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Meet the Press transcript for February 26, 2012

MR. DAVID GREGORY:  This Sunday, just two days now before the high-stakes primaries in Michigan and Arizona, can the Santorum surge withstand attacks on his Senate voting record?


FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA):  When you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team for the leader and I made a mistake.

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA):  I don't know that I've ever seen a politician explain in so many ways why it was he voted against his principles.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Senator Santorum joins me live from the campaign trail this morning as he vies to reshape the GOP race.

Plus, an up-to-the-minute look at what defeat in Michigan would mean for Governor Romney who's struggling to close the deal with conservatives.  With us, NBC News political director Chuck Todd, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, columnist for The Washington Post Kathleen Parker, and former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.

Also this morning, a debate on the hot-button issues in the fall campaign: gas prices, immigration, jobs and the economy.  With us, Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer and California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Announcer:  From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY:  Good morning.  We're going to begin with some news from overseas this morning.  Two American military officers were shot dead yesterday inside the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul.  The suspect, an Afghan police intelligence officer.  The top U.S.  commander there has now recalled NATO personnel working in the Afghan ministries in that area, all of this five days after U.S.  military personnel apparently inadvertently burned a pile of Qurans, setting off days of violent protests across the country and creating a sense of urgency and new questions about the terms and timetable for American withdrawal.

Joining me this morning, Republican presidential candidate, two terms former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

Senator Santorum, welcome back to the program.

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

MR. GREGORY:  I'd like to ask you about this developing story.  As you know, President Obama personally apologized to President Karzai for this apparently inadvertent act of burning the Qurans.  What's your reaction to that and to the unfolding situation there?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  I don't think the president should apologize for something that was clearly inadvertent.  What you should lay out is the president saying this was inadvertent.  This was a mistake and there was no deliberate act, there was no meant to disrespect.  This was something that, that occurred that, that should not have occurred, but it was an accident and leave it at that.  I think you highlight it when you, when you apologize for it.  You, you make it sound like it was something that you should apologize for.  And there is not--there was no act that needed an apology.  It was an inadvertent act and it should be left at that and I think the response has--needs to be apologized for by, by Karzai and the Afghan people of, of attacking and killing our men and women in uniform and, and overreacting to this, to this inadvertent mistake.  That, that is, that is the real crime here, not what our soldiers did.

MR. GREGORY:  Is there a bigger question about our involvement in Afghanistan that this raises for you?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, clearly there continues to be serious problems in Afghanistan.  I, I do commend the president for his commitment of troops to--in the counterinsurgency which there certainly has been a lot of progress made on that front.  But we still have serious problems with the government of Afghanistan, we still have obviously serious problems with elements within Afghanistan that are--that continue to be a problem.  And of course, elements outside in Pakistan, the Haqqani network, as well as Taliban, that are continuing to cause problems.  And I think they're continuing to cause problems.  And I think one of the reasons we're seeing this is because the president has not given a full commitment to resolving the situation in unfavorable terms to everybody involved, everyone--the Afghans who are in power right now, as well as the United States.  He has put a timetable.  He has basically said we're getting out of there and that means everybody has to hedge their bets.  Those who are opponents of the United States, the Taliban, Haqqani, etc., are just biding their time and, and, and have operatives who are doing the same in the country.  We've created an untenable situation because we haven't given a commitment to success.  And I think that's the underlying problem here.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Let me turn to politics now and big Tuesday that's coming up in Arizona and Michigan.  What's going to be decisive here?  It seems to be down to the wire in Michigan.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, that's pretty amazing if you think about it, David.  I mean, this is, this is a state that I'm sure Governor Romney getting into this race thought he would have to spend $20 and, and easily cruise to victory in Michigan.  And you know, here we are being badly outspent again by, by his super PAC and his, and his big, big dollar friends and we're hanging in there, holding our own.  We've been under assault now for about three weeks. Of course, you know, that's going to drive up, drive up our negatives a little bit.  But you know what's holding on is the positive message that we've been out there talking about what we're going to do to create jobs here in the state of Michigan, focus in on the manufacturing sector of the economy, cutting the corporate tax for all other corporations in half.  Much more dramatic, much more dynamic ideas to try to get this economy going than Governor Romney's sort of warmed-over pablum that he gave at, at, at Ford Field the other day, with nothing new, ideas that are timid, ideas that are institutional, insider, being designed by a whole bunch of Washington lobbyists who are basically running his campaign.  And it's not inspiring anybody.  We are, in spite of the attacks, in spite of the negativity, our positive message of hope, particularly for those who have been left behind in this economy, is really resonating here in Michigan and across the country.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, what about Arizona?  I've got Governor Brewer from Arizona coming up in a couple of minutes.


MR. GREGORY:  Would you make a pitch to her for her endorsement?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  I, I've actually talked to Governor Brewer.  She's a wonderful person.  I, I've a lot of respect for her and the work that she's done and her willingness to stand up to, to President Obama and, and fight for the, for the rights of the people of Arizona and for the safety and the security of the people of Arizona.  I don't know what Governor Brewer's going to do, what--but look, I-I'm focused on, as I have in every state, going directly to the people.  We did events, you know, from in and around the Phoenix area, went down to Tucson and, and did a big tea party rally down there.  Got a great, enthusiastic response.  You know, that's another tough state for us.  You know, there's--demographically it doesn't work quite as well for us as maybe some other states, but we feel like, again, I think in these two races what, what we believe will come out of Tuesday is that this is a two-person race right now.  That, you know, we, we have both the resources, the ideas, and the, and the, and the record to go out there and not just compete against Governor Romney, but be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.  And that's what we're excited about, you know, resulting from this Tuesday.

MR. GREGORY:  Do you think it's a two-person race?  Or do you think it's a two-person race with Romney with a very strong assist from Ron Paul?  I've heard you talk about that.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, you know, it is sort of funny.  I mean, you, you guys, you guys figure this one out.  When, you know, Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain or Rick Santorum, you know, rise up and, and make it a two-person race, if you will, there's one constant, Ron Paul's attacking whoever's going up against Mitt Romney.  And you know, he's here in the state of Michigan running ads against me and he's not even campaigning in the state of Michigan.  So I--you, you just sort of--I just sort of throw that out and I sort of scratch my head and, and wonder whether he's running...

MR. GREGORY:  Is this a handshake deal?  Do you think it's a handshake deal between Romney and Paul?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  You have--well, I'd love someone to ask that question. What, what's going on?  Look at the, the debates.  To me, it's--I'm out here running because I want to be president.  I'm out here running because I want to make sure that, that, that we return power back to the people in this country, not because I'm, I'm, I'm trying to, you know, maneuver for, for one or other candidates.  I'm out here because the people of this country need someone who's for them, who's on their side.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Who's going to fight for them and all Americans, not 99 percent, not 95 percent, but 100 percent of Americans.

MR. GREGORY:  So you're going after Romney and Paul, but you're certainly keeping your sights set on President Obama, as well.  And you spoke this weekend about higher education.  I want to play a portion of that.


MR. GREGORY:  And ask you a question about it.

(Videotape, yesterday)

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  President Obama once said, said he wants everybody in America to go to college.  What a snob.  There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor and trying to indoctrinate them. Well, I understand why he wants you to go to college, he wants to remake you in his image.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  What does that mean, Senator?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, I mean, Barack Obama is a, is, is a person of the left.  He's someone who believes in big government and believes in the values that, unfortunately, are the dominant values and political values and overly politicized values and politically correct values that, that are on most colleges and university campuses.  And what I've said is that, you know, I, I want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college or any other higher, higher level of training skills.  In fact, one of the big things I talk about in, in growing the, the energy and manufacturing sector of this economy is we're going to need upgraded skills for people to be able to go and, and, and operate that machinery, be able to do the things that are necessary.  But it doesn't mean you have to go to a four-year college degree.  And, and, and the president saying that everyone should, I think everyone should have the opportunity.  The question is, you know, what, what, what is best for you? That's what this country's got to be about...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  But...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: making sure we have opportunities for everybody and their dreams.

MR. GREGORY:  But your, your vision for America is that, that you, you shouldn't have that opportunity, you shouldn't be encouraged to do it?  Isn't the reality in this economy that the unemployment rate among college educated folks is only 4 percent.  That's the reality.  I mean, is that your vision for America...


MR. GREGORY:  ...that we don't really push kids to go to college in this economy?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, I, I don't--again, David, you know.  I mean, I have seven kids.  I can tell you, there's some who, you know, would, would do very well and excel, and others, you know what, they have, they have different skills, they have different things that they want to do with their lives. And, and the idea of sort of saying, "Well, unless you do this, then, you know, well, you're not just sort of, you know"...


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  ..."you're not sort of living up to our goals." I just disagree with that.

MR. GREGORY:  But, but do you encourage your own...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  There, there are a lot of things that very productive...

MR. GREGORY: you encourage your own children to go to college?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  ...things that people can do without going to college.

MR. GREGORY:  Did you--do you encourage your kids to go to college?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  If, if that's what--I encourage my kids to get higher education, absolutely.  And, and, in fact, if, if college is the best place for them, absolutely.  But you know what, if, if going to a trade school and, and learning to be a carpenter or a plumber or, or, or other types of, other types of skills that are--or an artist or whatever the case may be, or, or musician, all of those things are, are very important and worthwhile professions that we should not look down our nose at and say they're somehow less because you didn't get a four-year college degree.

MR. GREGORY:  Back in the fight for Michigan.  There's a debate between you and Romney about who's more politically pliable, that was your word from the campaign trail this weekend.  This issue came up over voting on principle.  In the course of the debate the other night, you talked about your vote for No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education reform, and there was a response from Romney in the days that followed.  Let me play the exchange.

(Videotape, Wednesday)

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  I have to admit I, I voted for that.  It was against the, the, the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're, when you're part of the team sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.  You know, politics is a team sport, folks, and, and sometimes you got to, you got to rally together and, and, and do something.

FRM.  GOV. ROMNEY:  I don't know that I've ever seen a politician explain in so many ways why it was he voted against his principles.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  We solicited some questions on, on Facebook, as we try to do each week, and here's one that came from Kim Smith.  "If he," Santorum, "voted against his conscience on No Child Left Behind and voted with the party, what else has he voted with the party on when it was against his conscience?"

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Well, that's, that's really the funny thing about this is that so--I get so much criticism because I'm too conservative, I'm too doctrinaire, and, you know, Governor Romney, as you know, I mean has a long and strong reputation of, of voting on both sides of almost every single issue.  And so for Governor Romney to be the one attacking me, which is even funnier, that Governor Romney agreed with No Child Left Behind and still supports No Child Left Behind.  What I saw was that after No Child Left Behind was passed and we saw a huge expansion of the federal government's role in education, I looked back and said, "You know what, that's not what I believe in.  I have a plan that says we're going to repeal No Child Left Behind, we're going to get the federal government out of education." I've even said we need to get the state government more out of education, put it back at the local level, have parents and teachers and administrators and the community build a customized program for every single child in America.  That's what I believe. Governor Romney doesn't believe that.

Mine's a conservative vision, mine's a traditional vision of how America works from the bottom up.  Governor Romney, whether it's education and he still supports No Child Left Behind, whether it's health care with Romneycare, whether it's the Wall Street bailouts and taking over Wall Street, whether it's cap and trade and taking over the manufacturing sector of the economy and energy uses in this country, Governor Romney has been the--I understand what team he's on, it's not the same team that I'm on, I'm on the team of the American public who believes in limited government and the people in America having the freedom...

MR. GREGORY:  But...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: make decision for themselves.  He has been for big government consistently...

MR. GREGORY:  But Senator...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  ...and yet comes out here in these debates and tries to say he's the conservative in the race.  It's a joke.

MR. GREGORY:  But the question, the question is about who's politically pliable.  I mean, I've interviewed you before, we talk about the fact that you endorsed Romney in 2008, said that he was the one who'd stand up for conservative principles.  And then you've admitted basically you were just playing politics.  You didn't like John McCain, so, you know, you made the political calculation that you would endorse Romney.  Or voting for a steel bailout even though you say you're principally opposed to voting for bailouts.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, I didn't vote for a--whoa, whoa, I didn't vote for a steel bailout.

MR. GREGORY:  You didn't support that.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  What, what I voted for was to--what, what, what I voted for was to enforce the law, the, the--enforce the tariffs when, when, when China was illegally dumping steel in this country.  That's not a steel bailout.  That's--there are laws in place in this country that protect domestic manufacturers from illegal dumping into this country.  They went through the process, they did the evaluation.  The evaluation was that China was, was, was breaking the law, and I supported imposing tariffs.  There was a process here.  That wasn't a bailout.  In fact, the steel industry has never been bailed out.  That's, that's the, that's the example that I talk about all the time.  I went through the 1970s and '80s and saw the destruction of the steel industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.  And the steel industry didn't get a bailout.  You know what, it turned out just fine for western Pennsylvania.  We have a much more diversified economy.  And I didn't stand for bailouts then, I didn't stand for bailouts of Wall Street nor Detroit. Governor Romney supported his friends on Wall Street and bailed them out.  And they're, and they're doing just fine.  And then...

MR. GREGORY:  But you're, but you're not opposed, Senator, to using...

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  ...violated his--hold on, let me finish, David.  He violated his principles, I guess, because he's for bailouts, and, and denied a bailout for, for Detroit.  That's the hypocrisy here, not what I've done on the issue of bailouts.

MR. GREGORY:  But you're interested in using government for different means, right?  In your economic plan you would like to incentivize manufacturers to try to affect the playing field to help manufacturers in this country because of the economy.  But you're opposed to extending unemployment benefits because you think that that's creating too much dependency on the part of government. But isn't that hypocritical when in fact you're using government in the way that you see fit to help corporations but not to help people who are out of work for so long.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  I'm really glad you asked me that because I get that question from conservatives a lot, "Why are you picking manufacturing?  Isn't that picking winners and losers?" No, it's not.  What, what, what we have to realize is that manufacturers have to compete not against just other manufacturers in this country, they have to compete internationally, directly, internationally, for the jobs to stay in America.  And so the, the problem is the government and our tax and regulatory policy, the government's policy is making manufacturers in this country uncompetitive, and as a result, manufacturing jobs are moving offshore.  So if the government is causing the problem, then government has a responsibility to fix the problem.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  In other words, to, to change the regulatory environment, which I do on our plan, and to change the tax climate, which I do on our plan.  It's about creating a level playing field.  I'm for equality of opportunity, and, and, and to compare that to providing unemployment insurance, I'm for providing unemployment insurance, my concern is the length of that unemployment insurance leads--and there's all sorts of studies that the longer you're on, particularly if you're on, you know, a year or more, leads to long-term chronic problems of getting back in the workforce.  You lose skills, you lose all sorts of things.  And it's not beneficial for people.


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  While it may sound beneficial to help people, but it's not beneficial over the long term to be on long-term unemployment.


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  That's the argument that I've made.

MR. GREGORY:  Senator, I want to ask you a final area about your faith...


MR. GREGORY:  ...which you talk about week in and week out and is so important to you.  And I want to play a very famous clip from JFK, President Kennedy's--where he's--a speech in 1960 where he talked about his views of religion influencing him.  And this is a portion of what he said.

(Videotape, September 13, 1960)

SEN. JOHN F.  KENNEDY (D-MA):  I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.  I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Senator, you called that in the past a, quote, "horrible speech" in part because you felt that he was too rigid about the separation of church and state.  There's a concern within the party, and certainly to a lot of other voters, where your faith ends and your presidency would begin.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Yeah.  The original line that you didn't play that got--that President Kennedy said is, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." That is not the founders' vision, that is not the America that, that made the greatest country in the history of the world.  The idea that people of faith should not be permitted in the public square to, to, to influence public policy is antithetical to the First Amendment which says the free exercise of religion--James Madison called people of faith, and by the way, no faith, and different faith, the ability to come in the public square with diverse opinions motivated by a variety of different ideas and passions the perfect remedy.  Why?  Because everybody's allowed in.  And the idea that people of faith have to keep it a private affair, my goodness, what does that mean, that the only place that--the only thing you're allowed to bring to the public square is secular ideas or, or not, or things that are not motivated by faith?  Look at all of the great movements in this country that led to great just--you know, to, to righting wrongs that exist in this country, the slavery movement, the, the, the civil rights movement, all led by people of faith bringing their faith into the public square that all men are created equal...

MR. GREGORY:  Fair enough.  OK, but....

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  ...and they have God-given rights.  So this idea that we need to segregate faith is, is, is a dangerous idea.  And, and we're seeing the Obama administration not only segregating faith but imposing the states' values now on churches, which is even a bigger affront to the First Amendment.

MR. GREGORY:  Here's what Kimberley Strassel wrote, and it seems to reflect views that are conservative as well as moderate, about you and whether you would then act on your faith in a way.  She writes this, "Reagan's success was in respecting cultural conservatives' right to live their lives as they saw fit.  Mr.  Santorum's mistake is in telling people how to live.  His finger-wagging on contraception and child-rearing and homosexual acts disrespects the vast majority of couples who use birth control or who refuse to believe that the emancipation of women or society's increasing tolerance of gays signals the end of the republic." So, Senator, are you going to use the bully pulpit if you're president to talk about these issues, to rail against areas of our culture that you disagree with, or will, given your comments about President Kennedy, go beyond that and make it a focal point of your presidency to act on your beliefs?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  It's so funny.  I get the question all the time.  Why are you talking so much about these social issues, as they, as, as people ask about me about the social issues.

MR. GREGORY:  Senator, no, wait a minute.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Look, the...

MR. GREGORY:  You talk about this stuff every week.  And by the way, it's not just in this campaign.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  No, I talk about, I talk...

MR. GREGORY:  Sir, in this campaign you talk about it.  And I've gone back years when you've been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life.  So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it's not just about the press.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  Yeah, they, they are deeply held views, but they're not what I dominantly talk about, David.  You're taking things that over a course of a 20-year career and pulling out quotes from difference speeches on, on issues that are fairly tangential, not what people care about mostly in America, and saying, "Oh, he wants to impose those values." Look at my record. I've never wanted to impose any of the things that you've just talked about. These are, these are my personal held religious beliefs, and in many forums that I, that, that are, in fact, religious, because I do speak in front of church groups and I do speak in these areas, I do talk about them.  But there's no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.

There are, there are important issues that this country is, is confronted with right now and that's what I've been talking about.  And, and I will continue to talk about the role, for example, of, of the family with respect to our economy and how stable families and fathers involved in their families and, and out of wedlock birth rates are, in fact, a serious problem in this country that we need to, we need to do.  And by the way, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was talking about that in the 1960s.  This is not a, this is not something that, that is a, some sort of religious idea.  These are practical problems that we're dealing with in America, and that's what I talk about on the campaign trail.  And the problems that I'm looking to confront are creating jobs, reducing government role in people's lives, reducing the budget deficit and getting to a balanced budget, making sure our country is safe around the world.  And you go listen to my speeches, that's what I talk about.  And by the way, I do talk about other issues, you know what, because like every, any other candidate out here, I actually take questions from people and people ask me all sorts of things.  And unlike most politicians, I answer them.

MR. GREGORY:  Senator, before you go, on a lighter note, this is a big day, of course.  You've got the Oscars tonight and you've got the Daytona 500. Right?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  There you go.

MR. GREGORY:  Oh, is that the one you'll be watching?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  We've got the Daytona 500.

MR. GREGORY:  I can tell you, because you really do have a dog in this fight, and here's a picture of it.  You're actually sponsoring a car.


MR. GREGORY:  There it is, Rick 2012.  So this is what you'll be watching and not whether George Clooney wins the Oscar for "The Descendants."

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM:  No offense.  I mean, you know, I'm--that's a wonderful thing to watch, too.  They--you know, I'm, I love the movies, etc.  But, no, today we'll be very focused on how the number 26 car, the Ford Fusion.  Now I, I just want to tell you, I talked to Tony Raines, the driver, who, who's starting way back of the pack.  I said, this is the perfect car for me.  And, and we need you way in the back in the pack, just hang back there for as long as you can, let all the folks in front of you crash and burn, and then move up in the end and try to win the race.

MR. GREGORY:  There you go.  All right.  Senator Santorum, thank you, as always.


MR. GREGORY:  One note to our viewers, because it comes up for me as questions on social media from time to time.  We've had a long-standing invitation to have Governor Mitt Romney on the program and up until now he has declined.  We certainly hope he'll change his mind and come on for an interview in the course of the primary process.

Meantime, coming up here, a debate.  California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer square off on the 2012 campaign, the economy and gas prices.  Plus, of course, Arizona's primary is this Tuesday.  Will Governor Brewer endorse a candidate?  We're going to ask her, coming up next.


MR. GREGORY:  Coming up, a debate on the hot button issues in the fall campaign.  Joining me, California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer.  It's up next after this brief commercial break.


MR. GREGORY:  Joining me now, the Democratic Governor of California, my home state, Jerry Brown and the Republican Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer.  Welcome to both of you.  I--we were talking about my ties to Arizona, as well.  It's nice to have both of you here in studio.

I do want to begin talking about a little bit of politics.  Tuesday's a big day Arizona with your primary.

GOV. JAN BREWER (R-AZ):  Big day.

MR. GREGORY:  Are you paired--prepared to endorse a candidate in the field?

GOV. BREWER:  Well, I am, David.  I have had my debate there in Arizona and I have looked over all the wonderful people that have put themselves up for nomination, and I have decided that I am going to publicly endorse Mitt Romney.  I think he's the man that can carry the day, and I'm going to get out there and work as hard as I know how to make sure that he wins Arizona and work in other places of our country to see that he wins those places, too.

MR. GREGORY:  What was, what was decisive for you hearing the debate?

GOV. BREWER:  Well, you know, I, I think that he handles himself very, very well.  But more than that, I think that he has that pro-business background and he has that political history that I think that he would serve America the best of, of the, of all the candidates.  And so it was a difficult decision, but I think Mitt is by far the person that can go in and win.  And...

MR. GREGORY:  Are you worried about how this race is going, that it looks like he's going to really have to grind it out if he can be the nominee? There's so much anxiety within the party about tone and about the fact that there's so much dissatisfaction with the field.

GOV. BREWER:  It's been an interesting campaign, one of which I have never ever was party to in the years that I've been in politics.  And--but I think that things will settle down.  And I think that after Super Tuesday we'll have our candidate and I think then all Republicans will get behind that candidate and we'll go to Tampa and we'll knock them down.

MR. GREGORY:  You really think after Super Tuesday we're going to have it, because Rick Santorum says he's in it for a lot longer than that.

GOV. BREWER:  Well, he might be in it, but I think that, I think that overwhelmingly that it'll be pretty much decided by, by Super Tuesday.

MR. GREGORY:  By Super Tuesday.

GOV. BREWER:  I know the pundits don't agree with me.  Maybe I'm wishful thinking, but I, I'm going to be out there working hard for Mitt.

MR. GREGORY:  Governor Brown, you, you, this is not your first rodeo or campaign.  You've run for the presidency, of course, as well.  A couple of questions about this.  You know, you were one who kept the fight going against Bill Clinton all the way to the convention.  Do you see that happening on the Republican side this year?

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D-CA):  Well, I certainly think Ron Paul's going to keep going.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

GOV. BROWN:  And why not?  The campaign is there to illuminate the issues and give voters a real insight into the character of the candidate.  So yeah, I say keep going all the way.

MR. GREGORY:  You, you talked to my colleague Tom Brokaw recently, and you thought the other side, the Republicans, were on a, "a suicide mission." What were you referring to?

GOV. BROWN:  Well, the extreme move to the right, they want to take away contraceptives from American women, the recklessness with regard to Iran.  I mean, have there been no lessons learned?  Obama took over the country after it was in a gigantic mess.  We were losing 700,000 jobs a month and now we're on the road to recovery.  And I think what we're looked at--what we're looking at is a reasonable man vs.  reckless men.  And that's really becoming very evident through the Republican primaries.

MR. GREGORY:  You--education, of course, a big issue in both of your states. How do you react to Senator Santorum's view about Obama and higher education?

GOV. BROWN:  Well, it's not the way I would frame it.  Everyone should have a right and an opportunity to go to college and yes, we should have technical training like they do in Germany.  I'd also emphasize, which Mr.  Santorum doesn't, that joint labor management apprentice programs for pipe fitters and electricians and sheet metal workers and carpenters, I'd like to see a lot more of that and that takes union and management cooperation, something that the Republican candidates seem very hostile to.

MR. GREGORY:  Let me, let me move to a really important issue in Arizona and in this fall campaign and that's the issue of immigration.  As I mentioned, Governor Brown, 34 years ago to the day, you were on MEET THE PRESS and we couldn't actually find the tape for it, but we have something that you said about immigration which I want to put up on the screen.  You said, "I do believe that the Mexican-American has been too invisible in California and throughout the Southwest.  It is imperative that we in this country, and particularly in the Southwest, open our hearts and our minds to this culture and that we try to accelerate the melting pot and the assimilation process so that we can live together in harmony." Here's Time magazine this week and on the cover it is "yo decidito"--"yo decido," which is that I'm going to decide. Hispanic-Americans are going to decide who the next president is if you look at the percentage that they occupy the voting bloc.  And they are certainly not very happy with the Republican Party.  Do you believe even more strongly today what you said 34 years ago?

GOV. BROWN:  Very much so.  And I was willing--I think--I may be the only governor, but I know I'm the one who signed the Dream, Dream Act in California...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

GOV. BROWN:  ...that will enable undocumented students who do well in high school to go to college, pay in-state tuition and even get a scholarship.  So I know there's a lot of controversy in that, but you can't round up 12 million people and ship them back across the border.  That's a disaster.  We have to certainly secure the border, but we need comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  And I think Obama would--supports that and I certainly do.

MR. GREGORY:  Governor Brewer, the view within the Republican Party is that demographically, these candidates don't get the fact that what they say about immigration and also the policy positions toward immigration, where your state is really the flash point of it because of your very tough immigration law, is a big part of the problem.

GOV. BREWER:  Well, let me remind you, David, that you're talk about Arizona's very tough immigration law.  It mirrors federal law.  And we, of course, all know that we are a nation of laws and we believe in rule of law. And Arizona...

MR. GREGORY:  But there was a federal injunction into a portion of the law which allowed reasonable--a question of whether there was reasonable suspicion that somebody was illegal and they could ask for their papers.  Supreme Court's got to decide that piece of it.

GOV. BREWER:  Absolutely and that'll be decided in April.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

GOV. BREWER:  And we're looking forward to that, that determination because--but the bottom line is we do need our border secured because we understand that Mexico is in terrible unrest and they're--that the whole state of Mexico is being controlled by drug cartels and all of that crime is coming across our border and Arizona is the gateway.  Texas has done a very good job of securing their borders with the help of the federal government.  California has done a good job.  But we are the gateway and we are the recipients of our citizens being threatened by the drug cartels, living in fear, having to protect their property and their families, drop houses being in normally stable neighborhoods, prostitution, and the extortion of those illegal people that are coming that maybe possibly are coming to work, their families are being extorted.

MR. GREGORY:  But you talk about...

GOV. BREWER:  And they're being tortured.  Why we can secure borders, David, everywhere, why can't we secure our border?

MR. GREGORY:  But how do you deal--you talk about securing the border, is this is an area where you think the president has fallen down, Governor?

GOV. BROWN:  No.  Every president has tried to secure the border.  The fact is these drugs generate billions of dollars in profit, guns from America go down to Mexico, the dope comes up, the billions of dollars go down.  It takes a collaborative work, Mexico and the U.S., we've got to invest in Mexico, we've got to give them all the tools that we can and work together to get rid of the cartels but build up Mexico so the employment can be there instead of forcing people across the border.

MR. GREGORY:  Why not--but Governor, why not testify on Capitol Hill? Senator Schumer's committee asked you to testify about the...(unintelligible). You decided against it.

GOV. BREWER:  You took me in a different direction, there.  Well, I think that it's ridiculous that he would invite me to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bottom line is is why didn't he ask me two years ago when all of this was on the forefront?  Wait until the day before...

MR. GREGORY:  You don't think its on the forefront now?

GOV. BREWER:  Well, but I mean, the day before that it's heard by the Supreme Court?  I mean, they are ultimately going to make that decision, whether Senate Bill 1070 is going to be upheld or not.  I believe that it will be. But let me tell you when we talk about the Obama administration and securing our borders.  No, they don't want to secure our borders or they would secure our borders.  They secure borders everywhere else, they could secure them on the Arizona border.  And instead what do they do?  They send guns, fast and furious, they're sending guns down there to the cartel and then they don't track them.  And then noble people like border patrol agent Brian Terry gets murdered.  People--47,000 Mexican citizens have been killed south of the border and we just ignore that?  Mexico is Arizona's largest trading partner. Why doesn't the administration step up and do something to help Mexico?  We help all these other countries.  They do nothing.  They don't secure our borders, they send guns down there, they sue the state of Arizona and me personally for doing the job that they should do.  It's frustrating, David.

MR. GREGORY:  I want you--and the frustration has obviously bubbled over in your interactions with President Obama, too.  This picture now well known during his last visit to Arizona when you met him on the tarmac and appeared to have a confrontation with him over some things that were in your book that he didn't quite like.  You've been invited, as part of the National Governors Conference, to have a dinner at the White House.  You've declined to go.

GOV. BREWER:  I have.

MR. GREGORY:  Are you showing disrespect for the office of the president?

GOV. BREWER:  Well, I, I hope that it isn't disrespect.  I would not disrespect the president of the United States.  I have other commitments and I'm going to be at the White House on Monday morning.  I said that, you know, this event was a social thing.  You know, I am a governor, I've got priorities and I will be there Monday when we all meet and, and discuss policy.

MR. GREGORY:  Governor, I want to ask you before I let you go about the economy and about gas prices.  We look at the average prices and they are going up and Republicans are talking about, and I don't have to tell you, in California how high they are.  This is an average, of course, over the course of the Obama presidency and now we're at February where it's over 3.50.  In, in some areas it's higher.  What should be done at this point and how much of an effect is it having on your state's economy?

GOV. BROWN:  Well, look, we've been there before.  I've been there.  When I was governor the last time, we had gas lines and the price shot up and then the price shot down.  We took steps, fuel efficiency, mandating electric cars. California's in the forefront and now President Obama adopted the California regulations and we have to go beyond that and you have to support mass transit, unlike the congressional Republican bill that guts mass transit.  We have to get real here.  The instability in the Middle East is driving up that price.  In fact, if the Republicans get their way and stimulate a war over there in Iran, the gas price will go to $2--rather not $2, it'll go up $2 a gallon.  So we have a real problem here.  We're not going to solve it in the short term, but long term, fuel efficient cars, electric cars.  California will have a million of them in the next eight years and mass transit and land-use policies that minimize reliance on fossil fuel.

MR. GREGORY:  Quickly, this is your third term as California governor, is it less governable now than it used to be?

GOV. BROWN:  No.  It's different, but I think it actually will be more, more governable.  And one thing we have in California that we don't have in the United States government, we can appeal to the people through the initiative process.  So when we have a breakdown in the two parties, we can go directly to the people as the tie-breaker, and I think that's the way we're going to break the logjam.

MR. GREGORY:  I want to leave it there.  I want to underscore, Governor Brewer, you're endorsing Governor Romney for the presidency, for the nomination.


MR. GREGORY:  And you think he will wrap up this nomination after Super Tuesday.  He won't have all the delegates by then, but you think effectively it'll be over.

GOV. BREWER:  We'll be working hard for him.  He's our man.

MR. GREGORY:  Two big pieces of news.  All right.

GOV. BREWER:  He's our man.

MR. GREGORY:  Governor Brewer, Governor Brown, thank you both very much.  So nice to have you here.

GOV. BREWER:  Thank you.

MR. GREGORY:  And coming up, we're going to go inside the numbers in Arizona and Michigan, which are both just two days away.  Will the outcome on Tuesday renew calls for someone else to jump into the race?  Plus, which way are independent voters breaking in the general election?  Our political roundtable is next.  NBC News political director Chuck Todd, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, and former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford.


MR. GREGORY:  We are back with our political roundtable.  Joining me, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker; our chief White House correspondent and political director, the man who goes inside the numbers for a living, Chuck Todd; former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr.; and senior strategist to the John McCain 2008 president campaign, Steve Schmidt.

Welcome to you.  You're all just free and easy, you're relaxed because you're not in the trenches anymore, so you're just free to be analytical and happy about it, right?

MR. STEVE SCHMIDT:  Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY:  All right, Chuck, let's go through it and talk about what's at stake on Tuesday.  We'll put the numbers on the board.  The delegates at stake, first, you've got a total of 59 between Arizona and Michigan, and this is how it looks in Michigan first and then Arizona.  Our poll has it tight in Michigan still.


MR. GREGORY:  Arizona, it's a more going away contest there for Romney, and of course he's also picked up Jane Brewer's endorsement right here on the program.  So handicap what's going to happen.

MR. TODD:  Well, the wild card in Michigan is going to be this Democratic vote, right?  We have already seen multiple emails this morning from Democratic folks in Michigan urging a vote for Santorum.  Michigan's done this before.  And that to me is the unpollable wild card.  Talking to people that are inside the campaign, even they're not sure.  So far...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. TODD:  ...all the Democratic vote that they've noticed in Michigan is going to Ron Paul.  But that could be the wild card here.  I think everybody seems to believe that Romney does have a small lead.  Now--by the way, as far as delegates are concerned, Michigan is one of those that allots them via congressional district.  Arizona's a winner take all.  Romney is going to have more delegate--win more delegates Tuesday guaranteed because he's going to win Arizona and win all those delegates.  In Michigan, we could have the unique situation where Romney, say, could win by a point or two and actually Santorum wins more delegates because he's going to win more congressional districts. More of the congressional districts are outside the Detroit media market.  So what does that mean for the race?

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. TODD:  We'll let, let these guys decide that.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, we'll talk...

MR. TODD:  Yeah.

MR. GREGORY:  ...we'll talk consequences in just a minute.

Steve Schmidt, what are you hearing as you look at this debate in Michigan? And you just heard Senator Santorum.  What's this going to come down to?

MR. SCHMIDT:  Well, I think if you look, David, at the, at the last week, the story has been the loss of momentum by Santorum.  He's been unable to drive a message because he's been so wrapped up explaining all of his positions primarily on social issues.  It takes him a paragraph to explain each sentence that he's explaining out there on the--out on the trail and it's, it's done him damage.  The poll numbers have moved in Mitt Romney's favor over the course of the last week.  It seems that the momentum is on his side coming into the race.  But for sure this race is going to continue past Michigan, past Arizona and likely past Super Tuesday.  The change of the rules in the Republican process...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. SCHMIDT:  ...guarantee, I think, two things, a long contest, but also a contest in today's media age where all of the candidates are degraded.  It's very difficult to go through the process with the 20 debates that they've gone through here without there being significant erosion to their favorable ratings.  And one of the things that's really worrying for Republicans is obviously the collapse of support in the middle of the electorate while the president's numbers have increased.

MR. GREGORY:  You, you've got in Mitt Romney someone who's got his own problems connecting with social conservatives, Kathleen.  Rick Santorum has done a much better job of that, but at what cost?  You wrote in your column on Wednesday something that I found interesting, which is not about his beliefs but more about prudence and words.


MR. GREGORY:  Let me put a portion of the--on the screen.  You wrote that his "biggest problem is that he lacks prudence in picking his battles and his words.  The American people are loath to elect a preacher or a prophet to lead them out of the desert of unemployment.  And they are justified in worrying how such imprudence might translate in areas of far graver concern than whether Santorum doesn't personally practice birth control." If he wants to talk about intellectual diversity on campus, does he overshoot that by calling Obama a snob?

MS. PARKER:  Yeah, he overshoots every time.  And we just witnessed this when you were interviewing him.  You know, Rick Santorum cannot resist any question or any debate and he always goes way too far.  And, and that lack of prudence in selecting your battles and choosing your words wisely is, is a, a big concern to Republicans and even very good friends of his who admire him, respect him and, and indeed love him, can see this honestly as his biggest flaw.  And, and, and again, as he was answering your question, he went on and on and on and on and on when, when the easy answer for him when he's talking about his faith is to say, "Look, you know, religion and, and--state and religion are separate, we obviously understand that, but faith for me is very important, he helps me be a better father, it helps me be a better husband." You know, it, it should be inspiring rather than...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MS. PARKER:  ...condemning or...

MR. GREGORY:  Harold, you're--I mean you're a politician in the South, I mean you understand the centrality of faith in politics.  But he made a distinct point of saying, "No, no, where Kennedy got it wrong is that he did try to separate it, it's got to be fused together." I still think there's questions about, then, where will that lead him as a president?

FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR.  (D-TN):  His answer was confusing.  I think Kathleen has it right.  Church and state should be separate, but certainly one's faith motivates and forms and influences how he or she behaves as a father, a husband, even an anchor, a politician or an analyst.

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

FMR. REP. FORD JR.:  He'll have a hard time answering that question going forward.  But I thought the most interesting answer he gave was about Afghanistan.  He admitted that a mistake was made, that it was inadvertent, but we should not have apologized.  And it's interesting, it's clear that Rick Santorum's faith is important to him, this is an issue of faith that we're dealing with in Afghanistan and the actions that were inadvertently and mistakenly taken by our military.  If that had happened here and someone had not apologized to us, how would he have felt?  Of course his faith would have been offended.  It's a smart thing to do for the commander in chief to apologize.  I question not only his prudence around social issues but just his judgment.


FMR. REP. FORD JR.:  And the question I think many Americans would have if he's the nominee is not just his social issue positions which are, I think, deserve a lot more probing, but can you trust him to negotiate with the Russians, the Chinese?  Do you want him in that office determining military strategy in Iran if we happen to move forward on that front, on Afghanistan or Iraq?  See, I think it raises a lot more questions for Republicans as they think long and hard about whom they want their nominee to be.

MR. GREGORY:  So--and there's also questions for Republicans about the race from here.  Win or lose in, in Michigan and Arizona--Chuck, I know you've been breaking down the numbers, and, and they're important if you look at the delegate fight--this is not just an...(unintelligible)...exercise here...

MR. TODD:  No.

MR. GREGORY:  ...these delegates matter.  So take us through that as we put it up on screen.

MR. TODD:  Well, what, what we want to do is this--there's lots of calls that if Mitt Romney loses Michigan that somehow this will push--the Republican establishment will push somebody, a Mitch Daniels, a Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, to get in the race.  So we looked at the numbers.  If you get in now, essentially, and make all the filing deadlines...

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

MR. TODD:  ...the, the most amount of delegates you could compete for is 1,036.  That is not enough to get the nomination.  But the motivation would be what?  The motivation would simply be to get enough delegates to become a player during the contested convention, and you would assume a lot of things can happen, Romney's support could collapse, all of his delegates could suddenly be available, you'd see some sort of fusion thing, maybe Rick Santorum ends up on the ticket.  There are ways to do this.  And I do think that if you don't like what's going on here and you think nobody's going to get a majority, you do not think any of these candidates will have a majority of the delegates by the end of this process, then you do need to get somebody--and you want somebody else, you do need to get in and win an election or two.

MR. SCHMIDT:  Well, I, I think if you, if you talk about the prospect of a contested election, a contested nominee--nomination fight at the convention, it's important to remember that the delegates at this convention are going to be far to the right of the American electorate.  Also far to the right of the Republican primary voter in most of these states.  So I think if it goes into a contested convention, it is anyone's guess what happens.  I think that if you see Santorum win in Michigan, you'll start to see panic beyond where it already is in the Republican establishment.  But the general proposition, Republicans are very unhappy about the state of the race, very unhappy and pessimistic about the chances to beat the president in the fall, and this is a complete reversal of the condition from four or five months ago when people were very optimistic.

MR. GREGORY:  What about the president as he looks at all of this?  I think we have some information about Mitt Romney's unfavorables among independent voters, where as you pointed out in an article you were quoted, you can see that he's getting hit on the left and the right about whether it's taxes or his time at Bain.  And, Harold, as unfavorables have gotten very high among independent voters.  They're going to decide this election in the fall.

FMR. REP. FORD JR.:  They will.  The longer this goes the more damaging it has been so far.  I wouldn't of believed a few weeks ago that a longer primary for Republicans wouldn't necessarily hurt them based on the '08 election between Obama and Clinton.  But the more I think about it, the differences are clear.  Obama and Clinton were both thought to be centrist, mainstream serious candidates for president.  Republicans don't view Santorum, at least establishments don't view him as, as a serious candidate for the fall or a credible one.  I'm not as concerned about those, about those numbers for Romney as I am, as Romney may be.  I think Romney's numbers can turn.  Those all turned in two months.  It could turn again if Romney is able to win Michigan.  If he loses Michigan, Steve and his team are going to have to find another, another person to run.  I think Santorum will be hard to turn around. He will go into that convention with a head full of steam and excitement and enthusiasm.  And the only way you overturn that is to, is to follow the map that, that Chuck has laid out this morning.

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Let me get another break in here.  I'd like Kathleen to take a look at Romney off the cuff on the stump, too, when we come back.  We'll do that.  We'll look at some of our top political stories trending and review some of the news that was made here today, as well as a little bit of Hollywood right here at our table on this Oscar morning, right after this.


MR. GREGORY:  A couple of minutes left with our roundtable.  Want to look at our Trend Tracker here and what's breaking.  Romney vs.  Santorum in Michigan. Santorum staying in for the long run, as he's made it very clear here, despite the fact that Governor Brewer of Arizona thinks this will be all wrapped up by the end of Super Tuesday.

Kathleen, we've talked about Santorum.  Romney has his awkward moment overshadowing his economic message when he talked his wife owning two Cadillacs among their cars.

MS. PARKER:  Tell me.

MR. GREGORY:  Not exactly that connection moment he was looking for.

MS. PARKER:  A couple of Cadillacs.  You know, Mitt Romney has a very hard time connecting.  I think we've accepted that.  I think we can also unanimously conclude that Mitt Romney, for all of his good qualities, is a dork.  OK.  So just set that aside for a minute.  The big complaint against Romney is that he cannot connect with ordinary Americans, as it is put.  So I think we have to think of him, or Republicans have to think of him, independents have to think of him as the doctor.  OK?  He's the doctor who doesn't have a bedside manner.  Ultimately, do you really care?  The question is, do you think he has the cure?  And I think you're going to have--voters are going to have to put aside the fact that he's not connecting.


MS. PARKER:  And then just decided whether they think he's got what it takes to fix the economy.

MR. GREGORY:  Well, this is also Oscar night, and the only one here who's got real Hollywood credentials is Mr.  Schmidt, because the "Game Change" movie is coming out based on the book by Halperin and Heilemann.  And here is a scene. Woody Harrelson playing you with Sarah Palin.  Let's watch.

(Videotape, "Game Change")

MR. WOODY HARRELSON:  (As Schmidt) Now, we don't want you to talk to anyone until after the convention because no one knows anything about you.  If you answer these ridiculous allegations you'll be finding yourself in a defensive posture.

MS. JULIANNE MOORE:  (As Sarah Palin) But isn't the press defining me right now?

MR. HARRELSON:  (As Schmidt) No news story lasts more than 48 hours anyway.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  Now that's Hollywood.  That's just how it happened in real life, right?

MR. SCHMIDT:  That is about how it happened in that scene.  We were trying to tell her that we need to focus on her speech.  She was going to have an introduction to 20 million-plus people...

MR. GREGORY:  Mm-hmm.

MR. SCHMIDT: the, in the convention speech, and that the next thing to focus on was the comeback narrative.

FMR. REP. FORD JR.:  See how he's just blase about the fact that...

MR. GREGORY:  Yeah.  He's portrayed by Woody Harrelson.

All right.  We're going to leave it there.  Thank you all very much.

Before we go, a quick programming note.  You can watch our weekly Press Pass conversation on our blog.  This week I sat down with Georgia congressman, civil rights leader John Lewis, as well as Lonnie Bunch, the director of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture which broke ground in Washington this week.  It's on our blog

That's all for today.  We'll see you next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.