Is Donald Trump's lead shrinking?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 8, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way I believe to beat Donald Trump is beat him at the ballot box. Beat him at the ballot box by getting 1,237 delegates. That's what we are fighting to do.

When we focus, we tend to do pretty darn well.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a quest to make America great again, make America smart again, and make it so that Michigan doesn't lose its car industry and that other states don't lose their industries, whatever they may be.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you haven't voted already, go vote. The polls are open now. Go vote so you can get spend the next six days getting other people to vote.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Some of the sights and sounds from the campaign trail on this big election night. Let's bring in our panel, here in New York: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, Dana Perino, co-host of "The Five," and in Washington, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Steve, you look at these exit polls. What do you see?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's pretty interesting looking at the exit polls for a number of reasons. One of the things that jumped out early is Ted Cruz. One of the questions about Ted Cruz's candidacy going forward is whether he could increase his appeal. He does very well with very conservative voters. He does well with evangelical voters. How does he do among somewhat conservative voters as the field narrows? Judging from Michigan and Mississippi, these two states today, he does better as the field narrows. He was at 26 percent in Mississippi and
23 percent in Michigan. That's an improvement over virtually every other state that Cruz has competed in. And I think if you're running the Cruz campaign, you take heart in those.

The other interesting thing I saw from these exit polls, you've had both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz say we he would like to have a head to head mano-y-mano. They did an exit poll on that. Trump beat Cruz head to head in Mississippi 51-42, in Michigan Cruz beat Trump 43-40. So interesting if it gets to a head to head.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE HILL: I think the big story is what's going on with Marco Rubio. I just don't see any indication in all these poll that people are reacting well. We know he did well in Virginia last time coming in very close. But this time the argument that, you know what, Trump is a con artist, and Trump University is evidence of that kind of con and he is not to be trusted as a conservative, it does not seem to be working at all in Michigan.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton doing I think very well, and the interesting thing I noted in the polling was very well with white women, surprisingly well.

BAIER: Charles, in D.C., we'll have actual votes tonight which is always the best thing. But as you look to another poll, the "Wall Street Journal"-NBC just came out nationally tonight in its newest poll. On the Republican side, it has it actually pretty close. Trump at 30, Cruz 27, Kasich 22, and Rubio at 20. And then the head to head, Cruz versus Trump, Kasich versus Trump, Rubio versus Trump, all three of them against Trump do better according to the latest poll. But I tell you, we'll see what the real numbers are tonight when we get actual votes.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: If you combine the results of the poll with so many exit polls results, you get the idea that Trump has slid back somewhat, at least as we saw the poll. And you get this very interesting result which we also saw a few days ago on Saturday, which is that the very late deciders, the ones who decided since a Saturday or Sunday, go not to Trump. In Michigan it is almost two to one to Cruz. The problem for Cruz and the others is that an overwhelming majority have already decided. Either they have cast early ballots, as happened in some of the states on Saturday, or they decided early on and they were not going to be changed. And that's about in the 60 to 70 percent change.

So there is this storyline. Yes, Trump has perhaps been damaged somewhat by the late revelations. But on the other side is the fact that his constituency that has decided early is so loyal that it is going to remain unshakeable. And it could be that the two influences cancel each other out and he stays where he was riding high as he was for the last month or two.

BAIER: Dana?

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS: I think looking at the exit polls and comparing them to the ones we've seen in all the states so far, to things remain the same and one thing is different that comes to my mind.
The first thing is that if you look at voters dissatisfied with Washington or even angry with Washington, that number remains the same in Michigan and Mississippi. Immigration, still number four out of four issues as the fourth most important to voters. But what's different is that Donald Trump for the first time as I recall is winning in the category of can win in November. Up to now he has not. That has usually gone to either Cruz or Rubio. And today I think at least so far what we know is that he might have been able to change that dynamic.

BAIER: What's interesting, Juan mentioned, Steve, the Rubio story and what's happening here and how he sets up for Florida. Here is Rush Limbaugh on Ted Cruz's strategy inside Florida.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Ted Cruz is opening 10 campaign offices in Florida this week. Ted Cruz knows he can't win Florida, but it is obviously designed to take votes away from little Marco. This is not a Cruz dirty trick. This is payback. Rubio opened a bunch of offices in Texas to try to stop Cruz. It's not dirty tricks. It's politics.


BAIER: So what about that? Because, you know, in order to get on a contested convention, which is the way that these guys get to the nomination, they have to stop Trump from having big wins.

HAYES: They have on stop Trump, but I think in the event of a contested convention, Ted Cruz would rather see Marco Rubio gone. He doesn't want him to be part of any conversation in the event of a contested convention.

BAIER: So they've done the math you think, that with Trump getting the 99 Florida delegates, that he can still be stopped to 1,237.

HAYES: That they can stop him or that at least Cruz can get to more delegates at the beginning of the convention than Trump does. I think that's the play here. It's interesting. You have got these changes in strategy in a way. I think Trump is trying to get to 1,237. I think Ted Cruz is trying to get to more delegates going into the convention than Trump has. I think Rubio he is solely focused on Florida, trying to save his candidacy there. And I think Kasich is trying to accumulate enough delegates to allow him to become the king maker in Cleveland in his home state this summer.

I think Kasich, actually, even if he were to lose Ohio. If Rubio didn't win Florida and if Kasich were to lose Ohio, he has very little incentive to get out because he can accumulate the delegates from the moderate and somewhat conservative voters going forward on terrain that's very friendly to the arguments he's making and be the king maker in Ohio.

BAIER: Just to be clear for everybody at home. You have to get to 1,237, and they have to stop Trump from getting there, otherwise it's a done deal.

Quickly on Kasich, Juan, if he doesn't have a great night tonight, either doesn't win or even come in second, does that hurt him on his way to Ohio?

WILLIAMS: What he says is he would like to have a strong showing, especially in Michigan. But the idea being that he is on home turf in that upper Midwest region extending to Ohio, and that that will give him the momentum to do exactly what Steve just described, be a king maker at the convention. I don't think he legitimately thinks he is going to be the nominee.

BAIER: We'll see.

Content and Programming Copyright 2016 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2016 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.