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Special Report

What Does the 2012 Presidential Field Look Like?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R-MINN.: This is our country. Our founding fathers created it. Americans embraced it. Ronald Reagan personified it, and Lincoln stood courageously to protect it. And that's why today, I'm announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States. Join the team and together, we'll restore America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, as you look at the favorability rating for Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor, there you see it, 26 percent favorable, 54 percent not sure. And that is what shows up in the GOP nomination polls. You see the first page, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and then the second page, as it stands now, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty low on that scale.

He is announcing an exploratory committee. He did today. He joins Herman Cain and Buddy Roemer in that list. We're back with the panel. Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: He is an impressive guy. He is tough. He has a record of taking on unions at a moment where, ya know, that's a -- that establishes your bona fides in the Republican field without question. He is smart. I think he's probably more charismatic than people give him credit for.

I'm struck by the fact that he's the first serious contender to get in the race officially so far. Four years ago at this point you had, you had Mitt Romney, you had John McCain, you had Rudy Giuliani. All of them had announced exploratory committees months before in 2006.

It tells you that this is a delayed field. They're waiting for Sarah Palin to make a decision. But there is also, there is some infighting in the Republican Party. And there is no frontrunner. Republicans almost always have a prohibitive front-runner. It should be Mitt Romney, it's not this year for a bunch of different reasons. I actually think Tim Pawlenty has better shot than people are giving him credit for having.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I'm impressed by Pawlenty, always have been. I remember going out to visit with him when he was involved in a fight over education out in Minnesota. And he won that fight in terms of trying to rein in some of the unions and reform education, and taxes and doing so in a way responsible to tax needs in the state.

And so, that is why I think, ya know, there is a real basis for saying this is someone who can claim to have managerial experience and to have dealt with budget issues successfully. I think I differ with Tucker, though, on the charisma front. I don't think he has much there.

BAIER: It could be the un-Obama that the Republicans are looking for, perhaps. He does have slick videos, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Very. Felt epic.

BAIER: But name recognition obviously is an issue for the Pawlenty campaign.

HAYES: It's a big issue for him. He hoping that he can overcome that in Iowa because he lives close by and people will have presumably at least heard of him if not be familiar with his record.

I think he has done what both Juan and Tucker suggest, particularly on budget issues. If spending is the issue in the primaries that it is today and people are excited about it, he's got a record. The guy can go and say, "look, not only did I talk about cutting spending, here are the numbers, here's what I did." And the numbers are really impressive. I mean, ya know he got an "A" from the Cato institute for reducing spending. I think he's got a better sort of selling point than people think.

BAIER: Who is the number one, the yet to get in, do you think that could get that much attention?

HAYES: Oh, I don't know, Mitch Daniels maybe? I mean, there is a lot of Washington establishment support for Mitch and he's talking seriously about entitlement reform.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: Mike Huckabee. I mean, social conservatives and -- you know, he's charismatic, and he has a record as governor. Some have differs but -- problems with him, but he is strong if he gets in.

BAIER: Tucker?

CARLSON: There is only one candidate who can change the dynamic of the race, fundamentally and forever, and it is Chris Christie.

BAIER: That is it for the panel, not the end of the topic, for sure. Stay tuned for some March Madness.

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