All-Star Panel: The state of conservative Republicans

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH, R-FLA.: I don't know if I would be a good candidate or a bad one. I kind of know how a Republican can win whether it's me or somebody else, and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical now in a Washington world, lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles. It's not an easy task to be honest with you.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: The singular failure of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has been a failure to focus on the vital national security interests of the United States.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: People like myself who believe in less intervention can be characterized as people who don't believe in a strong national defense. That's a caricature and I will have to fight that.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Possible presidential candidates speaking out about various things.  We put up that graphic last night of the 24 possible folks who might get in this race for the president in 2016. One less today. We have an indication that Rob Portman was not going to be running. He issued a statement, "With a new Republican majority I see a real opportunity," Senator Portman said, "from Ohio over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington, actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role.  I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time." That may be a statement there.

What about the state of conservative Republicans? As you listen to Jeb Bush saying, lose the primary to win the general, you've got to get through the primary, Tucker, and the state of conservative Republicans now?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS": Well, we're about to find out. I mean, by the way, Jeb seems to be going out of his way to tweak them directly. At the same event, he was asked by The Wall Street Journal, what do you disagree about the Obama executive order on immigration? Was it the way it was done or the substance? And he said the way it was done. And he was unequivocal. And good for him for being clear about his beliefs, but on immigration, on Common Core, he's just gone directly to conservatives and said I disagree with you, sort of in their face.

In a normal year, the Republican Party by its nature goes to the institutional guy, to the choice of the donor class. That is clearly Jeb Bush. In a normal year we go through all this drama and in the end he'd get it. I think this is the one year that might not be a normal year in the last 50 years. If there was ever a year for something strange to happen, it's this year.

BAIER: Conservative Republicans, your sense on the Hill?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: On the Hill I think there's lots of energy, and right now the energy is not even invested in the presidential race, with the exception of the people in the Senate, and here I'm talking about Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, you know, potentially a few others. But these are folks who see themselves as president and want to campaign. And so they are willing to engage in political acts that would advance that candidacy.

But for the most part right now the emphasis on the Hill is getting through this little interim and moving on to a Republican and conservative majority, and, again, the fight is what is the Republican message? What are the Republican remedies? And can Republicans govern? And by the way, on this point, that takes you to Republican governors in a big way, Bret, towards the Scott Walkers, even Snyder in Michigan, Kasich in Ohio. Those folks, suddenly their stock is rising.

BAIER: Yes. Some of these wins, you just look at this landslide win, Charles, and some of them really did draw on pretty conservative principles and won big in places that you didn't expect them to win.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That is true, but then at the same time you've got a lot of moderate Republicans who won in the northeast. There was supposed to be a shutout. Republicans are supposed to be obsolete in the northeast. They actually won some seats, governorships in places you would never expect, Massachusetts, I Maryland and Illinois. So I think it was across the board. I don't think it was one wing in the party or the other.

And I do think that the press keeps trying to repeat the meme that the great civil war story here is among Republicans. Conservatives are mad as hell over the executive order and the lunatics on their side, the Tea Party, are going to destroy the whole House over this. The real story is the split among the Democrats. Chuck Schumer just had a broadside in which he essentially he represents the right wing to the extent there is one, the centrist Democrats, in his savage attack on everything Obama represents.  You've got Elizabeth Warren on the other side. You have Hillary in the middle who can't make up her mind on anything. The civil war is happening in there. They are looking at the shellacking and one wing of saying we have to go left, the other right.

I think in contrast there's tremendous harmony on the Republican side. A slight argument over how to deal tactically with the executive order, but I think it's completely different and there's infinitely more comity on the Republican side. It's the wrong story.

BAIER: By the way, Senator Schumer said he is not walking back what he said about ObamaCare, that it was the wrong move at first.

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