By Erik Wasson - 09/09/12 01:56 PM EDT
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he could work with Democrats to “break the deadlock in Washington,” but shied away from offering specifics on plans to grow the economy or balance the budget by 2020, in a wide-ranging interview on “Meet the Press” aired on Sunday.
Romney’s interview, his first on the NBC show this election cycle, comes as the most intense phase of the presidential campaign begins and Romney tries to woo independents in key swing states.
Romney touted his work as former Massachusetts governor, saying he could remain true to his “principles,” while working with political opponents to pass needed reforms.
“There's nothing wrong with the term compromise, but there is something very wrong with the term abandoning one's principles. And I'm going to stand by my principles,” he added.
Despite polls showing Obama with a sustained bounce a day after the Democratic national convention, Romney said that he thinks he can convince Americans to elect him.
“I have really two months to be able to convince people I can do a better job than the incumbent. I think I can do that. So I'm-- I'm in a better spot than I was before the convention,” he said. He said after his wife Ann's speech at the convention “the result of that is I'm better known, for better or for worse.”
Romney emphasized in the interview the lackluster state of the economy and hit Obama on it.
“It is a jobless recovery. If it's a recovery at all. It really doesn't look like a recovery,” he said. “If this president's re-elected you're going to see chronic high unemployment continue for another four years or longer.”
He also said he opposes the Federal Reserve taking action next week to pump more money into the economy, saying it risks inflation.
Romney also tried to combat allegations from the Obama campaign that he wants to cut taxes for the wealthy.
Romney has touted his plans for a tax overhaul as a centerpiece of his approach for turning around the economy.
He was asked what tax loopholes he would close or what spending cuts he would make to pay for a 20 percent across the board tax cut while still balancing the budget by the end of his second term, but he declined to say.
Romney instead vowed that the tax reform he will push will not be a net tax cut for the rich or a net tax increase for the middle class.
“I've indicated as well that contrary to what the Democrats are saying I'm not going to increase the tax burden on middle income families. It would absolutely be wrong to do that,” he said.
Romney though was pressed by Meet the Press host David Gregory for specifics on his economic proposals.
“Governor, where are the specifics of how you get to this math?” asked Gregory. “Isn't that an issue?”
“Well, the specifics are these which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy,” Romney replied
Part of the difference with the Obama campaign on tax reform involves whether to extend the George W. Bush-era rates set to expire at the end of this year. Romney would extend those lower rates for the wealthy and then implement a tax reform that does not further lower their tax burden. Obama opposes extending the lower rates for those making above $250,000 per year.
Romney also addressed a wide-range of issues during his extended interview.
Romney emphasized that he will seek to keep popular parts of President Obama's healthcare reform, despite calls in the GOP to repeal all of it.
“Well, I'm not getting rid of all of healthcare reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in healthcare reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like,” he said.
Romney was also pressed on the lighting-rod issue of abortion and emphasized that it would be up to the Supreme Court, not the president to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“And it would be my preference that they reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue,” he said.
On foreign policy, Romney repeated his charge that failing to stop Iran from developing nuclear arms is the biggest failing of the Obama administration. He did not offer new specifics on how to change the administration posture toward Iran other than criticizing the willingness of Obama to negotiate.
Romney declined to commit to using military force to stop a nuclear armed Iran.
He simply said “we will maintain every option that is available to us to keep that from happening.”
The Obama administration similarly has said it will keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Tehran.
Romney also defended himself for not mentioning the war in Afghanistan during his Republican convention speech, arguing that he had done so in an appearance at the American Legion a day earlier.
“You know, what I've found is that wherever I go I am speaking to tens of millions of people. Everything I say is picked up by you and by others and that's the way it ought to be. So I went to the American Legion and spoke with our veterans there and described my policy as it relates to Afghanistan and other foreign policy and our military,” Romney said.