Ann Romney, Martin O'Malley & Bev Perdue on "State of the Union"

Ann Romney, Martin O'Malley & Bev Perdue on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - September 2, 2012


Joining me are North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He is also the chairman of the Democratic convention.

Well, governors and mayor. So good to see all of you.

Let me start first with a convention question. I'll go to you, Mr. Mayor. What do you hope after three days will be taken away from this convention by viewers?

VILLARAIGOSA: We want to crystallize the path before us with choices that the American people have in this election, a choice that invests in the economy from the middle-out, that continues to build on some of the progress. We have created, what, 4.5 million jobs in the last four years. 29 consecutive months of growth in our economy. We want to continue that. And I think we also want to compare and contrast with the failed Bush policies that Romney/Ryan would like to promote going into the future.

CROWLEY: With all of that in mind, I want to show our viewers the latest CNN/ORC poll. This is about enthusiasm. Are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in November was the question, and what we see is that since 2008, Republican enthusiasm is way up, and Democratic enthusiasm is down almost ten points. Why is that Governor O'Malley?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think that you have yet to see this great convention, Candy, that coming up over the news three days.

CROWLEY: So you are predicting a ten-point bounce then ?

O'MALLEY: Well, I'm predicting that, look, when get to decision time -- none of us should be satisfied with where our economy is today, but the question is who has the best policies for moving our economy forward? And what you're going to see in these next three days here in Charlotte is a very clear articulation that we measure the strength of our nation by the strength of a growing and stronger middle-class. We are the party that is for Social Security and for Medicare, they are the party whose choices would lead to insecurity for seniors and their policy is I don't care, got get a voucher. You figure it out.

And this will be the contrast here. We are about jobs. We're about opportunity. They're about bigger tax breaks for billionaires.

CROWLEY: Governor Perdue, that is tough sell in this state, a state that the president won by about 14,000 votes last time around. We are now seeing some dead even polls. But we see an unemployment rate in North Carolina higher than national average, folks are hurting here in terms of a lot of other things. So we know that the Democrats and the president has been pushing the kind of progress that both the mayor and Governor O'Malley talked about, but it is a hard sell here. How does he do that to folks that are still hurting as much as folks in North Carolina are?

PERDUE: Well, let me be direct. I understand people are struggling all over North Carolina and all over America, but we all want everybody to get a job, Candy. The real North Carolina, we are one of eight states in America with a AAA bond rating. All three of the rating houses think we are golden in terms of investment and security. Our pension system is fully funded.

Since I've been governor, we have created more than 100,000 jobs, $23 billion in investment, that's a lot because of the investments the president and the administration has made here around infrastructure and higher education and the capacity for us to retrain our people.

CROWLEY: But it's still, you know, not enough in terms of this enthusiasm gap. There clearly -- this is not 2000, this is not the 2008 election...

VILLARAIGOSA: No, of course not.

CROWLEY: And let me show you -- and I want to ask you in particular and you can all chime in, this is about Latino enthusiasm. NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. And now about 62 percent of Latino voters say, yeah, I'm enthusiastic. It was 80 percent in 2008.

So, clearly, this is a problem, because you have to get Latino voters out to vote.

VILLARAIGOSA: Of course, those same polls are saying about 65 percent of Latinos are voting for President Obama.

CROWLEY: Sure. But there has to be enough of them to vote.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, that is what a campaign is about. And that's what this convention will be about. We're -- this is going to be a working convention. In Denver, we recruited 25,000 volunteers. We have 65,000 people coming to the football stadium on Thursday. We are going to ask every one of them, can you knock on the doors, can call voters?

We have the most comprehensive ground effort in ever, either party, in history, and we are going to be focusing on the Latino vote. We will be focusing on the 12 or 13 state where the election is in swing opportunity.

PERDUE: And one of the states is North Carolina, Candy. We have registered more than 125,000 voters. We are on all of the college campus communities. We are engaged in not just getting the Latino folks out to vote, but anybody the state who isn't registered.

CROWLEY: But you would agree that registration is different than getting them out to vote, and from there you need that kind of enthusiasm.

I want to move you to another demographic that was very important in 2008, and I want to play for you something that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said at their convention.


PAUL RYAN, REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering, when they can move out and get going with life.


CROWLEY: Now, let me add to that some figures about the young voter preferences matching up 2008 and 2012. The exit polls in 2008, President Obama, 66 percent of young people. Right now 56 percent, 10 points younger. Is Paul Ryan on to something. O'MALLEY: I don't believe -- well, you know what he should be on to is that in order to make our country stronger, we need more kids to go to college not fewer kids, and Paul Ryan's budget would actually cut Pell Grants and cut the very things that allow America's middle- class families to be able to send their kids to college.

Candy, right now what you are going to see in the summer and all of the polling is all of us expressing our discontent with the way things are, but the question is...

CROWLEY: And isn't that the president's, doesn't the president have responsible for the way things are?

O'MALLEY: Yes. We all have responsibility for the way things are.. But the question is do we want the go back to the failed policies that led to the Bush job losses, the bush recession, the Bush deficits, or doe we want to dig deep as our parents and grandparents did, invest in education, innovation and also rebuilding America so that we can create a stronger and growing middle class.

Look, facts are fact, it is undeniable that unemployment is lower than it was, home foreclosures are lower than they were...

CROWLEY: Is it as low as you thought it would be when the president got his stimulus plan through, when -- you know we were told, OK, this is what the economy needs -- go ahead, Mr. Mayor, is it as low as you thought it would be, honestly.

VILLARAIGOSA: Let's be fair. We have got a plan for a year now, the president has put a proposal to create 1.5 million jobs to keep teachers and firefighters and police officers on our streets and in our classrooms, and the Republicans have refused to pass that legislation.

The fact is Senator McConnell said his number one job was to make sure that the president didn't get re-elected. They have tried to do everything they can to stop us from working together in a bipartisan basis. They have put the party before the country...

CROWLEY: But that is not going to change, is it?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it will change as they begin to lose the demographic across the board, as they lose -- when they lose this election, they are going to realize that the party of no has to be a party of yes, a party that works on a bipartisan basis to put America forward.

PERDUE: And Candy, that's where the country is. Folks are really tired of this rabid division between Republicans and Democrats. Folks want people to come together and solve the problems and the challenges of America.

CROWLEY: So why are the polls split? Why is this -- if the economy has improved as much as the president has talked about and the numbers show, and not where you wanted, but it is better, if all of these things are true, why has this race stayed the way it has been?

O'MALLEY: And it will stay this way probably until the final decision window, because none of us should be satisfied with where things are. But the fact of the matter is we're moving forward. 29 months in a row of private sector job growth and the greatest manufacturing sector expansion since the 1980s.

Now this is not the time to wave pompoms, it is the time to dig deep and move forward and not go back to those disastrous policies that landed us in this economic problem to begin with.

CROWLEY: So it's a "stick with me" convention in some ways?

O'MALLEY: Yes. It is, "stick with me to go forward."


PERDUE: ... message for the future, "go forward," it's not "stick with me."

CROWLEY: Well, stick with me and to go forward, however you want to put it, OK.

PERDUE: This is a clear choice between going backwards and going forwards with the president.

CROWLEY: But can you blame Republicans at this point for a 17 percent jobless rate among kids 18 to 24?

O'MALLEY: You know what, Candy, I think actually, yes, we can. Because more jobs were created in the private sector last year alone than in all eight years of George W. Bush. Look, we did not get into -- we did not get into the economic problems we did in -- because President Obama was in office for two months.

I mean, the ground was laid by the bad policies of George W. Bush, which, at the expense of the growing middle class, gave huge tax breaks to billionaires.

CROWLEY: So can I get you answer the question I asked you before, is the economy where you thought it would be when we had the stimulus plan and then the summer of recovery, is it right now where you thought it would be, honestly?

O'MALLEY: I am not surprised that this is a longer bit of work than many of us would have hoped. It is not where any of us would have hoped it is. And I think we need to give credit to the Republicans in Congress who have done everything they can to defeat every jobs bill and slow down the economy.

And, frankly, I'm a little bit surprised at just how successful many Republican governors were at cutting the public sector so that those teacher jobs, police jobs, and firefighter jobs would be a drag on the otherwise consistent private sector growth.

PERDUE: At the end of the day, things don't get better unless you continue to invest in your workforce. And I've not heard any Republican talk about education and the investment in the future workforce. I think that is critical for us.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a couple of local, if you will, questions. First to you, Mr. Mayor. We have seen in California some real problems with the pension, sort of the overhead of the state government. You have got these pensions that have been promised that often are higher than people get in the private sector.

The governor has tried to move, he has made some progress, not enough really to make a difference in current pension plans. Doesn't this set up naturally a conflict between Democratic lawmakers and one of their fiercest supporters, unions?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, I have been very clear. We have gotten our employees, current employees to go from 6 percent to 11 percent, saving billions of dollars over the next 30 years in their contribution to their pension plan. I have actually proposed now that for new employees that we tie the pension age to 67 instead of 55...

CROWLEY: For future?

VILLARAIGOSA: For future. But for current employees, I went farther than Governor Christie. Governor Christie went from 7 percent to 12 percent for seven years. We have gone from 6 percent to 11 percent. So we have got to be willing to be a party that is making tough decisions, fiscally prudent decisions, decisions that protect income and security and retirement going into the future by making it more sustainable.

CROWLEY: Governor O'Malley, I'm going to have to ask the last question to you, because an editorial today in The Washington Post -- or a story in The Washington Post talking about Maryland is going to show up with about a half a billion dollars worth of surplus, right after you all said, listen, we have got to have an increase in taxes for the upper echelon of $150,000 folks.

You instituted that, made it retroactive, now it turns out you have got a surplus. Time to give that money back?

O'MALLEY: Well, actually we are one of eight states like North Carolina that has a triple-A bond rating because we make the tough decisions and do...

CROWLEY: You had that before you raised taxes though.

O'MALLEY: Well, yes, but we're one of only eight that has been able to defend it through this economic downturn. Our state also has, as percentage of income, because we have the highest median income, we actually had the third-lowest state and local government tax burden of any of the 50 states. Look, you get what you pay for. We did not build, as a people, the number one public schools in America four years in a row by giving away huge tax breaks to billionaires. We did it by investing in our children's future. And as long as I am governor, that is what we are going to continue to do.

CROWLEY: Mayor Villaraigosa, Governor O'Malley, Governor Perdue, thank you all so much for joining us. Have a great convention.

PERDUE: Welcome to North Carolina.


CROWLEY: Thank you.

O'MALLEY: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

Next up, what is the answer to Governor Romney's question?


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he is President Obama?


CROWLEY: That with Robert Gibbs, the senior adviser to President Obama's re-election campaign.


CROWLEY: Joining me is Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs.

Robert, I know you are in Washington. We will see you down here shortly no doubt. I want to start out with the Republican Convention and kind of a theme that ran throughout it. Part of it was Marco Rubio, who, of course, nominated Mitt Romney, who said that this is not about a bad person, but he is a bad president.

And here is what the nominee and his number two had to say.


ROMNEY: The president hasn't disappointed you because he wanted to, the president has disappointed America because he hasn't led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have, and one that was essential to the task at hand, he had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "Obama- care," as much as anything else, explains why a presidency that began with such anticipation now comes to such a disappointing close.


CROWLEY: So, Robert, I'm wondering what you think about what seems to be a whole kind of new approach by Republicans, sort of toward those swing voters saying, I know you had a lot of hope here, but it didn't pan out, it's OK to be disappointed in him. So there is a disappointment more than just sort of the beating the president over the head. What do you make of that?

GIBBS: Well, look, I don't think that there is voter disappointment. I think voters understand, Candy, we have been through a traumatic economic experience in our country, unlike anything we have ever seen. And voters understand it took us years and years of tremendously bad decisions by running up huge debts, and providing huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that didn't create jobs, and they understand that it is going to take us a while to get out of that mess.

And I think essentially, that is what the choice is, and that is what the choice that you will see presented in Charlotte. In Tampa, we saw nothing but insults and old slogans and tired old ideas. In Charlotte, the president is going to focus on a plan to provide the middle-class in this country some necessary and needed security by investing in research and innovation, and in strengthening the middle- class, and I think a pathway to moving us forward.

CROWLEY: If voters understand the magnitude of what the president faced when he first got into office, and if they understand the figures that I think that we heard from the two governors and the mayor here, why is this race so close? Clearly, there's something wrong, because it is not only that the numbers in the horse race are close, it is that the enthusiasm among Latinos, the enthusiasm among young people is in some cases double-digits down from four years ago.

GIBBS: Well, Candy, nobody is sitting up here saying this is 2008. I mean, what has happened since the election in 2008 and right now, again, is this huge economic calamity caused by a series of bad decisions that were made before the president ever got there.

Look, this election was always going to be close, because we live in a closely divided country. I remind people all the time that just four years ago, everyone was talking about the president's landslide, and he got 53 percent of the vote. So, let's understand that we live in a very closely divided electorate, we have for quite some time, and this election was quite frankly always going to be close. But it is an important fundamental choice about where we go from here.

CROWLEY: I want to play for you a little bit of an ad that is up on the air in Montana, this from Senator Jon Tester, as you know, who is a freshman senator running for a second term. Take a listen.


SEN. JON TESTER, D-MONT.: I took on the Obama administration to put Montana back in charge of wolves. I voted to build the Keystone pipeline. I voted for a balanced budget amendment. I opposed all those Wall Street bailouts, and got rid of those ridiculous EPA farm dust regulations. Look across our state. I do what is best for Montana always.


CROWLEY: Robert, that is a Democratic ad, an ad from a Democrat. What does that tell you about A, the strength of the president's coattails, and about how some Democrats are viewing the president?

GIBBS: The same that Scott Brown's ads in Massachusetts tell me when he seeks quickly to distance himself from somebody like Mitt Romney, that everybody makes their own decisions, and what they think is best for certain constituencies in their own state.

We are not a monolithic party. We all have different ideas about what should be done specifically, but I will say this, there is a fundamental choice. And Democrats as a whole believe this and Republicans as a whole believe this. Do we move this country forward and rebuild this economy for the middle-class by doing it by investing in families, or do we do it by investing in millionaires and billionaires? That is the central and fundamental question.

And Candy, my question to Republicans is, why on earth do we think that the answer to their policies, more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, is going to work out differently this time than it did eight years ago when we did the same thing and we saw a period of amazingly weak economic growth?

CROWLEY: Robert, let me just, because we have so little time left, let's just quickly, can you give me a preview of the president's convention speech? Will he acknowledge the high unemployment rate, the still high unemployment rate, will there be details in it about new plans?

GIBBS: No doubt the president is going to acknowledge that we live in incredibly tough economic times, and he is going to, again, do as I have done, present I think a choice about how we move this country forward.

Look, Mitt Romney's speech was about two people, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Barack Obama's speech is going to be about 300 million people that live in America. He is going to focus on how we move this country forward, laying out plans for strengthening the security of the middle class, investing in research and innovation, paying down our debt responsibly, and honoring those that serve overseas.

CROWLEY: Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to the re-elect campaign. Thanks so much. See you down here in a bit, Robert.

GIBBS: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Next up, my conversation with Mitt Romney's not-so- secret weapon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I knew without question that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. And as America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to do.



CROWLEY: In general, much of the post-speech analysis said Mitt Romney capped off his convention with a solid speech that likely did his candidacy some good. Friday, I spoke with his wife, Ann Romney, who told me after it was over, the two of them did not rate the speech itself, but instead reflected on the love and support of family and friends.


ANN ROMNEY: I knew he had done a great job. And I think Mitt was pretty confident that, you know, he felt very good about his speech, and was very excited to deliver it. So it was very reflective last night, because, you know, a lot of people came into our lives through testimonials and different things that stood up and told a different side of Mitt than we have been hearing about from the attacks that have been coming our way.

ROMNEY: And for me, I think that was the feeling that we had is just this gratitude that we had for the life that we have lived and for the lives of people that we have touched that stood up and said, you know, this is making us mad hearing about the attacks on this guy. And we know who he is.

CROWLEY: Both Ann and Mitt Romney and a good part of the convention spent a great deal of time reaching out to women voters. Polls show the Republican nominee trails among women voters by double- digits, I asked her about the so-called gender gap.

ROMNEY: I don't look at it as a problem, I look at it as an opportunity, because -- and that's why I was grateful for our ability to let people see Mitt in a different light and to see how he has lived his life, to see the stories about his mother, and about the feelings she would have had last night seeing all of these elected women and the chance that we had from other women to stand up and say, you know, I have worked with this guy.

CROWLEY: The gap between women and men in the Republican Party has existed for nearly three decades, but Ann Romney told me she senses progress.

ROMNEY: I'm hearing from so many women that may not have considered voting for a Republican before that said it is time for the grown-up to come, the man that is going to have, that is going to take this very seriously and take the future of our children very, very seriously.

And I very much believe, Candy, that it is going to be an economic election and I think a lot of women may be voting in this cycle around in a different way than they usually are.

CROWLEY: The gender gap is not to close in a single election cycle, but if Mitt Romney is to win the White House it has to narrow. A lot of people think that Ann Romney whose own speech at the convention got raves can be a big help.

When we come back, Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and later Bill Clinton, the man Democrats can always count on.


CROWLEY: Joining me is Romney campaign senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. Eric, thanks for joining us. I want to pick up on what Democrats have taken out after in terms of the Republican convention, and in specific your candidate's speech.

Here is what the president had to say.


OBAMA: Governor Romney had nothing to say about Afghanistan last week, let alone offer a plan for the 33,000 troops who will have come home from the war by the end of this month.


CROWLEY: Why didn't the president mention anything about there are troops as you know overseas still fighting in Afghanistan, but there was no mention of that in his speech. Was that deliberate, was it an oversight, what was that decision about?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, the day before the convention speech, Candy, Governor Romney traveled to Indianapolis on Wednesday and he gave a speech before the American Legion. Now that was an invitation that President Obama declined. Governor Romney thought it was a privilege to be speaking to people who had served so nobly. And in that speech, he talked about Afghanistan. He also talked about the $1 trillion in defense cuts that are going to be taking place under this president which his own defense secretary has said will be devastating to our national defense.

CROWLEY: Point taken. And I didn't mean the president, I meant the governor, He is your nominee, presidential nominee at this point. But it is not just the president and the Democrats, here is something that Bill Kristol, from the Weekly Standard, a conservative, a Republican, had to say, "what about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing to even mention in his acceptance speech, a war we're fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we've been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored in this kind of major and formal speech the war and our warriors? I doubt it. It has been since 1952, I read, where a Republican did not mention troops serving overseas."

Do you think it was an oversight -- in hindsight, should he have said something? FEHRNSTROM: Well, again, he spoke to Afghanistan in a big speech before the American Legion the night before his convention speech, that was an invitation...

CROWLEY: Sure, but this is a huge, big audience.

FEHRNSTROM: President Obama declined. But Governor Romney's convention speech was an opportunity for him to introduce himself to millions of voters who were seeing him for the first time and in that speech he accomplished what he set to do, which is to talk about his better vision for America with more jobs and increasing wages, he talked about the failures of the Obama presidency over the last four years. And he talked a little bit about the personal side and what motivates him.

And we thought that speech was a home run.

CROWLEY: Eric, given that speech and given where you focus on which is the economy. Even after that speech, we still don't know where the nominee would make cuts in the budget. We don't know how he would deal with the tax loopholes and which tax loopholes he would close, which tax provisions he would keep. We don't know the details of how he would reform health care. We don't know his version of Medicare reform, although we obviously know the vice presidential nominee's. So do you expect this fall to roll out plans in that kind of detail? Or do you think that the American people in your opinion have enough information about Mitt Romney and what he would specifically do about things to cast their vote?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, we will put out a lot of policy over the last 18 months. I do think that the critical issue facing American voters is the economy. I think next week in Charlotte, the president needs to explain why he didn't do what he said he was going to do. When he took office shortly after his inauguration, he said in an interview that if he didn't have this economy turned around in three years his presidency would be a one-term proposition. Well, the economy has not turned around. In fact, I think the biggest news next week, Candy, will not be the three nights of the Democratic convention, but it will be on Friday when we hear again about the monthly jobs report for the month of August.

And we are all hoping for good news, but the odds are high that unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent where it has been for almost for the entire span of the Obama presidency.

CROWLEY: Eric, unfortunately I have to end it there. I hope you will come back. I appreciate it, get some rest. It is going to be a pretty a heavy duty fall. Thank you.

FEHRNSTROM: Thank you, Candy. 

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