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New Hampshire Primary Results

Aired January 10, 2012 - 23:59   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf. PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT live, special edition from the CNN Election Center.

Tonight, Mitt Romney wins the nation's first primary in New Hampshire, Ron Paul came second, Jon Huntsman came third in a state where he concentrated all his resources. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum basically tied for fourth and Rick Perry, who didn't campaign in New Hampshire at all, moved on to South Carolina where the new battleground will start late tonight.

Mitt Romney has a commanding lead. I want to talk about that in a moment with Wolf Blitzer, John King, Erin Burnett, Gloria Borger, and David Gergen. But first the big winner in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney, lost no time tonight taking on the man he sees as his biggest challenger, President Obama. Listen to one of the biggest applause lines from the Republican frontrunner's victory speech.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has run out of ideas. Now he's running out of excuses.


MORGAN: I'm going to be joined by somebody who was a candidate himself, now supports Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty.

Mr. Pawlenty, a pretty good night for your man. Has he sealed the deal yet?

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's an understatement, Piers, to say pretty good. Look, he won Iowa, somewhat unexpectedly by many people's account. And now won New Hampshire convincingly. He's the first non-incumbent candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire in history so it was a spectacular night for Mitt Romney and for his vision for America, restoring America, rather than Barack Obama's declinist view of America.

MORGAN: I notice that in his victory speech again he resisted the temptation to whack his opponents. He focused on President Obama and on improving America. Is that going to be the consistent strategy going forward?

PAWLENTY: Well, he's been consistent in focusing on Barack Obama. When other Republicans have criticized him he certainly has responded. But for the most part, Mitt Romney has focused on Barack Obama. He's the real problem here. He's the person that needs to be removed from office.

And when you look at Barack Obama's vision of America it's trying to incite class warfare, getting people to fight about shrinking pieces of the pie rather than Mitt Romney's vision of growing the pie. Those are two very different visions and I think America is going to like Mitt Romney's view better.

MORGAN: Tell me about Ron Paul, because he had a very good night tonight. Finished with 24 percent of the votes. Are you taking him seriously now as a possible threat to win the nomination?

PAWLENTY: Well, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney don't agree on many things. But you have to tip your cap to Ron Paul, at least in terms of the results that he was able to garner in Iowa. He had a respectable, I think, believe third-place finish if I remember it correctly and then coming in second in New Hampshire. So those are significant milestones for his candidacy.

Like I said, there are sharp differences. He and Governor Romney have some different views on important issues but you at least have to acknowledge that he is speaking to a slice of the conservative coalition.

MORGAN: I've got an interview with Rick Perry coming up, Governor, in which he slams your man. He says he's a vulture capitalist for his activities when he ran Bain. How do you answer the charge that Mitt Romney is a vulture?

PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, it's inaccurate and unfair. Rick Perry's campaign, as you know, has had its share of challenges but the argument about free enterprise and economic freedom in this country is an important one. But we shouldn't be having Barack -- take Barack Obama's side on it.

The Democrats are the ones who criticized private enterprise and economic freedom. I'm disappointed that Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and others are criticizing a Republican and using the Democrats' arguments in a Republican primary.

It's really unfortunate and I think is a very, shall we say, desperate or hail Mary pass, if this were a football game.

MORGAN: Newt Gingrich has played Mr. Nice Guy until this week. It looks like the gloves have come off. He's apparently got $3.5 million to spend through a super PAC in which is clearly going to be an assault on Mitt Romney.

Are you concerned that one of your opponents now has the kind of financial muscle to play dirty in the way that you have?

PAWLENTY: Well, I don't think we say -- you're saying we had money. Not that we played dirty. But the point is the super PACs are not controlled by the candidates. They are, you know, independent and supposed to be independent. This is going to be a hard-fought campaign, there's no question about it. Mitt Romney is not taking anything for granted but obviously he has the momentum, he has tailwind, and when people see his vision for America and his experience in the private sector, not just the government sector, I think you're going to have -- come to the same conclusions they came to in Iowa and New Hampshire which is they're going to vote for Mitt Romney. And I think you're going to see that in these next few states.

MORGAN: Governor, congratulations on a very successful evening. Thank you.

PAWLENTY: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: This has been a good night, too, for Ron Paul. He finished solid second to Mitt Romney. A strong showing that energized his supporters tonight.


REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I called Governor Romney a short while ago before he gave his talk and congratulated him because he certainly had a clear-cut victory. But we're nibbling at his heels.


PAUL: But there was another victory tonight. He had a victory but we have had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight.


MORGAN: I'm joined now by Ron Paul man, Jesse Benton.

So, a good night for you guys. You must be feeling pretty happy?

JESSE BENTON, RON PAUL 2012 NATIONAL CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We're ecstatic. What a victory for us tonight. We've consolidated this down into a two-man national race. Now we're the conservative constitutional alternative to Mitt Romney and like Dr. Paul said, we're coming, we're nipping at his heels.

MORGAN: What is fascinating about Ron Paul is he's the oldest guy in the race by a significant margin but he appears to be attracting the most vibrant youth vote. Especially on social media. How have you managed to pull this off? I mean, it seems an incongruous match.

BENTON: Well, he has the youngest ideas in this race. He's beyond the ideas of freedom, of limited government, and personal responsibility, of free enterprise and commerce. Those are really, really appealing to young people. The other thing is he tells young people the truth. He's honest with them, tells them about the mess they're inheriting, but he offers a solution. Our Constitution, liberty, getting our freedoms back and young people just respond so well.

MORGAN: Mitt Romney is running on this sense of him being electable and the criticism at your man is that he's dangerous. Tonight he kind of embraced the danger and said, damn right, I'm dangerous. An interesting strategy. But can you move from dangerous to electable, do you think?

BENTON: Well, we're dangerous to the status quo. We're dangerous to the establishment but we're the best choice for the American people. The people that want their freedoms back, want to obey the Constitution, want prosperity back in this country. I mean that's what Ron Paul is all about. Danger to the establishment, the safe choice for the Americans.

MORGAN: He was a strange lone voice today supporting Mitt Romney as all the criticism heaped on him for his apparent comments he liked firing people. Why did he stick his neck out like that?

BENTON: Well, there are two things that should bring all Republicans together, and that is, one is realizing that, you know, the media will pull some "gotcha" statements from time to time and take things out of context. And then number two, that we all rally behind free enterprise and capitalism. And we just -- we just think it's very unfortunate that Republicans are going to demagogue some things taken out of context. And they're going to use the language of to attack another Republican.

Look, we want to have an adult conversation in this campaign. Now that it's a two-man race we want to engage on the issues and talk about the issues that are serious to the American people. And we're going to -- we're going to criticize Governor Romney on his record of supporting individual health care mandate, supporting TARP, supporting big spending. But we're going to engage on the issues, have the adult conversation the American people deserve, and not demagogue these silly personal things and not try to tear down the free enterprise system.

MORGAN: You're on a great roll so far. South Carolina will be tougher. The latest polls have Ron Paul 12 percent, fourth place. It's a bit of a battle you're facing now. How are you going to change the operation moving forward? It's going to get more serious, doesn't it?

BENTON: It is. Well, Dr. Paul hasn't campaigned yet in South Carolina so we're going to be rolling down there tomorrow, we're going to have a great rally. We've got a wonderful program. We've got great mail. We're going to pump in some great TV, grassroots. We're going to carry the momentum that we're carrying from New Hampshire down to the Palmetto state, and we're going to do very well.

And again, as people coalesce behind Ron Paul as the only serious alternative to the establishment mainstream candidate Mitt Romney, we're going to see a surge in momentum. We can guarantee that.

MORGAN: And finally and quickly, where does he get his energy from?

BENTON: From the people. From the supporters. You know when we all start to feel a little bit tired, you know, we just like to connect with the supporters and the energy of the young people, especially. It's just lifts everybody up. It's just absolutely amazing and it's what fuels him and keeps him going.

MORGAN: Well, do congratulate him from us, Jesse Benton, thanks very much.

BENTON: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: So, a fascinating night again. Although not entirely unpredictable.

Wolf, what did you make of -- I mean did Romney do enough to claim a really big victory? Because some people are saying, if he didn't get 40 percent it wouldn't be a big victory. What do you think we've ended up at?

BLITZER: Big victory for Mitt Romney, 39, 40 percent, very, very impressive in a crowded field like that and from his perspective, the two candidates he probably feared the most, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, they did not do well coming in fourth and fifth. So it was a big, huge win for Mitt Romney tonight.

MORGAN: John King, the big question, I guess, is of all the other runners and writers, have any of them got it in them to actually challenge Mitt Romney in South Carolina and going forward?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost forget the candidates for a minute. South Carolina Republicans have a big decision to make. Do they embrace Mitt Romney who is 2-0? Or do they say, not so fast? And if their mood is "no so fast" then do they coalesce around one person?

That was a fascinating interview you just had with Jesse Benton. A two-man national race. We're one-on-one with Mitt Romney. The whole Republican race has been defined by the question of who will emerge as the candidate to challenge Romney. That Ron Paul can claim that mantel after two races is something else.

Just think about what all the other candidates have said. Mitt Romney is weak. Ron Paul is out of the mainstream, almost a freak show in the Republican Party. Well, how can you claim you're stronger if you keep losing to the candidate you call weak or freak?

MORGAN: Exactly.

KING: It's hard to make that argument, isn't it?

MORGAN: And tell you, we had a spirited debate earlier about whether it was to the party's advantage, the Republicans, to have an extended battle. Because I remember when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton went for months on end they were the only story in town. Obama appeared to get better as a campaigner as the months went on, and that seemed to play well for him against John McCain.

Couldn't we see the same thing happen here? It goes on, could Romney not become a more formidable opponent?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are those who argue that, who believes that. It will hone his skills. He was much better tonight in his speech than we have seen him in the past. I think that was the best speech he's given this year. And so there is that argument but you have to remember with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they believe largely the same things. It got to be very personal about which one you prefer.

In this case, Mitt Romney has a fractured party on his hands with different camps. And so it's important for him to end this earlier so that he can unite people behind him and have time to sort of heal the divisions there so they go into their convention and go into the fall united. So I think on balance he's better off to try to shut this down soon.

MORGAN: Gloria Borger, we've got the latest poll. Mitt Romney, 37 percent in South Carolina, Rick Santorum 19, Newt Gingrich 18, Ron Paul at 12, Rick Perry at 5, and Huntsman at 1. We know that Newt Gingrich through his PAC is going to be spending $3.5 billion.


MORGAN: This is the first big financial assault on Mitt Romney, and quite clearly -- I'm interviewing Newt Gingrich for the hour tomorrow. It will be fascinating because he's got rid of a halo. The nice-guy stuff wasn't working.

BORGER: Yes, I'm not sure he ever wore the halo. But --

MORGAN: And the devil -- the devil is back.


MORGAN: He's going to go for it, isn't he, through the super PAC?

BORGER: Yes. He is.

MORGAN: I know he's not allowed to be involved but he is.

BORGER: Well, there is that wall between them, right? And look, I think Newt Gingrich never really wore the halo. I think Newt Gingrich had no choice but to be positive because he didn't have a lot of money and he didn't have the super PAC money. Now he's got the super PAC. He's been attacked by Mitt Romney's super PAC mercilessly.

And I think talk about this getting personal. I think it is getting personal. You know early on in the debates, Gingrich didn't really criticize Mitt Romney. He always kind of, you know, said, no, no, no, Mitt Romney is a good man. And I was thinking, well, maybe he wants to be in the cabinet at some point -- again, who knows? Now, now he is the man leading the charge against Mitt Romney and by the way leading the charge against the entire Republican establishment who is appalled that there's a class warfare fight going on within the Republican Party.

MORGAN: Erin, Erin, let me ask you specifically about this Bain issue because Rick Perry, in an interview, about to come on this show, it's pretty scathing. You know he calls Mitt Romney a vulture capitalist. He's trying to use his time at Bain as a weapon against him.

My gut feeling is this may well backfire. Mitt Romney is already turning it into an advantage, saying, I had a great record there. We created jobs at a time when there are a lot of people out work. Not a bad message. Who's going to win this argument?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: This is going to be really difficult. Because private equity -- I mean in theory the whole point is you buy companies that are in bad shape, you build them up, you make money in doing so and you sell them off. Now sometimes jobs are lost when you do that, and "Wall Street Journal" did a very, I think, fantastic analysis of whether Mitt Romney created jobs or not.

And it's almost impossible to tell. So if Bain bought a company and sold it, and then the company did well and created jobs, do those jobs count for Mitt Romney or do they not? That grey-area nuance is going to continue through the primary, it's going to continue through the general election if indeed he is the nominee. It's going to be hard to say.

GERGEN: If you buy a company that's in trouble and it then goes bankrupt, did you cause the loss of jobs?


GERGEN: I mean that's really hard to say. It's not clear.

BURNETT: It's going to be incredibly hard to answer that question.

GERGEN: Right.

BURNETT: But certainly, by every measure that I've heard all the people that I have interviewed over the years who have known him or worked with him he is perceived to be a very capable manager.


BORGER: You know, the question -- I don't think this is going to necessarily make Newt rise. But will it -- you know, but will it make Romney fall? I think that's the real question.

MORGAN: If you can chip away again, and I think $3.5 million worth of advertising in a place like South Carolina, well, that buys you a lot of airtime. If they chip away, could somebody like Jon Huntsman come back into the frame? Could he take some of that time and some of that voting away from Mitt Romney because they (INAUDIBLE)?

BLITZER: Here's the difference between Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, we saw Mitt Romney's super PAC. The pro-Mitt Romney blasting away at Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul's PAC blasting away at Newt Gingrich and destroying Newt Gingrich. He was really running high early December. He collapsed almost completely because he didn't respond.

The difference in South Carolina is Mitt Romney, in the face of this Newt Gingrich barrage, he has the money to respond. He can do what Newt Gingrich didn't do in Iowa. He learned that lesson. He will fight back. He won't turn the other cheek and simply try to take the high road.

They're going to, you know, fight it out in South Carolina. It's going to be brutal. It's going to be ugly and it's going to be tough.

MORGAN: OK. I want one-word answer from all of you. You've got the stellar A-team here. So I'm going to take the opportunity to ask this. If Mitt Romney wins in South Carolina, is he basically the nominee?

BLITZER: He's not -- it isn't a done deal yet. He's -- I think he'll still have to win in Florida.


BURNETT: Well, I would agree with that but I would think the momentum would be so much behind him.

MORGAN: Gloria?


BORGER: I think as George Bush used to say he's got the big mo going into Florida and he's got the money for Florida.

MORGAN: David, three out of three, a done deal?

GERGEN: Done deal.


KING: Yes.


KING: There's your one word.

MORGAN: Unequivocal as you are right now.

Thank you all very much indeed.

Coming up, can Rick Perry revive his campaign in South Carolina? I'll ask the candidate himself when we come back.


MORGAN: Rick Perry threw in the towel in New Hampshire to concentrate efforts on South Carolina's primary on January 21st so it may be no surprise that he found himself in last place tonight. Has he got what it takes to keep his campaign afloat?

Well, the Texas governor, Rick Perry, joins me now.

Governor, welcome.

One percent isn't great. I mean particularly at the moment. Being in the 1 percent is the last place you want to find yourself, isn't it?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we didn't compete in New Hampshire so it doesn't surprise us that our score there was a bit on the low side. So it's the reason we came directly to South Carolina.

The message here and the people of South Carolina, they'll really -- excuse the pun -- but you know they cotton to the message of job creation and particularly what this administration is doing to South Carolina from the standpoint of going directly to war with them on the NRLB and telling Boeing that they can't come into the state.

Their Justice Department has taken on South Carolina's immigration law. You're just seeing an all-out war on this particular state. So having a southern governor standing up for South Carolina, a job- creating governor that's got an impeccable record on job creation, and talking about Washington, D.C. and the corrupt insiders that we see between Wall Street and Washington, a part-time Congress that I've called for, I'm telling you that all of these places I stopped today and yesterday, there's a great reception to that message.

MORGAN: Let's get down to the reality of the political life here. You came fifth in Iowa, you come sixth tonight in New Hampshire, you're running fifth in the polls in South Carolina. You know, you know as well as I do, that you can't really afford to come fifth in South Carolina on the 21st of January.

What are you going to do to turn around your fortunes given the fairly (INAUDIBLE) state you're in at the moment?

PERRY: Well, the fact is that there's a lot going to happen in the next two weeks in South Carolina. People are now just really starting to focus on this and with Mitt Romney sitting where he is, I mean, there is a clear focus on a real conservative candidate. Mitt is not going to fill that bill. So I feel very comfortable that not only our message but the people of South Carolina are looking for an individual who will talk about the real issues facing this country, which is the lack of focus on job creation and this administration is just abysmal record.

When you look at $15 trillion worth of debt, I asked these people in South Carolina, are you better off today than you were $4 trillion ago? They get it. They understand that this country is in trouble. We've got a president that doesn't understand economics and then that's even before we get into foreign policy and the $1 trillion that he's talking about cutting out of our military budget.

MORGAN: What is undeniable tonight is that Mitt Romney is on a roll and a roll that very, very few people in the history of caucuses and primaries have ever been on. The guy has won in Iowa, and New Hampshire. A win is a win. And it's going to be very tough, isn't it? For any candidate to actually seriously challenge him for the nomination, isn't it?

PERRY: Well, I don't think so. And one of the reasons is because South Carolina is a winner-take-all state. And so winning here, I can promise you, wipes ought the caucus victory and New Hampshire. So if Mitt is thinking he's got it in the bag I think he's going to be in for a great surprise in South Carolina when he shows up here.

MORGAN: But tell me, Governor, I've been curious about you, because this is the first time we've actually spoken on the show. And my curiosity is arisen by I've seen clips of you speaking at public events where you've been eloquent and intelligent and funny and engaging and you grabbed the audience.

And it's completely different to the Rick Perry that I see in the debate. Why have you found the debates such a struggle?

PERRY: Well, actually, the last three or four debates I think we performed at a rather high level. And obviously, I think both from a humorous standpoint and a substantive standpoint there were some of the earlier debates that, you know, I will you and admit upfront that it wasn't the best of my performance level but the fact is, if we're looking for a good debater, we've got one in the White House.

But it's not translating into the leadership and it's not translating into an economy that the American people are looking for. So if they're looking for a record of job creation, the million jobs that I help create in the state of Texas over the last decade will resonate with Americans. If they're looking for a great debater or an individual that reads a teleprompter well, they'll stick with what they've got.

MORGAN: America clearly needs someone with a good business brain and the economy remains in the tank. You went after Mitt Romney today about his work at Bain Capital. You called him a greedy Wall Street so and so. Was that the most sensible position? Calling him a vulture? I mean should you be on that side of the coin given that you're a successful Texas governor? A good businessman yourself? Is that the best way to attack him? Because if Mitt Romney now wins the nomination, haven't you just landed Barack Obama a perfect stick to beat him with?

PERRY: Well, there's a real difference between a venture capitalist and a vulture capitalist. And venture capitalists are good. They go in, they inject their capital, they create jobs. Bain Capital, on the other hand, it appears to me were vulture capitalists all too often. And I don't get confused for a minute that Barack Obama and his team wouldn't attack Mitt Romney on that during a general election if he makes it that way.

So if nothing else, we're doing Mitt a favor by exposing him early on so that he can either figure out how to defend that or, more importantly and better from my perspective, he's not the nominee to begin with.

MORGAN: Finally, Governor, I mean, many people will be saying tonight, you should pull out of the race, but your whole background, your whole upbringing has been about winning, particularly in politics, and you've decided to stay in and fight this out.

At what point will you throw in the towel? What is the realistic endgame for you if you reach that point?

PERRY: Well, I think you said the magic words, if I meet that point, which is not in our game plan at all. I mean the fact is, South Carolina is a place where campaigns are going to be made or broken. They pick the president. South Carolinians are looking for a conservative candidate that will get this country back working again and I'm it.

MORGAN: Well, I know that when you spent your time in England you've got used to English beer, despite its warmth, and if I had a night like this at the office, Governor, I'd go and have a few pints, I think, and then dust myself down and move on to South Carolina.

PERRY: I agree with you. And when I get to London sometime, I'll go by you pub and have one on you.

MORGAN: You can definitely do that, Governor. Thank you very much for joining me.

PERRY: Thanks, Piers, it's good to talk to you. Godspeed.

MORGAN: Take care.

Got to admire his determination.

Mark your calendar, everybody, South Carolina's primary on January 21st. It's the next stop on the Republican road show. And joining me now is Chad Connelly, chairman of South Carolina's Republican Party.

Mr. Connelly, a big night coming your way. Everyone now talking about it as D-day really. If Mitt Romney win three out of three, some of my expert star panel earlier said that will be game-over for him. What's your assessment?

CHAD CONNELLY, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, no doubt about it, Piers. I got to tell you, I'm loving the best part about seeing all you guys in the media talking about South Carolina. This is the battle royale. This is where it's going to take place. We've got a 30-year track record of picking the right nominee and we're going to continue that tradition this time around.

MORGAN: It looks like it's going to get ugly. Newt Gingrich has got this super PAC through a very wealthy benefactor bearing down $3.5 million worth of bile on Mitt Romney's head. Are you happy to see it all kick off like this? Or is it good for the party?

CONNELLY: Well, this is South Carolina. We're used to the backyard brawl. We understand the primaries are a big fight. There are vetting out process to pick the nominee and let's face it, we got to replace that train wreck of a disaster in the White House. So our nominee needs to have a thick skin and be ready for anything and in our state we've kind of seen that in the past and we're kind of seeing that in the past and expect more of the same.

MORGAN: We had a debate earlier here about whether it was in the GOP's advantage to have a long battle so that the eventual nominee gets battle-hardened for the real battle with President Obama. What do you think of that? I mean is it a good thing to wrap it up early or can you see the merits of a good old tussle? CONNELLY: You know, I really think, Piers, that a long, drawn-out battle is not necessarily a bad thing because it engages people nationwide. It gets people involved. They see the candidates all over the nation so I'm not one of those who think we need to wrap this up. You know I think that there's a possibility of that happening, obviously, but our state is going to dictate, our voters are going to pick.

We're fiercely independent down here and our folks have a high bar of expecting to meet these candidates and I've been telling people, whoever comes here and spends the time and connects with our voters is going to end up winning South Carolina, and I believe that will be our nominee.

If it is drawn out, I believe it will make our nominee better and we're going to beat Barack Obama next fall.

MORGAN: South Carolina is also famously fiercely evangelical. You have a frontrunner who is a Mormon. Is that going to be a problem for him, do you think?

CONNELLY: Well, you know, we are fiercely evangelical. But really what really sets South Carolina apart is we're the first state that has that good blend of the Republican base. We've got the social conservatives, we've got the military conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives. I think that the story about Governor Romney's Mormonism probably played well four years ago but I think it's a little bit drawn-out by the national media and not near as big a story as maybe it has been in the past.

MORGAN: When you look at Mitt Romney's campaign he's been incredibly steady. He's barely put a foot wrong but he can't seem to really galvanize the Republican vote yet. What's he got to do, do you think, to do that? Because until he does that, until the party falls in love with him, he's always going to have this problem.

CONNELLY: Well, you know, with this many people in the race, it's not an unusual thing that you see it split so much. And I've got friends in every camp. All the six remaining candidates, I know people in all those campaigns. And all of them need to do the same thing. Like I was saying before, they've got to get here. They've got to campaign. They've got to go to the nooks and crannies and meet folks in the diners.

And whoever creates that buzz that extends to the churches and the basketball courts and the gymnasiums this winter, is going to create the buzz that gives them this victory.

MORGAN: Well, Chad Connelly, get your best suit out because the whole world's eyes will be on you on January 21st. Best of luck.

CONNELLY: Yes, sir, thanks for having me, Piers. Have a good night.

MORGAN: My pleasure.

Up next, GOP fireworks. Two firebrand conservative Republicans who are famous for strong opinions on who will win and who will lose in South Carolina.



JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen.

Hello, South Carolina.


MORGAN: Jon Huntsman tonight vowing to take his campaign to South Carolina. That state's primary on January 21st could very well change the shape of the Republican field.

Joining me now two well known conservatives, Michael Reagan, author of the "New Reagan Revolution," and of course the son of Ronald Reagan. Also joining me is Andrew Breitbart of

Welcome, gentlemen.


Good to be here.

MORGAN: Andrew Breitbart, let me start with you. Who are you endorsing right now?

BREITBART: Nobody. This -- the interesting thing about what's happening right now is that a lot of the momentum that was built up in the conservative movement over the last thee years by the Tea Party has been utterly destroyed. There's not a candidate out there that is the Tea Party's first, second, third or fourth choice.

What you have here is a fait accompli. The Republican establishment party has taken back control of the Republican Party and you even have the predictability of Mitt Romney running just perfectly.

David Axelrod has helped to create with the organized left and occupy movement that is perfectly situated to attack Mitt Romney's record with Bain Capital. The only person who can beat Barack Obama at this point is Barack Obama himself.

MORGAN: Well, you say that but, of course, Mitt Romney has played a very good campaign so far. He's the first person, first Republican, who wasn't a serving president, crushing win in Iowa and New Hampshire. He's not doing badly, is he? And you can dismiss him but what more can he be doing than he is doing?

BREITBART: Well, he's playing a very good game of defense when he has a lot of money working to his benefit and he's playing defense. He's not tapping into the psych geist of the last two and a half, three years. Hasn't done a nod to the Tea Party whatsoever. He's almost -- he's borderline embarrassed of what has created this environment in this country where we're finally talking about fiscal sanity, a return to the constitution, and all those things.

It's going to be interesting because right now, there is -- I was just in New Hampshire. There's a lack of enthusiasm and people are just trying to make a very pragmatic decision. Can I get behind this guy the way that I got behind John McCain?

MORGAN: OK. Let me switch to Michael Reagan. Is there a lack of enthusiasm? There appears to be. Having said that, it is early days, and he has won the first two votes. I mean he's not doing badly for somebody that everyone else says they're not very enthusiastic about?

MICHAEL REAGAN, AUTHOR, "THE NEW REAGAN REVOLUTION": Well, he is winning. And, yes, there is this lack of enthusiasm for the candidates that are out there running for the Republican nomination. You know, part of what Andrew says is absolutely correct. But the other side of the coin is, look at how many conservatives you have in the race. You have, what, five people who are trying to be more Reagan than Reagan.

You have one moderate in the race who is splitting the vote with absolutely nobody while the vote is being split between, what, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. You got have the part that's being played by Ron Paul. Now you got Huntsman in.

I mean you got a man running for the president of United States who is happier than hell that all these other people in the race vying for the Tea Party while he's just sitting there vying for votes. He wins with his 25, 30 percent, tonight with 39 percent, because the rest of the percentage is being split by five or six other people.

If the conservatives want to win, pick your champion, get behind that person, and ride that person home.

MORGAN: Your father's name has been a vote many times in the last few months. Who do you think he would have preferred of all these candidates? I know you like Newt Gingrich. But who do you think he would have been steering to?

REAGAN: Oh, my father never got involved in contested primaries for very good reasons and, in fact, would support the nominee of the party. And you could probably sit and say even if the nominee were Ron Paul, then he would go home at night and pray that it wouldn't be Ron Paul.

But it may very well be. I mean you're looking at an election year where the economy is truly the issue out there. And you have the world falling apart, all over the world, whether it's the euro, what's going on in Greece, the European Union. The issues are coming to Ron Paul more than Ron Paul going to the issues. People are forgetting about what he's saying about what he would do as president internationally, and look at what he would do as president of the United States with the economy.

And everybody knows the economy right now is the issue and that's why they're voting. MORGAN: Andrew Breitbart, I mean you said earlier there's no enthusiasm for Romney. Having said that, it was a pretty good turnout in the end tonight. It was up and down all night but ended up a record turnout, albeit not by very much. And you look at Barack Obama's position.

I think only one president in history, Franklin Roosevelt, actually got elected with an unemployment rate of more than 8 percent. Barack Obama's got it all to do, hasn't he?

BREITBART: Well, what's happened over the last few months is -- we've had a focus on the Republican Party and the Republican candidates with the media focusing on the Republican Party and what does it stand for and it's been a diversion from what does Barack Obama stand for and what has he been able to do.

Three years ago, the progressive movement and Barack Obama, it was an unprecedented time in Millennium Park where everybody had their faces out there in the open. Everybody wanted to own how much they loved Barack Obama. It was a time of hope. It was a time of change. And now the "Occupy" movement is set to be his number-one defender and its iconography are these guys faux (ph) masks which are -- represent anonymity. People are hiding themselves. There's a sense of despair out there.

I don't believe that Mitt Romney is running to the fence of campaign. He's hoping that -- I'm not saying he's hoping the economy goes bad but I think he believes that Barack Obama has created a dire circumstance for himself where the Republican will win no matter who it is.

MORGAN: OK. Let's just hold that thought.

REAGAN: Piers, Piers, if I could jump in --


REAGAN: If I could jump in on this. You know, back in 1980, if I can go back to 1980, the reason my father won other than being a great candidate is because the Republicans made the election about Jimmy Carter.

If the Republicans make this election about Barack Obama, and his policies, yes, they can win. But if they get caught up in making it about personalities, then they'll split the party itself and they will not be together in November of next year and they will lose. It needs to be about Barack Obama. And that's where --

MORGAN: I actually -- I was going to come back after the break with exactly that thought because your father memorably saying, no Republican should speak ill of another Republican. And I think I can ask you about that. And also Andrew Breitbart who only speaks ill of everybody. So let's go back after the break and debate that very point.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity in this race. We have an opportunity to be the true conservative, the true conservative who can go out and do what's necessary, not just to win this race, and we can win this race.


MORGAN: That's Rick Santorum tonight claiming the mantel of the one true conservative in the GOP race.

Back with me now is Michael Reagan and Andrew Breitbart.

Gentlemen, I left it on this cliffhanger of Ronald Reagan's great words. Republicans should never speak ill of Republicans.

Andrew, let me go to you because as I said before the break, you are notoriously evil about almost everybody. So what do you think of the new politics where everyone just whacks everybody else?

BREITBART: Well, I don't think you know me, Piers Morgan. I think we've maybe spent eight seconds together and perhaps you're selectively --

MORGAN: It's a long eight seconds.

BREITBART: Well, I don't know what you mean -- I honestly don't know what you mean by that. I've supported people -- I've supported people within the Tea Party who have been attacked by the mainstream media as being racist when there's no -- not a scintilla of evidence that they're racist. So I've gone out there with a snarl on my face because I'm defending good and decent people who are trying to speak to the problems that exist in the country, a return to the constitution, fiscal responsibility.

These are pretty basic things and the people who stood up for that -- Sarah Palin was attacked mercilessly one year ago for the Gabby Giffords thing. She had nothing to do with that. The person who perpetrated that attack was not a political person. Didn't do it for political purposes. Yet she was attacked for it.

So I got out there and I defend those type of people and if I have a snarl on my face and I'm not happy about these -- these circumstances in the media it's unfortunate. I don't think that Mitt Romney is a bad --

MORGAN: Well, then try and smile. Try to smile. There you are. On second thoughts, I (INAUDIBLE) the snarl.

Michael Reagan, let's ask seriously now about this issue about Newt Gingrich going to South Carolina and spending $3.5 million through a friend's super PAC to what will, I'm certain, mercilessly attack Mitt Romney after Mitt Romney did that to him through another super PAC.

What would your father have made of this? He didn't believe Republicans should do this to each other, did he?

REAGAN: Yes. Well, he didn't think they should be, you know, make personal attacks against each other. They can attack themselves politically but not personally. By the way, Andrew does a great job for everybody out there in the conservative movement but it's interesting how Newt is depicted.

$10 million spent against him in Iowa in negative ads against Newt Gingrich and he drops in the polls. Now he decides, I better come out of my box and start swinging. He's going to spend $3.5 million against Mitt Romney. And Newt is seen as being mean.

Now why is Newt mean when he does it but everybody else is doing it and it's OK in Iowa? And this is what the media does.


MORGAN: Well, let me turn -- let me turn to Andrea.

Andrew, let be serious about this for a moment. I think -- I suppose the answer to that --

REAGAN: I was serious.

MORGAN: No, no. I'm talking about Andrew earlier, my little discussion with him about his snarl or his smile.

Let's talk about Newt Gingrich's position. The fact that he's now turning mean, I guess, is the story because he tried to present himself as the new Newt, the nice Newt, the saintly Newt and it didn't work and now he's going to go back to the way perhaps a more traditional Newt would have behaved which is when an opponent whacks him he's going to whack him back, isn't he?

BREITBART: I think it was very disingenuous. I think that the critique against Mitt Romney right now from Newt Gingrich is a legitimate attack that many Reagan Democrats are going to have to -- are going to be confronting him on this based upon what happened with his relationship with Bain for all those years.

It's legitimate. But coming from Newt Gingrich, it doesn't pass the smell test. This is a guy who had a relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is a guy who is a beltway establishment guy who's taken money, you know, from every which way. So they knew that he was just throwing everything that he could at Mitt Romney. This is just a game of politics. I don't know why this late in the game a 60-year- old man -- a 68-year-old man would take it so personally.

MORGAN: Andrew, and very quickly, if Mitt Romney wins in South Carolina, three out of three, is it game over for him, do you think? Has he won?

BREITBART: Oh, yes. I personally think it's over right now to be honest with you. I know that people would like it to go to that next level. I think it is a fait accompli. I think that Mitt Romney is a good guy. I really do. I just think that he has been playing incredibly defensive and the Republican establishment has been wishing for this. David Axelrod has been wishing for this that there's just an historic lack of drama here.

MORGAN: OK. Michael Reagan, the final word with you.

REAGAN: If I -- Piers, if I could jump in.

MORGAN: You can.

REAGAN: Really, you can find negatives about every one of the candidates that are out there. It doesn't matter. You got to get -- Ronald Reagan knew that. Ronald Reagan said support nominee of the party. And we supported the nominee of the party in 2008. John McCain would have been the president of United States of America. He wasn't because we didn't and we need to be supportive of whoever that nominee is this time.

Do they all have problems? Yes. Everybody has problems. The only perfect person I know died on a cross 2,000 years ago so we need to get over it and understand that everybody has got problems. Let's pick the best guy. Let's get behind that person and win in November. Instead of this infighting that's going on within this party. Who's the best? Who's the worst? What problems they have?

You know 17 years ago they would have given a bar mitzvah to Newt Gingrich for what he did for the Republican Party. Now they would burn the chair he was in.


MORGAN: And on that bombshell, Michael Reagan, Andrew Breitbart, thank you both very much both, indeed.

Coming back after the break, I'll tell you we have the two smartest guys around answering the big question tonight. How will South Carolina actually vote?



NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe if we had a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Gingrich presidency, it would be amazing how much we could get done and how rapidly we could get it done.


MORGAN: A confident-sounding Newt Gingrich there but can he do the job in South Carolina? Joining me now is Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics in the University of Virginia. And Nate Silver from "The New York Times."

And Nate Silver, let me start with you. It looks like there's an unstoppable momentum behind Mitt Romney. But Newt Gingrich has now got money behind him. I'm interviewing him tomorrow. We have fascinating time to talk to him. He's not giving up. Has he still got a chance do you think?

NATE SILVER, FIVE THIRTY EIGHT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Not much of a chance. I think he has more of a chance of hurting Romney than helping himself. Gingrich has already become an unacceptable candidate to a certain segment of the Republican establishment and his favorability rate with Republican voters overall are pretty low. He's about 50 percent unacceptable when you look at the Gallup poll, for instance.

So I think he could hurt Romney, but for him to actually turn around and win the nomination I think is really hard. You almost need a third candidate to come in like a Huntsman or Rick Perry to pick up the pieces, I suppose. But I really see this as Romney to lose at this point.

MORGAN: Larry Sabato, you've got a good track record of predicting Senate and House races. Where's the smart money going now?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It's all going to Romney. I agree with everything Nate has said. I think essentially, if Romney had written the script, he couldn't have written it any better than he's had it in Iowa and New Hampshire. And now in South Carolina he continues to have a very divided, conservative field.

There doesn't appear to be any way to get any of these three conservatives out of the race. Jon Huntsman didn't do particularly well tonight so his challenge to Romney probably will fizzle. It's a great setup for Romney, although I have to add one thing, and I hope Nate will agree with me here.

There usually is a bump in the road for every nominee. Reagan had a bump in the road in 1980 in losing Iowa. Bush, the senior, had a bump in the road in Iowa's wealth, finished third. Dole lost New Hampshire. Bush 43 lost New Hampshire. McCain didn't even compete in Iowa because he knew he couldn't win.

So it will be extraordinary if Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and there's no bump in the road.

MORGAN: Yes, Nate, I mean, I'll ask the question. Is there going to be a bump in the road? Paint a picture for me of where it could go wrong for Mitt Romney in South Carolina and Florida.

SILVER: Well, if he's being attacked from all sides with that actual money behind it and coherent arguments, I do think that maybe his Republican rivals are making the wrong attack, or making more of an attack that the general election voters might think about the Obama campaign might make, instead of making attack on his inconsistencies and his flip-flops, and how conservative he really is.

So I think the idea that people are ganging up on Mitt and make him more vulnerable could result in some downward pressure on his numbers but I'm not sure if that attack will. I think that attack might bring a lot of the establishment out to support Romney and say, hey, let's end this right now before we give David Axelrod and the Democrats more ammunition for November. MORGAN: And Larry --

SILVER: So I can't think of a scenario really, I suppose.

MORGAN: No, I mean, Larry, can you see a scenario? And the other question I want to put to you, if you're Barack Obama, would you rather know who the nominee is now or are you happy to watch the Republicans scrap it out for a few more months?

SABATO: There's no question it's the latter. Look at the TV ads that have been produced by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, among others. If Mitt Romney is actually the nominee, they have made the case against Romney and Bain Capital much better than a Democratic incumbent could ever have done, so of course, Obama would want this to continue.

MORGAN: OK. Larry, I've got to leave it there.

SABATO: Look, the key --

MORGAN: I've got to leave it there.


MORGAN: Are we both agree --

SABATO: Sorry.

MORGAN: Do both of you agree Mitt Romney at the moment looks like a shoo-in?

SABATO: He's the favorite.

SILVER: I'd say upward of 90 percent?

MORGAN: Ninety percent. That's probably a good enough --

SABATO: I'd agree.

MORGAN: OK. Gentlemen, thank you both very much, indeed. We'll be back after this break.


MORGAN: Tomorrow night, we're back to our regular time for a revealing hour-long interview with Newt Gingrich as he takes his campaign to South Carolina at PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT tomorrow 9:00 Eastern.