It was no better when the talk turned to the Republicans, with Ms. Matalin, an advisor to the Fred Thompson presidential campaign, assuming the role her husband filled on the Democratic side.
Confronted with Iowa numbers that are downright atrocious for her candidate—a distant third place, nine points behind Mike Huckabee—Ms. Matalin, just like her husband, sought to downplay them.
“Oh, the dynamic hasn’t changed,” she said. “The numbers have changed. He’s down from his peak, but Rudy’s down from his peak. Rudy’s substantially down from his peak … the national polls, Fred Thompson remains in second place. In South Carolina, a more pivotal state than the first two states, he’s tied for first with Romney, who’s been all over TV for two months.”
If the conversation had been about any candidate besides Ms. Matalin’s, does anyone actually believe she would have been so quick to thumb her nose at such damning polls numbers?
And in the next breath, she took it one step further, matter-of-factly hauling out talking points aimed squarely at Mr. Huckabee, who just so happens to have emerged as the chief strategic threat to Mr. Thompson.
“He’s horrible on immigration, he’s for benefits for illegal aliens,” she said. “He’s terrible on spending and taxes, right? Historic tax increases in Arkansas, government spending increased by 50 percent, government employees increased by 20 percent.”
She argued that pointing this out is imperative for Mitt Romney’s campaign, since it is Mr. Romney whose Iowa lead is now threatened by Mr. Huckabee, which is true enough. But what she didn’t add is that the Thompson campaign—her campaign—is counting on Mr. Romney defeating Mr. Huckabee soundly in Iowa, so that Mr. Thompson will face Mr. Romney, a Massachusetts Mormon, in South Carolina—and not Mr. Huckabee, a fellow Southerner.
Mr. Russert has convened this same Carville-Matalin-Shrum-Murphy panel several times. But he ought to consider what it’s supposed to accomplish. If he wants objective and detached (and occasionally unpredictable) analysis from political pros, Mr. Carville and Ms. Matalin need to go. They are shills.
And if he really is interested in dueling recitations of campaign spin, he should simply replace Mr. Shrum and Mr. Murphy with spokespeople for the rest of the candidates.
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