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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Granholm Vs. Gingrich; Patrick Rates the Debate; Santorum on Romney's Debate Dominance

Aired October 4, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, battleground America. The PIERS MORGAN debate live. In this corner, Newt Gingrich, one of Mitt Romney's toughest primary opponents. And in the other corner, Jennifer Granholm, the Democratic firebrand who lit up the convention. And yes, we've even got a clock to see who talks more.

Also, the man who said this about Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: What does he say now? Rick Santorum weighs in the day after the debate. And Governor Deval Patrick on why he says this about his friend, President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I for one will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I will ask them both where this campaign is headed. Plus my all-star political experts on what the candidates should do next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are going to take back the White House.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't want what he's been selling for the last year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. Our "Big Story" tonight, 33 days to go until the election and in the wake of the first big presidential debate, the candidates are out on the campaign trail sounding like they're pretty well ready for round two already.

Listen to Mitt Romney in a surprise visit to the Conservative Political Action conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Last night I thought was a great opportunity for the American people to see two very different visions for the country. And I think it was helpful to be able to describe those visions. I saw the president's vision as trickle down government, and I don't think that's what America believes in. I see instead a prosperity that comes through freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Not to be outdone, President Obama tried to rebound from his pretty weak debate performance at a rally in Denver.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.

(LAUGHTER)

But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney. Because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Tonight, the post-debate political landscape seems rather different. A whopping 67 percent think Mitt Romney won the debate versus 25 percent for President Obama. There's still a long way to go in this race and the divide between left and right is growing.

That brings me to tonight's "Battleground America." The debate you've really been waiting for. Jennifer "Fire Brand" Granholm versus Newt "Red Meat" Gingrich. She is the former governor of Michigan and host of Current TV's "War Room with Jennifer Granholm." He is, of course, the former presidential candidate and speaker of the House.

And just as in last night's debate, we are running a clock at the bottom of your screen to keep track of speaking time for our debaters, although, frankly, I want a real debate. If you two decide to go at each other, chew each other to pieces, that's fine with me. We'll forget all about the clock.

And so if I want to interrupt and pick you up on any inconsistencies in your arguments, I will be piling in with impunity also ignoring the clock. So the clock really is just a visual tool to amuse viewers at home.

And let's start. Welcome to you both. JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Thank you.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be here.

MORGAN: Let me start with you, Jennifer Granholm. The opening question is, what the hell was wrong with Barack Obama last night?

GRANHOLM: Well, I'm going to quote the great Newt Gingrich in saying that the man was lying and this is from a previous debate that Newt Gingrich was in with Mitt Romney. I will agree with you, Newt Gingrich, that it is impossible to debate somebody, there's no practical way, as you said, to debate somebody who is saying something totally dishonest.

The Think Progress Web site identified 27 lies that Mitt Romney spoke in a period of 38 minutes. It is impossible to deal with that at a debate.

MORGAN: Well, hang on a sec. Hang on a sec. Jennifer Granholm, if Mitt Romney was telling all these lies, why on earth was Barack Obama not correcting them during the debate in front of over 60 million Americans?

GRANHOLM: And that's what I would ask, I would love to honestly hear Newt Gingrich's response to this, because as he said in his previous debates, when he had to -- he backed down a bit, you just cannot debate somebody who's dishonest. You just can't. And this is again, quoting Newt Gingrich. The people say I'm a good debater.

MORGAN: Jennifer, can you stop --

GRANHOLM: I can't debate somebody who won't tell the truth.

MORGAN: Can you stop quoting Newt Gingrich? What I'm asking you, why --

GRANHOLM: I can't help it.

MORGAN: Why did the president not correct any of these apparent lies? I mean it's the biggest audience of the year. It's a huge debate. It's potentially a game changing moment in the election. You say Mitt Romney lied 25 times. Barack Obama didn't point that out to the American public once.

GRANHOLM: Yes. And I think he should have corrected some of them. I'm not here as a surrogate for the Obama team, but I am here telling you that you have to decide when you are in a debate how much of your real estate you are going to spend in counteracting the lies of your opponent, and how much you want to put forth your plan. The president chose to put forth his plan last night and that's what he spent his time on. But certainly there were unanswered lies.

MORGAN: OK. Let's bring in Newt Gingrich.

Newt, you've heard the allegations. Apparently Barack Obama is facing the same problem you faced, is that Mitt Romney was just telling loads of lies and you can't do anything about it.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it's a great honor to have Governor Granholm quote me and maybe one of the few times she ever does. But it was a very nice thing for her to do.

(LAUGHTER)

I think what was intriguing, she actually raised a point that I was talking with my friends about today. I get the sense that Obama never watched the debates that Romney and I had, particularly in Florida. Even though both my wife Callista and I have said publicly over the last couple of weeks if Romney arrives as tough, as aggressive with the clarity and the assertiveness he used in Florida, we thought he would do very, very well, but I got the sense that Obama came in in a very relaxed way, without adequate preparation, and frankly was stunned at the intensity and at the facts.

One of the challenges the Obama team has with their whole new mantra which is if only Mitt Romney had been a nice person it would have been a better debate. Romney just piled on with fact after fact after fact, some of which --

GRANHOLM: Well, that's --

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: No, but I'm talking about facts like 23 million unemployed is a pretty specific fact.

MORGAN: Well, what about this fact? What about this fact, Mr. Speaker? Romney claimed that President Obama is cutting $716 billion from Medicare that will affect current people in the program. Was that a fact?

GINGRICH: That certainly what the Congressional Budget Office says. The numbers for that have been pretty well vetted over and over again. And I think it's --

MORGAN: He said that -- our own CNN fact-checker John Berman says it's false. President Obama's Affordable Care Act allows for a reduction in the rate of growth over time in which money is coming from insurers and providers but not from beneficiaries. So in other words, it's not a fact, is it?

GINGRICH: Wait a second. Now what he said is -- your guy didn't say it wasn't a fact, $716 billion were coming out of Medicare. He just said they're targeted to one set of people on Medicare, but he didn't say they weren't coming out. So the question I have to ask you is simple. If you take $716 billion out of the program, how many hospitals are not going to take any more Medicare patients? How many doctors aren't going to take any more Medicare patients?

I mean this is a fundamental disagreement about the way the world works and I think that Romney was right this morning when he went in, he said look, there are two different viewpoints here. MORGAN: Jennifer, you don't have to hold back. I can see you racing to get in there. It's not like last night. You can just pile in. Come on.

GRANHOLM: Well, let me --

GINGRICH: Crunch time, Jennifer.

GRANHOLM: Let me just jump in, because truly the $716 billion as you know was the same $716 billion in savings that Paul Ryan put into his budget, and which all of those Republicans voted for. Why? Because it's about smart way of managing Medicare. It is not taking away a single benefit. It is not cutting off a single beneficiary. It's asking the providers to manage their care better.

And that was a smart thing to do. And that's why Paul Ryan supported it, and every fact checker, not just CNN, but every fact checker that has looked at this has said it is a lie, a pants-on-fire lie.

MORGAN: Newt Gingrich, a pants-on-fire lie.

GINGRICH: No, this is baloney. What they're saying is you can take $716 billion out of a program magically but you won't have taken $716 billion out of the program. Now that is simply a denial of how the real world works.

There's a reason virtually every doctor is opposed to Obamacare. They think it's going the lead to more bureaucracy, more red tape, lower payments, less desirable. Already half the doctors in the country will not accept new Medicare patients. There are hospitals starting to say we're not going to accept Medicare patients.

This is a genuine fight over the nature of the system. Obama has this fantasy world in which he can wave a magic wand, take hundreds of billions of dollars out of a program but nothing came out of the program.

GRANHOLM: But let me just jump in one more time, Piers, because what he is suggesting is that you shouldn't be managing Medicare well, and that's exactly what they're doing, like they do at the Mayo Clinic, like they're rewarding providers for caring well.

Wait a second. What this $716 billion did was extend the life of Medicare by eight years. You put that money back in, you're going to have to find a place in the deficit -- in the budget to pay for it. Where are you going to find $716 billion and it's not going to be because of Big Bird?

GINGRICH: First of all, as Governor Romney pointed out last night, the Mayo Clinic is a private institution run by people privately who do things efficiently, which is very different than the federal government, which has rampant waste.

I helped co-author a book called "Stop Paying the Crooks" a few years ago which pointed out that in New York State Medicaid, 10 percent of the money goes to pay for fraud. We were paying --

GRANHOLM: You're talking about Medicaid, not Medicare.

MORGAN: OK. OK. We're -- wait a minute.

GINGRICH: But Medicare is the same problem.

MORGAN: I am jumping in. And unlike Jim last night, I mean it when I jump in. You'll be --

GINGRICH: And we're proud of you. We're proud of you.

MORGAN: Thank you, Newt. And you'll be unsurprised to hear that you have been speaking more, Newt. Not by a lot. But you've certainly overdoing it. So when we come back, Jennifer will get her lion's share of the time --

GRANHOLM: Thank you.

MORGAN: -- to respond to it and we will have more red meat to toss on the barbecue, including the future life or death of Big Bird.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Under Governor Romney's definition, there are a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires who are small businesses. Donald Trump is a small business. And I know Donald Trump doesn't like to think of himself as small anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: President Obama taking shots at both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump during last night's debate.

Back with now on a "Battleground America" debate or the pants-on- fire baloney debate, Jennifer Granholm versus Newt Gingrich.

Let me start again with you, Jennifer, if I may. Barack Obama didn't mention any of the following. Bain, 47 percent, tax returns or women. What on earth was going on with him last night? Four homeruns, no hits taken.

GRANHOLM: Yes. I can't answer why he didn't do that. But I can tell you this. I do know that he was waiting to hear from Mitt Romney about how he was going to pay for his $5 trillion tax cut and he didn't get an answer. I would love to know from Newt Gingrich, who I know has been working with and is a surrogate for the Romney campaign.

Can he name two, at least two of the deductions that will be cut to be able to pay for the $5 trillion tax cut that Romney is offering?

MORGAN: Very good question. Newt Gingrich, well, one thing we're not getting from Mitt Romney is any real detail about how he's going to achieve this miraculous saving. Can you explain to us any of the detail?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, there are at least two components to how he ends up paying for the tax cut. One is growth, where anybody who looks at getting down from Obama's devastatingly high unemployment rate with 23 million Americans out of work, if you get back to a normal unemployment rate you dramatically increase federal revenue.

The second is you basically may have a bargain which Ronald Reagan had in 1986, which is I will lower the rates and I'll eliminate various deductions to get down to that rate. The governor himself last night said one of the business tax deductions might well be the oil and gas tax deduction which might well disappear as a part of a process of getting to lower rates.

So we've seen it done before. It was done in '86 by Ronald Reagan in a bipartisan manner, and I think that you would see the governor, who has worked with a very Democratic legislature in Massachusetts, be bipartisan but let me give you just one minor example of why I think that it's sometimes frustrating to get into who's telling the truth.

There are no definitions by which Donald Trump is a small business.

GRANHOLM: Wait, wait, wait.

GINGRICH: None.

GRANHOLM: I'm -- can I jump in here because --

MORGAN: Well, there is. There is. If you're --

GRANHOLM: Just because he took all the time last time --

MORGAN: If you're -- wait a minute, if you're a Saudi sheikh, then technically Donald Trump's a small businessman.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: There's an example for you. Jennifer Granholm --

GINGRICH: I yield the point.

GRANHOLM: Yes -- no, I just --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Before we move off of this, because I see what has happened here, is there's another sliding away. Nobody is explaining how this $5 trillion is going to find its way into the budget. $4 billion of oil and gas subsidies, you got a long way to go to get to $5 trillion. It's not enough.

MORGAN: OK. Let me just -- GRANHOLM: He promised -- wait, wait, wait. He promised last night.

MORGAN: Jennifer, you wait. You wait. You wait.

GRANHOLM: OK.

MORGAN: Because I want to bring in this, which is tomorrow's a big jobs report again. Could be absolutely crucial to Barack Obama's fortunes as president come November the 6th. And there's a little white lie that he came out with yesterday, talking of telling porkies, he said over the last 30 months we've seen five million jobs in the private sector created.

CNN fact checkers have said this is false, a net gain since Obama took office is just 125,000 jobs.

Jennifer Granholm, it looks like your guy lied, too. Yes or no?

GRANHOLM: No, he said -- no, absolutely not. He said in the past 30 months. Since the -- since we hit bottom, past 30 months, there's been five million jobs created month after month, those are consecutive months. You cannot give the guy -- you can't attribute to him what he walked into, 800,000 --

MORGAN: But the net -- but the net gain -- do you accept, do you accept, Jennifer, the net gain --

GRANHOLM: I accept that there's a net gain.

MORGAN: -- since he took over is 125,000 jobs?

GRANHOLM: I don't know the number exactly but I do know that there's a net gain. Since he took over, knowing that when he walked in, he was in the middle of a complete and utter financial meltdown.

MORGAN: So, Newt Gingrich --

GRANHOLM: So if you give him time to be able to --

MORGAN: We now have -- we now have the reality that it's 125,000, not five million jobs.

GRANHOLM: No, no, no.

MORGAN: How important is the jobs report going to be tomorrow to Barack Obama, do you think?

GINGRICH: Well, we know the jobs report is not going to be good, even if it's better than it has been. Because the fact is, when you count in people who have dropped out of the work force, this is the lowest male participation in the work force since they began keeping records. People just drop out. If you had -- if you had people back in the work force at the rate they were the month that Barack Obama was sworn in, we have an 11 percent unemployment rate.

It gives you a sense of how big this mountain is to climb. And what people have to ask themselves --

MORGAN: Jennifer, don't be polite.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: -- is you want four more years like this?

MORGAN: Come on.

GRANHOLM: Well, I don't -- listen, I can't see you guys. So I don't know when I can jump in. But let me jump in on this right now.

MORGAN: Anytime you like.

GRANHOLM: Because this is the most important point, is that it's the policies of the Republicans that are completely trickle down, hands off, laissez-faire which means that you don't do anything to try to get manufacturing jobs in this country. The president has stepped in at least try to save the backbone of the manufacturing industry, which is the auto industry.

You want to know why there's lower male participation in the work force? It's because we've lost so many manufacturing jobs and under the Bush administration and under Republican philosophy and under Mitt Romney, they would do nothing to compete with our economic competitors who every day are out there slugging to get those manufacturers to their shores.

MORGAN: OK. You've just been talking -- you've just been at exactly the same time. I'm a genius at this moderation. Let me just -- finally, the really big burning question, the one subject still trending worldwide on Twitter. I want a one-word answer out of both of you.

Newt Gingrich, should Big Bird be killed or not?

GINGRICH: That's total baloney. Big Bird makes millions and millions of dollars annually.

MORGAN: Mitt Romney wants to kill Big Bird.

GINGRICH: Big Bird -- Big Bird is a -- Big Bird is a commercially profitable show.

GRANHOLM: Save Big Bird. Save Big Bird. Save Big Bird.

MORGAN: So you would save Big Bird?

GRANHOLM: Absolutely.

GINGRICH: I would save Big Bird by liberating Big Bird from the bureaucracy. Big Bird is fine.

MORGAN: Jennifer, yes or no, Big Bird, live or die?

GRANHOLM: Big Bird lives. (LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: That was a terrific debate. I want to do it again with you two. I like it.

GINGRICH: All right. It'll be fun.

MORGAN: Warming.

GRANHOLM: Thanks a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Next time we'll go longer and meatier. But thank you both. Jennifer Granholm, Newt Gingrich. Most entertaining.

Next, the man who ran against Mitt Romney until he decided to back him. And a man who offers a unique defense of President Obama's performance, Governor Deval Patrick and Rick Santorum, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: No, I don't want to cut our commitment to education. I want to make it more effective and efficient and by the way, I've had that experience. I don't just talk about it. I've been there. Massachusetts schools are ranked number one in the nation. This is not because I didn't have commitment to education. It's because I care about education for all of our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Mitt Romney at last night's debate talking about his record on education as governor of Massachusetts. Deval Patrick followed Romney as governor. He's also a co-chairman of the Obama campaign and one of the president's staunchest defenders.

So what did he make of President Obama's debate performance? He joins me now.

Governor, the general consensus seems to be your man took one hell of a shellacking.

(LAUGHTER)

PATRICK: Piers, I think the president had a good debate but I think Romney had a better one, to tell you the truth, especially on style points. And we know Governor Romney from our time here in Massachusetts, his time here in Massachusetts. We know him to be a very effective salesman and he was selling. The problem is what he was selling won't actually do what he says it will do. It will not grow opportunity from the middle out.

MORGAN: Tell me this, though. I remember when we spoke at the DNC convention, you said, it was time for the party -- you made a big speech, we talked about it afterwards, time for the party to show some backbone. And by party, obviously including the president. Last night he didn't seem to have any backbone whatsoever.

What was the whole strategy of just staring down at his notes, not engaging, not competing, not really doing anything?

I mean I watched it, having been a big admirer of the president for a long time, completely baffled by what I was watching.

PATRICK: Well, I'm. as you know, a big admirer and a great supporter of the president, not just -- not just personally but politically. I think his strategy of investing in education, in research, in energy independence, in infrastructure, is a winning strategy. I think that's the reason why we've added five million jobs in the last 30 months, more jobs than in eight years of George W. Bush, and when you consider the -- that the policies being advanced by Governor Romney are the same as those pursued by George W. Bush that got us into this mess, I think the American people are going to see that and look past what is admittedly not the president's best night.

I give it to Governor Romney on style points. But on substance, and that's what matters, the president wins and should.

MORGAN: You're a friend of the president's. You know him better than almost anybody in the political world, certainly. What went wrong, do you think? What was -- what was the thinking? Was there something we didn't know about? People are suggesting he may have been given some bad news or something just to try and explain the sort of strangely morose mood he seemed to be in.

PATRICK: I really don't -- I really don't know. I wasn't -- I wasn't in Denver. I know whenever I go to Denver it takes me a little while to adjust to the altitude. I don't know whether that was -- but I'm purely speculating, Piers. I just don't know. I do think that the president was right on the substance, but it would have been great to see more energy. I think, you know, the general public and certainly many of the pundits have said so, and I'll bet the president is saying that to himself.

I'll tell you, I was on the street on the way over to the studio to talk with you, and a shop owner came out and he said, what happened to our guy last night? And I said, I said still thumbs up, though. And he said oh, yes, I'm with him. And I think that's the way most of the supporters, indeed all of the supporters for the president thought.

MORGAN: But of all the -- of all the excuses that I have ever heard for a bad speaking performance, and I have heard some rum ones in my time, you have now repeated what Al Gore said, that it was the altitude in Denver? Is that --

PATRICK: Oh, no, no, no, no, Piers, please, don't make more of that. I'm just saying that affects me. I have no idea what explains the fact that the president was not as great as he often is, and usually is. But I will say, and I will repeat that I think on the substance, the president won that debate and on the substance, the president will win this election.

MORGAN: Assuming that we position him now as like a lion who had been traveling late, was a little bit tired and the altitude got to him, by the next debate, can we assume he should be now released and come roaring back at Governor Romney?

(LAUGHTER)

PATRICK: I hope so.

MORGAN: Is that what you would like to see?

PATRICK: I hope so. Look, you know, I believe that what the country is hungry for is the very kind of bold leadership of which the president is capable and has shown himself capable over and over again in the course of his first term. I mean everything from the decision to -- against many, many advisors to extend health care to every single American in every corner of the country, to the decision to bring Osama bin Laden to justice and there are lots of examples of that.

We have one night where he wasn't 100 percent. That's OK. He brings 150 percent most of the time or all of the rest of the time and I think he will in the next debate as well.

MORGAN: Governor, as always, thank you very much.

PATRICK: Great to be with you. Thank you.

MORGAN: I want to turn to the other side and bring in a man who knows a lot about Mitt Romney's debating skills. He ran against him earlier this year.

Joining me now is former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, author of "American Patriots."

Welcome, Senator. How are you?

SANTORUM: I am doing great, Piers. Glad to be back with you.

MORGAN: Well, good to see you. What was your thought watching the debate last night? You've been up against Mitt Romney in the early part of the year, pretty relentlessly. He's obviously a good debater. But I have never seen him quite do as well as he did last night.

What did you think?

SANTORUM: Yes. You know, I thought about this a lot. I really thought that this is exactly what he had to do. He had to go on the offensive. He had to confront, particularly confront President Obama on, you know, the mischaracterizations of both his record and Governor Romney's record, and if he did that, I really believe that President Obama has just never been challenged like that before and that it would get under his skin a little bit and it clearly did, and once Mitt got into that rhythm, I just think there was no stopping him. And I don't think -- I think the reason we haven't seen Romney like that is because when you're in a debate with seven or eight people, it's hard to get into a rhythm. It's hard to really -- you know, have that kind of energy and keep it up when you're only getting one question every 15 minutes. So it really -- the forum worked perfectly for him and if I was Barack Obama I'd worry about the next two.

MORGAN: The thing I would be worried about if I was in the Obama campaign -- Deval Patrick was on earlier, obviously replaced Mitt Romney in Massachusetts as governor. He was trying to maintain that Obama still won on substance, if not on the sort of show. But I don't think he won on any criteria.

SANTORUM: Well, and also, I got to tell you, go back and look at his closing remarks. It was rambling. It was disjointed. He seemed lost. Lehrer, I think unfortunately for President Obama, let him go on and ramble for well past the two minutes. And the longer he went, the worse it became, that he was clearly just unfocused.

I think that hurt him. You know, Piers, it's not so much what you say but it's how you come across to people. You've hear this all the time, I'm sure, in acting classes that 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. On the nonverbals, Barack Obama sent all the wrong messages. He looked petulant. He looked frustrated. He looked angry. He looked disinterested at times.

And while he may have said some good things, it did not come across that way as a confident president who was proud of his record and had a vision for the country. Just the opposite of Romney, who seemed to be articulating both those things.

MORGAN: Just want to clarify, I have never had acting classes, senator. I've had journalism classes.

SANTORUM: Excuse me. I'm sorry. Well, you're sort of a celebrity, so I thought maybe there might be --

MORGAN: I do think you hit the nail on the head about the importance, I think, in the modern era in particular for any politician -- performance is key. I don't care who you are. And what was odd about Barack Obama was that four years ago, he looked like this rock star whenever he appeared in public, onstage, on the stump, whatever. Last night, he looked like the guy who just wanted to quit the band. Just sort of artistic differences had set in. There was a sort of body language, deflation which if I was a supporter, I would really be quite concerned about.

SANTORUM: He likes to go out and campaign and talk about all the things he's going to do. What he doesn't like to do is defend the record of what he's done. And unless he gets comfortable with that, unless he can come up with some better answers and do so in a way that's compelling, Mitt Romney's going to have a good run here between now and election day.

And obviously, with early voting starting, in some of the key states, such as Ohio, North Carolina I think next week, this time is going to be very, very precious for him. They're not going to have a debate now for I guess what is it, a week or two. And this is going to all be to the advantage of Governor Romney.

SANTORUM: Momentum is a big thing in any political election campaign. But as John Kerry will tell you, you can win the first debate and get a big bump in the numbers and still end up losing if you're not careful. What would your advice be to Governor Romney? Now he's turned round all the negativity of the past few weeks, had a blockbuster evening. In many ways this could be a game changing night he has had. How does he maintain the momentum?

SANTORUM: Well, I think one of the keys to his momentum was that he's galvanized a lot of conservatives. He stood up and by and large, not completely -- but by and large stood by the conservative principles, stood by that yes, there is a fundamental difference in the kind of government and the kind of America that I envision and what President Obama does. And that was vitally important to get people energized.

Momentum is not just winning the undecideds, if you will, but it's energizing the legions of folks who should be voting for you, who I can tell you up until last night, many of them were saying I may vote, I may vote and I may vote for Romney, but I'm not excited about it. I think a lot of those folks are now saying, I'm coming and I may talk to a friend or two to get them here.

MORGAN: Deval Patrick also said what Al Gore said earlier, which was that it could have been down to altitude issues, because the president only came into Denver in the afternoon. I did find this a fairly laughable excuse, I must say. You ever suffer altitude problems?

SANTORUM: I've been to Denver many times. I don't ever recall having any kind of brain fog when I got there. I think people in Denver think rather clearly and most people who come in to do business don't get themselves, you know, railroaded because they happen to land in Denver before they, you know -- that's just silliness. It was like, you know, the criticism of Rick Perry, if you recall, well, he had had back surgery and he was on pain medication.

If you're not ready, if you're -- you don't do what's necessary to prepare yourself for these debates, you're not going to do well. And obviously, he was not prepared and not ready and didn't have his mind together to confront an aggressive challenger. And it showed.

MORGAN: Finally, would you kill Big Bird?

SANTORUM: Well, as a matter of fact, I voted to kill Big Bird in the past. I have a record there that I have to disclose. That doesn't mean I don't like Big Bird. You can kill things and still like them, maybe to eat them, I don't know. That's probably that. Can we go back on that one?

MORGAN: That was beautifully badly phrased. I think we should end on that note, just to let you feel really uncomfortable. You can kill things but still like them, Rick Santorum. What a perfect way to end the interview.

SANTORUM: It's good to be with you, Piers. Thank you. Make sure you plug my book one more time before we get off the air.

MORGAN: You can have a plug. Go on.

SANTORUM: Well, I wrote a book on American patriots and it really is about who we are as a country. And I think Mitt Romney summarized it real well, the difference between President Obama's vision and my vision and Governor Romney's vision. And that's what we attempted to do in this book, talking about heroes of the American Revolution and what they fought for.

So pick it up at your local bookstore.

MORGAN: I certainly will. Along with my new book called "How To Kill Things and Still Love Them."

SANTORUM: Thank you, Piers. Appreciate it.

MORGAN: Take care.

Next up, we head to round two. My all-star political experts on what it will take for President Obama to turn this around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: A reenergized Mitt Romney capitalizing on his strong debate showing while President Obama is suddenly on the defensive. How quickly things can change. What happens next? Joining me is Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Maria Cardona, Brett O'Donnell, Mitt Romney's former debate coach, who must be feeling pretty chuffed tonight, and Crystal Wright, editor of ConservativeBlackChick.com.

Welcome to you all.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Brett, I start with you. There you are, coaching away with mitt Romney and boom, he does the debate of his life. I know you weren't coaching him for this one. But you must be quite happy the way things have progressed on the debate level.

BRETT O'DONNELL, FORMER DEBATE COACH FOR MITT ROMNEY: Well, Governor Romney has gotten better. He's definitely better since the 2007-'08 cycle and across these primary debates, this cycle. He's gotten increasingly better. And last night I think he had the best debate performance he has had so far.

MORGAN: Maria, if you are a Democrat right now, you're pretty worried, aren't you? It was a very, very bizarre performance by the president. He didn't mention any of the obvious things to hammer Mitt Romney on: Bain, 47 percent, tax increases or whatever he wanted to do, anything. Tax releases, I'm sorry.

I couldn't understand the level of attack, where he was going. It seemed like he just didn't really want to compete.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, Piers, certainly there has been frustration by Democrats on some of the lost opportunities here. But let's try to take a look at what he actually did and perhaps what he was thinking. He wanted to have a conversation with the American people. And let's talk about one of the things that I actually think he did do right, which was look into the camera. I think it was a deft move because it really shows that he does want to have that direct conversation. Talked about what he has done and what he wanted to continue to do, and point out the disastrous policies that Romney wants to put in place.

But what I think happened was while he wanted to, quote, do no harm and he was practicing the political equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, he let Romney get away with being a total hypocrite, and telling those blatant lies and those blatant untruths, and not going after him on the 47 percent, on his offshoring. I do think that that was missed opportunity.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: -- with kind of a smirk of suspicion and I don't know what else. So get in there. Crystal, what do you want to say?

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, EDITOR, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: I don't know what debate Maria was watching, but President Barack Obama was anything but deft. He looked worn down and beaten. And frankly, he looked like a person who didn't feel like he had to fight for the presidency of the United States. That's the real problem, Piers.

That's why -- and Romney in contrast looked at the president. He put the president's record on notice. He was in command of the issues. And you know what, I think Barack Obama was stunned. He was like oh, my gosh, I have never had anybody call me out on my record. And like Mitt Romney said, you know, president -- Mr. President, you can say until the cows come home that I'm going to add five trillion dollars to the deficit but it doesn't make it true.

I think what we saw last night, we saw Mitt Romney, who looks presidential, who has a plan for the future, who talked about his plan and talked about creating 12 million jobs. What we saw from President Obama was -- wait a minute, Piers. What we saw once again was --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: This is my show, young lady. Moving to Brett O'Donnell at high speed. Now, from a purely technical point of view, in terms of the way that Barack Obama conducted himself in appearance last night, a few things surprised me. Most of all, as I was watching, I was live Tweeting, this continual looking down at his notes, disengaging completely from Mitt Romney. I just thought it looked strange.

O'DONNELL: Yeah. You know, his body language, what -- told an incredible story, the way he communicated last night said more than he actually said with his mouth. Maria said he looked into the camera. He was looking down at his notepad way more than he was looking into the camera. And his body language basically said, you know, I'm not interested in being here. I'm irritated I have to be here. I'm going to argue with the moderator for five seconds. And I'm going to, you know, really just kind of check out of the debate.

He was totally disengaged last night. And I think it was because he was in shock. Mitt Romney went on offense from the very beginning of the debate --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: OK, but let me jump in there. Let me ask Maria that. Why on Earth would Barack Obama be in shock that Mitt Romney was attacking him, given it's exactly what Mitt Romney did in the entire Republican debate race, particularly in Florida against Newt Gingrich, as he said earlier. Did he not watch those debates? Has he never seen Mitt Romney debate?

CARDONA: I think that is a very good question, Piers, because you would think that in talking about the preparation, you would take a look at all of the debates and actually, the one with Newt Gingrich is the one that I think they needed to take a look at, because that's where he eviscerated the Speaker. And he did it by telling the blatant lies that Newt Gingrich actually talked about the next day.

So he should have been prepared for those kinds of attacks. He should not have looked surprised. And he should have been much more deft at not just defending his own record and talking about where we have been and what he has done to shore up the middle class and what he will continue to do, but he should have absolutely brought up the 47 percent, his offshoring, the fact that Mitt Romney does not want to come clean on his income taxes. And I think that would have been a much different debate.

MORGAN: I can se that Crystal is jumping in there. Unfortunately, you can't do it just yet. We have to have a commercial break. When we come back, Crystal Wright unleashed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back with my all-star panel, Maria Cardona, Brett O'Donnell and Crystal Wright. Crystal, you wanted to jump in. I wouldn't let you. That was your punishment for overrunning earlier. Now you can.

WRIGHT: You're the host, I'm sorry. I apologize.

MORGAN: Go on. Now you showed me due respect, you may respond.

WRIGHT: I don't know where to begin. But to address some of the things that Maria is talking about, the American people don't care about Mitt Romney's tax returns. They don't care about the fact that when he ran Bain, he actually turned around a lot of companies. What they do care about is what Mitt Romney laid out, that he's a businessman. He's been doing it for 25 years. And the president looked befuddled at a lot of points during the debates. Mitt Romney almost had to tell him, hey, Mr. President, this is the way that economics work, when people have jobs, they make more money and we have more tax revenue. So I think at the end of the day, the very telling moment about this debate, I think the defining moment was in the concluding remarks.

And president was almost pleading for his job. You know, I haven't been perfect, I haven't been a great president, but I've tried, I've done my best. Contrast that with Mitt Romney, who says see those two documents behind me, guys, the Declaration and the Constitution, I'm going to try to bring us back to that.

MORGAN: It's good point. Brett O'Donnell, again from a technical point of view, Brett O'Donnell, I just felt that the summing up was illustrative of the whole evening. Romney on point, sharp, focused, positive. Barack Obama, defeatist, apologetic, almost I can't wait to get out of here.

O'DONNELL: Governor Romney had a clear message throughout the debate, that he was fighting for the middle class, that he didn't believe in trickle-down government. The president didn't seem to have a message. The thing that was most shocking is in all of the dimensions which people would say the president is better than Governor Romney, likeability, that he can connect with voters, that he has a message, that he is affable -- all of those things Governor Romney outshined the president last night in a wide margin.

He was more likeable. He told stories. He told narratives. He was on his game last night.

MORGAN: He looked like he wanted it more. It's like a football player. One football player is in offense, one is in defense. If it goes on too long, you think who wants to win this game.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Let's move on to the VP debate. I don't have much time here. Obviously, Joe Biden now against Paul Ryan. I got to make a prediction. I think Joe Biden is going to verbally destroy Paul Ryan. And I think he is going to be the salvation of Barack Obama through this debate process.

WRIGHT: You want to bet?

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Am I right?

CARDONA: I tend to agree with you, Piers, because Senator Biden is somebody who is a fire brand for sure. And one of the things that came out of this debate -- and I agree. We can all agree that President Obama did not bring his A game and Romney had a good night. But it is going to take a lot more than a debate that lasted less than two hours to undo what has taken over two years to cement in voters' brains. MORGAN: Who is going to win, Biden or Ryan? Who is going to win?

CARDONA: Definitely.

(CROSS TALK)

CARDONA: Biden is the champion of the middle class, and that's what we want to hear.

MORGAN: Crystal, you really think Paul Ryan is going to eviscerate Joe Biden?

WRIGHT: Look, I'm going to put myself out there. I am not going to promise 12 million jobs.

CARDONA: Don't bet 10,000 dollars either.

WRIGHT: Well, I never do that. I'm not a betting lady. But I am going to bet with Piers maybe a cocktail or two.

MORGAN: I'll bet you a cocktail. And the reason I think you're wrong --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: -- is I've watched all the convention speeches. And I actually thought Joe Biden, with the possible exception of Bill Clinton, made the best speech of the entire fortnight. He also had the highest ratings.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: And I think Joe Biden is going to destroy Paul Ryan. I might be completely wrong.

O'DONNELL: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

WRIGHT: I think you're wrong.

O'DONNELL: You are absolutely wrong. When you -- when you let Joe Biden go, when you let Vice President Biden go off script and on his own like you have to do in a debate, he is a gaffe machine. Vice President Gaffe will show up next week.

(CROSS TALK)

O'DONNELL: Congressman Ryan is a very measured person.

(CROSS TALK)

WRIGHT: I'll get my chains out, guys. My chains ready.

MORGAN: Measured is not a good thing in debates. And tonight, luckily, none of you were measured. Thank you all very much. Maria, Crystal, Brett, come back soon. I interviewed Mitt Romney three times. And when we come back, I want to extend a special invitation to somebody who keeps saying no to me, President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Now, if you're wondering where Mitt Romney developed these extraordinary new debating skills, look no further. I've interviewed the governor three times in the last 18 months and tested his arguing skills as best I can. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Yes or no, are you going to run for the presidency again?

ROMNEY: I don't have an answer for you yet because there are a lot of things you have to consider before you make that final decision. Clearly I am doing the things, like other folks are doing, to keep the option open. And moving forward in the event that I make a positive decision. But there are matters of health, of support, the kind of network you'd like to have of individuals behind you. Those are things you have to assess before you make a final decision.

MORGAN: Am I right in thinking you know the answer, you just don't want to give it to me yet?

ROMNEY: The issue of great significance that everybody tells me I should just change my mind on and do the politically expedient thing, which is to say that my health care plan was a terrible mistake, I'm not willing to do.

MORGAN: When you were governor of Massachusetts, you did extend a ban on these kind of assault weapons, because you did feel there was a qualitative difference between shooting and hunting and the guns you need for that, and having guns where the only capability appears to be mass killing.

ROMNEY: Actually, in Massachusetts, we had the pro-gun lobby and the anti-gun lobby come together and fashion a bill that both thought was an advance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Tough questions, and increasingly adept and skillful answers. By contrast, Barack Obama has persistently declined all my entreaties to come on the show, which judging by what I watched last night was clearly a dreadful flawed strategy. Come on, Mr. President. It's time to follow Mitt Romney's lead.

I can promise you a lively exchange of views, a fair crack of the wit, and perhaps even the odd moment of much needed levity. I'm available any time, any place.

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.