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Live Coverage of the Michigan and Arizona Primaries; Romney Wins

Aired February 28, 2012 - 23:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A one-two punch in the Republican presidential race.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You can almost hear the huge sigh of relief out of the Romney campaign right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney pulled out a hard fought win or put him in embarrassing defeat on his home state. In Michigan and Arizona, he's the voters' choice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a double blow to Rick Santorum and his place as a leader of the PAC.

Two front-runners in their most intense and personal battle yet, and the competition is only getting tougher. The biggest doomsday of the primary season, Super Tuesday, is just one week away.


BLITZER: And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN election center.

Mitt Romney says he didn't win the primary in Michigan by a lot, but he did win and he says that's enough. His victory tonight in Michigan and in Arizona should give him some badly need political momentum heading into the big super Tuesday blockbuster next week. If he had lost Michigan tonight, it would have been a huge blow in his race for the White House.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers that we have right now.

We have projected he's the winner in Michigan as well as in Arizona. In Michigan, most of the vote already has been counted. So far, 41 percent for Mitt Romney, 38 percent for Rick Santorum. He is up by almost 30,000 votes. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, way behind. Only 12 percent for Ron Paul, seven percent for Newt Gingrich.

Let's take a look in Arizona where we also project Mitt Romney is the winner with 48 percent, a significant win over Rick Santorum with only 26 percent, 16 percent for Newt Gingrich, only eight percent for Ron Paul. Arizona, very important, all 29 delegates, winner take all in Arizona, 29 delegates going to Mitt Romney.

Let's go over to John King, and let's take a closer look at how Mitt Romney managed to pull of two important wins.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We can look at both states. We'll start with our exit polling, Wolf. We will move aside of the way. What happened in Michigan tonight, here is one reason, one reason Mitt Romney won. A little more than half of the electorate in Michigan were men tonight. Watch out, this one broke down. Governor Romney winning narrowing over Santorum, essentially splitting the man vote, 39 percent to 37 percent. But, look at this, 48 percent of the electorate in Michigan, women. Governor Romney with a six-point edge right there. The gender gap, a big part of Governor Romney's important win in Michigan tonight. That's one reason.

Let's move this over. Look, what was the most important issue in Michigan tonight. Well, more than half, 55 percent of Republican primary voters said the economy was the number one issue. A very big lead, a significantly 47 percent for Governor Romney, 29 percent for Senator Santorum. There, a big win on the most important issue. A key factor in Romney's win in Michigan tonight.

Let's look at more about the electorate. We had 60 percent of the electorate described themselves as a Republican. Michigan, an open primary, anyone can vote. Among that 60 percent, Governor Romney winning 49 percent. A 13 point advantage over Senator Santorum among the biggest chunk of the electorate. The Republicans there, if you look, there's an interesting graphic here, that would disappeared, they all disappeared. We'll come back to that and exit poll data later. Every now and then, the wall has a mind of its own.

So, how did it play out in the state? Let's look at the state of Michigan first. You see a lot of purple. If you look at this map from a distance, you would think Senator Santorum who is purple carried Michigan. Except Governor Romney doing exceptionally well where the people live, in the major population centers.

And if you look at the margin state-wide, if you look at the margin state wide right here, it's just under 30,000 votes. Governor Romney, as a child, lived in Oakland County, right here. What is the margin in that area right there? Right there. You see most of the state-wide margin, 29,000 votes right there. Most of the state wide margin coming from this one county where he lived in as a child, Oakland county. It's the largest Republican county in the state of Michigan.

If you look at that one played out here. You pop over now and pull it out, come over to the state of Arizona. A more convincing win here, 48 percent to 26 percent. Just shy of 80 percent of the vote counted, and you see across the state, Wolf, that Romney is filing in. No significant serious challenge here. And as we prepare, Wyoming is split up, 83 percent of the results coming in tonight.

We'll get the official results final tomorrow night. Governor Romney winning Wyoming. Looks like he's going to carry that but let's see what happens tomorrow. If you look at the map, Santorum has four, Romney came into the night with four. He'll leave the night with six and leading in Wyoming. Ten states on the ballot next week. The big question tonight, Wolf, with his two wins tonight, two important wins tonight, give Romney momentum heading into the ten, ten contest all over the map, east, west, south, and north. Next week, Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: One week from today. A huge day. we will be watching it closely.

I want to go to Jim Acosta right now. He's been covering Rick Santorum's campaign. You over at his headquarters. You had a chance to catch up with him after he spoke tonight. Did he give you any indication of what his plans are for the next few days?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I asked him exactly that. He said he's moving on to Tennessee and Ohio. Those are two states where obviously he's doing very well, according to the latest polls in those states. And you know, after all of the talk this evening about whether or not Rick Santorum missed an opportunity here, whether it was talking about the social issues when perhaps he should have been talking about fixing the economy in a state that has been hard hit in the economy like Michigan.

I went up to Rick Santorum after his speech earlier this evening and asked him, are you thinking about recalibrating your message, do you think that perhaps that Robocall was a mistake? Here is what he had to say.


ACOSTA: Do you think you're going to recalibrate your message after today.


ACOSTA: You think the Robocall was a mistake?

SANTORUM: I don't think it had anything to do with it.

ACOSTA: Where do you go from here? I mean.

SANTORUM: We are going to Tennessee and Ohio and a lot of other states.

ACOSTA: I mean, those states are pretty favorable to you. You're doing well in a lot of them.

SANTORUM: We're doing great, great. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Are you proud of the victory, the fact you came so close to beating?

SANTORUM: Pretty close.

ACOSTA: You got the resources to keep going, senator?


ACOSTA: And I don't know if you could hear at the very end of that sound there, we heard Rick Santorum say I think it's pretty clear now this is a two-person race.

I just want to share with you, Wolf, just a few moments before I came on and was talking to you about the quick interview we got with Santorum. A Santorum aide came up to me just a few moments ago and said, hey, keep in mind we're looking at the delegate math coming out of Michigan. There's a chance, obviously, a long night in determining this, but there's a chance they feel that they could split the delegate vote total coming out of this state. They feel like that is as big a win in this state as if they had come out on top in the popular vote.

So, obviously, they're spinning this as best they can, Wolf. They're looking for silver linings after what is obviously a disappointing loss.

BLITZER: Well, that's rage. That's their responsibility. They have to spin it as positively as they possibly can, but there will be a split, no doubt, of the delegates in Michigan, given the way they divide up the delegates, not necessarily it won't happen in Arizona where Romney gets all 29 delegates.

Candy Crowley is standing by over at Mitt Romney's headquarters right now. They must be totally relieved, pretty happy, but it was a relatively thin margin in his home state of Michigan, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. But I have to tell you that I spoke to someone close to the Romney campaign and said, boy, you know, you barely squeaked by, three, four, five points. And he said to me, what would you be saying if we lost three, four, five points? He would have said, it was a monumental loss. They're certainly happy to take it at this point. How happy are they? I have to say Mitt Romney sit a long time to thank the folks in the room. Generally, these are campaign workers the folks who knocked on doors. Some of the high officials in Michigan, and there were many of them who supported him. So, obviously, they're quite grateful.

As for his margin of win, Mitt Romney told the crowd he's quite satisfied.


ROMNEY: And in this room are the people who knocked on the doors and made the calls and went to the polls. And it made an enormous difference. We didn't win by a lot but we won by enough and that's all that counts.



CROWLEY: Now, of course, the problem in this primary race all along is that there's really been no big mo, as George Bush the father used to call it, momentum coming out of a particular race. Almost every time we thought someone had momentum, they fell in the next contest.

Next week, super Tuesday, and the Romney campaign knows full well that you're only as good as the election in front of you - Wolf.

BLITZER: He's not going to waste any time, Candy, I'm told. Tomorrow morning he's going to be speaking in Toledo, Ohio. That's not far away from Detroit. He's speaking at a rally there. He's obviously very concerned about Ohio one week from today.

CROWLEY: Sure. He absolutely is, but they're aware here as we all are that these polls tend to reflect the moment. So watch the polls in Ohio over the next couple of days, as certainly the Romney campaign will be. They do expect to get bounce in the polls in that state in particular, but there are a lot of states out there, and they need to do better than just Ohio.

But I have to tell you, Ohio is pretty much the crown jewel of next Tuesday. So that's where they're going to concentrate a lot of their attention.

BLITZER: And in November, Ohio will be critical as well. A key battleground state as we know. Candy, thanks very much.

It's on to super Tuesday right now, and one state stands out as Candy just said, from the others. We're talking about the battleground state of Ohio. We're going to get reaction from undecided Republicans who are there who have been watching tonight's contest unfold. Stay with us. We're watching the elections unfolding right now.


COOPER: Well, the race now moves on to super Tuesday. One critical state, battleground state, Ohio. That's where Tom Foreman is tonight, in Columbus, Ohio, with a group of undecided Republican voters. They have been watching and listening to all of the candidates make speeches tonight and basically giving us their instant reactions. We have been playing them at the bottom of the screen.

Tom, what was the reaction to Governor Romney talking tonight?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is one of the most fascinating ones to watch, how the groups respond to it. And I want you to look at how these people responded when Mitt Romney was speaking, specifically, specifically when he went after President Obama with one of his own lines, listen to this and watch the lines grow.


ROMNEY: He thinks he deserves a second term. He says, we can't wait, to which I say, oh, yes we can.


FOREMAN: Huge, huge support for that when he said -- when he attacked the yes we can line. Let me talk to somebody here. Did you like that line, the notion of him saying that, and if so, why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I thought Mitt finally got the difference between himself and Obama, and I think he was very clear and articulate, and I loved the speech.

FOREMAN: When you say he finally got the difference, he's been saying a lot of this stuff. What's the difference tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he came out very powerfully. He spoke with authority and conviction, and he was very true to himself. He did very well.

FOREMAN: Did you feel he had done that before tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somewhat, but I thought he was kind of always a little bit hesitant. Just this time, I thought he was very strong. I liked him tonight.

FOREMAN: Let me reach to the fellow back here. What about you? What was your reaction to all of this? Did you think strongly about Mitt Romney before tonight and how do you feel now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so much before tonight. But tonight, he spoke like a winner. He won the state of Michigan. He won Arizona. And it seems like he feels like he's on a roll. And he's just going to start rolling and just keep going.

FOREMAN: You know, Anderson, this is something that we were talking about earlier tonight with everybody here. Many people here -- show me your hands, a lot of you started this evening and particularly saying, you're all undecided. A lot of you in favor of Santorum, show me how many raised your hands when you said you liked Santorum earlier.

There's a lot of people, a lot of people, Anderson, but I will tell you this, when we were polling people throughout the process, time and again, what this group said was they thought Mitt Romney could win, and you can hear the talk now.

After hearing him tonight, after all four speeches, clearly, clearly, Anderson, I'm telling you, the lines jumped all over the place for Romney. A lot of support, a lot of excitement, not nearly so much for the other candidates, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Let's take a look at some of the reactions to what Rick Santorum said, Tom.

FOREMAN: Yes. Absolutely. Rick Santorum in particular, one of the best lines was a general, let's stand up for the basic principles of what Republicans believe in, conservatives believe in. Watch by comparison how the lines moved for him.


SANTORUM: Are we a country that believes in big government, do we believe in the smart and elite in this country to manage us, or do you believe in free people and a free economy and building a great America from the bottom up? What do you say?



FOREMAN: So, let me ask you this, I'm going to work some of the back of the crowd here a little bit. What did you think of Santorum before tonight and what did you think of him now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still stuck in not liking him.

FOREMAN: Not liking him?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He comes off kind of phony to me. I've never liked his politics. The piece about the education just really bothered me last week when he talked about education not being important for low income kids. And then tonight, he spoke of his mother having an education, himself having an education, his wife having an education, and I think social education and vocational programs are important for young people to succeed in the American dream in this country.

FOREMAN: Who is somebody here who is a tea party supporter? In the back row there? Let me slip around right down the row down here and ask you a question about this.

If you're a tea party supporter in all of this, Mitt Romney -- Rick Santorum was one of the people that a lot of very conservative people are leaning toward. Do you feel differently tonight after watching his speech, seeing the showing in Arizona and Michigan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do. I like Rick Santorum. I really was very undecided on what I thought about him versus Romney. I still believe Romney probably has a better chance of winning, but I do like Santorum. I think he comes off as being more of a family man.

FOREMAN: You raise a really key question here thought that we have seen in focus groups all over the country as we have traveled around. This basic question of what is more important to you right now? Voting for somebody who you believe in or voting for somebody whom you believe can win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want somebody who can win. I think that's what it boils down to. I think it's important for the Republican base to rally around somebody who can take Obama down.

FOREMAN: Even if that means turning your back on somebody who you would rather have on the job?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't know that any of the candidates are far enough from my beliefs for me to say one is a betrayal of my beliefs. I think elements of every one of them are parts that I believe in. I like parts of all these candidates and all of them have flaws.

So, for me, if any of them rises up as a candidate that can take Obama out, then that's the guy I am going to support.

FOREMAN: Do we have a Ron Paul supporter here somewhere? Anybody?

We have some Ron Paul supporters down here. Let me slip past you here.

What about you? There are some portion of the group, I want to point out, when we were asking the questions tonight, there was some portion of the group, about a quarter of you, maybe, who said most of you said whoever gets the nomination for the Republicans you'll back.

About a quarter, if I'm not mistaken, we're asking the folks over here from Southern Baptist University, who have been doing all over analysis here, who said that they would not necessarily support the candidate if it wasn't their choice. And I'm guessing some of the Ron Paul people are among that, maybe.

How did you feel after what you saw tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I really disliked the environmental aspects of the other candidates, especially when it comes to energy usage for America. Just fracking is not a viable action, and that for me is -- I couldn't vote for somebody.

FOREMAN: So based on that, can you -- would you simply stick with Ron Paul all the way through or would you not vote or would you refuse to vote for the candidate? What would you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ron Paul all the way through seems very sincere with what he said, and everything he stands for. The other candidates --

FOREMAN: I'm talking about the general election, once you get past the election, let's say that Ron Paul doesn't get the nomination which you know the numbers don't look good for that. Can you bring yourself to vote for Mitt Romney or will you not vote or will you vote for Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might have to vote for a third party. In that circumstance. I dislike Obama's socialist tendencies prevent me from voting on that. I think he might run as an independent if he doesn't get the Republican nomination, Mr. Ron Paul.

FOREMAN: I want to take a wide picture here and show you something else, which I think you'll find very interesting. Show your hands here for a minute, how many of you think this is still a four -- put your hands up really high. How many of you think this is a four- person race for the Republican nomination? Is that it? One? How many of you think this is a two-person race? And I'm presuming the two you mean are Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Do you think at this point that anybody should drop out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't say that anyone should drop out. Because if they do, then that will, I think, overwhelmingly throw the race to Romney. But I think that anyone who does stay in, they're going to really have to pick up the pace, really get specific, and tell me why I should vote for them, not why I shouldn't vote for the other guy.

FOREMAN: All right, we're going to come back with our group later on, and we're going to show you the metamorphosis that has happened here. Everybody came in undecided. Some leaning one way and some the other, but there was definite movement tonight, Anderson, as all of the speeches were made, as they watched the results come in. I can tell you there are differences in this group from what we saw just a few hours ago. Later on, we are going to show you what that is, Anderson.

COOPER: Great. Tom, we will do that. And I appreciate that all of the folks for participating in this. It's really interesting to hear about their perspectives. We'll check in a little later on with you.

Let's go over to some of our analysts here. David Gergen, Gloria Borger. It's interesting to hear their perspectives in saying essentially that no matter what, they want somebody who can win against president Obama.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, we have seen that time and time again in all of the primaries. I heard the undecided gentleman say, I want someone who can win. And Mitt Romney, the central premises of his campaign has been that he is the electable candidate. And that's what he's gone about proving this evening, by winning the state of Michigan.

I would argue that he still has problems with his base, but what he has to do heading into super Tuesday is continue to prove the premise that he's electable by winning somewhere in the Midwest, which would of course be the state of Ohio that you folks were talking about.

But I would also argue that he can't write off the south. And that there are a bunch of southern primaries coming up. I was corresponding with a Republican strategist who said Haley Barbour is probably on speed dial, former Republican governor, very powerful in the south, Mitt Romney could use him in as much as endorsements matter, he could certainly get out his political operative to help Romney win somewhere in the south. And this is part of proving that he's the electable Republican.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It was a definite night for Mitt Romney. And we can talk about the background to it. But I thought what was interesting, Anderson, was coming out of the victory tonight, he gave a much better speech than he has been.

COOPER: And they responded to that.

GERGEN: They responded to that. You know, there was a time between South Carolina and Florida he changed his debate coach, and he was much, much better in Florida. I have to wonder, does he have a new speechwriter. Because there was a pity phrase right towards the beginning of that speech that I thought for the first time captured in a few words what he's trying to say he's about. And that is more jobs, less debt, smaller government. And he repeated that another time.

You know, that kind of approach, if he could finally get through to people about what he's about and have this sense of being a winner as he came out of tonight from Michigan and Arizona, you could begin to get the things moving. And Alex's point, I think he could possibly get himself back on track.

COOPER: He had a teleprompter tonight, but he didn't seem quite as -- I don't want to say robotic, but quite as reading the teleprompter as much.

GERGEN: I just thought he was more effective -- there were a series of things working. That's it.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. Ten states voting at one time. We're talking about super Tuesday. Could it finally bring some clarity to the Republican presidential race? We'll talk about that ahead. We'll look at which contests will be most competitive.


BLITZER: Two important win for Mitt Romney tonight in Arizona and Michigan. He desperately need to win Michigan to keep this momentum going. It look said like he's doing really well in Wyoming. We won't get the final results of the Wyoming caucuses until tomorrow.

Let's go over to John once again. John, as important as these races tonight were, a week from today, super Tuesday, ten really important contests.

KING: And so, this is about delegates at the moment. If some candidate can run off a bunch of wins, maybe it becomes momentum. But let's look at where we started the night. The race is to 1144. That's what you need to clinch the nomination.

Mitt Romney started in the lead at about 127, that's the CNN estimate. You see Gingrich, Santorum, Congressman Paul, the CNN estimates. Let's factor in tonight Michigan and Arizona. Bang, we click it through. Senator Santorum will get some, delegates we estimated about a third of the delegate right now. That could change a bit. Governor Romney get the more in Arizona. So you see him beginning to pull open a delegate lead.

But remember 176, we need 1144. So, let's take a look ahead. The Wyoming caucus as you mentioned. We have most of the vote. Let's assign that to Governor Romney. A few proportionately may go to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul there. Then the Washington caucus on Saturday, we're going to project Ron Paul, it's a hypothetical we are having here. Ron Paul winning Washington causes that would be his first win if that happens, Wolf. Others will pick up a few delegates proportionately.

Now, we come to here, this is next Tuesday and all of the country is voting. You have New England states. You have the industrial Portland. You have the south and border state, Oklahoma and Dakota's out to Idaho.

So, let's have the projection here. Again, this is hypothetical, if you're watching at home, you won't like some of this.

So, if we fill it this was right now, if Gingrich could somehow come back and win Oklahoma, win Tennessee, and his home state of Georgia, he would jump up into second place. But, if you look at the polling right now, let's say the polling holds and we give this point instead to Senator Santorum, bring it purple, there we go.

Tennessee right now, as saw in recent poll, Santorum ahead there. Let's change this one here, make it a Santorum state. If you do that, Senator Santorum will start moving up. This is the biggest battle ground. We're going to assign Michigan to Romney. Only Paul and Romney on the battle there. So you look at Ohio --

BLITZER: You mean Virginia.

KING: Virginia, I'm sorry. And we move over to Ohio now. Thank you, if you look at Ohio, if Romney wins it, he would pull open a pretty good big lead. But what would happen say if speaker Gingrich won it? But if the current moment, people think if it is not Romney, it could be Santorum. Romney would be in the lead, Wolf. But Santorum then would jump to second place.

So, there are a number of scenarios as you play this out. The big question would be, who can win the bulk of the ten? Do they split them as if somebody win three, somebody win three, or can one candidate gets momentum in the Super Tuesday?

I'm going to leave this up for now. Again, remember, this is a hypothetical. But imagine if super Tuesday played out like something like that, then Senator Santorum would have momentum as you move on. Then you have a relatively light day on March 10th.

Kansas would be the prize there. This scenario gives it to Speaker Gingrich. I'm going to play it over to Governor Romney just for the sake of argument there, then you come here. These are two states, super Tuesday is going to have a huge impact on the race. The question being this, can speaker Gingrich come back? Win Georgia big, find someplace else to win on super Tuesday? If that's the case, you have to say he would be a major factor when you get to Alabama and Mississippi. If he's not, if he has a bad super Tuesday, what happens down here?

Gloria mentioned this earlier, this is the strength of the Republican party in a national election. Governor Romney won Florida. You don't see him right now winning any of the deep south states, as you consider them.

So, after that, Wolf, the biggest question is going to be, who else is viable? Santorum, is it Gingrich, are they all still in, and then what happens down here? Because after that, after March 13th, these are going to go to Gingrich. After march 13th, you move on from there. Missouri already voted in a beauty contest, but has to vote delegates. And you have Texas primary down the road. You see Arkansas, Louisiana. Super Tuesday will say a lot about if this goes on deep into March, into April, conceivably into May, who is viable?

BLITZER: Play it out. Play it out because this magic number of 1,144 is possible. You play it all out through the summer, nobody gets that magic number.

KING: So, watch me play this out now, again. This is based on earlier projections when Gingrich was doing well. He denied have a good night tonight. But I'm going to leave the states right now. I can go back and change them later.

Let's just play it out, Louisiana, if we have essentially a regional breakdown, Santorum winning up in the Midwest, Gingrich winning in the south, you just keep playing this out, Romney winning - if that gives back to Romney the state of Wisconsin, who watch this play out some more, Romney gets New England, this gives Rick Santorum his home state of Pennsylvania. Sure.

Let's just fill it out. I'm going to go more quickly here. Again, if you're watching at home, you're saying, wait a minute, my state isn't going to go that way, this is a hypothetical. We will just going to play it out. Romney has done very in the west, boom, he did win there.

Under this scenario, Romney just made the finish line. We're at the end, Utah. Just got to the finish line at the end. But pick a state, pick a state, go on, let's say that goes another way. Let's say Santorum wins that, that's only ten delegates. You get to the convention ten delegates shy, you can cut a deal. The question is, if some of these other states suddenly go the other way, if for some reason say, California went another way that would pull out a bunch of delegates there.

But, as you do the hypothetical, this is why next Tuesday is so important. Ten states on the ballot will determine if Santorum and Gingrich, of those two, who has viability as you move on into the other southern states. Will everybody stay in? If they stay in, are they viable?

Next Tuesday, especially in such a volatile, unpredictable race, is huge.

BLITZER: Yes. Newt Gingrich told me earlier today, he needs to win his home state of Georgia. And if he doesn't win Georgia, he's in deep, deep trouble. So, we have been watching Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma, all of these states. Peter Hamby is our political reporter. He is in Michigan right now. Peter, you have been covering this from day one. Political momentum is very, very important right now. What are you seeing?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, this is what John was just talking about. You know, if Romney does have some measure of momentum, it almost hit the wall on super Tuesday. You know, I have been on the phone with Republicans in all ten of the states for the last several days asking who is up, who is down?

Basically, there's no one with any kind of across the map advantage on super Tuesday. And if you look at the four big contests will be contested, take Massachusetts off the board, Romney wins there. Take Virginia perhaps off the board, Romney wins there.

The four biggest states are -- that will be contested on super Tuesday are Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma. Romney is probably competitive only in one of those where he can pull out a win, that's Ohio. He has real problems on super Tuesday, as Gloria mentioned. He has not shown well in the south as he did in South Carolina. He really showed problems connecting with southern conservatives there. So, he might not have to win some of the southern states, but he certainly has to show well there because southern conservatives are, you know, the most reliable GOP voting bloc in the general election.

So, super Tuesday looks tough for Romney. He might also, Wolf, look for a win in Idaho, perhaps. I was talking to one operative who expects the Mormon vote to be north of 30 percent, possibly 40 percent of the vote in Idaho. All of the candidates have been in Idaho. Delegates there are allocated by county. So, all these folks can go out there and pick off delegates one by one. But Romney could also do well out there. So, Ohio and Idaho, Massachusetts and Virginia look good for Romney, Wolf.

BLITZER: Virginia, there's only two candidates on the ballot. The other two did not get on, Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Peter, thanks very much.

Jessica Yellin is our White House correspondent. She's been getting reaction not only from officials I assume at the White House, but other Democrats as well. What are you seeing and hearing, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. It's from Democrat officials, not just from the Democratic National Committee but also in the state and particularly Ohio who are already attacking Mitt Romney and focusing their fire on him. They're once again seeing him as the likely Republican opponent in the general election. And their primary message, Wolf, is obviously about the auto bailout in Ohio. But focusing on this theme that Romney is out of touch and that he is, in the words of multiple Democrats, an elitist who can't connection.

The reason I'm emphasizing this is time after time, I have seen the Democratic National Committee put out a message that they initially instigate as their attack line, and then within a week, it becomes the attack you hear from either Gingrich or Santorum or maybe both as their lead attack on Mitt Romney. Whether it was over health care or jobs or Mitt Romney's taxes, the DNC tends to put out these attacks. It goes quiet for a while, and then you start hearing it from the other opponents.

So, the DNC's latest attack is that Mitt Romney's gaffe over time shows he's not just a gaffe machine in their wards, and a weak candidate, but this is his true nature and he's out of touch and an elitist. Something you have heard before, but I'll be curious to see if the other Republican candidates pick that up on the trail as we had to super Tuesday Wolf.

BLITZER: It is going to be very, very intensive week. Jessica, thanks very much.

Anderson, I can tell you from my own reporting that a lot of Democrats in the Obama re-election campaign, they certainly fear Mitt Romney the most among potential challengers going into a general election.

COOPER: And why do you think that is? I mean, is it that he is the most electable in their eyes?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think if you look at all the polls, he always run for strongest against Barack Obama compared to the others in the race. And he hasn't appeal to independence. It was stronger earlier. It has taken a heat in this primary.

COOPER: Because it's gone more to the right.

FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's gone more at the right. I think it's the whole in-fighting of the Republican party. Here is one big thing when you compare the data four years ago. I do have to say it, four years ago, the Democrats lifted each other up. When you look at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, their numbers rose. Republicans are dropping. Republicans need to stay focused on the economic messages. When they talk about cultural issues or social issues, they need to do it in an uplifting way that takes people to a better place, not in a condemnatory.

COOPER: It was -- what are you hearing from the focus group the top one he was talking to and how, you know, one night of two wins for Mitt Romney and a decent, energized speech, they suddenly felt differently about him and viewed him as a winner. Interesting how one's eye changes with a win under one candidate's belt.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think what it tells us is it underscored how difficult it has been for Mitt Romney to convince Republicans he is the one, even with the whole electability thing. Because the whole notion of him being out of touch, I think people see it, they see his gaffe, it's not just one, it's two, three, four, it's five, it's a list. And I think in Republicans' minds, I think that gives them pause to really believe that he is the one who can go up against Barack Obama. And I have to say that anybody but Romney folks that it's almost like they have been trying out for who can actually keep the spotlight in being the front runner. And that's where they have all failed and that's why Romney apparently is the front-runner.

JOHN BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It also just is that Romney may have the wrong strategy. It's that obsessed with winning, generally when a party is obsessed with winning, they'll make compromises on their ideology as that man did that Tom talk to.

And this what George W. Bush did in 2000. He ran as a compassionate conservative who may far right wingers didn't like at all. H had liberal position on immigration. He wanted more federal involvement in education. He runs of my cup of tea but he did not run to the extreme right in the primaries. He seemed to me Ari have his eye on the prize the whole time.

And certainly when I worked for Bill Clinton, that's what he did, too. I think Romney may have had a chance to do the same thing. To do as a sort of sister soldier in his own party and that he may have squandered it.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm surprised that on the one hand, we're criticizing Mitt Romney for being too far right, and on the other hand, he's not getting the right, Santorum is.

So I think the truth is somewhere in between. Romney has -- Romney hasn't moved to the right that far in this primary process at all. He's still, for example, even on immigration, the candidate who is always out there that never gives a speech where he doesn't talk about immigration, that doesn't say legal immigration, a good thing, expand. Bring more people --

CARDONA: Alex, he is the most extreme candidate. Yes, he used to be for the dream act. He used to be for comprehensive immigration reform. He is against that now.

CATELLANOS: The dream act is not a good idea for a lot of Republicans.

CARDONA: Majority of the Republicans used to support it.

CATELLANOS: Nevertheless, I think it's hard to have it both ways that he's on the one hand, so extreme, but it doesn't show up anywhere on this, even in the general election surveys if you ask if Mitt Romney is too conservative, so no.

I thought the interesting story from the focus group though, Anderson, was strength. We've always said for the past year, that last election may have been about hope and change, but this election is going about strength and certainty because the world is coming apart, economy, foreign policy, everything.

And this group saw tonight for the first time, that I have heard, hey, that was a strong guy. Now, that's not something we have heard up to this point about Mitt Romney. I'm not sure it was that much of a speech as it was he won. He went into a tough state, he went into a state where he had stood on an issue, on the bailout, for example, against some of the sentiment in the state. He stuck to his guns and he won.

COOPER: Stand by to hear from Mitt Romney about the double victory tonight. It may have been one of the best primary night speeches for him yet. We'll play some of that.


BLITZER: Dana Bash is in Pontiac, Michigan. She's got more news happening now. They completed all the tally over there, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It just happened moments ago. We have been behind the scenes here. We want to show you, this is really democracy in action. Joe Rosell (ph) is here. He's going to tell us what the final result are, 100 percent reporting here.

JOE ROSELL (ph), MICHIGAN: Right. We are 50 percent for Mitt Romney and 28 percent for Rick Santorum, all 541 precincts have reported and we're going to transmit that data right now to our secretary of state's office and that will be available on our Web site.

BASH: OK. And there you go. And Kim here is going to just hit send, right?

KIM: Right.

BASH: And there it goes. And there you have it. You see the results officially going back to the state, and this shows you, the big, big margin exactly why Mitt Romney did so well in this state today.

BLITZER: Oakland, a hugely important county in Michigan. Dana, thanks for the good reporting as usual.

Let me play you a clip of what the winner of Arizona and Michigan, we are talking about Mitt Romney, had to say to his supporters tonight.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great victory in Arizona tonight. And thank you, Michigan. What a win. This is a big night. Thank you, guys.


ROMNEY: You know, a week ago, it was just a week ago that the pundits and the pollsters, they were ready to count us out, but across Michigan and Arizona. I kept on meeting moms and dads and students and grandparents, and they were concerned about what is happening to this great country of ours. And I was confident we could come together today and take a giant step toward a brighter future. So tonight, their efforts have brought our cause a great victory and we celebrate with people across these states. Thank you.


ROMNEY: Now, tonight is also particularly special for me because this is a place where I was born. This is the place where I was raised. My mom and dad lived many years here and love this great state, and I know that Michiganders in the room, we consider you all family. Thank you so much for your help.


ROMNEY: And in this room are the people who knocked on the doors and made the calls and went to the polls, and it made an enormous difference. We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that's all that counts.


ROMNEY: And by the way, in Arizona, special thank you to Governor Jan Brewer there and Senator John McCain. They were tireless, particularly John McCain, he's been all over the country helping. What a hero, thank you, senator. Thank you, governor.


ROMNEY: They're out there. We've got two sons out there that are celebrating with them. The great thing about having so many in our family, we can cover almost every race. So super Tuesday will be stretched, but we'll find a way.

Our campaign, as you know, is about restoring the promise of America. Last week, I unveiled a very bold economic plan that's going to jump start the economy and it's going to get Michiganders back to work. It is going to get Americans more jobs they're crying out for and we'll have less debt and smaller government and I'm going to deliver on more jobs, less debt, and smaller government. We have to hear that day in and day out. More jobs, less debt, smaller government.


ROMNEY: You know, there are a lot of people who were saying that if you're running for office, you really can't speak honestly to the American people. Well, we did, and I will, and because this is the decisive moment, I believe this is a time that requires real leadership in the country. Times are tough. We need leaders who will live with integrity, who have the courage to tell the truth, and have the experience to get our economy back on track. That's the kind of leader I aspire to be. That's the kind of leader I will be if I'm president of the United States.


ROMNEY: Our campaign -- our campaign is about more than just replacing a president. It's about restoring America's promise. From generation to generation, Americans have always known that the future would be brighter and better. Americans have always believed in a tomorrow full of possibility and prosperity. That's what it means to be the land of opportunity.

In America, you know if you work hard, you can build a better life. If you teach your kids the right kind of values and help them make the right choices in life, you know their future will be prosperous and secure. And that deep confidence of a better tomorrow, it's a basic promise of America.

Today that promise is being threatened by a faltering economy, and a failed presidency. Four years ago, we warned that the presidency was no place for on the job training. Well today, we have the economy to prove it, all right?


BLITZER: All right. So, there he is. Mitt Romney, he won this contest today. Anderson, as we're standing by, the social media circuit, you got an excellent person who is monitoring what is going on in social media. Let's make her blush a little bit. But go ahead, take us what is happening.

COOPER: Yes. Brooke Baldwin has been monitoring the social media. Tell us, Brooke, what you're looking at.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously we know Romney won both Arizona and Michigan, but like you and the panel have been talking, the margin of victory not huge. And this is his home state. And he recognized that specifically in his speech tonight. This wasn't a landslide, he knew it.


ROMNEY: On this great state, and I know that Michiganders in this room, we consider you all family. Thank you so much for your help.


ROMNEY: And in this room are the people who knocked on the doors and made the calls and went to the polls and it made an enormously difference. We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough and that's all that matters.



BALDWIN: And that's all that matters is what he said. And we're, you know in social media land here tonight, we're tracking specifically Romney and Santorum, and through the course of the day, pay attention to the red line as I advance this. You can see it slowly begin to slope northward, which means Romney's favorability clearly above Santorum. But take that down, I want to read you three tweets for you sort of pushing ahead of these about the margin of victory really, it's interestingly well be enough.

Miami Herald reporter, "Mitt Romney has done a good job of having little momentum, little momentum from his wins. Will super Tuesday, Ohio specifically, be different? That's one of the big questions."

I advance this because this is talking about the polls here. "Looks like final Romney margin in Michigan may exceed all polls." Polls as you remember there, were very, very close. So to review, in last week, Mitt had momentum, then Santorum, then mitt #crazy. So, who knows what can happen next Tuesday giving the roller coaster that is this political season.

And finally, this reporter, the Ohio News Network, obviously, they're going to be covering this tremendously next Tuesday. He tweets, "Romney spend a lot of money convincing Michigan voters he loved them. Now welcome to Ohio, the archenemy of Michigan. And I think he's talking football specifically, sort of the arch nemesis."

But, I want to quote something Santorum picked up on actually with regard to this small margin. He said, tonight, "this is going to be Romney's night. The question was how big, and it wasn't very big." So, Anderson, the size of the win matters.

COOPER: Brooke, thanks very much for that.

John, what do you make of tonight's final thoughts.

KING: I don't want to repeat that line, but it actually is true in the sense that when we're all done and counted. Republican have roughly an even delegate split out in Michigan in the sense that delegates are awarded by congressional districts during the tough battle for that. Probably rough split, Romney might get a slight edge. Santorum might break even with him.

But whenever governor Romney is backed against a wall, they had to win in Florida, they did. They needed to win in Nevada, they did. Maine didn't count except when he needed the psychological boost after Santorum won three states, and they did.

So, you have to tip your hats to the Romney campaign tonight when they are back against the wall, they deliver.

But, I want to add an observation that has almost nothing to do with the race, almost nothing to do with this race. Maine senator, Olympia Snowe, announced she's retiring today. All of the candidates running for president are having a hard time, all of them, convincing the Republican coalition they're the leader.

This is the party in the middle of a fascinating generational and ideological transition that is happening and in being accelerated by the Obama presidency, and none of the current generation quite fit with what is happening to their party under their own feet. It's fascinating to watch. DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: A sad night that Olympia Snowe leaving.

COOPER: She said partisan politics makes it very difficult non- politic to get stuff done.

KING: Go ahead, the tea party general in her state. Her state is a very different place now than it was even just two or three years ago.

GERGEN: It's a pivotal night, Anderson. Three weeks ago, Mitt Romney's campaign wagon just went into the ditch when he lost the three elections. And I think he showed resilience. He came back, he won that debate, which is a very important turning point. And in turning back even though it wasn't a big victory, turning back to Santorum, it did three things.

One, he got out of the ditch. Secondly, he turned Santorum's - he blunted Santorum's momentum, and thirdly, he's now turned it into a divide and caucus strategy again. I guess, he has got both Gingrich and Santorum and he can beat - you know, he has got ten contests coming up. I think he is going to get at least four. And if he can get Ohio, he'll have a big super Tuesday. We will have to wait and see. I think Ohio is now becomes the next Mitt critical race.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. Mitt Romney avoided a huge crisis. His campaign didn't end tonight. It's going to continue. And I would argue that if he lost Michigan, we all would have been saying, well, can this candidacy continue?

The thing that is interesting thing about the Republicans that John was talking about and we talked about earlier, this is a different party. They're acting like a bunch of Democrats because they're not quite sure where they are, and the party is split wide open. You have the tea partiers, the social conservatives, the establishment Republicans, the insurgents. And they have to come around to feeling comfortable with their candidate. Mitt Romney was not the likeliest person to become their nominee. I think he is now.

BLITZER: You know, there's a week, Anderson, between now and super Tuesday. Here's a couple things I'll be looking forward to seeing.

I would have loved to own some of the television stations in Ohio or Tennessee because they're going to be spending millions and millions of dollars.

COOPER: I guess they spend the last weekend in Michigan was extraordinary.

BLITZER: Yes. The super PACs, and all of them have super PACs. But you know, you're not going to be able to buy commercials on any of these local major market stations in some of the battleground states looking forward to super Tuesday next week.

So, that's going to be one thing I'm looking at. I also, wonder what if, what if there had been that super Tuesday debate this Thursday that had been canceled. We are going to televised it. How that might have affected super Tuesday?

COOPER: It would have been possibly a different race. No way to know.

Our coverage continues. Super Tuesday, just one week away. We're going to have full, live coverage, of course. Piers Morgan is next.

Wolf Blitzer, for everyone here at CNN, thanks very much. Piers starts now.