OTR Interviews

'The Donald' Fires Himself from 2012 White House Bid: Who Are the Big Winners and Losers?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's over. Donald Trump is now out. But he is not the only one who is out. So is former governor Mike Huckabee. So right now, there are others who are teasing a run, but we have only three official candidates seeking the 2012 Republican nomination, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Texas congressman Ron Paul and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

But who are the big winners and the big losers now that Donald Trump has stepped back? Rick Klein, senior Washington editor for "ABC World News" joins us. So, who are the big winners and who are the big losers now that Donald Trump has stepped out?

RICK KLEIN, "ABC WORLD NEWS": Well, for starters, I think, people that are interested in a fun campaign are big losers of what just happened because Mike Huckabee was such a fun, funny guy, and Donald Trump was a lot to have fun with and -- throughout all of this.

I think, look, I think it's a winner for the serious candidates because there's a lot more oxygen all of a sudden in this race with Donald Trump out of it. He was a sideshow, and he is now totally sidelined and taking himself out of it.

So I think for the putative front-runner, like Mitt Romney, that's a good thing. I think for the lower tier candidates, the folks that need to find a voice, need to find some running room in this, they now have that opportunity. And I think these two candidates, both Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, there's one thing that kind of makes them similar. There's an economic populism there. There's kind of an "us versus the establishment" mentality, and I think someone else can tap into that, one of the other candidates.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I have an e-mail tonight from Carl Cameron, my colleague, who says -- who sent an e-mail to all of us -- he says senior insiders to Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann says that Republican founder of the House Tea Party Caucus is now very likely to run for president. And she's even got a new Web design. But that's in response to the Trump out (ph).

KLEIN: I think she is a big winner in these last couple of days. I think she's well positioned to take advantage of the social conservative vote that went to Mike Huckabee, as well as this populism that she can channel and say, Look, we're going to go in there and fight for you. Trump and Huckabee both spoke to that. I think she is now stronger, and she's I think very likely to do well in Iowa if she gets in the race.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of thought that Iowa and South Carolina have sort of -- they'd like the same candidate, pretty much. But if you win Iowa and you win South Carolina -- of course, the -- New Hampshire is in between them -- does that mean you're necessarily -- I mean, you're going to win?

KLEIN: If you win those two, then you've got a big head of steam heading into the other contests. What we really haven't seen is someone who's really splitting all those early states. And if they went 50/50, that's what makes it interesting beyond that. If one candidate is able to win Iowa and South Carolina and not get embarrassed in New Hampshire in between, then I think that person is definitely the front-runner when you get into the big delegate-rich states that come next.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, everyone seems to have a little bit of a problem. Mitt Romney -- Governor Mitt Romney has a problem with the Massachusetts health care. And then today, former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich seems to have gotten himself into a little bit mess in terms of what he says in terms of whether or not he's going after his party or not.

KLEIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: He denies it. Nobody seems sort of, quote, "perfect" within the Republican model.

KLEIN: That's exactly right. And Republicans are looking at this field and they see a lot of flawed candidates out there and they see a lot of big names that aren't there. Right now in our polling, the number two, three and four Republicans are all not candidates.


KLEIN: Huckabee, Trump and Sarah Palin. All of them are not running right now. Mitt Romney is the number one candidate in that polling. So you've got a lot of big names that are taking a pass on this for a variety of reasons, or at least haven't gotten in the race yet in the case of Governor Palin. And then you have these very flawed candidates. Now, those flaws tend to go away over time. There's something about the primary campaign that makes a candidate look a lot better.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or we get -- or we get -- we get used to it.


KLEIN: Or you have a situation where someone comes in from the outside late in the game, whether it's a Governor Palin or a Governor Chris Christie, someone who has who has not gone through all of it and maybe sits out several of the debates through the summer, gets in late and is able to raise a lot of money in a hurry. That's a tough strategy to pull off, but there are a couple of folks that may be able to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, everyone speaks as though Governor Palin is a candidate. She is -- as far as I can see...

KLEIN: She's not.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... she's given no indication that she is.

KLEIN: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, she may be. But she has not -- at least -- but I mean, she's been so unconventional in how she's done things that I don't know if that's sort of her unconventional approach to it.

KLEIN: That's right. And -- we don't know that and that's in her head. But right now, she's not a candidate. She's made no formal or informal moves to suggest that a candidacy is in the offing. That -- she has an advantage over most of the candidates in that she'd be able to turn on a national fund-raising network overnight, name recognition not a problem, media attention not a problem for her.

VAN SUSTEREN: How would she do in Iowa and South Carolina?

KLEIN: I think Iowa would be very friendly to her. I think South Carolina probably friendly, as well. I think New Hampshire would be more of a challenge. Look, she would -- she would come in and just draw -- it would be such a sensation, I think, off the bat, it would be hard to see a scenario where she wouldn't be competitive early on.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about Governor Mitch Daniels in Iowa and South Carolina? Who would do better, Palin or Daniels?

KLEIN: It depends on what Mitch Daniels does to kind of expand on what's going on right now. There's such a clamor out there for other candidates. Mitch Daniels is the beneficiary of that right now. He has to make sure that his best day isn't right when he announces. I think he has to go beyond that and start to impress people beyond that. I think he's a candidate that can be taken very seriously. The economic conservatism, fiscal conservatism that really runs through a lot of what he says is very compelling for a lot of folks in the Republican Party right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rick, thank you.