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Three Battleground States Primaries and Caucuses Under Way; Rick Santorum Interview

Aired February 7, 2012 - 23:59   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. You're watching a special edition of AC 360. A very big night for Rick Santorum, picking up his first wins since Iowa. Three contests going on tonight. So far, the former senator from Pennsylvania is 2-3. Santorum wins in both in Minnesota and in Missouri. We are still waiting for results in Colorado.

Let's take a look at the vote tally as it is right now in Colorado. With 46 percent of the vote in, Rick Santorum in the lead, 901 votes ahead of Mitt Romney, 41 percent to 30 percent. Newt Gingrich in third place with 16 and Ron Paul in fourth with 13 percent.

A lot to talk about in the hour ahead. We're going to check in with Santorum headquarters and the other camps as well. We're going to hear from the candidate, from Rick Santorum himself. We'll talk to our panel about how much this changes the landscape and how significant a win for Santorum or a close finish to Romney in second place for Santorum would mean for the former senator.

Let's take a look right now at some of the highlights from the candidates' speeches earlier tonight.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota. Your votes today were not just heard loud and wide across the state of Missouri and Minnesota, but they were heard loud and louder all across this country. And particularly in a place that I suspect maybe in Massachusetts they were heard particularly loud tonight.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Senator Santorum. Wish him the very best. We'll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee with your help.

SANTORUM: There's probably another person who maybe -- maybe is listening to your cheers here tonight also. And that might be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You better start listening to the voice of the people.

ROMNEY: He said progress would be determined by again, quote, "whether the average American family saw its income go up instead of down." And during the last four years the median income in this country has fallen by about 10 percent. Again, by his own definition, President Obama has failed. We will succeed.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, the unemployment numbers went down last month. And you'd think that was good. Until you learn that the number one reason the unemployment number went down is that 1,200,000 people dropped out of the work force. Literally aren't looking for work. So under the Obama model if all of us quit looking for work, we would have zero unemployment.

I intend to campaign this fall on the grounds that I would be the best paycheck president and he is the best food stamp president. And you decide which future you want for your children.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One thing that I'm convinced of, those who joined the campaign for liberty and promote this cause really believe in something. I keep thinking it must be a lot more fun believing in something than just campaigning for nothing.

SANTORUM: Governor Romney's greatest attribute is, well, I've got the most money and the best organization. Well, he's not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?

ROMNEY: President Obama recently said he's learning. We say he's learning too little and too late.

GINGRICH: Governor Romney said the other day he -- he wasn't really worried about the very poor because they have a safety net. I am not a safety net Republican. I don't believe -- I believe the safety net turns into a spider's web which traps the poor at the bottom and keeps them dependent and teaches them not to go and have a better future.


COOPER: Those are some of the speeches we heard earlier tonight.

Dana Bash spoke with Senator Santorum moments ago. She joins us now live from Santorum headquarters in St. Charles, Missouri.

What did the senator have to say, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, he was extremely happy. You heard him say at this podium, and you gave some of the highlights, but I think the biggest applause line here was when he said he is not running to be the alternative to Mitt Romney. He's running to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

So that is essentially the message he gave when I spoke to him just moments ago.


BASH (on camera): Senator, first of all, congratulations.

SANTORUM: Thank you. It was a good day. The people had an opportunity to go out there without a lot of the garbage being thrown at them. Although I will say when I was in Minneapolis today, I got someone here, three mailers from the Romney campaign. Three negative mailers and --

BASH: What did they say?

SANTORUM: You know, Rick Santorum is a -- you know, big spender, things like that. Newt Gingrich is a bad guy and Mitt Romney is a good guy. I think those are -- sums up the three mailers pretty cleanly. And look, it's -- you know, to say that Minnesota didn't matter, you don't spend money if it doesn't matter. You know, in fact, they spent more money than I did. You know, we made -- we made three visits up to the state. We made a couple of visits here and three visits here to Missouri. And the response was great.

And, you know, the visits helped. We had a great visit out in Colorado. And I -- if you look at the places we were, you know, Montrose, which is out on the western slope. Someone told me we got 61 percent of the vote out there which is pretty impressive for one stop. Just wish we had a little bit more time to spread -- a few more places. I think the message is resonating.

BASH: Now, you have not spoken to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, but we understand that maybe there are a couple of voicemails on your cell phone.

SANTORUM: Yes, I left my cell phone upstairs. Obviously I'm not going to be answering my phone as I'm giving speeches and doing interviews like this. So, look, Newt and Mitt have been very, very, you know, direct and forthright and -- look, there's -- maybe there's other people in this race. But I respect both of them and -- as well as Congressman Paul. And I'm sure that they left me very nice voicemails.

BASH: Now not to take away from these wins, obviously they were -- they were big wins. But -- particularly in Minnesota. But what do you say to that whole idea that what's happening now is split regionally, that you have won in the Midwest and that, you know, Newt Gingrich is a southern candidate and so forth?

SANTORUM: Here's what I would say to that. That the first five states -- we're lined up for the first five states for four years. Everybody knew they were going to be the first five states. And they were the first five states last time. And that's where all the money was spent -- four years ago. That's where all the money and organization was spent putting their campaigns together. I mean usually after the first five states, this race is pretty much decided.

Now we're in a little bit of a, you know, no man's land. You've got campaigns that don't -- that haven't spent months and millions in these states. And it's a whole different environment. It's much more real as to what the real temperature of America is as opposed to some of these states that have gotten a whole lot of extra attention from these candidates. So I would just say -- I don't think it's regional at all. I just think this is the first three states.

Look, I -- you know, we very well may, you know, win Colorado or come very, very close. Governor Romney won that state with 61 percent of the vote last time. And that's a state that people would say, you know, how can Rick Santorum do well in Colorado? Well, we did. And that's not a region. That's out west. That's the rocky mountain, and that's a very different area of the country than Iowa.

BASH: It is out west but that state, just like this state, they have very large evangelical populations. So I mean, do you feel that you have been able to prove that you can -- I know you're saying you're the conservative alternative not to Mitt Romney, but to Barack Obama. Do you think you're -- you've been able to prove that you're more than just the candidate for the staunch conservatives?

SANTORUM: If you get 55 percent of the state of Missouri you're obviously getting a lot more people than just evangelicals. And as you know, I mean, I'm -- faith is very important to me. I try to be a faithful Catholic, but I think our appeal is a lot broader and stronger than that. And I feel very good that this message is going to carry over. We're going to head off to Oklahoma and Texas.

Tomorrow we're going to, you know, headed up to Michigan and Ohio, which are two states we've got our eyes on. Those two big states that we think we can do well in, as well as, you know, we're headed to North Dakota. We're going to be in Tennessee. We're going to be traveling all around the country.

We're not -- we're not putting -- in fact, we'll be in California and Washington state. Another couple of states that -- you know, California for money raising, but Washington, that's a state we think we can do well in.

BASH: So your path forward is -- across the entire country?

SANTORUM: We're not -- look, if we're going to be the alternative to Barack Obama, we've got to show we can win in places around this country. And we're not going to leave any stone unturned.

BASH: Thank you, Senator. Appreciate it. Congratulations again.



BASH: Now, Anderson, one of the more immediate that he doesn't want to leave unturned are the stones that have money underneath them. So he is going to head to Texas tomorrow to have a couple of events but primarily his campaign tell me it's to meet with some donors who want to give them money but also want to -- to actually see him face to face.

And interestingly on that note, you may have noticed -- people who are kind of political junkies may have noticed a man by the name of Foster Friess who was standing on the stage with Santorum and his family. He's somebody who's a very wealthy donor. He's given lots and lots of money to the super PAC that supports Rick Santorum. I spoke to Foster Friess right after I did that interview with Rick Santorum. And I said, so, you know, are you getting ready to write more checks to the super PAC, and he said, maybe I won't have to. Because of the fact that he thinks that perhaps the money is going to roll in from other places -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, appreciate the reporting.

We're going to go live to Romney headquarters in just a few moments. Just about 20 minutes ago after Romney spoke to the crowd, was shaking hands, there was a little bit of moment of dram. A young man in the crowd seemed to try to throw glitter at Governor Romney. Security quickly grabbed him, led him out.

Governor Romney now has Secret Service protection. That was the moment that quickly also not only whisked the young man away, they moved Governor Romney quickly out of the area as well. You see something being thrown toward Governor Romney there.

Jim Acosta is going to join us shortly from Romney headquarters. In fact he's there now.

Jim, what's the -- what's the mood there?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it was not a very good night for Mitt Romney, but it was a great night for his Secret Service protection. They jumped on this man very quickly, almost as soon as he tried to throw glitter on the former Massachusetts governor. And you can the glitter in question, if I may call it, behind me. It's on the floor. And it was initially cordoned off by Secret Services. They were taking a look at the scene to make sure that this glitter wasn't anything more than meets the eye.

So not to get too CSI but they did do -- what appeared to be sort of an initial investigation. They talked to a few people and made sure that this was essentially what we saw in that video just a few moments ago. That this was a man who tried to throw glitter on Mitt Romney as he was trying to to exit this room after his victory speech but to do a political postmortem on what happened tonight.

I did have a chance to talk to Stu Stephens who is a top strategist with the Romney campaign. And they said, you know -- I mean, he indicated to me that this was not their favorite night in this race for the GOP nomination. But they -- he did point out that Rick Santorum does not always have the most staying power when it comes to big nights like this. You'll recall he had that big night in Iowa, that did not last into New Hampshire and South Carolina.

And after Mitt Romney had that tough loss to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, he won Florida. So the Romney camp still optimistic. They feel like they're going to have the delegates needed to win the nomination -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jim Acosta. Appreciate that.

Newt Gingrich was not, of course, on the ballot in Missouri tonight. He didn't focus on Colorado or Minnesota. He's in Ohio tonight with an eye on Super Tuesday.

Joe Johns joins us now from Columbus -- Joe. JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Newt Gingrich might as well have been in an alternate universe tonight. He did post a telephone call, we're told, and didn't get him but tried to reach Rick Santorum. As you said, Newt Gingrich is not in Colorado. He's not in Minnesota. He's here in Ohio. He's been here all -- basically day long.

He started out in Cincinnati. Went to Dayton. Ended up here in Columbus, Ohio. Going out to Cleveland in the morning. As far as Newt Gingrich is concerned, Ohio is a state that's getting ready for early voting even though Ohio doesn't actually officially vote until Super Tuesday on March 6th. He thinks it's a good idea to spend this time team here. His whole strategy, of course, is to try to make its way through the southern states and on to Texas, hoping that at the end of the day he's somewhere near parity with Mitt Romney. So that's the story on Newt Gingrich.

Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Joe Johns, appreciate that very much tonight.

A political earthquake you could say, Rick Santorum winning two contests. It would be an earthquake if Colorado goes toward Rick Santorum. He is leading Mitt Romney right now in Colorado. We'll have an update on the numbers when we come back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN Election Center. We're watching a dramatic development unfold. As you know, Rick Santorum has already won the Missouri primary. Already won the Minnesota caucuses. But look at what's happening in Colorado right now. Almost half of the vote in Colorado is now in. Rick Santorum continues to maintain a significant lead over Mitt Romney, 41 percent to 30 percent. Newt Gingrich in third place with 16 percent, Ron Paul, 13 percent.

Almost half, almost half of the vote in Colorado is now in. This could be a political earthquake if in fact Rick Santorum not only wins in Missouri and Minnesota, but also wins in Colorado. Which Mitt Romney was assuming would go in his corner.

Anderson Cooper is over in the cube with Mark Preston, our political director, and we're all wondering, Anderson -- maybe Mark can help us better appreciate -- when we might be able to project a winner in Colorado.

COOPER: Yes, I think that's the question we'd all like the answer to. So what about it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Let's just do it now and go home, right? It's getting late. You know, here's the situation. We haven't seen the big populous counties such as Denver County and Boulder County come in and get updated. These are counties, urban counties, that Mitt Romney tends to do very well in. But get this, one county we are really keeping a sharp eye on right now is El Paso county. And this is where Colorado Springs is. It's a place that's dominated by social conservatives.

Now, if Rick Santorum does very well there and the turnout seems to be very high, this could be quite a dogfight going into the late -- into the night.

COOPER: And do you have any sense of how soon we might get those numbers?

PRESTON: You know, I think probably, you know, in the next 15, 20 minutes, we might start seeing these urban counties start to come in and seeing these numbers start to churn even more. So far what we have is a lot of the rural counties who don't have as many votes that have actually done the reporting. But wait until we see Denver. Wait until we see what happens in Boulder County, and really let's see what happens in El Paso County.

The tiebreaker, Anderson, get this, talking to our polling director Keating Holland, potentially could come down to this. It could come down to Larimer and Weld Counties, the exurbs, so to speak, of Denver. So this is really a dogfight as we've seen between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Colorado.

COOPER: And it would really be a fascinating race starting tomorrow if in fact Rick Santorum was able to pull out a win in Colorado -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. Thanks to Mark Preston as well.

John King is over here with me at the magic wall.

John, you just heard what Mark Preston said. We've got almost half of the vote in, Rick Santorum is maintaining a significant lead. But we can't project a winner yet.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Half of the precincts, let's make clear of that. We don't know the vote totals. So we can say turnout is -- I'm going to use the word depressing. It's just that, turnout is very low, 47 percent of the precinct is in. You're looking at 3400 votes leading the state with 41 percent, but to Mark's point. What are we waiting for? This is Adams County. If we come right down below it, Denver County, 13 percent of the state population. We'll see how many people turned out in the Republican vote.

But if you go back four years ago, you had 4,000 votes or so. When you added it all up in Denver County. Then you come back to this. What else are we waiting for? Jefferson County, this is where you go into the suburbs and the exurbs out here of Denver. Again four years ago, this was a very big Mitt Romney county, we have zero votes tonight. So we want to wait and see the map come in.

You move up further up to the north, Weld County, Mark just mentioned. This is ways out of Denver. It's more rural, but the growth in the Denver area has been great so some exurban areas down here and Boulder County is the big one here, 7 percent of the state population. Decent Republican turnout often. Again, Mitt Romney territory. Four years ago 1700 votes. Won it four years ago.

So as you watch this play out as you come back to the map here and you pull it out, we see what else is missing. He mentioned Colorado Springs. Mark did say a huge evangelical. Grand Junction was an area Romney carried before. A bit of a population center. Denver County, we're waiting for in the middle. Again, largely a Democratic area. But there's a decent chunk of the population. I believe Paul Vercammen is standing by for us.


KING: And he actually has some votes from Denver County.

Paul, we've been waiting and waiting to get more results. Help us out.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, I just heard from officials in Denver County, John. Here's what they tell me. Romney won that county 13-11. Santorum was in second with 958. Then you have Paul with 621 and Newt Gingrich with 359. So Romney 1311 winning Denver County.

That's not reflected on the map behind me as you know. That's that squiggly little county. But as you pointed out they're waiting for these urban Denver area counties to come in. And that's the first of them, Denver County.

KING: And Paul, give me the Santorum --

VERCAMMEN: Looks like Romney got a win there.

KING: Can I have the Santorum number in Denver County one more time?

VERCAMMEN: Absolutely. It's 958, 1311 to 958 in Denver County.

KING: OK. So you're looking there, not quite 400 votes. So if you add about -- just say roughly if you just make up the map, I'm going to round it up, give it to 28 -- excuse my scribble in small space, if you just make that 2873, somewhere in that ballpark. Governor Romney is coming up. That's up. And that's why it's so important if he's making up gains like that, if he's making up somewhere in the ballpark of 380 or 400 votes in this area -- I'm going to blank this out so I don't confuse people -- making up in Denver County, then he would have to do something similar in Jefferson County. Those votes still out.

He would have to do that in Boulder County. If he could stretch these leads out in places where he won big last time, that would help him off set. But you have to assume it's going to be Santorum strength down here. He's winning -- Senator Santorum, if you follow the edge of the state, he's winning in the small rural counties. So assuming he keeps that up, the question is, these are very tiny counties, you see just 1 percent of the population. You come over here to this county where he's winning, he's winning with 22 votes in this county. So there's not a lot -- even if this all fills in purple down here, it not a lot of -- BLITZER: So when we say 47 percent of the precincts have reported some of those precincts are really tiny. Some of them might be bigger and as a result, this doesn't necessarily --

KING: That's right.

BLITZER: Just got up to 49 percent. We don't know if this is 50 percent of the -- the complete turnout. It could be -- it could be a lot less depending on the size of those precincts.

KING: Right. Because what we're missing votes in here, we expect there will be a higher turnout. Now if you go into these areas, I wanted again make the point, I say higher turnout. I'm not going to say high turnout. Because if you look, I want to go back to Arapahoe County, we're at 67 percent right now. Look at that. You don't even get 200. You add all that up, right?


KING: You don't even get 200.

BLITZER: What was the turnout four years ago?

KING: That's -- this is where it gets kind of depressing.

BLITZER: Look at that.

KING: You look at that. So this is -- as an exercise of --

BLITZER: Seventy thousand --

KING: That's an exercise of democracy. That's a little depressing to see turnout down so much. I think there were some weather issues out there today. But that's still down. So if you're looking at a place like Jefferson County, again, Governor Romney needs to make up votes and make them up at a decent chunk. He got 65 percent of the votes in this county four years ago. He needs to match something like that. Because when we were talking, we went from 47 to 49.

That was because Larimer County came in, 5.8 percent of the population. One of the places Mark Preston had just said we need to wait and see. This is your further north here at the border up at the border, way out in the Denver area, that's down below here, 39 percent to 30 percent. But again, 100 percent of the counties vote in, 80 votes wins the counties --

BLITZER: What was it four years ago?

KING: Four years ago, again, if you come back to this, look at that.


KING: I mean it's -- this turnout is stunningly lower than it was four years ago. This -- beyond what happens in Colorado tonight, if you look at the Iowa experience, the Nevada experience, and now the Colorado experience, and even the Minnesota turnout is down, there's going to be a lot of conversations within the Republican Party and I think within both parties about the caucus experiment, and whether that needs to be revisited --

BLITZER: Let me walk over --


BLITZER: To this wall over here, John, because we're going to update the numbers based on what we just heard from Paul Vercammen.

In Denver County, take a look at this. We have 49 percent of the vote now in, but I think we're going to update it right now as I'm -- here it is, 50 percent of the precincts now reporting. It's a lot closer, 38 percent for Rick Santorum, 33 percent -- now 51 percent of the precincts reporting. Look at how close it is. Mitt Romney is now ahead, 37 percent, to Rick Santorum's 35 percent, 333 votes ahead, 7,494 to 7,161.

This is a race, this is a real horse race in Colorado. Right now 51 of the precincts -- 51 percent of the precincts are in. Mitt Romney has taken a slight lead over Rick Santorum right now. So we're getting some more numbers. Newt Gingrich remains in third place. Distant with only 14 percent. Ron Paul narrowly behind Newt Gingrich, 13 percent in fourth place. But this is turning out to be quite a horse race in Colorado.

Everyone assumed that Mitt Romney would win in Colorado. That's why he was there tonight. That's why he was speaking from Colorado tonight. But it's certainly appears to be right now a whole lot closer than a lot of people thought. But Mitt Romney for the first time since these official numbers have been coming in, now taking a slight lead.

Anderson, we could be here for a while waiting for the results from Colorado to come in. Where our Edith and Carolyn when we need them?


COOPER: I know. We should get them on the vote count. And get a little Lou Rawls playing, a little "CNN After Dark" again.

A surge for Rick Santorum. Some much needed momentum for his campaign regardless of what happens in Colorado. But is tonight a game- changer? We're going to talk to our panel when we continue this special edition of 360.


BLITZER: A real battle is unfolding right now in Colorado. Take a closer look at what's going on. John King is with me.

Fifty percent of the precincts, John, have reported for first time. Mitt Romney taking a slight lead over Rick Santorum, 37 percent to 35 percent. But only about 300 votes or so separate these two guys right now. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul distantly behind. You're looking at some of these counties right now. Hold on for one moment because Paul Vercammen is over at the GOP headquarters in Colorado right now.

You're getting more numbers, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: Yes, Wolf and John, I just got Arapahoe County, talked to the chairman over there, and Romney posted 2959, Santorum 2257 in Arapahoe County. You also had Gingrich with 716, and you had Paul with 648. And then of course there was scattered other votes including one for General Petraeus.

But again let's repeat that. Romney with 2959 and Santorum with 2257. That's in that large county, Arapahoe County, considered a bellwether. An interesting make up there. It's just like the rest of the state, it's almost a third Republican, a third independent, and a third Democrat.

Obviously, the independents couldn't vote tonight. And what many people in the precincts said there is, they are going to need those independents in November, Wolf and John, if they're going to win Colorado.

KING: And so, Wolf, if you follow Paul's math there.

BLITZER: Yes, hold on a second, Paul. If you can find out the numbers for Jefferson County, that would be very significant as well. This is a net gain of 700 or so for Mitt Romney right now in that county.

KING: So we pull it out to the statewide vote. If you add 700 to Governor Romney you boost him up a little bit. I would argue that's too close for Governor Romney, actually, though in this county.

In this one county here, if Senator Santorum's coming in that close to him, 700 votes behind, these are the places where Governor Romney, if he is going to hold on and win the state, he has to run up bigger margins. That's why I'm interested in Jefferson County, because if you go back four years ago, he got 65 percent of the vote in this county. He needs to run up bigger wins in this area.

And let me explain why I say that. First, we'll come back out to the statewide map, then we'll come back to 2012. If you look around the outskirts of the state, Senator Santorum is winning most of the smaller rural areas. Now not a ton of votes out there, but if he's winning by 20 here, 20 here, 10 there, five there, he's going to make up some of those digits.

And Colorado Springs, El Paso County is still out. Not only is this 12 percent of the population, this is a strong hold for Christian conservative evangelical voters, the home base of the Focus of the Family organization, its long-time leader Dr. James Dobson, a Santorum supporter out there.

You expect Santorum to do quite well here. If you are starting to look at the map, politics in the end is about math. A lot of people live right here. Governor Romney needs to win up margins. A decent of amount of people win here, and you would expect this is Santorum country, and around the edges of the state you see some aberrations. Romney winning here.

But if you follow around, Santorum is starting to fill in around the edges. So if he is doing small margins up there, it is critical, Wolf, absolutely critical that Governor Romney run up some big numbers here. He probably has to hold here as well.

He won out here four years ago. He would have to hold that as well, as you watch the rural areas fill in. That 700-vote net gain Paul just was able to give Governor Romney by getting those results, it helps. If I'm looking at the math and thinking through the history of the state, I'm not sure it's enough.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be very, very close. If you're hearing me -- if we can get El Paso County, Jefferson County, we'll get a better sense of what's going on. The counties beginning to come in. But it's obviously still too early for us to make any projection whatsoever -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, let's bring in our panel: Ari Fleischer, Donna Brazile, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Erin Burnett.

You have been talking, Ari, to folks on the ground, non-Romney folks.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH PRESS SECRETARY: No, these people are not identified with a campaign. They know Colorado. But they told me earlier this evening was they still thought Mitt Romney was going to pull it out. They said it was going to be a close second for Santorum. Keep your eye on it.

Now they're just saying it's going to be very close. This is -- what we're all watching here, it's playing out as we thought. But, you know, almost doesn't matter now. Because you have got to say this is a great night for Rick Santorum.

COOPER: Right. That was going to be my next question. Does it matter? If it's this close, if -- who comes in first and who comes in second?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is embarrassing at the very least for Mitt Romney, particularly in the state of Colorado which he won so easily in 2008. People expected him to win here. You're down to maybe a thousand...

COOPER: So what went wrong? What happened?

BORGER: Maybe a thousand votes. I think what we may be underestimating here is the strength of the evangelical community in Colorado, the divisions within the tea party in the state of Colorado, and also, the general unease with conservatives about Mitt Romney.

FLEISCHER: Well, actually, I think it's a lot simpler than that. It's math. Very few people...

BORGER: That's pretty simple.

FLEISCHER: Very few people are voting. And when you have such a small, small...

BORGER: Well, that's true too. That's true too.

FLEISCHER: ... denominator, it doesn't take a lot to...


COOPER: It is remarkable, when you see John King's math, usually the differences between the vote turnout in 2008 versus what it is now.

BORGER: Well, you did get a foot of snow, you know, the first big storm, Denver Airport was -- I mean, I'm not saying that...

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not like D.C., the traffic doesn't stop.

BORGER: Which is an interesting point.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me just say up front, I didn't see this coming. So it's really hard to say -- tell you why it happened the way it happened. This is totally unexpected that, you know, Santorum may go three for three.

So I think we all have to scratch our heads. There is though apparently in Colorado, as we have seen elsewhere, this enthusiasm gap we have talked about in general for Republicans, there seems to be a Romney enthusiasm gap.

So the turnout goes down in those areas where he is winning, but it goes up in areas where Santorum is winning. And we're seeing that in Colorado, it has been reported all around Colorado where Santorum is piling up some votes. The turnout is actually higher than it was four years ago. That's interesting.

BRAZILE: He spent nine days in the state. And that matters to people. Look, Mitt Romney ignored people. And I think people like -- yes, we like your money, we like all the -- you've got all these big- name people. But it's like me introducing Gloria to Ari. Yes, I made the introduction but...

FLEISCHER: Do you have money?


BRAZILE: But someone needs to make the sell. Someone needs to say, hey, this is why I want you to support Mitt Romney. And that's clearly a problem for Mitt Romney.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: The narrative though coming out of the weekend, right, when you had -- it was, OK, Mitt Romney is starting to make it up in the areas where he was weak, all the tea party, all of the people who identified themselves as very conservative, every single category. And now it's back again to those groups that you were struggling with before, you're now struggling with again.

BORGER: Here's the thing about this race. There's no bounce out of any state. There is a just bouncing around. And you get...

GERGEN: There was a bounce out of Florida into Nevada.

BORGER: Well, you know, but, yes, well, OK, I'll give you one bounce.


BRAZILE: But the turnout dropped.

BORGER: But honestly, this race has just been so fluid. And it fluctuates so much.

One other thing about Mitt Romney. He has had establishment support everywhere he goes. And it very often, particularly if you're looking at a state like Colorado, if you're looking at Minnesota...

COOPER: Tim Pawlenty...


BORGER: Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota, what did that do?

COOPER: We have got to take a quick break. We'll have more with our panel coming up. We're also going to take a close look at how many delegates each of the candidates has up to this point. What's ahead in the race to collect more. John King is going to break it down for us. Our coverage continues in just moments. Stay tuned.


BLITZER: All right. A very dramatic development happening in Colorado. Everyone thought -- virtually everyone thought that Mitt Romney had it all sewn up in Colorado. That's where he was tonight, delivering his speech. But look at this, it's still, very, very close, 53 percent of the precincts have now reported.

Mitt Romney is ahead, 39 percent, over Rick Santorum, 35 percent. But not by much. This is very close. Newt Gingrich a distant third, and Ron Paul a distant fourth, if you will. But it's very close, the battle for third and fourth between Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

But look at how close it is between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Let's go over to John over here watching what's going on.

When we say it's very close, only 4 percentage points, you see 4 points separating the two, a lot of counties are still out, including some very conservative counties, evangelical counties where Rick Santorum probably has an advantage.

KING: Without a doubt. About, what, 1,031 votes ahead by this math right now. Here's a place where Senator Santorum could pick that up, could make up 1,000-vote gap and then some.

If he wins in Colorado Springs area, El Paso County, by as much as expected, given the support of evangelicals here, he could easily just in this county alone take the lead back.

So then the question is -- we're waiting for those results to come in. Then the question is, this should be -- emphasis on should be, a Romney stronghold.

Jefferson County, about 12 percent of the state population. Again, a place he won handily last time.

Turnout is not this high. He could use a 3,000-vote cushion in the county somewhere. But this time turnout is nowhere near that, if you look at the surrounding counties.

But this -- if you look at Denver County, it's in at 100 percent. If you look at Arapahoe County, it's in at 100 percent. Douglas County came in just a short time ago at 100 percent.

So if you're looking in the Denver area where you have a major population center, and where with the exception of -- this is, I believe Adams County, yes, Senator Santorum winning Adams County.

With the exception of Adams County in the immediate Denver area, Governor Romney is doing quite well. He needs to win Jefferson and he needs to win it big.

One encouraging sign, just during the break, this tiny county, Pitkin County, came in, it's 0.3 percent of the population. You just saw this county come in as we speak.

Governor Romney won Pitkin, now I say it's encouraging just for the sense that in a lot of these small, rural areas, and we just saw it happened right here, Senator Santorum has been winning.

Delta County, Colorado, 100 percent of the vote, 470, so he just made up -- it was 1,000 when we began this conversation, it's now 688 votes because of this county right here coming in for Senator Santorum.

So, Wolf, what we have now is a county by county -- we're going to have to do the arithmetic the old-fashioned way. Maybe you have about an abacus at home, maybe you have a calculator, maybe you're going to have to use your fingers and your toes tonight. We're going to go county by county here.

BLITZER: I'm familiar with Pitkin County, it's not necessarily reflective of the rest of the state. That's where Aspen, Colorado, is. So there's an affluent group of folks who live in Aspen, as you well know, John.

KING: That's more of the Romney vote.

BLITZER: That's what I mean.

KING: His main strength has been those above $200,000 there. And again, it's a tiny vote, if you saw. He wins that county with 83 votes. So it's not exactly a resounding mathematical victory, even though by the percentages.

You have to assume based on the trends that Senator Santorum is going to win most of these. Maybe not all of them, but most of these. That's what he's doing, he's winning the small, rural areas.

So what happens? He's winning here. This is a population center, Grand Junction. This is the key to the state for Senator Santorum is right here, El Paso County. We hope to have those numbers in a few moments for you.

And again, politics is about where the people are, the math for Governor Romney, if he's to hold the 688-vote lead he has at the moment, is going to have to start coming right here in Jefferson County.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to crunch these numbers. I want to check in with Brooke Baldwin. She's taking a closer look at what social media is saying about all of these candidates.

Brooke, what are you seeing on that front?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I don't know if it will be an "Edith and Carolyn" kind of night. John King doing math, quarter after -- half an hour after midnight, but we are talking about Twitter, about to talk about an X and Y axis, if you will.

But first, you know, I have got to say we have been following tweets for hours and hours here. And it sort of flat-lined, but once Missouri happened and then Minnesota for Rick Santorum, it really blew up.

So trending has been those phrases. And wouldn't he love the headline tomorrow morning the "Santorum sweep." We'll stand by for that.

Meantime, you know, you could see him as the anti-Romney. He would like to be the anti-Obama, as he sort of alluded to when he spoke with Dana Bash, and also in his speech tonight.

Let me show you this, because we're obviously following social media and we're going to track. We're closely honing in on both Santorum and Gingrich.

So this is the Y axis. This is essentially looking at 100 percent favorability versus zero. And we're looking at the last couple of days here, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

So I'm going to move this along. This is Gingrich likability. Starting at 67, dipping just a little bit on Monday, and continues to dip today all the way down to a 50 percent rating here.

Here's the story. And this is Santorum. You see him starting a little bit lower than Gingrich at 62 percent. But he comes chugging along, come Monday he has already eclipsed Gingrich, and now he's sitting mighty high today at 75 percent. So we've pulled up a couple of different tweets because a lot of people are talking about momentum, right? And of course, also money, as we look into the next couple of contests for Rick Santorum.

And I want to point out Larry Sabato, someone who definitely knows politics, the director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, here's what he writes.

"Yes, Missouri, it's a beauty contest, and Minnesota and Colorado, non-binding, but I insist, as Gertrude Stein might have had if she watched, a vote is a vote is a vote."

So, again, this could be the momentum and psychological for Rick Santorum. Guys, let's click it to the next tweet. And you can see, as I go along. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post.

"My initial take, big night for Santorum who had neither money nor media, and a clear setback for Romney."

I think that's what a lot of -- some of you on the panel have both been pointing out.

And finally, from Mr. Fleischer himself. "Even though no delegates awarded tonight, money will come in for Santorum tomorrow."

So, Wolf, I know we're talking money and also Ari had tweeted earlier: "He would do better in looking more presidential in coats and ties."

So we saw him with a coat and tie on tonight. Maybe that will also help him along with a little bit more money come tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: No sweater vest tonight. Howie Kurtz, by the way, used to work for The Washington Post for many, many years, now at The Daily Beast and Newsweek, also the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," Sunday morning.

And very important that Ari Fleischer learned how to spell "though." That's another story right there.

Paul Vercammen is standing by over at GOP headquarters in Colorado. You have got more numbers, Paul. And I think they're pretty dramatic. What's going on?

VERCAMMEN: Hang on, Wolf. They're not here yet. They're promising me here at GOP headquarters that in just a matter of moments.

And, of course, this is very free-flowing here. They will have a massive, massive batch of numbers, almost 100 percent. And the timetable they gave me is 10 to 15 minutes.

So I'm going to look over my left shoulder. We could literally see somebody walk up from below, down the second floor, we're on the third here, and possibly give us the final numbers, though, Wolf. So we're going to hang on for you right now.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment. We're not going to let you go too far away. In fact, stand by for one second, Paul, because we're going to come back to you as soon as you get those numbers.

In fact, let's take this opportunity as we await these numbers and I think this will be a dramatic moment. On this special night, Rick Santorum doing remarkably well. We'll go to Paul Vercammen, we'll get the numbers right here in the CNN Election Center, right after this.


COOPER: Welcome back. Something should happen because Wolf Blitzer said "OMG" during the commercial break -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me tell you what's going on, and I'll repeat it, "OMG." Look at this, right now, 64 percent of the precincts are in. Rick Santorum is 75 votes ahead of Mitt Romney in Colorado, 12,564 to 12,489, 75 votes. Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, way, way behind.

Let's walk over to John King, get a little better assessment. I said it last time, I said it was Iowa. Remember what happened in Iowa. That was worthy of an "OMG." And right now in Colorado we have got an "OMG" going on.

KING: I'm trying to figure out how to top that. There's no "LOL" at Mitt Romney headquarters right now. I'm not so sure how to do this.

Look, if you watch this play in, here's one of the reasons that happened. We have been waiting for Mason County all night, Rick Santorum, 36 percent, for Mitt Romney, 47 percent, an 11-point victory. Doesn't look like a lot of votes.

I just want to go back in time. I'm doing this a lot tonight. Not doing it to annoy you at home. I'm trying to show you, Mitt Romney won this state with 60 percent of the vote four years ago.

And he won in part because in a place like Grand Junction County, he got 67 percent of the vote, 67 percent of the vote four years ago, 36 percent of the vote tonight.

I'm told Jefferson County just came in, just west of Denver here. Let's look at it. This is the problem. This is the problem right here. Mitt Romney...

BLITZER: Problem for Romney.

KING: Huge problem for Romney. Winning Jefferson County but only by 200 votes right there. Just shy of 210 votes. If you look at that, again, go back in time, he won this county with 65 percent of the vote a few years ago.

So if you come back now and you pull out to the state, 2012...


BLITZER: All right. John, hold on a second. I'm going to just update our viewers right now, 70 percent of the precincts are now in. Mitt Romney has taken a slight lead, 133 votes, ahead of Rick Santorum. It has gone back and forth, 15,385 to 15, 252, 70 percent of the precincts in. Both having 37 percent of the vote.

It's going back and forth, back and forth. This is a lot tighter than Mitt Romney had hoped for. I think going in he always suspected that he could lose Minnesota, Missouri, but Colorado was going to be his safe haven for him. Not -- he might still win in Colorado. But it's a lot closer than he would have liked.

KING: I've talked to several of his top advisers and strategists tonight, they were confident about Colorado. They knew the margin would be nowhere where it was four years ago, but they were quite confident they'd get a win and a good win out of Colorado tonight.

Turnout is way down. E-mails and the Twitter-verse, you hear about people saying a lot about weather being a factor in turnout being down. People are going to debate whether it's weather, whether it's or enthusiasm, whatever it is.

But what you have right here, as you note, is essentially a dead heat, the narrowest Romney lead, 133 votes at the moment.

But, Wolf, I want to circle right here and say this is now -- I told you earlier we're waiting for Jefferson County. Romney was leading, but by a tiny margin. He needed a much bigger margin in the suburbs and exurbs around Denver, because we're waiting now for this county to come in.

This is El Paso County, 12 percent of the state's population lives here. Again, this is a huge conservative -- Christian conservative, social conservative area of the state, where one would expect Senator Santorum to do quite well.

BLITZER: It's the headquarters of Focus on the Family.

KING: Focus on the Family, James Dobson organization. Many people hear his radio -- he has stepped down as the leader of it, but he was the leader for years, had a radio show, magazines read by people across the country.

But this is a very strong Christian conservative area. It tends to be a higher turnout area because of the commitment of those voters to the process.

Most of these other counties around that you haven't seen fill in, I'll just tap one to show you. Larimer County, these votes were in earlier and they came back in. Sometimes there are adjustments in the counting system.

This is the last large county still out. So we want to see what happened, but there was a bit of a technical issue there. But most of these other counties, you are not going to get it, you're going to have -- it will be like this, somebody winning with 100 or fewer votes. These tiny counties, 23 percent of the population.

So as you look at the math, everything right around Denver is in now. This is the biggest population center. This is what we're waiting for, in terms of a major population center, this is the last one outstanding. And everything you know about the state, everything you know about the endorsements, everything you know about the passion on the ground tells you Senator Santorum is going to win El Paso County.

So the question could be, just like that was not a big enough margin for Governor Romney in the Denver area, Senator Santorum's margin right here in Boulder County could well decide the state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In El Paso County. All right. Let's check back with Paul Vercammen who is over at GOP headquarters in Colorado.

You got any more numbers out there? What are you hearing, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: Right now, we're hearing exactly the same thing that you have been reporting. If you look behind me, you see El Paso County highlighted. It's still blue here.

Now, election officials are literally just down the hall and below me and they are now compiling these last of the numbers. And they say they will have them for us within 10, 15 minutes. I expect them to be coming down the hall any moment now.

And when we get something, we'll certainly let you know -- Wolf and John.

KING: And, Paul, they say they'll get them to you within 10 minutes, has there been any explanation at all? Obviously they come in from the counties, and then they want to verify and go through the math. Are they satisfied with the pace, any explanation for why some areas of the state have come in much, much quicker than others?

VERCAMMEN: Well, as you recall earlier, we talked to the GOP chairman, Mr. Call. And no, there's no real reason for this being lethargic. The only thing we did hear about is in Denver County they were a little late because someone pulled a fire alarm at a school which was one of the precincts. And that's all we've heard.

KING: Paul Vercammen at the GOP headquarters in Colorado, Paul, go nowhere, you have the most important story of the night. And we'll be right back. We could have the decisive votes in just moments. More coverage, "America's Choice 2012" in just a moment.