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Larry Kudlow reacts strongly to the anti-Mormon push polls in New Hampshire and Iowa.

Saturday, November 17, 2007
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HH: Joined now by Larry Kudlow of CNBC’s Kudlow & Co. on Monday through Friday at 7pm in the East, 4 in the West. Larry, how are you?

LK: Pretty good, Hugh. How are you?

HH: I’m great, except yesterday, I had Governor Romney on about an hour before the story out of New Hampshire broke, and then you got to him this morning before anyone else could. So how did the Governor react to the bigotry in play in New Hampshire?

LK: Well, he was very, very unhappy, almost emotional, because I went right at it with him. And his basic message was it’s an un-American thing to do, number one, that we believe in the religious freedom in this country. And number two, it is particularly so in this period of Thanksgiving, which hearkens back to our founders and our ancestors. And you know, he argued very strenuously, almost emotionally at times, Hugh, that this was wrong, it was un-American, and it was bigoted. And he particularly blamed the Feingold-McCain bill, or whatever it’s called, McCain-Feingold. Now that’s an interesting take on this story, and I’ll tell you why. The Jonathan Martin in the Politico.com, which is where this all came from, mentions that the push poll, these negative polls, they’re not even polls, they’re just negative phone calls, had good things to say about Senator McCain, and then blasted Romney, and blasted Mormonism. So of course, I asked him if they could trace any of this back to Senator McCain’s people. And Governor Romney said no, he couldn’t be certain about that, and then he unloaded on McCain-Feingold as the ultimate cause of this, because it fostered these 527’s.

HH: Right.

LK: …which as you know, independent expenditures are not traceable. There’s no disclosure…

HH: Right.

LK: …as to the ultimate sources. And then we talked a little bit about that, and he really hammered it, and he really hammered McCain for supporting that. And then I came around again and I asked him, so therefore, is there any evidence whatsoever about McCain involvement, and he again said no, and then he again hammered McCain-Feingold. And I felt very clearly that he was directing his ire at McCain, even though he couldn’t prove it. He decided to use the vehicle of McCain-Feingold. And I want to say probably like you, I’ve interviewed Mitt Romney several times this year. He was as strong and clear and solid as I have ever seen him. And his statement was superb. And as I said it at some point, he seemed rather emotional about it, but he got his message out with enormous clarity. Now we talked a lot about other economic stuff, Hugh, but frankly, it is this push poll story that dwarfs everything else.

HH: You know, it’s poison, and that’s why…I spent a lot of time with the Governor when I was writing the book about him, talking about these issues. And I actually don’t think we really thought it would come out. I think people that we were educating, I was educating, he’s been educating, a lot of people talk about this, were expecting the American political elites to understand religious bigotry is poison. It’s what’s killing Iraqis left and right. It’s what destroyed Northern Ireland for so long. It’s really poison, so I don’t think I really expected something this brass knuckled to show up. I just had it pointed out to me by Charles Krauthammer, though, that the suspects here could very easily be operating without the knowledge of any of the candidates, because…

LK: It’s possible, it’s possible.

HH: …A) they’re anti-Mormon fanatics, or they are 527’s…

LK: I have my doubts about that, but it is possible. But I have my doubts about that.

HH: So you really think someone dropped this bomb, and expected it?

LK: I do. I do, but I have no particular evidence. I’ve made a lot of phone calls to pollsters today, many of whom are friends of mine, old friends of mine. There is some speculation out there about these issues, you know, this thing passed through, this, what’s the name of this group out in…

HH: Western Wat.

LK: That’s right. There are people, there are pollsters who are associated with this group, but I’m going to choose not to speculate on the air. What I will say is I asked Governor Romney whether this was holding him back, and he said no. He felt that in the states where he has made the most time and energy and resources, the early states as we know, Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, he says he’s doing very well in the polls. And we had Scott Rasmussen on the show tonight, and Scott verified that. And in fact, we had Jon Martin from Politico.com, and they’re still exploring this. But he doesn’t have any names. But it does not appear, at least in the early states where Romney has given his most resources, it doesn’t appear to have hurt him at all. At least not yet. So we will see how this plays out. I felt, Hugh, I want to go back a bit, though. I’ve got to tell you, I, on the radio a week ago, you know, I do a bunch of ABC radio on Saturday mornings, and I was really taken back by this whole business of Chris Matthews and MSNBC, and Senator McCain and his 95 year old mother, because she just lashed out at the problems with the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, and blamed Mormons for it.

HH: Yeah.

LK: And I said where’s this coming from? She just said that.

HH: Right.

LK: And of course, John McCain sat there and smiled, and said I don’t agree with my mother on this, I don’t agree with her on all these things, and treated it like a joke. But I didn’t think it was much of a joke, to tell you the truth. And then Senator McCain apologized, sort of, but said in the statement that he apologized with, he mentioned the name, the word Mormon three or four times. And I’ve just never had a good feeling about that. And then this other story breaks, and of course, we have Governor Romney on. And I just want to say that just personally, I’ve given a lot of these interviews as you have, and so forth, I was very proud to be part of this interview, and I was very impressed with Romney’s stand-up nature, his forthright statement of opposition, and his tying it to the founding of this country on the great principle of religious freedom. I was proud to be part of this interview. I want to make that very clear to anybody who’s listening out there. I’m not picking sides. It’s not my position to pick sides. I interview all these people. I am not biased. I ask tough questions. I had Fred Thompson on last night, and I asked a lot of tough questions at Fred. But I was proud to be part of this interview, and to participate in the principle of religious freedom in the Thanksgiving period this year as part of our great heritage. And I was proud that Mitt Romney was tough and strong on this issue.

HH: You know, I am so glad you did that, and it got out there. I’m going to go try and find the audio of that. Maybe we can use that for Monday. We’ll just clip it out of your show and use it, because it is…I asked him last night about Robert Redford’s attack on Mormons. I don’t know if you saw that, Larry.

LK: No, I’m not aware of that.

HH: Yeah, Robert Redford said they’re all plastic, and then applied it specifically…and this is from a Hollywood guy, calling him plastic. So it really is unfortunate that this is breaking out across the United States, but I also think that reactions like yours are going to put it back in the bottle as a repulsive and disgusting display of bigotry.

LK: You know, it’s interesting you say that. We had a panel discuss this, as I said, Jon Martin from Politico, and Scott Rasmussen. I also had some of my ace investor types. John Brown, who runs that Money News for MoneyNews.com, he is a former British member of Parliament, I believe he served for 18 years, so he knows something about politics, at least in Britain. And he’s been an astute observer here. He felt strongly that this would help Romney.

HH: Well, I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. But I certainly think it’s going to help the cause of religious freedom because people are very disgusted. Larry Kudlow, on CNBC every Monday through Friday, thank you, Larry.

End of interview.

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