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Hannity

Mitt Romney on State of Campaign, Conservative Credentials

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 12, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Two days ago, I sat down with 2008 presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Governor, good to see you again. Welcome back.

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, good to be with you.

HANNITY: All right, what does it mean to you, the latest Gallup poll that says half of America still doesn't know who Mitt Romney is? And then your favorability-unfavorable impressions is about 50-50. Is that an opportunity for you?

ROMNEY: Well, it's way too early to be looking at polls. This is very, very early in the presidential process. People start concentrating on these elections and making opinions in the fall. And by the fall and December, I'll be building my strength.

Actually, there have been a lot of people in the past who have followed the same course. John McCain was one of them, Bill Clinton, of course. So front-runners usually have a difficult time and I'm expecting that to happen in this election's case, as well.

HANNITY: All right. Let me ask you a little bit, the defining issue of our time: the War on Terror, the battle in Iraq. You see the Democrats' strategy, they want to cut-run, they want to pull out of there without any consideration of victory.

Your thoughts generally on Iraq, the War on Terror: Are we on the right direction? Do you see mistakes that were made? And your thoughts on the Democrats?

ROMNEY: Well, I supported the war as we went into it based on the intelligence and the direction that came from the president and from Congress, for that matter. We knocked down Saddam Hussein exceptionally well, but then we didn't do a great job after he was knocked down.

We were under-planned and under-prepared, under-staffed, under- managed and we find ourselves in the position we're in, in part, because of our own mistakes.

But that being said, you don't just pick up and walk away, because walking away or dividing the country and then walking away presents some extraordinary risks for America and our fighting men and women. And those risks are that we launch or begin some kind of regional conflict with Iran grabbing part of the Shia south, or Al Qaeda playing a dominating role among the Sunni portion of the country, or perhaps even the Kurdish population and Turkey being destabilized.

And if there were a regional conflict, the consequences for America and for our troops could end up being far more severe than what we face now.

HANNITY: You won a very significant straw poll after a weekend of speeches at CPAC, Governor. It seems to be the battle for that Reagan mantle. Right at the open opening of your speech — I read the whole speech — you quoted Ronald Reagan, who had previously spoken at CPAC.

I guess the issue for conservatives keeps coming up, both for you and Rudy Giuliani and Senator McCain on some issues, of whether or not they're as conservative as Reagan was. The issue that comes up the most for you, Governor, is the issue of abortion. And when you were running for the Senate in Massachusetts, this was your position:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country; I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate.

I believe that, since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I have no problem — I'm not embarrassed at all by telling you that I've changed my position. And so did Ronald Reagan. So did George Herbert Walker Bush. So did many other people before me. And, by the way, we need a lot of other people to change their mind, as well.

Now, I changed it about two-and-a-half years ago, and so people don't have to rely on my word for it, they can look at my record as governor. I came to believe that the government should not play the kind of role it had been playing, which is insisting on a one-size-fits-all pro-abortion policy for the entire nation. I'm pro-life and am proud that I made that decision.

HANNITY: Rudy Giuliani has said in answer to that, because he has a different position: He's pro-choice. And he has said he would appoint originalist justices like Scalia and Thomas and Alito. On that issue of judges, is that the type of justice you'd be looking for?

ROMNEY: Well, of course, we're all going to talk about appointing judges that will follow the law and not legislate from the bench. But being pro-life is, of course, broader than just the kind of judges you appoint. There's legislation, which month to month and year to year comes forward, that can either protect the sanctity of time of can take it away.

As governor, I had several measures that came to my desk, which affected life. And they were not court decisions; they were legislative decisions which I faced as governor. And if you're pro-life, then you're going to come down on the side of life. And if you're pro-choice, you'll take the other direction.

And it's something where my record is clear. When my legislature tried redefine when life began, I said no. When they said they were going to clone human embryos for research purposes, I said no. When they said that they were going to block the education of our kids on abstinence in school, I said no.

So we're going to be able to define ourselves based upon our positions on issues, and people can decide where they line up.

HANNITY: Governor, if you were to win the nomination, your likely opponents — it's either going to be one or the other, based on where we are today — it's either going to be Senator Hillary Clinton or it's going to be Barack Obama.

What are your thoughts on Senator Clinton? What are your thoughts on Barack Obama?

ROMNEY: Well, I'd add one more. I think John Edwards is a viable candidate, as well.

You know, I think in the case of each one of those three people, they're fine individuals. But, as Ronald Reagan used to say, it's not that liberals are ignorant; it's just that what they know is wrong.

And, frankly, they don't have the right direction for this country in mind. Their vision about the future of America and how to get there just isn't right.

America has shown, over the last 30 years, that the principles of economic, social, and foreign policy conservatism work. The course that Europe took, which is the course that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or John Edwards would take us down, is a course which has led to no economic growth of any significance, no job creation. It's a course of a no-end and no-return kind of posture. And that's the kind of course that Hillary would represent.

HANNITY: You know, Governor, I've had many, many friends that are members of LDS, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons, and I know you probably are frustrated, because I know every interview I've seen you in, this issue keeps coming up. It does not come up for any other candidate. And it's really troublesome to me, because it seems like they are creating for you a religious litmus test. And I will tell you, fundamentally, I view this as unfair. Your thoughts?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to call anything unfair in the world of politics. You get used to the — the heat that's in the kitchen.

But, frankly, the people I talk to, not necessarily the reporters, but the people I talk to in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina tell me time and again they want a person of faith to lead the country, but they don't particularly care what brand of faith it is so long as the person has American values.

And if you look at my marriage and you look at our family and our kids and the values that we've tried to instill in each one of our kids, you'll see that the values that I have are as American as any in this great country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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