Rove and Trippi on the race to 270

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, HOST: We're going to talk for a few minutes about the magic number this November, 270, as in 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Let's bring back former Bush senior adviser, Karl Rove, and Democratic strategist, Joe Trippi, to tell us the latest on these numbers.  Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

As you take a look at the latest map, and we can lay it out for you here. You can see the info on the key. Red states, Romney, blue states, President Obama, and then the pinkish is lean Romney, light blue lean Obama, and the yellow is tossup. Those are states within the margin of error, and those are tossup states.

This is all based on polls from the last 30 days. We've been meeting every couple of weeks. Karl, what has changed since the last time we talked?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, we haven't had a lot of polling because we've had the Fourth of July holiday intervene and pollsters don't like to poll. And we're likely to see a lot more in the weeks ahead, but only two states have changed, Michigan and New Hampshire.  Both of them went from lean Obama, based on recent polls to tossup states.

There were changes in a variety of other states, but none of them had changed the status of them. Two states representing 20 Electoral College votes, Michigan with 16 and New Hampshire with four went in the tossup category.

BAIER: But other changes happened. A number of categories of states changed.

ROVE: Yes. Three tossup states moved towards Obama by one point.  Three Romney states got stronger for Romney by anywhere between, you know, three points and 10 points. Three states that were Obama states got better for Romney. Again, didn't change their status. And then finally, three Obama states got better for Obama.

BAIER: Six and six.

ROVE: Six and six. Now, the bigger changes happened frankly in the states that were already safe for Romney. And the second largest set of shifts occurred in states were already safe for Obama. But the only ones that mattered were these three states, these two states, Michigan and New Hampshire, where the status changed.

BAIER: Joe, what are you seeing on the map, and maybe, particularly to where the Obama campaign is deploying money to advertise?

JOE TRIPPI, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, interestingly, they start putting money in New Hampshire last week in the TV ads there. And they've added money in the Pennsylvania this week, which sort of, when you look at the New Hampshire move to tossup, makes sense that they'd be doing that.

The interesting thing is that they haven't put money into Michigan yet. And Michigan, if it moves the tossup as it's moved is a big, big shift, because that's a state -- we haven't been really looking at it.  It's been leaning Obama. I think a lot of -- because of Romney's opposition, auto bailouts and other things, thought it would move to Obama pretty -- hasn't done that. If they have to start putting money there, too, it's really going to start stretching some of the resources.

BAIER: And it's important to point out that this is based on 30-day polls. So, in some of these states, there are not a lot of polls, and they're based on old polling.

TRIPPI: Karl and I were talking about it. We're begging for somebody to do a poll in South Carolina and Texas and South Dakota so we can put those safely in Romney territory, which is where they should belong.

BAIER: Right. I mean, Texas lean Romney is not really --

ROVE: We got several months of polls. Poor South Carolina, the last poll is December. Please, somebody, some reputable media organization in South Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas run a poll so we can settle these three states for the rest of the campaign.

BAIER: Go ahead.

TRIPPI: It means the electoral vote is actually tighter than I think we're showing it, because we're showing an abundance of caution here in keeping some of the states that are tossup from long ago polling which clearly aren't today. I don't expect them to be.

ROVE: Joe touched on a very interesting point, though. In a presidential campaign, if you're the incumbent, you try and narrow the field of places that you're playing defense. And if you're the challenger, you want to expand the field as you go forward on the places where you can play offense. For example, in 2000, we were playing offense in West Virginia. A state that Bob Dole had lost by 16 points in 2000 -- excuse me, in 1996. But we wanted to expand the battlefield.

What's happening to President Obama is, they originally were running television advertising in seven states. Then they added an eighth state. Now, they're up to nine states. It may be that Michigan -- if these numbers in Michigan are real, that they ought to be advertising in 10 states which is starting to stretch their financial resources. Between May 1, roughly, and the end of July, President Obama and his outside allies will spend roughly $116 million on television based on the buys that they've got placed today. Romney and his outside allies will spend roughly $150 million.  Obama's campaign will spend $115 million out -- excuse me $100 million out of its own war chest. The Romney campaign will spend roughly $40 million.  The difference on each side will be made up by outside allies, and that's starting to stretch it looks like the financial resources of President Obama.

TRIPPI: I agree with Karl on this. I think what -- I think the Obama campaign was really hoping that by now, this would be shrinking to a four or five-state fight. And instead of that, it's broadened out. And if it broadens out to Michigan, then I think they planned on shutting down some get out the vote, some field organizations, shutting down the number of states that were buying spots. And instead, it's not shrinking. It's growing. And that presents a resource problem.

BAIER: And quickly, I want to ask one thing. This growing conservative voice out there that seems to be saying to the Romney campaign, go on the offense. You had -- about these Bain attacks and the commercials that the Obama campaign is running, concern in conservative ranks, conservative talk show host, Mark Levin, says attention Mitt Romney and Romney campaign staff. You need to go on the offense. You have Marc Thiessen say forget the apologies. Take the mitts off, Mitt. President "Obama is playing the brass knuckle rules of Chicago politics rather than calling for apologies, Romney needs to grab a bottle, break it on the bar, and start fighting back." Is this an issue, Karl?

ROVE: Well, I think that there is some concern. Now, they are fighting back. But here's the conundrum, Obama wants them to fight back in the same way that he's attacking. He wants them to get down in the gutter with them. So, when they go back and refute this, they need to flip this to a higher level.

They need to say, these are, as the Washington Post said, misleading, untrue, and false ads. And, the reason he's doing this is because he's trying to hide his sorry record on creating jobs, controlling spending, reducing the deficit.

And they've got to raise it up. They can't take the bait and fall into the mud with President Obama, because at the end of the day, if this is a battle between two sort of mud slingers, neither one of them looking presidential, people will tend to go with the guy who is already president.

BAIER: Do you agree?

TRIPPI: I think care to be cautious candidacies are always -- don't do very well. And, Romney is a care to be cautious candidate. And they're running a care to be cautious campaign. It's not going to work. They've got -- I think they've got to get proactive and get aggressive and start defending or deflecting these attacks a lot better than they've been doing.

BAIER: Gentlemen, we'll see you in a couple of weeks. Thank you as always.

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