transcript

Jan
06
2012

MS. IFILL: A squeaker in Iowa followed by another big test here in New Hampshire. We bring you the truth and the consequences as we take our show on the road, tonight on Washington Week.

Up in the air.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R): My goodness. What a squeaker, but I sure is nice to have a win. I’ll tell you.

FORMER SENATOR RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Don’t defer your judgment to what a national poll says.

REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): You have to get the independent vote in New Hampshire, so the primary is wide open and more independents than anybody else.

FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR JON HUNTSMAN (R): The path to victory in New Hampshire is exceeding market expectations.

FORMER SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): I think eventually, you’ll get down to one conservative and Governor Romney.

MS. IFILL: The fight for the Granite State is in full swing after Iowa knocks two candidates for a loop.

TEXAS GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R): This is a quirky place and a quirky process to say the least.

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I have decided to stand aside.

MS. IFILL: The message in this topsy turvy campaign year: count on nothing.

Joining me tonight from New Hampshire, Dan Balz of The Washington Post, John Dickerson of Slate Magazine and CBS News, Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News, and John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times.

ANNOUNCER: Award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens, this is a special Campaign 2012 edition of Washington Week with Gwen Ifill produced in association with National Journal.

(Station announcements.)

ANNOUNCER: Once again, from Manchester, New Hampshire, moderator Gwen Ifill.

MS. IFILL: Hello from the Granite State, where we are here this week to bring you the best of our reporting close up. We’ve all been out trailing candidates from Des Moines to Manchester, counting photo-finish caucus results, tracking the latest underdog surge, and watching how when stakes rise so too do the attacks.

Mitt Romney is still favored to win here, but his path to victory is not as uncluttered as it once was. Let’s start there. This has been a long week for the Massachusetts governor – former Massachusetts governor, hasn’t it, Dan?

MR. BALZ: Well, it’s been a long week. It’s also been a pretty good week for him. He won the Iowa caucuses by a huge margin of eight votes. We now call him landslide Romney. He picked up the endorsement of John McCain, one of his bitterest enemies from four years ago when they appeared here. The new polls in South Carolina and in New Hampshire show him in good shape in both states. So in many ways, you would say he’s moving towards the nomination. There’re other questions about him. There’re a lot of people in Iowa who still didn’t want to vote for him. And the one card he’s got is the electability card, but on a lot of other issues there’re still questions about whether the party is going to learn to love the former governor.

MS. IFILL: Let’s walk through some of those. I want to start with the McCain endorsement, John Dickerson. You and I were both there when that happened. It was a manifestly awkward moment with the vanquished nominee from four years ago standing on a stage with a guy who – I believe they mutually attacked one another four years ago in the primary contest.

MR. DICKERSON: They did. They hugged, which, four years ago McCain would have tackled him to put him down. And he said a lot of things four years ago about Romney being unprincipled, about Romney being a phony. I mean, the clips line up at some length here. But anyway, bygones, that’s all gone. They’ve got a new enemy, which is Barack Obama. And this was a good way to kind of kick off Romney. He’s got a big lead in New Hampshire. They’d had this planned and very quiet – only Romney and the campaign manager and McCain knew about it for a while. They dropped it. It was a great way for the Romney campaign to kind of steal the 36 hours after what was a great night for Rick Santorum in Iowa, but the Romney campaign had this ready to go, grabbed the news cycle. Rick Santorum, who’s got a threadbare campaign, wasn’t on TV. He was kind of a ghost for a while until later that evening. So it was great stage managing, except when they got to New Hampshire it was kind of a lack luster event. But nevertheless, McCain is now gone out with him and he’s also helping Romney attack Santorum on the question of earmarks, which is helpful. So you know, former enemies, but now an ally who’s by his side.

MS. IFILL: Julianna, it seems that the two things that Mitt Romney has going for him right now are the idea of – or the aura of inevitability and the aura of electability. Is that something that counts in New Hampshire or is he laying the groundwork for other places?

MS. GOLDMAN: Well, New Hampshire is known for surprises and for not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Iowa. But he’s got electability, but what he doesn’t necessarily have is relatability. And when you talk to voters here, or the past several days I’ve been at a number of Rick Santorum events, one unemployed carpenter said, look, Rick Santorum, he knows what it’s like to be part of the working class. I talked to one woman who said I can relate to Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney is just so, so – and she couldn’t think of other word – she goes, so rich. (Laughter.) And so I think that that’s something that he’s going to constantly have to work to overcome, even he does in fact become the presumptive – become the nominee.

MS. IFILL: I talked to an undecided voter last night, John, who said, you know, I was at an event where Mitt Romney said we’ve got to do better with our investments. So she said, investments, I don’t have investments anymore. He’s not speaking to me. So do his people recognize that this is a hurdle in a state that still got a big blue-collar community?

MR. HARWOOD: Sure they do. They’re trying to appeal to some of those voters by talking about his faith, his family, his long marriage – used Ann Romney to some advantage. But I’m hearing the same thing that Julianna did. I was at a diner in Keene, New Hampshire, and a guy, a farmer there said, you know, we need a president every once in a while who has had dirty pants sometimes in his life. Well, Mitt Romney’s not known for dirty pants or hairs out of place or anything like that.

So – but I think as Dan suggested, he’s in a very strong position for this nomination. Rick Santorum has a shot. He needs to do well here in New Hampshire to keep some momentum going for South Carolina, and some of the polls show him moving up in South Carolina. That’s where he’s putting all his money. He’s got a token buy up here in New Hampshire, but he doesn’t have enough to really go heavy in both places. But a shot that isn’t all that promising for him because it’s a long road. Mitt Romney’s prepared for those other states.

MS. IFILL: Does Mitt Romney – does Mitt Romney’s victory – I guess eight votes is still a victory, not still counting – in Iowa, does that translate it all in New Hampshire or do they go, ah, Iowa’s nothing to us?

MR. BALZ: Well, no Republican has won both Iowa and New Hampshire in a contested nomination race. So he’s in a position to actually make history by doing this. You know, you would say for almost any other kind of candidate, there might be that kind of reverse backlash or reverse bounce that New Hampshire, as Julianna said, likes to go in a different direction, but he’s planted a lot of roots in this state and has worked very diligently to hold on not just to what he had, but to expand it. And they’re going to – they’re not taking this for granted. They’re going to work through the weekend on it.

A senior adviser to the former governor said to me in November something that is now pertinent. He said winners close. And he said we’ve got to show that we can close this out and it looks as though they’re on a mission to try to close it as quickly as they can.

MR. HARWOOD: The roots that Dan talked about are deep because he was, after all, governor of the next door state with a big overlap in the media coverage, and so people have known him for some time. He’s in an optimal position to make history of that kind. I do think that from Iowa, the most important sort of strategic dynamic there was he avoided an embarrassment. That is the thing – if he limped in here and he looked like he wasn’t as credible or as viable, that would have been a problem. It didn’t happen.

MS. IFILL: But there is still quite a credible and viable anybody-but-Mitt movement out there. And the main beneficiary was Rick Santorum.

MR. DICKERSON: And that was the case he made in Iowa. He would go out to voters and he would say, look, don’t settle. There’s been this debate in the Republican Party all for the last many, many months between sort of their head and their heart. And the head was Mitt Romney. He’s electable. He’s got a good rift that he gives on the economy. He was in the business community. He can speak to the number one issue. Great, that’s all very sort of the head. But the heart tells you you want Ron Paul or you want Santorum or Gingrich or somebody who gets you excited about these issues you care about. And that’s what Santorum said at the end. He said don’t give in. Don’t capitulate. Don’t do what the politicians in Washington you hate do, which is they just kind of ignore their heart and go with the calculation. And that’s what paid off for him and that’s what animating the anti-Romney. The problem is they go with their heart to Santorum. They go with their heart to Gingrich. They go with the heart maybe a little to Perry. That splits the vote and Romney is the beneficiary.

MS. IFILL: Well, Julianna, Rick Santorum has been able to raise a lot of money at least since last Tuesday night.

MS. GOLDMAN: A million dollars the first day after Iowa.

MS. IFILL: Yes, and then another million dollars a couple of days after that. So does he – is he in a position to capitalize on this mostly because voting has actually begun?

MS. GOLDMAN: Yes, certainly. I mean he – I guess polling third now, but he’s had the biggest uptick of any other candidate post-Iowa, here in New Hampshire. And you know, you go to these diners. You go to these events, and something is working. People –

MS. IFILL: They’re listening very closely.

MS. GOLDMAN: They are listening closely and they’re showing up. They’re crowded – there’re crowds that Rick Santorum hasn’t seen before.

MS. IFILL: I think that’s an understatement.

MS. GOLDMAN: And so, yes, he does – and the Obama campaign is also very quick to point out the vulnerabilities of Mitt Romney of him coming – they say he came into Iowa as a weak frontrunner. He left a weak frontrunner and he’s still the 25-percent man. And so this is all playing much to the Obama campaign’s delight as well.

MR. BALZ: There’s a part of the party that feels they had to swallow very hard to accept McCain four years ago.

MS. IFILL: That’s right.

MR. BALZ: They don’t want to do that again. And I think Rick Santorum’s kind of closing message, both in Iowa and here, can be very effective. It is don’t listen to the pundits. They’ve been wrong. I mean, there’s nobody probably sitting here tonight who would have thought that Rick Santorum would have had the showing he had in Iowa and would be in the position he’s in today. He’s saying don’t listen to the pundits. You in New Hampshire, you in Iowa see the candidates up close, be bold, lead, do what you think it’s best. Don’t listen to others. He’s going for all those people who are still reluctant about Romney.

MR. HARWOOD: And Gwen, the Romney campaign is aware of the danger that that poses. Before the caucuses last – on Tuesday, one of the Romney campaign advisors told me we don’t want Santorum to finish second. Why? Because they knew that of the other alternatives to Mitt Romney, he was the one that hadn’t really been damaged so far. Newt had been pounded by negative ads. He had much – a lot of other baggage. Rick Perry had not performed in the debates. He was a declining force in the race. Rick Santorum was the one who was fresher, who was passionate, who was making that closing case that Dan mentioned.

Now, the problem for Santorum at this point is he’s very rapidly becoming known, but not a lot’s being known about him, and that makes you vulnerable to somebody wants to pound you.

MS. IFILL: And does that explain part of John McCain usefulness. He’s – two days in a row he’s been attacking Rick Santorum as someone who accepted earmarks. And Newt Gingrich has said, oh, he was my junior when we were in Congress together. All of a sudden, Rick Santorum’s in the bull’s-eye.

MR. DICKERSON: Well, that’s right. And John McCain – it’s hard to tell whether he’s doing this because the Romney folks are nervous or that John McCain, who doesn’t like Rick Santorum, is just delighting in beating up on him. And it’s probably the latter. I think Santorum has two challenges. One is that all of this money is great, but it’s like putting a super engine in an old jalopy. The engine just goes barreling out the front. It’s very hard to take on all this money and make all the decisions you have to make about what ads to buy, all your new friends are on the phone trying to reach you. You’ve got a lot of things you have to take care of.

Then, as John mentioned, you’ve got all this new kinds of scrutiny that are coming. And other people are defining you just as you’re trying to introduce yourself to this whole new set of people who are suddenly giving you a second look. And then you get involved – he’s campaigning sort of like he did in Iowa, talking for hours and hours and hours. He answers one question about same-sex marriage. Suddenly he’s being defined by that answer, not by the thing –

MS. IFILL: He was booed.

MR. DICKERSON: Well, indeed, it was booed. It makes the five o’clock news. Now, he’s got to deal with that. He’s not talking about economic issues, which he’d prefer to be here in New Hampshire, a state where evangelical voters are a smaller proportion of the electorate than in Iowa.

MS. IFILL: Well, you raise a question. Is there a base here for him in Iowa? There is a very big Catholic vote, certainly.

MS. GOLDMAN: There’s a Catholic vote. I believe 38 percent back in 2008 was Catholic. He’s trying to build a coalition of religious conservatives and also blue collar workers, but the problem with that is that the blue collar, the manufacturing base in New Hampshire has contracted over the last four years. So it’s – there’s fewer and fewer to try and build that coalition.

MS. IFILL: There are other candidates in the race who puzzle me. I’m a little puzzled by Ron Paul – who was polling well here –

MR. BALZ: You’re not the only one –

MS. IFILL: He was polling well here. He did reasonably well in New Hampshire, and then he went home as far as we can’t tell and only returned to the state today. Does he have a base here?

MR. BALZ: He does have a base here, as he did in Iowa. I don’t think his organization is considered as good in New Hampshire as it was in Iowa, but this is a state where organization is a little less important than in a caucus state.

I think everybody believes he’s going to get his vote and it may be in the range of 15 or 18 as it was in Iowa. It hit 21 percent. His people had told me before Iowa that they thought he had a ceiling of somewhere between 21 and 25 percent.

MS. IFILL: And there’s a path out of Iowa – out of New Hampshire for him?

MR. BALZ: Well, there’s a following for Ron Paul within the Republican coalition writ large. And I think there is going to be a piece of that in many, many states.

MS. IFILL: Okay, what about –

MR. HARWOOD: But his problem, Gwen, is that it’s not an expandable coalition. He has no shot at winning the Republican nomination. The ceiling that Dan talked about is a ceiling that exists pretty much everywhere for him.

MS. IFILL: What about Jon Huntsman? He spent all of his time, put all of his effort into New Hampshire and is – still isn’t in double digits in any polls that I’ve seen lately.

MR. DICKERSON: He wants to be the Rick Santorum of New Hampshire, a candidate who did it the hard way. Well, yes, he – and he refers to himself in that way. He says, you know, I’ve done the spadework here in New Hampshire, just as Rick Santorum did it in Iowa.

And Santorum, by the way, has done a lot of work in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Now, whether it pays off in the end, we don’t know, but Huntsman’s done all that work, but it doesn’t – he doesn’t have – Romney is much more formidable here than he was in Iowa. And we’re also seeing one other thing on Romney is his numbers are starting to go up in South Carolina, which challenges this notion that he’s got a ceiling of 25 percent. He absolutely did in Iowa. It seems to have been written that he cannot get more in Iowa than 25. But the early polls in South Carolina are showing – one showed a 17-point bump for Romney. When has Mitt Romney jumped 17 points in this –

MS. IFILL: Yes.

MR. DICKERSON: That’s a surge, a word that was not associated with him in this race. So there is some potential for Romney to grow.

MS. IFILL: Well, one more point about Jon Huntsman. I talked to him the other day. When I asked him whether he was the moderate in the race, his response was, I have crosscutting appeal. So I asked him what that meant. And he said – he said, I don’t like labels. And I though, okay, he’s running away from being a moderate, but isn’t that his only appeal – possible appeal in a state like New Hampshire.

MS. GOLDMAN: Yes and he got the Boston Globe endorsement and so he’s got – he has the appeal, the endorsement, but it just, at this point in the game, it’s just not enough.

MS. IFILL: It’s unclear that the Boston Globe endorsement gets Republicans elected, but that’s another issue.

MR. BALZ: But perhaps independents.

MS. IFILL: But perhaps independents, which is what he’s clearly going for here.

Newt Gingrich, another puzzlement, he was flying high in national polls, even in Iowa, collapsed pretty spectacularly last week and seems to be continuing his collapse.

MR. BALZ: Well, he got hammered in Iowa with millions of dollars in negative ads and didn’t respond. Took it as a badge of honor that he wasn’t going to respond, and then realized that not responding was a mistake. And I think he ended the campaign in Iowa as a very angry person, as we saw on caucus night when he gave that speech and that did not say anything gracious about Governor Romney.

And he’s come here – in a sense, he’s got one card here, and that is the support of the Union Leader, which is the strong conservative newspaper here in Manchester. And they are – once they endorse a candidate, they stay with that candidate. And they’ve been pushing him all week, but it’s not clear that it’s going to have much impact.

MS. IFILL: But he’d been doing well in South Carolina until this latest round of polls and seems to be collapsing even there.

MS. GOLDMAN: Yes and when Newt Gingrich is down, then he gets vicious and it’ll be really fascinating to see what kind of fireworks come out in the debates this weekend.

MS. IFILL: Well, let’s talk about the debates because there is a circular firing squad quality which is developing right now with this, which is to say that they all need to take Mitt Romney down, and so how do they do that?

MR. DICKERSON: Well, Newt Gingrich has started doing it by – there was an ad that he ran, a full page ad that greeted Romney when he landed in New Hampshire, talking about the Massachusetts moderate. This is now something that comes out of Newt Gingrich’s mouth almost at every event and every chance. And what he will do is say – it’s a version of the Santorum argument, which is a “pale pastel,” to quote Ronald Reagan, will not beat Barack Obama. We need clear lines. It needs to be a clear conservative. And Gingrich will say here are all of the ways in which Mitt Romney is just a squishy moderate and don’t go with a squishy moderate you think is electable, go with a true conservative – namely himself, Gingrich – and that’s the way we’re going to beat Barack Obama. He will also make the case that in the debate, in hand to hand combat in October of 2012, he, Gingrich, has the stature, has the chops to do it, and he’ll give everybody a demonstration as he tries to dance on Mitt Romney’s head.

MS. IFILL: I heard he started calling himself Bold Newt now, not Angry Newt, but Bold Newt.

MR. HARWOOD: The other thing that Newt Gingrich is doing is circulating a rather devastating ad that John McCain fashioned against Mitt Romney four years ago, with all the sort of flip-flop issues. So he’s going to try to bring those to the fore. But he is a declining force in the race. It does not appear that he’s going to be able to resuscitate himself. The question is going to be what does he feel is his obligation on behalf of conservatives to try to take Romney down? Is he going to keep doing that through South Carolina or is he going to, in deference to Santorum, who’s a growing force in the race, step aside, and make it easier for Santorum?

MS. IFILL: No signs of that yet, but I wonder if there’re any signs of Santorum taking a bead on Romney because he hasn’t really been in that directly critical of him so far.

MS. GOLDMAN: No, he’s been indirectly critical of him. In fact, in one of the events, in Windom, earlier this week, Santorum, he made reference to Romney’s support for the Wall Street bailout, saying a certain Massachusetts governor, you can go look up who that was.

But they may also be waiting just for Romney to inflict the damage onto himself. Remember, this was the debate, four years ago, that was the you’re likeable enough moment. And so if they can just get under Romney’s skin enough for him to get angry or to come off more on the attack, then that could also be beneficial to a Santorum or a Paul.

MR. BALZ: The problem for Santorum, of course, is that, you know, the Romney campaign and the Super PAC supporting him have shown that if they take somebody seriously, they will go after him. They did it with Rick Perry when he first got in the race. They did it obviously with Newt Gingrich. I think if you get to a moment where they perceive Santorum as a real threat, they will unload on him. They’ll do it gently now. The debates, he’ll counterattack if he gets attacked, I would assume. But if they think that he’s really making headway, they’ll go after him hard.

MS. IFILL: And some of the most devastating advertising on television this week has been Ron Paul going after Romney going after people. Whether he wants to be president or not, he famously said to Terry Moran, ABC, he doesn’t really imagine himself waking up in the White House, which is – we can safely say he’s the only one in this crowd who’s never had that fantasy. But he still has some pretty well produced sharp digs that he takes at the frontrunners.

MR. DICKERSON: Yes, that’s exactly right. And that’s one thing Santorum has to deal with. You know. And one other thing I want to add. When we think about the advantages that Romney has, what money and organization do for you, we keep talking about that. But if you look ahead to Florida – it comes after South Carolina – Florida has a lot of absentee ballots, Romney has the money and the organization to target his voters and make sure that when they’ve ordered in an absentee ballot that they’ve filled it out and send it in. I mean that’s the kind of boring day to day inside business that he can do that they’ve been planning for that Santorum, even if he has money where – I mean, you got to get the people, you – it’s just too late to get that kind of depth in terms of targeting your voters and getting them to turn out. And that’s a kind of advantage that Romney has that’s just quite big.

MR. HARWOOD: That whole Lucille and the chocolate factory thing.

MS. IFILL: Tell people what you’re talking about.

MR. HARWOOD: Well, Mitt Romney was responding a few days ago to Newt Gingrich’s complaint or the complaint of a Gingrich aide that his failure to get on the ballot in Virginia was equivalent to the attack at Pearl Harbor. And Romney responded, because that was a ridiculous statement by the Gingrich person, responded by saying, no, it’s less like Pearl Harbor than Lucille Ball at the chocolate assembly line, where she’s stuffing them in her dress and putting them in her mouth, and you know – they couldn’t pack the chocolate fast enough.

MS. IFILL: You know, I have to – we have to bring up one person who’s been completely missing in action in the way that Huntsman was in Iowa. Rick Perry is completely missing in action here in New Hampshire. And we thought he was on the verge of dropping out of the race. Michele Bachmann, of course, did drop out of the race this week. What’s he doing? Where is he going next? What’s his plan?

MR. BALZ: I think it’s a mystery to everybody. He sounded very much on caucus night as if he were heading back to Texas, as he said, to reassess –

MS. IFILL: The word “reassess” is always a sign.

MR. BALZ: – which is always the signal that the next step is to withdraw. And the next thing that happened the next day was that he suddenly said, no, I’m going on to South Carolina, apparently to the surprise of a number of his advisors. The only thing I could think of is that they’ve got money left. They’re going to run some ads. He’ll make one more run. It is – you know, it is a state where they thought he would be able to do reasonably well.

MS. IFILL: South Carolina.

MR. BALZ: South Carolina.

MS. IFILL: Yes.

MR. BALZ: And then reassess after that.

MR. HARWOOD: Texas Republicans that I talked to seemed to think that his family, in particular his wife, Anita, were urging him not to let the Iowa result define the end of his campaign, and give it one more shot in a much more favorable state in South Carolina. We’ll see if he can make any headway.

MR. DICKERSON: We’ll see in the debate if he decides to just participate in the debate or go after Romney like he’s really competing. I was talking to a McCain aide today who said, remember back in 2008, Fred Thompson helped John McCain win in South Carolina by taking some votes away from Mike Huckabee. So in this year, in 2012, the role of Fred Thompson will be played by Rick Perry, hopefully – the Romney folks hope taking votes away from Santorum, splitting up that anti-Romney vote, and allowing Mitt Romney at least to stay at the top.

MS. IFILL: We only have a minute left. Give me a sense of what should we watching for the next few days, Julianna.

MS. GOLDMAN: Santorum, I think it will be fascinating to see whether or not this uptick continues. Also one interesting story that I’ve been reporting is the Obama campaign’s ground game here. They have seven offices, 20 paid staffers. You compare that to the Republicans who Santorum, Romney, each have seven or eight staffers, one field office here. So they’re using this as an organizational tool because – look, New Hampshire only has four Electoral College votes, but nearly every single one of the president’s maps to victory in November includes winning New Hampshire.

MS. IFILL: It’s interesting. When I – I talked to a woman last night, a voter, who said to me that she voted for Obama last time. She’s considering Republicans this time. And she’s getting so many phone calls from Obama people at her house that she’s saying, ah, this is really over.

Thank you all very much. We’re going to be watching all of it. It’s nearly all over but the voting. I say nearly because there are still those two debates between now and Tuesday. And after last week in Iowa, who knows what happens next? For that, you’ll have to keep track of what our reporters are writing every day on the Radar on the Washington Week website, on Twitter – they’re all on Twitter. And you can tune into the PBS NewsHour online and on air, where we’ll have special primary coverage at 11:00 P.M., Eastern, on Tuesday. Then we promise to sum it all up for you as best we can next week on Washington Week. Goodnight.