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Special Report

Will Romney Put Up a Fight in Iowa?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be here again and again campaigning here. I want to get the support of the good people of Iowa. I'd love to win in Iowa. Any of us would.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney making just his third trip to Iowa this year. But he maintained he is not ignoring the traditional first-in-the-nation contest. And we're back now with our panel. So, Jonah, we all remember 2008. Romney and his family campaigned in all 99 counties of Iowa, all in, lost, and his presidential campaign never quite recovered. Now he has a choice, because the conservative field, the field of those more conservative than he is, is kind of split up. Should he go all in to Iowa and try and deliver knockout punch, or should he husband his resources and time and money and say, no, I'll make my first fight in New Hampshire?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think he should campaign as hard and as fiercely as he humanly can in Iowa right up to the point of appearing like he is contesting it all. And then he should pull back. He wants to look like he wasn't trying. And a strong second to a Herman Cain would be a huge victory for him.

But the idea of him investing completely in it could alienate New Hampshire. There is no upside for him to do it. A strong second is great for him in Iowa.

WALLACE: Charles?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I am trying to figure out if this is another Romney flip-flop or brilliant expectations management. And I'm not sure, because there is a contradiction between how he is behaving now and how he was behaving just ten months ago. And then there was a contradiction with '08. So he's kind of been dazed and confused about Iowa for years.

I think he has gotten a big break by the fact that Iowa brought the date up so far, all the way to the beginning of January, because now he's only got about a two-month window there, and here he is sitting pretty at 22 percent. He has been there for a long time. And so he can kind of at a relatively low cost over this next few weeks play in Iowa and probably not go either much farther up or much farther down. I think he is in a good spot.

WALLACE: Charles, I want you to talk about Romney but also about Herman Cain, who has been kind of a surprise to me in Iowa because you would think it would be a good state for him. He has strong Tea Party support, he's got strong social conservative support. He has not been in Iowa since the Ames straw poll two months ago. What is he doing?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, apparently absence works because he's way ahead in the polls in Iowa. So obviously he knows something, that the rule that you are supposed to appear in all 99 states eight times --

WALLACE: 99 counties.

KRAUTHAMMER: 99 counties eight times is not exactly necessary.

Look, he is running out of the debates, he's selling his books. I'm not sure that he's got a strategy on the ground. He will develop one. But for Romney I think this is a boon to him. I think he thinks Cain is not going to win the nomination. Perry could or even a Bachmann could -- or beat him in Iowa. And with them way down in single digits in Iowa, all he has to do is sort of a halfway strategy in which he puts a toe in the water. If he wins Iowa, it's over. If he comes second or even a strong third propelled into New Hampshire I think he is headed. He's not gonna go all in, however, because otherwise he risks too much.

WALLACE: Alright, in time we have left, let's turn to Ohio. We had a report earlier from Doug McKelway, public workers trying to repeal a law passed that was passed by the new governor John Kasich that sharply restricts collective bargaining rights and bans strikes by public worker. There is a repeal effort on. The repeal effort is leading. Of course the election is the first Tuesday in November. But the lead is shrinking. Jonah, what is your thought about what is going on in Ohio? Before you do, actually, let's hear first from John Kasich defending his collective bargaining law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R - OHIO: There is no surprise to me. These are tough issues. You know, when people can get free health care and don't pay anything for their pensions, I mean, and somebody says you got to start paying, ya know, people don't generally like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Alright, Jonah, before I so rudely interrupted you, what do you think about what is going on in Ohio?

GOLDBERG: Pre-interrupted. I think, that what turned thing around for Kasich, what gave him this momentum, it still, I think you have to bet on the repeal succeeding. But he went and tried to offer this grand bargain and it alienated a lot of conservatives in the state. He tried to be reasonable with the unions. They would not take it.

And he has since gone around barnstorming the state making the case it's good for the economy. Even some liberal newspapers have editorialized on his side. I think that things are better for him than people might expect.

WALLACE: We've got less than a minutes left for the two Charles to share. This is gonna be tough for both of you. [INAUDIBLE], when you've got Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana, a lot of Republican governors going after the public workers unions, a big deal in 2012 or not?

LANE: This is the most important thing on the ballot in November this year. And if the unions succeed in rolling this back, it's gonna embolden them to go after Scott Walker for recall in 2012, which will set up a huge deal in Wisconsin.

WALLACE: And the final 20 seconds, Mr. Krauthammer.

KRAUTHAMMER: If that happens in Wisconsin, they're gonna lose on the recall on Walker. The unions understand that Ohio is Armageddon. They got routed in Wisconsin. They attempted to defeat it three times and lost. They have to make a standing in Ohio. If they lose, I think they're not going to recover.

WALLACE: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for a new look at that moment in the last Republican debate that just won't go away.

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