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Live Coverage of Super Tuesday; Big Split for Romney and Santorum

Aired March 6, 2012 - 01:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A Super Tuesday is now super Wednesday and certainly lives up to the name. We learn the results of a nail-biter in Ohio only minutes ago.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, are the results tonight enough to ease doubts about Mitt Romney as this Republican race moves forward?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum divide the super Tuesday spoils. Romney scoring wins in Vermont, Virginia, Massachusetts, Idaho and the night's biggest battleground, Ohio.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to take your vote and take that victory all the way to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santorum claiming victory in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a big night. We have won in the west, the Midwest and the south. And we're ready to win across this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans in ten states have their say. Hundreds of delegates are being awarded tonight. Will the GOP field change in any big way once the Super Tuesday dust settles? This campaign isn't over. More than half the states still haven't voted and no one has the GOP nomination locked up yet.


COOPER: And welcome to the special edition of "AC 360." Ten states, four contenders, no knockouts in on Ohio, win colossal cliffhanger. It went to the early hours but CNN is now projecting Ohio will go to Mitt Romney. The state now up on the map in Romney red along with Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, and Idaho.

Rick Santorum in purple scoring victories in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Newt Gingrich picking up Georgia, Alaska still up for grabs at this hour.

We begin though with Ohio. And John king has been following the count of all night. Let's look at the stakes.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The most important battleground, the biggest contested battleground, took us a while, Anderson. But Governor Romney has won the state of Ohio. We see 96 percent of the vote counted. We see the lead there in the ballpark of 12,000 votes statewide. If you look at the state, Senator Santorum swept across the rural areas, big margins in a lot of those but Governor Romney won big where the more populated areas are. Hamilton county, critical to governor Romney tonight. This is the Cincinnati area, the suburbs around it. It's critical in the Republican primaries. It's also a pivotal swing county. Come November, 20 points margin over Santorum there. Big turnout in Hamilton County. The Romney organization doing the job there.

Way up from the southwest corner of the state to the northeast part of the state, Cuyahoga county where Cleveland is, the very important suburbs along the lake up here. Again, nearly a 20-point edge for governor Romney in these areas. The big turnout there, helping form governor Romney when you pop it out. Summit county where Akron is, a big win for governor Romney there.

Move down a little bit here against Stark County. Now, it's big of a margin. But again, statewide, the Romney wins in the urban areas, in the suburb offsetting a Santorum sweep in the rural areas.

What it gives you, Anderson, is it gives you that. It gives you a Romney red in the middle of the country. The big battleground state of Ohio. It's important for delegates. And Anderson, it's important most of all as we get forward for the Romney campaign psychology to say we're up to 13 states. Could 14 if Alaska goes his way as we go into the morning.

COOPER: It's a big night, certainly not as big of a night as they would have liked. Not clear wins as they would have liked. Let's get some reaction from the Democrats and Republicans.

Ari Fleischer, Mitt Romney is still losing among white evangelical voters. Among strong tea party supporters and among people who say religion is important to them. What does he have to say?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mitt Romney's fundamental problem is like it was at the beginning. He still has a problem with the base. That base problem may make him more attractive to independents if he makes it to the general. But he hasn't been able to address and I suspect he never will unless he grinds it out.

And when you look at grinding it out, here's what's coming up that makes it so interesting. We go into basically a march lull. There really are no big nights left. There's one night where you have two contests but there's not a more than two contest a night primary night, until April. And that means that it does the potential the go on and Romney has to grind it out. We have to keep an eye on his money. If his money starts to dry up he has going to have some trouble.

COOPER: But a number of southern states coming up and this perhaps gives Newt Gingrich a little bit of an have a advantage going forward or perhaps more wins going forward. DONNA BRAZILE, 2000 GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You know, Governor Perry said tonight, he said this wasn't a super night for anyone. And the reason why is because Mitt Romney should have won Ohio. It should not have gone until way past midnight to figure out if he could bring in more urban votes or more suburban votes. Mitt Romney has a fundamental problem. He cannot, you know, coalesce the right. He cannot win independent voters. So this race will continue to go on. He will accrue more delegates than the other guys, but that's not saying much in a field that's very weak.

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: You know, I just -- I think this drags out for a while but I think with Ohio, the inevitable will start setting in. Republicans are going -- came into the primary season, came in Iowa already exhausted by a process that hadn't even started. They're even more exhausted now. That they have gone through this. We are dragging this out longer and longer.

I'm seeing more and more conservatives who aren't Romney fans starting to say, you know what, it's time to start fighting Barack Obama and stop fighting ourselves. I think coalescing will start happening. But he has to get through a difficult time in march. And I do wonder, in fact I think "The New York Times" they're morning stories is trying to say when does Romney look at his campaign and say, you know what, I may be winning but not winning well. Do I need to make staff adjustments?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the time period is key here. It will be several more weeks before you get back to a big state that Romney has a chance significantly overpower in Illinois and Missouri.

But so, you know, my favorite part of the president's press conference today was when he wished Mitt Romney well tonight. and I think it was because he was remembering back in 2008 his own primary which was a slog, you know, it took forever. And I think that's what Mitt Romney has to look forward to.

The difference though, is as we heard yesterday in the "Wall Street Journal" poll, this is having a corrosive effect on Mitt Romney's favorables. That unlike previous primaries, Mitt Romney is unfavorable number is shooting up because all he's doing is spending the millions of dollars on negative advertising and it's that positive message is not getting through. That's why this primary is bad for Romney.

COOPER: And Wolf, at the end of tonight, nobody seems to be anywhere close to dropping out.

BLITZER: No. Let's see what happens next week. And just to be precise what the president of the United States said to Mitt Romney tonight was good luck as opposed to --


BLITZER: Yes. But all he wanted to say, Gloria Borger and David Gergen, are with us as well. So, where do we go from here, Gloria? BORGER: Well, we have the Kansas caucus on March 10th and we have learned this evening that the Santorum campaign void by their wins this evening, are going to drop a million bucks into Kansas. The 13th, we have Mississippi and Alabama and Hawaii, those are fertile territory for Santorum. And so, I think this race continues. Because I think tonight is everybody had a reason to live tonight.

BLITZER: Because Newt Gingrich thinks he'll do win in Mississippi and Alabama, not far away from his home state. He's won South Carolina and Georgia so far.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Newt Gingrich is going head to head with Santorum. I think Romney will probably lose the states. Mitt Romney faces the prospect he's going to lose a few states here in the next few weeks. Doesn't have a big one to get to. I think that point was made by Hillary.

But, you know, it's so interesting. Coming here to Ohio, you'll remember this, I think. But Ohio, Woody Hayes and the Ohio state football team. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Remember that? That was his offense. And they ground it out and they won it. But it wasn't spectacular. It wasn't pretty and today's football teams are quite different. But that's Mitt Romney's campaign. Three yards and a cloud of dust.

BORGER: Well, and you judge his campaign, they say big, big delegate win tonight. This was important for us because we're counting delegates between Idaho, Massachusetts, Virginia and Santorum's problems in Ohio. So -- but it's not dramatic. And it's not a coalescing in any way shape or form around Mitt Romney. It's kind of a grudging sort of -- across the finish line.

BLITZER: In fairness to Mitt Romney, he has a terrific organization compared to the three other opponents and he's got a lot more money.

GERGEN: He's got a lot better organization and I think that reflects the fact that he did run once before. He's a much more mature candidate than then was.

BLITZER: I mean, the fact that he was on the Virginia ballot and Santorum was not and Newt Gingrich was not and the fact that Santorum couldn't even get on all of the ballots in Ohio.

GERGEN: Absolutely. I think that's right. And Santorum continues to have a campaign that's underfinanced and not as organized as it should be.

But the other thing that, Wolf, that's starting to happen is that President Obama is starting to get much more directly involved in campaigning almost directly against these guys. And what's pretty obvious is for Mitt Romney is that Obama is in a much higher league than what he's been competing in here.

And for him to compete against Obama, he's going to have to get a lot more nimble. He has to be a lot more effective. Because Obama is sort of dancing around. BLITZER: Obama is great campaigner. He has got a lot of money as he spends much. But he'll have hundreds of millions of dollars. Get ready for a general election.

Anderson, if you think this has been tough so far, just wait.

COOPER: Yes. A lot more money to be poured in, Wolf. Our special coverage continues through it this hour.

Up next, John King crunching the numbers, showing how the night broke down. What it may mean for the candidates in the weeks ahead.

And later, a rare opportunity to hear from Sarah Palin on this network. We'll ask her, her plans for the 2016 and her possible role in election 2012.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Our special "360" coverage continues right now. Ohio keeping all us up pretty late. Mitt Romney is leading Rick Santorum in the vote count. We're projecting he is going to win and win the delegate count as well. He is piling on delegates nationwide. Is he closing the deal?

Santorum is keeping it close, but there are questions about whether he has the organizational stamina for a longer battle. And after tonight, the question about Newt Gingrich remains, did he win big enough in Georgia to revive his national chances? You can write your own head line. Here's what the candidates had to say.


ROMNEY: It's been a long road getting to super Tuesday. Let me be honest. And my opponents have worked very hard.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everywhere we were when we won the vote went up. When wall street won, the vote went down. Which I think is a pretty bad sign for this fall if we end up with a wall street candidate.

SANTORUM: There wasn't a single state in the list I just gave you where I spent more money than the people I was able to defeat to win that state. And every case we overcame the odds.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So if you look at the candidates today, there is very little difference except for one.


GINGRICH: Let me be very clear. I believe that I am the one candidate who has the ability to debate Barack Obama decisively.

(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: To the millions of Americans who look around and can only see jobs they can't get, and bills that they can't pay, I have a message. You have not failed. You have a president that's failed you and that's going to change.

GINGRICH: It's one thing to defend a mandated top down government run healthcare program that you imposed on the people of your state. It's another thing to recommend and encourage the president of the United States to impose the same thing on the American people and it's another thing yet to go out and tell the American public that you didn't do it.

ROMNEY: These days, you're the president of this team they keep telling us that things are getting better. But 24 million Americans are still struggling for work. They're high-fiving each other in the west wing, but my friends, the truth is eight percent unemployment is not the best America can do. It's just the best that this administration can do.

PAUL: What I'm talking about are real cuts. Actually cutting, but you can't do this unless you change policy. If you expect to have welfare benefits from cradle to grave, free housing, free food and free medical care and free education, you can't do it. If you expect to be the policemen of the world and advocate preemptive war in going in a country in occupying countries if you want, that kind of foreign policy, you can't do it. And you know what, if we don't change policy we are going to end up in a financial crash.

GINGRICH: Remember when it was Tim Pawlenty who would crowd me out and remember then when there was Michele Bachmann and then our good friend, Herman Cain, the first time, and then it was Donald Trump for an almost. Then it was our good friend, Rick Perry, and then it was Herman Cain, the second time. and now, it's Santorum. And you just can't quite get across them. It's all right. There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take it one step at a time.


COOPER: The tortoise. Exit polling in Ohio shows Mitt Romney had the edge among working women. While Rick Santorum had the edge among all other voters. In another words, working women may have cost Santorum the race in Ohio. The reason which the candidates the use of contraception has been front and center as they weighed in on the drive to allow employer to opted of course President Obama's health care law for moral or religious reasons. And here's part of what they have said.


SANTORUM: No. It's the denying them access to birth control. This is outrageous. I mean, the bottom line is that you have the federal government now saying we'll give you a right and then saying by the way, we're going to tell you how to exercise that right. We're going to control you, a religious, a church affiliated group as to, you know, what you provide to your employees and if you don't like it, tough. Because our rights to tell you what to do trumps your deeply held convictions about what your dollars should be spent for.

ROMNEY: Just this last week, this same administration said that churches in the institutions they run such as schools and let's say adoption agencies, hospitals, that they have to provide for their employees free of charge contraceptives. Think what that does to people in faiths who do not share those views. This is the violation of conscience. We must have a president who is willing to protect America's first right, a right to worship God according to the dictator of our own conscience.

GINGRICH: It's not about access to contraception. People who want to can get access to contraception every day. It is a question about whether or not a religiously affiliated institution should be coerced by the federal government.

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. But sort of along the line of the pills, creating the immorality, I don't see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So, you don't blame the pills --


COOPER: Comments obviously made by Rush Limbaugh, also then took the debate in another direction.

In terms of this whole issue on contraception and religious freedom, how do you think this has played out? Do you think this did hurt Rick Santorum in Ohio among single women voters can?

BRAZILE: Well, based on exit polls, women went for Mitt Romney 42-38 percent. So it might be helping Mitt Romney especially in these states where he's winning by just a very slim margin. I wouldn't be surprised.

ERICKSON: You know, I would think just looking at the exits, and from what people have been saying on the ground there, I think to the extent that it hurt Rick Santorum it was because Santorum never went back to talking about job and the economy. He focused on the cultural issues and when he tried to pivot pack to the jobs issues, and people asked him questions about his foreign statement, he went back to the prior statements. He didn't try to steer the message back to jobs and the economy in Ohio.

I think it hurt him in Michigan to a degree. He focused on cultural issues to the expense of talk about jobs issues. Not trying to handle them both.

ROSEN: You know, Mitt Romney is basically doubled down on every single position Rick Santorum has taken. So there's this sort of perception that somehow Santorum is nor conservative on these social issues. Whereas Romney has really said that he agrees with them that contraception shouldn't be available on choice, on whole series of things.

The key issue is people don't believe about Mitt Romney. And I think, that that's going to end up hurting him. It's a message frame that says we don't really trust you. I think he believes it is going to help him move more to the center in the general election. But I think it will add to this message frame that he's somewhat insincere.

From democratic perspective, the one interesting thing about this whole issues is, we know from our internal polling on the democratic side that women weren't paying as much attention to this election as men were. Women are now paying attention. And that's really interesting.

COOPER: From the Republican standpoint, do you believe that Romney has moved far to the right?

FLEISCHER: No, I don't, not at all. Mitt Romney has basically --

ROSEN: He says he has.

FLEISCHER: I think Mitt Romney has been staying pretty straight and true, especially on economics. I think he's a tactical changes on his tax plan but then it didn't amount to philosophical change. For Rick Santorum --

BRAZILE: Are you serious?

FLEISCHER: I think that Rick Santorum, he looking at Tennessee's exit polls, he won I think the men by nine points, he women by five points. He does have a problem with women as a result of the way he talked about this whole issue. It would be a big problem for Rick Santorum if he were to become the nominee. He still has to address it if he is going to have a chance to be the standard bearer.

ROSEN: But the point that Ari is just made is exactly the point, which he doesn't even believe Mitt Romney's positions himself. Mitt Romney has said on immigration he's as conservative as Rick Santorum. On abortion, he is as conservative as Rick Santorum. On contraception he's as conservative as Rick Santorum, but nobody believes him.

FLEISCHER: But there's a way that you communicate. There's a way that you communicate that makes people attractive to you or pushed away from you. And that's part of Rick Santorum's problem. I don't think Romney has that.

The other thing that you always notice when people run for president, it's so much harder to run for president than it was to run for senator or governor. Everyone learns along the way. Remember when Hilary Clinton talks about getting off that plane in Boston and getting shot at by sniper fire. You know, she can't get away with saying that when you run for president.

Barack Obama, of course, was caught up in fund raisers saying to people, Clinton are guns and religion. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, have had their problems too. It's all part of stepping up to the presidential level.

BRAZILE: So you're saying he's grown on the issues? He hasn't really -- ERICKSON: Look, I'm not go -- I'm not going get into Romney and positions because they change. But going into the point Gloria made earlier, Romney is winning on the electability argument. And I'm not sure that candidates need to be selected on the electability or even. Because the grounds on which you're electable shift.

But what I'm struck by what Gloria said earlier tonight is that, Santorum is winning with people who feel he connected with them. And Romney is having hard time with the base of the Republican party connecting with him. Hand he's doing to go into this -- I think after Ohio he is going to be the nominee. Still going to be a slog for him, but he'll get it.

But when he goes into the general election, he needs those people already with him. They are going to vote for him. But will they call for him, will they phone bank, will they give money? The enthusiasm is going to be there to beat Barack Obama, but not necessary --

COOPER: Donna, then we got to take a break.

BRAZILE: I'm laughing because in the age of twitter we have a video.

FLEISCHER: A video of what?

BRAZILE: Of Mitt Romney shifting his position further and further to the right. He so fall to the right. Erick, the night even at (INAUDIBLE).

FLEISCHER: Former governor Romney did shift his position from being pro-gay and pro-choice. I think that being shift took place years ago. And it's tainted a lot of what he said now. And that's his base problem. People wonder will he hold the view having given those issues -- ?

BRAZILE: He's shifted the position on healthcare.

ERICKSON: You're man too. President Obama --

BRAZILE: Which man? I don't have a man.

FLEISCHER: President Obama has flip-flopped on so many issues himself. And I think that's going to be --

BRAZILE: That's always your fault line. It's like, well, let's just blame the Democrats. The point is that --

FLEISCHER: It's a campaign.


BRAZILE: I want to give governor Romney one little bit of credit tonight. He's winning the catholic vote. Not my vote. But he's winning the catholic vote.

COOPER: All right. We are going to take a quick break. Still ahead, ten states down. A long road ahead. All four candidates are vowing to fight to the end. John king is at the wall. He is going to show us where the delegate counts stands right now.

And we are going to go back to our virtual convention with Tom Foreman. What could happen this summer in Tampa as the delegate fight goes on?

We will be right back.



SANTORUM: Who knows how much we were outspent. But in every state, there wasn't a single state in the list that I just gave you where I spent more money than the people I was able to defeat to win that state. In every case, we overcame the odds.


COOPER: That was Rick Santorum tonight in Ohio. Ten states held votes today, 419 delegates were at stake. It takes 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination.

John King has been crunching the numbers all night at the wall. Let's go back to him and see where things right now stands - John.

KING: So here are the victories, Anderson. If you look at it, 13 for Romney so far. The Santorum states are in purple. This one, Missouri, gets an asterisk because he wins a beauty contest, not the delegates. Alaska still in play tonight. Romney is leading. See what happens there.

So, you take the states you're winning, winning is one thing. When you get for delegates is another. Here's where we stand right now at the moment. Governor Romney started the night with 207 delegates. He will end tonight somewhere in the ballpark of 400.

We have some allocations still to do. Alaska, we still need to allocate. Let's for the sake of argument say his leads holds up in Alaska where he had the proportions just about right. That would have put him over 400. Speaker Gingrich has roughly 110 or so, if that's giving him in some of Alaska delegates. Senator Santorum would be in second place. That's a distant second place.

Now, an important point we need to make. You need, as we have been noting all night, 1,144. That's a long way from victory. However, it's a long way ahead of anybody else.

So the question is where do you go from here as we go forward? Let's go a couple of stops forward. I don't want to overcomplicate this. But a significant lead for Romney at the moment. When you go forward, the Kansas caucuses are next, the Mary Ann island, the Guam caucuses, the virgin islands. I'll leave them out in the conversation. Let's assume for the sake of arguments, Santorum wins Kansas. He would come back a little bit. Romney will get some delegates in the mix. Then we come forward from there.

Here's the biggest question. In the next week, it's not really, in my view, a Romney questions. It a Gingrich versus Santorum question. Can Santorum do well on the south, in Alabama and Mississippi or does the momentum that Gingrich has from South Carolina and then Georgia tonight carry over?

We are going to have a southern contest between Santorum and Gingrich to see what happens. And if Gingrich wins both states, if he can do that, then he can plausibly be on television next week, saying at least I'm back in the hunt with Senator Santorum.

If Santorum can win the south, not only would it raise questions about Gingrich's viability period, it would get Santorum say I'm the only candidate one with a prayer. So, we end tonight, advantage Romney. And the question going into next week is who emerges from Alabama and Mississippi? Does anyone emerge from Alabama and Mississippi saying I'm the alternative, Santorum's campaign saying Gingrich should get out. Gingrich said no way. We might be asking that to one of them or the other a week from now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right. We will be watching that - Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thanks very much.

One thing you can say about the 2012 Republican primary race, almost everyone has had a chance to claim victory. No exceptions tonight. Ron Paul spoke before most of the votes were counted. Here's how the other three sized up their performance.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a big night tonight. Lots of states. We're going to win a few. We're going to lose a few. But as it looks right now, we're going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole passel full of silver medals. We have won in the west, the Midwest and the south and we're ready to win across this country.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, we have taken one more step towards restoring the promise of tomorrow. Tomorrow we wake up and we start again. And the next day we'll do the same. And so we'll go day by day, step by step, door by door. Heart to heart. There will be good days, there will be bad days. Always long hours. Never enough time to get everything done. But on November 6th, we're going to stand united.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember when it was Tim Pawlenty who was going to crowd me out? And remember then when it was Michele Bachmann? And then it was our good friend Herman Cain, the first time? And then for a brief moment, it was Donald Trump almost? And then, it was our good friend, Rick Perry, and then Herman Cain, the second time and now it's Santorum. And you just can't quite get across them. It's all right. There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.


BLITZER: Now, let's bring back David Gergen and Gloria Borger. David, why is Romney unlikely to do well in Mississippi and Alabama next week?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Count the ways. First of all, he's Mormon and I think the religion -- Gloria and I have been talking about this earlier tonight. Do you think that there's more resistance to a Mormon in places like that. There is a lot of resistance to Catholics in earlier times as you remember.

Secondly, he doesn't speak the language quite as well. And there is this question that Erick Erickson has asking about, can you trust him if you're a true conservative? There are a lot of true conservatives in those areas and evangelicals. It's not naturally his territory. I think it's more naturally Newt Gingrich than it is Rick Santorum. And Gingrich does speaks subtle. I think he is the man of the south. Rick Santorum is not. And you know, I think Santorum is great for the border states. But when you come down to a deep south, that's a very different culture.

BLITZER: He did win in Tennessee tonight, Rick Santorum. That's an impressive win.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was an impressive win for him. And it was troubling I think for Mitt Romney because Tennessee is not what you'd consider the deep south. We spoke about this earlier. Tennessee is place with urban areas that tend to elect moderates. I mean, you got Senator Corker with a long history, Bill Frist, Howard Baker.

So, it was an opportunity for Mitt Romney which he didn't -- he didn't win. And I think he does have a problem in the south. I think he has to prove that he can win in the south other than in the state of Florida.

BLITZER: Let's say Santorum wins. Let's say hypothetically next week in Alabama and Mississippi, what does that mean for Newt Gingrich?

GERGEN: I think he's basically out. If he can't take --

BLITZER: If he's out, where do those votes go? Those probably Newt Gingrich votes?

GERGEN: I think most will go to Santorum.

BLITZER: Instead of Romney?

GERGEN: Certainly. In state like Texas they would go to Santorum. I'm not sure in every state that's going to be the case. Maybe at that point, you know, if Romney then wins some big states I think the momentum will return to him. But he's at some point got to win this decisively and not grind it out. And --

BORGER: I think he'll crawl across the finish line. Look, if I'm Mitt Romney, I want to keep both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in this race to divide conservative voters. I'm not sure I want a one- on-one with Rick Santorum at this particular point. You know, why not keep them both in there?

GERGEN: Ironically --

BLITZER: Gloria makes a good point. Because at the top of Mitt Romney's speech tonight, he was very gracious. He praised the three others as opposed to the other candidates --


BORGER: Praise Newt Gingrich after those negative ads?

GERGEN: It was better for Romney than Santorum to win Georgia.

BLITZER: Anderson, let's go back to you.

COOPER: Yes. Just had the news, Sarah Palin made tonight just after casting her vote in Alaska's primary. We'll tell you about it ahead.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sarah Palin for president, 2016, is it possible?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Anything in this life, in this world is possible. Anything is possible for an American. And you know, I don't discount any idea or plan at this point it isn't in my control. Anything is possible.

VERCAMMEN: But would you seriously consider a run?

PALIN: I would seriously consider whatever I can do to help our country. To help put things back on the right track. Our economy, the foreign policies proposals that we have to see put forward in order to secure our homeland and the Americans are brave, fighting men and women who are overseas right now in places that perhaps we shouldn't be right now. Anything I can do to help, I will be willing to help.


COOPER: That was Sarah Palin talking about a possible 2016 presidential run. But she really raised some eyebrows talking about 2012 as you'll see in this interview with CNN's Paul Vercammen.


PALIN: Remember, there are five men running for president and I think Barack Obama is the worst choice, the last choice. So, the four in front of them as they duke it out in the arena of ideas and solutions to propose, the more of that the better.

VERCAMMEN: Sarah Palin for president, 2016. Is it possible?

PALIN: Anything in this life, in this world is possible. Anything is possible for an American. And, you know, I don't discount any idea or plan that at this point it isn't in my control. Anything is possible.

PALIN: But would you seriously consider a run?

PALIN: I would seriously consider whatever I can do to help our country. To help put things back on the right track. Our economy, the foreign policy proposals that we have to see put forward in order to secure our homeland and the Americans especially, our brave fighting men and women who are overseas right now in places that perhaps we shouldn't be right now. Anything that I can do to help I will be willing to help.

VERCAMMEN: This year for you, what's issue number?

PALIN: Issue number one in the combination of the economy and of the military needs that I, as a having a family member in the military serving in a war zone right now, an intimately aware of we do have some foreign policy proposals right now that the GOP is putting forth that I believe will help strengthen the military, won't clash the military. Our troops, the benefits that they have earned.

So, a lot of the military issues are important to me. But of course the economy. Getting the job market back. How many again, and we do that by developing resources that we have up here in Alaska. Our oil, our natural gas. All those things that are near and dear to the Alaskans' heart are certainly near and dear to the Americans' heart. And there are a lot of things that need to get working on it with the economy.

VERCAMMEN: OK. One more question from Wolf, by the phone, and we try to relay it to you.

BLITZER: All right, Paul. I know that's a delay between me and you. But thank the former governor, the Republican nominee for all of us. A quick question for her.

I'm just curious how she's been reacting to this whole Rush Limbaugh controversy with this Georgetown university law student, because there was some vile words that were uttered by some liberal Democrats as far as Sarah Palin was concerned. And I wonder if she wants to weigh in on this controversy.

VERCAMMEN: Wolf wants to know if you want to weigh into the controversy. He said some vile words were thrown around some directed for you after the controversy involving Rush Limbaugh on contraception towards the Georgetown woman. Your reaction as some of those words thrown at you.

PALIN: I think the definition of hypocrisy is for Rush Limbaugh to have been called out forced to apologized and retract what it is that said in exercising his first amendment right and never is that the same applied to the leftist radicals who say such horrible things about the handicapped, about women, about the defenseless. So, I think that's the definition of hypocrisy. And that's why she sent for it.

VERCAMMEN: I promise, last question this one from John King. And Todd, me apologize. Sarah's husband is patiently been waiting off.

PALIN: We thought we'd get busted walking through here today. And here you are.


VERCAMMEN: Go ahead, John.

KING: Paul, I would ask the governor how likely there's a possibility of an open convention? If this is an open convention and someone approached her and said, governor Palin I want to place your name in nomination, would she stop them?

VERCAMMEN: Is the open convention question -- if we wind up with an open convention that someone wants to place your name though you're in a behalf, would you stop them? Would you be open to that.

PALIN: As I say, anything is possible. And I don't -- I don't close any doors that perhaps would be open out there. So no, I wouldn't close that door. And my plan is to be at that convention.

VERCAMMEN: I thank you profusely for stopping.

PALIN: You are a lucky dude that I did.

VERCAMMEN: Thank you so much. I appreciate Todd, stopping as well.

PALIN: OK. I appreciate you, thank you.


PALIN: Thanks for being in Wasilla.

VERCAMMEN: You're welcome. We are glad to be here.

As we said not just to Sarah Palin, but they expect as many as a thousand people will come through here as multiple districts vote in Wasilla. Alaska, of course, very exciting. A wild card, if you will. They're not sure how it will go tonight. You have no political pulling here, Sarah. Let me ask you though, do you feel like anybody has a advantage on the ground here?

PALIN: You know, there's a strong libertarian streak here in Alaska. So, I think Ron Paul is going to do very well here. And Romney, Romney won though four years ago. The caucus of Presidential preference poll. So, perhaps, we will see a repeat of that. Newt Gingrich though, he is the one who is spot on with the energy development. That's so important to Alaskans. And Alaskans is a very, very conservative state, so red, that Rick Santorum could be very well too. So, kind of I think a microcosm of the rest of the country, things are up in the air. We don't know.

VERCAMMEN: And if I might add in that Natzu Valley (ph), they say that Santorum has been running very well among evangelical Christians.

PALIN: Sure. Which I am one. So, no -- but again, all four credit candidates are great. And five men running for president. And the four men that you just mentioned are better than the incumbent. Anybody, but Obama.

VERCAMMEN: Right. Thank you so much for taking time.

PALIN: Thanks.


COOPER: Later on, Sarah Palin said to another network if she actually voted for Gingrich. Right now, back with Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

Interesting to see Sarah Palin on our air, which is normally doesn't really come on any other air but other than FOX who she paid by.

What do you make of it? There's no chance -- she may be at the convention, but you don't see any possible role for her. This year?

BORGER: Well, in this presidential race, no. She's not going to be a candidate. She's not going to be the white knight that comes in and rescues the party. I think she's going to be an important voice for whomever gets the nomination. I presume she'll support as she said tonight whoever gets the nomination. By the way, I want to correct her, I don't think we were lucky. I think we were good. We were in Wasilla. We were in Alaska, and --

COOPER: The importance of having reporters as we have seen throughout being in the right place at the right time.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly. But I think you know, I also thought it was interesting that when she was asked about 2016, she didn't give the political answer which is I'm going to vote for the Republican for re-election.

COOPER: But David Gergen, you don't see a political future for Sarah Palin as a candidate? You think the business of Sarah Palin has taken on a life of its own.

GERGEN: I think she loves being Sarah Palin inc. You know, she didn't like being governor very much. She doesn't want to run something. Sarah Palin wants to be this large personality, as mega personality, that has a lot of influence in politics. She's having fun. She's making money she never made in her life before, you know. And a lot of people are seeking her autographs. You know, I think she's having fun out there and I think -- I don't think she's seriously wants to run. If she wanted to run, she would have jumped in this time.

COOPER: She seemed comfortable in the interview. And enjoying it. GERGEN: Yes, she did. She seemed fresh too. I must say, you have to -- the woman has got -- I don't think she was much of a governor, but she's got a remarkable flair for publicity creating buzz around her.

COOPER: Just ahead, you heard Sarah Palin talk about the convention in that interview that we just rank.

Coming up, we'll take you inside the virtual convention to see you how it might play out in August in terms of delegates at the real life Republican convention.



ROMNEY: It's been a long road. Getting to super Tuesday, let me be honest. And my opponents have worked very hard. I want to congratulate Newt Gingrich on a good night in Georgia and Rick Santorum on his good night and Ron Paul for his steadfast commitment to our constitution. And his strong support almost everywhere you go.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney in Boston giving a nod to his opponents after winning his home state and hours before the Ohio race was called for him. Super Tuesday now in the books. But plenty of big prizes still ahead. Tonight, Tom Foreman is taking us on a virtual convention to give us a sense of how the delegate count may shift from here on out.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we have tracked all these developments all evening, you can see how the landscape of delegates here at the virtual convention has been changed by the voting today.

Let's take our camera way up high for a better look. Remember the delegate count is all that really matters and at this point this is our best calculation about how today's delegates will be divided.

Newt Gingrich on the left here picks up his home state of Georgia and more than 60 delegates. Ron Paul over on the right grabs a little more than a dozen. Rick Santorum in purple here hits hard with wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota and a strong showing in Ohio. We have marked him down for more than 70 new delegates, but now we add Mitt Romney. And you can clearly see how he had not only had the most delegates on this floor coming into the night, but how he's also added to the lead. Picking up Massachusetts, Idaho, Vermont, Virginia and then that big win in Ohio. He'll get well over 175 new delegates on his team.

But it is important to consider what's ahead. Some very big prizes still looming. The California primary for instance with the largest number of delegates up for grabs. Texas is also huge. More than 300 delegates will be divided up from the two states alone. Still, what if the candidates arrive here and no one has enough delegates to win the nomination after the first vote.

At that point, all bets are off. Then look what might start happening. Huge floor fights. Delegates would be free to change their votes, arm twisting and deal making would break out. Someone who is not on the ballot now might be drafted to become the nominee, maybe Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels. No one knows what happens when such fractions occur in the party.

All we can say for certain is that at that point, the VIPs here would indeed become very important. They are more than 100 top party players, unpledged delegates who can vote for whomever they wish. I should point out that many of them have already stated a preference for Mitt Romney. But if he seems wounded, they can change their minds.

In any event, if there is a floor fight for the nomination, and it cannot be resolved, they would have the final word in selecting the nominee.

Very few Republicans want to see that happen for a simple reason. It would expose deep divides between the party itself and there is something even more important. Nominees who emerge from divided conventions like that rarely as you know win the general election.

BLITZER: I love that virtual convention. And those people, the delegates at that virtual convention very well behaved.

FOREMAN: Not only that, they're actually selling virtual souvenirs. And I have picked up a virtual wobble.

BLITZER: A little virtual convention.

KING: They're selling like hot cakes over there.

BLITZER: They were screaming, very polite.

KING: It's not virtual beard?

FOREMAN: Actually, if you take the beard off, it's Anderson.

FOREMAN: A transformer.

BLITZER: Let's get a quick final thought from everybody. Go ahead.

KING: I think that's unlikely, but as we look at the scenario going forward, it's something that will in the back of the mind of every Republican until Mitt Romney can prove -- he proved a lot tonight by winning five maybe six states if Alaska comes in. As Tom noted, he picks up the majority of the delegates. Winning gets you delegates. The question is, where are we two or three weeks from now? Has Romney then pulled away?

BLITZER: I learned tonight, Gloria that this is going to go on and on and on.

BORGER: Right. I think Mitt Romney has won the delegates tonight. Maybe a majority of those delegates, but he has to win the hearts of conservative Republican voters. Hasn't done it yet. COOPER: And we want to thank all our panelists, all our contributors tonight. It has been a fascinating -- how long has it been? Eight hours.

BORGER: I don't know.

COOPER: It's been a fascinating eight hours. We will see you tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern for another edition of "360."