This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Will this be a wake-up call for the Republican candidates? While they are focused on attacking each other, their ultimate rival, President Obama, may be slipping right past them.
A new poll shows President Obama's numbers are going up in head-to-head match-ups against the GOP front-runners. According to the poll, if the election were held today, President Obama would win 51 percent of the vote against Governor Mitt Romney. The president would win with 54 percent against former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
So is dragging out the nominating process hurting the GOP? Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin joins us. Good evening, Governor.
SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Hi, Greta. How are you?
VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. So Governor, what do you make of the fact that the polls show that the president is slipping upward at the moment?
PALIN: Unfortunately, I think that's some collateral damage for the GOP through our nominating process, as the guys, the four who are left are kind of beating each other up instead of focusing on the main thing. The main thing is providing Americans really good reasons why we can oppose President Obama in November, what it is that they have to offer in terms of solutions.
Right now, I believe they've kind of ignored what that focus should be, except in their speeches the night of primaries and caucuses. Then they all kind of refocus on trying to defeat Obama. But we need to make sure that they are using the debate platform that they have through the nominating process to focus on Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, if you look at the turnout, Iowa was relatively flat from 2008, and Florida was down about 12 percent. It doesn't seem like there's a groundswell of enthusiasm within the Republican Party. Doesn't look like they're attracting a lot of Republicans or a lot of independents to the Republican Party. I don't sense that glowing enthusiasm.
PALIN: That glowing enthusiasm isn't there yet. I believe a lot of that is in part the idea that it's a forgone conclusion that Mitt Romney will be the GOP pick. He certainly has the establishment support and much of the media support.
I also believe that he is the one that President Obama would love to debate and to run against in November. So I think that that kind of tamps down that enthusiasm that no doubt we'll see again, and all of us will do as much as we can to build that enthusiasm back up after our nominee is chosen.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two things out of that. One is you seem to say -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that Governor Mitt Romney now has this sewn up, which of course, the other three candidates would disagree with, and their supporters. The second thing is you say that -- that Governor Romney is the one that President Obama would most like to debate, which suggests to me that you think that he is the weakest in the Republican field to run. Tell me about both of those.
PALIN: Well, I think that Newt Gingrich would be the toughest debater, debating ideas and solutions, and his experience as one who had learned through the Reagan revolution what true conservatism is and how it is that with foreign policy, we need to provide that peace through strength in our world and how it is that we need to balance budgets and we need to slash budgets because we are going bankrupt, all those things that Newt has talked about in his campaign.
I think that he could most brightly contrast himself against what Obama's failed policies have done to this country through debates. So that's why I say that Obama, I believe, would really fear having to debate Newt Gingrich.
And tell me what your first question was again?
VAN SUSTEREN: It was whether or not Governor Romney is the forgone conclusion, whether he has it sown up or not.
PALIN: I don't believe that he is, but I believe a lot of people assume that he is because that's what you get when you spend $40 million on the airwaves. You pay ad agencies to attack your opponents and spending that sum of money, as opposed to, say, a good candidate like Rick Santorum, who I believe has only raised $2.2 million. He can't keep up with those attack ads.
And if you'll notice, Rick Santorum, who is rising in the polls now as kind of that anti-Romney candidate alternative -- he's up next then to face the barrage of negative campaigns and ads and super-PAC attacks against him. So he needs to hang onto his hat because he's next.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of true conservative -- go through the four candidates. Is each of the four candidates what you would call a, quote, "true conservative"?
PALIN: Certainly, Ron Paul on his austerity efforts that he wants to see domestically, knowing that we are on the brink of bankruptcy, he is the fiscal conservative. And he has been wise, I believe, in providing solutions as a congressman over all these years and voting against the bail-outs and the takeovers and the unbalanced, outrageously enormous budgets. Ron Paul certainly is fiscally conservative.
And if you look back at these folks' records, you know, you're going to see some question, for instance, on Romney's record as to whether he, as a governor who actually increased taxes, whether that's going to bode well for his conservative credentials, as compared to, like, a Ron Paul.
Socially, he's kind of flip-flopped on issues, obviously, so it's tough to say exactly what it was that he did as governor that can bode well to his credentials as a conservative. Of course, now in the campaign, thankfully, he is expressing the socially conservative ideals and goals that most constitutional conservatives would like to see.
Newt Gingrich, as I said -- I've already said that he balanced budgets. He sought to cut tax rates and shrink some of the size of government. Of course, it's never enough shrinkage. We need more. But he already proved that working even with the Democrat president he was able to accomplish that.
And of course, Rick Santorum -- he's been consistently, especially socially, conservative. And he has a lot of respect for that in the GOP circles that care about, you know, getting back to tradition and Judeo- Christian values that many of us believe are very, very important to retain that foundation of our country.
He'll be attacked in these coming days for his support of earmarks in the past. And you know, some of Romney's folks are going to just, you know, really try to clobber him and paint him as a big-spending fiscally liberal member of the Senate back then. So we'll see how he answers back.
But you know, Greta, thankfully, all four of these candidates, though, are, at the end of the day, so much more conservative, so much more in tune to what the Constitution provides us as a blueprint for a successful, prosperous, safe future for this country. Thankfully, we do have these candidates who are debating it and talking about the ideas and giving us the alternative to Obama because four more years of Obama, our country cannot afford.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the fact that -- you mentioned that -- that Representative Ron Paul, who's our guest next, that he's a fiscal conservative. And everyone's talking about spending cuts all the time. And he's got very enthusiastic supporters. Yet he doesn't seem to have the traction to rise in the polls. Is it because of his ideas on foreign policy? Why isn't he rising more?
PALIN: It's his ideas on foreign policy, I believe. And I say it with all due respect to what his true beliefs are. And he is able to express those. I'm sure that he will as he is your guest tonight.
But I think that Americans, when we understand the volatility in the world, we understand how important it is that we stand by our ally Israel because as goes Israel, so goes America. When you're facing this threat of Iran wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and saying, And America, essentially, you're next, we want to make sure that we have a president who understands the dire straits that Israel is in, surrounded by enemies, surrounded by those who would support Iran and how that affects America. That's one aspect of the foreign policy stand that I think leads to some confusion when it comes to Ron Paul's candidacy. And you know, I would hope that you would ask him about that.
But Ron Paul talking about cutting the budget, a trillion dollars a year, that's what we need. We need discussion, debate on that as opposed to what has Obama done. He's increased debt! And he's embraced deficit spending! He lied to Americans! President Obama as a candidate said he would cut the deficits in half. No! He's increased the deficit spending and he's obviously increased debt, and we're in a world of trouble under Obama!
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you. And I understand you'll be in Washington and you're the keynote speaker at CPAC this weekend. So I'm sure that everyone will be anxious to hear what you have to say then. Thank you, Governor.
PALIN: Thank you so much, Greta.