Mitt Romney reacts to the New Hampshire vote and what’s ahead
HH: Governor Romney, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. I’ve got John Campbell, Congressman, with me in the studio. Congratulations on a second place finish. But what happens next?
MR: Well, you know, at this point, we’ve had three races, and I got two silvers and a gold. Thank you, Wyoming. And of course, the big ones were Iowa and New Hampshire. I got silvers there. And I’m proud that I was able to do as well as I did, but I wish I could have done better. And now we go on to Michigan. You know, Michigan is an open primary, which represents kind of an unusual setting, meaning Democrats and independents can both vote in our primary, and there’s no campaigning going on the Democratic side. So it’s going to be an interesting race, and then Nevada, and then South Carolina. But you know, I’m in this for the long haul, Hugh. I think this is a very open process at this point, with very different players and people estimated, and it’s going to be a lot of moving around.
HH: Now Governor, this is not unfolding the way any pundit called it, certainly not the way you had hoped it would unfold, but also not the way your opponents hoped it would unfold. John McCain’s down from 60% eight years ago. You’ve dealt with a lot of situations where tactics and strategy has to evolve. How are you doing that? Have you arrived on a central message for the next eight weeks?
MR: Well, there’s no question but that our message continues to be the same message, and it’s a powerful and connecting message. What’s happened that’s quite different is that we were anticipating that we had to win the first two primaries to go up against Rudy Giuliani, who was way ahead in the national polls, and who would have a commanding lead in Florida. Well, now Rudy Giuliani’s no longer in the lead in the national polls, and it looks like he’s number four or number three in Florida. So the whole world is different than we thought, and it’s much more of an open process than we’d expected with at least three and maybe more Republicans all vying for votes. And I think it’s anybody’s guess as to exactly how this is going to turn out.
JC: Governor Romney, this is John Campbell. We’ve all kind of been conditioned by recent elections to have this all decided in February or something like that. Is this a year, particularly on the Republican side, that could go into April or May, or perhaps even to the convention without a decisive, without somebody winning, winning at all at that point?
MR: You know, I think it’s conceivable. I don’t think it’s really likely myself. I think it’ll narrow down. I mean, we’ll have a contest in South Carolina. That’ll give a good sense of whether Fred’s going to continue on. He may do real well there and become a real champion. We’re going to have Mayor Giuliani figure out what he’s going to do. I mean, he did, I think, I can’t remember what number he came in in Iowa, but it was four, five or six. And then in New Hampshire, he came in behind Ron Paul. So you’re going to have to ask is he going to try and become the national candidate, or is he going to only represent a small part of the party. These are things that are going to have to get sorted out over the coming weeks. But I think they’ll get sorted out, and we’ll narrow down to maybe two or perhaps three candidates. And when that happens, we’ll decide who really can represent the party best as we go forward.
HH: Governor Romney, have you seen any slackening of enthusiasm among your donor base, your volunteer base, your organizational base?
MR: No, actually not at all. We have a big fundraiser scheduled for tomorrow. My top donors from all over the country flew in, 400 of them tonight. I met with them. They’re cheering me on and very excited, and going to be raising additional funds. And of course, my volunteer base is very strong. And in some respects, I’m going back to Michigan which is where I was born and raised, where my dad was governor for three terms. So that’s a very natural place for me, and expect to be able to do pretty well there.
HH: Now Governor, you had a great Sunday night debate. It showed up in the Rasmussen national poll today. But it was sharp-edged. You went after Senator McCain on the record of immigration, you went after Mike Huckabee on tax cuts and tax net. I hope you understood what you were talking about there. Is the race going to get sharper, and thus nastier, and are the wounds going to last longer? Or is this something that just has to happen, and you’ll heal up later?
MR: Well, you know, I draw a very dramatic distinction between people attacking other individuals on a personal basis. People saying so and so is dishonest, or twist the truth, or that they don’t have the character to be a president, that sort of stuff has no place in a primary. And in my view, when that happens, we’ve really made a huge error as a party. I contrast that, however, with going to bat over differences on issues. And I will take my opponents to task when I disagree on issues, or when I disagree on people’s records. That’s something we’ve got to go really tough on. But you know, when people call you negative when you disagree with them on issues, that’s a strange set of affairs.
HH: A minute left, Governor. Two questions. Do you have enough money to run all the way through Texas in March? And number two, what’s the number one issue in Michigan?
MR: Well, we’re going to have funds to go as far as we need to go, all the way to the end. And with regards to Michigan, the number one issue there is the economy. Michigan is suffering a one-state recession. It’s wrong for that to happen. There has not been enough attention paid to strengthening the domestic auto industry and other manufacturing industries there. They’ve got a Democratic governor who’s been raising taxes. Michigan shows what happens if you have a liberal running a state.
HH: Mitt Romney, always a pleasure to talk to you, Governor. Congratulations on Wyoming, and a consolation prize in New Hampshire, and on leading the total vote thus far among Republicans. We’ll talk to you again next week, Governor. Thanks for joining us.
MR: Thanks so much, Hugh, good to be with you.
End of interview.