George Stephanopoulos Pushes Steele to Agree that Midterms Won't 'Validate' GOP

 Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday cajoled Republican National Committee Chairman into agreeing that a GOP victory on Tuesday wouldn't be validation for the Republican Party, using half of a "startling" quote by Jeb Bush as proof.

Stephanopoulos began, "...The Republican Party, even though they do seem poised for pretty big gains, is no more popular than the Democrat Party." He continued, citing the former Florida Governor: "And even Jeb Bush, son of the former president had a pretty startling comment in The New York Times. He said tomorrow's results will not be a validation of the Republican Party at all. Is he right?"

Of course, the morning show host didn't read the very next sentence from Bush's NYT interview: "It’s a repudiation of this massive overreach by President Obama and his supporters in Congress." Stephanopoulos could have easily pressed Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who appeared with Steele, on this point.

Instead, he blandly asked Kaine, "What kind of mid-course direction can we expect from President Obama?...What changes do you think Democrats need to make?"

In contrast, Stephanopoulos tried to make Steel squirm, grilling him about internal politics having to do with Sarah Palin:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: A pretty stunning headline in the journal Politico, Mr. Steele, next FOR GOP leaders stopping Palin. First paragraph, the article says, "Top Republicans, the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over. Stopping Sarah Palin." Are you part of that movement?

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:15am EDT, follows:

 GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One day to go into the midterm elections. Time for the final debate. We have the party chairs. Republican Michael Steele, Democrat Tim Kaine. Good morning to both of you. And, gentlemen, let me start with each of you making the case in one sentence. Mr. Steele, why should voters put Republicans in charge of the Congress?

MICHAEL STEELE: Because I think it's time to move in a different direction. I think that the Republican leadership has shown that it they're ready to listen to the people, to act on concerns and interests that they have in communities across the country. And no longer turn a tone deaf ear to things like health care and the environment and education issues. I think this is an important opportunity for us to transition from the course that we are on right now where we are looking to redistribute wealth by the government, and invest that wealth, instead, in small business owners and families and communities who know better how to move us into prosperity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One long sentence. But thank you. Democrat rebuttal?

TIM KAINE: Well, George, look, the Democrats have been doing the heavy lifting at the toughest time in America's economy since the 1930s to turn the economy around from shrinking to growing, increase the values in the stock market, return us to job growth. While the Republicans have been standing in the way, not seeing past the end of their no [sic] and pursuing a purely partisan agenda. America needs a heavy lifting, problem solving party, not a partisan leadership in the House.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So far, it appears, though, Mr. Kaine, that the voters who have come out don't seem to agree. About two, 20 percent of voters who have voted so far and it looks like they're going for Republicans over Democrats by 47 to 43 percent.

KAINE: Well, George, actually we do some pretty intense modeling on early voting at the DNC and in most states, actually, we feel the Democrats are doing pretty well. In most case, Democrats are exceeding Republicans and we're exceeding our own models. And in your own poll that I think you guys released yesterday, what we're seeing the gap for Republicans and the generic congressional ballot has been cut from 13 down to four points among likely voters in the last six weeks. And we now have an edge among registered voters. That's why we're so focused on turnout here at the end.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is true, Mr. Steele, and beyond that, the Republican Party, even though they do seem poised for pretty big gains, is no more popular than the Democrat Party. And even Jeb Bush, son of the former president had a pretty startling comment in The New York Times. He said tomorrow's results will not be a validation of the Republican Party at all. Is he right?

STEELE: I think there's some degree of truth to that. I think, you know, I've just spent the last six weeks on a bus touring the country. And I think there is a degree of truth in that. I think the American people right now are much more skeptical of the direction that the President and Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid are taking the country. But they also have some concerns about the direction that Republicans will they ever lead when they take control of the Congress in 2011. So, I think there's, I think there's a serious, you know, concern that the people have more broadly speaking about both parties in the direction they lead. The one thing I can offer is that the Republican Party has spent the past 18 months listening to the American people. You've seen that reflected in proposals that Paul Ryan and others have introduced that have been, in many cases, rejected by the Democrat leadership in the House and Senate. So we're hoping now for a fresh start with the American people. And if we don't, and this has been the word that I've gotten across the country, if we don't live up to those expectations, then we will have a problem in two years. But right now, the people are looking to us to move in the right direction. And that's what we're prepared to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tim Kaine, we got some candor there from Michael Steele. Let's hear some from you as well. You met with President Obama yesterday. We now know that the weekend before the 2006 midterm elections, President Bush was already preparing for a midterm correction. He was firing Donald Rumsfeld. He was hiring Secretary Gates as Secretary of Defense. What kind of mid-course direction can we expect from President Obama?

KAINE: Well, George, that's for the president to announce, not me. We in Cleveland and flew back together. The President is upbeat about the rallies and how they've gone and the energy. And he's also very, very happy by the work that's been done by Democrats out in the field. He has a good sense of perspective about the challenge of midterm elections and about the need going forward to make some adjustments and corrections. And you'll see those play out over the course of the next few weeks. But he's got a good perspective about, pride in accomplishments but also now is time to make some adjustments.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What changes do you think Democrats need to make?

KAINE: Well, look, I'm going to led the President talk about what should be done at the White House. I think the Democrats need to be proud of the President, their accomplishments and proud of their party. And, to some degree what I've seen in this campaign, overwhelmingly the Democrats are, but there have been some who have kind of been holding their own accomplishments at arm's length. And I think that's good to run proud of what you are and what you've done. And I think Democrats need to do that a little bit more.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A pretty stunning headline in the journal Politico, Mr. Steele, next FOR GOP leaders stopping Palin. First paragraph, the article says, "Top Republicans, the national GOP establishment say the 2010 campaign highlighted an urgent task that they will begin in earnest as soon as the elections are over. Stopping Sarah Palin." Are you part of that movement?

STEELE: Oh, heck no! And let me make something very clear here. I think it's part of the Washington noise that so frustrates the American people. If you're not willing to put your name with your comments, then there's no validity to it. All of these anonymous sources who are running around talking about this, that, and the other thing. What's going to happen to Sarah Palin. What isn't going to happen to Sarah Palin. Put your name next to the quote and then have a conversation with Sarah Palin. Until then, leave it along. All this kind of this dissension and frustrations within the party is not doing anything to get Republicans elected tomorrow. So, until we get that job done, let's not worry about 2012.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org