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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we're back now with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida and Republican political consultant Ed Rollins, whose most recent job in the last election, you managed Mike Huckabee's campaign. So we all were being told that this-- this election was going to scare all the conservative Democrats and they'd be reluctant to vote for the health care plan. Well, a lot of them didn't vote for it in the House last night, but it passed. So?

ED ROLLINS (Republican Political Consultant): Well, there is a long ways to go. And I'm not in any way, shape, or form saying that the health care may not pass. Democrats have majorities, big majorities in both the House and the Senate. This bill will not pass. I promise you that. No offense to you who voted for it. It wouldn't get 50 votes in the Senate today. I think the bottom line is what this election was about is that the country is extremely concerned about deficit spending. The President is still popular, but he cannot take his political machine and make it work for other candidates. And I think that was what was proven out. Midterm elections are a totally different entity. Historically, the party in power always loses seats. I think three times in our history it hasn't happened. I think you've got forty incumbents that you will say yourself are at risk. We probably have ten. We should pick up. The good news for us is we lost two elections in a row--2006, 2008--we lost more than twenty seats first time in seventy five years. This was a positive sign for us. We have two new governors that obviously can rebuild states and rebuild parties.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What do you think, Congresswoman?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-Florida): Well, two important things from
Tuesday. Number one, in the elections where national issues were actually on the ballot, in the
congressional district in New York and in California, both Democratic candidates won and they ran on health care reform and turning the economy around. So in addition to that, particularly in New York 23, the civil war that ripped a gaping hole through the Republican Party exposed itself. And now the next battleground is my home state of Florida between Charlie Crist, our governor, and Marco Rubio, the former speaker. So the Republicans really have demonstrated that they have an internecine battle going on and it's going to really cause them some problems over the next few--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): I want to-- I want to ask Ed Rollins about that in just a minute. But did this election suggest to you that while Barack Obama was able to get out a big vote he was not necessarily able to get out a big vote to vote when he wasn't on the ballot. Did he have very short coattails, or are people just disillusioned with him right now?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There's a typical fall-off of turnout in a-- in a mid- term election, an off-year election. It-- it definitely demonstrated that we need to make sure that we focus for the next year and be singularly focused on the issues that matter to the voters, which is the economy and making sure that we can gin up our turnout operation so that we can get the people that voted for Barack Obama to vote for our congressional candidates up-- up and down the ballot next November.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about that race in upstate New York. And here you had a Republican
candidate who was literally pushed out of the race by a conservative candidate. And that candidate got the endorsement of Sarah Palin and a whole lot of conservatives. And they say they're going to challenge Republicans now in a lot of primaries during the midterms because they want to move that party to the right. Is that a good thing? And do you thing they're going to do that?

ED ROLLINS (overlapping): I think primaries are good things. I don't-- as someone has done this for a long, long time, as long as you've been alive probably, I find primaries basically create a competition, create a clarity. What happened in New York-- and no offense to your national, you have got a safe seat in California, John Garamendi's election, and obviously the one in New York was unique. The bottom line is you had a candidate that didn't-- that was handpicked by the bosses. And she at the end of the day, after nearly a million dollars being spent by national Republicans, quit two days before and endorsed the Democrat, and then campaigned for him. He lost by four votes. I think we'll win that four percent. We'll win that seat back again. The bottom line here is that when you go to the trenches, which is what congressional midterm elections are about, there's no national themes. And if there is, usually it goes against the party that is there in power. What's happened is that Republicans are intense. We now think we can win again. Democrats are a little disillusioned. And I think to a certain extent, you have got to get your side back in the game, and obviously we've got to keep our-- we've got to learn the lessons of this race and move forward.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you expect, though, in more of these primaries that you're going to see maybe sometimes third-party conservatives and conservatives of another stripe challenging the incumbent?

ED ROLLINS (overlapping): It may occur. The bottom line is it's not easy to get on ballots most places. There's the two-party system. New York has-- has multiple parties and you can get-- be a conservative candidate without the whole-- but to get on in a lot of places, it's very, very difficult. I don't ever underestimate conservative populists. I basically, as you know, managed Ross Perot's campaign for a brief period, and I watched a movement, because there was a dissatisfaction with the two parties. I think today, this conservative element is out there.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What--

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (overlapping): Bo, the ballot access is not the issue. I mean, they're going to have a massive civil war just within their own Republican primaries, I mean, all across this country. And it's already starting to happen. Most of our Democratic incumbents, they are ready. They have Republican primaries set up to run against them as individuals. They're battle-tested. They are out reaching out to their constituents, talking about health care reform, talking about turning the economy around. And they're going to be ready to-- for prime-time next November.

BOB SCHIEFFER: One of the things that has (sic) to worry you as a Democrat is the independent vote. Barack Obama got it. This time it went in large numbers to the-- to the other party--to Republicans.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the independent vote is singularly
important. It was in ‘06 when we won thirty seats, in ‘08 when we won twenty-six seats. And it will again in 2010. We're going to make sure that we focus on things that matter to them.

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But why do you think it happened the way it did in this-- this election on Tuesday?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think, again, the independent voters in New York 23, which is -- and we've got congressional elections next year, so it's important not to focus on two gubernatorial races. Look, we wish we would have won them, but the last six gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, the President's party didn't win them. So if we had won one of those two, it would have been highly unusual. At the end of the day, in a year from now, which is a long way off, we have congressional midterms. And those individual members of Congress are battle-tested. They've been reaching out to their constituents. They're focusing on the economy, on creating jobs, on health care reform, on making sure that we can have an energy-focused economy with green jobs. And they're going to appeal to those independents, because at the end of the day, they want to make sure that they have a job, that they have health care that costs a reasonable amount of money, and that they can put food on their table.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do either of you think there is a great deal-- and we have about thirty seconds left-- a great deal to be learned from these elections this week or were they just curtain raisers--

ED ROLLINS (overlapping): No, I think the independent vote is critical. We have now gone back to the suburbs and had success. They are the plurality of the voters. Whoever gets them is going to win.

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The lesson to be learned is we have to focus on the economy, and our candidates are going to be doing that over the next year.

ED ROLLINS: And ten percent unemployment is deadly.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Thanks to both of you. Back in a moment with some final thoughts.

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