Gingrich, Santorum, DeMint & Clyburn on "State of the Union"

Gingrich, Santorum, DeMint & Clyburn on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - January 22, 2012

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Good morning from the campus of the University of South Carolina, a state which gave Gingrich a huge boost, Romney a southern smackdown, and Santorum and Paul reason enough to stay in.

Off to Florida.

Today, on the road again with presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Then, 2012 and the influence of the Tea Party with one of its kingmakers, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

And the view through a different prism with a number three Democrat in the House, Congressman James Clyburn.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is "State of the Union."

It's got a name: Newtmentum.

Two strong debate performances this week resurrected the political fortunes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He leaves South Carolina with his first win of the primary season. Numbers two and three took markedly different approaches to Gingrich's win.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: He's been up and he's been down and you never stop fighting. And to Newt Gingrich, let's give him a big round of applause for staying in there to fight. Good job, buddy. Good job.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Republican leaders want to join this president in demonizing success and disparaging conservative values, then they're not going to be fit to be our nominee.


CROWLEY: Thank you so much. And congratulations. It was a big victory for you last night.

As you look at this race going forward, what is your feeling on first the Rick Santorum. Is he still a factor?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, of course Rick's a very, very good guy. He's a very solid conservative. And he'll be a factor as long as he wants to be. I think my job in Florida is to convince people that I am the one candidate who can clearly defeat Obama in a series of debates and the one candidate who has big enough solutions that they would really get America back on track.

We're a big country. We have big problems. And we need big solutions. And the people of Florida know that as well as anybody in the country.

CROWLEY; I had an opportunity to speak with Congressman Clyburn, in an interview that's going to air later in the show. And he talked to me about the -- the language of the south. And I know you have heard this, too, that a number of African-American leaders have been upset, saying that the language that you use, calling President Obama the Food Stamp president, other things that you do, is a way to appeal to folks that they believe are attracted to sort of a racist element.

He didn't -- I asked him specifically if he thought you were racist, and he said no. But he does believe you use that language, and that's what contributed to your victory here. Your reaction?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's unfortunate that liberal leaders, whatever their ethnic background, can't have an honest, open debate about policies that fail. The fact is, far more whites than blacks are on Food Stamps. The fact is, I've been talking about Food Stamps both with regard to Speaker Pelosi and with regard to President Obama since August of 2010, actually wrote a newsletter on it in 2010 in August.

The fact is that we have a real national debate under way. Do you want a paycheck president, in which case my years in office first with Reagan and then as speaker combine 27 million jobs created by the American people in those two periods, as a pretty good test, or do you want a Food Stamp president?

President Obama's policies consistently kill jobs. He just killed jobs on the Keystone Pipeline decision. He doesn't seem to be able to help himself.

So I think it's fair to say, let's have a debate.

Florida is a state which has suffered terribly through bad government policies as it relates to housing. No state in the country would be better served by repealing Dodd-Frank which is killing the housing industry than the state of Florida. So let's have a debate in Florida over good policies versus bad policies and liberals shouldn't get away with hiding from the consequence of their bad policies by yelling racism.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you -- and I want to remind our viewers first of sort of a storyline that has been out there with your campaign by playing them something you said in New Hampshire recently.


GINGRICH: Those of us who believe in free markets and those of us who believe that, in fact, the whole goal of investment is entrepreneurship and job creation would find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever, legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job.


CROWLEY; So basically what we're seeing here and what some Republicans have complained about is that you're suggesting that a man who might be the Republican nominee just went in and looted companies and left people jobless. Are you worried that you've got anything out there that's going to be very difficult to walk back if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee? GINGRICH: Nothing that a Republican is going to say will be nearly as negative as what President Obama and Axelrod and others will do with their billion dollar campaign. There's a reason they're raising $1 billion. There's a reason President Obama already has $240 million in the bank.

Whichever person we nominate had better be able to take Obama head on, because they're going to throw everything that they can at them.

One of the reasons I think people in South Carolina voted for me was a belief that I could debate Obama head to head, that I could convey conservative values, and that I could, in an articulate way, explain what American exceptionalism was all about and why the values that he believes in, the Saul Alinsky radicalism that is at the heart of Obama, are a disaster.

So I think we had better be prepared for a tough campaign, whoever we nominate. And I think that's part of why we need somebody who can win the debates in order to undo the damage that they'll try to do with their billion dollar campaign.

CROWLEY: Well, then, you know, there's lots of tough rhetoric to go around. And I want to move you on to something that Mitt Romney said in South Carolina on Friday when he was talking about you and calling on you to release some of the records from the ethics committee. Here's what he had to say.


ROMNEY: He was pushed out of the House by his fellow members. I think over 80 percent of Republican congressman voted to reprimand the speaker of the House. First time in history. And Nancy Pelosi has the full record of that ethics investigation. You know it's going to get out before the general election. Sure, he ought to get it out now.


CROWLEY: Now, the Romney camp, I asked him about this. He said, look, the whole ethics committee report is out there. It's on the web. People can look at it. And they noted that, in fact, you yourself said, when Nancy Pelosi said, boy, I know stuff about him and at some point we'll let it loose, she said, yeah, and then if she does she'll be violating the rules of the House.

GINGRICH: Right. CROWLEY: So clearly there is something else there, and that's what they're talking about. Do you intend to, a, release any of those records and, b, just because our time here is short, let me give you a double-barrel, that is how about your contracts or your work product to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

GINGRICH: Well, they're very different questions.

Let me just say the work product with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was clearly ultimately in the public interest as The New York Times reported in July of 2008 that I went to the House Republican conference and said vote no. Do not give them anymore money. They need to be totally reformed and totally overhauled.

So the only public record of any kind about my talking to the congress about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I urged that they not get a penny of money, that the House Republicans vote no on bailing them out, which is the opposite of what my critics would suggest.

On the first one, I invite everybody...

CROWLEY: So would you release those reports that you gave them?

GINGRICH: The only thing that we gave them in writing they've actually published...

CROWLEY: Would you release...

GINGRICH: The only thing we gave them in writing was actually -- they published it. And it included a call for more regulations of their kind of institutions. And you can read it. It's on their website.

That's the only thing we gave them of that kind.

So the rest was just sitting and talking about ideas and talking about strategies. I'd worked with Habitat for Humanity for years trying to find ways to help poor people own a home and we'd talked about various strategies.

But let me go back to the Romney challenge, because I think it is...

CROWLEY: Sure, yes, please.

GINGRICH: ...almost bizarre. Here's a governor whose staff erased -- excuse me. Here's a governor whose staff erased all of the computers for Romneycare. He's released no information on how they developed Romneycare. Here's a governor who has not yet released his taxes.

Now, my taxes are posted at You can go see them. I helped found -- I helped create the Thomas system. You can go online. You can see a 1,300-page report on the ethics investigation.

By the way, it's been pointed out that in every single count, I was exonerated. And, in fact, after the case, remember that Nancy Pelosi and others were on that committee. After the case, a federal judge, the federal election commission and the Internal Revenue Service all three exonerated me. So this was a political game...

CROWLEY: But wait, you were reprimanded by the House, though, I think is what they're talking about.

GINGRICH: Right. And I urged the House Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us if we were going to go ahead and balance the budget. All four of the balanced budgets occurred after that fight. This was over the Christmas of 1996. We had to get it behind us.

GINGRICH: The Democrats had filed 84 charges, 83 had been thrown out as totally phony. One we got hung up on because of a letter a lawyer wrote. I was not fined. I paid the cost of the investigation about that letter. It was a mistake.

So the one mistake I made was signing a letter written by our lawyers, a firm which frankly did me a great disservice and that's the only thing.

Now, I personally asked House Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us to get back to the things that mattered: balancing the budget, reforming the government, beginning to look at the entitlements. These were the things we were working on at that time.


We have to take a quick break here, Mr. Speaker. But after the break, more with Newt Gingrich. We will go beyond the Republicans and ask him about his potential general election rival, President Obama.


CROWLEY: We are back with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker. Let me just ask you quickly, Nancy Pelosi, again, just to wrap this up, has suggested there are other documents. Would you call for the release of those?

GINGRICH: No. I'm not going to play games with Speaker Pelosi. She's a hard core Democrat. she's going to do everything she can to attack us. You know, we're not going to chase our tails.

But I would just point out to you as a said a while ago, for Governor Romney to decide to make this a big issue when we won't release his taxes, when his staff apparently cleaned the computers when they left the governorship and when we know nothing about how they developed Romneycare, I think is starting a fight in an area that he isn't necessarily going to prosper in. But I'm happy to.

Anybody who's concerned, go read the 1,300 pages. It's online for free. It's on a system, was one of the first things I set up for the American people.


Let me do a political question. This was from a CBS/New York Times poll. When asked who would you vote for in November if the candidates were Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama 50 percent, Newt Gingrich 39 percent.

In that same poll, it showed Governor Romney in a dead even tie with President Obama.

How do you make that electability argument in the face of those numbers?

GINGRICH: The same way Ronald Reagan did. Ronald Reagan in December of '79 was 30 points behind Jimmy Carter. And he made the case that the candidate with ideas, the candidate with conservative values, the candidate who could articulate and defend his position was in the end going to be the best candidate.

The country decided he was right.

I think if you look at and you look at all the things we've developed, I can go toe to toe with President Obama on big things. There are big differences.

You know, Romneycare and Obamacare is about this far apart, pretty hard to have a debate. Conservatism I'm for dramatically lower taxes. The president is for much higher taxes. I'm for less regulation. The president's for more regulation. I'm for strength overseas to defend Israel and to defend the United States, the president's for weakness overseas.

I think you can draw a very strong case that in the end the dynamics of a Gingrich/Obama fight are much better for Republicans than the dynamics of a Romney/Obama fight.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you, you released your taxes as you've noted in the middle of a debate, actually. And I listened to you talk last night, sort of talking about how the people who voted for you in South Carolina feel so disconnected from the elites in Washington and New York. And you talk about the elite media.

And I remember in those tax returns, last year you made $3 million. You worked for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two government agencies people think helped create the housing mess. You were speaker of the House for several terms. So how are you not an elite? What makes the difference between an elite New Yorker and an elite Washingtonian and Newt Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well you know, Ronald Reagan did very well for a long time, and people understood that he -- he was never in Washington even when he was president. I think it's a matter of attitude. I ran for congress to change things in Washington. I worked with President Reagan to change things in Washington.

As Speaker of the House, we did change things -- welfare reform, first tax cut in 16 years, first cut in spending in over a decade. The only two times we've cut domestic spending, I was there -- as a sophomore when President Reagan did it and as speaker of the House when we did it the second time. I think virtually everybody who looks at the campaign knows I represent the largest amount of change of any candidate, and I think that's why they see me as representing their interest and their concerns, not representing Wall Street or representing the politicians of Washington.


Thank you so much. Newt Gingrich, the victor here in South Carolina. On to Florida.

When we come back, Rick Santorum on his third place finish in South Carolina and how he plans to turn his campaign around in Florida.


CROWLEY: Joining me this morning from Charleston, South Carolina, before he heads off to campaign in Florida, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Senator, thank you for being with us today.

Let me ask you this you got what we thought was a very powerful endorsement by a group of evangelical leaders who met -- more than 100 of them met in Texas, came out and said Rick Santorum is our guy. You finished 23 points off the lead, which was Newt Gingrich who won. What does that say about the power of the evangelical leadership?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, we got the endorsement of a broad group of people. Those folks, you know, have organizations and have networks. And you know, we -- we're building on those right now.

You know, South Carolina was, you know, I wouldn't say in the oven and well cooked, but it was pretty well cooked. Newt had done a great job planting his flag here, spending, you know, enormous amount of resources here and doing a very good job in making this his, you know, his make or break state.

I mean, I did the same thing in Iowa. Obviously Governor Romney did the same thing. I mean, these three are early states are the states that are in a sense decided not usually in the last few days but decided through a lot of work and things that are done. It's also Newt's backyard.

So our feeling was that, you know, we needed to do well here. And if you look at, you know, the last few days, we actually -- we actually did surge in the polls. I mean, we were -- we were sitting in fourth or below Ron Paul in most of the polls in the last few days leading up to this, and we had a little bit of a surge at the end.

So we feel pretty good that, you know, we're now going to go on to neutral turf and -- and where it's much more wide open for us to do a lot better and take advantage of that endorsement. CROWLEY: Let me play you something that Newt Gingrich said to a crowd. This was just Saturday, so it was here in Georgia. And something he said while he was campaigning.


GINGRICH: The only practical conservative vote in order to stop a Massachusetts moderate is to go vote for Newt Gingrich.


CROWLEY: So, basically, he's kind of cut you out of his equations, saying you're not electable. He's the only practical vote. Has there been any pressure, tacit or otherwise, on you to get out and what do you make of that statement?

SANTORUM: Absolutely no pressure at all. I think people realize that it's -- Mitt Romney is now no longer the inevitable. Mitt Romney's lost two of the three races he's had to run. He's going through the same thing he went through the last time around, which everybody thought he had the money and he had the organization. But you have to have the ideas. You have to have the track record. You have to have the inspiring vision and message for the country. It's not just about how much money you have and -- you know, and how many people you can pay to help your team.

This is the -- this is the real difference in this race. And so that's why I said to Newt when I talked to him last night, this may be a two-person race, but the two people may be on the phone together. This idea that Mitt Romney is -- you know, is not going to be able to be defeated unless conservatives coalesce, it's objectively false. We had a whole bunch of people in the race beating them in Iowa. We had four people in the race and Newt smoked him here in South Carolina.

So our feeling is that this is a three-person race. And the conservatives are polling better than -- than -- than Governor Romney is. And the real conservative is yet to -- to emerge and that's -- and that's me.

We -- we think we present the best opportunity for conservatives to win.

CROWLEY; Nonetheless, you are now headed to the most diverse, the most populous, the most expensive in terms of media market states that you all have been in before. You are the one going into this with the least amount of money, the least name recognition, and let's give at this point the momentum to Newt Gingrich.

What is your pathway to this nomination?

SANTORUM: Well, first up, I'm not too sure that's the least amount of money. I know Congressman Gingrich's campaign is in a lot of debt right now, which we are not. And, actually, we've been doing a very good job of raising money since Iowa and since we were declared the winner we've even done a better job in raising money. This is, you know, Florida is a tough state for everybody. It's very, very expensive. It's a very short time frame. You know, we'll wait and see how -- how the debates turn out. We'll wait and see how the -- you know, this event here in South Carolina is going to affect the polls.

But, you know, leading into Florida yesterday, we were sitting in second place in Florida.

So we feel like we can go and compete there. But this race isn't going to be over in Florida. It's not going to be over, you know, even in -- I don't think in Super Tuesday. This is going to be a long race. You've got, with the exception of a couple states, proportional delegates, not winner take all states. You have an opportunity for someone like Rick Santorum who's a solid conservative, up against a -- I would agree with Newt a Massachusetts moderate.

But I would disagree with Newt that he's the conservative standard bearer. I mean Newt is the guy that, you know in my opinion is a very high risk candidate. Not only is he wrong on the individual mandate, in other words government-mandated health insurance, which he supported for 20 years, he's wrong on the Wall Street bailout. He was wrong on global warming. He is wrong on the immigration issue. These are probably the four biggest issues the Tea Party has, which is really the conservative base of the Republican Party now. And Newt's just not in the right place on those.

And I think the more focus as we've now gotten down to three serious candidates, the less attractive I think Newt's going to be. And the better alternative we are.

CROWLEY: So your strategy now, actually, would be to go after Newt Gingrich on these issues. Because you -- yes, Romney's been defeated in two of the three states. But, nonetheless, you and Newt Gingrich sort of go after the same pool of voters. So you're going after him?

SANTORUM: Oh, no. This is a three-person race. And we're going to try to state just like I did at the debate the other night in Charleston. We're going to draw a distinction to who's the best person to get the kind of voters we need to win the states that are the states in play in this election.

And the states in play in this election, you need to attract blue-collar Democrats, you need to attract the kind of swing voter, the Reagan Democrat that provided Ronald Reagan with historic wins.

We are absolutely better positioned to do that. I have a track record of doing it. Neither of the other candidates in this race have any track record of attracting those voters. And, by the way, neither of them have a plan in place.

I mean, if you look at Newt Gingrich's plan, it's right out of the Club for Growth and Wall Street, his economic plan. If you look at Mitt Romney's, it's out of the -- you know, the moderate establishment muddle. It's not transformational change. Our plan is really focused on getting the folks that we need to win this election back to work, supporting them and their families. And that's the kind of message that ultimately is going to win this election.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a question that has cropped up about your economic plan, specifically your tax plan. It was -- the Tax Policy Center took a look at it and said about 81 percent of Americans would get a tax break under it. But by the year 2015, it would lose $900 billion in revenue in a single year. How is that at all doable?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you look at these analysis, they said, I think Newt's plan was $850 billion that we would lose in revenue.

SANTORUM: And these are the static, you know, flatter scoring that, if you -- if you do reduce taxes...

CROWLEY: Well, is that acceptable?

SANTORUM: ... people are going to change behavior.

No, well, that's not acceptable, but it's not true.

I mean, you know, economists can run all sorts of models and make -- but it's all based on a bunch of assumptions, a lot -- most of which aren't true.

We think it will create a dynamism in this economy that will grow and create huge amounts of employment gains and see revenues actually skyrocket as a result of a growing and prosperous economy.

And, you know, these -- these economic models, depending on the organization, just don't account for that. We feel confident that our plan will do what's necessary to get this economy going, will reduce the deficit, and in combination with the $5 trillion in spending cuts that I've proposed, a balanced budget amendment, we will -- we will get this budget in balance. We will get federal government smaller, dramatically smaller, and we'll grow this economy.

CROWLEY: Senator Rick Santorum, safe travels to Florida. We will see you down there.

SANTORUM: Thanks so much, Candy.

CROWLEY: Now, Jim DeMint endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008 but chose to stay on the sidelines this time around. Would his endorsement have made a difference? We'll ask him after the break.


CROWLEY: Joining me now from Clemson, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is the author of the book "Now or Never: Saving American From Economic Collapse."

Senator, thank you for joining us. Let me ask you -- we're just now learning that Governor Romney is going to release his tax records. As you know, his opponents have been pounding him on why he hasn't put out his tax returns. Obviously, it's done some damage. Because he's now decided, instead of waiting until April, he's going to do it on Tuesday. Do you think this significantly hurt him in South Carolina, not having them come out earlier?

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Well, I -- I think what hurt him is he wasn't definitive in his answer. He either said -- should have said immediately, "I'll do it in April" or "I'm not going to do it" or "I'm going to do it immediately." But the fact that he wasn't clear, I think, is what hurt him.

I frankly don't care about his tax returns. I think this stigmatizing success is a real mistake for Republicans. But he just needed to be definitive about what he was going to do.

CROWLEY: Is that what you think might be wrong with the Romney campaign at this point, at least insofar as he didn't win South Carolina as many thought he might?

Do you think it's that he has, sort of, fumbled in the debates? Do you think that it's -- he's not connecting? I mean, what do you think is the problem, if you had to analyze it?

DEMINT: Well, Candy, it's pretty clear to me, I think Republicans know our country is in deep trouble. And they want a fighter as president. And what they saw in the debate from Newt was that he was willing to take on the media. That gives us a sense that he might be willing to take on the Washington establishment.

We know there are powerful forces out there that are pushing our country over a cliff. I think all of the candidates have the attributes we need to be leaders, to contrast with Barack Obama.

But the question is, do they have the fire in their gut to fight like we saw with Governor Scott Walker taking on the government unions there.

And, Candy, that's the difference right now. I think all the candidates have the fight in them. But I think, going down the stretch, Newt was the one who showed it when he took on the media.

You know, I hear so many times, Candy, that Republicans are pulling their hair out. They're saying, why do you let him get away with it? Why do you let the Democrats say this or the media say this? And they want someone to stand up and take them on head on and to tell the truth.

And that's the sense I think a lot of people got this week. But that doesn't mean the other candidates can't change it. They both -- I mean, all of them have solid positions right now. I feel good about them all. My emphasis is on delivering a conservative majority in the Senate so that whoever is president can get good legislation out of the Congress.

CROWLEY: Well, as I showed Newt Gingrich in the earlier interview, at this moment, he does not poll well up against President Obama, whereas you see Mitt Romney, he basically, in the latest head- to-head we've seen, is pretty much dead even with President Obama nationwide. And when you look at Newt Gingrich, there's a double- digit gap there.

So, you know, while he might be playing to conservatives and to the Tea Party and to the Republican Party as a whole, do you think he's playing -- Newt Gingrich is playing to independents and to Democrats who might want to swing over to the Republican Party?

DEMINT: Candy, I don't think we know that yet. I think, obviously, Mitt's been out there a long time, better known around the country, at least recently, and the same with Rick Santorum.

I think, as Rick said just a few moments ago, now that it's down to three or maybe four, there's going to be a lot more focus on all the candidates. And these early polls don't necessarily tell us where things are going to end up. So I think we'll find out over the next month or two which candidate is really going to do best against Barack Obama.

CROWLEY: And you, of course, endorsed Mitt Romney last time around. And you said recently something I wanted to quote back to you, just to get your reaction now.

You said, "As we go into the next year," which would be this year, "if we have two at the top and one is clearly conservative and one is not, I might look at it" -- endorsement -- "again, but my commitment right now is to stay out of it."

When you look at the top, at all three candidates, do you doubt the conservative credentials of any of them?

DEMINT: No, I don't. And I really don't think this election is going to be about political labels. I don't even think it's going to be about Republican or Democrat, certainly not conservative or liberal. Those things don't mean a lot to the American people. What we have to do as Republicans is realize it's not about politics; it's about people. It's about their family, their jobs and their future.

DEMINT: And we have to translate our policies into a very winsome message that's what I talk about in "Now or Never." How do we do that in a way that America understands?

Because Barack Obama and the Democrat Party, they really are the party of dependence on government, those who want more government. And the rest of the country has got to be united under the Republican umbrella, otherwise we're going to end up worse off than Europe.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the Tea Party in general and play for you something that Senator Reid said recently about the Tea Party.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA: Oh, I think the Tea Party's dying out as the economy is getting better slowly. I mean, I hope with what happened the last week of this last year in congress that the Republicans have learned they can't be guided by the Tea Party because the Tea Party is putting them right over the cliff.


CROWLEY: Is the Tea Party putting the Republican Party right over the cliff? They -- they really did lose a lot in the polling that we saw when they held off on those payroll tax cut extensions.

DEMINT: It had nothing to do with the Tea Party. In fact, that was a great example of the media not reporting what was going on, Candy. The House passed a year-long extension of the payroll tax. They paid for it with a three-year freeze on federal salaries. That's a message we could have taken to the American people.

But Harry Reid wouldn't even bring that up. Instead, he wanted a two-month extension that was paid for with a permanent increase in the cost of mortgages in America. The fact that the media played that up as Tea Party obstruction is one of those despicable things that Newt Gingrich talked about.

I mean, we need to get the truth out here, and it's not coming through, that's what we want from our candidates is to really take the media on head-on, get the truth out right now about what's really going on.

CROWLEY: Senator Jim DeMint, thank you so much for spending some time with us this morning.

Coming up, Democratic congressman James Clyburn joins us to give his take of a Gingrich win in his own state.


CROWLEY: Joining me here in his home state, Congressman James Clyburn who is the number three Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Thank you so much for being here.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, D-S.C.: Well, thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: Dissect last night's results for us.

CLYBURN: Well, I think we had two things converging at the same time. You had Mr. Romney, who seemed not to be able to connect at all with his base, really separating himself from voters. He did so in those debates. It was very clear to me that he was cutting himself off from middle income...

CROWLEY: How so?

CLYBURN: Well, he did not deal with this so-called 15 percent interest -- I mean, income tax rate.

CROWLEY: Income tax.

CLYBURN: He was not doing well with identifying with just ordinary voters. He just can't seem to be able to do that. While at the same time, Newt Gingrich has really thrown red meat to the base saying little words and phrases that we are very familiar with here in the south. And identifying himself as the congressman from Georgia. So all of that helped him...

CROWLEY: Region helped.

CLYBURN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

CROWLEY: So -- so when you say using words, explain that to me, because there has been a lot of talk, especially from African- Americans, saying that there are some code words that Newt Gingrich uses, and the implication is that they're racist in nature.

CLYBURN: Well, I would say it's appealing to the Tea Party element when you say that Barack Obama is the best Food Stamp president we've ever had, that limits his presidency to an element of dependency.

CROWLEY: It was a campaign, and he's making the point that Food Stamps have gone up and jobs have gone down. Is that necessarily sort of a racist comment?

CLYBURN: Well, it's not necessarily so. But welfare being -- by Ronald Reagan is not necessarily a comment of dependency. But people know what that means. Richard Nixon, a southern strategy. Now, all of that carries certain connotations that people know here very well. And I think he practiced that perfectly.

CROWLEY: So you think that -- do you think -- you know Newt Gingrich. You served in the House with him.

CLYBURN: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: So are you saying you think he's a racist?

CLYBURN: No. I never used that word. And I don't ever call anybody anything that resembles that.

CROWLEY: So you're saying?

CLYBURN: What I'm saying that he's appealing to an element in his party that will see President Obama as different from all other presidents that we have had.

CROWLEY: Being African-American.

CLYBURN: There is only one thing that makes him different from all the other presidents that we've had.

CROWLEY: Who's the tougher opponent, do you think, for President Obama?

CLYBURN: Oh, I have no idea. I think anybody's going to be tough. We live in a tough environment. We're -- the country is at a place it's really never been before. Even if we go back to 1929, things were different then.

What happened in this country didn't affect the rest of the world. And what happened in Europe and Asia did not affect us.

Today, everything is so global, this country has never been where it is before.

CROWLEY: You represent a state, a portion of the state, that has a 9.9 percent unemployment rate. Nationwide, unemployment among African-Americans, 15.8 percent, among Whites, 7.5 percent. When you go back to your district, as you will, I'm sure, sometime this year, to appeal for President Obama's re-election, how do you sell those kind of numbers in your district which is majority African-American?

CLYBURN: Well, I'll remind them of where we were in the 90 days of the run-up to President Obama being sworn in. We jettisoned 2.1 million jobs in three months.

This was done before Barack Obama was ever sworn into office.

Remember, I will remind them, that in September of 2008 when this economy was crashing down, George Bush was president, not Obama. McCain and Obama jettisoned their campaigns, came back to Washington to help us try to pass some emergency measures to stop the hemorrhaging.

And this president stopped the hemorrhaging, and for the last 22 months we've been having private sector job growth. And if we should continue, I think he will get us to where we ought to be.

CROWLEY: I want to show you another figure that we had in the poll, and the question was, has the government paid enough, too much, or about right, attention to the needs of blacks, and other minorities?

Among blacks, 77 percent say the government has not paid enough attention to the needs of African-Americans and other minorities. You still have, under the first African-American president, three years into his presidency, an unemployment rate twice that of whites. Is that a hard sell for you?


CROWLEY: Can you explain that?

CLYBURN: No. We don't still have that. We are there in some instances for the first time. The fact of the matter is unemployment for African-Americans started to go up dramatically during the Bush administration.

It went down dramatically during the Clinton administration. And so all we will say to people is, let's get real here. You cannot expect three years of President Obama to correct three decades -- and we know it has been three decades because CBO has given us a study. For the last three decades, we have seen growth in household income for the lower 20 percent of only 16 percent, and the upper 20 percent of 65 percent, and 275 percent growth for the upper 1 percent.

So I'll remind people that this president is trying to reverse something that took place over 30 years ago and bring it into check.

CROWLEY: I need a one-number answer from you. On a scale of one to 10, how tough is this re-election bid for President Obama? CLYBURN: Oh, it's tough -- 10 the toughest?

CROWLEY: Ten is the toughest.

CLYBURN: Oh, it's 10.

CROWLEY: Ten. Congressman James Clyburn, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

CLYBURN: Thanks for having me. 

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