Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman who appeared on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, suggested the race for the nomination may end soon, while refusing to endorse any of the four remaining competitors.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with former Republican presidential candidate, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Thank you so much for being with us.
MICHELE BACHMANN: Thank you, Al. It’s fun to be with you again.
HUNT: You haven’t joined the endorsement chorus yet. You’re still looking at the candidates, and you say they have to be for repealing Obamacare and repealing Dodd-Frank, two of your big issues. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney say they are for repealing both of those. What are you looking for now to distinguish between them?
BACHMANN: Well, all of the candidates that remain - there’s four candidates that remain, and they are all for repealing Obamacare. They’re all for repealing Dodd-Frank. And I’m very grateful that they are. I think that’s something that I was able to help contribute to the presidential race, is that importance.
HUNT: What issue are you looking for?
BACHMANN: Well, all four have strengths, and they all have weaknesses. And, of course, that’s what this whole primary process is about right now. And people will make their decisions. My goal is to be a unifying voice. Of all of the people who have been presidential candidates, or near candidates, they’ve all come out and they’ve all made an endorsement. I think I’m the only one left who hasn’t made an endorsement.
HUNT: When do you think you’ll make an endorsement?
BACHMANN: I don’t know. I -
HUNT: Give me - give me a guess as to -
BACHMANN: Well, I don’t know when I will, Al.
HUNT: Not soon, though.
BACHMANN: No, not soon. I just haven’t made the decision. Honestly, I don’t think endorsements make a lot of difference, because my goal is really more 40,000 feet. I’m looking at November. I want to make sure that our nominee wins. And so my goal is to be a unifying person who brings the factions together, because now primaries produce factions within a party. And my goal is to bring the Tea Party, evangelicals, mainstream, establishment, and also independents and disaffected Democrats.
HUNT: Newt Gingrich says that Mitt Romney is a Massachusetts moderate. Mitt Romney says that Newt Gingrich is a Washington insider. Either true?
BACHMANN: Well, they’re - that’s their cross-discussion between themselves.
HUNT: But you know them, because you’ve been with them.
BACHMANN: I’m not - I’m not weighing into that. That’s - that’s both of their arguments that they’re making. The bigger argument -
HUNT: But you’ve said the same thing about both of them during the debate, so it must have some resonance.
BACHMANN: What I’m talking about - what I tried to talk about more than anything in the debate is President Obama and the need that we have to defeat him. The numbers that came out today on unemployment, what the CBO said earlier this week about the fact that unemployment will be near 9 percent by the end of the year, and 9.2 percent next year, that is jaw-dropping, after 36 months straight of over 8 percent unemployment -
HUNT: We know what you feel - we know what you feel about -
BACHMANN: - and so he has to be defeated.
HUNT: We know what you feel about Barack Obama. But let me ask you this. Is Mitt Romney’s health care in Massachusetts, is that a problem for him in a general election?
BACHMANN: Our candidates will be qualified. And when it comes to health care -
HUNT: I’m not going to get you to answer, am I?
BACHMANN: You’re not going to get an answer, because our candidates have to make the case.
HUNT: How about for - how about Newt Gingrich and Freddie Mac? Is that a problem?
BACHMANN: Each of these candidates have to make their case. It’s an issue of trust, and it’s an issue of where they are on the issues. I think they’ve been all saying the right things on the issue. Now it’s a matter of whether or not the voters believe them, that they will truly do what they say they’re going to do.
HUNT: Well, let me ask you this. What would you like to have Mitt Romney say now about health care in Massachusetts that he hasn’t said?
BACHMANN: Well, for - for any of the candidates on health care, what they need to do is let the voters know that they are truly for market-based reform in health care -
HUNT: Has Mitt Romney gone far enough?
BACHMANN: - that they will be 100 percent committed to the full-scale repeal.
HUNT: And what more would you like to hear Newt Gingrich say about Freddie Mac?
BACHMANN: Well, I think, again, it’s important that - for Newt Gingrich that he does what all the other candidates do, convince the voters that he will do what he says he’s going to do. That’s the trust issue, is what the candidates now have to sell.
HUNT: You are remaining above the fray. But you sat in, in almost a dozen debates with these people. You have a feel for them. Let me ask you this. Who is the more conservative of these four candidates left?
BACHMANN: I was. I was the perfect candidate.
HUNT: Right, so who’s the second -
BACHMANN: When I - when I went out there, and so, you know -
HUNT: Who’s the second most conservative?
BACHMANN: America had their chance with the perfect candidate. But any of our candidates are going to be acceptable to the American people, and more than acceptable, because right now, if you look at the Gallup map that came out this week, President Obama is in big trouble all across the country. But, again, it’s because the metrics on President Obama’s side are so failing, because whether it’s unemployment or whether it’s the lack of growth - or whether it’s foreign policy, which I’m terribly concerned about - I sit on the Intelligence Committee - I am - literally, by the minute, we are seeing events transpire, whether it’s in Israel or with Iran. We’re seeing events transpire.
And this issue of our national safety will more to the fore. We had our public hearing yesterday with the FBI director, DNI, director of national intelligence, and it was very clear that Iran is making very aggressive statements that we could potentially be looking at terrorist activity here in the United States. We need to take this very seriously and address it.
HUNT: We will get to that in just a second. Let me just stay one more - I’m not going to ask about your endorsement. I’m going to ask you about another. Did Donald Trump’s endorsement of Mitt Romney - is that a plus or a minus, given the context?
BACHMANN: Well, I think no matter - no matter who endorses a person, it helps you. It’s important to have as many endorsements as you can. But I don’t think it will be determinative. It really is about the candidates, what they say in debates, and what they say on the campaign trail.
HUNT: You don’t think that at the time that Mitt Romney was trying to get over what was a faux pas, even though it was taken out of context, about not caring about the poor - and it was taken out of context - that maybe it didn’t look great to have the Donald in Las Vegas endorsing the next day?
BACHMANN: Well, I think again, you want to have endorsements.
HUNT: When do you think the nomination will be settled?
BACHMANN: Well, I think it could be - I think it could be fairly soon, but, you know, Ron Paul has said he will go all the way to the convention. Newt has said he will, also. Rick Santorum has said he will. But the practicality is money is a big part of it, and it’ll be up to the candidates whether they can pay.
HUNT: And that gives Governor Romney a clear advantage. You’ve seen that.
BACHMANN: To this point, there’s been an economic advantage.
HUNT: When you say soon, do you mean within the next month?
BACHMANN: Well, again, it will depend on the critical mass that the candidates bring forward. As you know, there won’t be any more debates until Feb. 22. And if there’s anything that this election has shown, it’s that debates matter.
HUNT: Right. So it may be after Super Tuesday on March 6, or whenever that is?
BACHMANN: Well, it was over by then the last go-around, yeah.
HUNT: OK. OK. Iran, you mentioned it earlier. What are the prospects that the Israelis will strike the nuclear facilities in Iran?
BACHMANN: Well, if you look at the comments that were made yesterday by Ehud Barak, it looks as though we’re coming closer to a decision being made. But let’s understand why the Israelis are in the situation. If - if we in the United States were in a situation where we had a neighbor in very close proximity who, as recently as September, made very threatening statements that they intend to go full-bore on a nuclear program and they intend to wipe the United States off the face of the map, I think our attention would be raised, as well. And I think it -
HUNT: So you think it’s justified and likely? Is that fair to say?
BACHMANN: I think that any nation has to protect the safety and security of their people. And it is the nation of Israel that is being targeted by Iran, as well as the United States, we need to be vigilant. The Israelis need to be vigilant. And I think they’re taking prudent steps to keep their people safe.
HUNT: Well, given what you know, would it be a good thing if the Israelis took down -
BACHMANN: They will make that determination. It won’t be for the United States to make that determination. They will.
HUNT: You don’t think the United States should either encourage or discourage the Israelis? It should be left up to them?
BACHMANN: The United States needs to send a very clear signal to the world that Barack Obama has not done, and it is this, that Israel is our ally, and we will stand by Israel. That signal has not been sent. Our president needs to send that signal, that there is no daylight between the United States and Israel. If he would do that, I think that would bring about a more peaceful world.
HUNT: OK. Thank you very, very much, Congresswoman Bachmann, for being with us.
BACHMANN: Thank you, Al.
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