NBC's Gregory: Romney Knows He'll Have to 'Infuriate Conservatives' if Elected President

Responding to co-host Savannah Guthrie observing that Mitt Romney looked like he "was moving toward the center" on Monday's NBC Today, Meet the Press host David Gregory asserted: "...he knows he's going to have to make tough choices if he becomes president. That he would indeed have to infuriate conservatives on some of these budget deals..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

During an interview with Romney aired on Sunday's Meet the Press, Gregory grilled the Republican candidate on whether he would "cut a deal with Democrats that would cause conservatives to revolt." Speaking to Guthrie on Monday, Gregory touted Romney's "pragmatism" and "flashes of some bipartisanship."

However, Gregory quickly added that Romney's "proposal for fixing the deficit is still what critics say is a pretty hardline approach" and fretted, "He wants to increase defense spending and cut taxes, even beyond extending the Bush tax cuts. All of that is really designed to motivate his base."

Guthrie cited Ann Romney in the interview describing how her husband had been "demonized" by Democrats and concluded: "The biography of Mitt Romney, the image of Mitt Romney was something this campaign was very interested in filling out through their convention. Does this suggest to you that they feel there's still work to be done on that score?" Gregory replied: "Absolutely. And other Republicans do to, Savannah."

Guthrie began the segment by wondering if the Romney campaign knew it was losing the presidential race, following a slanted report by chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd that painted that picture.

In her second question to Gregory, Guthrie dismissed the idea of a bad Friday jobs report being harmful to Obama's reelection chances: "We had another dismal jobs report, but I guess the question is, at this point, is that kind of baked into the poll numbers? Do voters already know that they're in a terrible economy and it's already been factored in?" Gregory agreed: "They do."


Here is a full transcript of the September 10 exchange:

7:08AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: NBC's David Gregory is moderator of Meet the Press. David, good morning to you.

DAVID GREGORY: Good morning, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Want to talk to you about your interview with Mitt Romney in a moment. But first let's just do a status report on the state of the race, both conventions behind us now. Is there a sense in the Romney campaign that they know they're behind at this point?

GREGORY: I think they do. I think they understand, and I discussed it with Governor Romney, that beating an incumbent is very difficult, even when you've got economic troubles in your favor politically. They also look at some of the key swing states, Ohio and Virginia. That's where they're behind. That's arguably much more important than this national number.

GUTHRIE: You mentioned the economy. We had another dismal jobs report, but I guess the question is, at this point, is that kind of baked into the poll numbers? Do voters already know that they're in a terrible economy and it's already been factored in?

GREGORY: They do. I think the question, Savannah, is do voters, that narrow slice that'll decide the election, blame the President for where they are? If they do, it's advantage Romney. If they accept his argument from the convention and former President Clinton that nobody could have fixed this in four years, that that's part of the context, that he needs more time and that the economy's going in the right direction, look at how the stock market is performing, then it's advantage for the President, and that's the case he's making.

GUTHRIE: You covered a lot of ground in your interview with Mr. Romney on Meet the Press. Some people viewed it in total as a signal that Romney was moving toward the center, sounding a more general election candidate tone. Is that how you read it?

GREGORY: Well, also spending some time with Governor Romney, yes, is the answer. I got a sense of his pragmatism, that he knows he's going to have to make tough choices if he becomes president. That he would indeed have to infuriate conservatives on some of these budget deals and a recognition that Paul Ryan is someone who could help him politically in that regard, with his own caucus. So yes, flashes of some bipartisanship when he talks about health care, talks about Bill Clinton, gives the President some credit on foreign affairs.

But let's remember that when it comes to the big issues, he's called the debt a moral crisis. His proposal for fixing the deficit is still what critics say is a pretty hardline approach. He doesn't give you all the specifics of how the math will add up. He wants to increase defense spending and cut taxes, even beyond extending the Bush tax cuts. All of that is really designed to motivate his base.

GUTHRIE: And very quickly, Ann Romney, who you also interviewed, told you that she thought her husband had been quote, "demonized." The biography of Mitt Romney, the image of Mitt Romney was something this campaign was very interested in filling out through their convention. Does this suggest to you that they feel there's still work to be done on that score?

GREGORY: Absolutely. And other Republicans do to, Savannah. There's a feeling that if you look at the polling, Romney has an advantage over the President on the economy, who's got better ideas for the economy, but are voters comfortable putting him in the White House? He says it and other Republicans say that this is an area where he's got work to do to make people comfortable with making this choice. Again, not easy to fire an incumbent halfway through two terms.

GUTHRIE: David Gregory, moderator of Meet the Press. Good interview, David. Thank you.

GREGORY: Thanks, Savannah.

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