Mitt Romney, in a 40-minute interview with Charlie Rose that airs tonight, acknowledges that he has so far been unable to break through in the polls, with some voters questioning his authenticity and his willingness to change political positions.
“I have a friend who said to me, ‘Every candidate has a but,’ ” Romney said. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said, ‘Well, so and so’s great but -- and so and so’s great but --.’”
“Romney’s great but …” Rose said.
“Oh, but he’s not authentic,” Romney said.
Romney suggested that at town hall meetings and other settings people often leave saying, “Hey, that guy connects pretty darn well with people.”
“I understand in the political process there’s a narrative that gets spun and that narrative tends to be in place until people say, ‘Wow, it’s not accurate,’ ” Romney added. “And connecting with people is something which I think is a part of me.”
The interview, which airs tonight at 11 on PBS, is part of a series of media appearances Romney has been making, many of which are designed to help Romney connect in a more personal way.
According to a transcript of the interview tonight, Romney talks of his parents – his mother running for US Senate, his father for governor and president – and called them his heroes.
“My parents are probably the most significant heroes because of the proximity to their life and my own, but also my dad was just a remarkable personal history,” Romney said. “I mean, he was born in Mexico. At age five or six, came back to the US. His parents were US citizens. Came back to the US. His dad went broke more than once. My dad never graduated from college. And then he became head of a car company?”
“Ultimately became a governor of a state. And so, you know, I watched him as just a phenomenon, the real deal,” he added.
At one point, Rose said bluntly, “You sometimes destroyed jobs.”
“I’m sure the administration will use every weapon they can think of,” Romney said. “Some will be accurate, some inaccurate. If they attack the free enterprise system and capitalism, I think they’ll find themselves in the short end of that argument. I am proud of the fact that in the years that I was at the firm that I helped found, Bain Capital, every investment we made was designed to grow the enterprise and make it more successful.”
“You have to pare it back in order to try and save it and then rebuild it,” he added. “But in every case that I was involved in -- and we invested in some hundred different businesses -- we tried to make them grow and become more successful.”
Romney also said he supported the payroll tax extension, but repeated that he thought it was “a Band-Aid.”
“I don’t want to raise taxes on anyone, but it is not something which is going to change the nature of America’s economy,” he said. “It’s a Band-Aid. It’s an important Band-Aid particularly for those who need extra funds right now. The middle class is really suffering. But a fundamental restructuring of this economy to encourage job creation again is not going to occur by virtue of the payroll tax extension.”
As he did yesterday on “Fox News Sunday” – and as he has on the campaign trail – Romney also made direct appeals at the middle class.
“My objective by the way, the rich are doing just fine. I’m not out to try and say, ‘How do we help the rich?’ The poor have a safety net and we need to make sure the safety net is strong and has no holes in it. The real objective of anyone running for president in this cycle has to be to help the middle class.”
But he also criticized Obama – who doesn’t want to extend tax cuts for the wealthy -- for targeting the rich.
“That notion that some people are doing too well is not a notion that is an American notion,” Romney said. “America has always welcomed and heralded success. Did Thomas Edison make too much? Did Henry Ford make too much? Did Steve Jobs make -- did he make too much? Does Bill Gates make too much? No, these are people who did not make the nation poorer by them having done well. They made the nation richer. They made the middle class better off.”
He had other harsh words for Obama, saying the man who inspired a nation had let it down.
“He spoke of hope and change,” Romney said. “And I think we projected on his word ‘change’ that he was going to bring America together. He spoke about that, working in a bipartisan basis, unifying the country. He has been the most divisive president I have ever seen.”
“He has attacked one American after another, one group after another,” Romney added. “He went after insurance company executives, Wall Street, all these bad people he finds out there…His original words of creating hope and opportunity and bringing us together, that’s the right approach. He just hasn’t followed it.”
Romney, as he has done on the campaign trail, cast himself as a bipartisan bridge-builder, citing his tenure as Massachusetts governor as evidence.
“If a leader has established personal relationships and rapport with people on both sides of the aisle, he brings them together in a quiet room without the media there and says, ‘All right, look, what do you need? What are your concerns? What are your principles? Is there some common ground here?’ ” Romney said. “Look, I recognize Washington is a tough place to get things done but it requires an experienced leader who’s willing not just to cast blame and point at the other party but actually to have numerous meetings in other people’s offices and to look for ways to find common ground.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.