This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Republican race heads south. Are Mississippi and Alabama must-wins for Newt Gingrich on Tuesday? And can Mitt Romney finally break his southern losing streak?
Plus, New York's top cop is under fire for monitoring Muslims across state lines. Do his critics have a point or are they putting political correctness above public safety?
All of that, and the Obama economy. Stocks are up and so is the president's approval rating. But just how robust is this recovery?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Stuart Varney, in for Paul Gigot.
With the Super Tuesday behind them, the GOP presidential candidates headed to the Deep South this week. Voters in Mississippi and Alabama go to the polls on Tuesday in what could be a make-or-break day for at least one of the three leading contenders.
Here to tell us what is at stake, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Dan, to you first. Make or break for Newt Gingrich?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Stuart, I don't think the phrase make or break is in the vocabulary of any of these four of these candidates. OK?
Having said that, I think that Newt Gingrich has to finish in a way that bunches him around Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. If he falls off the pace, 10, 15 points, that would suggest that in the south where he should be doing well, he does not have support and there will be tremendous pressure on Gingrich to get out. The expectation would be a lot of his votes would flow to Rick Santorum. I'm not so sure that's true. Just as an exercise, I'd love to see where the Gingrich votes go, because I think we are not certain if this'll all go to Rick Santorum.
VARNEY: Didn't you talk, Dorothy, to Newt Gingrich?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yes.
VARNEY: And he says -- I'll quote now, "I was born for this." He's not getting out.
RABINOWITZ: That's right.
VARNEY: He's not getting out is he?
RABINOWITZ: He's not getting out. And I think that they have this design coming up which he's going into -- you know, there are two kids of states, there's the south and there's the Deep South. Now, the races that Newt won were the Deep South states and those are coming up again now, Mississippi, Alabama. And if he wins those, this puts Romney in a much better position because Rick Santorum will be blown out of the water.
VARNEY: Blown out of the water?
RABINOWITZ: In significant ways, yes.
VARNEY: The bottom line is you don't think that Newt Gingrich is getting out? Come what may in Alabama, and Mississippi, you don't think he gets out?
RABINOWITZ: I don't think that Newt Gingrich is getting out until way to the end, until the times where it seems hopeless.
VARNEY: Kim, Romney, make or break for him in the south?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: No, I don't think so. But this is a really key moment here. Because, if you look at the exit polls that have come out and all of these races, places like Mississippi and Alabama continue to really be the weak spot for Mr. Romney. He has trouble connecting with evangelicals, with Tea Party supporters and with a lot of blue collar workers. There's going to be a lot of those constituencies in Mississippi and Alabama. He's going to be throwing a lot of money down here. If he can come out of this and win two big Deep South states, then he actually consolidates his chances for the nomination. If he comes to the store, a lot more questions about his candidates.
VARNEY: Unstoppable momentum, you think, Kim, for Mitt Romney if he wins two of the races in the Deep South?
STRASSEL: I think he goes a very long way towards saying that he is the nominee, given the number of delegates he's wrapped up and he could also notch victories into the southern states, which are supposedly benefit weakness, if he can safely do it, that will make a big difference.
VARNEY: Jason, why didn't Romney close the deal in Ohio last Tuesday?
JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: Why hasn't he closed the deal in Michigan, closed the deal in Ohio? I don't think the people which whom he can't close the deal, I don't think they're persuadable at this point. I don't think it matters what Mitt Romney says, they're not going to support him in this primary process.
At the same time, Stuart, Kim is right. He's having trouble with certain segments of the electorate. At the end of the day, he's got their votes in December. They're not going to stay home or vote for Barack Obama. I look at the tax plan he's put out there, strong, Reaganesque supply side, he's talking about it in his speech the other night, how it will help grow the economy and saying the right things, if those folks haven't come over yet, they're not going to come over at least not until November.
VARNEY: I've got Dan and Dorothy dying to come in. Dorothy first.
RABINOWITZ: I just wanted to say, one of the things animating the Gingrich now if the fact that according to the Republican National Committee, Newt has won more bound delegates than Santorum has. All those other races have been in caucus states where the delegates are not bound. So Newt is ahead by the official count.
HENNINGER: It will be so hard for him to overcome Romney's lead. This thing is going to go to June. I believe the reason that Romney isn't closing the deal is because Santorum and Gingrich are in some sense better retail politicians than he is. They're both more charisma -- Mitt Romney is not a very charismatic public figure. He keeps making these clunky mistakes. He has good policy. He's announced 20 percent across-the-board tax and becoming more coherent in that sense, but as long as the other candidates are in the race, I think you're going to see the results and these primaries being more or less the way they've been. It will keep bobbing up and down. Now, I don't think there's any possibility of Mitt Romney winning in Mississippi or Alabama. If he won the two states, I would say the pressure on the others to get out would be overwhelming. That would be amazing.
VARNEY: Let me ask this. The people now voting for Gingrich and Santorum -- Jason, to you. If the people voting for those two candidates now, if they drop out and Romney is the candidate, will the Gingrich and Santorum people vote with enthusiasm in a big turnout for Romney in November?
RILEY: I think they will.
VARNEY: They will?
RILEY: I think they care most about removing Barack Obama.
VARNEY: Kim, can I ask you that question?
STRASSEL: I think if Romney wins the nomination, he still has work to do with these people. He's got to somehow show that he understands blue collar concerns. He's got to convince Tea Partiers that he's someone they can trust ideologically. And he has to make changes for instance on the position on Romney-care back in Massachusetts. He still has a little bit to do for an enthusiastic turnout.
VARNEY: Last word, Dorothy?