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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; MARK TAPSCOTT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER; CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE TAPED: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2010 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF FEBRUARY 27-28, 2010

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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Health Summit. No Deal.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Majority vote, as used here by President Obama, is code. And that code means two things in this context: One, the health summit did not produce Republican-Democratic agreement; secondly, Democrats will enact the Obama health plan without Republicans.

Democrats are the majority in both chambers, and the majority rules. The reconciliation procedure, a term of art, can be invoked. This will permit the Democrats to install the health plan by a simple majority of 51 rather than a super-majority of 60. The Democrats can handily turn out 51 majority votes from their 59 senators.

Were the Republicans set up in this whole exercise? Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: First, John, the Democrats only need 50 votes plus Joe Biden. They don't need 51 senators.

Were the Republicans about to be set up? They certainly were. But I will give Mitch McConnell credit. I thought he managed this thing brilliantly. He set himself aside, let Lamar Alexander take the lead, who did a magnificent job, I thought. He was followed by Tom Coburn, who did an excellent job. Obama was agreeing with some of the points he was making. And Harry Reid, I think, blew it for the Democrats, being partisan and nasty, virtually accusing Lamar of lying.

Bottom line, John, is they're going to try to go through reconciliation. They have not got all the votes for sure in the House. This is a bloodbath. It is the end of any attempt at bipartisanship. But they'll try to get it done by Easter. They may or may not. But all the comity, if there was any left, is over.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Well, I don't think it's a bloodbath. There are more jobs bills coming, and I think Republicans will be voting for those. And there were 70 votes for a jobs bill this week, which included 13 Republicans. So I think the Republicans are going to pick and choose which bills they go along with, because they're hearing from the public and they're realizing that their unified opposition to the president on health-care reform was beginning to backfire. So they're looking for their spots to be bipartisan.

I think the summit helped both parties. I think it helped the political process, because people watch this, and you see your politicians not acting like clowns. They even managed to get away from their talking points at different times. And I thought the president is accustomed to being the facilitator, and I think he did a good job looking for common ground. It does not exist enough to get Republican votes. And I think the Democrats are now prepared to move ahead. But it's not going to be easy. And it's going to be harder in the House for Nancy Pelosi to get her 217 votes than for Harry Reid to get his 50 in the Senate.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mark, was it a set-up for Republicans in the sense that they looked like naysayers?

MR. TAPSCOTT: Only in this parallel universe that President Obama apparently exists in, where most Americans favor a majority vote, like Pat was pointing out. It may have been an attempted set- up, but it didn't work, because they simply don't understand what is going on with the American people now. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, what do you think?

MR. PAGE: Well, it depends on what interpretation you have of where the American people are. When you talk about -- and Obama mentioned this -- when you go down through the various features of the legislation, people buy it one by one, but they don't like the overall thing, because they identify it with this sausage-making process they've been watching, which they did not see at this summit.

I thought it might be a trap for Democrats, for that matter, if expectations were real high and then nothing came out of it. But I think expectations were reasonable. Folks said, "Maybe something will happen; probably not," and didn't, except that you did see intelligent discussion going on.

And one thing that was really interesting, I thought, was that the rank-and-file senators and Congress people sounded more sensible than their leaders. I thought Harry Reid didn't come across as great as he could have, or Nancy Pelosi. They sounded more partisan, while you were hearing a lot of good voices come from the Republican and Democratic side. A lot of agreement was going on. You may not have a bipartisan vote, but you saw some bipartisanship as far as actual thinking going on, and that's refreshing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, so where do we go from here, sir, on health-care reform? And what's the time line, sir?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) So the question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that, in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time, we could actually resolve something? And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this political strategy brilliant, or is it dumb, Pat?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think Obama's got to do it. I think he cannot walk away from health care and have the Democratic Party, with these monster majorities, not even get their signature legislation through and him walking away from it. So I think they're going to go for it. I think they're going to do battle.

I agree with Clarence. I thought Pelosi and Reid dropped the ball. But I thought Obama was excellent, I agree with Eleanor, in the way he handled this whole thing. But I do think, John, there is going to be such a terrible fight on the very fact that the filibuster is going to be passed over. And the fight is going to come in the House, as Eleanor says. And I do think, from now on out, I mean, this is going to get very, very bloody. As I say, any sense of bipartisanship goes out the window once you go for the 50 plus one. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me let Mark in here. The time line is to the middle of April. Why would he want to establish the 15th of April, which is also an Internal Revenue --

MR. TAPSCOTT: That's a talking point.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Huh?

MR. TAPSCOTT: That's simply a talking point. Before this summit ever convened, the Democrats made a decision that they are going to go through reconciliation. So this is all sound and fury. It's all window dressing. It's like a beauty contest, but fortunately without the swimsuit competition.

MS. CLIFT: But if it's window dressing, it was about rallying Democrats. It was really less about getting Republican votes, because they weren't going to change their minds at this point, but stiffening the spines of moderate Democrats who don't want to take another vote that might hurt them in their district.

And by pointing out that the Republicans are offering a plan that would cover 3 million more Americans and the Democrats are offering a plan that would offer (sic/means cover) 30 million more Americans, because the Republicans really don't want to regulate insurance companies so they can't toss you off if you have a pre-existing condition, and the Democrats do. By making that contrast clearer, they're hoping that their guys, the Democrats, are going to be willing to take another bullet for this president on --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, it's like Iran.

MS. CLIFT: -- the bet that --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's like Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay.

MS. CLIFT: -- that this legislation will be popular come November.

MR. BUCHANAN: Okay, it's like Iran in this sense. Obama -- we've gone the last mile. We've tried to negotiate before we bomb them. And that's exactly what is -- it shows Obama and the Democrats having gone as far as they can go and being open, and they wanted to get that on the record. But I agree, they're going all the way to --

MS. CLIFT: Majority rule isn't bombing. It's democracy. (Laughter.)

MR. BUCHANAN: When we tried on our judges through that way, it was. (Laughs.)

MR. PAGE: This all reminds me of the Bush tax cuts, which Democrats didn't like and Bush -- and his people pushed that through reconciliation.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, wasn't it really brilliant politically because health reform was a corpse, and he was kind of hanging it in the closet, hoping that no one would bring it up, so he now brings it up --

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me finish -- he brings it up in the summit context and he moves the center of gravity from responsibility on his part to responsibility on the Congress, notably Pelosi and Reid.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it's over there. It's not attaching to him. Do you see it that way?

MS. CLIFT: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: Part of what you say is true. He clearly has revived it and he clearly wants to show that we're reaching out to these Republicans. We're trying to be bipartisan. At the same time, we've got a very moderate proposal and a lot of their ideas. I thought it worked for both parties.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But he's moved the corpse away from himself. He moved it over --

MS. CLIFT: No, he didn't.

MR. BUCHANAN: But he wants it alive. He doesn't want a corpse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants it alive, but he had to bring it back. He had to bring it back. And you think he knew it all the time he was going to bring it back.

MR. TAPSCOTT: It's still a corpse and it's still called Obamacare.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a $1 trillion program, is it not?

MR. TAPSCOTT: More or less, depending on how you count it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now, how are people going to feel around, you know, the middle of April, if it goes that far? He said he's going to allow that much time for continued bipartisan effort.

MR. TAPSCOTT: No, I don't think he's going to allow that. I think this will be over within about two weeks.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the people don't want that kind of public -- (inaudible) --

MR. TAPSCOTT: That's the problem.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- for a plan that they find inscrutable. MR. TAPSCOTT: That's the problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MS. CLIFT: The plan --

MR. PAGE: They'll figure it out.

MS. CLIFT: -- will deliver the insurance reforms immediately upon passage. And Obama is showing himself as an activist president fighting against the insurance companies on behalf of the people. I mean, that's the message that you're supposed to take, John.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think it was a politically brilliant move --

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and he was able to move the responsibility for passage away from himself. He gave the corpse to her, and now it's on Capitol Hill. Do you think --

MR. PAGE: Well, I see -- all I saw was Republicans saying, "Start over, start over." I mean, no matter which side you're on, the idea of starting over --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, the blank-page theory?

MR. PAGE: The blank page; you know, start over with a blank page after this whole year. That doesn't sound appealing either.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, that's not appealing.

MR. BUCHANAN: What Alexander said, this car -- they didn't want to buy this model. It's a wreck. Get it out of the showroom.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to be a negative around their neck in the coming election if the Democrats drive this through as you say?

MR. BUCHANAN: If they drive it through, it will be --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will be.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- it will kill the Democrats.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They know they're going to suffer anyway, so we might as well get some --

MR. TAPSCOTT: They don't know that. They think they are in this other universe where it's going to help them.

MS. CLIFT: It will be a millstone if they do not pass it. If they do pass it, they have a chance to convince the American people that they have just passed major -- a major reform that eluded Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and that it's a major achievement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The alternate would have been for Obama to ignore health, hope that it goes away, bury it with conversation about fiscal responsibility and new programs there.

MR. BUCHANAN: He couldn't walk away --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that as an alternative plan instead of inviting the trouble that he's now inviting?

MS. CLIFT: Not while the insurance companies are raising --

MR. TAPSCOTT: Not realistic.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean, he had to face up to the health problem.

MR. BUCHANAN: You can't run away without a fight, John.

MR. TAPSCOTT: He's got to play the end game.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with me that he's moved it away from himself?

MR. TAPSCOTT: No, not at all.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not at all?

MR. PAGE: The insurance companies are still raising premiums, John, 54 percent. That was the kind of -- excuse me, 42 percent -- that was the profit raise that major insurers got last year --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear the public --

MR. PAGE: -- while everybody else was suffering in this economy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you hear the public complaining about that?

MS. CLIFT: Yes.

MR. PAGE: About insurance premiums? You'd better believe it -- and coverage, and lack of it, and people being dumped off of their policies.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they're going to complain about that less because we now have a $1 trillion program in place with federal subsidies buried in them?

MR. BUCHANAN: How many rallies, John --

MR. PAGE: Not much has been said about that, has it? That's the thing. More needs to be said about what will happen if we don't have reform.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who says that the public option has been removed when it's, you know, in the fine print there? MR. BUCHANAN: No, John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Various subsidies --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, how many rallies have you seen --

MR. PAGE: It's not a public option.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- for this health-care bill? Zero. People have gone out -- the tea parties want to kill it. They're going to --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this going to help the Democrats or hurt the Democrats this fall?

MR. BUCHANAN: They're going to be hurt somewhat now and more later.

MS. CLIFT: The tea parties are not the majority in this country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Two: Tea Partiers Tom and Sarah.

FORMER REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO): (From videotape.) The race for America is on right now. The president and his left-wing allies in Congress are going to look at every opportunity to destroy the Constitution before we have a chance to save it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: "We have a chance to save it." The "we" that former Colorado Congressman and activist Tom Tancredo is referring to is the Tea Party. It has already become a major political force. The Tea Party this week unveiled its declaration of independence.

One declaration focused on its independence from Democrats. Quote: "We declare ourselves independent of the Democratic Party and its power-drunk junta in Washington, D.C., which is currently seeking to impose a socialist agenda on our republic," unquote.

Question: Is the Democratic Party's agenda under President Obama a socialist agenda, as stated by the tea partiers? Mark Tapscott.

MR. TAPSCOTT: Well, John, let's see here. They own General Motors. They own Chrysler. They own Wall Street. They want to own the health-care system. This is a tree. It's got 46 apples on it. I think it's an apple tree.

MR. PAGE: The funny thing is, those entities are all doing better now than they were before the government takeover.

The government is not in the business of taking over companies, but we are in a crisis situation right now. But the socialist tag is such a great little label to throw around. It comes right out of Ronald Reagan's speeches from the early '60s. But the question is, what's the bottom line? What really delivers for the public here? MS. CLIFT: Yeah, Ronald Reagan called Medicare socialism.

MR. PAGE: Yeah; said by now we'd be a red state, a communist state. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: I don't see a health-care plan that keeps the insurance companies intact as socialist. I don't see a refusal to nationalize the banks in the crisis that we had a year ago as socialist. I basically see what this president is doing is trying to save capitalism from the excesses that took us to the brink a little more than a year ago.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right, look, you've got -- the federal government and the state governments now spend, I believe -- by one statistic it was 44 percent of GDP. I think the more accurate one is probably 38, 39 percent. That was always considered socialism.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of gross domestic product.

MR. BUCHANAN: Gross domestic product, eaten up by government. And government regulates and controls almost all the rest of the country. By any historic standard, we are well on our way to socialism. I mean, we've passed the line.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's the GDP today, $13 trillion?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's $14 trillion, about, and we're --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking 40 percent of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: No -- well, 40 percent if you take state, local and federal. Federal is $3.8 trillion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MS. CLIFT: Which part of socialism do you think the people want to give up -- Medicare? Control over the safety of food and drugs?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think they want the government taking over their health-care system.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, more Tea Party principles.

"We declare ourselves independent of the Republican Party, which has, in the past, manipulated its conservative base to win election after election and which then betrays everything that base fought for and believed," unquote.

Question: Is this declaration a warning to Republicans not to take the Tea Party movement for granted? Clarence. MR. PAGE: Well, Republicans certainly have to be wary, because they've already seen dissension against candidates who aren't conservative enough or who aren't anti-tax enough. But Republicans have certainly been more aggressive than Democrats insofar as trying to coopt the Tea Party movement, get involved in there -- Dick Armey and various other folks trying to win them over to their side. Sarah Palin is, of course, a heroine of the Tea Party folks, but she has not left the Republican Party, as far as I know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, we'll hear from her very shortly.

Okay, a third Tea Party declaration, focused on the press. Quote: "The Tea Party movement refuses to give false credence to the self-aggrandizing, self-deluding lie that any part of the fourth estate is free of the self-serving agendas of those who own them," unquote.

Pat, you can speak to this. Is the media beholden to corporate owners?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, look, our owner -- I work at MSNBC, which tends to be somewhat liberal, and AT&T owns us. Are they telling us what we ought to do politically? No --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the (dragon ?) here with the tea parties, I think, is Rupert.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, Rupert's -- I mean, Rupert's got the populist -- his shows -- the Tea Party folks are watching his shows, John. The key to the Tea Party, John, is this. It is the swing vote in American politics, and this fall it is swinging toward the Republicans. And it swung away from Obama in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. That's Why the Republicans --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think they ought to worry about Rupert?

MR. BUCHANAN: No, I think Fox News is going gangbusters with Obama in there, just like we would be if McCain had won.

MR. PAGE: Fox would love the Tea Party movement too.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you don't see anything in The Wall Street Journal, do you, that's changed in any significant way since Rupert took control of it?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Wall Street Journal is a neocon publication on its editorial page, John, and there is a difference.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm not talking about editorial page. I'm talking about news coverage, page one and inside.

MR. TAPSCOTT: Actually, the news pages are better, more precise and more --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's a better newspaper.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A better newspaper, but --

MR. BUCHANAN: A far better newspaper.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you don't see any tilt or sheen that's been added to it because of the ownership.

MR. PAGE: Murdoch didn't buy the Journal to ruin it. He bought it because he wants a new crown jewel in his empire. And they do very good news coverage. MS. CLIFT: Beating up on --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Tea Party --

MR. PAGE: Well, the tea parties --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on, Eleanor.

The Tea Party demos. A recent CBS poll shed some light on the tea partiers. Size: Nearly 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as members of the party. Tea Party views catching on: 56 percent of Americans prefer a small government providing fewer services. Education: Tea partiers have the same college education likelihood as the rest of the country. Income: Tea partiers earning more than $50,000 a year, same likelihood as the rest of the country. Race: Overwhelmingly white, 95 percent. Party affiliation: Sarah Palin says independent.

SARAH PALIN (former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate): (From videotape.) Most tea partiers that I know, they're independent. They're not registered in either one of the political parties, and they haven't been politically active in terms of being obsessively partisan one way or the other. But they are more aligned, it seems with the ideas -- the planks of the platform of the Republican Party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Nearly 20 percent, 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as tea partiers. Does that figure understate the Tea Party's political impact, Mark?

MR. TAPSCOTT: Absolutely, it understates the impact of the Tea Party because -- and I talk with Tea Party leaders all the time, and I can tell you that they represent the advanced wave of an incredible upswing -- a tidal wave, if you will -- of people who are saying we need a new --

MS. CLIFT: Well, there is energy. There is energy in American politics today around the Tea Party movement. It's gotten a lot of attention, and people are saying, "Oh, yeah, I identify with it." But if you poll them, you see that it's overwhelmingly white. It's overwhelmingly male, affluent, and very conservative -- not unlike the angry white men who all supported the Republican agenda in 1994, and a lot like the Perot voters in -- we've seen this phenomenon before.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clarence, do you know any black tea partiers?

MR. PAGE: Well, that's kind of beside the point, John, because I think the same kind of emotions that moved black voters to vote for Barack Obama, you could find in the Tea Party movement. Eleanor's right; a lot of the same people who were Perotistas --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that 95 percent -- MR. PAGE: -- and even some people who went for Ralph Nader.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that 95 percent white figure?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the white figure --

MR. PAGE: Well, is that really material, or is it incidental?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I don't know. I'm asking you.

MR. PAGE: Look at who was angry --

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: Look at who was angry last year. Look at who was upset when Barack Obama won. Look who was the most upset around income-tax time. It was mostly white exurbanites. That demographic naturally gravitates to the Tea Party movement.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: That doesn't mean they're racist. But I'll tell you, if you want to appear to be people interested in outreach, you don't book Tom Tancredo as your keynote speaker.

MR. BUCHANAN: John --

MR. PAGE: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly.

MR. BUCHANAN: White America is tremendously alienated from -- especially working class, blue collar -- alienated from all the institutions --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That goes to his point.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- government, corporations. He's exactly right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Miss Me?

"Miss Me Yet?" is how the billboard reads. The man depicted, of course, is the former president of the United States, George W. Bush, who left office hardly more than a year ago. The billboard is on Route I-35 in Minnesota. The board was bought by small-business owners who deplore the fiscal policies of Barack Obama.

When President Bush left the White House, his popularity rating had sunk to 33 percent, one of the most unpopular ratings in U.S. history. Well, what a difference a year makes. CNN has put Mr. Bush's current favorability rating at 43 percent; not bad, especially when you see that he is 13 points ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who comes in at a 30 percent favorable rate; 22 points ahead of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who comes in at 21 percent favorable; and only one point behind the sitting Democratic vice president, who comes in at 44 percent favorable.

Question: What explains the Bush rebound? I ask you, Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder -- (laughter) -- although I really don't think there's a groundswell for President Bush. He's not going to be running for Congress, so what if he does better than Pelosi and Reid? And he's actually in Washington this weekend. It's a first-year reunion for all the Gush people, and he paid a visit to the vice president, who was just in the hospital recently. So I give him his extra 10 points. I hope he enjoys them. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On this "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," what about "Out of sight, out of mind"?

MS. CLIFT: Well, there's that too.

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Which -- but you believe in absence.

MS. CLIFT: Well, if we're going to get into a Jesuitical -- (laughs) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't say abstinence. (Laughter.

)

MS. CLIFT: I still don't think Republicans are looking back on his eight years as a high point for them.

MR. PAGE: No, they're not.

MS. CLIFT: I think the Tea Party people are really angry at the president. And certainly Democrats are happy he's gone. I wish him well in his retirement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, what do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: There's a reason for it, John. Other than Warren Harding, who, when he died, was enormously popular and went way, way down after --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? After his death?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, after his death he went down.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where was he from?

MR. BUCHANAN: He was from Ohio -- Marion, Ohio. But here's why the presidents go up. When they leave office -- Eleanor is right -- you forget about some of the things they did wrong. Secondly, nobody attacks them, John. In the last year of the Bush presidency -- people hammered Truman, hammered Nixon, hammered Bush. But when they stop attacking them, they start just naturally rising.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay --

MR. BUCHANAN: And they get the support of their party.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mark, this is going to you.

Republican sweepstakes, 2012. In the GOP presidential primary to nominate a Republican candidate to challenge Barack Obama in the November 2012 election, four Republicans head the list: One, Haley Barbour, Mississippi governor; two, Jeb Bush, former Florida governor; three, Newt Gingrich, former House speaker; four, Rick Perry, Texas governor. If Perry is elected this year, he'll be halfway through his third term as the skilled and popular governor of Texas.

What do you think about the GOP sweepstakes, Mark?

MR. TAPSCOTT: I think that maybe that list that we just showed was put together by either Rick Perry or Haley Barbour. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about Haley? Haley would be a great president.

MR. TAPSCOTT: Haley is a great guy. He's an extremely good governor. But outside of Mississippi, I don't think a whole lot of people know about him.

Rick Perry -- I don't think he's going to be president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he was the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but he was also a lobbyist in Washington, and lobbyists are not -- that's how he made his money.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that's the kiss of death?

MS. CLIFT: I think that would be a problem for him running nationally.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: Yes, I do.

MR. BUCHANAN: Where are Palin and Romney on your list, John?

MR. PAGE: Yeah, yeah, because they're the ones leading the polls right now.

I think Romney -- tell me if I'm wrong -- I think Romney leads the pack partly because the Republicans appreciate seniority. It's his turn, so to speak. He's been out there on the scene.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think always a bridesmaid, never a bride?

MR. PAGE: Oh, no, I think -- I mean, look back at John McCain.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)

MR. PAGE: Look at Bob Dole, you know.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's that again?

MR. PAGE: Look at the people who ran before and people feel like, "Well, now it's his turn." MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Richard Nixon.

MR. PAGE: Richard Nixon.

MR. BUCHANAN: If I had to bet on anyone right now, I would bet, I think, on Romney.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?

MS. CLIFT: I agree with that, and especially if the country is still in economic straits. He can always cite his successes. Now, he was mostly good at downsizing companies. (Laughter.) So I don't know if that holds up that well.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of the four candidates listed there, what do you think about Perry?

MS. CLIFT: Rick Perry has been campaigning on possibly seceding from the Union. I don't see how he translates that into a national candidacy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but he's cleared that hurdle.

MS. CLIFT: Not with people who don't call themselves Republicans.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Doesn't he have a primary or something this coming Tuesday, or is it the election itself?

MR. PAGE: He's got a primary coming up.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got a primary with Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Tea Party gal down there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I would think he'd be one of your kind of guys, Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he's moved on his positions. He's taken a good position on the border. And he's much more populist than he used to be.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Health care will pass.

MR. BUCHANAN: The House kills it.

MS. CLIFT: Yes, but it won't be pretty.

MR. TAPSCOTT: House kills it because the president hasn't spoken to Bart Stupak.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will not pass. Don't forget to check out our new website, McLaughlin.com.

Bye-bye.



END.