MR. DAVID GREGORY: This morning on MEET THE Press, just one month until Election Day. Has the race taken a new turn? What a difference a debate makes?
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MR. MITT ROMNEY: Mister President, you’re entitled as a president your own airplane and to your own house but not to your own facts.
GREGORY: Romney delivers. The president tries to recover.
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA: When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.
GREGORY: The economy is again the central focus as new jobs numbers drop the unemployment rate below eight percent.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’ve made too much progress to return to the policies that led to the crisis in the first place.
GREGORY: A sign of recovery just as voters head to the polls. We cover it all this morning. The policy fights emerging from the debate and the politics. What does the debate reveal about these two men?
Plus, a preview of the vice presidential debate this coming week. This morning, a special panel. Joining us, Obama campaign senior adviser, Robert Gibbs; former Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich; Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen; Republican strategist, Mike Murphy; and NBC’s chief White House correspondent and political director, Chuck Todd.
And finally, what you haven’t heard from Arnold Schwarzenegger this week--a revealing conversation with the former California governor. He talks politics and his personal failings.
What would you like your sons to learn from your mistakes?
FMR. GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA; Author, Total Recall): I think that they’re not going to make the same mistakes.
ANNOUNCER: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
GREGORY: And good morning. One month ago and so much to get to, I want to get right to our special roundtable discussion this morning, anchored by our own mini debate. Joining me this mor-- morning, former White House press secretary, now senior adviser for the Obama campaign Robert Gibbs; former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich; rounding out our special panel this morning, Republican strategist and columnist for Time magazine Mike Murphy; Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen; and our own political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, who just can’t wait for new polls to see where we are. Is this race in a different place and we’ll get to that as the hour rolls on. We have the debate to talk about, we have to look ahead, but we also have the reminder, Speaker Gingrich, that this is really about the economy. New jobs numbers come out on Friday. Are they a game changer in some ways in terms of how people perceive the economy? This is The Washington Post front page. Certainly not something that the Romney team wanted to see. The line graph showing 7.8 percent unemployment when Obama takes office in January 2009. Here we are in September of 2012. Lowest since he took office. Does this change anything?
NEWT GINGRICH (Fmr. Republican Presidential Candidate): Sure. I think-- I think it was a significant help to the president. Imagine it came out at 8.2 following that debate. I mean people would have entered this weekend saying, well, that’s close to the end. So I think it’s-- it’s part of this whole process. This campaign is going to go down to the end, I think. It’s going to be one of the most interesting campaigns in American history. And I think you’re going to see it go back and forth some over the next week. On the other hand, Friday, the International Monetary Fund said probably no recovery until 2018.
GREGORY: And it is…
MR. GINGRICH: And that’s a very sobering number.
GREGORY: Robert Gibbs, it is particularly weak. I mean look, you have 40 percent of those who have been out of work, out of work for six months or longer. This is a weak economic recovery.
ROBERT GIBBS (Senior Adviser, Obama for America): Well, it’s a stronger economic recovery in terms of jobs produced than we saw coming out of the 2001 recession. And the important thing, David, is we continue to make progress--31 consecutive months now of private sector job growth. Certainly we are not where we want to be. It has taken us as you saw from that graphic four years to dig out of this enormous hole that we were in. And the question going forward is, how are we going to rebuild that economy from the middle out? How are we going to make sure that folks have hope and opportunity, a good education, we bring back some of these manufacturing jobs and continue on this path to progress.
GREGORY: There is a reality that on the campaign stump, Mitt Romney has been denied a line that he’s been relying on when it comes to 8 percent unemployment, which was a significant marker. This is how he’s been talking about it this fall.
MR. ROMNEY: We’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.
(September 7, 2012): He said that he’d create jobs, and instead we have unemployment now still over eight percent for 43 straight months.
GREGORY: The symbolism, Mike Murphy, is there for everyone to see. You know, you get below eight percent it matters to a lot.
MIKE MURPHY (Republican Strategist): Well, yeah. Well, it’s-- it becomes a good political club for the Obama folks. But fundamentally, I don’t think America woke up and said, hey, everything is fixed. You know, we feel great. You can still see that economic worries-- the quote, the words of the great vice president, “The middle class has been buried for four years.” So Romney still has a jobs campaign. I think what’s changed in the campaign is not statistics out of D.C. I think we can make a lot of that.
MR. MURPHY: It’s perception out there in the states of what people think.
GREGORY: But that’s actually been a great point, Chuck, right? Well, you’re seeing people feel better about the economy…
MR. MURPHY: Right track is getting a little better.
CHUCK TODD (Political Director, NBC News): Well, and-- and especially in certain places like in Ohio, like Virginia where the economy has performed better than the national average. But, you know, it-- it is this, you know, the-- the Obama campaign, that their belief in this, has been since the-- sort of Bill Clinton explanation of-- of digging out of this hole, has been that ultimately that last sliver of swing voters is going to say, okay, let’s not change horses in midstream, right?. They’re-- they’re making a classic incumbent case of saying, it’s not great, but, hey, do you want to start over? And I-- and I go back, I remember watching a couple of focus groups. There was one out in Nevada with some working women. And this one woman said, I’m not happy with Obama. I’m not happy with the economy. But, God, I don’t want to have to start over.
MR. TODD: There’s this perception. And so that to me is a tricky thing for Romney, right? Romney has got to sort of make this case that, hey, we’re not going to-- we’re not going to rip everything out by the roots, right, which is of course what some in his base do want to have happen. But I’m going to create a better recovery, a faster recovery. And so I think that that’s-- that’s what this eight percent means, right? It means he’s got to be more nuanced in that argument where the president can simply sit there and make that same case--do you really want to start over?
HILARY ROSEN (Democratic strategist): Yeah. And there’s another point too, which is that for the-- for the wealthy, life has been pretty good over the last several years. You know, the stock market’s doubled. CEO pay is way up. You know, the long-term unemployed, and-- and those jobs that were lost under the Bush administration that President Obama has restored in manufacturing and the like, the-- the key number for them is, who do I trust to take my long-term unemployment needs, my middle class family’s needs, to the next level? So, you know, I-- I think that the combination of people just trusting President Obama more, if you’re-- if you’re middle class, and that he has delivered on what he said he would in terms of getting us out of this hole…
GREGORY: Murphy-- Murphy doesn’t buy that.
MS. ROSEN: …is a-- is a powerful combination.
MR. MURPHY: Well, no, no, no, no, that-- that’s their message. But I think we’re missing the biggest thing that’s happened in the campaign. I mean, economic statistics out of Washington is one thing, but 80 million people finally got an unfiltered look at Mitt Romney, and they liked what they saw. And I predict you’re going to see credible polls this week showing significant movement in the swing states and a much closer race than we’ve had. That’s the big factor right now.
MR. GINGRICH: You know, let me put this in a different format, because we all sit in Washington and get all these numbers. The average American goes outside and says, okay, 600,000 part-time jobs, 114,000 full-time jobs, gasoline the highest in history. Do I feel better? Or in the real world, can my cousin still not find work? In the real world, is every small business in my neighborhood still stressed? And I think the reason Obama has never been able to pull away, even when Romney had two pretty bad weeks, is that in the end there’s this rubber band effect where that they go, well, I’d almost like to give him another shot, but this is really frightening and really painful.
MS. ROSEN: Well, nobody is ever going to pull away in this…
MR. GIBBS: But-- but let’s be clear…
MS. ROSEN: …in this political system. So that’s never going to happen. It-- we always knew this was going to be close.
MR. TODD: No, I disagree. I think they could have-- he could have, there was a…
GREGORY: There was a moment.
MR. TODD: …if-- if there was-- there was a moment to pull away, and the only thing that snaps it back is this feeling of things aren’t…
MR. GIBBS: The race-- the race was always going to be close. I don’t think anybody would deny that. But let’s be clear. Let’s look at where we’ve come, right? 800,000 jobs were being lost the first time the president read the unemployment report. I know these are just statistics for people in Washington. That’s real lives in America. 31 consecutive months of positive job growth. Are we growing as fast as we’d like to? No. But it takes a long time to dig out of this avalanche of tremendously bad decisions that preceded the Obama presidency. And let’s understand this, one thing they saw in the debate was clear, Mitt Romney’s plan is to go back to a failed economic theory of tax cuts for the very rich, despite the fact that he denied the existence of tax cuts or the existence of math. The notion that let’s go to war on Wall Street-- go to war with Sesame Street but give Wall Street a big wet kiss. That’s exactly what got us into this mess. That’s what we spent four years digging out.
MR. MURPHY: That’s not what they saw. That’s really not what they saw. I mean, I-- I get the interpretation, you’ve got a campaign to win, but what they saw was one guy who seemed to be someone they’d seen before. He shattered the-- the fiction of the advertising. He was a guy brimming with new ideas and energy. And then they saw president of the United States who was sleepwalking…
MR. GIBBS: Mike, I don’t disagree that it was-- I don’t…
MR. MURPHY: But let me-- let me just finish quickly.
MR. GIBBS: Yeah.
MR. MURPHY: That tired contrast, I think rang a bell. People said, you know what? Romney’s got ideas, and the president, there’s no vision for his second term. And that’s where I think where he hurt him.
MR. GIBBS: Mike, I don’t doubt that this was somebody they’d never seen before. Quite frankly, I think there were people on the Romney campaign that had never seen this candidate. I mean, this was a guy, a week ago, Paul Ryan was asked to explain the math of a 4.8 trillion dollar tax cut. And, you know what he said? I don’t have time. During the debate, Mitt Romney said, we-- we just don’t do math. Like, math doesn’t exist. But-- but hold on, let me finish my point.
MR. MURPHY: Go ahead. Go ahead.
MR. GIBBS: I mean, you simply cannot wish away the existence of your entire campaign platform.
MR. MURPHY: He’s not doing that.
MR. GIBBS: As inconvenient-- as inconvenient as it may be when somebody says to you, okay, if you’re going to reduce revenue by 4.8 trillion dollars, you’re not going to tell us one loophole that you’d close, you’re not going to run up the deficit and you’re not going to run up taxes on the middle class.
MR. GIBBS: It goes back to Bill Clinton--
MR. MURPHY: Washington Post’s top economic reporter has a story out yesterday. It says that claim is fiction because you guys don’t count the loophole closing.
MR. GIBBS: Name one loophole that he said he'd close?
MR. MURPHY: And the hilarity here…
GREGORY: All right.
MR. MURPHY: He' talked about mortgage interest, he's talked about-- very quickly the hilarity--
MR. GIBBS: He’s talked about mortgage interest?
MR. MURPHY: If you let me talk.
MS. ROSEN: He’s never talked about that.
MR. MURPHY: The hilarity-- of course he has.
MR. GIBBS: You do not have one loophole that-- have one loophole…
GREGORY: All right. Mike, finish, but I’m going to pull back from this, I want to get back to--
MR. MURPHY: The hilarity of this is the president says he wants to lower tax rates for big corporations. How do you pay for it? I’m going to close loopholes. What loopholes? Nothing. Tell you after the election. You’re attacking Romney for doing exactly with your candidate is doing.
GREGORY: Let me pull back for a second because I want to stick to the-- the economy also gas prices. One thing that was striking about the debate over the jobs numbers, speaker Gingrich, was-- was some in-- in conservative corners were arguing about the actual numbers. Jack Welch made a lot of headlines with a tweet that said, unbelievable jobs numbers, the Chicago guys will do anything, can’t debate so that they change the numbers without any substantiation, he was on hardball with Chris Matthews and this is how he explained what was behind that analysis. Watch.
JACK WELCH: I’ve reviewed fourteen businesses this week, from restaurants to rental cars to widgets. I have seen everybody with a-- a third quarter equal to or weaker than the first quarter. In order to get eight hundred and seventy-three thousand new jobs, you would have to have a GDP going at four to five percent. The second quarter was downgraded from 1.7 to 1.3.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I know.
JACK WELCH: The third quarter is not going to be very strong. It just defies the imagination to have a surge larger than any surge since 1983 a month before the election. I leave it to you to do all the analysis.
GREGORY: One of the most important CEOs in America, formerly of General Electric. Does this ring true to you, speaker?
MR. GINGRICH: Well, it-- it rings true at a deeper level without getting into the conspiracy of the-- the bureau of labor standards. Actually since it’s a survey, it’s just outside the statistical bounds of their survey, which is plausible but irrelevant. What’s interesting is you have a president who after four years, and by the way, his last budget got zero votes in the U.S. Senate, not a single Democrat voted for his last budget. So you have a president of the United States so deeply distrusted by people like Jack Welch who’s hardly a right winger. I mean, well, he’s one of the most successful businessmen in America. But Welch instantaneously assumes this is the Chicago issue. I’m just-- it’s worth looking at it.
MR. TODD: Stop here. This has been-- this is really making me crazy. The Federal Reserve gets questioned out for politics these days, the Supreme Court and John Roberts. We have got-- we have corroded-- what we’re doing, we are corroding trust in our government in a way and one-time responsible people are doing to-- to-- to control it. And the idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch, rich people with crazy conspiracies can get traction on this is a-- is a-- is a-- is a bad trend.
MR. GIBBS: I assume, David-- I assume, David, there’s a number of people that believe the real unemployment report is somewhere in a safe in Nairobi with the President’s Kenyan birth certificate. I mean this stuff is absolutely crazy. The notion-- and the notion, quite frankly, that somebody as well respected as Jack Welch would go on television and singlehandedly embarrass himself for the entire day of Friday by saying somehow that these statistics are made up, I agree with Chuck, it’s incredibly dangerous and we wonder why institutions in this country are-- the perception of institutions in this country are failing because people go on TV and just make stuff up. Asked for evidence, he said he had none.
MS. ROSEN: Well, and by the way, the Bush's head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics came out after Jack Welch did and said there is no way this could be. These guys are not influencing. It’s not possible.
MR. TODD: When did you stop beating your wife?
MR. GINGRICH: No, no. You guys-- you guys are missing the whole point. The reason people are losing…
MR. GIBBS: I knew he was going to say that.
MR. GINGRICH: …the reason people are losing respect for Washington is they’re losing respect for Washington. It’s not some Jack right-wing crazy thing. I don’t know a single small businessman or woman who believes that the next four years under Obama will be good. I don’t know a single small businessman or woman who expects to hire a lot more people if Obama wins the election. I mean I-- I travel a lot. These are not conspiracy theories. These are not right-wingers. These are people who get up everyday and they look at what are they going to have to pay in taxes, what’s the cost of their health insurance going to be, what’s the market going to be like? And-- and they are all-- all overwhelming-- look at the national federation of independent businesses, they go out and survey their members.
GREGORY: I have to-- I want to bring this-- advance this from the economy to the aftermath of the debate. The-- the new cover of The New Yorker gets a laugh and makes a serious point at the same time as we put it up on the screen. And that is Governor Mitt Romney debating a chair, Eastwood-ing in effect. Robert Gibbs, before I get Hilary’s take on this simple question, what happened? This couldn’t have been the game plan for this president to go in and by all accounts underperform against a guy whose back was against the wall, who faced a make or break debate.
MR. GIBBS: Look, David, it’s not rocket science to believe that the president was disappointed in-- in-- the expectations that he has for himself. But, look, I-- I think part of that was because as I said earlier, we met a new Mitt Romney. We met a Mitt Romney that wanted to walk away from the central theory of his economic plan, which is his tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut that’s 4.8 trillion or five trillion dollars. I’m not going to cut taxes on-- on the rich. I-- I don’t have a Medicare voucher plan. I-- I love teachers. I think we need more of them. I mean, look, don’t believe me. Speaker Gingrich was pretty eloquent in running during the primaries and saying, look, Mitt Romney will say absolutely anything to get elected. And if somebody says absolutely anything to get elected, you have to wonder what they’re going to say when they’re president of the United States.
GREGORY: Speaker, you did say he was fundamentally dishonest we-- after debating him in the course of the primaries on the issues that he felt. So, this is not a new attack against Romney policy.
MR. GINGRICH: No, I think that-- that the challenge for the Obama people is pretty simple. The president of the United States had ninety minutes. Now, if he had done his homework, if he’d actually prepared, if he had-- if he had actually studied Romney, why didn’t he say it? I mean, why didn’t he take Romney head on? You know, first of all, the charges on the tax cuts are just plain wrong, and I think virtually every analyst has said and even-- even your dep-- deputy campaign manager said…
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, well let…
MR. GINGRICH: …the charges he has made are wrong.
GREGORY: But-- but…
MR. GINGRICH: But-- but forgetting that for a second, the job of the president is supposed to be-- to be competent and to be able to stand up for what he believes in and to be able to articulate what’s wrong. Mitt Romney walked over him. And, I mean, it’s just funny that the Eastwood now-- just-- just as Mister Green, I paid for this microphone was one of Ronald Reagan’s breakthrough moments, the weird moment with Eastwood on an empty chair may turn out to be symbolic of the first debate.
GREGORY: I want to…
MR. GIBBS: But…
GREGORY: Let me just get Hilary respond to it because the-- the issue of the taxes alone, the big knock against Governor Romney here is that he walks away from a five-trillion-dollar tax cut plan. He assumes that tax cuts for growth and make the math work, Simpson-Bowles says his math doesn’t add up.
MS. ROSEN: Right.
GREGORY: That something has to give.
MS. ROSEN: Right.
GREGORY: You either explode the deficit, raise middle class tax cuts, something has to give which is I think the point that Robert would make.
MS. ROSEN: Something has to give. And we just heard Mike say that maybe the thing that gives us mortgage interest deduc-- deduction, the single most important thing to middle-class American families. And-- that’s going to be-- and we’ll get to this later-- that’s going to be a challenge for Paul Ryan. But, you know, I-- I think that what we’re experiencing right now and we just said it, which is that this sort of style over substance is-- is I don’t think going to overtake this race. I think you had a president who was trying to move the facts out, was facing a guy who-- who he hadn’t seen before. Either Mitt Romney is-- completely faking everything he said or he is-- is a liar…
GREGORY: But-- but Mike…
MS. ROSEN: …so it's either way, but…
GREGORY: …when-- when you say style over substance shouldn’t matter, I mean, the truth is optics are important.
MS. ROSEN: But well, I was going to go to that.
MR. MURPHY: Well-- well look style…
MR. TODD: That’s Richard Nixon in 1960.
MS. ROSEN: No, no, but wait, I was going to go to that because I-- I do think in fairness it is-- it is fair for the American people to-- who want to see their president fight for them. And the Barack Obama every day that they see on the campaign trail that the Barack Obama we saw in Wisconsin the day after the debate is a president who is fighting for them. And-- and this president has to do that in those moments…
GREGORY: Right, to-- to that-- to that point before Mike and Chuck…
MS. ROSEN: …when there are millions of people watching on TV.
GREGORY: …here is an example of the closing statement by the president that people felt was so lackluster. Watch a short clip of this.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, four years ago, I said that I’m not a perfect man, and I wouldn’t be a perfect president and that’s probably a promise that Governor Romney thinks I’ve kept.
GREGORY: Mike Murphy.
MR. MURPHY: Well, yeah. The-- the president as the speaker said, the president got a huge chunk of unfiltered television time and the-- he lost the debate because he had nothing to say. And that is the fundamental problem of the Obama campaign. They have the thinnest re-election brochure ever, very short on accomplishments, huge new national debt. None of the jobs we’ve promised. They’re now literally trying to start a parade about economic statistics and say things are now just as bad as they were when he started. What I think really worked in the debate was Romney seemed like a guy with energy and ideas and the president didn’t. So, it’s no surprise that the president’s campaign strategy is all these character attacks. If they can bury Romney, then-- then they can win no matter what…
GREGORY: But-- but…
MR. MURPHY: …Romney broke through that at debate which is what changed the race.
MS. ROSEN: Yeah.
MR. TODD: And-- and what’s important is that style has always mattered in these things….
MS. ROSEN: Yeah.
MR. TODD: …It is sort of that feel that you get for a candidate whether it was Kennedy-Nixon, whether it was Carter-Ford, whether it was Reagan-Carter. We can go through it time and again. When Reagan lost the first debate, Mondale looked like he had energy. He looked like he had ideas and Reagan looked listless. So, yeah, you know, that-- that is one thing I guess the Obama people can say, well, you know, we’ve seen other…
MR. TODD: …Bush and Reagan had bad first debates. They recovered. It’s recoverable because there are more debates. But this was bad. And-- and his own supporters-- I went to this Denver rally.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah.
MR. TODD: To a person, they were like, what was that? What was this guy? And they were your supporters, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: But, look, let-- let’s-- look, let’s dispense that with style. I don’t doubt that style was important, but let’s understand exactly-- let’s understand because I want to-- I want to drill that with-- with…
MR. GINGRICH: No, this is the president who…
MR. GIBBS: No, no…
MR. GINGRICH: …loved style-- dispensing with style.
MR. GIBBS: No, this is a president who is serious about substance and is wondering where it is that Mitt Romney went with his substance. I should-- I bought a whiteboard last night. I should have brought it. There is a 4.8 trillion dollar reduction in revenue. Okay. You-- you cut-- according to Mitt Romney’s own plan, there’s a 20 percent rate reduction from the Bush tax cuts. We’re going to end the estate tax. We’re going to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. You cannot sit here, Mister Speaker, or anybody can’t sit here and say that doesn’t require a reduction in the amount of revenue by 4.8 trillion dollars. This is math.
MR. MURPHY: I’ll say it right now. Every sector in town, moderates, liberals, everybody says here is the problem, you guys won’t give him any credit for closing loopholes because like you guys he won’t name all the loopholes while you attack him for doing it. You are attacking him for not giving the target and then you’re attacking when you get the target. The question is--
MR. GIBBS: I think that Mike is admitting that the substance doesn’t matter at all.
GREGORY: I don’t know. Let him finish. This is important. I don’t--
MR. MURPHY: If there is substance why do-- you keep bringing up substance. Let me hear some Obama substance. Your substance is always to attack Romney. That’s the whole campaign. Where was the president’s vision? If he had a couple of sharp ideas, and looked like he actually liked the job, he would have had a much better debate.
MS. ROSEN: You know, the president talked about his health care plan and then Mitt Romney all of a sudden said well, my health care plan will do the same thing.
GREGORY: But, let’s-- I want to stick to this point.
MS. ROSEN: And then he had his guy go in the spin room and say no, no, no it’s not going anywhere.
GREGORY: It doesn’t seem to me that it’s as binary as this because I do think there’s an issue here of whether something has to give. Again, you can talk about fact checkers. Simpson and Bowles, I've spoken to them specifically about and-- and Romney praises that. They say, look the math doesn’t add up. Somebody has got to give. Either you have to specify where the deductions are. But you can’t increase defense spending, extend the Bush tax cuts, do 20 percent on top of that and just say, well, no, it’s going to be okay, we’ll grow our way into it. I mean, that does raise a fair amount of scrutiny.
MR. GINGRICH: Sure. And look, I think that’s legitimate. First of all, Romney has said to the degree they can’t get the loopholes closed in Congress, he’ll reduce the tax break. That he’s going to stick to the principle. It’s going to pay for itself. Second, there’s a genuine intellectual argument over whether you should count economic growth. Simpson and Bowles don’t count economic growth. People who do, two Harvard economists came out this week and said 58 billion dollars a year higher growth. Third, Romney has an energy plan which-- which dramatically expands American oil and gas. The royalties alone are worth 750 billion dollars over the next 20 years to the federal government. Fourth, I think you got to look carefully at how Romney structures what he said is something that-- frankly, the true supply side is don’t necessarily love but it’s good politics. He said I will close enough deductions that wealthy Americans will not get a net tax cut. Now, that’s a pretty clear description.
MR. GIBBS: Right. And it’s impossible. Let me just say this. Standing on the stage with you in Arizona, this is what Mitt Romney said. Number one, I said today we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country-- across the country by 20 percent including the top one percent. Mister Speaker, you mentioned that your opponent, Mitt Romney, had a problem with being dishonest in the primary. My question is, was he dishonest when he said that?
MR. GINGRICH: I think it's clearly changed.
MR. GIBBS: We don’t disagree that he changed.
GREGORY: Let me do this. I want to get a break in. Well there’s-- there’re several different directions we’re going to keep going talking about the economy, talking about the aftermath of the debate. We want to look forward to the next debate which is Biden on-- and Ryan. We also want to go inside the numbers with Chuck Todd for a look at how the campaign is feeling good, the Romney campaign after the first debate looking at some of the enthusiasm. Later, my conversation, as I mentioned with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Much more to come with our special panel right after this.
GREGORY: Coming up next, more with our roundtable. Chuck Todd is going to go inside the numbers looking at enthusiasm in the electorate. Plus, a preview of Thursday’s vice presidential debate. The panel is here with more up next after this brief break.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Excuse me, Governor. Mister President.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I’m sorry. Yeah, yeah, what’s up?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mister President, Governor Romney has just said that he killed Osama bin Laden. Would you care to respond?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, you two go ahead.
GREGORY: Having some fun at the president’s expense here. Robert Gibbs, I want to get you on the record on this. What specifically does the president have to do better in the next debate?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I-- I think you’re going to see a-- a very engaged president that is ready and willing to call out whichever Mitt Romney shows up.
GREGORY: And you have to admit that’s not the president who showed up in the first debate.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I’m not going to take away from Mitt’s masterful, theatrical performance. He did a superb acting job. You know, he did everything but learn tactic.
GREGORY: Let me get back to Chuck Todd because one of the things that we’re measuring is waiting for polls to reflect the debate is. What you’re seeing inside the numbers about enthusiasm and its significance?
MR. TODD: Well, remember, this was before the debate. All right, let me see Wall Street Journal poll and we have a registered voter model that had the president up seven, but we had a likely voter model that had the president only up three at the time 49-46. So the question is why. What is going on that has Republicans doing better and becoming more likely voters? Well, it’s simply an enthusiasm gap. And we’re seeing it across the board. Look at here in this first one; 79 percent of Republicans call themselves extremely interested in this election. On a scale of 1 to 10, that means they say there are a 9 or 10 on interest in the election, 73 percent of Democrats-- look at four years ago. It was a 13-point gap in favor of the Democrats.
Let me go through some various voting groups. This is an important voting group. Seniors are an important voting group to Mitt Romney now. He leads them by about 10 points in our NBC Wall Street general poll. Look at this in engagement in the election. Four years ago, it was 81 percent, pretty high, even higher this time at 87 percent. And Romney is doing better among seniors than McCain did. Let me go to an important voting group for the president. Young voters. Look at this engagement level. 52 percent now that call themselves of-- of voters, 18 to 34 call themselves extremely interested in this election. Four years ago, it was 72 percent. That 20-point gap. The president wins young voters by huge margins. He is winning them by some 20-plus points. But if you don’t have this kind of enthusiasm, they’re not going to show up to the polls. And then let me give you this last one here, because this is I think the most important one and that’s Hispanics. The president is winning Hispanics by 50 points. He hit the 70 percent mark. However, look at this in terms of interest in the election. 59 percent now. It was 77 percent. What does that mean? The president got 65 percent, I believe, of the Hispanics four years ago. So even though he’s going to get more Hispanics, if less of them turn out, it’s a net zero. And yet you look at Republican enthusiasm up, senior enthusiasm up, it’s a huge problem. And by the way, all of this, pre-debate.
GREGORY: Hilary Rosen, one of the things that you’ve been talking about is the president’s record. How he runs on his record, but then how he also leans forward as well. David Brooks’ column on Friday struck me, complimentary of Governor Romney, and he wrote this about the challenge for the president. Politically, the president will have to go back to portraying Romney as a flip-flopper instead of an ideologue. Substantively, Obama will have to kindle new passion. So far, he’s seemed driven by the negative passion of stopping Republican extremism. He’ll have to develop a positive passion for something he actually wants to do do in a second term.
MS. ROSEN: Yeah. Well, I-- I think he might be right to this degree. But President Obama has a record. I mean, we have completely changed how education is being evaluated, the president’s race to the top, support for community colleges. We’ve invested in new alternative energies because everybody knows despite what Mitt Romney said that the only way we’re going to become energy independent is with a mix of energy sources. He has provided health care so much to the extent that Mitt Romney started to claim credit again for what he could do in health care. This-- this actually is a president with a record beyond just digging us out of our-- our jobs hole. And I think, though, that it’s important when we look at the going forward. Going forward isn’t just about the economy, because people don’t live in that binary world where they only care about the economy. Yes, it’s the most important issue. But if you’re a mom, worried about your reproductive health and having to buy insurance separately from your family to-- to get-- to pay for that, you know, that’s an extra burden on your economic issues. If you’re an immigrant, you know, worrying about whether your family is going to be deported or your kid is going to be able to stay in high school, that’s an extra burden that you have to worry about. If you’re a gay or lesbian worried about whether you’re going to get fired from your job because President Obama wants to protect your job and Mitt Romney doesn’t, that’s an extra thing you have to worry about.
GREGORY: All right.
MS. ROSEN: I think Americans actually live in a very holistic world.
GREGORY: All right.
MS. ROSEN: And-- and President Obama gets that, and Mitt Romney doesn’t.
MR. MURPHY: I’m just amused that every time there’s a question about the president’s vision, it’s 17 words to a total attack on Mitt Romney. If-- if they were out and they’d run a debate and they were running a campaign now with interesting new ideas to get people excited about voting for them, they’d be in better shape. Instead, they are running the old hacky political consul-- campaign. I know it well. Called the zero sum, which is the other guy is worse, the other guy is worse, the other guy is worse. That was working. Romney was in trouble. Then negative ads were working. Mitt Scissorhands, all over TV. Then Romney got an unfiltered shot and everybody has taken a second look at him. So the real question to me of the campaign is can the Romney campaign take this moment and run with it. If so, the Obama campaign, which is only going to get more negative, that’s what fear does in a campaign, is going to look smaller and smaller. That’s a…
GREGORY: Can I talk to the tac-- I know you wanted this much-- you want to respond to it. We may have to do it after the break. But can I just talk tactics here? Speaker, are we going to see Mitt the moderate now? Is this what he’s doing with this second look? He talks about he doesn’t want to gut financial reform. I mean, in-- in other words, are we-- are we-- are we…
MR. GINGRICH: But he-- but he said that in South Carolina reform back in January. The-- the-- the…
GREGORY: He’s touting health care instead of talking about replacing it all the time.
MR. GINGRICH: Look-- look, the fact-- we I don’t know but but he’s-- he’s talking about replacing Obamacare, which is part of how he pays for his tax cuts as he cuts out all the spendings put into Obamacare. But-- but let me go back to one example Hilary used--86 percent of the country favors an American energy independence plan which Romney is campaigning on. You look at North Dakota, you look at-- look at Ohio where there are five counties in eastern Ohio that have five billion barrels of oil, something people didn’t even know a year and a half ago. All of a sudden, you have an entire explosion of new energy sources in this country. That’s why Romney talks about okaying the keystone pipeline which Obama stopped. There’s a-- Romney has two big advantages that Reagan--
MS. ROSEN: We've approved more oil permits than any administration has ever.
MS. ROSEN: Domestic drilling is at an all-time high.
GREGORY: All right. Finish your point-- finish your point and then we’re going to take…
MR. GINGRICH: Yeah. Just-- just-- just very quickly, Romney now has two great advantages that Reagan had. First is, there are real substantive differences in the two approaches. The second is, every time they run a truly vicious ad, and then you see Romney in a debate, he’s not the person they ran the ad about.
MR. MURPHY: Right. Exactly.
MR. GINGRICH: That’s exactly what happened to Reagan in 1980.
GREGORY: All right. Let-- let me get a break in here. We’re going to come back. We’ll hear more from Robert Gibbs, responding to some of this stuff. We’ll preview the debate between the Vice president and Paul Ryan and also you’ll hear from Arnold Schwarzenegger as well. We’ll come back right after this.
GREGORY: We are back. We’re thinking ahead as well to the vice president showdown. Vice President Biden, Paul Ryan, The Weekly Standard has the cover here previewing the big the debate-- the debate smack down. Ryan feeling good and here’s Biden maybe looking a little af-- afraid here. Robert Gibbs, how do you see this one shaping up? Are we going to see Biden overcompensating, being a little bit more aggressive than he might have otherwise?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think that Vice President Biden will ever compensate. I mean, again, I think the big question is, which Paul Ryan do we get? Do we get this same sort of, you know, chameleon that we saw in Mitt Romney who literally walks away from virtually everything that his campaigned on for two years in the space of less than two hours. Look, I-- I know that Vice President Biden is anxious and ready to do this and the president is anxious to-- to get back to this debate.
GREGORY: How do you-- how do you size them up here?
MR. GINGRICH: Well, I think Ryan is one of the brightest people in the Congress. And I think that he knows an immense amount of facts. But I suspect he’s going to be respectful of Biden. I mean, there’s-- there’s a generational difference here that I think will lead Ryan to not give an inch, but to not be very hostile.
MR. TODD: And-- and I was just going to say history shows that when there have been age difference, the elder statesman wins these vice presidential debates. You had sort of-- in Cheney and Edwards, remember, Cheney was able to almost smack down Edwards, if you will. Benson and Quayle, the famous.
MR. TODD: You know, Joe Biden, yes, everybody talks about the gaffes on the trail. The guy won, I would argue, most of the democratic primary debates in 2008.
GREGORY: But-- but…
MR. TODD: Not Hilary Clinton, not John Edwards, and not…
MR. MURPHY: But this is a high wire act with Joe Biden.
MR. TODD: …Barack Obama.
MR. MURPHY: They are going to be pouring Jolt Cola down his throat, he’s going to have a bayonet in his teeth. They’re going to react because they’re going to have a couple of days of bad polling. You’ve got Ryan who is very impressive but hasn’t done this before. And you’ve got Biden who is a high wire act in an attack mode, which isn’t always his natural place. It’s going to make for a good…
MS. ROSEN: Yeah. But, you know, you’ve got…
GREGORY: Here’s-- here’s my question if I can just ask you, Hilary…
MS. ROSEN: Yeah.
GREGORY: …which is, you know, there is an immediate reaction to these debates about, wow, how do you feel because there is so much information and this was such a substantive debate, Chuck, as you pointed out, between Romney and the president. You can’t score all of that at home. And there is an initial impression and then a second impression that can develop overtime. How-- how does that factor in? We’ve seen it. I mean you’ve heard it here from Robert. They’re going to try to grind down Romney on the idea that he is a chameleon, who do you trust, you know, is this really what he believes, that sort of thing. That was different from wow, he really, you know, performed well.
MS. ROSEN: Right. Well, interestingly you saw that people thought that Romney won the debates but the dial groups for-- of-- of undecideds showed that they didn’t necessarily change their vote one way or the other. So I think, you know, when you have-- Paul Ryan is-- is not going to be able to do what Mitt Romney did. He was the chairman of the budget committee for goodness sakes. He-- it would be an affront to him to have to make up, you know, all of these numbers. And so I-- I think you’ll kind of have the opposite of what we had before where President Obama got a little wonky and Mitt Romney got pretty aggressive in style-- and high style. Joe Biden is going to have the style in this debate.
GREGORY: All right.
MS. ROSEN: And-- and Ryan is going to be the wonk and the question is whether he’ll tell the truth on the numbers.
GREGORY: Let me switch gears a little bit to a different performance this week that got a lot of attention. I had the chance to sit down with a familiar face to this program, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California. Of course, he’s a high-profile figure in the Republican Party. But recent revelations about his personal conduct have hurt his reputation to say the very least. You have noticed he’s been out this week with a new book called Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Story in which he details what he says are his successes and his failures.
Governor Schwarzenegger, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
FMR. GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA; Author, Total Recall): Thank you. It’s good to be back again.
GREGORY: I want to talk a little bit about your book and some of the personal aspects in just a couple of minutes. But let’s start with some politics. You’re still a high profile voice in the Republican Party. What do you make of this race? Can Governor Romney win this election?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that the-- the race is wide open. And I think there’s a lot of things that change all the time especially when it gets close to the election. So I think either one of them can win it. It really depends.
GREGORY: Are you a naive optimist when it comes to your belief in post partisanship? I mean you see what goes on in this town. I know it’s a big work of your job now as a professor in your institute at-- at USC. How does post partisanship happen when you see the polarization in Washington and how poorly things work here?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that I’ve seen firsthand that when you bring both parties together, and if you do the people’s work if you see yourself as a public servant rather than a party servant, I think you can get much more done. We have seen it. We have seen it. I mean just-- just look even during the-- the big battles and the-- and the fights between Democrats and Republicans. When Ronald Reagan came into office and they looked at social security, he appointed a bipartisan commission and they studied it for two years. And in 2000-- in 1983, they moved it forward to pass legislation and reform social security. So those are the kind of things that you can do. And I’ve seen it when I was governor. I mean, we brought Democrats and Republicans together, we did the infrastructure. We made the commitment to rebuild California. We did all of our environmental progress, reducing the greenhouse gases and making a commitment to 33 percent of renewables by the year 2020. And stem cell research and on and on and on. And as soon as in 2005 when I thought I can go off by myself, and it’s my way or the highway, just the Republican Party, we’re going to grind it out, it failed miserably. And so I learned firsthand that the only action is is when both parties come together.
GREGORY: Former governor of California, you understand the demographic shifts in the country very well. The Latino population not just in states like California, throughout the southwest, throughout the Midwest and the rest of the country, the reality is Governor Romney has said it himself, that as a party Republicans are going to be doomed. If they don’t find a way to court Hispanics in a way to really appeal to them on issues and things that Hispanic voters care about, the full range of things. What do Republicans do? What does Romney do? What does the party do? You’ve been in this situation.
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, yes, you know, one of the great senators, Senator McCain, has for years been a strong believer in immigration reform. And he’s worked together with Senator Kennedy. This was the time when they still reached across the aisle. I think both of them had a really great plan laid out. And I think that he should go again and readdress that plan because it doesn’t make any sense that for the last ten years, maybe before I even became governor, they have talked about that we need immigration reform. And every single time they get into it they say, well, we have an election coming up. Well, hello. I mean, this is the history of America that every two years there’s an election. You know, in every four years, there’s a presidential election. So there’s nothing new. You’ve got to get the people’s work done. We need immigration reform. We’ve got to solve this problem because we got to secure the border that we have and we have got to go and make a decision, what do we do with the people that are here now? They have not yet gotten in it because they are scared. And that is what is-- is really-- to me frustrating in a way because, I mean, you’re a political leader and you’ve come to Capitol Hill, you can’t be scared of things in the-- and hope that you get re-elected and that becomes the number one interest. Your number one interest should be you should not worry about you keep your position and keep your seat. I mean, think about it that every police officer, every firefighter, every one of our brave men and women that go overseas, they risk their lives-- their lives every day. They never know if they ever come home and see their family again. And our politicians are afraid of losing their seat? I mean, it takes a little bit more balls to run this job and to do this kind of a profession. I mean, that’s how you get things done. So that’s what we need. Political courage to go in there and to fix the problems. There are five, six major problems that we have in United States, and they need to be fixed, and they should stop bickering around and pointing fingers at each other because that is not going to build any roads and that’s not going to make our air clean.
GREGORY: In your book, you-- you lay bare your personal life and your struggles here. Look, infidelity, having affairs, is something that’s been surmountable for political figures, public figures in this country. You took it a step beyond. You fathered a child with the family housekeeper, publicly humiliated your wife Maria Shriver over and over again. Do you think you’ve lost credibility as a political voice-- high-profile political voice in the country?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I don’t think so. But let me tell you, if the people are angry at me, I deserve that. I know that was a major screw-up and I-- as you said, I have hurt my wife. I have hurt the kids. I think they went through a lot of pain because of that. And I take the-- the responsibility and I will do everything that I can if someone asks me what are you going to do in the next few years, you know, I would say that I will-- professionally I will continue with my acting, I will continue with the political stuff and with my institute at USC and those. But at the same time, I will be working as hard as possible on our relationships and our family-- to bring the family together again.
GREGORY: Are you a man of good character?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I think so.
GREGORY: Even after everything you’ve done?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Look, I’m sure you made mistakes. I’m sure a lot of people out there made mistakes. I made my fair share of mistakes, and that’s what my book is about. It’s not just about the victories and about the great things that I’ve accomplished. My book is an honest book that I also talk about my failures; in the movie business, my failures; the political failures; and also my personal life, the failures.
GREGORY: But it’s interesting, you know, the-- a part of the book I-- I would imagine and part of interviews you’ve done throughout the week where you talk more personally about your divorce and the break-up of your marriage and the affairs, do you think you come across as a sympathetic figure because a lot of people saw the 60 Minutes interview when you were asked about affairs and you said I’m not perfect, and I got to think a lot of people are thinking-- I just don’t think that’s going to fly.
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I had no intentions to make it fly. That’s the last thing I think about, nor have I any intentions to do an interview, to sit here with you today and to sound sympathetic. People should make up their own mind about all this stuff. I’m not going to tell the people what they should think about me. I-- I’m a person that reaches out and is working hard to give back to this country, and I’m a person that has been very successful and that has tremendous will and tremendous visions for the future. And always, I chased my visions. I’m a, you know, a very inspirational immigrant story. But at the same time, I also have that side, the dark side, of making those kind of mistakes and-- and that kind of personal failure. And I’m the first one to admit to those things. So, I’m not looking for sympathy at all. People should make up their own mind of what they think of me.
GREGORY: What would you like your sons to learn from your mistakes about their relationships with women in their life and just generally?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that I have the most unbelievable children, and they, you know, spend so much time with me and they spend even much more time with their mother. And Maria, as you know, is an extraordinary person, an extraordinary woman, an outstanding mother. And so I think that our children are going to go in the right direction because of that. I mean, they had really terrific, terrific…
GREGORY: But is there a specific lesson you’d like your sons to learn?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I think they-- they’re not going to make the same mistakes. I think that-- I think that I’m an inspiration to my children of all the stuff that they have accomplished and they also recognize the pain that I have caused them because of what I’ve done.
GREGORY: I want to before you go end on more of a political note. Back when you were running for office, an issue here at NBC you were on the TODAY Show back in 2003, and there was a notable exchange that you write about with Matt Lauer. And I want to play a piece of that tape.
(Videotape, August 8, 2003)
MATT LAUER: Real quickly are you going to make your tax returns for the past several years available to the press?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Say again?
MATT LAUER: Are you going to make your tax returns for the past several years available to the press?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: I-- I didn’t hear you.
MATT LAUER: Apparently, we are losing audio with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. Arnold, thank you for your time. We appreciate it very much. Let me switch over…
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you very much, Matt.
MATT LAUER: …Art Torres is the chairman of the --
GREGORY: Now, Governor, you actually heard just fine, didn’t you, at that particular moment?
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Not that I can remember.
GREGORY: Here’s what you wrote about that exchange that we just played you with Matt Lauer. “As he pressed me for specifics on how I'd bring back the California economy and when I would release my tax returns, I realized I was unprepared. Unable to answer, I finally had to resort to the old Groucho Marx stunt of pretending the connection was bad. Quote, 'Say again,' I put my hand to my earpiece. 'I didn’t hear you.' Lauer ended the interview by remarking sarcastically, 'Apparently, we are losing audio with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles.' It was lamest performance ever."
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: That’s right. And Maria was really mad about it. I remember she called me afterwards and she said-- she said, you have got to go and start thinking about what are you going to say when you do those interviews. And I said you better believe it. I said because there’s a lot of things I have to learn now since I’m on the campaign trail. So--
GREGORY: Would you run for political office again? You told me in our last interview, never say never.
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you never say never, but, you know, I don’t see that in front of me. Usually, I have a very clear visions of where I want to go. And I think that my vision now is to work very hard on this USC Schwarzenegger Institute that will address the issues that I have addressed in Sacramento. And also will address the issues that we could not complete. Because you go in there as governor with a huge list of goals that you want to achieve, a very ambitious list. And if you achieve half of it, you’re lucky. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I achieved half of the things, but the other half I didn’t. And so I want to continue working on those things.
GREGORY: We’ll leave it there. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor, thank you.
FMR. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you.
GREGORY: Our whole interview, by the way, is on our website--Press Pass conversation that is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hilary Rosen, your reaction?
MS. ROSEN: Well, I would just say quickly the one thing I liked that he said was working across the aisle, actually President Obama worked with Governor Schwarzenegger to refine the admission standards, which is saving a lot of fuel today. But shame on Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has the nerve to sit there and say that he-- you know, nothing is more important to him than his family and yet he is on his-- he wrote this book, you know, embarrassed his family further, and is keeping it out there on the front pages. I’m kind of appalled that he has the nerve to even suggest it matters to him.
GREGORY: Mike Murphy you worked for him. Do you think he can get over this in any fashion?
MR MURPHY: Yeah I did. I loved the Lauer interview, because he hired me the next day. Look, he’s a good friend of mine so is Maria. It’s a tragic thing. And he made a horrible stupid mistake, which he is taking responsibility for. I’m not sure what else he can do. But what he did was really bad and he knows it.
MS. ROSEN: Doesn’t need to promote it.
MR MURPHY: Well, I don’t think he is writing a tell-all book about his life. People can read the book and figure out what they think.
GREGORY: What do you thin, Chuck?
MR. TODD: I would just say for-- people always ask me why do you love politics and all this stuff? And for better or for worse it’s because you get interesting characters that take office like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can’t predict it. You couldn’t figure out what was going to happen. So it does seem his priorities are off skew, but, you know, that’s his life. That’s his decision. That’s his business. And that’s his bedroom. But he is sort of the epitome of why I love American politics. You never know who’s going to pop. You never know how they’re going to get there. You never know they are going to leave the stage. It’s a quintessential why-- what makes it interesting.
GREGORY: Newt Gingrich, does he have any credibility as a political voice in the country?
MR. GINGRICH: Oh, I don’t think so. But look-- I think he and Maria are each examples of extraordinary citizenship. What she is doing on Alzheimer’s is just enormously important and has a real impact and-- and she’s going to make a real difference. On the other hand, here is this Austrian kid from a small town who ends up being Mr. World and ends up making, you know, movies as a barbarian and ends up being a great investor in-- in California real estate and then ends up as a multimillionaire governor and at one time was the highest box office star in the world. And I agree with what you said, I mean this is what makes America such an astonishing country. Is he imperfect? Yes. Is he likely to be seen as an adviser on-- on morality? No. Is he likely to ever run for office again? No. But just as part of what the mosaic that makes us truly an astonishing country, both he and Maria are part of that mosaic.
GREGORY: And to butt it up just a-- just a horrible and a tragic personal story, for everybody involved, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you all very much for your discussion. Stay with NBC News for the vice presidential showdown on Thursday--Biden versus Ryan. It all starts at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. I will join Brian Williams and our NBC News team afterwards for full analysis. That is all for today, we will be back next week, if it’s Sunday it’s MEET THE PRESS.