Perry Leading in GOP Polls

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 25, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You heard some of the differences, the list goes on and on. But you can probably figure out with -- our bill was 70 pages long. Obamacare is 2,000 pages. It's a power grab by the federal government, taking power away from states and power away from people.

RICK PERRY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts health care plan that he passed is a huge problem for him, and yeah, it was not almost perfect.


BRET BAIER: Before the break we asked who has the better chance of winning the GOP presidential nomination? And 77 percent of you said Rick Perry, 23 percent said Mitt Romney in this unscientific poll.

We have another poll to show you, the newest Gallup poll out, and this is where the frontrunners flipped. You see Rick Perry in this poll. These are announced candidates only, Rick Perry at 29 percent, Mitt Romney at 17 percent. Ron Paul with another good showing in this poll, 13 percent. And you can see Congresswoman Bachmann at 10 percent.

We're back with the panel. Juan, what about this battle back and forth? It's obviously not a battle too much in that Governor Romney hasn't joined it -- attacking Governor Perry that much.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: No. First of all, the poll is really stunning to me. I mean it's clear, Rick Perry has transformed this race. Everybody's telling you about who might get in, who might not get in. But Rick Perry has a substantial base of support among Republicans, and I think it's evidence of the fact, ya know remember Mitt Romney has been leading until this point, everybody getting in and out. Tim Pawlenty all the rest, no. Suddenly Rick Perry comes in and he takes the lead.

Now I'm not sure that all the critics, and there have been so many critics of Rick Perry over the last week, so many incidents with him. I'm not sure that this poll properly allows people to get a sense of who Rick Perry is and make a judgment. He is new to a lot of Americans, a lot of Republicans. They don't know him as a national figure. But it really is telling that he comes on the scene and immediately seizes the lead. Mitt Romney has not been fighting with him. I think Mitt Romney is going to have to change his strategy and go after Rick Perry some if this is a Romney-Perry fight.

BAIER: Okay Nina, full disclosure, your husband is advisor on Mitt Romney's campaign. He is probably going to have to come swinging at some point, if these polls go too much further in Perry's direction.

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: Well what is interesting is that the ones who are swinging right now at Perry are Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman in particular. So it's like the second tier candidates are going after Rick Perry.

But just to add a little historical perspective to this, I went back and looked at the August 2008 polls of presidential nominees. Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani was 28 percent. Fred Thompson was 17 percent. Romney was 13 percent. McCain was 11 percent. And Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus and took off was only at three percent. So it's really, I think what happens when somebody jumps in, the new bright shiny object, they of course command tremendous attention. The other thing to keep in mind is Donald Trump was tied for first when he got in, and a month later he was out.

Now Rick Perry is different, three-term governor, a serious contender. He's declared, he's a declared candidate, so I think he's a tremendously formidable candidate. But I just think that these things are tremendously fluid.

BAIER: That is a good point and one that Governor Huntsman made on his own behalf on Neil Cavuto's show today.


JON HUNTSMAN, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If this had been the reality, last go around in 2008, Fred Thompson would be president, if you kind of read the polls then. Howard Dean would have been president in 2004. How many frontrunners have we had in the race already in several months? Probably four or five. Nobody is paying attention, nobody is tuned in with the exception of the insider crowd.


BAIER: Well, that includes this panel, I suppose. But that Gallup poll, Charles has Governor Huntsman at one percent. A number of polls have him at one, 1.8 percent. Yet he is getting a lot of attention in the media. He's done a number of interviews and received a lot of ink.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well it's an axiom that the mainstream media are liberal. And Huntsman is a liberal's idea of what a Republican ought to be. And he is the moderate in the race. He is at one percent. I suspect that if anybody's at one percent he's gonna argue that numbers don't matter, but of course they do. He's got to emerge, there's going to be a series of debates coming up soon. He either is gonna emerge or he's not gonna be around.

I think what's really interesting about the Perry angle is that he's exposing what was always the fundamental weakness of the Romney campaign. He doesn't excite the base and he has this insoluble problem with healthcare. And up until now no one has pushed on that button. Perry is doing it. Romney doesn't have to come out swinging and attacking. He is not good at that. When he tried it in 2008 against McCain, it didn't work well. But he has to find a defense on Romneycare or he's gonna be pummeled by Perry on this incessantly. I think that is his key strategic requirement right now.

BAIER: Our next debate September 22 Orlando, Florida. It should be interesting

That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see one thing worth losing a little sleep over.

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