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Governors O'Malley and McDonnell on "State of the Union"

Governors O'Malley and McDonnell on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - February 5, 2012

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

A Gallup/USA Today poll of 12 key swing states shows President Obama beating every Republican comer except one, Mitt Romney. After months of pounding by Republican rivals and the president's team, Romney is up a point over the president, a statistical dead heat.

35 percent of swing state Republicans say they are extremely enthusiastic to vote this year, as compared to 23 percent of Democrats, 20 percent of independents. that's called an enthusiasm gap.

Also troublesome for the president's prospects, four of the 12 swing states have jobless rates over 9 percent, and four are in the top ten for highest foreclosure rates.

Joining us now, Bob McDonnell, head of the Republican Governors Association, and his counterpart at the Democratic Governors Association Martin O'Malley. Gentlemen thank you both for joining us.

I want to -- before we get to the swing states, and I'll start with you, Governor O'Malley, do you think, put on your analyst hat now, is the Republican nomination race over in all but the gathering of delegates with Mitt Romney's big win last night?

O'MALLEY: I'm not sure it is all but over. I think what people are still looking for within the Republican Party and certainly independents is whether any of the candidates actually have a credible plan for creating jobs at a faster rate than our economy is now starting to create jobs. And that's something that we have yet to see, even with all of the intrigue and the ups and downs of this race.

So I think this race still has a ways to go. Clearly former Governor Romney has some momentum and now people will ask, well when he was governor why did his state rank 47th in job creation if he has such great ideas for creating jobs?

So I think people are still shopping.

CROWLEY: And you guys are pretty grateful to still have Newt Gingrich kind of doing your advance work for you.

But let me bring in Governor McDonnell here and ask you, and we should you say you are a Mitt Romney backer, but as you look at this race, do you see a way that he could lose it or is it his to lose?

MCDONNELL: Well, good morning, Candy and good morning, Martin. I think Mitt Romney has got tremendous momentum now. He's won three out of the five, tied the other one in the northeast, the southeast, the rocky mountain states and winning across every spectrum of the Republican base -- moderate, very conservative, evangelical, Tea Party, and just you know, regular folks.

So I think he's on a roll. There are 17 primaries and caucuses in the next 30 days and the map is lining up very well for Mitt Romney, because here's the bottom line everybody knows he's got the best chance to beat President Obama.

You said at the top of the show that it's neck and neck between the two. The president knows it, most people know it and we want to win. And so I think he'll be the nominee, the only question is when.

CROWLEY: And the poll was about swing states. And it did show that it's really a dead heat in the states that really decide the election.

Governor O'Malley to you, when you look at this at the swing state picture, what turns this around for the president? Because these are must wins for either candidate, but what turns it around for him?

O'MALLEY: I think really there's one central issue, and that is the economy. And I think the best two indicators of whether or not the economy is becoming better after the Bush recession or whether it's getting worse is the job creation numbers, 23 months in a row now of positive job creation. We haven't done that as a country since 2005.

CROWLEY: But remember, four of these 12 swing states have unemployment rates over 9 percent. And they vote state by state.

O'MALLEY: Which makes it even more -- this issue even more acute and even higher on the radar screen of people there.

The second thing, and you mentioned this in your piece, is the foreclosure rates in all of those states.

CROWLEY: Again, four in ten of these states have...

O'MALLEY: Four out of 10, and yet we have now driven, because of President Obama's choices and policies, we've driven foreclosures down to their lowest rate in 49 months. Foreclosures are now lower than they were before. What is Mitt Romney's response to foreclosures? Let it bottom out. Do nothing. I don't think that's going to be an alternative to people in any states really think is a responsible one for homeowners.

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell I'll give you a chance to respond to that, but I also want you to address something else that Democrats are bringing up and that is they say sure, at this moment there is this what looks like a statistical dead heat in the swing states, but if you look at the past two races, in particular, meaning Florida and Nevada, they note that the number of people participating, number of Republicans participating in these contests is down. And they say that that means that Republicans aren't all that enthusiastic about any of these guys, and that that does not bode well for you this fall.

MCDONNELL: Well Candy, I disagree. You gave at the top of the show the difference in the enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats by about 12 points in terms of their interest in this race.

This race is coming down to three things, it's leadership, it's jobs, and it's the national debt and deficit sit. And on all of those, President Obama's failed. He spends most of his time blaming Republicans and the Tea Party and Wall Street for all the problems in the country and not taking responsibility. He's completely failed to get the national debt and deficit under control. He's contributed nearly $5 trillion to the national debt with no plan to get out of it.

And despite Governor O'Malley's stats, the bottom line is we've been over 8 percent unemployment for virtually his entire presidency, 36 months. This is a president who said pass my big stimulus spending bill and we won't be over 8 percent, well we haven't been under 8 percent in all that time. He got no budget done when he had his own party in control. So it's been a complete failure of leadership. He cannot run on his record. He's had no plan for jobs or energy that he got passed so he's got a tough -- I'm glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it's because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president.

O'MALLEY: Well, that's very interesting. In fact I was going to ask Governor McDonnell, Candy, if his state is creating jobs again or is Virginia still losing jobs as you were in the recession? And that's a rhetorical question, governor. Your state is now creating jobs, my state is creating jobs, throughout our country, Candy, we're now creating jobs again.

Now we could create jobs faster, Governor McDonnell, if your party were not captive of the right wing Tea Party folks in congress who want to keep anything from happening. But facts are stubborn things. We've gone 23 months in a row of positive job growth, we've driven foreclosures down to their lowest rate in 49 months and unemployment has now been driven down to its lowest rate in three years.

And there's more progress we still need to make. It's all about creating jobs and bringing people together to do that.

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell, I want to ask you -- go ahead, go ahead.

MCDONNELL: Well, let me just respond to my friend, Martin.

By the way we get along. We do a lot together in the Washington area but I just flat disagree with him. 11 out of the top 15 states in America that are ranked by CNBC as top places to do business are Republican states. Seven out of the 10 states that have had the biggest drop in unemployment are states run by Republican governors.

And he and I disagree. His plan in Maryland is to increase taxes on income, on gas, on cigars and everything else, but the bottom line is, I'll take our record in Virginia of creating jobs, we're at a 6.2% unemployment, Maryland is at 6.9.

O'MALLEY: Actually 6.7.

MCDONNELL: From the time I became governor I've had -- well, Ok, it's going to fluctuate.

O'MALLEY: And we're creating jobs four times the rate that Virginia is, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a slightly different...

MCDONNELL: Well, the point is that's...

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a slightly different subject because I'm going to -- you all are going to talk through this and I won't be able to get this in. And this week what we've seen is some real outrage within the Catholic community about the president's decision to require Catholic entities, charities, churches and schools to provide contraception and other things within their health insurance plans.

E.J. Dionne, who is no raving Republican here, had this to say in his column, "it is so remarkable that Obama utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services should be treated under the new health care law. His administration mishandled this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the church who had originally sought to derail the health care law."

And I want to quickly play for you something that Newt Gingrich said last night about this same issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Obama administration has declared war on religious freedom in this country and people need to understand that. This is a decision so totally outrageous, and the illustration of such radical secular ideology that I believe the entire hierarchy will oppose it every inch of the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: So, my question to you in the final 90 seconds we have, has President Obama damaged the Catholic vote as far as Democrats are concerned? And you, as I understand it, are Catholic.

O'MALLEY: I am Catholic.

O'MALLEY: And I think, Candy, there has been a little bit too much hyperventilating over this issue. It's one of those issues that they want to use...

CROWLEY: Well, it came from Catholics themselves in the hierarchy.

O'MALLEY: Well, some, and most of those members of that hierarchy are also Republicans. And if you look at 28 states, Candy, this is not about abortion, it's about covering contraception as part of the health care coverage, mandatory basic coverage. Twenty-eight states already require this, and in Europe countries that are...

CROWLEY: But you're not thinking about the state, the federal government, telling a religion what it must cover in a health care policy.

O'MALLEY: Well, there is an exemption for churches themselves. The exemption does not necessarily extend to institutions like hospitals or universities that employ people of all faiths.

But these same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, and yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things.

CROWLEY: Well, and I'm going to give the last word to you, Governor McDonnell. Is there an opening for Republicans to seize in the Catholic vote sector, which is very large as you know, in some very important states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, et cetera?

MCDONNELL: Absolutely. As a pro-life Catholic, I think the answer is yes. Besides the health care bill being unconstitutional and a great expansion of federal government, I think if it does not respect people's individual religious views and makes groups or individuals do things that are contrary to their deeply held beliefs, there is going to be a visceral negative reaction. And I think the Catholic voters will look very favorably upon Mitt Romney this year.

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell and Governor O'Malley, as always, I have many more questions to ask you. So you have to come back. Thank you so much for joining me.

O'MALLEY: Thank you very much.

MCDONNELL: OK. Thank you. 

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