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Joining me are North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He is also the chairman of the Democratic convention.
Well, governors and mayor. So good to see all of you.
Let me start first with a convention question. I'll go to you, Mr. Mayor. What do you hope after three days will be taken away from this convention by viewers?
VILLARAIGOSA: We want to crystallize the path before us with choices that the American people have in this election, a choice that invests in the economy from the middle-out, that continues to build on some of the progress. We have created, what, 4.5 million jobs in the last four years. 29 consecutive months of growth in our economy. We want to continue that. And I think we also want to compare and contrast with the failed Bush policies that Romney/Ryan would like to promote going into the future.
CROWLEY: With all of that in mind, I want to show our viewers the latest CNN/ORC poll. This is about enthusiasm. Are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in November was the question, and what we see is that since 2008, Republican enthusiasm is way up, and Democratic enthusiasm is down almost ten points. Why is that Governor O'Malley?
O'MALLEY: Well, I think that you have yet to see this great convention, Candy, that coming up over the news three days.
CROWLEY: So you are predicting a ten-point bounce then ?
O'MALLEY: Well, I'm predicting that, look, when get to decision time -- none of us should be satisfied with where our economy is today, but the question is who has the best policies for moving our economy forward? And what you're going to see in these next three days here in Charlotte is a very clear articulation that we measure the strength of our nation by the strength of a growing and stronger middle-class. We are the party that is for Social Security and for Medicare, they are the party whose choices would lead to insecurity for seniors and their policy is I don't care, got get a voucher. You figure it out.
And this will be the contrast here. We are about jobs. We're about opportunity. They're about bigger tax breaks for billionaires.
CROWLEY: Governor Perdue, that is tough sell in this state, a state that the president won by about 14,000 votes last time around. We are now seeing some dead even polls. But we see an unemployment rate in North Carolina higher than national average, folks are hurting here in terms of a lot of other things. So we know that the Democrats and the president has been pushing the kind of progress that both the mayor and Governor O'Malley talked about, but it is a hard sell here. How does he do that to folks that are still hurting as much as folks in North Carolina are?
PERDUE: Well, let me be direct. I understand people are struggling all over North Carolina and all over America, but we all want everybody to get a job, Candy. The real North Carolina, we are one of eight states in America with a AAA bond rating. All three of the rating houses think we are golden in terms of investment and security. Our pension system is fully funded.
Since I've been governor, we have created more than 100,000 jobs, $23 billion in investment, that's a lot because of the investments the president and the administration has made here around infrastructure and higher education and the capacity for us to retrain our people.
CROWLEY: But it's still, you know, not enough in terms of this enthusiasm gap. There clearly -- this is not 2000, this is not the 2008 election...
VILLARAIGOSA: No, of course not.
CROWLEY: And let me show you -- and I want to ask you in particular and you can all chime in, this is about Latino enthusiasm. NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. And now about 62 percent of Latino voters say, yeah, I'm enthusiastic. It was 80 percent in 2008.
So, clearly, this is a problem, because you have to get Latino voters out to vote.
VILLARAIGOSA: Of course, those same polls are saying about 65 percent of Latinos are voting for President Obama.
CROWLEY: Sure. But there has to be enough of them to vote.
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, that is what a campaign is about. And that's what this convention will be about. We're -- this is going to be a working convention. In Denver, we recruited 25,000 volunteers. We have 65,000 people coming to the football stadium on Thursday. We are going to ask every one of them, can you knock on the doors, can call voters?
We have the most comprehensive ground effort in ever, either party, in history, and we are going to be focusing on the Latino vote. We will be focusing on the 12 or 13 state where the election is in swing opportunity.
PERDUE: And one of the states is North Carolina, Candy. We have registered more than 125,000 voters. We are on all of the college campus communities. We are engaged in not just getting the Latino folks out to vote, but anybody the state who isn't registered.
CROWLEY: But you would agree that registration is different than getting them out to vote, and from there you need that kind of enthusiasm.
I want to move you to another demographic that was very important in 2008, and I want to play for you something that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said at their convention.
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PAUL RYAN, REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering, when they can move out and get going with life.
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CROWLEY: Now, let me add to that some figures about the young voter preferences matching up 2008 and 2012. The exit polls in 2008, President Obama, 66 percent of young people. Right now 56 percent, 10 points younger. Is Paul Ryan on to something. O'MALLEY: I don't believe -- well, you know what he should be on to is that in order to make our country stronger, we need more kids to go to college not fewer kids, and Paul Ryan's budget would actually cut Pell Grants and cut the very things that allow America's middle- class families to be able to send their kids to college.
Candy, right now what you are going to see in the summer and all of the polling is all of us expressing our discontent with the way things are, but the question is...
CROWLEY: And isn't that the president's, doesn't the president have responsible for the way things are?
O'MALLEY: Yes. We all have responsibility for the way things are.. But the question is do we want the go back to the failed policies that led to the Bush job losses, the bush recession, the Bush deficits, or doe we want to dig deep as our parents and grandparents did, invest in education, innovation and also rebuilding America so that we can create a stronger and growing middle class.
Look, facts are fact, it is undeniable that unemployment is lower than it was, home foreclosures are lower than they were...
CROWLEY: Is it as low as you thought it would be when the president got his stimulus plan through, when -- you know we were told, OK, this is what the economy needs -- go ahead, Mr. Mayor, is it as low as you thought it would be, honestly.
VILLARAIGOSA: Let's be fair. We have got a plan for a year now, the president has put a proposal to create 1.5 million jobs to keep teachers and firefighters and police officers on our streets and in our classrooms, and the Republicans have refused to pass that legislation.
The fact is Senator McConnell said his number one job was to make sure that the president didn't get re-elected. They have tried to do everything they can to stop us from working together in a bipartisan basis. They have put the party before the country...
CROWLEY: But that is not going to change, is it?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it will change as they begin to lose the demographic across the board, as they lose -- when they lose this election, they are going to realize that the party of no has to be a party of yes, a party that works on a bipartisan basis to put America forward.
PERDUE: And Candy, that's where the country is. Folks are really tired of this rabid division between Republicans and Democrats. Folks want people to come together and solve the problems and the challenges of America.
CROWLEY: So why are the polls split? Why is this -- if the economy has improved as much as the president has talked about and the numbers show, and not where you wanted, but it is better, if all of these things are true, why has this race stayed the way it has been?
O'MALLEY: And it will stay this way probably until the final decision window, because none of us should be satisfied with where things are. But the fact of the matter is we're moving forward. 29 months in a row of private sector job growth and the greatest manufacturing sector expansion since the 1980s.
Now this is not the time to wave pompoms, it is the time to dig deep and move forward and not go back to those disastrous policies that landed us in this economic problem to begin with.
CROWLEY: So it's a "stick with me" convention in some ways?
O'MALLEY: Yes. It is, "stick with me to go forward."
PERDUE: ... message for the future, "go forward," it's not "stick with me."
CROWLEY: Well, stick with me and to go forward, however you want to put it, OK.
PERDUE: This is a clear choice between going backwards and going forwards with the president.
CROWLEY: But can you blame Republicans at this point for a 17 percent jobless rate among kids 18 to 24?
O'MALLEY: You know what, Candy, I think actually, yes, we can. Because more jobs were created in the private sector last year alone than in all eight years of George W. Bush. Look, we did not get into -- we did not get into the economic problems we did in -- because President Obama was in office for two months.
I mean, the ground was laid by the bad policies of George W. Bush, which, at the expense of the growing middle class, gave huge tax breaks to billionaires.
CROWLEY: So can I get you answer the question I asked you before, is the economy where you thought it would be when we had the stimulus plan and then the summer of recovery, is it right now where you thought it would be, honestly?
O'MALLEY: I am not surprised that this is a longer bit of work than many of us would have hoped. It is not where any of us would have hoped it is. And I think we need to give credit to the Republicans in Congress who have done everything they can to defeat every jobs bill and slow down the economy.
And, frankly, I'm a little bit surprised at just how successful many Republican governors were at cutting the public sector so that those teacher jobs, police jobs, and firefighter jobs would be a drag on the otherwise consistent private sector growth.
PERDUE: At the end of the day, things don't get better unless you continue to invest in your workforce. And I've not heard any Republican talk about education and the investment in the future workforce. I think that is critical for us.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you a couple of local, if you will, questions. First to you, Mr. Mayor. We have seen in California some real problems with the pension, sort of the overhead of the state government. You have got these pensions that have been promised that often are higher than people get in the private sector.
The governor has tried to move, he has made some progress, not enough really to make a difference in current pension plans. Doesn't this set up naturally a conflict between Democratic lawmakers and one of their fiercest supporters, unions?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, I have been very clear. We have gotten our employees, current employees to go from 6 percent to 11 percent, saving billions of dollars over the next 30 years in their contribution to their pension plan. I have actually proposed now that for new employees that we tie the pension age to 67 instead of 55...
CROWLEY: For future?
VILLARAIGOSA: For future. But for current employees, I went farther than Governor Christie. Governor Christie went from 7 percent to 12 percent for seven years. We have gone from 6 percent to 11 percent. So we have got to be willing to be a party that is making tough decisions, fiscally prudent decisions, decisions that protect income and security and retirement going into the future by making it more sustainable.
CROWLEY: Governor O'Malley, I'm going to have to ask the last question to you, because an editorial today in The Washington Post -- or a story in The Washington Post talking about Maryland is going to show up with about a half a billion dollars worth of surplus, right after you all said, listen, we have got to have an increase in taxes for the upper echelon of $150,000 folks.
You instituted that, made it retroactive, now it turns out you have got a surplus. Time to give that money back?
O'MALLEY: Well, actually we are one of eight states like North Carolina that has a triple-A bond rating because we make the tough decisions and do...
CROWLEY: You had that before you raised taxes though.
O'MALLEY: Well, yes, but we're one of only eight that has been able to defend it through this economic downturn. Our state also has, as percentage of income, because we have the highest median income, we actually had the third-lowest state and local government tax burden of any of the 50 states. Look, you get what you pay for. We did not build, as a people, the number one public schools in America four years in a row by giving away huge tax breaks to billionaires. We did it by investing in our children's future. And as long as I am governor, that is what we are going to continue to do.
CROWLEY: Mayor Villaraigosa, Governor O'Malley, Governor Perdue, thank you all so much for joining us. Have a great convention.
PERDUE: Welcome to North Carolina.
VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Thank you.
O'MALLEY: Thank you, Candy.
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