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Special Report

Tuesday's big Republican presidential primaries

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANIDATE: One of the amazing things about th is president is that he thinks he is doing a good job. He said the other day he is doing a great job.

NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney doesn't have it locked down. And we have no obligation to back off and concede anything until [INAUDIBLE]

(APPLAUSE)

RICK SANTORUM, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We feel very good that we're gonna have a good result here in Wisconsin. We're going to have a strong showing, maybe even sneak in and have an upset.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Three of the four candidates still in the Republican race, with three primaries tomorrow, the biggest of which happening in Wisconsin. The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls there has the spread for Mitt Romney at about seven-and-a-half. This is an average of all the recent polls, and there you see the breakdown. We're back with the panel. Jeff, you have been out on the trail. There is no letdown in the Santorum campaign when it comes to their ability to say we're in it for the long haul.

JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: I think that's right, but the long haul is getting shorter. The reality is, and his supporters realize this as well, if he does not do well in Wisconsin tomorrow, it will be three long weeks before the Pennsylvania primary on April 24. It's still a contest of delegates. But what is happening now in those three weeks, a lot of the county conventions across the country are beginning to pick their delegates from the Iowa caucuses, the Minnesota caucuses. And what Senator Santorum needs is a bit of good news coming out of Wisconsin so some of those delegates keep with him.

So, it's not over. Mathematically it's not over. But if the Romney campaign has not over-exaggerated its expectations and in fact he wins tomorrow, we are seeing the beginning of a narrowing of this without question.

BAIER: You mentioned Pennsylvania, that is April 24, a string of states that day. The Real Clear Politics average in Pennsylvania has Santorum up about eight points, eight- and-a-half, almost nine points there in the average. He was up some 20, 25 points Tucker, so it's narrowing there.

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: These are pretty dynamic poll numbers. They build on one another and compound, public perception changes quickly. I don't think it's implausible that Santorum wins tomorrow. The spread is under 10 --

BAIER: And he has outperformed --

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's right. And I would say, in general in this primary season, maybe for the last couple of election cycles, the polls have not been very accurate, even some of the exit polls which should not err at all have been inaccurate. Interestingly, Santorum in a head-to-head matchup in Wisconsin outperforms Mitt Romney against Barack Obama. Which is to say, more Wisconsin voters say they'd vote for Santorum against Obama than would vote for Romney. I do think if he doesn't win this, however, the money begins to dry up. And that's kinda the key.

BAIER: Jonah, I asked Brit about this, and Santorum is running a really tough ad against Romney in Wisconsin, morphing President Obama and Mitt Romney. At some point does that become an issue that the pressure from the party becomes too intense, if Wisconsin doesn't pan out for him tomorrow?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think it probably does, although, I'm on the -- I'm a little more skeptical than a lot of people about how much damage Santorum does to Romney with these negative ads and all the rest. At the end of the day if Romney is the nominee, which I think we all agree is likely, the idea that there are going to be significant portions of the Republican base that are going to stay home and not vote, or not vote for Romney in some other capacity, just doesn't seem very plausible to me.

He could lose some evangelical vote in states where Republicans are still gonna win by double digits anyway. But being called too liberal and too moderate does not hurt Romney in the general election all that much. I think most Republicans are enthusiastic -- are more enthusiastic to vote against Obama than anything else. And that they're gonna stick with the party.

BAIER: Santorum is feisty on the trail. An example of that with Jeff Zeleny earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: He fashioned the blueprint. I have been saying it at every speech. Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's bulls***. Come on, man. What are you doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: We haven't heard your side of that little interchange?

ZELENY: Well, my side is that a lot of Republican voters are beginning to sort of raise questions and concerns about his level of rhetoric. I was simply asking him the question, responding -- or trying to have him elaborate on, is Mitt Romney the worst Republican ever. And finally after all of that, he said on healthcare, which he did not say initially in a speech though.

Look, I think that is one of the reasons that people like Senator Santorum, it's one of the reasons that he is still in the race now. He is animated. He doesn't follow all the rules, all of the -- he is more exciting often times than Mitt Romney on the trail. That is one example of that there. So, you know, we'll see how the voters of Wisconsin view that. It was played over and over and over. My guess is that the - or not my guess. The actual fight here is between Santorum and Romney, I have nothing to do with that --

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: I love Wisconsin.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: Tucker, last word. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, what is their trajectory and what do you think their game plan is?

CARLSON: Well, Ron Paul's in it to prove a point. His campaign is ongoing. I presume he will campaign in one sense or another as long as he is on this earth. Newt Gingrich has been in politics for 40 years and he understands how they play out and how they end. And I think he is looking for an honorable, less embarrassing way to get out, and I think that will be soon.

BAIER: Soon?

GOLDBERG: I don't know. I think he is shaking his fist heavenward cursing the gods that they have stolen his divinely ordained presidency from him. So he may stay in a little while longer.

ZELENY: I think he is staying in to keep Governor Romney honest. That's what one of his advisors said. So I'm not sure -- he will be around until the convention but he's not as much of an electoral factor.

BAIER: That is it for panel. But stay tuned for a must-see video, especially for parents.

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