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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview With Rick Santorum; Interview With Bob Walker, John Sununu; Interview With Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe

Aired December 11, 2011 - 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 campaign trail en fuego: the words are sharp and time is short.

Today, all in, in Iowa: a conversation with Rick Santorum. Then, going negative on Newt. We talk to Romney surrogate John Sununu. And Gingrich supporter Bob Walker.

Debates, presidential politics, and an unpopular congress with Anita Dunn and Tom Davis.

And the future of the mailman with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.

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

There was a boxing match here in Washington last night, but the real punches were thrown in Des Moines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's be candid. The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who is an historian but somebody who is also running for president of the United States stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in his neighborhood.

MICHELE BACHMANN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative. It's not Newt, Romney.

RON PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Freddie Mac is bailed out by the taxpayers, so in a way Newt, I think, you probably got some of our taxpayers money.

RICK PERRY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you will cheat on your wife, if you will cheat on your spouse, then why wouldn't you cheat on your business partner or why wouldn't you cheat on anybody for that matter?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Back in 1994, Newt, I was running for the United States Senate and I did not support an individual mandate and I was a conservative. You strayed on that issue as you have on others. The record is important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And presidential candidate Rick Santorum joins me now from Des Moines.

Senator, thank you for joining us. Let me talk to you about the topic of the day and get your take on why you think at this point Newt Gingrich is doing so well.

SANTORUM: You know, think people are looking for a strong conservative leader and that's what we've been out talking to the people of Iowa about. Newt's done well at the debates. I think that's been his forte. His forte is glib, and there's no question about it.

Newt is full of ideas and has a professor-teacher mentality, if you will, an ability and I think he's connecting with the audiences out there.

I think people are also going to look at his leadership ability and look at his record and whether what he says he's going to do is actually what he did when he had the opportunity to do it. And I think that's where as people start focusing a lot more on those details, I think that's where we're going to rise and in fact are rising here in Iowa, that if you look at the leadership difference between the two of us, you know I was able to lead and successfully get a lot of things done when I was in Washington, D.C. and had the respect of my colleagues, was elected to leadership positions.

And I think Newt had, let's say, a much more difficult path once he was in leadership. It wasn't just about ideas, it is about executing those -- on those ideas and I was successful in doing so. And I would say that Newt had a bit of a problem that caused him to not have a lot of support among his colleagues and had problems as speaker.

And I think that's going to be a difference between the two of us.

The other thing is, the issue of being a consistent conservative. Someone -- trust is a big deal.

CROWLEY: Sure. And the consistent conservative is something that you've hit very hard on, saying, look, I'm the real conservative in the race. You have suggested that Newt Gingrich is not. And yet in poll after poll, what we're seeing is that members of the Tea Party, which I think you would agree are the most conservative element of the Republican Party, overwhelmingly are supporting Newt Gingrich at this point.

SANTORUM: Yeah. I would still say it is, believe it or not, still early. I mean, there's still three weeks left even before Iowa. A lot of information is yet to disseminate out. And I think as it continues to get out there and settle in people's minds, they're going to see a very different record.

It is interesting if you watched the debate last night between Romney and Gingrich, they were back and forth on some peripheral issues but the core issues, whether it was the Wall Street bailout or cap in trade and globe global warming which is a huge government takeover. And the same thing with individual mandate. And again, another big top-down government takeover of a sector of the economy, Gingrich and Romney are in the same place. That's not -- heck, the Tea Party was formed as a result of big government and the health care issue and Gingrich is on the wrong side.

I think we need -- and I think the Tea Party people are going to realize we need a clean, clear contrast. We need this race to be about Barack Obama and his record, not with Republicans agreeing with that record. I mean, that would be the last thing we should be nominating is someone who has a bad record on some of the most important issues that we're going to be dealing with, like bailing out Wall Street, like climate change, like the Obamacare.

CROWLEY: On the substance of things that you talked about, but you also mentioned earlier the idea of leadership, what kind of a leader would Newt Gingrich be, what kind of a leader has he been. I want to play you sort of a montage of what some of those who worked with him in the House had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRM. REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) NEW YORK: Most of us are terrified to death that he would become the Republican nominee. We know that he has these visions of grandiosity.

SEN. TOM COBURN, (R) OKLAHOMA: I'm not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich's, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: He's too self-centered. The time he was speaker was one crisis after another and they were almost all self-inflicted. He puts himself at the center of everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Susan Molinari, Tom Coburn, Peter King, all names familiar to you, I know. You have, in fact, praised Newt Gingrich, though, along the line saying he was an inspiration to you, sort of getting you on your conservative path in politics. Will the real Newt Gingrich stand up, which is it? Is he a man you say has some questions about his leadership or is it the guy who's been kind of a far-away mentor to you?

SANTORUM: Well, he is a great teacher. I mean, that's what he is. He is a very good teacher. He was a teacher before he came into politics and he's a very bright man who has a lot of ideas. The question is, can you stay focused on those ideas, can you execute those ideas and can you motivate the American public to able to support those ideas. CROWLEY: Well, the question is does he have the temperament to be in the Oval Office? Do you think he has the temperament to be in the Oval Office?

GINGRICH: Well, I would just say, look at the experience he had as Speaker and look at my experience I had when I was in leadership in the United States Senate. CROWLEY: And what do you think?

SANTORUM: Three years into his -- well, I would just say, three years into his speakership there was a conservative revolution to try to get rid of him as speaker. You know, that doesn't happen very often where you have the Speaker of the House in a time when Republicans are on the ascendancy and the person who led them in large respect to that would have that kind of rebellion within the ranks among conservatives. I think that should tell you something.

And just the opposite, I was a leader. If you were a conservative around this country and you wanted something done in the United States Senate you came to Rick Santorum's office, because that's where it got done whether it was national security or moral cultural, or economic, or second amendment, we were the guy that was the go-to guy to get conservative things accomplished in the United States Senate.

And I just think that's a very distinct difference between a conservative revolution among House members about his leadership as opposed to conservatives coming to Rick Santorum and trying to get things done in the United States Senate.

CROWLEY: Let me move you along to something that you said last Wednesday at a Republican Jewish conference talking about the president, his foreign policy. I'm going to play that for our viewers as well as something that the president said in response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: This president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical Islamist, he has had nothing but appeasement.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Appeasement? I mean this is a president who's killed more terrorists than were killed in the Bush administration. He took out Osama bin Laden. He has launched more drone attacks against terrorist targets than the Bush administration did and yet you accuse him of appeasement which is a very loaded word, as you know, toward terrorists.

SANTORUM: It's a very accurate word. What President Obama was doing was continuing existing Bush policies with respect to al Qaeda and respect to Afghanistan. I was talking about the new threats that have come up under his administration. And at every single turn the president has appeased those who would do us harm.

Let's talk about President Ahmadinejad and the Iranians who are the biggest threat to Israel and to our national security. He has done nothing but appease the Iranians to say that he will negotiate -- in fact did negotiate... CROWLEY: Oh, he imposed sanctions, did he not?

SANTORUM: He opposed weak sanctions. He opposed tough sanctions.

CROWLEY: Imposed.

SANTORUM: And continues to impose any meaningful sanctions on the Iranians. He has done nothing to try to stop their nuclear program. I mean we have a nuclear program that is under way. He is refusing to do anything covertly or militarily to try to stop a weapon that will fundamentally change the national security position of this country...

CROWLEY: Essentially what would you like him...

SANTORUM: ...and the world by having this purveyor of terror who has -- just let me finish.

CROWLEY: What would Rick Santorum would do...

SANTORUM: ...Rick Santorum would be funding the pro-democracy movement which President Obama has not done. It was a bill that I passed, I was author of back in 2006 that gave money -- was supposed to give money to help the pro-democracy movement in Iran. The president has not spent a penny in Iran to try to do that, imposing tougher sanctions, which the president has opposed.

Number three, we would be using all of our assets to use covert activity to disrupt and destroy the capability of them to develop a missile technology, as well as nuclear technology.

And fourth, I would be working with the Israelis in publicly stating that Iran must abandon this nuclear weapons program, must open it up to inspectors, or else we will work with the state of Israel to take out and degrade that capability via military force -- in air strikes, not military force, but air strikes.

CROWLEY: Let me try to button this up just by saying a couple of things. First, I know the president has in fact imposed some tougher sanctions and has in fact said that nothing is off the table when it comes to Iran and its nuclear capabilities. But I have...

SANTORUM: Well, Candy, hold on. Hold on. Candy, hold on, stop, Candy. That's just not true. Ask Robert Menendez, and ask all of the folks in the United States Senate who want to impose the real sanction that will make a difference on Iran and the president has opposed it. Now that's just a fact.

He also has recognized the state of Syria, called Assad a reformer, has continued to have an embassy there when in fact this is a real thug that is a real threat to the state of Israel and to the stability of the region.

And again here's the interesting link. It is a client state of Iran, the greatest area that he has appeased is Iran, which is the greatest threat. And here he is, recognizing Assad, setting up an ambassadorship with a client state of Iran, who is a great funder of Hezbollah, a threat to Israel and the region.

You go to Egypt. Again, he supported the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, as it turns out, into overthrowing an ally in Egypt. There is a consistent pattern of contingencies that have come up under this administration where he has opposed the freedom fighters and has gone with the radical Islamists. That is a problem for the security of Israel and our country.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me move you on. I think we could probably go round and round a couple times on this, but two really quick questions here, if I could. The first is, have you in fact talked to Sarah Palin about receiving her endorsement? And do you intend to follow through, as far as you know, is the Trump-moderated debate going to happen with the two of you, Newt Gingrich and you?

SANTORUM: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, Donald Trump, I think, would be fairer than a lot of the folks that have been moderating debates over the past few months. And...

CROWLEY: What about Sarah Palin?

SANTORUM: ... I would look -- Sarah Palin? I reached out to her just to thank her for her kind comments and, you know, said I'd appreciate any help that she could give us. And she was very kind in responding. And she's going to make her decision as to when she's going to endorse or if she's going to endorse.

But I just wanted -- I did not reach out to her before she made the kind comments about me and -- but I did want to thank her for doing so.

CROWLEY: Senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, thanks so much for your time today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Later in the program, when you're a presidential candidate, everything about you becomes relevant, even your high school nickname. We'll tell you what Rick Santorum's classmates called him.

But next, is Newt Gingrich a changed man?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER CONGRESSMAN BOB WALKER: I mean, I think he is a vastly more mature, much calmer individual at this point, that he really is of a temperament these days to become president of the United States.

FORER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR JOHN H. SUNUNU: And the conservatives that he has turned his back on should recognize the fact that he's not a conservative. And people that care about that point to other things, his endorsement and co- sponsoring of legislation in 1989 with Nancy Pelosi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now from Manchester, New Hampshire, John Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire and a supporter of Mitt Romney. And here in Washington, Bob Walker, a former U.S. congressman who is advising the Gingrich campaign.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here. If only because the calendar is closing in on them and because the race still appears to be pretty fluid, it was quite the debate last night. The consensus seems to be, reading some of the analysis, that Newt Gingrich held his own and did very well and that Mitt Romney made a huge mistake.

So I want to start out just by playing for our viewers something that happened last night in the debate between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what? You've raised that before, Rick. And you're simply wrong.

PERRY: It was true then. And it's true now.

ROMNEY: No. Rick, I'll tell you what, $10,000, $10,000 bet?

PERRY: I'm not in the betting business...

ROMNEY: Oh, OK. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Governor Sununu, first to you. This is widely being interpreted as yet another example of Mitt Romney not totally being in touch with the American people. The Democrats are off and running with "what could you do with $10,000?". Your response.

SUNUNU: Well, look, he used a figure of speech. I think the only thing that will come out of that is it will remind people about a $5,000 -- $500,000 outstanding bill at Tiffany's. Those are not the things you should judge whether somebody should be a president or not. They should judge him on their programs.

CROWLEY: They aren't. But people do judge -- sure, but people do judge. I mean, these little moments get bigger than they are, I will grant you that. But nonetheless, that's what happens. Is this harmful to him, do you think? SUNUNU: Look, you had the same thing happen to poor Rick Perry. I think Rick Perry would make a decent president, but to have him judged by a 30-second senior moment is as silly as -- and as unwise as judging people on the basis of a 30-second quip or a response in a debate.

You've got to go to the issues. This country has big problems. We have a jobs problem. We have a president that's doing nothing on jobs. I think what Mitt Romney did last night was focus on jobs. And I think that's the right place to go.

CROWLEY: Congressman, on a scale of one to 10, how damaging is that kind of clip, which I can assure you is getting played all over the place?

WALKER: Well, the fact is that anything that comes out of these debates that ends up being carried in the way that this one is, is going to be harmful. But I agree with John Sununu that there needs to be a focus on the big issues, which is exactly where Newt Gingrich has been throughout this campaign.

He has focused on the need for economic growth and how we can create jobs in this country. He's focused on the need for changing our foreign policy so that we speak with a very, very strong voice in foreign policy.

I mean, he has made the campaign an issue-oriented campaign and has not done the kind of thing that you just heard from the Romney campaign of going personal all the time in terms of the debate formats.

CROWLEY: Well, it's easy not to go person when you're -- when, in fact, you're the frontrunner. Generally you want to be above it.

WALKER: Well, he hasn't been the frontrunner the whole time. He hasn't been the frontrunner.

SUNUNU: Yes, but -- that -- but that's not true. Last night Governor Romney avoided going personal.

WALKER: But you just went personal a few minutes ago, John, and...

SUNUNU: On what?

WALKER: ... that -- well, using the business of the Tiffany stuff. It -- that's a very personal thing.

SUNUNU: Isn't that -- isn't that analogous to the $10,000?

WALKER: No, it's not at all. It's not at all, because...

SUNUNU: Oh, come on.

WALKER: ... the fact is.

SUNUNU: Come on.

WALKER: The fact is that the quip by Governor Romney last night fits a matter of perceptions and so on. But the fact is here that Newt continues to be a positive force in this campaign. He continues to define the big issues.

The people who are coming after him are coming after him largely for speaking the truth, and that is a major item in this campaign. The fact is that he -- that he spoke the truth about the Palestinian history. The fact is he's spoken the truth about the need for tax cuts.

CROWLEY: Let me...

SUNUNU: That's absolutely -- that's absolutely ridiculous.

And the fact is, is that what he -- what he did with that statement on the Palestinian history is take bipartisan U.S. policy that's been the policy of a number of previous presidents, of both parties, and a U.S. policy that is trying to deal with a tough, fragile situation in the Middle East, and in an effort to put himself above the whole, you know, a little smarter than everyone, he throws out a phrase that can undermine the U.S. capacity to deal with issues.

WALKER: Spoken just like an establishment Republican, Candy. The fact is that all those establishment Republicans opposed Ronald Reagan when he called the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and so on.

CROWLEY: He was already president at the time.

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: That's not true. The establishment Republicans supported Ronald Reagan.

WALKER: That is not -- that is not the fact, John. The fact is establishment Republicans turned on Reagan at that point...

SUNUNU: Oh, come on.

WALKER: ... trying to...

SUNUNU: You guys -- you guys are trying to wrap yourself in mantles of grandeur with Churchill and Reagan.

WALKER: It's not -- it's not a matter or grandeur...

SUNUNU: I got news for you.

WALKER: It is not a matter of grandeur at all.

SUNUNU: Yes, it is.

WALKER: It's a matter of...

SUNUNU: Every time -- every time this man speaks, he tries to put himself in a position where he's perceived as being better than those that are involved in the discussion.

WALKER: That's...

CROWLEY: And let me...

WALKER: ... that's just wrong. The fact is that this -- that Newt Gingrich...

SUNUNU: He did it to Paul Ryan.

WALKER: ... throughout this campaign. We...

SUNUNU: He did he it to Paul Ryan.

WALKER: You going to...

SUNUNU: He took Paul Ryan...

WALKER: ... you going to let me...

SUNUNU: ... and threw him under the bus.

WALKER: John, are you going to let me talk for a minute? The fact... CROWLEY: Governor, hang on one second. Let me -- let me let you do this, and then -- and then I'd just like to get a word in here. Go ahead.

WALKER: No, the fact is that throughout this campaign, it has been Newt Gingrich who has praised the other candidates and so on for the strengths that they bring to the campaign.

CROWLEY: But, look, here's -- let me -- first of all, for those of our listeners who may not have known what the -- what Newt Gingrich said, he was talking to the Jewish Channel and he was talking about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people who are, in fact, Arabs.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, listen, this has set off the Palestinian world. It does run against how U.S. policy, at this point, which is trying to find a, you know, a statehood for the Palestinians and a peace for Israel.

But let me take it to what's really going on here, and it's really not about U.S.-Israeli policy. It's about the temperament of Newt Gingrich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

CROWLEY: Governor Sununu, you have suggested he is not stable. We do have some of his former colleagues -- certainly not Congressman Walker, but some of Newt's former colleagues -- coming out and going, whoa, you know, the guy is way too mercurial to be president.

Do you believe that Newt Gingrich doesn't have the temperament to sit in the Oval Office?

SUNUNU: Look. I sat in an Oval Office with a president that knew how to deal with those kinds of pressures and those kinds of things and understood that you speak in an analytical way. You don't try and be a professor, sitting at the front of the room. You try to deal with things after you've thought about them. You don't just shoot your mouth off.

I think this tendency of even going after people who should be his closest colleagues, going after Paul Ryan on the Paul Ryan plan to cut the deficit, and to deal with some of the entitlement problems. That's not -- that's not constructive. That's not beneficial. That's not leadership. That's cutting your friends' legs off.

WALKER: Well, the fact is that most of the people that you've heard from are a part of the Romney Rottweiler group that are the attack dogs that they have sent out. This is a strategy of the Romney people to try to undermine... (CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: There's no truth to it, you don't think. You don't think that...

WALKER: No, no, I...

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: Tom Coburn is not a Romney supporter. Peter King is not a Romney supporter. Come on.

WALKER: Can -- if I can be a little bit in on the air here -- the fact is that there are a number of people who are unhappy with Newt from his congressional days, because he was a very tough reformer who tramped on some toes along the way. And so you've got people who are digging up things from 20 years past, where they've had concerns about things that they thought hurt them.

And so they're coming out and saying these kinds of things. There are a lot of us who worked very closely with Newt Gingrich, who understands that he was very disciplined and very focused.

He was the one who developed the Contract with America. It is the single most important conservative document, both in terms of politics and governance in the last 20 years. He saw it through to completion.

He, in fact, balanced the budget. He, in fact, helped to create the whole welfare reform. He, in fact, brought about economic growth that created 7 million jobs. That took focus and discipline and so on, and I think he deserves credit for it.

CROWLEY: Congressman Bob Walker, Governor -- I'm sorry, I've got to -- I have to end it here. I hope both of you will come back and I look forward to seeing both of you in New Hampshire. WALKER: Okay.

CROWLEY: Coming up, our political panel tells us who's up and who's down after last night's debate.

And later, big changes coming to the Postal Service. We'll ask the postmaster general about how it affects you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Anita Dunn, who was the Obama White House Communications Director, and Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman. Thank you both for being here. It's -- we've calmed the set down now a little after the last two.

But nonetheless, these were, I thought, revealing debates and I want to get your take, both of you, on who you think came out on top.

DUNN: Well, the debate you just had between Bob Walker and John Sununu...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: ... I was going to say that that's worth watching. You know, I think there's no doubt that, last night, you saw a revealing moment with Mitt Romney, and it's the kind of moment that is important, despite what John Sununu said.

The reality is, Mitt Romney Is running ads in Iowa right now, talking about his character. OK? So if you're going to talk about your character, then those little windows to your character, the $10,000 bet..

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: ... become important.

CROWLEY: Well, rich people can't have character?

DUNN: Well, they have character, but the question is sort of what -- you know, who are you and who are you for, and who are you going to stand up for?

But I was watching the $10,000 bet moment last night, I was thinking about, you know, the great book by Michael Lewis, "Liar's Poker," and guys sitting around on Wall Street, making these gigantic bets based on what are the numbers on a $1 bill.

And, you know, that's his background. That's not, as one of his Bain -- former Bain colleagues said recently, you know, they didn't see their job as job creation. And so I think all of those issues are coming into play right now with Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: Well, we've had lots of rich presidents, shall we say. It's very hard...

DUNN: Sure.

CROWLEY: ... you know, not to get to a certain level, whether they're -- they tend to be, you know, highly educated, have great jobs before they came, et cetera, et cetera. Do you think those little things matter? Did Mitt Romney lose that debate on the basis of what appeared to be an off-handed "I'll bet you $10,000."?

DAVIS: Well, I think you'll see that again. You may see it in some ads again, it's going to be talked about by the, you know, the chattering class and -- in terms of a window into -- but frankly, this is heating up. This is a race now. Romney has not played in Iowa...

CROWLEY: You could feel that last night.

DAVIS: Yes, you can feel the tension...

CROWLEY: .. and the (inaudible).

DAVIS: ... the game plan, they've got to go -- maybe go to plan B. And...

CROWLEY: And what should plan B for -- be for Romney?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, in -- first of all, Iowa, they're not going to win Iowa. And, secondly, New Hampshire now, they have Gingrich ahead in some of the polls. This is the -- this is the backstop for Romney. He can not afford to lose Iowa and New Hampshire going into South Carolina and to Florida.

That, all of a sudden, knocks the whole game plan off as the front-runner, the bandwagon effect. So their backstop is New Hampshire at this point, but Iowa at this point, he hasn't played to date. He's just coming very late, Romney has, and he may have third -- run third or fourth.

CROWLEY: Let me play for you something -- this -- Super PAC made this ad, put it up, brought it down, but, nonetheless, this is -- this was a Romney-supported Super PAC, who put an ad up on the Web. I want you to take a look at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Why is this man smiling? Because his plan is working. Brutally attack Mitt Romney, and help Newt Gingrich as his opponent. Why? Newt has a ton of baggage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: (Inaudible) true? No. Let me say, I think right now whatever baggage Newt has is baked into the cake in terms of -- at least Republican primary voters.

And we have seen a narrowing in the gap between Gingrich and the president in some of the head-to-head polls. The poll last week showed Gingrich beating the president in Ohio, so I wouldn't be too quick to jump on the wagon that somehow Gingrich is going to be easy to beat.

CROWLEY: And yet you all -- you all, meaning Democrats, have really -- the re-elect campaign has really gone after Romney, a lot more so than Newt.

DUNN: Well, I think, Candy, one of the reasons is because, until quite recently, you know, you, along with everybody else, didn't really see Gingrich as a player. But the reality is -- and the DNC released a Web video on Newt after the debate last night.

The reality is that both of these candidates are offering the American people the same bad package. And I think you'll see a lot of that. For instance, you know, the attack from Romney on Gingrich on not standing firm with Paul Ryan -- and by the way, Romney spent a lot of the summer, as you remember, trying to avoid having to say he supported Paul Ryan, and now he's going strong on that.

But both of them want to privatize Medicare.

CROWLEY: But would you rather -- right. But would you rather go up against Newt Gingrich? Do you consider him the weaker candidate?

DUNN: Whoever wins the Republican nomination is going to be a candidate who has said that they want to privatize Medicare, turn it into a voucher system.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will be a candidate who has said that they are opposed -- given, whatever day of the week it is , to a payroll tax cut for regular, average Americans, but they want to protect low tax rates for the wealthiest.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Congressman...

DUNN: Whoever...

CROWLEY: ... that's been cooked into the cake on both of them, and they're running pretty even...

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: You know, let me make this point.

DUNN: No, no, but at -- but at...

DAVIS: ... at the end of the day, it's about results.

DUNN: ... (inaudible).

DAVIS: And if the administration doesn't get better results on the economy at this point, you're going to have competing visions. The public are not policy wonks. They just know when things aren't working well on the ground. And right, I don't think this country's (inaudible)...

CROWLEY: Look, let me -- let me take a quick break. When we come back, Congress is deadlocked again, this time over extending a tax cut. We go beyond the talking points next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with our political panel, Tom Davis, Anita Dunn. The president gave an interview to "60 Minutes" that's airing tonight. He was talking about the economic recovery and had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to take more than a year. It's going to take more than two years. It's going to take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And may I add to that that a new CBS poll shows that only 41 percent of the electorate thinks that President Obama deserves to be re-elected.

Saying, listen, this economic recovery may take more than one president is not a great place to be starting a re-elect campaign. Is it?

DUNN: Candy, this week the president traveled to Kansas where, 100 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt gave an extraordinarily important speech about kind of what made -- what makes this economy great, and how do you build an economy that's going to last.

And the president spoke about his belief that, at the end of the day, a vibrant middle class, helping the middle class, is how you get to that strong economy. And that is how...

CROWLEY: (Inaudible) he thinks it is going to take another four years and then another president to get there?

(CROSSTALK)

DUNN: Listen, (inaudible), we didn't -- we didn't get into this problem overnight. The American people understand it was years and years of policies that let people -- let the wealthiest write their own rules, let Wall Street do whatever they wanted, and that it was years of policies...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: (Inaudible) 41 percent of Americans think he should be reelected?

DUNN: Well... DAVIS: This 29 years of elected (ph) politics talking, people are not policy wonks. The voters are not policy wonks. They want results. And if you say I can't solve it here, I need another term or another president, it's not a good place to be starting off from.

DUNN: But, Candy, 29 years in electoral politics, also, people see elections as choices. And the choice that is being set up, if you watched the Republican debate last night, two hours, OK, of candidates who have no plans to create jobs, candidates who have no plans to help the middle class, and whose political party in Congress has been actively fighting against things that the American people think are commonsense things that should be done.

CROWLEY: Why don't we just say that Republicans disagree that they don't have any plans to create jobs because I want to move you on to Congress and the payroll tax.

Can we all agree that there is no way that Congress is going to leave for Christmas on the eve of an election year and say to the middle class, by the way, that break you've been getting on your Social Security payroll tax no longer exists, your taxes are going up, average, about $1,000? That's not going to happen, is it?

DUNN: Well, Candy, I actually can't speak for what Republicans in Congress may do. They were willing to let this country default on its obligations in August. So who knows if they'll decide to raise taxes on the middle class, OK? Having said that...

CROWLEY: Well, we've seen both leaderships say that's they're going to -- Republicans...

DUNN: The leaderships say that, but we actually haven't seen all of the rank and file Republican members of Congress in the House say that they think this is something that should be extended.

DAVIS: Well, actually they've already passed one version. They're going to pass another version. They're going to have to attach some other things to make it attractive. This drives up the deficit. This was going to be a temporary fix for one year, now they are extending it for another.

You have unemployment insurance is a part of that, the "doc fix." I think they'll get a package but you want to offset the cost of this and the real issue comes down to how are you going to offset them? To offset it over 10 years...

CROWLEY: Right. How are you going to pay for it?

DAVIS: And how are you going to pay for it? Those are important issues because the deficit keeps going up and up and up and it jeopardizes America's future.

CROWLEY: One way or the other though, though, yes or no, it is going to happen?

DAVIS: Yes. DUNN: It should happen.

CROWLEY: Let me -- Anita, I want to talk to you about a New York Times piece that appeared Saturday called "With Lobbying Blitz, For- Profit Colleges Deliver the New Rules." The president, the administration said, we need new rules for these for-profit colleges to show some link between graduation and jobs. The New York Times writes that after huge lobbying by industry advocates, you also did not lobby the White House but were -- worked on behalf of one of the not-for-profit colleges.

"The result," says The New York Times, "was a plan completed in June that imposes new regulations on for-profit schools to ensure they adequately train their students for work, but does so on a much less ambitious scale than the administration first intended, relaxing the initial standards for determining which schools would be stripped of federal financing."

Just remind our audience of what the president talked about in his State of the Union Address when it came to this kind of lobbying.

Sorry. The president...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly, to give our people the government they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So is it business as usual? Nothing illegal is charged here, OK? Nobody says -- but we do know that a lot of people who have been in the past influential in the Obama administration, worked on behalf of these for-profit colleges, to water down what the president originally wanted.

DUNN: Candy, you know, I have to say something, which is that this is a democracy, which means that things get proposed, and things get discussed, and things often get changed.

Though I do public relations, I'm not a lobbyist, but the reality is that, you know, the flaw in The New York Times piece is that, you know, the regulation actually had some issues. I think the administration recognized it.

But that at the end of the day, I don't think that the industry felt like they were, quote, "big winners," despite what The New York Times said. That the administration toughened those regulations, that there are a very strong set of rules, and that moving forward, those rules are going to be enforced by the Department of Education, which was the idea all along.

CROWLEY: Again, Tom, nothing illegal going on, but is it business as usual? DAVIS: Well, really, I thought this was bureaucracy run amok with the initial -- I actually think you've got a much better regulation as a result of this than you may not have without a lot of this pressure. I don't think the president really cared about this. This emanated from just some bureaucrats in the wrong positions, the right positions, and a handful of congressmen like it. Most members I think were on your side, Democrats and Republicans, Anita.

CROWLEY: Tom Davis, Anita Dunn, ending on a note of harmony. Thank you both very much.

After the break, that wait on prescription deliveries from your local mailman could get a little longer. The plight of the postal service next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Next year, first class mail will be more expensive and slower. That is not by any definition progress, but it is survival for the U.S. Postal Service, which has to cut costs by $20 billion in the next three years to become profitable.

The postmaster general says that means shutting down half of the mail processing centers across the country as early as this spring, thus lengthening delivery time. Parts of the overall plan need congressional approval, which may be a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: This guy, this so-called postmaster general, should be fired because of a lack of any imagination or initiative. He's proposing the death knell for the great United States Postal Service, 100,000 people laid off. Whoa, that's just what we need in America today. Let's lay off 100,000 people. Great idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Eighteen Senate Democrats sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to delay the postal plan, but it may be too late. Up next , the postmaster general, Patrick Donahoe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me to talk about the future of the U.S. Postal Service is Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe.

Thank you so much for joining us, especially since are you not an entirely popular man on Capitol Hill these days.

PATRICK DONAHOE, POSTMASTER GENERAL & CEO, U.S. POSTAL SERVICE: Thank you for the invitation.

CROWLEY: Let me play for you something that Senator Bernie Sanders also said when he looked at this plan to try to make the Post Office a little more profitable -- actually, this is from -- a quote from The Hill in which he said: "If the Post Office starts making these drastic cuts, which will lay off workers, slow down mail delivery, cut back on rural postal services and Saturday deliveries, they're going to give us a fait accompli. They will have made major irreparable decisions before Congress has time to act."

So you are absolutely set on closing half of your distribution centers.

DONAHOE: Here's the situation, the postal service is very important for the American economy and American society. And we take no taxpayer money. So what has happened over the course of the last four or five years, we've lost about 25 percent of our volume. The economy...

CROWLEY: Email.

DONAHOE: Email.

CROWLEY: Right.

DONAHOE: People paying bills online. And that's natural. We know that. So what we need to do, like any other responsible business, is to cut costs in order to make -- get our finances back in order.

CROWLEY: But aren't you making the very thing that, you know, helps you is speedy delivery of first class mail, and now you're slowing it down. So don't you just drive people that are using the Post Office to the Internet now to pay their bills, to get their news magazine off the Internet? Don't you just -- aren't you just guaranteeing that this is the famous final scene for the Post Office down the line?

DONAHOE: Many people are making choices to move there anyway. What we know from what the future of the postal service will look like, we'll be delivering business, first class, advertising mail, and packages.

There is nothing in our plan at all that would have any slowdowns there. As a matter of fact, we're working to speed the package delivery up. First-class mail, commercial mailers will be able to enter mail to our facilities that are remaining and get overnight service into a larger area of territory.

CROWLEY: Are you not -- speaking of larger areas of territory, some of these cuts will harm the rural areas, and will be in places where people might not have these -- in some instances, poorer areas who may not have access to the Internet, whose only real way of getting things is the U.S. Postal Service.

DONAHOE: We don't have any plans on doing anything differently in the rural areas than we do in the city areas. You know, one of the things we are proposing, besides the consolidations, as part of our $20 billion plan is to move from six-day to five-day delivery.

Post offices will remain open, though. So access to rural communities is still there.

CROWLEY: But lines are getting longer. It's getting more expensive. It's getting slower. This is not a business plan for the future, it doesn't seem, to a lot of people. It seems as though you are putting yourself out of business.

DONAHOE: What we're looking at, from an access standpoint when you talk about lines, we are making a lot of changes here. Thirty- seven percent of Americans today buy postage and mail packages outside the Post Office. On the Internet, at stores, we're trying to go from an access and retail standpoint where Americans go.

So you're going to see us a lot more at shopping centers, at pharmacies, online, so it's more convenient. And we will eventually shrink down some of our footprint out there.

CROWLEY: Why don't you -- what would you have to raise the price of a first-class stamp be in order to deal with this huge deficit?

DONAHOE: If we -- here's the thing, if we wanted to not have -- not have to change deliveries on Saturday, keep six-day going, we'd have to raise prices across the board 6.8 percent. That's a big increase.

Now if we wanted to maintain the number of processing facilities out there, a first-class stamp would cost about 57 cents. It's 44 today, we're moving it up to 45 cents.

The key thing that we're looking at is this, we are facing this year, if we didn't get action with the Congress to delay a payment that we've got, we would have had a $10 billion loss. We have got to reduce costs in this organization by $20 billion. And that's what we're proposing to do.

CROWLEY: I need, if I can, a one-word answer from you. How many workers will get laid off as a result of these closings? Not attrition. How many people actively will be told, I know you want a job but you don't have one anymore?

DONAHOE: It's our goal to have zero. We've reduced this organization headcount by 250,000. Never laid anybody off. I'm proud of that. We have 155,000 people that can retire. We want to try to move in that direction.

CROWLEY: Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, thank you so much for coming by.

DONAHOE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next, top stories and then a man that goes by the name "Rooster."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. A 6.5- magnitude earthquake rattled southern Mexico last night, killing two people. The quake was felt 100 miles away in Mexico City where the mayor says there are blackouts but no major damage.

The head of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan has unveiled a plan to triple the number of armed Afghans paid by NATO to protect local villages. Admiral William McRaven said the proposal, described as a "community watch with AK-47s," could go into effect over the next two years.

Iran says it will not return an alleged U.S. drone that it claims to have brought down. American officials have not confirmed that the stealth plane, shown in a video released by Iran this week, is actually a U.S. aircraft. But a Pentagon spokesman says that a missing American drone has not yet been recovered.

And those are your top stories. We now want to end where we began, with presidential candidate Rick Santorum. A conversation with him from a slightly different angle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: A friend from your high school says your nickname was "Rooster."

SANTORUM: Yes, yes, it was.

CROWLEY: Because?

SANTORUM: It was when I was -- I was playing basketball in eighth grade, and as you can sort of tell, my hair is not necessarily the most tame thing. It has got waves, curls to it. And so I was playing with one day and had this sort of cowlick sticking up in the back of my head that looked like a crown -- a rooster's crown.

And I was -- I guess I was getting a little tough underneath the bucket and was -- and so they -- anyway, they just said, you know, you're like a banty rooster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Santorum is one of dozens of newsmakers who have agreed over the past year to sit down with us for our online light-hearted exclusive, "Getting to Know" interviews. You can see more of them along with today's interviews, analysis, and more at our Web site, cnn.com/sotu.

Up next for our viewers here in the U.S., "FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS."