NEW YORK, March 25, 2012 -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS (voice-over): Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."
ROMNEY: Thank you, Illinois. What a night. Wow.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he wrap it up now and take on Obama?
ROMNEY: This president is crushing the dream and the dreamers. And I will make sure that finally ends.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And after a killing...
(UNKNOWN): And I don't understand why this man has not been arrested.
(UNKNOWN): If he had been white, he wouldn't have been stopped.
STEPHANOPOULOS: America is angry, the president reflective.
OBAMA: You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it self-defense or racial profiling? What will it mean for justice to be served?
Plus, Obamacare heads to the Supreme Court.
(UNKNOWN): We knew what we were doing when we passed this bill, iron-clad constitutionally.
(UNKNOWN): The law is at its core a violation of our most deeply held constitutional principles.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How will their decision shape America's health care in the future and this presidential race right now? Questions this morning for our headliners, President Obama's top strategist, David Plouffe, and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
And our powerhouse roundtable: George Will, Donna Brazile, Cokie Roberts, Matthew Dowd, and Terry Moran.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. It's your voice, your vote. Reporting from ABC News election headquarters, George Stephanopoulos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone.
Some news overnight. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is resting in a Virginia hospital this morning after receiving a heart transplant yesterday. The 71-year-old, who has suffered five heart attacks, had been on the transplant waiting list for almost two years, and his initial prognosis is good.
And in the presidential race, Rick Santorum riding high this morning after bowling a turkey in Louisiana and winning big in yesterday's Louisiana primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: ... very clear and crisp statement, and that is that you don't believe, as the pundits have said, that this race is over. You didn't get the memo. We're still here. We're still fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But even with his 11 wins in this nomination battle, Santorum is way behind in the delegate race, Mitt Romney in a commanding position, with more delegates than all his rivals combined. After his win in Illinois on Tuesday, Romney's the only candidate who can wrap up the nomination before the convention.
What does this all mean for the race against President Obama? Let's begin with that and the president's top strategist, David Plouffe.
Good morning, Mr. Plouffe.
PLOUFFE: Morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So hearing Rick Santorum say he's going to keep on fighting must be music to your ears. I know you and the president and your whole campaign think this whole process is helping the president's chances. But our latest poll shows that President Obama is in a dead heat with Mitt Romney, despite the fact that this process has been going on so long. If this process is so grinding for Republicans, why is Mitt Romney tied with the president?
PLOUFFE: Well, George, you know, at the White House we're focused on doing everything we can to help strengthen the economy and create jobs and develop the kind of clean-energy future we need.
In terms of the campaign, we believed all along, this is going to be a very close election. Presidential elections generally are. You know, we won what was considered to be a huge victory in 2008, and we only got 53 percent of the vote.
So this is going to be a close election. That really isn't going to change. It was true last month; it'll be true next month; it'll be true in November. We're confident...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're planning for Romney, right?
PLOUFFE: Well, listen, that race has had a lot of twists and turns. Rick Santorum had another big win last night. Obviously, Romney, as you mentioned previously, has a big delegate lead.
So what I know is at some point, whether it's next month or May or June or August, at some point we're going to have an opponent. We'll be ready for that. And we'll be ready to make our case for the American people about why this president deserves another four years and about why we can't go back to the same policies that led to the Great Recession.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's also pretty clear that one of the planks in your campaign is going to be this budget proposed by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. It has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, endorsed and backed by most of the Republican candidates throughout the course of this year. But Paul Ryan, when he introduced it, went on offense this week. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Medicare under the president's law raids half a trillion dollars from Medicare to spend on his new health care proposal. We're saying, get rid of the rationing board, stop the raid, and preserve the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like they're willing to take this fight on Medicare.
PLOUFFE: Well, George, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, then this really is going to be the Romney-Ryan plan. He said he's going to rubber-stamp it. In fact, it's interesting. Grover Norquist, who's kind of the modern puppeteer of the Republican Party, said really what they need in a president is just somebody with enough digits to sign legislation.
So the American people have to understand, if Mitt Romney's elected president, he'll rubber-stamp that budget. And here's what that budget is. It fails the standard -- it fails the test of balance and fairness and shared responsibility. It showers huge additional tax cuts on the wealthy. It -- that are paid for by veterans and seniors and the middle class, so it's not a balanced approach. It asks nothing of the wealthy. In fact, it showers them with more tax cuts. It devastates things like education. And it voucherizes Medicare, which really would threaten that program and threaten our seniors.
So the president's approach is the right approach. It's the balanced approach. And by the way, it's the approach that -- whether it's the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson commission, Domenici-Rivlin, any -- most of -- anybody out there that's offered a deficit reduction plan, any expert says it's got to have balance, which means it's got to cut spending, and we've already cut a lot of spending, almost $2 trillion. It's got to reform entitlements in the right way. And you've got to get revenue through tax reform.
The Ryan plan, the Romney-Ryan plan doesn't do any of that. All it does is drastically cut kind of indiscriminately in areas that will help the economy and showers the wealthy with big tax cuts.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the Simpson-Bowles plan. As you know, the president taking some heat for not fully embracing that plan by many of his critics. And the Senate Democrats haven't even come forward with a budget for years.
PLOUFFE: Well, listen, on Simpson-Bowles, you know, there was a lot of elements of that that ended up in the president's deficit reduction plan. So a lot of the ideas in there were a derivative of that.
Now, we did have some issues with that. We thought the Social Security cuts were too deep. It didn't guarantee protection of the middle class in terms of tax increases.
I do get a kick, George, you see these Republicans saying, "If only the president had supported Simpson-Bowles." That had $2 trillion in tax increases, more than the president's revenue. It had more defense cuts than the sequester that they're so upset about.
So it's preposterous to think that somehow there's some storyline out there. These guys -- ask each of them. Do you support $2 trillion in revenue? No. Do you support additional defense cuts?
So -- but what we do need is -- Simpson-Bowles was the spirit of what we need. And they made a great contribution with their proposal, which is, we need a balanced approach that has revenue, particularly from the wealthy through tax reform, more cuts. We've done a lot already. We can do a little bit more in terms of spending. And then, obviously, entitlement reform.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about health care. Unprecedented three days of arguments before the Supreme Court on President Obama's health care law this week. And the public seems to be going into this fight before the Supreme Court very negative on the president's plan. We have our latest ABC poll showing that 52 percent of the American public now opposes the president's law; 25 percent want the Supreme Court to strike down that individual mandate, the requirement to buy health insurance; 42 percent want the Supreme Court to scrap the law altogether.
Two years after its passage, why haven't you been able to bring the public along on health care?
PLOUFFE: Well, first, George, you know, you see a lot of polls on this issue, as do I. Polls also show that people don't want to go re-fight this political battle again. What they want us to do is implement the law smartly, make adjustments (inaudible) like giving states more flexibility to implement this.
But most of the law doesn't take effect until 2014. We've had hundreds of millions of dollars of propaganda spent against it. Now, you are beginning to see parts of the law come into effect. Kids between 21 and 26, over 2 million of them now, have health insurance. They can stay on their parent's plan because of the health care reform law. You've got over 5 million seniors now getting $600 roughly of prescription drug assistance. Women now are treated equally as men in our health care system, free preventative care like mammograms and cancer screenings.
So we just have to tell the story of this. One thing I'm confident of is, by the end of this decade, we're going to be very glad the Republicans termed this Obamacare, because when the reality of health care is in place, it's going to be nothing like the kind of fear-mongering that was done.
Now, as it relates to the Supreme Court, we're confident that it's going to be upheld. You had Democratic and Republican jurists upheld it in lower court decisions, including two very prominent conservative jurists. The mandate is an idea supported by the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, most famously kind of the godfather of the mandate, Mitt Romney. So we're confident that it will be upheld.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Let me turn to the issue of gay marriage. The chairman of your convention, Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House, 22 senators have all come out for a plank in the Democratic platform supporting gay marriage. I want to show the first sentence right there. It says the Democratic Party supports the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, with equal respect, responsibility, and protection under the law, including the freedom to marry.
Now, the president has said he's evolving on the issue of gay marriage, but he's still opposed. Does that mean that he's going to fight the inclusion of this plank in the Democratic platform?
PLOUFFE: Well, as you said, the president has spoken to this issue. I certainly don't have anything to add to that today. But we don't even have a platform committee yet, much less a platform, so that..
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you do have a draft plank right there.
PLOUFFE: Well, we're going to work through the platform process. Here's what I think is important. What is going to be in the Republican platform, if they're consistent with what their presidential candidates have said, is to re-institute "don't ask/don't tell," to defend aggressively the Defense of Marriage Act. On the other side, you have the president, who's had groundbreaking progress for gays and lesbians in this country.
So I think there's going to be a big difference on these issues of fairness and equality. And obviously, the platform process will play out in the coming months.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But why can't he say what he believes on this issue?
PLOUFFE: Well, George, he has said what he believed. As he said, it's a very -- this is a very important issue. It's a profound issue. He's spoken to this, you know, at -- with great detail. I don't have anything to add to that.
I'm very proud and he's very proud of what he's accomplished, in terms of repealing "don't ask/don't tell," in terms of not defending Defense of Marriage Act, in terms of some of the benefits we're making sure federal employees with same-sex partners get.
So I think he's spoken not -- not just spoken to, but he's delivered some really important victories in terms of fairness for gays and lesbians in this country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president also spoke out this week on this horrible killing in Florida of Trayvon Martin, the young man, and it's raised such a -- such a debate all across the country. When the president on Friday came out and said, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," Newt Gingrich took exception. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful. It's not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified, no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that, if it had been a white who'd been shot, that would be OK, because it wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you make of that?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, the president spoke out, I thought, very powerfully. And, in fact, there's been broad agreement, almost universal agreement, including the people running for president, that there ought to be a thorough investigation of this.
Those comments are reprehensible. And, you know, Speaker Gingrich is clearly in the last throes of his political career. And, you know, you can make a decision whether to go out with some shred of dignity or say these irresponsible, reckless things, and he's clearly chosen the latter path, and that's unfortunate for the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president did say that we all need to go through some soul-searching right now. Do you and does he believe that the Stand Your Ground laws that are now in place in about 20 states should be revised?
PLOUFFE: Well, I think what he spoke to on Friday -- his focus is, first of all, obviously, on the tragedy of losing a young person, any young person, no matter the gender or the race. It's a tragedy for the country. And, obviously, to make sure a thorough investigation is done both at the local level and the federal level.
But there's going to be time -- as he said, we need to reflect on this incident. Looking at the laws will be part of that. But right now, our focus ought to be on sympathy for the family and then making sure an investigation is done thoroughly. And there seems to be, you know, agreement on that across the partisan divide. You have Democrats and Republicans, independents, everybody, saying let's look into this. And I think that's what's going to happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: David Plouffe, thanks very much for your time this morning.
PLOUFFE: Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get a Republican view now from former -- from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former presidential candidate. Thanks for coming on "This Week."
BACHMANN: Good morning. Good to talk to you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Well, let's first get a response to what David Plouffe there had to say about Speaker Gingrich's comments on the Trayvon Martin case. What did you make of that?
BACHMANN: Well, I think what Newt Gingrich said is that race shouldn't be a factor. All human life is valuable. And it's interesting the second part of David Plouffe's answer, he said the same thing. All human life is valuable.
That should be the bottom line. I'm a mother, a mother of five biological children, but also a mother of 23 great foster children. And when you're a mother, of course, when something tragic like this happens, you want to know what the truth is, what's the result. That's why an investigation is so important. We have to get to the truth about what really happened, not imagine what happened, but actually get to the truth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the presidential campaign. You've said that Republicans are getting campaign fatigue and that it's time for the party to unify. And I guess the question is, how and when will the GOP unify? The Romney campaign is arguing that this whole process is making it harder to beat President Obama. They put out a statement on Thursday that went on to say this. "Senator Santorum continues to drag out this already expensive, negative campaign. It is clear that he is becoming the most valuable player on President Obama's team."
Is that what you think?
BACHMANN: Well, I think this is the people's race, and it's the primary voters who are going to make their decision. They -- they spoke very loudly yesterday in Louisiana, and they spoke very loudly in Illinois.
As we saw in 2008 between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, this is a highly contested race all the way until June. I think the quicker that the Republicans can unify behind our candidate and make Barack Obama and his failed policies the focus of this election, the better off we all will be, but the people need to decide.
I know that I've made a decision. Whoever the people choose, I will back that candidate, because I want mine not to be a divisive voice. I want to help unify the party and bring together the Tea Party element, the evangelical, and the establishment, and then reach out to independents and disaffected Democrats. We have a wonderful positive message, and we need to continue to advance that message until November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, a lot of your colleagues say that that's not -- that's not what's happening right now. You saw former Florida Governor Jeb Bush come out and say, no, now is the time to unify. He got behind Mitt Romney. Your tea party colleague, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, said exactly the same thing. Why not now?
BACHMANN: Well, it's up to the people. The people will make the choice, not the politicians. And that's why I think it's important that they have their say in the primary process. We will unify. There's no question. Here it is, March, and we will unify, and I think long before the Democrats did in 2008.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney's senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, gave the Democrats and Rick Santorum all kinds of fodder this week when he was asked a question about how Governor Romney would move to the center, given some of the positions he's taken in the primaries, during a general election campaign. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, I know a lot of conservatives are concerned that that is exactly what Governor Romney is going to do, that he's an Etch A Sketch candidate who's going to abandon some of the positions he's taken in the primaries. Are you concerned about that?
BACHMANN: Well, I think, again, I'm going to unite behind the candidate, as our party will, no matter who that candidate will be. These kind of things are the minors that become majors, these statements, but the real major is going to be this issue of Obamacare. It's been talked about all this last week. And I have a ticket. I will be in the Supreme Court chamber to hear these oral arguments live.
I was the chief author of the bill to repeal Obamacare, the first member of Congress to do so. I helped lead 40,000 Americans to the Capitol in opposition to the passage of Obamacare. And during the course of the presidential race, I made a distinct difference and a contribution, because now when the nominees first started many of them were looking at dealing with Obamacare through waivers and through executive orders. Now our nominees, all four of them or all four candidates, have just one answer, and that's full-scale repeal. That's 180 degrees different from President Obama, who fully stands behind this very unpopular bill. Whoever our nominee is, they will repeal Obamacare.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I do want to ask you about that, but -- so you're not worried about this label "Etch A Sketch candidate"?
BACHMANN: No, I'm not. Our candidate will be strong. We will be united as a party.
STEPHANOPOULOS: On -- on health care, you just heard David Plouffe say that he and the White House, the president is very confident that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the president's plan. And a lot of independent analysts have said they see that what's most likely, legal Supreme Court followers, is a 6-3 or maybe even a 7-2 decision in favor of the president's plan. Do you agree?
BACHMANN: Well, it -- it depends on what the Supreme Court decides to rule on. The one issue that they may try to narrowly construe is the Anti-Injunction Act. And it's interesting. When Obamacare was being passed through Congress, President Obama adamantly said this is not a tax. Now, when this bill is before the Supreme Court, President Obama is adamantly saying this is a tax, a complete flip-flop, and that's dealing with this issue of an Anti-Injunction Act.
But the real issue that most Americans are concerned about is the constitutionality of the government forcing Americans to pay for a very expensive insurance policy, which some people are estimating could cost $20,000 a year for families. This is extremely expensive. Families won't have a choice. They're going to be forced to buy an insurance product that government tells them they have to purchase. If they don't, they'll have to pay a fine to the federal government. This is absurd. It's never happened before in the history of the country.
And that's why most people today, 72 percent of the people, according to a Gallup poll, say this is unconstitutional. The people do not like this bill at all. They do not like the federal government forcing them to spend their money in a way that they don't want to spend it. It's wildly unpopular. It's why the Republicans gained control of the House in 2010.
I believe it will be why we have a Republican president this year, because of President Obama's signature piece of legislation, Obamacare. He has to now stand before the American people and defend it. And interestingly, George, Friday was the two-year anniversary of his signing of Obamacare, not a peep out of the president of the United States. He can't even go before the public and defend it.
So our nominee will make this the number-one issue, and I think it's -- again, it's wildly unpopular and should be found unconstitutional, because it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congresswoman Bachmann, thanks very much for your time this morning.
BACHMANN: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, our powerhouse roundtable weighs in on all the week's politics, the Trayvon Martin tragedy. How could this happen? Were bad laws or racial prejudice to blame?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Trayvon Martin was (inaudible) Trayvon Martin did matter. We're not going to stop until we get justice for Trayvon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Health care on the hot seat. How will the Supreme Court handle Obamacare? And football's in the headlines. The NFL cracks down on the New Orleans Saints, and Tebow-mania heads for New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FALLON: It looked like Tim Tebow might be traded to the New York Jets. But apparently, some Jets players are not happy about it. Yeah, they're called wide receivers. They're -- no way.
O'BRIEN: Well, it looks like Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been traded to the Jets. Tim Tebow is going to the Jets, yeah. When told he was going to be spending the rest of his career in New Jersey, Tebow said, "There is no God."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My main message is -- is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
GINGRICH: It's not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period.
ROMNEY: It's -- it's entirely appropriate that the district attorney to be looking into this and to have called a grand jury to find out what the facts are.
(UNKNOWN): We are Trayvon Martin.
SANTORUM: It's a horrible case. I mean, it's chilling to hear what happened. Stand Your Ground is not doing what this man did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: National conversation kicked off on the case of Trayvon Martin. We're going to talk about it now on our roundtable. I am joined, as always, by George Will, Donna Brazile, Terry Moran, Cokie Roberts, and Matthew Dowd.
Thanks, all, for coming in. And the president -- we saw parts of the comments the president had there, George. He also went on to say, as I talked about with David Plouffe, that, "I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out, how does something like this happen?"
What lesson, if any, do you draw from it?
WILL: That the law in question, the so-called Stand Your Ground law, is a bad idea, because it tries to codify a right of self-defense, but it really confers upon citizens the illusion at least that they have something like powers exercised by highly trained police officers. Mr. Zimmerman says he was acting under this self-defense law, but he is said to have been recorded saying that he was in pursuit of the person. You cannot be in pursuit and acting in self-defense.
ROBERTS: And standing your ground, right.
WILL: But the problem, of course, is at this point we all ought to remember something. The last time everyone in the media and certain well-known agitators got up on their high horses and galloped off in all directions was the Duke lacrosse case, and everyone was wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was one of the cases. We also, of course, had the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, where everyone was wrong, as well, Donna. And we're going to learn a lot more from these tapes. The grand jury is looking at this right now. One of the other things we have heard is that the 911 operator said to Mr. Zimmerman, "You don't have to do that."
BRAZILE: Right. Right. The problem with -- and I think George is right on the law -- the problem with the law is that -- Stand Your Ground is that you often end up in the ground, in the case of an innocent person like Trayvon Martin. And in the case of George Zimmerman, you end up doing things that perhaps you would not have done.
Neighborhood -- I'm a Neighborhood -- I belong to a Neighborhood Watch. We don't -- we don't carry pistols. We don't carry guns. We try to protect the streets. We try to protect the neighborhood. We don't profile people. We just try to make sure everybody is safe, get in and out.
But this has, of course, awakened some wounds, some wounds that go back generations, where young black boys are taught and told at a very early age -- I heard my mom, it's called the talk, my father, the code. The talk is, of course, watch yourself, be careful of your surroundings. If you're stopped by the cops, protect your pride, but act with humility, and try not to run, to flee. But in Trayvon's case, he didn't know who George Zimmerman was. He didn't know what this guy was up to.
ROBERTS: And the guy clearly -- look, the guy has a problem, regardless of what -- all the facts come out to be. If he's called 911 46 times...
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the last year.
ROBERTS: ... in the last year, they must have, you know, at the police station, saying, "It's him again," you know, and this is where the problem of guns comes, because if you're just a -- you know, a person who's a little off and -- and has some false sense of power, that's one thing if you don't have a gun in your hand, but...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet he had, Terry, all the appropriate permits.
ROBERTS: Oh, it doesn't -- look...
MORAN: He did have...
ROBERTS: I'm not saying that it was an illegal gun. I'm saying the gun is the problem. That's -- that's what kills you.
MORAN: And the law. And the law in Florida does something else. No other state has a law like this. Not only is it a Stand Your Ground law. In the olden days, under common law, you had a duty to retreat. Stand Your Ground says, no, you don't have to. Florida goes one step farther. Stand Your Ground is self-defense, defense at trial. It would go to trial, where the jury would figure out what happened. In Florida, the law says, if you raise a claim of self-defense after killing someone in public, you can't even be arrested...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly right.
MORAN: ... unless the police...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Section 776, listen to this, provides immunity from arrest unless the police have probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
MORAN: It's why prosecutors and police hated this law...
ROBERTS: They hate this law.
MORAN: It sabotaged our justice system. And all the discussion that we've heard, what did Zimmerman do? What did Trayvon do? Juries are supposed to figure that out. The Florida law destroys that American system.
DOWD: To me, what's ironic -- such irony about this is, is most of the states that have passed this, including Florida, and the Stand Your Ground laws and the expanded, obviously, gun ownership laws, where you can carry a concealed weapon, are also the same states and the same legislators and the same governors who sort of push for prayer in the school. To me, there's such an irony here that we're going to like -- we want to be...
ROBERTS: You need to pray more with all those guns out there.
DOWD: We want to be a Christian nation and we want to act in a Christian manner, but, oh, by the way, we don't believe in the turn your other cheek and we don't believe in love your enemy. We believe in loading -- loading citizens and basically giving them an opportunity to shoot people.
This is an unbelievable, to me, tragic, tragic case, but I think, as Donna said, I think it's touched something in society. I hope what doesn't happen -- I hope the rhetoric can drop a little bit and that we don't go from what we had two weeks ago, which was everybody saying there was a war on women, and now everybody is starting to say -- certain leaders are starting to say there's a war on African-Americans or a war on blacks. That's not what this is about.
Really, that's -- this is about somebody that you have to -- best case you could say, he's mentally off, George Zimmerman. And that's what I think -- we've got to go back to what this really is saying about society. It's not -- this is an individual who did this. This isn't a commentary.
ROBERTS: But Donna is certainly right, that if -- you know, that young black men or black men of any age, you know, are considered suspects. And -- and whether it's a cab driver who won't pick them up or whether it's a white person crossing the street because she's nervous to have a black man on the same side of the street as she is, that's real. That happens in our society.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Donna, this did bubble up from the African-American community. No one spoke out on it for about a month.
BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely, George. It was on the Internet. And then the black radio stations played a large role in getting the national media to focus on -- once again, like the Susan Komen controversy, this really was a social media movement. And you'll see over the next couple of days even more petitions aimed at the governor and others to repeal this law.
But I want to also say -- and I think something else that needs to be said -- since 2008 to 2009, 2,500 -- over 2,500 black males, young black males, were murdered in this country. Trayvon Martin is a tragedy, but there's another tragedy, in the number of black -- young black boys killed. They make up less than 15 percent in our society, but more than 45 percent of homicides. And this is something that I think will also be a topic of conversation, as we look longer at this whole controversy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there's no question about that. Let's shift around now to the presidential race. We talked about it with both David Plouffe and Michele Bachmann, but probably the issue that -- or the event that mattered more even than the primaries this week, that comment from Eric Fehrnstrom on calling Mitt Romney an Etch A Sketch candidate...
ROBERTS: It certainly helped the Etch A Sketch stock.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The stock went up. It went up 141 percent, a tiny little stock. But there was also a lot of reaction. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: You're not looking for someone who's the Etch A Sketch candidate. You're looking for someone who writes what they believe in, in stone.
(UNKNOWN): You've just got to keep focused and just say, look, this is not why we're running, not about toys.
BIDEN: There is no daylight between Governor Romney and Republican leaders on the most important issues facing this country. And not even Romney's Etch A Sketch can change that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: George Will, does it stick?
WILL: I think by November this will be as distant as the Peloponnesian Wars. But right now, it's effective because it did codify a kind of -- it simplifies a narrative about Romney, and it happened, of course, unfortunately, after the most important victory he's had so far.
WILL: And the state of Illinois, where men are men and I am from, is really the kind of typical state, if there is one in this country. The northern part of Illinois is north of Cape Code. The southern tip is south of Richmond. It's urban. It's rural. And it's there that Rick Santorum demonstrated that he is Huckabee, that is, he can't break out of his southern evangelical and rural base. And therefore, in Illinois, on the eve of the Etch A Sketch, Romney became unassailably the nominee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think...
ROBERTS: The Etch A Sketch, though, the reason that it holds is because it does play into a...
DOWD: Because it's true.
DOWD: Because it is true.
ROBERTS: Well, all right.
But the -- and that's what happens. I mean, it's like Quayle and "potatoe" or whatever. These things only work if they play into an already...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dukakis in the tank.
DOWD: And it's not going to -- it won't cost him -- it won't cost him the nomination. It won't cost him the nomination, but what I think this is, is Eric did not say this because he misspoke. Eric said this because that's how they see their candidate and that's how they see their campaign. And this has been his problem, his Achilles' heel throughout this whole thing. It's why he's won one and then lost one, won one -- he will get the nomination. I don't necessarily think you might hear Etch A Sketch. His problem, his liability, which is that people think he just remakes himself for whatever he needs to do, will stick to November, just like, interestingly, another politician who said I voted for it before I voted against it, John Kerry...
STEPHANOPOULOS: John Kerry.
DOWD: ... this is a moment -- and it's a very similar way for like that, because he had the same vulnerability.
MORAN: And one of the reasons it sticks...
ROBERTS: (OFF-MIKE) Peloponnesian (OFF-MIKE)
MORAN: One of the reasons it sticks, I think, is he's such a guarded and scripted person, that there's no purchase on him. There's no real texture. So that image of him evaporating in the shaking of the Etch A Sketch sticks. And it's also the reason, frankly, that the dog on the roof thing is still around, because there's not enough -- what sports does his like? Who were his mentors?
DOWD: She's fabulous, actually.
ROBERTS: (OFF-MIKE) and she is really (OFF-MIKE)
BRAZILE: But can she close the deal? Mitt Romney doesn't have a math problem. He is likely going to end up as the nominee. He has more delegates. He's won more popular votes. He's on the ballot in all the states. His problem is chemistry.
People don't -- and I'm saying people, George, I'm referring to Republicans -- they don't what he really...
BRAZILE: Those people.
BRAZILE: ... conservative Republicans.
ROBERTS: (OFF-MIKE) Donna, 70 percent of Louisianans who voted yesterday said they want this race to go on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right.
ROBERTS: They are not -- they're not ready to close the deal.
DOWD: And we haven't seen this -- we haven't seen this, interestingly enough, really since 1976 or maybe even not then, where you basically had a candidate who looked like they've sewn it up and then lose by 20 points in a primary? That's not happened before. John McCain did not lose a single caucus or primary after February 9th. He was running up 70 percent, 80 percent margins after that. And Mitt Romney can't seem to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And does that combined with the Etch A Sketch, George, make it harder for him to do what he needs to do to be competitive in the general?
WILL: I think it does. Look at the state of Virginia. Illinois is not going to go for the Republicans in any case. Virginia has to, really, for him to get to 270 electoral votes. Virginia is two states. Northern Virginia increasingly, intellectually and economically upscale, is drifting away from the Republicans, so he needs strength in precisely the kind of regions and areas where Santorum is strong and he's not.
He has to pile up a big victory in southern Virginia to carry that state, and it's what's increasingly difficult.
ROBERTS: And now, of course, the good news for him is that the states that Santorum is willing are...
WILL: He's going to win anyway.
ROBERTS: ... go Republican. But it is a question of, you know, by how much?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And does it mean then, Terry Moran, that when he's looking at things like a vice presidential candidate, he has to go straight to, say, the state of Virginia, Governor McDonnell?
MORAN: No question about it. He's got to balance the ticket. I don't know if it can be Santorum. Everybody's looking at Rubio, because a lot of people do connect with him and they've got the demographic problem. If you look at who's voting in the Republican primaries, they've got to win more than white men to win the presidency.
BRAZILE: Independents, women, young people, of course, Hispanics, the immigration. And the problem with Mitt Romney is that -- you know, I've been to several debates. And on one debate, he'll tell he's on -- he takes this position on immigration, and four states later, he took the opposite position.
Ronald Reagan never ran as a conservative Republican. Everybody knew he was a conservative Republican. The fact that Mitt Romney has to introduce himself that way tells you he has a problem.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, George, talking to David Plouffe, it seems -- and watching the Obama campaign all week -- they seem convinced that this Ryan budget is something they can wrap around Mitt Romney and a ticket to victory in November.
WILL: Well, it is fascinating that a 42-year-old congressman from southeastern Wisconsin is the most important Republican in the country. I don't care who wins the nomination. And he has defined the drama of our politics for the next decade, which is, A, cutting entitlements is absolutely necessary and cutting entitlements is exceedingly unpopular. And that's the argument we're going to have.
Now, they -- the Democratic line is, Paul Ryan would end Medicare as we know it, to which the answer is, "Of course." Arithmetic is going to end Medicare as we know it, because we can't afford it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're going beyond that. They're also saying that it's going to end most of the domestic discretionary spending.
ROBERTS: Which, of course, is what happens when you don't have taxes, you know. And I don't quite understand why he is doing what he's doing on the tax part of the equation, because it is playing into the whole theme of Republicans as the party of the rich, which is (inaudible)
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're saying basically cutting taxes, going down to two rates, and saying it's going to be made up of loopholes, by closing loopholes.
ROBERTS: But the -- but the upper income people are still taxed less. And so you have that same argument still there.
But, look, the real question on discretionary spending, by which we mean everything other than Social Security, Medicare, defense, is that that is an intention. You know, Phil Gramm was always very out front about it, you know, a congressman from Texas, ran for president, is it starved the government, you know? And that would be that you make sure that there's no income coming in so that no programs are going out. It's a philosophical decision, not an economic decision.
DOWD: And to me, what I don't understand is why progressive Democrats or progressive independents or progressive Republicans, as the discretionary part of the budget now slowly dwindles because of the expansiveness of Medicare, the expansiveness of Social Security, and the inability for anybody to touch defense, even though everybody knows it has tremendous waste in it, is that diminishes -- the inability for us to invest in things that people think we need to in society, whether it's roads, whether it's the EPA, all of those things that many people -- schools -- that many people with progressive causes, I -- to me, the progressive Democrats and progressive independents ought to be front and center on saying we need to deal with Medicare and we need to deal with Social Security, because That's only the thing that's going to allow us to expand the part of the budget that will allow us to invest in the things in this country that we need to, to be in the 21st century.
WILL: Precisely. That is what will crowd out domestic spending, discretionary spending, just as much as the Ryan budget.
BRAZILE: Chairman Ryan exemplifies the old saying, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, because it's pretty much the same budget proposal that he put together last year, and we all know where that went. It's a gift to the wealthiest Americans. It eliminates the estate tax, death tax, alternative minimum tax, and basically provide more tax cuts to the wealthy. It basically decimates all of the social safety net programs.
But the problem is -- and he said it best -- this is not the math. It's a cause. It is a cause that the Republicans want to champion. And you know what? Democrats are ready, because I believe it's political suicide for the Republicans, and if Mitt Romney wants to embrace it, hey, guess what? We've got a fight.
MORAN: The drama that George talks about our politics being on the next 10 years, cut entitlements, no entitlements (inaudible) is taking place in an electorate where something even deeper is happening. You go out there, you listen to voters, you go out to Occupy Wall Street, the sense the game is rigged and that rich people are getting too much and that the government is rigged.
They don't want tax cuts for rich people, and they don't want big government programs anymore, many voters, because they've lost trust...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they don't believe all these loopholes will be closed.
DOWD: Donna's right. There's political suicide in many ways for the Republicans, but this is financial suicide for the Democrats. And each side, if they want to commit suicide, can. They seem to be willing to do that through this process.
ROBERTS: But, Matt -- but, Matt...
DOWD: That's the problem.
ROBERTS: ... you know perfectly well...
DOWD: Raising taxes on the rich, though it may be the most equitable thing to do is true, is not going to solve this problem.
ROBERTS: ... the only way you are going to get Medicare and Social Security reform is (inaudible) big bipartisan deal in a non-election year. That's the only way you do something like that.
DOWD: Well, we've had a lot of non-election years that this problem seems to have -- it should have been solved. It doesn't seem to get solved. People are unwilling...
DOWD: Somebody has to come to the table and say, "We need to cut defense, we need to do this." They're unwilling to do it.
WILL: The Ryan budget is silent on the loopholes he would close in order to raise the top rate down to 25 percent and broaden the base. I'll tell you why. You want to get a trillion -- quarter of a trillion dollars over the next decade? End the deductibility of mortgage interest payments and tax as compensation, which it obviously is, all employer-paid health insurance. No one's going to do either of those.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And tax capital gains as regular income. Let's move on to health care. We heard from Michele Bachmann. She thinks that's the biggest issue in this presidential campaign. Want to go to the Supreme Court right now. People have been lining up for about three days waiting for these arguments, oral arguments at the Supreme Court, unprecedented three days...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... starting on tomorrow, Monday. Terry Moran, you cover the court for us. And basically, the Supreme Court has four options that I can see, correct me if I'm wrong. They can uphold the law. They can overturn it in whole. They can split it. They can overturn the mandate, uphold the rest of the law. Or they can punt, just decide nothing until the tax takes hold in 2014. Which do you think is most likely and why?
MORAN: Well, the smart money is betting that the Supreme Court will uphold this law. Now, a lot of the same smart money bet that the Supreme Court would not declare corporations are people and have First Amendment or will award the 2000 election to George W. Bush.
That's -- I think that what -- one of the overlooked factors here is the politics, and not the impact that the Supreme Court can have on the presidential campaign, but the other way. What does the presidential campaign do the way the justices think here?
The people's representatives passed this law, whether you like it or not. Now the people are engaged in a great free democratic political debate. Why should the Supreme Court come in and call a halt to that debate preemptively and take the political...
MORAN: They can punt. They can punt. And I think they will.
ROBERTS: But why did they -- why did they take it, then? Why did they take the case if they were going to (OFF-MIKE)
MORAN: They took it at a different time, in some ways. The Republicans, Michele Bachmann, are making this the number-one issue. Some of the biggest mistakes the Supreme Court has ever made is when they decided cases they didn't have to. And John Roberts as chief justice, loves the court, is very protective of its institutional authority. The more it gets involved in politics, the more that authority comes down.
WILL: I really disagree with Terry on this. I think the Supreme Court is composed of nine intelligent, conscientious judges who are prepared to judge in this case. Why did they take it? Because the circuits are in conflict, and the circuits -- some important circuit judges say -- in very persuasive opinions -- that portions of the law -- at least two portions -- are unconstitutional, the Medicaid expansion, which is a burden that eviscerates (ph) federalism and, of course, the mandate.
They're going to decide -- try at long last to see if there is any limiting principle on the ability of Congress to act simply because it asserts that whatever they're regulating has a substantial impact on interstate commerce. If there is no limiting principle, then the Madisonian architecture of limited government is gone and the federal government has an unlimited...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, George, the way they posed the question -- or the way a lot of the briefs pose the question is if we can -- if the government can force you to buy health insurance, why can't it force you to eat broccoli?
On the other hand, you look, Cokie, at a lot of the precedents, and if the court follows the precedents, even Justice Scalia and Justice Roberts in the past have voted for an expansive view of the Commerce Clause.
ROBERTS: (OFF-MIKE) Commerce Clause, which, of course, says that the Congress has the right to regulate interstate commerce. But the -- and everything now is considered interstate commerce.
WILL: That's the problem.
ROBERTS: Well (OFF-MIKE) President Kennedy and Mrs. Murphy's boarding house. If it's in interstate commerce, it'll be affected. Well, of course, the '64 civil rights law did affect every -- every institution, and that is the way it has been interpreted.
But the question here is, of course, the difference is that it's asking you to do something and to purchase something. And, of course, the answer is, well, health care is different, that we all will participate in the health care system one way or the other. And...
ROBERTS: ... people do is to go to the emergency room, which we all then end up paying for.
BRAZILE: Yes. The law is -- I believe -- I'm not a lawyer. I don't even pretend to be one. The law is constitutional. Multiple circuit courts have upheld the individual responsibility clause. Congress has broad authority under the necessary and proper clause and interstate commerce clause.
And the law is also fair. I mean, to require that people who can afford to purchase insurance, I think, it's going to be ruled constitutional.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew, to go back to Terry's original point, this is coming in the middle of a presidential campaign. How does it play? If the Supreme Court upholds it, does it leech out all of the anger? Or does it just create a backlash?
DOWD: Well, that's what I think. The Supreme Court always acts like they're above politics, but these days, they can't be above the politics of anything. They basically have to enter into the middle of it.
To me, this -- if Mitt Romney's the likely Republican nominee -- I disagree totally with Michele Bachmann on this and many other Republicans -- the idea that this is going to be a big negative for Barack Obama -- first of all, Mitt Romney can't really make an authentic argument about this law, by having passed a version of this law in the state, and which...
ROBERTS: And, by the way, which is doing very well.
DOWD: ... the president copied. But even if this is overturned, which I have some doubts that it will, but even if it's overturned, I think that actually helps the president, because what happens then at that point, the president says, I tried to give you -- you know, get rid of sort of the clauses that you don't like. I tried to expand it so people could still keep coverage. I tried to do this, and I tried to do this, and this -- here we go with the Supreme Court, and the Republicans, and this what they did -- I actually think in the end this law, against Mitt Romney, at worst is neutral and at best could help the president.
WILL: I think Matt may be right about that, but, again, I think this is a serious argument about serious constitutional issues. Independent of the fact that the public doesn't like it or the fact that it is the president's signature achievement.
To the argument that health care is unique because everyone uses it, everyone uses food, shelter, clothing, energy, transportation. This is a comprehensive argument, if you let it loose in this case.
Second, a judge has actually said, well, we're not regulating the inactivity of not buying health insurance. We're regulating the mental activity of choosing not to buy health insurance. When you get into this kind of Orwellian language, you're doing something wrong.
MORAN: Well, the case is going to come down as to how the justices look at this. Do they see it as essentially the government trying to tackle 17 percent of the national economy, that everyone participates in, whether you -- at some point, we're going to be in this market, an interstate market kind of economy (ph)? Or will they look at it, that the Congress is forcing you to purchase something? Because it only happened once in our history, the Second Militia Act of 1794...
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... interview I had with President Obama two years ago, where we had a big fight over whether or not this is a tax.
WILL: If they lose up there, he will have lost it on this program talking to you. If they -- if they had simply said this is a tax, under the taxing power, we wouldn't be having this argument.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But whether they say it or not, it is a tax. And that means -- that undercuts the mandate argument.
WILL: It is collected -- it is collected by the IRS, the penalty is, but the president sat on our set, talking to you, saying I categorically reject the idea that this is a tax. I think you'll appear on the transcript...
DOWD: George -- George may have a point that you want the judges to act substantively and all of this. Listen, they're completely not. They're immersed in the politics of this. There's no question...
ROBERTS: How can they not (OFF-MIKE)
DOWD: ... about this. This goes on every single day. The reason why they took this case, they took this case because the politics of this forced them to take this case. I don't think they would have taken this case but for the politics of this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And it's going to be fascinating to...
WILL: The circuits disagree.
ROBERTS: (OFF-MIKE) South, and I think that, you know, you could see...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to have to be the last word. It's going to be fascinating to listen to oral arguments this week, fascinating to listen to all of you. I'll be back in a moment to answer some of the questions you had for this week, but first, we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.
This week, the Pentagon released the names of two soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally today, "Your Voice This Week," where you get to ask the questions. I take a shot at answering them.
And the first one today comes from Alysha Shaw. She asks, when was the last time jobs and the economy were not the most important issues to voters leading up to a presidential election? I'm 25, and it seems like these have been the top polling issues throughout my lifetime.
It seems like that, Alysha, because it's true. Almost all of the presidential campaigns since you've been born have turned on the economy.
Now, before you were born, you can look back and say 1968, Lyndon Johnson was forced to drop out, not run again, despite a very strong economy, because of the uproar over the war in Vietnam, and his party lost that election. In 1976, when Gerald Ford lost, the Watergate scandal was still the overriding issue.
But in your lifetime, the only election I can think of where the election wasn't the overwhelming issue is that election back in 2000, where despite a very strong economy, unemployment at 4 percent, George W. Bush was able to get in to the White House. Of course, that was a very disputed election. But the fact that the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Al Gore's missteps, and those faulty voting machines in Florida prevented him from having a clear win in the Electoral College.
And in that election, the economy was not the overriding issue. But that's the only one that I think of in your lifetime. We'll see what happens this time around. I do think the economy will be the number-one issue.
And finally, Colleen Daniels asks, are you enjoying your family time this week? I hope you are. See you soon.
I had a great time. The whole family had a great time on vacation. We got a lot of sun, a lot of swimming, a little bit of ping pong, plenty of sleep, but we're ready to get back to work today, and that's exactly what we've done.
So if you've got a question for me, send it in on Facebook, Twitter at #askgeorge, or any time on abcnews.com and Yahoo.
That's all for us today. Check out "World News" with David Muir for the latest news tonight. And thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."