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Special Report

Politics of Romney's Puerto Rico win

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our choice will be not one of just party and personality. This election is going to be about principle. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot. And I intend to offer the American people a choice.

RICK SANTORUM, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have been outspent here badly again. And we can come back and show we have this core base of the Republican Party here in the state of Illinois, that they are rejecting mitt Romney in spite of all the advantages that he has in this race. I think that will send a signal that this race is heading in our direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: After a win in Puerto Rico all of the delegates on the table going to Mitt Romney, the next battle Illinois tomorrow, and it's a big one. Here is the real clear politics average of polls. It shows Romney up 39.5 percent to 31 percent. Two new polls ARG and PPP have it at double digits, 14 percent, 15 percent lead. But this is the average of polls as we look towards Illinois. We're back with the panel. Steve, your thoughts?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think, you know, it's easy to say in hindsight but clearly the time that Rick Santorum spent in Puerto Rico didn't do him any good and would have been time that he might have been able to use more effectively had he spent more time in the outstate areas of Illinois making sure that he gets the delegates that he is expected to get there.

I think looking forward, you know, their campaign is trying to argue this is just about Illinois at this point. This is about Wisconsin. It's about Louisiana, it's about down the road and this is a long fight. And that's the argument I think that is most effective for them to make at this point because Mitt Romney is expected to do well in Illinois tomorrow.

BAIER: Listen to the two candidates talk about Puerto Rico and the results.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Conservative principles are applying in Puerto Rico. And those people who don't think that Latinos will vote for a Republican need to take a look in Puerto Rico.

SANTORUM: We stood up for the truth in Puerto Rico. Mitt Romney pandered. He went down there and while he says that he is for English being the language of America, he goes down to Puerto Rico and says that Puerto Ricans -- 15 percent of them speak English can enter the union and not have to speak English. I mean it's just -- the outrageousness of what this man will do for 20 delegates. Maybe now we know his price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: We didn't cue the band there, but you get the point. Rick Santorum, Juan, saying he stood by his principles but he came out of Puerto Rico with eight percent of that vote and zero delegates.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: You know, and even people who had endorsed him and turned away when he started this business about you must speak English in order for Puerto Rico to become a state. There is nothing like that in the constitution, no such requirement. Clearly, there those in the Republican base who are calling for English to be the official language of states in the nation alike, but that's never been the requirement. And you are going to suddenly change it in terms of Puerto Rico. And when people are born in Puerto Rico right now they're American citizens. So, I think that doesn't work.

The other part that was more interesting to me was to hear Romney say that Puerto Rico was evidence that he can win the Latino vote. Well, there is no such evidence in recent polls. And the fact is that he seems to be doubling down in terms of his opposition, he is the hardest of all the candidates when it comes to immigration reform.

BAIER: Well, that poll had him at 87 percent.

WILLIAMS: That's Puerto Rico. That's why. That was a GOP primary in Puerto Rico against Rick Santorum.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think what Santorum did in Puerto Rico is emblematic of what he has done in the campaign. He is a man of principle and he speaks them everywhere even though there is no reason he had to. It's a theoretical issue about statehood. Puerto Rico has rejected statehood every single time it's been on the ballot. So it's not going to happen and he didn't have to answer a hypothetical that, in fact, angered the local population and electorate. But that's what he does. He answers questions on principle that a good candidate would dodge or simply punt.

And, you asked incidentally if this was the nastiest campaign ever. I would say Octavius and Mark Anthony was probably the worst. In those you lose you die. Here you lose you go to K Street and become a lobbyist.

But it is nasty. And you saw it in that tone. What will he do to get 20 delegates? He'll betray his principles? Is it a betrayal of principles to say if Puerto Rico won statehood and will admit it that not everybody has to learn English overnight? I'm not sure. But you've got the slow and steady Romney accumulating the delegates, Santorum nipping at his heals. But Illinois is going to be a big deal.

BAIER: And he's outspending Santorum really five to one, six to one in Illinois on the ground with these ads and the super PAC.

One more point. One of the pastors in Illinois introducing Rick Santorum for a speech there in front of a congregation, and a controversial statement where Santorum responded to it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR DENNIS TERRY, GREENWELL SPRINGS BAPTIST CHURCH: If you don't love America and you don't like the way we do things, I have got one thing to say -- get out!

(APPLAUSE)

TERRY: We don't worship Buddha. We don't worship Mohammed. We don't worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God's son Jesus Christ.

SANTORUM: Do I agree with his statement that America should do that? No. He was speaking for himself. He is obviously allowed to believe what he wants to believe. But obviously I believe in freedom of religion and all religions are welcome and should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: That was in Louisiana and not Illinois. Steve?

HAYES: I think you shouldn't have to answer for everything that somebody who supports you says. But if you speak after somebody who has made a statement like that, I think it's incumbent upon you to differentiate yourself from your views and his views as expressed in that clip.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well, you were saying earlier he is a man of principle. If he was a man of principle that was the moment to stand up and say I am not opposed to having Jews and Muslims who want to be Americans and who love America be part of our country.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for an unlikely musical collaboration.

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