Gov. Romney: Marriage issue isn't about fundraising

2012 candidate on his same-sex marriage, president's stance


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Well, fresh off his support for same-sex marriage, the president is in a fund-raising frenzy. Just coincidental?

To Republican presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney.

Governor, good to have you.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Neil. Good to join you.

CAVUTO: He is raising a lot of money, by one account, $1 million in 90 minutes, Governor. Likely $15 million tonight at George Clooney's house. A lot of his base coming out even stronger since this decision. Are you getting anything like that from your folks?

ROMNEY: I don't think the matter of marriage is really a fundraising matter, either for the president; it certainly is not for me. I don't know what our figures look like, we just had a fundraiser here in Omaha, Nebraska, it was very successful. Have another one scheduled for Kansas City this afternoon, and that'll be successful, as well, I'm told. But I hope the issue as tender and sensitive as the marriage issue is, is not a source of fundraising for either of us.

CAVUTO: Well, it's obviously galvanized the president's base, and a lot of gay Americans who've liked the president who have been bitter that he has not been so strongly supportive, have now, really, thrown in their support, wallet-wise. Are you worried that's going to come to your disadvantage though?

ROMNEY: You know I don't know that there is a calculation about, you know, which positions are going to help and which positions are going to hurt, politically. I think you have positions, you describe what they are.

Hopefully people are focusing on the major issues of the day, which relate to our economy, getting people back to work. Dealing with Syria, hopefully getting Syria to pry apart from its relationship with Iran and get rid of Assad. Keeping Iran from being nuclear. These are the issues I hear about, day in and day out. The sense that we're spending and borrowing too much money.

But I know, for many people, the issue of marriage is going to be a defining issue, and they'll make the decision on that basis. That's their right. But you don't change your positions to try and win states, or certain subgroups of Americans. You have the positions you have. And, as you know, for a long time, I think from the beginning of my political career, I made it very clear that I believe marriage should be a relationship between a man and a woman. I know other people have differing views but that's my view.

CAVUTO: The president, in an attack ad that's already out now, Governor, maybe in response to, and a quick follow-up from this decision yesterday, said you've been all over the map on this issue. That you are against civil unions, you said this is a state issue, then you said that maybe it's the federal government that should handle it through a constitutional amendment protecting marriage between a man and a woman. What is your firm position?

ROMNEY: Well, thank you. For any confusion that is there, let me make it very clear, which is, that my preference would be to have a national standard that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. That would then allow states to determine what rights would be provided for people of the same gender that wanted to have a relationship. There could be domestic partnership benefits, for instance, where one state might decide to provide hospital visitation rights, another state might decide to provide that as well as benefits of other kinds.

States could have their own decisions with regard to the domestic partnership rights, but my preference would be to have a national standard for marriage, and that marriage will be defined as being between a man and a woman.

CAVUTO: Gays, quickly, interpret that, Governor, as being discriminatory to them, and that a President Romney would etch in the Constitution something that discriminates against a large swathe of people in this country, gays. What do you say?

ROMNEY: You know we, as a society, take action which we believe strengthens the nation. I happen to believe that the best setting for raising a child is where there's the opportunity for a mom and a dad to be in the home. I know there are many circumstances where that is not possible. Through death, or divorce. I also know many gay couples are able to adopt children. That's fine.

But my preference is we encourage the marriage of a man and a woman and that we continue to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

CAVUTO: Some have likened this to, sort of like the civil rights movement all over again. And that gay's push for rights is very analogous. What do you say?

ROMNEY: I don't see it in that light. I believe my record as a person who has supported civil rights is strong and powerful.

At the same time, I believe that marriage has been defined the same way for literally thousands of years, by virtually every civilization in history, and that marriage is literally by its definition a relationship between a man and a woman. And if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship, and even want to adopt a child in my state -- individuals of the same sex were able to adopt children. In my view, that's something which people have the right to do. But to call that marriage, is, in my view, a departure from the real meaning of that word.

CAVUTO: The president, yesterday, Governor, said that he was persuaded to this view because he had talked to his family, talked to his daughters. I wondered have you talked to Ann about this? Does she concur with you; your wife, your sons, your grandchildren. Are they all on the same page?

ROMNEY: I actually believe, despite the fact that I have a pretty big family; yes we are all on the same page on this. I know Ann is, of course.

You know, as I go across the country, I know that even within my party there are people who have different views on this, at this point. And recognize the Republican Party does not consist of people who all have the same views on all the issues.

And this is an issue which you can't really convince someone about. It's something which you either believe one way or the other. It's very much like the issue of life, and we come down on different sides of this issue after giving it careful thought and consideration. I respect the right of the president to reach the conclusion he has. And I presume he respects my right to hold to the position that I've had from the beginning of this topic being raised.

CAVUTO: Another topic that was raised, and its timing might have been just coincidental, but this front-page story of today's Washington Post, going back some 50 years, almost, to when you were in prep school. And a certain hazing incident against a suspected homosexual student, and that you led that hazing incident. I guess the kid had dyed his hair blond, and you and some buddies didn't like it, and you forcibly pinned him to a table, cut his hair.

You've heard the story, you know the story, it's out there. Any comment on it?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I had no idea what that individual's sexual orientation might be.

Going back to the 1960s, that wasn't something that we all discussed or considered. So that's -- that's simply just not accurate. I don't recall the incident myself, but I have seen the reports, and not going to argue with that. There's no question but that I did some stupid things when I was in high school. And, obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.

CAVUTO: Have you heard from any of the players? I know the then-teenager in question has now since passed away. I think he died in 2004. But have you heard from any of the ones who might have participated in this with you?

ROMNEY: No, I haven't.


I could switch gears a little bit, because many are looking at this entire issue, Governor, as being an enormous distraction, maybe deliberately planted. That is what House Speaker John Boehner said, to get the attention away from the economy. Do you think that's the case?

ROMNEY: Well, I think you're going to find, throughout this campaign season, that the president's team will be doing everything in their power to try and hold up very shiny objects. Many of them will be with regards to me, some with regards to the president's policies or promises of some new major giveaway.

All these things designed to take people's eye off the ball, which is the massive deficit this president has put in place, his inability to develop our energy resources in this country, his ObamaCare, which is not attractive at all to the American people, and an economy which is stumbling along, which should have recovered a long time ago. And, as a result, a lot of people are out of work.

Those are the things I hear about. When I'm campaigning, day in and day out, and taking questions from people on the rope line, in small meetings, and in town halls, it's the economy which is the focus of what they talking about. Obviously, the president doesn't want to talk about that.

CAVUTO: You've been doing a lot, and one of reasons why you are in Nebraska today – you've been all over in that region, oil rich region of the country. You've been talking a lot about the energy situation, gas prices have been climbing and all of that.

The last, you know, almost three weeks now, they have been sliding. Gas prices are going the other way and Democrats have been saying it is because the president started targeting speculators, jawboning about oil companies, and he's the reason why they are coming down. What do you say?

ROMNEY: Well, I think his explanation, a couple of weeks ago, when they were going up, was it was all because of the speculators. So, I guess now he wants to credit the speculators for them coming down. Look, energy prices are driven by supply and demand. That's as it has been, it's as it's going be in the future.

And the truth is that the president has restricted supply development in this country by holding off drilling in the gulf, by holding off drilling in the outer continental shelf, by holding off drilling in ANWR. Of course, by threatening the supply of natural gas, by talking about the federal government regulating fracking, stopping the pipeline, Keystone Pipeline from Canada.

Look, he is doing almost everything he can to make it harder to develop energy resources in here, and we are going to be paying for this in the years ahead.

And, the reality is, we have more oil production in this country today, by virtue of decisions that were made long ago, including by his predecessor. He has cut back the number of licenses and permits on federal lands by over half. And so he deserves no bow for the fact that energy prices now and then come down. I sure hope they come down, but it's not because of his policies.

CAVUTO: Well, you know, they have been jumping ugly on you, that it's Democrats as well, Governor, over your comments that you should take part of the credit for the auto industry comeback and the auto bailout's success.

The president termed in an Etch-A-Sketch moment for you. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm said that "You knifed us in the back for taking the auto rescue credit."

What were you really saying there? Because if my memory serves me right, you were dead-set against that rescue.


ROMNEY: No, here is what I said. And it's written down in an op-ed, where you can take a good look at it.

This was when the auto executives went to Detroit -- excuse me, went to Washington, flew down there in their company planes and said they needed a bailout.

CAVUTO: Right.

ROMNEY: And I wrote an op-ed. This was back when George Bush was president.

And I said, don't write them a check. They need to go through a managed bankruptcy. They have to get rid of the excess costs of the UAW and other excess costs, and then the government can help support. But don't write them a check.

And the head of the UAW, he said, that's absolutely wrong. These companies can't go through bankruptcy, it would never work.

But you know what? That's finally what happened. The president finally came around, and they went through a managed bankruptcy and now they are back on their feet.


CAVUTO: Yes, but they went through a managed bankruptcy with a lot of taxpayer dollars. That's where -- were you trying to draw the distinction there?

Because Mark Zandi of Moody's said without all those taxpayer dollars backing up the bailout, bankruptcy filing that was pretty much, as you said, the case, would have never been possible. In other words, a bankruptcy filing alone, these guys still would have been in deep doo-doo.

Do you agree with that?

ROMNEY: Well, what I said at the time was -- in that op-ed, I said, as they go into bankruptcy, if government support is needed -- if the government, for instance, has to provide guarantees, then that's something I would be open to.

Obviously we do not want the auto industry liquidated, go out of business. And I was on Fox and also on "Meet the Press," and other places, talking about this. We're not going to have the industry go out of business, but it needed to go through bankruptcy to get rid of those excessive costs before the government support would kick in, and, frankly, we spent, I don't know, a couple -- I think $20 billion before the president finally decided to let the companies go into bankruptcy. That's what he should have done from the very beginning.

CAVUTO: If you do not mind my getting a little personal, Governor, you know, it wasn't that long ago -- your wife, Ann Romney, was under attack by many Democratic strategists, famously Hilary Rosen, who said she never worked a day in her life. And I know she has spoken to -- I have spoken to her, of course, and she will be speaking to my colleague Martha MacCallum on this subject.

You were incensed, but reservedly so, in your response to this. Why?

ROMNEY: You know, I guess I save my energy and anger, and try and be a bit more measured.

CAVUTO: Yes, but this is your wife they were talking about. You know, this was -- they were saying some really outlandish things. And did you, as just a husband say, wait a minute?

ROMNEY: Yes, of course.

I mean, you know, look, Ann is not only the person I love, she's my hero. She's my life hero. She's an extraordinary fighter.

She did one of the most difficult things you can do in America, which is; she raised five boys, and raised them well. And they are good husbands and fathers themselves. That's an extraordinary thing. And she gets the credit for that. And she did that, by the way, shortly thereafter, with the disease MS affecting her, and ultimately, breast cancer. She's helping raise grandkids. Actually, just yesterday, she spent seven hours holding our two new grandchildren, twins.

She's an amazing woman.

CAVUTO: Congratulations. Congratulations, by the way.

ROMNEY: Yes, yes. Thank you.

But I know that there are some people who do not understand the kind of role she's had, and I try and not worry too much about what other people say.

CAVUTO: Does it bug you, though, on the campaign trail itself, that you're portrayed as just not hip. You can't sing, you've said yourself you're not cool. The president's cool. He can sing. It almost makes me wonder whether you need a hip or cool running-mate.


ROMNEY: I think I can sing. Come on, Neil.


CAVUTO: Well, you're better than me, but, then again, everyone is. But, you know, that comes again, and that's what you're up against --

ROMNEY: I'll do a sing-off, you know. And, you know, I don't think I'll play the president in a round of golf, but I'll be happy to take him to a water-ski course.

I mean, we have different skills, and different interests, and different hobbies. I must admit that my kids and grandkids are my hobby, and consume a lot of my interest and attention. But people are going to get to know me better. And, you know, Ann says there's a wild and crazy guy locked up inside of me...


CAVUTO: She has said that, right?

ROMNEY: ... and now and then I let him out.

CAVUTO: Alright, but I guess to the point.

I did actually have a serious point about whether your running mate should be counter to at least your image. You're sort of buttoned-down, very serious, you know, this corporate guy, and that maybe a running-mate should be a little younger, a little looser. Maybe a Marco Rubio comes to mind.

What do you think?

ROMNEY: I don't know if you're available, Neil, but I appreciate the input.

CAVUTO: I can't sing. I can't sing. We're doomed.


ROMNEY: Right. Right, can't sing.


ROMNEY: Frankly, I think what the American people would look for in a vice-president is someone who they believe could be president if that were necessary.

And that's probably the quality that is most important.

CAVUTO: Very quickly, and very finally, Governor, there's a distinction in some of the polls that show how registered voters feel vs. most likely voters.

Our Dick Morris has been looking at this most likely voter type polling that shows you doing better among that group. That is, again, most likely to show up at the polls we're told. And that you could be doing markedly better than the media officially says. Now, you and your guys crunched these numbers. Is that the case? Is your data telling you that?

ROMNEY: You know, that's encouraging, I had not heard that. I don't look at a lot of polls, to be honest, Neil, because I happen to know that, six months out, they really don't tell you much of anything. It's going to be very different between now and November. My guess is at some point I'll lead, at some point he'll lead; probably by a lot, in both directions.

But at the final analysis, I expect the American people are going to say, who is it that will make sure we have an America that creates the kind of jobs and the rising incomes that we need, and our kids need, and that can slay this deficit beast? And I can. And he can't. And I've proven that. And he's proven he can't. So I think that's how I win.

CAVUTO: Governor Romney, thank you for taking the time. We appreciate it.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Governor Mitt Romney.

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