Chris Matthews on Tuesday said that people he has spoken to in the White House are thinking about attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the general election the way he's gone after his opponents in the primaries.
Appearing on MSNBC's coverage of the Super Tuesday primaries, the Hardball host said, "They can’t wait" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I’m looking at these new numbers now. 96 percent of [Mitt Romney’s] spending on Restore Our Future, his Super PAC, has been negative. It is not to sell him. It is to destroy his opponents. And this politics of destruction, I said it a few moments ago, is going to carry into the general election. You’re going to see these two giant campaigns, the President’s billion dollar campaign, the Democrats’, the Republicans’ billion dollar campaign, basically spending all their money on opposition attack.
And I think it’s going to really, I think unfortunately for the Democrats, depress the voting. And I think that’s always helpful to Republicans when you get an entirely negative campaign out there because Republicans are very insistent voters as we know. They’ll show up, especially the right-wing haters will show up.
And the President’s challenge is to bring in moderate people as well as progressives and win in the center, and there may not be the kind of turnout after a really. Imagine if what we’ve watched just now for two months proceeds from now till November and what it’s going to be like in the atmosphere of this country.
RACHEL MADDOW: I don’t know that the same dynamics push the President’s campaign into negativity the way that we have seen in the Republican primary. I mean, the reason that all of the other Republican candidates in 2008 expressed so much dislike for Mitt Romney was how negative a campaigner he was in that year. I’m not so sure in the general.
MATTHEWS: I know, I’d like to think that, but I think the people around the President, I’ve talked to them the other day, are really thinking about doing to Romney what he’s done to his opponents. They can’t wait.
And you can rest assured that if this happens, Matthews and his colleagues will stop complaining about negative ads and instead talk about how effective and necessary they are.
Count on it.