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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Republican Primary in Illinois

Aired March 20, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson.

Turning to a big night for Mitt Romney in Illinois based on exit polls and early votes. CNN can project that Romney is the winner by double digits. Want to come back to the CNN team for much more of that in a moment. But take a look at tonight's results.

Romney in the lead with a commanding 55 percent at the moment. Followed by Rick Santorum at 28 percent. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich a distant third and fourth. We're waiting for candidate Romney to speak any moment now in his Illinois headquarters. And second place Rick Santorum will also be speaking.

But while we wait for the candidates, we'll look ahead to the next stop on the primary trail. Louisiana on Saturday. And Maryland, Wisconsin, and D.C. on April 3rd.

And here to talk about what it all means, CNN's top team, of course, Wolf Blitzer and John King in D.C. Ari Fleischer in Miami. And here with me in New York, Gloria Borger and David Gergen. Promoted to New York tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Happy to be here.

MORGAN: It was exciting -- exciting evening.

Let's start with Wolf.

Wolf, it looks like a big win for Mitt Romney. How significant is this tonight? Is Illinois to his general campaign?

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": If he stays above 50 percent in this -- in this vote in Illinois, it'll be very significant. Illinois being a very important state because of its population, the diversity. It's a big state. A lot of delegates at stake. He's going to do really well in Illinois. He'll clearly come out with the most delegates. Rick Santorum, you know, he did the best he could. I think it was a blunder on his part to go off to Puerto Rico for two days.

He could have been spending those two days in Illinois doing a little bit better. I'm not sure it would have made much of a difference in terms of the final vote. His big problem in Illinois also, as you know, Piers, is he was not able to get on the ballot in four of these 19 congressional districts in Illinois. So he's going to be at a disadvantage in the delegate count even if he were to have gotten more votes in Illinois and he's not going to.

He's going to be doing a lot more poorly than Mitt Romney. He's not going to get anywhere near the delegates in Illinois. But it's not over for Rick Santorum by any means. There's -- Louisiana is coming up as you point out on Saturday. More contests in April. He's waiting for some of the other states in May and even June to come in. So he's in this. Certainly shaping up to be a two-man race, though, I must say. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

MORGAN: Yes, and John King, I mean tell me exactly where we are tonight. How many votes have come in? How are you seeing the night progressing?

JOHN KING, ANCHOR, "JOHN KING, USA": Well, if you're looking in terms of the raw vote, you see 20 percent of the vote is almost counted in Illinois. And you see Governor Romney is doing what he has to do, and that is to win up here where most of the people live. More than half of the state's population is right up here in Chicago and the suburbs right around it.

Governor Romney doing very well. We expect, as the night goes on, most of them mapped down here to fill in Santorum purple, those small rural areas where he has been doing very well. But Governor Romney -- I want to turn this up just to show you something right here. If you come to the Cook County suburbs, these are the very critical suburbs right around Chicago. Governor Romney getting 57 percent of the vote, about 55 percent in.

You see the big margin. He's running up his margin right here. So it appears then the calculation is this. So this is what's going to happen tonight. This will be Romney red. Let's turn off the distracting yellow. So Santorum has been winning in this part of the country. Now Governor Romney can say no, I'm competitive in the heartland as well. And this is the math that will matter most tomorrow.

With the big win, we expect Romney to get most of those 54 delegates at stake tonight. And so what happens? He will get the state of Illinois. He will add to his delegate total. He's closing in on halfway to the magic number. Senator Santorum is a very distant second. The question going forward, yes, we expect Louisiana -- let me move that up to go for Senator Santorum. Romney will still pick up some delegates.

You start to look at this map, Piers, and you say, number one, where can Santorum, if he's going to catch Governor Romney, he can't just beat him in Louisiana. He's got to start beating him up here where Romney is favored. He has to beat him by a big margin. A lot of people will say, well, Romney is not there yet. No one else is even close to Governor Romney, though. The math hill for the other candidates gets much steeper after tonight.

MORGAN: David Gergen, let's just put this in some kind of proper perspective. Because every time we have one of these primaries now, it's like, is anyone going to drop out? Is something going to change? Is anybody actually the frontrunner?

I mean on the pure stats alone, Mitt Romney is surging ahead. And yet no one is yet saying he's definitely won. Why is that? And what happens next?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He hasn't definitely won. But in a campaign that has had, you know, many, many unexpected twists and turns, I think we may look back and say tonight was the final big turning point. Here in a big, big state, Newt Gingrich has faded as a candidate. Santorum had a chance to go one-on-one against Romney in effect. And Santorum tonight has gone off the rails in this campaign. I'm not sure this is -- Romney winning? Is Santorum is losing? I mean Santorum just had a terrible --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: And making a little mistake, isn't he?

BORGER: Yes. Right.

MORGAN: There was that terrible week when he had his worst debate. Then he had the JFK slur. Then he had the snob remark. This week -- even today he's making a comment about he doesn't care about the unemployment figures.

BORGER: Right.

MORGAN: It's very unlike the Santorum we saw surging away through January. What's gone wrong with his campaign?

BORGER: Well, I think he doesn't have a message. And I think what he does is he keeps going down these rabbit holes. And the thing, when you travel with Rick Santorum, and he gets asked a tough question, or a hard question or a question that's not on his message, he actually answers it and continues to answer it instead of saying, that's very nice, David, but let's talk about the economy.

He doesn't know how to stay on message. That's not good when you're a presidential candidate. I think the question we have now is when the Romney campaign will publicly come out -- privately some folks have said it to me -- but publicly come out and start calling him a spoiler, an obstructionist.

MORGAN: What happens with Newt Gingrich here, though? Because looking at tonight's result, you know, obviously, he wasn't really competing. But there is a moment surely where Newt Gingrich probably has to stand aside. He's a proud man. This may be his last chance at the nomination. He's not going to go unless he absolutely has to. What is the tipping point for Newt Gingrich?

GERGEN: The tipping point came when the debates ended.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: He's aim at Trump card.

BORGER: Right. Sure.

GERGEN: That's right. He -- and he was -- he was strong in those debates. He could get his message out. But then, you know, Newt Gingrich has got a lot of internal problems anyway. But once he became a regional candidate and couldn't win in Alabama, couldn't win in Louisiana -- Mississippi. I just think his campaign has faded.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Should he stand down now?

GERGEN: Well, he could stand down. But, you know, Piers, I happen to believe maybe it's not very relevant whether he stands down or if he stays in at 6 percent. What's the big deal?

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: But, Gloria, what if he stood down and said I'm putting all my support behind Rick Santorum?

BORGER: Well --

MORGAN: For argument's sake.

GERGEN: Here's the interesting thing. It's his -- people don't necessarily have to follow him, number one. We know electability is the most important thing to Republican voters. Republican voters may think that Mitt Romney is more electable as we've seen in all the primaries. And now the Romney people believe that actually Newt's votes would be split evenly. And it used to be they didn't want Newt Gingrich to get out because they wanted him to keep splitting that vote. Now they don't care. Because they need delegates. And with Gingrich out of the race, they get to 1144 faster.

MORGAN: Ari Fleischer, let me bring you in here. I mean on the pure financial statistics, it's almost ridiculous now. Mitt Romney has raised a total of $63 million. He's raised $11.5 million in February alone. Rick Santorum, by comparison, $6.5 million raised in total. $9 million in February. These starts -- I mean those figures aren't quite right. But these figures clearly he's being dwarfed.

I mean Mitt Romney is dwarfing everybody even if you put them all together. At what point does his machinery, his financial fire power just overwhelmed everyone and the others say OK. It's you.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRES. BUSH: Well, number one, the amount of money that a candidate raises when they run for office, it doesn't party what party they are. It's a manifestation of much public support they have. So I don't look at it as machinery as much as it is popularity. The fact is money flows to the people who have the most support. And Mitt Romney has been able to prove that throughout this whole race, other candidates complain about, and they say I got outspent, 3-1, 5-1, 10-1.

You know what? Stop complaining. You got outspent because you weren't able to muster as much support financially as the other guy. That's life. That's political life.

But you know, I try to step back from these primaries and not just take it one race at a time as valid as that is. So say what's the bigger trend? And if you go back to the Iowa caucus, yes, where this al began in January, what you see is Mitt Romney keeps taking two steps forward and one step backward.

Two steps forward one step backward. He lost of course Mississippi and Alabama last week. Maybe the same pattern happens. He could lose Louisiana Saturday. But I think we're also realistically heading into a step of the race now where Mitt Romney's going to be able to take three steps forward and one step back.

MORGAN: Ari, I'm going to -- I have to take one step back right now. We have to go to a quick break. But we'll be back on this. We're waiting for both candidates to speak which they will be very shortly. We're back after this break. And if they're not speaking yet, we will turn to our expert panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Waiting for speeches from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But back with me now in Washington, Wolf Blitzer and John King. And I'm back here with me in New York with my colleagues David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

Let me start with you, David. Someone just tweeted and I think I've got to read this out. It just says simply, "David Gergen is so smart."

BORGER: Yes.

GERGEN: Is he on my payroll?

MORGAN: That's always safe.

GERGEN: He's on my payroll.

MORGAN: It's not from a Gergen. And -- but since you're so smart, imagine you're Rick Santorum tonight. You're looking at where this campaign has gone wrong. The sense I'm getting, and I spoke to his wife last night, quite interesting conversation, as she tried to almost single handedly rein him back in from this very, very arch right-wing, conservative rhetoric on social issues.

Because clearly that is not working anymore. And actually Mitt Romney, as he moves it back to the economy, playing to his strengths, is beginning to gather more momentum away from Santorum. What could Santorum do, if anything, to get back on track?

GERGEN: He has to get back to his original message. He was the guy from the steel town and his dad you know, worked hard. And he was the -- he associated with the working class and the blue-collar guy. And he talked about manufacturing and restoring manufacturing. And the social issues were secondary. But to go to Gloria's point, he's -- I think he's tired. I think he's fundamentally wiped out. And he's lost his discipline so that he keeps talking about the social issues which are just sort --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: So, Gloria, isn't it a tiring thing if you haven't got the infrastructure behind you like Mitt Romney?

BORGER: Right.

MORGAN: I mean, they all bleed about Mitt Romney spending more money. He's got a better campaign. As I rightly point out, I heard you say it earlier. When they come up against Barack Obama, he's got a billion dollars waiting to sling him over the nominees. So could bleeding about a lack of money, is it?

BORGER: Right. Look, Rick Santorum was at, what, 1 percent in the polls, 2 percent in the polls. Came out of nowhere. That's why he didn't end up with a bunch of delegates in Illinois because he couldn't even -- he couldn't even --

MORGAN: Gloria, let me just stop you there. We just got Mitt and Ann Romney, Ann Romney is marching to the podium. Let's see what she has to say.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you, Illinois. Thank you so much. You know, tomorrow is our anniversary. And we will have been married 43 years, so happy anniversary, sweetheart.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

A. ROMNEY: A very big special for Dan Weatherford who just was out here. We appreciate him. You know he has been a great state chairman for our -- for our effort here. And he was as well four years ago. So we appreciate Dan Weatherford.

Senator Mark Kirk, who you know, is not doing well, we love him and think about him. Mitch has -- Mitch has spoke with him. So we all send our prayers to Senator Mark Kirk. Congressman Aaron Schock. He's out here somewhere in the audience. I think right back there. Congressman John Shimkus. Congresswoman Judy Bigart. Former Speaker Denny Hastert. We knew he -- he flew around with Dan Weatherford. So we're appreciative.

Oh, Congressman -- I forgot Congressman Dan Bold.

M. ROMNEY: Bob Dole.

A. ROMNEY: Bob Dole.

M. ROMNEY: Close. Close. A. ROMNEY: Bob Dold.

(LAUGHTER)

Let's see, House Speaker Tom Cross, Senate President Christine (INAUDIBLE). Our entire state of Illinois delegates, Molly Donlan and (INAUDIBLE), and Lisa Wagner, and others, thank you.

And you know what I have to do? I have to tonight -- because I didn't get a chance to do this properly. I have to thank our friends in Puerto Rico.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

A. ROMNEY: We were -- we were treated so warmly, so graciously, so loving. It was a -- it was great experience. But Governor Luis Fortuno, thank you so much. His first lady Lucy. We are -- so love her. Committee woman, Zori Fanadas, Jose Fuentes, Ron Coffman, James Garcia and all elected leaders.

There were so many that helped us there. Especially the delegates' volunteers. And the people of Puerto Rico for their support and their overwhelming support. So thank you, Puerto Rico.

Now I get to just sort of say what's in my heart. You know, Mitt and I have been in a lot of states. We've gone through every part of this country. And I am so moved, so moved by the people of this country that are counting on someone to go to Washington and to take things in their hands and fix it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I sense everything that you're experiencing right here tonight this sense that we want to take this country back. That we are feeling as though that strong strangling arm of government is invading every corner of our life.

And let me tell you something else that's happening. Women are coming to me and saying, will you please talk about deficit spending and budgets? I'm loving that. Loving that.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Women are angry. They're angry about the legacy we're going to leave their children and their grandchildren. And I'm going to tell them something. I've got somebody here that can fix it. So we're going to turn the time over to the guy that can go and fix it.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Thanks, you guys. So many great friends in this room and across Illinois. What a night. Thank you, Illinois. What a night. Wow. (APPLAUSE)

And, of course, I'd like to congratulate my fellow candidates on a hard-fought contest here. I'd like to thank in particular the volunteers and our friends across the state and, frankly, in other states who've been working hard. I appreciate their unwavering support, through good times and bad.

And tonight, we thank the people of Illinois for their vote and for this extraordinary victory. Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

And, you know, elections are about choices. And today, hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois have joined millions of people across the country to join our cause.

And this movement began on a small farm in New Hampshire on a sunny June day. We were surrounded by a small group of our friends and some supporters and family. We shared a conviction that the America we love was in trouble and adrift without strong leadership.

And three years of Barack Obama have brought us fewer jobs and shrinking paychecks, but many of us believed we were in danger of losing something even more than the value of our homes and our 401(k)s. After years of too many apologies and not enough jobs, historic drops in income and historic highs in gas prices, a president who doesn't hesitate to use all the means necessary to force through Obamacare on the American public, but leads from behind in the world.

It's time to say these words, this word: enough. We've had enough.

(APPLAUSE)

We -- we know our future. We know our future's brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America. And we deserve a president who believes in us. And I believe in the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you know that yesterday I was giving a speech at the University of Chicago...

(APPLAUSE)

... not -- not very far from here, not far from where Professor Barack Obama taught law.

(LAUGHTER)

(BOOING)

It was a speech on economic freedom. And as I was writing the speech, I thought to my lifetime of experiences. I've had a lot of opportunity to learn about the -- the unique genius of America's free enterprise system. It started, of course, with my dad. He didn't graduate from college. And he would tell me about his dad, who was a contractor. And you know about construction, up and down years. He -- he never quite made it, but he never gave up and raised great kids. Later, I helped start companies. And those began with just an idea, and somehow they made it through the difficult times and were able to create a good return for investors and thousands of jobs. And those jobs helped families buy their first homes. Those jobs put kids through school. Those jobs helped people live better lives, dream a little bigger.

For 25 years, I lived and breathed business and the economy and jobs. I had successes and failures. But each step of the way, I learned a little bit more about what it is that makes our American system so powerful. You can't learn that teaching constitutional law at University of Chicago, all right?

(APPLAUSE)

You -- you can't even learn that as a community organizer.

(LAUGHTER)

The simple truth is that this president doesn't understand the genius of America's economy or the secret of the American economic success story. The American economy is fueled by freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

The history of the world has shown that economic freedom is the only force that has consistently lifted people out of poverty. It's the only principle that has ever been able to sustain prosperity. But over the last three years, this administration has been engaged in an all-out assault on our freedom.

Under this president, bureaucrats prevent drilling rigs from going to work in the gulf. They -- they keep coal from being mined. They impede the reliable supply of natural gas. They even tell farmers what their kids are able to do on their farms. This administration's assault on freedom has kept this so-called recovery from meeting their projections, let alone our expectations.

And now, by the way, the president is trying to erase his record with some new rhetoric. The other day he said this. He said, "We are inventors. We are builders. We are makers of things. We are Thomas Edison. We're the Wright brothers. We're Bill Gates. We're still jobs." Wait, I missed that. "We are Steve Jobs."

(LAUGHTER)

That's true. But the problem is: He's still Barack Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE) AUDIENCE: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!

ROMNEY: And, you see, under Barack Obama, those pioneers he mentioned would have faced a very difficult time trying to innovate and invent and invest and create and build jobs. You see, under Dodd- Frank, they would have found it almost impossible to get a loan from their community bank.

ROMNEY: And, of course, the regulators would have shut down the Wright brothers for dust pollution.

(LAUGHTER)

You know -- and -- and, of course, the government would have banned Thomas Edison's light bulb. Oh, by the way, they just did, didn't they? Right? Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you know that the real cost of these misguided policies, these attacks on economic freedom, this intrusion of the government into our freedom, the -- the cost of that are the ideas that are not pursued and the dreams that aren't realized and, therefore, all the little businesses that don't get started and the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of workers who don't get hired.

For centuries, the American dream has meant the opportunity to build something new. Some of America's greatest success stories are -- are people who started out with nothing but a good idea and a corner in their garage. But too often today, Americans who want to start a business or launch a new venture, they don't see promise and opportunity. They see government standing in the way. And I'm going to change that. We're going to get government out of the way.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, we -- we once built an Interstate Highway System and the Hoover Dam. Now we can't even build a pipeline.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, we -- we once led the world in manufacturing and exports, investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits. You know, when we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that's going to end.

(APPLAUSE)

I think -- I think you know this. Every great innovation, every world-changing business breakthrough begins with a dream. And nothing is more fragile than a dream. The genius of America is that we nurture those dreams and the dreamers. We honor them. And, yes, we reward them. That's part of what's uniquely brilliant about America. But day by day, job-killing regulation by job-killing regulation, bureaucrat by bureaucrat, this president is crushing the dream, and the dreamers and I will make sure that finally ends.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, the -- the proof -- the proof of the president's failure is seeing how tepid this economy -- this economic recovery is. I mean, this administration thinks that the economy's struggling because the stimulus wasn't large enough.

(LAUGHTER)

The truth is, the economy is struggling because the government is too big.

(APPLAUSE)

You -- you and I know something the president still hasn't learned. Even after three years and hundreds of billions of dollars of spending and borrowing, it is not the government that creates our prosperity. The prosperity of America is the product of free markets and free people, and they must be protected and nurtured.

(APPLAUSE)

So tonight was a primary, but November is the general -- general election. And we're going to face a defining decision as a people. Our choice will not be about party or even personality. This election will be about principle. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot.

I'm offering a real choice and a new beginning. I'm running for president because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess. We know...

(APPLAUSE)

Look, we -- we know what Barack Obama's vision is. We've been living it these last three years. My vision is very, very, very different than what his is. You see, I -- I see an America where the prospects for our children will be better than even those that we've enjoyed during our lives, where the pursuit of success by all of us will unite us, not divide us, when the government finally understands...

(APPLAUSE)

I see a time when we'll finally have a government that understands it's better for more people to pay less in taxes than for a very few to pay a lot more. And...

(APPLAUSE)

And I see an America where the values we pass on to our children are greater than the debts we leave them.

(APPLAUSE)

I see an America where poverty is defeated by opportunity, not enabled by a government check.

(APPLAUSE)

I see an America that is humbled -- excuse me -- I seen an America that is humble, but it is never humbled, that leads, but is never led. I see an America that is so unquestionably strong that no one in the world would ever think of testing the might of our military.

(APPLAUSE)

Today -- today, we took an important step towards that America. Tomorrow, we'll take another. Each day, we move closer not just to victory, but to a better America. Join us. Join us. Together, we're going to ensure that America's greatest days are still ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

Thanks, you guys. Thank you so much. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

MORGAN: Governor Mitt Romney speaking live tonight after his big thumping victory in Illinois.

Coming up, we'll hear from Rick Santorum, who came in second. Is this victory a game changer in the Republican race or just another night on this rocky road to the nominee?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Plenty of celebrating in Mitt Romney's camp tonight after a big win in Illinois. Does the candidate finally have the momentum he's been craving to nail down the nomination? While we wait to hear from Rick Santorum, who came in second, we'll go to Wolf Blitzer and John King.

Wolf, what did you make of Governor Romney's speech tonight? It seemed to me a little bit more presidential, a little less squabbling over social issues, more on to the economy, his strong point.

BLITZER: Yeah. I thought he hit the notes he was -- certainly needed to hit in terms of not necessarily going after his opponents, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. You heard virtually nothing about them. But acting very presidential, going after the president of the United States, making it sound like this was almost an acceptance speech by the Republican candidate, because it was all focused on the present.

And it was almost completely focusing in on the economic issues, which is Mitt Romney's strength right now. And I was very impressed also, Piers, by Ann Romney in her introduction appealing to women out there who are pretty angry at some of these Republican candidates for some of the comments.

One more note, let me just point out, Newt Gingrich just issued a statement, Piers. I'll read you a couple lines from it. Not a very congratulatory statement to Mitt Romney, I must say.

Issued this statement, "to defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can't nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents seven to one. Instead we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president responsible for his failure."

So not exactly a very gracious congratulatory statement to Mitt Romney from Newt Gingrich.

MORGAN: Also, Wolf, not entirely accurate. I would have thought the one thing the Republicans do need is someone that can spend big money on beating Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Because you know -- because President Obama's going to have a ton of money.

MORGAN: Exactly. Using it as a stick to beat Mitt Romney -- to him up that he's got too much money, too big an infrastructure and has been too successful running a campaign, it seems to me utterly absurd.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. If the Republican nominee, whoever that happens to be, and it looks like Mitt Romney certainly has a better chance right now, though Rick Santorum is certainly in this race now, at least for now. You're going to need a lot of campaign contributions. You're going to need a lot of money for your campaign. You're going to need a lot of money for that super PAC to go head to head against the incumbent president of the United States.

MORGAN: John King, if you're Mitt Romney, how significant is tonight's victory? Because we've had a lot of these where it swings. Santorum wins one. Suddenly he's got the surge back. Then Mitt Romney comes back. Clearly over the next few primaries, it will swing, the pendulum, quite a few times again.

But how significant? David Gergen said earlier he thought today was potentially very, very significant. Do you agree with that?

KING: I agree. It is potentially -- emphasis on potentially -- very, very significant. Look,, we're watching the votes go in Illinois, just fallen below 50 percent. But it looks like he's going to finish in the ballpark of 50 percent. That's a convincing victory.

If you look at the map now, I can tell you, here's his answer to Newt Gingrich. If you want to beat Barack Obama, you have to do better than winning just two states. That will be the Romney campaign's answer to Speaker Gingrich.

But, Piers, the bad blood that Wolf just demonstrated in that Gingrich statement -- we will see what Senator Santorum says in his tone towards Governor Romney. That is Romney's big challenge right now. It's a dual track challenge.

First he has to get the magic number of delegates, which means he has to win these contests that are not filled in yet. He has to win most of them. I would argue he has to win most of them above the Mason-Dixon line by a big margin, because --

MORGAN: John, I am going to have to cut you off, because we have Rick Santorum now live at his headquarters in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he will now be speaking to his gathering.

SANTORUM: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It is great to be back in Pennsylvania. Thank you for joining us here.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me just thank all of you for being here. And I know that they're not going to be hearing me, but I -- I just feel so bad. We have about 1,000-1,500 people who couldn't get in here. We're just overwhelmed by the response here, and I just want to say: I feel welcomed back home to Pennsylvania, so thank you very, very much.

(APPLAUSE)

It is -- it is -- first, I just want to congratulate Governor Romney. I gave him a call a little earlier and congratulated him on winning the state of Illinois. But I also want to say -- I just want to thank all of the folks in Illinois, all in the -- you know, if you look at what -- what's going to happen tonight, we're going to win downstate, we're going to win central Illinois, we're going to win western Illinois. We won the areas that conservatives and Republicans populate, and we're very happy about that. We're happy about the delegates we're going to get, too.

(APPLAUSE)

We wanted to come here tonight back to Pennsylvania, back to a favorite place of mine in Pennsylvania, the city and the town of Gettysburg. It's...

(APPLAUSE)

Obviously, it's -- so many memories come to mind when we walk on here in the town and across the street where Abraham Lincoln finished the Gettysburg Address at the Wills House. And you think about the great elections of our past.

And I've gone around this country over the past year now and said this is the most important election in our lifetimes. And, in fact, I think it's the most important election since the election of 1860.

The election in 1860 was about whether these united states -- which is what it was mostly referred to prior to the election of 1860 -- would become the United States, whether it would be a union, a country bound together to build a great and prosperous nation, a -- a nation based on a concept, a concept that we were birthed with, a concept birthed with our founding document of the Declaration of Independence.

I've said throughout the course of this campaign that while other issues are certainly important -- the economy, joblessness, national security concerns, the family, the issue of life -- all of these issues are important, but the foundational issue in this race, the one that is, in fact, the cause of the other maladies that we are feeling, whether it's in the economy or whether it's in the budget crisis that we're dealing with, all boils down to one word, and that's what's at stake in this election, and it's right behind me on that banner, and that's the word "freedom."

(APPLAUSE)

I was pleased to hear before I came out that Governor Romney is now adopting that theme as his speech tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

I am -- I am glad we are moving the debate here in the Republican Party. But I've been focused on this, because I've actually been out talking to people across this country, doing over a thousand town hall meetings. And I know the anxiety and the concerns that people have in this country about an ever-expanding government, a government that is trying to dictate how we're going to live our lives, trying to order us around, trample our freedoms, whether it's our economic freedoms or our religious liberty.

But in addition to trampling that freedom, in addition to building a dependency, a dependency on government, as we see government expand and grow, now almost half the people in this country depend on some form of federal payment to help them get -- make ends meet in America. And after and if Obamacare is implemented, every single American will depend upon the federal government for something that is critical, their health and their life.

SANTORUM: That's why this election is so important. This is an election about fundamental and foundational things. This is an election about not who's the best person to manage Washington or manage the economy. We don't need a manager. We need someone who's going to pull up government by the roots and throw it out and do something to liberate the private sector in America. That's what we need.

(APPLAUSE)

It's great to have Wall Street experience. I don't have Wall Street experience, but I have experience growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, growing up in a steel town, growing up in public housing in apartments and seeing how men and women of this country scraped and clawed because they had the opportunity to climb the ladder of success in America.

A lot of those folks out there today feel like nobody in Washington and no one in this debate is really talking about them. That's why this is a wonderful movement as I travel around this country and everywhere I go. I see people, people in work clothes, folks with children who are maybe not getting the educational opportunities that they hoped for so they could climb that ladder of success, people who are looking for someone to voice their concerns about how this economy is going to turn around for them, not just for those at the top of the income ladder.

That's why I've talked about a manufacturing plan, an energy plan, someone who believes that if we create opportunities by, yes, cutting taxes, but reducing the oppressive regulatory burden that this administration has put on businesspeople and people who want to drill for energy, it needs someone who's got a strong and clear record that can appeal to voters all across this country and someone who you can trust, someone that you know when they say they're going to do something, they're not saying it because, well, that happens to be the popular theme of the moment, but someone who has a long track record of deep convictions, someone who's going to go out and stand and fight, because it's not just what the pollster tells them to say or what's on their TelePrompTer. I don't happen to have one here tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Because -- because they know in their gut from their life experiences, from living in America, that this is what America needs and America wants. They want someone who's not going to go to Washington, D.C., because they want to be the most powerful person in the world to manage Washington. They want someone who's going to take that power and give it back to the people of this country.

(APPLAUSE)

There is one candidate in this race who can go out and make that contrast with the current occupant of the White House, someone who has a track record of being for you, being for limited government, being for solutions that empower people on the biggest issues of the day, whether it's Obamacare, Romneycare. They're interchangeable.

(APPLAUSE)

We need someone who understands that the solution to the problem with almost 1/17th of the economy is not government control over that sector economy, but your control over that sector of the economy.

(APPLAUSE)

We need someone who understands that we need to grow our energy supplies here in this country. And we need someone you can trust who when in good times and in bad, when times were tough and people thought, well, that -- all this oil and gas and coal in the ground is all a source of carbon dioxide, and we can't take that out of the ground because, well, there's a finite supply and it could -- it could damage our environment and cause global warming...

(BOOING)

... when the climate -- when those who -- who -- who profess manmade global warming and climate science convinced many, many Republicans, including two who are running for president on the Republican ticket, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

But there was one who said: I know this isn't climate science. This is political science.

(APPLAUSE)

And this was another attempt of those who want to take power away from you and control your access to energy, your utilization, whether it's in your car or in your home of energy, because they are better to make these decisions about how you use energy than you do.

(UNKNOWN): No!

SANTORUM: That's what they believe. And unfortunately, just like in health care, Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich went along with the ride. And guess what? When the climate changed, they changed their position. And now they're all for drilling and they're all for oil and gas and coal. I was for it because it was the right thing to do then; I'll be for it tomorrow and the next day and the next day. I'm not going to change with the climate.

(APPLAUSE)

Ladies and gentlemen, I grew up in this great state, and this is the first day -- this is the launch we wanted to come here to Pennsylvania, to launch our campaign here in Pennsylvania. We've got five weeks, five weeks to a big win and a big delegate sweep in Pennsylvania.

(APPLAUSE)

I come as a son of Pennsylvania, someone who grew up in western Pennsylvania. Everyone knows the story, I hope, of my grandfather, my dad coming to Pennsylvania to work in those coal mines in Somerset County. I learned everything, everything about freedom and opportunity and hard work, and growing up with folks who worked in the mills and the mines in western Pennsylvania.

And so when I speak and I speak from the heart, in the back of my mind are the pictures of those men and women who worked and scraped and clawed so their children and grandchildren could, yes, have a better quality of life, yes, maybe even go to college and not have to work in tough, manual labor, but, most importantly, they fought for the things that the people in this battlefield just down the road fought for.

They fought for big things, things that America's always stood for, that Ronald Reagan referred to as that shining city on the hill. It's things that I'm fighting for here today, the reason Karen and I decided, in the face of having seven children ages 20 to 3 -- not exactly the best time to run for president of the United States when you have children 20 to 3...

(LAUGHTER)

... but Karen and I felt compelled. We felt compelled, because as Ronald Reagan said in one of his great speeches, we didn't want to have to sit down someday and look at the eyes of our children and our children's children and describe to them an America where once men were free.

We don't want to be that generation that lost the torch of freedom. That's why Karen and the kids behind me, all of whom born in Pennsylvania, all of those folks who understand the -- the greatness of our state and the greatness of the values of this state, all of us understand what was sacrificed, in the mills and on the battlefields.

And that's why we must go out and fight this fight. That's why we must go out and nominate someone who understands, not because some pollster tells them, because they know in their gut -- just like you do -- all across this country, you know in your gut big things are adrift and at stake in this election.

So I ask each and every one of you to join us, to saddle up, like Reagan did in the cowboy movies, to saddle up, take on that responsibility over the next five weeks. We're going to head to Louisiana from here. We're feeling very, very good about winning Louisiana on Saturday, I might add. (APPLAUSE)

We're heading to Louisiana for the rest of the week, and then we're going to be back here in Pennsylvania, and we're going to pick up a whole boatload of delegates and close this gap and on to victory.

Thank you all very much. God bless you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MORGAN: That's Rick Santorum tonight. He may have lost in Illinois, but he's not giving up the fight. What does victory mean for Mitt Romney? His top adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, joins me live after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: You're looking at celebratory pictures of Mitt Romney and his wife after a thumping victory in Illinois tonight. Joining me now is Eric Fehrnstrom, who is a senior adviser to Mitt Romney.

Eric, a big win, a big night for you guys.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SR. ADVISOR TO MITT ROMNEY: It's terrific. I know Governor Romney is very gratified. It was a big win in a big state. And I think it's another sign that the Republican party is uniting behind Mitt Romney's candidacy.

MORGAN: If that is the case, is it time seriously for Newt Gingrich and/or Ron Paul, or both of them, to consider stepping down?

FEHRNSTROM: You know, look, that's a very personal decision. I'm not going to make that for them. I understand about the emotion and the hard work and the sweat that goes into a campaign. They have all been at it for -- for a long time.

Both Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, they're all good, decent people. They have run honorable campaigns. At some point, the reality is going to set in that Mitt is the all but certain nominee. I can tell you what Mitt Romney did four years ago when he found himself in a similar situation running against John McCain. After Super Tuesday, John McCain certainly didn't have the delegates to become the nominee, but at that point, he was on track to get those delegates.

And Mitt Romney made the decision, and it was a difficult one, to step aside. He stepped aside because he thought it was good for the country. We were at war in Iraq at the time. And he wanted to give John McCain the time to rally the party and unite behind his candidacy.

MORGAN: Well, from what you're saying, Eric, are you suggesting that all of them should stand aside now? Is tonight a tipping point, do you think, in this race? Should all three other candidates, given the number of delegates your man has -- should they all stand aside? We have got about 20 seconds.

FEHRNSTROM: Well, there is deus ex machina that's coming down from the heavens that is going to change the math of the race. Look, Mitt Romney has the most delegates. The reason he has the most delegates is because he as the most votes. The reason for that is because he has the best pro-jobs message.

(CROSS TALK)

FEHRNSTROM: Each candidate will have to make these decisions on their own.

MORGAN: You've been generous, but we'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much. We'll be back at Midnight for more live updates from the Illinois primary, where Mitt Romney's had a thumping victory.

Over to Anderson Cooper.