How Donald Trump's debate boycott will play out in Iowa

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 27, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, R, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've had six debates so far. Every online poll said I won every one of the debates, especially the last one, by the way, with the New York values, which was horrible what Ted Cruz said. But, you know what, the Democrats are all finished with their debates. They've had six. They were hidden behind football games and every other thing. They're all finished with their debates. We're going to go on forever with these debates. At some point you have got to start doing other things other than debating.


BRET BAIER, HOST: There's Donald Trump today, a sneak peek at an interview with Bill O'Reilly that will air tonight at 8:00 eastern time. Donald Trump, as we said, is choosing so far not to come to the debate here in Des Moines, setting up another event. That is his decision now. We'll obviously be ready with the podium if he chooses to be on the stage.

He did he tweet today, Ted Cruz, who suggested they have a one-on-one debate, Trump tweeting this, saying "Even though I beat him in the first six debates, especially the last one, Ted Cruz wants to debate me again. Can we do it in Canada?"

So let's start there, bring in our panel from Washington, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at "National Review," A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Charles, how does this play out?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, he has gotten what he wanted to get, which is blanket wall-to-wall coverage of him, wiping out everything else going up to the debate. That I think was well-played. But I think he loses if he doesn't show up. He needs to find some honorable way out. Make big donations to the vets and challenge FOX to match it, and say if they do that, he'll show up.

But I think snubbing Iowa where they take their politics really personally, and also not having a good reason. If he just saw that on that clip you just showed, I mean, is it an argument to say we've had too many debates? That's not a reason for standing up America, Iowa, and the other candidates when you already have accepted and were listed on the list. So I think if this is a competition between his narcissism and his cattiness, and I think I would guess that his narcissism, meaning staying out, is going to win over.

BAIER: A.B., we talk to people here on the ground, his supporters, loyal supporters still with him. If you look at the RCP average, the Real Clear Politics average of polls here, he is up roughly six points over Ted Cruz. This is obviously before this decision over the past day or so. Thoughts on how this plays out here in Iowa?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": That's the thing. I think if you look at his inconsistent answers for refusing to debate. First it is Megyn Kelly. He put that on the Instagram video. Then it was not about Megyn Kelly. Then it's about too many debates. If you're an Iowa voter and you're on the fence about Donald Trump, someone who has not done hand to hand campaigning. He just recently has stayed a night at a Holiday Inn and done a few diners. But he has mostly flown in and out the same day after big rallies and not really done the face to face campaigning Iowans are used to. If you were on the fence and he's risking losing your vote, I think that's a mistake.

In the end it's going to come out to whether or not the energy of Trump supporters are going to with same day registration, yield enough new time, first time caucus-goers for him to beat Ted Cruz, or if Ted Cruz's superior ground game, which it might not be better than Donald Trump's that we know of, but it sure looks that way. If you talk to people there, it is better than they've seen in a really long time.

BAIER: All right, Jonah, quickly, because I want to move on the Democrats.

JONAH GOLDBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": People are talking about this decision as if it is the boldest move since Caesar crossed the Rubicon. And maybe it is in terms of the national media exposure and all that. But in terms of Iowa where we don't know. Where Trump is weakest among Iowa voters are the once where everyone sort of has this huge question mark, people who have never gone to a caucus before. So how this plays out with traditional voters who are very protective of the prerogatives might be one thing. But it might energize the first timers and we just won't know until next week.

BAIER: All right, Bernie Sanders at the White House today. Hillary Clinton telling a local reporter over the past couple of days that she thinks the president essentially endorsed her. Bernie Sanders at the White House today.


HILLARY CLINTON, D, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am grateful to Iowans for being willing to talk with me and offer ideas as we've traveled across the state. I know that I will be a better president because of what I've learned here in Iowa.

BERNIE SANDERS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what the Iowa campaign ends up being about is one word, and that is "turnout." And I think we stand a very good chance to do well in Iowa and forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the president's endorsement?

SANDERS: No, of course not.


BAIER: No endorsement, he said. But the Quinnipiac poll out says Sanders is up four here. Charles, how does this dynamic play out with the president in the background?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think what it does -- I don't think it is a huge boost. But I think what it does do, A, it rights the balance. I thought there was a misinterpretation about Obama's candidates about the two candidates a few days ago. And then Hillary kind of stepped on it by saying it is essentially an endorsement. Obviously the White House trying to issue a corrective, and that's what it did.

I'm not sure in the end that's going to make a big difference. Again, it is evenly balanced. The president has not endorsed either one in any way. That is significant. But I think if Sanders is rallying, if he is rising now and is passing Hillary in this last pull in Iowa, it can only help.


STODDARD: I think the trajectory of momentum as we've seen in Iowa, Bret, four years we sat there and aid it is the night before the vote with one more day. We thought Santorum would win. Rick Santorum, he was the winner. We just didn't find out for few weeks afterwards. I think that the move of Bernie Sanders polling should be worrying Hillary Clinton even though she has a terrific ground operation there and has worked very hard and put her resources into winning that first contest.

But the expectations are really too high for Sanders. If you look at it she is allowed to lose Iowa and New Hampshire and then have this firewall later, and she has assured the party of that. But if he loses Iowa, then, apparently, the air is out of his balloon. So it is an interesting expectations game at this point.

BAIER: As you've just mentioned Rick Santorum, as we've been teasing all week, we are ready to announce the data from the new Contenders! app. More than 23,000 people logged on to the FOX News app that rated statements from all the candidates on the refugee crisis. And the statement that was most agreed with was, "Radical Islam is on the move and their motives are to destroy the western world. We cannot afford to make a mistake in relocating even one of these jihadists to our soil." That statement belongs to the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucus, Rick Santorum.

Here's how all the candidates did. The scale was one to 100 with one meaning complete disagreement, 100 total agreement. Users were also ranking the refugee topic as an important issue, ranking it on an average of four out of five stars. Jonah, I know you took the quiz. What were your results?

GOLDBERG: Mine was actually Rubio by a nose. But I think now that I know that Santorum has the vox populi behind him, it is a game changer.

BAIER: It is interesting. It's fun to see the different quotes. And we'll have a different issue every week, and we'll talk about how these results come in. The next issue, by the way, for the Contenders! app, is the middle class. And we'll bring you those results next Wednesday.

If you have not gotten the app, it is very easy. You just go to the app store. You download it. And then the Contenders! part is in the left hand corner there and you can do it very easily with the quotes. And it is a little bit of fun. We'll have more quotes definitely tomorrow night in the debate.

Next up we will talk to some journalists covering the campaign here in Iowa, panelists from Washington. Thank you. We'll be right back.

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