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NBC's Gregory: 'Central Beliefs' of GOP 'Have Hurt it With the Electorate'

On Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory demanded Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor admit that the Republican Party's fundamental principles led to electoral defeat in 2012: "Isn't this more than tone that's an issue? Isn't it more than re-branding? Isn't it some of the central beliefs of the Republican Party that have hurt it with the electorate?" [Listen to the audio]

Cantor explained that the party needed to "connect our conservative principles with helping people and making their life work again." Gregory interjected: "But Leader, it's core beliefs....There are core beliefs of the Republican Party that the polls show were rejected by a national electorate that you want to try to recapture some of if you're going to get to become a national party."

Gregory eagerly cited analysis from NBC's own political blog to back up his assertions:

Our political team on First Read, had its own reality check for what you and other Republicans face. And I'll put it up on the screen. Talking about, "the challenge for the Republicans as they focus more on tone than policies. Majorities of Americans rejected some of the party's central principles, according to the exit polls from the November presidential election. For instance, 60% said income tax rates should either go up on all Americans, or those with incomes above $250,000; 59% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 65% favored giving illegal immigrants a path to a legal status. It's rare to find politicians in Washington who believe their political beliefs cost them an election or a policy defeat. They almost ALWAYS blame communications."

Here is a transcript of the February 10 exchange:

10:38AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: Part of what you're talking about is re-branding the Republican Party. And that was, in part, what your speech was about. And there's a lot of ferment right now in the Republican Party. What's the right direction for the party to get back into power beyond controlling the House, but to win national elections?

Our political team on First Read, had its own reality check for what you and other Republicans face. And I'll put it up on the screen. Talking about, "the challenge for the Republicans as they focus more on tone than policies. Majorities of Americans rejected some of the party's central principles, according to the exit polls from the November presidential election. For instance, 60% said income tax rates should either go up on all Americans, or those with incomes above $250,000; 59% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 65% favored giving illegal immigrants a path to a legal status. It's rare to find politicians in Washington who believe their political beliefs cost them an election or a policy defeat. They almost ALWAYS blame communications."

Isn't this more than tone that's an issue? Isn't it more than re-branding? Isn't it some of the central beliefs of the Republican Party that have hurt it with the electorate?

ERIC CANTOR [REP. R-VA]: David, what I talked about this week at AEI was the need for us to connect our conservative principles with helping people and making their life work again. And I've talked about a man who is a dad here in the inner city of the District of Columbia who, all he wanted was to find a safe place for his kids to learn. He's got four kids.

And he discovered, after having fought with the local school system, the Opportunity Scholarship Program here in DC, something that Speaker Boehner has been an extraordinary champion on. And he realized the benefits of that. And now all of his kids have had an opportunity to start in that school. One is at The University of District of Columbia today.

I talked about working parents who are hourly wage earners who are having a tough time getting through the month right now. Those are the things that people – that we've got to be concerned about. I don't think that Joseph Kelly, the dad here in The District of Columbia, cares one iota about re-branding the Republican or the Democratic Party.

I think what we care about, and what he cares about, is his kids. And that's where Washington really needs to remember is these are real problems. These people are having a tough time. And we ought to be about providing relief to those who don't have a job and those who do.

DAVID GREGORY: But Leader...

CANTOR: And making their life work again.

GREGORY: ...it's core beliefs, I mean what you're talking about, as you admitted after your speech, is not really something that's going to be captured in new legislation. There are core beliefs of the Republican Party that the polls show were rejected by a national electorate that you want to try to recapture some of if you're going to get to become a national party.

(...)