Why Is Obama Seen as 2012 Shoo-in While Economy Continues to Struggle?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 31, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: As speculation continues to swirl about whether or not Sarah Palin will run in 2012, other GOP contenders are starting to make some news. It is now being reported that Mitt Romney will officially announce he's running for president this Thursday. Now, that's going to be the same day that I sit down with him for a one-on-one interview.

And the former Massachusetts governor sounds like he is ready to take on "The Anointed One."


FORMER GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: He's been one of the most ineffective presidents at the job at hand that I've ever seen. The number one issue he faced walking in the door was an economy that was in fast decline. He didn't cause that but he made things worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over all, give me a grade on his presidency. How's he done?

ROMNEY: Well, it's failed.


ROMNEY: Absolutely.


HANNITY: And he's not the only Republican who is coming out swinging this holiday weekend. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann made stops in Iowa and New Hampshire, and she promises to announce in June whether or not she will make a run for the White House. But she sounds well, like her mind is already made up.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: Maybe if a few more candidates drop out, we could just solve the whole thing right here in Scott County and be done, maybe today, you never know.

Which tough hombre or hombrette will take on our president in 2012?


HANNITY: And she will be on the show tomorrow night. Joining me with reaction right now, the host of Varney & Company on the Fox Business Network, Stuart Varney. And former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. I don't buy the narrative, this field is weak.


HANNITY: This is the media narrative, Obama is doing terrific. I'm looking -- your business is economics.

VARNEY: Right.

HANNITY: I'm looking at all the economic indicators, not one that looks good for the president.

VARNEY: Since when is this a weak Republican line-up? None of whom can win?


VARNEY: Since when has Barack Obama been a shoo-in in 2012 with an economy which right now is heading south? A housing market in crisis. And a president who has just returned from an overseas trip where he gives away billions of our dollars to foreigners who hate us.


VARNEY: This man is supposed to be a shoo-in? I think not.

HANNITY: That narrative is so phony, and the media is pushing this. Let me give you a quick few numbers here, 58 percent overall disapprove his handling of the economy, 57 percent disapprove on health care, 53 percent on Medicare, 53 on taxes, 64 on the federal deficit and 73 percent disagree with him on the gas prices. I mean, that pretty much covers everything.

DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I said before, I think it's true. I think that the White House will see a personnel shake-up in the next couple of months because the numbers are not getting better. And they have to do something to change story. Announcing a new commerce secretary today is not going to do it.

And to remind people, also that in 1991, there were -- all the Democrats were so worried because they didn't have a candidate. And they had such a weak field. And how could they possibly beat George H.W. Bush? And then, about 14 months later, they trounced him.

What Republicans have been doing however on the economy, I would just point out one thing to them if they were to take my advice. They've been talking about cutting, spending, all very well and good. But they have got to be able to articulate how they get America back to a pro-growth agenda.

HANNITY: I think they're doing. I mean, in fairness, the Ryan plan, that $6.2 trillion --

PERINO: I agree.

HANNITY: Medicare, which was a pretty gutsy thing to do, people kept saying don't do that, you know, let the president go first. And I thought Boehner, I thought this was a pretty masterful plan on his part today. The Democrats were asking for a clean bill on the deficit, on the debt ceiling. They got their clean bill. And a lot of Democrats voted against it.

VARNEY: And then they voted against it?


VARNEY: President Obama's own policies are going to beat him. I mean, if you look at the numbers on the economy. I don't see how you can turn this around short term. You just look at what is happening to our economy. We got numbers on the housing market. It is an absolute crisis. Manufacturing, slowing down. Hiring, very few. Lay-offs, enormous numbers. We're getting a jobs number later on this week, nine percent unemployment.

HANNITY: At least.

VARNEY: This economy is not quiet in recession. But very, very close. And moving towards that rapidly.

HANNITY: All right. Let me go to the political side of this. Governor Palin goes on her tour this weekend, we've been discussing. Michele Bachmann on the verge of announcing. We'll talk to her tomorrow night. We got Mitt Romney on Thursday night. Mitt Romney is going to announce Thursday. Mitt Romney, I thought came out particularly strong, I like that he gave the president an "F," I thought that was gutsy and the right grade. You know, how do they do in the primary?

PERINO: Well, I would say that when I saw Governor Romney's sound bite, I thought, well, Governor, don't hold back, tell us how you really feel. And he did have that fire and spark that some people thought he has been lacking. He hasn't been really out that much on television, that will pick up if he does that on Thursday.

There's a couple of things going on here with Sarah Palin. All of the media and all of the pundits and the liberals and the establishment, if I can use the word, that are making fun of her now, believe me, they will be the first ones falling over themselves to get invited to the holiday party should she actually run for president and become president. Michele Bachmann very principled, believes in the Constitution. You saw there, something in her speeches that might not come across in a 10 second or 20 second sound bite. So, I think that their primary will make them all better candidates. And that was true for President Obama.

HANNITY: I agree with you. I agree and remember, people didn't think the guy by the name of Ronald Reagan and former actor could be president one day.

PERINO: Same with Bill Clinton.

HANNITY: Same with Bill Clinton. What do you think -- first of all, compare the new field versus the old field. The guys that have been in there, the attention goes away from them for a little while, what is going to, you know, how are they going to break? How does anyone break out in this?

VARNEY: I think it is a vibrant field, actually. Really varied in the make-up of that field coming from various positions within the Republican Party. And I think there's going to be a pretty sharp-edged debate between them that commonality will be, they are going to start going after President Obama. Specifically on the economy.


VARNEY: When Mr. Romney came out, Governor Romney came out and flat out, a failure, an "F" that's going on the attack. And there's plenty to attack over. And I think you're going to see a lot of that over this summer.

HANNITY: Real quick. If you had to guess the top three that are more likely to win at this moment, well, not even 17 months out because the caucuses begin in early next year.

PERINO: I couldn't say. I don't know. But I do know this.

HANNITY: If I had to press you.

PERINO: I'm not going to do it. You try every week, and it is not going to work.

HANNITY: I know. Mr. Varney, if I had to press you.

VARNEY: Romney, Pawlenty, and I think, I still think, I know you think I'm crazy, I think there will be a draft for Chris Christie.


VARNEY: I know you think I'm crazy. I'm probably wrong, but I can see it coming.

HANNITY: Interesting.

VARNEY: Wishful thinking perhaps.

HANNITY: Anything you wanted to add?


VARNEY: I'm totally wrong? Go ahead, say it.


PERINO: Well, all I was thinking was that as soon as you start listing them, and somebody still could emerge. Sarah Palin hasn't even announced yet. And I think that we are anxious to find out who this is going to be. I don't know if she is running. I think that the bus tour would lead you to believe that she wants to do something.

HANNITY: Do you think she's running?

VARNEY: I don't care, it is a terrific field. It really is varied, and vibrant, go after the president on the economy.

PERINO: This is what I was actually going to say for my last word which is, they have to avoid the temptation of falling into the second media narrative which is that the conservatives in the Republican Party is now split.

HANNITY: Split, yes. I agree with that.

PERINO: They have to focus on President Obama.

HANNITY: All right. We'll talk about that next week.


HANNITY: That's a good point. Good to see you, both. Thanks for being here.

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