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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with Rick Perry; Interview with David Axelrod; Interview with John McCain; Interview With Rev. Brad Atkins, Bob Jones III

Aired January 15, 2012 - 09:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: South Carolina is next, the firewall of the primary season, likely the last best chance for someone to slow Mitt Romney.

Today, Rick Perry on his outsider approach, sizing up the competition with Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: We're going to have a big debate about our visions for the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Romney supporter Senator John McCain on the perils and promise of South Carolina, plus South Carolina's powerful evangelical voting block. Who will win the lion's share, with Rev. Brad Atkins and Bob Jones III.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB JONES III: Everything is up for grabs, in my estimation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is STATE OF THE UNION.

Over 100 leaders in the social conservative community met in Texas for two days and emerged with a single name, Rick Santorum for president. It is a blow to Texas Governor Rick Perry, a born -gain Christian, whose political grounding is fiscal and social conservatism.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and a major player at the meeting, says Perry checks all the boxes except one. The group doesn't think he can win.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: What they wanted to do is to make sure that the candidate that had the best chance of going forward, securing the nomination and winning the general election was the candidate they put their support behind.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Governor Rick Perry joins me now from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where you're telling me the weather is great, so one thing that's going well for you. I want to talk to you, though, about these social conservatives, the evangelicals, the Christian conservatives meeting in Texas and deciding their consensus candidate is Rick Santorum. What's your reaction to that, Governor?

PERRY: Well, obviously, you'd like to get every endorsement of the groups that are in line with your beliefs, but you're not going to do that. So our focus is on the people of South Carolina.

This morning we're going to be talking to a host of social conservatives. So we'll be reaching out directly to the South Carolina voters and sharing with them our story of being -- when you look at the record, I'm the most consistent, both social and fiscal conservative, in this race. If you're looking at just one part of that scenario, then you may go with somebody else. But if you're looking for the full package of a job-creating social conservative that's had 11 years of executive experience of running the 13th largest economy in the world, then South Carolinians are going to be pretty happy with us.

CROWLEY: You know, Governor, they didn't actually disagree with you at that meeting in Texas. In fact, Tony Perkins, who I know you know, the Family Research Council came out and told reporters on the phone and later, listen, he marks all the boxes in terms of social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, but they just don't think you can win. That seems to me to be quite a blow.

PERRY: Yes. Well, that's the same thing they said about Ronald Reagan in 1980, if you'll recall. They said he couldn't win, and then he came down to South Carolina and won that state because his values were more in line with the South Carolina voters. So Saturday the 21st we'll know. And at that particular point in time, we'll find out who was right.

CROWLEY: What do you think the impact will be? Do you expect it to have -- be a big boost for Rick Santorum's campaign or a big negative for Mitt Romney? How do you think this will affect South Carolina?

PERRY: You know, again, we'll just have to see how it plays out. South Carolina has pretty independent voters, and there's a lot going back and forth. And you can't hardly turn on a TV here without seeing an ad that is attacking Rick Santorum for his fiscal policy.

So, you know, it's going to be interesting with the economy like it is -- and there are a lot of people who are social conservatives who realize they've got some choices in this race. But the economy of South Carolina is suffering. They're almost at 10 percent unemployment.

We were in Georgetown yesterday, where people are still very sensitive to the issue of jobs lost and what's gone on in that town through the years. So I think there is a very deep focus on who is it that can get this country back on track from the standpoint of economics. My record's pretty hard to argue with on that.

CROWLEY: You know, at some level, Governor, this must have hurt, or did you just take it as, oh, it's only business?

PERRY: I've been in this business long enough to understand that you're not going to get everybody to love you, and you're not going to get everybody to support you.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: These are your folks. I guess that's what I'm saying. These are your people.

PERRY: Well, the issue is -- I understand how this process works. It's not organizations that elect, it's the people. And we're going directly to the people and sharing with them our story. So, again, if you're worried about getting your feelings hurt, you might not want to get in the business of politics to start with.

CROWLEY: That's for sure. Let me move you on to some of the campaigning you've been doing down there. In particular, talking about Mitt Romney and his association with Bain Capital and what Bain Capital does. Here's a little bit of what you campaigned on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: I will suggest they're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the -- on the tree limb, waiting for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in. They eat the carcass. They leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Governor, lots of things are said during primaries, as you know, that crop up, again, in the fall. Should Mitt Romney become the Republican nominee, are you comfortable with the fact that that quote is going to end up in an Obama commercial?

PERRY: Well, the issue is that which one is best prepared to lead this country from the standpoint of job creation. And over the course of my tenure as governor of Texas, we've helped created a climate where 1 million jobs have been created. We haven't been destructing businesses or destructing jobs.

CROWLEY: Sure. I guess I'm talking more --

(CROSSTALK)

PERRY: What we do is build jobs.

CROWLEY: I'm talking about the rhetoric here. I mean, this is -- you know, you called him a vulture capitalist. It's the kind of thing that you know President Obama, who I know you want defeated, is going to use, should Romney become the nominee.

PERRY: Well, that issue's been out there for some time. It's not -- as a matter of fact, Stewart Stevens, who is Mitt's consultant, used those exact words against Meg Whitman in California. So this is not new terminology. And the fact is, if this is a -- if this is a fatal flaw, we need to be talking about it now, not talking about it in September and October.

CROWLEY: So you don't think that this will -- would hurt Mitt Romney in the fall?

PERRY: Well, we'll see here in South Carolina. I think it'll be a -- it's -- the test is going to be in South Carolina. Georgetown, where we were yesterday, it is still a very sensitive issue that Bain Capital came in, and they basically shut down that steel mill and left with a substantial amount of money, making management fees, and there were a lot of people out of work.

So the issue is not going to go away. And it's not like we cracked an egg open here for the first time. This was something that the Obama team certainly knew about. And now's the time to talk about it, not September and October.

CROWLEY: Governor Perry, I'm going to ask you to stick with me. And when we come back, we'll ask Governor Perry about his campaign plans after South Carolina. Is this recently released Web ad a clue?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I never quit a day in my life. I never quit in the face of adversity, and I'm not just about to quit on the future of America. I'm going to stay in this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We're back with Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

I want to pick up on that web ad. First of all, was that a concession that your decision after what was a less than perfect showing in Iowa, to go back to Texas and, kind of, think about whether you should stay in the race -- is that web ad saying, "I'm not going to quit; I'm not a quitter" -- is that a recognition that that was probably a mistake on your part, to, kind of, signal that you were thinking about maybe you would get out of the race?

PERRY: Well, there are a lot of folks in South Carolina that certainly took the -- the message that night that we were going to go back to Texas and reassess, and the phone -- the phones lit up, and our -- it was an easy call for me. I went out the next morning, had a run, and cleared my head.

And it's, kind of, like, you know what, there are way too many people in South Carolina -- Medal of Honor recipient General Jim Livingston and former Navy SEAL Mike Thornton, who is also a medal of honor recipient, said, "Hey, listen, you know, the -- the folks of South Carolina, they want to you come; they want to have that former Air Force pilot and veteran and chief of your Air Forces and Armies in Texas to be in South Carolina so we have a real option.

CROWLEY: Does that mean...

PERRY: It made it pretty easy for me to say we're back in.

CROWLEY: OK. Does that mean that, no matter what, rain or shine, in South Carolina, no matter how you do, you are in it for Florida as well?

PERRY: That's our intention.

CROWLEY: So you're definitely -- you would definitely go to Florida even if you placed last?

PERRY: That's our intention.

CROWLEY: OK, let me -- you brought up your military background, which makes me want to just veer a little bit from politics and ask you a question about something that's in the news, the picture of these four Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban members. If you were President Perry, what would you do about that?

PERRY: Well, obviously, 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often, and that's what's occurred here. But, you know, when you're -- when you're in war -- and history, kind of, backs up there's a picture of General Patton doing basically the same thing in the Rhine river. And although there's not a picture, Churchill did the same thing on the Siegfried line.

So I'll tell you what's been...

CROWLEY: That was -- you know, I have to tell you...

PERRY: ... really disturbing to me...

CROWLEY: OK. All right. Go ahead. Finish that thought.

PERRY: But what I'm saying is what is really disturbing to me is just, kind of, the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military, it appears, whether it's the secretary of state or whether it's the secretary of defense.

I mean, these kids made a mistake. There's not any doubt about it. They shouldn't have done it. It's bad. But the -- the -- to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top.

CROWLEY: Well, here's the problem, I think. All the things that you mentioned as part of history was before YouTube; it was before the Taliban; it was before this feeling that the U.S. somehow does not respect, you know, religions.

This is -- this is something that's not just a picture. It's not just a message to Americans. It's a message that could hurt us in the larger world. So I'm not sure the exact age of them, but no matter what age they are, is this the kind of behavior that you think you can tolerate in the day and age when that picture is everywhere? PERRY: Well, here's the issue. I will suggest to you that these are 18, 19, 20-year-old kids. They make mistakes. There is video out there of all types of things, I will suggest to you. But the idea that this administration would go after these young people for a criminal act is -- again, I think it is over the top and -- and did they make a mistake? Absolutely. Should they be reprimanded and appropriately punished? Yes. But going after them as a criminal act, I think -- really bad message.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much Governor Rick Perry. Thank you for joining us this morning.

PERRY: So long, Candy.

CROWLEY: We'll see you in person in South Carolina later this week.

PERRY: Indeed. So long.

CROWLEY: After the break, the White House says they're not in campaign mode, but they've already honed in on one Republican target. We'll tell you more after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The Obama re-election team has been treating the Republican primary season like a formality. They think the president's November rival will be Mitt Romney, and they've been tuning up for months.

In an e-mail blast this week, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter branded Romney a "corporate raider," adding, "President Obama, who, like Mitt Romney, earned a degree from Harvard and all the opportunities that affords began his career helping jobless workers in the shadow of a closed-down steel mill. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, made millions closing down steel mills."

Romney, who intends to run on his business background, has returned the favor, most recently during his New Hampshire victory speech, shooting over the heads of his Republican rivals straight at the president's victory record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that the future of this country is better than 8 percent or 9 percent unemployment. It's better than $15 trillion in debt. It's better than the misguided policies and broken promises of the last three years and the failed leadership of one man. The president has run out of ideas. Now he's running out of excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: It is pretty heated for January.

Up next, the senior strategist on the Obama re-election team, David Axelrod.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me here in Washington, David Axelrod, senior strategist for the Obama re-election campaign. I'm tempted to ask you if they dragged you back to Washington from Chicago.

AXELROD: No, no. I always like coming. Washington is a great place to visit.

(LAUGHTER)

Chicago is a wonderful place to live.

CROWLEY: Gotcha.

Well, let me bring you some -- a very Washington thing, and that is poll numbers. The latest CNN/ORC poll, the question was who can best get the economy moving? Who can get the economy moving? Under Obama, 40 percent; Romney, 53 percent.

Where -- you obviously think there's a disconnect here. Where is it?

AXELROD: Well, I think that's what campaigns are for. And we're going to have a big debate about our visions for the future. You know, Governor Romney told some voter who was sharing her economic concerns with him about her own life the other day, and he said -- you know, he gave her a whole treatise on the economy and said -- finished by saying, well, you know, productivity equals income.

Well, he misses the central issue of our time. Americans aren't -- it's not that they're not working hard enough. They're working harder than they've ever worked, and for the last decade, their -- their income has been flat, really for several decades, and it's dropped in the last decade.

That is the central issue of our time. How do we create an economy in which the middle class is growing; wages are growing; standards of living are not declining but growing. That's what a successful economy looks like. He misses that point. And we're going to have a big debate about how we achieve that kind of economy. It's not just about folks at the top doing well. It's about everybody having the opportunity to get ahead.

CROWLEY: But couldn't that huge gap, which is a pretty big gap between those who think you could handle the economy as opposed to Mitt Romney -- couldn't it also be that, from the day -- from the month the president took office, we still have 1.7 million fewer jobs in the marketplace?

AXLEROD: Candy, let's have -- you know what, I'm happy to have that discussion. Do you know that, when he was campaigning for president in 2007 and 2008, Governor Romney had nothing but praise for the economic policies that were in place at that time, as America was sliding into the worst recession since the Great Depression, after eight years in which we...

CROWLEY: But this isn't Romney. This is a fact.

AXELROD: ... after which we squandered the -- a $2 trillion surplus.

The worst month that we've had of job loss was the month that this president took office from the last administration, and since that time, we've created 3 million private-sector jobs.

If you look at the chart, the chart's going like this. We've had 22 straight months of private-sector job growth.

Now, we need to accelerate that. But the fact is Governor Romney praised the policies that got us into this mess. He wants to go back to those policies, and he assigns everything that's gone wrong in our economy to the president, and he says everything that's gone right has nothing to do with him.

CROWLEY: Let me talk a bit about Bain Capital, where Mitt Romney, you know, ran the company.

AXELROD: I've heard that.

CROWLEY: He has -- it has been quite the rage subject on the campaign trail. And one of the things that you all have said and tried to reiterate what some of his Republican rivals are saying is, listen, this guy is a big corporate raider; he went in; he, you know, closed up companies, lost all these jobs.

He was asked about this recently on CBS, and I want to tell you -- I want to play for our audience something he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: In the general election, I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try and save the business. We also had, on occasion, to do things that are tough to try and save a business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: You've got to do things that are tough to try to save a business. Does he have a point?

AXELROD: Let me point out that there are 150,000 more people working in the auto industry because of what the president did.

CROWLEY: There are, but they did lay off people.

AXELROD: And we would have lost -- if we had followed Governor Romney's prescription, which was to let Detroit go -- he famously wrote an op-ed saying let Detroit go bankrupt. If that had happened, we would have lost 1.4 million jobs. The reason that his -- his work at Bain is an issue is because Governor Romney has offered his business experience as his sole credential, really, for being president of the United States. So it behooves everybody to look at what that experience is.

The truth is that he closed 1,000 or more factories, stores and offices. He outsourced tens of thousands of jobs. He took 12...

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Just a second. He took 12 companies to bankruptcy, on which he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars.

CROWLEY: But the point here is, I think, that doesn't he have a point by showing, look, the president had to say to GM, for instance, you've got to lose some of these jobs. They closed up dealerships. So in order to make the company healthy and able to move on to then create more jobs, he had to cut jobs?

AXELROD: Look, first of all, the bankruptcies that I -- that I cited, the 12 bankruptcies, were ones in which he participated, in which he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars. He is the one who is claiming job gains for companies -- from companies after he and his -- Bain got out of them, years after he and Bain got out of them. I'm just assigning to him the things that he personally...

CROWLEY: We're talking about a record that isn't there at the moment.

AXELROD: ... that he was responsible for. But in terms -- and closing -- you know, saving an industry, as the president did, is different than stripmining companies in order to -- in order to profit off of them, which is, in many cases, what -- what Mr. Romney did.

Again, he's entitled to do that. That is -- that was his business practice. He's entitled to do that. Nobody is begrudging him that. The question is, is that the philosophy that you want in the White House? Is that the economic vision for this country outsourcing, offshoring, stripping down companies, lowering wages, lowering benefits? I don't think that's the future for this country.

CROWLEY: OK, getting to -- let me set that aside and try to get you, in this final minute I have with you, to frame up for me several possibilities, in a sentence.

What would a race be about, Obama versus Romney? What is that, in one sentence? What is the core of that race? AXELROD: It's about how we -- not just we rebuild our economy, but we embrace those values that will build an economy in which the middle class is growing and people can work hard and get ahead in this country again.

CROWLEY: Obama-Gingrich?

AXELROD: Well, I think it's largely going to be the same. I think the central issue of our time is how we create an economy in which the middle class is growing once again, in which people who can believe that, if they work hard, they get ahead; if they're responsible, they'll be rewarded; if they're not responsible, people aren't responsible, or institutions, they will be held accountable.

That's what people are looking for. That's what our -- that's where our future should lie.

CROWLEY: Somebody in your campaign told me not that long ago, when I said, "What do you most worry about in terms of campaign strategy; is it Romney; is it Gingrich?" And he said, "No, it's the economy." Does that still hold true?

AXELROD: Well, I think external factors -- what happens in Europe, you know, what happens in other places in the world -- and, frankly, the other thing that worries me are these big Super PACs that we see Governor Romney and others benefiting from right now. I think there's going to be a ton of money aimed at the president.

CROWLEY: Democratic ones, too, though?

AXELROD: Well, but not nearly of the scale that we're seeing on the Republican side. They're talking upwards of half a billion in negative ads aimed at the president from interest groups who -- who don't disclose and who can raise unlimited amounts of money. That is a very, very concerning thing to me.

CROWLEY: David Axelrod, thank you for visiting Washington. We appreciate it.

AXELROD: Always good to be with you. Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

Coming up, John McCain knows South Carolina very well. He won the primary there in 2008. We'll ask him about Mitt Romney's chances in the Palmetto State this time around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me here in Washington, former Republican presidential nominee and current Romney support Senator John McCain.

Senator, thank you for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Candy. CROWLEY: The hot political topic now is this big meeting in Texas, where Romney wasn't apparently even part of the conversation. Your guy, they didn't even consider endorsing. How big of a hit is that for him?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it is a hit. I mean, let's be very honest. There is a very strong evangelical movement in South Carolina, particularly inland.

But at the same time, there is a, in South Carolina, a very difficult economic situation. Unemployment is nearly 10 percent. And that certainly is a very -- a much higher priority for the voters than it would be if the unemployment rates were down.

So -- and also, I think it's a little late as well. But it's bound to have some effect. But I don't think it's going to be real significant.

CROWLEY: I want to take you on a little trip down memory lane.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Thanks.

CROWLEY: You -- I know you're going to appreciate this. In 2000, you had your own tug and pull with this community and this to say. February 28th, you were in Virginia Beach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So do you think, at this point, that members of the Republican Party who are running for president still have to pander to the right?

MCCAIN: I don't think they have to pander, but I think, the more inclusive that our party is, the better off we are. I mean, it's clearly jobs and the economy are the transcendent issues of this campaign.

In 2008, national security played a much higher role because, obviously, the economy was good up until...

(LAUGHTER)

... nearly the very end.

So we want to be as inclusive as possible, but we don't want one segment of our base to dominate because clearly we are the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

CROWLEY: But it's possible they could change the mix in South Carolina with this, is it not?

MCCAIN: Again, I think it's going to have some effect. But a lot of voters have already made up their mind, either rightly or wrongly. Every poll shows that they believe that Mitt Romney is the most electable, and also, the economy is the dominating issue. People are really hurting across this country and especially...

CROWLEY: There's a 9.9 percent unemployment rate in South Carolina. That's much higher than the national average.

MCCAIN: Absolutely. And so they are looking more strongly, I think, at someone who can help this state and this country out of the ditch we're in.

CROWLEY: And you -- you obviously think that favors your candidate with his business background?

MCCAIN: Well, I think Mitt has the experience. He has the background. I think he has the -- the platform and the agenda. It's very clear to me the audiences are reacting positively to his message. And again, he does have -- while it's under attack now, he does have experience in job creation.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you in a minute about Bain Capital, but I want to wrap up the evangelical issue first.

And that is that Tony Perkins, who was a major mover and shaker in this meeting -- he's head of the Family Research Council, as you know. He said that this group of conservatives would give strong support to Santorum, Gingrich, or Perry if they got the nomination. Your guy's missing from that formulation.

Do you think, if Mitt Romney is nominated by the Republican Party; if he gets enough delegates, that evangelicals, conservative Christians, will sit on their hands? There seems to be a message that they might.

MCCAIN: Oh, no. I don't think so. And by the way, I've worked with Tony Perkins and some of those people on other issues. I'm -- I'm convinced that we will come together. And there's no doubt in my mind.

And again, I understand the viewpoint and the priorities of the evangelical Christians, but I also understand that the economy, electability, and the fact that Senator Santorum and Newt Gingrich were pork-barrelers and earmarkers, which is, in the words of Tom Coburn, my colleague from Oklahoma, a gateway drug to corruption.

We had corruption as a result of earmarking. And that's just a matter of record. Also, as we know, Senator Santorum was rejected for re-election by the people of Pennsylvania by nearly 18 points.

CROWLEY: Let me -- let me move you on to what we talked about. Bain Capital, the company that was founded by Mitt Romney, and I want to take you back again.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm sure this won't surprise you. This is 2008. You and Mitt Romney were in, among others...

MCCAIN: Sure, tough race.

CROWLEY: ... were in a battle in the primary season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: As the head of his "investment," quote, company, he presided over the acquisition of companies that immediately laid off thousands of workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: I get it.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, things like this happen in campaigns. But the fact of the matter is...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: ... campaigns.

CROWLEY: Right.

MCCAIN: And, you know, right after the campaign was over, nobody worked harder for my campaign than Mitt Romney. We spent time together. I got to appreciate and have a friendship with him. And these primaries are tough. I understand that.

CROWLEY: They are, but the fact is that that's how you looked at Bain then, and that's how his opponents said, look, this was a group, nothing illegal, that went in and, in trying to make a company profitable, trying to make money for their investors and themselves, basically stripped companies.

MCCAIN: Yeah. And at that time when I said that, Mitt Romney responded, and I think very strongly, about the thousands of jobs by Staples and other companies and corporations that did very well. It was a legitimate debate point.

But the fact is that, over time, Mitt Romney has been involved in job creation and a governor -- and a very effective governor of a very liberal state.

CROWLEY: Has he made an effective argument for Bain at this point?

MCCAIN: I believe so because I think there's some holes in the story here, this movie that found a couple of people that said it was distorted. I think you're going to see people come forward who, for example, started that in a warehouse, $5 million at Staples, not a half a billion for Solyndra provided by the taxpayers and the federal government.

I think that's the contrast. Does business create jobs or the government create jobs? And, clearly, the president believes that government creates jobs, and that's much to our great loss of taxpayers' dollars.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you two questions that are, sort of, tangential at this point to the campaign. But I was interested to hear Governor Perry say that he thinks the administration has been over the top in its response to these pictures of these Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban. He compared it to some things that Patton did, urinating in a river, along with Churchill.

CROWLEY: And what he objects to -- he said that they called it a criminal act. Certainly, they are looking into whether there are any criminal charges here. Do you object to that? Do you think Governor Perry's right?

MCCAIN: No, I don't. I -- well, first of all, I don't object to the commandant of the Marine Corps looking into this. It's a breakdown in discipline, is what it is. It's very tough, these conditions. Nobody can explain how tough it is, combat, unless they've been in it.

But the Marine Corps prides itself on its discipline. The Marine Corps prides itself that we don't lower ourselves to the level of the enemy. So it makes me sad more than anything else, because these are the great -- the finest -- I can't tell you how wonderful these people are. And it hurts their reputation and their image.

CROWLEY: You have no problems with the way the administration has handled it so far?

MCCAIN: No. I think a full and complete investigation is entirely appropriate. I did read an article by somebody this morning that said maybe young Marines have difficulty understanding why we would waterboard somebody while they're alive and then it would not be OK to do what they did after they're dead. That was a very interesting --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Well, sure. You kill people, but then you respect the body. There's a certain dynamic there that doesn't seem to make sense.

MCCAIN: You have to respect the body, and we're trying to win the hearts and minds. And when something like that comes up, it obviously harms that ability. But the thing that's the saddest of all is 999 out of 1,000 of these young people are the very best, who want to win this conflict and don't want to do anything that would harm our ability to do so.

CROWLEY: And, finally, I have half a minute left here. What does Ron Paul want?

MCCAIN: I think Ron Paul wants to have a significant role to play in the Republican Party. He's getting -- you know, he's, at least up until now, about 20 percent of the vote. There's room for Ron Paul in our party, and we welcome him. And we'll continue the debate with him.

CROWLEY: Senator John McCain, safe travels.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: You are off and about.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

When we come back, mannequins, motorcycles, and the Grateful Dead, the lighter side of the campaign trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: On this week's installment of "The Campaign Trail," we want to walk the lighter side, random moments, cornball comments that defy explanation. They make for endless entertainment and serve as reminders that politicians are people, too.

Did you hear the one about the candidate running late for a campaign event?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of traffic out here. I'm pretty pleased that so many folks have come to meet with us. We're just making the turn right now onto Folly Road and as soon as we do, why, we'll be there pretty quick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing a science project on germs. How many hands do you shake every day and how often do you wash your hands?

(LAUGHTER)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did my wife put you up to that?

Where is it? Do you have it? Purel.

JON HUNTSMAN: I want to be the president who embarks on a Grateful Dead-like concert tour around this country, and harnesses the passion of the American people in getting it done.

ROMNEY: I wish I could ride one of these things. My son -- my son had a motorcycle, which I would ride on occasion, rarely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get on one of these things?

ROMNEY: I can put on a helmet, maybe, Dukakis-style.

(LAUGHTER)

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought this lady had her hand up over here, but -- just kidding you. She does. Best question I'll get, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Ten months of campaign moments to go.

Up next, two evangelical leaders in South Carolina tell us their criteria for picking a candidate. Stick with us.

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CROWLEY: Saturday, a group of over 100 social conservatives backed Rick Santorum as their preferred candidate. Their unity seems at odds with what's happening on the ground in South Carolina. at least according to two influential religious leaders there.

Prior to Saturday's consensus in Texas, I spoke to Bob Jones, chancellor of Bob Jones University; and Brad Atkins, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. I asked them to tell me what they were hearing from the evangelical community. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB JONES III: CHANCELLOR, BOB JONES UNIVERSITY: Well, Ms. Crowley, I'm hearing everything across the boards. I don't think this thing has been anywhere close to being nailed down yet, and probably not until the voter actually goes into the booth and casts his vote. Everything is up for grabs, in my estimation.

CROWLEY: And Rev. Atkins, would you sort of agree with that assessment?

REV. BRAD ATKINS: PRESIDENT, SOUTH CAROLINA BAPTIST CONVENTION: Well, I don't think they're all over the place, but it really is much too early to concede victory to any candidate right now. We --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Less than a week away.

ATKINS: -- opportunity to look at six men, and time is fleeting. So the time is ticking away, that people will ultimately have to make that decision.

CROWLEY: Is there any effort in -- within South Carolina to try to unify the evangelical vote, the conservative Christian vote?

ATKINS: Well, what I'm trying to do to help unify the vote, if you look at God's word, He makes it clear that He's not the author of confusion. And He says in His word that if we will humble ourselves and pray, that He will give us wisdom.

So the South Carolina voters are going to have to do their homework and to get on their face before God and pray for wisdom to narrow the field down to ultimately, next Saturday, who that one person will be that will get their vote.

CROWLEY: Mr. Jones, in 2008, you endorsed Mitt Romney. Why have you not endorsed him again this time around?

JONES: Well, in 2008, he was very solicitous of the evangelical vote. If he is that today, I am unaware of it. I certainly have had no contact with him, and so I don't know whether he feels he needs it or wants it, whether he considers it a plus or a minus for him. That was a different dynamic then.

The other players in the Republican primary frightened me greatly in 2008, and people were saying, you know, Mitt Romney has the credentials from his business experience and so forth. But he's a Mormon, and can we really vote for a Mormon? And many of them said, "I like him but I just don't know whether we as Christians should vote for a Mormon."

And I felt like he stood the best chance of defeating Hillary, who was the chief contender at that hour on the Democratic side, and so I just had to speak out and say, you know, we're -- we're trying to elect a president, not a preacher, and if this man can best run our country and can beat Hillary Clinton, then why should we be afraid of him even though we vitally disagree with his Mormonism? Mormonism is not Christianity. And he understood that. And he never tried to make a blend between Mormonism and Christianity, and I respected the fact that he didn't try to present himself or Mormonism as -- as Christianity.

CROWLEY: So if I understand you correctly, you have not chosen -- you have chosen not to support him or endorse him, at least this time around, because he has not actively wooed the evangelical community.

JONES: Well, you know, if he has, I'm unaware of it. He certainly has not made any overtures to us.

(LAUGHTER)

So if he is doing it, I'm not aware of it, but I -- I just feel like those who want it should -- should ask for it, not that they're going to get it, but, you know, if -- if they feel it's important, then why don't they say so?

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, Mr. Atkins, because I know that you have written that you think, for evangelicals, that Mitt Romney's Mormonism will be more -- will be more of a problem than Newt Gingrich's admitted infidelities, his three marriages.

So what you're telling me is that someone who has been married for more than 40 years, has five children; so far as we know, in terms of values, if not religion, has certainly had social values, is less acceptable to you because of his religion than someone who has strayed along the way?

ATKINS: It's not a simple process for a voter to just merely go to the voting station and say I'm voting for this person because they line up with me doctrinally about what I believe about who God is, who Jesus Christ is today and was in accordance to what the Bible teaches us, and how that impacts their very lives.

The issue has never been with Romney's morality. Granted, he is a very moral man, a very good father, good husband, has done a lot of good things in his life. CROWLEY: Reverend Atkins and Mr. Jones, I want to ask you one final question, starting with Reverend Atkins. Do you believe that, in this election on Saturday, in this primary, that social issues will trump the economy?

ATKINS: I have people in my church that, three years ago, they were very secure with the economy. They were secure with their jobs. Since that time, they've lost their jobs. They're now doing jobs that are much less in pay than what they were doing before. So all of these things are going to weigh in the process of who they wind up casting that vote for.

CROWLEY: And, Mr. Jones, when you go in to vote for whoever you will vote for, what will be uppermost in your mind, the social values of that candidate, the Christian tradition of that candidate, or the high unemployment rate and the bad economy in South Carolina?

JONES: I'm going to be considering who is best qualified to beat President Obama in the general election. We have not primarily lost our way economically. We have primarily lost our way to find God. America has walked out on God Almighty, and America's problems economically and otherwise stem from the fact that I believe the Lord is very displeased with this nation because we have turned our back on him and -- and snubbed him, and we treat him like he doesn't exist. He doesn't matter to most people.

CROWLEY: Bob Jones III, thank you so much for being with us.

Reverend Brad Atkins, to you as well. Thank you both.

Up next, top stories. Then, on "Fareed Zakaria: GPS," a discussion of the state of the U.S. economy.

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CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. The captain of the ill-fated Italian cruise ship defended his reaction after the ship hit submerged rocks Friday evening, saying they were not marked on his map.

Meanwhile, an Italian prosecutor told reporters this morning that authorities have ordered the black boxes from the ship to be seized. They expect to complete their analysis in the next few days. At least three people are dead. Seventeen others are still missing.

At least nine people were killed and 26 others wounded today in bombings targeting police stations in Iraq. Iraqi police say an area near the predominantly Sunni city of Ramadi was the scene of a series of attacks involving a car bomb explosion followed by a raid by gunmen. The attack on the police station was one of several bombings in the area today.

The head of the United Nations is telling Syria's president to stop killing his own people. The demand from Ban Ki-moon comes as the fact-finding mission nears its conclusion. More than 5,000 people have died since Syria's anti-government uprising began last year. At least 14 people were killed and 20 others injured today in the explosion in Pakistan's Punjab province. The dead are Shiite Muslims who were observing a holy day. Police are investigating the cause of the blast.

Thank you so much for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. You can find today's interviews as well as analysis, web exclusives and much more at our website, CNN.com/sotu. And be sure to check out our online conversation with David Axelrod, where he tells us a little bit about the personal side of President Obama.

We will see you next week from South Carolina; big primary there on Saturday.