Gov. Pence praises Trump in endorsement of Cruz

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 29, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates in the field. I particularly want to commend Donald Trump who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.

I've come to my decision about who I'm supporting, and I'm not against anybody. But I will be voting for Ted Cruz.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am thrilled to have Governor Pence's support. I am a huge fan of Governor Mike Pence. He is a principled, strong conservative.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Senator Ted Cruz got the endorsement of Indiana's governor Mike Pence as you heard just there. It took him a little while to get to that endorsement, but he got there. It is important as Cruz is battling for Indiana as you take a look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls in Indiana, you see it's tightening a bit there. And this is the average of recent polls in Indiana. The most recent poll came out today. It's from the Center for Indiana Politics, and it has a big change in that Ted Cruz is up 16. That doesn't track with other recent polls, but it is the latest poll out of Indiana.

So we'll start there with our panel: syndicated columnist George Will; Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, and Charles Hurt, political columnist for The Washington Times. First, George, Mike Pence, that endorsement, what does it mean?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It was tardy, timid, incoherent, and inconsequential probably. Tardy in the sense that it comes on the eve of the voting and after early voting has been going on for a long time. It's one of the reasons that early voting is such a bad idea. It happens before full information is before the voters.

It's timid because, as you saw, he was really kind of straddled, not going to offend anybody at all. It's a kind of poison chalice because being endorsed by an incumbent governor in the year where everyone hates, we're told, the leadership class, it's a mixed blessing. And whether or not it will be consequential is doubtful because at this point there surely can't be six undecided voters in the state of Indiana.

BAIER: Kirsten, thoughts?

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY: I think you compare it to Wisconsin and Scott Walker's endorsement, which was very enthusiastic, very anti-Trump, that you had the talk radio people interrogating Trump. It was much more enthusiastic I think than what we're seeing with Pence where he probably felt this is the last chance to stop Trump. The establishment is kind of giving up on the idea of stopping him, but let's give it a try. That's what it felt like. It didn't feel like it was something -- he's probably sort of accepted that Trump may get the nomination but needed to do this and put this marker down.

BAIER: It also, Charlie, sounded like he's up for reelection. And eventually, he will have to deal with a large population in his state that supports Donald Trump.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Which underscores how powerful the support -- Trump support has been in all of these pockets in an unexpected way. He carried every single county in five states that he ran in earlier this week -- just staggering. He outperformed even what he himself had predicted.

That is by far the strangest endorsement I've ever heard. I've never heard of an endorsement where you're not -- if Michael Jordan said I wear Nike, but I'm not expecting anybody else to wear Nike, he wouldn't get a very lucrative deal from Nike.

BAIER: Here is Donald Trump on the GOP picking candidates.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Republican Party in a presidential sense doesn't win any more. You pick your standard cookie cutters. I can tell you already, just give me the name of the person and I'll tell you exactly what state she's going to win and what states she's going to lose. I'm different because I'm going to win states that nobody else can.


BAIER: The Cruz camp is still saying they can stop Trump, but we've shown on the map that it's very possible he gets to 1,237 before the convention. We'll see how it pans out. But George, if he's the candidate, is he right that he can win states that other Republicans can't?

WILL: His theory is that there are enough disaffected, downscale, that is non-college-educated white voters, who have hitherto in recent elections stayed home. That he can locate and motivate these people and bring them to the polls and flip states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and elsewhere. It's an enormous risk. It's actually the theory that Ted Cruz had entering this campaign, that it was going to work in primaries, might have done if Trump hadn't come in, and it will work in the general election. It's an enormous risk.

BAIER: What about the Republican Party? I want to read just a piece of David Brooks' New York Times op-ed which was interesting to read. He says "this election not only the Trump phenomena but the rise of Bernie Sanders also has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. Trump's success grew out of that pain, but he is not the right response to it. The job for the rest of us is to figure out the right response. Maybe the task is to build a ladder of hope. People across America who have been falling through the cracks, their children adrift, Trump to his credit made them visible. We can start at the personal level just by hearing them talk. Trump will have his gruesome moment. The time is best spent elsewhere, meeting the neighbors who have become strangers and listening to what they have to say." He went on to say it was a Joe McCarthy moment. Pretty blistering. Is it conceivable that the Republican Party can unify?

POWERS: I think David is going through stages of grief. He's really been opposed to Trump and I think he's aware the establishment is coming, which is they're starting to accept that this is going to happen and he's obviously not going to get behind them, and a lot of other people won't. A lot of people will. And so I think people will be looking for a way to understand this. And I do think that David is right about the fact that a lot of the people did not understand how disaffected Americans are.

BAIER: I want to play the other side of the potential ticket in the fall, Hillary Clinton on the women's card.


HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak. I'm not going to deal with their temper tantrums or their bullying. If playing the women's card means standing up for the concerns that women have and they express to me, then deal me in.


BAIER: Charlie?

HURT: You know, just to go back to the David Brooks thing because it's sort of amazing to me, it's astonishing to me that he and so many other people are surprised by the amount of pain and agony that is going on in America today. You know you don't have to go far outside of Washington or New York to see the ravages of people who are addicted to meth and heroin. It is truly catastrophic. And I think he revealed something about himself when he says, oh, this is -- I'm surprised by this. But, you know, maybe he can get to work on his ladder of hope and --

BAIER: Outside the beltway?

HURT: Yes.

BAIER: Back to Hillary.

HURT: Yes. I'm fascinated by this. You know, she's obviously going with this woman card thing, grabbing it with both hands. I talk to conservative women and they, a lot of them, they don't like her, but they do find that line of attack appealing. Obviously Donald Trump is going full-bore in the other direction with it. And it may be something that could wind up being -- he might have to temper some of that.

BAIER: George?

WILL: I do not see the cost-benefit of this for the Republican Party. I mean, Mr. Trump is going to have huge problems getting to Mitt Romney's level of support with young people, with Hispanics and other minorities, levels that were, not to put too fine a point on it, inadequate. And now he's gone out of his way to insult 52 percent of the electorate.

BAIER: Are Democrats licking their chops?

POWERS: Yes, they are. But I have to say, and I would say if I had to analyze this right now, Donald Trump should not have done this. How many times have we said that? And so who knows? There seems to be a method to his madness. It seems to be a mistake to do this.

Look, she is playing the woman's card in the sense that she says I'm a woman and that's a benefit to you. What Donald Trump says I think probably is out of line is the fact that she would not be in the position she's in if she wasn't a woman. I don't think that's true. I think a lot of women probably don't agree with that.

BAIER: Last word.

HURT: As George points out, it is a very risky strategy that Donald Trump is trying. But if anybody could do it, it would be him. Certainly Ted Cruz can't do it, I don't think.

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