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BLITZER: And joining us now, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, the Florida congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thanks very much.
You'll be gaveling into order tomorrow.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN: Yes.
BLITZER: What time is that, 2:00?
WASSERMAN: No, no. About 4:00 or 5:00.
BLITZER: Oh, later in the day. OK.
All right. So let's talk about the question Ronald Reagan posted effectively in 1980 when he was challenging an incumbent Democratic president, are you better off today than you were four years ago? And I'll ask you the question, is the country better off today than it was four years ago?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Most definitely we're better off. When President Obama took office, he inherited an economy that had just lost in the previous six months over under George W. Bush 3.5 million jobs. We were hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month when he took office. Really thanks to the failed policies that really crashed the economy.
Now after almost four years of President Obama's policies, we've had 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector. We got a resurgence in the manufacturing sector, creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s in manufacturing. More than 4.5 million jobs in the private sector.
And an economy that's moving forward again, if we go backward in the direction that Mitt Romney wants to take us, we're really going to potentially put ourselves in the same situation before.
BLITZER: So respond to Republican criticisms and other criticisms, unemployment in January of 2008 was 7.8 percent. It's now 8.3 percent. It's been above 8 percent now for a while.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama inherited the larger set of problems at once of any president really since FDR. And he's been focused on making sure that we can fight for the middle class and working families. That if you work hard and play be the rules, that you can have an opportunity to be successful.
And essentially he's been doing that with one hand tied behind his back because the Republicans -- I thought it was pretty disingenuous of Mitt Romney the other night to say that he was rooting for President Obama to succeed. I mean, that was one of the more disingenuous statements.
BLITZER: Because he wanted the country to succeed.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, come on, Mitt Romney, on the night that he won the Florida primary, said in my home state, we have to remember what the election is really about, defeating Barack Obama. He certainly is not remotely tried to help make sure we can move forward.
BLITZER: I want to continue you this, but you can see she's back on the stage right now, the first lady floor, Michelle Obama.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.
BLITZER: She's been trying to get a feeling for the floor out there, for this huge auditorium, this arena, the Time Warner Cable Arena.
She was out there earlier doing interviews as well. Now, she's gone back stage.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: She's going to do a great job. We're so excited.
BLITZER: A lot of people here are so excited.
All right. Let's continue this. Are you better off today when you were four years ago? In 2008, the national debt was $10 trillion, when the president took office, it's now approaching $16 trillion. So from the national debt perspective, the country is in pretty bad shape.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Wolf, we need to focus on our debt relief and deficit reduction. We need to do that in a balanced way. What the Republicans want to do, under the Romney/Ryan budget, is ask the middle class to pay for more budget busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. The Romney/Ryan budget actually adds $5 billion in tax breaks skewed to the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans.
President Obama thinks that we need to make sure to ask everybody to pay the fair share, pay more if you're fortunate so everybody in America can have the chance to be successful, Wolf. Not just the people who already are.
BLITZER: You know, African-Americans are obviously very supportive of the president of the United States. He got what, 95 percent of the vote four years ago.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And right now, Mitt Romney is polling at zero percent.
BLITZER: In one NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. But that was a small number. So, we'll see what happens.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I've never seen a zero at any polls.
BLITZER: But unemployment for African-Americans back in 2008 was 9.7 percent. It's now 14.1 percent. And so, I've heard this, even here in Charlotte, from some African-Americans, very enthusiastic in 2008 for the president, very proud of the president, cried the night he was elected of the United States.
And now they're saying they're not going to vote for Romney, but they're disappointed in the president. They'll probably vote for the president, but they might not vote at all. The enthusiasm problem is a serious problem to turn out the vote right now.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I couldn't disagree with you more. I haven't seen anything like the lack of enthusiasm that you're describing. I've crisscrossed the country, spoken to thousands of African-Americans who are excited and enthusiastic.
Look, President Obama has made sure that we invest in things like education for African-Americans, to help close the achievement gap. For historically black colleges and universities, $1.4 billion that he invested so that more African-Americans could get a college education and have an opportunity to live the American dream.
Those are investments that Mitt Romney would cut in the Romney- Ryan budget. He would cut college aid, cut Head Start, cut the opportunities that African-Americans have gotten under President Obama, the minority business opportunities, that 20 percent of minority business loans have gone to minority businesses, the 18 tax breaks that have gone to small business owners.
Those are the kinds of opportunities that President Obama polices have made possible for the middle class and working families. And Mitt Romney says, you know what, we should go back to the trickle down economics that's been tried and failed, that nearly crash our economy and that would take us back to that time when things weren't so good economically.
BLITZER: Quick question, is your good friend Gabby Giffords going to be here in this convention?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, Gabby is so committed to continuing her recovery. And I'm looking forward to watching her as the weeks and months go by.
BLITZER: Do you think she'll come?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We will see if we -- she's going to continue to focus on her recovery. I know she's enjoying Tucson, moved back to Tucson, bought a new house. Not sure what the future holds for her over the next few days.
BLITZER: Well, give her out best. And we wish her obviously all the best. A speedy recovery.
Good luck with your convention here.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you very much.
BLITZR: We'll stay in touch.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Absolutely.
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