Opportunities arising for other presidential candidates?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 20, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just yesterday Donald Trump promised not only to protect the ethanol mandate but to expand it, to have the federal government do even more picking winners and losers by mandating ethanol be a larger part of the marketplace.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was a Canadian citizen while he was a United States senator. He was a joint citizen of the United States and Canada, but how do you do that? And he said he didn't know about it.

I will protect you from Goldman Sachs. I will protect you from Citibank.
And I will protect you for the base because I'm Robin Hood, and I'm this wonderful senator, and I'm going to protect you for these banks. And then he's borrowing from the banks.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well Donald Trump and Ted Cruz going at it. Some new polls out today, nationally Monmouth out with a new poll on the national front. And you can see Donald Trump with a big lead, 36 percent over Cruz at 17. Just released, the CNN/MUR poll in New Hampshire, also Donald Trump with a huge lead in New Hampshire over Cruz in second, which is new, Bush in double digits, Rubio, and there you see Kasich at six percent, which is dramatically different than that poll we saw yesterday. And in Iowa, the Real Clear Politics average of all the recent polls, and there you see Trump and Cruz together at the top.

Let's bring in our panel, start with the Republicans, and Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, David Gregory, former moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" and author of the book "How's Your Faith?" and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, we thought the race couldn't get any crazier and the race is in fact getting crazier. You had this big event with Donald Trump and Sarah Palin last night where Palin offers her endorsement and promises that Donald Trump will be the person to end crony capitalism within 24 hours of Donald Trump coming out in strong favor of ethanol, of the renewable fuel standards and ethanol subsidies, continued ethanol subsidies. That just I think typifies exactly what kind of a race we've had, and, frankly, the confusion inside the Trump campaign.

I think it's been a tough couple of days for Ted Cruz. I think he stands up well particularly in the face of these attacks from the ethanol industry in Iowa. I think that makes Cruz look good that he's willing to stand up and say, look, you're not going to influence me. I believe what I believe.
I'm going to make my argument.

And I actually had had two discussions, two separate conversations with Iowa Republicans who said those attacks from the ethanol industry, the ethanol lobby on Cruz in effect will help him more than hurt him. But still I think the Trump attacks have had an effect on Cruz and the fact these guys are going at each other.

BAIER: What about, David, the Cruz line that the establishment has now embraced Donald Trump?

DAVID GREGORY, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH?": Well, there is some, we were talking about this, so much more resignation among people who think, well, OK, maybe Donald Trump has toned it down a little bit. Maybe he won't be so bad. I spoke to a Republican consultant who said he was talking to guys who ran companies in corporate America who maybe they wanted to mount some kind of opposition against Trump and Cruz. And they said, well, maybe not.
Maybe we won't do that. Maybe we'll pull back.

There's also a bigger test I think out of Iowa, which is, if you're Ted Cruz, certainly a populist, an unconventional candidate, that he's running a very strong ideological campaign, really reaching the evangelical who are a disproportionate number of the vote, 57 percent four years ago, and hitting Trump as not being a real conservative. If that doesn't pass muster in Iowa, where is it going to work for him?

BAIER: Right, exactly. Now speaking of which, Cruz supporters are pointing to a Donald Trump tweet back in 2013 on the issue of immigration, hot issue, and this is the tweet. "Congress must protect our borders first. Amnesty should be done only if the border is secure and illegal immigration has stopped." It's that word "amnesty should be done,"
obviously, Charles, that the Cruz folks are pointing towards.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the last six months have shown that nothing that Trump has ever said in the past, even in the present, can ever be used against him because, for some reason, he is immune to the laws of contradiction.

To take a trivial example, in the last debate he said I promise, Ted -- he brought up of course the Canadian citizenship. He said I'm protecting you against what the Democrats will do. I promise, he used the word "promise,"
I will never sue over this. And then what, three days later at a rally, he said I might just sue. I mean, those laws don't apply. I'm not sure that's in any way going to help him.

I do give Cruz credit for sticking to his guns on ethanol. Just about every candidate ever has caved or trimmed or shifted on ethanol. But I do think actually it's going to hurt him. It cost him the support of the longest-serving governor in the country who is rather popular in Iowa who specifically singled him out that Republicans should oppose him. But -- and I do think there this is where he's got to make his stand in Iowa, because if he doesn't win in Iowa, I think it will be a real damaging blow.

BAIER: By the way, he just took a shot at Governor Branstad at an event just now, saying "Let me encourage other members of the establishment, keep supporting Donald Trump, because every time you do it, it's telling conservatives all over the country where you stand and who stands with you."

GREGORY: This is also about conservatives not being the same kind of litmus test we thought about in years past. Conservatism in this campaign is a feeling. It's a sense of what's going wrong in the country. It is not the stuff that you put in a direct mail and say, you see he didn't toe the line on this particular issue.

To Charles' point with Trump, he doesn't have a well-developed political ideology or even philosophy that has grown over the years. He's all over the place. And he seems to be able to go in front of audiences and say what's going on here. Something has changed, and now I've changed with it and that's just how it ought to be. And it seems to work.

HAYES: And that's what's remarkable about this cycle. Here we are days away from the Iowa caucuses, and Donald Trump, who is, as you point out, a former Democrat, had liberal positions on many, many issues, sort of all over the place on the issues, has had virtually no ads run against him.
He's an opposition researcher's dream, and there's virtually nothing on the air.

BAIER: Why is that, because of the backlash?

HAYES: Because they're all fighting with one another underneath him.

BAIER: You look at the polls, Steve, and he is so far ahead. All this stuff about are they going to go to the polls or not. Only some of them have to go and he still wins.

HAYES: Well, I think part of it is because you've got people like Bush and Rubio. The second part of my point is Marco Rubio, who just a couple of years ago was being described as the face of modern conservatism, the face of the future of the Republican Party, has had the overwhelming number of ads, negative ads, attacking him. And it's all because you've got these people with the money, the establishment types with the money, trying to climb above Rubio to become eligible to take on Trump or Cruz.

But just the moment that we're in right now where Donald Trump who hasn't been a Republican, certainly hasn't been a conservative, is getting no attacks, virtually no attacks, and Marco Rubio, a Tea Party candidate who was the future of conservatism, is being hit with the overwhelming number of negative attacks tells you how screwed up this cycle is.

BAIER: Or interesting, one of the two.

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