Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that he’s confident the former Massachusetts governor is well on his way to winning the Republican Party’s nomination.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is a national co-chair of the Romney campaign and joins us now from Minneapolis. Governor, thank you. Let me start off by asking you about the jobs report that came out this morning, a pretty good one, fastest six-month growth since 2006. Looks like the economy’s on the way back, right?
TIM PAWLENTY: Well, you can’t look at any one just piece of data and make a broad conclusion, but there are some positive signs in the economy, and obviously as Americans we hope that this economy gets up and going, but 8.3 percent, Al, in unemployment is still way too high, and it could have come down faster. It could have been prevented from going so high, had Barack Obama done the right things in the first place.
HUNT: Let me ask you this, Governor. I’ve looked at the Santorum and the Romney tax and budget plans. The budget plans are more vague. But when I look at them, they seem to be strikingly similar - a few differences on taxes, but there really is not a dime’s worth or at least a quarter’s worth of difference between Santorum and Romney on economics, is there?
PAWLENTY: Well, there are some essential differences in their plans, Al. For your viewers, they might not want to get into all the minutiae of it, but I think for people who are interested in the details of tax policy, there are meaningful differences.
And one difference is that Mitt Romney has a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut on taxes. He wants to eliminate capital gains and interest and dividends taxation on middle-income people. He wants to bring down the corporate rate.
There are some similarities there, but there is a big difference beyond that, and it’s this. Mitt Romney’s actually done this stuff. He was an entrepreneur. He was somebody who invested in businesses, grew businesses, provided jobs. And with all due respect to Rick, he spent his entire adult life in Washington, D.C., or in parasitic relationship with it, and if the problem is Washington, D.C., we shouldn’t send somebody who’s part of that culture for their whole life to try to fix it.
HUNT: Well, let me ask about your candidate. He won - he won in Ohio. And certainly the delegate math looks good. But as my colleague, Julie Davis, wrote, the math is good, but the chemistry looks awful, that basically he’s not connecting with voters that you need to win in November. What does Governor Romney need to do to turn this around or at least change this perception?
PAWLENTY: Well, I would like to push back on that, if I could, in a friendly way, Al. If you look at the last Gallup poll, it had Mitt Romney defeating, beating, leading Barack Obama, and Republicans are most interested in beating Barack Obama. He’s the strongest and best candidate to do that. The other candidates don’t even come close on that measure.
So this notion that somehow Mitt isn’t connecting or isn’t doing well compared to Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or anyone else, it just isn’t objectively true. He’s won the most states, raised the most money, he’s got three times as many delegates as any other candidate, and then the media looks at it - not you - and say, gosh, he’s just not doing very well. Yeah, he is. It’s - it’s a battle. It’s not going to be a coronation. But he’s doing quite well.
HUNT: Well, just one more particular there. Again, Ohio. Voters asked, who identifies more with average folks? Santorum wins by about 10 points. Voters making under $100,000 a year, Santorum won handily. Now, those are the kind of Reagan - ex-Reagan Democrats that you have to win in the fall.
PAWLENTY: Well, but you need other things to win in the fall. And, again, look at the objective, which is how do you beat Barack Obama? Mitt Romney’s ahead, and it’s early yet. So are there some groups that Mitt needs to do better with? Of course. One of them is the individuals who make less than $100,000 or $75,000 or below. There’s no question about that.
But it’s only March. He’s the strongest candidate in the field. He’s the strongest against Barack Obama. He’s got the best record. He’s actually done this stuff, not just talked about it as a legislator.
HUNT: You don’t think maybe taking the blue jeans off and being more his real self might make him more authentic to those voters?
PAWLENTY: Well, you know, I know Mitt. He and I became governors at the same time in 2003. I’ve traveled with him. I know his wife, Ann, and his family. They’re very gracious people. They’re wonderful people. They’re kind people. He’s successful and strong. Everybody’s got their own strengths and weaknesses.
So is he perfect? No. But compared to the other candidates in this field, including the president, he’s by far best situated to be president, has got the best record, and I think, frankly, would do the best job.
HUNT: One more particular. There was a poll out this week that showed among Latinos that President Obama would beat Governor Romney 70 to 14. Jeb Bush has said that the party, including Mitt Romney, are making a mistake by not - by being too - perceived as being too anti-immigrant. Can you pivot on this? Can you try to appeal more to Hispanics in a general election?
PAWLENTY: Well, the Hispanic population, Latino population in our country is growing rapidly. That’s a constituency that Republicans need to appeal to, along with independents and other groups, as well, but you can’t change your core values and principles, one of which is the rule of law. And we need to have a nation that - where people of all backgrounds respect and abide by the law. And we need to make sure that that’s a core principle.
And so Mitt is saying, let’s make sure we enforce the law. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable proposition. I don’t think most Americans think that’s unreasonable. But tone matters in this discussion, and I think he’s somebody who can convey a tone of understanding the challenge and the concern, but also being strong when he says we’re a nation that is premised on the rule of law, you can’t have wide swaths of the country openly ignoring the law or snickering at it, because it leads to a corrosion of that core value, that core perspective. And you’ve got to be able to synthesize those two. And I think he can, but obviously Republicans have work to do in that regard.
HUNT: And how do you think your candidate’s going to do in Alabama and Mississippi over the next week or two?
PAWLENTY: Well, those states are more challenging for him, Al, no question about it. And you look at Newt Gingrich, for example. It’s his backyard. He’s a home state person in Georgia, and obviously somebody from that region. So he’s got built-in strength there.
Mitt I think will get his share of support, but I think those states will certainly be more challenging for him than some of the others that we’ve seen so far.
HUNT: Would it be bad news for your campaign if Newt Gingrich in a week or so dropped out and you had to go one-on-one against Rick Santorum? And how likely is that?
PAWLENTY: Well, I know a lot of - well, first of all, I don’t think - it’s not our place to tell people - their candidates when to drop out or not. But people always assume that somehow Newt and Rick are splitting this so-called non-Romney vote, and if one of them dropped out, that could bode ill for Mitt’s chances.
There’s been some subsequent analysis that shows that may not be true at all, but we can’t control that anyhow, and Mitt is doing very well. I think he’s going to be the nominee. And it doesn’t look like your scenario is going to play out, because Newt doesn’t - it doesn’t look like he’s going to drop out anyhow.
HUNT: Tim Pawlenty, you -
PAWLENTY: I think Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee - I think Mitt’s going to be the nominee either way.
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