Presidential campaigns head west

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Stars


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


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I cannot in good conscience vote for a person who has been as degrading and disruptive and unhinged as I've seen Donald Trump. I'll either vote for a conservative who runs or I'll write in a name of a conservative.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The mystery of why people support candidates. I look at all these conservative voters, why didn't they realize months ago the only hope and prayer they had was Ted Cruz?


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: There's Rush Limbaugh and then Mitt Romney before. But today Mitt Romney made some news in that he's saying he's voting for Senator Ted Cruz in the Utah caucuses, saying on Facebook "This week in Utah nominating caucus I will vote for Senator Ted Cruz. I encourage others to do so as well so that we can have an open nomination and nominate a Republican. I like Governor John Kasich, but a vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism will prevail."

That didn't go well with Donald Trump on Twitter. "Failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the man who choked and let us all down is now endorsing lying Ted Cruz. This is good for me." Continuing "Mitt Romney is a mixed up man who doesn't have a clue. No wonder he lost."

It also didn't go over well with John Kasich. "The fact is the establishment has gotten it wrong this entire primary. It's unfortunate to see that Mitt Romney is getting bad political vice. John Kasich is in the best position to stop Donald Trump in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific coast states. This is just the old establishment trying again to game the political system. But John Kasich has defeated the Republican establishment his entire career."

So we set the table. Let's bring in our panel, Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times, Amy Walter, national for The Cook Political Report, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Amy?

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: It just seems as if every endorsement brings with it more trouble than it does anything else. But Utah is actually a very important place. When we're talking about the Trump train, it is still going down the tracks. It's still on its way. For the first time though ever on our delegate tracker, we have that Donald Trump is not quite at 100 percent of the where he needs to be to hit 1,237. He is at 97 percent. One thing that could stop him, or at least be a big bump in the road for him would be Utah. If Cruz wins outright, and here's why not supporting Kasich is important. If you get 50 percent of the vote which Cruz is better positioned than John Kasich, 50 percent of the vote in Utah, you get all the delegates. So it would stop any Trump delegates from coming out. Split the vote, then the delegates go.

BAIER: Right. And taking a look at the delegate count as we have it, Trump at 678, Cruz 413, Kasich 143. And as you look at the map coming up, Arizona is 58 delegates winner take all, Utah, 40 delegates. So those are some big western states, Charlie.

CHARLES HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: Yes. But going back to what Mitt Romney was saying, you know what else is a vote for Hillary Clinton is writing in somebody in November. That's going to be a vote for Hillary as well. Obviously whoever is going to be the nominee, and it looks increasingly lying it will be Donald Trump, whoever is going to be the nominee has a lot of work to do to unify the party.

But, and this is the real problem that they have, it keeps coming back to the same thing, and that is, well, if Donald Trump has the highest, far and away the highest number going into the convention, then it is hard to argue that he isn't in the best position to be the person to try to unify the party. And I know that that kind of makes people's heads explode because they can't imagine him unifying the party, but you're going to have to come with the argument for why he can't do it because you take it away from him because you're going to have a real mess on your hands.

BAIER: Ted Cruz meantime in Arizona this afternoon and talking because it is very important there, immigration.


SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are so grateful for the law enforcement, especially the law enforcement all along our southern border that face the day-to-day threat of drug cartels coming across, of transnational criminal organizations that are terrorizing communities. President Obama tells us the border is secure. Well, I invite him to move the White House down to the southern border. Let's see how secure it is.


BAIER: And that event along the southern border in Arizona. It seems that Donald Trump is positioned well in Arizona, but Ted Cruz trying to make a play there.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He is the only one who can. Look, the fight between the establishment and antiestablishment is over. The antiestablishment has won in the form of Cruz and Trump. Now the question is which of the two will it be? It's not going to be Kasich. There's no way you're going to reach down to the third in line.

BAIER: So what is he thinking?



KRAUTHAMMER: I don't know. It is delusional or it's grandiose, one or the other. Or he thinks, I mean, this is one scenario, perhaps he does well in his area, say in the northeast and the Midwest, and denies Trump sweeping successes in those states so that it keeps the Trump number down. But in that case he should be staying out of states where Cruz is the only chance of prevailing, meaning Utah, Arizona, et cetera. Otherwise he is a spoiler, he is a stalking horse to elect Trump. But the fact is we are down to two candidates. One is a populist. The other is a conservative. It is now a hard choice. They are both antiestablishment. And if they end up in Cleveland reasonably close to each other, even if one is ahead of the other, I think either has a claim to legitimacy in the nomination. If it is a huge spread, that's a different story. But it is a race until Cruz is knocked out. And as of now, he is not.

BAIER: You were going to say about Kasich.

WALTER: About Kasich, the only other thing I can think of as his rationale is he comes in as the only person who hasn't been totally bloodied in this process. I think the fact that he didn't show up for the debate this week is a sign that he does not want to get in a fight with Ted Cruz. He doesn't want to have to defend a lot of positions that he's taken that conservatives would not be happy with. He doesn't want to make this about anything other than --

BAIER: That was the lynchpin of the whole decision, because when Kasich said he wouldn't go if Trump didn't go, there was just Ted Cruz. We offered him a town hall. He said no, too.

But Monday we'll have Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich here on SPECIAL REPORT, Monday evening.

Meantime it is Friday, and that usually means a trip down to Candidate Casino. Every one of the panelists who has been on Candidate Casino has experienced this. And this is a look back.

WALTER: Oh, no.



WALTER: I still put Jeb as the frontrunner at $40. I put Walker at $30. Rubio is my sleeper candidate, has been for some time now. I put $25 on him.

I did not put Donald Trump in my top. But I did move John Kasich and I've also put Ted Cruz in there who I think is coalescing that more conservative Tea Party vote. And I think as Trump starts to lose steam, which I think will eventually happen, Cruz becomes the beneficiary of that.

Again, this is where I think the race will be, not where it currently is today. But I still think Cruz right now has a better path there. I also have more money in my alcohol fund.

BAIER: By the way, Charles started this.

WALTER: I know. Well, I have to go martinis.


BAIER: There you go, the evolution. What do you have now?

WALTER: The evolution. At least I had one person in there who is still in the race. It is not as brutal as I thought it would be. Still a little painful. My stomach hurts a little bit watching that.

So I did for the first time ever now, I do have more money on Donald Trump than anybody else. I have him at $40. Cruz though, I agree with Charles that I think this does ultimately come down to two of them, $15, because whatever else could possibly happen here, it could be. And my liquor did go up.

BAIER: Increased. Charlie?

HURT: I've got $75 on Trump just because I think he has pretty well made it impossible. The only question now is does he pass the 1,237? He is going in ahead of everybody else no matter what. But you can't count out how much the establishment hates, so $25 on never Trump.

BAIER: We have a lot of social media that are $100 Trump.

KRAUTHAMMER: You are underselling Donald Trump. The man is at $80 right now. Cruz is at $10. He is the only guy who can compete. I think it's about eight to one but necessary there.

And then I gave up on wine, women, and song. I couldn't do it. I tried. I tried Prozac for two weeks. No effect. So now I'm at opioids. And there's only one choice beyond that. That's hemlock, and that I'm saving for Cleveland.


BAIER: Oh, dear.

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