Where do GOP campaigns go after Florida?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 31, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rick's got to do what he bel ieves is essential. What I will say is the longer the conservatives are split the more likely it is that we end up with a nominee who I think is a moderate and is going to have a very, very hard time beating President Obama.

RICK SANTORUM, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think people should be telling other folks to get out of the race and get out of my way. If you want to show - if you want to run a race, run a race. You don't ask someone to quit just because you know, you think you're the better candidate.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum back and forth on who should get out of the race. As you look forward to the contest ahead after Florida, you can see the calendar is pretty sparse in February. You have the Nevada caucuses on the 4th, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri on the 7th. The 11th is the Maine caucuses and Arizona and Michigan. March is a much more stacked calendar, and Santorum, Senator Santorum and Ron Paul look to capitalize on some of the states where others have not been.

Back with the panel. What about Rick Santorum, Steve, and potentially, you know, attracting conservatives who may be disenchanted with this back and forth in Florida?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think this becomes the central question of the campaign going forward. Newt Gingrich I think had a bad week. He had two bad debates, he had made the argument that the reason that conservatives should choose him was because he could beat Barack Obama in debates. He was going to chase him all over the country, Lincoln-Douglas style debates, and Gingrich was going to out-debate Barack Obama.

Well, he had two debates which I think most everybody believes he lost. Rick Santorum had a least one where many people thought that he won, had a very good week. The problem for Santorum is he's not going to put up a good result here. He didn't play as hard as he might have, he didn't spend a lot of money here, because it was winner take all and it's not like he wasn't likely to win. So, can he recover? Now, he raised $4.2 million dollars in January, which is a good number for Santorum. And at the end of the "Rush Limbaugh Show" today, he mentioned - -

BAIER: Rush did.

HAYES: Rush Limbaugh did, said, you know, Rick Santorum is the only one in this race who doesn't have to apologize for anything that he's done or hasn't strayed from conservatism. Was that tantamount to an endorsement? People are debating that. Probably short of an endorsement, but I know Santorum's people are happy that Limbaugh gave him that shout out and said those good things about him as they go forward.

BAIER: Maybe on specific issues, but obviously he's talked about his union supporting votes in Pennsylvania and other things where he might have to explain.

HAYES: NAFTA, other things. I think there are things where he's strayed, but this was what Limbaugh said.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, I think it's interesting that Gingrich thinks that Santorum is taking voters from him, because there was an NBC poll today that showed, that actually if Santorum got out of the race, they would split the vote, half those votes would go to Romney. So he has sort of a flawed analysis on that up front.

In terms of him moving forward and saying he's going to keep on going forward and saying he's going to keep on going and looking forward at these states, you have to remember that we have a bunch of states coming up, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine -- that Romney won before. Romney has organization in all of these states, he has more money. There is not a lot of reason to believe Newt Gingrich is going to start picking up steam in these states. We also don't have another debate until February 22nd. So --

BAIER: At least not yet.

POWERS: These are things that Gingrich thrives on, except when he does a bad job, but it's what he uses to try to get ahead.

BAIER: Brit?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Santorum's got an ad up, I guess it's Colorado, is it?

BAIER: Yeah, let's play it, we have a clip of it.

HUME: Yeah, this is interesting.

BAIER: Go ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the other side of these cards are the pictures of three politicians. Who are these three cap-and-trade-loving, bailout-supporting, soft-on-immigration, big-government-mandating politicians? Now you know.

Rick Santorum for president. He doesn't just talk a good conservative game. He lives it.

SANTORUM: I'm Rick Santorum, and I approve this message.


BAIER: So much for all positive ads.

HUME: Well, and so much for the idea of telling him to get out of race. What a good idea that's turning out to be. I can't imagine anything less likely to get Rick Santorum - he is a pretty tough guy, been around a while and who's capable of showing his teeth. That was less likely to get out than telling him to. I think he will be around for a while.

And look, Gingrich, he may have kind of you know, taken it a step too far with his comments about Holocaust survivors or whatever, and the whole, and depending on the margin tonight he may be somebody people are looking for an alternative to other than Romney. He could, I think he could rise again. He's an attractive guy, he's --

BAIER: Gingrich could rise again?


HUME: No. I'm not ruling Gingrich out, you can't rule Gingrich out, but I'm saying Santorum could rise again if Gingrich really is seen as faltering badly here.

BAIER: What about Ron Paul, Rich? He's spent time in Maine, he's organized in these caucus states. He's not going anywhere.

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: Yeah, well, he made a shrewd calculation in Florida, he wasn't going to get delegates, so why waste money there. And there are people in Maine who think Ron Paul could pull out a surprise there, they're working it really hard, he finished a close third in '08. So while we're all distracted by Florida, watch Maine, Bret. Cause they use to say, as Maine goes, so goes the nation.


BAIER: And Steve, with 95 percent of the delegates still up for grabs, we forget this whole math to getting 1,144.

HAYES: No, it's a long process, if these guys are genuinely committed to staying in the race, which it seems that they are. Newt's people were telling me this two weeks ago, Santorum's people I talked to said we're going to the convention, Ron Paul had a plan to go to the convention from the very beginning. So I think if they want to drag this out they can drag this out and it can go to the convention.

BAIER: Brit?

HUME: I'm just saying there often comes a point in these races when there are an awful lot of delegates left to go, but one candidate, the frontrunner, begins to win a bunch, win the delegates in bunches and starts winning nearly everywhere and the whole thing just, the whole opposition kind of collapses. People don't have the money to carry on, people think he's going to be the nominee, time to get off his back and it unfolds.


BAIER: Sarah Palin and others who say they want to -- you know, encouraging it to go on.

HUME: I understand. And people have to some extent encouraged it to go on and they may encourage it to go on a little farther. I'm just saying the fact that there are a lot of delegates left to be collected doesn't mean that we're not farther down the road than that would make it appear.

BAIER: Got to run. Thank you, panel. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for some final thoughts.

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