"Face the Nation" transcripts, October 21, 2012: Sen. Rubio, Cutter, Madden
SCHIEFFER: Well, good morning again and welcome to "Face the Nation" from Boca Raton. Behind me this morning on the Lynn University campus, as you see what is known as Remembrance Plaza, it's a memorial to two professors and four students here who were killed in the Haiti earthquake in January of 2011 while on a college service trip.
And joining me now, the home state senator from Florida, Senator Marco Rubio, who I've heard supports Mitt Romney.
RUBIO: Now more than ever.
Welcome back to Florida.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much, Senator.
How high are the stakes for tomorrow's debate?
RUBIO: Well, I think they're important. All these debates have mattered. You know, Peggy Noonan had a great write-up this weekend in The Wall Street Journal that talked about how these debates perhaps have mattered more than ever before.
And I think part of it is that the president had created this false image of Mitt Romney in the minds of some voters that was completely knocked down in that first debate. And I think now what's becoming apparent in these debates is that -- is that the president has no plan for the next four years.
I mean, he has failed to outline any sort of ideas about how he will govern the country moving, in his words, forward, over the next four years. And that's why these debates have mattered more than ever. I think tomorrow is his last chance to tell us what he's going to do over the next four years.
SCHIEFFER: It is interesting that tomorrow's debate comes 50 years to the day when John Kennedy went on American television and announced that the Soviet Union had put nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles from the coast of Florida in Cuba. We also know that Fidel Castro, the dictator of Cuba then, still the dictator, I guess, in name, but still the dictator, is very near death, we are told.
I'm wondering, Senator, what do you think will be the course of U.S. relations with Cuba if -- if Castro does go?
RUBIO: Well, it won't be the direction the president has taken it over the last four years.
Let me give you an example. They have these things called people-to-people trips to Cuba, which ostensibly is for Americans to be able to travel to Cuba, be in contact with everyday Cubans. That's not what they are. They're really tourism trips. I mean, people go over there for salsa dancing and cigar-rolling lessons. And all it is is a source of hard currency for the Castro regime. You talk about Fidel Castro being near death. I don't know that to be true, but I can tell you what's been dead for over 50 years in Cuba, and that's democracy. There are no political freedoms in Cuba. And I think that, sadly, over the last four years, the cause of freedom in Cuba has been -- has been hurt by this additional trips to Cuba and remittances that are providing hard currency for that regime.
SCHIEFFER: Are there lessons to be learned for today's politicians from what happened during the Cuban missile crisis?
We did avert, and probably came as close as we'll ever come, or had come to that point, to nuclear war. Are there lessons to be taken away from that?
RUBIO: Well, you read the accounts after the fact, it was even more chilling in terms of some of the advice that the president was getting from his military officials at the time. You look back in hindsight and maybe you're glad he didn't take some of that advice, in terms of some of the issues.
Look, I think war and armed conflict is always the last of all the options you have on the table. I think you try to avoid that at all costs. Sometimes it's unavoidable. That's the lesson of World War II. I think the other lesson of the last 50 or 60 years, however, is that, the stronger the U.S. military, the stronger our defense capabilities, the stronger the chances for peace are.
And that's a lesson of the Cold War and thereafter is you always want -- I think and I believe and Mitt Romney believes strongly that the world is a safer and better place that the United States is the strongest military power on earth. The stronger you are, the less likelihood you'll ever have to use it.
SCHIEFFER: You know, most American political elections, just like this one, are about the economy, but usually, probably within the first year of any president's term, there is some unanticipated foreign crisis, like the Cuban missile crisis.
Right now, we have this -- this awful thing that happened in Libya. An American ambassador and three other Americans were killed. You're aware of all the finger-pointing, the back and forth -- it was the work of terrorists; it wasn't the work of terrorists. What have you been able to find out about what happened there?
RUBIO: Well, from the early days of that attack, it was apparent this was not just a popular uprising.
Number one, in Libya, there was no record of popular uprisings against the United States. In fact, the United States is pretty highly regarded in most of Libya, and particularly in Benghazi. This ambassador was incredibly popular in Benghazi. Secondly, they were well-armed and a well-executed attack. It had all the markings of a military-style attack.
Here's what's troubling. What's most troubling about this is that one of narratives that the Obama campaign has laid out is that bin Laden is dead -- they've bragged about that forever -- and that Al Qaida is in retreat.
And you start to wonder, did they basically say do not allow any story to emerge that counters that narrative?
Is that why, for two weeks, they told us that the Libyan incident in Benghazi was a popular uprising and not a terrorist attack, because it ran counter to their campaign narrative?
I hope that that's not true. But that's what you start to wonder about.
Let me point one more thing out. You said that, early on in any presidency, there's a moment truth. This president had one in Iran. After the false elections there, the people took to the streets and the president refused to line up with the green revolution there. He said he wasn't going to get involved in Iran's sovereignty. And the result has been disastrous. There is now no well-organized opposition in Iran because it was completely demoralized in its early days of its rebellion by the president's lack of engagement.
SCHIEFFER: Let me go back just to that incident. In the beginning, the administration was first saying it appeared that it was the result of a spontaneous demonstration. Then the president said, no, he had called it an act of terror from the first.
Today there are some American newspapers, the Los Angeles Times among them, The Washington Post, quoting CIA people as saying it may have been the work -- may have been inspired by a spontaneous demonstration.
RUBIO: Well, that's not the evidence that you're seeing.
I mean, these folks were well-armed. It was a well-executed attack. And the truth is -- let's find out the truth. Let's put all the facts on the table now so we can see exactly how it developed and we could know.
But I can tell you that the markings of it and the weapons that they were carrying and the way that it was carried out in multiple stages had all the markings of a terrorist-type attack. And for 14 days this administration did everything in its power, including on this show and others that Sunday after the attack, to say that it was a popular uprising, that it was a spontaneous uprising linked to a YouTube video, which we now know not to be the case. Even the administration now admits that.
SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney has made quite a point throughout the campaign of saying that, on his first day in office, he will declare China to be a currency manipulator. I understand you told some reporters from Bloomberg that you don't agree with the president, that you don't think that's a wise thing to do.
RUBIO: Well, I agree with Mitt Romney that China is a currency manipulator. I believe that the best way -- that a trade war is not the right way to approach it. And I think that, if you label them a currency manipulator, that's what it may result; it would hurt American businesses.
But I understand his frustration. And it may lead to -- we may have to do what Governor Romney is saying. We may have to label them a currency manipulator. But the ideal way to deal with it -- because we both have a lot to lose here. China has a lot to lose here, too, on the trade war. It would be good for neither one of our economies. So hopefully we can avoid that. It may come to that, but I hope we can avoid that.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this question. What do you think-- what do you want to hear from the candidates as to what they see as America's role in the world?
RUBIO: Well, I think that's a great question. And, you know, the answer -- I think, for Governor Romney, he's laid that out pretty clearly. He'd use America's role in the world as a catalyst for peace, prosperity and freedom.
Now, he understands America can't solve every problem in the world unilaterally. Increasingly, is takes global coalitions to address these issues. But these coalitions have to be put together and they have to be led. And only the United States has the capability to do that.
The current president, on the other hand, has a very different vision of the world. And part of the failure that this president has had is his failure to outline broad goals, real goals, a real view of what America's role in the world should be. We have never got than from this president, just like for much of this campaign, we haven't gotten from this president his plans for the future.
So I hope tomorrow night - I don't know who the moderator is-- but I hope that the president will be pressed on what his plans are for the next four years on foreign policy and, if possible, on the economy. I know that's not the topic, but they are related.
SCHIEFFER: Well, let's just talk about the economy for a minute. Before the year is out, unless the congress does something, and the president would have to sign into law whatever they do, we're facing what people are calling the fiscal crisis because of these automatic tax hikes that go in for everybody, and these draconian cuts in both social and defense programs that will be enacted, again, automatically.
Do you think congress is going to be able to solve this? And what should whoever is elected president because even if Mitt Romney is elected and he's not in office yet, won't he have to do something to encourage the congress to solve this?
RUBIO: Well, let me say on that issue I agree with what Barack Obama said in December of 2010 and that is in the middle of an economic downturn, in the middle of a bad economy, it's not a good time to raise taxes on anybody. I hope he remember that and says that again and does that again because without presidential leadership, we're not going to be able to confront this issue. I think the long-term solution to this problem, is the combination of pro-growth strategies on tax reform and regulatory reform and repealing Obamacare, combined with fiscal spending discipline so we don't keep digging a hole.
I think if we can get growth going in our economy and hold the line on spending, we can recover fairly quickly. And I think that's what Governor Romney is promising. Sadly we don't know what President Obama's plan is on the fiscal cliff or anything for that matter.
SCHIEFFER: Just one more foreign policy question. Do you take seriously these reports that Iran now wants to make a deal on some kind of nuclear thing?
RUBIO: Well, the White House has denied that. And so I don't think there's anything further to comment on that story. I will say that I think Governor Romney would agree with this, force is the last option, it's the least desirable one. It has to be on the table and the candidates agree on that. I am concerned that Iran has used negotiations - quote, unquote-- in the past as a way to buy time to further their nuclear program.
SCHIEFFER: Senator, it's always a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much.
RUBIO: Thanks for coming back...
SCHIEFFER: And we'll be back in one minute.
SCHIEFFER: We're back here in Boca Raton, the site of the final presidential debate tomorrow night. We've got both sides here now. Stephanie Cutter, the president's deputy campaign manager, Kevin Madden, who is an adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.
I want to talk to both of you about what Marco Rubio said. But first, I'd like to get both of your takes on where you think the race stands here in Florida, because as we all know, it could all be decided on how Florida goes. What do you think?
KEVIN MADDEN, ROMNEY ADVISER: Well, I think that the race here is very close. But we're increasingly encouraged by the state of our campaign here. I think Governor Romney focusing on the economy, focusing on what he would do to help get more jobs for the people of Florida and people across the country. Also, focusing on debt, focusing on deficits, focusing on the gas prices that so many Floridians are seeing every single day at the gas pump and how that's affecting their bottom line.
I think right now there's a lot of anxiety amongst the American people, particularly people here in Florida, about the state of the economy. And as Governor Romney has focused on that, and he's focused on what he would do better over the next four years, versus the failed policies that we've seen over these past four years from President Obama, our campaign has done very well here. And we feel very good about where we're positioned here right now.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA ADVISER: Well, I agree with Kevin that it is very close. You know, some polls have the president five up, some have the-- some polls have the governor five up. But we've invested in this state. We have more than 100 campaign offices across this state. We believe in our ground operations. We've closed the gap-- normally Republicans have an advantage with absentee ballots. In Florida, we've closed that gap in this election.
And in terms of the agenda going forward, the president over the last four years, we have made significant progress here in Florida. The housing industry is on a rebound. We've created jobs here in Florida, we've created new industries, the solar and wind energy, because of the investments the president has made.
Now I think that the people of Florida agree with most people across this country, that they want to build this economy, rebuild this economy in a way that's meant to last, which means you have to do it from the middle out, with a strong middle class. And that's exactly what Mitt Romney is not doing. His singular economic policy is a tax cut that gives a $250,000 tax cut to those at the top forcing the middle class to pay for it. That's not a way to move this economy forward. And I think the people of Florida know that.
SCHIEFFER: Well, what Mitt Romney says the president is not doing is telling people what, in fact, he plans to do in his second term.
CUTTER: Well, Mitt Romney ought to come out on the trail with us and come to some of our rallies across the country - that would be fun -- and listen to what the president is the saying. I think millions of Americans heard it on convention night. He wants to build -- continue rebuilding this economy as I said in a way that's meant to last, build on the progress that we've made, invest in manufacturing, invest in small businesses by closing those loopholes that send jobs overseas and bring jobs back home. Invest in education so that we have a skilled workforce.
You know, there are job all over this country that can't be filled because we don't have enough high-skilled workers. So 100,000 new math and science teachers investing in community colleges to train 2 million workers, cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and we're well on our way to do that. You know, cut our deficits. $4 trillion detailed deficit reduction plan on the table that the president put forth.
Mitt Romney doesn't have a deficit reduction plan.
And finally, Bob, end the war in Afghanistan and use those savings to rebuild America back. After a decade of war, it's time to rebuild here at home. And the president has a plan to do that.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask Kevin what about this charge that the president -- he has diagnosed Governor Romney as having Romnesia, that he can't remember the positions he's taken, that he's changed all of them? MADDEN: Well look, the very fact that the president of the United States has to utter a term like just is a glaring example of how small the campaign has been. This has not been a campaign, the Obama campaign, has not been one about the future, it hasn't been talking about what they would do the next four years to really help rebuild the economy. Instead they've reduced themselves to very small attacks.
I mean, you take Romnesia, which is really quite frankly silly for the president of the United States, the leader of the free world to begin uttering. Along with this talk about binders, talk about Big Bird, I mean, all of that is really indicative of a candidate that doesn't have a vision for the future.
Governor Romney on the other hand...
SCHIEFFER: But I mean, it's Governor Romney who brought up binders and brought up Big Bird.
MADDEN: But I just think that trying to make that the central argument here in the last 16 days is really very small for their campaign. And they've conducted themselves like this over the last six months. I think a lot of people right now, we have 23 million people that are struggling to find work. We have a national debt that's over $16 trillion.
$4 trillion -- this president has added trillion-dollar deficits every year for the last four years. And this is the president's closing argument.
I think one of the contrasts that has emerged in these debates, one that has worked to Governor Romney's favor is that Governor Romney has plans for the future on everything from energy -- bringing down energy prices, to lowering health care costs, to lowering the deficit, to rejuvenating the economy, putting people back to work. And that contrast has worked in our favor because Governor Romney has a plan for the future whereas over the next four years, we don't know what President Obama would do.
And the American people right now I think are judging the president very harshly because they know that we just simply cannot afford another four years like the last four years.
SCHIEFFER: Too much Big Bird?
CUTTER: well, you're right, Bob. We are not the one that brought up Big Bird. Big Bird is important because that's the only thing that Mitt Romney could point to as to how he's going to reduce the deficit. Deficits are a big issue in this campaign, I think you would agree with me.
MADDEN: They're a big issue because of the president.
CUTTER: And the only thing that you can point to is - no, that's actually not true, Kevin. Your -- the governor's running mate actually voted for two wars, two tax cuts that created these deficits, that turned a record surplus into deficits. The president has a detailed plan on the table to reduce those deficits -- binders.
Now Mitt Romney could only point to binders for an accomplishment towards women. He had a binder full of women. Now that's important because it's really symbolic of the governor's policies. You know, he wouldn't say whether or not he believes in equal pay for women, the Lilly Ledbetter Act. He wasn't honest about contraception. He supports the Rubio bill which puts bosses in charge of whether women have access to contraception on their employer plan.
He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which means insurance companies can go back to the days of charging women more than men just for health care.
Now, that is not a women security, economic security, or health security agenda. And that binder is just symbolic of that.
And I want to bring up Romnesia. Now Romnesia is a playful term to describe what Mitt Romney is actually doing in the closing days of this race. Mitt Romney has run as the ideal Tea Party candidate, severely conservative for the last six years running for president and in the last two weeks of this campaign, he's suddenly moving to the middle.
What about all those policies that he declared? He's going to repeal Roe v. Wade, sign that into law. The tax cut for those at the top that he's no pretending doesn't exist, that's going to either increase our deficit or increase taxes on increase taxes on the -- on the middle class.
Endless war in Afghanistan, these are policies -- positions that he's taken over the last six years of running for president and they don't simply disappear.
MADDEN: We have a very, very big challenges in this country and I don't think that's a message...
CUTTER: Absolutely, we need to be honest about that.
MADDEN: ... I don't think the message to -- to voters right now ought to be playing Scrabble with your opponent's name when you have 23 million people struggling to find work.
MADDEN: Look, as far as the deficit -- the president started out his term there was about -- we had about a $12 million federal debt...
CUTTER: Twelve million?
MADDEN: ... nation debt. Now we -- I'm sorry, $12 billion -- $12 trillion. Now he has $16 trillion. All right?
We have trillion-dollar deficits every year that this president was in office, and I think people are very -- find it very troubling that the president doesn't really have a plan. And if we reelect President Obama, we're going to be -- we're going to be at $20 trillion.
I mean, these are serious challenges that -- that -- that President Obama...
CUTTER: Because what is -- what exactly is Governor Romney's plan to reduce the deficit? What exactly -- what are the details of that plan?
MADDEN: Look, the way you look at the -- the -- the federal deficit is you can either grow your way out of it, you can tax your out of it or you can -- you can cut your way out of it.
What's happening right now is that President Obama has only offered a way to tax (inaudible).
CUTTER: No, I asked you about Governor Romney's plan. What's Governor Romney's plan?
MADDEN: I'm sorry -- what -- what's the -- the only way that President Obama has -- and I'll get to that -- President Obama has only said that he wants to tax his way out of it.
CUTTER: But that's actually not true.
MADDEN: Governor Romney has said well, if we take care of the growth side, the lower tax rates and whittle away a lot of the efficiencies -- find some efficiencies in the federal government and the federal -- in the federal budget, that's how we bring down the deficit and that's how we get the economy back on track.
CUTTER: That sounds incredibly detailed.
MADDEN: And then...
CUTTER: And that's what the problem is in this election. The -- the governor is traveling around this country either being dishonest about his policies or not giving details about his policies, promising to kick it past the election. That's not an honest way for the American people -- to give to the American people what your -- your agenda is for the next four years.
SCHIEFFER: We've got to stop. Back with some personal thoughts in a second.
SCHIEFFER: For the past month, I've been preparing to moderate Monday night's debate by studying up on foreign policy and it has just reminded me how dangerous the world is in which we live.
Well in the midst of all that, I ran across a front page story in the New York Times about the shame a Los Angeles woman is feeling because she has a Blackberry phone and all her friends have iPhones. She is so ashamed, she told the Times, she no longer takes her Blackberry out at cocktail parties. Personally, I think that's a good thing. But she said she hides her Blackberry behind her iPad at business conferences for fear her clients will see it and judge her.
Other Blackberry owners told the Times they too suffer shame and humiliation as they watch their friends noodle on social networks, unavailable to them.
Now this is not a commercial for any phone, for the record, I have a Blackberry, but I still read paper newspapers, so maybe I don't count.
But here's the part I wonder about, if the Americans who headed West in covered wagons had cell phones, do you supposed they were embarrassed by the brand they owned? I doubt it. My guess is they had to worry about finding something to eat before dark and whether there were Indians hiding close by.
The more I thought about that, the more I realized I really had no words to comfort those who feel the world is closing in on them because they have the wrong phone. Maybe they could just take deep breaths or something.
SCHIEFFER: Some stations are leaving us now, for most of you, we'll be back with our all-star political panel with Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, David Sanger of the New York Times, Joe Klein with Times and our own John Dickerson.
SCHIEFFER: And to clarify something I said earlier, there are reports that--
SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION in Boca Raton, Florida, where the candidates are squaring off for their final debate tomorrow night. We have got some of the best journalists in the business here today to talk about it. Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal; David Sanger, who is the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times; Joe Klein is TIME's political columnist; and last but not least, our own John Dickerson.
But before we begin this discussion, I do want to take note that former South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972, died this morning. He was 90. He had remained active in public service and interested in politics and public affairs until the very end.
Last spring, I moderated a panel at Hunter College in New York that included Senator McGovern, former Vice President Walter Mondale, among others, and he was energetic, engaging, and very witty.
He was a World War II bomber pilot before going into politics. And even those who disagreed with him thought of him as a very nice man. George McGovern has passed on at 90.
And now to the news of the day. Peggy Noonan, let's start with you. What do you think the stakes are for this debate tomorrow night?
PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Oh, I think the stakes are pretty high for both candidates. It is the last of three debates. It is the last time I think the American people are going to see these two men together before voting day on November 6th. There is a lot that we know they disagree about, about foreign affairs, but in an hour-and-a-half they're going to get a little time to lay it out.
The election is close, so it seems to me this debate cycle we have been in has been truly consequential in a way I've never seen of debates -- presidential debates before. I think that will likely continue tomorrow. And if we are lucky, we, the voters, we will come out of it at the end thinking, I actually know something of Mitt Romney's philosophy as he looks at the world and America's place in it. I understand better what President Obama wants to do and how he sees things. SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think -- most American elections and so far this one has been exactly the same, they're generally about economic policy, about pocketbook issues. Does foreign policy -- could it actually make a difference? Could it be a tipping point in this election?
NOONAN: Oh, you never know. You know? We've got, as I said, 16 days before election, but as Kevin Madden said, no, 15 days and 20 hours. You know what I mean? Things are going very quickly. Any number of things can happen. The world is at a boil in various places, such as the Mideast, where both candidates really fight it out.
Also, I would say, I mean, I wonder if the candidates will talk about this, America's foreign policy is utterly dependent on America having good economic policy that helps America be wealthy. All of our strength is connected to our wealth.
So in a way, foreign policy and economic policy are very close. I assume in a way, they'll talk about both.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask David Sanger, you have a big piece in The New York Times today, and I think you also reported that Iran is now ready to deal on this whole issue of nuclear weapons. Marco Rubio said -- you know, he said, well, the White House has already denied it. Do you -- how serious do you think this is? Is this really -- are they really ready to sit down now, or is this just some sort of ploy?
DAVID SANGER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Bob, the story says that they're ready to go talk. It doesn't say they're ready to go deal. And whether they're ready to go deal is something we just don't know yet.
There have been moments before where the Iranians walked up, including in 2009, in President Obama's first year in office, where they walked up to the edge of a deal that could have really prevented a lot of what has happened in the past two years.
And in the end, the supreme leader in Iran killed the deal after his own negotiators had agreed to it. So Senator Rubio made the point that the Iranians sometimes see negotiations as just a chance to buy time, and that might be what's going on here.
But the White House has always said that they were willing to talk to the Iranians one on one. And I thought it was interesting when I saw President Ahmadinejad in New York a few weeks ago, he, too, indicated that he thought that Iran and the U.S. had to talk, but only after the election.
Now, the Iranians have a lot of calculations to make after that. And one of them is, of course, who gets elected. It would be hard to imagine that Mr. Romney, if he was just in his first year in office, would want to get into a lengthy negotiation before he had a chance to understand the nature of what's going on. You know, it would be sort of diplomatic malpractice if the U.S., Israel, and Iran headed toward war and hadn't talked to each other first.
SCHIEFFER: Joe, I want to get to you just about the dynamics of this race so far. It has been mostly about economic stuff, but now we're coming down to foreign policy in the last weeks of the campaign. How do you -- what do you think of this campaign right now? Where do you see it going?
JOE KLEIN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, TIME: Well, these debates -- the debates are always fascinating. And the big thing that the debates decide for most people is who you want to have in your house for the next four years. The president is the most intimate office we have.
And the Obama campaign spent the entire summer very effectively making the argument through advertising that Mitt Romney was a rich guy who didn't care about you. I think that Romney took care of that. That was a huge mountain for him to climb. He took care of that argument in the first debate.
The second debate, I thought Obama had a stronger debate than Romney, but still, you know, for an undecided voter, especially on economic issues, the president didn't do all that well because he isn't talking about what he's going to do in the next four years.
Tomorrow night is fascinating because, in truth, these guys don't disagree all that much on all this stuff. They essentially have the same positions on foreign policy. This business about the -- you know, the Libya consulate has been like the "October mirage." It really isn't an issue.
And so, once again, tomorrow, Obama is going to have a very strong position because his foreign policy has been largely successful in terms of substance, but in terms of style, he still has to climb -- re-climb the mountain and make a convincing case to the American people that they will be more comfortable with him in their living rooms the next four years.
SCHIEFFER: Where do you think the electoral map is right now?
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now we've got the national polls are just completely tied, basically. The Wall Street Journal/NBC has a poll out today, 47-47. This election is brought to you by the number 47, apparently.
DICKERSON: And in the battleground states we also see it tight. So in the president, where he is doing well, in Ohio, the average of the polls has him up by 2 points. Romney is doing well in Florida, the average has him up by 2 points. Nobody is up by any more than that.
Romney is doing better in Florida, Virginia, and Colorado. The president is doing well in the Mideast (sic). In terms of this debate, the president is -- it's a continuity debate for the president, basically. He has an ad out now on the economy where a guy with a close-cropped haircut at the end says, "stick with this guy."
Well, if you're watching him talk about foreign policy, the president has a better case to make on "stick with this guy." And for undecided voters who are judging the economy and all kinds of different things, the president can make that case, stick with me, don't change horses in midstream, on his foreign policy. It may not be your number one issue, but it does kind of slide over into the argument he's making on all issues.
SCHIEFFER: What -- you know, I think it's entirely possible you would have one of these candidates win the popular vote and another win the electoral vote.
DICKERSON: I think that's possible. You could. And, you know, it depends, it's so tight now, we really don't know. There was a period where the national polls showed a big surge for Romney. So let's say that would suggest he gets more people. But then the president ekes it out in the battleground states. He still -- his advantage in the path to 270, that magical number, used to be great. It is shrinking now as Romney gets -- does better.
But that -- that scenario is possible. People are now even talking about a scenario in which you have 269 electoral votes to 269 electoral votes as they both carve up the remaining swing states. That would then kick it into the House of Representatives for the president. But then the Senate would choose the vice president -- excuse me, that's right, the senate would choose the vice president.
So in theory you could have the Republicans choosing their man and the Democrats in the Senate choosing their man.
SCHIEFFER: And refresh my memory, that would be the current Congress that this would go to, or it would be the newly...
DICKERSON: The new one.
SCHIEFFER: ... elected Congress?
DICKERSON: It would be the newly elected Congress making those decisions.
SCHIEFFER: So they couldn't make that decision until next year.
DICKERSON: Well, that's right, and if it's the newly elected Senate, it could be a 50-50 Senate, and who breaks the tie in the Senate? The vice president. The sitting vice president.
SCHIEFFER: The sitting vice president.
(LAUGHTER) SCHIEFFER: Peggy, let me ask you about this whole thing, I mean, Obama's -- this speech that he was making this week about "Romnesia." I've got to say, you heard Kevin. He said, oh, this is illustrates the smallness of the campaign thus far.
But, you know, people -- the people -- he was obviously speaking to Democrats, the Democrats love that.
NOONAN: Yes. To tell you the truth, when you just sit back, don't be a righty or a lefty, a Republican, a Democrat, just be a connoisseur of campaigns, that was good stuff. That was Obama having fun for the first time, it seemed to me, almost, on the campaign trail, and also saying something funny that people chuckle about, and then hear in their heads -- hold in their heads, rather.
Could I add to something John said? I think one of the fascinating things about this presidential campaign, and that all the smarty-pantses and all the political professionals, the pundits -- everybody who follows politics really closely, follows Ohio, follows Virginia, knows the numbers, is talking about GOTV, nobody knows what's going to happen this year. It's so interesting to me.
Normally people who are paying a lot of attention got a real idea that I'm fascinated by the mystery of it. I'm also fascinate by something John Dickerson said last night if you don't mind me quoting you. It is there is a sense out there that the American people are up to something we don't know about, and just might be about to hand us some surprise that they've been cook up that lots of people don't know about.
Do you know what I mean? That there's just something going on.
KLEIN: You know, since I'm so much older than Schieffer, I stopped making predictions maybe five...
SCHIEFFER: Would you like to come back next week? I'd love to have you?
KLEIN: I stopped making predictions five or six cycles ago because we're really good about describing the past. We're pretty good about what's happening right now. We're really terrible when it comes to the future.
SCHIEFFER: You know, I tell you, you all make me feel so much better because I thought I was the only one that couldn't figure out what was going to happen. I'm glad to know there are some other people out there who don't know any more about it than I do.
Let's take a little break here. And we'll come back and talk about this some more. This is fun.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCHIEFFER: We're back with more of our political panel.
David Sanger, you wrote a long piece today in the New York Times about what you kind of are hoping you'll hear in this debate.
SANGER: Bob, I think what's fascinating about these two candidates, when they have talked about individual issues -- how to handle Iran, how to handle Syria-- you've need a micrometer sometimes to figure out the differences. One would do sanctions. One would do crippling sanctions. One would send light arms, one would send heavy arms.
But what's really fascinating to me is that when you dig down into the way they talk about the use of American power what you're discovering is there really is a difference. That you have in Mitt Romney a man who keeps talking about restoring that unipolar moment for the United States, where the U.S. was the preeminent power around the world and basically had no challengers. And we had that for a while really between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of 9/11.
What you hear from President Obama is something different. What you hear is we're in a different age now. We've got to pull back from these wars. We have to build coalitions. And countries that have a greater interest in solving a problem like Libya or Syria have to put skin in the game first. The U.S. will be there to back them up. That's a very different concept. It's one of sort sharing power, building coalitions.
Now, you've heard Mr. Romney say at various points he, too, would build coalitions, and I'm sure that he would. But the question is does the world view Mr. Romney as somebody who wants to bring back America as the sole superpower? Do they view President Obama as somebody who can actually engage the rest of the world?
What he promised in 2008, he's governed more through drone strikes, through cyber-attacks on Iran, through the use of special forces. And that's the mystery of his next four years.
SCHIEFFER: Peggy, can we afford -- do we have the money to be the kind of superpower that we - that -- as David said - that Mitt Romney thinks about?
NOONAN: Well, I think if we are going to be a strong force in the world in the future, we will probably have to get our economic realities figured out. It's a funny thing, but I think in part, part of the prestige -- part of the respect in which we were held in the world the past 50, 100 years, had to do with the fact that we knew economically how to do it. We were a beacon. We led the way in spreading wealth. And we could show you how to do it.
The world now is a different place, a more difficult place in some respect, can look at us and say, you know what, you don't have your own books in order. You don't have your own reality in order there. So I think it's led a little bit to a loss of prestige. I would say, David, I don't think Mitt Romney is thinking in terms of I want America to be the sole unipower. I think he is thinking about an enhancement of and a coming back of a certain prestige for the United States in the world. There is a feeling among many conservatives -- I share it-- that the world is a slightly better place when it knows it has a strong, mature, and stable and sophisticated America on which it can rely when troubling moments occur.
SANGER: Let me just -- if describes that tomorrow night, I think that it will be a really interesting moment.
KLEIN: Could I just say, Peggy, I disagree with you about this. Because as I travel the world, the longest line in any given town is the line for visas at the American embassy.
NOONAN: Oh, they still want to come here.
KLEIN: People still admire our freedom. They envy us. They want to be free, too.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just...
NOONAN: What I said was not meant to suggest otherwise. It's known as want "gate theory." You judge a country by whether people are trying to come in the gates to be with you, or out of the gate to get away from you. The gate's still working for us.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask Joe about something. I'm sure you all heard Senator Rubio. And Mitt Romney says on day one he's going to label China a currency manipulator. And Marco Rubio said I don't think that's such a good idea, because we risk setting off a trade war if we do that.
KLEIN: Boy, was that fascinating or what? You know, the one issue in this debate tomorrow night that is a major domestic issue in this country, at least on the ground level, is China. And you hear -- you hear Governor Romney being very aggressive, and where is that coming from? That is coming from his focus groups in Ohio, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, throughout the industrial Midwest, where people think that China's been cheating and that we're slipping behind them.
The trouble is, as Senator Rubio pointed out, you don't want to get into a trade war, that would be much, much, much worse. But this is a real challenge for the president tomorrow night because Romney is going to take a position that is politically popular in the swing states, and how does the president respond to that? This is a real test.
DICKERSON: I think you know, he'll say offshoring and outsourcing. He'll go right back to Bain. I mean, when I talked to...
KLEIN: That's not good enough, I don't think.
DICKERSON: Perhaps, but that's what his advisers working on the ground in Ohio want for the same reasons want the president to talk about with respect to China and Romney's own personal history.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I don't think that Mitt Romney's getting that from the Chamber of Commerce, is he, Peggy? I don't think they want to do that?
NOONAN: What, this China stuff?
NOONAN: I don't -- I think Mitt Romney sometimes has a tendency to talk a little bit aggressively on China, on trade, on Russia, as our number one competitor or enemy or something. There's a certain aggression sometimes that creeps into what he says that I don't know where it's coming from.
DICKERSON: It's the result, though, of what David is talking about, which is that the differences between these two have to measured in a micrometer, so he is trying to put down big polls to say here are the big distinctions and that at times - and Libya is the best example -- get him in trouble because the distinctions aren't as big as he's making them.
KLEIN: He has a range of foreign policy advisers, and because of what John just said, he's more likely to listen to the ones on the far right who give him a much greater difference in opinion from the president. And I think that he has been over-stating the case relentlessly, and sometimes misstating the case on issues like the Middle East.
SANGER: An interesting question about whether we're debating the wrong question on China. China is beginning to slow down -- not as much as we've slowed down now. The next president, whoever it is, might have a harder time dealing with a weak China rather than a strong one, one that isn't buying our goods as much, one that is reacting around the world in part by making these claims in the South China Sea, and so forth.
So I'd be interested in hearing how the -- each one of these candidates would deal with a China that's in a transition we haven't seen before, that may be harder.
NOONAN: Can I add, going back to - to -- to Romney and his aides and his sometimes tough foreign policy standing, it seems to me in part, these debates have so raised Governor Romney's standing with a lot of people: with independents, his numbers with women have gone up.
My feeling has been for a very long time, people like to pick as president to the extent they can the guy or woman who says, I'm a pair of safe hands, you can be safe with me. If -- if Romney feels he has to show how strong he is and aggress and aggress, that is a little bit at odds with, you want to know something, I'm calm, I'm cool, I understand the world and I'm a pair of safe hands, I'm not looking for trouble that we don't have to have or that we don't have to bring.
So maybe we'll see him work out that tension if indeed is a tension tomorrow.
SCHIEFFER: One thing we have not talked about is turnout and -- and this early vote. Is turnout still what it's all about, John?
DICKERSON: Well, it -- it is. If you look at what the president, this Romnesia line he was so happy with himself for coming up with, that in part is about turnout because it's going on -- the voting is going on right now.
The early voting is going on in all these battleground states, it started in North Carolina yesterday and what the president's doing with a message like that is he's speaking to turning out those voters. If he an bank all of those Democrats who get excited, the younger voters who loved that line and pass it along. If he can bank them and they know at the end of the day who has voted early in a lot of these states because the Secretary of State in the state let you know. That then allows them to think about how to play the other states, how to change their message otherwise.
So they are -- both sides are pretty enthusiastic, the president though, is the one who's been working harder because his enthusiasm has been a little bit below the Republicans who are excited about turning out the president and after that Denver debate, excited now about Mitt Romney.
SANGER: Bob, the other thing I want to hear tomorrow night -- Afghanistan. I mean here we are, we've still got 68,000 troops there. You heard Joe Biden say everybody's out by 2014. That isn't the president's plan. The president's plan is keep an enduring force to watch over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
SCHIEFFER: After we pull out our combat forces. Well thank you all so much. We'll be back in a minute with some of the lighter political moments of the week.
SCHIEFFER: One of the most pleasant interludes in presidential campaigns is when the candidates go to the Al Smith Charity Dinner in New York as they did Thursday and have a little fun with each other. That's our Face the Nation Flashback.
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ROMNEY: A campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. We -- blue jeans in the morning perhaps, suit for a lunch fundraiser, sport coat for dinner, but it's nice to finally relax and were what Ann and I wear around the house.
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OBAMA: I've heard some people say, Barack, you're not as young as you used to be, where's that golden smile? Where's that pep in your step? And I say, settle down Joe, I'm trying to run a cabinet meeting here.
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ROMNEY: I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening because he'll at anything.
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OBAMA: Some of you guys remember after my foreign trip in 2008 and I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.
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ROMNEY: Now people seem to be very curious as to how we prepare for the debates. Let me tell you what I do, first refrain for alcohol for 65 years before the debate.
Second, find the biggest available straw man and then just mercilessly attack it. Big Bird didn't even see it coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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OBAMA: And even though we're enjoying ourselves tonight, we're both thinking ahead of our final debate on Monday, I'm hoping that Governor Romney and I will have a chance to answer the question that is on the minds of millions of Americans watching at home. Is this happening again?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: This week's Face the Nation Flashback.
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