Return to Transcripts main page


Can Christie Help Republicans Win?

Aired November 4, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, who is the face of the Republican future? Tea Party purity or New Jersey pragmatism?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The whole country is watching, everybody. The whole country is watching.

ANNOUNCER: democGovernor Chris Christie isn't shy about working with Democrats or getting in your face.

CHRISTIE: Excuse me. No, excuse me.

ANNOUNCER: On the left Stephanie Cutter, on the right Larry Elder, in the CROSSFIRE, Steve LaTourette, a Republican moderate and Rick Tyler, a conservative strategist. Is Chris Christie writing the playbook for how Republicans can win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're running for president on our backs. You're running for president on our backs!



LARRY ELDER, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Larry Elder on the right.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: And I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Steve LaTourette and Rick Tyler.

A big reelection win tomorrow will certainly make Chris Christie a top Republican candidate for 2016, but here's the problem. For both Democrats and Republicans, it's just that Chris Christie has a Mitt Romney feel to him. Romney may not have picked him as a running mate, but he sure sang Christie's praises yesterday on "Meet the Press."


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at Chris Christie and say that's a very impressive guy with a great track record, with a demonstrated ability to work across the aisle, with support of labor and blue-collar voters in New Jersey. There's a long list of very capable people, but Chris Christie stands out as one of the very strongest lights in the Republican Party.


CUTTER: Here's an even bigger problem. Even though Christie has an air of authenticity that Mitt Romney didn't have, you don't run in a vacuum. If Christie runs in 2016, Democrats are going to hit him for being against women making their own health care decisions, absolutely. But Republicans will hit him for giving money to Planned Parenthood. Republicans will say he's a reformer. Democrats will say his state was 45th in job creation.

This sounds awfully familiar, Larry. It's like take us back four years ago; we're at the exact same place.

ELDER: Well, Stephanie, those of us who are Republican from the Republican wing of the party have a problem with Republicans like Chris Christie. Good guy. I certainly would prefer him over any Democrat that could be tossed up, but has he accepted the architecture of the welfare state: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and now even Obama care? Or is he going to be one of those guys like Ted Cruz, who's going to attack the welfare state, roll back the welfare state, and empower individuals in the states? That's our concern.

CUTTER: OK, well, let's bring in our guests tonight. It's a full Republican table. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Steve LaTourette...


CUTTER: Steve LaTourette. He's a former Republican congressman and a Chris Christie supporter. Also Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who isn't a Christie fan.

Since you're our guest host tonight, Larry, why don't you ask the first question?

ELDER: Thank you. Steve, one of my problems with Chris Christie was during Superstorm Sandy. He stand up there and he brazenly embraces Obama and asked for federal funding. I get it; as an elected politician, you've got to bring home the bucks. But couldn't he have at least said something like, "When I run in 2016, I'm going to make sure that I don't federalize disaster relief and that this boondoggle known as FEMA, started in 1976 under Jimmy Carter, was a bad idea? But I've got to do what I've got to do for my state"? Shouldn't he have said something like that?

LATOURETTE: No. He shouldn't have. He did exactly what he was supposed to do as the governor of New Jersey. His people were hurting. The program, FEMA, was in place, whether you like it; whether you don't like it. And he went to the guy that had the money to help his folks out that were under water. So I don't have any difficulty with -- I love Chris Christie. Chris Christie is where the Republican Party needs to find itself as we move forward.

CUTTER: Isn't this the problem, though, between a Republican Party that wants to stand on principles versus a Republican Party that wants to govern? I mean, $30 billion in damages to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, something like $65 billion in damages to the country. Rick, isn't this the dynamic in the Republican Party right now? One side wants to govern; the other side wants to stand on issues?

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's a little of both. I mean, in order to win elections, I think you do have to stand for something. And one of the problems that I do have with Chris Christie was his recent speech with the RNC where he says, you know, "All I care about is winning." And we've seen that before. And you really do have to stand for something, because otherwise, you don't have a coalition to bring you forward to winning. And I would say to Governor Christie, OK, if we win, we get what?

Now I would say, with the storm, look, he had to do what he had to do. I do think, though, there was a little bit of probably a little too -- a little cozy with the president, knowing it was the final days of Mitt Romney, and now having understood what Mark Halperin wrote in his book, game -- where the game changers double down. That might have been a little bit of a thumb in the eye. I'm not sure. And that's a style that Christie might have to address.

CUTTER: He absolutely does have that style. Nothing really holds him back from exactly what he wants to say.

ELDER: Steve, the problem is this. In 1900, at all three levels of government -- federal, state and local -- government took less than 10 percent of the American people's money. Now we're talking about 35 percent, and when you add a dollar value to mandates, you're talking about almost 50 percent. Where's the outrage on the part of the Republican Party?

LATOURETTE: Well, the outrage is there, but you know what? If you look at where the Republican Party is trying to go, the governing wing of the party, look at Dave Camp and Paul Ryan and other folks that are trying to do comprehensive tax reform that you need to do to get part of the big deal, they're talking about taking tax rates to 25 percent. That's a Republican principle.

But what stands in its way are people who won't even talk about revenue, because God forbid, if you take out all the exemptions and deductions and you let people play 25 percent, somebody is going to pay a little bit more, and because they've been riding the back of the taxpayer with some loophole that was put in for sugar or whatever the case may be.

ELDER: You use terms like "revenue." You mean taxes?

LATOURETTE: No, I mean revenue.

ELDER: You mean taxes.

LATOURETTE: Of course. Where does the revenue come from?

ELDER: It's a euphemism. Republicans use terms like taxes and federal dollars...

CUTTER: There are a lot of people at the top who aren't paying any taxes, and I think that's what you're talking about, Congressman LaTourette. There has to be a reforming... LATOURETTE: There's a lot of people who aren't paying taxes at all.

CUTTER: There has to be reform at the tax system, which means that some people who have been taking advantage of loopholes have to actually start taking -- paying taxes. And by doing that, you can lower rates for...

LATOURETTE: To 25 percent.

ELDER: Government is too big. We shouldn't be talking about revenues. We should be talking about what we can do to reduce government.

LATOURETTE: Well, listen to me...

TYLER: What we need to do is grow the economy. When you grow the economy -- there's no way you're going to be able to solve the problem by cutting, cutting, cutting or even....

CUTTER: I agree with you.

LATOURETTE: Not realistic. Not realistic.

TYLER: But cutting taxes and returning power to the private sector -- and this is what the government just did, is they took one- sixth of the economy and they gave it to the government. All that money is out of the private sector. None of that money goes toward learning. None of that money goes toward innovation. All that money is essentially off the table for job creation. And that's where we've been in the last seven years.

ELDER: That's the reason we have 10 percent GDP. We've got a president who dropped Obama care on us, imposed taxes on rich people, deregulated the economy.

CUTTER: There's a lot of proposals that this president has put out there that has closed loopholes for people who aren't paying enough taxes, or sending it overseas, so that we could invest in the economy, whether it's infrastructure or education, which we should all be for, or training the next generation of workers.

ELDER: Stephanie, why are these...

CUTTER: That actually does create jobs.

ELDER: Why are these investments giving up a 2 percent GDP?

CUTTER: Well, why are Republicans standing in the way for these job-creating proposals?

TYLER: Because they don't work. They're not jobs. It's like creating a lead airplane.

CUTTER: Then you're standing on the other side of Chamber of Commerce, Republicans all over this country... TYLER: I'm happy to. I'm happy to do that.

CUTTER: ... who actually know how to create jobs.

TYLER: Chamber of Commerce is a...


TYLER: Job creators create jobs.

CUTTER: But let's get back to what we're talking about here. Rick, you've worked on campaigns.

TYLER: Sure.

CUTTER: A lot of campaigns, and we're talking about basically two Republican parties here. So what is your view of people like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul? Are those political purists? Could they win a national election?

TYLER: Well, I'll name a few more. There's Bobby Jindal, Mike Lee, Tim Scott. I mean, it seems to me the Republican Party has all the riches on our side, and we're not here talking about Joe Biden running for president, because that would be boring. We're talking about these great personalities, a plethora of riches...

CUTTER: Actually would be boring.

TYLER: It would be entertaining in a different way.

ELDER: We've got a deep -- we've got a deep bench. Republicans control 30 of the state houses. People forget that.

CUTTER: Well, great. Who is the purist that we're talking about here? Who's the purist that can abolish the welfare state that you're talking about?

ELDER: Well, I happen to be one of those guy who believes good principles also equals good politics. And I think that Ted Cruz in the short run hurt the Republican Party, but in the long run, I think he's let people know that the Republican Party stands for something.

CUTTER: That cost us tens of billions of dollars.

ELDER: And Obama care -- Obama care is an assault on this country. Most doctors don't like it. It's going to make our health care worse, and Obama made a bunch of promises that turned out not to be true.

LATOURETTE: No, no, Larry, that was a horrible decision, and it was a dumb strategy. And that really is the difference between the two wings of the party that we're going to figure out before the 2014 election. Is whether you like it or not, the American people have returned divided government to Washington.

The Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Democrats the Senate and the president, of course, is a Democrat. And so governing means that you have to find the doable. And sadly, the names that have been mentioned here tonight think that you have to be pure like Caesar's wife or Ivory soap, or whatever the case may be, and you can't deviate from that. And God forbid you should find common ground and actually work something out.

To think you're going to filibuster for 21 hours on the House floor and shut down the government, bring us to the risk of default, and all of a sudden in the face of that President Obama down at the other end of Pennsylvania avenue is going to go, "You're right, Obama care stinks." See, that's ridiculous.

ELDER: Ten Democrats later on turned around and said the individual mandate should be delayed.

LATOURETTE: Well, that's a whole different story.

ELDER: Republicans...

LATOURETTE: That is a whole different story.


TYLER: The Democrats are begging the Republicans to please delay this, and we ended up shutting down the government, which I believe actually, currently is a liability but could be an asset. When people find out how much they're paying a car payment or they're deciding we can't send our child to college, they're deciding between food on the table and their insurance, I think that they will remember that this is Obama care, and the Republicans tried to stop it.

LATOURETTE: But see, that's exactly the point. If the Republicans hadn't been horsing around with the government shutdown and getting close to the default, the roll-out of Obama care was horrible. Obama care, the only thing less popular than Obama care in America is the House Republicans and Senator Cruz.

TYLER: It's actually Obama care.

CUTTER: We're going to go to break. Next, the other side of the 2016 presidential race. Lots of Democrats, lots of Americans hope Hillary Clinton will be their nominee. So we'll get to the real question here. Which Republican Party of the two that we've been debating here could actually beat her?

LATOURETTE: Both of them.


ELDER: And welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Steve LaTourette and Rick Tyler.

Now, for Republicans looking beyond tomorrow's election to 2016, isn't the problem that they have a huge disadvantage? I mean, coming out of the gate. My buddy Tim Groseclose teaches at UCLA, wrote a book called "Left Turn," where he tried to quantify the advantage the left-wing media give Democrats. His argument, Democrats have an 8- to 10-point advantage out of the gate. In addition, Republicans face what I call the axis of indoctrination, the title of my next book. Hollywood, the media and academia. That's a much, much deeper problem than what particular candidate Republicans pick, Stephanie.

CUTTER: Well, I'm not a Republican strategist. We all know that. But I disagree with that. First of all, the independent evidence refutes it. If you look at Pew Center, which I think we'll all agree is an independent think tank foundation, 71 percent of the press was negative for Romney. Seventy-two percent of the press was negative for Obama. As someone who handled the press, I can tell you it wasn't all a cakewalk.

But that being said, do you two agree with that? Do you agree that this is actually a problem with how the press covers this? Or do you think you have a problem with message, with party unity, and for actually standing for something?

TYLER: All the above.

LATOURETTE: I think it's both. And you know what? I don't delve into the coverage to see who's getting better coverage or worse coverage. But if you do look at surveys, more people that are in the media self-identify as Democrats if they're -- they're required to do so. So does that give them an advantage? Maybe. But my view is that...

ELDER: I don't mean to interrupt, but just to add a little meat to what I just said, the ombudsperson for "The Washington Post" and the ombudsperson for "The New York Times" both admitted in the coverage of the '08 election, in the case of "New York Times," the coverage of the '12 election, they were biased in favor of the Democratic candidate. Both papers admitted it.

LATOURETTE: Well, I'm not much on ombudsman, and I don't like newspapers, and I don't like editorial writers. But the problem that the party has, and our fight now is to which path are we going to take? Are we going to adapt the path that says that we're not conservative enough, as is going on in Virginia with the Cuccinelli race, or do we need to reach out to a broader audience? And do we need to attract women, and Hispanics, and African-Americans and gay Americans? And my very conservative friends will say, well, the reason Mitt Romney lost is because he was a switch. And so 3 million evangelicals, whoever the case may be, sat at home and voted that for McCain didn't come out for him. I think that that's the nuttiest argument I've ever heard in my life. And you can't win in a national election. You can control the House of Representatives with the gerrymandered districts for both parties, but you can't win a national election just based upon 57-year-old angry white guys that live below the Mason/Dixon line.

TYLER: Hold on. Look, Mitt Romney lost because he wasn't a conservative -- he ran as a conservative, remember a severe conservative? He wasn't a conservative running as a conservative. He was a moderate running as a conservative. Why? Because he couldn't win as a moderate running as a moderate. He couldn't win running as a moderate as a liberal.

LATOURETTE: In the primary or general?

TYLER: In the general. Mitt Romney won -- look, he lost -- he lost five states by 19 votes per precinct. That's a pretty close race, OK? If he was able to run against Obama care, I think Mitt Romney would be president.

CUTTER: I don't disagree with you that Mitt Romney had a purity problem, but I don't think that was a -- he was too liberal or he was too conservative. I think his biggest problem was that he wasn't being authentic.

TYLER: Well, I think that's right.

CUTTER: And he moved to the right to win the nomination. And he tried to move back to the center, and certain things like his own words prevented him from doing that.

But in 2016, if Hillary Clinton runs -- and a lot of us want her to run -- but I'm asking this question as a strategist for your party. Which of the Republicans that we've been talking about here -- maybe there are others on your list -- are best suited to beat her? Is it someone from the far right? Or is it a Chris Christie?

TYLER: First of all, this may not be the answer you want. I don't think Hillary Clinton will run. I think Madam Secretary "What Difference Does It Make" Clinton will not run because the Benghazi thing will be a big problem. And why should she run and lose, as she did to Barack Obama, when she could actually retire with some dignity as the former secretary of state, go off and make great speeches? I don't think she'll run.

But to entertain your question, if she did run, I think there's a number of candidates that could beat her. I think Jindal could beat her. I think Rubio could beat her. I certainly think Rand Paul could beat her. I think...

CUTTER: What about Chris Christie?

TYLER: I think he could beat her, but Chris Christie has an interesting problem. You see, he comes from a blue state. He has moderated on some positions on like the Second Amendment. Not nearly to the extent that Mitt Romney has.

His problem is, is he going to be Giuliani redux? That is, does he show up in Iowa with five black dahlias, SUVs and security detail worthy of the president? That's not going to fly in Iowa. Didn't fly for him.

But Chris Christi has a unique advantage in that he has an expectation, I think, that people in Iowa and other places, South Carolina, won't like him. He can turn -- If he turns, if people come out of those meetings and go, "You know, I expected not to really like him because he's kind of brash and bold, and I've seen him, but I came out liking him, then I think he has a chance." That's his challenge. CUTTER: I guess what I'm really asking about, and Congressman, you've kind of alluded to this, that Republicans left 2012 and started 2013 with a reboot. They were trying to reboot themselves to reach out to women and African-Americans and Hispanics in a much more effective way, to have a more inclusive message and actually stand for something. How do you think that reboot's going?

LATOURETTE: Not so good. I mean, if you look at the 85-page document that the RNC came out with that examines sort of the postmortem of what went wrong in 2012, I adopt most of those principles, but almost as soon as the thing was written, it was abandoned by the part of the party that continues to believe that we have to hew further to the right.

And the thing about Christie...

ELDER: It's a much bigger problem than what I said earlier about the media. When Mitt Romney -- let me finish.

LATOURETTE: I'm shaking my head. I'm not talking.

ELDER: When the 47 percent tape came out, rather than the issue being "Good Lord, how can so many Americans not pay a dime in federal income taxes?" it was "That dastardly Romney. How cold he is? How callous he is?" And the media got away with it. In my opinion, Romney didn't handle that well. Factually, is it true or is it not true that 47 percent of Americans don't pay a dime in federal income taxes, and if it is true, is that tactically a problem for the Republican Party? And the answer is hell yes. And when Mitt Romney made the statement defending it, he went into a retreat.

LATOURETTE: Well, listen, there are a lot of things that are true that just don't make good sound bites. And as a Republican, look, we could blame the media all day long. I think the media has a bias towards the Democrats. I think we're lousy communicators on the Republican side. We have to explain things rather than just saying really simple bumper stickers.

ELDER: I think we're at a disadvantage, because our argument is intellectual (ph) and not emotional.

LATOURETTE: You know what? You can complain about the rules of the game or you can go out and win the game. Republicans can win the game if they act like Republicans. And that doesn't mean acting like the Tea Party. It means acting like Republicans who care about economic freedom, economic -- or individual liberty and individual...

TYLER: Well, Steve, let me ask you a question.

ELDER: Sounds like the Tea Party to me.

LATOURETTE: It's not the Tea Party.

TYLER: In New England -- and let's just throw in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, we have exactly two U.S. senators. One's a conservative. And in the House, out of all those seats, we have 12 House seats. You see, because the northeast pursued your strategy. What they said is "Let's go out and let socially moderate candidates who are fiscally conservative." But it turns out -- and I've done a little research on this -- they don't exist.

If you go to the ATR, which is arguably a conservative group, and NTU, compared to right-to-life, you'll find that the most pro-life people are the most fiscally economically conservative. There's no question about this. In the last ten Congresses. If you want to know people who would cut marginal tax rates, death tax, capital gains, all these taxes, either they're one thing: are they pro-life or are they pro-choice?

CUTTER: We're going to have to go for a break.

LATOURETTE: All right.

CUTTER: We can continue this after the break, because actually we...

LATOURETTE: I'm going to bring up Delaware. I'm not a witch.

ELDER: I'm going to bring up Reagan winning two elections overwhelmingly.

CUTTER: ... we're going to find something...

LATOURETTE: I hope you do.

CUTTER: ... for the three of you to "Ceasefire" on. Is there anything that you can agree on?

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question: "Do you think that Governor Chris Christie represents the future of the Republican Party?" Tweet yes or no using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.


CUTTER: Coming up, the answer to our "Fireback" question: "Do you think Gov. Chris Christie represents the future of the Republican Party?" There's still time to vote so tweet yes or no using #CROSSFIRE. And we're going to all vote, right?

ELDER: Right.


CUTTER: We're back with Steve LaTourette and Rick Tyler. Now let's figure out whether there's anything you all can "Ceasefire" on.

ELDER: Well, I agree with Rick. Rick said that, if Hillary runs, she's going to have a problem that starts with "B." It's not just Benghazi but it's also Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has been credibly accused of sexual assault up to and including rape. And Hillary...

CUTTER: OK. This is not a "Ceasefire."

ELDER: Hillary has been an enabler...

LATOURETTE: He wants us to agree on that.

ELDER: An enabler of that, and Chris Christie will have the cashews to take the fight to her.

CUTTER: OK. I wish we had more time for me to refute that. I wholeheartedly disagree with it. But most of the American people disagree with it, too.

ELDER: We'll see.

CUTTER: But is there anything you two can "Ceasefire" on? Quickly.

LATOURETTE: Well, I think we need a strong candidate that appeals to both wings of the party and in addition outside the party to fiscally conservative, socially moderate women in places like Ohio and Virginia.

TYLER: I think we all agree that we'll beat Democrats.

ELDER: That's right.

CUTTER: I disagree.

Thanks to Steve LaTourette and Rick Tyler. Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question: "Do you think that Chris Christie represents the future of the Republican Party?" Right now 35 percent of you say yes.


CUTTER: Sixty-five percent say no. I guess they've been watching this show.

The debate continues online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. We also want to congratulate CROSSFIRE host Newt Gingrich. His new book, "Breakout," came out today.

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

ELDER: And from the right, I'm Larry Elder. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.