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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: When you talk about the Republican vice presidential nominee, her name frequently comes up. But this week, the South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley flatly said she's not interested at all. However, that doesn't mean she's not closely following the race for the White House and strongly backing her candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, is joining us here us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Governor, welcome.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thanks, Wolf. I'm thrilled to be with you.

BLITZER: You've really written a powerful book and you really get into your life, "Can't Is Not An Option: My American Story." I want to get to it in a moment.

Let's talk politics a little bit. You want Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United States?

HALEY: I absolutely do.

BLITZER: You know this recent Gallup poll shows he has a significant problem with American women voters in swing state, the key battleground states that will determine who the next president is. Fifty-four percent in this poll say they support the president, 36 percent support Romney.

Why is he suffering among women voters right now?

HALEY: You don't look at what the issue is. You look at where the problems are.

And so, obviously, Governor Romney has not related to women. He needs to get out there and talk about the issues they care about -- they care about jobs, the economy and raising families, and all of those things. But they obviously are not relating to him as much as we want them to.

So that means he's got to work harder, he's got to continue to do that and he needs to bring the one golden bullet he's got, which is Ann Romney. When they see how strong she is, the fact that she's a cancer survivor, MS survivor, great mom, great wife, strong supporter, and hear her talk about him, I think that he'll do a lot better.

BLITZER: You know, she is a terrific asset. I've met Ann Romney. She's a wonderful woman.

Here's my analysis and tell me if you think I'm wrong. A lot of women out there are afraid that if he's the next president of the United States, he will work to take away their rights to contraception, birth control pills, abortion rights, that he's going to take all that away like a lot of the Republicans on the right are suggesting. And they're scared.

HALEY: Well, I think women are more thoughtful than that. I think they actually look at those issues as well as other issues, and I think they need the ability to ask them those questions. And I think he has to look them in the eyes and give them the answers, because that's what this is about. You don't go and talk to the people that you already have support. You go and talk to the people that have questions.

And if there are women that are questioning him, they should ask him those questions. That is the power of people's voice to do that.

BLITZER: If he is the next president, he could name one, maybe two Supreme Court justices who may overturn Roe versus Wade, which allows women to have abortions in the United States. And a lot of women are nervous about that.

HALEY: And they should ask that question. And I, without question, know that during the general election, when it is President Obama versus Governor Mitt Romney, all of those issues are going to come out. And that's where you're going to start to see the shift of women because --

BLITZER: Where do you stand on those issues -- like abortion rights, contraception, birth control pills? Should the government be involved in helping poor women, for example, have access to that kind of health care?

HALEY: Well, I tell you, I'm strongly pro-life not because the Republican tells me to be, but because, like I say in the book, my husband was adopted. We had difficulty having both our children. So that is where my beliefs come from.

In terms of contraception, I think all that you're hearing -- you are hearing a lot of talk from the media about contraception. What I'm saying is that women don't just vote on the contraception issue. They're smarter than that. They're broader than that.

What we're saying is, government should not mandate any organization or association to have to have contraception in their coverage. They should be able to have the right to choose that. That's what we're saying. It's not a matter of whether we believe in it or not, it's a matter of whether government should mandate that an organization that doesn't want to have that coverage has to cover it.

BLITZER: Let's talk about "Can't Is Not An Option." I was moved by several passages -- and if you don't mind, I highlighted a few that were significant, and I'd like you to read those to our viewers.

HALEY: OK.

BLITZER: And then we'll talk about these sections.

Here is one in the beginning part of the book.

HALEY: We were the first Indian family ever to live in Bamberg, in a time and place that only knew black and white, we didn't fit either category. We weren't dark enough to be black or pale enough to be white, we were brown. That difference, our difference was an inescapable fact.

We cope the only way we know how, we went into survival mode. We clung to one another tightly. We worked hard. We were respectful to our neighbors. We tried to fit in.

BLITZER: And you looked different because your father, you come from a Sikh family. He had a turban.

HALEY: My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. We came into this -- I was born in that town, but we lived in a small southern town where they didn't understand us and we didn't know how to fit in with them.

But what we saw, whether it's the story that I talk about because we were disqualified from a pageant because they didn't know to put us in the white category or black category. Whether it's the fact that my father and I went to a produce stand and immediately two police were called in and we had to deal with that situation.

I mean, all of those stories while they are challenges, while they were hard, what I hope people understand is that same town is the one that took us in, allowed me to be a part of the girl scout.

Supported my brother when he was deployed to "Desert Storm" and the same town now has a sign that says the proud home of Nikki Haley. BLITZER: And they should be proud. You write about when you were a little girl you and your sister went to this little beauty pageant and read this section to our viewers, if you don't mind.

HALEY: The pageant tradition had two winners. A black queen and a white queen, but before they revealed who the winners were the organizers of the pageant said that they had an announcement to make.

They called Semi and me out of line and said we don't have a place for you. Then thanked us and handed us gives. I got a beach ball.

BLITZER: Explain why that beach ball was significant. I highlighted another line there.

HALEY: Not wanting either race to get upset, the judges disqualified us.

BLITZER: Because you weren't black and you weren't white. What happened?

HALEY: They didn't want to upset either group, and my mom went to them and said will you at least let her sing her song. She's been practicing. I sang "This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land."

BLITZER: And you did well?

HALEY: I did well. I stumbled a little bit. My brother was playing the saxophone right in front of the stage and he was laughing at me. I, at the time, thought they gave me a beach ball because I did so great at my song. Later, my sister already knew, but later, I realized it was because we were disqualified.

BLITZER: All of these must be so etched in your mind. You remember all these moments and there was --

HALEY: And let me just tell you that, you know, it's amazing how things stick with you because my daughter just was in her school pageant a couple of weeks ago, and I was terrified.

And I told my husband, Michael, I said, I know this doesn't make sense, but I'm so worried she's going to be disqualified. He said, Nikki, you know that's not going happen.

And it was such a sweet moment because she got first runner-up and it just reminded me again how far we've come.

BLITZER: Certainly have and then there was a kick ball game in your third grade and you had this incident.

HALEY: I was stunned, why I asked? You can play with us, but you have to pick a side. Are you white or are you black? She replied, I was in a panic, which side could I choose? What was I?

Then I saw the solution, changed the subject. I grabbed the ball from the girl and ran as fast as I could in the field. I'm neither, I yelled. I'm brown.

Before I knew it, we were playing kick ball on the play ground. I had dodged the issue once again, but something told me it wouldn't be the last time I'd have to.

BLITZER: And it wasn't the last time you had to, you spent your career sort of dodging that issue one way or another.

HALEY: Until the governor's race.

BLITZER: And now you're going to be governor and you're not going to disappoint the people of South Carolina and become a vice presidential nominee, is that what you're saying?

HALEY: No. They took a great chance on me and I owe them the commitment to be a great governor.

BLITZER: So you are in the governor's mansion at least for this first term.

HALEY: You know, how great does it say a about South Carolina that they elected a 38-year-old Indian-American female for governor of their state. It shows how proud we are of South Carolina and how proud we should be in our country.

BLITZER: And you told Mitt Romney, don't vet me. Don't talk to me. I'm not interested. Is that right?

HALEY: No cabinet position and no vice president.

BLITZER: No cabinet position either.

HALEY: No, listen, I made a promise to the people of my state. I am so thankful and I love the state of South Carolina and I'm going to finish what I started.

BLITZER: And if you do a good job, maybe 2016 and 2020. There's a long time ahead of you. You're still young.

HALEY: We're taking it a day at a time.

BLITZER: The book is entitled "Can't Is Not An Option, My American Story." It's written by the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Thanks for coming in.

HALEY: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure.

BLITZER: Not now, how about later? Could Governor Nikki Haley be a presidential contender in 2016 or beyond? Our "Strategy Session" coming up next. We'll talk about that and more.

Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars simply wasted. We have new video of a government worker joking about how much of your money, his agency, is spending right now. You're going to want to see this.

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