Cruz or Trump? Plouffe: Republicans must 'pick their poison'; Was reporter denied access to Trump event?

Former Obama adviser David Plouffe breaks down the polls


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," March 15, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, Super Tuesday II proving to be a big night for the two front-runners as they move closer to securing their respective parties' nominations.

Welcome to a special live 11:00 p.m. edition of "The Kelly File" everyone.  I'm Megyn Kelly. Bret was here, but he's off at a bar I'm going to meet him a little later. And here is where things stand at this hour. As we mentioned, it was a big night for Donald Trump who proved victorious in the winner take all state of Florida, handily beating Senator Marco Rubio, leading to Marco Rubio's exit from this race, saying he has suspended his campaign. Mr. Trump has also won North Carolina and Illinois. But Governor Kasich fended off Trump in his home state of Ohio. We're still awaiting for results out of Missouri where it is neck and neck at this hour.

Over on the Democratic side, it was Hillary Clinton's night. She has won all of the announced contests thus far. Now, as we await the final results in the first, well, again, awaiting the results in Missouri, here is a little of what we have heard from candidates so far tonight.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After tonight, it is clear that while we're on the right side, this year, we will not be on the winning side. While this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message about our future, I still remain hopeful and optimistic about America.


I asked the American people do not give in to the fear. Do not give into the frustration. We can disagree about public policy. We can disagree about it vibrantly, passionately, but we are a hopeful people. And we have every right to be hopeful.  

HILLARY CLINTON, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are moving closer to securing the Democratic Party nomination and winning this election in November. We should be breaking down barriers not building walls. We're not going to succeed by dividing this country between us and them. You know, to be great, we can't be small. We can't lose what made America great in the first place.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To have people believe in you and to believe that you can bring people together and strengthen our country, I have to thank the people from the great state of Ohio. I love you. Is it all right? I love you. And I want to remind you, again, tonight, that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT., DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you tired of the handful of billionaires running our economy?


Well, if you are, you've come to the right place.


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to congratulate everybody. This is a really interesting process, it's an amazing process, it's very tough. But it is, by the end, if you get to the end, you can handle a lot of things including pressure. That, I can tell you. Because there is nothing like it.  

I just want to say we're going to go forward and we're going to win. But more importantly we're going to win for the country. We're going to win, win, win, and we're not stopping. We're going to have great victories for our country. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Starting tomorrow morning, every Republican has a clear choice. Only two campaigns have a plausible path to the nomination. Ours, and Donald Trump's. Nobody else has any mathematical possibility whatsoever. Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again.



KELLY: We have a jam-packed show for you tonight. David Plouffe, the man who helped orchestrate President Obama's 2008 victory is here with us.

Plus, former Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joins us.  We'll also hear from Marc Thiessen and Charles Hurt and National Review's Rich Lowry along with Trump's spokeswoman Katrina Pierson as well as Chris Stirewalt and Howie Kurtz.

But we begin tonight with our chief political correspondent, campaign Carl Cameron reporting live from Palm Beach, Florida. Hi, Carl.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Megyn, another victorious night for Donald Trump and they are pumped up about it. I talked to the campaign earlier today and they said they can't wait for it to be what Ted Cruz says it is, a two-man race. In fact, the Cruz campaign earlier suggested that they thought that it was likely that by the end of tonight, Donald Trump might have a 250 delegate count advantage. And they said if it was less than that, say around 200, that would be a moral victory for the Cruz campaign, but if it was higher than that, it would mean that Donald Trump had a good night.

And he could well now be over 300 delegates in his lead. So a bit of a setback for Cruz in terms of their own expectations. Donald Trump over and over again, tonight. Showed what he has described as his ability to be presidential not once did he mention John Kasich or criticize him. Not once did he even mention Ted Cruz or criticize him. The only candidate that Donald Trump actually mentioned tonight was Marco Rubio. And frankly, he was gracious about it in victory. Watch.


TRUMP: I have to say it. I have to say it. That number one, I want to congratulate Marco Rubio on having run a really tough campaign. He's tough, he is smart and he's got a great future. He's got a great future.


CAMERON: Marco Rubio had said he was going to continue even if he did lose. Obviously, he's withdrawing from the race, recognizing as he said that this year was not his turn, but a lot of reading of the tea leaves suggested he wants to be around, perhaps as running mate, or perhaps a Republican administration or perhaps at the end of a Democratic term to run again in 2020. Marco, 2020. It's been a long night for Donald Trump. And they are very, very excited about it. You mentioned that line in which he said that Hillary Clinton buys influence and Ted Cruz sells it. The Trump campaign is already looking forward to the ways in which they can defeat Ted Cruz. Mentioning California, saying that they can take him out there.  Even compete and beat him in New York. Both states with lots of delegates ahead. The Cruz campaign figures if it's going to win the nomination, it won't be until June 7th. Donald Trump got a lot closer to it just tonight -- Megyn.

KELLY: Carl, thank you.

Joining us now with more, David Plouffe, former senior advisor to President Obama, former campaign manager of President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and he has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

David, let me start with this. There are a lot of folks who are against Trump who say this is the implosion of the Republican Party as we knew it.  This party will never be the same. This is Trump's party now. And you're either with him or you are not with him, but the GOP will never look the same again. What do you think?

DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, I don't agree with that at all. I mean, you know, I think basically, this is a moment.  If Trump goes on to be the nominee, and I think he probably will and he losses the election, there will be some wound licking and hopefully some examination. But then, you move on to the next election. So, I don't agree with that at all. I think at the end of the day though it's going to be interesting over the next couple of weeks to see basically the choices of being Cruz and Trump. Neither of them obviously have a choice of the establishment. So, people are going to have to pick their poison.  

KELLY: Uh-hm. And who would Hillary Clinton rather run against?  

PLOUFFE: Well, I still think Trump has more elasticity. I think he probably have a bigger downside where, you know, the bluster and the bigotry overwhelmed some of the positives. Because the truth is, he says a lot of things that a lot of swing voters, particularly blue collar voters would be a -- he's much of a populist than traditional, ideological conservative. I think Cruz, you know what you're getting with Cruz. It's a very conventional race. Listen, with Trump, let's, you know, sometimes politics is viewed as a boxing match. So, let's look at movies of last year.

You know, you prepare for match like creed. Trump is like "Mad Max: Fury Road." We have never seen anything like this in politics. The kind of race he's going to run. I mean, look, he is winning the nomination. He doesn't prepare for debates. He doesn't run advertising. He gets millions of dollars spent against him, it has no effect, he's not running as sophisticated data driven campaign yet he is winning. So, that is what I think would make it hard for Hillary Clinton. As each and every day, you just don't know what you're going to get with this guy.

KELLY: Uh-hm. And so, what will she do to combat Trump's enormous appeal with these blue-collar voters, with middle class voters, the Reagan Democrats who we've seen in the primaries haven been very likely to crossover and vote for Donald Trump.

PLOUFFE: Well, it's a big challenge and the clock is ticking. So, she's still obviously have to secure the nomination officially. I think she's all but the certain nominee now. But she's got to define the race. What it's about. She's got to define Donald Trump before he moves to the center and I think he'll try to do that in a very transparent way and she's got to define herself. In terms of why she's running for this office right now, she doesn't do that. Trump is able to get to the center. And, you know, she doesn't disqualify Trump with both suburban voters with ought to be the easier task with some of these with some of this blue-collar voters. And then, you know, Trump is generating a lot of enthusiasm, he is clearly bringing people into the process. And Democrats better be very mindful of that. Because at the end of the day, to win a presidential election, you have to maximize your turn out.

KELLY: Uh-hm.

PLOUFFE: And obviously right now particularly with young voters, we see that that is going to be a challenge. So, you know, Democrats should not be popping champagne corks, because Donald Trump is doing so well. This thing could get very, very, close, at the end of the day.  

KELLY: So, what -- I mean, how does it work when you see there is a large portion of the Republican Party that doesn't like Trump right now and then there is a large portion of the Democratic Party that says, all right, you know, we'll go for it if that is our nominee but they're not showing up.  They're not enthusiastic, as you point out, and the turnout is lower, much lower than it was when your guy, Barack Obama was running.

PLOUFFE: Right. So, the turnout is real. So, I think that is going to be the most serious acute issue that Clinton campaign will have to deal with, which is, how do we make sure we hit our turnout numbers and our vote share number was younger voters, African-Americans, Latinos, suburban women.  Kind of the Obama coalition which is the Obama coalition. It is not the Democratic coalition or the Clinton coalition. It's got to be earn. So she's got to really focus there. Listen, we've had a tough primary in '08 and the party are united, Carter Kennedy was a tough primary. You'll see people reunited -- uniting.

I think when the Republican side is a little more difficult. But I have always believed that at the end of the day, if Trump is a success, when you look like it will, are you going to have huge swaths of the Republican Party, voters saying, you know, what? I'm just not going to vote. We'll all support Hillary Clinton. I don't see that happen. I think the establishment may not be there. And what is interesting, Trump is going to have to either write a big check finally himself or he's have to raise money from the very people he's attacking.

So, you know, I am not sure he can run the kind of race successfully he's ran in the primary. You'll going to have to run ads. You're going to have that sophisticated data analytics. You're going to have to build the grassroots organization. I think, I mean, if Trump is going to rewrite every rule and maybe he will, so he's actually going to have to run a real campaign and he's going to have to have some traditional establishment help to do that.  

KELLY: Do you think he's going to need, you know, the wisdom months ago, is he going to need a healthy portion of Hispanics, he's obviously going to need a healthy portion of women to win. Do you think that is still true?  And do you think he'll do well with those groups?

PLOUFFE: I don't. So, that is where he's got to completely upset the upper card, he's got to over perform with older White voters with blue- collar voters men and women and he's got a hope that he can suppress Democratic turnout. I don't see him getting, you know, above, and listen, when we talk about the Latino vote, it matters most in Florida, Nevada, Colorado. Although it's growing in places like Virginia. I don't see him getting above 25-27 percent. So, that puts enormous pressure on him to over perform with White voters. Now, I don't see Cruz doing much better.  See, I think Cruz basically is not going to do any better than Trump with Latino voters even with suburban women voters because he's very conservative. But I think Trump gives you more upside. That's my sense with it right now. He could implode. He just could implode.  

KELLY: But there is no evidence that that would -- that is likely to happen. None.  

PLOUFFE: Well, not so far. I mean, the guy has basically had nine political lives. I mean, just this past week, it was thought that the episode in Chicago would hurt him in Illinois and all the states, he wins Illinois in apparent convincing passion. He is going to win a lot of delegates in the Cooke County area in Chicago. So he's defied every prediction, every convention. And you know, my sense is that you begin to see, listen, there are things he says, people like him should pay more taxes. We should stop inversions. We should close the carried interest loophole. I won't go the Iran deal out on day one. I think people ought to have health care. I mean, these are things that he gets some criticism conservatives. But a lot of swing voters in the presidential election will say, well, he seems like he is all bluster, they don't like what he says about Muslims or maybe Latinos in the wall but he says some things quite frankly that a lot of swing voters would say, you know what, that makes sense to me.  

KELLY: And even though he's got unfortunate numbers when it comes to honesty, hers are terrible. So it's, it almost takes away the ability to charge him with that. Because I don't think he can have worst numbers when it comes to honesty in the election. But amazingly, and I'll leave it with this because we're out of time, neither side cares about that. Yes, I don't really, yes -- politicians lie to them. And that is the state of politics in 2016, America. David, great speaking with you.  

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Megyn.

KELLY: Well, our power packs coverage of Super Tuesday II continues with Governor Mike Huckabee who is here to talk about what happens when Donald Trump turns his focus to Hillary Clinton, next.  


TRUMP: We're going to win it, we're going to make our country rich again.  We're going to make our country great again. And we need the rich in order to make the great. I'm sorry to tell you.





CLINTON: When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, when he embraces torture, that doesn't make him strong, it makes him wrong.


KELLY: Rhyming is always fun. Hillary Clinton seeming pretty confident that she's a stronger candidate than Donald Trump. But our next guest says, Democrats are making a big mistake if they underestimate the appeal of the New York businessman. Joining me now, former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Rhyming is fun. It adds a little pizazz, to, well, I don't know. You tell me.  

GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, R-FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: You know, Ted Cruz said something tonight in his speech a few moments ago that probably is exactly right. After tonight this is a two-person race. But the two people are Hillary and Trump. And I think the big contrast as you saw in the speeches between Hillary and Trump is pretty simple. Donald Trump gave a speech tonight like a candidate who is going somewhere. Hillary Clinton gave a speech like a person who's sorry she's been somewhere. It was a bitter, angry speech. And that is now how ultimately excite Americans about the next four years in the White House.  

KELLY: Uh-hm. And so do you -- I mean obviously throughout this campaign, Donald Trump has been underestimated by almost everybody, right? I mean, we've seen that repeatedly. Everybody who supposed to know what they're talking about.


KELLY: Said he didn't have any chance, now, here we are. There are 17 candidates. Eighteen, no more. And with all due respect, you were there.  And now, it's down to really effectively --

HUCKABEE: I'm going to say, Megyn, the reason that I'm, you know, sitting in this chair tonight talking to you instead of on the stage is because like everybody else, I underestimated.

KELLY: Uh-hm.

HUCKABEE: Donald Trump and the connection he was having to voters. No doubt about that.  

KELLY: Uh-hm. And that is the risk that the Democrats run in taking him on because he's unlike anything they've ever seen or dealt with before.  Even the Clintons, with the Clinton playbook, they don't know what to do with him.  

HUCKABEE: No, they really don't. And they're conventional politicians but they're also extraordinarily rugged, they're ruthless, I've run against their machine. Every race I ever had to fight in Arkansas. So, I know it well. And so in some way, I've run against their machine. I've run against Donald Trump. And I can tell you Hillary is in for the ride of her life when she has to tick on Donald Trump. It will be unlike anything she or her husband have ever faced before.

KELLY: So --

HUCKABEE: And I really think that it is, you know, game advantage for Trump.

KELLY: Too quick question for you about other Republicans. First of all, why do you rule out Ted Cruz? Notwithstanding the fact that he is still got a lot of delegates and it's still very much saying he's in the race?

HUCKABEE: He didn't win tonight. Nothing.


He may end up squeaking by Missouri. It possibly. But St. Louis County -- it looks like it will go Trump. But if he doesn't win Missouri, he wins nothing. The contrast tonight in the speeches, Donald Trump gave what for him was a very unique kind of speech. It was humble. It was gracious, it was for self-depreciating. Ted Cruz didn't win anything. But he gave the kind of speeches if he had. It was the same kind of speech he gave in South Carolina.

KELLY: Uh-hm. It's the stump speech.

HUCKABEE: And he was -- it was a stump speech but it was also as if it were a victory speech and it would have been so much more effective if he'd gone out with a real sense of humility and said, well, folks we didn't win tonight, but here is how we're going to go forward but that is not what he did.  

KELLY: Except, Trump wasn't so gracious when he said that reporters are disgusting.


I want to ask you about Marco Rubio. Which you know, he had a sad night --


KELLY: You know what it was like. He was gracious and he had, you know, a lovely message. Your thoughts on watching him saying his swan song of this campaign.  

HUCKABEE: I thought it was just absolutely classy. I was so proud of him tonight. I've known Marco a long time. And he did tonight what a person has to do in a moment like this. He left with dignity, he left with class.  You know, people have no idea what it's like to be that person in the arena. I know, no offense, but a lot of people on television, talking heads and analysts and consultants and strategists and they all have their opinions and they tell what a candidate ought to do, what he should have done, what he could have done. But they've never been in at arena, Marco has.

And for the past year he's given it his all. He walked out on that stage tonight and he gave a classy reminder of why a lot of people do love Marco Rubio. And he exited tonight not with his head down, he may have lost the race, but he did not lose his dignity, he did not lose his sense of purpose, he did not lose his mission. And I felt like that he left the door open for a wonderful future. And I was very, very touched by watching him go to that stage with a smile on his face. I know how that hurts. But at the same time he did it the way it's supposed to be done. It was a classic display of dignity and honor. And I congratulate him for that.

KELLY: You're so gracious, Governor. Thanks for being here tonight.  

HUCKABEE: Thank you.

KELLY: So, where does the Republican race go from here? Marc Thiessen up next on the fallout of Trump and Kasich splitting the big contest of the night and possibly Cruz, we'll see.

Plus, Charles Hurt on what he thinks the other candidates did wrong.


KASICH: I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.



KELLY: Well, it is almost 11:30 here on the East. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seeing a big night in Super Tuesday II. Trump taking Florida, Illinois and North Carolina, Governor Kasich takes Ohio. And they are still counting in Missouri. Furiously counting I'll tell you. In remarks a short time ago, the businessman marveled at his own success, listen.  


TRUMP: Nobody has ever, ever, in the history of politics received the kind of negative advertising that I have. Record, record. By the way mostly false, I wouldn't say 100 percent but about 90 percent. Mostly false, vicious, horrible. They said it was 18 million the first week meaning last week and $25 million, it ended up to over $40 million. And you explain it to me. Because I can't. My numbers went up. I don't understand it.  Nobody understands it. My numbers went up.


KELLY: Joining us now, Marc Thiessen who is a Fox News contributor and former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Marc, great to see you.


KELLY: He's got a point, there. Right? I mean, you heard people all night talking about how they remain baffled by Donald Trump even this late in the game.  

THIESSEN: No, absolutely. And look, he's 100 percent right. His numbers did go up. I mean, just a few weeks ago, everyone was talking about how Trump had this ceiling of 35 percent of the electorate, that was his hardcore supporters but 65 percent went to somebody else. And in fact the truth is, up until tonight he'd gotten 35 percent of the Republican primary vote. But tonight, Florida he won by 46 with 46 percent. North Carolina is 40 percent. Illinois, 40 percent. Missouri which is still neck and neck. He's around 43 percent. And there is a new national poll out now, the Hugo, the economist poll, that for the first time has him winning a majority of Republican voters nationally.

Fifty three percent, that's the first time he's ever had a real majority.  That is up nine points from a month ago when he was at 44 percent. So, Trump -- this ceiling is starting to crack and Trump is expanding beyond that core base of 35 percent. Either a lot of people out there who are looking and saying, OK, I can make peace with the idea of a Trump presidency. I'm might even be able to support Donald Trump as the nominee.  So, he's growing his support.

KELLY: Winning begets winning and people want to back a winner. And, you know, the more he focuses on Hillary Clinton, the more Republicans say, all right, I see him differently. The more he attacks Republicans, they think, I don't know. I want to ask you about the people who say, forget it, the Republicans has said tonight, forget it, I'm going to go third party. If this is -- if it's Hillary versus Trump, I'm going third party.  

THIESSEN: Oh, I'd the path for a third party candidate to actually win the presidency. Because if a third-party candidate runs and can't win the presidency, then the only purpose it serves is to give Republicans a way to deny Donald Trump...

KELLY: They seem to know that.

THIESSEN: ...the presidency without having to actually, without...

KELLY: The, the people who say this seem to know that and they say it would be a conscious vote.

THIESSEN: Well, sure, because they don't want to actually have to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton, and they don't want to stay home, so this is an excuse. But what you're doing, unless there's a path to victory, you're essentially pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton, and that means Hillary Clinton gets to pick the next replacement for Justice Scalia, and there's a lot of things that, that go along with that.


So this is a very, very tough situation for people, quick frankly for people like me who have not exactly been very enthusiastic about Donald Trump. And there's a lot of people out there who have to start realizing that you have to pick between the lesser of two evils at some point, and they're going to have to - they may have to end up deciding whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is the greater evil for the next four years.

KELLY: So do you feel like you - you know you describe yourself as a very conservative guy. Do you feel like you can get behind Trump now? Do you feel that happening for you?

THIESSEN: (laughs) I've always said that I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it, and I'm not ready to jump yet. There's, there's still a long way to go. The - look Cruz has - John Kasich prevented - today Donald Trump came this close to putting this whole thing away. If he had won both Florida and Ohio, it would have been over basically. And, and Kasich stopped him. But Kasich doesn't have a path to the nomination. There's no way he gets to 1237. Ted Cruz probably can't get to 1237, but maybe the two of them combined can deny Trump enough votes to win the nomination outright, and so it's not a done deal yet. So, you know, we could have a contested convention, we could have another, another outcome. So I think, you know, we wait until the votes.


If you get to the Stanley Cup Final and you don't score the final goal and win, you don't win. And Donald Trump hasn't won yet.

KELLY: Well what would, what would change the dynamic of the race? You know, I mean, yes, Ted Cruz has won some states. Donald Trump has won more. What would change the dynamic so greatly that in the states coming up, including New York, New Jersey, that Ted Cruz could surpass Trump?

THIESSEN: He's going to have a hard time surpassing Trump in states like the ones you just described, which is why John Kasich's staying in the race probably helps deny him that 1237. So Kasich has a chance to, to, to win or at least take some of the delegates in some of those states that when there - they're not winner take all. But it's a very hard path to stop him at this point. And it's going to, it's going to get to a possibly - the only outcome that stops Donald Trump from getting the nomination right now is stopping him from getting the 1237 and getting to the point where you have the contested convention.

KELLY: Same question for you that I, that I raised with David Plouffe. Do you believe these predictions of, you know, the Republican Party dies if, if Donald Trump becomes the nominee, the party's never the same again?  It's impossibly fractured.

THIESSEN: No, I don't believe that. I think that, look, the ideas of conservatism and the conservative movement are going to survive. This is a - I mean Marco Rubio I think put it very well in his speech when he said we're in the midst of a tsunami. But tsunamis don't always often last.  And so, you know, once the tsunami of Trump has ridden across the land and caused its destruction to the Republican Party, at some point, if he doesn't get the presidency, then someone will have to step up and rebuild and come back with a optimistic Reaganite approach to the, to the Party.  But right now it looks like the tsunami is, is flying with full force.

KELLY: Maybe it's be you.

THIESSEN: (laughing) I like my job, working with you, Megyn.

KELLY: Ditto. Thanks, Marc.

THIESSEN: Thanks, Megyn.

KELLY: Joining me now is more Charles Hurt, a political columnist for the Washington Times. Charlie, great to see you. So same question to you on the one I just posed to Marc. Do you agree with him that the Party will coalesce, they'll come behind the nominee, even if the nominee is the controversial Donald Trump.

CHARLES HURT, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON TIMES: I think so and, if they're smart, they will coalesce around him. But I have to say that, by looking at the speeches we saw tonight, I don't have a whole lot of hope that that's, that that's going to happen. You know, Donald Trump's speech was the most gracious of the night. We had the speech from John Kasich who commented, you know, congratulated Marco Rubio for getting out, but never mentioned the guy who came into his state and came within 10 points, in his home state, of beating him. And at some point, these people have to start giving, you know, giving, you know, some attention to this guy who has commanded so much support in their states. And the same with the bizarre speech from Ted Cruz, who sounded like a victory speech, even though at this point he certainly has not won anything yet.

KELLY: He's won delegates. He hasn't won any states.

HURT: He is, he - and that was the, that was the reason that he gave for going on to give a victory speech. But you also - all that is very political-ese to me and I think it is for a lot of people. And so, you know, so, so, but, but he used those remarks to, to frontally attack Donald Trump. And then the most amazing speech of the night, I thought, was Marco Rubio, who's, who's in ti - you know, it was gracious and it sounded hopeful in places. But, my goodness, Megyn, the, the entire thing was, were all these underhanded attacks about Donald Trump. He didn't mention Donald Trump by name, but they were still these underhanded attacks that, that were, you know, were...

KELLY: Like veiled.

HURT: ...were hardly there. Yes.

KELLY: What, what - here a question for you because both Kasich and Rubio have been making rumblings in past couple of days that they might not actually support Donald Trump. I mean I'm sure you've heard this, right?

HURT: Yes.

KELLY: So they're leaving themselves new wiggle room on that. A, will that matter? I mean I guess it matters to someone because they have delegates. B, do you think they'll really follow through on that where they actually won't support him?

HURT: I think that it, it is a real risk. I don't think it matters that much except, except for this. You know, Ted Cruz says now it's a one, a one-on-one race now between him and Donald Trump. No, it's not. John Kasich isn't going anywhere. And it'll be interesting to see how many of Marco Rubio's voters transfer over to Kasich. I imagine some of them will go to Trump and Cruz, but I suspect that they will divide those pretty evenly, and then we're back to having a three-man race. Kasich has just stepped into the role that Rubio has played, to keep Cruz - and Cruz, you know, keeping Rubio from actually really taking on Donald Trump head to head. And that has been the saving grace for Donald Trump's campaign all alone.

KELLY: Right. That's what a lot of people say. This is a best-case scenario for Trump because, yes, Kasich won Ohio, Trump did very well in these other states, and he's got Kasich still in the race to divide the anti-Trump vote. And, you know, he's - now he's winning, as Marc Thiessen pointed out, more - he's go - he's breaking the ceiling that was overhanging his numbers (hibby the last off).

HURT: It's, it's, it's a, a one of the, one of these weird scenarios just like with Texas. When Cruz - the best thing that happened to Donald Trump that night was Cruz winning Texas. And, and perhaps the best thing that happened tonight was Kasich winning Ohio. It just, it keeps the, it keeps the opposition divided.

KELLY: The one thing I don't like about this race is math. It's just like it pops up. It's like just when you think a (thing), then they're throwing out the delegate number, the 1237, and then, but then it's like proportional...whatever!

HURT: It's proportional and hybrid, and yes.

KELLY: All right. I liked it, you know, the W or the, you know. Charlie, great to see you.

HURT : Thanks, Megyn. So what about the thing Charlie just mentioned?  The Ted Cruz argument that this is now just a two-man race. National Review editor Rich Lowry and Trump campaign spokesperson, Katrina Pierson are next on that.


CRUZ: I think this election was a very important election because it narrowed the field. It made clear that this is effectively now a two- person race. It's a clear two-person choice, and in the head-to-head choice, we win and we beat Donald Trump decisively.



KELLY: Senator Ted Cruz telling reporters just moments ago he is convinced this is now a two-man race between himself and Donald Trump, despite the growing discussions of a potential outside candidate being brought in, and the fact that Governor John Kasich has won his home state of Ohio.

Joining me now with more, Rich Lowry, National Review editor and Fox News contributor, and Katrina Pierson, who's the national spokesperson for the Trump campaign. Rich, do you believe it's a two-man race?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR NATIONAL REVIEW: Mostly a two-man race, but not quite yet. It's more of a two-and-a-half or two-and-a-quarter man race. The potential upside here, if you're interested in stopping Donald Trump ultimately is maybe Kasich can reach moderate voters in blue states upcoming on the calendar that wouldn't be available to Ted Cruz. But the down side is the Cruz people really want a two-man one-on-one race, and it's not there yet.

KELLY: Mm-hmm. Katrina, what do you think? Do you feel like this is over?

KATRINA PIERSON, SPOKESPERSON TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I, I think Mr. Trump is going to win the nomination and he's going to be the next President.  And I do think this is a competition again for second place. Senator Cruz definitely wants a one-on-one, but be careful what you wish for.

KELLY: Here's my question to you, Kat. He, Donald Trump today at his presser tonight referred to the reporters as disgusting. And news broke on "Politico" this evening that, that their reporter, Ben Schreckinger - I apologize, Schreckinger, I think it is - covered this campaign for six plus months. He was denied credentials to Trump's event tonight after the campaign had threatened him last week if the two - they threatened to exclude him, depending on, I guess, the story that he was going to write.  Then he wrote a story about the campaign manager for Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski, that was not flattering today. Talked about his temperament, talked about his treatment of women, and tonight he was denied access. Is this what we're going to see under a Trump presidency? Denial to reporters of access to cover him if they write something that is negative about him or his lieutenants?

PIERSON: Well, I haven't seen the report that you're speaking of because we've been busy winning tonight. So I'd be happy to look at that. But, no, I don't think that's what you can expect. What I do think you can expect is, you know, people being treated properly.


More importantly, if you have a reporter that is not really reporting but just doing constant hit pieces for no reason, then that's something we need to look at. We have a lot of reporters, who essentially have just been glorified bloggers, who aren't really interested in covering the campaign, or even the race for that matter. They're just out there trying to start trouble.

KELLY: But you know it's happened with Fusion, it's happened with Univision, it's happened with The Huffington Post, The Des Moines Register. Straight News reporter was denied access to Trump events because the editorial page hit him.


I mean you understand that there's a First Amendment. There's freedom of the press, and you don't get to snuff that out when you're the President of the United States, right? Does he understand that?

PIERSON: Oh, he definitely understands that. And I'll also say, if anyone, unlike all the other candidates, even set foot into the spin room, Mr. Trump he goes down every single lane and talks to every single reporter. It doesn't matter who you are or what campaign you're with. And I even saw this reporter speaking to Mr. Trump in one of those venues. So it's not like these reporters get shut out. So I'm not even sure...

KELLY: Well, that was before, that was before he wrote this piece unflattering to Corey Lewandowski. Rich, you thoughts on it.

LOWRY: Well, we have personal experience with this. We've been shut out as well. Our reporters can't get credentialed to any Trump event. And, look, Megyn, Trump had a very good night tonight. He's had a lot of good nights. And if this were anyone else, who had won this many contests this far into the process, there would be no question about that candidate inevitably being the nominee and the party rallying around him or her. But Trump is uniquely polarizing as a frontrunner in any major party we've seen in recent history. Exit polls show 30 percent or more of Republicans in some of these states tonight say they'd consider voting for a third-party candidate.

KELLY: Can you believe that? Would you consider that?

LOWRY: We'd, we'd think about it. It'd be a very difficult decision.  But, look, we've heard, Megyn, over and over again Trump's going to be unifying. He's going to be presidential. We heard this a couple weeks ago. And what did we see? We see his campaign manager manhandling a female reporter, and then lying about it afterwards. We see Donald Trump saying he might consider paying the legal fees of a goon who sucker punched a protestor at one of his rallies. So that's why Trump is winning all these contests, but is not able to put it away, and he's not going to put it away, and we're not going to stand down until he actually gets that 1237, and he's not there yet.

KELLY: Katrina, why would he pay the legal fees of that guy who sucker punched that one African-American protestor?

PIERSON: Well, first, Megyn, the first, the first incident was just an allegation that's still being sorted through legally...

LOWRY: It's on videotape.

PIERSON: Secondly, Mr. Trump, secondly, Mr. Trump said that he wants his supporters to, to defend themselves. Again, we have seen situations where the outsiders...

KELLY: That guy was not being attacked when he sucked punched the African- American protestor.

PIERSON: No, I understand, I understand. But let me make the case because what people don't see on TV, and probably not even on Fox, is when these, these protestors come in there and they start punching and pushing around Trump supporters. In this case...

KELLY: This guy didn't. This guy gave the finger. He gave the finger, there he is, and then he got sucker punched and Trump said he's considering paying that man's legal fees.

PIERSON: But Megyn, in this case, in this case, Mr. Trump was on stage and did not see what happened, so when he was asked the question, he said I don't know, I have to see what happened first.

KELLY: I'm considering it. I've instructed my people to look into it.

LOWRY: Why would you possibly consider defending someone who punches someone out of the blue? And you know, obviously there's a plurality of Republicans...

PIERSON: Because he did not see what happened beforehand.

LOWRY: There's a plurality - he follows, this is someone who follows the media obsessively, and especially the coverage of himself obsessively. So the idea he didn't know about this incident is fantastical. And, and, you know, this...

KELLY: All right.


PIERSON: I didn't say he didn't know. I just said he didn't see what happened prior to the video. The media never shows the full story when it comes to Mr. Trump.

LOWRY: ...may, you may get away with this in the primaries, but in the general election, is he going to go out there and say it's OK, and we might actually defend you if you punch people? It's going to be a debacle.

PIERSON: If you defend yourself. Big difference.

LOWRY: He wasn't defending himself.

KELLY: This man was not defending himself. Let's just make that perfectly clear. The man who threw the sucker punch has now been charged criminally.  I got to leave it at that because we're out of time. Great to see you both. Thanks for being here.

LOWRY: Thanks very much.

KELLY: Ahead Chris Stirewalt and Howie Kurtz on the night's big takeaways.


CRUZ: Together we will make Washington less relevant in all of our lives.



KELLY: Tonight we are coming up on midnight here in the East. More than 99 percent of the vote counted and still we do not know the final results in Missouri. Just a couple thousand votes separate Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Joining us now to discuss, Chris Stirewalt, our Fox News digital politics editor, and Howie Kurtz, host of "Media Buzz." So what's going to happen in Missouri?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Man, it is tight. It is -- my Dan Ratherism, I'm having to stifle down tighter than a hungry tick on a bloodhound, or what all of that stuff. I'm going to push that down, I'll just say it's as tight as a St. Louis Cardinals pitching rotation and...

KELLY: Don't understand.

STIREWALT: Exactly. But, look, Ted - the reason this matters, because the delegate split overall in Missouri, for most of the delegates, doesn't matter at this point. It'll be halfsies...

KELLY: Right.

STIREWALT: or Kasich.

KELLY: So who cares?

STIREWALT: Well, but here's who cares. There are 15 extra bonus delegates that are handed out to the winner of the state overall.

KELLY: Oh, a secret bonus delegate.

STIREWALT: A secret bonus (counts).

KELLY: There you go.

STIREWALT: And, and so there are probably many people in Cruzland grumbly that Marco Rubio didn't say in Missouri what he said in Ohio, which is vote for the other guy.

KELLY: Go vote for Ted Cruz.

STIREWALT: I'll see you, I'll see you in Key Biscayne.

KELLY: OK, but overall, when you look at the delegate count for tonight, huge night for Trump, very strong. Is, is he unstoppable now?

STIREWALT: No, not unstoppable. Look, neither Trump nor Cruz are in a good position to get to the requisite number of delegates to win outright.

KELLY: Trump's not? How do you get there?

STIREWALT: Trump - no, no, no. Trump needed to get tonight 270-some delegates. He'll get 220, let's guess, let's - roughly speaking.

KELLY: Uh-huh.

STIREWALT: So he comes -- he had a good night, but he comes up just short.  He needs to start winning at the 50 percent rate. Now, that might happen because the Republican Party might just exhaust itself. They may say, he keeps winning, we can't do it anymore, forget about it, and they may pitch in and he may start winning boom, boom, boom, and he might get there. But what I'm saying is the structure that has held at every point through this, and now we're going to see, A, who did you guys call two and a half men, Trump, Cruz and Kasich, which I thought was mean. But, that's fine.

KELLY: That was Lowry, that wasn't me.

STIREWALT: That was Lowry, but you see -- you'll continue to see the structure where they'll split the votes, and there aren't enough winner- take-all states that, if it stays this way, yes, I think neither.

KELLY: So it's contested.


KELLY: Howie, first let me ask you what you thought about that conversation with Kat Pierson and Rich Lowry about the Trump campaign not, not granting access to this political reporter, and, and it's happened repeatedly. You know, we can't have this. Can't have reporters being bounced out of coverage of a major presidential candidate, much less the President, when they don't like the coverage. Imagine if Barack Obama did that?

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "MEDIA BUZZ": I'm not unfamiliar with campaigns that have retaliated against reporters that they don't like. But Donald Trump at this point doesn't need to be playing small ball with individual reporters and retaliating in this way.

KELLY: Well, is it Trump or is it his campaign manager or people?

KURTZ: Well, whoever it is, it's Trump, Inc., and you know, he is at a point now where he wants to unify the party, where he wants to move ahead, where he wants to get the establishment behind him. And I know he - his base loves it when he takes shots at the disgusting press, but I think he's got bigger fish to fry.

KELLY: Yes, they happen to be protected by the First Amendment, which he is supposed to be a champion of now. But it also has, it has freedom of speech, and it has freedom of the press. And there was a reason that that was born. You tell me, you're the media critic.

KURTZ: I don't think reporters should be kicked out of events if they're credentialed, even if the campaign doesn't like what they say, and especially if the editorial page endorses somebody else, that's not the beat reporter's fault. On the point about Trump heading toward this nomination with what I think is a big lead, you asked earlier whether the Republican Party could be fractured by a Trump nomination. I think what could fracture the Republican Party is an attempt by the members of the establishment to deny Trump the nomination if he is anything close to the magic 1237 because that will leave millions...

KELLY: Well, that's just the other side of the same coin, you know? How, how ticked off are each sides of - each side of the Republican Party?  Those who back Trump and those who do not? And we'll just leave you to ponder that as we go to break. And I have a special Super Tuesday surprise after the break.


KELLY: For those of you asking what I mean by Super Tuesday, watch.


MOLLY SHANNON: You didn't know you were competing against Superstar!


KELLY: Molly Shannon. Have a great night. I'm Megyn Kelly.

Content and Programming Copyright 2016 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.