Governors Ed Rendell and Tim Pawlenty on "State of the Union"

Governors Ed Rendell and Tim Pawlenty on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - May 23, 2010

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley and this is State of the Union.

Let's just say that the results of Tuesday's primaries did nothing but confirm the notion that this year, being in is out. If you need more proof, take a look at this. A Fox News poll asked if the only thing you knew about a candidate was that one was the incumbent and the other was a new challenger, who would you vote for? Overwhelmingly, 41 to 20 percent, voters said they would vote for the newbie.

Joining me now from Los Angeles, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and from Minneapolis, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Thank you, Governors, both, I appreciate it.

Governor Rendell, first to you, since you had two kind of interesting races in your state Tuesday night. Is the anti- incumbency, anti-establishment fervor for real?

RENDELL: Oh, no question. Anytime you have got a serious economic problem in the country, and we still do, although Pennsylvania has gained 55,000 jobs in the last two months, Candy -- but even though we've done that, we still have a tough economic problem when people have lost their jobs, their homes, their 401(k)s. There is a lot of anger out there, and it's usually visited on incumbents. And you are seeing it all over, either party, it doesn't make a difference.

CROWLEY: And Governor Pawlenty, if you had to talk to an incumbent, what's the best way to run? I mean, there are a lot of them out there running this year.

PAWLENTY: Well, I think the best advice for anybody running is to be for change, and it's not just anti-incumbent, it's what that incumbency represents. It represents a commitment or a sense of a commitment to flaw -- a flawed past, flawed strategies, out-of-control spending, out-of-control deficits, an economy that has not yet recovered, is sputtering. And so it's not just against incumbents. It's a dissatisfaction with the substance underneath it, and it really relates profoundly to the economy.

CROWLEY: The second sort of storyline that we saw running through Tuesday, Governor Rendell, was about the Tea Party, which had its first statewide success in the election, at least to be the Republican nominee of Rand Paul in Kentucky. Tell me how much of a power you think the Tea Party is.

RENDELL: Well, I think the Tea Party movement, which is the anger that people feel towards incumbency, it has some power, particularly in Republican primaries. But if you look at Pennsylvania 12, Candy, that was a district that John McCain carried against Barack Obama in '08. I lost it the first time I ran for governor. So it is a Republican performing district. Mark Critz, the Democrat, won by 8.5 points. And the Tea Party -- that was a special election, the Tea Party was not a factor in that election at all. In fact, everyone thought Critz was going to lose early on.

CROWLEY: I have got to believe, Governor Rendell, that you sort of like the fact that the Tea Party seems to be a rising force in the Republican Party.

RENDELL: Sure. I think it is a difficulty for the Republican Party. I think they have lost some very, very good people, like Governor Crist, who I think Tim and I both admired for a long time. Like Senator Bennett, who was a conservative, was an anti-spender, and he was targeted and defeated.

I think the Tea Party candidates are going to be more easy to beat in a general election. I think that's the case with Rand Paul.

CROWLEY: Well, what about that, Governor Pawlenty? We did see Rand Paul, sort of, at the very least get tied up in knots over the Civil Rights Act of 1965, something a probably more seasoned politician might have avoided. Don't you end up in the Republican Party having weaker candidates if you have Tea Party candidates?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think, first of all, Candy, that his comments about the Civil Rights Act were unfortunate, and he since then he said he would have voted for that Civil Rights Act. His explanation was unfortunate how he got to that point. But in any event, the Tea Party movement represents I think new energy, new ideas, passion around these themes of we have had enough, government is too big, the debt is too big. And to the extent that accrues to the Republican side of the ledger, that's a helpful thing.

We will take that energy. It is still a little chaotic in some ways. But it's a good thing. Every generation has an insurgency in politics. It brings new energy, new people, new ideas. I am glad that energy is on the side of the conservatives and the Republicans in most of these races.

CROWLEY: How much, Governor Pawlenty, do you think the anti- incumbent mood, that sort of there's too much spending, there's to a certain extent, too many taxes. How much of that is also aimed at state governments? Can you tell us from your point of view?

PAWLENTY: Well, state governments, unlike federal governments, can't print money in the basement. We have to balance our budgets. But you are seeing a sentiment in these state races across the country. There is 37 governors races up on the ballot this year. I am the vice chair of the Republican Governors Association. I am heavily involved in this, and it looks like the playing field, the sentiment, the issues significantly favor conservatives or Republicans. People, even in a place like Minnesota, there was a recent poll and they asked, do you want a smaller or bigger government, do you want your government more effective and more limited? And the sentiment was very favorable towards the conservative or Republican perspective. And that is in a traditionally liberal place like Minnesota. So clearly, the winds are in our favor, at least for 2010, but you don't want to take these things for granted. You set the expectations so high, that it's hard to live up to. And I think it's important that Republicans stay focused on doing the work and delivering the message.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you, Governor Rendell, and then back to Governor Pawlenty, and that is about your state budgets, because both of you are under enormous pressure and have to balance your budgets. And you have got a big problem in Pennsylvania. Some of your -- the tax receipts have not come in the way you thought they would, as I understand it. You are about $1 billion in the hole. Isn't all of that going to kind of also drive anger toward state officials and towards yourself? Although, I know you are getting out of office and are term-limited, so you don't have to worry too much about it.

RENDELL: Well, I do worry about it, not because of elections, but because it is a real problem.

But actually, Candy, we have a relatively small underperforming revenue. Our deficit is a little under $1 billion. Illinois is 12.5. New York is 10. New Jersey is 11.5. California is, what, 30.

CROWLEY: You still have to make it up some way, don't you?

RENDELL: We still have to make it up. And we have cut so far in the last two years, we have cut $2 billion of state spending out of the budget. We will continue to make cuts that are necessary. And there are some type of revenue enhancements that the public overwhelmingly supports in Pennsylvania. We are the only state in the union that doesn't tax cigars and smokeless tobacco, for example. We are the only shale state in the union that doesn't tax natural gas extraction. So those things the public overwhelmingly, by 65 percent plus, favors. So by balancing cuts and some common-sense revenue enhancements, we will be able to handle--.


CROWLEY: And by revenue enhancements, you just mean tax increases on certain things?

RENDELL: No, these aren't tax increases. These will be new taxes on things that we are unique in the fact that we don't tax, and the public supports that.

CROWLEY: OK. Governor Pawlenty, you took a slightly different route, I know. But I have to tell you, I was looking, the governor of Arizona actually instituted some tax hikes in order to try to get her budget in balance. She is a Republican, obviously. Is it just verboten that Republicans raise taxes in order to get their state budgets under control?

PAWLENTY: Well, I sure hope so. I mean, one of the things that Republicans do stand for and should stand for is that we think the country and our states are taxed enough. In Minnesota's case, I have drawn a line in the sand and saying, we are not going to raise taxes. Minnesota's problem is not that we're an undertaxed state. We have been trying to lower taxes in Minnesota, not increase them. So we just finished our legislative session and solved a significant budget deficit with no tax increases. And I think that's the direction that states should go.

And I think people are sending the message that they think government is too big, spending has gone up too fast, taxes are too high. And that's why I think Republicans are in a better position coming into this fall than our friends on the other side of the aisle.

CROWLEY: We will have more from Governor Pawlenty and Governor Rendell right after this break.


CROWLEY: Before we get back to the governors, a few poll numbers to help explain the political atmosphere. Since 1979, Gallup has been asking Americans whether they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. Often, the results are a big indicator of what to expect in elections years.

In 1982, only 24 percent of Americans said they were satisfied. The party in control of the White House that year, Republicans, lost 26 seats in the House but none in the Senate. In 1994, only 33 percent of Americans said they were satisfied. the Democrats were in the White House and they lost a whopping 54 seats in the House, eight in the Senate.

This year, 23 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things going in the U.S. That is a record low for a mid-term election year. The reason they take polls so often is that people change their minds pretty often. For now though the Gallup satisfaction figures are just another in a host of factors making Democrats uneasy about November.


CROWLEY: Welcome back. We are talking with Democratic Governor Ed Rendell and Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Governor Pawlenty, first to you, for all of the figures that we can find in the polling that shows that the Democrats are in trouble and it is a mid-year and therefore they are bound to lose seats, the Republicans don't get a free ride here. There are plenty of polls showing that still Americans prefer a Democratic Congress.

What is the way that a Republican goes out there to kind of break through this vision of Republicans as sort of way too far to the right? PAWLENTY: Well, keep in mind, Candy, that to the extent there are people who view Republicans as too far to the right, there are a lot of people who view Democrats as too far to the left. So there is an analog to each of these things.

You are right, there is certainly a shift back in a more favorable way towards Republicans and conservatives. But a big chunk of that is people saying they don't like the president's policies, this Congress's policies. And some of them are moving back just to the category of independent or unaffiliated. And that opens the doors to the Republicans being able to make their case.

And so we have to address the bread and butter issues that most people are concerned about. And that includes, am I going to have a job? Am I a school where my child goes that's going to be high quality? Am I going to be able to afford college for my kids? Am I going to be safe? Am I going to have health care? Those are the bread and butter issues that most people care about.

And if Republicans are going to say government isn't going to do those things or isn't going to do them directly, we have to articulate our vision for how our ideas and values are going to connect to help provide or encourage those things in the economy. And that's not rocket science, but that's what it boils down to.

CROWLEY: And Governor Rendell, there is a movement, it would seem, that the country is growing a little more conservative. At least, there is a lot of talk about how much spending is going on. And the president's popularity, his approval rating, more importantly, has gone down, sometimes dipping below the 50 percent rate.

Does that not spell real trouble for Democrats? Because, after all, you know that mid-term elections are a referendum on the party in power.

RENDELL: Well, first of all, Candy, I think you said it in your question to Governor Pawlenty. Look, in the last month, the polls on who would you like to see control the Congress, Democrats or Republicans, have flipped by almost about 10 points. It is now 45 percent of the American people want Democrats to control the Congress, 40 percent want Republicans. That's a fairly big shift in the last month, month-and-a-half.

And I think it is occurring because the economy is starting to bounce back. As I said, we gained 55,000 jobs in two months in Pennsylvania, 450,000 nationally. So I think there is a sense that the stimulus is starting to work. That maybe the bailout of GM wasn't such a bad idea. The banks are starting to repay with interest, a lot of the money that was given to them in the bailout.

So I think there is a growing sense that those policies weren't so bad after all, number one. And number two, I want to answer your question by referring to the poll that Tim talked about in Minneapolis. People do want effective government. That's not to say they don't want government to spend. For example, I head up an organization called Building America's Future with Governor Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg. And every poll we take says that the people want us to invest in better roads, in safer roads, bridges, highways, ports and levees.

So the American people aren't dumb. They want effective government, not necessarily less or more, but they want effective government with targeted spending that's accountable, transparent, and works, and is decided by merit.

CROWLEY: Governor Pawlenty, let me turn a corner here with you. The president of Mexico was in the States visiting with the president. He went up on Capitol Hill and gave a speech. I want to play you just a little snippet of something he said.


FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona.



CROWLEY: So the visual there is when he says he strongly disagrees with the law in Arizona as all of the Democrats stand up and the Republicans sit in their seats, how appropriate -- and I'm going to ask this to Governor Rendell as well, how appropriate is it for the leader of another country to come to the legislative body of the United States and criticize some of the state laws?

PAWLENTY: Well, President Calderon is an important friend and ally of the United States. And we certainly welcome him. And we want to make sure that our country has good and positive relations with Mexico. He has also to come to the reality that the immigration situation between our two countries is out of control.

We need to have an immigration system that's legal and reasonable and orderly. What we have now is none of that. Arizona is understandably frustrated, as are a lot of other states. And so I think he should actually read the law. Most people in the media who are talking about it have mischaracterized it or misunderstand it or misportray it, Candy.

So I think we need better enforcement of the laws and immigration. But as to your question, I think he's free to comment on our policies.

PAWLENTY: The United States certainly comments on policies in Mexico. So I don't have a problem with that. But let's talk about the merits of the issue and the real problem on the ground. And it is a real problem.

CROWLEY: Governor Rendell, real quickly, did you have a problem with what the Mexican president said? RENDELL: No, I agree with Tim. But I didn't think anybody in Washington should be applauding. Because this problem should be answered federally. And this issue has been ducked by the Congress for a long while. And we've got to get to work and fashion a fair, reasonable bill that protects our borders and yet gives immigrants a chance to become citizens.

CROWLEY: A quick question to you because we have run out of time.

Governor Rendell first, what are you going to do? You're term- limited. Where are we going to find you a year from now?

RENDELL: Well, I'm going to do some teaching. I do a sports TV show, post-Eagles games. I'm going to do a little bit more of that. And I'm writing a book, Candy, which you don't have to pay for it.

CROWLEY: OK -- good, I'm glad to hear that.


You're done with politics, then? Is that what I hear?

RENDELL: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to run for elective office again, yes, that's correct.

CROWLEY: All right. Thank you.

RENDELL: I'm 12-2, and for a baseball pitcher, that would be worth about $15 million a year...


... but I'm done.

CROWLEY: You're -- and you probably won't get the $15 million?

Thanks, Governor Rendell, very much. RENDELL: No, that's for sure.

CROWLEY: Governor Pawlenty, to you, in a recent article, Governor Rendell was quoted as saying, if he had to give any advice to a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, it would be to put Marco Rubio as number two on the ticket.

Should you decide to run in 2012, does that sound like a good idea?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think Marco Rubio is a rising star, tremendous talent for the Republican Party. I read that same interview, and I know Governor Rendell was making that recommendation in light of the important demographic of reaching out to Latinos, as from a Republican or conservative standpoint. And there are going to be many new rising stars of Latino Republicans and conservatives, and Marco Rubio is certainly going to be one of them. And I think he's got a very bright future. CROWLEY: We'll take that as a maybe.


RENDELL: Candy -- Candy?

CROWLEY: Yes, sir?

RENDELL: I really wanted to -- to help Tim. So when I endorsed Marco Rubio, he's gone, and it clears the way for Tim.

CROWLEY: All right.


Great. Thank you both very much. I appreciate your time and getting up early in your time zones. I appreciate it.


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