This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R - NH: We had a brief conversation and I certainly said, you know, good for you for getting back in. And we talked a lot about the dynamics in New Hampshire.
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BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Getting back in. Mitt Romney calling Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire talking about New Hampshire. Meantime, the finance chair for the Republican Governors Association, Fred Malik, says he doesn't have much doubt, 80 percent chance that Mitt Romney is going to run for president this time.
We're back with the panel. Tucker, thoughts?
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX AND FRIENDS WEEKEND: I don't think, A, this was the plan as of late last week according to the people I was talking to then. I really think this is a decision they made pretty -- in the last couple of days. B, I think it's going to be pretty tough. Called around today and you know it's hard to find donors outside of Utah, outside of the core who are really excited about this. That may change.
Seems to me the most direct effect of this announcement and I think it looks real, is that it makes it tougher for Jeb. And that may be part of the reason. There is no love lost between Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney as everybody knows.
But the Bush campaign has said -- one of its senior advisers said, I'm back, and we are going to raise $100 million in the first quarter in 2015. They tried to walk at that but it raised expectations pretty high. This, in effect, tells a lot of GOP donors just put it on pause. Not necessarily giving to Mitt right now but if you're going to give to Jeb Bush, you know, slow down for a minute. It kind of freezes the race a little bit. And I think Bush is hurt more than anyone by that.
BAIER: You know, A.B., we have put up this full screen of 24 head boxes of potential people running and we crossed out this week Paul Ryan in the corner so there's 23. There are a lot of people still who are considering it but those are two big names right there.
A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Well, there are a lot of people. But I think the party continues decade after decade after decade to nominate a center right candidate and not one from the right-wing of the party. So a lot of those -- the other candidates just don't have the heft that Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, two former governors, have.
And this is a -- this is a huge fight for the center of the party to be this sort of establishment nominee. It's not that they won't be challenged by the other conservatives in the race, but this is -- this is going to be a big fight. And I think that Tucker is right. I think that he -- he almost, I think Mitt Romney thought that Jeb Bush didn't have the fire in the belly and wasn't going to do this because he said on Friday let everyone leave the meeting and say I want to be president and then he kind of doubled or tripled down over the weekend.
He's in a like a desperate scramble to try to sort of, as Tucker said, pause everybody and try to get out in front of Jeb Bush's momentum. It's going to be a huge fight for the same people.
BAIER: Clearly, Steve, some of the things he said on the campaign trail last time, especially on foreign policy, came around to be true.
STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Right.
BAIER: On Russia, on the Islamic threat. On a number of things. But what do you think is in the gut of why get back in now?
HAYES: Well, look, that gives you one line in a speech. I mean, Mitt Romney can say look, I correctly predicted all these things or let other people say that on his behalf. It doesn't -- for me, it's not the thrust of the candidacy.
Look, I think Mitt Romney wanted to run all along. He made 80 phone calls on election night. You don't do that because you're really happy for the people that won.
BAIER: He traveled to more than 20 states.
HAYES: You do that because -- yeah, you do that because you want to run. And look, remember, before the 2012 race, before he got back in the 2012 race, his official line was that he was thinking about it, he wasn't sure, but he could be pulled back into politics after having lost in 2008. Also nonsense. He was going to run the whole time. And this, I think, is going to be the fundamental challenge for a Romney candidacy.
His problem, going back years, has been flip flopping or inauthenticity, call it what you want. And I think he is starting this race by pretending that he's just now been called back into the race, possibly called back into service. When I think this is pretty clear that this is something that he was thinking about all along.
BAIER: I mean, he emphasized, apparently, that his wife and children are all on board, and he's better positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton. You know, that's obviously different as Steve mentioned than what he said publicly and what she said publicly.
CARLSON: Well, I think his wife and children would have to be on board in order for him to do this. But the question remains, what is the point? I mean, what is the point? Not a mean question, a legitimate question. I don't think there is a deep reservoir of, you know, -- I mean, I think people like Mitt Romney a lot. But they're not -- I don't think -- I never meet people. I spend my life in the -- you know, the political world, who are saying, I just really want Mitt Romney to run.
I mean, some people feel that way. But is there a national groundswell or conservative groundswell? No, there is not. And so --
BAIER: Last word. Is the Bush campaign really worried about this or they just bummed out this week?
STODDARD: I think they -- it was really possible. They anticipated that he would step in. But they did so much preparation and I think they went to their corners soon enough that I think they feel pretty stable. Still a big fight.
BAIER: Lots to talk about. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned for a bipartisan way to settle a sports bet.
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