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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview with Peter King, Dutch Ruppersberger; Interview with Newt Gingrich; Interview with Ron Paul
Aired March 4, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Romney rules Saturday night's caucuses in Washington State. Next up, contests in 10 states with a total of 419 convention delegates.
Today, super states on Super Tuesday with former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich.
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to win Georgia.
And Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: Winning the primary, of course, is very, very important.
Then CNN's Dana Bash and Ron Brownstein on which Washington leader had the worst week in politics.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Prime Minister, (inaudible).
CROWLEY: Israel, the U.S. and the threat from Iran with former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and former Undersecretary of State Nick Burns. I'm Candy Crowley and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum battled it out in Arizona and Michigan, Newt Gingrich went south to his old stomping grounds in Georgia. He was the congressman from the 6th District there for more than 20 years. Seventy-six convention delegates are up for grabs in Georgia, more than any other Super Tuesday state.
Looking to jumpstart a campaign that hasn't won a state since mid-January, Gingrich is pressing hard with a plan for $2.50 gallon gasoline, double-barrel blasts at Republican rivals and the president and superlative predictions.
GINGRICH: I believe we have a chance, a very real chance to win a historic election of landslide proportions carrying in control of the Senate, increased votes in the House and decisively defeating the Left for the first time since 1932.
CROWLEY: And former Speaker Newt Gingrich joins me now. Thank you so much for being here this morning.
Let me start with that comment you made in Ohio about the possibility of a landslide victory, a historic proportions, taking over the Senate and the House and the White House. If we kind of review where we are at the moment, we see the president strengthening, his numbers are better.
We see this week two seats that Republicans really had pretty much counted on in terms of picking up or retaining, going by the wayside, thus, making a Republican Senate harder to get. What brings you the kind of optimism that makes you predict a landslide victory for Republicans?
GINGRICH: Well, we lived through this in 1980, and in the end issues matter and reality matters. The fact is that Ronald Reagan didn't pull ahead of Jimmy Carter until September. When he did pull ahead of him, he ultimately carried more states than Franklin Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover in 1932, and the reason is people take stock.
The price of gasoline is becoming a genuine crisis for many American families. If it continues to go higher, it will crater the economy by August because people will have no discretionary income.
And as a result, the president's going to go into the fall with very expensive gasoline, a weakening economy, a disastrously bad policy in the Middle East and a trillion-dollar deficit. I think that's a pretty big burden while he's waging war on the Catholic Church and apologizing to Islamic extremists. I think that's a pretty heavy burden for the President of the United States to carry for re- election.
CROWLEY: I want to -- first, obviously, you will have to get the nomination in order to take on President Obama. And I wanted to remind you of something you said January 17th. You were talking about both Rick Perry, who was still in the race at that time, and Rick Santorum. You were leading them both in the Gallup polls at that time, and here's what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: So I'm respectful that Rick has every right to run as long as he feels that's what he should do. But from the standpoint of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would, in fact, virtually guarantee victory on Saturday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: We are now at a point where Rick Santorum has more delegates than you do in the delegate forecast. He's leading in the national polls. I wonder if you think it's -- and, by the way, his top adviser is asking you to get out so you can consolidate the conservative vote.
CROWLEY: What's your reaction?
GINGRICH: Well, you can tell his top adviser -- tell his top adviser I'm taking Rick Santorum's advice. He stayed in. He was running fourth in every single primary. Suddenly, he went -- very cleverly went to three states nobody else went to, and he became the media darling and bounced back.
We have had a steady closing in the Gallup poll between Santorum and me every single week now for the last two weeks. I'm very confident that, in the larger state that is going to vote Tuesday, Georgia, which has more delegates than any other state, we're going to win a very, very decisive victory.
We've going to do pretty well, I think in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Ohio and a number of other states and I'm happy to continue -- I have basically a big solutions campaign, proposals like a personal Social Security savings account for younger Americans.
And, you know, I think Santorum gets out of the industrial states and gets into states where, having voted against right to work, having voted for Davis-Bacon on behalf of unions to cause billions of dollars of extra payments by the government, having voted for every single minimum wage the unions asked for, I think he has a much harder time when we go outside of places like Michigan. So this is going to be a long nominating process.
CROWLEY: Apparently, no one seems ready to get out, least of all you. Let me turn you to some of the issues that you brought up at the beginning. You've been quite critical of the president for apologizing for what apparently was the accidental burning of the Koran by some U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. It's caused obviously riots in the streets, the deaths of some Americans.
I wanted to play for our listeners and for you the president's explanation of why he apologizes, as given to ABC's Bob Woodruff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The reason that it was important is to save lives and to make sure our troops, who are there right now, are not placed in further danger.
BOB WOODRUFF, ABC REPORTER: Think it has improved it, your apology?
OBAMA: It calmed things down. We're not out of the woods yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, as president, would you not issue an apology if you thought it would save American lives?
GINGRICH: If the commander in chief apologizes in a setting like that, where, remember, the Korans we're describing were defaced by Islamist radical prisoners, they were defaced by them, it would have been pretty easy to have said I certainly hope every cleric in Afghanistan is going to condemn the defacing of the Koran by these extremists.
When the President of the United States says, I apologize, he is basically taking on blame. Now, what's happened --
CROWLEY: No, wait, no, lots of people apologize for accidental things.
GINGRICH: The nation's officials said --
CROWLEY: You know, lots of people -- you know, you bump into someone, you say I'm sorry.
GINGRICH: Candy -- CROWLEY: It's not unheard of to do that and so what I'm wondering is --
GINGRICH: Would you like to hear my answer?
CROWLEY: I would but let me just add to --
GINGRICH: Listen, would you like to hear my answer before you do? I know you -- go ahead.
CROWLEY: I just wanted to get back to the question, which was if you thought it would save lives, as the president said he did think this apology would help protect Americans, wouldn't you do the same?
GINGRICH: I don't believe that the president saved lives by what he did. I believe the president set a terrible precedent of a commander in chief not standing up for American troops. I think he should have called Karzai and said, you know, it was Karzai's soldier who killed those first two Americans.
Have we heard any apology from the Afghan president for his soldier killing young Americans? No. And I think that this one-sided policy -- Obama went around the world apologizing -- this excuse of his is baloney. He has apologized so many times, around so many countries, it is, frankly, embarrassing to have a president who thinks that apologizing for the United States is a good policy.
I don't believe the President of the United States has an obligation to apologize and I think the commander in chief has an obligation to step up and say, I am proud of our troops, I think our troops are doing the best they could to help Afghanistan, and, frankly, if the Afghans don't want us there we don't need to be there.
But the idea that we are apologizing while religious fanatics kill young Americans, I think is reprehensible and I think the average American thinks it's just profoundly wrong.
CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, I have to move you along to a couple of other issues. One of them is about the president's commitment to Israel.
He said in an interview with "The Atlantic" recently, "Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security I have kept. Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they've had over the last three years, there are still questions out there about that?"
Do you doubt the President of the United States' commitment to Israel?
GINGRICH: Of course.
GINGRICH: You have Secretary of Defense -- you have Secretary of Defense Panetta pounding the table and saying, come to the table, and then using curse words and repeating it, come to the table, lecturing the Israeli government in public during a period where rockets were being fired into Israel from Gaza.
You have the president's new budget, which cuts aid to Israel for its ballistic defense shield. You've had no evidence that the president is prepared to take steps to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. They talk and the Iranians build. They talk and the Iranians build.
I mean, we're being played for fools. You have every evidence that this administration is desperately trying to get the Israelis not to preempt, and, frankly, an Israeli prime minister faced with the threat of nuclear arms in Iran is going to preempt.
They cannot -- no Israeli prime minister could responsibly allow the Iranians to get nuclear weapons, because Israel is such a small country, it is so compact that two or three nuclear weapons would be the equivalent of a second Holocaust.
CROWLEY: And, finally, I have to ask you, you have called the president opportunistic for calling the young woman who at the center of a controversy involving Rush Limbaugh and contraception, the availability of it in health care. Limbaugh called the young woman a slut and a prostitute. She is, in fact, a law student at Georgetown Law. Can you tell me what you think of Rush Limbaugh in this whole case?
GINGRICH: I think he's indicated himself he made a mistake. And I think he did the right thing. As you point out earlier, but, again, let me draw the distinction, he isn't commander in chief. His apology didn't do anything worldwide. It didn't put any blame on the United States. He did the right thing. I'm glad he did it. That issue ought to be behind us.
CROWLEY: He is seen as kind of a spokesman for the Republican Party, though, and it hurts the party, wouldn't you think?
GINGRICH: Oh, come on, Candy. I know everybody in the media is desperate to protect Barack Obama. That's silly. The Republican Party has four people running for president, none of whom are Rush Limbaugh. One of them will end up as the nominee, that person will be the Republican spokesman and I don't think any of the four of them were involved in this controversy at all.
CROWLEY: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, thank you so much for joining us.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Coming up Congressman Ron Paul down but determined to push on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Wee do not know exactly, exactly what will come out of campaign. We do know that the strategy of building up delegates is pretty sound position to have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: And headed north, way north in his search of a first win of the season.
CROWLEY: Joining me from the Super Tuesday state of Alaska congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
Congressman, thank you for joining us.
I want to start out on a couple of issues in foreign policy. where you differ the most from your Republican colleagues. The president will meet this week with the Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. If you were the president and the prime minister sat down and said I want you to know that we are prepared to bomb Iran because we want to keep them from developing the aptitude for having nuclear weaponry, what would your response be?
PAUL: Well, first thing I'd like to stay out of their business. I'd like to let them do whatever they want. I don't want to interfere with what they need to do for their defense and I don't want to interfere with Israel when they want to have peace treaties.
But if I were forced to give my personal opinion about it, I would say, you know, doesn't make any sense to bomb a country that is no threat to anybody just because they might get a weapon and try to point out that containment worked pretty well with the Soviets and they had 30,000 and they were rather ruthless people killing millions and millions of their own people and we stood them down in the Cold War. So I'd try to calm it down a little bit. But, quite frankly, I don't think we should tell Israel what they should do or shouldn't do. CROWLEY: Speaker Gingrich is a -- former Speaker Gingrich as I think you may have just heard said he thinks the U.S. has been played for fools by Iran, that accused of president of doing nothing to try to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions if indeed they have them. As we know the president has tried to gather world opinion to force Iran to stop what nuclear development it's doing. We also know that he's been at the forefront of sanctions.
Do you think the president has failed to do anything about this or do you in general go along with what he's done?
PAUL: Well, no, I think he gets too much involved. I think sanctions gives the motivation for them to want to have a nuclear weapon. Everybody around them, we have 45 bases around them. We can demolish them within an hour, so -- and the worst thing sanctions do and the Republicans and the Democrats both support it, Republican -- the other Republican candidate, they just want war even more.
But the whole thing is is a lot of dissension in Iran and we should encourage it by not interfering. Once we get involved or threaten to bomb them, they -- it becomes nationalistic, everybody joins the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad and so there's a blowback, unusual circumstances, you know, unintended consequences.
So, yes, our people whether Republican or Democrats are well intended but they don't realize how much damage they do by not accomplishing what they want and causing more harm to us.
So our military personnel right now are very adamant not to be involved in the bombing of Iran. It makes no sense whatsoever to our military personnel, to our CIA, nobody who's supposed to be in the know right now even though they're much more interventionist than I am say it makes no sense whatsoever to encourage or bomb Iran right now and that certainly would be my position.
CROWLEY: And may I ask you do you think the president was wrong to apologize for the accidental burning of the Koran in Afghanistan? The president said he did it to try to protect U.S. soldiers. As you heard the former speaker thinks it was a bad idea.
PAUL: Now, I don't think it's wrong but it's pretty much irrelevant. But I think the Republicans who are condemning it are a little over the top too. Because you know, in '08 some of our soldiers in Iraq took the Koran and used it for target practice, you know, just to humiliate the Muslims in that country. Ronald Reagan apologized in what is so terrible about that, it might calm things down.
I would -- I'm personally more apologetic for invading countries who never did anything to us and occupying, disrupting it, causing thousands of deaths of our own people and causing hundreds of thousands of refugees. This is the thing that I feel sad about.
What about the pictures of torture? Weren't they every bit as bad? I mean this, is what incites the hatred. This is what we have to try to understand but, you know, I thought McNamara was rather astute when they asked him after he wrote his memoirs about the mess he caused in Vietnam, because he had all these second thoughts and they said, well, don't you think you should apologize or you want to apologize, you know, to the American people and to the world. He said, what good is an apology. If you make mistakes and you see this and stir up enough trouble, why don't we change our policy? That's what he said. We should change our policy. So if we have a policy going on in the Middle East that is begging that we apologize now and then and others condemning it because they don't think we should apologize, I think we should reassess our foreign policy and that is what I think we are not doing. And that is why i am quite different than the other candidates and the president that American people I think are sick and tired of this war and the wars going on over there. We're going broke. We ran of a debt of $4 trillion in this last ten years fighting these wars that were not legitimate and that we were not attacked. They were not declared and the American people by a majority now want us out of there.
CROWLEY: Let me turn you to a domestic issue. I'm sure you know that tornadoes have hit a wide swath of states, particularly in the Midwest, about 10 states. The damage is enormous.
You have frequently been critical of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the federal money that is given to some of these home owners and those that are also -- other victims of storms like this. Is there a role for federal money in helping all of these citizens get their lives back together?
PAUL: Not really, because it's not authorized and there is no such thing as federal money. Federal money is just what they steal from the states and steal from you and me. So there is no federal money unless you say, well, they can print it and cause internal problems.
But to say you don't support federal money doesn't mean you don't care about people, because FEMA is inefficient. I've lived on the Gulf Coast and I got re-elected constantly by criticizing FEMA because of people who had to put up with FEMA after the hurricanes, had nothing but frustration and anger with them.
And to point out, well, they might give you a home, yes, they bought a lot of trailers for Katrina, you know, and it's just so wasteful, inefficient. But, you know, the Guard units and other things within the states certainly is there. The people who live in Tornado Alley just as I live in a hurricane alley, they should have insurance for doing this.
But under major emergency, natural disasters, if there is a need, you know, for some help such as the military to come in, that is not a tragic violation, but to say that any accident that happens in the country, send in FEMA, send in the money, the government has all this money, it's totally out of control and it's not efficient.
There's a much better way of doing this and helping it. The FEMA, I was constantly told by the people of my district, they just get in the way. They take over law enforcement. They take over and they hinder the voluntary group and they hinder the state organization, exactly opposite of what we should be doing.
CROWLEY: Texas Congressman Ron Paul, so far away from home in Alaska, good luck to you, sir, on Tuesday. Thanks for joining us.
Ten states want to decide the fate of the 2012 Republican election and the front-runners aren't leaving anything to chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't feed a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
SANTORUM: We need a clear choice.
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rick Santorum is a nice guy. But he's an economic lightweight. He doesn't understand what it takes to make an economy work on a personal basis.
CROWLEY: Four hundred nineteen, less than 48 hours until Super Tuesday.
CROWLEY: After talking to two presidential candidates, there's a lot to digest. Luckily, I have reinforcement. Joining me is Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst; and Dana Bash, CNN senior Congressional correspondent.
OK, Super Tuesday is coming up. And what I want to look at first is Newt Gingrich, simply because my sense is nobody really is in big jeopardy on Super Tuesday except for maybe Newt Gingrich.
DANA BASH, SENIOR POLITICAL CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, because, I mean, he said it himself. He set the bar high, saying he's got to win Georgia.
And the issue with Georgia, of course, is that, like other states, it's proportional, so Mitt Romney can take a little, Santorum can take a little and you know, he could have a moral victory, symbolically. But in terms of the delegates even -- I think even if he doesn't get the majority of the delegates, he's in big trouble.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the administration has been remarkably tumultuous, on the one hand, more leading in national polls than in any Republican race ever.
On the other hand it has a lot of stability, in the sense that the party is dividing among familiar lines from state to state, in some ways of reminiscent of Obama and Clinton, with clear demographic alternatives. And that's one of the reasons why it went on so long. No one could shake it. So we have where Mitt Romney is running quite well with the more upscale managerial part of the party, and Gingrich has pretty much eclipsed in that more conservative wing by Rick Santorum. It'll be a real question whether he can find any way to leapfrog back over Santorum. So even winning Georgia would not be enough to change that basic dynamic.
BASH: No, I mean, the question is whether or not he's going to get out of the race and he made pretty clear to you today, with that brilliant question where you played his own words back to him, no, he's not going to do it.
CROWLEY: He's just not a step-aside guy unless just really jammed into a corner. I want to play something that President Obama said about the debates, and ask you a question coming out of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Or not -- I'm sorry. I'm going to read this to you -- in which the president said at a funder on Thursday, "I recommend you watch the recent debates. I'm thinking about just running those as advertisements without commentary, here you go."
The more serious part of this is the difference between this race and Obama-Clinton, as far as I recall, is that Obama and Clinton got more popular and more acceptable to the other side as they went along, and these guys seem to be in this circular firing squad.
BROWNSTEIN: The last ABC "Washington Post" poll had Mitt Romney facing a squeeze that, in theory, should not be possible. His favorability ratings were simultaneously declining with the voters who described themselves as the most conservative, and with independents.
He's kind of, you know, the base is resisting and the swing voters. Yes, I mean, look, from Obama's point of view and from the democratic point of view, the Republicans have been driven toward positions that will give them openings in November. Romney has come out with a 20 percent marginal tax rate cut, which is not going to be simple to sell in the time of a trillion-dollar deficit.
Immigration, other issues, let's not forget Obama has some significant vulnerabilities because of the economy, but there's no question the Democrats feel that Republicans have wrapped themselves around the axle, to some extent, in this campaign.
BASH: Exactly. And you talk to Republicans and they make the argument that, well, it's not that bad if we have a lengthy process because look what happened to the Democrats, but it's a really good point.
It is very, very different in terms of the substance of what they're talking about. I mean, part of the reason why President Obama and the Democrats are so thrilled is because you have Rick Santorum pulling the whole conversation to the right. You have a conversation suddenly about contraception, where Mitt Romney early on said in a debate, why are we talking about contraception? (CROSSTALK)
CROWLEY: My question exactly.
BROWNSTEIN: Since February 7th, since Santorum's re-emergence you don't really hear many Republicans saying a lengthy process is benefiting them. I think there is a real change, because what they -- as you say, what they've been forced to discuss, the way they're discussing it has -- I don't think anybody feels that February has been a good month for the Republican hopes of beating Obama.
BROWNSTEIN: Doesn't mean that they can't get back in the game, but this has been a tough few weeks.
CROWLEY: One of things that Newt Gingrich brought up was, well, look, gas prices, you know, this summer and we all know people pay more for gas, they're not spending it any place else. We also know that businesses don't hire if their overhead goes up.
One of the problems on the horizon for President Obama, I wonder if this is another. This was a Gallup/USA Today poll on enthusiasm about voting in the presidential election, 18- to 29-year-olds, February 2008, 76 percent were really excited. February, 2012, right now, only 48 percent. Is that a danger signal for Obama?
BASH: Absolutely. I mean, I think because if you look at that figure in other key demographics, it's not that different. And that is his big problem is that the bar was so high from 2008, particularly with young voters.
And, I mean, even anecdotally, you know, I know we know people in that age bracket and they're like, he hasn't done enough for us and he needs to -- as much money as he has, as much organization he has, just like we're seeing from Mitt Romney, he needs to have the enthusiasm and it is not there.
CROWLEY: Let me take a quick break, come back, we'll get your answer to that question. When we come back, Dana and Ron are obviously sticking around to tell us who had the worst week in Washington.
CROWLEY: Talk about the blind side, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe stunned the political world this week, announcing her retirement, lamenting the lost art of bipartisanship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: What I like to call the sensible center has now virtually disappeared in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Snowe's retirement turns her fairly solid Republican seat into a question mark and greatly complicates Republican plans to gain the four seats they need to win control of the Senate. Also looking dicier, Nebraska, where retiring Democrat Ben Nelson left what looked like an easy opening for Republicans. Now former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey changed his mind and says he'll run for the seat.
He's probably not an easy fit in Nebraska more than 10 years after he left, but Kerrey is a stronger player than Republicans planned on, so they are taking early shots calling him a "tax-and- spend liberal who was involved in back room deal-making." And one of Kerrey's Republican opponents quickly fired off this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kerrey voted for billions in earmarks. Bruning says eliminate earmarks and cut spending. The choice, New York liberal or Nebraska conservative John Bruning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: At worst, Nebraska and Maine Senate seats go to Democrats in November, at least Kerrey's entrance and Snowe's exit force Republicans to spend more money than planned in states they had counted on to put together a Senate majority.
All in all, while the political world was watching the presidential campaign in Michigan and Arizona, Senate Republicans were having a very bad week. Up next, the fight for the Senate with CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and CNN contributor Ron Brownstein.
CROWLEY: Joining me now, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, and Dana Bash, CNN senior congressional correspondent.
George Will, conservative, Republican, but quite outspoken, had this to say in a column this week. "Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected. Conservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013."
Let's just start out with the fact that a leading conservative columnist is saying, I don't think Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum can win.
BASH: Is saying what we all hear from a lot of Republican strategists quietly.
BROWNSTEIN: A lot of concern, absolutely. Republicans are talking about the possibility they will have to run "don't give him a blank check ads" in the fall aiming at Obama. Let's keep in mind, Obama is not Ronald Reagan. I mean, his approval rating is at a range that virtually assures the Republican nominee will be competitive.
But there's no question that the past month and really Romney's performance off and on and the inconsistency of it has raised a lot of concern among many Republicans thinkers about their prospects.
CROWLEY: Moving to the second part of this, which is, let's make sure that the House and the Senate are run by Republicans, a lot of power in that. The problem is, as we -- as said earlier, Olympia Snowe gets out, making a pretty solid Republican seat -- although she might have had some trouble this year, but it looked like she was going to win it, they counted on it, she's gone.
You know, and so may that seat be, as well as Ben Nelson's Democratic seat. Now they have got Bob Kerrey in, who is a stronger opponent than they thought they'd have. What are the chances?
BASH: Well, absolutely. Look, I mean, the conventional wisdom, and it was based on real math, had been that Republicans had a very good shot at taking over the Senate because of those that are actually up, Democrats have 21 seats that they're defending, Republicans have only 10. Let's just start there.
Then you had seven Democratic retirements, so that's always bad news. And the fact of the matter is it's also the environment. The Democrats are having trouble defending a lot of these states.
The fact that Democrats saw suddenly a burst of a chance in the red, red state of Nebraska, keeping that, a huge chance in Maine. There's no question that they are extremely excited and there's no question that Republicans in the Senate are going, oh, because they're going to have...
CROWLEY: How do you assess their chances now, Republicans, about taking over the Senate?
BROWNSTEIN: Probably no more than 50/50, I think. I think no more than that. I mean, look, the Obama shadow is going to be very large on this race. Since the 1970s we have seen in polling a steady decline in the number of people who split their ticket between presidential and Senate elections.
It's now routine, Candy, for 80 percent of the people who approve of a president to vote for his party's candidate in a contested Senate race, and 80 percent-plus of the people who disapprove to vote against his party's candidate.
So if you kind of look at the map, Obama is going to be a big shadow, places like Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, where, even if he wins the election, he's not going to run well, that's going to be a drag on the Democratic candidate.
On the other hand, you look at some of the opportunities Democrats could have for pickups. Now Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, all states where he could run well, plus Virginia, Wisconsin, Hawaii, New Mexico are places where he could also help them. So, you know, just a real quick number, in 2010 he was over 50% approval in nine states with Senate races, Democrats won 8 of the 9. He was under 47 in 15, they lost 13 of the 15. Only Harry Reid and Joe Manchin surviving.
So it's clear that his fate is not -- is going to be a big overall impact, but also in terms of the distribution. You know, one of the things Olympia Snowe talked about, very few cross pressured members that come from states that vote one way for president...
BASH: Exactly, in fact she said, Candy. She pointed out that in 1994, 34 senators that she was serving with came from states where the president was voted for, for another party. And that went down to 25, that's 25 right now.
But one thing I will say, though, is that if you look back over the past three elections, they're huge kind of wave one issue elections. 2006, swept in the Democrats, it was very much anti-war. 2008, it was obviously anti -- still anti-Bush. And 2010 it was kind of the Tea Party.
Talk to strategists on both sides they say it is going to be very, very difficult -- it's not going to be like that this time. It's probably going to be race by race, candidate by candidate, issue by issue, state by state.
CROWLEY: Ron Brownstein, Dana Bash, thank you both so much.
President Obama addressed AIPAC, the powerful American Israeli lobbying group, just a short while ago. The president said no option is off the table when it comes to Iran. We'll play all that for you in just a moment.
CROWLEY: President Obama spoke less than an hour in front of AIPAC, a powerful group that lobbies for Israeli causes in America.
The president tried to clear up any doubt that he and Israel have differences when it comes to stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran's leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States.
OBAMA: Just as they should not doubt Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.
OBAMA: I've said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.
OBAMA: That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.
OBAMA: Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
OBAMA: And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.
OBAMA: Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already there is too much loose talk of war.
Over the last few weeks such talk has only benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel's security, America's security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.
Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: "speak softly, carry a big stick."
OBAMA: And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve. And our coordination will -- with Israel, will continue.
CROWLEY: We have two influential members of the House Intelligence Committee to help us understand what this means, Congressman Peter King and Dutch Ruppersberger are next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington, Democratic congressman Dutch Ruppersberger and in New York Republican Congressman Peter King.
Gentleman, thank you both. First to you Congressman King, you heard the president's speech. It was clear to me that he was trying to say to those in the room and to Israel in general look, the U.S. is not going to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. We would move in before that, but we first want to try diplomacy. Is that what we take out of this speech?
REP. PETER T. KING, R-N.Y.: Yes. Now as an American, I want to believe my president. The question is whether or not the Israeli government and the Netanyahu government are going to fully trust the president. There's been some bad blood in the past. Even today, though, in his speech where he was saying we stand with Israel and saying in effect why any attacks should be put off are not done in the next several months by Israel, but then he used words like loose talk and bluster. Well, if he's talking about the Netanyahu policy or people in the Israeli government I don't think it helps to use terms like that. And Israel has a real concern.
Israel can't afford to make a mistake. Their window of opportunity is shorter than ours is. And I think if they are convinced that President Obama will ultimately take action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon if military action is necessary then they would go along with them. But I don't know right now if they trust him. And that's really why tomorrow's meeting with Netanyahu is so important.
CROWLEY: And I know Congressman Ruppersberger that you were with the prime minister in Israel about a week ago, correct?
REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER, (D) MARYLAND: Chairman Rogers of the intelligence committee and I met with Netanyahu about a week ago in Israel, yes.
CROWLEY: And there is this matter of trust that Congressman King brings up that Israel has to believe that the U.S. is there for them and in that relationship between Netanyahu and President Obama has been tough.
RUPPERSBERGER: Well, let me say this, first thing it has to be clear the to the American public and to the Israeli public that generally the United States is behind hem 100 percent. I think the president said, from what heard in his speech today, that if in fact Israel's security at risk we will be with you 100 percent.
Now from our role on the intelligence community -- and Peter knows this, he's also on the committee with us -- I think right now that we have a better relationship with Israeli military and Israeli intelligence than we've had in the history of our relationship with Israel and the United States.
My conversation and Mike Rogers' conversation with Netanyahu basically was we've got to stop the rhetoric and stop negotiating the issue in the media and talk together like allies would. We know, and the president said, he is not for containment, containment means we do not want the Iranian government to have the nuclear weapons and we will do what we can to stop that.
We have to remember that it's all about Iran. They're a bad country, not the people but the leadership there are bad. They export terrorism. Right now the lethal weapons are going to Syria. They were willing to attack the Saudi Arabian ambassador in our country, killing Americans.
So this is something that we really have to focus on not only nuclear weapons and protecting Israel and the world but also the issue of exporting terrorism with respect to Iran.
CROWLEY: Congressman King, I want to use both of your expertise as members of the intelligence committee, because I think the first question the American people might have when talking about oh, don't worry, we're with you, we'll go bomb Iran if we're convinced that the time is right and that they're about to acquire nuclear weapons that we would first like to know how we know that they have them.
Do you have -- can you give us any sense how close the U.S. feels Iran is to that point?
KING: I mean, Dutch and I have to be careful as to how we say this. I have no doubt that Iran is getting extremely close to being able to have a nuclear weapon that's operational. There can be some debate as to exactly what month that would occur in and there's also a debate whether or not they would make it operational or do they just want to go 99.9 percent of the way and then be able to make it operational whenever they want to.
Israel probably has a shorter time line than we do, but also Israel believes that even if we agree on the time line, Israel's capacity to take out Iranian nuclear sites is a lot shorter than ours because they don't have the same type of bunker busters we would have that type of weaponry so that's the concern -- and going back to what Dutch was saying about rhetoric. It's not just rhetoric between the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I mean, going back to several years ago when Netanyahu was really treated badly at the White House by the administration, going back to when the president suggested almost the moral equivalency between Iranian nuclear weapons and the Israeli settlements.
So there has been that bad blood. If they can get that out of the way, fine, but they have to work on it and the president is being held accountable for some of the things he'd said over the last several years and has to get the Israeli prime minister's trust.
CROWLEY: Let me put you on pause here for a minute. We've got to take a break, but we'll come back with more with Congressman Ruppersberger and Rogers right after this break.
CROWLEY: We are back with Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger and congressman Peter King of New York. Thanking you again both for joining us. Both on the intelligence committee.
Picking up on what Congressman King just said, it seems to me that the translation of all of that is that the U.S. and Israel need to come to the same red line that you know here's our definition of the red line after which we have to do something, and that Israel has to trust that the U.S. would do something once Iran moves up to that line in terms of developing nuclear weapons. Is that correct?
RUPPERSBERGER: Well, first I think what the president said today in his speech he is clearly there as the leader of this country, the commander in chief. Now, when Chairman Rogers and I were over in Israel we met with the head of Mossad, who is their intelligence agency. There is no question that intelligence is going to be the best defense in making a determination whether or not there's going to be a next step as it relates to Iran. We want them to stop and we, as the president said in his speech, Teddy Roosevelt, you know, you speak softly but you carry a big stick. And we have to show to Iran right now the game is over, no bluff; we're going to do what we have to do to protect Israel but not only Israel but the world.
What I would like to see is the same type of formula we used in Libya. The whole world needs to come together and stop Iran. They're dangerous to the whole world. They're dangerous to Israel, the United States. You look at what they tried to do, as I said before, with the other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.
We need to get the Arab League involved. We need to get the world to say we're going to stop you, Iran, one way or other. That also takes political pressure off of Israel. Because, for Israel to go alone, first thing, they're stronger with us, with the United States of America, but secondly, we're not going to let them go alone. I -- that's -- that's not going to happen if eventually we have to do the things that we have to do.
CROWLEY: Congressman King, in his speech today and prior to this in an interview, the president has intimated that some of the criticism of his policy toward Israel, the criticism that he hasn't been a strong backer of Israel, is based in U.S. politics. Would you agree with that?
KING: Basically, no. I mean, listen, there's always going to be some politics involved, and I'll give Dutch credit; I think, between the two of us, we try to keep politics out of foreign policy.
But the president, I mean, did, going back in 2009 and 2010, have a very confrontational policy toward Prime Minister Netanyahu. And a part of that may have been personal. But, I mean -- but the aftereffects of that are being felt today.
And I agree with Dutch, by the way. Our military and our intelligence between the Israelis and the Americans is as close, if not better, than it's ever been. There's no issue there.
It's really a question of Israel believes it does not have the same length of time the U.S. has to take out Iran's nuclear sites. And, you know, when Dutch says we have to get the Arab League and the others involved, I agree that would be ideal. Israel may feel, hey, they only have several months in which they have to act, and the Arab League may not be there.
So that's why it's really up to the president, I think, tomorrow, in his one-on-one with Prime Minister Netanyahu, to be able to convince him that he is serious, that the United States is determined to use whatever has to be done, take nothing of the table to take out and to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
And again, I don't think it was right for the president to use the word "bluster" today because that, to me, again, was minimizing the policies that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been talking about, and that's considering the possibility of an attack. CROWLEY: Congressman Ruppersberger, I'm going to give you the final word here and ask you do you agree that the relationship between these two men has really been rocky and therefore, sort of, stood in the way of trust?
And do you also agree with Congressman King's assessment that Iran is getting mighty close to development of a nuclear capability?
RUPPERSBERGER: OK, well, personally I think a lot of relationships are different. One president handles policy a different way. I think, if there was a problem with the relationship, that's between them. But they're leaders of different countries. They're leaders of countries that are going to back each other up, that are allies. So I think it's more about the facts, the data, the intelligence that comes in, about where we're going to go.
Today's speech was clear. The president said we're going to back Israel; we're not going to let Iran have nuclear weapons, which is clear, and we're going to do what we have to do.
We hope the sanctions will work, and they are working now. But if they don't, we're not -- we're going to do what we have to do.
Now, the second issue, as far as Peter King -- what was the second...
CROWLEY: Oh, the second issue was how close are they to having nuclear capability?
RUPPERSBERGER: Oh, how close. I think, right now, both Israel and the United States intelligence will say they're not there for a bomb. But I wouldn't trust them; they're getting closer; they're -- all of their actions look like they're moving in that regard.
It's about intelligence. We have some of the best intelligence in the world, and with the two countries coming together with other countries helping us, we will know when it's time, and then we will know what we do as far as protecting Israel, protecting the Middle East and the United States from Iran.
CROWLEY: Congressman Ruppersberger, Congressman King, thank you both so much for your expertise.
KING: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Up next, bologna, aging rock stars and a five-year-old economist, just another week on the campaign trail.
CROWLEY: Some odds and ends this week on the campaign trail, but mostly just odd. Candidates speak for hours a day on the trail. Sometimes they do ramble off the rails. Case in point: Newt Gingrich called the president's energy policies "bologna," and then this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm trying to figure out how to design, you know, some kind of picture of what -- what does Obama bologna look like. It would be all left-wing. Maybe it's bologna made of the left wings of turkeys. I don't know. It's...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Perhaps that's why the president likes his teleprompter.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney had a rock star kind of week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Kid Rock!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Kid Rock performed at a campaign event. Motor City mad man and guitarist Ted Nugent tweeted a ringing endorsement. And Mitt's campaign rally in Idaho was jammed like a concert, and we caught this sign in the crowd.
No, that's not Mrs. Romney holding the sign. We checked.
And, finally, props on the campaign trail are not new. President Obama occasionally busts out a chart. Rick Santorum likes the pocket Constitution, and as does Ron Paul, when he's not shaking silver coins at the Fed chairman. And Newt Gingrich likes chickens.
Off-Broadway, the possibilities are endless. Rhode Island Senate candidate Barry Hinckley went the adorable route.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Do you know the gas that my mom uses to bring me to school? It's a lot more expensive now. This is when I was born. And this is what it is now. This is real bad.
Tell your mom and your dad to vote for my dad, Barry Hinckley, because he's going to balance the budget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Cute and potentially effective, but the problem with this kind of prop? It talks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Hudson, are you worried about our debt?
Can you hear me, buddy?
(UNKNOWN): Are you worried about paying back the money, Huddy? You worried about paying back the money?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: That's OK, Hudson. Only 4 percent of Americans want to hear presidential candidates talk about the national debt, so you are on to something.
Thank you so much for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Join me next Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern for my exclusive interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.