This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 12, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We spend tens of billions of dollars on illegal immigration. Yes, it will cost us something to clean up the act because we are really a mess right now. But in the end it's going to be much better and it's going to be the way it should be. And Bret, the key is, they can come back in, but they have to come back in legally through a process.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe you can round up and deport 11 million people, especially people that have been here 15 years, have not otherwise violated the law, can pass background checks and so forth. And there's got to be a process to deal with that realistically.
SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A majority of the candidates standing on that Republican debate stage have previously publicly supported amnesty. And I am the only candidate standing on that debate stage who has never supported amnesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the issue of immigration is front and center once again. As we look at the presidential race, the Real Clear Politics average of polls, these are the recent polls, nationally, there you see Donald Trump and Ben Carson essentially tied, and the rest of the field. And take a look at New Hampshire. Donald Trump has a bigger lead there in the recent polls in New Hampshire, up 12.6.
Let's bring in our panel, Charlie Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times, Amy Walter, national editor for The Cook Political Report, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the Trump interview was extremely interesting. He's extremely good at this, because he dances and he dekes and he feints and then he disappears without backing down. When you asked him, for example, about his critique of the Romney plan, which was self-deportation, which is a lot softer than a force-able deportation, which he's advocating now, and you said, well, didn't you say it was crazy and mean-spirited? He denied ever having said it was mean- spirited. In fact he did.
BAIER: We've got the quote actually from 2012 in a Newsmax interview: "Republicans didn't have anything going for them with respect to Latinos and with respect to Asians. The Democrats didn't have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants. What they did have going for them is they weren't mean-spirited about it." He was asked about Romney. "Romney had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal, it sounded as bad as it was and he lost all the Latino vote, he lost the Asian vote, he lost anybody who was inspired to come into this country."
KRAUTHAMMER: And in one of your questions you tried to give him a pathway out of this by saying has something changed in the last four years that would account for your complete about-face where were you to the left of Romney and now are you way to the right of where Romney was by calling for forced deportation? And he didn't take it. He simply -- it's so you've got to ask yourself, what kind of revelation did he have that made a guy who essentially said, you know, that Romney had lost everybody who was inspired to come into the country, a very pro-immigration statement, and now ending up way to the right on this, and actually in introducing -- because he's a frontrunner, he's made this issue, which was way off the table, the central issue, deportation or not. It used to be citizenship or a work permit, you get to vote. What kind of barriers you want to have at the border to ensure that there are no more illegal immigration. But now the debate is deportation. We've never had that.
BAIER: Charlie, what about this in the big picture of this Republican primary?
CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, I think a big reason why Donald Trump has done so well in terms of reaching voters is that he, if you look at his plan as Charles was saying, a lot of these things are no -- it's no different from what Mitt Romney proposed. When he talked about the deportation task force, you're talking about Immigration Customs Enforcement agents.
HURT: When you're talking about the Trump wall, you're talking about the secure fence of 2006 which of course President Obama and Secretary Clinton, or Senator Clinton at the time, both supported. But what he does this, he does it in a way that is so animated and he renames all of it, all of these things, like the Trump wall, with a big fat door that's going to be welcoming. He renames it. And voters think that, well, he doesn't sound like a politician. He must really mean it. He must really be willing to do all these things. And so I think he has sort of generated an enormous amount of trust certainly among Republican voters, Republican- leaning voters. But I think that that same thing that appeals to those voters could very easily appeal to a lot of Democratic voters as well.
BAIER: Amy, what's interesting is the other candidates, I think. I think everyone knows where Trump is and he's laid out the plan. But to hear Ted Cruz, go after really Rubio and others, and here is New York Times 2013 about Ted Cruz then, about an amendment he put forward. "What Mr. Cruz has tried to articulate in both word and deed is a middle ground. It got no support from Democrats in Washington but it goes further than many on the far right want to go by offering leniency to undocumented immigrants here already, a path to legal status but not to citizenship, a green card with no rights of naturalization." Going further, it says "Asked about what to do about the people here illegally, however, he stressed that he had never tried to undo the goal of allowing them to stay.
"The amendment that I introduced removed to path to citizenship but it did not change the underlying work for the gang of eight. That was the compromise," he said during a recent visit to El Paso. Mr. Cruz noted that he had not called for deportation whereas Mitt Romney famously advocated self-deportation." But to hear him today in New Hampshire, it sounds like he was closer to Trump than he was to Rubio.
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: He sounds like that even on legal immigration, on H-1B visas, saying now that I've looked at it and there's abuse and there are problems with this we need to cut back on that as well.
So, look, what Ted Cruz is running on is he is the consistent conservative. Everybody else he can point to who strayed from the straight and narrow on the conservative path and he's been the one who has been there all along. And yet, there are going to be instances, obviously other candidates are going to take advantage of this, to show that actually he hasn't been as consistent as he'd like to be.
And, look, the muddier the water gets on this issue of who's been where on immigration reform, the better it is for somebody like Marco Rubio, the better it is for somebody like Jeb Bush, who will be tagged as the support for amnesty candidates by conservatives in this race.
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, the Cruz position is slippery and technical. What he means is I never called for citizenship. But what he's not saying is what you just showed is that he actually introduced an amendment that instead of offering citizenship would offer essentially permanent residence and a green card, which is a position I happen to support. But when it comes -- but to then declare that I've been consistent, I've been against amnesty -- yes, narrowly yes, if you say that means citizenship. But essentially he has been for legalization of the 11 million. That's a position that I think he's trying to obscure now, and that's an example of opportunism.
PACE: He'll say at the end of the day I voted against the gang of eight bill. Marco Rubio voted for it. He's for amnesty. I'm not. We can get into all the technical details, but let's face it --
KRAUTHAMMER: But introducing an amendment is not a technical detail.
PACE: I agree.
BAIER: It is a big detail. What about quickly, the issue of immigration for Republicans? There's so many other issues that are seem to be low-hanging fruit there. This is a lot of time on the issue of immigration that is splitting this party up.
HURT: Well, it is, it is a potent issue and it has been a potent issue for a very long time. And I think that the media, a lot of the mainstream media tries to ignore it and pretend like it's not an important issue. But it touches on so many other issues, like the economy, like health care. Like education. You know, it touches on all those things in a way that obviously Donald Trump has done a magnificent job of weaponizing to his advantage.
And I think actually going back to what Amy was saying, that all of this obfuscation about politicians trying to cover up their record, I think in a lot of ways that helps Donald Trump, too, because he can just say, you all are all wrong. I'm going to build the Trump wall. And that's working for him.
BAIER: By the way, you've got the Trump down.
HURT: I worked on it.
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