 47%. Here was the headline. “Romney’s 47% Remark, Will It Sink The Campaign?” Joe Scarborough, how much trouble is the Romney campaign in this morning and what changes it?

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Well, they’re in a lot of trouble this morning, but thank god for them that the election’s about 45 days off. They are tied in national polls and we Republicans believe, we conservatives still believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. So we’ve got four debates coming up.

I personally think Romney is a very calculating, data-driven guy. You tell him you get 90 seconds to answer a question on Libya, he’s probably going to have a good answer. He’s going to do well in the debates. I think Ryan’s going to do well in the debates. We’ve got a long way to go, so it’s not over.

That said, the trajectory of the campaign has to change. This has been a horrific week for him. Even the Romney people behind the scenes will tell you the Libya press conference was a nightmare for him. Even worse than this 47% video. They’ve got to right the ship. If they do, long way to go.

DAVID GREGORY:
The Romney campaign, in fact the candidate himself, telling 60 Minutes tonight there is no need for a turnaround in this campaign. David Brooks, you wrote a pretty stinging column that got a lot of attention this week and the headline was “Thurston Howell Romney,” referring to Gilligan’s Island, of course, the millionaire on that program.

Here’s part of your comment about the fixed 47% in your column. “This comment suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare.

“Personally I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he’s pretending to be something he’s not, some sort of cartoonish government hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?”

DAVID BROOKS:
A couple of years ago I had a chance to have dinner with Tom Clancy and he was enthusing over some gun he had just seen on a Naval battleship. And I’m sitting there while he’s talking thinking, “You can’t fake it. If you don’t really have the passion for those kind of guns, you can’t write Tom Clancy novels.”

Mitt Romney does not have the passion for the stuff he’s talking about. He is a problem solver. I think he’s a non-ideological person running in an extremely ideological age and he’s faking it. So if I were him, I would go to what he’s done for the last several decades of his life. Be a PowerPoint guy. Say, “I’m making a sales pitch to the country. Here are the four things I’m going to reform. You don’t have to love me but I’m going to do this four things for you.” And so I’d do a much more wonky and detailed thing than he’s done so far.

DAVID GREGORY:
Bay Buchanan, do you have to look at this 47% comment, which was detailed, that frankly went beyond political analysis, and do more than say, “Hey, this was political analysis. This was not a governing philosophy. This was inelegant.” Do you have to somehow make amends in a way that he has done yet?

BAY BUCHANAN:
You know, David, the press is not going to change and of course our opponents aren’t. They want to mischaracterize exactly what he said. And what he was saying is, “The 47% is going to be voting. This is what it looks like. The solid base of the president.”

“And included in those people are people I’m going to have a hard time reaching. Those people who are dependent on government. Some who even feel they’re owed something by government. And many of them don’t pay income tax. And my message doesn’t work for them.” That’s all he was saying. He never said–

DAVID GREGORY:
But–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–he didn’t care about them. That he’s not concerned about them. And in fact–

DAVID GREGORY:
His words were–

BAY BUCHANAN:
No–

DAVID GREGORY:
–”I don’t have to worry about them.” That’s a direct quote.

FEMALE VOICE:
Yes. In the general election. He can’t worry about them. He has to worry about the 6%. Sure, we’d like to take a little bit of the cream on that 47%. I saw one poll has the president down to 46%. Maybe we will. But his focus in the general election is the 6% he can get. That he has a terrific chance of getting. And he will fight for them.

And as president he will fight for those who are dependent on government. This president has given us a terrible record. Americans can’t get off their dependency. And it’s longer and longer and it’s (UNINTEL) more difficult. There’s no jobs to get them out. What Mitt Romney offers to those Americans is a way, a ladder, to climb out of that mess.

DAVID GREGORY:
And they’re–

FEMALE VOICE:
Opportunity and jobs again.

DAVID GREGORY:
Is that how you see his comments this week, the 47%?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
I don’t even think that this is a question of mischaracterization. All you have to do is listen to the whole piece. His comments were terrible. What he implied were that 47% of the people are basically freeloaders. That’s what he implied. It was offensive. This isn’t a chase of mischaracterization.

And what it shows, basically, is Republicans have a candidate that’s defective and it shouldn’t be surprising to them. He has made these mistakes repeatedly. The best analysis of this election this year that I’ve heard was from a Republican friend that I was having dinner with.

He said that this guy’s defective. He said he’s like being a bad NASCAR driver on a rich team. He said, “No matter how good the car is, no matter how bad the pit crew is, the driver’s gotta drive the car.” And this guy puts it on the wall every single time.

BAY BUCHANAN
If he’s so–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
No, wait a minute, ma’am. I let you speak. He puts it on the wall when he says, “Let G.M. go bankrupt.” He puts it on the wall when he says, “47% of the people I don’t have to concern myself with.” He puts it on the wall when he travels across seas, goes to the U.K., offends one of our strongest allies. He repeatedly puts it on the wall and makes mistakes. And that’s why we’re where we are 44 days out.

DAVID GREGORY:
Dee Dee, the political prism through which to look at this is what is his biggest negative that he has to deal with. And that is does he connect with average voters.

DEE DEE MYERS:
Does he have any understanding at all, life outside the bubble that he’s lived in. And there is no point in his life, with the possible exception of his Mormon mission to Paris, where he’s intentionally gotten himself outside of his comfort zone.

MALE VOICE:
I don’t know if–

DEE DEE MYERS:
–and going to–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–Paris–

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
–seein’–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
It may have been the suburbs of Paris.

DEE DEE MYERS:
Right.

MALE VOICE:
So–

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
So I’m not saying that he likes the French. Don’t get me wrong.

MALE VOICE:
–it may have been (UNINTEL PHRASE).

DEE DEE MYERS:
But every–

MALE VOICE:
Let her (UNINTEL).

DEE DEE MYERS:
–turn of his life, even in this generosity, he’s been extremely generous, but it’s also within the context of a very limited universe. And so he really has no feel for what real people–

MALE VOICE:
I don’t think that–

DEE DEE MYERS:
–are going through.

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
I don’t think that’s fair.

DEE DEE MYERS:
–strong. When the–

FEMALE VOICE:
That’s just–

FEMALE VOICE:
–supposed to engage in support–
(OVERTALK)

FEMALE VOICE:
In actions.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. Well, look–

(MALE VOICE: UNINTEL)

DEE DEE MYERS:
No, it’s not. Every turn of this campaign when he’s spoken, how does he enjoy sport? Well, he likes to sort of hang out with the team owners. When he travels around, he’s most comfortable–

MALE VOICE:
And, by the way, he calls sports–

DEE DEE MYERS:
–it’s for (UNINTEL)–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–sport.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, but–

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
–one point. He’s most–

DAVID GREGORY:
Some of this is caricature, but we have real–

DEE DEE MYERS:
–comfortable talking to fundraisers. Right? That’s where he goes off script and talks more expansively about–

MALE VOICE:
And I agree–

(OVERTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–with that David, but look at the people he’s helped. He’s helped alcoholic Mormons. He’s helped immigrant, frankly illegal immigrants. He’s helped a lot of people. He’s nursed kids who are dying. If you look at his private life, he gave $4 million to charity in one years.

DEE DEE MYERS:
No, he’s a–

(OVERTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
If you look at his private life, all through his life, he’s given a lot of money.

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
If you look at the–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
We know–

MALE VOICE:
–the differences–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–in 2011 he–

MALE VOICE:
We know–

MALE VOICE:
He has the perfect life story for a compassionate conservative campaign because he’s lived that life. And the problem is he’s running a different campaign. George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, they looked at people in the community colleges and they said, “Okay, maybe they’re on food stamps, but they’re taking two busses, they’re working to jobs, they’re going to school and conservativism is how those people rise.”

MALE VOICE:
And David, did that–

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
So he had (UNINTEL) the–

FEMALE VOICE:
I mean–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–the biggest problem with the 47%. I really don’t think that’s going to change a vote. I really don’t. I do believe, though, it has deflated conservatives of The Wall Street Journal, conservatives like David, conservatives like myself. Conservatives on talk radio.

We believe in small government because we believe, like Jack Kemp believed, like Ronald Reagan believed, like Margaret Thatcher believed, that that’s how you help the most people. I will say still, without apology, I believe a rising tide lifts all boats. I believe you unshackle individuals and they can prosper in this country. What’s so disturbing about that video? Is like you said, David, Mitt Romney doesn’t get it. He doesn’t believe it. And that’s what comes through. Margaret Thatcher, shopkeeper’s daughter, would have never said that in a–

FEMALE VOICE:
You know–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–a million years.

DAVID GREGORY:
But–

(OVERTALK)

FEMALE VOICE:
Ever.

BAY BUCHANAN:
And this is like four to one. I should be allowed to speak for each one of these people here.

DAVID BROOKS:
No way. No way. You the–

BAY BUCHANAN:
No, but let me say something–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–don’t like a Margaret Thatcher–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–real clear here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–fan or a Ronald Reagan fan?

BAY BUCHANAN:
Please, let me make a point here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Well, don’t put it–

BAY BUCHANAN:
This is first of all–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–to me as a four to one, because I’m not. I’m a small–

BAY BUCHANAN:
But–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–government conservative.

BAY BUCHANAN:
But on this set you appear to be one of the four.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
I’m also with The Wall Street Journal–

(OVERTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–editorial page.

BAY BUCHANAN:
All right.

(OVERTALK)

BAY BUCHANAN:
We know you–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–every conservative. I’m with Rush. You name the conservative. They have my concern (UNINTEL). So please don’t characterize me–

BAY BUCHANAN:
Okay. Let me–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–as being one of these four.

DAVID GREGORY:
Go ahead, Bay.

BAY BUCHANAN:
Let me–

(OVERTALK)

BAY BUCHANAN:
To characterize the personal life of Mitt Romney as Dee Dee has is to show that she does not know the man. She does not know what he has done–

DEE DEE MYERS:
I see–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–because this is a man–

DEE DEE MYERS:
–what he’s done.

BAY BUCHANAN:
This is a man who has spent a life in serving others. That is the basis of what he believes and he has–

DEE DEE MYERS:
I’m not questioning–

(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
–that, Bay.

BAY BUCHANAN:
Number two–

DEE DEE MYERS:
That’s not my point.

BAY BUCHANAN:
No, that is exactly what you– number two.

DEE DEE MYERS:
No, it’s not.

BAY BUCHANAN:
Number two, we are in perilous times in this country. We are looking at financial ruin. We are looking at dependency. We’re a nation of people dependent on their government. And that is what Barack Obama gives us and he promises more of that in four more years. This election will decide if we take that path or with Mitt Romney. If we take a path where we actually allow people, those who are troubled now, those who can’t make ends meet–

DAVID GREGORY:
Wait a minute.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–those who–

DAVID GREGORY:
No, but these are–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–are relying on–

DAVID GREGORY:
Excuse me.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–food stamps to pay for the–

DAVID GREGORY:
You’re (UNINTEL) the saying Governor Romney, that’s fine. But these–

BAY BUCHANAN:
But–

DAVID GREGORY:
–these are political talking points more than being responsive to–

BAY BUCHANAN:
No.

DAVID GREGORY:
–some of the (UNINTEL). The political reality, we can show it on the screen. The unfavorable ratings of Mitt Romney. You’re a political professional. You understand how campaigns operate. If people don’t know it, who bears the blame for that? Look at his high unfavorable ratings. At 50%. The highest of any candidate running in recent memory. This is an image problem that his philosophical statements in this speech in May to fundraisers only exacerbates.

BAY BUCHANAN:
It’s because of the way it has been falsely interpreted, deliberately so, and I might add.

DAVID GREGORY:
By David Brooks?

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
By Scarborough.

DAVID GREGORY:
Like Joe Scarborough (UNINTEL PHRASE).

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
No, this is not–

FEMALE VOICE:
But he–

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
I’m sorry. I’ve got to cut this off–

FEMALE VOICE:
–in there is–

MALE VOICE:
David Brooks–

BAY BUCHANAN:
Which side are you on?

MALE VOICE:
–Joe Scarborough?

BAY BUCHANAN:
We are taking this country–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh. I can go on and on.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Peggy Noonan.

BAY BUCHANAN:
Rush Limbaugh.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
If you want to–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
I’m sorry. One at a time.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
If you want to blame the media for Mitt Romney’s inept campaign, Peggy Noonan said it best.

BAY BUCHANAN:
You know.

MALE VOICE:
This is a nightmare of a campaign. And the most troubling thing is it’s not that a lot of us Republicans don’t think he can win. We do believe he can win. But when he says he has no need to turn this campaign around after a disastrous week where you see Ohio slipping away, Wisconsin slipping away, Iowa slipping away, Michigan slipping away.

DEE DEE MYERS:
And Mayor Reed had it exactly right (UNINTEL).

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
That is a political concern. Not an ideological concern.

BAY BUCHANAN:
We are–

MALE VOICE:
That is a political concern.

DAVID GREGORY:
Hold on, Bay, a second.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–(UNINTEL) that right.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me step back for just a second. David Brooks, you’re looking at both the substantive debate taking place here about the records of two candidates. Biographies of two candidates. But also where we are politically in the state of this campaign. If we pull back, how do you diagnose where he goes next? Where he tries to go next?

DAVID BROOKS:
Well, he has to look at what the president’s weakness is. He’s never gonna win a popularity contest. As you said, he’s the least popular candidate in history. So where’s the president’s weakness? The president’s weakness is that he has no second term agenda. He put out a great album in 2008, but he doesn’t have an agenda now because he’s intellectually exhausted.

And so that’s why I think you have to say, “Okay, here’s my agenda.” You have to go extremely wonky. The interesting thing about this campaign is the best political speech of this whole campaign, Bill Clinton’s, was the wonkiest speech. There’s a hunger for that kind of stuff.

And that should be his wheelhouse. PowerPoint. “I’m going to reform four institutions. I’m reforming the tax code, I’m going to reform entitlements, I’m going to reform energy and I’m going to make the political system work. Don’t love me, but I will do these four products for you.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
David, the problem with that is that you can’t run for president saying, “I’ll tell you later.” He hasn’t told us.

DAVID BROOKS:
Well, you–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
And what we know–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
I waited for everybody around this table.

MALE VOICE:

And you’ve been very polite about that.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
He hasn’t told us–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
But you need to tell Barack Obama that.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
I will. But I’ll tell you what, what he hasn’t told us how do you take a $5 trillion tax cut in this economy and then spend an additional million to $2 million on defense spending, expand the military by 100,000 troops and pay for it without–

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
Mr. Mayor–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–without costing–

MALE VOICE:
Come on.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–the middle class.

MALE VOICE:
Come on.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
But he hasn’t told us that.

MALE VOICE:
Can I just ask you one question?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
And all he says is–

MALE VOICE:
What is the middle–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
All he says is, “We’ll tell you later.”

DAVID BROOKS:
What’s the most significant law Barack Obama has proposed for his second term?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Well, for the second term he’s been focused on jobs.

MALE VOICE:
Well, let’s–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
For the second term–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
The American job– wait a minute.

MALE VOICE:
That’s not for the (UNINTEL).

MAYOR KASIM REED:
The American Jobs Act is a legitimate proposal that is based primarily around infrastructure, which Republicans and Democrats have conditionally agreed on.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Boy, that worked in–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
And if you go–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–2009 he didn’t.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
But I’ll tell you what, it kept the country from going into a Great Depression.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Did it really?

MAYOR KASIM REED:
And I’ll tell you what– oh, yes, it did. Well, under your guy, George Bush, we lost–

FEMALE VOICE:
Okay.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–3.5 million jobs.

DAVID GREGORY:
But let me just–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. Hold on. Let him finish. Let him finish. Okay. Let’s–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Just finish the point and then I’ll go to Joe.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
He had–

MALE VOICE:
Deal with the (UNINTEL) that–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–Barack Obama–

MALE VOICE:
–George W. Bush–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–Barack Obama–

MALE VOICE:
–(UNINTEL) call him, my god.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Barack Obama has produced more net private sector jobs than George W. Bush. And if we want to go to the facts and be patriots and put the country first, we can look at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 10% of that $780 billion spend generated 35%–

MALE VOICE:
So what–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–of what–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Joe, what the pillars of a second term–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
You all have been–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–for President Obama?

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Well, first of all there is no pillar of his second term. I use the exampled, in 2008 he was Elvis 1957. 2012 he’s looking more like Elvis in ’77. I mean he’s singing the old hits. He doesn’t believe it himself. The president didn’t bring up the stimulus act. If it was such a great boon for American workers he would have brought it up. He didn’t bring up Obamacare.

Listen, he has no plan over the next four years. And I agree with David. If Mitt Romney wants to win he needs to come forward and tell people how he can get them back to work. ‘Cause we could talk about Medicare reform, which I believe in. We could talk about reducing the debt, which I’ve fought for 15 years.

But until you tell people how you’re going to get them back to work, how you’re going to help the working class do better, how you’re going to help people pay for their children’s education, they’re not going to listen to you. And neither candidate’s talking about that.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. Bay, comment before–

BAY BUCHANAN:
There’s no–

DAVID GREGORY:
–the break here.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–question in the Romney campaign, though. We’re bringing out those details as we speak. There’s no question there to go to this gentleman’s point, what the legacy of Barack Obama has been is quite clear. More and more debt placed on American people. Millions and millions of people now on food stamps. The only way they can pay their families. And embassies under siege. That’s what we got from him.

Going back to the political point, this is where the Romney campaign is today. We in are a dead heat nationally. We have two polls showing it a dead heat, a tie. And the momentum is ours. You see that the president’s numbers have come down. Mitt Romney’s numbers are coming up. Our polls and other polls out here have one state after another, these close states, swing states, as a dead heat or within the margin of error. So this is–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
No need for a turnaround?

BAY BUCHANAN:
No, listen, we are five weeks out and we are in a dead heat against the president of the United States. And we have the message when it comes to the economy. That’s who the American people trust as to be able to to provide jobs and get people back where they can be working–

MALE VOICE:
What’s the message?

BAY BUCHANAN:
–and be proud of what they’re doing?

MALE VOICE:
Not to interrupt.

BAY BUCHANAN:
That is–

MALE VOICE:
What’s the message?

BAY BUCHANAN:
The message is–

MALE VOICE:
How do we get–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–a clear one.

MALE VOICE:
–people back to work?

BAY BUCHANAN:
These are the two paths here. This is the foundation and the philosophy of the two campaigns. One towards a more and more dependent nation and the other towards a people the are self reliant, where they can be proud again of the work they do, the product they produce and the care–

DAVID GREGORY:
All right.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–they (UNINTEL) their families.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me get a break in here. We’re going to have more of this. Look forward to the debates. How this debate will play out when they go head-to-head. More with our roundtable right after this.

(COMMERCIAL)

DAVID GREGORY:
We’re back with the roundtable. David Brooks, we’ve been talking about the need for Governor Romney to win some of these important policy debates. You’ve talked about entitlements. Paul Ryan, his running mate, appeared before the AARP convention talking about Medicare. Not exactly a great reception. Watch.

(Videotape/Friday)

REP. PAUL RYAN: The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare (mixed applause and boos) because it represents the worst of both worlds. I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions so let me get into it.

(End videotape)

DAVID GREGORY:
Paul Ryan don’t shrink from a fight. He’ll go in front of any audience to talk about entitlements. He did it there. “The promise was we’re going to take on Medicare and we’re going to win this fight.” Is it working?

DAVID BROOKS:
Well, this passivity works. Every time I get sick of the Republicans then I hear the AARP and I’m glad I’m not a Democrat. The basic formula here, which Ryan is laying out, is the average Medicare recipient over the course of their life pays in about $150,000. They get out, people differ, somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000. So that gap is being put on the next generation.

That’s the essential problem he’s trying lay out And so that’s embedded in his plan. And I think it’s a pretty good plan. But they are not making the argument for that plan, for reasons which I guess I understand politically. But if you’re going to embrace Ryan, if you’re going to take Vienna, take Vienna. Argue for the plan. And the plan is a good one. And, by the way, the Democrats are running sort of a false scare campaign, running against a false Ryan plan from 2011, not the one they’re running on now.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID BROOKS:
And so I think it’s crucial to solve this problem. And they have a plan which, unfortunately, Romney-Ryan are not talking about.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
And, by the way, let’s tip our hat to Paul Ryan, because you hear that he got booed at AARP, but he went through the demographics. He went through the numbers. He explained it. It was not about ideology. It was about math. About MW Medicare was going bankrupt. If the AARP audience wanted to boo him, it wasn’t Paul Ryan’s problem. That’s a problem of people whose head continue to get stuck in the sand. I wish Mitt Romney would show that courage. Maybe–

DEE DEE MYERS:
Well–

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
–he will.

DEE DEE MYERS:
Well, and that’s–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–they met with (UNINTEL) people.

DEE DEE MYERS:
–complaints–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Oh go ahead, Dee Dee.

DEE DEE MYERS:
That’s one of the complaints that you’re hearing from Republicans. Is the base looked at the choice of Ryan and said, “Okay, great. Now the Romney campaign’s going to take it on.” And instead of Romney becoming more like Ryan and getting into details and being willing to fight for it, the opposite has happened. You saw Ryan in that clip talking about the details, but that’s not something we’re seeing the campaign do on a regular basis. They’d be better off if they did.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
This is about more than Paul Ryan being booed at AARP. This is about the American people not wanting to privatize and voucherize Medicare that they’ve paying into it. So it’s not about Paul Ryan. He can make all of the presentations that he wants the make and lay out the facts. But the president did extend Medicare by eight years. And more importantly than that, folks aren’t buying, “I’m going to take care of the people who are currently on the system, but we’re going to change it forever for everybody else.” So the people–

MALE VOICE:
What–

(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–who were at AARP–

MALE VOICE:
–and we have them do that. You know we have to do that.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Well, but we have to do it as a part of an overall budget deal. A $4 trillion deal where we put everything on the table. If we want to get a deal, let’s get an overall global deal that puts $4 trillion on the table that includes revenue raises.

MALE VOICE:
For–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
But Paul–

(OVERTALK)

MALE VOICE:
By the way, the first trillion–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–Paul Ryan–

MALE VOICE:
–dollars is a–

(MALE VOICE: UNINTEL)

MALE VOICE:
–in this (UNINTEL).

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Whether it’s $4–

MALE VOICE:
That’s ridiculous.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Hold a minute, before you say ridiculous. Whether it’s $4 trillion or $6 trillion, to get our budget deal we have to have revenue raising measures. You cannot implement Paul Ryan’s plan while not allowing for any increase in–

DAVID GREGORY:
All right.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
–revenues.
(OVERTALK)

MAYOR KASIM REED:
That’s clear.

DAVID GREGORY:
Bay, go.

BAY BUCHANAN:
First of all–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
That’s clear.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–Governor Romney showed enormous courage when he picked Paul Ryan for just this reason. Because he’s willing to engage that battle. We know we have a president who has just this week said we can’t do it. I can’t do this. That you can’t change Washington from the inside. He has given up. We know that on Medicare we have 12 years before we’re going to be facing bankruptcy and the president took $716 billion, took it out of–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
That’s not true.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–(UNINTEL) and put it in Obamacare.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
That’s just flat out not true.

BAY BUCHANAN:
That is right– it is true.

DAVID GREGORY:
And Paul Ryan did the same thing in his budget.

BAY BUCHANAN:
And Paul Ryan–
(OVERTALK)

DEE DEE MYERS:
–the same thing.

BAY BUCHANAN:
Paul Ryan did not– it is in Medicare. It’s being moved around. And what we will do is we will– the president–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
That’s just not true.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–will push that $716 right back in to Medicare.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
You know–
(OVERTALK)

BAY BUCHANAN:
But the (UNINTEL) is when are we going to solve these problems? The president enjoys all of those perks of the office. When is he going to do the heavy lifting? We have Medicare in serious trouble. Heading to bankruptcy. We have a nation heading to bankruptcy. And what’s he say? “I can’t do it.” Well–

MALE VOICE:
Can I just–
(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah, hold on second.

MAYOR KASIM REED:
Can I interrupt? In two years–

DAVID GREGORY:
David, go ahead.

DAVID BROOKS:
So the mayor just laid out the solution. We’re going to have a deal at some point, probably after some sort of national fiscal crisis. The Republicans are going to agree to raise revenue. The Democrats are going to agree to restructure Medicare. They’re probably not going to do it before a big national bankruptcy because it’s politically hard. But that is the deal. And we’re going to solve it sooner or later, but probably after some big national crisis.

DAVID GREGORY:
We’re also going to have a big national debate, not just in the campaign but in these presidential debates. Dee Dee, you’ve been through this with a candidate before. Look at this from Politico in terms of the anticipation of these debates. The number’s quite high. 83% saying they plan to watch all or some. Is there too much being built into these debates in terms of potential game changers?

DEE DEE MYERS:
I mean if you look at the history of debates they generally don’t change, or at least for the longer term, the dynamic of the race. But Mitt Romney is taking it very seriously. It’s possibly his last opportunity to really make a big impression. So he started preparing for this months ago. He’s spending a lot of time, as well he should.

He has proven himself to be a good debater. As somebody said, he’s a facts and figures guy. He practices. He works very hard. And he won 16 of the 20 debates, as the Obama campaign will happily tell you in their effort to lower expectations, in the Republican primary. So I hope the president is taking it seriously. And challengers also tend to do well. Just by being on stage with the incumbent they look presidential.

DAVID GREGORY:
Can he still win, Joe? Can–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
–Romney still win and how?

JOE SCARBOROUGH:
Of course he can still win. Like I said, we’ve got four debates left. We’ve got 45 days left. Dee Dee knows better than anybody else. I mean, the old saying, I think it was Harold McMillan who said, “In politics a week is a lifetime.” Give anybody 40, 45 days and they can change everything.

(OVERTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH:

Again, the biggest concern is the attitude in Mitt Romney’s head right now. When he says that they don’t need to turn the campaign around, when you have Stuart Stevens and others basically saying, “Full steam ahead,” that’s a serious problem. If they change the trajectory, if they start getting specific like Bay said they were going to, he can win.

DAVID GREGORY:
Quick point, Bay.

BAY BUCHANAN:
But listen, on the debates, this is what’s key. Is that we are going to be able to challenge the president on his record. To make him start defending this lousy record of his. To explain why he is unable to create jobs and give opportunity–

MAYOR KASIM REED:
(UNINTEL) point. Pardon me.

BAY BUCHANAN:
–to Americans. Let him defend one in six Americans in poverty, one in seven Americans in food stamps. That is a debate we welcome, something the media has not–

MALE VOICE:
This is getting–

BAY BUCHANAN:
–been willing to challenge him.

MALE VOICE:
–serious. Bay, he’s–

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:
Can we just have a feel good moment after all of this debating.

(MALE VOICE: UNINTEL)

DAVID GREGORY:
We’ve got to tip a cap, quite literally–

MALE VOICE:
Oh yeah.

FEMALE VOICE:
Oh yeah.

MALE VOICE:
Oh yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
–to the playoff bound Nationals.

FEMALE VOICE:
Oh contract.

DAVID GREGORY:
The Washington Nationals. First time that Washington’s had a playoff team since 1933.

(FEMALE VOICE: UNINTEL)

DAVID GREGORY:
When I was just a boy. A little painful that they clinched this against my Los Angeles Dodgers, but they–

FEMALE VOICE:
(UNINTEL) Los Angeles (UNINTEL).

DAVID GREGORY:
–have been so great to follow. F.D.R. was president when they were playing the Giants in the world (UNINTEL) that he said, “I’ll have to sit on both sides to keep it even.” Washington going all the way. Thank you all for being here this morning. Great discussion. It’ll continue.

* * * END OF TRANSCRIPT * * *

“MEET THE PRESS” CLIPS & TRANSCRIPT — SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23