Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ventured Monday into Arizona, the home state of presumed presidential candidate John McCain, to test the waters for his own potential presidential run.
The Republican, who falls to the right of McCain on most issues, fielded questions with reporters for about 30 minutes in the offices of Vestar, a Phoenix-based real estate development firm.
The real action, though, was behind the scenes.
Romney spent portions of the day meeting with Arizona political, business and community leaders. His intent was to build a network of people whom he could call on should he decide to run — and that’s all but certain.
Like McCain and most other serious contenders, Romney said he will announce early next year whether he’ll run.
The first-term governor will have some time on his hands in January when his term runs out. Romney chose not to run for re-election this year.
Romney declined to identify his Arizona contacts, but his network presumably is increasing. Monday’s visit marked his fourth foray into Arizona during the past 18 months.
“I’m keeping the option open — and that’s an active effort,” he said. “You can’t keep an option open in this country by just sitting back and hoping. So I’m doing the things you’d expect of somebody who wants to have the option of running for national office.”
McCain would be a fine candidate for the Republican nomination, but he offers some differences, Romney said.
For instance, Romney, the son of three-term Michigan governor George Romney, said he was quicker than McCain to endorse President Bush’s tax cuts.
Furthermore, he faults Mc-Cain’s campaign finance reform legislation. “I think there is more money in politics, not less. And it’s more hidden, not more open,” he said.
Likewise, he differs with McCain’s stance against the U.S. military using interrogation techniques that McCain called “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” on enemy detainees.
“I supported the president on that and did not back the senator’s perspective on that,” Romney said.
Bush argued that forceful interrogation techniques are important in fighting terrorists. McCain countered that torture should be unacceptable by U.S. personnel.
Romney declined to say specifically what forms of interrogation he feels are acceptable or unacceptable.
Concerning the war, Bush is following the proper course of action by reassessing the United States’ course, Romney said. The United States can achieve a successful outcome in Iraq by preventing a “full-out” civil war and building a country that is stable, has a central democratic government and can protect its borders, he said.
Withdrawing U.S. troops prematurely threatens to lead to civil war, massive humanitarian disaster and a collection of splinter countries that could align themselves with terrorist countries or organizations, he said.
He anticipates Bush’s nonpartisan commission will recommend an ongoing
U.S. presence that may require additional U.S. troops. The U.S. should be able to meet the burden without enacting a draft, he said.
Romney, who has five sons and 10 grandchildren, also called for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
He said decisions to allow same-sex marriages ignores the impact those relationships have on children.
“The primary purpose of marriage is the development and nurturing of children and a child’s development is enhanced by having two genders,
‘ a mother and a father,” he said. The societal cost of same-sex
marriages are enacted on children, he said.