Kick Off for Republican Primary

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say. And our commitment to making sure that justice was done is something that transcended politics, transcended parties.

PAUL RYAN, R-WISC., HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We may not get the grand slam agreement, but let's get a single or a double. Let's get some down payment on spending.

Let's get some down payment on actually cutting spending, discretionary and what we call mandatory spending. And let's get some really good tough fiscal discipline.


BAIER: A big news day as we're here in Greenville, South Carolina. The president traveling to New York going to Ground Zero, meeting with 9/11 families and as you saw there talking to first responders.

As well as some economic news, dismal economic news out today. As you take a look at this graphic about unemployment figures, the insurance weekly claims report, application for jobless benefits rising.

Number of people for initial request surging by 43,000 in the last week of April, this brought the total to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 in the week that ended April 30. And that is the highest level since August of 2010.

This as Democrats and Republicans try to come to some agreement on the big deal you just heard from Representative Ryan. Let's bring in our panel, which is also the panel of questioners tonight at the debate.

Chris Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday," Fox News correspondent and anchor Shannon Bream and Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill and Fox News political analyst. Are we ready?



Hey Juan, today for the president, what about this and the political implications of this visit to New York?

JUAN WILLIAMS, THEHILL.COM: Well, in some ways, you know, he had said that there was no time for spiking the ball. And everybody remembers mission accomplished in terms of President Bush.

But this was a moment, I think, that I don't think is going to be subject to a lot of controversy or back biting. I think people see it as an affirmation, a proud moment for America in going after and getting our number one enemy.

And going there to Ground Zero to say to the first responders as well as the private meeting with the families of those who died that day as you just heard from the president that they are not forgotten.

And that America kept its promise and that we don't forget. And we can get off the mat and we can avenge that kind of injustice.

BAIER: You know, Shannon, there are some out there that are saying this is a tough environment for Republican candidates this week in particular, to be answering questions heading into this campaign.

We have been working on them all day, but this factors in, the bin Laden week, but also, so many other topics that we've been working on.

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A lot of them and of course, they have to give credit to the president for finishing this mission even if they want to credit the Bush administration for starting it. So I think that they will have to answer for maybe some of the things they've said in the past.

Criticisms of the president now that he's accomplished something that a lot of people say is worthy of praise. So there are a lot of different topics, but that's certainly gonna be one of them.

BAIER: Chris, I mean, this story has obviously over taken the news of the week, sucked up all the oxygen, but the economy is really what people talk about at the kitchen table at home.

WALLACE: Oh absolutely and that's why the political reality for this president is that this is a great triumph for him. The country takes pride in it and you can see in the polls about a 5 to 10-point jump in his approval rating, but particularly on issues related to terrorism and the war on terror.

When it gets to the economy and dealing with the deficit, not nearly so much and you know, that is the reality for this president is that people are going to view this as a great triumph.

But they're going to realize that when it comes to gas prices, when it comes to jobless benefits, things like that, that they still have a lot of doubts about his leadership.

BAIER: What are challenges for these candidates and you know, depending on what you read. People are saying, you know, the big names aren't here. There are some names who have been around the country campaigning already who will be here at this debate.

WALLACE: I'll give you one case study. I was in all of the debates that Fox did in 2008. Mike Huckabee, there was nobody in the original debate, in the original couple of debates, who was more of a fringe candidate, more of a second tier candidate than Mike Huckabee.

And after every debate not only we on the panel, but I think the political class and I think a lot of Republican voters said, hey, he's a pretty impressive guy. And suddenly he vaulted from the second tier to the first tier and that's what all these guys are going to be looking to do tonight. I mean, it's the first debate. There are a lot of guys who were on the sidelines. Here's a real opportunity for one of these five people to be taken seriously tomorrow.

BAIER: Juan, is it your sense that people who are not here, there will be some backlash perhaps in South Carolina, perhaps elsewhere?

WILLIAMS: I think Mitt Romney is going to experience some backlash for not being here. He is right now technically the front runner a number of polls. He's made the decision not to appear here.

I think Newt Gingrich who pulled out of this debate has made a decision. He's going to announce in Georgia, I understand next week. He's made a decision not to be here.

You stop and think about some of the people who you would imagine could gain some attention in the way that Chris just described from being here.

Distinguish themselves in terms of their thinking and possibly get some of the money flowing into their coffers who are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

BAIER: We'll have some fun tonight, Shannon.

BREAM: Absolutely. I think there are some surprises coming that our viewers will really, really enjoy. I don't know about the candidates, but at the end of the day, I think they'll have a great time.

BAIER: And you have been around this block before. It's exciting.

WALLACE: Oh it absolutely is exciting. And you know, I laugh at these people - well, it's the second stringer or whatever. You get five politicians all jockeying for position.

We have spent days. I don't have to tell you, but I will tell all of you, days figuring out questions, what are they going to say, how are we going to come back at them. And no matter what we plan, there will still be surprises on that stage tonight.

WILLIAMS: I think it's going to be like a libertarian debate as well as a Republican debate with Gary Johnson and Congressman Paul --

BREAM: Congressman Paul --

WILLIAMS: -- on the stage. A lot of surprises I think in terms of people who think, OH it's just a monolithic Republican viewpoint. Not tonight.

BAIER: It will be fun. See you in a bit. So what are South Carolina voters looking for in a candidate? What are the big issues here?

We will talk with some local journalists right here on this panel about that next. You can watch tonight's debate streaming live online. You can log on to We'll see you at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

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