May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Senator John Cornyn of Texas, head of the committee to elect Republicans to the chamber, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that this week’s report that Democrat Richard Blumenthal misstated his military service is a “game changer” for the Connecticut Senate race.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who is the chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. Senator, thank you for being with us.
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: Thanks, Al.
HUNT: For the big, juicy primaries now, how do you assess November? How many seats do you think you will pick up, or what the odds of your taking control of the Senate, of winning those 10 seats?
CORNYN: Well, we are leading in all the races where we have retiring Republicans and eight out the 10 races that are currently where Democrats hold those seats, the polls show our candidates leading. Obviously we have some primaries we need to sort out -
CORNYN: - in the process. We are still six months out, but we are feeling hopeful about November.
HUNT: 50/50 chance of taking control?
CORNYN: Oh, you have been around here a long time. No -- who knows? It’s anybody’s guess. But the good news is I think we will have some real checks and balances here in Washington, single-party power probably is not a good idea for the country as a whole. We will move things toward the middle, given our greater influence in the process.
HUNT: One seat that wasn’t on your priorities list was Connecticut. With the New York Times revelation, the Democratic nominee, Richard Blumenthal, misrepresented his military service record. Is that now a seat you think you can win?
CORNYN: I think that’s a potential game changer. Character, credibility, personal integrity is very important and he has hurt himself badly. The last Nielsen poll that was taken roughly the day after that showed that his lead over both Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons had collapsed considerably, so I think it is in play.
HUNT: You mentioned both those names. Wouldn’t you be better off to take advantage of that with Rob Simmons, a veteran and a CIO than Linda McMahon, whose only combat was with the World Wrestling Federation?
CORNYN: Well, Rob is fantastic and Linda McMahon is a very accomplished businesswoman, but a novice candidate. Actually, they will have to sort it out in the primary.
HUNT: I am not going to get John Cornyn to take a position?
CORNYN: Well, I don’t get to vote in Connecticut, so we are going to let the Connecticut voters sort that out and then we will of course back the nominee. But Attorney General Blumenthal hurt himself badly.
HUNT: You endorsed Charlie Crist in Florida. The Republican rank and file ignored you, the same in Utah with Bob Bennett. Rand Paul in Kentucky ran roughshod over Senate leader Mitch McConnell this week. Is there a problem with Republican leaders not being on the same page as the Tea Party?
CORNYN: Well, the mood of the country is such that folks around the country don’t necessarily want people in Washington to tell them who they should vote for. They are going to make their own decisions and there is a true demand by the electorate just to have people listen and be responsive, rather than lecture to them.
So it is sort of a sign of the times, but it is going to be fine. We are going to win in Utah. We are going to win in Kentucky, and in Florida Charlie Crist, frankly, has left himself without any base of support and Marco Rubio is going to be the next senator from Florida.
HUNT: Let me ask you about Kentucky. You believe in the big tent. I know that. Rand Paul, the nominee, abolish the Federal Reserve, abolish the Department of Education, get rid of farm subsidies, and this week raised questions about the desirability of the 1954 Civil Rights Act. Is that the kind of big tent Republican you can live with?
CORNYN: Well, I saw Rand Paul issued a clarification of his views where he recanted any desire to repeal the Civil Rights Act, that he supported it. But, look, candidates, and you know, make mistakes and they misspeak. I don’t mean tell intentional untruths like we saw in Connecticut, I mean misspeak.
And Rand Paul, like every new candidate, is going to get better. And as he goes on with the campaign he is -- the latest Rasmussen poll we saw shows him very strong against the Attorney General in Kentucky. And I think he is going to be the next U.S. senator.
HUNT: Let me turn you around the other way. Your colleague, Jim DeMint, has suggested the party would be better off without Republicans who don’t adhere to very conservative limited government principles. That would seem to apply in Jim’s definition to Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine, who broke with the party to support the financial regulation bill this week. Are those Maine senators relics in the GOP?
CORNYN: I’m a pragmatist. I am a conservative, as well, in Texas for that. I pick my state and fortunately they are nice enough to elect me, send me back here again in 2008. But you can’t have people who can get elected as conservatives in Texas, necessarily run as Republicans in some of these other places, people like Scott Brown. He has to run in Massachusetts and be responsive to the concerns of his constituents there. So I don’t -- I am not -- I don’t believe in a one size -
HUNT: Not a Collins and Snowe, then.
CORNYN: Well, and I would say for the Maine senators as well. They have to -- you would rather have, as Ronald Reagan said, somebody who votes with me eight times out of 10 as my friend and ally, not a 20 percent traitor.
HUNT: Let me ask you about an issue that is very dear to Texas, I know that. It is immigration. And you have said that the federal government has to do a lot better job on the border, particularly in Arizona and elsewhere.
But let me ask you specifically about the anti-immigration measure that passed in Arizona which would permit law enforcement officers to demand the identity of anyone that they stop. It is very controversial, as you know. Is that the kind of proposal that is going to be good for Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere?
CORNYN: Arizona didn’t act in a vacuum, or they did actually in a vacuum in terms of the federal responsibility to deal with border security and immigration reform. I support sensible, comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. We ought to be doing that job.
It is hard, though, when you see the sort of violence that is flaring in Mexico, 23,000 people killed since 2006 there, a lot of spillover effects into the United States including Texas. And then we are also, obviously we are in a serious recession. And we want to make sure that whatever system we devise we don’t have the immigrant population that would benefit from such a program employed at the expense of Americans.
HUNT: I’m sure Jeb Bush would agree with everything you just said, but he said the Arizona law was a mistake.
CORNYN: Well, the Arizona law changed from its original iteration, as you know.
CORNYN: Now, it says that if a police officer stops you, stops you, stops me, that he can ask for identification and that satisfied the requirement for the law. It started off on a rocky footing and raised concerns about racial profiling. But the new law as written expressly prohibits racial profiling and it is an understandable action on the part of the state when the federal government has not done its job.
HUNT: The big financial reregulation bill, what effect do you think it is going to have on the financial turmoil?
CORNYN: I think it will contract credit. It will make it harder for community bankers and credit unions at the local level, make it harder on car dealers who are now swept up in this new mass of bureaucracy. And it doesn’t deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the really the root causes for the financial crisis? So, unfortunately, most people are going to conclude in the end that this was just a massive government intervention that really isn’t directed at the root causes of the crisis and institutionalizes it. Too big to fail leaves taxpayers potentially on the hook for future bailouts.
HUNT: OK, Senator John Cornyn, thank you so much for being with us.
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