'Kelly File' special: 2016 and America's challenge

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," July 3, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight with just four weeks to go to the first Republican debate of the 2016 race, polls show most Americans are worried about the direction of our country. So, what does America want from its next generation of political leaders?

Welcome to our "Kelly File" special, 2016 America's challenge. I'm Megyn Kelly. Consider what we face right now in this country, a stubborn Russia, a resurgent Iran, the Islamic State building momentum in Iraq and Syria and home the threat of home grown extremism and terror warnings looming over the holiday weekend. Globally and unpredictable world economy, domestically a weak recovery. The American dream seemingly more and more difficult to realize and an American society that seems to be changing faster than anyone thought possible.

Next year we elect a new president. On the democratic side Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner. For the Republicans, it is a crowded field but one prominent name is missing. Earlier this year, Mitt Romney announced that he would not be making another run for the White House but the 2012 republican nominee for President is not sitting this one out entirely either. Republicans haven't won the White House since 2004. There is no single unifying figure, no party leader. And Governor Romney wants to fill that void and use his political clout, his business experience and his vast donor base to put a republican back in the White House.

So, last month the Governor invited the 2016 republican hopefuls and the bipartisan group of America's most powerful and influential leaders to a summit in Deer Valley, Utah. The GOP contenders pitched their ideas in solving the nation's big problems. Governor Romney gave his own presentation blasting President Obama's foreign policy. And following the Governor's talk, we sat down together and I asked him about what he says are his plans to help his party and America win again.


KELLY: Listening to you just now, you've sound a little bit like a candidate who might want to run for office.

MITT ROMNEY, R-2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did that once, actually.

KELLY: You considering it at all?

ROMNEY: No. I'm going to fight for the things I think are right for the country. And yes, I would like to be president but I didn't get that chance. I had the chance to run, but I didn't win. And so, now it's time for the new generation of politicians to get the chance to get out there and take their message to the people.

KELLY: You're sure?

ROMNEY: No, I'm not in this.

KELLY: Ann, is he sure?


KELLY: Okay.

ROMNEY: That's why we got the big smile on our face.

KELLY: You look so happy. Ted Cruz came out today with, you know, yesterday with a, you know, a long song about how tough it is to be on the campaign trail. I don't know if he is just happy as he is.

ROMNEY: No, no. Let me tell you, there are times you get tired. There is no question about that. But being able to see the country, being able to meet the people that are not making the evening news, those people have typically done something bad. But the people who are building businesses, raising families, teaching kids in school, healing people, meeting those people makes you come away with a greater love for America, a greater sense of optimism and it's a privilege I would wish on every single American. So anybody who doesn't like the campaign ought to get out of it because it is fabulous and I envy those that are doing it right now.

KELLY: Wow! All right. Let's talk about ISIS. Because many believe that we now have the caliphate that they have desired and that they have promised. Do you believe that? And how do you undo it? I understood these lies. But how do you begin undoing in a stablish caliphate in Iraq and Syria?

ROMNEY: Well, I actually think that our objectives have to fall into two parts. The first stage, I believe, is to keep ISIS from expanding, to basically push it back and isolate it and then stage two is to defeat and destroy it. And that first stage I think has a number of strategic steps that you have to consider. And by the way, this is not the result of a lot of deliberation and analysis with a lot of people, but a few thoughts I'll make. First of all, I think it is important for us to make sure that Baghdad will not fall and that the capital city of what many call Kurdistan will not fall. And do the assessment of what's necessary to make sure they do not fall. Because if either of those places fell, the consequence in terms of the narrative as well as the human consequence would be enormous.  So, that's number one.

Number two, I think we have to pick one of the places they have invaded successfully and go back and take it away from them. Number three, I think we have to fight if you will a series of selective and almost guerilla-type tactics. Do to them what they are doing to us. I want to see us more effective in our bombing missions. That means, spotters on the ground. I want to see us having night raids, Special Forces, their Special Forces we can train. I want to see us hassling them. And I'll say, number four, we have to make sure and cut off their sources of funds. They have oil, they have land. We have to go after those resources and hit them hard and make them poor. So, those are some of the things that I think make part of the strategy.

KELLY: But how do you get at the Sunni Shire issue because General Odierno was out there this week. The army chief-of-staff saying, we could send 150,000 troops over there. And we'd still be in the same position we are in now because you can't get the Sunni and the Shiite to get along and be brought into leadership as you pointed out in your slide. And what's being done to address that?

ROMNEY: Well, we were, in my opinion badly mistaken. The President was to take our troops out of Iraq, to no longer have a kind of influence we once had in the military and that we would have also had I believe should have had in their governmental sector to make sure that Sunnis were involved in the leadership, not only of the military but also of the country, political leadership.

KELLY: Uh-mm.

ROMNEY: And so, if we are going to be successful ultimately in Iraq, the way the President by the way said, we were successful -- back in 2012 he said that Iraq was a shining success. And if we are going to get that kind of success again, we are going to have to get Sunnis to participate in the leadership of Iraq.

KELLY: How do we do it?

ROMNEY: And that is something --

KELLY: How do we do it? How do we do?


KELLY: Because I talked to General Jack Keane on the show all the time.  And he is the guy, a lot of people don't know this. But he is the guy who went in there. He had a meeting in the Oval Office with Bush and Cheney.  And he said, Mr. President, I'm sorry to tell you but your strategy is failing. It's failing in Iraq and it's failing in Afghanistan. You need to fire your generals and you have to search, not only can you not withdraw, you have to surge the troops. He got a call from Dick Cheney that night at home saying, you convinced the President and he wants you to run it.

General Jack Keane couldn't do it at the time because his wife was very ill. And he said, but I got a guy. I know this guy, General Petraeus.  So, he takes over. And it works. Right? We had the surge.

ROMNEY: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KELLY: The Anbar awakening. The Sunni -- it works. So is that where we are now? Someone is going to have to go in there and say, we need troops, we need a lot of troops. We need to secure it? We need to convince them and do the American people have the stomach for it?

ROMNEY: Well, we've made a lot of progress and Iraq has made military progress since that time. The Iraqi military is more capable today than it was back at the time where first putting in our surge. And so I believe that the Iraqi military and perhaps supplemented with troops from other places, hopefully not ours but certainly supplemented with our trainers, people embedded at the brigade and division level perhaps helping give guidance to Iraqi military people. That I think has to happen. And if that does happen, I believe we can again secure Baghdad, take a city or two that has been taken by ISIS and turn the narrative against ISIS.

By the way, I didn't mention this. They are waging a very effective propaganda war on social media outlets. We have to do the same thing. We did this once a week, you know, we dismantled the whole network of capacities we had to communicate our message to the world. We will going to have to do that again and make sure people understand what ISIS really is. But this is a winnable opportunity for us if we have clear objectives and a clear strategy. And if mine isn't right. Let's battle with people and come down with a strategy. How can we have a president of the United States who has been facing ISIS for the past, well, almost a year and he sends in 450 troops and then says, I don't have a strategy for how you are going to succeed?

KELLY: Complete strategy.

ROMNEY: That is a -- well, yes, a strategy to get to success and to win.  That in my view is unthinkable for commander in chief. We have got to have that kind of strategy.

KELLY: What about expanding beyond Iraq? You know, you look at the situation, it's not the only problem obviously. There's Syria, there's Libya, there's Yemen, there's Afghanistan. And when people look at the GOP presidential candidates, they say, well, you know, John McCain obviously is not running. But Lindsey Graham, that sort of ilk, they want to take us into war everywhere. And then, you look at Rand Paul and they say, he won't take us into war even if we get attacked. This is what people said, right? This is their reputation. What are we supposed to do about all of those countries where, you know, factions of al Qaeda are growing for example in Yemen and ISIS is now, you know, President Obama, there is a piece today by I think is Joanna Goldberg saying, President Obama was right. Al Qaeda was on the run. Unfortunately, something even worse has risen up in its place, ISIS.

ROMNEY: Yes. Yes. Well, I'm sure Lindsey would take exception with you.  He is here in the room tonight. So what he would say is --


ROMNEY: And what I would say is that in a setting like this, if you are in an enterprise of any kind, a country, a business, a church, school and you have all sorts of problems, you got 10 or 12 serious problems you prioritize which ones are the most immediate, which ones represents the greatest threat to this case to the United States and to our friends in the world. Which ones could we afford to sort of put on ice for a while hopefully contain them while we focus on others and get them resolved? So, you make that assessment.

KELLY: Uh-mm.

ROMNEY: I mean, I'm not suggesting that all the bad things that have happened in the world are all the result of President Obama's mistakes.  But I am suggesting that collectively his mistakes have contributed to bad things happening all over. And he has to take responsibility for that.  And the next president, this president won't but the next president is going to have to go through and prioritize and make sure that we focus on the most important and most urgent first, and I happen to think that that is ISIS. And I also think that it is Iran and nuclear Iran and that is something which --

KELLY: That's what I want to talk to you. So, number 20 on your list.  And you said, perhaps the biggest mistake of all was triggering a nuclear arms race in the Middle East which you believe will happen if we strike this deal with Iran at the end of the month. If it happens, right? If it happens at the end of June 30, and they come up with a deal, A, what do you think Israel will do? And B, how does the next president go about addressing that if the arms race is underway?

ROMNEY: My own view was, it's going to be very difficult for a deal to be reached that is actually signed. What I am frightened of is that the President is so desperate for a single foreign policy success will sign anything. And that is going to take Congress and the Senate and the American people to push back hard to keep that from happening.

KELLY: But you know that Democrats say, the republican line of we, should have just kept pressing on sanctions is not valid because the Europeans wouldn't have stood by us and that was weakening. That whole argument is weakening. The Europeans weren't going to be onboard anymore. And we needed to do something else.

ROMNEY: Yes. If the something else is exceeding to Iran having a nuclear weapon, I'm not for it. And we have had presidents in the past that have been able to work with our allies and to use our economic and diplomatic strengths to keep ourselves together. United we stand, divided we fall.  And this is a setting where we would have to communicate and work with the leaders in the free world to say, you know, what? We are not willing to agree with Iran to let them keep their centrifuges, to keep -- to keep that protected site where they are working on nuclear weapons technology to allow them at the same time tell us that we can't go into their bases to have spot inspections. Look, in a setting like that the world is not safe.  It is become less safe and we have to convince our friends to stand with us. I hope the President can do that.

KELLY: Where do you stand on the debate we have been having in the country lately about civil liberties versus protections through the NSA, through the Patriot Act and so on? Because we are now seeing, you know, home grown terror more and more in individual base, some have actual connections to ISIS, some just self-radicalized. And where a lot of people believe the answer is to monitor these people, to have a robust NSA program where they have the metadata of, you know, phone calls that may come in from the terrorists who have not line, it's not identified with a person yet but will be if the terrorists calls and so on. And of course, we have all seen what Rand Paul has done with this and the position he has taken.

ROMNEY: I stand firmly on the side of gathering the information we need to keep America safe. Look, all law, well, almost all law is in some respects a limitation on freedom. We say, look, this is important to us so that we can have life and liberty and prosperity. We put in place laws and rules and regulations. One of the things that protects our lives is the capacity to make sure that people are not going to attack us in this country. And the kind of data, I think people have this idea that the NSA was gathering, you know, tape recordings of phone calls and listening to people's phone calls. They are just looking at records of who called who.

KELLY: They don't even have a name attached to it. And they only look at about 20 percent of the phone records and almost no cell phone records.

ROMNEY: Yes. And, you know, I listened to the people. We listened to Chris Christie today. And he said, as a prosecutor, he used the information that came from Patriot Act to go after people who represented threats to American security and life. The first responsibility of government is to keep us safe and free. And in my view, I want to see that information kept. I want to use those things which are most effective in protecting us.

KELLY: Uh-mm. Rand Paul is worried about what could happen, what, you know, entrusting government with too much power and he looks at things like the Eric Clapper not wittingly moment and says, we can't trust these people. You know, they lie to the Congressional overseers who are supposed to be keeping them on.


KELLY: Governor Romney responds next. Plus, we'll take up the issue of National Security, Jeb Bush. And where we are with the question that rocked Jeb's campaign before he'd even began.


KELLY: Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?




KELLY: Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?

JEB BUSH, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would have and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.

KELLY: You don't think it was a mistake?

BUSH: In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw and not just the United States was faulty and in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn't focus on security first and the Iraqis in this incredibly insecure environment turned on the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place, as well. George W. Bush.

KELLY: Your brother.


KELLY: Well, back in May I had the chance to question Governor Jeb Bush on a range of issues over nearly half-an-hour. But it was that exchange that dominated the headlines in the days after. So, I posed that same question to Mitt Romney and got his take. First though, his thoughts on our larger national security.


ROMNEY: Well, I'm not worried just about what could happen, I'm concerned about what did happen. We got attacked on 9/11, we got attacked in Boston with a bomber. There have been other individuals that have attacked America. And this is not theoretical about maybe this could happen. This is real. And I want to make sure that the protections of the Patriot Act are kept in place so that the American people can have greater confidence in our safety.

KELLY: Let's talk about 2016 a little bit. I had an interview with Jeb Bush. And I asked him a question which made a lot of news. It wasn't intended to make a ton of news. I thought it was a pretty straightforward question. But he struggled to answer it with me and then he struggled to sort of figure out where he's going to land on it. Which is knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq. In your remarks just now, you said, the answer to that is no. We see in retrospect, that was a mistake. And yet, you know, some people have said the answer should still be, yes.

The answer should still be, we depose the dictator, we liberated the country, we were promoting our values which Jeb Bush told me was a good thing. Nation building and expanding our values and other nations as a good thing. And would stand behind the mission even knowing what we know now. Is he wrong? Should all the GOP candidates be answering it as you did now?

ROMNEY: I am not going to suggest how the other candidates answer it. But had we known that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and had the intelligence said, look, this guy is a big blow hard but he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction, it's not about to get them. We would not have entered. And I think President Bush has said that himself. We would not have gone in had we known what we know now.

KELLY: As a political matter, how badly of it all do you think that answer, that struggle that we the Jeb Bush had hurt him?

ROMNEY: Oh, I don't think it's something that lasting. Look, things are happening now in the political process, very few people are listening to.  The American people aren't spending a lot of time following the politics like you and I do.


ROMNEY: And --

KELLY: But, you know, you read -- the "New York Times." And the "New York Times" of course will come out and say, he has really hurt himself. Like his donors are afraid he can't handle the big leagues.

ROMNEY: Yes. And he has raised a lot of money. And those donors are not leaving him. Let me tell you. Donors can get nervous about something that happens. Candidates will make mistakes. By the way, I believe just like he said that he misunderstood the question --


ROMNEY: And answer to thinking that you would --

KELLY: But then, you know, he struggled for four more days. That was the issue.

ROMNEY: Sometimes it is hard to communicate. I mean, I made a mistake or two communicating. Some people may remember that. And so, fortunately he made his way, way, way early.


ROMNEY: And he'll make other mistakes as will the other candidates. Look at Hillary Clinton and her mistakes. Unbelievable.

KELLY: But she doesn't have to answer for them because she doesn't speak to anybody.

ROMNEY: Well, I mean, I find it extraordinary that while you have a death penalty come down in Tsarnaev case in Boston and she doesn't speak about whether she is for or against the death penalty. We had trade promotion authority this week come to the United States Congress. She doesn't speak about her position.

KELLY: Right. An issue in which Democrats are divided.

ROMNEY: She was in favor of it before of free trade. Is she now? Won't speak about it.

KELLY: She we went back and looked. She has answered 20 questions since she launched her campaign or whatever it was with the video. And it wasn't really the launch. Anyway, 20 questions and we looked. Some of them are, how are you enjoying Iowa? I mean, it's like --


ROMNEY: Tough media question.

KELLY: Right.

ROMNEY: Yes. Yes.

KELLY: But, is it working? Is she smart? Is she smarter than everybody else because, you know, Jeb Bush to his credit sat with me and took hard questions? They all have but not Hillary Clinton.

ROMNEY: Well, she doesn't have at this stage a tough primary to look forward to, and so she can afford sitting back. She doesn't worry about --

KELLY: Getting a little rusty, though? I mean, is there a fear of that?

ROMNEY: Well, we will have a much more exciting primary process than she will. And our candidates will find their voice and be able to respond to questions like this in an effective way. And when the debate occurs between one of ours and perhaps Hillary Clinton I think our contender will be able to do a pretty darn good job.

KELLY: Uh-mm.

ROMNEY: And if she hasn't answered these questions, she will get a chance to in the general election. And frankly, you know, I think her greatest problems are not just the way she is not answering questions. As you look at her history over these last several years, one as the secretary of state with the record which is not exemplary by any means. So, look at what happened in the world, her record as secretary of state is found wanting.  And then we find out that she is been taking money from foreign entities into this family foundation at the same time, she's serving as secretary of state. And this was something she agreed with the Obama administration not to do.

KELLY: Uh-mm.

ROMNEY: And then she has a server in her own home. I mean, I vote for raising -- does anyone here have a server, an e-mail server in their home?  This is not like this happens all the time. It doesn't happen. And so all of these things combined I think suggest to people that she is not trustworthy.


KELLY: Well, we also have new reaction tonight on the 2016 candidates and the press, how they handled the media and how the media handles them, next.


KELLY: How about Chris Christie because there is obviously bridge gate which Charles Krauthammer thinks is a deal breaker for Chris Christie. But there's also Romney-gate. He -- this is what Republicans say --


ANITA VOGEL, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Live from America's News Headquarters, I'm Anita Vogel. Cities across the country beefing up security ahead of July 4th events. A source telling Fox News the terror threat level is one of the highest we have seen in a decade. The Fed say, there's no specific credible threats but there are reports of a rise in terror chatter on social media. The FBI has set up command posts to monitor events across the country. The warnings follow the recent arrests of several suspected ISIS militants in the northeast.

And tens of thousands of people in Athens rallying for and against Sunday's austerity referendum. Greece's Prime Minister is urging people to vote no to the measure which would mean more budget cuts and tax hikes in exchange for a new bailout. Greece is in a dire financial state after another bailout program expired earlier this week.

I'm Anita Vogel, now back to our "Kelly File" special.

Well, the media can play a major role in elections especially when every facet of a candidate's life is up for grabs. Contenders like Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Mitt Romney before him learned quickly that nothing is apparently off limits and now Mitt Romney's candid take on how the republican 2016 field is shaping up and his take on the potential weaknesses of those in the race so far.


KELLY: I want to ask you about Marco Rubio who is obviously the subject of this "New York Times" piece this week, that told us what a lavish spender he is. About his luxury boat which turns out to be a fishing boat. That he spent $80,000 -- $800 book advance on this boat. In their defense, he did moved back in with his mother-in-law which I think, you know, most of us would say is punishment enough, not me because I love my mother-in-law.  I would not do that.


But in any event, this is going to be the narrative that he is fiscally irresponsible, that you vetted him and rejected him as VP because of this issue and that the American people should not trust him with their pocketbook.

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, that vetting story is simply wrong. The New York Times has no idea what our vetting process was. And what we look at didn't look at and what they said was simply wrong about our vetting process. That's number one. Number two, I got that article front page New York Times and the first page I thought there wasn't much here, but then I turned and opened up a full page story. I mean.

KELLY: It kind of reminds me of the Washington Post story on you and your years in high school.

ROMNEY: Yeah, that have -- and so I got that (inaudible) this is gonna be a quite a story. And I started reading and I read, read, I kept on looking for where is the hook here? Where is the big something? And I was buying a fishing boat. That was about it. And I -- I mean, if that's improvident choice in this part, that spending, I do look at the New York Times, if we are going to look at bad spending. As I recall, they bought the Boston Globe and the Western Telegraph for $1.3 billion and sold it later for $80 million. So if you want to talk about spending problems, the New York Times has to look home first.


KELLY: What about -- so that may not hurt. That may not hurt him with GOP voters or independent voters. But what about the flip-flop on immigration that he -- he's got one, Walker's got one, Jeb Bush, arguably has one. But Rubio is the one that really gonna go after on that because he did flip.

ROMNEY: Well, what he said was -- and he is better to answer that than I. But I listened to him. He said look, he went out there with a series of things he thought what make their immigration system better. He had a whole series of elements, one, how to make legal immigration better, so it bring in the kind of people with skill and experience in education that will America stronger. Number two, to make that sure we can secure the border, and number three, to deal with those that have come here illegally. So he had something that dealt with each of those. He pushed it, he wasn't successful. And so he said OK, that didn't work. So I'm gonna go to plan B, that not having work. I will go to plan B. And plan B said look, I've learned what we are going to have to do before the American people will trust us on immigration is secure the border. So his immediate priority is to secure the border. You know, you can call that and characterize it what you want, but it's a position based upon its experience, and the fact that he tried something and it failed. And if you try something and you can't get your colleagues to go along with it? You try for something else. You think has the better shot.

KELLY: How about Chris Christie? Because there is obviously bridge gate which Charles Krauthammer thinks is a deal breaker for Chris Christie. But there is also Romney gate. He -- this is what republicans say to me. They say he didn't support you in the way they wanted to see him support you. At the end, when it mattered that his key note address at the republican national convention was about him and not you. That after hurricane Sandy, he came out and he did the bear hug with President Obama and then he was asked actually on Fox News, "What about Mitt Romney? He's gonna come and tour the areas, would you like to see that?" And he said, "I don't give a damn." And people said, "Hey, whoa. That's your guy. What -- you need to be more in his corner." And they hold it against them. I hear it from republicans all the time. Should they?

ROMNEY: Now Chris and I are great friends. We continue to get together on a social basis. I like Chris. I think he's been effective governor. He's a fighter, there's no question. Right now, as the poll numbers suggest he is low on the polls today, don't mean a lot. But he is low on our polls, but people love a comeback story. This is the kind of guy who -- by the way, on a debate stage with Hillary Clinton, I know who is going to win that debate. And the --


ROMNEY: And so, you know, I look at Chris and say, you know, I respect him. I admire him. He worked for me during my campaign. He went out and flew around to Iowa and made campaign stops. We're on the trial together. We're in the bus together.

KELLY: It must have been a little irritating to see the bear hug.

ROMNEY: You know, he was trying to doing what he thought was best to get the support he needed for his state.

KELLY: You're so nice.

ROMNEY: That was in trouble.



ROMNEY: Look, we are not going to elect a president if we're gonna hold grudges because there's gonna be -- I have a friend who says, you know, every candidate may be wonderful but they all have a butt. And he said.


ROMNEY: And by that he means this guy is terrific but, this problem. This guy is terrific, but he has that problem. Everybody out there has got something you are not going to like. But you got to find people, you have confidence in, you think you can do the job and Chris is one of those who I think would be a terrific candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KELLY: Well, we've asked the immigration question. We've asked the Iraq question. But the one thing everybody wants to know is who Governor Romney thinks is going to win? Up next, Governor Romney reads the Tea Leaves (ph) and shares the lessons learned from one of the most infamous moments of the 2012 campaign.


KELLY: Ben Carson, could he win?

ROMNEY: I got, the lowest grade I got in college was in political science. So I'm not gonna.


ROMNEY: And so I'm not gonna make any assessments here.

KELLY: It could have been downloaded, you feel like in the Harvard.

ROMNEY: I think -- yeah.



KELLY: Well, the one thing people really want to know is who Governor Romney thinks will actually win the republican nomination. I asked him not only for his take on who he thinks is leading the 2016 field, but also for the lessons that he would share with these candidates after one of the most infamous moments of the 2012 race for the White House.


KELLY: Let me ask you about Krauthammer because he has a piece today, talking about the next tiers. He says top tier Bush, Walker, Rubio. He says the next year is they poll well but they cannot win. Rand Paul, Ben Carson, do you agree with that? That second part?

ROMNEY: I don't begin to be a political scientist. As a matter of fact, the lowest grade.

KELLY: Ben Carson, could he win?

ROMNEY: I got, the lowest grade I got in college was in political science. So I'm not gonna.


ROMNEY: And so I'm not gonna make any assessments here.

KELLY: It could have been downloaded, you feel like in the Harvard.

ROMNEY: I think -- yeah. I think it is way too early to be talking about who's the frontrunner.

KELLY: Really?

ROMNEY: And who.

KELLY: Anybody still has a chance, the one that one percent?

ROMNEY: Look, I think -- yeah, I think people that haven't been seen yet, haven't debated yet. Haven't put their team together yet, sure they have a chance to get the opportunity to get out there and show their stuff. So don't write people off at this point. By the way, the gap between the so- called top tier and the next tier, that gap is nothing larger than the margin of error. The poll says they are in their polls. So let's give each of the people the chance and pick the person who we think has the best shot of winning and it also carries the views that we have to the White House.

KELLY: It's the folks in cable news who watch the polls. It's interesting. It's the news updated.

ROMNEY: Yeah, yeah.

KELLY: We're gonna have the first republican debate on the Fox News channel, August 6, out of Cleveland, Ohio. And that's gonna be a make or break moment for a lot of these candidates. I've always wanted to ask you this, having been at all of your debates last time around. Do you -- what is the main lesson you took away? Because you were perceived as a superstar, debate number one, as pretty -- did pretty well at debate number two and then the reviews were not as good on debate number three. What is your own self-assessment and what did you take away and want do you want these candidates to take away?

ROMNEY: Well, a lot of things happen in the debates that are unpredictable. And there are opportunities that come and there are mistakes made both sides and the.

KELLY: Like the moderator can side with your opponent.

ROMNEY: Yeah, that was not the high point of that debate.



ROMNEY: And kind of unexpected. And you know you have a choice at that point. You attack the moderator. And if it were all republican crowd that would go over big. But for the republic at large, attacking the moderator is like, wait a second. That's the referee, you don't attack the referee. And -- so you make those choices some right, some not. I think the debates give people an opportunity to show who they are. And you get to know about something about their heart and their passion. What they care about. What these policies are being.

KELLY: Was there something that you did that you know, that you really think everyone should do, or something you didn't do that you wish you had?

ROMNEY: Well, there is no question you want to be up to date on all stories of the day and you want to hear what your opponent has been speaking about. That I think is critical. And there are things I would -- going back, I like even more preparation, you want to know as much as you can. But you know we had 20 debates during the primary.

KELLY: I remember.

ROMNEY: And I think we did very well in those -- didn't win all of them, won a lot of them. And going back, we laid out a strategy to try to win each of them.

KELLY: It had to be worse for him. It had to be worse for him.

ROMNEY: It is worse for him.

KELLY: When you are powerless on the sideline.

ROMNEY: She -- you know, I like over there, she was gray, you know, and (inaudible) it's like, what is he going to say? What is gonna happen that.

KELLY: But, it's got to be true.

ROMNEY: But there gonna be the best part of the debates for me was we get little breaks and I, you know, rush to see and say, how am I doing? And.

KELLY: Did she ever say, not very well.


ROMNEY: You know it's damming with faint praise, all right?

KELLY: All right.

ROMNEY: So there's like, oh, this is fine. You know, that's not good.

KELLY: Well.


KELLY: Well.



ROMNEY: And so, just having her there and knowing that she was always in my corner was the best part of the debates.


KELLY: So now that he has the chance to look back on the past seven years, what kind of report card would Governor Romney give to President Obama? The answer to that gets interesting, and its next.


KELLY: Do you think he has been a uniter (ph) as he promised you would be?

ROMNEY: No, no. Unfortunately, the -- I mean, he came out -- it he began in 2008 with that as his mantra and that has not been part of his administration.

KELLY: Do you think any president could be in this day and age?



KELLY: By the time we get to the general election, the democrats may have put together a ticket that features a woman and a Latino. So how does the GOP counter that challenge? And did this president keep his promise to the minority groups who helped him win the White House, those questions in the final part of my conversation with Governor Romney.


KELLY: Obviously, Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner for the democratic nomination. How does that effect who the GOP needs to nominate, to combat her especially given the rumors that if she gets it she will heavily consider a Hispanic running mate?

ROMNEY: I -- my own view is that you choose the person who you think could be the best president. And obviously, you want them to be successful as a campaigner and have all of the other attributes that would lead to an electoral victory. But, I think you choose the person who you say this is the president I want to see in the United States of America. And say most.

KELLY: Even if the GOP field is two white men running against a woman and potentially a Hispanic?

ROMNEY: Well not, I am not going to tell our nominee, you know what they should do in terms of their running mate, if they may well be an Hispanic person, African-American, a woman. We may have a woman as our nominee. Carly Fiorina has been out there, you know, kicking butt. Everywhere she goes, going after Hillary Clinton. She could become our nominee. So let's get some, you know time here to see who performs how well. But we have an African-American running. We have a Hispanic individual running. We have Carly Fiorina running. So would, you know, give us some time. But I do believe that the great majority of the American people, when they finally get to the voting booth, will not make the decision based upon the gender of the person, or the race of the person. But they will -- in or their ethnicity, they will make their decision based on who they believe will keep America strong, make them more safe, provide greater opportunity for them and provide a great future for their kids. That's what I think it will come down to.

KELLY: A couple of questions on Bill Clinton. He spoke out about the Clinton Foundation, controversy today, and he was speaking to Bloomberg and his response to Bloomberg when pressed about you know, what was the money for, where did they go, what happened? Was and a quote, "Has anybody proved that we did anything objectionable?" No.

ROMNEY: That's quite a standard of proof, isn't it?

KELLY: This where -- I mean, this means to be we're stand out (ph).

ROMNEY: Yeah, yeah.

KELLY: It won't hold up in a court of law, which of course is not the same thing as whether it would hold up in the court of public opinion. But that story, as Bret Baier said, it doesn't fit like on a bumper sticker that well.

ROMNEY: Yeah, yeah.

KELLY: It's not to really sort of condense it, so that - you know, people who are living their lives and not paying that close attention to this race understands it, right?

ROMNEY: I agree with you. I think people look and you seen polls of fire, which suggest that the people do not find Secretary Clinton as a trustworthy person. They don't have confidence in her. And I think that's a barrier for her campaign.

KELLY: Do you think it's sinking in?

ROMNEY: Oh, I think American people who think with the Clintons, it's always something. And this case is one thing after the other, after the other. And sure, the members of her team and the people that are die hard blue dog democrats will vote for her. But there will be people who will say no, I just don't feel comfortable with her and that is if we have a nominee who is able to garner the confidence of the American people. So it doesn't help her. Look, this one problem after the other, her unwillingness to answer some questions, these things don't help her. I think members of the media who might be inclined to be in her camp are finding her approach to the media to be very troubling. I think they find that the secrecy of hiding e-mails and releasing a piece meal and having an e-mail server at your home, I think they find it very troubling. That they find millions of dollars, millions of dollars been given by foreign entities or individuals who have business before the State Department, while she's secretary of state. They find that very troubling. And can you prove that something was done inappropriate? It's very hard to prove those kinds of things. But Secretary Clinton knew that at the time those contributions were being made. She knew they represented potential problems and that they created a wrong impression and went ahead anyway. And that on my opinion says a lot about her and about her tendency to step just a bit over the line. And I think the American people don't want that in a president.

KELLY: How about Bill Clinton and his past? Because Kelly Paul, the wife of Rand Paul, and Rand Paul, after she said it have made the argument that his issues with women should be fair game in this campaign. What do you think?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I come from Massachusetts politics, and almost everything is fair game in Massachusetts politics. But I don't think that will advance our electoral success by trying to draw that into the campaign.

KELLY: Couple of question about Barack Obama. Do you think he is a good man?

ROMNEY: I think he has a good heart. I think he's -- I think he loves America. I think he loves his wife and his kids. I'm confident of that. He's a good family person. I -- he set a good example for many families in that regard. And I think that's a good thing. I don't look at him as being a bad person by any means. I just think he's been an extremely disappointing person as president.

KELLY: Do you think he's been a uniter (ph) as he promised he would be?

ROMNEY: No, no. Unfortunately, the -- I mean, he came -- it began in 2008 with that as his mantra and that has not been part of his administration.

KELLY: Do you think any president could be in this day and age?

ROMNEY: Oh, yeah.

KELLY: Yeah?

ROMNEY: Oh, sure. I really do. I mean, I -- some of the divisive issues. The issues like Afghanistan. I mean, the American people don't understand why we are still there, it's a big topic. And in the past, we've had presidents that in wartime that got one on TV and told people what was going on. And talked about our troops and told personal stories and informed the American people. I think the commander in chief has to be the educator in chief in some respects and admits the mistakes he's made. And says here's what we're going to do and talks about what's going on in wartime. As opposed to this going out and talking about republicans and setting up these straw men saying, they want to do this and they want to do that. And it's attack, attack, attack. And I know it's frustrating, I'm sure to work -- have to work with people across the aisle. But that is way of democracy works. Get over it and start looking across the aisle to find people you can work with and find common ground with. You know, Ted Kennedy and I, I ran against Ted Kennedy. He and I disagreed on almost everything. But we got along and we worked together on things where we could find common ground. The president hasn't done that. And the consequence of that is that he's been president seven years, and you say what he has done to deal with the major issues that we face, the failure in education, our challenges to be more competitive so we can created more jobs and see rising wages. Why is the middle class falling further and further behind? He's been president seven years. How about the fact that minorities and immigrants are falling further and further behind? Those are the ones that have been most hurt during these Obama years. How can you be president and have all the challenges that we have and make almost no progress to get?

KELLY: Of course, he says he got us out of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says the unemployment rate has gone down and eventually every state since he took over. I mean, he talks about, obviously ObamaCare. Whish he is very proud of and I'm really -- it's controversial, but he is proud of it. This is actually my last question for you, he ran promising to fundamentally transform America. For better or for worse, depending on your view, do you believe he's done it?

ROMNEY: Well, let's look domestically. Are we more united as a nation? No. Are schools better and preparing our kids for the jobs of the future? No. Is the middle class doing better under this president? No. Are Americans convinced that we can compete with anyone with the world and that this is the best place start and grow an enterprise? No. And then look around the world. Are things better in the world as a result of the policies of President Obama? No. The world is more dangerous. It just hasn't worked out the way he hoped it would work out.

KELLY: Governor, thank you so much for your time.

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


ROMNEY: Thank you.


KELLY: We'll be right back.


KELLY: Well, thanks for watching our special, 2016: America's Challenge. We'd love to know what you think about the potential 2016 GOP field. The challenges they face and the challenges the country faces. Go to facebook.com/thekellyfile and follow me on Twitter @megynkelly. Let me know what you think. Thanks for watching everybody, I'm Megyn Kelly.

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