OTR Interviews

Palin's Advice for Each GOP Candidate in the 2012 White House Race

Former Alaska governor sounds off on four-way GOP dead heat in Iowa, Gingrich's surge and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Governor Sarah Palin is here. And the intrigue is swiftly building in the Republican race for the White House, and tonight a new poll puts four candidates in a statistical dead heat in the all-important Iowa. Herman Cain leads at 20 percent, followed closely by Ron Paul at 19 percent, Mitt Romney at 18 percent, and Newt Gingrich at 17 percent. Now, all those are within the margin of error, meaning -- well, it's anyone's game tonight.

Governor Palin joins us to talk about these stunning developments. Good evening, Governor. And I want to talk first about the strategy. I mean, all four are basically neck and neck. Each one has different issues, different problems going into the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd.

So let's start first with Herman Cain. What -- if you were advising Herman Cain, what would you tell him to do to win the Iowa caucus come January?

SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Well, all of these candidates, thankfully, have strengths that they're bringing into the race, and we appreciate them being in the arena and being willing to put their names forward in the name of service.

As for Herman Cain, you know, he needs to be candid and quite truthful about these sexual allegations still because people are kind of hesitant a bit to, you know, delve right in there as supporters, not knowing what the truth is. It really sucks to be falsely accused. Believe me, I know because I have been also.

And if these sexual harassment allegations are false, then Herman Cain at the end of the day is going to take a deep breath and say, you know, Where does one go to get back their reputation after such allegations have been lobbed if they're not true? If they are true, if he disrespects women, then, you know, we're going to cross him off the list.

But Herman Cain just needs to answer candidly the questions that are still being posed of him. And Herman, too, needs to really concentrate on the substance that is necessary when it comes to the solutions that he proposes to America's challenge. People are waiting for that substance not just from Herman but from all of the candidates when it comes to their proposals.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, sexual harassment is so painful, it exists, and it's impossible -- almost impossible if you are not someone doing it to clear your name. It's one of those horrible -- it's a "He said, she said" and done in private, so it's hard to tell.

So far, two women have come forward. One signed an agreement and said that there was no wrongdoing. They both worked at the National Restaurant Association. And the other one signed an agreement. Another one says that there was a more provocative conduct. Then there are these two anonymous, which I think actually don't exist and perhaps they're the two whose names we know.

But I was trying to think, if I were Mr. Herman Cain, what would I do? And I guess I would sort of sit patiently because he's come in contact with literally thousands of women all his professional career and someone who's a harasser tends to be more serial in his activity. So I guess the only thing he can do is to wait a time. If no one else comes forward, say, See? You're wrong. Or what does he do?

PALIN: Well, perhaps that is the best tactic at this time, Greta, is for him to patiently wait this out, and if others come forward with facts, with proof of the allegations, then, you know, it's going to be a game changer. But at this point, you know, people -- they don't want to really prejudge because there's still so much speculation and there still isn't a lot of proof, really, on one side or the other. So difficult situation for Herman Cain to be in.

But again, believe me, once a bell is rung, it's really tough to unring it. You know, I've been accused of having affairs. I've never had an affair in my life. My husband's been accused of having affairs. In the tabloids we see these -- that garbage that's thrown out there. And though we know what the truth is, many times, the public is never privy to that truth because it is that "He said, she said" stuff. So tough for Herman Cain at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Mr. -- or not Mr. but Governor Mitt Romney -- he is at 18 percent. He's number three. And I'll get to Ron Paul, Congressman Ron Paul, in a second. But Governor Romney has stayed about the same numbers in the national polls. He doesn't go up, he doesn't go down. He stays where he is. I assume he wants to do better. He certainly doesn't want to do worse. But what's his strategy? And why isn't he moving in the polls?

PALIN: Hasn't really moved in the polls despite running for president for four, five, six years now. What Romney needs to do is reach out to those fiscal and social conservatives, the Tea Party independents, and really show his authenticity and explain what are perceived and real flip- flops over issues that he has been called out on, explain what he means today, as opposed to what perhaps he meant some years ago and when he served as governor because there have been some inconsistencies with the positions that he takes now.

So he needs to reach out to Tea Party independents and all constituents and do more television appearances to explain himself because we do seek that authenticity. We seek the candidness and we want answers.

It's been kind of a surprising role that Romney has played when you consider that he hasn't really gotten over that hump of that percentage of support that he's had over all these years that's stayed pretty steady. But you know, he -- he's got strengths, too. You know, when you consider that he's got what appears to be a solid personal life, a good family, I think that bodes well. It speaks well to his character, and character counts in this race.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of interesting. You talk about the -- about the character, and I was looking at the numbers and it seems that in Iowa, that the economic issues trump the social issues considerably -- 71 percent of the voters are -- have more -- that fiscal concerns tops over the sort of social issues (INAUDIBLE) the social issues about 25 percent.

So I'm sort of thinking is that, you know, would you rather be Herman Cain where he's getting accused -- not -- not -- no one's proven it, but accused of sexual harassment, which is a sort of a social issue, or would you rather be someone like Governor Mitt Romney, where he's got this flip- flopping going on, and he's going to get hit heavily with it?

He's got stuff with national health care. He's got that abortion issue back from in 1992 or '93. When he debated Senator Ted Kennedy, he was pro-choice. He's got that problem in Iowa recently over the collective bargaining. So he's going to get hit on that.

So, like, would you rather be explaining away your sort of flip- flopping economic explanation, or would you rather be explaining away an accusation you say is false on sexual harassment?

PALIN: Well, I guess in this day and age, evidently, some of the personal indiscretions or perceived indiscretions don't matter much. I mean, you know, Clinton did just fine in his party despite his indiscretions. And others have, too.

You know, a lot of that has to do with, though, the media and its double standards and the media not -- not picking on somebody for perceived or real indiscretions in one party and yet really hammering home in the Republican Party when somebody has done something wrong.

But what you're getting at, Greta, is this acknowledgment that jobs and the economy are paramount here. We have got to make sure that people have an explanation when it comes to solutions that they're proposing, how they can explain how their solution is better than somebody else's solution or proposal to get people back to work.

We have to remember, too, that this election isn't merely about replacing Barack Obama and the chip on the shoulder of our national leadership that Barack Obama brought to the White House with him. This election is about who and what we replace Obama with, a pro-private sector, a pro-growth agenda that these GOP candidates, thankfully, all seem to have adopted, how their agenda is going to be ushered in, how it will be adopted and implemented that can get us on the road to recovery based on what Obama has done to this country the in last three years.

VAN SUSTEREN: You raise the issue of media, which brings me to number two in the poll, which is Congressman Ron Paul, who has 19 percent. He has continuously done well in the Iowa polls, maybe not nationally. Yet the media has -- I think it's fair to say has marginalized him, tried to make him almost invisible because he doesn't poll well nationally. But he is -- I mean, he's number two in Iowa right now.

What strategy would you recommend to him? And if he does win in Iowa, if he pulls off Iowa on January 3rd, does that change the dynamics for him as he goes off to New Hampshire? Does he have a real shot? The media's written him off.

PALIN: Ron Paul has very energized supporters that -- that speaks well to his connection with that base that he has, Libertarians and those who understand that the Fed is out of control and that we have spent our way into bankruptcy. So he's got that going for him, this base of strong supporters.

It's unfortunate that he has been written off by the media. Some of the other candidates have, too, unfortunately -- Santorum, who has much to offer, Michele Bachmann, who has much to offer in terms of her passion for conservative causes.

What Ron Paul needs to do is keep preaching to Americans, keep educating us about the problems and our economic woes that have been caused by government over-growth. He needs to keep doing what he's doing. It isn't fair, he being written off, when you consider, like in the last debate, he was given 89 seconds to respond to questions total. That's unfair. He can't whine about it, though. Supporters can demand better of the media, though, but Ron Paul -- he himself shouldn't be the one to whine to the media about the unfairness.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mentioned Senator Santorum and Congresswoman Bachmann. Now, they're very strong on social issues, but then we go back to that poll which says that in Iowa, 71 percent are more interested in fiscal issues than they are social issues. I'm not suggesting social issues are irrelevant, but if those are their strengths, the social issues, if that's what they're running on and not focusing so much on the economic issues, their strategy may be a little bit off track in Iowa in terms of maybe that's one of the reasons why they're polling so poorly in Iowa. I don't know.

PALIN: Well, they do have that strength, very committed, passionate positions that they have that resonate well with other social conservatives. The problem that Bachmann faces, that Santorum faces, that Ron Paul and others who have served in Congress face, though, Greta, is our disdain for that culture that is within the Congress. It is a culture of corruption. It is a culture of status quo and pay-to-play and all those things that are so wrong that revelations now finally are coming out about how bad it is in Congress.

Even if they have not been participants in what is wrong with Congress, they have been, the perception is, a part of what is wrong with Congress. And it's a tougher battle for them to overcome because unless they have been successfully fighting what goes on that is wrong in Congress and have been engaged in sudden and relentless reform that we need to get this country back on track by squashing the corruption and the crony capitalism and the waste in Congress, well, then they're going to be perceived as being a part of the problem. And it's tougher for them.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, number four in the poll, in the Iowa poll -- this is -- by the way, it's a Bloomberg poll of Iowa taken November 10th through 12th. And number four and making a strong showing, number four, is former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who brings to it an enormous amount of experience, perhaps a little bit of that congressional experience you were talking about that some may not like, talking about what goes on in Washington, brings some personal baggage to this that everyone's -- he's beginning to feel a little bit of the heat now.

But he certainly has -- you know, he has ideas that he's out there on the trail talking about. What would you advise him to do? Because he's -- you know, he's got strengths and he's certainly got issues.

PALIN: My advice to Newt Gingrich is he and Callista need to hang onto their hat because he's got the momentum right now. People are respecting his very good performances in debates and his intelligence and his knowledge of world and U.S. history. We understand that our leaders need to know our history, where we have been in order to forge a successful and prosperous path forward. We respect that in Newt.

He needs to hang onto his hat, though, because next in line is he, mark my words, for that intense media scrutiny that comes with those who have the momentum. I know that he and Callista, though, they're going to be able to handle it, though. If they deal with what's coming with candidness, with truthfulness, the people will respect what it is that he has to offer and how he will answer the scrutiny that comes his way. But he needs to be prepared for this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you -- I know that you -- obviously, it's pretty obvious you want to defeat President Obama in 2012. I mean, that's no secret. But I'm curious, in your choice as to who you endorse, do you endorse someone who you think can win and beat President Obama, or do you endorse someone who has ideas that are more consistent with yours? Which - - which -- which is going to weigh more heavily in your decision?

PALIN: Well, I want to believe that he or she who would share the ideas that I have and that many fiscal conservatives have, and those of us who believe that balance of power needs to be tipped more in favor of we the people and versus this trajectory of centralized government growth that we have been on -- I want to believe that he who shares those ideas will be most electable.

The cream of the crop has not risen yet in this very fluid primary process, so I'm not going to get out there and endorse anybody right now. But certainly, those ideas that I have that so many Americans share that are pro-growth ideas, pro-private sector, blessed constitutional restraints that our Constitution has within it, created in order to build this prosperous and healthy nation of ours -- those ideas that are articulated best by the candidates through this primary process will be the one that I endorse.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. Now, one last question on strategy. Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum -- I'm wondering what your thought is on this one, if this was a good strategic decision or not. He said today that he does not believe Penn State's university football team should play in a bowl game. Now, of course, he's a graduate in 1980 of Penn State. But I'm curious, making a statement like that, going out on a limb about football and a bowl -- what do you think?

PALIN: It's not the players' fault that they have a perverted former assistant coach. I would like to see the players not suffer more than they have suffered. As for the perp and perps, though, that allowed the sinfulness to go on as they had allowed in the past -- you know, I say about this assistant coach, Sandusky, hang him from the highest tree. I'll bring the rope. I think it's pathetic, it's horrible, it's atrocious what took place. If it is true that these children were victimized, then he himself and anybody who allowed what he did to go on, they should be the one to suffer, not today's young players who have been innocent in all of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Last that we have -- we start too much of a fire -- a fire mess in the media -- I assume when you say hang him by the tree that you are being -- that you also believe in the process, the criminal justice process because I know everyone's going to say that you wanted no process but just hang him by the tree -- you don't want to just hang him by the tree. I assume you want a criminal process?

PALIN: Hang him from the highest tree and I'll bring the rope if he is guilty of what has been alleged. If he abused these young children and ruined their lives, unless they get a lot of help, Greta, in order to deal with the victimization that they are now suffering from -- he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law if he is truly guilty.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good. I just wanted to clarify because I know that everyone's going to jump all over us if you didn't say that we're going to go through the legal system.

PALIN: Of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understood that, but I -- I know that...

PALIN: Of course.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... the way it's going to be interpreted -- Governor Palin, thank you.

PALIN: Thank you.