This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," September 12, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, another FOX News Alert for you: Finally, Romney responds.
A day after his campaign disavowed any connection at all to a Web site mocking Fred Thompson's conservative credentials, the former governor talks to us, exclusively.
CAVUTO: Governor, I would be remiss. First, I want to get to the news of — the Fred Thompson folks are still smarting over this Internet site that was purported to be a Mitt Romney-backed site that really disparaged the conservative credentials of Senator Thompson.
What do you think of that? Do you regret that this came up in the first place?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, of course. And it was not, of course, from our campaign. No one in our campaign put that site up.
And my understanding is an employee of a consultant that we have used in South Carolina put that up, but it was not part of our campaign. He doesn't work on our campaign. And I have instructed that consultant not to let him work on our campaign.
That sort of stuff doesn't have a place in politics. It's juvenile, frankly. And it has — it has no future.
CAVUTO: All right.
So, when a Thompson spokesman, Todd Harris, had told reporters that it was an increasingly desperate Mitt Romney and his campaign proving that it's already hard at work to divide us, much ado about nothing?
ROMNEY: Well, you will have to ask them that, I guess.
I will just make the same point. This wasn't a person who was working for me or for my campaign. And I agree that it's a juvenile, inappropriate type of campaign tactic. But that sort of thing is going to go on, and we're just going to have to say that those things are wrong.
On the issue of the divided conservative vote now with Senator Thompson entering the race, are you concerned that you're the odd man left out?
ROMNEY: No, actually not. I'm — I'm pretty pleased with the progress we're making. You know that I have been working hard. We calculated, as of last Tuesday, I visited — or have done 462 events between Iowa and New Hampshire. And there's no substitute for meeting people person to person.
And, as a result, I'm leading in the polls in Iowa, I'm leading in New Hampshire, I'm leading in Michigan, which is the third state. I'm not yet leading in South Carolina, but I'm planning on working hard to pull that number up. I'm leading in Nevada.
So, I'm pretty pleased with the progress we're making. We're also raising the funds that it takes to have a legitimate campaign.
And, you know, this is a time when people are going to decide what direction we want to take as a nation. And I'm — I'm pleased that I'm getting the kind of support and have the kind of team I have got.
CAVUTO: You know what's interesting, too? And I do want to get into some of the specific issues, Governor.
But, when people are polled on the subject of presidential candidates, it's always based on a national poll. And you're quite right to point out that you lead in the polls, and some of them substantially — in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, what have you. But it's those national polls where you are not as well-known or recognizable a figure, where you don't get the same attention. Does that bug you?
ROMNEY: Oh, boy, I will tell you, no, I'm delighted. If it were the other way around, I would be really concerned. If the places I spent all the time, they didn't like me, and the only places I was liked was in the national polls, that would be a problem.
But — but, fortunately, I mean, I recognize that I — I'm not known in states I haven't visited, where I haven't run advertising, where, you know, I haven't really been out yet.
The places I have spent my time, those early primary states, I'm doing pretty well. So, that suggests that — that the message I have is connecting with voters and that I'm able to build real support.
But who knows? It's going to go up and down over the next few months. But I'm pretty pleased with how we're doing. And, you know, my message is pretty straightforward. This is — this is a time to strengthen America, with a stronger military, a stronger economy with lower taxes, and with stronger families. And people who hear that message and — and hear me have — have signed on. And I appreciate it.
CAVUTO: On to military matters.
General Petraeus, of course, has been meeting with the press today, after a couple of days on Capitol Hill. And Democrat Barack Obama has called now for completing a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2008. He went on to say that, "I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now."
What do you say?
ROMNEY: Well, thank heavens Barack Obama was not president over the last year, because, had Barack Obama been president over the last year, Osama bin Laden would have been declaring victory in Iraq.
We would have had al Qaeda as a dominant player in Iraq. They would have had a safe haven, particularly in the Sunni portion of the country. We would have had a — a safe haven that would have made Afghanistan look like child's play. And the consequences for America and the world would have been dire.
So, we are fortunate, indeed, that Barack Obama was not president. And I think the comments he's made over the last month with regards to unilaterally going in to Pakistan, to visiting people like Ahmadinejad and Castro and Hugo Chavez, I think they have really disqualified him in the minds of virtually everybody who's serious about this country.
This is a man who, by virtue of politics and perhaps panic, has — has suggested a course in Iraq that would have led to al Qaeda having a new safe haven.
CAVUTO: Would a President Romney, though, call for some sort of a timeline for our troops to slowly get out?
ROMNEY: Well, you're seeing that with — with General Petraeus. General Petraeus is indicating that we are making sufficient progress, that, starting at the beginning of next year, we will start bringing down troops, almost a brigade a month, until, in July, we will have five fewer brigades there.
That — that suggests a level of military progress which is encouraging. And — and I think he's — he's laid out the right course.
CAVUTO: What's not clear, Governor, from the general's statements is the timeline for that course, which maybe a lot of impatient journalists and Americans want to hear.
But if Barack Obama is saying, by the end of 2008, what would a President Romney say?
ROMNEY: Well, a President Romney is not going to set a specific timeline that would suggest that we don't care whether al Qaeda is playing a major role in that country or not.
It is critically important to America and the world that al Qaeda not have a safe haven in the nation of Iraq. And, so, to set an artificial deadline which ignores whether or not al Qaeda is being successful is, in my view, a — a position which would — which should disqualify someone as a potential president — president of the country.
We have to make sure that what we're doing in Iraq has an eye to making sure that — that al Qaeda and Hezbollah and others like them do not have a safe haven from which they would attack us.
CAVUTO: Do you believe, to issues more at home, Governor, the issue with the mortgage problems that are building in the country, that something stronger than what the president proposed is in order, maybe an outright bailout, as some of your opponents on the other side of the aisle have recommended?
ROMNEY: No, there are a number of elements that are associated with the subprime mortgage market. Those investors who bought these as investments are going to lose their money in some cases, and that's the way it ought to be. You take a high risk and in some cases it pays off and sometimes it doesn't.
Homeowners, however, I feel very differently about. And the president is going to provide to the FHA the ability of some of these homeowners to refinance their mortgages at more stable rates. And that's a good thing.
And then you're seeing the Federal Reserve take the action necessary to provide more liquidity in the market, so that the credit crunch in the subprime mortgage market doesn't spread too severely throughout our economy.
Clearly, we want businesses to be able to get the debt they need to build working capital and to build capital expenditure projects and so forth.
So, it's important the Federal Reserve provide that liquidity. But I think you're going to see that kind of action taken appropriately.
CAVUTO: All right. When you say that kind of action, would that include the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, that now is the time, that they're risking something worse if they don't?
ROMNEY: Well, I'm probably not going to tell the Federal Reserve what they ought to do. But — but I think the action they already took with regards to providing lower rates was a good move.
I think, if they continue to provide additional liquidity in the many ways they have to do so, that will keep the subprime mortgage credit crunch from affecting a greater part of the economy. And lower rates is one way to do that.
CAVUTO: You were — a lot of people don't know that you were a very successful businessman in your past, a very wealthy one at that — MBA and then — so, I would like you to use those skills looking ahead to November `08, by which time many economists think that we will be in a recession.
Do you share that view?
ROMNEY: There's no particular reason in our economy right now that we should have a recession. There are, from time to times, going to be discontinuities, like this subprime mortgage market discontinuity, but this doesn't call for a recession in the nation.
CAVUTO: As you know, we have gone a long time since the last recession, and numbers really say that you can't go that long before, even in the cyclical nature of things, we dip.
If that were to be the case, that would make any Republican's effort to hang on to the White House darn tough, wouldn't it?
ROMNEY: You know, I'm sure that, if — if there were a recession, people would be looking for a person who understands how the economy works, who understands how you create jobs, who understands how we can be more competitive with China and India. And a guy who's spent his life in the private sector is going to know that a lot better than people who have been in politics all their life.
CAVUTO: All right — Mitt Romney.
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