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Mitt Romney on "Political Capital w/Al Hunt"


AL HUNT: Welcome back. With me now is former Republican presidential candidate and ex-Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Governor, thank you for being with us.

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

MR. HUNT: First, Edward M. Kennedy - you ran against him in 1994; you've worked with him on issues, worked against him on others. How formidable?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, he's a powerhouse, of course, as Senator McCain said, the most effective man in the U.S. Senate. I learned very quickly as governor that if you want to get something done in Washington, the guy you go to is Ted Kennedy, whether it was a company thinking of moving to our state, wanting to be encouraged, Ted would pick up the phone, do whatever was necessary. When there was a base-closing commission that was considering closing bases, he got on the aircraft. We flew together around the country to try and shore up our support.

We disagree on a number of issues, common ground, time and time again, but, you know, he's a guy who you can trust, who you know where he stands. He'll tell you where he is and then he'll go to work to get the job done. So I've got to tell you, I am impressed with his record and accomplishment. I hope Massachusetts has the benefit of his continued service and he's able to get better.

MR. HUNT: Let's talk about current politics for a minute. You and Governors Crist and Jindhal are going to spend the weekend with John McCain in Arizona. Some say it's a vice- presidential tryout; what are specific strengths that John McCain should look for in a running mate right now?

MR. ROMNEY: I can't imagine me trying to make that kind of assessment for him.

MR. HUNT: Go ahead. (Chuckles.)

MR. ROMNEY: You know, he, of course, is going to look for someone who has the capacity to be the next president, if that were necessary. And that's the key qualification. I don't think there's much likelihood that I'm on that list to tell you the truth.

MR. HUNT: Well, you say that, but, why? Why wouldn't you be on that list?

MR. ROMNEY: There are a lot of terrific people.

MR. HUNT: Yeah, but you've got a lot of credentials, don't you?

MR. ROMNEY: That weren't part of the last campaign. He's got a lot of folks to choose from and I -

MR. HUNT: So that's a liability.

MR. ROMNEY: I think this is a - it really is a social weekend because you've got - I don't know - 20 people coming together of all different backgrounds and you've been there, from what I understand. It's a great social experience. I'm looking forward to it.

MR. HUNT: Governor, voters say the biggest issue, the economy and healthcare - you talked about that a great deal in your campaign. John McCain wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, offer private Social Security accounts, and reduce the role of government health care. Isn't that really Bush III?

MR. ROMNEY: That's actually quite a different approach. He has a different idea with regards to tax incentives to get corporate tax rates down so that we can get more corporations to grow and thrive here. And with regards to health care, a very interesting and bold approach, which is to try and move towards individuals owning their own health-insurance policies, letting families and individuals own their policies so that as you change jobs, you don't lose your insurance. And it's a real re- orientation of the way we provide health care in this country. That's something which I don't think President Bush contemplated.

So Senator McCain has his own views. They're very different than President Bush. I'm sure they are similar in some areas, but, you know, John McCain is his own man.

MR. HUNT: More differences than similarities, do you think?

MR. ROMNEY: It depends on the topic. You know, I think on economic matters, John McCain is in a very different place. I mean, you look at government spending, John McCain has been a frequent and vocal critic of George Bush. If you look at the conduct of the war in Iraq, John McCain was probably as outspoken a critic of the Bush administration as anyone.

MR. HUNT: Governor, as you know, the California Supreme Court recently threw out the ban on gay marriages in that state. We know your views on courts getting involved in this and on the issue. But let me ask this - Governor Schwarzenegger has said, we ought to accept the court ruling. It should not become an issue in the fall campaign, either in California or nationally. Do you agree with Governor Schwarzenegger or do you think this should be a priority issue this fall?

MR. ROMNEY: I don't agree with Governor Schwarzenegger on this. I think if you feel as I do, that same-sex marriage is not the appropriate way for our society, then if you believe that then you are consistent in focusing on that issue and trying to encourage the preservation of traditional marriage. I think it will be an issue, but -

MR. HUNT: Would you encourage your presidential nominee to make it a major issue?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, he's already stated that he opposes same- sex marriage. I don't know whether it will be a national issue as much as it is a state-by-state issue. We'll see how that develops, but it's an important matter. I feel very deeply that you don't discriminate against people who are same-sex partners. At the same time, marriage, in my view, is a relationship reserved for a man and a woman.

MR. HUNT: Governor, when you were seeking the Republican nomination, you said repeatedly that global Islamic jihad was the greatest challenge facing us. Al Qaeda continues to grow after 9/11. Bin Laden continues to thumb his nose at us. We haven't gotten him. How do you think al Qaeda views this presidential election this year?

MR. ROMNEY: It's hard for me to assess what al Qaeda thinks. I'm sure that Hamas has made their view pretty clear. They would prefer seeing Barack Obama become the next president. I'm not surprised. Barack Obama has said, and I think in a very naive way, that he would sit down, without condition, with Ahmadinejad, with Kim Jong Il, with the Castros. I think it shows a level of naivete‚ that, well, it's similar to what we're seeing with Jimmy Carter.

I think of course we talk to other nations. There's a lot of talk that goes on. If you think about Nixon meeting -

MR. HUNT: But you don't have any views about what it would mean for al Qaeda?

MR. ROMNEY: Al Qaeda hasn't spoken on the topic and I - I think that it's essential that we show that we are a nation of strength and resolve and that withdrawing our troops from Iraq without any consideration of the circumstances on the ground, with a specific timetable, would be something al Qaeda would be delighted to see. And I think that's something which would be ill-considered.

MR. HUNT: Final question - you announced on Thursday, you're starting a political action committee to help Republicans in the fall. Republican congressman, Tom Davis, on this show last week said that President Bush is ?absolutely radioactive? - that's a quote - and that McCain and other Republicans need to further distance themselves from him. Do you agree?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think the president - his numbers are pretty clear in the polls, that indicate that people do want to see change in Washington. I don't think that the fall election will be decided by whether there's "Republican" after your name. I think people look at the individual, what they stand for. And I think Senator McCain, even though I disagree with him on a number of issues - you know, I ran against him. I would have rather been the nominee, but despite all of those facts, he is going to be our nominee and I think he presents some real strengths as an independent, maverick voice.

MR. HUNT: Non-Bush Republican.

MR. ROMNEY: Non - an independent - it's a John McCain Republican.

MR. HUNT: Governor Romney, thank you so much for being with us.

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