GOP Presidential Field: Who Can Win and Who Doesn't Have a Chance?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 12, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The GOP field for the 2012 presidential race is now beginning to take shape with several Republican candidates on the brink of announcing their intention to make a run for the nomination.

Now, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he threw his hat in the ring last night right here on "Hannity." But it was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who made big news today in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he addressed what may be his biggest challenge to securing the GOP nomination, Romneycare. Now, he also took on the president's health care bill.


FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: If I were lucky enough to be in the White House in the position of leadership. On the first day, I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to be given to all 50 states. And then I would go to work with Congress to make sure that we could repeal Obamacare.


HANNITY: Now, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, they don't buy it. They wrote the quote, "The health reform that Mr. Romney passed in 2006 as Massachusetts governor was the prototype for President Obama's version and gave national health care a huge political boost.

"Mr. Romney now claims that Obamacare should be repealed but his failure to explain his own role or admit any errors suggests serious flaws both in his candidacy and as a potential president."

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is expected to make his big announcement tomorrow. And former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, he alerted his supporters that a big announcement is coming at an upcoming rally in Atlanta on May the 21st.

Joining me now with analysis to the emerging GOP field is international best-selling author, syndicated columnist, the one and only Mark Steyn. Mr. Steyn, welcome back, sir.

MARK STEYN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Hey, great to be with you Sean, great to be with you to discuss this rollicking field.


HANNITY: All right. But why don't we go through the strengths and weaknesses, really quick of all the candidates. And just get your take, Newt Gingrich was here last night. He made his announcement. Strengths, weaknesses, how do you think he could do?

STEYN: Newt isn't going to be president. I assume he's in this campaign for the kind of reason Alan Keyes used to get into it 10 years ago, that it's a way of boosting his speaking frees and other gigs. But Newt Gingrich is not going to be president, and I didn't see the rationale for his candidacy.

HANNITY: Well, I think he might do better than you think. I'll give my opinion a little bit here. I think he will perform very well in debates. And depending on who gets in, who doesn't, I think it is too early to say, that's my take.

Mitt Romney, how did he do today and what are his strengths and weaknesses?

STEYN: Well, obviously, his big weakness is Romneycare. And he's come up with an argument that sounds too clever by heart. That he now wants a federal approach to health care. So that you could -- 50 different flowers can bloom across the land. The problem is that the flower he planted in Massachusetts is toxic. And I think the rationale for his candidacy last time man was that this a technocrat. This is a guy who knows how to get things done. The problem is, is that what happened in Massachusetts after he got things done is really the tragedy of the United States in a nutshell. That he passed this big technocratic solution to the problem and then the massive bureaucracy and opportunistic legislative class destroyed all the accomplishments and made the situation worse. And really, Romneycare is what has happened to America in a nutshell. He's not going to be able to cool up from under that.

HANNITY: So, you don't think he could survive that?

STEYN: Well, I think, if you look at the title of his book, "No Apologies," basically, that acknowledges that he's on the defensive right from the word go.

HANNITY: I think that's his biggest difficulty.

STEYN: I don't think people are going to go with that.

HANNITY: I think if he can overcome that, somehow and come up with an explanation, he certainly, I think could do better than people think. But that's his biggest challenge, there's no doubt. All right. Let me ask you about Donald Trump, any chance?

STEYN: Well, you know, what people like about Donald Trump, I think they just like the way he came out swinging and decided to basically sock the president in the jaw. And I think there was a sort of sense of relief that somebody was just prepared to do that.

I don't think Donald Trump is a conservative. I think Donald Trump's line on China for example, that he's going to talk tough to China. China didn't create Social Security, China didn't create Medicare, China isn't spending a fifth of a billion dollars every hour that it doesn't have. We are the source of our problems not mysterious sinister foreigners overseas.

But what I liked about Donald Trump and I think what people responded to is that, he didn't buy the media narrative.

HANNITY: People like to fight. And I hope -- if nothing else because that fight would probably continue for a long time and be interesting and fun to cover.

STEYN: Absolutely.

HANNITY: Tim Pawlenty, serious contender?

STEYN: Well, I've got a soft spot there for Pawlenty. But I think the last time I saw him was when he and I were on your show together a couple of weeks ago. And I think actually, this is the kind of guy who is more likely to wind up with the nomination. He hasn't got an albatross like Obamacare and he hasn't got the personal baggage that Newt Gingrich has. He's got a good record that is flawed. But everybody is flawed. But I think he's closer to someone who is at ease with himself, is authentic and he's conservative enough. And I think someone like Tim Pawlenty could be the last guy standing.

HANNITY: It's interesting. I thought it's maybe a contrast because he dealt with the cap-and-tax issue which he once supported, it took it head on and said sorry, I made a mistake which I think was actually, I thought it smart to handle. What do you think about Mitch Daniels potential candidacy?

STEYN: Well, you know, I like Mitch Daniels on the fiscal conservative issues. I disagree with him on this idea that social issues, you take off the table.

And I do that for two reasons. One, because I think the fiscal issues in a sense are a symptom of a lot of the deeper cultural issues in America. So, I don't think they are as disconnected as he thinks.

And secondly, I just think, in this particular campaign season, it is absurd to concede half the turf right away and actually say, we're going to fight on -- only on what the media are approve as the ground that's safe and responsible to fight on.

HANNITY: Yes. What about two people that we have no idea are going to get in or not, that would be Mike Huckabee and Governor Palin?

STEYN: I think I would caution against either of them getting in. I think Governor Palin actually can do a much better job as a kingmaker.

And I would -- and again, with Mike Huckabee, I mean, Mike Huckabee has a great show on Fox. And I think he's actually carved out a niche for himself there. I'm not sure he could withstand the scrutiny, and I think if you look at for example, his success in Iowa last time around and then the big deflation in New Hampshire a couple of weeks later. He's not going to be any more appealing to New Hampshire this time around.

HANNITY: All right. So, we have this other tier of candidates that are either flirting with it or kind on the verge of denouncing, that would be Michele Bachmann, Senator Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and then we have our two libertarians Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. Any of them have the possibility of breaking through?

STEYN: Well, you know, Ron Paul, a lot of people thought Ron Paul was just a nut four years ago. But actually, Ron Paul's crazy talk about the Federal Reserve actually makes a lot more sense these days. Right now at the moment, every -- all this debt that's being issued by the United States, the people assumes the Chinese are buying, no, the Chinese don't want any more American debt.

HANNITY: Yes, I don't know if you heard what he said --

STEYN: Seventy percent of American debt is being brought by the Federal Reserve. Ron Paul has a point there.

HANNITY: I totally agree with it. And I think on economics and limited government, libertarian principles are more in keeping with our founders and framers. But you did hear that he said about bin Laden that he wouldn't have taken him out this way.

STEYN: No, he has a shriveled view of America's role in the world. Which I think he has to get onboard with, I mean, he basically thinks that America can --

HANNITY: He's not changing --

STEYN: -- the 19th century isolationist republic. And America can't even keep two relatively benign neighbors at bay short of building, you know, Obama's moat with alligators that he wants. So, the idea that we can hold the entire planet at bay is ridiculous.

HANNITY: All right. So, back to those five, is there any one that you think might be able to break out?

STEYN: Well, I do like Michele Bachmann. And I think her instincts are good. Whether you can go from a relatively short congressional career to presidency, I don't know. But Michele Bachmann is a terrific campaigner and she's just adorable to watch in that sense.

HANNITY: All right. Well, so basically, you have one person that sort of, you are lukewarm about, because you met him here on this show.

Here's my prediction, any of the names we've mentioned or whoever else may get in, will be infinitely better than what we have. That's my take in the end.

STEYN: Yes. And I don't want -- all I ask is I don't want a candidate we have to drag across the finishing line. I want one we can get behind and cheer all the way.

HANNITY: Is there one person that stands out in your mind that we didn't mention?

STEYN: No, no, I'm happy -- as I said, I'm happy to go with a Pawlenty-Bachmann ticket if it comes to that, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. Mark Steyn, always good to talk to you.

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