New York Times columnist David Brooks talks with Diane about what he sees happening inside Washington and around the country and why he thinks President Trump represents the wrong answer to the right question.
This weekend saw major changes in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. While votes were being cast in Iowa’s straw poll, 1200 miles away, Rick Perry shook things up. He officially entered the race from South Carolina. Back in Iowa, Michele Bachmann was the big winner. She won the Straw Poll with 29% of the vote. Fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty finished a distant third, and then finished his run for the nomination. This Monday morning, there are new frontrunners and a new intensity to the campaigns … a look at major changes in the field of Republican presidential candidates.
- Richard Dunham Washington Bureau Chief for the Houston Chronicle.
- Amy Walter political director, ABC News.
- David Winston republican strategist and president of the Winston Group, and CBS News consultant. Served as a strategic adviser to House and Senate Republican Leadership for the past 12 years.
- David Keene former chairman of the American Conservative Union and a columnist for The Washington Times
- Amy Walter: [During the Iowa Straw Poll,] Michele Bachman “had a great 12 hours. But she found very quickly that this is going to be a tough fight for Iowa with Rick Perry in this race.”
- Diane read an email from a listener named Jeffrey about Sarah Palin, which said, “Sarah Palin showing up in Iowa when she’s not a candidate confirms she’s gotten a taste of the spotlight and now won’t let go. She’s like the kid who says, ‘no, I don’t want to help with your lemonade stand,’ but then goes around telling everyone how she made it a success.”
- “I think what Sarah Palin is beginning to discover is the train is sort of leaving the station here…and that this campaign is starting to fire up…and, somehow, what she’s got to figure out, if she’s not a candidate, how does she sort of sustain her level of awareness in terms of the American people?” said republican strategist and Wisnton Group president David Winston.
- “Just because you win the Iowa straw poll doesn’t mean you’re going to win the Iowa caucuses. And, Lord knows, just because you win the Iowa caucuses doesn’t mean you’re going to be nominated,” said David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union and Washington Times columnist.
- “The economy has become as theological an issue as abortion,” Richard Dunham, Washington Bureau Chief for the Houston Chronicle, said.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. This past weekend brought a major shakeup in the field of Republican presidential candidates. Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Michele Bachmann picked up a straw poll win, and Rick Perry officially became a candidate.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about the changes in the Republican field: David Keene of The Washington Times, former director of the American Conservative Union, Amy Walter of ABC News, Republican strategist David Winston and Rick Dunham, Washington bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your reactions to email@example.com.
MS. DIANE REHMFeel free to join us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. DAVID KEENEGood morning.
MS. AMY WALTERGood morning.
MR. DAVID WINSTONGood morning.
MR. RICHARD DUNHAMGood morning, Diane.
REHMAmy Walter, you were in Iowa this week. What's the message from Ames in Michele Bachmann's win?
WALTERIowa was fantastic. The most important thing I got to do, of course, was go to the state fair and eat a pork chop on a stick. So that was my goal, and I completed it. But, for Michele Bachmann, you know, she had a great Saturday, a good Sunday morning, and then she did not get much of a victory lap though. She wins the straw poll. She gets on every single Sunday morning show.
WALTERShe takes all this energy, enthusiasm to Waterloo, where she meets up with Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who announced his campaign in Charleston on Saturday. And the sparks already started flying.
WALTERLike, well, she gets there in her bus. Rick Perry comes in. He glad-hands. He's working the crowd. People are excited to see him. The press throngs go right at him. She's a little more reserved. She stays in her bus. There is talk from the Republican organizers there that she's not going to come out after Perry unless the lights are turned a certain way.
REHMShe was there a half hour late.
WALTERShe was a little bit late, but she also was spending a lot more time in her bus than she was working the crowd. And that doesn't go over very well.
REHMAnd she was supposed to speak for half an hour.
WALTERAnd, you know, she also wasn't going to speak if Rick Perry was in the room.
REHMOh, I see.
WALTERAnd so that -- I think she was hoping that he would leave, but that didn't happen. So, look, we've got a long way to go in this campaign. But what we saw was that, again, Michele Bachmann, a great 12 hours. But she found very quickly that this is going to be a tough fight for Iowa with Rick Perry in this race.
REHMIs she a frontrunner, David Keene?
KEENEWell, I think Romney is still the frontrunner. The weekend or the week could, in his mind, either be the answer to his dreams or the beginning of his worst nightmare because if, in fact, Rick Perry -- and all the attention is on Ricky Perry. At this stage in the race -- this happens quite often -- the fellow or the woman who's coming in is presumed to be a giant.
KEENEWe'll know in a week or two whether Gov. Perry can handle it all, whether he is, in fact, what he says he is or they -- or his supporters hope he is or not. If he's not and it further divides the anti-Romney vote with the elimination of Tim Pawlenty, then it helps Romney.
KEENEIf, on the other hand, he becomes not only Romney's nightmare but Michele Bachmann's and drive these other folks out, setting up, essentially, a Perry-Romney contest, then it's a very different equation with possibly a very different outcome.
REHMDavid Winston, were you surprised that Tim Pawlenty dropped out?
WINSTONNo. I mean, in looking at the setup to this particular straw poll, I mean, clearly, it was a fight between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. And that's the way the dynamics sort of setup. And Pawlenty was basically saying, look, I may not be as engaging, but I've got this really good organizational structure. And so, given that competition, this should be something I should be able to win.
WINSTONAnd the fact that he got beat by a 2-1 margin clearly said that his organization that he thought he had didn't exist. And as result of that -- no, I don't think it was a particular surprise. I think it's unfortunate 'cause Tim Pawlenty is truly a good guy. I just think he ran the wrong campaign.
WINSTONHe tried to do organizational as opposed to sort of relying on his own personality and relying on his own ability to do issues, and instead show something that caused him to lose.
REHMWhat about Ron Paul? He came in second to Michele Bachmann.
WINSTONRon Paul is the sort of person who can get 2,000 people anywhere in the country at any given point in time. But try to get that to 4,000, and he can't do it. And so, I mean -- and so the Ames straw poll was the perfect dynamic rim. And, look, he only finished 150 votes behind Michele Bachmann.
REHMAnd, Rick Dunham, you have covered Perry...
DUNHAMThat's right, since he was a Democrat.
REHM...for how many years?
REHMSo he was a Democrat. He came out for Al Gore.
DUNHAMWell, he was recruited in 1984 to run in a West Texas state House district by his friend John Sharp, who went to Texas A&M and had been a state senator and was a railroad commissioner, the energy regulator. And he was a conservative Democrat. 1988, Al Gore was running as the most conservative Democrat in the race for president against that Massachusetts liberal Michael Dukakis and the union of -- the union loyalist Dick Gephardt.
DUNHAMAnd so he, like a lot of conservative Democrats in Texas, went for Al Gore. Well, he changed parties a year later and switched over. I mean, he was very close to Bill Clements, who was the Republican governor at the time, and he's just never turned back after he changed parties. He's very partisan. He's as conservative as he was. I don't think he's more conservative. But he's a very strong Christian conservative and very partisan.
REHMAnd lots of folks are comparing him to George W. Bush.
DUNHAMWell, there are some similarities and some differences. As Martin Frost, who was a Texas congressman, says, if you close your eyes and you listen, sometimes you think it's the same person. They have a lot of the West Texas twang, but they're very different. George Bush was an Ivy Leaguer and private school. And Rick Perry was an Aggie. I mean, socially, they're very different.
DUNHAMPolitically, he was the -- Rick Perry was the lieutenant governor to George Bush. But as governor, he has been much more partisan and much less of a compromiser.
KEENEAnd the Bush people and the Perry people are not close. That's their...
REHMWhy is that? Tell me about that.
KEENEWell, it's partly you-know-better-than-I, but it's partly competition. They -- the Bush people, led by Karl Rove and others, were very strongly and very deeply involved in Kay Bailey Hutchison's campaign to try and defeat Gov. Perry in the primary. So there's a lot of bad blood there. And Perry is different in many ways.
KEENEInterestingly, last time he, of course, endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president, so he's not -- most of these people aren't, but he is particularly not all that the caricature makes him out to be.
REHMYeah, and, David Winston, how could or might that bad blood between the Bushes and the Perrys affect Rick Perry's run?
WINSTONWell, I mean, the big question mark here is all the Bush fundraisers. And the question is, where are they going to go? And, again, that fight, if you have the Bush political operatives being very negative, a lot of the Bush funders might not go that direction. That certainly would be a help for Romney. Having said that, he's still a Texan, and a lot of those folks are in Texas.
WINSTONAnd there's sort of a hometown favorite, but that creates a dynamic for Gov. Perry that he's going to just to have work through.
REHMAmy, let me ask you about someone else who also showed up in Iowa, Sarah Palin.
WALTERYes, she did. She was there testing out the fried butter. I did not do that. That was one -- that was a bridge too far for me.
WALTERBut she did, and it was -- you know, the press from around her was hysterical. A tweet went out. Sarah Palin, you know, is in the livestock barn. And then, suddenly, the entire press corps ran into the livestock barn to find her. And, you know, the cameras were there, and the reporters were there. She played it coy as ever.
REHMWhat was the purpose of her being there?
WALTERThe -- that is a great question, Diane. And it seems the purpose is for her to let everybody know she's still there. Don't forget about me.
REHMIs she? Is she?
WALTERAnd this is what's really interesting. So she comes in the state fair. Everybody follows her. Everybody pays attention to her. Now, the next day, she drove out to Illinois to go to Ronald Reagan's birthplace. Nobody went with her there. The story was still in Iowa. And that's an interesting question then for Sarah Palin. She realizes if she's going to be part of the story, she's got to be part of the action.
WALTERShe can no longer expect that everybody's going to follow her every whim. Now, she's got to decide to get into this race. And, if so, it's going to pretty soon.
REHMDavid Winston, here's an email form Jeffrey, who says, "Sarah Palin showing up in Iowa when she's not a candidate confirms to me she's gotten a taste of the spotlight and now won't let go. She's like the kid who says, no, I don't want to help with your lemonade stand, but then goes around telling everyone how she made it a success."
WINSTONWell, no -- and I think Amy has this correct. I mean, I think what Sarah Palin is beginning to discover is the train is sort of leaving the station here. And that is this campaign is starting to fire up. And, all of a sudden, all these other individuals are getting the focus. And, somehow, what she's got to figure out, if she's not a candidate, how does she sort of sustain her level of awareness in terms of the American people?
WINSTONAnd I think she's got a big decision coming here. And I would suggest the one thing that came out of this, Michele Bachmann winning and sort of elevating her status is going to be a complicating factor for Sarah Palin having waited this long. And so one of the things that we're going to see play out over the next month is Sarah Palin finally decide to do this or not.
WINSTONIf she doesn't, I think what she's discovering, as Amy sort of laid out, is that the center of attention is now the campaign, not necessarily her.
REHMWhat do you think, David?
KEENEI think that's right. Obviously, she revels in her celebrity. She's made very good money. She's had a great deal of influence and continues to have a great deal of influence. But that, at least for this cycle, is not going to -- the focus isn't going to be on her because she's not going to be the game if she's not in it.
REHMDavid Keene, former chair of the American Conservative Union. He is a columnist for The Washington Times. Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd here's a question I think many people have raised. It's from Robert in North Carolina. "How is it that fewer than 5,000 people -- those who cast their vote for Michele Bachmann in the straw poll in Iowa -- have such influence over our political discussion? In total, the number of participants in the straw poll represents a minute percentage of the population. The time, attention, celebration of the win seems grotesquely overgrown."
WALTERAnd in many ways, yes, it is, you know? The reality is this is a very small group of people who either paid $30 or, more likely, a campaign paid $30 for each of them to show up here in Ames, Iowa, which isn't close to anything, by the way.
REHMYou're telling me that people are paid to vote in the straw poll?
WALTERThe campaigns buy up a lot of tickets. The money goes to the state party. And they hand out those tickets to their supporters, so they can get in and vote. So it is -- in the old days, the theory was, here's a great way to test your organizational strength, right? Can you, candidate X, get all your supporters from all around the state to converge into Ames, just like you have to do on caucus night, which is a lot colder and you have to do it all over the state?
WALTERBut, now, what it's turned into is sort of this celebrity sort of thing, of course, that the attention now on it probably is not as significant as the -- there's more attention on it than necessarily should be placed on it. And at the same time, look, I think it just shows, at this point in time, a snapshot of where the Iowa voters are, where conservative Republicans are. And the reality is Michele Bachmann, with her Tea Party credential, she's energetic.
WALTERShe's new and fresh. She's meeting the voters in Iowa where they are, which is they are frustrated. They want to get Obama out of there. They're not interested in a compromiser. They're not interested, even necessarily, in just pure electability. They're interested in sending a message to Washington, to other Republicans. Tim Pawlenty's message might have worked in another era. But being a blue state governor is not what they're looking for.
REHMWell -- and that's the point. Might his message have worked in another state? Why is Iowa, election after election, such an important guidepost?
WINSTONWell, for number one, it's the first one out of the box.
WINSTONAnd then, so...
REHMBut why should it be?
WINSTONWell, political tradition, I guess, at this point.
WINSTONI mean, you've got -- but going back to the volatility of that selection process, in terms of who shows up and votes, if Michele Bachmann happened to have gotten that same amount of votes back in 1999, in terms of that Iowa straw poll, she would have finished third and, in fact, a distant third to George W. Bush. Steve Forbes would have been second. So it gives you a sense of, you know, it's not a uniform group of people, you know.
WINSTONAnd so it depends greatly, as Amy was describing, who the campaigns are able to get there, and also that shows -- at least George W. Bush, back in 1999, had a lot of excitement around the...
DUNHAMWell, you can't buy votes, but you can buy tickets. And the problem was Tim Pawlenty bought more tickets than he got votes. It's not a -- you get people in. It showed that he could turn people out, but not to vote for him.
REHMInteresting. David Keene.
KEENEThat's right. It is a fundraiser. Just because you win the Iowa straw poll doesn't mean you're going to win the Iowa caucuses. And, Lord knows, just because you win the Iowa caucuses doesn't mean you're going to be nominated. If a different state was first, we'd be sitting here saying the same thing about that state. So we might as well just enjoy the fact that it is Iowa, where you can have pork chops on a stick.
KEENEBut the fact of the matter is that Iowa does show something. One, it shows sort of the direction that the party is going in, in a cycle. And, secondly, it is a combination that shows -- as people look at it, it's a combination not just of organization and money, which Tim Pawlenty had, but of passion. And as time has gone on, the passion has become as important, or more important, than the money.
KEENEWhen George W. Bush was there, he did have passion. Tim Pawlenty didn't.
WINSTONBut, Diane, I would also suggest that Iowa sort of changed as a state, too. I mean, the Iowa of 1980, where George Bush Sr. beat Ronald Reagan, is a very different state than the state that we've seen more recently.
WALTERAnd even -- yeah.
WINSTONNo. I mean, you've seen it become much more socially conservative...
WINSTON...in terms of its viewpoints. So you sort of have the social conservative Iowa, and then you sort of have the economic conservative New Hampshire. It's a very interesting sort of start to the campaign for Republicans.
DUNHAMRight. A lot of the moderate Republicans of 1980 are the moderate Democrats of 2010 in Iowa. There's a very small moderate wing in the Republican Party, and both parties are much more divided to the left and right.
REHMNumber of people would like us to talk about Gov. Perry's career history before politics. Rick Dunham.
DUNHAMHe didn't have much of one. He was in the military. Unlike George Bush, he did serve. He was a pilot. He went out of Texas A&M, where he was not the greatest student. He will admit it. Got a D in economics, and did -- but when it was necessary for him to get good enough grades to get in the military, he managed to get straight Bs in summer school. So, again, he can buckle down and get things done.
DUNHAMHe worked on his father's farm, but then went into politics in 1984 and has been there ever since.
REHMAnd Roger from Oklahoma wants to talk about Ron Paul, who came in a very close second, saying he's not as conservative as most people, like Iowans, think. He was very good on ending the war on drugs and ending foreign wars. Amy.
WALTERYeah, you know, there was a time even -- not in the '80s, but go back to 1995 when Bob Dole won the straw poll or 1999 when George Bush won it -- George W. Bush won it, that -- you know, there was a sense that there was an establishment, right, and the establishment would get around the candidate they saw as the most electable. And you would always have sort of candidates who were the protest candidates to that establishment.
WALTERBut, ultimately, the establishment won out. What we saw in this straw poll is that there's no such thing as the establishment anymore and that, you know, Michele Bachmann appealing to a Tea Party group of voters that doesn't feel any allegiance to what folks in Washington or what the leadership in Iowa thinks. And that's where Ron Paul gets his vote, too.
WALTERWhen you go to any event -- I agree with David Winston that anywhere I go in the country, at any Republican event, there is always a core of Ron Paul supporters. I would put it at 15 percent. They're always there, going to be a part of it because that is a part of the Republican electorate. There's still a libertarian streak.
WALTERWhere those folks go in different elections, it's based on, obviously, you know anything about 2006, a lot of those voters so frustrated with the war in Iraq, so frustrated with the president's handling of that, they moved over and voted for Democrats. But in 2010, frustration with Washington and the way things were going, moved over to Republicans.
KEENEAmy's right about all that. I would, however, say that Iowa has a reputation of sort of slapping establishment candidates. One of my failures is my inability to -- with candidates -- to go beyond Iowa. But I was in charge of Bob Dole defeating George Bush in Iowa. George Bush was the establishment candidate. I was in charge of George Bush defeating Ronald Reagan in Iowa. And that year, 1980, Ronald Reagan was the establishment candidate.
KEENESo you can't really look at it that way. It's a place. It's a unique place. It's a place to start. It's a place where somebody -- it plays part of the role that New Hampshire alone used to play. It's a place where somebody like Michele Bachmann, with not much money, not much name recognition, can go in and get the door open. Now, that door may close. She may not be able to go any further.
KEENEBut the idea of starting someplace, where people without a lot of money, without being part of the establishment can get into the game and make it and take a shot at taking off is very valuable, I think, in our system of politics.
REHMDavid Winston, Michele Bachmann campaigned against the debt ceiling vote. And on Fox News Sunday, she said she could not compromise her core principles but would be willing to take some steps toward her goals. Her goal was to get enough Republicans elected to the Senate so that Democratic votes would not be required.
WINSTONWell, first off, on that vote, she finds herself in an interesting position, even within the Republican caucus.
WINSTONI mean, 75 percent of the caucus supported that, 25 percent didn't. Even amongst the Tea Party members, right, she was in the minority side of that. So starting off with that point, I think what you're watching Michele Bachmann try to do, is she's taking this very hard line stance. And she's trying to somehow -- she was initially trying to translate how she would govern.
WINSTONI'd have to say that her clear signal, in that particular statement, was that her goal was somehow to just create Republican majorities and try to continue with that hard line and not try to build those majority coalitions.
WINSTONI think -- my sense of that is that statement is going to be -- as many of her statements are -- I mean, if you watched the Sunday shows yesterday, the amount of recordings of her saying things being played, you're going to go through a period here of statements like you just laid out in a variety of other statements. She's about to go to a very intense period of scrutiny of her record and statements.
REHMAnd what about Gov. Romney? He said that corporations are people. People are corporations. That statement is surely going to haunt him, David.
WINSTONWell, yeah, that's -- (word?). But the thing about that is that was sort of -- he just didn't -- he wasn't very articulate in terms of what he was trying to say. And so I think he can sort of explain that. Although, I'm sure the DNC will try to do everything they can (unintelligible) that.
WINSTONBut having said that, that, to me, is a slightly different dynamic 'cause what he's trying to say is, look, you know, people work in corporations. They pay taxes, and then so you're involved with people. It was just not particularly articulate. What Michele Bachmann is talking about, however, is a very specific point in why she should be elected as opposed to what the governor said.
WALTERWell, and this is -- this goes to Mitt Romney's problem overall as a candidate for -- you know, for as effective as he may be able to be on the economy. I mean, this is his wheelhouse now. This isn't about social issues anymore. This is about how are we going to get jobs back? How are we going to get the economy running? I'm a businessman. I'm not a career politician like the rest of the folks in the field. He still has that Bain Capital baggage.
WALTERAnd a lot of the jobs or a lot of the money -- I'm sorry -- that was made by companies supported by Bain were made because they laid off a lot of people, and they shipped jobs overseas. And they did the sorts of things that companies do to make money, which is they don't necessarily do things in the -- to benefit the employees. So that's going to be the line that Democrats will use against Mitt Romney, not simply to just pull out.
WALTERDavid is right, you know, just -- if you just said off the cuff, corporations are people. I didn't mean to say that. That's one thing. But, really, what Mitt Romney has to figure out how to do is to say -- to sort of marry his corporate culture with the populist anger out there, not just at Washington because there's a frustration at Washington, but the banks that got bailed out and the auto companies that got bailed out.
WALTERThese corporations that are sitting on trillions of dollars and shipping jobs overseas -- who's going to take care of me? And that is where Republicans have to figure out how to go.
REHMAmy Walter, political director for ABC News. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." It's time to open the phones. Let's go first to San Antonio, Texas. Good morning, Chip. You're on the air.
CHIPGood morning. I just want to say it's incredibly early in the campaign, obviously, but I think it's important that Gov. Rick Perry get a lot more scrutiny. A lot of the things that are going to be said about what's going on in Texas, the conditions on the ground do not match the rhetoric.
CHIPAnd after the bruising, bruising legislative session that we've gone through, the cuts that have been made to education and social programs that support people in this city and state, I really think that there needs to be serious in-depth look at who Rick Perry is and what he's actually tried to do. And I thank you for your time. Have a good day.
REHMYou, too. Rick Dunham.
DUNHAMWell, quick points. I think it's important to look at the record because Rick Perry hasn't talked a lot about where he stands on national issues. So look at what they did to balance the budget in Texas. Secondly, for the first time, he will be on record on things like the debt ceiling. He avoided that whole debate. We were talking about Michele Bachmann being on record with what she would have done.
DUNHAMWe don't know what Rick Perry would have done. Third is the Texas Miracle. Rick Perry talks about the jobs that he's created. We wrote on our Perry Watch column, which appears in San Antonio, in mysanantonio.com, 10 reasons why the Texas economy boomed that have nothing to do with Rick Perry.
DUNHAMNot to say that he didn't have anything to do with it, but you have things like the energy price spike, the defense spending that's gone up so much since Sept. 11 and benefits Texas. There was never a real estate bubble in Texas where there was in a lot of the country, so there wasn't the burst there, cheap immigrant labor in Texas far more than in much of the country, and younger population where people consume more.
DUNHAMSo, again, there are a lot reasons why Texas has boomed that don't directly have to do with Rick Perry.
REHMThere is another question -- 23.8 percent of Texans did not have health insurance in 2009. Has that percentage changed?
DUNHAMI think it's gone up slightly. But Texas is close to the bottom or the top for uninsured people. It was before Perry became governor. It is now. It's a fair question to raise.
REHMTexas has the second highest percentage of children without health insurance.
DUNHAMThat's correct. And health insurance is a big issue for him, Obamacare.
REHMTexas also lags the rest to the nation badly in high school graduation rates?
DUNHAMYeah, I think you could have your list where Texas is at the top of all the good things and the bad things. You're absolutely right.
WALTERYou know, the other issue, though, is when you think about where the economy is right now and how people feel about the economy. When only 8 percent of Americans right now in Gallup polling say they feel that the economy is excellent or good, when only 17 percent think -- they think the economy is getting better, some of those issues that you raise, Diane, don't necessary go to the top of the concern list for a lot of voters.
WALTERAll they're going to hear at some point is, this guy created jobs in Texas. And they want to hear about jobs, and they want to hear about the economy. And if Perry does his job right, he finds a way to keep that focus unrelenting on that.
REHMBut that's where I feel the press needs to make the point clearly, that, for example, the average wage of those Texas' jobs is around $7 an hour. I don't think the press can simply go along with what Gov. Perry has to say and swallow it whole, David Keene.
KEENEWell, the press should always do that, but the narrative...
KEENEThe narrative that is -- that surrounds Rick Perry's persona as being the governor of the state that's producing a lot of jobs, and -- partly worth a mention -- but jobs are being driven there by places like California. But no matter where you're governor of, you can find negative things and positive things. All in all, he's got a pretty good narrative.
KEENEBut when you look at the discussion that we're now having and the questions of the last few minutes and with what's happened in Iowa, you get down to what the general election is going to be about. It's going to be about these issues, about the size and the role of the government, whether we should be worried about the deficit or whether we should be spending more money.
KEENEAnd it's really a race in which both parties are all in because both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have staked out a very clear position on the issue of most -- of concern to most Americans. And that's going to determine how this race ultimately ends.
REHMI just want to make sure that people hear the full story and not just what candidates tell us. David Keene is former chair of The American Conservative Union.
REHMAnd welcome back. Four people are with me in the studio, not only taking a look at what happened in Iowa, but how we move forward in this -- what will be an historic battle of wills and philosophies and ideology for the 2012 presidential nomination, not only between Democrats and Republicans but within the Republican party itself. David Keene is here. Amy Walter is with ABC News. David Winston is with the Winston Group.
REHMHe's also a CBS News consultant. Rick Dunham is Washington bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers. He is the creator of the blogs, Texas on the Potomac and Perry Watch. All right. Let's go to Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Good morning, Marie.
MARIEYes. Thank you, Diane, for taking my call.
MARIEI don't think that Michele Bachmann has a chance of getting anywhere near of becoming the president of the United States. Number one, she does not have that much experience, and, number two, she makes money on being in the business with her husband on trying to turn gays into normal people. I just -- you know, that's just craziness to me.
REHMWhat do you think about that, David Winston? How much is her husband's business likely to hurt her?
WINSTONWell, it's clearly a topic of conversation.
WINSTONAnd it is likely to be a part of the theme in terms of trying to sort of define a -- 'cause, again, on a variety of the morning shows yesterday, the theme of her social attitudes, in -- particularly in terms of gays, came up. And, clearly, I will tell you, going to your point, the press is quite focused on that, and he -- and her husband has clearly been very involved in that. And so my expectation is that you'll see that come in full force.
WINSTONHaving said that, I want to go back to a point that you were making earlier in terms of the broader discussion. As much as all those other -- the analogy I like to use is, the country right now is like a house on fire, the roof on fire, right? The window may be broken -- that's health care. The foundation may be cracked -- you know, that could be the debt. But, ultimately, the fire on the roof is the economy and jobs.
WINSTONAnd until you put that out, nothing else matters. And that's kind of where the public is at. So they're not -- it's not that they're not paying attention to the other issues. It's just the one is so overwhelming. That's what -- that's why you see those huge numbers. And, ultimately, again, getting into this discussion about Bachmann, ultimately, she's going to begin to answer the question, what am I going to do to create jobs?
WINSTONI mean, I will tell you that what you're going to see is a race here between Romney, Perry and Bachmann, is who comes up with the plan that people have confidence in to, one, win the nomination and, two, by the way, go up against a president? 'Cause that's not a done deal either.
REHMWho has or who might come up with a plan to create jobs?
WALTERWell, isn't that a good question, right? Listen, I think, the -- this is what's so difficult about this process that we're in right now. The Republican primary, the way you win is by saying, I'm not a compromiser. But you obviously have to come to Washington and get something done, right? And the odds are -- even though Michele Bachmann talks about, I'm going to bring 13 Republicans with me, it's not going to happen in the Senate.
WALTERSo there's going to be divided government at some level. You got to be able to show that you can compromise and get something done. But that's not how you win the nomination right now. I think the other thing that, you know, the folks on the middle, those people who decide elections, what they are incredibly frustrated with is the sort of same old talking points.
WALTERAnd, quite frankly, even folks who were in the Republican and Democratic camps, this idea that, well, if we just have tax cuts, we're going to create jobs, or, if we just raise taxes, we're going to create jobs. I think most Americans recognize it's much more complicated than that.
WALTERAnd they want to see somebody who comes out and says, you know what we're going to do? I have this idea, this idea, this idea, this idea. We're going to do public-private partnerships. We're going to create this new thing. We're going to do this and this and this, and that -- you know, the president of the United States sits down and says, every single day, I'm instructing my staff to come up with, you know, one new idea.
WALTERAnd every single day, I'm going to do something for this economy. It has to be bigger than just the rhetoric. And I think that's where folks are getting caught up with it.
REHMAnd Susie in Jacksonville, Fla., says, "Republicans have been saying over and over again, government does not create jobs. So how are these folks, any of them going to create jobs?"
KEENEWell, we have...
REHMHave we heard one good idea?
KEENEYou know, I have -- I've heard a lot of good ideas. Both of the parties have their approach to dealing with the economy. And, yes, it's the same old thing. But it's been the same old thing for centuries. And people would like sizzle, and you'd like somebody to wave a magic wand and create jobs. But it doesn't work that way. The Obama plan is in place and doesn't seem to be working.
KEENENow, some people are skeptical about what the Republicans would do. They think that would work. And the public is going to have to make a choice between those two approaches. Because, you know, somebody who is skeptical or somebody who doesn't like the Republican approach says, well, that doesn't work. Where's your plan to create jobs? Republicans who don't like the Obama approach say he doesn't care about jobs.
KEENEHe's not doing it. Those are two different approaches to dealing with the economy and two different approaches to dealing with jobs.
REHMBut (unintelligible) specific is on the table, Rick Dunham.
DUNHAMWell, that's right. That's because the economy has become as theological an issue as abortion. And it all flows from your basic view. Rick Perry would say, I have a plan: less government regulation, lower tax rates, get rid of some loopholes, reduce federal spending. That's his plan. Barack Obama will come up with 12 different things that he will do. But, again, it's all based on the original theology of both of the parties right now.
WALTERBut -- yeah, but Americans that I -- whether they're on the right or the left, they say the same thing. They say, you know, it doesn't seem like we make anything anymore in America. It doesn't seem like we -- we don't know where we're going.
WALTERI mean, I think this is different from past years where we were in a recession, where we were struggling economically, because there's the sense now that we are headed off of a cliff, and nobody's telling us exactly where we're going to land. This does not look like -- our economy is much more complicated. We have global economy now. You can't just stay in the theological anymore.
WINSTONBut -- and there's this question that pollsters use called direction of the country, right track, wrong track, represents sort of optimism or pessimism. Right now, the most recent survey I did, 19 percent said right direction, 70 percent, wrong track. And that gives you a sense of the frustration, as Amy was describing, of the American people.
WINSTONBut taking that a step farther, what that also means for all politicians is when the public is that unhappy, they are really paying attention to everything that you're saying. And I think you're going to see a situation here, just as you saw with these debates, right, the impact of these debates have are going to be significant 'cause people are listening.
REHMAll right. To Andy here in Washington, D.C. Good morning to you.
ANDYGood morning. This is maybe a strange question, but I'm wondering if the economy, at this stage in history, given the global economy and given the computerization and the Internet and everything, whether it really can create enough jobs, period, no matter whether you got Republicans or Democrats in there. I wonder if capitalism is capable of doing the job at this point.
DUNHAMWell, I'll say as a former reporter for Businessweek, I do think that the economy is capable. And I do think there's an area where the United States could excel, and that is green energy. I mean, think of the jobs of the future where the United States did so well, turn of the last century, was in manufacturing and in leading the way. And, again, this is one where it's an opportunity for a Republican to embrace.
DUNHAMIt's obviously something the president has talked about. But a Republican could do that in a way that I don't think would defy the theology.
WINSTONAnd I have to say, when you take a look at some of the high-tech manufacturing jobs that are oversea -- I mean, Apple builds most of its computers overseas in China. There's no reason why we shouldn't have some sort of program to try to get some of those jobs back into the United States.
WINSTONAnd I think those are the sort of challenges, those sorts of manufacturing jobs, those are the sort of policies that presidents, Republican or Democrat, need to think through to sort of create that better job creation environment.
REHMAll right. To Manchester, N.H. Good morning, George.
GEORGEGood morning. I'm wondering why former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the unknown candidate.
REHMUnknown, Rick Dunham?
DUNHAMWell, I'll add Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer. I -- when people say, how many people are running for president? It all depends. There are dozens of them out there. Gary Johnson, it's an interesting thing. He just has not taken off. The conservative conference earlier this year had a straw poll, and he did modestly well. But Ron Paul has completely taken up all the oxygen on that wing of the party, libertarian wing.
KEENEI think that's exactly right. If Ron Paul weren't the darling -- wasn't the darling of the libertarian wing of the conservative movement, probably, Gary Johnson would be or could be. But also, Gary Johnson's appeal to that thing is much narrower than Ron Paul's. So he just hasn't taken off, but then neither has Tim Pawlenty.
REHMWell -- but what about Michele Bachmann and the entire Republican Party? Ames, Iowa, appeals to a lot of Tea Party voters. Can she appeal more widely, David Winston?
WINSTONAnd there's the $64 question. I mean, the dynamic as it now stands at this point is she's got this core group of people that she has clearly gotten behind her. But how does she grow that? Again, I go back to that particular vote in the House where she ended up siding on the minority side of the Tea Party members. She has got to figure out how to go beyond her present political dynamic and actually grow some of this vote.
WINSTONAnd I think that's a much bigger challenge than, I think, she wrote. That's why in terms of looking at it, if I were going to tier it at this point, I mean, I think you see sort of Romney and Perry at one tier. Michele Bachmann may be edged away from the rest of the group, but she is not a part of that first tier yet. She's got a long ways to go in terms of growing her support before she can be a part of that.
KEENEI think that's right. And that's the job of any candidate, once they get a foothold, to figure out how they can communicate with other people. I'll go back to something that was earlier said about Michele Bachmann, and that is the experience question. You know, every one of our elections tends to be a reaction to the previous election.
KEENEAnd if you look at our last presidential election, we had a candidate that we elected president who didn't have much experience. This time, if history is a guide, voters, particularly independents, are going to look for someone who has some kind of experience that they can relate to. And that may hurt Michele Bachmann.
KEENEOn the plus side, though, I have to say that she has an ability to communicate in plain language that's superior to what most people gave her credit for when she started this. So she's got some good tools. Whether she can expand is the real question, the $64,000 question.
REHMWhat about her real experience, Rick Dunham?
DUNHAMWell, if you're talking real experience, again, as David was saying, Barack Obama would not have been elected president. If you look at the match of -- John McCain and Bob Dole would have been president. I think the question for experience right now is experience that could help you create jobs. And again, that's what Mitt Romney is going to be focusing on.
DUNHAMThat's what Rick Perry is already focusing on and what Barack Obama will have to talk about, and I think that's the issue. The number of years that you've spent in elective office is not all that important, really, even executive experience. I think people are going to look for experience that could create jobs and turn the economy around.
REHMRick Dunham of the Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
WINSTONAnd, Diane, to follow up on what Rick was saying. Look, the most recent Gallup tracking had President Obama at 39 percent job approval. I mean, that's -- I mean, I'm sure the White House is particularly unhappy about that number. But, still, when you look at the ballot tests, I'm still not seeing a Republican leading in any of them.
WINSTONAnd this goes to what Rick's saying, is, ultimately, a Republican candidate is really going to have to articulate their position on jobs. The country is ready to look at somebody else. And, right now, the candidates, as they stand, they're not moving -- they have not said, we found a plan yet.
REHMAll right. So of all the people out there now who have already made it clear that they are running, is there anybody else who has not yet declared, who could come in, Amy?
WALTERWell, we talked a little bit about her before, Sarah Palin. I mean, she still has a chance to come in and shake up this race. But I do think it's not just Michele Bachmann who's taken her spotlight. It's Rick Perry. I mean, that means, now, three people are going to be competing for the same base of voters.
REHMWhat about Chris Christie of New Jersey?
WALTERI mean, look, I think, you know, this is where Rick Perry gets to come in as sort of the white horse, right? This was supposed to be Chris Christie's place to be, that he was going to come in and help this party that was struggling to find an acceptable candidate. And to Dave's point about the Gallup poll, I mean, I think it's starting to dawn more and more on Republicans that they can actually win this thing. And I don't think that was true before.
REHMWhat about Huntsman?
WINSTONI -- at this point, I mean, particularly given the last debate performance, he needs to do something compelling. And there are three debates that are going to be coming up in September. He needs to do something compelling in one of them, or else he's pretty much by the wayside, sort of falling into the Gary Johnson category.
REHMDo you agree?
DUNHAMWell, I think of Orrin Hatch running for president and some of the others over the Richard Luger, who, on paper, look like they would be good presidents. But then you watch them on the stage. You watch them in debates. And they just didn't stand out.
REHMSo it's performance.
WALTERNo. I think its two things. It's -- his performance, certainly, I agree, was not particularly strong. But the rationale for Jon Huntsman's candidacy has never been made. And you can see it, actually, in general election. Oh, look, I have experience. I went to China. China is important for jobs and our relationship with them. But then you get -- and I can compromise.
WALTERBut you sort of get beyond that. You say, well, how does he appeal to a Republican primary electorate as a member of the Obama administration, as a governor who supported civil unions, as somebody who just jumped in, who has no name ID and he's never really spent time toiling in the fields of Republican primary with Republican primary voters? So there's never been, even at the beginning, a rationale. He had to find some way to break out.
REHMWhat about religion and that factor, David Winston?
WINSTONIn this particular dynamic, I think the Mormonism just doesn't matter at all in this particular case. One, because you've got two candidates, Romney and Huntsman. But I think at this point, again, going back to -- the problems are so dire, so big, just -- yeah, I want someone who can solve them. And that's what people are looking for. Give me a candidate who can solve this problem, I'm for him.
REHMSo Michele Bachmann, a really, really born-again Christian, that doesn't get in the way, David?
KEENEI mean, I don't think that that is the problem. And I also think, when you look at the field, the decision that people make in selecting a nominee is a very complicated decision, which depends more than just performance, more than just experience. And when one of them wins, that's when you can really start comparing that person to the president, not before that.
REHMDavid Keene, Amy Walter, David Winston, Rick Dunham, great program. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Sarah Ashworth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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