This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY: Over the last few weeks, I have thought long and hard about this decision. I've explored the options, I've listened to so many people and considered whether this was something that I needed to take on. But in the end what I've always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today. Now is not my time.
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BAIER: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today, saying that - reiterating really his decision as he had said it, that he is not going to run for president this year. He did say that he seriously reconsidered and came to his final decision last night at his house.
What does this mean for the GOP race? Republican consultant Mark McKinnon was quoted by the "Washington Post" as saying this, quote, "dream dating is over. It's time to love the one you're with."
Let's take a look at the newest poll. Quinnipiac just has a poll out, this is all possible candidates. Mitt Romney at 22 percent, Herman Cain continuing his surge in this poll, 17 percent. There you see the rest. Sarah Palin there at nine percent. Obviously, she has not announced. This is possible candidates.
Look back to the Fox poll, the latest Fox News poll, these are announced candidates. And there you saw Romney, Perry, and Cain with that surge again, and Gingrich at 11 percent.
What about this? Let's bring in our panel, Mary Katharine Ham of The Daily Caller, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
OK, let's start with Governor Christie, the decision and what it means for this race. Mary Katharine?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE DAILY CALLER: Well, I think a lot of people were pretty excited to see him get in. I think the race has lost in Mitch Daniels' decision not to run, Paul Ryan's decision not to run, and Chris Christie's; three pretty competent communicators. Something that I think when people saw Perry debut, they thought, hmm we would like some of that.
And so, I think it's a little disappointing for some folks, but this is the race as it is it looks like at the moment, unless Palin makes a very late decision. And so people are gonna have to get used to that. I think the last debate was Perry's third date sort of, and he disappointed. And that's why you see this surge for Cain, a charming candidate who has some business leadership. And it look like we're off and running. The next debate, I think will be pretty important.
BAIER: Next debate is next week in New Hampshire with Bloomberg and the Washington Post.
Mara, the question is about donors and whether money has been frozen by waiting on this Christie decision and whether it starts to move right now.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, I think that unless Rick Perry turns in a good debate performance next Tuesday in Hanover, I think the money will not flow to him, the big Wall Street money. He has his own Texas network that's pretty strong. And he's gonna post a really good number this quarter.
But I do think that Mitt Romney has had a last-man standing strategy, as he put it on MSNBC the other day. He said, put your head down, talk about the issues you care about and hope the other guys stumble. Well, and they have, one after another. And he has a ceiling. You can see in every one of those polls, he doesn't really get much more above 25 percent anywhere, and everybody else is splitting the conservative vote, which everyone thought when Perry got in was going to be his alone. And now Perry has to battle for that. Where does Herman Cain's support go and Newt Gingrich and all those other people and Rick Santorum? Does it go to Mitt Romney? By now, don't you think it would be with him? I think if Perry can right himself, it goes to him. If he can't, then the conservative vote is split and Romney just kind of threads the needle that way.
BAIER: On the flipside, Charles, you know, the conventional wisdom is that Romney most benefits from Christie's decision not to run because centrist Republicans will stop wishing Christie was in and go to Romney. Yet, there is straight talking blunt aspect to Christie that perhaps Cain can capitalize on those voters.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's true. But if you look at Christie and sort of the substance, this is another northeastern governor from a blue state who talks about reaching across the aisle, like Romney, who had his heresies. Heresies, in the case of Christie on gun control, on immigration. The way that of course, Romney has his heresies on healthcare.
So I think in some way, he would have been the more, as he would have entered the race, had he entered the race, Christie, he would have been exposed, as somebody who is sort of the personality you want who has a record that is not what the base, what a Bachmann, would consider, for example, adequate. She is the one who, said we don't want to settle this time. So I think he would have gone in the Romney core, although, who knows what kind of core it is. And I think, absolutely, the person who benefits the most from the Christie withdrawal, although his announcement was as surprising as the sun rising in the east, is Romney.
BAIER: Mary Katharine, the Gallup has this tracking poll that deals with positive intensity. And for a while, Herman Cain has been doing very, very well. In fact, he has been leading in this poll. And there you see it, Cain with 30 percent positive intensity. These are Republican voters, and these are also people who haven't announced. Giuliani, Palin in the mix there.
Take a listen to Herman Cain about his belief, how he is capitalizing on recent successes.
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HERMAN CAIN, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that is the case. And that substantiates what happened in Florida, what happened last weekend with a couple straw polls, the National Federation of Republican Women won that straw poll. And these are people who are very informed. So we hadn't seen that yet but that is great news that says flavor of the week might have some substance. Black walnut isn't a flavor of the week.
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BAIER: On "Fox & Friends" this morning. What about Herman Cain? The going question about him is whether he has the organization in these states to really materialize, get these voters out.
HAM: Well it never surprises me when voters like Herman Cain because he is a likable guy and he's got that thing, that -- whatever is it, that Romney -- most people think - is missing. And so people respond to that. And the question is whether moving forward -- you remember there was a Cain boomlet back after the very first debate. He had a great performance there, people really liked him. In the second debate, expectations high. And he muffed some of those questions about Muslims in the cabinet, and things went downhill. So his fundraising's been very intermittent because of that, I do think he is rising a wave now that he could sustain, but he's gonna get much more scrutiny and in this next debate he's gonna have to perform extremely well to keep that up.
LIASSON: I don't see how -- people like Herman Cain, but I think in the end, he's not going to be the nominee. He doesn't have organization he's not gonna have the money. I think Cain's surge is just a complete affront to Rick Perry and is a symbol of Rick Perry's problems.
LIASSON: -- but if Rick Perry had turned in the performance that everyone was expecting him to, the conviction politician, the real conservative -- he had every single attribute that the Republican primary voters want. He's an evangelical Christian, he's a Tea Party guy, he's been a governor, a successful governor, job creator. The fact that he hasn't been able to do that is I think the main reason why Cain is doing so well.
BAIER: Right but he's been hit in these debates on the vulnerabilities of immigration and this HPV vaccine decision --
LIASSON: Yes, that's true, but his performance, above everything it's been his performance. I don't think it's these individual things. Those are bad issues for a lot of Republican voters but I think it's been his unsteady, unsure performance that has undercut him more than anything else.
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, yes, definitely it was the style and the fact that he looked unsteady --
LIASSON: He couldn't explain his position.
KRAUTHAMMER: -- but it was also the substance. Look, he was going to be the anti-Romney, the one who was the true blue conservative.
BAIER: But Charles you could have one debate and turn it around, couldn't he?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well if he did -- but that would help him on style. But on substance he was hit by Santorum and Bachmann on immigration, on other issues that matter to the right. And people who knew him in the abstract, who liked him in the abstract, who supported him in the polls before he entered the race, were surprised to find that he is not the guy who down the line, checks all the boxes. And when he was attacked from the right, people said if he is not, ya know, the ultimate conservative, the one I can depend on ideologically, why am I going for him?
BAIER: Last word?
LIASSON: But there's one other thing about this, look at Mitt Romney's liberal-moderate positions. He's had years of thoughtfully laying the groundwork to fix all that. Rick Perry came in with very little preparation, he could have fixed any of these problems with a great conservative visionary speech and he didn't do it.
BAIER: Next up, is President Obama trying to set low expectations as part of his re-election effort? That's next.
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