This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


NEWT GINGRICH, R - FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today I am suspending the campaign but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship. Callista and I are committed to be active citizens. I am asked sometimes, is Mitt Romney conservative enough? And my answer is simple. Compared to Barack Obama? You know this is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical leftist president in American history.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Newt Gingrich ending his campaign today in Arlington, Virginia. He met with Romney staffers earlier this week and they're said to be considering helping him raise money to retire his $4 million plus campaign debt. He also wants a speaking slot at the convention. We'll see where that goes.

We're back with the panel. Mara, what about this speech, the end, and his -- your thoughts?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, it doesn't change anything. I mean I think he was already not a factor, irrelevant. But I think the thing that did matter today is the faint praise, the fact that he couldn't either say nothing or say something positive about Mitt Romney. I mean to -- already he -- once again he's questioning his conservatism. I thought that was in bad form. But you know that's what it is and we've gotten a lot of people who've given Romney less than full throated endorsements, and Newt probably will be another one and I bet he's going to get a 1:00 a.m. speaking slot for it.

BAIER: What -- what about this, Steve? The fact that this speech, the Santorum speech -- Santorum's meeting with Romney on May 4th. The endorsement factor or lack thereof.

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I mean, look, obviously that was damning with faint praises, it's not exactly the kind of thing you want if you are in the Romney campaign and you want sort of everybody to come together and to try to create this enthusiasm around your candidate. On the other hand, you know, if he had said Mitt Romney is the greatest Republican in the history of Republicanism and we need him --


HAYES: Or -- well, you've given a more sort of effusive endorsement and everything tonight and everything tomorrow would have been Newt Gingrich who said, you know, these eight negative things about Mitt Romney is now totally going back, so look, I mean, this is the game, this is what happens in Washington, but I think the bottom line -- I agree with Mara -- he wasn't a factor, certainly wasn't a factor of late.

The bottom line is he's endorsed Mitt Romney, this ends sort of further splintering of the Republican Party and if he actually, you know, is willing to work for Romney it's probably a small benefit.

BAIER: Charles, big picture on this campaign. We had talked many times on this panel about where it was, it was alive. It was dead. It was a live and then dead again.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You get apparently two Lazaruses and that's it. You don't get a third. And I thought, you know, for a guy who started with not much and had two shots at the frontrunner spot, I think he did rather well, but I think he just -- he's not a guy cut out for the presidency or for running for the presidency and I think it showed. That's why he did badly. I don't even think he's going to get a 1:00 a.m. speaking slot. He's going to get his speaking slot that will be heard in Guam and Alaska perhaps, because this was very ungracious.

Santorum at least had the decency not even to mention the name Romney, but essentially to say he's still not a conservative is not a good thing, and I don't think he's going to have any role and Romney doesn't need to offer him anything. Unlike Santorum, who has something of a constituency or a Ron Paul who has a serious constituency, small but really dedicated with whom he's going to have to deal.

He doesn't have to offer Newt anything and I don't think he will. So I agree with my colleagues here. It's not a factor. It doesn't change anything. The real issue is will Santorum say something nice and really encourage his social conservative supporters to whom he does speak to support Romney or not. And that will be an important question.

BAIER: I want to play one quick sound bite from Mitt Romney on the trail mentioning someone for the second time in a few days.


MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the president did was one item after another, make it harder and harder for small business to thrive and to grow and to start up. It was the most anti-small business administration I've seen probably since Carter. Who would have guessed we'd look back at the Carter years as the good old days? You know, it's --


BAIER: So Mara, will this be a recurring theme for Mitt Romney?

LIASSON: Well, I don't know if it's a good idea for it to be recurring theme. But they seem to want it to be, you know, they said that Barack Obama is having a Jimmy Carter moment when it comes to North Korea and Syria and Iran. The other day he said that the decision to the raid on Osama bin Laden was such a no-brainer, even Jimmy Carter -- the subtext is the worst foreign policy president in modern history, would have done it.

You know, I think this has been a hard week for Mitt Romney. It just has been. He's come right up against all the powers that an incumbent president has to command attention, drive the news cycle, you know hop in a plane, go to Afghanistan, and, you know, Romney has been either saying I would have done the same thing, or complaining about how Obama has been politicizing things. I think he should just drop the Cater stuff.

BAIER: You're shaking your head.

HAYES: Yeah. I think I wouldn't have used the Jimmy Carter reference in context of Afghanistan and the bin Laden raid, but I think you're -- he's fine to use that and should use it as often as he can in the context of the broader discussion. We are now in a period of malaise. Once again. Like Jimmy Carter. That comparison helps.

KRAUTHAMMER: Jimmy Carter is the Republican Herbert Hoover, the Democrats flogged Hoover for 30 years, we've got just about a few years left to go after Carter.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see how times have changed.

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