This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Governor Rick Perry wants those 41 percent undecideds to pick him. To convince them, he's pulling out all the stops. He just took a 14-day bus tour across Iowa. Governor Perry joins us from Des Moines. Good evening, sir.
GOV. RICK PERRY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Greta. How are you? Good evening. Happy New Year.
VAN SUSTEREN: Happy New Year to you, too, sir. Big day tomorrow, and I'm curious .. you heard all sorts of numbers, everything else. Would third or fourth place -- would you consider that a win for you, sir?
PERRY: Listen, we're in it to win it, so that's like asking the Dallas Cowboys if they want to win their next football game. It's, like, absolutely. So I think anyone that's in this wants to win first place, so I don't think there's anybody is running for second place. That's not the reason I got in it.
So Iowans are a lot like Texans. It's just amazing, the last 14 days, as we traveled across the state and hit the small towns and the big cities and talked to them about getting America working again and the values that we share. And I feel really good about where we are and where we're headed.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, no doubt. I -- you know, I like first place, too. I like to win, too, when I can, or second place. But in this sort of odd race is that, you know, third or fourth place might not be losing because if one bypasses, for instance, New Hampshire and goes straight to South Carolina, and if you clean up in South Carolina, it isn't so bad to have third and fourth. That may be considered a win.
So I'm trying to think, you know, strategically what your plan is, you know, whether a third or fourth is OK. I mean, I understand you want to win first. But would third or fourth be OK for you in your strategic plan?
PERRY: Well, we're going to do everything we can to win this thing. So as we go through the process -- it's like a -- this is a marathon. And you know, this isn't a sprint. Tomorrow is not picking the nominee for the Republican Party. It's the first step in a long and laborious process. And we got a lot of campaigning to do and a lot of America to see and a lot of vetting to do of the candidates.
So you know, whether it's my friend, Rick Santorum, who is running as fiscal conservative, but he's the -- he's the champion of earmarks and raised the debt ceiling eight times while he was in the United States Senate, I just don't think that Republican voters -- once they get a real chance to take a look at Rick's fiscal record, they're going to go, You know what? Maybe you're not the most fiscally conservative person that's up there.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I'm sort of curious that you say your friend, Rick Santorum. And I spent the day doing -- looking through a lot of things. One of the thing that "your friend" Rick Santorum has gotten is an ad from your campaign in which he is called -- in which its headline -- Why are the pigs so happy? It's sort of -- I don't call -- I don't make reference to pigs about friends.
PERRY: Rick Santorum is a friend. As a matter of fact, he's got a great family, and I pray for his daughter, Bella, every night, as a matter of fact. So you know, there's a real difference, and I am able to make that -- make that difference between a competitor and a friend. And Rick is both of those, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: And a pig? A pig?
PERRY: ... I don't have a problem at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: Calling him a -- all right, well, it's interesting...
PERRY: You know, in Iowa...
VAN SUSTEREN: The reason you called him...
PERRY: ... they love pigs. In Iowa, they love pigs. I love Iowa pork. I don't like Washington pork.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, you don't like Iowa -- you don't like Washington pork, but while you were governor, Texas got $3.4 billion worth of pork. So it must not have been too bad for you.
PERRY: Well, my point is that's our tax dollars that went up there, and for us not to try to get that money back in the state of Texas would have -- now, that would have been irresponsible.
So here's the bottom line, Greta. We know that these earmarks are bad public policy. It's the "I'll scratch your back, you scratch my back," and then here's your project. Here's the ones I'm going to give to you. That's what's run America into the ditch economically.
And it's time for an outsider to come into Washington, D.C., and say, you know, Enough of it. And that's what I'm going to do. Earmarks are dead when I come in. I'm not going to defend them, never have. It's just not going to happen.
And those that have been in Washington so long that they defend earmarks are part of the problem. And that's the message to people in Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire an Florida, is they're ready for somebody to step into Washington, overhaul that place, and quit playing this, you know, game of corruption between Wall Street and Washington that we've seen. It's just -- it's nonsense, and Americans are tired of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: The phrase I keep hearing throughout this campaign from everybody, whether it's some candidates or pundits or anchors or whatever -- everyone keeps talking about, quote, a "true conservative." What is that?
PERRY: Well, a true conservative is a person that hones to fiscal and social conservatism. I mean, from my perspective, you look at what Ronald Reagan was all about. He understood that you can't spend your way to prosperity. Voting to raise the debt ceiling eight times, as Senator Santorum did, is not fiscally conservative. I mean, talking about being a movement conservative and voting for that much debt ceiling to be raised, and frankly, that many earmarks -- sorry, but that's not what I call a fiscal conservative.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, you go back to Ronald Reagan then. Governor -- or not governor -- Speaker Gingrich always talks about how he worked with him and admires him immensely, as many Republicans do. Is Speaker Gingrich a true conservative, in your view?
PERRY: Well, you know, everybody's got to run on their record. And when you're the individual who actually came up with the idea of individual mandates for health insurance, I don't think that's conservative. As a matter of fact, if you say, I did it because it was better than "HillaryCare" -- it's still unconstitutional. And you just got to stand up and say, Listen, if it's unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional. So when you do things that are out of whack with our Constitution, I don't think that's conservative.
VAN SUSTEREN: Today, you said that if Congressman Ron Paul becomes president, we're going to be living back in the 1930s again. He's going to bring the troops back home, bring the 5th Fleet back from the Persian Gulf. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann says I think that it would be dangerous if he became president. You all sort of closing in on him. And if he -- the other thought, too, if you make him mad enough and he runs as a third party, he's going to guarantee that your ultimate opponent, President Obama, is reelected. So your thoughts on Congressman Ron Paul.
PERRY: Well, I do disagree with him, absolutely, on the policies relative to his foreign policy statements. I mean, the idea that you say that, you know, it's really none of our business whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapon? I mean, come on, Greta. I mean, they said that they will wipe Israel off the face of the earth and then we're next. That's not the type of foreign policy that Republicans, or frankly Americans, are interested in.
So my issue with Congressman Paul -- if he wants to run as a third party, that's his call. But the fact is, Americans need to have a president that is going to be strong from the standpoint of getting our economy back in place so that we can have the research and the development to keep up with countries like China and to make sure that Iran and countries that are run by absolute terrorists that are exporting terror are stopped.
VAN SUSTEREN: And Governor Perry, good luck tomorrow. It's going to be a wild day. With 41 percent undecided, I don't think...
PERRY: Is it going to be...
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think anybody...
PERRY: ... a great day, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... has any idea. Any idea. It's going to be a crazy day. It's going to be...
PERRY: I don't, either.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, good luck, sir.
PERRY: It's going to be a fun day.
VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be watching.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.
PERRY: So long, Greta. The [Texas] first lady says to tell you howdy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Tell her I said hello.