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In an exclusive interview on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour with host Earl Ofari Hutchinson on KTYM 1460 AM Los Angeles on January 13, Tim Phillips, President, Americans for Prosperity
EOH: What are the three top issues Americans for Prosperity wants to see in the GOP Nominee?
TP: It’s two key things. Number one, getting government spending, deficits and debt under control with spending cuts and entitlement reforms. Until we do that, the solvency of our nation is in doubt. It inhibits job growth and prosperity creation. Number two would be pushing back on the regulatory assault, red tape and bureaucracy coming out of Washington, DC that stifles job growth and inhibits free enterprise and the ability of the private sector to create jobs for American citizens. We are in one of the most prolonged periods of stagnation since the Great Depression. We believe key causes are overspending, deficits and government debts that have dried up capital, and the regulatory assault that has made it unpredictable for business to know what they are going to be facing.
EOH: What are your comments regarding the candidates being too ideological?
TP: I’m not wringing my hands over this crop of candidates. There are folks who bemoan there is no Ronald Reagan; there was only one Ronald Reagan. I think all the top candidates have something to hang their hat on; Mitt Romney’s business experience; Newt Gingrich’s welfare reform with Bill Clinton; Rick Perry has the best job creation record of any elected official; Rick Santorum has a solid record. They all have something to offer. There is no perfect candidate. We educate fellow citizens on where they stand, what they did right or wrong. There are questions about all of them. I think it’s wrong for Governor Perry and Former Speaker Gingrich to be attacking Mitt Romney on his private sector work. It’s not helpful nor relevant.
EOH: What is your opinion on the negative ads between Republican candidates?
TP: When your attack on a fellow Republican sounds like an attack the President would make, it’s probably not a philosophically sound attack to be making. The AFP has spoken out, urging them to cease and desist. All these candidates have votes they can say “Wow, I wish I hadn’t done that”, but that’s politics. I think the nominee the Republicans are going to come up with will be a pretty good nominee and one who offers a dramatic difference on free market issues with the current President.
EOH: Is it right to say you are not one who ascribes to the ABR philosophy (Anybody but Romney)?
TP: I don’t think that is the right way to go. We’ve had all these candidates at AFP events. There are things they say that we question. We had joint appearance in New Hampshire and I directly asked Governor Romney about the individual mandate that he supported on the health care front, I questioned Senator Santorum about his support for ear marks. There are things we have questioned them on that we have concerns about. On the whole they all offer a contrast with President Obama that is positive. All candidates have something we worry about, but I think that’s always the case. In the 1980 campaign there were leaders who attacked Governor Reagan’s mistakes and misstatements. I don’t think there ever is a perfect candidate.
EOH: Do you see a lot of ambivalence on the part of conservatives regarding cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?
TP: We have a huge challenge in reforming entitlements. Conservative folks are concerned about Medicare and Social Security Benefit questions. I think the only way to solve it is to be completely honest and have a genuine discussion with the American people. I don’t think it works to roll out sweeping entitlement reform without laying the ground work.
EOH: Do you think Mitt Romney is electable?
TP: I think the electability argument is always problematic. The prime assault from opposing candidates stated that Ronald Reagan was unelectable, but he ended up carrying 47 states. I would prefer the argument be about the vision the candidates lay out for the future, and did their record that suggests, on the whole, they will back it up. I don’t buy into the “Anybody But Romney” argument. I look at his economic plan and entitlement reform as probably the most sweeping reform package any candidate has put forward. To say anyone is unelectable goes too far. Let’s have discussion on the issues and visions these candidates have and the records they compiled.
EOH: Will the race for GOP nomination be over if Romney wins South Carolina?
TP: Yes. If Governor Romney wins a solid victory in South Carolina, at that point, baring a catastrophe, he would be unassailable for the nomination.
EOH: Some surveys show a broad sector of the American public are not too happy with Congress. Could you lose it in 2012?
TP: I think historically speaking, in presidential years U.S. Senate candidates tend to have a great deal of change over. When you look at percentages, incumbents tend to lose more often in presidential years than in non-presidential years. I think if I were a sitting U.S. Senator in either party, I would not be too comfortable. The public doesn’t like what Congress is doing. They see too much “business as usual”. AFP will be out there to make sure when citizens go into the voting booth, the number one issue is “how do we get job creation and job prosperity back”. The way we do that is less government spending, less government regulations and red tape, less power coming out of Washington, D.C., and more power back to individual Americans. We want to make sure, if it’s President Obama or whoever, voters know where they stand and what votes they have taken. I think Obama and the liberals in the Senate are gonna have a tough time defending their terrible record.