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tv   Washington Week  PBS  January 20, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EST

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gwen: from the low country to the piedmont, south carolina has become the next great test in the republican primary test. will romney win? can gingrich catch you up? we'll fill you in tonight on a special palmetto state edition. >> i think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to attract decent people to run for offers. gwen: to almost everyone's surprise, south carolina has become a race to the finish. two candidates out in four days. >> i believe it is now time for our party to unit around the candidate best equipped to defeat barack obama.
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i believe that candidate is governor mitt romney. >> today i am suspending my campaign and endorsing newt gingrich for president of the united states. gwen: newt gingrich coming on strong, while ron paul and rick santorum still attract big crowds. >> this idea of the inevitability of mitt romney as the candidate is going to look so inevitable. >> the campaign has been doing very well but that doesn't mean things can't change. gwen: forcing frontrunner mitt romney to fight to hold on to his lead. >> this campaign is about taking back america and restoring american values and i'll do that. gwen: it may all end here or it may not. covering the week in south carolina, charts charles babington of the associated press, karen tumulty of the "washington post," sam youngman of reuters and jeff zeleny of
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"the new york times." >> award winning reporting and analysis, covering history at it happens. this is a special campaign 2012 edition of "washington week with gwen ifill & national journal". corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. to connect our forces to what they need when they need it. >> to help troops see danger before it sees them. >> to answer the call of the brave and bring them safely home. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to support and protect all who serve. >> that's why we're here. >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875 we've been there for our clients through good times and bad.
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when their needs chained, we were there to meet -- changed, we were there to meet them. through the years from real estate to retirement solutions, we've developed new ideas for the financial challenges ahead. this hock -- rock has never stood still and that's one thing that will never change, prurenl. corporate funding is also provided by norfolk southern. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corp persuasion -- corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again from columbia, south carolina, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. thanks, south carolina, for giving us one of the wackiest weeks of the campaign. john house man came to south carolina then he left. rick perry came to south
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carolina and he left. rick santorum, who lost in iowa seems now to have won there, and newt gingrich, who finished out of the top tier in both iowa and new hampshire is staging a remarkable comeback. i spoke to him yesterday. if mitt romney wins on saturday, you stand by your statement if a that if he wins in south carolina the republicans will nominate a moderate who will lose to democratic barack obama in the fall? >> i think it becomes harder but he's not doing well enough to be very convincing. if you add the conservative vote together between santorum and me we would betemit mitt by 60-40. gwen: rick santorum pushed back later that night. >> grandiosity has never been a problem with newt gingrich. a month ago he was saying that it's inevitable that i'm going to win the election.
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i don't want a nominee that i have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and worrying about what he's going to say next. gwen: that was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fights we've been seeing here this week, karen. it's been amazing. >> and it's been all the more amazing if you think about the role that south carolina has traditionally played. it has always been whoever the establishment candidate is. it's always been his firewall. he stems on the insurgents and goes on to win the nomination. now it looks like we have the possibly -- possibility where it looked like mitt romney was going to cruise to this nomination. this could be where his opposition against gets oxygen. gwen: does mitt romney know that newt gingrich is closing in on him like this? >> he definitely does. and you can see it and hear it in his own language. we've been able to see it for several days.
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just talking to voters at his own rallies, you don't get much energy or enthusiasm. the morning after the first debate of this week in florence, he had a big civic center in downtown florence, a big ballroom, which was made smaller to look crowded, even that didn't work. there was such a small audience, the romney aides were embarrassed by it. they kw that there are problems here. right now they're trying to sort of spin all of us ahead to his advantages in florida and elsewhere but we want to be planted right here in south carolina because this is where we're going to learn a lot about him as a candidate and we've seen some things. he's struggled this week in front of our eyes in debates, in tax returns in all kinds of things that haven't yet happened. it's been a great stretch here and an interesting day to come. gwen: why is it that romney seems to off his game and now has someone breathing down his
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back. it felt like we were we are coronated him when he left new hampshire. >> right, again. the whole story for this primary for some time is will there be one person that the conservative voters who don't like romney could you night behind? it's been such a slow winoing process it's played very much to mitt romney's advantage. maybe we're seeing it narrow down fast with newt gingrich. but you still have rick santorum. romney has known all along that this might happen. as jeff said maybe it's going to happen faster. he still has good things to look forward to if he doesn't win here, but this is a state that usually goes with the winner. gwen: if you turn on your television, the radio, go to these rallies,st not like he's taking it lying down. mitt romney in person and in debates is being very genteel
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but on the air and under radar, he's pushing back hard. >> which is how they do it in south carolina. you find out as much about the guy from a flyer on your car. mitt romney is in the political fight of his life right now. things are collapsing for him nationally. he's struggling here. so it's interesting to see -- i'm like jeff. i've been intrigued by how he handles this kind of adversity. i was surprised to hear him refer too it as romney-care during the debate last night. we'll see if he's got the guns to shoot back and slow down newt. >> pointing out here that i certainly cannot think of any nominee of either party that i've covered who has not had at least one near-death experience in betweenive and the convention. gwen: in fact, one of the most amazing things about this march is that it seemed so inevitable
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so soon. but let's talk about newt gingrich. this wasn't just that mitt romney appears to be -- it's that newt gingrich appears to be the anti-romyy -- am nil. how? >> he's improved as a candidate as well. hiss demeanor is much more upbeat. he's not scowling like he was a few weeks ago and in particular, he changed his message. he wasn't on the perhaps right message at the beginning of south carolina. he was attacking on how governor romney made his money. saying he presided over job loss and other things. he was criticized by all kinds of conservatives so he abruptly flipped that aside and went on to other things. newt gingrich is also benefiting here from the fact that he is from georgia. actually, he's from pennsylvania, but he represented the neighboring state here. but i think it's not so much that people want to like newt
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gingrich or see him as president. i think some of them want this race to go on longer. they want to see romney be put in the fire a little bit. >> the other thing i would say is just that he went away from the attacks on bane capital because most republicans said that is out of bounds, you sound like a democrat. and he focused on tax returns. he found mitt romney's achilles' heel, the tax returns. and i don't know that he could have guessed that romney would have so much trouble responding but it's worked. >> and he gotten a assist from his new endorser, rick perry too. it was in the monday night debate when rick perry was still a candidate. he was the first person to really sort of get quite literally in mitt romney's face on this. gwen: the other thing that rick perry did, after dropping out and endorsing newt gingrich.
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he was only getting about 5% of the polls, but when he did it he defended newt gingrich against his baggage. that word which keeps coming back. his three marriages. dubious situations in which his marriages ended. his ex-wife coming out this weekend saying he wanted an open marriage. gingrich says that's not true but rick perry i think used evangelical language to say we're all forgiven and gingrich used it to turn the tables on john king and saying it's you, the evil media that's keeping it going. >> the spartanburg area has a lot of religious conservatives, a lot of evangelicals. i went to a big prayer session, a big anti-abortion gathering and i talked to a lot of people and i was struck by how little enthusiasm there was for any candidate. every one of these people said
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they were republicans, they plan to vote saturday. they certainly don't like barack obama. they don't like mitt romney. most of them were between santorum and gingrich but i was struck by how little enthusiasm -- these folks are not set on fire. they feel very bad about the direction the country is going in. i don't know what that says about the level of support for gingrich. he might get their vote and it might be a reluctant vote. gwen: why don't voters like rick santorum? >> i think a lot of people are warming to him. he had, i thought, a very strong debate performance on thursday night. he outlined particulars against speaker gingrich that a lot of people would agree with, in terms of the history of what happened when he was speaker of the house. you hear over and over that i like rick rick santorum but i'm not sure he's big enough to run for president.
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and that's what newt gingrich argued last night. he embraced the santorum suggestion that he has grandiose views. he said i do have grandiose views and he basically called him too small to be president. gwen: i don't think santorum saw that coming. >> but i wouldn't count santorum out. he got the big boost from the evangelical leaders in the weekend meeting in texas. james dobson, that's a big deal. >> i heard he did get that endorsement from that group in texas, but there's no real obvious surge that he got from it. some people said he needed a stronger infrastructure. if he had a greater organization within south carolina churches on short notice he might have been able to do more. >> actually, there was some brushback on that. in part because of some of
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gingrich's top supporters who remember at the meeting came back the next day and at least in an interview with me, told me that the organizer of the evangelical meeting said that should not be construed as an endorsement. >> why isn't rick santorum catching fire in a state like north carolina is on paper he should be an excellent candidate here but for whatever reason -- and i think jeff hit the nail on the head. he's not viewed as a big enough candidate. >> basically he won iowa because he was in everybody's living room. >> for months and months. >> and remember, here, a lot of people in south carolina had never heard of him until recently. a lot of people inive hadn't either but he was there for so long they got to know him. right up until almost christmas day. rick santorum was almost an afterthought. he made that big quick surge in
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iowa. gwen: and if you don't have a structure to act on things, the fact that suddenly it turns out he won in iowa, we think. there are about eight presinths with missing votes. >> iowa is the new florida. gwen: but the problem with that is you can't capitalize on your good news if you don't have that structure. >> he couldn't. it's after the fact. we've all moved on. one thing i was struck by -- i walked into his campaign office in mout pleasant, south carolina, just across the river from charleston and a lot of the phones were manned by citadel cadets and one of them said he'd made 1,300 phone calls in the last few days which is pretty impressive. i don't know how many people answered those calls. i think he does have a grassroots structure going on here but the biggest problem for santorum, he doesn't have the financial ability to amplify his message on television as much.
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he has a super pack, which is only a fraction of the size of the others. he's not been able to put the muscle behind the organization in terms of his message and doesn't have the money to do it. gwen: i heard newt gingrich say last night my campaign changed because i used to listen to the consultants but now i'm just doing my thing and i'm thinking the big ideas and that's why i'm doing well. if that's true, you don't need all that structure. >> programs but the reason newt gingrich is still alive is because of a nevada casino owner who put in $5 million into his superpack to do a lot of tv ads. >> one more thing about santorum's problems here, there are ads running a lot on television by ron paul that just savage rick santorum. to me, they are the most brutal ads out there. you looking at this and say that must be gingrich going
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after him. it's ron paul. gwen: ron paul is not quite the same factor here as in the two previous states. but he's talking about going on, especially to caucus states like nevada. >> he's talking almost splufle about nevada these days. he hasn't caught fire here but his base of support here is not going anywhere. it's not as big as iowa or new hampshire but it's steady. i continue to believe that ron paul can stay in this race as long as he wants to. he's got the money and support. gwen: and he has a message at an interesting time. >> i think i mentioned this iowa. how the number of evangelicals i encounter who are being attracted to ron paul and his message. he was at an evangelical gathering on monday and was talking about the biblical basis of strong money, which had not -- i had not heard him say before.
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gwen: in some ways, he is also, in his way, an anti-romney in a race that was longing for one. >> i think that's right. i think his ceiling, though, is more clear than other places here. we saw that at the debate on monday night on national security. it was a very enthusiastic crowd and they were not enthusiastic towards his isolationist views. he has not spent a lot of money campaigning but i'm with chuck on this. his ads are really not necessarily lifting him up but really holding some other people down. they're extraordinary and santorum has not been able to respond in kind to those ads. it is an overwhelming advantage for paul. >> he is on the air but you're right. >> two things i noticed about ron paul in his debate. he came in with two missions. one to keep down santorum and the other, to let people know he's a veteran. six military bases here in
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south carolina, huge veteran population. i think he's trying to win some veterans here. >> and a doctor. gwen: and married for 54 years. i wonder why that keeps coming up. let's talk about what we're going to see going forward. 24 hours until we begin to get a real sense of what voters think about this. romney's strategy seems to be demonizing newt gingrich and painting him as undisciplined, erratic and rick santorum is certainly helping on that front. am i right? is that what you're seeing? >> i think so. we're hearing the words unreliable with leader from mitt romney's surrogates. not some from him but from his supporters. and most people who are supporting newt gingrich are saying we know what you say about him. we like him anyway because we want someone on a debate stage who will take a swing at president obama. gwen: on the other hand, the
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others want to paint romney as kind of an out of touch elitist. how does he respond to that? >> he has not seemed to have figured out a way to do that they're sort of por stray -- portraying him as thirston howell iii. when people here bank accounts in the kaman islands. he described his own speaking fees, which were over $300,000 as not that much. he had a story to tell last night at the debate on his tax returns but just didn't quite get it out. gwen: he doesn't seem comfortable about talking about money. >> i think that's right. his biggest argument overall is that listen, everyone, you may not be totally with me but i'm the strongest person to take on barack obama. well, now, some of his other rivals are going after that and
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saying are you really the most electable? i think that is perhaps the most -- if he goes out of south carolina wounded a little bit, he's going to have to repair this electability argument because that is his biggest sort of star, if you will, going forward. that's his biggest attribute. gwen: who else has an electability argument to make? do you think newt gingrich doesn't? >> he makes that argument all the time. gwen: well, he says he can debate. >> ronald reagan and i created all these jobs. i worked with bill clinton on welfare reform and all that you talk to a lot of main stream establishment republicans, they don't buy it. they are very alarmed. they feel that gingrich would not do well against barack obama and they are alarmed, i think, some of them knave. i think that's why you'll keep seeing these surrogates for
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mate mitt romney saying look, i was with this guy in congress, he got thrown out by his own people. gwen: rick santorum went after him. >> but newt gingrich's basic argument is that if you want to win in the fall, you need the clearest contrast possible with barack obama. i don't know that this argument is going to sell but that's where he's going. >> the other thing that gets lost is newt gingrich is this huge national figure because of his time as speaker but he's never won a statewide race. >> and he struggled to win his own re-election in his own district. i think rick santorum may have a bigger electability argument because he speaks with this populist message of this time and place. he understands what people are going through. if this general election is going to be about the 99% versus the 1% and the income
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disparity -- disparity, he is the better vessel for that but has some other shortcomings. gwen: what strikes me is that with the exit of rick perry, someone who can say legitimately i am an outside -- a washington outsider. >> romney has the best argument. >> he had probably the strong esterline last night when he jumped in between santorum and gingrich. >> i think ron paul is still going to win the anti- washington crowd. gwen: he's a doctor. after we leave here, florida, nevada, michigan. are those the next big three tests and who's strongest in those places? >> romney has some advantages. florida is a big, expensive state. he has the most money and organization. nevada has a lot of more months. his father was the governor. so he ought to have some big
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built-in advantages. >> didn't he win both nevada and michigan last time? >> his only wins. >> while they won in the early knockout, this campaign is built for a marathon, not a sprint. they look the at the playbook from obama 2008 and they learned quickly it's a math game, about numbers of delegates won. gwen: the first time i heard that term marathon on a sprint, it came out of the one michael due cakes -- dukakis. he did get the nomination. thank you all so much for riding this roller coaster with me this week in south carolina. it has been amazing and thank you also for watching. also, special thanks to our hosts here at south carolina educational tv. for more insight into what's going on here in south carolina, check out our website for a terrific feature on the primary and the presidential election, produced by students here at the university of south
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carolina. they ask what issues are most important to young voters and we think you'll find their answers revealing. it's all there along with our wiki webcast extra. join us for the latest results and ages next week on "washington week." good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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