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Meet the Press transcript for Jan. 1, 2012

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, live from Des Moines on this New Year's Day, just 48

hours before the Iowa caucuses, the official start of this presidential election year. Senator Rick

Santorum surges in the closing days, but will it be enough to buy him a ticket out of the Hawkeye



FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA): Iowa provides the spark. There's plenty of tinder on

the ground that will start burning in these other states.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Senator Santorum here with us for an exclusive interview this morning.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is trying to keep his spot atop the polls as he makes his final push.


FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA): This is an election not only to replace a president, it's an

election to save the soul of America.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And Newt Gingrich still losing some support, but will his emotional moment

in Iowa humanize him to voters?


FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): See how I got ambushed? Dealing with, you know,

the real problems of real people in my family. And so it's not a theory. It's, in fact, you know,

my mother.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: We'll break down the state of the race and the impact of the caucuses with the

chairman of Iowa's Republican Party Matt Strawn and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

Plus, full analysis from our political roundtable, columnist for The Des Moines Register Kathie

Obradovich, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, New York Times columnist David Brooks,

Time magazine's senior political analyst Mark Halperin, and host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports"

NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Announcer: Live from Des Moines, Iowa, this is a special edition of MEET THE PRESS with

David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Here we go. The presidential race of 2012 is about to

officially begin as the voting starts here in Iowa on Tuesday and here's how the race looks this

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morning with The Des Moines Register poll showing a three-way race now with Romney leading

Ron Paul by 2 points and Rick Santorum with a late surge. We will talk to Santorum about his

surprise momentum in the race in just a couple of moments, but first we have with us NBC

political director Chuck Todd and the chairman of Iowa's Republican Party Matt Strawn.

Welcome to both of you, good morning, happy new year.

MR. MATT STRAWN: Good morning and welcome to Iowa.

MR. CHUCK TODD: (Unintelligible)

MR. GREGORY: Yeah, same here. So, Chuck Todd, partner, where are we this morning?

MR. TODD: Well, I think we're trying to figure out this, is what are Iowa caucus goers going to

do? What are these Republicans--are they going to come into these caucuses Tuesday night and

pick a president, or are they going to do what they've done in the past, which is send a message

and win over the field. If they come in and a lot of them want to pick a president, Mitt Romney

is going to win, turnout's going to go up, you're going to see the casual voter show up and that's

good for Romney. If it's the old style sort of the activists that show up, I think Santorum has

enough momentum, there's a little bit of a wild card here in Rick Perry, but then Santorum does

get out of here with some momentum. And I think that that's what we're--what we don't know.

MR. GREGORY: Let me stick with Santorum with you, Chuck.

MR. TODD: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: If you look inside the numbers of the poll, the last couple of days when they

were in the field talking to folks, this is what you see, that Santorum is actually 21 percent

because in those last two days, his numbers actually shoot up 6 percent. So if you're measuring


MR. TODD: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: ...not looking at the full range of the poll, but just the last couple of days, you

see Santorum's really got that buzz.

MR. TODD: And that was the big thing out of the NBC Marist poll. And if you look at both

polls together, you can almost see they sort of fit together and you see this and it was Santorum

and Ron Paul, for instance, that have much more intensity than Mitt Romney. In fact, Rick Perry

had more intense support in, in our poll than Mitt Romney did. And that's the Romney problem.

He's got the, well, I guess I'm going to be for Romney voter, but does that person show up? And

that's what we don't know.

MR. GREGORY: So, Matt Strawn, you're the chairman of the party here in the state and this is

important. I mean, this is the, the first voting in the presidential campaign. What's the mindset

of an Iowa Republican going into this caucus?

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MR. STRAWN: Well, I think the other key takeaway, not just in the NBC Marist poll, but in

The Des Moines Register poll this morning is the fact that two out of every five caucus goers

could still change their mind between now and caucus day.


MR. STRAWN: And I think it gets to...

MR. GREGORY: That's a lot of volatility.

MR. STRAWN: It is and it's moved from three out of five, which it was just a couple of weeks

ago. And I think that's the juxtaposition between the desire to beat Barack Obama, but also

making sure we have a nominee that can aggressively articulate the Republican principled,

conservative message going into a general election.

MR. GREGORY: Well, so what's more important? Because you--we've seen Santorum's latest

ad is really about electability. I can beat Barack Obama. But for the breadth of the campaigning

in Iowa, it's been who's the true conservative? Has there been change because there hasn't been a

love affair among voters with Mitt Romney who's been the front-runner throughout most of this


MR. STRAWN: But I think the first thing you see when you talk to any Iowa Republican is that

desire to beat Barack Obama because we understand that we can't afford four more years, an

Obama administration that is hostile to our party's values and our principles, and that's the

tension, why you still have two out of every five Iowa caucus goers have not yet made a decision.

And that's really going to get down to on Tuesday night, you always hear the mantra,

organization, organization, organization. The organized campaign is going to have someone in

each of those 1774 precincts to make the case not only why a candidate can beat Barack Obama,

but why they have the principles of our party to carry the banner going into the general.

MR. TODD: You know, remember what happens on Tuesday night. There's a set of speeches

that happen before the actual vote and I think that that is why, for instance, Rick Santorum is

making an electability argument because that's the problem he himself said he was running into.

We agree with you. He fits the Iowa Republican caucus electorate better, frankly, than any of

these candidates, better than Rick Perry without all of the baggage that he accumulated himself,

better than a Newt Gingrich. He fits it, the social conservative values that are very strong inside

the Iowa Republican Party. But he said himself, people would come up to him, but I don't think

you can win, not only I don't even think you can go on to other states. Well, he's got to make that

case at the end and if he does, he's got the biggest--he's got the most room to grow here and that's

why he--on paper, yes, Romney's ahead, I think it wouldn't surprise anybody if Santorum is the

one that comes out of here with the actual victory.

MR. GREGORY: And, Chuck, talk about the volatility a little bit. As we've been covering this,

anybody you talk to about the race is still shaking their head about, well, wait a minute, there was

Bachmann, then there was Perry and then, then there was Herman Cain and then there was

Gingrich and now he's fallen back. What's going on?

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MR. TODD: It's about Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is not viewed as conservative enough for

where this Republican Party is today. He's been trying to do this. You know, we did a little word

search on the word conservative with Mitt Romney and you know, in the first half of his

campaign, he didn't use the word very often. In the last six weeks, he talks about it all the time,

tries to say I am a conservative, I'm a, you know, and he talks about the electability. But that has

been--that is ultimately the issue here. We still have 75 percent likely of the Iowa Republican

caucus electorate that's going to vote for somebody else.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. TODD: You know, that's still a challenge from Romney. And I think that it may be what

some activists here in Iowa decide to do is say we're going to--we've got to force Mitt Romney to

keep proving his conservative credentials, to say you've got--you're not going to end this early.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. TODD: You got to go out there and earn the conservative vote...(unintelligible).

MR. GREGORY: Now what about turnout because this is a big key?


MR. GREGORY: Bigger turnout presumably better for Romney because a lot of strategists I've

talked to say those could be moderates, those could be independents, even Democrats...

MR. STRAWN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...who come out and say, no, we don't want a Santorum, a Bachmann or Paul

doing that well. We don't want to represent Iowa that way.

MR. STRAWN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: We want to go with Romney.

MR. STRAWN: Well, I think one thing you see in 2008 we had a record turnout just under

120,000 Iowa Republicans. And in that four-year span since then, we've had 33 straight months

of Republican registration gains here in Iowa, so we've got about 30,000 more Iowa Republicans.

We had the second largest attendance we saw ever at the Ames Straw Poll in August and it's the

first chance anybody in the country gets to vote to start the process to replace Barack Obama. So

I would be surprised if we didn't have a strong turnout Tuesday night and with good weather for

those senior citizens...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. STRAWN: ...when you look at the poll results, Mitt Romney does the best with 60 and

over voters, so I think we are set up to have a strong turnout and people do need to remember in

the Iowa caucuses, as an independent or a Democrat, you can register as a Republican that night

and participate.

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MR. TODD: He's making a pitch there, you see that? But higher to the more, this is a primary,

the better--if this were a primary and there were no speeches that night before you voted...


MR. TODD: ...Mitt Romney would win by 10 points.

MR. GREGORY: So we always have this debate about Iowa, but it's more intense now. You

know, the history of the Iowa caucuses, retail campaigning, a real chance to interact with voters

one-on-one. The truth of the matter is that it's a lot like big-time politics everywhere else now.

More than $60 million of TV advertising blanketing the airwaves, so much of it negative. And

here was the headline in The Wall Street Journal editorial on Tuesday. It was "As Iowa Goes, So

Goes Iowa." Gail Collins piling on in The New York Times on Thursday writing, "Feel free to

ignore Iowa. The Republicans hope to get more than 100,000 participants. That's about the same

number of people in Pomona, California. Imagine your reaction to seeing a story saying that a

plurality of people in Pomona thought Newt Gingrich would be the best GOP presidential

candidate. Would you say wow? I guess Newt is now the front-runner? Possibly not."

Now I'm from the Los Angeles area, so I don't like anybody picking on Pomona

or...(unintelligible)...but, but is Iowa going to pick the president?

MR. STRAWN: Well, listen, this is the quadrennial attack on the Hawkeye state and I think

Iowa is representative. If you look at the last four national presidential elections, Iowa's popular

vote has mirrored what has happened nationally and you also have to think of what our role in the

process is. We're first. We're not last, we're not the decider. We start winnowing the field. But

the one thing you can't discount, though, is there are very few things the last two presidents of the

United States have in common. But their path to the White House did start by winning the Iowa


MR. GREGORY: Final point here, Chuck. Keys to Tuesday. What are you looking for in the

next couple of days?

MR. TODD: Well, to me it's the Rick Perry number. He is the wild car here. Newt, I think we

clearly know Gingrich is on his way down and he may--frankly may end up in single digits

before it's all said and done. So this little boomlet of his, an amazing rise and fall.

But what happens to the Perry supporter? Does the Perry supporter that walks in on caucus

night, who is also a social conservative, do they stick with him? How committed to him are they?

Or do they end up buying the Santorum argument that says you know what, I'm the conservative

that can come out of there, that can win, that can keep going on. And where that, where that--

what happens to that? And, by the way, Mitt Romney, he needs a strong Rick Perry.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. TODD: He needs Rick Perry just strong enough so that Perry will go to South Carolina and

won't get out of this race.

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MR. GREGORY: Does the, does the field narrow after the results here?

MR. TODD: Well, I think it will narrow in the, in the actual--does the actual playing field

narrow? Maybe by one candidate. Maybe a Bachmann ends up getting out. I--Newt has no

incentive to get out. Perry, let's see what he does. If Perry is at 15 he stays in, he goes on to

South Carolina. If he's closer to 10 I think then there--he may pack it in. That's not good for Mitt

Romney, by the way. He needs a few more conservatives to hang around so he can steal South


MR. GREGORY: We'll leave it there. Chuck Todd, Matt Strawn, thank you both very much.

We're going to turn now to a man who has been making a late surge here in Iowa, former twoterm

senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.

Santorum has spent more time in Iowa this cycle than any other candidate, and was the first to

visit all 99 counties in the state. With limited resources and money and staff he's been traveling

from event to event in a pickup truck. Earlier this week, a CNN/Time poll showed him for the

first time in the top three. And now he's suddenly turning out larger crowds and drawing more

media attention. He's hoping to make a strong showing in Iowa by courting conservative voters

just as previous caucus winner Mike Huckabee did four years ago.

Senator Santorum, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Thank you, David, good to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: So this is the candidate that I'm sitting with who's got the hot hand in Iowa.

Here's The Des Moines Sunday Register here. "Romney, Paul lead. Santorum closes in." We

just talked about in that last segment how you have had this surge, particularly in the last couple

of days. What does it mean, what does it say to you about what's going on here in the state?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, the people of Iowa--I've been saying this from the very

beginning--you know, people have asked me, when are you going to get your surge? You're not

going anywhere. Your message must not be resonating. And I said, you know, my surge is going

to come on January 3rd after the people of Iowa do what they do, which is actually analyze the

candidates, figure out where their positions are, find out who's the good--who's the right leader,

who's got the--what it takes to defeat Barack Obama and to lead this country. And I've always

relied that when that crunch time comes in these last two weeks, that's what we're going to start

to pick up. And that's exactly what's happened.

MR. GREGORY: You talked about needing a miracle here in Iowa. But expectations have

changed now. Is anything less than a win here...


MR. GREGORY: ...not measuring up to expectations?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: That's pretty--that's really pretty funny, actually, because 10 days ago

I was at 5 percent and every question I got was, you know, when are you--why don't you pack it

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up, why don't you endorse another candidate. And now 10 days later you're saying, oh, you got

to win in order to meet--exceed expectations.

Look, we feel very good about the way things are going on the ground. We've got a great

grassroots organization. We've got a great team of people who are out helping us and they're

committed to making sure that this isn't a Pyrrhic victory in November, that we actually elect

someone who's exactly what America needs to turn this country around, not someone who well

just might be able to win and then not really do the change that's necessary in Washington.

MR. GREGORY: But one more on just flat expectations. You feel at this point particularly

you've got to do better than a Michele Bachmann or a Rick Perry in order to continue in this race.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, I've always said there's really three primaries. I mean, you

have, you have the conservative primary, and you mentioned the other two people who I think are

in the conservative primary. You have the libertarian primary...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: ...and then you have Gingrich and, and Romney sort of fighting for

the establishment vote. And our feeling was from the very beginning if we can pace ahead of

Perry and/or Bachmann that we'd be in good shape and, you know, we're, we're moving in that

direction, certainly, right now.

MR. GREGORY: You talk about electability, you talk about conservative credentials, but we've

been checking on this. You know, it'll be 20 years ago this week actually that you had began

your service in Washington.


MR. GREGORY: And had you not lost for re-election you'd still be in Washington as a senator.


MR. GREGORY: But you spent 16 years as a member of Congress, four in the House, 12 in the

Senate. And yet there's nobody who served with you who's endorsed you, have they?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, it's funny. I haven't asked anybody. I--and the reason I haven't

asked anybody, I'm sitting at 3 percent in the national polls. And I really haven't gone out and

asked any--asked any United States senator. I haven't asked a single one to endorse me because I

felt like I had to earn it first, that I had to go out and prove to the--you know, I lost my last race.

And the general consensus was, you know, we like Rick and--but you know, you can't--who goes

from losing their last Senate race to winning the presidential nomination? My answer to that

was, "Well, Abraham Lincoln." But other than Abraham Lincoln, this is not a common

occurrence. And so I...

MR. GREGORY: But nobody was going out on a limb to offer, given--having served with you,

knowing your credentials, knowing your principles.

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, again, you--no one's going to call you and say, you know, gee,

can I, you know, can I, can I help your campaign at 3 percent. And I would have said to them,

you know what, wait, because it doesn't matter. I don't really need or want Washington

endorsements. That's not what I'm here to do. I'm, I'm here to change Washington, and so I

didn't really seek out endorsements, I didn't really want their endorsements, I didn't think they

would help very much.

MR. GREGORY: Will you seek them out now?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: If people want to endorse me, I'd love their endorsement. But that's,

that's, that's not what I'm coming here to do. I'm not coming to, to be buddies with my--with, you

know, with my friends in, in the Senate and the House. I'm coming to change the entire nature of

Washington, D.C. It's one, one--been one of the benefits, frankly, of being out and looking in

and seeing what, what--you know, sometimes you said, you know, I was--I, you know, I'm

running as a consistent conservative. There are votes that I took, not that I advocated these

things, but I voted for some things and I look back and say why the heck did I do that? You get

involved in sort of the, the idea that, well, you got to make things happen. And you forget

sometimes--you know, sometimes making some things happen is not--is better--you're better off

making nothing happen.

MR. GREGORY: Well, I wonder if one of those examples might be pork barrel spending

because you're getting hit by Rick Perry about that, by supporting the notorious bridge to

nowhere, and other pork barrel projects where you deliver cash for folks back in your home state.

Do you regret voting for some of those projects? You've defended pork barrel spending in the


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: What I've said is that your role as a member of Congress, if you look

at the Constitution, is to appropriate money. And of course if you appropriate money you're

going to say where that money's going to go. You're not going to say, well, here's the money, Mr.

President, spend it any way you want. And historically Congress has taken the role of, you know,

allocating those resources. And, you know, Jim DeMint, who led the charge on pork barrel

spending, earmarked things for years and years. And so what happened after I left Congress was

budgets began to explode. When I was in, in the Senate I voted for tough budgets, I voted for

restrictions on spending, and made sure that that didn't happen, and as president I propose cutting

$5 trillion over five years. I propose we're going to balance the budget in at least five years,

hopefully sooner. So if you're looking for someone who's voted for tough budgets, voted for

spending restraints, and...

MR. GREGORY: But that, that wasn't my question. I mean, do you regret supporting earmarks

when you did?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: I don't regret going out at the time and making sure that the people

of Pennsylvania, who I was elected to represent, got resources back into the state after spending


MR. GREGORY: So if there's a surplus, that's OK, but if the budget's tighter, it's not?

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No. What happened was abuse. There was abuse of this process

and, and I agree with that, that there was an abuse, and it was leading to more spending. It was

leading to bigger spending bills and it had to end and I supported it and I support it ending now.

MR. GREGORY: But Rick Perry calls it a fleecing of America. Do you agree that's what it is?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, that's pretty funny because Rick Perry was hiring lobbyists to

fleece America then because he was hiring lobbyists to represent the state of Texas to get more

money back. And I suspect if you ask Kay Hutchison or if you ask John Cornyn or any of the

Texas delegation whether Rick Perry wanted money coming back to the state of Texas that

Texans sent there, he'd--they'd say yes, he did. So look, there's a legitimate roll for Congress to

allocate resources. That's what the Constitution requires them to do. When there's abuse then

you curb the abuse and I supported that.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about final arguments here in Iowa. Your latest ad talks about

conservative credentials and electability. Let me play a portion of it.

(Videotape from Rick Santorum campaign ad)

Narrator: Who has the best chance to beat Obama? Rick Santorum. A full-spectrum

conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: So you've been, you've been making that contrast, consistently questioning

Governor Romney, calling him a liberal Massachusetts governor, arguing in fact that he is a

moderate. Yet back in 2008 when he was running for the presidency you were singing a different

tune. This was your press release back then. You said, "Governor Romney is the candidate who

will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear. He has a deep understanding of

the important issues confronting our country today, and he is the clear conservative candidate that

can go into the general election with a united Republican Party." "Will stand up for the

conservative principles that we hold dear." You had praised his work on fighting same-sex

marriage. What changed?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, what changed was who he's running against. At the time that

was five days or four days before Super Tuesday. It was after Florida. And it became clear to me

that there were two candidates in the race at that point. I thought Mike Huckabee--I would have

loved to have Mike Huckabee out there, but I made the political judgment, right or wrong, that

the best chance to stop John McCain, which was what my concern was--I had served 12 years

with John McCain. I like and respect John McCain immensely personally and he's done a lot of

great things, obviously for this country. But I did not think he was the right person, based on my

experience and deep knowledge of his record, that he was the right person to be, to be the

nominee. And so I...

MR. GREGORY: But when you said that "Romney will stand up for the conservative principles

that we hold dear."

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Compared to.

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MR. GREGORY: But you didn't say compare to. You...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, of course I'm not going to say compared to.


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: I mean, I'm, I'm trying to advocate for his candidacy at, at a time

when I thought...

MR. GREGORY: So you didn't mean that then?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I was saying it relative to John McCain and, and that's what I

meant then. And remember, it's not like I was early supporter of Romney. I endorsed him

actually seven days before he dropped out of the race, so maybe I was a little bit of a...

MR. GREGORY: Does he, does he have conservative values, conservative principles?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Look, of course. Everybody on that stage that, that is in these

debates has conservative values, vis-a-vis President, President Obama, and generally reflects the

Republican Party. The question is, are those values the ones that you can trust when, when they

become president of the United States? Is it someone who you know is going to fight not just for

certain things, but for the entire Republican platform and plank? Why? Because those things

integrate together, and, and you've heard me talk about this many times. You can't have a strong

economy and just a strong economic plan unless you have strong families and you have moral

values in this country. Why? Because that's the underpinning of our society.

MR. GREGORY: But trust--you're talking about trust as a conservative...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It allows for a limited government.

MR. GREGORY: You're talking about trust as, as a conservative, and you have accused

Romney of tacking back and forth as he saw at election, calling him a liberal governor from

Massachusetts. But we look at your own record as well, running for re-election to the Senate in

2006 in a Democratic state of Pennsylvania. Now here in Iowa you've taken the pledge opposing

abortion. Back on this program, this summer, you said, you oppose abortion without exception.


MR. GREGORY: And yet when you were running for re-election in 2006, you had a different

view and this is what you told you the Associated Press. The question was, "Do you support

legalized abortion if a woman has been raped or if she is the victim of incest? What about if a

woman's health or life is in danger? Please explain your answer." Back then you said, "I would

support laws that include exceptions in cases of rape and incest and when the life of the mother is

at risk." So didn't you, when you were running for re-election, do the same thing you've accused

Romney of, which is moderating your stance to try to win a Democratic state?

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No, not at all. I--today, today I would support laws that would

provide for those exceptions, but I'm not for them. In other words, I support the Hyde

Amendment. The Hyde Amendment provides exception for rape and incest and the life of the

mother. And so, yes, I support laws that provide those exceptions because if we can get those

passed, then, then we need to do that. But my...

MR. GREGORY: That's not a violation of your pledge that you took here in Iowa?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No. But--well, you try to--I supported the partial birth abortion ban

act. Now does that ban all abortions? No. But it moves the country in the right direction. And

so what I've said in the past consistently is I'll support laws that move the ball forward. That

doesn't mean that's my position and that's where I'd like to go but that's exactly the direction we--

that we need to go in.

MR. GREGORY: The issue of moderation is, goes beyond abortion. Back in 2006, you were

fighting the idea that you were seen as too conservative. You had television ads heralding the

fact that you opposed reductions in the minimum wage, that you were fighting cuts against

Amtrak. Isn't your history to try to moderate both when fighting for re-election, but also as a

member of Congress?


MR. GREGORY: To try to find common ground and to compromise?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Of course I--my background is to find compromise. That's what you

have to do in order to get things done. But you don't compromise on your principles. I use

welfare reform as an example. I, I went out and helped author the welfare reform bill that

became the Contract with America Bill, and then when I was in the United States Senate, I

managed that bill as a first term, first year member of the United States Senate. I went up against

Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ted Kennedy and battled over two, two vetoes of President

Clinton, was able to get it done. Did I make compromises? You bet. But the compromises I

made were not fundamental to the transformation that was important to--in welfare, which was to

end the federal entitlement. The only bill that I'm aware of, the only law that's actually ever

ended a broad-based federal entitlement, I was the author and manager of the bill on. And we,

we put time limits on welfare and we put a work requirement in place. Those were the things

that I believe were transformational.

Was I willing to compromise on day care funding? Yes, I was. Was I willing to compromise on

transportation to get folks from welfare to work? Yes, I was. But what we did was something

that was moving in the direction of a more limited government, and in, in order to get the, the

necessary votes to get that done, you have to make compromises. But we did a direction of

limited government, maybe less than what we wanted to. But we weren't going in the direction

of more government, and getting less of more. That's where Republicans have been in error for

so many years, and that is compromising on just a little less big government, instead of saying

no. No more compromises on less big government. We'll compromise on less, less government,

but not going the other way.

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MR. GREGORY: One of the things you look at as an insurgent party trying to, to beat an

incumbent president, you've said that a second term for President Obama would be dangerous for

the country, is that you look at the party that's making the challenge. And here's the reality.

Disapproval for the Republican Party right now in Congress, I should say, approval of

Republicans in Congress stands at 26 percent. That's far less than the president's approval rating.

And Dan Balz writes this in The Washington Post in his column on Tuesday, "For GOP

candidates, worries about the party's brand. A year ago, after their big victory in the midterm

elections, Republicans were full of confidence and anticipation. As Americans look toward next

November, the question that many will be asking is: Are the Republicans really ready to lead?

In three political arenas--Congress, the states and the presidential campaign trail--Republicans

have left a checkered record in the past year." In Congress it was the debt debacle forcing a near

shutdown of the government, the payroll tax debate that looked to go in the president's favor.

You had the fight with the unions in the states like Wisconsin. Do you fault Republican leaders

in Congress for not doing more to make government work better through more compromise with

the president?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, you, you have to have someone you can work with, and this

president has done more to divide than any other president that I've ever witnessed in my

lifetime. This president goes out and gives speech after speech after speech trying to divide

America between class, between income group, between racial and ethnic groups. This is, this is

the great divider in chief. And it's very difficult when you're being lampooned by the president

on a regular basis, not just as a party but individually, to then--and the president, who I don't

believe has met with Boehner or any of the Republican leadership in now six months, hard to

compromise and work with someone who won't meet with you, who won't sit down and try to,

try to negotiate things and try to talk. And so I'm not, I'm not surprised at all the Republicans are

having a difficult time with someone who has no interest...

MR. GREGORY: Clearly, he's met with him. I mean, even the debt fight over the summer was

a constant set of meetings, so that can't be accurate.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, well, if you, if you look at it, the last time he's had meetings, I

know it's been several months.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: And I know that President Bush, when I was there, and President

Reagan, routinely met on a regular basis with, with the other side and developed relationships.

You know, it's--this is about trust. You don't build trust by going up and running around the

country beating up on your opponent. He's the president of everybody in this country. As

president of the United States, I would be someone who would meet regularly, who would talk

and try to build relationships of trust.

MR. GREGORY: So you don't fault...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: And this president has not done that.

MR. GREGORY: You don't fault Republicans for intransigence on taxes or spending or other

areas of potential compromise with the president?

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Again, we go back to the, to the basic fact. The federal government

now is spending about 25 percent of GDP. That's--historically the average is about 18 percent.

We have an explosion of spending. And the problem in this country is government oppression,

spending and, that's leading to huge debts and deficits. What the Republicans have said is no

more. We're going to move in the direction of smaller government. And President Obama has no

interest in doing that. I think Republicans are right to stand and fight on this. And the president

seems to be absolutely disinterested in listening to what the American public said in the last

election, which is we want more limited government. He did not get the message. I guess he's

going to have to get this message, hopefully, in November.

MR. GREGORY: Before you go, I want to ask you about foreign policy. You've been very

critical of the president, particularly on the issue of Iran, which has been a big issue of debate

here in Iowa. Let me play a portion of that.

(Videotape, December 7, 2011)

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: And this president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical

Islamist, he has had nothing but appeasement. We saw that during the lead up to World War II.


(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: How can that possibly be accurate, if you've taken an objective look at the

foreign policy of this administration? What on Iran specifically separates the approach that

President Obama has taken and that of President Bush?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Number one, he didn't support the pro-democracy movement in Iran

in 2009 during the Green Revolution. Almost immediately after the election, I mean, excuse me,

like with hours after the, the polls closed, Ahmadinejad announced that he won with 62 percent

of the vote. Within a few days, President Obama basically said that that was--election was a

legitimate one.

MR. GREGORY: But what would that have done specifically to disarm Iran?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, well, I understand why the president would, would understand

that, you know, someone announcing the minute after the polls closed that he won, I mean, he

comes from Chicago, so I get it. But the problem is that this was an illegitimate election. The

people in the streets were rioting saying, please support us, President Obama. We are the prodemocracy

movement. We want to turn this theocracy that has been at war with the United

States, that's developing a nuclear weapon, that's, that's killing our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

with IEDS. And the president of the United States turned his back on them. At the same time, a

few years--a year later, we have the same situation where Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists are

in the streets of, of Egypt opposing an ally of ours, not a sworn enemy like Iran, but an ally of

ours in Mubarak...

MR. GREGORY: I'm sorry. The question I asked you...

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: ...and he joins the radicals instead of...

MR. GREGORY: Wait a second.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: ...standing with our friends.

MR. GREGORY: The--first of all, that's patently contradictory. If you say you support

democracy, there was a democratic movement in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood got elected.

So how could you be for democracy in some countries and not others?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: I don't, because, because...

MR. GREGORY: Which is inconsistent.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No. The Muslim Brotherhood is not--is not about democracy. The

Muslim Brotherhood are Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood are going to impose Sharia law.

MR. GREGORY: They were popularly elected, I think. Isn't that what democracy is about?


MR. GREGORY: But I asked you about disarming Iran. There is no material difference in terms

of how the Bush administration sought to disarm Iran and what the Obama administration has


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: There's a material difference in, in this respect. Number one, the

Bush administration worked with me in passing the Iran Freedom Support Act, which I authored,

which imposed tough sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program and provided funding for the prodemocracy

movement. When President Obama came into office, he cut that funding. President

Obama did not provide funding into Iran to help those folks who wanted to overthrow this

democracy. And when the time came to support them, he chose not to. That is a substantive

difference between my policy, which I was a leader on in the Senate, and what President Bush

tried to do when he was president.

MR. GREGORY: The reality is, there is no good option to disarm Iran.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yes, there is.

MR. GREGORY: The Bush administration knew that, this administration knows that. Tell me

what you would do differently, then.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: I put forth a five-point plan that said fund the pro-democracy

movement, use covert activities to disrupt...

MR. GREGORY: Which is already being done, Senator. You know that. There's covert activity

to, to set back their program by the Israelis, by the United States.

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, we know by the Israelis. We, we don't have any evidence--if

you look at what's being done, most of the evidence actually trails back to the Israelis and the

methodologies that they use. There's no evidence the United States is at all complicit in working

at that. That's what--I would be very direct that we would, in fact, and openly, talk about this.

Why? Because I want to make sure that Iran knows that when I say that Iran is not getting a

nuclear weapon, that we will actually effectuate policies that make that happen. This president

has not done that. He has opposed tough sanctions on Iran, on their oil program. Why? Because

he's concerned about this--the economy and his re-election instead of the long-term national

security interests of this country. I would say to every foreign scientist that's going into Iran to

help them there's--with their program, you'll be treated as an enemy combatant like an al-Qaeda

member. And then finally, I would be working openly with the state of Israel and I would be

saying to the Iranians, you either open up those facilities, you begin to dismantle them and, and

make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through airstrikes and make

it very public that we are doing that. The president has done none of those.

MR. GREGORY: So you would lay out a red line and if they passed it, airstrikes by President


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under my watch.

MR. GREGORY: Well, two previous presidents have said that. You would order airstrikes if it

became clear that they were going to...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yes. That's, that's the plan. I mean, you can't go out and say--this is,

this is the problem with this administration, you can't go out and say this is what I'm for and then

do nothing. You become a paper tiger and people don't respect our country and our allies can't

trust us. That's the problem with this administration.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Before I let you go, back to the politics. Are you going to win this


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: I feel good. I mean, that's up to the people of Iowa. I've always said

that the people of Iowa are going to--are the ones I put my trust in and not just Iowa, New

Hampshire. We've got a great team up in New Hampshire, we've got about two dozen state

legislators who have signed on to our campaign. County attorneys, sheriffs, we've got a great

team up there and we're going to--we're going to have a big jump here in Iowa. I don't know

what it's going to be, but we're--unlike Rick Perry, unlike Michele Bachmann, unlike others,

we're going to New Hampshire because we're going to compete in every region of this country.

That--I come from the Northeast, I've been able to get the blue collar voters, the Reagan

Democrats to vote for me in the past and we're going to do the same thing and that's why we're

going to win this election.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Santorum, thank you. We'll see you in New Hampshire for our

debate next week.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Thanks, David.


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And coming up on this New Year's Day, the final countdown to Iowa. Ron Paul with a strong

showing in the polls drawing fire now from his Republican rivals while Mitt Romney sets his

sights on President Obama, who just four years ago pulled off a surprise come-from-behind win


Plus, the president and his team gearing up for the fight, as well. He's going to the important

battleground state of Ohio the day after the caucuses. It's a new year and a new campaign. We'll

break it all down with our political roundtable. Joining us, The Des Moines Register's Kathie

Obradovich, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, David Brooks of The New York Times, Mark

Halperin of Time magazine, and NBC's Andrea Mitchell.


MR. GREGORY: Coming up, countdown to the Iowa caucuses. We'll have full analysis from

our political roundtable. Joining me, Kathie Obradovich from The Des Moines Register, Mike

Murphy, David Brooks, Mark Halperin and NBC's Andrea Mitchell up next after this brief

commercial break.


MR. GREGORY: We are back with our political roundtable. Joining me, Republican strategist

Mike Murphy; New York Times columnist David Brooks; Time magazine senior political

analyst Mark Halperin; columnist for The Des Moines Register, Kathie Obradovich; and host of

"Andrea Mitchell Reports" on MSNBC, NBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Welcome, everybody. Thanks for being here. Happy new year.

Group: (In unison) Happy new year.

MR. GREGORY: We've got a great political story to dig into. Major moments of the week and

Kathie Obradovich with The Des Moines Register, Iowa as a toss-up. Who's going to win this


MS. KATHIE OBRADOVICH: Boy, you know, it is a moving target right now and right now all

the movement is behind Rick Santorum. Our poll actually, the first two days that we were in the

field this week had Romney and Paul neck and neck. We actually had an illustration on the front

page for our paper of Romney and Paul arm wrestling. And when we came in and saw the last

two days of polling, we had to, we had to, you know, put in Rick Santorum into the picture. So

he is the, he is the only candidate that is surging upward right now. Everybody else is static

except Ron Paul, who is trending down.


MS. OBRADOVICH: I think he peaked a week ago.

MR. GREGORY: Mike Murphy, you're a veteran of these parts and also of the tactics of


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MR. GREGORY: I spoke to some Romney folks last night who actually suggested they think

Santorum's going to win this thing.

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: Are they setting us up to say, oh, what a win by Mitt Romney?

MR. MURPHY: Well, I think they think Santorum might win this thing. They had too easy of a

life seven days ago. They had Gingrich declining and they had Ron Paul, who would be very

easy to beat in the full series of caucuses. So now they've got Rick Santorum coming up fast, who

I think the surge totally legitimate, your poll shows that. And consolidating that social

conservative vote, which in the past has always been the key to finishing at least second in the

Iowa caucus. So I think they would love to beat Santorum, but if Santorum beats them they're

still in the top two and there's great clarity, which is of--there's no way Romney comes out of her

loser if he's in the top two, but now he knows who his opponent is going to be in New

Hampshire, which is not social conservative territory at all...


MR. MURPHY: ...and as they roll the process out. So I think the Romney people would like a

win. I'm not sure need one. And I'm not sure they think they have one.

MR. GREGORY: Well, Mark Halperin, it's interesting, part of that analysis is, hey, Santorum's

good for us. We keep it expanded, you take that field to South Carolina. He'll go after Rick

Perry. If Perry can stay in the race, better for Romney. If the issue is who is the stalwart

conservative, did Rick Santorum help himself this morning in the final push?

MR. MARK HALPERIN: I think he had some convoluted answers to two of your questions.

One, about his support for Mitt Romney four years ago, and also on, on rape and incest

exceptions on abortion when he was running in Pennsylvania. Right now I see two buckets of

scenarios. There's scenarios that are great for Mitt Romney and there's scenarios that are really

good or decent for Mitt Romney. They would love to leave here with the top three in whatever

order being Paul, Santorum and Romney because they believe they will never lose in the long run

and maybe even in the medium run to Santorum or Paul. Gingrich and, and Perry represent

bigger threats for them. And I think the worst case for Romney is if one of those two guys surges

in the last few days. No indication that will happen, but they're both out there working hard.

MR. GREGORY: Andrea Mitchell, you've been out here reporting. What are you seeing?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, the crowds are much smaller than you'd expect, smaller than

the Huckabee crowds were four years ago. But that--there's that evangelical core and when we

talk about organization and enthusiasm they're going to come out and I think that as Mark and the

rest of us all noticed with you today, Santorum may have stubbed his toe a bit by you pinning

him down on what he said when he was running for re-election in Pennsylvania in 2006, the

exceptions that he previously agreed to. The fact that he is willing to compromise, he said not on

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his principles, but to get things done, a little bit convoluted, and the fact that he said he made a

political decision to support Mitt Romney against John McCain, a political decision.

MR. GREGORY: Right. If the crime, David Brooks, is moderation in today's Republican Party,

what are we learning now a couple of days away from actual voting beginning...


MR. GREGORY: a Republican caucus about the state of the party?

MR. BROOKS: Yeah, it's a pretty conservative party, but it's not--they don't want dogmatists

and I actually think Santorum helped himself today. His problem is not that he compromises too

much, his problem is that people think he's too rigid. And he can show that he's a practical

politician, I think that that's a net plus for him. You know, Iowa has produced some candidates

who have not gone on to great success. Huckabee, Pat Robertson may years ago. I don't think

Rick Santorum is one of them. He--in part because he's got some working class credentials as

opposed to Romney, in part because he tells a very good story about connecting moral concerns

with the economy. And partly he's just a good politician. You know, I covered him in the Senate

when he lost badly in Pennsylvania. He was a pretty bad politician. If you look at him today,

like you're a baseball scout looking at a pitcher, you'd say, yeah, this guy's good enough to play in

the major leagues. So I think he's going to be reasonably strong. I'm not sure he's going to win

the nomination, but reasonably strong going out of here.

MR. GREGORY: You talked about the economic message that you think is...

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, no. One thing that's not being covered as much because his base is

social conservatives, is he's still the guy with the blue state Pennsylvania chops and he does a

very good message on manufacturing jobs, which is a bell-ringer in eastern Iowa, which people

don't, you know, from outside Iowa don't know is a place of a lot of light manufacturing. And I

make other one other point about this morning. I thought he did fairly well, too. He's always

going to be pro-life enough, you know, for the pro-life voters. So that's not going to be his

problem. But there's something else happening on Sunday morning, which is in evangelical

churches across Iowa and the pulpit they're seeing that poll and they're saying one of our guys is

moving fast. And I think the messages are going to go out that are going to be very bad for Perry,

going to be very bad for what's left of Bachmann, to go with Rick to win this for our side.

MR. GREGORY: In other words, Kathie, the social conservatives will, will move today him and

they'll say, he--that's it, that's the alternative we've been looking for.

MS. OBRADOVICH: Social conservatives have been like all the other voters in Iowa. They

have wanted to give everybody a try and they are undecided and unwilling to unify. And even in

our poll they are not unified. Rick Santorum polled about 23 percent of people who described

themselves as born again, but Ron Paul--or Ron Paul and Mitt Romney each got 18 percent. So

they're not united. They may indeed start moving that way in the interest of having one of them,

as Mike said, at the top.

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MR. GREGORY: Are we not--this is for everybody--the volatility we've seen in the polling here

and who comes out of these debates, what does that tell us? Is it ultimately going to be portrayed

as whether Romney can get above that 25 percent threshold? Is that not the big issue?

MR. BROOKS: I actually think it's a little deeper. One of the things that struck me from all the

rallies I've seen out here is a sense the country has gone seriously off course and it's a values

thing. It's--and all the campaigns are trying to tap into this same, "we've lost it, let's restore, let's

go back to what we've lost." And you see that in the crowds when you talk to the people. But

when you ask them what do you want to do, no one has a clue. And so they're, they're bouncing.

MS. MITCHELL: Because the problems are so difficult. And when you, when you feel that

anger, it’s that wrong track number that we see, it's the anger against Washington. Ron Paul

early on tapped into that. I think he really hurt himself on foreign policy and on making himself

not electable. The sense in the polls that we saw starting with the polls on Wednesday, then our

poll on Friday and yours today, the--he's just not acceptable to so many people because of his

foreign policy positions.


MS. MITCHELL: And going into South Carolina, in particular, that's going to be a very big

problem for him.

MR. MURPHY: My gut is on Paul has always been the Ron Paul thing's overrated. And I'll go

on the dangerous prediction limb and think he'll be the surprise disappointing finish.


MR. MURPHY: And a lot of his function is when new people show up at the caucus and we

always get seduced by this argument because it's so much fun. A bunch of Martians are going to

land, we're going to have a Martian--historically new people don't. It's Republican primary

voters and activists the question is will win the ranch. I think because of the wrong track energy

and frustration the turnout will actually be a little higher than last time. Not a lot, just a little.

MS. MITCHELL: I think the poll does show that 27 percent of those polled are new, are new

caucus goers.

MS. OBRADOVICH: And Barack Obama did bring new people into the caucus. You know, I

think that we've got a different electorate than we did in 2008 because the Democrats don't have a

contest. So you have people who are independents in particular who want a caucus and a lot of

them are going toward Ron Paul. He is the least ideological on the social issues. And also what

we're getting is, I think, a desperation for real change. And I think a lot of those folks are

flocking toward Ron Paul because he is a guy who is completely different.

MR. MURPHY: Maybe. I think he was a sentiment, which is what all these polls measure early,

their noise meter. But now that it's time for voting, I don't know if he's a vote and I think he


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MR. GREGORY: Can I interject something else into this? So here's the Sunday New York

Times, and the lead story "Is Obama Strategy for '12 Election Attack Congress." Now, White

House officials I've talked to say that was sensationalized, that that was overwritten. That, yes,

the president's going to talk about contrasts with Congress, but he certainly hopes and will work

for cooperation. But we're beginning to see the outlines already in this contest of what the

general election will look like, the general election campaign no matter who the nominee is.

Now here was then Senator Obama, when he won in Iowa back in 2008, this is what he said in


(Videotape, January 3, 2008)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): The time has come for a president who will be honest about

the choices and the challenges we face, who will listen to you and learn from you even when we

disagree. Who won't just tell you what you want to hear but what you need to know.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And Mitt Romney on the campaign trail this week is actually shadowing

where President Obama, then Senator Obama, campaigned in Iowa and he's got a very different

message. This is it in part.

(Videotape, Tuesday)

FRM. GOV. ROMNEY: Four years ago this week that Barack Obama visited Davenport and he

gave a speech right down the street. And like most of his campaign speeches it was long on

promises. He promised that he was going to bring people together. And then he closed his

speech with these words. He says, "This is our moment, this is our time." Well, Mr. President,

you've had your moment. We've seen the results and now, Mr. President, this is our time.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: There's the contrast, Mark Halperin. I mean, the argument is that the

transformational leader that President Obama was supposed to be, the truth-teller, who was going

to tell Americans what they needed to know, not what they wanted to know, that that leader has

failed to show.

MR. HALPERIN: It's clearly the strongest message any Republican can have, and Mitt Romney

has driven it better than anyone else in the field. He also has run by every metric you can use to

judge a campaign, fund-raising, opposition research, tactics strategy, far and away the best

campaign of anyone in the race. And the White House is ready for him. Last night, New Year's

Eve, right, Romney in a late-day event says he would veto the Dream Act, giving more

opportunity to immigrants to this country. The White House jumped on that, New Year's Eve,

David Axelrod, the president's adviser, tweeting about it. DNC putting out a press release. They

are very aggressive, they are very skilled. If you're looking for electability, though, again, the

only operation out there right now that's got anything like this potential to have the scale that the

president will bring to this, is Mitt Romney.

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MR. BROOKS: He's got--I would say he's got the organization skills. His events are like big

aircraft carriers. I have a little problem with the messaging, though. Here it's all patriotism, it's

Tom Sawyer. "I love America, I used to drive through a lot of national parks, you love


MS. MITCHELL: The Rambler.

MR. BROOKS: And the subtext is, you know, you might think I'm a rich guy with a strange

religion, but I'm just like you. I actually think that's probably not enough to win in a country

where people feel it's in decline, that the scope of his plans are not as big as the scope of the

problems, a problem that also applies to Barack Obama.

MR. HALPERIN: But it's enough, it's enough for this week, though, right, potentially?

MR. BROOKS: Potentially.


MS. MITCHELL: Well, the president is not going to be silent also.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, yeah, this week, but I think...

MS. MITCHELL: On Tuesday night.

MR. GREGORY: Right, but Andrea, take that on because the--this is a big issue about whether

President Obama has measured up as a leader. I mean, there's real fears of, of a national decline,

a sense that the country's on the wrong track. This is a campaign about big things ultimately for


MS. MITCHELL: And the president is trying to respond to that. He's actually doing a video

message to all of the Democratic caucus goers. He wants to be present in some fashion, so he is

going to have Democratic caucusing with a presidential message by video. But the point is that

he has not yet found a way--he has not found his voice and they say that the New York Times

story is overwritten, that he's running against Congress. That has worked for him in the payroll

tax fight, but he still has to find that message for the State of the Union...


MS. MITCHELL: ...for whatever his next platform is going to be. That is obviously the next

one. To, to tell people how the country can be better at a time where his, his only economic

message can be it's not as bad as it could have been, it's better than it was, you're beginning to

feel some improvement.

MR. GREGORY: Or, and the Republicans will make it worse. They'll take you back.

MR. MURPHY: Yeah. I think, off David's point, there's a really interesting question for Mitt

Romney next week. I think it's highly likely Santorum will come out of here with a lot of energy.

I don't mean second or first, but it will settle down to that'll be what the media wants. That'll be

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the race. And Rick will command it from the right, particularly the social right. If you're running

the Romney campaign, you got a choice. You either just grind it out and have a contest on the

right. You say you're pro-life, gay marriage. I say I'm pro-life. The White House is going to be

giggling for three months at that. Or do you know you've got the organizational strength and the

depth? Santorum, it will be like drinking from a fire hose for him to try to catch up if he comes

out of here. Do you triangulate a little bit? Do you take a few risks in the primary but do you

bounce off Santorum to grab the middle again, which is a much better general election strategy.

It's a little risky in a primary.

MR. GREGORY: I want, I want to get back to tactics in just a second.

MR. MURPHY: That's a huge decision for them.

MR. GREGORY: But, David Brooks, stay on this, this larger theme, which is the White House,

I talked to senior advisers who say, look, we can win the broader vision of where the country is

going and where it should go. We can win independent voters on that message. What is the

vision that we're learning about of this Republican Party?

MR. BROOKS: Well, it's a vision that thinks government is too big. It's become the

government party. And the thing which I think Santorum brings to the table, which the others

don't talk about, as well, is community and values. He really--he was a big anti-poverty guy

when he was in the Congress. He really talks about families and ties that to business a little

better. That's been lacking from what has become a very libertarian, anti-tax, economics-only

party. And it is in danger of reverting back into that sort of thing.

MR. GREGORY: So, Kathie, what are the story lines that come out of Tuesday as you see


MS. OBRADOVICH: Well, I think that there's a couple of things. One that we're very interested

in here in Iowa is just how are the Iowa caucuses viewed nationally. And, and the results here

will feed into that discussion. Does somebody come out of Iowa that people perceive has very

little chance of being the nominee, like Ron Paul or Rick Santorum? That's something that we're

worried about and, and some Republicans are worried about that. And, and finally, I think that

the question then is, you know, how, how do the conservatives fare in the future here in Iowa.

MR. GREGORY: Mark Halperin?

MR. HALPERIN: Every time Mitt Romney's been challenged in this process, his very wellskilled

opposition research team has killed the person who has challenged him. They killed Rick

Perry. They killed Newt Gingrich. They haven't lifted a finger to kill Rick Santorum. And if he

does come out of here, if Mike's right, it's perceived at least in the short term as a two-person

race, he may not have to choose between triangulation and competing on the right. They may

just tactically kill Rick Santorum with an opposition research file that's like this. That's what I

predict will happen. And then the question will be...


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MR. HALPERIN: ...can Santorum survive that? Does he have the skill and the ability to fight

back? Because he won't have the infrastructure, he won't have the money. As he's talked about

with you, he won't have the big endorsements...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. HALPERIN: ...and the people backing him to help him.

MR. GREGORY: And, I mean, almost $17 million spent in blanketing the airwaves here in

Iowa, these outside groups, these super PACS are pounding, and they did it without Romney,

right, having to lift a finger.

MS. MITCHELL: No fingerprint. And the fact that Romney is not perceived, there is no

blowback as there's been in past campaigns because of the, you know, Citizens United Supreme

Court decision which now has opened the door for these super PACS to come in, and they just

killed Gingrich, just pummeled him. Not that he might not have self-destructed anyway.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. MITCHELL: But they, they just went after him hammer and tong, and Mitt Romney doesn't

get the blame.

MR. GREGORY: So is...

MR. HALPERIN: Santorum, Santorum's good for Mitt Romney right now. The minute he's no

longer good for him, the super PACS will shift their focus to him.

MR. GREGORY: What's the story line Wednesday morning that we're covering?

MR. MURPHY: Who the hell is Santorum? But, but there's a point about this. It's not just the

super PACS.


MR. MURPHY: And easier to crush a guy of negative ads in one state than in 10. Santorum is, I

think, a lot more competitive than a Ron Paul would be. But it's the media. The media works

like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, 30 feet tall, huge teeth, with all due respect, not always the

biggest brain, and it follows movement. And when it sees movement, Rick Santorum, it stomps

over there and tries to eat Rick Santorum. And that's what next week is going to be like. He's

going to be the happiest guy in the world, I think, Tuesday night. Wednesday he's got to stand on

his head, drink from a fire house without drowning and learn Chinese in one week to roll this

thing out nationally. Not impossible. Going to be hard.


MR. MURPHY: And he's going to get looked at hard.

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MR. BROOKS: And, one of the weird things, I mean, Mike thinks we have small brains, but

Rick Santorum really hates us sometimes. And when Santorum ran a bad campaign, which he

did when he tried to get re-elected in Pennsylvania, it's because he got obsessed with the media.


MR. BROOKS: He got very sour and then he self-destructed. And we'll see how

temperamentally he reacts to this sort of thing.

MR. GREGORY: Where does this thing get decided, Andrea?

MS. MITCHELL: It could get decided in South Carolina or Florida, if not sooner.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.


MR. GREGORY: Let's look, let's look at the calendar to remind people where we go as we

move forward. Tuesday, of course, the Iowa caucuses. New Hampshire primary is January 10th,

the following Tuesday. January 21st is South Carolina. January 31st, Florida.

Mark, this is a busy January. Does this auger for it being wrapped up in January or does this

become a drawn-out 2008-like affair?

MR. HALPERIN: Unless someone can beat Mitt Romney in one, in one of the first four, or two

of the first four, I think it's wrapped up by the State of the Union. If he's cut and he shows a lot

of weakness, that's a different story. But there's no indication of that right now.

MR. GREGORY: So it...

MR. MURPHY: If he wins, if he wins New Hampshire and he wins Florida, that's a neckbreaker

on everybody else. Not impossible to win, the delegate count is later, but I think he is the

commanding front-runner the day after the Florida primary if he has a strong victory there.

MR. GREGORY: How vulnerable is, is President Obama?

MR. BROOKS: He's vulnerable. I'd say he's now a slight underdog, very slight. The economy's

going to be terrible. Who knows what's going to happen to Europe. So he's, he's vulnerable. He

doesn't have the strongest opposition in the world. It'll be tough.

MR. GREGORY: Kathie, you're on the ground here in Iowa. Who's going to win this thing?

MS. OBRADOVICH: Oh, you know, I can't predict it. It's too fast moving. But I, I will predict

that a lot of people are going to make up their mind on caucus night, and it very well could be a


MR. GREGORY: All right. We'll leave it there. Thank you all very much.