Democratic strategist James Carville reached back into history and compared the bulk of Republican voters to "inmates," referencing a statement by former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, who said the problem with his state's prisons was "the quality of the inmates."
"The problem is the quality of the people that vote in your primary," Carville told Republican host Joe Scarborough Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"This is the problem you got — what I call the Lester Maddox problem. He famously said, 'The problem of the Georgia prisons is the quality of the inmates.'
"When you have 70 percent of the Republicans in Georgia that believe in creationism, you got, officially ... a Lester Maddox problem. You have a bad quality of inmate in the Republican party," Carville, seen as the architect of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, said.
Lester Maddox, a Democrat, was the governor of Georgia from 1967 to 1971, and was known for rigid views on segregation, though he was also at times progressive on racial matters.
"It's the voters out there that are driving the politicians," Carville said, referencing the proponents of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare.
"It may be three [senators] out there that want to do this, but about 63 percent of the Republicans that vote in primaries want to do this. These guys know that," he said.
Carville described Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a primary force behind the effort to defund Obamacare, as "formidable," and added, "You got Cruz, who can ring them up, one of the most talented guys ... And he's driving this whole thing. And they're scared to death to go against him."
Carville indicated the problem for the Republican party was its large number of conservative members.
"The self-identified Republicans in this country say they want their party to be more conservative. That's the problem," he said.
"I'm telling you that there is a hard, hard core part of that party that says, 'Our problem is we're not conservative enough,'" Carville added.
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