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Video: Romney: Path ahead looking ‘very good’

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    >> much. mitt romney is also in tampa this morning. governor, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> hey, congratulations. you had the kind of day in florida the pundits said you needed to have. do you feel like the nominee?

    >> well, i feel like we had a big night last night and the path ahead is looking very good. i'm confident that if we can keep our effort together and build a stronger team across the country i can become the nominee.

    >> let me ask you one trivial point here. it's reported that newt gingrich didn't call to congratulate you on the victory in florida . is that true? were you expecting a call and does it say something about the animosity that's developed between the two of you?

    >> newt didn't call after iowa or new hampshire. i called him after south carolina , his win there, but he didn't call last night. the other candidates all called. i don't know. i guess speaker gingrich doesn't have our phone number .

    >> as i ask the next question, i want to put the cover of the new yorker magazine up for viewers to see. it shows president obama watching what they call the big game . it's you and newt gingrich wearing the same team uniform pummelling each other as the president smiles. i know you have said that a long campaign like this does not divide you. it prepares you. but if this goes on much longer and newt gingrich has said he'll go 46 more states with this, how can it not damage you?

    >> well, you know, i'm not enough of a political historian or a pundit to suggest how the length of the campaign will affect our ultimate success. but i can tell you at this point i think it's been helpful. i think the back and forth and even the attacks have been helpful because what's going to come from barack obama will be the same, just a heck of a lot more of it. having people get a chance to see what the truth is, i think, is a positive thing. as to how long it will go, that's up to the other candidates to decide. if i'm the nominee, up to me to decide as well.

    >> whoever is going to be president come january of next year will, it seems, have to deal with iran , a situation that's boiling over. the director of national intelligence james clapper issued a warning before congress on tuesday that iran may now be willing as al qaeda wanes to carry out attacks here on american soil. as you probably saw, the new york times had an article on sunday that israel may now feel the criteria they have imposed on themselves for carrying out a preemptive strike against iran 's nuclear capabilities may now have been met. would you support the israelis if they carried out a military strike against iranian nuclear sites sooner than later?

    >> well, if we reach a point where all the other options have been exhausted, and that hasn't happened yet, and by the way the president's failure to put in place crippling sanctions and stand with the voices of dissent in iran is one of of the reasons we are in the position we are. but if all other options are exhausted of course we have to consider military options including options that would be taken by israel . i would stand by and make sure israel was defended in the event they were attacked. of course we simply cannot endure a concept of iran having a nuclear weapon , of them having a capacity to provide material to terrorist organizations around the year.

    >> you used a latin phrase in writing about this a few months ago when talking about iran 's nuclear ambitions. i will use the english translation . you said if you want peace, prepare for war. do you think there is a window of opportunity, governor, that is closing fast, that within a certain number of months, not years, iran will have reached a point where a preemptive strike , a precision strike will no longer derail their ability to make a nuclear weapon ?

    >> oh, i think you're right. there comes a point at which they have a nuclear weapon , for instance. or they are so close they can't be persuaded to pull back. we are reaching that point.

    >> how far away do you think that is?

    >> intelligence is doing their best to guess when it is, but it's dangerous. i don't have intelligence from the various agencies of the world. when i become president, if i do, i will get that but it's approaching rapidly. that's one of the reasons why discussions of military options is being spoken by secretary panetta here and the israelis.

    >> there are reports you're off to minnesota looking for the endorsement of michele bachmann who has questioned your conservative credentials. do you want the endorsement? how important would it be to your campaign?

    >> oh, i would like all the endorsements i can possibly get. by the way, any question about the support of conservatives, i think, was cleared up last night in florida . people who call themselves conservative and very conservative overwhelmingly supported my campaign. tea partiers supported my campaign. i hope i can convince people in minnesota, nevada, arizona, colorado. i have to get a lot of support from many in my party.

    >> congratulations on a big day in florida . thanks for joining us.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 2/1/2012 9:06:51 AM ET 2012-02-01T14:06:51

As the congratulatory calls trickled in to Mitt Romney after his 14-point victory in Florida Tuesday night, the message was pretty clear from main rival Newt Gingrich: Don’t wait by the phone.

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“The other candidates all called,’’ Romney told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Wednesday. “I guess Speaker Gingrich doesn’t have our phone number.’’

Video: Romney: Path ahead looking ‘very good’ (on this page)

Gingrich skipped the customary congratulatory call after Romney's Iowa and New Hampshire victories, too, though Romney claims he called Gingrich after the former speaker's South Carolina primary win.

Video: Gregory: ‘Inevitability’ restored for Romney (on this page)

The ongoing mudslinging between the two candidates was caricatured on the latest cover of “The New Yorker.’’ In a parody of Super Bowl Sunday, it shows President Obama delightedly watching a big-screen television featuring Gingrich and Romney pummeling each other while wearing the same uniform. Romney’s campaign poured $15 million into attack ads against Gingrich in Florida.

Story: Romney: We'll meet with NBC about Brokaw clip in ad

The negative strategies show no signs of slowing. “We are going to contest every place," Gingrich told his supporters Tuesday, "and we are going to win.’’

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“I’m not enough of a political historian or a pundit to suggest how the length of the campaign will affect our ultimate success, but I can tell you at this point that I think it’s been helpful,’’ Romney told Lauer. “I think the back and forth and even the attacks have been helpful because what’s going to come from Barack Obama will be the same, just a heck of a lot more of it. Having people get a chance to see what the truth is, I think is a positive thing, but as to how long it’ll go, that’s really up to the other candidates to decide and, of course if I’m the nominee, that’s for me to decide as well.’’

Story: Who sings it better? Romney vs. Obama

Two sources told NBC News that Romney will getting Secret Service protection later this week because of his growing prominence and the increasing size of the crowds he is drawing. Romney now heads to Minnesota, where he hopes to secure the endorsement of former Republican candidate Michele Bachmann, who questioned his conservative credentials early in the race.

“I’d like all the endorsements I could possibly get,’’ Romney said. “Any question about the support of conservatives I think was clear enough last night in Florida. People who call themselves ‘conservative’ and ‘very conservative’ overwhelmingly supported my campaign. Tea Partiers supported my campaign, so I’m hoping I can convince people in Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. I’ve got to get a lot of support from many in my party.’’

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