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After months of rallies and debates, the Republican presidential nominee season finally gets underway. We’ll have an analysis of the outcome of the Iowa caucuses – the first contest in the race, and traditionally a high intensity battleground. Our panel of experts will assess what the outcome will mean for the nominee hopefuls. Will Mitt Romney break through his glass ceiling of 25% or will Ron Paul or Rick Santorum steal victory?
- Mara Liasson national political correspondent for National Public Radio and a contributor at Fox News Channel
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
- Frank Luntz president, Luntz Global author of "Win: The Key Principles To Take Your Business From Ordinary to Extraordinary"
- David Frum editor, FrumForum.com, dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement. author of "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again", and co-author of "An End to Evil: What's Next in the War on Terror;" former speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush (2001-02).
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Mitt Romney has won Iowa's presidential caucuses, but by just a handful of votes. Rick Santorum came in eight votes behind. Joining me in the studio to discuss what all of this means: Chris Cillizza, he's author of The Fix -- that's a Washington Post politics blog. And he is also managing editor of PostPolitics.com. Joining us now from Des Moines, Iowa is David Frum. He's editor of the FrumForum.com, author of "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again."
MS. DIANE REHMWe are expecting Mara Liasson of NPR. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Chris Cillizza, what time did you go to bed this morning?
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAWell, you got it right. It was this morning. I think I probably nodded off around 3:30 or four, Diane.
REHMBut what time...
CILLIZZAI mean, the amazing thing about this was you so rarely see an election like this. Usually, you know, there are entrance polls, and this is so watched. Normally, the networks are able to project a winner based on their models. They build models and say, well, if certain -- if Romney gets this number of votes in this county, it means this. The problem was, is that the models were showing it to be almost literally tied, which means that -- in the rarest of rarities in politics, but, I think, actually kind of refreshing unless you like to sleep.
CILLIZZAThis was raw vote count, not determined until, I think, 2:43 or so, 2:44 in the morning.
REHMWow. Mm hmm.
CILLIZZAAnd like you said, Mitt Romney won by eight votes out of 123,000 casts.
REHMAnd, David Frum, is a win by eight votes still a win for Mitt Romney, or is it going to be a rallying call for his opponents?
MR. DAVID FRUMUnder the circumstances of this race, eight votes is enough. This is a crushing win because what -- the thing they used here was there were three tickets out of Iowa. But only -- of the three people who got the tickets, only one has landing permission at White House International Airways.
MR. DAVID FRUMI mean, Rick Santorum is not going to be the Republican nominee for president, much less the president of the United States. And Ron Paul certainly isn't going to be the Republican nominee for president. He couldn't be elected mayor. But Newt -- Mitt Romney is a potential president. He has seen off the challenges to his hopes of being the Republican nominee. And Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich -- those are the credible challengers -- they are now finished.
MR. DAVID FRUMAnd now, they made this -- if Rick Santorum does well, this race may take a while. If Rick Santorum does badly, this race will be over quickly. But the outcome is just a matter of time.
REHMAnd I understand that Michele Bachmann is scheduled to hold a news conference 11 o'clock this morning. What do you make of that, Chris?
CILLIZZAYeah, Diane, that's right. It's going to be in Urbandale, Iowa, which is right outside of Des Moines. What I make of it is this -- every appearance is that this will be her leaving the race. Now, her campaign -- let's be careful with this. Her campaign is not confirming anything other than the fact that, yes, there will be a press conference, 11 Eastern, 10 Central, and that she was scheduled to go to South Carolina today and she's not making that trip.
CILLIZZAAs I said, if you look at what the optics of that suggests is that she's leaving the race, especially given that she finished the distant sixth in Iowa caucus yesterday. But, you know, I always say, let's let them -- let's let the politicians make their own announcements. I would say, I think, by the end of this week, we are likely to have a field that is two candidates less than it was going into Iowa. Rick Perry's speech last night, it was not a full concession.
CILLIZZAHe said he was re-assessing, headed back to Texas, also not going to South Carolina and going with his previously scheduled events, but it had every look and feel and sound that he was not likely to stay in the race.
REHMDavid Frum, what about Ron Paul?
FRUMRon Paul had a pretty good night. But I think we saw, again, a sign of the limits of his candidacy. I was in one of these precincts where Ron Paul did reasonably well. But the person who spoke for him, the least -- the voting was preceded by an appeal for a -- by a spokesman for each of the candidates -- spokesperson for each of the candidates.
FRUMThe Ron Paul person emphasized social issues, began by talking about how Ron Paul was pro-life, went on to say how Ron Paul was for the traditional definition of marriage and, when it came time to talk about the foreign policy, very incorrectly stated that Ron Paul had supported the killing of Osama Bin Laden and was an advocate of a strong national defense. I think as Ron Paul becomes better known, he will become more unacceptable to Republican voters.
FRUMThis is -- so this is -- we're going to see a little bit of Ron Paul boutique interest in New Hampshire. We will see Newt Gingrich launch himself on this kind of mission of vengeance that he seems to be now possessed by. But the real story is going to be Santorum versus Romney. And that -- and Santorum is going to be like Huckabee, but even in -- you know, in 2008, but in even a weaker position. He won't be able to raise money.
REHMAnd joining us...
FRUMHe won't be able to connect with voters in more secular states like Florida, and Romney will have a smooth glide path.
REHMAnd joining us now is Mara Liasson. She is national political correspondent for NPR. You, too, Mara, I gather, were up quite late -- this morning, shall we say. What do you make of Rick Santorum's eight-vote loss?
MS. MARA LIASSONI think that it shows the persistent resistance to Mitt Romney among the conservative base of the Republican Party. One after another of the anti-Romney candidates try to consolidate the anti-Romney vote, which is considerable. We know it's 75 percent. Mitt Romney is the 25 percent man. He can't get above 25 percent. That's what he got in Iowa four years ago. That's what he got in Iowa this time. That's where he's been in the polls. But I don't think Rick Perry certainly -- Rick Santorum certainly didn't consolidate it the way that even Mike Huckabee did last time.
MS. MARA LIASSONI think it's going to be very hard for him as I think has already been said for him to amass the resources that he needs in the short period of time that he has. Romney's already up in the air in South Carolina and Florida with hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads. I don't think Santorum can match that. But what you do have now is you have somebody since we see -- we assume Michele Bachmann dropping out, Rick Perry dropping out, we think. Alone, finally -- we know the field of anti-Romney candidate.
MS. MARA LIASSONThat's what we've done. Now, he becomes the challenger to Romney. He's also got Newt Gingrich as his -- I don't know what you'd call it -- his enforcer or something, you know, threatening to run, to attack Romney. I don't know if he's going to be able to run a lot of ads, and I think the race gets uglier and a little bit longer. But I don't think the contours of the race have changed much, which is that Romney has always been the inevitable nominee, and I think he still is.
REHMIt was interesting yesterday to hear Newt Gingrich use the word liar again and again in regard to Romney. What was that all about, Chris Cillizza?
CILLIZZAI would say both in his comments before the vote and after the vote, Diane, it is very clear that Newt Gingrich has taken the ads that a super PAC called Restore Our Future. This is a PAC that is not directly affiliated with Mitt Romney but is funded by many people and staffed by many people who have either worked for or given money in the past to Mitt Romney that Newt Gingrich took the ads, which had devastated his campaign in Iowa. This was three weeks of a full, double-barrel assault on New Gingrich as a mistake-laden, flip-flopping candidate.
CILLIZZAThey essentially ended any chance he had of winning in Iowa that he has taken that very personally. His speech last night in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, I was -- I found it captivating. He was not at all optimistic. He -- as Mara said, enforcer is a good word. What it occurred to me was Newt Gingrich, judging by that speech last night, is headed on a kamikaze mission against Mitt Romney, that he now knows he cannot win the nomination. But he will do everything in his power to keep the nomination from Mitt Romney.
CILLIZZANow, I say everything within his power. I'm not certain -- and I agree with Mara on this. I'm not certain anyone could keep it, especially Newt Gingrich -- can keep the nomination from Mitt Romney, but he can make it a whole heck of a lot uglier.
REHMDavid Frum, how much damage can Newt Gingrich do?
FRUMI would think the damage would be kind of limited. Gingrich is not going to have a lot of money, so he's not going to be able -- and he's not going to be his own super PAC. He's very badly funded. Newt Gingrich, a couple of weeks ago, was whispering to reporters that he had a pledge of $20 million for negative advertising from Sheldon Adelson, the famous casino owner, but that money did not materialize. So he will be able to make news by saying inflammatory things with his own mouth, but that backfires on you.
FRUMWhat he will not be able to do is do this no fingerprint attacks that did so much damage to him without backfiring on Mitt Romney because negative attacks with the candidates based on them hurt the candidate, too.
LIASSONHe doesn't care about being hurt as a candidate anymore, I don't think. This is not about Newt Gingrich improving his chances to get the nomination. This is all about stopping Romney or taking revenge on Romney. You know, it's interesting because Gingrich does have this network of millionaires. For years and years, he's been getting them to fund his various enterprises, but he couldn't put together an actual campaign or a super PAC. But I think the question of the super PAC is really interesting.
LIASSONI don't know if Romney has been asked if he would be willing to do what Barack Obama did in 2008, which is to tell the super PAC to stand down. He says over and over again he doesn't like these independent groups. He thinks that the, you know, candidates and parties should be the ones who fund campaigns, but to say there's no fingerprints -- it's true, when you watch TV, you don't know who's running that ad. But he -- it is a group supporting him, and he has it in his power to stand up and say stop if he wants to.
REHMMara Liasson, she is national political correspondent for National Public Radio, also a contributor at Fox News Channel. We'll take a short break. I look forward to hearing your questions and comments. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. We are talking about the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses with Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, Mara Liasson, National Public Radio, on the line from Iowa is David Frum, editor of the FrumForum. We've got a couple of listener tweets here. One says, "Isn't it time for Iowa to step aside and let someone else be first? When only 10 percent of the population attends these caucuses, haven't they abdicated their right?" Mara.
LIASSONWell, first of all, I don't think anybody in Iowa would agree with that statement. Iowa has a place that is enshrined at the top of the calendar. So does New Hampshire. They are duty-bound and legally bound, I think, by their own laws to keep on moving their contests up to be the first in the nation, regardless of what other states do or did. I do think we saw a real challenge to Iowa this year.
LIASSONBecause Florida has shown that, certainly, the penalties that are in place now don't matter to -- it's not a deterrent to say you can only get half your delegates if you violate the sacred window that the party has set up for the early states. I wonder if you -- if the rule had been, you get no delegates if they would've cared. I think there has been a real, you know, assault on the notion of these four early states, and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole system falls apart in the future. But, for now, I think Iowa and New Hampshire do have pretty rock solid places at the top of the line.
REHMAnd joining us now from Iowa is Frank Luntz. He is a Republican strategist, president of Luntz Global. Good morning to you, Frank. Thanks for joining us.
MR. FRANK LUNTZGood morning. It was a very long night and just -- by the way, I visited five caucuses yesterday, and it would make listeners and those of you in the studio very proud to know just how much research these voters did on the candidates, how they took their early position seriously, how they are the kind of informed voters that we would want in the American political process. It is so cold here. I wish that we started in Hawaii and then moved eastward. But I will tell you this is the way democracy is supposed to work.
MR. FRANK LUNTZThey took it seriously. They participated. Average citizens got up to make the case for the candidates. They voted in order. They were respectful of each other. It made me feel very good. And that doesn't happen about the political process.
REHMAll right. And just before the break, Frank, we were talking about Newt Gingrich and his signal that he intends to up the ante against Mitt Romney. He's called him a liar several times. What does that mean in terms of Mitt Romney's success? How powerful can Newt Gingrich be in mounting forces against Mitt Romney?
LUNTZWell, we saw how powerful those super PACs were. Three weeks ago today, Newt Gingrich was winning in Iowa. And he was up for a couple of weeks. He was winning nationwide until these super PACs came on, and their ads were quite effective in destroying the hopes of the speaker. He was up in the mid-30s. He finishes, of course, at 13 percent. And so what, I think, Newt Gingrich is saying is, if it worked for you against me, then maybe I'm going to do exactly the same thing against you.
LUNTZAnd it still points to the problems in our political system that outsiders without much accountability really wreak havoc on the whole process.
REHMBut, Frank, where is Newt Gingrich going to get the money to do what those super PACs did?
LUNTZIt would have to come -- as one of your participants there said, it would have to come from the super PACs because, on an individual basis, you can't raise enough money from the campaign to run such a negative -- to have that kind of impact. You've got to do it from outside sources. Ron Paul did it. Rick Perry did it. Mitt Romney did it. And, now, Newt Gingrich hopes to do it.
REHMDo you think that can happen, Mara Liasson?
LIASSONDo I think he can mount that kind of campaign?
LIASSONNo. You need millions of dollars for these super PACs to...
REHMAnd he has...
LIASSONHe doesn't -- now, I do think -- what I'm wondering is, what will the assault on Mitt Romney look like? One of the amazing features and confounding features of this race so far is that, even though 75 percent of Republicans didn't want Mitt Romney, nobody mounted a serious challenge to him. Nobody put a barrage of TV ads on the air against Romney. Sometimes he was figured in an ad along with another candidate, but he really wasn't subjected to the kind of pounding that he or his affiliated super PAC gave to Newt Gingrich.
LIASSONSo what will this all look like? OK. It starts today with an ad in the Union Leader by Newt Gingrich. Well, that doesn't seem to make the Romney campaign quake in its boots. I think that Newt will command a microphone and a television camera where -- whenever he wants, and he can say some pretty intense things about Romney. And Romney can brush them off because he's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television in South Carolina and Florida.
LIASSONI think you'll see the, you know, Christian conservatives trying to rally, but it's too late. I mean, the one person who had the resources and the position as a governor of a huge state to challenge Romney was Rick Perry, and he stumbled out of the gate and never got up. So I don't see what the assault looks like. And you have to remember, at the same time, Romney's going to be running unbelievable amount of ads against Rick Santorum.
REHMYeah. Now, the other problem, of course, is that television cameras do follow Newt Gingrich, and maybe that's the fault of the television cameras.
CILLIZZAThey do, Diane. But, to Mara's point, if Newt Gingrich's ability to get free media, which is to say things and get the media to pay attention to him, was a equal partner to fight back against the ads that Romney's super PAC was running, then Newt Gingrich wouldn't have finished a distant fourth in Iowa. That's the problem is, no matter what you say, you are not reaching the number of people that a concerted ad campaign reaches.
CILLIZZAYou know, he can hurt him, I think, because, if he says things, particularly if they're inflammatory things, it will get covered. I just don't think that he can defeat him.
REHMAll right. I know that David Frum has to catch a plane quite soon. David, how different -- I mean, you heard Frank talk about the quality of these voters in Iowa. How different are they from the normal -- I don't -- I shouldn't use that word -- the usual voters we see?
FRUMThey're hugely differently, simply from the fact of the caucus process, if only from the fact of the caucus process itself. I mean, yes. They are demographically different in all kinds of ways. Yes, it's -- you know, they're whiter than the rest of the country. Iowa is also a state that has been hit much less hard by the downturn. Unemployment here is about three points lower than it is in the rest of the country.
FRUMBut the very fact of being willing to give an event like this, 90 minutes if you're a Republican, three or four hours if you're a Democrat versus what's asked of the usual voter, that in itself represents a huge difference. So these are highly, highly committed partisans. And so that -- what they do is they each tend to push their parties to their respective extremes. That's one of the things that's wrong with caucuses. The good news about the caucus is it's a cheap -- that Iowa is a cheap place to campaign.
FRUMIf we were to move the first of the nation events to a place like Florida, money would count for even way more than it already does because everything would be done on the television. Whoever goes first, it ought to be a small state.
REHMFrank Luntz, do you want to counter that?
LUNTZI like -- I don't like the negativity. Again, having been here now for the last six days, you could not swing a dead cat and not run into these one-minute vicious ads. And I like the idea that voters were able to come out and talk about the positive nature of the candidates and not stand up and trash each other like we see on television. So my hope is that that continues.
REHMGo ahead, Chris.
CILLIZZALook, I don't want to sound cynical, and I echo Frank's desire for campaigns to be fought on a more positive ground. That said, human nature being what it is, these races tend to always -- and I would say these races from the presidential level down to the state legislature, down to the PTA president, get fought on contrast. Rick Santorum last night said, I believe in sharp contrast. These people -- these candidates do not fundamentally disagree on all that much.
CILLIZZAIf we put them on an ideological spectrum, they'd all be standing on the pretty far ideological right. So those contrast, negative ads, I just think they are part and parcel, whether the campaign starts in Iowa, New Hampshire, my home state of Connecticut, Guam, Hawaii. Wherever it starts, it's going to feature negative campaigns.
REHMAll right. One last question for David Frum before you have to leave. Talk about what to expect from a potential President Romney.
FRUMI think a potential President Romney will be a reversion to a kind of more centrist kind of Republicanism. That's the thing that Romney supporters don't like to hear it said. They want to present Romney as a highly ideological candidate, but he's plainly not that. He's a highly pragmatic person. He's incredibly smart. He is very aware of data.
FRUMAnd I think a lot of us have been hoping over the past presidencies -- President -- from President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama -- that you can find the kind of leadership that would narrow some of the differences artificially generated by the political system. I think President Romney would have that same hope. He may also be defeated in the way Bush and Obama was -- have been by that system, but I think he will have that same ideal.
FRUMI don't think -- he will not be a radical president. I don't think he will be undoing all kinds of programs or attempting to undo them. And I think he will be one of the Republicans who will figure out early that the next president is going to have to find a way to live with and reform and improve the Affordable Care Act, but there's going to be no repeal of it.
REHMDavid Frum. He is editor of FrumForum.com. Thanks for joining us, David.
FRUMThank you. Bye-bye.
REHMAnd to Mara, how do you take David's comments regarding a Romney presidency?
LIASSONLook, we don't know what a Romney presidency would be like. It could follow this model, that he's a secret centrist, although he certainly isn't campaigning as one, at least not yet. I suppose he will be more like that in the general election. But he's not running as the mirror image of, let's say, Bill Clinton to be a new Democrat. He's not running to bring his party to the center.
LIASSONHe's running to be the leader of the new, more conservative Tea Party Republican Party. And you're still going to have a -- I think, a Republican majority in the House, even if it's a little smaller. I think there's an excellent chance you're going to have a Republican majority in the Senate. And why wouldn't the congressional wing of the party set the agenda as much as Romney?
LIASSONRomney certainly has a -- unless he has a secret plan, doesn't seem like he has a plan to govern from the center. I think he's going to be certainly a pro-business president, wants to roll back Obamacare, as he would call it, as much as he can. But, beyond that, I think he'll be a pretty standard-issue Republican president.
REHMInteresting. Frank Luntz, what's your view?
LUNTZIt -- Mitt Romney is the perfect -- has the attributes of the candidate that people want to serve as president. It's just that he doesn't have the attributes of the candidate running for president. And I'll give you the three things that Republicans want most in this: number one, someone who defeats Barack Obama, number two, someone who says what they mean and means what they say and, number three, someone who can restore that sense of confidence in the future.
LUNTZAnd the reason why it's gone back and forth between all these different candidates is that Republicans don't see anyone as the perfect candidate. But if you gave Mitt Romney's description, as we have done in polls, he has done exactly what they want in the president, even if his campaigning isn't exactly what they want in a candidate.
REHMFrank Luntz, he is a Republican strategist, president of Luntz Global. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Flagler Beach, Fla. Good morning, Joyce. You're on the air.
JOYCEYes. Thank you for taking my call. A few years ago, I read Rick Santorum's book "It Takes a Family." And like most Republicans, he would love to privatize government programs like Social Security, Medicare and the Department of Education. Evangelicals -- there's a group called Reconstructionist. And like Santorum, they have a long-term plan to gradually replace government with faith-based groups.
JOYCEGeorge Bush started this with his faith-based initiative by giving out tax dollars to religious groups. But if anyone really believes that unregulated corporations and religious groups could run our country better than our government, I wish them luck.
REHMThanks for calling. Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZAYou know, Joyce's point, I think, is that, yeah, there's no question that Rick Santorum would want less government than the current administration supports. I would say that about anyone in the field. Obviously, I think Ron Paul is the most extreme example of that. He's called for the elimination of five federal agencies if elected president. But I would say -- you know, I also think that what Santorum talked about last night in -- if you watched his speech, which I was paid to do -- it went on about 12:45 -- he struck a very populist note.
CILLIZZANow, whether he can sell that or not -- he talked about Michigan. He talked about Ohio, talked about his roots, which he talks about regularly on the campaign trail -- the coal mines, his grandfather working in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. So he tried to play the economic populist card. That's kind of an interesting angle, particularly when you're running against Mitt Romney, who -- you know, his father was the governor of Michigan. This is someone with -- of significant means.
CILLIZZAThat could be kind of a compelling argument because I do think populism is back in a major way in both parties. It'll be interesting to see if it works in the Republican primary.
LIASSONI agree. I thought that was the most interesting thing last night. Of all the speeches last night -- I mean, obviously, Newt Gingrich is -- was the most mesmerizing in kind of a train wreck kind of way just because it was -- he was so angry. But I do think that the kind of conservatism that Rick Santorum represents has a big potential audience in the Republican Party because the Republican Party is now majority white, blue-collar males -- males, mostly.
LIASSONAnd what he was talking about was something that really isn't represented. I mean, Pat Buchanan represented a little bit of this. But it is an anti-Wall Street, anti-crony capitalism. He comes -- he's Catholic, which is quite different. Even though he is certainly a conservative Christian, he's Catholic. He does believe in government help, in some ways. He's not a Ron Paul libertarian let's-get-rid-of-everything.
LIASSONHe believes in health for manufacturing, for instance. And he's saying, I can compete in these battleground areas, these blue-collar, Reagan, Democrat battleground areas. Mitt Romney can't because he is from corporate America and Wall Street. Now, I don't know if he's going to -- how he's going to pursue this line against Romney. But that would be a real debate.
REHMHow is he going to...
LIASSONWe haven't had a real debate in this primary. It's been so frustrating. Maybe if he can actually give voice to those people and that point of view, we can have a real debate.
REHMHow is he going to do in New Hampshire, Chris?
CILLIZZATraditionally, candidates who kind of put social conservatism first -- which Rick Santorum does -- do not do all that well. I -- let's wait 24 or 48 hours. He's going to get a bounce in New Hampshire. Let's wait. The problem is Mitt Romney is hugely ahead there. So even a Santorum bounce probably puts some 10 points or more behind Romney.
REHMChris Cillizza, Mara Liasson, joining us from Iowa, Frank Luntz. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd, Chris Cillizza, I gather there is an announcement or a rumor of an announcement from CNN.
CILLIZZAThere is an announcement of an announcement. We're now about 17 minutes away from Michele Bachmann's planned press conference in Iowa. CNN is reporting -- I'm just going to read directly from it so we get it right, Diane. "Source close to Michele Bachmann campaign: No," and this is a quote, "'viable way forward' after sixth-place finish in Iowa." I mean, this is -- we talked about this earlier. This is a bowing to inevitable. She got about 6 percent of the vote in Iowa after winning the Ames Straw Poll in August.
CILLIZZAShe could not raise money. She did not run ads except for the last two days before the Iowa caucuses. So you can stay in the race for as long as you want, but, you know, Michele Bachmann remains a member of Congress and probably wants to keep herself viable there.
REHMFrank Luntz, how viable is she going forward, not as a presidential candidate but as someone with influence?
LUNTZWell, I think I'm going to sound like Oprah Winfrey out of my concern for the candidates. But it is quite difficult for someone to go from the national limelight and have dozen of cameras surrounding you to relative obscurity. She will be recognized in airports all across America. She will continue to have a reasonable fundraising list even if the dollars donated are in $25 and $50 increments. And she'll continue to be listened to.
LUNTZBut it's going to be very tough for her when she comes off the campaign trail. She will be interviewed. She'll end up on shows like yours. But the limelight is about to disappear, and it's tough. It's tough on people.
REHMWhat do you make of that?
CILLIZZAI think Frank is exactly right. I mean, you can go back and look at John McCain and John Kerry, both senators who were the nominee of their party and then came back, and I think it was very difficult. And both of them have spoken somewhat publicly about it. You know, you go from playing in the Super Bowl to a regular season game that's sparsely attended, you know, for lack of a better metaphor. That's hard.
CILLIZZAAnd you're so close, I think -- look, you can argue, well, Michele Bachmann was never that close to being president. But I would say go back to Aug. 13 or Aug. 14, the day after the Ames Straw Poll. Michele Bachmann is being cast in the exact same way that we are currently casting Rick Santorum, which is as the Romney alternative in a race where it's very clear there's a significant number of social conservatives who don't want Romney. So she had a plausible belief that she could be the nominee.
REHMLet's go to Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning, Diane. I'm pulling to refute this gentleman who called in that said the ideal citizen is that of the people in Iowa. I strongly disagree. These people are ideologues, and it's very difficult for an ideologue to logically think outside their ideology because, to logically think, you have to be -- have a premise that can be vetted. And they can't vet their premise with inductive or deductive reasoning because it's outside of their ideology.
REHMFrank, do you want to comment?
LUNTZYeah. They're much less ideological than I expected. And I went out and talked to them over the last six days. And I've been in Iowa 11 times in the last six months. And in all my interviews, they keep the brochures of the candidates. They can tell you where each one stands. Do they have a political preference -- let me say, an ideological preference? Absolutely, but they are studying. And they know the details, and they know the nuances. I hate to say this, but these voters -- and I live for this. These voters know more about the details than almost anyone who's covering them.
REHMLet me ask you, do you see signs that wary conservatives are warming to Mitt Romney?
LUNTZI see that they are giving him a -- actually, I can't even say a second look. They're now giving him a third look. And I believe that South Carolina -- I have no doubt that Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire going away. I believe that, for him, South Carolina and Florida are important, that he can end this election in the next 30 days if he wins both of those states. But I do believe that if he is to unite the Republican Party in a way that John McCain didn't do and if he is to reach out to those essential independents -- because, Diane, you don't win just by winning Republicans. You have to win the center.
LUNTZThe only way he's going to do that is to add more passion, more intensity and, frankly, more empathy to those in the center than he has done to take Rick Santorum's empathetic message to the blue collar and add it to his -- to Romney's connection to white collar.
REHMMara, can he do that?
LIASSONI don't know. He certainly has become a better candidate. But if you contrasted the speeches last night, Rick Santorum gave a heartfelt, really good speech. He tied his personal life to his vision for America. And he talked about how his grandfather, I think it was -- not his great-grandfather -- came to America, worked in the coal mines. Mitt Romney sometimes tells the story about his father, who was a rags-to-riches story of a sort.
LIASSONBut what he did last night, it was almost like he was punching his ticket to get to New Hampshire. He gave his standard stump speech again, kind of went through it, and off he went. It feels -- it's a very corporate campaign. It is like a machine. It's incredibly efficient and effective. They figured the thing out. They have a disciplined message about the economy. He's not going to stray from that.
LIASSONHe's not going to try to pretend to be something he's not, which is a social conservative, like he tried last time, and that brought up all those authenticity problems that he has. I don't know if he can do that. The worst thing for him to do would be to fake it, but one of the things that, I think, will unify -- I don't see Mitt Romney unifying the Republican Party. I see Barack Obama unifying the Republican Party.
LIASSONI think that, in the end, Republicans' desire to defeat Obama will overcome their misgivings about Mitt Romney. And as Bill Clinton famously said Republicans do, they will fall in line behind him instead of falling in love.
REHMAll right. To Portsmouth, N.H. Good morning, Norm.
NORMHi. Good morning. Well, I was listening last night to the results and thought it was a significantly big win for Mitt. When you look at the Iowa caucus -- we talked a little bit earlier about how hugely different the group of folks out at caucus out there and also 60 percent evangelical Christians. Personally, I think the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party -- but the Republican Party has a problem in the Iowa caucus because they typically will put forward -- Huckabee was an example -- somebody who is so far to the right.
NORMSo the fact that Mitt came out of this even with a small victory is doubly important for him.
REHMFrank, I know you have to leave us. How would you respond?
LUNTZI -- in watching yesterday, I was standing -- I got a chance to watch Ron Paul, who, in my part of this conversation, we haven't talked about. The average age of the Ron Paul people was mid-20s, and it was all male. I then got over to Mitt Romney's event, and they were twice the age of the Ron Paul people and much better dressed. And in watching the Rick Santorum, I really did see last night the three different strains.
LUNTZAnd for Romney to be successful, he's going to have to eventually bring over the Santorum blue collar and the Ron Paul youth because you can't just give it all to Barack Obama and going to have to do that in a way that inspires people rather than just being anti-Barack Obama. One thing I had to say to Mara is that it is not enough to be the anti-Obama candidate in 2012. They're going to have to vote for you, not just against Barack Obama.
REHMFrank, you have quite frequently created the words, the phrases that Republican candidates use and use successfully. What would be the one phrase that you would urge Mitt Romney to use to win over those voters?
LUNTZYou can't just believe in accountability. You have to vote for it. Acknowledge if you've made a mistake. Look for solutions and then move on. I think accountability is the most important attribute in 2012, and I think that that is Obama's Achilles' heel. Now, Romney will have to accept it in his own record, but I think he has the chance to use it to talk about Obama's record.
REHMFrank Luntz, he is Republican strategist, president of Luntz Global. Thanks for joining us, Frank.
REHMAny comment from you, Chris?
CILLIZZAWell, I would say, first of all, Portsmouth is my favorite town in New Hampshire. The caller is from Portsmouth. It's on the sea coast. I once left my wallet there for 45 minutes in a public town square, returned to find it sitting in the same place. I dare that to happen in 99 percent of the country.
REHMOh, wow. Wow.
CILLIZZABut I think the caller's point was that this is actually a win for Mitt Romney. And, you know, I think what -- if, Diane -- if I had been on the show three months ago and you told me Mitt Romney won Iowa -- didn't tell me the margin, but he won Iowa -- I'd say, gosh, I'd be surprised by that. That'd be a really great win for Mitt Romney. It shows you what expectations do. Now, did he win it narrowly? Yes, the most narrow margin we've ever seen, eight votes.
CILLIZZABut he is on track, and I always come back to this. He's on track to make history. No non-incumbent Republican candidate for president since 1976, which is when Iowa, New Hampshire moved forward in the calendar -- no non-incumbent Republican has won Iowa and New Hampshire. And Mitt Romney, borrowing some huge Santorum surge in New Hampshire...
CILLIZZA...is going to do just that. Now, he won Iowa by eight votes. But the last time I checked, all you need to do is win by one.
REHMTo Julie in Carmel, Ind., good morning.
JULIEHi. Thank you for taking my call.
JULIEI wanted to know why the media so similarly dismisses Ron Paul as a candidate. I think he's the one candidate that's going to be able to pull those Obama voters over and still hold those Republicans. He believes in Second Amendment rights. He's a pro-life candidate. He believes in limited government and lower taxes. That's all very appealing to the conservatives and the Republicans.
JULIEAnd on the other side of the fence, he believes in personal freedom, not a lot of foreign intervention, you know, ending the war and energy independence, things that are really appealing to a lot of those voters that showed up for Obama.
REHMWhat do you think, Mara?
LIASSONLet -- if I can explain how we in the media cabal...
CILLIZZAPlease do. Yes. Thank you.
LIASSON...explain, we get together every morning in our meeting, and we kind of decide…
CILLIZZAWell, that conference call.
LIASSONYes. The conference call where we decide how we are going to control America or at least their perceptions -- no, I'm just kidding. OK. The reason why many analysts discount Ron Paul is because they don't believe he has a path to get the nomination because many of his views are so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican thought. He certainly represents an important strain.
LIASSONThe Republican Party is going through a libertarian moment -- so much of the Tea Party was libertarian -- but pull-out of NATO and the Federal Reserve, pull back all our troops, that's just -- those are just views that are extreme minority views inside the Republican Party, and that is why most -- many analysts discount his chances to get the nomination. The other question about Ron Paul is if -- what happens -- he is doing something that no other Republican is doing, and we have to give him credit for that.
LIASSONHe's expanding the Republican electorate. He's bringing new voters in like Barack Obama did for the Democrats. Nobody else is doing that. What happens to those voters if he's not the nominee? Will any of them vote for the Republican nominee, you know, if it's Mitt Romney? I wonder about that. I wonder if they stay home or they vote for a kind of third-party libertarian candidate.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." A listener asks, "I heard a report recently saying Rupert Murdoch has thrown his support behind Santorum. Given the trouble Murdoch has been in lately, is that a good or bad thing for Santorum?"
CILLIZZAI think thrown his support behind is an overstatement. Rupert Murdoch is now on Twitter, which is a fascinating development in its own right. And on Twitter, he had some kind words to say about Rick Santorum, who, like many of the other folks who are running for the Republican nomination, was at one point affiliated with Fox News Channel.
REHMBut wasn't there a fake Twitter from his wife?
REHMThat was up there, too.
CILLIZZAAnd that is -- Wendi Deng. That is the problem with all of these things is that last night -- and some networks report in those even, Diane -- there was report that Gary Johnson, who is a former New Mexico governor who has now dropped out of the Republican primary nomination, is running as a libertarian -- was dropping out of the race entirely and endorsing Ron Paul. Ten minutes later, it was a hoax. The problem with social media -- look, I am a huge advocate of Twitter, Facebook and the general pace at which news moves.
CILLIZZAI think it is good for the average person who wants to get access to things they used to never have access to. That said, we are much more susceptible to hoaxes, to pranks being played on us, and it's just the reality.
REHMAll right. And final call from Herb in San Antonio, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
HERBHi. OK. I am sorry. Could someone, please, confront the Republicans when they talk about -- specifically Mitt Romney when he talks about he's created jobs? I would just like...
REHMJob creation by Mitt Romney.
CILLIZZAI would say, if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for president -- and you've already seen the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama's campaign start to do this -- that will be a centerpiece of that argument against him, which is that this is someone who, in essence, made his money by coming into companies, hallowing them out and then selling them for a profit. Mitt Romney will argue -- and he has started to argue -- that he's also been involved at paying capital with lots of successful companies.
CILLIZZAHe always cites things like Staples, for example. That will be kind of a fundamental fight. Is what Mitt Romney did in the private sector, which he did spend most of his life, working in the private sector -- was it enriching himself? Was it helping the American economy? Was it a little of both? That, to me, who wins that argument -- this is all assuming Romney is a nominee. Who wins that argument has a leg up on winning the election.
REHMMara Liasson, what is it that so many conservatives have had against Mitt Romney?
LIASSONOh, where do I -- let me count the ways. I mean, he's -- first of all, he's flip-flopped on many things. They don't believe he's a true conservative because he didn't use to be one. Now, the advantage he has this time is he's been a conservative for six years instead of two. Last time he ran, he was only conservative for two years. I changed the stripes on abortion, on environmental issues, on health care...
REHMSo they don't trust him.
LIASSONThey don't trust him as a -- that's pretty much the bottom line, yeah.
CILLIZZAAnd just one quick thing, and this is impossible to quantify -- and Mara is right about everything she just said. I do think with many evangelicals, the Mormon religion thing is something -- and we'll probably never know how much that factors. But it is other -- it is different. They do not understand it. Many evangelicals view it as...
REHMWell, so was Roman Catholic back in...
LIASSONA long time ago.
REHMLong time ago.
LIASSONYes, but that was -- first of all, I don't think it's that resistance to Mormonism is big enough to stop him, but it is there beneath the surface.
REHMMara Liasson, Chris Cillizza. You also heard from David Frum and Frank Luntz, upward and onward to New Hampshire. Thanks for being here. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts, and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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