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Special Report

What's next for the Cruz campaign?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 22, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RICK TYLER, CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The Daily Pennsylvanian put up that video and the put up the captions of what they said was the transcript on that video. So I know it not to be true. I've asked The Daily Pennsylvanian to correct it and take it down. But they haven't done that.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They have actively promoted it and pushed it that I had disrespected the Bible. I know exactly what I said to that young man. I said the answer to every question you'll have is in that book.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It turns out the news story he sent around was false, but I'll tell you, even if it is true, we are not a campaign that's going to question the faith of another candidate. Even if it was true, our campaign should not have sent it. That's why I asked for Rick Tyler's nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A shake-up in the Cruz campaign today. Rick Tyler, the communications director let go as you heard there by Senator Cruz. Tyler was the basically spokesman, the chief spokesman for the Cruz campaign. Donald Trump quickly took to Twitter today saying, "Wow, Ted Cruz falsely suggests Marco Rubio mocked the Bible and was just forced to fire his communications director, more dirty tricks. Just saw the phony ad by Cruz, totally false. More dirty tricks. He got caught in so many lies. Is this man crazy?"

The Rubio campaign put out a statement: "Rick is a really good spokesman who had the unenviable task of working for a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected. There is a culture in the Cruz campaign from top to bottom that no lie is too big and no trick too dirty. Rick did the right thing by apologizing to Marco. It's high time for Ted Cruz to do the right thing and stop the lies."

That's where we will start. Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, it feels like this was the straw on a number of things and this was just the thing that they needed to say somebody's got to pay for this.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think that's right. Certainly the Cruz campaign was under increasing scrutiny about its alleged dirty tricks in the campaign. It showed up in the exit polling in South Carolina with 33 percent of voters who answered exit polls saying that they thought the Cruz campaign was the dirtiest campaign, 39 percent said the Trump campaign. And I think there's a concern among Cruz supporters that this was beginning to stick.

And this was such a preposterous hit, really to think that Marco Rubio would walk by and gratuitously in front of Ted Cruz' father insult the Bible when someone may have been videotaping him. It was so ridiculous on so many levels. I do think Rick Tyler is being scapegoated a little bit here, but it was a silly attempt at an attack. And I think the problem the Cruz campaign faces in sort of turmoil after this past weekend is, I don't think this puts those suggestions to rest. I don't think getting rid of Rick Tyler is going to make people suddenly say the Cruz campaign, people who have concerns about the Cruz campaign say OK, everything's fine now. It's not as if Rick Tyler was the one responsible for earning these allegations.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think the Cruz campaign is really being pinched from both ends. You've got Trump and Rubio making the same argument. It's a character argument, saying Ted Cruz does dirty tricks, he's a liar. Trump constantly says he's the biggest liar in world history or something equivalent, and it's a problem.

And the biggest problem was in South Carolina, South Carolina was a bad result for Ted Cruz. He was supposed to win in. That was his kind of state, lots of evangelicals. But Donald Trump keeps on winning evangelicals even though Donald Trump, married many times, uses profanity, and said famously that he never asked God for forgiveness. So Cruz has a problem. He's being shut out or at least stiff competition for his natural voters.

BAIER: The other thing Trump does is repeat this attack on the stump, and it obviously has sunk in. Not only is he doing it all the time but now Marco Rubio is doing it all the time about Ted Cruz the liar.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I understand how the Cruz campaign felt. It had to do something to counteract this narrative because in these campaigns, these narratives, you don't have to have them last for a year, six months. They go so fast that if you can create a narrative, a bad one about another candidate that lasts three weeks, it can kill them.

Rubio's comeback is because Christie had created a narrative that he's a robot. And he had a guy in a robot suit walking around his campaign. You don't see the guy in the robot suit because within in a week Rubio had cured that with a good performance in the next debate and that's not an issue anymore. So he killed it in the crib. Cruz was trying to do that. I think actually he sort of highlighted the issue. You fire a guy. It's the main news story all of us are talking about. It's the lead story. And it gives, of course, Trump and Rubio an opportunity to pile on with those rather rough tweets. I'm not sure he's cured his problem at all.

BAIER: Another sound bite got some attention today, Ohio Governor John Kasich campaigning in Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How did I get elected? Nobody was -- they didn't have anybody for me. We just got an army of people who -- and many women who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and put yard signs up for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First off, I want to say your comment earlier about the women came out of the kitchen to support you. I'll come to support you, but I won't be coming out the kitchen.

KASICH: I got you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BAIER: A couple people jumped on that. Mara, the campaign said, hey, listen, when they started in the 1970s all kinds of people, stay at home moms, took up their -- the cause and campaigned for Kasich.

LIASSON: We know what he meant. We know what he meant. It was a little retro. I'm sure many women left their jobs or worked on the weekend for him and got extra baby-sitting for their kids.

BAIER: More importantly, Kasich is campaigning in Virginia.

LIASSON: That's right, he's campaigning in Virginia. Why is he in Virginia? Because Nevada doesn't offer a lot for him. He's trying to go to states that have more moderate Republicans. He actually was in Massachusetts also recently. That's where he thinks he can do well. He wants to get to the Midwest, to Michigan and of course his own state of Ohio.

He's done remarkably well. From the very beginning debates where he was kind of an annoying he really got into this groove of being the positive, uplifting, sunny, non-divisive Republican. And he thinks he still has -- there's some fertile ground for him to plow coming up.

BAIER: Steve, let's talk about Jeb Bush and the analysis of this campaign. This is Rush Limbaugh today talking about the demise of the Bush campaign really from the start.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Republican establishment and the establishment's consultants class raised over $100 million believing in an old paradigm that all it took was money. The message, that could come later. The candidate, yes, that was somewhat important, but we can't use his last name. They went into this knowing there was fatigue in the population for the Bush family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: And here's how The Washington Post wrote it: "First, the candidate and his team misjudged the degree of Bush fatigue among Republicans. Second, Bush and his team miscalculated the role and power of money in traditional television commercials in the 2016 race. Third, Bush ran a campaign that whether deliberate or not was rooted in the past. His final remarks as a presidential candidate were a reflection of the campaign. He had mis-constructed, had constructed from the start, one he had built from -- to his unique specifications, which nonetheless proved to be a mismatch for a political environment that caught him by surprise." Fair?

HAYES: I think it is fair. I think Rush Limbaugh is exactly right, and this is true of the political class in general. There is always an overemphasis on money. It's as if people in Washington who do this for a living can't think of anything else. And to a certain extent it's self- serving because a lot of them make their money based on there being more money in these campaigns.

But look, I remember talking about this back on the panel in 2012 when Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney in Iowa with $25,000 or something crazy in his bank account. We talked about the importance of message over money. I think this was clear from the very beginning, from a year ago, that Jeb was going to have trouble for that reason, that message was going to be more important than money, and that this was likely to be the year of the outsider. I just thought it would be more likely to be Ted Cruz than it would be to be Donald Trump.

BAIER: In that first debate in August we picked out the vulnerabilities for each candidate. And my question to Bush had to do with his name and his tie to the Bush family. It seemed like it never got started. It he seemed like it never took off, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, apparently he didn't have a last name. he had a punctuation point. It was obvious from the beginning, if you're going to run against a Clinton, which it looks like it's going to happen now, the worst idea for the Republicans is to run somebody who's got a legacy issue, a sort of a dynasty issue.

I don't think he ran a terrible campaign. He's a man who campaigned, "I'm experienced. I'm a governor. I have a lot of policy idea." He's a wonky guy. In that past that worked. There was nothing dishonorable or disreputable about what he did. It's just a time in which people are not interested in that and it was a wrong time. And I think he bowed out with remarkable graciousness. And I think he deserves credit for that, and for not waiting until the morning. He knew he had to cut it off. He did it cleanly and I thought --

BAIER: I will say Right to Rise, the super PAC, Carl Cameron said he saw two ads against Rubio today. But I guess --

LIASSON: They were already in rotation. That will change and we assume that whatever money is left that hasn't already been spent against Marco Rubio will now be directed against Donald Trump.

KRAUTHAMMER: They're going to drop the word "not" in the commercials.

(LAUGHTER)

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