TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

today Meet The Press is going to have a "Mitt Romney vs. Newt Gingrich debate" in which John McCain debates Fred Thompson. Also we'll have David Axelrod. Hmmm. Wonder if he'll have something to say about the election?

Good morning and welcome once again to your Sunday morning liveblog of televised, politics-related gasbagging. My name is Jason, and congratulations -- you have almost made it through the first month of 2012. And you probably have not had to "suspend your campaign" or "dissolve your super PAC" or "return to Texas to find out that everyone's a lot less into you." And the good news? There is only ONE debate scheduled between now and the end of February. (Note to various media organizations: do not add any, you are not that good at staging them, anyway, thanks very much!)

As always, however, today's show will be thick with 2012 speculation. And, as always, you are free to hang out with one another in the comments, drop me an email, or follow me on Twitter as I struggle to figure out how War Horse got nominated for Best Picture, and whether it can get a Grammy as well.


Today, Chris Wallace talks to Newt Gingrich, as well as Newt's favorite right-wing radical social engineer, Paul Ryan. (This probably won't come up between them, because they are not on at the same time.)

Newt, charitably described at this stage as "one of the two frontrunners," when he's actually fallen well behind Mitt in Florida, is very tangeriney today. Honestly, he needs to be careful while in Florida that no one tries to squeeze him for breakfast juice. His face looks so plump and fresh!

Anyway, Chris Wallace wants to know what happened in the past five days that he's gone from being way up in the polls to being way down. Newt explains that Mitt is a bis ol' Moneybags McGee, spending Goldman Sacks of Cash in Florida, making it rain at this club, and the club is the No Newts Allowed Club, hollaback, y'all. "He has a basic policy of carpetbombing his opponent," he says, because Gingrich is Indochina in the late 1960s. He says, "We've actually been pulling away from him in national polls," and that the problem remains that he's splitting the conservative vote with Rick Santorum. (That assumes a lot about Santorum's voters -- they may not have Newt as their second choice.)

He does lament the fact that he's recently won endorsements or support from Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Rudy Giuliani, and that is too bad, because -- wait...sorry, is he actually celebrating these supporters? Oh, wow. Okay.

"I give the Romney campaign due respect for their sheer volume of negativity and the amount of money they raised on Wall Street," says Newt, who doesn't sound like he's giving them "respect."

Gingrich says he's expecting a close race in Florida, and says that he's doing what he can to convince Floridians that Romney is a liberal. He says he's getting help from Fred Thompson and Todd Palin and Herman Cain...and, you know, those are some amazingly influential people in politics, right? Total Game Changers. "I had no idea what I was going to do with my primary vote, but then that dude on that snowmobile was like, 'Huh, Newt is like a bag of warm jelly! You just stick your hands elbow deep into his guts and it keeps you warm when you're stuck on the tundra!"

Wallace points out this ad that Romney is running in Florida that features Tom Brokaw yakking about Gingrich's terrible career in politics. But it's really crazy misleading and so Gingrich is understandably mad about it.

"The reason I was relatively flat in Thursday's debate is that I don't know how to debate a person who just stands there...and blatantly doesn't tell the truth," Gingrich says. This is kind of a problem! But I recommend you just call him a liar! Say, "Hey, you are a liar!" Play him this Henry Rollins song:

You know, go nuts!

Newt says that when he said "language of the ghetto" he wasn't referring to Spanish-speakers, even though he apologized for his remarks in Spanish, and hey, don't you know that "ghetto" refers to Jewish neighborhoods? How do you like this farkakte explanation, Fox News Sunday?

What's up with Gingrich's war on "elites?" Gingrich says that he is referring to "Romney's key supporters." Newt, he just wants to "change Washington." He is totally not an elite, and he barely knows Washington at all, right? "Hey, what's with all the diagonal roads named after states, am I right?" asks Gingrich, when he becomes President.

Wallace notes that Bob Dole hates Gingrich's crazy stank guts. Newt says simply that the GOP can't nominate moderates because they lose, like Dole lost, ha, ha, suck it Bob Dole. Meanwhile, he was getting the House GOP re-elected, despite the fact that Bob Dole was stinking it up on the top of the ticket. "I think Senator Dole is a quintessential part of the establishment," says the guy who's been on more Sunday shows since I started liveblogging them than Bob Dole has.

Now Paul Ryan is here to talk about the upcoming budget from the House GOP, and to throw shade on President Obama's State of the Union address. Ryan says that the President's policies are divisive and that "fairness and equality," when he talks about it, is nothing but "crony capitalism" and "debt, doubt, and decline."

Wallace points out that with Obama proposing the "Buffet rule" against the backdrop of revelations that Mitt Romney pays an unbelievably low tax rate is sort of at "at its simplest basis, fair." Ryan says it's an over simplification and the tax increases don't cover the spending Obama proposes. (It may be covered by other means, though?) And also, to Ryan's reckoning, it kills jobs -- though I really don't know how much more money we can possibly give "the wealthy who are job creators" unless it actually takes a check from America for "all the money" and made out to "CASH" in order to get people working again.

(That said, the "Buffet rule" is the very model of a piece of election year legislation that's proposed without any worry that it's actually going to become law.)

Ryan says "What we have learned with the President is that he's going to put some poll-tested line in the State of the Union address and there's going to be no follow-up whatsoever." this Ryan's first experience with a State of the Union address? Or politics? Someone should really introduce Paul Ryan to this guy named "Paul Ryan" who is a representative from Wisconsin's 1st District and never speaks but the regurgitated marm that pollsters have spat into his throat.

Ryan is upset about the commissions and Super Committees that the President formed and which Paul Ryan was on, but sucked at, like everyone on those committees.

Paul Ryan, on the Budget Control Act: "If that's the solution to our fiscal crisis, then heaven help us." time just raise the debt ceiling like a normal person instead of turning the matter into some long saga of fictional demagoguery?

Ryan says that he'll be writing the House's budget in March, and it will look like the budget proposals he's made in the past. Wallace points out that the big flaw in Ryan's Medicare reform is that the "premium support" he'll give seniors gets less and less valuable over time, driving up their health care costs. Ryan says, "Yeah, but Medicare is going bankrupt." I've been saying this all along -- Ryan's plan DEFINITELY solves the spending crisis, because it LITERALLY stops paying money to keep retirees alive. But it doesn't "save Medicare" or "make Medicare more fiscally sound."

Naturally, Ryan promises that he'll not change entitlements for anyone who's currently 55 or older, because he needs their votes.

Ryan then goes on to say a bunch of strange things about the IPAB in the Affordable Care Act, on the assumption that you have not read this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this or this.

Wallace wants to know what Ryan thinks about "the tenor of the campaign." He says that "we need to defend the morality of the free enterprise system." Which sounds to me like he's upset about Newt Gingrich's attacks on Bain Capital. (Ryan has stayed neutral in the race.) He has no "second thoughts" about not running for President himself. (He has far more influence on the policy discussion from a Congressional seat that's easy to win in a re-election campaign.)

Chris Wallace made Ryan a birthday cake, which is an adorable moment from your always adversarial media, right? Ryan won't eat it because he does not eat "sweets." He does agree to cut the cake. Everyone laughs. Ryan is a bit embarrassed. The cake says, "Whatever." And we all understand America a little bit less now.

Is it panel time yet? Yes it is. Today, we have Brit Hume, A.B. Stoddard, Paul Gigot, and well-renumerated speed bag Juan Williams.

Hume says tht it looks like everything is coming up Romney in Florida, and that in South Carolina, the mistake Romney made was assuming that Gingrich was dead in New Hampshire. In Florida, they have beaten Newt over the head with millions of dollars in ads. He says, though, that Gingrich won't be "dead" after Florida because Gingrich is "wily." Like a cartoon ferret!

Stoddard says that the Romney campaign has "gotten it's act together" -- which means they spent a lot of money, polishing their act, which was a "turd" and is not a "gold-lead painted turd served on a silver charger." Also, Romney "stole the thunder" at the Florida debates.

Gigot says that if Romney wins Florida, it puts him in a "strong position" to win because of -- yes! -- MONEY. Newt and Rick Santorum would have to demonstrate that they can win somewhere between now and Super Tuesday. Those contests, however, are not too showy! Williams says that the way February works is going to prevent Romney's competitors from creeping up on him, because the process has been so frontloaded. He notes that the absence of the debates are going to help Romney.

"He's died twice and has been resuscitated," says Wallace, of Newt. But it's debates that have served as defibrillators.

On to the State of the Union address! Gigot says that the SOTU proves that Obama can't run on his record -- it's weird to him that the Affordable Care Act wasn't mentioned a lot during the address, given that (he admits) doctors love it. (I sort of thought that it wasn't mentioned because it had already passed the Congress some time ago? That's just me, though! I guess lots of people expected Obama to show up and bang on and on about a long-since-passed piece of legislation?) He goes on to say that the GOP candidate will lose the long argument if they're incapable of making the moral care for the free market.

Williams says he's stunned to hear Gigot say he'll win that argument (under those conditions). Hume says that in elections like this, certain economic conditions make the electorate more willing to change course, and if the GOP has a reasonable candidate, they can win. He says that the mistake the GOP could make is to pursue the matter simply by nominating "the most conservative candidate they can find." (There is a lot of talking down Newt today!) He reckons that outside of these factors, the President's SOTU will rally his base but not necessarily win an election.

Is a recovery starting to take root? Gigot says it's slow -- not anxiety inducing, but not terribly strong. He says that it will force the GOP candidate to do some case-making about the economy.

Williams is asked about the whole Obama vs. Jan Brewer matter from this week. As Alex Pareene points out, everybody won! Her book sales went up, and Obama probably won the vote of every Hispanic voter in Arizona.


Hey, it's time for the new one hour version of Face The Nation. It will be a lot like the half-hour version of Face The Nation except you won't sit there wondering, "Are they trying to KILL Bob Schieffer?" Things will be chill. There will be time for things. Like talking to Donald Trump and Dave Barry, and...okay, this show is still trying to talk to like, twenty-five people. But that's okay, as long as Bob Schieffer can relax a little.

Donald Trump has apparently said that if the GOP nominates someone who can't win, he will run, and also not win, except he'll not win even more embarrassingly. But more on that later. First, we have an interview with Newt Gingrich.

Schieffer asks if Gingrich hasn't inadvertently made Romney a better debater. Gingrich says that you should give credit for that to Romney's new debate coach, and also Romney lying his face off. POP! Off comes his face and out come lies! Gingrich assures us that the time he paused, in stunned silence, for like an hour at the debate last week, was because of a brain numbing lie that Romney told, with his face.

This lie was over Romney voting for Paul Tsongas. Who out there though that Paul Tsongas would become such a big deal in this election. EVERYONE NEEDS TO ANSWER FOR WHAT THEY WERE DOING FOR OR AGAINST PAUL TSONGAS. We literally cannot proceed until everyone comes clean. TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT PAUL TSONGAS. No, no! Not Paul Simon. He was from Illinois. Though hold that thought, we should find out what was going on there, too!

Dick Gephardt wonders why he doesn't matter to anyone. OH GEPHARDT, you didn't matter to anyone ever!

Anyway, Gingrich will keep running, even if he loses Florida, but that he might win Florida, because Romney is such a lying liar about everything.

Michele Bachmann is here, now, to talk about the race. She says that she does not want to weigh in on whether or not someone is lying or not. She's here to say that the Florida result is going to be "significant across the nation," and well, gee, thanks for that. I mean you don't say? Terrific. ("And from there we'll move in to the caucus's not over," says Bachmann, who is apparently the Siri of banal electoral facts.)

She says that she "always thinks the best" about the GOP candidates and always "ascribes the best motives" to the people who want to make Obama "a one term president," even if they are lying. She wants to be a unifying figure. Schieffer says that Sarah Palin had a lot to say about the matter on Facebook, and Bachmann says, "You know, I'm not going to respond to something that's on a Facebook page. I put myself out here. I don't have statements drawn up by committee and bleated out to the world through a few links being clicked. Okay? I come here. I show up. I put my real face behind these words. I've got nothing to say about anyone who doesn't." HA KIDDING, she doesn't say that, but it would be awesome if someone did, right?

Bachmann says the Tea Party is "infusing" the GOP, like high-quality artisanal bitters. And everyone will unify behind the eventual nominee. It's totally normal, she says, to have candidates wanting to stab needles in each other's eyes. And now Bachmann and Schieffer are getting attacked by helicopters.

Now here's Donald Trump, for some reason. He says he's still thinking about running, because the country is "going to hell in a handbasket." He would run as an independent, on the Celebrity Apprentice ticket. All of the GOP candidates are being nasty and mean and are hurting their chances, unless of course they are not hurting their chances, and are actually getting stronger by being totally awful to each other. So really Trump could go in a lot of directions, okay? Did he remember to plug his show? Kind of. Good enough, I guess.

And that's it from Donald Trump! On, now, to Reince Priebus. ONLY TWELVE MINUTES HAVE PASSED. This show is still bonkers!

Schieffer, citing the Newsweek cover that features Mitt and Newt as Roman gladiators, asks Priebus if he'd ever seen Newt without his shirt on. HOLLA! Okay this show just got awesome! You can literally hear the "Thwish!" sound as Priebus' testicles swim back inside his body at the thought. Or were those mine, making that noise? Either way, we are now at the "Bob Schieffer After Dark" phase of this show.

Priebus says that "this is a primary" and "primaries are tough" and that tough primaries "make candidates stronger" and that "winners come out of tough primaries."

But Donald Trump is worried about it. "F--k a Donald Trump," Priebus says, "Seriously, I can count on zero fingers, the number of s--ts I give about Donald Trump. Trump can seriously go __________ a _________ with his ___________ in __________, and I mean, one of the sticky ones." KIDDING, he did not say this, but wouldn't it be awesome if he did?

Priebus says Obama is Captain Schettino for "abandoning his job and campaigning for President." Schieffer is like, "Huh, wha?" And Priebus has to explain the joke. "You made me think of it with the ships behind you. Bob." So...there's a metaphor that's going to quietly die. (Also, are you not allowed to run for election in an election year? That seems like a pretty dumb standard. If Romney wins, is the RNC going to take the whole last year of his first term off?)

Priebus is asked about Sarah Palin's Facebook page, and he says "She taps into a good point." But I've forgotten what that point was, now, because when's the last time I gave a crap about a Facebook status update? Most of mine are just the things that Tracy Morgan says on 30 Rock.

Priebus says that primaries are tough, man. Has he pointed that out, yet? So it's okay for the candidates to yell at each other and call each other liars.

"We will be back in one minute," says Schieffer.

And we're back with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is from Florida. She says that she's not enjoying the "extreme Republican field" and their lack of concern for foreclosures and Medicare and anything else related to senior citizens.

Will Rubio end up on the ticket, and if so, will the GOP carry Florida? She says no, and Mitt Romney's priorities are not aligned with Floridians. "As nice a guy as Rubio is, he's not going to be able to salvage these extreme positions."

Some polls says that Obama will win Florida and some say that he will lose Florida. Can you guess which variety the head of the DNC prefers to talk about? You get three guesses.

DWS says that Trump's suggestion that he might jump into the race is "emblematic" of how negative and extreme the GOP nominating race has become. I'd say it's just emblematic of the fact that Trump will vomit his ego-overload into any conveniently located teevee camera, regardless of what's happening in the world.

Okay, so, some affiliates have not yet picked up the full, hour-long version of this show, which explains why there was so much stuffing and teasing in the last half hour.

Now we have Allen West, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Michele Bachmann again. West is wearing an orange tracksuit, because he's come from running a half-marathon, but also because it's the official apparel of people who wake up in the morning already having given up on life, and thus, the official apparel of people who live in Florida. (Have I mentioned that my own parents are trying to move out of Florida? They are. It is like the movie "Escape From New York" except it involves the more frequent use of the word "lenai.")

Anyway, Diaz-Balart is "with Romney" and thinks that big issue is the economy and the Obama administration is a failure and Romney is "the name that keeps surfacing after all the dust settles." West says that he is also focused on the economy -- and can speak on the matter with some greater specificity than Diaz-Balart, who talks in bumper stickers -- but has not picked a candidate to support and is more generically concerned with the legislative branch.

Schieffer says he can't get a fix on what the "GOP establishment" is anymore. Bachmann says that the Republican Party is much better than it was in George Romney's day, way back when, because there wasn't a Tea Party. She says that the Tea Party has been a force for good, but really...if we factor out lawmakers like Justin Amash, the Tea Party Freshmen have been totally subsumed into the establishment. West talks about how he came around to voting on the Budget Control Act and how he had to explain his vote to his Tea Party backers, and, let's not be silly: the reason he voted the way he did is that he's made it to Washington, and it's time to become a clapped out party insider.

And eventually, you become like Mario Diaz-Balart...who is kind of dull, actually? He'll be the guy not invited back to do this show.

Oh, more Donald Trump? Good God, Face The Nation, what Nation are you facing?

Schieffer describes Mar-A-Lago as Trump's "historic private club in Palm Beach." OH WOW, IT MADE HISTORY?

Anyway, here's everything that Trump says in the form of one, long, run-on sentence that's unreadable and strange -- to the extent that if you read it out loud into your bathroom mirror it will summon demons from hell, to scourge your skin and pluck your teeth from your face as you scream in ecstatic, hideous, relentless pain:

Trump says that he loves Newt's debating ability and was stunned that he suddenly started sucking at it, because the people just clapped and clapped but Newt does have some baggage you know but also Mitt is good at some things and maybe his health care reform is a liability, who knows but he's doing well and Newt is also doing well and they are both strong and tough and might win the election or they might not, you know, sometimes Mitt is comfortable about all the money he makes and sometimes he's not, and he should be calm about it because it's the American Dream to make millions of dollars a year from just sitting around, but look it's important that whoever is chosen is able to win and maybe some independent candidate can do it -- not him, necessarily! -- ha, ha, he doesn't WANT to do it, but if you need him to do it, after the show he's hosting is over ends, he'll run...or he'll endorse a candidate who can win, if a candidate who wins emerges, and if not he'll run but he likes doing what he's doing now, which is coming on teevee and confusing people, for the hell of it.

Okay, we are going to have a Florida panel in Florida with Jon Dickerson, Mark Caputo, and Dave Barry. What? They couldn't get Carl Hiassen as well?

Barry says that 2012 has made it depressing to listen to the radio because they are filled with terrible super PAC lies. He snarks, about Trump, "What a courageous patriot."

When did the race shift between Gingrich and Romney? "Tuesday," Caputo says. Okay!

But seriously, he says the Gingrich didn't really come to Florida with much of a plan and after he flailed in the first debate, he didn't really recover. He says that races do tend to tighten up, but Romney's organization has been stellar throughout. And they've been on top of Florida for a long time. "We don't have an election day, we have a hundred election days," Caputo says, noting the prevalence of early voting.

Dickerson says that Newt is going to "lose the opportunity to sell himself" at debates going forward, so if he fails to win Tuesday, it's rough sledding. Barry says that all anyone talks about in Florida is housing and the economy, and he sets Caputo up to note something pretty obvious, which is that: WHY IS NEWT GINGRICH TALKING ABOUT MOON COLONIES? Dickerson says that Romney is back to winning the "general election" electability argument.


Side note: Rick Santorum was originally slated to be a guest on this show today, until medical complications warranted the hospitalization of his youngest daughter. Santorum has apparently returned to Pennsylvania to spend time with his family. Obviously, I wish him and his family the best.

Okay, so today Meet The Press is going to have a "Mitt Romney vs. Newt Gingrich debate" in which John McCain debates Fred Thompson. This would not be possible without NBC News being able to rely on parent company General Electric to provide a sufficient number of microwaves to warm up all the farina this is going to take.

Also we'll have David Axelrod. Hmmm. Wonder if he'll have something to say about the election? And then a panel with Joe Scarborough, Chuck Todd, and Freddie Mac lobbyist Doris Kearns Goodwin.

OH BOY. McCain and Thompson are actually here, together, in the 2012 campaign season's first Presidential Surrogate Lemon Party. But first, Chuck Todd is here to yammer some poll numbers at us -- there's a slight yelpy catch in his voice and an oddness in his posture that tell me that he really needs to wrap up this segment and then race off to find a urinal.

So, what does Florida mean, to John McCain? He says it means even more in 2012 than it did in 2008, and he's glad that "Mitt's doing so well." Ha, ha...this is awesome, watching McCain pretend to like Mitt Romney, personally!

Thompson says, "Hey, you know if these poll numbers play out, Romney's going to win, how about that." COME ON MAN, SURROGATE! Be a surrogate! Thompson says that the winner won't win a lot of delegates, anyway! And so there will be a long race, right? Hey, remember how well Newt did in South Carolina? That was awesome? Why couldn't have had this debate a week ago, no fair!

Gregory points out that Bob Dole said a bunch of mean things about Newt, and Thompson says this is just "some old score-settling going on," and that's not fair, because a lot of the new critics were "holding Newt's coat" back when Newt was winning in the 1990s.

McCain says that the GOP "had some rather unpleasant experiences with Newt Gingrich." PROBABLY AT GEORGETOWN KEY PARTIES, RIGHT? Also, "earmark corruption" and the "K Street Project." Plus, Newt says the Gipper was a "failure" in the Cold War, whereas Romney is the hero of the Winter Olympics.

McCain says, "enough of the debates" because they've become "mud-wrestling" that drives up everyone's negatives. Also, he hates all the super PACs, and he "condemns the Supreme Court for their naivete" in ruling favorably in the Citizens' United case. "I guarantee you there will be a scandal, there's too much money washing around in politics."

"If you really want to talk about money," says Thompson, "I hear Sheldon Adelson asked Mitt Romney for a loan."

"Reverse mortgages," says McCain.

"Soros," says Thompson.

"Click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click!" say the cameras of the National Geographic photographers, gathered here today to document the mating rituals of the American wild coot.

Thompson says that Romney has a million-dollar "attack machine," and if he didn't have that, he wouldn't look so electable. Also, he lies all the time. (Thompson should turn to McCain and say, "Doesn't he lie all the time? Do you remember four years ago, dude?")

Now McCain has to respond to the Facebook page labelled, Sarah Palin. He says he loves Sarah and agrees with her, now that she is squeaky voice inside a social network. But Newt is a egomaniacal Reagan-hater who now attacks people who make money in the private sector.

Gregory points out that back in 2008, McCain said that all of the issues that he now suggests don't matter were entirely relevant. McCain says, "When these things are over, you've got to come together." He also notes that Romney was on McCain's shortlist for vice-president. Why did he opt for Sarah Palin then? The answer is probably on some unreleased tax document, right?

Thompson says that the "underlying issue" is that our country is in "deep trouble" and "on the brink" and the economy "has stopped" (actually, GDP numbers were high last quarter) and the "Obama recession" needs to be countered by someone "courageous and tough" not a "bean counter or data processor." He says that Mitt's capital gains policy "tracks with Obama's" and that he hasn't yet explained the difference between RomneyCare and ObamaCare.

John McCain says, of the Obama-Brewer dustup, that Brewer has a legitimate point in that Obama has not visited the border between Arizona and Mexico, which McCain himself had never given a crap about until it was determined he needed to in order to win an election. (This is probably why McCain really like Romney as a candidate.)

This is McCain's sixty-third appearance on Meet The Press, tying Bob Dole, in a record that is probably meaningful to somebody, somewhere.

Now, David Axelrod is here, to probably say good things about President Obama, I'm guessing?

Axelrod starts my saying that David Brooks is a "great public thinker," so my brain went a little numb there, for a minute.

When it starts tracking again, Axelrod is being harangued by David Gregory to tell America what they'll have "less of," because it's time to make "tough choices." There's always something slightly embarrassing to the human race, whenever Gregory starts off on his "make some tough choices" schtick. "There was nothing to deal with the big drivers of the debt," he mewls. (Those big drivers, of course, are two wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the terrible Part D prescription policy, but that's not what Gregory is talking about. He'd like Axelrod's "tough choice" to be, "Let's give senior citizens' tins of Friskies and call it a century.")

Anyway, Axelrod points out that the White House offered a "grand bargain" of four billion in new cuts, one billion in new revenue, and adjustments to the Medicare eligibility age, and John Boehner liked it, because you'd have to be daft not to, except that daftness had taken root in his caucus and it was scuttled. The fact that this happened remains the biggest story of the past two years that the media refuses to talk about, there's been a general consensus that we're to forget it happened, and I honestly don't know Axelrod restrains himself from showering Gregory with fists.

"It seemed that Mitt Romney ws very much on the President's mind during the State of the Union," says Gregory, proving that not every totally obvious thing in the world eludes him, hopelessly.

Axelrod says that no one is saying that Romney didn't play by the rules, "the question is, are those rules right?...he has these special benefits that the middle class can't avail themselves of."

Gregory wants to know why they just can't rip up the social safety net, because TOUGH CHOICES. Axelrod points out that the middle class' wages and earnings have shrunk over the past many years, probably because of the net effect of decades of political choices that everyone thought would be easy.

Axelrod says that Romney made the same arguments about his private sector experience when he ran for Governor, and then he presided over job losses. Be careful, there! Remember you have to also run on the amazing wisdom of Governor Romney's health care plan!

Can Obama mount the "job destruction" argument against Romney? Axelrod says yes.

Gregory wants to know what the difference between what Bain Capital does and the federal government investing in Solyndra. Do we have a half an hour to patiently explain to Gregory what "private equity companies" are and what a "leveraged buyout" is? In small words? That he can understand?

What does Axelrod think will happen in the race? He thinks it could go on long, that Mitt is a "weak frontrunner" who's only overwhelming Newt by out-spending him. He says that unlike the Obama-Clinton battle, the Romney-Gingrich battle is causing Romney's numbers to go down. (They are, but not as significantly as Gingrich's are. I think that if Romney gets through the primary being called a "Massachusetts liberal" at every turn, Romney's general election "tack to the center" is going to look like he's moving to his right.)

Okay, time for the Scarborough-Todd-Goodwin Panel of Whimsy!

Scarborough says that it's funny to watch all of Romney's advisors are taking credit for making up for their candidate's shortcomings, but really, if he goes back and re-reads the news from the campaign trail as early as June 2011, you'll see that this Romney operation has always been one where the operators have really outperformed their candidate. Now, things get kind of simple, because they are one of two "operations" left...and the other one is Ron Paul's. Gingrich and Santorum are basically running on campaigns made of sticky tape and chicken bones.

Scarborough says that everything is going to go on a long time because various wings of the party are freaking out on each other, and Palin is comparing the DC establishment to Stalin, and it's all bonkers and hurting the GOP.

Goodwin points out that if Gingrich was to agree to an actual "Lincoln Douglas debate," the audience would scream for blood to be shed. (She also says that Romney's privileged experience seems to be of the sort that leaves people to wonder if he's spent any time at all contemplating the lives of ordinary people. File that under: "Uhm, ya think?" But also remember that everyone running for President is crazy affluent and never not getting paid again.)

Chuck Todd says that the phrase "Swiss Bank Account" will become the attack ad of the season. I am still holding out hope for "Slovakian Goat Brothel," but I fear it's losing the moment.

Scarborough says Newt will be back because "February is a down month" and that gives him a lot of time to work with strategists -- except he doesn't have any strategists? And there are no debates to keep him alive? I doubt it.

Todd says, no, Romney and Paul are going to do great, and Newt could go 0-6 going into Super Tuesday, and that's what I would bet on happening. But I wouldn't bet $10,000!

Goodwin assures us that the 2012 GOP race is not anywhere near as nastly as when people were singing really scabrous songs about Martin Van Buren. Hey, everyone, remember that people sang about Martin Van Buren belonged in Hell the next time some jerkwad complains that "blogs ruined the discourse," okay? Or go to the Newseum and watch the exhibit on the Sedition Act? You'll learn that since the nation was founded, its discourse has perpetually been one step from a fen.

"I'm from Los Angeles, I didn't know what this meant," says Dave Gregory, in a phrase that should hang over the set of Meet The Press.

Oh, no. Meet the Press isn't doing that thing where they read Tweeteck and then re-report the content of their own show, which is bad news for anyone counting on that McCain-Thompson slapfight to "go viral."

But that means we are at the merciful end of another Sunday's helping of politics chat. And it's time to...uhm, great...go grocery shopping. Oh, well. Florida primary on Tuesday, catch the fever, etc., and have a great week!

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