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On Today: Should GOP Be Afraid of Palin and Her Tea Party Supporters?

NBC's Matt Lauer, along with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, spent a whole segment on Monday's Today show wondering if Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party supporters she appeals to, posed a problem for the GOP, with the Today co-anchor going as far to boldly state: "Republicans are afraid of Sarah Palin. Republicans have a right to be afraid of some of the people she was talking to also."

MATT LAUER: So, let's talk about this speech here. Critics have already weighed in. They said it had a lot of conservative red meat in it but it was short on policy and solutions. Here she was speaking to, what for her, is a friendly audience. How's this fit?

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Right. Well the bottom line is she's a frontrunner right now, if you look at a lot of polls, for the GOP nomination in 2012. So, everything she does takes on significance. What's interesting is, what's being said off the air. People, Republicans are afraid of Sarah Palin right now. Conservatives afraid of Sarah Palin right now. But behind the scenes, they're talking about how embarrassing her performance was and the press conference afterwards, not because of any crib notes, but just because she still doesn't seem to, to, to have a great deal of substance about what her...

LAUER: Well you, you say Republicans are afraid of Sarah Palin. Republicans have a right to be afraid of some of the people she was talking to also. Got a guy like Charlie Crist down in Florida in the political fight of his life against a tea party candidate, and so, when she says that she wants to see the Republican Party absorb as much of the tea party can, or party, as possible, is that a reality?

The following is a complete transcript of the segment as it was aired on the February 8 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Joe Scarborough is a former Republican congressman and the host of MSNBC's Morning Joe. Hi Joe, good morning to you.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hey you, good to be here.

LAUER: So, let's talk about this speech here. Critics have already weighed in. They said it had a lot of conservative red meat in it but it was short on policy and solutions. Here she was speaking to, what for her, is a friendly audience. How's this fit?

SCARBOROUGH: Right. Well the bottom line is she's a frontrunner right now, if you look at a lot of polls, for the GOP nomination in 2012. So, everything she does takes on significance. What's interesting is, what's being said off the air. People, Republicans are afraid of Sarah Palin right now. Conservatives afraid of Sarah Palin right now. But behind the scenes, they're talking about how embarrassing her performance was and the press conference afterwards, not because of any crib notes, but just because she still doesn't seem to, to, to have a great deal of substance about what her...

LAUER: Well you, you say Republicans are afraid of Sarah Palin. Republicans have a right to be afraid of some of the people she was talking to also. Got a guy like Charlie Crist down in Florida in the political fight of his life against a tea party candidate, and so, when she says that she wants to see the Republican Party absorb as much of the tea party can, or party, as possible, is that a reality?

SCARBOROUGH: I don't know that, that's a reality, and it's not a reality because the Perot people in 1992, 1993, 1994, they didn't like the Republican Party any more than they liked the Democratic Party. These tea party people are very independent. They are conservative, they are small government types, a good chunk of them, but there are also a lot of people that are just as disillusioned with the Republican Party that supported big government over the past eight years as they are with Barack Obama, who supported big government over the past year.

LAUER: She talked about President Obama, criticized him for his attempts at fighting the war on terror, specifically for the Christmas Day attempted bombing of that jetliner headed for Detroit and the fact that the suspect on that plane was read his Miranda rights as opposed to being held for a military tribunal. She said this, "Treating this like a mere law enforcement matter places our country at great risk because that's not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this. They know we're at war, and to win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern." Now, that received thunderous applause from the people in the room.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

LAUER: How's that issue resonating outside?

SCARBOROUGH: Unbelievably well. You just heard the, the applause line of a lot of Republican candidates moving forward. Scott Brown, the day after Massachusetts, we thought it was about health care reform, we thought it was about deficits. His own pollsters said, no. Actually, terrorism is rating best. This is Sarah Palin's best line politically that, again, is going to be picked up by a lot of Republican candidates and it's gonna draw political blood out on the trail.

LAUER: But, but quickly, on Meet the Press on, on Sunday, John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism chief, said that on the day, Christmas Day, when the arrest was made of this suspect, he briefed some top Republican leaders in Congress and none of them expressed any reservations or concerns about the way this suspect was being handling. So, are there some Republicans who are now vulnerable on this?

SCARBOROUGH: No, I don't think so. It does sound a lot, though, like Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney going back and forth about who said what and when they said it. Boehner came out, John Boehner came out, said "That's not the truth." I think you're gonna see the unfortunate specter of the continued politicalization of intel gathering, and it's bad when Republicans do it, it's bad when Democrats do it, but it's gonna be a huge political issue this year.

LAUER: Joe Scarborough. Joe, thanks very much.

SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much.

LAUER: Good to have you here this morning. Now go back to work.

SCARBOROUGH: I shall.

LAUER: Joe is gonna head across the street because Morning Joe airs weekdays starting at 6:00am Eastern over on MNSBC.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.