This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," April 23, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: There is a lot of buzz about Republican presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney. He has emerged as the leading fund-raiser among Republican candidates. Governor Romney and his wife Ann are hitting the campaign trail here in Florida, and today the Romneys went "On the Record."
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Romney and Governor, nice to see both of you.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Greta. Good to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's a tough business running for president. You've got to be physically fit and ready to go.
M. ROMNEY: It's grueling in some respects because you are gone so much, you are traveling so much. But it's also invigorating. You meet really remarkable people.
There are good people in this country. And you may forget that if you are just in your own little neighborhood day in and day out, you just know your neighbors. But across the country, you come away very much encouraged about the hopes and prospects for America.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you see when you go out there and campaign? Let me ask you, Mrs. Romney, what do you see as like the single most important issue, you think, to most, you know, to middle America, when they sit down at the dinner table at night?
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Well, I know that the issue that gets the most response where we are, even in Iowa, which is immigration right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you are in favor of a fence, Governor.
M. ROMNEY: Yes, I would like a fence, and I'd like to also make sure that we have an employment verification system so that we know who's here legally and who's not, who is able to work and who's not. And then we say to employers, here is this great system. You have a card that you can look at when people apply for a job. You put it in the computer database. It tells you if they are here legally, if they can work.
And if you hire them when they're not supposed to be working, then the employer is at fault. And you go after them just like you would if they were not paying their taxes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it too late — I mean, a lot of people get the sense — that I talk to — that it's too late. We've got 12 million people here who may be illegal.
M. ROMNEY: Yes, but it's 800,000 or so a year that come in illegally. They keep on pouring in and pouring in, and we have some that go back as well.
So stop the flow of those that come here illegally, and do that with a fence and an employment system, so we know who is legal and who is not.
And once you take away the magnet of jobs here, people aren't going to come across the border unless they can get a legal and valid visa. And that's, of course, beneficial to the country. We love legal immigration. We just want to stop illegal immigration.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Romney hears about immigration. When you talk to families, what do you hear, from middle America, what concerns them the most?
M. ROMNEY: Well, that's, of course, one of the top issues that people speak about. But there is also a concern about schools, about health care. And I think underlying most people in America today is a concern about this jihad. We call it the war on terror, but it's the idea that there are radical Muslims, who have as their intent the collapse of all moderate Islamic states and the collapse of the West as well. And they attacked us once, they attacked us more than once. They are trying to do it again. And they want to make sure that their homeland is safe and their children and grandchildren will be safe. And it's going to take some real effort to make sure that's the case.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's take each one by one. Let's start with health care. A lot of Americans don't have health insurance. What's the plan if you are president?
M. ROMNEY: Well, I like the idea of letting states have some flexibility to develop their own programs to get more and more people insured. We found a way to get everybody in our state, Massachusetts, insured. I like the plan. I think it's one of the best things we did in my administration.
It's not perfect. We will learn from it. But the idea is for people who can afford insurance make sure they get their premiums down by taking mandates off insurance companies. Let the insurance companies offer true market-based products. And then for people who can't afford insurance, help them buy their own private policy. Don't put them on Medicaid. Get them private insurance. Get everybody in the system.
It's a bit like bringing work to welfare. Bring personal responsibility to health care. Get the government out of the health care business for those 45 million uninsured, and let individuals own their own policies.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Romney, I assume that this health care is sort of near and dear. You have had health problems.
A. ROMNEY: Yes, I have.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you look great.
A. ROMNEY: I feel great. I'm healthy now, but I have been very sick at a point in my life. And thank goodness we had health coverage at that point. I know people feel desperate without it.
M. ROMNEY: I think it was probably the most challenging experience in our life, was to have Ann diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We wondered whether it would precipitate a complete collapse in her physical condition. But fortunately, she has remained strong and has recovered a good deal.
She has a form of MS known as relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, and so she is not threatened with a terminal illness at this point, but you know, we always want to make sure that she stays strong and healthy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, you mentioned jihad, the jihadists and people who may want to destroy others. In terms of Iraq, with 20/20 hindsight — let me underline hindsight — would you, if you have been president in March of 2003, have gone into Iraq?
M. ROMNEY: Well, it's kind of an impossible setting to imagine, because there is so many imponderables and so much we would like to know before you'd ever consider committing our troops.
But one thing I can tell you is that when the president made his decision, based upon the intelligence that existed then — from our own intelligence sources and around the world — I supported the president's action.
And the question is, what do you do now? And how do you make sure that we get our troops out as soon as possible, without precipitating a regional conflict that would cause us to have to go back and potentially a far more dangerous setting?
And so I support the president's troop surge. I believe that al-Maliki has a plan that we can support, to try to stabilize the civilization — or the population in Iraq. I don't give it 100 percent chance of success, but I think we will know in a matter of months if it's working or not.
If it's working, we can start bringing troops home.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think enough questions were asked in March of 2003?
M. ROMNEY: Yes, I think the place where we really fell down in our planning was in preparation for what would happen after we knocked down Saddam Hussein. I think we underestimated the kind of mayhem that might ensue once insurgency started from surrounding nations, once people within Iraq itself began the sectarian violence between the Shia, the Sunni. The Kurds also were affected — not to the same degree, of course.
But those kind of developments would have suggested that we needed more troops. That if we were going to go in, we would go in heavy, we'd lock down the country, we would secure its major assets. We would not be in a situation where we had the kind of unraveling of civil order that occurred.
And so, I think we were underprepared, underplanned, understaffed, certainly undermanaged with regards to the prison situation.
We find ourselves in a very difficult situation, in part because of the failures of our own preparation.
VAN SUSTEREN: There's much more "On the Record" ahead, but first, let's go to our New York newsroom, where my good friend Harris Faulkner is standing by with the other headlines — Harris.
VAN SUSTEREN: Here is more of my talk with Governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney.
VAN SUSTEREN: Remember the first time you saw the governor?
A. ROMNEY: I do.
VAN SUSTEREN: How old were you?
A. ROMNEY: Probably about 10.
VAN SUSTEREN: Really?
A. ROMNEY: Yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where was this?
A. ROMNEY: I was — I was on a horse and in the country, and he was a Boy Scout...
M. ROMNEY: Cub Scout.
A. ROMNEY: I mean, a Cub Scout. And there were a group of very naughty, like, Cub Scouts that were taunting me...
VAN SUSTEREN: Was he one of them?
A. ROMNEY: Yes.
M. ROMNEY: No, no, no. I was saying, "don't do that. That's a nice young lady on that white horse."
VAN SUSTEREN: That's not the story she was just telling.
VAN SUSTEREN: They were taunting you?
A. ROMNEY: They were taunting me, and they started...
M. ROMNEY: This is getting better with time.
A. ROMNEY: But I have got to tell you, I was on a horse and I could go fast, and I just galloped off. And that is the first time I remember him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where was this?
A. ROMNEY: This was in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
VAN SUSTEREN: And then after you saw — after that experience, when was the next time you saw him?
A. ROMNEY: In high school. We were at a party. I was then just turning — just about a month before I turned 16, and I was at Cindy White's house, and it was one of these high school parties. And he happened to be there. We saw each other again, and I think there was sort of a mutual attraction right away.
VAN SUSTEREN: You liked him right away? Except at that age when you were 10, you liked him, though?
A. ROMNEY: I had forgiven him.
VAN SUSTEREN: You had forgiven him. Did you tell him about it?
A. ROMNEY: You know, not for a long time. And I think (AUDIO GAP). I don't think either one of us realized. We didn't know, really, who each other was. But it was after we had been dating for a while that he knew I rode horses and I had — I still had horses when he was dating me. And he was like, that horse looks familiar. Oh, was that you?
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, you have been married an awful long time. What was it about your wife? Why did you marry her?
M. ROMNEY: She was gorgeous. That's the reason I took her home. She came with somebody else, and I said, you know...
VAN SUSTEREN: At this party?
M. ROMNEY: At this party. I said, you know...
VAN SUSTEREN: You didn't tell me that. You left that part out.
M. ROMNEY: I live closer to her than you do, so why don't I give her a ride home? And I gave her a ride home, and I was smitten. And we started dating. And instead of just moving on, I really enjoyed spending time with her. And the truth of the matter is, I don't know how you define love, but I would have rather been with her than anywhere else. I didn't want to be away. And we were with each other constantly that last year in high school that I was there. I was a senior.
A. ROMNEY: He went to Stanford. I mean, that was his — really, that was like March, April of his senior year. And then we were together that summer, and then he was at Stanford that fall.
M. ROMNEY: But I got a job and saved some money and would fly home and see her. Her parents knew about that. Mine didn't.
A. ROMNEY: Yes, that's right.
M. ROMNEY: And...
VAN SUSTEREN: Your parents didn't know you were flying home?
A. ROMNEY: No.
M. ROMNEY: No. I don't think my parents would have been happy.
A. ROMNEY: No.
M. ROMNEY: So...
A. ROMNEY: He got a job because his parents didn't want him to have a job, because they wanted him to take his studies very seriously and just study. Well, he wanted to fly home and...
M. ROMNEY: There are priorities in life, and Ann was my biggest priority.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you never looked back, apparently.
M. ROMNEY: We are still going steady. It's working.
VAN SUSTEREN: How many children do you have?
A. ROMNEY: We have five boys.
VAN SUSTEREN: No girls at all?
A. ROMNEY: You know, that's — I was — you know, every child — I mean, those were the days you never knew what you were having until, you know, they were born. And when that fifth came out, I'm like, sweety, that's it, I tried. That's it. No more. And — but what a fun household it was with five boys. They are very raucous and rambunctious and at times very naughty. It was not easy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who is the naughtiest one of the five?
A. ROMNEY: You know, I couldn't say you could actually categorize which one is the naughtiest, because they all were equally as naughty at times. There were some that were easier — more easy-going and didn't get into as many arguments with each other, but boy, they all — they were a pretty, pretty rowdy crowd.
M. ROMNEY: Nothing serious.
VAN SUSTEREN: I know.
A. ROMNEY: But boys, I mean, you know. The humor, the bathroom humor. It just wouldn't stop.
VAN SUSTEREN: I hope they watch this.
Governor, how are you different from your father as governor?
M. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I respect him in almost every single dimension. I can't imagine trying to be different than him in terms of his character. He was the real deal. And, you know, I consider him my role model in virtually every aspect of public life. I'm sure we see some issues differently.
A. ROMNEY: You know, I knew Mitt's father too when he was governor. It was like weird, dating when your father is governor. And I am convinced there is no way Mitt would have ever become involved in politics if it hadn't been for the example of his father.
M. ROMNEY: Oh, sure. Sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: But you came to it late. I mean, you grew up with it...
M. ROMNEY: Just like him.
A. ROMNEY: He did it the same way his father did.
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, that's right.
M. ROMNEY: Literally, literally, my dad I think ran for governor at age 56, and so did I. And so it was kind of late in life, after we had had our career.
My dad always felt that you got involved in public service after you have had a career, raised your family, when your finances are solid. You didn't think you want to get in politics to make it your career. It was instead a duty or a sense of obligation that would bring you into public service. And that's what I'm here for.
And so far so good. We are off to a great start.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's not all of our talk with the Romneys. Governor
Romney, not wanting to be outdone by the media, turned the cameras on us.
What happened? Tune in tomorrow night and you're going to see.
We assure you, this is a first. You can decide if the governor should
keep his, quote, "day job."
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