HH: I’m joined now by Jake Tapper of CNN. Jake, the big political story of the day, of course, is Mitt Romney. I’m going to ask everyone the same question. Were you surprised?
JT: I was. And of course, I should point out that I first learned the news from you, Hugh. You’re the one that broke the news. You’re the one that got the Romney statement before anybody else. And yes, I was. Certainly, the last few weeks in my conversations with Romney advisors and people close to Romney suggested to me that he had the fire in the belly, he thought he had another run in him. He thought he would be a good president, and he thought he would be a better president than any of the other potential nominees, both Republican and Democrat, and that he was going to do it. And you know, and you know, it’s not that unusual, really. I mean, it hasn’t in modern political history, but plenty of people have run two, three times, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon.
HH: What’s interesting to me is you know, I’m an opinion journalist, and you’re a straight journalist, and we were both surprised. I got up this morning very early, because I knew something was coming today, and I didn’t know what. And I was reading everything on Twitter, but I wasn’t doing anything except retweeting, because I had no idea what the decision was. But the balance of tweets were leaning me. And you know how the media curve bends based upon what you read on your Twitter feed. Were you experiencing that as well, about 7:30, I said oh, well, Halperin’s usually right, and he didn’t say it. He didn’t say that Romney was running, but he was kind of leaning that way. And then Daily Beast got in and leaned that way harder. And I just thought he was in. And then I got the statement that he wasn’t. I was really surprised.
JT: Well, yes and no. I mean, my, I was judging him entirely based on conversations that I’ve had with Romney people and with Romney, Romney’s behavior – giving speeches. I mean, his speech in Michigan the other night was a campaign speech.
HH: You mean Mississippi? You mean Mississippi?
JT: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. And his, you know, he was making the case. And look, I think he had a case to make. I understand why he didn’t run, but I think he has the case to make. And like I said, I mean, you know, Nixon was the nominee, lost in ’60, came back eight years later, won. Reagan ran ’68, ’76, finally in ’80 he won. I mean, it’s not so crazy.
HH: No, absolutely not. I wrote a piece for Politico with my next guest, Robert O’Brien, why he could have won, and I think he would have at least been very competitive and would have decided the nomination. I think it still could go to the brokered convention. But let me ask you, Jake, you’ve read a lot of statements, you’ve listened to a lot of speeches. What’s the invisible ink in today’s statement? Who’s it saying? Is it saying Scott Walker and Marco Rubio? Is it saying I’m mad at Jeb? I can’t believe you did this to me, Michael Murphy? Or is it saying I’m just going to be the next Secretary of State no matter who wins? What’s is saying in the invisible ink?
JT: No, no, I think the invisible ink is I really, really think I could win. I think I’m the best candidate. I think I’m better than any of the other candidates. And if everything just gets screwed up and there’s a brokered convention or the Republican Party finds itself without a real nominee or somebody who can win, I’m still here, guys.
JT: Because there was, I mean, as you know, there was no, not only was there no Shermanesque statement, I mean, he leaned the exact opposite way. He said you know, people asking if there’s any foreseeable way I would change my mind, I think it’s unlikely.
HH: You know, that’s so funny, that’s sort of like the line he used on me when I pressed him four months ago, which is so you’re saying there’s a chance.
HH: So Jake Tapper reads the invisible…
JT: And look, I don’t, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. I have no horse in this race. But it’s like, that’s not Shermanesque. I mean, that’s not only not Shermanesque, I mean, it’s not even in the layers of avoiding Shermanesque in the layers of I can’t envision anything ever happening, or I have no plans to run, or any of that stuff. It was kind of tepid.
HH: One of the best tweets of the day, Jake, was a tweet that said only in America does someone have an announcement that he’s not running for a race that he hasn’t declared for, and now we’ve got, and I’m crediting Jake Tapper with the speculation start of Romney returns to the lists. And so it happened in the same day. Jake, I want to also talk to you, we’ll come back. I’ll talk to all these people about Mitt Romney today. I’ll come back to it. But CNN’s done a good thing. You have helped the caregivers for the nation’s wounded in wars. Tell people about that story, which is posted over at CNN this afternoon.
JT: Well, yeah, and we ran it on our show. They’re these people, they’re called NMA’s, non-medical attendants. They are people who take care of wounded warriors, basically, not the nurses, not the doctors, but the people who help these wounded warriors relearn how to walk, relearn how to go to the bathroom, relearn how to speak. They’re often family members, but not always. And you know, they don’t get paid, and a lot of times, they have to quit their jobs to do this, because taking care of a wounded warrior and helping this person achieve some level of independence can last, you know, can be years and years and years full time. And they get reimbursed, basically, for food, lodging, meals, incidentals, not, you know, just enough to get by, enough to like, you know, subsist. And the Pentagon authorized a rule change, $22 million dollar budget cut, and it affected these caregivers. And I heard from a wounded warrior show said you know, he was worried, his NMA, his non-medical attendant wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore, and then that was going to hurt his ability to learn how to walk and relearn how to live his life. So you know, we started reporting it and figuring out what happened, and the Pentagon, to its credit after working the story for some time, the Pentagon, to its credit, said you know, you’re right. You’re bringing this to our attention, we appreciate it, we thank you, we’re going to change the rule so it does not affect these people. It still will be in effect for civilian and uniformed personnel, because we’re trying to discourage travel longer than a month or six months or a year. But for these non-medical attendants, it’s not going to affect them. And so yeah, using the job to do some good.
HH: And that is important. You know, my friend, John Ondrasik, Five For Fighting, I’m sure you know him, he’s giving a concert down in Orange County tonight at the Coach House, and he’s always fighting out for veterans. You’re one of the guys who are always fighting for veterans. It’s amazing to me there are a lot of people out there who pay attention to these stories, and hat’s off to you, Jake Tapper, because that’s a key one. These NMA’s are so crucial to the people I talk to on the Semper Fi Fund show every year, and twice a year. That’s terrific. Now I want to go back to politics, Jake. I want to ask you who other than Jeb Bush was most helped today, and what do you think Hillary Clinton’s response was? Relief or a sigh of exasperation, she would have liked it bloodier and messier on the Republican side?
JT: I think first of all, she would have liked it bloodier and messier on the Republican side. I mean, that’s got to be what they’re all thinking. And Mitt Romney, as you recall, is a tough campaigner. And he’s a very experienced campaigner. He’s already run for president twice. You know, they’ll learn the mistakes you make. Remember, most of Romney’s mistakes this time were behind closed doors. They weren’t in the public arena. This time, they, you know, he would learn a lot more. And in terms of who it helps, it helps, you know, I think it helps the Republican establishment candidates, whether Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Scott Walker. I think those three guys probably get the immediate lift from the announcement, but mainly Jeb Bush, I think.
HH: Now there is also the next candidate watch switches to Marco Rubio.
HH: And I want him in, even though it would be the epic Godzilla Mothra battle for Florida. I ant him in so the two Republicans, Rubio and Jeb Bush, can say let’s go debate on Univision and Telemundo. None of the other candidates can come, but we’ll just talk in Spanish the whole time. It would be an epic event, an really a culture paradigm-shifting thing. But he’s got to get in to make that happen, because Jeb can’t debate himself at a Spanish station. Do you think he’s going to run?
JT: I don’t know. I think he should. I think there’s a case to make. He has a story. He’s young. He is, you know, still relatively unknown on the national stage. Thus, he has very little baggage. I don’t think taking a lurching for the Evian bottle is a strike against him in any serious way. And as we saw during the last time when it was a fairly wide open field, you know, almost everybody got a shot at being a frontrunner in 2012 in the Republican field. That could well happen this time as well. And if that’s true, you know, why wouldn’t you want your shot, and as we’ve noted in many conversations we’ve had, Hugh, Republicans often run again. And just because you didn’t win this time, Romney ran in ’08 and didn’t get the nomination. He ran in 2012, and he got the nomination. Same thing with McCain in 2000 and 2008. I mean, it happens a lot. So what’s the worst thing that happens? He runs and makes a good case and doesn’t win, and now he has a little bit of experience. The best thing that happens is everybody implodes and he’s standing there with a good story, young guy, impressive in foreign policy in terms of his command, even if you disagree with him.
HH: You made a good case, Jake Tapper. I wonder if Marco Rubio is listening tonight. Jake Tapper from CNN’s The Lead, thank you. Follow Jake on Twitter, and thanks for what you did for the vets today, @JakeTapper.
End of interview.