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State of the Union

Interview With Michele Bachmann; Interview with Herman Cain; Interview With Steve King

Aired August 14, 2011 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Bachmann is up and Perry is in, but the Iowa straw poll claimed its first victim, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty pulling out, no longer a candidate.

Today we begin with presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. Then the view from an influential Iowa conservative Congressman Steve King, and analysis with Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, and Neal King of the Wall Street Journal.

I'm Candy Crowley in Ames, Iowa. And this is State of the Union.

Good morning from the...

Once again -- once again, former Governor -- once again former Governor Tim Pawlenty is pulling out of this race. He will no longer be a Republican candidate for president. This after a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll just yesterday. He had less than half the votes of either Michele Bachmann or Ron Paul.

We want to bring in our Peter Hamby, a political correspondent for us. Peter, tell us what you know about this decision and what led to it. Was it simply the third place?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was absolutely the third place finish. I mean, his staff privately in the weeks running up to the straw poll knew they needed a first or strong second place finish to prove to their donors and their supporters that their campaign was not stalled. He was mired in single digits in Iowa despite really planting a flag here and staking his campaign.

So late last night Pawlenty organized a conference call with supporters, and staff. That call happened this morning and I am told by a source on the call, that he informed that just later today he will announce that he's going to end his campaign, he's going to announce during a Sunday show appearance.

Today he told his staff, quote, "we needed a boost from Ames that did not happen." So, that's the word this morning. Unfortunately for Pawlenty he was never able to kind of gain traction in Iowa. You know, he joined the race 150 days ago, but then Michele Bachmann jumped in the race and rocketed past him, with her natural, organic appeal to the grassroots conservatives, the Tea Party activists, the social conservatives that really make up the caucus electorate, the straw poll electorate. And Pawlenty really never resonated.

So I think he kind of slowly came to realize that if you can't catch fire at Ames, when is he going to catch fire, Candy?

CROWLEY: All right. Peter Hamby breaking that news for us today. Our CNN political reporter.

Once again, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, great staff, great resume, never caught on with the sizzle here in Iowa. He is now out. On to the winner a short time ago before news broke of Pawlenty's departure, we spoke to Ames straw poll winner Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.


CROWLEY: I talked to a GOP strategist last night, not yours, who said listen the congresswoman has proven that she's very popular among the conservative wing of the Republican party, but you can't win that way. You can win the nomination, and you certainly can't win the general.

What are your credentials to sort of move toward the center, the moderates in the Republican Party and elsewhere because you need those independents?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, all across Iowa we have been campaigning for 48 days, and there isn't an event that I have where I don't have somebody who comes up to me and says, Michele, I am a Democrat. I voted for Barack Obama. I'm not going to vote for him, I'm going to vote for you, I believe in you, or independents or apolitical people.

I see it all across Iowa.

We had people yesterday, Candy, who were Democrats and independents who were voting for me. And also, I come from Minnesota. It's not a conservative state. It's more of a liberal state, and I have a lot...

CANDY: But a conservative district in Minnesota.

BACHMANN: Well, it's actually a swing district. It's a swing district. It is the district that elected Governor Jesse Ventura. And so I have been able to attract get a lot of people to vote for me who are Democrats and independents.

That's what we have to do. This won't be just a conservative election, this is really going to be an economic selection. People will want to know who can turn the country around. That will be the big question.

CROWLEY: And so specifically when you look at your positions, what one or two of those positions, vis-a-vis the economy, do think are -- would appeal to moderates or what we call moderate positions?

BACHMANN: Well, I think people want job creation, they want the economy to turn around and work. I have that background. I am a former federal tax litigation attorney. I worked for years in the United States federal tax court. I get how devastating high taxes are to job creation.

My husband and I also started our company. We have a successful company. We're job creators. That will be my entire focus. Because if you look just even at the Hispanic community or the African- American community, it has been devastating to see the lack of jobs that have been created for young people this summer, it was over 39 percent for African-American youth. For Hispanic youth, it over 32 percent. And so President Obama's policies haven't been getting jobs for people. That's my focus is job creation.

CROWLEY: There was a recent CBS/New York Times poll on the Tea Party. Now this is among Republicans. And it showed that Tea Party favorables in the Republican Party were at 41 percent. So 41 percent of the Republican Party viewed the Tea Party favorably and that is like an 18-point drop since April. Why is that?

BACHMANN: Well, let me tell you what the Tea Party stands for. It stands for the fact that we are taxed enough already. WE shouldn't spend more money than we're already taking in. And third we should act within the constitution. That's a pretty mainstream agenda that most Democrats agree with.

CROWLEY: Right, but most -- but Republicans, you saw a 19-point drop. And you know what happened between April and now, it was the debt ceiling fight?

BACHMANN: The debt ceiling fight, but I think -- as a result of this debt ceiling fight, the American people were not with giving the president an additional $2.4 trillion blank check, because after all what did we get in exchange? $21 billion in illusory cuts. That's not really much of a deal.

And when people look at what's happened this last week, we really had a punch in the gut as far as the economy, the loss of the credit rating, what happened on the stock market, people are looking at all of that, Candy, and saying you know maybe all of this deficit spending, which is by an order of magnitude of anything we've ever seen before, this can't continue.

And I think people want us to be able to actually start cutting spending, and it hasn't happened yet.

CROWLEY: But still, there is this -- is it a perception problem? I mean, what is wrong here? Because when you drop 18 points -- when a an entity, not you personally, this is the Tea Party, but when an entity drops 18 points in favorability, when the big fight is on, that says to me that something in that movement is turning people off.

BACHMANN: I am not seeing it at all. You know, I can't comment on that poll result because I don't know. But I will tell you when you talk to people about concepts as opposed to a term like the Tea Party, but when you talk to the people about the concepts with the Tea Party stands for, which is really getting your financial house in order, that's basically what the Tea Party is about.

People are there. That's the zone they are in. And so I think what the Tea Party stands for, people are for. So whether it has to do with maligning the Tea Party or not, I don't know.

CROWLEY: Is there anything that you can point to at this point, because the Tea Party is seen, or those with Tea Party backing, seen as uncompromising, won't go in -- we have a poll where the majority of Americans said you all need to compromise on this debt ceiling, you all need to raise the debt ceiling, and it out to be -- the deal ought to include a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

You are opposed to both raising the debt ceiling and that kind of compromise. So doesn't that put you outside the mainstream?

BACHMANN: Oh goodness, absolutely not. I haven't gone...

CROWLEY: Even if most people disagree?

BACHMANN: I have not gone one place in Iowa or South Carolina or New Hampshire where anyone has said, please, raise my taxes they are not high enough already. Never happens. And people, I will almost every event I go to, and we don't poll in just certain people, it's open to the public, people are not there saying raise the debt ceiling, we want you to borrow more money. It doesn't happen, Candy.

People are very upset and nervous about where the economy is at now. And what we saw yesterday in the straw poll, people in Iowa sent a message loud and clear to President Obama. They said we are done with your policies. We want something very different, because after all in this debt ceiling debate, this wasn't about default. Remember, the president had no plan. I offered a plan. My plan says we don't default, but what we do is pay the interest on the debt, our military and senior citizens and prioritize our spending. That's what Washington is unwilling to do.

Plus, I am unwilling to accept the new normal of ramped up spending. We have to grow the economy and reduce government spending. That's how we will get to balance.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a different subject, and that is Rick Perry. He has just come into the race, governor of Texas, also a Tea Party favorite. What is different between Governor Perry and yourself in terms of positions? Where is a major difference?

BACHMANN: Well, I think what I offer to the voters is what they have seen already. I'm a very proven, effective advocate in Washington, D.C. and against the issues people really care about it. I've been on the front lines.

CROWLEY: He is the longest serving governor of Texas. So that's pretty good.

BACHMANN: I have been on the front lines and have been fighting. I was the first member of congress to introduce the appeal of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank. I led for the last two months against raising the debt ceiling, against the TARP vote, the $700 billion bailout. Issue after issue after issue, I've been at the tip of the spear, and I have been a champion for people on these issues. I've been the fighter. So people want to know who can we trust, who can we believe, who is going to fight for us when they are in Washington, they see that I have been -- I have demonstrated that.

CROWLEY: I want to talk to you a little more on the subject of Rick Perry, but I also want to get into some other issues that we want to talk about. We want to take a quick break, so stick with me, we'll be right back.



CROWLEY: We'll have more of my interview with Michele Bachmann later on in the program. But joining me now is presidential candidate Herman Cain. I want to discuss this breaking news we have today, which is that Tim Pawlenty is pulling out.

HERMAN CAIN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he made a big investment, and he doubled down, as we call it, and it didn't pay off.

CROWLEY: A million dollars he poured into the straw poll.

CAIN: Yes. A million dollars. And we didn't put a million dollars into the straw poll. Representative Bachmann, first I want to congratulate her for winning, but she also put substantial funds into this straw poll. It was reported by one of her staffers this morning in an article that they 40 buses. Well, we had four buses to bring people here.

We spent zero on TV. We spent zero on the radio. And so this campaign is encouraged. And our momentum continues to grow.

CROWLEY: We should tell our listeners that you placed fifth in the straw poll.

CAIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: Let me look at my handy-dandy cheat sheet. You were at 8.6 percent.

CAIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: That compares to Palin's 28.6. But, look, Tim Pawlenty pulls out at 13.6 percent. He placed third.

CAIN: Right. But he...

CROWLEY: That's not. But what's the problem? What causes -- I mean, why does he pull out?

CAIN: Well, because he probably ended up still with some debt, and since he did not finish higher than the bogey that they had set for themselves, it's going to be, as you said, more difficult for him to raise money. And so I believe that that's probably it. He didn't see -- he didn't get the boost that he was looking for. You look at the Cain campaign, we finished in the middle of the pack, which is what we were hoping to do in the middle of the pack, not making a big, huge investment other than time and energy.

So we feel very good about where we finished given everything and all of the dynamics.

CROWLEY: Again, Bachmann at 28.6 percent, a congresswoman from Minnesota, lots of passion on the campaign. You also boast some passionate supporters. But how do you -- how can you go on? Is it that you run a shoestring campaign and a Tim Pawlenty can't?

CAIN: I run a campaign like a business. In other words, I don't allow -- we don't allow the spending to get out ahead of the revenue. So we always stay right behind it. And we were still able to be very, very effective. That's the difference. So we're not making huge gambles on spending before we get the money.

Secondly, because of the grassroots nature of my campaign, and because of the way people are connecting with my message, it continues to gradually build. So it doesn't have these ups and downs and these ebbs and flows like some of the other campaigns, if you are dependent on moving it with media. No, we're moving it with message.

CROWLEY: And one last question on Pawlenty pulling out, is it fair, do you think, I mean, here's a man who is eminently qualified, one would think, he certainly has the resume, he has a message that's very similar to the messages that are out there, is the straw poll a fair divider of who should -- of, you know, sort of winnowing down the race?

CAIN: I don't think it is a totally fair indicator. I call it a barometer. A better indicator would be the state-wide polls that they do with Iowa voters. One of the other things that encourages us is that for the last two Des Moines Register polls, I have finished in third place. That's solid.

CROWLEY: But in your heart of hearts at night, do you sit around thinking, I can be the Republican nominee? Be honest with me, because you know how it's parsed here in the public, and we look and say, Herman Cain is like fifth, he's like way behind, he doesn't have any money, and certainly you do barely show up in the national polls, do you say to yourself, I can win this? Because Tim Pawlenty sort stared this in the face and said, I can't win, and how come you don't?

CAIN: The answer is, I don't stay up at night or wake up saying that I can't win. I wake up saying I can, for the following reasons. My name ID is only 46 percent nationally. For me to be finishing in the middle of the pack with a 46 percent name ID and not spending as much money as some of these other candidates, that is a great position to be in.

The other thing is, people are connecting with my message and my passion. Sometimes articles say that I have a lot of passion but no message. I am the one who stays constantly on message about specific ideas on growing the economy and economic growth, specific ideas about how we address immigration, specific ideas about how we get entitlement spending under control.

So, no, I truly believe, Candy, that I can win the nomination and the presidency.

CROWLEY: Let me move you just to some -- using your expertise as a businessman to questions that are out there. There are growing voices in the business community, much of it supportive of the Republican Party policy, saying, we need stimulus, you know, 9.1 percent unemployment, nothing is moving, people are not selling anything because people are not spending anything.

So as a businessman, if you were president, isn't it time for some flat out government -- more government spending on trying to create some jobs to kind of prime the pump?

CAIN: Just the opposite. The business...

CROWLEY: But business folks are calling for this?

CAIN: No, no, not the business people I am talking to. I don't know who is calling for this. I think that is a misconception.

The business sector is the engine that drives the economy. You have got to put fuel in the engine. None of the policies have put fuel in the engine, such as lowering the corporate and personal tax rates, which I propose a maximum of 25 percent. Zero tax on repatriated profits. That's nearly $3 trillion offshore that won't come home.

And, thirdly, take the capital gains tax rate to zero is part of my economic vision. Most importantly, make them permanent. Uncertainty is killing this economy. More spending on government jobs, Candy, is absolutely the wrong thing. It does not put fuel in the economic engine.

That's why this economy is stuck and it's not going anywhere because I don't believe the administration has those kinds of ideas in its DNA.

CROWLEY: All right. Presidential candidate Herman Cain, number five in the straw poll, but still going strong.

CAIN: Very encouraged.

CROWLEY: We will see you along the campaign trail.

CAIN: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks for joining us.

CROWLEY: Up next, we will talk to one of the king-makers in Iowa, Congressman Steve King is right after the break.


CROWLEY: You can't talk Iowa politics without Congressman Steve King. He is a former Iowa state senator now representing Iowa's largest congressional district in the U.S. House. Congressman King joins me here in Ames, Iowa. Welcome.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Good morning, and a beautiful morning this morning.

CROWLEY: Wow, big news. Tim Pawlenty is out. Should he be?

KING: I got asked that last night on what I thought about what he should do. And I don't want to make a recommendation to a man who has put so much of his time and his effort and his heart into this. You feel bad for any candidate that comes to that conclusion. And I salute him for the effort that he put out here. And he made a decision that I think is the right political decision.

But the other thing is I remember John McCain carrying his suitcase across the tarmac. You can never say never in this business. It is an unpredictable business. I will say a political science is really not a science.

CROWLEY: Right. But it's also -- does have some risk analysis in it. And when you saw that third place win, it wasn't just a third place win, it was a distant third place win. A guy who was widely said to have had the best ground game in Iowa with some of the most astute Iowa politicos helping him.

He did have money and he has a long resume. What happened?

KING: Well, I think -- there was a measure going on. And what I saw on here yesterday, you kind of do the survey of who is wearing what t-shirts and who is milling around and what tents are packed and where is the energy.

And part of it, I saw a lot of people with Pawlenty shirts on yesterday that were wearing Romney shirts four years ago. And the energy just wasn't there.

And I think -- well, I think Tim Pawlenty is probably drawn the conclusion that he didn't connect with the voters in the way he hoped to connect with the voters. In the end that's a hard thing to settle to.

But I give him credit for coming to an early decision this morning and taking that position. It's got to be hard to let go of something that you put so much energy into. And I don't want anybody to lose but they all can't win.

CROWLEY: About 17,000 voters. How many Republican registered voters are here? Over 600,000 about?

KING: You know, I cannot give you the number on that.

CROWLEY: It's something -- it's close to that. So basically, 17,000 voters, we don't know whether they are Republicans or not, have made the decision that forces out what was thought what would become a top tier candidate. Do you think Iowa is overblown? I don't expect you to say yes but you're from Iowa. But I mean, the fact of the matter is that hardly seems commensurate with the number of people that voted here. It's a small number of Iowa Republican voters, even if they were all Republicans. And for heaven's sakes it's a small number of nationwide Republicans. And yet he's out. KING: Well, I want the people making the decision that actually care. Those that are active, that are activists. If they're apathetic or sitting in their living room and somebody carries them a ballot and says why don't you put up a vote here, we don't get a measure either. But people that pay the most attention are the ones that were here in Ames yesterday. They cared enough to drive from the four corners of the state, come down here to Ames. They listened to the speeches. They've studied these candidates. It's all politics all the time for the people that were here yesterday. And that's a large group of people, 17,000 people, that are animated and motivated enough to come here and weigh in on their judgment of these candidates.

CROWLEY: Who does it help that Tim Pawlenty is gone?

KING: That's a good question. I didn't reflect on that this morning. This is pretty fresh news. And that is hard to say. You know, perhaps it's -- you look down the line, you have to think that Rick Perry is looking at that group of people. You have to think that the split between the Minnesota loyalty of Michele Bachmann is going to pick up Pawlenty supporters. That's probably the two people that would be helped the most in my estimation, although I need to think about that more deeply before I take...

CROWLEY: Are you assuming that Pawlenty voters were anybody but Romney voters?

KING: That's part of it is that there either could be -- there could be some of that. But on the other hand -- just a minute, I better say no to that. I don't think so, because I saw a lot of Romney -- former Romney supporters supporting Pawlenty.

Romney is not playing here in Iowa right now. He didn't do very well yesterday, you might have noticed. And I saw Rick Perry get more write-in than votes Romney got himself.

CROWLEY: What do you make of that? While you bring that up, what do you -- I mean, a lot of people said, and I think this might have come from his supporters, oh wow he wasn't even running. I mean, the Iowa straw poll started before Rick Perry was in the race, and look he got 700 plus votes.

Is that a big deal?

KING: Well, I think the thing that's not been reported in the news is there has been a very large Perry write-in campaign going across the state.

CROWLEY: So he tried. This isn't just willy-nilly people showing up. KING: All over in orange hook-em orange t-shirts and at event after event people would stand up and give a speech for Rick Perry. And it wasn't that he was just sitting in Texas and people came here and put up a vote in Rick Perry. There was an effort for a write-in campaign.

And I remind people, that Lisa Murkowski in Alaska is a senator because of a write-in campaign. So they can be effective. And we'll see what happens today. That's going to be an interest event in Waterloo tonight.

CROWLEY: When both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann show up at the same event, although not supposedly at the same time.

KING: I would call that the shoot-out at OK Corral.

CROWLEY: You have not endorsed anyone yet in this. Yet we know that Michele Bachmann is a close personal friend. You are both Tea Party folks. What is it about her that gives you concern?

KING: Well, I don't really have that concern. It's not -- that's not what is holding me back. It's I want to weigh all these candidates objectively, and she carries a tremendous resume and a tremendous list of qualities. I watched her develop. She came into congress as one of a small freshman class. She asserted herself immediately. I watched how quickly -- she is a very quick study, very smart with fantastic instincts.

But still I, like everyone, needs to measure who would make the best president of the United States. I already know who will make the best friend, but we need to weigh who will make the best president of the United States. And I want to get for awhile and get into September and see how these candidates conduct themselves.

But she has done very, very well here. And I congratulate her on her victory yesterday and I am thrilled for her.

CROWLEY: If you look at the top two here Michele Bachmann followed by Ron Paul, you could argue that the polls are showing those are among the two that do the worse put up against President Obama. In the end aren't Republicans going to go for the person they think is strongest up against Obama?

KING: I don't know how you make that calculation.

CROWLEY: Well, the polls are one way.

KING: Well, that is one way. And this is very, very early. And then people haven't settled in and thought about this very much yet. I mean, the person that can put together.

KING: Here's what we need to do as Republicans. We need to nominate the presidential candidate who fits all of these standards along the line of the full spectrum of constitutional conservatives and also can express a vision for the destiny of America. That's what I think, at this point, is really missing from this campaign, that person, that articulation. It may not be -- the person might be there, but their articulation of the vision for the destiny of America -- paint that picture on how we get where we're ready to go, that vision that Ronald Reagan did with "shining city on the hill"...

CROWLEY: And you've got to be electable, right?

KING: That's the next step.

Well, that's...

CROWLEY: You've got to -- you've got to look and say, yeah, and who's got the best chance?


KING: Who does it for me?

CROWLEY: Right, electability?

KING: Yeah, that is part of it.


KING: But -- and you can't -- you can't diminish, I don't think, the -- the charisma that Michele Bachmann used. She didn't have a ground game. This was the force of herself as a candidate lined up against the ground game of Tim Pawlenty, and that was the measure that happened yesterday.

CROWLEY: Congressman Steve King, thank you for coming by. Appreciate it.

KING: Thank you. It's my pleasure this beautiful morning.

CROWLEY: It's a great morning.

Coming up, how does Tim Pawlenty's departure from the race reshape the presidential field, and what impact will Rick Perry have? We're going to ask our political panel next.


CROWLEY: Joining us now, Neil King of The Wall Street Journal, and Philip Rucker of The Washington Post.

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST: Just to give you a little insight, we were just talking before coming on how surprised we were that Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, did not do better here. Why do you think?

You know, on paper, he's a great candidate. He's a two-term governor of Minnesota. He seems to appeal to evangelicals, a little bit, to the Tea Party a bit, to the establishment. And it just never worked for him on the trail. He couldn't really get some momentum out of these debates. He had been in Iowa for two years and never really moved. Crowds weren't drawn to him. It just wasn't working.

CROWLEY: And the question is, sort of, why? Because we've all talked to him in person, and you come away impressed with the guy, and he's by no means vanilla. I mean, he -- you know, he's impressive in person. Is he not?

NEIL KING, WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, and I spent time with him. A lot of reporters say the same thing. They, kind of, fell under the spell in those rooms, 40 or 50 people. He was very, very good at that. He didn't transmit over television. He wasn't necessarily good at the debates.

In some ways, I think he was a little overmanaged and not quite certain of exactly what tone he wanted to strike. There were times he was, sort of, strident. There were other times that he was, you know, the civil "uniter" kind of candidate. So he was, kind of, all over the place and it was -- and in the end, he just never recovered from that, I think.

RUCKER: And Michele Bachmann's entry into the race really drew that contrast, sharply...


RUCKER: ... two Minnesotans competing here in Iowa, and it became so clear that he didn't have the pizzazz and star power that she brought.

CROWLEY: Right, minus pizzazz.

So who does it help, Pawlenty getting out?

RUCKER: Probably Rick Perry at the moment. He's trying to build a campaign. There are some donors who were supporting Pawlenty that may be open now to Perry, that some endorsers down in Florida and elsewhere in the state (sic). He's going to make a move for that, as his top strategists said a few minutes ago, that they're going to try to win over some of the folks. So we'll have to watch for that.

CROWLEY: So you've already had time to make phone calls? (LAUGHTER)

That's not fair.


N. KING: I think it makes it all the more of a three-way race with Mitt Romney, you know, Michele Bachmann, obviously, Rick Perry. I think it definitely benefits Rick Perry.

His whole message, Pawlenty's was, you know, I'm the guy that can appeal to all sides of the Republican Party. I think Rick Perry can certainly make that claim, too. I think Rick Perry's challenge is a little more can he make a claim to the center and even to independents, which was Pawlenty's -- was, I think, stronger on that front, you know, looking into a general election setting.

CROWLEY: You know, if you look at the results of this poll, number three out, OK? So Tim Pawlenty goes back home to Minnesota.

So the top two finishers were Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, both of whom are among the worst-performing when you put them in a head-to- head against President Obama.

So we've had a straw poll that was definitive for at least one campaign that doesn't match what is the current reality of things. What does that say about the straw poll?

RUCKER: I'm not sure...


I'm not sure it says that the straw poll is a good predictor of who the nominee will be, much less who the president will be. And you've got to look at Mitt Romney, who's somebody making an argument that he is electable against Obama, and in these polls, he's doing better than the other Republicans in the field, and the outcome from yesterday is exactly what his campaign wanted to see.

CROWLEY: And in the end, Neil, electability -- you can say all you want about great visions for America and, you know, I want this candidate (inaudible) this or that or the other thing. And I think we heard in Steve King, both of us, hesitation about Michele Bachmann's electability.

N. KING: Yeah, that was very clear, you know, him saying she's a friend, but I'm not sure that I'm going to back her; I'm not sure if she has, basically, the resume.

You know, a House member; she's a very new one. You know, only one has ever gone on to win. She has very strong appeal, as she showed here at the straw poll, to a very select part of the Republican base. It's very unclear that she could broaden that, I think.

She now is certainly the de facto frontrunner here in Iowa. Where her next battlefield is, like can she really play in New Hampshire; can she necessarily play effectively in South Carolina or the other states, is a difficult thing. It's, kind of, hard to see exactly what her road map is.

But I think her win here was a strong one and a significant one. Because it showed that she not only has the fervor; she has real organizational abilities, too, I think.

But if she doesn't plant her flag here and say I've got to win the caucuses off the straw poll, she couldn't do anything in New Hampshire anyway, right? So then she just -- she stays in New Hampshire (sic), where Mitt Romney has the ability to come back in here, I would think, and so does Rick Perry.

RUCKER: Yeah, although she's going to plant her flag here. Ed Rollins, her campaign manager, said yesterday that they must win the Iowa caucuses from here. They've got to win Iowa. They're going to go to New Hampshire and South Carolina, try to build an organization like they have here elsewhere, but I don't see how she moves on if she can't win the Iowa caucuses.

CROWLEY: So this is -- this is a rolling -- you know, this is build upon it, whereas Mitt Romney is, sort of, blanketing the -- the early states.

N. KING: If this becomes a Bachmann-Perry fight, sort of, to the death in Iowa, it could actually have the interesting effect of opening a space for Romney to actually win in Iowa that might not have been there otherwise.

Because they're going to be going after, you know, the more, kind of, right, social conservative side of the spectrum. And Romney now has, kind of, a wider playing field -- I'm not going to say on the left, but in the center-right, that is going to be a little more comfortable for him, I think, than was the case in '08, when he had to, sort of, squeeze into an area that didn't fit him very well.

CROWLEY: So do you -- I mean, is that how you all see it breaking down? There are now three people we think have a reasonable chance of winning both the nomination and a general election. And that is it's now down to Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann and the electability question comes into play with her?

RUCKER: Exactly.

And to piggy back on what Neal was saying about Romney in Iowa. He is -- he wasn't here in the straw poll, but he's running a real self campaign here. He's got a team in place. He's been talking to his supporters from 2008. There's a whole segment in Iowa of the kind of country club, establishment type of Republicans who right now don't have a candidate, and it looks like he could be that candidate if he plays here. And he says he will.

CROWLEY: What did you make of the straw poll showing of -- 700 plus write-ins for Rick Perry. They pushed that pretty hard, like oh my gosh he wasn't even in the race and look he got 700 votes. I thought, eh, well whatever.

N. KING: Yeah, I thought it was pretty (inaudible). I was staying down the road at a Holiday Inn and that's were they're base camp was, those guys. They were in like a little conference room, like...

CROWLEY: The camp for Rick Perry.

N. KING: Rick Perry's write-in people. It wasn't Rick Perry's people, it was Americans for Rick Perry. They had -- they were in a conference room there. Steve King had mentioned the guys in t-shirts. But they were a tiny presence here. It was a real insurgency, make a lot of phone calls ground game. I think they distributed something like 300 voting tickets to people.

So the fact that he got basically a third of the votes that Pawlenty got after having spent basically a million dollars here, campaigned heavy, huge organization, the best in the state et cetera. I think that says something.

CROWLEY: Does that say something about Perry's strength or of Pawlenty's weakness.

N. KING: Yeah, a little of both, I think it says something about Perry's strength.

CROWLEY: So, do you in the end foresee a path for Michele Bachmann to become the Republican nominee?

RUCKER: Yeah. She could do well in Iowa if she continues to be a disciplined candidate, which I think has been one of the biggest surprises so far of the cycle is her discipline and her strength up there on the stump. And if she can build on that and build some excitement, she could win Iowa and kind of go from there.

I would have to think the party establishment would try to stop her at that point. And -- but as we saw in the 2010 cycle, they can try and they sometimes can't stop these people. We saw Christine O'Donnell become nominated.

CROWLEY: But wasn't that somewhat the lesson of 2010? There were Tea Party candidates in there, they got their candidate, they beat mainstream Republicans in the primaries and then lost the general. So is that a cautionary tale that you think Republicans now look at?

Because I agree with you, the establishment Republicans at some point are going to go, I don't think Michele Bachmann is who we want?

N. KING: Yeah, i think there's a lot of heartburn out there about the possibility that she could really gain fire winning Iowa, move on from there. And whatever moves that the establishment might take to stop that I can see them taking.

CROWLEY: I have got to stop you both here. But I hope you will come back. I'm sorry. Neil King, Philip Rucker, really appreciate it.

It was fun time, wasn't it?

RUCKER: Glad to be here. It was fun.

N. KING: Really fun.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

Up next, part two of my interview with Minnesota Congresswoman and Ames straw poll winner Michele Bachmann.



CROWLEY: We are back in Ames, Iowa with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the winner of the straw poll here.

Let me just wrap up the Rick Perry conversation here. He served as -- longest serving governor in Texas. He has created jobs when most of the country has lost jobs. So he brings a strong resume to the race as well as your -- many of your fiscal views we have been talking about.

So in the end I think where they will come at you is where former Governor Pawlenty came at you which is what has she done? What has she accomplished? And here is what I have done as head of a state, this whole executive experience thing.

So, what do you consider your greatest legislative accomplishment? I know you blocked things, and been at the head of the spear for stopping things, but when you look at your legislative accomplishments, what is what you brag about most?

BACHMANN: Well, what I brag about most, I think, is what we were able to accomplish when I was in Minnesota. We had education reform. That's where I cut my teeth in politics. We were actually able to change the system in Minnesota with education reform.

In Washington, D.C., Nancy Pelosi has been the Speaker of the House for the bulk of the time that I have been in the House. She wasn't interested in my pro-growth agenda. So I couldn't get that through the congress.

But as president of the United States, that's what I bring, is leadership, a core set of principles. That's what Ronald Reagan brought when he was president of the United States. It wasn't just being governor of California it was his core set of principles that guided him.

And I think that's what I'm going to bring as well. And it -- for me, we need to have a decisionmaker, because the president isn't just manager-in-chief, they are the leader and they set the direction. And that's what I can do. CROWLEY: Let me play you a little something you said at the debate the other night. We were talking about the debt ceiling. And the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by S&P. And here is what you had to say.

BACHMANN: When they dropped our credit rating what they said is we don't have an ability to repay our debt. That's what the final word was from them. I was proved right in my position. We should not have raised the debt ceiling.

CROWLEY: OK now, I want to read for you what the senior director of S&P had to say about the downgrade. "People in the political arena were even talking about a potential default that a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable. This kind of rhetoric is not common among AAA sovereigns."

So it's almost -- I mean, they all but blamed the Tea Party, and in fact you know hint very broadly that this kind of first of all confrontation, but also the idea that no compromise, no nothing that brought the U.S. to the brink of this is what caused the downgrade. And you said just the opposite.

BACHMANN: Well, for heaven's sake, the fact that we had a debate in Washington, D.C. about not borrowing more money that we don't have certainly isn't what brought down our AAA credit rating. It was the overspending. To blame the debate just seems absurd. That's like saying that--

CROWLEY: But they did. I mean, the reality is they did.

BACHMANN: -- Paul Revere caused the British invasion. I mean, it didn't happen.

BACHMANN: And the real problem in all of this is the overspending. And the worry that S&P has, that we might not be able to pay our debt. Now, again, I have to remind you...

CROWLEY: But S&P says differently, that's all I...

BACHMANN: But -- but...

CROWLEY: Their cause of the downgrade was this debate...

BACHMANN: A debate?

CROWLEY: Well, it's the -- no, getting to the brink of default, and that we were even voices...

BACHMANN: But let's go back...

CROWLEY: ... that thought, hey, what the heck?

BACHMANN: Let's go back in history again. I introduced a plan and a bill that would actually make sure that we don't default. That was the whole purpose. This was really a lack of failure on the president's part, because the president never had a plan all year, despite knowing that we were going to come to this point.

In January I got a letter, as all members of Congress did, from the administration that said, we will probably have to raise the debt ceiling, we're running out of money. And then the president in February introduced a budget that overspent by a $1.5 trillion.

Then Standard & Poor's in April said, gee, we may lose our credit rating. And we had Treasury Secretary Geithner said, there's no risk of default, we can go ahead and continue to borrow money.

We can't. That's the point. And at the end of the day, you've got to figure this out. And I'm saying that the economy will go into likely a double dip recession if we increase taxes versus getting our spending under control.

CROWLEY: Let me just see if I can get a quick answer from you on this to wrap up this because I have a couple of other things on other issues. But that is, can you name me a big piece of legislation that you were a part of that you compromised on, I mean, that you voted for that was a compromise for you? Because I think the impression is tea party people or tea party activists or those who are supported by the tea party, they don't compromise. Where have you compromised in your legislative career?

BACHMANN: Well, I stand on a core set of principles, but you want to continue to move in a positive direction. Sometimes you have to take steps, interval steps to get to where you want to go. And certainly you do that. And I've done that throughout my legislative career.

CROWLEY: Is there a particular piece of legislation you could point to?

BACHMANN: Well, I'm trying to think of one right now that would be a compromise. There has been -- on big issues I don't compromise. I don't compromise my core sense of principles. But I've taken thousands of votes in Congress. And I'm sure that there's areas where the bills aren't perfect, but you vote for them.

I'll tell you one probably recently was appropriations bills for the military and our men and women need those resources, and so I voted for that bill, but there are more efficiencies that we could have put in, procurement projects, for instance, that I wouldn't have necessarily gone along with.

But our military needed to be fully resourced. So that's probably the best example.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a couple of quick questions that I think are yes or no. If you became president, would you reinstitute the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy in the military which said that gays could not serve openly in the military?

BACHMANN: The "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy has worked very well. And I...

CROWLEY: Would you reinstitute it then? Because it has been set aside.

BACHMANN: It worked very well and I would be in consultation with our commanders, but I think, yes, I probably would.

CROWLEY: And here in Iowa, same-sex marriage has been legal for more than a year. What harm do you think it has done the state?

BACHMANN: Well, I think it's more important that people have the right to weigh in on the laws that they choose to live under. What I don't like is judges legislating from the bench. And as president of the United States I will appoint justices who uphold the Constitution and who don't see themselves as a super legislature.

That was the problem here in Iowa and that's why people here in Iowa did not retain their three judges. They were very offended that three judges substituted their opinions for that of the people. And I think that sent a very loud and clear signal.

CROWLEY: The federal gas tax is set to expire September 30th. Would you let that expire? BACHMANN: I think that's something that we'll be debating and looking at in September and we'll see.

CROWLEY: Are you inclined to let it expire?

BACHMANN: We'll look at it. We'll look at it.

CROWLEY: So haven't decided yet?

BACHMANN: Haven't decided yet.

CROWLEY: OK. And, finally, more on the personal level. You've had four chiefs of staff and two acting chiefs of staff in less than five years. Why is that?

BACHMANN: I've had wonderful people working for me. We've been a very high profile office. And in Washington, D.C., staff are fairly young and they move up pretty quickly. And staff in our office, because we've been high profile, have been given wonderful job offers in other offices. So I certainly wouldn't want to hold them back from other advances.

CROWLEY: No reflection on you as a boss?

BACHMANN: Well, I have wonderful staff. I have nothing but high praise for them.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, congratulations, once again, on winning...

BACHMANN: Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: ... the straw poll.

BACHMANN: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Next up, Waterloo, I think?

BACHMANN: Yes. We're going to say thank you to all the people in Iowa today.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much for being here.

BACHMANN: Thank you.


CROWLEY: Up next, a check of today's top stories. And then "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" at the top of the hour.


CROWLEY: Recapping our top story first reported by CNN's Peter Hamby, former Minnesota Tim Pawlenty has ended his campaign for the presidency. He acknowledged that yesterday's straw poll results prove that a path forward for him doesn't really exist. At least four people are dead and 40 others injured after scaffolding around the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed last night. Witnesses attending a concert say a powerful gust of wind blew through just before the incident. Authorities say there may be more casualties.

And at least 16 people are dead after several gunmen strapped with explosives stormed a provincial governor's compound in central eastern Afghanistan. Thirty people were also wounded. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack. The condition of the provincial governor is unclear.

And those are today's top stories, thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Ames, Iowa. Up next for our viewers here in the United States, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."