Trump shakes up GOP race with surprise Christie endorsement; Update on bakers fined for denying same-sex couple's request

How much impact will the governor's support have? Reaction on 'The Kelly File'


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," February 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Breaking tonight.  Less than 24 hours after a rousing Republican presidential debate that bordered on a brawl, front-runner Donald Trump shakes up the race yet again with a surprise important endorsement.  

Good evening, everybody.  Welcome to "The Kelly File," I'm Martha MacCallum in for Megyn Kelly.  So, we are now just days out from March 1, which we'll see Republicans in nearly a dozen states, head to the polls in the most significant day of this primary season to date.  And just hours ago, a major announcement.  At a Trump campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Mr. Trump introducing his newest advocate, governor and former candidate for the Republican nomination Chris Christie.  This was not expected.  

During the campaign of course, the two men went at it.  Christie dismissing Trump at one point as the candidate for, quote, "entertainer in chief," even questioning whether the brass businessman had the temperament to occupy the highest office in the land.  But now months later, Governor Christie, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association and keynote speaker at the 2012 RNC Convention, saying Donald Trump does represent, in his opinion, the best hope for the GOP.  Watch.  


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE R-N.J.:  I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States.  I'm doing this for a number of reasons.  First is that Donald and I, along with Melania and Mary Pat have been friends for over a decade.  Secondly, I've been on that stage.  I've gotten to know all the people on that stage.  And there is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs, both at home and around the world, than Donald Trump.  He will make sure that people around the world know that America keeps its word again.  

Donald Trump is someone who, when he makes a promise, he keeps it.  Third, there is no doubt in my mind, and I've been saying this right from the time I entered the campaign, that the single most important thing for the Republican Party is to nominate the person who gives us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton.  I can guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump.  

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I'm not big on endorsements.  Second, I could have had many endorsements.  I have quite a few good ones.  But I could have had many many.  But you know, I didn't want to take the time and the two hours and the dinners and everything else.  It just wasn't worth it.  This was an endorsement that really meant a lot.  Chris is an outstanding man with outstanding family.  He's done a great job, and I think that this is the one endorsement that I felt very strongly about that I wanted to get.  


MACCALLUM:  So, last night in the debate, Donald Trump using new language stating, quote, "We are building a much bigger, much stronger Republican Party," he said.  So what is the impact of Chris Christie's vote of confidence today?  

Guy Benson is a political editor of and a Fox News contributor.  Howie Kurtz is host of "MediaBuzz."  Gentlemen, welcome.  Good to see you both as always.  


MACCALLUM:  Guy, let me start with you.  You are a voice for conservatives across this country, and Chris Christie put his position behind Donald Trump tonight.  It's an important endorsement, no?

GUY BENSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  It definitely is.  And I think that this was a master stroke by the Trump campaign.  Just brilliant.  For two reasons.  First, they managed to convince a once popular governor to take his credibility and his reputation that he's built over his adult lifetime and apply it to try to confer some credibility upon Donald Trump, a man, who as you just pointed out, he had criticized sharply on a number of fronts during his own failed presidential campaign.  But secondly Martha, more importantly in my view, from a conservative perspective, this is the Trump campaign turning the page in the media narrative away from last night's debate, at which Donald Trump was habitually and repeatedly exposed and humiliated by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two sharp, young conservatives with vastly superior knowledge on virtually every issue that came up.  

And so I think that that was this morning a realization Donald Trump waking up saying, wow, I got beaten pretty badly last night.  He's fired off some insulting tweets against Marco Rubio, rife with misspellings.  Rubio mocked him on television.  He had to delete them.  I think the Trump campaign needed to turn attention away from all of that and the Christie endorsement timing was helpful.  

MACCALLUM:  Well, you know, obviously Donald Trump feels he did great last night in the debate.  He always feels very strong coming out of this debate --  

BENSON:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

MACCALLUM:  And his supporters would agree.  No doubt.  

BENSON:  They would.

MACCALLUM:  But your point is right on, that it was a master stroke in terms of moving the conversation.  And it almost feels, Howie, that the Trump campaign sort of has, you know, has it in its docket, you know, sort of like, okay ready for this one.  You know, as if you're putting another one in the barrel and then when the next moment comes along, let's roll out that.  It's very, very well done in terms of the way it plays in the media. Would you say?  

KURTZ:  Well, yes.  In fact, I'm told that Donald Trump had this endorsement in his back pocket for some time, choosing today to roll it out.  I don't agree that he was exposed and humiliated in the debate.  It was a rough, barroom brawl debate, and he got scratched up at times as he went toe to toe especially with Marco Rubio.  But here's the thing.  You know, endorsements I think matter a lot more to the media than to average voters.  This one is important for this reason, the Republican establishment, the remnants of the establishment and the conservative media establishment are right now engaged in a last-minute, last gasp, somewhat desperate effort to stop Trump from rolling to this nomination and to paint him as a dangerous figure who is a threat to conservatism, to the Republican Party and to the country.  Along comes Chris Christie, two-term governor of blue state, who had been up there on the presidential stage, not only lending his credibility to Trump but kind of opening the door for other establishment figures to do the same.  


KURTZ:  And I'm told the Trump campaign there's about a half dozen on the state -- officials, it will roll out as well.  

MACCALLUM:  All right.  To Marco Rubio now, one of his senior advisers Todd Harris said this today.  It has been made plain as day over the last eight months or so, the media is not interested in covering the substance.  The media wants to cover the circus.  If we have to be part of the circus in order to get people to pay attention to Marco's substantive policy positions, then let us in the ring.  That sounds pretty harsh in terms of what their strategy is right now, Guy.  

BENSON:  But they have to.  Right?  And the way that Trump has operated has been very successful.  Just look, with this new Christie endorsement, all three major cable news outlets covered that press conference live.  I watched his rally in Oklahoma all over cable news earlier tonight.  They've given tons of free airtime because of the circus like atmosphere.  

MACCALLUM:  He's the leading candidate, too, Guy.  I mean --  

BENSON:  Sure.  No, no --  

MACCALLUM:  -- everybody by a mile at the moment.  

BENSON:  That's true.  Although they've been giving him tons and tons of airtime, vastly overshadowing any other candidate across the dial.  And so I think what the Rubio campaign is saying, like, all right, if that's the appetite out there in the media, we can play into that as well.  We saw a preview at the debate, and then Rubio today really coming after Trump hard at a rally in Dallas.  That got some attention as well.  

MACCALLUM:  You know, we're going to look at Marco Rubio this afternoon.  As you say, it was a pretty strong performance by him as well.  And he is not backing down.  In fact, he's accelerating his attacks on Donald Trump today.  So we'll going to show everybody a little bit of that as well.  

Howie and Guy, good to see you both.  Thanks a lot.

BENSON:  Thank you.

KURTZ:  Thanks.

MACCALLUM:  So, last night after months of largely laying off the Republican front-runner, Florida Senator Marco Rubio turned his fire squarely on businessman Donald Trump.  And this morning, he didn't let up. Watch this.  


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It's time to pull his mask off so that people can see what we are dealing with here.  What we are dealing here with, my friends, is a con artist.  He is a con artist.  First of all, he runs on this idea that he is fighting for the little guy, but he's spent his entire career sticking it to the little guy.  His entire career!


MACCALLUM:  That's a new voice from Marco Rubio, but as we have seen and heard from the Republican front-runner, he will and does consistently punch back.  

For more on the hottest campaign trail fight of the day, let's go to Trace Gallagher who has a look at it live from our Westcoast, Newsroom tonight.  Hey, Trace.  

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Martha.  The back and forth barrage of insults between Trump and Rubio was so prevalent today it felt more like a Dean Martin Roast than a political campaign.  Many pundits believed Rubio ahead Trump playing defense during last night's debate and today he was not backing down.  Beginning as you heard by repeatedly calling Donald Trump a con man.  Trump responded with a twitter tirade, calling Rubio a lightweight and choker, except Trump misspelled those words and Rubio made sure that everybody know it.  Listen.  


RUBIO:  The problem is, he is a chocker.  And once a chocker is always a choker, I guess that's what he meant to say.  


He spelled c-h-o-k-e-r, choker.  Great honer.  I think he meant to say great honor, I don't know how he got that wrong.  Because the e and the o are nowhere near each other on the keyboard.  



GALLAGHER:  The Rubio campaign also tweeted they must not have taught spelling at Trump University.  But Trump hit back by teasing Marco Rubio for sweating too much.  Watch.  


TRUMP:  You ought to see him backstage.  He was putting on makeup with a trowel.  No, I don't want to say that.  I will not say that he was trying to cover up his ears.  I will not say that.  No, he was just trying to cover up -- he was just trying to cover up the sweat that pours -- I never saw -- did you ever see a guy sweat like this?


GALLAGHER:  At a rally late tonight, Marco Rubio tried to turn the tables again, telling the crowd that during last night's debate, Trump was the one who was clearly flustered.  Watch again.  


RUBIO:  First he took out like this little makeup compact.  It was like right here.  Because he had like a sweat mustache.  And then he asked for a full-length mirror.  Why do you need a full-length mirror?  The podium goes up to here.  So, I said earlier, maybe he was worried that his pants were wet or something.  I don't know.  

TRUMP:  All of this and the state of Florida can't stand him and I'm up by like 20 points and we're going to win Florida.  


We're going to win Florida.  Let me tell you.  We're going to win it big.  


GALLAGHER:  We should note Ted Cruz and Donald Trump also exchanged a few barbs, but today's news cycle was dominated by Rubio v. Trump -- Martha.  

MACCALLUM:  Thanks, Trace.  

Joining me now, Rich Lowry, Fox News contributor and National Review editor.  And David Wohl is an attorney and Donald Trump supporter.  Gentlemen, welcome.  



MACCALLUM:  Good to have both of you here tonight.  Rich, let me go to you first.  Wow!  Look at that back and forth.  Look at what they're talking about out there on the trail.  You have got Donald Trump spring water on people and talking about how much Marco Rubio sweats and Rubio doing imitations of Trump putting on makeup.  I mean, what's going on out there, Rich?

LOWRY:  Well, a couple of things.  One, Rubio had to go after Trump last night because he showed up at this moment at this political moment and taken a pass on a talking Donald Trump, he would have seemed so weak.  A lot of people would have given up on him.  So it was very important for him to come out punching and he came out punching in a way that's playing by Donald Trump's rules.  


LOWRY:  And part of the reason Trump has established a dominance in this race, he's established a dominance over every other candidate through interruptions, through ridicule, through mocking.  So this is Marco Rubio's attempt to give Trump some of his own medicine and beat him at his own game.  But this is going to be a mud fest for the next three weeks.  

MACCALLUM:  David, you're shaking your head.  Why?

WOHL:  Well, because obviously Rubio has got consultants who are telling him that if you want to beat Donald Trump, you have to act like Donald Trump.  But it isn't working.  I mean, he doesn't have the same swagger, so we have to revert to the issues and he's losing on the issues, too.  He reminded me last night of a little kid screaming at his older brother and the older brother just swatting him like a fly.  It's just isn't going to work that way.  And right now, Marco has to revert to the issues on virtually everyone he's losing in his home state on the 15th.  He will have to go, we didn't drop out before then.  He's losing by 20 points.  What a humiliation that is right now.  I really don't know what he's going to do because on the substance and on the emotion, he loses.  Two strikes.  

MACCALLUM:  All right.  I want to ask you about, you know, what I see as sort of the project to legitimize Donald Trump.  So he's legitimate clearly among the supporters that he has.  Right?  So now he's got to build that group.  And this week we had sort of the ground work of that.  You had Chris Collins come out.  You had Duncan Hunter came out and say, you know, we support Donald Trump.  So now you have got people who don't support Donald Trump opening up their eyes and saying, uh-mm, well, that's interesting.  

And today, you have Governor Christie, who had choices obviously in terms of who to support.  But he went back to his friend, who he referred to his friend Donald Trump throughout many moments in this campaign.  Now, my guess is that you may see people like Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee joining this list in the near future, as well.  Rich, am I right about this?

LOWRY:  Yes, Martha.  We've talked a lot in this race about how the rules have been suspended and in many respects they have.  But a couple key rules haven't.  Which is that momentum matters and victories are validating.  


LOWRY:  And Trump has won three states in a row, and look, if Kasich had won three states in a row, you better bet Chris Christie would not be endorsing Donald Trump today.  So, it's a front running choice, but this is the way politics works, and if the train keeps on moving down the tracks, you'll going to see a lot of folks in the Republican establishment going to Trump and further validating him.  

MACCALLUM:  Right.  So there's two sides digging in.  And apparently, according to what we're learning tonight, David, there's a wave of money, of $20 million the number that is sort of, you know, the starter number in terms of what is going to be coming at Donald Trump.  What do you say?

WOHL:  Yes, and I mean, who wouldn't want to jump on this winning Trump train right now, Martha.  I'm telling you, Christie may end up being the vice president if he's elected.  He may end up being the attorney general.  And other people are going to want a slice of this pie.  Because look, right now, I don't think there's any doubt as to who is going to get the nomination.  And the more power you build up with support from the quote-unquote, "establishment legitimate GOP," that puts the heat on Hillary Clinton who right now is facing her own troubles.  But people think that, you know, maybe Clinton versus Trump alone wouldn't be enough for Donald Trump.  This really does, and Rich is right, this legitimizes everything.  

LOWRY:  One thing we haven't really seen yet against Trump, and it's bizarre, since he's been the front-runner for months and months and months, is a sustained advertising assault on his greatest vulnerabilities --  

MACCALLUM:  Yes, that's true.

LOWRY:  -- which is a spotty business record and the way he's constantly taken advantage of the little guy.  

MACCALLUM:  Well, you know, these endorsements are likely to count.  They sort of say, come on in, the water is fine to people who may not have thought that the water is fine.  So, we'll see how it works and as you say --   

WOHL:  And attacking him doesn't help -- I mean, it doesn't hurt, it helps him.  

MACCALLUM:  All right.  Four days to Super Tuesday.  You guys, thank you very much.  

LOWRY:  Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  Good to see you both.  

WOHL:  Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  So, Super Tuesday could be the next pivotal moment in this presidential election if Donald Trump performs like he is polling.  Frank Luntz asks a Texas Focus Group what should happen if Mr. Trump's winning streak continues.  And you won't believe some of the answers that Frank Luntz got out of this group when we come back.  


FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  Let's say the polling is correct and Donald Trump wins all but one or two states.  What do you want to have happen at that moment?



MACCALLUM:  So, there are just four days left for the candidates to make their case to voters ahead of Super Tuesday in those contests that will take place across the country.  You have 12 states voting, nearly 600 delegates up for grabs that night.  It is the biggest single day for the presidential candidates to date, and it could clearly be the turning point in this nomination process.  So if the polls are right, could be a very good night for one Donald Trump.  Here is Frank Luntz and his Texas Focus Group on what it could mean though for the rest of the field.  


LUNTZ:  So let me ask you, Texas Republicans.  Let's say the polling is correct and Donald Trump wins all but one or two states.  What do you want to have happen at that moment?  Should it be over?  Or do you think that it should go on another few weeks to give voters -- more voters a chance to be heard and give more opportunities for others, frankly, to take shots at Donald Trump?  Who wants it to end?  If Trump wins all but one or two states, who thinks it should be over?  Raise your hands.  That's almost all of you.  Why should we stop there?  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We need someone to beat Hillary Clinton and that's all that matters.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let's focus on the competition.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stop the infighting.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We need to unite, because the Democrats want us divided.  We can't stand divided.  

LUNTZ:  Who disagrees with that?  Who thinks it should go on?  Raise our hands.  So, tell me why.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It's not over until the people have voted.  We can't just let a few states decide who our nominees.  Every state should get to vote before we christen a nominee.  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And there's no sense going on if it doesn't make a difference.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Some things could come to light that we don't expect.  You have got these northern states, you've got the northeast.  You know, we need to listen to those people.  

LUNTZ:  But you haven't heard from so many states and Trump will have won just about every place.  What else is any other state going to tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If it's a statistical situation, where he's going to win, it's done.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never think that it's done, because you got two other guys there.  You got two guys and you can probably flip either one of them.  You know, I could go either way.  Cruz, Trump, Trump Cruz, either one, president, vice president.  Those two work for me.  And if they did that,
then that one on one competition, you'll have that.  The only reason I believe --  

LUNTZ:  But doesn't one on one bring out the worst in these people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Perpetuating this process just damages the ultimate candidate by giving the Democrats more fodder.  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I totally disagree.  I think the process has to continue.  We can't disenfranchise voters in so many other states.  And I think after Super Tuesday, at least two people will drop out.  And then there will be a three person race.  There hasn't been one up to now.  We started at 16.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the arguments about the Electoral College that's up for one thing is that you have the two biggest states are going to decide and you can't disenfranchise just like this man said.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That's why Texas moved their primary ahead.  Because they got tired of not being counted.  


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That's why we moved to March.  

LUNTZ:  Do we continue this process?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It's a big risk.  It's a big risk.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  After Super Tuesday, you have two more weeks and then you have another bunch of states with a lot of electoral votes.  So I would say, if that point, if Trump is still cleaning everybody's plow, then it's time to stop and coalesce behind one candidate.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What happens though if this vote in Super Tuesday -- we may see a whole different landscape.  I mean, somebody is going to get in a room with Rubio and Cruz and somebody is going to come out and somebody will say, you're going to have to support me.  I mean, what if the landscape changes?  And that's whole different landscape.

LUNTZ:  But I have to ask you, is this productive?  Are debates like you have seen over the last few weeks when they've really gone at each other, is this productive for Republicans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Doesn't it also seems very repetitive at a point.  I mean, we've heard the same positions over and over.  In fact, we've heard some of the same arguments over and over.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The situation at hand is once we have the person that we most definitely know is going to be there, let him take the lead, and everybody else keep behind him and unify and beat Hillary Clinton.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Exactly right.  When he start pointing out the false in the Democrats because we are just sitting here beating each other up and it's not going to get us anywhere.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They are loving it at this point.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You even said yourself that with this group, really no one changed their mind.  

LUNTZ:  It's amazing.  There are 23 people here after watching over two hours.  Only three of you changed their minds.  People are coming to their points of view.  But as one of you said, doesn't the rest of America have the right to be heard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  People watching the same debates.  They've been watching as many debates as we have they're probably in the same place.  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There's other states that are winner take all.  And we need to give the, like Ohio, we need to give those state a chance.  

LUNTZ:  So, I have got one more question for you on this and then we got to get out.  What's more important to you, if you had to choose, the electability of the candidate or the policies of the candidate.  When you're running against Hillary Clinton, which is the high priority, the policy or electability.  

FOCUS GROUP:  Electability.  


LUNTZ:  Who chooses electability, raise your hands?  Well, that's pretty darn over --  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I came in with policy but I --  

LUNTZ:  You're now focused on electability.  So, even in Texas, one of the most conservative states in the country, they still want to beat Hillary Clinton.  Am I correct?  


LUNTZ:  Back to you.  


MACCALLUM:  Very interesting.  The people have spoken.  

So, breaking tonight, five candidates left in this race.  One man leading the pack.  Karl Rove joins us to break down the numbers.  And shows us how the Super Tuesday delegates could actually shake out.  Stick around for that.  

Plus, Charles Hurt on what you need to know from the top candidates.  What should they be asked at this point that has not been asked that is significant?  As the fight for the GOP nomination heats up.  


MACCALLUM:  Super Tuesday, now just four days away.  Meaning about half the Republican delegates will be spoken for, about 600 on that night.  And America will be that much closer to knowing who is in the driver's seat for the GOP nomination.  And a majority of polls, both nationally and at the state level, the numbers point to Donald Trump.  But my next guest says he's not quite a lock, just yet, he's not convince.  

Joining me now, Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, the co-founder of American Crossroads and a Fox News contributor.  You know, a lot of folks are staying at home, Karl, when they see those numbers on the board and they hear you say that you think that this is not a done deal.  So, convince them why you're right.  

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, first of all.  Let me make two modest corrections.  There are 11 primaries on Tuesday, and there are 595 delegates at stake.  That's about a quarter, not half, it's half of what is needed to nominate.  

MACCALLUM:  Twelve thirty seven, you need, right?  

ROVE:  You're right.  Two thousand four hundred and 72 is the total.  So, it's about a quarter of the total delegates of the convention.  Now, remember --  

MACCALLUM:  Right.  But you need 1237 to lock up the nomination.  Correct?

ROVE:  Yes.  Yes.  But you said --

MACCALLUM:  So, if you're almost as 600 on Super Tuesday, then you're about halfway there --   

ROVE:  Right.

MACCALLUM:  -- to what you need to get the nomination.

ROVE:  Right.


ROVE:  But nobody is going to get 595 delegates on Tuesday, they're proportional.  


ROVE:  These contests are all proportional.  So the key thing to remember about this is, is that four of the states, including Virginia with 49 delegates are purely proportional.  So if you got 37 percent of the vote and you got 29 and 28, you'll going to have a relatively close split in the delegates and unless somebody gets more than 50 percent of the vote, they're not going to be getting the majority of the delegates.

The key here, if you do want to pump bank is to look at these states here where in the congressional districts they basically split 2 to 1. If you get more than 20 percent of the vote in my of these states, 108 delegates at the congressional district level in Texas. If you're the first place finisher over 20 percent, you get two delegates.

If there is somebody else who gets more than 20 percent, they get 2 to 1. This will -- this is where we'll begin to see some of the distortion where the winners will get a bigger bump than simply getting their percentage.

Then finally, this is where the danger, if you don't -- if you don't score well, where things happen, these states, including the two biggest states up for grabs, Georgia and Texas, have a 20 percent threshold. Now what does that mean?

There are 44 delegates, for example, statewide in Texas. If you get 20 percent of the vote that night, you get 20 percent of those 44 delegates, or about 17, you get 19 percent you get zero, and those 17 delegates are shared between the two candidates who get more than 20 percent.

MACCALLUM:  All right. Yes, I see what you mean. It's a same thing.

ROVE:  So, my point is, it's -- I listened to somebody else on another network last night say well, you know, somebody -- you know, Trump is going to get a big majority of the delegates on Tuesday night. Somebody is going to get chunk of delegates, it's probably going to be Trump. But I doubt that it's going to get, and he get anywhere near a majority of a quarter of the delegates.

MACCALLUM:  Well, we'll remember what you said tonight. I want to ask a quick question, tough. You know, in terms of the Christie support today for Donald Trump, I mean, can you see a scenario, if these two, you know, sort of put it together, perhaps even a vice presidential nomination for, you know, appoint, nomination I should for Chris Christie. Could you see a scenario where republicans take New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the math really changes in that kind of setup?

ROVE:  You could. You know, we're a long way away from the election, but first of all, it's odd to have a ticket, it's only happened twice -- excuse me once, in the history of the country where a candidate for president and his running mate are from adjoining states.

That was 1992 and 1996 with Al Gore and Bill Clinton.


ROVE:  So, it would be unusual. And the question is, does is going to help them win Florida? Republicans have to win Florida. Otherwise, they lose the general election. And is it going to help them win some place in the Midwest?

I think it's a long shot to think that simply having a candidate from New York or having a candidate from New Jersey is going to win. You may remember that was the theory behind the Dukakis-Lloyd Benson ticket. All they had to do is ask somebody from Massachusetts and somebody from Texas and they win it.


MACCALLUM:  It didn't work out so well.

ROVE:  It didn't work out so well.

MACCALLUM:  I know. But you know, we've seen so many strange things in this cycle.

ROVE:  Oh, yes, absolutely.

MACCALLUM:  And Donald Trump calling it a new Republican Party. And we're going to see how it all works out. But interesting look at the numbers for Tuesday night. Karl, thanks a lot. We'll see you Tuesday.

ROVE:  You bet.


ROVE:  Thank you.

MACCALLUM:  So, we are just coming off the tenth republican date of the 2016 cycle, but questions remain about each of these candidates. So, what still needs to be asked? Because you might be like you've heard it all at this point. But there are always those nagging questions, right?

Joining me now is a look at this is Charles Hurt, political columnist at The Washington Times. Charles, good to see you tonight.


MACCALLUM:  So, you know, you watch these debates. You know, I'm at home watching it last night like everybody else, and you're saying like, why don't they ask this or why don't ask that. And, you know, there are still things that people need to be pressed on, and issues that really haven't been touched or people haven't had to sort of, you know, come up with a lot of the information on their own. They are being handed a lot of it and saying, what do you think? So, what would you do, Charles?

HURT:  Sure. Absolutely. And of course. Then you have to also remember all the questions that have been asked that haven't been answered.

MACCALLUM:  Absolutely.

HURT:  But, you know, I think with Marco Rubio, probably the biggest question that he needs to be asked and needs to answer is that, you know, when he won the surprise victory to become Florida senator, he was a rock star in the conservative movement. He was -- the Tea Party loved this guy.

He picked off a governor that had betrayed -- you know, that the Tea Party didn't like. And he came here and the one important -- most important thing he's done here in Washington is to make a deal with democrats on immigration, which is the single most important issue for the republican base.

And the question he needs to answer is, how does he expect -- if it goes to November, how does he expect to win back those voters? Because if you don't have that base, you're not going to win. And he also needs to answer what honestly has he learned? You know, he says he learned lessons that well, you have to build the wall first. Well, he should have already learned that. That's a lesson that republicans have been learning for 30 years. But they -- but they -- it doesn't seem stand. On Donald...


MACCALLUM:  Yes. I was just to say that that's where he's gone on that question a lot. It's, you know, well, first, you have to secure the border and then we're going to figure out, you know, what the people will say yes to, in terms of the American people immigration reform. What about Donald Trump, what would you ask him?

HURT:  Donald, I think the fairest hit on Donald Trump has been the lack of specifics on a lot of very important issues. Now, he has given -- put out position papers on immigration, guns and taxes. And there were a lot of specifics in there. And they were very conservative ideas.

I think that other candidates and the media should pressure him. You know, last night he talked about slashing government slashing the EPA, slashing the Department of Education. All this sounds great. But pressuring him, put out position statement if he doesn't want to seat there and bore people on out debate with the specifics.

Put out a position paper on what he would do with Obamacare and what he would replace it with. I think it would be -- I think it would be absolutely fascinating. And if its specificity and his ideas are anything like the ones that we've seen in the past, it might actually help him. And it might assuage a lot of people's concerns about him.

MACCALLUM:  Yes. He needs to convince people that he understands the situation between Sunnis and Shia and what's going on in the Middle East perhaps.

HURT:  Absolutely.

MACCALLUM:  And the religious liberty question I thought was, you know, one that they could have gotten more from him last night in terms of what his feelings are about the religious liberty fight in America. So, there's still lots of time for more questions here. We'll see if he get some. Thank you so much, Charlie. Good to see you.

HURT:  Thanks, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  So, the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling is making religious liberty, speaking of that, one of the biggest issues of this election season.

Coming up next, the Oregon bakers who were fined nearly $150,000 and lost their family business after they refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. Explain why this issue is about more than just freedom of religion. We'll talk about that.



HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HUGH HEWITT SHOW HOST:  Will you commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just the Supreme Court, but to all courts?

TRUMP:  Yes, I would. And I've been there.

TED CRUZ, R-U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Donald promises that he will appoint that will defend religious liberties. But this is a man who for 40 years, he's given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

RUBIO:  And the next President of the United States has to be someone that you can trust and believe in. And to appoint someone just as good as Scalia, plus there might be at least two other vacancies.

So, you ask Mr. Trump to respond and say that he would and he says that he would. But the bottom line is that if you look at his record over the last 25 or 30 years on issue after issue he has not been on our side.

JOHN KASICH, R-U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you're in the business of selling things, if you're not going to sell to somebody you don't agree with, today, I'm not going to sell to somebody who is gay. And tomorrow, maybe I won't sell to somebody who is divorced.

BEN CARSON, R-U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Even though everybody has the same rights, nobody gets extra rights. So, nobody gets to redefine things for everybody else and then have them, have to confirm to it.


MACCALLUM:  Last night's GOP debate proving that the issue of religious liberty will be central in the 2016 race, propelled not just by the unsuspected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, but by cases like that of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

A bakery that was forced to shut down after the owners refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony before being fined some $135,000. The owners, Melissa and Aaron Klein join us in a moment, breaking their gag order in the process.

But first, Trace Gallagher brings up to speed on this developing story. Hi, Trace.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Martha. The woman who walked into the Sweet Cakes bakery in 2013, asking Melissa Klein to bake a cake for her same-sex wedding was a repeat character. The reason she came back is because she acknowledge that Klein treated her well and she wanted them to bake her wedding cake.

But as devout Christians, Aaron and Melissa said no, explaining that baking a cake for a same-sex wedding would violate their beliefs. Listen.


MELISSA KLEIN, SWEET CAKES OF MELISSA OWNER:  I feel I should, just like they should be able to live their life the way that they want to, I also should be able to live the way, you know, I want to.


GALLAGHER:  But the lesbian couple filed a complaint with the State of Oregon and the state sided with them, saying it's against Oregon law to refuse service because of sexual orientation. The same law includes exemptions for schools and religious organizations but not for private business.

The Klein's were ordered to pay the lesbian couple $135,000 and were told to stop talking about how they won't service same-sex weddings. Aaron and Melissa Klein refused to pay the judgment, but have since allowed the money to be placed in the type of Escrow account pending the outcome of their appeal to the Oregon State of Appeals.

We should note some of the money was funded by a go-fund-me account. Both the lesbian couple and the Klein maintain that because of this case they routinely get hate mail and threats. Sweet Cakes with Melissa closed its brick and mortar store, took the business online but now it's closed altogether. Martha?

MACCALLUM:  All right. Thanks, Trace. Joining me now, Aaron and Melissa Klein and their attorney, Ken Klukowski, senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute. Welcome to all of you. Good to have you all today.

AARON KLEIN, SWEET CAKES OF MELISSA OWNER:  Thank you. Thanks for having us.

MACCALLUM:  Melissa, you still get threats and angry letters. What is that like, what form do they take?

M. KLEIN:  Well, they usually come in the form of e-mails, just because that's the only way right now people can get ahold of us. When this first all happened, we do had people come to our house and break into our vehicle. That was a little disturbing. But yes, they've just -- it's been three years, and we're still getting these.

MACCALLUM:  Aaron, did you ever think when she walked into the bakery and you said, I'm sorry, but we can't do this. We served you many times in this bakery, but we feel that making a cake -- because I heard how you described this. It's such a personal thing. We feel like we're part of your wedding because of this.

That's just not something we want to do. Did you ever think you would be sitting here today three years later having lost your business because of that moment; do you ever want to take it back?

A. KLEIN:  You know, the thing about my faith, about what we believe, it's just such a thing that when you turn your life over to Christ and you see what he's done for you, you're all in for Him.

And so, in a situation like this, if I have to choose, I make the choice on the side of my savior. And so, this is not something that I ever want to take back. However, it's not something I would ever have to fight with the government over. This was something I believe that should never be happening in this country.

MACCALLUM:  You heard that candidates talking about this last night, Melissa. And John Kasich said no. What are you going to do? What are you going to do when somebody comes in and they're divorced, and you don't agree with divorced, you're not going to serve them either?

M. KLEIN:  Yes. I mean, that's definitely not the way it is. You know, we don't have a litmus test, you know, for customers that come in.

A. KLEIN:  It makes no sense to what he said. I mean, we never rejected a customer. We said no, thank you to an event. It's such a different scenario than what he thinks it is.

MACCALLUM:  Can you think that this case, which is before the Oregon Court of Appeals sometime in 2016, you believe that there's a good chance this is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

KEN KLUKOWSKI, FIRST LIBERTY INSTITUTE SENIOR COUNSEL:  It very well could, Martha. And thanks for having us. This is one of the first cases that face two questions. And that is, in this era that we're living in today. And that is if someone has sincerely held religious beliefs that are mainstream on an issue like marriage, can the government punish them for speaking those beliefs and can the government order them, as they've been ordered to, that they can't discuss aspects of their beliefs?

I mean, we're trying to make sure that they don't violate the gag order that Oregon has put on them.


KLUKOWSKI:  But the fact that we're in an era where the gag order...


MACCALLUM:  Why is there a gag order on them first of all?

KLUKOWSKI:  They have been told that if they were to say -- if they're discussing the past that's one thing. But they have been ordered that they cannot say, write, or otherwise communicate with Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, anything that could lead someone to believe that they might decline to participate in a same-sex wedding in the future, since that would be violating this Oregon statute. It would be as if they were advertising their ongoing...


MACCALLUM:  So, as if they were committing another crime that there would another a second in their mind.

KLUKOWSKI:  That's exactly right. So, they have been ordered to...

MACCALLUM:  All right.

KLUKOWSKI ... just to continue sharing that. We need to be a country where people cannot just share their faith without being punished by the government. But the free exercise of religion is a whole separate part of the First Amendment of the Constitution, and that is the right to be able to live your life peaceably according to your belief.

MACCALLUM:  Well, the veto who will say in the Supreme Court will look at it and say, well, you can't tell someone they can't sit on a bus in a certain area either, that it's discrimination more than it's a religious freedom issue.

KLUKOWSKI:  This country, after the Civil War, actually adopted a whole series of constitutional amendments that eradicate and mandate the end of racial discrimination. So, in this case, we defend religious liberty consistent with the Constitution. Those other amendments are part of the Constitution, too. And that's why these hypotheticals that some on the other side like to put forth that's why they never happened, because both of those issues are in the Constitution. Here there is nothing to constitute.

MACCALLUM:  So, you're saying those have been dealt with?

KLUKOWSKI:  That's right.

MACCALLUM:  And this is going to be dealt with most likely by the Supreme Court.


KLUKOWSKI:  Dealt with at the constitutional level, that's right.

MACCALLUM:  Very interesting. I'm sorry for what you guys have gone through, and thank you for coming here tonight and talking about it to the extent that you're able to.

KLUKOWSKI:  Thanks for having us, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  And we're going to watch this case as it moves forward and we'll see if it goes to the Supreme Court. Ken, thank you very much.

KLUKOWSKI:  Thank you.

MACCALLUM:  Good to have you all here.

M. KLEIN:  Thank you.

MACCALLUM:  So, as we've been saying, Super Tuesday is now just around the corner, folks. You might be excused for forgetting that there is also a democratic race on the books tomorrow. Could Bernie beat the long odds in the Palmetto State? Because it looks like it's so close that's why a lot of people forget that this is going -- I mean, that she got it going away basically. So, that's why people forget that this is happening tomorrow. We're going to talk about that with Nomiki Konst and also Mark Hannah who are walking down hall as we speak. Coming up next.


MACCALLUM:  All right. Focus, everybody. Because we're less than 24 hours away now from the democratic South Carolina primary.

Joining me now, Nomiki Konst, former and executive -- founder and director, I should say of the Accountability Project and Mark Hannah, former Obama campaign aide and adjunct professor of Media Studies at the New School. Former and present, everybody is all accounted for. Welcome. Good to see you tonight, Mark and Nomiki. So, what are you watching for in South Carolina tomorrow night?

MARK HANNAH, THE NEW SCHOOL ADJUNCT PROFESSOR:  Well, I think we look at the GOTV with the Get Out the Vote operation that the Clinton campaign launches and, you know, it's pretty much in the bag for Clinton. I'm supposed that people like me, pundits that come on TV are supposed to manage expectations downward and so it seems like a big surprise when Hillary Clinton wins.

I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to play that game. She is going to win, and she is going to win big. The question is whether she can parlay that momentum into Super Tuesday and really solidify the past of it. I think she can.

MACCALLUM:  I mean, who else do they have? You know, I mean, look at the combination, Bernie Sanders who I know you've been supportive of. It just doesn't look like he has the momentum and the generated enthusiasm that he certainly has in the northeast down south.

NOMIKI KONST, THE ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT PRESIDENT:  Well, the problem here is that the Clintons have had a well-established relationship with the African-American leadership in South Carolina. And among that leadership in those communities, the democratic machine is still alive and strong.

Unlike the rest of the country including the northeast, the machine have sort of died out. Justification is changed a lot of these communities. You know, unfortunately, the African-American communities have not served by the Clintons in the past 20 years, and even so much so that, you know, Bill Clinton himself said that he regrets a lot of the crime bill, you know, accepting money from prison industries.

In fact, that more African-Americans where in prison under his time in office. I mean, these are -- there's a direct correlation between the Clintons not serving the African-American community. But it's all about...


HANNAH:  I think -- I think...

KONST:  Wait. There is about cashing in chits here. You know these are relationships. There is expectation.


MACCALLUM:  But you know, we're learning though, you know, what you see on the GOP side, too, that sometimes people don't care about that stuff.

HANNAH:  Yes. Exactly.

MACCALLUM:  That it might work for the super delegates. But it's not always the same thing in the electorate.

HANNAH:  Yes. The party stuff doesn't really matter that much. So, the fact that the Clinton operation has stronger -- is stronger and does have the support of the party leadership it doesn't really matter when she's polling by some polls 30 percent, 50 percent ahead of Bernie Sanders with African-American voters. This is just...


MACCALLUM:  But is that Democratic Party wish they had more alternatives at this point?

HANNAH:  Not at all. No, they like Hillary Clinton; they know that she's electable in the general election and...

KONST:  She had half of the delegates in August.

MACCALLUM:  We'll be right back. Thank you. Real quick.


MACCALLUM:  So, here's the Friday night party game. Who do you think is going to win Super Tuesday? What states? Who will win? Where? Go to Tell us what you think. Thanks you for watching, everybody. Have a great weekend. I'm Martha, in for Megyn. We'll see you Monday.


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