On Thursday's "Good Morning America," reporter Chris Cuomo saw dark motives in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks on Democrat John Edwards and his "Two Americas" rhetoric. The GMA host conducted a combative interview with the 2008 contender and even alleged that Romney's comments could even be construed as an example of "ignorance."
After playing a clip of the former governor dismissing Edwards's contention that there is a rich and poor America, Cuomo argumentatively asserted, "When you say, 'This is one America,' that could be a unity statement or it could be one of, perhaps, ignorance to the fact that in this country you have the rich growing at ten times the rate as the working class. Do you deny that is the situation in this country?" The ABC journalist then helpfully added, "You trying to make a different point?"
Romney responded by informing Cuomo that, of course, he realized there are many differences between Americans, but the common good is more important. This, apparently, wasn't enough for Cuomo. He prompted the GOP contender, "And recognize there are issues underneath that will need to be addressed?"
Other questions from Cuomo included wondering whether Mike Huckabee's surge has been the result of Romney airing negative ads about the ex-Arkansas governor. He offered asides that seemed to contain no actual question. After the candidate claimed he was simply pointing out the differences between himself and Huckabee, Cuomo retorted, "Describing the differences. Perception is negative, instead of just saying what you do well, what they don't do, inside and outside of party." Another query included the host asking, "...How long can you go without a victory?"
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:10am on January 3, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And now we're going to head over to former Governor Romney and Chris Cuomo. Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO: All right, thank you, Diane. Certainly, nobody has put more energy and time into Iowa than Governor Romney. Very good to have you this morning.
MITT ROMNEY: Thanks.
CUOMO: Good luck to you today.
ROMNEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: So, let's take a look at where things stand. It was always assumed you would start a little slow nationally and the plan seemed to be let's focus on Iowa and New Hampshire, a lot of time and money. But today when we look at the polls, you're in a dead heat at best with Huckabee who was a relative unknown. In New Hampshire, you have McCain hot on your heels. What do you think went wrong?
ROMNEY: Wrong? Hey it couldn't be better, are you kidding me? I started off as an unknown. And here I am the only guy that's in contention for the top spot in both states. Governor -- or Senator McCain, really not top contender here in Iowa. Of course, Mike Huckabee not a top contender there. So I'm at a good spot in both of these two states. I'd like to win 'em. But if I don't win, coming in second in these states is a strong statement. Then we go on to Michigan. In a good position in Michigan. South Carolina, also tied for the lead there. Nevada, tied for the lead. Wyoming. So I'm pretty pleased at the prospects. And frankly our guys are working real hard. And I'm a guy not terribly well known to most people in the country but making progress.
CUOMO: Optimism now, but how long can you go without a victory?
ROMNEY: Well, I'm hoping that I get some victories. So I'm not forecasting for anything other than success. I don't know whether we're going to win this particular caucus or the next primary. But I expect to continue to do well, to be a top contender in each of these early primary states. And I'll pick up some of the key wins.
CUOMO: Headline for you recently has been negative ads, going after your opponents in party and outside of party. You have Ed Rollins from the Huckabee campaign saying he wants to hit you in the mouth he's getting so upset at the negative ads. Do you regret a little bit the strategy recently? Do you think maybe that's why you've taken a hit in the polls?
ROMNEY: No, actually, I've been rising in the polls. I was 22 points behind Governor Huckabee here just a few weeks ago --
CUOMO: But you were up before that.
ROMNEY: Now we're tied neck and neck. And I think the reason I've been able to be successful is not just the time I've spent here and all the people I've gotten to know across the state, but also we're focusing again on issues and I think it's important that campaigns describe issues and people's positions on issues. If one didn't look -- for instance, that Governor Huckabee has been providing or being in favor of providing in-state tuition and scholarships for illegal aliens that would be an issue that people wouldn't know about. Likewise if you weren't aware of the fact that he dramatically risen, grown -- both spending and taxes, that would be something he'd get away with. And of course, giving out over 1,000 pardons and commutations. Those are differences in our record or positions and I hope people make the decisions based on positions and issues and that's why I've been running ads describing our differences.
CUOMO: Describing the differences. Perception is negative, instead of just saying what you do well, what they don't do, inside and outside of party. Let's take a quick listen to what you said about the Clintons.
ROMNEY: And I'll tell you, when I watched John Edwards from time to time get up and talk about two America, I'm tempted to -- well, offer an expletive like baloney and, uh, because, you know, we are one America!
CUOMO: Let's talk about this. You're talking with Edwards there about how two Americas versus one. Let me ask you about that for it (sp). When you say "this is one America," that could be a unity statement or it could be one of, perhaps, ignorance to the fact that in this country you have the rich growing at ten times the rate as the working class. Do you deny that is the situation in this country? You trying to make a different point?
ROMNEY: I think you probably heard me enough to know I start off by saying there's a lot of differences between Americans. They're rich, poor, Democrat, Republican, male, female, coast-livers, heartland-livers, but when it comes to the matters that matter most, supporting our nation in times of great need, that we come together as a nation. And I think it's that point that we're wise as people running for president to talk about unifying our nation, not talking about dividing our nation, and I think that Senator Edwards' comments are divisive in nature and that the great way forward for Americans is to come together, to work together for our common good.
CUOMO: And recognize there are issues underneath that will need to be addressed.
ROMNEY: Of course we have differing views on a wide range of issues. And not everybody agrees with those issues, but pointing out the issues I think is essential to a successful campaign.
CUOMO: Governor, thank you for joining us this morning. I wish you the best. I hope your health holds up.
ROMNEY: Thank you. You too.
CUOMO: Back to you, Diane.