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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Former Texas Governor Rick Perry; Interview With South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham; Republicans in Iowa as 2016 Field Grows; Interview with Sen. Joni Ernst; Interview with Lincoln Chafee. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 7, 2015 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:08]

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Harley, a pig roast, and politics. Republican White House hopefuls swarm Iowa, as a crowded GOP field gets even bigger. This is a special STATE OF THE UNION.

Good morning. I am Dana Bash live from Iowa, where several of the Republican presidential candidates turned out this Sunday Senator Joni Ernst's inaugural Roast and Ride.

This hour, my interviews with newly announced presidential candidates Rick Perry and Lindsey Graham, and some colorful moments with Scott Walker, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee.

For years, Joni Ernst's predecessor, Former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, hosted his famous steak fry. It was one of the state's biggest political events, a must-attend for Democrats considering a presidential run. Now Senator Ernst's Roast and Ride looks to be just as important for Republican White House hopefuls. In fact, it was one of GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry's first campaign stops after his making his second White House bid official this week.

Perry rode into the event on a motorcycle with his own group, raising money for a foundation that provides service dogs to wounded veterans.

I spoke with Rick Perry just as the raucous Roast and Ride was coming to an end, and I asked the former Texas governor about Hillary Clinton's claim that he and other Republicans were trying to curb voting rights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's way outside the norm of ridiculous, if you want to know the truth of the matter, to call out the people of the state of Texas, because that's what she did.

I just happened to be the governor that signed that legislation. I support it. Such a vast majority of the people of the state of Texas support that. So, what Secretary Clinton did was basically say that the people of the state of Texas don't know what they...

(CROSSTALK) BASH: Well, but it was the politicians, the legislature, and then you signed it.

PERRY: Well, but we get elected by -- we get elected by the people. And you go poll the people of the state of Texas, they are for having voter I.D.

BASH: Specifically, the argument that she and other Democrats are making is, why would you say that it's OK to have a gun registration, a gun license, and not a college I.D.?

PERRY: Well, why would you say that you need a photo I.D. to get a library book or to get on an airplane?

This is a state issue. And this is an issue that the people of the state of Texas overwhelmingly support. And so, you know, I don't know who she is playing to, but she is not playing to the people of Texas. And I don't think she is playing to the Americans that believe that the sanctity of the vote is really important, and you need to have a photo I.D. to go vote. It's that simple. The people of Texas wanted it.

And if where -- whichever state Hillary Clinton considers to be her home state, she goes home and she argues there not to have it.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: What about her argument, which is true, that a federal judge said it was not just discriminatory, but was discriminatory intent?

PERRY: I could probably find a judge that would say just about anything. The Supreme Court is -- will -- I think if this goes to the Supreme Court, clearly, the people of the state of Texas in this case will be right.

BASH: What about just generally the idea of voting rights and the idea that she proposed, which is to have early voting at least 20 days ahead of time, to have the Election Day a national holiday, and so just to make it easier for people to vote?

PERRY: I think we make it pretty easy in the state of Texas for people to vote. So, I don't -- again, I don't know what her beef is with the people of the state of Texas about voter I.D., but I think she is on the wrong side of the issue.

BASH: Let's talk about the economy.

In your announcement speech this week, you sounded like a populist. You said capitalism is not corporatism. You said it's not a guarantee of reward without risk. It's not about Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.

I have seen it written that you sounded more like Elizabeth Warren than members of your own party.

PERRY: Well, I think I sounded like a boy who drew up on a dryland cotton farm in a house that did not have running water. I grew up in a place where my mom and dad both had to work really hard. And I don't think it's right for Wall Street to be able to walk away from bad mistakes and the people on Main Street have to pay for it.

That -- you know, if that's populism, then I am proud to be a populist on that issue. But the bottom line is, we need to be putting policies into place, where Main Street folks -- Dodd-Frank is a great example of it right here in Iowa. These bankers and these small community banks are being strangled by regulations. And they can't loan money to their farmers or their small businesses. That's just not right.

BASH: So, what would you do about Wall Street? Would you do -- would you try to break up the big banks? I mean, how would you actually...

PERRY: Well, listen, if a bank makes bad decisions, they ought to fail. Nobody ought to be too big to fail.

And all these regulations did was codify it into law. And I would certainly get rid of those. You make a mistake and you make bad choices, you need to pay a price in this country. I don't care who you are, whether you're a big Wall Street firm or a you're a big bank.

[09:05:05]

That's what our bankruptcy laws are for. I was not for GM getting restructured. They should have been -- gone through bankruptcy, just like everybody else on Main Street would have then. I mean, this is pretty simple from my perspective. Treat everybody the same.

BASH: This is Iowa. And you are doing pretty well here, considering how many people are in the race, but you are still only at 5 percent.

What is your plan to reintroduce yourself to the people of Iowa, after your not-so-wonderful race in 2012, even you admit?

PERRY: We will be here a lot.

In 2011, I first time I even came to Iowa was on the day right after the straw poll, so, being in this state, introducing yourself to people in a very personal way. I don't care whether it's two people or 2,000 people. If I get invited to come to Iowa, I am going to be here.

Nobody is -- well, there may be somebody that comes to Iowa more than I do, but if they do, they better pack their lunch.

BASH: So, Iowa is the place that you have got to do well? You're putting a lot of eggs in this basket.

PERRY: Well, we are putting eggs in New Hampshire's basket and South Carolina's basket as well, but we intend to do very well here. We will do whatever we need to do to as well as we can in the caucuses.

BASH: Last question. I have to ask you about the Rick Perry country rap.

(MUSIC)

BASH: Where did that come from?

PERRY: Colt Ford is a -- you know, Colt is actually a golfer by -- but he turned into quite a very good country rapper.

So Pete Scobell, who is a dear friend, Navy SEAL, and close friend of Marcus and -- Marcus Luttrell's, he's who came to me and said, hey, listen, I have got an idea for a song for your campaign. And so, anyway, that's what it turned out.

As a matter of fact, it's on iTunes today, first day, so go to iTunes and buy it and get a little country rap going.

BASH: All right. Well, one day, I will have you do your Rick Perry rap for me, not today.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: Not today.

BASH: Thanks, Governor.

PERRY: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

PERRY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Rick Perry was not the only candidate to join the growing Republican presidential field this past week. South Carolina Lindsey Graham also launched his White House bid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next time you pick commander -- a commander in chief, make sure they know what the hell they are doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: My interview with him up next.

And we are live on this special edition of STATE OF THE UNION from Des Moines, Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham made his candidacy for president official this week in his hometown of Central, South Carolina. And he did so sounding alarm bells.

I sat down with the senator after yesterday's Roast and Ride here and asked about his unorthodox approach to this campaign. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Well, thank you for sitting down with me in very windy Iowa.

GRAHAM: Thank you. This is why they have windmills here.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Yes, it is.

GRAHAM: And now I know.

BASH: It is.

GRAHAM: Now I know.

BASH: The last time this country elected a new president, it was on hope and change. You seem to be running on doom and gloom.

GRAHAM: Not at all. I'm running on what I think to be honest assessment of where we are at, too much debt, too many terrorists.

So, here is the pitch. If you think we can protect America without some troops having to go back overseas and fight for a very long time most likely, then I am not your guy. Radical Islam is not going to be defeated just by armies over there. We have to be part of those armies. It's going to be a generational struggle. It's not just about killing terrorists.

Building a schoolhouse for a poor girl in a remote region of Afghanistan will do more damage to the Taliban. Been to the region over 30 times. I understand how hard it's going to be. But the good news is, most people in that region don't want to buy what ISIL is selling. But there is no way that we're going to defend this country under the current construct.

BASH: But, in all seriousness, you are basically promising that troops are going to go into that region.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. And I promise you that.

BASH: So, and you have even said, if you as a voter don't want war, don't vote for me.

GRAHAM: I didn't say you don't want -- nobody wants war.

If you don't want to defend the nation from radical Islam, don't vote for me. I don't know how you defend a nation without some of our forces going back to Iraq to help the Iraqi army. This is our war too. I am not going to outsource our national security to a bunch of armies that don't know how to fight. How do you deal with Syria without forming an army in the region? And how do they win without us?

BASH: Let's talk about something at the top of the news, which is the cyber-attacks that we saw this past week again on the government, supposedly from the Chinese.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BASH: We know that you are calling for more money to try to combat cyber-terrorism.

GRAHAM: Yes. Right.

BASH: And you said it could lead to a cyber-Pearl Harbor.

GRAHAM: Yes, that's what I have been told by our experts. People in the intelligence community are more worried about this than anything else, a cyber-attack on our country, to break -- to knock the grid off, to get into our financial systems and basically shut down the financial services.

BASH: So, what would you do as president?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, you have got to have more money. You have got to set aside these budget cuts for defense and non-defense.

Do Simpson-Bowles. That's where the money is at. Seventy trillion dollars of unfunded liability from the retirement of the baby boomers makes us Greece. But with some means-testing and some age adjustments, we get through. Replenish our military. Up our game on the intel side. Work with a guy like Sheldon Whitehouse, who is a liberal Democrat from Rhode Island, who knows as much about cyber- security as anybody, incentivize the private sector to harden their infrastructure against a cyber-attack, give them liability protections if they do.

The Chinese and the Russians are a symptom of a greater problem. China is building islands over resource-rich waters that other nations claim because they think we are weak. They're intimidating their neighbors. And the only way we're going to reset world order is to get back in the game.

BASH: You mentioned Russia. Vladimir Putin said this weekend: "Everything we do is just a response to threats emerging against us. There is no need to fear Russia."

GRAHAM: Well, tell that to the people who oppose him inside of Russia.

You know, it's hard to buy a life insurance policy if you are an opponent of Putin inside Russia. It's a totalitarian dictatorship. Tell that to the Ukrainian people who are being invaded by Russian proxies. Nobody believes that. Russia is trampling over Ukraine, in violation of international law.

[09:15:15]

Here is the concern I have. We signed an agreement with the Ukrainians in the '90s. Give up your nuclear weapons, we will guarantee your sovereignty. Well, they did. And Russia has basically dismembered the Ukraine. BASH: Let's bring it back home and specifically to your party. Part

of the reason why you are running, you say, is to challenge your own party...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BASH: ... and to make them understand what it means to be an electable Republican, particularly on the environment. What would you do differently than many of your Republican opponents?

GRAHAM: Well, here is a question you need to ask everybody running as a Republican. What is the environmental policy of the Republican Party?

When I ask that question, I get a blank stare. We don't have an environmental policy. We have an energy policy. If I'm president of the United States, we're going to address climate change and CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way. We're going to find oil and gas that we own, because we are going to use fossil fuels for a long time to come.

But it's OK to set lower carbon targets. I do believe that climate change is real. I want a business solution to that problem.

BASH: Manmade climate change?

GRAHAM: Yes, I do, absolutely.

When 90 percent of the doctors tell you, you have got a problem, do you listen to the one? At the end of the day, I do believe that the CO2 emission problem all over the world is hurting our environment. But the solution is a pro-business solution to a lower carbon economy.

BASH: Let me ask you also about sort of a cultural touchstone this week, and that is Caitlyn, formerly Bruce, Jenner, a very popular Iowa -- actually syndicated -- but radio host here, Steve Deace, said, "If we're not going to defend as a party," meaning the Republican Party, "basic principles of male and female, that life is sacred because it comes from God, then you are going to lose the vast majority of people who have joined that party."

GRAHAM: If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be safe and have a prosperous economy, vote for me.

I'm into addition. I have not walked in her shoes. I don't have all the answers to the mysteries of life. I can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through. I hope he is -- I hope she has found peace. I'm a pro-life, traditional marriage kind of guy, but I'm running to be president of the United States. If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a Republican, she is welcome in my party.

BASH: So, the Republicans should reach out to people like her, to transgender Americans, and not -- and not shun them?

GRAHAM: Understanding what you are getting with Lindsey Graham, I am pro-life, I believe in traditional marriage without animosity. The courts are going to rule probably in June about traditional marriage. I will accept the court decision. I will proudly defend the unborn, but if we can't agree on abortion, let's talk about taxes. We are literally all in this together. We are going to rise and fall as a nation as to whether or not we deal with the retirement of the baby boomers.

It's going to wipe out Social Security and Medicare and take the whole economy down with it. We need to do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did when it came to compromise on the entitlement programs. And we need to fight radical Islam together.

Here is what I would say to the talk show host. In the eyes of radical Islam, they hate you as much as they hate Caitlyn Jenner. They hate us all because we won't agree to their view of religion. So, America, we are all in this together.

BASH: One last thing I wanted to just talk to you about.

And that is, I was in your hometown of Central, South Carolina, this week for your announcement...

GRAHAM: Yes.

BASH: ... and spoke to your sister, and was in the one room that you mentioned here where you grow up -- grew up, and she talked about the fact that you were not just a brother, but a father figure and a caregiver.

GRAHAM: Well, I want to let everybody know, my aunt and uncle helped me raise my sister. My family and friends helped me a lot. I borrowed money from friends, because we really were pretty well wiped out when my mom got sick.

What I'm trying to tell people is, I know what it's like to be knocked down. And you get back up because people help you. Most people are one car wreck away from needing some help, including the government's help. So, what I have learned as a young man is that life is fragile and you never know what is coming your way.

There may be a lot of self-made people running for president. I'm not one of them. I love Mike Huckabee, but when he says you don't have to deal with entitlement reform, I don't agree with him. Scott Walker is a great guy. He says he is not into open-ended conflicts.

Here's what I am telling the American people. The war against radical Islam is a generational struggle. Some of us have to go back over there to keep our country safe. And this war is going to go on a long time, long after I'm gone.

But here is the good news. Most people over there are not buying what these guys are selling. There is no easy way ahead when it comes to our financial problems at home and defeating radical Islam. But we can win and we can be successful.

And growing up in a small town in South Carolina in the back of a liquor store from parents who never graduated high school, and being able to become a United States senator, I think, has been an experience that would make me a good president.

[09:20:09]

BASH: Senator, thank you very much for your time.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much.

BASH: Appreciate it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And up next, I will give you an inside look at this weekend's colorful presidential event here in Iowa, and my one-on-one with Joni Ernst, the woman behind it. See how she throws Hillary Clinton's own words about being a female candidate right back at her.

We are live from Iowa, just outside the state capitol. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Good morning, again.

We are live from Iowa with a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

And Joni Ernst became a national figure here -- excuse me -- Iowa -- start that again.

Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin held a steak fry that was a must- attend for would-be Democratic presidential candidates. When Harkin retired, Republican Joni Ernst won his seat. And this weekend, she started her own tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): When hundreds gather on their motorcycles at a local Harley barn, you know it's not your typical political event, but on those bikes, under those helmets, Wisconsin Governor and likely presidential candidate Scott Walker and the host of the event, freshman Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst.

This is the first annual Roast and Ride, a new take on the classic Iowa presidential cattle call and the GOP place to be this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great meeting you today.

BASH: Seven Republican presidential hopefuls showed up to try to wow the crowd with eight-minute speeches.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There isn't a country in the world that I would trade places with.

(APPLAUSE)

[09:25:02] BASH (on camera): So, you want proof that this is not your typical

political event? Check this out. You can't count the number of Harleys in this parking lot, people who road here from Des Moines to Boone, where we are, 38 miles just to come for a chance to ride, but also listen to some candidates speak.

CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I learned that, in Iowa, if you fall behind your float, you can hitch a ride with a nice gentleman on his John Deere tractor.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: Good afternoon. I am from Southern Iowa.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: It's not just about the speeches. It's also trying to sign up voters, get people who could potentially come to the Iowa caucuses for each candidate. This is Mike Huckabee's booth. And check this out over here, Ben Carson's booth.

And guess who showed up? It's Ben Carson himself.

It's certainly not your typical crowd with Harley riders, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's wonderful to know that people want your autograph and want your picture and just want to shake your hand and talk to you.

BASH (voice-over): Mike Huckabee is the only one here who has actually won the Iowa caucuses, back in 2008.

(on camera): The last time I was in Iowa with you, you had a big victory.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We did have a big victory, and we are hoping for another one. I don't take anything for granted. And I have often said that when you see a turtle on a fence post, there's one thing you can be certain. He didn't get there by himself.

BASH: OK. So, let's see what they have got at Scott Walker's booth.

OK. Well, first of all, we have got a book, and a beer holder. I mean, what is more important than this, right? Look who is coming right there.

Beer holders, what is more important than that?

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Beer and cheese, right? Beer, cheese.

BASH: How was the ride?

WALKER: It was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. A lot of people were out with flags and kids along the route, so it was a lot of fun going with Joni, although I said, with all the cameras, Joni and I were laughing afterwards, saying, glad we didn't pick our nose on the ride or something like that, because everybody is really intense.

BASH (voice-over): Walker was the only 2016er to actually ride with Joni Ernst. Rick Perry had his own ride with veterans.

PERRY: It's good to be out on the road.

BASH: And Florida's Marco Rubio told a voter, he is used to a different kind of riding, Miami-style.

RUBIO: If we can get a jet ski going, I could take her, yes?

BASH: Even freshman Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton showed up.

(on camera): You are not running for president, right?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: No, I'm not.

BASH: OK. Just wanted to make sure.

COTTON: Yes.

BASH: So, what brings you to the Roast and Ride or the Ride and Roast?

COTTON: It started out as a coincidence. My in-laws live up the road. And my wife and I just had our baby, so they are visiting grandma and grandpa, and I was in there for the weekend. And Joni invited me to come down and say a few words about our veterans.

BASH (voice-over): That is what enticed a lot of Iowans, too.

(on camera): What drew you out here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am -- Joni Ernst and the motorcycles.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I believe in what she stands for and the veterans and everything, so I'm here to support her causes, the veterans.

BASH: So, this is going to be a chance for these presidential candidates to talk to some -- some new voters, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

BASH: Are you leaning either way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not generally, no. I am just here to find out what they have to say. And I will make up my mind, you know, when it gets closer. BASH (voice-over): We told you a lot about the riding part of the

Roast and Ride, so what about the roast? Here it is, not nearly as the exciting as the riding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And Joni Ernst became a national figure during last year's tough Senate race, really one of the most -- toughest Senate races in this country.

She had a very famous TV ad talking about castrating hogs as a kid on her Iowa farm. During the campaign, pretty much every potential Republican presidential candidate campaigned with her. And that help she got is one reason why Ernst is not endorsing any Republican candidates this time, but she does have some advice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: How do you think this Roast and Ride has gone?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: It's phenomenal. Look at the crowd.

We had over 300 bikes that rode up on the motorcycle ride honoring patriots and veterans. And we have a phenomenal group of activists and just everyday Iowans that want to hear from their presidential candidates.

BASH: It is a pretty big crowd.

Look, you won a very tough Republican primary here in Iowa. You know what it's like to try to appeal to the Republican electorate in Iowa. What would your advice be to the, what, 15 potential candidates who are running for president now?

(LAUGHTER)

ERNST: Right.

I would say that they need to show that they are a leader. They need to show with that leadership that there is a direction that our country needs to go in, whether that is as a world leader or whether it's a leader here in the United States with our economy, our education system.

Whatever it is, they just need to show that they are willing to take on that mantle and just go forward, take our country forward.

BASH: And should it be economic issues. Should it be social issues? I know that it's kind of -- that the Republican electorate is quite diverse, but you may have to pick one rather than the other?

ERNST: Very diverse, but I will tell you, most of what I hear from Iowans is that jobs and economy is extremely important.

Of course, we have a wonderful agricultural economy, manufacturing based here in Iowa. So, we have done very well. We have good leadership though in the state that allows those businesses to thrive. But we just need someone that will understand these issues, jobs and economy. Second, they need to understand what's going on around the world and that we need to be a safe nation so they need to be strong on national defense.

BASH: This state now has two Republican senators, a Republican governor, but it has actually gone for the Democrats in the presidential elections. Barack Obama twice and many times before that.

So do you think that it is really possible to win Iowa? Never mind the caucuses, but when you're talking about the actual race for the White House?

ERNST: I do think it's possible. My election shows that. And when you have troubled times, people look for a strong leader that will move the nation in the right direction. That's what we're seeing. That's what we're saying.

So we're in troubled times right now around the world. We need a leader that will keep us safe and move America forward.

BASH: One last question. I was here with Hillary Clinton when she was campaigning for your opponent, Bruce Braley, in the Senate race. She was very clear and she said, it's not enough to be a woman.

ERNST: I would say Hillary, it's not enough to be a woman. You have to care about women's issues. And women's issues here in Iowa are that we have a strong economy. We have jobs that our sons and daughters can go off to someday. We have a great educational system. And women want strong national defense. We want to know that our families are going to be --

BASH: So you're throwing -- you're throwing her words against you back at her now, aren't you?

ERNST: I am. I am. Because I do believe that you have to be a leader with a vision, and you have to show Iowans that you want it.

BASH: And not just a woman.

ERNST: And not just a woman.

BASH: Thank you.

ERNST: Thank you so much.

BASH: Congratulations on this event.

ERNST: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And in a very crowded presidential field, who can break out of the pack here in Iowa?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA, FORMER HEWLETT-PACKARD CEO: We need a leader in the White House who isn't afraid to challenge the status quo.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: We need people in Washington who are going to fight so that every American can live their piece of the American dream.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Ladies and gentlemen let me tell you, that's why I am running to be your president because America's freedoms are the greatest in the world and we need to fight for them every day.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I am running for president on the promise of what we together can do for America.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: If the rest of the country had been as smart as Iowa back in 2008, we would not be in the trouble we are in right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Our panel weights in all of that and more next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:11] BASH: And we're back live from the Iowa Judicial Building in Des Moines.

And you know, in addition to Harley rides and roasting pigs, Iowa holds the nation's first presidential contest, the special status that has allowed this state's voters to deliver some really big surprises over the years.

Joining me now to talk about that and much more is Maeve Reston, CNN's national political reporter, Matt Strawn who is a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, and Jennifer Jacobs, chief political reporter for the "Des Moines Register." Thank you all for being here.

The wind picked up here as soon as we started. Let's just start by putting on the screen for our viewers just how many people we are actually talking about. Ten declared Republican candidates so far, and that doesn't include the actual governors, most of the governors, I should say. They are going to probably declare in the next couple months. That will bring it to 15 total.

Let me start with you, Matt. You have been the Republican chair here. You have been through a caucus in the past, how does somebody breakthrough in a field like this when there is so many competitors?

MATT STRAWN, FORMER IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, I think we saw a part of that secret to that success yesterday with Joni Ernst. If you look at the crowd that she had, you had CEOs to the most harden conservative (INAUDIBLE) chair activist types, and that's the coalition she was able to put together, not just in (ph) the primary (INAUDIBLE) to be successful in the general election here in Iowa. So the secret is be authentic, be here, be on the ground. So for those candidates that weren't there yesterday, I would encourage them to make sure Iowa is a frequent stop on their schedule.

BASH: To be here and be on the ground. And let's actually talk about the event that we're we were. When we were all there yesterday it was certainly something to behold especially for a freshman senator to put together an event like that. It was pretty remarkable.

Maeve, you started at the Harley Davidson barn. I saw you there and then went up to Boone. You spoke to a lot of voters or potential voters. What did you hear from them?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Basically it's interesting (INAUDIBLE). There are so many choices here in Iowa that I feel like voters are very overwhelmed, and there is so much opportunity for the candidates who are in the second tier at this point to break through, and obviously Scott Walker has been leading in the polls. But there is a second tier that just sort of working its way up, and there was so many different voters there yesterday who said they were supporting Carly or Ben Carson or Rick Perry. And it will just be really interesting to watch how that shakes out.

BASH: Now, we have the responsibility, Jennifer, of covering a lot of different states. You have the benefit of being here on the ground, so you really have your ear to the ground. What are you seeing and hearing?

JENNIFER JACOBS, CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER, DES MOINES REGISTER: From yesterday it seems like the two that really made the most of that fund-raiser were Scott Walker and Rick Perry.

BASH: Why is that?

[09:40:00] JACOBS: Well, there was a security breach near the beginning of the event and so all the contenders were whisked (ph) away to an out building for about 45 minutes. But Walker and Perry who -- it doesn't hurt that they look very good on motorcycles, had done events, you know, their own (INAUDIBLE) events beforehand so they both came in on motorcycles, but (ph) they spent a lot of time, you know, working with Iowans and really chatting with them.

It was an outdoor setting (INAUDIBLE) that was good for Rick Perry. The motorcycles were good for Scott Walker. Just hearing from a lot of Republicans but those were the two that really made the biggest impression yesterday.

BASH: That's actually why we're talking about that. Let's just look at the latest poll from your newspaper, which all of us from the country look at very closely, "the Des Moines Register." It's kind of hard to get all of the people who were asked about on the screen but Scott Walker way out ahead, 17 percent. Rand Paul is behind him, tied for second with Ben Carson. Jeb Bush actually went up in this poll. He's at nine percent. And then you kind of keep going all the way down. Lindsey Graham and Bobby Jindal struggling at one percent. George Pataki is not even registering.

I mean, you know, we all look at polls, and people say they don't matter now, but they do matter in terms of fund-raising, right?

JACOBS: Yes, exactly, they do. There's a clear top tier in Iowa.

So, you've got Scott Walker who in two polls in a row has been out ahead in this poll even from further up ahead. And then you have got another kind of middle tier that is still up at the top and then you've got that lower tier who just is not breaking through in Iowa yet, so it's going to be harder for them.

RESTON: And it was so interesting talking to motorcycle riders yesterday. I mean, Scott Walker is from Harley country. He showed up in his black leather. He's out there in his boots. But we were talking to a lot of the voters and asking whether he had a leg up with those voters. And really people are still interested in all the different candidates.

So I do think that there is an opportunity for someone to break out and pass Scott Walker, even though he has the Midwestern vibe.

STRAWN: Yes, we are (INAUDIBLE) let's be honest at the speed dating phase of the guy (ph) with (INAUDIBLE) when it comes to political version of that. You know, very few activist are getting married. So, whether you're an economic conservative you have very credible options. If you're a Christian conservative who's motivated by social issues you have many credible options.

So, I think Republicans in Iowa right now were sampling all the wares they have in front of them. And, you know, we don't see some of the national hand wringing that we hear about (INAUDIBLE) and we need to make sure it's more manageable. Here in Iowa we appreciate --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I want to talk about Democrats for one second. But before we do, Matt, I want to ask you about the idea of peaking too early. I mean, Scott Walker, people don't realize he is from Wisconsin which is obviously a Midwestern state but he was born here.

STRAWN: Right.

BASH: Do you think that his support is real and enduring? Or do you think that, you know, it could be a flash in the pan like we saw, you know, the last time around when you were there?

STRAWN: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

STRAWN: It's a (INAUDIBLE) in poor (ph) Iowa.

You know, I think Governor Walker has a few things going for him right now and one is that relatability. He never forgets an opportunity to bring up that he shops at Kohl's like Iowa does -- in Midwest (INAUDIBLE) retailer. He serves cheese curds and Miller Lite at his reception (INAUDIBLE) a few months ago. You know, we certainly love that here in Iowa. But also he is drawing support across a broad section of the party right now. Social conservatives like the fact that he is motivated by faith and his governing philosophies. And economic conservatives like the fact that he took the fight to the unions (ph) in Wisconsin and can win in a tough state for Republicans. Now, the key is, how do you balance that electoral (INAUDIBLE) on the head of a pin all the way through the caucus process, because those are two groups that don't normally support the same candidate in the caucuses.

BASH: And that's going to be the (INAUDIBLE) for anybody who's going to win -- who's going to (INAUDIBLE) the Republican nomination.

Let's turn to the Democrats.

I want to play for viewers something that Hillary Clinton said this past week for the first time really going hard by name against Republicans. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today Republicans are systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting. What part of democracy are they afraid of?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Maeve, I'll start with you. Is that effective? I mean, she --

RESTON: We will have to see. The thing that has been fascinating here is obviously like the roulette wheel is on the Republican side, right? But you are hearing a lot of Democratic voters here in Iowa talking about the fact that they want another option. So, they're (ph) seeing people like Bernie Sanders get some attention over the last couple weeks. And obviously, Hillary Clinton has been here a lot over the years. She has got the Bill Clinton thing going for her.

BASH: But she didn't win.

RESTON: She didn't win, right. Yes. Exactly. So we will have to see whether, you know, she can pull that off this time.

BASH: She is going at it pretty hard, though. She has nine field offices in Iowa and plus her (ph) headquarter in Des Moines. She has got a (INAUDIBLE) organizing staff of 27 who are going out there hard. She had big coup (ph) yesterday of an (INAUDIBLE) one of (INAUDIBLE) democratic activist that publicly supported her. So, I mean she's got all the signs of momentum.

Bernie Sanders, who is probably her top challenger is still way down at the bottom. He tripled his support in our last poll but he is just nowhere near her.

What do you call it?

[09:45:01] STRAWN: Sander's momentum (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

STRAWN: ...Bernie Sanders right now. You know, (INAUDILBLE) Iowan has a better opportunity to win the Powerball than they do -- get one of these golden ticket invites to the events that Hillary Clinton is staging around the state.

So, for those Iowa Democrats I talked about, I mean, they're waiting by the phone on a Saturday night for that for that call. Well, you saw Republicans yesterday. The energy, the enthusiasm that we had in 2014 is carried over.

I mean, I opened my door this morning and expected to see a candidate there with flowers and chocolates and tickets to the theater. I mean, we're being courted right and left and I think Iowa Democrats are feeling little lonely right now. And Bernie Sanders is the one that's showing up on their doorstep.

(CROSSTALK)

RESTON: Whether Carly Fiorina can rise (ph). She has obviously been working at the ground level here in Iowa. And really saying that she can take it to Hillary Clinton in a way that the male candidates cannot. She got a really good reception yesterday. So, we will see whether she sneaks up from one (ph) percent.

BASH: And she rode a John Deere tractor when she got lost in the parade. She announced --

(CROSSTALK)

RESTON: Exactly.

BASH: It was such a nice touch.

Maeve, Matt, and Jennifer, thank you so much for you insight. I appreciate it. Good to see you.

JACOBS: Thank you.

BASH: And up next, Hillary Clinton is getting yet another challenger from the left, former Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chafee. He's going to talk about taking on the Democratic frontrunner and that surprising proposal he made in his presidential announcement when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:59] BASH: Hillary Clinton remains the clear front-runner in the Democratic presidential race despite challengers from the left.

One of them former Rhode Island governor and senator Lincoln Chafee is joining me now. And Governor, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

Let' just start with what everybody is talking about out of your announcement this week, and that is your pledge to turn this country to the metric system like Europe and most of the rest of the world is using. It seems like an unusual thing in today's day and age for that to be the thing that people are taking away and perhaps unusual for that to be the thing that you're pushing so hard as your platform. Why is that?

LINCOLN CHAFEE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the theme of my announcement was for us to wage peace in the world, for America to change the way we're acting in the world, and I labeled that "waging peace". and I had about ten proposals and going metric was one of those.

Of the ten proposals, better relations with Russia, better relations with our South American neighbors, no more drone strikes, no more torture, no more warrantless wiretapping, let's bring Snowden home -- a number of proposals. And this was one that's part of being an internationalist. There are only two other countries that aren't metric, Myanmar and Liberia. And so it's time for America not only economically but symbolically to join the rest of the world.

BASH: And I have to say, just to people who are Americans who are very comfortable without the metric system, they're looking at this and saying, really, is this guy kidding me? Does he get it?

CHAFEE: Well, I lived in Canada when they went -- I was working on the horse racetrack in Canada after graduating from college. I was up there for about seven years working on the horse racetrack, and they went metric and it was very easy. And I know that many in the scientific community, the healthcare community, that have to deal internationally, the business community, are saying this is way overdue.

Ronald Reagan talked about it. Others have talked about it. But now, at this point in American history where we squandered so much credibility with telling the rest of the world there were weapons of mass destruction, we invaded another country, just so un-American, that it's time, in light of the squandered credibility that we have, to make a symbolic gesture to the rest of the world. And it's also good economically. So there's many benefits to it.

BASH: OK, so let's talk more about your agenda to wage peace, as you call it. Right now, as we speak, President Obama is in Europe at the G-7 summit and he's calling for an extension of sanctions against Russia. Would you support that?

CHAFEE: Well, it's unfortunate what's happened in Ukraine, in Crimea, and with Putin, with Vladimir Putin. At one time we were really working well together and it's deteriorated. And I don't know about these sanctions. I should think there would be better ways of getting a rapprochement with Russia. They're so important in the world, and especially to the countries, the former Soviet Republics, such as Ukraine.

BASH: OK, so if you're in the Oval Office, you're president, what is that better way? how Would you correct relations with Russia and Vladimir Putin right now? CHAFEE: Well, stop making the mistakes that Secretary Clinton made.

That was a big mistake, when we're trying to restart our relationship with Russia and Secretary Clinton presented the foreign minister with a symbolic gesture and they got the Russian word wrong. And it's those types of mistakes that set back a relationship. Little symbolic mistakes.

And so I think Secretary Kerry going to Sochi and meeting with some of the Russian foreign ministers, and with Putin, was a good step. History shows that -- going back to relations with China -- that if you establish good relationships, that can lead to a better path.

We need to wage peace in this world. That's our responsibility. That's the charge that we're given with our economic power that we have.

[09:55:00] BASH: Governor, let's talk about a domestic issue, a very big one, and that is this nation's deficit. Would you raise taxes in order to balance the budget and bring down the deficit and debt?

CHAFEE: Well, as you know, Dana, you were there covering the Senate when I voted against, even when I was a Republican, all of the Bush tax cuts. Because we had worked so hard to get surpluses. And first President H.W. Bush went back on read my lips, no new taxes, pledge. That cost him reeelct. And then Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy. That probably cost him the House and Senate, which he lost in 1994. All that hard work, all that political capital, and then in came the Bush/Cheney tax cuts and I voted against all of them, just because I believe we need to first cut spending and then cut taxes.

BASH: And I do remember --

CHAFEE: Not vice versa.

BASH: -- you voting against the Bush tax cuts and I remember you not being very popular in the Bush White House for that. But voting against tax cuts and wanting to raise taxes to address the current situation, where we are, are two different things. Would you do that at this point?

CHAFFEE: Well, as you know, from my announcement speech, I talked about waging peace and the economic benefits that can come from that. The war in Iraq is costing us $6 trillion, $6 trillion. The tax cut was $1.6 trillion. I mean, what this war is costing us has just dwarfed all the other spending that's going on.

So we need to wage peace and take those resources and put them back into building our infrastructure, the Amtrak crash, building our schools, so we have the same kind of schools in Baltimore and Ferguson that we have in some of the suburbs. That's how I want to redirect our energies and our focus, taking those resources and putting them back into America, at the same time making sure we have a strong military.

BASH: Governor Lincoln Chafee --

CHAFEE: $6 trillion in Iraq.

BASH: Thank you so much. Newly -- absolutely. And we're going talking more about this as the months go on. Governor, thank you so much for joining me. We'll talk to you soon, I'm sure, and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00] BASH: Thank you for joining us from Iowa, and a reminder that "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper starts next Sunday at 9:00 am Eastern right here on CNN. Until then, thanks for watching. I'm Dana Bash. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.