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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Ron Paul to Finish Third in Iowa; Gingrich to Place 4th in Iowa

Aired January 3, 2012 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we have a difference of opinion here. We're going to talk more about it in just a few moments. Our coverage continues tonight.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It's the top of the hour. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're here at the CNN Election Center.

A dramatic night in Iowa, we're watching what's going on. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Take a look at this. It's very, very close between Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Governor, and Mitt Romney -- the former Pennsylvania Senator -- I should say and Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, both at 25 percent. Ron Paul, we have now projected will come in third. He's got 21 percent right there. Newt Gingrich, 13 percent; Rick Perry, 10 percent; Michele Bachmann, the Congresswoman from Minnesota, only five percent; Jon Huntsman, the former Utah Governor, one percent.

Let me show you our official projections as of right now. And we'll put it up on the board over here. We can't project who wins or comes in second, because it is so close between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney; but we can project that Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas, will come in third; Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, will come in fourth; Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, will come in fifth; Michele Bachmann, the Congresswoman from Minnesota, will come in sixth; and Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. Ambassador to China, the former Utah Governor, will come in seventh.

Let's go to John King. He's monitoring what's going on at the Magic Wall. And it's a dramatic night. Who would have thought Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney would be fighting it out this late?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you're watching the map right now. Rick Santorum is purple. Mitt Romney is the dark red. You might be watching at home saying, hey, wait a minute, Rick Santorum has a lot more of the state. Why isn't he ahead by more votes? Well, Mitt Romney is winning where the people are. He's winning in where Des Moines is, in Polk County. And you look at the margins here, 98 percent of the vote counted. This gets important, Wolf as we get closer to 100 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's the largest county. KING: It's the largest county in the state. Governor Romney has the lead here over Ron Paul as second, Santorum third, this matters as you get close. If Romney is going to catch up, he's got to get the rest of the votes in these places you have the people.

Another place you look out here is Cedar Rapids, a place Romney carried last time, a big chunk of the state; six percent of the population. Again, he's winning out here, but 95 percent of the vote in. He need the rest of those votes as this goes on.

Same idea in the eastern part of the state, Dubuque, a large by Iowa standards population center, Governor Romney winning again; Senator Santorum a modest number of votes cast there. We're still waiting for 26 percent of the vote. This is critical to Governor Romney in the final count as we go.

Look out here in the western part of the state, Woodbury County is where Sioux City is, carried by Governor Romney four years ago, Senator Santorum carrying the day right now with about 60 percent of the precincts in. And up here as well, you have populations up here, Sioux County, another conservative area with a decent-sized population, Senator Santorum winning there.

As we watch this play out, I want to show you something, to go back four years. The middle of the state, with a couple of exceptions four years ago, was Mike Huckabee country. As we watch it tonight, it is largely Rick Santorum country, with the exception of Ron Paul. We project Ron Paul will be third. Ron Paul won one lonely county, Jefferson County, four years ago. We don't have any results there yet. It's a tiny county, Wolf.

But look at how Ron Paul has stretched his map significant more presence across the state, a three-man race. Governor Perry winning two small counties down here; Gingrich and Bachmann each had a county earlier in the night up here, gone now.

We have essentially a three-way race and as you watch 88 percent, as we watch for the final precincts, watch here, how did Governor Romney does with the final votes here -- take it away.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, hold on a second. Ron Paul is coming out, over at Ron Paul headquarters. He's got an enthusiastic applause over there. He's about to speak.

You see his son, Rand Paul, standing right behind him. Let's see if we can hear what Ron Paul, the Congressman is about to say.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

CROWD: Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul.

PAUL: That's great.

PEOPLE: Ron Paul. Ron Paul. PAUL: Thank you very much. Thank you. And I think you might recognize my wife. Her picture is on that cookbook. Anybody see that cookbook this year? Well -- well, thank you very much. What a delightful crowd. And you know, sometimes I say, boy, that was a good speech, and I say, no, that was a good crowd. That makes all the difference in the world.

You know, we talk about, and A.J. mentioned, you know, one of three tickets out, which is obviously true. And one of two that can actually run a national campaign and raise the money. But there's nobody else that have people like you working hard and enthusiastic and believe in something.

That is all the difference in the world. And before I continue with anymore comments, I do want to bring, at least step forward three -- three of our chairmen. You met already, A.J. Stryker and David Fisher, would step forward, as well as Drew Ivers, who's been the chairman, and they are on the central committee and they have led the charge all throughout Iowa.

But all I can think about in tough campaigns and all the hard work is the work you people do. It is unbelievable, the energy you have and the effort that you have made. But what makes me feel good about it is you're doing it because you believe in something. That is what's worthwhile.

But you -- but you also, also know that there's two good things. Some people say, well, you guys just do that because you believe in something to promote a cause. Certainly, but how's the best way to promote a cause? That is to win elections. That's way you promote it.

Now, the enthusiasm has been unbelievable. It's fantastic. It's national. Thousands of people now have been involved, and not only in Iowa, but around the country, and they're ready and raring to go.

But we have to look at wonderful changes that have occurred in our country in a positive way. The country has suffered a lot in a negative way. The economy's in trouble, our civil liberties are being trashed, our foreign policy has been a mess and drains us, both economically and our military forces. But at the same time, people are coming together and we had the task, which is where we are very successful is reintroducing some ideas the Republicans needed for a long time, and that is -- that is the conviction that freedom is popular.

But once again, we have had a fantastic showing for this cause and challenging people. Not the status quo that we have been putting up with for decades after decades, but challenging them and saying, you know, let's challenge him. Let's go back to this real old- fashioned idea, this very dangerous idea. Let's obey the Constitution.

And too -- too often, those who preach limited government and small government, they forget that invasion of your privacy is big government, and we have to emphasize protecting your personal rights and your economic rights are what the government's supposed to do. They're not supposed to run our lives or spend our money.

And also, along those lines, what we have introduced with so much enthusiasm, I hear it so often from so many volunteers. The other day somebody came up to me and he was refreshing my memory, because he knew I knew the statement, because I've said it. Back in the old days in the early '70s, Nixon said, we're all Keynesians now, which meant that even the Republicans, they've accepted liberal economics. He said I'm waiting for the day where we can say, we're all Austrians now.

But a biggest change, I think, in intellectual and political changes that we have brought about is the emphasis on a very important matter. Making sure we get to the bottom of the ultimate bail-outers and that is our Federal Reserve system. We need reforms there and we need a new monetary system and obey the Constitution.

This is -- this is something that we've made great progress. So the first and initial important step that we've worked so hard is on the table. Today there was a national poll that came out and they were talking about how many people supported the gold standard? How long has it been since they've taken a national poll on the gold standard?

And guess what, the majority of the American people believe we should have a gold standard and not a paper standard. But also, also the great strides that we have made has been really on the foreign policy. The fact that we can once again talk in Republican circles and make it credible, talking about what Eisenhower said that beware of the military industrial conflict. Talk about the old days when Robert Taft, Mr. Republican said that we shouldn't be engaged in these entangling alliance; he believed what the founders taught us.

He didn't want to be in NATO. We certainly don't need NATO and the U.N. to tell us when to go to war.

But we have -- we have seen a great difference. The majority of the American people are behind us on this whole war effort. They are tired of the war, costs too much -- too much money, too many people get killed, too many people get injured, too many people get sick. And the majority, maybe 70 percent or 80 percent of the American people now are saying it's time to get out of Afghanistan.

So those are the issues, those are the issues that we have brought front and center. They're out there. They're not going to go away. And we have -- and we have tremendous opportunity to continue this momentum. It won't be long that there's going to be an election up in New Hampshire and believe me, this momentum is going to continue. And this movement is going to continue, and we are going to keep scoring, just as we have tonight.

So -- so tonight we have come out -- out of an election that we're essentially three winners. Three top vote-getters. And we will go on, we will raise the money. I have no doubt about the volunteers. They're going to be there.

A lot of you have said, and you thank me and you compliment me and thank me for helping you along, but let me tell you, you help me along, you help my family along. All our workers, our supporters, because without your enthusiasm, we can't do it and this is where I feel most obligated, you know. We want to do the job, present the case, and if anything isn't perfect, I worry not about myself, I worry about you and making sure that you're satisfied.

I think there's nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied, and be ready and raring to move on, on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire.

PEOPLE: Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul. Ron Paul.

PAUL: Now, I have -- I have another speaker, a special guest tonight. He's been with us this evening; as a matter of fact he's been with us in our campaign for quite a few years. And you may have met him, because he's been around here this evening, but I would like him to come out and say a few words.

He's been serving in the military for ten years, and he's been overseas a lot. A lot of it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he was on TV tonight and he didn't quite get to finish his statement. So I've ask him if he would come out and make his comments about why he supports our foreign policy, and why he is fighting for the Constitution and what he thinks we should do.

But I would like to invite out now Jesse Thorsen to come out and say a few words to you. Thank you.

CPL. JESSE THORSEN, U.S. ARMY: How about Ron Paul? If there's any man out there that's had a vision for this country, it is definitely him. His foreign policy is by far, hands down, better than any candidate's out there. And I'm sure you all know that.

We don't need to be picking fights overseas, and I think everybody else knows that too. I'm flabbergasted right now. This is an incredible moment for me. I can't believe it. It's like meeting a rock star.

But you know what, we're going to go to New Hampshire, we're all going to get involved, we're going to keep getting online, we're going to keep talking to people and we are going to make sure this man is the next President of the United States.

PAUL: Thank you much, very much. And that is a powerful message.

And once again, we all know where the active military people send their money when they're campaigning. They send it to our campaign for liberty, our campaign for the Constitution, our campaign for limited government, our campaign for personal liberty and privacy and a wise foreign policy.

The most important thing we have to remember is we want to have influence in the world. That's very important. We want to be active in the world. We want to talk to people and work with people, trade with people, and be friends with people.

But what we need to realize is our ways, you know, there's people who say that we are an exceptional nation. And we certainly are and have been. But we're slipping. But this idea that our exceptionalism out of desperation say that we are so exceptional, what we must do is prove it to the world. We have to send our troops around the world and force it down their throats if they don't do it, we'll, you know, invade them and occupy them and force election on them.

I'll tell you the best way to spread our message. And that is, do our job at home. Preserve our liberties at home. Provide the free market. Have a sound currency. Balance the budget. Set an example and get them, the rest of the world, to emulate us. That is the road to peace and prosperity.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, so Ron Paul, you heard him speaking to his supporters there in Iowa. He has come in third, but not very far behind the top two, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Let's take a look at how close this race is right now. And we'll put the numbers.

Newt Gingrich, by the way, is getting ready to speak over at Newt Gingrich Headquarters in Iowa as well.

But let me show our viewers where the actual, official numbers stand right now. Here it is. Look at this. 92 percent of the precincts are in: Mitt Romney is 13 votes ahead of Rick Santorum. 13 votes separate Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum -- 27,830 to 27,817. 92 percent of the precincts have reported.

How close is this? I don't think it can get much closer; 13 votes separating Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Newt Gingrich is going to be speaking shortly. I want to hear what he has to say. Actually, I think he's coming out right now. There he is. He's getting ready to speak to his supporters. He has come in fourth place, we've projected. There's his wife, Callista, as she always is, by his side.

Let's listen in to the former Speaker of the House.

LINDA UPMEYER, CHAIRWOMAN FOR GINGRICH'S IOWA CAMPAIGN: Would you like an introduction?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure.

UPMEYER: Good evening. We all know that the 2012 election is about jobs and the economy. We know that Americans demand a candidate with ideas and solutions to rebuild the America we love. There is only one Reaganite Conservative in this election, and we just punched his ticket for New Hampshire.

CROWD: Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt. GINGRICH: Well, thank you, Linda. And I want to thank Linda Upmeyer is the majority leader in the house, and Greg Ganske, my former colleague in the Congress, who really all summer held this together, when really it could have fallen apart.

I want to thank everybody who worked all fall, particularly during the avalanche of negative ads. Calista and I want to thank the people of Iowa. All through being drowned in negativity, everywhere we went, people were positive, they were receptive, they were willing to ask questions, and they would listen. And they really wanted to get to the truth rather than the latest 30-second distortion. And it really gave us a feeling that this process does work.

I am delighted to be here tonight, and I think that we are at the beginning of an extraordinarily important campaign.

The ultimate goal of this campaign has to be to replace Barack Obama and get America back on the right track. But let's be clear, one of the things that became obvious in the last few weeks in Iowa is that there will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama. And I think it's very important to understand that.

And I want to take just a minute and congratulate a good friend of ours, somebody who we admire and whose family we admire, and that's Rick Santorum. He waged a great, positive campaign. I served with Rick. We've had a great relationship over the years, and I admire the courage, the discipline, the way he focused. And I also admire how positive he was. I wish I could say that for all the candidates.

But here's the key thing to ask. It's not just about beating Obama, as important as that is. It's about what do we need to do as a country to get back on the right track. And that's a lot bigger than just replacing one person in the White House.

That's fixing the Congress, fixing the bureaucracy, fixing the courts, resetting the culture, getting the judges to understand that they operate within the constitution, not above it. There are tremendous steps we have to take. And we have to re-establish the work ethic and recognize we want to reward work, not redistribution; that we want to reward paychecks, not food stamps. And this is going to be a very important national conversation.

But it's not just about here at home. We also have to understand, and this will be a major debate with Congressman Paul, who's had a very good night, and I congratulate him on having done very well. But the fact is, his views on foreign policy, I think, are stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States.

And I think it's a very simple question, which I would be glad at the next debate to ask Congressman Paul. If you have a terrorist who is prepared to put on a bomb and wear it as a vest and walk into a grocery store or a mall or a bus and blow themselves up, as long as they can kill you, why would you think that if they could get access to a nuclear weapon they wouldn't use it? An Iranian nuclear weapon is one of the most frightening things we have to confront for the future of every young person up here and every young person out there. If they are going to live in safety, they have to live in a world in which there is no Iranian nuclear weapon, period.

So, on that front we'll have a very important debate. Is the world dangerous and do we need to be strong enough to protect ourselves or is the world really safe and is it just the Americans who are confused?

I have no doubt about 9/11. It was bad people trying to kill us. It wasn't Americans. I have no doubt about the Iranians, and I have no doubt about the importance of the survival of Israel as a moral cause, which we have to recognize as central to our future.

So we'll have a great debate with Congressman Paul. And it's important for setting a new stable foreign policy for the 21st century.

We'll have one other great debate. And that is whether this party wants a Reagan Conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and helped change Washington in the 1990s as Speaker of the House. Somebody who is into changing Washington, or do we want a Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay, but has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any ability to change the culture or change the political structure or change the government.

Let me be clear and I think it's important given all the things that were done in this state over the last few weeks. We are not going to go out and run nasty ads. We're not going to go out and run 30-second gut shots. We're not -- but I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on his record than it is on politics.

So this is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning in New Hampshire, and will go on for a few months. And I'm convinced that the Republican Party will pick an heir of Reagan, a committed conservative, and somebody with a track record of changing Washington.

I want to say two last things. And I think Calista will join me in both of these. The first is -- and here I think you'll find Rick Santorum saying the same thing -- my dad was a career soldier for 27 years. I would not have survived in this campaign against millions and millions of dollars of negative advertising if it weren't for the thousands of volunteers who showed up and who helped us in every town and in every precinct. People went out because they cared.

There's someone up here who actually drove in from Indianapolis around Thanksgiving and said, "I'm staying." And someone else who brought three children and drove up from Texas and said, "I'm staying." We had people who wanted to get America back on the right track. They weren't millionaires, they weren't from Wall Street, they didn't have a super PAC, but they had courage, they had work, they were smart, and together we survived, I think, the biggest onslaught in the history of the Iowa primary and we set the stage.

Now I want to say one last thing. We were over earlier tonight in Waterloo, which had the largest single site for caucusing, and a very distant relative, like 190 years, named Craig Gingrich, who came from Pennsylvania where his great-great-great-grandfather came from, spoke for me. And he was very kind, he's gotten to know our younger daughter, Jacqui, and he sent to her what he was going to say.

And part of what he said to his caucus was about his two sons, who had just come back from serving in the Middle East. And it reminded me. And I would like to close with this because I think it's so important. It's why the Iowa experience and the New Hampshire experience, the places where you actually have to see people, you can't just buy TV ads or use robo calls, but in the end it's people.

This process is what they risk their lives to preserve. This process of people coming together, sharing values, sharing fears and dreams, finding a way to come and get it to work, unlike the current total mess in Washington, which I believe, frankly, is a bipartisan mess.

Unlike the current mess in Washington, the American system over time works when the American people roll up their sleeves to make it work. And every one of us need to remember -- it's part of what made these negative ads so shameful -- every one of us should remember this process survives because young men and women risk their lives to allow us to do this. We should act worthy of them.

Thank you. Good luck and God bless you. On to New Hampshire.

CROWD: Newt. Newt. Newt. Newt.

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a look at the votes right now. You just heard Newt Gingrich. He comes in fourth after Ron Paul.

But look at one and two. Right now with 93 percent of the precincts reporting: Rick Santorum is 99 votes, 99 votes ahead of Mitt Romney; 28,102 votes for Rick Santorum, 28,003 votes for Mitt Romney. Look at that -- 115 votes, it just changed. Rick Santorum is slightly, slightly ahead; seven percent of the precincts still outstanding, waiting to get those numbers. John, what's going on over here?

KING: Well, we're filling in the map, Wolf, but that 93 percent of the vote counted is significant because as you mentioned, 99 votes separating the leader. So people out there are saying, can Rick Santorum pull ahead or can Mitt Romney come back?

One of the points I want to make if you look at the map, purple is Rick Santorum. You see he is winning much of the state, however, many of the places he is winning are tiny, Wright County, 0.5 percent of the population. He wins with 92 votes. So it's not necessarily how much purple you see, it's where the purple is.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, much less Mitt Romney county-wise than four years ago, but he's winning where the votes are. Polk County, the largest county in the state; Des Moines, 99 percent of the vote; if that margin holds up and you bring in the one percent, that could get Romney another 50, 60, 80 votes. So we need to wait and count those votes. That's why this one's not over.

Come out here to the east. I want to show something. Four years ago, this was completely Romney country. Four years ago, this was Romney country. Look now, a lot less of Mitt Romney; a little better up here, a lot weaker out here. However Wolf, as we wait for the final seven percent of the precincts to come in, where are they?

A good chunk of them are right here. In Dubuque County, Governor Romney is winning. That's not a lot of votes but if he keeps this margin up as you go, that's 20 votes, 40 votes, 60 votes. So we need to watch if he keeps the margin there.

Another place, Cedar Rapids; 95 percent of the vote -- a much healthier Romney lead there. If that percentage stays up, again, there's your 50, 60, 80, or 100 votes, as those votes come in.

And down here in Davenport, another Romney strength; 97 percent, Romney is leading. Again if he keeps that margin as they count the rest, that's the key. We don't know which precincts haven't reported. We can't say he will do as well in those that are out, where he's done so far.

But that number's tracked pretty consistently all night long. So there are places where you can see Mitt Romney making up the vote.

One more point I want to make, just north of Des Moines, Story County, 2.7 percent of the population. There's a college campus here, 7 percent of the precinct's in. We've got a ways to go here. Could get a couple thousand more votes from this county; so we've got a ways to go, got a ways to go right now.

Up to 93 percent, this is what happens. The vote came in pretty quickly once the numbers started to come in. Now there are a few small places outstanding, we've got to wait and we've got to count.

BLITZER: Look at how close it is between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Ron Paul, we've heard from him. We've heard from Newt Gingrich.

Let me walk over to Anderson and the rest of the team.

Newt Gingrich, Anderson, he made it abundantly clear, he's going to New Hampshire, he's moving on, he wants to be in that next debate Saturday night. We haven't yet heard from Perry and Bachmann. I assume they're not announcing anything dramatic tonight, but who knows if they're going to continue after this.

COOPER: That is certainly got to be thinking hard in these hours right now. Gingrich, in his speech, indicated tomorrow, the new battle begins.

BORGER: A new day.

COOPER: You already have ads, which he's going to be running.

BORGER: Right, this is going to appear in the "New Hampshire union leader." And we heard the theme tonight from Newt Gingrich that he is the -- note how he's in color here, the bold Reagan conservative versus Mitt Romney, whom he calls the timid Massachusetts moderate. This is clearly going to be the way that Newt Gingrich is going to wage the rest of this campaign.

And I believe he can actually do Mitt Romney some damage with this. Look, he's angry about the negative ads. He's angry about the super PAC. This speech tonight was sort of attacking Mitt Romney, except not by name. And this is clearly what we're going to see going forward.

COOPER: I should just let our viewers know, Michele Bachmann is approaching the podium, getting ready to speak. We're going to bring her comments to you live. Obviously, we want to hear what she has to say. Her husband, looks like -- no, not her husband. Somebody else is speaking right now. John, what did you want to say?

KING: Speaker Gingrich will have some help. Number one, the union leader newspaper, very loud voice in the state of New Hampshire has endorsed Newt Gingrich. You can look for Mitt Romney to arrive in New Hampshire tomorrow to a front page editorial, saying, not so fast, governor, and he will have that.

And also, Governor Perry, we'll see if he reassesses after tonight. But I spoke to him earlier today, and I said, is there any number that would cause you to drop tonight, and he said no. He said he was going on to South Carolina. And importantly, he said he too would start drawing shaper contrasts with Mitt Romney, saying, this guy is for individual mandates. This guy is just like Barack Obama on health care conservative.

COOPER: So, do they focus now just on Mitt Romney, or do they also have to start focusing on Santorum?

KING: Well, I think you'll see some Santorum as well. However, at the moment, Santorum is not the threat in New Hampshire that Romney is. They want to bring Romney down in New Hampshire. He's got -- it's his best state. His best state, he's had 40 percent or so right now. They need to come after him fast.

GERGEN: I think he's on a crusade to bring Mitt Romney down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

COOPER: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether or not he wins. What I heard tonight is a man who's so angry. He's determined that Mitt Romney is not going to be the nominee.

COOPER: It's like that old movie slogan, "this time it's personal." I can't remember what movie that's for.

KING: And there's a history of Newt Gingrich being personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My sense is, he's going to do the best he can to win, but if he can't win, he is going to throw his support now actively.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let's listen into Michele Bachmann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHEL BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't thank him enough, and the entire Iowa team, you guys, thank you for everything y'all have done. I just have some prepared remarks. I'm so grateful that you're here, and then we'll have a party afterwards, so stick around. Thank you so much, everyone. And thank you, too, to Iowa, my home state.

I've called Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry to congratulate each one of them on their respective places this evening in the lineup. The people of Iowa have spoken, and they have written the very first chapter in this long journey to take our country back from Barack Obama. And make no mistake, we will.

Once again, this wonderful republic that we are privileged to live in has worked. The process worked. It's the people of Iowa who chose tonight. It wasn't the pundits, it wasn't the media, and while this has been a very tough campaign, we should never forget that its crucible will make the eventual nominee tried for even the tougher battle that is yet to come against Barack Obama.

I am so proud of the people who have run our campaign here in Iowa and I will be forever grateful to this wonderful state and to the wonderful people of Iowa for launching us on our path to victory in the Iowa straw poll. And this state has given voice to people all over our country, that Barack Obama's liberal policies are finished. And that in 2012, there will be another occupant in the White House. Who knows, maybe even another Michelle in the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: And that once again, it's the people's voice that will be heard there. And make no mistake, as I have said often and early, on this campaign, Barack Obama will be a one-term president. Did you hear that, America? You heard it here from Iowa.

I'm a very real person. I am not a politician, nor do I ever hope or aspire to be a politician. I saw what the government was doing to all of us, to our children, and doing to our liberties. And so I decided to stand up. I decided that I was going to fight not only for our five children and our 23 foster children, but also for your children too, because they deserve it. We deserve to give them a better and a more hopeful future. It's really true, and I'm sorry to say we have strayed from the vision of our founders' view of government and the 2012 election might very well be our last opportunity to reclaim our liberty from a government that somehow seems bent on taking more and more of it away from us every day.

But since day one of Barack Obama's presidency, I have led the fight in Washington against his liberal socialist policies. And when the president wanted a $1 trillion stimulus package, I said no. And when the president pushed to take over your health care and replace it with socialized medicine, I led 40,000 people to Washington, D.C., to let the president know that the American people were against it. We don't want socialized medicine. We're not going to keep socialized medicine. And Barack Obama's socialized medicine will be repealed.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: When the president said last summer he wanted to raise the debt limit to an unbelievable $16 trillion, I said no. Over the last three years, the American people have tragically been deprived in their president a leader, as he routinely withers when he's confronted with paramount challenges of our generation.

President Obama is guarded and guided by his hardened ideology, and he's withheld any prospect for economic recovery, as he routinely places his own political fortunes and his own re-election plans above the interests of the American people.

Look no further than his denial of building the Keystone 2 pipeline. That was all about his re-election, nothing to do with energy independence for the American people. His liberal reign will end and the American people in our economy will finally be free, because you see, what we need is a candidate in the likeness and image of a Ronald Reagan, who has bold differences necessary to take on a Barack Obama. What we need is a fearless conservative, one with no compromises on their record, on spending, on health care, on crony capitalism, on defending America, on standing with our ally, Israel, on securing our border from illegal immigrants, or on defending innocent, unborn life or protecting marriage between one man and one woman.

If anyone's confused, so we can defeat Barack Obama and his failed socialist policies. I believe that I am that true conservative who can and who will defeat Barack Obama in 2012.

And over the next few days, just be prepared, the pundits and the press will again try to pick the nominee based on tonight's results, but there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party's nomination. And I'd prefer to let the people of the country decide who will represent us.

And, of course, I'm very deeply grateful to our Iowa team, to the many dedicated volunteers who have given so much of their time to this effort. It's absolutely amazing to see our offices filled day after day with young people, as they selflessly volunteered, because they need to have a better future, full of more opportunities than our generation had.

And I also think all of the volunteers who have been there almost on a daily basis making phone calls from before the straw poll. You know who you are. I know who you are. And I thank you for your dedication. I hope you know how much your dedication not only meant to me but to our country.

And of course, it shouldn't be even needed to be said, but it must be said. I must thank my wonderful husband of 33 years, Marcus Bachmann.

(APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: He is the best campaigner in our family. And yesterday when we were out on Main Street in Des Moines, he was buying doggy sunglasses for our dog, boomer, while we were out visiting all the many businesses. And all our children who are here this evening, our son Lucas, our son Harrison, our daughter Elisa, our daughter Caroline, our daughter Sophia, we love them all. Our 23 foster children, we love them. My brothers are here tonight. Scott, I have Paul, I have Gary, we sister-in-law, Lori, and my others who couldn't be here as well. But I'm so grateful for them. And my wonderful mother who if you all wonder where I got my height from, I have no excuse, my mother Jeanne and my stepdad Ray and all of my family who's here.

Their love, their encouragement, their faith means more to me than I can begin to say. But more than anything, I thank the God who loves us, the God who gave us life, who gave us our being, who created and drew this nation into existence. It is to the God of our fathers that we give praise this evening. So I thank you all for being here tonight. God bless you. God bless the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Rick Santorum still in the lead, 79 votes ahead. That's his lead right now. It's been cut down a little bit while Michele Bachmann was speaking. 79 votes ahead, Rick Santorum's in the lead right now with 96 percent of the votes in.

John king is reading tea leaves, trying to see whether or not she was going to be leaving or not. What do you make of it?

KING: It sounded early on like she was about to say good-bye, but then at the end, she continued to insist, I'm the best candidate to go up against Barack Obama. She also said the people have spoken tonight. The people of Iowa delivered to a congresswoman who was born in Iowa, to a congresswoman who won their straw poll this past summer, the people of Iowa delivered a pretty resounding message. She did not win one county. She came in last among the candidates who contested the state.

COOPER: It does sound, though, she plans to go forward.

KING: She gave every indication in that speech she does. Now, sometimes candidates speak publicly in an upbeat way and have a private reassessment and bow out differently. As of right now, she says she's going on.

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR: I spoke to her yesterday, Anderson, she said -- and in response to the questions which we've all put to her about whether she would bow out, whether she would want to participate splitting the vote for a leader, she said, no, I've got my tickets to South Carolina. She said she's flying out first thing tomorrow to South Carolina.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. And our coverage continues. Still again, Rick Santorum, now 109 votes ahead. The latest count, up a little bit as we've been talking. Our coverage continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. It's still very, very close. Rick Santorum, very slightly ahead with 96 percent of the precincts reporting. 118 votes separate Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, 19,046 to 28,928. We're still waiting to hear from Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney. Four percent of the precincts outstanding. We still haven't heard from Rick Perry, although we're told he should be speaking fairly soon. He's coming in a disappointing fifth for him, only 12,000 votes.

Let's go over to John king at the magic wall. Right now, four percent of the precincts still outstanding. Look at how close it is between Santorum and Romney. Do we have a clue where these outstanding precincts are that might give us a better indication who might tell us who's going to emerge the winner?

KING: It's magic, Wolf, but not that magic to tell us who is going to win. But you say what precincts are outstanding? And that's important. You look at this very narrow margin right now. Can Mitt Romney make up that difference with just 4 percent of the precincts? The answer is yes. Doesn't mean he will. But the answer is, can he? Yes. Why? A small percentage, just one of the precincts out in the largest county, Polk County. So, that small precinct, one percent of small precincts, look at the difference. If Mitt Romney runs up that kind of percentage, that's enough votes to narrow that cap. We'll see if that's the way it comes in, but that's the place.

Look over here in Dubuque, Romney County here. He is winning right now in this county with 32 percent of the vote. It's Dubuque County here, 26 percent of the precincts yet to report. Again, if Mitt Romney keeps that margin, that's 20, 50, or 60 votes that could help make up that difference.

Could Rick Santorum pad the lead? Well, if you look around, a lot of these small counties, 91 percent. So, Rick Santorum could certainly get more here. You're talking about a relatively smaller amount of votes, because you're in a rural area. Come out here, 100 percent of the vote. Come over here, 88 percent of the vote in, maybe a few more votes for Santorum.

So, this is going to go down to the wire. You come out here. This is impressive for Rick Santorum. Four years ago, this was Romney County. That's way back. I'm sorry, four years ago. Let's go to the Republican race. Sometimes you hit the wrong button. This was Romney country four years ago. Santorum has made a very strong showing out here. But, Wolf, 100 percent of the vote counted. So, as you start to go now into these final precincts, watch here, Polk County, only one percent, but a larger population center. So, that one percent give you some vote. Another key place to watch, Story County, still got almost half of the vote out there, 44 percent still to come in. Romney's running ahead here as well with Ron Paul in second place.

Another place where it is possible, we don't know which precincts are out, that's what's important, possible for Romney to make up ground here . So at 96 percent with the race this close, we're here for a while. We are going to count them. I can give you a very good scenario to show Romney coming back and winning narrowly, or I can give you a pretty good scenario that shows Rick Santorum barely hanging on. We are going to count them.

BLITZER: 113 votes separating these two top candidates. Anderson, the old adage, every vote counts, certainly true in Iowa.

COOPER: We've got 113 people on this set. Not quite. Candy Crowley is standing by for us in Iowa, as she has been all night. She's at Romney headquarters. They are obviously watching this very, very closely, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They are. And the room is packed, as I think you can probably see behind me. They are every time Romney went up a little and got 40 votes ahead, there were big cheers. And then the next screen would come and he'd go back down to boos.

Nonetheless, I can tell you, Anderson, these folks and Mitt Romney are going to consider whatever happens tonight, first or second, a victory. Why? Because they will point out to you, at least privately, this wasn't a big play for Iowa. They all but ignored it, basically. I think Mitt Romney spent less than three weeks in the state during this election cycle. Rick Santorum, more than 100 days. So he did not put all of his time and all of his money into this state.

Whether he can get away with it, I don't know. Because he made a huge push toward the end of this and they sounded very confident. But either way they look at it, they don't believe that Rick Santorum has the wherewithal to go the distance. That he just doesn't have the infrastructure out there and available to him to make this a winning race through 50 states. So they feel pretty good, regardless of who goes up or down in that first and second slot.

COOPER: Candy, was Gingrich's speech carried in that room? And if so, I'm wondering what the reaction of it was? Because very clearly, he indicate - I mean, there was a level of anger towards Romney, an indication of this race was about change as part of Gingrich is --

CROWLEY: A level of it? Yes. Yes lots of -- things like that while they were listening. I thought it was pretty clear, listening very closely to Newt Gingrich that the strategy for him going forward is, he basically embraced Rick Santorum, we're friends, our families are friends. And he called Ron Paul's foreign policy dangerous.

So, the calculation there is that Ron Paul is unacceptable to mainstream Republicans and can't go the distance for that reason and that Santorum doesn't have, again, the wherewithal to go. And so, Gingrich seems himself as the un-Romney that the space is there between Paul and Santorum. So he embraces Santorum, whose supporters he wants, and he sort of stiff arms Ron Paul, because he doesn't believe that Paul is going to have this kind of showing anywhere else down the line.

COOPER: All right. Well, we are still waiting to hear from Rick Perry tonight. Candy, thank you. We'll continue checking in with you.

And again, we are following these numbers very, very closely, a very tight race. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Rick Perry speaking to his supporters out in Iowa. Let's listen in to the Texas governor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said it brought me to tears to see a man who feared the war. And when you told that soldier, or you called him your Christian brother, he said, blew me away. He said I want so much for me to know that -- he said I want you to know that I got to know your son and I got to meet your wife, Anita. Your family is wonderful. I've enjoyed my visits with your staff along the way. Ray Sullivan and Joe, they are great people. Basically, I want you to know you matter and are making a difference. I visited a thousand homes today, and you better -- you matter to them also. This has to be the greatest honor of my life. And you need more volunteers to help you in South Carolina, count me in. I'll be happy to serve you again. Thank you! Colton Smith from Texas.

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: I wanted to read that to you.

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: And he P.S.'d it by saying, sorry about rambling so much, but he said I've been out. It's 1:30 in the morning, and I've been out putting out signs, 400 signs. That's what it's all about, folks. That is what this has all been about. And I just want to say thank you to everyone who's come and volunteered and worked and made the most incredible experience for myself and for the woman that I've been so blessed to have by my side all these many years, for 30 years of my life of wedded Bliss.

(APPLAUSE) PERRY: There's not anybody that's fought any harder, that's been a greater partner than my wife, Anita, and my sweetheart, and the love of my life. And we're blessed tonight to be standing on this stage and representing the state of Texas, and frankly, representing America. And I think the values that are so important to our country, and to be here with my children, Griffin and Meredith and Sydney.

You know when I began this campaign a little more than four months ago. I didn't do it because it was a lifelong ambition to be the president of the United States. I did it because our country's in trouble. Many of you have heard the story of us, Anita sitting on the couch and talking about that this wasn't my purpose in life.

But our country was in trouble. And it was my duty to serve my country one more time. And this campaign's never been about me. It's about a movement of Americans who see our country that's really not on the track that most of us want it to be on. $15 trillion of debt, some 50 million Americans that are on food stamps, 13 million of us, 13 million of our fellow citizens that are out of work. They don't see a Washington that's willing to make hard decisions, to help them, to get them back on their feet again. They're looking for people to make some right decisions. They're looking for someone that will stand up and give them hope that we can get this country back on track again.

But with the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus. Determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race. I believe that this is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. A nation that I was blessed to serve as a pilot in the United States air force, a nation that has been and will continue to be a beacon for freedom around the world.

And Dan Marin, you, marines like yourself, soldiers that are serving still today and airmen, sailors around the world, you've made every minute of this worth it for ourselves and with a little prayer and reflection, I'm going to decide the best path forward. But I want to tell you, there has been no greater joy in my life than to be able to share with the people of Iowa and of this country that there is a model to take this country forward, and it is in the great state of Texas. God bless you and thank you all for being with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, so there you heard Rick Perry with a dramatic change. All of a sudden, he's going back to Texas to reassess his campaign. Originally he said he was going off to South Carolina. He would be in New Hampshire.

But now with this very disappointing finish in New Hampshire -- in Iowa, it doesn't look like New Hampshire and South Carolina are necessarily going to be in his playbook right now. He's going to Texas. Stand by. We're watching all of the drama unfolding. There's a lot more to still happen. We are not going away.