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MSNBC "Super Tuesday"-Transcript

Interview

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MSNBC "Super Tuesday"-Transcript

MS. ROBACH: Welcome back to MSNBC's special all-day coverage of polls, people and politics on this Super Tuesday. All day you'll hear from pundits and pollsters. But we begin this half-hour with a presidential candidate.

For the past several weeks, former Wisconsin governor and Bush Cabinet member Tommy Thompson has been campaigning across Iowa in his quest for the GOP presidential nomination. And Governor Thompson takes a short break from his campaigning to talk with MSNBC on this Super Tuesday.

Governor, thank you.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, thank you very much, Amy. Thank you for having me on your program, and thank you for doing this.

MS. ROBACH: All right. Let's start off with a comment made by former House speaker Newt Gingrich. He's calling Republican presidential candidates a bunch of "pathetic pygmies". That said, he says he may step into the race. (Laughs.) Your thoughts on that?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I welcome Newt to get in the water. He's been talking about it for months. He's a friend of mine. I hope he gets in. He'll add some color to the race.

But the truth of the matter is, I think the race is going very well, Amy.

MS. ROBACH: He's still a friend of yours, even after calling you a pygmy -- indirectly, maybe, but -- (laughs)?

MR. THOMPSON: I think he was referring to the top three. I don't think he was referring to the other candidates.

I know Newt, and Newt has a way to try and do some things that are very bombastic in order to get his picture and name in the print, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But the truth of the matter is is that everything right now is revolving around the presidential popularity contest in Iowa on August 11th. I'm working extremely hard. In fact, I've just traveled through 83 counties in Iowa. I feel very comfortable and cautiously optimistic that I'm going to come out on top on August 11th.

MS. ROBACH: Yeah, the latest pollster.com survey shows Governor Romney has a commanding lead there, so you've got about 18 days away from that Ames straw poll. Will these results make or break your campaign?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, they certainly are going to lead me to the decision as to whether or not I'm going to continue.

But you're talking about Governor Romney -- you notice that Governor Romney now is copying me. He's got a bus that's following me around Iowa, which indicates to me that he's seeing the most recent polls, like we are, and we're gaining on him. And I feel that the momentum is with us -- "the big mo'" -- and we feel very good going into August 11th.

MS. ROBACH: And in yesterday's Democratic debate, the candidates were asked, Governor, about whether or not they would talk or speak directly with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea. What's your answer to that question?

MR. THOMPSON: I don't think there's any person that -- at this point in time that America should not be talking to. That doesn't mean that we have to agree with them; doesn't mean that we encourage them.

What -- talking to them and stating out our principles and where we're going to go and how far we're going to go and what we need to accomplish is -- to me is important. I don't see anything wrong with that. And -- but I believe that you have to be very careful. You have to make sure that you know exactly what you want to accomplish and make sure that they know that so that they are not doing things that are going to cause problems in the future if you can help it.

MS. ROBACH: All right, Governor Thompson. As promised, we have viewers waiting to ask you a question. And Charles from Missouri is now on the line with a question to you, Governor, about Social Security.

Charles, go ahead.

Q Hello, Governor. I would -- it's actually about campaign reform, Governor.

MR. THOMPSON: Yes. Yes, go ahead.

Q And I'd like to find out -- in any party, candidates have said, "Follow the money," on some of the leading candidates. And I'd like to see campaign reform allow equity in the -- like having one major campaign fund where anyone who works to get their name on the ballot can have a equal share of that fund, creating equality among the financial end of getting your name out and your policy out. What do you think about that?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, even though that would help me because I am not getting as much money as the frontrunners, I think that is -- smacks of socialism. It smacks of governmental intervention, and I do not believe that the government should be controlling the dollars going into a campaign.

I would hastily disagree with you. I think that would just increase the power and also the control of the United States government over campaigns, and I think they already got enough over it.

I think we should do exactly what we're doing -- is slugging it out on the round in Iowa right now. And I feel very good doing that, going out and meeting the voters. And I think that's what our forefathers wanted us to do -- go out and actually shake hands with the voters, look them square in the eye and say, "I'm for this and that, and I want your support." And let the voters make up their mind, not the United States government.

MS. ROBACH: All right, Governor. Next we have Greer (sp) on the line. She's in Florida, and I believe she'll be asking you a question concerning Iraq.

Greer (sp), go ahead.

Q Good morning, Governor Thompson.

MR. THOMPSON: Good morning. How are you.

Q Here's my question, dear: I am the proud grandmother of six boys.

MR. THOMPSON: Yes.

Q Two of them are going to be very close to 18 in about three years, and I want to know what you plan to do to keep my boys out of Iraq's civil war or any other country's civil war.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, here's what I would do: I've laid out a plan, and I believe it's the only -- I'm the only candidate that's really laid out a comprehensive plan on how we win the peace in Iraq.

First, I would require the al-Maliki government -- just like the United States government, it's duly elected -- require that government to vote as to whether or not they want the United States in their country. We've been there four years, going on the fifth year. And if they vote yes, tell us how you're going to help us win that war and how you're going to help pay for that war. And if you don't want us there, vote so and we'll redeploy our forces in other countries in the Middle East as well as Afghanistan.

Number two, we have 18 territories geographically defined in Iraq, and I would require those 18 territories to elect their leaders. Those leaders will certainly be elected by Shi'ites in Shi'ite territories, Sunnis in Sunni territories, and Kurds in Kurd territory. And you'll get rid of the civil war, because Shi'ites will move into Shi'ite theocracy territories, as well as Sunnis and Kurds. And that will reduce the civil war.

Third, I would require the oil revenue to be split one-third to the federal government, one-third to the state governments, and one- third to every man, woman and child. We do that in Alaska, and if every man, woman and child is going to get a stake in their government they're going to feel like they have a stake and want to do things to defend that government and start building that government and building their own businesses.

I've been to Baghdad. I've seen these individuals. They're great entrepreneurs, and they'll start building businesses and that will help to create the peace, downplay the civil war and start making Iraq a stabilized country. And that's what we want to do as Americans to make sure that's a stabilized country and do not get into this religious civil war and allow it to continue.

My plan will stop it, and my plan will allow for some degree of stability in Iraq.

MS. ROBACH: Governor Tommy Thompson, we appreciate your time so much today. Thanks for being with us.

MR. THOMPSON: Thank you and good luck to you.


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