Republican presidential primary candidate Mitt Romney was a guest on today's Morning Joe. Embeddable video of the interview is below, along with a transcript of Romney's interview with MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough:
2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney joins Morning Joe to discuss his poll numbers, the 2012 field, his Mormon faith, his record as governor of Massachusetts, and Newt Gingrich.
Romney on "Morning Joe"
[VIDEO CLIP FROM THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN]
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:. Isn't it time for a president who looks like a 1970s game show host?
DAVID LETTERMAN: Yes.
What's up, gangstas?
It's the ---
ROMNEY:. it's the M-I- double tizzle.
ROMNEY:. my new cologne is now available at Macy's. It's Mitts-tified.
ROMNEY:. Newt Gingrich, really?
LETTERMAN:. yes. Yes. That's right.
LETTERMAN:. And the number one thing Mitt Romney would like to say to the American people.
ROMNEY:. It's a hairpiece.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, COHOST:. It was well done.
Top of the hour.
Welcome back to MORNING JOE.
Joining us now, former Republican governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
ROMNEY:. how are you doing?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST:. How are you doing, Governor?
ROMNEY:. nice to meet you.
SCARBOROUGH:. It's good to see you.
ROMNEY:. Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH:. It's crazy out there.
ROMNEY:. It is.
SCARBOROUGH:. Can you believe how --- how things are just churning and this 24-7 news cycle, you've got a new person rising every week, falling the next week. I was just looking at a magazine article that's still on my desk that says, "The Cain Factor: Why He" --he's gone.
BRZEZINSKI:. Remember him?
SCARBOROUGH:. I mean --- why is this happening?
why is there such a --- such a violent turnover in the Republican Party?
ROMNEY:. Well, I --- I think our Republican Party voters really want to see Barack Obama out of office ---
ROMNEY:. And they make sure they've got the person that can take him out. And --- and so they're taking a very close look at the person who is most effective in going after the president, in some --- in some cases, the most incendiary ---
ROMNEY:. --- gets a lot of interest.
SCARBOROUGH:. Is that --- is that the problem?
Is that why you haven't closed the sell, because you're not a bomb thrower?
ROMNEY:. Well, I'm not a bomb thrower. I --- I'm happy with the fact that I've been either at the top or next to the top through this whole process. That's pretty darned good.
ROMNEY:. Everybody else has come up and down or gone from a very low number to a high one and then back down again. So to be able to be steady through this and build some support over time is a --- is a good sign.
SCARBOROUGH:. I saw your Chris Wallace interview this past weekend on Fox, "Fox Sunday." I thought the --- the --- the parts that were the most fascinating to me is when Chris started talking about your personal life. You don't talk about it much. You do --- you don't lead with we --- we know your wife and --- and --- and kids and love them. it's not that you're ashamed of them, but you don't lead. It's --- it's almost like you've hidden some of that. You don't talk about your time overseas as a missionary quite so much.
Are you going start doing that more?
ROMNEY:. Well, part of it depends on what you're asked, of course. So when you are ---
SCARBOROUGH:. OK. So --- so let me ask you ---
ROMNEY:. when you're ---
SCARBOROUGH:. --- what was it ---
ROMNEY:. --- when you're ---
SCARBOROUGH:. --- what was it like being a Mormon missionary for two years overseas?
ROMNEY:. Well, it was a --- a dramatic experience, a great shift in what I'd known. I'd been in America. I came from a family that was prosperous. and then I found myself in a lower middle income kind of category, the homes I lived in. The --- the ---
SCARBOROUGH:. No indoor plumbing?
ROMNEY:. No. No, well, it depends. Some of the apartments, yes. Some of the apartments, no. At the end of my mission, I lived in a very beautiful place, the church headquarters. But the first two years, we lived quite poor. And --- and a lot of rejection being an American. This was during Vietnam. And I'd come to the door and they'd --- they'd interrupt me as I was speaking in broken French. And they'd say, "Are you American?"
And I'd say, "Yes."
and they'd just slam the door or say ---
SCARBOROUGH:. And how ---
ROMNEY:. --- "Get out of Vietnam."
SCARBOROUGH:. --- how many --- how many rejections?
I thought it was fascinating when you talk to somebody that is a stock broker. They'll tell you that they open phone books and they'll make 100 calls and if they get one, it's been --- it's been a good hour. So have ---
ROMNEY:. That's nothing.
SCARBOROUGH:. Talk to us more ---
ROMNEY:. That's nothing.
SCARBOROUGH:. Talk about your rejections as a missionary knocking on door after door after door in a hostile environment.
ROMNEY:. Well, I spent five months in a city called Le Havre, France. Five months there. I think the population was about a quarter of a million people. In five months, we knocked on doors from morning until quite late in the evening. We didn't convert one person in five months. So if you --- you understand rejection, you know, that's a pretty --- a pretty high level of rejection. And you get used to it. And you say, OK, you know, what do I believe, what's important to me. And you don't measure yourself and your success by how other people react, but instead by how you're doing and how you feel about the things you --- you care about.
SCARBOROUGH: How did --- how did your missionary work shape you as a man when you came back home?
ROMNEY:. I became more convinced of --- of the things I believed in, more committed to what was important to me and less concerned about how other people thought about me. And --- and that's --- that's something which you --- you'll have as you go through an experience where you're received in a --- not in a hostile way, but in a way people, they --- some people thought I was a salesman. Some people thought I was an American, true. some people thought I was a missionary. also true. And in each case, they were --- they rejected me. And --- and I had to learn to still maintain my confidence in myself.
BRZEZINSKI:. All right. So I'm taking notes here, because I mean we've --- we've known you. We've covered you now for a couple of years. We love your family. And we love your wife. your personal story is incredibly impressive and your professional story is incredibly impressive.
And yet there is this sort of constant conversation that you can't close the deal with the base.
Why do you think that is, at this stage in the game, given the fact that this is your second run for the presidency, which historically is good for a Republican candidate?
ROMNEY:. Well, I would think that if you look over history and you say how many people have been able to get to 25 percent of the support in their party this early, when there eight or nine candidates, there are not very many that get that high. The last time around, John McCain, I don't know, 20 to 25 percent; Rudy Giuliani, myself, Fred Thompson. We have a lot of good people running for president.
Some like Rick Santorum the best. Some like Michelle Bachmann the best. And --- and at this stage, with all those candidates, to still be seen typically as number one or number two, I think is pretty darned good.
What my objective is, is to get about a third of the votes in the first month and then about 40 percent of the votes in the next month and then about 55 or 60 percent in the --- in the next month of this process and get the delegates I need to become nominee.
BRZEZINSKI:. Well, here's what's dogged you, though, and that is that you've changed over the years. The word flip-flopper has --- has come and gone too many times as your name has come and gone too many times.
How do you translate that criticism into a quality that you can sell to the voters, at this point, because the argument is, the complaint is that they don't really know what you stand for?
ROMNEY:. Well, the nice thing that people have to go for in my case is I have a record. I was governor for four years and you can look at my record. You can see what I did, what my beliefs were, were evident in the --- in the actions that I took. I balanced the budget every year for four years. I fought to put in place a system that made sure that our --- our kids would only graduate from high school if they pass an exam. That was a requirement established years before. I made sure it stuck.
We also had English immersion that we put in place in our schools.
These --- these experiences that I had as governor demonstrate a conservatism that I think people want to see. And then, of course, I ran for office. the positions that I had four years ago are the same positions I'm campaigning on today. And I also wrote a book and laid out in my book my vision for America.
Have --- have I become more conservative over the years? Yes.
I think if you'd been through the experience I've been through, if you've been a governor of a very liberal state and seen the policies that some of the liberals in my state wanted to have put in place, you --- you become more conservative as you become convinced that --- that they're wrong and you're right.
SCARBOROUGH:. But could you not make the argument, though --- and some of your supporters have --- have suggested that maybe you should make the argument that you were governor of Massachusetts. You weren't governor of Texas or governor of Oklahoma. And so there's no way that if you ran as a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage candidate, you would have gotten elected.
Can you just say I had to be pragmatic and now that I'm running nationally, I can talk more about how I really feel on these issues?
ROMNEY:. Well, you know, I understand in the world of politics that the people around me, that the people who are running against me are going to do their very best to create a narrative that helps them and that hurts me. That’s the nature of the process. I’m a big boy, I can handle that.
One can look at my record as governor and my belief is, if you look at that record, you’ll see there is a conservative Republican, and in a state that was 85 percent Democrat. On the issue of life, I came down very clearly on the side of life. I said, look, I am pro life.
The first time the bill reached my desk that dealt with embryonic research – we’re going to create new embryos to destroy them, I vetoed that bill. I vetoed a bill that was going to provide a morning-after pill to young girls. My record was a pro-life record.
Did that change from the very beginning when I ran against Ted Kennedy? Yes, I became dramatically more conservative when I faced on my desk a bill which would have taken human life.
SCARBOROUGH: So, Newt Gingrich, obviously is your greatest challenge right now. Would you still call Newt the frontrunner?
ROMNEY: You know, I think the latest polls show him still leading nationally. The lead is not as much as it used to be, but that is sort of the process that other people have gone through. They have gone up. They’ve gone up, they’ve come back down. And I expect he will lead until he doesn't lead.
SCARBOROUGH: That’s about all you can say about the Republican field this year. But he says he’s more conservative than you. How would you respond?
ROMNEY: Well, there have been two big issues in the last five or six years that Republicans have faced. One has been cap and trade. And the president pushed it, the Democrats pushed it, and Newt Gingrich stood up – well, sat down with Nancy Pelosi and pushed legislation, cap and trade legislation. Did an ad about global warming. That is not conservatism. That is not conservative leadership.
The other big issue was the issue that was taken by almost every Republican in Congress following Paul Ryan to say we need to reform Medicare to make sure that it’s sustainable, that it doesn’t go broke. These Republicans took a courageous vote.
And what did he do? Newt Gingrich stood up and said this is right-wing social engineering. On the two big conservative issues -- not 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, but in our time on the two big conservative issues, he came down on the side of the liberals. For him to say she more conservative is a bit of a stretch.
SCARBOROUGH: The third big issue focused on obviously has been Barack Obama's health care plan. On health care, don't you and Newt Gingrich both share the belief – haven’t you both shared the belief-- in the need for an individual mandate?
ROMNEY: Actually, the idea of an individual mandate came from Newt Gingrich and the Heritage Foundation. And we did something different than what they proposed. They were talking about a federal mandate, which is of course what Barack Obama did.
I opposed the idea of a federal mandate from the very beginning and said no, we will craft a plan that works for our own state and other states can learn from it or can decide to take a different course. But yes, he had a federal mandate in the history and only recently has changed his view on that.
BRZEZINSKI: OK, I’ve got to -- this is definitely something we can relate on.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, no! That's bad news. Time to run! Making his own (INAUDIBLE) by Chris Christie.
BRZEZINSKI: -- horses and Newt Gingrich. No, I’m just -- it's an interesting question. I'm fascinated by this. Because you look at how he is doing with the polls, and I know you don't live and die by the polls, you can’t do that. But you can use them as a barometer to daily test the waters and see how things are going. Figure out if your message is being communicated effectively.
What does this tell you about your party that Newt Gingrich is where he is?
ROMNEY: Well, we have seen Herman Cain at the top. We’ve seen Rick Perry at the top. We saw Michele Bachmann. We saw Donald Trump -- have all led at one time or another, and then people take a closer look. At the very beginning when someone really hasn't been inspected closely, you project on them all the things that you think would be true for an ideal candidate --
BRZEZINSKI: But Newt’s been inspected closely. I don’t want to look again.
ROMNEY: But people who are a little older who recall history because it was close for them. For young people coming along and others who didn't watch it carefully, why they’re not taking a closer look. Look, I think there is a lot that I learned about Newt Gingrich that I didn't know. All I remembered was oh, he was the guy that crafted the Contract with America, which turned out to be a very successful approach to get Republicans elected into the House --
SCARBOROUGH: And I was going to ask you, I mean, as a leader – and I asked Chris Christie before and he sort of swatted it away, but certainly you can appreciate as a leader how hard it was for Newt Gingrich to return to the Republican party, to the majority for the first time in a generation, balance the budget – with a lot of help from people like Kasich and my class. But he balanced the budget for the first time in a generation, balanced it four years in a row for the first time since the 1920s, passed welfare reform. He has done a lot of really good things for the conservative movement, hasn’t he?
ROMNEY: He sure has. And you acknowledge that. There’s no question about it. The contract and the success of welfare reform was something for which he deserves credit.
SCARBOROUGH: So – go ahead, Mika, I’m sorry.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, no, you point out some -- I will say that's very kind of you having said that. What does that say if your party were to actually move forward and nominate Newt Gingrich? What would be at stake for this country?
ROMNEY: It would have missed a great opportunity to nominate me.
BRZEZINSKI: There is that.
ROMNEY: Look, I happen to think I'm in the best position to replace President Obama. I think the only way we will get President Obama out of the White House -- because it's hard to replace an incumbent – is if we have someone run against him who is different than a lifelong politician. I think – there’s nothing wrong with being a lifelong politician. We have one in the White House right now. Newt Gingrich has spent his life in Washington.
And I don’t someone who spent their life in Washington is going to be able to be sufficiently distinctive for President Obama to actually beat him. I think my background of 25 years in the private sector gives me credibility on the economy and on creating jobs that President Obama doesn't have. And that distinction is going to make the difference.
SCARBOROUGH: So, let's talk about that. Newt Gingrich has attacked you for what you did at Bank Capital? Are you proud of your work at Bank Capital?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. We helped created tens of thousands of jobs. I'm proud of the private sector. There’s no question that Speaker Gingrich and much more significantly the DNC and President Obama are going to put free enterprise on trial.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, they said you threw people out of jobs, whether it’s in South Carolina or New Hampshire. You were responsible for people getting fired.
ROMNEY: What I was responsible for four enterprises, and all of them were successful and ultimately grew. And we invested in over 100 different businesses. And in those businesses, many were successful, added lots and lots of jobs. Some were not successful.
That is the nature of free enterprise. If someone thinks they can find a way that every enterprise that one invests in becomes successful -- all are successful, why, they are not living in a free enterprise system. They are living in a system like the old Soviet Union where the government insists that everybody adds employment every year, and ultimately the economy suggests that the people become poorer.
I believe that free enterprise works and I believe that other models have been proven to be failures time and time again. And I was surprised to have Newt Gingrich pick up the story line that came from Barack Obama and the DNC and go on the attack against free enterprise.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you win Iowa?
ROMNEY: I think that's hard to predict at this stage. Everyone wants to win Iowa. They want to win every state. But I think --
SCARBOROUGH: You think you can, though?
ROMNEY: All things are possible. And I hope to do well. But I think when we got into this this time around, we thought, well, Iowa would be a real stretch. New Hampshire, we hope to do well.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you have to win New Hampshire?
ROMNEY: I don't think today you have to win anything. I think the only thing you have to win is 1,150 delegates. We’ve seen some people have gone down and come back. If one of the people on the stage doesn't win the first two, I wouldn't write them off. One of those people could come and surge – we’ve seen people surge from nothing to high numbers very quickly.
SCARBOROUGH: Is it possible this goes all the way to the convention?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. That's possible. I don't think it is terribly likely, but it's possible that this goes a long way. We have built enough resources, raised enough money to have a campaign to go to the very, very end.
SCARBOROUGH: And finally, Newt Gingrich has been complaining – we ran a clip of him earlier talking about you had former aides running your super-PAC that is spending a couple of million attacking them. He said you should just tell them to stop the attacks against Newt Gingrich. Would you do that?
ROMNEY: It's illegal, as you probably know. Super PACs have to be entirely separate from a campaign and a candidate. I'm not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form.
SCARBOROUGH: So, you’re not coordinating it in any way.
ROMNEY: My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house. These things you know.
SCARBOROUGH: And you’re not talking about the White House.
BRZEZINSKI: No, not at all.
ROMNEY: No, this is a strange thing in these campaign finance laws. They set up these new entities, which I think is a disaster, by the way. Campaign finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season. We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs.
BRZEZINSKI: You know what I think would seal it? A little advice here. Pancakes.
SCARBOROUGH: Pancakes! Right!
ROMNEY: We know how to make them well, Mika.
BRZEZINSKI: Have a pancake breakfast in New Hampshire and Iowa. I’m telling you, the secret is buttermilk but nobody can do it. I tried! I tried to cook them like Ann did. It was a disaster.
BRZEZINSKI: It was a -- anyhow. Governor Romney, thank you very much.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Governor. Great to see you.
BRZEZINSKI: Best of luck to you.
ROMNEY: Thank you.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you for being on the show.
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