Romney: Democrats 'don't want to face me in the fall'

2012 candidate discusses his recent primary wins in Michigan and Arizona and reflects on the negative campaign season


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: No "Talking Points" memo this evening because we have Governor Mitt Romney standing by. As you know the Governor won the primaries in Arizona and Michigan last night reigniting his campaign. Now it's on to 11 primaries and caucuses next Tuesday night.

Exit polling from Arizona and Michigan shows that Mitt Romney did well among women and voters who believe he is the best candidate to defeat President Obama.

In Michigan exit polling also shows that even though Romney defeated Santorum by three points it would have been closer to seven if Democrats had not voted for Senator Santorum in big numbers. Obviously Republican voters in Michigan strongly favor the Governor who joins us now from Bexley, Ohio outside of Columbus.

So why do you think Democrats voted for Senator Santorum in Michigan; it was an open primary. Why do you think they did that, Governor?

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they got the news from everyone, from Michael Moore to Barack Obama's team to frankly Rick Santorum as well saying a go play mischief in the Republican Party. Vote against Mitt Romney and try and give this to Rick Santorum. You know, they don't want to face me in the fall. They would rather face Rick Santorum.

And -- and so they came in large numbers and voted for Rick. You know, I think that was a huge mistake on his part. Republicans saw right through that. And saw that if -- if Barack Obama wants Rick Santorum to run against him we're not going to give him Rick Santorum to run against.

O'REILLY: Ok so you just basically think it was a political trick play and Democrats did -- you got 18 percent and Santorum got something like 58 percent of the Democratic vote which was nine percent of the total, which is significant, which is significant. But you will remember that last time around the Republican side did the same thing to Barack Obama. It was interesting.

All right. So you think it was just that Democrats don't want to run against you. They would rather have Rick Santorum as the nominee. That's what you say?

ROMNEY: Well that's a -- that's what -- what someone like Michael Moore said on the air and -- and a number of Democrats. I saw a piece on the news where they interviewed people who had voted as Democrats. They said, yes, we're -- we are trying to give this to Rick Santorum because we want to stop Mitt Romney.

And of course, there've also been ads by the UAW and by other organized labor groups against me. They're -- they're trying to sway the votes inside the Republican primary against me.

And you know, that's ok. I understand the nature of the process. I think it was a mistake for Rick Santorum to join in league with them and to do Robo-calls saying hey, vote against Mitt Romney. Vote with Rick Santorum.


O'REILLY: Well, I can understand why Santorum did that; he wanted to win. But it's actually a compliment to you that the Democratic Party would be doing that. That's the way I would look at it?

ROMNEY: Yes, yes, yes me too.

O'REILLY: All right, let's get -- let's get into a couple of issues here. You know this Maureen Dowd this columnist for the "New York Times"? Do you know who she is?

ROMNEY: Yes, I do.

O'REILLY: Ok, she puts forth today that you guys, it doesn't matter who you are, you, Santorum or anybody -- you don't have a chance against Obama. He's going to wipe you off the face of the earth because you've damaged each other so much in the primary system that the Independent voters and others think that you guys just don't have what it takes.

That's -- that's what Dowd puts forth and I think that's the -- the prevailing wisdom among the chattering classes in Washington and the Beltway.

But what gets me is John McCain saying it as well. Let's roll the tape.


JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA SENATOR: I have been in very tough campaigns. I don't think I have seen one that was as personal and as characterized by so many attacks as these are. And frankly, one of the reasons is the Super PACs.


O'REILLY: All right. So how do you reply that you guys are damaged because you're beating each other up so much?

ROMNEY: Well, these Super PACs I think John McCain is right. The Super PACs are a new feature in American politics right now. Big money in the case of the Santorum campaign and the Gingrich campaign a single billionaire responsible for the lion's share of the funding of the Super PACs and that has a big impact. I think the process is going to go on longer as a result of the Super PAC dollars that come in.

But -- but I can tell you that, you know, I recognize that down the road we are going to get attacked by a $1 billion dollar Obama machine and in some respects this toughens us up a bit and gets the attacks out there. People get a little tired of them and hopefully we will be able to regain the strength once we have a nominee and we can focus on President Obama and his weaknesses, his weaknesses internationally and his weakness with regard to the economy.

O'REILLY: All right, so you don't think that all of this bloodletting in the debates and in the campaigns is going to hurt you or whoever the nominee is going to be in the general campaign? Is that what you're telling me tonight?

ROMNEY: Well, I would love to have an acclamation that everybody just agrees on the best nominee. But that -- that doesn't happen, that's not the real world. You have to battle. You have to earn it. You have to work for it. We are doing just that. The other campaigns are doing the same thing.

You know, I recognize that the process is what it is. And -- and I'll -- I'll fight to this process and hopefully be able to get the support of our party and then going on to focus increasingly on President Obama and his failures.

O'REILLY: All right but McCain thinks you're damaged because of this? Do you agree with Senator McCain? Are you damaged because of all of this - - this brawling?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, if you get attacked by someone, it doesn't make you better off. On the other hand, it toughens you up. And so there are two sides to that.

One we've -- we've exposed a lot of the attacks and I'm sure the Obama people will pick up on them and run with them themselves.

But also, I think I'm tougher as a result of this. I think the other guys are as well. And we'll come united when this is all over.


ROMNEY: Look, we're going to get behind our nominee.

O'REILLY: Now, I've known you for a long time and I know your sense of humor. You're a governor and I worked up in Boston. You know that, we go back.

You know whenever you make a joke like you did at the NASCAR race and you said you saw some people in these cheap little rain coats and you go way to spend the big bucks. And you know you're always going to be portrayed as a rich guy who is out of touch with the folks, condescending to the folks. Am I correct? I mean that's the way you're going to be portrayed no matter what you do?

ROMNEY: Yeah, you're probably right. I mean, the narrative that the - - that the Obama people want to push and that members of the mainstream media are very anxious to do for them is that anything I do, the joking around and having fun that somehow that fits their narrative.


O'REILLY: Yes, you're going to be a snob and this, that, and the other thing. So is it worth it for you even to say those things?

ROMNEY: Well you know, it's hard to imagine all the things they're going to try and turn into attacks. I mean, that -- that's the first time you've -- I've heard the one you've mentioned. Look I have worn a garbage bag for rain gear myself. And we're out there in the rain. And the rain was getting us soaked. I didn't -- I didn't have a rain coat myself. I would have liked one of those. So you know it's just a -- just the nature of --


O'REILLY: I know you were kidding around and anybody -- anybody who knows you, knows you were kidding around with the folks. I mean, I do it all the time. But you know anything you say can and will be used against you. I have to Mirandize you tonight, Governor, in front of the nation, ok? You have the right to remain silent.

ROMNEY: Yes, yes exactly.

O'REILLY: All right, but here is what I don't understand about you, ok? So you go on one of these debates and you say you know what I'm -- I didn't inherit any money, I made my money and I'm proud of the fact that I did it honestly. And I'm a wealthy American but that's who I am and you take it or leave it. Ok that's a good answer.

But you did inherit money from your father. And then you don't say what you did with the money. You want to tell with the folks what did you with the inheritance you got? Do you want to tell them tonight?

ROMNEY: Sure, you know, what -- what -- what my mom and dad gave us when they passed away, I gave away.

O'REILLY: But why didn't you do that in the debate? Why didn't you tell everybody in the debate?

ROMNEY: Well, I have described that -- I have described that before. It's not the first time I mentioned that.

O'REILLY: But you didn't do it in that big forum. No, I bet you -- I bet you people watching tonight don't know you gave every cent of it away. A lot of it to BYU University to honor your father.


Yes, we established the George Romney Institute of Public Management and talking about governmental management. Try to take some of the lessons from the private sector and apply them in the -- in the public sector. And -- that was something that we felt was the best way to honor his -- his legacy frankly at my alma mater.

O'REILLY: But why didn't you say that, Governor? Why didn't say -- why don't you say -- why don't you say stuff like that? Do you see what I'm talking about here? I have to bring these up. You said have said it.

ROMNEY: Well, I don't think of everything perfectly in every debate. I make mistakes and in this case that's probably a good thing to raise. But you know you don't want to look like you're patting yourself on the back either so --

O'REILLY: I do that all the time. I pat myself on the back all the time.

ROMNEY: Yes, you got better ratings than I do. So I can learn from you.

O'REILLY: All right, I'm just trying to be fair here to everybody. And you know, as I said, I did know the governor for a long time. And you're not the way -- look, you are not the way the left-wing press is portraying you and Barack Obama is not the way the right-wing press is portraying him.

I'm going to be fair. Neither of you, personally, personally, are the way that you're being portrayed by the media and I -- and I just think that's unfair.

Last word, Governor. Go.

ROMNEY: Well, this is an election all about the direction of America. And the question is are we going to have a president who understands how to make the economy work for the American people and get people back to work? And my experience in the private economy, with real jobs helping grow businesses, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, that experience we need in the White House.

If people think they just need a politician in the White House, we've got that. If you want somebody who is going to get the economy going, that's what I would bring to the White House.

O'REILLY: All right. I got to let you do that, Governor. So we appreciate you coming on tonight.

All right, we'll see you soon. Thank you.

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