All-Star Panel: Place your bets in 'Candidate Casino'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 30, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MITT ROMNEY, R - FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee. I believe one of the next generations of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.


BAIER: Mitt Romney on a conference call with supporters saying he's out. Thanks but no thanks. And was there a secret message in that statement that he made and read? Well, there was quick reaction from all others in the GOP possible field. Jeb Bush tweeted out "Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days in serving our nation and our party are not over." Rand Paul, "I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward." Marco Rubio's statement, "He's certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chance to lead. And Scott Walker's tweet, "Had a great conversation with Mitt Romney. He is a good man. Thanked him for his interest in opening the door for fresh leadership in America." As I mentioned earlier in the show I was interviewing Governor Walker when he had to pause and take that call from Mitt Romney and then the tweet came in after that.

Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Jonah, thoughts on this announcement and what it means?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, up until two weeks ago I thought everyone was talking about him running -- three weeks ago, everyone thought he was going to run. It was crazy, it was a terrible idea, he shouldn't do it. And then all of a sudden, he announced to his base, which is a bunch of donors in Manhattan, that he was thinking about doing it. And for the last couple of weeks and particularly that speech he gave in Mississippi that you guys covered last night, it sounded like he was really going to do it. So I was actually surprised that he is not going to do it now.

I think he made the right decision. The people I have talked to today said he basically decided that the only way he could have done this would have been bloody and bruising. And if he got the nomination he would be battered. If he didn't get the nomination he would have battered somebody else. So he took the high road. And I think it's good for him and it's good for the party.

BAIER: Who benefits most, Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I don't think there's any question Jeb Bush benefits most because you have here a schism within the party and you have an establishment wing that has been looking for a torch bearer. And the question is, is it going to be Jeb Bush? Mitt Romney came in and said, hey, not so quick. I'm interested. And then you have Chris Christie sitting in the wings.

BAIER: Who is also having dinner with Mitt Romney tonight.

WILLIAMS: Tonight, right. So you have lots of Shakespearian drama available to all our viewers.

I think that one of the big issues here was the donors and the structure of the campaign. It was a big loss for Romney to see that his key operative in Iowa went to work for Jeb Bush. And of course, Iowa and the evangelical wing of the party was going to be a difficult marriage for Romney anyway. But when you stop and think about the folks that he is talking about, the folks on the phone call in Manhattan, if there is an early primary among Republicans going on right now with the donor class, there was a clear message from the editorial pages as well as from the hedge funds, Mitt, your time has passed.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I hate to say I told you so. Actually, I love saying I told you so but I never thought there was a chance he was going to run. I don't think there's any sort of conspiracy or any convoluted plan here. I think he thought he had a chance. He decided all of a sudden, yes, I'm going to do this. He saw the numbers and then he got three weeks of reaction, which was very negative. And he made the right decision. This was not going to be a good race for him and it was going to hurt the party. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the dinner he has with Christie considering how Christie's slobbering over Obama during hurricane Sandy damaged Romney last time around.

BAIER: What do you think of the line that says new leadership? Do you think it was a jab at Bush? Do you think he was looking to someone in particular? Or do you think we're reading too much into it?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, that was an obvious jab at Bush. It was a jab at those who ran against him in 2012. And I would even include Christie in that list. It was obviously a tip of the hat to a new generation, the Walkers and the Rubios and others.

BAIER: All right, we are going to take a walk now to this new place that we have created with a fancy new animation, candidate casino. OK, I know you think it is cheesy, but we spent a lot of time on it.


BAIER: Steve Hayes came up with this idea last Friday that, let's say you have $100 in chips and you have all of the candidates there. How do you split your $100 as of today of who will be the nominee at the end? And we got a lot of reaction. So then we put graphics on it and suddenly we had a roulette wheel, and here we go. $100, where did you put your chips?

KRAUTHAMMER: When did cheesiness ever hold us back in the past?

BAIER: Never.

KRAUTHAMMER: I stay with Rubio with $40, Jeb with $30. Remember, Rubio's odds are about five-and-a-half to one. Jeb's are two to one, so I want to win big with a longer shot. Scott Walker helped himself a lot with the speech he gave in Iowa, so he goes from $15 to $25. And then since I already had the booze last week I'm going to spend the remaining $5 on Christie. He's got some running room now with Romney out of the way.

BAIER: I should point out that you can split the chips and play the field at some point and put money there, just for everybody. And also you can play at home. We are going to have a thing on the website. It's going to be very interactive every Friday. Wow.


WILLIAMS: Wow, does Steve Hayes get a cut?

BAIER: I don't know.

WILLIAMS: I think today was a big day, as I said, for Jeb Bush, so I am going to put $50 on Jeb Bush. I think it's a 50/50 shot for him at this point against the rest of the field. He's clearly the frontrunner now. I put $20 on Rand Paul, $10 on Marco Rubio. I think, Chuck, you have been drinking a little bit from last week on Marco Rubio. You're high on that guy. $10 on Walker who is a comer after his great performance.  And $5 each on guys I characterize as fitting Mitt Romney's designation of the new generation people, like Carson, Ben Carson, the physician from Baltimore, and a little bit like Christie who he is having dinner with tonight just in case.

BAIER: All right, Jonah.

WILLIAMS: OK, so two points I'd like to make. First of all, let's talk about booze.  Most of the casinos I go have complimentary table service.

BAIER: I know. It's part of the deal.

GOLDBERG: Maybe the online show.


GOLDBERG: And second of all, when you play roulette you are allowed to bet on colors, too. So I would bet red, the Republicans are going to win.  Anyway, I will split it $10 on Cruz, $20 on Rubio, $25 on Bush, and $45 on Walker who I think is the one guy on the field who actually is completely acceptable to grassroots anti-establishment guys and acceptable to a lot of establishment people.

BAIER: As the anchor, $100 on the field. Next up, the Friday Lightning Round.

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