TODAY   |  May 31, 2011

Romney: Obama an ‘ineffective’ president

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is expected to officially launch his presidential campaign on Thursday, tells TODAY’s Jamie Gangel why he wants to be president, what needs to be fixed in this country and what he really thinks of President Obama.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> launch his campaign on thursday. over the weekend he sat down for an interview with "today" national correspondent jamie gangel in new hampshire. i understand you are getting over a case of laryngitis. good morning.

>> as quickly as i can, good morning. meredith, this will be romney 's second race for the white house . he's considered the front runner leading in the polls and fund raising . just a few weeks ago he raised more than $10 million in one day. we talked to him and his wife ann about the race, whether he's kentucky enough for republican primaries and we got a rare glimpse behind the scenes at a more relaxed mitt romney , what music he listens to, what books are on his nightstand -- there's something about vampires. but we start by asking why he thinks he can beat barack obama .

>> he's been one of the most in ineffective presidents at the job at hand i have e seen. the number one issue he had was an economy in decline. he didn't cause it but he made things worse.

>> reporter: give me a grade on the presidency.

>> it's failed.

>> reporter: f?

>> absolutely.

>> reporter: it's the preview of what you can expect from romney as he campaigns for the republican nomination. attacking president obama as if it's already the general election . on the president's leadership --

>> this president felt it appropriate to go around the world and apologize for america . i don't apologize for america . i'm proud of america .

>> reporter: on mr. obama's foreign policy .

>> he doesn't have a foreign policy . the president embarrassed himself there and around the world by convincing our friends that in some respects it's better to be our foe than our friend.

>> reporter: on national security .

>> he doesn't have a cogent assessment of what he's going to do regardless of the circumstances. is iran closer to a woman? yes. is north korea more turbulent and assertive? yes. does israel feel greater peace? no. the arab spring came, one of the greatest opportunities we have seen in decades and we have been flat-footed.

>> reporter: most of all, the 64-year-old multimillionaire says he will focus on the economy, his career as a successful businessman, hoping that will help him win the gop nod this time around. so if this is mitt 2.0, how is this time going to be different?

>> well, i hope i win. i start off there. i want to make sure people know precisely why i'm running for president. the answer is simple. i believe i can get our economy going again.

>> reporter: you will see a lot of his photogenic family. married to his high school sweet heart ann, the couple has five grown sons and 16 grandchildren, a political ad man's dream. despite his front-runner status, romney appears to have an enthusiasm gap in the republican party . starting with romneycare, the health care program he sign ed as governor of massachusetts .

>> i understand there are a lot of people who would like me to get up and say it was a terrible, boneheaded idea, it was a terrible mistake and we are all entitled to mistakes. the only problem is it wouldn't be honest. we solved a serious need that existed in our state.

>> reporter: president obama can't wrap his arms around you tightly enough. he said romneycare inspired obamacare.

>> if i become president i will repale obamacare. my bill was 70 pages. his is over 2,000. he's doing a lot of stuff that's devastating to the health care system in this country. he's wrong.

>> reporter: romney has to answer critics who say he's not a true conservative, that he won't energize the base including christian evangelicals concerned because he's a mormon.

>> i don't have a question about whether conservatives, republicans and christians will go to the polls. the great propensity of faith say we are not electing a pastor-in-chief.

>> reporter: the creators of " south park " have a hit show on broadway called " book of mormon ." when you first heard of it, what was your reaction?

>> i laughed. " south park " is funny. i haven't seen it. i probably will at some point.

>> reporter: really?

>> sure. you know your faith has made it big time when people poke fun at you on broadway.

>> reporter: that said, critics say romney is so buttoned up, he doesn't connect with voters. so this time around the campaign is trying to show a more relaxed candidate. making fun of himself on "late night."

>> oprah is my half sister .

>> reporter: more tie off than on. a friend of mine said, i want to know what he's like. does mitt romney have an ipod ? do you have an ipod ?

>> i have an ipad and an iphone. i don't use my ipod anymore. i use the ipad for music.

>> what's on your play list.

>> '60s, '70s, the beatles. we also watch " american idol ."

>> you don't watch "the voice"? this is nbc.

>> i'm sorry. i haven't yet. but " american idol " i watched. this year with scotty winning, that was terrific. that guy's got talent.

>> reporter: what's the last book you read?

>> a novel called "the rule of nines" which was just fun. more serious book, i finished president bush 's book "decisions." enjoyed that very much. i like silly stuff, too. i like the twilight series . that was fun.

>> you like vampires?

>> i don't like them personally. my granddaughter was reading it. i thought, this looks like fun so i read it.

>> reporter: vampires and science fiction . i don't think anybody would have guessed it. his wife says despite the last campaign, people just don't really know her husband.

>> the public perception of him is so different from what i know. he's really very funny. i love being around him because he makes me laugh. we laugh a lot. he's a family guy .

>> reporter: why do you think people don't get that? is he a formal, reserved person?

>> no. again, i think the little glimpses you get, they are not really accurate. i think a lot of people may have only seen him in the debate setting or something else. they don't see him as the casual guy that he is. most of the time his hair really is messed up.

>> reporter: is a hair ever out of place?

>> of course.

>> all the time.

>> reporter: doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, doesn't swear.

>> not often.

>> reporter: i hear gosh, golly.

>> those don't qualify as swear words .

>> reporter: when you're really going to swear --

>> there's been a damn or a hell from time to time.

>> reporter: don't hold your breath. romney is disciplined about staying on message.

>> what are the chances you're going to win?

>> very good actually. there is no sure thing in politics. but this is a time when the american people are really concerned about the scale of government. they want someone to cut it back and they are concerned about the economy -- long term and short term. that's in my wheelhouse.

>> reporter: you're 50/50 in the polls. do you give yourself better odds?

>> i do give myself better than 50/50 odds, but it's up to the american people . i'll tell them what i believe. if that works, great.

>> reporter: he does have an uphill primary fight, meredith. polls show a large number of republicans are still undecided. as we see, there is a push for other candidates to jump into the race. we are hearing about rudy giuliani , texas governor rick perry , sarah palin is on her bus tour. and today, a group of iowa leaders are coming to have dinner with chris christie . so still just the beginning.

>> jamie, thank you very much. you take care. it's 7:13.