Meet the Press | February 19, 2012
>>> we're back with the roundtable. joining me is with the new york times, helene cooper , and andrea mitche mitchell, and ed gillespie , and executive editor for bloomberg news, al hunt . al, we don't see you enough. glad to have you here. i like reading about how enticive you have been about this campaign. political i thought captured the headline here, 2012 , the year of birth control moms. i thought we were talking about the economy, and paul ryan wants to talk more about the economy, but the reality is, in the republican race, social issues seem to be energizing the base and fueling rick santorum .
>> the question is whether it will energize the base and help to win the primary, and perhaps go on to the nomination, or whether this is going to debill tate the republican party when they need to go up against barack obama , and women who generally accept birth control .
>> this aspirin business, foster freeze, a santorum supporter said to you on your program the best would be an aspirin, and rick santorum said that was a bad joke . and then patty murray wrote this based on that, and also that all-male image of the contraception hearing. i feel she wrote like i woke up on the set of "mad men." and when women could put aspirin in between their knees to avoid getting pregnant, this after republicans opened up a hearing on birth control and banned women from testifying. we already accumulated 65,000 signatures on the agenda, and i am too bad to stop. it's time to punish people by taking away their jobs.
>> i see it as a trampling of rights. this is a distraction and not about birth control . nobody is talking about birth control . this is about whether or not a church and members of a church in an arc diocese should be compelled to pay for something, abortion and sterilization, and yes, contraception, should be compelled to pay for something they hold to be morally wrong and in fact a sin. and at the end of the day , it will cost president obama a lot of votes with catholic voters, and it's reminding people of the obamacare bill and itself and all the hidden perils there, and his response to it was arrogant. it's not a compromise. a compromise is when we disagree on something and come to an agreement. i think it will cost him three states in the general election .
>> al hunt ?
>> i don't agree. i think they handled it badly, and i think they recovered to a degree, and i don't think it will be a dominant issue in the general election . i think republicans need to get back to the economy. that's the issue that people care about. that's the issue that urban independent women care about. and most are not focused on that, but the debate is dominated by the social issues.
>> and it's interesting, helene, because we know how many americans are feeling the economy, and feeling it in a huge way in their lives, and there may be signs of economic improvement. as i mentioned, gay marriage has been a big story this week between what is happening in maryland and the bill vetoed by chris christi in maryland. and it's on capitol hill at well, and inside the white house that you cover, do they say privately, hey, this can help?
>> they absolutely think that the more that this issue gets stuff the better off they are. president obama -- al is completely right, they mishandled it from the start. but now that president obama has come out with the compromise, they think that basically the republicans are overreaching. this is something that they talk a lot about, about the republicans propensity to overreach. the white house wants to discuss this and frame this issue as one of contraception, and that's what the democrats want to do. you hear the republicans, and you heard paul ryan just a few minutes ago wanting to frame this as an issue of religious freedom . at the end of the day the white house thinks this is something that will galvanize women and further alienate and drive the republican candidates so far to the right that they will more alienate women and they at the end of the day will