Success in early states essential for Christie campaign?; Jeb Bush's plans for his presidential bid in 2016

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," January 3, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


With voting in Iowa and New Hampshire now just a month ago, the establishment Republicans get personal.  


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-NJ., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Rubio, listen, if you're going to say you're opposed for something, how about showing up to work and vote "no"?  

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, Chris has been missing in New Jersey for half the time.  

AD NARRATOR:  Marco Rubio was missing, fund-raising in California instead.  

WALLACE:  We’ll talk with two candidates for whom the early contests could be do or die, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the onetime Republican front-runner, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Christie and Bush, only on "Fox News Sunday."

Then --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We know we can't stop every act of violence, but what if we tried to stop even one.  

WALLACE:  Our Sunday group on the president's plan to go around Congress again and take executive action on gun control, and their predictions for 2016.  

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE:  And hello again from Fox News in Washington.  

2016 is finally here.  And with the Iowa caucuses and then the New Hampshire primary just a month away, we begin the New Year with two candidates who have a lot riding on the early states: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  

First, Governor Christie, who has spent more time in New Hampshire than any of the other Republican candidates.  

Governor, happy New Year and welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."  

CHRISTIE:  Happy New Year to you, Chris, and looking forward to getting back to New Hampshire this afternoon.  

WALLACE:  Well, as we said, you went after Marco Rubio this week, saying, "Dude, show up for work or quit," which brought a lot of heavy fire.  Check it out.  


RUBIO:  Chris Christie is a funny guy, but he's never in New Jersey.  He's gone half the time.  

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The people in New Jersey want to throw him out of office.  We're going to hell and the governor of is in New Hampshire every day have been town hall meetings.  


WALLACE:  Now, New Jersey reporters have researched this.  They say you've been away from New Jersey for all or part of 72 percent of the time since you announced you were running for president.  When you look at the total, over 200 days in 2015, which raises the question -- who are you to criticize?  

CHRISTIE:  I’m on the job every day, Chris.  And what -- that’s the difference between being a governor and being a senator.  You know, I’m on the job every day.  Senator Rubio just hasn't shown up to vote.  

And, listen, I understand he can't be there for every day, he's running for president.  I get that.  But, you know, there was a $1.15 trillion spending bill which he said he was absolutely opposed to.  I would think he would take one day off of fund-raising to cast his no vote and speak on the floor to try to persuade had is colleagues.

But anybody who has been a governor, and anyone who hasn't been I understand don't understand this, I am on the job every day no matter where I am.  There's never a day off and I’m always working to help the people of New Jersey to do my job.

WALLACE:  You say you’re on the job every day, but I’ve got to tell you, and it’s something you know, you're getting hammered in New Jersey for being away so much. The Asbury Park Press issued this report card on New Year’s Day.  They gave you a "D" overall, a "D" on the economy and jobs, and a D-minus on leadership, complained about your being away so much.  And in the latest poll, your approval numbers are the worse since you became governor, 33 percent approve, 62 percent disapprove.  

Governor, these are the people of New Jersey who know you best.  

CHRISTIE:  Well, listen, I’m not shocked that a liberal newspaper gives mess those grades, but let's talk about the facts.  They gave me that grade on jobs, yet New Jersey in 2015, without the December numbers, Chris, already has had the best job growth year in the private sector it's had in 15 years, the best year since 2000.  

So, this is obviously just partisanship on their part, because if they look at the numbers, I’ve done better than the last five governors have done in New Jersey in terms of job creation.  So, they're just dead wrong on that.

And as for the other stuff, you know, the fact is whenever you're looking for a new job, your current employer gets a little miffed.  I get that.  But I was very honest with the people in New Jersey in 2013, when I ran for reelection.  I told them there was a possibility I would run for president.  

So, I’ve told them the truth and if they’re a little miffed about it now, I completely understand that.  It’s understandable, but I’m working hard to become the next president of the United States.  

WALLACE:  Well, let’s talk about that because you are surging, especially in New Hampshire.  According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, in late October, you were running ninth at 3 percent.  Now you're running fourth with 11.3 percent.  

And the question is, Governor -- what's happened?  

CHRISTIE:  I think it's paying off.  The hard work, all the time that I spent, Mary Pat has spent in the state of New Hampshire, putting forward a really clear strong vision for putting homeland security first.  

You know, Chris, when you listen to the president of the United States and he says the reason people are so anxious is because they're watching too much cable news and that the only problem with his strategy on ISIS is that if fact he needs a better PR strategy and then Mrs. Clinton says a week or two ago we're exactly where we need to be on ISIS, they want a strong federal former prosecutor and governor who understands how to get in job done.  I think that's what the people in New Hampshire are responding to, and I can tell you, I feel it in Iowa, too, just having just come back from there a few days ago.  

WALLACE:  Well, as we said, you have spent more time in New Hampshire than any of the Republican candidates, the conventional wisdom is that New Hampshire is terribly important for you, you either have to finish first or if second, you have to finish ahead of the other so-called establishment candidates like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.  

Is it win or out for you in New Hampshire?  

CHRISTIE:  Absolutely not, Chris.  I mean, listen, you said it yourself, in October, we were in ninth place in New Hampshire.  We're now, you know, third or fourth, depending on what poll you look at.  

The fact is we just need to do well there, and we need to do well in Iowa, too.  And I think we’ll do well in both places, and then we'll be able to move on, this field will be narrowed to four, five folks I suspect after New Hampshire.  We're going to be in that four or five and we're going to be ready to compete around the country.  

WALLACE:  So, not to get too process-y, but this is that time of the year.  If you were to finish behind one of the other establishment candidates like Rubio, like Bush, you could still survive?  

CHRISTIE:  Of course.  

WALLACE:  OK.  That's a quick answer.  


CHRISTIE:  Because I’m note going to see too process-y, Chris.  

WALLACE:  One of the things you pointed out is terrorism and a strong leader in fighting terrorism is a big issue.  It's one of the issues that you are running on.  Here you are at the last Republican debate.  


CHRISTIE:  We prosecuted two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world and stopped Ft. Dix by being attacked by six radicalized Muslims from a mosque in New Jersey.

I’m the only person on the stage who has filed applications under the Patriot Act, who have gone before the federal -- the Foreign Intelligence Service Court.  


WALLACE:  But critics say that you have, quite frankly, greatly exaggerated your record on this.  First, your claim that you personally went before -- we just heard you say personally went before the FISA court to get national security wiretaps.  The truth is you never did that.  

CHRISTIE:  Our office went before it.  We provided all the information and I needed to sign off on all the information to provide to the Justice Department so they could go before it and get the information we need, that we requested based on our investigation, Chris.  These are -- if you look at those criticisms, there are two things they have in common -- one, they're working for others candidates.  And two they have never done a lick of work for the Department of Justice.  

All of those people who have ever done any professional work for the Department of Justice didn't have those complaints and they knew exactly what I meant.  

WALLACE:  All right.  Second, and it's not just frankly your other rivals saying this, also independent -- New York Times, if they're not working --  


WALLACE:  If they’re not working for the other candidate, they’re certainly not favorable to you, but I don't think they're working for one of the other Republicans.  They say, The New York Times does, that you claim that you prosecuted, and we just heard the clip, two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world.  Now, I want to make it clear there's no question you have a report of fighting terrorism, but those particular cases that you cite were both FBI stings where the people involved were under surveillance for months.  Well, it was the Lakhani case and Ft. Dix case and there was nothing close to an actual attack, sir.  

CHRISTIE:  Chris, you're half right.  

The Lakhani case was a sting case; but not the Ft. Dix Six case was not a sting case.  Once we received the intelligence that was done from the hard work of the people in the FBI and our office, we were then able to monitor those folks, but the plans were already under way for them to attack Ft. Dix.  

WALLACE:  But they were under surveillance --  

CHRISTIE:  So, you're just wrong on the second part.  

WALLACE:  They were under surveillance for months, were they not, sir?  

CHRISTIE:  But, Chris, that's our job.  I mean, would you rather have the Boston bombing, where people were not under surveillance, that people were killed and maimed?  

WALLACE:  No, I --  

CHRISTIE:  And those folks were planning for quite some time, too.  

That -- what we did with Ft. Dix, these were people who had already begun to plan an attack.  They had already begun to plan an attack.  They had begun to train.  We had video of them training for this attack.  We then began to surveil them.  

That’s what modern law enforcement is supposed to be, something the Obama administration obviously doesn’t understand.  And I do understand it because I’ve done it.  

And so, to try to minimize the Ft. Dix Six case is being done by The New York Times who, by the way, eight weeks ago called for me to drop out of the race.  So I hardly think they're an objective source.  

WALLACE:  Finally, I got to say, you're in mid-season form.  

Finally, President Obama --  

CHRISTIE:  Thank you, my friend.  

WALLACE:  -- is expected to announce executive action on new gun controls this week to expand background checks, and also to bar more accused domestic abusers from being able to buy guns.  Your reaction to that?  

CHRISTIE:  This president is a petulant child.  Whenever we can get what he wants because quite frankly, the American people have rejected his agenda by turning both the House and the Senate over to the Republicans, and going from 21 governors when he came into office, the 31 Republican governors now, now this president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator.  

The fact is if he wants to make changes these laws, go to Congress and convince the Congress that they're necessary.  But this is going to be another illegal executive action which I’m sure will be rejected by the courts.  And when I become president, will be stricken from executive action, by executive action I will take.  

WALLACE:  But the report seemed to case, sir, that you have flipped on gun control.  They know, critics do, in 2013 when you were running for reelection, that you signed ten bills tightening gun restrictions, including banning handgun purchases by people on the terror watch list and the NRA that year when you were running for reelection only gave you a "C".  And they say, critics do, and some of them, yes, your rivals, say that you have changed your tune on gun control since you started running for president.  

CHRISTIE:  I haven't changed my tune, Chris.  In fact, I signed is the bill that banned guns on the terror watch list.  As president, I would make sure that terror watch list was actually accurate.  But I think most Americans believe if you're on the terror watch list, you shouldn't be able to buy guns.

But I also have vetoed the 50-caliber rifle ban, I’ve also vetoed a statewide ID system.  I’ve also vetoed a reduction in the magazine ban, and I’ve also pardoned six different folks so far who have been caught up very unfairly in my view in New Jersey's gun laws.  

So, listen, the approach I’m going to take is to protect Second Amendment rights but make sure I make decisions that are in the best interests of the people of New Jersey.  I think that's what the people of the United States want.  That's the kind of president I’m going to be.  

WALLACE:  Governor, thank you.  Thanks for your time.  Happy New Year, and we will see you on the campaign trail.  

CHRISTIE:  Happy New Year to you, too, Chris, and I like forward to being on again.  

WALLACE:  Good.  

Up next, a shift in campaign strategy for Jeb Bush, as the former front-runner tries to regain his momentum.  What went wrong and how does he turn it around?  That's next.  


WALLACE:  Jeb Bush shook up his campaign again this week, cancelling ad buys in Iowa and South Carolina, and deploying almost all his head quarter staff to the early voting states.  There's growing talk in the Bush camp New Hampshire may now be a must-win state.  

Governor Bush joins us from Miami.  

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


WALLACE:  Let's start where we left off with Chris Christie.  Your thoughts about President Obama's planned executive actions on gun control.  

BUSH:  Well, I haven't seen them, but his first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it’s wrong.  And to use executive powers he doesn’t have is a pattern that' is quite dangerous.  It's not a surprise that people don't believe that our government is working on their behalf any more when you have a president that recklessly uses executive authority that the Constitution doesn’t provide him.

A better approach would be the approach that I had when I was governor of the state Florida, where we focused on punishing people that committed crimes with guns, but we enhanced and protected the Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens.  

WALLACE:  But, Governor, let’s talk about a couple of these specific ideas that it seems from all the reporting that President Obama is likely to propose as early as this week.  Expand the number of gun sellers who have to conduct background checks.  Expand the number of accused domestic abusers who are barred from buys guns.  

Governor, what's wrong with those specific ideas?  

BUSH:  Well, because you don't know the details, but the so-called gun show loophole which I think what he’s talking about doesn't exist.  People that want to sell random -- you know, occasionally sell guns ought to have the right to do so without being impaired by the federal government.  If states want to create specific rules around that kind of behavior -- fine.  

As it relates to domestic violence, the state of Florida when I was governor did exactly what he's suggesting, but this top-down driven approach doesn't create freedom, doesn't create safety, doesn't create security.  And that's what we ought to be focused on.  

WALLACE:  But let’s go back, because you're saying basically you agree with him on the domestic abuse.  You just don’t like the way --

BUSH:  No, because he can't do it by executive order, Chris.

WALLACE:  I understand you don't like the process.  

BUSH:  I went to the legislature.  I got it passed and I signed into law, and it was a good law and people are safer because of it.  

WALLACE:  But what about the background checks?  And again, we're not talking about the father selling a .22 to his gun.  But if somebody --

BUSH:  How do you know?  

WALLACE:  -- if somebody sells a few guns and wants to sell a gun to somebody, who does it hurt for the seller -- or rather the buyer to go through a background check?  

BUSH:  If it's just an occasional question where you're getting federal license from a person who’s going to sell one or two guns, I think that's completely inappropriate.  We’re a bottom up country, we’re not a top-down country.  

And he doesn't have the authority to do this, anyway.  If it's such a great idea, let him go to Congress.  

My belief is, the best approach is to have the laws be thoroughly vetted at the state level.  And that's why I’m proud of the fact I have perhaps the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment record as a governor of any state in the country.  It’s why I was statesman of the year of the NRA.  I received an award from Charlton Heston about 10 years ago.

And we cut down gun violence at the same time.  That should be the approach.  

WALLACE:  You started 2015 as the front-runner with about $100 million in your super PAC war chest, but things changed during the course of 2015.  As late as July, you led the field nationally with almost 18 percent.  Now, you're running sixth nationally, and you've seen basically the same drop in Iowa and New Hampshire.  And all of this, Governor, while you and your campaign and your super PAC has spent about a third of the campaign dollars that were spent in 2015 and you and your super PAC has spent double what any other Republican candidate has spent.  

Which raises the question -- what happened to your campaign this last year, sir?  

BUSH:  Well, I’m going to focus on what's going to happen in the next month in the Iowa caucuses and then ten days after that in New Hampshire.  That’s our focus right now.  And in South Carolina, we're building a strong team, voter contacts is really what counts in those states.  We're surging in terms of identifying voters and going at it.  

As you said, we moved many of the people in our headquarters out to these early states.  Advertising in this world doesn't work to the same extent it probably did in the past, and so, we're making adjustments.  

That's what I’m focused on.  I’m focused on my proven record and the need to have a person with a steady hand that can be able to take on these big challenges going forward and have specific plans to fix the mess in Washington, D.C., and grow our economy again and keep us safe.  

WALLACE:  But part of -- if you're going to fix the mess in Washington is learning from mistakes, and fixing in this case your own campaign.  And I guess the question is, did you squander of advantages that you had early in 2015?  Did you fail to come up with a compelling message for voters?  Did you fail to show up in the early debates, sir?

I mean, I understand you want to talk about the future, but the past does give some indication as to what went wrong and what you need to improve.  

BUSH: Look, Chris, I respect your world.  Your world is all about process.  

My world is about connecting with voters in these early states to build momentum.  We have a national campaign.  We're going to be on every ballot in every state.  That's not a hard thing to do.  Not every candidate has done that and now, we're focused on Iowa and New Hampshire.  

We've had made the adjustments because that’s the reality that we’re in today.  And I’m very optimistic that when people see my record and see the ideas you have and see my personality, my character as a candidate and they can envision someone like me can be president during these incredibly dangerous times that we’re in, that I’m going to do fine.

WALLACE:  But, sir, respectfully again, it is not about process.  You talked about connecting with voters.  I think the polls would indicate you failed to connect with voters in 2015.  Why is that?


BUSH:  Well, Chris, let's let -- let’s let people in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada decide that.  Nevadans I think have a right to be able to make that decision, not the pundits' request.  And that's my point.  

WALLACE:  OK.  Back in 2014, when you were considering a run for president, you said the key was, could you run campaign for president, joyfully?  It's a theme that you repeated often.  Here you are.  


BUSH:  Can you do it, in my case, that means can one do it joyfully?  Can -- without tied to all of the convention of the politics of the here and now.  


WALLACE:  Governor, do you still feel that way, that you need to campaign joyfully?  

BUSH:  Yes, and I do that.  I’m excited about the future of this country if we fix a few big complex things.  The joy in my heart relates to the greatness of this country.  I believe in the greatness of our country and I believe in its future, but Washington, D.C. is broken.  And the joy I have is the prospect of being president to fix the mess in Washington and then work with Congress on how we tax and regulate, and build a security system around us so that we can be kept safe again.  

WALLACE:  The reason I asked is we looked at a couple of your recent ads just in the last month, and we some found clips on them.  I'd like to play them.  These are ads not from the super PAC but from the Bush campaign in the last couple weeks.  


JOHN HEILEMANN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS:  Are you an Old Testament guy or New Testament guy?

TRUMP:  Probably equal.  

MARTHA MCCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  One of the things you didn't take an opportunity to do last night was really go after Donald Trump.  

MODERATOR:  Senator Cruz, you have not been willing to attack Mr. Trump in public, but you questioned his judgment --

TRUMP:  You better not attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jeb Bush was the only one who try to do go after Donald Trump.  


WALLACE:  I mean, you couldn't see them, Governor, but in the course of those ads, you attacked Trump, Rubio, Cruz.  And I guess the question is, what happened to joyful?  

BUSH:  You can be joyful and also point out the differences.  I want to be president of the United States, so that I can fix these things.  Donald Trump I don't believe is going to be the party's nominee.  If he is, he's going to get crushed by Hillary Clinton, and I wanted to point that out.

He said some things that are just outrageous.  His views on policy have shifted with the winds.  He is a strong supporter until recently of Hillary Clinton and now, he’s the front running candidate for the Republican nomination?  Someone has to call him out.  

WALLACE:  As we mentioned at the beginning, you have shifted really the third overhaul of your campaign in 2015.  You have basically ended, canceled all of your ad buys in Iowa and South Carolina.  You've deployed almost all of your headquarter staff to the early states.  

Same question I asked Chris Christie.  New Hampshire would seem to be terribly important for you.  Don't you have to finish first or at least ahead of the other so-called establishment candidates?  

BUSH:  Look, I have no control over the -- how you measure, you know, who's up and who's down.  I’m going to focus on doing the best I can.  I believe we’re going to do really well in New Hampshire and that's my goal.  I have a campaign organization in every state of the country.  We’re going to be on the ballot everywhere.  This could go a long, long way.  

I have no clue about that.  I just have to act on my heart and work as hard as I can.  And I’m excited about the start of this New Year and look forward to campaigning hard in Iowa and in New Hampshire and in South Carolina and Nevada.  

WALLACE:  But -- and, final question, sir, you were the one as head of the campaign who made the decision.  Why did you decide to cancel the ad buys in two states, keep them up in New Hampshire, and basically get everybody out of the headquarters in Florida?  

BUSH:  Well, based on the fact -- based on what we know, the Right to Rise PAC continues to do advertising on television, and we ought to be focused on voter contact.  And so, it was an adjustment based on the reality of where we are.  That's how leaders lead.  

WALLACE:  Does that indicate that you think you have less of a chance in Iowa and South Carolina, putting more eggs in New Hampshire?  

BUSH:  No.  No, because we're excited about Iowa and South Carolina as well.  

Look, we want to go identify every voter and make sure they go out to vote.  The way you do that is the old-fashioned way in these early states.  And that's the mission and that’s the objective, and I’m pretty confident about where we are.  

WALLACE:  Governor, thank you.  Happy New Year.  Safe travels on the campaign trail, sir.  

BUSH:  Look forward to seeing you.  

WALLACE:  Up next, our Sunday group tackles President Obama's plan to use executive action again, this time to impose tougher gun controls.  

Plus, what would you like to ask the panel about the president going it alone.  Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday, and we may use your question on the air.  


WALLACE:  Coming up, our Sunday group weighs in on the face-off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  


TRUMP:  And the husband’s one of the greatest abusers of the world.  

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We shouldn't let anybody bully his way into the presidency.  


WALLACE:  How will their fight play with women voters?  

That’s next on "Fox News Sunday."



OBAMA:  A few months ago, I directed my team at the White House to look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence.  And on Monday, I’ll meet with our attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to discuss our options.  


WALLACE:  President Obama in his weekly address on his plan to take executive action on gun control, likely as soon as this week.  

And it’s time now for our Sunday group: radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, Susan Page of USA Today, head of Heritage Action for America, Michael Needham, and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers.  

Happy New Year to all of you.

We asked you for a questions for the panel and we got one on -- actually a bunch but like this one on Facebook from Jack Abbatiello.  He writes, "Do you think Congress will stand up to Obama's lawless executive action on gun control?  Or will we have to vote out the GOP leadership this year?"

Laura, how do you answer Jack both about the president's executive actions, and also about what, if anything, congressional Republicans can do?  

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact laws.  The president has abused this power.  The Republicans have largely allowed him to do so.  On this issue, given where the Republican Party and Republican voters are, if the Republicans do not stand up to this in a meaningful and smart way, with facts, debunking all the lies, the gun show loopholes, Jeb Bush was right about that -- if they do not do that, I think you would not be able to underestimate the wrath of the American voter next November in a lot of the key Senate races, which I know we've talked about before on the show.

This is an issue about liberty and about law-abiding gun owners stopping crime, being allowed to live in freedom.  You want to give a gift of a gun to a son, and now the federal government wants to create perhaps a national database, which would allow this gun control legislation through executive action to be meaningful.  They would need a national database for gun owners, 300 million guns in the United States today.  Look at what Texas did at the end of the year.  They have a new pro-Second Amendment legislative regime in place in Texas.  Similarly in Florida, they're considering the same concealed-carry law.  

So I think the president is trying to overreach in his last year in Congress.  

WALLACE:  What I heard you say is stand up and then you said, well, they should have facts or hearings.  Is there any way they can stop it?

INGRAHAM:  They'll have to go to the courts.  I mean, and we know the course now are very unreliability on some of these constitutional issues.  and I think it has to become a campaign issue for 2016.  


WALLACE:  So in terms of the president's action, because if it's a court, it certainly will not get done before Barack Obama leaves office.  They cannot stop him.

INGRAHAM:  That's why we don't want to fund the government through like next September/October.  That's why you don't take funding off the table.  That's why you don't unilaterally disarm yourself in these types of debates, which is what grassroots conservatives have complained about, vis a vis folks like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  This is going to bring up a whole series of issues, with a split within the Republican Party on tactics.  Not so much on substance, but on tactics.  

WALLACE:  Kirsten.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY:  There's two different audiences for this, of course.  It's not surprising that the Republican base will be upset about this if President Obama does it, but the country overall in terms of gun rights has sort of moved more in favor of having some sort of curbs on gun rights, which is a shift.  It hasn't always been that way.  And we've seen it I think with Hillary starting to shift how she's talking about gun rights from 2008 to now.  She's much more in favor of some sort of gun control.  And I think, you know, if you look at universal background checks, that has 90 percent approval rating in this country, so it's not something that is really I think is going to be seen by most Americans as some major constitutional crisis, as I think it will be seen -- I agree with Laura, it will be seen that way among the base of the Republican Party and probably very good for Donald Trump, if you want to look at it politically.  

MICHAEL NEEDHAM, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA:  A national gun registry though doesn't have that support.  When people talk about universal background checks, that's code for a national gun registry, which is what's necessary to actually set it up.  President Obama is actually getting what he wants out of this conversation, though.  This entire conversation about gun control is a distraction from the real issue that makes Americans unsafe right now.  That's radical Islamic terrorism.  President Obama's foreign policy is a failure.  He's distracting from the failure of his foreign policy by talking about gun control.  None of the gun control measures he talks about would have done anything to stop any of the tragedies that we have seen during the last couple of years.  So this is a distraction from the real issue, which is the failure of the policy of leading from behind that summarizes Barack Obama's foreign policy.  

WALLACE:  The place where these two kind of get together, Susan, is after San Bernardino, on the one hand, Kirsten is right, on some issues like a background check, people generally favor that.  On the other hand, there was an explosion in gun sales after San Bernardino, because people are afraid, and even -- I saw a report on the news today, that after news of the executive action, there was a gun show out in Virginia, and people were there like more than usual to buy guns, because they're worried their guns are going to be taken away or they won't be able to buy new guns.

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY:  Just to be clear, we don't know precisely what President Obama is going to propose.  I don't believe he's proposed a national gun registry to date.  There were some cases, including in a Morgantown case, where the lack of a background check had an effect.  A convicted felon bought a gun that he used to kill four people through Facebook, not subject to a  background check.

That aside, I think the politics have gotten incredibly complicated, because as Kristen said, nine out of ten Americans support universal background checks.  On the other hand, there was a poll about a month ago that showed a plurality of Americans we'll be safer if we got more guns rather than restricted guns more.  So people I think are divided on this issue.

I would look not for what President Obama does.  I would look for what Hillary Clinton does, because she's running for election.  She hopes to be running for president.  Does she continue to take -- to lean forward into this issue in a way that Democrats have not done for about a generation?

WALLACE:  I was going to say, it's a good issue for a Democrat in a primary, particularly against Bernie Sanders, who is more conservative on guns.  It has not, at least in the 2000s, have been a good issue--

PAGE:  (INAUDIBLE) support is with people who oppose new restrictions on guns, even when a majority of Americans support some of those restrictions.  

INGRAHAM:  Crime has gone down across the country.  There have been spikes in murder rates.  Chicago, they just released the statistics, 50 more murders than in 2014, most strict antigun jurisdiction in Chicago.  The 90 percent statistics of all supporting background checks, that's been debunked.  Lots of the myths about gun ownership are perpetrated by people who never much liked the Second Amendment in the first place, and who have a vested interest in amassing more power in Washington, D.C.

This is about power.  It's not about liberty.  It's not about keeping people safe.  Columbine is the only thing they can point to that would have been changed with gun control.  And that was the transfer of a weapon that was illegally modified under the '94 assault weapons ban.  Newtown wouldn't have been stopped.  Gabby Giffords wouldn't have been stopped, Aurora wouldn't have been stopped, Navy Yard would not have been stopped, so you're going to hear a lot of powerful rhetoric from the president, but when you dig down into the facts and the peer-reviewed studies, it's on the side of the gun owners and the Second Amendment.  

WALLACE:  All right.  Meanwhile, the two front-runners in the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have continued their battle over the women's issue, and Donald Trump this week upped the ante considerably.  Take a look.  


CLINTON:  I don't know that he has any boundaries at all.  And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.  

TRUMP:  She wants to accuse me of things, and the husband is the one of the great abusers of the world?  Give me a break.  Give me a break.  


WALLACE:  Michael, wise or not to get back into Bill Clinton's personal history?

NEEDHAM:  Well, look, if Hillary Clinton is going to put Bill Clinton out there and have him campaign for her, then nobody's claiming that Hillary is responsible for his misdeeds, but if she's putting him out there as a spokesperson, then it's certainly going to be an issue, and I think one of the most exciting things is that you see for the first time this cycle, the Republican Party willing to be on offense, on moral issues.  You have Rand Paul in New Hampshire, who is saying that the Democrats want to come up with every single obscure instance of abortion and quiz us on that, we're going to ask Hillary Clinton why she supports the abortion of a seven-pound baby.  You have Ted Cruz leading the fight on religious liberty, saying that regardless of what you think of the Supreme Court case this past summer, it's absurd to say that a 70-year-old grandmother should be forced to bake a cake, and I think that if Hillary Clinton wants to put Bill Clinton out there, as one of the leading advocates for her presidency, it's valid to point out that there's nobody who has done more to degrade women or the office of the president of the United States than Bill Clinton.  

WALLACE:  How do you think that works?  I mean, there are even some liberal columnists this week who said he's fair game.  And they also questioned Hillary Clinton and the fact that in a lot of these cases she may have enabled Bill Clinton, because she ended up attacking the women who made allegations about Bill Clinton.  

PAGE:  So Ruth Marcus, our friend Ruth Marcus, made this point.  I think it's fine, I think it's fair game to talk about Bill Clinton.  Is it smart politics?  I think probably not.  Didn't we see this movie before in 1998, when Bill Clinton himself was the figure at the center, not his spouse, got impeached, contributed to historic Democratic gains in the 1998 midterms?  So I think Donald Trump should feel free to attack him, but I question whether this is going to rebound to his benefit, in a general election where independent-minded women, including moderate Republican women, may be in play and are key to the election.  

INGRAHAM:  Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, these are real people.  Their lives were forever changed.  


INGRAHAM:  Monica Lewinsky.  Juanita Broaddrick actually claims that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her.  I interviewed her in years past, contemporaneous corroboration of what she went through.  These are real people.  

We have a lot of feminists out there watching, I think a few at least, and they care about women.  I'm not saying this is going to be the focus of the campaign, or necessarily that it should be, but the idea that somehow Bill Clinton is this vaunted figure that he should be taken off the realm of possible, you know, subject matters and discussion, he will be the co-president, he's going to be the most trusted adviser of Hillary Clinton, in a manner of speaking.  A former president of the United States.  He's not going to be the focus of the campaign, but the idea that you can't talk about this?  My question is why aren't other Republican candidates making the speeches of the Clintons, the amassing of the wealth through the Clinton foundation, possibility use of influence from other countries, trying to donate to the Clinton foundation?  These are real topics.  The other issue is going to be brought up, but it shouldn't be something like oh, it's a black box you can't go into.  

WALLACE:  Finally, I cannot let this pass.  Put this up.  Carly Fiorina tweeted this on New Year's Day.  "Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today."  Here is the back story.  Fiorina went to Stanford University, good school.  It just so happened that very same day, Stanford was playing the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl.  Two footnotes.  Stanford crushed Iowa, 45:16, and on Twitter, I'm told by people who understand these things, there were two items trending later that day.  One was pandering, and the other was #carlycurse.  As a proud graduate of Stanford, Michael, your thoughts.  

NEEDHAM:  It was pandering.  I think it reminds people that a lot of Republican establishment politicians love throwing their base under the bus to try to appeal to a new constituency.  And that's what she did.  I think people want politicians who are going to speak truth.  The truth is that Stanford proved they should have been in the BCS playoffs.  The truth is that Christian McCaffrey should have won the Heisman trophy --


WALLACE:  I have to say I find it odd that the big insignia -- what kind of a tree is it?  

NEEDHAM:  It's a -- it's a California redwood.  It used to be --


NEEDHAM:  Remember, in 2008, Rudy Giuliani came out and said he was supporting the Boston Red Sox, in the World Series, the biggest Yankee fan in the world.


WALLACE:  We have to take a break here.  

When we come back, the action really begins as our Sunday group gives us their predictions for 2016.  You won't want to miss it.  


WALLACE:  We have a tradition around here to have the panel make some predictions for the new year on a range of topics and under the heading often in error, but never in doubt.  Let's get to it.  Politics first.  Laura?  

INGRAHAM:  I think the highlight of the Democratic National Convention will be the speech by former President Bill Clinton.  And I think for three Republican conventions in a row, Republicans will not hear from a former Republican president.  

WALLACE:  That of course means the only living former presidents are the Bushes, so no Bushes?

INGRAHAM:  No Bushes.  If Jeb is the nominee, I think he wants to be his own man.  And if Cruz or Trump or Christie, I don't see it.  

PAGE:  Interesting.  My prediction on politics is it's going to be a three-way race.  If Trump gets the nomination, there will be establishment Republican, who offers an alternative to voters.  if Trump doesn't get the nomination, somebody else, Trump, maybe somebody else runs instead to show how mad they are at the establishment.  

WALLACE:  Basically you're saying there would be two Republican/conservative.  

PAGE:  The party is too split to hold it together.  

WALLACE:  Is that a guarantee that Hillary --

PAGE:  Likely.  

WALLACE:  Really?

PAGE: That's not actually part of my prediction.  But yeah.

WALLACE:  That's a new prediction.  Michael, politics.

NEEDHAM:  Nikki Haley has been a phenomenal governor of South Carolina.  She's given the economy room to flourish, she's shown grace in leadership in crisis in South Carolina.  She also understands the dynamic of the grassroots versus the establishment.  When she ran for governor, she was opposed by a sitting congressman, a lieutenant governor and attorney general.  Nikki Haley is the best qualified and she will be the Republican nominee for vice president.  

WALLACE:  South Carolina is a pretty safe Republican state, why not go for Ohio or Florida or something like that?  

NEEDHAM:  They need somebody who can show they understand this divide, between the grassroots and the establishment, somebody who's been a proven executive leadership, somebody who's shown the new face of the South and the Republican Party.  Nikki Haley is that person.  

WALLACE:  And a woman?  

NEEDHAM:  And a woman.  

WALLACE:  Kirsten.

POWERS:  I'll take Susan's one step further, and say sanity will take hold in the Republican Party and Trump will not get the nomination, and he will run as a third party candidate, claiming that he's been mistreated by the Republican Party.

WALLACE:  And again, that would mean Hillary Clinton would win, according to this?  

POWERS:  Theoretically, yes.  

WALLACE:  And what about the possibility of a Democratic third or fourth-party candidacy like Jim Webb?  

POWERS:  If it happens, it won't impact the race in any way.  

WALLACE:  Okay.  Sorry, Mr. Webb.  Economy, Laura?  

INGRAHAM:  I think once again, we'll see median income in the United States not peak since its 1999 levels.  I think once again on the economy, we'll see a trade deficit with China that is exceeding $300 billion as it has for the last many number of years.  I don't think we'll see much of a change at all despite lots of rosy predictions about America's economic return.  The middle class still in my mind rules this election.  What's happened to them, people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, I think it's going to dominate both with Hillary and with the Republican nominee.  

WALLACE:  Susan?  

PAGE:  So if a three-way race is good news for Hillary, this would be very bad news for Hillary, and that is a recession in 2016.  Our recovery already, while it hasn't felt like much of a recovery for a lot of Americans, is what economists call mature, third longest recovery since World War II.  Possible we'll see a downturn, and that would be devastating for the candidate of the party that now holds the White House, and that would be the Democrats.  

WALLACE:  So you giveth in the last and you taketh away in this one.  

Michael, are you equally bearish on the economy?  

NEEDHAM:  I am.  I think it is also going to be a terrible year for America's fraudulent monetary policy.  You just saw the Fed raise interest rates.  They say they're going to raise the interest rates four times by a quarter of a point in 2016.  What the opiate of ultra-low interest rates has done for the last couple of years is it's pushed forward consumer spending, it's delayed business failure.  Both of those things are going to reverse.  I think it's quite likely you have a recession in order to preserve the chance of a Hillary presidency, to preserve the facade of Keynesian monetary policy working, you'll have the Fed back off of those monetary policies, those interest rates.  The Federal Reserve rate will more likely be closer to zero than their target of 1.375 percent.

WALLACE:  Kirsten, give us some good news?  

POWERS:  I can give you some good news, yes.  We're on track, the economy is on track to reach full employment in 2016, which would be the point at which everybody who wants to be working would be working.  

WALLACE:  And what would that be as a number?  

POWERS:  5 percent unemployment rate and a 9 percent underemployment rate.  

WALLACE:  What are they missing that you see?  

POWERS:  I don't know.  


POWERS:  But this is generally agreed among most economists, and this is something that hasn't happened in a decade, so it's actually a very key marker in terms of the strength of the economy.

WALLACE:  And you think the recovery continues through 2016?  

POWERS:  I think (INAUDIBLE) one prediction, really?  I have to do the whole economy?  I feel very sure about this, about the full employment.  We have to see the other issues in the economy, but I think the economy is pretty -- is fundamentally turning around.  

WALLACE:  Okay.  Sports, Laura?  

INGRAHAM:  Alabama will win the national championship on January 11 in Phoenix.  It is going to be a great night in sports.  I'm from Connecticut.  UConn women's basketball will once again win the NCAA women's championship.  

WALLACE:  I have to say once again, because they have won it three years in a row and ten out of the last 20.  So I am not sure I can give you high marks.

INGRAHAM:  I don't care.  I'm from Connecticut.  My mother was a Bear Bryant fan, Alabama is going to win the national championship, but I have to stick with my UConn Huskies.  

WALLACE:  UConn women.  Susan.

PAGE:  So if a recession is bad for Hillary Clinton, here is a sporting event that would be good for Hillary Clinton--


PAGE:  -- which is the Chicago Cubs, the first time in 107 years wins the World Series.  She's been a fan of the Cubs since she was a child.  This would happen just days before the election.  

WALLACE:  I have to say I somewhat share Michael's skepticism on this.  Because I think when she moved to New York, suddenly she was a Mets or a Yankees fan.  

NEEDHAM:  Exactly.  

PAGE:  But she never gave up being a Cubs fan.  As she will tell you I'm sure when they win the World Series.

WALLACE:  Michael.

NEEDHAM:  The Cubs should stick to a more realistic goal like winning a playoff game versus the Mets.  There's not a single player who deserves the World Series ring more than David Wright.  Michael Conforto is going to emerge as a force from both sides of the plate.  The Mets pitching staff is phenomenal.  Noah Syndergaard with his 95-mile-an-hour fastball is going to capture the hearts of New Yorkers.  The New York Mets will win the 2016 World Series.

WALLACE:  For those of you who don't live in New York, those are all Mets players whom you haven't heard of before.  I always enjoy this, because Kirsten doesn't know and doesn't care about sports, and we always make her come up with one.  Go ahead.

POWERS:  If you have any issues with this, you can take it up with Steve Hayes, because he told me this.  The Washington Capitals will win the Stanley Cup.  

WALLACE:  Can you name two players on the Capitols?  

POWERS:  No.  You're not allowed follow-up questions.  

WALLACE:  Can you name one player on the Capitols?  

POWERS:  Call Steve.  

WALLACE:  What?  

POWERS:  Call Steve.  

WALLACE:  Oh, call Steve?  I thought it was a Russian name.  


WALLACE:  Entertainment.  Laura.

INGRAHAM:  Hamilton is going to dominate the Tony Awards, it's going to continue to be the most talked about play on Broadway in probably a couple of decades, and everyone should go out and see it.  

WALLACE:  I have to tell you, as somebody who was lucky enough to go see it, it is fabulous.  If you -- to go to a musical and hear them singing about writing the Federalist Papers, it's pretty darn special.  Susan.

PAGE:  Hamilton was incredible.  Here is what -- the film that's going to get nominated and I hope win best picture in the Oscars and that's "Spotlight."  It is the best movie I've ever seen about how reporters actually do their jobs, why it matters, the difference it can make, in holding the powerful to account, when you have a community newspaper, a local newspaper in this case, "The Boston Globe," doing the job that journalists are supposed to do.  

WALLACE:  This was "The Boston Globe" basically finding out and uncovering what the Roman archdiocese had done to protect priests who abused children.  

PAGE:  And led to revelations across the globe of some more scandals.  

WALLACE:  Michael.  

NEEDHAM:  Hollywood's big blockbuster of the spring is "Batman Versus Superman," and the premise is that Batman goes from Gotham to Metropolis, as a check on the ultimate power of the caped crusader.

WALLACE:  How do you know this?  

NEEDHAM:  I read it on Wikipedia.  The only catch is that it's laughable to think that Superman is going to be intimidated by Ben Affleck.  Especially coming off of the Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale "Batman."  It will be fundamentally unserious.  Ben Affleck will go down as Hollywood's worst Batman.  

WALLACE:  OK. Kirsten.  

POWERS:  A movie called "13 Hours" by Michael Bay is coming out.  It's about the Benghazi attack on 9/11.  And it's a terrific movie, but it's also very fair, it's very evenhanded, and I think a pretty true telling to what happened.  

WALLACE:  This is about the CIA operatives at the annex, who were prevented or delayed in getting to the consulate?  

POWERS:  Exactly.  I think it's not overly political.  It takes a pretty light touch.  That said, because I think it pretty accurately portrays things, it's going to become the recipient of a smear campaign by people on the left (INAUDIBLE).

WALLACE:  And just before Iowa and New Hampshire, coming up this month.

All right, panel, we have to step aside again.  But when we come back, we'll get one final prediction from each of you, for 2016.  And there are some surprises.  


WALLACE:  Well, that is pretty.  A look outside the Beltway, at snow-covered Woodbury County, Iowa, north of Sioux City, just 29 days before the first in the nation voting starts there.  And our crack research team has found out that the tree is a redwood, and it's actually the mascot of the Stanford band, so you can all go on with your day.

All right, panel.  One final prediction for 2016, this time you get to choose the topic.  Laura, you start.  

INGRAHAM:  I think the question is whether the establishment Republicans can hold on for another presidential term in this presidential election cycle, or whether the country and the party is going to move in a more populist, more nationalist economic direction.  That is the fundamental divide.  I think it's been papered over to some extent in recent elections, but that's where we are right now in the Republican Party.  You also see it happening across Europe.  Different extents, different types of movements, but there's a sense that things just aren't all that fair, and that a lot of the people in the middle or lower working poor just can't get ahead, even though in the global economy, a lot of people can get really rich.

WALLACE:  And very briefly, does the party split apart over this issue?  

INGRAHAM:  I don't -- I don't know.  I don't know how to predict that.  Btu I think now the power -- the money is with the establishment, as usual, and the power is with the people.  

WALLACE:  Susan?  

PAGE:  You know, we would expect this to be a year in which nothing gets done in Washington, because for one thing generally nothing gets down in Washington, and also we have a presidential election going on, but I think it's possible that we'll have a situation that's kind of an odd bedfellows arrangement between a lame-duck president, the reluctant new speaker, to actually get some things done on the Pacific trade deal, maybe on a tax bill?  

WALLACE:  Obama and Paul Ryan?  

PAGE:  Obama and Paul Ryan, especially if the presidential race looks like it's a blowout.  If it's a three-way race, with the kind of division we talked about earlier, it could be like 1996.  You remember the Republicans in Congress worked with the Democratic president in order to get things done, because they had given up on their presidential candidate.  

WALLACE:  Michael.

NEEDHAM:  That sounds like a recipe for a Hillary Clinton presidency, but I actually think what you'll see is a Republican Party that unifies around a very much pro-free enterprise, anti-Washington, D.C. populist message.  It will unify the party and it will actually win at the ballot box.  A majority of Americans will deliver a conservative mandate, and what that will force is the cronies at the Chamber of Commerce and elsewhere here in Washington, D.C., to choose whether they want to join an optimistic free enterprise party, or whether they want to go to the Democrats and play the pandering politics--  

WALLACE:  Very briefly, flip it around, if the establishment wins, does your wing of the party bolt?

NEEDHAM:  I think that if the establishment wins, then we'll have a continued debate about whether this should be a party that just plays the kind of cronyism politics that the Democrats are doing a perfectly capable job of, or whether we become a free enterprise party.

WALLACE:  Kirsten.  

POWERS:  I think that what was once referred to as Bill Clinton's bimbo eruptions, which now sounds like something that (INAUDIBLE) say today, are going to become problems for Hillary during the campaign.  The conventional wisdom says this has all been hashed out, and nobody cares about it anymore, but I think if we look at the Bill Cosby situation, we can see the country has definitely changed in terms of how we look at these issues, and these are serious allegations, and her role in them at well.  

WALLACE:  All right, thank you, all, panel.  I predict it is going to be a great 2016 in a Republican contest that's already broken all the rules, and then a fascinating and important general election.  We hope you will stick with us every step of the way.  And a quick program note: As the countdown to Iowa continues next week, I'll sit down with the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump.

And that's it for today.  Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."

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