Missisippi Gov. Haley Barbour spoke Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday night on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" about what the results of Tuesday's elections mean.
Below is a transcript provided by CNN of the conversation:
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And joining us now, two governors. A Democratic Governor, Martin O'Malley of Maryland, and Republican Governor, Haley Barbour, of Mississippi.
Governors, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D-MARYLAND): And thank you.
BLITZER: Governor Barbour, how much of a referendum if at all are the elections tonight for President Obama?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R- MISSISSIPPI): I think it's too much to say it's a referendum on President Obama. But I think - do think his policies are having a tremendous impact on these elections.
And that these -- his policies are hurting Democrats, both in Virginia and in New Jersey where people are concerned about jobs, about spending, about debt. And all they're hearing from Washington is about health care reform that's going to cost more money, drive up their health insurance rates. And about energy policies going to cost more money, cost jobs, make energy more expensive. That's not helping the Democrats. It's hurting the Democrats.
BLITZER: What do you think, Governor O'Malley.
O'MALLEY: Well, I think on the contrary.
I think that most people understand that President Obama inherited a huge mess, an economy that was in shambles. And if you look at the progress that's been made. I mean, eight months ago all of the economists were talking about us teetering on the brink of depression. Now we're seeing the start of a recovery. And most of the debate is over how quickly is it happening.
And so these governors who were up -- our Governor Corzine in New Jersey has had to make tough decisions in a very, very tough economy that was not the making of President Obama. But I think he's made tough decisions. He's governed well. And then if you look at Virginia...
BLITZER: All right. Let me interrupt for a moment, Governor O'Malley, because in New Jersey Obama carried that state by more than 15 points. In Virginia, he carried the state by six points. Yet the two Democratic candidates, there especially in Virginia, and maybe in New Jersey, they're poised potentially to lose.
O'MALLEY: Well, but that's how -- the races are certainly close, because these are some of the toughest times economically. We've never seen this sort of -- haven't seen this sort of unemployment in 30 years. But if you look at John Corzine's race a few months ago, everybody was counting him out. And now it's a -- a virtual dead heat.
In Virginia we're coming off of not one, but two very successful Democratic governors. And while this contest is -- has been a very challenging one for us, we still -- voters do surprise us from -- every now and again. And we're hoping for good things in Virginia as well. But the fact of the matter is, it couldn't be a tougher time in our economy for these races to be happening than right now.
BLITZER: Why Governor Barbour -- and you're former Chairman of the Republican Party. All of us remember your tenure at the RNC. Why do only 20 percent of voters out there now openly identify themselves as Republican?
BARBOUR: Well the real question is how are people going to vote?
Now, John Corzine, the incumbent Governor of New Jersey who has outspent his opponent by multiple three, four, five to one, may get 42 or 43 percent of the vote tonight. If he wins, he's going to win despite the fact that 55, 58 percent of the people in New Jersey voted against him.
Now, if the Democrats want to claim that as some sort of explanation point for their administration, more power to them. But same thing is true in Virginia...
BLITZER: But you know, Governor Barbour...
BLITZER: You did a lot of politics. A win is a win.
BARBOUR: That's -- a win is a win, except if you're trying to assess what effect is the administration and its policies having on Democratic candidates? And I think Democratic candidates around the country are going to look at the returns tomorrow and say, "We got clobbered in Virginia. If we won in New Jersey, it's with like 42 or 43 percent of the vote."
And these two things are going to help Republicans next year, because they're going to be really good for candidate recruiting. They're going to be a real spring board for the 2010 election.
BLITZER: All right, Haley Barbour and Governor O'Malley, he remembers what happened in 93 and 94 when he was the RNC Chairman. The Republicans used the 93 wins to recruit candidates to get out there and do really well in 94 and reassert the majority in the House and Senate.
O'MALLEY: But Wolf, let's not forget the fact that for the last 24 years the party that controls the White House has never won, you know, Virginia and New Jersey. So that -- that's the historic trend, and that's what President Obama is up against here just nine months into office and having to have done some pretty difficult things in a short period of time to turn our economy around.
So these will be exciting races tonight. And -- and I think that it's a testament to the direction that President Obama is taking us in. That you've seen some of the reversals of fortune that you've seen in -- in New Jersey certainly. And you also have seen more people now in favor of a public option whereas just a month ago they were opposed to it.
So American public realizes that health care is pulling down our economy and it needs to be addressed.
BLITZER: If the Republican -- excuse me, the conservative candidate in upstate New York, Governor Barbour, wins that race after having successfully pushed out the official Republican candidate from running, what will that say about recruiting candidates looking ahead to one year from now?
BARBOUR: It will be good for Republicans in the House to start with. More importantly it will say to party leaders around the country don't do what the New York Republican party leaders did when the state party chairman let a handful of people choose our party's nominee.
In addition, where there are 45,000 more Republicans than Democrats, instead of having a primary where all the Republicans could choose who they wanted. And whoever they'd chosen would have gotten the unanimous support of -- of the voters in the district from Republicans. Instead, the state party chairman who’s now been replaced let a handful of people pick the nominee. No wonder people are furious. I'd be furious too.
BLITZER: It's a pretty close race. Although Doug Hoffman, Governor O'Malley, seems to have a little bit of an edge going in now that the Republican candidate is out.
O'MALLEY: Well the Republican party is a little bit at war with themselves, aren't they? I mean, they've got the right wing of their party, and they've got the extreme right wing of their party. And you've seen them turn on each other time and again as they try to figure out what they want to do as a party let alone -- let alone what sort of direction they want to lead our country.
And so that's an exciting race. It’s certainly an interesting dynamic where you have the Republican -- one of the Republicans -- the more moderate one who dropped out endorsing the Democratic candidate. So it should be an interesting night.
BLITZER: Do you think the Democrat is going to win?
O'MALLEY: I hope so. I think so.
BLITZER: You do think so? What do you think, Governor Barbour?
BARBOUR: Well I'm not as close to it as I am to the Governor's races, Wolf, obviously. But everything that I hear is that Hoffman -- the conservative and Republican is going to win. But again, I don't want to claim that I'm close enough to it to be an expert.
BLITZER: We'll all know soon enough. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in.
BARBOUR: Thank you, Wolf.
O'MALLEY: Thank you, Wolf.