MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a special edition of MEET THE PRESS from Iowa State University, sight of the Ames Straw Poll, an early but important test for Republican candidates taking on President Obama and the results are in.
More from TODAY.com
Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans
- Lauren Hill, inspirational college basketball player, dies
- Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida
- Will it work on Vale? Savannah tries tissue sleeping trick at home
- Listen to the chilling 911 call Sandra Bullock made during break-in
- Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans
Unidentified Man: The winner of the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
MR. GREGORY: This morning our MEET THE CANDIDATES series continues with the big winner here in Ames, three-term congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): We are going to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
MR. GREGORY: Plus, as Iowa Republicans were voting, Texas Governor Rick Perry jumped into the race, making his announcement in South Carolina.
GOV. RICK PERRY: With the support of my family and unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: And while Sarah Palin isn't officially a candidate, she is still acting like one, swinging through Iowa on this important political weekend. Is she just trying to act as a spoiler in the field? We'll break down the results here. What Bachmann's win means for the rest of the field. Is it the last straw for Governor Tim Pawlenty, who came in a distant third? And how vulnerable is President Obama with this economy?
Joining us, our special Decision 2012 political roundtable, Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad, Republican strategist and campaign veteran Mike Murphy, NBC News political director Chuck Todd, columnist for The Washington Post Eugene Robinson, and senior political reporter tracking the Republican field for Politico, Jonathan Martin.
Announcer: From Ames, Iowa, and sight of the Iowa Straw Poll, this is a special edition of MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning from Iowa. A big political weekend has recast the Republican race for the White House. News this morning that former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who came in a distant third here at the Iowa Straw Poll yesterday, held a conference call with supporters just moments ago and told them he plans to announce this morning that he is dropping out of the race at this early junction.
Joining me now, fresh from her Iowa Straw Poll victory, Republican presidential candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS and congratulations.
REP. BACHMANN: Thank you, David. Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Here is the headline in the Des Moines Register here, the Sunday edition, "Bachmann Takes First." Just one of the big headlines in a busy political weekend. Are you now the front-runner in Iowa?
REP. BACHMANN: Oh, I, I'm, I'm grateful that we won the straw poll, but we see this as just the very first step in a very long race because we, of course, have the caucuses here coming up after Christmas. And then there's South Carolina and New Hampshire and onward and upward. There's a lot of work to be done. We're extremely grateful and that's why, after we're done talking with you today, I'll be going back up to Waterloo, Iowa, where we launched this race 48 days ago. I've only been in the race 48 days, so this is a tremendous accomplishment in that amount of time. I want to go back to Waterloo where I was born and say thank you to the people of Iowa.
MR. GREGORY: Governor Pawlenty is now dropping out of the race. You had a pretty sharp exchange with him in the debate this week. I just wonder, has he been in touch with you to let you know that he was getting out?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I'll be calling him today to, to wish him well. And he brought a very important voice to the race. I have a lot of respect for the governor, I know the governor. We've known each other many years, and I'm grateful that he was in. He's a very good competitor.
MR. GREGORY: Do you--will you seek his endorsement at this point?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I'll talk to the governor, and, and I'll wish him well. A lot has happened in the last 24 hours.
MR. GREGORY: Including the fact that Governor Rick Perry from Texas is now in the race, and he could have quite an impact. How do you size him up in terms of competition?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I welcome anyone who's coming into the race, and I think it'll be good competition for everyone. And I think, you know, he'll run his campaign, we'll run ours, but we really look forward to that. And what I'm really looking forward to more than anything is taking on Raback--Barack Obama as the Republican nominee.
MR. GREGORY: But this is our Meet the Candidates series, so this is an opportunity to talk a little bit more at length, a little bit more detail and really give Americans a better sense of where you're coming from, what your plan for the country is. So, as you approach this race, you are a third-term member of Congress. You have not served as a chair of either a committee in Congress or a subcommittee, you don't have broad legislative experience. In fact, fair to say, you're, you're most known for being a pretty hard-line conservative member of Congress who's also said some pretty controversial things. What is the case that you've got the judgment and experience to be the president of the country?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I have a lifetime of experience. I'm 55 years old. I've been married 33 years. I have five children. I've raised 23 foster children. I also am a federal tax litigation attorney. I have a law degree and then a post-doctorate degree from William & Mary, and I've worked for years in the United States Federal Tax Court. So I know up close and personal how devastating high taxes are on businesses and families and farmers. But also my husband and I started a successful company. We're job creators. We get it how you have to turn a profit and, and keep a margin in line. So I've lived life, but also--I've also been in the state senate, where I've been very successful turning around education reform in Minnesota. I led that effort in Minnesota. I brought Republicans and Democrats and independents together. I did that. But in Congress, I've been at the tip of the spear and a champion for what people have been calling for and that's fiscal responsibility and accountability. For the last two months, I was the leading voice in Washington against raising the debt ceiling. Now that doesn't mean default.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
REP. BACHMANN: I introduced a bill to make sure that we would not default, but also to get our spending priorities in line.
MR. GREGORY: Well, and I want to talk more about that. What about the fact that you're demonstrating thus far, and there's no real voting yet, but you are demonstrating that you can win the support of conservative Republicans, right-wing conservatives. What makes you confident that you've got more crossover appeal to actually be a general election candidate?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, because we had a number of people here in the Iowa Straw Poll yesterday that--who were Democrats, who were independents and who were apolitical people. That's how I had to win in Minnesota. Again, we are not a conservative state. I was from a swing district. It was the district that elected Jesse Ventura governor of our state, but I, I'm able to attract Democrats and independents because when I grew up here in Iowa, I was born in Waterloo, we were Democrats when I was growing up. And we were reasonable, fair-minded people. Most Democrats are reasonable, fair-minded people. And so I have a message that reaches out to them because they, after all, they want jobs, too, and they want the economy to turn around too.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the important issue in this campaign and what Americans are really dealing with right now, and that's this economy. You said in the debate this week that you could, as president, begin to turn the economy around within several months. How specifically would you do that? How would you jump-start growth?
REP. BACHMANN: Sure. I think the markets need to see a signal, what's going to come out of Washington. And the only signal they've seen so far is that it is going to be more spending, spending money that we don't have and more taxing. And so that leads the markets to say it doesn't look like we're going to see a new, a, a new face of our business world. And so what we need to do is have a president who is willing to come forward and have true spending reduction and people in the business world, I know this as a businesswoman, we have to know what the tax rates are going to be. That needs to be stable. And I'll tell you the biggest job killer right now, because I'm all across Iowa asking people, business people tell me it's Obamacare and it's the Dodd-Frank law. Dodd-Frank is drying up credit for businesses.
MR. GREGORY: Financial regulations.
REP. BACHMANN: Yes. And I have the repeal bill for Dodd-Frank. I also have the repeal bill for the Obamacare legislation. People want that gone. It is absolutely without a doubt a job killer. And I was just at a business...
MR. GREGORY: What...
REP. BACHMANN: ...in Indianola, Iowa, they've let half of their workforce go, over 100 employees.
MR. GREGORY: What, what about immediately, though, because there are economists who are talking about you've got to do something to immediately stimulate the economy because the consumer's simply not spending, there's no demand out there right now.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, we know what not to do, don't we?
MR. GREGORY: Well...
REP. BACHMANN: We know that, we know that you don't pass another stimulus. We know that you don't do a QE3, like the Federal Reserve wants to do. Those don't work. And you don't raise taxes. That will clearly put us in a double-dip recession.
MR. GREGORY: What about, what about extending the payroll tax cut? Is that something you could support?
REP. BACHMANN: I think what we need to do is to cut government spending right now. I think that's...
MR. GREGORY: But I'm asking you about the payroll tax cut. Would you extend that?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, the payroll tax cut, as many people know, was a part of the tax compromise that occurred in December. That is one aspect that can be done. But again, I think what we need to focus on more than anything is what will lead to job creation. And what will lead to job creation is taking the United States down from about the top corporate tax rate in the world at 34 percent, down to something that is far more competitive.
MR. GREGORY: What about extending jobless benefits for people who are out of work? Do you think that's a necessary step?
REP. BACHMANN: I think it would be very difficult for us to do because we, frankly, don't have the money. I mean, that's, that's the bottom line in the United States. We are now, according to Mark Steyn, he wrote a book called "After America," and in his book he says we are the brokest nation in history. He said we have gone from being the biggest creditor nation to the biggest debtor nation in a very short period of time.
MR. GREGORY: So, so no on extending jobless benefits.
REP. BACHMANN: Right now, I don't think we can afford it.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the debt ceiling. You were adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling. You voted against that.
REP. BACHMANN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: And there's a lot of people who said that was an incredibly reckless thing to do for our economy.
REP. BACHMANN: Oh, hardly, hardly.
MR. GREGORY: But, wait...
REP. BACHMANN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...let me just, let me just take you through it. It wasn't just the president of the United States, it was also the chairman of the Federal Reserve, it was the Treasury secretary, it was your entire...
REP. BACHMANN: And they've done such a smashing job for us, haven't they?
MR. GREGORY: Well, if I can just finish the question. The entire Republican leadership thought that was the wrong thing to do. Major members of the business community in this country thought that was the wrong thing to do. Why should we trust your judgment that that was the right thing to do and not a reckless act...
REP. BACHMANN: Because...
MR. GREGORY: ...on the part of a congresswoman?
REP. BACHMANN: It's a great question you're asking, a fantastic question. Because that's the judgment of the people of this country. The people of this country would love to weigh in, and they would love to say, "Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, you're wrong. Mr. President, you're wrong." And that's what we...
MR. GREGORY: But this is why we have elected representatives, Congresswoman...
REP. BACHMANN: That's, that's really, that's really...
MR. GREGORY: ...who actually know the true financial impact of a step like this. Maybe people are against raising the debt ceiling, but the reality is, bipartisan agreement, in the business community saying you don't do that, you don't mess with the full faith and credit of the United States. Would you have voted the same way...
REP. BACHMANN: That's right, that's exactly right.
MR. GREGORY: ...if you were the deciding vote?
REP. BACHMANN: That's right, you don't mess with the full faith and credit of the United States. That's why I introduced the bill that I did that would have prevented any form of default. It's President Obama who failed to put any sort of a plan forward. That's what led to uncertainty. I was at another business here in, in west Des Moines, Competitive Edge, and, and the owner of that company told me that their problem right now is, again, uncertainty and the fact that they didn't know what was going to happen with interest rates, they don't know what's going to happen with Obamacare, and so they're on hold right now for hiring. The president is not sending the right signals. And again, let me just answer your question because you said, well, all the people in Washington said we had to raise the debt ceiling, all the people out in America said don't raise the debt ceiling. That's the problem with Washington.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But, but why does that make it...
REP. BACHMANN: They're not listening to the people.
MR. GREGORY: ...why does it make it the right thing to do? I mean...
REP. BACHMANN: Well, because, because, because representatives are supposed to represent the people that they serve. The people that they're serving are saying, "You guys don't have it figured out. Stop spending money you don't have."
MR. GREGORY: But so public opinion will be the sole determinant of how you vote on a particular issue?
REP. BACHMANN: I think it's important that we--well, obviously President Obama's policies are failing the economy. We took the biggest punch to the gut this week that we have seen in our, in our economy. This was a very bad week.
MR. GREGORY: But, Congresswoman, if you were the deciding vote on the debt ceiling...
REP. BACHMANN: So, so the wrong thing to do for the president--let me finish...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
REP. BACHMANN: So the wrong thing for the president to do, number one, is to come out and blame earthquakes, blame the Arab spring, blame everybody but his own policies. And instead, what did he do? The president called for more of what doesn't work. We've got to spend more money we don't have, we've got to increase taxes. He clearly doesn't have the result. That's why the markets are roiling right now, because people see that this president is flailing without a plan. We've got to have a plan.
MR. GREGORY: Let me stop you there. One of the reasons that the markets are roiling, one of the reasons cited by the Standard & Poor's and the downgrade of America's credit rating is political dysfunction in Washington. And they cited their--in their analysis--this was described by Michael Cooper in the, The New York Times blog--Caucus blog on Thursday, and I'll put it up on the screen. This is in part what he wrote. "The ratings agency lamented in its report on the downgrade that the `statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.'"
And "it was Republicans in Congress who made it a bargaining chip. They balked at raising the debt limit unless the White House agreed to a new package of spending cuts. The Obama administration initially sought a clean bill to raise the debt limit, but the Republicans prevailed." You keep talking about the desire to cut spending. No question that's the case, but a lot of Americans are disgusted with the fact that there is so much tension in Washington that something like the debt ceiling of the United States, our full faith and credit of the United States, the ability to pay its bills, was used by Republicans as a bargaining chip.
REP. BACHMANN: Remember, I introduced a bill that would not have had the United States default. The president did not. Let me tell you what the president did. President Obama went out and, and effectively said through his administration, "We don't know if we're going to pay our military men and women in uniform." This was--this comment was made overseas to our men and women while they're serving our country.
MR. GREGORY: That's not what the president said, that was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
REP. BACHMANN: That was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That was highly irresponsible. The other, the other statement that was made was by the president saying to senior citizens, "We don't know if you'll get your Social Security checks in August." There were people in Dexter, Iowa, who canceled their Internet, who canceled their, their satellite TV...
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you're not answering my question...
REP. BACHMANN: ...because they didn't--let me finish.
MR. GREGORY: ...which is this was used as a bargaining chip.
REP. BACHMANN: Because they didn't, they didn't think...
MR. GREGORY: That's what created the uncertainty.
REP. BACHMANN: It was--because they didn't think that the president was going to get their Social Security check to them. That was more than irresponsible, it sent a very bad signal. I wouldn't do that to senior citizens. I care about them. I love them. I wouldn't want them to be in a position where they don't think they're going to get their check.
MR. GREGORY: Let me...
REP. BACHMANN: That's why the president has so mishandled this entire debate.
MR. GREGORY: Let...
REP. BACHMANN: He's the one who threatened default. Not me. Not Republicans. I didn't see Republicans threatening default. I saw the president threatening default.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Let, let me move on to a couple of other issues. One more on the economy and the super committee now in Washington that's supposed to cut more government spending, and the debates are going to continue whether tax increases have to be, in any way, part of this discussion. Increases not necessarily, marginal rates, but through closing loopholes, other ways to get revenue. You're opposed to that, and there are those in the business community, in the private sector, some influential voices who have taken issue with your point of view and those of other conservative Republicans. Bill Gross, as you know, the founder of Pimco, it's the, the giant bond trading firm in this country, this is what he said being critical of that lack of a balanced approach. I'll put it up on the screen. "An anti-Keynesian budget balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking." In the economy he means. "Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not." Why do you say no to any prospect of new revenue as you're trying to unwind this debt?
REP. BACHMANN: The way that you get revenue is by growing the economy, and that way that you grow the economy is to have the federal government get its hand, quite frankly, out of your pocketbook. Once you get the federal government out of your pocketbook, you have a little bit more money...
MR. GREGORY: This is Bill Pimco, largest bond trader in the country...
REP. BACHMANN: ...you have a little bit more money--and I'll be happy to answer your question.
MR. GREGORY: ...who knows a little something about how the markets work.
REP. BACHMANN: I'll be happy to answer your question. And the way that you grow the economy, then, is have a little bit more money in your pocket so that you can put it into your business, hire a few more people, pay them a little more, give them a little bit better benefits, create a better mousetrap, if you will, and, and charge less for it. I want jobs here in America. I'm tired of seeing them go overseas. We are losing companies, literally, all across Iowa. This is a very serious issue. Webster City, Iowa, Electrolux vacuum cleaners, they've closed their doors, they're gone. They didn't just leave Webster City, they lost--left the United States. David, this is real. People are suffering across America; and, if we want to be serious about job creation, then we've got to be serious about government cutting back. And I'll give you the best example I can. There is only one employee at the Federal Department of Transportation that made over $170,000 a year at the beginning of the recession; 18 months into the recession there were 1,690 employees at the Federal Department of Transportation that made over $170,000 a year. Government grew exponentially from the stimulus while private businesses were closing their doors and letting people off in real America. It's real America that needs to have their voice, not Washington. Let's listen to real America--that's what I'm trying to do--and bring their voice to the White House.
MR. GREGORY: From the economy, I want to move on to another topic that's deeply meaningful and important to you, and that's your faith in God. This is something that not only motivates you as a person, inspires you as you try to live a virtuous life, but it's also been very important to your political identity as well. And I want to ask you about, not only the role God plays in, in your life but to what extent he's a motivator for decisions that you make. One example that's gotten some attention is some remarks you made back in 2006 about your career path, which you've talked about here, and I want to play a brief clip of those remarks.
(Audiotape, October 14, 2006)
REP. BACHMANN: My husband said, "Now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law." Tax law! I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, "Be submissive, wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands."
MR. GREGORY: Is that your view for women in America? Is that your vision for them?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I--during the debate I was asked a question about this, and my response was is that submission, that word, means respect. It means that I respect my husband and he respects me.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Congresswoman, I didn't even have to check with my wife and I know those two things aren't, aren't equal.
REP. BACHMANN: What's that?
MR. GREGORY: Submission and respect.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, in our house it is.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. BACHMANN: We've been married almost 33 years and I have a great deal of respect for my husband. He's a wonderful, wonderful man and a great father to our children. And he's also filled with good advice. He...
MR. GREGORY: But so his word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: ...he leads--pardon?
MR. GREGORY: His word goes?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, both of our words go. We respect each other. We have a mutual partnership in our marriage, and that's the only way that we could accomplish what we've done in life is to be a good team. We're a good team together.
MR. GREGORY: To what extent does your relationship with God mean that you take cues from God for decisions that you make and that you would make as president. You've talked about God inspiring you to marry your husband, you know, telling you to marry your husband, to get into politics, to take certain decisions about your career, as we just talked about.
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I have--I, I do have faith in God, and I learned it right here in Iowa. We're in Ames, Iowa, right now. I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, I'm heading up there to say thank you to everyone who instilled my early values in me. And that began at our church. My parents took us to church every week. We went to a Lutheran church, First Lutheran in Waterloo. And we were--they prayed with us at night, and we prayed before we prayed before we had meal time. They really instilled wonderful values in us. And I recognize that I'm not perfect and that I need God in my life, and that's really...
MR. GREGORY: Would God...
REP. BACHMANN: ...set--helped me to set my course.
MR. GREGORY: Guide has--God has guided your decisions in life. Would God guide your decisions that you would make as president of the United States?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would pray. I would pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That's what presidents have done throughout history. George Washington did. Abraham Lincoln did.
MR. GREGORY: But you said that Gald--God called me to run for Congress. God has said certain things about, you know, going to law school, about pursuing other decisions in your life. There's a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action.
REP. BACHMANN: All I can tell you is what my experience has been. I'm extremely grateful to, to have a faith in God. I, I see that God has so blessed this country. His--you know, we heard that song that he's "shed his grace" on the United States. I believe it. He's been very good to our country. And I think that it's important for us to seek his guidance and to pray and to listen to his voice.
MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint an openly atheist person to be a member of your administration, your Cabinet or even as a judge to a court?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, my criteria, would be first of all, "How do you view the Constitution?" If you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you're--if you, if you share my views, then you can get appointed. That's my litmus test is, do you stand for the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Those are--but an atheist would be acceptable to you as a member of your administration?
REP. BACHMANN: I--that wouldn't be a question I would ask.
MR. GREGORY: OK. I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same sex marriage is defining a political debate in this country. You're opposed to it, you'd like to see a constitutional ban against it in this country. And during a speech that you gave in 2004 at an education conference, you spoke openly and in detail about gays and lesbians. And I want to play just a portion of that speech and have you react, react to it.
(Videotape, November 6, 2004)
REP. BACHMANN: It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It's anything but gay. ... It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that's why this is so dangerous. ... We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.
MR. GREGORY: That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I'm not running to be anyone's judge. I do stand very...
MR. GREGORY: But you have judged them.
REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I don't judge them. I don't judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: Is that the view of gays--gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, my, my view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that's what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think that gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that's, that's honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?
REP. BACHMANN: I am not anyone's judge...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not standing in as anyone's judge.
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you have--I mean, do you think anyone hears that and thinks you haven't made a judgment about gays and lesbians?
REP. BACHMANN: That's all I can tell you is that I'm not judging.
MR. GREGORY: So your words should stand for themselves?
REP. BACHMANN: I'm running for the presidency of the United States. That's what's important.
MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint a gay, an openly gay person, to your administration, to your Cabinet, or name them as a judge?
REP. BACHMANN: My criteria would be the same for that--for, for--which would be, where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views. That's my criteria.
MR. GREGORY: But those views are, are, are pretty clear. So you would, you would--as far as judge, you talked about that, an openly gay person is acceptable as a matter of your administration, as a member of your administration?
REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I have, I have my criteria for what I--my appointments would be based on, and it's whether you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you share my views.
MR. GREGORY: So it would not be a factor?
REP. BACHMANN: I am not out asking any other questions.
MR. GREGORY: One last one on this. Can a gay couple with--who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?
REP. BACHMANN: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that's, that's been my view, and I think that's important.
MR. GREGORY: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?
REP. BACHMANN: You know, all of these kind of questions really aren't about what people are concerned about right now. This isn't what--this isn't...
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you said it...
REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not judging them.
MR. GREGORY: You said that any, any candidate for president should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statement. These were defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You're the one who said that same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004. So I'm just asking you about your views on something that has animated your political life.
REP. BACHMANN: Right. I think my views are clear.
MR. GREGORY: OK. Final point here, and that is again about what afflicts Washington.
REP. BACHMANN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: And the inability, it seems, to compromise. This was Michele Bachmann back in 2008 speaking to the Monticello Times. I'm put it up on the screen. "[Bachmann said] that six years in the Minnesota Senate was ... a huge help overcoming the partisan `poison' that is so prevalent in Washington, as well.
"`Coming from Minnesota, you learn to reach across the aisle,' [Bachmann] said. `Some of my closest friends there are Democrats. The problems we're going to face in the next term are so big, no one party can solve them all. You have to work together. I think I've made that a priority and will continue to do that.'" That doesn't sound like the Congresswoman Bachmann of 2011 who's now running for the presidency, does it?
REP. BACHMANN: No, it really does. Because when I was in Minnesota, I think one thing that I'm extremely proud of was education reform. That's where I cut my political teeth. I put five years of my life into changing Minnesota's education system. People said it couldn't be done, and I was able to help bring it about. We actually were able to get the federal government out of our education system and enhance our high academic standards. And I did that by bringing together Democrats, Republicans and independents. Republicans alone couldn't have done this. But we did it together, and I brought voice to that, and I'm extremely proud of that.
MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman Bachmann, much more debates to come. We thank you for coming here and...
REP. BACHMANN: Thank you, David.
MR. GREGORY: ...answering our questions. Good luck on the campaign trail.
REP. BACHMANN: We look forward to it in the future. Thank you.
MR. GREGORY: Thanks very much.
And coming up, Michelle Bachmann the big winner at the Iowa straw poll. Where does the race go from here, especially now that Texas Governor Rick Perry has thrown his hat into the ring? He's been polling close to the front-runner, Mitt Romney. What effect will he have on the field? Our special Decision 2012 political roundtable is coming up: Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, NBC's Chuck Todd, The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, and Politico's Jonathan Martin coming up after this break.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up live from Iowa, our special Decision 2012 political roundtable. Joining me, Mike Murphy, Eugene Robinson, Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad, Jonathan Martin, and NBC's Chuck Todd, after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: Whoa, that's too loud. We are back live from Iowa State University, site of yesterday's Ames Straw Poll. Voting day in Iowa featured free food and country music as the campaigns turned out their supporters--Randy Travis was there, too--for what amounts to a summer preview of organizational strength and support that will be critical for the Iowa caucuses, the first election year test for the GOP field. Far away from the action here was Governor Rick Perry, who has made big waves by getting into the race.
GOV. RICK PERRY: America is not broken. Washington, D.C., is broken.
MR. GREGORY: How will Perry change the race and what are the results here in Ames mean? Joining me now, our special Decision 2012 political roundtable, Republican strategist Mike Murphy is here; columnist for The Washington Post, Gene Robinson; Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad; senior political reporter for Politico Jonathan Martin; and NBC News political director Chuck Todd. All here at our boardroom-like table at Iowa State University.
GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R-IA): In the coliseum.
MR. EUGENE ROBINSON: Let's discuss the financials.
MR. GREGORY: We're in the coliseum. Yeah, exactly, exactly.
All right. Well, let's get into it. First of all, here are the results from the straw poll, we'll put it up on the screen. We've heard from Michele Bachmann, big day for her. She wins. Didn't have a huge margin, though, over the second place finisher, Ron Paul. That's a big story. The other big story, Tim Pawlenty, a distant third and on and on you go with Romney at 567, Perry as a write-in with 718.
Chuck Todd, we have Bachmann coming out in a straw poll, Tim Pawlenty this morning saying he is now out of the race, Governor Perry saying he's in. Where are we on this big political weekend?
MR. CHUCK TODD: Well, it was a shake-up, and we have a top tier. It is Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. There are a couple of other candidates that can make some waves. Ron Paul proved that he can do that, he's going to be a nuisance to the field. Rick Santorum is going to live off the land, as they say. But this is--we have our top tier, it's those three. And the question now is--and we're going to see it tonight in Waterloo, the first showdown between Perry and Bachmann. You're going to have the two of them fighting for the, as David Brody I think it is, at the Christian Broadcasting Network calls it, the "tea-vangelical" vote.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. TODD: The ability to be able to combine the tea party and the social conservatives.
MR. GREGORY: Well, let me hear the governor on that. It's interesting. Ron Brownstein in his column in the National Journal writes about this and the big question of why Iowa matters, and does it matter as you're really trying to look for the general election. This is what he wrote: "Since the 2000 contest, a succession of socially moderate Republican contenders have chosen to largely bypass the caucus, concluding that it is so dominated by religiously devout voters. ...
"Fergus Cullen, the former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman, [argued] publicly what many GOP presidential strategists have privately concluded in recent years: Iowa's caucus has become so tilted toward social conservatives that it has become `an evangelical primary.' ...
"This makes the third consecutive ... cycle in which candidates with moderate records on some social issues are competing half-heartedly or not at all in the caucus." Is this a much narrower judge of who the nominee is?
GOV. BRANSTAD: No. Here's the problem. If you bypass Iowa, you've missed the first opportunity and, and, as has already been said, because of what's happened here with the straw poll, you now have it down to basically three top tier candidates. And if you consider yourself a top tier candidate and don't compete here, look what happened to Rudy Giuliani. Never got off the ground because he didn't compete in Iowa.
MR. GREGORY: So what is your message to Mitt Romney today?
GOV. BRANSTAD: He's got to come and campaign aggressively. He made a mistake by not participating in the straw poll. Last time he put a lot of energy and effort into the straw poll, won the straw poll, but what happened was Huckabee exceeded expectations, and he then parlayed that into winning the caucuses. This time, you're going to have Perry get into it, Michele Bachmann won the straw poll, so it's important for Romney to get here and compete. If he gets blown out in Iowa, I think he's in real trouble.
MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, big picture. What does this all mean?
MR. MIKE MURPHY: Well, I think two huge things happened yesterday. At 1:00, Rick Perry getting in, even though he wasn't here--it was like he picked this whole building up and dropped it 20 feet--changed everything, especially for Mitt Romney. Because now Romney can see a path in Iowa. Last time Romney, plus McCain, plus Fred Thompson, got more than half the caucus vote. So it's going to be a really tough call for Romney now. Does he get in here because he's got to stop Perry somewhere? If Perry comes out of here strong--a lot of ifs, we don't know how he'll perform--but if he hits his speed, Mitt may be able to beat him in New Hampshire, but then he's got South Carolina and Florida going. So all the strategies have changed.
I think the final point I'd make is it is clear anybody who doesn't think the economy is a huge thing in politics, it is really hurting President Obama, we see it in his poll numbers, and it is bringing a populist anger to the Republican Primary that you're starting to see in activist events like this, which old Republican pragmatists like me wonder, are we going to nominate our own McGovern, or are we going to nominate somebody who can win a general election? And that's unclear.
MR. GREGORY: Jonathan Martin, let me get reaction about this Pawlenty news. I mean, everybody was saying last night, "Look, if he can't win here in the straw poll...
MR. JONATHAN MARTIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...a non-binding vote, is he a viable candidate?" Boy, he answered that question fast. He's out.
MR. MARTIN: It was a pragmatic issue, David. The money simply wasn't there. He spent what he had in the days leading up to Ames. He was out of cash, he couldn't go forward. I think a few things have to happen here now for Romney to play in Iowa. The first thing was Pawlenty had to get out. He did. The next couple of things are, is Sarah Palin going to run? If she's here in Iowa and you've got Bachmann, Palin and Perry, that's going to make it awfully tempting for Romney to get in here because then he can come in, and with Pawlenty gone, be one of the few mainstream candidates to appeal to this sort of center right of the party here. And I think the third thing is, can Bachmann hold up? If Romney sees Bachmann holding up here over the next couple of months, Perry playing here strong, and Palin in this race, Iowa's going to be really tempting for Mitt.
MR. MURPHY: But this is personal because, if one of them melts down, this is the problem for Mitt and he's in a two-way race with a Christian conservative here, either Bachmann or Perry...
MR. ROBINSON: (Unintelligible)
MR. MURPHY: ...then the front-runners...
MR. GREGORY: Can I just get--I want to get Gene in there with initial--also initial reaction to Congresswoman Bachmann here this morning.
MR. ROBINSON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. You know, she is a really interesting candidate. She stays on message.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. ROBINSON: She often doesn't answer your question. She gives the answer she's prepared to give. She has exceeded expectations. She has surprised a lot of people by getting this far. She is going to drive Perry and Romney crazy during this whole process.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. ROBINSON: And you don't cut her out. But, you know, back up for a second.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah, yeah.
MR. ROBINSON: Look at, look at this from the White House perspective. They just had a terrible week. They had a, they had a lousy couple, a lousy couple of weeks, in fact, with the economy going crazy and everything. And do they think have a tougher campaign ahead of them today after the straw poll than they did a couple of days ago? No, they don't.
MR. MARTIN: They're thrilled. Yeah.
MR. ROBINSON: They actually probably are fairly pleased because...
MR. GREGORY: Why? Why, Chuck? Why so...
GOV. BRANSTAD: I think if that's their attitude...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
GOV. BRANSTAD: ...they're dead wrong. Iowans are fired up about changing this administration because Iowans hate debt. This administration has driven us deep into debt. I think that's why Bachmann did well because she's a tax attorney, she understands that you can't borrow your way to prosperity. Remember, all five Iowa congressmen, both senators voted against increasing the national debt.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. BRANSTAD: All of them, Republicans and Democrats...
MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, but here's the problem with this...
GOV. BRANSTAD: ...for different reasons.
MR. GREGORY: I know, but, Governor--Jon, I want to have you...
GOV. BRANSTAD: But also jobs is the number one issue, and the president has failed on that. We have 9.2 percent unemployment in this country. People are--that's the number one issue.
MR. GREGORY: But look, but wait a minute, you're going to get into a general election and voters are going to ask a question, this is a, a, a candidate for president in Bachmann who said, "Look, the public didn't want the debt ceiling raised. I'm reflecting the public." And it's true, the polls said don't raise the debt ceiling. But that's why we have representatives of the people who also balance in some of the other costs to the country if you don't do that.
MR. TODD: I, I have to say, I think you know, Thursday--one of the things that happened Thursday night is I think, short-term, she got the best of Pawlenty, clearly, and it helped her here, and it got her supporters fired up. I think Tim Pawlenty, though, put her--exposed some positions of hers, particularly on this debt ceiling. And you were questioning her on this. First of all, a majority of the House Republicans, a majority of the freshmen Republicans, do not share the view that she has on the debt ceiling. It is a view that is way outside the, arguably, the mainstream of the House Republican conference.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. TODD: And so I think she's going to have a hard time. You know, her whole--her whole direction in this campaign is to try to mainstream herself. Right?
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. TODD: Most of the candidates are moving to the right. She's actually really trying to say, "Look, I'm not what--I'm not the caricature. I'm not a stereotype. I can be pragmatic. I can be mainstream." She even uses the words all the time hoping that it connects there.
MR. ROBINSON: May I interject? One thing...
MR. TODD: But I think this debt ceiling thing is going to put her...
MR. ROBINSON: Just--David...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Go ahead, Gene.
MR. ROBINSON: This one fact, one fact, she, she always says she was a tax attorney. She worked for the IRS. So let's--let--I mean let's be more specific about that. It sounds as if she's fighting the IRS.
MR. GREGORY: All right. But still talking about Bachmann, Mr. Murphy, I just want to remind you of your prior statements.
MR. MURPHY: Absolutely. Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Back in April, you, you blogged about the prospects for Congresswoman Bachmann getting the nomination, and I'll put it up on the screen. You wrote, "I think Bachmann's chances of landing in Jupiter are higher than her chances of being nominated." Is that still your view?
MR. MURPHY: I still think exactly that. She is not going to be nominated, and she's not going to be president of the United States. And three weeks from now in Iowa, if you like Michele Bachmann, you're going to love Rick Perry. Because now there's another cheeseburger on the menu with some Texas hot sauce. He's a governor, and he's got the best first sentence in American politics which is, "I created one-third of the jobs in America in the last two years." His problem is, the second sentence is they're all at Burger King or the government created them, which could be a headache in the general election where I think he's a weak candidate. But in the primary, you look at Texas, what he did to Kay Bailey Hutchinson 20 points down. This guy is a barracuda, he's going to eat her for lunch.
MR. GREGORY: And, Jonathan, I want to get...
GOV. BRANSTAD: Jobs is the number one issue.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
GOV. BRANSTAD: And let's not forget that. And Iowans and Americans are concerned that the president's solution is more taxes and more spending, and it scares business to death.
MR. GREGORY: Well, well, what's the Republican solution?
GOV. BRANSTAD: Well, it's get rid of Obamacare because it's causing uncertainty and driving up the costs for business. Cut the corporate income tax. When I was governor before, we were getting all kinds of jobs out of Canada and the Canadian dollar was weak, now the Canadian dollar is strong. The Canadian government has reduced their corporate income tax to 18 percent, it's going to 15 percent. They're--I've, I've had companies that I've called on in Chicago to come to Iowa, said, "We like Iowa, but if they don't change the federal corporate income tax we're probably going to go to Canada." Now that's a tragedy when now Canada is beating us...
MR. ROBINSON: But you see, they've discovered...
GOV. BRANSTAD: ...and they have a stronger--and also, their financial system is stronger, too, because they've been more conservative in the way they've handled loans in the past.
MR. MURPHY: But they--the question about parity, though, is this...
MR. ROBINSON: But they found--they, they discovered massive amounts of oil in Canada, though. That has a lot to do with the Canadian economy.
GOV. BRANSTAD: We have, too! We have, too! And, and, and the Obama administration won't let us use it!
MR. GREGORY: All right.
GOV. BRANSTAD: My gosh, in North Dakota, in, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio they've got gas...
MR. GREGORY: Jonathan...
MR. MURPHY: You ought to run.
GOV. BRANSTAD: ...and oil we can't use!
MR. MARTIN: Wow.
MR. GREGORY: Hold on. Jonathan Martin, Jonathan Martin, on, on Rick Perry...
MR. MARTIN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: We spoke to Bob Schuman, who's running his, his super PAC, aligned with Perry, and I caught up with him yesterday on the grounds here and asked him about what would make him so formidable. This is what he said.
MR. BOB SCHUMAN: He's America's senior governor. I think he is the kind of guy that can appeal to social conservatives, fiscal conservatives. He got 39 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas last time around. I think he has broad appeal there--entrepreneurs, businessmen, blue-collar workers. I think he's a different kind of Republican, has a much broader appeal than some of the guys we've nominated recently.
MR. GREGORY: That's what they said about the last Texas governor who became president, a different kind of Republican. Does it hold here?
MR. MARTIN: And therein lies Perry's challenge. He has a great first sentence, as Mike says, best job creator in the country. The broader problem, though, is this, can he get to that message. Can voters in suburban Philadelphia, suburban Columbus, Milwaukee, can they even hear the jobs message, David, because they're so struck by the culture, by the Texas persona. I think he's going to have to really focus on trying to sort of dial back some of that west Texas swagger, some of that Texas A&M persona, because he's never going to get to his jobs message if the suburbanites can't get past the cowboy boots.
MR. GREGORY: Chuck, you cover the White House day in and day out and, and on this program we've been talking about it for almost three years, the defining debate in this campaign is an ideological debate, it's a philosophical debate, it's about the role of government in our lives, particularly in a distressed economy. And what did you hear here on this stage and from Rick Perry yesterday? Let me give you just a flavor.
Former GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): Mr. President, get the government off our backs!
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): I promise you this, I'll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.
MR. GREGORY: I mean, again, this is the debate, get government off our back, or government is part of the solution.
MR. TODD: I, I couldn't believe Washington, D.C., is inconsequential, the capital of the country is inconsequential. I understand the message he's trying to send, but that seemed a little bit bold of a sentence. But I want to go back to something in the White House. They do seem trapped. They wanted to be that campaign.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. TODD: The, the question is going to be, is it going to be about the economy or is it going to be about a debate about government? If it's a debate about government, I think they actually think they will win this argument. You look at, at where the public is on this and narrowly as the economy gets worse, they want a little more government involvement to, to, to solve these problems. The Republican message, though, is "Channel your anger. You're upset, you don't have control over your life, channel it at Washington." That's a, that's a race that they think they can win.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. TODD: The, the problem for them is if it turns into a jobs...
MR. GREGORY: But, Gene, Gene...
GOV. BRANSTAD: I think you're wrong. I...
MR. GREGORY: ...listen to the president, Gene, from his radio address yesterday where he's not really making the case about the role of government, he's beginning to cast conservative Republicans as obstructionists. This was the radio address yesterday.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We can't let partisan brinksmanship get in our way. The idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right, that's what's holding us back. The fact that some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than see America win.
MR. GREGORY: Is this the playbook?
MR. ROBINSON: Well, I, I think that is the playbook, and I think the Republicans just kind of wrote it for President Obama basically with the debt ceiling.
MR. MURPHY: Well, they--here's...
MR. ROBINSON: I mean--well, you know--well, The Washington Post had a, had a poll at, at the end of last week and showed nobody came out of that debt ceiling fight looking good. But the Republicans came out looking worse than the president did. So...
GOV. BRANSTAD: You cannot get elected president of the United States by not providing leadership. He had, he had a bipartisan commission that recommended they do something about the debt; he had an opportunity with the State of the Union, failed to do so. I don't think the president of the United States can win by blaming the Congress and blaming everybody else.
MR. GREGORY: But here's...
GOV. BRANSTAD: The fact is, he's been the president, they've racked up the biggest debt in our states--in our nation's history and business--private sector business is scared to death to invest. Republican governors were elected all across this upper Midwest in the last election, and what are they doing? They're providing leadership, they're getting their states' financial house in order, and they're focusing on jobs.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Mike.
MR. MURPHY: Now that's, that's all true, but what's really going on here is the president is playing general election politics, and we are in the hub, the atomic center, right here, of the Republican primary. I could have got 1,000 people yesterday to sign a petition against algebra. So this, this isn't even the Republican primary, this isn't even the caucus, this is 11 percent of the caucus...
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. MURPHY: ...which is half the primary. So we got to be a little careful of treating last night like election night.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. MURPHY: This was the natural Serengeti for Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. That's why a regular like Tim Pawlenty got killed.
MR. GREGORY: So let me ask you this, because I--the--one of the big questions I have it what is the Republican primary voter going to do? And, J. Martin...
MR. MARTIN: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...you cover this day in and day out. This is what John Weaver said as John Heilemann reported in New York magazine a piece about Romney and Huntsman.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: I'll put it up on the screen. "Like many analysts, [Huntsman adviser John] Weaver sees the nomination contest as a tournament with two brackets - the establishment bracket and the populist tea-party bracket - in which the winners of each will ultimately face off in the final round. In the establishment bracket, Weaver places only Huntsman and Romney, `and if we win our bracket,'" he says, "`we win the nomination,' he declares, `because in our party, the winner of that bracket always wins [the big prize]. Always.'" Is 2012 the year that stands out on its head?
MR. MARTIN: Well, that's the central question hanging over the race, is this your father's GOP? If it is, then Weaver is right, and the GOP will nominate whoever is next in line. That appears to be Romney. But here's why I think Perry could be that bracket buster because he can appeal to sort of both wings, he can do the establishment's side, governor of one of the biggest states in the country for 10 years, but also he was tea party before it was cool. So I think Perry has the possibility--and we'll see, it's still early yet--to appeal to sort of both of those wings. And he, I think, could be formidable because of that. But look, there is no question if, if Romney sees a, a path here in Iowa and can come here and win in a plurality, go to New Hampshire, that could end this race pretty fast.
MR. TODD: He has to.
MR. MURPHY: He's the silent...
MR. TODD: Because you know what, if he doesn't, this race right now is destined to go to June. And while when you say this, a lot of Republicans are realizing this, the calendar, there's lots of reasons why, it's actually more likely to go all the way to the end than not, the new rules and all this stuff. And you have Republicans say, "Oh, it was good for, for Hillary and Obama." But the difference between Hillary and Obama, they weren't having a race to the left all the way to June, and then suddenly Candidate Obama had to lurch back to the middle for, for four months. The fear when you talk to these smart Republicans, Mike Murphy, is that it is a, it is a race to the right all the way to June, and then it's this lurch for four months.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah.
MR. TODD: It's tough.
MR. MURPHY: How do you come back--the long march. It could happen, those proportional primaries, you're right, are a huge deal. But see, Perry's interesting because I believe in that silo rule, too, but Perry is a silo jumper, which means he can perform here...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. MURPHY: ...and he might be able to--like Huckabee--they're rare--might be able to run the table. And that's a problem. Because I don't know a senior experienced real consultant in the party who's actually done races who doesn't think that Perry is a super serious candidate for the nomination and a weak candidate in the general election. So I'm not so worried about Bachmann. I don't know if the Perry thing is, even with Obama's weaknesses, would have worked for us this year. But in a primary he could be very tough.
MR. GREGORY: All right, I got to, I got to get in here, we got to take a quick break. We'll be back with our Trends & Takeaway segment, a look at what was said here today, what to look for in the week ahead. Plus, what are the hot political stories trending this very morning? That's right after this quick break, and we're back with our panel.
MR. GREGORY: We are back with more from our roundtable. We want to go to our Trend Tracker, the top stories trending this morning. And you can imagine, we've been talking about it, the Ames straw poll and the results here, Rick Perry's announcement, and the future of the Pawlenty campaign, which is no future. He is out of the race. We've talked about it, and I was the first one to be able to talk to Congresswoman Bachmann about that news and get her reaction. This is what she said:
REP. BACHMANN: I'll be calling him today to, to wish him well. And he brought a very important voice to the race. I have a lot of respect for the governor, I know the governor, we've known each other many years. And I'm grateful that he was in. He's a very good competitor.
MR. GREGORY: Do you--will you seek his endorsement at this point?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, I'll talk to the governor and, and I'll wish him well. A lot of happened in the last 24 hours.
MR. GREGORY: Mike, will his endorsement matter? Will he be any factor for her in Iowa?
MR. MURPHY: Well, I think the chances of, of Pawlenty, a longtime enemy, endorsing Michele Bachmann, who got in the middle of his dream here, are the same of me flapping my wings and flying to Jupiter myself. It ain't going to happen. He'll probably be with Perry or with Romney. And he's a smart Paul, he could have gone all the way, but he had trouble in the primary.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We asked on Facebook what the impact would be of Governor Perry of Texas getting in the race, and we got some interesting responses. Kevin C. writes this: "There's going to be a lot of noise associated with him, but he's too big of a target for the Democrats." Jonathan, why?
MR. MARTIN: I talked to some top Democrats last night. They were thrilled, David, at the votes that Perry got here. They're excited because of the culture factor, because of the fact that he, he looks the part of that swaggering Texan, and they think that could help divert from, obviously, the economic challenges the president has. If they can make this less of a referendum, more of a choice, make it more about the opponent's views, their persona, they have a better chance to get re-elected.
MR. GREGORY: Let me quickly--Todd--Chuck?
MR. TODD: I have one number for you, 26. Twenty-six consecutive years he's help elective office. That means there's a lot of oppo, a lot of votes, a lot of everything.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah, right. All right.
Let me go to the week ahead here because it's quite interesting for the politicians on the trail. Michele Bachmann is going to be in Waterloo, where she was born. She'll be going to a dinner there tonight, then she's on to South Carolina. Governor Perry, he's at the same dinner in Waterloo tonight, rather interesting. He'll be in Iowa here early part of the week and then back to New Hampshire, trying to straddle both ends of the party there. Romney to New Hampshire, where he'll make his big claim. President Obama is on his bus tour here in Iowa. That begins here tomorrow.
Very interesting, Gene Robinson. If you look at the gyrations on Wall Street this week, the weak economy, the debt contagion in Europe, this is the backdrop for this political race. How vulnerable is the president right now, who I'm sure is quite pleased it's August of 2011 and not August 2012?
MR. ROBINSON: Exactly. That's, that's the whole point. He's--if this has to happen, he'd rather it happen now than have it a year from now. You know, let's see how the economy develops. But there's clearly vulnerability now. He hopes it'll get better.
MR. GREGORY: All right. I've got to leave it there.
GOV. BRANSTAD: The president's in trouble in the Midwest.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
GOV. BRANSTAD: He's in trouble because of jobs and because of this debt.
MR. GREGORY: All right. I got to go. Thank you all very much. A terrific conversation.
Before we go, we want to extend a special thank you to our hosts here at the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State. And now that the 2012 political season is in full swing, we want to remind you to visit our Facebook page throughout the campaign and in the run-up to our MEET THE PRESS Facebook debate that I'll be moderating in New Hampshire the Sunday before that all-important primary there. Post your ideas and suggestions on our wall. That's facebook.com/meetthepress.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's the political season, if it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.