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Hannity

Voters fear GOP race is getting too negative

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 15, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now that Rick Santorum finds himself polling in first place, he is quickly becoming the most talked about man on the campaign trail. In fact, even super PACs like the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future have started singling out Santorum. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, RESTORE OUR FUTURE AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mitt Romney helped create thousands of jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Rick Santorum is called the ultimate Washington insider.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Romney rescued the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Santorum was in Washington voting to raise the debt limit five times.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Romney vetoed 800 times and turned a deficit into a surplus without raising taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Santorum was voting for billions in waste including the bridge to nowhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Romney and Santorum, big differences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: And now, Senator Santorum is responding with an ad of his own. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Mitt Romney's negative attack machine is back on full throttle. This time Romney is firing his mud at Rick Santorum. Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million brutally attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney's trying to hide from his big government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap-and- trade. And in the end, Mitt Romney's ugly attacks are going to backfire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now, meanwhile, we have a developing story regarding President Obama's campaign manager. Jim Messina came under fire today he echoed a controversial comment made by liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. Now, in a piece titled, "Does The GOP Care About Latino Voters?" Milbank wrote, "The Chimichang? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to officer Latinos."

And according to the president's campaign manager, that comment is the quote, "Line of the day." After demands for an apology started pouring in, Messina wrote quote, "Tweeting someone else's words caused a stir. But the GOP is on the wrong side of every Hispanic voter priority."

Joining me now to respond to all of this are a supporter of the Romney campaign, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz is here. Along with Gingrich supporter and former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts.

Gentlemen, welcome back to HANNITY.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-UTAH, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: Hey, Sean.

J.C. WATTS, GINGRICH SUPPORTER: Hey, Sean. Hey, Congressman.

HANNITY: Good to see you guys. But you're both congressmen. One is former, one is current. J.C., let me start with you. The calls I am getting, the letters, you know, @SeanHannity on Twitter, a lot of people writing. They are upset at how, well, intense this has gotten. If you want to use the word intense, how personal it's gotten. And they're worried about the net effect as you know, all this going back and forth especially between Gingrich and Romney, Romney and Santorum now, if this going to hurt the eventual nominee? Thoughts.

WATTS: Well, Sean, people should be upset and unfortunately, this is kind of a tool of the day the super PACs, you know, because you have the right to do those things. It doesn't make them the right thing to do. And I'm disappointed. And, you know you have seen that everybody has kind of risen to the top, they've had, you know, these Super PAC ads and negative ads, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, now Rick Santorum, Ron Paul. And only thing they have in common is the fact that their last name, Mitt Romney. And so, it is what it is and we're going to have to deal with it, it's unfortunate but they are there.

HANNITY: Won't the eventual nominee have to deal with billion dollars of Republicans wants dirty air and water. In one sense, can you say this is a good side to this? It's going to inoculate the nominee in the end, it's going to make them stronger or is that not on good argument?

WATTS: Well, I do think it's going to make whatever is being talked about in the primary, you rest assured it would have been talked about in the general, rather Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Rick Perry, or Michelle Bachmann, regardless of who brought it up. So, it's going to have to be dealt with in the general. I actually think if Governor Romney is going to be the nominee, and I'm trying to make sure that he is not, I think it makes him a better candidate but I think it makes Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, makes them better candidates based on what they've had to go through as well.

HANNITY: Congressman?

CHAFFETZ: I think all this sparring back and forth gets you ready for the big bout. If you can't take a hit for your fellow Republican, what is it going be like when Barack Obama's throwing punches at you and Debbie Wasserman Schultz? You want somebody who can take a shot. And there is a reason why Mitt Romney continues to excel is, he has absorbed all these shocks. People come up, they melt under the sunlight and again Mitt Romney has shown that he has the propensity to take a shot, throw a punch and is left standing. That's what you want your candidate when you've got to up against Barack Obama.

HANNITY: Congressman Watts.

WATTS: Governor Romney has not had to take any shots other than what his record was when he had a chance in Massachusetts to impact public policy. I mean that is what people are talking about. That is what Republicans are talking about. I think that is the very reason that you've seen after eight or nine different primaries, Government Romney still hadn't connected with the evangelical voter, the Tea Party voter, the conservatives which will be the ground troops, they will be the people, the boots on the ground that it will take to turn out vote come November. So, I think that continues to be a pretty serious problem for him.

HANNITY: Congressman?

CHAFFETZ: Sean, I would totally disagree. Look, I'm the second most conservative person in the House according to (INAUDIBLE). I'm a hundred percent raking from American conservative union. You can't get much more conservative than I am. And I want Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is the one who vetoed 800 bills in Massachusetts. He balanced the budget. He cut taxes 19 times. There is a reason why he excelled in Massachusetts. Why he has done well in Nevada, in Florida and he's won at every single category. You take all the votes of Rick Santorum, all the votes of Newt Gingrich, put them together, you still don't come close to Mitt Romney.

(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

WATTS: That's the issue with Rich Santorum and Newt Gingrich, you know, they are continuing to split the vote and congressman, with all due respect --

CHAFFETZ: But you add those together, J.C., you add those together you still don't get to Mitt Romney's numbers.

WATTS: You add those together and Mitt Romney, the polls that we saw today, I saw some today, you would be about upper 50s for Gingrich and Santorum and probably upper 30s for Mitt. But the point I want to make is this. You know, Congressman, you are so true. You are, they probably can't get to the right of you, anyone in the House. However, that perplexes me that you would be supporting someone that $50 abortions and he raised taxes and fees and net affect that it was more than it was less. Stood against the Boy Scouts. I mean, these are things that I think is causing problems for Governor Romney with the base of the party. And you're going to have to have the base to turn out the vote come November.

CHAFFETZ: Well, certainly Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich of all people can't claim that they've been able to energize the base. The person who has excelled from Florida to Nevada, to New Hampshire, to Maine, across the country has been Mitt Romney. And look, this is good Sean, this is good for our party. It's still middle of February. We will come together. We will be united. There is no doubt that J.C. Watts and will lock arms and go beat Barack Obama. No doubt about it.

HANNITY: Alright. I'll hold you both to that by the end of this process. And thank you both for being with us. Fascinating debate.

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