This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 3, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," Mitt's Michigan rebound. He pulls off a squeaker in his childhood home state. We'll tell you how he did it and why it matters for the races ahead.
Plus, high stakes on Super Tuesday. What Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich need to do and where they need to win to slow Romney down.
And with pump prices climbing ever higher, the Obama administration is feeling the heat. But do they really want lower gas prices?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
A double victory Tuesday in Michigan and Arizona put presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, back on top of the Republican race, a position he's held and lost several times before in the primary process. So how did he do it? Can the same strategies help him in Super Tuesday states?
Let's ask, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
So, Dan, how did Romney do it? Can he keep doing it?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: I think so. In the exit polls, people for whom the economy was the biggest issue, Romney won by 17 points.
GIGOT: Yes, that's remarkable.
HENNINGER: And he also won in Detroit, Wayne County, and Macomb County, the so-called Reagan Democrat county, which is to say in areas where their people are under the most economic stress. He had introduced that new tax program, the new economic program, the 20 percent tax cut across the board. And he's also been aligning himself with basically Paul Ryan's ideas on Medicare. So, I think, on the one hand, he's been showing people that he can be a real conservative. And he's presenting a coherent economic program in a way that I think is just pulling the Romney campaign together, on the single most important issue in the campaign.
GIGOT: Gives him a subject, Jason --
JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: Sure.
GIGOT: -- that's larger than his biography. It's basically, and larger than criticism solely of President Obama, to stand behind this, this new tax plan --
RILEY: I think that's part of it. He's talking about issues that people care about. But I think he also got some help from Rick Santorum in the run-up to the Michigan vote, who found himself talking about contraception and pro-college snobbery and the like. That's apparently not what voters in the Midwest, at least, want to hear. And I think Romney was able to benefit from self-inflicted wounds by Rick Santorum.
GIGOT: Exit polling shows that Santorum lost among women pretty soundly and broke among men, Romney and Santorum, but lost by five points among Republican women.
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: And not only women, he lost among Catholics. He lost in a 70 percent Catholic area in Michigan. He was 9 points ahead.
GIGOT: A Catholic loss to the Mormon among Catholics.
RABINOWITZ: Yes. I did not say that. I was hoping somebody else would say that. Here is the thing. Looking in addition to the substance of what Romney is about to talk about, here's the psychological infectious quality now. He has won every important race there is to win. He has, in the aggregate, more delegates than anyone else. That combination of experience is what is giving him this kind of luster that is making him appealing, in addition to what Jason said, which is no one does he owe more to than Rick Santorum.
GIGOT: On that point, let's listen to Rick Santorum's remarks on primary night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, R- FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My mom's in a very, well, unusual person for her time. She's someone who did get a college education in the 1930s, and was a nurse. And got a graduate degree as a nurse and worked full-time. And when she married my dad, they worked together at the Veterans Administration. That's where they met right after the war. And later on, they were -- they had me and the rest of the family, my brother and sister, and my mom continued to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Well, Kim, what do you read from that -- his emphasis on his - - the strong women in his life on that evening?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: It was a remarkable speech. He sent like the first six or seven minutes talking about his wife, his mother, his daughter. And what it was, a great big admission of a whoops.
It was basically saying, yes, you know, I spent a little bit too much time talking about some of these social issues on the trail. I also blurted out some things that maybe were not as thoughtful as they should have been. I want to reassure a lot of you voters, as we were just talking about, the Catholics, the women, the suburban voters, that I'm somebody you can get behind. And I think we'll probably see, with any luck, a more disciplined Rick Santorum going ahead because this was a learning moment for him.
RABINOWITZ: I have a question about that, Kim.
GIGOT: About his discipline?
RABINOWITZ: Yes, because the whoops moment, it's true. We all watched it. We were mesmerized by it. But there are other whoops moments that he insists on.
It's one thing to be a conviction candidate. But if you're going to be that, you better have the conviction you want to win. He is not going to do that by dialing back to Kennedy and insisting he was right all along to say he wanted to vomit. Those things are the things that come across.
GIGOT: That was unpresidential.
RABINOWITZ: Deeply. And he has not -- given the opportunity last weekend to pull back from that, he says, he yes, I do believe that you should vomit at the idea of total separation of church and state. That states, you know, well --
GIGOT: I want to get to Jason on this.
He -- for all of this, it was still very close.
RILEY: Yes. It was close, but what's a little disturbing about the exit polls for Rick Santorum, some of the places he lost in the state, Oakland County, Macomb County, these are places where there are Independent voters and some Democrats who thought he could recapture. He got crushed by Romney there. It's not a good sign.
GIGOT: Right. And it was two or three percentage points. And Romney didn't do well in the west relative to Santorum in the western part of the state, which is the socially conservative part the state. And he didn't do well among down scale earners, those earning less than $100,000. That's a weakness for Romney.
HENNINGER: It's a weakness. If he gets the nomination, he will he' have to work on that. But I think what the Santorum example suggests is that -- again, as I said, I think the main issue is the economy. And Rick Santorum, I have sympathy with his ideas and thoughts about stay-at-home moms. I mean, that's fine. But, what he missed, he thought it was a social issue. The reason his mother was working, and a lot of these mothers are working is not to entirely realize themselves as a person. It's because they need two incomes in their families. And that was something he had missed.
GIGOT: All right, last word.
When we come back, with Super Tuesday just three days away, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich plot their come backs. Which states are must- wins for the two and can either knock Mitt Romney from his perch at the top?
GIGOT: Well, it may be the most important single day of the primary season so far. Ten states and 419 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. Rick Santorum hoping to win in Ohio, the biggest prize in the bunch with 63 delegates at stake. And Newt Gingrich is counting on a victory in his home state of Georgia to keep his fading campaign afloat.
So, Kim, let's start with Rick Santorum. What does he need to do to win Ohio, break through, and keep this race going?
STRASSEL: Well, as you said, Michigan was very close, and the Santorum campaign has been arguing, look, this was Mitt Romney's home state. So the goal is to win another big Midwestern industrial western heartland. Ohio has some things going for Rick Santorum. It has a higher percentage of evangelical voters, for instance, than in Michigan. It's been the bulk of his support out there. He also wants to win down in a southern state like Tennessee and Oklahoma to show he can win in the south. And he's going to be making the argument that he is a more conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. That's worked for him among these voters and that's what he's going to be putting in Ohio and some of the others states.
GIGOT: Is that line, I'm the most conservative, the best theme to go for Santorum, or does he need to do something else?
HENNINGER: Oh, I think, in Ohio, he probably has to do something else, Paul. Ohio is -- there's a reason why Ohio is such an important swing state. It's an extremely diverse state.
HENNINGER: It's not just all conservatives. I mean, you've he got --
GIGOT: Ohio native speaking here.
HENNINGER: Yes, right.
HENNINGER: And it's even gotten more complicated since I lived there. You've got all of these edged cities of sort of upper middle class people, have grown up around places like Columbus and Cincinnati. And yet, you have Catholics in Cincinnati and blue collar workers up around Cleveland and Toledo. And much of the state is rural. And so it's a very complicated place. By and large, Republicans who have won there have been conservative but basically moderate in temperature. Rob Portman, John Kasich, Robert Taft, George Voinovich. I mean, they're not everyone's kind conservative, but they are all Ohio's kind of conservatives.
RILEY: The bigger picture here thought is that Santorum probably has to win Ohio.
GIGOT: I agree with that.
RILEY: I believe he can win one of these Midwestern states. Mitt Romney doesn't have to on Super Tuesday. He's probably going to win Massachusetts, Virginia, Vermont. He's going to do OK in Idaho.
GIGOT: That's because the other candidates aren't on the ballot in Virginia.
RILEY: Rick Santorum is in a must-win situation similar to Newt Gingrich being probably in a must-win for Georgia. Romney still has the organization, the money to go forward after Super Tuesday, even if he doesn't win Ohio.
GIGOT: What about Newt Gingrich, Dorothy? You talk to the candidate on occasion.
GIGOT: what's his strategy?
RABINOWITZ: It's clear to me, anyway. This is not from his input, that he's working his way towards saying, I leave the race if I don't win my home state. I can see that being said into his audience --
GIGOT: But let's say he does win Georgia. And he is --
RABINOWITZ: If he does win Georgia, he goes. He goes forward. He goes forward to the end as long as the money from Mr. Adelson carries him.
GIGOT: This is the Nevada casino --
RABINOWITZ: Absolutely. Yes.
GIGOT: -- mogul who is funding his PAC.
RABINOWITZ: Yes. And I have to say that -- he feels honor bounds to say, as he said before, if you can't win your home state, you don't belong in the race.
GIGOT: Yes, Jason?
RILEY: I was going to say, even if he does win Georgia, what has he proven? That he can win his home state, that he's a regional candidate that can win in the south, which is where Republican will win no matter who the nominee is anyway. Gingrich is in a tough position.
GIGOT: Kim, you wrote about Gingrich this week and you told he had a pretty good energy message. What is he doing?
STRASSEL: This is what he's trying to win. Your strategy, you win Georgia or you do well in some of the nearby states, Oklahoma, Tennessee. You get enough delegates to give you a justification for staying in. And he is assuming it's going to give him another turn in the limelight. And when he gets there, he wants to be talking about his energy plan, which is some silly stuff, arguing he can bring gas prices down to $2.50, which is not necessarily anything a candidate can do. But his bigger point is that this is a big contrast with Obama in the fall. There is an energy shift in this country, that we could be creating millions of jobs, and that this is something Obama's not there, and it's a strong message he's making.
GIGOT: Yes, Dan?
HENNINGER: I think Romney's economic message performs very well on Tuesday. Why? Unemployment in Georgia is 9.5 percent, all right? In Ohio, it's 8 percent. In Tennessee, it's 8.5 percent. If I'm right that the guy with the strongest economic, most coherent economic message is going to do well, I think Romney could have a very good day Tuesday.
GIGOT: Ohio is very important for Santorum, in particular, because it's a little more economically down scaled, Dorothy, than Michigan. A big proportion of Michigan voters made more than $100,000 remarkably in the Republican primary. In Ohio, a lot less well off voters, and a lot more culturally conservative voters. So, this is prime territory for Santorum.
RABINOWITZ: Yes, so I keep hearing. You never know. The pitch he made recently, which was simply made for that kind of audience, which is college, what a snob. Obama wants you to go to college. That's the kind of play that may be arousing some enthusiasm. You never know. Voters are extremely sophisticated, even if you don't have a college education. They know when they're being talked down to.
GIGOT: I agree with that. But that's one of Romney's weaknesses. Let's face it. That's where he doesn't do as well as Santorum. That's simply the fact.
RABINOWITZ: Yes. Well, we know this. Romney, compared in a comparison head to head with the president, does much better than anyone in Ohio and everywhere else.
GIGOT: We shall see.
When we come back, with gas prices soaring, the energy debate heats up on Capital Hill and on the campaign trail. One Republican presidential candidate is even calling on President Obama to fire Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Find out why, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know that we can't discuss just drill our way to lower gas prices. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. If somebody tells you there are, they're not telling you the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Facing increasing criticism as pump prices soar, President Obama Thursday attempted to blunt Republican attacks on his energy policy, saying there is no easy answer to the problem of rising gas prices, and claiming his administration is pursuing an all-of-the-above approach to solving the nation's energy woes. His energy secretary, Steven Chu, made headlines at a congressional hearing earlier in the week when Mississippi Republican Alan Nunnelee asked whether it's the Department of Energy's overall goal to lower gasoline prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN CHU, ENERGY SECRETARY: No. The overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy and to decrease our dependency on oil. We think that we can go a lot -- a long way to becoming less dependent on oil and diversing our supply, and will help the American economy and the American consumers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: So, what do you think about the president's explanation about gas prices, Kim?
STRASSEL: I think the problem is the president is doing the same old, tired energy argument, and the problem is he is not taking into account that America has undergone a seismic shift in its energy fortunes. The last decade of breakthroughs in technology mean that we are awash potentially in natural gas and oil in areas like the Bakkens. There have been breakthroughs in nuclear technology. And suddenly, America could be one of the biggest energy producers in the world. But we're still going ahead with this president's idea that the government has best chosen to restructure the energy sector entirely in a green image and they'll pick the winners and losers and ignore fossil fuels.
GIGOT: Yes. What -- Kim's reference to the Bakkens is the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, which is booming.
RILEY: Well, you have to give points to Steven Chu for consistency I think.
To start with, before he took this job, he went around saying things like we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels of Europe.
GIGOT: And that's because the alternative fuels will not be competitive economically, unless you raise the price of carbon-based fuel.
GIGOT: That is their strategy.
RILEY: He's right.
GIGOT: But, suddenly, it's not their strategy. Or maybe it is their strategy.
Is this an election year conversion of natural gas by this administration?
RILEY: He wants to have it both ways. What Chu said is right. That's the goal of the administration, to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. That is the goal.
GIGOT: You have to raise the price --
RILEY: And you raise the price --
RILEY: -- buy a product of that or a higher price. So, whether we're talking Keystone, Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico, limiting access to fossil fuel is the goal of the administration.
GIGOT: Keystone being the pipeline that was supposed to be -- the TransCanada company wants to bring from the Canadian border down to the gulf, to bring Canadian oil down to the Gulf of Mexico.
HENNINGER: It's part of the boom that Kim just described in which she writes about in her column today, which Newt Gingrich is caught up with. The fact is that the United States is on the verge of becoming a net exporter of oil.
GIGOT: It's amazing, isn't it?
HENNINGER: It's not only amazing, it's sort of an optimistic story. And --
GIGOT: This is petroleum products really.
HENNINGER: Petroleum products, exactly.
GIGOT: Petroleum-based products, not just oil.
GIGOT: Petroleum-based products.
HENNINGER: Meanwhile, I think Barack Obama could possibly put his presidency at risk with this crazy obsession with solar and wind, and like the speech last week, algae farms against the fact -- it's a kind of downer message that Obama is delivering in the face of simple energy reality. and I'll tell you, I give Steven Chu credit. It's a fact that none of that stuff that he's pushing can become real unless the price of gasoline gets up to European levels. It won't be able to compete.
GIGOT: Kim, what do you think of the Republican critique of this? Are they making the right argument to take advantage of this? We have Rick Santorum holding up shale rock --
GIGOT: -- at his press event on the primary even.
STRASSEL: For the most part, they're not doing enough. They're taking the obvious political shots, kidding the president on the fact that gas prices are rising and he hasn't done enough development. The guy who is doing a better job is Newt Gingrich. And here's his insight. What he's been doing is making the point, what matters about this, it's not that gas prices have risen under Barack Obama. It's that his energy policy is emblematic of this administration's entire belief on everything, that government is best to make these decisions. It's the way they felt about Obama-care, the same way they feel about entitlements. and it just so happens, in the energy sector, we've seen how that all falls apart, with Solyndra, with rising gas prices, with the permatorium down in the gulf, people not being able to drill down there, and everything that's come from that.
GIGOT: And one of the problems for the president is that these raising gas prices and food prices really -- one of the reasons people don't feel good about the recovery because their real incomes haven't been increasing.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week.
Dan, first to you.
HENNINGER: A big miss, Paul, to France's Socialist candidate for the presidency, Francois Fillon. He went over to England this past week and announced that he thinks the French ought to pay a 75 percent top tax rate. He also called for regulation everywhere, as he put it. It gets better though. Do you know how many French expatriates are living in England right now, basically, economic refugee? 300,000, making it France's sixth- largest city.
Is this guy wins, England is going to become its first-largest city.
GIGOT: All right.
STRASSEL: A miss to President Obama's spin of the week, this one being a speech to the United Auto Workers in which the president amazingly argued his auto bailout not only saved G.M. and Chrysler, but also saved Ford a million jobs and also saved the Midwest from another Great Depression. Somewhere in the middle of this, nowhere was it mentioned that taxpayers spent $81 billion on companies that might otherwise have gone through structured bankruptcy, or that this money went directly to the president's union allies. Sometimes the only way you can justify stuff is rewriting history.
RILEY: This is another miss to the NFL for altering its schedule to accommodate the Democratic Party. The football season typically opens on a Thursday. This year it's going to open on a Wednesday, September 5th, so as to not to interfere with President Obama's Thursday speech to the Democratic National Convention. Now, four years ago, when John McCain was speaking on a Thursday to the Republican National Convention, the NFL did not change opening day to accommodate him. I sense a not level playing field here, Paul.
GIGOT: You mean the NFL doesn't mind if it interferes with Joe Biden's speech on Wednesday night?
RILEY: I guess not.
GIGOT: All right.
And remember, if you have your own Hit or Miss, please send it to us, at jer@FOXnews.com. And be sure to visit us on the web at FOXnews.com/journal.
That's it for this week's edition of the JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT. Thank to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. Hope to see you right here next week.
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