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Notes on Meet The Press Broadcast, January 1, 2012

January 1, 2012

This morning’s Meet The Press began with the new Des Moines Register poll showing a surging Rick Santorum gaining on Ron Paul and Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential nomination race. NBC’s political director Chuck Todd says the narrative which says Romney is not conservative enough has not changed. Seventy-five per cent of likely Iowa caucus-goers Tuesday night say they are going to vote for someone other than Romney

If nothing else this keeps pressure on Romney to be more conservative. Todd adds that Romney scores best with those 60 and older, so the prediction of good weather on Tuesday night might work in Romney’s favor. He later says that Rick Perry will be the real person to watch following the caucuses. If he drops out, it will not be good for Romney because Romney benefits from a more fragmented anti-Romney field.

Host David Gregory mentions that some have, as usual this time of year, been questioning the role of Iowa in the nominating process. Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn responds, “We are first, not last. We are not the decider.”

Up next was former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) who says his goal has always been to win the “conservative primary” which means he needs to beat Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich.

Gregory pushes Santorum on his lack of endorsements from people inside Washington, DC. (Note: Is this really a concern of anyone outside of DC?). Santorum says that, because his numbers have been so low up until recently, he has not asked anyone for an endorsement.

Throughout this interview, Santorum actually acquits himself quite well. Gregory did what he does, presenting past statements which might contradict current positions… the real benefit of this is to see if the candidate can roll with it. And Santorum did.

On Iran, Santorum has used “appeasement” to describe President Barack Obama’s policies. Specifically, Santorum was critical of the president for not supporting the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009. Santorum made it clear that he would use air strikes to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

As Gregory pushed him on democracy, Santorum did concede that he will not support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt even as they win free and fair democratic elections.

Moving on to the roundtable portion of the program, Mike Murphy said the Romney people would like to win in Iowa, but they also know they don’t need it. Mark Halperin added, all likely scenarios are either good or very good for Mitt Romney. He says Romney has the only operation that can run a national campaign right now.

Katie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register said Santorum is the only candidate they found rising in support. Andrea Mitchell said that Santorum showed he is more of a typical politician in his answers earlier to Gregory. But David Brooks said Santorum helped himself in those answers by showing that he is a reasonable person.

Murphy added that this morning in evangelical churches across Iowa, people are probably talking about how one of “our” guys (Santorum) is gaining momentum, and this will be good for Santorum come Tuesday night. Brooks says Santorum was a true anti-poverty guy in Congress who brings real social concerns to a race where this has been lacking.

Murphy predicts Ron Paul’s finish in Iowa will be disappointing. When asked what the national media story will be Wednesday morning, Murphy says, “Who the hell is Rick Santorum?”

In the end, the consensus of the roundtable seemed to be that Romney will have the nomination all but sewn up by the end of January, after Florida and South Carolina vote. Note that next week’s Meet The Press will be a live debate among the GOP candidates… the last one before the January 10 New Hampshire primary.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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