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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript


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BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie is right here in the studio with us this morning. Governor, it's always good to have you because you have this unusual habit of answering questions, so let's--

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-New Jersey/Romney Supporter): We'll keep it going, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --let's just talk some politics--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --this morning. Your man, Mitt Romney, is having a lot of trouble even out in Michigan it seems which a lot of us find hard to believe. He-- the-- I mean, it would seem to me he would be a shoe-in out there. And, yet, it just doesn't seem to be working. Rick Santorum is neck-and-neck with him. What-- what's he doing wrong?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, you know, I don't think anybody is a shoe-in this year, Bob. It's a very volatile electorate. I think, part of in this primary is that Republicans really are focused on wanting to defeat President Obama. And I think our primary voters are shopping. They want to make sure they pick the very best person to give the President the very best race. And they're not settled on it yet. And so, I know, that it's something that Governor Romney isn't doing, I think over the pace of time as they get to know him better, they're going to come to Governor Romney.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, Rick Santorum suggested yesterday that Mitt Romney is just not really a person of conviction. Listen to what he said here.

RICK SANTORUM: Oh, I'm running for the Senate against Ted Kennedy, I'll be a liberal. I'm running for governor of Massachusetts, so I'll be a moderate. And now, oh, I'm going to run for Republican nomination for president, I'll be a conservative today. What's he going to be tomorrow?

BOB SCHIEFFER: So that's the question, Governor? I mean--

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I think he is what Rick Santorum called him in 2008 which was the most conservative candidate and a real conservative when Rick Santorum endorsed him in 2008. I think what you just saw in that clip is naked opportunism, Bob. I mean, now that he's running against him, all of sudden he doesn't know what-- what Mitt Romney is. When he was endorsing him in 2008, he called him a real conservative. I'll go with the less affected Rick Santorum evaluation in 2008. Mitt-- Mitt Romney is a real conservative.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But it does seem that Governor Romney is having a little trouble connecting with the common folk. I mean, he seems to say things that might be funny at the country club, but they sort of fall flat outside the country club. I mean, like Friday, he was talking about how much he liked cars. And he managed to say this.

MITT ROMNEY: I like the fact that most of the cars I see are-- are Detroit made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a-- and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a-- a couple of Cadillac's actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So, I used to have all three covered.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Obviously most people don't have four or five cars, Governor.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Why-- why would he say that?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: So the cat is out of the bag, Bob, on the fact that Governor Romney is wealthy. I mean, so he-- so he has a number of cars. Many people who have made a lot of money over time do. And so I-- I think this is just something where to be candid, folks are looking for him to make trip-ups. He's telling the truth about the cars he has. What if he didn't answer the question about how many cars he had or didn't talk about it, then people would be saying he was hiding it. Listen, Governor Romney has been successful. I think, that's what we want in a President of the United States. Do we want somebody running who has been a failure at everything they've done and is-- is that going to recommend him for the White House? He's been a great success in business. He has been a great success as executive, as governor of Massachusetts. I think that's the kind of guy we want in the White House.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, he-- he also said at one point he-- he was not worried about the very poor. Clearly you're a politician that does seem to worry about that. You have got a new state budget out here. It includes more money for the poor. It includes more for hospitals to take care of the poor. It includes more for education. Do you think Mitt Romney cares about the very poor?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I think-- I think he does. You-- you know, the whole answer, Bob, was that he wasn't as concerned about the poor because there's a Safety Net. And if the Safety Net had holes, he would repair it. And I think Governor Romney cares about all the American people. You know, listen, when you're out there and the camera is following you twenty-four seven, sometimes you're going to misspeak. And he did. And I think he admitted that. He apologized for it. And you have got to move on. I mean, I think in this twenty-four-seven era we live in, you know, believe me, I've done it. Everybody in public life who speaks honestly is going to do it. If we want our-- our blow-dried answers, focus-group tested answers, then we're not going to really know who the man is. And-- and I think we're getting to know Mitt Romney.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, I want to shift to what are the other people in this race and that is Rick Santorum. He made this strangest accusation yesterday. He said President Obama is a snob because he wants everyone to get a college education. He said earlier this week he wanted to get the states out of education. Obviously you don't agree with that part. But what-- what is that all about?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, I don't know. I-- what I see is the way I put it all the time, Bob, is we need to have an education system in New Jersey and all over the country that makes all of our kids, either college or career ready. It should be their choice. I mean, every kid doesn't want to go to college. But I think we should aspire to let every child reach his maximum or her maximum potential. And if Senator Santorum is against that, then I don't think that makes any sense. And I certainly don't think the President is a snob for saying that. I think that's probably over the line.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think Rick Santorum and-- and, well, the-- the candidates in general, are pushing your party too far to the right to make-- make the nomination worth anything when you-- when you get to November?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, Rick Santorum is not going to be the nominee. And in the end, Governor Romney who has some real conservative values but has real appeal to independents across the country is going to be the nominee. He's going to be talking about the things that he should be talking about--jobs in the economy, robust economic recovery, not the weak one that we're having now, and get more people back to work. And-- and reinvigorating our entrepreneurial spirit, not a government top-down solution. He'll be talking about those things. And listen, it always looks bad when you're in the middle of these fights. Remember, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? I mean they said women would never going to vote for Barack Obama after the way he treated Hillary Clinton in that race. Plenty of women voted for Barack Obama in 2008. When we get through the primary, Bob, it will be okay.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But wha-- what I'm wondering about is his concentration on social issues. Al Simpson who used to be a Senator from Wyoming--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --and has a way of pointing a point on things.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Sure does. I like him.

BOB SCHIEFFER: He said the other day, well-- well, here's what he said about if you go too far on these social issues.

AL SIMPSON: I am convinced that-- that if you get into these social issues and just stay in there about abortion and homosexuality and even mental health they bring up, if we're going to do that-- and here's a party that believes in government out of your life, the precious right of privacy, and the right to be left alone. How then can they be the hypocrisy of fiddling around in these social issues? We-- we won't have a prayer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you agree with that?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I don't. Because I don't think there's been this enormous emphasis on it. Listen, we've gone through a couple of weeks where Senator Santorum has made some comments. Remember this is all been Senator Santorum, has made these comments that have-- it fascinated the media in part because he's been doing better lately. And so everybody is covering him very intensely. But listen to what Mitt Romney has been talking about. Governor Romney has been talking about a twenty percent tax cut, making the tax code fairer, simpler for people, so you don't have to hire an accountant to file your tax returns. Those are the things he's been talking about. So I-- I don't agree, Bob, with the characterization of the party as a whole. This is Senator Santorum who is discussing these. Listen, I care about some of these social issues. So do a lot of your viewers. But what people care about the most is getting a job, being able to put food on the table, being able to pay their mortgage. Those are the things they care the most about. Those are the issues Governor Romney is facing head on right now. And will take the President on the fall over.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But I wonder how you get the focus back to that if you do because, I mean, you know, we've spent the last couple of weeks here talking about running against birth control for goodness sake.


BOB SCHIEFFER: I mean, I admit, I mean, I-- I believe the President made a serious political mistake when he tried to say to the Catholic Church, you have to buy birth control pills for the folks that work in your hospitals and-- and your schools--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --and so forth. But he backed away from that. And yet, the Republicans keep pushing. They say that's not enough. That you've got to be totally against the birth control the way some of-- I mean how--

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: But I don't think-- I don't think, you know, most Republicans have said that. I certainly was asked about this-- this in just a week.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, that's certainly what Santorum has been pushing.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, again that's-- but you're proving my point. Rick Santorum is talking about these things. I think he's trying to appeal to a certain sector of our electorate. And like I said, a lot of these social issues are important to me but I also know that what's most important to the people of the Republican Party and of America right now, Bob, is to talk about jobs. And so you say how are we going to get back to that? The passage of time. You know, the great thing about the twenty-four-seven news cycle is, you guys get bored and then you move on to something else. And so Governor Romney, though, has not taken his eye off the ball. He's been talking about tax cuts, simplifying the code, cutting spending and getting our country back on the right track to have an entrepreneurial economic explosion in this country.

BOB SCHIEFFER: How do you go after Barack Obama, though, right now? I mean, stock market is up. It looks like the unemployment is going down. David Axelrod in his campaign said the other day Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. It's going to be a tough job for you. Is it not?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Listen. I've always said that the race against President Obama--I said this a year ago, that anybody who took Barack Obama lightly did so at their own peril. And I think he will be a very formidable candidate, but he also has some real weaknesses, Bob. I mean, you know, he said unemployment was never going to go over eight percent if we pass this stimulus plan. We went up over ten percent. A lot of people are still suffering out there, Bob. Foreclosures are high. And people don't feel as if they've gotten the hope and change that the President promised. So part of this is going to be, yes, some progress is being made sure. We see it in our state. But on the other hand, has enough progress been made? And the people, who are really hurting, are they going to feel like they want to stay in this direction or do they want to change direction? And that's what the election is going to be about. But that's why we have these elections. Let's have the argument. Let's have the fight. And I think Mitt Romney will bring that fight to the President. The President is going to have to defend his record. But I'm not going to be one of these guys who is going to say nothing good happens ever. I mean you-- you have no credibility if you say that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this. It's hypothetical to be sure. But if Mitt Romney does lose Michigan, I think you're going to hear a lot of voices in your party saying, maybe we ought to rethink this whole thing. Maybe some other people ought to think about getting in. You said before, no way, no how. But if that should happen, is there anyway you would ever consider getting back in this race?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: No. I'm with Governor Romney. And one of the things people know about me is-- is that when I make up my mind it pretty much stays made, I mean, you know, now listen. Is there a possibility if Governor Romney were to lose Michigan for a contested election-- contested convention? Sure. That's a possibility. I still don't think it's a likelihood though. First of all, I think he's going to win Michigan. And-- and after that I think he'll continue to establish momentum but this is going to go up and down, Bob. We've seen this race. Herman Cain was a front-runner. Michele Bachmann was a front-runner, you know, they're out of the race now. Rick Perry was a front-runner. So I think, you know, we have to be patient as Republicans, take a deep breath and let this process work its way out. But I think Governor Romney could be the nominee at the end. People love to talk about contested conventions.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But let me make sure I heard what you said. You said, sure, there is a possibility that if-- if the Governor Romney loses Michigan, we might go all the way to the convention. And have a contested convention.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Were you saying in there, if that should happen, you might rethink getting in?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: No-- no, I didn't say that at all.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I just said that I'm not going to deny that that possibility exists that we could have a contested convention.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: But I still think it's unlikely, very unlikely. And I think Governor Romney when he gets to the Tampa, the last week of August, will have a majority of the delegates and will be the nominee. And then we'll get to focus in the last sixty-seven days of the race on the President of the United States and his record. The promises from '08 and the failure to meet that promise in the four years that he's had as President. And that's what we're going to be focusing on then. A lot of this other stuff that you've been asking me about perfectly appropriate questions but I think that will be water well under the bridge by the time we get to August.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What about vice president? Does that interest you?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: You know, not-- not really. What I'll say though to you is that if-- if Governor Romney were to come and talk to me about it, I would listen because I love my party enough and I love my country enough to listen. But I-- I love being governor of New Jersey. And, if you're a betting man, Bob, and I know you are, if you're betting, bet me on me being the governor of New Jersey into next year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about something you've proposed in your state, a ten percent across the board tax hike. Can New Jersey really afford that right now?


BOB SCHIEFFER: Tax cut, yeah.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: A tax cut. Yeah, we can afford it now because we've made a lot of very hard decisions the last two years. When I've been on your show before, we've talked about the significant cuts. We cut spending-- real spending, not projected growth, but real spending two years in a row in my first two budgets. And what we have seen is some economic growth return to New Jersey. And we've continued to hold the line on spending. And so this is a state, Bob, that had a hundred and fifteen tax and fee increases in eight years before I became governor. People deserve to get some of their money back. And we're doing it responsibly by the way. Ten percent phased in over three years. So we don't blow a hole in the budget. And we have a way to adjust, but imagine New Jersey, Bob, people getting their taxes lowered every year for three years? People will become disoriented by that, given the history.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Governor, I want to thank you for being with us this morning. I've said at the beginning you always answer the questions. And-- and-- and you do. I wonder if I could ask a favor of you.


BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, we've been trying for a long time to get Mitt Romney to come sit down at this table. Now you're obviously a friend--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --and-- and an advisor. You make a good case for him. But I'd like to hear him make the case. Would you put in a word for us and say, you know, they'd love to see you over there at FACE THE NATION, if you'd accept their invitation.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: You bet I will. When I talk to him next time I'll tell him it's a good friendly place to come to answer questions of people across the country wanting your answer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, well thank you very much, Governor. Thank you very much.


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