OTR Interviews

New Hampshire and Beyond: Inside GOP Candidates' Campaign Strategy

'On the Record'- On the Trail: Dick Morris breaks down strategy for GOP candidates in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida and makes predictions

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It is on to New Hampshire! That is the battle cry. The GOP candidates leave Iowa in the rear-view mirror, and the stage is now set for the first-in-the-nation primary. But are some candidates already moving beyond New Hampshire, on to South Carolina?

Welcome to a special edition of "On the Record: On the Trail." And New Hampshire is the next critical stop on the road to the White House. The candidates are already storming the state, scrambling to lock down votes in time for the primary. And then on to South Carolina and then Florida. The pace is picking up, and it is a frenzied race to the finish. So what critical moves should the candidates make next?

Dick Morris joins us. Good evening, Dick.

DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Dick, let's look down the line. So far right now, everyone seemed to have eyes on the race between Senator Rick Santorum and Governor Mitt Romney. But he certainly is in the polls ahead in New Hampshire. What does Senator Rick Santorum -- what does he have to do by Tuesday, or what can he do?

MORRIS: Well, first of all, let's appreciate the uniqueness of what's about to happen over this coming weekend. On Saturday night, there's going to be one debate, and on Sunday morning, another debate. And that will be, to my knowledge -- I could be wrong -- I tried to think about it before I went on the show today -- that this is the first time in American history that we have ever had political debates so close to an election day of consequence.

Usually, into the general election, they're two to three weeks before. And in other primary seasons, you've not had nearly this kind of frequency of debates. There may have been one, but I don't recall it.

So this debate, which will take place within 72 hours of the opening of the polls, will be very decisive. And should one person score a really good -- I can say one guy now that Michele's not in it -- one guy score really major performance, it could turn everything around because everything's flexible.

Until now, New Hampshire's been pretty solid. Romney's always polled at 40 or above, everybody else just in the teens, so he's not been threatened. Ron Paul has been running a consistent second. Santorum has now moved up past Gingrich for third place.

But hey, debating is Newt Gingrich's strong suit, so he could do really well. I think that what Santorum's got to do is to explain why he's got this momentum. To simply say that, I work hard and I go to everybody's county and I show up at every lunch counter isn't going to hack it. Those aren't qualifications for being the president.

And I think he has to explain how he differs from Mitt Romney on the one hand and from Newt Gingrich on the other. And I think that you can't just go on momentum when you're in a debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, in terms of -- let me talk for a second about Senator Rick Santorum coming into this race. Unlike Governor Huckabee four years ago, who won the Iowa caucus and who is an evangelical and Senator Santorum got a heavy evangelical vote -- Senator Santorum goes into New Hampshire as a Catholic in a very Catholic state. Does that help him or not?

MORRIS: I think it helps him a little bit. I think, actually, evangelical Protestants are more conservative than most Catholics are in the country today on the issues like abortion and stuff like that.

But do I believe that the problem Rick Santorum has is that he's not where he is now because of a great issue, like Herman Cain with 9-9-9, or a unique demographic appeal, like Michele Bachmann, or a lot of money and a big state behind him, like Rick Perry, or eloquence in the debate and fabulous debate performances, like Newt Gingrich, or iconoclastic positions on key issues, like Ron Paul.

He's there for only one reason. He was the last one standing. He was the last survivor. And to the extent he has any another credential, it's that he shook a lot of hands. He's got to backfill that. He's got to put real substance behind him in these debates and explain why he's entitled to the momentum he's been getting. Otherwise, it'll dry up quickly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, suppose that Governor Romney, who is expected -- expected, I underline -- to win this primary on Tuesday by a significant margin -- suppose it's only about 4 points. Is that still a win? Is a win is a win, or is it going to be seen as a disappointment and he didn't -- he didn't perform as expected?

MORRIS: Well, some people would try to spin it as a disappointment. There are some people who say Romney was hurt in Iowa when he won. But the fact is, a win is a win is a win.

And I believe the crucial thing then would be who's in second place? Because to beat Mitt Romney, you've got to take him on one on one. You've got to get -- the population's almost evenly divided between Romney voters and people that don't like Romney. And you've got to go one on one and not share your vote with other candidates.

Right now, you have a tri-section of the anti-Romney vote among Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Now, if Santorum finishes second or Ron Paul does a very strong showing, that's bad news for -- that's good news for Romney, even if his first place margin is limited, because it means he's facing three opponents in South Carolina, not one. And he probably can beat three. He might be able to beat two. But he probably can't just beat one.

So the important question is who's second, third and fourth, and what are their numbers?

VAN SUSTEREN: In Iowa, it seems, Dick, that Speaker Gingrich was nuked by negative ads from the super-PACs, as well as Congressman Ron Paul...

MORRIS: He was "Newted"!

VAN SUSTEREN: He was "Newted," whatever.

MORRIS: He was "Newted."

VAN SUSTEREN: And the super-PAC associated with supporters of Governor Romney. He said that he's not going to go negative. And now Rick Santorum is going into New Hampshire, riding a little bit of a wave, and he says he's not going to go negative, and maybe the others will turn on him with negative ads. Should he step it up and do negative ads?

MORRIS: Well, I think he's made enough of a focus of not doing negatives, and you know, people in glass houses don't like to throw stones. And he's got -- he would be very happy to have a no negative deal.

I don't particularly think Romney, who's been the main one running negatives, is going to do much of that this weekend because, remember, it's not in his interest for any of these guys to lose. He wants them all to lose a little. He wants to win. But he wants them all to stay in contention. He wishes the best of health to Ron Paul and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich because as long as they're all in the race, he's going to win a plurality.

And in most of these district from here on out, it's not strictly proportional representation. If some guy wins a majority, he gets all of those delegates. And Romney is benefiting from a divided opposition. You know the Roman empire slogan, "Divide and conquer"? Well, that's Romney.

By the way, I ought to mention that during the debates on Saturday night and Sunday morning, on my website, Dickmorris.com, I will be posting comments every 60 seconds about the debate. I typically post about 200 of them. And you can log on and watch the debate with one eye and my Web site with the other.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And let me ask you about the endorsement that Governor Jon Huntsman got in a neighboring state, from the Boston Globe, essentially, the state newspaper of Massachusetts. And of course, Governor Huntsman has a home or spends at least a lot of time in New Hampshire. Is Governor Huntsman a threat in New Hampshire to anyone?

MORRIS: No. He's going to be out of the race the day after New Hampshire. The Boston Globe is a Democratic Party newspaper, so it's like getting the endorsement of the devil in a race for heaven.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of -- in terms of the -- Ron Paul, do you expect any sort of strong appearance with him? Is this really his audience or his voters in New Hampshire?

MORRIS: Yes, I do expect a strong showing from him. If you ever look at a New Hampshire license plate, you know what it says, "Live Free or Die," and that could be Ron Paul's campaign slogan.

But I do think that people of New Hampshire are sophisticated enough to understand that isolationism is not the solution. Building a wall around the United States won't work. Having a strong military is what defends this country, and I think Ron Paul's evisceration of the military is quite the opposite of living free and dying. It's just a prescription for dying.

VAN SUSTEREN: Leap-frog to South Carolina. What do you expect -- or what's a good strategy for each candidate going into South Carolina?

MORRIS: Well, in South Carolina, the three non-Romneys have got to duke it out, and you're going to need one of them to predominate. At the moment, Gingrich is by far the front-runner South Carolina. Romney is second, Paul is third and Santorum fourth. Santorum might have passed Paul at this point and maybe passed Romney.

But the issue is whether it's going to be Santorum or Gingrich. You can't have both of them moving ahead. Only one guy can fit through that doorway. And I think eventually, what's going to happen here is you're going to find Newt and Santorum and Paul fighting among themselves because you need only one of them to make it into Florida.

See, Florida's where this thing may well be decided, and South Carolina's the week before Florida. So we know Romney's got a place in Florida. He's like a guy getting a bye in a divisional playoff. He's in the Super Bowl. The question then is which of those three is his chief opponent? And that's really going to be the subtext of this South Carolina primary.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how is Governor Romney going to do in Florida against whichever opponent emerges as his chief opponent in Florida?

MORRIS: Well, if it's one guy, he's going to have a tough time. If it's two, he'll coast. So it depends on whether there's a decisive verdict in South Carolina on the "un-Romney." It's not that important that Romney wins South Carolina. If he does, it's good. He then has three wins in a row going into Florida, and the inevitability argument takes over.

But if he doesn't win South Carolina, it's a state -- evangelical state. His religion works against him. The key question is, does he have a single opponent or does he still face three candidates? And you know, Ron Paul has his own independent base, so he may never drop out. And he's the kind of guy that would never drop out, he would just keep losing. And -- but Santorum and Gingrich, only one of them is really going to make it. And I don't think both of them will be standing after South Carolina.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dick, thank you.

MORRIS: Thank you.