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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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MS. GUTHRIE: And we're back. Before we go to Senator Chuck Schumer in New York, we wanted to spend a few more minutes on the Republican race for the White House with the high-stakes Wisconsin primary just two days away now. And joining me live from Milwaukee is Wisconsin's freshman Republican Senator Ron Johnson. He was elected with strong tea party support in 2010 and until this morning has remained uncommitted in the Republican presidential race. So, Senator, I know you're here to break some news this morning, throw your support behind a candidate. So without further ado, who will you be supporting?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Well, Mitt, Mitt Romney. And, and good morning, Savannah. I'm, I'm, I'm a business guy from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I had 33 years experience in the private sector, I've been in Washington now for 15 months and I certainly understand a big part of our problem is the fact that this president and members of his administration have no private sector experience whatsoever, and Governor Romney has 25 years of experience in the private sector, plus he has executive experience in, in government. And I, I never did intend to endorse anybody, but I've had the opportunity to meet with Governor Romney over the last couple weeks, have long phone conversations with him, and I've come away from those conversations fully convinced that Governor Romney is the person to lead our party, to lead our nation. He fully understands the gravity of our financial situation, he is dedicated toward solving those problems. He is ready, willing and able to lead this nation, unlike President Obama. So no, today I'm happy to announce my full support and my endorsement of Governor Romney to be the next president of the United States.
And I'm looking forward to working with Governor Romney and his team in my new role. I've been asked by Leader McConnell to lead an effort to coordinate our agenda and our message in the House, the Senate, with our presidential candidate so that we can communicate to the voters of America the very clear choice in our approach. You know, we actually want to realign the private sector, we know that it's freedom and the free market system vs. President Obama's approach of growing government, growing government intrusion in our lives. So, you know, I'm, I'm looking forward to making sure that President Obama is a one-term president.

MS. GUTHRIE: Well, let me ask you, do you think Senator Santorum and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul should get out at this point?

SEN. JOHNSON: Well, listen, this is nothing negative about the other candidates. I've got a great deal of respect for, for those individuals that love this country, that have actually exposed themselves to this, this process that's not particularly fun. You know, you're putting your life on hold, you're putting your life under a microscope. So this is nothing negative against--about the other candidates. It's just a recognition of the fact that Governor Romney has won more delegates. He's the only person that really has a chance to take those--the winning number of delegates into the convention. We have seven months before the election. Our top priority as fiscal conservatives is to make sure that President Obama retires because he has utterly failed to lead.

MS. GUTHRIE: Very...

SEN. JOHNSON: Savannah, he's peak--go ahead.

MS. GUTHRIE: Very, very quickly. Do you think it's dangerous for the Republican Party's prospects in November to have this primary process continue on and perhaps into a contested convention?

SEN. JOHNSON: Well, listen, we've had a spirited debate. I think, I think it is time to end this so that we can spend the next seven months pointing out the fact that President Obama has failed to lead. He's had four budgets now. He has not proposed a solution to save Social Security and Medicare. His budget last year lost in the United States Senate zero-to-97. Last week his budget lost zero-to-414. That is a stunning repudiation of his leadership. We need a leader. America hungers for leadership. President Obama is not providing that. It is time to change the direction of this country, and that's why, that's why I'm coming out urging the voters of Wisconsin, let's lead. Let's, let's show that this is the time to bring this process to the--to an end so we can focus our attention on retiring President Obama.

MS. GUTHRIE: All right. Senator Johnson, thank you for your time this morning, sir. We appreciate it.

SEN. JOHNSON: Thanks for having me on.


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