I just finished my one-on-one exclusive interview with Governor Mitt Romney as we traveled between campaign stops in West Des Moines. The weather turned poor and we battled road noise, but in 15 minutes, Romney gave an impressive performance as a man with a solid grasp on policy -- and of someone completely confident in his ability to master it.
This comes as no surprise, of course. Romney built a billion-dollar business, rescued the Salt Lake City Olympics, and won the governor's race in Massachussetts as a Republican. Someone with that kind of resumé could be forgiven a little cockiness, but Romney comes across as completely grounded and accessible, even in the tight confines of a minivan, talking with a citizen journalist.
I asked Governor Romney some tough questions regarding his immigration stance. Readers of Heading Right have already learned of Romney's specific issues with the current immigration proposal. When I asked him to reconcile his support of the 2006 McCain-Kennedy bill with his rejection of this year's proposal, he quickly corrected me and insisted he never endorsed last year's legislation. While he has been accurately quoted as calling its approach "reasonable", the same interview also has him refusing to endorse it. His staffers emphasized the point with me later.
I pressed him on his insistence on Z-visas being temporary, and he put me off by saying that he didn't want to write legislation as a candidate. He said that Congress should ensure that illegals do not get ahead of legal immigrant candidates, and that the proposed Z-visas do exactly that. It's fundamentally unfair, and it damages the prospects for legal immigration.
Mostly, though, I concentrated on foreign policy. This is an aspect of Romney's portfolio that hardly ever gets any serious attention, and I wanted to see how much depth Romney has in this area. I have to say, I'm impressed. Obviously the man knows global economics, but he actually placed that in a secondary position to security policy -- and he has a lot to say about that topic.
He has some fresh ideas about how to organize trade, security, and military organizations along vertical lines for each region. While a free-trader by nature, he also thinks that trade agreements should benefit all sides, and to the extent that agreements with China have damaged us, they need review and change. In this, he appears sympathetic to Duncan Hunter, whom I interviewed last month. He recognizes that we let Latin America slip away from us after the end of the Cold War, and he has some interesting ideas about how to win it back.
I will be airing the interview tomorrow on CQ Radio, which will be on the air at 2 pm CT. In the meantime, stick around for a special live broadcast of the town-hall forum here in West Des Moines, which starts at 6 pm CT. Don't miss this broadcast!