Video: 2012 presidential race shifts into high gear

  1. Transcript of: 2012 presidential race shifts into high gear

    DAVID GREGORY, co-host: But first, we want to begin with the 2012 presidential news and the race shifting into a higher gear for both the Republicans and for President Obama . NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell 's still in Des Moines , Iowa . Kelly has the latest. Good morning.

    KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: Hi, David . Well, the Republican race for the White House has hit a reset button. After this weekend's straw poll , Michele Bachmann is in the top tier here, followed by Ron Paul . And the results forced out one of the big names in this race just as a very big personality announced he's in. A brand-new rivalry in the GOP race...

    Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: Hi , everybody. It's great to see you.

    O'DONNELL: ... Michele Bachmann , basking in her victory at the Iowa straw poll ...

    Rep. BACHMANN: This is my copy of the Waterloo Courier today. I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did.

    O'DONNELL: ... Rick Perry , for the first time introducing himself to Waterloo , Iowa .

    Governor RICK PERRY: Yeah. Howdy.

    O'DONNELL: Both appeared at the same Republican dinner Sunday night, a match to own the spotlight.

    Gov. PERRY: As a candidate for president of the United States .

    O'DONNELL: The Texas governor shook up the race, jumping in over the weekend.

    Gov. PERRY: Sometimes it kind of takes me awhile to get into something, like this presidential race . But let me tell you, when I'm in, I'm in all the way.

    O'DONNELL: And that race looks different now. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty bowed out after placing a distant third in the straw poll .

    Mr. TIM PAWLENTY: I wish it would've been different, but obviously the pathway forward for me doesn't really exist.

    O'DONNELL: Mitt Romney wasn't here, opting not to compete in Saturday's straw poll , and yet Perry actually got more write-in votes than Romney , whose name did appear on the ballot. Turning to political theater...

    Announcer: The next president of the United States , Michele Bachmann .

    O'DONNELL: ... Bachmann 's campaign brought in its own announcer, music and lighting to set her apart for the cameras. And Bachmann used a stage whisper to go after the president.

    Rep. BACHMANN: People feel it now, the fire. They've recognized that Obama can be beat.

    O'DONNELL: Perry used his Texas swagger to claim Mr. Obama has harmed the economy.

    Gov. PERRY: The president of the United States has a pen, and it's called a veto pen. And I will use it until the ink runs out if that's what it takes to get the message we're not spending all the money.

    O'DONNELL: And one more way Bachmann tried to remind the Iowa crowd that she

    is one of them and that she had won their straw poll: The congresswoman brought an all-American treat.

    Rep. BACHMANN: And I bought the biggest, fattest, deepest apple pie that I...

    O'DONNELL: A thank-you gift, she said, offered to the oldest Republican mother in the room.

    Rep. BACHMANN: One hundred? Oh, my goodness!

    O'DONNELL: Well, Rick Perry may be the last candidate to get to the Iowa State Fair , but he will be here today, seeing everything, talking to people, meeting with the state 's governor. And while he's been Texas governor for 10 years, in Iowa he's also talking about the fact he was an Eagle Scout and participated in 4-H. That matters here. David :

    GREGORY: All right, Kelly O'Donnell in Des Moines this morning. Kelly , thanks very much.

    DAVID GREGORY, co-host: Chuck Todd is NBC 's chief White House correspondent and political director, also the host of MSNBC 's "The Daily Rundown." He's in Cannon Falls , Minnesota , stop number one on President Obama 's bus tour this morning. Hey, Chuck , good morning. So the president's got new tracking numbers out, a new low at 39 percent. He's hitting the road also in the Midwest , which he knows is an important battleground for him next year.

    GREGORY: What's the game plan here? Is he talking about what he can do with Congress , or does he now just want to turn on the Republicans ?

    CHUCK TODD reporting: No, it's more of both doing -- turning on the Republicans and trying to run against Congress . But I tell you, this is sort of turning conventional wisdom a bit upside down. You know, the Obama team has been taking comfort in the fact that they believe this Republican race is moving to the right, that it's a race to the right, and they take comfort in that and they think that's going to help them long term. But as that happened -- and it was a lot of attention over the last four or five days, David -- as that happened, the president's numbers have still gone down and that Gallup number where it dropped in the daily tracking below 40 for the very first time in his presidency. Yes, it's the Gallup daily tracking poll and it can be kind of like an EKG all the time, but it's the first time dropping below that just as he's getting here. Look, the Midwest is where the president won his presidential primaries and won his presidency, and he's hitting a low now.

    GREGORY: I want to get to another couple of things quickly here. First of all, those -- we're talking about all the Republicans who are now in the race, and the top tier has been created there. What about some people who are not in the race? What are you seeing out of that group?

    TODD: Well, David , as you know, you know, Sarah Palin won't go -- you know, she's not saying she's not running. She's still considering herself a potential candidate and we can tell you that she was acting like one at the state fair and looking very comfortable doing it. We still know that Paul Ryan , a Wisconsin congressman, Chris Christie , they still have major Republican donors. You know, a lot of those Bush pioneers that have yet to jump in, yet to support Romney , Perry or Bachmann , that they're calling them, saying, 'Hey, are you guys going to consider it? Are you going to rethink jumping in?' And in fact, with Pawlenty getting out, sort of the other establishment candidate against Romney , those calls have already been increasing, I've been told. But it's going to be let's see how Rick Perry does, right?

    GREGORY: Yeah.

    TODD: If he has staying power, then I don't think you'll hear those calls.

    GREGORY: Let me come back to President Obama for a moment and this issue of how he's going to run against certain members of Congress . I had Congresswoman Bachmann , as you know, on " Meet the Press " yesterday and asked her about her vote on the debt ceiling. She voted against it, adamantly opposed. This is the exchange we had.

    Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: All the people in Washington said we had to raise the debt ceiling; all the people out in America said, 'Don't raise the debt ceiling.'

    GREGORY: Right.

    Rep. BACHMANN: That's the problem with Washington .

    GREGORY: But why does that make it...

    Rep. BACHMANN: They're not listening to the people.

    GREGORY: Why does it make it the right thing to do? I mean...

    Rep. BACHMANN: Well, because representatives are supposed to represent the people that they serve. The people that they're serving are saying, 'You guys don't have it figured out. Stop spending money you don't have.'

    GREGORY: But so public opinion will be the sole...

    GREGORY: This issue of public opinion on the debt ceiling driving her vote, is this something that both the president uses as a potential wedge and even other more mainstream candidates in the Republican Party ?

    TODD: Yeah, you know, last night at this Waterloo event, you know, Rick Santorum has been hitting Michele Bachmann for that debt ceiling position, saying, 'That's irresponsible,' saying, 'What else are you going to cut?' So it isn't just President Obama that's going to be hitting her on this. She's got a target on her back right now, and Santorum , who's still trying to get into the first tier and trying to be taken as a -- accepted as a major candidate out here, he's starting to hit her hard. He hit her hard last night. And I think Tim Pawlenty , when he attacked her at that debate last week, he opened up this line of attack. It's going to make it easier for Rick Perry to do it. But interesting little game of 3-D chess here going on. Mitt Romney doesn't want to see Michele Bachmann get taken down too quickly because he likes the idea that Michele Bachmann ties up Rick Perry in this fight for tea party conservatives.

    GREGORY: All right. Chuck Todd this morning in Minnesota . Chuck , thanks very much. Coming up on 7:10. Once again, here's Savannah .

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Photos: Republican candidates flood Iowa for state fair, straw poll

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  1. The Iowa Pork Producers Association makes its presence known by serving pork at the popular Iowa State Fair. Republican presidential candidates have blanketed the state for the GOP straw poll, a party fundraiser that serves as an organizational test for their campaigns. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and wife Callista grill pork at the Iowa State Fair. Gingrich was part of a large group of presidential candidates to visit the state over the weekend. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A campaign sign for Texas Rep. Ron Paul decorates a yard near the Iowa State Fair. Paul has a dedicated following in the state supporting his presidential bid. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at the Des Moines Register "soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A protester tries to get Michele Bachmann to respond to a question about her opposition to same-sex marriage. Bachmann did not take any questions after her "soapbox" speech at the Iowa State Fair. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The annual Iowa State Fair is a popular and important place for Iowans to gather to keep up with advances in farming and agriculture. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin made a surprise appearance at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, where she spent time talking with fairgoers. Palin said she has not yet decided on a presidential bid. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fairgoers in Iowa get a glimpse at farm equipment like this John Deere tractor setup. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Des Moines Register "soapbax" at the state fair. Pawlenty has focused much of his campaign efforts in Iowa and was hoping for a strong showing at the GOP straw poll on Saturday. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee plays his bass guitar inside Tim Pawlenty's tent at the GOP straw poll in Ames, Iowa on Saturday. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses in the 2008 Republican nomination contest. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. An attendee of the Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa takes a moment to feed her baby in front of a bus emblazoned with a National Rifle Association banner. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tim Pawlenty is surrounded by reporters and cameras as he campaigns for votes at the straw poll on Saturday. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Two Pawlenty supporters at the straw poll stand between cardboard cutouts of former GOP presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum waits to speak inside the auditorium at the Iowa straw poll. Santorum was one of six presidential candidates to address supporters in Ames on Saturday. (Antoine Sanfuentes / NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
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