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Former Gov. Haley Barbour Stops By NewsHour Skybox

August 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour stopped by the NewsHour skybox to talk with Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Mark Shields, and David Brooks about the speeches and talking points of the Republican National Convention thus far.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Two deeply moving stories from people who were part of the community, who were helped, not just by the church but by Mitt Romney personally, and by his wife.

Joining us, Haley Barbour, who is the former governor of Mississippi.  He was also chairman, of course, of the National — Republican National Committee.

Haley Barbour, if tonight was meant to be a night where we learned more about Mitt Romney, this is — we’re learning.

HALEY BARBOUR, former governor of Mississippi:  That was very powerful, touching and it’s going to be kind of hard for the Obama campaign to continue the thing that Romney doesn’t care about people like you.

GWEN IFILL:  Gov. Barbour, is this what we were waiting for?  We’ve been saying all week, the likeability factor.  We had to know more about Mitt Romney.  Ann Romney was willing to say a little bit, not a lot.  Was this the turning point for you?

HALEY BARBOUR:  I actually think this is just one part of it.  This is — shows what kind of heart Mitt Romney has.  And I would — a lot of people ask me, Mark, in the South, would Baptists vote for a Mormon.  Well, this could have been about a Baptist preacher or a Catholic or a Jew or a Presbyterian, the — not about theology, but his religion, how it moved him.

I think the biggest thing, though, at the end of the day, is the message that’ll come from Romney himself, about getting the economy moving again, about taking the issues seriously.  And I think he will make a very powerful case of — that he’s ready, not only to say what he can do, but why it’ll work and how it’ll help your family and community.

That’s the next part of the message.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Why do you think it has been — it has taken as long or it’s been as difficult for him to get some of who he is across to the — to the electorate?

HALEY BARBOUR:  Well, there’s just some people, Judy, that don’t wear their emotions or their religion on their sleeves.  And they’re just — they’re just people who are like that.  You know, some of us are gregarious and outgoing and you can take us or leave us.  But you see what this man, who’s got obviously a giant heart, is not somebody who wants to go out and toot his own horn and I’m a wonderful man.


MARK SHIELDS:  Governor, eight years ago at the New York convention, I asked you who was going to win.  George Bush or John Kerry.  And you said if this election’s about John Kerry, George Bush will be reelected.  And you said if this election’s about George Bush, George Bush will carry Mississippi.

Now can you tell us about the 2012 election?  If this election is about Mitt Romney, can he win?

HALEY BARBOUR:  Well, first of all, you and I both know that the elections about Barack Obama, Mitt Romney’s going to be president.  If this is a referendum on Obama’s record, on his policies and the results of those policies, he don’t have a chance.

The Democrats have tried for five months now to carpet-bomb Romney, to not only make the election about Romney, but to make Romney a — somebody who is a vulture capitalist, who doesn’t care about people like you, ships jobs over to China and fires people and takes their wives’ health insurance away.  You know, he’s a plutocrat who’s married to a known equestrian.


HALEY BARBOUR:  That’s what they’ve tried to make this.

Tonight’s going to make that a little bit tougher.



DAVID BROOKS:  Now you’ve — you were obviously chair, Governor.  You know the Medicare issue has hurt Republicans in the past.  Romney and Ryan have a specific plan, which will change the structure of Medicare.  How do you think that’s going to play?

HALEY BARBOUR:  I actually think it’s very smart of the Romney people.  Now, look, every campaign for the last 30 years, the Democrats have attacked the Republicans, said the Republicans are going to cut Medicare.  Republicans going to cut Medicare.  Republicans going to take away your Social Security, but the Republicans going to — that was going to be an issue the whole time.

One thing we have learned, David, is the longer the debate and the more people learn about Medicare, the more likely they are to be on our side, the more facts they get, the more information they have, not only that Obama took $716 billion and diverted it over 10 years away from Medicare, but (inaudible) one time since Medicare came into being in 1965 that spending actually went down.

Only one time.  It only went down a fraction.  It was under Bill Clinton.  So it wasn’t under the — a Republican president.  People know that Medicare — Barack Obama has told us.  It’s unsustainable in its current form.  And something’s going to be done.  This debate is going to be about what.  But the longer the debate goes on, the better it is for us.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Coming out of this convention, Governor Barbour, what is going to be Mitt Romney’s challenge?  I mean, nobody thinks he’s going to coast to the election.  I know you’re confident he’s going to win.  But what is it that he’s going to have to do coming out of this convention?

HALEY BARBOUR:  It’s going to be a close, tough election.  There are going to be about a dozen states that are going to be very close.  It could go one way or the other.  He’s got to keep — he’s got to keep people’s focus on Romney, what he will do to solve our problems.  And then the rest of us have to keep attention on Obama, what he’s done to make our problems worse.

GWEN IFILL:  Except it sounds like if what Mark — what your answer to Mark’s question was that this has — the whole thing has to be about President Obama.  And that as long as it’s a choice between President Obama and Gov. Romney, that President Obama has an upper hand.  But if it’s all about a referendum on President Obama, no?

HALEY BARBOUR:  If I said that —

GWEN IFILL:  That’s not —

HALEY BARBOUR:  — it’s not what I meant.  I don’t think I said it.  But what I said is if it’s about Obama’s record, he doesn’t have a chance.  Romney’s got to make — so Obama’s going to try to make it about — Romney’s going to try to make it about — I mean, Obama’s going to try to make it about Romney as a bad person.

Romney’s going to make it as Romney, the guy who can solve the problems facing the country that have gotten worse under Obama because of Obama’s policy.  And so, yes, Romney is going to be selling, here is the alternative that I propose.  But it is proposing, is it all turning to a failed group of policies that have made the country worse, not better.

GWEN IFILL:  But it sounds like you’re saying that the — a lot of this, the attack on Obama needs to come from others in this campaign and not so much from Governor Romney himself.

HALEY BARBOUR:  The challenger’s just not as well-known.  You know, the president in your living room every day.  The challenger’s not as well — he needs to focus his time on letting people see more and more and more and more of Mitt Romney, because they like what they see, the more — the more they see.  But there’s got to be in this always — a reelection campaign is always a referendum on the president’s record.

GWEN IFILL:  Governor, you’re many things, including a political strategist.  Is there going to be a bounce out of this convention?

HALEY BARBOUR:  I don’t think there will be much of one, because —

GWEN IFILL:  Why not?

HALEY BARBOUR:  — well, because we put the conventions back to back.  Used to be, be three weeks or a month and boom, boom, boom, you know, we’d go on a five-day road trip and it would be a big deal.

But now that they’ve put them back to back, I think that day’s pretty well gone.  I think it’ll be three weeks after the Democrat convention before we really kind of see how we are starting out the general election campaign, which of course started this week here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  In your home, in the South, has been solidly — almost solidly Republican for a long time.

Is Romney — Gov. Romney going to just take that for granted and (inaudible) doesn’t really have to do any campaigning in —

HALEY BARBOUR:  Well, ma’am, he’s sure not —

JUDY WOODRUFF:  — your home state of Mississippi?

HALEY BARBOUR:  Well, he doesn’t need to come campaign in Mississippi.  He’s been there two or three times already.  But Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, we still consider them the South.  And he’s going to have to fight for those and fight hard for them.


MARK SHIELDS:  Governor, we’ve seen Susana Martinez.  We’ve seen Mark Sandoval.  We’ve seen a very heavy Latino presence here.  Yet you and Jeb Bush in particular have been quite critical of Gov. Romney’s immigration policies.

What would be your recommendation to him?  I mean, he ran on a very strident and stringent immigration — almost an endorsement of Jan Brewer and Arizona’s law in the primaries, much to the right of Gingrich and Perry and the others.  What’s your — what’s your suggestion to him to reach out to Latino voters.

HALEY BARBOUR:  First of all, we know that we’re not going to have real immigration reform till we secure the border.  That’s got to be the first thing, Democrat or Republican, no matter what.

But once we secure the border, then we need to make an immigration policy in the United States that faces up to the fact we’re in a global battle for capital and a global battle for labor, and that this is part of the labor that we need as we become more and more an aging population — that’s gray-headed Baby Boomers.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So you’re saying that the party hasn’t made that message as clear as it should so far?  Is that what I hear you saying?

HALEY BARBOUR:  I think Romney can do better this year.  But this is — this is not really a between-now-and-November policy.  This is next year and the going forward, where the policy is really — because you’ve got to secure the border first.

If you ask — if you ask Alan Simpson, he will tell you, Simpson-Mazzoli, the last big immigration bill, passed under Reagan, a Republican, failed because they didn’t secure the borders.  And people lost confidence.  It didn’t mean anything.

GWEN IFILL:  We’re keeping an eye on the floor for the next speakers, but I think we have time for one more question, David.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yes, I think that a bunch of reformed Republican governors — you, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker — all who came into office knowing that you’d face tough choices.  And they laid out the cuts (inaudible).  So when they want to —

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And of course —

DAVID BROOKS:  — that question —

GWEN IFILL:  We’ve got to cut in —

DAVID BROOKS:  — no one answered.  There was going to be a tough —

GWEN IFILL:  We promise you on the floor.  Think about that question.

Thank you, Governor.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Gov. Barbour.

And we go down to hear Tom —

GWEN IFILL:  OK, David, we were misinformed.

Answer the question, Governor.

DAVID BROOKS:  OK, let me finish it — that Mitt Romney — you guys all laid out tough cuts so you’d have a mandate.  Gov. Romney really hasn’t laid out too many cuts, cuts except public broadcasting.

Do you think that’s —

HALEY BARBOUR:  That’s not a tough cut.


GWEN IFILL:  Aw, come on, Governor.

DAVID BROOKS:  Give us back our mug!


HALEY BARBOUR:  By the way, you know, we didn’t cut public broadcasting in Mississippi any more than anything else.  I mean, we truly — like we treated everything else.  But we did — we reduced it some.  And that — and they’re doing just fine, thank you.

I think it’s unfair to say to somebody you’ve got to lay out all this in precision when nobody said that to Barack Obama.  I mean, you go back and look at Barack Obama’s proposals in 2008, there wasn’t all this great specificity.  I mean, it was hope and change, but it wasn’t a — you know, I’m — we’re going to do this jot net tittle.  That’s not normal in a presidential campaign.

Frankly, I thought his 59-point economic plan made my eyes —


GWEN IFILL:  OK.  Tell them that.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Gov. Haley Barbour, we thank you for being with us.