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Analysis of State of the Union Address; GOP Response

Aired February 12, 2013 - 22:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so, there he is, the president of the United States, delivering a wide-ranging, more-than- one-hour State of the Union address on a whole host of domestic and national security issues.

The president now will make his way out of the chamber. Once he does, a few minutes after that, we will get the Republican response from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

But we're also following some breaking news out of California right now.

We are going to get back to the president's State of the Union address, but authorities are now telling CNN that the fugitive ex- policeman Christopher Dorner is dead.

Anderson Cooper is joining us now with the very latest -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf, it has been a very dramatic end to a dramatic manhunt.

A body has been removed from a burning cabin outside of Big Bear, California. Now, authorities say it is the body of former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, who was thought to be holed up after gun fight with that left one deputy dead.

The cabin was on fire after a tactical operation involving a SWAT team. There is still a lot we do not know and early reports, as you know, are often incorrect. But we're learning more as each minute passes.

Roadways are being cleared to let firefighters in to put out the fire. We're showing you taped pictures because it is simply too dark now to get a good overhead vantage point on what is going on.

Earlier today, police got a report of a carjacking and the victim of that carjacking said the suspect looked like the suspect Dorner. The suspect then fled into the woods, barricaded himself inside that cabin that you're seeing on fire and gunfire was exchanged and during that gun battle one officer, a deputy sheriff, was killed, another was injured, airlifted to a hospital. That second officer underwent surgery, is expected to survive, and according to the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department.

We're anticipating a press conference from the sheriff's department. We obviously are going to be monitoring that for you and bring you the details on that. Again, authorities are now telling us the body of Christopher Dorner has been removed from the burned cabin outside of Big Bear. You saw some folks getting ready for a press conference.

Again, we're monitoring that.

Wolf, as you know, this is an altercation and a confrontation that has gone on for several hours beginning with that stolen vehicle, also early reports according to "The L.A. Times" for the last several days the suspect Dorner had been hold up in another cabin where he allegedly took a couple hostage and that's one of the reasons we had not heard and authorities had not heard or seen any activity on his part over the last several days until today when that dramatic gun battle occurred at a checkpoint when the report went out that a vehicle had been stolen.

And that vehicle found about 27 miles from the place where it had been allegedly carjacked. And then there was the gunfight between the suspect, Christopher Dorner, and also deputies from the Fish and Game Department. He then retreated to another cabin and apparently there was nobody inside that cabin, no hostages inside that cabin, and that's when authorities started to fire tear gas and eventually moved in and the headline now at this hour, that Christopher Dorner is dead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're getting that from multiple sources, Anderson, although the police, law enforcement, they have not yet officially confirmed that the body is that body of Christopher Dorner, is that right?

COOPER: That's correct, and they say the identification on DNA could take anywhere from hours to days. We're waiting on word from that.

Again, we should be having multiple press conferences throughout the night and we will bring those to you of course.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson, stand by. We will, of course, have the news conferences and we will bring all of the latest on this massive manhunt that has now come to an end in Southern California.

But let's get back to our analysis right now of the president's State of the Union address, a major address with lots of new initiatives, lots to dissect.

Chris Cuomo is standing by -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, thank you, Wolf.

Let me start with you, John King, the speech just about an hour, chockfull of hopefully something for everybody. Were you pleasantly surprised?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was not surprised at the long laundry list and that's not a criticism of the president. That's a bipartisan tradition.

Plus, he knows the first state of first State of the Union of the second term probably have the biggest audience and be most listened to before we get into the political environment of 2014 and then 2016 will begin before we know it. I thought it was very powerful at the end with the gun stories, the personal stories, the people in the box with the first lady.

Will it change any votes? We won't know that for weeks if not months. But he ended on a high note.

CUOMO: So, it may not have changed votes, but what about minds and hearts of the American people? David Gergen, you said you thought he was going to be hostile and angry, not so much. What did you think?


I thought he was surprisingly even-handed and talked in a bipartisan way. If you look at the substance of it, of course, Republicans will challenge that, but nonetheless I thought it was an audacious speech, audacious in the sense that he has embraced liberalism, old-fashioned liberalism in a way we haven't seen in a long time.

Bill Clinton said at the State of the Union, said the era of big government is over and tonight it seemed to be coming back.

CUOMO: Gloria Borger, was it, in your parlance, the full loaf? Was this the full loaf, the speech?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was every slice the president wanted, all right, not to extend that metaphor too far.

But I do think the president set a tone here that his advisers really wanted, which was the American public doesn't expect us to agree on everything, but they do want us to try to get our work done. That was something we heard in the inaugural and this was kind of the second part of it, but to me I am still asking some questions, for example, a program for universal pre-kindergarten. How much is that going to cost? We don't know.

CUOMO: He said it would be deficit-neutral, though.


BORGER: He did say. And where is the money coming from? Question, minimum wage, you know, this is an increase in the minimum wage, has not kept track with inflation. How are we going to pay for these things? What's the price tag?

I don't know the answer to those questions. CUOMO: Gloria is saying light on detail, but not that unusual for a speech of this kind.

BORGER: No, not unusual.

CUOMO: Let me ask you something, though, just a point of observation first. A lot of this is going to be about how it plays for both parties and that partisan balance. As former speaker, you are sitting behind the president and people are standing up and clapping. Tough position to be in as the speaker. You're not supposed to stand. You don't want to look the wrong way. How do you handle that back there?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It is much easier if it is the president of your own party.


CUOMO: Having a great time. I am saying in this situation, how do you do it?

GINGRICH: I think for both parties, you know, whether it was Speaker Pelosi dealing with George W. Bush or it was Speaker Boehner dealing with President Obama, you are trapped because you can't be overtly hostile because people back home know you're the host.

This is a national appearance, not a political appearance. On the other hand, you can't applaud too much or your own base is going to just beat you up.


CUOMO: Did you have a semi-happy face that you went to? Did you have one?

GINGRICH: Clinton was a totally different character. Clinton was fun. The first time he walked in and he handed me this envelope and I opened it up and it said, "I resign, William Jefferson Clinton."


GINGRICH: And he stopped me and said, oh, no, I wasn't supposed to give you that one, give it back to me.


GINGRICH: And that was the opening of the first State of the Union I did as speaker of the House.

CUOMO: Let me open it up to both of you, beginning with this please, Governor.

Do you believe that the president moved the ball forward for himself and his party tonight?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Well, first of all, I was writing down the initiatives.

Other than raising the minimum wage, there is not a single thing on here that Republicans haven't advocated for in the past, whether it is manufacturing, whether it is skills development, making sure that community colleges train kids, high school, higher standards for colleges, all of that.


CUOMO: Mr. Speaker, your party is behind it?

GINGRICH: Look, what's fun about this, I think the ideas, a large part of them I agree with. Should we rethink high school? Absolutely. Should we rethink how we educate people for jobs? Absolutely.

Here is the difference. This is the most pro-government speech since Lyndon Johnson. This was reversing Bill Clinton the year of era government is over. But the line that is going to cripple the president coming out tonight is, it will not add a dime.

You can't take this laundry list and explain how you are going to do all of this and it is not going to add a dime?


CUOMO: But he said it. He said it, though, Governor. Defend your president. Did he say...


GRANHOLM: Yes, he did.


GRANHOLM: But the reason why it is going to be deficit-neutral is because Congress will have to cooperate on making sure it doesn't add a dime to the deficit.

That means that there has to be some cooperation in making sure these things -- that this is not -- you do not grow the economy by cutting. You grow the economy by smart investing. It is not about big government, as he said. It is about smart government. And, as I see, he talked about public-private partnerships for building of roads and all of that.

GINGRICH: My daughters used to have a great plan to go to Disney World that would not cost a penny and if we saved all of our bottle tops we could go to Disney world almost for free, except for the amount we put on our credit card.

GRANHOLM: He didn't say for free.


(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: It is a big issue, though, because -- and I will open it up to the ideas for everybody here.

You know you're at the ceiling, right? There is going to be a big part of the debate. Do we extend the ceiling? You have a trillion dollar deficit, but you say you will be budget neutral. It seems to not ad up to people. It seems that we have to start paying down debt, as opposed to staying neutral. Is it enough to be neutral? That's the question.

BORGER: Well, I think the president was talking about entitlement reform. He is talking about, OK, we can't be governed by debt, the deficit, because we have to invest in our future.

CUOMO: Sounds like you're not going to pay it down, then.

BORGER: But he also said, you know, I want to figure out a way to do this and do tax reform at the same time.


CUOMO: And so you will raise taxes to pay for what you're doing, is that what he is saying?

BORGER: You're going to get rid of loopholes, et cetera, et cetera.

CUOMO: Help me with that.

John King, somebody, tell me, closing loopholes is always a great answer for Democrats. We're not going to raise your taxes. We're going to close the loophole. Does that make sense? Can that be done?

KING: It makes sense and there are a number of proposals that have -- some of them outside of government that have bipartisan agreement or people who have been past Democrats and past Republicans in the Congress. Since Speaker Gingrich's days, there are proposals on the table.

A lot of the arguments among Republicans is, they would do that, but not if it brings more money to Washington. The president says you can do that and it would bring more money.


CUOMO: Speaker, if you are going to close the loophole and it is going to wind up bringing money in, where is it supposed to go?

GINGRICH: The Reagan argument in '86 was close the loopholes and lower the rates, so you didn't actually bring in more revenue.

The president wants the money. Look, he is legitimately a liberal. He wants the money. He believes in big government and he just got a bunch of money out of the Republicans and he is back saying now I want some more money because that wasn't the money I really wanted. (CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I agree with that. Listen, there is much about this speech I agree with as well. I thought that many of his ideas were very, very sound, especially on most of education.

But I do think you have to appreciate the fact that he is in retreat from what he basically argued earlier in his administration about bringing the deficits and the debt under control. What Simpson- Bowles argued was and what -- he embraced Simpson-Bowles and he talked about it -- but Simpson-Bowles talked about taking the debt as a percentage of the national economy taking it down over the next 10 years.

And that's where he was going. And now he said, no, no, we're just going to hold it even. He has come a long way. He is really falling far below the original goal.

CUOMO: Hold on there for a second. We have to get back to Wolf. The discussion will continue, obviously -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We have heard, Chris, from the president of the United States. We're about to hear from a rising star in the Republican Party, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He is going to be delivering the official Republican response.

He is doing it in English. A separate response will be done in Spanish as well, clearly an effort to bring Hispanic support into the Republican Party.

Let's set the scene.

Jake Tapper is up on Capitol Hill.

This is going to be an important address for the Florida senator, Jake, and it is difficult to do it after what the president has done.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It is always a thankless task for anyone to give the response to the president of the United States.

But it is interesting. Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who will be giving the Republican response, is one of several Republicans who have delivered the response in several -- in the last few years to President Obama who are being talked about as potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

And, of course, after Marco Rubio speaks, there will be another speech given, the Tea Party response given from the senator from Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul, the son of Congressman Ron Paul, who ran for president, Rand Paul also considering a presidential run.

One of the interesting things, Wolf, though, of course, is that Marco Rubio has emerged as a leader in discussing immigration reform. That was an area that President Obama discussed in his storm address. It was one of the few ones that there seemed to be bipartisan applause. He called on Republicans and Democrats to send him a bill in the next few months and he would sign it, of course, President Obama knowing, as you know, Wolf, the clock is ticking for action on that front.

If there is going to be bipartisan immigration reform this year, it probably has to happen in the next few months and that's one area, Wolf, where I think there is a potential for a bipartisan solution, a compromise to go forward.

I don't know if you heard any others in the president's speech this evening where you think there is potential compromise -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see what Marco Rubio says. He is getting ready to speak now. Very curious to see what he says about comprehensive immigration reform. What does he say about guns, if anything? What about taxes?

Here is the senator.

RUBIO: Good evening. I'm Marco Rubio. I'm blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I'm especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers.

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. See, for much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top and no one else even had a chance.

But America is exceptional, because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious and that everyone everywhere has a God- given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me, this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and to give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn't inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better: the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity -- to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life -- it isn't bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business, and when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties -- from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan -- have known that our free-enterprise economy is the source of our middle-class prosperity. But President Obama, he believes it's the cause of our problems, that the economic downturn happened because our government didn't tax enough, spend enough, or control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more, and spend more. This idea -- that our problems were caused by a government that was too small -- it's just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle-class taxpayers, that's an old idea that's failed every time it's been tried.

More government isn't going to help you get ahead; it's going to hold you back. More government isn't going to create more opportunities; it's going to limit them. And more government isn't going to inspire new ideas, new businesses, and new private-sector jobs; it's going to create uncertainty.

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that small businesses can't afford to follow. Because more government raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay, and even layoffs. And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class often end up hurting them.

For example, Obamacare, it was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these companies aren't hiring. Not only that, they're being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now, does this mean that there's no role for government? Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security against the risks of modern life. But government's role is wisely limited by the Constitution, and it can't play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

There are valid reasons to be concerned about the president's plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the president's agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can't control the weather, he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.

When we suggest we strengthen our safety-net programs by giving states more flexibility to manage them, he accuses us of wanting to leave the elderly and the disabled to fend for themselves.

And tonight, he even criticized us for refusing to raise taxes to delay military cuts, cuts that were his idea in the first place. But his favorite attack of all is that those of us who don't agree with him, that we only care about rich people. Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren't millionaires; they're retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They're workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They're immigrants who came here because they were stuck in poverty in the countries where the government dominated the economy.

The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.

So, Mr. President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors, hard-working middle-class Americans who don't need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They need a plan to grow the middle class.

Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012. But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create middle-class jobs and it would reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion over the next decade.

Tax increases can't do this. Raising taxes won't create private- sector jobs. And there's no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That's why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.

One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio, but God also blessed us with -- America with abundant coal, oil, and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called clean-energy companies like Solyndra, let's open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let's reform our energy regulations so that they're reasonable and based on common sense.

If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle-class jobs, and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.

Simplifying our tax code will also help the middle class, because it will make it easier for small businesses to hire and grow. And we agree with the president, we should lower our corporate tax rate, which is one of the highest in the world, so that companies will start bringing their money and their jobs back here from overseas.

We can also help grow our -- grow our economy if we have a legal immigration system that allows us to attract and assimilate the world's best and brightest. We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally. But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.

Helping the middle-class grow will also require an education system that gives people the skills today's jobs entail and the knowledge that tomorrow's world will require. We need to incentivize local school districts to offer more advanced placement courses and more vocational and career training. And we need to give all parents, especially the parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

And because college tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way we pay for higher education. Now, I believe in federal financial aid. I couldn't have gone to college without it. But it's not just about spending more money; it's also about strengthening and modernizing them.

The 21st century workforce should not be forced to accept 20th century education solutions. Today's students aren't only 18-year- olds. They're returning veterans. They're single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they're workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.

We need student aid that does not discriminate against programs that nontraditional students rely on, like online courses or degree programs that give you credit for work experience. When I finished school, I owed over $100,000 in student loans, a debt I paid off just a few months ago. Today, many graduates face massive student loans. We must give students more information on the costs and benefits of the student loans they're taking out.

All of these measures are key to helping grow the economy. But we won't be able to sustain a vibrant middle class unless we solve our debt problem.

Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn't being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren't hiring.

The president loves to blame the debt on President Bush, but President Obama created more debt in four years than his predecessor did in eight. The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending $1 trillion more than it takes in every year. That's why we need a balanced budget amendment.

The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in. One of these programs is Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately to die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives right now.

I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who's in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now is in favor of bankrupting it.

Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today's retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the president going to offer his detailed plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it.

Of course, we face other challenges, as well. We were all heartbroken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut. We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the Second Amendment rights of law- abiding Americans is not the way to do it.

On foreign policy, America continues to be indispensable to the goal of global liberty, property, and safeguarding human rights. The world is a better place when America is the strongest nation on Earth, but we can't remain powerful if we don't have an economy that can afford it.

In the short time that I've been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the one the president laid out tonight.

The choice isn't just between big government or big business. What we need is an accountable, efficient, and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create more middle-class jobs. We don't have to raise taxes to avoid the president's devastating cuts to our military. Republicans have passed a plan that replaces these cuts with responsible spending reforms.

In order to balance our budget, the choice doesn't have to be either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need. Instead, we should grow our economy so that we can create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.

And the truth is, every problem can't be solved by the government. Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answer to these challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.

Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America. I pray we can come together and solve our problems, because the choices before us could not be more important.

If we can get our economy healthy again, our children will be the most prosperous Americans ever. And if we do not, we will forever be known as the generation responsible for America's decline.

At a time when one showdown after another ends in short-term deals that do little or nothing about our real problems, some are starting to believe that our government leaders just can't or won't make the right choices anymore. But our strength has never come from the White House or the Capitol. It's always come from our people, a people united by the American idea that, if you have a dream and you're willing to work hard, nothing should be impossible.

Americans have always celebrated and been inspired by those who succeed. But it's the dreams of those who are still trying to make it that sets our nation apart. Tonight, all across this land, parents will hold their newborn children in their arms for the first time. Many of these parents -- for many of these parents, life has not gone the way they had planned. Maybe they were born into circumstances they found difficult to escape. Maybe they've made some mistakes along the way. Maybe they're young mothers, all alone, the father of their child long gone.

But tonight, when they look into the eyes of their child for the first time, their lives will change forever, because in those eyes, they will see what my parents saw in me and what your parents saw in you. They will see all the hopes and dreams they once had for themselves.

This dream of a better life for their children, it's the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true. But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on Earth where dreams like these even have a chance.

Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life. Now let that hope bring us together again to solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.

Thank you for listening. May God bless all of you. May God bless our president. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

BLITZER: Florida Senator Marco Rubio delivering the official Republican response and offering a very, very different vision for the future than the president did just moments ago in his State of the Union address, a different vision and a whole host of domestic issues setting the scene, setting the scene, potentially, for some bitter partisan battles in the weeks and months to come with a lot at stake for the American people.

Jake Tapper is watching what's going on.


BLITZER: Jake, this was a very -- a very significant contrast we heard from Senator Rubio as opposed to the president.

TAPPER: That's right. I'm actually standing here right now with the man who gave that thankless task of a speech a year ago, Congresswoman Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and also of course, Mitt Romney's vice- presidential running mate.

First of all, you predicted before the speech that you feared the president would take a hard turn to the left. Is that what you heard this evening or no?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: In some areas I think he was productive. I thought on comprehensive immigration reform, I thought his words were measured. I think the tone and the words he took were productive on that front.

He listed a laundry list of new programs that ought to be created. He said they won't cost another dime. The problem is we're already a trillion in the hole. He dramatically overstated the deficit reduction of his administration without counting any of the spending that had occurred during his administration, so I think he under played the enormity of our task before us on the debt crisis on deficit reduction, which is really threatening to our economy.

So I think what you got was kind of a traditional laundry list, I guess I would say, from a liberal perspective of new programs and things like that without really talking about what these will really cost and how it affects our economy.

TAPPER: But you do -- you did hear immigration reform?

RYAN: Yes, I thought that was pretty productive. I think, you know, when you have -- you're in the legislative arena, and we're trying to get a comprehensive bipartisan agreement here, the words he uses matters. And he used what I thought was a measured tone, which gives me a sense that he's trying to get something done.

So he used measured words that were productive with respect to immigration. I think that's an area where we have a good chance of getting something done. There are clearly other areas we have to work together.

But what I'm concerned about is he underplayed the enormity of the task before us, which is to confront the debt crisis. He's suggesting that there's not much more work to be done to reduce the deficit and get this debt under control, and that's just not the case. There is a lot of work to be done.

TAPPER: There is a lot of work to be done. He also mentioned your former running mate, Mitt Romney, or I guess he's your...

RYAN: I know who're you talking about.

TAPPER: As supporting tying the minimum wage to cost of living. Is that something that you could support?

RYAN: I have never been a fan of that idea. I think it's inflationary. I think it actually is counterproductive in many ways. You end up costing jobs from people who are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Look, I wish we could just pass a law saying everybody should make more money without any adverse consequences. The problem is you're costing jobs from those who are just trying to get entry-level jobs. The goal ought to be to get people out of entry level jobs and into better jobs, better paying jobs. That's better education; that's a growing economy.

Those are some of the things he talked about, and I don't think raising minimum wage -- and history is very clear about this -- doesn't actually accomplish those goals.

TAPPER: And one other last thing. You've talked a lot about the insurmountable task of -- well, you haven't called it an insurmountable task -- but the challenge of solving the deficit problem.

RYAN: Right.

TAPPER: Would you ever be willing to vote for a package that included some tax increases, even if it was just closing loopholes, closing some of the ones that the president talks about on the stump and corporate jets and that sort of...?

RYAN: Well, I supported the fiscal cliff agreement. That already raised revenues by about $650 billion.

TAPPER: Right. I'm talking about a future plan.

RYAN: So here's the issue. We want to make sure that we have tax reform.

He said two things. He wants tax reform, and then he said close loopholes. Well, closing loopholes to spend more money in Washington means you're denying the ability to do tax reform, because it is from these loopholes that we do tax reform.

By closing loopholes you can lower rates and do tax reform to create jobs and grow the economy. That's what we're in favor of and lots of Democrats agree with us. If you take the loopholes for spending which is what I heard, you're making it virtually impossible to get tax reform.

So what we want is smart spending cuts, not across the board like he's suggesting. We want entitlement reforms, and we want tax reform, which, of course, means closing loopholes so we can lower tax rates to get economic growth. That's the secret of success. That's where there are a lot of bipartisan support for, but I didn't quite hear that from the president tonight and that's a cause for concern.

TAPPER: We're going to have to continue our discussion when you come on my new show, which is live.

RYAN: I would be happy to do so. I just committed.

TAPPER: And now we're going to throw to Chris Cuomo for more unless of the president's State of the Union address and, of course, Marco Rubio, his Republican response -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Jake. Good plug for the show, by the way.

We're joined now by Juan Carlos Lopez. He's from CNN Espanol. You spent a lot of time with the senator just last week. It's a high bar, but did the senator deliver for his party and for himself?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL: Marco Rubio is a known entity inside the Beltway. He's known in Florida, and I think his State of the Union reply is giving him a national stage. He is a rising star in the Republican Party. He gave the exact same speech in Spanish that he did in English, consistent with what he said all along, and he will be a key player in immigration.

So I think this puts him in a different stage, and it creates a lot of opportunities for him and for the Republican party.

CUOMO: When you are with him, did you get that sense that he has the, the fire to be out front?

LOPEZ: People who know him knows that he has more than enough fire. He's been -- even though he's 41, 42 years old, he has more than 20 years in politics. He's -- he became the youngest speaker in the Florida house. He's done things that many thought he couldn't because of his humble origins, so he does have the fire and he does have the gravitas to succeed in the Republican Party and could become, as he's become, national theater.

CUOMO: Let's see if we find agreement on that assessment.

Speaker Gingrich, do you believe that, in just some ten minutes, Senator Rubio said what he had to say to negate what the president put forward?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE House: No. Nobody can do that in ten minutes.

What Rubio did do is he presented himself to the country as a very attractive person, a very reasonable person with a very good human story.

I've known Marco since he was a state representative before he came speaker. I thought in terms of the future of the Republican party, the Marco Rubio to Paul Ryan should put to rest any idea there aren't smart Republicans with big ideas that are prepared to do things, so I think Rubio helped himself a lot tonight and I think it makes him a bigger national player and I am glad that he gave the speech in Spanish, and I think that it is going to be very well received in the Latino community.

CUOMO: What do you think, Governor? Do you think that he was impressive and do you think that people who are listening to this tonight may resonate?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (R), MICHIGAN: Well, I'm sure it will resonate with the right, the far right, but I think he lost an opportunity to appeal to the middle, because he started out talking about his family which was great, and then he went right into over playing his hand.

He said that the president believes that the free enterprise economy is the cause of our problems. I mean, that is -- I mean, it's almost laughable. And once you start down that path of over stating things, then he went and said, you know, that the president wants to keep Medicare and Medicaid exactly as they are just after the president said he is willing to do reforms, he did this repeatedly, that...

CUOMO: You call that politics, though. Speaker, do you think it is just clever politics? The governor's very upset.

GINGRICH: I think the two reactions you're getting here are where America is, OK? I listened to the president tell us he can do all these new things and it won't cost a dime. To the governor that makes perfect sense.

I listened to Marco Rubio talk about the president's speech made perfect sense. I listened to somebody talk about basic American values with a great immigrant story and I think he is making perfect sense. From our standpoint he is right.

I think that's sort of the conversation the country is having, literally, the difference in this case is if Mitt Romney had gotten 36 percent of the Latino vote, he would have had more votes than Barack Obama.

Marco Rubio tonight is a very major step back for the Republican Party to being genuinely competitive everywhere in this country.

CUOMO: Do you think Senator Rubio could have been a game changer in this election?

GINGRICH: I can't tell because we all learned. We have a whole project we're doing in Gingrich productions. The Obama people were in a different planet. They did so things so smart and so well thought out I am not sure any ticket and I am not sure any of us were prepared. We were playing good college football. They were in the super bowl. It is a different qualitative operation.

Governor, did you know there was Gingrich productions and does that intimidate you sitting next to the speaker?

GRANHOLM: It should, right.

GINGRICH: Nothing intimidates Governor Granholm. I've been with her often enough.

CUOMO: The problem is this: It can't be that both of you are right. The country is going to respond better to one of these gentlemen tonight than the other.

GINGRICH: We can both be right. The country can respond equally well.

CUOMO: You disagree with me so I must leave you. John, my point is this. When the audience listens tonight, one of them is going to make a little bit better sense than the other one. That's the nature of comparison. What do you think happens?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president has a live audience. The president spoke for an hour. The president always wins, whether it is Democrat or Republican, the president wins this night. The question is what happens looking forward: is the speech digested and what happens in the votes? Did anything change tonight?

If you look at the country, the president just won a huge electoral victory but if you go county by county across America, there's a lot of red in the map. This is a divided country. What they're debating over there is actually America today. It was America in the Bush presidency. It was America at the end of the Clinton presidency. It's probably more polarized today.

What I like to do at the end of the night is say what changed? Right? What changed? What did Senator Rubio say about guns? Unconstitutionally undermining the Second Amendment rights of law- abiding citizens is not the way to do it. Republicans are not giving you that assault weapons ban, Mr. President.

But what did the president say? Give Gabby Giffords a vote, Newtown a vote. Who did the president put in the vice? Democrats on the ballot in 2014. If the president gets what he asks for tonight, members of his own party are the ones more at risk. That's not saying he shouldn't push forward if he believes in it. That's the test in the second term. If he believe it, push for it. But he's putting his own party at risk.

BORGER: But in many ways what we heard tonight is same old same old argument we've been having about the size of government, the role of government in our lives. I mean, Marco Rubio says the truth is every problem can't be solved by government.

I think at a certain point you have to kind of move away from that argument as the governor was saying, and you have to talk about, OK, government has to do certain things. But it needs to be smarter, not necessarily larger.

This is a debate that's going to continue. I agree with the speaker. Paul Ryan there, although I think he wants your former job, I'm not so sure he wants to run for president. I think he would probably like to be speaker of the House. I think Rubio would like to be president.

CUOMO: What changed tonight?

GERGEN: You have the glory in a moment just for a second about what's changed about America. Who could have imagined that we might hear a State of the Union delivered by an African-American and a response delivered by a Latino? I just think that's a glorious moment, and all of us can celebrate that.

I thought he emerged as a very good speaker. You know, he's known as a good speaker. I think that, for the first time, there may be somebody on the Republican stage who can match him sort of in the power structure.

But just as Barack Obama came up very short on price tags tonight, I thought Marco Rubio is extremely short on specifics. He really didn't grapple with how do you solve the problems? How do you apply your principles, Senator Rubio, to dealing with the debt? How about the Second Amendment? He was not clear on that.

Very importantly, how would you solve the Medicare problem? He didn't give us specifics on that.

GRANHOLM: Thank you.

GERGEN: So I think he emerged as a personally attractive new figure on America's stage. I don't think he's the savior of the kind "TIME" magazine put him on the cover as, but he's attractive and I think the Republicans, I know they won the argument. I think John was right about that and many more Democrats watched actually.

CUOMO: All right. Let's head back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. I want to go to the White House. Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is getting reaction to what's going on. A very important historic night here in the nation's capital, the president delivering the State of the Union address; Marco Rubio delivering the Republican response. What are you hearing, Jessica, over there?


Well, they're pleased with the president's performance here and with the reaction they've seen so far from Democratic groups, et cetera.

What I took away, Wolf, tonight was how relaxed and confident President Obama was as he delivered this speech.

Some things I point out: the minimum wage, this measure didn't come out of nowhere. President Obama supported an increase in the minimum wage when he was campaigning in 2008, and then it never came up again. He didn't support it during his first term. He supported it again in his first State of the Union in his second term.

Then on voting rights, this is an issue that touched the president personally, we're told by aides, during this last election when he heard that people had to wait in line up to seven hours to vote. On election night this past year he ad-libbed in his victory speech, pointing out that that was a problem and that's something he wanted to address. He made a point of bringing it into the speech tonight and doing something about it with the bipartisan commission.

And then finally those remarks at the end when he made a passionate personal call on gun legislation for action now. That was a kind of rhetorical flourish I really don't think we would have seen from him in the House chamber in a first term. That was a kind of thing you would have seen on the trail from President Obama outside of Washington in a first term, but now he seems to have merged his Washington and his on-the-trail political persona into a new second term Obama persona. He's found his Washington voice, Wolf.

BLITZER: He's going to take that -- that message that he delivered tonight on the road. He's going to be doing a lot of traveling around the country trying to enlist the support of the American people behind some of these major initiatives that he wants to see. The clock is ticking on some of them right now.

Jake Tapper is up on the Hill with Dana Bash. Jake, this is going to be a pretty rough ride the rest of February into March, because the clock, as I said, is ticking on a lot of sensitive budgetary issues.

TAPPER: That's right. It's going to be difficult, of course, for the president and the House Republicans to come to any sort of agreement when it comes to the debt situation in front of them and the sequester.

But I want to bring in our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, who's here, and Dana, we talked about this evening how the seating and where people sit is key. You noticed something interesting when it came to some -- where some senators had chosen to sit.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. We've heard, in fact, Paul Ryan told you that he was most optimistic about what the president said about immigration reform. On purpose senators McCain, Schumer, and Graham, two Republicans and a Democrat, who worked together on immigration reform, sat next to each other. And I could see them waiting for the president to talk about immigration so that they could stand up together and applaud. That was intentional. And it was a message that they have put together this bill, and they hope to continue to do it and actually push it through the Senate.

TAPPER: And very quickly, do you see serious prospects that something could pass not just the Senate but the House?

BASH: That's a whole different ball game. That's a whole different ball game. In the Senate they're certainly working together. I was at breakfast with the speaker this morning, who said that he actually is also very optimistic about the possibility of immigration reform, because there is a bipartisan group also working in the House.

But what he said is that he's concerned that, if either he or the president went too far, that it would, you know, put a stake in it, because it would hurt the bipartisanship.

TAPPER: All right. Wolf Blitzer, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue our coverage, our reaction -- getting a lot of reaction, a lot of analysis to the president's State of the Union address. But first, we're following breaking news.