OTR Interviews

Haley: South Carolinians don't care about Romney's tax returns

Romney supporter Gov. Nikki Haley on why he's the presidential candidate for South Carolina


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 20, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: As we noted, we are only about 8 hours and 50 minutes away from the polls opening in South Carolina. And there is only a tiny, tiny, tiny gap between the two front-runners, and the other two candidates could pull off a big surprise tomorrow. That's why this race is so gripping.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Governor Romney and has been hitting the campaign trail for him. Right now, in the latest poll, though, Governor Romney is number two. And she joins us.

Governor Haley, welcome. And before I start talking, I want to wish you Happy Birthday. And it's tough turning 30, but you'll get used to it.


SOUTH CAROLINA GOV. NIKKI HALEY: Hey, Greta, thank you so much. It's a great night in South Carolina. We're very excited.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, minutes ago, you were with Governor Romney. I know you -- you must be watching the poll numbers. He's been slipping. What's your theory on why he's been slipping? And I know you're going to stand behind him for tomorrow in the race. Why do you think he's going to win? Two questions.

HALEY: You know what? He's not slipping. And I will tell you, we've been all over the state today. We had hundreds of people in the midlands standing in the rain to cheer on Governor Romney. We've got all these people behind us at 9:00 o'clock at night, while it's raining outside. The state is on fire. They saw the debate last night. There was only one jobs president on the stage, and it is showing today across the state. There is energy and electricity like I've never seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- do you recommend to him that he turn over his tax returns? Because that certainly has become an issue, at least an issue among the media. I don't know what the voters in South Carolina are going to say about it tomorrow. But Governor Christie has urged him to do it. Do you urge him to turn over those tax returns since there is so much clamor for them?

HALEY: Well, first of all, I'll tell you it is a media story because the people across the state -- nobody cares about his tax return. What they care about is jobs, spending and the economy. And what they saw on stage last night was you had Washington status quo people and you only had one person that knew what it was like to create jobs. They don't care about a tax return, which he, by the way, is going to turn over in April, like Bush did and like McCain did and like everybody else. What they are a little bit concerned about...

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's after the primaries.

HALEY: ... are the ethics allegations that...


VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I know. The Romney campaign has asked for the Gingrich campaign to turn over information about the investigation, the ethics investigation in the '90s about Governor -- I mean, about Speaker Gingrich.

But by turning the tax returns over in April, it is after the majority of the primaries so the voters can't consider it, if they want to consider it.

HALEY: Well, I've talked to him about it and I asked him what he wanted to do. And the truth is the Democrats are only coming after Romney right now. And he knows that the sooner he turns over the tax returns, the more Debbie Wasserman Schultz and all these other Democrats are going and try and poke holes on it.

What they're going to see is this is a man who's been successful. He's paid the legal tax rate. He's always paid it on time. And he's going to release it. What I will tell you, the people across the state is, they don't want to talk about his tax return. They want to talk about jobs. They want to talk about what he's going to do to get us back to work. They care about our military, and this is a man who wants to strengthen our military.

I'm telling you, Greta, I've been on the ground with him all day in the rain across the state. The energy is incredible for Governor Romney. He had a great debate last night that just resonated with the people. He said everything they wanted to hear. And you can tell, and the rallies have been just in the hundreds out in the rain. It's pretty amazing.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your thought about -- Governor Sarah Palin injected sort of an interesting issue into the South Carolina race. She didn't say she was endorsing Speaker Gingrich, but she said that she would vote for him or endorse him in South Carolina for the point of having this contest go on longer and to foster more debate. Has her statement about South Carolina and Speaker Gingrich had any impact on voters?

HALEY: I have the greatest respect for Sarah Palin and consider her a dear friend. I have not heard anybody talk about it. I think that, you know, she's very strong on wanting people vetted. She's very strong on people knowing the power of their voice.

Our concern that we have is the Democrats are hitting on Romney so hard that the sooner we go and solve this, the sooner we can go and strengthen us and get us going. Right now, they're raising millions of dollars while we're sitting here fighting through the states.

I haven't heard it in South Carolina. Right now, they feel pretty strong. It's going to be a tight race tomorrow, hands down. But I tell you the energy really started going our way today in a strong, strong way that I think it's going to be a nice win tomorrow.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. It's about 8 or 9 hours before polls open. Are you still running into people -- I know you're at a Romney crowd, so probably not where you are. But are you still hearing about people who have not made up their minds?

HALEY: You know, what we've seen is, yesterday morning, I had a lot of Perry people calling me saying they wanted to jump on board with Romney. This morning and across as I heard people call in and they were calling into the office, they were really saying that after the debate, they felt better with Romney. They didn't want more of the Washington chaos. They really saw a difference between private sector. They felt like the private sector was being put under a debate, and they really feel like that's a Democrat talking point.

So something shifted yesterday that really started to go in our direction. And so what I can tell you, a few undecideds, but when they came out for the rallies today, they all left and they were all leaving with the orange signs and ready to go out and vote. So it's all been real positive, at least from what I've seen today, and the energy is exciting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it is extraordinary, and all eyes are on your state because, as we understand, South Carolina has always chosen the nominee, at least since 1980. So we're looking to see what you do tomorrow in South Carolina. Governor, as always, thank you.

HALEY: It's always great to be with you, Greta. Thanks. It's a great day in South Carolina.