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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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He said: "Don't get too worked up about the latest polling. While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly."

But I assume these numbers are not encouraging right now. You got to do some work. So, what's the strategy?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, the strategy is to continue to talk about jobs and the economy, because, yes, they did get a little bit of a sugar high.

And you get a number of days with unfettered access to the media and the American people. But when you go mano a mano, when you go head to head, and you start actually talk about jobs, the economy and the president's record or lack of a record, then I think the focus then becomes who's the best to lead us forward and put America back to work?

And, clearly, I think that will be Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

BLITZER: Why didn't Romney get a sugar high after the Republican Convention?

CHAFFETZ: He got a little bit, but immediately it rolled right into the Democratic Convention.

So, no excuses. When you get to October 3, and then you actually start to have debates and talk about these issues, when the president actually has to come out and talk about where he's going to be on this teachers union issue and answer difficult questions from the media, then I think you will start to see Mitt Romney doing quite well.

BOLDUAN: And, Jen, one issue that was made a very big deal by the Obama campaign, they really criticized Mitt Romney for not mentioning Afghanistan during his acceptance speech in Tampa.

Listen first here to what Mitt Romney said just today.


ROMNEY: I was surprised in the president's speech at the Democrat Convention, he didn't mention unemployment.


ROMNEY: He didn't -- he didn't mention 47 million people on food stamps.

By the way, and that's a record number, and not a good record. When he took office, there were 32 million people on food stamps, now 47 million, one out of six Americans living in poverty. These are not numbers or people he spoke about during his convention speech.


BOLDUAN: Now, he's making a strong point there.

I mean, we look back at the 2008 exit polls, and it shows that people making less than $50,000, less than $15,000 overwhelmingly supported and voted for President Obama. So, is the president taking this group of voters for granted this time around?

PSAKI: You know, I spend every day out on the campaign trail with the president.

And every speech he gives is about standing up for people who need help the most, helping people get a job who need a job, helping people send their kids to college, helping people have access to affordable health care.

So this is a little game of silliness on the Romney campaign team side. This is the thrust of his campaign, and the thrust of his argument and the choice he's laying out for the American people.

One other interesting number in the poll that you didn't touch on the CNN poll today was that the American people feel there are more specifics in his plan. They feel they're more optimistic about the vision for the future, and we definitely felt that when we were out on the trail in Florida this weekend.

BLITZER: Let the Congressman respond today. Silliness, she says, that what the governor is saying there. Go ahead.

CHAFFETZ: No. That's -- the key to this campaign is are jobs a ten economy and the reality is there are 23 million American who either don't have a job or are looking for a job.

Unemployment's been north of 8 percent. We took a deficit -- or a debt nearly $10 trillion to $16 trillion. We're paying more than $600 million a day in interest on that debt.

The president presents his budget to the United States Congress. Not a single person in the House or Senate, Democrat or Republican, voted for the president's budget, and he says he wants to move forward? How bad is your plan when Nancy Pelosi won't even vote for it?

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jen.

PSAKI: I have to say, you know, on last Friday, the Romney campaign keeps saying they want it to be about the economy. They said that on Friday. This weekend, when he was given the opportunity to explain how he would pay for his $5 trillion tax cut package for millionaires and billionaires, neither he nor his running mate could do that. They didn't explain what they would do for the middle class.

Instead, he stood with Pat Robertson behind him, and announced he was for keeping "In God We Trust" on the coins. So what are they presenting for the economy and the middle class? And I can't name three things.

CHAFFETZ: Well, approve the Keystone Pipeline. Put thousands of Americans to work right away. Tax reform, which we desperately need in this -- in this country. Repeal Obama care. Give every state a waiver. And if you're making an adjusted gross income of $250,000 or less, make sure that there are no taxes for capital gains, interest or dividend income. This would have an immediate impact on the middle class America right away.

So there are a lot of specifics to the Romney plan. We just need to explain them.

BOLDUAN: Well, let's talk about that, those specifics. And listen to this from Mitt Romney in an interview that he did with "Meet the Press" over the weekend. Listen to this.


DAVID GERGEN, HOST, NBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": Give me an example of a loophole that you will close.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down.


BOLDUAN: You're a Romney surrogate. You're also a member of Congress that would really be looking at these issues, so let's talk specifics. What specific tax loopholes are the Romney campaign looking to close? CHAFFETZ: What we have said consistently is we want to broaden the base and lower the rate, and there are hundreds of exemptions out there that should no longer probably be there. Racetrack owners. Rum manufacturers. You keep going down the list. There are a whole host of them out there that really probably should be...

BLITZER: What about mortgage deductions?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it's something that's going to have to be discussed. But I don't think that is the heart of what they want to do. There are certain places that I think charitable deductions, home mortgage, those things probably are fairly untouchable at this point. But that's what the Congress is for.

You've got to have a president who engages with the Congress, works with the Ways and Means Committee. Thus far, the president in four years has been totally unable to do that.

BLITZER: I mean, as far as you're concerned, those home mortgage deductions and charitable contributions, that's off the table, as far as the president is concerned?

PSAKI: Right. You know, I just have to say, you can't pay for this with eliminating racetrack -- deductions for racetrack owners. The problem is the math and the arithmetic just do not add up. Because you can't lower the tax rate for everybody without impacting the middle class, without eliminating those deductions you just mentioned.

CHAFFETZ: Here's the fundamental difference. House Republicans at least have introduced a budget that passed the House. The Senate has gone more than 1,200 days...

BLITZER: You didn't spell out what deductions and loopholes you would put out. That's for the Ways and Means Committee. Paul Ryan is the chairman of the budget committee. He always says, "That's for the Ways and Means Committee. I'm not going to get into it."

CHAFFETZ: That's the way the process works. And what we did do is introduce...

BLITZER: Like all those big tax deductions and exemptions for G.E. or ExxonMobil, would you get rid of those?

CHAFFETZ: Well, there are a lot of tax credits that go out the door for the so-called green energy that are fundamentally absolutely not working.

And what America can't continue to do to is just have this bailout mentality that we're going to go bail out the whole rest of the country, because we have to actually pay the bills at the end of the day.

The president has totally failed to do this. You can't just keep spending money we don't have.

BOLDUAN: Do you think a lack of specifics is hurting the Romney campaign?

CHAFFETZ: No, absolutely. I would argue there are more specifics in the Romney plan than there are in the Obama plan. You have a budget that President Obama -- four years he's been the president. Not a single Democrat has ever voted to support the president. So he says he has his plan. Where is it?

BLITZER: Fair point, Jen. Why has none of the president's budgets actually passed? Hasn't even gotten any Democratic support sometimes.

PSAKI: Well, look, sometimes there's some games that go on in Washington, but the president has laid out a $4 trillion tax plan that would reduce the debt responsibly with a balanced approach from both sides. He has been willing to put forward cuts that Democrats don't like to some entitlement programs, but we also need Republicans to come to the table and put revenue on the table. And until they do, it's going to be a really rough discussion.

CHAFFETZ: This is the fundamental difference. They want to raise taxes. Mitt Romney said, "We're not going to raise taxes."

BLITZER: But you want to raise taxes by eliminating loopholes and deductions, as well.

CHAFFETZ: We are not one good tax increase away from prosperity in this country. To hear the president and the Democrats say it, we just need to raise taxes and everything will be fine.

We are spending more than 24 cents out of every dollar spent this country has spent by the federal government. What Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have said, we have to drive that down to historical norms between 18 and 20 percent. That's where this country has got to be responsible.

PSAKI: There's no economist who will tell you that maintaining tax cuts for the highest income will help stimulate the economy, create jobs, move the ball forward. You know, we don't -- money doesn't grow on trees, as we all know. We have to make some tough choices. That's what the president wants to do.

CHAFFETZ: But the president has never introduced the budget that ever balances. Paul Ryan, at least while he was in the House, introduced a budget that over time does balance and pays off the debt. That's scored by the Congressional Budget Office. This is a very, very reliable...

PSAKI: Over the very long course of time, involves slashing programs. Domestic programs.

CHAFFETZ: You say a balanced program. The president has never introduced anything that comes close to balance.

BLITZER: You're saying that Paul Ryan has introduced legislation that would eliminate that $16 trillion national debt?

CHAFFETZ: Over the course of time, when you extrapolate it...

BLITZER: Over what? How long? How long would it take under the Paul Ryan budget to eliminate $16 trillion in our national debt?

CHAFFETZ: Well, you start to do that over a 75-year period. Well, you get some...

BLITZER: Seventy-five years?

CHAFFETZ: Well, you get to balance in the 2020 something. I have to go back and look at the actual date, but it actually balances. And it's not just what Paul Ryan was saying. It's not what House Budget Committee was saying, which I'm on the budget committee. It's scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The president has never come close to doing that.

BLITZER: Looking forward to the debates. What do you think?

BOLDUAN: If this is an example, I'm very much looking forward to the debates.

BLITZER: Look forward to it, October 3. That first presidential debate, three presidential debates. Is he practicing already, the president?

PSAKI: You know, I'll say Mitt Romney has a bit more practice than the president and he's done a lot of them recently. So...

BLITZER: Are you nervous?

PSAKI: Well, he's a much better debater. So we are nervous.

BLITZER: Who's a much better debater?

PSAKI: Mitt Romney has been...

BLITZER: You think?

PSAKI: Mitt Romney's been doing debates. He's done how many, a dozen over the last year.

CHAFFETZ: That's a good quality of the president. He's a better debater.


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