ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports:
It sounds like Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will make Republican presidential debates interesting, should he choose to run for president.
McCotter, R-Mich., told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today that the Republican presidential candidates last night “failed” the “litmus test” put forward by the debate moderator, CNN’s John King, when they chose to answer trivial questions like Coke vs. Pepsi or “American Idol” vs. “Dancing with the Stars.”
And in a clear jab at Tim Pawlenty – who pointedly did not criticize Mitt Romney’s health care plan last night as he had just a day earlier – McCotter said the candidates showed they “start to flinch” in trying to tailor their answers for different audienes.
“I wasn't particularly surprised by the approach of any of the candidates,” McCotter said. “I think that the litmus test that was put forward was actually failed by the field.”
“In a country in a war and a recession, the real choices are between bankruptcy and prosperity. They are between insecurity and security. They are not between Elvis and Johnny Cash. And I think that some of the Republicans should have pointed that out at the time.”
“Again, this is Mr. King's job. And it's also the job of the candidates not to play small-ball Beltway politics or try to be liked. It is to point out continually the questions and the crises that face the United States.”
The Republican presidential candidates, McCotter said, were trying too hard to play by the rules: “I can understand why that they wanted to answer the question, to be pleasing to the individual who asked it. But for the Republican primary electorate, it's not a particularly helpful question.”
McCotter also kept up his critique of Romney, the early GOP frontrunner. McCotter last week welcomed Romney to Michigan by saying that his economic policies make Romney and Obama “less than rivals, and more like running mates.”
“I've taken issue with several of his positions, including his support for the Wall Street bailout, [his position on] climate change, and obviously for Romneycare in Massachusetts. But I also point out that has he said somehow — he seems to think that the government's [actions] regarding Detroit have now somehow backed up his policy of, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt.’ ”
“I do not subscribe to the theory that somehow he has been vindicated. And I don't think anyone in my district thinks going bankrupt would have been better, and leaving that $700 billion on Wall Street, where they caused the problem, would have been better.”
McCotter said he was dismayed not to see other candidates take on Romney. (He didn’t mention Pawlenty by name, but to those who watched the debate, McCotter’s target was clear.)
“I'd say the same thing I say here, I'd say the same thing I say everywhere. And I'd say the same thing on your show,” he said. “I have no doubt that I'll be — that if I run, I'll be reviled across the country in many quarters, but that comes with the territory, it's part of the vetting process, and it's part of what the Republican electorate, the independents, and yes, even the Democratic Party has to hear.”
“They have to hear an honest difference of opinion, rather than simply talk about what you may wish to do or why President Obama does what he does. You also have to make distinctions within a primary between yourselves and the others”
“So I think that when you start to go into this and you start to flinch from trying to say one thing on a TV show and say one thing in person, it's not going to work. You have to be willing to do that. You have to be able to do that, or at least not start the process of saying something and not being able to back up later.”
McCotter has said he realizes that the window for declaring a candidacy is closing, but wouldn’t reveal his timeline. He’ll decide, he said, “right before the window closes.”
Watch the interview with Rep. Thaddeus McCotter HERE.
Also today, we recapped the debate with WMUR-TV’s James Pindell, in Manchester, N.H., to talk about winners and losers last night. Pindell said he was struck by how few of the candidates’ answers were geared toward reaching independent voters.
“They can vote in this primary, and there seemed to be really no one really geared to that audience, except for one person: Jon Huntsman, who was not on that stage last night,” Pindell told us.
Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE.