Is Rick Perry His Own Biggest Problem in His Campaign?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now the dueling flat taxes. Governor Rick Perry releases his tax plan, a flat tax of 20 percent. Do you like that? Well, don't decide yet. Speaker Gingrich says he has a flat tax plan and his is only 15 percent. Anyone for 10?

Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume joins us. Brit, before we get to these tax plans, who would have guessed, but the birther issue is now -- Governor Perry brought that up again.

BRIT HUME, FOX SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there's no gain in this issue for Republicans, for any Republican. This is an issue that has been settled to the satisfaction of every reasonable person in America. Here's a guy comes out with an interesting new tax plan that gives some content to his campaign, which was kind of lacking, and he steps on it by wading into this issue. A big mistake.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did he do that? It's just, like -- just careless?

HUME: I think, you know, he's new to the national scene. He may not have followed this controversy closely.

VAN SUSTEREN: He couldn't have missed it!

HUME: Well, you'd think -- you know, he seemed to be familiar with it to some extent. I just think he -- you know, he makes mistakes. He's new. He's a rookie candidate in national politics, and rookies make mistakes. Herman Cain's made a few. Same problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's go to Governor Perry's plan, 20 percent flat tax. And of course, his plan, like everybody else's, is a little bit dependent on a robust economy. Your thoughts on this 20 percent plan?

HUME: Well, he says his plan would help generate a robust economy, and a lot of conservatives and Republicans will agree with that, that lower tax rates will help to grow the economy.

He gives you the choice. If you like the current level of taxes you're paying and it's a better deal for you than 20 percent, you can opt for the present system. There will be criticism of this plan, Greta, because there will be people who doubt that it will raise enough revenue to finance the government. But it gives this man...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me ask you, how could it, though? Because if you're paying more than 20 percent, you opt for his.

HUME: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you're paying less than 20 percent, you opt for the old one.

HUME: Well, if everybody gets a tax cut, you're going to end up with less revenue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right. So right away, I mean, by giving -- by giving the option, you're right away guaranteeing you're not going to have enough money (INAUDIBLE).

HUME: Well, the only thing that could cover that would be a surge in growth that would bring in a gusher of tax receipts. This has happened before. This is the way it works.

But when you score the -- when the Congressional Budget Office, for example, another official government agency, score, that is to say tote up the consequences of these programs, they don't do that kind of analysis. They don't take account of potential growth growth, really. They do kind of what they call static analysis. And static analysis is likely to show that this will produce a revenue shortfall.

Same with his Social Security idea. You know, he wants to let people have private accounts, much as former president Bush proposed. The problem is, if you do that, it takes that money that would go into those accounts out of the Social Security trust fund and it is therefore unavailable to pay current benefits, which are -- and we're running short of money to do that anyway. So it blows a hole that, you know, he's got to find a way to fill.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm wondering, though, how much the American people are willing to sort of, you know, take a risk on something like that, as compared to there may be other programs that don't quite -- I mean, this -- this -- this opportunity to use your old -- the old system, I think, makes his system much riskier than, for instance, even Speaker Gingrich's, which is a lower amount. You know, we're told so many things, like I remember with the stimulus -- and that's a different party and a different idea, but the unemployment rate was going to go down to 8 percent.

HUME: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that...

HUME: Yes, stable at 8 percent, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. I mean, like -- I mean, it's really -- I think it's sort of -- it's a harder sell now to the American people as to what people tell us is going to happen.

HUME: Well, remember, the first sale that Rick Perry needs to make is to the voters in the Republican Party. And I think they'll find the idea of a flat, simple tax plan very appealing. And a lot of Americans do, too. It polls -- you'd be surprised, these flat tax proposals poll pretty well. Now...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why wouldn't -- why wouldn't Speaker Gingrich's poll better? It's lower, number one, and it doesn't have the alternatives, as far as I know.

HUME: When he introduced his plan, I didn't hear about it. I don't think any of us heard very much about it. It's only now that we're beginning to hear about it, now that Herman Cain got traction with "9-9-9," which was not as simple as Perry's, but nonetheless, a simpler idea than what we have now. And now Speaker Gingrich's idea is beginning to be heard more.

He didn't really emphasize it all that much. He is beginning to now, and maybe he'll get some traction for it. Perry gets a big splash out of this. It's -- you know, it's kind of long-awaited. It's much-needed because the problem with Perry's campaign in part has been that it wasn't about anything but him. And you know, that isn't enough anymore.

Now he comes out with an energy plan. That's interesting. A lot of people find that interesting. Now he's got this tax plan. It gives him something to talk about besides, I'm Rick Perry, I'm from Texas, we have a lot of jobs in Texas, vote for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except that as you mentioned at the beginning (INAUDIBLE) talking about the -- his remark about saying the birther thing more than...

HUME: Well, there's a problem with that. I mean...


HUME: ... doing these things and you want to say the guy needs something that's very hard for some politicians to adopt, and that's real self-discipline.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Then you have Governor Romney's program, 59 points, which is a little -- which is sort of complicated.

HUME: Oh, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we -- and I think, you know, when it gets complicated, you sort of run into trouble with viewers and you know...

HUME: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean with voters.

HUME: Well, you can't -- you're not going to -- I mean, you won't find a single voter in America that doesn't work for Mitt Romney that can recite all 59 points. I doubt if he can. It's all the ideas -- and I've read through it -- all that ideas (INAUDIBLE) ideas that would generally appeal to Republican voters, and maybe to a lot of other voters, as well. But it's awfully complicated and it -- and it's hard to make a slogan out of. 9-9-9 is a slogan, 20 percent tax rate, that -- you can make a slogan out of that. And unfortunately, it's necessary at times to have something very simple and catchy that you can run on.

VAN SUSTEREN: So -- so Governor Romney has a complicated program...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... and vague.

HUME: Vague on tax rates.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and you've got the problem that he hasn't moved in the polls. And you've got Herman Cain with a simple one that people seem to have -- at least, it's catchy.

HUME: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And he's -- and he's surging upwards.

HUME: He has. I think he's made some recent mistakes that may begin to -- you know, he may begin to lose altitude. You can't predict that for sure, but I sense that may be coming.

Perry has an opportunity here. He dug himself a deep hole. He's trying to climb out of it with some substance, which is the right way to do it. If he doesn't, you know, step on himself too many times talking about distractions like, you know, birther issues, he may have a shot at making a recovery. Won't be easy. He's way down. But he's got a shot.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the speaker?

HUME: How about the speaker?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, how about Speaker Gingrich?

HUME: Well, the speaker is not -- it's hard for him, I think, to get a -- everybody to give him a new look. He's a familiar figure. Many people admire him, very bright guy. But I think he's hurt by the fact that he seems to be yesterday's man. And it's hard to come back from that. People are looking to the future. He may seem like yesterday's man.

VAN SUSTEREN: Brit, thank you.

HUME: A pleasure, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you for staying out so late. Thank you.

HUME: Glad to do it.