On MSNBC’s Weekends with Alex Witt on Sunday, Ms. Witt brought on New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan, the businessman and former small town mayor who is running against Democrat Cory Booker for the open U.S. Senate seat in the Garden State. The liberal media consensus around the country is that Booker is practically a shoo-in to win the election, and Witt was more than happy to beat Lonegan over the head with that narrative.
The host began with what seemed like a sympathetic question: “How tired are you of everybody saying this is a race that is Cory Booker's to lose?” Lonegan responded confidently that Booker was going to lose the race. To which Witt shot back, “Okay, based on what?” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Lonegan asserted that the Newark mayor was on the wrong side of every issue and that he was too liberal for the state of New Jersey. Witt couldn’t let such an answer go unchallenged, so she took it upon herself to defend Booker: “I mean first of all, Cory Booker himself is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He made national news, as you know, from saving a woman from a burning house. I mean, he's some sort of a hero that way. He's a prolific use of Twitter [sic], so he's got sort of this cultural surge his way.”
Witt then turned to poll numbers to burnish the “hero” Booker: “ But let's take a look at the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers which show he's leading you by 54 to 29 percent among the registered voters. How do you feel about those numbers? How do you turn them around?” It certainly sounds like Witt was suggesting that Booker is the heavy favorite in the election, even though just a few moments earlier she had asked Lonegan if he was tired of that attitude.
After Lonegan declared that Booker’s association with President Obama would hurt the Newark mayor, Witt went on the defensive again: “[New Jersey] is a very reliably blue state. If you look at it, President Obama winning the Garden State in 2012, 58 percent of the vote there. The latest NBC/Marist poll shows President Obama with a 57 percent approval rating among the residents of your state. So don't you think that being linked with the president might be a bonus for Cory Booker?”
Witt seems to believe that this election is Booker’s to lose. In hindsight, her first question was just a tease before she bludgeoned Lonegan with the Booker-as-inevitable-senator storyline. It’s not hard to imagine a time in the near future when Cory Booker replaces President Obama as the liberal media’s main fascination.
Below is a transcript of the interview:
ALEX WITT: The battle for U.S. Senate in New Jersey is in full swing with nominees now selected for both parties ahead of the October 16th special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg. Democratic Mayor Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan each won their respective primaries last week. And joining me now here in studio is New Jersey Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Steve Lonegan. Welcome to you, Steve. We’re glad you’re here.
STEVE LONEGAN: Alex, thanks for having me.
WITT: I'm glad to ask you this. I have a bunch of questions, though. How tired are you of everybody saying this is a race that is Cory Booker's to lose? I mean, how does that affect the way you approach things?
LONEGAN: Well, I like being the underdog because it's going to be even better when Cory Booker loses on October 16th.
WITT: Wait, now you say that with certainty.
LONEGAN: I tell you with a lot of certainty.
WITT: Okay, based on what?
LONEGAN: Based on the fact that we have the energy on the ground, that the issues are on my side, that Cory Booker is on the wrong side of every issue and Cory Booker is just too liberal for New Jersey, and that’s the ultimate message.
WITT: Now do you really think that, sir, because let's take a look at New Jersey. I mean first of all, Cory Booker himself is a rising star in the Democratic Party. He made national news, as you know, from saving a woman from a burning house. I mean, he's some sort of a hero that way. He's a prolific use of Twitter, so he's got sort of this cultural surge his way. But let's take a look at the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers which show he's leading you by 54-29% among the registered voters. How do you feel about those numbers? How do you turn them around?
LONEGAN: Well, that latest Quinnipiac poll was three weeks ago, before the primary, before we got our message out. You know, I come from New Jersey. I built a small business in New Jersey. I raised a family – I’ve been married for 32 years. I raised two beautiful daughters. I represent the people of New Jersey. I don't have the Hollywood elite supporting me. I’m not a glitterati, that’s true. But I know the values of my state and I know what it takes to turn the state around. I'm deeply concerned about what's happening to the country and the state out of the Obama administration and this election October 16th in New Jersey is gonna be a referendum on the Obama agenda and I think I know where people are going on this.
WITT: Interesting you say that because a member of the president’s inner circle, in fact, told Politico that the president is a fan of Cory Booker's and you’re saying that that's precisely the reason why you would beat Cory Booker?
LONEGAN: Absolutely. He is a fan of Cory Booker, and Cory Booker’s an even bigger fan of the president. Cory Booker has said that Obamacare is not just good, but it's great, and despite all of its failures and despite that this is a real disaster for our economy he wants to implement it even faster. He supports the president's Common Core education intrusion into the education of our kids, bigger government, more borrowing, more debt, everything that's bad for this country, Alex.
WITT: Let's take a look at the state which you're running to become a U.S. senator from. I mean, despite electing Republican governors occasionally -- and Chris Christie of course, your current governor, is a Republican -- it is a very reliably blue state. If you look at it, President Obama winning the Garden State in 2012, 58 percent of the vote there. The latest NBC/Marist poll shows President Obama with a 57 percent approval rating among the residents of your state. So don't you think that being linked with the president might be a bonus for Cory Booker?
LONEGAN: My message is a message of individual liberty. At a time in the NSA, we're finding more and more about the NSA intrusion into our privacy. Cory Booker’s on the wrong side of that issue. He supports the NSA. Cory Booker’s on the wrong side of Obamacare. He’s on the wrong side of every single issue. He's on the wrong side of the economic policies that are picking away at our economy every single day. Cory Booker has failed as the mayor of Newark and he’ll fail as a senator from New Jersey. I will represent the core values of my state that I've grown up with, that I will advance and that will put America back on track. Cory Booker is simply too liberal for New Jersey. He’s too liberal for the whole country.
WITT: Okay, I want to pick up on the word ‘core’ because let's talk about the Republican Party as a whole that you're looking to them to support you, certainly, but there seems to be a pretty big rift within the party itself. I mean, take a look at the rift right now between Chris Christie and Rand Paul, for example. You’ve got Mitch McConnell facing this huge primary battle from the way right there, with Matt Bevin. Reince Priebus just wrapping up the RNC meetings up there in Boston. I mean, he’s saying Republicans should avoid using labels like conservative or libertarian, he said just use this word ‘Republican.’
LONEGAN: Well, it depends on what they mean by that. I think we need to return to a country that embraces small business, not big government. A country where the government should protect us from our enemies, not spy on us and our families. Where we embrace free enterprise, not more entitlement state and more spending. That's the direction I want to go. I want America to be a country of limited government that releases the unlimited ability of Americans to produce. That’s the direction the Republican Party should go in. I don't care if you call it conservative, libertarian, what the title is; that's what I stand for. Cory Booker does not.
WITT: You talked about your background as a successful small businessman. How much do you think that is sort of the point on which you need to run and make that message known to voters?
LONEGAN: It’s enormously important. It’s where I’m diametrically opposed to Cory Booker. I built a small business. You know, I made kitchen cabinets in Paterson, New Jersey. That's about as down and dirty as it gets as far as competitiveness and working to achieve and compete in the marketplace. Cory Booker has never created a real job in his life outside of a government-created job or some phony business called Waywire. You know, I have never been handed a free business by the Hollywood elite or the Silicon Valley moguls. I am beholden to no one. I care about the jobs that I created for the men and women I created jobs for. I know that's the backbone of our economy, and that’s the direction I want to take this country.
WITT: Okay, well, Steve Lonegan thank you very much for your time and good luck in the election coming up in just about, what, five short weeks or so?
LONEGAN: Luck is important too. We like luck.
WITT: Absolutely, luck, turnout, and all that. Thank you so much.