Mitt Romney drew the first question from NBC's Brian Williams.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, Host, "NBC Nightly News": Your plan, as you know, focuses as much on the long term as the short term. Are you disappointed that your recipe for the economy was not embraced by the president? And as the follow-up, will you now embrace his plan?
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), Massachusetts: Well, there's a great deal that is effective in his plan. I just wish it went further.
What's effective is, first, he's getting money back to consumers. And given the fact that two-thirds of our economy is a consumer economy, getting money back into the hands of our citizens, a lot of them paying a lot for gasoline, a lot for heating oil, a lot of people concerned about how to make ends meet, that makes sense to me.
Mine was a little different. It had a permanent tax cut for people at the lowest income tax bracket. I also have a savings plan for individuals that allows folks who are making under $200,000 a year to save their money tax-free, no interest, dividends, or capital gains.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain was asked if he would support the plan when it gets to the Senate.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Yes, I will. And I'm disappointed, because I think it's very important that we make the Bush tax cuts permanent. I voted to make them permanent twice already.
If people, and businesses, and families in America are now planning their 2010 budget, there's a great deal of uncertainty. And if we don't make the tax cuts permanent, then they will experience what amounts to a tax increase.
I applaud the efforts and the rapidity with which apparently we are moving, but I also would make sure that not only the tax cuts are made permanent, but we cut corporate income taxes. That would keep businesses here, and it would keep jobs here and create jobs here.
We pay the highest corporate income tax of any nation in the world, except for Japan. I think that it would be very important that no pork-barrel projects be added as this bill winds its way through the various committees of Congress. I worry about that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Rudy Giuliani, whose entire presidential bid is staked on a Florida victory, argued the government's strategy should be bolder.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), Former Mayor of New York: I think his package, for what it does, is OK, and I would support it, but it doesn't go far enough. I think, in the face of what's been going on, which obviously is a matter of serious concern, we should be very aggressive.
Look at it this way: We're a competitive economy. We're competing with the rest of the world. If America overtaxes, if America overspends, if America over-regulates, if America over-sues, then business and jobs and money go elsewhere. And we're doing all four of those things.
So Senator McCain is right. We have to put as much emphasis on reducing spending, and this has to be a permanent package. So I hope that this is the beginning of a dialogue where what will happen is major tax reductions, major reductions in spending on the civilian side, a real analysis of our regulations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But Mike Huckabee cautioned the effects of the stimulus plan could be misdirected.
FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas: One of the concerns that I have is that we'll probably end up borrowing this $150 billion from the Chinese. And when we get those rebate checks, most people are going to go out and buy stuff that's been imported from China.
I have to wonder, whose economy is going to be stimulated the most by the package? And I'm grateful that something is being done. I think we all could at least acknowledge that it's good to see Congress working with the president to do something.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ron Paul of Texas was asked if the government should have any role in stimulating the economy.
REP. RON PAUL (R), Texas: Well, sure, indirectly. They shouldn't stimulate it by interfering in the market rate of interest. That's where our basic problem comes from.
And when you do that, you get into these problems. And then everybody wants to solve the problem by printing more money and spending more money and asking the Federal Reserve to, you know, lower interest rates. And that just makes the problem that much worse.
The government does have a responsibility, but it's supposed to lower taxes, get rid of regulations, and devise a monetary policy that makes some sense.
But to continue to say that we just appropriate more money, which is more deficit, then expect us either to borrow it or expect the Federal Reserve to monetize it, it makes our problems worse. Just look at what's happening today: The dollar is crashing.