Transcript: John McCain on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 3, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE And hello again, this time from our Fox News election headquarters in New York. Well, after seven Republican primaries and caucuses, a frontrunner has emerged as we head into Super Tuesday.

We continue our series "Choosing the President" with the Republican candidate, who is now the man to beat in the GOP race, Senator John McCain, who joins us from our Washington studio.

And, Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you, Chris. Good to be back with you.

WALLACE: Senator, can you wrap up the race for the Republican nomination in two days?

MCCAIN: Well, I hope so. But you know, you don't know for sure. I think we got a lot of good momentum and a lot of endorsements, and crowds who are enthusiastic, and we're working hard, and I'm guardedly optimistic.

But I can't predict it. There have been too many ups and downs so far in this primary for me to predict even 48 hours ahead of time.

WALLACE: All right. There are 1,023 delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. And with so many of the races winner take all, how many delegates do your strategists tell you that you might be able to pick up then?

MCCAIN: Honestly, we haven't gotten down to that detail. We've just kind of been looking at it state by state, and we think we're doing well in most of the states. And there's still not real strong polling data in a couple.

But honestly, Chris, I haven't gotten into that kind of detail. We're too busy doing the rallies and the town hall meetings and the campaigning.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about one strategic — or perhaps it's a tactical move. I notice that you're going to be watching the Super Bowl tonight in Massachusetts, which coincidentally happens to be the home state of your top opponent, Mitt Romney.

Is there some thought that if you can beat Mitt Romney in his home state that would be a knockout blow that would force him out of the race?

MCCAIN: No, I think it's more that we're competitive, we think, in Massachusetts. We know that Governor Romney has a very strong advantage there, but we'd like to compete in every state.

And so we'll be doing a rally there tomorrow morning in Boston and then moving on to some of the other states in the region and then ending up on Tuesday afternoon in Phoenix after a rally in San Diego.

So we're trying to criss-cross the country. As you know, we were in the south yesterday and we'll go north today. It's a lot of — with that many states at stake, you've got a lot of ground to cover.

WALLACE: Republican insiders, Senator, say that your big job going forward is to reach out to conservatives. Here's what one McCain insider said the other day.


QUESTION: How much support do you think he has among the base of the Republican Party?

ROBERTA MCCAIN, SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN'S MOTHER: I don't think he has any. I don't know what the base of the Republican — maybe I don't know enough about it, but I've not seen any help whatsoever.

QUESTION: So can he then go on and become the nominee of this party?

R. MCCAIN: Yes, I think holding their nose they're going to have to take him.


WALLACE: Oh, boy, Senator. One, is your mother right? And two, how do you persuade conservatives to stop holding their nose?

MCCAIN: I love my mother dearly, more than anything in the world, but really, my mom is not a complete expert on this issue, and I love her and I love her candor, and she's been a great, great asset, particularly whenever the age issue comes up.

But look. We're doing fine with the conservatives and the moderates and the liberals, if there are any. We're doing fine. In Florida we got, as you know, a majority of the Republican vote. It was a Republican-only primary. And we're doing well.

As you mentioned, in all the polling across the board, the key is to unite the party. We have strong support from people like Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm. Steve Forbes signed up. We're getting a lot of that kind of good support from across the party.

But we've got a lot of work to do. Chris, you know, everybody knows, primaries are tough. Primaries are very tough, and there's a lot of strong feelings. But the job is — when the primaries are over, is to unite the entire party, and I'm confident I can do that.

I have a strong conservative record, and I'm proud of that record, and I also believe on the national security side it's going to be a clear difference between me and Senator Clinton or Senator Obama, a clear difference on whether we're going to increase spending or decrease spending, increase taxes or decrease taxes, whether we're going to withdraw from Iraq or we're going to see this thing through to the success that it's obvious to me we can achieve now.

So there's going to be real strong differences, and I think that our party will unite, and I've got some work to do. But it's all parts of the party.

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about some of the issues that worry conservatives the most. You were one of only two Republicans who voted against the 2001 Bush tax cut, and since then you've been saying, "Well, the reason was because they didn't have spending cuts along with it."

Senator, we checked your speech before the final vote in the 2001 tax cut, the Bush tax cut, and here's what you had to say. Let's put it up on the screen. "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief."

Senator, we checked the speech. You never once mentioned the fact that there weren't spending cuts.

MCCAIN: Well, I mentioned it many, many times and, more importantly, perhaps, is that I had a tax cut package of my own which was very significant, but it also included restraints in spending.

Look. Phil Gramm, one of my strongest supporters, and our other economic conservatives — Jack Kemp; even the so-called supply-siders — will tell you that if you let spending get out of control, you're going to have the problems we have today.

I predicted that if we didn't get restraint of spending, we were going to lose elections and it led to corruption. And if we'd have done what I wanted to do, we'd be talking about more tax cuts now, not less. And I'm proud of that record, and, unfortunately, I was right.

WALLACE: But, Senator, let me just clear this up.


WALLACE: In fact, in 2001, you voted for a tax cut, but one that was targeted more at the middle class, and you voted against the tax cut when it was favored or tilted more toward the wealthy.

Don't you sound a little bit like Obama or Clinton on that?

MCCAIN: I don't think so, Chris. Back in 1983 and '84, when I first came to the Congress as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, I was one of those who fought hard for tax cuts, and we were able to get them.

And after that we had one of the greatest periods of economic prosperity in history. I voted for spending restraints along with my friend Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp and many others.

My record is very clear of support for tax cuts but also fighting against waste and pork barrel spending, which has not enhanced my popularity sometimes in the United States Senate.

And I went after Abramoff, and I went after a Boeing deal that was going to cost the taxpayers an additional $6 billion. I've been after them and I'll stay after them.

And as president, I can understand why it might make a few of them nervous that depend on pork barrel and earmark spending.

WALLACE: Senator, let's do a lightning round, if you will...


WALLACE: ... on these hot-button issues involving quick questions, quick answers.

As president, will you veto any tax increase passed by a Democratic Congress?


WALLACE: That's quick, but — and in fact, I think...

MCCAIN: Well, I think the worst thing we can do right now, Chris, is — we've got some shaky economic times — is to increase people's taxes. And I think that what we need is more tax cuts. We need to make Bush tax cuts permanent.

We need to get rid of the ATM. Corporate taxes in America are the second highest in the world. We need to cut corporate taxes. We need to give people reasons to write off and depreciation their business investments and equipment investments.

We need to stop the pork barrel spending. Look, the president signed into law two major spending bills that had $35 billion worth of earmark projects. And if we had taken that money, we could have given a $1,000 tax credit for every child in America.

This is big money. Everybody says, "Oh, it really isn't that much." It's a lot. And even more importantly than that, it has totally eroded the confidence of the American people about what we do with their tax dollars.

WALLACE: New question: Will you appoint conservative Supreme Court justices even if you have reason to believe that they might vote to overturn McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform?

MCCAIN: I was very aware of the opinion of Justices Roberts and Alito, and I was one who fought hard for the confirmation of both of them.

First of all, I wouldn't impose any litmus test. That would be totally inappropriate.

But second of all, I will appoint justices such as the ones I've strongly supported and gotten through the Senate, with the help of many others or help along with others, only those who strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench. And I have a clear record of that, too.

WALLACE: And even if they might vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and also McCain-Feingold.

MCCAIN: Look, you cannot impose litmus tests. If you have justices that have a clear conservative — a clear, strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, then you don't have to worry about what their decisions will be, because it's pretty obvious that people who strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States are worthy of our confidence.

And by the way, I think the voters ought to consider that when they decide who they want to be president of the United States.

WALLACE: Hillary Clinton, speaking of that, is going to be joining us in a moment. She'll be our next guest. And I wonder, as we prepare for what could be a Clinton — well, actually, she's right there right now.

Senators, do you want to say anything to each other?

MCCAIN: Hello.

CLINTON: Hi, John.

MCCAIN: How are you?

WALLACE: Are you two looking forward...

CLINTON: I'm good. Hope you're well.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

WALLACE: Are you two looking forward to possibly facing each other in November?

MCCAIN: I think we will have a very spirited...

CLINTON: Well, I think we both have our hands full.


WALLACE: What were going to say, Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: No, I just said I think we'll have very respectful but very spirited debate. I think that Senator Clinton would be the first to acknowledge, as she's already mentioned in several appearances and debates with the Democrats that we'll have very significant differences.

And I think the American people will see those differences and make a judgment.

WALLACE: Senator Clinton, we're going to talk to you in a moment. But do you have a response to that?

CLINTON: No, I agree with that. I think that, you know, John and I will have a respectful debate, but we do have serious differences about the direction of the country and what we think should be done.

But that's exactly the kind of election that our country needs right now, and I'm looking forward to it.

WALLACE: Well, we'll get to you in a second after the break, Senator Clinton.

But, Senator McCain, it's your time. Let me ask you...

MCCAIN: Do you want to start that debate now?

WALLACE: I'm ready if you're ready.


But let me ask you, Senator McCain, on a couple of issues — first of all, the war. Senator Clinton says, look, she'll get us out in 60 days. You're going to have us there 100 years.

MCCAIN: Well, the key is success, and the key is American casualties. We are succeeding. But as I've said many times, Al Qaida is on the run. They are not defeated. But this strategy is succeeding.

And I believe that if we had set a date for withdrawal or if we do set a date for withdrawal, Al Qaida will then win and we'll see chaos and genocide in the region. That's another significant difference that Senator Clinton and I have, and I look forward to discussing it.

It's not a matter of how long Americans stay. It's a matter of American casualties. And those casualties are coming down, and we can eliminate them.

Look, we're in Kuwait right next door to Iraq. We're in Turkey. We're in Bosnia. We're all over the world. One of the obligations, unfortunately, of being a great superpower is that we have to take care of the world's security.

But we don't have to have casualties because we can succeed in the strategy called the surge which is now, I think, experiencing significant success.

But let me just finally add, what we saw — what we saw with these evil people putting bombs on women with mental disabilities and detonating them remotely shows you how evil this enemy we are facing and how implacable they are and how we've got to defeat them, and we will.

WALLACE: Senator, we've got about a minute left. I want to ask you...


WALLACE: ... also about the economy. We saw the first loss of jobs in almost five years in this last month. Why would you be better fit than Senator Clinton to turn the economy around?

MCCAIN: Look, I haven't won this primary yet, Chris, so I'm not focusing on Senator Clinton yet. I've got good people who are running. This is going to be a spirited election on Tuesday. So let's put it in the right perspective.

I think that lower taxes, less spending — I think more tax changes so that we can stimulate investment and savings, and fixing our tax code — I think there's a whole lot of things we can do economically.

And the first thing I'd like to see is the stimulus package, which I don't agree with everything — get that through, make the tax cuts permanent, get rid of the AMT.

Let's have some depreciation, reduce write-offs for depreciation, reduce the wasteful and unnecessary spending, and reduce the corporate taxes which are driving businesses and jobs out of America.

There's a lot of significant steps we need to take. America's hurting right now in a lot of areas, and we've got to act, and act effectively, but it isn't through tax increases.

WALLACE: And finally, the big question we've saved for last, Senator — Patriots or Giants?

MCCAIN: As I've said before, I hate to say. We welcome them to Arizona and we hope they spend lots and lots of money, and we know they will. And I hope they'll come back soon.

But somebody's got to show me how you beat the Patriots.

WALLACE: Well, you're there in Massachusetts, so you're in the right place to make that prediction.

Senator McCain, we want to thank you so much for talking with us. And good luck on Super Tuesday, sir.

MCCAIN: Thanks again, Chris.