• With: Karl Rove

    This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Is President Obama taking the work out of welfare? Governor Mitt Romney says so, hammering President Obama on welfare reform, and today on the campaign trail, Governor Romney highlighting that in 1996, then Illinois state senator Obama said he was opposed to the Welfare reform law. Its centerpiece is welfare to work.


    MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Then Senator Obama was opposed to putting work together with welfare! Now he's president, and just a few days ago, he put that original intent in place with a very careful executive action. He removed the requirement of work from welfare! It is wrong to make any change that would make America more of a nation of government dependency! We must restore and I will restore work into welfare!



    VAN SUSTEREN: Karl Rove joins us. Karl, nice to see you.


    VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, in connection with this dispute over this welfare-to-work battle between the two candidates, both candidates are getting hammered for being less than candid, or essentially, being a little bit loose with the facts and smearing each other. Your thought?

    ROVE: Well, look, here's the deal. The welfare law has a provision called Section 407, which sets out limitations on how long you can be on welfare and the requirements, spells out the requirement that you've got to work in order to receive welfare.

    The writers of the law in 1995 and 1996 were worried about having this being watered down in the future, so they put in Section 407, that it could not be waived by the executive branch of government in any way, shape or form.

    Now, the administration -- the Obama administration has used authority under another section, Section 402, which mentions 407, in order to claim that the authority under 402 gives them the right to ignore that part of the statute. And they say that they are going to, in essence, issue approvals of policies -- and I'm quoting from their -- from their own paper, that involve, quote, "definition of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures and the calculation of participation rates."

    That's exactly what 407 is all about. So they're using authority in one part of the law in order to basically say, We're going to find a way to do what we can't do under the statute, and that is waive these tough rules that require people to work in order to get welfare and limit how long they can be on welfare.

    And in a further indication of what the administration is going to do, they said that they were not -- they're not likely to approve any policy waivers that are, quote, "likely to reduce access to aid." In other words, nothing that'll save money, they'll only approve a policy that either keeps aid at the current level or increases it.

    So yes, clearly, I think the administration is wrong here. I think Romney was right to ding them on them. And again, I -- where has the administration got the statutory authority to do something that Congress explicitly voted in a bipartisan fashion to say could not be waived by executive action?

    VAN SUSTEREN: All right, it seems to me that -- just if I could shorten this -- there really is sort of two issues. One is the allegation that it's an improper power grab from the executive branch of the government, issuing executive orders, not going back to Congress to see what Congress has to say about it. That's the first issue. Is that a fair -- is that a fair description?

    ROVE: I think that's a fair description, yes, Where do they get the authority to do this?

    VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And there's been -- and there's been other objections by Republicans that President Obama just uses his pen and writes executive orders and does things that he's not -- that he -- that he doesn't have the authority to do, other objections. All right.

    The other is sort of the substantive issue about these waivers. And here -- I must say that I'm perplexed. The memorandum that started this from HHS says, in part, that "HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of the legislation."

    Now, I've read that probably 10 times. That is, like -- I still can't figure out for the life of me what in the world that means. What are they substantively trying to do with this memorandum?

    ROVE: Well, this is a cute way to weaken welfare because what you can do is you can make things look better by, in essence, changing the definition of what constitutes work. You can expand the definition of what you're willing to count as, quote, "work" to include a lot of things that we ordinarily wouldn't consider -- I mean, you know, staying at home and recuperating -- that -- they could consider that to be work.

    There's also a technical issue called "exits (ph)" and you can by playing around with what the definition of, quote, an "exit" from welfare constitutes, you can take credit for things that would have otherwise happened through economic growth.

    So what they're trying to do is to make it easier for people to stay on welfare longer by jimmying around with the definitions, which are very tough in 407, on describing exactly what constitutes work and an exit.

    Remember again, in the original memorandum, they talked about that they would have authority over the calculation of participation rates. That's one of the key elements in 407 that's designed to keep people from jimmying around the system and keeping people in the system longer than they should be and making it look good, like they're getting people off welfare when they really aren't.

    VAN SUSTEREN: So if I could shorten this one, too -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- I always have to try to get it down so that, you know, just simple terms -- I can understand it -- is that what they are doing substantively -- forget the power grab -- that's the other allegation -- is substantively, they are almost changing the intent of Congress by diluting sort of -- by diluting the definition of certain words, so that we're getting away from what the Congress agreed to in terms of the welfare-to- work principle. They're diluting it, so they're changing the intent to some degree.

    ROVE: Well, let me make it even crisper. They are making it more difficult to reduce welfare. They're making it easier to increase and lengthen and keep people on welfare. That's exactly right.

    When you issue a thing saying, We're not going to -- we're not going to approve policies that are, quote, "likely to reduce access to aid," what you're saying is, We want to -- we want to keep welfare as big or bigger than it is.

    VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, leave it to government anyway to try and make things very difficult to understand.

    All right, let me go to something that I posted on Gretawire today. And going back to 1980 and according to some research I did, the -- more women have voted in presidential elections than men. Women's vote has always been very important in these presidential elections, more -- moreso in recent presidential elections.

    In going through the swing states of -- the typical ones, like Colorado, Governor -- or President Obama's up by 8. Virginia -- these are likely voters -- President Obama's up by 14. Wisconsin, President Obama is up by 23. North Carolina, President Obama's up by 19. Florida, he's up by 7. President Obama's up 21 in Ohio, 24 in Pennsylvania, 16 in Nevada, 16 in Michigan, and in New Mexico, he's up 11, Iowa he's up 17 and in New Hampshire he's up 19, all pretty recent polls.

    And I realize polls are fluid, but -- but not one of those states is the margin small and not one of those states is Governor Romney even close or even within the margin of error. That's a serious problem, I think, for the candidate.

    ROVE: Well, a couple of things. First of all, there has been in modern times a gender gap, with men overwhelmingly favoring Republicans, Democrats receiving the advantage among women. That's historically been accurate. For example, in 2004, President Bush narrowed the gap among women. He got 48 percent of the women's vote, John Kerry got 41. But that was an increase from 53 percent for President Bush in 2000, in the 2000 election.

    The second thing I'd say is, look, you went through a bunch of polls. I've checked some of those polls out. We're talking about a lot of Quinnipiac polls and a lot of PPP polls. PPP is a Democrat polling firm in northern -- in North Carolina that uses an auto-dialer. The Quinnipiac polls are run in combination with CBS, New York Times, whose methodology makes them more Democrat.

    I'd rather step back and rather than looking at individual states, look at the entire nation as a whole because, you know, individual states will -- will -- will be one way or the other, but you get a sense of it...

    VAN SUSTEREN: Even if -- even if...

    ROVE: ... nationwide.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Even if those polls are mistaken by 5 points -- I mean, even -- even if those are Democratic polls and let's say they're mistaken by 5, these margins are still huge margins.

    ROVE: Well, remember, if you went and looked at the men's vote, you'd see the mirror opposite for Romney. Now, here's the point. In 2008, in the exit polling, Barack Obama won the women's vote by a 13-point margin, 56 to 43. In the latest Gallup tracking, issued at 1:00 o'clock this afternoon, President Obama is leading among women by 8, 50 to 42. So he is wining women this time around, but by 50 percent less than he got last time around. And he's running even worse among men than he is last time around, hence the race is -- in today's Gallup tracking 47-46.

    Now, look, there -- if you go inside these numbers, yes, the Democrat will win the women's vote. The question is, by how much? The Republican will win the men's vote. The question is, by how much?