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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview With Tim Kaine; Interview With Jim DeMint; Interview With Lisa Murkowski

Aired September 19, 2010 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: The last acts of the primary season ended with an explosion in Delaware's Republican Senate race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, GOP NOMINEE FOR U.S. SENATE: Oh, my gosh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Christine O'Donnell, the favorite of Tea Party activists, beat establishment candidate, Congressman Mike Castle.

And the decision by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to fight back against the Tea Party candidate who won the primary.

Inside the Republican Party, the chatter of civil war. Among Democrats, the feeling that there's an opportunity here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Today, Democrats look for an opening in the Republican party divide. Exclusive interviews with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

KAINE: They're chasing out their moderate candidates and hence their moderate voters.

CROWLEY: Also this morning, Tea Party kingmaker, Senator Jim DeMint.

DEMINT: They're madder at the Democrats than they are at the Republicans right now.

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley and this is "State of the Union."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: The election of Christine O'Donnell and the decision by Lisa Murkowski to keep fighting heats up the civil war among Republicans and gives Democrats new life in Delaware and maybe even Alaska. But even with that, Democrats are dealing with problems of their own. Some of the biggest triumphs of the Obama administration may be working against them back home. Party Chairman Tim Kaine says Democrats would be foolish to run away from legislation passed by Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAINE: It was Democrats who delivered the Affordable Care Act, and we'll be talking about that as a signature achievement for generations to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: But there is not much talk about health care reform on the trail. The most remarkable talk comes from conservative Democrats highlighting their vote against it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When President Obama and Nancy Pelosi pressured Chet Edwards, Chet stood up to them and voted no against their trillion-dollar health care bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Also roiling Democrats, soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts. The president thinks only middle-class tax cuts should be extended, but there are rumblings of Democratic opposition in the Senate, and 31 House Democrats -- echoing the Republican position -- called for an extension of tax cuts for everyone. Is that a door we hear opening?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The only thing I can tell you is that the tax cuts for the middle class will be extended this Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Joining me now from Richmond, Virginia, is former Governor Tim Kaine, who is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Thank you, Governor -- thank you, Mr. Chairman, for joining us.

I want to start out talking about health care reform. You think Democrats should be out there bragging about it. So what do you make of the Democrats who are putting out those ads, bragging that they voted against it?

KAINE: Well, Candy, I travel all over the country. I guess I've been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they're talking about it.

But you're right, some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don't tell people how to run their races, but I've been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you're doing and promote the accomplishments.

Now, obviously, folks who voted against health care, they're going to talk about why. But I think for the Democratic Party, generally, this significant achievement for the uninsured, for people who have been abused by insurance company policies, for small businesses, for seniors, is something that we should be very proud of and we should be talking about.

CROWLEY: One of the big political fights happening now in Washington is over the extension of the Bush tax cuts.

KAINE: Yes.

CROWLEY: The Democrats have argued that because Republicans want to extend them for everyone, they are standing in the way of extending them for middle-class voters. Can't you say the exact same thing about those 30-plus Democrats in the House and a handful of senators, all Democrats, who also think that even the wealthy should have their tax cuts stay in place? Aren't they also standing in the way and holding middle-class taxes hostage?

KAINE: Well, it's not standing in the way yet. We're still in the debate and the dialogue place, and then we're going to get to, eventually, having to vote. And I think that the comment that the speaker made in the clip that you showed is a good one, which is, if there's uniform agreement -- and there is -- that we should extend tax cuts to middle-class folks and small businesses, then why do we need to wait until we fight out the other battle to go ahead and do what everybody agrees needs to be done?

CROWLEY: My point is that--

KAINE: I think uniform commitment by both Republicans and Democrats is important to act on, so we can give the middle class and small businesses tax relief.

CROWLEY: I guess my point is, you are slamming Republicans for holding the middle class hostage while they fight for the wealthy. Can't the same be said for those Democrats who are now agreeing with Republicans on this extension?

KAINE: Well, they're certainly expressing their preference. Now, I don't think they're expressing a preference to do exactly what the Republicans want to do. What the Republicans want to do is extend these tax cuts, make them permanent to the wealthy, and the CBO has estimated that would double the deficit projections going forward for the next couple of decades. This is from a Republican Party that's been griping about deficits.

What I think the Democrats have been doing, that number that you mentioned, has been talking about some kind of a temporary extension for those at the top end. Obviously, this is going to be a hot debate in Congress between now and the end of the congressional session, but there isn't any reason why if everyone agrees that tax cuts should go to middle class and small businesses, we can make that happen.

CROWLEY: Politically speaking, would you prefer this conversation take place after the election?

KAINE: You know, here's my sense of it, Candy. I'm fine with the conversation taking place, but if I had to guess right now, while both sides are waiting to see the election outcome, I wouldn't be surprised if it's not until after the election when the final, you know, action is taken.

This is a discussion that needs to take place, and I'm fine with the debate or dialogue, but if you ask me to predict -- and this is just my own prediction, I'm not speaking for Congress -- I bet you wouldn't get to a resolution point until after the elections.

CROWLEY: I want to read you something that Gerald McEntee, who I'm sure you know very well, he's chairman of the AFL-CIO political committee, said in the New York Times on Saturday. "The problem for us" -- meaning Democrats and union members -- "to really re-excite the rank and file to the greatest degree possible. They've been disappointed that the House and Senate haven't done more, especially to create jobs."

Basically, this is that the liberal wing of the party is very unhappy with the president for things that he did not do. Other than saying the Republicans are worse, what's your best pitch to reignite the left of the party?

KAINE: Yes, Candy, great question. And if you asked the president, is he disappointed that he hasn't gotten more done, he would say, sure I am. But let's just look quickly at what has been done. We stopped combat operations in Iraq -- that's a big deal. We've passed equal pay for women -- that's a big deal. Four million more American low-income kids with health insurance. That's a big deal. Health insurance reform. Stabilized the financial system. We've strengthened our alliances abroad that had been really tattered after 10 years. An economy that was shrinking in GDP and losing jobs is now growing again. We've had private-sector job growth for eight months.

So we're not where we want to be yet, but the case that we make as Democrats is this: We were in a ditch, a deep, deep chasm after a lost decade where Americans lost income, lost jobs, and poverty gaps widened. We're now climbing out of the ditch. We've built a ladder with no help from the other guys. We're climbing out. We've got a long way to go, because people are still hurting, but we're only going to get there if we keep climbing. We can't embrace the same policies that put us into the ditch to begin with.

CROWLEY: Let me give you the results of an early September poll from CNN, where -- this is just independents. Your choice for Congress, would it be Republicans -- 62 percent of independents said it would be Republicans. Only 30 percent said Democrats. Where do the independents go after voting the majority of them for President Obama?

KAINE: Well, clearly, that's something that we're concerned about, although I know that was an early September poll. My feeling is this, that last week we completed painting the picture about who the Democratic Party is and who the Republican Party is with the end of the primary season. And I think it's become very clear now that the Republican Party, that the control of the Republican Party is in Tea Party candidates, who do not speak for independent or moderate voters at all. And we're going to make that contrast very sharp, and we have a feeling that we're going to do very, very well in closing that gap with independent voters between now and the 2nd of November, because independents do not like what they see from this ascendant Tea Party and the Republican Party.

CROWLEY: Well, the Tea Party has been for fiscal conservatism. They have said the government's spending too much, that the government is overreaching. This is something that is shared in our polling by a number of people. Is it possible that you are underestimating the Tea Party candidates?

KAINE: Well, look, I never underestimate energy when I see it, and I tell people everywhere, you've got to respect that energy. But Candy, as you were talking about earlier, some of that energy in the Tea Party is directed against themselves. You know, the Republicans, I think, merge with the Tea Party, and in many instances, they're finding out it's the Donner party, because it's knocking off Republicans left and right and giving us opportunities to win some very tough seats that six months ago, we frankly thought we were probably not going to win.

So we're not underestimating the energy, but when we see, you know, the -- some of the rhetoric and some of the positions taken by Tea Party candidates -- and probably the most notable example is the most recent with the Delaware win of Christine O'Donnell -- we just know that those just hard-right social policies, or we want to abandon Social Security or dramatically revise Medicaid and Medicare, question whether the Civil Rights Acts were a good thing.

KAINE: Should we revise the 14th Amendment to the Constitution?

Some of these core positions of the tea party GOP candidates are positions that don't resonate with independent and moderate voters.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, Mr. Chairman, just as kind of a wrap- up, and I think I know the answer to this question, but I have to ask, and that is, do you stand by your prediction that this is going to be sort of a classic midterm, where the party in power, that would be Democrats, will lose a number of seats, but it will not be the earthquake election that later Senator Jim DeMint told me that he believes will happen? Do you stand by the moderate number of seats you're going to lose?

KAINE: Yes, yes. Candy, I do. I mean, you know the history, mid-terms, since Teddy Roosevelt was president, the norm is you lose 28 House seats and four Senate seats. We're going to lose seats. We're not living in average times. When the economy is tough, that means that there's volatility in the electorate. And we definitely see it.

But I don't think you're going to see us lose either house, because I think we've got good candidates. I think the Republicans are moving way to the right of the American electorate. And we're pretty good at the field side of politics, which is what we're focused on between now and November 2. CROWLEY: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, thank you for your time.

KAINE: You bet. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, my conversation with tea party darling Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: He has been called a king-maker and the skunk in the party. Either way, nobody underestimates the reach of South Carolina's Republican senator, Jim DeMint. Sarah Palin has a 63 percent success rate with the primary candidates she endorsed this year. Jim DeMint endorsed far fewer candidates with a 77 percent success rate.

DeMint accuses the Republican party of betraying its conservative principles. His PAC raised over $4 million this year alone to elect what he calls "true conservatives." When Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter was still a Republican, DeMint refused to support him saying: "I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in the principles of limited government, free markets, and free people, than to have 60 that don't have a set of beliefs."

When we come back, the interview we did earlier with Senator DeMint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Senator DeMint, thank you so much for joining us.

DEMINT: Candy, it's great to be here.

CROWLEY: I have listened to you since the election of Christine O'Donnell, and you have repeated what you said kind of all along during this election year, which is, in general, I would rather have people who adhere to conservative principles than have the majority.

So accepting that, the problem is that in the minority, you can't get anything done that you'd like to get done. So how do you -- I mean, square that for me. You can't repeal Obama health care. You can't cut spending. You can't eliminate earmarks, which is one of your favorite causes here. So I don't -- I just -- it is inexplicable to me that you would rather have true conservatives than the majority, where you could actually do something.

DEMINT: Well, first of all, let me clarify what I mean by conservative. I'm just talking about common-sense people who don't think balancing a checkbook is a radical idea. That's what we're looking for now. Because the people in Washington have clearly gotten out of control, in both parties.

When you have $13 trillion in debt, you've got a big problem. That's what America is asking for right now. But I came into the Senate in the majority, Candy, 55 senators, a large majority in the House, Bush in the White House. And Republicans didn't do what we said we were going to do.

We spent too much. We borrowed too much. And, frankly, if we get the majority again, even if it's just in the House and we don't do what we say, I think the Republican Party is dead. And the urgency for me here is the Democrat Party, and I know this sounds partisan or completely dysfunctional, they're the left of Europe. I mean, the spending is...

CROWLEY: They would argue, let's just put it that way.

DEMINT: Well, I know they would, and that's fair enough. But you can't argue with the facts. Republicans are the only one who can carry the banner of what I think millions of Americans are saying. Not just Republicans, independents, Democrats, stop the spending, stop the borrowing, stop the debt, stop the takeovers. This is kind of uniting America. So my point is, is the quickest way to a majority, the quickest way to 60 votes in the Senate is to have Republicans who stand on principle. nothing right-wing. What I'm talking about is where mainstream America is, and it's just common sense.

CROWLEY: But let me -- let me -- we had a poll, there was a poll in The New York Times that said about one in five, about 19 percent of Americans support the tea party movement. That's not mainstream. That's not most Americans. That's a fifth of Americans.

DEMINT: Well, the interesting thing is, for instance, in Delaware, there are probably a few thousand at most tea party activists. But ten times that many voted for Christine O'Donnell in the Republican primary. So for every person who takes up a sign and goes to a tea party rally, there are thousands of Americans who agree with them.

DEMINT: They don't necessarily think you should go out to a rally or they don't have time to themselves, but I've been around the country enough to know that there are millions of people who have never been involved with politics before, who don't like Republicans or Democrats, but they're concerned about the incredible spending, the debt, and the government owning the auto companies.

So I think there is a unity out there. And the exciting thing for me as a Republican is I think the slate of candidates that we have for the Senate, particularly, that I've been involved with, is representative of America as I've seen in a long time.

And I think that you see it in the polls. People they told me couldn't get elected, like Marco Rubio, is probably about 10 points ahead today in Florida. We've got good candidates and they're coming out with a good common-sense message.

CROWLEY: You also talked about how you sort of looked around and thought, I don't want to be hear with the same people we've got here now. We need some true conservatives, want to hold the line on spending, hold the line on regulation, hold the line on taxes. I went back and I looked up the records on the top four issues that we've seen in the past year. The stimulus program, TARP, the bank bail-out, health care reform, and reg reform. When you took Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, who lost to a tea party candidate; Bob Bennett in Utah, who lost to a tea party candidate; and then, of course, Mike Castle, who lost to a tea party candidate in Delaware; their voting records on all four of those issues were the same as John Thune's, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn, with the exception of, I must say, Mike Castle voted for reg reform. He was the only one in that group.

So should John Thune, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn be thrown out of office? Because on those major issues that you're so upset about, they voted the exact same way as these candidates who got thrown out by the Republican Party?

DEMINT: Yes. Well, I didn't campaign against Lisa or Bob Bennett. this was a decision...

CROWLEY: But you supported Bob Bennett's -- one of the people who challenged him.

DEMINT: Well, once Bob was out, yes, I was supportive of Mike Lee, because he's a great candidate. But these are appropriators, Bob Bennett, Lisa Murkowski. They believe in their job is to take home the bacon. I mean, it's a big part of the culture here in Washington.

And, frankly, I've been around long enough to know that people are tired. Even in Alaska, Candy, in Alaska the voters there threw out someone who was bringing home the bacon. Joe Miller, running against earmarks, because I think we're hearing all over America, it's, I don't want money for my state if it's going to bankrupt my country.

CROWLEY: But we're talking, really, 1, 2 percent of a budget here, when you're talking about the earmarks. That doesn't get you to a balanced budget.

DEMINT: Oh, Candy, it's like saying the engine is a small part of the train. All the legislation, you look at health care, was pulled through by "Cornhusker kickbacks," that's an earmark. The bail-outs failed in the House until they went back and added earmarks.

So it's always a way to grease the skids, and it's the power here. It's the power. It's why thousands of lobbyists are here to get earmarks for special interests or projects back home. It really is a part of the culture that has resulted in a spending mentality, and a parochial focus.

But if your focus here -- if you think you're here to take home the bacon and all year you're working on getting earmarks for your state, you're not working on tax reform and fixing Social Security, fixing our health care system. And that's what I've seen for the 12 years I've been in the House and the Senate, is everybody is working on the press release back home, for getting a "bridge to nowhere," rather than coming up here and doing things that are for the national interests. I think that's all Americans are asking for now, is stop the spending and the borrowing, stop taking over our country, and focus on those things that make good common sense. And, again, I'm excited about the prospect of having a wave of new people in the Congress who I believe are going to do exactly what they promise the voters.

CROWLEY: Stick with me just a minute. And we will be right back with more about the politics of 2010 and 2012.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back now with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Does it occur to you that it might not be so much who the Republicans are or what they stand for as much as it is people's perceived -- the perceived failure of the Democrats to deliver? That it's not that you're out there offering these things, that it's that they're just angry that the job market is bad or that there's so many more...

(CROSSTALK)

DEMINT: Well, there's some truth to that, Candy, because I think it's a matter they're madder at the Democrats than they are at the Republicans right now. But there is some genuine excitement for candidates like Marco Rubio or Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. I think you're going to see a lot of excitement for Christine O'Donnell.

I know she was massacred in the campaign with millions of dollars of negative ads, but she raised over $1 million in the last two days from people all over the country. They like an underdog. They like someone who is taking on the establishment. And a third of the voters in Delaware are independent.

And I think when they get the sense that this gal is taking on everybody, I think she's going to surprise people in the general election too.

CROWLEY: Did she surprise you in the primary?

DEMINT: Well, yes, she did. I mean, I knew that there was a surge, and I knew she was a great candidate. But I also knew they were spending all this money trying to make her look silly. But she stood strong and stayed really positive throughout. And she didn't ask for the support from the Republican Party.

And I was really just honored to stand with her. And I was glad, obviously, Sarah Palin has done great work around the country drawing attention to underdog candidates.

CROWLEY: When you -- some of these candidates that have been embraced by the tea party and by you individually, have had some ideas that people do consider to be out of the mainstream, the argument is, that's great, inside the Republican Party, big civil war going on, the tea party has had some great victories, but once we get to the election...

DEMINT: What ideas are you talking about?

CROWLEY: Well, OK, and I wanted to ask you about it. So, for instance, Sharron Angle wants to get rid of the Department of Education, is that a good idea?

DEMINT: Well, I think -- I agree that we need to devolve a lot of power out of Washington, and I would have to ask her what her position is on that.

CROWLEY: Well, getting rid of it completely, is that a good idea? Just, no more Department of Education?

DEMINT: Well, I can see a role of looking at best practices around the state. But the fact is pretty clear, Candy, since the federal government increased its involvement in the '60s, the quality of our education relative to the rest of the world has declined. And we spend more per student than any other country in the world.

So I've introduced a bill to devolve a lot of power from the federal government back to the states.

CROWLEY: But that's not the same as abolishing the Education Department, which, as you know, is quite symbolic. And a lot of money comes from the federal government...

DEMINT: Well, she's very bold to say it. The fact is, education would probably work a lot better without the Department of Education.

CROWLEY: So you would support...

DEMINT: I would support a devolution of power out of Washington for education, health care, transportation. And I've introduced a lot of legislation for that too. And you can do it in a common-sense, reasonable way that doesn't disrupt any of the activities that we support.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about a couple of just sheerly political things. And that is, you have predicted an earthquake election.

DEMINT: Right.

CROWLEY: Give me some specificity. What does that mean?

DEMINT: Well, I -- I think Republicans are going to take the House back. I think you're going to see a number of new senators come in. There are not that many races in play, so the chances of a majority in the Senate may not be that great, but...

CROWLEY: Will you take any responsibility if the Republicans don't take control of the Senate, if, for instance, they should lose in Delaware, with someone you backed?

DEMINT: I'll tell you this. The only -- the only reason we have a chance at a majority now is in large part for the candidates I've been supporting.

Candy, if the Republican Party in the Senate was now symbolized by Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, we would not have the energy behind our candidates anywhere in the country.

CROWLEY: Then, why are -- why are Democrats so excited?

DEMINT: Well, they're faking it, because I think there -- there's no question that all of them are in trouble.

CROWLEY: I know you've said that you're thinking about 2010; you don't want to talk about 2012 and the presidency, but who right now that we know is thinking about running fits your template for that true conservative, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich?

Who do you -- who is your person in this (inaudible) at the moment?

DEMINT: I -- I haven't picked a person. All those you mentioned are -- are great candidates. I'm looking for someone that's almost like a Governor Christie in New Jersey, who's willing to tell people the hard truth, that the federal government can't do any more; we've got to do less if you want to save our country and fight the fights against the union bosses.

And so I'm looking for a combination of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, and I know he or she is out there somewhere, but I think you're going to see some great candidates for 2012, but we do need to get through 2010 and show America that Republicans once again will re- earn the trust of the American people and do what we say.

CROWLEY: Senator Jim DeMint, thanks for stopping by.

DEMINT: Candy, thank you.

CROWLEY: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, reaction from Senator Lisa Murkowski.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Senator Lisa Murkowski is one of many victims of the anti-incumbency wave this election season. The freshman senator lost to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in a contentious primary battle. Still, she battles on, Friday announcing she will launch a write-in campaign to retain her seat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI: We didn't educate Alaskans about the extremist views that were held by Mr. Miller, and when he swung, I didn't swing back. Well, ladies and gentlemen, friends and supporters, the gloves are off...

(APPLAUSE) And I'm fighting for Alaska!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The Republican establishment has made it clear they won't support Murkowski this time around. And the man you just heard, Senator Jim DeMint, lashed out: "The establishment loves to lecture conservatives about how we need to support liberal candidates to expand the tent and win seats for Republicans. But when these candidates lose their primaries, many leave the party and join the opposition. When conservatives lose their primaries, however, they accept defeat and support the nominee. Murkowski's betrayal provides more proof that big-tent hypocrites don't really care about winning a majority for Republicans."

We'll get Senator Murkowski's response, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Senator, thank you so much for being here at such an early hour out there, I know. Let me first ask you --

MURKOWSKI: Thank you.

CROWLEY: -- when you decided to become a write-in candidate Friday, Senator Jim DeMint, who, as you know, has been a supporter of Tea Party candidates, as your opponent is a Tea Party candidate, he called in response to what you did, he called you a big-tent hypocrite, saying these people all talk about how they want people in the Republican Party, and then the minute they lose, they go on out and run as independents and they leave the party. Can I get your response to that?

MURKOWSKI: Well, let me tell you, Jim DeMint or the Tea Party Express coming out of California, far be it for them to determine whether or not the senator representing the people of Alaska is conservative enough for them.

What I'm trying to do, what I'm trying to do is represent the people of my state. So, you know, maybe -- maybe from Jim DeMint's perspective, you know, I'm not conservative enough for him. But the question is, do I represent the values of the people of the state that I represent? Do I stand for what they value? And that's what we're doing here. That's what this write-in campaign is all about. It's giving the people of Alaska an opportunity to weigh in and to have a choice in an election where you had Joe Miller, with 11.9 percent of the electorate, and a Democrat that took 3.4 percent of the electorate, and where is everybody else in the middle?

And this is something that I hope Alaskans get engaged in and they say, wait a minute, we want to have a voice in this electoral process. That's kind of our constitutional right here. So Jim can say what he's going to say. That's fine. I'm going to listen to what the people of Alaska have to say and who they feel best represents the future of our state and the values of our state. This is about Alaska.

CROWLEY: But with all due respect, Senator DeMint and the Tea Party people from California didn't vote in the Alaska primary. Alaskan Republicans voted in them, and they voted you out. So what happened? And since they voted you out, doesn't it look like sore loser to now launch this write-in campaign?

MURKOWSKI: Let me respond to that, because that's a perfectly legitimate question. There is a process there.

But what happened in my particular race, you had the Tea Party Express, this California-based group, come in at the last minute in a campaign, run a mudslinging, smear -- just a terrible, terrible campaign, with lies and fabrications and mischaracterization. They came in, they dumped $600,000 into a small market here in Alaska, and they absolutely clearly influenced the outcome of that election.

But, again, keep in mind, keep in mind, you have a process here where so many Alaskans did not have an opportunity to speak up and vote for the person that they wanted to, which--

CROWLEY: But isn't that the process? They could have come and voted, were they Republicans -- isn't that how the process works? And isn't there a point that you're now kind of undermining the Republican Party?

MURKOWSKI: It's not about undermining the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It's about representing the people of your state, of my state, the state of Alaska. And if the people of the state of Alaska are going to stand up and say, Lisa, you've got to stay in this, you've got to give us an opportunity to participate, to show you, to show everyone who we want to represent us, give us a choice.

After the election results came in, what happened was unprecedented in terms of the volume of calls, the e-mails, the faxes, the Facebook pages that popped up. The number of people that said, you have got to give Alaskan voters a chance.

And so a write-in process is absolutely a part of that electoral process. I am listening to my constituents. That's what it's all about. It's not trying to make the Republican Party happy. It's not trying to make Jim DeMint happy. It's trying to respond to the people of the state of Alaska.

I'm going to give them a choice. And if the people on November 2nd say, well, we don't like her, that's fine. But that's part of what we're doing here. That's part of the process as well.

CROWLEY: Well, what do you think of Senator DeMint and his efforts this year to back Tea Party candidates, including your opponent?

MURKOWSKI: It's absolutely his right, it is his prerogative. I mean, anybody can step up and say, I want to see more people that are more of my ilk, my mind-set. That's fine. They can help them with that. I don't think that it's particularly helpful to undercut fellow Republicans, but as I say, it's his prerogative.

CROWLEY: But your opponent's a Republican, so he's not really undercutting Republicans. He's kind of opting for nonestablishment Republicans.

MURKOWSKI: And again, he certainly has that right, to help whatever members he may want. If he wants to bring in insurgents --

CROWLEY: Do you think he's started a civil war inside the Republican Party?

MURKOWSKI: You know, is it a civil war? I don't know. I think that he has made people uncomfortable. I think that he has kind of rattled the cages. Whether it advances to a full-on civil war, I don't know. My -- what I'm looking at right now is what's going on in my state. I'm responding to that. And quite honestly, what's happening within the conference is -- I'm not focused on that. I'm focused on what's going on here back home.

CROWLEY: And what is, in your opinion, wrong with your opponent, insofar as the Republican Party is concerned?

MURKOWSKI: I'm not -- I'm not going to define people by labels, who's a real Republican, who's not a real Republican.

What I look at is, do you represent the values of the state of Alaska? Do you represent the people here in terms of what it is that they need, they hope for, what they hope for their future? And Joe Miller simply does not represent that. He is suggesting to us, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many, many Alaskans, some pretty radical things. You know, we dump Social Security. No more Medicare. Let's get rid of the Department of Education. Elimination of all earmarks.

You know, he is -- he has taken an approach that is just, plain and simple, more radical than where the people of the state of Alaska are. Now, they all want to make sure that we're reducing our spending, that we're being responsible. I want to do that too. I want to work on that as well. But I'm also very cognizant of the fact that we live in a state where we're not connected to anybody's transportation grid. We're not connected to an energy grid that allows us to have lower energy costs.

So what I've been working to do, is instead of eliminating agencies and say these fast and easy answers, I've been working to make sure that we've got adequate transportation. I've been working to make sure that we can afford energy within our villages and in our communities.

These simplistic answers, these glib answers that basically offer no positive solutions, I don't think are what the people of Alaska are hoping for. And they have said that to me. They've said, don't leave us with that option. CROWLEY: And, finally, Senator, you took over a week to make this decision about running as a write-in against the now-nominated Republican senator -- or the Republican candidate. So let me ask you, I'm assuming you polled in the field, I'm assuming you talked to your colleagues in the U.S. Senate. There have not been, as far as we can tell, except for one senator, any kind of successful write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate. What makes you think you can win this?

MURKOWSKI: Because Alaskans believe that we can win this. Because we believe that doing the right--

CROWLEY: Did you poll?

MURKOWSKI: -- thing for our state makes this winnable.

You know, there have been a lot of polls that are out there, but I'll be the first one to tell you, Candy: This is a tough hurdle. Winning a write-in campaign is going to be tough. But don't you tell Alaskans that we can't do tough things. You don't think we can fill in an oval and learn to spell Lisa Murkowski? We can figure this out. Our state's future is on the line, and we're going to listen to what Alaskans have to say. We're not going to be listening to the pundits back in Washington, D.C. We're not going to be listening to the naysayers. We're going to be listening to those people who live and work and raise their families and are worried about their jobs, their economy. This is what we're focused on right now.

CROWLEY: Senator Lisa Murkowski, I will tell you this, you sure know how to make a race interesting. We appreciate it. We'll talk to you along the way.

MURKOWSKI: Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MURKOWSKI: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, the latest on a massive bombing in Iraq. And then, a soldier's story of heroism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Deadly car bombings rocked Baghdad this morning. Arwa Damon joins me for the latest developments in Iraq.

Arwa, what have you learned?

ARMA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at least 29 people have been killed in that incident. Around 111, if not more, wounded. These attacks taking place within minutes of one another. One of them happening when a minibus exploded outside of a cell phone shop. The other one taking place at a fairly busy intersection in another part of the capital. In addition to that, there were two cases where magnetic bombs were placed underneath vehicles, killing the passengers. And this just goes to show you the type of atmosphere that Iraqis in the capital are living in. They are constantly anxious and fearful when stuck in traffic jams, not knowing how to keep themselves safe. And many of them, as part of their regular routine, check under their vehicles every morning before they head out -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Arwa, the U.S. obviously pulled its combat operations, or stopped its combat operations. They're now in this advisory role, which means they do go into combat at some times with Iraqi troops. Is there a sense in the country that the withdrawal of U.S. troops in a combat role has made the place more dangerous?

DAMON: Well, Candy, there's a lot of mixed feelings in Iraq about the U.S. troop draw-down, about the timing of it. The U.S. military's presence on the streets, at least even if it was a presence in whereby which they were standing behind Iraqi security forces in greater numbers, did largely act as a deterrent.

There are Iraqis who feel that the timing of this draw-down perhaps not taking place at the best of times, because at the end of the day we do have this political vacuum after inconclusive elections in March.

And already recent intelligence, there have been signs showing that al Qaeda is beginning to re-emerge in some areas, that the Iranian-backed Shia militias are making a comeback. So there is a lot of concern about this lack of U.S. military oversight.

CROWLEY: Arwa Damon, thank you so much, out of Baghdad today.

Up next, soldiers claim he -- a soldier claims he's no hero, despite evidence to the contrary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAFF SGT. SALVATORE GIUNTA, U.S. ARMY: In this job I am only mediocre. I'm average. This was a situation that we were put into. And by no means did I do anything that anyone else wouldn't have done in that situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In 2007 the Korangal Valley in eastern Afghanistan was a dangerous place for U.S. forces, so dangerous that the U.S. has since pulled out. But in late October of '07, as night dropped into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta and his platoon were ambushed by 10 to 20 insurgents. Giunta was hit in his bulletproof vest. Incoming fire came from everywhere.

Giunta moved forward into it to join up with fellow soldier, Sergeant Josh Brennan. Giunta spotted a wounded Brennan being dragged off by two insurgents. Giunta killed one of them, shot the other, and pulled Brennan back.

After repelling the enemy, the platoon returned to its outpost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIUNTA: Looking at it as like a picture, I was just one brush stroke in that picture, and everyone else was one brush stroke in that picture. And what I did wasn't the first brush stroke of the picture and it wasn't the last brush stroke in the picture, and it wasn't the best. It was just another brush stroke that helped, you know, complete this picture, or this moment in time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Earlier this month the president called Sergeant Salvatore Giunta to tell him that for that moment in time Giunta will be the recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration given by the U.S. government. Giunta says he's proud and excited and the medal is a huge high honor.

It is all of that, but it's not a happy ending. Sergeant Brennan died of his wounds shortly after Giunta pulled him out of enemy hands. Giunta is still in touch with Brennan's father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIUNTA: He has expressed his gratitude to me, which, you know, that's kind of a hard one to stomach because that's still a loss. Like I'm glad that we could bring Josh back, but I wish it was under different circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: We'd like to call Sergeant Giunta an American hero, but he'll only let us under one condition. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIUNTA: If I'm a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero. So if you think that that's a hero, as long as you include everyone with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In addition to Sergeant Giunta, there are 100,000 U.S. military heroes in Afghanistan, another 50,000 in Iraq, and another 5,693 heroes have been killed.

Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. For everyone else "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" starts right now.