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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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WALLACE: Now we continue our series of 2012 one on one interviews with GOP presidential candidates with a man who hopes to boost his chances in the Fox News debate and in the Iowa straw poll.

Joining us from West Des Moines is Tim Pawlenty. And Governor, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

Governor, can you hear me?

FORMER GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can now, Chris. I lost you there, I am sorry.

WALLACE: Well, good. I am glad we got you.

Iowa reporters and some top state Republican officials are saying that your campaign is starting to pick up momentum. Are you going to surprise people with the showing in the Ames straw poll?

PAWLENTY: Well we're going to show good progress in the Ames straw poll. My record of cutting government spending, appointing conservatives justices, doing health care reform the right way and more is now getting out as we've had TV ads and radio ads and spending a lot of time here in Iowa. So I think we'll show good progress for the Ames straw poll. But our real goal is those caucuses next January and February. That's the ultimate objective for Republican candidate in Iowa.

WALLACE: Well, despite all this talk, and there is talk on the ground about momentum, we got to go at least for now with the hard numbers and those are not encouraging. Let's put them up on the screen.

You have spend 42 days in Iowa and held 102 events. And yet according to Real Clear Politics it's average of Iowa polls, Michelle Bachmann is leading with 27 percent, Romney is just behind at 22.3 percent and you are a distant third at 7.5 percent.

When you have campaigned longer and harder why is Congresswoman Bachmann beating you?

PAWLENTY: Well, as you know those early polls don't predict the final outcome almost ever. And so we're not too worried about the early polls. They predicted anything, Rudy Giuliani would be president or Hillary Clinton would. But more importantly, we are seeing momentum on the ground, you are going to see good progress. And a week from yesterday, like Saturday at the Ames straw poll, the proof will be in the pudding. And I think you'll see our campaign moving up from back of the pack to closer to front of the pack, because my record of Minnesota's governor in getting those things done in a very liberal state like I said of cutting government spending, health care reform the right way, appointing conservative justices.

People in Iowa are now seeing that record. They see that I did it under the most difficult circumstances. And they're responding to it.

WALLACE: You know, obviously you and Bachmann both from Minnesota, both appealing to a lot of the same voters -- evangelicals, social conservatives, Tea Partiers. And you have been taking some shots at Congresswoman Bachmann recently. You say that she has no accomplishments in congress, that she makes a lot of speeches, but doesn't get results.

The question I have is, is that fair? The congresswoman founded the Tea Party in the House. She was the first congressperson to call for a repeal of Obamacare. Given the fact that she was in the minority until just this January, aren't those accomplishments?

PAWLENTY: Well, a couple of things. One is I think I'm unique in the race in that I can unite the whole conservative movement. It consists in part of economic conservatives, social conservatives, libertarian and Tea Party conservatives, and a few more. I have got a record that can authentically and genuinely appeal to the whole thing. Many of the other candidates appeal primarily to one chunk of that, but not all of that. So that is one of the advantages I bring forward.

And as the Congresswoman Bachmann or any other candidate in this race, I think one of the minimum prerequisites for being the next president of the United States in these most challenging of times is to have had executive experience, that you've run a large enterprise with a public component to it and achieved results. I have done that.

And my comments of her record, if you just looked at her record in congress, you know there's great comments, and you know, offering amendments that didn't pass and the like, but as to these things that we're concerned about -- cutting government spending, getting health care done the right way -- not talking about it, but actually doing these things, accomplishing these things, getting results. I said her record is nonexistent. That's not disputable, that's a matter of fact.

WALLACE: Well, I mean she was in the minority. She couldn't defeat Obamacare by herself?

PAWLENTY: Well, we are all held to our results. And so whether you have talked about it, whether you have given it rhetoric, is one of the themes I think in this race is going to be -- after Barack Obama, he came through Iowa and other places, gave these soaring speeches, these incredible comments, people here, the Democrats brought it in Iowa. And then catapulted him to the presidency of the United States.

And we now know he wasn't prepared for the job. He hadn't run anything. He hadn't done anything. And his record of results are essentially nonexistent. We don't want to repeat that mistake.

WALLACE: Well, I have to ask you, are you comparing Bachmann to Obama in terms of not being prepared for the job?

PAWLENTY: Well, again, whether it's any candidate, I don't think it's unreasonable or inflammatory or even disputable to say that the next president of the United States should have executive experience with results running a large enterprise. I have that kind of experience. It's one of the strengths I bring to the race.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk about your record, because the congresswoman has fired back at you. She says that you were a big spender, big government, compares you to Barack Obama, and says that you left a $5 billion budget mess in your state, which is one of the reasons that we had this shutdown in Minnesota.

PAWLENTY: Well, look, my record in Minnesota is one of the best of any governor in the country. The Cato Institute, which is a Libertarian grading organization, gave only four governors in the country an A grade. I'm one of those four, and the other three aren't running for president.

Anybody who looks at my record of taking spending from historic highs to historic lows, appointing conservative justices, health care reform the right way, public employee compensation reform before it was cool and popular, and on down the list, everything that Republicans are talking about needing for the country to need, I have actually done, Chris. I don't just flap my jaw, I don't just say maybe I'll do it someday. I don't talk about the hopes of getting it done, I have done it under difficult circumstances in Minnesota.

And my record -- look, I've been in the battle. I've got a few battle scars, like everybody does, but my record is one of the best, maybe the best, of any governor in the country.

WALLACE: Governor, let's talk about the downgrade of our credit rating, which we've been talking about so far on this program. S&P blames the political gridlock in both parties. They're bashing both Democrats and the Republicans.

You say that you don't support the compromise that, after weeks and weeks of negotiating, all sides finally came up with. If the problem of gridlock, wouldn't President Pawlenty be a part of the problem?

PAWLENTY: Absolutely not. Again, I have a record of getting things done. I never had a Republican legislature fully in my state, and yet, all of those things I mentioned we got accomplished.

One of the ingredients of breaking the gridlock is having a leader. In this case, a president of the United States who has the courage and the experience and the fortitude to lead.

And look at this president. We can't find him, Chris. Where is his specific public plan on Social Security reform? Where is his specific public plan on Medicare reform and Medicaid reform?

We shouldn't have to play come out, come out where ever you are with the president of the United States. He has an obligation and a responsibility to lead, and you can't find him.

He should step forward to the microphone and lead this nation on the most pressing, challenging financial issues of our day. And he is not in action. He's hiding on these issues, he's ducking on these issues.

He should be leading. He has an obligation and a responsibility to do it.

WALLACE: You were talking before about the fact that you were back in the pack in the early polls and you think you're going to be up near the lead when we get results from the Ames straw poll next Saturday. As we said, you spent a lot more time and a lot more money in Iowa than Congresswoman Bachmann. Don't you have to beat her on Saturday in Ames?

PAWLENTY: No, I don't. I think we've got to move from the back of the pack and show some progress towards the front of the pack.

These things sort out over a long period of time. And look, everybody's records are going to get scrutinized. This is a long journey for a reason.

The American people and people in Iowa want to kick the tires. Hopefully they'll limit it to kicking just the tires. But I feel very confident our campaign in Iowa. I think we're going to do well in Ames.

I don't think we have to win it. We have to show progress. But then we'll be in position to win those caucuses next January or February, and that's the ultimate objective here.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that though. You, as we just said, are third in the polls now, somewhat distant, but you are third. Don't you have to finish at least third in Ames to remain a credible candidate?

PAWLENTY: I thought you said I was not third earlier, Chris.

WALLACE: No, no. I said you were third.

PAWLENTY: Well, in The Des Moines Register poll, which I think, by most accounts, is the credible benchmark poll here in Iowa, had me in sixth or seventh place just a few weeks ago. So our goal is to move from the back of the pack standing to something closer to the front. I don't think we need to win it, but we do need to show good progress, and I'm confident that we will as that record from Minnesota that I talked about continues to get out.

WALLACE: Governor Pawlenty, we want to thank you so much for joining us today. And we will see you Thursday night in Ames for the Fox debate.

PAWLENTY: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: We are, too.

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