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CNN "John King, USA" - Transcript


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KING: The woman in red there who just introduced Mitt Romney is New Hampshire's junior senator, Kelly Ayotte. She's a former New Hampshire attorney general and was elected to the United States Senate back in 2010.

She's also one of the people generating buzz in Republican circles as a potential Romney running mate. The senator joins us now from Manchester.

I will get to that in just a second, Senator, the mystery of who will share the ticket.

But let's focus on the substance of the event today. Governor Romney is on this bus tour starting in New Hampshire, small state, but one of the key battlegrounds. He's going to go through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and beyond on this bus tour, trying to take away the key states that will decide the fall.


KING: Here was part of his economic message to the people of New Hampshire.


ROMNEY: For so many Americans, the distance between their town and the city of Washington has never seemed so far. The federal establishment has never seemed so hostile and so remote, so disconnected from economic reality, and yet so willing to use restrictions and regulations, taxes and fines, commissions, and czars to direct our daily lives.


KING: Is it a tougher sell is my question in the state of New Hampshire, which if you look at the numbers back when President Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent? It is 5 percent now. So, it went from -- especially relatively if you look nationally, it went from not bad to even better.

Is it a harder sell for the challenger in a state that is doing pretty well?

AYOTTE: Well, certainly our unemployment rate is 5 percent, John, but I have gone throughout our state and I have talked to so many small business owners, and they have the same concerns that Governor Romney is talking about, strangling regulations from Washington, rising health care costs as a result of Obamacare, and just a deep concern about the fiscal state of the country.

And I hear that from all of my constituents. And I think that Governor Romney hit those issues strong today, a concern not only about what's happening right now, but the future for our children.

KING: I mentioned this bus tour. He's going through the battleground states, and he's getting some help from his friends, including you, Senator.

And some of asking the question are these auditions or "getting to know you" sessions? I want to show our viewers during the course of this bus tour over the next few days, Senator Ayotte was there today, Governor Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, was there today. I think he continues on. Senator Rob Portman will be there in his home state of Ohio. Senator -- Representative Paul Ryan -- excuse me -- will be there in his home state of Wisconsin.

Tell me, Senator Ayotte, why the lady in the group here would be the best running mate for Mitt Romney?

AYOTTE: Well, I have to tell you this, John. I don't view it the same way as you. I don't think they are auditions. I believe all of us or most of us campaigned with him well before he was the nominee. And I have been supporting him since November. And we are going to be in our states campaigning hard for him, and that's my focus is representing New Hampshire.

And I think when Mitt Romney is president, he's going to need people like me to work with him to solve the problems that our country faces in the Senate.

KING: And you answer that way because you assume you will be in the Senate. You have not been asked for what I call the Roto-Rooter of the vice president vetting process.


AYOTTE: No, John. The only thing that I have been doing is campaigning, and helping the campaign to make sure that Mitt Romney gets elected.

KING: Do you think he should pick a woman, even if it is not you?

AYOTTE: I think he should pick the person that he thinks is best qualified to serve with him and to serve our country.

KING: That was a careful, careful answer. It was very nice.

If you had a chance, if you had a chance to debate Joe Biden, what would be your number one goal?

AYOTTE: Well, I think it would be a similar debate in terms of what we will hear.

There's such a different vision that Mitt Romney has for our country and that I share for him, one of fiscal responsibility, of getting our fiscal house in order, and creating a climate for the private sector, repealing Obamacare, making sure that government becomes a partner with business, instead of what we have right now, where it is hostile to business and hurting employers.

So, that's what the debate would be about, a very different vision for this country, and one that will get people back to work and will make sure that we preserve our country and don't become bankrupt.

KING: As you know, some people say this is the most important decision a nominee makes and a lot of other people say as long as he doesn't have a disaster, it doesn't matter who the number two is. Where do you stand?

AYOTTE: Well, I stand that I think obviously the position of vice president is very important, but ultimately it is going to be the people of this country that will judge the candidates and I think at the end of the day, they will judge that Governor Romney has the private sector experience and obviously the experience as governor to get our country turned around and on the right track.

KING: And, lastly, on a scale of one to 10, one being no, 10 being yes, what's the likelihood Kelly Ayotte would be that pick?

AYOTTE: You know, John, I don't even think about that, because, right now, it is all about working hard on behalf of my constituents and particularly on making sure that Mitt Romney gets elected president.

KING: Will he win New Hampshire?

AYOTTE: I think he will. We are truly a swing state.

The last time we went for the GOP was in 2000. But he has great connections in New Hampshire, he has been working very hard here, and his message of fiscal responsibility very much resonates in New Hampshire.

KING: Senator Ayotte, appreciate your time tonight. Diplomatic answers. Maybe you're auditioning for secretary of state after all.

AYOTTE: Great to be with you, John.


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