Roundtable: Debate Report Card

George Will, Donna Brazile, Matthew Dowd, Mary Matalin, and Jake Tapper.
3:00 | 01/08/12

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Transcript for Roundtable: Debate Report Card
The Santorum surge. Just got real ladies and gentlemen. Because he has caught the notice of the most influential voice of the nineteenth century. George well. -- eight pro Santorum. Op Ed in titled suddenly all fun candidates. And -- Anybody knows on its George -- After all a bullet -- it is just a necktie -- still end this. -- -- -- -- They do exactly George also here -- Jake Tapper Mary -- -- out and and Donna Brazil. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- He was part of the problem is the man who was supposed to wage the fight well first it was Gingrich who left violent incandescent with rage about -- and but somehow lost his fire was -- the time god -- Rick Santorum standing next to me trying to earned his place here. Had to face the fact that there's not that much he differs with Romney on picks -- the social issues he doesn't really want to talk about. He's for No Child Left Behind this for the prescription drug entitlement. He's a protectionist -- for industrial policy and that he wants special tax treatment for the 11% of the economy its manufacturing. But he doesn't want to talk about his his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case for example -- end of life tragedy. The federal government plunged into an all the other issues that may have propelled him in Iowa but will not propel -- beyond -- Mandela who did Rick Santorum miss an opportunity last night. I don't think so -- that's one part of his record and the other part of his record that you broke so well in the that the the -- -- he's got a lot of attributes he's blue collar. He ethnic he's Catholic and 30% of voters here are Catholic he is -- -- candidate in this field it's connecting. The cultural in the economic erosion. And government expansion that's -- -- he's skating he's in full spectrum conservative. He showed that one -- in Iowa. He pivotal year he's not getting out of this race and I couldn't and it might even be columnist -- I think. Well that would be a big move for -- -- he did that limited to shut the question I asked Mike Huckabee. He said he couldn't explain why the candidates. Didn't bring more fight. To admit -- -- lessen any kind of sustained attack. All of us expected that they were gonna do that because Mitt Romney is the front runner and even Mitt Romney. And -- folks expected them to take a lot more -- I think it has a lot to do with this process of this race. Which is unexpected people arriving in center stage when they really did not expect to be there. He shared with Michelle Bachmann who arrived on center stage -- -- quickly Rick Perry arrives on center stage Bates quickly Herman Cain. Arrived on stage basically Newt Gingrich arrives onstage -- quickly now -- -- was the first time Rick Santorum was in the middle of the of the fight. And I think he fanned. As you say -- -- a lot of people have said. I think he may get its feet back under him. As the days go on I think this is what I gotta do but I think it's because this race has been so topsy turvy they have to sit they had to sit still and then they have to like move on and nobody's been able to sort of move. That forward and Jake Tapper -- -- talk about Jon Huntsman for a little -- he's really staked his entire campaign. On New Hampshire spend more time here. Can anyone else but -- it perhaps is most memorable attack. Last night against Mitt Romney -- in Chinese. The note does they would say in China and it. Topped with highly agitated changing it doesn't even -- I understand the situation. And if we -- the translation -- doesn't -- situation but Huntsman. Has to be arrested jump ahead of Paul and door Rick Santorum to really have any kind of government coming -- Hampshire for sort of. He knows that the voters of New Hampshire speak Cantonese. Commander in. Big mistake big mistake tactically. The Clinton's campaign. He did not bring it either and and as you say he has staked everything here. And it was a very it was an odd performance by him because you open the door for him to talk about some key differences and it was very bizarre to me. To see the candidates. Pass up this opportunity. To distinguish themselves to draw the contrasts that they need to do know a lot of the campaigns. -- streaming after the debate we did draw these distinctions we did talk about it and it's true if you you know if you go through the transcript you can find little bits here and there. There wasn't a coherence. I'm Rick Santorum I'm the conservative. Mitt -- a nice guy he's a moderate. And he should not be the nominee the party -- with Rick Perry Newt Gingrich. It was a mistake it was a tactical mistake and they're gonna you're gonna see them. And rectify that in the coming days and you still have Mitt -- facing divided conservative opposition. There's no -- and -- look I've been to enough for these debates to to know. What passion feels like what it. Sounds like -- what it must ultimately. Be like for the Republicans to beat President Obama and -- in 2012 this. Mitt Romney is is the perfect candidate on Paper if you if you like to see something written on white people would a couple of exclamation -- Points. When it comes to. Revving up the base getting people excited bringing more people into the party Mitt Romney is now I'm bring anybody to the dance unless -- already wearing boots. And an -- Taken up by got -- country can look back at the Iowa Caucuses this week a few thousand more voters. Then voted in Republican politics for years ago but not an astronaut will jump even though there wasn't anything on the democratic side. That's right and because Iowa is on everyone's list. Of twelve to fourteen swing states have to carry -- the presidency. Republicans should be alarmed that the -- -- depression but the absence of passion. Mama we're home and the passion and Republican Party -- in the Tea Party. Important distance and an important part of the Republican base it is the base at this point and there's no one on the stage here I have to make my. We play politics makes agreeable bedfellows statement that this -- -- working for mr. Perry. The fact is that someone has to find the voice of the -- And where you start that is by saying what got us into trouble isn't Barack Obama. What -- Tea Party and -- so -- -- and flammable. In February 2000 mind was the policies of the Bush Administration. What have to have announced an argument against big government conservatism. And Tea Party limited government tenth amendment -- -- to. To meet you can -- think -- Obama folks are sending -- raced up like this they have an expectation. It's going to be Mitt Romney and they want to turn Mitt Romney to John Kerry 2004. They want to take a any president that they view themselves as incredibly vulnerable. Like George Bush was in many Democrats mines and try to turn Mitt Romney into the flip flop for John Kerry like candidate from interestingly enough from Massachusetts. The problem that the Obama administration the Democrats have is this while they always thought George Bush's probable here's the situation Barack Obama faces in this elections -- He -- seven points lower on job approval wasn't George Bush was at the same time. He has a thirty point lower consumer confidence rating than George Bush had in 2004 in January 2004 and the wrong direction of this country is forty points higher. That was in 2004. And so that -- I've Obama campaign understands this if this is about Barack Obama. They lose they absolutely no they lose they cannot run -- reelection campaign based on their own success is if it's about Mitt Romney or the other Republican they know they have a fighting. And that's why most of them for what reason -- run again as well as he did -- was among those voters who think he is best positioned. To beat President Obama but may do with this question there does seem to be. This struggle inside the Republican Party between hearts and minds purity or pragmatism whatever you want to call it -- belief that Mitt Romney could be. The strongest -- but no real life. So -- it -- -- -- there will be passion. Even in Iowa which we were there and it was -- hung -- but he didn't look beyond the 100000 which in voting population is three million. He registration from Republican since gone out from the registration from Democrat to contact and -- pivotal state. When we get -- nominee is deliberately gamblers think when you win -- in the winner's circle be plenty of passion there has been intense in her -- planting. Passion against Obama since spring of -- I know just being against. Isn't not to -- to before. But they're all essentially for the same thing in there is that the the being against his candidate for almost in this case that there will be benefited generic Republican has been beating -- -- -- For months now. But I think part of the process George part of the process I think it's hurting Mitt Romney. -- he has not been fully tested he has not exercise the muscles he needs to exercise to win a general election. Against a tremendous candidate -- string of solid -- teenage base -- can improve his passion prove that against summing up everything you know -- What self inflicted wounds because the Republicans -- you know debate him they won't tax camp and in fact last -- -- done it's okay Ron -- secretary of defense. Jon Huntsman sent back to China. New good -- -- Michelle Bachmann also Rick Santorum -- to the Vatican. Rick Perry. Okay imaging department because he can eliminated his own job mean much. The White House they've been planning -- Mitt Romney the entire -- they get there early ads. Against him you know -- -- says they're gonna try to make him John Kerry but it's clear also. They are going to make his business career front. And senator and it's it's a bit of -- rorschach test there's no question that Romney sees this as a real strength it's going to be as major selling point the way to -- this is -- It's they see Mitt Romney as the 1% in the 99% vs 1% to see him and actually you know I've even heard. Republicans say to me that they don't understand anything -- -- -- mean like some liberal Republican -- -- on the street like. Deep thinking ultra conservative Republicans big strategists in Washington say. They don't understand. Why -- our means there's more right -- -- isn't even trying to outflank Obama. On some of the economic populism when it comes to corporate America that corporate America does not necessarily need a tax break at this point why would he stick out that position. He's setting himself up for fall but look the fundamental. Point is that Obama is going to be the referendum it's that's what the elections next year should he does it doesn't -- and -- reelection. Or not if you look at. 2008. Barack Obama had everything going for him. His opponent did not run a great campaign. Pick a running mate that alienated some key voters a European economic crisis as opposed to national security crisis everything going -- the media. Perhaps tilting and skills a little bit and and. The state -- Georgia prison. And still 47% of the country voted against him. All that Mitt Romney or whoever the nominee is needs to do is convince -- unquestionably a closer race this time we have just a historical footnote. Barack Obama with all those advantages got 53% of the vote. Democratic party's oldest political party in the world. Only three Democrats have ever got more than 52%. Of the book Andrew Jackson Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson -- something about your party. But lemons into smaller. Landslides. Let's get rocket another historical fact is that not just the sort of defended the Obama administration and its. Only one Democrat who sought reelection to spread the United States has lost in the last hundred and some -- plus years. Jimmy Carter because it's very difficult one not only to beat an incumbent president. It seems very difficult to be a democratic incumbent president. Especially an environment where people want some sort of economic populism where if the Republicans have a nominee that doesn't seem to represent that -- had more difficult strong. As things are moving in the right direction on the economy that's the point that -- extra is that -- banks on that even -- the absolute numbers and you pointed all of them out. Are pretty dismal. On unemployment as long as the trend is moving in the right direction now. Ronald Reagan under Ronald Reagan unemployment went to ten point 8%. He carried 49 states in 1984 because it was down to seven point 4%. Take the unemployment rate today. If it improves 110. Of 1%. 110 of 1%. Between now and September it'll be at seven point 6%. And in the right direction and you could have Obama and very -- When you want Mitt Romney to campaign in suburban Philadelphia saying that you know. As CEO Bain Capital. You know I've fired people -- close down factories massive jobs overseas and me. Present Obama don't think he's actually gonna say yeah. Right it probably -- I'm afraid I'm sure that's not. Mom. I think president Obama's biggest. Challenge of course is to. You get. But enthusiasm up on the democratic side I mean he can't bank on 53% of people coming back -- got to work that you've got to go out -- and convince people. That he's been able to turn things around he's making progress. You know despite holiday opposition and also I think this is a very volatile electorate -- so while the 2001 -- and George Bush is. An interest in comparison. I don't think this is. Another what I one thing before we get I think that. It will you -- think an Obama administration I think it's going to be Mitt Romney but I think Mitt Romney's gonna face as these processes go every some single person in the campaign -- -- A they have to they get. They lose somewhere and they have to recover from that loss in order to get the nomination I think Mitt Romney is still -- good at it you just don't mind this is the playoff spot -- this Detroit I'm starting. A hunt that's been effectively eliminated supplement he gets its campaign in this room and then a unit for the -- I don't. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- that we have a ways to go and to the point about this is what Santorum and Newt and all of them are trying to -- in different ways. It's more than this. The economy stupid it is cultural of the -- -- the essence of the Tea Party is that we hear every fifteen point there's a cultural degradation that is tied to an expanding. Government says editing Aaron they re so it's more than just that whatever the economic and run when in an honest on those -- -- in -- -- in front of my expense last night but it. We -- what role they play. Issues. Gay marriage -- clearly Democrats want to paint whoever gets the nomination is -- is an extremist I don't mean that's what. And indeed the conventional wisdom of what this social issues -- but it's bigger than that it's the number of people on food stamps. The way in which our education system which we have those. Largest per pupil expenditure in the next 34 industrialized countries is flat lining marriage -- -- part -- program. -- publishing family it's all those kinds of issues that stem from. Social welfare policies -- not talking stems from a recession that people are still. The only -- we're trying already geared up these programs and they're not working in the not just wasteful and counterproductive. When 40% of kids are -- born out of wedlock. Verses forty years ago these department program to put -- -- it's just bigger it's not about you right from the. Right and and I think what what marriage touching on -- I have heard from Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on the trail. And Rick Perry as well is the idea that this needs to be the candidate needs to be the republic and Germany. Eight bold. Difference from Barack Obama and that's they're selling point that's what Rick Santorum he didn't effectively make the case last night I didn't think but I have heard -- on the stump do it this needs to be a candidate of. Of bold colors not pale pastels -- the problem is -- -- one of the problems with that argument which is what they're facing is their biography doesn't match up with that. But what that language because they're creatures of Washington at a time when voters don't want anybody Mike Huckabee -- -- can -- that and Rick why is why so many people gave props to Rick Perry before he entered before he stumbled this which is why his candidacy. Was a highlight of many people before he stumbled let me -- -- -- when the other X factors you Ron Paul. Since last night did pretty well was a strong following. Here did not fully rule out -- doesn't look like he's run a third party candidate but you still have that group American -- out -- looking for the third party candidate. On the ticket would it impact. Does that happen past elections in 19681992. The third party candidate tends to hurt the incumbent at. -- it gets people who are dissatisfied with the status quo so there will be taking. 7080%. To weigh the potential Republican -- against Obama. The successful third party candidates. Had a regional base. From vivid personality and a burning issue George Wallace for example. Gene -- from the it was a session to find -- successful. And got a lot of -- -- and that's that's the point underground winner take all allocation of electoral votes you can win 19% of the popular road as Perot did get nothing. But you make your point and we've had candidates who said vote for me -- send -- message. And some people want to send a message not a president. -- -- this time -- not. 300000. The Clinton voters in this state same day registration let's see if they go out like they did then and would invoke. For Ron Paul Ron Paul has energy he has enthusiasm. You go to his -- become aware it would not just a bumper sticker and a button to come away with -- drive and passion that you wanna go out there. And really work but -- this the very happy the Republicans handle I'm making just reported third party where he Paula has been heard of -- whose enthusiastic. Our young people on the drop -- vote for Obama has then. Greatest among young people who were not just voters they got their parents to vote they got everybody excited actions that how. With Paul is doing to moms they're ripping it in her Republican right now think it is that we. The big decision that the Paul family is gonna have to -- at some point when they come to grips with the fact and he knows he's not going to be the nominee. But the big decision is. If Ron Paul for his third party he is going to be messing up his son. Rand Paul's political future he is a Republican senator from Kentucky he is is up here last night up here last night he's with is that all over the place. And he actually could be a Republican presidential nominee. Unlike his father if he if -- dad leaves the party. He's ruining a line of. Ground look you've got -- nodding your head because if you. That he's the best cleanup crew with anybody zany and that's you know. It did it isn't news so brands plowing ground around cleaning -- -- wouldn't -- when he met when many spend the best surrogate and he's he's very effect. I don't think that third party that if there's a third party and -- it's likely to be Ron Paul I think when he answered many questions last night or he basically said I'm gonna support the Republican I'm and he certainly didn't want to promise that but he basic. If somebody else. But I think that window for a third party only opens it Mitt Romney isn't the nominee if it's somebody that looks much more polarizing that Romney's and it's an assist where -- soon as if -- can clinch the nomination. He's gonna turn to become the Massachusetts moderate again after he's gonna do and I think the opening only becomes that Rick Santorum -- some that is polarizing thirty just a bit of time left on the quickly around the table when his nomination fight -- March mid march. You're going to Florida and you can spend four million dollars a week easily campaigning in Florida they're already voting in Florida by absentee ballots. That will be the test of anyone's staying power its ground against -- Romney's grant leave was dashing glamorous nimble courageous. And went diplomatic I think we'll look like Florida -- I'm waiting to find out whose late. That's the problem -- out if Rick Rick Santorum is I think any one of these conservative alternatives these non Romney's or -- means if you want to call them that. Then I think any one of them. Could actually beat Mitt Romney but there needs to be -- and he needs to be a force and I have not met him yet. Only got ten seconds look at it it's gonna go on longer and it's good for a 5 February 1 will know the process -- that they are the process goes -- --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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