"Face the Nation" transcript: March 18, 2012

(CBS News) - Below is a rush transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 18, 2012, hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. Guests are President Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod and chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus. A roundtable with CBS News correspondent Norah O'Donnell, former head of the RNC Ed Gillespie and National Review editor Rich Lowry.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, game on. After waiting for months for Republicans to pick President Obama's opponent, the White House decided to start the General Election campaign anyway and did it with a double-barreled attack.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of-- of the Flat Earth Society. They-- they would not have believed that the world was round.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: President Obama was right and they were dead wrong.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Republicans fired back at each other. Mitt Romney, the Republican with the most delegates, finished behind Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in Mississippi and Alabama.

NEWT GINGRICH (Republican Presidential Candidate): If you're the front runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front runner.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But by Romney's new math, there is no way Santorum or Gingrich can get enough delegates to secure the nomination. He wants them to quit, but one analyst said, not so fast.

KERMIT THE FROG ("The Colbert Report"): And the closer Mitt-- Mitt gets to that a-- a magical number of eleven forty-four delegates, well, the more leverage he has at a hypothetical brokered convention. However-- however, you know if rumors of a Santorum-Gingrich super ticket prove true, well, we're in for a hot time in Tampa.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Hey, it's already hot.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hot sauce.

WOMAN: Hot?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's got to be hot.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We'll try to keep the heat on as we get the latest from the President's top strategist, David Axelrod; Republican National chairman, Reince Priebus; former Republican Party chair and Romney supporter, Ed Gillespie; Fox News contributor and Time magazine columnist, Rich Lowry; and our own Norah O'Donnell.

After all, this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Welcome to FACE THE NATION. David Axelrod is the President's chief campaign strategist. He joins us from Chicago. Welcome, Mister Axelrod. Let me start with this--

DAVID AXELROD (Chief Strategist, Obama Campaign) (voice overlapping): Thanks, Bob--

BOB SCHIEFFER: --as the price of gas has gone up, the President's approval ratings have gone down, but when the Republicans started pummeling the President about this, he sort of poked fun at them. Here's what he said last week.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (March 15, 2012): They tell the same story. They head down to the gas-- gas station. They make sure a few cameras are following them. And then they start acting like, we've got a magic wand and we will give you cheap gas forever if you just elect us.

(Crowd whispering)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Every time, been the same script for thirty years. It's like a bad rerun.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But here's the irony, Axel-- Mister Axelrod. It is like a rerun because this is what candidate Obama said about George Bush four years ago.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (2008): All the while, while here in Ohio, you're paying nearly 3.70 a gallon for gas, two and a half times what it cost when George Bush took office.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, what about that? So what is the strategy? Is the price coming down? Do you have a plan to do that, I mean, in the short run?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, first of all I'm interested to hear that clip because in June of 2008, the price of gas was four dollars and ten cents a gallon. What it underscores is the fact that we are in a global oil market. And when we are dependent solely on oil, we're-- we're affected by the rate shocks again and again and again. And what he said then, what the President said then and what he's-- what he has enacted during this administration is that we need a-- an all--of-the-above policy so that we can break this dependence on-- on oil that we-- we-- so we-- yes, we need to produce more oil domestically. We're up twelve percent since he's been President. We're producing more than at any time in-- in eight or nine years. But we also-- and we're producing more gas than ever before, but we also have to explore other things, renewable energy. We've doubled the use of renewable energy, wind and solar, biofuels, and we have to save more. And he's increased fuel efficiency standards for the first time in three decades in conjunction with the auto industry, that's saving a million barrels of oil a day when they're fully implemented, 2.2 million barrels of oil a day. The notion that we can simply drill our way out of this or that somehow that if we-- if we say that, that the gas prices will go down magically now, Newt Gingrich's 2.50 a gallon and so on. That's not oil talk, that snake oil talk. And the American people know the difference.

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