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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rick Perry; Newt Gingrich Rising in Polls; Romney Releases Add Ostensibly Aimed At Gingrich
Aired December 7, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Our brand-new poll is out, showing Newt Gingrich grabbing big leads, very big leads in three of the first four states where Republicans will pick their presidential nominee. I will speak with Newt Gingrich in the next hour, the front- runner already looking forward to potential running mates, but is he still in danger of imploding? I ask him.
And this hour, my interview with Rick Perry. He is back in the pack, but says it's still a very fluid race. I will ask him everything about your paychecks to what he calls President Obama's war on religion.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, this just coming in right now at this moment. Our brand- new poll shows Newt Gingrich leading the pack in three of the first four states to hold Republican presidential contests. With less than a month to go before Republicans start voting, Newt Gingrich has double-digit leads in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.
He trails Mitt Romney in Mitt Romney's backyard, New Hampshire, but they still have some competition. Ron Paul essentially tied with Romney for second place in Iowa and has double-digit support in New Hampshire.
Let's discuss our brand-new numbers with our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," and Michael Crowley of "TIME" magazine. They have the last name. They spell it exactly the same, but they pronounce it differently.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He pronounces it incorrectly.
BLITZER: Incorrectly, correctly, but that's all right, though. There's a little history there. We won't discuss it right now.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at the numbers.
Iowa, that is coming up January 3. Here is what we have in our CNN/"TIME" magazine poll numbers. Gingrich 33 percent, Romney 20, Ron Paul 17, Rick Perry 9, Michele Bachmann 7, Rick Santorum 5, Jon Huntsman 1 percent.
It's a rather dramatic lead in Iowa, the first state to hold caucuses, Candy, that is coming up for Newt Gingrich.
C. CROWLEY: And a rather difficult state to apply polling to what happens in the caucuses.
A couple cautionary notes there. I think probably Ron Paul is stronger structurally than that poll is showing. At least we are led to believe that. I think it is also again dangerous to look at a poll and somehow try to extrapolate it into the caucuses, because it hasn't always proved reliable.
BLITZER: Ron Paul does have a strong organization in Iowa.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Yes. No, that's true. But I think that we have seen in recent caucuses that organization really has carried the day.
So I think Candy makes the most important point which is Newt's numbers may reflect people who have been excited seeing him in the news, watching him on TV in the debates, but does he have that organization to get people out into the cold to the caucus sites?
The other thing I would say that might be a little bit of good news for Romney there, I think Rick Perry has room to grow there. He is just starting to go big with advertising on television, targeting a conservative audience in Iowa. And I think Perry has the ability to eat away from Newt's lead a little bit, so I wouldn't count Romney out entirely. This is not the worst of the polls that we will see for him.
BLITZER: Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, they could take votes. Santorum as well, don't count him out completely, although most people have.
New Hampshire, very different picture in New Hampshire. Romney 35 percent, Newt Gingrich 26 percent, Ron Paul 17, everybody else in single digits, but Huntsman is doing 8 percent in New Hampshire. Huntsman, he could take some votes away from Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.
C. CROWLEY: He could and that's not a very big lead given where Romney has been before. I think this is a troubling poll for Romney. He has to go big here. Certainly if he does not win in Iowa, and it's possible he could come in third if he moves in New Hampshire and has -- even a weak win is a win, but nonetheless, I think that is a very troubling poll for him.
BLITZER: Could you see Huntsman's numbers going up over the next four weeks and Romney's going down at his expense?
M. CROWLEY: Yes, I could. It's kind of the flip of the point that I was just making about Iowa. I think Romney's number actually is a little more fragile there than it may appear, because I do think Huntsman is going to go all out there. The super PAC which get a lot of money from his family and allies back in Utah may be putting a lot of money on the air there.
And I think those voters are naturally likely to come from Romney. Romney has room to fall. Huntsman could rise. And as you say, if Romney loses New Hampshire, watch out below.
BLITZER: As important as Iowa and New Hampshire are, South Carolina may be even more important. Take a look at these numbers in South Carolina, Gingrich 43 percent, wow, Romney 20 percent, everybody else single digit, Perry 8, Bachmann 6, Paul 6, Santorum 4, Huntsman at 1. That is a pretty impressive lead that Newt Gingrich has in South Carolina.
CROWLEY: It is.
But now is the time to say what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire won't necessarily move what happens in South Carolina. I think we should also point out that in all of these states, there are huge numbers of people who say I could still change my mind. The fact you have been told it is a fluid race, it is still a fluid race.
South Carolina is not necessarily friendly territory for Mitt Romney, was not last time and is not this time, but, again, these first two things will play into the third.
M. CROWLEY: Again, a mitigating factor, I don't think Romney was expecting to win South Carolina and was always maybe hoping to compete strongly there. This won't break his heart.
Candy, you keep beating me to the punch on the best points. If you look at all the numbers in all these states, about 48 to 55 percent of the respondents say that are still able to change their mind. So, again, as you say, very fluid in all these states.
BLITZER: Florida obviously an important state, that comes at the end of the month in January, right now Gingrich again 48 percent, Romney 25 percent, everybody else in way low, low -- look at this -- single digits, Ron Paul, Bachmann, Huntsman, Perry and Santorum.
Nearly a twice as big lead in Florida for Newt Gingrich.
M. CROWLEY: Very dramatic. I think this really affects new coverage and kind of the conversation around the campaign. The candidates have not spent a lot of time in Florida doing retail. Not a ton of people on the ground. But that has got to be a scary number.
Florida is the last of these four states to vote in January, it's at the very end of the month. If Romney loses badly in January in Florida, he is in big trouble. The road to recovery for him is not clear.
BLITZER: I was surprised at that impressive Gingrich lead in Florida.
C. CROWLEY: It is impressive. But who has got the money to play in Florida? That's the most expensive state that we have talked about so far. That's where you have got to put up ads in various markets.
Michael is right. The folks have not been there to retail. This is a wholesale state. This is a state where you have got to put ads up and who has the money? Right now, it's Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: Crowley and Crowley. I sense a little TV show coming up or something. Who knows?
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.
Newt Gingrich may have a double-digit lead in key states, but his campaign is already in debt after spending freely on luxuries like private jets. The Republican front-runner is scrambling to attract new money with the first Republican contest only less than four weeks away.
CNN's Joe Johns has been looking into this part of the story.
Joe, what are you finding out?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Newt Gingrich has said he's probably got the most frugal campaign of modern times, though that big bill early in the campaign for plane travel has raised some eyebrows. Now though he is quickly switching gears to try to pay off the old debts and get going on the fund-raising front as the guy at top of the polls in the race for the nomination.
JOHNS (voice-over): If presidential campaigns got their own credit score, Newt Gingrich 2012 was facing some challenges before his polling numbers shot up. He was in debt, $1.2 million in the red between May 11, when he announced he was running, and the end of September.
The most eye-popping unpaid bill, almost half-a-million dollars owed to a private jet company named Moby Dick. But now the former speaker is leading the pack by double-digit margins in three of the first four states. The less-than-inevitable Mitt Romney is trailing. And Gingrich's old friends are quickly coming to his financial rescue with a big fund-raiser.
Hosts include former Appropriations Committee Chairman, now lobbyist Bob Livingston, who nearly replaced Gingrich as speaker. That's right. He is now raising money for Gingrich's campaign, $1,000 a person.
BOB LIVINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It's his first Washington, D.C., fund-raiser. I have no idea how many people will show up. There are probably about 12 to 14 people who are co- sponsors. I'm one of them. My wife is one of them.
And so we're going to throw a big party. Hopefully, a lot of people will come. I think Newt will do well tonight. How well remains to be seen how well. I don't think he will ever have the same money that Romney has got, because Romney has been at it for six or eight years.
JOHNS: The question is whether Gingrich can put enough money and organization in place to get out his vote and match his front-runner status in the polls.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will never have as much money as Mitt Romney, but I think we will have enough money, we will have a sufficiency to be very, very competitive.
JOHNS: But with less than a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, Republican strategist Ron Bonjean says Gingrich may have to depend on voter enthusiasm.
RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Romney is sitting on a mountain of money and Gingrich is trying to catch up. The problem is that every day that goes buy is a day less that he can use to spend that money. TV ads are being bought up already. You're talking about a get-out-the-vote effort. What he really has to rely on is what he has been doing before, is generating that type of voter excitement around his candidacy and using the earned media to try to promote himself in Iowa and New Hampshire.
JOHNS: Though spending too quickly could come back to haunt. Gingrich and his wife, Callista, attracted a wave of bad publicity for their seemingly high-roller lifestyle, including big bills at Tiffany's jewelers and a cruise in the Greek Isles. The $450,000 bill for private jets, though a campaign expense, could be used against him and any other cash outlays that look extravagant.
JOHNS: The campaign has said that it has paid off a lot of the deficit it recorded in September. Though we asked the campaign for clarification today, they didn't get back to us -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack -- Joe -- excuse me -- thanks very much, Joe Johns reporting.
Let's get to Jack right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: In a presidential election, lots of things come into play when determining the outcome.
Our country, as you may have heard, beset with countless serious problems. We're broke, we're not creating jobs the way we need to and congress and Washington are a divided, dysfunctional mess.
So every four years, we get to listen to candidates who come forward with ideas about how to make our lives better. Like the candidates themselves, some of the ideas are good and others are not so good.
At the end of the day, though,, it's often the candidate's attractiveness, his appeal on a visceral level to the voter that makes the difference. Think back to the Kennedy-Nixon debate.
At the end of the day, likeability and the power of the candidate to connect is very important. On the Republican side, the choice increasingly looks like it's between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich now.
And one study found some interesting differences between these two guys. Democratic pollster Peter Hart described a focus group of Republican primary voters done for the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
When asked what relative Newt Gingrich reminded them of, several Republicans said a favorite uncle or a grandfather. They described Romney as a "missing father" or a second cousin, not exactly warm and fuzzy feelings for Romney, just one more strike against the one-time presumed nominee.
Meanwhile, Politico reports on the many reasons that Gingrich could just win this thing, including: Romney being forced to play catch-up; Gingrich's message being perfect for the anti-Washington times. Gingrich rocking the debates, which are drawing huge audiences; the Obama campaign doing a lot of anti-Romney dirty work for Gingrich; social conservatives distrusting Romney, and Gingrich has momentum on his side, with the first four states voting in January.
So here's the question: What does it mean when Republicans say Newt Gingrich reminds them of a favorite uncle or grandfather, while Mitt Romney reminds them of a missing father or a second cousin?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog. Or go to the Facebook page. We have a deal there, too.
BLITZER: We have a good deal there indeed. Jack, thanks very much.
My full interview with the surging Republican front-runner, Newt Gingrich, that is coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Does he now believe the race is his to lose? You're going to want the hear what Newt Gingrich has to say, the full interview coming up later.
Also, my interview with Republican presidential contender Rick Perry. He entered the race with a bang, but despite the serious plunge in the polls, he still sees a path to victory.
My interview with Rick Perry, that is coming up next.
BLITZER: Our latest CNN/"TIME" magazine poll shows Rick Perry in the back of the pack. He's stuck in single digits in the key states. But he insists the Republican race is still very much up for grabs.
I sat down with the Republican governor a little while ago and I asked him to give us his assessment of where this contest stands right now.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we're standing in good place at this particular point in time. Iowa is the real focus. Obviously, we're going to be in South Carolina a good bit over the course of the next two weeks. But Iowa is the real focus.
BLITZER: Do you believe all these polls that show you in a distant third or fourth?
PERRY: Actually, we got our own internal stuff that shows us, you know, with a nice path to victory in Iowa.
BLITZER: Is it do or die for you in Iowa?
PERRY: Oh, not at all. Not at all.
BLITZER: If you come in third or fourth in Iowa, what happens?
PERRY: Look, we're campaigning -- we're campaigning away. So, you know, they'll be seeing us in Florida. We'll be working there.
So, I feel pretty good about it. I mean, this is a very fluid race. You think about it, we've had four different front runners at least. And, you know, it's Newt's time in the barrel now. So, you know, we'll see how that works out.
And I just saw a poll as we were coming in that had me in second place. So --
BLITZER: For where?
PERRY: It was one -- it was off the Internet. I think Hot Gas was --
BLITZER: Was it a national poll?
PERRY: No, it's just Iowa.
BLITZER: Just in Iowa.
PERRY: It's just in Iowa. So -- but, you know, again, polls are fun and interesting things. But Iowa caucus is really different.
BLITZER: You have a pretty good relationship with Newt Gingrich?
PERRY: Oh, I got a great relationship with Newt. We've known each other a long time.
BLITZER: He wrote the introduction to your book.
PERRY: He wrote the introduction to my book. And --
BLITZER: Do you think he can implode in these last few weeks?
PERRY: By watching the last four of us that were at the top of the polls, I would suggest to you that it's possible for anyone. So, it is a very, very fluid race in Iowa in particular.
So, you know, the evangelical Christians are waiting, you know, find that individual that they're really comfortable with, that they think can win, that has their values. And I think, you know, I fit their mold quite well.
BLITZER: Let's go through some issues right now.
BLITZER: The payroll tax cut that the president wants to extend for another year -- 150 million, 160 million Americans would be affected. If you are making $50,000 a year, you could save, let's say, $1,000 or $1500 a year. Are you for that?
PERRY: No, temporary tax cuts, long term tax hikes are bad for the economy.
BLITZER: But that would effectively be a tax increase on the middle class.
PERRY: Look, he needs to be working on getting rid of the impediments to job creation. And that is the tax burden. That is the regulatory climate that we've got.
If you want to get Americans back working, they won't mind paying a payroll tax if they've got a good job. And that's what we need to be focused on.
This president is focused on a lot of different things, but he's not focusing on how to create jobs.
Over the decade I have been governor of the state of Texas, we created a million net new jobs while this country has lost over 2 million. I know how to create jobs and it's not by giving temporary tax cuts that are going to end up being permanent tax hikes. And that's exactly what this payroll tax cuts --
BLITZER: Why will they be permanent tax hikes?
PERRY: Because they won't get -- they won't go away. It's the reason I didn't take the unemployment dollars that he tried to send us back in '09. I said no, because he wanted to change our program. And it would left in place a permanent tax hike.
I know how Washington functions. They bait and switch on you.
BLITZER: Well, for the argument he makes, and a lot of Democrats and even some Republicans make, is $1,000 for a middle class family, or $1,500, that's a lot of money if you're going to tell them the government is taking more money from you next year than this year.
PERRY: Look, Americans don't trust Washington any more. They are looking for an outsider that will come in and really shake this place up. I mean, the idea that somehow or another, this president is telling people, hey, trust me, this time, I'm going to get it right is on deaf ears.
BLITZER: So, you would rather make sure that millionaires don't pay even a little bit more, 1 percent or 2 percent, next year.
PERRY: What I'm looking for -- what I'm looking for, Wolf, is a president that will get this country back working. And that temporary tax hike, and on that payroll tax is not even close to get us started.
BLITZER: So, you would vote against
PERRY: Absolutely, I'd vote against it.
BLITZER: What about extending unemployment benefits?
PERRY: No. That is giving incentives for people to be unemployed. Giving incentive to a job creator to create a job, that's we've done again in the state of Texas. You know, I'm going to go back to it because it's worked.
It's one of the reasons I've called for a part-time legislature, part-time Congress up here. We only meet for 140 days every other year in Texas. We're the 13th largest economy in the -- I mean, in the world, excuse me.
And we come in. Our legislators are part time. They are citizen legislators. They go back home. They have a real job. They live under the laws that they pass and it works really well.
And we need to do that in Washington, D.C. That's what our Founding Fathers in that was their insight to begin with, and then when they changed it. And we have seen Washington now become the centralized, all powerful, one size fits all.
And Americans don't trust them. They don't trust Washington. They don't trust Wall Street.
BLITZER: Let's talk about this new ad that you have. And you call it President Obama's war on religion. All right? We're going to play a clip from it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in a pew every Sunday to know that there is something wrong in this country when gays can serve in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.
Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What is President Obama's war on religion?
PERRY: When you talk to the bishops of the Catholic Church, there is clearly an agenda by this administration to go after those Catholic charities that are offering health care, doing work for trafficking of individuals.
The administration is clearly sending messages to people of faith and organizations of faith. We're not going to support you with federal dollars. I mean, that's one of the examples right there.
So, I'm very comfortable with that ad for one thing. My faith is part of me. The values I learned in my Christian upbringing will affect my governing.
I mean, I asked people, I said, which one of the Ten Commandments do you not like? I mean, why are our children not allowed to pray in school? Why can they not celebrate Christmas?
Those are I think traditional and solid American values that we're seeing trampled upon by this administration.
BLITZER: But separation of church and state. Does that mean anything to you?
PERRY: Sure. But it means that we are supposed to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
BLITZER: But everybody is free to practice their religion.
PERRY: But we've got a federal judge for instance in San Antonio that said these kids couldn't say an invocation in school. I mean, they say you can't eve use the word invocation at their commencement. I mean, that's --
BLITZER: Is that President Obama's war on religion?
PERRY: I'm just giving you suggestions after what we are seeing from the left of which I would suggest to you, President Obama is a member of the left and substantial left of center beliefs that you can't even have a Christmas party. You can't say a prayer at school.
BLITZER: So, when President Obama lights the national Christmas tree --
PERRY: Good for him.
BLITZER: -- and they sing Christmas songs, Christmas carols is that part of his war on religion?
PERRY: Listen, I'm not saying that everything he does is not associated back to his faith. What I'm saying is his administration and the people he's associated with -- and when you start seeing the Catholic bishops with their great concern about this administration, then I think that is a war on our religious traditions in this country.
BLITZER: I think the argument on that specific issue that if some of these Catholic organizations discriminate against gay Americans, they might not be eligible for federal funding. Do you have a problem with that?
PERRY: I think that's their choice. I mean, it's like -- I'll be real honest with you -- it's like the Boy Scouts. The idea that the Boy Scouts spend millions of dollars defending themselves from the ACLU who have sued them because they will not allow openly Gay Scout masters is they are a private organization. This is a church.
BLITZER: But do gay Americans have human rights?
PERRY: Well, sure. I mean, the issue is this. A private organization has the right to decide who they're going to --
BLITZER: Should the private organization get federal taxpayer dollars?
PERRY: If those dollars are being used in an appropriate way. But the Catholic Church is basically being discriminated against because of their anti-choice, if you will, their pro-life position on the issue of abortion. That's what that issue is being addressed from.
BLITZER: If you were president, would you go back and not allow gays to serve openly in the United States military?
PERRY: Absolutely. I think "don't ask, don't tell" worked fine. Listen, I wore the uniform. I was a pilot in the United States Air Force. And I think the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was working fine.
And this president, to use the military -- and he's used the military twice, Wolf. Once with this issue to -- and both times, I think to get support from his base, but particularly on the gays in the military issue. He made the decision that he was going to respond to his base by pushing through and pushing through Congress when he had the votes to allow for individuals to openly serve as gay members in the military.
I don't agree with that. We got two wars going on. The unit cohesiveness, the problems that that can cause, those are real.
BLITZER: Military commanders tell me in the past few months since the policy has changed, they've had no problems.
PERRY: I'm suggesting --
BLITZER: Including the commandant of the Marine Corps who was originally opposed.
PERRY: Well, I'm just telling you, the members of the military I talk to, when this was being talked about -- I didn't talk to anybody who was for it.
BLITZER: All of the NATO allies, they allow gays to serve openly.
PERRY: Well, you know what? That's the NATO allies. This is the United States of America.
BLITZER: The Israel military is pretty good, too, right?
PERRY: I'm telling you that I think "don't ask, don't tell" was the right policy. This president wanted to use our military as a political tool and he did.
BLITZER: But the Israelis let gays serve openly in the military.
PERRY: The other issue is the $60 billion being cut out of the military budget. Again, a president that is showing no leadership. He should have been sitting here working with these members of Congress.
To -- if we allow this super committee, because of the president's lack of leadership, to pull a half a billion dollars -- excuse me -- half a trillion dollars away from the United States military, you can see another Pearl Harbor.
BLITZER: The super committee failed. You know, there's going to be sequestration, automatic cuts, unless Congress takes some specific action. But that super committee --
PERRY: But the president said he would not allow them to take specific cuts so that's on the president.
My point is this: if we allow our military to get cut as much as this president is talking about, allow it to be cut, you could have another Pearl Harbor in this country.
BLITZER: What does that mean?
PERRY: Well, that means a North Korea or Iran or Syria could attack the United States. I mean, we've got an Iran that is working towards having a nuclear weapon. They have clearly said that Israel is first and the United States is second.
BLITZER: But don't you think if Iran or North Korea or Syria attack the United States, they'd be obliterated by the United States? We have thousands of nuclear warheads.
PERRY: But my point is why have that -- I mean, why give it -- we're sending messages that we're weak.
BLITZER: All right. We have much more of my far-reaching interview with Rick Perry coming up. Just ahead: his strong feelings about a vice presidential run. Is that possible if he loses the battle for the Republican presidential nomination? More of the interview with Rick Perry.
And later, Newt Gingrich, my special interview with him here on THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to part two of my interview with Republican presidential candidate, the Texas Governor, Rick Perry.
BLITZER: I want you to switch subjects for a second about immigration because there is still some confusion where you stand. I know where Newt Gingrich stands on a lot of these immigration issues.
But where do you stand on in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants who have grown up in the United States and lived here their entire lives. Should they be eligible to go to the University of Texas as in-state students?
PERRY: The people of the state of Texas said this is how we want to do it.
BLITZER: Do you still support that?
PERRY: I support the people of the state of Texas as they send their legislators to town.
BLITZER: So you have not had any reconsideration?
PERRY: Here's the consideration. We have got a federal government that has absolutely failed in securing the border whether it's Arizona having to deal with their immigration problems.
Whether it's Alabama or whatever states having to deal with immigration, it's because of the absolute abject failure of the federal government doing their constitutional duty.
Sheriff Arpaio has endorsed me. If there is anybody tougher on immigration than Sheriff Joe, I don't know who it is.
BLITZER: Michele Bachmann and others say you are creating a magnet that will encourage further illegal immigration.
PERRY: Listen, I am looking still for the kid who came to the United States to go to a Texas college. They came here for jobs. That's the magnet. Jobs are the magnet.
You have got secure the border and this thing is not just about illegal immigration. The terrorists are now using Mexico as a launching pad. We know Hamas, Hezbollah and then we saw a month ago, the Iranians working with the cartels to put together a plan to come in and assassinate a Saudi diplomat on U.S. soil.
So I think in one of the debates I talked about it's time for a new Monroe Doctrine in the western hemisphere and it is. You know, we used it in the 60s with the Soviets. I think it's time again our friends in Brazil and Columbia certainly would like to see the United States have a substantially stronger influence. When you have Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and what is going on in Bolivia and the terrorists using Mexico. We have got spend a substantial amount of time, Wolf, here in the western hemisphere and it starts with securing that border.
I know how to do it. You put the boots on the ground, strategic fencing in place and aviation assets where you got realt ime information. You can stop the movement of weapons and drugs.
BLITZER: Are you with Newt Gingrich when he says that illegal immigrants who have been here 20 or 25 years, have families here, have roots here, paid their taxes, go to church, they should be allowed to stay?
PERRY: Listen, I'm not going to get involved in how we're going to address immigration reform until the border gets secured. We have had these conversations before. We had them in the 80s and in the 90s.
There was always the promise that the border was going to be secured. It's not. Until the border is secured, having conversations about are you going have this policy or that is nothing more than an intellectual engagement.
I'm not going to do that until we have clearly secured that border and I know how to do it. I have dealt with it for almost 11 years now.
BLITZER: You're here to address the Republican Jewish Coalition. Let's talk about Israel for a moment. A subject obviously on the minds of a lot of people you're going to be talking to.
Since 67, every U.S. president, Democratic and Republican have called Israeli settlement activity in the west bank of the occupied territories illegal under international law. If you were president, would you continue that policy?
PERRY: You're talking about the Israeli settlement?
PERRY: No, I wouldn't. I consider the Israeli settlements to be legal from my perspective and I support them.
BLITZER: Even if they are on the west bank?
PERRY: Where there are arrangements that have been made, where the Israelis are clearly on Israelis land that they have hard fought to win and to keep, absolutely.
BLITZER: But this is seen by the State Department as occupied Palestinian territory.
PERRY: I don't always agree with the State Department. I think out State Department from time to time get its wrong. I happen to believe that Israel spends way too much time defending themselves against people who want to have terrorist acts against them. Whether it's Palestinians, whether it's Hezbollah, whether it's Hamas, the United States needs to be standing with Israel strongly standing with them and supporting them.
BLITZER: Would you move the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem?
PERRY: As soon as I could. I would clearly say if you want to work with the State Department of the United States, you need to be packing your bags and move in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: Would you fear negative reaction?
PERRY: No, listen, how many other countries do we have our embassies in that is not in the capital of the country?
BLITZER: We're going back to 1948. No American president has recognized Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel.
PERRY: There may not have been a president of the United States that feels as strongly about Israel as I do.
BLITZER: Ronald Reagan didn't feel strongly or George W. Bush or George H.W. Bush?
PERRY: As strongly as I do.
BLITZER: So you would move it right away?
PERRY: I would move it, yes, sir.
BLITZER: All right, more of the interview coming up with Rick Perry. Just ahead, is he planning to tell Donald Trump you're fired when it comes to the upcoming Republican presidential debate? He says he just spoke to Donald Trump. Has he made his mind up? Will he participate in the Donald Trump debate at the end of the month? Standby.
BLITZER: Here is a question. How does Rick Perry feel about potentially riding shotgun on a presidential ticket? Let's get to the final part of my interview with the Texas governor, the Republican presidential candidate.
BLITZER: Took a question from Facebook. Who would you consider for vice president, any thoughts yet?
PERRY: None. No thoughts at all. I'm running for the presidency. There is plenty of time in the late summer and fall to think about that.
BLITZER: If there were somebody else that got the Republican nomination -- I know you think that is unlikely, but let's say Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney got it. Would you consider being a running mate?
PERRY: Why would leave being governor of the state of Texas to be vice president?
BLITZER: You're just in next line to be president of the United States?
PERRY: -- very powerful statement about that. Being vice president is not worth a bucket of warm spit.
BLITZER: All right, let me ask you a quick question before I let you. I know you got a pain medication. I know you have some back issues. Tell our viewers what exactly was the issue with your back.
PERRY: I had a spine surgery on the first of July and had -- my adult stem cells actually were extracted and used and incredibly successful surgery. Absolutely, I'm back running again, 3 to 4 miles, 4 to 5 times a week.
And I was off for 10 weeks. I probably took pain medication for the first 10 days, two weeks and after that, the surgery has been awesome.
BLITZER: Here's the question.
PERRY: These guys are a bigger pain than the back surgery.
BLITZER: Yes, because we had a question from -- I can understand. A question from a Facebook, how was your health? I heard you had some orthopaedic surgery not long ago. Did any of that pain medication -- we know that highly publicized brain freeze. Do you think you could blame the pain medication or any drugs for causing that?
PERRY: That was probably too many days on the road. It had nothing to do with medication.
BLITZER: You were just working really hard.
PERRY: Seven weeks and raised $17 million. We were on the road a lot so -- but, I want to get back out on the road and campaign. Retail campaigning is what I love. You know, debating is -- is some great reality TV, but the Americans want to see their candidates out talking about the issues and really important to them.
BLITZER: Have you made the decision on the Donald Trump debate?
PERRY: I haven't. We're right in the middle of a very, very important bus tour when that was planned and this bus tour has been --
BLITZER: Your bus tour is in Iowa.
PERRY: Right it is, but -- BLITZER: Because this debate is in Iowa.
PERRY: I don't want to tell people that I promise that I'm going to be in their town doing an event with them. Sorry, I got to go run in and do -- you know, in the preparation and what have you. So we're still giving it consideration, but the people of Iowa come first.
BLITZER: And you've spoken to Donald Trump about this?
PERRY: I called him yesterday.
BLITZER: How did that conversation --
PERRY: Good. You know, I got along great with him.
BLITZER: He obviously wants you to come.
PERRY: Yes, big time.
BLITZER: Are you surprised Mitt Romney said he wasn't going to go?
PERRY: Look everybody has got to make their own decision about whether you're going to be a particular place or not. So I respect their decision making process. I hope whatever we decide, people will respect ours.
BLITZER: I'm sure they will. Governor, thanks very much. Good luck to you. Appreciate it.
PERRY: Always, thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM, by the way, I will speak with Donald Trump himself. I'll get the latest word about the debate. A whole lot more Donald Trump here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow.
Is it now Newt Gingrich's race to lose? I'll go one-on-one with the Republican presidential frontrunner. That's coming up in our next hour, in about 15 minutes.
Also Mitt Romney is out with a brand new ad that seems to be taking some personal pot shots at Newt Gingrich. Our "Strategy Session" is coming up next.
BLITZER: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney seems to be throwing a not so subtle punch at his top rival, Newt Gingrich at a brand new campaign ad. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people understand that I am a man of steadiness. I don't think you're going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do. I have been married to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me. I'll get in trouble, for 42 years.
I have been at the same church my entire life. I worked at one company for 25 years and I left that to go off and help save the Olympic games.
If I am president of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith and to our country and I will never apologize for the United States of America. I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss that in our "Strategy Session" with our two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Hilary, it sounds like a dig at Newt Gingrich who has been married three times, who's changed the church that he goes, used to be a Protestant, now a Catholic. Did you see that going on that ad there?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That was not subtle at all. Although I honestly, from a political strategy point of view, don't really understand who Mitt Romney is trying to appeal to with that.
You know, conservatives seem to know that Newt Gingrich cheated on his wife. They seem to know all of his personal social foibles and yet he is surging in the polls.
What conservatives love about Newt Gingrich is sort of his snarl about President Obama. I don't know. If I were Mitt Romney, I would be running ads on Newt Gingrich, you know, hanging out with Nancy Pelosi on climate change or promoting health care reform. I'm just not sure that this is the way to go right now.
BLITZER: Is this the way to go for Mitt Romney, Mary?
ROSEN: It's good for us.
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Originally that spot or that statement that he made from which the spot was made when he said it from the debate was about suring up his core character issue, if you will, which is inconsistency, not being constant and true to conservative values.
So that having the same job, belonging to the same church, being married to the same woman, he didn't know who at that point who was going to be the anybody but Mitt candidate. It happens to be a two- fer at this point.
But he still has his core character issue, if you will. There has not been one of the anybody but Mitts that has fallen and resulted in a rise for Mitt. I like the spot because I like the constancy thing.
I think his family is beautiful and his wife is an amazing person. I don't think he has had them out there enough and they are a great asset.
ROSEN: That might be true about his wife, but I also think that Mitt's biggest vulnerability in so many ways is that he is a flip- flopper. He has said one thing and then changed his mind to be another for so long.
Look at the DNC video Mitt versus Mitt. It doesn't make anything up. It's just his actual footage of him giving these positions. So, you know, I'm not sure he can really sustain that message that he's Mr. Constant.
BLITZER: Mary, should Mitt Romney step up the direct attacks on Newt Gingrich?
MATALIN: You know what? I don't think so because he has sort of staked out this territory. He is kind of a nice guy. You need to step up his fighting. The reason that Newt ascended as he did, he earned it because He was taking the fight to Obama, not to each of the other candidates.
If Mitt Romney would show more fight against Obama in a sincere way based on conservative principles, that's what people are looking for. You know, they had from the beginning -- the last man standing strategy, which produced no mistakes and no momentum either.
BLITZER: Mary and Hilary, guys, thanks very much.
Coming up, my interview with the Republican presidential frontrunner, Newt Gingrich coming up at the top of the hour. He tells me the most important political issue he has changed positions on and why.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Question this hour is, what does it mean when Republicans say that Newt Gingrich reminds them of a favorite uncle or grandfather while Mitt Romney reminds them of a missing father or second cousin.
Jerry in Virginia says, "My favorite uncle was a con artist. That describes Newt's current incarnation especially since I remember the old Newt from the 1990s. As to Romney as a missing father figure, no.
I would describe him as a wet noodle or a jelly fish. He should have stood up to Trump, but instead he wimped out. I wasn't going to vote for Obama again, but the Republicans are leaving me no other choice except to stay home on Election Day."
Loren writes, "Gingrich speaks as if he is a relative and not responsible for your behavior. Romney acts as if he's aware that he is responsible for you, but he doesn't want to have anything to do with you.
You can also say Romney is remote and aloof. Doing what he's doing only because he believes he has to. Having no real passion or understanding of it. Looks like Uncle Newt is solidifying his base."
Carl writes, "Sounds like your average Christian conservative church going Republican family with lying, cheating uncles and grandfathers and absentee fathers and loony second cousins. I couldn't agree more."
Michael in Virginia writes, "Romney reminds most people of the boss who fired them. In many cases, he was. It actually doesn't matter what Republicans think, the margin of victory will be provided by independent crossover voters none of whom will vote for Newt. Most will vote for Mitt Romney. Ron Paul reminds them of their crazy grandfather. He will get some crossover votes as well."
And Dee writes, "I can see their point. Romney stands before you talks and you ask yourself who is this guy. He reminds me of someone in the family we haven't seen or heard from in years. Soon you forget what he looks like and what he said.
Newt appears at Christmas time just like an elf, tells some stories, throws in little history lessons and then returns to his world of make believe, money, mirror gazing and multiple wives."
If you want to read more on this, got some funny e-mail, go to my blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
Just ahead, does a candidate's past really matter? A sensitive subject in my one-on-one interview with Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich. That interview coming up next.
BLITZER: The battle theory in President Bashar Al-Assad is denying any responsibility for his country's brutal crackdown. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Al-Assad distanced himself from his armed forces telling ABC's Barbara Walters, quote, "No government in the world kills its people unless it is led by a crazy person.
This is one activist group reports nine new deaths at the hands of security forces just today. The United Nations estimates more than 4,000 people have been killed since last March.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is stepping pressure on Pakistan to help investigate a deadly, unprecedented --