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Interview with Mitt Romney

Hannity & Colmes

HANNITY: Earlier today I sat down with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa.


HANNITY: Governor Romney, good to see you here in Iowa.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, good to be here, Sean.

HANNITY: Let me see, New Hampshire last night, Iowa today. I guess one could only conclude you're running for president.

ROMNEY: Random states just picked, you know, at random.

HANNITY: South Carolina tomorrow?

ROMNEY: Probably South Carolina, Florida, Michigan. Those early states are obviously key.

HANNITY: All right. If I were to objectively discern Mitt Romney's biggest obstacle at this point in this race it has to be name recognition. Fifty percent of people polled still don't know who you are. That's a tough obstacle. How do you overcome that?

ROMNEY: You don't overcome it by trying to change that at a national level. Instead you do well in the early primary states. If you look at people who have run in the past and who were not terribly well known, people like Bill Clinton and, for that matter, John McCain when he ran in 2000.

They didn't worry about national name recognition. They worried about doing well in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan, the early states. And by doing well there, they got very dramatic name recognition, front pages of newspapers and magazines, on everybody's talk shows. And name recognition immediately followed, and they went on to do pretty darn well.

So my job is to do well person to person, get to know folks on a personal basis and that will build the kind of support that I need to go to the distance.

HANNITY: You're obviously doing well in the fundraising department. What was it, 22, 23, you know, million dollars for the first quarter is a lot of money.

ROMNEY: Yes, very, very pleased. I'm -- I'm encouraged by the fact that the people I spend time with end up supporting me. You know, I met a lot of folks that I've never met before who have been fundraisers in my party and worked for other Republican nominees.

And I met with them, talked to them. Talked about why I should be the president. They signed on. They have been raising money for me. The biggest state for me was California. Never lived there. I went to school there one year. But I didn't make contacts from that.

And, through those associations, I've been able to build a very substantial fundraising base of people who believe I'm the guy who ought to run the country.

And I think that's because I'm not a lifelong politician. I'm a person who fundamentally believes the source of America's strength is our people. And they want to see somebody who will actually change Washington. That's exactly what I intend to do.

HANNITY: In Iowa, you've got a new ad just running this morning that just came out that talks about non-defense discretionary spending, inflation minus 1 percent.

And you say, "I like to veto. I know how to veto." Obviously, a little tongue in cheek. But you're sending a message on spending?

ROMNEY: No question. This is a time where America has to finally make sure that we're not spending more than we're taking in. And we've been on a binge over these last couple of decades, and it's important for to us reign in spending.

I had the line item veto. We ought to have that in Washington. It allows you to pick out the pork and pick out the waste and to zero in on it. And then the legislature can overturn it, if they want to.

If you waste money, if you put in place earmarks or pork spending, then somebody is going to say no and point it out to the American people.

HANNITY: Would you also cut taxes more? The Democrats in their projections for their budgets going forward, they're planning to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. It would raise taxes $400 billion, which would ultimately be the biggest tax increase in American history.

ROMNEY: Terrible idea. Raising taxes will slow down the economy, will make it more and more difficult to create jobs here. It's the wrong direction. The right direction is always to bring tax rates down.

If you believe that the strength of America flows from government, then you want more taxes. But if you believe that the strength of America flows from the American people, you want to hold their taxes down for themselves and for the employers that employ them.

HANNITY: What taxes, specifically, do you think need to be cut?

ROMNEY: Well, I'd cut marginal rates across the board. But I'd also put in place a special savings tax break for people who are saving money, people of middle incomes who are saving money.

No tax on interest, dividends, or capital gains. Let's increase our savings rate in the country. Let's have more investment in the future growth of our country. That's always been the source of our vitality and strength.

HANNITY: All right. Candidates now are coming under more fire, more scrutiny as things go along. It seems the biggest area of scrutiny for you has been the issue of your faith and your religion.

Do you think at any point it's unfair? Do you think this is all fair game?

Do you -- you know, do you feel you have to go out there and almost have a John Kennedy moment when he was a Catholic running for president? You know, he basically told the country, "My faith is separate and I'm not going to be basing my decisions on my faith."

ROMNEY: Well, actually, you know, I go to a lot of town meetings, meet with a lot of Republicans, as well as independents and a few Democrats across the country. Rarely is there any interest in my faith on their part.

Time and time again I hear from them that they do want a person of faith to lead the country, but they don't care what brand of faith the person has, so long as their values are American values.

And as people look at me and my wife and our kids, they recognize that our values are as American as you'll find anywhere in the country.

HANNITY: For some other candidates the issue of the fact that they've had divorce. Their family has come under scrutiny. Is that fair? Do you think that is legitimate criticism? Legitimate scrutiny as one runs for president?

ROMNEY: Look, just like with me with my faith and all the differences between us, the American people are going to look at whatever they want to look at. They're going to take the measure of the person and decide what's the nature of their heart? What's their character? How would they lead this country?

I'm not going to tell the American people what they can and can't do. They are going to do what they want to do.

As for me, I'm devoted to this race and making sure that we change Washington, to make Washington finally respond to the needs of the people.

HANNITY: Rudy made the statement that if it was an issue of concern for his wife, she could sit in on cabinet meetings. Is that something that you'd want for your wife?

ROMNEY: No. That's not -- that's not the way it works in our home. My wife is a great counselor. She's, of course, my best friend. And a person I listen to on a whole host of issues, particularly relating to people. She's a great judge of character. But she has never set in on cabinet meetings that I've had as governor. And I don't imagine that that would be her role if she were lucky enough to become first lady.



COLMES: We now continue with Sean's interview with Mitt Romney, straight from the campaign trail.


HANNITY: Let's talk about a few of the issues that the country and the world are facing now. Here's a guy that denies the Holocaust, has repeatedly talked about wiping Israel off the map.


HANNITY: He has been providing the weaponry to the insurgency, being used to kill, we know on record, 175 American soldiers inside of Iraq. So we have a problem.

Ultimately, do you think it's going to take military action in the case of Iran, taking out the nuclear facilities, taking out the one refinery that they have, a blockade to prevent the importation of gasoline?

ROMNEY: I certainly hope it doesn't take a military strike of some kind. You don't take that off the table, of course, not in a setting like this. But you have to look at every option we have, short of the military attack and say those things have to be speeded up.

Every action we can take to put greater pressure on Ahmadinejad and separate him from Khomeini, who is the religious leader in Iran, and from the people of Iran.

You know, I have friends who speak with Iranian citizens who say they're not as disenchanted with him as they should be. And we need to let them know that they are a pariah in the world.

That the course that Ahmadinejad has taken is one which the world considers abhorrent. And that the people of that country, as well as religious leadership should establish distance between themselves and Ahmadinejad. And that's going to require far more efficient and effective sanctions.

HANNITY: Is this an evil regime?

ROMNEY: Developing nuclear weapon with the kinds of comments being -- Holocaust deniers, calling for the elimination of Israel, this is not the sort of thing that normal civilized people do.

And you know, long ago in the '30s and '40s people listened to Hitler and said, "Oh, he's just saying those things. He doesn't really believe them."

Well, listen to what Ahmadinejad is saying and Rafsanjani (ph) and some of the other leaders over the years in Iran. And you recognize these guys believe that stuff, and we'd better begin to take them at their word.

HANNITY: What do you think about Speaker of the House Pelosi, against the will of the White House, the recommendation of the State Department, is going to Syria to meet with the Syrian president? Is that the wrong thing to do? Does that send the wrong message to the world?

ROMNEY: It's outrageous. What she's doing is absolutely outrageous. I'm afraid she has been taking John Edwards's talk to heart, which is that there are two Americans, one led by the president and the other, which is led by her.

But there is one America. It's the United States of America. We have one foreign policy. If people don't agree with that foreign policy, they can elect new leaders. They can elect a new president in two years, and they can pursue a different course.

But the idea of having the speaker of the House, the third person in line for the presidency, of the United States, being with Assad, being welcomed and given diplomatic coverage, shots of her on TV and the media and the way she's being used by the Arab press is just outrageous.

HANNITY: Let me go to the issue of Harry Reid earlier this week said, in fact, he would support Russ Feingold's bill to defund the war in Iraq within 120 days of its passage if, in fact, the president goes forward with his threat to veto the supplemental that was loaded up with pork and, of course, this artificial timetable, as the president says?

How should the president react to that and what do you say to Senator Reid for that proposal? That basically guarantees defeat.

ROMNEY: Well, it's a terrible idea. And again, I think people are playing politics with foreign policy.

No one likes the fact that we're still in Iraq. Everybody wants our troops home as soon as they possibly can be home. But people who have studied it very carefully and put politics aside recognize that if we simply withdraw on a precipitous basis, we open a risk of a very substantial nature to America's interests.

The risk is that Iran, the nation we just were speaking about, grabs the Shia south of Iraq, that al Qaeda plays a dominant role among the Sunnis, that the Kurds destabilize the border with Turkey, and that potentially from any one of these acts that we end up with a regional conflict. And that our friends like Israel get drawn in, and then America has to go back in a far more difficult position.

These are the consequences of improper departure from Iraq, and so we have to make sure that we -- we manage to the extent humanly possible this process to maintain order and a decree of stability we don't let this country to fall in complete and total collapse.

HANNITY: If that were to come to fruition, Iran and al Qaeda would also have the oil reserves in Iraq, which would create the financing as they, you know, basically have a new staging area for terror.

ROMNEY: The people in Congress, and the people of America have to recognize that you've got to separate our disappointment and, in some cases, anger with where we are in Iraq. We made a lot of mistakes. Look, this has not been -- once we knocked down Saddam Hussein, the war has not been conducted perfectly by any means.

We are, to a certain degree, responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. But as long as there's a reasonable probability that a pathway exists for us to maintain a central government in Iraq, with a central military, albeit with strong sub-states, that's a pathway which is in the best interest of America.

HANNITY: So your position on Iraq, it was right to go in. We have experienced some success, but you say you're somewhat angry at some mistakes. What do you think the mistakes were?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to second guess the decision going in, based on what we knew at the time. We believed they had weapons of mass destruction. We were almost certain they did.

And it turns out that apparently they didn't. So we put that aside.

HANNITY: Now could they perhaps have moved them to Syria?

ROMNEY: There are all sorts of possibilities. Then began the process of trying to bring stability to the country and that we didn't do so well.

HANNITY: Word association game. You ready? One word, best adjective for a lot of the people that you're competing against. Just whatever comes to your mind.

ROMNEY: Sporting. Great guys.

HANNITY: All of them?

ROMNEY: It's a good group. It really is.

HANNITY: Senator McCain.

ROMNEY: Friend. American hero. I'm not going to give you one word but friend.


ROMNEY: Strength in a time of real crisis.

HANNITY: Newt Gingrich.

ROMNEY: Brilliant. Wonderful idea generator.

HANNITY: Fred Thompson.

ROMNEY: You know, I don't know Fred terribly well. I watch him on "Law & Order", but he always seems to have the right answer.

HANNITY: Good answer. Hillary Clinton.

ROMNEY: Misguided.

HANNITY: Barack Obama.

ROMNEY: Inexperienced.

HANNITY: John Edwards.

ROMNEY: Two Americas. And he's wrong. There's one America.

HANNITY: Dick Cheney.

ROMNEY: Strength, resolve, maturity.

HANNITY: George Bush?

ROMNEY: Great heart. Great character. A man of passion and integrity.

HANNITY: Rosie O'Donnell?

ROMNEY: Who? Just -- just moonbeam. Out of touch.

HANNITY: Governor, good to see you. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us in Iowa.

ROMNEY: Thanks so much, Sean. Good to be with you.

HANNITY: All the best to you.

ROMNEY: Thank you.

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