CBS's Smith: Tea Party and Palin Could Bring GOP to 'Edge of the Abyss'
Appearing on Friday's CBS Early Show, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer continued to compare the rise of the tea party and possible candidacy of Sarah Palin in 2012 to the 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater. In response, co-host Harry Smith remarked that Palin could take Republicans "to the edge of the abyss, as it were."
On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Schieffer argued: "...it is very much like 1964....they threw out all the establishment candidates...they nominated Barry Goldwater who - fine man - but he was far to the right of most of the people in his party, and they lost in a landslide. And that's why you have establishment Republicans worried about what's going to happen now in November." He repeated the same line on the Early Show and described the tea party as being full of "very, very conservative" voters who would not be as influential in the general election.
Prior to the discussion between Smith and Schieffer, correspondent Dean Reynolds reported on Palin taking a fundraising trip to Iowa and supporting "tea party insurgents...to the chagrin of GOP regulars, who worry they are too extreme, unelectable, or both." He went on highlight how "Democratic strategists say the more Sarah, the better for them" and touted: "Indeed, our latest polling shows the number of Americans viewing her unfavorably has been rising along with her visibility."
After Schieffer made the 1964 comparison to Smith, he explained the reason for the tea party's success: "...it all goes back to the economy once again....What you're seeing is the frustration that just sort of permeates all of our politics right now and you're seeing in these tea party folks kind of the Right end of all of that." He then claimed: "If the economy gets a little bit better, I think you'll see a lot of things change in this - in this equation." Smith joked about the movement's demise: "Could be the iced tea party."
On Wednesday, Smith wondered: "Are all of these tea party victories good for the Republican Party?" He later suggested the GOP was making a "miscalculation" at their own "peril" by supporting the movement.
Here is a full transcript of the September 17 segment:
ERICA HILL: Palin politics. The former Alaska governor heads to Iowa, as she celebrates two more successful Senate endorsements. Is this the first step in her plan to take on President Obama in 2012?
HARRY SMITH: Now to politics, two more Republicans endorsed by Sarah Palin were big winners in this week's primaries. As Palin campaigns this week, speculation is growing that the former GOP vice presidential candidate wants to be on the top of the ticket in 2012. CBS News national correspondent Dean Reynolds is in Des Moines with more. Good morning, Dean.
DEAN REYNOLDS: Good morning, Harry. Well, you're right about that speculation. And Sarah Palin's appearance here in Des Moines tonight caps off a week during which her political clout was on full display.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Palin in Iowa; Is This First Step Toward White House Run?]
To those who like her and those who don't. Her appearance in Kentucky on Thursday was vintage Palin.
SARAH PALIN: We can take it back, we can take back our country. And we're going to turn things around.
REYNOLDS: She was campaigning for Republican senatorial hopeful Rand Paul, one of the tea party insurgents she has endorsed. Sometimes to the chagrin of GOP regulars, who worry they are too extreme, unelectable, or both. It's a reaction she apparently relishes.
PALIN: The hierarchy and, you know, they're not liking this.
REYNOLDS: Tonight, Palin comes to Iowa, which holds the first presidential caucus in 2012. Is she setting the table for a presidential campaign?
MATT STRAWN [IOWA REPUBLICAN STATE CHAIRMAN]: You know, we're just fortunate to have her here. Because she certainly energizes Iowa Republicans at all levels.
REYNOLDS: But Democratic strategists say the more Sarah, the better for them.
DAVID PLOUFFE [OBAMA ADVISOR]: The very best organizer or fundraiser in the Democratic Party is going to be here in Iowa, Sarah Palin.
REYNOLDS: Indeed, our latest polling shows the number of Americans viewing her unfavorably has been rising along with her visibility. Now, Sarah Palin isn't saying much about her long-term intentions, but as they say in political circles here, nobody comes to Iowa by accident. Harry.
SMITH: We know that one for sure. Dean Reynolds, thank you so much. From Des Moines this morning. We want to bring in CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation Bob Schieffer. Bob, good morning.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning to you, Harry.
SMITH: Can one appearance in Iowa constitute the beginning of a presidential campaign?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it might. I mean, there's no question about it. But, you know, what is - what is really bothering the establishment Republicans right now is - is what happened to Republicans back in 1964. You know, they had almost won in 1960 when Nixon ran against Kennedy. The next - the next time around, 1964, Republicans threw out all the establishment people, all the leaders of their party, and nominated Barry Goldwater. As I've said many times, a very good man but someone far to the Right of the mainstream of the Republican Party. They lost in a landslide. Same thing happened to the Democrats in 1972. They threw out all the establishment candidates - people, leaders in their party, big city mayors like Dick Daley, and nominated again, a very good man, George McGovern, but someone who was far to the Left of the mainstream of their party and they lost in a landslide. And that's what's bothering the establishment Republicans now, they're worried, are they headed to something like that in 2012?
SMITH: Take a right to the - take to the edge of the abyss, as it were. But that becomes the question. If you're the Republicans, how do you - because what's undeniable is the passion and motivation of the supporters of all the tea party folks. If you're the Republicans, is there a way to harness that energy?
SMITH: Well, that's what they got to figure out, because you're absolutely right. I mean, these people are committed. A lot of people of these tea party folks are not really Republicans. They didn't - you know, they're anti-tax, they're very, very conservative. They tend to be older. In mid-term elections, you don't have young people turning out very much to vote. And they were a powerful force. I mean, there's absolutely no question about it. Sarah Palin's endorsement meant a great deal to those particular people. But, how is this going to play in November? And that's - that's what they're all grappling with, how do you keep the enthusiasm but, at the same time, how do you appeal to the people in the middle, the independents? Who, in the end, are always the ones who decided the election.
SMITH: Because it's all about the middle. It is an interesting dichotomy though. Because as Sarah Palin's negatives continue to go up, everything she touches turns to gold. O'Donnell in Delaware two weeks ago was not given a snowball's chance in you-know-what and she ends up running roughshod over the Republican candidate.
SCHIEFFER: You know, Harry, it all goes back to the economy once again. I mean, you saw the figures that say one person in seven in this country is now living in poverty. People are still unemployed. People are still loving - looking for work. What you're seeing is the frustration that just sort of permeates all of our politics right now and you're seeing in these tea party folks kind of the Right end of all of that.
SCHIEFFER: And it all comes from that. If the economy gets a little bit better, I think you'll see a lot of things change in this - in this equation. But, so far, it's not getting better.
SMITH: Could be the iced tea party. Bob Schieffer in Washington this morning, as always, we appreciate your time. And remember, you can watch Bob's interview with former President Clinton on Face the Nation this Sunday morning. Don't want to miss it, right here on CBS.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.