CBS Panel Cool on 'Far Right' GOP Candidates, 'Bush Looks Like Abraham Lincoln'

As Saturday's The Early Show on CBS hosted John Avlon of the Daily Beast and conservative commentator Margaret Hoover for a discussion of Texas Governor Rick Perry and other GOP presidential candidates, both guests had skeptical views of the current field, with Avlon finding some of Perry's recent statements "sort of irresponsible," and quipping that "George Bush looks like Abraham Lincoln compared to the whole crowd right now."

Co-host Rebecca Jarvis asserted that, after the primaries, the candidates "have to take this serious left turn in order to get some of the independents, and that's going to be a major issue for some of the front-runners in this campaign right now."

Avlon agreed that the GOP candidates are "far right": "That is a fundamental problem with the Republican Party that has moved from center right to far right, increasingly, and, look, independent voters are 40 percent of the electorate, the largest and the fastest growing segment. So this isn't just some, you know, demographic group you got to appeal to."

The Daily Beast columnist failed to note that polls typically find that, while the number of Americans who identify themselves as conservative does not amount to a majority, they still outnumber self-identified liberals substantially.

Avlon later concluded that a ticket containing Perry and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann would be a dream ticket for President Obama to run against. Avlon: "I think they'd love to see a Perry/Bachmann ticket would be a dream team in terms of the White House's perspective. You know, the far right would get what they'd wanted, ideological purity, and the White House would get what they want, which is a team that would have a real hard time converting to centrist and independent support."

Even right-leaning Hoover was skeptical of Governor Perry, although she later suggested that Representative Paul Ryan would make the strongest possible candidate against Obama if the Wisconsin Republican were to run. Hoover: "The thing about Rick Perry as well, these colorful statements work fine in the primary, but that is exactly who the White House wants to run again because the more gaffes, the more colorful language that can take away from the story of President Obama's failing economy, the better off the White House does."

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Saturday, August 20, The Early Show on CBS:

RUSS MITCHELL: President Obama may be on vacation, but, as Wyatt (Andrews) just said, the campaign continues. And for that let's turn to Margaret Hoover and John Avlon, Margaret is a Republican commentator, and author of American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party

REBECCA JARVIS: And John is senior political columnist of the Daily Beast ... John, I want to start with you in terms of Rick Perry. He really came out swinging this week, not only against the President but against our Fed chair.

JOHN AVLON: Yeah, he did, and I don't know that that's the best launch strategy for Rick Perry. Here's the Catch 22. These sort of irresponsible statements can play really well with the base, but they're Kryptonite to the general electorate. And so it raises real questions about his discipline as a candidate and his ability to convert support from the evangelical Tea Party base that Rick Perry has to being a serious nominee potential.

RUSS MITCHELL: Margaret, a lot of people are comparing him to George Bush, the, of course, governor, former Texas governors. Is he going to have a tough time attracting independents and conservative Democrats?

MARGARET HOOVER: Well, not just because he's a Texan or because of the Bush affiliation, but Rick Perry certainly is, embodies that Texas swagger that I'm not so sure Americans are ready to see back in the Oval Office. The thing about Rick Perry as well, these colorful statements work fine in the primary, but that is exactly who the White House wants to run again because the more gaffes, the more colorful language that can take away from the story of President Obama's failing economy, the better off the White House does.

AVLON: George Bush looks like Abraham Lincoln compared to this whole crowd right now, just say that.

JARVIS: This is one of the issues, though, John, I mean, you mobilize your base, the GOP base right now, and then for the general election you have to take this serious left turn in order to get some of the independents, and that's going to be a major issue for some of the front-runners in this campaign right now.

AVLON: That is a fundamental problem with the Republican Party that has moved from center right to far right, increasingly, and, look, independent voters are 40 percent of the electorate, the largest and the fastest growing segment. So this isn't just some, you know, demographic group you got to appeal to. This is the heartland.

JARVIS: They decide elections.

AVLON:  Yeah, exactly right. So this is the problem. The more the parties become polarized, the more they become, and the primary process forces candidates to pander to the outer reaches of their party's politics, then you have a tougher time converting to a general election.

MITCHELL:  Margaret, if you're advising Rick Perry right now, what do you do as far as the George Bush issue is concerned? Do you do everything you can do to distance yourself from George Bush?

HOOVER: Yeah, I don't think we need to, this election isn't going to be about George Bush, as much as Obama continues to blame Bush for the economy, it's not about George Bush. He needs to set his own course. I just think the Texas swagger is not going to play in the independent, in the general election. I think, too, what Rick Perry represented was wanting in the field, in the Republican field, and there still remains even though he's in an enormous amount of Republican donor money and establishment on the sidelines waiting for someone else to get in.

JARVIS: Who's the White House afraid of then? Who would they not want to run against?

HOOVER: I think,genuinely, I believe somebody like who has put forth strong economic policies, an alternative pro-growth message, somebody like Paul Ryan, who hasn't been afraid to take on the sacred cows in Washington and can show that he has real political courage, connect to regular Americans and a younger generation, I think somebody like Paul Ryan they would be more afraid of running against than somebody like Chris Christie or Rick Perry.

JARVIS: Are you saying we might see Paul Ryan run in this thing?

HOOVER: I think Paul Ryan is considering it.

JARVIS: Very interesting.

MITCHELL: Who do you want to see? Who do you think they want to see? Very quickly.

AVLON: I think they'd love to see a Perry/Bachmann ticket would be a dream team in terms of the White House's perspective. You know, the far right would get what they'd wanted, ideological purity, and the White House would get what they want, which is a team that would have a real hard time converting to centrist and independent support.