Can Trump build bridges with women after abortion stumble?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 31, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is clearly not prepared to be president of the United States. We know about his comments on abortion which have put women in a very difficult position.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's notion of punishing women was just, it was bizarre. It is something with which I strongly disagree. I think it was just the latest confirmation that Donald has not thought seriously about the issues facing the country and he is willing to say just about anything to try to get elected.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If in fact abortion was outlawed, the person performing the abortion, the doctor, whoever it may be, that's really doing the act is responsible for the act, not the woman is responsible.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Welcome back. That statement from the town hall that he made about abortion, if it was illegal punishing the woman, and then the statement obviously, and Bill O'Reilly will have Trump on tonight. Here's what Rush Limbaugh said that about this whole dustup.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Matthews asks a question and Trump took it literally. He sets up a hypothetical, something that is never, ever going to happen here. Abortion is illegal. Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, abortion is illegal. What happens to women who have abortions when abortions are illegal? Well, Trump, you have to think fast here.

So two things happen in micro-flash seconds. He says to himself, I have to make sure I'm consistent on law and order here. I think what Donald Trump said is what he thinks Republicans and conservatives want to hear.


BAIER: And this is what he is facing. This is a CNN poll just out among women, favorable, unfavorable. This was before the statement at the town hall. And then you see the RCP average in Wisconsin. This is the average of recent polls. And Ted Cruz with the slightly lead over Donald Trump.

We're back. Let's bring in our panel: Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Judge, he was in D.C. today meeting with the RNC. Your thoughts?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: I think that even in the pre-Roe versus Wade era where abortion was absolutely prohibited by a number of the states, women were not prosecuted. Only those who actually performed the abortions were prosecuted. I think he has not thought this through. I'm going to suggest he probably hasn't even read Roe versus Wade or any of the cases that followed it or had them summarized for him by people who did the reading.

If he truly believes this, it is so contrary to American culture even by the fiercest of pro-life people. It is hard to believe that he would think this would get him any votes. Rather it shows a lack of serious thinking about a very, very serious topic. Charles is telling me, he can tell you of the long interview that the "Washington Post" had with him, and this lack of serious thinking is evidence in so many areas.

I think that this statement alone combined with his likely loss in Wisconsin will begin the descent of Donald Trump's popularity in the Republican primary.

BAIER: Do you know how many times people have said that?

NAPOLITANO: You're right, you're right.

BAIER: And here's what allies and supporters say, Chuck. They say, listen, he misspoke. He shoots from the hip sometimes, and they felt that it was rapid fire from Chris Matthews. He straightened it out and he will bounce back.

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Of course, Rush Limbaugh supplied him with an excuse, which is a kind of a strange excuse, he was just trying to pander is basically what Limbaugh came up with.

I think this one has a unique problem for him in that it managed to offend a group on each side of the issue. It offended the pro-choice people and the pro-life people simultaneously. And, nevertheless, you're right that he has always thrived off the image of somebody who is a victim of the media ganging up on him. And so he will attempt to play with that.

On the other hand, I would say that his reaction, which was to back off and sort of correct himself several times was an unusually defensive moment for Donald Trump. He normally admits nothing and just presses on as before. The mere fact that he felt he had correct this time, that was kind of unusual.

BAIER: And he is also quiet today, Charles. He is here in Washington, private meetings with his leadership team on Capitol Hill, Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, Congressmen, and his foreign policy people, and this meeting at the RNC. It is a week, however, that most people looked at and said there was a succession of things that happened here that don't play well for Donald Trump.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He understands it. I think that's the reason he's sort of gone to ground. For Donald, you go to ground if you only give seven interviews in a day. So he is sort of relatively quiet now. He knows there's no way he can undo the damage of the abortion statement. He has got to give it a little time and we'll be on to something else. He will invent something else later.

I have to say a word about what Rush said in defense of Trump, that he was answering a hypothetical as if someone asked him a question, what would you do if Hillary sprung wings and began to fly? Hypothetical -- illegal abortion is the point. Making abortion the no longer legal, having the power of the state to stop it, is the point of the pro-life movement. They would like -- there is nothing, there is nothing hidden about it, nothing hypothetical. It may not happen, but it isn't as if it's a crazy hypothetical. It is the object of people who oppose abortion is to use the power of the state to prevent it.

BAIER: And running for president you would think.

KRAUTHAMMER: So he is being asked about the object of the thing he says he now really, truly, deeply believes in. "I'm completely pro-life." Well, that's not a hypothetical. That's if you got your way, what would you do? How would you enforce it? Explain to us what you would do. It is a straight -- the most straight question that you can get. The fact that he couldn't answer it proves exactly what the judge said.

NAPOLITANO: His week of misery this week, in both instances the victims were women or the perceived victims were women. The nonsensical think with Corey -- nonsensical because I don't think it is a criminal event. It happened because they taunted and taunted and taunted Michelle Fields until she finally decides to file a complaint. It looks bad because she is a young, talented woman. And then this statement that we're now just talking about, the poll that you just showed are fantastic numbers against him in direct reaction to this statement women should be punished for permitting abortions.

LANE: The only thing is he still has 739 delegates and only needs 500 more.

BAIER: Right, a lot of female supporters say that they support --

KRAUTHAMMER: He does still need 500 more.

One point. I don't think it is so bad because it offends women. I think it is bad because it is such a central issue of the conservative movement that if he does not know how to talk about it, he shows he's never thought about it. It makes people who might support him think what has he actually thought through on any other issue? And that's where I think the damage is.

BAIER: Or the vulnerability against Hillary Clinton on the issue in the fall.

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