CBS Tries Its Darndest To Get Gov. Daniels To Trash GOP Field

On Monday's Early Show, CBS's Jim Axelrod pressed Gov. Mitch Daniels to anything derogatory about the Republican presidential field, leaving the Indiana politician little time to say anything about his new book. Axelrod also devoted a significant amount of time during the interview to the question of whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would get into the presidential race.

The substitute anchor led the segment with the issue of the recent Florida straw poll, which businessman Herman Cain won: "Cain didn't just win in Florida this weekend. He had more votes than both Governor Romney and Governor Perry combined. What does that tell you about the state of the Republican field?" After his guest gave an initial answer, Axelrod followed up by asking, "When you see what's happening with the inability for a single candidate to, sort of, get some traction, does it make you rethink your decision, at all, to get out of the race?"

Daniels did get a little bit of the subject matter of his new book, "Keeping the Republic: Save America by Trusting Americans," in his second answer: "This country's hanging on a knife edge....I think the situation...calls on our party and whoever leads it to trust the intelligence and the maturity of the American people. Let's tell them exactly how big the fix is. Let's tell them exactly what it will take to get out of it, so we don't wind up looking like Greece does today." But instead of getting the Indiana governor to go more in depth into his book, Axelrod continued with the topic of the GOP field: "So is there room for another Republican in the field right now?"

The CBS journalist devoted the remainder of his questions during the segment to the possibility of a Gov. Christie presidential run, all the way still trying to get his guest to say something negative about his fellow Republicans:

AXELROD: All right. Governor, let me ask you about your meeting with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey last week. Is he somebody who can carry this message in the kind of clear language that you're talking about right now?...

AXELROD: What did he tell you? Is his decision to not get in this race final, in your view?...

AXELROD: We've got about 30 seconds left. What does he have that is currently lacking, in terms of exciting Republican voters? What does Governor Christie bring to the mix?

The transcript of Jim Axelrod's interview of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, which aired 33 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

Jim Axelrod, CBS News Correspondent; & Gov. Mitch Daniels, (R), Indiana | NewsBusters.orgJIM AXELROD: Speaking of the race for the White House, one man who's made headlines this year in deciding not to run is Indiana's Republican governor, Mitch Daniels. His new book is called, 'Keeping the Republic: Save America by Trusting Americans.'  And Governor Daniels joins us this morning. Good morning.

GOV. MITCH DANIELS, (R), INDIANA: Hi, Jim.

AXELROD: Let me ask you a question to start off: Herman Cain didn't just win in Florida this weekend. He had more votes than both Governor Romney and Governor Perry combined. What does that tell you about the state of the Republican field?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For 2012: Gov. Daniels Sizes Up GOP Field"]

DANIELS: Well, let's give Herman Cain credit for being an interesting and forthright fellow, but I think it clearly says that folks are asking for a little more from our front-runners. They're, I think, sending them a message. They'd like to hear a little more clarity, a little more specificity, and I hope we get it.

AXELROD: And, earlier this year, you were certainly top-tier, if not the front-runner, in this race. When you see what's happening with the inability for a single candidate to, sort of, get some traction, does it make you rethink your decision, at all, to get out of the race?

DANIELS: Oh, it's never been my practice much, Jim. And so, the answer, I guess, would be no. But it certainly makes me feel, as I have felt all along, that our candidates have a real obligation next year. This country's hanging on a knife edge. If people couldn't see it before, they can look at Europe and see it today. And I think the situation calls out- calls on our party and whoever leads it to trust the intelligence and the maturity of the American people. Let's tell them exactly how big the fix is. Let's tell them exactly what it will take to get out of it, so we don't wind up looking like Greece does today, and other countries soon will.

AXELROD: So is there room for another Republican in the field right now?

DANIELS: There's room for a bolder, clearer message- again, one that, you know, bets on the common sense of the American people, their willingness to support big change. But, you know, I hope we'll speak a language that's affirmative and that is unifying and invites all Americans, even those who disagree about other things, to come together on this one threat, the debts we've piled up, the unpayable commitments we have booked for ourselves for the future. And this is something that threatens every one of us, of every race, of every station in life. It certainly threatens the young more than anyone. And let's go to work on it while there's time, and I really think Americans would support that, and our candidates need to be, I think, a little more confident, a little more trusting in the American people.

AXELROD: All right. Governor, let me ask you about your meeting with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey last week. Is he somebody who can carry this message in the kind of clear language that you're talking about right now?

[CBS News Graphic: "Race For 2012: Gov. Daniels On Meeting With Christie"]

DANIELS: Well, Chris Christie is the kind of person- I mean, he's doing it in New Jersey. If he can make it there, he can make it anywhere, and given the problems that they've had. I just think the world of the guy, but I respect his point of view and his decision, not a whole lot like-

AXELROD: What did he tell you? Is his decision to not get in this race final, in your view?


DANIELS:  I have no idea, and I sure didn't press him. I was out there hocking a book, you know, and he was helping me do it. (Axelrod laughs) We were having a good time, as we always do, when we're together. But he's a very serious figure already on the American stage, but it's entirely up to him and his family to decide if now's the time, and I think we should all respect that, if he wants to stay on the job he was hired for.

AXELROD: We've got about 30 seconds left. What does he have that is currently lacking, in terms of exciting Republican voters? What does Governor Christie bring to the mix?

DANIELS: Well, leaving the other folks aside, who I think have lots of potential, I think what we all like about Chris Christie is that he's clearly there for the right reasons. He just wants to make his state better, he'll tell you exactly what the problems are, and he'll tell you exactly how he proposes to fix them, then he doesn't back down when the inevitable special interest pressure starts.

AXELROD: All right. We'll leave it there. Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, thanks for joining us this morning.

DANIELS: Thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center