Transcript: Face to Face with Michael Kranish

Bob Schieffer: And welcome now to 'Face to Face,' this is the mid-week web version of current events brought to you by all of us at 'Face the Nation.' And our guest this morning is Michael Kranish, author of the new book "The Real Romney." Michael when we had you on 'Face' Sunday I'd read about half of it, I've now finished it, and I must say, the thing that I found most interesting about this book is you went into great detail about Mitt Romney's Mormonism. And it seems to me, as your book tells it, this is the central part of his life, and I don't mean that in a negative or pejorative sense. He is truly a person of faith, and the church has been a big part of his life from the time he was a very young person. Yet, he does not seem to want to talk about that very much. It's a part of his biography that he said 'oh yeah if you ask me I'll talk about it' but, he doesn't.

Michael Kranish: I mean this is one of the most important things to know about Mitt Romney, he has said that his faith is his most, one of his most important treasures quote-on-quote. It really defines who he is, and yet as a candidate, he knows a lot of voters are uncomfortable with the matter so he doesn't really talk about it very much. He says if you want to know things go talk to the church leaders, and this is one of the things that some people say is a problem for him in terms of connecting because he, this is who he is, this is where he comes from, it was how he was shaped, its where his family history is, and yet he can't really talk about that, just like he doesn't really want to talk about getting degrees from Harvard Law and Harvard business, things like that because that's considered too elitist. So there's a lot of things in his life that really he's uncomfortable talking about, keeps in a private place, and I thinks that's part of the reason perhaps he has trouble connecting because so many things that clearly shaped him are not the kind of things that he wants to talk about as a candidate.

Bob Schieffer: Well one more thing he doesn't seem to want to talk about is being governor of Massachusetts...

Michael Kranish: Exactly

Bob Schieffer:...where he passed a healthcare law. I mean if you look back on his term there, he was not a bad governor. He did not raise taxes, they passed this healthcare law that the people there seemed to like and basically seems to be working pretty well. So you take the Mormonism, you know the, being, the time he spent in Massachusetts, he has sort of taken a big part of his biography and set it off to the side.

Michael Kranish: Exactly. When he did the healthcare plan, this was not something that he ran on when he ran for governor. He didn't say I'm going to insure all the people of Massachusetts, he thought really that would be too difficult, then he saw that he could do this, came up with this plan, he really became pretty popular. He was a pretty popular governor, pragmatic, he ran as a moderate and was relatively moderate as a governor. But now, trying to win the Republican primary, he called himself last week severely conservative quote-on-quote. And that is...

Bob Schieffer: Have you figured out yet what "severe conservative," because that's usually something people use to describe an illness or maybe the weather, severe thunderstorms or maybe a severe constipation, something of that nature. I've never heard that used as a political adverb or adjective or whatever that is.

Michael Kranish: I have not. And you know, if you talk to people in Massachusetts they would describe it more a moderate. He worked with the legislature that was very Democratic so he had to be somewhat moderate. I understand why he's saying that and the points that he's making but as you mentioned, he doesn't really want to promote healthcare, which he thought initially was a conservative idea promoted by the Heritage Foundation for example, in some respects, but he thought this would be a key for running for president. He really did think this would be helpful, and his aides certainly thought this would be a key, he needed some big landmark achievement and they thought that would be it but as you mentioned, in the Republican primary it's not something he's wanted to talk about a lot.

Bob Schieffer: Okay he's going now into Michigan, the Michigan primary everybody thought this would be an automatic. His father was governor of Michigan and he grew up in Michigan, and now we have polls showing that Rick Santorum may actually be ahead there. We have three polls now showing that Rick Santorum has pulled into the lead nationally, what do you make of that?

Michael Kranish: It's stunning when you think about where things were some weeks ago. First of all, Romney was ahead in Michigan and it was expected to be a shoe-in. You thought other candidates might write that state off and focus on other states, and I think the opponents see a weakness here. If it's a case where Gingrich and Santorum divide the opposition perhaps Romney can survive. The concern of the Romney camp clearly is that Gingrich sort of fades away and Santorum continues to pick up steam as he seems to be doing and possibly win. And that could be potentially harmful, perhaps even devastating for Romney if he can't the state that he's so closely associated with other than Massachusetts. I mean after all his father was governor for three terms, very, very popular, was the head of American Motors Corporation which may have been even more popular in Michigan. But you know today a lot of people don't remember that it was about forty-five years ago that George Romney was governor. Mitt Romney left Michigan in 1965, to go to college, so yeah there certainly are ties there but it has been a long time and the Republican party in Michigan is a lot more conservative than it was when George Romney was governor.

Bob Schieffer: Let's talk just from the standpoint of practical politics, I mean, he has basically come out against the bailout, which people on the other side would argue saved General Motors and Chrysler, kept a lot of people from getting laid off, is that going to be a problem for him now?

Michael Kranish: Well Republicans say that all the Republican candidates basically were against this bailout, so that it shouldn't be as big an issue in the Republican primary, and could be a very big issue if he's the general election nominee. However, it does go into this question about has he flip-flopped, because when he ran in 2008, and John McCain said some of those jobs aren't coming back, Romney was very critical of that, left the impression that he would do something to insure that didn't happen and in his op-ed that was headlined in the New York Times a few years ago it said 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' and it is a complicated issue. He was saying that a managed bankruptcy the companies would come back, but that headline has been something that Democrats in particular have strongly used against him. And Romney just wrote an op-ed in the Detroit News a couple of days ago where he tried to explain carefully what he meant, but it's certainly an issue that Democrats at the very least are using strongly against him.

Bob Schieffer: Let me ask you one more thing, going back to Mormonism, the Mormons have a habit if that's what you want to call it, or have in the past, of baptizing nonbelievers, what they consider nonbelievers I guess, after they have died, and at one point they baptized many survivors of the Holocaust which really upset Jewish leaders, and now we have Elie Wiesel coming out and saying that Romney ought to take some stand on this. Do you know anything about that and what his position has been on that in the past?

Michael Kranish: What I've read this morning in the Washington Post is that Romney has said in the past he did some of this but hasn't done it in years, and I don't know the details on that to be honest, what he actually did, and I have not heard Romney asked specifically about Elie Wiesel's request that Romney himself tell the church to stop doing this. On general matters Romney has said, talk to church leaders about all kinds of things, so I can only imagine that would be what he would say here, but if Elie Wiesel requests you to say something usually you do want to respond to Elie Wiesel so I'll be interested to see what Romney says directly about this.

Bob Schieffer: Alright and we'll all be watching all week to see what does happen in Michigan, Mitt Romney's home state, the place where he grew up. Your book gives me, gave me insight into Romney and I thought I knew a little something about this that, it was just a real interesting, and I would also say a very fast read so congratulations on putting together a very good book.

Michael Kranish: Thank you very much.

Bob Schieffer: Okay, and that's it, that's 'Face to Face' and don't forget to watch 'Face the Nation' this Sunday on television when our lead guest will be Rick Santorum who's now leading the national polls on the Republican primary side. I'm Bob Schieffer, thanks for joining us.