Politico's Mike Allen on MSNBC: GOP 'Steamroller' Stopped, Dems 'Off the Mat'
That despite the fact that the seat has been by Democrats for decades and that Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1 in the district. Allen touted how "the White House is saying this shows that if you fight district by district that you can win. Democrats can win in a tough district if they have a local message."
Anchor Alex Witt then asked Allen about the victory of Rand Paul in the Kentucky senate Republican primary. Allen continued to spin the news as bad for the GOP: "if he makes it to Washington...He's not going to do what the Republican leaders tell him to do, they fought against him."
Allen even claimed the Paul campaign was modeled after that of Barack Obama: "this is a continuation of the trend that we saw with Barack Obama in 2008. He wasn't the establishment candidate....That's what we're seeing in both parties now."
Witt then wondered what the Paul victory said about the influence of Senator Mitch McConnell. Allen replied: "It means that he has to watch his flank. It means that he no longer has automatic control over his caucus." He went on to proclaim a potential comeback for Democrats: "This is a tough day for Republicans. For a long time they've been feeling their oats, as my grandmother would say, and now the Democrats are up off the mat a little bit. They have a talking point. They say 'we do see a map to win.'"
Later in the hour, Witt interviewed Republican New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg and repeated Allen's talking points: "Should Republicans be at all concerned they weren't able to pick up this congressional seat in Pennsylvania?" A headline on-screen read: "GOP In Trouble? GOP Establishment Dealt Blow by Tea Party in KY."
Gregg dismissed the depiction: "Well, I don't think we need to be too concerned. It was a Democratic seat after all. And the Democrat who did win, ran basically as a Republican, he was pro-gun, he was pro-life, and he was opposed to Nancy Pelosi. So as a practical matter, he sort of had the message of a lot of Republicans there."
Witt then turned to the Paul victory and wondered: "does this indicate a lack of power by your colleague Mitch McConnell, who supported Trey Grayson?"
Here is a full transcript of Witt's May 19th exchange with Allen:
ALEX WITT: To politics. Incumbents beware, there is a voter revolt going on. Primary day election results should be – put just about every Democrat, Republican, incumbent rather, putting them all on notice heading into the November midterms. No more business as usual it seems. Voters handed Senate candidates victories for riding the growing wave of discontent against the incumbents and the Washington establishment.
JOE SESTAK: This is what democracy looks like. A win for the people. Over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.
RAND PAUL: I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We've come to take our government back.
WITT: Rand Paul, the tea party-backed son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul defeated Trey Grayson in a landslide. Now in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary for Senate, Congressman Joe Sestak easily defeated five-term incumbent Arlen Specter, who had support of the President after switching to the Democratic Party last year. Anti-incumbent anger was also on display in Arkansas, where two-term Senator Blanche Lincoln was forced into a run off election next month against Lt. Governor Bill Halter. Mike Allen is Politico's chief Washington correspondent and he joins me. Mike, good morning.
MIKE ALLEN: Good morning, Alex.
WITT: What are you taking away from all of this. And is there a clear message here?
ALLEN: There is. Number one, stop the steamroller. The idea the Republicans were automatically going to be in control going into November, now not true. The most surprising result of the night, a Democrat winning the only Democrat-Republican showdown of yesterday in a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. The Republicans should have won. It was that one held by the long-time Congressman John Murtha. And so the White House is saying this shows that if you fight district by district that you can win. Democrats can win in a tough district if they have a local message. Second take away, the establishment is in trouble. It was all anti-establishment candidates, people that were not depending on endorsements, goodies, positions in Washington, that did well.
WITT: I want to go to Kentucky right now, Rand Paul. The tea party-backed candidate crushing Trey Grayson. He had the backing of the Republican establishment. Can we talk about the tea party. They claim to be a movement. Are they an actual political party now? Is it a viable third party?
ALLEN: Well no, it's just the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, it just has a catchy name now. But this was the biggest manifestation of this idea. So we're going to see a real change in our politics. If Rand Paul, the son of Ron Paul, who ran for president, if he makes it to Washington, and he's now considered the favorite, he would have no incentive to play by Washington rule. He's not going to do what the Republican leaders tell him to do, they fought against him. So all of his incentive is going to be to stay plugged into the country. So this is a continuation of the trend that we saw with Barack Obama in 2008. He wasn't the establishment candidate. They were for Hillary Clinton. He won the nomination and then the presidency depending on outside sources of news and fund-raising. That's what we're seeing in both parties now.
WITT: Hey, what's all this mean for Mitch McConnell?
ALLEN: It means that he has to watch his flank. It means that he no longer has automatic control over his caucus. This is a tough day for Republicans. For a long time they've been feeling their oats, as my grandmother would say, and now the Democrats are up off the mat a little bit. They have a talking point. They say 'we do see a map to win.' It's still difficult, it's not a good time to be an Obama Democrat but it's not necessarily fatal to be a Democrat. It is tough, though, to be a leader, whether you're a Republican or Democrat. I got a funny e-mail from some operative. I had asked him for help. And he said, 'oh, yes, this is a great day to be defending my party from Washington D.C.,' taking the bullet.
WITT: Alright, thank you very much. Good to see you Mike Allen from Politico. We appreciate that.
ALLEN: Thanks for the great coverage, Alex.