NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": It is mayday this September day for a Republican nominee who has no doubt seen better days. He's getting pummeled by the press for comments he made at a private GOP fundraiser way back last spring.
You've heard what everyone is saying about Mitt Romney. Now time to hear from Mitt Romney here and only here, beginning now.
Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.
And courtesy Mother Jones, the mother of all flashbacks for a Republican presidential nominee who doesn't need the grief and cannot afford the distraction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.
All right, there are 47 percent who are with him who dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.
But that's -- that's an entitlement, and that the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAVUTO: Well, that was then.
To Mitt Romney now, his first sit-down since this whole video dust-up, the governor coming to us from Salt Lake City right now.
Obviously, you've seen the fallout, the administration quickly coming back at you, governor, saying that you essentially disdainfully wrote off half the nation.
How do you respond to that?
ROMNEY: Well, we were of course talking about a campaign and how he's going to get close to half the vote. I'm going to get half the vote, approximately, I hope. I want to get 50.1 percent or more.
And, frankly, we have two very different views about America. The president's view is one of a larger government. There's a tape that just came out today where the president is saying he likes redistribution. I disagree.
I think a society based upon a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America. That will not build a strong America or help people out of poverty.
I believe the right course for America is one where government steps in to help those that are in need. We're a compassionate people, but then we get -- let people build their own lives, create enterprises. We believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution. The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth.
CAVUTO: Governor, on the 47 percent of the people in this country pay no income taxes -- now, a lot of them because they're retired or they are elderly or they're paying certainly payroll taxes and other taxes -- but that 47 percent figure, which is about right, is it too high?
Do you think that the level should be closer to what it was in the late 70s, where it was in the 20s? What is an acceptable level?
ROMNEY: Well, first of all, of course, you're right.
There are a number of retirees, members of the military and so forth who aren't paying taxes, and that's as it should be. But I do believe that we should have enough jobs and enough take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes.
I think people would like to be paying taxes. The good news is, if you're doing well enough financially, that you can pay a tax. And the problem is right now as you see in this country so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes. They have to rely on government.
And the right course to help them is not just to have government handing out, but instead government helping people to get back to good jobs.
Neil, the numbers on food stamps are really revealing. When the president took office, 32 million people were on food stamps. And now that number is 15 million higher, almost 50 percent higher, now 47 million people on food stamps.
You've got Americans falling into poverty under this president and an increasing number; it looks like, on these food stamp figures. And I want to get people back to work. I'd like to see -- I'd like to see everybody who is not retired, not in the military having the privilege of having a good job and a good income, enough that -- that -- that they qualify to pay taxes.
CAVUTO: Now, you've said that your wording might have been inelegant, but others have said that you just kissed half the electorate goodbye this election year, that you all but called them moochers.
ROMNEY: No, I'm talking about a perspective of individuals who I'm not likely to get to support me.
I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this -- this provision of -- that Mitt keeps talking about lowering income taxes, that's not going to be real attractive to them. And those that are dependent upon government and those that think government's job is to redistribute, I -- I'm not going to get them.
I know there is a divide in the country about that view. I know some believe that government should take from some to give to the others. I think the president makes it clear in the tape that was released today that that's what he believes.
I think that's an entirely foreign concept. I believe America was built on the principle of government caring for those in need, but getting out of the way and allowing free people to pursue their dreams. Free people pursuing free enterprises is the only way we'll create a strong and growing middle class and the only way we'll help people out of poverty.
CAVUTO: But do you think it is a given that that base would ignore you entirely, governor?
When you and your running mate, Paul Ryan, talked about reforming Medicare and trying to contain its growth, oddly enough, when you were on that theme, it was helping you in Florida, a state rich in Medicare beneficiaries and Social Security beneficiaries.
So, talking tough on these issues doesn't necessarily hurt you with the group that benefits from them. So, maybe you presupposed prematurely that this group was going to say no?
ROMNEY: Well, let me tell ya, we go after every group we can to get votes. And seniors are of course people who I'm getting in large numbers.
I've got great support from seniors, because they are unhappy with the fact that President Obama's ObamaCare cuts Medicare by $716 billion. So, I'm getting a lot of support from seniors. And, by the way, a lot of seniors...
CAVUTO: But do you think those same seniors...
CAVUTO: Go ahead. Finish that thought.
ROMNEY: A lot of seniors pay income -- Neil, a lot of seniors pay income tax, and a lot of seniors don't like the idea that Medicare got cut $716 billion. So we're getting great support.
CAVUTO: But a lot of those seniors, governor, are in that camp that are not paying income taxes. And you might have -- it might have boomeranged on you with an important base. Do you worry about that?
ROMNEY: I was -- Neil, I was talking about the fact that I don't expect to get 60-70 percent of the vote.
ROMNEY: I understand that some portion will be the president's. Some portion will be mine. I've got to get as many as I can from every single cohort in this country.
But the intent that I want to talk about and that that was intended to speak about was the fact that you have a great divide about whether we want a government that is larger and more intrusive and redistributing income, or whether, instead, you want a government that sees its role as protecting freedom and opportunity and letting free people build more wealth for all people.
CAVUTO: Donald Trump has said that you have nothing to apologize for.
In an interview on "The Today Show," he said, "They have to get tougher," referring to your campaign, "or they're going to lose this campaign."
What do you think of that?
ROMNEY: Well, I always appreciate his counsel.
And, you know, I think this focuses a great deal of attention on whether or not we're going to have a government that becomes larger, that tells us what kind of health insurance we have to have, that under the president, he has indicated he wants to raise taxes.
Raising taxes on small businesses, about a million small businesses, that's going to kill jobs. Look, the president is borrowing a trillion dollars more than we're taking in every year. It's a pathway that looks more European than American, in my view.
And it's one which I know some Americans are drawn to. I think they're wrong. I think they don't recognize that it's not good for America at large. A hundred percent of Americans, in my view, will do much better if we have a government that lives by the model established by the Founding Fathers. And that was one based upon freedom and opportunity.
CAVUTO: Governor, we're hearing word that Jimmy Carter's grandson might have played an instrumental role in getting this video out or at least find its way to Mother Jones, James Carter IV, the grandson, of course, of the former president.
What do you make of that?
ROMNEY: I hadn't heard that one, Neil.
And, you know, I'm not too concerned about the source. Look, this is a message I'm carrying day in and day out and will carry over the coming months, which is this is a decision about the course of America and where we're going to head.
And we've seen the president's policies play out over the last four years. And if people think they're better off, I would say, well, take a look at the numbers when it comes to median household income, which is down every year for the last four years.
Look at unemployment stuck above 8 percent now for the last 43 months. Look at what's happened to the number of people on food stamps, going up, up to 47 million now.
There are a lot of people hurting in this country. And the president's policies aren't working. And I'm not going to be too critical of how people get that message out. It's out there in a big way. And I think that will focus a lot of attention on the kind of choice I think America has.
CAVUTO: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you very much.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Neil.
CAVUTO: Governor Romney.