'This Week' Transcript: John McCain and Robert Gibbs

Mr. Santorum voted for things like the Bridge to Nowhere, zoos in Philadelphia, and was one of the more blatant defender of earmarks, which my friend, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, says is the gateway drug to corruption. And he engaged in it. He defended it. He was in this K Street Project, which led to corruption, more corruption, and eventually members of Congress ending up in jail. Of course, I opposed an earmark. But if they had gone and authorized it, I would have supported it, because I believe that the Olympics was very important to the United States of America.

TAPPER: You endorsed Mitt Romney, but a friend of your, former Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, who endorsed you in both of your presidential runs, this weekend unendorsed Mitt Romney and endorsed Rick Santorum. DeWine said, quote, "He's just not connecting," about Romney, "I don't know what it is, but I can tell you from real people I'm talking to, it ain't getting any better." Isn't Senator DeWine touching on a real problem for Mitt Romney? Isn't he having problems connecting to voters?

MCCAIN: No, I think it's a very tough campaign, and I understand that. But the fact is that these debates and these kinds of negative campaigns have driven the disapproval ratings of all of the members up. I am still confident that Mitt Romney will succeed. I was declared dead by pundits such as yourself back in 2007 and 2008.

But, look, I respect Mike DeWine's opinion. I am confident that Mitt Romney will succeed in both Michigan and Arizona. But it's tough. And it's not beanbag.

TAPPER: Are you worried at the tenor of the campaign being such that President Obama will have a much easier time being re-elected? I've talked to a lot of Republicans who two or three months ago were very bullish on defeating President Obama and now are very, very worried that, because this race has gotten so nasty -- and, as you suggest, the negative ratings of the candidates have gone so high, he may, in fact, be re-elected.

MCCAIN: I am concerned about that Jake. And I think there's reason to be concerned about it. I've been in very tough campaigns. I don't think I've seen one that was as personal and as characterized by so many attacks as these are. And, frankly, one of the reasons is the super PACs. And why do we have the super PACs? Because the ignorance and naivete of the United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United campaign.

We now have a -- have a casino mogul that's, what, up to about $20 million, and a lot of that money comes from his proceeds from his casinos overseas, including China. So I think it has to do with the unlimited money, and I do not believe I've ever seen campaigns characterized overwhelming by negative attacks.

TAPPER: Let's turn now to Afghanistan, where you're sitting right now. The big news is that Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has confirmed that the United States, the Afghan government, are in three-way talks with the Taliban. Are those talks a mistake?

MCCAIN: No, I think it's important to have talks wherever you can, but I also think that it's important to remember that we have to have an outcome on the battlefield that would motivate a successful conclusion to those talks, and there's also the perception here that we are leaving, which then, of course, is a disincentive to successful conclusion of the talks.

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