Burbank, California (CNN) – What do you get when you pair Mitt Romney with a late-night comedian?
A pretty serious interview, as it turns out.
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In an interview with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, Romney, a famously cautious campaigner who is occasionally teased for his on-camera stiffness, spent a few minutes cracking jokes before moving to serious back-and-forth over health care overhaul.
When repeatedly pressed by Leno over his plans to repeal President Obama’s health care law, Romney said under his own plan some individuals with pre-existing conditions would be guaranteed coverage.
“As long as you have been continuously insured, you ought to be able to get insurance going forward,” Romney said, but added that security would not be extended to so-called free-riders who only apply for insurance once they fall ill.
“If they are 45 years old and they show up and say I want insurance because I have heart disease, it's like, hey guys - we can't play the game like that,” Romney said.
The pre-existing coverage provision in Obama’s health care plan is highly popular.
Leno also asked Romney to weigh in on other prominent Republicans – and potential vice presidential picks – during a game of word association. Asked to sum up his rival Rick Santorum, Romney responded: “press secretary.”
The quip was an apparent reference to a dust-up between Santorum and a reporter earlier this week.
The GOP candidate’s other responses:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: “indomitable”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: “the American dream"
Rep. Paul Ryan, author of House Republicans’ budget proposal: “creative”
Real estate mogul Donald Trump: “huge”
Romney also offered Leno his thoughts on an unexpected vice presidential option: Leno’s late-night rival David Letterman.
“I can do you a favor with this,” Romney said. “I’ll choose David Letterman, help us both out.”
Notably, Leno, who is famous for his extensive car collection, did not ask Romney about a report about the four-car garage with a car elevator the candidate is hoping to add to his La Jolla, California, home.