2016 GOP hopefuls gear up for fifth primary debate

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 14, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you look at the way he has dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac, you are never going to get things done that way. You can't walk into the Senate and scream and call people liars and not be able to cajole and get along with people. He will never get anything done, and that's the problem with ted.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Donald Trump talking about Ted Cruz. He will be standing next to Ted Cruz in the next Republican debate in Las Vegas. CNN has the lineup up there. And there you see just to his side Carson and Cruz. This as some new Iowa polls out show Cruz gaining ground. This is the Real Clear Politics average of all the recent polls, and you see it's essentially tied with Cruz and Trump. There is a Des Moines Register poll where Cruz is up by 10, a CNN poll where Trump is up. But there you see the average of the Iowa polls.

Then you have this Monmouth poll, this is a national poll came out today. Look at this, Trump at 41 percent, 27 points above Cruz nationally. And then here is the RCP average nationally. These are all the polls. And there is Trump at 31 percent, Cruz, and Rubio. That's the poll wrap-up. We're back with the panel. What about this, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Trump has a very large lead nationally. That's some very good analysis.

Look, I think this was actually maybe an interesting moment yesterday over the past couple days when you had Trump taking on Ted Cruz ostensibly for comments that Cruz made at a private fundraiser that were later made public where Cruz criticized Trump. He suggested that he wouldn't be comfortable with Trump with his finger on the button with his finger with nuclear weapon.

If Trump persists in attacking Ted Cruz tomorrow night, it will be a fascinating night, because Ted Cruz will have an obvious choice to make. He can either, as he has, try to stay above the fray and not go after Donald Trump, or he can engage. I think he would prefer it to stay above the fray, but it will look a little odd if Cruz is being attacked by Trump and doesn't counter, and also attacks Marco Rubio and other candidates. I think it makes it a very interesting evening tomorrow night.

BAIER: And it will be interesting to see how that interaction happens. I will note that all the Trump folks are saying, why are you not focusing more on the Monmouth poll that shows him at 41 percent? Recently Trump said, quote, "What the hell is Monmouth? I only like the polls that treat me well." So now --

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Maybe he thought it was woolly Monmouth.

BAIER: I guess now it's turned.

LIASSON: But I'm sure he will find a place in his heart for the Monmouth poll.


LIASSON: I hate to throw cold water on this because I do think Donald Trump is the frontrunner of the Republican Party, but national polls in a primary don't really mean that much. We should really be looking at the state-by-state races.

BAIER: It is eyebrow raising.

LIASSON: It is eyebrow raising. But I think the takeaway is in a week where the Republican establishment for the first time last week turned against Trump for his proposal to ban temporarily Muslims from entering the United States, his support went up. That's the moral of the story.

But I do think it's more important to look at the state-by-state polls, and that's why Iowa was so interesting because Cruz really has momentum. In terms of what is going to happen tomorrow night, there is no one who has thought about these debates more strategically than Ted Cruz. He knows what he is doing. And he is has used them very well. His response to the maniac comment that Trump made on FOX was to put a little clip of "Maniac" from "Flash Dance," so he has responded with humor. He has tried not to attack Donald Trump frontally because, guess what, it doesn't work. So it will be really interesting to see what he does tomorrow night.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When you are putting up a clip from "Flash Dance," I think you have written off the millennial vote.


KRAUTHAMMER: On the Monmouth poll, I think Mara is exactly right. If this is not an outlier, and it probably is, but let's assume it's not, this is entirely a result of the Muslim exclusion remark. And it shows that the more outrageous he gets, the more he alienates. And this isn't only the Republican establishment. He was attacked in about 20 languages from around the world. He had to cancel -- a lot of which nobody speaks. He had to cancel a visit with the prime minister of Israel, which is sort of the gold standard for any candidate in having a visit, having a photo-op, as a result of that. This is -- I mean, this was the entire world. You had Paul Ryan, sort of the titular head of the Republicans in the head of the Congress who came out and very unusually spoke out against a candidate. If his numbers are rising as a result of that then the Republican electorate is in a place where I don't think any of us have imagined, and it could be divisive.

BAIER: It will be fascinating tomorrow night. We will have complete coverage both before and after.

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