Who will make a splash in the fourth Republican debate?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 9, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no question I'm getting special scrutiny because, you know, there are a lot of people who are very threatened, and, you know, they have seen the recent head-to-head polling against Hillary and how well I do. And, you know, they're worried.
There's no question about it.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you put your personal story out there, then you have an obligation to answer questions about it. And if the voters are satisfied with Dr. Carson's answers, then that will be the end of the story. If they're not, it won't.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you have a pathological disease, that's a problem. He wrote it. I didn't write it. But he's going to have to explain a lot of things away -- the scholarship situation, the dinner with Westmoreland when Westmoreland wasn't there, and the pyramids.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, you're looking live, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there's the stage. It's set. And 24 hours and 21 minutes from now is the first debate. The undercard debate actually will have a lineup of four candidates. This includes Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and there you see Rick Santorum. And then at 9:00 p.m. Eastern you see the main stage debate, and that will have eight candidates this time, the lineup right there.

This comes as some new polls out today in South Carolina. Monmouth, a well-respected there, has Ben Carson and Donald Trump essentially tied at the top. There you see Rubio making a move, Cruz, and the rest.

And then here is the RCP, the Real Clear Politics average in the national race and where it stands as of this evening. Let's begin there. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Mara, a weekend of Carson talk and all this back and forth about the bio, how much effect it's going to have. It seems like he's turned the corner, at least on the media narrative, in Republican circles.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: We haven't seen any negative effects of this on Carson. He made a very strong attack on the media. He called it a witch hunt. He said the secular progressive movement is afraid of me, that's why this is happening. And he raised $3.5 million, so a backlash for him to benefit him.

You do see the race pretty clear tiers. Carson and Trump one tier, the top tier, and then Rubio and Cruz, Bush close behind. And that's -- you know, that's the structure of the race right now. The big question is Trump is the only candidate who has talked about the Carson problems. No one else has touched it with a 10-foot poll except you heard Chris Christie say you should answer the questions. But Carson actually went after him -- I mean Trump went after Carson, and we'll see if he does it tomorrow night.
I wonder if Carson is the one person that Trump can't attack without hurting himself.

BAIER: It's not all about the horse race. Obviously these candidates want to talk substance. And ahead of an economic debate Ben Carson putting out some details of a flat tax proposal.


CARSON: I'm in favor of a flat tax because of proportionality. Everybody should be hit exactly the same. In order to, you know, remain revenue neutral, we would have to make that rate at about 15 percent and eliminate all deductions and all the loopholes. That would get us about
$2.7 trillion, which is still short of the $3.5 trillion that we need.


BAIER: So starting to get into more details, Charles. I should point out thanks for being so dressed up for us tonight.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm trying to raise the sartorial level of the panel.


KRAUTHAMMER: This is my feeble attempt.

Look, Carson basically gave that answer at the CNBC debate, and when he tried to close the gap, the $0.8 trillion gap, he wasn't very successful. So he'll probably be asked about that tomorrow. If he says it's revenue neutral, he's going to have to have an answer for that.

But I think in the end this debate is all about one thing -- Jeb Bush.
He's had three bad debates. One more and he's not going to drop out of the race, but he'll really be dead man walking. He's got to show a spark, and that means a moment.

Look, the entire season has become sort of theatrical. The ones who have risen are the ones who had the moments. Carly had the moment. Rubio had, Cruz has had, and Bush has been very passive and unimpressive. That doesn't mean he is, but that's how he appears and that's why his numbers are low. So I think all the pressure is on him, which is going to make it all the more difficult. But that is the story going in. It might be the story going out.

BAIER: Obviously Donald Trump, the weekend on "Saturday Night Live."
It was only about 12 minutes on the show. Among the more interesting clips, his dancing to drake, which obviously people commented on. But he has been, as Mara mentioned, on the attack. Is that going to play out in the way things are, you know, lining up?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I watched some of that "Saturday Night Live." These are the sacrifices I make for our viewers. I hadn't seen it in years and I will never get that time back.
Painful. And not because of Donald Trump, by the way. It was just painful. It's not a funny show anymore.

I think Charles is right that certainly Jeb Bush will be one of the focal points in the debate tomorrow night, but I think this emerging dynamic between Ben Carson and Donald Trump is significant. You've seen Donald Trump basically take the side of the mainstream media and its criticism or scrutiny or attacks, depending on how you look at it, on Ben Carson, calling it a pathological disease, suggesting that Ben Carson can't help himself but to lie about this narrative.

BAIER: Trump says that he wrote, Carson wrote that in one of his books.

HAYES: Correct, correct. But I think open to interpretation is what Donald Trump meant to say there.

Look, I think if you -- one of the reasons that Ben Carson has been able to survive these attacks is because they featured so much overreach from the media. You have this "Politico" story that said that Carson admitted that he had fabricated this whole story about West Point and the scholarship when Carson had actually admitted no such thing. And he pushed back strong and I think very effectively on that.

So it will be interesting. We saw the media be a major part of the story coming out of the CNBC debate. I don't expect that tomorrow night because of the way our colleagues at FOX Business are likely to conduct themselves and focusing on substance. But I think it will interesting to see if Trump keeps echoing these mainstream media criticisms of Ben Carson.

BAIER: I've talked to all of them. They like to get in the weeds, so I think we are going to get more substantive policy stuff. And the answers will be 90 seconds with 60 seconds rebuttal, so that's a different dynamic.

I do want to play one more sound bite today. Donald Trump has also been attacking Marco Rubio on this credit card controversy down in Florida.
Rubio again out today responding with this.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't think someone who's taken, like Donald Trump has, four companies into bankruptcy is in any position to lecture anyone about finances. But when it comes to the charge card of the Republican Party, we've put it out there. Most people that look at it say this is a silly story and assume it has nothing to do with the future of America.


BAIER: Mara?

LIASSON: Well, I think that Donald Trump has gone after Rubio before.
He says his credit cards are a disaster. I bet he'll go after him again.
I think it's less dangerous for Donald Trump to go after Marco Rubio than Ben Carson. Ben Carson is an icon in the conservative movement. You know, we've all learned just how big a deal Ben Carson is for years and years.
You know, in all sorts of aspects, the evangelical community, the home schooling community, all sorts of aspects he is revered. And that is why you don't see anybody else taking him on. Marco Rubio has had other detractors, including Jeb Bush, not very effectively, but I expect there might be more than just Trump going after Rubio tomorrow night.

BAIER: You were going to say?

HAYES: Trump, when he went after Rubio on the credit card story said Rubio was at the time running the party, which of course he wasn't running the party. And the irony of that attack is that Donald Trump supported the person who was running the party at the time, Charlie Crist, the Florida governor.

BAIER: Final word, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think Trump's instinct is always to go after whoever is nipping his heels. I think he will go after Rubio, he likes to do that.
And what he's doing with Carson is he's just -- it's just sort of innuendo.
He drops a hint, well, there's a story out. Who knows if it's important, but let me remind you about it.

And this scholarship story is ridiculous. It is obvious that some in the military and in the ROTC in Detroit, they said to him if you want to get into West Point, it's a formality. You'll get in. You're distinguished, you've done extremely well academically and in leadership, and of course it comes with a full scholarship, meaning you don't pay. And that's what he says. So he says I was offered a full scholarship. He was offered informally essentially and decided not to apply. But there are a lot of folks who have been to West Point who said that was exactly how they got in. They were told you were a perfect candidate, you apply, you'll get in. It's a formality. And they applied and got in. Carson didn't. Big deal.

BAIER: Do you sense that people are just sick of that, sick of that, sick of the credit card thing, sick of --

KRAUTHAMMER: I think so. And this stuff is really petty. Carson tells a story, obviously a pretty intimate story, about wanting to attack his mother. CNN interviews nine people from Detroit, it's a pretty big city, and decides nobody can remember that as if any of them would have been in the room. And that this lack of people saying I was there, I heard about this, is evidence that it didn't happen is preposterous. So, you know, a lot of people tell stories of their histories when nobody can verify it either happened the way it did or it didn't and are you going to believe Carson or a negative story in CNN. I think it's over for him.

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