Will Super Tuesday cement Trump's frontrunner status?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," February 27, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST:  This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," our Super Tuesday preview.  The Republican presidential candidates make their final pitches ahead of the biggest day of the primary season.  So will a high-profile endorsement shore up Donald Trump's front-runner status?

Plus, the punches flew in Thursday's night Republican debate as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took on Trump.  So did they do any damage or was it too little too late?

And Hillary Clinton regains her momentum.  But has she stopped the Sanders surge once and for all or could there be a Super Tuesday surprise?

Welcome to this special edition of the "Journal Editorial Report" as we count down to Super Tuesday.  I'm Paul Gigot.

It's the biggest day on the 2016 primary calendar, with nearly 600 Republican delegates up for grabs, including 155 in Ted Cruz's home state of Texas.

Coming off his third straight victory in Nevada, Donald Trump is the front runner heading into Tuesday multi-state showdown.  And he can now boast a high-profile endorsement from New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-NEW JERSEY:  There is no doubt in my mind, and I've been saying this from the time I entered the campaign, that the single most important for the Republican party is to nominate the person who gives us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton.  I can guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage, come next September, is Donald Trump.


GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Bret Stephens; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and columnist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

So, Kim, we're going to get to Chris Christie, but I want to ask you, hugely impressive performance by Donald Trump in Nevada, winning across most demographic groups of Republicans.  Is he clearly -- he's now clearly the front runner, but can he be stopped and who's going to do it?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  We certainly saw Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio attempting to do that for the first time at that Thursday night debate.  They had largely been going after each other.  There seemed to be an understanding this time that Trump was indeed the threat after Nevada and they were going to have to try to attack him, but also in some new ways, and you saw them do it by going after his lack of a policy agenda and some questions of his character.  So this is going to be the new line. We'll see if it resonates before Super Tuesday.

GIGOT:  Mary, look, I want to go back to this Nevada performance.  He elevated his game.  He had been down in the low 30s or so, maybe mid-30s. He's up there now at over 40 percent.  He was winning among very conservative voters over Ted Cruz, evangelical voters over Ted Cruz.  He even won among Hispanic voters.  His argument is, look, I am the guy who can win among all these groups.  The rest of you guys, your support is either too narrow on the right with Cruz or not deep enough with Rubio across enough groups.

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST:  I don't know.  This is a big country and Nevada's a very different state from some of the other states he's going to face in the coming weeks.  And I think, for example, you look at him boasting about getting 46 percent of the Hispanic vote in Nevada.  That was 46 percent of Republicans who turned out to the primary, but if you look at other polls, it shows he's greatly disliked by Hispanics, so --


GIGOT:  -- Shows 80 percent across American have a negative view of him.

O'GRADY:  Right.  So, I think there are places where, as Kim says, you know, both Rubio and Cruz can make inroads.  But they're running out of time.  And I think the debate on Thursday night was a really big achievement, particularly for Rubio, but the question is, you know, whether he can get the attention of the voters.

BRET STEPHENS, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  The danger for the Republican Party is they might now deceive themselves into thinking that Donald Trump is electable --

GIGOT:  You don't think he's --


STEPHENS:  -- in a general election.  I do not think he is electable.  There is a -- he has a high floor of support.  He's also got a low ceiling.  And I think there are a lot of conservative voters who could not imagine having that man as the commander-in-chief.

GIGOT:  All right, Bret, but he -- that -- the people who say that electability is our number-one concern, are voting for Rubio.  He's getting 51 percent of those.  It's one out of four Republican voters.  So Republican voters are prizing other things.  They're prizing somebody that can bring change, somebody who says I want to stick it to the man, even if Donald Trump may be the man.  Stick it to Washington.


STEPHENS:  And it should be Rubio's strategy, number one, to expose just how hollow Donald Trump is.  And I think you saw the beginning of that in his debate performance, but also to emphasize the issue here is not the nomination, it's the election in November.

GIGOT:  What do you make of the Chris Christie endorsement, James?

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  It seems self-serving.  If you listen to Christie over the course of the campaign, what you heard was an argument that being a governor is the critical experience to do this job.  You also heard the need to make a case against Hillary Clinton.  It seems to me if Christie was going on that criteria that he talked about, the person he would have endorsed was John Kasich, governor of Ohio.  Now, the fact he didn't, suggests he's decided Trump's probably going to be the guy.  I don't know if he got something in return for this, but --


GIGOT:  What would that be?  Attorney general?


FREEMAN:  That would be kind of natural to ask.  I don't know see the V.P. slot just because they're too similar loud-mouth guys from the northeast.  I think it's a nice feeling that way.

GIGOT:  It you wanted to unleash an attack on Hillary Clinton, you could do a lot worse than Christie.  I mean, that's his specialty.

FREEMAN:  Yeah, but I just -- I think it's going to remind a lot of conservative voters of his hug of the president prior to the 2012 election.  Not necessarily looking too far beyond the interests of Chris Christie. That's what it looks like anyway.

GIGOT:  Kim, what are you looking for on Super Tuesday?  What should our viewers watch?

STRASSEL:  I think there's a couple of things.  One, watch to see if Ted Cruz can win Texas, because if he cannot win his home state, if Donald Trump beats him there, there is going to be an enormous amount of pressure on him to exit the race, especially after his poor showing in South Carolina.


GIGOT:  But if he wins Texas, can he stay in?

STRASSEL:  He probably can make the argument.  But that gets to the second point, which is can Rubio and Cruz, or Rubio alone, keep Donald Trump's numbers down to the low 30s, maybe the high 20s?  Can Rubio maybe even win a state?  I think he needs to win a state.  Maybe a place like Oklahoma or Virginia.  To show that he's got it in him to win himself.  And to also blunt this momentum that Donald Trump has going forward, and suggesting that this could in fact remain a two man, even a three man race.

GIGOT:  I would look into other state, Kim, Arkansas, where the governor has endorsed Rubio and Minnesota in the caucuses, see if they can organize and get a win there.

All right.  Still ahead, a high-stakes debate in Houston gives Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz a final opportunity to take on Donald Trump before Super Tuesday, so did they do any damage, and are there other obstacles ahead for the front runner?


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He can release past years tax returns.  He can do it tomorrow.  He doesn't want to do it because, presumably, there's something in there that is bad.



GIGOT:  A raucous debate in Houston Thursday night as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took the fight to front runner Donald Trump and tried to change the dynamic of the race heading into Super Tuesday.  Take a look at this exchange between Marco Rubio and Donald Trump over health care.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What is your plan?  I understand the lines around the state, whatever that means.  This is not a game when you draw --


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And you don't know what it means.

RUBIO:  What is your plan?

TRUMP:  When you get rid of the lines, it brings in corporations.


RUBIO:  That's the only part of the plan, just the lines?


TRUMP:  No, no.  I thought about the -- you'll have many different plans. You'll have competition.  You'll have so many different plans.


RUBIO:  Now he's repeating himself.


TRUMP:  No, no, no, no.


TRUMP:  Talk about repeating repeating.  I've watched him repeat himself five times four weeks ago and --


RUBIO:  -- five seconds ago.


GIGOT:  All right, Mary, did Rubio and Cruz open up some major vulnerabilities that voters could see for the first time for Donald Trump?

O'GRADY:  Yeah, I think they did.  I think particularly on Obamacare.  This idea of interstate competition is a very old idea.


GIGOT:  It's a good idea.

O'GRADY:  It's a good idea, but it doesn't solve the problem.  It's limited.  We know that.  And I think that by having that sort of back and forth with Trump, Marco Rubio showed how, when he's not incompetent, he'd entirely vapid.

GIGOT:  That lack of policy knowledge is what you're saying.  If they could expose that and show, you know, he goes head to head against Hillary Clinton, he's going to get --


STEPHENS:  What Marco Rubio succeeded in doing is mocking Trump.  And Trump's entire method in this campaign is to mock and belittle the people on stage with him.  So what it's about that sally by Rubio was that he was returning fire and he was returning very accurate fire.  It diminished Trump.  I think that's the way any of the candidates who were on stage with him have to operate like that.

O'GRADY:  He also forced Trump to talk about Planned Parenthood again, and his ideas are much more liberal than are conservatives.  And you know, there was also some discussion about how his tax cut doesn't add up and cause more debt.

FREEMAN:  But they've exposed in previous debates that he doesn't know many of the details about various policies.  I think his crowd likes that because he's an outsider, they perceive, and he's taking on the established politicians.  They've shown he's not a conservative.  That doesn't seem to matter either.


GIGOT:  Well, then what is --


FREEMAN:  I thought the attack Rubio launched that had some potential here is hypocrisy.  When he often asides, while Trump was talking, but making the point that Trump ties, Trump suits are made overseas, making the point he's hired immigrants to work on his buildings that we know these --


FREEMAN:  -- bringing immigrants to work in his resorts.  I think --


GIGOT:  Jobs America won't do.  Americans won't do.

FREEMAN:  Right.  I think that is a new and potentially very dangerous attack for Donald Trump, to show that he basically has not been for the little guy.  He has not been for the people that he's now representing.

GIGOT:  Let's look at a clip of Mitt Romney going after Donald Trump for not releasing tax returns.


MITT ROMNEY, R-FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR (voice-over):  Either he's not anywhere near as wealthy as he says it is or he hasn't been paying the kind of taxes we would expect him to pay.  The reason that I think there's a bombshell is because every time he's asked about taxes, he dodges and delays, and says, well, we're working on it.


GIGOT:  Kim, at the debate, he said, look, I can't release them because -- Donald Trump did -- because I'm being audited.  And afterwards, he said maybe they are auditing me because I'm a Christian.


Does any of that, the auditing excuse -- it's not really an excuse.  You can still release your tax returns.  But how big of a problem is this for Trump?

STRASSEL:  Yeah, not a good moment for Trump because it does potentially look like he's hiding something.  And the other candidates went after this, on him on this as well, too.  So he came up with the kind of phony audit excuse.  It follows a string of other excuses.  And it really heightens, for a lot of voters, the question of what is it exactly because what you also heard his rivals talking about on the stage is -- Ted Cruz hit this particularly hard -- that Trump, if he gets the nomination, the Democrats are going the shred him and he is unvetted and there's a lot of liabilities, so they're raising that specter.

GIGOT:  That's the key point, Bret.  Ted Cruz made this clear.  He said, look, Trump has not been vetted, not by the media, which will wait until after he has the nomination, to lay out all of the victims of the Trump business plan, the failure of Trump University, his four bankruptcies.  You're going to see ads with all of the people bemoaning about what Trump did.  Fairly or not, a lot of it might be totally unfair, as it was against Mitt Romney.


STEPHENS:  Right.  And his, the other Republicans on stage need to say Donald Trump is hope and change, part two.

GIGOT:  And make the case that he can't win.  That's what you're saying, too.  But they're making that case. Now, Rubio is implicitly making that case, Mary, that he can't win.

O'GRADY:  Right.  And the thing is, what Rubio has to do is make sure, as Bret said before, make sure the ceiling remains.  He does not get much above one-third of the electorate.  He did better in Nevada, but he's basically got the ceiling on him.  And I think lots of people who are sort of on the fence about whether he might be the best person, if Rubio and Cruz continue to expose these kinds of inconsistencies that he has, I think that's their best bet.

GIGOT:  But Trump is going to hit back hard.  And he did with the Christie endorsement.  Christie got up there and he basically said Marco Rubio is not fit to be president.

Briefly, James.

FREEMAN:  It is potentially helpful to Trump because this is the first of the dropouts for him.  But you notice Trump on Friday, he was saying, I won, but he didn't want to talk about Thursday night's debate.  He kept referring back to earlier debates where he felt Marco Rubio didn't do as well.  Marco Rubio hurt him on Thursday night.

GIGOT:  All right.  Yeah, I think that's right.  I think he did.  And I think you saw that in Trump's response.

When we come back, he's running strong with working class Republicans, a voting block that's key to winning the Republican nomination, so what's the secret to Donald Trump's blue collar appeal?



TRUMP:  We won the evangelicals.  We won with young.  We won with old.  We won with highly educated.  We won with poorly educated.


GIGOT:  That was Donald Trump after his sweeping victory in Nevada this week.  His win there showed once again his strength across the Republican electorate with groups including evangelical Christians and blue collar conservatives, key voting blocks for any GOP candidate hoping to succeed in the Super Tuesday states and beyond.

John Brabender is a Republican political strategist.  He was a top adviser to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's presidential campaign.

John, welcome.


GIGOT:  So we hear a lot these days that the rise of Donald Trump means that the Republican coalition is fracturing, the party is splitting in two.  Is that overwrought, or how do you see it?

BRABENDER:  I don't think it's new.  I think it's always been there.  I think we're looking at it with a much more powerful microscope and understanding that the Republican Party is moderate to conservatives and establishment and outsiders.  We've found there's a lot of what I would call blue collar conservatives.

GIGOT:  Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  This is a Fox News alert.  We will take you back to the "Journal Editorial Report," but first, here is Senator Marco Rubio holding a rally in Kennesaw, Georgia.  Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Now, we'll take you back to "Journal Editorial Report."

GIGOT:  -- who have a college degree, those people, could they stay home and offset any increasing gets from these other voters?

BRABENDER:  It's a very fair question.  The problem we have right now is it's Donald Trump versus nobody.  Once it becomes, if he does indeed become the nominee, and it is against Hillary Clinton, then we got to go back and say, what's going to motivate those voters.  And frankly, they may be more motivated to show up and vote against Hillary than to vote for Trump, and that may be part of the message.

GIGOT:  But he has -- he has a high negative, a very high negative.


GIGOT:  Even higher than Hillary in our own "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll. If you were advising him, what would you advise him to do to improve his -- to increase the favorables?

BRABENDER:  I think he's in a unique position.  If he can pull off, he needs to do something, and that is to start looking more presidential.  The paradox is, how do you do that with not your base not looking like, oh, wait a minute, he's going Washington on us.

GIGOT:  Right.

BRABENDER:  But I think people are looking for symptoms that it's all right to vote for him, that there's some stability there.  I do think he should be concentrated a little bit more on that instead of his message.

GIGOT:  Willing to take a rising, but not jump off a cliff for Donald Trump.

BRABENDER:  Exactly.

GIGOT:  Thank you, John Brabender.  Appreciate it.

BRABENDER:  My pleasure.  Glad to be here.

GIGOT:  Much more to come in this special one hour edition of the "Journal Editorial Report." Still ahead, a look at the Democratic race heading into Super Tuesday.  There's no doubt Hillary Clinton has slowed Bernie Sanders' momentum, but will it be enough to lock up the nomination or is Sanders cooking up a Super Tuesday surprise?



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT., DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What we are about is making a political revolution and Oklahoma can help us move in that direction.


SANDERS:  When I look out at this crowd, I don't think there's any way we're going to lose on Tuesday.



GIGOT:  Welcome back to this special edition of the "Journal Editorial Report" as we look ahead to Super Tuesday.

That was Bernie Sanders this week at a rally in Oklahoma, one of the states he hopes will put his presidential bid back on track.  Democratic strategists say Sanders is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in at least five states voting March 1st, including Vermont, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Colorado and Minnesota, but is it enough to stop her recent momentum?

We're back with Bret Stephens, Kim Strassel, James Freeman and Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

Bret, what does Bernie Sanders have to do to get the revolution revving up again?

STEPHENS:  I think you have to do what he's been going quite successfully.  Now, there's this feeling that Hillary has it in the bag after Nevada.  I'm not so persuaded by that.  The fact is Sanders has the heart of the Democratic Party.  Bernie Sanders is speaking the language Democrats have been listening to when they read Paul Krugman or Thomas -- the language of inequality.  This has been the movement of the party away from the Bill Clinton new Democrat centrist party to the far left.  And really, it's been a momentum play for him.  The whole question is whether he has just enough momentum to overcome the deficits, which he's been narrowing.

GIGOT:  He may have the heart of the white-gentry liberals, Mary, but not of the African-American vote, which has been saving Hillary Clinton.

O'GRADY:  He also doesn't have the levers of the machine and that's what the Clintons have.


O'GRADY:  And I think that you have to give Bernie a lot of credit for the fact this hasn't been the coronation everybody was expecting.  She's now catching him in places like Massachusetts.  And Colorado looks iffy.  You know, those are states he has to win.  And if he doesn't win those, you know, the other ones she walks away with.

GIGOT:  He's got to show he can win outside of New England.  Colorado is crucial to him.  If you can't win in a state that's legalized marijuana, where can you win?

FREEMAN:  You spend any time in Denver, it's a very young city.  The People's Republic of Boulder, north of there.  You mention they smoke a lot of weed.  This should be a Sanders crowd.  I think that's a major alarm if he's not able to win in Colorado, but if he does, maybe picks up Minnesota.  Texas, probably a longer shot, but he did do well with his panic voters in Nevada, so who knows.

O'GRADY:  I think she's going to control the industrial heartland and that's going to be tough for him to get.


STEPHENS:  Surprises of this race is the weakness of Hillary Clinton.  And there's a reason why Democrats are turned off by her because they've been listening to the same drip, drip, drip, as she likes to put it, of her e- mail, ethical issues, and being out of step with what is ideologically now the center of the Democratic policy.  Hatred of Wall Street, hatred of wealth.  She embodies both.

GIGOT:  But they don't think Sanders can win the election and they're about winning and power.  And, Kim, those super delegate, members of Congress, officials of the party, they're all for Hillary Clinton and in the end, they're going to vote for her, so Bernie not only has to win the normal delegate race, he's got to do much better than history.

STRASSEL:  He does, and that's almost impossible.  All that being said, Sanders' legacy in this race will be profound, whether he wins or loses. He has refused to attack her on some of the things that would matter the most, like this FBI investigation.  But the arguments he's been making about her speeches to Wall Street, his demands that she release those speech, you know how The New York Times came out and said she needs to release the speeches.  That is something a lot of voters listening to.  They're worried about her.  And there is a question going forward about her ability to unite the party or get enough enthusiasm to help.

GIGOT:  I agree with that point, but I think she's going to have the party united.  I think the Democratic Party's going to be less fractured than the Republican party of Donald Trump's the nominee.


GIGOT:  Would you agree?

STRASSEL:  We do, except what we are seeing is that Republicans are coming out in these primary races in droves.  Not so much on the Democratic side.  And even some on the left are worrying about that already.

GIGOT:  Bret, the Goldman Sachs speeches, transcripts, $250,000, little less than what I get.


Not really.  I don't get anything.


Is that a vulnerability for her?

STEPHENS:  I think it's immense.  Now, having said that, I was once in Ukraine where Hillary Clinton turned up a speech.


I think she had left a fear for the potential endorsement of Wall Street, then simply the -- of these performances.  How little it takes to make that kind of --


GIGOT:  That's why I think --


STEPHENS:  -- it's quite amazing.

GIGOT:  She was probably just tossing out political bromides about diplomacy.


STEPHENS:  Talking those out in a case where I was president was for a very well-connected Ukrainian billionaire.  Those are the questions that disturb a lot of Democrats.

O'GRADY:  But it's not a vulnerability.  The Democrats are much more cynical than that and they don't care about all this stuff they claim to care about.


STEPHENS:  The problem is its sincerity.



FREEMAN:  -- for a lot of money and she happily collected it.

People are wondering what did they get for their money and I don't think she's worried about the bromides on foreign policy.


She's worried about is the gracious kind words for her hosts on Goldman Sachs --


-- which won't look good in an ad from Republicans or Sanders.

GIGOT:  Interesting, James.  Thank you.

Still ahead, the battle to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  It's a hot topic on the campaign trail, so how big a role will it play in 2016 race?



RUBIO:  Justice Scalia, in the history of the republic, there has never been anyone better than him at standing for the principle that the Constitution is not a living-and-breathing document.  It is supposed to be applied as originally meant.

CRUZ:  We are one liberal justice away from a five-justice radical leftist majority that would undermine our religious liberty, that would undermine the right to life, and that would fundamentally erase the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms from the Constitution.


GIGOT:  Who will replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court?  It was a hot topic at Thursday's Republican debate as the battle heats up in Washington where Senate Republicans said this week they won't hold confirmation hearings on any Obama nominee before the November elections.

Kim, it's fascinating to watch.  The Democrats and president are trying to ratchet up the pressure on Republicans, calling them obstructionists, but Republicans are digging in.  And Mitch McConnell says he won't even meet with a nominee.  Why are the two sides so sure they're going prevail?

STRASSEL:  They are both thinking this is going to help them mobilize their base come this fall.  Hillary Clinton has already said she will use this issue to get people to come out to vote for her.  You see the Republicans, and the fact there is so much unity in that caucus, is suggesting it shows how much a lot of these Republican Senators, even those from states where they're going to have tough re-election battles, knows this is an issue that animates conservatives, in particular, and they're going to knead that base to come out for them.  So this is all about November.

GIGOT:  James, the other thing, the Republicans know that this is an issue of the Supreme Court that unifies their whole party.  Social conservatives care about the issues like abortion and gay marriage, but the business class cares about property rights, then you have the NRA caring very much about the Second Amendment.  And most Republicans now animated by the First Amendment, the right to free speech, under threat by the left and in some ways by the Supreme Court.

FREEMAN:  The Republican Party is the one with the voter base that feels like it's been losing the last decade or so.  And so, this is -- it means a lot more I think to conservatives than it does to people on the left who have largely had things going their way.  I also think this issue this year is going to highlight what the Tea Party has never really appreciated about Senate Majority Leader McConnell.  He's very good at stopping bad things from happening in Washington.


And I think this is going to be one of those examples.  There is no way anyone is going to get seated on that court this year.

GIGOT:  What about the chances, Mary, if Republicans stop a nominee now, say Obama might make a centrist pick, but then they lose the election and get somebody who's more to the left next year.

O'GRADY:  Well, I think it's pretty clear that if Obama nominates someone and the Senate gives them a hearing, it will somebody who is wrapped up like a moderate, but who is not, because Obama is not going to nominate a moderate.  The thing that worries me more is that if Republicans lose the Senate, you know, the new Congress sits on January 3rd, and the new president doesn't come in until two weeks later, and there's the period of time there where President Obama could perhaps do something with the new Senate if it's controlled by the Democrats.  I think that's worth worrying about.

STEPHENS:  Here's my political suggestion.  That Rubio immediately endorse Ted Cruz as the next Supreme Court justice --



STEPHENS:  -- to fill the Scalia seat.

GIGOT:  I have a feeling Cruz will decline the honor though.


STEPHENS:  It's a two-fer.  Get him out of the Senate, put him where he belongs.


What else -- what else do you want?

GIGOT:  Let's listen to a sound bite from Joe Biden from 1992 talking about same subject when a president from the Republican Party was in office.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors, and not, and not name a nominee, until after the November election is completed.  It would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.


GIGOT:  My favorite phrase from that is, "It is my pragmatic conclusion," that this is just, you know, just practical, sort of normal politics going on here.

That really helps Republican's argument they're not doing anything extraordinary, doesn't it, Kim?

STRASSEL:  Yeah, especially, too, when you look at the entire history of the Democrats and judicial nominations.  It was Harry Reid's Democrats that first used a filibuster to try to stop and to, in fact, stop Bush nominee.  Then when they got a Democrat president in office, they took the unilateral action of blowing up the filibuster so Republicans couldn't block any of theirs.  So they keep changing the rules.  For them to now say there's a clear precedent on how this should be handled is amusing.

GIGOT:  What did you think of the Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada, leaked from the White House?  This Republican governor is somebody we're looking carefully at.  He took himself out of the race.  But what were they trying to do?

FREEMAN:  They were getting cute.  I think the Senate Republicans thought they were playing games.  This is a guy who's burned a lot of bridges in the Republican Party.  It really doesn't matter.  They're not putting anyone up there and it is absolutely -- this is the reason we have a United States Senate, is to be a check on the president.  They don't have an obligation to vote.  They don't have an obligation to hold a hearing.  There's nothing in the Constitution that says you can't have eight justices or you need nine.  The number is not set so, as we've heard from Mr. Biden, the president's clear.

STEPHENS:  They should add that this is the fruit of seven and a half years of President Obama's bad faith.

GIGOT:  Bret, thank you.

When we come back, the Obama administration's plan to close Guantanamo Bay brings the war on terror back to the campaign trail.  Is it smart politics for the outgoing president?


LELAND VITTERT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  This is a Fox News alert.  I'm Leland Vittert in Washington.  We're interrupting the "Journal Editorial Report" right now to go to Kennesaw, Georgia, where Senator Marco Rubio has just taken the stage for his rally.  Listen in.



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