'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod and Reince Priebus

David Axelrod and Reince Priebus

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again. With just over six weeks to go, it is safe to say that Mitt Romney can't afford another one like his last. From the inside account of political dysfunction that broke Sunday night to the electrical malfunction that grounded Ann Romney's plane on Friday, nothing seemed to go right.

And campaigning Saturday in Florida, running mate Paul Ryan fielded a question about griping from Republican insiders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: There will always be critics. There are always people who have other ideas on how best to achieve things. But guess what? I have rarely seen a moment where the man and the moment have met so well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: On a rare trip to Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, President Obama pounded away at Romney's private thoughts on that 47 percent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We can't get very far if we're just writing off half the country as a bunch of victims or -- or presume that somehow they want to be dependent on government or don't want to take responsibility for their own lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And with that, let's get right to our headliners, David Axelrod from the Obama campaign and the chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

And, Chairman Priebus, let me begin with you. Good morning. Thanks for coming to us from Wisconsin.

PRIEBUS: Hey, good morning, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama -- you saw him there yesterday. Voters are going to be hearing about that leaked video every single day.

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, listen, I think Governor Romney's been pretty clear, it probably wasn't the best-said, you know, moment in the campaign and probably not the best week in the campaign, but I will say that I think we can look back at last week as a campaign in a couple months and say, this was the defining week in both campaigns, where I think both campaigns are crystallizing around a central theme, which is going to be, what kind of future do we want for our kids and grandkids?

What type of America do we want for this country? Do we want the cradle-to-grave, life of Julia, Obamacare, we'll take care of you from preschool to death America? Or do we want sort of a return to, you know, opportunity, liberty, freedom, you know, the type of America where, when I grew up here in Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin, that, you know, my dad would point to a house as a union electrician, a nice house, and say, "You know what, guy? If you go to school and you work hard, you're going to live in that house."

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Mr. Chairman, let me -- let me interrupt you right there. You're saying you like the choice that was presented to voters last week?

PRIEBUS: No, here's what I would say. I think that it's an important question. And I think that the question presented to this country and the question that will be presented isn't so much -- which we can talk about whether people are better off today than they were four years ago -- and clearly we're not -- but I think the more important question is, what type of America and -- and whether or not our kids are going to be better off 4, 10, and 20 years from today.

And the policies that Barack Obama are putting in place, where we have seen just an enormous growth in people that are dependent on the government -- I mean, it's just a fact -- I don't think that's the type of America we want for our kids and grandkids. And I think that is an important question, and that is a question that should be presented to the American people. And Barack Obama has made everything worse, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you say -- the question is, are Mitt Romney and his campaign up to the task of defeating him? And you know there were a chorus of Republican critics out this week, as well, and none more forceful than Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Here's what she wrote earlier in the week. She said, "It's time to admit that the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It's not big. It's not brave. It's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment. An intervention is in order. Mitt, this isn't working."

You know, she went on to amend that in her Saturday column, said she was just being polite calling the Romney campaign incompetent, said instead it's a rolling calamity.

Now, I know that Governor Romney says his campaign doesn't need a turnaround, but is he in denial?

PRIEBUS: No, I don't think so, George. And, quite frankly, I -- first of all, I think Peggy Noonan's really smart, and I -- and I read both of those columns. I think that where we're at as a movement and as Republicans and conservatives and people that are really worried about the growth of government in this country and what that means for our future, I respect and I admire people that get very concerned -- and even if they're upset about, you know, something that happens in a campaign or if the week needs to be better, like last week, because I think that this is a different kind of campaign, George.

I mean, I promise you on my life, I'm not sitting here talking to you because I'm worried about the future of the Republican Party. And I can guarantee you that all the people that we're talking to here in Wisconsin aren't, either. We're worried about the future of this country, and that's why, you know, I think that the leeway given on our side of the aisle is very small to the likes of Peggy Noonan and other writers that say, hey, listen, guys, you need to -- we need to be ahead, we need to be pounding away.

I agree with that. And I think we are. I think that we had a good week last week, I think in retrospect, in that we were able to frame up the debate last week in the sense of, what future do we want and do you want out there...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But even -- even your governor...

PRIEBUS: ... for your kids and grandkids. And clearly, things are not going well in this country, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even your governor, though, Chairman Priebus, Scott Walker, Republican governor of Wisconsin, has said that Governor Romney has to be much more bold and specific in laying out this case. And he wants to unleash Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, as well, thinks that the -- the whole Romney campaign has to be more in the Ryan playbook, has to be putting out more bold and specific ideas. Is he right?

PRIEBUS: Well, I don't think he quite said it that way, George. I know he said that months ago. He's not right, as we sit here today. I mean, the fact of the matter is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: He used the words bold and specific this week.

PRIEBUS: Listen, I'll tell you about specifics. First of all, Mitt Romney talks about -- all the time about reducing the GDP spending from 25 cents on the dollar down to 20, reducing small business taxes from 35 to 25, reducing income taxes across the board by 20 percent.

I mean, for crying out loud, we've got Paul Ryan on the ticket. There can't be anything more specific than a budget that we passed to get a hold of the 10-year debt window, the deficits that are out of control that the president promised that he would fix.

As far as specifics go, we're the only ones talking about how to save Medicare. The president's the one that raided Medicare by $700 billion. I mean, we've got specifics coming out of our eyeballs, George. And if so -- I just think that we need to keep pounding away on those specifics and keep talking about those specifics so that the American people know that -- because I think that people out there, George, have made up their minds that clearly this president didn't fulfill the promises and the mission that he laid out four years ago.

And now, over the next 46 days, we have to lay out to the American people not just that we need to start having people in office that commit to the promises they make, but that we need to lay out the vision and lay out the specifics as we are doing, but more clearly and more consistently on a daily basis. I mean, we have to win the day. We have to win the mission on a daily basis.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A couple more quick questions. Governor Romney put out his tax returns, 2011 tax return on Friday. The Obama campaign say that Romney continues to fail the test of full disclosure. Your response?

PRIEBUS: I think it's totally bogus. I mean, they've given away over 30 percent of their income to charity. The Romneys are -- I just -- we mentioned that I'm in Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin, today. You know, a lot of communities have families that are extraordinarily generous, that they're the ones that show up and save the symphony, they help build the wing in the library. The Romneys have been successful, but they've also been the types of people in the community that -- that we thank God for every day through their generosity and their kind heart.

That's a narrative, George, that has to get out there. These are kind, compassionate, extraordinarily generous people. And for Barack Obama to play this small-ball game when he's got a disaster overseas in the Middle East and in Northern Africa that he said he could solve, which he didn't, and now they're whistling past the graveyard on that issue, we've got a disaster in the economy in this country, and somehow this president thinks he's entitled to four more years? I think he should worry about intelligence briefings, getting the economy back on track instead of debate prep and, you know, interviews with, you know, Pimp with the Limp and -- and meetings with Jay-Z and Beyonce. I think he needs to get serious.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I want to ask -- I want to ask you the Republican chances in the Senate. It seems like the chances the Republicans will take over the Senate are far less than they were just a few months ago. Your own Senate candidate in Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, says the Romney campaign may be holding back his own chances, as well.

Two quick questions. Are you convinced -- still convinced the GOP can win in the Senate? And, two, now that it appears that Todd Akin is going to be the Senate candidate in Missouri, does he have the full backing, full and official backing of the Republican Party?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, the second one first. I mean, we're not going to play in Missouri with Todd Akin, I can tell you that. So it'll be yet to be seen whether he stays in or not.

As far as the first question, I'm very confident we can take the Senate. I mean, I know that Tommy's going to win here in Wisconsin. He is a legend. It's like Harley-Davidson, Miller Lite, Tommy Thompson. He is a brand. He's going to win.

But then you go to Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana. That gives you four. You hold Scott Brown. And then we haven't even talked about what's happening in Virginia, Ohio, Florida. I feel very good about it. And I would also keep an eye out on Hawaii and Linda Lingle out there.

So we've got great opportunities. We're going to win this race, because people know that we need a better future for this country, and so far the last four years have been a disaster. I don't think people are hoping for four more years of this mess.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chairman Priebus, thanks very much for your time this morning.

PRIEBUS: All right. Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Obama campaign now, David Axelrod here with us this morning. Thanks for coming in.

AXELROD: Great to be here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Chairman Priebus right there, last week a defining week for the campaign, a good week for the Republican campaign.

AXELROD: Well, I don't know what prism he's looking through. I don't think anybody else would define it as a good week. But it was an enlightening week. The week began with Governor Romney basically slandering 47 percent of America, saying that they were, you know, hooked on dependency, didn't pay their taxes, and so on. And at the end of the week, we saw him manipulating his own tax returns to try and plump up his portion of taxes to 14 percent...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're talking about not taking the charitable deductions.

AXELROD: Right. Last -- two months ago on your own air, he said that anybody who didn't take the deductions they were owed wasn't qualified to be president. Well, I guess he's not qualified, because that's exactly what he did last week to try and get his number up from 9 percent or 10 percent to 14 percent.

It's fair to say that a lot of those 47 percent that he was slandering earlier in the week probably pay more -- a higher percentage of their income in taxes overall than he does.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you really think there's any more juice left in this issue?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think that it is -- it is important that -- I mean, we did learn some things from these tax returns, in addition to the rate he paid. We understood that the guy who goes around America saying he's going to bash China invested in a Chinese oil -- state oil company. The guy who says let's believe in America put his money in a fund that hedges against American Treasuries, roots for failure of the American Treasuries.

So, you know, we learned some things. But he still hasn't disclosed any years before 2010. His father was the one who set the standard -- 12 years -- and you know why? He said you put out one or two years, you can manipulate them to give false impressions. So the question for people is, what?

But, George, the bigger issue isn't that the isn't being straight about his own taxes. The bigger issue is that he isn't being straight about what he's going to do to everyone else's taxes. You heard Chairman Priebus say we have specifics coming out of our eyeballs. I don't think anybody else has seen those specifics.

Five trillion dollar tax cut Governor Romney has proposed, no specifics on how he would pay for that tax cut. Two trillion dollars in new defense spending, no specifics on how he would pay for that. He's either going to explode the deficit, sock it to the middle class, or both.

STEPHANOPOULOS: At the same time, the economy, as you know, still struggling. We also learned this week that unemployment rose or remained the same in 38 states last month. Huge problem for the president, right?

AXELROD: Well, look, the country's come through a difficult time, George. We know that. We've had this discussion before. We've come a long way from when we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. We've had 30 straight months of job growth. But this is an ongoing project.

The question is -- for the country right now, is the answer to go back to trickle-down economics, a $5 trillion unpaid tax cut skewed to the wealthy, deregulation of Wall Street, the same script we -- we played through in the last decade? Or are we going to keep moving forward and doing the things we need to, to rebuild this economy and rebuild the middle class?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Romney campaign is going to do everything they can to remind people of what they say are Obama's failures, President Obama's failures. A new ad out this morning based on this book, looking back at the debt limit crisis last year, Bob Woodward's book. Here's the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): During stimulus negotiations, President Obama called his Democratic leadership team, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and as President Obama spoke, Nancy Pelosi hit the mute button, went on with their meeting, ignoring the president, not even listening to what he had to say. If he cannot lead his own party, how can he lead America?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the point (ph), President Obama's failed the test of leadership.

AXELROD: Well, first of all, Nancy Pelosi has denied that incident. But the -- the larger point is...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Although Bob Woodward has the memo that says that it happened.

AXELROD: The larger point is this, George. I read today that the Romney campaign said they're going to double-down on their attacks on the president. I don't think the problem has been that they haven't attacked the president enough. It's not about them tearing down the president. They simply haven't offered ideas about how they're going to lift up the country. And until they do that, I think the American people are going to continue to reject him.

The most interesting poll in the last week came from the state of Massachusetts, where Governor Romney, the state he governed just six years ago, is 33 points behind. You're a student of history. No one has ever won the presidency without carrying their home state. What a harsh judgment from the people who know him best.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question, though. You talk about the polls. How do you explain the fact that in the Gallup poll it still shows a tied race after all this?

AXELROD: Well, look, we've always said it was going to be a close race. Structurally, the way the politics of our country are set up, we knew it was going to be a close race. We're prepared for a close race. I'm not going to get into the nuances of individual polls. Some have us much farther ahead, some have us more narrowly ahead, but we're prepared for a close race. And we're going to work every hour of every day until November 6th, because, as Chairman Priebus said, there is a lot at stake about the kind of future we're going to have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: David Axelrod, thanks for coming in this morning.

AXELROD: Great to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Coming up right up, our powerhouse roundtable weighs in on all the week's politics.

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MEYERS: President Obama, what are you doing? Your poll numbers are looking great; your opponent is in flames; I haven't heard Joe Biden's name in months, which is great.

(LAUGHTER)

And yet you come out and say, "Hey, I can't change Washington from the inside." I thought we were in charge of the hope and you were in charge of the change. No one wants the coach to come in at halftime and say, "Oh, that was rough. Anybody have any ideas?"

(LAUGHTER)

You want us to fix it? Look, if you make a Facebook page, we'll like it. It's the least we can do, but it's also the most we can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPENCER: We got our asses kicked in the first quarter, but it's time to get up off the mat. I'm going to talk to the staff. I'm going to take them off the leash.

SHEEN: You have a strategy for all this?

SPENCER: I have the beginnings of one.

SHEEN: What is it?

SPENCER: We're going to try that for a little while.

Listen up. That ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into them full speed. I mean, we're going to lose some of these battles, and we might even lose the White House, but we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country and let that be our legacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: A little vintage "West Wing" right there. Inside the Romney war rooms, getting the same kind of advice. We hear the strategy is more Mitt, let Mitt be Mitt. Let's talk about it now on our roundtable.

George Will off today, but we're joined by Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace, also from the George W. Bush White House, former Obama adviser Melody Barnes, Jorge Ramos of Univision -- what a week you had, this week with both candidates...

RAMOS: A little intense and interesting, but I'm fine.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Very intense week.

RAMOS: You work tomorrow? I work tomorrow.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right. Ann Coulter is back again. Thank you for coming in. Author of a new book out this week, called "Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the '70s to Obama." Also, Robert Reich, former labor secretary for President Clinton, your book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback.

Thanks for all coming in right now. Nicolle, let me begin with you. You heard Chairman Priebus right there, overall a defining week for the Romney campaign. We hear they're going to have a more intense strategy going forward, but you heard Governor Romney himself say no turnaround necessary.

WALLACE: Yeah, look, they -- I talked to about a half-a-dozen folks inside the Romney campaign, and they see things the way we see things, but they don't see the solution the same way all the Republicans on the outside would like them to solve the problem.

Republicans on the outside have angst in two very distinct categories. They have angst about the candidate himself. They believe that what he revealed with his comment, the 47 percent, really shows a misunderstanding, that nobody receiving public assistance wants to be receiving public assistance. And they believe that the truly conservative principle would be to help those people reach out of a position in life. They believe that's the Reagan legacy.

The other category of angst that Republicans on the outside have is about the campaign itself. And I think that this is really a time -- a time of testing for both the candidate and that campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So from inside the campaign, what -- if you could lay out in two or three points, what is their strategy?

WALLACE: They need to stop being hostage to the news cycle. They understand that if they end up defending themselves from another leak or a gaffe, that they're not going to go into that first debate in the strongest position they need to. So they will admit that they need to get out of the gaffe-prone narrative that they seem to be hostage in.

The other thing they -- they understand that they need to start doing -- and I'm not sure why they didn't try this earlier -- is to drive a message of their own.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. And meanwhile, Bob Reich, I think what a lot of Democrats took away from that video that came out on Monday is that, in some ways, Romney was attacking his own base in that 47 percent.

REICH: Absolutely, George. It was a devastating video also because it confirmed the Democrats' story about Romney, which is that he is an elitist, he's out of touch, he's a plutocrat, he doesn't know what half or more than half of America is up to.

But what struck me most is not so much the content of that video, it was the -- the way in which Romney presented himself. You know, Romney was somebody who -- and has been somebody who we don't know who he is. There's this kind of notion that he is an automaton.

But in that video, he comes forth as passionate or indignant. I mean, there is a commitment there. The trouble is that passion and that commitment is about some -- you know, is about elitism. It's not about caring for most Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of people, Ann Coulter, thought they saw the real Romney there.

COULTER: I wish he would show the real Romney, rather than these characterizations of what he said, because I couldn't disagree more with both of them. I think what most Americans heard was, "47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes." Everyone at this table may know that, but most Americans don't know that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Those are federal income taxes. They pay a lot of payroll taxes.

COULTER: Right. Yeah, OK, well, that's what he said. And for people to find out that 47 percent of Americans are not paying income taxes, all he's doing is explaining to donors -- I mean, this wasn't a campaign speech -- is saying, our low tax message isn't going to resonate with people who don't pay income taxes. He's not rejecting them. He's explaining to donors, they are rejecting me. And when you play the actual clip, I don't think it's him being smearing, elitist? It is him explaining to donors why he can't get 47 percent.

REICH: And it was so disdaining. It was so condemning.

COULTER: Well, let's play it. These descriptions of it in the media are so much worse. And I notice on MSNBC they keep -- they keep describing it, but won't show it. When you actually see it...

REICH: That's the devastating thing about the video. People saw it.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: We did see it. And I think it was shockingly bad politics. But what sits underneath it, as Bob was saying, was the divisiveness, which Washington needs no more of, but on top of that, the next president is going to have to continue to make big decisions about the deficit and the investments for this country. And what Mitt Romney displayed was a lack of understanding about the real lives of a lot of people, of seniors, of students, of people in the military, and yet we're going to trust him to make decisions about their lives, when they are paying payroll taxes, where they're paying property taxes, and where -- for those who aren't, they are EITC, the child tax credit, there are a whole number of reasons that the working poor are paying taxes -- or their tax rate is quite low.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jorge, he did adjust his message when he came on Univision.

RAMOS: Absolutely. I think it's a defining moment in the campaign. Who's -- who's the real Mitt Romney, the one who said that he didn't have to worry about 47 percent of the people or the one who told us at a Univision meeting that he wanted to be the president for 100 percent of Americans?

The problem is that back in February, if you remember, in an interview with CNN, he also said that he was not concerned about the very poor. So honestly, as a journalist, he has to get out of that box, or otherwise it's going to be very, very easy defining him as a stereotype.

COULTER: I'd just say again, he said he didn't have to care about them in terms of appealing -- directing his campaign toward them. Of course Obama doesn't have to worry about, you know, the base Republican voters. He doesn't have to worry about pro-lifers.

RAMOS: But who's the real Romney, the one who's...

COULTER: He's explaining to donors that these voters are not going to be responding with the low tax message.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: It's very clear from the...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: People in the military aren't going to respond? Those are the people that he wrote off.

COULTER: No, the 47 percent are -- who do not pay income tax will not respond to the low-tax message. It wasn't that once he gets to be president -- exactly, as Nicolle said, we think Republican policies, as happened under Reagan, will lift all boats. It will make the poor much better off.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you saying he should double-down on this strategy?

COULTER: No, I mean, he was speaking to donors. I just don't think it hurt him, because that was the highlight, I think, for most people. And, yes, we do believe that Republican policies help the poor and Democratic policies hurt the poor.

WALLACE: And the angst that I think people feel is that he made that message harder to get out, because of the exact conversation that's taking place right here on this set. Republicans, I think, are at their best when they're able to take their message and present themselves and when they truly believe that they're -- they're running for the vote of every group. And to have the candidate serving as his own pollster is always alarming as a campaign staffer.

REICH: Look, this -- this video cannot be separated from the Romney-Ryan budget, which cuts dramatically taxes for the very wealthy and also, at the same time, cuts programs that average working people and the poor depend on. That's the underlying story here. That's why the 47 percent is such a powerful image.

RAMOS: And this is nothing new for the Romneys. Back in 1962, when George Romney was running for governor of Michigan, I saw a very telling interview with Lenore Romney in 1962. She was saying that her husband had trouble connecting with regular people. So there you go. It's very familiar.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's interesting. Ann Romney came out this week, as well, trying to quiet some of these Republican critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A. ROMNEY: Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard. It is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt's qualifications and experience and know-how.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the campaign has succeeded in quieting the critics at this point inside the party?

WALLACE: I don't. And I think it'll continue. And I don't think that has any bearing on the outcome. I think the Romney campaign still believes that they can win, and they're going to have to learn how to do it with the speakers blaring, this loud music of Republican discontent and angst.

And I have to say, the Republicans that feel angst feel less today than they did four years ago this week, so they don't view this campaign as much as a calamity as they viewed the campaign I was a part of, the McCain-Palin campaign.

But they are -- they are deeply worried. And you go the Hispanic voters, you know, Ronald Reagan believed that every Hispanic voter was a Republican, they just didn't all know it yet. George W. Bush got 42 percent of the Hispanic vote. McCain dropped to somewhere in the 30.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Romney's polling in the 20s. So the structural concerns are legitimate. I mean, Republicans aren't worried for no reason. But I think, at this point, it's going to be a daily storyline for the campaign to deal with.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Melody, at the same time, two more unemployment reports have to come out between now and Election Day, and in at least some of the big national polls, this is still a dead heat, going to go, as David Axelrod said, right down to the wire.

BARNES: No, absolutely. And as Ax said in your segment with him earlier, everyone knew this was going to be a close election, because the economy has been troubled for so long. We're just starting to crawl out of that hole that we were in when the president took office.

But at the same time, what we've seen in some of the polling -- and I don't live by week by week, day by day polling...

WALLACE: Lucky you.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BARNES: ... and no one -- and no one should, because it is over the long haul. But when you break open that polling, what you see is that people respond to the president because they believe he gets their concerns, he understands their daily life, and also understand that we're holding even, even in this very, very bad economy, because people think that we're starting to take steps forward.

REICH: George, you know, we have two unemployment reports coming up, one on October 5th, one November 2nd. We also have three presidential debates. Anything can happen. This is still very, very close. What strikes me, though, is that Romney's unfavorables are higher than his favorables. And at this time in a presidential race, frankly, I don't remember a presidential candidate whose unfavorables were this -- were this high.

STEPHANOPOULOS: At the same time, you haven't had a president trying to get re-elected with 8 percent unemployment, as well. But, Ann Coulter, talking about the polls here, I want to put up where things stand right now in the big battleground states, where the campaigns are spending the most money, that are going to determine this race.

If you look at those eight states right now, in every single one of them -- they're tinted light blue to blue -- that means that President Obama is either ahead or, you know, right inside the margin of error. Right now, Mitt Romney not ahead in a single one of those battleground states. That's not where they expected to be in September.

COULTER: Well, I don't know what they expected, but it's not very good for an incumbent that he can't beat 50 percent. And you also have the media in war mode now. I mean, as I was just adverting to, it's hard for Romney to get his message out when it is nonstop bashing of Romney and paraphrasing of what he said and misconstruing what he said.

I mean, he releases his taxes for last year yesterday, and it turns out he gave $4 million to charity, paid more -- didn't take all the tax deductions (inaudible) and they're attacking him for -- for not taking deductions. I mean, how can you win something like that? Which is why I think -- I think the debates are going to be very important, not because Romney is such a fabulous orator, but to the contrary, for the first time, Americans will be able to see Romney unfiltered, and I think it will make a big difference.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what would you have him do? October 3rd, probably going to be the biggest audience of the campaign, what would you have him do that night?

COULTER: I would say be like you were in the Florida debate. That was probably his best debate. And, by the way, very popular with Hispanics in Florida. He got a larger percentage of the Hispanic vote in Florida after that debate than he got of GOP voters in Florida in general.

REICH: You know, Romney is a good debater, and he's more experienced more recently than Barack Obama. Go back to the 2008 election, primaries, Democratic primaries, and remember, Romney was -- Obama was not a great debater.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... he stumbled. Romney was bad.

(LAUGHTER)

But -- but, look, I mean, the economy, the economy, the economy. I mean, if Romney doesn't start talking about the economy and make that the centerpiece of his campaign...

COULTER: He is.

REICH: ... not -- not the evangelical right, not social issues.

COULTER: He is. People don't see it.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... who's been at the center of discussion this week, not the economy. And probably that's a problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he did get a fairly solid reception at the Univision forum this week, and I want to show a little bit more of that now and talk about this vote, because you -- you also pressed President Obama on his failures of immigration quite forcefully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMOS: A promise is a promise. And -- and with all due respect, but you didn't keep that promise.

OBAMA: There's the thinking that the president is somebody who's all powerful and can get everything done. We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: In that, you really tapped into, Jorge, a lot of disappointment in the Hispanic community with the performance of President Obama, failure to get immigration reform, deportations are up, yet as Nicolle was talking about, he still maintains this huge lead within the Latino community. How do you explain it?

RAMOS: Well, what happens is that, even though Latinos do care about jobs and education and health care, immigration is a symbolic issue. It's personal for us. More than 50 percent of all Latinos were born outside the United States, over 18 years of age and older.

So President Barack Obama is supporting immigration reform. He's supporting the DREAM Act. But we -- I had to confront him. He broke a promise, and I had to ask him about that. And also, he has deported more immigrants than any other president in the history of the United States.

But on the other hand, we have Mitt Romney, who's supporting S.B. 1070 in Arizona, who's supporting these very strange idea -- Kris Kobach's idea of self-deportation. Governor Romney is not for the DREAM Act, at least not for students, and he's the first Republican candidate who doesn't support immigration reform.

So here you have Latinos having to decide between a president who broke a promise, but, on the other hand, they have a candidate who's -- who's really -- and whose party been attacking Latinos and immigrants for a long, long time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Nicolle, what does Mitt Romney do at this point? He's not even up to the numbers yet that John McCain had four years ago. That's danger zone.

WALLACE: Well, I think he has to stick with the economy, because as you said, the Hispanic voters in this country care about the broad swath of issues. But I have to say, Obama's failures on immigration reform predate his presidency. It was a great disappointment when -- when George W. Bush, the last president to really champion comprehensive immigration reform, John McCain and Ted Kennedy were trying to get something done, Barack Obama was nowhere. He was not part of the solution. He was not part of the coalition trying to do comprehensive immigration reform. And so I think that Romney can certainly make the case that you tried to get at, that that's a promise broken, but I think that Romney has to keep the broader message and try to drive that home.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about that, Melody, President Obama nowhere on immigration reform?

BARNES: Well, not -- I don't think that's consistent with the facts, for a couple of reasons. One, I was at the White House. My staff was up on the Hill working with Republicans and Democrats trying to craft a comprehensive immigration reform act. And those negotiations broke down. At the same time, as Jorge said, we were driving forward with the DREAM Act.

But the reality is that legislation is passed on the Hill. Presidents get to sign them into law. What we've seen is a dramatic shift in the Republican Party from George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Alan Simpson, Spence Abraham, Republicans who worked with Democrats to get -- move things forward. We didn't see is a president breaking his promise. What we've seen is a Republican Party that has now broken its faith with the idea that we're a nation of immigrants and a refusal to pass laws and move them in Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Ann Coulter, you make kind of a provocative comment in your new book here, "Mugged," and I think it's on page 151. You write that various groups, feminists, gay rights groups, and those who are defending immigrants have commandeered the black civil rights experience. What do you mean by that?

COULTER: Yes, I'm glad you asked that, because I think it's one of the most important points of the book. I mean, I think what -- the way liberals have treated blacks like children and many of their policies have been harmful to blacks, at least they got the beneficiary group right. We do have to -- I mean, we shouldn't -- there is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. We don't owe the homeless. We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions, but that's -- or -- or gays who want to get married to one another. That's what civil rights has become for much of the left.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Immigrant rights are not civil rights?

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: ... after five minutes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Immigrant rights are not civil rights?

COULTER: No. I think civil rights are for blacks.

REICH: See, this is essentially the problem. And the Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something. We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven't even been in this country.

REICH: But, you see, most of us are either immigrants or are the descendants of immigrants...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... and we understand -- we understand -- not everybody, there are Native Americans here -- but we understand in this country...

COULTER: They immigrated from another continent.

REICH: ... we understand in this country that kind of self-deportation, making things so difficult for immigrants, for undocumented immigrants, that they have to leave, or the DREAM Act, you know, vetoing -- threatening to veto the DREAM Act, which is what Romney has said, I mean, again and again, we have Governor Romney who is basically taking a position that is anti a large and the fastest growing segment of the electorate.

RAMOS: And here's the thing. If Republicans don't do something with immigration, and if Republicans are so far away from -- from Latinos, they're going to lose not only this election, they might lose the White House for a generation.

REICH: The future.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: That's why the Democrats are dropping the blacks and moving on to the Hispanics...

REICH: They're not dropping blacks. They're not dropping...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: ... larger group of Hispanics now...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: But can I just say to Jorge, I hate to disagree with you when you're attacking President Obama, but I think the point on immigration is you can have open borders or you can have a welfare state. You cannot have both. When you have a big government giving out benefits for all sorts of things, then you have to care very much who the immigrants are.

RAMOS: But immigrants -- immigrants do...

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... do contribute much more than...

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... immigrants contribute much more than what they take away from the economy.

REICH: Exactly.

RAMOS: Ten billion dollars a year, according to the National Academy of Sciences...

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... immigrants in this country.

COULTER: Both legal and illegal immigrants are way more likely to be on welfare than native-born...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... finish your point, and then let Melody...

RAMOS: They are here because we hire them. We are here because we benefit from their work. They pay taxes. They create jobs. They start new businesses. They do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. That's why they're here. And thousands of companies are hiring them. So...

COULTER: But surely you agree that a nation has to have control over who becomes a citizen of the nation?

RAMOS: Absolutely, but...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: And that kind of immigration reform of course Republicans support.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: But there's no plan for the 11 million who are already here. President Barack Obama...

COULTER: OK, but...

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... we haven't heard Mitt Romney...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: Can I just say something? Because immigration reform is going to be a central issue for this country for the next 20 years, because the Baby Boomers are aging. We have an aging population. The only way we can improve the ratio of people who are working to people who are retired is taking in young immigrants from the rest of the world. And anybody who doesn't realize that and understand this is on the wrong side of history.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: ... on this point, and to go to what both Bob and Jorge were saying, look at a period of time -- and it happened over the last, you know, 6, 10 years, where jurisdiction after jurisdiction was passing all of these anti-immigrant laws. And one after another, they started to roll them back. We see this in -- all over -- happening all over Virginia, for the very reason that Bob mentions, because people understand that it just isn't reasonable, it isn't rational, and it doesn't work for the economic growth of particular communities, one.

Two, and, Ann -- you know, in the back you keep telling me I'm going to love your book.

COULTER: You are.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: I -- I -- I am struggling to understand that. But I think you misunderstand the history of what's happened to immigrants and the history of discrimination against immigrants in this country, something my former boss, Senator Kennedy, who worked with Senator Abraham, worked to prevent, and to deal with the fact that we were trying to keep people from coming in this country in the most discriminatory of manner in a way that doesn't lead to and build on the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, we are stronger because of our diversity...

COULTER: Well, all nations are nations of immigrants.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: ... great history. I mean, let's not let the -- the -- the immediate and call it the history. Republicans have a great history. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush I think were more attractive to Hispanic voters in a lot of ways.

And don't -- we shouldn't belittle the Hispanic vote. It's like the woman's vote. They're not a monolithic group that all vote the same way. They are, you know, more than -- almost a third of the country. So this is a group of voters, that, just like the woman vote, just like working, they're going to vote on a myriad of issues. And I think...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... and, Nicolle, Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican governor, I thought that he created a kind of a lesson...

WALLACE: Prop 187.

REICH: ... a lesson for Republicans, which is don't position yourself so that you're against the immigrants.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: That is absolutely false history. That was incredibly popular.

RAMOS: No, it was not.

COULTER: A shockingly high number of Hispanics voted for it. It was overturned by the court. It was not the people of California. It was at least 40 percent of Hispanics in California voted for Proposition 187...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: ... denied welfare benefits to illegal immigrants.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... rejected that completely.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: It never passed. I want to get -- I want to talk about the Senate real quickly. We heard Reince Priebus there right now, it does appear that there's been a turn over the last several months. I think six months ago, most people who followed Senate races would say Republicans are going to take it over. Right now, that is much more in question, in part because of the resignation of -- retirement of Olympia Snowe and partly because of Todd Akin in Missouri.

Now, all of you, though, seem to be paying very close to this Elizabeth Warren-Scott Brown race in Massachusetts. Why (inaudible) energizing so many people on both sides?

COULTER: Partially because I really like Scott Brown. I think he's really a fighter. He's very Bostonian. He has that accent. And...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: He's so sweet, and he'd be so popular, and he just has the horrible misfortune of having to run for re-election in a presidential year, in Massachusetts. I mean, look at what poor Romney was up against. Massachusetts was the one state that voted for Richard -- or for George McGovern in 1972.

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: ... home state (inaudible) actually ran in the Democratic primary in 2002 for governor. I think Scott Brown's real problem is that he's walking -- you know, people like him in Massachusetts. I mean, he's very likable. His favorabilities are very high. But he's walking around with a scarlet R around his neck.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Romney?

COULTER: Republicans.

REICH: Republican and Romney. And this -- and the coattails, the negative coattails of the Romney campaign to me signify that it's not just Romney as a candidate. It's also this right-wing Republicanism that is different from your father's Republican Party. And people are saying, "I don't want that kind of right-wing Republicanism."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, Nicolle, you're actually looking, though, at the opportunity for a Republican pickup, and this is a comeback for Linda McMahon.

WALLACE: I love this Connecticut race. And she was campaigning with Susan Collins and with the former governor of Connecticut, very popular, strong women, and I love that she got up after losing two years ago, threw her money back in, and I think there's always something interesting about someone who puts their money where their mouth is.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... $70 million.

WALLACE: Yeah. And I live in the state, so I see all -- she's running a great campaign. And this is a place where I think that the Republican messages about the economy have not been distilled or clouded out by some of the other noise. She is really running a pretty disciplined message campaign, and it shows that when you can get the focus back on the economy, you really can -- really can take it to the Democrats.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jorge Ramos, almost certain Republican win in Texas?

RAMOS: Absolutely. Ted Cruz, it's a great race. He's 41. He has the support of the Tea Party. And since Latinos are underrepresented -- we're 17 percent of the population -- we only have two senators. Most probably think he's going to win.

What's so interesting is that most Latinos tend to vote Democratic, but the Latinos elected lately, all of them are conservative Republicans, Susana Martinez in New Mexico (inaudible) Marco Rubio...

(CROSSTALK)

REICH: That's going -- that's going to change. Over the next -- you know, over the next two cycles...

RAMOS: It hasn't happened.

REICH: ... there's a whole generation of -- of Democratic...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to go quickly around the table, just a quick prediction. Who's going to control the Senate in January 2013?

BARNES: Democrats.

WALLACE: Republicans.

REICH: Democrats, of course.

COULTER: I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: Very close.

RAMOS: And I don't know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It is -- I agree. It is wide open. I'd put a little more money on Democrats than Republicans, but not much. Thank you. We're going to have one more roundtable when we come back in just 60 seconds, with Emmy predictions coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're back now with the roundtable again. Emmys coming up today. The candidates have already weighed in. Mitt Romney's favorite show is "Modern Family." And I think President Obama says he likes "Modern Family," but also a big "Homeland" fan. So I wanted to get everybody else's take on what's going to happen tonight, what TV you're watching. Who do you like?

WALLACE: I've got to root for Sarah Paulson. She was in "Game Change," and she...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... she played you in "Game Change."

(LAUGHTER)

There she is right there.

WALLACE: She and I became friends.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And she's up for best supporting actress.

WALLACE: Yeah. Yep.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Also, Julianne Moore for Sarah Palin.

WALLACE: Right, right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's your -- how about your favorite show?

WALLACE: I love "Homeland," also, so I'm rooting for "Homeland."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, all the political pros love "Homeland."

REICH: Not only is Obama a "Homeland" fan, I got to tell you, Claire Danes is extraordinary. I mean, a bipolar CIA agent, I mean, she can pull it off.

WALLACE: Just what we need.

(LAUGHTER)

REICH: She's going to win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would think -- you would think that President Obama would want a little relief from the stress of the job. I think that just brings it all back.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: What are you watching?

COULTER: Well, I've seen none of these shows, because I'm busy watching the children's hour on MSNBC. But I think it's going to be "Breaking Bad." And I'm really hoping Bryan Cranston will mention by book.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jorge?

RAMOS: "The Newsroom" is a great show, but it's not up for the Emmys, but I love the Colbert...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're a "Newsroom" fan?

RAMOS: I am. I really like it. I really do. But, anyway, for the Emmys, I think "The Colbert Report" should do great. I really like that kind of humor in politics. And HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is fantastic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I love "Curb Your Enthusiasm," such a great show. Now, Colbert, that would be knocking off Jon Stewart for the first time.

RAMOS: Probably, but he has us all confused. We don't know if he's Republican or Democrat or independent.

(UNKNOWN): He's brilliant.

(UNKNOWN): I know.

(UNKNOWN): We're pretty sure. We can help you out.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNES: Claire Danes, I fell in love with "Homeland." When I left the White House, I was watching five episodes in a row on demand.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you had withdrawals.

BARNES: Yeah, I was staying up until 1:00 in the morning. And I love Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan in "House of Lies." It's a train wreck. He is so compelling and gets more and more interesting. I know that's an upstart, but it's fascinating TV.

REICH: Does Jon Hamm finally, you know, deserve an Emmy?

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the show has won so many years in a row.

REICH: I know, but he's never won one. I think he deserves it.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: George, how about you?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm still a big "Modern Family" fan. That is our family viewing every week, and I think they're going to get a lot of awards. But I'm going to, I guess, disagree with you a little bit. I think Jimmy Kimmel breaks through and beats Colbert and Jon Stewart this time around.

REICH: I agree with you. I agree with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's his year. And after all, he is the host, so it'll be a nice benefit. We'll see how he handles it if he doesn't get it all.

This was a great roundtable. Thank you all very much. Thanks for coming. We had a lot to talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, of course, you can catch the Emmys on ABC starting at 7:00 Eastern tonight. Thanks to our roundtable. The conversation is going to continue online. Secretary Reich and Ann Coulter are going to answer your questions on Twitter. I cannot wait for that. Just use hashtag #thisweek.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... "Mugged" on our website, abcnews.com/thisweek.

And now...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): Three moments from "This Week" history. What year was it? President Reagan shot...

(UNKNOWN): He was wounded. He was -- the president was hit.

(UNKNOWN): The shuttle has cleared the tower.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The space shuttle launched for the first time.

(UNKNOWN): From ABC News...

STEPHANOPOULOS: And so did "This Week."

(UNKNOWN): We have a new Sunday program for you. We will look at what has been happening, what is happening now, and what we can see happening next week.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it 1981, 1982 or 1983? We'll be right back with the answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can't wait for that. But now, what year was it? When did the space shuttle and "This Week" take off? Thirty-one years ago, 1981.

And you can see that first broadcast of "This Week" on our website, abcnews.com/thisweek.

And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. This week, the Pentagon released the names of seven soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

And finally, "Your Voice This Week." Today's question comes from Marla Kittle, who wants to know if I read for pleasure and, if so, she asks, what are your two favorites? Of course I do, Marla, though you're right. Between work and reading to my kids, I don't have as much time to kick back as I would like, but right now I am reading a great book of short stories called "Summer Lies" and a quirky, but elegant essay on writing called "Several Short Sentences on Writing." I'm also looking forward to cracking my friend, Jake Tapper's, upcoming and up-close look at one of the most dramatic battles of the war in Afghanistan. It's called "The Outpost," and it's out in November.

And just a reminder, you can ask me questions all week long on Twitter @gstephanopoulos.

That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News" with David Muir tonight. And I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

END

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