• With: Charles Krauthammer, A.B. Stoddard, Steve Hayes

    This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    HERMAN CAIN, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The establishment and all of these other people sooner or later, they will have to get out of denial and recognize that my message is what's resonating with the people who are going to actually cast the votes.

    MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four years ago, we said together that Michigan seemed to be enduring a one state recession. President Obama said he'd change that, and he has. Now all the states are enduring a recession.

    RICK PERRY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me share something with you -- I will draw a sharp contrast between President Obama and myself.

    (APPLAUSE)

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, before the break, our question of the day asked you will New Jersey Governor Chris Christie run for the presidency in 2012, 23 percent of you said yes, 77 percent of you said no.

    We're back with the panel. We're going to talk in this panel about the current crop of candidates. And the Florida straw poll this weekend, a big surprise to many, Herman Cain getting 37 percent of the vote, Texas Governor Rick Perry coming in second there with 15 percent. You see Mitt Romney, 14 percent, this is the Florida straw poll. Michigan straw poll, Mitt Romney won that earlier. You know, we talk a lot about straw polls, obviously Michele Bachmann winning the Iowa straw poll, Ron Paul won out in California.

    Herman Cain, A.B., today endorsed by Dennis Miller and getting a lot of attention. A big splash in Florida. And says, he is the guy that can take it forward.

    A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I don't think that the people -- the bulk of people who voted, the bulk of delegates in Florida who voted in that poll believe that Herman Cain is going to be nominee. I think they did it because they like his, the voice he is injecting and the message he is injecting into this process and they think that he is keeping the other would-be frontrunners on their toes. But I think it was a protest vote, as people are saying. I would agree with that.

    BAIER: It was a pretty big protest vote, 37 percent.

    STODDARD: That it is more than the votes that Romney and Perry received combined, it is a big protest vote. I don't, I think it's -- it says a lot more about how Romney and Perry are faring in a very important state. I don't know that it says it's the beginning of Herman Cain's running away with the nomination.

    BAIER: OK, well Steve, we make a lot of straw polls and maybe too much in the big picture. But isn't it possible Herman Cain's message is resonating with more of the electorate in the Republican Party?

    HAYES: Yes, I think it is. I mean there are two main reasons I think he did this well in addition to what A.B. said. One, he speaks with common sense. He doesn't speak politician language. He talks to people in the way people that people are accustomed to talking to their friends and their neighbors or business associates, and he make a lot sense.

    The questions he asks, sort of get laughs or eye rolls maybe from sophisticated people in Washington. But they also I think resonate with what people in the country are actually talking about.

    The second reason is, ask Republicans today, around the country, who's got a plan for the economy in the Republican party and what is it? What's Mitt Romney's plans? Lower corporate tax rates, he wants to lower marginal rates on individuals. He's got -

    (CROSSTALK)

    HAYES: -- 150 pages, 59 points, and nobody can talk about it. Herman Cain though -- ask them about Herman Cain they will say 9-9-9. And he describes it in a way that I think makes sense to the average voter, makes sense to me, even though I've got some quibbles with it. He's a guy who's actually presenting a plan. So there is something about Herman Cain beyond just the protest vote.

    Now, having said all of that, having said all of that, yeah, 71 percent of the vote went for somebody other than the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. So I think there is a huge component of this that is a protest vote. But let's not take anything away from Herman Cain and the things he's been arguing.

    BAIER: Some of this spun off, obviously, the debate on Thursday. A lot came out of that debate.

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, Cain I thought did rather well. He had support in the audience, particularly his own personal story of overcoming cancer. I think that helped him.

    But let's remember the story of straw polls. Michele Bachmann wins in Ames, Iowa. And the morning after with the entry of Perry, her campaign starts to go down. We have had five major straw polls in five states, five different winners as you mentioned, Romney in one, Cain in one, Michele Bachmann, Santorum, and, of course, Ron Paul. So it doesn't tell you a lot.

    What a straw poll can do is it can winnow. Pawlenty was already in trouble in Iowa and when he did badly in the straw poll it was over. So it accelerated and it ended his campaign. But I'm not sure it crowns anyone. And the reason is straw polls are not random samples. They are self-selected and they measure intensity, which is important, intensity means people on the ground, donors, word of mouth, et cetera. But in the end, on primary day or on Election Day, intensity counts for nothing. If you cast a vote for candidate you would die for or a candidate that you flipped a coin in deciding, they are of equal value.

    BAIER: A.B., Texas Governor Perry had a tough run at the debate according to almost every analysis. Where does his campaign stand and how does it go forward? And what's your assessment?

    STODDARD: Well, I agree. I thought it was a dismal night for him. And I think that the response confirms that to his campaign, though they are fighting back. And they are going stay in that race. I mean he is nothing if not tenacious. And he's gonna stay in.

    Mitt Romney needs to be on guard. The party is not ready to embrace him yet just because he is a great debater. Rick Perry is going to stay in the race. He is probably going to improve his game, and he's waiting for Romney to have a huge stumble.

    Romney is waiting for Perry to implode. If Rick Perry cannot implode, get some showing in this next financial disclosure quarter and show that he is getting some support despite that debate, then I think he stays in. If he continues to debate like that Bret, and he continues to not have answers, and not have specific plans, by the way, a jobs plan and a Social Security reform plan, I think that he is not going to get listened to anymore, and I think he is not going to get money or support.

    BAIER: Steve?

    HAYES: Yeah, I agree with that. I think he had a bad night. Clearly, that's been the consensus, and I think it's likely to hurt him. It hurt him in the Florida straw poll, which he made a concerted effort to win. He didn't, he didn't do well.

    But just going back to Charles' point, I disagree with you. I mean, I think intensity matters. And it matters in a significant way, especially in a Republican primary campaign season where voter intensity is what you need almost more than anything else. It doesn't mean that it changes the value of the vote when it's cast. But people who are not enthusiastic about casting votes don't go. So you need voter intensity or people will stay home.

    BAIER: OK. And we should point out, as always, that Congressman Paul has a lot of intensity out there. We talk about him in the list of candidates. Just e-mails go to Charles Krauthammer. Right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for an audience-approved answer the post-debate analysis apparently missed.

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