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Nevada Caucus Coverage - 2100 Hour; Strong Early Lead for Romney; Interview with Mitt Romney's Son; Rick Santorum's Remarks

Aired February 4, 2012 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton is now President Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too close to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here it is, George W. Bush reelected.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR: Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States.



BLITZER: It's shaping up to be a huge night for Mitt Romney. We're watching the returns from the caucuses all across Nevada.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CO-HOST: And another headline is the surprisingly tight race for second place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight Mitt Romney is on track for a third win, but about half of the votes still are out. Will he keep his momentum going?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans will rise to the occasion and overcome those challenges. And I intend to be that leader with your help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Nevada's choice. Newt Gingrich is vowing to fight on no matter how he does tonight.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to contest every place and we are going to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final four candidates in a marathon race for delegates.

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to see a nice crowd and a lot of enthusiasm for something near to my heart and that is liberty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One state closer to the convention in Tampa and their party's big prize. RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People of this country are going to decide who the president is based on who they think is the best person to run this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The votes are coming in. These stakes are high and in Nevada right now, all bets are off.


BLITZER: I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

In less than an hour now, all the caucuses will have been completed in the State of Nevada. We'll get that final result within an hour, but votes are coming in right now.

Let me update you on what we know as of right now. Nine percent of the vote has actually been accounted for, 47 percent for Mitt Romney. He's ahead of Ron Paul with 21 percent, 20 percent for Newt Gingrich. A fierce battle for second place under way right now in Nevada with nine percent of the vote in, 11 percent - 11 percent for Rick Santorum. But right now Ron Paul has moved slightly ahead of Newt Gingrich, as can you see, with nine percent of the vote in the State of Nevada.

We've got all of our reporters standing by, watching what's going on. Jim Acosta is over at Romney headquarters in Las Vegas. Brianna Keilar is with the Gingrich campaign.

Right now, Jim Acosta, first to you. At some point we're going to hear from Mitt Romney, but it is shaping up as a very big night for the former Massachusetts governor.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I can tell that you Team Romney has arrived here in Las Vegas after an event earlier today in Colorado. There is a spring in their step. There are smiles on their faces. This is what winning feels like.

And you can see behind me Romney's supporters are starting to file into this ballroom where the governor is expected to talk anywhere between an hour or two hours from now. And I think you're going to expect a very tough speech from Mitt Romney tonight, aimed at President Obama, if what he had to say earlier today is any guide, he's going to go right after the president on the economy.

It is a complicated subject for Mitt Romney. Consider earlier today at the event in Colorado, Mitt Romney was speaking at a factory that received stimulus money. And Mitt Romney was trying to make the case that the stimulus hasn't worked for the president, hasn't worked for the economy. So even though Mitt Romney may run the table tonight, he's not exactly holding all of the best cards when it comes to that one issue of the economy if it improves over the coming months, Wolf.

BLITZER: So he will give a traditional speech tonight. I assume a very carefully crafted speech, Jim. As we can see behind you, the teleprompters are already ready to go. ACOSTA: That's right. That's right. And you can see behind me the banner is up "Believe In America." It is not that "Obama Isn't Working" banner that we saw in earlier campaign events in the last couple of weeks.

So it's going to be interesting to see what Mitt Romney has to say tonight, especially on the subject of the economy. When he was talking in Colorado earlier today, he acknowledged once again that the economy is improving and that's an interesting dynamic that's starting to take shape in this race, because Mitt Romney has staked much of his campaign on that issue of the economy, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, we'll stand - stay in close touch with you.

Brianna Keilar is over at Newt Gingrich Headquarters in Las Vegas as well. As the traditional as Mitt Romney might be, Brianna, the former Speaker of the House not necessarily going to give a traditional speech tonight, is he?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, he's not, Wolf. We're here in the room where he will be addressing reporters and just take a look. You can see it's pretty quiet, right? Or pardon me, he'll be addressing reporters, there are no supporters here and that is because this will be a press conference, not a rally like you might expect to see and really this low-key event is going to be pretty symbolic of how Newt Gingrich has really handled Nevada.

He's hardly campaigned here. He's done some fund-raising here of course but he's hardly campaigned here. So what we're expecting is he will address reporters and certainly he'll be asked a lot of questions about how he plans to move forward and whether February, which even he has admitted, will be tough as he tries to hold on and stay relevant towards Super Tuesday, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what he has to say. We'll see the questions and the answers.

You know, John King, as we watch Newt Gingrich, you and I have covered him for a long time, he always comes in with a surprise or two. I remember a time on a night like this after an election, instead of a big speech to supporters, he goes on and does a news conference.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Does a news conference. I'm sure he'll deliver the message. His team says he will fight on. He wants to get through what he expects to be a tough February and find it on tomorrow.

So if you look at the map, Wolf, Republicans play a little multiple choice, Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, then Romney. Governor Romney leading now in Nevada, trying to put together back-to-back victories and try to begin the month of February with a big win. February is a big month. Now, a lot of delegates at stake, but Governor Romney hopes to stretch out with a series of wins.

As you look at the map start to fill in, we're just starting to get both. It's only three percent in. Clark County is the biggest place right here. If you look right here, 56 percent of the votes coming in here for Governor Romney. That's in Clark County. That's the biggest slice -

BLITZER: Only three percent of the votes -

KING: Only three percent.

BLITZER: -- in sample precincts.

KING: Only three percent of the votes and then you go up here. The same thing, three percent of the vote, sample precincts up in Washoe County, that's the biggest - other - that's the second biggest. In here, you see Governor Romney winning two counties for Ron Paul, one for Newt Gingrich. Very, very tiny county.

So we're waiting for the bulk of the vote. Nine percent total coming in. Governor Romney, though, with a healthy, more than 2-to-1 lead at the moment.

And, Wolf, we have an entrance poll because this is a caucus, I'm going to slide over this way a bit. It's not an exit poll, because the poll people on the caucus state on the way in and 12.6 percent unemployment in the State of Nevada. No surprise at all the economy was the top issue, 54 percent said the economy was the top issue and look at that. Nearly two thirds of those voters chose Governor Romney. Speaker Gingrich a distant second, followed by Congressman Paul.

That's one reason Governor Romney is winning big tonight so far because on the top issue voters wanted him. And here's another reason, the top candidate quality, top issue was the economy, what are they most looking for in a candidate? Someone who can beat Barack Obama. We've seen this in other states. Remember, Nevada likely to be a key fall battleground category.

And here you go again, Wolf, look at that, nearly three in four, 74 percent of Republican voters caucusing today in Nevada say that Mitt Romney meets their number one top quality, 18 percent of those who say electability is number one went for Speaker Gingrich. A huge advantage in the state. Again, Governor Romney hopes to begin February with a win in Nevada and sweep through the month.

BLITZER: Yes. And it looks like he's positioned potentially to do it.

We want to go to Washington with Candy Crowley, who's standing by. She has a special guest, Candy.


I want to bring in Joshua Romney, number three son of obviously the candidate. Josh, it's good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

JOSH ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S SON: Thank you, Candy. I appreciate it. CROWLEY: Listen, it looks like your father is going to get a pretty good win tonight. We've got lots of internal polling talking about people that thought economy was the number one issue went heavily for your father. Mormons that caucused went heavily for your father.

If you had to boil it down to why your father looks as though he's going to get a pretty big win tonight, why would you say he won?

J. ROMNEY: You know, I think there are two things that people are really concerned about right now. Number one is the economy. They want someone who understands how the economy works to go in and turn things around in Washington.

And my dad is the turn around guy. It's what he's done his entire life is turn around failed businesses, turned around the Olympics and turned around the State of Massachusetts. So when it comes to the economy, my dad is the guy they look at to turn things around.

And the second big issue is who is going to beat President Obama next November and again my dad is the guy that comes our ahead and who it looks like who's best situated to face President Obama, my dad is that guy.

CROWLEY: Josh, Wolf Blitzer did an interview with Newt Gingrich late - late this week in which he talked about why he hadn't called your father to congratulate him after Florida. He's saying you, know, they're, quote, "trying to destroy Newt Gingrich." He talked about how it's pretty hard to see how somebody is going to negatively carpet bomb his way to the nomination.

Is there any unease at all in your father's campaign that he has gone too negative and too heavily against Gingrich?

J. ROMNEY: You know, I don't think so. You look at, you know, how politics is played. It's a tough - it's a tough sport. And, you know, I think Newt's worried about, you know, how things have played out. I don't think President Obama is going to be much nicer to him if he were to win the nominations.

So this is part of what you go through. It's part of the vetting process. And, you know, I think my dad has tried his best to make sure people understand, you know, where different candidates stand on the issues, where my dad stands on the issues and where Newt Gingrich stands on the issues.

Ask my dad (ph) to do that, voters should come to his side and really recognize that he's the guy that Americans need to turn things around.

CROWLEY: Well, I ask about the unease because so much of your dad's public persona has been this is a genuinely nice guy, he's efficient. He's the business guy. And this seems to be sort of dystonic with the reputation of kind of an upfront, sort of Boy Scout to just be pounding Newt Gingrich with these ads.

J. ROMNEY: You know, I can assure you my dad is a nice guy. I know him better than most. He is a genuinely nice guy but, you know, this is - this is politics and I think it's also helpful for people to see that when my dad goes up against President Obama, he's going to - he's going to make President Obama answer to his record for the last three years. And we're going to really focus on that.

I'm sure President Obama would make - like to make this issue about anything but his record over the last three years. And we're going to make sure we focus on that, and what he's done and what he hasn't done to turn our economy around.

CROWLEY: And suppose that record begins to look pretty good. We're seeing some preliminary signs of a drop in the unemployment rate. The downturns in industrials went way up on Friday off that news about the jobless rate.

What is there left in the arsenal in the fall if your father should get this nomination to go after President Obama if it looks as though the economy is righting itself?

J. ROMNEY: You know, there are so many things that President Obama has done over the last three years to really slow down our economy. We would not be where we are without Dodd-Frank, without some of the EPA regulations that are in place.

And so you look at some of the things that President Obama has done over the last three years and he say, you know, we could be in a far better place had he not done those things. And, you know, I think we'll continue to struggle along until we have a leader in the White House who really understands what it takes to get the economy going, and my dad is that guy.

CROWLEY: And, Josh, let me ask you this, as you know a lot has been made about the comments that your father made post-Florida, our Soledad O'Brien, which in part said I'm not really that concerned about the poor. We know that he went on to say they have a safety net, I'll fix it. I'm not really concerned about the rich.

But, you know, it's hard ball and you know how this is played. And I think part of the reason it had such resonance is that the rap on your dad is he is - and lucky for him, so wealthy. I know he worked hard for it, but the idea here is that he is - he's in a whole different realm from, quote, "normal people."

What does your dad know about sort of the every day life of middle- class Americans and the poor? I mean, where does he get knowledge of that?

J. ROMNEY: You know, my dad, that comment it's tough when something gets taken out of context, and particularly for those reporters who are with my dad and hear him every day say that same line almost exactly the way but a little difference then. That was a misquote, you know, or misspeak by my dad. He apologizes for it and he owns up to saying that it's wrong.

And you're on the campaign trail 24 hours a day for a few years and you're occasionally going to say things the wrong way. But, you know, my dad really - he's in this race because of the middle class. He cares about the middle class and making sure that we really focus our attention on the middle class, and they are the people who have been affected most by the Obama economy.

And so he really - you look at his tax plan, his growth plan and what he'd like to do in this country and it really is focused on helping the middle-class to making sure we get them back on track.

CROWLEY: I guess what I'm asking is what is there in his experience and you do know him better than any of us do, what is there in his experience that makes him able to relate to, you know, I can't pay the mortgage. I'm worried about my kids even going to college. I think that's what - you know, people have to believe that they're going to vote for someone who understands their problems. So I'm trying to figure out where that experience fits in for him, his knowledge.

J. ROMNEY: You know, he had a long time as a church leader, in fact, being able to talk to a lot of different people about their - their struggles, what they've gone through. My dad is a guy who is very compassionate. You can see, you know, how much money he's given to charity.

He's the guy who cared deeply about the poor, deeply by the middle- class and has had a lot of experience working with them as a church leader and doing different things. And I think that experience would serve him well as president.

CROWLEY: OK. And I have to ask you about your own political plans. Lieutenant Governor, does that sound pretty good to you in Utah?

J. ROMNEY: Not right now. I've got five young kids and busy raising them and having a lot of fun doing it.

CROWLEY: Maybe in the future. Listen, Josh Romney, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I'm going to throw it back to Wolf Blitzer.

J. ROMNEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

I want to update our viewers on the vote tallies. We're getting more votes coming in from our reporters and producers at various locations who we're out of the curve on this one. No one else has these updated numbers as weekly as we do.

Ten percent of the vote in for Nevada now in, 48 percent from Mitt Romney, that will make Josh Romney, the son, happy; 21 percent for Ron Paul; 20 percent for Newt Gingrich. What a battle underway right now between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich for second place. Rick Santorum coming in fourth with 11 percent right now.

We're watching the vote tally. We're about to get a whole lot more at the top of the hour. That's when all the caucuses would have been completed, including in Clark County, the largest county in Nevada, that's in Las Vegas, and Henderson is about 70 percent of the population who lives on this state - lives in Clark County. Also coming up, Newt Gingrich's daughter, they're about to join us live from the campaign trail. We'll hear what they have to say about their dad.

And we'll also take you back live to Greenlee, Colorado. That's where former Senator Rick Santorum, he's getting ready to address his supporters. You'll hear what he has to say and a lot more.

We're here at the CNN Election Center. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. And we're back with our contributors.

Let's begin with you, Will Cain. Two states that Romney has already won, the State of New Hampshire and the State of Florida. If this Thursday, Nevada goes - or Nevada - if we assume -


O'BRIEN: Yes. And Latinos stay in Nevada as well. If it goes as everyone is predicting that in fact it will, is this a roll? Is this the big roll that everybody is waiting for?

CAIN: It is a roll. There's no doubt about that. And I mean we try to look at things too often in silos. How important is Nevada by itself? Well, it's just one state of 50. But as you rack them up together, it can definitely become a trend, and it is.

O'BRIEN: Fifty-one percent is the number, though, that Mitt Romney won back in 2008. And I believe it was Ron Paul who came with 14 -

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Fourteen percent. John McCain 13 percent; Huckabee with eight percent, he blew them away in 2008.

O'BRIEN: So 51 percent and wasn't the nominee.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that worked out well for him.

CAIN: So you're saying he's not going to be the nominee?

MARTIN: No, I'm making the point that he blew them away in 2008 -

O'BRIEN: Right.

MARTIN: -- because as Erick has been saying, this is home field advantage. And so all of a sudden, you come back so it shouldn't be a shock that he's doing so well, which explains when Don (ph) was talking about the math, why you have virtually no spending of money by the other candidates because they said it's a wash, let's move on to the next states. It doesn't help us.

O'BRIEN: Do you agree with that? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, to a degree I do. I mean, none of the candidates other than Ron Paul wanted to engage the money game in Nevada. You look at Gingrich, he had an awful ground operation in Nevada. He didn't invest any time there.

Everyone knew going into this Mitt Romney is going to win. Look what he did in 2008.

This time, it's different because he probably will be the nominee. The question becomes, though, as the race begins to consolidate, can any of the other candidates compete on the money game? Remember, Mitt Romney's huge money advantage has worked in the air wars more than anything. No one - except in South Carolina - came at parity with Mitt Romney.

CARDONA: And it goes to - again, I really don't think this has any implication for the general election, but let's go back to the primary, which of course you love to talk about, Will -

CAIN: It happens to be occurring tonight.

CARDONA: Exactly. And, in fact -

MARTIN: Really? Really?

CARDONA: And a question that actually Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul, and it was basically, you know, do you need to win? And we were talking about this back here, and he really doesn't need to win, because it's all about the delegate count.


CARDONA: And you really can win the nomination by racking up all the delegates you need without winning one state.

O'BRIEN: But Newt Gingrich has made that very clear. He keeps saying, I'm not going to win. I'm going for the delegates. I'm going for the delegates.

MARTIN: That was it's all about. I mean, you have to get 1,144 to win.

But, Soledad, I cannot allow tonight to go by without discussing Rick Santorum. Can you all put this picture up, please?

O'BRIEN: I was going to get to that in a minute.

MARTIN: OK, I'm sorry, but they were talking to me. Do we have it?

O'BRIEN: He's so excited about this.

MARTIN: Do we - I'm sorry. We were - even Erick -

ERICKSON: Our fashion experts -

(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: Even Erick is saying, "What is Rick Santorum wearing with that bolo tie?"

O'BRIEN: It was a little extreme.

ERICKSON: I was just expecting a sweater vest, and -

CARDONA: He should stick to the sweater vest.

CAIN: And he's -

MARTIN: Come on now. Will, you're from Texas, I'm from Texas. You do not wear a bolo tie with a button down shirt.

CAIN: You just upset a world of old men.

MARTIN: I mean, I've -

CAIN: It's clear, you go to South Carolina, you talk about dredging a porch. You go to Florida, you talk about space - the space coast (ph). You go to Colorado, you wear a bolo tie.

MARTIN: But (INAUDIBLE). I mean, come on now. With the bolo tie, the sweater -

CARDONA: But you were right. Look at how Ben Nighthorse Campbell did it. Now, that's how you wear a bolo tie.

MARTIN: Rick Santorum, you are too plain (INAUDIBLE) wearing a bolo. Seriously.

O'BRIEN: OK, John Avlon's at Romney headquarters. I have to tell you, John, I took a little bit of exception when Candy Crowley was talking to Romney's son, Josh, he said that the comments from the interview he and I did the other day this past week were, "taken out of context." That's a quote.

How's that impacting his campaign, sort of the backlash from that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I mean, they weren't taken out of context. But the big problem is the recognition the Romney camp does have a problem with the narrative that is emerging because of gaffes like that.

You know, you add together the Romney gaffes, he's a very disciplined candidate with a very strong organizational advantage. People have spoken about the money advantage, the momentum advantage, but you tie together the statement of, quote, "I'm not concerned about the very poor," which of course was a comment he was making about he was focusing on the middle class.

But you add that to the $10,000 bet, you add that to corporations are people, my friend, and you start to see a narrative pattern, and that's why that comment took root and has quickly sort of made its impact on the narrative of this election. That's a real problem for Romney, it's a problem for the Republican Party, which has spent a generation trying to get away from the idea that it was the party of the wealthy, that it was an enormous part of the success the Reagan revolution was moving away from that Rockefeller Republican identification. So that's something that the camps had to wrestle with.

But clearly, here in Nevada, you know, where he has that organizational advantage, he does have business behind him, it hasn't taken anything out of his step. We'll eventually see whether other candidates can coalesce support in the other direction around that.

O'BRIEN: All right. Jon, listen, I want to talk a little bit about what he said also about his dad. He said my dad's a turnaround guy. When it comes to the economy, and turn around the economy.

I think the problem is that the economy is turning around by itself slowly. Will Cain, that's a nod to you.

CAIN: Slowly and - and not certainly. That's what I would say.

There are so many things involved in the economy, and Roland and Maria, I promise you this is not coming from any kind of partisan perspective. This is coming from a perspective -

MARTIN: You don't have to promise me. Just say it.

CAIN: When you make economic assessments, there are things besides job numbers, there's things besides unemployment. Specifically debt, the private market debt, private debt, household debt, that we're going to have to keep eyes on. And plus, everything's going on in the world.

Yes, it's heading in the right direction, no doubt about it. It is heading the right direction. Will we still need a turn - a turn around guy? We will see.

MARTIN: Here's what's hilarious. All I've heard for the last three years - and we heard the same thing with President Bush from Democrats - politicians will say the president cannot create jobs. The private sector create jobs. And you're sitting here, saying, OK Mitt. So how can you create - magically create jobs as president?

It speaks to, again, this - create this weird argument we always hear being made.

O'BRIEN: All right. Gloria, you've got a minute to fill me in on what you think the - David Gergen's -


O'BRIEN: I have never seen that in all the years.

MARTIN: You've got to swing it, David.


O'BRIEN: Tonight I had a chance to talk to David Gergen, pinching (ph) potato chips.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's been a long night. It's been a long night.

O'BRIEN: Not yet.


GERGEN: We're going to go after dark here at any time.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I want to talk about the calendar, OK? Could we talk about the calendar? Because I think the February calendar is very favorable to Mitt Romney.

And what Mitt Romney has to do is rack up some more wins in this February calendar, and if you look at some of these states - for example, Arizona is a state in which he actually runs to the right of Newt Gingrich on immigration. There's a sizable Mormon population in the state of Arizona. Immigration is a key issue for Republicans in Arizona. It could be a very good state for him.

If he does well in the next six or seven states, then you head into Super Tuesday. He has some steam behind him.

Newt Gingrich has some good states on Super Tuesday. He's got Georgia, he's got Ohio, he's got Tennessee, for example, some Southern states. Virginia, not on the ballot.

But if Romney can keep this going, Newt Gingrich isn't going to be able to raise the money, and maybe his sugar daddy is not going to ante up for the Super PAC.

GERGEN: I think that's right, and the other thing - we ought to be starting to look now for turnout numbers pretty soon. I think we're getting hints at little signs here and there that's it down. We've had two or three reports tonight.

And I do think that even as Romney moves to lock up the nomination, some of the enthusiasm within the party may not be holding up, and we'll have to watch that.

O'BRIEN: Yes. It feels like it -

ERICKSON: There's a point there -


O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Erick.

ERICKSON: If you look in Florida, the counties that had increased turnout from 2008 went to Gingrich. There were smaller population rural counties, but the counties that had increased turnout went to Gingrich. The counties that had decreased turnout went to Romney.

Same thing in South Carolina. Same thing in Iowa.

O'BRIEN: That's interesting. Right, we've got to take a break -

MARTIN: David likes SunChips Harvest Cheddar. David, damn it, I got your chips, so here you go.

O'BRIEN: Is that a sponsor of the show, since he's held them up? Is that a sponsor?


MARTIN: -- they'll be calling him.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. When we come back on the other side, we're going to talk to Newt Gingrich's daughters about how their father could be faring.

Tonight also Rick Santorum. We're waiting for him to make his speech in the state of Colorado. We'll bring that to you as well.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're still waiting to hear from Rick Santorum. He's about to speak to his supporters out in Colorado. We'll wait and see that live.

Also at some point Newt Gingrich is going to have a news conference when all the caucuses report. He's in Las Vegas.

Mitt Romney will give a much more traditional speech at some point tonight. So lots coming up. We're also going to be speaking with Newt Gingrich's daughters at some point as well.

But let me update you on the vote as we have it right now among these Nevada caucuses, 10 percent of the vote is now in. Mitt Romney has a significant lead, 48 percent. But look at this battle underway for second place between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, 21 percent for Ron Paul, 20 percent for Newt Gingrich. Only a few votes separate the two. Rick Santorum in fourth place with 11 percent.

Let's go over to CNN's John King over at the magic wall for us. John, fierce battle for number two in Nevada right now under way.

JOHN KING, HOST, JOHN KING U.S.A.: And depending on how close it is and depending on where those votes are and how the rules are in the state of Nevada, it could affect the delegate count coming out, which is one of the things we look at.

As we move from January into February -- this is the January results. Santorum wins Iowa; Romney, New Hampshire; Gingrich, South Carolina; Romney wins Florida. Now we're waiting for Nevada tonight. This is about -- these are delegate estimates coming in. Remember, it's a race to 1,144. The leader has just 85 at the moment.

So if this becomes a long, drawn-out delegate chase, we are in the very early ages. Now, let's for the sake of argument, give Governor Romney the state of Nevada. Now you'll notice, other delegates also counts also went up for Speaker Gingrich and Ron Paul. This is based on an estimate, this is a ballpark figure, it's not exact.

But let's just run this out, Wolf. Assume Mitt Romney runs the month of February. Now Ron Paul supporters will say we might win May. And this is a hypothetical. I want to play this one out for you. So you have Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri on Tuesday. Again, Missouri is nonbinding at this time. They'll come back and do the delegates later.

But let's just say Governor Romney wins them all and again there are chances this might not happen, this is a hypothetical to show you where if he also wins Maine, then we come through Arizona, Michigan, the big prizes this month. Let's give that to Governor Romney.

If then he runs out, based roughly on the percentages we allocated, look, 1,144 is what you need. He would still only be somewhere in the ballpark of 250. It would be something like this. Gingrich and Paul, could be Paul, then Gingrich, but somewhere in this ball park (inaudible). That's why Speaker Gingrich says he's hanging around. March 3rd it's the Washington caucuses.

We, for the sake of the hypothetical, are give this one to Congressman Paul. So he gets the bulk of the delegates there. The others get a bit. This is why -- this is the day Speaker Gingrich says I'm hanging in for. This is Super Tuesday on March 6th. You see contest in the South.

Now he's not on the ballot in Virginia. That's a very important point worth making. Otherwise, it could be (inaudible) with him. In Tennessee, even if Gingrich wins, he hasn't filed a full delegate state, so he could win the state and still come up a little bit short. But his home state of Georgia, Oklahoma, places where Gingrich thinks he'll be strong.

So this is why he says, Wolf, he's says he's staying in no matter what happens in February to get to March. And then there are Southern contests if you go later into the month. The question is if Governor Romney runs the board in the month of February, or maybe loses one state, say, to Ron Paul, does the money dry up for Newt Gingrich?

Because when you see so many states here, yes, Speaker Gingrich has money in the bank, yes, Senator Santorum has money in the bank. But the more states you have to play, the more it costs just to staff and run and travel. The question is, if Governor Romney runs the board this month or almost runs the board this month, does the money dry up for the others, including Speaker Gingrich.

BLITZER: Yes. Ron Paul, I know, has high expectations for Maine, as you know, because it's been a weeklong series of caucuses in Maine. They have a tradition of electing independents in Maine, including an independent governor --

KING: Very strong. So for anybody watching at home, if you support one of the other candidates, we're doing this hypothetical just to show if Romney runs the month. That's not saying he will, and you're exactly.

If you talk to Republicans up in Maine, if you talk to the Romney campaign, they're worried about these caucus states. Looks like they'll survive Nevada with a pretty big win tonight, but they would -- anybody in the Romney campaign would not dispute the possibility Ron Paul wins Maine.

BLITZER: And by the way, you know, our viewers who are interested, what they can do at home, if they want to do what John King just did, and I know a lot of you want to do it, you can do it. Go to -- -- and you'll be able to do exactly what you do, have some hypothetical numbers --

KING: Or you can come in here in Tuesday night at 6 o'clock and I'll just yield the floor, it's all yours.



BLITZER: You know, Super Tuesday, March 6th, that's what Newt Gingrich is really looking forward to. It's in his home state of Georgia.

KING: Let's just -- let's run it through. Let's run it through if you run it through. If you give Gingrich Oklahoma, Tennessee and his home state of Georgia, then he starts to narrow the gap a little bit . And I'm giving Romney the states up to the north, Virginia, because he's not on the ballot, Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot.

We're giving him Ohio. That's a state that Senator Santorum's based in. We watched that. But then let's just say that happened on March 6th, then you come forward a little bit. I'm going to split -- essentially split right here, you know, Kansas and Wyoming, we'll split those up, Gingrich gets one, Romney the other.

Then we move forward. Alabama and Mississippi in the middle of the month, again, states that Newt Gingrich would say, if I could stay in the race that long, I can do business in the South.

If you give those to Gingrich, then you could get to -- let's come back one further, Missouri caucuses, this, like we mentioned, Missouri votes Tuesday, this is when the delegates get awarded here. If you gave that to Romney, you get to the middle of March, about half and half, you know, 2:1 (inaudible) --

BLITZER: But you still need 1,144.

KING: Right. At that point -- at that point -- yes, you got to get all the way over here. So at that point, Speaker Gingrich would say, well, I'm still in the hunt. That's if we get that far, Wolf. It's hard to say. And then you could run them through from here, the Puerto Rico primary, the Illinois primary, and then we go and on.

Louisiana is a state, Gingrich is hoping for this, hoping to get to the point where Texas matters, and he's hoping his -- the support of Rick Perry and others would help him down in Texas. But let's get through February before we worry about the 3rd of April.


Over at Newt Gingrich headquarters they're beginning to -- actually from Mitt Romney headquarters, they're beginning to fill in the auditorium over there. We're going to hear at some point from Mitt Romney, but Rick Santorum is over in Colorado. He's getting ready to speak to his supporters. Let's listen in.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- for your support, your endorsement, your kind words. It is great to be here in Weld County (ph), it is great to be here. I have been told that this is something I can now hold over my former colleague in the Senate, John Thune.

Prior to tonight, Thune drew the biggest crowd, but we have 640 tonight which is understand sets the record so I'm going to take credit for that. Thank you.


SANTORUM: Many of you have noticed that I had a different neckwear on when I first walked around. But they told me they want to auction off this tie. So I -- and they wanted me to wear it. So here I am wearing the tie. I will now take it off and sign the tie, and then you folks -- I'll do it right here in front of everybody.

You want me to sign it on the back or the front? The back. OK, I didn't -- I didn't know whether you wanted a signature tie or one on the back. So we'll sign it right here in front of God and country. There we go. OK, now it's worth probably a nickel or dime more than it was before.

So all right. Thank you all very much. And it's great to be here in Colorado. It's, I think, our second day of campaigning here in the last week. We -- I was out on the western slope this morning and they didn't have any snow over there. I was sort of surprised, we all, but we were very pleased when we flew in from Missouri last night.

And we had a great crowd there this morning and another great crowd over at Loveland and now here. And I just want to thank you for the warm reception that we have received. This is a reception, frankly, we've been receiving across this country. I think folks are beginning to get excited about the real challenge that you all have.

We're down to the four candidates, three of which have won a state, probably three of which have a chance to get the nomination. It's down to crunch time. And you've got to make a tough decision. There's some good people up there. Friends of mine in some cases, people I've known, in the case of Newt Gingrich, for 20 years.

And you've got to make a tough decision. And the decision has to come down to really two things -- who's the best person to do what must be done for this country first? And that's to defeat Barack Obama, right?


SANTORUM: And, secondly, who do you trust? Who do you trust that's going to have the conviction, the principles, the courage to go out and do the job in a town that doesn't want change, in a town and in a world that likes to go along to get along?

Who do you trust that's going to go there with the strong moral convictions, with the strong ethical convictions, with the strong convictions about what is right for this country, to do the job that is necessary, to shrink the size of government back to its constitutional framework, to stand up for the values of this country, of faith and family, and to make sure that America is again respected by our allies and trusted by our allies and in fact feared by our enemies?


SANTORUM: This is the job you have. And in a few days you're going to step through a step in the process to let America know what Colorado thinks.

Who shares Colorado's values? A lot has been said about winning this election, and the first thing we have to do is win this election. I agree. But a lot of people have said, well, you know, we have to go with the guy that has the most money or is the most moderate in order to win the election.

That was the siren song we heard a long time in this -- in Republican circles. We heard it back in 1976, when we chose Gerry Ford over Ronald Reagan. We heard it four years later, when those supported George Bush over Reagan. We heard it in '96 when we nominated Bob Dole and just four years ago we nominated John McCain.

We need to nominate someone who's -- can appeal to the middle, someone who can win.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we've nominated people who don't stand for the values that make this Republican Party what it is, who don't have the courage of their convictions, who aren't well oiled weathervanes, who are not people that have -- that will make the race about them and their character but will make the race about Barack Obama and his failure as a president, then we will not win this election.

We will win this election if we have someone who goes out and paints bold contrasts, someone that America trusts to do what in our heart we know needs to be done, to get Washington under control.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you look at the candidates in this race, it is no longer really a question as to who can beat Barack Obama. If you look at the polls today, one came out at Rasmussen, had Governor Romney trailing President Obama by 3 points and had me defeating Barack Obama by 1 point.


SANTORUM: We still have a ways to go in name recognition across this country. I'm not a household name like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. We have potential to grow, to improve our standing upwardly. We don't have the high negatives. We've kept this campaign on a high plain. I didn't engage in petty personal politics. I had many opportunities --


SANTORUM: -- I had many opportunities to take shots at Governor Romney for the way he conducted himself in business. I had many opportunities to take shots at Speaker Gingrich for the same. But, ladies and gentlemen, this race isn't about that. It is about big issues.

It's not just about jobs. Everyone talks about jobs as being the number one issue. Yes, it's an important issue, but I think each and every one of us knows, particularly if you were involved in the election two years ago, particularly if you are a member of a Tea Party, you know that there's something bigger at stake in America today.

It's not just about the economy, it not just about jobs. It's something more foundational. It's something bigger. We all know that Barack Obama and the Left in America doesn't see America the same way that you do. They see America as a country that is in decline. They see America as a country that needs to be managed.

Look at what he's doing to the Defense Department. He's gutting it. He's managing the decline of the military in order to fund a welfare state, to provide for people. Why? Because, of course, they believe that you need to be taken care of.

Look at ObamaCare, the signature issue in this campaign. It is destroying -- already it is harming the economy. Just the uncertainty that ObamaCare has on the horizon is constricting business, that uncertainty of what the cost and regulatory burden of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank and so many other things that this president has in mind is creating instability in the marketplace.

You have a bill with ObamaCare that says that Washington knows best how to manage your health, how to provide for you. Is that the America that transformed the world? Is this the America that said that we need government to control your lives, that we need government to tell you how much you can spend on health care and what plans you're going to have and what fines you'll pay if you don't?

Ladies and gentlemen, this issue isn't just about health care, it's about freedom.


SANTORUM: Barack Obama has tried to tell you that he can give you the right to health care. Is that where our rights come from, ladies and gentlemen, from the government? No, see, we're different than every other country in the history of the world. Every other country in the history of the world rights came to you from the king or the emperor or the government. But not in America. America, we are different. We are different. It's why the Left in America so much wants to transform us away from our founding principles. That's why they don't want it taught in our schools. But America is different because we were founded different. We are a great country because, from the very beginning of our country, from that very first declaration America was different.

Barack Obama does not believe that. He said about nine months ago, in commenting on Paul Ryan's budget, he listed a whole host of entitlement programs, from unemployment insurance to Medicaid. And he said this, he said "America is a better country because of these commitments." Reading from his teleprompter, he said --


SANTORUM: This was not an off-the-cuff line. This was something thought about, worked on and delivered. He said, "I'll go one step further. America was not a great country until these commitments."

According to the President of the United States, America became a great country when the government of this country took money from you, sent it to Washington and redistributed it to those who they believed were more worthy of the money than the people who made it. You see, Barack Obama doesn't understand that America was born great.


SANTORUM: In that Declaration of Independence and these words that make America what it is -- exceptional -- our founders wrote "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Those words is what makes America America, that we are --


SANTORUM: It makes us different than any every other country because rights we recognize from our very foundation do not come from government. They come from a Higher Power. They come from God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that --


SANTORUM: -- and the government's one responsibility in drafting the Constitution, our founders believed the one responsibility of the Constitution, which is a great document, it is the operator's manual for America, and its job is to protect those freedoms so you, each and every one of you, your ancestors going back, could have the freedom and the opportunity to be able to provide for themselves, to be able to reap the fruits of their labor, be able to form families, churches, communities and build a great and just society, not from the top down but from the bottom up.

(APPLAUSE) SANTORUM: We are at a point in this country where that basic fact of America is in jeopardy. If we do not defeat this president, we do not repeal ObamaCare, we do not roll back all of these other government intrusions into the markets and into the lives of people and families, then we will be the generation that lost face with America.

We will be the generation, we will be the stewards who dropped the ball. And this country will be forever changed.

Margaret Thatcher, when she was prime minister of England, said she was never able to accomplish what Reagan accomplished in America in transforming statist Britain back to its freedom, its glory days of believing in people.

And she said the reason was the British national health care system. Once people become addicted and dependent upon the government for their health, there is nothing the government will not be able to extract from you. If you want to care --


SANTORUM: -- and she was right. Look at the Conservative Party in Britain today. It is to the left of the Democratic Party in America. Do you wonder why Nancy Pelosi and all these House and Senate Democrats were willing to March off the cliff to pass ObamaCare? Because they know that if it sticks, they'll all be back, and sooner than you think.

America will be different. America will no longer be the land of the free. Ladies and gentlemen, we need to have a candidate who can make the case to the American public as to who we are and how things work in this country, from education to health care., from financial services to the real estate market, that we believe in free people and free markets from bottom up, not top down.


SANTORUM: How do we do that? Well, we have to have a candidate on the issues of the day that are the most important ones, who has a record that can draw contrasts with President Obama, someone who has a strong, consistent record on the big issues, like, well, let's take health care.

Anybody familiar with health savings accounts?


SANTORUM: Every conservative running for office in Washington, D.C., runs and talks about the importance of health savings accounts. Why? Because it's a private sector market-driven approach to health reform.


SANTORUM: John Kasich and I offered that 20 years ago and we were the first to do it. I've been an advocate for it for 20 years. I've been preaching free market economics on health care for 20 years. Let's look at the record of the other two people that have a chance to win this election.

Congressman Gingrich, for that same 20-year period of time, has advocated for a government mandate at the federal level to require each and every of you as a condition of being alive to buy insurance, which is the core of ObamaCare.

Governor Romney, worse yet, in the state of Massachusetts, passed the identical bill, virtually identical bill on a state level to ObamaCare. How can these two gentleman, as good as people as they are, how can they go before the American public, point out what's at stake in this election?

BLITZER: All right. So we're going to wrap it up with Rick Santorum. He's giving his speech, and he's obviously not going to do very well in Nevada tonight. He's looking ahead to Colorado. But I want to bring in the two daughters of Newt Gingrich right now, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, they're joining us and Soledad is here, as well.

Kathy and Jackie, first, Jackie, to you. Your dad looks like he's fighting for second place right now in Nevada, not -- apparently not going to win. What's your reaction?

JACKIE GINGRICH CUSHMAN, DAUGHTER OF NEWT GINGRICH: Well, we knew we weren't going to win out here. But we're glad to be out here and glad to compete. As we know it's going to be a long journey.

We need 1,144 delegates. And the way the rules are set up, no state is the same and some are proportional and some are winner-take-all, and they all have super delegates. So we've been spending some of our time thinking ahead and planning, and we're very excited about where we are and where we're going.

BLITZER: And, Kathy, just want to be precise. Your father, the former Speaker, he's in this race, no matter how he does in Nevada, what happens next Tuesday in Colorado and Minnesota and Missouri, he's in this at least through Super Tuesday. Can you assure our viewers of that?

KATHY GINGRICH LUBBERS, DAUGHTER OF NEWT GINGRICH: Oh, Wolf, you've got -- you nailed it on the head. He's in it to win it. We're working towards a victory, we're working towards being in camp in August. So this is a long and fluid race, and we are here to stay, and it's going to be an exciting opportunity for all.

But yes, we are here for the long haul.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Kathy; hey, Jackie, it's Soledad. A quick question for you, Kathy. Your dad says he's going to announce at 8:00 pm West Coast time a new strategy for delegates, but also that he's planning on making the race positive from here on out. Can you give us some details about the delegate strategy?

CUSHMAN: Now, Soledad, I would love to. But the reality is, if we did that, that would sort of be unfair to our dad.

(LAUGHTER) CUSHMAN: We sort of want him to have the prime time. He's the candidate. But you should stay tuned.

BLITZER: Let me ask this question, why a news conference tonight as opposed to a speech to supporters, which is obviously a much more traditional route?

CUSHMAN: Well, I think your question gives the answer. He's not a traditional candidate. He's never been a traditional candidate. We've never had consultants who can give us things to say and he walks out and does that.

As you know, he is the candidate. He has his own ideas and that's what people love about him. He's a real person. He's authentic. And he's really run -- I was glad to hear actually Senator Santorum speak, because a lot of what he says is true. We do need someone with a clear, conservative message.

The difference is, we obviously think that our dad is the best articulator of that conservative message.

LUBBERS: And then to add on to that if I may --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

LUBBERS: -- just one-half sec -- he's also the one who has governed successfully. He actually has cut taxes. He has balanced the budget. He has helped reform welfare, he has helped create 11 million jobs, and he has helped get the, you know, unemployment rate down to 4.2.

So there are a lot of the ideals that are -- that we are all for as conservatives, and our father being the Reagan conservative, but he's actually the one who has governed. And at, all of your viewers can see more about the details.

BLITZER: Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, we'll be standing by for your dad's news conference. We'll, of course, take it live here on CNN. Thanks, guys. Thanks very much.

Only a few minutes before the top of the hour, when all of the caucuses in the state of Nevada will be closed. We'll have information on what is going on. Don't go anywhere. You're watching our live coverage. We're here at the CNN Election Center.


BLITZER: All right, we're only 90 seconds away from the top of the hour, when we potentially could be making some news. John King is watching all of this unfold, a dramatic night tonight, especially good night for Mitt Romney.

KING: At the moment, too, and as you mentioned, the top of the hour, we expect to get a lot more results, Wolf, We've got 10 percent of the vote, and so far, Governor Romney with 48 percent and Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in a tough battle for second place, 21 percent, 20 percent right there. We'll watch as these votes come in. If you look at the state, the two main population centers down here, Clark County, that's where Las Vegas is, 70 percent of the state lives down here. So that's what we're looking for. The other big population up here, Mitt Romney carrying those places right now.

One of the tests we'll watch as the night plays out, you see Governor Romney getting 48 percent at the moment in a four and (inaudible) a lot of Republicans out there are saying let's compare this to 2008, when he had 51 percent of the vote in a five-way race.

Is that expectations game fair? Maybe, maybe not. But that's one of the things we'll be looking for as we come back here and watch the map. It's about to full in -- fill in. Don't go anywhere. Our coverage, "America's Choice 2012," continues.


BLITZER: We're watching what's going on. We're counting down to the top of the hour. That's when all, all of the caucuses in the state of Nevada will have completed their work. The folks in Nevada, the Republicans who have voted, will have achieved their results. We're watching what's going on. It's a dramatic night, a very important night in this process. This is the first caucus state in the West.