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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): Happy to be back, David. Good morning.

GREGORY: Let's look at the state of the race. The key battleground states, nine of them, we've done polling in all and here's a result. In all nine, it's Obama advantage across the board. Look at Ohio, plus seven. Look at Virginia, plus five. These are key states. Is the race over?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Absolutely not. And that happened pretty quickly, right, avid? I mean, you saw the change in those polls happen very quickly. And-- and I'm here to tell you this morning, it can happen very quickly back the other way, and I think the beginning of that is Wednesday night when Governor Romney for the first time gets on the same stage with the president of the United States and people can make a direct comparison about them and their visions for the future. And Wednesday night is the restart of this campaign and I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.

GREGORY: How do you restart a campaign, Governor, at that last moment here you can reach tens of millions of people? Why isn't it too late to believe that the presidential debates after you announce your running mate, after you have your own convention including keynoter Chris Christie, that you can restart with the presidential debates?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Absolutely. Because you're going to have ten of millions of people for the very first time, David, really tuning in and paying attention to this race. And-- and also for the first time you're going to have them be able to make a direct side-by-side comparison. Remember, at the end of the day campaigns are about the candidates. And they're going to be able to see these two candidates next to each other, debating each other, and Governor Romney, I know, is going to do a great job on Wednesday night laying out his vision for America's future and making the contrast between he and the president of the United States.

GREGORY: As you well know, Governor Romney has been heavily criticized from his own side, conservative critics, and the chorus has been pretty striking. The latest that got a lot of attention, Charles Krauthammer in TheWashington Post on Friday and this was the headline, "Go Large, Mitt." And the argument was that he was not really creating a-- a clear contrast. He was not talking in detail about what a Romney presidency would mean? How does he go large at this point, Governor?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Oh, listen, I think he just has to lay out his plan and his vision. And-- and I-- and I like Charles and-- and the other folks who are-- who are laying out critical columns right now. But the fact of the matter is that in the end this is going to be about Governor Romney over the next four or five weeks laying that vision out for folks. And, you know, folks like us obsess about this stuff, David, but I got to tell you something the-- the general public that I speak to in New Jersey and elsewhere are just beginning to really tune into this race. And so they're going to start tuning on Wednesday night and when they do, Governor Romney is going to lay out his vision for a better and greater America, for greater opportunity, for all of our citizens, and-- and I think that's when you're going to see this race really start to tighten and then move-- move in Governor Romney's direction.

GREGORY: Up until now, Governor, he has failed to enumerate any of the deductions that he would eliminate in order to make the math work on his deficit plan and his tax plan. Are we going to get those details in the course of the debate?

GOV CHRISTIE: Well, you know, David, I wish you guys were just as tough on the president. The president says he's going to create-- create a million new manufacturing jobs, doesn't say how he's going to do it. He says he's going to reduce the long-term debt and deficit by four trillion dollars, doesn't say how he's going to do it. I mean, you know, let's be fair here. Governor Romney has laid out a direction and a vision for the direction of this country. He's not an accountant. He is not going to go line-by-line as much as you like him to do through the budget. But let's hold the President to the same standard and criticize him as well, because how does he create a million new manufacturing jobs, David? He hasn't told anybody the specifics of that. How is he going to reduce four trillion in debt? We're still waiting to hear what he thinks about Simpson-Bowles, which he commissioned. I mean, you know, he's been the president and hasn't given us specifics. So let's be fair here.

GREGORY: So that's really the approach then? You're a former prosecutor. You understand how the courtroom works. Mitt Romney is the defense lawyer here. He is going to say the prosecution, President Obama, hasn't made his case and that his record isn't enough for re-election, and I'm not going to give you all the detail of what I'll do, what a Romney presidency would mean. Make your choice based on the president. That's the plan?

GOV. CHRISTIE: No, no. Listen, what the plan is, is that the public will have plenty of detail and information to be able to make a judgment on Governor Romney and what his plan is for the future. But let's look at what the president is saying as well. And you're right, David, in this respect. The president has had four years to lay this out, and now a campaign and the president's just trying to run out the clock. He desperately wants to run out the clock with platitudes which sound nice, and I give him that. The president is very good at that. But in the end I think that both sides have to look at this campaign and say, what are we going to lay out over the next thirty-six days? And that's what-- I think what's really important. And I think Governor Romney will lay out some very important points over the next thirty-six days that are going to make people believe once and for all that America can be great again. Not just staggering along here economically as we've been doing.

GREGORY: Earlier this year, before he was the official nominee, you criticized Mitt Romney. You talked about his shortcomings, a failure to connect with people as a candidate. That criticism has not gone away. And then you had his secretly reported-- recorded speech at a fundraiser where he talked about the forty-seven percent believing that they were victims. The Obama campaign has made an ad that puts some pictures to those words. I want to play a portion of it and get you to respond.

(Videotape; Campaign Ad)

MR. ROMNEY: There are forty-seven percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to-- you name it. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: Governor, how does he overcome that? How does anybody buy that he cares about a hundred percent of the country after those remarks?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, David, let me clear where I am, I couldn't see the images in the ad. I could just hear the voiceover so I can't comment specifically on the ad, but let me say this, here's what I know Governor Romney believes because I have spoken to him. He believes that every American has to have skin in the game. He believes that every American going to wants to be part of a shared sacrifice in order to bring our country and its people to have another opportunity for greatness. And that's what he's really talking about. Was that comment inartfully put? Absolutely. I have said it publicly. Governor Romney said it publically. But in the end, we certainly don't want to judge people by one inartful comment. I mean, this is the same president who said he campaigned in all 57 states. So, I mean, I don't think we want to-- want to say that the president doesn't know that there are actually 50 states in America, not 57. Every once in a while in the campaign as a candidate I can tell you, you're going to say something that just comes out of your mouth the wrong way. But here's what he believes--he believes that every American should have the opportunity for greatness. He believes that every American should be part of a shared sacrifice to fix the problems that are be-- are besieging our country right now, and that everyone should have skin in that game. I believe the American people will rise to that challenge and will elect Mitt Romney because he is the one articulating that-- that challenge, not this happy talk that the president is giving us that things are bumps in the road, things are just small problems. The country knows we have big problems, David, that we're not confronting. And the president's happy talk for the next 36 days is not going to anesthetize the American people.

GREGORY: You acknowledge though that this has done real damage. This 47 percent comment, not simply a misstatement, this was a pretty thoughtful accounting of-- of a government-dependent society in Romney's view. You admit it's done political damage?

GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I don't acknowledge that, David. What I say is that if you-- if you look at the context of his statements all across this campaign that what Governor Romney stands for is shared sacrifice for the American people, what he stands for is everyone having skin in the game and working together to create opportunities for greatness for our children and grandchildren. And, you know, if we continue to emphasize this, then of course over the course of time if that's all people hear, but that's not all they're going to hear because guess what on Wednesday night, Mitt Romney going to be standing on the same stage with the president of the united states. And I am telling you, David, come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change.

GREGORY: Let me ask you about some nuts and bolts that you say we're going to hear from Governor Romney. Here was a portion of your speech as the keynoter that you gave in Tampa. And I'll show it to you.

(Videotape; Republican National convention/August 28, 2012)

GOV. CHRISTIE: We believe it's possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for our conservative principles.

(End videotape)

GREGORY: You understand there's a great appetite for compromise in the country. When it comes to dealing with our debt, this is a nominee in Mitt Romney who talks about an extra tax cuts, going beyond the extension of the Bush tax cuts. He talks about raising defense spending. He rejects a 10 to one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Simpson-Bowles, you mentioned them. They say the math simply doesn't add up in the Romney plan and he won't tell us how he thinks it does.

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, listen, the country is hungry for bipartisan compromise, David. I agree with you, especially after the last four years of intense partisanship from this White House. And Mitt Romney is the only candidate in this race who has a record of showing he knows as an executive how to forge bipartisan compromise. As the governor of Massachusetts, over 85 percent of his legislature Democrat, he made things happen. And he will make things happen as president of the United States and will forge the right type of compromise to get this done. And that's the way it's going to work.

GREGORY: Do you think that this Governor Romney should be in a situation where he's actually prepared to deal with revenue, to raise revenue, to go against his party if it's part of a package that achieves compromise and the kind of reforms that are necessary along the lines of Simpson-Bowles, which you mentioned?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Let me tell you what we did in New Jersey, David. What we did in New Jersey is, first, you got to convince people that you've actually done everything you need to do on the spending side before you start asking people for more money. And the fact is no one believes when you're adding 1.5 trillion dollars in debt every year of the four years of the-- of this presidency that we've done everything we can do on the spending side. So I think the first thing Governor Romney would have to do as President Romney is prove that he's serious on the spending side. You need to deal with that issue first. When he does, he will then have credibility with the American people to be able to solve any problems that are on his desk.

GREGORY: And that means even raising revenue if that's the right thing to do, raising taxes if it's necessary?

GOV. CHRISTIE: No, listen. What it means is that he's going to have credibility to address the issues and forge bipartisan compromise. And so the fact of the matter is, as he looks at these problems, he's going to look at them much differently than the president of the United States has looked at them, David.

And-- and, you know, we look at this, and you're asking him about Simpson-Bowles, how about asking the man who commissioned Simpson-Bowles, how he feels about Simpson-Bowles?


GOV. CHRISTIE: And-- and-- and he-- and-- and, you know, he won't answer the question. But he puts out a nice two-minute ad that says he's going to reduce the debt by four trillion, but never tells us how. He's going to create a million manufacturing jobs but never tells us how. The fact of the matter is, David, when I hear you talk about Mitt Romney, I think you're talking about President Obama.

GREGORY: I want to end with this. As you know, political reviews are-- are tough things sometimes, and there was a tough review from you-- for you as the keynoter at the Republican convention. This was from politico, John Harris and Tim Mak in reviewing your speech. The headline on, Christie delivers a primetime dud. They write, there is no mistaking what a successful keynote speech for Chris Christie would have looked and sounded like. There would have been an electric reaction from the crowd in the convention hall. It would have followed-- been followed by waves of effusive media commentary about how people had just heard the future of the Republican Party. Judged by these standards, there is also no mistaking what the New Jersey governor delivered instead: A prime-time belly-flop, one that notably flared-- failed to clear either of those two high bars. Are you still the future of this party, do you believe?

GOV. CHRISTIE: Well, Mitt Romney is the future of this party, first of all, he's going to be elected president on November 6. And then from there he's going to lead our country back to greatness. And believe me, if I took seriously, judgment of my speeches by Jim Vandehei and John Harris, you know, I would not be in this business for very long.

GREGORY: All right. Governor Chris Christie, we're going to leave it there. Thank you as always.

GOV. CHRISTIE: Hey, great to be with you, David.


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