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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Live Coverage of the Washington Caucuses; Romney Wins Washington Caucuses; Santorum Remarks
Aired March 3, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight a new region of the country weighs in on the Republican presidential race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight a western warm-up for the biggest event of the Republican presidential campaign.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Washington State, you can reset the election again heading into Super Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All four candidates trying to tap into a new gold mine of delegates.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just need you to go out and vote. You will you do that for me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who will get a shot of momentum heading into the Super Tuesday slug-fest? It's Washington choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney avoided an embarrassing defeat in Michigan. Now, he and Rick Santorum are taking the grudge match into new territory.
ROMNEY: Rick Santorum is a nice guy. But he's not the guy that will fight me.
SANTORUM: I think Governor Romney's MO has just going out and try to savage and beat up on the other opponent and it's wearing thin on my Republican voters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are refusing to be ignored.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a real chance to win next Tuesday.
RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Still winning a lot of delegates and that's what counts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will an underdog seize the day or will one of the frontrunners chock up a new victory?
SANTORUM: I'm not writing off any state right now.
ROMNEY: Your voice is going to be heard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tension is building, the stakes are rising and this is just the start of a frantic sprint to Super Tuesday.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Mitt Romney has the lead of the early results coming in from the Washington caucuses. But it's a very tight race for second between Rick Santorum and the Texas congressman Ron Paul. We're expecting more numbers any moment now. Voters across the state gathered this afternoon.
You're looking at a live picture right now, the Republican parties' headquarter where they're busy tabulating the votes and set to announce the totals. Let's take a look at the early numbers, not so early right now, 29 percent of the vote in Washington state and the caucus now in. Mitt Romney with 36 percent, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are tied for a second, virtually -- actually, exactly the same 24 percent, Newt Gingrich a distant fourth with 12 percent.
Only Ron Paul chose to be in Washington State tonight. He's planning to address his supporters this hour. Our reporters tracking the Republican candidates have been busy all day as well as the Washington state parties headquarters and the caucus sites.
Here with me tonight are chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief national correspondent, John king of CNN's "JOHN KING USA." They're ready to assess and analyze the results. We'll also get perspective from our contributors, Ari Fleischer and Hillary Rosen.
Let start out with CNN'S Paul Vercammen. He is over at state Republican Party headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. Well, set the scene for us, Paul. What's the latest?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN PRODUCER: Well, we just had three more counties trickle in. I'm going to bring in the GOP. This is Kirby Wilbur. And from what I understand, we have 26 now of 39. KIRBY WILBUR, WASHINGTON STATE GOP CHAIRMAN: 26 of 39.
VERCAMMEN: Washington County is reporting we should node the big counties not in yet. Tell us what the last three counties were and what the count is in them.
WILBUR: OK. We had Woodman and Calles at and I can't remember the third one that was --
VERCAMMEN: I believe its Franklin.
WILBUR: Franklin. What we have now total. We have Mitt Romney at 36 percent, we have Rick Santorum and Congressman Paul tied to the vote 42.56 percent, and then Newt Gingrich behind at 12 and about 3 percent undecided or other. And we are -- our record attendance, we have got 17,100 votes in already and these are the smaller counties. We had a total of 14,000 people, roughly 14,000 in 2008. So we've got record attendance without counting the big counties. I think this shows a high level of enthusiasm and excitement and it also shows how important the straw poll has been.
We moved it before Super Tuesday to get the excitement going. We've had incredible press. The candidates have visited for the first time ever. The candidates have been out here and it shows off with this turnout. This is incredible for us.
VERCAMMEN: Characterize this for us though. If I'm not mistakes, Paul and Santorum, do better in the rural counties and perhaps the numbers aren't as great as they would have liked.
WILBUR: I think that's probably true. And in the big counties, I mean, Ron Paul has his pockets of strength in King County. We know, so, that come advantage of him. Also, Spokane County has been known as Ron Paul country. So, those should help him.
Rick Santorum really didn't have much of an infrastructure here. But he did visit this folks here and tries cities. And there are still a couple of counties and inherit to turn in. So, they should do better or they should do hope to do better at least. But I tell you, Mitt Romney I think is showing surprising strength in the outside areas. We thought he would do well in the population centers, but he's shown pretty well outside. So, we'll wait to see. But, he has a pretty solid lead. But you know, Paul and Santorum close for the second place. They're tied to the vote.
VERCAMMEN: And you have a rare insight into some of the voting in King County because you had a caucus at your house in five precincts.
WILBUR: We did.
VERCAMMEN: How did it go?
WILBUR: We had five precincts, we have 56 people in our house and we did found room for all of them, most of these people never been involved before. It went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. They want to get involved. They are concern about the country. They all have the chance to come and to have a say. And they're very enthusiastic. And you know that should be the kind of exciting to see these new people involved in the process for the first time.
VERCAMMEN: We appreciate you taking the time out.
WILBUR: You bet.
VERCAMMEN: We are going to check out with you throughout the night.
WILBUR: We will be here.
VERCAMMEN: OK. Kirby, thank you so much.
WILBUR: Thanks very much.
VERCAMMEN: Well, you got it there from the GOP chairman, 26 of 39 counties reporting. The numbers are just starting to come in. We're waiting for the populous counties, Wolf, and some indications that it could take maybe more than an hour. We'll have to see. Back to you now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. But we are expecting 100 percent or nearly 100 percent of the vote in within an hour, is that right?
VERCAMMEN: Well, I'm not positive about that. The chairman has said that they expect 100 percent but I checked around with some of the counties and I'm not sure they'll all be able to make those calls and have all of those I's dotted and T's crossed. So, let's hope for that. But as you know, Wolf, as we saw in Colorado and other states this season, sometimes what's promised doesn't always exactly comes true right at the time that we want.
BLITZER: Yes. To paraphrase somebody else, stuff happens. All right, we'll see what happens. Thanks very much for that. Paul, who is right on top of the situation in Washington State.
Unlike the secrecy of primary elections, the caucus process is wide open. Cameras and reporters, they are allowed in. They can watch everything. And there's give and take as voters explain their choices and try to persuade others to change their mind. Here's some of what our caucus cameras saw during today's meetings.
SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: These fine folks are getting ready to caucus just a few short moments from now. They're expecting between 400 and 600 people. But I want to draw your attention to something that is different in this caucus than in other caucuses that we have seen.
The people who are basically at this table now, they're walking through the door and immediately casting their ballot for who they want to win in this caucus in Washington State. After that, they'll go just a few short feet back to a cafeteria where the caucus process will continue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pleased to see this great turnout.
TRAVIS: And finally, one of the most important parts of this caucus process here in Lakewood, Washington, electing delegates, those prizes that all four of the presidential candidates are after here. Take a look around at these different tables. They're basically people separated into different precincts. These delegates that they're electing right now, they are non-binding. By the end of the night, once this caucus is over, CNN will be estimating which candidates, how many delegates that they each get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want the president, whoever is president to focus on the deficit and get Americans back to work.
TRAVIS: Oliver and Shannon Travis earlier in the day out at the caucus site. Let's find out why Washington State is such an important state in this Republican race for the White House.
Our Chief national correspondent John King is joining us. He is over at the magic wall with a closer look.
John, Washington state very important in this contest, not only for the Republican nomination but in November especially as well.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could conceivably be battleground state in November. The Democrats have had good luck in Washington State in recent cycles. But if you go back a little bit, how Washington used to be a swing state in presidential politics hasn't been that way in a while. But, Mitt Romney for example says if he wins the nomination, he would take a good look at Washington State.
Let's just look at the map. Watch the state as it lit up Romney at the moment because of the early results. That's not final. But, what Governor Romney is hoping for tonight, Wolf, this is to springboard into Super Tuesday, ten contests on Tuesday.
Governor Romney at the moment has some momentum. He just won Michigan. He just won Arizona. He just won Wyoming. He has momentum now. Remember, it was senator Santorum, the purple state; Santorum had the momentum not long ago. Romney hopes now to have a spring board and he hopes to get it more of Washington State. Again, that's 30 percent of the results in, Mitt Romney leading, Ron Paul in second place, tie for second place, an exact tie at this results, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.
This would be number one, a big disappointment for Ron Paul. We keep saying caucus states are his strength states. He hasn't won one yet. And a lot of people thought just a few days ago, Washington State could be his first win.
Now, let's watch and see. He has time to come back. Why do I say that?
Well, if you look here, King County is almost 30 percent of the state population. That's the big county where Seattle is. This is the biggest most populous county in the state. This is critical in any election in Washington State. So, we're waiting for the results to come in there.
If you come across to the other side of the state, Spokane as well, Wolf, a major population center. So, we've got a ways to go. You see the state filling in at the moment. But if Governor Romney can win again, he thinks he has momentum going into big day on Tuesday.
BLITZER: And it's your assumption, I think a lot of people just believe the big county, King County, where Seattle is, that's Romney territory. So, he could extend his lead once that county start reporting. They haven't started reporting yet.
KING: They have not reported yet. And look, what we may be finally seeing this race, as a lot of people have said, you know, where is this vaunted Romney organization. Senator Santorum has won with passion in another state.
Well, as results start to come in, you see some results coming in a little bit error in the wall right there as data comes into the wall. Now, just not that long ago, people who said Ron Paul might win Washington State. But we're beginning to see organization matter. He came back in Michigan late, turned out to vote. Has he done that in Washington State as well tonight? It could be a big question. And if he proves it, Wolf, two or three states in a row, then we'll watch it on Tuesday night.
BLITZER: And told, building up towards Tuesday. Ten contest this coming Tuesday.
John, stand by. Let's bring in our political team. Joining me now are chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our CNN contributor, Hillary Rosen, a Democratic strategist along with our CNN contributor, Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for President George W. Bush.
Set the scene, Gloria, for us. First of all right now, assuming and it looks like Mitt Romney is in pretty good shape now.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: Assuming he wins, this will give him momentum going into Super Tuesday.
BORGER: Absolutely. First of thought, we're waiting for Spokane county which has got a lot of Ron Paul supporters. The interesting question to me is if Romney wins, who is going o be number two, will it be Santorum or will it be Ron Paul? But this is a very important win psychologically. Let's put the delegates aside for the Romney campaign because what they believe is that this shows, for the first time that they're actually getting a bounce out of their previous wins. And that there is something called momentum in this campaign, and that voters may be paying attention to something called electability. And that finally, you know, you see in the caucuses and primaries, that where Mitt Romney has done very well with voters who believe that he is the most electable candidate in the fall. And so, I think that maybe his calling card here, because nothing succeeds like success. So the more you win, the more you win.
BLITZER: And Ari, one thing that's been a bit surprising, I guess to some is Newt Gingrich. He's probably at least he's ahead of the polls in his home state of Georgia, which votes this coming Tuesday. But he's a distant fourth in Washington State. He's not doing well in these other states. What happened?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Wolf, it's increasingly looking like what propelled Newt Gingrich were the debates and his performance taking on reporters. Absent that, I'm not sure who would have won South Carolina. And Newt may have won it but certainly by a smaller margin. But that's really what propelled him and that was it.
Otherwise, Newt has been the thoughtful grandfather of the lot of the other debates, the person a lot of Republican said. He's been more thoughtful than I thought. But fundamentally, Newt was a candidate who very few people took seriously enough to think he has presidential mettle. And I think that's why you see him wasn't able to go on, on the basis of his name, his ideas, his new solutions of things he says he's for. He faded a long time ago. And it's very hard to see him coming back.
BLITZER: You know, as we take a look, Hillary, at what's going on from the democratic perspective of another win, three wins over the past few days, if he wins in Washington State going into Super Tuesday that really does propel Mitt Romney in a significant way.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It gives him momentum. I don't think Democrats are particularly worried about Washington State. President Obama won it handily in 2008. I think he would again in this year.
BLITZER: In November, you're talking.
ROSEN: In November. But, you know, the thing that we should talk about with Mitt Romney is the point that John made which is really he has an organization and he has paid for it. He has spent about over $60 million to the next biggest spender as Rick Santorum at $8 million. That's where money comes in. The super PACs are paying a lot of money for ads on TV.
Romney's organization and the funding he is doing on the ground, he is powering through his party's unhappiness with him. And he's powering through it with that kind of organization with money.
BORGER: When you talk to people in the Romney campaign though, about Washington State. They say that if they win tonight, it was actually unexpected for them. This isn't one of their target states. Yes, they spent some time in Washington State after they won the last primaries because they saw it as an opportunity. But it's not a place they really expected to win. So it may be the start of some kind of a snowball effect.
BLITZER: Ari, this is the first contest we've seen -- we've had something, obviously in Arizona, but in Washington State, it moves it to a different level really out west to northwestern part of the country. And there are indications that we'll learn from what happens tonight.
FLEISCHER: Yes. New region of the country and that's the interesting thing in the primaries overtime. It forces the candidates to have a national appeal not just regional appeal. I think that's a good thing.
But, here's something else to keep an eye on tonight, and that's turnout. If turnout is low, it will favor Ron Paul. As you pointed out earlier, he's supposed to do well in a caucus state because he has such a passionate following. But, if a lot of people turn out other because Mitt Romney organizing or because they're just motivated by excitement in the race, then turnout is higher and that's going to favor Mitt Romney.
So, the numbers actually are coming in so far are even better for Mitt Romney than they first indicate because they're coming in from the western part of the state. I'm sorry, the eastern part of the state first. It would be surprising that Mitt Romney is doing that well in the eastern part of the state. But it looks like he is. I expect Mitt Romney to do much better in King County and some of the eastern counties, the big populated counties.
So, right now, I got to say. This is looking like a strong night for Mitt Romney. And I think turnout is heavy. You heard the chairman say it.
BLITZER: Yes, 30 percent of the population in King County where Seattle is.
All right, standby. Everyone stand by. We are going to be going back to Washington State to the caucuses. We'll hear from the Republican Party chairman. It will be announced the final result from the podium. We'll have live coverage.
You're looking at the cameras of the podium where the announcement will be made. We expect it to be made within the hour.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of the Washington state Republican presidential caucuses.
Early results show Mitt Romney with a comfortable lead right now, but a tight race for second place between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Also under way, we're expecting new numbers any moment now. We have yet to hear from the state's big city, Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane.
Stand by, new numbers about to come in. Let's check in with CNN's Paul Vercammen right now. He is over at Republican Party headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. What are they saying now about more numbers coming in and wrapping this thing up?
VERCAMMEN: They are basically in a holding pattern right now, Wolf. They're hoping to get some of the numbers from the bigger counties in just a moment. Don't forget, the other counties. I can kind of characterize for you some of the voting in an upscale neighborhood in King County, I was at a caucus earlier in Sammamish. And here are eight precincts. I'll give you a sense of what is like there.
They were debating a lot about the economy. They felt that was issue number one. And they felt that the deficit was extremely important as well. They want a deficit reduction. And with these eight precincts, it was Romney 42, Santorum 17, Paul six and Gingrich two. They call this neighborhood the plateau, as you can imagine, a lot Microsoft executives, Amazon, Boeing, and others. And so for them, number one most important by far and away, the economy and put people back to work, Wolf.
BLITZER: Paul Vercammen on the scene for us. Standby, Paul. As soon as you get more information, we will come right back to you.
Congressman Ron Paul certainly had high expectations for the Washington state caucuses, but so far he's tied for second place with Rick Santorum.
Let's bring in our political reporter, Shannon Travis. He is in Seattle right now as well.
At some point, we're going to be speaking with Congressman Paul. But he was really hoping for his first win in all these contests tonight. So far doesn't look like that's necessarily going to happen.
TRAVIS: Indeed. I mean, the Ron Paul campaign, they are hoping for their first win, Wolf, in the caucus here. I can tell you that just a few feet from me. There is a party atmosphere. They certainly are anticipating really good results. A few hundred people that are gathered out there and they are expecting for Dr. Paul to come out and speak at any moment.
But, you're absolutely right, if he pulls this out, this will be his first win in a major contest. But, keep in mind, Wolf, that Dr. Paul and his campaign, their strategy is to rack up as many delegates as possible. And in all of these contests, they have been doing that. So they're in it for the long haul. That's their expectations. That's their expectations. And I just spoke to a few people in his campaign. They hope to rack up even more delegates tonight as they try to execute the strategy, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I take it, you follow this closely Shannon. Money is not necessarily a problem for the Ron Paul campaign. They're raising money.
TRAVIS: Absolutely, Wolf. I mean, they have a loyal passionate following. I've been out there following Dr. Paul's campaign for months now. You go to his event and arguably, he has more followers, more supporters than some of the college campuses and events than some of the others. The problem often time though is translating those supporters who come out to the events and to actual votes. So yes, money is not so much of a problem for them. They absolutely -- obviously, have loyal supporters. But it's getting that translating into votes and that's going to be key.
BLITZER: Shannon Travis on the scene for us in Seattle. We will get back to you.
Meanwhile, on the candidates are watching the Washington results, they're also looking ahead to Super Tuesday and it's ten, repeat ten crucial contests. Ohio will be Tuesday's biggest prize.
Let's check in with our national political correspondent Jim Acosta. He's following Mitt Romney in Cincinnati, Ohio right now. How did it go for Romney on this day, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, signs of confidence from the Romney campaign. I can tell you that this evening. Just a few moments before Mitt Romney addressed this crowd in Cincinnati earlier this evening. He handed the microphone over to his wife, Ann, who told the crowd that they are feeling pretty confident about what's happening in Washington State tonight. That's not something the candidate's wife does when there might be a razor- thin margin in a contest that was developing at that very moment. So, that is one sign that they're feeling pretty good about.
And then also, we saw Mitt Romney who sort of returned to a pattern that we've seen in the past when they've been feeling good before a big contest. He did not talk a lot about Rick Santorum today. He really went after President Obama. At one point at an event earlier today, Wolf, Mitt Romney asked how President Obama can sleep at night with all of the turmoil that is now going on in Afghanistan. And just a few moments ago, inside this room here in Cincinnati, he talked about the president's economic record, saying it's time to collect from the president. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The president back as candidate Obama, he said he would cut the deficit in half. He's doubled it, all right? He's doubled it. He said that he gets this economy going in three years. He was on the "Today Show," he said if I can't turn around this economy in three years, I'll be looking for one term proposition. We're here to collect. All right? Let's take it back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Couple of other good positive signs for the Romney campaign. He picked up the endorsements of two of the state's biggest newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati enquirer. And another sign that they're feeling pretty good about Ohio, Wolf, Mitt Romney is leaving the state tomorrow to go down and campaign in Georgia and Tennessee, two states that a lot of people didn't think the Romney campaign would have much of a chance of winning.
And then one final thing I want to note to you. Even though they're maintaining this confident posture on the campaign trail earlier today, I will tell you that behind the scenes they were keeping their eye on Rick Santorum. They held a conference call with reporters talking about the fact that the former Pennsylvania senator has failed to file the necessary paperwork to collect any delegates, any and all delegates that he may win on Tuesday night. There are a good number of delegates. He may lose as many as 18 delegates on Tuesday night because he did not file the necessary paperwork in the state. The Romney campaign referring to them in the conference call as a sign that Santorum cannot go up against President Obama in the fall. He simply in the Romney campaign's characterization does not have the organization to take on an incumbent president.
So, they're feeling pretty good about Ohio, Wolf. They are feeling pretty good about Super Tuesday. But I think there are indications that they're not out of the woods yet - Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens. There's a lot up in the air. We know that Santorum and Newt Gingrich for that matter didn't -- aren't eligible on the Virginia ballot. They couldn't get the necessary paperwork in place, all the signatures that they need. Only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are on the ballot in Virginia. So, we'll see what happens there as well.
We'll get back to you. Thanks, Jim Acosta.
Our senior correspondent, Joe Johns is keeping track of the Rick Santorum campaign. They're in Bowling Green, Ohio right now. Let's look ahead, Joe to Super Tuesday. What are you hearing from the Santorum folks?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, number one, I got to tell you, they're both here in this building behind me, Wolf, on the campus of Bowling Green University. And Newt Gingrich just finished speaking a while ago, Santorum getting ready to step to the mic.
It's been tough for Santorum today as Jim talked about. Of course, they're saying about this controversy over the delegates and the inability or failure to file and being potentially out of as many as 18 out of 48 congressional district delegates. They're saying, look, this is an indicator of a slow start by Rick Santorum, the fact of the matter is he didn't have much money at the very beginning and he didn't have much organization. So they're saying that doesn't mean he wouldn't be a good nominee should he get the nomination going forward.
Newt Gingrich, obviously, is a guy who right now is looking at the south, putting all his eggs in one basket there in the state of Georgia, the state he represented when he was in the congress. He, of course, is doing very well in the polls there. And Rick Santorum is doing very well in Tennessee.
But the interesting thing I think about Newt Gingrich is that he continues to push his $2.50 a gallon policy plan to try to get voters. This is a poster they're putting out. You see the three numbers, the most important three numbers to a presidential campaign, if you will, since 9-9-9 and Herman Cain.
He's pushing that very hard. He's got new ads out and some of the other southern states trying to get people angry about this. Even though a lot of economists and others have said, presidents do not have the ability to affect world gas prices. But Newt Gingrich things he can do it with a variety of different proposals and he's banking on that to get him votes in the south.
We'll see, Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Georgia, critical for Newt Gingrich if he doesn't win his home state. He probably will drop out. I want to just show you the numbers right now. Forty one percent of the vote is now in, 41 percent of the Washington state caucuses. Thirty seven percent for Mitt Romney, 24 percent for Ron Paul and 24 percent for Rick Santorum, they're virtually tied, only 11 percent for Newt Gingrich. Senator Santorum is speaking out in Bowling Green, Ohio, right now. I want to listen in briefly.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SANTORUM: If you're going to understand the constitution. And that is, where our rights come from. When in that declaration our founders did something unique in the history of man, they all came from countries where whites were held by the king or the queen or the emperor or the dictator, the military ruler.
And then they decided who got what. Spread the wealth around or impose certain responsibility and gave others certain rights.
But in our country, we were going to try something revolutionary. We were going to declare the truth. We were going to declare the truth as we clearly saw it. You see, the greatness of America is we're willing to say what we believe is right and wrong. We've been able for many, many years to be able to tell the difference. We declared the truth that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Unalienable! Means you can't take them away. They're given to you because you were created by God and each one of you has dignity and value because of that. You're equal because of that. Not because he is equal to her.
SANTORUM: Not because any two of us are equal because we're equal. I love it when the left says equality. Equality. Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? Are men and women treated equally? Are adults and children treated equally? No. It comes from our culture and tradition. From the Judeo Christian ethic. That's where this comes from. The sense of equality.
SANTORUM: If we understand that, if God gives us rights, we're all know this as citizens, we know this as parents and children, with rights come -- this is a truth. So when God gave us rights, he gave us responsibilities and laws which to follow.
And so as a society, try to follow that. Try to follow those laws. The higher law. We don't always succeed. We fall short all the time. But it's important to have those higher laws, to have faith in the public square, to hold man accountable for something that is bigger, more responsible than their wants and passions.
You see, to compare what happened to the United States and compare it to a very similar time, what happened at the French revolution, they had a document similar to our constitution. But their constitution was not tethered to the rock of the declaration. It was tethered to three words, liberty, good, equality, good. But fraternity, brotherhood, not paternity. Fatherhood.
SANTORUM: As a result of that, rights were not unalienable. God did not endow you, gift you those rights. You didn't earn them. They're yours. They were a gift and the government respected that endowment. In France, there was no such endowment. Only what the State is willing to give you is what you will have.
And so when we hear, well, they need to keep faith out of the public square, we need to disregard the declaration, understand what's happening. You see it happening right now with Obama care. When the State can create rights, it can tell you how to exercise those rights. It can force you to do things you don't want to do, like buy health insurance. And it can force you to do things like you don't believe in. Like Catholics who are forced to take coverage's that the church believes is a grave sin. Whether you believe it's a grave sin or not doesn't matter. They do. They shouldn't be forced by a government of the United States to violate their religion.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. So Senator Santorum delivering a speech that clearly a feeling to social conservatives on the role of god in the public square. This is a constant theme that he's had throughout this election cycle. We're going to discuss that, continue to monitor what he's saying.
We're getting more results coming in right now. Let me quickly update you in where we stand in the Washington caucuses. Let's put the numbers up on the screen right now. In the Washington caucuses with 42 percent of the vote in, almost half, Mitt Romney continues to maintain a significant lead with 37 percent. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum continue to be virtually tied with 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at only 11 percent.
We'll take a quick break. We're expecting more of Washington's State's Republican Party results coming in. We'll update you on what's going on. We'll continue to hear from the candidate. Much more of our special coverage coming in right after this.
BLITZER: Let's go right out to CNN's Paul Vercammen. He is over in Washington State Republican Party headquarters. We're getting more results, aren't we, Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN PRODUCER: We'll call it the trickle in theory of numbers. They're just starting to come in a little bit from Pierce County. I want to step aside. We'll listen to the GOP chairman, Mr. Wilbur.
KIRBY WILBUR, WASHINGTON STATE GOP CHAIRMAN: We've got two counties; Clallam and Grays Harbor, also a portion of King County, there are 16 legislative districts in King County. We have four of them. So, it might be fair to say, we're about a quarter of the vote from King County and a portion from Pierce County. First, in the 29th district.
The numbers are currently Governor Romney has 37 percent of the vote. He leads. It is a very close race for second between Congressman Paul just over 24 percent and Senator Santorum, is just under 24 percent. They're within 40 votes of each other. And then Newt Gingrich is a distant third with just over 11 percent and less than 4 percent undecided or other.
And so, the populous counties starting to come in. We're still waiting to hear from two others. We expect to hear from hem shortly and continuing reports from King and from Pierce. But we're doing pretty well, I think, in terms of having the total votes in.
If you look at the numbers participating without the big populous counties, we're over 21,000 people, which is way ahead of where we were back in 2008 in terms of participation. And I don't know if there are any questions with what the new numbers we have. But we wanted to update you guys as quickly as possible. If there's any question, I'd be more than happy to take them.
VERCAMMEN: Well, there you have it. You have the latest an update from King County. So, Romney is still showing a very strong here. I want to be very careful that I don't interrupt this press conference. We'll listen and see if other numbers trickle in again, Wolf. I'm going to send it back to you. And in a little while, we'll grab the Party chairman. Because we have a relevant question for him. So, hang on to that.
BLITZER: Kirby Wilbur is the GOP chairman in Washington State, Paul. Thanks very much.
I want to go to our chief national correspondent, John King, who is over at the magic wall.
John, four years ago, Mitt Romney had dropped out of the Republican race for the White House only a couple of days before the Washington caucuses, John McCain beat him and Mike Huckabee in Washington State went out to get the nomination. It's a different situation right now.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very different situation right now. The question in this race, is Romney the front- runner, Wolf? We thought he was in the beginning, then Santorum surged and Romney did win the last three, Michigan, Arizona and Wyoming. So, you could say he's the front-runner.
The question is can he prove it? Can he sustain it?
Well, you were talking earlier. He's the only one on ballot. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney expects to win there. You raised questions about the Gingrich and then Santorum organization.
In Tennessee, Santorum has not filed. Full delegate slates, so Romney may come in second in the State of Tennessee. Still break even or come close anyway in the delegate. At the moment, he's in Washington State, 42 percent of the vote in. That's a healthy lead right there. Pretty fierce fight for second place between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. The question here is not only win, place or show, delegates in stake, and Washington State as well.
If you look at the map to fill in. You see the purple counties there are Rick Santorum County. But look at Lincoln County is tiny. He is winning the county but just barely with 57 votes. So, Senator Santorum not going to win the congressional districts here by any means. Congressman Paul again, a very small County. He is winning with nearly half of the vote. But it's only 162 votes.
So, you start to watch this play out. And we've said this in other States, organization matters. Romney wins where the people are. In the major population centers. King County, about 30 percent of the State. A quarter of the vote in now. Romney is about 50 percent. Just drop down below at Pierce County. That's where Tacoma, another populated area, about 12 percent of the state population. A lot of the vote to count still at Pierce County. But Governor Romney ahead early on.
This, Wolf, matters. This is where all the money, all the organization and all the local endorsements. But sometimes, we say don't mean much when you see the passion candidate by the Santorum. In a case like this, especially when you're looking to make a Statement, it does matter. Because those people on a Saturday afternoon, get people to turn out to vote. Those local endorsements, can maybe four people in that van, ten people in the next van, you see the map filling in. This will give the Romney campaign a boost. The ten states you see, the light states, the white states, that's Super Tuesday. Every part of the country. Massachusetts and Vermont, the big battleground here in Ohio. The Romney campaign expects to win Idaho, probably come in second to Ron Paul in North Dakota. So, they're hoping tonight, Wolf, for what they call in politics the big Mo.
BLITZER: Yes. They call it sports, the big Mo as well, the big momentum.
All right. We will be watching to see what happens throughout. But you are absolutely right. Once the big counties come in, in Washington State, King County where Seattle is, potentially even a better result for Mitt Romney who is winning with at least half the vote now. And standby. We'll have full coverage of Washington caucuses, the results, the impact, the fallout. We're looking at the Super Tuesday as well. Ten big contests coming up this coming Tuesday.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our coverage of the Washington State Republican presidential caucuses. Mitt Romney, you can see, has a comfortable lead. Right now it's a tight race though, for second place between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.
I want to go right to CNN's Paul Vercammen. He is out at Republican Party headquarters in Bellevue, Washington now. We're getting more numbers, right?
VERCAMMEN: That's right, Wolf. The County just to the north, it's the Snohomish County, unofficially where we should say officially, Romney 1,841, Paul 1,081. So that's 1,081. Santorum, 973 and we have 443 votes for Newt Gingrich.
So Romney is still running well, Paul doing well in that County. One of the most populous counties by the way in Washington State. I'm going to bring the chairman back in here, Kirby Wilbur.
And we have a question for you. This is interesting.
VERCAMMEN: You are an unpledged delegate.
WILBUR: Correct. I'm automatic a state chairman.
VERCAMMEN: OK. So, whoever wins here tonight, do you then go ahead and endorse that candidate?
WILBUR: No. I am uncommitted until we have a nominee. I have to be the referee and judge and baby-sitter of this whole process. I have to remain uncommitted so I can treat everyone equal and fairly have the appearance of being fair to everyone. And so, I won't commit until we actually go to Tampa and have a nominee.
VERCAMMEN: We appreciate you telling us that. It's just another sense of how things are going here. The numbers are starting to come in now. When do you think we'll wrap things up?
WILBUR: As soon as the numbers come in, that's when we end it up. I'm hoping to get them very quickly. We only have a few counties left. But they're the big ones, the most difficult to count. We hope to have them soon.
I would suspect that the more populous ones like Spokane and Snohomish can choose the Romney trend. We get the rest of Pierce. I think we'll have a pretty good indication soon that we're trying and not reversal of pretty good idea where the numbers are. Still a chance in Spokane. That's Ron Paul County. A lot of Ron Paul supporters there. And we don't have all, the Pierce. So, there's still a chance to turn this around. It's close. Some, not that far apart. So, we'll see.
VERCAMMEN: Well, it was a very diplomatic answer that you gave.
WILBUR: I guess that's why I'm state chairman because I'm diplomatic. I don't know.
VERCAMMEN: Perhaps, will be an ambassadorship for you in the future somewhat.
WILBUR: We'll see who gets elected. We'll see how soon I come back.
VERCAMMEN: OK. We hope to see you in a few minutes. Thank you so much, Kirby.
WILBUR: Thanks very much.
VERCAMMEN: Kirby Wilbur, being a good sport here, Wolf, as we continue to button hole for the results and try to pin him down on that one. And as you saw, he wouldn't commit being, you know, undeclared delegate right now. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by. I want everyone to stand by right now because we've got news.
CNN now projects that Mitt Romney will win the Washington State caucuses. The winner tonight in Washington State, Mitt Romney. Based on the results that have come in. Where they've come in from and what we still expect.
We can now project with the numbers that you just heard live here reported by Paul Vercammen on CNN. We're going ahead and we are projecting that Mitt Romney is the winner in Washington State.
Take a look at this. We'll show you the latest numbers. The official numbers that we have right now with 42 percent actually reporting. Thirty seven percent for Mitt Romney, 24 percent for Ron Paul, 24 percent for Rick Santorum, they're virtually tied for second. Fourth place, a distant fourth place, 11 percent for Newt Gingrich. But you can see what's going on.
Let's get some reaction to what's going on. You know, I'm sure the Mitt Romney folks are thrilled.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They are.
BLITZER: We're not projecting that he is the winner of Washington State. Only a few days ago there was uncertainty.
BORGER: Very much uncertainty. In talking to the Romney folks, they say it was unexpected. That about two weeks ago, they thought he were down by double digits. And now, suddenly, they're winning. I think this may be the first sign of the electability argument really taking hold. I shouldn't say the first sign. But another sign the electability argument is taking hold.
And you know, this would be his fourth win in a row and pretty soon it starts to snowball and people begin to think you're the inevitable candidate and want to be with a winner. And that kind of psychology can really affect him as you head into Super Tuesday.
BLITZER: And Ari Fleischer, it's clear that an organization and he has an excellent organization, Mitt Romney, they have money. Although, I don't think they spent much if anything in Washington State. Certainly does pay off.
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There will be no awkward candidates. This is a Washington state. Ron Paul is there the most. And so, it also showed how much attention was paid to this caucus.
But Wolf, it is important to point out. No delegates are at stake tonight. The delegates in Washington State don't get decided until June 2nd, until the State has its convention, a state convention.
And so, it is a big win for Mitt Romney. It's a beauty contest win just like Rick Santorum and it is three beauty contests wins of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri about four or three weeks ago.
Having said that, still you are going to be feeling really good if you're in Boston, if you are a Mitt Romney supporter tonight. It does give him more wind at his back. Plus, the fact, Wolf, that CNN is able to call it so early. It probably shows that Mitt Romney had more strength in the conservative eastern part of the State. And as I said earlier, he's going to do well in the western parts of the State and the western more populous counties. That, too, is a good sign. I think when the Romney people crunch the numbers; they'll like what they see on the internals because it shows conservative strength in all likelihood.
BLITZER: And I just want to be precise right now when we project that Mitt Romney is the winner in Washington State, we project on the basis of the actual official vote that is coming in as well as the statistical models that we have in place to take a look at what we expect in the next few minute and hours as they continue to count the remaining ballots.
But once again, CNN projects Mitt Romney the winner in Washington State.
What do you take away, Hilary Rosen, from this important win for Mitt Romney tonight?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, the point that Gloria is making about momentum matters for this reason. Because the majority of States on Tuesday are going to apportion their delegates proportionally. So, Romney already has a significant delegate lead. So even if Santorum and Gingrich win a couple of State, they're not going to win all of the delegates. Romney will get a significant amount of delegates. And that's the sort of march to the nomination that will take hold after next week. And that's the piece that's going to keep n going.
BORGER: He's got money, too. BLITZER: Kirby Wilbur is the chairman of the Republican Party in Washington State. He's got to be a neutral observer. He's got to moderate what's going on. He can't really inject his own personal feelings. So when he said, just before we made our projection that Mitt Romney is the winner, when he said look, we'll see what happens, Ron Paul has a big organization. He has got to be - he can't show what he really knows in this situation.
BORGER: Sure, he can't. But his point is interesting which is that we want to see who comes in second here. Because Ron Paul has spent an awful lot of time in this State. He is the only candidate actually in the State this evening. Caucus States are important to Ron Paul. This was a real place where he had the potential for a victory and it didn't happen. And I think that's got to be a disappointment for the Paul people.
But heading into Super Tuesday now, Mitt Romney in Ohio. Again, that's the big crown jewel of Super Tuesday, is outspending Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney and his super PAC I should say. Outspending Rick Santorum four to one. So, he comes in with momentum, he comes in with money. He's going to raise more money after this. You know, you have to say the obvious.
BLITZER: He's got momentum, Hilary, going into Tuesday.
ROSEN: He does. But I actually think that because he has such a significant financial advantage, the stakes are higher for him. You know, the fact that Santorum and Gingrich are still ahead in a significant portion of these Super Tuesday States means there's still a nagging dissatisfaction with Mitt Romney and the fact that he is spending maybe five to one means that he's going to underperform if he doesn't win the States.
BLITZER: He doesn't wrap anything yet but he's moving certainly in the rye direction.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We're going to continue our coverage.
We have now projected Mitt Romney the State of the Washington caucuses. Much more of the coverage and analysis right after this.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney wins in Washington State. The caucuses still final numbers coming in. But we projected Mitt Romney is the winner. Let's assess what has just happened. Where we go from here. A quick final thought. John King.
KING: Mitt Romney has won five States in a row, Wolf. He hopes to win five more out of the ten of Super Tuesday. Idaho, Ohio is the big challenge, Massachusetts, Vermont and the State of Virginia.
BLITZER: Big important races coming up. Gloria Borger, it sets the stage for an important Super Tuesday.
BORGER: It sure does. The thing I'm looking for in state of Ohio is whether Romney can attract the blue collar voters, very conservative voters and tea partiers.
BLITZER: Ari Fleischer, what do you think this means the Romney win coming on the heels of the other earlier wins in the last few days? The Romney win going into Super Tuesday?
FLEISCHER: If this was a tennis match, it's advantage Romney, only he has served. I think he'll walk into the ten States super Tuesday with four in the bag. Vermont, Virginia, Massachusetts and Idaho. That puts him in pretty good stead to fight in the rest.
BLITZER: What about Ohio though, Ari? If he loses to Santorum in Ohio, the biggest prize on Super Tuesday, what does that say?
FLEISCHER: Well, it's a delegate chase. So, it depends on the amount of the loss, what the margin is, how many each gets. Santorum of course has a problem to get a delegate in Ohio. At the end of the night, you are going to add up who got most delegates, not just who won one State. That's what it's all about. That's how you win a primary nomination for president. Number of delegates.
BLITZER: Hilary, if he does lose Ohio though, that would be a setback for him.
ROSEN: If Mitt Romney only wins half the States on Tuesday, this is still a Republican Party deeply divided and dissatisfied with their nominee.
BLITZER: And so, you think that would be lot one?
Let me go back to John King because he's got the number over there. You're looking at all of these ten contests coming up on Super Tuesday. We all agree that Ohio is the biggest prize.
KING: Sure is, Wolf. And Mitt Romney gets Washington State, if you bring it up here. Here are the ten states. Ohio is the biggest prize. Santorum has is leading now. Romney has been gaining every day in the polling. They think they can win it. Close battle with Santorum. They hope to win five. They also hope though, to make the point that Ari is making about delegates. They come out at Georgia and Tennessee with some delegates as well. Win Vermont, Massachusetts. They hope to win Ohio. They think they will Virginia. They think they will Idaho and get delegates in North Dakota, Tennessee and Georgia. That's their hope on Tuesday, a huge night.
BLITZER: Were you surprised, Gloria, that Ron Paul did not win Washington State tonight?
BORGER: I wasn't completely surprised. I thought he would probably do better than he has done. Because he's got a lot of organization there, a lot of support there. But I think you have to say, that he's got the momentum. Mitt Romney has the momentum heading into Super Tuesday now and a win is a win. He's racked up another one.
BLITZER: Yes. And we know they're spending a ton of money in Ohio right now. All of the candidates, but especially Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. They've got a lot riding on Ohio Super Tuesday.
Please be sure to watch CNN this Tuesday for the most comprehensive coverage of what's going on. Our Super Tuesday results will be coming in. Republicans will be voting in ten States, it's the biggest day so far in the 2012 presidential race of the we'll be here starting our coverage at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.