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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Florida Republican Primary; Interview with Rick Santorum
Aired January 31, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN projects that Mitt Romney, yes, Mitt Romney will win the Florida primary. CNN is making that projection, based on all of the information that's coming in, the official numbers as well as the exit poll numbers.
You're looking at live pictures of Mitt Romney headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Let's listen in. The crowd is very excited.
And our own Candy Crowley is on the scene for us, as she always is.
Candy, that crowd certainly expected it, but now we have made the projection, the former Massachusetts governor wins the state of Florida.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you know, this is the most excited ballroom I've seen. And that includes Iowa, when we thought he had won the caucuses. It is bigger, it is louder. They actually counted down as they saw the clock going down to 8:00, so sure were they that this was going to be a victory for Mitt Romney.
Throughout Camp Romney, they were pretty certain they were going to get a good victory. They're looking inside those polling numbers to find some bragging rights as they move forward. I can tell you that inside the campaign, they're feeling good enough to start talking about what's ahead. And they said, listen, we've got $19 million. We have a turnout organization second to none and we also have an organization and we're on the ballot in every state, which Newt Gingrich is not.
So they are certainly muscle flexing after this win today. We'll have to wait and see how big it actually is as those votes come in.
But looking down the road, I have to tell you, Wolf, interesting to me, the one thing that was mentioned to me by two senior advisors was the caucuses. And they said, you know, looking at the caucuses, we believe those are uphill for us. And the one name they mentioned, Rick Santorum. They thought he's pretty good at caucuses maybe because he turned out to have actually won Iowa. But nonetheless, they believe he has some staying power, particularly in those caucuses. And that's where, if they're worried, they're most worried -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the caucuses in Nevada coming up this Saturday. Candy, stand by.
I want to explain to our viewers what's going on, how we were able to make this projection. First of all, a lot of the votes are now officially in. Fifty-eight percent of the votes have been counted in the state of Florida. Mitt Romney is ahead, way ahead with 47 percent to 31 percent for Newt Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum, 7 percent for Ron Paul.
So that's a major, major lead, just changing a little bit more, now 47 percent, though, for -- for Mitt Romney. We projected him the winner. Thirty-one percent for Newt Gingrich. He's almost 200,000 votes ahead of Newt Gingrich.
In addition to that, all day, we've been asking people as they've been leaving the voting booths who they voted for and now we can share with you the exit poll results.
And here's the other factor that led us to make this projection. Here is the CNN exit poll results, based on the poll, the answers that folks gave us after they actually voted. Forty-six percent said they voted for Mitt Romney, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich, 12 percent for Rick Santorum, 8 percent for Ron Paul.
A very impressive showing, at least in the exit polls. Not that different from the actual numbers that are coming in right now with about 58 percent of the vote in. But take a look at the exit poll results on all the folks throughout the state that came out, they spoke to us, they told us who they voted for. This was what they told us. Forty-six percent for Mitt Romney, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich, 12 percent for Rick Santorum, 8 percent for Ron Paul.
Those numbers on the exit poll, what, almost 16 percent of the actual vote is in, very similar to what we're seeing right now.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very similar, Wolf. Let's start at the magic wall. You see the map starting to fill in. All this dark red is Mitt Romney. You do see Newt Gingrich winning some up here but let me just show you these are tiny counties. He's winning in tiny rural areas of the state where there aren't that many people.
Mitt Romney is winning in Tallahassee, he's winning in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, St. Pete, Naples, Miami. Mitt Romney is winning where the people live. And politics is about math, ladies and gentlemen. Forty-eight percent with 60 percent of the vote counted percent.
If you add up at the moment Gingrich and Santorum, they don't match up to Mitt Romney. So let's go behind the Romney victory and look at the exit polls. Why did this happen? Well, Florida voters said, number one, who has -- who can defeat Barack Obama? They know their state will be huge, 29 electoral votes in the fall. Their number quality was who can defeat Barack Obama. You see that.
Well, let's take a look at this. This is a thumping, 58-33 percent. Remember in South Carolina, South Carolina voters thought Gingrich was the best candidate for the fall campaign by a big margin. Florida Republican think no, the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is stronger. That was huge in the Romney victory.
Let's move on to some other key issues here. The Tea Party movement. Sixty-five percent of Republican voters today support the Tea Party. That has been a Newt Gingrich strength if you look and yet almost a split there. Governor Romney with a slight advantage, 40 percent of voters who say they support the Tea Party voted for Governor Romney, 38 percent for Speaker Gingrich.
So if you watch this on the pie, if you look at the chart, roughly even among the Tea Party. That had been a huge Gingrich advantage in other states. That's a big comeback for Romney in the state of Florida.
And let's move over here. If you look -- evangelicals or born- again Christians. Evangelical vote, 40 percent said yes. They were white evangelicals. If you look at this, Speaker Gingrich had a slight lead but only a slight lead over Governor Romney among evangelicals, Gingrich 39-36 percent.
But remember this, 6 in 10 Florida Republicans -- that one just disappeared on me. Six in 10 Florida Republican said they were not evangelicals. We'll bring it back up here, Wolf. We can bring it up and come back to it. They were not evangelicals. We'll bring it up on the -- all right. She doesn't want to cooperate at the moment. Sometimes the computer goes down.
But among non-evangelicals, Governor Romney just shellacked Speaker Gingrich. And I'll get you the numbers, we'll dig deeper in just a moment. But if you look behind this, if you look at Tea Party movement breaking even, that was very important for Governor Romney. Among evangelicals, roughly breaking even, very, very important. And among non-evangelicals, Governor Romney off the charts.
BLITZER: Yes. We could call it a shellacking right now, right?
KING: Absolutely. And --
BLITZER: And you just did.
KING: It was a thumping in South Carolina for Gingrich, it's a shellacking for Romney in Florida.
BLITZER: All right. That's a technical term. All right. Let's go over to Anderson.
You heard it in very technical term. A shellacking.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It certainly seems that way.
Let's check in with Jim Acosta who's standing by Newt Gingrich headquarters. A very different scene, obviously. You know we just saw Romney headquarters. Where do they go from here? JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They go to Nevada from here, Anderson. I can tell you, just looking at this crowd right now. There are roughly 50 to 100 people in this room right now. So a dramatically different image of the crowd at Gingrich headquarters on this primary night when you contrast that with what happened in South Carolina 10 days ago.
I talked to somebody inside Gingrich world just a few moments ago, and that person said they are not even spending the night in Florida tonight. They are leaving for Nevada later tonight. The former speaker is not doing the round of morning talk shows that is customarily the case after these primary nights. He is moving on to an event in Reno, Nevada, and they're hoping for a big Tea Party showing in that state.
They're going to be spending a lot of time out in Nevada. Earlier this week, the former speaker said well, there are a lot of folks there who are in the Mormon church that might naturally go for Mitt Romney in the Nevada caucuses. But they feel that at the same time, there are enough Tea Party people there that they could be competitive in that state.
So it's adios, Florida, and it's on to Nevada -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, appreciate that. Thanks very much. We'll continue to check in with you when -- obviously when Speaker Gingrich speaks tonight, we'll bring that to our viewers as well.
Let's go to Erick Erickson and Roland Martin who are standing by down in South Beach in Miami.
Erick Erickson, we just saw -- John King was showing us that among Tea Party voters, that they were pretty evenly split, that Mitt Romney has been able to make inroads among Tea Party voters in Florida, very different than what we saw in South Carolina.
Can the Gingrich campaign really depend on Tea Party voters in Nevada?
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: I'm not sure Nevada. Although, Anderson, to be honest, I really want to see if we can break it out and see what did the Panhandle do as oppose to the rest of the rest of the state in terms of evangelicals and Tea Party. Because I would argue that in the upcoming primaries, particularly on Super Tuesday, that the Tea Party voters and the evangelical voters demographically are going to be more similar to Panhandle voters than Southern Florida voters.
They balanced out in the state overall but what about Northern Florida? I think that can make a difference for Gingrich. It's going to be a very long, hard slog for him February because Arizona, Nevada and Michigan, they're all going to favor Mitt Romney.
ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And look, Anderson, I think we also got to back to something. The Tea Party was built on this economic agenda. I think back to Ross Perot and the reform party and people talking about the debt things and all the issues. That's what it was about. And so when Newt Gingrich talks about, I am more of a conservative than Mitt Romney, Tea Party folks are saying, especially in this state, I want to hear about the economy. I want to hear about jobs.
ERICKSON: They never heard -- they heard about abortion instead.
MARTIN: Absolutely. And so if you're Newt Gingrich, you have to tailor your message, frankly, to Florida different than what he did in South Carolina. That made no sense whatsoever. It's going to be economics. So I don't buy the whole motion that he can somehow just grab the Tea Party folks if he has no economic message.
COOPER: Eric, you can, I guess, pinpoint one thing that allowed -- gave Mitt Romney such a lead and such a win in Florida tonight. Obviously money was a huge factor, the amount of money spent. But do you think this was really a story about the importance of debates?
ERICKSON: Well, you know, I think advertising was predominant in Florida and had more of an impact than anything. Well, the debates were key in Florida as well. They got Newt momentum in South Carolina. They really hurt him in Florida.
I talked to a very senior Newt Gingrich official shortly before the South Carolina debate that CNN did and he said Newt Gingrich's strategy, he was not joking, was to tune the world out, take a nap, relax and think himself as opposed to doing the traditional debate.
I think if that's what he's telling me and he was serious, then Newt is going to have to re-think his debate strategy.
MARTIN: You know, Erick, also I think -- his problem was he expected a Mitt Romney to come with the same Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney finally decided in Florida to play to win and not play to lose. They stopped being so conservative, not a bad word here. They stopped being conservative, stopped trying to --
ERICKSON: Never that word.
MARTIN: Trying to be all, you know, laid back, he finally got far more aggressive and I think clearly the voters -- they responded. The question is, can Mitt Romney stay aggressive in the next few states, especially on Super Tuesday.
ERICKSON: Yes. And that's going to drive up negatives for him as it did for Gingrich if he does stay that aggressive.
MARTIN: But he has no choice because he's got to win the nomination.
COOPER: Roland Martin, Erick Erickson, guys, thanks. We'll check in with you throughout the evening.
Let's go back to our table of Republicans and Democrats over here. Can -- I mean we heard from Jim Acosta saying that Gingrich is going to try to rely on -- and reach out to Tea Party voters in Nevada. Can he rely on them or is -- or is -- is Mitt Romney really making serious inroads with them?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Mitt Romney is making serious inroads with them. Newt Gingrich split the Panhandle, to answer Erick's question. Those Tea Party conservatives. You know, a friend of mine jokes that Jacksonville is -- Florida is the second largest city in Georgia. That this is really the south of the northern part of Florida.
Newt Gingrich didn't do particularly well there. He's tying Mitt Romney is not --
COOPER: Why do you think that was? I mean was he -- he talking about burning the moon and --
CASTELLANOS: All over the map is what I would say. Newt Gingrich was all over the map. There isn't one Newt Gingrich. He was no concentrated message.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRES. BUSH: Yes, I think that's exactly right. And when you get to the Panhandle, when you get to the more conservative, more traditionally southern votes, which is going to go Republican in the general election. But in March, there are those southern primaries in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi, Newt did win, tie 38-38 in northern Florida in the Panhandle, a good sign for Newt going forward.
However, Nevada, huge roadblock for everybody. Mitt won it by 38 percentage points last time. Huge Mormon population that votes Republican, 26 percent of primary voters in Nevada four years ago were Mormon, and Mitt Romney took 95 percent of them. I don't think anybody can touch Mitt Romney in Nevada.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: But the person I would look for in Nevada is Ron Paul, who we haven't mentioned. He excels at these caucuses. He's not going to contest I think that LDS vote very effectively. But I think -- I think actually Santorum and Ron Paul, who we have not talked about a lot tonight, I think I like their odds in Nevada a lot better than Newt's.
I think they have bases. Rick Santorum with the Christian conservatives, Ron Paul, with libertarians. In a caucus, I think they can actually do better than --
COOPER: And Ron Paul said weeks ago that he was going to be focusing on caucus states.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And we also have Maine. You have Maine which is a caucus state. We have Colorado so there time for Ron Paul, Santorum, to get their wings back and there's time for Newt Gingrich to pivot.
Look, as long as conservative voters are restless, 4 in 10 Republicans are saying that Mitt Romney is not conservative enough, 4 in 10 are looking for somebody else to jump into the race.
CASTELLANOS: Keep pushing.
BRAZILE: Yes, I am. I'm trying to keep this going. My popcorn is still hot.
CASTELLANOS: Keep pushing.
COOPER: But if you were -- if you're Gingrich or you're Santorum, you look at the numbers of people who voted both either for Gingrich or Santorum and that gives you hope because you think well, if one of those drops out, then the other guy is going to be able to get those votes.
CASTELLANOS: But tonight when you look at the Florida vote, it looks like Romney is getting more votes than Santorum and Gingrich combined in a state that's fairly much a microcosm of the path ahead. So that's good news for Romney. The person to look for in Nevada is not just Ron Paul, it's Sheldon Adelson. Does he invest again in Newt Gingrich's --
COOPER: He's the man who've been bank rolling Newt Gingrich.
CASTELLANOS: Yes. Does he go put another big wad of cash on lucky number Newt.
BEGALA: Yes, that may drag --
CASTELLANOS: That could change everything.
BEGALA: The voter train I don't think in Nevada is as good for Newt. And I should say, I've been searching for the dark cloud here. But the silver lining for Romney is much bigger than the cloud. It is a huge impressive terrific win for Mitt Romney.
CASTELLANOS: And let's give a little bit of credit to the much maligned negative ad.
CASTELLANOS: You know? When you're -- policemen take bad people off the street so they don't hurt us. The news media warns us of bad things so we can fix them. Good negative ads warn us of people that, you know, Americans don't think should be president.
COOPER: Spoken like a man whose made a couple of -- (CROSSTALK)
CASTELLANOS: What a great idea, the negative ad. We need more, we need more.
COOPER: But -- I mean do you guys over agree that -- with Paul that negative ads work and this is a sign of that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, negative ads work. People, as Paul points out, lie about whether they think negative ads really affected them. I believe in this particular case that the last debate had a very large impact.
But let me -- let me say something about Newt Gingrich. He is hanging on to the fact that the anti-Romney people in the Republican Party still outweigh the pro-Romney people. And if you look at these exit polls tonight, what's really interesting, is he does not get -- I mean Mitt Romney, huge win, accolades all around, he does not get the base of the base. He still doesn't get the people who consider themselves very conservative.
Not -- he won with overall conservatives but not with the most conservative. He didn't win with the people who strongly support the Tea Party movement. Overall Tea Partiers, yes, but not the base of the base. So I think that's going to continue to dog him. The Gingrich campaign says, you know what, maybe these are enough people to win us some states.
CASTELLANOS: Neither did Bob Dole --
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: But it's also that it's coming -- we have something that's going to happen tonight. Up to 11:59, it's going to be really important to see who has staying power. And that is the super PACs, Restore Our Future for Mitt Romney, Winning Our Future for Newt Gingrich, are going to report how much money they raised at the end of the year. And in one of the most shocking things in politics, they haven't had a report since last summer.
So we've had six months where these guys have been raising money. We don't know who's been giving them money, the big donors, and we don't know how much. You're going to get a huge number from Mitt Romney, he had $12 million just through June. So we're going to get a huge number and you're going to see what Newt Gingrich got, which is going to be really crucial in terms of -- if money is getting behind him.
I call it a clean number. To people like Newt Gingrich, you're going to see that number because it does not include Sheldon Adelson.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BURNETT: Who gave his money in January. So you're going to really see what regular big donors are going to give and that's going to determine his war chest because he's already spent more than $3 million on ads out of Sheldon's (INAUDIBLE). GERGEN: I just want to make the case, and I don't think negative advertising can win an election usually. I think negative advertising hurt Newt Gingrich a lot in Iowa. But it's worth to remember that in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich got hit by an avalanche of negative advertising, he was out-spent 2-1 in South Carolina, but he still won. And he won because he had a strategy, took him to the debate, and he made the arguments to people live on television, and that helped to win it.
Here, he came wandering, he abandoned the strategy. Nobody know what the heck he stood for. And yes, the advertising drive it, partly but the voters themselves said the debates drove it much more than the advertising did.
BORGER: And he spent a lot of time just complaining --
GERGEN: I agree.
BORGER: -- about Mitt Romney's negative ads and complaining about Mitt Romney.
BURNETT: It wasn't debates. It was one moment where he came off as a hero against the media. That was what really made people -- that's right. And the next day in South Carolina people said that moment won them over.
GERGEN: That's called winning a debate.
BEGALA: There's one other huge factor. He didn't buy John King a puppy. He bitterly personally attacked him. Negative works.
BRAZILE: And Juan Williams.
FLEISCHER: And this is the point Erick Erickson had been making that the issue of Marianne Gingrich's allegations against Newt broke so late in the South Carolina primary. Newt did such a good job in the debate that he distracted attention from it.
But now that it's settled in, here's what happened in Florida. Mitt Romney won men by 41-36, he won 51-29.
FLEISCHER: That's the mother of all gender gaps.
COOPER: And do you -- and you trace that to the allegations about his former wife?
FLEISCHER: I think when you look at the data, Newt Gingrich has a big problem with women. (CROSSTALK)
GERGEN: With married women. With married women.
FLEISCHER: And it's probably even more pronounced when you dig deeper.
BORGER: Married women.
FLEISCHER: And -- exactly. Married women --
BORGER: Married women.
FLEISCHER: Even more than single women, but he has a problem with both.
COOPER: It's fascinating to watch. John and Wolf?
BLITZER: You know it's amazing as we dig deeper, Anderson, into all of these numbers, and John has been really going through all these the exit poll numbers to get a better appreciation of how he managed to win.
KING: And he won with a broad breadth of this victory. We'll show you on the magic wall in just a minute. But to Ari's point, I'll get to it in a minute. But I just want to show you some of the constituents. I will show you this one. The wall took a little bit of break earlier but among non-evangelicals, 60 percent of the Florida electorate said, no, we're not white born-again evangelicals. Sixty percent of electorate, Governor Romney, 53 percent of the pie to Speaker Gingrich, 27. You see Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.
So it's huge, among 60 percent of the electorate, you win more than 53 percent of that, guess what, that's a piece of a victory.
Then you come over here. The most important issue, the most important issue to the voters of Florida, no surprise here, unemployment rate is near 10 percent. The most important issue was the economy, and again, look at this, a 20-point margin between Governor Romney over Speaker Gingrich. That is the recipe right there for the shellacking we see in Florida today on the -- number one issue, you win huge.
Then you move over here. Votes by marital status, this is what Ari Fleischer was just talking about. Among married men, 40 percent of the electorate in Florida today were married men. Among married men, you essentially have a dead heat, 37 percent for Governor Romney, 35 percent for Speaker Gingrich.
So Governor Romney actually doing better here than he did in South Carolina, running even with married men. But if you come down here among married women, one-third of the electorate in Florida today, married women, Governor Romney with a majority, 51 percent to 28 percent for Speaker Gingrich. There could be, to Erick and Ari's point, evidence that the personal character questions may be taking a toll among women. You move this over here. Unmarried women it's only 15 percent of the electorate. You see less of a gap here but still a big Romney victory. Here another gender gap, 44 percent to 28 percent less than among married women.
But, Wolf, no matter where you go, if you just -- just a straight-up gender gap, 51 percent of electorate were men, Romney winning but by a very narrow margin there, just five points, but if you look at the half of the electorate, just under of half of it were women, there you have it, 51 percent to 29 percent.
If you're doing that, that's why you get that huge margin.
BLITZER: And yes, Florida, the fourth largest state in the country and a state that is really representative of the country as a whole.
I want to show our viewers a picture that was just tweeted by Tag Romney, the son of Mitt Romney. Take a look at this. You can see him right there. Apparently the winner of the Florida primary is going over his speech, he's getting ready to delivery that speech in a little while. That picture just tweeted by Tag Romney just a little while ago.
All right, 67 percent of the vote is now in, John. And you look very impressive, 47-31 percent lead right now for Mitt Romney over Newt Gingrich. And you take a look at this state, you see the bright red. Those are all counties that at least right now are -- that Mitt Romney is ahead of Newt Gingrich on.
KING: And Wolf, if you look at this map, the picture you just showed, Governor Romney preparing a speech to this, perhaps the most important speech he will give in this campaign, because he has just won a huge general election price. He has just won a huge general election price by a huge margin. So he wants to speak to country tonight about November. He wants to speak to Republicans about February and March. He wants to make the case, it is time to settle this one and make me your nominee.
So a huge speech. If you look at this, Governor Romney is winning where the people are. If you ever studied Florida, you go through it up here, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, St. Pete, Naples, Miami. Those are your big population centers. A little bit up here in Tallahassee. To a smaller degree, Panama City. Any of the big urban areas, any of the big population centers, Governor Romney is winning.
You might ask -- be asking yourself -- let me this turn on. What is this up here? This is the area of Speaker Gingrich's strength. These are tiny rural counties. The one key point as we go forward to this point about, can you heal the party? This is the Tea Party in Florida. Newt Gingrich is winning where the Tea Party is strongest. But they're small rural counties, not a lot of votes there. That is a sign of the healing tabs (ph) Governor Romney would have going forward.
And Wolf, as we turn this off, I just want to come back to this.
BLITZER: Don't turn it off. I want to ask you a quick question.
BLITZER: About South Florida. These are going to be critical in the general election, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach Counties, obviously those are -- I think the largest counties in the state.
How did they do?
KING: Miami-Dade, 41 percent of the population, he's getting 63 percent of the vote among Republicans there.
KING: Come to Broward County, 10 percent of the population, 52 percent. You could move up here to Palm Beach County, 55 percent. And that's the point I was just going to make. This is why that speech tonight is so important. Look at these areas of strength. Remember this area here in a competitive election of Florida, the I-4 Corridor from Tampa over to Orlando, independent voters, swing voters right in here.
These are very important parts of the state. I want to make that point to come back to 2008 and to come back to the presidential race. Barack Obama carried Florida but in an election he was winning big, 51 percent. This is was a relatively close state. And unemployment rate has gone up.
Mitt Romney tonight, you look down here, in the general election, this is Democratic territory, performing very well. Up in here, this is a split area. You see McCain doing well in some areas, Obama in others. When Governor Romney speaks tonight he is thanking the people of Florida for this victory tonight, Wolf, but he wants to project as a sign of strength to talk about let's move on.
BLITZER: And it looks like voter enthusiasm for the Republicans. This is a close state. Only Republicans can vote. Voter turnout is good. That does not necessarily bode well right now for the -- in November, if assuming Mitt Romney gets the nomination for President Obama. He needs Florida. He needs it desperately. They're both going to be fighting for the fourth largest state in the country.
KING: Any Republican nominee will be. If it is Mitt Romney, it's a big win for him tonight. President Obama's team gets this. When we were in Florida for the debate you moderated last week, I talked to a number of Democrats who say on this day, they consider President Obama to be the underdog, almost no matter who the Republicans candidate is, and those Democrats would concede, Democrats who know Florida very well, that they believe Governor Romney would be -- as of today would be considered a slight favorite in the state of Florida. BLITZER: We're getting ready, Anderson, to see and hear Mitt Romney. He's going to be walking into that room. The crowd is very, very excited. I don't know if you saw that crowd compared to the Gingrich headquarters. It's day and night. They are thrilled, a huge crowd at Romney headquarters. A very modest crowd, obviously not very happy, over at Gingrich headquarters. Those two pictures, you put them up side by side, Anderson, it says a lot.
COOPER: Yes, it certainly does. Another picture, a tweet pic that we've just seen Mitt Romney, Governor Romney actually watching the results, watching CNN to learn that we have projected him the winner. That picture has just been tweeted out. You see the picture there behind the scenes of the Romney campaign.
As we wait for Governor Romney to speak tonight and we anticipate him coming out to speak any moment, you guys have helped write a lot of speeches over the years. What would you suggest to these candidates, what is the message from these candidates tonight, for Governor Romney and for Gingrich?
BEGALA: Romney strategy is pretty clear, focus on Obama. OK? He won this primary, as I've saying, by viciously attacking Gingrich and running negative ads against Gingrich. He's got to get his head totally into Barack Obama now and stand there and show the party that he's the guy who can beat Barack Obama. Any attacks on Gingrich are wasted time tonight, Governor. This is what I would be saying. Let's focus on the president.
COOPER: Is that just for tonight or is that also moving forward --
BEGALA: For just for tonight. He's going to still have to deal with these guys. But for tonight, big audience, big night, big win, be big.
Newt Gingrich has a harder thing. I don't know if he's capable of turning off the bitter personal attacks. Romney clearly is. He switched them on and off as David Gergen points out, as his strategy dictates. Newt seems to be mean this. And the most interesting thing for me tonight is when he hit that stage. What's he going to do? What's he going to say? I have no idea. I -- does he continue to bitterly attack Mitt Romney?
FLEISCHER: Well, Mitt Romney, four things. Debt, deficit, jobs, spending. Bring it back to the general election issues. The base that's rise up above, end the trench warfare that marks the primary.
For Newt, I mean I just tweeted. Is Newt going to give another attack concession speech.
FLEISCHER: No one knows what Newt will do. Newt does -- Newt does it himself so it's always fascinating TV to watch Newt.
CASTELLANOS: And if he continues to do that, he'll continue to marginalize himself and distance himself from chair in the Oval Office. Romney has to give the big speech tonight where he will take the country different than where Obama would. Fortunately he's got a campaign and a super PAC to do the hard, negative work that still continues to be done. They still need to keep their foot on Gingrich so that he doesn't come back from the grave the third time.
COOPER: But doesn't Gingrich move away from the attack on Romney at his peril?
BRAZILE: No. I mean --
CASTELLANOS: Not tonight.
COOPER: Not tonight.
BRAZILE: Not tonight. Absolutely.
CASTELLANOS: Tonight, he's got to hug him and love him and say, you know, the guy who ran the better campaign won. But there's still something that separates us, big differences on where we take the country. A Massachusetts moderate wouldn't do what I would do. You know stick with me, we're going to try again.
COOPER: David Gergen --
GERGEN: I would think Newt Gingrich has to make a very fundamental decision very quickly. But a lot of the Republican Party is going to now say, Newt, you can't win this. So the question becomes does he continue tearing down the likely nominee of the party and go out as the person that's hated within the party or does he look for a way to have a graceful exit to a good future? And I think that's a very important question.
COOPER: Also, if you're Newt Gingrich and your future depends on speeches and books sales among Republicans.
COOPER: That would weigh heavily on you.
Paul, you were driven to make a point.
BEGALA: He's never had a graceful exit in his life.
BEGALA: Sorry. It's just not in his nature.
BORGER: But he should make it -- BRAZILE: Somebody needs to remind him that this is not -- no longer the 1990s. The last time he was on the ballot is 1998. And it's showing. I mean it's -- you know, evident to most of us that he doesn't have a strategy to win the nomination. He hasn't really, you know, settled on a message to really take it to conservative voters so that he can consolidate the base of the Republican Party. So right now, he's running on fumes. And many of us know that that can take you but so far.
Look, I want to just say something about Mitt Romney's speech tonight. Please, he's no -- he's no Barack Obama. He cannot carry a tune so just recite those wonderful patriotic words, don't sing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen --
FLEISCHER: Here's a memo that Newt's staff put out this week. It's from Martin Baker, the national political director of Newt's campaign. Bottom line, looking forward, regardless of the message of the Mitt Romney wants to push and the media wants to deliver, this race is just getting started. Either way there is a long way to go before either candidate clinches the nomination and this campaign will continue for months.
COOPER: And they've just introduced Governor Romney and his family. Let's listen in.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Thank you, Florida. We are so grateful to all of you for being here tonight and how great all of you are. Thank you, this is a very wonderful reception.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
A. ROMNEY: You know, this experience of mitt running for president has been extraordinary for our family. It's just -- it's just hard to express what it means for a wife and a mother to see these kids like this and on the stage.
I will tell you, though, Mitt is -- doesn't always take himself very seriously because we have the five boys along on the bus.
A. ROMNEY: They keep us humble. Only four of them are here tonight. You know my son, Ben, he's in residency. We're sorry, he's not here.
We have made friendships from here all across this country but here in Florida, it's been wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're from La Jolla.
A. ROMNEY: You're from La Jolla, fantastic. There's so many people we need to thank. The list is long. So I'm going to ask you to do something and not to clap until we've gone through the list. But I'm going to mention a few people that have made such a difference. So please hold your applause until the end. Commissioner Adam Putnam, our chairman. Chief financial officer Jeff Atwater, let's see, Pam Bondi, attorney general, Ambassador John Roode, Ambassador Mill Sembler.
You're not listening to me. Senator Connie Mac and Senator Mel Martinez, well, I give up and the members of Congress who endorse Mitt, Connie Mac, Jeff Miller, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Elonia Rose, Andrew Crenshaw, Tom Rooney, Sandy Adams, Senator John Thrasher, Senator Flores, Speaker Allen Bentz, Speaker designate, Will Weatherford and Ted Neil.
Our friends celebrating in Tallahassee, Miami, Jacksonville and across Florida, Molly Donlon, Brett Dostner and Anna Carbonell. Our great grassroots team throughout the state. Finally, thank you all so much.
Now -- now, let me introduce to you my husband, the father of my five sons, the grandfather of my 16 grandchildren and the next president of the United States.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, you guys! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Thank you to the people in this room and to the people all over Florida, thank you tonight for this great victory. There are -- there are fewer -- there are fewer candidates tonight than when the race began, but three gentlemen are serious and able competitors and they're still in the race and I want to congratulate them on another hard fought contest in this campaign.
Primary contests are not easy. They're not supposed to be, as this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching, and they like to comfort themselves with the thought a competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak. But I've got news for them.
A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us and we will win. And when we gather back here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention -- ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America.
Three years ago, this week, a newly elected President Obama faced the American people and he said, look, if I can't turn this economy around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition, and we're here to collect!
You know the results. It's been 35 months of unemployment above 8 percent. And under this president, more Americans have lost their jobs and more home foreclosures have occurred than under the administration of any other president in history.
In the last 10 days, I met with a father, who was terrified that this would be the last night his family would be able to sleep in the only home his son has known. I've met seniors who thought these would be the best years of their life and now they're worried day-to-day about how to make ends meet. I met some Hispanic entrepreneurs who thought they had achieved the American dream and now seeing it disappear. In the "State of the Union" address, the president actually said these words. He says, let's remember now how we got here.
Don't worry, Mr. President, we remember exactly how we got here. You won the election! Leadership, leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Payne is reported to have said, lead, follow or get out of the way.
Well, Mr. President, you were elected to lead. You chose to follow, and now, it's time for you to get out of the way. I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation as a man who spent his life outside Washington.
I know what it's like to start a business. I know how extra ordinarily difficult it is to build something from nothing. I know how government kills jobs and, yes, I know how it can help from time- to-time.
My leadership helped build businesses from scratch. My leadership helped save the Olympics from scandal and give our American athletes the chance to make us all proud as they did.
My leadership cut taxes 19 times and cast over 800 vetoes. We balance the budget every single year and we kept our schools first in the nation. My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of American prosperity.
This campaign -- this campaign is about more than replacing a president. It's about saving the soul of America. President Obama and I have very different visions of America. President Obama wants to grow government and continue to amass trillion dollar deficits.
I will not just slow the growth of government. I will cut the spending of government. I will not just freeze government share of the total economy, I will reduce it and without raising taxes, I will finally get America to a balanced budget.
President Obama's view of a free economy is to send your money to his friends. My vision for a free enterprise economy is to return entrepreneurship and genius and creativity to the American people! On one of the most personal matters of our lives, our health care, President Obama would turn decision making over to government bureaucrats. He forced through Obama-care and I will repeal it.
You know, like his colleagues in the faculty lounge, who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.
I will make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators and job creators and unlike the other people running for president, I know how to do that because I've done it before. President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience. I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations that trample on our first freedom.
President Obama believes that our role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. He's intent on shrinking our military capacity at a time when the world is facing rising threats.
I will insist on a military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it. President Obama has adopted a policy of appeasement and apology. I will speak out for those seeking freedom and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends around the world.
You see, you see, President Obama wants to fundamentally transform America and make it something perhaps we wouldn't recognize. I want to restore to America the values and principles that made us the hope of the earth, and I'll do it.
Our plans -- our plans protect freedom and opportunity and our blueprint is the constitution of the United States. Together, we will build an America where hope is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker.
Now, let me be clear. The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle to grave assurance that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise the most goodies and the most benefits, I'm not your president.
You have that president today. If you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, I hope you'll join us. If you believe the disappointments -- if you believe the disappointments in the last few years are a detour and not our destiny, then I'm asking for your vote.
I'm asking each of you to remember how special it is to be an American. I want you to remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited about the future and not to dread each new headline. I want you to remember when you spent more time dreaming about where to send your kids to college than wondering how you'd make it to the next paycheck.
I want you to remember when you weren't afraid to look at your retirement saves or the price at the gas pump. I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.
That America is still out there. We believe in that America. We still believe in the America that is the land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom. We believe in the America that challenges each of us to be bigger and better than ourselves.
This election, let's fight for the America we love. We believe in America. Thank you so much! Florida, you're the best! God bless the United States of America! Thank you! Thank you! ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You've just been listening to Governor Mitt Romney with his victory speech in Florida. A really huge win, right now with 74 percent of the votes counted, 47 percent for Mitt Romney, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich.
Paul Begala, you said he needed to make a big speech focusing on President Obama and the future, did he do that?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think he did a very good job. He didn't rise to the inspirational level perhaps that Barack Obama did at this stage in 2008, but that's an awfully high bar. I think he did what he needed to do tonight.
You have two degrees at Harvard to be mocking the people in the faculty lounge is a little tinny to me. If I had like 23 bank accounts in Europe, I don't think I would attack the White House for looking like Europe. In this main, this is what he needed to do. A little more lift and loft next time, but good speech.
COOPER: Paul giveth and he taketh away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's complicated.
BEGALA: This is can you take it to Barack Obama the way you took it to Newt Gingrich in the debate this week and he had some really good lines. And it will appeal to conservatives who have doubts about Mitt Romney.
We need a White House the best of what we are than what Europe is becoming. That's a good line. He's trying hopefully to look ahead to the general and bring the issues back.
COOPER: We're anticipating Newt Gingrich really any moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that speech also makes it a lot harder for Newt Gingrich to try to gang tackle him tonight because he united the party. He said, look, we have our divisions in these primaries. But it doesn't divide us, it prepares us. He played the nice guy. That makes it tougher for Gingrich. It was a very conservative speech.
This is a speech that spoke to the base of the party and focused on Obama. This is the kind of speech I think he did need to give tonight. He did something I haven't seen him do before. He reached out to the audience.
He said, if you want to make these changes in Washington, if you want to get the economy, this is your campaign. Causes beat campaigns. A cause is when you give the voter a purpose larger than himself, when you say, it's not just me that's running. It's all of us. I haven't ever seen that before tonight.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He spent more than two-thirds of his speech reintroducing himself to Republican voters who will be voting in the upcoming caucuses and primaries. He knows Florida was a detour from his campaign strategy of focusing on Obama 100 percent of the time. So he had to use tonight to remind conservatives, remind Republicans why he's in the race and what he can do this fall to try to beat President Obama.
COOPER: As I said, we're anticipating hearing from Newt Gingrich any moment. We'll bring that to you live, also one-on-one interview with Rick Santorum, who is obviously focused not tonight in Florida, not even in Florida, focused on Nevada and elsewhere. Our coverage continues in a moment.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, if you just tuned in, you might not know but probably do. Mitt Romney has won. We projected he is the winner of Florida primary. We just heard him speak only a few moments ago.
And he outlined where he's going from here. We're waiting to hear from Newt Gingrich who came in second. I should say, a distant second in these numbers. You can see 74 percent of the vote is now in, 47 percent for Mitt Romney, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich.
Rick Santorum came in at least so far with 13 percent. Our own Dana Bash is in Las Vegas. She is with the former Pennsylvania senator right now. Go ahead and talk to him a little bit, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Thank you, Wolf. The senator actually just walked into his headquarters here in Nevada. Thank you very much.
I guess, the first question I think is the obvious question, why did you ultimately decide to come here to Nevada when the race right now was in Florida?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, because we realized winner take all race like Florida where millions of dollars are going to be spent and we were not in a position to compete on a financial basis at this point.
We had a great financial fundraising month. We raised almost $4.5 million in the month of January and our fundraising numbers are incredibly strong today. People are starting to realize now seeing the results in Florida.
You know, Newt Gingrich had his chance, had a shot, had a big boost, win out of South Carolina and couldn't hold it, couldn't delivery in Florida. I think they will be looking for a different conservative as alternative to Mitt Romney now.
BASH: But Senator, you've said yourself that Florida was really the first contest the most like the country, had so much diversity in terms of demographics and everything else. The fact you couldn't compete there, what does that say about your electability ultimately?
SANTORUM: It's not a matter of being able to compete. It's really a matter of resources at this point. Look, when we came from a shoestring campaign and we raised more than twice as much money in the month of January as we did in the nine months previous to that.
Our fundraising continues to be strong. We believe that, you know, we're here in Nevada. We were in Colorado and Missouri and Minnesota. You look at some of the early polls that are out in Missouri, we are ahead of Governor Romney and head to head, which is what it will be next Tuesday.
Again, I feel very good that people are now looking and saying, there really is one electable conservative in this race and hopefully the people in Nevada will give a little different result than we see in Florida. We'll keep building from there.
BASH: Things got very nasty in Florida. You probably weren't there for a lot of that, but they got nasty between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. You will have a pretty tough speech tomorrow against Mitt Romney, you're going to step it up a notch or two.
SANTORUM: Well, on the issues. That's really the difference. I mean, I think what people are tired of is all this personal attacks on how somebody made money and whether, you know, what they did on Kay Street or what they did at Bain Capital.
People don't care about that. What they care about is what you will do to affect their lives and the size and scale of government and freedom and opportunity to be able to get a job and provide for your family.
Romney care and its progeny, which is the Obamacare is really the public enemy number one when it comes to job creation and expansion of government. We're going to tie those two together. We have run a very issue oriented campaign and will continue to do so and talk about issues people care about. That's what we will do tomorrow.
BASH: Do you have to have a win in February, not just gobble up a delegate here or a delegate there, but actual win in one of these states to keep going?
SANTORUM: This is a long race. We raised today, according to my folks, we've raised over $200,000 online today. It's an enormous day for us. I think people are realizing it's time to call us. The bickering we've seen and the baggage of both these candidates is not something that our party needs going into the fall.
BASH: Of course, I can't let you go without asking about your daughter, Bella, you came off the campaign trail, she had pneumonia. How is she doing?
SANTORUM: She is doing just great. I thank everybody for their prayers. It's been a wonderful miraculous recovery. Thank God I was home and was able to be there to help and she is on the mend and I think she will be out of the hospital tomorrow.
BASH: That's great. That's great. You know, obviously, a big part of your campaign is about family and about being a father. How difficult was it to leave her to come back out here? SANTORUM: You know, I laid in the hospital bed with her all that night and, you know, when I get up in the morning and talk to the doctors and everything, they felt she was far past the crisis and she was on the mend and I can get back to work.
Was it hard, yes, it was very hard. But, you know, you're a mom and you realize it's not easy to get up and go to work and leave, but, you know, that's the responsibility to provide. And in our case, to try to serve our country to make sure we have a country that little Bellas are respected and loved. That's what we're about.
BASH: Thank you so etch. We're all, I think we can say this objectively very, very happy to hear that she's doing much better.
SANTORUM: We're very, very happy everybody prayed for us and this was very heart warming for me to see the reaction of people across the country.
BASH: Thanks, Senator. Appreciate it. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. We're certainly happy that little Bella is just doing fine and will be out of the hospital very, very soon.
We're waiting to hear from Newt Gingrich. He's getting ready to speak. He's in Florida still and getting ready to move to Nevada. We'll take that speech live and we'll hear it and hear what he has to say. Maybe we'll get a hint about his next moves.
Our coverage continues from the CNN Election Center right after this.
BLITZER: We just heard from Rick Santorum in an interview from Dana Bash. But now, he's speaking to his supporters in Las Vegas. Let's listen in.
SANTORUM: I just want to say to everyone on behalf of our family, when we had to jump off the campaign trail to care for our daughter, Bella, it was a very trying time. This has been a pretty tough campaign and campaigns in politics have gotten pretty nasty on both sides of the aisle and certainly across the aisle.
I just have to say on behalf of our family and seeing the out- pouring of support from folks frankly on both sides of the ale across this country of all political stripes toward me and particularly our daughter, Bella, I want to say thank you for that support and those prayers.
Bella had a tough couple of days. She has turned around, recovering and she is going to go home tomorrow from the hospital. Thank you.
This is from the volunteers in the staff at Nevada. A big giant stuffed elephant. Thank you. Well, thank you very much for that. It's great to be back here on the campaign trail, talking about the important issues of the day.
If there's one message I think we got from the campaign in Florida, is that Republicans can do better. We can do better than this. We can do better than the discussion and the dialogue and the accusations that were going on in the state of Florida and, really, this campaign went downhill.
I went to Florida and of course, participated in the debates. I thought we did a pretty good job in those debates.