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Interview with Michele Bachmann, Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Interview with Rick Santorum

Aired May 11, 2014 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Benghazi, health care, and Monica Lewinsky, a troika of headlines moving the needle in an election year.

Today: getting to the facts on Benghazi or exploiting it for politics.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And we will not take any shortcuts to the truth, accountability or justice.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This is a -- a stunt. This is a political stunt.


CROWLEY: House Democrats ponder a boycott of the new Benghazi committee, and fresh CNN poll numbers show a healthy majority of Americans do not want to repeal Obamacare -- looking at it all through the prism of an election year with Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Michele Bachmann.

Then, who thinks the minimum wage should be raised, that Republicans don't care as much about the poor as Democrats, and that Rand Paul doesn't stand a chance in the Republican Party?


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It's a conservative party and will nominate a conservative, not a libertarian.


CROWLEY: Rick Santorum joins us for party talk.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We like voting during the presidential years, and, during the midterms, we don't vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: And his 43 percent approval rating isn't exactly inspirational, the 2014 challenge for Democrats, Joe Biden's backhand at the Clinton administration, and a blast from the past, Monica Lewinsky at 40 and talking. Our panel takes it on.


Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.

First this morning, citizens in Eastern Ukraine are voting on whether to separate from the rest of their country. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the pro-Russian sympathizers to delay the vote. Government leaders in Kiev and the West called the vote illegitimate and worry the results could push the country one step closer to civil war.

CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in Slavyansk, Ukraine.

Nick, how widespread is the voting, and what are we to interpret by turnout at this point?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw first thing in the morning at one of the polling stations pretty substantial numbers, but that has ebbed as the day has gone on, less there now.

Speaking to one official at one of the polling stations, he said they got to about 25 percent turnout, they thought, by about noon. But we already know from the self-declared mayor here that he thinks there will be at 100 percent turnout. That what he anticipates.

And that gives you kind of a window, Candy, as to exactly how this election is run. We're not seeing a climate of debate here. There's no posters around town. This is simply about getting people out to endorse what the pro-Russian militants and protesters here have already achieved, really, which is to try and cut this town off by a series of barricades and checkpoints from the rest of Ukraine, and push it forward, through this referendum, closer to independence, and possibly even joining Russia down the line, Candy.

CROWLEY: So, what do we expect the Ukraine government to do? So, we -- we already know what the outcome is going to be. They're going to vote to separate from the rest of Ukraine. So, what does -- where does that leave the government in Kiev?

WALSH: Well, they have two choices, really. The first is to do nothing, because Vladimir Putin recently said this should be delayed, the presidential election should be a focus on May the 25th.

They could just let this continue. Eventually, these guys are going to run out potentially of resources, money, possibly even support locally, although there's a lot of people here who back what they're doing, or the Ukrainian military could step in. And that's the big fear. They're here in substantial numbers. There was shooting on the outskirts of town, apparently some this morning as well.

The fear is, they may come in. They haven't moved yet to try and stop the referendum from actually happening there. But the fear is, if this does go through, as everyone expects it to, they may then use force to try and prevent sort of secession (AUDIO GAP) -- Candy.

CROWLEY: And the other side of the coin, what does Russian President Putin do?

WALSH: Remarkable, actually, his turnaround, I think, for external consumption, perhaps to try and (AUDIO GAP) those in Washington who seek sectoral sanctions against Russia if the elections here are interfered with, as Barack Obama recently said. But let me give you one little bit of color here (AUDIO GAP) eye- opening. Russia's 24-hour news channel, run by the Kremlin, was in our hotel last night, running a banner along its bottom, telling precisely the town we were in how to vote in this (AUDIO GAP) referendum.

And that can only have happened with some sort of assistance from the Kremlin, technically sophisticated thing to do, and specific to that channel alone. No other channels are showing the same banner. It shows that Russia still clearly has a dog in the fight here, encouraging this vote, but at the same time Vladimir Putin saying it should have been delayed, a mixed message there.

But I think that can be interpreted by Washington officials as really (AUDIO GAP) game here. They're fomenting this. Their fingerprints aren't clearly on it. You don't see a smoking gun wherever you look, but Vladimir Putin was (AUDIO GAP) but now distanced himself from it.

He may think the job is done (AUDIO GAP) instability in this part of Eastern Ukraine. There's a lot of anger towards the West, some saying it's impossible to still be part of Ukraine at all. But he may think it's no longer required for Russian troops to come in or for Russia to play an open (AUDIO GAP) happening here, that it's already basically crossed the line and can't be turned back. That's the question we have to see the answer to here, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, every day, another question. Nick Paton Walsh, thanks so much this morning.

I want to now bring in Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. And Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, she's a former Republican presidential candidate and founder of the Tea Party Caucus on the House side.

First of all, you're both mothers. So, our special thanks today for taking the time to be with us.

And, Congresswoman Bachmann, I know you just had eye surgery, so a double thank you to you for showing up this morning and helping us out.

Let me start with -- the two of you, with the other piece of news that has been throughout the week one of the things we have focused on, and that is the missing Nigerian schoolchildren.

Are either of you satisfied with the extent, whatever extent that is, that the Obama administration has reacted to that?

Let's start with you, Congresswoman Bachmann?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, this was something that didn't just come up now.

Boko Haram has been on the run and on the rise for years. I put a letter out several years ago calling for a crackdown on the Boko Haram. It is a foreign terrorist organization. It's important that the United States designates it as such, as it is now, which we're grateful.

But, again, we root out terrorism wherever it is. And I think that the earlier we push against these radical organizations, the better. I think more could have been done a couple of years ago to help prevent this. But this is on the rise, and it has to be quelled.

CROWLEY: Sure. But, right now, it sounds like you're satisfied with the Obama administration's response thus far?

BACHMANN: We have to continue to push back. And this is something, again, where this isn't partisan. We all have to work together. It's national security.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: In 2012, it's important to note that the Obama administration designated the -- a number of the leaders of Boko Haram as terrorists, and now have sent personnel and military advisory assistance and the people on the ground from the United States who are going to be able to provide technical and specific intelligence advisory commitments to make sure that we can do everything we can to help find those girls.

That's the number one priority. And I agree with Michele that we have to make sure that there's a bipartisan focus, that the United States needs to, as President Obama has committed, to provide that assistance to find those girls.

CROWLEY: The other foreign policy issue that has resurfaced, at least in the headlines, has been the probe of Benghazi.

Now, the House, which is majority Republicans, as I'm sure you both know, has decided to have a select committee to look into the circumstances before, during and after the attack on Benghazi, when four Americans were killed.

First to you, Congresswoman Bachmann. There seems to be some fear within the Republican Party -- and you see some of it out loud and hear some of it privately -- that there is a way you could push this too far and make it -- and you meaning Republicans -- could push it too far and make it seem so political, that it backfires. BACHMANN: Well, I think, when it comes to the issue of Benghazi, what happened was so appalling that people simply want to have an answers.

We don't take it lightly. Security threats are nothing to take likely. In Benghazi and Libya, when the events happened, this was a highly volatile time. There were over 4,000 threats that had come. And then, when the event occurred, there was no military rescue that was ordered. There's questions about that.

And the big question in many people's minds is where did this false narrative come from to blame a video, rather than the terrorist actions of Ansar al-Sharia which were evident on the ground? So, I think what this committee is doing is taking a very careful look at a very deliberate pace to go through depositions...

CROWLEY: Let me show you...

BACHMANN: ... of people on the ground to find the truth of what happened. That's all people want is the truth.


CROWLEY: Let me show you a "USA Today" poll asking folks what the most important issue is right now in their lives, what they want politicians, one assumes, to address, jobs at 27 percent, health care 21 percent, federal budget deficit 19 percent, on down the line.

Security and terrorism is at 7 percent. So, my question to you was, is there a possibility that Republicans can look off-key with this? I know you say people are interested, but when you ask them what's your most important issue, they're looking for you all to do something about jobs and health care and the federal budget deficit.

BACHMANN: Well, I don't disagree at all with the numbers that you gave. I think they're accurate.

But people can walk and chew gum at the same time. It doesn't diminish the fact that we need to have answers about what happened on that fateful night with four Americans who lost their lives. We need to get answers. This cannot be politicized. It has to be done, again, in a very thoughtful, deliberate way, which I trust and believe Trey Gowdy and the committee will do.

I'm very impressed with their approach. And I think, again, we have to have answers.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, look, there -- there have been many probes into Benghazi, as I'm sure you would point out.

But how can Democrats not participate in this probe? Do you think that there are no more questions about Benghazi? Are you satisfied? Do you know why a U.S. ambassador was in a place where there had been so many warnings, seemingly sort of underguarded? I mean, do you feel like you understand why the administration said what it said after Benghazi? Are all the questions answered to you? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Candy, I think what's important to note here that keeps getting either put aside or lacks focus is that there are families who have been through a really terrible tragedy.

And the Republicans in the House of Representatives after 13 hearings, 50 briefings, 25,000 pages of documents that have been released, and a commission that was put together by Secretary Clinton that has fully examined what happened and recommended, gave -- put forward 29 recommendations, all of which are being implemented, those things have all occurred. This has been looked at so exhaustively that Buck McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, just last week criticized Darrell Issa, Republican chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, because the last witness, a brigadier general that he brought before the committee to yet again investigate Benghazi, brought nothing new forward.

CROWLEY: Sure, but the...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is in the words of their Republican Armed Services chairman.

So, just -- just a minute. So, the bottom line here is that the Republicans have clearly lost the ability, because we have had such a precipitous drop among Republicans even in their fervor for repealing the Affordable Care Act, that they are clearly doing this to drive their turnout...


BACHMANN: You know, Candy, that is not true at all.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Michele, I didn't -- I didn't interrupt you. Excuse me. Michele, I didn't interrupt you, so I would appreciate it if you didn't interrupt me.

CROWLEY: Excuse me.

Congresswoman, to the question first -- and, then, Congresswoman Bachmann, I will let you back in on this -- to the question, you know, can you just not participate in this, when there are so many things -- you know a new document came out -- what precipitated this was a document that the committee didn't know about came out this week that certainly made it look as though the administration certainly was shaping the message in a way that turned out not to be true.

So, can you afford just to turn your back on this? Doesn't it then look like we don't want to know what went on?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the Republicans are in the majority of the House of Representatives. So, they can essentially do whatever they want. In creating this select committee, they have to, in order to make sure that the process is credible, which, the way they have set it up, it's clearly not going to be and has an outcome that's been predetermined -- they have to treat the minority fairly.

BACHMANN: That's absolutely not true.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, no, it is -- it is true. And let me tell you why it's not fair.


BACHMANN: I think it's important -- I think it's important -- I think it's important that this is a dialogue, and not a monologue.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We don't have even the ability to be assured that we're able to participate in the interviews of the witnesses. We don't have consultation power on the subpoenas.


CROWLEY: Understood.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So, if it's fair, then we will participate.

BACHMANN: Candy, it's really clear -- it's really clear that the Democrats have tried to sabotage this process from the very beginning.


BACHMANN: We shouldn't do that...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We don't have the ability to sabotage it.

BACHMANN: ... when we have unanswered questions about four people who have died. We have got to get to the bottom of this. This is reality. We have to get to the bottom of this.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You're right. The bottom -- but the bottom that we have to get to is how this should never happen again and to bring the perpetrators to justice.


BACHMANN: And, unfortunately, that's what been happening with the Democrats. They have been politicizing. And that's wrong. That's wrong to do about people who died.


CROWLEY: One more subject I want to talk...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It is the Republicans that have been politicized Benghazi from beginning to end.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you about one more subject before I have to let you go.

And that is, we have some new poll numbers out asking folks about the president's Affordable Care Act. The question was, what should Congress do with the health care law, keep it or make some changes? Sixty-one percent, keep it or make changes, repeal it, 38 percent.

Congresswoman Bachmann, just in brief, what does that do to the rallying election-year cry of Republicans, which is repeal?

BACHMANN: Well, I think, clearly, this is the issue that the Democrats have been running away from. It was the signature issue of President Obama, the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Only one party passed this bill. And people are very concerned to get this disruption in their lives.

CROWLEY: But 61 percent of Americans say they want to keep it. I mean, 61 percent say, look, keep it, but make -- or make changes.


BACHMANN: But 55 percent of the American people in a Pew study said that they're very unhappy with the Affordable Care Act, so they want it changed. That's really what the result is. They're not happy this bill.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Candy, this now is why...

BACHMANN: They want it changed. And now, just in the last day or so -- Debbie, you had your turn. Now it's mine. In the last two days, we have found that there's another report that just came out...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Just don't want you to run out the clock, Michele.

BACHMANN: ... how this is hurting the bottom line of major businesses, from GE to UPS to Dollar General. This is hitting their earnings, because the Affordable Care Act...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Candy, the bottom line...


BACHMANN: Not just for businesses, but for individuals as well, it's very unpopular.


CROWLEY: Congresswoman Bachmann, thank you.


BACHMANN: And the Democrats are running away as far as they can from it in this upcoming election.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Eight million people signed up.


CROWLEY: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, let me bring you in here...


CROWLEY: ... and your response to this.

Now, look, most people think it ought to be changed.


CROWLEY: But does this make you think that more Democrats ought to embrace it?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, Democrats have embraced it.

What we have said all along is that...

BACHMANN: Not the Senate candidates.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... if there are problems that arise with the Affordable Care Act, we should -- excuse me -- if there are problems that arise with the Affordable Care Act, we should work together in a bipartisan way to address those.

But repealing the Affordable Care Act and going back to the bad old days, when insurance companies could drop us or deny coverage for preexisting conditions, as a breast cancer survivor with a preexisting condition, I join the 129 million Americans who also have preexisting conditions in wanting to never go back to that time.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There are eight million more people now who have health care.

The Republicans have lost this as an issue that they can gin their base up. That's why they turned to this select committee on Benghazi.


CROWLEY: I'm afraid I have to cut it off there for both of you.


BACHMANN: This is the issue that Democrats are running from, and rightfully so.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... creating jobs and getting this economy turned around, as you said. Those are the priorities of the American people.


BACHMANN: That's what we're running on this fall, and we're proud to do.


CROWLEY: Thank you both so much for your time.


CROWLEY: Next time, I'm going to have you in studio. I might have better control here.

BACHMANN: Happy Mother's Day.

CROWLEY: But thanks.


CROWLEY: Listen, happy Mother's Day to both of you...

BACHMANN: Happy Mother's Day to you.

CROWLEY: ... Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Michele Bachmann

We did dig up some pictures of your beautiful families. We hope all of you have a great day.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Up next: He rode a populist message to second place in the 2012 Republican primary.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: That's what our campaign was about, about what made us Americans, how we built this country from the bottom up, and how, if we're going to be successful in the future, how we must believe in ourselves.


CROWLEY: Rick Santorum is back with a new book scolding fellow Republicans for failing to connect with working-class voters.


CROWLEY: I'm joined now by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. He's out now with a book called "Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works."

Thanks for being here this morning.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Candy.


CROWLEY: Appreciate it. And Happy Mother's Day to those in your life.

SANTORUM: Oh, thank you. I have a wife and a mom, and that's terrific. Thank you. CROWLEY: Time to celebrate.

SANTORUM: Happy Mother's Day.

CROWLEY: I wanted to just revisit for a minute the new CNN/ORC poll on the question of what should Congress do with Obamacare, with the health care law.

Sixty-one percent said, keep it or some make changes, 38 percent, repeal it. My question to you -- and, by the way, the majority...


CROWLEY: Most people still felt like it's too early to tell whether it's a success or a failure; 38 percent said, I think it's a failure.

But, nonetheless, it's about repealing it or keeping it. The vast majority said change it. Is it time to drop repeal Obamacare and work with what's there?

SANTORUM: I think it's -- I think it's important that we focus on developing a health care system that works.

This one isn't working. You can say, well, we need to change it. You can say we -- I think you probably have a lot of partisans who are probably saying fix it because they don't want to say repeal it because that goes into the Republican message.

CROWLEY: But you can see why Democrats would say that.


CROWLEY: But what about Republicans, whose message has been, as you know, repeal it, repeal it, repeal it?

SANTORUM: Well, I think -- my guess is that 38 percent, almost all of them are Republicans. So, that's probably a very popular thing still among Republicans.

And among Democrats, I think they -- they probably are feeling a little bit of affinity toward their party as elections approach and saying, well, let's just change it. It's not working well.

I don't anybody -- we have got four exchanges, half-a-billion dollars wasted by the federal government on setting up four exchanges that have failed on the -- on the state level, more that are going to fail. I mean, this still is a big problem for our country and for working men and women. And so what Republicans need to do is talk about what they would do. Whether you want to call it fixing it, whether you want to call replacing it, I don't think that's as important as saying, here is the vision for how we can create a better health care system. I know some Republicans have done it. I think we need to talk more about that. CROWLEY: Well, from a purely political point of view, I understand that going out and courting conservatives, trying to get them out to vote, probably means you stick with repeal it.

But when less than when -- when 38 percent, only 38 percent say repeal it, isn't it time for Republicans to say, look, here is what we should keep, and let's change the rest of it?

SANTORUM: No, I don't think you react too quickly to any poll.

I think you have seen a lot of polls much higher than that. I think it goes up and down. I think the president has had a couple good weeks on the eight million people that have signed up. I think he's going to have a couple of bad weeks when we figure out that a lot of those people actually don't have coverage and the ones that do aren't happy with it.

So, I think this is going to ebb and flow as information comes in. I think the emphasis has to be we need a different health care system than what President Obama has set up, and here's where -- here's our vision for the future.

CROWLEY: Let me move you to something else.

Mitt Romney this week joined you in saying, look, I think we should raise the minimum wage. It's something that you have long -- a position you have long held when you were in the Senate...


CROWLEY: ... when you were in the House.

As I was going home on Friday, I was listening to talk show host Mark Levin.


CROWLEY: Levin. Levin. Sorry.


CROWLEY: And here's -- here is what he had to say about Romney.


MARK LEVIN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He's just wrong. He was wrong with Romneycare, and he's wrong with this.

But now he's becoming a troublemaker. Now he's becoming a divisive force. Now he is trying to leave an imprint on the Republican Party that will contribute to its destruction. (END AUDIO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Now, Mark Levin is a pretty influential guy. I mean, he endorses candidates. It means something. SANTORUM: And he's a good guy. He's a great guy.

CROWLEY: He's got a big -- and -- but he says, look, this is destroying the Republican Party.

SANTORUM: Yes, I -- I think Governor Romney came out in favor of President Obama's increase.

I'm not in favor of President Obama's increase. When I was in the Senate and when I was in the House, I did vote for minimum wage increases that were incremental, that were not inflationary, that did not cost jobs

If you look at the CBO report, half-a-million people would lose their job as a result of the Obama minimum wage increase. I'm talking more in the age of -- more in the range of a dollar, phasing that in. I think that will create a minimum wage. Only about 2 percent of workers are covered by the minimum wage. Historically, it's between 5 percent and 7 percent. And so I think we need to...


CROWLEY: But, from a political point of view, there is this sort of intraparty push and pull. Some people think there shouldn't be a minimum wage at all. Let the marketplace, lah, lah, lah.

SANTORUM: Right. That's true, yes. Sure, yes.

CROWLEY: But there's also then that kind of overall look saying, does this add to Republicans' problems with working people?

SANTORUM: I think it does.

I think if you -- you don't see too many Republicans arguing against a minimum wage. I know a few have. But I don't think too many do. And so, if you're going to have a minimum wage, I think we just need to be reasonable about it and offer an alternative.

In the past, Republicans have offered alternatives to minimum wage increases. And most of them are the ones that have been successful.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you about the VA, because one of the things I didn't know about you was that you grew...

SANTORUM: Yes, I'm a VA...


CROWLEY: Yes, you grew up on a VA post.

SANTORUM: I did. CROWLEY: Both your parents worked in VA hospitals.

It is -- and it's not -- when you look at the VA as a whole, not just the hospitals -- and you know we have had this horrendous instances that have come up -- and the VA chief, Eric Shinseki, has said, we're going to investigate these things.

But there's also been this huge backlog for benefits for veterans, all kinds of benefits. Five years in this job, is it time for Eric Shinseki to find another job?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think, when my parents worked at the VA, we saw -- I saw a gradual erosion of care.

I mean, back when they started after the war, both my parents started after the war -- the VA was a very robust institution. And it keeps getting squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. I mean, this is -- if you want to look at an example of government-run health care, the VA is a good example of it.

If we treat our veterans this way, imagine how we're going to treat average, ordinary Americans who don't have the didn't political pull and the pull at the heartstrings that our veterans do.

This is a -- this is a good place to look as we consider Obamacare and consider where they're heading with Obamacare as to whether we really want this as a government system of medical care.

CROWLEY: But you sort of suggest that this is a structural problem, and not necessarily a leadership problem?

SANTORUM: I think it's a structural problem and a leadership problem.


CROWLEY: Should he go? Should Shinseki go? SANTORUM: You know, I'm not going to make any comments about appointments. I think he should have to face the music.

And if he's proven not to have performed admirably, I think the administration should do what's appropriate.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to the Benghazi hearings.

And one of the things you write about in your book is that the problem Republicans have had is they sort of look like a no party, like, we don't like this, and we don't like this and we don't like that.

Where does Benghazi fit into that?

SANTORUM: I think it's important for Benghazi -- the Benghazi committee to look at the information, try to do so as nonpartisan as possible. I know that -- that sounds -- well, this is a whole partisan exercise. It doesn't have to be.

CROWLEY: And it's an election year.

SANTORUM: Yes. It doesn't have to be. I have a lot of faith in Trey Gowdy. I think he's a really solid guy and I think he's a serious prosecutor. If he does his job, does it in a professional way. He tries to tone down rhetoric and just get to the facts and if new facts are produced I think this -- no matter whether the Democrats are involved or not, if there's more credible evidence that comes out as a result of this, I think it will be a successful event for them.

CROWLEY: I'm smart enough to know that you're not going to announce whether you'll run or not run for the 2016 presidential election quite yet. So I want to set aside your deliberations and ask you when you look out there at those who are making noises about this with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Walker and Jeb Bush.

SANTORUM: You can spend the rest of the show --

CROWLEY: Chris Christie. We can go to through that whole thing.


Who do you like? When you look and say, if I don't get in I like this guy.

SANTORUM: Well, I wrote this book "Blue Collar Conservatives" because I think we need to have a little image makeover, an opportunity to rebrand ourselves in this election and going forward. And so I'm looking for candidates who connect with average voters, someone who has a heart and understanding for the difficult times that those voters are going through. And whether it's Rick Santorum or someone else, it's someone who has that appeal and connection.

CROWLEY: Who is that right now?

SANTORUM: Well I mean, you know, I put this book out here because I'm...

CROWLEY: You want to (INAUDIBLE) that guy.

SANTORUM: ...looking at it.


SANTORUM: Whether other people join in -- I hope they do. I mean I've been talking to a lot of candidates across the country saying, you really need to take a look at this book and begin the opportunities that is present right now to create a new image for this party that doesn't have a very good one right now.

CROWLEY: No -- for sure. Again your book "Blue Collar Conservatives," recommending (ph) to an America that works. Happy Mother's Day to your wife Karen and to your mother. I think we have a great picture of your family here. SANTORUM: My two boys at the Citadel. The middle one there, Daniel, his recognition day. So he got recognized as a knob (ph) first year at the Citadel.


SANTORUM: My mom and mother-in-law on the far right.

CROWLEY: Wow. There are a lot of moms there.

SANTORUM: Of 12 children on the right. So (ph) there (ph) you (ph) go (ph).

CROWLEY: Thank you for joining us on this day.

Up next, Vice President Biden says, the middle class first saw their economic recovery begin to unravel during the Clinton years. What that says about his 2016 ambitions with our political panel after this.


CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for "The National Review," Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," and Hilary Rosen, a democratic strategist and CNN political commentator.

So most recently, Mr. Biden was at a Democratic event and was talking about the squeeze on the middle class and basically said, according to sources in the room, that the beginning of the decline of the middle class actually didn't begin with George W. Bush, it began with the Clinton administration. So I wonder if you would just translate that for me through the eyes of 2016.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think Vice President Biden has given every sign of being interested in running in 2016. And he thinks apparently that there's an opening to Hillary Clinton's left, making the same kind of critique that you would expect Senator Elizabeth Warren to make if she runs.

CROWLEY: Right. It was a very - was described as a very wariness (ph), very populous (ph), very wariness (ph) speech. Is there running room to the left of Hillary? Is there running room anywhere around Hillary Clinton?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": There is running room to the left of Hillary Clinton. I think there's no question that the most liberal members of activists in the Democratic Party would like someone to the left of Hillary Clinton. But maybe somebody like Elizabeth Warren and I do think Hillary Clinton may be open to some vulnerabilities in terms of her husband's record. But it's hard to argue on the economy, that's where the opening is when you look at the Bill Clinton record. So I find it perplexing.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there was that moment after George Bush was elected, remember, for about a month when there was a sense that he and Dick Cheney were kind of talking down the economy. This goes back to some history here. So it might be that Biden was testing whether there was an opening there. But I agree with Susan, I don't think there's an opening on the economy. Having said that, Joe Biden as vice president is as qualified to be president as Hillary Clinton is. There's no question about that. I think Democrats love Joe Biden. And if there is a primary where Joe Biden decides to run -- I have my doubts about whether he will against Hillary, but he will get a lot of support and respect and he deserves that.

CROWLEY: I think regardless of whether anybody else serious gets in rather than a message candidate gets into the Democratic race, Republicans are already kind of running against Hillary Clinton on that assumption. Marco Rubio Friday was up at a New Hampshire Republican dinner where he said the following, didn't name any names, "the 20th century is gone. We live in the 21st century, a time of extraordinary challenges but also extraordinary opportunities. And that's where our party must step in." Widely interpreted as, you know what? She is old news, and a lot of people think that may be one of her -- if there is an Achilles' heel it's that she's yesterday's news. On the other hand, (INAUDIBLE) has (ph) the possibility in making history, aren't you tomorrow's news?

PAGE: Well and also -- is that a reference to Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush?

CROWLEY: Yes. Well it could be either actually. You're right. Although he prefaced this, right before this he talked about the other party is going to nominate someone. So it was - at least it was attached to a sentence that clearly was about Hillary Clinton.

PAGE: Yes. But if you talk about - I mean I think that's a legitimate point of inquiry, do we want a Clinton versus Bush race in 2016? But you make a great point. How do you characterize Hillary Clinton who would be the first woman nominated by a major party to run for president as something from the 20th century. Because by the way we did don't that in the 20th century.

ROSEN: Well the Republicans actually have a much stronger history of nominating the past, rehashing all policies going forward there. So I think Marco Rubio's problem is his own primary. You know, if he gets - if he's lucky enough to face Hillary Clinton, you know, then they'll have that message debate.

CROWLEY: I think it is. You know, she does sort of runs against - if she runs she runs kind of against history which is she is a reach back. And Americans don't tend to vote for a reach back. But on the other hand she's kind of a reach forward which is appealing to a lot of people.

PONNURU: That's right. But you know, I think one of the things that Senator Rubio and many other Republican figures are doing, positioning themselves in the Republican primary is saying let's make the most of this opportunity by ourselves as Republicans nominating a fresher face. CROWLEY: Let me ask you all this (INAUDIBLE) we've been talking about the Democratic Party in general in 2014 when we get back. Democrats do have trouble with a capital T and that stands for turnout.


CROWLEY: Back with Ramesh Ponnuru, Susan Page and Hilary Rosen.

Lest we forget, Monica Lewinsky was out this week with an article in "Vanity Fair" magazine. I pulled this quote from it. Hillary Clinton wanted it on record that she was lashing out at her husband's mistress. She may have faulted her husband for being inappropriate, but I find her impulse to blame the woman, not only me, but herself, troubling. This often notes from Hillary's close friend who said that she called Monica a narcissistic...

PAGE (ph): Loony tune.

CROWLEY: ...loony tune and said, well maybe she was a bit to blame because she had been emotionally unavailable et cetera, et cetera.

Here's my question. If you were advising Hillary Clinton if she was taking off on this book tour or even if she decides to run, how do you prep her for a question about, hey, Monica Lewinsky had this or that to say?

ROSEN: You know, Hillary Clinton has faced the Monica Lewinsky question on the campaign trail before.

PAGE: She -


ROSEN: She ran - she ran in 2008 (ph) - you know for the Senate she ran in 2008. And she dealt with at the same way I think she's going to deal with it again and she'll deal with it, which is to ignore it.

You know, the country let out a collective groan last week when Monica was back. Nobody is really interested in it other than for sort of salacious reasons but certainly not from a voting perspective.

Her book tour has a different set of challenges I think which is -- her book is called "Hard Choices," right? So it's about her tenure at the state department and talking about those issues related to her activities. But also, it's in some ways a stepping stone to whether or not there's a presidential announcement.


And whether she chooses to talk about the future, her views on the issues, those sorts of things, and starts to refine her message for the future is going to be the big challenge for Hillary Clinton over the next few months. CROWLEY: Somewhere along the line do you think she might get asked about it and then what do you tell her to say? Does she do a cold stare, stare down the reporter? What happens there (ph)? PONNURU: Well, I'm not in the business of offering advice to Hillary Clinton. She could try saying this question comes from the vast right wing conspiracy. That seems to have worked pretty well for her in 1998. But look, I think she's got bigger challenges ahead of her. I think this book that Hilary just mentioned, our Hilary not Hillary Clinton, is going to be an interesting one because she has struggled coming up with an answer to the basic question, what is your big accomplishment as secretary of state. And if she can't come up with a better answer for that that's a bigger problem for (ph) the Monica Lewinsky.

PAGE: You know, I totally agree. I think -- thinking about her presidential ambitions it's much more important that she has an answer to, what did you do as secretary of state, that - that really burnished her reputation not just with Democrats or (ph) Republicans and independents. She needs to - she needs to have an answer to that question. I don't think she actually needs to have an answer to a question about Monica Lewinsky. That wasn't a critical issue in her race, it's not been critical in defining Bill Clinton's legacy. I think it's not --

CROWLEY: I don't even remember actually coming up during the presidential campaign. I don't think anybody asked her about it. So I can't imagine why --

PONNURU: Someone asked Chelsea (ph) in one of the - one of the appearance in the '08 cycle.

CROWLEY: OK. Interesting.

ROSEN: It's not about her, and I think the country is interested in Hillary Clinton and what she has to say.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about this year. Let me turn you to 2014. We know in poll after poll after poll, Republicans are more motivated, Republicans are more excited. The president is out there going, we have a congenital defect in the Democratic Party. We don't vote in midterm. He's sitting on a 43 percent approval rating. What keeps Democrats out at this point? What have they glommed on to that's (ph) going (ph) to motivate their base?

PAGE: One thing, Republicans. The biggest motivator Democrats have is that Republicans do something so outrageous that it gets their base churned up because it's hard to see (ph) what they did (ph) themselves.

PONNURU: And 43 percent approval rating understates the Democratic problem because in a lot of states where the senate elections are taking place he's below 43 percent because they tend to be redder states.

ROSEN: Well, I'm not so sure about Republican confidence though, because you know, as you talked about in your earlier segment, this new emphasis, again, on Benghazi and Benghazi hearings can't just be about 2016. They had said -- Republicans had said repeatedly over the last several months it was going to be health care, health care, health care. But that issue isn't quite working for them the same way that it used to. And I think the Republicans themselves are sort of struggling with what is going to be their defining base turnout issue, and I'm not sure that they have it. They're searching a little bit. So Democrats I think have to focus --

CROWLEY: But honestly (ph) are they (ph) in much in need of an issue as Democrats are?

ROSEN: Well you know, Democrats are focusing on minimum wage, they're focusing on jobs, they're focusing on pay equity and issues that women care about. And if Republicans overplay their hand in some of these other issues, that's going to bode well for Democrats being able to refocus on issues that people actually care about.

PAGE: But the sad truth about our politics today is if Democrats are counting on Republicans to turn out their voters, Republicans are counting on Democrats to turn out their voters. And Republicans I think as you say at this moment, do not need an issue agenda of their own. They're counting on President Obama's unpopularity, the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act to turn out their voters.

ROSEN: But if you talk to the senators who are in those tough races, that Ramesh just talked about, and you ask them what's going on at home. You know, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana says when she goes home, people want to talk about energy. They want to talk about jobs. Mark Begich in Alaska says the same thing, Mark Pryor in Arkansas. So we may not be talking about it in Washington. National Press may not be talking about it but those senators in those tough races really are focusing on those issues at home, and I think it's going to serve them well.

PONNURU: And in Senator Landrieu's case, running away from the Obama administration on that very issue of energy. I think that is a sign of the kind of weakness the Democrats are having.

CROWLEY: Local, local, local politics, I think, in the end is always what in those tough races will do it. I'm going to cut it off here. Thanks Ramesh because if I don't cut it off here, we won't get to see this great picture of you with your mom and Hilary Rosen --

ROSEN (ph): I have to say mother's day to my mom. Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you.

CROWLEY: And this is Susan Page with her family and her husband, Carl. Happy Mother's Day to her you, and you with your children. So happy Mother's Day to all those moms, ours and ourselves. I don't know how to (INAUDIBLE). Anyway, thank you all very much.

In the 12:00 hour of this show, three multi-tasking moms talk about challenges in the work force, the stress of parenting and caring for elderly parents.

But coming up next, history made in the NFL. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Thanks for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Just our weekly reminder to set your DVR just in case you can't be here live for STATE OF THE UNION.

Happy Mother's Day to all of our moms and to yours as well.

Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," is next after a check on the headlines.