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So how do you address this speculation about you and Mitt Romney on the same ticket?
I’m not going to do it, and I’m not going to be asked, and it’s not going to happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a voice. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to enthusiastically support Mitt Romney. I intend to do that. I am doing it. But I’m not going to be a candidate with him.
Under no circumstances?
Under no circumstances. He’s got a great list of candidates that I’m sure he’s thinking about. We have a wealth of talent in the Republican Party.
Do you have a favorite running mate in mind for him?
I do. Marco Rubio’s my favorite. We have a close relationship. I admire him greatly. He’s probably the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today. He speaks with great passion about American exceptionalism. I think it would lift the spirits of the campaign and provide some energy. Governor Romney’s running a very good campaign right now. He’s closed the gap and is leading in some polls. But I think this would be an added benefit.
Does Rubio have the preparation to be one heartbeat from the presidency?
Look, he has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran. And he’s certainly got the intellectual acumen and fortitude to be a good president. I have a special place in my heart for him. It’s hard to describe the pride I feel for his incredible success and how well he has moved into the job of being a U.S. senator.
Speaking of elections, how do you read the result of Scott Walker’s recall election in Wisconsin?
It’s a validation that it’s OK to be courageous and to be principled and to be bold. When you go about doing that, the immediate reaction is to punish, to target. And Scott’s weathered the storm. He’s won a victory with a higher margin than when he got elected in 2010. The guy’s the real deal. It sends a signal to a lot of people that it’s OK to be bigger and bolder. We’ll know in a month or two if it has an impact, if it has national implications. I think it might.
Pinpoint the differences between the president and Mitt Romney and what this debate ought to be about?
The difference is the role of government in our lives and in creating an environment where we can get back on track economically. Those are the driving issues. Huge differences of opinion on that. And I think that’s where the campaign plays out. President Obama is making a case that economic security trumps everything else. I think it’s a false choice, but he’s saying if we redistribute wealth, more people will benefit, receiving the chance to be secure in their economic livelihood. Romney’s approach is the one that’s, I think, more traditional in our country, which is to say we need to create a climate of opportunity where people succeed and fail, with government playing a role in building capacity, playing a role for infrastructure, but not trying to pick winners and losers.
Do you support the president’s bailing out of GM?
I don’t. It’s been way overplayed, the difference between a more traditional approach, a controlled bankruptcy. . . .
A controlled bankruptcy would have been better than bailing out General Motors (GM), which is healthy today?
Jobs would have been saved in the other format as well. That’s the point. Saying which dealership gets closed, which one doesn’t . . . creating equity positions for the unions, those were both bankruptcies. One was driven by politics. The other one would have been driven in a more traditional role.
Do you worry about the direction of the Republican Party, that it’s too concerned with lower taxes and lower regulations and not concerned enough about promoting growth and being a bigger tent?
Well, I think lower taxes and less regulation would actually promote growth. I do worry that the party’s shortsighted because, tonally, it sends a signal that “we want your support, but you really can’t join our team.” Demographically, Latino voters are going to be important in the election—and going forward, even more so. There needs to be a lot more intense efforts to recognize how the country is changing. And our messaging—not our views, not our principles—but our messaging needs to change.
Are your sons interested in politics?
I’ve got two boys that are interested. They’re involved actively. Very proud of them.
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