Mitt Romney on Importance of Michigan Primary

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," January 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, is it do-or-die for Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney tells me, no.


MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, we're going all the way through February 5, regardless of what happens here. I plan on winning here, of course, but I'm not going to let two or three or four states even decide what 50 states ought to choose for their nominee.

I, frankly, don't think the Republican Party is going to choose somebody who voted against the Bush tax cuts, as Senator McCain did, or who pursued an amnesty-type policy for illegal aliens. I just don't think that's going to work.

And, so, I ultimately think Republicans will pick somebody who believes in the major principles of the Republicans Party, and I hope that's me.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, is it fair to say that these issues that are near and dear to you didn't resonate that well in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they're finding, maybe because of the tough times Michigan is going through, a very sympathetic audience in Michigan?

ROMNEY: Well, I think that's possible.

I think people recognize that Washington is fundamentally broken. For years, it's been promising help for Michigan. It hasn't delivered. It said it would solve Social Security, didn't get the job done. It would stop illegal immigration, hasn't gotten that job done. Said it would get us off of foreign oil, didn't get that job done.

And, so, people recognize that just sending back the same old folks, of both parties, just to take different chairs in Washington is not going to get America on track again. We're going to have to have new faces that bring a new vision to Washington and deal with the problems we have.

And I'm — I'm not a lifelong politician. I'm used to the private sector, where, if all you can do is talk, you get fired. You got to get the job done. And I'm going to Washington to get the job done.

CAVUTO: Governor, you have criticized John McCain for backing these stricter fuel efficiency standards, the so-called CAFE standards. But wouldn't, longer term, it be in Detroit's interest to have higher fuel standards, period? All of a sudden, their cars in a higher fuel environment — price environment — would be very advantageous for them to do. We learned that the hard way after the '70s, right?

ROMNEY: Yes. The answer is, yes, of course. We want to see increasing fuel economy in our vehicles, but you have to do it on a schedule that works for domestic manufacturers, collaboratively with them, and you also have to find ways to support them as they make that transition.

This is, if you will, a public mandate. We're saying, "Guess what, we don't want the market to set what fuel economy is going to be; we're going to impose that from the government."

And we don't want to do that in such a way that we kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and a major portion of our — of our industry or our economy. And, for that reason, we have got to work collaboratively with the industry to help them through this transition. It's something I will do.

CAVUTO: All right.

The criticism has been of the auto industry, Governor, fair or not, is that they have a tin ear to what the market is demanding and what buyers are hoping to get, that is, more fuel-efficient vehicles or the kind of vehicles they can get more from abroad than they can get here.

What do you say about that?

ROMNEY: Well, our domestic manufacturers actually do a terrific job, particularly when you consider what they have to carry on their backs.

One, they have the cost of CAFE standards. Two, they have the cost of very high legacy costs from retirees. Three, they have excessive health care costs on their back. Four, they have very large corporate taxes, embedded taxes. Foreign cars coming here have their local taxes refunded to them. They come here and they have got American car companies they're competing with that have all the taxes embedded in the product.

So, we have got extraordinary disadvantages. Despite that cost disadvantage, our cars are pretty darn competitive. We need to take those burdens off the American manufacturers, so we have a more level playing field. And I think America wins when the playing field is level.

CAVUTO: Governor, there are other issues I do want to get into with you, but I have noticed something in just watching you, when I was watching, before you came up, the in-house feed we were getting of your remarks to the Detroit Economic Club and the Q&A you took afterwards.

There is a great deal more passion to your delivery and oratory that have I noticed in Michigan than in prior events I have witnessed you at. Or am I just imagining things?

ROMNEY: Well, maybe it's just the spirit of my dad.


ROMNEY: He, of course, was governor here in Michigan.


ROMNEY: And my dad had so much energy and so much passion.

And I can't tell you why. Now, you know, I think I was doing the same thing in the prior states, but who knows. We will have to pull the tapes out and see what's changed.

But, frankly, I'm getting increasingly frustrated watching Washington just fail on issue after issue. Our nation faces extraordinary challenges. I believe that I have got some of the experiences that could help me overcome those challenges in Washington. And I want to make sure people understand I'm serious about it.

CAVUTO: If you do manage to register, especially with union workers, this would be an unprecedented development for a Republican, period, and could be key to what any Republican does next November.

How important do you think that union vote, oftentimes considered more Democrat than Republican, could move Republican?

ROMNEY: Well, I actually believe that the union vote is very important to Republicans. In some estimates, as many as 40 percent of union members have voted Republican.

And I think union members recognize that it is not a we-they kind of situation between employers and employees. As the old saying goes, you don't help the wage earner by attacking the wage payer. And we're in this together. The auto industry is going to succeed or fail. And, if it fails, it's going to hurt not just the shareholders, but all the employees.

I want to make sure the industry succeeds, so we can keep thousands of jobs, and hopefully bring back some jobs where there have been layoffs, including just 200 last week.

CAVUTO: All right, Governor, there have been a number of candidates proposing lowering the corporate tax. I know you have been a big advocate of that.

And, in states like Michigan, the rap has been, a lot of big manufacturers then take that lower tax rate and ship jobs abroad. So, if that's the thanks you get for cutting their taxes, who needs to cut their taxes? What do you say?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, the — the experience of other countries in the world is some guide. You take a nation like Ireland, for instance. They cut their tax rate. I believe it's less than half of the tax rate in most of the other European nations. And they have become — well, they have moved from a basket-case economy to a booming economy. Jobs have been flowing into Ireland.

You will surely see some companies take a different course. But, overwhelmingly, employers and investors take their money and their jobs where the return is best. And if money is all going to government and taxes, they're not going to go there.

So, we're the highest taxed nation in the industrial world, next — right next to Japan. And it's time for us to become more competitive. And, if we do so, we will find ourselves creating more jobs.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you, Governor, your barnstorming Michigan today coincides with Barack Obama advocating a big economic stimulus plan, on the heels of Hillary Clinton with a big economic stimulus plan.

The biggest features of both are these tax credits to individual workers, I think, in Barack Obama's case, $250, in Senator Clinton's case, more like $500.

What do you think of tax credits, that sort of thing?

ROMNEY: Well, I will take a look at their plans and others. My team and I are looking at various programs to stimulate the economy.

By and large, however, I shy away from just handing money out, particularly if the money is going to go over to the oil-producing countries and make — and make some very unsavory people very, very wealthy indeed. I like programs, instead, that are focused on investment and creating the foundation that will keep growth occurring over a longer period of time.

And that's one reason why I proposed a middle-class savings program, not requiring any special accounts or special provisions, other than saying that people who earn $200,000 a year and less would be able to save their money, tax free. That means the new tax rate on interest dividends and capital gains would be absolutely zero.

That means more capital into the economy. It means people can save for their own future. These are the kinds of features, I think, that have more merit.

CAVUTO: So, I think, what I'm interpreting from that, Governor, is that the idea of rebate checks — be they $250 or $500 — while I — I guess you would welcome money back in Americans' hands, you look at that as being more quick-fix, short-lived?

ROMNEY: Well, I like finding ways — if we're going to send money back to people, I love bringing taxes down.

And I think people could plan if they see taxes come down. That's a great thing. But I like the dollars to be directed toward element that will build our long-term growth. And growth in our economy is the best way to provide for great jobs and for a — if you will, the gift that keeps on giving, a great job with great pay.

CAVUTO: Sir, Rudy Giuliani and his people say they have sort of one- upped you on this tax cut argument, proposing what they argue is the largest tax cut in history.

Rudy Giuliani was with me a few days ago, Governor, and he was saying that, by slashing the six known rates, individuals rates to three, cutting corporate taxes, encouraging investment, he — he will trump anything that's out there. What — what do you say?

ROMNEY: Well, we're all looking at ways to bring down taxes. I pointed out that I want to lower the corporate tax rate. I want to lower the individual tax rate across the board. I also have this savings tax plan. I have been talking about this for over a year. I'm glad that Mayor Giuliani has finally got his plan out. That's fine, too.

But, frankly, we're all talking about getting our taxes down. That's a good thing. And I'm not going to give people stars based on who comes out first, second or third, or who makes the biggest cut.


ROMNEY: We're, frankly — we're, frankly, going to work together to try and get our taxes down, and recognize, with a Democratic Congress, it's not going to be easy to do that, because they, of course, want more tax revenue for more programs. And that is the wrong way to go.

You will see Republicans come together on this issue. But I don't think you're going to see us differentiate ourselves based on who wants to cut the most.

I think, instead, we will differentiate ourselves from Senator McCain, he who voted against the Bush tax cuts. That, I think, is almost the unforgivable sin among Republicans.


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