Transcript: Mitt Romney on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Aug. 12, 2001, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And joining us now, the winner of the Iowa straw poll, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Welcome back to "FOX News Sunday," Governor, and congratulations on yesterday.

2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY: Well, thank you, Chris. And it's already warm here in Des Moines.

WALLACE: It sure is. What do you see as the significance of your victory yesterday?

M. ROMNEY: Well, it's a big start getting ready for the caucuses. You want to do well in the straw poll so that you can build the organization, get your fundraising machine under way, make sure that your message connects with the people of Iowa, because if you can do well in the straw poll, it gives you the real boost that you need to go on to the caucuses.

And of course, if you do well in the caucuses, that helps in New Hampshire and traditionally gets you going in a national campaign.

WALLACE: Now, as you well know, there's an expectations game. It's not just whether you win but how big a win you have. You got 4,500 votes.

By way of comparison, eight years ago when he was first running, George W. Bush got 7,400 votes, and David Yepsen, the political columnist of the Des Moines Register, kind of a guru here, called your victory, quote, "a bit hollow."

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'm very pleased to win, let me tell you. I got a higher percentage even than the president got eight years ago. And you know, it was a warm day, and actually it was difficult turning people out.

And we asked them, "Come on. Come on into the Ames straw poll." And they said, "Look, everyone says you're going to win. It's an easy win. You're way ahead."

And we've turned our people out. We hoped to get out about 4,000 to 5,000. We did. They came. They voted. I won. Can't do better than that. That's exactly what I was hoping for.

And frankly, the key for me is building that organizational base that propels me for the caucuses.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, though, because it is interesting that eight years ago, George Bush — when he was running, 23,000 Iowans came and voted at the Ames straw poll.

This year, yesterday, 14,000 voted. And some people are reading that as an indication that Republicans here in Iowa and, according to the polls, across the country are a bit dispirited.

M. ROMNEY: You know, I don't think that's the case, but you know, I'll let the gurus do their work. I think instead people thought that this was a pretty forgone conclusion.

I also think that you had a couple of folks not participating in the race, and so they didn't bring out the numbers they would have normally brought out.

But we've also had a Republican lead over the last several years. When George Bush ran, we'd had eight years of Bill Clinton, and I think there was a lot of anger in the Republican Party, and I don't think that level of anger is there.

WALLACE: Let's talk a little bit about the rules of the straw poll, because it isn't just you come and you vote. In fact, you need to buy a $35 ticket.

Somebody described to me a loser as somebody who actually pays for his own ticket, because most of the time campaigns like yours and your competitors pay the $35.

Some creative accounting, I'm sure, from some of your rivals when they added up how much you'd spent on tickets, and buses, and organization, and a $2 million ad campaign — they say you paid about $800 per vote.

M. ROMNEY: Well, they're missing one key thing, and that is the advertising was not for the straw poll. People don't come to a straw poll based on ads.

The advertising is helping build the base that I need as somebody that's not terribly well known in Iowa to get better known, to have a message that connects with people and to get ready for the caucuses. It's the caucus that you really aim for.

And what I'm pleased about is that the message I came to Iowa with — and that is that I could strengthen America, get the job done to strengthen our military, to strengthen our economy with better good jobs, and to strengthen America's families — that that message connected with the voters here in Iowa.

And I did it on the air. I did it at the grassroots level. I did over 300 events in Iowa over this last year. And a campaign, to be successful, has to have the resources, the ground team and the message, and we put that together.

WALLACE: You pointed out the fact that there were some people who weren't here. Do you think your victory is at all diminished by the fact that Giuliani and McCain and Fred Thompson didn't come to play yesterday?

M. ROMNEY: I think it's actually enhanced. I think if they thought they could have won, they'd have been here. The reason they weren't here wasn't an indication of their strength in Iowa.

And so I think what you're seeing is that they looked at the field and said, "Gosh, Mitt Romney's message and his resources and his ground team is so strong, we can't compete there."

And if you can't compete in the heartland, if you can't compete in Iowa in August, how are you going to compete in January when the caucuses are held? And then how are you going to compete in November of '08?

Because fundamentally, you've got to win Iowa if you want to win the presidency. This is a purple state.

WALLACE: Well, so let me ask you about where this puts you in the race for the GOP nomination. With your victory in the Ames straw poll yesterday, are you now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, wouldn't that be nice? I've got a long way to go to become a frontrunner. Hopefully, I'll become a frontrunner or the frontrunner in about December or January, and I've got a long way to go. I'm not terribly well known across the nation.

But what's encouraging and pleasing to me is that the state or states where I've really spent my time, the first two — New Hampshire and Iowa — I'm doing well.

And the tests that have been had across the country, whether that was the Memphis straw poll, or the South Carolina county straw polls, or now here the Ames straw poll — I've won each of them.

So I'm pleased that the message is connecting, that all of the barbs that get thrown by my competitors are being dismissed. People are getting to know my family and me and saying, "Look, this is a guy who could lead our party." I sure hope so.

WALLACE: I'm going to get to some of those barbs in a moment, but let's talk about strategy, because you clearly — you're not as well known, I think you'd agree, as Fred Thompson or John McCain or Rudy Giuliani — not as well known nationally.

You're counting on victories in the early states, in Iowa, in New Hampshire, to kind of springboard you so that when you get to the big states later in January and early February, you're on even or even have an advantage over them.

Would the compression that we saw this week, with states moving up and Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire all getting crunched, is that going to make it more difficult for your strategy?

In a sense, are you going to have less of a time for your momentum to play out?

M. ROMNEY: You know, it could be read both ways. And that may well be the case. There are some who have looked at it, like the Wall Street Journal, and say it makes Iowa and New Hampshire even more important, because if you do well in those first couple of states, get the boost from those first states, there's very little time for one's opponents to try and minimize that big win and then go on and rebuild for South Carolina or Michigan or Florida.

So I don't know how it's going to work out. But I can tell you that so far, in the tests that have been given to us, we've come out on top. And I plan on having the resources, the message and the ground team — the grassroots effort that has proven to be successful to date.

WALLACE: Well, let's talk a little bit about not all of that but also ideas. You're running as the true conservative of the race, running to the right of Rudy Giuliani, but you're going to get a big factor in this race pretty soon.

It looks like Fred Thompson finally, after all the build-up, is going to get in right after Labor Day. Doesn't he have a longer and less complicated record as a conservative than you do?

M. ROMNEY: You know, I have a record as a governor. And talk is cheap, but action speaks very loud. And I was a governor for four years. And on the issues people care about, they can see what I did as governor.

And I'm happy to put my record up against anybody that's running for president. I really think that the United States of America is the largest enterprise in the world, needs to have somebody who's actually led something, managed something, knows how to make things happen. And I've got a record of doing that.

So we'll talk about issues, what we believe, but also what we've done. And my record is clear in that regard. I know people will try and twist and turn, but I'll be able to talk about what I've done when other people are just talking about what they'd like to do.

WALLACE: OK. Let's talk about twists and turns, because this question of flip-flops, real or alleged, continues to dog your campaign, and I want to ask you about it.

In the debate last week, you were asked what is the defining mistake in your life, and here's what you said.


M. ROMNEY: My greatest mistake was when I first ran for office being deeply opposed to abortion but saying I'd support the current law, which was pro-choice and effectively a pro-choice position. That was just wrong.


WALLACE: Governor, back then you said a lot more than just you support the current law. We took a look at what you said when you were running for the Senate in 1994 and also running for governor in 2002. Here it is.


M. ROMNEY: I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it.



M. ROMNEY: I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard. I will not change any provisions of Massachusetts's pro-choice laws.


WALLACE: For eight years — eight years — you said that you would protect and respect a woman's right to choose.

M. ROMNEY: Yes. Yeah, that's right. And then when I became governor — I don't know what's so unusual about this, but when I became governor and when legislation was brought to my desk that dealt with life, and I sat down and I said, "Am I going to sign this? Because I personally oppose abortion. Am I going to sign this?"

And I brought in theologians. I brought in scientists, took it apart — this related to embryonic cloning. And I said, "I simply have to come down on the side of life," and wrote an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe and said, "Look, here is why I am pro-life."

And I laid out in my view that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of life. And you know what? I'm following in some pretty good footsteps.

It's exactly what Ronald Reagan did. As governor, he was adamantly pro-choice. He became pro-life as he experienced life.

And the same thing happened with Henry Hyde and George Herbert Walker Bush. And so if there's some people who can't get over the fact that I've become pro-life, that's fine.

But I'm not going to apologize for the fact that I am pro-life and that I was wrong before, in my view, and that I've taken the right course.

WALLACE: But let me ask you, is it fair to say that you would not be running for president if you had not held elective office as governor of Massachusetts?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I would think that's the case.

WALLACE: Fair to say that you would not have been elected governor of Massachusetts if you had been staunchly pro-life back in 2002?

M. ROMNEY: You can't predict that. How in the world can I predict how I would have...

WALLACE: Do you really think you would have had a chance in the state of Massachusetts?

M. ROMNEY: ... if I had won in Massachusetts? And by the way, the major organizations in Massachusetts, like NARAL, wrote articles saying I was dangerous, don't support me.

I never called myself pro-choice. I never allowed myself to use the word pro-choice because I didn't feel I was pro-choice. I would protect the law, I said, as it was, but I wasn't pro-choice, and so...

WALLACE: But do you think that you — let me just ask, if I may, sir...

M. ROMNEY: Well, let me also just point out — therefore, they were adamantly opposed to my campaign, said I was not reliable. Ted Kennedy, as you may recall, said he was multiple choice.

So there was a concern there, and I took a campaign which was based on conservative principles. I said I was in favor of traditional marriage. I was opposed to same-sex marriage. I wanted to hold our taxes down.

And the truth is as a governor, I faced the issue of life and came out on the side of life on every single occasion that a bill was brought before me.

WALLACE: So do you see your victory yesterday as, in a sense, vindication that voters have heard all of this, have seen all the old clips, and basically don't care about the fact that you have had an evolving position over the years on the question of abortion as well as gay rights and a number of other issues?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to so easily go along with your idea about evolving on other issues, but I changed my position on abortion. I was effectively pro-choice, given the statements I had made, but I am pro-life. I'm proud of that.

And I frankly think that the people whose campaigns were entirely focused on trying to bring me down and attack me — those campaigns weren't successful.

So I'm not going to overstate the results of yesterday. Obviously, they're going to continue to come at me with hammer and tong, but I believe people want to look beyond the attacks and understand what is it that a person stands for.

And I think with 300 events across Iowa and a message that was clear as a bell, people coming out in large numbers on a hot day sent a pretty strong message.

WALLACE: Governor, we've got to take a quick break here, but when we come back, we will talk about how President Romney would differ from President Bush.

And we'll return from our "FOX News Sunday" headquarters across from the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, right after this message.


WALLACE: And we're back now at the Iowa State Historical Museum here in Des Moines, Iowa with our special guest, Governor Mitt Romney.

Governor, next month General Petraeus will be making a progress report to Congress on the state of affairs and the state of the surge in Iraq. It seems almost certain to be a mixed picture with some military progress and obviously a political stalemate in Baghdad.

You say that you support the surge, quote, "at this point." How would President Romney decide how long you would continue to keep this enhanced number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq?

M. ROMNEY: Well, obviously, a hypothetical with all the potential permutations of what might develop is kind of hard to fashion, but if we're making progress that suggests there's a reasonable probability of success in stabilizing Iraq, that's a course I'm going to follow.

I get a chance to speak almost every week to people who've been there, who are non-partisan, and the response I'm hearing is very much like what we heard from Brookings and CSIS, which is that we seem to be making some progress there, albeit slow.

That's encouraging to me, because the consequence of withdrawing with a massive civil war breaking out and a regional conflict ensuing could have consequences for our nation and the world that are really quite frightening and perhaps cause us to come back again.

So a course of stability would be very, very encouraging, and I think there's some signs — it's not definitive at this point — some signs that that's what's happening.

WALLACE: You took a shot, I think it's fair to say, at Senator Obama last week when he said that if we had actionable intelligence on high-level terrorist targets in Pakistan and President Musharraf wouldn't act, that we will. You said that he had gone from being Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in a week.

But let me ask you, if you had intelligence about terrorists in a foreign country and that country's leaders either wouldn't or couldn't act, what would you do?

M. ROMNEY: Well, you know, when you're running for president of the United States, you have to think about the question and the answer, but you also have to think about the implications of what you're saying around the world.

And Pakistan is a tinderbox. And of course, America keeps its options open to do what we think is in our best interest. But in a place like Pakistan, you make sure that you don't say things that could be misinterpreted and misused. And that was what his error was.

Of course, if we receive actionable intelligence about Usama bin Laden, we will take appropriate action, but we don't describe exactly what that might mean.

We have an ally there, Musharraf. We don't want in any way to try and weaken him in a very difficult situation, and that was...

WALLACE: But not talking about Pakistan, would you agree...

M. ROMNEY: ... and that was his mistake.

WALLACE: ... that you would take unilateral action if necessary to take out Al Qaeda?

M. ROMNEY: What I'm saying is that we will do what's in our best interest. We'll take action as necessary to get Usama bin Laden or to take out Al Qaeda as we can.

But we also have to be careful in our choice of words not to give aid to people who would use these words against us, and that's where Barack Obama went awry, is that he said things that you simply don't say on the international stage without recognizing that there's going to be repercussions among our friends.

We work with our friends. We also protect our interests.

WALLACE: I watched you give your speech in Ames yesterday in which you said that it's time for things to change in Washington.

M. ROMNEY: Yeah.

WALLACE: You have also said that you are not a carbon copy of President Bush, that you would do things differently.

In terms of management and priorities, how would you run a different administration from George W. Bush?

M. ROMNEY: Well, we're different people, of course, and I respect him enormously for what he's accomplished and what he will yet accomplish. But there are some things I'd do differently, I'm sure.

I want to bring in a real strong team of people who have very different backgrounds, a lot from the private sector, and I want to take on a whole series of efforts.

One is not just to win in Iraq and in Afghanistan, win the peace there, but I'd like to take on an effort globally to defeat jihad which is military in scope but also non-military, that combines our non-military resources with those of other nations to help move the word of Islam toward modernity and help the Muslims themselves reject the extreme.

I also want to get health care for our citizens, not a government takeover, socialized medicine plan. I want health care for our citizens.

I want to let middle-income Americans save their money tax-free so we can invest in a growth economy.

I want to protect good jobs here. We've got to become more competitive with Asia. China and India are coming.

WALLACE: Can I pick up — I want to pick up...

M. ROMNEY: Yeah, sure.

WALLACE: ... on that about the economy, because as a successful business man, you have said one of your top priorities is to strengthen the American economy.

I want to take a look at your record of performance as governor of Massachusetts. Here it is. Your state ranked third-lowest in creating new jobs during your term. It would have ranked second from the bottom except for Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina.

Manufacturing employment dropped 14 percent. That was the third- worst record in the country. And there was a net migration of 222,000 people from Massachusetts, a net migration. That was the third- highest population loss in the country during those years.

Governor, researchers at Northeastern University looked at the economic performance of Massachusetts during the Romney years and said it was one of the worst in the country.

M. ROMNEY: Well, I've got very different statistics than you do and than they do. First of all, there were no censuses taken during that time period, and so any numbers on population are just estimates by various folks.

And secondly, when I came in to Massachusetts, we were losing jobs every single month. Our budget was out of balance by some $3 billion. It took about a year, year and a half. We turned that around, started adding jobs every single month, added 53,000 jobs in the last couple of years that I was there since the downturn.

And a lot of the jobs that we fought for, like bringing in the largest single biotech manufacturing facility in the country, Bristol- Myers Squibb — we won that. It's not going to be built for another couple of years. A lot of our successes are coming down the road.

And I'll tell you, there's no question but that having a person who understood business and built a pipeline of new businesses made a difference for Massachusetts.

I got there. I think there were six companies in the pipeline that were thinking about coming to Massachusetts. When I left, as I recall, it was 238. We fought hard. We're rebuilding the state. You're going to see the product of that generate great results for years to come.

WALLACE: Finally, Governor, I want to ask you about two semi- personal controversies which might seem a little bit smaller but that people take seriously and I want to ask you to clear the record on.

One of them is the big dog controversy. Back in 1983, you took your Irish setter, Seamus, on a 12-hour road trip tied to the roof of your car...

M. ROMNEY: No, no, no, no, not quite like that.

WALLACE: Let me finish. Let me finish — in a kennel, inside a kennel.

M. ROMNEY: Yes, yes.

WALLACE: OK. I have a yellow lab named Winston. I would no sooner put him in a kennel on the roof of my car than I would one of my children.

Question: What were you thinking?

M. ROMNEY: This is a completely airtight kennel and mounted on the top of our car. He climbed up there regularly, enjoyed himself. He was in a kennel at home a great deal of time as well.

We loved the dog. It was where he was comfortable. And we had five kids inside the car. My guess is he liked it a lot better in his kennel than he would have liked it inside.

WALLACE: Well, I've got to tell you, Massachusetts law and dog lovers — and I'm one of them — take this seriously. Massachusetts law prohibits carrying an animal on top of a car, even in a kennel, as cruel and inhuman. Do you really think you did nothing wrong?

M. ROMNEY: I wasn't familiar with that in terms of Massachusetts law. Love my dog. We've had a lot of dogs over the years. Love them. Seamus, as his name is, climbed up there all by himself, enjoyed his ride, and whether you're in the back of a pickup truck or in the rooftop carrier, it was a good ride.

And all I can tell you is I didn't know that there was any problem with that in terms of the law. And he was a good friend of the family. We love our pets.

WALLACE: Finally, you caused a bit of a stir this week when someone at one of the wonderful town meetings that they have here — and people ask you all kinds of questions — asked you whether or not your sons had served in the Army and, in fact, were serving in the military in Iraq, and you answered that they had not, "One of the ways that my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

Can you understand why that answer has upset some people?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, I misspoke there. I didn't mean in any way to compare service in the country with my boys in any way. Service in this country is an extraordinary sacrifice being made by individuals and their families.

I've been calling for a surge of support, as you know, by the American citizens. There's no comparison. I'm very pleased and proud of my boys and the help they're doing for their dad, but it's not service to the country. It's service for me. And there's just no comparison there.

WALLACE: We've got to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for coming and joining us today. Congratulations again on your victory, and safe travels on the campaign trail, sir.

M. ROMNEY: Thanks so much.

WALLACE: Thank you for joining us.

M. ROMNEY: Thanks, Chris.