'This Week' Transcript: Axelrod

GUTIERREZ: I want to bring them into the federal government, register them, have them learn English, pay taxes, and be good with the law.

BILBRAY: Look, Arizona -- Arizona is about the fact the federal government hasn't given enforcement a chance.

GUTIERREZ: I'm ready to do -- listen to this program. I am ready to give...


BILBRAY: Then pass the Shuler bill. Pass the Silvestre Reyes bill, and we've...


TAPPER: OK. I have to -- you know what? I have to leave it right there. Not surprisingly, we didn't settle upon a common ground bill. But, Congressman Gutierrez, Congressman Bilbray...

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: ... thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

TAPPER: Yes, so that was the LeBron-a-thon from earlier this week. It's one of the many topics we will discuss on our roundtable with George Will, Ron Brownstein of National Journal, Reihan Salam of National Review, and the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus.

I want to start with President Obama out on the campaign trail again this week trying to sharpen his message. Here's a glimpse.


OBAMA: They're not coming back and saying, "You know what? We really screwed up, but we've learned our lesson, and now we've got this new approach, and this is how things are going to turn out really well." That's not their argument. They are trying to sell you the same stuff that they've been peddling. They are peddling that same snake oil that they've been peddling now for years.


TAPPER: So the president, George, is trying to make this not a referendum on him, but rather a choice between him and Republicans. Is it going to work?

WILL: No, because he is an expert on snake oil. This is the man who said, if we pass the $767 billion stimulus bill, which it turns out costs $862 billion, a $95 million oops, we would have unemployment at 8 percent and no higher, and it went higher.

This is the man who, in another form of snake oil, said we have this wonderful idea of homeowner tax credits for buying first-time homeowners, which we now realize has largely subsidized home purchases that would have been made anyway.

This is the man who last week was out saying, "I'm going to give $2 billion, about $2 billion, to two companies to create about 1,600 jobs." That's $1.5 million per job. That is snake oil.

TAPPER: Ron, you were just in the Denver suburbs talking to voters. What's their take?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, it is, as George says, the aspiration of every president who presides over tough times to frame the midterm as a choice, not a referendum, and it's an especially attractive idea now, because as you can see when you go out and talk to voters, the decline in esteem of Democrats has not been matched by a rise in appreciation of Republicans.

But, in fact, it is very difficult to change the frame of the election that way. The tendency of voters is to view the midterm primarily as a referendum.

Two statistics worth noting. In 2006, when Democrats took back the House, if you looked at the national exit polls on the House races, 84 percent of the voters who approved of George W. Bush voted for Republican House candidates; 82 percent of the voters who disapproved of Bush voted for Democrats.

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