Karl Rove and Juan Williams had quite a lively debate Friday evening about politics, the economy, and who can beat Barack Obama in 2012.
With Williams acting as substitute host on "The O'Reilly Factor," guest Rove asked the question that has been plaguing conservatives for approaching three years - "How can an obscure United States senator from Illinois who had done diddly squat in the senate become the nominee of the Democratic Party and the President of the United States?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
JUAN WILLIAMS, SUBSTITUTE HOST: The question I had for you that I want to get back to is, beat Obamawith, what?
Here is a full screen. And it's going to show you Obama matched up against Romney, against Pawlenty, against all of them, even generic Republican. Not one of them beat President Obama.
KARL ROVE: He is -- he is the incumbent president of the United States. And he's 45 percent against a generic Republican in one poll, against Pawlenty who nobody in America knows who was only five percent of in the Republican primary he gets to 50 percent, against Romney, again -- this is one poll where's it's 49 percent -- 43 percent. But there are other polls where it's flipped; it's 48 percent, 46 percent Romney.
And I repeat. He is the President. He ought to have a bigger lead right now than he does particularly against people who -- whose name awareness is so much less than his. I mean, who knows Tim Pawlenty outside of the State of Minnesota. Not a whole a heck of a lot of people.
WILLIAMS: It doesn't matter if none of them can beat him.
ROVE: Yes -- it matters if you can't get above 50 percent. He can't get above 50 percent against -- he can't get above 50 percent against people whom nobody knows.
ROVE: That's a -- that -- just trust me, Juan. If I was sitting here and saying a Republican president was getting 50 percent against no named Democrats, I would say -- I would be worried if I was sitting there in the West Wing.
WILLIAMS: Ok and let me just say to you I would be worried if I was setting on the Republican side and I said as you seem to be indicating oh, well look at Mitt Romney he is the closest of any of these Republicans, he can beat President Obama. Look at Mitt Romney.
ROVE: No I'm just saying --
WILLIAMS: Hang on --
ROVE: Hey, hey. You are just -- Juan, with all due respect, you're distorting what I said.
ROVE: I was pointing out that in a public poll Mitt Romney is beating --
WILLIAMS: I don't know what kind of poll that is.
ROVE: And you -- and you -- well, it's -- I hate to say it.
WILLIAMS: It's sure isn't "Wall Street Journal" and NBC.
ROVE: It's "The Washington Post"/ABC.
WILLIAMS: Yes that was -- and that was a while back. But anyway --
ROVE: No, no it's like two weeks ago, Juan. Please, keep your facts straight.
WILLIAMS: No that's two weeks ago it's a while back because NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is good.
ROVE: That's 10 days ago. Juan, what's the difference between 10 days and two weeks.
For the record, the ABC News/Washington Post poll which found Romney with a three point lead over Obama was published June 7. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding Obama with a six point lead over Romney came out June 16.
But who's counting?
WILLIAMS: All right, but let just say, here is what would worry me if I was Karl Rove -- are you backing Romney by the way.
ROVE: No, I'm not. I'm not backing anybody. But here -- here is my point.
ROVE: It's early in the Republican primary process. We don't know who the nominee is going to be.
ROVE: And I don't -- and I don't -- but the price is --
WILLIAMS: It's early -- it's early for President Obama and he has the pulpit. The economy could get better.
ROVE: It could.
WILLIAMS: The economy could get better, gas prices have been going down.
ROVE: You tell me, hey, 10 cents a gallon.
WILLIAMS: 21 cents in the last two weeks.
ROVE: The price of gasoline is still twice what it was when he came in office. And Juan, are you going to sit there with a straight face and tell me --
ROVE: -- that you think the economy next year is going to be going and blowing and we're going to have millions of people with jobs? Because, if you are, you are the only person in America who thinks that.
ROVE: The Federal Reserve this week dropped its forecast for growth and jobs next year.
ROVE: This week the -- the -- the blue chip forecast dropped its estimates for growth this year. You know what the administration is thinking? That we're going to have growth next year of 4.5 percent. And the Federal Reserve is saying we're going to have three percent or less.
WILLIAMS: And here's what -- let me tell you.
ROVE: So if you think the economy is going to be -- all right, let's have a bet right now, Juan, who is going to be -- who's going to be -- you take the administration's estimate for economic growth and I will take Federal Reserve's.
WILLIAMS: In fact, when you ask Americans is the economy getting better they're saying no, no. But then, you ask them about their personal finances and they are much more optimistic --
ROVE: 48 percent of Americans -- 48 percent of Americans think that the economy is going to be in a great depression next year.
WILLIAMS: No filibuster Dr. Rove, just hang on let me just --
ROVE: No, I'm just -- I'm just setting the record straight I know it's painful for you.
WILLIAMS: No it's not for me, it's not -- I'm just saying don't get overly optimistic.
ROVE: I'm not.
WILLIAMS: Because what you're doing is saying oh, you know, this guy can't win and he may surprise you.
ROVE: Juan, I'm saying he is likely -- I wish you would read my columns. I said he is likely to lose.
WILLIAMS: Yes that's what you're saying.
ROVE: And I didn't say he will lose. I said he is likely to lose. In fact, let me read you. Let me read you --
WILLIAMS: Wait, wait. We only have 30 seconds, Karl -- Karl --
ROVE": "Objective circumstances like an anemic economy and bad decisions not only matter they become very nearly (INAUDIBLE)."
ROVE: "Mr. Obama is now at the mercy of policies and events he set in motion. He can't --
WILLIAMS: All right. But Karl --
ROVE: He is not done yet but it will be tough to recover.
WILLIAMS: But Karl, how do you recover if you are Mitt Romney and you have health care. How do you recover if you're Tim Pawlenty and nobody knows you? How do you recover if you are Michele Bachmann and everybody thinks you extremist?
ROVE: Look, there is a presidential primary campaign and the cream tends to rise to the top.
How can an obscure United States senator from Illinois who had done diddly squat in the senate become the nominee of the Democratic Party and the President of the United States by running a good campaign in the primary? By running a good campaign in the primary.
WILLIAMS: Karl doesn't want me to talk. You know why he doesn't want me to talk? I love him, I respect him and I don't want you disappointed but I'm afraid you may be setting yourself up.
Thanks so much for joining us.
Well, I think it was more than just running a good campaign.
Obama had more assistance from the media than likely any presidential candidate in the modern era.
But who's counting?