All-Star Panel on GOP Gov. Crist Running as an Independent in Florida's Senate Race

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Bret Baier" from April 28, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you willing to pledge right here, right now that you will run in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and not run as an independent?

CHARLIE CRIST, R-FL, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm running as a Republican.

WALLACE: Are you ruling out you will file as an independent by the April 30 deadline?

CRIST: That's right. That's right. I'm running as a Republican.

WALLACE: You will run for Senate and run in the Republican primary?

CRIST: Chris, I'm running for United States Senate. I know that our country needs help. I'm running as a Republican.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Chris Wallace asked that question five times on this set. Florida governor Charlie Crist saying he is running as a Republican. Well, no. He's running as an independent. Carl Cameron broke the news today in Florida.

And here is why. Here is the poll that the latest poll, the Real Clear Politics average that he was looking at, trailing Marco Rubio there, the former house speaker, by double digits.

Then there is a new Rasmussen Reports poll that has it very close. And this tracks the recent Quinnipiac poll, as Charlie Crist an independent. Marco Rubio still with the lead there.

What about all of this? Let's bring in the panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I'm sitting in the Charlie Crist seat I notice.


STODDARD: But I'm going to tell you the truth. I'm not surprised. He had no choice. It was an easy decision to realize 20 points behind or more in the polls he couldn't win in the Republican primary, Charlie Crist.

But I think that the next couple of days and weeks will be very difficult ones. Do you have Republican staff that leaves you? Do you tell the voters of Florida that you are going to caucus with Harry Reid and the Democrats when you get to town if you win this race, or are you going to vote for Mitch McConnell for leader and be hanging out and voting with Republicans?

These are questions we have no idea the answers to. A very steep uphill. Do the donors want their money back? What kind of basis is there in the political class for him to run an independent bid?

I would note that Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate, is a very weak player and I do think a governor like Charlie Crist who now has teachers unions loving him, who is a lifelong member of the NAACP and very active in the United Negro College fund. I think he will give Meek a run for his money.

BAIER: With Democratic voters.


BAIER: How much does this hurt Rubio and the Republicans?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it would have been better for Rubio if he would have defeated Crist in the Republican primary, so in that sense I think it hurts.

But you have so many questions about Charlie Crist. And this sit he kind of move, it's interesting to hear that, you played the Chris Wallace sound bite again. He was painfully uncomfortable, because I think he knew at the time he was considering running as an independent, and that's why Chris asked him so many times.

So I think he knew at the time he wasn't telling the truth. The real difficulty that Charlie Crist faces now is what are his principles? What does he run on? You can't run on just being a politician, can't run on just being a guy. He hasn't done that much as governor. His approval rating plummeted over the past year.

He has made statements about what he was going to do, how he would run as a Republican, and he backed off of those. He used to oppose drilling offshore, and then when he was being considered as a potential vice presidential candidate, he was in favor of it, and now he's opposed to it again.

He couldn't say yesterday who he was going to caucus with, Republicans or Democrats. Voters are willing to forgive a lot. But they want somebody who actually believes something, in something other than himself.

BAIER: And for control of the Senate potentially in the balance, even though it's a stretch for Republicans to get all ten, who is he going to caucus with is a big deal, Charles.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's important. The fact is that you could ask him today and no matter what answer he gives you won't believe him because we now know that the pledges he makes have a three weak expiration dates. So if he tells you he will caucus with Republicans or Democrats there is no reason you'd believe him.

I think he does have a chance even though he doesn't stand for anything that I particularly see because if the Democrats and liberals in Florida think strategically, they will decide that Meek is not a guy they want to back in the end because he is going to lose.

And if you want somebody who is not Rubio who is, I think, he is the Barack Obama of the Republicans, he is to the party what Obama was in 2005, 2004 — young, attractive, articulate, ethnic, and sort of embodying a kind of upcoming ideology. I think he would have a strong chance. I think Democrats might split off and go for Crist.

BAIER: I want to talk about President Obama in Illinois today. Take a listen at this.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Treasurer and soon to be Senator Alexi Giannoulias.


ALEXI GIANNOULIAS, D-IL, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: There are a lot of rumors and innuendo out there, but the White House is supportive of this campaign because they know we need to stand up for Wall Street reform and move this country forward. I'm excited to have their support.


BAIER: Alexi Giannoulias is the Democratic candidate for President Obama's old seat when he was Senator Obama. There is the latest poll. Republican Mark Kirk up. Giannoulias has a bit of a problem — his family bank was taken over by the FDIC this week, and that's created a stir. Today the president endorsed him.

KRAUTHAMMER: When a guy's bank has just failed and campaigns on financial reform you know we have reached a new level of irony in this country.


STODDARD: The White House completely ignored him. They have not done anything to help him all along. I was surprised to read that the president would be seen with him. Giannoulias running ads he can because of the failure of the bank relate to the common man on the streets of America who have been kicked around by the big banks.

I think he is making lemonade out of lemons, but I think with the clock running out the White House was forced to show their hand on this race and do something to help him out.

BAIER: Is the president going to do more for the race, Steve?

HAYES: Now that he is in, he has to. There was a question whether Giannoulias would be the candidate in several weeks or several months. Now that the president publicly backed him and done campaign event for him, I think he has to be — they have to be all in.

BAIER: Quickly, the third race, I want to put up the polls for Arlen Specter against Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. There you see it. The latest, very close. Arlen Specter who became one year ago a Democrat from Republican. Quickly down the line, how is this lining up, Steve?

HAYES: I think Specter has the White House backing and strong White House backing I think as part of his pledge to become a Democrat and caucus with the Democrats. I think the White House packing gets him over the line just as the Bush White House backing got him over the line against Pat Toomey years ago.

STODDARD: I'm surprised to see it tighten again. It was tight at first and it seemed that the White House's backing was not going to be able to help Specter in that race against Joe Sestak. Now it's tightening again, and it's interesting, and a tight race against Toomey, the person that the Republican establishment could never win in Pennsylvania.

But Arlen Specter, no matter what party he's in, he has a real race on his hands.

BAIER: I should point out, the Real Clear Politics average has it a bit wider than that.

KRAUTHAMMER: It goes back historically. The current stuff looks like dead heat. And therefore, the correct answer is too close to call.

BAIER: There you go. Politics — you can find out plenty more about politics on our homepage at

Just ahead, what the Greek economic tragedy means to us in the U.S.



HOWARD WHEELDON, BGC PARTNERS ANALYST: I think over the next few hours and days, default will remain a very, very strong possibility.

JOHN SITILIDES, TRILOGY ADVISORS: I think the ramifications of major crisis spreading throughout the Euro zone would have potentially catastrophic consequences for the international financial system.


BAIER: The bailout for Greece, $160 billion. Take a look at this map. The financial upheaval there spread to other countries and could touch off a global crisis. It's spreading fast. The country right here in red are in the worst shape, the next worse in orange. This is a scary picture.

We are back with the panel about the Greek economic tragedy. Start with Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think the map explains why the Germans in the end will have to act. The Germans are the anchor of the European financial system. They will act. They have been slow to.

But the reason in the end Germany will act is because a lot of French and German banks are heavily exposed on the Greek and Spanish and Portuguese debt. So if there is a default, the banks will also collapse, so they will have to bailout either the banks or Greece. You might as well do it rescuing the Greece and have the banks reimbursed.

The reason that the Germans are so reluctant is because the chancellor has state elections coming up on the ninth of May. This is huge unpopular, about 80 to 90 percent of Germans oppose a bailout. The reason is the Germans are traditionally frugal, hardworking, and that is not exactly the German perception of the Greece.

I'll give an example. The retirement age in Germany is 67. In Greece it's ostensibly 65, 60 if you are a woman. However, if you work in any of the hardship jobs, a long list of them, there is a ten-year earlier retirement.

It's not just the coal mining. It includes radio announcers, musicians, and hair dressers. It chose the wrong profession. If I had been a Greek hair dresser I would be on an island in the Aegean drinking ouzo. So I understand why Germans are reluctant.


BAIER: We're glad you're not a Greek hair dresser, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: I took a wrong turn early in life.

BAIER: I want to point that out. A.B., can you follow that?

STODDARD: I'm going to leave Charles alone. He is a man of many talents, though.

This is very frightening. To see a map like that showing how much exposure there is everywhere, including us, really. And the money people don't call at it a "Greece fire" for nothing. I saw an assessment from Citigroup that said the most advanced industrial countries are in the worst ever peace time fiscal shape.

We cannot say we're immune after the economic crisis of 2008. We are 18 months away from it but we haven't climbed out of it. I think this is unchartered waters. I think we are not sure that we — we can't say that we were not going to see a developing pattern of the rating agencies souring on sovereign debt.

And the investors demand lowering the prices, demanding higher interest, and market panic. We can't say we won't have that.

BAIER: To that point, Standard & Poor's rating unit downgraded Greece's debt to the level of junk, junk bonds just this past week. You saw the market take a tumble, the U.S. market by more than 200 points. This is — it could reach here.

HAYES: Bret, the problem is — in a sense the problem is Greece but it isn't Greece. It's Greece and beyond. It is Portugal and Ireland and Italy and Spain. It's, you know, the word of the day is contagion and the possibility that this grows.

Greece by itself, especially if you are looking at the worldwide bond market, is not that big a share. Not that big a player. But when you start looking at Europe and when you start looking at the situation with German banks, then I think you get to the point where, you know, as we heard, this could be potentially catastrophic the more it grows.

BAIER: And in this environment, President Obama is introducing this debt commission that is going to come up with some recommendation by December but says we're not going to talk about anything before December.

HAYES: Right. I mean there are huge differences in the scale of our problems and the kind of debt we have. But this should be a warning. We should see this as a warning.

If you look down the road and look at the kinds of things that Charles is talking about, you know, we don't have those provisions for American hair dressers, but we're, you know, we are taking small baby steps along the way. I would say we did this with healthcare. We're doing it with entitlements, broader entitlements across the board.

So there is a warning here, we're just not, we're not Greece.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: The Greek debt this year is about 12 percent of GDP. Ours is over 10 percent. This year probably will be roughly that next year.

In the next ten years we're going to average about $1 trillion a year of debt. That will make us into Greece in mid-decade, which is why you have to have a commission, which is why you have to have radical reforms and precisely why adding a healthcare entitlement is going to make it infinitely harder to actually balance our books.

BAIER: The debt commission has said it will be on the table.

KRAUTHAMMER: Everything will be on the table. I'm not sure they will undo healthcare. That is a long shot. I think they will increase the taxes.

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