MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Tuesday worried about the emergence of Mitt Romney as a serious front-runner and a threat to Barack Obama's reelection. Talking to Democratic strategist Mark Penn, the "Hardball" host spoke the language of the Occupy Wall Street protesters: "Suppose [Democrats] make [Romney] Gordon Gekko? Suppose they say, he's one of the pigs on Wall Street?"
Matthews continued, suggesting Democrats turn the Republican candidate into "one of the big investment bankers, one of the equity people who's been making tons of money through lobbying in Washington and keeping their taxes from having to be paid?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
He helpfully added, "Suppose they're portraying him as a bad guy?"
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele would have none of it. He dismissed, "Bring it on. Bring it on. Because that then clarifies and lays on the table what we've been saying that the Obama administration and the Democrats have been nothing more than class warfare."
Matthews began the segment by channeling the White House. Talking about the President's low polling, he explained, "... I know the people in the White House are thinking about this: How do they beat Mitt Romney?"
A transcript of the October 11 exchange can be found below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: By the way, in head-to-head match-ups, and that's what we're going to talk about right now, a possible head-to-head match-up, in fact, a probable one between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The President narrowly defeats mitt romney in Iowa by just three points, while Mitt Romney beats the President in New Hampshire by a pretty impressive nine points, 49-40. So given all that-we're just proposing tonight it's time for the President's- because I know the people in the White House are thinking about this. How do they beat Mitt Romney?
MARK PENN: Well, you know that they've got to occupy the center. The problem with Mitt Romney is that he is the most centrist possible Republican candidate. And the conservatives are fragmented. And so that means two things. Is Mitt Romney a conservative or is he a centrist? I think the President's got to push him to the right. It's got to use Mitt Romney's primary answers to show that Romney, the old Romney might have been in the center, the new Romney is to the right. The President is mainstream. Give him a chance. His policies will work.
MATTHEWS: So, say he's not good on immigration. He's not good on abortion rights, he's not good on all the issues where the center tends to be more in the center. Put him over on the right.
MATTHEWS: But what do they do if they make this guy on the right- suppose they make him Gordon Gekko? Suppose they say, he's one of the pigs on Wall Street, one of the big investment bankers, one of the equity people who's been making tons of money through lobbying in Washington and keeping their taxes from having to be paid? Suppose they're portraying him as a bad guy?
MICHAEL STEELE: Bring it on. Bring it on. Because, then, that clarifies and lays on the table what we've been saying that the Obama administration and the Democrats have been nothing more than class warfare. It etches- it puts it up to that level. If you're going to look at Romney and you're going to look at his success and what he's done, he was not part of the debacle over the last five years or the last two years or the last three years.
MATTHEWS: You think the public likes the people that brought us the financial hell in '07, '09?
STEELE: So, you're saying that's Romney? Are you equating Romney to that? If that's what you're saying. Because if that's what you're saying, bring it on, because everybody knows that's a lie.