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MSNBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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MR. GREGORY: Joining me now, the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

Welcome to MEET THE PRESS, Governor.

GOV. HALEY: Good morning, David. It's great to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: Thank you so much. We have talked about your endorsement this week of Mitt Romney. You've endorsed him for the presidency, which he was certainly--he welcomed warmly. And when you spoke about it on Fox News, you said the following...

(Videotape, Friday)

GOV. HALEY: You put all those candidates together, and you've got one perfect candidate, but you're never going to have a perfect candidate.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: None of us are perfect, why go out of your way to point that out when it comes to Mitt Romney?

GOV. HALEY: No, it's not that I was pointing that out in terms of Mitt Romney. I think it's pointing it out to all the candidates. As you know, as you go through this process and we hear from day to day what one says and what one does, you know, it's reminding the public that, look, there is no perfect candidate. But what we do need to do is say, what are the issues of the day? And what I know the issues of the day in South Carolina and as we hear across the country is jobs, the economy and spending. And so that's where we need to keep our focus.

MR. GREGORY: The question about whether he's a perfect candidate comes down to who's the most conservative candidate and, as you know, that's a real area of concern in your state and among conservatives generally when it comes to Mitt Romney. This is how it looks in South Carolina right now. It's the former speaker, Gingrich, at 41 percent to Romney's 21 percent. You said Romney is a different candidate than he was in 2008 when conservatives were particularly unhappy with him. How so?

GOV. HALEY: Well, you know what I noticed was, in 2008, he was very much a candidate that was focused on winning. He knew his issues. In 2011, I'm looking at a leader. This is a man who knows how he's going to lead in the first 30 days. He knows what he wants to accomplish in the first six months. It's no longer about talking points with him. He's had four years to really think about what has gone wrong and what needs to go right. And let's be clear, this is not just about picking a conservative candidate. This is about looking at Washington, seeing that it is getting in complete chaos, saying we can't have anybody associated with Washington because we need someone to go in there and fix the problems. What I know about Mitt Romney is he's taken broken businesses, and he's fixed them. He took a failing Olympics and he made it a successful source of pride for our country. And he went in as a governor of a state, balanced his budget, cut taxes 19 times, and he did it with an 85 percent Democrat legislature. That says a lot, and that's a lot what Washington needs right now.

MR. GREGORY: You have--governor, you were critical of former Speaker Gingrich after his appearance this May on MEET THE PRESS when he criticized Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan. What to you is disqualifying about Speaker Gingrich as the nominee of the party?

GOV. HALEY: You know, it's not about--I'm not going to put someone down to make Mitt Romney look better. What I will tell you is all the candidates have good positive attributes. What was a big factor for me was I didn't want anybody associated with Washington. And I wanted someone that knew what it was like to make real decisions, not just to vote, but actually make decisions. Because, as a former legislator, I now see as governor it's very different when you make a vote vs. actually making decisions.

MR. GREGORY: You look at the polling there, and I've talked to Republicans around the country who say, you know, winning the primary in South Carolina, one advantage a candidate can have is if you're from the South. Do you think Rick Perry will be a formidable obstacle to Mitt Romney winning South Carolina?

GOV. HALEY: You know, I think South Carolina, what we saw over this past weekend was people were on fire, they were excited about Mitt Romney, they loved what he had to say. We had packed rooms, overflowing crowds; and so, you know, every candidate's out there trying to connect with the people of South Carolina. And what I can tell you is the people of South Carolina are very smart, very educated on their issues. They vet their candidates very well, and I know, at the end of the day, they're going to go with who they feel is right. I strongly believe that when they hear what Mitt Romney has done, not what he's going to do, but what has--but what he's done and then his vision for the country, I think you're going to see Mitt Romney do very well in South Carolina.

MR. GREGORY: You have tea party backing, which is one of the reasons that Romney was so pleased to get your endorsement, hoping to get some of that backing as well in South Carolina. But, as you look at your own approval rate in the state, it is rather low, almost 35 percent, lower ratings in fact than President Obama in South Carolina. And there's been something of a revolt against you among tea partiers who feel that this is a betrayal of that support from the tea party by endorsing Romney.

GOV. HALEY: Well, first of all, I'll tell you you're referring to a local poll that also said that President Obama was going to win South Carolina, and I think everybody knows this is one of the reddest of the red states. And in a time where he's showing he's falling in swing states, I just don't believe that to be accurate. Having said that, polls are polls and, you know, we never govern on polls, we never put a lot of weight on polls.

If you look at the tea party, what I can tell you is, there's no such thing as a tea party candidate. You can get support from the tea party. I have great respect for the tea party. And what they care about is they care about their freedoms, they care about their liberties, they care about the 10th Amendment, and they care about government understanding and elected officials understanding you work for the people, not the other way around. And they want someone that understands the value of a dollar. So you will see they won't vote in a block. They will very much make their own decisions up because tea party members are Republicans, Democrats and independents who want elected officials to remember exactly who it is that they work for.

MR. GREGORY: You're, you're endorsing Mitt Romney. Is he the odds-on favorite to be the nominee in your view?

GOV. HALEY: Absolutely. You know, and the reason is, you have to look at the times of the day. The number one issue is jobs, spending, and the economy. We are looking at a broken Washington. We need someone to go in there and fix it. This man has continued to fix everything he's ever touched, whether it was the private sector, whether it was volunteering in the Olympics, whether it was going and, and taking a liberal state like Massachusetts. He was successful every time. And now is a time where we have to say, what do we care about? We care about jobs. We need someone that understands if you give a person a job you take care of a family. We've got a lot of families in this country we've got to take care of.

MR. GREGORY: And quickly, governor, he's--Mitt Romney has been supportive of your election efforts. Would you serve as a, a running mate if you were asked?

GOV. HALEY: Absolutely not. I am very thrilled to be the governor of the state of South Carolina. I made a promise to the people of this state, and I intend on keeping it.

MR. GREGORY: So, if you, if, if you were asked, you would not serve on the ticket?

GOV. HALEY: No, I would not.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Governor, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much.

GOV. HALEY: Thank you very much.


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