Representatives Steve LaTourette & Jason Chaffetz on "The Situation Room"

Representatives Steve LaTourette & Jason Chaffetz on "The Situation Room"

By The Situation Room - November 8, 2012

BLITZER: Good point. All right, John, thanks very much. Good stuff to discuss with our guests right now.

Joining us, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio. Thanks to both of you. Two Republicans.

Let's start with you, Congressman Chaffetz. Why -- you were a huge, obviously, Romney surrogate and appeared on our program many times. Why do you think Romney lost?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, as much as anything, I think President Obama won. He did a good job and better job, I think, of communicating. I think Mitt Romney was a wonderful candidate. He worked hard. He raised all the money that he needed to raise. I mean, he had the network in place.

But the ground game and the communication, I think, was tipped in favor of the president, and we, as Republicans, better get our act together in how we're communicating.

BLITZER: CBS News reported that -- quoted one adviser to Romney as saying he was shell-shocked. They were shell-shocked by the loss. Have you spoken to Governor Romney?

CHAFFETZ: I have not since this, and we were a bit shell- shocked. I thought we had much more of an enthusiasm gap that did not seem to materialize. I know John King was talking about a lot of percentages. But I just thought the sheer number would be larger of people showing up at the polls, because they wanted to get rid of Barack Obama, and they were in favor of Mitt Romney. They realized we were off track, but that -- that did not materialize, and I still don't fully understand why it did not.

BLITZER: Congressman LaTourette, when you look at all the data, all the information coming in, in your own political sense -- and you know politics -- was it campaign error that resulted in his loss? Was it a sense of the party's economic policies, for example, or was it a brilliant campaign by the Democrats?

REP. STEVEN LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: Well, it was all of those things combined. And it's not just my political sense, because we knew this day was coming. We actually had Republican Main Street commissioned Frank Luntz to do a poll on election night of people who had actually voted. And those numbers were clear that, in both parties, while they voted for gridlock. Again, it's not gridlock to have gridlock, but vote and expect people to get things done.

What happened in Ohio -- and we're glad the election is over because we don't have to watch those stupid ads any more -- but what happened in Ohio is that the president's campaign, the brilliant part was that they recognized that this was going to come down to eight states, and so they really ignored 42 states. And they defined Mitt Romney in August.

Now, by the time the new Mitt Romney showed up at the first Denver debate, and that's when he surged all over the country, we couldn't take the scab off for socially moderate, fiscally conservative women. They had Mitt Romney defined in their head, and even though he did a brilliant job in Denver and he ran a good campaign thereafter, it was too late.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's talk about kind of the social issues. And there's been a lot of post-mortem, Monday morning quarterbacking about what Mitt Romney did wrong. Some conservatives saying that it was a lack of conservatism. He wasn't the right candidate; he was too moderate.

You're retiring from Congress. You are probably -- you're one of a dying breed. You are a moderate. Was it a lack of conservatism?

LATOURETTE: No, and the numbers don't show that. The Republicans who showed up voted for Mitt Romney. The Democrats who showed up voted for President Obama. And actually, more Democrats voted for Mitt Romney than the Republicans voting for Barack Obama. It's not a matter of being -- and where Jason's from, I think -- I think Mitt Romney won Utah. He didn't win Ohio, and he didn't win Ohio because...

BLITZER: Utah was not close.

LATOURETTE: Well, I'm sure it wasn't. And the reds were reds, and the blues were blues. And that's why the president focused on eight states. And I will tell you that he didn't win Ohio because every time we got these socially moderate fiscally conservative women close to us, some chucklehead in Indiana or Missouri would say that being pregnant after being raped is a gift from God. And so, you took the women who were interested, on the cusp, and drove them right back to the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: You make -- told the story about your wife, who's a Democrat.


BLITZER: She was going to vote for Mitt Romney.

LATOURETTE: Well, she was. And she yelled at me for disclosing how she was voting this morning. But the fact of the matter is, I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, and 97 percent of my graduating class is Jewish. And so those friends said to me, you know we're not crazy about what the president is doing with Israel, to be honest with you. We're thinking about voting for Mitt Romney.

But when someone makes the Akin/Mourdock statements and drives them back, they think the Democrats can take money out of their wallet, but the Republican extreme can actually get into their bedroom and mess up their lives.

BLITZER: Let's let Congressman Chaffetz respond to that. What do you think about that, Congressman?

CHAFFETZ: Well, again, I think that communication has got to be stepped up. And when somebody does say something on the national stage that's stupid, we have to collectively do a much better job and swifter job of knocking that down.

We also have to come to grips that how we communicate is changing in this world. My family, we don't have a land line in our home. When we watch television, there is a DVR that fast forwards through the commercials. And so, how do you communicate with that younger generation? We can't keep playing as if we can just spend hundreds of millions of dollars on these TV ads and -- when the other side is doing the same -- and that you're going to break through.

So, particularly for the younger generation and then certainly into those other, you know, the Hispanic population, those types. I just don't think we're cutting it there. We have the right message. I think we're right on principle. We don't do a very good job of communicating. BLITZER: All right. I want both of you to hold on for a moment. We have much more to talk about, including fears of 9.1 percent unemployment. It's 7.9 percent right now. A dire warning about the so-called fiscal cliff just out today. We'll talk about that with our guests when we come back.


BLITZER: We're back with our guests, Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio.

We're watching what's going on. Congressman Chaffetz, the Congressional Budget Office today came out with this dire report that, if you go over the fiscal cliff, that there's nothing resolved by the Democrats and the Republicans and the president before December 31, they say unemployment could jump up to 9.1 percent and we could be facing another serious recession.

There's the question for you. If it comes down to an increase in taxes for the wealthiest Americans, a modest increase of 35 percent to 39.6 percent, where it was during the Clinton administration for people if they're making over $1 million a year, everyone else's taxes stay the same, and there's significant spending cuts, would you be willing to go along?

CHAFFETZ: Well, the tax increase, as you talk about, is not going to solve our problems.

BLITZER: I know.

CHAFFETZ: We're not a tax increase away from solving the problem.

BLITZER: As a matter of principle to help the process, to get the Democrats on board, for people making a million dollars a year and more, increase their taxes a little bit in order to get a deal and avoid this dire scenario that the Congressional Budget Office laid out today.

CHAFFETZ: Well, Wolf, again, I don't think that will ultimately solve the problem. I'm with Speaker Boehner on what he said. And that is, I think there's common ground in getting rid of some of the deductions and loopholes. They think we can come together. Republicans and Democrats on that, but I'm not interested in raising the actual rates.

I, too, was elected. These are principles that I stand on and that are important to me. So let's find the common ground. And I do like what you said as you framed it. We need to cut spending. We've got to stop spending money that we don't have.

And so if we can come together on those types of things, I think both parties want to do it. I think Speaker Boehner put out an olive branch, does want to work together, and I think that's the direction we've got to go. BOLDUAN: I'd like to get your kind of raw, political assessment of this. Because you came into office the same time as John Boehner. You know him very well. You served a long time with him. You are retiring. And one of the reasons you cited for retiring is the debt debacle and the inability for Washington to act and do something important.

Are they going to -- are they going to be able to do it this time? Because we're dealing with the same deck of cards and the same balance of power.

LATOURETTE: I'll tell you, I'm hopeful. I just talked to the speaker today and showed him the results of this poll that I was telling you about. And I think, if left to their own devices, the president and the speaker would have reached a big deal a year ago on this.

But what happened is both of them were way out over their skis in terms of -- it's a little bit like John Belushi in "Animal House." "Who's with me?" And you turn around, and there's nobody behind him. And -- but Jason is right. I mean, as a Republican, the last resort should be to raise taxes.

BLITZER: On anyone.

LATOURETTE: On anybody. But you can get there from here. I mean, I put, with Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Simpson-Bowles on the floor and during the Ryan budget discussion. We got 38 votes. And -- but you can get there from here by cleaning out the underbrush and creating $1 trillion of new revenue, not tax increases, new revenue and...

BLITZER: By eliminating deductions and stuff like that.

LATOURETTE: Well, sure. But you know, the president said it's fairy dust or whatever. I was here for the '97 budget act, and I will tell you that we balanced the budget back with President Clinton much faster than we thought, because we did see that economic growth as a result of getting your fiscal house in order.

So, you know, this is going to be a step-by-step process. I think raising taxes should be the last resort. Again, in this survey, Republicans, 69 percent of Republicans said, we'll consider that as long as you don't just take the money and blow it. If you make the big deal. That's what people want.

BLITZER: Congressman, we've got to leave it there. Thanks for coming. Good luck with your next adventure.

LATOURETTE: I'm looking for a job. Call me.

BLITZER: There is life after Congress. Jason Chaffetz, as usual, thanks very much for joining us, as well. Now they're getting ready for some snow there in Salt Lake. Enjoy it. Have fun, go skiing, do whatever you do out there. 

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