OTR Interviews

Why Haley Endorsed Romney: 'I Need a Partner in Washington'

S.C. governor explains her endorsement of Mitt Romney in GOP presidential race


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says she needs a partner in Washington, and today she announced she is endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for president. And tonight, Governor Haley joins Governor Romney to go "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you for joining us.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, R-S.C.: Thank you. It's my pleasure. Welcome to South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Governor. Well, you've made the news that you are endorsing or have endorsed Governor Romney. I'm curious. Last May, you at least seemed (INAUDIBLE) quote troubled by his health care, that he hadn't at that point satisfactory told you his view on the national health care, Massachusetts health care. What changed?

HALEY: Well, I think what you saw me go through is what I think we're seeing a lot of Americans go through, which is the thought process of how are we going to get to who's going to be the perfect person to take on this country during this time?

And so a lot of what I thought about was, what are the issues that are important to me as governor of a state, what are the issues that I hear all the families across the country talk about? And it always comes back to spending, the economy and jobs.

And what I know now is there's a lot of chaos in Washington, D.C., we need no more of t. And so the first I thought of was we can't have anybody that's related to Washington. The second thing is, this isn't about what you say. We need someone that's actually done it.

And when you look at Governor Romney's record, he's taken broken companies and turned them around. He's taken a weakened Olympic system and made it a successful source of pride for this country. And not only that, he knows how to make real decisions, not just making votes. I've been a legislator, I can say that. It's very different to make a decision versus a vote. He's made decisions.

And the decisions he made was he cut taxes 19 times in a state that had an 85 percent majority Democrat legislature. That's remarkable. That's what we're talking about when we're talking about Washington, somebody that can go in there fresh and say, We've got a lot of problems. It's time to get down to business and get to the solutions.

You know, the other side is Michael and I are a military family. Military's very important to us and a lot of troops across the country. And he understands that we have to strengthen our military. And he understands we don't have to be apologetic for it. And so when we've got a president that's done nothing but try and weaken it, this has been an important factor, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the others? You think the others could beat President Obama?

HALEY: You know, for me, I don't think I have to put down any other candidates to make this guy look good. What I will tell you is the hardest part about my job that I did know as governor, the federal government, whether it's been dealing with the Medicaid issue, whether it's dealing with illegal immigration, whether it's been dealing with voter ID, when it's the NLRB and what we're trying to do with Boeing and that the unions have gotten in the way.

I need a partner. I need a partner in Washington. And what I have known this past year as governor is I don't have a partner right now. I've got -- when I try to protect jobs from Boeing, I had a president who was working against me, trying to get them out.

So what I am looking for is someone that understands how business works, someone who understands strengthening private sector is the way to go. And so I don't think it's about what the other candidates can or can't do. I just want to focus on the one that I know can do it and has proven it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, I know I make it sound like a prom date. I just saw your wife ... I'm sort of curious, behind the scenes. Many wanted Governor Haley's endorsement here in South Carolina, all the other candidates. Did she call and tell you? I mean, how did you swing this one?

MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we've known each other for some time. And I've been in touch with her, with her office. I talked about my views on issues. We've exchanged views on issues time and again. And I'm delighted that after she's taken a good look at the debates and my responses to the questions that she had, that she came -- decided to support my team.

It's -- obviously, it's a huge statement. It makes an enormous difference here in South Carolina. Speaker Gingrich has a real strong lead here. And for her to stand up and say, You know what? I'm going to -- I'm going to back somebody who is not real high in the polls right now in South Carolina because I believe, you know, Mitt Romney can win.

By the way, there was a time when she wasn't real high in the polls. I'm hoping that her experience coming from behind and winning is the same kind of experience I have here in South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I know, of course, you -- you endorsed her. I'm curious...

ROMNEY: Sure did.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... Governor, last time around, Governor Romney came in fourth here in this state. So you -- at least -- at least then it was a hard sell. You know, are you going to actively go out and pound the pavement? And how are you going to convince the people who four years ago weren't particularly interested in Governor Romney?

HALEY: This is really interesting, Greta. First to answer your question. Yes, Michael and I are going to do everything we can to support the Romneys and help get the message out. But this is what's interesting for me. We had talked a couple of times, but we had a meeting a few weeks back, and I said, I'm going to ask you some really tough questions and I need some answers.

I said, I'm not for the health care mandate. South Carolina can't afford it. What are you going to do? He said, Day 1, I'm going to offer South Carolina a waiver and any other state that wants it. And I'm going to work to repeal the health care mandate across this country.

The second thing was, I said, You know the issues we've dealt with with the unions. What are you going to do? And he said, We are going to make sure that we put as much pressure on the unions as we can, and we turn it back to the private sector so they're back in charge by using transparency to do it.

I brought up the Yucca mountain issue, which so many of the states have had to deal with. And I said, How are you going to be able to handle that? And he said, You know what? We're going to make sure that promises made are promises kept. And whether we go and put that waste in another state or give those states their money back, we're going to solve problems.

And the reason I bring this up is in 2008, I endorsed him. I saw a candidate who very much wanted to win. In 2011, what I see is not a candidate that cares about winning. This is a leader who's ready to actually be president.

VAN SUSTEREN: What changed?

HALEY: He knows...

VAN SUSTEREN: What changed?

HALEY: You know, what I see is, I see a calmness in him. I see a leadership ability. This is not about talking about how to win votes. He's very much about what he wants to do the first 30 days in the White House, what he's going to do to get people back to work.

There is a leadership there that when I walked out of there, I knew this was right. I knew this was right because what I want is someone that understands the American -- the American families can't wait. We need help and we need it now. We need courage and we need it now. And we need someone that's not going to try and figure it out day one. This is a man who spent the last four years trying to figure out exactly what he's going to do and how, and there's not going to be a learning curve. That's when I knew this was right.