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

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

WALLACE: John Roberts reporting from South Carolina -- John, thanks for that.

Joining us now from the state capital of Columbia is Mitt Romney.

And, Governor, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

ROMNEY: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.

WALLACE: I want to put up the dramatic change in South Carolina over this past week. Let's look at the polls. On Monday, before the Fox News debate, you were leading Gingrich 29.7 to 22. Last night, Newt Gingrich beat you 40 percent to 28 percent. That is a swing of 20 points in just five days. Question, Governor: what happened?

ROMNEY: Well, Speaker Gingrich had a good day. I think his debate sparring with Juan Williams was a great opportunity for him to show some strength. It was not a great week for me. We spent a lot of time talking about tax returns and, of course, the change in the vote in Iowa. And, you know, it is a time when we faced a setback.

You know, in my experience, a lot of people face setbacks, and you come back from them. And that's the way to be successful, is to come back from the inevitable downturns. We're hoping and expecting to do that down the road.

WALLACE: Let's look the exit polls, though, may have raised some worrisome questions for the campaign. Voters who said they were conservative went to Gingrich over you, 45 percent to 24 percent. And among voters who said it matters that a candidate shares their religious beliefs, Gingrich beat you 46 percent to 20 percent.

You seem to be hurt, Governor, by the idea that you are a moderate and the fact that you are a Mormon?

ROMNEY: You know, I realize that South Carolina is in Newt's neighborhood. This is a state very close to his home state, and he had a good strong starting place here. I indicated from the very beginning. We thought it would be an uphill climb here in South Carolina. We did a lot better this time than we did four years ago.

But there is a lot of states across the country and the great majority of people chose the candidate who they think should be the next president as opposed to someone who maybe in the same faith that they're in. So, you know, I'm looking forward to a long campaign. This is a tough process. You know that. And that's the way it ought to be.

We are selecting the president of the United States. Someone who is going to face ups and downs and real challenges, and I hope that through this process, I can demonstrate that I can take a set back and come back strong.

WALLACE: But how do you deal with this notion, and you know that Gingrich is going to play it -- Massachusetts moderate and also the fact that you are a Mormon? And at least in South Carolina, people have concerns about that.

ROMNEY: Well, I don't think in the final analysis that religion is going to play a big factor in selecting our nominee. I do think that conservative values do play an enormous role and I think the speaker has some explaining to do for sitting down on the sofa with Nancy Pelosi and arguing for climate change regulation, for calling the Paul Ryan plan right wing social engineering.

You're going to look at his record and say, well, he is not so conservative, as a reliable conservative leader, as people might have imagined. But we'll get a chance to frame up those issues as time goes on. He had a very good week going after me on taxes and Bain and so forth, and a great confrontation with Juan Williams. That's hard to imagine in every single state.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on exactly this issue. How will -- you gave us a couple of ideas -- but generally speaking, how will you go after Newt Gingrich now?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, the key for me is not so much going after Newt Gingrich as it is pointing out my capacity, my background, my strengths. Look, I don't think that the people of this country are going to choose as the next president of the United States a person who spent 40 years in Washington as a congressman and a lobbyist. That is not going to be, in my opinion, be the most effective way to replace the current president who also spent his career in politics.

I think that in order to replace a president who's never had the experience leading a business, leading a state, leading a community, that it makes sense to have someone who actually has done those things, who's led a state, who's also led an Olympics, who's led businesses. I think that background is critical.

And I think Speaker Gingrich, having not done any one of those things, is not ideally suited to face off against the president.

WALLACE: Aides are quoted overnight as saying that you're also going to make Newt Gingrich's character an issue. How so?

ROMNEY: Oh, no question. But leadership is the key attribute that people should look for in considering a president. We have differences on issues, but in the final analysis, those issues are important.

But leadership -- the capacity to move others and accomplish various ideals is something which you look for in a person that will guide the nation. And character is a big part of leadership, as is vision, sobriety, steadiness. These are attributes which I think people want to see in their candidate. That's one reason we go this grueling process of selection of our nominees.

We get a good chance to really see them under fire, see how they respond. And I hope that I'll be seen as being strong in that kind of a setting.

WALLACE: Having said that, I want to play a clip from Speaker Gingrich's victory speech last night. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: One of the key issues -- and I'm prepared to take this at the president and frankly straight at the elite media -- one of the key issues is the growing anti-religious bigotry of our elites.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Governor, is -- and you've heard this kind of argument from Newt Gingrich before -- is he tapping in to the anger that many voters feel these days more effectively than you are?

ROMNEY: You know, I don't know whether anger is the source of his campaign win here in South Carolina. I think he's had a campaign that's gone across a whole series of issues. There's no question, but if you look at those last couple of debates, he was angry, and there may have been some people who like that.

And, look, you know, I remember Mike Huckabee once said, he said, "Look, I'm proud to be conservative, but I don't have to be mad at anybody about that." And, you know, I'm not someone who is angry at -- and mad, but I am very upset about the direction this country is headed. And if I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take America back.

WALLACE: You know, you talk about the fact that he had a good week and you said, quite frankly, that you didn't have such a good week. And I want to talk to you about some of the mistakes you made.

Gingrich and Rick Perry demanded that you release your tax returns. Here's how you handled it this last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ROMNEY: If I become our nominee, I'm -- and what's happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year. And that's probably what I'll do.

ROMNEY: What's the effective rate I've been paying? It's probably closer to the 15 percent rate I think.

JOHN KING, CNN: When you release yours, will you follow your father's example?

ROMNEY: Maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: Forgive me, sir. Who said "maybe" in a presidential debate? Why were you -- and I think this is a question a lot of political pundits are asking -- why were you and your campaign so unprepared for what seem to be such an obvious line of attack?

ROMNEY: Well, actually, what we said was that I was planning on releasing them in April when they have been released by the candidates in the past. What you know what? Given all the attention that's been focused on tax returns, given the distraction that I think they became in these last couple of weeks -- look, I am going to make it clear to you right now, Chris. I will release my tax returns for 2010 which is the last returns that were completed. I'll do that on Tuesday of this week. I'll also release at the same time, an estimate for 2011 tax returns.

So, you'll have two years and people can take a look at it. We'll put them on the Web site and you can go through the pages. This, I think, we just made a mistake in holding off as long as we did. If it was a distraction, we want to get back to the real issues in the campaign -- leadership, character and vision for America, how to get jobs in America, and how to rein in the excessive scale of the federal government.

WALLACE: Not to quibble. But, you know, there's an issue about your dad, I'm not saying it has to be 12 years. But why not release more years than just this year, or rather 2010 and then an estimate for this year?

ROMNEY: Well, that will be more than any other Republican candidate and I'm not going to go back to my dad's years. That was even before the Internet.

We'll be putting our -- we'll be putting our returns on the Internet. People can look through them. It will provide, I think, plenty of information for people to understand that sources of my income are exactly as described in the financial disclosure statements that we put out several months ago.

WALLACE: In the last debate, you said that one of the reasons you wanted to release them at one time is because you knew the Democrats are going to go after them and you didn't want a drip, drip process of that. Are there more political problems in these tax returns, like the 15 percent, like investments in offshore account in the Cayman Islands?

ROMNEY: Well, one of the -- one of the reasons that we're putting together the 2011 estimate, as well as the 2010 return is so there's not a drip, drip, drip. We put out both returns, both numbers at the same time, so that there's not a second release down the road.

And I'm sure the Democrats will do their very best to see if they can find something that stirs up interest. But look, the income I have is derived from the investments which are disclosed in the financial disclosure report. The Cayman Islands account, so to speak, is apparently an investment that was made and an entity that invests in the United States, the taxes paid on that are full U.S. taxes. They'll try to drum that up to be something. But, by the way, it was the same issue four years ago. It was responded to four years ago, nothing changed since then.

I know people will try and find something. But we pay full fair taxes, and you'll see it is a substantial amount.

WALLACE: I want to ask one last question about the taxes. You have been very open about the fact that like a lot of another devout Mormons, you tithe to your church. Given the results that we saw in South Carolina, do you think it might be any kind of a political problem, the fact that being as wealthy as you are, you have given millions of dollars to the Church of Latter Day Saints?

ROMNEY: Gee, I hope not. If people want to discriminate against someone based upon their commitment to tithe, I'd be very surprised. This is a country that believes in the Bible. The Bible speaks about providing tithes and offerings. I made a commitment to my church a long, long time ago that I would give 10 percent of my income to the church. And I followed through on that commitment.

And, hopefully, as people look at various individuals running for president, they'd be pleased with someone who made a promise to God and kept that promise. So, if I had given less than 10 percent, then I think people would have had to look at me and say, hey, what's wrong with you, fella, don't you follow through on the promises?

WALLACE: Finally, sir, I want to talk about the debates, because, again, this is just my perception, you seem -- particularly this last week -- to have shown a tendency to get irritated when you're challenged. Let me put up clips from the debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SANTORUM: An answer to the question, first.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: We have plenty of time. I'll get there. I'll do it in the order I want to do.

JOHN KING, CNN: Governor Romney, questions whether you are genuinely pro-life.

ROMNEY: I'm not questioned on character and integrity very often, and I don't feel like standing here for that.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WALLACE: Are you letting these guys get under your skin, Governor, and is that a problem for you?

ROMNEY: Not in the slightest -- no one is under my skin. But I can tell you this, I'm not going to make very clear. When there are things I care about deeply and my character is one of those things, when that's going to be challenged, I'm not going to sit there and smile and act like it is something of no significance. I have emotion and passion. I'm concerned about the great challenges that America faces and I'm going to show the passion that I have when it comes naturally.

But this is a process where I'm proud to be pretty steady. No one says to me that I'm a -- someone that flies off the handle, that I'm erratic or incapable of dealing with stressful situation. People see as a guy who's calm under fire. I have been tested time and time again, had success, had some losses.

I have learned from those losses and I will show passion. And from time to time, perhaps a little energy as I think is appropriate and as I feel it in my heart. But I'm a person of sobriety, capacity, steadiness, and I think that's what you need in the White House.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, you hesitated before agreeing to participate in the two more debates that are going to take place this week. I guess one on Monday, one on Thursday in Florida. And I wonder, have you made a mistake agreeing to all these debates?

You are the one candidate who has got a real national campaign, huge organization, lots of money. You're on the ballot in every state. Have you made a mistake by agreeing to these debates with a bunch of candidates who are relying, have to rely on national TV time in effect playing on their field and giving away a lot of your advantages?

ROMNEY: Well, perhaps. But I think the American people want a chance to see the candidates and understand something about their character.

And, you know, I hope that I wear well in that process. I hope that overtime, as people see more of me and more of the other guys, that I'll come out ahead.

But if not, that's the way it's going to be. I'm going to do what I think is best to have the American people get a chance to know who I am and hear my views on issues.

Look, this is a critical time for America. We are choosing someone who will lead our country at a very critical time. People are suffering in this country right now.

And I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how to create jobs and how to get America strong again.

And I'm running against, in the case of Speaker Gingrich, someone who has never worked in the private sector, who spent his life Washington and has been working as a lobbyist. And he doesn't call it officially a lobbyist, but that's what it is.

And I simply cannot imagine America being led by a person whose sole experience is not inside the private sector, but is inside Washington. I just don't think Washington can fix Washington.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, we have less than a minute left. And just on a personal level, I know you have said and your campaign has said, look, we are in this for the long haul and, you know, we never expected it to be easy. But, you know, there was really a possibility if you had won a decisive victory and you were way ahead in South Carolina, that this race might be over.

In just a personal level, when you and Mrs. Romney went to bed last night, what did you say to each other? I mean, it's got to have hurt?

ROMNEY: No, hurt isn't what comes to mind. We look at this as a long process. Clearly, we wanted to win in South Carolina. But from the very beginning, we understood that this would be an uphill battle for us.

Look, I came in fourth four years ago. This time, I came in second. That didn't feel that good, by the way. I wanted to come in first.

But we looked and looked behind the numbers. You saw in the very part of the week, I was at 29 percent in the polls. I got 28 when we were finished. The undecideds virtually all broke for Newt and I understand that. He had a good week.

But, you know, this is a long process. We are looking ahead to a number of other races. I think -- what are we -- three states in now. We got 47 more to go.

So, we are looking forward to being successful and, by the way, we have confidence in the American people. I think in the final analysis, they'll do the right thing.

WALLACE: Governor Mitt Romney, we want to thank you. Thank you for talking with us today. And we will be tracking what happens now in Florida, sir.

ROMNEY: Great, Chris. See you there.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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