This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 18, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: All the Republican candidates want to get there, to the White House. And they are focusing on Iow a, the Iowa straw poll coming up in Ames August 13. Our debate on Fox the GOP debate August 11. Here is the latest poll out. Quinnipiac has a new poll out that says Mitt Romney at 25 percent, Michele Bachmann at 14 percent -- this is nationwide -- Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, 10 percent. You see the rest there.
The governor of Texas said this. He's got his day of prayer coming up in Houston August 6. He says, quote, "I'm getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I've been called to do, this is what America needs," talking about running for president. We're back with our panel. Juan, Rick Perry in?
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: It certainly looks that way. Now he says that he hasn't, he's not ready to announce anything. But I gotta believe that if he is waiting he's thinking money. Do I have the money to do this? And you know what, it kind of flies below the radar, but Rick Perry is a tremendous fundraiser. He raised $22 million last quarter for the Republican Governor Association, broke records there.
Meanwhile, Haley Barbour from Mississippi, terrific politician -- Rick Perry did better. Rick Perry has a good economy in Texas. Some people say he just creates low-income jobs, but still that economy is doing better than much of the rest of the country. And he will take momentum away from Romney and Bachmann. He could be a bridge between Tea Party Republicans and establishment Republicans. So he would be a big player if he gets in.
BAIER: His record, though, in Texas is getting scrutinized. The state budget has grown faster than inflation and population growth and spending has also grown faster than his predecessor, George W. Bush. Rick, if he gets in, if he is as expected gets in, what does that do to the Iowa race? Conventional wisdom is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is positioned well right now.
RICK KLEIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: It makes things really interesting. Ames is critical for a lot of candidates, and it will become critical actually for Rick Perry even if he is not a candidate. He needs that as springboard. He needs to come in second, third, fourth, something that he can say, look, without even lifting a finger this is what I did. That's then, the boost that goes to his back as he moves ahead. But I think it throws Iowa up for grabs, certainly. I think, the conventional wisdom now that Bachmann has the state in a pretty good spot for Ames and beyond, I think that gets thrown up as soon as Rick Perry announces.
BAIER: Iowa is big for other people, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain others on this list. Obviously Ron Paul has a following in Iowa as well. What about that?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think there are two storylines. One is will any of the all-star [INAUDIBLE], the ones who are running in low single digits like a Cain or a Santorum or a Newt Gingrich, will they rise to any level and be competitive? And Iowa is a place to do it. If not, they are essentially out of it, I think.
The other story is Pawlenty. He is trying to hold his own. And it's him against Bachmann. If she defeats him handily in Iowa I think he is done. And he knows it, because he is putting all his resources into Iowa. This is his chance. So I think those are the storylines. And the prize in both of those storylines is to be the anti-Romney. And that's where I think Perry comes in. He could be the third anti-Romney. He already is third in the polls among those who are running, assuming he runs, which I'm sure he will. So, he is ahead of everybody except for Romney and Bachmann. So he is starting from a really advantageous position.
BAIER: Juan, what about Romney's strategy in Iowa? Right now he is going to take part in that debate on August 11 but he is not taking part in the Ames straw poll. Jon Huntsman is the same way, viewing Iowa is not necessary to his path. Is that a dangerous move?
WILLIAMS: I think it's very dangerous. And I think if you look back to the last cycle and you think what happened with Rudy Giuliani and these guys who decided, ya know, we can bypass the social conservatives, I think it's a fool's errand. I just don't think you gain momentum.
And remember, South Carolina is sitting right there, and South Carolina is going to bring back those social conservative issues. By the way, Rick Perry is a guy who is strong on abortion. He's a guy who has taken a strong position in terms of gay marriage. He appeals to those social conservatives. And if he is in there with the money I think he becomes a major player.
KLEIN: Yeah, I think yeah. I think there is a potential here that he invites someone else to the dance by not making a big play in Iowa. If he had made a big play and won it, won the caucus, then I think this whole nomination could be over before it started. He's empowering a [INAUDIBLE] of anti-Romney's in this equation. And I think it makes strategic sense on one level that he dumps a lot resources in there last time and had nothing to show for it except for some embarrassment that they had to overcome in the rest of it. But there is a risk there from a frontrunner to skip an early state.
BAIER: And of course we haven't talked about Sarah Palin, what she would do to the race in Iowa if she got in. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for example of a tough reaction in the rose garden.
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