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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Analysis of GOP Presidential Debate

Aired June 13, 2011 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special edition of 360.

If you're just joining us, welcome to New Hampshire's Saint Anselm College, where Republicans just wrapped up their presidential debate, seven hopefuls taking part. They're still on the stage behind me, their family members about to come up on the stage with them.

Many of them, most notably, Tim Pawlenty, choosing not to take on perceived front-runner Mitt Romney and his Massachusetts health care plan, as he has in the last several days. President Obama certainly taking hard hits from all of them, Newt Gingrich trying to get his campaign of course back on track.

Tea Party influence plain to see tonight. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann making news, filing papers, taking a step closer to officially declare her candidacy for president.

And with the economy sagging, there's new reason for any of the participants here -- there's no reason for any of the participants here tonight to not believe that they, that he or she could become president. Each of the other candidates on this stage has a very real chance.

The debate covered a lot of ground and we're keeping all the candidates honest tonight on the statements that they made tonight, a lot to talk about with our political panel. We're also going to have -- Congressman Ron Paul is going to be joining us, also Robert Gibbs, former spokesman for President Obama for a Democratic perspective.

Joining us tonight, John King, Wolf Blitzer, senior political analyst David Gergen, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, also former Bush Chief of Staff, and 2008 Obama pollster, political contributor Cornell Belcher, as well as political contributor and Tea Party organizer Dana Loesch. And as I said, joining us also will be Congressman Ron Paul and Obama campaign surrogate Robert Gibbs.

So, let's go to our analysts right now.

Wolf Blitzer, as you were watching tonight, what was the key moment, the key exchange, or one of them that really stuck out to you?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I thought that Tim Pawlenty had a real chance to differentiate himself between the front-runner, Mitt Romney, on the whole issue of health care reform. Yesterday, Tim Pawlenty really took a swipe at Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney supported mandates in Massachusetts when he was governor for universal health care in that state. And, yesterday, he took a swipe at him.

And today, he had an opportunity to really go further on that and he backed off and he was very polite. That may have been a missed opportunity for him.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I want to -- I know a number of our analysts tonight point out that -- that moment.

So, I just want to play that moment for our viewers in case you missed it. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": And you don't want to address why you called Governor Romney's Obamneycare?

TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the issue that was raised in a question from a reporter was, what are the similarities between the two? And I just cited President Obama's own words that he looked to Massachusetts as a blueprint or a guide when he designed Obamacare.

KING: But you chose -- you say you were asked a question, which is fair enough, but you chose those words. And so one of my questions is, why would you chose those -- choose those words maybe in the comfort of a Sunday show studio? Your rival is standing right there. If it was Obamneycare on "Fox News Sunday," why isn't it not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right there?

PAWLENTY: It -- President Obama is -- is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He's the one who said it's a blueprint and that he merged the two programs. And so using the term "Obamneycare" was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan.

KING: All right.

Governor, you want to respond to that at all?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, just -- just to say this, which is my guess is the president is going to eat those words and wish he hasn't -- hadn't put them out there. And I can't wait to debate him and say, Mr. President, if, in fact, you did look at what we did in Massachusetts, why didn't you give me a call and ask what worked and what didn't? And I would have told you, Mr. President, that what you're doing will not work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: David Gergen, you also selected that one of the key moments that caught your attention. Why? Was it a missed opportunity for Tim Pawlenty?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was very surprised, Anderson, on this, because Tim Pawlenty had just taken a swipe at him yesterday, and it seemed to be a setup for tonight.

And then when he ducked and he gave Romney an opportunity, Mitt Romney rose to the occasion, made a very good pivot out, helped himself. Rick Santorum also I thought was going to take a swipe at him on abortion. He ducked. And overall I think it wound up to be a very good night for Mitt Romney. Nobody laid a glove on him really, and he had a very consistent message about what he argued was the failure of President Obama.

I thought it was also a very good night for Michele Bachmann. But we can talk more about that.

COOPER: Yes.

Also, there was another key moment, Newt Gingrich talking about the Ryan plan, something he had gotten -- made some missteps on early on in his campaign. Let's show you that moment from earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Your initial reaction to the Ryan plan? It's radical right-wing social engineering. Then you backtracked. Why?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, it was a very narrow question, which said, should Republicans impose an unpopular bill on the American people? Now, I supported the Ryan budget as a general proposal. I actually wrote a newsletter supporting the Ryan budget. And those words were taken totally out of context.

I'm happy to repeat them. If you're dealing with something as big as Medicare and you can't have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you're doing is the right thing, you better slow down.

Remember, we all got mad at Obama because he ran over us when we said don't do it. Well, the Republicans ought to follow the same ground rule. If you can't convince the American people it's a good idea, maybe it's not a good idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Gloria Borger, you picked that as -- as one of the key -- key moments. Why?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, clearly, this was a huge controversy for Newt Gingrich going into this. He didn't back off of it at all, Anderson. But he was a little bit more artful in stating his opposition, saying, you know what? If the American people oppose it, maybe we ought to slow down.

COOPER: Dana Loesch, you have been watching this along with -- what moment for you was sort of an important moment?

DANA LOESCH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I had several.

I liked Gingrich's answer on immigration, but his specific reply about Paul Ryan, I still disagree with him. And I think it was kind of a missed opportunity for him, because he's compares apples and oranges in this case, two completely different approaches, two completely different plans. One plan actually has a constitutional basis. One plan doesn't have a constitutional basis. It was a missed opportunity for him to further illustrate that.

But, however, I think that with -- throughout the debate, especially, like I said, his answer on immigration, I think he sort of recovered from the massive just disaster that his campaign had become the two weeks prior.

COOPER: Let me play that immigration -- actually, let me ask you, Dana, before I play that immigration SOT, on Gingrich's response, do you think he has reopened that by saying that Republicans should maybe go slow if the American people aren't fully behind it? Do you think he's now kind of reopened this discussion and going to get himself criticized more?

LOESCH: Yes. I was following along on Twitter with the CNN debate hashtag, and all of the conservatives that I saw there, they were not happy with his answer.

They understood where he was coming fro. And I think Gingrich believes that people misunderstand him. But from everything that I saw, he kind of reopened the can of worms, because people still disagreed with what he was saying. Even though they understood it, they disagreed with him.

COOPER: All right.

John, you agree with that?

KING: I do completely agree with the analysis. The conservatives won't like this.

What the speaker is saying is, if you criticized President Obama for making such dramatic changes to health care in a hurry, we as Republicans, he is saying, can't change Medicare so quickly.

However, this is the Holy Grail for the House Republicans right now and for conservatives across the country, in part because they -- many think it's the right thing to do, but also in part, Anderson, because they know they have a Democratic president. They have a Democratic Senate. So if they start blinking and saying maybe we should slow down, they lose leverage in those negotiations.

So there's the big policy issue and then there's the political leverage issue. And on that, conservatives without a doubt will be unhappy with the speaker making -- I understand the political argument globally. But Paul Ryan is not the president of the United States. It's a good argument if it were the president of the United States. Right now, in the middle of these negotiations, in the back and forth, it could undermine the House Republican argument a little bit.

COOPER: Andy Card, as you watched tonight -- and I'm going to ask for your key exchange in a moment, but did Newt Gingrich do what he needed to do? There was so much talk about some 16 members of his staff up and quit last week. He was on vacation. A lot of people thought his campaign is effectively over.

Did he make enough of an impression tonight to breathe new life into his campaign?

ANDREW CARD, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first of all, I thought the debate -- it was a very adult debate.

The issues were good. I don't think any candidate did a lousy job. I think they all did a good job. And Newt Gingrich actually exceeded my expectations. He gave a lot of short and specific answers. And he has a tendency to talk too much. He opened right up by saying, 14 million jobs are lost. People are out of jobs. And we need a new president.

That was the most succinct opening statement. I thought he did a good job. I thought he was also very clear on his position on immigration and, also, even on I'm going to say the Ryan plan. So, Newt Gingrich did exceed my expectations.

That doesn't mean I think that his campaign is being well-run, but I do think tonight he did a good job.

COOPER: Is there a moment that you would pick that we should show our viewers, in your opinion?

CARD: Well, in terms of the overall debate, I thought Michele Bachmann was introduced to the country for the first time, and she really did a very credible job. She was a cheerleader, but she was also quite substantive. And she seemed cool, calm, and deliberate.

I thought Mitt Romney looked very presidential. I thought he was appropriate in his responses. I like watching him glance at Ron Paul when Ron would gave some of his answers.

I thought that all of the candidates really auditioned well tonight. Tim Pawlenty was auditioning very well as kind of an appropriate understudy. I think we have got a lot more to learn about him. But I actually think that he performed very well tonight. I can't think of anyone who didn't do a good job.

COOPER: Cornell Belcher, obviously the candidate you support, President Obama, and the man you did polling for back in 2008, and I believe will be working for again in this race, for you, what stuck out for you tonight?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I really want to pull back the covers here and shine a light for the American viewer on sort of the inside thinking of campaigns.

I think the Pawlenty thing was a big deal because of this. As much as we don't like -- we say we don't like negative campaigns, the truth of the matter is, if someone occupies the space that you want to occupy, and they're ahead of you, I'm sorry, you have got to make that person -- you got to cut that person and make them bleed.

Now, do you take a hatchet to him the first-night debate? No. But you have to make them bleed because you are never going to get ahead of that person unless you cut them and you make them bleed. Pawlenty was served up an opportunity to sort of start that bleeding tonight, and he looked punk. He could not back up what he has said aside when he was standing on the stage with Romney. He looked tentative and he looked weak. I think he missed a prime opportunity to make this guy bleed.

COOPER: John, you gave him that opportunity. Why do you think he passed? Because it was on a Sunday show where he came up with that term, which got an enormous amount of coverage, an enormous amount of play. He refused to repeat it tonight.

KING: He refused to repeat it with Governor Romney a little further apart than we are right now.

It was a clear calculation. Then knew coming in he wants to make that point because he believes it's critical. He's the underdog in New Hampshire. He -- Governor Pawlenty probably needs to win Iowa. But what is he doing here tonight? He's trying to introduce himself to New Hampshire voters still and national voters. But in this state, Governor Romney is pretty popular. So he made a calculation, first night on television, first night in a debate, not now.

COOPER: We have got a lot in the hour ahead, dial-testing to show you, voters watching, Republican voters watching, how they responded to some of the key moments tonight. We are also going to talk to Robert Gibbs, former White House spokesperson for President Obama.

And coming up in just a moment, we will talk to Congressman Ron Paul, get his thoughts about how he did and how the others did.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

We will talk to Ron Paul coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What we need to do is today the United States has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. I'm a former federal tax lawyer. I have seen the devastation. We've got to bring that tax rate down substantially so that we're among the lowest in the industrialized world. Here's the other thing. Every time the liberals get into office, they pass an omnibus bill of big spending projects.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's Congressman Michele Bachmann.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, CNN's Joe Johns did a little digging during the debate, discovered that both Democrats and Republicans are sinners here on this issue. They have both done budgeting with big omnibus bills and temporary continuing resolutions. In fact, the last time all spending bills were done individually and on time was in 1994, when Democrats were in control.

We are going to continue to fact-check the candidates from tonight's debate, "Keeping Them Honest" throughout the hour, including my next guest, Congressman Ron Paul, who joins us momentarily.

First, by way of introduction, he drew a major following when he ran four years ago for the GOP nomination. Tonight, he drew a sharp contrast with the other candidates on military involvement abroad. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I served five years in the military. I have had a little experience. I have spent a little time over in the Pakistan/Afghanistan area, as well as Iran. But I wouldn't wait for my generals. I'm the commander in chief.

I make the decisions. I tell the generals what to do. I would bring them home as quickly as possible. And I would get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn't start a war in Libya. I would quit bombing Yemen. And I would quit bombing Pakistan.

I would start taking care of people here at home because we could save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Our national security is not enhanced by our presence over there. We have no purpose there. We should learn the lessons of history. The longer we're there, the worse things are and the more danger we're in as well, because our presence there is not making friends, let me tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And Congressman Paul joins me now.

We just played the response you said about military serving overseas. That -- that really does put you in stark contrast to many of the people on the stage tonight.

PAUL: Yes, I think so. It did four years ago. But what I sense now...

COOPER: And you have been consistent all along.

PAUL: Yes. And what I sense now is there's not so much of a -- dramatic differences. If you listen carefully, some of them are coming our way, my way, the way that I believe we should go. Where the difference is with the people, if you look at the polls and how -- how many people think we should be in Libya and how many people think we ought to get out of Afghanistan.

COOPER: Right.

PAUL: So, that's where I feel completely different, although I don't obviously have agreement, and my statement was different, because I'm rather emphatic, because I think the issue of war is so important on principle, because it's such a deadly issue.

But it's also a major economic issue. I look at it carefully because all great nations usually go down when they spread themselves too far around the world. They go into an empire. Then they can't afford it, no matter how well-intentioned it is.

And I know those who disagree with me are well-intentioned and think this is very necessary. But, financially, it's very, very risky. And, of course, I pointed out, politically, it's a lot easier cutting this overseas spending than it is to go after child health care. And I think that makes an important point, too.

COOPER: Because, during the break, Gloria Borger sort of said to you just offhandedly, is it a sense of deja vu being back on this stage? And you said it does feel different.

How does it feel different this time?

PAUL: Well, it felt like I was pushing much harder on the envelope before, and I was so much alone, and didn't know what the responses were.

And even in the first debate that we had in South Carolina, there was a difference. The reactions are different. And what has happened the last three years, it's different. So, no, I think the country now is definitely moving in the direction of less government, a different foreign policy.

But it's not like it's my foreign policy. I would sort of like to say I'm running on the position of George W. Bush's foreign policy in the year 2000, when he talked about a humble foreign policy. People like that. But I want it, and they know it. And now it's necessary.

COOPER: I want to play for our viewers a response you had when you were asked about the role of faith in public life. I want to play for our viewers your response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I think faith has something to do with the character of the people that represent us, and law should have a moral fiber to it and our leaders should. We shouldn't expect us to try to change morality. You can't teach people how to be moral.

But the Constitution addresses this by saying -- literally, it says no theocracy. But it doesn't talk about church and state. The most important thing is the First Amendment. Congress shall write no laws -- which means Congress should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith in a public place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The last part you said there, Congress shall never prohibit the expression -- or no laws which should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith in a public space.

Do you think Christianity is under attack in the United States?

PAUL: I think to some degree, but...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: How so?

PAUL: Well, there's certain pressures put on Christians and made fun of, you know, just subtly. I don't think in a legislative sense.

But the one point I was trying to make there is that you can't legislate morality. And that's what a lot of -- some people want to think we do. We take our morality, and we will legislate it and make you morally better people. I think that's impossible.

But I said, what has to have a moral fiber is, the law has to have a moral basis to it. And also the people who represent us should have moral character. That's how I think our faith should influence them. But the use of force to make people live better -- see, I apply that in economics. I apply that to personal things, and I apply that to foreign policy.

It would be nice if we could remake Afghanistan and maybe improve it, but it doesn't work. The blowback is so much -- is so painful, that it's much better for us to set a good example with men who have character, men who believe in principles, and then other people may want to emulate us.

COOPER: Congressman Ron Paul, thank you for your time. I know you have had a busy day.

PAUL: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you.

PAUL: Thank you.

COOPER: Interesting to hear Congressman Paul saying he senses a difference, both in where the country is and also where some of the other candidates are.

KING: And, to a degree, he's right. If you go back, he mentioned George W. Bush in 2000. A more humble nation, George W. Bush campaigned on. He also campaigned to be a compassionate conservative. He campaigned to have immigration reform that gave then citizenship and then it was status to illegal immigrants.

Any party, after it loses power, goes through a transition. It has a tug of war. Who do we want to be? What issues do we want to put first and foremost? And, definitely, on the intervention issues, on foreign -- use of muscular foreign policy, whether it's because they just disagree with President Obama, whether they think we have been in Afghanistan too long or whether they think we just can't afford it because of the budget pressures that are popular with conservatives right now, the Republican Party is retreating some.

BORGER: Well, and you see, John McCain is not in this race. And if you -- and you think of the impact John McCain has had on Republican foreign policy.

You talk about Libya, John McCain thinks we should have gone in unilaterally, that we waited too long. And so with him out of this field, there's a very different sense about foreign policy.

GERGEN: I also want to go back to the domestic policy overall.

What struck me tonight, beyond who won and who lost, was how much more conservative this party is than it was four years ago or eight years ago among the candidates. There was almost nothing the government could do in the eyes of these candidates that was positive.

And they -- whether this is going to work with the country or not, I don't know. I think it's a big question. But there's no question they're competing against each other to see who can really get over there pretty far to the right on anti-government.

COOPER: I want to bring in Dana Loesch and also Andrew Card and also Cornell Belcher.

One of the moments that a lot of people here were talking about was the exchange John King had with Herman Cain about his prior statements on hiring Muslims. Then Newt Gingrich made a statement. And I want to play that for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH MCELVEEN, WMUR-TV: You recently said you would not appoint a Muslim to your cabinet and you kind of back off that a little bit and said you would first want to know if they're committed to the Constitution. You expressed concern that, quote, "a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country."

Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christian or Jews?

HERMAN CAIN (R), REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First, the statement was, would I be comfortable with a Muslim in my administration, not that I wouldn't appoint one. That's the exact transcript.

And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us.

GINGRICH: Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: We did this -- we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Andrew Card, we got a big reaction on Twitter to that exchange, particularly to Newt Gingrich's comment.

Your thoughts on how that is going to play for a Republican audience and independent audience?

CARD: Well, I think Herman Cain was trying to dig out of a hole, and I don't think he completely did.

I thought Newt Gingrich was very clear in how he responded. But you know what struck me about the question was, it really was a minor issue that was blown up. And I actually think what we're missing tonight is any debate among the Democrats. We will not have one. We will not have a debate among the Democrats between now and the time that President Obama accepts the nomination of his party, and I think that's sad.

COOPER: But isn't that the way things work?

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I mean -- I mean, any -- Dana Loesch, did you think this was a minor moment?

LOESCH: I do. I don't think it -- I think it began as a minor moment and I still think that it is a minor moment.

And I liked Newt Gingrich's answer. I thought it was very eloquent. And it was very short and simple and to the point. And I think Cain spent more -- most of his time trying to clarify, because the question originally was odd to begin with. And I think he spent more time clarifying. Gingrich ended up summing it up.

COOPER: David, you're sitting, shaking your head.

GERGEN: I don't. Look, when Newt Gingrich said that -- I think Newt did well generally tonight, but on that issue -- we went through this with Harry Truman. He had loyalty tests about loyalty to the government of the United States. And it was regarded as one of the worst blights on his administration.

It led into a period of a Joe McCarthy, which, again, we look back upon with regret about the excesses of that period. I'm amazed that people are talking about loyalty tests.

COOPER: Cornell Belcher, your thoughts, and then we have got to move on.

BELCHER: Well, no, I agree. I think this does play -- he didn't stop digging. He actually dug himself a deeper hole.

He -- I'm not comfortable with him. It's a deeper hole. Will this be a problem for him in the Republican nomination battle? No. But for the larger audience of independents and moderates that are watching this, it's a problem for the Republicans, because none of the Republicans answered this in a way that I think make independents and moderate voters comfortable.

COOPER: Just ahead: our exclusive instant poll, what some of the savviest campaign watchers out there thought about who won tonight, who did the best -- their answers shortly.

Up next, also, President Obama's former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who is acting as a surrogate for the president's campaign, he's here to probably rebut some of the charges made tonight. My guess is, he's not very happy about a lot of the things that were said here tonight, probably all them.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And Obama campaign surrogate, Robert Gibbs, former White House spokesman, joins me. So what did you think? Obviously, your former boss took a lot of hits.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, as expected in a big Republican crowd. Look...

COOPER: You're the only one wearing a blue tie here tonight, by the way.

GIBBS: That's good.

I will say this. I think, if you -- if you wanted to hear Republicans talk about the policies that were espoused in 2007 and 2008, that got us into the economic mess that we're trying to get ourselves out of tonight. That's -- that's the economic platform that was introduced by these candidates tonight.

If you think we're a tax cut for a millionaire or billionaire away from creating more jobs, that's exactly what these candidates espouse tonight.

COOPER: What we heard over and over again was 9.1 percent unemployment, and that President Obama doesn't really have a plan.

GIBBS: Well, which I would, of course, Anderson, absolutely disagree with. Look, there's two things. We had a massive economic recession, as I said, that started and really crested in September of 2008 when we saw massive job losses.

But understand this. The middle class was struggling and getting behind as college education was increasing, as food and gas prices were increasing. And their paychecks weren't increasing, not just in 2008 but in 2006 and 2008...

COOPER: But to Republicans, that just sounds like you're blaming the Bush administration.

GIBBS: We have to understand what got us into this mess, and we have to make sure that we don't hire somebody to repeat those same mistakes that got us into that.

Look, if the Bush tax cuts were great for economic policy, why did we lose 3.5 million jobs the last six months of the Bush administration?

COOPER: There was no one on the stage who would say anything that President Obama had done right. Is there anything you would say that President Obama has done wrong on the economy?

GIBBS: Look, I will say this. I don't know if it's something that we did wrong but I will say this. Is the economic recovery happening fast enough? Absolutely not. Not for anybody in America and not for the president.

But Anderson, if what we do, if our ideas for getting us out of this mess are the exact ideas that got us into this mess, look, almost to a person tonight, John got them to say they want to repeal financial reform. We put some rules out for the road that put some responsibility back in our financial system, and to a person, everyone wants to repeal that.

"Let's privatize Social Security." You heard that tonight. "Let's slash Medicare." You heard that tonight. Those aren't ideas that will make this country stronger. Those are ideas that will set us back and repeat the economic failures that we saw in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

COOPER: I want to bring my guest in. John, do you have a question.

KING: What Robert is trying to do, and it's the right thing to do politically. I'm not endorsing it, is elections go two ways. It's either a choice or a referendum. If it's a referendum on this president, even if everything Robert just said about 2007, 2008, even it's all true, sometimes it's a referendum. You're the president, and unemployment is at 9 percent or 8 percent. And whether it's your fault or not, that's the referendum on you and you go. If it's a choice, that's what the president is trying to do by drawing these contracts. Many Democrats, though, Robert, say, where is he? Why isn't he out more -- being more aggressive? Yes, he doesn't have a primary challenger, but he's getting roughed up.

GIBBS: Well, look, there's going to be plenty of time for a campaign, John. I think what the American people want the president to do is exactly what the president was doing today: talking with CEOs in the country about what can we do to create more jobs? How do we make sure that next month's jobs' report looks like it did two months ago and not it did like last month? Because we have created 2 million new jobs in the past 15 months.

But, John, I think the American people understand this. It took us a while to get into this mess. OK. This didn't all just happen in a week or a day. It took us a while to get here, and it's going to take us a while to get out.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But you know, when you look at our polling, our polling shows that the American public doesn't want to talk about George W. Bush getting us into the ditch, as President Obama...

GIBBS: No, no, no. In fact the polling...

BORGER: They're over that.

GIBBS: In fact, your polling says quite the opposite. Your polling says -- in May you asked a question. CNN asked a question, do you blame Bush more -- Bush and the Republicans more than you blame Obama and the Democrats? The answer was, you blame Bush more. That's not the point.

BORGER: But they believe it's President Obama's economy.

GIBBS: And that's the point I'm making. This isn't about affixing blame. This is about understanding that we're not going to repeat the mistakes that got us into this mess. I'm not suggesting that -- I'm not suggesting that this election is going to be about blaming what happened in 2007. But, again, when John asked the questions tonight, the solution was -- let's do what we did in 2007 and 2008.

COOPER: The president recently said, though, this is just a bump in the road, the economy right now. The problem we're facing right now...

GIBBS: He didn't say the economy was a bump in the road. He said, obviously, in jobs report, we're going to have good reports and we're going to have bad reports.

COOPER: And Mitt Romney jumped on that with a commercial. Do you think that was a mistake for the president to say that?

GIBBS: I think we have to understand, and I think we have to talk about the economy the way the American people live it. And that is that they're hurting every day. OK? We've created jobs in the past 15 months, but we have family members that are out of work. We have neighbors that are out of work. That's how people are living in this economy.

I will say this. Look, everybody wishes you could wave a magic wand and you could watch that thing just tick up immediately. But what I think what the president was saying is -- we're going to have bits and starts so some of this, and I think that's the key. We got to keep pushing.

COOPER: Last question, David.

GERGEN: Let me ask you this question. I understand why, if the Republicans come and say, let's make this a referendum on Obama you say, let's make it a referendum on George W. I get that.

But the question becomes -- the question becomes, what about the future? What is -- when is the president going to give us a plan to deal with the slowing of the economy? And also, to deal with the deficit? Because he's now caught between a lot of people who say he's got to stimulate in the near term for us to get the deficit -- how is he going to square this? What's his plan?

GIBBS: I will say a couple things. First of all, David, I'm not -- this is not going to be -- and I'm not setting this up to be an election to blame George Bush. But I'm suggesting what a series of decisions that got us into this mess is not the series of decisions we ought to make to try to get us out of it.

GERGEN: What about the decisions the president is making?

GIBBS: Well, first and foremost, we've got to continue to do the things that the president did last December in terms of spurring job creation through tax cuts for small businesses, allowing people to invest. I saw a figure today. A lot of companies are buying new equipment because...

GERGEN: You think he's going to go back and put some new legislation on the table?

GIBBS: I think -- I think obviously that's something that' is -- that is being talked about. We have a payroll tax cut on the side of employees.

The question is: should you do that on the side of employers? Obviously, you need to structure that so that CNN didn't let Anderson go on Monday and hire him again on Tuesday so they got a tax credit.

But the question is: are there things that we can continue to do -- as the president has done, cut small business taxes 17 times -- to spur the economy? He laid out, I think, pretty clearly in the State of the Union, we've got to do a lot of things in the short term and the long term.

You've got to reform education. We've got to increase job training and we've got to really create the jobs of the future. Because some of the jobs that disappeared we know aren't coming back, and we're going to have to create new jobs in new industries to put people back to work.

COOPER: I've got to go to commercial break. Thanks so much for being with us.

GIBBS: Thank you.

COOPER: Our coverage continues. We're going to talk to Andy Card being lashed.

But also, going to look at dial testing: how voters responded while watching the debate tonight in real time. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe in is your Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period.

There have been instances -- there have been instances in New Jersey, there was an instance in Oklahoma, where Muslims did try to influence court decisions with Sharia law. I was simply approximately saying very emphatically, American laws in American courts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Got a good response here in the room. Herman Cain at tonight's Republican debate, saying he does not believe in Sharia law in American courts. That was part of his answer to a question about a recent remark he made about Muslims serving in his cabinet if he were elected president, and Cain said Sharia law has influenced court decisions in Oklahoma and New Jersey.

New Jersey, there was an incident -- one incident that was appealed and repealed on appeal in 2010. Voters in Oklahoma did ban judges from relying on Sharia law when deciding cases, but it was a pre-emptive move. It wasn't based on a judge actually doing that or Muslims in Oklahoma actually attempting to institute Sharia law. The law later was blocked.

As for New Jersey in 2009, a judge did refuse to grant a Muslim woman a restraining order because of her husband's Muslim belief. That was overturned later. That was one of the many attention- grabbing moments in this.

We want to look at dial testing to see, in real time, viewers' reactions to tonight. Tom foreman joins me now from Rochester, New Hampshire.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

We've had a fascinating evening at the beautiful opera house here in Rochester with a group of Republicans and independents, some with Tea Party leanings here.

And the first thing that produced a big spike here, as you watch these results. The red line is the Republicans. The yellow is independents. Cain when we started talking about right-to-work laws. There's been a big fight going on here in New Hampshire about that and in other states, as well. Look at this, Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We live in the United States of America, and people shouldn't be forced to belong or be a member in any organization. And the government has no business telling people what group you have to be a member of or not.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I think having -- if you believe in the Tenth Amendment, you let the states learn from each other. And the right-to-work states are creating a lot more jobs today than the heavily unionized states.

CAIN: I believe with the speaker and the others, who believe that, if the federal government continues to do the kinds of things that this administration is trying to do, through the back door, through the National Labor Relations Board, that's killing our free- market system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And Anderson, that was the biggest reaction here, earliest in the debate. Of course, there were some other points, as well, Anderson, as this group here watched and recorded on the dial test here with Southern Methodist University running it all -- Anderson.

COOPER: More now with our panel: John King, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Andy Card, Cornell Belcher, and Dana Loesch.

Dana, I think it was you at the top of this program that talked about Michele Bachmann kind of reintroducing herself to -- to the American public. And just about everybody I've talked to tonight who was watching this in the hall felt she did a very strong -- she did very well by herself in -- in the forcefulness with which she answered some of the questions and in that introduction to the American people. You agree with that, yes, Dana?

DANA LOESCH, TEA PARTY: I do. I think that -- I think Michele Bachmann did incredibly well this debate, and I think that this was the first time that even people who are grassroots conservatives, people who are very familiar with her, who have been seeing her across the country at different events, this was the first time that they've been able to see her in this setting, actually going up against other people who are also trying to claim that same super-conservative mantel.

So it was -- it was -- I think she performed very well. I think she answered very well. She really held her own, and I think that this was a very good debate for her, and she was one of the individuals, I think Romney and Gingrich were others, that came out on top.

COOPER: Andy Card, I want to play for our viewers just some of Michele Bachmann responding to one of the questions John King gave her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to speak as someone who is far more eloquent than I. Someone who said -- just dealing with the issue of raising the debt sealing is a failure of leadership. And that person was then-Senator Barack Obama. He refused to raise the debt sealing, because he said President Bush had failed in leadership.

Clearly, President Obama has failed in leadership. Under his watch, in 2 1/2 years, we've increased the federal debt 35 percent just in that amount of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Andy, I think now President Obama regrets that decision or the White House says, I think, he regretted that decision that he made as a senator, that vote he took. But how do you think Michele Bachmann did tonight? Do you think she did all she needed to do? And were you surprised to hear her announcing, using this platform to actually announce?

ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPACE OF WHILE: Well, I thought Michele Bachmann did a very good job tonight. She had kind of low expectations going in, except for the few people that really knew her well. And I thought she did a good job.

On the issue of the debt ceiling, you know, I was one of the people pushing Senator Obama to actually permit the debt ceiling to go up, so I favor increasing the debt ceiling. I want responsible cutting on the other end.

But I thought Michele Bachmann did a very good job tonight. I thought all of the candidates did a good job tonight. I really want to stress that, you know, there were -- there were no embarrassments among that group. They did a good job.

COOPER: Cornell, as a pollster, one of the questions I guess about Michele Bachmann is how would she appeal to independents? How do you think she -- she did with herself or she's asked her tonight?

TUCHMAN: Look, I don't think it's that important about independents per se, right now, because that's for another time.

But let's be clear. There's not a candidate on that platform this evening than has a bigger upside than Michele Bachmann when you're talking about winning then Republican primary voters and Republican caucus goers.

She is going to be the candidate. There's not another candidate on that phone, that platform, in Tea Party years can land more comfortably, and say, "Yes, this is someone who speaks our concerns authentically." I think she has the largest upside there.

And if you were an independent voter or a voter just begin, sort of paying attention this evening. And you don't know about the bomb she's throwing in the past and so -- sort of some of her past statements. She came across as very electable this evening for the Republican primaries, and I think she has the largest upside when you look at that Tea Party grassroots, and other groups.

COOPER: Watching her, I was wondering what Sarah Palin must be thinking watching Michelle Bachmann on this stage.

BORGER: I think she sort of stepped out of Sarah Palin's shadow tonight. She was clearly one of the best-prepped candidates here. She let people know the depth of her experience on the intelligence committee, for example. She spoke very succinctly.

And she was positive and, you know, there wasn't a lot of sort of smiling, laughter, uplifting kind of statements coming out of this debate. And I think she was sort of the positive candidate coming out of this. So I think she did very, very well for herself.

KING: Often a field -- often a field for president has movement candidates and serious candidates. No disrespect, but Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic primaries was the anti-war liberal candidate. There wasn't anybody up on the stage with him during the debates who thought he was going to be the nominee and was going to be president.

Her challenge is to prove she's not a Tea Party candidate; she's a Republican candidate. She needs to expand over coalition. As this field gets whittled down, you know, primaries are about ideology. She has to prove herself to conservatives.

But as we get closer, as we get down to two candidates, then the Republicans will be asking the question who can beat President Obama? So they need to look at Michele Bachmann not as a Tea Party candidate, not as a House member, but is she a president? That is her challenge.

GERGEN: I agree with that, Anderson. I want to go back to what Dana said. I did think there were three winners tonight: Romney, who helped himself the most. Gingrich, who remained in the race.

But Michele Bachmann, I thought, was the biggest surprise, because she was -- I don't think the country knew her well. She was pithy. She spoke in a much more cleaner sentences. She sprinkled interesting facts into it. And she introduced her biography. The 23 foster children, she said that twice. That was really...

BORGER: And five children.

GERGEN: And Gloria and I were both saying, 23 foster children?

COOPER: She must be good at time management.

BORGER: Up next, the results are exclusive. Insiders, both CNN and "The National Journal" teamed up. She's a social conservative, like Rick Santorum was. I think she was more impressive. COOPER: Results, the exclusive insider polls. CNN and the national forum got together. Who was the winner? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Seven Republicans shared the stage tonight here in New Hampshire. Who was the biggest winner? Who was the biggest loser? Let us know on Twitter. Anderson Cooper. But those are two of the questions the "National Journal" asked in its insiders poll. Political operatives, strategists with campaign consultants. Let's start with what Republican insiders thought.

Fifty-one percent said that Mitt Romney was the biggest winner tonight. Twenty one percent said Michele Bachmann, and 9 percent said Tim Pawlenty was the biggest winner.

Democratic insiders called the debate pretty much the same way: 35 percent said Mitt Romney was the biggest winner; 26 percent said Michele Bachmann, and 90 percent -- excuse me, 12 perfect said Tim Pawlenty.

Let's bring in our panel again for their final thoughts on who won, the biggest winners. Andy, we'll start with you. I know you said everybody did well. Who do you think really stood out?

CARD: I thought Mitt Romney did what he had to do. He looked presidential. I thought Michele Bachmann exceeded expectations and introduced herself to America and did a very good job. And I thought Tim Pawlenty was solid and Newt Gingrich was more disciplined than I've seen him in the past.

COOPER: Dana Loesh, if there was one winner, in your mind, who was it?

LOESCH: One winner? It's very difficult to say. Romney, Gingrich and Bachmann, I think, really held it up. Bachmann, I think, did incredibly well. It would be between her and Gingrich. The Comeback Kid, and the new introduction for Bachmann. I thought Pawlenty was the loser. He flubbed with Romney Obama care.

COOPER: Do you think -- do you think a strong Michele Bachmann, Dana, hurts Sarah Palin's chances of whether or not -- of actually entering the race, if she was going to be entering the race?

LOESCH: I do. I think that Palin may be more hesitant to enter, or maybe she's going to just play kingmaker. It's really difficult to see what she's going to do.

COOPER: Cornell Belcher, winners?

BELCHER: Michele Bachmann, guys. She gained the most out of this debate, and when the smoke clears, she's going to be one of the last candidates standing, I think.

COOPER: John King? KING: I agree that Michele Bachmann gained the most out of the debate. If you had to pick one winner I would say Mitt Romney, by virtue of the fact that he is the frontrunner. He's way ahead here in New Hampshire. I think he expected to get a little bit more roughed up tonight than actually happened.

The other candidates decided tonight was introduction night so they were more timid.

COOPER: Did Tim Pawlenty, though, who has been accused of being timid in the past, did -- and a lot of people said tonight he should have been more aggressive, as he has been the last couple of days. Do you think he did that?

PAWLENTY: It's tough to score. Should you be more aggressive? Should you be less aggressive? But what was interesting, though, was just Sunday he escalates by saying Obamneycare. And then on Monday with the nation watching and his other candidates on stage, he wrote a book. The first word of the book title he wrote was "Courage." He wouldn't look Mitt Romney in the eye and say it right here up on stage.

BORGER: I don't know why you would start an attack and then kind of not follow through with it. And I think that was a little...

COOPER: Who do you think won?

BORGER: It didn't work. I think Mitt Romney had a big target on his back, and he escaped unscathed. And I think the loser was Tim Pawlenty.

COOPER: Years of campaigning showed tonight on the stage, I think, with Mitt Romney.

GERGEN: I agree. I agree with Gloria. Romney the winner and Pawlenty, a missed opportunity.

Here's the interesting question for me. Republican candidates, how do they play overall with the country? I think they played very, very well with their base. They helped themselves to their base. They were extremely conservative. How well they did with the country as a whole, I think, is another question. I don't know the answer to that. Very conservative.

Up next, tonight's debate in its entirety so you can see for yourself what we've been talking about this evening. Appreciate you joining us. We'll be back in New York tomorrow for "360." I hope you join us then.