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DOWD (voice-over): Good morning, and welcome to "This Week." A hundred days to go, and both candidates are on the defensive.
ROMNEY: There were a few things that were disconcerting.
DOWD: Governor Romney offends U.S. allies overseas.
JOHNSON: There's a guy called Mitt Romney. He wants to know whether we're -- whether we're ready. Are we ready?
DOWD: While here at home, President Obama struggles to clarify his comments about private business.
OBAMA: You got a business, that -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
ROMNEY: Just read the whole speech. The context is worse than the quote.
DOWD: Will the skirmishes have a lasting impact on the race? Are they just a distraction from the real issues? We'll ask our exclusive headliners, top advisers for both candidates, Robert Gibbs for Obama, Kevin Madden for Romney.
And our powerhouse roundtable, with George Will, Donna Brazile, Dana Loesch, David Chalian, and Ruth Marcus. Plus...
KARL: I'm Jonathan Karl outside Dick Cheney's home in Wyoming. We have just had the first interview with the former vice president since his heart transplant.
DOWD: And ABC News is at the Olympics, the very latest from London.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. It's your voice, your vote. Reporting from the Newseum in Washington, Matthew Dowd.
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DOWD: Good morning, everyone. George Stephanopoulos has a well-deserved morning off.
As you just heard, it's been a rough week for both candidates, so let's get right to it with their senior advisers, Robert Gibbs with President Obama, Kevin Madden with Mitt Romney.
Welcome to both of you, and thanks for taking the time on this Sunday.
MADDEN: Thank you.
GIBBS: Thanks for having us.
DOWD: Well, I have a critical question first for two senior advisers. Who are the junior advisers?
GIBBS: I've tried to get that title before, and nobody will give it to me.
DOWD: It doesn't bear any responsibility, but...
MADDEN: I make my own coffee, so...
DOWD: I've always wondered. I haven't met one. I want to start with -- we're 100 days out, key point in the race, dead-even race. I took a look at the Gallup polls this morning. It's dead even as of this morning. Robert, what's going to break this race out? Or is this going to stay this way until the end?
GIBBS: I think this is going to be a very close race throughout it. That's what we've prepared for. That's what we're -- why we're investing in a grassroots army to win this race on Election Day.
I think what's going to break this race out ultimately is the choice between two candidates and two extremely different visions about how we build this economy and how we come out of the economic disaster that we were in and how we recover. And I think, whether or not -- you're going to have that choice of whether Barack Obama, who wants to invest in education, invest in entrepreneurs, cut taxes on small businesses, and build our economy here, or somebody in Governor Romney, whose expertise, quiet frankly, is in outsourcing and offshoring.
DOWD: Well, Kevin, I'm sure you're going to disagree with part of that.
DOWD: But, first, do you think this race basically -- it's dead-even now, we have 100 days left -- do you think that's where it basically stays until Election Day? Or do you think there's opportunities for the governor to break out of this?
MADDEN: Well, I -- I do believe that Robert's right, that this is a very close race and it will continue to be a close race. I think what's going to make a big difference is how the American public judges the last three-and-a-half years and whether or not the economy has gotten better in these last three-and-a-half years.
And I think that's where we do see this sort of crystallization between the two candidates. And I think I actually agree with Robert in that sense. I do think it is a choice, and I do think it's a choice about how we go forward.
And this is a president who sort of abandoned, really, any idea of offering the public any new ideas about getting out of the current economic stagnation. We have -- you know, we have 8.2 percent unemployment for over -- over -- and we have had unemployment over 8 percent for 41 months now. And this is a president who continues to call for new taxes. This is a president that continues to call for new regulations on small businesses, the entrepreneurs and the Americans that are trying to help grow and expand the economy.
So I do think that this is going to be an election that's seen through the lens of how we have a better economic future in this country. And if you look at the last three-and-a-half years, which has essentially been the president's sort of interview for rehiring, I don't think that the American public is going to agree they want to continue in that same direction.
DOWD: And we're going to talk about the economy in just -- just a moment, which I'm sure you both have completely contrasting views on that, but one thing people think that maybe this an election that a gaffe, a mistake, in such a tight election, within a point or two, could make a difference, whether somebody shows up or not.
And, Kevin, you obviously have seen what's happened when Governor Romney went to London, made his comments, took a lot of heat, especially from the British press. And is there a concern on y'all's part that it's -- first time he's on -- on the stage, on the world stage, that people sort of now are taking a step back and maybe he's not prepared after what he said about the Olympics over there?
MADDEN: Well, I think this is an election, again, that the public is viewing around big things. I don't think that a gaffe or a YouTube moment is really going to make or break this particular election. I think it's going to be about the direction of the country, how we rebuild the economy, how we continue to have a stronger national security posture around the globe.
I think that the headlines that -- that come out of London on one day are not going to be as important as the overall view that people take when it comes to our economic prosperity here at home and then our safety and security around the globe.
So I think the fact that the governor has given a -- he gave a very strong, robust speech about his national security policy at the Veterans of -- at the VFW before he left. And I think you're going to see some -- some images that are coming out of Israel, with him standing strong with our allies there, some strong statements coming out of Israel, I think that's going to be much more important as a judgment on this particular trip than anything that happened
GIBBS: Can I just say this, Matthew? I would probably give that answer, too, if I hadn't flown to London and embarrassed myself in front of our strongest ally in the world. Look, Mitt Romney wondered aloud whether London was ready for the Olympics, and I think it's clear that voters in this country wonder aloud whether Mitt Romney is ready for the world, and I think the world is not yet ready for Mitt Romney.
I think there's -- literally to go overseas, stand in the country of our strongest ally, and on Olympics that they've been preparing for years for, and question whether or not they're ready does make you wonder whether or not he's ready to be commander-in-chief.
DOWD: Well, and obviously that's the -- that was the beginning of the trip. As Kevin referenced, he's having an end of his trip, where he's in Israel today. And...
GIBBS: Let's hope the do-over goes better than the initial audition, because like I said, let's be honest, Matthew. If you can't handle smiling and talking about the Olympics...
MADDEN: ... they were very polite about how they all believe that the athletes are going to make sure that the games work. And they will. And we're all hoping for a good -- we're all hoping for a very successful...
GIBBS: Like you -- like you, I'm happy David Cameron had the last word, because I thought it was embarrassing for our country.
DOWD: And let's give everybody a break, and let's move on to Israel, where, as of this morning, a senior adviser to Governor Romney said -- he said this morning, if Israel has to take action on its own in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision. And I don't know obviously what the governor's going to say today in his speech in Israel, but, Robert, that statement basically sort of saying what he says he would do as president in that circumstance. Where is the president's position? Is that the president's position? Or is his a little bit more subtle?
GIBBS: Well, let me say this. The president's position, which he's been clear about for more than three-and-a-half years, and that is, obviously, any country -- and Israel certainly does have the right to defend itself and defend its citizens. We have never taken any option off the table in dealing with the nuclear program in Iran.
President Obama has led the strongest international coalition ever assembled with the strongest sanctions ever levied on the country of Iran. We've made progress in -- in delaying that nuclear program. And, obviously, our goal, the world's goal is to prevent Iran from having a nuclear program, and I think we're making progress on that. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself.
DOWD: And, Kevin, you know, many have wondered if there's really a huge distinction between the two candidates' foreign policy, real substantive distinction. I know by words the governor has said that President Obama shouldn't have said this or shouldn't have done this, but real, substantive policy differences, especially on Israel. Is there a real difference substantively?
MADDEN: Well, I think words matter and I think priorities matter. I think that's something that Governor Romney feels very strongly about, and I think that's one of the reasons why he's traveled -- this is his fourth trip to Israel. That's the reason he's there now, to make sure that he sends a strong statement as a potential future president to the people of Israel, because the shared values that we have as far as national security and Israeli policy, our policy towards Israel, is sort of an American value, an American principle, of our shared values around freedom and democracy there.
So I think that's really important, a message to send. I think that there are many folks up on Capitol Hill who've worked with this administration that believe that and wish that the president had been stronger, that he had moved quicker, that he had done so with a much more collaborative fashion up on Capitol Hill. So I think that that's another problem that the -- that this president has had.
But overall, I think that -- that the president does -- that Mitt Romney has sent a strong message to the folks of Israel that not only is he visiting there to send these messages now, but also that he would visit as president.
GIBBS: Let me just respond to that, Matthew, because I do think...
DOWD: And I want to turn to the economy, because I think that's where this election stands.
GIBBS: I have no doubt that that's the most important issue, but let me be clear about several things. I walked in Israel four years ago with Barack Obama -- with Barack Obama when he went to Israel. We went to a city in Israel, Sderot, that was being bombarded by rockets from Gaza.
On that trip began the formulation of the policy that is now in place called the Iron Dome, which protects the citizens not just of that city, but throughout Israel, because this president has had the strongest commitment of any U.S. president to Israel's security.
DOWD: So we'll go to -- let's switch now to the economy. And the president got into a little hot water over his comments about you didn't build it that he made, and that many people think a gaffe is really a politician accidentally telling the truth, which (inaudible) but I also want to focus, Robert, on the 1.5 percent GDP number that came out on Friday. Many people think that is an extremely anemic number, that that's not the kind of growth that we need. do you think the president...
GIBBS: Including the president.
DOWD: Well, the president's now responsible. Is this the president's economy? Does he own this economy? And should he be held accountable for whatever happens in this economy?
GIBBS: Well, look, Matthew, the president is the president of the United States. He understand where the buck stops. We also understand what we inherited and what we can't go back to, which are the tried-and-tested ideas of four years ago which got us into this mess.
I mean, you heard -- you heard the discussion about tax cuts. This week, the Senate rightly voted to ensure that when -- at the end of the year, we extend tax cuts for middle-class families. But their economic theory is we get this economy going by giving millionaires and billionaires more and more tax cuts. That's not what's going to get this economy moving.
DOWD: Robert, I have a question, though. Is -- is this -- is your campaign about vote for us because all the great stuff we did on the economy? Or is it vote for us because he'll make the economy worse?
GIBBS: Again, this is a choice, Matthew. The president is happy to talk about the steps that we've taken in manufacturing, our auto recovery, which Mitt Romney opposed by wanting to let Detroit go bankrupt, and we're also happy to talk about Mitt Romney's record. I mean, let's be clear...
DOWD: And that's -- I want to talk about that. Governor Walker, a -- the governor, a supporter of yours from Wisconsin, sort of has talked about that Mitt Romney hasn't filled in enough of his resume, especially related to this. Let's talk a look.
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WALKER: I think there's a lot of caution. I think the mistake that they've made is this feeling like it can just be a referendum on the president, and certainly a part of it for any incumbent's got to be a referendum on, do you like or dislike not just the president, but his policies? And there's got to be something more than that. People won't just vote somebody out. They want to vote somebody in.
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DOWD: Is he telling the truth? And as -- I know that you have a 50-some-odd-point economic plan. Is that too much and people just don't get it, you need to have a three-point plan? Is the governor right that there is not enough about Mitt Romney and this campaign has been too much about Barack Obama?
MADDEN: Well, no, I think he's right in that -- essentially there is a strong component here about it being a referendum, but Governor Romney has been very clear about what he would do on a whole range of issues that are important to helping grow the economy. And it's not a 50-point -- 50-odd-point plan. It's a 59-point plan, 160 pages. I happen to know, because I've read it. And...
DOWD: But as -- as a political operative, do you think that's too much?
MADDEN: Right. Well, look, I remember during the primary everybody saying...
DOWD: Do you want to explain it?
MADDEN: During the primary, while we had rolled out the plan...
GIBBS: We're going to need some extra...
MADDEN: They were saying, look, this -- you know, we need to have very big, bold plans. Now we're -- in the general election, folks are saying, well, we need more details. The details are in there. Everything from industry, from health care to manufacturing to energy and to tax reform and entitlement reform, everything that we need to do to move the country forward as far as having pro-growth policies, helping people, incentivizing businesses to both grow and -- and create more jobs, all of that is in there. And the governor's talked about it in great detail about what he would do on all of those policies.
DOWD: But on both sides -- but before you get, Robert -- on both sides of this, it's -- many people have real trouble with the discourse in this country, and much of it has to do with what's gone on in the campaign. The data's that's out of the last couple of weeks, 90 percent of the ads that Barack Obama has run have been negative, 90 percent of ads that the Mitt Romney has run in the last few weeks have been negative.
And there was a poll out recently that just came out last week that showed we're at a historic place, where both candidates are viewed very negatively. Let's take a look, 32 percent Barack Obama, 24 percent Mitt Romney. Are we at a place where the -- the Mitt Romney strategy, message is fire him, and the Barack Obama -- its strategy is don't hire him, and it's been all negative with no vision for the future?
GIBBS: Well, I don't think that's been true at all in our case. We spent the first month of the campaign, for four weeks, running nothing but a positive ad about what President Obama's done. But let's be clear. Mitt Romney had a strategy during the primaries. He used negative ads to destroy Rick Perry. He used negative ads to destroy Newt Gingrich. He used negative ads to destroy Rick Santorum. We're not going to...
DOWD: Are you saying that as an asset or...
GIBBS: We're -- we're not going to let him play his tried-and-true role as prep school bully. We're going to certainly respond. And, look, the ad that you mentioned on what the president said selectively edited the sentence previous to what you heard the president say is talking about infrastructure and roads and bridges.
DOWD: Well, Kevin, is there -- is this how the politics become? Or is it -- and this is the final point -- is this the politics have become or this -- or is there a way to do something different?
MADDEN: Well, look, I think the public is reacting very negatively because the president, when he was a candidate in 2008, promised hope and change and he promised to challenge the status quo. And instead, he's been very much a conventional politician over the last three-and-a-half years.
What Governor Romney has done during this campaign is focus like a laser on the issues and the anxieties that are really driving voter sentiment right now, which is the economy, and our inability to really -- the inability of the president to get it back on track.
And if you look at our ads and you look at the president's -- or you look at Governor Romney's words on the campaign trail, they're all consistently focused on the economy. What he would do on day one as a president to help put the economy on track -- back on track, whether it's making sure that we approve the Keystone pipeline so that we have more energy resources and we can help the economy. So we're focused like a laser on the economy.
DOWD: Fast and furious, fascinating 100 days ahead, and I thank you both for coming in and talking to us. Thank you.
MADDEN: Thank you.
DOWD: And up next, our roundtable weighs in on this week's politics.
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OBAMA: If you've got a business, that -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
ROMNEY: You know, it's hard to know just how well it'll turn -- will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting.
DOWD: Why does it seem like both candidates are their own worst enemies? Plus, the Chick-fil-A controversy, sideshow or serious stuff?
COLBERT: We have finally managed to politicize yet another part of our lives. I mean, I've got to know what positions my food has taken on all the issues. For example, I love Carl's Jr. Western burger. It must be anti-Obamacare because it is clearly trying to kill us.
DOWD: And later, Jon Karl with a first look at his interview of Dick Cheney. The former vice president has some surprising comments about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin. You won't want to miss it.
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COLBERT: Mitt really grabbed England by the crumpets when he was asked about the London games.
ROMNEY: You know, it's hard to know just how well it'll turn -- will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting.
COLBERT: Oh, that is the same classic Romney charm he used to woo his wife, Ann. "Roses are red, violets are blue, there are a few things that are disconcerting about your hair."
FALLON: During a speech this week, President Obama said that, thanks to him, people in the rest of the world have a new attitude toward Americans. That's true. People used to hate us. But thanks to him, now they just feel sorry for us. So -- you know, it's a difference.
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DOWD: Very funny. Foreign policy taking center stage in the presidential campaign this week, and we're joined now by our powerhouse roundtable, as always, George Will, Donna Brazile, Yahoo's Washington bureau chief David Chalian, conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch, and Ruth Marcus from the Washington Post. Thank you all for being here.
George, I'd like to start with you. We're at that crucial 100-day marker. If you take a look at the last 10 presidential elections, nine of them have been won by the person that was ahead at this point in time. We're dead even, so we're in a place that we've never been before. But what have we learned so far previous to the 100 days that can tell us what we might see in the next 100 days?
WILL: Well, first, a footnote about the 100 days. The election's 100 days from now. The first voting begins in Iowa on September 27th. Five days later, on October 2nd, Ohio begins to vote, with this new phenomenon that I think's really deplorable and complicates campaigning terrible, so two states at least will have started voting before the first debate.
Now, you want to know about the future? Look at the immediate past. Look at the last month. We've had the Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of Obamacare. Didn't really help Obama. We've had an onslaught of anti-Bain ads. Didn't really hurt Romney. It drove his negatives up, but may have driven Obama's up more.
We've had a terrible jobs report, and it's still tied, which suggests that as you indicated in your talk with Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Madden that maybe some blunder, some tiny thing that will cause the needle to move. So far, nothing else has.
DOWD: Donna, what's your sense of like what we've seen so far and what that might tell us about the next 100 days?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I'm excited, because finally, in about 101 days, I can go back to watching soap operas here in D.C. and not all of those nasty commercials that are broadcast for people in Virginia. And so I'm excited about that.
Look, first of all, I'm glad that we still have early voting, George, because that means that there won't be a lot of congestion on Election Day and we should have more accessibility. But what we know is that it's dead-locked. It's tight. And the polls are like those boats in the Venice canal, useless in rough waters, because we're looking at a very small, tiny segment of the electorate that will decide this election, less than 10 percent of the American people, 10 percent. I wish I could find them and just say, make up your mind so I can go back to watching sports.
DOWD: David, you've taken a look at a lot of elections. You're sort of an expert in all and sort of the political history and what's happened thus far. Is this a race that's basically going to not move off dead center, but for some surprise? Or can we think there's some moment along the way that's going to change the dynamic?
CHALIAN: Talking to both campaigns, they think it's going to remain close all the way through. In fact, they also think that it is a more limited universe of persuadable, truly swing voters than in recent presidential elections.
Right now, this is a two- to four-point race, maybe the slightest edge to the president at the moment. Neither campaign believes the NBC-Wall Street Journal horserace number that shows it is a six-point race. They think that's too wide.
I think what we've seen, now looking forward to the next 100 days, and what we've seen up to now, a lot of this campaign has been about the definition of Mitt Romney so far, and that's largely due to sort of a gamble, right, that the president's campaign team made by spending more money than they were bringing in -- that's never an easy decision to do -- to go heavy right now negatively on Romney, try to frame him, and muddle this -- this one major credential that he has brought into the race of his business record.
The Romney campaign has allowed that to happen to some degree, and I think what you heard from Kevin in that interview and what I think you're going to see going forward in the next 100 days, largely due to sort of the calendar and the events demand it. At the convention, they're going to start filling in a different story of Mitt Romney that right now the American people don't really have to discuss at the kitchen table.
DOWD: Dana, do you think there's any breakout thing? Or do you think the public -- we're not even at the last 100 days of this race, and the public's had two years of this. Do you think there's like just have Election Day tomorrow and let's get this thing done? Or do you think there's still something they need to find out going forward they haven't heard already?
LOESCH: I think Mitt Romney, in terms of going out (inaudible) grassroots and kind of closing that daylight between the Republican Party and grassroots, that's something that needs to be done a little bit more. Maybe we'll see that during the convention, because that's kind of the -- that's the watershed moment for things like that to occur.
But independents decide every single election. I mean, think about it. What I -- and I disagree with some of what's been said, because, granted, they're tied right now, and it -- you know, some of the -- the campaigns believe that this could be close going into November. But I think back to 2008, which was a historic election, and this president was elected in -- this was a mandate that Barack Obama received when he was elected in 2008. For this Democrat incumbent to be tied right now with Mitt Romney to me is a huge red flag, and not just looking at the national polls, going state by state, looking at these battleground states. Independents are leaning towards Mitt Romney.
You look at the latest New York Times poll. You have 70 percent of registered voters that think that he's doing better on the economy over this president. That's huge.
DOWD: And, Ruth, do you agree with Dana that -- that though this race seems tied, there are some fundamentals that may be indicative of something that may happen, that though it's tied today, that there are some environmental factors that really are at play?
MARCUS: I think that there's red flags on both sides. You could look at the red flag of what happened to the 2008 mandate and say, if you look at this lousy economy, the astonishing thing is that Mitt Romney is not further ahead of the president and that, instead, we're stuck in this dead-even race.
So what do we know? Mitt Romney is not the most adroit candidate in the world. Barack Obama is suffering from a lousy economy that doesn't seem to be getting better any time soon enough to help him. And this is an election that, unlike 2008, is not going to be about hope and change. It's going to be about fear and loathing.
And can I just -- I know this won't make a difference to the campaign, but I want to bemoan the phenomenon of campaigning by gaffe, where...
DOWD: And that's -- that's great. I'm glad you brought that up, because, Donna, I wanted to ask you that question. And George brought this up. In a race that's dead even, we've sort of focused on the gaffes. The campaigns -- each sides have hope that the other side's gaffe has made a difference, so I want to sort of turn to foreign policy in London and the gaffe or mistake or misspeak or whatever way you say that Mitt Romney did -- do you think that is telling about him on the world stage? Or do you think that's just a moment that's going to pass?
BRAZILE: Again, this is an opportunity for Mitt Romney to introduce himself, not only to foreign leaders and foreign countries, but also to the American people. And supposedly one of his strengths is he turned around the Olympics in 2002, and he took what should have been one of his greatest strengths, to go and talk about his Olympic experiences, and made it into his greatest weakness by pointing out his lack of foreign policy. You had two conservative politicians, Mr. Cameron and the mayor of London, criticize Mitt Romney. So this was not a good debut on the foreign stage.
LOESCH: I think -- we need to stop trying redefine gaffe, because it's not a gaffe when you go and repeat towards the British prime minister or the London mayor what's actually been in British headlines for the past several weeks. I mean, Piers Morgan even said, well, he told the truth. So what of it?
DOWD: As I said -- as I said, definition of gaffe's a politician accidentally telling the truth. But you think it makes any difference?
LOESCH: It -- I don't think it makes any difference at all. And, you know, and the London -- London's mayor obviously does not see eye to eye with Romney on politics. He's not of that political ideology. I just think that this was a gotcha moment. I can't even believe that a big deal was made about this. If they're angry at Romney for repeating what the headlines are, then they should be angry at their own British press.
CHALIAN: Here's the impact -- here's the impact it is. It set up more pressure on the Romney people to make sure the rest of the foreign trip is flawless, so that there doesn't become a whole story about a completely failed attempt for a potential president going overseas. But this one day of bad headlines, about -- the lede of every story was how he was getting hammered in the British press. That's not a story that has legs. So I think it was a distraction...
LOESCH: Unless there are electoral votes in...
DOWD: I want to get to the end of the trip. I want to get to the end of the trip, where Mitt Romney is in Israel today. He's going to give this big speech today. Some of his advisers have projected what they may say or not. Ruth, you just spent a couple of weeks in Israel.
MARCUS: Makes me an Israel expert.
DOWD: And now you're an expert on Israel. What did you -- what's your -- what's -- what does that tell you about how they feel or what's going on in the debate in this country related to that?
MARCUS: I think that the one thing that I took away understanding about Israel is that it has a little bit of a Sally Field relationship with this president, which is, does he like us? Does he really like us? And they're very nervous about that.
And that actually cuts both ways for Mitt Romney. They are interested in him. They sort -- are looking forward to hearing from him all the sort of words of support. But they are nervous about this relationship already with the president who they think they might have him to kick them around for another four years and they don't want to make that relationship worse.
And so it's very delicate from the Israeli point of view. And you see Romney saying all the right things, but what are the real differences between what he would do and what the president would do and all of the things that President Obama has done to reassure Israel in the last few days?
WILL: It's the two stops after London that matter most. And it's right to say that he's actually not courting those nations, he's courting those children of those nations who now live in the United States, the polls in southwestern Pennsylvania and Cleveland and Detroit and all the rest.
In Israel, he's courting not the Jewish vote in this country -- maybe it will make a small difference in Florida and that could make a big difference -- but the vast majority of American Jews are going to vote Democratic, always have, far as I can tell, always well. The great support for Israel right now, the energy is in the evangelical community, which is part of the Republican base, so the trip to Israel is a way of firing up this enormously important and somewhat skeptical of Mitt Romney Republican base.
DOWD: David, I want to turn to the economy, which is, I think, Mitt Romney is going to come back and as quickly as he possibly can and probably start talking about the economy again and hope that he gets some plus from the trip.
CHALIAN: He'll have a jobs report on Friday to help him talk about it.
DOWD: So a jobs report on Friday, which will come out, but we just had a GDP figure that -- 1.5 percent -- that was mediocre at best. From what you've seen over the past, is that a plus for Barack Obama or is that a minus for Barack Obama?
CHALIAN: I don't know how it can be a plus. The GDP number is a minus for Barack Obama, and to me, the single most interesting poll number in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that came out this week was the question -- they asked Americans, look forward 12 months, do you think the economy is going to get better or worse or stay the same? Twenty-seven percent of the country thinks that the economy is going to get better. That is the lowest all year long and actually dropped 8 points from last month. That is the weight of three bad months of jobs numbers. This GDP number is going to add to that. And if there's a not significant uptick, I think that each month of these jobs reports, it does compound.
Largely it's baked into the American people. The economy is clearly bad, right? But if we're down to only 27 percent of the people are actually optimistic that the economy will get better in (inaudible) that is a very tough...
DOWD: Donna, are Democrats worried about that? Are they concerned that that -- those sort of baked-in numbers right now are going to make it very hard for President Obama to win this election?
BRAZILE: Oh, look, no question politically it matters. I mean, a weak economy hurts the incumbent. But on the other hand, we're not sitting around on our hands, you know, looking for things to get worse before, you know, we try to help people.
Yes, the economy is tough for President Obama, but I do believe that he has a lot of credibility that he can out there and talk about the things that -- the steps he's taken, the steps that he would like to take, and the steps that the Republicans will continue to oppose, because simply they've decided there's one mission in life, and that is to defeat Barack Obama.
But, you know, back in 1980, when we had a Democratic president during hard times, Ronald Reagan had some credibility in going out there and talking to blue-collar voters, because he came from a union household, he was president of a union, he talked about his father getting laid off during Christmas. He had the narrative. Mitt Romney? He talks about firing people.
WILL: And let me give you another number to add to yours: 68 percent of Americans know someone who has lost his job. Now, the question is, is it going to get better? I think right now we're in what can be fairly called a growth recession. That sounds like an oxymoron. It isn't. We're now in the fourth year of a recovery, and we're growing but receding at the same time, because we're not growing fast enough to create enough jobs to even take account of the natural growth of the workforce.
And look what -- at the variables that have to be feared by the Obama campaign. First is Europe, which means Spain. By the way, in the last 15 months, a majority of European governments have been changed by restive electorates.
Then there's the emerging markets, Brazil, India and China, have slowed down. We have the fiscal cliff coming up with our own tax policy at the end of the year. Dodd-Frank is two years old and still there's so much uncertainty about it, because it's about half-written. Food prices are going up in part because we're putting 40 percent of our corn crop in our gas tanks because of ethanol.
WILL: And the election itself is a great source of -- of uncertainty.
DOWD: Ruth, some people have begun to get this sense that this economy has been bad for so long and that people are now having to resettle at a different point, and that basically what's going to happen is that Americans sort of shrug their shoulders and say, listen, there's not much a president can do about this, and so I'm going to pick a president that I sort of feel more in sync with, which seems to be an advantage for the president on that issue. But will the economy and those factors that have been talked about still determine it?
MARCUS: I -- I think so. And since everybody's throwing out numbers, my favorite one for the week is 53 percent of those in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll disapprove of President Obama's handling of the economy. People do understand, I think, that there's a limited amount that a president can do. Nonetheless, I think the most powerful argument from the Republican side this week was he's -- you tried, he's tried, it's not working. Let's give somebody else a chance. That's hard to rebut, given the limp along.
And for all the fun we've had this week with Romney gaffes and Mitt the Twit headlines, I think the worst week went to President Obama because of this unspinnable 1.5 percent growth number.
LOESCH: And -- and you want to talk about gaffes. Here we have 41 straight months of unemployment that's been over 8 percent, which was -- the stimulus was supposed to have fixed. In terms of gaffes, it's not good to have the president get up in front of people during an election cycle and say, well, if you have a small business, you didn't built that, or as some have tried to say, oh, he took -- the Republicans took something out of context. He was talking about the Clinton tax plan, which really actually in context it's even worse, because he really was referring to his own plan, and the Clinton tax plan, we could -- we could get into...
LOESCH: ... the '97 tax cuts and everything else.
LOESCH: Yes, I did...
BRAZILE: As a small-business person, what he was saying...
LOESCH: Oh, I know...
BRAZILE: ... is that if you have a -- if you rely on roads and bridges and skilled workforce...
LOESCH: ... don't build businesses. It's the other way around, though.
BRAZILE: ... public education, that we are together, business and government, we have to have a partnership.
BRAZILE: That was the context.
MARCUS: It was completely taken out of context.
LOESCH: It was not taken out of context.
MARCUS: It was completely taken out of context...
BRAZILE: It was.
MARCUS: ... but it matters because it falls into this pre-existing narrative, which is very powerful among people, that the president doesn't get business in general, and small business in particular. And that's why...
LOESCH: It was in context completely.
WILL: I have a question for my friend, Donna. This president is...
BRAZILE: ... when you say that, my friend.
MARCUS: ... need to be nervous.
WILL: We're told that the president is the brightest president since Madison, the best educated president since John Quincy Adams, and the most articulate president -- politician since Pericles. Why does he spend so much time explaining what he actually meant?
(UNKNOWN): Right. When you're explaining, you're losing.
BRAZILE: Well, look, I don't believe the president was wrong in saying something that has been said over and over again by so many, including Elizabeth Warren, who said...
MARCUS: Said it better.
BRAZILE: ... said it better, and it went viral. But, George, I mean, there's -- we cannot change Republican spin or Republican narrative. What we can do is talk about what the president's doing to help small businesses compete, what the president is doing to help small businesses grow and hire people. That's what we can talk about. We're not anti-small business. We're trying to help small businesses compete.
DOWD: I'm going to change up just slightly on this and go to sort of a broader topic, which is on discourse in the country. More people than anybody when I was asking what I wanted to talk about, they wanted to -- they wanted to talk about how can we change the way we talk to each other, politicians, leaders, and all of that? And if you take a look at the data in this, we're -- it's overwhelmingly negative what's gone on, David.
And I'm sort of, of the mind of that negative ads are a lot like weed-killer, which is if you don't have too -- if you have too little, then the weeds come back, if you have too much, then you kill your own lawn. In the circumstance that the president is, where 90 percent of the ads he's running, is he worried about killing the White House lawn by doing what he's doing?
CHALIAN: Well, I think there is a -- because of how tight this election is going to be, I think there's a recognition that whoever wins the presidency is probably going to win it by a more narrow margin than it was won the last time. The margins for the majority parties in both chambers are probably going to be more narrow after this.
So I don't -- I don't hear anyone on either side thinking that this election is going to somehow transform us and move us as a country to more -- a better place with better discourse. It seems to me that we're going to be actually further into this rut after this election.
DOWD: So do you think we're just -- this is something we just have to deal with and there's no way to change it, George?
WILL: I don't think it's that bad.
I mean, look at our politics in the 1790s, when the Jeffersonians said, if Adams wins, we're going to have a monarchy, and Adams' people said, if Jefferson wins, they're going to confiscate the Bibles. We had fist fights and gunfire on the floor of the Congress in the 1850s. I mean, this is mild stuff.
BRAZILE: But at least they say sir, before...
MARCUS: The difference is -- yes, and, George, you left out the canings.
LOESCH: They called each other hermaphrodites...
MARCUS: But here's -- here's the difference. The nastiness is about -- it's either misleading or it's about peripheral issues. We have a very serious set of issues facing the country, both domestically -- primarily domestically and in terms of foreign policy, and there is neither detail, nor serious engagement on the part of both campaigns about these issues, and instead we just sort of have interludes between gaffes that each side seizes on to accuse the other of saying something that he didn't really mean, instead of saying this is my view of government, this is my prescription for dealing with the fiscal cliff, this is what I'd like to do going forward, specifically, not just in broad generalities, and engaging on that. The people deserve a better conversation than they're getting from their political candidates.
BRAZILE: ... superficial, because the superficial is more sexier. It's -- people like to talk about...
MARCUS: It's easier.
WILL: What did people remember about the Roosevelts, the malefactors of great wealth, the economic royalists? This kind of rhetoric is not specific. It's colorful. It tells you what they think about sections of society and what government ought to do. I don't think this is that different.
DOWD: And I'm going to turn -- let me turn to another topic that some people say is serious and some people say is silly, which is the controversy over Chick-fil-A and what the CEO had to say about gay marriage. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHY: We're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, you know, we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a -- a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would -- the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOWD: This then came with pictures of Sarah Palin going to Chick-fil-A in Texas to show that she supported Chick-fil-A, and then we had politicians around the country trying to keep -- keep business -- this business from being in their cities. Is this a real issue or is this something that's just -- just, you know, something that people just want to talk about?
LOESCH: Well, it kind of surprises me, because this is an establishment that closes on Sundays. Obviously the CEO is a Christian. People are shocked that he's for traditional marriage? It just doesn't make sense to me.
The thing that bothers me, though, if an individual wants to boycott and not go to a business because of that owner's beliefs, that's fine. But when you have the mayor of -- or the councilman in Philly, when you have the mayor of Chicago, of Boston, saying they're going to ban these establishments, that's a First Amendment issue.
WILL: It's a First Amendment issue that wouldn't last 10 seconds in court, to condition a government entitlement or privilege on the content of your political thought? Second, the head of Chick-fil-A is being excoriated by these people, by Rahm Emanuel, for example, for holding a view on marriage that the president held when he was elected in 2008.
MARCUS: It's so illustrative of our politics, right? We sort ourselves ideologically by neighborhoods. We sort ourselves to some extent ideologically by what churches or houses of worship we go to. So why don't we just sort ourselves by fast food restaurants? And, you know, so if you'd -- I totally agree with George and Dana. It's idiotic and actually kind of repulsive for politicians to say -- to talk about this.
WILL: And let's note, the gay rights...
MARCUS: But if you don't want to go, don't go. If you don't want...
WILL: The gay rights isn't driving this. The gay rights movement is far too sensible. These are pandering, third-rate politicians pandering to them.
CHALIAN: And, look, Mayor Menino backed off his remarks, right? I mean, he realized pretty quickly that he had gone too far by saying sort of by fiat that he was going to be able to kick Chick-fil-A out of Boston. But he walked those back because of exactly these issues.
LOESCH: Well, and here's the difference. You know, I support -- you know, I'm a Christian. I go to church on Sundays. I believe in traditional marriage, but I eat Oreos. I don't care that Oreo came out with a rainbow Oreo. Why didn't they do it sooner? Because it's like quadruple stuffed. I would have loved to have ate that.
MARCUS: Are you ordering from Amazon?
LOESCH: I order from Amazon. I use Apple computers, because I don't want to segregate an ideology and encourage mediocrity.
DOWD: I'd like to finish -- I'm going to finish this up with a quick lightning round that we're -- but go ahead, Donna.
BRAZILE: Well, I've never been to Chick-fil-A and it has nothing to do...
DOWD: It's got good sandwiches.
BRAZILE: ... I love Popeye's. I think if you really want an alternative, love that chicken from Popeye's. Just go ahead and get the Louisiana best.
DOWD: So let's do -- let's do a lightning round, George. Lightning round on the next 100 days, a moment that may break this race loose. I'm going to start with you, George.
WILL: The jobs numbers for September, which will come out in October and be the last before people vote.
DOWD: October 5th. Donna?
BRAZILE: Presidential debates, especially the first one. That's -- Mitt Romney will be on the same stage with the president, and the American people will finally get a chance to size them up -- size them up against the incumbent.
DOWD: October 3rd is that debate right now. It's...
CHALIAN: Yes, and -- and it's in Denver, so -- but I also -- I'm with Donna. The first debate I think is the first critical event from now through Election Day. Because of the early vote issue that George pointed out earlier, I think it will have the greatest impact. It's also -- the commission released their format, and it's the domestic policy debate, so I think it will be most important on people's mind.
LOESCH: I can't wait to see that debate. But I'm -- I'm thinking the RNC and especially Mitt Romney's speech. Is he going to -- is he going to close that daylight between grassroots and the Republican Party? This is a unifying moment.
DOWD: Convention. Ruth?
MARCUS: Convention, not very relevant debates, yes.
DOWD: So the first debate, too?
MARCUS: The first debate.
DOWD: The interesting thing about those -- those -- the debates and that -- they're all within the first week of October. I've picked unknown. I think so many of these races in 2008, we had Lehman fail that we did not know was going to happen. In 2004, you had the Osama bin Laden video. We did not know it was happening. And in 2000, the DWI that President Bush in the last five days that got related. So I think the first week in October could tell us a lot about that.
Thank you all for being here. And we'll be right back with former Vice President Dick Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: ... after you leave office, you don't critique or criticize your successor. And I'm not bound by that.
KARL: Yeah, you're not. Certainly not.
DOWD: A first look at Jon Karl's exclusive interview. Plus, the latest on Mitt Romney's search for a running mate of his own.
LENO: Mitt Romney's search for a vice president continues. As you know, one of Mitt's problems is he's never hired an American for a job before, so this is new.
DOWD: But first, ABC News is at the Olympics, and here's Bill Weir with the latest from London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEIR: Top of the morning, Matt. Well, after just one race, it may be a bit premature to say the king is dead, long live the king, but first round of the duel in the pool crowned, a new aquatic alpha male, as Michael Phelps finished a shocking fourth in the 400-meter individual medley after owning this event in the last two Olympiads. This is first time he's been absent from a medal stand in almost 12 years.
But the gold stays American, thanks to the near-world-record effort of Ryan Lochte, the laidback, fun-loving Floridian. He is gunning for seven golds in these games. Phelps still has six more chances to medal.
Now, China has never been much of a force in the pool, but after two surprising golds yesterday, another shooting goal this morning, they lead the medal count so far with seven total, Italy in second, five medals, two them gold, while the U.S. has five, as well, including Lochte's one gold.
And a bit of a scandal brewing here in London after a startling number of empty seats at some key venues. London officials are promising an investigation after there were 500 vacant seats reserved for Olympics officials and sponsors at Lochte's exciting gold-medal race there. We'll have much more from London as the games continue. And "This Week" will continue in 60 seconds with that exclusive interview, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Stay tuned.
DOWD: We're joined now by Jonathan Karl, who has a preview of an ABC News exclusive for us. Good morning, Jon.
KARL: Good morning, Matthew. I just got back from Jackson Hole, where I sat down with former Vice President Dick Cheney for his first interview since he underwent heart transplant surgery in March. And take a look right here. That's Cheney before the surgery on the left and during our interview on the right. You can see what a difference a new heart has made for the former vice president's health.
In our interview, Cheney opened up about the surgery and about life after politics, but his comments about selecting a vice president and John McCain giving the nod to Sarah Palin four years ago were particularly enlightening. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: How important is it for him to do this in a way that is different than the way John McCain handled his vice presidential search?
CHENEY: Pretty important. That one, I don't think, was well-handled. And I sort of think of it as there are -- there are two lists. There's the big list that's got a lot of folks on it. I actually -- when I was doing it for -- well, I did it for Ford in '76, but then again for George W. Bush in 2000, I had a couple of calls from prominent politicians who'd say, you know, it'd really help me in my race back home, Dick, if I was on the list, down here on the list, that then somebody could go leak the fact that they were on the list.
But that was the big list. It was easy to get on the big list. The tough part is the small list, the one that's really under active consideration. And the test to get on that small list has to be, is this person capable of being president of the United States? And that's usually a very, very short list.
KARL: What about the other considerations? Can you bring a state? You know, can you, you know, reach out to a specific demographic, woman, Hispanic?
CHENEY: Those are important issues, but they should never be allowed to override that first proposition. And I think that -- that that was one of the problems McCain had. I like Governor Palin. I've met her. I know her. She -- attractive candidate. But based on her background, she had only been governor for, what, two years? I don't think she passed that test...
KARL: Of being ready?
CHENEY: ... of being ready to take over. And I think that was a -- a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: For more from my interview with former Vice President Cheney, tune in to "GMA" and "World News" and "Nightline" tomorrow. Matthew?
DOWD: Jon, fascinating interview. He's going to probably take some heat for the Sarah Palin comments. Rather frank throughout to you. Is this what we can expect from him going forward?
KARL: No question: Cheney is back. He feels much better. He says he hasn't felt this good for years. And he is certainly not holding back. You'll hear what he said about Obama -- some of his harshest criticism yet tomorrow.
DOWD: Well, down to the wire now for Mitt Romney's selection or needed selection of a vice presidential running mate. Where do we stand? Have we learned anything new?
KARL: Well, it's hard to say exactly where we are, but here's my top tier, and I think this is likely where you're going to see the pick from, coming from. You have Rob Portman of Ohio, of course, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, but take a look at my third person on that list, Paul Ryan. I believe that most people looking at this have been underestimating the chance that Paul Ryan could be the pick. You know, the Ryan budget will be attacked immediately by Democrats, of course, but the attitude up in Boston -- and I am told within Romney's inner circle -- is they believe that they're going to get attacked for that anyway and that Paul Ryan is the person who could best fight against those attacks. Romney really likes Ryan. I think there's a good chance he's the pick.
DOWD: They've kept their cards exceeding close to the vest, with a few leaks or no leaks at all. What do we think the timing is going to be? There was some sense it was going to be before the Olympics. Obviously, now we've moved forward. Where are the timing?
KARL: Well, I can tell you this, Matthew, that some of people on the list, some of the people under consideration have been told to be ready as soon as Romney comes back from this international trip. It doesn't mean that the pick would come immediately when he comes back, but they are in standby mode. I think this is going to come considerably before the convention.
DOWD: So we'll see this before the convention. Do you they've already sort of got staff in place, so that whenever that pick's made, it's going to be -- they're going to hit the ground running?
KARL: They have -- they -- they certainly have staff in place, and they are ready to go. And I can tell you that those that think that they have a chance of being, you know, picked are ready to go, as well. And, you know, look, we could have somewhat of a surprise. You know, Marco Rubio is still out there. Kelly Ayotte is still out there. But whoever it is, they are ready.
DOWD: More of the Cheney interview tomorrow with Jon. Thanks, Jon, so much.
We'll be back in a moment. But first, three moments from "This Week" history. What year was it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): The ayes are 77. The joint resolution is passed.
DOWD: Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq.
RICE: The idea that you have to wait to be hit in order to deal with a threat is on the face of it not common sense.
LOTT: I thought the words were totally unacceptable.
DOWD: Trent Lott's remarks about Strom Thurmond set off a firestorm.
MCCONNELL: He's apologized, as I said, on four different occasion. I think we ought to accept the apology and move on.
DOWD: Then led to his resignation as Senate majority leader.
(UNKNOWN): More than 15 million people phoned in to choose 20-year-old Kelly Clarkson.
DOWD: "American Idol's" first season took the nation by storm.
CLARKSON: A moment like this...
DOWD: Was it 2001, 2002 or 2003? We'll be right back with the answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOWD: And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice. This week, the Pentagon released the names of 11 servicemembers killed in Afghanistan.
And what year was it? When did Congress authorize the use of force in Iraq? And when was Kelly Clarkson crowned the first "American Idol"? It was 10 years ago, 2002.
That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News" with David Muir tonight. George Stephanopoulos will see you back here next week.