GOP race 'physiologically' over?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Look, Governor Romney, business practices and his policies have clearly benefited the wealthy and most powerful among us, often at the expense of working and middle class families. They actually believe it's the best way. I'm not doubting their belief. But it just doesn't work that way.

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think what you see is America's destiny. I this this is more of a detour. I will work very hard to make America the best place once again for entrepreneurs and know innovators and small businesses.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: All right, it's time to talk 2012. We are back with our panel, Fred, Mara, and Charles. And Charles, it sounds like with the vice president's out there on the campaign trail that they've decided Romney is the nominee and they are starting the general election.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And they decided that good ole Joe is going to be the attack dog. After all what else is there for a vice president to do? Except that I think Biden had been assigned the job of tracking every cent that was spent in the trillion dollar stimulus to make sure it was well spent. So I'm sure he is still working on that late at night.

On this, he's got -- they have their line down on Romney, the out-of-touch plutocrat who cares not about the ordinary America. The problem is that Romney is not out there on his own, he's gonna be going up against Obama. Obama has his own out-of-touchness issue. In '08 it worked in a sense because he was this spectacular stranger who came out of nowhere and that kind of coolness and detachment was attractive and it added to his charisma. Well, that is all over now. That hope and change stuff is done.

And now we're looking at him as a president who has a record, he has this kind of detachment and coolness which I think is also -- it edges onto the side of being cold. So I'm not sure if it's a competition of who is the warmer, the fuzzier and cuddlier candidate that the other side is gonna win. I think it's a tie on that. I think in the end it'll be on the policies.

BREAM: Well and Mara, there is this -- Charles mentions the policies, but there is this back and forth about who is out of touch. Do you think it hurts or helps either side?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that a candidate's for president personal attributes are really important. When you're voting for a commander-in-chief, a presidential vote is just different. It's not as simply a partisan vote, it's not just like voting for your party. And when you look at what's happened to Romney's personal attributes, his negatives are way high, much worse than Obama's. President Obama's personal favorability ratings are pretty solid. His job approval is still under 50 percent. You want it to be over 50 percent if you are an incumbent who feels comfortable about their re-election chances.

So I think Romney has some work to do there. I think it's true that Obama has kind of an aloof aspect to his personality, not unlike Romney. But when it comes to who cares about people like you, is he somebody you'd want to have a beer with, that kind of thing, Romney has struggled.

Now, the question is once he doesn't have to pay any attention to Rick Santorum and he doesn't have to do -- you know engage in the circular firing squad that the Republican race became and he can turn his attention to Obama, does that change? We all made a lot of fun of Eric Fehrnstrom saying that there was going to be an Etch A Sketch, but there is a truth of that. Every nominee gets a shave and a haircut and gets to start afresh to a certain extent.

BREAM: Now, Mara, you left out the name Newt Gingrich. Because today he --


LIASSON: I think he is irrelevant. I really do.

BREAM: He doesn't think he's irrelevant, as you know. He said this today, "I'm not going anywhere." We know that he has cut his staff, there have been big changes. He says he's staying in until the convention because he feels like he's gonna have a voice there and somehow pull off some sort of upset at the convention. Is it time for him to dial that back? Is it time for him to stay in and keep a voice in this race?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think the idea that he's gonna play a big role at the convention is probably delusional. I think he is irrelevant now, as Mara said. And that's about it. Look, I think Santorum would need something like three-fourths of the delegates left to be picked in order to win the nomination. So it makes sense. I mean, that's why the Obama White House is paying attention to Romney.

The question about Romney is this -- will Romney be a strong general election candidate when he emerges with the nomination? And he'll be seen differently then, once he is the Republican nominee. Now it may not be until the convention at the rate we're going now, be I think there is a chance that he will be a much better candidate than we've seen now with Santorum and Gingrich attacking him all the time. It'll just be -- he'll be matched up against Obama, and I think, the personal traits are not really going to matter that much. I mean, they're both aloof. Hey, look, Obama has been in Washington a long time now, and that really does set you apart from the rest of the country. Romney has been a businessman and that may as well. But I don't think the personal traits mean much.

BREAM: Charles, anybody, is there an elegant way for anyone to bow out before the convention? And will they do it?

KRAUTHAMMER: There are elegant ways, but nobody is going to do it.


Gingrich wants to be a force or at least an element, or, maybe, I'm not sure what he is going to do in Tampa, but he wants to show up. Ron Paul will of course show up, although he has really weakened since his early, sort of semi-success. He has very few delegates. And I don't think he will end up with a speech the way he might have ended up with had he continued to get, you know, 20, 25 percent of the vote.

And then there is Santorum, who I think he has one strategy, to deny Romney a majority and hope for lightning. I don't think it's gonna happen but I think it's really only a matter of weeks. Everybody, even the vice president now is assuming it's gonna be Romney. And I think it's kind of, psychologically the race is over.

BREAM: And once you are out of money that makes it tough to continue on, which we know several of them are struggling with that.

All right, panel, thank you very much. Stay tuned, though. You've heard all about the heat that President Obama's been taking over the comments he made to Russia's president. Well, there is more to that. And we'll bring it to you right after the break.

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