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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Gingrich Wins South Carolina Primary; White House Reacts to Gingrich Win
Aired January 21, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.
Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary. Take a look at the vote count at it stands right now. These are the official votes -- 98.9 percent of the precincts have reported. Newt Gingrich, the clear winner, with 41 percent of the vote, 229,000, to 27 percent for Mitt Romney, 152,000, almost 153,000. 17 percent for Rick Santorum, 97,000 votes. 13 percent for Ron Paul, 75,000 votes.
A decisive, impressive win for the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
We have reporters stationed throughout South Carolina, watching what is going on. CNN's Candy Crowley is over at Mitt Romney's headquarters. But let's go to Jim Acosta. He's over at Newt Gingrich's headquarters.
We just heard his speech, Jim. This is a big, big night for the former speaker.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Newt Gingrich likes to call himself the "comeback grandfather." It might be more fitting to call him "The Terminator" or "The Terminewter," because once you think that you killed him, he keeps coming back from the dead and that is what he did down here in South Carolina.
Just turning back to his victory speech, it was less of a victory speech and more of a lecture. It was vintage Newt Gingrich. He did praise his rivals in this field, which was very interesting to listen to.
He talked about Ron Paul, saying that his ideas on the federal reserve and money are "right on the ball," is the way Newt Gingrich described it. He talked about Rick Santorum in the victory that he pulled off in Iowa. He even had praise for Mitt Romney. And as we know, they've been duking it out here in the last several days, with Newt Gingrich coming out on top.
Here's what Newt Gingrich had to say about the former Massachusetts governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney, with whom I disagree on many issues, is nonetheless a good example of America. He's hardworking. He's been very successful. He's organized large systems. He did a terrific job at the Winter Olympics. And the fact is, if you look at the four of us, we are proof that you can come from a wide range of backgrounds and in America, you have a chance to try to make your case no matter what the elites think in New York and Washington.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: But Newt Gingrich opened up the meat locker. He was tossing out plenty of meat, red meat to this conservative audience here in Columbia, talking about the president earlier and the decision from the Obama administration to oppose the Keystone Pipeline. Newt Gingrich said for an American president who can create a Canadian- Chinese partnership is truly dangerous to the country.
He also stuck to that phraseology that has got him in a lot of hot water recently, talking about the president as a food stamp president. Newt Gingrich saying he wanted to be a paycheck president.
But he also excited this crowd when he talked about economic issues and the budget, reminding this crowd that when he was the speaker of the house, the budget was balanced in Washington, D.C., even creating a surplus. He promised that as president of the United States, he will bring surpluses back to Washington.
And if I can just comment for just a second on what might have transpired here in South Carolina, as I was listening to your comments all night long there in the studio. It seems to me, and listening to this crowd cheer on Callista Gingrich, it seems to me that what happened here in South Carolina is that the voters here, the conservative voters here, absorbed all of those attacks on Newt Gingrich, on his family, on his personal life, and decided that it was no big deal.
As Newt Gingrich was shedding baggage and shedding liabilities, Mitt Romney was accumulating liabilities and accumulating baggage.
Wolf, that might be why Newt Gingrich came out on top and by such a wide margin. You heard Gingrich say, "I'm not just a good debater." He was trying to -- he was trying to make the point that it wasn't just the debates that won this primary for him. But we all know that was a big part of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A huge, huge part. Jim Acosta over at Newt Gingrich's headquarters.
Candy Crowley is over at Mitt Romney's headquarters. Very quiet over there right now. He was the first to speak tonight.
Candy, it must be depressing for Mitt Romney. Ten days ago or so in the polls, he was way ahead in South Carolina, but that gap really collapsed in recent days.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It certainly didn't go the way they wished it had gone. But, you know, Mitt Romney does what -- and he did what every politician does. That is when you find yourself on shaky ground, you pivot and you move on and that's why when he came out here to thank his supporters, he talked about Florida. He's moving on to Florida, where his campaign says listen, we've got a good operation down there, we're looking forward to a good week.
And unlike Newt Gingrich, who as a winner has sort of the freedom to say complimentary things about his opponents, there was none of that here in the Romney headquarters tonight. He made it very clear that as he moves forward there will be two people he focuses on. One is President Obama and the other, Newt Gingrich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And over the past few weeks, we've seen a frontal assault on free enterprise. We expected this from President Obama. We didn't anticipate some Republicans to join him. That's a mistake for our party and for our nation.
Ours is the party of free enterprise and free markets and consumer choice. Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against us tomorrow. That's the choice our party gives America. Or else we don't offer them any choice at all.
And Americans, in my view, will demand a real choice in this campaign between those people who believe in prosperity and success and opportunity and those who believe in government. And I think they'll choose us.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: You can expect more of the same. You can expect more of the same as we move forward here into Florida. Certainly, what this campaign intends to do is move down there, use its superior organization, they believe, the money that Mitt Romney has and go after both these men, President Obama and Newt Gingrich.
They say the first thing they want to do is Tuesday morning they will give what we're calling a prebuttal, which is what the Romney campaign says will be a major speech on the economy, where Romney will outline the differences he has with Newt Gingrich and with President Obama.
There will be another speech Wednesday morning, right after the President's State of the Union speech, where he will do much of the same thing.
So, they are very much looking ahead here. Mitt Romney is looking ahead as he moves to Florida and, as they say, he is in for the long haul -- Wolf. BLITZER: They're hoping Florida will be a friendlier turf as opposed to South Carolina. Candy has a special "STATE OF THE UNION" tomorrow morning. Rick Santorum and New Gingrich, Candy, they're both your guests. 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Candy Crowley, "STATE OF THE UNION," 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
To our Candy, thanks very much.
Jim Acosta, thanks to you as well.
Let's go back to John King. Let's look ahead a little bit. South Carolina, now history. A very impressive, decisive win by Newt Gingrich. Florida, a little bit different.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: So, where do we go from here now? Just as Candy just mentioned, they had an email exchange with David Axelrod, the president's top strategist. He said it looks like they're in for a long haul.
One quick look at South Carolina. Let's bring it up tonight. Let's turn this up and bring this up. And this is a thumping. That is Newt Gingrich. A little bit of Mitt Romney. A little bit of Mitt Romney. This is a thumping across the state. Now even worth digging deep in. He won among evangelicals. He won among less conservative voters here. Just a thumping.
So where do we go from here? As everyone knows, we go next to Florida. It's a much more diverse state. Conservatives up here. Let me show you a little bit when we look at the demographics here.
Tea party strength, the darker on the map here. Let me pull this down. Give you a better look here. The darker the area in the map, the higher the strength of the tea party. So, not quite as strong as in South Carolina, but there are some tea party voters. Remember, they're part of the state.
Let's take a look, evangelical voters. Again, Newt Gingrich did very well among evangelical voters. Some of them up here in the Panhandle, not as many evangelical voters. This is a more diverse, less hardcore conservative. Yes, a conservative Republican electorate, not traditionally. We'll see what happens in 10 days. But not traditionally as conservative.
After Florida, Wolf, this gets interesting. Out to Nevada. (INAUDIBLE) We go out Nevada. Caucuses, up to Maine, caucuses. This begins the month of February. February 4th, the caucuses up here starting.
Then from there, Colorado. Minnesota is caucuses. Your conversation with Ron Paul earlier. I don't know why that doesn't want to work.
When we go to Minnesota -- he's going to focus on the caucus states.
Huge. Missouri, the biggest state right there in early February in terms of delegates. A huge primary in Missouri.
Then as the month stretches out, states that have been Romney territory, Nevada among them. But then we go to Arizona with the Romney campaign today feels great. We'll see what the Gingrich momentum does. This race has changed phase and momentum, so we'll see what happens.
And then, Michigan, the birth state of Mitt Romney, a state where his father was governor. So, if you look at the map and where we're going, a week or ten days ago, you would say from a financial organization, endorsements on the ground, structures like that, it is Romney.
What we're going to learn, Wolf, over the week, first in Florida and then when we go Nevada, Maine and beyond, is the momentum. If Gingrich can hold it versus the money and the organization, the establishment endorsements of Mitt Romney, and don't count out Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. As long as they stay in the race, even if their slice isn't big, what they're getting could matter.
BLITZER: Rick Santorum clearly in South Carolina did not do to Newt Gingrich what Fred Thompson apparently did four years ago to Mike Huckabee in helping John McCain win South Carolina. That scenario did not play out.
And looking at it in March, I wonder if the inability of Newt Gingrich to get on that Virginia ballot is going to be a factor. If this thing is going to go on and on and on, as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did four years ago on the Democratic side, every one of those states could be critical.
KING: That's a very important point. I showed you here just February. Once we get into March and Super Tuesday, March, you've got a dozen states, ten states, nine states on Super Tuesday. Then more states, Virginia included. You make a very important point. That's a Romney-Paul race.
KING: And so, in that case, if this is a delegate slog, every state you missed, every filing deadline you missed will matter.
BLITZER: We're going to be working hard, but we love politics, and it's our job. Happy to do it.
Anderson now. We're going to be spending a lot of time here at the CNN Election Center.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: No doubt about that. The turnout it seems tonight was much higher than it was in 2008.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does. And, you know, James Carville and Ari Fleischer have been talking about this often for the last few weeks. The early reports we're getting is the turnout maybe up as much as 30 percent from 2008. And that would speak to the intensity, I think, in the last week. This did become a very, very intense campaign. We have this tumultuous week that drew a lot of people.
COOPER: Yes. I would like to hear also from our Republican and our Democrats. The speech that Newt Gingrich -- that you heard him make tonight, do you think that resonates strongly to the base and is going to resonate in Florida?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He blew the dog whistle for conservative Republicans tonight. One, he attacked the elites. He attacked the news media. Of course, they'll all attack him. That's jet fuel for his campaign.
COOPER: Isn't he one of the elites? I mean, he's been living in Washington for quite a while.
CASTELLANOS: David, as long as you keep kicking the elites, you're not an elite. And right now a lot of Republicans and, by the way, a lot of independents, who look just like Republicans, feel the same thing. This country is being taken away from them by people who spend their money without their permission, indebt their future, indebt their kids without their permission. He's ringing a bell for those people.
And Florida is not as moderate a state as a lot of folks think. Rick Scott's the governor there. He beat an establishment candidate in the primary. So, that's going to -- that's going to resonate. Florida is going to be tight.
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: David said that Newt needs an editor. And I think it's the exact opposite as Newt's strength. And I say this as somebody who's been critical of Newt. But Newt is Newt. He writes his own material. He says what's on his mind. He just lets it rip. And that's what people responded to, is that authenticity. He carries tremendous risk, because he lost when he goes off at his worst step and says things that are just too inflammatory.
But people have responded to that in this Republican primary, particularly against Mitt Romney, where the perception is, what is his core, is he as authentic. So when Newt tonight says, for example, shrink the bureaucracy and grow the citizenship, that responds to the economist in the Republican who say Washington is too big, and the moral wing that says the answer lies within each individual. And Newt is pretty good at this.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, but he's also able to turn on a dime. I mean, remember the whole Bain Capital thing where he was attacking capitalism, if you will, and then suddenly Republicans said, you know what, that's not what we want to do, and then he kind of turned in another direction and made it about your record and whether you create jobs.
CASTELLANOS: That's sign behind his head, unleash the American people, was made tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
BURNETT: Right. Change.
GERGEN: James, I'm curious about that President Obama has had a hard time with sort of blue collar voters. He lost a lot of them to Hillary during the primaries. Does Newt have a potential appeal there?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Boy, look, I was looking at (INAUDIBLE) and I was watching this and my wife, we have two children, we always look at each other and say, are they in the same family. And I was looking at Romney and Gingrich tonight and I'm like, are they in the same political party? Stylistically...
CARVILLE: Who knows? I never stay professionally embarrassed, but I cannot, you know, but -- I mean, it almost struck me that they were two stylistically, from their background, from everything else, we got two very, very different people with two very, very different style...
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And Mitt Romney, you have a candidate who is appealing to the party establishment. He's the candidate of the down ballot (ph) Republicans -- the Republicans who will be on the ballot next year. Newt Gingrich is a candidate of the tea party. He's the candidate of grassroots in the Republican Party. They're fed up with Washington. They're angry. There's a lo9t of resentment and he did the dog whistle tonight.
BURNETT: Well, you know, here's the other question I have and you guys are all consulted, political types.
GERGEN: As opposed to you.
BURNETT: As opposed to us. Well, but I've never run a campaign. If this is a test of sort of an insurgent campaign that Newt Gingrich waged, a comeback campaign versus a solid, well-planned, well-built, well-conceived campaign that Mitt Romney has, and the question is, can Newt Gingrich overcome that in the long term? You know...
FLEISCHER: Remember what happened this week. You had some significant Mitt Romney stumbles. When he committed the unforced area and said he paid the 15 percent tax rate, that charge really hurt him. I don't know why for the life of me, he didn't just say I'm going to release them and we'll have the answers then. You know, he committed those problems and then Newt had his surge. That's what led to this missed dynamic. But what we'd seen anything all here, don't make any conclusions about the future based on the week just passed, because it all changes so fast.
GERGEN: So you guys are going to tell us about -- OK, tell us about the origin of dog whistles. CASTELLANOS: Mitt Romney has run a very efficient, well organized, relentlessly machine-like campaign. But sometimes it's a mayonnaise sandwich on a silver tray. It's just no taste there. And at a time when Republicans are so scared about the future of their country, not to tap into that fear for a year.
COOPER: Let's bring in Jessica Yellin into this conversation. She is standing by at the White House. Are they cheering at the White House tonight, Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they like seeing this continue because it continues to bloody whoever the eventual Republican nominee is.
At this point, amazingly, despite the fact that it's Gingrich's big night, the Democrats are focusing on Mitt Romney and saying that the central rational of his campaign continues to crumble.
What I would point out is how different a race against Newt Gingrich would be for the president than it would be against Mitt Romney. They won't say this publicly, but, well, it points to one of the central themes of the president's campaign.
When you talk to both -- the Democratic aides to the president, one of their most prized strengths, they believe, is the fact that the president is personally well liked. Even undecided voters who do not like the job he's done on the economy find him not corrupt. They think that he does not cheat on his wife. They think that he is not in it for the money and that he tries to do the job well, even if he's not succeeding. This they think, the president's aides, is enough to put him over the edge in a very close contest.
Now, Newt Gingrich himself has said that he would not win a popularity contest against President Obama. When you put all of this up against Mitt Romney, he's so squeaky clean it's harder to draw the contrast on this issue. The president's campaign is trying by saying Mitt Romney doesn't have core values. But that's a much easier contrast to draw with Newt Gingrich who himself says, I'm not the popular guy, I'm the guy who has ideas.
So, I think if you saw a contest against Newt Gingrich and the president, you would see one that was much more where the president's team tries to make it about moral issues, character, ethics, that sort of thing, in addition to obviously the economy. And they'll try to draw that contrast much more sharply than they could with a Mitt Romney candidacy.
Obviously, Gingrich would try to make it about the economy and a referendum on the president. But I say this all with a caveat that tonight the Democrats are still focusing on Mitt Romney.
COOPER: All right, Jessica, we appreciate that from the White House. We're going to hear from Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul, the other candidates still in the race for the Republican nomination. And the State of Florida next in line. Mitt Romney believes that that state in hand tonight. What can Newt Gingrich's win in South Carolina do for him there? We'll hear from some Florida voters ahead.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing to watch the victory that has occurred for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina. Our own Piers Morgan is standing be. He's got a special live "PIERS MORGAN" tonight coming up at midnight Eastern tonight. But right now he has some special guests who are standing by. We're going to get to Piers in just a moment. But let's go to Anderson in the meantime.
Anderson, Piers got some special guests that we're going to share with our viewers.
COOPER: We also now have three different winners in three different states, turning the intensity up for the primary in Florida, which is next. Our Tom Foreman has been hanging out with undecided Republican voters in Jacksonville.
They've all been listening to the candidates give their speeches tonight. You've been seeing their dial testing results as the candidates speak. Tom, what is the feeling in the room?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you said, undecided was the word coming in. All these folks here who came to join us were undecided voters. We asked them when they came in, but now, take a look at this. How many of you feel closer to making up your minds now?
Look at that, Anderson. This is the same thing we saw in the Carolinas. The states watch what goes before. And I want you to watch the dial test particularly on Newt Gingrich's speech here, because one of the things we saw in this group was a real taste for positive messages and people who have sort of this grand vision of how things are going to be. Look at this one part and watch how the numbers go up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you sort of just now captured the heart of this campaign. The fact is, we want to run not a Republican campaign, we want to run an American campaign...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: ...because we are optimists about the future because America has always been optimistic about the future. And we believe, as our new sign which just got made today points out, that if we unleash the American people, we can rebuild the America that we lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: So you saw a moment ago, Anderson, we asked all the people here, all of you who are undecided, almost everybody raised their hand. Maybe all of you say you're closer to deciding now. How many of you feel closer now to picking Newt Gingrich?
Pretty good crowd here. Let me ask you, why do you feel that way after what you heard, what changed your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he knew about his issues and he stands for values that I stand for. He had family values in there. He had things that were pro-American. He was also for the energy.
FOREMAN: All right. Let me ask somebody else. You had your hand up as well?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
FOREMAN: What was it that you heard tonight that changed your mind about this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what I liked about Newt is the electability. It seemed like he could go out and get votes. I was very impressed.
FOREMAN: Did you think that before you came in here tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I was a little bit skeptical what his message was doing and I was really -- I was really impressed with him and the results tonight.
FOREMAN: Anderson, I have to mention to you, something we saw with this group tonight when we were testing earlier, the same thing we saw in the Carolinas. When we asked them before all this began, who do you think is going to get the nomination? Everybody here said what?
Mitt Romney. Yes. Overwhelmingly. People said it was Romney. You asked them who they wanted and many of them said they want Newt Gingrich but they didn't think he could win.
Anderson, this is a theme we're seeing repeated. People are beginning to do just like this gentleman, say, I don't think this guy can win but I like his message. And now, they're beginning to say, maybe he can win, Anderson. It's making a big change.
COOPER: What reaction do we see to the Romney speech? FOREMAN: The reaction to Romney's speech was also interesting, particularly when he addressed this issue of his income. You know, he's been beaten up on these tax returns, on how much money he makes and all of that. When he took it head on, he got probably the strongest response of the night. Watch the lines from the men and women as he talked about income and making money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Ours is the party of free enterprise and free markets and consumer choice.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Romney: The Republican Party doesn't demonize prosperity. We celebrate success in our party.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: All right. Same question to all of you out there. A lot of you have (INAUDIBLE). How many of you still want to go with Mitt Romney or feeling stronger about Mitt Romney now?
Yes, you are? Tell me, why do you like him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just like his issues. I think he can provide the jobs and stuff.
FOREMAN: Do you think he's the guy with the business experience, that can make a difference?
Let me ask you up here, do you feel the same way? Why do you -- why do you feel like Mitt Romney is still the guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I personally feel that he's the stronger candidate. I believe in free markets and free enterprise and Romney seems to stand for that. I like his business record. I think he's the better candidate.
FOREMAN: So his business record is what appeals to you there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
FOREMAN: That's something that we've seen an awful lot of, is this sort of balancing here between practical ideas, Anderson, and political ideas and values, something that matters a lot to a lot of the voters here, a sense of the general -- sense of values.
But again, it all comes down to the thing I pointed out in the beginning, Anderson. When we started tonight, if I said, who has made up their mind, not a hand went up. And just one more time for old time's sake, how many of you are closer now to making up your mind?
That is almost the entire room. And that's a big change. That's what they're fighting for, Anderson. And I'm telling you, Florida was watching tonight and it's going to be fascinating to see what happens when the candidates come in here and start duking it out for the delegates from this state because it's a huge one.
COOPER: Yes. And Tom, there's two debates coming up this week. One of them the CNN debate on Thursday night at 8:00. I'm curious to know how -- what importance the folks in the room place on these debates, because we've seen in all the other debates these debates have been very, very important.
FOREMAN: That's a great question. Let me ask you the same thing, how much -- Anderson wanted to know how important do you think the debates are? How many of you think the debates, like the debates coming up, are very important?
Wow. It's almost everybody. Why do you -- why do you think it's so important? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we need to know what they are pushing for and without them debating, going back and forth with each other's ideas, we won't -- we don't know.
FOREMAN: So you think all of the -- I mean, there have been a lot of debates this year. Has that been a good thing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a very good thing. And I think that people talk about the electability of these candidates, and I think Gingrich can debate very well against Obama.
FOREMAN: So, Anderson, there's your answer. I mean, people clearly are still very engaged by this idea of the debates going on. And I think we're going to have a big audience here. I assure you this, Anderson, if there's any way you can hook these people up with tickets for the debate, they're all asking for them. So, we'll see what happens. It's going to be a battle royale down here.
COOPER: Tom, just one other quick question. How enthusiastic would they be for either of those two candidates in terms of -- I mean, how do they believe that either of those two candidates, Gingrich or Romney, can beat President Obama?
FOREMAN: Great question.
Let me ask you two related questions here. Those of you who are for Newt Gingrich, raise your hands again. Keep your hands up where we can see them. If Newt Gingrich did not get the nomination and Mitt Romney did, lower your hand if you would not vote for him -- keep your hand up if you would vote for him.
Most of you, maybe you, not. A few would not.
Put your hands down.
All of you who support Romney, if Newt Gingrich got the nomination, all of you who are going to support Romney, instead of your guy, keep your hand up if you would vote for Newt Gingrich.
You would not.
OK. Last question here. Put your hands down here. How many of you think that Mitt Romney has a better chance of beating Barack Obama than Newt Gingrich does?
OK. You see the numbers there, Anderson. You could look at it.
And how many of you think Newt Gingrich has a better chance of beating him?
Well, that's interesting. That's a little bit more, Anderson, in favor of Newt Gingrich. I'll tell you, dial testing earlier this evening, it was the opposite. When this evening started, this group, by and large, said that they thought that Newt Gingrich could beat Barack Obama and that -- they said, by and large, that Mitt Romney could beat Barack Obama. And this evening, it has changed. There's more indication here that people feel that Newt Gingrich could win.
COOPER: Tom Foreman, that's fascinating. Thank you. And please thank all those undecided voters who now seem to be more inclined to have decided. It's interesting to see in real time people --
CARVILLE: I would love to see those people the night before the election, because Romney is going to come -- they come in with everything that you can imagine in Florida. The stakes here are enormous and they're particularly enormous for Mitt Romney.
COOPER: You' were saying by the end of the next week, the information they're going to have -
CARVILLE: It's going to be staggering what's going to -- what's going to come. Now, there's always a chance, I -- Alex does -- has done a lot of TV. Sometimes it backfires, so and this. But they're coming they're coming with everything that you can imagine.
And, I mean, they've got the book and they've got the ads and they are staying up all night tonight. I guarantee you, those guys are -- they're coming.
CASTELLANOS: And Gingrich has framed this nicely for himself, in that, see, those attacks, they're proof I'm the outsider. They're proof I'm the guy who's going to change Washington. So he can even use those attacks as fuel.
But there's so much of it. He's such a, I think many Republicans think, a fatally flawed candidate that eventually, beyond Florida, he just -- you know, it's hard to see how he does not (inaudible).
COOPER: Well, here standing by are Gingrich's daughters. Let's go to Wolf. Wolf?
BLITZER: Anderson, thank you very much. Take a look at these smiling faces. These are two of Newt Gingrich's daughters. They are standing by to speak with our own Piers Morgan -- the interview with the Gingrich daughters right after this.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, a decisive, impressive win in South Carolina tonight, now everyone moving ahead to Florida. But right now I want to go to Piers Morgan. He's standing by with two very, very special guests. Piers?
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I certainly am, Wolf. I'm with two people who are very happy with the results tonight in South Carolina, and why wouldn't they be? Because both their names involve the word Gingrich, speaking of his daughters, Jackie Gingrich Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers.
Ladies, judging by the whacking big grins on your faces, you're pretty happy down there. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. We're thrilled to be here in South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a great place to be tonight.
MORGAN: I'll bet it is. I mean, what an amazing turn around for your father. You know, I've spoken to him a few times, as you know, and you know, he was dead on arrival in the summer. He made his amazing comeback. Then he was like the has-been who had blown his chance. Now he's the front-runner. How do you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we're very excited. And I think what it proved to everybody, the American people, is that he's more like the Energizer bunny. He just doesn't give up. He just keeps going, he goes on and on and on. He's very, very persistent and that's one of the things that we love about him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's here to do what we need him to do, as the American public.
MORGAN: It seemed to me that his fortunes -- his fortunes seemed to change rather dramatically when he stopped being Saint Newt, this weird new creation he had come up with, with the halo, and took the gloves of and became Nasty Newt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I wouldn't say that exactly. What I would say is that he tried to stay positive, and then he had to go to contrast, and contrast is clear. Contrast is good for him.
In the Republican primary, it's going to be even better for him when you think about the contrast of the Republican conservative candidate, Newt Gingrich, debating Barack Obama. So I think that the contrast is our future.
MORGAN: And there was nobody else predicting this. Your father most definitely was. Now I want to play you a clip from the interview I did with him about 10, 11 days ago, in which he said the following:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I think I'm going to win. This is going to be Armageddon. I mean, they will come in here with everything they've got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Well, he was right. This is going to be Armageddon and I'm going to win. And he didn't just win by a small margin. He had a thumping basically tonight.
(Inaudible) told me that your father, he likes nothing better than when everyone is attacking him, whether it's his ex-wife, whether it's John King, my colleague, quite rightly taking him on or whether it's Mitt Romney or whoever it is, your dad likes it when the bullets are firing at him. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think part of that is he's the son of an infantry man. His father served 27 years in the infantry. So a lot of what Dad does is through service to his country. And again, he's had a very clear vision of what he wants to go with the American people.
He understands that we're in a crisis situation, and he is the only candidate, including President Barack Obama who's balanced a budget, cut taxes, cut spending and cut welfare. And he did this with a Democratic president. So he has governed before, and he knows that he can govern again and that's exactly what we need right now.
MORGAN: What did you think of the interview that his ex-wife gave? I know that you and he both tried to get ABC not to run it, and were unsuccessful. In the end, it doesn't look like it damaged him very much, in fact, probably the opposite. But how did you feel, on a personal level, to see such an incredibly personal interview attacking your father in that way?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we haven't -- I haven't actually seen it, but I can tell you that, of course, in these times, when it is heated, things come out of the blue. You don't expect it, but the reality is, the people of South Carolina were not interested. They knew who they wanted to be leading the charge.
They do elect presidents here and they knew who has the capability and the background and the capacity to go toe -to-toe with Barack Obama. And they made a statement and that's what we're here to celebrate.
MORGAN: Do you think that your father is a reformed character? He certainly tells me that he is, and you told me last week that you felt he was. Do you feel that he really is genuinely a different man now to the man that he was maybe in his 30s and 40s?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. I mean, several things have happened with him. He's owned several small businesses. He's created businesses that were successful. He's had two grandchildren, he's gotten much closer to God, his faith is much deeper and much stronger. I see that through with my interactions with him.
I mean, I see -- when -- I (inaudible) spend a lot of time with him on the campaign trail. And the man that he is today is much more patient, much more interested in listening to people, and he really is -- I mean, he talks about why he's running, he is so authentic and so -- well, he's running for president because he knows that he's the leader we need right now.
He could have stayed home and done nothing, but I'm very proud of him, because he's acted on the campaign trail, working very hard, because he knows that America needs a real leader with courage, and my dad is that guy.
MORGAN: I did another interview with Former President Jimmy Carter this week, in which he accused your father pretty directly of using what he describes as subtle racial terminology to whip up support.
How did you feel when you heard that? Because your father certainly had a whack at Jimmy Carter tonight that he clearly wasn't very happy about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, our father is very much equal opportunity in the realm of his heart. He doesn't -- I can't imagine anyone who actually knows him having any room to even discuss the fact of whether or not he has an issue with race. That is not the man we know.
And the fact of the matter is, we love the man who wants everyone to have a job, everyone to have a better job, and everyone to have the opportunity to own the job. That's the America we love and that's our father.
MORGAN: Now you managed to, between all of you, persuade Rick Perry to come on board and got his endorsement. Who's next for your predatory clutches? Who are you targeting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love the way you framed that question. We're obviously are very thrilled with Governor Perry's decision. (Inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, yes, he's a wonderful guy. He's a real American hero. He -- you know, he served in the military. He's a very good governor. He's a -- you know, my father thinks very highly of him, and we're thrilled to have his endorsement.
And he's going to lead the 10th Amendment Project. And we're -- welcome anyone that wants to join the conservative movement. We really are about people returning the power to the people, not to government. And that's what Dad's all about. So we'll wait and see who's next.
MORGAN: I believe this may be the first time your father has had an outright state victory in his illustrious career. This, I would imagine, will give him a huge amount of increased energy driving into Florida. But he knows in Florida it's going to be one hell of a battle with Mitt Romney.
I would imagine whatever the upside of Armageddon is, I can't think of what that would be, but whatever it is it's going to rain down on your father's head. What do you think his strategy will be in Florida?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I happen to be from Florida now. I've been in the Miami area for over a decade, and I can tell you that my father has worked diligently for many, many years, to include the Hispanic -- you know, as far as every part of his being, he's been -- there's been an inclusion component in our campaign.
Prior to our campaign, we had volunteers and staff at all levels in the Hispanic community. That's going to be a component. We're not going to be able to match Romney dollar for dollar, but Romney is not going to be able to match Barack Obama if he were to even get there. So this is not a dollars game, this is about people understanding the ideas and the solutions and the courage that our father has, the fact that he has a history of governing successfully, that he promised, when they came together and produced the Contract with America, that they would vote on those tenets.
They did within the first 100 days. He delivers on his promises and once we get that message out loud and clear, I think we'll have a very good chance of at least, you know, holding our own and this is going to be a long race. This is not just Florida. There are many, many more states out there.
MORGAN: And final question, ladies, where is the party tonight? Because I can get the last flight out of here and join you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's exactly right. We're in the Hilton down here in Columbia. We have a great deejay. We're having a lot of fun. We've got people that are very excited. They worked very hard here in South Carolina and we're so thankful to the people of South Carolina that, once again, have picked the right man to be the president and the nominee.
MORGAN: Well, a great night to be a Gingrich. Go and have a good celebration, ladies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MORGAN: That was Jackie Gingrich Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, a great credit to their father. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: You know, I know, Piers, you're going to have a live "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" at midnight Eastern tonight. I know you've got some special guests lined up, including me, for one. That's a very special guest I'm sure for you.
I just want to make one correction. I know -- I know what you meant, but your wording wasn't precise, when you said John King attacked Newt Gingrich.
He didn't attack Newt Gingrich. He simply asked the question, that you, of course, as anyone knows -- and you're a great interviewer -- you know it's one thing to ask a question of a candidate, an important question -- you asked him some important questions -- but it doesn't necessarily mean you're attacking him.
MORGAN: Well, let me -- let me say -- let -- no, I didn't mean it like that. And let me say for the record, I thought it was a fantastic question, and absolutely a valid thing to top that debate with. And it got probably the most talked-about moment in all the debates that we've seen so far.
But of course, it also had the effect of galvanizing Newt Gingrich into this tour de force reaction to that question, which I am certain had a huge impact on his success tonight. So he ought to be really thanking John King. But you're right, it wasn't an attack. It was a very valid journalist question.
BLITZER: Excellent, excellent question and I totally agree with you. We'll see you at midnight tonight, Piers. Agree, a good interview with the two Gingrich daughters.
MORGAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Piers. We're going to take a look ahead. South Carolina is one thing, but Florida, something very, very different. Our own John King is standing by. We're going to break down what's ahead in this race for the White House right after this.
BLITZER: So what exactly did we learn in South Carolina, looking ahead to Florida? John King has been studying these numbers.
KING: Learned some thing that Mitt Romney, perhaps, can build on in Florida, which is a bit more moderate than South Carolina. We've also seen some things that are glaring problems for Governor Romney coming out of South Carolina, that he will need to improve in Florida.
Let's look at some of those. Number one, this is an up spot for Mitt Romney, if you will, but there aren't a lot of these voters. The only group by income that Mitt Romney carried tonight in South Carolina is those who make more than $200,000 or more.
Newt Gingrich swept the other groups, 47 percent, almost half of that. So wealthy, affluent Republicans are voting for Mitt Romney, they are the one group where the attacks on Bain Capital, for example, maybe the debate over his tax return did not seem to have much of an impact. Speaker Gingrich coming in second there, but again, you can't count on that piece.
Here's something that's very troubling for the Romney campaign. Florida is a closed primary. Some independents could vote in South Carolina. Florida is Republicans. Look at this here. Among voters who self-identify as Republicans, Speaker Gingrich, 45 percent; Governor Romney, 28 percent; Rick Santorum and Ron Paul rounding it out.
You're going to have a Republican electorate in Florida. It'll be more moderate in South Carolina. Gingrich is winning big, so you can't project these numbers flat over. When you win big, you tend to have bigger numbers, but that's a problem for Mitt Romney, something they need to worry about going forward.
This is his strength in South Carolina. Among voters who identify themselves as moderates, Governor Romney carried this group here, 31 percent for Romney -- 36 percent for Romney, 31 percent for Gingrich. There are more moderates in Florida. Again, he needs to build on that.
One more thing I want to look at here, if you -- this is interesting. Voters were asked in this exit poll, would you support Mitt Romney as nominee? Those who would not support? Ron Paul.
Our analysts have talked a lot that Ron Paul's voters aren't really Republicans. Some are independent, some are libertarians, some are soft Republicans, if you will -- 38 percent of Paul supporters say they would not support. This is interesting, this likely not last, the 30 percent of Gingrich supporters say they would not support Romney as the nominee.
You're in a primary campaign, that's the way it goes. Hard feelings, if you will. But the Paul supporters is an indication that his voters that we're seeing in the process now might not be reliable.
So here's where we go next, Wolf. You look at Florida, an incredibly diverse state, Miami, Orlando, Tampa-St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, much more conservative up here. More moderate in here. The Miami population, the Latinos. You just heard the Gingrich daughters talking about.
Let's go back in time to take a look at what we're talking about here if you come back to 2008. John McCain -- Mitt Romney is the dark red, John McCain is the lighter red, Mike Huckabee up here. There you see the diversity, much more conservative in the Panhandle.
Mitt Romney does have a base of support from last time up in here. And you come down the population centers, big populations here, here and here, a lot of conservative voters up here. A bigger state, a more diverse state and, wow, a challenging state and an expensive state.
BLITZER: Yes, as all of know, the northern part of Florida is like the South, and the southern part of Florida is like the North, because of all the people who have moved to the (inaudible).
KING: That's right. All of sunbirds have come down. That's the great joke. The further south you go, the further North you get.
BLITZER: Sunbirds, snowbirds, whatever, yes.
KING: Snowbirds, sunbird --
BLITZER: (Inaudible). All right. Anderson, go ahead.
ANDERSON: Brooke Baldwin has been monitoring social media for us all night. What have you been seeing?
BROOKE BALDWIN, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: So we've been -- specifically we looked obviously at Newt Gingrich's speech, 22 minutes -- 22 minutes, that's how long he spoke. Right? We saw him reach and grab his notes, his handwritten notes out of his lapel. It was vintage Newt Gingrich, and basically he said, bring it on, President Obama. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I do become your nominee, and I think with your help I will become your nominee, but with your help --
GINGRICH: -- together. If that happens, and it's all up to all of us to work to make it happen, if that happens, then I will -- then I will challenge President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: He will challenge President Obama. I thought it was interesting Wolf said earlier, and all the time he's been in South Carolina, a lot of people, and we've seen via Twitter, they want to see the great debate. They want to see President Obama versus Newt Gingrich.
Also interesting, we pulled some numbers for you, Anderson. Because If you take a look, boom, here we go. If you take a look, from basically this morning, so this is how Newt Gingrich was trending.
The green line is the good line for Newt Gingrich. Negative, obviously, is the red, but I want you to take a look at how much the green changes over the course of this day, based on this race today in South Carolina. This is huge, huge change. So he actually went from last place among all four candidates yesterday -- today, number one.
Let me show you a couple of tweets, first and foremost, and pull those bars down. This tweet -- this is gatewaypundit (ph) -- he says, "Just got to love how Newt Gingrich doesn't back down to taunts by the Left food stamp president."
You heard Newt Gingrich say tonight I'll be your paycheck president. I can go around, into the different neighborhoods and make you, you know, independent versus, you know, making you dependent as he's claiming with President Obama.
Then he advances to the next tweet, and Bill Schneider, political analyst, says, "What made Newt look like a winner to South Carolina? He asked -- he showed fight..." -- that's something we've heard a lot on Twitter -- "... fight and Romney suddenly looks vulnerable.
Tax return issue damaged Mitt," #politics. So again, the whole tax issue, the fact that a lot of people like the fact that Newt Gingrich was transparent when it came to his taxes.
And then one more tweet, this is from Newt Gingrich's own account. "On to Florida, join our movement and let's unleash the American people to rebuild the America we love." So it's been interesting, right, three different states, three different winners. On to Florida we go.
COOPER: Right. Our own panelists have been tweeting, as well. Ari Fleischer, Alex Castellanos, Erick Erickson --
BURNETT: They like to tweet. COOPER: Roland Martin, a lot of great people out there. Let's check in actually with CNN contributors Erick Erickson, editor in chief at redstate.com, and also CNN contributor Roland Martin. They, for some reason, have been able to hang out at a bar in Columbia, South Carolina, all night.
I'm not sure how they wrangled that location. And it looks to me like Roland Martin has donned an ascot at some point while we were away.
COOPER: A lot has been going on.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN REPORTER: It's almost -- it's almost 11 o'clock, I say "CNN AFTER DARK," the crowd is hyped, so the ascot has made an appearance.
COOPER: Roland Martin is either a member of or masquerading as a member of the 1 percent with that ascot. I'm not sure which it is.
Erick Erickson --
MARTIN: Mitt Romney hooked me up with it.
Erick Erickson, what have you been listening to tonight in the speech you heard from Gingrich and the speech you heard from Romney, what stood out to you?
ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: You know, what stood out to me is that both of them, if you follow the people meter, it's the optimism in their speeches that really soar and brought both female and male voters higher -- and liked them. We haven't really heard a lot of optimism since Herman Cain left the race. They've been very angry. They've been very down. They've been very pessimistic.
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum tonight, all of them, when they hit the optimistic notes about restoring America, jobs, the American experience, all of a sudden you saw all of the voters really embrace that message.
The optimistic -- I believe it's a James Carville rule, the optimistic candidate wins. It's time to see optimistic Newt, if he wants to deflect the attacks from Romney.
MARTIN: You know, Anderson, one of the things that, you know, if you (inaudible) the speeches, one thing that Erick and I were talking about, we were driving in from Charleston, we both said why Rick Santorum has to stay in this race. And so a lot of folks are saying (inaudible) came in either third or fourth, hey, he really has no shot.
But the reality is, Santorum and Gingrich have been vying for who is the real conservative. If -- by Santorum staying in the race, that means that he keeps anywhere from 12 percent to 14, 15 percent from going to Newt Gingrich. He actually keeps Mitt Romney in the race.
And the reality is -- and, Anderson, the thinking (ph) is, I'm sure there are people in D.C. right now trying to send money to Rick Santorum so he doesn't leave the race.
ERICKSON: Yes, I'm already getting emails from people in Washington saying the phone calls are happening, the evangelicals want to raise money for Rick Santorum, because they believe with Newt Gingrich as the -- as the nominee, they can't talk about family values. They want to keep him down.
The establishment wants to keep Newt Gingrich down. They see Rick Santorum not on the path to victory, but on the path to blocking Newt Gingrich.
COOPER: Erick --
MARTIN: Mitt Romney should be saying I want Rick in this race.
COOPER: Erick, how negative do you think it's about to get in Florida over the next couple of days between Romney and Gingrich?
ERICKSON: I think it's going to get very negative in Florida. But I would note one oddity in South Carolina -- this is the first raise ever for Mitt Romney running for president where the anti-Romney campaign was at parity with the pro-Romney campaign.
In all the (inaudible) parity would drive Mitt Romney's negatives down. In Florida, he's far surpassed all the other candidates. They're spending zero, he's spending millions. (Inaudible) to parity in Florida and we see the same thing happen, that's a fundamental flaw for Mitt Romney that just parity in advertising drives him down.
MARTIN: Expect also Mitt Romney to go after Newt Gingrich when it comes to Freddie Mac. Florida has been critical when it comes to foreclosures, folks losing their homes. That's the last thing they want to hear is Freddie Mac and those issues when it comes to Florida. And so you saw him already trying to bring it up. He's going to have to go on the attack.
ANDERSON: All right, Erick Erickson, Roland Martin, thank you very much. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: If we learned anything, we know the attack ads work. We also know these two upcoming debates in Florida, including our CNN debate next Thursday, will be critical, as well.
Next stop is Florida. What our focus group didn't like, what they liked when they listened to the candidates tonight. And CNN has been tracking the ballots, and they've been counted and sorted across the state. We're going to see if there were any problems in South Carolina. Stay with us.