2:00 P.M., EST
NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, VIA TELECONFERENCE
MODERATOR: Good afternoon. The Foreign Press Centers are very pleased to have Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, one of the most influential and nonpartisan survey organizations in the country, with us this afternoon. He is a distinguished veteran of of political journalism and has covered numerous national conventions and presidential campaigns as a correspondent for UPI and the Scripps Howard News Service.
As you know, Peter Brown will be talking this afternoon about what happened in the Iowa Caucuses on Tuesday and providing a preview of the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. So I just want to state at the outset that Mr. Brown’s statements and comments are, of course, his own and are not the policy of or endorsed by the U.S. Government.
MR. BROWN: (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: So with that, I thank you, Peter Brown, and turn the mike over to you.
MR. BROWN: Thank you. Good afternoon, hi.
MR. BROWN: Let’s start with Iowa. Iowa traditionally has not picked presidents or presidential nominees. It has winnowed the field. And pretty much, that’s what it did this week. It knocked the field down to, candidly, two serious contenders for the Republican nomination. Michelle Bachmann has departed the race. Rick Perry remains in. But it is hard to come up with a reasonable scenario, given Mr. Perry’s situation, of how he wins the Republican nomination. The top three winners in Iowa – Romney, Santorum, and Ron Paul – obviously continue, and then there’s John Huntsman, who chose not to compete in Iowa but is competing in New Hampshire.
Now here’s what happened in Iowa: Mitt Romney got the same 25 percent of the vote that he got there four years ago. He didn’t win four years ago, but he did okay there four years ago. This time, the 25 percent was good enough to win by eight votes, i.e. it was a tie. But the interesting point is that for Mr. Romney, there are two ways to look at Iowa for Mitt Romney: glass half empty, glass half full. Glass half full is he won, and in a state that people had thought would be a tough one for him. It’s the Iowa Republican electorate and the caucuses are a more conservative group than the Republican Primary electorate in most other states. Christian conservatives were, by exit polls, somewhere around 60 percent of the voters. That’s a lot. And Mr. Romney is not necessarily their favorite.
Now here’s the half-empty analogy: He did not grow his support between 2008 and 2012. And three out of four Iowa voters in the caucuses didn’t vote for him. So as we now enter New Hampshire, we have a kind of interesting field. You have three candidates who are clearly interested in winning the nomination, one of whom, Ron Paul, has a very difficult road, to put it mildly. Mr. Paul is something of a niche candidate in this race. He has very deep support, but relatively narrow. And his growth potential is pretty limited.
The reality is that he is at odds with mainstream Republican thought on a host of matters, most of them having to do with foreign affairs, but not completely. It is difficult to see where he can get to the point where he can win even a plurality in many states. And therefore, his chances of winning the nomination are very limited. On the other hand, he has deep support among a narrow spectrum, and that support includes money. He’s well-funded, he has supporters in every state, and to some degree, he has perhaps the strongest base, again, with limited upside.
As we go into New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is obviously ahead. He was governor of Massachusetts, the neighboring state, and he is heavily favored in the polls. He is up healthy double digits in all polls. And it’s difficult to see how that will dissipate all that much given that he won in Iowa. Traditionally, frontrunners who don’t win in Iowa often have trouble in New Hampshire, but he won. So Romney’s in strong shape in New Hampshire; the question is after New Hampshire.
Rick Santorum is the wildcard. Mr. Santorum was getting 1 percent three weeks ago in the polls in Iowa, and he’s still at 1 percent nationally. But he obviously struck a chord with Iowans. Iowa and New Hampshire are very different from the rest of the country in terms of picking presidential nominees. Iowa and New Hampshire have what we call retail politics. That is, candidates spend a great (inaudible) of time if they want – and Rick Santorum chose to do this – meeting voters on a small-group basis.
After the New Hampshire primary, the retail politics end, and so we’ll see what happens with this – Mr. Santorum. Mr. Santorum is a strong conservative. His positions on a host of issues are not hugely different from many of the other Republicans. He has a reputation of being especially conservative on social issues like abortion and gay rights. He has experience in the U.S. Senate. He was a two-term senator elected in Pennsylvania, which is, candidly, a leaning Democratic state. He won twice by relatively small margins and then was defeated by 18 points when he ran for his third term.
Mr. Santorum is a Roman Catholic, which is a characteristic that could help him in some key states, especially the American Midwest, where there are large numbers of blue collar workers and lower middle class voters, many of whom are – have ethnic, mostly European, but not completely, roots – and are disproportionately Roman Catholic.
The question for Mr. Santorum is: Can he very quickly assemble a conservative coalition made up of the people like the three-quarters of the vote in Iowa that didn’t vote for Mitt Romney? There are a number of people who are – a number of candidates who, you might argue, their supporters are more likely to support a pronounced conservative like Mr. Santorum than Mr. Romney, who some conservatives worry about his bona fides.
Mr. Santorum’s task is, in a short period, to collect a serious amount of money to be able to compete. Again, once you leave New Hampshire, it’s a wholesale operation. That means once you leave New Hampshire, it’s about momentum, media coverage, and money. Mitt Romney has money. Rick Santorum has media coverage, and at this point, has momentum. The question is: Will, for instance, Perry voters, Bachmann voters, and to some degree degree Newt Gingrich’s voters decide that their guys aren’t going to win? In the case of Ms. Bachmann, she’s already withdrawn, and Santorum is more their kind of guy than Mitt Romney.
And that’s the question, and it really won’t be answered that much in New Hampshire. It’ll be answered in South Carolina and Florida, which are the two – next two major contests. Those are states that, obviously in the American South, the Republican Party is a southern-based party. Its leadership tends to come from the South, its philosophy tends to be embraced in the South. It’s a very conservative region, as I’m sure most of you know. South Carolina is a medium-sized state. It’s bigger than New Hampshire. It’s strongly Republican in the general election, and it’s a conservative state there – on both economic and social issues.
Florida, which comes up after South Carolina, is more diverse. Florida really is not a bad representation of the country. It is a very large state, both in land mass and in population. It has a number of very large metropolitan areas. And therefore, television buys in those markets are very expensive. There’s Miami, which is – for those of – just to give you a fast primer on Florida, the farther south you go in Florida, the more it’s like the American North. The farther north you go in Florida, the more it’s like the rest of the American South. In other words, South Florida tends to be more Democratic and more liberal than the rest of the state, but it’s a big media market.
Orlando, home to Disneyworld and Universal Studios, is a big media market. It tends to be a swing part of the state. Jacksonville, which is on the East Coast, has a lot of military and former military and tends to be a conservative area. There’s what’s called the panhandle, the area right across the top of the state, which is very conservative. Then there’s the Tampa-St. Pete area, which, like Orlando, tend to be the swing area. And then you have Southwestern Florida, which is known as the Gold Coast, where there – which tends to be a Republican area. There’s a lot of money there.
Anyway, I’ll stop talking now and be happy to take questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Any journalist who wants to ask a question, please press *1 now and we will put you in the queue and notify you when it is your turn to ask your question.
I thought I would just start this process off by asking a question myself, and that is: Have you seen any shift in voters favoring candidates who share their values moving towards favoring candidates who are considered able to defeat President Obama? And also, what do you see as the impact of the first caucuses and primary on the President’s reelection campaign?
MR. BROWN: Well, the whole Republican process has an effect on the President’s reelection campaign. There are some candidates he would probably rather run against than others. When Newt Gingrich was high in the polls, the White House was ecstatic. They would have liked to run against Newt Gingrich, believing that he has enough personal baggage that it would make him unelectable. We’re very unlikely to find that out, because it’s very unlikely that Mr. Gingrich will win the nomination.
I’m sorry – what – the first part of your question was --
MODERATOR: I was just wondering about whether you see voters moving from candidates [who share their values to candidates who are perceived as capable of defeating President Obama] .
MR. BROWN: Right. Okay. When you ask voters what’s more important – when you ask Republican primary voters – because that’s the universe we’re dealing with now – what’s more important to them, a candidate who can beat Obama or a candidate who shares their values, they say a candidate who shares their values. On the other hand, nobody believes that.
There’s a lot of things in polling that sometimes doesn’t match up with reality. It’s difficult, for instance, to poll on racial question, because there is a certain sense of political correctness that permeates public discourse. To some degree, the same is true about religion, et cetera. Here’s what we know, and here’s what we think: This will be an election about money, specifically about the American economy, the national debt, and how to deal with the nation’s long-term financial problems.
But there’s very little dispute on that among the Republican candidates. There’s serious dispute between the Republican candidates and President Obama, but among the Republican candidates there’s little difference. Republicans want to (a) cut taxes, and certainly not raise them. They are for reducing government spending on federal programs, and that’s pretty much universally shared across the board, so that the differences among the Republican candidates are not over the economic issue. There’s very little difference other than, again, Mr. Paul who tends to be a little bit off to the side on many things. Although he, too, is against raising taxes and he’s for cutting spending.
This is, again, a campaign that will be about who the country best thinks can fix the economy, and I would make the following observation. Traditionally, American presidential elections have been as follows: The Republicans pick a candidate and that candidate has to be very conservative to appeal to the Republican base, the folks in the primaries. The same is true on the Democratic side, when the Democratic nomination’s open. The Democratic candidate has to emphasize his liberal side because the primary electorate on the Democratic side is more liberal than the rest of the country. And then once they have achieved their party nominations, the two candidates then fight to get as close to the center as they can in order to attract, quote, swing voters – those voters who are seen as going back and forth depending on a variety of things, so that the candidate who’s viewed as more centrist generally wins these swing voters.
But I would suggest to you that’s not always the case, and I think this might be one of these elections. In this election the whole issue, as I said, is who can best fix the economy. And I would suggest to you that is much less an ideological question than a competence question. In other words, which of the two candidates, the eventual Republican nominee and Mr. Obama, makes voters think they’re best able to turn around the American economy, because four out of five voters think that we are in a recession still. Now we are not in a recession based on the technical definition of a recession, which is two quarters of negative growth, but when you ask people if we are, they think we are. And one of the lessons of politics is that voters know best. What they think is what matters.
I’m not sure that answers your question, but --
MODERATOR: Yes, you did. Thank you very much. Let’s take a question from Stephane Bussard of Le Temps.
MR. BROWN: Hello?
MR. BROWN: I didn’t hear it.
MODERATOR: Stephane? I did hear him say something.
QUESTION: -- how the voters from New Hampshire are going to vote and whom are they going to vote for, but some say that they are very savvy though. How would you characterize, actually, the New Hampshire voters? Thank you.
MR. BROWN: Well, New Hampshire voters are, especially in the Republican primary, are probably more fiscally conservative than socially conservative. New Hampshire’s state motto is: “Live free or die.” And what that means is: “Leave me alone, government.” And they especially feel that way about taxes. New Hampshire’s one of a handful of American states that do not have a personal income tax. They also have no general sales tax. Now the other handful of states are states like Florida and Nevada and Alaska, each of which have a very unusual characteristics. Florida has tourists who pay their bills, Texas has oil, Alaska has oil. So that New Hampshire’s unusual in that they are very fiscally conservative, they’re a small government state – although the Democrats have been doing better there of late.
The other thing about the New Hampshire primary is that independents are allowed to vote in it. And one of the phenomena that occurs is that every four years this group of independents who can vote in either primary swing one way or the other. Now this year there aren’t – there is no Democratic race for them to take part in – so they will, obviously, if they want to vote, will vote in the Republican primary. Generally, independents will be less conservative than Republicans in this primary, for instance. Mr. Romney had a very sizeable lead before he won in Iowa. I would be surprised if that lead’s much smaller, if at all. On the other hand, Mr. Santorum will undoubtedly do better than the 1-2 percent he was getting before. Now, what candidate those votes will come from is the question. Mr. Santorum came from behind at the end in Iowa. It would be astounding if that happened in New Hampshire.
The place that Mr. Romney has to worry about again is South Carolina and Florida. There the electorate is not a home game for him. New Hampshire’s a home game for Mitt Romney; he lives next door in New Hampshire – in Massachusetts. New Hampshire would get a lot – should get a lot of coverage, but South Carolina will tell the tale. It’s a state where if Romney were to win there, it would go a long way to putting him in a very strong, strong position.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Next call – next questioner, Maria Pena
QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking my call. I was at another news conference this morning with Mr. John Zogby, and his polling pretty much reflects what you guys have been saying also. But the thing is, I was wondering about your take on Mr. Romney’s electability, because of the perception – well, the problems that he has with not connecting with the average Joe out there, because he’s a rich man. So he has a problem of authenticity and also the problem – the perception that he’s a flip flopper. So even though Republicans want a candidate that will undoubtedly beat Obama in November, a lot of people out there are still not – are still sitting on the fence about whether or not Romney is the man to beat Obama. So what is your take on what he needs to do to shake those negative perceptions?
MR. BROWN: Well, you’re asking two questions. Let’s do the first one. All the polling that we have done, and we poll in seven states – New York New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and we do national polls – they all show that at this point, over the last month or so – because we poll different places at different times – that Mitt Romney is by far the strongest Republican against President Obama. Gallup’s daily stuff shows much the same thing.
Mr. Romney’s problem is that there is unhappiness with him among parts of the Republican base. But those problems are not ones that necessarily will matter in the general election, should he be nominated. In fact, it might help him. The fact that he’s not as strong a conservative as some of the most conservative elements of the party might help him appeal to swing voters.
The question of changing positions, again I think questions of ideological purity tend to be a bigger deal in primaries than they are in general elections. For Romney, the task is winning the nomination. I mean, obviously, he has to win the general, too, but what he needs to do is something that he has not yet been able to do yet, which is grow his numbers.
On almost every poll in almost every state that we poll in and others poll in – and nationally – Mr. Romney gets about a quarter of the Republican vote. But that number doesn’t seem to change or hasn’t pre-Iowa. Now, who knows? There’s an old axiom in American politics which is: Everybody likes a winner. And so if he were to continue to win, I’m pretty confident that voters will come off the fence and support him.
I mean, here’s the one thing that the Republicans don’t have to worry about, and that’s turnout in November. There’s one great reason why Republican turnout will be very large, and that’s Barack Obama. Just as in 2008 Democrats didn’t need to gin up turnout, it was all there because voters were so angry at George W. Bush, it fell over on John McCain. The bases are going to turn out. And especially given the current state of American politics where things are so narrowly and bitterly divided, turnout’s not going to be a problem. Republicans who think he isn’t conservative enough are going to vote for him anyway in November, if he gets that far.
QUESTION: And as a follow-up if I may, obviously there’s a lot of – there’s this conventional wisdom that any candidate, and especially Republican candidates, will need at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. And every day we hear how angry Hispanic voters are because of Mr. Romney’s position on vetoing the Dream Act, if he’s chosen as president. So how do you see Hispanic turnout in terms of supporting a Republican candidate versus President Obama, even though he hasn’t fulfilled his promise of a comprehensive immigration reform?
MR. BROWN: Well, just a little background for the other callers. In 2008, Mr. Obama got about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. In 2004, when he was running against George Bush, John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, got about 60 percent. The axiom is that the closer to where that number – the 2012 number -- falls on that spectrum will have a great deal to do with who wins the presidency. Hispanics are a growing and important constituency.
But the question is – at least in my mind, and I think in a lot of others is – are they single-issue voters and is immigration such a critical issue to them that it will control everything. Maybe, maybe not. We don’t know. But it’s worth noting the Hispanics have been among the hardest hit group by the economy so that if – normally in a bad economy voters vote against the incumbent, if they want to penalize the incumbent because they blame him for the economy. Now, maybe they won’t – maybe voters won’t blame President Obama in this election, although that would be unusual. The question is to the extent that they do.
If the eventual Republican nominee can’t do better than 35 percent, he’ll have trouble. Doesn’t mean he won’t necessarily win. I mean, the other question is the extent of Hispanic turnout. Obviously there was a very large Hispanic turnout in 2008 compared to past elections. Will that turnout number be as large, in addition to how it splits?
I mean, there are a lot of groups that voted for Mr. Obama in very large numbers. Young people was a group that – non-Hispanic, non-African American young people is what we’re talking about. They were very strongly supportive of President Obama. The data shows that President Obama still does better among young voters than old voters, but not as well as he did in 2008. And the reason for that’s pretty simple. The unemployment rate for young people is a lot higher than it is for older people. In other words, the economy has hit them hard personally.
And that’s why I keep saying that the major issue in this campaign will be who can best fix the economy, not to belittle the importance of illegal immigration as an issue among some subgroups. You have to understand, of course, that illegal immigration as an issue cuts both ways, that obviously Hispanics feel strongly about it, but there are large numbers of voters who are not Hispanic who feel – express feelings similar to Mr. Romney.
MODERATOR: Let’s try and get a few more questions in. If I could ask questioners to please identify their media organization and also give their name before they ask their question, we would appreciate it. The next questioner will be Maria Ramirez.
QUESTION: Yeah. Hi. Maria Ramirez from El Mundo. And two questions, if I may. I want to know if you share the view that for President Obama it would be easier if Santorum or something like --
MR. BROWN: Yeah. I’m sorry. Can you repeat that? I’m having trouble hearing you, ma’am.
QUESTION: Yes. I’m saying if it could be easier, asking for Obama to beat a Santorum type than Romney, as the polls have predicted until now. And secondly, if I may, I’d like to know if that potential that you mentioned that Ron Paul has (inaudible) there would be space for a third party, if you think that could be – there would be a challenge for him if he tried? Thanks.
MR. BROWN: I had a great deal of difficulty hearing. Alyson, can you repeat the first question?
MODERATOR: I believe the question was: Would it be easier for President Obama to beat Santorum than Romney?
MR. BROWN: Than Romney? Okay.
MR. BROWN: Obviously, we don’t know, because everything on Santorum is speculation, because nobody’s paid any attention to him until now. You can argue that Mr. Romney is a better candidate in that he’s viewed as a little less conservative than Mr. Santorum and perhaps that would make him more appealing to swing voters. But you can also argue it they other way. If Mr. Santorum were able to win the nomination, then all the money and name ID problems would be taken care of, because he’d be the nominee.
And then intrinsically you look at what they would be like as general election candidates. Mr. Romney’s calling card is that he’s been a businessman. He’s been a very successful businessman in addition to his political service. And what our polling shows is that voters say that they – that by a small margin they trust Mr. Romney more than Mr. Obama at this point on the economy. We haven’t asked about Santorum, because, again, Santorum was not a factor until 48 hours ago.
On paper, Mr. Santorum has some potential. I think I mentioned this earlier. There is no more important state in America than Ohio. In fact, let’s do it the other way. Ohio is the most important state in America. No Republican has ever, ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. Pennsylvania, a little less so, but – and Florida’s very important. Here’s a way to look at it. No one since 1960 has been elected president without carrying two of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. And Ohio is by far of the three the biggest swing state.
Ohio is filled with an awful lot of people who are both Roman Catholic, fit the definition of blue-collar worker, are economically struggling, and are socially conservative. Mr. Santorum intrinsically might be more attractive to that constituency than might Mr. Romney. Again, I’m using the word might every time, because we don’t know. This is pure speculation. We don’t have data on it. Again, Mr. Santorum’s new.
And even when you get data it takes awhile. I mean, Santorum just isn’t well known, so it will take quite a while till his name ID – if he were even to beat Mr. Romney for the nomination – till his name ID is sufficient that tests against President Obama would be meaningful.
The second question was on Ron Paul. Is that correct?
MR. BROWN: Can you restate it briefly, Alyson, if you remember --
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just asking if would the potential that you mentioned that he has, it could be – there could be a chance for him to run in a third party?
MR. BROWN: Oh, that’s up to him. I mean, if he were to run as a third-party candidate, the consensus is or the conventional wisdom is that it would be more harmful to the Republican nominee than to Mr. Obama. I think that’s based on the notion that he shares more on his platform with the Republicans than the Democrats.
Although again, his foreign policy is such that voters who want to embrace a noninterventionist, what some would call isolationist, policy in world affairs might also be attractive to some people who would otherwise vote Democratic. But the consensus is that if he were to run as an independent that it would hurt the Republicans.
It’s not easy to run as an independent. It’s worth noting that even someone like – if you remember Ross Perot’s runs in ’92 and ’96, he had more money than he knew what to do with, but without a party behind him, he got 15-ish percent of the vote. And that’s not bad, but he didn’t carry any states; he got zero electoral votes. There’s a general belief that Mr. Perot’s candidacy in ’92 helped Clinton a lot against the elder Bush, but again, we don’t know exactly what would happen. To be sure, the Republicans will very much want Mr. Paul to not run as an independent.
QUESTION: Yes. Is there – can I follow up? Okay. Is there more space this year for a third party compared to the past, because of the discontent, the public discontent (inaudible)?
MR. BROWN: I think the process to get on the ballot for a non-Republican, non-Democrat, is very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. And that’s one of the reasons why you don’t see third-party candidates. Everybody talks about it, but you rarely get a serious third-party candidate.
I mean, Ross Perot had everything going for him, if you think about it. He had a popular issue, which was the whole financial problems at the time. He had more money than he needed, because he was hugely wealthy. He didn’t carry any states and he had a difficult time getting on ballots. Getting on ballots isn’t easy. It’s a time-consuming process where you need to have an organization that works on your behalf in a serious manner. And it’s not easy to put together such an effort. Not saying it’s not going to happen, but it’s a lot easier to talk about than to do.
MODERATOR: Do you have time for one more question?
MR. BROWN: I can stay on for quite a – I’m fine. I got nothing else to do.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you.
MR. BROWN: (Laughter.) Well, that’s not quite true, but I’ll be happy to stay for a while if you want, if your people have questions.
MODERATOR: Okay. So if there are any further questions, please press *1. And right now we’d like to take a question from Fernanda Godoy.
QUESTION: Hi. I’m from O Globo from Rio de Janeiro. My question is about the New Hampshire primary. Considering that independents vote in the primary, will that be some sort of demonstration of the power or the strength of Mitt Romney with independents? Can that be read in those results? And how strong does he have to be? What’s the percentage that he has to get in that primary to make him stronger for the next round?
MR. BROWN: I can’t tell you. I’m not about to say he has to get X percent or Y percent. That’s not my job, and I have some area of expertise, but that’s not one of them.
In terms of the independent effect, independents – again, Romney is a neighbor, so that all New Hampshire voters are going to be more familiar with him than the other candidates. And he has a positive image in the state. You would think that, again, independents are a little less ideological and less conservative, and if they perceive Romney as being that way, then that may well be the case among independents.
The person to look at to figure out what happens is Jon Huntsman. He has spent virtually his entire campaign in New Hampshire. He didn’t contest Iowa. He’s running low double digits in the polls. But his entire strategy is based on beating Romney in New Hampshire, and he’s 20 points behind him, at least. And he was counting or hoping – he being Huntsman – was hoping that Romney would come out of Iowa with a black eye. But he didn’t; he won. So the question is: What happens to those voters who have been for Huntsman? Do they stay with him? Do they go to other voters, other candidates? Or is Huntsman able to do in New Hampshire what Santorum did in Iowa? Different places. Again, Romney’s in much, much better shape in New Hampshire than he was in Iowa at this point in the cycle, so that the chances of Huntsman doing what Santorum did, in my mind, are smaller, substantially so.
MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s go to the next caller. Virginia Robert.
QUESTION: Hello. Do you hear me?
MR. BROWN: I do.
QUESTION: Yeah. Good. Great. Hi. I work for Les Echos, the French business daily, and I had a question about money and Santorum –
MR. BROWN: It’s a good thing.
QUESTION: Yeah. And about Santorum’s money, because he hasn’t had a lot of funds for his campaign up to now. Do you see that changing really because --
MR. BROWN: Well, if it doesn’t, he’s dead.
QUESTION: Right. But the establishment is behind Romney, not behind him.
MR. BROWN: Well, it depends how you define the establishment. Firstly, he allegedly raised a million bucks yesterday off the net.
QUESTION: One million yesterday?
MR. BROWN: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Allegedly, okay.
MR. BROWN: But a million dollars – although, I’d be happy to have it – isn’t serious money.
MR. BROWN: So the question is: Can he do it every day for the next 10 days or two weeks or whatever? Financing is obviously a problem. Again, in New Hampshire it’s useful because there are television stations in New Hampshire. But it’s critical once you leave New Hampshire, because retail politics ends.
MR. BROWN: And although South Carolina TV is not super expensive, it costs money, and Florida is very expensive, simply put. Santorum needs to raise cash and put together an organization very quickly. But again –
QUESTION: Is that doable?
MR. BROWN: Yeah. There are a lot of people in the Republican Party who don’t want Mitt Romney to be their presidential candidate. I mean, look, Newt Gingrich is spending most of his effort cutting down Mitt Romney. One could cynically argue that he knows he’s not going to be the nominee; he’s just trying to make sure Romney isn’t either.
MR. BROWN: Now, is that personal? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it’s ideological. Gingrich has gone out of his way to praise Santorum. Santorum’s an interesting, serious guy. Whether or not he can do what needs to be done is an open question. It’s difficult. But the schedule is worth looking at.
MR. BROWN: South Carolina is intrinsically a conservative state where voters are more conservative than Romney, to be blunt about it.
MR. BROWN: So the question is: Can Santorum coalesce the people who are going to be for Perry, the people who were for Bachmann, some of the people who were for Newt – Newt especially, because Newt was very popular in South Carolina. And that’s the question, but what’s important – again, I realize many of you are – you’re doing this call because you’re writing a pre-New Hampshire story, and I’m a former journalist. I understand the need to do that. But you should make the point in your story that the question of whether Romney can be stopped is not a New Hampshire question.
QUESTION: No. I agree.
MR. BROWN: It is a South Carolina, Florida, and beyond question.
QUESTION: Right. And the thing is that can Santorum last more than Iowa? Because New Hampshire – he’s probably not going to beat Romney. So if he doesn’t pass in South Carolina, basically he’s doomed.
MR. BROWN: Well, I mean – you’re talking about Santorum?
QUESTION: Santorum, yeah.
MR. BROWN: Yeah. I mean, if Romney wins South Carolina, he’s in very good shape, and it’s not impossible, even though it’s a conservative state. The governor, for instance, of South Carolina has endorsed Romney. Governors have power. They have organizations.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. So we have to wait and see?
MR. BROWN: Right. But money matters.
QUESTION: Money matters. Okay. Well, thanks for --
MR. BROWN: As if you didn’t know that.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Thanks.
MODERATOR: Let’s take one more question from Thuomas Niskakangas.
QUESTION: From Helsinki and Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper from Finland. I’d like to ask you: What is the significance of national polls right now? Would you pay any attention to them or just to --
MR. BROWN: You’re talking about the – for the Republican nomination?
MR. BROWN: I’d pay some attention. It is true that in – that four years ago Rudy Giuliani led the national polls and was an awful – did badly. On the other hand, once you get out of New Hampshire, again, it tends to be a big picture thing as opposed to a retail operation, so that if national polls were to show that Romney’s share of the Republican vote was increasing, that would be important. And conversely if it was – if he’s not able to do it, that would be important. Because as the number of candidates shrinks, their supporters have to go some place. So if Romney’s not picking those up, then he’s got a problem. And to be blunt about it, Santorum’s strategy has to be to coalesce conservative Republicans who are unhappy with the prospect of Mitt Romney as their nominee and essentially steal those who were for Bachmann, were for Perry, were for Gingrich.
QUESTION: Okay. So you basically expect that, for example, Florida and the national polls will go hand in hand?
MR. BROWN: Florida will be more representative, yes. Because again, it’s too big to be a knock-on-your-door state. And it’s a place where there hasn’t been a lot of coverage. I live in Florida. And I haven’t seen a campaign ad. They’re not here yet. They’re going to come. And television moves voters.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. BROWN: And candidates who can’t afford television don’t move voters.
MODERATOR: Would you be willing to take one more question?
MR. BROWN: Sure.
MODERATOR: Okay. Angela Hennersdorf, please.
QUESTION: Yes. Hi. Thank you very much, Mr. Brown, for taking my question. I’m Angela Hennersdorf, German Business Week. I wonder, what would you tell Mr. Santorum on what issues he should focus in New Hampshire and in South Carolina? I mean, because you said in the beginning of our conversation that both, more or less, have the same ideas how to fix the economy. So what should Mr. Santorum do?
MR. BROWN: I think he should –
QUESTION: We know that he’s a Catholic, he’s conservative, he’s against abortion, and so forth, but where should he put his argument to convince the people to vote for him and not for Mr. Romney?
MR. BROWN: I don’t think that his argument against Romney will be issue-based. There are very few things they disagree about.
MR. BROWN: They will be biography-based. American politics is often about a story. I don’t know if any of you stayed up on Tuesday night and –
QUESTION: I did.
MR. BROWN: and listened to Mr. Santorum’s remarks –
MR. BROWN: -- which came too late in the evening. They made a strategic mistake not – as soon as it was clear that he was going to – whether he won or not, he was the winner, he should have come down before millions of Americans turned off their TV sets and went to bed. But his talk, his remarks were very well intended, and I would suggest that for those of you who didn’t listen, he talked about his ancestry, about how his grandfather fled Mussolini, how he came to this country and started over again.
Santorum comes from a blue-collar background. People who make their own money are very attractive in American politics as opposed to people who inherit it. And it’s not necessarily fair, but it is. And so self-made people, of which Mr. Santorum can arguably be described, tend to have a niche that voters like. Now, Mr. Romney has made a lot of his own money. He happened to come from a wealthy family. His father’s the former governor of Michigan. And he’s certainly increased his fortune. He was a very well paid corporate leader. But the Santorum message, which was essentially, “This is our country; let’s take it back,” because there’s tremendous antagonism among Republicans towards the Administration, is the kind of message that could be successful.
I think if he wins the nomination, it won’t be because voters agree with him more on issues than Mr. Romney. I don’t think there are a lot of differences. There are some. And certainly Mr. Santorum’s views on social issues are thought to be more solid – longer lasting, perhaps, is a way of describing it – than Mr. Romney’s. But in terms of issues that – having to do with the economy, having to do with foreign policy, there’s not a lot of difference. The difference is who they are and where they come from.
MODERATOR: Peter, we’ve gone much longer than we agreed with you we would go. I really, really appreciate your participation today and all of your insights. I also thank all of the journalists who participated and remind you that the views expressed by Mr. Brown are his own and not those of the –
MR. BROWN: And not the U.S. Government’s. Right.
MODERATOR: But Peter, thank you again, and thanks to all the journalists.
MR. BROWN: No problem. Anytime.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MR. BROWN: Take care. Bye.