Mellman And McKinnon On The Midterms
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Mark, welcome back to the program.
MARK MCKINNON: Hey, thanks for having me on.
MONTAGNE: Thank you for joining us.
MARK MELLMAN: Pleasure.
MONTAGNE: Let's stay with you, Mark Mellman. Republicans have said this vote is a repudiation of the president and government spending. How did Democrats read this vote?
MELLMAN: The economy technically is on the upswing, but people certainly don't feel that. And as a result, they punish the people in charge, and that's Democrats.
INSKEEP: And you hear Republicans saying, actually, it's about specific issues like deficit spending. How accurately are the parties reading the results here, Mark McKinnon?
MCKINNON: Well, listen. I think you have to roll it all up and recognize that this is one of the worst setbacks in history for a political party. In fact, the worst setback in about 60 years. But voters are really saying it's all of that. It's a repudiation of the president. It's a repudiation of the policies. And the car that's in the ditch that the president keeps talking about, well, the voters just said the registration says Obama and the license plates say Democrat.
INSKEEP: Oh, that was a metaphor that he used during the campaign about how he said Republicans had driven the car in the ditch and he was trying to get it out.
MCKINNON: Yeah. They're saying he's got the keys now and it's his responsibility.
INSKEEP: First in this tape we'll hear President Obama. Next, we'll hear the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
BARACK OBAMA: I've been willing to compromise in the past, and I'm going to be willing to compromise, going forward.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Our friends on the other side, can change now, and work with us to address the issues that are important to the American people - that we all understood. Or, further change, obviously, can happen in 2012.
MONTAGNE: And so when the two of you listen to those statements, how serious do you think the two sides are about working together, really?
MCKINNON: And with the Tea Party influence on the Republicans pushing the Republican caucus further right, I think that actually what we're going to see is, you know, a less likely chance that there's going to compromise.
MELLMAN: We had Mitch McConnell say the other day, that his number objective for this Congress was to prevent President Obama from being reelected. Well, if your number one objective for the country is a political objective, then they're just going to continue to say no, continue not to cooperate, continue not to compromise with this president.
INSKEEP: It almost sounds, when you read the whole interview, that he was basically saying don't be overoptimistic, don't go too far, don't be extreme and don't end up just electing Obama again. Isn't it a little different message?
MELLMAN: But what they're telling us is they're really about the next election, not about the country. And that's a serious problem, I think. And it's a failing that voters are going to see, I think, on vivid display over the course of the next two years.
INSKEEP: Mark McKinnon, is there a danger of Republicans overreaching in this environment?
MCKINNON: So I think if they can get together and work on some of these very thoughtful plans, that there can be some progress.
MONTAGNE: Mark McKinnon, Republican strategist, let's stick with you for just a moment. Are there parallels, as were suggested even during the campaign, between this Republican takeover and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, when Bill Clinton was president? And are there either lessons or things to watch for?
MCKINNON: And that's precisely why I'm pleased to see Eric Cantor and others stepping forward with very specific plans about what they're going to do. Because it's not just say no. We're saying, you know, here's 22 pages of plans and proactive thoughts about what we think we can do to get things going. Get things moving on the economy and meet us halfway, and let's see what we can do.
INSKEEP: Mark Mellman, very briefly, is there an opportunity here for President Obama?
MELLMAN: We'll see whether Republicans are really serious about that cooperation or not.
MONTAGNE: Mark Mellman is a Democratic pollster. Thanks for joining us.
MELLMAN: Thank you very much.
INSKEEP: And Mark McKinnon is a strategist who worked with Republicans, including President George W. Bush. Thank you.
MCKINNON: Carry on regardless.
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