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U.S. News and World Report - Traction Where It Counts

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U.S. News and World Report - Traction Where It Counts

By Kenneth T. Walsh

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney got mired in traffic on his way to an interview with U.S. News. Was it a metaphor in the making? Not for Romney. When the former Massachusetts governor arrived late, he was a bit chagrined but still ebullient. Even though he has remained in third place—with the support of about 10 percent of GOP voters—Romney argued that his campaign is anything but stuck permanently in the rear. Partly that's because he has moved into the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire. And he has collected $14 million in the second quarter. So he was in an optimistic mood. Excerpts:

You have released a plan to fight "violent jihad" worldwide. Where does Iraq fit in?

Clearly the war in Iraq is an enormous front in the war against radical jihad, less than well managed over the past several years. We did a fine job in knocking down Saddam Hussein. We were underprepared and underplanned for what occurred afterward. I support the troop surge at this stage. I would just recommend that the administration publish the metrics they will use to determine if it is working, because if we wait until September, there will be a lot of skepticism as to whether we chose metrics that just happened to be the ones that were working.

Why do so many Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track?

It has gotten worse in part because of the immigration issue. I think Iraq is an enormous cloud over the American people. When every day, Americans are being shot and Iraqis are being blown up, it is just, using the Supreme Court term, a penumbra of angst.

What do voters want from their next president?

I think what Americans long for is the return of the principles that Ronald Reagan spoke about. The fundamental pillars of conservatism—a strong military, a strong economy, and strong families and values. I look at '08 as kind of a watershed where I think Hillary Clinton would take us toward big government and big taxes and Big Brother, and I think that would take us toward where Europe has gone: anemic job growth and relative economic stagnation.

How will you deal with criticisms of your Mormon faith?

I have said that time will give us the answer on whether we do a big speech; and then I read Hugh Hewitt's book, A Mormon in the White House? and his conclusion was, don't give a speech, you know it can never be as good as Jack Kennedy's [addressing critics of his Roman Catholicism]. And that's true, and it won't answer the critics. But more recently I am more inclined to [because] there have been comments about my faith that have been inaccurate, and it has become more of a visible issue.

George Bush portrays himself as the CEO president. Has that model failed?

Not every business leader has exactly the same experience and orientation. I came from a very analytically driven industry. I love conflict and debate. I can't make a decision without hearing both sides. [I] recognize that every problem is soluble.

What would you do differently in managing the government?

I think we would benefit more by a more deliberative debate field, argumentative, data-driven analytical approach, setting benchmarks. What are our benchmarks in healthcare, education, environment, energy, global jihad?

How would you overcome the current rancor in Washington ?

One, not worrying about who gets the credit. Two, not making personal attacks. States are working. Statehouses with Republican and Democrat division work well. States are balancing their budgets. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. We did it in Massachusetts. Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota.

What did you learn from studying the presidential campaign of your dad [George Romney, who ran in 1968]?

I got a master's thesis by a fellow who worked in my dad's campaign. His thesis was "Why George Romney Lost," and it was the best analysis I had seen—20 reasons. By the way, one of them was not his Mormon faith. There were a number of things. Dad had two offices, the headquarters in Michigan and the headquarters in Washington. A disaster. Even if it is a tough place, you bring everybody together. But there are a number of things he went through. In some respects, [he was] a reluctant candidate—my dad wasn't sure he was in, back and forth. He got thrust in before he was ready.

Who will be the Democratic nominee?

I think it is going to be Hillary Clinton. On our side, it is just too uncertain. I think there will be an advantage to somebody who has actually run something. Mayor Giuliani and I have both run something. He ran a city. I ran a state. Now, I also ran the Olympics and businesses for 25 years. I think it is going to be very hard to get the nomination or win the presidency if you have never managed something.

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