Where Is Momentum in GOP Race?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 27, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at the debates, you've seen one person who both had the experience at the national level and who had solutions as big as the problems...We have the tortoise campaign, w've seen several rabbits run by and then fall asleep, so now we just want to keep moving forward.

RICK PERRY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates. It's pretty hard to be able to sit and lay out your ideas and your concepts with a one-minute response.

HERMAN CAIN, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I used the word "choice" talking about a specific situation that he was trying to pigeonhole me on. That's what they use to try and come after me. I am pro-life from conception. End of story.

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The key to a tax policy is to reduce the tax burden on the people who have been hurt most by the Obama economy. And that's the middle class.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, just a flavor of a few of the candidates on GOP side. As we just brought up last night, the newest Fox News poll of this race, a national poll that shows Herman Cain topping the list at 24 percent. And, there you see Mitt Romney at 20 percent, Newt Gingrich, quadrupling his percentage in the poll.

Other state polls -- we're back with the panel -- have Mitt Romney doing well in early states. We should note that, that are just out this week.

What about the Perry campaign coming out and saying -- not saying definitively that they are not going to play in debates, but noting that 16 debates over 12 weeks, coming up, are a lot of debates. And then what he said about debates on Bill O'Reilly's show.

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: Well look, I have sympathy for him, because we are a little over 60 days to the Iowa caucuses, to the actual voting. And debates can be a big waste of time when you want to be on the ground and meeting with voters. You have got about four early states that really matter and you want to get all over the place. And you want to focus on TV ads and your messaging.

But Rick Perry has got one problem. He has done horrible in these debates. The last one he at least showed fire but even there you could pick apart whether he was a little bit too mean a little bit too overbearing. And for a candidate to do lousy in a particular venue and then say I don't want to be here, given what it did to his poll standing, I just think is the wrong approach. If I were him, what I would --

BAIER: To be clear, the campaign hasn't pulled out of any debates yet, they haven't said they are not going to do it. They are noting --

DRUCKER: Right, but look they raised the issue. It's not like we suggested maybe he won't show up so we could criticize him. And so I think that If he had done really well in these debates, and said by the way, I'm doing great. I don't know if I need to show up to all of these things, we'd go ho-hum, he is fine, let's move on. But that is not the case.

BAIER: Nina?

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: I'll do full disclosure -- my husband's a Romney advisor.

I think the real story in this is that the debates are defining who is topping the polls. Whoever has done well in the debates is top of the polls. And Herman Cain is a likable guy, conservative guy. He's got a simple plan that the Washington elites can dismiss, economists can dismiss, but it connects with voters. And I think that has really helped his rise in the polls.

I think on the Perry thing, when I hear him say maybe I won't come to a debate, I think of Meg Whitman's run in California for governor where she had trouble, she stumbled on some complex issues early on and as a result pulled back from press access, from media access. The storyline became the imperious Meg Whitman. And I think that is what is going to happen. That is what he is playing with. That's the kind of fire that he is playing with.


DRUCKER: His new tax plan, his economic agenda, once again, we're not talking about it.

BAIER: By the way, Governor Perry will be on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend with Chris Wallace.

Juan, Herman Cain. It seems like he is getting some forgiveness from the GOP electorate for some stumbles along the way, some things he said. But he automatically comes out and says, listen, that is either taken the wrong way number one or I said it wrong, I misspoke. And it seems like his likability factor at least right now gives him a few mulligans.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: He's Teflon. He's absolute Teflon. He is a charmer, he's a strong presence.

And what is interesting to me picking up on something Nina said, people see him as an authentic conservative. Now this is despite -- and you just heard him having to go back on the abortion issue and explain himself because he was totally incomprehensible as to what his position was. And it sounds like he hadn't thought it through or that he was waffling. Instead he has to come in and say, no I am purely anti-abortion.


WILLIAMS: So, but this is -- we think about the 999 plan now, the 909 plan and his admission, yeah there are some flaws there. And you think about the conservatives who have absolutely eviscerated this plan in terms of its economic good sense and saying it's not good sense and it could raise our taxes, none of it is having any impact.

So I would say there are two things going on here. One is the precipitous drop of Mr. Perry, who looks like he is saying I'm taking my ball and going home, and the fact that Herman Cain seems to have inherited the anti-Romney vote. We see Gingrich rising up a little bit, but not -- he is only, what, he is --

BAIER: He's at 12 percent in our poll. But in other polls he is third. And you know, Gingrich has seen a surge after these debates, where arguably he has performed well.

DRUCKER: I think what is interesting about the primary and the reason so many Republicans have been a little bit less enthusiastic than you might have thought about the field. And what Herman Cain brings to it so far, is this idea of being inspired and offering a moral underpinning for why you want to move the country in a particular direction.

We have seen most of the candidates offer an agenda. Most of them have offered a level of competence that shows OK, maybe you could be president. But very few have yet to show why. Why do you want to take me here? Herman Cain has begun to show that. But what he has to show next is that he can be presidential. And he reminds me of the inventor of a great product. The company takes off and now he is either the CEO or they're going to have to bring in a conventional guy to run the country. Has he proven he can do that himself?

BAIER: Let me ask one more thing, Nina. Ron Paul was on "Center Seat" last night and made a little news in the online section, in that he said he would not rule out an independent run, a third party run, if he did not get the nomination. He essentially said "I wouldn't rule it out." That would be a big deal.

EASTON: That would be a big deal and have a huge impact. That would be bigger than Ralph Nader in 2000 and that would be -- it wouldn't be Ross Perot level in '92 but that would -- it would have a big impact --

WILLIAMS: It would likely hurt the Republican.


DRUCKER: -- could swing the election.

EASTON: Absolutely -- absolutely swing the election


BAIER: He says he's still in the game and wants the nomination.

That is it for the panel. Got to run. Stay tuned to see if the president is thinking about making changes to his cabinet.

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