The following is a rush transcript of the December 18, 2011, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
Mitt Romney sits down for his first Sunday show interview in almost two years.
With just 16 days until the Iowa caucuses, we continue our 2012 one-on-one series of interviews. We'll ask Governor Romney about his strategy for beating back the Gingrich surge.
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WALLACE: You now say he's zany. He's an unreliable leader in the conservative world.
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WALLACE: Charges he's not a consistent conservative.
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WALLACE: At a time when Republican voters want dramatic change, that you are offering fine-tuning.
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WALLACE: And his campaign's secret weapon.
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WALLACE: Your campaign has now put your wife Ann out on the trail, some say to humanize you.
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WALLACE: Then with the 2011 debates now in the books, we'll ask our Sunday panel to handicap the fast-changing Republican race as we enter the homestretch in Iowa.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The Iowa caucuses are now just over two weeks away. But despite months of campaigning and 13 debates, the Republican race for president is still wide open.
We've conducted a series of 2012 one-on-one interviews to help you get to know the candidates better. And today, we round out the field with Mitt Romney, who sits down for his first Sunday show interview in almost two years.
Yesterday, we caught up with him on the campaign trail in South Carolina where he had just won the endorsement of that state's popular, Governor Nikki Haley.
In a wide-ranging interview, we talked about the challenges he faces winning the GOP nomination and possibly running against President Obama.
WALLACE: Governor Romney, at long last, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: I saw the other day that President Obama has not met with Republican congressional leaders in five months while he is at the same time made 34 campaign speeches. What's your basic argument running against him? What's the choice for voters?
ROMNEY: Well, well, as you described in that introduction, the choices that relates to that style is leaders don't do that. Leaders actually spend time meeting with people on the other side of the aisle, understand their needs, understand their concerns, get their input and look for some way to find common ground. Not to violate their own principles or to insist that the opposition violates its principles, but instead, finding places where there's common ground upon which to build.
And this president instead has gone to the people and attacked. It's been a constant attack either against Republicans or against people in the business world or whatever group he somehow feels is opposed to his agenda.
The right course for any leader is to work with other people. Good Democrats love America. Good Republicans love America. We need a leader who understands not just the words of unity, but the practice of building unity.
WALLACE: On the other hand, the president says he rescued the country from the great -- another Great Depression. He killed Usama bin Laden and he says you and your party would restore policies that caused the financial meltdown in the first place.
ROMNEY: It's great rhetoric. But again, it's just -- it's hollow. First of all, he was not the reason that the economy hit bottom and then begins to recover.
We have gone through recessions before. He made this one worse. And he made the recovery more tepid.
I get the chance to speak with business leaders of big and small businesses, largely small. And I say to them -- do any of you believe that the policies of this administration have helped you be more successful in your enterprise and hire more people? I don't see a single hand go up when I ask that to an audience. His policies have hurt, not helped.
With regards to Usama bin Laden, we're delighted that he gave the order to take out Usama bin Laden, any president would have done that. But this one did and that's a good thing.
I'm not going to say everything he's done is wrong. But with regards to the economy, almost anything he's done made it more difficult for this economy to reboot.
WALLACE: Before you face the president, of course, you have to win the Republican nomination and you have in recent days been escalating your attacks against your main competitor in the polls, Speaker Gingrich. You now say he's zany, he's an unreliable leader in the conservative world, he lacks the temperament.
What's your basic argument against Newt Gingrich?
ROMNEY: Well, we're different and the campaign is about pointing out differences.
I mean, for instance, the great issue that has been brought before this Congress with a new Republican Congress is, are we going to deal with entitlement reform or not? And Republicans came together and proposed a program to make sure that Medicare is sustainable. Paul Ryan was the author of the plan but almost every single Republican in Congress voted for it and the world watched to see, OK, are we going to have progress?
And the speaker said this is right wing social engineering. I mean, talk about unreliable. At a critical time, he cut the legs out from underneath a very important message.
The same was true with regards to cap and trade. This was being battled on Capitol Hill and the speaker sat down with Nancy Pelosi and spoke in favor of legislation dealing with climate change. He has been unreliable in those settings and zany, I wouldn't think you'd call mirrors in space to light highways at night particularly practical or a lunar colony a practical idea. Not at a stage like this.
WALLACE: Are you prepared for a long, bitter primary battle all the way to the convention?
ROMNEY: I hope we don't have that. But my guess is that's certainly a possibility. We now have adopted the Democratic Party's approach for allocating the early delegates on a proportional basis. And we watched what happened when the Democrats did that. Their primary process went on for a long, long time.
So, we are prepared. If we go on for months and months, we will have the resources to carry a campaign, to each of the states that will decide who gets delegates and who becomes the nominee.
WALLACE: One of the knocks against you is that at a time when Republican voters want dramatic change, that you are offering fine tuning.
Let's start with taxes. Rick Perry calls for a 20 percent flat tax. Newt Gingrich has a 15 percent plan.
You would keep the top tax rate at 35 percent. And in contrast to most of your rivals, you would not lower the tax on capital gains and dividends for anyone making more than $200,000 a year.
Question -- aren't you basically right there with Barack Obama, the rich should pay more?
ROMNEY: No, I'm just saying don't raise taxes on anyone. I want to make sure that with the precious dollars we have, that we can provide tax relief, that those dollars go to middle income Americans.
The people who have been hurt in the Obama economy are not the wealthy. The wealthy are doing just fine. The people that have been hurt are the people in the middle class so I focus those precious dollars that we have, I focus that on the middle class.
WALLACE: What's wrong with the 15 percent flat tax or the 20 percent flat tax? You're keeping the top rate for the wealthy at 35 percent.
ROMNEY: Look, I would love to see a tax system which brings down rates, which is more broad-based tax system which eliminates some of the deductions and exemptions. The Bowles-Simpson plan, for instance, I think has a lot to speak for it. And I'll work on a plan of that nature.
The policies that I've seen put forward of that nature have represented dramatic reductions in tax for the very highest income people. I'm not looking to dramatically reduce taxes for the wealthiest in our society, not that there's anything wrong with being wealthy. I'm pleased to have done very well myself. You understand that. Others do.
But my intent in running for president is to help middle income Americans and a plan that dramatically cuts taxes for the very, very wealthiest is in my opinion not the right course.
WALLACE: You talk about helping the middle class but your plan that would eliminate the tax on capital gains and dividends doesn't help them. A recent study showed that a family making $75,000 a year in terms of what they would receive by eliminating capital gains and dividends, $167, sir.
ROMNEY: Well, first of all, $167 is not zero. And number two, one of the reasons people don't save their money is that they don't see an incentive to do so. They put it in Roth IRAs and Keough plans and they have to put together these nanny programs to try and save money and the tax advantage basis.
What I do is allow middle-income families to finally be able to save their money tax free. No tax on interest dividends or capital gains for middle income Americans.
WALLACE: But the argument is middle class people can't afford, they don't have enough money to have a lot of capital gains and dividends.
ROMNEY: Look, I recognize it's not a huge tax cut. It is a tax reduction and it allows middle-income folks to participate in making a brighter future for themselves and for saving.
And you're going to find in this country that if there's no tax on savings, middle-income people are going to take advantage of that to save for college, to save for retirement, to save for things that they want. And saying, look, let's provide that same break to the high income people, that costs a lot of money, and is really not a tax cut that's needed there.
WALLACE: All right. Then there's spending. Ron Paul says that he could cut federal spending $1 trillion in the first year. Rick Perry says he can cut the federal budget a quarter of it each year.
You say that you would cut $500 billion in 2016. Again, if a voter wants dramatic change and that's what they say they want, why wouldn't they go for one of your rivals instead of you?
ROMNEY: Well, my plan is a responsible plan and I have the specifics that show how I will cut $500 billion out of the federal budget, and take federal spending from 25 percent of the GDP down to 20 percent of GDP. Which is, in my view, closer to the long range average and makes sense.
Those that have said look, we're going to get rid of double that amount, I want to see the specifics and look to see whether that would in fact hurt the economy and make it harder for us to put people back to work.
My highest priority is to make sure we get Americans back to work. And that we have rising incomes again and that we have a deficit reduction program in place that convinces the world that we're on track to having a balanced budget.
I want to cut federal spending. I want to cap federal spending at 20 percent of the GDP and then lower it from there. And ultimately, I want to have a balanced budget amendment.
WALLACE: All right. Let's pick up on this. Between them, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, eliminate five cabinet level departments including Energy and Education. You would not eliminate any. Why not?
ROMNEY: Well, it's not that I won't eliminate any. I'm just going to make sure that we study them in some depth to decide which agencies we ultimately combine. I think sometimes people think if we eliminate an agency, we're not going to keep doing anything it does.
The Department of Education, for instance, provides funding for the education of disabled children. I don't imagine that either of those that talk about getting rid of that department are planning on no longer helping in the education of disabled children. So, we need to look and say, given the fact that that function is going to go on, where would it reside?
Some of the responsibilities that are happening in these agencies will continue and some I'll eliminate. Some programs I'll eliminate. My list of programs to eliminate is pretty long.
WALLACE: I want to pick up on that, because now, let's look at it from the Democrats' point of view if you end up as the nominee, because they're also going to attack your budget just exactly the other way. You say that you would push -- it says on your Web site, one of your goals -- pass the House plan, Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to cut the budget.
Let's look into that. Cut Medicaid, health coverage for the poor, by $700 billion. Cut food stamps by $127 billion. Cut Pell Grants for low-income college students in half.
You would cut all of these programs, Governor, that people depend on and a lot more than that.
ROMNEY: Actually, the great news about those programs is that in the Ryan plan and in the plan I've put forward, I take a program -- the biggest of those that is Medicaid, I take the Medicaid dollars, send them back to the states without the mandates as to how they have to treat --
WALLACE: You're also cutting the budget by $700 million.
ROMNEY: What I do is I take the money and send it back to the states and say we're going to grow that funding at inflation, the CPI, plus 1 percent. By doing, that you save an enormous amount of money.
I happened to believe that states can do a better job caring for their own poor, rooting out the fraud and waste and abuse that exists within their programs.
WALLACE: But you don't think if you cut $700 billion in aid to the states that some people are going to get hurt?
ROMNEY: In the same way by cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don't think we hurt the poor. In the same way I think we cut Medicaid spending by having it go to the states, run more efficiently with less fraud, I don't think we'll hurt the people that depend on the program for their health care.
WALLACE: Well, I want to pursue it because I think this is -- if you end up against Barack Obama really one of the central issues. The president says that he is going to campaign as the champion of the middle class and portray the Republican nominee, whoever it is, as pushing tax cuts for the wealthy, spending cuts for the poor and rolling back regulations that help protect people and the environment. He's vulnerable to that.
ROMNEY: He's extraordinarily vulnerable because we'll say how did that work, Mr. President? Your four years in office, how well did those programs work? Did the poverty decline in this country? Did they go up? Joblessness, you came in the office and said, "Let me borrow $787 billion and I'll keep unemployment below 8 percent" which itself was an extraordinarily high number, and he hasn't been below 8 percent since.
His policies have not worked. His -- we need regulation, for instance, as you point out. We need regulation in our society. I'm not someone that says get rid of all regulation. We need just regulation that's updated and modern and that encourages enterprise as opposed to burdening it.
His great failing is he does not understand how this economy works, and how his policies have made it harder for this economy to put Americans back to work. I do know how the economy works and my policies are designed to get people what they desperately want. Not care for being poor, they want to stop being poor, have a good job and have a bright future.
WALLACE: In your last book, you repeatedly talk about creative destruction, the idea of creative destruction in capitalism. First of all, what does that mean to you? Creative destruction?
ROMNEY: Well, it's an unfortunate but in some respects essential part of free enterprise and the example I use in any book is when someone came up with inventing the tractor, it destroyed a lot of jobs. It destroyed many enterprises that people in the horse-drawn plow business went out of business. And yet the wealth of the American people and the well-being of the American people grew dramatically.
Invention -- whether of a new product or a new technique or a new invention tends to put some enterprises out of business and encourage other businesses to become more successful with the -- with the outcome that the entire society becomes better off.
WALLACE: But let me present the other side of the argument. Not to say that we don't want progress. Obviously, we do.
What about the people who get hurt in that process? Who lose their jobs? Maybe lose their families. What about them?
ROMNEY: Well -- and that's why in a productive society, you have new invention coming along and people move to those new enterprises. I'm sure, for instance, that when the automobile came on the scene and tractors came on the scene, it was actually slightly before my time, but when that occurred --
WALLACE: Even mine.
ROMNEY: When that occurred, a lot of people did lose jobs and it had to be heart-wrenching and you have to have a setting that allows people to get trained for the new positions, a safety net to make sure people are not on the streets. I mean, that's an essential part of a free enterprise system as well, where there will be businesses that go out of business to get people into the new opportunities. And that happened.
Someone said to me, "How could you create millions and millions of jobs overnight?" Make tractors illegal, say to farmers you have to use horses and plows again. Why, we'd put everybody to work. We'd just be extraordinarily poor.
WALLACE: What if President Obama goes after you as Gordon Gekko, greed is good?
ROMNEY: Of course he will, in part because he's been the great divider. This is a president who goes after anybody who is successful -- and by the way, he's pretty successful, too. He's done very, very well over the last several years. And we'll get into it in some depth.
And I'll point out that in my experience in the private sector, and in the investments that I made, in the businesses I helped to build, our intent in every case was to either help people realize their dreams by starting a business or taking a business that was failing or underperforming and making it more successful.
My business was not buying things, taking them apart, closing them down. My business was associated with trying to make enterprises more successful. Not always was I able to succeed. But in each case, we tried to grow an enterprise, and in doing so, hopefully provide a better future for those associated with that enterprise.
WALLACE: Let's pick up on Bain where you worked for 25 years, and you said that's what sets you apart. You have worked in the real private sector and you have created jobs.
There have been some big successes, Staples, now you helped start it. They now employ 90,000 people.
On the other hand, we saw that four of the 10 top dollar investments you made went bankrupt.
Is that just the cost of doing business?
ROMNEY: Well, it's not just a cost. It's the downside. It's the reality of what life is like in the private sector, which is that businesses that you invest in -- and those are not enterprises that I ran, of course.
ROMNEY: But in businesses that you invest in --
WALLACE: GS Industries, Dade International.
ROMNEY: Right. And a company like GS Industries was a group of steel mills and I think we were an investor in that business for, I don't know, eight years or so. It finally went bankrupt after I left the firm. It was an investment that was made. Again, I wasn't running it.
But the steel industry got in trouble in this country. I think 40 mills went bankrupt the same time it did, in part because of -- well, in this case, dumping from places like China into this country.
I understand the impact of what happens globally in trade. And businesses, you know, lose and go out of business, and in some cases, lose jobs. It breaks your heart when that happens. It also loses investment.
And by the way, you probably know this -- the dollars in Bain Capital weren't my dollars. They came from endowments and even a church, a pension fund was -- not my church, was invested in Bain Capital and that money goes to them. When we suffer the losses, they're the ones that suffer the losses as well.
WALLACE: You talk about the money. Back when you were in Bain Capital, you and your partners took a picture with money literally coming out of your pockets, coming out of your jacket, and you know -- just as you talk about Gordon Gekko -- you know the Democrats are dying to use that picture against you.
What's the story of that picture?
ROMNEY: Already have and will. That was at the closing of our very first fund. We went out as a group of folks and said, you know, I wonder if we can raise money from other people to organize a company. We can get capital from others that will allow us to begin a business that will be successful.
And we went out and raised money. We were successful in raising our first fund. It was about $37 million, an extraordinarily large amount of money that we raised from other people and we posed for a picture just celebrating the fact that we had raised a lot of money and then we hoped to be able to return it with a good return.
And in the interim, of course, we had to be successful, build enterprises. That first fund got invested in a number of businesses that turned out to create a lot of jobs and yielded very positive return to the people who entrusted with their funds.
But I know that will be used. I know that. It will be fun.
I recognize the president is going to go after me. I'll go after him.
WALLACE: And if he says or somebody says, maybe as an independent group -- fat cat, hard-hearted. You know, let businesses rise, he makes money. Businesses fall, sometimes he still made money.
ROMNEY: You know, I know that there's going to be every effort to put free enterprise on trial. And to attack free enterprise, to attack people who work in free enterprise and attack those who believe profit is good.
A profit in an enterprise is better than loss. Loss means jobs are going to be lost. You hope -- I hope to see General Motors as a profitable and successful enterprise again so that jobs can be spared.
You know, I mentioned the other night: the president has had one experience overseeing an enterprise -- a couple of enterprises, General Motors and Chrysler.
What did he do? He closed factories. He laid off people. He didn't do it personally but his people did. Why did he do that? Because he wanted to save the enterprise, and he wants to make it profitable so it can survive.
Profit in enterprise is essential to keep it alive and to keep people employed.
WALLACE: The individual mandate in Romneycare, you say the reason for it was to deal with free riders, those folks who didn't have insurance that would show up when they were sick in an emergency room, get treatment and all the rest of us, through taxes or heightened premiums, have to pay for. But free riders are not just a Massachusetts problem.
Is individual mandate, telling people they have to get health insurance, is that a good idea? Do you agree that it's a good idea for other states?
ROMNEY: Well, there are various ways to encourage people to have insurance if they can afford it. And we put in place a plan that was politically possible in our state, which some call an individual mandate. It is an individual mandate.
There are various ways of encouraging that. Another alternative would be to say we're going to give a tax break to people who do have insurance. And you're going to lose that break if you don't have insurance. That was --
WALLACE: Do you think it's a good idea for other states to do?
ROMNEY: I'm not going to try and tell other states what to do. Some states have said, look, we're going to care for our uninsured or our poor by having clinics to go to get care. There are various models. They'll get compared.
And if the Massachusetts model works, other states will adopt it. If it doesn't, Massachusetts itself will probably give it up.
WALLACE: All right. The reason I ask and you say you don't -- are not going to tell other states. Back in December of 2004, almost exactly four years ago today, you were talking with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" and you said you thought it would be a terrific idea if other states went for the individual mandate.
You said this -- "Those who followed the path that we pursued will find it's the best path and will end up with a nation that's taken a mandate approach."
Do you stand by that on a state level? Not a federal level, a mandate approach.
ROMNEY: Look, I like what our state did. It was right for our state. I'm going to let other states pursue their paths as they think --
WALLACE: But that's not what you said four years ago.
ROMNEY: As they think makes the most sense. I like what we did. I'm proud of what we did.
I'm not going to tell Texas what Texas has to do or California or New York. I think the ideas that we put forward work. We'll see which parts of them work and which don't.
But I'm not as president of the United States going to do what this president did, which is to impose his will on the entire nation. The 10th Amendment says states can craft their own plans.
If they like what they say -- and I think ours is a model that they can look at it, and take pieces of it, try it, improve upon it. If they like what they see, they'll use it. If they don't, they'll use something better.
WALLACE: Governor Romney, we have to take a break here.
But when we come back, we're going to talk some foreign policy and I'm also going to try to persuade the governor to get personal. Back in a moment.
WALLACE: And we're back now with Governor Mitt Romney.
Governor, the final U.S. troops are leaving Iraq over the next two weeks.
Couple of questions -- first of all, looking back, and hindsight is always 20/20, should we have invaded? And secondly, big picture -- what should we have done differently over the nine years there?
ROMNEY: Oh, boy. That's a big question. And going back and trying to say given what we know now, what will we have done? Would we have invaded or not?
At that time, we didn't have the knowledge that we have now. At that time, Saddam Hussein was hiding. He was not letting the inspectors from the United Nations into the various places that they wanted to go. The IAEA was blocked from going into the palaces and so forth. And the intelligence in our nation and other nations was that this tyrant had weapons of mass destruction.
And in the light of that -- that belief, we took action which was appropriate at the time. Lessons learned along the way, you know, I think our military would say a lot of lessons learned. We probably should have gone in, going in with a heavier footprint.
I think there was a sense that when -- when on the ship it said "mission accomplished," that the mission had been accomplished. It turns out it was just getting started and we had to pursue a surge very late in the process.
The surge was successful. And fortunately, we've now been able to pull our troops out. We're, of course, very happy to see our troops come out.
But I think you're going to see another lesson learned. I think we're going to find that this president by not putting in place a status in forces agreement with the Iraqi leadership has pulled our troops out in a precipitous way and we should have left 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis' own military capabilities.
I'm very concerned in this setting. I hope it works out. But I'm concerned.
WALLACE: Well, let me pick it up right there --
WALLACE: -- because if you become president, it's going to be your problem, sir. There is a concern particularly about growing Iranian influence inside Iraq.
WALLACE: As president, would you send U.S. troops back into Iraq?
ROMNEY: Let me tell you, Chris, I think the decision to send U.S. troops into a combat setting is a -- is a very high threshold decision. This is not something you do easily. You don't -- you don't send our troops around the world every time there's something that goes off an untoward way.
WALLACE: I know. But 4,500 American troops killed, 30,000 wounded, hundreds of billions of dollars, and now, the Iranians begin -- if -- begin to take over, are you going to say, well, that's --
ROMNEY: I'm not going to say where I would send troops or not send troops. We send troops where there's a substantial U.S. interest involved. And I have a very strong threshold as to a decision where we send our troops.
The real issue of the time as it relates to Iran is their nuclear program and making sure that we dissuade them from taking action that would put the entire world in jeopardy.
WALLACE: In the time we have left, I want to get personal with you, if I may. Don't get scared.
WALLACE: Your dad, George Romney, ran for president in 1968 and he was one of the frontrunners until he famously said that he got a brainwashing from the generals in Vietnam, and that kind of ended his candidacy.
First of all, how old were you when that happened? Secondly, how did you feel -- did it hurt to see your dad -- who I know you admire so greatly and he was a very distinguished man -- become kind of a national punchline?
ROMNEY: Yeah, of course. I was -- I was probably 20 or 21. I was serving my church at the time overseas and yet I got the newspaper clippings and so forth.
Was it disappointing? Yeah. Years later, when my dad was proven to be right in terms of the -- the errors in Vietnam, my wife asked him, you know, "Dad, you know, how do you feel about the fact that you're finally being vindicated in what you said?"
And he said, "You know, I never look back. I only look forward."
This was quite a guy.
WALLACE: The rap against you -- you've heard this; I'm not saying anything you haven't heard, Governor -- you're robotic; you're buttoned up, that you don't let -- that you don't let voters inside to know who you really are and what you really feel.
First of all, do you think that's fair?
ROMNEY: You know, anything's fair in this world.
The good news is that the people who see me in town meetings, that actually meet me and spend some time with me have a different impression.
WALLACE: Do you feel...
WALLACE: ... it's hard for you to, kind of, open up to be emotional?
ROMNEY: Not -- not in the slightest. I think people who know me and who interact with me understand I'm an emotional guy, that I have very deep feelings about the country, I have very great concern about the way it's being guided at this time by our president. And so, as people get to know me better, I think they'll come to a different impression.
WALLACE: Your campaign has now put your wife Ann out on the trail, some say to humanize you.
How would you describe your relationship? Are you sweethearts? Are you partners? Are you best friends?
ROMNEY: All three. I mean, Ann and I fell in love when we were in high school. It doesn't happen to a lot of people. You know, she was 15 years old when I really took notice of her, and I was a senior; she was a sophomore.
I gave her a ride home from a party. She'd come with someone else. I kissed her at the door. And I've been -- you know, I've been following her ever since.
She's -- she's a remarkable woman. And -- and she's gone through some tough times. She had a diagnosis of M.S. She's had breast cancer. And my -- my feelings and passion for Ann haven't changed in the slightest over the years other than to become stronger.
WALLACE: She says that, when she got that diagnosis and the two of you were in the room together, when the doctor told her, that she felt -- she felt as if her life were over and you both cried. How tough a moment was that?
ROMNEY: Probably the toughest time in my life was -- was standing there with Ann as we hugged each other and the diagnosis came. And I was afraid it was Lou Gehrig's disease. As we came into the doctor's office, the brochures on his table there were Lou Gehrig's, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.
And -- and he did these neurological tests, and then he -- and we could see that she had real balance problems and she didn't have feeling in places she should have feeling. And he stepped out of the room, and we stood up and hugged each other, and I said to her, "As long as it's not something fatal, I'm just fine. Look, I'm happy in life as long as I've got my soulmate with me."
And Ann is, and she fortunately has been able to recover the great majority of her health. But, you know, this -- this marriage thing, it's about bringing two people together in a way that nothing else compares with.
WALLACE: But how did you convince her and how did you convince yourself because, you know, you must have thought this isn't only a change for her; it's a change for "us" that you could get through it?
ROMNEY: Well, she knows how she feels about me. She feels the same way about me, I hope...
... as I feel about her. And she knows that, if I were to be afflicted with some kind of condition at some point, that she would feel the same way about me.
And, you know, I said to her, look -- I mean, she said, "I can't cook anymore." I mean, she was -- this was a really difficult time. At the time the disease was diagnosed, it was really tough for her. She -- we're getting ready to look at putting an elevator in the house to get her up to the second floor. We were thinking about a wheelchair for her down the road.
I mean, we were talking about a dramatic change in life. She was tired all the time. She couldn't take care of the family in the way she had in the past. And a lot of that was -- was what gave meaning to her, you know, day-to-day activities.
And I said, "Look, I don't care what the meals are like. You know, I like cold cereal and peanut butter sandwiches. We could do fine with that as long as we have each other."
I mean, if you think about what makes a difference to you in your life, it's people. Life is all about the people you love. And, you know, I -- we can handle disease. Death, that's a different matter. Death -- I don't know that I can handle death. Disease and -- and hardship, we can handle as long as we have the people we love around us.
WALLACE: Governor Romney, I want to thank you so much for talking with us today. Good luck on the campaign trail. We will see you. And safe travels, sir.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: And Governor Romney's prospects in Iowa got a big boost today when he won the endorsement of the influential Des Moines Register.
Coming up, there are just 16 shopping days until the Iowa Caucuses. Where does the race stand? We'll ask our Sunday panel to weigh in when we come right back.
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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: I will emerge victorious. I will be that president of the United States.
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS: Iowa chooses the presidents, and -- and obviously, we want to ask you for your support.
FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NEWT GINGRICH: We are in a position to really surprise people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Well, some busy campaigning this weekend as the candidates looked to get a big bounce out of Iowa to push them into the top tier in the Republican presidential race.
And it's time now for our Sunday group, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard; former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh; Ed Rollins, a first-time panelist but the campaign manager for Ronald Reagan and Mike Huckabee and, earlier this year, Michele Bachmann; and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Well, Bill, I can say...
... with some relief, all 13 2011 debates are now finally over. We've got basically two weeks of retail campaigning to go before the Iowa Caucuses. How do you handicap the race at this point?
BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: I wrote an editorial a couple of weeks ago entitled "We Do Not Know." And I want to -- I will repeat it here on the air.
I do not know what will happen in Iowa. I don't know what will happen in the race. The one thing I think I know is that it won't close early and that all the talk about whoever wins Iowa is going to win everything, or people are going to run the table, I don't buy that. But I think it's honestly wide open. Newt Gingrich got pummelled this week with millions of dollars of TV ads in Iowa and some bad -- free media, too. He made some mistakes. Will he survive that? Can he stabilize? Ny instinct is that he's been through the worst of it and that Gingrich remains stronger than people in Washington think he does, but I can't prove that.
WALLACE: Let me pick up on that to say somebody that's spent three days in Iowa and Sioux City. When you -- people in the rest of the country can't get the sense that every commercial on every show is a campaign commercial and particularly Ron Paul was running really rough commercials bashing Gingrich.
But anyway, from the outside looking at Iowa as a Democratic politician, your perspective, senator?
FORMER SEN. EVAN BAYH, D-IND.: Three things, Chris, first this year has been characterized by incredible volatility and the half-life of these frontrunner statuses has been maybe a week. So although we have the holidays intervening, a lot can change between now and January 3. That's number one.
Number two, Iowa is not always representative or predictive. The base there matters more, organization matters more. That will help Ron Paul. New Hampshire is famously contrarian. And it's open, independents can vote in New Hampshire which may favor someone like a Huntsman or a Romney.
So I think the underlying dynamic has been this, Republicans are searching for the most conservative candidate they can nominate who still has a chance of getting elected. So they speed dated a variety of people: Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, now Newt Gingrich. But ultimately they're going to come back and look at Mitt Romney.
The problem for Mitt is that he's a suspect conservative, but he's more electable. And so in your interview today and elsewhere, he needs to prove his Republican -- he's conservative bonafides. If he can do that, he won't win Iowa, but he can resurrected in New Hampshire. And I think still is the most likely default option for the Republican Party.
WALLACE: Ed, as I mentioned, you ran Mike Huckabee's campaign which won Iowa four years ago. How important is a field organization in especially in a caucus state? And the reason I ask that specifically is Newt Gingrich this weekend is finally trying to put one together. How big of a problem is that for him?
ED ROLLINS: It's a big problem. It's one thing to say to a pollster when they call you, I'm for Newt Gingrich or I'm for Romney, it's another thing to get them out January 3rd at 7:30 at night to a firehouse or a schoolyard. 120,000 voters voted in 2008, 50,000 of those voters made up their mind in the last 10 days, 20,000 made it up that very day.
Still, half the people in the state have not basically firmly committed to a candidate. And where you're thinking in terms of 30,000 votes, they win it, getting that vote out is very important.
The way I see it today is you get three people in the penthouse. You got Romney, you got Gingrich, you got Ron Paul. Ron Paul has the strongest organization. You have got three people in the basement, Perry, Santorum and Bachmann. One of those people have to get out of basement to basically become a credible candidate. And I think that's very divided up right now.
WALLACE: Well, let me bring that to you, Juan, because -- and I'm going to slightly move one of the people from the Penthouse to the basement. It seems to me there are four candidates all in in Iowa, really have to do well there let's put them up on the screen. Ron Paul, and you can argue he's in the penthouse, but Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum.
Jusan, which one of those has the best chance to over perform, do well in Iowa and, therefore, get propelled into the top tier going out?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I don't think there's any question it's Ron Paul. He has -- not only does he have the campaign structure that we were just discussing but there he has money that has paid for the ads that you were watching on TV where he was attacking others.
Huntsman falls out all together, I think. I think Bachmann has had her moment and has not shown any evidence she has built herself back up. Santorum, again, has worked very hard in the state. I think they said he's visited every county. But you know what? No evidence again in the polling that he has taken off.
So it really comes down to Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich who I think needs to -- I mean, if i was the Ed Rollins of his campaign, I would have said to him, why didn't you say you're the anti-establishment candidate? You're the Tea Party guy on the stage this week? Why didn't you say that the establishment is attacking you and attacking you in terms of these ads?
I think he didn't play that. But polls show that he still is the leader in Iowa.
WALLACE: Bill, you know, it's interesting, talking about organization, one of the things I didn't know and I'm sure Ed did, that when they go to these caucuses all these church basements and school gyms, each candidate has somebody who is able to get up and make the case for that candidate. Apparently, Gingrich does not have in hundreds of these precincts anybody to get up and speak for him. That's a huge problem. He's got to come up with a person to make his case for those caucus goers in the next two weeks.
KRISTOL: Or someone will step forward and make the case for him.
But the voters do seem to be resisting to be led around this year. And I think the organization is probably less important than it has been. The assault on TV you described it, my colleague Steve Hayes also put on them, it's not just there are huge number of ads, but a huge percentage of them are just anti-Gingrich.
Most of the Paul advertising is not touting Ron Paul's virtues, it's slamming Newt. And the Romney super PAC is entirely an anti-Newt assault.
Now, negative ads work. But my hunch is -- I mean, I think one of those social conservative is a lot of people want to vote for a conservative in Iowa. That's the big story. Romney looks like he's -- I'll be surprised if Romney gets more votes than he got in 2008. He got 30,00 votes in 2008. If he does not -- one takeaway from Iowa will be if Romney can't get as many votes this time four years later in Iowa against arguably a weaker field than he got in 2008, isn't there a sign that's real resistance to Romney in the Republican electorate?
WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to leave it on that fascinating question. Let's take a break here, panel. When we come back, a two month extension of the payroll tax may get the senate home for the holidays, but did congress just put off making enough tough choice until next year?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: This system is broken. This system is broken. We should have taken up these bills one by one with amendments, with debate and discussion.
SEN. TOM COBURN, R-OKLA.: Are we proud of this process? Have we fulfilled the responsibility to the citizens of this country with this process? Nobody can answer yes to that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Republicans John McCain and Tom Coburn just part of a chorus of senators unhappy with the way congress is doing business these days. And we're back now with the panel.
Well, the Senate finally passed a compromise on Saturday. And let's take a look at what's in it. A two month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits -- two months. A provision that President Obama must decide in 60 whether to go ahead for the Keystone Pipeline. And it's all paid for, but there's no surtax on millionaires.
Senator Bayh, is this the kind of legislating why you quit congress?
BAYH: In part, Chris. And it also explains why Congress' job approval is now 9 percent.
I mean, this was ridiculous. This should have been extended for a full year. The pipeline ought to go forward, but this allows the president a quick out after 60 days. He can say it's not -- there's just not enough time to decide.
So, you know, look, I think the House has got a decision to make here. It ought to be extended for a full year. They can amend the bill. Send it back to the Senate.
And by the way this reminds me of the saying in the House. They say that in this case the Democrats may be the opposition party but the Senate is the enemy. So the prospect of forcing the senators to come back to Washington to deal with this probably delights the House members.
This action in the Senate plays right into the president's hands. It allows him to be a more zealous tax cutter than the Republicans. He wants to extend it for a full year. They only gave him two months. It allows him to play the populous card. He's for a tax cut for everybody, where they're just concerned about the Bush tax cuts and it allows him to run against congress. So this is from my view, sort of political malpractice 101.
So I would suspect the House will make some changes. The only caveat to that, Chris, would be if they just don't have the votes to make changes. The worst thing for the Republicans and for the country would be to do nothing, to have everyone's taxes go up, it would make them appear to be totally inept.
WALLACE: Well, Bill, let's pick up on that, because Speaker Boehner was out this morning on Meet the Press and he said interestingly enough, he tried to sell this package to his -- to his rank and file on a conference call and they said absolutely not for almost exactly the reasons that Senator Bayh mentioned.
Boehner has come out against the bill. He's going to call them back in. And they're either going to amendment it, or they're going to say let's go to a conference committee and work it out. And the big issue, as they say, no two months, because it's going to make us a laughingstock and the president will be able to in the State of the Union beat us about it. We want to see a full year extension with the extension but also with the pipeline in it.
KRISTOL: I think the House Republicans are absolutely right. They passed a one year extension of the payroll tax cut. One year extension of unemployment insurance. They took care of the doctors in Medicare and they paid for it. And the senators passed this ridiculous two month thing which I think from the point of view from the Republican Party it isn't helpful. President Obama gets to stand up and hammer away at the congress and at the Republicans in congress even though the Senate is filled with Democrats.
The House Republicans should stick to their guns. The senators went off on vacation for how long? One month. Did you get the memo from the Senate leadership? They're having pro forma sessions every three days, because they're nominally in session, but they're really not showing up in town until January 23rd. Are you kidding me?
The House Republicans are absolutely right to say let's go to conference committee or let's amend the Senate bill to make it a full year. And you, senators, you know what? You can do what the rest of America is doing for the next week and if need be, for the week between Christmas and New Year, you can come back and work and we can resolve this for the full year.
WALLACE: Juan, you know obviously, so much of this is political and the president has been able to make the point as Senator Bayh said, I'm fighting for a tax cut for the middle class. The Republicans have been saying we're fighting for jobs and this Keystone Pipeline. How do you think that's working out politically? who is running the argument?
WILLIAMS: The longer it goes on, the more benefit it is to the president. I mean, it plays right into his hands. I don't -- I mean, I can understand the Republican opposition especially from the sort of Tea Party House members. But the idea, then, that they would say no and not have the pay roll tax cut extended is also problematic.
KRISTOL: House Republicans passed a year long extension of the payroll tax cut. The alleged obstructionist Tea Party members are the ones that want to extend it for the full year. It's President Obama and the Senate Democrats that want to do it for two months.
WILLIAMS: Well, let me just say if they don't act and go to the conference, as Chris was describing, they go back to the conference and say this is what they're proposing and then go back to the Senate and say this is not what we accepted and you get caught in a deal. We're pretty much to the end of the year, Bill, that means Republicans will be blamed for not extending the payroll tax cuts. The bottom line politically is cost to the Republicans, benefit to the Democrats.
ROLLINS: Republicans in the House, a majority party, basically have to show that they can do things. They passed a budget earlier, the Ryan bill. Senate didn't take any action on it. They've made cuts in spending, which hasn't gone anywhere. My sense is this is a real test of Boehner's leadership. And if they put a deal together with the Democrats and Pelosi in the House, don't go to conference or don't basically kill this, I think Boehner for the first time will be in a very bad position in his own leadership.
I think he has never gotten too far ahead of his members, which is a good place to be unlike Speaker Gingrich. And I think at this point in time, this a real test of his leadership. And I would hope that the House Republicans basically reject it, make the Senate come back. And if they won't come back, basically isolate them.
WALLACE: Senator Bayh, we have got about a minute left. And I want to pick up on something you said earlier, why doesn't the president approve the Keystone Oil Pipeline? I understand that environmentalists who are an important part of the Democratic base, don't like it. But at a time when the big issue for all Americans is jobs, creating jobs and there's an argument as to how much bum it's obvious they're going to create thousands, why is he resisting this so much?
BAYH: Well, he -- the environmentalist community is an important constituency within the Democratic Party and he's disappointed them on some other issues -- cap and trade, for example, never happened. He didn't allow the EPA to go forward with some ozone rules. And so, they're kind of disgruntled right now.
My guess is the pipeline is going to go forward, but what they're attempting to do is put that decision off until after the election. But I think it would send a pretty good message right now for him with jobs being the issue, as you say, to say look, I respect my friends in the environmental community. We're working to clean up the environment, but right now jobs are number one. This is the responsible thing to do.
WALLACE: And real quickly, couldn't he use cover and say I'm sorry, but this was the price to pay to get a middle-class tax cut?
BAYH: Yes, he could. And may very well still.
WALLACE: Well, I'm glad that we all settled that around the table here. Maybe we should have our own conference committee. Thank you, panel. See you next week. Don't forget to check out Panel Plus where our group picks right up with the discussion on our web site, Foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon eastern time.
When we come back, how your holiday spirit is helping last week's power player and our wounded warriors.
WALLACE: Before we go, an update on last week's power player, the organization called Luke's Wings. The group pays for family members to visit their wounded soldiers in the hospital. And now they have a new mission to get those warriors home for Christmas. Well, we're delighted to report that after our story last week, you donated more than $600,000. That's triple their annual budget.
If you want to learn more about Luke's Wings, please go to our web site foxnewssunday.com. And next week, a special Christmas edition about politics and faith. Our guests will include former Governor Mike Huckabee and Cardinal Donald Woral, archbishop of Washington.
That's it for today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next Fox News Sunday."
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