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Exclusive Interview With Jeb Bush About Donald Trump's Comments; Exclusive Interview With Hillary Clinton; Exclusive Interview With Mitt Romney on GOP's Chances to Win White House; State of the Cartoonion, In Kind Contributions. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 18, 2015 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Back-to-back-to-back exclusives.

First up: Jeb Bush, livid over Donald Trump's comments about his brother.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.

TAPPER: Jeb's response next.

Then, one-on-one with Hillary Clinton, weighing in on Bernie, Benghazi, and 40 years with Bill.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to sit here and tell you or your viewers that it's been a path filled with rose blossoms.

TAPPER: Does she think it's decision time for Joe Biden?

Then, another exclusive: Mitt Romney, the would-be president, weighing in on his party's chances to win the White House.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would vote for the nominee of the Republican Party. And I don't believe that's going to be Donald Trump.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C., where the state of our union is exclusive.

Today, we're bringing you three blockbuster interviews with marquee names from both parties, Bush, Clinton, and Romney.

First up, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, once seen as the inevitable GOP nominee, now stuck in the middle of the pack, trailing behind Donald Trump. This week, Trump got personal, saying this about Bush's brother:


TRUMP: When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. If you look at Sandy Hook...

QUESTION: Hold on. That -- you can't blame George Bush for that.


TRUMP: He was president, OK? What -- don't -- blame him or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.


TAPPER: That comment sparked a Twitter war, with Jeb Bush calling Trump pathetic.

Trump, just minutes ago, responded, saying -- quote -- "Jeb Bush should stop trying to defend his brother and focus on his own shortcomings and how to fix them."


TAPPER: Now here with us in the flesh to respond is former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us.


TAPPER: So, what are you objecting to about Mr. Trump's remarks about 9/11 and your brother?

BUSH: Look, my brother responded to a crisis, and he did it as you would hope a president would do.

He united the country. He organized our country, and he kept us safe. And there's no denying that. The great majority of Americans believe that.

And I don't know why he keeps bringing this up. It's -- it doesn't show that he's a serious person as it relates to being commander in chief and being the architect of a foreign policy.

Across the spectrum of foreign policy, Mr. Trump talks about things that -- as though he's still on "The Apprentice." I mean, literally, talking about Syria, saying ISIS should take out Assad, then Russia should take out ISIS, as though it was some kind of board game, and not a serious approach, is just -- this is just another example of the lack of seriousness.

And this is a serious time. We're under -- we're under grave threats again, and I think we need a president with a steady hand. TAPPER: To play devil's advocate, do you think it's at all possible that your loyalty to your brother, while very admirable on a personal level, might be in some ways a political or policy liability, blinding you to mistakes he made?


I mean, so, next week, Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It's what you do after that matters. And that's the sign of leadership. It's not -- it's not the -- does anybody actually blame my brother for the attacks on 9/11? If they do, they're totally marginalized in our society.

It's what he did afterwards that mattered, and I'm proud of him, and so are a bunch of other people. You don't have to have your last name the -- name Bush to be able to understand that.

And it just calls into question Mr. Trump's credibility as a commander in chief and an architect of a next -- you know, the next-generation foreign policy, which we desperately need in this country right now.

TAPPER: Obviously, al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11.

BUSH: Yes.

TAPPER: But how do you respond to critics who ask, if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?

BUSH: Well, I -- it's -- the question on then Benghazi, which is -- hopefully we'll now finally get the truth to, is, was that -- was the -- was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security.

There were calls for security. It looks like they didn't get it. And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack? Was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That's what the investigation is about. It's not a political issue. It's not about the broad policy issue, is, were we doing the job of protecting our embassies and our consulates, and during the period, those hours after the attacks started, could they have been saved?


TAPPER: Well, that's -- that's kind of proving the point of the critics I was just asking about, because -- you don't want to have your brother bear responsibility for 9/11.

And I understand that argument and al Qaeda is responsible. But why are the terrorists not the ones who are responsible for these attacks in Libya?

BUSH: They are. Of course they are. But -- of course they are. But if the ambassador was asking for additional security and didn't

get it, that's a proper point. And if it's proven that the security was adequate compared to other embassies, fine. We'll move on.

TAPPER: Now, you're making some very strong statements about Donald Trump in this interview this morning.

You just put out a new Web ad, in fact, attacking Trump, saying he's not serious.

Let's play a clip from that.




TAPPER: Now, the ad goes on to highlight, or lowlight, depending on your point of view, of -- Trump's moments in which I'm sure you would argue he's not being serious.

In light of this new ad, let me re-ask you what I asked at the last debate: Do you feel comfortable with Donald Trump's hand on the nation's nuclear codes? Your ad seems to be stating very clearly that you do not. You invoke the number of nuclear weapons the United States has.

BUSH: I -- I have grave doubts, to be honest with you.

And it's only because of the things he says. It looks as though he doesn't -- he's not taking the responsibility, the possibility of being president of the United States really seriously. For him, it looks as though it's -- he's an actor playing a role of the candidate for president, not boning up on the issues, not having a broad sense of the responsibilities of what it is to be a president.

In his own words, it gives me great concern, for sure. And a lot of other people will as well.

TAPPER: Why do you think he continues to do so well with Republican voters?

BUSH: Look, he's a -- he's a phenomenal personality, for sure.

And he's capturing people's deep anger and angst about Washington, D.C., for sure. But he's not going to be able to solve these problems. He's just -- he's mirroring people's anger, and he does it very effectively.

I don't think Trump is going to win the nomination. I think we're going to have a nominee that will unite the party and win the presidency.

But when people begin to think about who's going to be president of the United States, who has the judgment and the seriousness and the ideas to be president to lead us in a different direction, I think that his support will wane.

TAPPER: What makes you think he's not going to get the nomination?

He's been leading in the polls now for months. I -- just as a political reporter...

BUSH: Look, it...

TAPPER: ... I don't see any evidence that he's not going to get the nomination.

BUSH: We'll see. We'll see, Jake.

I mean, this time four years ago, this time eight years ago, the conditions were very different and the nominee emerged in the -- in the -- in the January and February time frame. And I expect that that will be the case again this time.

TAPPER: After campaign fund-raising numbers were -- were put out this week, your spokesman, Tim Miller, had a rather arch comment about your former protege, Senator Marco Rubio.

Miller tweeted -- quote -- "Lying about budgets, guess Marco picked up something in the Senate."

Them's fighting words, Governor.

BUSH: Yes, I'm not -- I'm not into all that. But he -- he kind of misled people about his -- about his fund-raising results. That's fine.

Look, the process part of this is not my motivation to run. I believe we can grow our economy at a far faster rate and have a set of concrete plans to do that. And I think, on foreign policy, we've done the exact same thing. So, each and every day that I campaign, I focus on those things.

TAPPER: You probably watched some of the Democratic debate the other night. You want to be the Republican...

BUSH: Yes.

TAPPER: ... that takes on the nominee, still likely to be Hillary Clinton, according to polls.

How did she look to you? Did she look tough? Did she look beatable?

BUSH: She looked beatable because of the ideas she -- she embraced. She's a -- she's a -- she did a good job in the debate, for sure. She's a smart person, no doubt about that.

But every chance she had to lay out a -- a different approach than the one we're on now, she actually doubled or tripled down on it, more taxes, more regulation, more creating barriers on people's ability to rise up. I think there will be a stark contrast. If I'm elected the Republican nominee, it will be a stark contrast of, do you believe in the country's future with a hopeful, optimistic message that gives people capacity to achieve earned success or should we manage the decline?

And I'm excited about that.

TAPPER: Donald Trump just pushed CNBC to commit to limiting the next Republican debate to two hours. Now, this week, in addition to releasing your campaign finance records and your plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, you also released your medical records, with indications that you are in good shape.

You have a -- quote -- "capacity to complete high-intensity physical activity."



TAPPER: So, it sounds like you would be, at least physically, up for three hours of debate.

Or are you good with two?


BUSH: I can do three. I can do two. Whatever they decide, I'm ready to go.

TAPPER: That...

BUSH: I could do four if -- if forced to, but that would be -- that -- mentally, that might be too much.


TAPPER: Well, best of luck at that debate, and we hope to see out there on the campaign trail.

Governor Jeb Bush, thanks for joining us.

BUSH: Thanks, Jake.


TAPPER: There's even more from our Jeb Bush interview. You can find it on, STATE OF THE UNION. Check it out.

Coming up: Vice President Joe Biden's 2016 announcement could come any minute. Is Hillary Clinton's campaign trying to force his hand?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back.

We have got another exclusive interview for you good people this morning, this one with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, fresh off a widely lauded debate performance watched by a record-setting 15 million people, enough to put her back on top in New Hampshire, according to one poll, where Bernie Sanders had pulled ahead of her in recent months.

We met up with Clinton in the Granite State.



TAPPER: So, congratulations on this new poll number in New Hampshire showing that you're pulling ahead of Bernie Sanders in a state where you have lagged a little. He's from neighboring Vermont -- the reviews obviously very positive from many pundits.

I'm wondering what the pundit in chief, your husband...


TAPPER: ... who was in Vegas, I'm wondering what he said to you after the debate.

CLINTON: He thought I did a really good job. And I think that's the highest praise that I can ever get, because there's nobody who -- whose opinion on these kinds of things I respect more.

It was great to have him with me. We had just celebrated our 40th anniversary on Sunday last. So, the fact that he could come and keep me company and keep my spirits up and, you know, drill me on some of the things he thought were important meant a great deal to me.

TAPPER: As long as you bring it up, 40 years of marriage.

CLINTON: Forty years, Jake, 40 years.


TAPPER: How -- how -- what do you know about him now that you didn't know 40 years ago?

CLINTON: I am so grateful that we have basically had the opportunity to grow in so many different ways.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you or your viewers that it's been a path filled with rose blossoms. It's been challenging. But, overall, looking back at those 40 years, I am so grateful that, after he asked me twice, I finally said yes and have spent these years with him.

TAPPER: Turning to the debate, you said at the debate that you're a progressive, but you're a progressive that likes to get things done. Sanders has plans that I think might be fairly called more ambitious

than yours, in terms of expanding Medicare for everybody, basically single-payer health care, free college tuition, an across-the-board expansion of Social Security benefits.

Do you think he's being unrealistic when he makes these proposals, in terms of what can actually get passed through Congress?

CLINTON: Look, I have the highest regard for Senator Sanders. And I think he is raising issues that the electorate, not just Democrats, everybody needs to be thinking about.

And he has put forward his plans with passionate intensity. And I have put forth mine. And just think of the difference between us and the Republicans, who have put forth nothing but the same old out-of- touch, out-of-date policies.

TAPPER: But why are his plans more ambitious? Is it...

CLINTON: Well, his -- he has a very ambitious and expansive view about what he thinks should be done with respect to free college and other of the policies that we both are trying to tackle.

I believe that my approach, for example, on college, I call it the New College Compact, because I think everybody should have some skin in the game, including students, who I say should work for part of their education. Maybe it's because I did and my husband did, but I think it's something that you want young people to feel really committed to.

It's a difference in approach. We will have an opportunity, as these debates go forward, to really dig down. And I'm hoping that whatever network hosts them, whoever the moderator happens to be, that they will really ask us to explain and contrast.

But it's a policy difference. I mean, you could see on that stage in Las Vegas how we are maybe approaching these problems with different solutions, but we're both seeing the pressures that American families are under and the challenges that they're facing that we want to try to address.

And the differences between us is nothing like the differences we all have with the Republicans. And I want the American people to be part of the debate, and to hear Senator Sanders' perspective and what he's proposing, to hear mine, to make up their mind, and then to remember that we're not peddling the same old failed policies of trickle-down economics and let the corporations do what they want and cut taxes on the wealthy, which is the answer to everything that the Republicans put forth.

TAPPER: Speaking of the next debate, you have said in the past that Vice President Biden should have -- should take his time, whatever he needs, to make his decision about whether or not to run.

But your campaign is now signaling that it might be time for him to make a decision. Your top adviser John Podesta said this week -- quote -- "I think the time has come for a decision." Has the time come?

CLINTON: Well, that's up to Vice President Biden. Obviously, I have...

TAPPER: That's your top adviser.

CLINTON: Well, and I think what John was saying is that, whether you are encouraging or not, there does come a point where a decision has to be made.

But, certainly, I'm not in any way suggesting or recommending that the vice president accept any timetable, other than the one that is clicking inside of him. He has to make this decision.

TAPPER: At the debate, you were asked to name the enemy of which you were most proud.



TAPPER: Among your answers were Republicans. That's about half the country, Republicans.

CLINTON: Well, it was a little tongue-in-cheek.

But it's clear, I think, to anybody who's been around for a while that, you know, they do seem to enjoy coming after me. But then, once I'm in office, they have always worked with me. And I expect it will be exactly the same.

It's funny to me. When I was secretary of state, I had very high support and approval from Republicans, not just the Republican voters, but Republican officeholders. As soon as I got into this presidential election, you know, all of that collapsed again.

And I'm just reminding people that, you know, you can be an adversary in politics, but then you do have to come together and figure out how to solve problems.

TAPPER: You're talking a lot at the debate and on the stump about further restrictions on gun ownership, gun control.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: I remember, in 2008, during the primaries, you were positioning -- positioning yourself to the right of President Obama, or then-Senator Obama, on this issue. You talked about respecting how guns are part of the culture, sending out a mailer criticizing then- Senator Obama for pushing tougher gun laws.

But now you're coming at Bernie Sanders on this issue from the left. Did something change, or is it just about who you're running against?

CLINTON: No, not at all. In fact, I would characterize what happened in '08 very differently.

I spent a lot of years in Arkansas. I have a lot of experience with and respect for people who own guns, collect guns, use them for hunting, use them for target shooting. I respect the Second Amendment. I was taught to shoot by my dad when I was a girl. I have gone hunting. I get that.

And I don't in any way want to denigrate those responsible gun owners, who have rights under the Second Amendment and our laws. But I believe we have gone way too far in being intimidated by the NRA. And I have said repeatedly that the majority of Americans and the majority of gun owners support universal background checks.

And for the NRA to take these absolute positions on behalf of the most extreme of their members and carrying water for gun manufacturers and dealers is just wrong.

So, I don't think I have moved at all. I do have more experience perhaps than some in living in places. I represented Upstate New York, which is a big, vast rural area with small towns and cities. So, I get why people who are part of gun ownership are very proud of that.

But what I don't get is why we can't have sensible gun safety measures to keep guns out of the hands of fugitives and stalkers and felons and people with serious mental illness and domestic abusers, the people who should not have them in the first place.

TAPPER: "The New Yorker" this week published a memo about you, about how to defeat you, by then-Senator Obama's campaign, including your current pollster, who I don't know if has talked to you about this.


CLINTON: I haven't seen him.


TAPPER: But, in any case, among other things, the memo said that you are driven by politics, not conviction, and you're constantly shifting, dodging and changing positions to satisfy the politics of the moment.

That's kind of the same rap on you from your opponents now. Do you reject it outright? Or do you see why some people might feel that way?

CLINTON: Well, I can see why people try to come up with ways of attacking me. That seems to be part of the landscape. It happened when I ran for the Senate. It happened obviously again when I ran for president.

But I have been the same person. I have the same values. I have the same principles. There isn't anybody, anybody that I know in politics who hasn't changed a position from time to time, except some Republicans who are impervious to evidence and changed circumstances. So, I really don't pay much mind to that. I'm sure we had some memo

somewhere pointing out things that we tried to go after. But that's politics. I get it. But I think anyone who looks at what I have fought for and stood for my entire adult life, on behalf of kids and families and women and the middle class and economic opportunity, knows that I have been very steady.

And, yes, do I look at evidence and try to figure out what's the best way forward to achieve the goals that I hold? Yes, I do, do that.

TAPPER: Speaking of politics, let's talk about the front-runner on the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump.

His daughter Ivanka just gave an interview to CNN. She said her dad -- quote -- "is not a politician, but he's really changing the dialogue and he's really disrupting the process in a very positive way."

Do you agree?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I have a really high regard for her. She is a wonderful young woman.

TAPPER: And a friend of Chelsea's, I think.

CLINTON: Yes, she is.

And I think what she said is borne out by what's been happening. He has brought his oversized personality and his reality television experience to the highest level of American politics, and seems to be getting a very positive response among a large part of the Republican electorate.


So, that's up to the Republicans. They have to decide if that will be their nominee or not. I have called him out on some of the things that he has said which I thought were uncalled for, some of the insults and the attacks that he's made on immigrants, on women.

And it's just unacceptable, what he let be said about the president. So, I'm going to continue to criticize him for going beyond the bounds of what I think is appropriate for anybody running for president.


TAPPER: Stay with us. We're going to take a very quick break.

Coming up: what Clinton is expecting this week with the congressional committee she calls a partisan sham.


CLINTON: But I don't really know what their objective is right now.



TAPPER: Hillary Clinton heads to Congress Thursday to appear before the committee investigating the Benghazi attacks. I asked her about it in our exclusive interview.


TAPPER: You're scheduled to testify before the Benghazi committee and the House of Representatives in a few days. What are you expecting and how are you preparing?

CLINTON I really don't know what to expect. I think it's pretty clear that whatever they might have thought they were doing they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to -- as they admitted, drive down my poll numbers.

I already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don't know if that I have very much to add. This is after all, the eighth investigation. Other committees of the Congress, standing committees with very experienced members and staff have all looked into this and basically just rejected the conspiracy theories that are still floating out there in some circles. So I really don't know.

I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don't really know what their objective is right now.

TAPPER: I covered the Benghazi situation, the Benghazi tragedy when I was a White House correspondent and there's something I just never really understood and that is why did the State Department deny all those security requests?

The former regional security officer in Libya Eric Nordstrom recalled in testimony asking for 12 new security agents and he was talking to a regional director who said he was asking for the sun, the moon, and the stars. It got so bad Nordstrom said, that he said that he was fighting members of the State Department. It was like having the Taliban on the inside of the building.

CLINTON: Well, the accountability review board that I commissioned went into this in great detail, and they made some recommendations.

TAPPER: I know, but I guess the question is why, though? Why didn't the security requests, why weren't they made?

CLINTON: Well, that was left to the security professionals, Jake. And in the reports, the ones that have been done that were nonpolitical and independent in their efforts to try to sort this through I think concluded that the security professionals in the State Department had to look worldwide and had to make some tough decisions. That's why we don't inject politics into it. That has to be what the professionals are deciding. And there were a lot of different opinions and that's understandable. There's tough decisions that have to be made. So I can only point you to the very thorough review that several committees have done starting with the accountability review board that have gone into this in great deal and made recommendations about how we can better make those assessments. Not at the political level, because I don't think a secretary of state who may be there for four years or two years should be reaching down in and making those decisions, but we have to do a better job with the professionals charged with making the decisions so that the information can all be evaluated and the resources that are need can be asked for and deployed to the best extent.

TAPPER: I know Bernie Sanders said that, quote, "the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails." But there are a lot of people who are not...

CLINTON: Well --

TAPPER: ... including FBI officials looking into whether national security was comprised because of this server. And this is -- this is something else that is very confusing to me with all your experience why wouldn't you anticipate that over the course of four years handling very sensitive diplomatic negotiations, overseeing military interventions and surveillance why wouldn't you anticipate that something classified whether about North Korea, or Iran, or drones or an informant for the CIA that it -- that it wouldn't be e-mailed to you? And why wouldn't you consider that having it on your personal account with some server in Colorado might be a potential risk?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, nothing and I will underscore nothing that I was sent or that I sent was marked classified.

We have a system in our government, in our State Department. It was there before I came in.

TAPPER: Right.

CLINTON: It has continued after I left where there are decisions made about what is classified information in real time and nothing was marked classified.

TAPPER: The inspector general of the intelligence community said some of this stuff contained classified information when it was generated whether or not it was marked classify.

CLINTON: Well, that is just a very strong difference of opinion. The State Department does not agree with that. And it is almost an impossible standard because we had two separate systems.


We had the unclassified systems, so anybody who was on the unclassified system with the State Department would only be able to tell if something were classified if it were marked classified. We dealt with classified information on a totally different system. Nobody had access to that from an unclassified device. So, I think a lot of this is being a public display of the very common arguments that go on between different agencies and our government. This happens every time there is a Freedom of Information Act request. If something is going to be made public that was not classified at the time, maybe something has happened years later that there's a case and so now it's sensitive information. That's what's going on here. Different agencies are weighing in and saying, yes, it wasn't classified but we think that there is something in it that now we're going to say is sensitive.

You know, at the time there was nothing marked classified. And that is the fact that hasn't changed ever since --

TAPPER: Right. And you said it was allowed, too.

CLINTON: Yes, it was.

TAPPER: Who allowed it?

CLINTON: It was allowed under the rules of the State Department. And again --

TAPPER: So nobody signed off on it?

CLINTON: No, no. It was allowed.

You know, one of my predecessors did the same thing. Others in our government have done the same thing at very high levels because the rules did change after I left the State Department. But at the time and in prior years the rules allowed it.


TAPPER: Coming up next Mitt Romney reacts to our interview with Hillary Clinton. You will not want to miss it. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

Mitt Romney has kept a relatively low profile since 2012. He's here now to share the State of the Union as he sees it.


TAPPER: And former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee, Mitt Romney, joins us now.

Governor Romney, thanks so much for joining us.

MITT ROMNEY (R), 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you

TAPPER: So, you just heard Hillary Clinton she's testifying in the next few days to the Benghazi committee. She says Republicans in Congress have quote, admitted that the panel's overwhelming focus is not fact finding but to drive down her poll numbers. Is she right?

ROMNEY: Well, there are two parts of the Benghazi hearing and I think she's being trying to conflate the two. One of course is what her role was in the terrible misjudgment that she had in not providing security in Benghazi to protect our Ambassador. And I think the committee wants to make sure that those mistakes are not made again. And then something that came from the Benghazi hearings but is not really directly related to Benghazi itself, and that is the fact that, unlike any other former Secretary of State, she had her own e-mail server. And she was conducting business on the e-mail server and it's very possible that classified information was breached as a result of her misjudgment.

TAPPER: At Tuesday's debate Hillary Clinton said we have to stand -- that the U.S. has to stand up to Putin's bullying. Take a listen.


CLINTON: There's no doubt that when Putin came back in and said he was going to be president, that did change the relationship. We have to stand up to his bullying and specifically in Syria.


TAPPER: I presume that statement by her is closer to your views than those of Donald Trump, who has basically said let Russia take care of ISIS in Syria.

ROMNEY: Well, let's step back about -- and look at what she said. The idea that somehow Putin was not in charge during the time that Medvedev was the President is obviously absurd. Putin was in charge.

Hillary Clinton was completely misguided and uninformed with regards to the intention of Putin, Medvedev, and Russia. And her great mistake was characterized by her pressing that reset button with a great big smile on it that somehow she though Russia was going to be our friend and ally. And she was badly mistaken and her mistaken perspective on foreign policy has led to the fact that, frankly, there's no place in the world that I can think of where American interests have been bettered by virtue of Hillary Clinton having served as Secretary of State. That's quite an indictment, whether it's Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Libya, Israel, the South China Sea. I mean, look around the world.

That record of the Secretary of State I think will become the focal point of the debates in 2016 when a Republican nominee goes after that record.

TAPPER: Well, that nominee as of right now looks like it will be Donald Trump, even though I know you and your wife have said it won't be. I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary that it will be.

Do you -- are you afraid that Donald Trump will not be able to beat Hillary Clinton? ROMNEY: Well, I don't think it's likely that Donald Trump will be the nominee, but it's obviously too early to tell.

At this stage numbers go up and down, candidates have bursts of support. Donald Trump has had a lot of support for a long time, and so I think a lot of folks think, well, this could a lot further than, than people had expected. So, I can't predict who it's going to be, but I can predict that we'll have a nominee that will be a stronger nominee, both on the basis of character and on the basis of track record, than Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: You would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton?

ROMNEY: I would vote for the nominee of the Republican Party, and I don't believe that's going to be Donald Trump.

TAPPER: I know you haven't endorsed, but there are a lot of Republican and Democratic strategists who think that Rubio at the end of the day is the strongest candidate to take on Hillary Clinton in terms of both his raw political talent and his demographic appeal. Plus, of course, the generational appeal. Do you agree?


ROMNEY: Well, I think there's some very positive attributes associated with a number of people that are running for President.

Marco has very compelling attributes, but look at Chris Christie. This is a guy who's taken on some really tough situations in New Jersey. He's a great debater. He speaks his mind clearly and forcefully. Look, he could be a very strong nominee.

Jeb Bush as well has an extraordinary record as the Governor of Florida, an education governor, a guy who's made a difference there and across the country. He could be a very strong nominee.

John Kasich. John Kasich has done a terrific job in the state of Ohio. Rebuilt the economy there. You've got four right there that are amazing individuals. And then, of course, Carly Fiorina has risen dramatically. So we've got some good folks.

TAPPER: What about Ben Carson?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. Ben Carson I don't know as well, but he's obviously a very, a very gentle and sweet soul who speaks his mind. And I think people are very drawn to somebody who is so willing to express his views as he is.

TAPPER: This week you said that you'd like to see your former running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to one day be President. Does that ambition that you have for him make you think that Speaker of the House would not be a good job for him to take?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it's really a tough decision for him and I'm sure a personal decision. From my own standpoint I see Paul as one of the people coming along that has the potential to lead our country. And if he became Speaker of the House in the near term, that's also a crucial role. We, we need Paul in two spots at once and I -- you know, there haven't been a lot of people that have gone on from Speaker to the White House, so I'd hate to lose him as a potential contender down the road for the White House, but I -- he is such, a man of such talent and such integrity and such character that he's a real resource for the country.

So whether it's now for the speakership or whether instead we see him hold on and ultimately become potentially a candidate for president, I don't know. It's his decision, but I'm just glad to know him and to know we have him in our quiver.

TAPPER: It sounds like you're coming out in favor of cloning Paul Ryan of whatever the biomethical (ph) ethics of that are, I'm not really quite sure, but is it...

ROMNEY: I wish -- I wish we could. I mean, you know, I think the reason he has such respect, is because this is a guy who has laid out what he believes. He's a policy wonk. He is an advocate of the policies of Jack Kemp, and people respect who he is.

TAPPER: But there are people in the Freedom caucus who think -- who think he's too liberal. I mean that's where this debate in Congress right now that has felled Boehner and McCarthy has gone, people thinking Paul Ryan is too much of a squish.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, the challenge in our party is not so much that people have differing views on issues, as much as people have differing views about how to get those issues implemented. There are some in our party who think the best approach is throwing bombs. The problem with bomb throwing so far is that most of the bombs have landed on our own team. That doesn't help.

There are others who think, look, the best approach is to see if we can't find common ground with the people across the aisle. And that's been the approach in our party. We (ph) have Paul Ryan for instance that's willing to work with Democrats, I think that's a productive thing.

I confess that with Hillary Clinton, who the other night said that Republicans are here enemies, it's like, gosh, that's not the approach for a president in the White House. I mean I thought she might have talked about ISIS being her enemies or people who are chanting death to America, but instead she said Republicans are her enemies. Paul Ryan doesn't think that way, and I frankly think that we need leadership in Washington that's willing to work across the aisle.

TAPPER: When your lovely wife, Ann Romney, was on my show "THE LEAD" recently promoting her book she agreed with Stu Stevens, Stu Stevens, your former strategist, who also told me that, if you were running for President right now, as you were thinking about doing but ultimately decided not to do, you would be winning.

What do you think? Do you agree with your wife? Do you agree with Stu Stevens?

ROMNEY: I think Stuart is a brilliant guy, but I can't imagine running right now and I'm glad I'm not in this race.

A lot of people there are battling their way ahead. I think the American people want to see a new face. That's a good thing and I can't imagine how I'd be doing on that particular stage, but I salute them for their willingness to get in and fight for the things they believe in.

TAPPER: Governor Mitt Romney, thanks so much for joining us.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Jake, good to be with you.


TAPPER: How much is a handshake worth? It's this week's "State of the Cartoonion," next.



TAPPER: Candidates usually ask for cold hard cash but sometimes a softer contribution can be just as helpful it's this week's "State of the Cartoonion."


TAPPER (voice-over): Today's class in politics is about in-kind contributions. These are donations to a campaign of anything other than money that is of value furniture, printing costs.

If Ben and Jerry were to end up coming up with a new flavor to promote their preferred candidate, say Sanders needs to crunch that could be seen as an in-kind contribution. As would, as another example letting Lincoln Chafee sleep on your couch in Davenport, Iowa for a month. Or doing Martin O'Malley's laundry for him. You could use his abs for a wash board I suppose. That's in kind as well.


Now, no other candidate in recent weeks has been gifted with more high profile in-kind contributions than Hillary Clinton. "SNL" let her seem relatable in a skit for instance.

Then from an unlikely source a gift from Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to help undermine the Benghazi committee.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody thought that Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today?

TAPPER: And just this week right up there in the debate stage Bernie Sanders gifted her with this.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.

CLINTON: Thank you. Me too.

TAPPER: In-kind contributions need to be reported to the Federal Election Commission. The problem is figuring out how much each one is worth.


TAPPER: Thanks for watching.

"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS," comes right now.