David Axelrod and Ed Gillespie talk general election strategies

Written by Chris Wallace / Published April 15, 2012 / Fox News Sunday

Special Guests: David Axelrod, Ed Gillespie

The following is a rush transcript of the April 15, 2012 edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.

The stage is set for the general election, Obama versus Romney. Game on.

We'll have exclusive interviews with top officials from both camps. Chief strategist from the Obama campaign David Axelrod and senior Romney advisor Ed Gillespie.

Axelrod and Gillespie only on "Fox News Sunday."

Then, Iran and North Korea continue to pursue their nuclear programs. We'll ask our Sunday panel if another round of diplomacy can rein in the rogue nation.

And I'll remember my dad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

C. WALLACE: What do you make of Myron Leon Wallace from Brookline, Massachusetts --

MIKE WALLACE, CHRIS WALLACE'S FATHER: Yes.

C. WALLACE: -- having had this extraordinary journey?

M. WALLACE: It is extraordinary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(MUSIC)

WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.

First, I want to thank all of you who sent me notes on the loss of my father. Some of you had met my dad for a moment. Some have watched him on television for years. But he meant something to you and your notes meant so much to me. I'll have more on my father later in the program.

Now on to the 2012 battle for the White House which shifted to the general election this week when Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee. We'll talk with one of his senior advisors in the moment. But, first, the president's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, is in Chicago.

And, David, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

DAVID AXELROD, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Thanks, Chris. And let me add my condolences to all of the other that you received. My sympathies are with you and your family.

WALLACE: Thank you. Thanks so much.

I want to start with what Barack Obama promised back in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use scare tactics to scare voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And here is what President Obama has been saying recently about the Republican budget.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The budget so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.

It is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: This from the candidate of hope and change?

AXELROD: Well, Chris, come on. You -- to say that you don't want to engage in empty scare tactics is different than saying we're going to take a look at the proposals on the other side and critique them. That's what campaigns are about. That's what democracy is about.

The fact is, the Republican budget is the wrong direction for this country. More massive tax cuts for people at the top and cuts in things that we need to grow our economy like education, like research and development, like energy. More cuts in our basic social safety net. So, child care tax credits, education credits for our kids.

This is not the direction our country should go. So, of course, we're going to critique that. That is part -- that is part of the process and it is legitimate one.

WALLACE: That's absolutely true. But when you talk about social Darwinism, radical, making the Contract with America look like the New Deal -- first of all, you don't know if it's massive tax cuts for the wealthy because -- and this is a fair criticism. But the Ryan budget, they say that they are going to come up with closing loopholes for the wealthy. And when you talk about these massive spending cuts, the fact is all it's doing is reducing the rate of the growth in spending.

AXELROD: Listen, Chris, a decade from now we would have a third less spending for example on Medicaid and that will hit people with disabilities. It will hit people in nursing homes very, very hard. Millions and millions and millions of people will not be able to get the services that they need.

In terms of tax -- yes, they say that they will offer offsets. We have not heard one offset. The president has proposed closing of loopholes. We have not heard that from Congressmen Ryan and the Republicans.

So, you know, you talk about hope. I guess your hope is that they will be forthcoming sometime in the future. But the fact is, we haven't heard them.

WALLACE: In the last week, the president has made a couple of major speeches and devoted his entire weekend media address to the Buffett rule. When the president introduced the Buffett Rule last September, he said it was a matter of fairness and this is the quote, we also stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade.

But here's the math: the Buffet Rule that millionaires should pay a minimum tax of 30 percent would bring in $47 billion over the next decade, while the president's budget adds $6.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.

David, according to one estimate -- the money you would get from the Buffett Rule would cover just 17 days of the increased deficit under the Obama budget.

AXELROD: First of all, Chris, the president's proposal in total would cut the deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade and put us on the path to where the debt is stabilize and we are able to manage it. Where it's just 3 percent of the total economy, which is where everyone agrees we need to be.

In terms of the Buffett Rule, I remember when $47 billion seems like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. There is a -- when you reduce the -- when you eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, that adds another $800 billion.

So, this is a piece of a larger pie, along with $1.5 trillion --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: No, let me tell you something. Mitt Romney is out there arguing that we should cut Planned Parenthood because we can't afford funding for women's health programs, because we can't afford it. That's $300 million a year. He said we have to cut foreign aid by $100 million a year. And that's because of the deficit.

So you can't argue it both ways. This is a significant --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I am -- if I may, David, I am going to get into a lot of that with Ed Gillespie in the next segment. But you would certainly agree that when the president introduced it last September, he said the Buffet Rule would, quote, "stabilize our debt and deficit over the next decade" -- that wasn't true.

AXELROD: No, what he said was that it's part of an overall plan that will stabilize our debt and deficit.

WALLACE: That is not what he said.

AXELROD: But nobody can argue -- nobody can argue, Chris -- nobody can argue that it makes sense for people who are making $1 million a year or more to pay less than the average middle class worker in this country. So, it both helps us stabilize the deficit and ensures amount of fairness in our tax system.

If Ed Gillespie and you want to argue otherwise, then -- so be it. But for those $47 billion --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I'm going to have plenty of questions for Ed Gillespie. I want to ask you some question. You just talked about the president and it's not far for rich people to pay a lower tax rate, the middle class people.

The president introduced his -- or released his tax returns this week.

AXELROD: Yes.

WALLACE: It turns out that he paid a tax rate of 20.5 percent, which is a lot less than the 30 percent he talks about and yes, it is lower than what his secretary pays.

AXELROD: It is.

WALLACE: And the president has -- if I may, David, the question I have for you is: if the president feels so strongly about tax fairness, is he going to he contribute money to the Treasury and they have a special department just for this, to help with the deficit?

AXELROD: Listen, Chris, first of all, the reason that his tax rate was so low was in part because 22 percent of his income was donated to charity, mostly to these Fisher Houses around veteran hospitals. So --

WALLACE: Mitt Romney contributes a lot to charity as well. It's not the issue.

AXELROD: That's right. Not quite yes. But there's no proportionality there.

But here is a larger issue: the president's proposal would have him pay a higher rate of taxes in the future. Governor Romney's proposal would make him pay a lower rate in the future. So, that's fundamentally different.

We are arguing for a system that is fair. He's arguing for a system that would exacerbate the great gaps that we have in our system today.

WALLACE: I take it that he's not going to contribute money to the Treasury to help with the deficit.

AXELROD: Listen, well, that's not the way we operate our tax system, OK? We don't run bake sales. It's not about volunteerism. We all kick in according to the system. And the system allows that -- look, the fact that Mitt Romney pays 14 percent on $20 million income is not the issue. The issue is that the system permits it and he would perpetuate that and he would enhance it.

WALLACE: Let me turn to the economy.

Three presidents have sought a second term since 1976. Let's look at their record economic record. Gerry Ford had unemployment of 7.8 percent and GDP growth of 5.4. For Jimmy Carter, unemployment was 7.5 percent and growth minus .03 percent. For Bush 41, 7.4 percent unemployment, 3.4 percent growth.

The latest numbers for Obama 8.2 percent unemployment and 1.7 percent growth.

In other words, this president has the worst unemployment rate and second worst growth rate of those four presidents. Given that record, why does he deserve reelection?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, I think you asked me that question seven or eight months ago. And the numbers were much higher than that. And obviously those numbers are coming down.

We have created. There's no doubt that we walked into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

AXELROD: Everybody agrees on that. And the six months before we took office, the country lost 4 million jobs, and the several months after that, the country lost 4 millions.

In the last 25 months, we have seen 4.1 million private sector jobs created.

If you look at the Bush recession, which was much gentler in 2001, that begun in 2001, and recover from that recession, we created seven times as many jobs in the 33 months -- in the last 33 months than he did, in after his recession.

So, I think people look at where we were and where we are.

But the bigger issue Chris isn't where we've been. It's where we're going. And are we going to create an economy in which the middle class can grow and not shrink, in which wages are growing, in which hard work is rewarded, responsibility is rewarded. And everybody from Main Street to Wall Street plays by the same rules. Are we going to make the kind of investments we need to get that sort of --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: -- education, research and development? Or are we going to shred that and just have an economy where people at the top do very well and everybody else is tilling (ph) harder and harder --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: I'm going to give you an opportunity for a closing statement in a moment. Let me just ask for a couple more questions --

AXELROD: Well, I'm just trying to answer your question.

WALLACE: Well, I think you went off to your talking points.

But in any case, Fox News came out with a new poll this week and I want to put it up on the screen. It shows Romney with a slight edge over the president, although they're basically tied. And the president's approval rating is back down to 42 percent and 51 percent disapproving.

Even with all of the battering that Romney has taken during this long primary season, he's basically running neck and neck with the president. And your guy is at this point well below the 50 percent approval rating, which is generally considered crucial for a president seeking reelection.

My question is -- isn't Barack Obama very vulnerable?

AXELROD: Well, I don't think we should spend a whole lot of time on your poll, Chris, because in February, you had the poll, the partisan spread was eight points different than it is now. And unless you believe that there are 7 million less Democrats in America today and 6 million more Republicans than there were in February, I wouldn't put much credence in this. There were other public polls that have a much different result in the same time period.

That said -- and by the way, in your poll, the only -- where you have us plummeting, but doing better among independents than we did in February. There isn't a person in America who knows something about this who would say that possibly could be true.

That said, we've always said this was going to be is a close race. It's a closely divided country. We won 53 percent of the vote in 2008 with the wind in our back. Of course, it's going to be close.

But at the end of the day, I think the American people want to choose a vision to hold out the greatest possible opportunity for them and for the middle class that want to see our economy rebuilt in the way --

WALLACE: Let me --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: That will give them their best chance and not go back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: And that is, David, if I may, I wanted to ask you in the final question I have. In one paragraph, two or three sentences, what's the choice in this election?

AXELROD: The choice in this election is between economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we are on, where a fewer and fewer number of people do very well, and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace.

We need to take that first route that honors our fundamental economic values, the values that made this country great. And we need to do some things to promote that kind of economy. We can't sit back and go back to the same failed policies that were so disastrous in the last decade.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. David, thank you so much for joining us.

AXELROD: OK. Good to be with you.

WALLACE: Always a pleasure to talk with you. I got to say, you are in midseason general campaign form. And I just want to also say to you, stick around and listen to our interview with Ed Gillespie. I think you'll say it's fair and balanced.

AXELROD: Send Ed my regards.

WALLACE: I will.

Up next, we'll hear from the Romney campaign when we sit down with senior adviser Ed Gillespie.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Now that Mitt Romney has all but locked up the Republican nomination, we wanted to discus his strategy for the general election.

Joining us is Ed Gillespie, who is just named senior adviser to the campaign.

And, Ed, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

ED GILLESPIE, SENIOR ADVISER TO MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Mitt Romney comes out of the primary, I think it's fair to say, badly damaged among some key voting blocs. Several polls have him trailing by double digits among women, among Hispanics, among working class voters. How does he turn that around?

GILLESPIE: I think by talking about his vision for the future and our future. Also talking about the fact that for the past three years, we've seen damage done by President Obama's policies.

We've seen the failed stimulus results in unemployment above 8 percent for 38 straight months.

We've seen his Obamacare result in rising premiums for health insurance, and millions of people who are promised they could keep the insurance they had lose it.

We have 23 million Americans now who are either unemployed or underemployed, or so discouraged by the job market, they left it entirely.

We have gasoline nearly double the price when he took office because of decisions like Keystone pipeline to the Gulf.

WALLACE: OK.

GILLESPIE: So, we'll contrast that with President Romney's pro- growth vision for a future that creates jobs and lifts people out of poverty.

WALLACE: All right. But there are specific concerns among specific voting groups I want to drill down into those. Let's focus first of all on women and what Governor Romney has said about them recently.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me. And she reports to me regularly that the issue that women care about most is the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: He makes it sound as if women are some kind of obscure group that he's delegated his wife to report on to him.

And let me just pick up and let's look at Romney's policies, which are more important than that. He supports, as David Axelrod points out, the Paul Ryan budget to cut funding for social programs to help low income women and children.

He also says that he would get rid of Planned Parenthood -- federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

I want to put these up on the screen.

In addition to abortions and those are obviously very controversial, Planned Parenthood provides 770,000 Pap test year, 750,000 breast examines, and 4 million tests for STDs.

How can Romney say he's looking out for women on those issues then?

GILLESPIE: Well, Chris, anyone who saw the controversy with the Komen Foundation and the funding for Planned Parenthood, knows that Planned Parenthood gets the lion share of its money from private sector contributions, and that's not going to discontinue. We are talking about federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

WALLACE: But they do a lot beyond abortion.

GILLESPIE: They do and people want to give to it, to that charity, for the purpose. That's a noble thing to do. Federal funding of abortion is not a noble thing to do. And so, defunding from a federal budget perspective of Planned Parenthood is not the same thing.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: You got the Hyde Amendment which says -- let me --

GILLESPIE: Yes.

WALLACE: You got the Hyde Amendment which says there's no federal funding of abortion. And the federal government has given money to Planned Parenthood for years with the money for abortions sequestered off. Why isn't that good enough? It's worked for years.

GILLESPIE: Chris, money is fungible, as we all know.

GILLESPIE: My point -- look, people can disagree with that, but it's not fair to say not having federal funding for Planned Parenthood is defunding Planned Parenthood.

More importantly, the other thing points about help for women, the most important thing we can do to help women and men and families in this county is foster economic growth, which is what Governor Romney's program will do. You know, 858,000 women have lost their jobs since President Obama took office, 92.3 percent of the job loss in the recession and slow recovery, type of recovery, have fallen on woman. We have --

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. You know that -- I mean, it is true that more women have lost jobs and it's true that more women are without jobs now.

GILLESPIE: Yes.

WALLACE: But it is not true that 90 percent, if they did under Obama, but many, many more men, because they are in the job sector's that people lost jobs first lost jobs under President Bush. So, I mean, it's a little bit of an accounting trick and all of the independent fact-finders it's misled.

GILLESPIE: First of all, these independent fact-finders aren't very independent. If you look at their bona fides, they tend to come from left-wing organization.

WALLACE: Washington Post?

GILLESPIE: What Washington Post quoted were liberal economist. And the Washington Post even acknowledged --

WALLACE: But you agree more men than women lost jobs in this recession?

GILLESPIE: More men than women lost jobs before President Obama took office. More women lost jobs since President Obama took office.

The fact that more men lost before he took office doesn't make it a good thing that more lost since he took office. It's a bad thing and we need to reverse that.

We have more -- the highest poverty rate for women in 17 years. So, economic growth would lift people out of poverty, would help families be able to provide for themselves and for their children. His policies, by the way, when you fill up your mini-van, a lot of women see the cost. You know, the fact that we fill up for 20 bucks, you have to come back more and more than you used to because of the high gasoline prices.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: -- for $20 anymore.

GILLESPIE: Well, but a lot of people don't fill their tank up. A lot of people put $20 down and they have to come back more frequently as a result of that --

WALLACE: Let's turn -- let's turn to the Romney policies toward Hispanics, another group that he is trailing by double digits. Romney calls the Arizona crackdown on illegals a, quote, "model" for the nation. He would veto the DREAM Act in the current form and he says illegals should self deport.

How does he persuade the Hispanics he's looking out for them?

GILLESPIE: Well, Chris, there's a supposition here that Hispanic voters are single issue voters. That they vote only on immigration and only vote for a candidate who is for liberalizing immigration policies.

WALLACE: How can he convince them that he is sensitive to these issues of immigration?

GILLESPIE: Because Americans of Hispanic descent care also deeply about employment and job creation and opportunity. They care about entrepreneurship, tend to be very entrepreneurial.

WALLACE: But he thinks it's OK to pick -- to stop somebody by the side of the road in Arizona and ask for their papers when there's no evidence they are illegal at all?

GILLESPIE: The federal law as it is now, as I understand it, says that you have to be able to demonstrate your citizenship if stopped for violation. I believe -- I could be wrong. But regardless, the Arizona is one that Governor Romney supports. By the way, it enjoys the support of majority of Arizonans.

The fact is, when you are talking to Hispanic voters, just like when you're talking to Africa-American voters, Asian American voters, and women voters, and men voters, white voters, people are concerned about the economy and job creation and the lack of it under this president. They're also concerned about the debt and the deficit and the fact that President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, and in his time will propose to increase the debt by more than -- all of his 43 predecessors combined.

WALLACE: Let me turn to taxes. The president released his taxes on Friday. Romney filed for a six-month extension.

A couple of questions. First of all, knowing this was going to be an issue, knowing any release, the estimate months ago, why couldn't he have the tax returns ready to announce now when people are interested in it? And since he turned over 23 years of tax returns to John McCain when he was being vetted for vice-president, why doesn't he release all of those 23 years of tax returns to the American people?

GILLESPIE: A couple of things -- let me start with the extension. Like millions of Americans, Governor Romney has filed for an extension to complete his tax returns because he's waiting for other information to come in from other entities, that he doesn't have control of their forms. As you know, you have to comply and make sure that the forms match up. He's winning for those to come in. He's paid estimated his taxes and he's released estimated income.

And when the forms are completed and filed after that. He'll make them public and that will be before the election. This is not out of the ordinary for people to get an extension.

It's also not out of ordinary --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Twenty-four years of returns?

GILLESPIE: Well, you know, Chris, 24 years of personal returns, that is a classic attempt by the Obama campaign to try to distract many of the things I've just been talking about.

WALLACE: I know. I am asking you here about this?

GILLESPIE: So, in 2008, John McCain is the presidential nominee, released two years of tax returns. In 2004, John Kerry as a Democratic presidential nominee, released two years of tax returns. In 2012, Governor Romney will release two years. He has complied with all the disclosure laws and is going over and above the requirements in the disclosure laws for financial disclosure in releasing two years of tax returns.

WALLACE: Is it true that you are taking the lead for the Romney campaign in a search for a vice-presidential running mate? And is there any thought to naming that running mate early, not waiting until the week before the convention to give Romney some help on the trail on campaigning and funding?

GILLESPIE: Yes. I was -- I saw that report about me, my heading up the vice-presidential search committee. It was news to me.

And I don't -- as far as I know, it's not accurate. I'm not sure who is, to be honest with you. It's not been the focus in my brief time with the Romney campaign.

As for an early nominee or early vice presidential pick, you know, the fact is, the Romney campaign and Governor Romney himself really emerged as what I think is now safe to say the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party about a week ago. And so, the focus has been rightly on trying to secure enough delegates to win the primary.

There is a shift going on obviously in terms of -- his speech last week on economic freedom --

WALLACE: But you know -- because we are running out of time. You know of any idea --

GILLESPIE: I do not. I don't know if that's the case.

WALLACE: -- to name somebody early on. You don't know.

OK, finally, I'm going to ask you the same question I asked David Axelrod. In one paragraph, two or three sentences, what's the choice for voters?

GILLESPIE: The choice for voters is if we are going to have a dynamic pro-growth economy based on free enterprise, that creates jobs, that lifts people out of poverty, that provides upward mobility for someone like my father who was an immigrant, who came to this country and was able to become a small business owner, versus a government-centered society -- one that requires, you know, to meet mandates and comply with regulations and fill out forms and seek waivers, and try to get your subsidies, where people in Washington, D.C. are making decisions about how people their spend money, as oppose to free enterprise and personal religious freedom and personal freedom that has made this country great and has helped to create more jobs than anything, any government we've ever seen.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. To be continued.

Ed, thank you so much for coming in. Please come back sir.

GILLESPIE: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: Up next -- U.S. confronts two rogue nations trying to flex their military might. The panel tackles what to do about Iran and North Korea after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA: They have trying to launch missiles like this for over a decade and they don't seem to be real good at it.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The diplomatic window for negotiations is open but will not remain open forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama and Secretary of state Clinton with strong words for North Korea and Iran in their nuclear ambitions.

And it is time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst; Susan Milligan of U.S. News and World Report; former Governor Mike Huckabee, host of Huckabee on Fox News Channel and a new three hour syndicated radio program; and Jeff Zeleny from the New York Times.

So all of us are kind of slouches compared to Huckabee who is obviously working our shifts and everybody else's

Let's start with Iran where diplomats reported some progress between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., this week -- this weekend, yesterday basically -- and enough progress to schedule another round of talks next month.

Brit, what do you think are the chances that they can make a deal and avoid a military confrontation?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the chances that they make some kind of a deal are probably pretty good. The question is whether it will accomplish anything. You know, countries like Iran are not immune to the effects of economic sanctions. Obviously, Iran is feeling the effects of those sanctions now.

The question is how does Iran want to deal with that. Does it -- is Iran a country like South Africa, for example, which was very much affected by economic sanctions, that really wants to join the community of nations, has long ties to the community of nations and would like to be a part of the world economy, or is Iran a country that wants the kind of dealings with the world that stem from holding nuclear weapons? My thinking it is the latter. That Iran wants a nuclear weapon and it wants to deal with the world, in which they view there was a position of strength and not simply by negotiating it away. That's my sense of it.

WALLACE: Susan.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: Well, I think the advantages that Iran at least engages in the region and certainly has more engagement than other rogue nations. And I don't think that the -- the sanctions seem to be having some impact. The question is, they all sounded very encouraged after these talks the other day. The question is whether Iran is just using this as another stalling tactic to drag things out and, you know, obviously certainly hope not.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, U.S. officials are saying, well, we might make some concessions in return for theirs. We might allow them to enrich uranium, but not to weapons grade 20 percent. And they would also have to be a strict inspections regime. Is it worth trying to make a deal with the mullahs?

MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It is worth an attempt, but I think we have to be realistic. Iran is not a rational government. I was in Israel just after Martin Dempsey had said they were a rational government.

WALLACE: This was the chairman of the joint chiefs.

HUCKABEE: Chairman of the joint chiefs. It was laughed at in Israel, because this is a country that doesn't even think the holocaust happened. And this is a country that shoots its own citizens when they protest an election. That is not rational.

So I just don't think you have confidence in the credibility of a government that never acted with any rationality.

WALLACE: So do you think it is worth having these talks or not?

HUCKABEE: The talks are fine, but what we're really doing is watching a delay. Now we're delayed to March -- May 23, that's the next time they're going to talk. In the meantime, do you think that Iran is calling a time-out on the construction and the effort to move toward nuclear arms? I don't think so.

WALLACE: Jeff, how important do you think Iran and North Korea and the Obama Administration's handling of both. How important do you think that will be as issues in the campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: I think it is pretty significant. I mean, the foreign policy is something that is not at the forefront. We think the election is going to be about the economy. Of course four years ago, at this point, we still didn't think the election was going to be about the economy.

So foreign policy is still looming very large over this campaign. And I think one of the things that Governor Romney is going to have to do as he sort of moves into the spot of being the nominee, is either attacking the administration or sort of standing down on things like Iran.

I mean, it is a central part of what the voters will looking at. It probably isn't at the forefront of their minds, but I think the foreign policy accomplishments, or at least I am holding off on these negotiations -- I mean, if something bad doesn't happen in the next seven months that will be a good thing for the Obama administration.

WALLACE: Brit, let's turn to North Korea, which failed once again this week to launch a long range missile. And there is speculation to make up for that they may now engage in a nuclear test or launch an even bigger rocket. What if anything can we do about North Korea?

HUME: Everything I said about Iran applies even more fully to North Korea. This really is a rogue regime that has cut off ties from the rest of the world for decades now. It is backward, it is benighted, it is -- if Governor Huckabee is right, the Iranian regime is not sane, that applies even more so to North Korea.

I don't think economic sanctions will make much difference. I think the drive for a nuclear weapon there is enormously strong and that is the position from which that country wants to deal with the rest of the world.

And if China, for example, were to really begin to put pressure on North Korea that might make some difference, but we haven't seen either the last administration or this one able to get China to really do that.

WALLACE: Well, that brings up the point, Susan, that this latest attempt and failure by the North Koreans comes just weeks after the Obama administration on February 29th announced a deal in which they were going to send tons of food aid to North Korean in return for a moratorium, which didn't last very long, on missile tests and nuclear tests.

Does the administration look foolish to even have tried to make that deal?

MILLIGAN: Well, you don't even want to say somebody is foolish to try to make a deal to avert some sort of nuclear disaster, but I agree with Brit we are not dealing with even anything remotely rational in North Korea. These sorts of sanctions aren't going to work in a way that there hope for them working, maybe, in Iran.

There was a little bit of hope the other day when they actually admitted that this thing failed. And there was some sense that maybe they are being a little bit more transparent, but that kind of dissipated after a couple of hours, especially when they trotted out this new missile which may or may not be in an ICBM at the parade afterwards. So, yes, I -- I mean, I think the effort itself was certainly a worthwhile one. I mean, you always want to kind of do things diplomatically, but I'm not sure how much.

WALLACE: I'm going to finish up with you governor. I mean, from your point of view, worthwhile to make this deal, to once again, some would say, it's like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football? You know, worthwhile again to say we'll give you food aid if--

HUCKABEE: Well, the only thing that fizzled worse than the missiles of North Korea the other day was probably the Obama policy. Charles Pritchard who has advised both the Bush administration and the Clinton administration admitted that Barack Obama's policy toward North Korea have been a miserable failure. Because if you say you are going to withhold food, you better do it, then you look horrible to withhold food from people who are over there eating grass and even the cows are eating better than the people in North Korea. It's a horrible situation. And it's not going to be made worse, and the U.S. will get the blame. And they're going to keep looking for ways to build those missiles anyway.

WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here, but when we come back, the general election campaign between Obama and Romney is suddenly in full swing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Check out our new campaign page at FoxNewsSunday.com/election2012. You will find video, including behind the scenes material from the campaign trail. And we'll have key clips from our show, a Twitter interactive area, the latest polls and all our political reporting in one spot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA: This is the defining issue of our time, this make or break moment for our middle class and all those who are fighting to get in the middle class.

ROMNEY: After a reelection, he'd have a lot more, quote, "flexibility" to do just what he wants. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that, but, looking at his first three years, I've got a pretty good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: President Obama and Mitt Romney taking some early shots at each other now that the general election campaign is under way. And we're back now with the panel. I want to start with these new Fox News polls that I mentioned with David Axelrod and he thought so much about. I'm going to put them back up on the screen.

Even with the bruising primaries, Romney -- and, you know, you can argue about the point spread, but it's basically a dead heat and well within the margin of error. And at least according to the Fox News poll, Mr. Obama's approval rating dropped five points last month to 42 percent from 47 percent the month before.

Brit, what do you think of the polls? What do you think this tells you about the state of the race?

HUME: I think you're right, that the race is basically tied right now. What's important about this poll is that it goes to this question of the gender gap. There is a gender gap. Barack Obama enjoys an eight-point advantage, not a 15 point advantage, as some other polls have said, in our poll.

The other thing is that -- that Romney is ahead by 14 among men. So when it comes to those two categories of voters, which encompasses everybody, Romney is arguably doing better.

My sense is the race is closer; Romney is well -- is either slightly ahead or tied. That's -- that's a lot better than you'd expect after his having been battered so all through this primary season.

And Obama ought to be -- if he's going to win, he ought to be well ahead by now. This ought to be a very good moment for him. It's not. My sense is that Barack Obama remains in serious reelection trouble.

WALLACE: Susan?

MILLIGAN: Actually, I think what's disturbing about a lot of the polling is that there is a big gender gap, I mean, as much as 19 points in one poll with women, and then of course Governor Romney is well ahead among men. You also see a big gap among Latinos.

And so no matter who wins, it, sort of, raises this question of whether we're going to have a president who, you know, is the president of, what, white men or women and Latinos and whatever. So it's going to make it very hard for somebody to lead when there's that much polarization in the -- in the voting.

WALLACE: Governor, It seems to me the key question -- and this is always true when a president seeks reelection -- is whether the Obama campaign is going to be able to make this a choice election, him versus Romney, or whether the Romney campaign is going to be able to make this a referendum election, Obama's record.

At this point -- and I know it's very early on -- who's winning?

HUCKABEE: I think Romney has an upper hand because it will be a referendum election. All incumbent elections are about the incumbent. And that's the advantage Romney has. There's two things about that poll that ought to be very disturbing to the Obama camp regardless of David Axelrod's feeling.

One is that 37 percent of the people polled thought that Obama's policies are hurting the economy, versus 31 who thought it helped. That's very troubling to Obama.

The second thing is 67 percent of people polled are unhappy with the direction of the country. That has nothing to do with Mitt Romney. That has everything to do with these past three years of Barack Obama. If he can't turn that perception around that his policies -- specifically his policies are hurting the economy and that many people, more than two-thirds, are unhappy with the direction, he will not be reelected as president.

WALLACE: Both the Fox poll and a lot of other polls -- Jeff, your sense of this race, where it stands right now, and how badly damaged has Romney been by the -- by the primaries?

We talked with Ed Gillespie, that he's trailing by double digits among Hispanics, among women, among working class. How much repair work does he need to do?

ZELENY: I think he has to do a significant amount of repair work. And you've hit on the exact things, on Hispanic voters and women. I'm not sure that Mr. Gillespie has an answer yet for those things. He's just been on board.

But I think we know what this election is going to be about. It is going to be a very tight election that is probably going to be fought over, probably eight or nine states. At the end of the day, it will probably be fought and won in as few as four states.

So the Obama campaign right now has an advantage in terms of the on-the-ground effort, the tactics. They've been building this big campaign apparatus, which matters. It's absolutely important.

But what they've not yet been able to, sort of, persuade people that he is the right steward of the economy.

All the numbers here in Washington show that the economy is getting better. People don't feel it out there. When I talked to voters out there, they still know their brother-in-law or sister-in- law who's out of work.

WALLACE: It's amazing. I think a Washington Post poll showed that 60, 70 percent of people still think that they're in a recession?

ZELENY: Absolutely. So that is one, sort of, key challenge for the Obama administration. But it's why he's trying -- trying to define Mitt Romney right now. But even up election right now, I would say.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, should Romney pick a running mate sooner rather than later, as I suggest with Ed Gillespie, to get some more extra help on board? Who should he pick and what about this (inaudible) that I see out there for a fellow named Mike Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think his better pick is Marco Rubio. That would be my choice. And he shouldn't do it early because that just gives people more time to go after the target.

It would be utterly ridiculous. There's no advantage in picking them early. I know you say, well, that gets someone else on the campaign trail.

Look, you can put all the potential VP people out on the campaign trail, but as soon as you name somebody, all those other ones, they're off the trail.

So the smart thing is send them all out there, making them think they're going to be the VP and then make it as late as possible so you don't give the opponents and my two distinguished colleagues here the opportunity to pick them to pieces before the election.

WALLACE: And what about Mike Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: You know, I haven't gotten a call and I doubt I will, so I just merrily go about doing my business.

WALLACE: Jeff, your thoughts about the vice presidential pick? Sooner rather than later, and who?

ZELENY: I think it's going to be a small universe of people. It's always smaller than you think. I think Senator Rubio is certainly one of them but not by any means the only thing.

The essential thing is can this person be president? We're not going to have, I don't think, a Sarah Palin situation where someone, sort of, is out of left field. So my guess is we'll probably know if it's Senator Rubio or Rob Portman or, you know, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, someone like that that we know, sooner or later. My guess is it's not going to be that soon. This takes a long time to pick someone, to vet someone. I don't think it will be that soon.

WALLACE: Brit? As we look over -- and it's going to be -- you know, we've kept saying, we want to get this thing over with, the primaries. Now we've got almost seven months until Election Day.

What's the key to the campaign? Is it the performance on the campaign trail? Is it the debates? Is it the condition of the country?

HUME: The condition of the country by far. At some point, people are going to ask themselves a question based upon how they see the country, the economy and their own lives at the moment when they're getting serious about their decision. And they're going to say, do we want four more years of this?

President Obama has not offered some whole new vision for the next four years. You know, it's all -- his campaign is all about picking at the Republicans for, you know, they're going to lead us back in the wrong direction. And people decide that Mitt Romney is -- that they don't want four more years of this.

And the question becomes, is there an acceptable alternative? It doesn't have to be George Washington or Ronald Reagan. It merely needs to be someone at that point who is an acceptable, plausible alternative who they think the country would be safe with. My sense about that is that Mitt Romney probably meets that test.

WALLACE: Well, we will see over the next seven months.

I want to thank you all, panel. See you next week.

Don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our website, FoxNewsSunday.com. And we'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. And make sure to follow us on Twitter @FoxNewsSunday.

Up next, I'll have some thoughts about my dad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: You've heard so many stories about my father this week. Here is one you haven't heard. Three summers ago Caroline Wallace, then aged 1, went to Martha's Vineyard to visit her great-grandfather. Here she is literally taking the first step of her life reaching out to him.

This week when she learned he had passed away, Caroline is now 4, drew this picture of her favorite stuffed bunny, herself and her great grandpa. And she dictated this message for him to her teacher: "I love you. I miss you because I wanted to say goodbye." And then she signed it.

Back in 2005, when my father was 87, he had just written a book. He came on "Fox News Sunday" to talk about that and all sorts of things.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Do you understand why some people feel such disaffection for the mainstream media?

MIKE WALLACE, FORMER HOST, "60 MINUTES": Oh, yes. They think we are wild-eyed commies, liberals, yes?

WALLACE: That's what they think. And how do you plead?

M. WALLACE: I think it is damn foolishness. First of all, they are patriots just as much as any conservative, even a liberal reporter is a patriot, wants the best for this country. And people, your fair and balanced friends at Fox, don't fully understand that.

WALLACE: All right. Let's talk about the book.

M. WALLACE: Yes.

WALLACE: Because, what is amazing is all of the people you have interviewed over the years. In the case of the Middle East, everyone from Menachem Begin to Anwar Sadat, from the shah of Iran to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. WALLACE: He calls you, Imam, forgive me, his words not mine, "a lunatic."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now when you say "forgive me" to a Middle East leader, does that mean you are about to drop the hammer?

(LAUGHTER)

M. WALLACE: Frequently that is exactly right.

WALLACE: Someone once said about you that Mike Wallace has an underdeveloped sense of other people's privacy. And as your son, I'm here to testify it is absolutely true.

M. WALLACE: Really?

WALLACE: Yes.

M. WALLACE: What have I revealed about you that upset you?

WALLACE: Well, I -- no, but I want to show you something. A few clips from interviews that you have done with celebrities over the year. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. WALLACE: You really believe in extraterrestrials. Do they come visit you on the porch?

Now you are being unpleasant, Wallace, is what you're saying.

SHIRLEY MACLAINE, ACTOR: Yes. This is what I was a little afraid. But you don't have to be that unpleasant. It doesn't become you.

JOHNNY CARSON, FORMER HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I stopped doing jokes immediately as soon as people found out that he was an alcoholic.

M. WALLACE: Of course, it takes one to know one.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: True, true.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE: Why do you do that?

M. WALLACE: Why do I do what?

WALLACE: Why do you sit there and say, "takes one to know one"?

M. WALLACE: Well, he's a drunk.

WALLACE: Or why do you say to Barbra Streisand on national television, "you know what your mother says, you don't have time for anyone."

M. WALLACE: These are interesting questions. Why are you asking? Because they're interesting questions.

WALLACE: You ever say to yourself, I am going to embarrass him, I'm going to hurt his feelings?

M. WALLACE: No, no. I don't have subpoena powers. They know who I am when they come on. They know the kind of questions that I've asked all of my -- actually I didn't start really asking questions until I was 38 years old . But then I have to do certain things.

I remember, before we lost your brother, I used to do all kinds of...

WALLACE: Commercials, cigarette commercials.

M. WALLACE: That's correct.

WALLACE: Send me to college.

M. WALLACE: That's correct. And I used to say, I have got to raise the kids. Therefore I will do whatever I have to do. And after we lost Peter, I said, I can't hide behind that anymore. And what I'm going to do is in the memory of your brother -- your older brother Peter, I am going to do something that I am proud of doing and that he would be proud to have me do.

WALLACE: As you look over the whole career, all of the places you have gone, all the people you have met, what do you make of it? I mean, what do you make of Myron Leon Wallace from Brookline, Massachusetts, having had this extraordinary journey?

M. WALLACE: Yes. It is extraordinary. It is just -- sometimes I can't believe it. Can you imagine talking to Eleanor Roosevelt back in 1957? Just an extraordinary woman.

WALLACE: I want to ask you a question, in the book -- and I didn't realize you had ever asked it, but that you asked Thomas Hart Benton, the great artist, in 1973, and you asked him, and I am asking you, do you hate getting old?

M. WALLACE: Well, I'll tell you what, I had my hearing aides fixed today so that I could properly hear you.

WALLACE: Good.

M. WALLACE: I can't see as well. I used to be able to play tennis. I now have -- this hasn't stopped me from smoking, a pace- maker, I have for about the last 15 years. Yes, I don't like getting old.

WALLACE: And you don't retire because?

M. WALLACE: Because I love -- it is not work that I do. I love what I do. When I get up in the morning, and I think, I am going to have the opportunity to -- I wasn't that happy about waking up this morning.

WALLACE: Yes, I felt the same way.

(LAUGHTER)

WALLACE: All right. Finally...

M. WALLACE: Yes, finally.

WALLACE: I have another idea for a target for your next interview. The question is, what would you like to ask this fellow?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. WALLACE: It's October 30th, William's three-week birthday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Grandson.

M. WALLACE: My great-grandson.

WALLACE: What would you like to ask him?

M. WALLACE: He's a good looking kid, isn't he?

WALLACE: Yes, he takes after his mother.

M. WALLACE: That's right. He does.

WALLACE: Look at this guy. You've never seen this guy.

M. WALLACE: No, I've never seen this tape. I have not still. He moves around. That is a nice surprise. Bless you.

WALLACE: Well, it is it a great book, it is a great life. I couldn't be prouder of both and I love you.

M. WALLACE: I love you. And I am proud of you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: After we ran that interview, I said, there's no crying on Sunday morning talk shows. Well, there have been a lot of tears this week along with lots of laughs and some wonderful stories. Our family has really held on to each other tightly.

Over the last two decades, my father became my best friend. He was so interesting, so much fun to be around, and, yes, sometimes so exasperating . I didn't get into reporting, at least consciously, because of it. But we used to get such joy from sharing experiences with each other.

So many times this week, I've wanted to ask him what he thinks about all of the coverage of his life. And then I stop and remember he's not here. That is going to take some getting used to. I can't imagine life without him.

We'll see you next "FOX News Sunday."

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On the Show

Sunday December 28, 2014

2014 has seen a number of significant news stories, from the GOP midterm election wave, to the rise of ISIS militants in the Middle East, and a national debate over race and justice. Our Sunday panel discusses some of this year’s biggest headlines in a special “Year In Review” edition of Fox News Sunday. Plus, we’ll look ahead to 2015 and get our panelist’s predictions in politics, economics, entertainment and sports.

The blockbuster “Unbroken” chronicles the story of real-life American Olympian and World War II prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini. The film, which opened on Christmas Day, is based on the book written by bestselling author Laura Hillenbrand, who has her own story of overcoming incredible odds. In a rare interview, we’ll talk with Laura Hillenbrand about the bond she developed with Zamperini while writing “Unbroken.”