Mitt Romney Building Arizona 'Network' for Possible Presidential Bid
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met with Valley business and Republican leaders Monday, part of an effort to build a "network of people" in states with primary elections early in 2008.
Romney, who declined to run for gubernatorial re-election, is seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate and a more hard-line conservative than likely frontrunners Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani.
"I'm keeping the option open," Romney said Monday to a small group of reporters inside Vestar offices at the Camelback Esplanade.
Romney has visited the Grand Canyon State four times in the last 18 months and said he will make an announcement on whether he'll run for the GOP nomination after the holidays.
During the 30-minute interview, the Massachusetts governor talked about his views on Iraq, the federal debt, immigration and other domestic and national issues, while pointing some policy differences between him and McCain.
Romney supported the Bush tax cut, while McCain did not. He also isn't in favor of the McCain-Feingold finance reform bill, saying now "there's more money in politics, not less."
Romney also said he doesn't support same-sex marriages or civil unions and would only extend rights or benefits pertaining to hospital visitations.
He said last week's elections sent a message to the Republican Party that it strayed from its hallmarks of fiscal conservatism, strong national defense and small government, and maintained that "Republicans shouldn't go liberal."
Romney applauded President Bush's motion to assemble a team to analyze, debate and recommend changes to the Iraq war policy, but fell short of saying that should have happened years ago.
"I'm glad it's happening now," Romney, 59, said. "We need definitive measurements to see if we're making progress."
Romney said he was against a military draft, but admitted, "our military is stretched thin," specifically pointing out the National Guard.
He said the federal government should issue a biometric employment card to every noncitizen in the country, deport criminals who are illegal residents, and give welfare and Medicaid timetables for noncitizens to get off those programs or face deportation. And for those law-abiding, tax-paying illegal immigrants who have been here for years, he wants to see them go to the back of the line to apply for legal status.
"We have to secure our borders and have a policy we can control," he said.
He said the four biggest challenges facing the country are jihadists, Asia's emergence as a competitor, reliance on oil and the federal debt.
"The financial crisis is not far from our doorstep," he said.
Romney, an outspoken member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serves as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and is honorary chairman of the Commonwealth Political Action Committee. Before becoming governor of Massachusetts, Romney rose to prominence in an unsuccessful 1994 campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. and as chief executive and organizer of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Romney's term as governor ends Jan. 4.
Impressive! Is January 5th the day that Mitt Romney announces that he is running for president?
Technorati Tags: Mitt Romney, 2008, Presidential Election, Illegal Immigration, Iraq, Federal Debt, Arizona, Election 2008.