Bloomberg News

Ohio's DeWine Says Santorum to Prevail Over Romney (Transcript)

March 02, 2012

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that pro-Mitt Romney television advertisements airing in his state are “distorted” yet won’t stop Rick Santorum from winning the Republican presidential primary there on March 6.

(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

AL HUNT: We begin the show with Ohio’s attorney general, Republican Mike DeWine, who joins us now from Columbus, Ohio. General, thank you for being with us.

You are supporting Rick Santorum. You said your candidate’s going to pull it out in Ohio next Tuesday. He’s 4 points ahead in the polls. Some polls show him 7 points ahead. But same thing we showed in Michigan, and then the Romney forces came in with heavy TV ads, and they pulled it out. Why isn’t it going to be the same in Ohio?

MIKE DEWINE: Well, you’re right. The Romney forces, they’ll do anything. I mean, yesterday, you know, they stole a delegate in Michigan. You know, how desperate do you have to be to change the rules after the fact? They’ve got robo-calls out here. It’s all attack, attack, attack.

But Rick Santorum is going to win Ohio. He’s going to win because there’s a great excitement on the ground for him. Frankly, there’s no excitement for Governor Romney. He’s going to get a lot of votes, but there’s no excitement, there’s no energy. Rick is connecting.

And what I think people are starting to understand is that the conventional wisdom that we all started out with that Governor Romney would be the strongest candidate in the fall is simply not true.

HUNT: Well, General, let me - let me come back -

HUNT: Let me come back to that in a minute. But I watched those ads that you alluded to last night. What they say is Santorum voted with Hillary Clinton to increase the debt, for phony earmarks, pork-barrels, and even for convicted felons. And Romney says he’s - and they say Romney’s the real conservative. This is the Romney super PAC. What’s your take on those ads?

DEWINE: Well, it’s pretty easy to take someone who actually has a record like Rick Santorum and who has done things and pick out one or two votes and try to distort them a little bit. But the fact is that Rick Santorum is the conservative in this race who’s actually got things done.

HUNT: Are those ads honest?

DEWINE: Oh, I think they’re a little distorted. I think they’re out of place. I mean, look, if you talk about the deficit, Al, we all know it’s entitlements, and Rick Santorum was the guy on the Senate floor day after day that was fighting to deal with the entitlements. Rick Santorum is the person on the Senate floor who led the charge for us in regard to welfare reform, a very, very solid conservative record. I mean, it’s ludicrous and so funny to think of Governor Romney, who has flip-flopped on so many issues, that he is trying to get to the right of Rick Santorum. You know, it’s absurd. And the problem is, who best can beat Barack Obama? And I don’t know how the man who created Romneycare, which, you know, very, very similar to Obamacare, is going to attack Obamacare and going to attack the president on that in the fall. I think you give up a huge, huge issue if - if Romney is the nominee.

The other thing, Al, that I’m seeing around Ohio, Rick was in Jefferson County over in Steubenville area, very Democrat area. My prediction - I’ve looked at Ohio for a long time - is that Rick will run exceedingly well in the fall if he is the nominee, with blue-collar workers in Ohio and people that we traditionally have called, you know, the Reagan Democrats -

HUNT: Let me ask you about the Santorum campaign. In the days leading up to Michigan, Senator Santorum spent a lot of time on social issues, including contraception, separation of church and state. Is that a winning formula in Ohio? Or would you like to see him predominantly focus on the economy?

DEWINE: Well, I think - I think Rick - everyone knows where Rick is on the basic core values. But I think that the last time Rick was in Ohio was in Perrysburg, near Toledo, on Tuesday. He led off, Al, with the first half-an-hour of nothing but energy and jobs and manufacturing. And I think that, you know, that sells very, very well -

HUNT: Is that what he should do these final - these closing days? Should that be the focus?

DEWINE: I think he’s going to do both. Well, you know, I think - you know, in all fairness, I’ve watched his speeches now for the last several weeks in Ohio, and he’s covered all the ground. He’s talked about the Obama administration’s Obamacare and what they have done in - in regard to religious freedom, but he’s also talked a lot about manufacturing.

HUNT: Do you agree with your governor, John Kasich, that the automobile rescue plan was good for Ohio workers?

DEWINE: Look, I think we’re moving - we’re moving forward. And Ohio is an auto state. We’re an auto parts state and auto state. And I think we’re - I think we’re coming back.

HUNT: So it was helpful, that auto rescue plan?

DEWINE: I think it was help - I think it was helpful.

HUNT: Well, why have - why aren’t your candidates - and you told Rick Santorum that he’s making a mistake, then, in saying it was the wrong thing to do? He and Governor Romney both say that.

DEWINE: No, look, I think reasonable people can disagree about how you - how you would have approached that and what you could have done.

HUNT: But you do disagree with your candidate on that.

DEWINE: I think the real question - I don’t know. I don’t know whether I do or not. I think the real issue for Ohio voters is the future. And when Rick talks about manufacturing, he’s got a plan that I think is a dynamite plan in regard to manufacturing. He talks about jobs. That connects with Ohio voters.

But, Al, there’s another thing that I think that sometimes all of us miss when we talk about these issues, and that is what I call the likeability factor. People just like Rick Santorum. I mean, they just like him. They connect with him. They think he’s real. They think he is human. They think he is sincere, and they believe him.

HUNT: Well, let me talk about likeability. You were one of - you were one of 78 living Republican senators who served with Rick Santorum in the Senate. The last time I checked, you were the only one that has endorsed him. Why does he have such trouble getting support from his peers, who knew him best?

DEWINE: Well, I think - I think a lot of senators aren’t doing anything. They’re sitting the race out.

HUNT: No, but some - but more have endorsed Romney.

DEWINE: Well, let me tell you - let me tell you about myself. You know, I originally endorsed Romney. I was a Romney delegate. And it wasn’t that I didn’t respect Rick or like Rick, but I didn’t think he had any chance at all. He was at 2 percent in the polls, had no money. I bought into the conventional wisdom that Governor Romney, you know, was the best candidate in the fall.

But I changed my mind as this campaign has played out. It’s clear to me that Romney is not the best candidate -

HUNT: And you don’t think it sends any message that no other -

DEWINE: - Santorum is.

HUNT: You don’t think it sends a message that no other senator has endorsed Senator Santorum?

DEWINE: No. No, I do not. Look, Rick - Rick is - Rick never even reached out to me. I mean, he said, look, I think I have to go earn this before I reach out to my former colleagues. I called him and said, “Rick, I’ve changed my mind. I want to be on your team.”

HUNT: OK.

DEWINE: “I want to endorse you.” I felt that that was something that I had to do, because I think he’s the best candidate.

HUNT: General, only a few seconds left. What should we look for on Tuesday? What area, what demographic group will be the key to who wins Ohio?

DEWINE: Oh, I think it’s going to be a close, close race. You know, I think, all things being equal, Santorum would have a big margin. Romney’s got a ton of money. I think in the end Rick will eke this thing out and he will win, and it’ll be a stunning victory -

HUNT: Where - what - are there are a type of voter or an area that you are particularly going to be attuned to Tuesday night?

DEWINE: Well, you know, the majority - big bulk of Republican votes historically have been in the western side, I mean, basically starting south of Toledo and going all the way to Cincinnati. That is a huge, huge block of votes. The suburbs are important.

But it’s also interesting that the rural areas many times are kind of the indicator. Santorum is going to run very, very well along the river, not a lot of votes there, but many times it’s that area that ultimately decides who wins primaries and who wins general elections.

HUNT: OK. Attorney General Mike DeWine of Ohio, thank you so much for joining us.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***

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