tv Washington Week PBS January 28, 2012 3:00am-3:30am EST
gwen: it's getting nasty out there. mitt romney versus newt gingrich. president obama versus a still sputtering economy. we'll tell you what one has to do with the other, tonight on washington war -- "washington week." and it's on. >> i'm not anti-immigrant. my father was born in mexico. my wife's father was born in wales. they came to this country. >> maybe governor romney should tell us how much money he's made off of how many households that have been closed by his investments. gwen: republican frontrunners jock acquit for first place as the runnest up struggle for attention. >> folks, a billion dollars in the mainstream media will make this a very, very election. >> i don't think we should go to the moon. i think maybe we should send
some politicians up there. gwen: florida is pivotal, again. meanwhile, the man they want to beat wraps himself inspect trappings of the presidency -- whether traveling the country -- >> hello, nevada. gwen: or delivering a pointed state of the union address. >> the state of our union is getting stronger. gwen: but is the economy rebounding quickly enough? covering the week, dan balz of the "washington post." john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news, jackie calmes of the "new york times," and david wessel of "the wall street journal." >> award winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live in our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill & national journal," pursuitsed -- corporate funding
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prudential. >> corporate funding is also provided by boeing. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broad contrast -- broadcasting, and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. was it only a week ago that we were wondering what was going too happen in south carolina? well, the political world has shifted and reshifted multiple times since then. newt gingrich, who used debates and big ideas to score a major win in the pal meto state less than a week ago brought grandiosity to florida. >> we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be american. i was attacked the other night for being grandiose.
john f. kennedy standing there saying we'll get to the moon in eight years was grandiose. i accept the charge that i am an american and americans are instinctively grand owes. gwen: mitt romney, who saw his political life pass before his eyes after losing to gingrich in south carolina, took direct aim at that. >> if i had a business executive co-le to me and say they wanted to spend a few billion dollars to put a colonny on the moon i'd say you're fired. this idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, that's what got us into the trouble we're in now. we've got to say no to this kind of spending. gwen: and rick santorum accused romney and gingrich of endangering in -- engaging in personal, petty politics. >> can we set aside that newt was a member of congress and used the skills he developed to go out and advise companies and
that mitt romney is a wealthy guy because he's worked hard. leave that alone and focus on issues -- the issues. gwen: how different is this campaign than last time i saw you? >> it's changing so rapidly, we could do a program every night. it's remarkable. it's been a roller coaster. a week ago we were sitting here and everyone was wondering what might happen in south carolina? gingrich scores a big victory, goes into florida with a lot of momentum. he has an ok debate monday night. suddenly mitt romney is on the offensive and tonight we're at a point where romney is moving in florida and gingrich is back on his heels. gwen: it's crazy. dan just gone -- got on the plane and flew back to washington from florida. and with us from florida tonight is john dickerson. what is it about florida where
we end up having all these political moments in that state? >> what happened is the race, basically on the republican side, came down to a two-man race between mitt romney and newt gingrich. of course ron paul and rick santorum wouldn't like this characterization. but this battle we've always seen is between romney and the non-mitt romney and finally there was a person to fill that slot and that was newt gingrich. what was amazing is basically they flipped positions. in south carolina gingrich was hard charging. now after two debates, it's romney who has been on the offensive in a way we've not seen him before and gingrich is a little bit lost and at sea. florida mearments of course in the republican race but also it's 29 electoral votes in the general election. so this is a -- an important
proving ground. >> did romney make a deliberate shift? was this calculated? >> as gwynn said in the opening, he saw his political life flash before him over the weekend in south carolina and they have made a dramatic and aggressive pivot. a week ago today he had not committed to do any debates in florida. the day of the primary in south carolina when it was clear he was going to lose, he said i'll be at both debates. he had dawdled in releasing his tax information. the morning after the south carolina final, he said he would release them right away. he came out loaded in florida in both debates. it was a deliberate recognition that he was in real trouble. >> could you explain why it is that the roll any campaign and mitt romney himself did not
plan better for the release of his tax returns, which he knew at some point was going to have to come out. so what happens is they come out on the very day of president obama's state of the union address, in effect, putting a face on president obama's argument that had only been abstract up to that point about very wealthy people paying too low of a tax rate? >> we have said many times that in general the roll any campaign has been a smooth and well-run campaign. this was such a glaring error, it's almost inexplicable. i don't have a good answer for it other than i assume the candidate himself much resisted it and didn't want to do it unless it was absolutely necessary. gwen: the other thing that happened this week is it's clear that gingrich tried to pick a fight with the base hit. . a letter that bob dole, the
1996 republican nominee put out criticizing newt gingrich. he wrote hardly anyone who served with newt in congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. he was a one-man band who rarely took advice. it was his way or the highway. in my opinion, if he -- we want to avoid a democrat landslide in november, republicans should nominate mitt romnifment that's just part of what he wrote. >> what's fascinating here is that newt gingrich has in some ways fashioned himself as an outsider. he was speakinger of the house but after he left government, used his experience to help companies and freddie mac. yet he's the outsider and the establishment is fighting back against him. he really is a member of the establishment in a sense. when dole was run for president in 199, it was newt gingrich
that the clinton campaign hung around dole's neck. it was gingrich's unpopularity that the clinton team used to help drag dole down. dole is not a fan of gingrich's so now he comes out. trent lott, another senate majority leader came out and blasted gingrich. also, by the way, i've had conversations with those who are still holding their tongue who think gingrich would be a disaster not only as a president but also for other republicans running in the senate and the house. they haven't said anything because they assumed that gingrich would ruin himself. >> it's a shift of the party, the establishment, whatever we want to call it. he endorsed romney in mid
december and put out on -- an open letter to voters all about romney. never mentioned anyone else. he said i have a number of friends in this race. since south carolina the panic attack has set in and i think that dole letter symbolizes that. >> how does that play for the republicans in florida? >> there's a tea party element in florida of some size and significance, which we saw play out in the gubernatorial race last year. and in backing marco rubio, which drove charlie crist, the former governor out of the republican party. there is an element there and gingrich has been able to consolidate some of that in florida. how strong that will be when they vote on tuesday, we don't know. but there is a definitely split. somewhere, i remember around christmastime when newt gingrich was coming up in iowa, the establishment had an
earlier sort of pile on because i wrote about it. it seem told work because his numbers did plummet. it seems like you have a paradox between people on the republican primary saying they don't like the establishment. at the same time when the establishment says these things, eventually it brings a weight on gingrich's shoulders and brings him down. >> a lot of this last year what we've focused on is the lack of love for mitt romney among a lot of conservatives in the party. that's been supplanted at this point by the fear of newt gingrich. in iowa he was done in by a tremendous volume of negative advertising aired mostly by the super pack that's backing governor romney. a similar kind of imbalance exists now in florida. it's somewhere at least five to one, the amount of money that
the super pack and romney have spent in florida compared to what's there for gingrich. gwen: rick santorum says he's not going anywhere. and ron paul, who's become kind of a jokester in lots of ways, even though he seems to be trying to win in caucus state. and rick santorum, does he have a pack? >> not that goes through florida or a strong showing in florida. he might have had a path if gingrich had imploded but gingrich is holding on to that challenge to mitt romney position. what voters have said in various states -- in new hampshire i tarlted to pick this up and then in south carolina and now in florida is rick santorum does very well in these debates and says things that people feel in their hearts but they don't see him crossing that threshold to
elect able. he makes a very strong case of why he is uniquely suited to do that, particularly on health care. he's not selling that argument and in florida right now, it's really a gingrich and romney race. gwen: is it a gingrich-romney race going forward as well? because we have michigan and nevada coming up. >> so much depends on every week's outcome. we've created how many two-person races in this race with romney in the one slot and somebody else? i think john is right. i think at this point it is romney and gingrich but who knows what might happen if, in fact, gingrich does implode and then there's a question within the republican party of do we really want romney? gwen: john, you agree with that? >> i do. we talk about the reversal of florida versus issues south
carolina. going into the vote in south carolina, gingrich had all the momentum. he had the strong debate performances. the roll any folks feel like -- romney folks now feel like they have the momentum. the problem with gingrich's debate performances and he -- is he needed to continue to build his momentum and it's basically stalled. at this point with a few days to go before the voting, there's a feeling inside the roll any example that they're going to do very well in florida and that sets them up going forward because romney has the organization and money to compete in these other states and gingrich can't match that. gwen: hold on. there's a washington bully poll that all these guys are competing for. somebody is stealing the chair and president obama made the most of it this state of the union week by accentuating the
positive. >> a shrinking of -- number of americans do well -- really well where a shrinking number barely get by. we're going to have a country where everyone plays by the same set of rules! gwen: the president immediately headed to five battleground states to drive that point home. he was greeted by cheering crowds today at the university of michigan. >> i want this to be a big big, bold, generous country where everybody gets the same shot, everybody gets their fair share, everyone is playing by the same set of rules. gwen: but how much of the president's optimism is about reality, how much is about re-election? >> well, it's 2012 so everything is about re-election. i think the optimism is based on several realities. one is that the economy is
getting better. still slow but there's been a string of good data. the national security card, which republicans like to play against democrats, they don't have it. between the killing of osama bin haden and in this very weak, another operation by seal team six to rescue two hostages, including an american aid worker and then there's the politics. he's giving the state of the union speech, the ultimate presidential act as the republicans are committing fratricide in florida. these all are giving them a great deal of optimism. the polls are better, not great. gwen: that's what i was going to ask you, even about the reality part of it. because there are numbers which do not back up any call for optimism. >> right. i think it was interesting that the president used the frays "the state of the union is getting stronger."
the best case they can make is we've touched bottom and are starting to go up. it is true that the president said we've created 3.2 million business jobs over the past 22 months. but we are now making as much stuff as we did before the recession began with six million fewer workers. that's a point mitch daniels made in his response. it's going to be a question of which one do people really believe. obama will say it's not as bad as it was, and he's right and the republicans will say it's still awful and they're right. >> these are the realities bull they know if he's going to get re-elected it's going to be because of perception because the unemployment rate is still going to be high and the question that pollsters love about is the country on the wrong track or not is going to be high. and the best thing he can hope for is that there will be improvement and that people will give him credit for
putting the country on a path, however slow, and that they will take his vision, as he thinks they will, of the future adds opposed to the republican vision. >> what about the old fear that the president would look out of touch? mitt romney talks about how president obama is out of touch with what's happening. isn't there a risk with the president in saying things are better that people will say you're crazy? >> there's a big risk and he chose his words carefully. if you look at last year's state of the union speech, he was on thin isles. it was arguably far too bullish. for the second year in a row, come springtime, the european debt crisis got worst, the tsunami and earthquake hit japan and the middle east was in tumult and it forced oil prices way up. this white house has come to fear the spring so their
optimism is tempered by that and the big wild card is europe. >> it was interesting that the same week the president gives this yum beat speech on the economy and looking forward. the chairman of the federal reserve ben pergoing -- bernanke's press conference is not nearly as optimistic. their forecast is that the economy is not going to come down at all. three years after they kept interest rates at zero, they're saying they expect interest rates to be at zero for another three years because of the economy. he sounded much less upbeat. >> three years -- 16 years ago bill clinton was in somewhat of the same situation. he'd taken a beating in his first midterm election. what's the parallel with blinte and president obama? >> it's interesting because the parallels, like you say, on the
surface they look similar. granted the times were different. the economy was improving. we were at peace. president clinton came out and the most memorable line almost of his entire presidency is the era of the big government is over. he was co-opting the republican's small government message. president obama is not trying to co-opt it. test he's confronting them with a vision of a government that is more humanitarian. the government has an essential role in helping businesses and individuals maximize their potential versus the republican argument he characterizes as darwinian. >> i wanted to ask david about manufacturing. rick santorum talks a lot about rebuilding manufacturing and then president obama in his state of the union focused in on rebuilding manufacturing. is that the big man ever
panacea that both seem to think it is? >> i don't think so. there are a lot of good jobs in manufacturing and it has big benefits when a plant opens. it's true we've created a lot of manufacturing jobs in the last two years. two million more and we're back to where we were before the recession. it's fewer than one in every 10 jobs in the economy. it is not going to put americans back to work. they're setting themselves up for disappointment. they've created this myth that it's going to happen. gwen: they seemed very anxious at the white house to try to push back at a theme we're hearing a lot on the campaign trail, which is that america is on the decline. things are so much worse, we're bowing to foreign kings and we're not respected around the world is that what you're reading el? >> absolutely. in a way, jackie mentioned this was clintonesque and it was in
that long laundry list -- oh, my god, another 15 minutes of proposals? on the other hand, there was almost this reagan optimism, we can be great again. he's trying to make the case that i can lead america to greatness again on the economy and we've gotten the bad times that the republicans bequeathed us behind us and the second thing, i think jackie is right. there was a very strong argument for government, that government has a big role to play. >> to the tree that there is greater optimism at the white house than at the obama re-election headquarters in chicago today than there was six months ago. how much of that has to do with what the president has done and how many of what they're seeing in the republican race? >> i'm sure they'd like to say it's what the president has done that's given them grounds
for optimism. in truth, a big share of it is the republicans. they've always said his numbers may be down in the polls, he doesn't get 50% in job approval but it wasn't going to be a referendum with him. it was going to be a choice. the campaign of the republicans is playing out in a way far more negative than the white house could have hoped. nus a "wall street journal" poll today, when you're asked if the president should be re-elected it's a smaller margin than it is when you put his name up against mitt romney, newt gingrich and santorum. and there's 18 points' difference. >> i think it depends on whether the economy continues its momentum. the president's case falls apart if the economy falls down in the spring. and a lot of that is jonled where -- beyond his control.
gwen: it's interesting to see this they never take their eye off mitt romney. that's a topic for another day. john dickerson from miami, thank you so much for joining us. so much news, so little time, but the conversation will continue online in our "washington week" webcast extra. you can find it at pbs.org/ washington week. and keep up with news online at the pbs news hour. we'll see you next week on "washington week." good night. >> "washington week" was produced by weta, which is slowly responsible for its content. funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. >> to give our war fighters every advantage. >> to delivery technologies that anticipate the future
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