Will it be a Rubio-Cruz fight for the future of the GOP?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 17, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At least two of my colleagues in the Senate aspiring to the presidency, Senator Cruz in particular, have voted to weaken the U.S. intelligence program just in the last month and a half. And the weakening of our intelligence gathering capabilities leaves America vulnerable.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen, I understand why Marco would want to tell voters now his position on immigration is the same as mine. I understand that he now regrets having been taken the position he did and having everyone see where he was. But I literally laughed out loud.


BAIER: Senator Ted Cruz started with immigration, took a couple kings swings at Senator Marco Rubio. Then Rubio firing back talking in the wake of Paris about the surveillance program and what's happening in the Senate. We're back with the panel. Robert, interesting that he chose two senators but didn't mention Rand Paul who, obviously, clearly has a dog in that hunt, but pointed out Senator Ted Cruz. What's going on between those two candidates now?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: These are two people who came in their 40s to the United States Senate, and they are watching outsiders Trump and Carson really dominate the race. But many insiders, people close to Rubio, close to Cruz, think eventually the field will narrow, the lanes will narrow, and you could have a Rubio-Cruz fight for the party.

BAIER: But surprising to see Rubio take a swing like that?

COSTA: Rubio has played on the ropes all year just waiting to throw a punch. Now it's getting closer to the Iowa caucuses. We're only months away. And you finally see Rubio starting to climb the ladder and throw some shots.


RON FOURNIER, THE NATIONAL JOURNAL: What Rubio has been great at is when he has been hit he has been able to turn that against the enemy, usually the press. With the "New York Times" at the story about his finances, he made that about indictment against the "New York Times" and played himself up as a blue collar guy. This is the first time he has thrown a direct punch like this.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I think we are looking at the final four, Carson and Trump at the top right now, Cruz and Rubio -- as you say, these are go identically aged Cuban-American, first-term senators with silver tongues. One of them, I think, quite clearly is going to emerge as either the sort of acceptable second tier candidate who will go up against the winner of the bout of Trump. First there is Carson. And they are starting to fight now.

BAIER: Trump is obviously getting a lot of attention for some of the things he said about ISIS. We played some of that earlier in the show. Ben Carson, a New York Times article coming out about his knowledge on foreign policy. "Nobody," this is a quote, "has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East. Duane Clarridge, a top advisor to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so, quote, "We can make him smart." The Carson campaign just responded, saying "Mr. Clarridge has incomplete knowledge of the daily, not weekly briefings that Dr. Carson receives on foreign national security matters from former military and State Department officials. He is coming to the long career serving our military. Mr. Clarridge's input to Dr. Carson is appreciated, but he is clearly not one of Dr. Carson's top advisors. For the New York Times to take advantage an elderly gentleman and use him as their foil in their story is an affront to good journalistic practices." Robert, I don't think we have heard the end of this.

COSTA: No. And I have spoken to Barry Bennett, Carson's campaign manager. And he says Carson is trying to read up on foreign affairs. He just had lunch in New York City with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state. But you see Carson's charm early on was that he was a political amateur. He's someone who has never been in office before. But in politics today in 2015, if you don't have a professional operation around you, people like this adviser go rogue and they cause problems.

BAIER: Quickly, in the wake of Paris, does this make a difference?

FOURNIER: It sure does. He is a decent man, a brilliant man. If you've watched him on the campaign trail, if you read the article, it's clear he not ready to be commander and chief.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not a matter of picking up a fact here and there. It's a matter of having thought about this for years and years as the experienced politicians have. He hasn't, and that's a liability that you cannot overcome in a short period of time.

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