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Who Has the Edge for 2016 Presidential Race?

Aired November 18, 2013 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, jockeying for the 2016 presidential race. One Republican governor says no Washington insiders need apply. And look who's talking about the most likely Democrat?

On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist who was Al Gore's campaign manager; and Tim Pawlenty, a former governor and Republican presidential candidate. All eyes on 2016. Who has the early edge? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. Two presidential campaign veterans are in the CROSSFIRE tonight to help us look ahead to 2016.

We'll start with Hillary Clinton. She's everywhere these days: today at a conference in Florida, last Friday at Georgetown University. She's everybody's inevitable Democratic nominee, but to me she's got three big obstacles, and they're all on her side of the aisle.

One, Elizabeth Warren. Will a charismatic, progressive and liberal darling pressure Clinton to move further left, thus jeopardizing her standing with moderates? Two, Barack Obama. Will Secretary Clinton have to defend her old boss's record? Or will she admit that she'd do things differently than the guy who's currently in the White House? And finally three, remember this guy?


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88, and he ran a good campaign, and Senator Obama has run a good campaign. He's run a good campaign everywhere.

I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got.


CUPP: Van, those are just three of Bill Clinton's not-so-helpful moments. I'm calling Bill Clinton, Warren and Obama the tricky triangle, which is a reference my fellow NASCAR fans will get, I'm sure. Can she survive it?

JONES: Well, you call them obstacles. We call them global icons. When you have this much genius and talent in one party, it can be a little bit tricky to navigate.

CUPP: But you can only have one president. Only one of them can be president.

JONES: True, and her name will be Hillary Clinton.

But in the meantime, in the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Donna Brazile, who is my good friend, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. We also have former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Welcome to you both.

Let's start with you. Everybody seems to be terrified of Hillary Clinton. One of your colleagues earlier today was saying you have to be an outsider to be a serious presidential -- serious presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton has everybody scared, though. Are you scared of Hillary Clinton?

TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Van, first of all, Hillary Clinton is going to be formidable. No question about it. But remember she was going to be invincible last time. It turns out she wasn't. So in politics, anything can happen, particularly on the presidential level.

On the Republican side, as to Scott Walker's comments about you've got to be an outsider, you can't play in the game. I think being an outsider will help. It's a factor, but it's not the only factor. There are others, as well.

JONES: But really, seriously, I mean, right now it looks to me like the Republican Party, despite all the stuff about Obama care, very unpopular. I don't see a lot of great ideas. How would you -- you have run for president. How would you stop Hillary Clinton? I don't think you can stop her.

PAWLENTY: Well, there's some good case studies around a how Republicans win in swing or even blue areas. You know, look at the Chris Christie case study. Look at the John Kasich case study. Go to Wisconsin, the home of progressive politics from the left, that you've got Scott Walker serving as governor. Go down to the now blue state of Arizona, or New Mexico and see...

JONES: You're not scared? You're not intimidated? You're not impressed? You're not intimidated? You're not impressed by the Hillary Clinton factor?

PAWLENTY: Of course. She's going to be formidable. Let's not mince words. Hillary Clinton is going to be a formidable candidate, but she's not invincible. And by the way, there are obvious case studies where Republicans can do well in swing and blue areas, and we can learn from that and we should. See Chris Christie.

CUPP: Donna, today's Democratic Party is very different from the one that Hillary's husband presided over in the '90s.


CUPP: He was praised for welfare reform, lowering abortion rates, ending Democrats' tax and spend. You know, he passed DOMA, "don't ask/don't tell." It's a different party.

And even when Hillary last ran for president, you were allowed to be a Democrat who opposed gay marriage. So has enough changed that she's going to have to run as a progressive now?

BRAZILE: No, look, first of all, what Bill Clinton did back in the 1990s was to expand the Democratic Party's base. The party was no longer a regional party. It became a national party. It was a party that could effectively reach out to independents in some disaffected...

CUPP: Because he moved it to the center?

BRAZILE: Because he moved it where the mainstream of America was, where the left and the right could actually get together and get things done.

Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run, is going to be a formidable candidate, because I think like Bill Clinton, she has the ability to reach independents. She has the ability to reach out to some of the Republicans who might have been scared off by a party that's gone so far right wing they can't even make another turn. And she might be able to broaden the Democratic coalition and build upon the Obama coalition. So...

CUPP: You don't think Elizabeth Warren is going to pull her left?

BRAZILE: You know, Elizabeth Warren is an outstanding senator. If she decides to run -- look, we have a good, healthy bench. She would be a great candidate. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand. Good thing about the Democratic Party is that...

JONES: All women.

BRAZILE: ... we have great women and great men. Joe Biden, Martin O'Mallen [SIC]...

CUPP: O'Malley.

BRAZILE: O'Malley. Martin O'Malley.

JONES: We could praise our party all day long, but let me ask you a question. I think these guys are going to now try to go back and relitigate Bill Clinton. That can be the big issue. Obviously, we were mad at him for a while, those of us in the party who were for Obama, but now he's the big dog. He's our hero; we like him. Are you worried, though, about Bill Clinton in any way?

BRAZILE: Well, of course. I mean, look, we run Bill Clinton today as if he's a 23-year-old guy. I mean, he's not, and so I worry about his health, of course. Although he's in good health.

But there's no question that Hillary Clinton is going to run as her own person. She -- like Elvis, like Tupac, she's on Oprah. Everybody knows Hillary.

And you know, I have to ask the governor. He ran. This is the son of a truck driver. I mean, I worked for a guy, Dick Gephardt, who was the son of a truck driver. But look at your resume. Look at the kind of things that you accomplished back in Minnesota. That doesn't help you with today's Republican Party. Because they want someone who's an isolationist, who's so far to the right that they may not be able to get people in the middle, as you've been able to do in Minnesota.

PAWLENTY: Well, you know, Donna, with your many years of experience, you know these primary and caucus battles are a combination of purity and electability.

And of course, at the base level, parties like purity until they keep getting their butt kicked over and over again, and then all of a sudden they start factoring in electability. So it may be time for the Republican Party to sprinkle in some electability and some winability in this next nomination.

And as to Hillary and Bill, look, they obviously are iconic figures in American politics, but presidential elections tend to be mostly about the future. It's very rare that it gets decided about reminiscing about the past. So I think Bill, of course, will loom large, as inevitably he always does, but it's not going to be a referendum about going back to the '90s.

CUPP: And we're going to get to the Republican -- the Republican prognosticating in a minute, but let's stick with the Democrats for a second.

One of the biggest critiques with Al Gore's campaign was that he distanced himself a little too much from Bill Clinton.

Governor Pawlenty, do you think Hillary is going to have to do the same with Obama? Can she effectively distance herself from the president on some of the worst aspects of his record without critiquing him too publicly or embarrassing him?

PAWLENTY: It's kind of analogous to a vice president trying to succeed a two-term president. It's not exactly that way, because she was secretary of state and left early.

CUPP: Yes.

PAWLENTY: But clearly, the president is not having a high watermark in his administration. If he continues to have this kind of trouble, and the fatigue continues to set in over the next three years, there could be a real fatigue factor that could hurt.

Now, that being said, Hillary is her own person, and she's formidable for all the reasons that...

CUPP: And smart, yes.

PAWLENTY: And smart. She's got her own record, but there will be some hangover effects, some fatigue effect because of whatever does or doesn't happen with the remainder of the Obama administration.

BRAZILE: And we used Bill Clinton strategically. Look, his numbers in Bay states were very, very high, but in swing states, he was a little underwater, and so we used him strategically. Not as much as he wanted to be used. Because as you know, Bill Clinton believes in the 50-state strategy, and so do I.

PAWLENTY: I do think on this respect there's also a little bit of anti-monarchy view. I mean, not totally a monarchy.

CUPP: Yes.

PAWLENTY: But how many families do we want in American politics where, you know, you're the son or daughter of somebody famous, and of course, then you become a senator and the like. And if there's a chunk of the country that's going to say, you know, enough of this.

BRAZILE: But this is a woman. This is the first viable female...

PAWLENTY: Yes, I agree with that. Gender's going to be a factor.

BRAZILE: It's going to be a factor, yes.

PAWLENTY: And that's why I think Susana Martinez and Kelly Ayotte and...

CUPP: Should gender be a factor, Governor Pawlenty? Should that be the new -- does that represent the change candidate, just the fact that she's a woman?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think most people would say, "Look, we want to make the decision on merit," but obviously, there's a huge magnetic quality to having the first woman vice president or president. That's a big thing.

JONES: Let me ask you a question. You were part of a primary process. A lot of people feel like Hillary might just romp to a coronation. She might not have anybody run against her. People thought that Obama was tougher because he went through a primary. People thought Romney suffered by going through such a long primary. Do you think the candidates need to go through a primary process, or should we just say, "We know who Hillary Clinton is. Coronate her now"?

PAWLENTY: I think it varies on the candidate. But let's -- let's keep in mind that nearly three years out, the history, the landscape of these elections are littered with people who were inevitable, invincible. Remember Phil Graham?

CUPP: Oh, yes.

PAWLENTY: He was going to be elected. Dick Gephardt, he was going to roll, because he had ladies (ph) behind him. Giuliani was going to, you know, clear the field. So it's almost always wrong. But in this case, early on, it looks like Hillary will be formidable.

CUPP: But the one person we're not talking about, which blows my mind, is Joe Biden. How miffed would you be if you were the sitting vice president for two terms, you ran for president yourself twice, you were brought in for your experience, and he is an afterthought in everyone's conversation about the Democratic nominee? Why is that?

BRAZILE: Because Hillary Clinton came this close, very, very close to becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party. And I think because of that, and because so many people went out there and voted for her, that there's still this hunger for Hillary Clinton to help lead America.

JONES: And we just have so much talent. Sometimes it's easy to overlook some, you know, great people like Joe Biden.

CUPP: He's the VP. You're overlooking the sitting VP.

BRAZILE: And remarkable.

JONES: Remarkable. One of the best ever.

Enough about the Democrats. I want to talk about the Republicans. Now I am sure that you have noticed today's very public fight between Liz and Mary Cheney. When we get back, I'm going to ask Governor Pawlenty, whatever happened to the new, welcoming Republican Party? That's next.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Donna Brazile and Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Now, whatever happened to the Republican Party's 2012 autopsy? Remember that? They vowed to become more inclusive and welcoming. Somebody needs to do an autopsy on the autopsy, because that idea is dead, dead, dead.

Republicans are now against protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination on the job. They're against equal pay for women. They're against the Voting Rights Act. They won't even vote on immigration. And now the Cheney family feud.

First, listen to Senate candidate Liz Cheney on "FOX News Sunday."


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FNC'S "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Your sister Mary, who is married to a woman, put out this post. She had, "For the record, I love my sister" -- you -- "but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage."

LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. And listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree.


JONES: That's just ugly. And then you have the poor parents, Dick Cheney and his wife, putting out this statement. They say, "This is an issue that we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public."

Well, I'm going to talk to you, Governor. The problems the Republican Party is having -- including people and welcoming people -- are not private. They are out in the public. And it seems to me that all of the things that were said a year ago about doing things to become more inclusive have just gone out the window. And instead they seem to be hoping that a glitchy Web site and some cancellation notices are going to give them the election, as opposed to bringing people in. How is that a winning strategy?

PAWLENTY: Well, Van, your point is well taken in regards to the fact that you can't just shove aside the idea that the Republican party has to do better with women, with young people, with communities of color, with blue-collar workers, people who are disenfranchised. You can't be a majority governing party in this country and lose those categories.

As it relates to the gay and lesbian rights issues, the divide in the Cheney family reflects the divide in the country. And so it's something that's, I'm sure, very personal to them, and they have a split view on it. The country's split on it.

But if you look at people under 40, the views towards those issues are changing pretty dramatically. The Republican Party has to do better.

JONES: But I mean, that just -- I don't want you to get off that easy, because look, ordinarily, you have this wing of the Republican Party that forces its candidates to take these extreme positions, and usually, that just hurts the Republicans in a general election. Now you're seeing it hurting people with their own family members.

At what point do Republicans say, "Listen, we just have to join the rest of the country"? All the trend lines are moving in favor of equality and inclusion. I just don't understand. At some point you've got to stand up inside this party and tell people to back off and let people -- let this party joint the 21st century.

PAWLENTY: Well, two things. Keep in mind the Republican Party is not a monolith. So it's a coalition of groups, including libertarian groups, which have different views on these issues; social conservatives; economic conservatives; defense conservatives; and others. And so it's not one piece. You can't just take it and say, "That's the Republican Party." It's a bunch of pieces.

No. 2 is while we need to reach out to communities that we have not done well with, for sure, that doesn't mean you just throw your principles out the room. You don't say, "You know, we're in tough shape politically, so what the heck? I think today I'm switching from, you know, more taxes to against taxes." Or fill in the blank. You just -- that's just not a principled way you do it.

But look at the people who succeed in still maintaining their convictions but winning in blue places? And the lesson is you can be conservative, but you can't be a jerk.

CUPP: Well, and that -- that brings me to my next question, which is Chris Christie seems to be a front-runner, if not the front- runner. He's incredibly popular. But the concern for him is that he can't survive a primary, because he's going to be pushed too far to the right. He's not going to want to go there, and he's not sellable in red states.

I think this, and I'll put this to both of you and I'll lay it out. I think this represents the problem for my party, the Republican Party. We have decided to judge each other on a sliding horizontal scale of conservativeness. Who's too moderate? Who's too extreme? And either end of that makes you somehow untrustworthy.

I don't think that's right. As Governor Pawlenty pointed out, our intellectual diversity is something to celebrate. And we need to be inclusive there.

Where we do need to be more judicious, I think, is on effective messaging. We should be judging each other on a sliding vertical scale of effectiveness. And certain people will be effective messengers, and certain people will not be. And I think we all know who they are.

Can we get through a national presidential election, or even 2014, without these purity tests that really only ruin the Republican Party?

BRAZILE: You know, if I had to manage a Republican campaign today, I would -- I would try to find somebody who was a moderate, but yet was principled on a number of issues that Republicans will call a principle on. And whether it's balancing the budget or, you know, making sure that we have job creation, I don't know what the Republicans stand for anymore. That's the problem with the Republican Party.

It's like Ben and Jerry's. You have all different flavors. And Papa John's, all different toppings, but you really don't get a good sense as to what the Republicans are doing on Capitol Hill. You know from some of the anecdotal information across the country, what they're doing in state houses, but you have no clue to what they're fighting for at the national level. I think that's the problem.

PAWLENTY: That's a really good point, Donna. The answer is Republicans should focus on meat-and-potato, bread-and-butter issues. How am I going to pay my mortgage? How am I going to get my kids to school? How -- if you don't like Obama care, how am I going to pay for my health care? By the way, am I going to have a job? Is the economy going to be growing or shrinking? Those are the things that most people care about most of the time. And you can't win with nothing. You've got to have...

JONES: Both parties..

BRAZILE: And I told you what the problem is. When you're anti- voting rights. When you're anti-education, because you're attacking teachers. And when you're seen as anti-gay and anti-inclusion, it's not a party with a welcome mat at the front door.

CUPP: I don't think it's fair to say we're anti-education.

PAWLENTY: With all due respect, Donna, let's look at anti- teaching. The Democrats, of course, get support from the unions. The Republicans would say, "Look, I don't think your education future should depend on what number of a lottery ball comes out, whether you get into a charter school in New York or not. Your ability to go to a good school shouldn't depend on what ZIP code you happen to be born in, whether there's, you know, a decent school there or not." And the fact that the -- you know, with all due respect to our friends across the aisle, are sending their kids to private schools but won't let poor kids go to private schools. That's not anti-education. That's being for people who need help.

CUPP: But that's a framing issue, and that's the way we need to talk.

JONES: The way you're talking right now, it sounds great. I want to go back to what S.E. was saying. She said you've got this horizontal competition about who's the most moderate, who's the most conservative. But there's this vertical thing around communication. Who do you think in the Republican Party can communicate these, as far as I'm concerned, awful values?

PAWLENTY: We've got some great communicators. We haven't talked about Marco Rubio. He's a gifted communicator, tremendous communicator. Chris Christie is a tremendous communicator.

JONES: So those are your two? You put those at the top of the effective communications?

PAWLENTY: Those are examples. Remember one other thing. The folks who show up in the early days of these party events, Democrat or Republican, to their credit, they are passionate and they are committed. And these are folks who aren't interested in, you know, necessarily compromise. So the candidates play to that. There's no question about it.

JONES: I've got -- after you, I've got another purity test that I'm concerned about. Can I get in? Can I get it?

BRAZILE: I was going to say, Chris Christie is authentic and he's charismatic, but he opposed raising the minimum wage in his state, and voters decided that they wanted to raise the minimum wage.

PAWLENTY: Until they reelected him by 60 percent.

CUPP: I can agree with someone 100 percent of the time...

BRAZILE: Public education has been the great equalizer in this country, for poor kids and middle-class kids alike. But when you attack teachers -- I have so many members of my family who are educators who believe-- you know, they're going into the classroom every day. I'm a part-time educator. But often Republicans come across as anti-teacher. And that's the issue.

PAWLENTY: Donna, we should say, and I can't let this go, because you are -- this is so important. It's not going to work as a country if we have 15 to 30 percent of our population under-skilled or uneducated and unable to access the economy of today and tomorrow. The ticket to that is education.

BRAZILE: I agree.

PAWLENTY: We've got to have great schools. And teachers are good people. They don't generally make too much money, but they work in a 1940s industrial unionized system that reflects not an Apple world, an iPad world, but something from the '40s or '50s. So we should at least be able to agree, can we fix the system and not bash teachers?

JONES: I'll tell you one thing we can agree with. I'm glad that you are not running for president, because you sound great.

BRAZILE: He's the son of a truck driver.

CUPP: If only. All right. Stay here. Next, the final question for each of our guests.

We also want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question: "Would you vote for a 2016 presidential candidate without experience in Washington?" Tweet "yes" or "no" using #CROSSFIRE. We'll have the results after the break.


CUPP: We're back with Donna Brazile and Tim Pawlenty.

Now it's time for the final question to our guests. Donna, let me ask you my final question. I think it's clear that Republicans have a deep bench, got a lot of people, a lot of whom we talked about tonight. If Hillary doesn't run, which I think is unlikely, but if Hillary doesn't run, then who's your candidate on the left? BRAZILE: There's no question, if she decides not to run, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren. I'm vice chair. I cannot take a position, but I would love to see a woman in the White House.

CUPP: Yes.

BRAZILE: And so my money right now would stay on Hillary, stay on a woman. But if Joe Biden, I got to tell you, he's been a champion for women's equality. And I would toss my support to Joe Biden.

CUPP: OK. Glad to hear it.

JONES: A little bit of news tonight. That's good.

OK. So for you: Scott Walker came out and said you cannot get the Republican nomination, in his view, unless you're an outsider. That means no to your Marco Rubio, no to Paul Ryan, no to a whole bunch of your superstars. Do you agree with Scott Walker, you've got to be an outsider to get your party's nomination?

PAWLENTY: Only to a point. I think it would help, in an anti- Washington environment. People are sick of Washington, D.C., and the gridlock and the dysfunction. So being an outsider will definitely help. But it's not the only factor.

Let's say hypothetically, next week Iran bombs Israel. are you going to be looking for somebody with some international experience?

CUPP: Yes.

PAWLENTY: Going to look for somebody with a military background?

JONES: Things could change.

PAWLENTY: Going to be looking for somebody with some strategic background? Of course. So things could change.

CUPP: Between a Ted Cruz...

PAWLENTY: And that's not the only factor.

CUPP: Can I ask, between a Ted Cruz and a Chris Christie?

JONES: Where are you?

CUPP: That hypothetical, where are you?

PAWLENTY: Well, I haven't supported a candidate yet. But keep in mind, we're going to have Chris Christie. John Kasich's interested. We talked off-air about the possibility of Mike Pence.

CUPP: Yes.

PAWLENTY: You know, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, you know, Susana Martinez, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley.

CUPP: Yes, yes.

JONES: You're trying to run the clock out. Trying to run the clock out.

CUPP: Lot of governors in that list.

JONES: Cruz and -- Cruz/Christie, come on. Which one?

PAWLENTY: I think Christie would be a stronger candidate. There's no question in my mind.

JONES: Yes. Well, it seems like everybody's excited about Chris Christie; everybody's excited about Hillary Clinton.

CUPP: I'm Mike Pence 2016. You heard it here first.

JONES: News. We've got news.

BRAZILE: And we mentioned -- we mentioned Elizabeth Warren. We should mention Amy Klobuchar...

JONES: Amy Klobuchar.

BRAZILE: ... from your great state of Minnesota.

JONES: Very good.

CUPP: All right. We're getting...

BRAZILE: Giving the Midwest some play here.

CUPP: Now we're just naming everyone. Thanks to Donna Brazile and Tim Pawlenty.

JONES: Yes, they're very good.

If you want to continue this conversation, go on Facebook, go on Twitter. You can also weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Would you vote for a 2016 presidential candidate who did not have experience in Washington? Right now, 66 percent of you say yes; only 34 percent say no.

The debate is going to continue online at as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I am S.E. Cupp. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.