Rick Perry and Reince Priebus on "John King, USA"

Rick Perry and Reince Priebus on "John King, USA"

By John King, USA - January 11, 2012

KING: Rick Perry almost quit the Republican presidential race after running a disappointing fifth place in the Iowa caucuses. He then ran an even more distant sixth place last night in New Hampshire.

To be fair, though, Governor Perry didn't compete there in the past week, choosing instead the make his last stand in the state up next, South Carolina.

The Texas governor joins us this evening from The Gun Rack in Aiken, South Carolina.

And, Governor, looking at that backdrop, I get the impression maybe I would better be on my best behavior in this interview here.

PERRY: And this is -- this is just a great example of our constitution and the Second Amendment, John. So it's -- a lot of people in South Carolina and many other states are great believers in that Second Amendment. So, as a matter of fact, I think we've had two of the best gun sale years in American history.

KING: I assume that will be one of the issues in the week ahead.

Speaker Gingrich was quite candid with us here last night. He said South Carolina is a must-win state for him.

For Rick Perry, is it win or go home?

PERRY: Well, we're here to win. I mean that's the -- that's the purpose that we're in the race. So it -- I think the South Carolina voter really resonates with the leadership that we're talking about, about getting this country back on track from the standpoint of who is it that's got the record of creating jobs, who is it that knows how to cut taxes and cut regulations, get America working again.

And -- and I'm it. You know, the -- the -- the question is, do you think if you change one insider that's in the White House now with another insider that it's going to make any difference.

And the answer is no.

KING: As you try to make that case, sir, as you know, a big group of conservatives, Evangelical and other conservatives, are meeting this weekend. And as you know, many of them share your concerns about Governor Romney as the nominee.

If they come out of that meeting -- and many of them are big time, long-time supporters of Rick Perry -- if they come out of that meeting and say conservatives should coalesce around somebody else, say Senator Santorum, are there any circumstances under which you would bow out before the South Carolina primary?

PERRY: Oh, I'm sure there's some, you know, supernatural occurrence that could occur.

But I can't think of anything in the natural world that would cause me to drop out of the race. You know, we're -- we're running on our record. We're running as a leader that will overhaul Washington, D.C. And I'm taking my message to the people of -- of South Carolina and not a small group of individuals, certainly not the media, not a group of establishment Republicans that say here's who needs to be our nominee.

I think the American people and South Carolinians in particular are smart enough to figure out who they want as the next president of the United States.

And I think they want someone with a track record and someone that will stand up and make the hard decisions and the tough decisions, but get America back working again, someone that shares their values, whether it's the standpoint of the Judeo-Christian values that our founding fathers established this country on.

That's what South Carolina voters are going to be looking for.

KING: You've been very tough in recent days about Mitt Romney's tenure as the CEO of Bain Capital, suggesting -- these are my words, not yours -- but that he was heartless and that he was greedy and that this company went in not looking to rescue companies, but to pull out money and to make profits and if the workers lost their jobs, so be it.

I want you to listen to your own tough language.


PERRY: They're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the -- on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. And then they swoop in. They eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton.


KING: Ronald Reagan used to say thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.

What are you trying to say about Governor Romney's character here?

PERRY: Americans are looking for leadership and they're looking for somebody that understands how to create jobs, not somebody that is in the business of destroying jobs.

KING: As you know, much of the Republican establishment is cringing at these attacks on Mitt Romney. You mentioned Wall Street. I want to read you from the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" today. It is hardly a liberal mouthpiece, sir, a very conservative newspaper, says: "About the best that can be said about the Republican attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is that President Obama is going to do the same thing eventually, so GOP primary voters might as well know what's coming. Yet that hardly absolves Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others for their crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism. Politics isn't subtle, and these candidates are desperate. But do they have to sound like Michael Moore?"

How do you respond to that, sir?

PERRY: Well, I disagree with their characterization that, number one, that somehow or another we're not just telling the truth. And the fact is, the Obama administration will use this. And we do need to get it out now and talk about it.

But it doesn't sound like Michael Moore. What it sounds like is the people from Gaffney, South Carolina or the people from Georgetown, South Carolina who lost their jobs. The fact is, you can create jobs without destroying a -- a company. And -- and that's what I'm talking about, is I think Americans are really tired of these Wall Streeters that take advantage of Americans.

KING: An interesting 10 days ahead in South Carolina.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, appreciate your time tonight.

PERRY: Thank you, John. So long.


KING: Governor Perry isn't the only one complaining the Republican establishment is pressuring candidates to tone down the attacks on Governor Romney. In a few minutes, we will ask the party's chairman if it's true and if he's eager for things to be settled quickly.

But next: Check this out. A veteran pilot will explain to us why landing in a crosswind may look scary, but he insists it really isn't so bad.


KING: As the Republican race heads on to South Carolina, the chairman of the Republican National Committee finds himself in the middle of quite an interesting internal party feud. The chairman, Reince Priebus, joins us today from New Orleans.

Mr. Chairman, Speaker Gingrich said this in South Carolina today. He said there's enormous pressure from the establishment in both parties, he said, for candidates not to say certain things.

Have you yourself or anyone on the RNC payroll reached out to the Gingrich or the Perry or the Huntsman campaign, and said, whoa, back off when it comes to Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICANS NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: No. I mean, I have said repeatedly, John, that my role is not to get in the middle of a primary battle. And the reality is I think our -- the base of our party, the people across America, they're sick and tired of party bosses and people from Washington telling them what to think and how to vote and how to act. So this is up to the voters of the Republican Party to make these decisions. Now certainly I believe in Reagan's 11th commandment. However, it's not the role of the RNC chairman to start telling people what's good and what's not. I don't -- you know I'm not the --

KING: But if you had --


PRIEBUS: -- all communication here.

KING: But if you believe it that 11th commandment is it fair to say that you would also agree it's not being followed at the moment?

PRIEBUS: Well, you know what, you know, it's for the voters to decide, John. I mean it's sort of like, you know, the Supreme Court, you know, whether something is obscene or not. I mean, you know it when you see it, right? I mean, so it's the same thing here in politics. You know, and with every ad and with every strategy comes a potential upside and a potential downside. And those are the risks and political decisions that these candidates have to make.

KING: So do you view it personally, maybe not as chairman, you've been involved in the party for a long time before you were chairman. Is it fair game to call Mitt Romney as Governor Perry has a vulture capitalist or is it, as Governor Romney says, desperate Republicans who in the end might be -- might be helping President Obama?

PRIEBUS: You know, John, seriously, I don't think this is anything new in American politics. You know, four years ago Hillary Clinton was crying and calling Barack Obama a hypocrite. And those Democrats were out there on Obama's side saying that Hillary didn't have the moral character to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.

So I mean, you know, this stuff happens. You know, Bob Dole, Bush, you know, Bush-Reagan, Hillary and Obama. You know tough primaries are sort of a way of life in American politics. At the end of the day, though, this is going to be about Barack Obama and whether he ought to be fired by the American people.

KING: You know the process pretty well. Some people say it's about delegates. Other people often it's decided by momentum. If Governor Romney goes Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, opens 3-0, is it game set match?

PRIEBUS: Well, you know, that's not for me to decide, John. You know, I certainly -- governor is -- gets his due. Two in a row is pretty good work. But you know, South Carolina is going to be a big matchup. And Florida is coming and then Nevada after that. So as far as we're concerned it's a race to a majority of the delegates at the national convention. And so we'll see who gets there.

KING: What is your take? You mentioned the Clinton-Obama drama of four years ago. Most Democrats would think that in the end Barack Obama was a better, tougher, more seasoned candidate because of the long drawn-out process. But you're running against an unopposed incumbent president right now with a very deep fundraising organization.

What's better for Republicans? A long drawn-out process that might get bloody but would keep your party front and center or do you think it would be better to wrap this up relatively quickly so whoever the nominee is can focus on unifying the party and raising a boat load of money?

PRIEBUS: Well, John, I mean we have more cash in the bank than the Democratic National Committee right now. So as much talk as you hear about all their fundraising, we've got more cash in the bank than they do. So I think we're doing pretty well and we're doing well because people want to make sure that Barack Obama is fired.

So -- but as far as what I choose, you know, I've always said, you know, I think primaries are good for our party. I maintain that. I think tough primaries are good. I don't think a little bit of drama is bad. I think it's the opposite. So you know I don't mind if this thing takes a little while. But certainly whatever the case is, I think the first question that Americans are going to ask themselves and why I keep coming back to this, it's not a talking point, it's just the facts.

People are first going to ask themselves whether Barack Obama has lived up to the promises that he made to the American people. And when people answer that question no, then the next question is, OK, did the Republicans provide an intelligent, articulate alternative? And the answer to that is going to be clearly yes.

KING: Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks for your time tonight.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, sir. 

John King, USA

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