Former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., talked to msnbc’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on his endorsement of Sen. John McCain for the presidency. Below is a transcript.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’: Sen. Brownback, you ran a tough campaign. You were in there for the longest time. Now you are supporting one of the guys who survives you in this contest, John McCain. Why him, among all your rivals, have you chosen him to endorse?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.: You know, there’s a number of good candidates on the Republican side, Chris, but I think John is the full package. He’s a fiscal conservative. He’s got a 24-year pro-life voting record. He’s a pro-life candidate that can beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. He has foreign policy experience, which I think is important. And the guy is clearly ready to be commander in chief. I had real questions about the surge, but this is the McCain surge. It’s working in Iraq.
And I think that full package is such that I think I ought to support him. And, on top of that, he’s a legitimate American hero. He put his life on the line. He was in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. He’s done it all. And I think he deserves my support and I think he deserves the support of the country.
MATTHEWS: Is this a personal endorsement of a man you respect, as you have said, or is it an endorsement of his policy on Iraq?
BROWNBACK: Well, it’s a personally endorsement, but it is also saying that the surge is working. Now, I don‘t think we have gone far enough. I think we need a political surge, as you have heard me say before.
I think that’s starting to actually happen organically now in Iraq, is what I‘m seeing coming forward. But there’s also a voting record here on life. There’s a strong fiscal conservatism record that I have witnessed in the United States Senate. Like I say, I think the guy is the full package.
And there’s no surprises in this package. You know pretty much John McCain. He has been around on the national scene for a long time. I just think it’s time, really, for our team and our side to give him a second look. And you’re seeing that surge, that McCain momentum really pick up now.
MATTHEWS: Are you for a constitutional amendment, Senator, that would basically ban abortion generally?
BROWNBACK: I am, Chris. I believe that life begins at conception…
MATTHEWS: I’m just trying to figure out if you think McCain is with you. Is McCain with you on that?
BROWNBACK: I believe he is. As a matter of fact, I know he is on that issue. And he’s got a long voting record on the life issue. We have had some differences on other topics before, but he has had a consistent pro-life voting record.
MATTHEWS: Are you going up to New Hampshire for him? It seems—the way we all look at these things, we keep looking where a candidate has a real shot to break through.
And everybody around here seems to think, although McCain has fallen back in the pack, largely, he‘s not one of the front-runners right now, he has a lot of support nationally, just not in some of these early states.
Where do you think, as a political person, he has his chance to break through and win this nomination?
BROWNBACK: Well, I think New Hampshire really is probably the best spot, but I wouldn’t give up on Iowa. I think, if John would invest the time and the organization, invest the resources in Iowa, I think he has got a real chance in Iowa, because of the full package.
But I think the breakthrough moment is probably more in New Hampshire. And I think there‘s a good chance for him to continue that momentum into South Carolina. He was pointing out today that the nominee in the past 20 years on our side of the aisle has won two of the front three states. That’s been the person that‘s won two of the front three has gone ahead to be the nominee.
I think he has a real chance of being able to do that. Plus, I think he’s got a package that the whole of the Republican Party can support, and that can reach out to moderates and independent voters and some Democrats in the fall. He can beat Hillary.
MATTHEWS: Well, I’m always impressed, in those rare moments, Sen. Brownback, when one U.S. senator endorses another U.S. senator, because it seems so rare. But congratulations. You have joined the pack again. You’re back in there for a man we all respect around here, Sen. John McCain.