Conservatives struggling with message or messenger?

Questions loom over Gov. Christie's involvement at CPAC


This is a rush transcript from "The Five," February 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST: In order for Republicans and conservatives to win future elections, they're going to need a good messenger and a good message. Bill O'Reilly talked about it last night.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: The right is disorganized and lacks leadership. But if a charismatic conservative leader can emerge and can fight off the media jackals, that person can turn the country to the right.

Why? Because, inherently, America is a place of achievement. We've always been that. Once the nanny state victimization mentality begins to get hammered in an effective way, it will quickly fall apart, as fair-minded hardworking Americans will reject it. Therefore, the left has not won in America. Not yet.


PERINO: All right. More on that in a second.

But, the next event for Republicans is CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. And we learned today that Governor Chris Christie, who has a record high 74 percent approval rating, has not yet been invited and it sounds like he's not going to get one. So, we're going to ask if that's a smart move.

But, first, Greg, in listening to O'Reilly's opening last night, anything sound familiar there? You've kind of been on this bandwagon.

GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST: Yes, he was talking about finding charismatic leader. And I know he's basically talking about me. And I would run, but I just can't have the authorities digging up my backyard again. It's unfortunate thing that happens all the time.

Look, we know the message is right because even the left runs on it. They've always sound more conservative or more Republican when they're running, and that's how they win. I always liken the elections to my experience with Vanilla Coke. When I'm in a hurry after work and I go to buy soda, I always buy a 12-pack of coke and then I get home and then I realize it's Vanilla Coke because I didn't look closely enough at the product.

The Republicans keep running Vanilla Coke. They've got to look at this product and they've got to look at it and they've got to say, is this product going to win? We want a winner, we don't a whine. We want a winner.

You look at President Obama. He was grown in a lab. He was the first politician to come from a 3D printer. He was the perfect progressive candidate.

And it's time for the Republicans to do the same.

PERINO: Your thoughts on Cherry Coke?

GUTFELD: Cherry Coke I actually like, a little too sweet, though.

And I'm just all about Diet Coke and Pilates.

PERINO: The conservatives, Andrea, they don't need the new Coke.


PERINO: They need like a whole different kind of Coke.

TANTAROS: Well, I think --

GUTFELD: They need Bob's Coke.


PERINO: As soon as I said that, I thought --

GUTFELD: I'm sorry, Bob. I couldn't resist it.


PERINO: Andrea, your thoughts on conservatives.

TANTAROS: In a more G-rated fashion.

I think Republicans are dealing with tab, maybe, because --


TANTAROS: Yes, right. I used to like it, though.


TANTAROS: Not anymore. You can't get it anywhere.


TANTAROS: That's also symbolic.


TANTAROS: I agree on the message and the messenger point. But I do think that the Republicans have a big challenge, whoever the messenger is, because of the paradigm of dependency politics. I don't care race, gender, ethnicity -- free stuff is very seductive.

And I'm sure there were great messengers politically in Greece. Hey, the Greeks were all about achievement before their country went down. They achieved a lot. They invented a lot.

But the more seductively the politicians promise people things, it's very tough to resist. Even hardworking people that eventually will stop and say, wait a minute, why am I being fiscally responsible when my neighbor isn't?

So, I think it's going to be a very big challenge to fight back dependency, because remember, the last election, it wasn't the unemployment rate that mattered. It was dependency rate.

PERINO: Eric, Reince Priebus of the RNC, he was out doing a western tour. In one of the interviews he gave, he said something along the lines of what we all know is people love sugar, they just don't like the dentist. It's kind of an unpopular position for Republicans to be the dentist, basically saying, we want to preserve the program, but in order to do so, we're going to cut certain things when it comes to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

ERIC BOLLING, CO-HOST: Here's the issue that the Republicans -- I hate all of this. I hate this fighting. Are the establishment Republicans fighting with the conservative Republicans?

Look, they need to get together and form one party that has a big tent for everyone, whether you're gay, straight, black, white, male, female.

Yes, you can be a conservative for any one of those and still fall into tent.

Here's the issue with Chris Christie, though -- Bill O'Reilly is right. You need someone charismatic, he's got to be a leader, and this one, he's got to be able to -- the way O'Reilly puts it -- fight back the media jackals. That's Christie.

Look at what he is. He's definitely charismatic. He's a leader. Look what he is doing in New Jersey, 74 percent approval rating, the highest by any governor. And the media jackals one, he is so good at fighting anyone who takes him, tries to take him down. He just chops them off at the knees.

Now, my friends on the far right, hang out. I'm a very true conservative. You're going to hate me for saying this, but if you want to win in 2016, you better start looking at Chris Christie and embracing what he's all about.

PERINO: They're going to come after you now.

BOLLING: I know.

PERINO: Bob, O'Reilly said that liberalism is on its way on having victories on several fronts. Do you feel that way as a liberal yourself?

BECKEL: Yes. I think on some things, on immigration, a few other things. Yes.

But it's interesting to listen to Eric talk about this, because I remember at the beginning of the campaign season, Eric was against RINOs, people who weren't true conservative.

PERINO: Oh, really? I never noticed.


BECKEL: And now, all of a sudden, he's finally seen the light. And the light is that the Republican right message is not a majority message in America. It never will be. And the way that the Democrats came back in

'92 with Bill Clinton is move from left to center-left coalition.

If the Republicans going to have any success, they're going to have to move to the center-right coalition. They can't be dominated by their right. If they are, they lose, because the right is almost all white, and you can't win in this country anymore with all white electorate.

PERINO: Well, Vanilla Coke, you mean?

BECKEL: Vanilla Coke.

PERINO: Can we just say -- you know, for example, Herman Cain ran last year. OK? Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and then wanted to run for office, I mean, even though he wasn't successful in getting a big coalition behind him, he -- there is change afoot.

GUTFELD: You know what kills me? Isn't it the media and liberals in generally that keep talking about great diversity is, how wonderful it is to have different voices? Unless it's the Republican Party, then it's hilarious. Look at the infighting.

At least the Republican Party is vibrant with different points of view, where if you look at the Democrats, it's ideological lock step. It's the same (INAUDIBLE) they've been pushing forever.

BECKEL: Where is the vibrancy you are talking about? I'm just curious.

GUTFELD: There are people arguing with each other. You don't see it on the left.

BECKEL: Oh, I see.

GUTFELD: I mean, look how Obama has been treated when it comes to drones. What happened to the left's attack on that? What about Guantanamo?

BOLLING: You know what we wouldn't have, though, if we had a Republican president right now? We wouldn't have a sequestration issue.

We would have spending cuts across the board. We would entitlement cuts.

We would have maybe defense -- but we certainly wouldn't be worrying what's going to happen two days from now, whether or not it's going to be four hours or 14 hours.

BECKEL: Why do you think that's going to happen if we had Republicans in the White House?

BOLLING: Because this fight -- we wouldn't be having this fight, Bob. It would be done.


BECKEL: We know by the polls Republicans are taking a heat on sequestration.

BOLLING: No, we don't. Stop it. That's unfair. That's an unfair comment.

ECKEL: It's not a question of unfair, it's numbers. I mean, it's not an unfair answer.

BOLLING: President Obama came up with sequestration.

BECKEL: No, I understand that. But I'm saying in the public perception, the Republicans take the hit. Now, today, they're going to 200, what, 200 people go --

BOLLING: Two thousand.

BECKEL: Two thousand go from --

BOLLING: Eight thousand.

BECKEL: -- from immigration because of sequestration cuts.

TANTAROS: No, because they're trying to scare people. That's exactly what they're doing in this White House.

BECKEL: I got to say I got this from Eric.

PERINO: I think that needs to be explained more. Andrea, you want to


TANTAROS: It was announced today that the Department of Homeland Security is going to start releasing, I guess, illegals because they say that dues to the sequestration cuts, they don't have the money to manage the system.

I think this is all scare tactics. It's what we have seen from this White House. It's designed to, you know, further monger fear in the electorate.

I don't think the polls yet are out. I think the jury is still out on whether the sequestration will affect the public.

BECKEL: You don't think the sequestration is real?

TANTAROS: But I want to go back to Chris Christie. I can see why conservatives are miffed at him. The hurricane hug, taking the Medicaid expansion funds, and I get it.

But I think that blue state governors who are red state at heart have a very, very delicate dance to do. And I think if we continue to bully them, we are not going to have any voices in these states where we desperately need them.

So, you know, I don't agree with CPAC kicking him out. I also don't agree with CPAC kicking out GOProud, the gay group.

PERINO: Well, the way that -- they say that they cannot -- GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, they are not allowed to sponsor, basically, not allowed to give them money. They can buy a ticket and attend but they're not allowed to sponsor.

I talked to one of the guys today, they said, yes, we would definitely go back if they were asked. And I think there's some movement or some chatter from certain circles, saying, let them back in so that we can have the kind of debate that Eric is talking about.

GUTFELD: The point is, though, all of this is pointless if you have a replication of the last election, which is where you have the media focus on just Republican gaffes, and not Democrats gaffes, and you ignore sensitive issues that might harm the Democrats, i.e., Benghazi.

If that continues the way it is, it doesn't matter who you nominate, but you do, I have to agree with O'Reilly, that you have to have somebody -

- you know, this election is like a tennis match in which one player is in a piranha tank. And we need a candidate that can withstand piranhas. And I don't -- I'm not sure it's Christie, although it would take a lot of piranhas to eat him.

But you'll look at somebody like Rubio -- I think that Rubio is the mirror of Obama. Young senator and not white as you might say, Bob.

PERINO: And last question, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper.

GUTFELD: That's carbonated prune juice. Huge fan. I went to museum of Diet Dr. Pepper in Waco, Texas.

GUTFELD: Do you have a shirt?

PERINO: No. I didn't buy one, I had to get back to work.

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