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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Live Coverage of Republican Presidential Contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado

Aired February 7, 2012 - 01:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. We're expecting more drama, an important development about to happen.

Let's go to Paul Vercammen over at GOP headquarters in Colorado. We're anxiously awaiting, Paul, the final results in Colorado. What are you hearing?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER, PRODUCER: Well, in this technological aide, you can look to my left right here, you can see the party chair of the GOP here in Colorado and he says he has 99 percent of the precincts in. And he's now talking on the phone, obviously to election officials. And he's going to grab the numbers. But he is going to give us an estimates in just a second.

This is Ryan Call. He is the GOP chairman here in Colorado. Let's see what he has to say.

RYAN CALL, CHAIRMAN, COLORADO REPUBLICAN PARTY: Sorry, hold on a second.

VERCAMMEN: But, can you characterize for us, I believe you have 99 percent of the numbers in.

CALL: We have got about 98 percent of the precincts reporting tonight at the Colorado Republican Party is prepared to announced that Rick Santorum has won Colorado's Republican preference poll with about 40 percent of the vote. We're getting the final numbers in just now. Rick Santorum has exceed expectations and wins Colorado's caucus called vote tonight.

VERCAMMEN: Any major population center still out? You said 99 or 98 percent.

CALL: It's about 98 percent of the results in. There's a handful for precincts yet to be reported in Arapahoe county but only about 20 precincts outstanding there. There or four precincts outstanding in El Paso county and half a dozen or so up in Larimer county. These are results that are not going change the outcome of tonight's results.

We are going to have a press conference here just in a couple of moments with the actual numbers. Mitt Romney had about 37 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum over 40 percent and Ron Paul reporting about 11 percent and Newt Gingrich around 14 percent. We'll have the final numbers for you in just few moments. We appreciate everybody's attention. And we appreciate everybody who has been a part of this important process.

VERCAMMEN: And can you tell me what this meant in terms of turnout and how this might have been a factor this the race?

CALL: That's right. Turnout was strong throughout the states and we saw a lot of enthusiasm among the Colorado Republicans to participate in the process. It has been very exciting tonight and I'll tell you, Rick Santorum surprised a lot of folks in terms of his turnout, his willingness to come to Colorado and compete for the votes and the enthusiasm that we saw across the state is pretty exciting.

VERCAMMEN: Exclusively on CNN, you heard it here first. Let's continue here. Santorum made a push right at the end. We know El Paso County was not in Colorado Springs in that area. A lot of the evangelical Christians there. Do you know what the percentage of victory was for Santorum down there in El Paso County?

CALL: Rick Santorum as far as victory in El Paso County was about 1,300 votes in excess of Mitt Romney. The numbers we saw are preliminary. Again, these results are a bit preliminary, and we're finalizing the results and cross checking those with the county party leaders. But the margin of victory was substantial both in Weld county up north and in El Paso county for Rick Santorum.

VERCAMMEN: And going throughout the rest of the state, Santorum obviously doing very well on the edges, et cetera. Can you tell us, you know, where he was strong and where Romney was strong.

CALL: It appeared that Rick Santorum is the strongest in the counties he went to visit. Larimer county, Weld county, down in El Paso county. Overall the western slope, in Montrose. Mitt Romney appeared to be stronger in the suburban counties like Jefferson County, Denver and Arapahoe County.

VERCAMMEN: OK. Appreciate that, Ryan Call. As you heard, end line here. Rick Santorum having won Colorado. Ryan Call saying with 98, 99 percent of the vote. Now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Alright, thanks very much, and thank the chairman of the Republican Party in Colorado. Our viewers here on CNN heard it here first. First in the world, where they got the results from the chairman of the Republican Party. Rick Santorum, the winner in Colorado, a clean sweep for Rick Santorum on this important day. He wins in Missouri. He wins in Minnesota and now, you heard it first here on CNN he wins in Colorado.

A huge, huge disappointment for Mitt Romney. John king is here. They were really expecting that Mitt Romney would win in Colorado. Doesn't win in Colorado. And Colorado Springs, El Paso County, right over there that probably made a huge difference. This was as you have been saying all night, this was a conservative area. Evangelical area. And it goes overwhelming for Rick Santorum.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the chairman just told our Paul Vercammen, senator Santorum had about a 1,300 vote margin in El Paso County which is the home of focused on the family, Colorado Springs and evangelical area.

I want to just pop this up and show. This is the evangelical vote in Colorado. By here, the darker the area the higher the percentage of evangelicals. You see a higher percentage down here. But this is a much smaller county. This is the evangelical hot bed in terms of the population centers in the state and senator Santorum carrying it tonight.

We don't have those officially on the map yet. But the chairman just released with Paul. He also said up here in Weld County, one of the countries we waiting for, Santorum carried this county as well.

Before we went last break, Larimer County had disappeared. Then results have really came out but Senator Santorum winning up there as well. So, if you look at the map like this, the rest is going to fill in, you will see more purple. Senator Santorum has won. And Wolf, I think this is the map everyone is going to be talking about tomorrow.

I'm going to clear the telestrator so you don't see that yellow dot there. After eight contests, there will be a bit of an asterisk because Missouri is nonbinding in terms of delegates. But after eight contest, who would have imagined that Santorum has four, Romney has three, Gingrich has one. I don't think there was much political conversation in the country in recent days that senator Santorum would have won more states after eight contests.

BLITZER: You know, I want to go back to Paul Vercammen. The chairman of the party said 98 percent of the precincts are now in. Give us the percentages of what Rick Santorum the winner in Colorado got, and Mitt Romney the second place finisher got. Do you have those percentages, Paul?

VERCAMMEN: I do. They were just handed - I do have those. They were just handed to me.

No, this is unofficial, but let's try to give the gap to you. Let's characterize this. We have Santorum with 40.2 percent and then we have Romney with 34.9, so 35 percent. And then of course you've got Newt down here with 12.8 percent and Ron Paul with 11.7 percent.

So, to repeat, Santorum, 40.2 percent and Romney, 34.9 percent. Unofficial. 98 percent of the precincts reporting here from the GOP headquarters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's a pretty significant and impressive difference, John King. 40 percent to 34 percent, 35 percent. Five points in a close contest. It's not like Iowa where eight votes or ten votes made the difference. This is a nice win for Rick Santorum in Colorado. And it's an important one.

KING: It's an important win because he will now get the delegates. But it is proportional states, so you will have the split between Santorum and Romney. But again, senator Santorum winning with 40 percent of the vote, 35 percent for Governor Romney. And to go back in time, again, I'm going to blank the telestrator because otherwise that would come up, but remember it's 40 percent. This is our -- this is 83 percent. That's a 40. And if you go back in time, Governor Romney carried the state with 60 percent last time. And the dynamics of this race are the complete flipside.

When he was campaigning against John McCain, John McCain was essentially the nominee at that point. Governor Romney had not dropped out yet. He was making the case you needed a conservative alternative to John McCain, who was too moderate to win the general election. What is happening right now in 2012? Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

But tonight, Rick Santorum traveling to all of the states saying you need a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is too moderate to win the general election. And on this night, senator Santorum can claim a smashing success. He had already won Iowa to begin the process. He had been shut out as the race went to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada.

But tonight, he adds Minnesota. Again, a state Romney carried four years ago. He adds Missouri. An important symbolic victory. No delegates in Missouri, that will be decided in March those delegates. And he stuns Governor Romney in the mountain west in Colorado, one of the places where Governor Romney was expected, Wolf, to be strongest.

BLITZER: Yes. Expect everyone thought he'd win in Colorado. Not necessarily, he did not win. You heard the party chairman. The Republican Party chairman in Colorado made the announcement actually right here on CNN. Forty percent for Santorum. Unofficial numbers in Colorado. 34.9 percent for Mitt Romney. That's a pretty impressive, decisive win for Rick Santorum in Colorado, especially coming on the heels of more impressive wins in Minnesota and earlier in Missouri and it's a lot to digest with your experts over there.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Three for Three. And note on this one. We are going to talking about, not like tomorrow, but for days to come. Did any of you see this coming? A clean sweep.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I had tweeted five days ago that Missouri was the state that Santorum would win. I don't know anybody who thought he'd have 3-3.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And certainly not Colorado.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I will just say flat out I didn't see it coming. I think what's the significance of it is the Romney bandwagon just went in the ditch. I don't know -- that's not to say he can't get it out. Not to say he can't win. But it went in a ditch. Don't you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.

FLEISCHER: You're making her happy.

COOPER: Donna.

BRAZILE: I think it's a good play. (LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Well, it's certainly -- we'll let you laugh. Interrupted the kind of March and inevitability and anything --

COOPER: If you're in the Romney campaign, what do you do to reassess?

BORGER: Arizona, Michigan, you are saying, alright. We have got those states coming up. He is probably do well. Look, Mitt Romney has a problem. I'm not laughing because I'm a democrat. We know this is going to be a tough fight.

But the Republicans have some problems and the biggest problem is enthusiasm gap. Mitt Romney has not sold his bona fides, whatever, his dealt with Republicans. So, they're on a shopping spree. I'm shocked that the Republicans rejected him in all three states. I mean, that's shocking to me.

FLEISCHER: I think Mitt Romney has to be feeling now and his staff the way and the way that George Bush felt after losing to John McCain, this thing is a gut punch. Nobody saw it coming.

Here's what's going to happen next to Rick Santorum. His money is about to surge, and his credibility is about to surge. And the reporters traveling with him are about to surge. This is all going to boost him going into Michigan and to Arizona which becomes dramatic states. Those will be powerful booster on March 6th. Everybody needs to fasten their seat belt. The last piece, Newt Gingrich is gasping for air.

COOPER: The thing -- how little anybody has talked about Newt Gingrich tonight.

BORGER: Well, he needs to stay in for Mitt Romney because now, Mitt Romney is going to look at Newt Gingrich and say, please save me. And that's sort of a funny turn of events but he needs to keep that vote divided.

One other thing about Rick Santorum. I was looking back at some of the polling we have seen in the states. And not only is he popular with the evangelicals, which are a big community and the tea party, big community in Colorado. But also, his likability is above the other candidates.

People warmed up to Rick Santorum. They didn't know who he was, they liked his straight talk. They liked how he sort of said, OK, you guys fight amongst yourselves. I'm the adult in the room. And so you can't I think he can underestimate the fact that voters were looking for somebody they liked.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUT FRONT: The gap on that, it's really stunning. I mean, looking at some of those polls, it was 70 percent favorability.

BORGER: Right. BURNETT: We call them the q rating and the likability for Rick Santorum. And Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney tied at about 47 to , you know, 55 percent, somewhere in there.

FLEISCHER: And Santorum gets a couple of polls showing him running close to Barack Obama now, that's is going to be another game change event for Rick Santorum.

GERGEN: Here's what really hard to understand is. You have to give a lot of credit to Rick Santorum. I think all of us would do that. And Donna was right, as it turned out, going into Colorado made a big difference. We just heard in the Republican chairman, that where he went, he really did well. Donna nailed it on that.

BRAZILE: That's right. He spent nine days in the state.

GERGEN: Yes. And made a big differences turned on. You're organizing experience made a difference on that, right? But how do you explain the fact that Mitt Romney lost four years ago to John McCain and tonight, he did worse than he did four years ago?

BRAZILE: Yes.

GERGEN: And all three states he won to --.

BORGER: He beat John McCain.

GERGEN: He won, two out of three last time. He got 60 percent in Colorado last time. He got less than 40 this time. He won Minnesota last time with what, 20 points. This time Rick Santorum beat him by 30 points --

BORGER: And he came in third place.

GERGEN: In two different states, beat him by 30 points.

BRAZILE: That's right.

COOPER: Right. And third placing -- in third place that he won before. It's stunning.

BURNETT: Does it force him to play to the conservatives? Because obviously, He's trying. He's trying. But last time he was the conservative alternative. Now he's perceived as the moderate. Rick Santorum obviously, the conservative one.

BORGER: Well, Rick Santorum is hammering that message home about both Gingrich and Romney.

BURNETT: How much (inaudible). You all come on our shows and talk about 40 percent of the electorate in the fall is independent.

FLEISCHER: Right.

BURNETT: And the more you play the conservative, how much do you --

BORGER: We don't know. We don't know.

COOPER: And I'm sorry, go ahead.

FLEISCHER: If you're Romney tonight, what you're going to say these are caucus states and the fact of the matter is our candidate will do in the primary, have a higher turnout. Smaller the number of people in the caucus state. The more ideological can beat us. I think that's what he'll say as he looks to primaries, Michigan and Arizona.

GERGEN: And to the Gloria's point. The reason I think that Romney -- he still has to be considered the favorite to win, is he's divide a strategy -- his divide and conquer strategy still works. As long as Gingrich and Santorum are both in the race, he can still divide and conquer and go ahead and win.

COOPER: Let's check in with Jessica Yellin. I mean, have you heard corks popping in the White House tonight? Because there has got to be a lot of joy there tonight.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: To continue on a theme this is cause for LOL-ing over there. This is like a reality show for them. They couldn't have designed it better, Anderson.

It's -- the scenario they like is a long, drawn out, protracted, expensive, contentious primary fight which is usually what the Democrats have. With the organized Republicans sitting and watching in amusement. And this year, Republicans are acting like Democrats.

So, this is perfect for the Obama campaign. The question now is how does Mitt Romney respond? And if he, "a" goes on the attack with more negative ads, and "b" if he moves to the right special on social issues to try to attract some of the Rick Santorum's base of support, that would make the Obama team even happier because then they feel that he would then lock himself into certain positions that they could run -- use against him in the general election.

Clearly, underlying all of this is the assumption that the Obama team assumes Mitt Romney will still be the nominee in the end and they just are looking at different scenarios and ways that he harms himself even further before he gets to be the nominee, Anderson.

COOPER: It's a big night in American politics. We are going to take a quick break. Our coverage continues. Yes, we're continuing. We'll be right back.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A clean three-way sweep for Rick Santorum. He wins in all three states. Here were the delegate counts before, before Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. But take a look at CRS a bit now as a result of what has happened today. Look at this.

All right. Take a look at this. Take a look, Mitt Romney with 106. Newt Gingrich 37. Rick Santorum 22. Ron Paul 19. This is still very early in the process. You need 1,144 delegates to become the Republican presidential nominee. To get that nomination, in Tampa at the Republican convention at the end of August.

But right now, these are the estimates that we have for you right now. 106 for Romney, 37 for Gingrich, 22 for Rick Santorum and 19 for Ron Paul. But more importantly, the political momentum. Three huge wins for Rick Santorum tonight. A major day.

Anderson, who would have thought a clean sweep for Rick Santorum? I didn't think that was going to happen.

COOPER: Yes. I think we needed a sound effect for the graphic change. It didn't have the punch that we had hoped.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Did it change?

COOPER: It did change like a little bit. Just in the few minutes thought, we have left, some final thoughts on tonight. I mean, John.

KING: It was supposed to change, for Governor Romney. Governor Romney was hoping to come out tonight picking up the bulk of the delegates in Colorado. Of course, they had hoped to Minnesota in the last few days. They realized they wouldn't put they wanted to get a decent chunk there.

Instead, look, they have organization -- they have the money. Arizona and Michigan, should be strong Romney state. But in terms of the psychology of the Republican race, it changed tonight. It changed for Governor Romney. It sure change for speaker Gingrich and the only guy it changed in a good way was for is senator Santorum.

BURNETT: Watch the money bomb. They all call the money bomb right. Watch and see what happens tomorrow. This is really going -- when you look at the money and look at Rick Santorum who was really lagging on the super PAC, this could be a big moment for him.

GERGEN: Yes. The White House can look at this as a circus and I think and cheer and think that this really gives them even more -- greater prospects for winning in the fall. But it's also an opportunity for Republicans to hit a reset button and to conduct a different kind of campaign. I think the country is going to give Rick Santorum a fresh look now and they are going to give Mitt Romney a fresh look frankly, and to see if he's got the stuff to put it back together.

I think he's still the favorite. But each has a chance now to make an argument in a way that they can improve their chances for being a strong candidate in the fall.

BORGER: I think Romney has to think about why his supporters and will be supporters are not more enthusiasm about his candidacy. You can make the case that for example, when Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina, turnout was at 35 percent. Newt Gingrich makes that point himself all the time. And low voter enthusiasm could have cost him Colorado tonight. When he wins like in Florida, turnout is down. So he has to figure out a way to get the voters enthusiasm about the possibility of President Romney, particularly Republicans.

BRAZILE: This was a thumping. And the Romney campaign needs to go back and figure out how can they get Republicans to really feel comfortable with his message, feel comfortable with his of course his conservatism. And they really need to stop focusing on trying to beat President Obama and start focusing on trying to, you know, get conservatives to really buy who he is and what he's trying to do.

COOPER: But the fact they haven't been able to do that by now --

BRAZILE: It's still early. Look, less than 6 percent of the 2,286 delegates that are --

COOPER: But given how long he's been running for. I mean, it's not just this even referring to last time.

BRAZILE: You know, you can't buy love. You have to earn it.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: And he should just dismiss all of these consultants, do a little Newt, go rogue. And the establishment and go out then and touch people. Introduce himself. Tell voters what he is for.

FLEISCHER: You know, in politics like in physics for every action there's an equal opposite reaction. That the great news of what happened for Santorum tonight. It's going to followed up by, pathetic. That's describe Rick Santorum. The media is going to start to look at his reports. What he's done. His votes. He's going to hit a rough ride now from the media.

BLITZER: Here's a very important answer. John, what was the color of that Rick Santorum on all of the maps today? What color was he wearing?

KING: You're saying the ties --

BLITZER: What color was Rick Santorum wearing?

KING: Purple.

BLITZER: Was it that purple or was this purple? What do you think?

COOPER: It's bizarre we wore the exact same thing.

BLITZER: And is it Bizarre that Rick Santorum was purple on the maps?

KING: What's the power ball number?

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Worth $200 million.

FLEISCHER: The label says return to CNN cloakroom. COOPER: We have to take a quick break. "Piers Morgan Tonight" starts after the break. Thanks for watching.

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