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Bruising Campaign Battle; Syria-Turkey Tensions Escalate

Aired June 26, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight, a bruising day of campaign rhetoric with the vice president, Joe Biden, leading the charge.

A major escalation in tensions between neighbors Syria and Turkey, as the Turkish military gets new rules of engagement and Syria's leader talks of war.

And the government wants your doctor to worry more about your weight and to nudge you into counseling if you need to lose a few.

We begin this evening with a bare-knuckles day on the campaign trail in Iowa. That's one of seven states CNN now classifies as tossups. Vice President Joe Biden was in attack mode and in a highly personal way, taking aim at Mitt Romney's tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the bottom line, folks. Bain and their companies, they made a great deal of money facilitating this outsourcing and offshoring American jobs.

Yes, they made a lot of money. But in the process, they devastated, they devastated whole American communities. You have got to give Mitt Romney credit. He's a job creator in Singapore, China, India.


KING: Governor Romney was in battleground Virginia, and that's also among our tossup states.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we're witnessing is failure of the president's policies. He did not deal with immigration. With regards to Obamacare, he put that as a higher priority than our economy, and as a result, we have had 40 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent, the economy is not working, immigration is not working. This president has not been working in the right way for the American people. It is time for that to change.



KING: President Obama is in another tossup tonight and that's Florida. Earlier today, he was in Georgia, and he stopped there to raise money. And then at that event, he said he has been true to his 2008 promises.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told you I would wake up every single day and fight as hard as I knew how for you.


OBAMA: That I would fight as hard as I knew how for all those folks who were doing the right thing out there, all those people who have kept the faith with this country, and you know what? I have kept that promise. I have kept that promise. I believe in you. I hope you still believe in me.


KING: Let's dig deeper on this busy campaign day with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, and chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Jess, to you first. This is the toughest attack yet, the most personal attack yet from the vice president. He had top campaign strategist David Axelrod along for that trip to Iowa. Take us inside this strategy.


Well, the president's campaign aides believe that they can drive home a powerfully negative message about Mitt Romney with swing voters by convincing them that he is driven to support economic policies that will help the wealthy and not the little guy.

That's the bottom line, and that key words like outsourcing and layoffs, that they really hit home with swing voters. Their basic thrust here is to dispel this notion that because Mitt Romney was personally successful in the private sector that he is in some way a master of economic policy, and that he could personally turn around the economy.

And they think that these words outsourcing and layoffs and that his past record on this are really key to making this argument, John.

KING: And, Jess, do they worry at all -- outsourcing or offshoring is a part of the global economy right now, for better or worse -- do they worry at all that they will sound too anti-business?

YELLIN: A lot of critics have said that they are sounding anti- business and they are not just Republicans, and his top aides tell me that they're not worried about it. They're doubling down on this message. Not only did the vice president deliver it and the president has said it to some extent, but even the campaign went up with an ad delivering the outsourcing message as well. So they're adamant they're not worried about it because they really want, they insist, to drive that message that Romney is not a master of the economy just because he was personally successful in business. They say that's the theme, not an anti-business theme, John.

We will see.

KING: That's their big -- make it a choice, not a referendum -- strategy.

YELLIN: Right.

KING: Jessica Yellin at the White House, Jess, thanks so much.

Jim, Romney campaign's response to the vice president today was essentially, hey, look in the mirror, and they cited a study that said some $1.5 billion of the Obama stimulus money went to foreign makers of wind turbines. Do they think that's good enough or do they feel these Bain outsourcing attacks could take hold?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, John, the Romney campaign did respond to those outsourcing attacks from the vice president in that ad in Virginia today by circulating an article "The Washington Free Beacon." It does check out with FEC records that shows the Obama campaign did spend thousands of dollars on a Canadian firm to do some calls on behalf of the campaign, telemarketing calls on behalf of the campaign.

But I am told by a Democratic source, John, that the Obama campaign and Democrats expect to see within the next 24 hours new poll numbers showing that these Bain attacks are working, which I think explains why we have seen over the last month or so these Bain attacks continue.

And while the Romney campaign can respond by saying, hey, wait a minute, the Obama campaign they are also guilty are outsourcing as well, a lot of this, John, and you will know this, goes back to that 1994 Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy. The Kennedy campaign savaged Mitt Romney in that first run for political office for Mitt Romney on his private business career at Bain Capital.

During that time period, Mitt Romney really didn't respond forcefully in any kind of way responding to those attacks, and right now, up until this point, Mitt Romney has not sat down for an extensive interview to deal with these outsourcing questions, these other questions about his business career at Bain Capital.

And the question I think becomes as these attacks continue, can he continue that approach, can he keep doing that? You heard him today go on the attack on health care and on the Supreme Court case with respect to immigration. He is going to continue to do that, try to tie those cases to President Obama's inability to get the economy roaring. But at the same time, as long as the Obama campaign continues these Bain attacks, the question becomes at what point does he respond and how?

KING: And, Jim, do they get frustrated that the company, those who are still at Bain, don't do more? We have seen from time to time, and recently one pretty tough statement from Bain criticizing the president's campaign strategy, but as you know, there are a lot of Romney supporters in Bain, but there are also a lot of Obama supporters inside Bain Capital raising money for the president.

I know some Democrats who are not unhappy, but they haven't been willing to speak publicly yet. Does that bother Romney?

ACOSTA: I haven't had a chance to ask Mitt Romney that question, and he hasn't taken a lot of questions about Bain and about what his business colleagues feel over there.

I know some of them have done interviews where they have sort of objected to all of this media scrutiny. I will tell you, though, that Democrats are confident that this works. I got a Democratic source e- mailing me just a little while ago saying that Sherrod Brown, who is running in a pretty hotly contested race for his reelection in Ohio, Sherrod Brown has been saying let the Bain attacks continue. Don't listen to Cory Booker. Don't listen to Bill Clinton. These attacks are working in Ohio because there are working-class people here, people in the automotive industry who do listen to that message when it comes to these Bain attacks and find them effective.

So I think that they're going to continue.

KING: Jim Acosta for us tracking that one, Jim, thanks so much.

And, Gloria, CNN confirmed today Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, she is in a tough reelection campaign, she is going to skip the Democratic Convention. I think by our count, we are at about 10. We could probably show you at least 10 Democratic governors and members of Congress who have decided they're going to skip the president's big party in Charlotte.

Now, that's -- if you take the Democratic Party as a whole, that's a modest number, but these are high-profile people, many of them in tough reelection campaigns or from anti-Obama states. Just he or is there some message to this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think these people clearly don't want to be seen in a high-profile embrace of President Obama, so like Claire McCaskill, they will be metaphorically washing their hair that night during the Democratic Convention.

Look, Claire McCaskill in her own defense says, look, only in Washington would the Republican operatives get the entire press corps ginned up over the notion that I am going to be home campaigning instead of going to a bunch of worthless parties at a convention that's only going to be held to do something we all know is going to happen anyway.

OK. Fair enough. But in 2008, Claire McCaskill was kind of attached at the hip to President Obama. So you have got Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He is far ahead, but Barack Obama not very popular in that state. Jon Tester, the state of Montana very, very tight campaign for reelection, President Obama not so popular there either. So, why would they show up, right?


KING: And just I don't want to get into -- I understand Senator McCaskill's point. She is right, time at home probably better spent.

BORGER: Sure. Sure. Sure.

KING: But one reason a lot of vulnerable people do show up at the convention, there's a lot of fund-raisers there, a lot of people who can help you raise money. And if you're in trouble, you need that money.

So just as she said there is no reason to be there, there are just as many and maybe more reasons to be there.

BORGER: Sure. Sure. There are reasons to be there because all of the big funders are there in one particular place.

But if you're afraid of that iconic photograph of you with President Obama or you with other top unpopular Democrats, maybe a Harry Reid, for example, whatever, you're going to stay away, and you may even make a point during the Democratic Convention of being at high-profile events in your home state, saying, I care more about you than I do about those high-profile Democrats.

KING: How about I bet you a dollar she's in the southern half of Missouri, where the president is least popular?


BORGER: I think you're probably right.

KING: And we should note for the record that John McCain carried Missouri in 2008, which was a big Democratic year. Senator McCaskill probably looking at the numbers telling her that is the smart thing to do. Stay away from the president.


BORGER: And we should also note for the record that this happened to George W. Bush, too, with lots of Republicans. This goes both ways. When you're a president and you're unpopular in some parts of the country, you have got to expect this.

KING: It happens every cycle.

BORGER: It sure does.

KING: We will watch it. Gloria, thanks so much.

Experts, get this one, they want your doctor to start nagging you. It's about something you probably won't want to do, but maybe you should. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be here next to tell us just what it is.

And later, new saber-rattling raises the possibility of an even wider conflict in Syria.


KING: If you're packing on some extra pounds, some new recommendations could push your doctor to tell you guess what, go on a diet.

The U.S. Preventative Task Force, that's group of independent medical experts supported by the federal government, released a report recommending that doctors screen adult patents for obesity at least once a year and refer them to weight loss programs and counseling. Good idea?

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

Sanjay, is it a good idea? If you listen to the chairman of the task force, Dr. David Grossman, he says, "We found that some weight loss programs work and often the gateway to finding the right program can be through your physician."

So, a kick in the tail from the doctor, is that the right way to do this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it can be, John, but there are a few caveats, as you might guess.

First of all, it's hard to believe, but I think one of the points being made here is a lot of doctors, about half of doctors simply don't discuss this issue with their patients at all. So a patient is overweight, even obese, the doctor doesn't bring it up. I think this is a message certainly to the medical community as a whole.

But to your question specifically, what they have found is if the counseling is intensive, and typically means that counseling sessions at least once a month, it can have an impact. And a person can lose about 6 percent of their body weight on average. Some people are going to have more success, others less, but 6 percent on average, which can be pretty significant in terms of reducing your risk of heart disease, reducing your risk of diabetes.

So it can be pretty significant. But a lot of doctors simply aren't trained in this. A lot of patients only see their doctors once a year. So what they're suggesting here as part of the task force is a much more intensive engagement with patients who are obese.

KING: With the link between obesity and diabetes, obesity and heart problems, obesity and other issues, it stuns me that you say many doctors don't even discuss this. For the doctors who do, they judge you by you get on a scale, and they get your weight, they measure you to get your height, and there you get your body mass index.

Is that the right way to do this?

GUPTA: It is not perfect, but it's the best way probably right now.

Body mass index is looking at your height and looking at your weight. If you're a short person who weighs a lot, you will have a high body mass index. If you're a tall person who doesn't weigh that much, you don't. But there are obviously people who are more built, people have a lot of muscle mass, for example. They will register high on body mass index, but they may in fact not have that much body fat.

A doctor has to use it as a measure, but it is not perfect. It's just I think the best that they have right now.

KING: About 36 percent of adult Americans are considered obese. Heart disease as we mentioned, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, all risks for being overweight. About $147 billion spent now on obesity- related health care. If these new recommendations are followed by most doctors out there, will costs go up or down?

GUPTA: In the short term, they will go up probably, but the hope is that as with a lot of health care, they hope that the costs will eventually come down.

Look, these programs don't come for free. And there's not enough primary care doctors right now to even care for the number of patients that want to see their doctor. That shortfall could be even more pronounced if you have more insured people, if this law is passed. So I think that it is a little of a double-edged sword. In the short run, it costs money, but the hope is that if people do lose that body weight, if all those chronic diseases that you mentioned subsequently decrease as a result, you will lower health care costs. But it could be more than a decade before you start to see those cost benefits, John.

KING: Health care costs is also a big question, Sanjay, as we await the big decision by the Supreme Court. We know we will get it Thursday morning. One of the big questions is will the court say the mandate at the center of the Obama health care plan, the requirement that all Americans, most Americans anyway, go out and get their own health insurance, if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, what happens out there in the world of costs and trying to keep the program going?

GUPTA: John, I will just preface by saying I have been thinking about this issue for a long time. As you know, I worked at the White House, and talked about this issue a lot over the last decade.

So the basic issue is this. If you don't have a mandate, but you still require people to provide health care insurance without discriminating because someone is sick and they get charged the same price whether they have an illness or they don't have illness, what happens, and what they're worried will happen at a federal level, they have already seen it at state level, is that people won't buy health care insurance until they get sick.

If you gave a car insurance analogy, it would be as if you called the car insurance company with your car on the side on the road having just gotten into a wreck. You can imagine -- it doesn't take a lot of figuring out to see how that raises costs overall.

To your point, John, again, in Kentucky, they tried this exact thing back in 1994. They said there's not going to be a mandate. But we're also going to tell insurance companies you can't discriminate because someone is already sick.

And what they saw is that everyone's health premiums went up, everyone, not just the uninsured, but everyone who already had health care insurance, their premiums went up by as much as 40 percent. John, it is an important point because a lot of people watch what's happening in Washington right now and they say this doesn't apply to me. This debate isn't about me. I am insured, I am OK. Nothing to worry about here.

It matters to everybody for this very point that you're bringing up, John.

KING: I think we will make another house call with the good doctor once we know what the court thinks.

Dr. Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, John. Any time.

KING: Thank you.

And still ahead, the "Truth" about what you might call today's long-distance debate about health care between President Obama and Governor Romney.

But next, Tropical Storm Debby makes landfall.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: Up next, the ominous new threats from the leaders of Syria and now Turkey.

And later, Mitt Romney's latest attempt to turn the Supreme Court's immigration ruling into a weapon against President Obama.


KING: This half-hour: The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, says his country is in -- quote -- "a state of real war," tough words as tensions with Turkey rise even higher.

Mitt Romney still vague on his immigration following the big Supreme Court ruling. I ask one Latino Republican strategist why she says she's frustrated.

Then, later, Boston boos President Obama after he makes a wisecrack about the Red Sox. But the White House says -- you will get to hear it -- your ears may be deceiving you.

The leaders of both Turkey and Syria -- after a special meeting of NATO leaders today to discuss the shooting of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria, Turkey's prime minister announced he's putting his military on alert.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If there are any military instruments or troops from Syria which are coming to the Turkish border in the form of threat, they will all be perceived as military threats.


KING: And in Damascus, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, delivered a blunt message to his new cabinet.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA (through translator): We are in state of war in every aspect of the word. And when we're in a state of war, all our politics has been be concentrated on winning this war.


KING: Let's discuss this confrontation now with Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. undersecretary of state ambassador to NATO.

Nick, let's start with NATO, a territory you know quite well, an organization you know quite well. The Turks went there appealing for help. What can NATO do, what will it do?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: I think what Turkey was looking for, John, under Article 4 of the NATO treaty was a meeting where NATO would be united in sending a very stark message to the Syrian government that what happened last week in Syria, shooting down a Turkish fighter jet, is not going to happen in the future.

So, the entire alliance, 28 countries rallied around Turkey in a display of alliance and solidarity. I think that, coupled with Erdogan's very -- Prime Minister Erdogan's very blunt message, is really a proverbial, rhetorical shot across Syria's bow not to do this again.

KING: But their words. Assume it doesn't happen again, does this mean this happened, there are some more tough words? There are plenty of tough words from the leaders of the United States from other western leaders, tough words from United Nations, but it hasn't changed any of Assad's behavior.

BURNS: If I were President Assad, the statement I would really pay attention to is Prime Minister Erdogan's statement that he played in this program. He is a very determined, willful, proud person. This was a very carefully worded statement. I took it to mean, John, that if the Syrian military uses force against Turkish aircraft or soldiers, there will be a response by Turkey. And frankly, knowing the Turkish government, I would expect them to back up that threat.

KING: And President Assad spoke after Prime Minister Erdogan, so when you hear President Assad saying, "We are at war, and we have only one choice: that is to win that war," what do you make of it?

BURNS: I took it that he was really referring to the internal war, the civil war in Syria itself, where there's an armed opposition that's fighting for months now. I think that's what President Assad has to worry about.

But if I were the Syrians, I'd look at the NATO meeting today and Prime Minister Erdogan's statement in Turkey. And I'd say it's just not worth it for Syria to risk a retaliatory response from Turkey in the future.

John, what happened today is that NATO did not promise to go to war for Turkey. It just promised political support. It's the Turkish statement that I think is actionable and very important.

KING: But so if Assad is careful and the Syrian forces do not shoot at any more Turkish planes, though, and the United Nations' mission is suspended in Turkey because of the security situation, if Assad is careful and doesn't have a provocation against Turkey, can he still continue to do whatever he pleases within his borders?

BURNS: Well, I think that this is a big question that -- that the NATO countries, the United States and the Arab countries have to answer in the next month or two. Is there any way that the international community can actually prevent the use of force by the Syrian government against these innocent civilians, who are being killed by their own government? And so far, the United States and other countries have concluded that it's not in our interest to go in, because it would just be too difficult for any number of reasons.

As this violence proceeds and the civil war intensifies this summer, it's going to be more difficult for the United States and other countries to say, "We're just going to sit on the sidelines." And Turkey here is a frontline state. It's a bordering country. There's now been a provocation.

So the Turks of course, the Saudis have been -- have been very sympathetic, and perhaps even assisting the rebel army. I would watch that space as a potential change in this situation this summer.

KING: Former ambassador to NATO and undersecretary of state, Nick Burns, appreciate your insights.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, out on the trail today in Virginia spoke for a bit about what he called a busy week for the Supreme Court. Busy, Governor Romney says, because of President Obama's failures.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think all their work highlights the leadership failures of our current president. You see, when he was -- when he was running for office, he said he would make it his first priority, is first-year agenda, to reform our immigration system and make it work for the American people and for those who want to come here legally. He did not do that.


KING: Another sharp criticism there from the governor about the president, but is Governor Romney saying enough about his own views on immigration?

Joining me now is Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ana Navarro, who was the Hispanic co-chair for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. I think I said already she's a CNN contributor.

Ana, thanks for being with us. You say you're frustrated. Now, I want to go back to the source. You think Governor Romney should be more clear, more specific, more direct about what he would do if he wins the election. I want to play a bit of an exchange.

Here's what I think began your frustration, when Bob Schieffer at CBS, "Face the Nation," tried to get Governor Romney to answer this question: "The president just issued a temporary order allowing young illegal immigrants to stay in the country and to get work permits. If you win the election, what would you do about that?" Let's listen.


BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS'S "FACE THE NATION": What would you do about it?

ROMNEY: Well, as you know, he was president for the last three- and-a-half years, did nothing on immigration.

SCHIEFFER: But would you repeal this?

ROMNEY: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution with legislation.

SCHIEFFER: To make sure I understand it, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-term solution, or would you just repeal it?

ROMNEY: We'll look at that -- we'll look at that setting (ph) as we reach that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that's one question he has not answered. Would he leave it in place while he worked on a long-term solution, which as you know, the politics of immigration, could take months, or more. Might even not happen. There's this thing called the filibuster.

The campaign's in touch with you sometimes. You know a lot of Republicans who work for Governor Romney. Have they told you what he would do?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. I don't -- I don't know what Governor Romney would do. And I should know, and so should every other Latino.

I think he was absolutely right today in Virginia when he called into question and pointed the finger at Barack Obama's leadership failures. The president has failed on this. He has failed to deliver on his promise to Latinos. But that's half the story.

The other half is that Mitt Romney now needs to show leadership. He needs to tell us what he would do. Until now, the only specifics I heard on immigration from Mitt Romney is what he said in the primary, and he said things I did not like. I think he went unnecessarily to the right.

He now needs to dig himself out of that hole, and he will not do it by perfecting the art of saying nothing. He needs to say something, because if not, John, the story becomes less about what he said and more about what he left unsaid.

KING: Well, let's talk a little bit about what he did say yesterday. You know, some people, the governor is very cautious sometimes. I think sometimes, even when he does say something, we don't notice it.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled about SB-1070, as you know, threw out three provisions, left one in place. Governor Romney said this in a fundraiser in Scottsdale: "I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states, not less. And there are states now under this decision have less authority, less latitude to enforce immigration laws."

He's actually saying quite a bit there. He's saying that he believes states should be able to make these decisions, even I assume, if he disagrees with what those states want to do. Is it that you don't think he's saying enough, or is it that you don't agree with what he's saying?

NAVARRO: I think he's not saying enough. I almost -- to tell you the truth, I'd rather disagree with what he's saying but know what he's saying than not know what he's saying. I think the American people deserve to know where he stands on this. He needs to grab the bull by the horns.

And this is going now beyond immigration and beyond being a Latino problem. I think it's showing a lack of leadership.

And let's be clear about something. The American people do not like precedents that show equivocation, that show vacillation, that don't show clarity. We don't like folks that speak in ambiguous terms that need a decoder to figure out what's being said.

KING: So if...

NAVARRO: His campaign, for example, has told me that he did not say, and he has not said, and he did not mean that he wanted SB-1070 to be a national model. I would love to hear Mitt Romney say that himself. I would have loved to have seen him say that yesterday in Arizona.

It's amazing, John, that he was flying to Arizona, that he landed in Arizona, as this was the biggest story of the day, and said nothing on camera, and did not address the issue on camera.

We need to see leadership. This is his chance to show spine, to show backbone, to show conviction and to tell the American people what he believes in.

KING: So Ana, if a Latino friend of yours came up to you -- maybe it's a Republican who's not afraid to vote for a Democrat sometimes, maybe it's an independent, maybe it's a Democrat who's not terribly happy with President Obama, doesn't know what to do -- if they said, "Should I vote for Mitt Romney," what would you tell them?

NAVARRO: I would tell them, look, you have two choices, and it's your choice to make. You can either vote for Barack Obama, who speaks real pretty. He says real nice things. He tells us all the things we want to hear, and then he doesn't deliver and has us at 11 percent unemployment rate.

Or you can vote for the guy who doesn't tell us the things we want to hear, who frankly, tells us things that are very hard to interpret, who may have told us things we don't like to hear, and who's not making big promises, but who is a change from what we have. Those are the two choices.

KING: I suspect if anyone at the Romney campaign is watching, they'll be in touch with you soon. Ana Navarro, we'll talk to you in the days, 133 days, in the months ahead. Appreciate your time and your help tonight.

And coming up here, we're less than two days away from knowing whether President Obama's signature health-care law will stand or fall. The "Truth" about what the Supreme Court ruling could mean out on the campaign trail.


KING: In just about 40 hours, we'll know if the president's signature first-term achievement passes its Supreme Court examination.

Tonight, we know, thanks to a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, that 37 percent of Americans say they'll be pleased if the high court rules the health-care plan unconstitutional. Twenty-two percent of you say you'd be disappointed by that.

Now, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney know what the justices will decide, but both claimed to speak for the majority.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand we don't need to refight this battle over health care. It's the right thing to do.

ROMNEY: And I'm going to get rid of that big cloud of uncertainty, that's hanging over all sorts of small businesses that want to add unemployment. I'm going to get rid of the cloud of Obama care and return us to personal responsibility and states' rights as it relates to health care.


KING: Now, if the law is thrown out, it will be a huge defeat for the president.


ROMNEY: The first three-and-a-half years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people.


KING: Now, that's true. The president spent a ton of political capital on the health-care fight. But it's also true a court ruling that tossed it out will raise some tough questions for Governor Romney. Would he, for example, push Republicans in Congress to move immediately to forbid insurance companies from dropping patients with pre-existing conditions? Or would he push them to make sure that younger people can stay on their parents' health-care plans just for a few more years?

But there's a bigger political question, though. Will the high- court decisions on health care and immigration -- yes, both polarizing political issues -- really drive the election? Truth is, the best guess is probably not as much as it might appear this week.

Now, don't get me wrong. The immigration ruling does and the health-care ruling will raise important policy questions for the country and for its candidates for president. But those questions are part of a much bigger debate. Is the economy recovering or stalling?

Economic anxiety is the driving force in our politics, and if there's any significant change there, for better or worse, over the next 133 days, that will shape the race much more -- much more -- than any court ruling.

Here to talk truth tonight, the "National Journal's" editorial director and CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein; Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen; and from Little Rock, Arkansas, former Santorum and Bachmann campaign spokeswoman, Alice Stewart -- and Huckabee campaign spokesman. I'm going to add them all, Alice.


KING: Let me start -- let me start with you, Alice. When you look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional, will it hurt your family, help your family, or make no difference? Twenty-five percent say hurt, 18 percent say help, 55 percent say no difference.

Now, regardless of your politics, I'm not sure that 55 percent is actually right, because I have health insurance, thanks to my job. But if the mandate is thrown out -- whether I'm for that or against that is irrelevant -- it will affect me, won't it? Because the market will get a jolt?

STEWART: Well, it's certainly going to have a huge impact on Americans across the board. And there are polls, recent polls that show more than -- about 52 percent of Americans want to see Obama care overturned by the Supreme Court. Because the fact is, people don't want a government in between themselves and their doctors. They don't want a huge tremendous government overreach.

And you mentioned whether or not this will be a defining issue in the election. The economy is the big issue in this election. And Obama care has a big factor on the economy.

We have 75 percent of job creators say this is bad for business. The nonpartisan CBO says Obama care will cost more than 800,000 jobs a year. It's not just bad health care. It's just bad for business, and people don't want it.

KING: How much, Hilary, do you think the health-care ruling, immigration ruling -- I mean, obviously, they're the biggest stories this week in politics, not just in this town. But again, look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Have the president's policies helped or hurt the economy? Look at this; look at these numbers. They're stunning. Thirty-three percent hurt, 32 percent helped, 32 percent not much difference.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Very divided. Well, two things. One, on the big narrative, it is possible that an issue that hasn't been in a presidential election for a couple years might come back, which is that one of the most important things a president can do is appoint Supreme Court justices. We haven't seen that as a big race in the last two elections.

But the other pieces, you know, what Alice said was, I think that the reason why we have these terrible numbers on Obama care -- as I call it, Obama cares -- is because the Republicans and insurance companies did a really good job tying the current economic woes to this health-care bill, which actually has nothing to do about putting doctors between individuals. And it really is about reigning in insurance companies and what they can do to -- to people and getting more people covered.

So I think that the president ends up with a problem, but I think the Republicans have a bigger problem for the reasons you said. What are they going to do when the people who actually don't want it repealed, who will be hurt? You know, even if it's only 25 or 30 percent of the country, they're going to be hurt. Who's going to help them?

KING: If you go to the Romney Web site, there's a very specific health-care page. He's more specific than most candidates for president. Whether you agree or disagree with the politics, I'm going to give him credit for being very, very specific.

But the question is, just like on this temporary immigration policy, what would you do next week? What would you tell Mitch McConnell? What would you tell Speaker Boehner next week if the court says, "All of it, gone"?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually, he is specific, but the best estimates of -- the core idea that Romney has is to make individual purchase of health insurance tax deductible for those without coverage. And the best estimates the CBO, Congressional Budget Office, has done on that is that would have a pretty minimal impact on the number of uninsured.

We have 50 million uninsured today. The projection is that without this law, we go to 60 million. By 2020, it might be even higher than that. This would probably only shave that by about 3 or 4 million.

And this really is one of the core differences here. As a country, can we afford to do this or not? Cover the uninsured.

It's been a political goal, a policy goal of the Democrats since the 1940s. A key political goal originally, the idea of convincing the middle class that government can do something positive for them. They've clearly failed on selling that message. They've never been able to get a majority of the public to say, "This would be good for me and my family." And at their best, they've only had an even split on whether it would be good for the country.

KING: Everybody hang tight. We'll continue the conversation in just a moment. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour.

Erin, is it true, Congress is going to maybe delay a decision?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Whoa, that would be -- that would be breaking news of epic proportions. We're talking, of course, about the sequestration. Everyone knows the $1.2 trillion are purposely designed to be awful. Doesn't mean we don't need to cut 1.2 trillion. We do. Just where it was cut was supposed to be awful.

Now it appears that Congress was having conversations that could just involve delaying those cuts altogether. We're going to joined by super committee member Senator Toomey is going to join us to talk about whether that's really going to happen and what the alternatives are.

Plus, I love McDonald's fries, John. I don't know if you do. And I love McDonald's cheeseburgers, but I pay for it for the next two days after I eat them. So you're going to be interested to see what, you know, incredibly amazing athletic talent is sponsored by none other than McDonald's. In fact, the largest McDonald's in the world right now is being built. And I'm going to tell you about why it's a big problem.

KING: I love those French fries, but I also call them the gateway drug.

BURNETT: Yes, wait, wait, wait, wait. I've got one in the bottom of the bag.

KING: That's so not fair.


KING: There's always one more in the bottom of the bag. Isn't there?

BURNETT: There's one for you. The little stub.

KING: I got a pen, you got a fry. Great. You win again. All right, Erin, we'll see you in just a few minutes. Enjoy the rest of those fries.

Ahead here, Big Ben gets a new name. What prompted a name change for the world's famous clock tower. Get that out.

And if you're in Boston, trust me. It's my hometown. Don't poke fun at the Red Sox. What President Obama said that made some of his own supporters start booing.


KING: One hundred and thirty-three days until you decide who gets to be the president of the United States come 2013. Brand-new poll out from the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" tonight tells us we've got a very close race heading into the final flash. Here's the horserace: Obama 47, Romney 44. Wow. That's about as close as you can get.

Alice Stewart is still with us from Little Rock. Ron Brownstein and Hilary Rosen here with me.

Alice, when you look at that number, the president is leading, but that's a statistical tie. To you, what is the critical thing for Governor Romney to do to reverse the number to put him on top?

STEWART: Well, continue doing what he's been doing and focusing on the economy. That's the -- 73 percent of Americans say the No. 1 issue in this election is the economy. And they trust that Governor Romney is the candidate that will be able to turn things around and create jobs. We have -- President Obama has an abysmal record. His policies have failed to make things better for the American people. We have 23 million Americans out of work. We have housing foreclosures up. We have more adult children moving back home with their parents. This is not the economy that people want. And with...

KING: Hilary...

STEWART: ... Governor Romney's policies will be able to turn things around.

KING: Is that a good number or a bad number? You always say if you're the incumbent, you want to be above 50. So -- and it's a national poll. We elect presidents state by state. We just need to be clear. But when you look at that, is the glass half empty, half full?

ROSEN: And there will be some good battleground numbers out of that, so let's -- let's stay optimistic.

But you know, I think right now it's probably a good poll. Because if everything Alice just said were true, Romney would be way ahead. And he's not.

And I think that's for two reasons. No. 1, I think that people are still giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt. Because things have gotten better, as he said. But you know, not good enough. And they know that he knows it's not good enough.

And I think the second thing is, everybody laughs at these, you know, attacks on Bain Capital or whether or not, you know, there's this real divide between who's for the middle class and who's for the wealthy. I think that's sticking.

And so these...

KING: Yes.

ROSEN: ... you know, these unemployed folks or these independents who are undecided and unhappy, you know, are not so sure that Mitt Romney is their guy. Because he's not for them.

KING: The Obama campaign is spending the gross national product of some countries every month on polling. So I assume they wouldn't be doing these things if they didn't see some evidence they either are or can work over time.

So if this a competitive race like this, why Senator Claire McCaskill, who was Velcroed to the president in 2008, why is she, among now 10 Democrats who say, "I can't go to Charlotte. I don't want to go to the convention"?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it's a misperception, I think, on their part. Modern politics, you can run, but you can't hide. The level of -- the share of voters who split their ticket today between a presidential candidate of one party and a Senate candidate of the other is at the lowest level since 1960.

In 2010, Obama's approval rating was at 48 percent or above in ten states with Senate race. Democrats won nine of them. He was at 47 or below in 15. Republicans won 13 of those 15. These candidates are linked to him and his success, whether they like it or not.

KING: So she should (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and raise money?

ROSEN: Earlier today, I said I thought that this was a dis, that Senator McCaskill is doing. But she's since clarified two things.

One, she invited the president to come to Missouri. She said she would stand with him. And when she was running for governor, you know, in 2004, she didn't go to the convention either. I don't think this has much...

STEWART: John, I disagree. We're seeing more and more Democrats distancing themselves from the president. And -- and McCaskill was one of the main supporters of Obama in '08. If you go back and look, there was a get-out-the-vote video where she said, "This country needs Obama to help our economy."

Well, right now we need Governor Romney for our economy. And the Democrats realizing that linking themselves to the president is not going to help them or this country.

KING: I've got to call a time-out right now. We'll continue this conversation, and we'll give Senator McCaskill a chance to come right here if she wants to explain herself any time.

Thanks, Hilary, Ron, Alice. Thanks so much.

Mary Snow is back now with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hi there.

SNOW: Hey, John.

Top senators say they've reached a deal on freezing student -- student loan rates for another year. Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced just a short time ago they figured out how to keep those loans from doubling to 6.8 percent. The deal still has to make its way through the House. But a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner says he'll take a look at it.

The White House is defending President Obama's decision to claim executive privilege in a possible contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. It says past presidents have done the same thing. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is slamming the president for not turning over documents related to the botched Fast and Furious situation.

A new nickname for London's most popular landmark. Big Ben's clock tower will be renamed Elizabeth Tower after the queen. Prime Minister David Cameron says the change is a fitting recognition of her service of 60 years.

Nice gesture, not sure it's going to take.

KING: They've have to redo the Chevy Chase movie, "Vacation." Elizabeth clock, Parliament, Elizabeth clock, Parliament. Never mind.

All right, Mary, stay put. Finally, tonight's "Moment You May Have Missed." President Obama poking fun at my Red Sox and in Boston. Here's what happened. Here's what happened. Listen.


OBAMA: I just want to say, thank you for Youkilis.



KING: That's Kevin Youkilis right there in a Boston Red Sox uniform. He was traded to the president's Chicago White Sox.

Press Secretary Jay Carney, who happens to root for the right team, the Red Sox nation, clarified with this tweet: "Let's be clear: POTUS, a proud ChiSox fan, thanked Boston crowd for Youk. Some booed. Others, like me, cried 'Yoooouk!' in sad memoriam."

No. No. No. They were booing. They were booing.

Mary, we'll see you tomorrow. That's all for us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.