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What's the Winning Message for 2014?; GOP's One-Issue Strategy

Aired February 18, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, what's the winning message for 2014?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to build an economy that works for everybody, not just the fortunate few.

ANNOUNCER: The president has an opportunity agenda. Republicans are focused on one issue.





ANNOUNCER: On the left Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, and Bob Ehrlich, the Republican former governor of Maryland. Which party's message will get your vote? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: and I'm Van Jones on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got two guests who know a little bit about how to win elections. They're both former governors.

Now President Obama was in Maryland today, and he was highlighting his opportunity agenda. This speech comes on the fifth anniversary of the stimulus, which worked. Now, the stimulus was not supposed to create some type of economic nirvana, but it was supposed to keep President Bush's train wreck from dragging us down the toilet into another Great Depression. And guess what? It succeeded.

Also, don't forget, Obama also saved the U.S. auto industry.


OBAMA: Since we stepped in to help the auto makers retool, the American auto industry has created almost 425,000 new jobs. So we raised fuel efficiency, helped consumers, helped improve air quality. And we're making better cars than ever and the auto makers are hiring folks again for good jobs all across the country.


JONES: I love it. And next the president says we need to move forward, invest in education, manufacturing, energy efficiency and yet raise the minimum wage. No solution is perfect, but that's one solution that would lift up 16.5 million workers. Look, if we do everything the president says we're going to have a whole lot more to celebrate five years from now.

CUPP: Well, let's get to the minimum wage. I'm so glad you brought that up.

JONES: I know you are.

CUPP: Let's first introduce our guest in the CROSSFIRE tonight. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, and former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich.

Governor Dean, let me start with you. A lot of Democrats -- a lot of Democrats have said that raising the minimum wage is both good economics, good politics. The CBO, nonpartisan CBO, issued a report today saying that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cost the economy about 500,000 jobs.

Now I have sat at this table with many Democrats who have told me to my face that I am dead wrong, that the minimum wage would cost us jobs. Now, I based that on math that pretty much everyone knows about supply and demand. Why should we trust Democrats on anything when they couldn't have foreseen that this would be the case?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: First of all, it would raise 900,000 Americans out of poverty.

CUPP: I want you to answer the question that I just asked...

DEAN: I was about to get there.

CUPP: ... because Democrats have told me to my face we're wrong. The president has said it. I want you to address that point, cutting jobs.

DEAN: I'm going to. First of all it would raise 900,000 people out of poverty. That's a big deal.

Second of all, even though the CBO is nonpartisan, even though it is very credible, and I usually have the same attitudes that you do, something is wrong with this. Seven Nobel laureates have agreed that they're not right. So...

CUPP: No, no, no, no, no. Whoa.

DEAN: Seven Nobel laureates.

CUPP: CBO is wrong on just this part?

DEAN: Well, apparently it is.

CUPP: Get serious. Get serious.

DEAN: I am. I usually agree with the CBO. And I'm going to say some things about the Obama stimulus package that are not going to be party line things. Because I actually -- I actually think it was Bernanke's stimulus that got us out of this, not Obama's....

CUPP: I appreciate that you are very honest.

DEAN: But the fact of the matter is, I do believe the CBO is wrong here, because most economists disagree with them. And the history is, when you raise minimum wage, in fact, it does not cut jobs. That is a fact.

BOB EHRLICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: If you're worth more than the minimum wage to your employer, you will make it. And if you are not worth more than minimum wage to your employer, you will lose your job or you will have your hours cut. It's a mixed bag. I want to be very honest, too. Of course, it's going to help some people. If it's $9.10 an hour and you're worth $9.11 to your employer, good for you. You got a raise. If you're worth $8.10 to your employer, you're going to lose your job or have your hours reduced. It's basic economics.

CUPP: It really is basic economics.

JONES: Well, first of all -- first of all...

CUPP: Raise the cost of labor, there will be less of it.

JONES: I'd like to get in here. Six hundred economists say that the -- that CBO is wrong on this, because they're using an outdated model. Seven Nobel Prize winners said that.

Much more importantly, you can't possibly mean that the people in your state, sir, in Maryland, who are actually working for places like Wal- Mart, that are deliberately under-employing people and dumping the costs off on the public sector, are only getting paid what they're worth.

EHRLICH: ... 600,000 small business people disagree. This is -- this is not complicated. It just isn't. You can -- whatever knowledge you want, CBO, small business, NFIE, Nobel laureates, doesn't matter. If you're worth a certain amount to your employer, of course...

JONES: In a perfect world. I want to get you on the record on this. I want to get you on the record on this. Are you saying that there is not a single worker in this country that is being underpaid?

EHRLICH: Of course.

JONES: Well, then that's...

EHRLICH: And overpaid. JONES: But the point here is that we've got workers across this country are being underpaid. You have major corporations like Wal- Mart, who are...

EHRLICH: But here's the thing. Government can't make you, by some unilateral announcement, make you more valuable to your employer than you are. That's the problem.

DEAN: This is the argument I would use in this case. Because in some ways you're both right. There are workers that are overpaid. They eventually do lose their jobs, and they go off someplace like China.

But there is no recourse for workers who are underpaid. There are an enormous number of workers that are underpaid, because of just exactly what Van said. Corporations like Wal-Mart are shifting costs to the public sector. Ron Ost (ph), who is certainly one of the most conservative Republicans there is, championed affirmative -- anti- affirmative action stuff; has a ballot option in California that's going to raise the minimum wage in California. Why? Because he wants the corporations to pay the workers what they're worth and stop having them be paid for by the federal government.

EHRLICH: Why not $14? Why not $16?

JONES: Why not none, according to you guys? Why not none?

EHRLICH: Why not $20?

CUPP: You don't have to convince me.

JONES: You know why? Because that would keep up with inflation from 1968. Completely rational.

EHRLICH: It doesn't matter what you think.

JONES: Do you think people don't deserve a cost of living increase?

EHRLICH: It's compassion against economics. It's great...

CUPP: What I can't believe -- what I can't believe, though, is that the Democrats, what the Democrats have decided to do with this report is call it wrong. They're not even going to try to spin -- they're just going to call that part of it wrong.

JONES: We can talk about the...


DEAN: Find out that it is wrong.

CUPP: Think about it. Let's take that gamble.

DEAN: I'm not gambling with 16.5 million people who aren't getting paid enough. I'm not gambling with 900,000 people who are living below the poverty line and ought to be paid decent.

CUPP: You are gambling with 500,000 jobs at a time when unemployment cannot afford that.

DEAN: CBO simply does not have credibility.

CUPP: OK. Let's move on. We're not getting anywhere.

EHRLICH: By the way, the people who do lose their jobs are the most marginal of the marginal. They're the poorest of the poor.

CUPP: OK. Let me let someone else make -- make an argument on my behalf. This was Marco Rubio today, talking about the president's five-year stimulus anniversary.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Five years later, under-employment is still too high. The number of people that have dropped out of the workforce is astounding. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. And our economy isn't growing fast enough.


CUPP: I assume, Governor Dean, you disagree with that assessment.

DEAN: I agree that the economy is not growing fast enough. I think if you look at the economy now compared to when Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2008, it is so much better it's not to be believed.

Now, it is a long way from where it needs to be. I actually don't think the Obama stimulus package is what turned this around. I think it's a small step in the right direction. The biggest difference, which people like Marco Rubio carried on, screaming and shouting about and didn't like and said they wanted to impeach, the biggest difference was Ben Bernanke. When Ben Bernanke did what Europe refused to do, which is to open the Fed and print -- essentially print money with his quantitative easing, that is what saved the American economy and allowed the American economy to leave all the rest of the world out of the economic doldrums. And it made a big difference.

CUPP: Should the stimulus have been bigger?

DEAN: If the congressional stimulus and the Obama stimulus was going to work, it would have been a lot bigger. I think Bernanke, Obama did it. It was an ugly political process. We all know that. I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around for both parties. It wasn't big enough. And Bernanke realized that, and he introduced quantitative easing, which he did not once, not twice but three times. That made all the difference.

JONES: You like what Bernanke did. That's great. I like what Obama did. I think that's great.

What I don't understand is what you guys want to do. You're against the minimum wage going up.

EHRLICH: That's not a growth policy. Not a growth policy.

JONES: You're against unemployment insurance.

EHRLICH: It's not a growth policy.

JONES: You're against roads and bridges now. You're against investment. Roads and bridges.

EHRLICH: I'm going on roads and bridges on the way home.

JONES: You are, at least, for something. A lot of stuff you guys are for...

EHRLICH: I agree with the president when he said shovel-ready jobs work. And this thing has been a disaster. One point two -- $1.2 trillion worth of disaster.

I agree with you both (ph), by the way, with regard to the easing policy. I think that is far more relevant.

DEAN: Your party mostly opposed it.

EHRLICH: It was a mixed bag. It was a mixed bag.

JONES: But look, if you want that, you have, like the CBO, 2.5 million jobs, according to the CBO, out of the stimulus package. A third of it was tax cut. Ninety-five percent of Americans got tax cuts out of the stimulus. You're against tax cuts for 95 percent...?

EHRLICH: Here's my problem with your platform. Once in a while I just want you to do something about growth, about taking that small business entrepreneur and say we're going to reward you. We're going to create jobs. It's not about dependency and more entitlement and more taxpayer dollars and more transfers. Dependency is cool again...


EHRLICH: That's all we're asking for.

DEAN: My argument, Bob, is though, that that is what the Republicans say, but they never do it. When George Bush was president, he gave tax cuts to the biggest -- biggest owners, of course -- the biggest earners in the country. He didn't do a damn thing for small business. The truth is, neither party does a lot for small businesses. The Republicans help out the big corporations, and we help people in the bottom. There's probably a middle ground someplace.

CUPP: OK. Well, as Governor Ehrlich alerted -- alluded to, I think the Democrats' proposals are really small and anti-growth. If we want to grow the economy we have to fix one big thing. Can you guess what it is? I'll ask Governor Dean about it next.


CUPP: Welcome back. We're debating whose agenda will get your vote this year.

Republicans are in great shape for 2014 and Democrats know it. If you just look at any map, there are plenty of House and Senate Democrats that are vulnerable, or take a look at President Obama's bad poll numbers in those states or take a look at Obamacare's bad poll numbers.

The fact is while the president's unaffordable low quality care act will certainly help some people, it will be devastating for many others. Now, that doesn't make me happy but it does make me confident.

Still with us on the CROSSFIRE, former governors, Howard Dean and Bob Ehrlich.

So, Governor Dean, back to you.

Republicans are ready to go with one unified message. And we already have ads running on that message. Take a look.


NARRATOR: More than 470,000 North Carolinians had their health plans cancelled. Health care costs are soaring, and families are losing access to the doctors they trust. But Kay Hagan thinks Obamacare's time has come.


CUPP: There is plenty more where that came from. You will be seeing that all year. What would you tell Democrats to say in response to ads like those?

DEAN: I would say, amend it, don't end it, as Bill Clinton said about the welfare reform. I think, in fact, I have said this for a long time, including other times on this show, is that I think Obamacare will be a net winner for us.

And the reason is as time goes on more and more people are getting health care, who didn't have it before. Some of those people are Republicans. It is really hard to get people to hate Obamacare if they are benefitting from it. Kentucky is really interesting and Arkansas are two places that did not vote for President Obama are -- if you don't call it Obamacare, the health care has high markings. There's a lot of people in Kentucky and Arkansas now have health care that didn't have it before.

JONES: Well, you know, you've got your ads up now. We're going to have our ads up later.

EHRLICH: I can't way to see them.

JONES: And they're going to be amazing. You're going to have -- in every home in America, there's going to be a dinner guest. And that dinner guest is going to be some woman, probably mother, who's surviving cancer, and because of Obamacare she is not going to be dead. How are you guys going to --

(CROSSTALK) EHRLICH: This was a woman that was not in an individual market that did not have her health insurance disrupted by the president's false promises.

JONES: You guys are going to be trying to play those kinds of games. When you are looking --

EHRLICH: It's not a game.

JONES: -- in the face of somebody who is alive and look at the camera and says, hey, listen, had it not been for Obamacare, I wouldn't be here today. How do you deal with that?

EHRLICH: Like S.E., I'm not happy. I know his heart, I've known him for a long time. He is not happy. He knows this stuff really well.

This is a pretty bad bill with a couple of nice provisions in it. It's hurting a lot of people now and, of course, the latest news, the 2.5 million job lead with the IRS, by the way, making sure you don't fire down under the cap, or we'll after you, is this the latest piece of bad news. This is a negligent piece of legislation that's hurting a lot of Americans today.

Now, look, Republicans are going to benefit. We may get the Senate, got it.

But mend it, don't end it, whatever. There needs to be another term for mend like major operation.

CUPP: Overhaul.

DEAN: First of all, you don't get away with the sly reference to 2.5 million jobs. It's 2.5 million people who now have the freedom not to have to work in order to get benefits.

EHRLICH: You are not buying that line I hope.

DEAN: That's a fact. I know that turns to be a fact.

Now, second of all -- I think Kay Hagan is going to get reelected. Why? Because the election is not going to be about Obamacare, which guys wish it were. It's going to be about the right wing nut jobs that are running North Carolina, same phenomenon in New Hampshire. We are going to run the table in North Carolina because you have crazy people running legislature in North Carolina. So, she is okay.

There will be other candidates that are going to be in trouble. There's not any question about it.

I think we take back the Senate for sure. The reason I think so is I think Kay Hagan wins. I think Mary Landrieu wins. I think Mark Begich wins in Alaska.

You cannot win if those --

CUPP: Amazingly optimistic. But let me ask you a question, Governor Ehrlich, because I want to be honest here, an honest broker. I think Obamacare is a devastating piece of legislation and will probably help Republicans win the House and the Senate.

However, I will concede Republicans also need some affirmative alternative solutions not just to health care but to entitlement reform, to tax reform. Are we just going to ignore all that and just talk about Obamacare?

EHRLICH: S.E., you are talking about politics 102.


EHRLICH: Which is the problem you always have when you don't control the presidency. The minority party always runs into this. You see this as leader of the Democratic Party. When you do not -- the Democrats -- one thing I admire about your folks, it's circling the wagons now. It's mend it, don't fix it, we are with you, prez, just don't come visit. But we're with you, circle the wagons, big circle.

It is going to help us. But the fact of it is, hundreds of Republican health care bills have been thrown in the hamper over the past five, six, 10 years. You know that.

CUPP: Right.

EHRLICH: A single party vote on a major piece of legislation like this is very unusual in American history. Newt is the expert. We talked about it in the past.

And as a result has no reservoir of goodwill when it has very negative results with the people, as happening now. But I agree with you. However, I think that's not going to happen as long as you're in the minority in the House.

It's going to happen in the context of the presidential race where you have a central leader, that person's philosophy obviously --


JONES: Speaking of other presidentials, when you were in the race, you used to call yourself the leader of the Democrat wing of the Democratic Party.

DEAN: Right.

JONES: As we go into 2016, who is the Democratic leader of the Democratic wing today?

DEAN: I think that's -- it's totally different Democratic Party. There's a really interesting article in "Daily Kos" today by Markos himself which basically said, get over head. Hillary Clinton is somebody that progressives can live with.

So, I don't think we're going to have -- CUPP: Is that true?


DEAN: That's true.

CUPP: Progressives live with Hillary Clinton?

DEAN: Absolutely.

CUPP: Come on.

JONES: As a progressive, not as party unifier.


DEAN: We don't know where she is going to be on the major issues. First of all, we don't know if she is going to run.

CUPP: We know her pretty well.

EHRLICH: Well, she wants to take a poll to find out what she thinks, first.


CUPP: Is Hillary your progressive role model?

JONES: She is the unifier for this party. I think it's very hard to make the case that she's a progressive leader.

DEAN: I didn't make the case. I said she's acceptable to most people in the progressive wing, because this is a road (ph) to a unified party.

CUPP: We'll see.

EHRLICH: She will take a poll and figure it out.

JONES: Stay here. We're going to --


JONES: I want you to weigh in on the "Fireback" question. Do you think raising the minimum wage will cost jobs? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We're going to give you the results after this break.

We're also going to give you our outrages of the day beyond my outrage with you for that statement.


JONES: And what Ted Nugent says about President Obama. You are going to be outrage, too, when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUPP: We're back with Howard Dean and Bob Ehrlich.

Now, it's time for "Outrages of the Day."

Early voting starts today in the Texas governor primaries. Much has been made about the inaccuracies in Democratic candidate Wendy Davis' autobiography. But here's what she told "The New York Times", quote, "Do I think that I'm being held to a different standards than a man who would be in this exact same race with the exact story might be? Yes."

No, Wendy, it isn't sexist to ask questions about your integrity, unless you think inquiries into Barack Obama's, John McCain's, Mitt Romney's, Newt Gingrich's, Bill Clinton's, and every other candidates' personal lives were also sexist. The rules aren't gendered. They're simple. Tell the truth.

JONES: I can feel your outrage. My outrage is -- also comes from the Texas governor's race. Republican Greg Abbott is getting some help from rocker Ted Nugent. It's Nugent's crazy racist comments that have me outrage. Now, I don't use that word lightly. Listen to this.


TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.


JONES: Sub human mongrel. Now, that is language from the days of slavery. And I cannot for the life of myself understand why a leading Republican candidate would associate in any way with somebody saying stuff like this and a guy like this.

I go to you, Governor. Do you think it's right for Abbott to embrace this guy and stand with this guy?

EHRLICH: Of course, the language is way over the top. We knew that. But I just find it interesting if I get this straight that your problem is with a rocker and comments and S.E., your problem is with the actual candidate, the actual candidate. So I'm not going to defend this. Nobody is going to defend this.

Nobody's going to defend this. It's why we're talking off the air why this show works, by the way, because you can having serious disagreement, philosophical disagreement without getting personal.

JONES: Sure.

EHRLICH: People are tired of that stuff. They don't like it.

JONES: Here's my concern back to you, though. This is a Republican leader running to be the leader of Texas. He is grabbing on to somebody who is calling the president a sub-human mongrel.

Do you think that's right or wrong?

CUPP: Really disrespectful language.

JONES: Would you do it?

EHRLICH: Of course not. By the way, I've seen -- my lieutenant governor is Mike Steele. I've seen disrespectful to African-American Republicans, believe me.


CUPP: Governor Dean, did you want to weigh in?

DEAN: Two things. First of all, this doesn't help Greg Abbott. Texas is not the right wing nut place everybody makes it out to be. There are a lot of reasonable, thoughtful, middle-of-the-road people there who are going to be turned off.

CUPP: I hope so.

DEAN: My outrage is not at a rocker. My outrage is the gubernatorial candidate thinks this is OK.

JONES: Well, listen, I agree with you on that. I want to thank Howard Dean and Bob Ehrlich, for being here. You can go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Do you think raising the minimum wage would cost jobs? Right now, 39 percent of you say yes, 61 percent say no.

The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.