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Senator Portman & Mayor Emanuel on "State of the Union"

Senator Portman & Mayor Emanuel on "State of the Union"

By State of the Union - November 4, 2012

CROWLEY: The last two days of an endless campaign with Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and Romney supporter Ohio senator Rob Portman.

Plus, 33 Senate seats, 435 House seats and one president seat: an election extravaganza with former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, Democratic adviser Steve Elmendorf, Gwen Ifill of PBS and CNN's Dana Bash.

I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.

They are ships passing in the night and the day. This day Mitt Romney will be in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, while the president heads to New Hampshire, south to Florida, back up north to Ohio, out west to Colorado.

Monday Romney goes to Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire. Obama counters with Wisconsin, Ohio, and a closing rally in Iowa.

The biggest surprise in that final 48 hours is Romney's last minute bid in Pennsylvania. Polls in the state favor President Obama, but not by as much as they once did. The Romney campaign calls it expanding the electoral map. The Obama campaign calls it a fairy tale. Welcome to the parallel universe phase of the campaign.

Joining me is Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Mr. Emanuel let me start by showing our audience a new Franklin and Marshall poll out of Pennsylvania which shows that indeed the president's numbers have been slipping since September. It's now looking like not a four-point race in Pennsylvania, which is inside the margin of error. You all a little worried about that?

EMANUEL: No. I think, look, the campaign is set, I think what people remember going into this election are jobs and you just had a report Friday of 171,000 jobs were created. And, Candy, I think when I saw that number the back to January 2009 when the president first got elected we got the report within ten days about his election, which is on the January numbers which showed 839,840 jobs lost. Now we're 171,000 jobs gain. That's a million job swing in the right direction. And I think people know it's no time to go backwards, no time to go to the policies that led us into the ditch. It has been a hard slog for four years to finally get to 171,000 jobs gain, to get retail sales are moving better than expected, home prices and home construction are moving faster in the right direction. The engine for economic growth is happening, and I think people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Rust Belt, middle of America know that the president's policies are finally starting to pay off and this is not the time to stop on them. They need to press forward on the policies...

CROWLEY: If they bought into that, then why have these polls slipped in Pennsylvania, do you think?

EMANUEL: Well, look, from that poll I don't know what their other prior -- I've seen other polls that have the president in a comfortable margin on particulars, but it comes down to a four-letter word, my favorite one, jobs. And the president's policies are actually producing the types of jobs and economic growth -- not at the pace he wants and the policies he has for going forward are about building on the middle class and not short-changing them like Mitt Romney would do, but strengthening the middle class they can own a home, have a good job, save for their kids' college education, not be won illness away from bankruptcy and make sure they have a secure retirement.

And if you do those four things and have strategies to invest in that, you'll have a strong middle class. And if you have a strong middle class, you will have a vibrant and healthy economy.

CROWLEY: Let me try one more time here. We know that the vice president, Jill Biden has been sent to Pennsylvania doing a couple of early weekend stops. We know that Bill Clinton, who is one of your biggest assets, as you know, is being used in Pennsylvania on Monday. It tells me that you all are a little worried about that or worried about the race in general. Are you saying no?

EMANUEL: No, I think -- Candy, ready, it's a close election. B, you nail everything down. And C, I think Pennsylvania is secure, but you don't take anything for granted, and that means you're going to be -- there's a lot of people going back to Ohio in the next 96 hours multiple times. They'll go to Pennsylvania, but that doesn't mean it's slipping, it just means the natural tightening of the race, but the president is in a strong position because of the policies. CROWLEY: It seems really clear to you, but as you point out, it's a pretty close election, and one of the things that has come up has been what went on in Benghazi. As you know, people have been hammering that pretty hard.

I want to play you something that Rudy Giuliani said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, FRM. MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: You know that what happened in Libya is the result at least of incompetence. Do you think if we had elected John McCain president of the United States those people wouldn't have had the full resources of the United States of America there in Benghazi trying to save them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, the storyline here is that we still don't know what went on in Benghazi. The president has said time and again, has said at least once that this is under investigation, but the president knows what he knew. He knows when he was first told about that. Is it a mistake for him not to say, look, here's what I know, here's what went on in the White House, here's when I found out about it? Why not put some information out there?

EMANUEL: Candy, first of all, on this and in the larger foreign policy, and let me just address what Rudy Giuliani just said. You know, when we got into the Oval Office we were in two wars, one of the them in the longest of the American history. We have ended our presence in Iraq, brought Americans home to start investing here at home not in Iraq.

Second...

CROWLEY: Sure, but basically on Benghazi.

EMANUEL: On Benghazi, also the president has done exactly what a president should do. I want to report an investigation of what happened. I want to know who is responsible, and we're going to bring them to justice just like he did with Awlaki and just like he did with Osama bin laden. And that is exactly also what he plans to do in a campaign of 2008, and he did it -- he is a man of his word, and he showed the leadership even when people said don't go try to spend everything you can to get Osama bin Laden. The president said i will go, and I will even go to Pakistan to do it, and he was right,

And in Benghazi, let's not politicize this. Get the investigation done. Let the chips fall where they may. Find who is accountable. Bring them to justice. And a mistake, if it was made in any other agency, then you fix it, and that's what leadership is. It's not trying to point fingers. It's trying to get to the bottom of something.

CROWLEY: We haven't got much time, I want to ask you something about what's going on with the House of Representatives. When you left there, it was a Democratic majority. You had a lot to do with that yourself, recruiting candidates, et cetera. And then you lost the majority in the House, and it now looks as though the Democrats are not going to be able to reclaim that majority this year. What is happening to House Democrats?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, I'm not ready to -- I think all these elections are right on a bubble. I can see it right here in the greater Chicago area. We have about four races that are, you know, nip and tuck. One of them is clear for the Democrats, but are nip and tuck. I would not be ready to predict -- and I don't know all the races. I don't study it like I used to -- all the races. But if you look at the House and Senate, I think the Democrats are in a strong position in a number of Senate races and strong position in a number of House races.

This election, the president wins and elections have consequences will determine a great sense on how we deal with strengthening Social Security and Medicare, how we deal with tax reform to strengthen the Middle Class, and I think that it's better to also have a congress and a senate that wants to reach bipartisan compromise with a president who wants to strengthen the middle class. And I do think the consequences of an election matter on the contours of how you're going deal with all these challenges that are known in Washington as the fiscal cliff, but to the rest of the country they're known about fairness to middle class families who are trying to basically have a tax code that works for them, rather than against them, health care and retirement security. And there will be reforms in changes.

You also have to have a president and a congress that has the right values for the middle class. And I can go back to remembering what happened in 1996. We had a healthy debate. Nine months later we had a balanced budget agreement, and it was different because the president of the United States was able to lead.

And I think with the House Democrats, there are races throughout the country as there are in the Senate, and I think they are very, very close. And I think on a close election there may be a little push where I think the president's strengthens is.

CROWLEY: Just two words if I can. Your compatriot in arms, at least in this election, David Axelrod has said he is utterly confident of victory. Are you?

EMANUEL: Well, David is close to it. Yes, I am, because I think people know a core basic point. And that is the president has shown the leadership over four years in tough times to make -- move America through those difficult times to a different point than what the country was he inherited.

CROWLEY: Chicago mayor, former White House chief of staff for President Obama Rahm Emanuel, thanks you for joining us today.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Mitt Romney tries to squeeze out a victory at the heart of Obama's Midwest fire wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Ohio, you're probably going to decide the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Romney right-hand man and Ohio Senator Rob Portman joins me next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Joining me is Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman. Thank you so much for being with us, Senator.

Let me start with exactly where you are, which is Ohio. Obviously this has become the place to be in the final days of the campaign. What we had on Friday was a jobs report showing strengthening in the number of hires. We have an increase in consumer confidence. You have in Ohio a jobless rate that is better than the nationwide jobless rate. And you have an auto bailout that the president put in place that's highly popular.

What is it in this state that make you think that President Romney can -- sorry, Governor Romney can overcome those particular statistics and -- and the feel of the voters?

PORTMAN: I like you Freudian slip on President Romney. That -- that -- that sounded good.

Look, Ohio's economy is not doing well. People don't feel like it's doing well. Our wrong track numbers, which is something that's polled constantly are as bad as the rest of the country.

I think the job numbers last week were really disappointing. I heard Rahm Emanuel bragging on them, too. But, it showed the unemployment number going up not down. In fact, unemployment is higher today than it was when President Obama was sworn in. And the real number's even worse because as you know, a lot of folks have left the workplace.

So, instead of being 7.9 percent, it's 10 percent or more and, you know, here in Ohio, it's a little lower than that but when you add the folks back in who have left looking for work, it's almost 10 percent, too.

So, things aren't going well there. I've -- I just got done with five events all around this state. The last month, I've been at about 20 of these events where I go and talk to folks about what's going on and what they tell me is, look -- look at the empty storefronts; look at these factories that aren't at capacity.

We've got serious headwinds from Washington. It's not working.

CROWLEY: And -- and yet, Senator, and -- and yet the president in... PORTMAN: The economic policies the president put in place are not working for Ohio. CROWLEY: And yet the president has been leading in polls in Ohio. We are told in part because of the auto bailout which certainly the Obama people have pushed very heavily on the air.

So again, what is it about the atmospherics out there that makes you think you can overcome what's been a pretty steady, if small lead, for the president?

PORTMAN: Well first, all the polls are going in the right direction, so I'm very happy about the polling. We had a poll come out today where we were nine points down and now we're within the margin of error, two points. And the Reuters tracking has been consistently set us three or four points down. It's one point this morning.

So at this point in the campaign, you like it to be going in your direction. I think we've got a better grassroots effort; I know we have the energy and enthusiasm on our side this year so I feel very good about Ohio. It's very close, I agree with Rahm Emanuel, it's going to be a very close race but I like the position we're in. We've got the momentum on -- on our side.

In terms of auto bailout, you're right, there've been a lot of ads played about the auto bailout. They aren't accurate and that's what's made it sort of tough for us to explain to people that the more people know about what happened with the auto bailout, you know, the more they're going to like Mitt Romney and that's why we've got some ads up now explaining two things, very simply, one, it was President Obama who actually took the companies through bankruptcy whereas the ads say Mitt Romney wanted to take them through bankruptcy, that's what he did.

Second, Mitt Romney did have a plan and his plan did include federal assistance.

Look, I supported a rescue package at the time but it's just not accurate to say that Governor Romney did not have a rescue plan, he did.

And then finally, it's Governor Romney's plans that are going to be best for auto workers and auto companies and communities affected by it going forward because he's the guy for tax reform, for regulatory relief, for lowering the cost of energy and health care and to be tough on trade...

CROWLEY: Let me -- while we're on the subject...

PORTMAN: ... all the things the auto companies want.

CROWLEY: While we're on the subject of advertisements, you all, the -- the Mitt Romney campaign has put up an ad that has been found by all the fact checking folks to be false; a GM spokesman has come out and said, wait a second, this is not what's going on; the unions have based it and it suggests in it that Jeep production is going to be sent to China, when in fact, we're -- we're told that -- that nothing close to that is going to happen. So one of the things they -- the opposition said was, well you've been able to unite both corporate American and the unions in this false ad.

Why not take this one down?

PORTMAN: Well first of all the -- the ad is -- is accurate, Bill Clinton was in Pennsylvania yesterday talking about it...

CROWLEY: It's...

PORTMAN: ... he's been in Ohio talking about it...

CROWLEY: You're the only folks who think it's accurate. You all are the only ones who...

PORTMAN: No, Candy, here's -- here's that situation. Look, Candy, it's not GM, it's Chrysler, first of all, because...

CANDY: Sorry, I'm sorry.

PORTMAN: ... Jeep -- Jeep has had -- Jeep has -- Jeep has said they're going to reopen a facility that was closed after DaimlerChrysler, you know, broke apart years ago and it'll be in China to produce for the Chinese market and that's all the ad says. So there's nothing inaccurate about it.

Those Jeeps are now being produced in America and they're being exported to China...

CROWLEY: Right.

PORTMAN: ... in the Asian market.

CROWLEY: Right. But the suggestion that it...

PORTMAN: ... and so look, I'm -- I'm...

CROWLEY: ... that the jobs are being exported...

PORTMAN: ... I'm delighted...

CROWLEY: ... has been denied by the auto companies.

PORTMAN: Well there's, you know, that the suggestion that you might want to make but, you know, that's not what the ad says. So look, I'm delighted Chrysler's making an investment and Fiat's made the investment here in Ohio. I'm very supportive of that. It's great if they want to expand production here, I hope they will.

But the fact is that we now make Jeeps here in Toledo, Ohio that we're proud to send to China, to Asia; we export about 25 percent of what we make here and so if they're going to start production facilities overseas, obviously we're going to lost some of our exports here. So that's -- that's all the ad says. But look, here's -- here's the big thing about the auto industry attack ads, it isn't true. Mitt Romney actually had a plan.

Now look, I -- I supported a rescue at the time. But the president said in the debate, as you know, that there was no federal help in the Romney plan. All the fact checkers looked at it and all of them came out the same way, which was that President Obama was wrong, he was not telling the truth that Romney had a plan.

You can argue about which plan was better, but both of them had a plan. And again, to me, if I'm an auto worker, or I'm in the company in -- in a management position, I want someone as president who's going to put in place the tax reforms that they're all dying to have.

I mean they come to me as a U.S. Senator and say look, we've got to have tax reform to be competitive globally. We've got to have lower energy costs, we've got to have lower health care cost. We need regulatory relief. We need trade that's fair and a level playing field.

As you know, those are all the things that Mitt Romney's been talking about, not just recently but for months in this campaign.

So I think what he's got is a positive proactive approach to the economy and that's going to make the difference in Ohio, not just with...

CROWLEY: OK.

PORTMAN: ... auto companies and other manufacturers, but with folks who are frustrated with where we are...

CROWLEY: All right.

PORTMAN: ... that seems to make a difference at the end of the day and -- and...

CROWLEY: Let me as you...

PORTMAN: ... and we're seeing that in the polling results so I'm optimistic.

CROWLEY: OK, let me ask you -- I don't think we're going to get it, we're on the ad and the truthfulness or lack thereof of it.

So let me -- let me move you to Hurricane Sandy and something that Karl Rove, who as you know, was the architect of the Bush campaign and the deputy White House chief of staff for George W. Bush, and he said to the Washington Post, "if you hadn't had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his -- meaning Governor Romney's -- advantage." Do you think that Hurricane Sandy or Superstorm Sandy and the president's handling of it stopped Mitt Romney's momentum and helped the president?

PORTMAN: You know, I don't know. I can't judge that. I have been here in Ohio watching on TV some of the scenes, including on your network yesterday, of people who are really frustrated, which is, you know, typical of the natural disaster like this. Our hearts go out to those folks, but it's tough for government to be able to respond. So I don't know how it plays honestly.

I know that right now if you are in the northeast and you're without power and you can't get back to your home or you're stuck in your home, you know, you're frustrated. And that's understandable. And that's probably what most people are seeing on their TV sets these days.

CROWLEY: I think most people have said, look, here's the president being in command, looking presidential. It did turn the campaign conversation into a storm conversation. Therefore, it would affect voters in Ohio. You have seen no evidence of that?

PORTMAN: No. We really haven't. As I said, the polling is trending our direction, has continued to. But by the way, the president is on the campaign trail. And those folks in the northeast are having a tough time, so I really don't know how that - and I'm not sure anybody does, to be honest, Candy.

CROWLEY: And finally, I want to read you something that the senate majority leader had to say. This was in the National Journal on Friday, and Senator Harry Reid said, "Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his severely conservative agenda is laughable. Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he lacks the courage to stand up to the Tea Party kowtowing to their demands time and again. There is nothing in Mitt Romney's record to suggest that he would act any differently as president."

Would you like to respond to that?

PORTMAN: Well, I think it goes to the point that Mitt Romney has been making on the campaign trail. You know, Washington is broken. The partisan gridlock has to be broken. And that's what he intends to do. He did it in Massachusetts. He actually had a lot more Democrats in the legislature there than we have in congress, even if we keep the status quo, And he said he is going to reach across the aisle and find common ground.

And to have that kind of response from the Democrats in congress is discouraging, but, look, I think at the end of the day even Harry Reid and even the Democrats who might take that point of view at this point are going to say we've got to solve these problems. We have record debts and deficits that have to be dealt with. The economy is weak. It needs to be strengthened by pro-growth policies. Everybody acknowledges that. And so I'm hopeful that those are just political comments made in the heat of the campaign and that once this election is over, and I believe Mitt Romney is going to win Ohio and, therefore, I think he is likely to be our next president.

CROWLEY: It's dangerous for me - it's dangerous for me to ask a senator for a one-word answer, but if I could, is there a way for Governor Romney to win this election without winning Ohio?

PORTMAN: Probably, but I wouldn't want to risk it. No republican ever has, and I think we're going to win Ohio. I really do.

CROWLEY: All right. Senator Rob Portman, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Happy trails.

PORTMAN: Thank you, Candy. Good to be with you again. 

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