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Interview with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval

Interview with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval

By John King, USA - February 3, 2012

YELLIN: All eyes will be on Nevada tomorrow. It is the first Western state to weigh in on the presidential race.

Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, endorsed Rick Perry early on, but he hasn't backed anyone since the Texas governor dropped out.

Governor Sandoval joins us now.

Thank you, Governor, for being with us.

GOV. BRIAN SANDOVAL (R), NEVADA: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you, Jessica.

YELLIN: Thanks.

First of all, let's just dispose with the headlines. There have been some headlines that Newt Gingrich canceled a meeting with you amid reports that you weren't going to endorse anyone. One of his advisers told "The Washington Post" -- quote -- You're a Republican presidential candidate coming into a state with a Republican governor. It's common courtesy to meet him."

Sounding annoyed. Are you insulted the speaker didn't meet with you? Or is this much ado about nothing?

SANDOVAL: I think it's the latter. It really did kind of get blown out of proportion.

The speaker and I have talked on a few occasions. I have a lot of respect for him. We were called by a representative of his campaign asking for a meeting. I gladly accepted. After we accepted that, we received notice that he had to cancel and it went from there.

But it wasn't a problem at all. I'm just pleased that he as well as all the other candidates are here in the state and campaigning very aggressively. We're very excited about the caucus tomorrow. We have 4,000 volunteers at 125 locations. We think it's going to go extremely well.

YELLIN: Let's talk about Mitt Romney. What is your relationship with him? At CNN's debate recently in Florida, he said that he would consider you for a Cabinet position.

SANDOVAL: Yes.

No, and I was surprised and humbled that he would speak of me in that regard. The governor and I have talked on several occasions. He was a supporter of mine in my run for governor. I think he's a very strong candidate. And I look forward to watching him in the state.

YELLIN: What position would you want in his Cabinet if he becomes president?

SANDOVAL: You know, respectfully, I was real humbled by his mentioning me, but I love my job. I think I have the best job in the United States of America.

YELLIN: Smart answer.

SANDOVAL: I have only been in office for one year.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: Yes.

SANDOVAL: And we have accomplished a lot.

YELLIN: Let's talk about Nevada for a bit. The unemployment rate in your state is 12.6 percent, higher than the national average, significantly.

SANDOVAL: Yes.

YELLIN: Respectfully, sir, are you concerned at all that your stewardship could be a drag on the eventual Republican winner?

SANDOVAL: Well, of course I'm concerned about unemployment.

When I came into the office one year ago, our unemployment rate was 14.9. I think we have done well in terms of getting it down to 12.6. We have a ways to go. We are being very aggressive with regard to economic development in our state and modernizing our economic structure, attracting businesses here.

We just got a report today that we have the third most favorable tax environment in the United States of America. We have strong universities. We have a great quality of life. So I'm going to be providing my full support to the ultimate nominee and look forward to doing that.

YELLIN: Can't President Obama take some credit also going into the general then for the fact that the unemployment rate has fallen in your state, as you point out?

SANDOVAL: Well, he can try to do that.

There's -- part of this is, I have written to the president. One of our great success stories in our state is the mining industry. It's going extremely well. But we have several mines that are in the queue that could create thousands of jobs in our state. Because of the regulatory structure...

YELLIN: So it will be a battle. Right. It will be a battle.

SANDOVAL: It will be a battle.

But he has suffocated our ability to open some mines in Nevada. And I hope that we can continue to have conversations so we can get people to work in that industry.

YELLIN: Another major issue for voters in your state is the housing challenge there.

For 60 consecutive months, Nevada has had the highest home foreclosure rate of any state in the nation. I know you know this. In Las Vegas, two out of every three home mortgages are underwater.

Let's listen to a moment, to what Governor Romney said about the housing crisis in an interview with the "Las Vegas Journal Review" editorial board.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: To encourage housing, one is don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The Democrats and the Obama campaign are going to try to make a lot of that, because it suggests that he doesn't -- they will say he doesn't want to try to help current homeowners.

Will that haunt him if he's the nominee in your state?

SANDOVAL: Well -- and I'm glad he's here in Nevada, so that he can have some conversations with these folks that are struggling.

I mean, we have a lot of struggling families, as I described. We want to get them back to work. Me personally, we're working on a foreclosure mediation program that brings the lenders and the borrowers together. We're going to have a huge event in Las Vegas that does the same thing in terms of bringing those borrowers and those lenders together to get these things worked out.

I'm hopeful that I can sit down with Governor Romney and let him know specifically about what we're doing in our state to help our residents.

YELLIN: And maybe move him a little over to your position?

SANDOVAL: Yes. YELLIN: OK.

Finally, Mitt Romney is looking pretty good for tomorrow's caucuses. That's based on the polling. Ron Paul, though, is always full of surprises. From where you sit, what do you think we should all look out for, for tomorrow night?

SANDOVAL: Well -- and I probably -- or you have probably seen the same polling that I have, that Governor Romney is doing extremely well. He's got a great organization in this state. He campaigned very aggressively four years ago here. So he does have a lot of people on the ground.

Congressman Paul has done the same thing. He's got a lot of fervent support in this state. So I think that you're going to see some good results from both of them.

YELLIN: So, Romney, then Paul is what you're telling us?

SANDOVAL: Likely, yes. And I think obviously the speaker is going to be there -- right there as well.

YELLIN: OK.

Governor Sandoval, thanks so much for your time. And I look forward to seeing you in person some time soon in Nevada.

SANDOVAL: And likewise. Thank you for having me, Jessica.

YELLIN: Thanks. 

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