Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and president of the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli joined CNN’s Jim Sciutto on State of the Union today to discuss President Obama’s tax proposal and Mitt Romney’s presidential bid in 2016. In the interview, Rep. Chaffetz says Obama tax plan is a “non-starter. We’re not just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this nation.” While Chaffetz thinks Romney is “seriously considering” a presidential bid, Cuccinelli still thinks that Romney “wasn’t an inspirational character” last election. Full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
SCIUTTO: That was Mitt Romney just on Friday hinting that just maybe he might give this running for president thing a third shot. I want to bring in now Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He’s a Romney 2012 supporter. And Ken Cuccinelli, he’s president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
I wonder if I could begin with you Representative Chaffetz. You’ve had conversations recently with Mr. Romney. I wonder what he has told you about running. Has he said he’s going to do it?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, he did call and we did speak. And he said that he’s seriously considering it. He wanted some advice and input.
But the rumors that are out there were true. And certainly for him to appear at the GOP event that was there in San Diego recently, you don’t do that if you’re just putting your ball cap down and going to Sea World for the afternoon. So yes, I think he’s very seriously considering it.
SCIUTTO: What does he say will be different about this time around that’s going to make this run successful?
CHAFFETZ: Well, he does have the experience.
I really think that Mitt Romney checks three boxes that the rest of the — the rest of the candidates don’t necessarily do.
Number one, he’s vetted. We know exactly what we’re going to get. There won’t be that October surprise that Republicans are — would naturally be worried about.
I think he has been proven right on so many of the issues. Certainly domestic policy. With (ph) foreign policy, I mean, he almost looked prophetic there talking about Russia and talking about the war on terror and those types of things. So we know he was right on the issues. And then you’ve got to have somebody who can raise the $1 billion that it’s going to take in order to beat Hillary Clinton. And certainly Mitt Romney can do that as well.
SCIUTTO: Ken Cuccinelli, there’s experience — and there’s experience of losing. Does he have the right kind of experience?
KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I’m not sure that he does.
I mean, he is — he was correct with respect to foreign policy related — compared to the president. I don’t think any of the other Republicans would have been wrong on that.
You know, he didn’t get the nomination in 2012 until he essentially outlasted with money all of the other choices and they all had to fall away effectively until he could bring his money to bear sufficiently before he could get a majority of whoever was voting left in the Republican nomination. So, he wasn’t an inspirational character. He doesn’t bring a philosophy that he can articulate well.
And if you look at the last three election cycles 10, 12 and 14 and two of them the Republicans did spectacularly well. And what was the main issue? They were fighting back on Obamacare.
And what was the one we lost? The one where the guy who invented Obamacare in Massachusetts and didn’t say it was a mistake. He doubled down on it, lost.
SCIUTTO: This is an argument that he’s putting his name out there so that all that money doesn’t get committed earlier (ph).
SCIUTTO: Does he damage though an eventual Republican nominee by keeping his name and (INAUDIBLE)?
CUCCINELLI: No. Look, we’re very early in this process. This is going to be very competitive 2015 and then the 2016.
Mitt Romney is very similar frankly to some other potential candidates, via Jeb Bush, via Chris Christie, via John Kasich. A lot of what we might analyze with him with the exception of him having run the last two go rounds as the congressman pointed out is very similar, frankly, to what a lot of others bring to the table.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, Representative Chaffetz, you heard the (ph) message. His message is about bringing wider opportunity to the American middle class which is a message that might surprise some who — you know, whether fairly or not portrayed him as the campaign — as the candidate of the — well, the opposite of the candidate with 47 percent.
How does Mitt Romney sell the message he is the man to bring opportunity to a greater number of Americans?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I think as American look at this, if you want to grow jobs in the economy, if you actually want to defeat poverty and make sure that people’s income and opportunity is swelling in this country, that entrepreneurs have the atmosphere to grow and thrive, there is nobody that’s going to beat out Mitt Romney. That’s what he’s done his entire life, his entire career is help take something from nothing and make it into something and empowering people to do that.
That is Mitt Romney’s strong suit. And he can run circles around, I think, a lot of people because he’s actually done it. He hasn’t just been in politics, this is what he’s done in his career. And it’s going to be a great strong point for him.
SCIUTTO: Were you surprised, Ken Cuccinelli to hear him portray himself as sort of the candidate of the 47 percent?
CUCCINELLI: Well, it’s clearly — it didn’t work in 2012 the way he approached this.
And I would agree with the congressman in one respect, what the congressman just said is what he should — what Mitt Romney should have done in 2012 but he shied away from it. He coward from it. Mitt Romney has had great success in business, as the congressman alluded to, but he did not defend capitalism. He didn’t make the moral case for capitalism. He didn’t make the moral case to inspire the grassroots to go and say why we should reduce the power of government in the economy. What it means for your freedom and your opportunity at your own kitchen table. He didn’t make that case. And I think Republicans have concluded that he can’t.
SCIUTTO: Representative Chaffetz, just ask you other issues in the news, President Obama unveiling a new tax plan, $320 billion largely derived from bigger taxes on the wealthy, banks in particular. You have a Republican controlled Congress as we well know.
Is this tax plan DOA?
CHAFFETZ: It’s a nonstarter.
We’re not just one good tax increase away from prosperity in this nation. This nation had its all-time highest, the record number of receipts coming into the treasury. Are you going to actually grow the economy and jobs? Are entrepreneurs going to be better off or small businessmen going to be better off with more taxes and more government? No.
We’ve got to make sure that we get a regulatory environment that’s predictable, that we bring those tax rates down and then we quit spending this money that we don’t have. More government, a 300 plus billion dollar tax bill from Barack Obama is not the formula for this country to succeed.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Ken Cuccinelli here with me in Washington, thanks very much for joining us…
CUCCINELLI: My pleasure.
SCIUTTO: …football Sunday.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.