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Special Report

Republican Voters Ready to Overlook Gingrich's Baggage?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am very open. First of all , it's a matter of public record. I'm very open about the fact that I've had moments in my life that I regret. I've indicated that I've had to go to god and ask for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation. All this stuff will come up. And that is part of the process. But I think people will also look at the totality of my life. And then they have to make a decision themselves. I am very comfortable relying on the American people to have a sense decency and to have a sense of understanding of humans beings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich talking about his personal life after an anonymous flier was distributed in Iowa that basically highlighted his multiple marriages. And here you see the latest poll out of Iowa, Bloomberg. Herman Cain, Ron Paul at 19 percent in Iowa. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. See the plus or minus 4.4. That's essentially a tie - a tie right across the board. Gingrich, surging in most polls. Steve you just spent some time in South Carolina with the former House speaker. Your take?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah. It was very interesting listening to his comments today on "Fox and Friends" and talking about his personal baggage. I probably interviewed three dozen people over the course of a couple of days down in South Carolina. I was stunned at how many people are willing to look past that and say what he has done, he has done. He said he asked for forgiveness. He has moved on, we should all move on too.

In the course of talking to these people in South Carolina, I would say 90 percent of them said in the first sentence, he is very intelligent, maybe the smartest person in the field and he's an excellent debater. I mean I would love to see him debate President Obama. Those are his two obvious selling points, and he is using them in his stump speech quite extensively.

BAIER: The Herman Cain campaign has been trying to get past all of these sexual harassment allegations. He had another bit of a hiccup we showed you last night about answering a question in an editorial board about Libya. He talked about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: [INAUDIBLE] to gather my thoughts. I'm not going to back down from that. People want to make a big deal out of it. Remember, if you're being asked seven or eight questions on seven or eight different topics, and then all of a somebody switches to Libya and they are not clear with the question, before I shoot from the lip, I gather my thoughts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: He said the Libya comment was a pause to gather his thoughts. And a lot of people have seen the video today, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It was a very long pause. And to say, you know, I was thrown eight questions on different topics is not really a great defense. If you are a candidate for the presidency you've got to answer 50 different topics. Everybody is asked different questions all the time.

And to say that it was a question that wasn't clear, he was asked whether he agreed with Obama's handling of Libya. That is not a gotcha question. I'm surprised that his support is hanging on. It's not dropping as a stone as you would have expected. I think he is over his head. He is winging it, particularly on foreign affairs. He had a dismal performance in the foreign policy debate on the weekend. Clearly he is not at home with many of these subjects.

And what exactly was it about Libya that he had to gather his thoughts on? It looked as if he either didn't know where it was or what country it was or perhaps how the war turned out or what Obama's policy was. I'm not sure was what there was that required almost a minute of thought gathering.

BAIER: Today in the hangout, former Governor Mitt Romney in a follow- up question asked about how he would run if he were the GOP nominee against president Obama on the issue of health care. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can say to him, look, in my state we were able to solve the problem of the uninsured, that was about eight percent of the population. We didn't change the plan for the 92 percent of people who already had insurance. And unlike the president's plan my plan didn't cost $1 trillion. We didn't raise taxes at all. We also didn't cut Medicare.

This is the only president in modern history, I think in all of history who has cut Medicare. He cut Medicare by $500 billion to pay for Obamacare. I mean these are reasons why the American people are saying no to his plan. And if I get a chance to talk to him about his plan I would say, Mr. President, before you put yours together you should have given me a call. I would have told you, you are going about it in entirely the wrong way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: A.B., effective answer?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think he has found over the months some good talking points on health care reform, actually. His defense of it has changed. Ultimately he's going to attack President Obama on Medicare cuts, clearly, and President Obama will say you voted for Paul Ryan's budget plan and you wanted to cut Medicare.

But as for Mitt Romney's problem in the primary electorate, he is only at 30 percent, which he has just broken now finally, because Republicans --

BAIER: In one poll.

STODDARD: In one poll. He could inch up in a few others. But after running for six years he is not doing very well. The Republican Party is looking for another choice.

And many, many conservatives still blame him for imposing a mandate on people who are uninsured in the state of Massachusetts, period, end of story. And so that is why they are shopping first Donald Trump, then Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry and the Herman Cain, and now the former speaker Newt Gingrich. They are on to their fifth backup date to the prom because they don't want to go with Mitt Romney.

BAIER: Steve, what about Congressman Ron Paul at 19 percent in second place in this Bloomberg poll in Iowa?

HAYES: That is interesting. I mean if you see his numbers tick up, he could be a factor in Iowa, and a real factor. When we had him here, he said he thought he needed to come in third place. I think if he came in third place with numbers like that, he gets a second look. I don't think he's gonna get the nomination, of course. But that could have an outcome on who does get the nomination. If you are pulling people away from potentially a Newt Gingrich or others who might have a stronger libertarian streak on economic policy, that could help Mitt Romney.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: As the non-nominee I think he could have the largest say of anybody in the country on who wins the general election. If he decides to run as an Independent, he has a base which is extremely loyal, and we know how large it is. And if he ran, he could hand election to Obama. It would be best thing for the Democrats in this entire cycle.

BAIER: By the way, that Google hangout is on our "Special Report" homepage. It's also, it will be on the Fox News YouTube page, the channel, shortly. That is it for the panel but stay tuned for finding out what works and sticking with it.

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