SPECIAL REPORT

GOP preparing for contested convention

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 17, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hopefully there's time to still prevent a Trump nomination which I think would fracture the party and be damaging to the conservative movement.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, FORMER REPUBLICAN SOUTH CAROLINA: I have had many differences with Senator Cruz's tactics and the way he has behaved in the Senate, but I do believe he would be a more reliable partner for Israel. I think he would build the Keystone pipeline. I think is he a reliable Republican conservative, would pick a true conservative to be on the Supreme Court. I doubt that -- I have really doubts about Mr. Trump. I think Mr. Trump is not a Republican.

GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-FLA.: So if we go to the convention and he doesn't get the nomination, I think the voters are going to be pretty frustrated. We have got to win in November. It's time to coalesce behind Donald.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Florida Governor Rick Scott endorsing Donald Trump, and you hear some the others, especially Lindsey Graham who has turned his decision around about Ted Cruz, as you look at the delegate count right now. Here is how it stands tonight -- 673 for Donald Trump, 411, and 143.

Meantime, Donald Trump is essentially pointing his focus to Hillary Clinton trying to set up a general election fight. Hillary Clinton pushing back in the same way in an ad today. These are two ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you consulting with consistently so that you are ready on day one?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I have said a lot of things.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BAIER: Used the same format there, different take. Let's bring in our panel, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Well, this could be interesting, couldn't it?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Yes, very, very interesting. Who knows which way it's going to go? I'm kind of surprised at Rick Scott. I don't know if you saw the piece with Neil Cavuto. Neil really, really pressed him aggressively, very aggressively and professionally and he couldn't pry him loose at all. So the party is going in two ways. Some people are saying it's time to unite behind Trump. He is inevitable. Others like Senator Graham and Senator Rubio are saying it's not too little, it's not too late. He is going to destroy the party. We need to coalesce behind Ted Cruz on John Kasich. I can't predict it any better than anybody else.

BAIER: Mara, Lindsey Graham is now raising money for Ted Cruz, a big change in his stance and I think probably an indication that Washington is shifting its gaze.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think -- now, Nikki Haley also came out and said some nice things about Cruz short of an endorsement. She said she wasn't endorsing him but she said she hoped the party coalesced behind him. There are also calls for this unity ticket, Cruz and Kasich should get together.

I think what we are witnessing is either the dissolution or the utter transformation of the Republican party, and we're not quite sure what's going to come out at the other end. But there is this huge, huge schism.

And there are also people like you saw Rick Scott for Trump, Sheldon Adelson says it's fine with him. Why not, he said, why wouldn't he support him? So we're going to have I think a contested convention.

BAIER: Charles, in the meantime the "The Washington Post" is reporting on this big meeting that happened to stop Trump. Quote "Attendees voice frustration with the lack of coordination so far and wondered aloud whether Trump could be halted. The third party scenario drew intense interest but it was also acknowledged that it would be logistically and financially difficult with few high profile politicians willing to take the political risk that such a run would entail. Instead a block of participants argued that the best option may be working in upcoming primaries to boost Cruz and prevent Trump from securing a majority of delegates. A convention standoff would be the culmination of those efforts."

If you look at the exit polls, and we talked about this the other night, Steve Hayes brought it up, would you consider a third party if Trump versus Clinton, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, roughly around 40, 45 percent. It seems like a pretty long shot, though.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's not going to happen. I don't think there is time. I don't think there is a way to organize. And you have got to have a candidate. If Dwight Eisenhower were out there, I think you could do it. But he is not. And in the absence of that, this is a pipe dream.

The other thing about having another meeting, I have been reading about the meeting of the establishment now for six months to stop Trump. This is the worst kept secret of a conspiracy in the history of conspiracies. They should have it broadcast openly so you get these weird reports about it.

Look, it is not -- people are acting as if there are people who believe that the party will be damaged by a Trump nomination, there are people believe who Trump will lose and lose badly, that it will be a repeat of gold water. But there is something illegitimate about trying to figure out a way to put together a coalition, a majority of delegates who would go otherwise. It's perfectly legitimate. This is how conventions, nominees have been decided for 150 years. The reason we haven't seen it is because in this generation people have entered the convention with a majority. But in 1976 the sainted Ronald Reagan went into a convention without a plurality of votes, tried to get enough swing delegates to make him the nominee, failed. He wasn't called a traitor, and it wasn't called a conspiracy. That's the way the nominations are done.

BAIER: But, Judge, you look at the Democrats and their reaction to Donald Trump, and it appears that some of them are getting a little scared about the prospect of facing Trump.

NAPOLITANO: Yes, I agree with you. They laughed at him, they mocked him. They rolled their eyes. Now I guess they are doing opposition research. They expect it to be him. And I think they're worried. I'll tell you the Trump theory that for every moderate Republican that can't bring him or herself to vote for Donald Trump, Donald Trump will pry loose, pry loose regular, steady blue collar Democrats who have almost always voted for the Democrat. That is Hillary's fear.

BAIER: Places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia and Ohio and Michigan.

LIASSON: Right, Michigan. This is the theory of the new Trump map, that he would flip blue states red because he would get such a big turnout of white, blue collar voters in those states, either get voters that have never voted before or pry them away from the Democrats. But he have an equal and opposite reaction or maybe greater than equal where he will energize college-educated suburban women and newly registered Hispanics. And we know that Hispanic registration is going up because of Trump. So we don't know if that's actually possible.

Also, the percentage of white blue collar voters in the electorate has been shrinking. Also, they have historically terrible, very low turnout rates. So he would have to perform something that has never happened before.

BAIER: Although if you look at the turnout rates so far in the Republican primaries, it is exponentially higher.

LIASSON: There's no doubt about that, but there is a big debate whether or not that is a predictor of general election turnout.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think that's right. There is no question on paper you would argue that Trump would be a big loser. But, nonetheless, he has demonstrated the ability to bring out people who aren't regular voters, aren't regular Republicans. And he could alter the map.

I think Democrats who thought six months ago that he was a joke, I thought he was a joke, as a nominee for the Republican Party, and a lot of people thought as well, we were all wrong. So he has the capacity to appeal. So we have no way of knowing. But I do think Democrats are beginning to think that there this is not a slam dunk. And this guy, he doesn't play by the rules. He makes them up, and under a new set of rules she could lose to him.

BAIER: We saw the evolution of your Candidate Casino. We know --

KRAUTHAMMER: I lost a lot of money in the casino. However, I made it back by never putting a penny on Bernie Sanders. So I came out even.

(LAUGHTER)

BAIER: There you go.

LIASSON: What a smart guy.

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