BURBANK, Calif. (AP) — On Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney was mostly business — though he slipped in a few jokes at the expense of his host and his main political opponent.
Romney cracked Tuesday night that he'd pick Leno rival David Letterman as his vice president, talked at length about health policy and said he'd be happy to have a rival of his own, Rick Santorum, serve in a Romney administration.
And when he was asked to pick just a word or two to describe potential running mates, Romney had choice words for Santorum: "Press secretary." The jab played off the former Pennsylvania senator's recent run-in with a New York Times reporter. Santorum had cursed at the reporter, accusing him of misinterpreting some of his remarks.
"I'm happy with him saying he'd like to be part of an administration with me," Romney said of Santorum. "Nothing wrong with that. If he's the VP, that's better. I'd rather be the president, let him be the vice president."
In his first interview with a late-night comic since announcing his presidential bid, Romney ran through his policy positions on everything from Russia and taxes to health care and Afghanistan. He also talked about the long primary election fight over delegates.
Romney suggested he would keep popular provisions of the national health care law that protect children and would maintain some protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.
"People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they've been insured before — they're going to be able to continue to have insurance," he said during a lengthy exchange on the subject.
Romney had similarly detailed answers for Leno's questions on taxes — he tossed out phrases like "marginal tax rates," ''deductions and exemptions," ''a tax code that's progressive" — as well as Afghanistan and other serious subjects.
He was, after all, following his campaign's advice.
"They said, 'Don't try and be funny, just answer the questions straight,'" Romney said in the car ride to the studio, according to a video one of his aides posted on Twitter. "I'm rarely funny on purpose, so we'll see what happens tonight."