Negative Campaign Ads Taking a Toll on GOP Candidates?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Well, there’s a war of words brewing between two GOP presidential hopefuls. Newt Gingrich is demanding that Mitt Romney tell the Super PAC Restore Our Future to stop running negative ads. Good luck with that. Here's a look at one of their videos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what makes Barack Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage. Newt has more baggage than the airlines. Fannie Mac helped caused the economic collapse but Newt Gingrich cashed in. Freddie Mac paid Newt $30,000 an hour. $1.6 million.


CROWLEY: Well, the Super PAC responsible for that ad, which is supporting Mitt Romney, is run by former top political aides to the governor. And earlier today, Mitt Romney responded to Newt's charge on "Fox & Friends."


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are limits as to what you can tell a PAC obviously. These coordination rules you're not allowed to coordinate. But I'm sure I could go out and say, hey, please, don't do anything negative. But you know this is politics. And if you can't stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama hell's kitchen turns up the heat.

Look, this is a time when we have to be able to stand up and defend ourselves. I’ve done the hard work of raising money for ads. And the speaker came after me pretty aggressively in his attacks. We're going to respond. And we've got an ad campaign and my campaign that's positive. But this Super PAC that's been organized, it has to do what it does on an uncoordinated basis.


CROWLEY: Joining me now with reaction are Fox News contributor, Ed Rollins, and Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour.

Great to see both of you.


CROWLEY: All right, so, Ed, let me start with you. You've been in this business a long time; politics ain't bean bag especially at the presidential level. Come on. This is how it's done.

ROLLINS: No, actually not. And Larry McCarthy who's the architect of those ads for that Super PAC is the best in the business; he's always my number one choice when I do campaigns. Romney beat up everybody last time. He had -- he had a field day. Beat up Giuliani, beat up Huckabee, beat up everybody and then we beat him up.

So, you know its part of the game. Newt's problem is he got to the top of the heap here without any money, any organization. So he doesn't have the money to respond and he basically wants to run a, quote, "above-board, positive campaign." And you know he's not answering his own charges.

CROWLEY: You know that only goes so far. And every couple of years we hear this, right, Noelle? We hear the American public doesn't want to see negative ads. And a lot of us really believe that. But you know what? Negative ads work. We're seeing it now with Newt Gingrich's numbers starting to come down because he has been the punching bag. Right?

NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, absolutely. I mean, and it's a clean way for the candidates to be removed. When a PAC gets involved, underneath the bad advertising, it says paid for by Club for Growth. Paid for by Concerned Citizens. Paid for by my dog does a better job than Barack Obama. It's whatever you want to stay.

CROWLEY: That sounds like a good PAC dialect. I'm going to start that one.

ROLLINS: But equally as important, this is Newt's record. And they are basically letting people know. There's new Newt, but there's an old Newt. And this is what they're basically going out and talking about.

CROWLEY: And with these guys, they're all big boys, they understand what they're getting into when they get into this, and frankly, I think the brawl is good and I think Romney has a very good point here. If you can't take it now from folks on your own side, then you're not going to be at all prepared for what Obama, Axelrod and Plouffe have prepared for you.

NIKPOUR: What did Newt think? That he was going to be able just to have, you know, tiddlywinks all the way through here? That they were going to be, you know, Miss Congeniality all the way through here? This is a primary and everybody is fighting to be the GOP nominee. It's going to get a little dirty. And frankly, before I decide who I want to vote for, as Joe voter, I want to know what their baggage is. How they voted. What's their record?

CROWLEY: In other words, vetted.

NIKPOUR: Go ahead and get it out.

CROWLEY: Which we didn't get with Barack Obama in 2008. The press protected him, right? None of his baggage. And by the way, going into this election, nobody has more baggage than Barack Obama. It's called an abysmal economic record. So while we're all focused on Newt's baggage from the ‘90s or what Romney has to say about health care, keep the focus on Barack Obama.

ROLLINS: We will. And the bottom line is, whoever is our nominee -- and I don't want to make an assumption at this point in time, but whoever it is is going to be in a big knock-down, drag-out war. This is all -- this is the pre-training. And obviously, there's a lot at stake.

Newt has been around the game a long time. He's had some tough people around him. But for some reason this time he decides he doesn't want to do it the way everybody else does it.

NIKPOUR: Well, let's face it. If Newt had the money, Newt’s smart. Newt knows how to attack. Newt would be doing counterattacks and there would be a PAC probably organized doing those attacks to go against the ads that the other PAC had that was going against Newt.

So he's smart. He's -- I don't believe that what he is saying is very authentic. I think if he had the money to do it, he would be doing it, hey. And if he doesn't, and he doesn't have the money, but he could announce, he could have a press conference. He could do this stuff for free. He had put something on the Internet. He could fight back and defend his record.

ROLLINS: He's got here because he's smart. And he did very well in the debates. And the debates are not it. At the end of the day, we're not going to have three-hour debates like he wants. No president’s going to agree to that. So, you know, he's had -- he's got to move to the top of the pack by being very smart and a lot of people fall for him.

Now it's his turn. Now we're going to see how tough he is and can he come back.

CROWLEY: And you know a lot of people say, look, a bruising primary hurts the candidates going into the general. I completely disagree. If you think of 2008, Hillary versus Barack, I mean that was the bloodiest of all. The Clinton machine -- come on. And Barack Obama emerged a much tougher, stronger candidate going into the general. And that's what's going to happen to the Republicans.

NIKPOUR: Well, Monica, do you think that the GOP nominee, going against Obama, do you think it's going to be a bed of roses? It's going to be -- it's going to be a blood bath.

CROWLEY: $1 billion, right? $1 billion, Ed. Axelrod and Plouffe these guys know how to play the blood sport.


ROLLINS: Well, they can't be with $1 billion make him a good president. What they can try and do is make us --


ROLLINS: An unacceptable alternative and that would be the strategy. So at the end of the day you got to -- you got to answer these questions. And Newt’s refused to do that. Obviously in the next couple of week he's going to try, but he doesn't have the organization yet.

NIKPOUR: And when we say $1 billion, I'm a national fundraiser, and this $1 billion, isn't going to just his campaign. It is being spread out with Super PACs.



CROWLEY: The unions.

NIKPOUR: It's being spread out. So a lot of people say $1 billion, each candidate has to personally raise $1 billion. Not so. We need to make it clear that this is spread out among PACs and this is where these negative ads and these blast ads, which do work, come out.

CROWLEY: All right. Finally, just very quickly, predictions for Iowa? Ed?

ROLLINS: You know, I think Paul is well positioned to win this thing, but I think Romney is holding his own. I think Romney can --

CROWLEY: If Ron Paul wins, then what?

ROLLINS: Then Iowa --

CROWLEY: Doesn't New Hampshire start from scratch?


ROLLINS: Iowa doesn't matter. At the end of the day, Iowa doesn't matter.

CROWLEY: Start from scratch in New Hampshire?

NIKPOUR: Totally agree with that. But I do -- I think that Romney’s going to go ahead and push forward.

ROLLINS: He could. He could.

CROWLEY: If Romney wins Iowa.

NIKPOUR: I think Romney wins.

CROWLEY: All right. You heard it here first. Of course the voters in Iowa might --

ROLLINS: They do get -- they do --

CROWLEY: All wrong.

ROLLINS: They have done it any time in the past.

CROWLEY: Ed, Noelle, it's great to see you.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Merry Christmas.

ROLLINS: A pleasure.

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