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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with Ed Gillespie; Interview with David Axelrod; Interview with Governors McDonnell, Patrick; Interview with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Aired July 15, 2012 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Romney struggles to control the message. Today, the battle over Bain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: You're ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations, but again that's probably a question he's going to have to answer and I think that's a legitimate part of the campaign.

MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is all an effort on the part of the president's campaign to divert attention from the fact that the president has been a failure when it comes to reigniting America's economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The Romney push back with senior adviser Ed Gillespie. Then Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod.

And the states brace for federal cuts. The view from the governor's office with Virginia Republican Bob McDonnell and Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick.

Plus, floods, fires, and drought: what it means for farmers and your grocery bill with agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is State of the Union.

In an election about the economy, the Obama campaign has made it a mission to discredit Mitt Romney's business credentials. Recently it zeroed in on filings to the SEC from Bain Capital listing Romney as head of Bain up to three years after Romney says he left Bain. It's important because Camp Obama is using some of the Bain investments during the disputed time against Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think most Americans figure if you're the chairman, CEO, and president of a company, that you are responsible for what that company does.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Obama's deputy campaign manager upped the ante considerably this week telling reporters the SEC documents show essentially Romney as either a liar or a felon.

Romney has tried to stay focused on the economy, explaining Wednesday when you're responding, you're losing. Friday, Romney was responding in five network TV interviews. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I mean, is this the level that the Obama campaign is willing to stoop to? Is this up to the standards expected of the presidency of the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: If he's responding, is Mitt Romney losing the message battle?

Joining me now is Ed Gillespie. Ed, let me ask you that first question, which is is it a sign that you are losing the message battle that Mitt Romney having said if you're responding, you're losing the battle, goes on Friday on five different networks to defend himself against the Bain attacks?

GILLESPIE: Candy, we wanted to get to the issue at hand, which is the economy and jobs and the fact that 500,000 fewer Americans are working today than when President Obama took office. We had the consumer confidence index drop to the lowest level in a year, but there were questions that Governor Romney wanted to address and make sure people understood that he's not a felon. You know, I mean, that's what this campaign on the Obama side, you know, was reduced to. And it's sad to see.

And I think Americans now know, you have got these baseless charges on moving jobs overseas, which independent fact checkers have said are not true, they're, indeed, a lie. And then a completely reckless and unfounded allegation that -- of criminal activity, and so it's sad to see -- we now know this president will say or do anything to keep the highest office in the land even if it means demeaning the highest office in the land.

CROWLEY: You can understand, can't you, that voters would still be confused because it's still going on, and here is one of the things. This came out of "The Boston Globe" on Saturday. It said on July 19th, 1999, several months after Mitt Romney says he had left Bain to go help save the Olympics, a news release about the resignation of two Bain Capital managing directors describes Romney as CEO and currently on a part-time leave of absence to head the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee.

So there's all this documentation at the SEC and in press releases that say he's still CEO. He's the sole owner, he's this, he's that, and you have him sort of talking business speak saying, well, no, I really wasn't all those things in the filings that I filed in the SEC.

So why is there such a discrepancy? You can understand how people would think that looks funky.

We're coming off a time, Ed, as you well know that people think Wall Streeters and investment bankers get away with everything. Doesn't this add to that? GILLESPIE: You know, Governor Romney took a leave of absence from his company to go save the Olympics. If you remember...

CROWLEY: This is a part-time leave of absence and there are signs that he...

GILLESPIE: You know, there may have been thought at the time that he could be part time. It was not part time. The Olympics was in a shambles. There was corruption. There was -- the International Olympic Committee was going to pull the Olympics from the United States of America which would have been a huge embarrassment. Because of Mitt Romney's leadership skills he was called on to do it.

He took a leave of absence and, in fact, Candy, he ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result.

Democratic members of Bain, one Democrat who ran for the Senate nomination as a Democrat in Massachusetts, said -- who was there at Bain, said he wasn't there. He wasn't engaged in the day to day activities at all. And Harvey Pitt, the former SEC chairman, said it's standard procedure for someone who still has the shares to sign the SEC form even if you're not making the day to day decisions and you have taken a leave of absence.

CROWLEY: So is it your position that Mitt Romney was still technically the CEO the sole owner, and the chief shareholder of Bain, but he was not -- had nothing to do with any day-to-day decisions at Bain after he left for the Olympics?

GILLESPIE: That's correct. He was not involved in the management. He was not involved in the day-to-day decisions, and wouldn't have had time.

He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City to save the Olympics for a country he loves more, and somehow Chicago, in classic Chicago-style politics, the Obama campaign is trying to make this something sinister. It's not. It's patriotic and it's leadership.

CROWLEY: Do you see how people who don't run in those circles don't get why a man who no longer has anything to do with the company by your description is still listed as the CEO and the owner and...

GILLESPIE: And, Candy, I think it's actually pretty simple. He took a leave of absence to go do something for the country... CROWLEY: Despite it says -- the fact it says part-time leave of absence.

GILLESPIE: That release is not -- if that's what it said, maybe that's what they thought at the time is that he could do it part time. It was not a part-time job. It was a 16-hour a day job. And anyone who was involved will tell you that's the case. And again, his partners have all come out and said he was not involved in the day-to-day decisions and that's a fact.

CROWLEY: Is he -- would he be legally -- would he at that time been legally responsible? We know what this is about. We understand that this is important in terms of a couple things. First, openness, honesty, that kind of thing.

GILLESPIE: Yeah.

CROWLEY: But also for the Obama campaign because they want to use some of the decisions that Bain made during those three years...

GILLESPIE: Yeah.

CROWLEY: ...against Governor Romney.

GILLESPIE: Yeah.

CROWLEY: Are you saying that he holds no responsibility for Bain decisions in those three years?

GILLESPIE: That's correct.

And, look, let's be honest, the reason that the Obama campaign wants to do this is because they want to talk about anything but President Obama's dismal record when it comes to the economy, and it's working. You know, we're spending a lot of time on it here today as opposed to the fact that again last week we had a record-breaking 41st month unemployment above 8 percent.

Household income has dropped $4,300 under this president. We had the index for manufacturing jobs drop again last month. This is a result of President Obama's policies. And his policies are misguided because he doesn't understand the economy and Mitt Romney does and that's why they're trying to attack him on this front.

CROWLEY: And let me take that theory just for argument's sake I'll accept that theory. It is frustrating to you all because you all want to talk about the economy. Why then doesn't Mitt Romney release all of his tax returns? Why is he limiting it to two? His father, as you know, sort of set the standard with more than a dozen tax releases. You now have people like Haley Barbour, you also have the governor of Alabama, John Weaver, who I'm sure you know, say just release the taxes, the tax returns. Just so people can see.

Because there's ads out there, he has Swiss bank accounts, he has offshore holdings in Bermuda, and people are really sensitive to this sort of thing now. And why not just release them? You're an old hand...

GILLESPIE: He is going to release them, Candy. We've made it clear.

CROWLEY: Just two years this year and last. GILLESPIE: And that's the standard that Senator McCain as Republican nominee in the last election said was the relevant standard. It's the standard that Senator John Kerry as the Democratic nominee said was the standard. And we are going to release them. And that's above and beyond what the law requires, by the way.

And as for the -- you know...

CROWLEY: Swiss bank accounts?

GILLESPIE: You know, remember, this is a -- Governor Romney's holdings were in a blind trust. He doesn't have direction of them. And by the way, if they weren't in a blind trust, you can bet the Democrats would attack him for not having his holdings in a blind trust.

CROWLEY: If there is nothing there to hide, this is not your first rodeo as we were talking about. You know how these things go. The pressure just builds and builds and builds. If there's no reason not to put it out there, why not just do it?

GILLESPIE: Candy, we're putting out there his tax returns more than is required by the law. The reason, by the way, we're talking about some of these things is because he put those tax records out there. That's why you're talking about the blind trust and some of those accounts.

The fact is the American people are, you know, very concerned about am I going to get a job? They look at what this administration is doing, this White House is doing, shifting stimulus money...

CROWLEY: And who can best bring me those jobs is what American people are...

GILLESPIE: Exactly. What they're saying is if you're a political donor to Barack Obama you're going to do fine, because you're going to get a payoff. If you're a middle class worker you're in jeopardy. You're facing a layoff. That's the kind of economy we're seeing with President Obama. His buddies do well, political supporters do well, they get green jobs, money, and they get stimulus dollars. If you're a middle class worker, you're struggling right now, and Mitt Romney can make things better for you, and he has a plan to do that, and that's what we're talking about while President Obama is trying to talk about everything but.

CROWLEY: Let me just ask you a quick question about the VP choice. We keep getting e-mails and fundraising emails about how you're close to a decision. This month?

GILLESPIE: I believe that Governor Romney is -- I think he's narrowing the list. I'm not going to betray any confidences obviously--

(CROSSTALK)

GILLESPIE: But I think it's something he's rightly taking his time and weighing. It's an important decision. I'm sure that CNN and others will be the first to know right after the person who wins the contest for contributing money to our website learns. CROWLEY: This month, do you think, we'll see an announcement?

GILLESPIE: I'm just not sure, to be honest with you. And I don't want to set expectations one way or the other and then not meet them.

CROWLEY: Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to the Romney campaign, thank you.

GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: Mitt Romney is demanding an apology from President Obama. Will he get one? Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me from Chicago is Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod. David, thanks for being here. Let me start with you.

AXELROD: Good to be here, Candy.

CROWLEY: And ask you, if I am sitting in my living room watching this and I'm worried about my job and I'm worried if I'm going to be able to pay my mortgage, I'm worried if my kids are going to be able to have a good life. Would you make the link between those fears and when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital?

AXELROD: Well, absolutely, because when you think about what's happening to our economy and what we have to do to move forward, one of the big questions is, questions like outsourcing, is outsourcing a good policy for this country? Governor Romney's firms were involved in outsourcing. He bought firms while he was there whose principal mission was to provide outsourcing services to other companies. This informs your decision. Perhaps that's why he supports tax cuts for companies that move jobs overseas.

We lose $100 billion a year to offshore tax shelters. We've learned from the limited disclosure that he's made that Governor Romney takes advantage of these. He had a Swiss bank account. He has a Bermuda holding company --

CROWLEY: Can I just ask you, David --

AXELROD: Tens of millions of dollars in the Cayman Islands. So when we reform the tax code, when we go to reform the tax code, Candy, how does that inform his judgment? He's told us that his business experience is the lens through which he's going to look at these decisions. We're getting a look at that experience, and people need to judge is that the kind of experience we want in the Oval Office.

CROWLEY: Can you tell me, when you do your taxes, don't you use every available way to pay as little as you can? AXELROD: I can tell you that I have never had a Swiss bank account, I have never put money in the Cayman Islands, I don't have a Bermuda holding company.

CROWLEY: But are you suggesting then --

AXELROD: No one is suggesting -- Candy, I'm not suggesting that based on what we know, that he's done anything illegal. I'm not suggesting that, but what I am suggesting is that he's taken advantage of every single conceivable tax shelter and loophole that we can see. And now is he the guy who is going to clean up our tax code and make it advantageous to average taxpayers in the country, or is he going to look at it through the lens of his own experience? And by the way, on the subject of--

CROWLEY: Doesn't President Obama use every means he can to pay as little taxes as he can?

AXELROD: Well, I'm sure he could have a Swiss bank account if he wanted it. He could have a Bermuda holding company. He could put tens of millions of dollars in the Caymans. He could use loopholes in the tax law to have a $100 million IRA, as Governor Romney does. The president could do those things, but he doesn't do those things. He looks at this through a different lens.

But we don't even know the scope of it, Candy, because as Ed said again today and Governor Romney said Friday, they won't release any more tax returns. His father, George Romney, said if you release one year, it could be a fluke, it could just be for show. So he released 12 years of tax returns.

We don't know what he was doing back in those Bain years with his taxes. We don't know all the loopholes he might have taken advantage of. And I can only conclude that they think with all these Republicans asking him to release these returns, that whatever is in those returns would be more damaging to his campaign than simply not releasing them.

CROWLEY: And why not -- would people not buy into the theory from Republicans that you all would rather talk about Swiss bank accounts than about why unemployment is still over 8 percent, why the housing market has yet to recover, why the middle class has lost a lot of wealth? Why this is so focused on Bain Capital and Mitt Romney's tax returns.

AXELROD: I invite you to go out and travel with the president. Every single speech he makes is about how we rebuild this economy, and most specifically how we rebuild the middle class. And there are fundamental differences between him and Governor Romney on policy, about whether tax cuts for millionaires are worth more than paying down other deficit, educating our kids, and doing other things we need to grow the economy. That's what the president is talking about.

Governor Romney is the one who has run a campaign that's predicated on the negative. I'm not Barack Obama, therefore elect me. And I'm a businessman, so I know how to fix the economy. Well, if that's the experience he's running on, then, of course, that experience is going to be scrutinized. CROWLEY: Let me read for you a couple of things. Our John King wrote an article Friday quoting two Democratic members of Bain Capital who said the following, "Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure." That's from the Bain managing director, and another employee said, "he was just gone," meaning Romney, "and it happened very suddenly. After that, he was not on calls or writing memos. He was gone."

At what point will you be ready to accept, if ever, that Mitt Romney, you know, may have been on a lot of filings, listed as the owner, but he had no day-to-day management, and, therefore, when you talk about outsourcing, he was not there when those decisions were made.

AXELROD: Well, it's interesting, Candy, because he's very willing to take credit for everything good that he thinks happened after that point that Bain Capital was involved in, but he's not willing to take responsibility for this. If their story is that he was the chairman, president, chief executive and sole shareholder of the company, and took no interest in any of the decisions they made, then they can make that case.

AXELROD: We know that "The Boston Globe," the AP, Bloomberg News have done reporting that calls these assertions into question. There, too, I mean, they could release their board minutes from that time and other records that would show exactly what his involvement was.

We do know that he said he had no involvement with any of the entities that Bain was involved in and yet he came back for board meetings for meetings of a couple of those entities.

But the larger point, Candy, is he was in charge when they bought these firms whose principal mission was to facilitate outsourcing and offshoring. What he's saying is, well, I left before they actually moved these jobs to China and to Mexico, and I'm not going to be held responsible for it. You know, Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk saying the buck stops here. If Mitt Romney became president he would have a placard on his desk saying the buck stops there.

If you're the head man, you have to take responsibility. And, you know, he's going to have to explain that to the American people.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, your deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said this week that the SEC documents show that Mitt Romney is either a felon or he's lying to the American people. Do you think it's possible Mitt Romney is a felon?

AXELROD: Actually that's not what she said, Candy. And I was listening to the call when she spoke. She said if he was, in fact, not the chief executive, the president, the sole shareholder, and chairman of the company at the time and that's what was filed, that that would be a felony. She didn't say he's a felon.

CROWLEY: Right. No, No, I'm asking you -- she said he was one or the other.

AXELROD: That's entirely different.

CROWLEY: Not that different.

AXELROD: The point is that -- the point is that he was the person of record in charge of the company, the sole owner and shareholder of the company.

Now it may be he's misleading people now when he says I had nothing to do with it. So I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say those documents were accurate and what he's telling the people -- the American people now is not. I'll give him that.

But neither is a recommendation to be president of the United States.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a final question here, David. The president remains under 50 percent approval, which isn't a great place, as you know, for an incumbent. This race has not changed in months despite the fact that both sides and the Obama campaign particularly has been just pouring money into these negative ads, some 60 percent of your ads have been negative. Your fund-raising is lagging behind Romney's. Why?

AXELROD: Well, let me just correct one thing you said, Candy. 90 percent of the ads that have been run by Romney and his allies since March have been negative and aimed at the president, so I think it's a mistake to say that our advertising has somehow been more negative than...

CROWLEY: No, I just said yours has been 60 percent negative.

AXELROD: I mean, their whole campaign is predicated on a...

CROWLEY: I just said your campaign has been 60 percent negative according to CMAG (ph).

AXELROD: Yeah. But, you know, I think that our fund-raising is largely grassroots oriented. Our average donation is $50 a donation. Governor Romney has done very well at the top end, and he should because he's promised another $5 trillion tax cut skewed to the wealthy, another $250 million -- $250,000 tax cut for the wealthy that would add to our deficits and compound our problems.

So, you know, that has some appeal to some folks I'm sure, but we're going to -- we are going to persevere here. We understand we're going to be outspent. Their Super PAC are spending untold sums of money against us, most of it undisclosed like much of the Romney campaign, and we'll have to persevere and fight our way through it.

CROWLEY: I think somehow you'll manage. I just have a feeling, but thank you so much, David Axelrod, Senior adviser to the Obama campaign. I appreciate it.

The trickle down effect of the fiscal cliff with the governors of Virginia and Massachusetts next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick. Thank you both, governors, for being here.

There's a lot of talk in Washington these days about the fiscal cliff. And part of that fiscal cliff is huge cuts in the Defense Department. And for you, governor, you are number two in the states that it is estimated by the National Association of Manufacturers will lose almost 115,000 jobs if these defense cuts go through. At what point do you begin to try to figure out what that's -- what the fiscal cliff, if we go off it, will begin to affect Virginia?

MCDONNELL: Well, we're very concerned about it. Deval, I think, in Massachusetts is the fifth largest potential loser at about 38,000 jobs. And, you know, this sequestration bill that was put in place a couple -- last year was one that nobody really thought was going to go into effect. And, unfortunately, with the failure in congress and no leadership from the White House, they put $600 billion of defense spending at risk. Even Secretary Panetta said it's a bad idea.

So I'm worried not only about jobs in Virginia but I'm worried about the security of the United States of America. They can't wait until the lame duck session. They need to act, I think, now, Candy, to try to address this because defense contractors might have to send out warning notices in the next couple months to hundreds of thousands of employees saying you might not have a job.

So I think the president needs to lead on this, get congress back, and do something about sequestration.

Look, we need to cut spending. We're $16 trillion in debt, $5 trillion more because of the president's lack of leadership, but we can't do it this way and sacrifice the United States military.

CROWLEY: Governor Patrick, in fact, you will lose according to these estimates over 30,000 jobs if these defense cuts alone, this doesn't even address some of the federal funding that goes to states, just from the defense cuts alone...

PATRICK: That's right.

CROWLEY: My question to you then is the administration has said, look, this is in place. If it happens, it happens. Do you go along with that position?

PATRICK: Well, I don't think anybody wants this to happen, but, remember, we have sequestration because the Republican congress wouldn't reach out -- reach back to the president on a balanced approach, which was a combination of cuts and tax increases, particularly for the most fortunate, to pay for bills that they helped to run up.

And so when I hear about issues of leadership, remember, it was the president who reached a deal with Speaker Boehner more than a year ago now. Speaker Boehner couldn't sell it with his Tea Party caucus back in the House.

CROWLEY: You know we kind of are where we are.

PATRICK: ...is willing to reach back.

CROWLEY: And the question, I guess, is for the states does this then threaten you when you look at it -- you all actually have economies that are doing quite well, both of you, but does it make you worry...

PATRICK: That's right.

CROWLEY: ... about sending the economy in your states and elsewhere back down?

PATRICK: You had...

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell?

PATRICK: ... better believe it does, and I think the same is true of Governor McDonnell.

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell?

MCDONNELL: Yes, I think we both agree. Look, it's a bipartisan failure that we got to the point where we're at, where we're running up this much national debt. But this president, $5.2 trillion in new national debt, we need to be able to cut spending, and $1.2 trillion in sequestration, Candy, honestly with the American people, that's not enough.

That's not even one year of deficit spending, and those cuts are over 10 years. So we've got to cut more. But to do it in this reckless way where the Defense Department doesn't have a plan on how this is going to be done and to put hundreds of thousands of defense jobs at risk in the next 60 days and no action by Congress in the near future is irresponsible.

The president needs to take leadership and say, let's get back and let's fix this now to create certainty.

CROWLEY: Let me move you now to the Medicaid...

PATRICK: Candy, may I just...

CROWLEY: Yes, of course, go ahead, Governor.

PATRICK: I just wanted to add I don't think that the argument is really about a willingness by the Obama administration or the president, particularly, to cut spending. He has done so. He has proposed to do so. And he has shown a willingness to do more. The question is whether we are going to have a balanced approach, which includes raising some revenue, which is what every responsible economist and financial analyst says is necessary. And the Tea Party Caucus, which has, as you know, an outsized influence in the Congress today, says "heck no" to that. And until we clear that up and clear them out, frankly, we're not going to get the kind of solution that makes a difference for the long term interests of the American people.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you while I have you...

MCDONNELL: Well, Candy, that's just...

CROWLEY: Go ahead. Go ahead, Governor McDonnell.

MCDONNELL: Well, that's just flat wrong. I mean, if you look at the states that are raising taxes and increasing regulations, like Maryland or Massachusetts or Illinois and California, they've got big problems.

You look at the states that are actually maintaining a lid on taxes and balancing budgets without raising taxes and having pro- growth strategies, 12 out of the 15 top states for business have Republican governors. And every one of new Republican governors elected in the last two years have cut their unemployment rates.

So there's something different going on and that's why Mitt Romney is saying, look, you like the way the governance works in Republican-governed states, elect me and you're going to see more of the same.

So these tax policies are important. President Obama's big tax increases in "Obama-care" and on...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Let me...

MCDONNELL: ... all small businesses, that's the wrong approach.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Governor Patrick...

PATRICK: I've got to straighten out that...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I will let you straighten it out after we take a quick -- let me take a quick break. I promise you the first word when we come back and we also want to talk a little politics.

PATRICK: OK. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: We are back with Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick.

Governor Patrick, I promised you the next word. PATRICK: Well, I was just going to say Governor McDonnell is a good man and a good governor, but he has misrepresented Massachusetts. I have got to straighten that out. I mean, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts is about what it is in Virginia and well below the national growth rate. We're growing -- unemployment rate.

We're growing twice as fast as the national growth rate. And many of the things that Mitt Romney left broken we have fixed. So a strategy, which is about investing around growth, investing in education, in infrastructure, and in innovation, which is actually quite like what is happening in Virginia, is working in Massachusetts as well. And it's precisely the strategy that the president has proposed at the national level.

The problem is that the Congress has been very reluctant to give him the tools to deliver on that strategy. There's a bill pending that has been pending for 11 months now in the Congress around investing in infrastructure and in education and the Congress has simply said no.

That's the kind of thing we are doing in our states that's getting growth and that we can do nationally.

CROWLEY: Let me move you all to the Medicaid argument at this point, states under "Obama-care" being asked to expand Medicaid in a way that allows more people in as part of how you get coverage to everyone.

Governor McDonnell, you know that there are a number of Republican governors who are resisting despite the fact that the federal government is offering to pay 100 percent of the cost of the additions that you put on those Medicaid rolls.

And in 2021 it's just going to be reduced to 90 percent. Currently it's only 50 percent of the cost. Why are so many Republicans turning this down? Is it as everyone suggests, politics?

MCDONNELL: No. The federal government makes a lot of promises that they don't keep, first of all. Secondly, when you're $16 trillion in debt and you're promising hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending to the states, we're having a hard time believing where they're going to get that money unless you put America in more debt.

Here is the issue. Expanding Medicaid without reforming Medicaid is a terribly bad idea and irresponsible. President Obama said exactly that three years ago when he was making proposals.

So a couple governors have said, no, we're not going to do it. But, Candy, most of us are not saying that. We're saying, look, we don't have all the answers. I sent a letter on behalf of 29 Republican governors to the president and the secretary a couple of days ago with 30 decent questions about what does this mean in light of the court's ruling?

We're waiting for some good answers on that, but we don't know a lot about what the implications are. For Virginia it's $2.2 billion of new entitlement spending over the next 10 years in a program that's already busting the budgets in every state in the country.

So we have to get more information, and, frankly, we're not going to waste taxpayer money now if Mitt Romney wins. On day one he said waivers to the states and we're going to repeal and replace this "Obama-care." So we ought to wait and see.

CROWLEY: Governor Patrick, I want to turn you to a different subject. We had this week dueling appearances by Joe Biden and Mitt Romney in front of the NAACP. The president chose not to go saying he had a scheduling conflict, but there's a lot of talk that perhaps the president is taking the black vote for granted, not that it will go to Mitt Romney, but that perhaps there is less enthusiasm there now than there was four years ago.

Can you speak to that and the enthusiasm gap as some are calling it?

PATRICK: Well, first of all, Candy, I think it's important for people to know this president isn't taking any vote for granted, not black people, not other minorities, not women, not people in the so- called battleground states, not people in the so-called red states.

This is a president who ran for office to serve as president of the whole country, not of a particular party or a particular group. And that means people who agree with him on this or that policy choice and those who don't, and that's how he has governed.

He has got an enormously challenging task in front of him in running for re-election while trying at the same time to govern. And that means helping to lift this country...

CROWLEY: Do you sense a lack of enthusiasm?

PATRICK: ... out of the worst economic collapse in history.

CROWLEY: Do you sense...

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK: No, I don't. As a matter of fact, I have been -- look, he has made some decisions. Not every one of which I agree with or that people agree with, but I think people understand that this guy is about all of us being in this together and trying to leave a better country than he found.

Not doing anything or saying anything, like this Republican nominee, to be president, but instead doing anything necessary to help the country.

CROWLEY: Governor McDonnell, I have exactly 30 seconds for you to tell me how Mitt Romney is going to win in Virginia.

MCDONNELL: You know, the president is a good man, a good family man, but he has been an abysmal president. The policies that he has put in place have hurt our state, 41 months in a row over 8 percent, in fact, disproportionately affecting young people and African- Americans.

Mitt Romney is going to win Virginia because the independent voters don't care about tax returns and Bain Capital. They care about getting the greatest country on earth out of debt, back to work, a coherent energy strategy, and strong leadership that will make us proud again around the world.

MCDONNELL: And that's why I think his ideas on making us more competitive, to compete with China and India and making us once again the economy that's the envy of the world, that's going to carry the day in Virginia.

CROWLEY: Governor Bob McDonnell in Virginia, Governor Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, thank you both for your time.

A check of the headlines, then the drought, and what it may mean to your grocery bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Egypt where she's met with the country's new president, Mohamed Morsi. Clinton urged Morsi to assert the full authority of his new presidency. Clinton also met with the head of Egypt's military and stressed that the United States supports a full transition to civilian rule.

Also in Egypt, authorities are intensifying their efforts to get two kidnapped Americans and their tour guide released. One of the victims has been identified as the reverend Michel Louis. He's the pastor of a church in Boston, and his family says he was on a missionary trip.

The head of a Syrian opposition group is urging President Obama to take stronger action on Syria and not worry about whether it will hurt his re-election prospects. Syrian National Council Chairman Abdulbasett Sieda's comments came after more than 200 people were reportedly massacred last week in the Syrian town of Tremseh. You can see his full interview on Fareed Zakaria GPS at the top of the hour.

And Florida election officials are getting access to a federal database on immigrants as part of an effort to purge non-U.S. citizens from the state's voter rolls. Critics of the purge say it disenfranchises poor and minority voters. Florida authorities say so far about 100 people who are not citizens, but registered to vote, have been identified.

High food costs coming to a grocery store near you. We ask the agriculture secretary what to expect.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now is agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. Mr. Secretary, this drought seems to have taken everyone but the farmers by surprise here. I want to give our viewers some idea of the breadth of it. 1,000 counties in 26 states have been declared natural disaster areas. 61 percent of the land in the lower 48 states is in drought condition. 30 percent of the corn crop in 18 of the biggest corn growing states is in poor or very poor condition. And half of America's pastures and ranges in poor or very poor condition.

We see nothing in the weather forecast that suggests this is going to change. Ultimately, what does that mean for food prices and what does that mean for farmers?

VILSACK: Well, first of all, Candy, our heart goes out to all those producers, the ranchers and farmers who are dealing with something they have no control over and appreciate you giving an opportunity to talk a little bit about this.

We're really not going to know the full extent of all of this until the cotton is picked and the beans and kernels are counted, but clearly our yields are going to be down. Now what impact that's going to have is somewhat dependent upon our areas of the country that are actually having decent rains and the technology that's allowing us to basically do better under these drought conditions than we would otherwise.

We'll probably see less in terms of crop production, but we're still going to be able to meet the food needs of the country. We're still going to be able to export. We're still going to be able to utilize crop residue to produce energy, all of which is important for rural America. We have a momentum going in rural America.

The real challenge for us though is that the USDA, the Department of Agriculture, does not have the tools it once had to help people through this difficult times. When the disaster programs of the 2008 farm bill expired on September 20 of last year, it left us with very little option in terms of being able to provide help to these folks. And that's why it's just imperative that the House leadership get the food, farm and jobs bill that recently went through the House ag committee on the floor and get it voted on before September 30th so we can provide additional help and assistance to these folks.

CROWLEY: Let me push you a little bit to -- I don't think anyone questions whether the food supply is in danger but the price of the food supply because we see in terms of crop price increases, corn up almost 17 percent, soy 37 percent, wheat is up 29 percent. That is bound to have an effect on food supply at some level. And what we're talking about here as you well know coming from Iowa is meat, eggs, poultry, milk. Do you expect prices on those products to go up in the grocery store?

VILSACK: Here's the interesting thing about this, and it gives me an opportunity to point out how little of that grocery store dollar the farmers and ranchers actually get. Fourteen cents of every food dollar that goes through a grocery store goes in the pocket of a farmer or rancher. So while these commodity prices will likely increase, it will have a marginal impact on food prices. What really drives food prices more significantly are energy costs. That's why it's important for us to continue to focus on the president's "all of the above" approach to produce more energy here in the United States so that those energy costs are kept stable.

Food costs are liable to increase.

CROWLEY: It's my understanding, Mr. Secretary, that prices on a lot of things from cereal to soft drinks and meat prices are already up in some cases by 30 percent. That has nothing to do with the drought?

VILSACK: They shouldn't be because those -- the prices and the impact of a drought probably will not likely be seen in the grocery aisles until later next year, 2013. If folks are using this opportunity to raise prices inappropriately, shame on them. It takes a long time for the prices to basically work itself through the system.

We're going to have folks in USDA go out throughout the country to many of the states that are impacted negatively by drought to see what we can do to help these producers. We've got emergency loans. We're providing opportunities to use conservation reserve program lands for hay grazing which might mitigate some of the consequences of all this.

But, again, our tools are limited. And the impact of those tools are limited unless a food, farm, and jobs bill gets passed by Congress.

CROWLEY: And I think they have a September deadline for when they're looking to pass this, is that how you understand it?

VILSACK: That's correct. And there are some folks who say, well, let's just extend the existing 2008 farm bill.

CROWLEY: Right. VILSACK: The problem with that is it will not revive the programs that have expired. So there still will not be disaster programs for livestock operators. We contributed nearly $4 billion to a nearly 400,000 producers during the course of the 2008 farm bill when those disaster programs were available.

So you can see they are very important. And it's just -- it's an unfortunate circumstance that we're not getting this bill to the floor right now.

CROWLEY: Let me turn your attention to something, I want to take advantage of the fact that you were governor of Iowa. You once ran for president yourself. You now see how Washington works.

I was looking at the statistics for Iowa right now, vis-a-vis the presidential race. And what we saw was that, first of all, Iowa has a relatively low unemployment rate, at least compared to the rest of the nation, 5.1 percent. The president won Iowa by nearly 10 points four years ago. And right now, all the polling is showing dead even. Could you tell me why.

VILSACK: Well, I think the Republicans had a contested primary for governor, and they had a contested presidential primary which obviously stokes a lot of interest on that side. I think the president will win Iowa.

And the reason he's going to win Iowa is when folks take a look at the rural economy, when they look at the fact that we've had record farm income, we've had record exports, we've had record farm implement shipments, all of those play to the strength of the Iowa economy.

And it's in part because of the policies of this president to expand exports, to focus on rural development, to strengthen communities with investments that we've made, and it's a result of a better economy.

And if you look at all the battleground states, what you're going to find is those states have strong agricultural economies and those strong agricultural economies are helping to reduce unemployment.

Rural manufacturing also has increased over the last couple of years. So I think there's a good story to tell. And as we tell that story during the course of the campaign, I'm very, very confident that Iowa is going to be in the right column for my perspective on November.

CROWLEY: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, it's very good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us.

VILSACK: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: While Washington bickers, one senator votes, never missing one in 15 years. Her story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: When Maine Republican Susan Collins came to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1997, her first vote was to confirm the nomination of Madeleine Albright as the first female secretary of state. That's when it started for Collins, who made a little history of her own this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We all know she's one of the hardest working members of the United States Senate.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Five thousand votes, frankly, a number of us have cast 5,000 votes, but it's ridiculous, the example that she has set, never missing a vote.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: You heard that right, 5,000 consecutive votes. It's impressive, but still third in the record books. The late William Proxmire, a senator from Wisconsin, cast more than 10,000 votes in a row through the '60s, '70s, and '80s. And Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has an ongoing streak of more than 6, 400 votes.

But unlike Proxmire and Grassley, Collins has never missed a Senate vote, not once since her arrival in the Senate. A moderate from a largely Democrat state, Collins is not always lockstep with her party.

She was one of five Republicans to vote to acquit President Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice charges in 1999.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Collins? Ms. Collins, not guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: One of three Republicans to approve President Obama's 2009 $838 billion stimulus package.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Collins? Ms. Collins, aye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And one of eight Republicans to help repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Collins? Ms. Collins, aye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: That is one of the two votes Collins is proudest of. The other one is one she sponsored, a landmark 2004 intelligence reform bill that passed on a near unanimous vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I think this is a day that reflects well on the Senate for responding quickly and wisely to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Collins's 5,000th vote Thursday was on a motion to set aside a proposal on tax cuts for small businesses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senators voting in the negative: Blunt, Burr, Collins, Grassley...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: After fifteen-and-a-half years, the junior senator from Maine still voting strong.

Be sure to join us next Sunday when STATE OF THE UNION will air highlights of the debate I'll be moderating between the Virginia Senate candidates, Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine.

Until then, thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Head to cnn.com/sotu for analysis and Web-only extras.

If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes, just search STATE OF THE UNION.

"FAREED ZAKARIA: GPS" is next for our viewers here in the United States.