Romney camp doubles down on welfare reform claim

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Your World" August 9, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: The release of this welfare reform ad by Romney campaign causing a firestorm, both the White House and President Clinton blasting the ad as untrue.

The Romney campaign responded today by doubling down, with help from then Senator Joe Biden.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, D-DEL.: I introduced a concept of workfare in 1986. I remembered being pilloried by my colleagues on the Democratic side at the time for suggesting that there be a mandatory work requirement for anyone receiving welfare.

BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: I was not a huge supporter of the federal plan that was signed in 1996.


VARNEY: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says the Romney campaign could not be more right.

Governor, welcome to the program.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: Thanks, Stuart.

VARNEY: Governor Romney says President Obama is gutting Bill Clinton's welfare reform. Is he?

MCDONNELL: Well, I carried the welfare reform bill here for Governor Allen in 1995, which became the bases of that ';96 plan that Clinton signed working with Speaker Gingrich.

And the essence of that bill, Stuart, was work, work for benefits. You work in order to get money to take care of your kids. And, in return, you get health care and transportation and child care. And so this recent directive, the way I read it from Secretary Sebelius goes right to the heart of providing alternative strategies and creative methods and other innovative ways to do things in place of work, is the way I read it and the way they are willing to give these kinds of waivers to the states.

And I think that does go right to the heart of what this social compact was all about that has been working for 16 years now.

VARNEY: You are very much on board with Governor Romney's attack on President Obama's approach to welfare? You are on board with that?

It's a very direct attack. You're on with that?

MCDONNELL: Well, I think it is a good contrast between what Mitt Romney tried to do to strengthen welfare reform laws in Massachusetts, when they only had about 15 percent of the people in Massachusetts that had to work when he became governor, and he routinely tried to strengthen that requirement to get people off of government dependence and on into independence.

And President Obama was very clear in the late 1990s as a state senator that he didn't not really support the bill that President Clinton signed in 1996. So, I think, bringing it to today, Stuart, is which of the two candidates is going to be better on making sure we break the cycles of dependency and help people that -- to work and get off of government welfare. I think that is exactly the point.

VARNEY: You are a Republican, Republican governor of Virginia.


VARNEY: President Obama leads slightly in Virginia.

Ohio is doing quite well. It has got a Republican governor. President Obama leads in Ohio. Wisconsin, Republican governor, doing a little better, President Obama leads.

This is a problem, isn't it, in the polls, when your state does well run by Republicans, but President Obama, the Democrat, does well? What are you going to do about that?

MCDONNELL: Well, it depends on who the voters ultimately give credit, Stuart.

The president may lead slightly in the poll now. I have seen other polls that show it a dead heat. The point is eight -- four months ago, President Obama was up by six or eight points, and the gap continues to get -- to get narrow. I think the enthusiasm is on the Republicans' side.

But the poll that came out today, even though it had Romney down by a little bit, was very telling in two regards. One, it's people trust Mitt Romney more on the economy, and that will decide this election. And, secondly, Mitt Romney is up by seven points against independents.


MCDONNELL: And independents are the bloc that are going to determine the outcome.

So, I am not discouraged. There's only poll that counts. And it is the one in 90 days.

VARNEY: If I asked you about the vice presidency, you simply wouldn't answer. You're a diplomat. You wouldn't answer.


VARNEY: But if I asked you, surely you would tell me what it is like to go through all of this very close scrutiny that you are going through. What is it like?


MCDONNELL: Well, Stuart, surely I would tell you that I will do anything I can to help Mitt Romney win -- win the presidency and win Virginia.

VARNEY: Ah. So...

MCDONNELL: And surely I would tell you that there's only one list that matters, and that is in Boston. So, you will have to ask them.

VARNEY: Therefore, sir, are you ready, willing and able to serve in the second highest post in the land?


MCDONNELL: Well, all that is up to Mitt Romney.

What I willing to do is to help Mitt Romney become the president, because...


MCDONNELL: ... getting the greatest country back to work and out of debt is...

VARNEY: This is fun.

MCDONNELL: What we need do. And I think Mitt Romney is the guy to do it.

VARNEY: You know, Governor, this is fun.

Would you like to be more closely involved at a very senior level in the running of the country?


MCDONNELL: Hey, you know, I'm chairman of the Republican Governors Association. I am trying to elect about eight new governors to help Mitt Romney as president. And I have got my hands full doing that.

But, listen, I will say that Virginia and many other states, as you pointed out, Stuart, run by Republican governors that have dropped their unemployment rate, that have created billions in surpluses, that have cut deficits, that's the kind of government you are going to get from a former Republican governor, Mitt Romney. And that's why we're all working hard for him.

VARNEY: You are -- sir, you are positioning yourself very well. And you ran out the clock.

Governor Bob McDonnell, Republican governor of Virginia, thanks for joining us, sir. We do appreciate it.


VARNEY: Thank you.

MCDONNELL: Thanks, Stuart.

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