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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Special Live Coverage of Alabama and Mississippi Republican Presidential Primaries

Aired March 13, 2012 - 23:00   ET

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


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And while we're having -- we haven't always gotten our message across in terms of getting as many votes as we would like, we clearly were changing the national dialogue all week.

If you've noticed, the president has now made three speeches and a press conference on energy. And this afternoon, we were told, that the secretary of anti-energy, Dr. Chu, announced this afternoon that he actually wasn't for European level prices of gasoline, that he had changed his mind. Now --

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: So I would say in the middle of a campaign in these two states, we are already impacting the national debate on a scale that all of Romney's ad money hasn't achieved. And we're doing it because ideas matter. Being able to make a principle case matters.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: The Reagan tradition of visionary conservatism was based on proverbs and the very deep believe that without vision, the people perish. And I believe we need a visionary leader who is prepared to talk about a dramatically better future with dramatically more jobs, dramatically more energy, and a much safer and stronger America. I think that's the key to winning this fall. Not all this petty baloney, but the really big choices.

And as I went around both states talking about $2.50 gasoline, having all sorts of folks in the elite media saying that's not possible, and finally on Saturday in the "Wall Street Journal" they wrote a piece that is entitled "Newt Gingrich is right about gasoline." And he walked through step by step why it's possible. And the fact is it's very possible.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: And then yesterday, Steven Moore reported in the "Wall Street Journal," these numbers are so amazing, and I think the fact that I want to talk about substance is what makes this campaign difference from other campaigns. It is the reason we are going to all the way to Tampa to complete for the nomination.

We need in a time of great problems, great solutions, and great solutions require substance, and substance requires actually knowing something. It's a very important part of it.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: And unfortunately, virtually everything President Obama knows is wrong.

Ronald Reagan used to say, it isn't what they don't know that is so frightening. It's what they know is wrong. And he's right. Here is a case study.

We were told by the U.S. geologist study in the 1990s, there was about 150 million barrels of recoverable oil in North Dakota. And this was a period when the liberals told us we're about to run out. We have peak oil, we're not going to decay. We have no future.

Well, new drilling technology came along. And we're now told that in fact, as of this last week, they believe there are 24 billion barrels of recoverable oil in North Dakota alone.

Now, that made me feel like I had to change my speech because up until last week, I had been saying there was 25 times as much oil as they thought. Now, turns out the current estimate is there are 160 times -- 16,000 percent more oil in North Dakota than they thought there was in 1990s. And some experts believe that number is off by a huge margin, that future technology will ultimately lead us to find about 500 billion barrels of oil.

Now, I'm not trying to fill you up with numbers. But I'm trying to make a point about a general direction.

An American president who believed in energy and an American president who believed in science and technology would drive the price of gasoline below $2.50, would eliminate our dependence on the Middle East, and we would never, ever again bow to a Saudi king.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: So, you have my promise at a time when I hope this evening we have ended any news media talk of the inevitability of their hand-picked candidate, at a time where we can forget ability trying to nominate a Massachusetts moderate and start talking about when the primaries are over and it's clear no one person has won, who would do the best job of representing America, governing and winning the election against Barack Obama.

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: And let me just close this observation that something that Jeba Wagner, Senator Wagner had said earlier, that is really, I hope all of you would take the heart, and I'm grateful both in Mississippi and Alabama. Of course, I have had such wonderful relationships and friendship and my daughters, Cathy and Jackie and Jackie's husband, Jim. We all have had a terrific time here. Jimmy has already gotten a commitment to go bass fishing, and I think that Ray has indicated he thought he could give Jimmy a fairly good afternoon of bass. So from Jimmy's standpoint, this already a great successful evening.

But we have all been out campaigning. We have all had a wonderful response, and we're all very, very grateful. I want to tell you just a second what will become a challenge is we'll have three or four days of news media, and they'll say why doesn't Gingrich quit? These are the same people who say in June that I was dead. They'll recycle this every six weeks. And the biggest challenge will be raising money because we came in second which is this much as you wanted and we won't have gotten delegates. Between Santorum and myself, we'll get two thirds of the delegates, and the so-called frontrunner will get less than one third of the delegates.

But (INAUDIBLE). The person who gives me hope and who makes me stay in the race and makes me committed to carrying ideas all the way to Tampa is Samuel Sanford.

Samuel Sanford is an unemployed person who decided after hearing my speech either on C-span or on the Internet, that he really liked what I was trying to do on gasoline, and we talk about the fact that you can go to Newt.org and give one gallon of Newt gas, that's $2.50.

And so, Samuel heard the speech the other day and went online, he gave $2.50. And he became number 175,000. Now, Romney has all of these Wall Street millionaires. Many of them frankly, who are using the money you sent them as a taxpayer to buy ads to attack people.

But he has got the money. We are not going to compete with Romney for money. We have 175,000 donors. Over 90 percent of them, 95 percent of them have given less than $2.50.

So, since he was number 175,000, I called Samuel Sanford, and it was actually a very humbling call. I got him in the afternoon, after he came home from his cancer treatment. He's currently unemployed. He took out of his savings the $2.50 because he wants to be part of helping save America.

Now, that, to me, was such a humbling conversation. The dedication he had to America, his commitment to a people's campaign, his unwillingness to give up and let the millionaires roll over him, meant just an immense amount to Callista and me.

So, I want all of you to know, that with your help, if you're going to talk to your friends and neighbors, if you go back on Facebook, if you Twitter, if use e-mail, we'll continue to run a people's campaign. I believe after the primaries are over, it will be obvious that the so-called front-runner in fact didn't get there, and from that point on, we'll be in a whole conversation.

Thank you, good luck, and God bless you.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: We have just been listening to Newt Gingrich give his speech tonight, and I'm Erin Burnett. Special edition of "OUT FRONT."

A very big night for Rick Santorum. That is a huge night and a huge victory for him. Obviously, CNN has just called Mississippi for the former Pennsylvania senator, Alabama as well.

All right, let's talk about Newt Gingrich, though. That was far from a concession, I might be getting out sort of speech, or was it just me. Was it a farewell?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think what we have from Newt is the fact that Mitt Romney didn't win makes him say, why not me? I now can say it's me and Rick Santorum and I'm better than Rick Santorum. I kind a wonder if Mitt Romney would have won one state or two states, if it actually held a few days would have been different for Mitt.

I think the real impact tonight for Newt, the real impact tonight is for Republicans who thought maybe Mitt Romney, he comes south and make the race start to look like it's coming to an end. This race is going on and on and on. There is no end in sight.

ERICK ERICKSON, MANAGING EDITOR, REDSTATE.COM: I think if you look objectively at this, you would say it's time for Newt Gingrich to get out. He's not even a regional candidate. He can't win the south. He can win just Georgia and South Carolina. At the same time though, he is in the argument for him getting out of it. He's a spoiler. He's not even a spoiler for Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum was able to win in the, Deep South, the Deep South against Romney even with Gingrich there. He's having as much impact now as Ron Paul.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: But he's a spoiler in terms of delegates. He's still out there collecting delegates, then it, you know, gets back to the two narratives John King talks about. Yes, we have momentum for Rick Santorum, but we have a delegate lead for Romney that is hard to make up.

And if Newt Gingrich stays in there collecting a significant amount of delegates, that really does hampers Rick Santorum from being competitive against --.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: And it could allow Newt to be the king maker. I mean, I never thought (INAUDIBLE). He's had not a very close personal relationship with reality.

BURNETT: Right. Then it will have to go somewhere.

BEGALA: Right. But he could hang on to them and become the broker. If Gingrich or may be now Santorum, I'm be the first to call on Romney to get out of the race. He spends more than anybody. He has a better organization. He has terrific endorsement from the popular governor of Mississippi and loses, and he loses in Alabama, outspending Santorum 5-1 there.

So, you know, maybe somebody ought to strap him to the roof of one of the Cadillacs and drive him back to one of the mansions.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: All right. We are going see in a couple of moments whether the Santorum campaign would make such a comment. Because we are going to have the chief spokesperson for Rick Santorum coming up at a big night for Rick Santorum. I think it's fair to say that's the major headline.

We will back with our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. Welcome back to our special election coverage tonight. and it's a very big night for Rick Santorum.

As you can see, Mississippi, 97 percent of the votes in, and Rick Santorum is the projected winner with 33 percent of the vote. A solid lead in Alabama, Rick Santorum. Also in the lead, 35 percent; 80 percent reporting, and of course, we have made that call as well.

So very big night for Rick Santorum. No matter how you cut that cookie, that is the headline tonight, and not a great night for Mitt Romney.

Hogan Gidley joins us now. He's the communications director for Rick Santorum as I come over here to stand with John King.

Hogan, let me start off by asking you this question. We just listened to Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich was unapologetic, and unashamed and he is staying in this race. And how does it make you feel?

J. HOGAN GIDLEY, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR RICK SANTORUM (via telephone): Well, I mean, he has every right to do so. We would obviously never call on anyone to get out of any race. We didn't call for Gingrich to get in the race. We're sure not going to call on Newt Gingrich to get out of the race.

But the fact of the matter is if he wasn't in the race right now, not only would we be beating Romney in the states, we would be beating his badly. And this is what the polls indicate. But in the middle of this is a democracy, he has every right to be in the race. But at this point, it's just a really good night for us and shows that Rick Santorum is not just a regional candidate. He can win in the south, he can win in the west, in the Hartland. And that's what we are going to need, need to been able to do to beat Barack Obama. And that's what Rick Santorum can do and that's what he has been able to do so far.

BURNETT: Hogan, John and I want to walk through the math. And I set this up, John, with looking that it would look like Rick Santorum would need to win 50 percent, 60 percent of the remaining delegates. And even tonight in Mississippi and Alabama, that's not what Rick Santorum is going to achieve.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He will get more than a third. He will get more delegates out of Mississippi and Alabama than anyone else. We have to wait though for Hawaii and little places. Remember Obama/Clinton four years ago, the decode is mattered for Barack Obama. The little places matter when you are in the delegates chase. So, if Romney can pick up American Samoa, and get ample of delegates, it helps offset with other else or so. That's why Hogan makes the points. He would never ask Gingrich to get out. Senator Santorum would not do that. That's ungracious, right?

The question is, do other conservative leaders around the country do that? Because if you look at what happened tonight, this is a rough projection. But here's about what we are, projecting again that Romney wins Hawaii. We will see how that one turns out. Maybe I'm wrong about that. But that's based on our reporting in the state.

So, Governor Romney is going to end somewhere just shy of 500. Senator Santorum is second, but look far back he is. And this is the question there in going forward, with Gingrich in the race, let's go forward a little bit here. So, we move back here. Let's assume Santorum carries Missouri. But again, its proportion, the other candidates are in. He picks up some, but so does Governor Romney.

Then you move on from here. You come up to the Puerto Rico primary. I have this for Governor Romney right now. You heard Santorum tonight, he going down there to campaign for two days. And I know Hogan would argue with this given this to Governor Romney.

But we are going to give it Romney for now. And again, proportional. Santorum picks up some delegates. Now, we start moving back here. This is going to be the biggest battleground. But watch the difference, with Gingrich still in the race, OK. So, if Romney wins, he moves up to ballpark, 560. Let's assume Santorum can come back and upset. What happens?

BURNETT: In Illinois.

KING: Romney comes down a little bit. Santorum comes up a little bit, but he's not closing the gap substantially. And so, if you have a war of attrition that just keeps going out, I'm giving Santorum Louisiana, but again, Gingrich is still in the race. We keep going forward. This is more favorable territory to Governor Romney. Let's for the sake of argument, say Senator Santorum keeps his Midwest strength and gets -- wins Wisconsin. Now, we are moving forward. Look forward going Pennsylvania, that's Santorum's home state.

So Hogan, I don't know if you can watch this. Let's stay here. I'll give Santorum West Virginia. I'm going to give Santorum Indiana. I'm going to get Santorum, North Carolina. OK? Romney campaign is arguing with me, anyone Romney supporter argue, I'm doing this for a hypothetical reason.

Look what happens, Santorum is closing the gap, but Romney is still getting delegates, and if Gingrich is still in the race, Santorum can't close the gap fast enough.

So, my question to Hogan would be, if the senator thinks it is ungracious to say Mr. Speaker, can you get out, would you encourage maybe other conservative leaders round the country to show Speaker Gingrich his math and say, if you don't want Mitt Romney, maybe you should think again?

GIDLEY: We - first of all, I appreciate that demonstration. I never heard the word if used so many times in a five-minute time span.

KING: I was giving all the states to your candidate as I said here Hogan.

GIDLEY: That's right, but you know, after tonight, I think it's going to be very interesting. Because I know the drum beat has begun already, talking to Newt Gingrich, and trying to get him out of the race.

But I mean, like I said, we would never do that. I mean, you know that, Rick Santorum would never do that. He's not that kind of guy. And, you know, it depends. We have been calling on the conservative voters to unite behind us. And I think this is just another indication that proves we're not just a regional candidate. And I think that's very important.

And you know, if Newt Gingrich stays in, a lot of your math might be correct. If Newt Gingrich gets out, it's not. And we'll see what happens after that. But right now, we're going to enjoy the two victories tonight. we are going to continue to move forward, and see what we can do and try to get the momentum and keep that momentum moving into the other states.

BURNETT: Hogan, just one final question for you. Some people have talked about the campaign as sort of a guerilla campaign. It's been incredibly successful with not a lot of resources.

Are you going to make changes in the campaign, big changes to try to compete with the money machine and organizational machine of Mitt Romney, that is really going to matter when it comes down to the delegate chase?

GIDLEY: Yes. I mean. That stuff matters, and we have been adding staff as needed throughout this campaign. But we're never going to be the, you know, D.C. bureaucratic behemoth that the Mitt Romney campaign is because that's just not who Rick Santorum is.

Absolutely, we'll need to hire people. We will continue to hire people, and with nights like this, we see huge boosts in front raising and we're able to that. That's good news for us. We'll need to build out staff. We have been doing that slowly but surely along the way. And it's gotten us this far. So, we are going to continue on and we will absolutely be adding staff, but we're never going to be the big, big bureaucratic behemoth the rest of the campaigns were.

BURNETT: All right. Hogan, thanks very much. Hogan Gidley, as I said, the communications director for Rick Santorum's campaign. And obviously a very big night, fair and square for people like Hogan to be celebrating tonight.

All right, so what is the takeaway here, Gloria? What happens - I mean, now we are going into Puerto Rico all of the sudden, very important. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And we are going in to Illinois.

BURNETT: Illinois.

BORGER: Don't forget where the polls in Illinois have shown it's a really neck and neck race. So, that's going to be very exciting next Tuesday. And I think what you have got is a question of how do you measure this?

Talk to the Romney people, the Romney people say this is about delegates. It's all about the delegates. And they have a point. It is all about the delegates. The problem is that Mitt Romney hasn't been able to seal the deal with his own Republican base. And that's a problem for him.

BURNETT: I'm curious, David Gergen, at this question that keeps coming up. And that is, does the Mormon thing matter? When it comes to evangelicals, you look tonight at the highest portion of evangelical voters we have seen so far, and their continued hesitancy to vote for Mitt Romney, but be just that they don't think he is conservative enough? But, could religion play a bigger role?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it did. And I must say, a month ago or six weeks ago, if you look at it, you could say of course this is good Rick Santorum territories going into a state or in two states where the number evangelicals, 75 to 80 percent in these two states.

Santorum goes in as the guy who says he's anti-climate size, doesn't believe it's a hoax, and he goes into two states where almost about half of the people on Republican side in the poll said they didn't believe in evolution. This is Rick Santorum territory in many ways. But the way the expectations came got built up and the kind of money that Romney poured into it, and also the fact that it was Gingrich's home territory.

All of that I think led the expectations that Romney was probably going to punch through at least one state. Gingrich would probably get one, and Santorum getting both I think it's really magnified this politically.

So, even though Romney is going to have a good night in delegates and might wind up at the end of the night. But with Hawaiians more in everything I can get home more delegates. But I think it's psychologically a damaging night for Mitt Romney and a very positive night for Santorum.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: What Romney has -- you can talk all you want about the math. Math is just not going to win you the passion of the Republican party. I think Mitt Romney has to switch something up here. I can't tell you exactly what it is. But I think they need to see more of who Mitt Romney is.

I mean, without the grits. I thought he was being a little sarcastic about the grits in all of that. But, none the less, there is -- he has got to like open that door a little more. Here is what I am. Here is what I'm about. Here's what I'll fight for passionately. Here is what where believe. I just don't think people yet have this kind of idea about him, go, yes, that's my guy.

BORGER: Well, you know, races come down to enthusiasm. They come down to, are your people going to turn out? And I want to correct myself, I was wrong earlier. The turnout was higher in Mississippi this time than it was in 2008 by 50,000 and counting. The problem for Mitt Romney was the turnout didn't happen where his supporters are. And that --

BURNETT: His turnout was lower.

BORGER: But the point -- the passion in this race has been with the cultural conservatives, the value conservatives, tea party voters, the people who identify themselves as evangelicals and strongly conservative. And they have questions about Mitt Romney. So can he get to the finish line? Is it still more likely that he is going to get to the finish line than anybody else? Yes, but will he crawl across it? Probably.

GERGEN: I also think coming out of tonight, given the psychological boost that Santorum got, I would assume Eric could respond to his better that I can, but I would assume a lot of conservatives would rally around Santorum. They can't get Newt out, but they'll rally around Santorum. And this could boost him in Illinois. He is not - he wasn't far behind in the polls.

BURNETT: Chicago tribune has it 35 Romney, 31 Santorum. Maybe with the margin but it's not very close to it.

GERGEN: This is before the news of the two states.

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: And that gives him -- if conservatives rally around, money comes in. Illinois could be very competitive.

BURNETT: We have seen actually historically so far of the momentum really, whoever wins gets the momentum going into the next state.

BORGER: Right. And then he loses it.

BURNETT: I want to bring in John Avlon here in 'Newsweek Daily Beast."

John, a quick question though, looking at the polls today. Mitt Romney loses to Barack Obama by two percentage points. Wins Barack Obama 49, 47. But Rick Santorum only loses by three which is within the margin of error. That's a lot closer than an Obama/Rick Santorum matchup was not too long ago.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right, and it helps undercut the Romney campaign argument about electability. That poll is very much in the Santorum narrative of not only this isn't over, but hold on, wait, maybe our guy, more conservative, according to the base, has a better shot or at least as good a shot as going against Barack Obama.

But the big picture to take away tonight, for all of the folks saying this was all but over, we should end the talk right now. This is going to go on. It's going to go for reasons that rich beyond any impression that we have. This year is different. Because of proportional delegates and because of super PACs. And it doesn't matters who is ahead in the delegates. It matters who can get to 1,144. And if nobody hits that threshold, this goes to the convention. And that's the real long game we're seeing playing out right now.

BURNETT: Candy, I'm curious is to what Mitt Romney is going to start to say if polls continue to come out that show that a Obama/Santorum matchup isn't just a total wipeout.

CROWLEY: Well, I think he's going to get help from some of his friends at this point. Because the idea of Rick Santorum at the top of the ticket is not being taken all that well. lots of folks who are going to run down ticket. And so, I think you will see folks begin to gather around him. But again, I think this is a Mitt Romney time to go, what do I need to do here?

BORGER: It's a gut check, right? A gut check, he has to say what do I need to do to make people feel a little more passionate?

GERGEN: But without being pulled.

BURNETT: I have a suggestion, don't talk about your tummy.

GERGEN: I totally agree with that. The danger --

BURNETT: I'm joking but I'm being serious.

GERGEN: Rick Santorum will draw him into the conservative side along with these social issues, and it would help him the nomination but hurt him in the general.

BURNETT: All right. We are going to take a very brief break. We are going to come back with much more of our staff on the coverage of this very big night for Santorum. Of course, America Samoa and Hawaii, what knows will happen there. But tonight goes down as Rick Santorum's night. Mississippi and Alabama, big victories. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: A special edition of "OUT FRONT."

Breaking news, a huge night for Rick Santorum. There is no other way to describe it. CNN, just moments ago, calling Mississippi for the former Pennsylvania senator, and that's after we calling Alabama for Santorum earlier. The candidate spoke moments ago. And no doubt about it, he's taking his momentum into the next state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll compete everywhere. We will compete everywhere. The time is now for conservatives to pull together. The time is now to make sure, to make sure that we have the best chance to win this election, 1k3 the best chance to win this election is to nominate a conservative to go up against Barack Obama, who can take him on, on every issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Let's take a closer look at the numbers in both states. You can just see for yourself exactly how tight this race was. It took us here at CNN a while to make the calls because it was running as a three-man race for most of the evening.

Alabama, Rick Santorum, the one we were able to call first. Thirty five percent lead there, as you can see, and more votes still coming in, but obviously 98 percent reporting. Mississippi calling later for Rick Santorum with 33 percent of the vote.

There is no mistaking it, it is Santorum's night. The candidate who began the race as a virtual unknown to many Americans and was counted out by many, now can say his appeal stretches from middle America all the down to the Deep South. And that's obviously a very important for him and a big part of what we heard from his communications director earlier tonight. They're trying to make that case.

Jim Acosta is live at Rick Santorum's headquarters right now in Lafayette.

And Jim Acosta, what was the -- I guess the celebration there? There was a little surprise. They seemed to have downplayed expectations coming into this.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right about that, Erin. You know, when Rick Santorum said we did it again, you know, cheers went up in the room, and later on in his speech, he talked about how, you know, he didn't see one poll in Mississippi that showed him winning the contest tonight. And so, I think this result in the Deep South, even surprised the Santorum campaign.

I had a chance to catch up with the former Pennsylvania senator after his speech here, you know, for a few moments. And if anybody noticed Rick Santorum sounding a little hoarse tonight, he said that is because he's recovering from a little cold. But, I think the next big question for this campaign is what happens to Newt Gingrich.

Obviously, if he had not been in the race tonight, Santorum might have had wider margins over Romney in both Mississippi and Alabama. I asked Rick Santorum, you know, do you think Gingrich should get out of the race? Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Do you think Gingrich should drop out, senator? Do you think speaker Gingrich should drop out, sir?

SANTORUM: Not going to give an answer to that.

ACOSTA: You said the it would be great if he dropped out.

SANTORUM: It would be great if everyone dropped out. Thank you. Appreciate it.

ACOSTA: Clearly, you would have won by a wider margin though, that if speaker not been in the race.

SANTORUM: I appreciate it. You have to play with the cards you got.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: So there you go, you hear Rick Santorum say you have to play with the cards you're dealt. But clearly, this is a delegate situation for the Santorum campaign. Earlier today, Rick Santorum was on the Glenn Beck radio show. That was a moment where Rick Santorum said it would beat great for speaking Gingrich to get out of the race. And then later on this evening, I asked one of his spokes people, Alice Stewart, his press secretary, do you think Gingrich should get out of the race? Does the Santorum campaign believe this. She initially said absolutely and then came back to later on this evening, and said you know, we're not formally calling on Gingrich to get out of the race. But no question about it, you know, head to these next contests here, it certainly would be a big help to this campaign.

And you know, just to tell you how they're not taking anything for granted from this point forward, Erin. They're getting on a plane tonight at 1:00 in the morning to head to Puerto Rico in advance of this primary that is coming up on Sunday down in the U.S. territory. They got creamed in those U.S. territories last week and helped to offset some of the delegate gains he had in Kansas, when Mitt Romney took those other U.S. territories like Guam over the weekend. They are not taking those territories for granted anymore - Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

The great irony, they get electoral votes, but the popular vote doesn't count. Something deeply, deeply seems to be unfair. But that's for another time.

Let's talk about the big scenario here. If Gingrich gets out, let's just say, takes five, OK? What happens then though? What happens to the delegates.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's interesting. They're backtracking, saying we're not calling on him to get out. Because they know Speaker Gingrich is a proud man. If they call on him to get out, he's much less likely to. Maybe if his friends say, Mr. Speaker, (INAUDIBLE).

All right. Let's do the scenario right here. Here is the national math. Santorum is filling in. This is a blow to Speaker Gingrich. It's just obvious. This is his region of the country. That's Santorum.

So, let's go to the delegate map because this is all about. So, I'm going to give you two scenarios here. Here is roughly there we are tonight. We are making some projections. We are not quite there. Governor Romney is still comfortably ahead with a long way to 1,144. Sp, I'm going to touch the button. What where you doing in May and June? Well. we are going to be having this race as we go through all these states.

BURNETT: Taking a long vacation.

KING: So, I'm - this is hypothetical but I'm going to go all the way to August 30th. All right? Watch this, bang, I have been very generous to Senator Santorum. I give him North Carolina. I give him West Virginia, I give him Kentucky. I give him both Illinois, and Indiana. I give him Wisconsin. The Romney campaign supporters in Washington saying hey, no way. But I'm giving those states to Senator Santorum with Gingrich still in the race and proportional, Look what happens?

Even under this scenario, Romney wins. Now, let's say Senator Santorum, he wins Pennsylvania. Let's say for some reason he could win New Jersey, and here's the big one here. Let's say he could California. Winner take all states, I'm, again, being generous and hypothetical. Then, then, this is a dream scenario for Santorum. Most people would tell me I'm crazy for even suggesting this. But even then, yes, he stops Governor Romney, he would go to the convention well behind him. In this scenario, this is with Gingrich in, OK?

BURNETT: Hold on, one second. What happens with Tampa in this scenario? Newt Gingrich is a very popular man, clearly.

KING: Gingrich should be a very powerful man. Ron Paul would be a potentially powerful man even at 150, 125 delegates in this scenario, and there would be whole bunch of other people from Jeb Bush to Sarah Palin to Chris Christie, you name the Republican, other people would be walking around watching him with their every move to see what happens here.

BURNETT: Yes.

KING: But here is the point. This is unlikely. This is a big money state. There is a big conservative base in California, but it's a big money state. This is even more unlikely, Governor Christie is on team Romney. So, let's give this back here to Governor Romney. Again. Romney is very close to the finish line. That's giving Santorum California, OK. But, let's do this other scenario, OK? First, I want to come back to today. And I want to bring this. If Gingrich gets out, if he gets out --

BURNETT: OK, this is fun.

KING: If Gingrich gets out, these went to Santorum tonight, all right, so we need to make these purple. And we do that. And then now we're going to move on. I'm going to go quickly through these, if Gingrich gets out, now we are going to get through, Santorum gets that, OK. I have decided we're going to be generous to Santorum, that's our scenario, right?

BURNETT: Yes.

KING: OK? Let's keep going, let's try to move quickly. He gets Louisiana, let's say, Santorum is doing well in the Midwest, we'll give him Wisconsin. All right. Let's keep coming through. He wins Pennsylvania. I'm going to be hyper-generous. Senator Santorum, Gingrich is now out of the race.

So, you watch the math, if Senator Santorum starts marching and wins all of these, OK, now look what's happening? He's getting closer. He's closing the gap. Can he win all these? He would like the two-man race, but that's how you catch Mitt Romney. If Santorum is not in the race, then you move on here. I'm going to give - let's say Santorum can win Nebraska, we will give Romney is doing well out west, so let him do this. And again, Gingrich is not in the race now, this is a two-way hypothetical scenario, OK?

BURNETT: OK.

KING: He keep coming. Let's just keep this here. He's winning in the south and the border states. Kentucky and Arkansas going to Santorum. Texas goes to Santorum. In team Romney, they started to see something like that. And then you have a real race. This is why there's going to be pressure on Gingrich to get out. because then you get here, and New Jersey, let's leave it in the Romney column. And we come out here, I think that's feasible, right?

BURNETT: Yes.

KING: That's how this becomes so important, because under this scenario, if California and New Jersey stay Romney, even with Gingrich out of the race --

BURNETT: Still not there.

KING: Utah, look. Just shy. Just shy. So, you want to broker a convention with two guys fighting, that's your scenario, and then, again, if this is going on, and you play like this, you're getting closer there.

BURNETT: This is amazing.

KING: Just for fun, you do this. That's a very different race. If Gingrich gets out, Santorum has a chance to get close, to get close.

BURNETT: Close, but not there.

KING: Very hard to see him beating Romney, catching up in a lot of beat. But he can get close if Gingrich is out. If Gingrich stays in, almost impossible.

BURNETT: This is my favorite part of the night, John King math, touching through, changing the color rotation. It's gets more difficult. We are going to take a break. But we'll be back to talk more with our special election coverage and this big night for Rick Santorum.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We're back now. A huge night for Rick Santorum. Winning both Alabama and Mississippi. Breathing new life into his race for the GOP nomination.

Let's go back to our panel here and talk about what John King was going through the math. And I love every time he does that. It's like all these fantasies, you know, of -- the numbers.

But what I found fascinating about it, in a two-man race, neither one of them really would get there, but Rick Santorum wouldn't get there, Romney, even in a three-man race, it's a possible arguments there where Romney can't get it done.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me make a point about tonight and then talk about Tampa. There are four types last night. We heard from two of them. Big night for Rick Santorum and two of them. But you still have to wait to see who wins the most delegates tonight. You can't rule out because of the two contests, including the state of Hawaii, that Romney --

BURNETT: Or Samoa. Hey, people in Samoa, if you're watching, your vote matters.

FLEISCHER: Go to the polls. Tampa could be a mess. I'm saying Romney could win the nine delegates. If you work for the presidential campaign, that's what you really pay a lot of attention to.

But Tampa could be a real mess for Republicans. And that's going to be the real issue. Mitt Romney is probably 100 percent right where it's hard to see a path for Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum to get the 50 percent required.

BURNETT: Right.

FLEISCHER: But it might also be hard for Romney to get to the 50 percent. And if that happens, especially if you have a three-way race, it could be a real mess in Tampa for Republican.

BURNETT: What does I mean in November thought? I mean, if that happens, whoever comes out of that is sort of the gimp. They're limping with their legs tied together, their arms tied together.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, presumably at some point, the party gets together, and I actually believe that it will. But the longer it goes on, the longer the hurt feelings come and the less people feel excited, and frankly, the less money they're raising, and that's a potential issue.

You know, this air of inevitability that Romney has been projecting has been an abject failure. And so, you know, Gloria and Candy made the point, he's got to go back, stop talking about process, start talking about people.

From my perspective, he's got to get rid of the stupid blue jeans that look so fake it's ridiculous. This guy just has not connected --

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: How do you know that?

(LAUGHTER)

ROSEN: He wears blue jeans every single event.

BURNETT: Some men just don't know how to wear jeans.

ROSEN: Some men do but Mitt Romney doesn't. Does anyone believe -- like, can he wear --

FLEISCHER: These are issues.

BURNETT: This is a true statement.

ROSEN: You know what, I actually think it says something about him, that he tries too hard. It doesn't feel connected and authentic. But as a practical matter, the delegate side, the farther Rick Santorum can get, either one of them, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, the one thing we haven't talked about, there is a group of super delegates that is not in the bunch, and super delegates actually, you know, with a couple hundred votes, can make a difference.

BURNETT: Mary?

MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's momentum.

BEGALA: You can ask super delegates.

MATALIN: They're not super delegates. No, they're not super delegates.

ROSEN: They're uncommitted. And they're state by state.

MATALIN: Yes. We don't have super delegates like you do, and some of them are committed. I'm just saying it's a different process. There is a pool of uncommitted --

ROSEN: But they are not committed.

MATALIN: That's right.

ROSEN: That's what I mean.

MATALIN: And there is a dynamic here that we can't quantify at this point, which is before we have a meltdown in Tampa, we will get orderly because that's what Republicans do. The Republican national committee right now is preparing -- hoping for the best, preparing for the worst. They know how to do a W.H.I.P. operation at the convention. Nobody else will have the capacity. No other candidates will have the capacity that the RNC will to get in front of what could be ugly. But I don't think it's going to get that far. What has to happen, Hillary makes a great point, you know the army saying be all you can be, just be a little bit less than all you can be. Quit trying. Quit trying. I like the cheesy grits. Just do what you do well, which is be kind of a sort of a bad candidates, but a good leader, and just stay on message. That's it.

ROSEN: He doesn't have a message that is authentic.

BURNETT: He's awkward, it's not as if he's faking.

MATALIN: He's not faking. Deep down inside, he's fake.

BEGALA: No. but I think it's whether -- it's not how hard he's trying. It's who he's trying to reach. If this was algebra, he's solving for the wrong parable. He is solving for c, conservatives, instead of I, independents, right? And yet, there goes his party, right?

But he is so fixing. He's so weak among conservatives. I understand that, but I'm absolutely certain Republicans will coalesce around even Mitt Romney who they don't like right now. Republican conservatives will because they strongly dislike the president, OK? He's their best organizer. I don't want to say that because it's not fair. That they really don't want the president to win. But in the price he's paying for the obvious and even coalescence of the right is alienating the independents in the middle.

BURNETT: Which are 40 percent, of course, of the electorate.

ROSEN: It undermines his sense of inevitable.

BURNETT: And we're going to get the White House view on tonight's Rick Santorum's victory right after this. Our special coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right, so what does the Obama campaign think about tonight's primaries and Santorum's victory? Jessica Yellin in at the White House tonight.

And Jessica, I know, you had a chance to well, got a sense of what the president thinks about Rick Santorum tonight.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the president himself was away at a basketball game, which we'll get to in a minute, Erin.

I will tell you, the Obama campaign in general, as you might guess, is pleased the longer this goes on because they ultimately expect that Mitt Romney will be the nominee despite what we're watching tonight, and the longer this takes the more money and it drains from Romney's coffers, the more attention it takes from his eventual, what they expect to be fight with the president. I will tell you, Jim Messina, who is the general - the manager of the Obama campaign, even sent out an e-mail tonight to Obama supporters saying if the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney, that was based on a Washington Post poll. He's trying to fund raise off that.

So they're not even looking at Santorum right now with any great attention. But I see you're playing the video, so I should talk about this. President Obama took prime minister Cameron of the UK to his very first basketball game. And they went, not coincidentally, to a swing state of Ohio. And the president talked about why they went there. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I thought it was going to be wonderful for the prime minister to have a chance not only to see a basketball game for the first time, but also to come to the great state of Ohio. Because sometimes when we have foreign visitors, they're only visiting the coast, they go to New York, they to Washington, they go to Los Angeles. But you know, the heartland is what it's all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And Vice President Biden will be in Ohio as well, Erin, later this week on Thursday. He's going to Toledo to unleash what all sources are saying will be a very fierce real election-themed speech, and we're expecting him to take it to the Republican candidates then - Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks, Jessica. There was something about the image, as the Republican party, all hell breaks loose, the president is stuffing a hotdog into his mouth at a basketball game. Well, you know, so this is good for him, right?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, he's at a basketball game in Ohio. You know, you need Ohio, almost certainly, to win the presidency in November. He's going there, scoring points, forgive the pun, and he is having a good time at the same time. I'm sure the prime minister is having a good time as well.

BURNETT: His brackets were heavy in swing states, actually.

KING: That's a swing county in a swing state. So, he's doubling down in the Dayton area. Democrats have to win it by at least a margin to carry the state. Look, I think as we end tonight, if you go to the math, you go to the math, if go to the logic, go to the history. Mitt Romney is still the front runner. You know what, forget about it. I think Rick Santorum has a chance to reset the race. He gets a big bounce tonight. Let's see what happens in the next week or ten days. The underdog, given the tea party, given even the Obama election, forget the rules. We had an interesting few years in politics. I think we might get another try.

BURNETT: Any change in strategy, anything from Romney, Candy? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I don't know that he's been steady eddy. You know, they have believed in their strategy from the get-go, and the get-go was like five years ago. So they really haven't changed much.

I don't know, I mean, they are convinced that they're going to get this. And so, they believe the kind of standoffish from the media, most of the time, it was very controlled media events. They believe he's doing just fine. So I just think, you know, it's a recipe for June.

(LAUGHTER)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know -- thank you for cheering us up. You can argue math all you want.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: The Romney campaign is arguing, but presidential campaigns are not just about math. They're about passion, what you believe, who you believe in. And Mitt Romney has yet to find a way to make that base believe in him.

BLITZER: We still have some fun to go where next Sunday, Puerto Rico. Next Tuesday, Illinois, and it goes on and on and on.

BURNETT: I love it when the territories --

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: And of course, Rick Santorum spending two days there. Maybe, we got a nice dinner or something.

All right. Thanks so much to all of you. And our special coverage continues right out of this with Wolf Blitzer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)