This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," January 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A just hours ago, we sat down with Governor Mitt Romney, or actually we could say we drove around, we were in the Mitt Mobile with Governor Romney and his son Craig.
Glad to be back on the Mitt Mobile and Craig can admit or attest to the fact that I've driven it, very well, I might add. Right?
CRAIG ROMNEY, MITT'S SON: You did a good job.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm best in the media, right?
C. ROMNEY: That's right. You're the only.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I didn't want you to add that. You didn't have to add that. We're going to keep that, actually, a little quiet.
All right, so explain, you travel — we just went to a home. Do you know these people?
GOV. MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I met these folks before at a rally, and we've done, over the past four or five days, multiple stops everyday. Today, New Year's Day, we're saying, look, let's go to homes, because people are watching football, let's go in and see the folks that are the homes. We've set up seven homes that we're going to.
And so, we'd come in, I talk to them, and get a chance to get some pictures taken, get some free food, go on to the next home, getting people to be motivated to go to the caucuses, because Iowa, there's a small number of people who actually vote in the caucus. We're trying to get as many folks as we can.
VAN SUSTEREN: How you get them there? Because, that really is the problem. If it's bad weather, that may help someone, may hurt someone. I mean, this is really, a round them all up, it's like herding cattle, almost. Get everybody to get there.
M. ROMNEY: Yeah, and that's why you work so hard to build a ground organization, why you have people that'll come to your volunteer centers and make phone calls to remind people to go to the caucuses. Even in some cases, to provide rides to folks, so everybody does it in their own way, but, you know, I had no base here Iowa, so I've had to build my own team, and I think we did a pretty good job.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the polls? I mean, every time we read a different poll, somebody's up, somebody's down and everyone tells us that polls don't make a difference in Iowa, anyway, but we read them like crazy.
M. ROMNEY: Well, it's been fun. Here in Iowa, I mean, I started off totally unknown with support from just a few percentage points of people here, and then we had, of course, John McCain was way out in front, but he's really drifted down, and then Mayor Giuliani was way out in front for awhile and then he's drifted down, and then Fred Thompson way out and he's drifted down, and Mike Huckabee has 22 points ahead of me just a couple of weeks ago and he's now drifted down, so that we're pretty close.
I'm not sure what the final is going to be, but looks to me like I've been able to build, slowly but surely, and I'm either going to, I hope, come in No. 1 or No. 2. But, they say that you get three tickets coming out of Iowa, and I'm hoping to pull one of them.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you seen anybody else since you've been campaigning in the last couple of weeks, here in Iowa - seen any of the other candidates?
M. ROMNEY: I haven't seen the other candidates in Iowa, as of late. We typically see each other at the debates and it's like a great gathering again where we all say hi to each other, shake hands and the renewed friendships, but then we go off into our different direction. I know we're all here and we're all, you know, battling for the same votes. I understand that Mayor Giuliani was here over the weekend and John McCain has been here over the weekend. So, everybody's been working hard, but we don't see each other so much on the read because it's a big state.
VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) at the debates, you all smile at each other, you shake hands, everything, but then on the ground there's a lot of elbowing. I mean, you know, the whole bit with Governor Huckabee, he said he wasn't going to — he made a negative ad, then he says he's not going to show it, but then he shows it to the media. You know, and it's like, I don't know if that was dumb or deliberate. I mean, you know, if it was deliberate, that's not good.
M. ROMNEY: Well, I don't think he fooled the media with that and I don't think people of Iowa with that. It's a little like somebody saying: I'm not going to call my opponent any bad names, but if I were going to call him bad names, here's the bad names I'd use. And people just don't fall for that. I don't think it's going to work with the people of Iowa.
VAN SUSTEREN: I read someplace, when you talk about being a — predicting the future. What's the (INAUDIBLE) is it you don't want to be forecasting the future — what is the quote?
M. ROMNEY: Well, it's, I can't quite get it right, but Yogi Berra says...
VAN SUSTEREN: I can't get it right, which is why I'm having you do it.
M. ROMNEY: Well, he said something like: he doesn't like forecasting, particularly if the future is involved, and that fit the case, I'm not going to forecast who's going to win Iowa, but I expect to do well here, and I expect to do well in New Hampshire. And I'm probably the only guy who's going to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Thursday is the big day. What are you going to doing about 7:00 p.m. Thursday?
M. ROMNEY: Well, I guess we're all going to be together in our hotel room gathering information about which caucuses are showing what kind of numbers, what's happening. We'll, maybe be writing a victory speech, or hopefully not a concession speech, and then going on, getting ready to go to New Hampshire. Because it's — you know, this is not a one-stop operation.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't begrudge you all your great success. You've been enormously successful. But in, you know, looking on the outside, and I know it's hard work, but it looks like you've lived a charmed life. And when someone is someone is middle-class, how can they be certain that you'll get them, that you'll understand?
M. ROMNEY: You know, I think as people look at my record, they'll see that I've been able to do things that affect and that touch the lives of middle income and moderate income Americans. I'm not running to help rich people. I don't stay up at night worrying about rich people and how much money they have, I'm worried...
VAN SUSTEREN: Do they need help? Do rich people need help?
M. ROMNEY: Rich people are doing just fine, thank you very much. What — the people who need help are middle income Americans and moderate income Americans.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you think would be the most interesting person to debate, going to the general election, out of the Democratic candidates? Who would you like to debate?
M. ROMNEY: Well, each of them have their own area of strength and weakness. In the case of John Edwards, you have a person who's been so aligned with trial lawyers over so many years that I think the American people would find it very difficult to elect a trial lawyer.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's wrong with a trial lawyer? He is getting money for the people who say they've been hurt. I'm an good old fashioned trial lawyer.
M. ROMNEY: Sure, you know, he's won a lot of injury awards, and rich people - and make lawyer multimillionaires...
VAN SUSTEREN: You mean the citizens don't know how to come up - don't know how to evaluate cases?
M. ROMNEY: I think trial lawyers have enriched themselves at the expense of our medical profession, at the expense of our industrial sector, and it weakened our economy and do not do us a service by the scale of the awards that are provided.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the insurance companies? Would you put them in the pot involved in the problem?
M. ROMNEY: Oh, the insurance companies, of course, are paying off the awards, and the larger the awards that are being given out, the more the insurance companies have to charge for insurance, and that's one of the reasons health insurance is so expensive, because these malpractice awards are so large that they have to pay them off.
The insurance companies are in the business of taking money from folks to be able to pay off the claims, and if we have of lawyers garnering multimillion dollar claims of a non-economic nature, why, that is something, I think people recognize, is going to cost everybody more money.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know that the insurance lawyers get paid by the hour? They have no incentives to (INAUDIBLE) work it out way in advance to sort of eliminate a lot of the cost in the system.
M. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think you can see that the money in the legal profession is going to people who win these massive awards, and John Edwards is certainly one of them. So, that'd be an interesting debate to have with John Edwards. I do not think that trial lawyers are going to be the favored parties in the upcoming elections.
Then, you have with Barack Obama somebody who can speak well, but he really has not done much, yet, and it's kind of an interesting thing to expect that the president of the United States would have as his first real job of leadership, being president. I would have hoped that someone had more experience leading and guiding, as opposed to just talking. So, that would be a very interesting debate.
And then, of course, Hillary Clinton is a person who's got a very different track record than many who've run for that office. I would love to debate her on healthcare.
VAN SUSTEREN: That would be a great debate. That would be like one of those great issue debates, to be a debate in healthcare. A great issue debate.
M. ROMNEY: Yeah, I'd love to point out that my healthcare plan got passed, and her didn't — hers did not.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I imagine if I were running for president, and believe me, I am sparing our country, there would always be one issue, sort of burning issue, that, boy, I'd like to fix. You have one, like, that you think — well, I know you want to fix a lot of issues, but I actually believe all the candidates want to fix issues — but, is there one sort of like burning issue that you'd really like to get your hands on?
M. ROMNEY: Well, there are two categories. One is global jihad. Global jihad threatens this country and threatens the entire world unlike anything that faces us around the world. And I believe that I have the vision to help the world eliminate global jihad and end the terror that comes from al Qaeda and Hezbollah and groups like that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that vision any different from President Bush's?
M. ROMNEY: It is, and it takes our strategy combating global jihad in a — to the next stage.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which is what?
M. ROMNEY: And it is to bring together the nations of world, the free and moderate nations of the world and to develop a strategy, on a global basis, to help each nation which is confronting violence and jihadism, to help those nations become strong enough so they can reject the extreme.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you said you had one other issue, and I know that we are at a stop, but...
M. ROMNEY: Well, our domestic issues. I want to keep our economy strong, to make sure we have good jobs, global — the playing field is level across the world. I want to get our energy on track to become energy independent, that is an extraordinarily high priority for us, I want healthcare for all our citizens.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about housing — the mortgage industry?
M. ROMNEY: Well, we're going to go through a very painful time, as the mortgage industry...
VAN SUSTEREN: You and I aren't.
M. ROMNEY: Well, as a nation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Right, I know, but the problem is — you and I aren't. You know, a lot of people are.
M. ROMNEY: Well, but the — anytime you have a major disruption in the economy, the burden always falls on the forest and if we go into a recession, I hope we don't, but if we go into recession, it may mean you stock portfolio is worth a little less, but to some folks it means they can't put food on the table.
VAN SUSTEREN: I am not sympathetic to the people who got big stock portfolios.
M. ROMNEY: Yeah, no, and I'm — again...
VAN SUSTEREN: That's actually just gambling.
M. ROMNEY: The rich will take care of themselves, I don't begrudge them, but rich can take care of themselves. But, I do want to make sure is that we don't go into recession, that we do have a credit posture that allows people to stay in their homes and work out these mortgages and we don't see a collapse of our housing market in any way, shape or form.
I want to make sure that we help moderate and modest income individuals and middle income individuals. That's why I'm in this race. I'm not in this race to worry about rich people. They'll be just fine. I'm in this race to help American citizens, of all stripes, to make sure that our future is bright and that our country is strong for our kids and grandkids.
VAN SUSTEREN: Would your father be surprised you're running?
M. ROMNEY: My dad would be delighted. My dad would be in this thing, he's be in this Mitt Mobile, here, writing notes about what I should do next and giving me advice about the next event. He'd be in this 110 percent.
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