What's Behind Push for Chris Christie to Enter Presidential Race?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 27, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Over the past 24 hours speculation about a possible Christie presidential run has dominated the news, but according to reports today, the governor has decided that he will not enter the race for the White House.

Now, this news comes just hours after Todd Christie, his brother stated that, yes, Chris has no plans to step away from his current role. And he told the Star-Ledger in New Jersey, quote, "I'm sure that he's not going to run." And added, quote, "If he's lying to me, I'll be as stunned as I've ever been in my life."

And as we monitor this major development on the road to 2012, we're also keeping an eye on the podium at the Reagan Library, we'll bring you the governor's speech when it happens.

But in the meantime, joining me now with analysis from Washington, the author of The New York Times bestseller, "Courage and Consequence," the one and only architect Karl Rove. Sir, how are you?

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    KARL ROVE, AUTHOR, "COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE": I'm fantastic. How about you?

    HANNITY: All right.

    ROVE: I don't want to be at the Christie family thanksgiving party regardless of Chris Christie's decision.

    HANNITY: I don't know if I want to be there either if his brother is going out making the big announcement. First of all, I got a little preview of the speech, I don't want to reveal it, because we'll going cover a lot of it here, but a lot of people speculating, it seems that a number of wealthy donors have repeatedly knocked on his door and said, Governor, we need you to run, get in the race. So, it's really not been him, it's been a lot of people asking him.

    ROVE: Yes.

    HANNITY: What do you think of what his decision is?

    ROVE: Well, and look, it's not just wealthy donors. There have been fellow Republican governors, party activists, grassroots Republican movers and shakers. I mean, this has been a pretty interesting thing to watch. In a very short period of time, since his swearing-in in January of 2010, he's become quite a figure on the national stage, because of what he's done as governor. He took on the teachers unions. He's blunt, he's straightforward. He's the every man of American politics. And he's got a -- he's got quite a following.

    So look, I don't know whether he's going to get in or not. Given the choice between trusting his brother and waiting for the governor himself to speak, I'd rather wait for the governor himself to speak. But it's -- you know, he's an interesting figure who's clearly got the capacity to jump into this race and contest it. And I think a lot of people have been encouraging him to do so.

    HANNITY: All right. The left is advancing a narrative that I don't agree with, and that is, the reason that Republicans want Christie to get into this race is because, well, they're not confident in the field of candidates that they currently have. I don't believe that's the case. How would you respond to that?

    ROVE: Well, I agree with you. Look, in June, I think it was like 15 percent of Republicans were happy, enthusiastic about the field, which is a pretty good number for that time. Today, it's over two-thirds and approaching three quarters. And we have four months until voting begins. We're really are at the point where people are starting to gain enough information and make judgments about these people.

    Now, I do think there's something else going on here, which is, I think Republicans want to get this thing right. And they want to have a big robust contest. And the more robust the better. And for a lot of Republicans, it is just beginning. So the idea of a Chris Christie candidacy or Sarah Palin candidacy or Mitch Daniels candidacy, all they find intriguing, because they say, look, we've got four or five months until we vote, or six or seven months until my state votes, we've got plenty of time to make a decision, let's see these people go at it and see how they do.

    HANNITY: Yes. I agree. Now, Rick Perry jumped into the race and immediately, went right to the top of the polls. By all accounts, conservatives were not really happy with his position on immigration. You had advised him to sort of modify his position on Social Security, and the use of the term Ponzi scheme.

    ROVE: Well, I'm not -- let me be clear. I'm not adverse to the use of Ponzi scheme. I wouldn't use it, because a Ponzi scheme is a deliberately criminal enterprise, but I get what he's talking about when he says a Ponzi scheme, which is unsustainable. My concern was, when he wrote in his book where he said, by all measures it's been a failure, he alludes to it perhaps being unconstitutional, and says the federal government has no role, it ought to be turned over to the states and let them decide what to do with Social Security Medicare.

    Well, if you got that position, you better go out and defend it and explain it because that's a pretty scary, you know, what happens if your state says we're not going to have a Social Security system? What happens to the money you paid into the system? How's that going to affect your retirement and the benefit? You know, every American now gets a little form every year saying here's what you'll get if you retire at the age of 62 or 65, here's what your benefit will look like, or if you wait until 70. So, if you make that kind of statement, you better be prepared to go out there and defend it, particularly in a general election, the Democrats can be counted upon to come hard and heavy at Social Security and Medicare.

    HANNITY: No, I would agree. But would you agree with me as Romney refined his answer on Romneycare, so too Perry in an interview with me I think refined his answer on Social Security. He said, we're going to means test it, raise the eligibility age, et cetera. He says, yes, it's a failure in the sense that it's going bankrupt, that they misappropriated the funds and then they never put it in the lockbox. So, I think Americans agree that that's the case.

    ROVE: Yes, I think he's getting better. I do think this -- neither Romney, nor Perry, have given us a sufficient, inadequate and robust reform package. I mean, look, this is a kind of thing where you better know your numbers, know the insides and out. Know how all the pieces work, be able to defend it and explain it in editorial board meetings to the American people. And neither one of the frontrunners, Perry, who leads in the polls, and the guy trailing him, Mitt Romney, has given us a sufficient Social Security reform package, and they've got to before they get into the general election.

    HANNITY: What would you recommend that Perry do on a contentious issue, immigration, and his answer that he gave that did not go over very well with conservatives in the country? What would you advise him on that?

    ROVE: Well, look, he made a big mistake by questioning the -- you know, the views of the people who disagree with him. You know, we never expect ourselves to agree with somebody 100 percent of the time. But in this instance I think the governor failed to do two things. One is make a defense of what he did, that is based on the facts of the law and shows how few people were really affected by this and how widespread --he deluded, to how widespread the support was for the legislature. But the other part of it was never, never, never do what he did, which is to say, in essence, if you don't agree with me then you're heartless or you're stupid or you don't have -- you're un-American. The president for example goes right all the time says in essence, if you don't agree with me, that's not the American way. You know, what you suggest -- what my political opponents support is not at the American way.

    I mean, you got to stay away from that particularly on an issue like this. But speak with clarity about what the bill does, describe how it affects the state, make a passion plea for it, but by all means don't question the -- you know, the motivations of those that disagree with you.

    HANNITY: All right. We're awaiting the keynote address of Governor Christie from the Reagan Library. Looks like the introduction may be beginning. When that happens, we'll bring it to you live.

    All right. What do you make of the surge of Herman Cain? He wins the Florida straw poll, after the Florida debate. The Zogby poll today has him in first place by a significant amount with Romney and Perry virtually tied for second?

    ROVE: Yes. Well, first of all, I think the Florida straw poll today -- look, I don't like these straw polls, let's just be clear about it. I don't like the Iowa straw poll, I don't like the Florida straw poll, the --

    HANNITY: All right. How what the Zogby straw poll?

    ROVE: Well, the Zogby poll -- I hate to say this. I'm not a big fan of Zogby's polling. I mean, I think he's pretty erratic in choosing and sort of identified particularly inside Democratic and Republican primaries. I do think this. I think Herman Cain became a safe vote in the aftermath of the debate. I thought you saw it in the newspapers, where they quoted a lot of people, all of whom had paid $175 to be a delegate to the Florida straw poll who said I came here expecting to vote for Perry but after the debate I couldn't. So, they voted for the guy that they wanted to sort of say, I applaud what you did in that debate, and you had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, I'm going to give a vote to Herman Cain and say, do better everybody.

    HANNITY: Let me just interrupt you if I may for just a second, as you could say now, usually when somebody is introduced, they either in the front of the room they walk right up in podium. But as you can see, Governor Christie, almost a unique -- well, dramatic entrance that he's making, coming in from the back of the room, shaking hands as he makes his way up to the podium, he'll be making his address at the Reagan Library. And it looks like he's making his way to the podium now. It's interesting way to enter a room, wouldn't you say, Karl?

    ROVE: Yes. Look, it's an awkward room. I've spoken there. It's got sort of -- it's like a weird rectangle, oddly-shaped rectangle. So, it's hard to enter the room and make a speech. But this one is, you know, a really smart move on his part, sort of milk the crowd, and get them all juiced up there from talking to people out there, they're really excited about having him come out there. And he's giving a major policy speech, which is, you know, to be -- you know, Reagan Library is a great place to do that.

    HANNITY: What's interesting, too, is after he gives his remarks, we expect to be about 20 minutes, there's going to be a question-and-answer period. And I've got to anticipate here that one of the questions will be, governor, are you running for president? I assume that he's going to have to give a direct answer tonight.

    ROVE: Do you think?

    HANNITY: He won't be speaking through his brother.

    ROVE: Yes. You think that might happen? You know, maybe you're right.

    HANNITY: Yes, that may happen. All right, can Herman Cain sustain -- forget about the polling. There's obviously some energy in the Cain campaign. Where do you think that's coming from, because it virtually came out of nowhere?

    ROVE: Well, he's got a lot of energy, and a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm and he's got something right now that he's sunk his teeth into, 999. And it sounds great and it's a flat tax, nine percent flat tax, nine percent corporate tax, nine percent income tax. But you got it -- now, he's got to do the tougher work of explaining what that is, how much revenue it's going to generate, how it's going to work. Because look, it sounds good, and I like a flat tax, but let's just remember, a nine percent flat tax is a higher effective rate than most Americans pay on their personal income taxes. And a nine percent federal sales tax on top of a state sales tax is a big jump up.

    So, how much revenue this is going to generate? I think he's made a mistake when he went on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace and didn't lay out, wasn't ready to lay out, who his experts where and how much this was going to generate and give a sense of, you know, what the money was -- how this, would the transition period going to look like, how do you make this thing happen? And he's now going to take that to the next level. And he's got to focus on Iowa, because if you're Herman Cain and you want to break through, you've got to break through in Iowa, which is the first contest. Good news for him, he spent a lot of time in Omaha, Nebraska, right across the Missouri River, and he knows Western Iowa pretty intimately.

    HANNITY: The economist for the poll on Obama this week, he only had a 36 percent approval rating, 56 percent disapproval rating. We got a Gallup poll that shows that Americans' expressed negativity towards government is at the highest level at 81 percent, we just came off with historic midterm election, the biggest in 70 years, the numbers don't look good for the president. And then we found out, Tim Geithner is actually defending the cost by a Harvard economist that this jobs program he's advocating, we're paying $200,000 per job, Karl.

    ROVE: Yes. And look, I mean, that's the one-year cost to the job. I mean, how much is it going to cost to sustain that job next year if it's dependent upon government money for its creation and for its sustenance? I mean, this is -- look, we tried this. We can't spend our way to prosperity. We did this in 2009 with an $862 billion stimulus bill. It has not worked. What makes us think that a $457 billion stimulus bill is going to work this year?

    HANNITY: Listen, the country is coming out Hallmark cards now, sympathy cards for people that have been laid off and people that have lost their jobs. 42.6 million Americans in poverty. One in four children in poverty. You got 18 million Americans unemployed. You got millions more underemployed. And the president doubles down on the same policy. You've worked in the White House. Is there not one single person in the White House that is going to the president and saying, class warfare is not the answer, the same thing that you tried in 2009 didn't work then, it's not going to work now? Where's the advice the president is getting?

    ROVE: Well, apparently not. In fact, you watch these guys on Sunday morning on the talk programs. David Plouffe, who incidentally doesn't he look a little bit like Eddie Munster, have you thought about that? You know, all of them are out there saying we can spend our way to prosperity.

    HANNITY: Yes.

    ROVE: And it's like, we've tried this, it hasn't worked, try it again is their response to it. And, you know, I did think Axelrod had a good comment. He said, this is a titanic struggle. You're right.

    HANNITY: He did say that.

    ROVE: The Obama presidency is hitting the iceberg, started to go down with all the passengers in the West Wing on it. It is a titanic struggle because you know, you just steered it right into an iceberg.

    HANNITY: But in the same interview that he gave, he also said that it's not going to be a referendum on the president. And I'm, like, of course it's going to be a referendum. He's right that he said, it's going to be a choice election, but it will similarly be a referendum on Obama's policies. How could it not?

    ROVE: Right. Well, look, that's the choice. The choice is between the president's policies or something different. What he's alluding to is that the Democratic playbook for next year is going to be irradiate the Republican nominee, to say and do anything in order to tell the American people, explain to the American people, you know, mislead the American people into believing that the Republican nominee is unworthy of the Oval Office.

    We saw it in the last couple of days. The president said the Republican approach would cripple the country. Really? We saw it in his speech to the Joint Session of the Congress, when he said, oh, here's the Republican attitude, it is to, quote, "shut down the government, return the money, and the regulations, and tell everyone they're on their own. That's not the way of America." I mean, I haven't heard a single Republican say that.

    HANNITY: But when he says it's going to cripple the country, in that very same speech, he's saying to the Congressional Black Caucus, "Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying." Now, this is his own base that he has to lecture and woo back, because he's had the lowest numbers at 68 percent base support for him. How does he reach out to the center, the people that have been leaving him in droves, if he's got to shore up his base?

    ROVE: Yes. Well, this is what my column is about on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal. I think he's making a grave mistake by thinking that he needs to worry about the Black Caucus and these professional, you know , mealy-mouths inside the -- and weak-kneed people inside the Democratic Party, and that the way he has got to do is appease them by moving to the left. That makes it difficult for him to get to the voters whom he needs to win in order to win this election.

    There are two ways to go about strengthen your base. One is by doing what he's doing, that is to say, going out of his way to sound like a left-wing nut with class warfare, and all this stuff, or is it by articulating a vision that inspires your people to be for you. He clearly can't do the latter, so he's doing the former and it's going to hurt him with independents, Midwestern voters, young voters, college-educated voters, women, all of whom have declined in their support for him larger than the national average. His problems are going to get worse before it gets any better because of what I think is a completely flawed and stupid strategy.

    HANNITY: Yes. So, a billion dollars in class warfare and you're saying is not going to work, although they seem to have doubled down on it. And for all the mistakes that I thought that Bill Clinton made in his first two years, he had enough sense to change course, pivot, triangulate.

    ROVE: Right.

    HANNITY: Whether you like Dick Morris or not, they did a lot of polling, and they've made a lot of decisions and they've finally signed on to welfare reform and end of big government as we know it and that worked.

    ROVE: Yes. Well, two points, and I think Charles Krauthammer is absolutely right. Clinton by nature was a centrist, he was a guy who sort of left of center, but Democratic leadership council, former governor, and he was a guy who tried to make things work. He was after all from a reasonably conservative state and survived by basically accommodating himself and maneuvering. Obama is a left-wing ideologue and he can't do that.

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