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Special Report

Preview of the Fox News Republican debate

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't like being taken advantage of. In this case I was being taken advantage of by FOX News.

JEB BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Donald Trump actually believes that he's been treated unfairly by the press, that's pretty laughable given how he manipulates the press.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think he is afraid of Megyn, actually, and I don't think he's afraid of me. I think he is afraid of the voters.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 is an opportunity to answer that question.

SEN. RAND PAUL, REPUBLCIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To me it's sort of a two-for. I feel like I've got a double win. I'm in the main debate, and I don't have to put up with Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, there you go, some of the sights and sounds from the campaign last night and today.

Let's bring in our panel joining me here in Des Moines, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal, and in Washington, Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, guys, first here in Des Moines, Ron, the intrigue. We talk about it. We don't know what the percentage is that may actually show up before 9 p.m. Eastern Time. But we're prepared.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: As always. I'm sure your team is.

You can't predict Donald Trump. He is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. What we do know is that he is bigot, he's a sexist, and he's a thin-skinned presidential candidate.

BAIER: So I'm pretty sure he's not going to come now.

(LAUGHTER)

FOURNIER: I'm not a moderator, but I'll tell this about Megyn Kelly. I came out of A.P., a very down the middle, very don't want to be part of the story news organization. The question she asked that has led to all this was a perfectly reasonable, hard-hitting question, the kind of question you want your presidents asked. She made the presidential candidate eat his words. That is her job, and the baby couldn't handle it.

BAIER: OK, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think this has as much to do with Megyn Kelly's actual question as it does with Donald Trump's interest in generating excitement and enthusiasm or questions about his candidacy. That was five months ago. We're well beyond that. We've had that fight.

But I do think it is interesting. I think we'll see this reflected on the stage where the candidates who do show up if Trump does not show up will do their very best to appear presidential, to provide the contrast with the frontrunner who while they're going to be on stage talking about ISIS and the Iran and the entitlement crisis and tax reform and ObamaCare, Trump is tweeting about Megyn Kelly personally. He's asking questions about FOX's ratings. This is childish behavior. And I think when you're talking about making a decision about who is going to be the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief, that's what you're going to see these other candidates do to try to contrast with Trump.

BAIER: Charlie, you talked to Trump supporters. This has not affected them one iota.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: No. And in fact I think in a lot of ways it sort of buttresses the image that he has cultivated throughout the campaign that he is a gutsy fighter and that he is not afraid to get into a fight with absolutely anybody. And in this case, he picked a fight with the single most powerful force in cable news, a very powerful force among Republican voters. And he's gotten into this fight and he doesn't back down. It is hard to say whether this is going to hurt him in Iowa, but I certainly think beyond Iowa it doesn't hurt him because it just sort of reinforce this image of him as a gutsy street fighter.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm not sure we know. I'm not sure we'll ever know if he intended it to go this far. It could be a little like World War I. You start out with a little shooting in Sarajevo and all of a sudden you have got the world on fire. But at this point I think it is hard for him to back down.

But I don't think he is afraid of you guys as the moderators. I think maybe late in the process he realized that this is could be a way for him to avoid what I think he might really be afraid of, the incoming from Ted Cruz.

Cruz is the one who has the most at stake. I'm sure if Trump had been there, the initial planning was for Cruz to go in with everything he had and to drop all the ordinance, because for him Iowa is the stage. If he doesn't succeed in winning Iowa or coming very close, it is hard to see how he proceeds to a victory. If he does win, I think it affects him in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and elsewhere. So this was his opportunity for mano-a-mano, of course in the presence of a lot of others.

And for Trump it is a win-win because he doesn't to have actually face Cruz. He would probably lose, I think. He did beat Cruz last time with the 9/11 trump card, if you will, but I'm not sure he would be able to pull that off a second time.

BAIER: Ron, the key thing is we're four days away from actual voting after talking about this for two years. And Iowa come down to organization. You listen to Governor Branstad. He thinks the Cruz people are pretty well- positioned here even though he doesn't want Cruz to win.

FOURNIER: For both the insurgents and both these campaigns on both sides of the fence, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, they need a big turnout.
Everything we're seeing anecdotally and the little bit of data we have suggests not a big turnout. We haven't had a big preregistration, for example, like we did in 2008. That doesn't mean that people can't show up and register at the caucuses. But we're not seeing obvious signs of a big turnout, which would bode well for Cruz and for Hillary Clinton on the other side. And I do agree with the folks in Washington, that purely politically, Donald Trump, I don't think he hurts himself even in Iowa by posting up against FOX News, against the media, again the establishment.
People are so tired of all establish and institutions right now.

BAIER: That's a big part of the whole split in the party, Steve.

HAYES: We'll see. I talked to a couple Trump supporters who are now former Trump supporters precisely because they thought his sitting out this debate in particular was a slap in the face of Iowans. I talked to one woman last night who was not a Trump supporter who will caucus for either Rubio or Cruz who said I take this very personally. We here in Iowa take our participation in the caucuses very seriously, very personally, and if he doesn't show up, if he's not going to treat this with the seriousness deserves, given the fact that it is a contest about becoming the president of the United States, I may stay home.

I don't know that that's representative of any broader population, but if the question is, are some Iowans upset about it? Yes, the answer is some Iowans are upset about it.

FOURNIER: This shows you again he's a better reporter. I talked to a lot of Trump supporters today who said, this is great. Let him do it.

BAIER: There's a lot of different people. There's a lot of people in Iowa.

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