Exclusive: Mitt Romney's strategy to fight President Obama's attack machine

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 8, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And tonight in a "Hannity" exclusive, I'll be joined by former Massachusetts governor, maybe soon to be president, Mitt Romney. And in a moment, I'll ask to him respond to President Obama spiking the football over Usama bin Laden's death and much more.

But, first, they were once political rivals, but now, former presidential Rick Santorum has thrown his support behind Governor Romney. In an e-mail to supporters, the former Pennsylvania senator that this is one of the most critical reflections our lifetime and I personally couldn't agree more.

Joining me now to respond to this is and much more, Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

All right. So you've been through a very hard, long, hard-fought difficult process. You have emerged the winner.

How does it feel?

MITT ROMNEY, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's a good start. We have a long way to go. The first chapter of the process seems to be over. And we're coming together.

The various candidates who battled each other have all decided that we're going to work together to make sure that we get the White House back in the hands that know what it takes to get this economy going again and to return to a kind of principles and values that made us the nation we are.

So it feels good. I got a long way to go obviously. Six months before the general election, a lot can happen in that amount of time.

HANNITY: A lot can happen in that time. Well, on the other hand, it can go very quickly.

There has been talk, rumblings, that I've heard, Governor, that there might be some kind of unity tour with you and all the Republicans candidates for the primary. Is that true? Have you discussed that with any one of them?

ROMNEY: You know I haven't heard that rumor.


ROMNEY: I obviously welcome the support who we've been --


ROMNEY: -- competing with. That's OK.


HANNITY: I was probably reading The New York Times.


ROMNEY: But, you know, I see a number of folks that were candidates for nomination and they've been supportive. We've done events together.

And, of course, a number of governors and senators who supported other people have endorsed me. So, I get a chance to see them pretty regularly and it's pretty encouraging.

HANNITY: It's pretty clear now, I think, in many ways, what the Obama campaign has planned. They can't run on their record, I make -- I contend they can't run on their record. So, they're going to -- they're going to use a lot of class warfare. There's been a lot of rhetoric that's been thrown around.

Let me show you, for example, this is -- like, you know, bad it's gotten. And it's very early. We still have six months to go. This is what the president said about the Republicans' plan. I just want you to hear it.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My plan says we're going to put teachers back in the classroom, construction workers back to work to rebuilding America, rebuilding our schools, tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for hiring veterans, tax cuts if you give your worker a raise.


OBAMA: That's my plan.

And then you got their plan, which is -- let's have dirtier air, dirtier water.


HANNITY: Is that -- do you want dirty air, Governor? I didn't hear you in the course of the campaign talk about dirty air and dirty water. Is that your plan?

ROMNEY: I think the only dirty air and dirty water is coming out of that clip that you saw of the president.


ROMNEY: Look, of course, we want clean air and water. And I'm surprised to have him say that he wants tax cuts for small business. As a matter of fact, he is raising taxes on small business from 35 percent to 40 percent. That will kill jobs.

You know, I think people have learned that what he says and what he does are not necessarily the same thing. And I think that's one of the reasons why people are disappointed in his presidency and why they want to have someone who will get jobs in this country by making America a good place for job creators, a good place for workers, great schools.

We know what it takes to create great schools. But, frankly, some of the teachers unions who are so adamantly supporting him have stood in the way of the kinds of reforms that will make our schools better.

So, I look forward to the debate, because we're going to have to sort through and get to the bottom of this.

HANNITY: You know, let me just -- because -- and I guess my next question to you is, because president can't run on, I think, the question. And I thought you had an interesting line last night that you won five states when you said, "Still about the economy and we're not stupid."

Now, we're looking at $5 trillion in new Obama debt. Maybe at the end of his four years a president, it might even as high as $6 trillion in new Obama debt. The very thing that he criticized George Bush for, called him unpatriotic, for 4 trillion in eight years.

But if we're going to deal with entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security those are going to be difficult decisions if we want to get to a balanced budget. So, this is the ad that I think has gotten the most attention. It seems like this is what you are going to have to deal with in the next six months, and that is that you don't care about the poor, kids with autism, the sick, the elderly, that as a matter of fact Paul Ryan and Republicans want to throw grandma in a wheelchair over a cliff. And they even ran an ad.

This is the ad that they ran.


GRAPHIC: More than half of Americans on Medicare live on less than $28,000 a year. Now, Republicans want to privatize Medicare.


HANNITY: Poor grandma got thrown over the cliff.

I imagine that the next ad is going to be Governor Romney throwing grandma over the cliff.

This is a serious point, though. This is their campaign strategy. Governor, how are you going to deal with that?

ROMNEY: Well, I think it's time for the truth. I think the American people recognize that we have important challenges, and that we're going to have to have someone who will speak about those challenges in an honest and adult way.

This kind of incendiary effort on the part of the Obama team, I just don't think will connect with the American people. It will fire up their base.

But the people who will be deciding, those people who voted for President Obama last time, but are not certainly one to vote for him again because these last four years have been harder than they had expected, harder than they were told they would be. Those people I think are going to take a very long and careful look at each of us, hear what our plans are, and decide who has a credibility to actually get this economy going on again.

Look, we're now in the longest, slowest recovery in record history for this country. And it's because the president's policies are so tuned into the old liberal approaches of the past, they didn't work back then, they're not working now.

We need to get a new vision to get America working again and to restore the kind of economic vitality that will make sure that our kids have the kind of future they deserve as well.

HANNITY: You're up five, six points in the latest Rasmussen poll. There are a number of polls where you're up by one point, head to head. Obviously, swing states are going to be very, very important, Governor.

The one poll that got my attention the most, the Politico/GW Poll among independents, you're up by 10 points.

When you read these polls, we are six months out, what do you think of them at this point in time?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it's very competitive at this stage. My guess is we're going to be looking at these polls and all the polls, and just suggesting that against an incumbent with a billion dollars he's raising, with an extraordinary machine that will be attacking me on a personal basis day by day, that we're the underdogs, that we're going to have to fight very, very hard to break through the clutter of the charges and the attacks and efforts to dissuade people from looking at his record, to instead actually look at that record and to lay out what our vision for getting this economy going, getting people back to work, and making sure that the future is bright.

I think we're going to have a lot of work ahead of us. I think it's going to be a competitive race. But I expect in the final analysis, the people who voted for him and are disappointed are going to vote for me in the fall.

HANNITY: And what about Obama and his words, it seems the ads that you have been running up to this point and the RNC have been running up to this point have focused heavily on his promises. Do you believe this president has failed in his time in office?

ROMNEY: Well, there is no question that the liberal policies of the past which he has put in place in this country failed the American people. I mean, how else can you explain three and a half years into his presidency, you have 24 million people out of work, stopped looking for work.

As a matter of fact, the reduction in the unemployment rate is due entirely to the fact that a large number of people have dropped out of the work force. Had those people not dropped out of the workforce, the unemployment rate would be above 10 percent.

This is -- this is a presidency that has failed to put in place the kinds of policies that would help the American people.

The president says he wants to help. Look, I'm very concerned about middle income families that are really struggling. I'm concerned about middle income families who dropped into poverty. I mean, you know, I meet from time to time with families that are really struggling.

Just today, I was with a family -- they are having a very, very hard time. They are concerned about being able to meet their obligations, and husband has been out of work for over a year. The wife is working a job that's doing pretty well, but she's got student loans to pay back, that she can't begin to make the payments on.

Folks are having a hard time out there and this president promised something very different than that and his policies failed us.

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