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Kelly File

Rubio: I will unite the GOP and create new conservatives

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," January 27, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, in exactly 24 hours, the seven Republicans will take the stage right here behind me in Iowa to interview for the job of president of the United States.

But for the past 24 hours, America's media has been almost completely focused on a related story, but not necessarily the story. One candidate who says he will not be here.

Welcome to "The Kelly File", everyone. I'm Megyn Kelly, reporting live tonight from Des Moines, Iowa.

At this point, it does appear that Donald Trump is declining his last and best chance to speak to as many Iowans as possible and to the country at large.

Instead of standing on the stage behind me tomorrow night, next to his fellow candidates, taking the tough questions from the moderators, he will be holding an event nearly that he says will benefit veterans. Here he is just a short time ago in South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: From here, where do I go? To Iowa. What am I going to do there? We're going to raise a lot of money for the vets, that's what we're going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: It's funny he should put it like that because that's exactly how he put it this morning. Who the hell knows, but now we know, we think.

Some political analysts argue that this is a brilliant move and if it was meant to maximize media attention that would certainly seem to be true.

Others say Donald Trump's refusal to show up will hurt his standing among some Iowa voters and my result in the damaging showing next week or in other states.

Tonight, we will get you new insights on both the vote next week and the debate tomorrow night with a big line up, including presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, presidential candidate, Rand Paul, Chris Stirewalt and Steve Hayes are both here with me with what's driving the undecideds.

Dana Perino has new details on how all of this plays in New Hampshire which is next after Iowa, but we begin with the man following it all, our chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron reporting from Des Moines -- Carl.

CARL CAMERON, FOX CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Curiouser and Curiouser, Megyn. Donald Trump has now found an event site for his planned rally to benefit vets tomorrow. It will be at Drake University here in Des Moines.

And his withdrawal from the debate has caused criticism from most of his rivals, and a praise from a few supporters and controversy across the board.

Ted Cruz challenged Donald Trump to "mano-a-mano" in his words debate, saying that he'd meet him pretty much anywhere at any time, and he'd pay for it.

Donald Trump virtually dismissed that with a tweet saying, where are we going to have it, Canada? A reference obviously to Trump's raising questions about Cruz's eligibility for the presidency having been born in Calgary.

The absence of Trump for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio is an opportunity. Rubio and Cruz have been battling back and forth. The two freshman senators, both Cuban-Americans, both conservative, both arguing that each has been misrepresenting their voting records and their histories and accusing the other of flip-flopping.

A very big opportunity in the absence of Trump for them to actually talk about policy and one another's records without risking an elbow from Trump in the middle and the center stage.

And for the rest of the pack particularly the likes of John Kasich, who has been surging in New Hampshire, Chris Christie who had been.

Jeb Bush who continues to struggle for attention, and hasn't spent a lot of time here in Iowa, wasn't planning on being here for the Iowa caucus tonight nor was Kasich.

They too will have an opportunity not just to talk to Iowans, but to the rest of the nation four days before the first votes. Whether or not Donald decides to break his plan to go to Drake University or not -- Megyn.

KELLY: Carl, good to see you. Thank you.

Joining us now more is Chris Stirewalt, Fox News digital politics editor, Stephen Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor, and David Wohl is an attorney and supporter of Donald Trump. Great to see you all.

All right, so first of all, do you believe now that Trump is not showing up?

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I think he probably isn't going to show up. The comments that we had from him and his campaign yesterday I think sort of locked him in. It would look a little foolish now if he backed down on his tough words.

KELLY: Do you think it will have any impact on this race whatsoever?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Of course. This is huge. The Republicans intentionally limited the number of debate that they were going to have. That means Iowa gets only one debate. Last time they got three. This time they get one. Iowa takes this stuff seriously. They care about these things.

It matters to them. Also it means it's like shortening the season. It means each game counts for more. Each of these debate count for more because there are fewer of them in this cycle. So the consequences are real. How it will play, I can't tell you today, but the consequences are real.

KELLY: How will it affect Ted Cruz? Because he probably was looking forward to taking on Donald Trump, the two of them going against each other.

HAYES: It will be interesting to see if Cruz decides to take on Donald Trump in absentia, and you know, target him, and that's obviously his main competition if you judge by the polls to come in first here in Iowa or if he decides to engage the rest of the field, the people who are actually on stage with him.

I can actually back up some of what Chris is saying. There's no question that Iowans are talking about this, just being around town here today.

I went to a Marco Rubio event, which was nearby, 10 minutes away, and the first two people that I talked to after the Rubio event, I said are you here supporting Marco Rubio or candidate shopping?

This one guy, Brian Moon, vice president of marketing at a local company, said I have been a Trump supporter. I'm no longer a Trump supporter. This was sort of the last straw for me. I have gradually come to like him. I was going to support him.

I'm candidate shopping and he's now looking at Rubio and Christie. He said this wasn't -- he said I like that he was tough, I liked that he was willing to take on convention in our politics today.

But he says the quote he gave me was, "this is death by a thousand cuts." I'm just not interested in playing the game anymore and at a certain point we're picking the president of the United States and he's still playing games.

KELLY: David, what do you think? Because you're an ardent Trump supporter. What do you think and you're a fan of "The Kelly File," so do you think he should show up or not?

DAVID WOHL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I do, Megyn. I think, though, not showing up won't hurt him, but showing up will help him tremendously. The Fox News debates are the best television since "The Sopranos" or "Breaking Bad."

They really are. Tens of millions of people watching this debate. He will shine and win the debate, as always. He'll probably finally, once and for all, crush the competition, if you can call them that.

And I think that he's probably going back and forth in his mind right now. He sounded like he was nudging a little toward going on the debate.

KELLY: You think?

WOHL: He's not going to lose. He can show up, smile, state his position and make America great is not just a slogan, it's a movement now. And he needs to get on there and explain and sort of get people to join in those who haven't already, to create the tidal wave that it is and help him promote his cause.

KELLY: Talk about the opportunity, Chris, for Marco Rubio. He's lingering in third, lingering in third. The two frontrunners are arguing, one is out for tomorrow. So what is his chance here?

STIREWALT: Well, his chance is substantial in the sense that he needs to look like the president. He needs to look presidential. And have people say, I can see him at the presidential desk.

But he's got a big problem, so Trump absorbs -- and when he debates, he generally doesn't engage most of the time. He usually stands somewhat removed from the process and watches what goes on. But he takes a lot of incoming.

That inventory of attacks from candidates like Jeb Bush, this is it, it's over for him. So he continues to dump on these people. So that means more attack inventory will come Rubio's way and he'll be taking it from Bush, Cruz, Kasich, Christie. He's got to face a lot of incoming and handle it with diploma.

KELLY: What about the point that you just raised. If you're Ted Cruz, do you attack the man who is not there? In a way, it's an opportunity for them because he's not there to respond and yet there's a weirdness of launching all these attacks with no one there to defend them.

HAYES: It is a lot of weirdness. Definitely some weirdness. It would be strange if Cruz kept going back to Donald Trump. On the other hand, those are the two who have been leading in Iowa, judging by the polls for the better part of the past couple of months. That is his obstacle.

KELLY: You're there in front of several million people, Ted Cruz, and you can launch an attack and Trump is not there to defend them and this is a two-point race by some polls. But on the other hand, you run the risk that he all along, he's been sort of trying to move Trump supporters over like if they're on the border.

HAYES: He's way beyond that. The last debate, the Fox Business debate, it was clear that they were sort of done with their nonaggression pact or bromance or whatever you want to call it.

So Ted Cruz decided to go after Donald Trump, I think he did so very effectively. He could do so again, and I think he has the ability to make his critique of Trump and his positions are non-positions, without any pushback from Donald Trump, which is an advantage.

I just think you have to be measured. He can't seem to be obsessing about Trump. I think he's got some lines that he could use on Donald Trump.

KELLY: Go ahead, David.

WOHL: You know, Megyn, whether or not Trump is there, the attacks will have the same effect they've been having from the beginning of the campaign until now. They will strengthen Donald Trump.

It's just -- the last seven years, Megyn, of making America apologize, rather than making America great. Making America conciliatory, that's what has created the Donald Trump tidal wave.

And it doesn't matter really if he is not there. You attack him, you're going to strengthen him. It's a phenomena that we've never before seen in politics.

But I'll submit to you he knows that now and that's one of the reason he is hedging on going to the debate.

KELLY: OK. David, great to see you. Stand by. Tomorrow night, the candidates will be taking the stage here in Iowa to make their case to voters.

Up next, we'll question Marco Rubio about his strategy after an interesting new poll out this morning.

And later, Dana Perino is here with how the debate could a lot more than just Iowa.

Plus Hillary Clinton changing her tune again on her use of a private e-mail server. The new details on one of the biggest threats to her campaign, say some, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I'm not willing to say it was an error in judgment because nothing that I did was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Breaking tonight, less than 24 hours until the candidates stake the stage here at the Fox News Republican presidential debate, and the pollsters at Monmouth say turnout will be key at the caucuses coming up.

They released new numbers this morning showing Donald Trump currently leading in Iowa, followed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio rounding out the top three. But they went on to say the Trump numbers are driven by a lot of first-time caucus goers who may turn out or not.

Joining me now with a look ahead to tomorrow night's debate and the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential candidate and Florida senator, Marco Rubio. Senator, great to see you.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to see you.

KELLY: All right, so this time tomorrow night, you're going to be behind that podium right up there and I'll be sitting on that stage. What are you going to do between now and then if anything to get yourself extra ready?

RUBIO: Well, we have to anticipate what questions you will ask me.

KELLY: Some of them are right in here.

RUBIO: I'll try not to look. Probably the last opportunity to talk to people here in Iowa about why they should caucus for me. I've been telling people all week, if people nominate me, I'm going to beat Hillary Clinton. We'll win this election.

I'll unite the Republican Party and I will go out and talk to people that haven't voted for us before. We'll create new conservatives, people that are living the way I grew up, paycheck to paycheck. Young people that are struggling under student loans like I had student loans.

KELLY: Now you're going (inaudible) --

RUBIO: We're going to grow the conservative movement so I want to talk about that tomorrow, not just how are you going to unite the party, but how are we going to grow the conservative movement.

KELLY: How are you going to unite this party? I mean, look what's been in the news over the past week or two. How are you going to unite this party and let alone the country?

RUBIO: Well, part of it is normal part of an election and part of it is kind of the sideshow element of it. I know it's very interesting. Donald is not going to come and Ted has challenged him to a one on one, very interesting sideshow.

I know it makes for good TV, but this is a serious election, this is not a game. The future of America is at stake. I believe deeply if Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is elected, it will be a disaster for America.

We have to take this seriously. The people in Iowa deserve to hear from the next commander-in-chief what they will do to keep America safe and they deserve to hear from the next president what we are going to do to help this economy grow again. So that's why I look forward to doing tomorrow.

KELLY: What do you make of the fact that, you know, right up to today, you are just getting slaughtered by these ads? I don't mean that's having an effect on your campaign. I just mean they're all coming after you.

And today, Jeb Bush's super PAC released another ad hitting you on your credit card situation. This is an old story that haunted you when you were running for Senate. They still elected you, but they are making an issue out of --

RUBIO: It's actually incredibly cynical because Jeb knew what a joke that story was. He knew what a joke it was and how it wasn't serious. That's what the Democrats and my liberal opponent attacked me on, and Jeb supported me for Senate despite all that in 2010, and again --

KELLY: On second thought it's a problem.

RUBIO: Well, and he endorsed me for vice president in 2012. But you know, Jeb's super PAC is spending close to over a million dollars a day attacking me and they told me that would happen.

KELLY: Has it had an effect?

RUBIO: I don't think it has other than the fact that, you know, it's a lot of money that -- you know, the Clinton super PAC is now basically promoting the Jeb videos. That's how sad it's gotten here.

But at the end of the day, the people here in Iowa see through that, I feel very confident about it. And there's also a reason why the Democrats attacked me more than any other Republican. They know if I'm the nominee, the Republicans win.

KELLY: I want to ask you about faith because you had this video, speaking about your faith and how we should all want it to influence you if you become the president. It went viral. Then you will came out with an ad, I think it was today in Iowa, talking about your position on these issues. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: For me the issue of abortion and life is not a political issue, it's a human rights issue. I will look for ways to limit the number of abortions in this country, particularly those late-term abortions where children viable outside the womb are still being killed. If I have to make a choice, I'm going to choose life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: Now what about that because that may appeal to Iowa voters, but many feel that if you become the nominee, you have to appeal to the general electorate that that will be alienated to independents who may be more socially liberal, fiscally conservative. What do you think?

RUBIO: Well, first, I always tell people where I stand and that's where I stand. I'm deeply pro-life. I believe that all human life is worthy of the protection of our laws. I've always recognized it's a tough issue.

You have a young girl that's pregnant, that has to raise the child by herself and she's scared. That's tough. I recognize that a woman has a right to control her body.

But I believe there's another right at stake, and that's the right of a human being to live. These two rights are in conflict. So as a policymaker I have to choose and I have chosen life and voters deserve to know that. I don't view it as a political issue, it's a human rights issue.

KELLY: What do you make of the Cruz/Trump dust-up, it's been something to watch, but what do you make of the fact that Trump says he's not participating tomorrow night?

RUBIO: Well, obviously, he has a right not to come. I mean, you can't force him to come. I do think voters in Iowa deserve to know what the next commander-in-chief and president is going to do, and that's what these debates serve as an opportunity to answer that question.

You know, I think we have a right to be angry in this country about the direction of our country, but anger is not a plan. Anger doesn't solve the problem.

It maybe motivates you to do something, but voters deserve to know if we elect you president, what you are going to do. They are not going to be able to hear that tomorrow from Donald, but he has a right not to come. Obviously it means more time for the rest --

KELLY: Is it exciting to move closer and closer to the center?

RUBIO: it will be in the end. I'm excited about the chance to talk to Iowa voters one last time.

KELLY: I got to ask one last question before I let you go, is there any ritual you go through before you go out there?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know if it's a ritual. I like going to church in the morning, Catholic mass before our debate days.

KELLY: Do you say a prayer before you go out on stage?

RUBIO: Sure, I say multiple prayers a day. I try to pray often. You don't have to be on your knees to pray.

KELLY: Yes. We'll be seeing you this time tomorrow. It's going to be very exciting.

RUBIO: Thank you.

KELLY: Thanks for being here.

KELLY: Still ahead, someone who knows a thing or two about boycotting a GOP debate. Senator Rand Paul joins me next and by the way, wait until you hear his ritual as compared to Senator Rubio's. It's kind of interesting.

Plus, the head of the Iowa Republican Party is here with what he's hearing from the voters about this debate, Donald Trump, and his inside scoop on why some of the recent polls may not be all they're cracked up to be. Stay tuned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let anything give you away, I don't care how bad the weather is. If there's twice as much snow, 30 degrees colder than it is today, whatever it is, go and caucus for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Breaking tonight, the Donald may be out, but there's one man who will be back on the primetime debate stage tomorrow night, despite his decision to boycott the Fox Business Network's undercard debate a few weeks ago.

Joining me now, Kentucky Republican and presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul. Senator, good to see you tonight. So you're back on the main stage, and what is the goal? What would you like to accomplish tomorrow night?

SEN. RAND PAUL, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we want to point out that my candidacy is unique, that I'm the only fiscal conservative. What I mean by that is that I don't think if you aren't willing to look at spending across the board, military spending, as well as domestic spending, I don't think you'll ever balance the budget.

The interesting thing in Washington, some of the loudest voices for increasing spending are actually coming from the right. But in order to increase military spending, they have to give the Democrats what they want, which is increasing domestic spending. So everything goes up and the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill.

KELLY: Let me ask you this. The stakes are high. You're back in the primetime debate because your poll numbers are rising somewhat. Is there something that you do before the debate to get yourself ready? Is there a ritual you go through, research you read? What do you do?

PAUL: You know, every day we're warming up with questions from, you know, hundreds of different people. But I think also for me, I kind of like to exercise for about an hour almost every day. I think that helps to clear the mind and make me feel better about the day.

KELLY: Nobody just sits you down and kills you with the worst questions possible?

PAUL: Yes, we have done some of that, as well. We do and we try to prepare for everything. I think the thing in a big debate is really trying to find a way to insert your ideas into the midst of the debate.

KELLY: Yes, that's right. Obviously tomorrow night we'll be one man short because as of now Donald Trump says he's not going. What affect do you think that will have?

PAUL: Well, to me it's sort of a two-four. I feel like I've got a double win. I am in the main debate and I don't have to put up with Donald Trump. I really don't think he's added much of substance. I don't think he's really a conservative.

I think that someone who has been a supporter of the Clintons, a supporter of Harry Reid, somebody who has been for a single payer something, bailout of the big banks, I don't think anything about that is conservative.

So I'm really kind of shocked that he does have significant numbers in the polling. I wonder if it's going to be accurate because I don't meet any conservatives who think that eminent domain ought to be used to take property from small, private property owners, and give them to Trump's casinos. I don't find any conservatives who really believe that.

KELLY: I have two questions for you about a fellow candidate. I'm just wondering what you think. You're a senator. Ted Cruz is a senator. One of the attacks we've been seeing on him is he's not likable.

That nobody in the U.S. Senate likes him. You're in the U.S. Senate. Do you like him? And the second question is do you think this Canadian thing is an issue at all?

PAUL: I think the biggest problem that Cruz faces right now is authenticity. You know, he said he was for NSA reforms, saying the government shouldn't collect all our phone records, but in the debate, his response to Rubio was, no, he voted for the reform to allow the government to collect 100 percent of our cell phone records.

So I think people who like my candidacy are wondering if they're trying to choose between Paul and Cruz, they're wondering about his authenticity. The same on immigration. He's gone back and forth.

He said the whole world is for amnesty and he's the only pure blooded person that was against amnesty. The problem is when he was debating, he was for legalization, and now he's trying to have it both ways. I think the authenticity part is going to be his undoing.

KELLY: Doesn't sound like you're having drinks any time soon. Do you think the other thing is an issue for him?

PAUL: The Canadian citizenship, it would be extraordinary to have someone born in Canada as a nominee or as a president. Never has happened before. It would be extraordinary. It's never been litigated at the Supreme Court level. I think the Democrat also force it up to the Supreme Court.

KELLY: Senator Rand Paul, great to see you. We'll see you right here tomorrow night.

PAUL: Thanks, Megyn.

KELLY: That's it. Less than 24 hours now from this point, the last GOP debate before voting begins, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on the Fox News Channel.

Yours truly will be moderating alongside Bret Baier and Chris Wallace. These are candidates who cannot afford any big mistakes to close to when voting begins. Don't miss Fox News-Google GOP debate tomorrow night at 9 o'clock.

In just days, Iowa caucus goers will make their voices heard. What are they thinking about tonight? The head of the Iowa GOP is here with some fascinating insight on how this will work and what the temperature of Iowans in tonight.

And listen up candidates, Dana Perino is here with her tips for winning big at tomorrow night's debate. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Breaking tonight, with less than 24 hours to go before the big debate in Iowa and just five days until the first vote in campaign 2016. The latest polls indicate nearly 4 out of 10 Iowa caucus goers say they could still change their mind about their candidate of choice making the next phase critical for the eventual winner.

My next guest has an inside track on what's happening on the ground. Jeff Kaufman is chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. Jeff, great to see you.

JEFF KAUFMAN, CHAIRMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN IOWA: Great to be here.

KELLY: Thank you for being here.

KAUFMAN: Absolutely.

KELLY: All right, so first of all, what are you hearing on the ground in terms of who's got momentum because since there are so many late deciders?

KAUFMAN: Clearly we got -- we got the big event if you will at the top between Trump and Cruz. That's there. They've got momentum and in some ways it's kind of a self-propelling momentum because we are in that position. I think I'm sensing Ben Carson and people realizing that the ground game that he has, that there's some real potential there.

KELLY: Is that right?

KAUFMAN: I'm sensing that Marco Rubio, I mean the airwaves are full. Marco Rubio is here, fully his ground game has improved dramatically. I tell you there's a lot of interest in some of the candidates that have been towards the end of the poll. Tomorrow for instance, John Kasich is going to be in eastern Iowa. Huckabee is still running a very strong campaign.

KELLY: You're naming everybody. Come on, we want to know who you feel, are you're seeing a surge at the last minute?

KAUFMAN: You know, I think those that have the strongest on the ground games --

KELLY: Getting people from their homes to the caucuses.

KAUFMAN: Absolutely and that's not just everybody at the top. There are people that are at the bottom of these polls.

KELLY: Then that's the question about Donald Trump because he's had so many Iowans show up at these events, but the questions was does he have the ground game, the organization to get them to the caucuses? What say you?

KAUFMAN: I think he does and here's the reason -- a couple of reason. First of all, I'm seeing signs of that. Obviously, they're not perhaps as obvious as the signs I'm seeing with Carson or with Ted Cruz, but Donald Trump's campaign manager is Chuck Laudner. Chuck Laudner's claim to fame is basically Rick Santorum's victory in the Iowa caucus.

KELLY: He knows what he's doing.

KAUFMAN: Absolutely. I mean when you think of Chuck Laudner, you literally think of a ground game. So, he's prepared.

KELLY: Okay.

KAUFMAN: There's no way he can't be.

KELLY: So here's the question. I think a lot of viewers are confused about this. When Monday night comes, what happens? They go to a local school, they go to local -- where do they go? You go like in your district and how many people do you sit around and talk to?

KAUFMAN: Great question. The way I explain it to my students actually is a primary is a vote. A caucus is a conversation followed by a vote and I think that's where the grassroots come in. That's also, if you want to talk later about fluidity -- that's where some of the fluidity comes in.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Let's cut to the chase.

KAUFMAN: Okay. So, the bottomline, they're going to go in. Almost every campaign is going to have somebody designated to talk. If not, citizens will naturally stand up and talk, advocate for their candidate -- there'll be some conversation and then you have a vote. Almost immediately after that, even before the meetings over, that vote will be transmitted through our new app with Microsoft and we'll start adding up those results in the morning.

KELLY: And then what? Is that the last round? I mean because they say that people can change their minds and there might be a vote and then they switch their candidate.

KAUFMAN: At this point, once that vote is taken in, those 1,681 precints, that vote is transmitted to us -- actually done something this year different in the GOP. We're actually going to lock those percentages in. What I mean by that is let's say candidate A gets 30 percent, that 30 percent from that candidate will remain at the county convention, the district convention and if contested, all the way to the national convention.

KELLY: Thank goodness. Thank goodness, because I remember being on the air last year when there was some -- the alleged rumor of the missing van and we thought, "what time do we want to go to bed?" Let's just count the votes. Good luck Jeff.

KAUFMAN: We're going to take care of that. I promise you that.

KELLY: I appreciate that. All right, here now is what these candidates need to gain traction before Monday. Dana Perino, former White House press secretary to President George W. Bush and co-host of The Five right here on FNC. Dana, good to see you.

DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: This is what -- it`s fascinating to hear, you know, from somebody who actually knows names like Carson. You know, upping his ground game and getting a lot of buzz here which would make some sense. He's an evangelical favorite, but what do you make of it?

PERINO: Well, I think the conventional wisdom is usually turned on its head on election night or four weeks later as Senator Santorum found out in 2012 when about a month later he found out, "Oh wait, I just, I won Iowa and nobody knew it." The most important thing is getting that momentum out of Iowa. You've heard it on the channel before. There are about three tickets out of Iowa and they all go straight to New Hampshire.

KELLY: So, that's the goal really, to finish one, two or three. So when we talked to Marco Rubio, he doesn't really think he's going to beat Cruz or Trump necessarily. He probably is aiming for number three.

PERINO: Well, you definite -- you always want to win. But yeah, getting into the top three would be key and I wouldn't be surprised if Ben Carson was able to actually get more votes than people think. I don't know if he will actually make it into the top three. And then, you know the other candidates have got to show a little bit of sign of life.

There's the undercard debate that's happening before the primetime debate, and then you have the opportunity for Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and excuse me, John Kasich, who I was thinking about earlier today.

KELLY: If you can't remember his name, it's not persuasive.

PERINO: I just had a Rick Perry moment.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: This is not good.

PERINO: I actually think there is probably some surprises to be had in New Hampshire as well because ...

KELLY: You do?

PERINO: Yes, I do. I think that Kasich can --

KELLY: Based on what?

PERINO: I think, well, polling and also just some on the ground and some reporting.

KELLY: Have you been drinking the jasper wine?

PERINO: Not yet, because on Wednesday nights, I have to wait until 10:00 p.m. when I finish the show.

KELLY: We appreciate that, but I mean Trump is ahead by, I don't know, 20 points in New Hampshire.

PERINO: No, I don't think necessarily anyone is going to come in first in New Hampshire over Donald Trump. I'm just saying that I think that there could be a surprise there. And then also remember, the other thing is and what Jeff just said and you heard from campaign Carl earlier in your show, there are a lot of people who change their opinion in the next four days in Iowa. Many people in Iowa still have not made up their mind and remember, that primary is different than the process of just as explained to your viewers.

And so, they can kind of game the system. So, what happens in Iowa, sometimes the opposite happens in New Hampshire and then it's a straight shot to my favorite, my home state of South Carolina.

KELLY: But why do you think there's so many people who are undecided at this point and what do you think that means for the two front-runners who have gotten a lot of press here, you know certainly trump has 100 percent name recognition everywhere. What does it mean?

PERINO: Remember we talked for a few months about my metaphor about going shopping. So, people knew that they had a big event to go to. They shall window shop for a while and they decide maybe I'll take these three or four dresses into the dressing room and try them on. That's what they're doing this weekend. They're trying on the dresses before they have to make a big decision. And I think that Americans like to have the independence to be able to make up their minds at the end. So, the debate night is so important.

KELLY: So given that -- yeah, exactly -- given that, what do you expect to see tomorrow night? Do you expect one of these guys who were pulling, you know, lower than the top three to come out swinging or to go for the Hail Mary pass?

PERINO: Oh, you just used a sports metaphor that I was going to use. I was going to use long ball game...

(CROSSTALK) PERINO: I don't really know if sports metaphor is really my forte, but yes, they have to break out in some way. So, you have to figure out a way to have a media moment. If Trump is not there, your chances of having a media moment are greater, and I wouldn't put it past Chris Christie to be able to have some sort of a line that is memorable and sticks with people, but that's what one of those candidates has to do tomorrow night to break out.

KELLY: They need a moment. You heard it here. Dana, great to see you.

PERINO: Okay, bye-bye.

KELLY: While the Republicans are stealing most of the spotlight, there was news today on the Clinton e-mail controversy. When we come back, we will have Dana Loesch and Nomiki Konst on what could be a big problem for the Clinton campaign. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a mistake. So, who wants to put people through all of this? I don't want to go through it. I don't want to put, you know, a lot of my friends through it. So, it was a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Developing tonight, fresh controversy over a couple of big headlines for the Democrats today. First, Senator Bernie Sanders emerging from an Oval Office meeting with President Obama insisting that while they discussed a number of issues he did not ask for the president's endorsement. Hillary Clinton on the other hand is taking new heat over her use of her private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

Back in September, she admitted that it was a mistake, something she seemed to deny not long ago. But in an interview with Iowa's Quad City Times just yesterday, she again admitted it was probably a mistake, but only because of the backlash she has seen as a result, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal and one for work related e-mails. That was a mistake. I'm sorry about that. I take responsibility. Nothing that I did was wrong, it was not -- it was not in any way prohibited. I think it's kind of a wash, but it was a mistake. So, who wants to put people through all of this? I don't want to go through it. I don't want to put, you know, a lot of my friends through it. So, it was a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a mistake because of the reaction not ...

CLINTON: Yes, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: Joining me now, Nomiki Konst, the founder and executive director of the Accountability Project and Dana Loesch, who's the host of Dana on TheBlaze TV and author of "Hands Off My Gun." Good to see you both. So, I'm in a bit of a -- obviously, there's an inconsistency there Dana where she first said it was a mistake and then she said, "I did nothing wrong" and then she said, "it was a mistake again but really only because I inconvenienced so many people with this issue."

DANA LOESCH, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE TALKS SHOW HOST: Yeah, well maybe it was more than a mistake. I mean what she was doing other people have been -- they've been charged for lesser offenses. Now, what she did was illegal and the word is that the FBI has enough to indict her now, that it remains to be seen if Loretta Lynch follows up on that. But it was illegal.

Her story has changed six ways to Sunday. First, she had no more e-mails. She wiped her server clean, and then look at this, all these e-mails now come to the surface. She didn't have any classified information on her server. Oh, well, here we have a bunch of classified information actually and it went above and beyond top secret. Her story changes quite frequently.

KELLY: What about that -- let me give you guys -- her honesty numbers are low. They're not good at all and is it this sort of problem, like just in a sort of get your line and then stick with your line. I mean, the ideal world is you keep telling the truth over and over and perhaps that's what she's doing although in her (ph).

NOMIKI KONST, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Well, I mean to be fair here, first thing, it wasn't illegal and Dana, you know, you're an expert on guns, you're not a legal expert.

LOESCH: Well, Nomiki, it was actually illegal.

KONST: It wasn't illegal and if it was ...

(CROSSTALK)

KONST: You are a lawyer.

KELLY: I'm a lawyer and I'll settle this once and for all. We don't know whether it was or wasn't. Go ahead.

KONST: Right, exactly. So, the Department of Justice is looking into that now and as Hillary has said throughout the campaign, let the Department of Justice do their job. You know, so far there's been no criminality and she had approval to set up this --

KELLY: But you're off on a (ph), because I'm talking to you about the messaging she's given. This adds to the perception of dishonesty, unnecessarily perhaps. Maybe she's got a straight source, she just keep telling it, why is she going from it was a mistake. For weeks she didn't say anything then she came out and sort of defended her behavior, then finally she got around to it's a mistake, then she said begged off of that saying she did nothing wrong. Now she's back to mistake again.

KONST: This is not helping their campaign, but if you think about the last 25 years, 30 years, the Clintons have faced scrutiny over everything. If she trips over a curb, she's scrutinized by the right. If she ...

KELLY: If she coughs at the microphone.

KONST: ... if she coughs at the microphone, if she wears her hair in a pony tail, you know, people make fun of her. So you know, coming from that perspective, I think that she's always on the defensive knowing that no matter what she does, the right blows it up. Fifteen different blogs blow it out of proportion, misquote her.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Well, because she's running for president, too. You know, that's what we do and there are so few candidates on the democratic side we have, you know.

KONST: I agree.

KELLY: So, but let me ask you, Dana because you've seen the same thing happen on a couple of different issues where her messaging is just, you know, it's not consistent. We've seen it in Benghazi, and we've seen it here in the e-mail issues and it makes people believe they're not getting the straight skinny. I don't -- is that solvable for her because this seems to be a pattern?

LOESCH: I'm not quite sure if it is, if she does not play well with a number of voters particularly, there was that Quinnipiac word association poll which came out last August which said that the number one word voters used to describe her is liar, followed by dishonest, and then untrustworthy was another one. So, you would have to do quite a lot if that was your image to repair that and this doesn't help her case at all. It doesn't help her campaign and it doesn't help her actually stay on the other side of the bars.

KELLY: What do you make of the fact Nomiki that "Feel the Burn" was at the White House today talking to President Obama. Now, they say he wasn't seeking the endorsement, but do you believe that and should we be reading anything into this?

KONST: I believe it. I believe that the president is going to stay out of this one. I mean you would just be setting up a disaster here. You know, the president is very popular with democrats and the young people and when in a Quinnipiac poll this week alone, 70 percent of democratic voters under the age of 44 are siding with Bernie Sanders and that is a big message right there, that's the future of the democratic party.

KELLY: So, is that good or bad because I want to break that down because Hillary is winning with the older people on the Dem side, Bernie is winning with the younger people on the Dem side but will the -- is it better for Hillary because the older people tend to be the ones who go out and vote. With Obama, the young people voted but that was Obama.

KONST: It was Obama, but you know, this is sensational. I think these numbers are actually higher than what it was for Obama in 2008. So, you think about the type of -- here's the difference, you look at Donald Trump, who has a lot of first-time older voters he's relying on to get to the polls in Iowa.

I don't know if those voters are going to show up because they haven't been registered for a very long time. This is the first time that 18-year-olds are showing up and it's about student loans. They're talking about their future here. They're the ones who have been hurt by the economy. They're the ones who have to pay out of pocket ...

KELLY: So, what does it mean, all right, so Dana, what does it mean then in the election if Hillary becomes the nominee, that these young voters don't feel that much enthusiasm at least now?

LOESCH: I don't know if anybody feels enthusiasm about Hillary. Bernie Sanders is at least honest, that he comes out and says, "I'm a socialist" and people say, "yeah, you are." And so, there's a little bit more-- there's a little bit more credibility there.

As for Hillary though, I mean she had classified information, which was illegal for her to have that on a private server, but how it got there that's another question, but they just don't trust her. They don't trust her and Bernie Sanders is funny. He's like a Seinfeld character. Horrible on policy, but he's like the guy who is like on the park bench yelling at clouds and you're like he seems sweet.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: He even called himself fat when he sits down for a Town Hall forum. He had me at "I'm fat."

(LAUGHING)

KELLY: Dana, good to see you.

KONST: Great, I'm fat.

LOESCH: Thank you, Megyn.

KONST: I'm feeling a little fat today.

KELLY: Right? I mean come on. All right, up next, some final takeaways from Stirewalt and Hayes with just less than 24 hours to go until tomorrow night's fireworks here in Des Moines, Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Back now for some final thoughts before tomorrow night's fireworks here in Iowa. Stirewalt and Hayes, together, again. So, let's address the Trump issue because there was a report out today that this maybe a strategy by Trump to avoid having a showdown with Ted Cruz. That he doesn't want to have it and he thinks he'll do just fine without showing up and that Cruz was going to come after him with both guns blazing so, why not --

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOZ NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: It was probably Cruz that he was worried about the showdown with. Come on.

KELLY: Cruz were not the one he was mentioning, that's your point.

STIREWLAT: Surely, he was not the one he was mentioning. Look, it's also this, for him, so he had to make a calculated decision. I don't know how much of it was emotion on his part and how much was calculation. I don't know. I don't pretend to know. And anybody who says they do is lying. We don't know whether this was an impulsive move that he is now going to make the best of a bad situation or is this something that he planned out?

We don't know, but we do know this, and this is the truth. Iowa is crazy, right? When it comes to making the choice at the end, Iowa does. We all use the Rick Santorum example. Four years ago, we would sit right here before the Iowa caucus and say, "well, it's Romney or Ron Paul and they got it and there's no way that it can be anybody else and blah, blah, blah.

KELLY: Right.

STIREWALT: And then it changes it.

KELLY: But it's because, with all due respect to our host here, they don't have a very good history of picking the winner of the nomination, Steve. I mean, so you win in Iowa. I mean, is it like that curse when you win best support actor at the Academy Awards, like you never win again.

STEVE HAYES, COLUMNIST FOR THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The pop culture stuff just goes ...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHING)

KELLY: Well, that's what happens. Trust me. You don't want to win that award.

HAYES: Look, the funny thing about this cycle is all of those precedents, I feel like we should rip them up and throw them out. With people who are making sort of straight line projections based on what's happened in previous cycles aren't taking into account that most of what we have seen this time hasn't happened in previous cycles so, you know, the question and you all have discussed it before, is Donald Trump able to get people to come to the polls, show up at his events? Does he blew the numbers --

KELLY: You heard Jeff saying he's got like the top guy at Iowa when it comes to getting people out.

HAYES: (ph) He's a genius in terms of getting people out. If anybody can do it, Chuck Laudner can do it. He did it for Rick Santorum in 2012 without a lot of money and Donald Trump has given him money to do it so, Chuck Laudner can do it.

KELLY: (ph) He'll just show up at your house with a bus and say, "come on, come on?"

STIREWALT: Look, it's almost as simple as that but it did (ph) making sure that they come to you with the right message and make the right argument to the right voter at the right place at the right time. It's about tailoring it to you.

Iowa demands, you know, voters demand to be tailored with. But let me speak a word of defense in Iowa not just because we are here at the same time as the Pork Congress and there is delicious bacon everywhere. But in addition to that, they cull the field, that's their job, that's what they do. There will be a lot fewer people running for president a week from today than there are right now.

KELLY: Well, that will makes the next debates after ours even more interesting because as it gets more and more narrow, the questions gets tougher and tougher and they got to stand there and they got to take it and that's going to be one of the exciting news tomorrow because we do have some tough questions. It would be so good. We'll be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: We got 23 hours now to go until tomorrow night's debate starts and you can feel the energy burning, starting already here in this arena. We can't wait to get started and we hope you'll be there. See you tomorrow night at 9 o'clock, FNC.

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