NBC: Does Mitt Romney Look Like He's 'Rooting for Failure' of the Economy?

At the top of Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer warned Mitt Romney against going after President Obama too hard on the stagnant economy: "Romney's campaign using the rise in unemployment to target President Obama's record on the economy, but can he make his point without sounding like he wants the recovery to fail?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Later, fill-in co-host Savannah Guthrie talked to left-wing MSNBC host Chris Matthews about the GOP's economic message and teed him up to slam Republicans: "I mean obviously they see that the bad economy will ultimately be good for his [Romney's] prospects, but they don't want to be perceived as rooting for failure." Matthews ranted: "But of course they are. You know, they've got a spring in their step now. This is great news for the Republicans.....All things being equal, they don't have to do anything except enjoy the economic downturn."

Matthews then struck a conspiratorial tone as he blamed the business community for the lagging economy:

...it's not just the billion dollars that are going into the super-PACs from the right-wing, people like the Koch brothers, think about the $2 trillion that big business is holding back from investing....big business is the President's big enemy right now. He's got powerful enemies, and they're using that economic input not to help him but probably to play it very safe right now until the election....basically they're rooting against Obama to succeed. They don't want this recovery to come big time between now and November.


Here is a full transcript of the June 4 segment:

7:00AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Blame game. Mitt Romney's campaign using the rise in unemployment to target President Obama's record on the economy, but can he make his point without sounding like he wants the recovery to fail?

7:11AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Chris Matthews is host of Hardball on MSNBC. Chris, good morning to you.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good morning, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Kind of a one-two punch for the President on Friday, that disappointing jobs report and then Wall Street tanking. I know you consider this to be a game changer. Is that because economic perceptions are now really hardening, it's that close to the election?

MATTHEWS: Well, that's what everybody thinks. That these decisions voters make are in May rather than October. I question that. I think people are going to be watching this election all through the presidential debates this fall. All three of them.

It seems to me, though, the way I look at politics is like baseball. The voters are the manager of a baseball team. They're looking at the pitcher on the mound. They're not looking at the bull pen. The problem with the Obama campaign all the way through, and it's more acute now since the Friday news came in, is they've tried to focus on the player in the bull pen, the pitcher out there. That's not the way the voter looks at it. The voter looks at the guy out there on the mound, is he getting them out? Is he leaving too many men on? Is he letting the count go too long? They want to know if he's still got his stuff. Can he put the team out on the other side? Can he win this economic war with this recession we just went through? And I think that's the problem.

And now with the numbers popping up, with the numbers going to 8.2, only 69,000 jobs, less than 2% growth rate so far this year, which to me is the most devastating news, he has got to come out with a performance on the mound now, which means he's got to talk job creation, challenge Congress to a big jobs program, huge jobs program on highway building, all kinds of stuff like that, make them say no. Number two, he has to lead the way towards a debt reduction program. Short-term job creation, long-term debt reduction, he has to be the leader on the mound and perform out there, because the conditions aren't going to get that much better between now and November. It's about leadership in a tough time. It's not about changing conditions. It's about who's leading us in dealing with them.

GUTHRIE: Yeah. Chris, fair enough. But what about Governor Romney? I mean obviously they see that the bad economy will ultimately be good for his prospects, but they don't want to be perceived as rooting for failure.

MATTHEWS: Well, that's right. But of course they are. You know, they've got a spring in their step now. This is great news for the Republicans. They know they can walk in, if this economy continues to go downhill, if the unemployment goes to 8.5, if the growth rate stays below 2, they're probably going to win the election. All things being equal, they don't have to do anything except enjoy the economic downturn.

And that's – and by the way, it's not just the billion dollars that are going into the super-PACs from the right-wing, people like the Koch brothers, think about the $2 trillion that big business is holding back from investing. Now they're obviously doing that primarily for business reasons. But when you look at their sensitivity about things like equity last week, with Clinton being sensitive to that and Cory Booker, big business is the President's big enemy right now. He's got powerful enemies, and they're using that economic input not to help him but probably to play it very safe right now until the election. Then they can say, "We're waiting for better regulatory regimes, we're waiting for better corporate tax rates." But basically they're rooting against Obama to succeed. They don't want this recovery to come big time between now and November.

GUTHRIE: Well, we've got to leave it there. Chris Matthews, thanks. And a reminder, you can catch Hardball week nights at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern on MSNBC.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC