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GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: Hi, Chris.
WALLACE: And here in the studio is former Congressman J.C. Watts, who backs Newt Gingrich.
Congressman Watts, your guy Newt Gingrich suffered a second straight lopsided defeat last night in Nevada. The entire month of February looks like it's going to be tough for him. What is his strategy, hold on until Super Tuesday?
FORMER REP. J.C. WATTS: I spent sometime over the last two days kind of organizing, took three to four days to organize for the next three or four months. I think Super Tuesday is obviously going to be pretty critical. I was in Minnesota last week, spent some there. We feel pretty good about our chances there.
We felt like Nevada was going to be tough. Colorado is probably going to be tough. But we think we are competitive in Minnesota and Arizona and then spring board us to Super Tuesday, and we expect the results to be much better.
WALLACE: Governor McDonnell, half of the delegates -- half of the delegates won't be awarded total, and so, therefore, no one is going to get a majority that they need to get nominated until late April at the earliest. Don't the GOP rules insure that this race is going to go into May or June?
MCDONNELL: Well, it depends on who wins these upcoming races. There are 17 primaries and caucuses over the next 30 days. And if you look at Florida and now in Nevada back to back here with double digit wins by Mitt Romney, Chris, he won every demographic group -- young, old, evangelical, Tea Party, mainstream Republican, you name. Mitt Romney is appealing now to a broader sector of Republican voters.
So, I think for these next 17 races in 30 days, he's going to show that he is result-oriented, can-do conservative, consistent conservative that can win across the board and win in November.
WALLACE: Congressman, Newt Gingrich keeps escalating his rhetoric and his attacks against Mitt Romney.
WALLACE: And let's put some of these up on the screen. He has been calling Governor Romney a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase liberal. Last week, he started calling him Obama-light and little food stamp as opposed to Obama who is big food stamp.
Isn't that over the top?
WATTS: Well, you know, George Soros, who's pretty famous liberal supporter in the country says there isn't any difference between -- or there's not much difference between President Obama and Governor Romney.
And at the same time, Chris, I have encouraged people to take a look at where the candidates stood on issues when they had a vote or when they influenced public policy.
Speaker Gingrich was balancing the budget, giving tax relief, paying down a public debt and reform entitlement programs, where Governor Romney was supporting the very things that you just mentioned. You know, gun control. He's been on record supporting that. He's been on record supporting abortion. He's been on record supporting all the things that Speaker Gingrich has accused him of.
So, I think that's a legitimate charge.
WALLACE: Let me bring Governor McDonnell into that.
How do you respond, sir?
MCDONNELL: Well, look at this record as governor of Massachusetts. He governed as pro-life governor in blue state. He cut taxes 19 times, and he balanced a budget without raising taxes, eliminating a $3 billion deficit. He said for traditional marriage. I think that he is a consistent conservative.
You know, Speaker Gingrich has been cozying up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming and called Paul Ryan's budget right wing social engineering. And I think he's got some challenges for conservatives, too.
But the point is, Chris, in Nevada and Florida, again, he wins evangelicals, he wins Tea Party conservatives. And I think despite the speaker's rhetoric, he is appealing to a very broad section of our conservative base.
WALLACE: Well, let me just interrupt for one second and I'd give you a chance to respond in a second. I think you would agree, Governor, that Mitt Romney has made a series of gaffes, as recently as this week and going back over previous months on the campaign trail, especially on the issue of whether or not he is in touch with most Americans.
Let's take a look at some of those.
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ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor.
I get speaker's fees from time to time, not very much.
I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
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WALLACE: Governor McDonnell, won't Democrats hammer Mitt Romney over those kinds of statements?
MCDONNELL: You know, Chris, I've been in office 21 years. I have made my share, too. I beat J.C. probably has as well.
Listen, he apologized for that comment, said he didn't phrase it as well. He was talking about what programs he'll have to lift up the middle class. I think it was taken out of context.
But from time, you know, every politician makes and says things that they wish can say a little bit differently. President Obama is the guy that said, accused people of clinging to their guns and religion. So, listen, I think there'll be plenty of things to talk about going to November.
But the point is, who can win and overwhelmingly, Chris, people in the Republican base are voting for Mitt Romney because they think he can beat Obama in November. And I do, too.
WALLACE: Well, let me bring you in. And let me ask you specifically, because there was an interesting development in the exit polls or the entrance polls actually before people went in to these caucuses. Not only did Romney win among the groups he'd been winning before. But he actually beat Gingrich among strong Tea Party supporters and people who identified themselves as very conservative.
WATTS: Chris, I am shocked that any candidate running for president would say I am not concerned about the poor. That I think gives us a good indication.
WALLACE: Well, he did say they have the safety net.
WATTS: OK. But let's -- to say that we took it out of context, let's take it in context. To say they have a safety net. That's literally saying I define compassion by how many people we can have on food stamps, AFDC and in public housing. Why can't we define compassion by how few people are on food stamps and AFDC and in public housing? Because we helped them climb the ladder of economic opportunity.
He literally said I'm going to shove them off to the side because they have their safety net.
WATTS: Well, that's a safety net and --
WALLACE: Let me bring in Governor McDonnell because I will say, there are a lot of conservatives who say that Governor Romney didn't seem to be in touch with conservative thinking, which is that good economic programs, lower taxes, less regulation, the best social program for the poor is a job in a strong economy.
MCDONNELL: I think Governor Romney is the best candidate to talk about the American dream, Chris, because he's lived. He's not apologizing. He is a great defender of free enterprise system and he looks -- he wants everybody to have the same opportunity for success that he had.
And I said this: actions speak louder than words. Look at -- he disclosed his tax returns. He's given 16 percent of his income to charity. To take care of the poor and other missions for charity.
So, I think his personal testimony and I know him well. He cares about people of all income strata. He wants everybody to have access to the American Dream. That's Mitt Romney.
WALLACE: Governor, let's turn this around. Your guy, Mitt Romney, has also been going after Newt Gingrich. Let's put up some of what he's been saying. He says Gingrich is a failed leader who resigned in disgrace and is now an influence peddler.
Is that over the top?
MCDONNELL: Well, I think it's well-known that Speaker Gingrich did leave his office back in the '90s, and -- but I think what's important now that Mitt Romney is saying -- look both candidates are tough. This is a contact sport. They're both saying things that bring out their best and expose their opponent's weaknesses.
But the bottom line is, Chris, what our voters are responding to is Mitt Romney's message in every demographic sector within the Republican base, and they believe that he can beat Barack Obama.
And that's what the rest of this race is about. It's about leadership. It's about spending. It's about jobs. And they're buying what Mitt Romney is talking about.
WALLACE: Let me bring Congressman Watts in.
Your response to the Romney attacks against Gingrich.
WATTS: Well, they said he resigned in disgrace. You know, Chris, I was there. He paid a $300,000 reimbursement fee to the ethics committee for having to investigate one charge out of the 84 that he filed bad information on. He reimbursed them. It wasn't a fine. He didn't resign out of the disgrace.
And, you know, talking about --
WALLACE: He was forced out, though, in '98.
WATTS: No, he could have run for speaker.
WALLACE: He was told by his own party that he didn't have the votes.
WATTS: Well, they're saying he doesn't have the votes now to win the nomination. But you got to take the argument to the people. You don't win -- you know, you don't win the nomination by making argument in Washington.
You win the argument by making argument in South Carolina and Oklahoma and Texas and so forth and so on. And concerning the demographic of the votes that Mitt Romney gathered last night, you know, South Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, the further Midwest and South you go, I think the tougher it gets for someone that had been on record being pro-gun, pro-same sex marriage, pro-abortion, raising taxes, raising foes. I think that sale gets a little tougher.
Now, at the end of the day, they're going to have to make the argument to the voters. But I think the speaker, he stands a good chance, I think, the further this thing will go.
WALLACE: Finally, and we've only got a couple of minutes left, Governor McDonnell, your name has been very prominently mentioned as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney should Romney win the nomination. And unlike a number of the possible candidates to be vice president, you aren't being coy about it. You say you'd be interested.
MCDONNELL: Well -- Chris, what I said was I think anybody who got a call from their nominee and said, hey, you can help the country, you can help our ticket, would you join? Of course, you'd consider that.
But, listen, I got the best jobs in the world being governor of Virginia, got big things during this session. And I'll let everybody else talk about that and we'll what happens.
WALLACE: Let me just ask you briefly and I know you're not auditioning for the job. But make the case -- why would Bob McDonnell be a plus for a Republican national ticket?
MCDONNELL: Again, I'm not interviewing, I'm not waiting for that phone to ring. I want to help Mitt Romney because I believe our country is in trouble and we got crushing debt, deficits and no plan for jobs and energy. That's why I'm behind Mitt Romney.
But, look, you know, people are saying it's a swing state. We balance the budget without raising taxes, $1 billion in surplus, lowest unemployment in the Southeast. You know, we're really pleased with things we've been able to do in Virginia. But, Chris, look, that's up to the nominee. I just want to win because I want to so a better America for my kids and grandkids.
WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Governor McDonnell, Congressman Watts, we thank you both so much for coming in.
MCDONNELL: Thanks, Chris.
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