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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Mitt Romney Wins Florida; Interview with Jason Chaffetz; Obama Camp's Take on Florida Results

Aired January 31, 2012 - 23:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presidential race has been won by Governor Ronald Reagan of California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Herbert Walker Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 41st president of the United States --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton is now President Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Too close to call.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There it is. George W. Bush re- elected.

Barack Obama, president elect of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.

COOPER: And good evening again. You're watching a special edition of AC 360. Primary night coverage. Fifty delegates at stake tonight in Florida.

BLITZER: The biggest contest yet in a crucial state this November. Winner-take-all in the general election and winner-take-all for Mitt Romney tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Mitt Romney. He is Florida's choice. A win that helped him look like the frontrunner again.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: competitive primary does not divide us. It prepares us and we will win.

ANNOUNCER: It's a new setback for Newt Gingrich and his rollercoaster campaign.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to contest every place and we are going to win, and we will be in Tampa as the nominee.

ANNOUNCER: Four candidates with four contests behind hem, but the fight to the nomination is just beginning. The votes are in. Florida has spoken, and now the campaign goes West.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The campaign does head West, but the story tonight is what happened in the East, in Florida. If you are just joining us, welcome to our AC 360 special primary coverage. Live until midnight.

After wild swings in the polls, withering attack ads, millions spent by the candidates and super PACs alike, Mitt Romney has scored a significant victory, beating out Newt Gingrich by a significant margin. Earlier Speaker Gingrich conceded the night but not the race. Governor Romney claimed victory and looked ahead to the fall.

A lot to talk about in the hour ahead with our panel and special guests. Let's start by bringing you a quick look at what the candidates said tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Mitt, mitt, mitt.

ROMNEY: Thank you so much. Thank you to the people in this room and the people all over Florida. Thank you tonight for this great victory.

GINGRICH: I think Florida did something very important coming on top of South Carolina. It is now clear that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A few months ago, there were -- how many candidates there were? There were nine? We're down to four. But tonight -- tonight I saw a statistics, we're in third place when it comes to delegates, and that's what really counts.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's one message that I think we got from the campaign in Florida, is that Republicans can do better. The American public does not want to see two or three candidates get into a mud -- you know, a mud wrestling match where everybody walks away dirty and not in the position to be able to represent our party proudly.

ROMNEY: Together, we will build an America where hope is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker. My leadership will end the Obama-era and begin a new era of American prosperity.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

PAUL: The greatest danger when we accept the notion that the government is supposed to take care of us from cradle to grave and we're supposed to be the policemen of the world is that ultimately it's down at the expense of personal liberty.

GINGRICH: We believe it is cheating our grandchildren to not insist on fundamental basic change in Washington, even if the establishment doesn't like it.

PAUL: But where the wonderful thing is happening is in the grassroots. People are beginning to realize that the problem is too much government. We need more personal liberty.

GINGRICH: So designing and putting together a people's campaign, not a Republican campaign, not an establishment campaign, not a Wall Street funded campaign, a people's campaign, and saying to every American of every background, and every ethnic group in every community, we have a better future for you and your family.

ROMNEY: If you want to make a selection about restoring American greatness, then I hope you'll join us. If you believe the disappointments -- if you believe the disappointments of the last three years are a detour and not our destiny, then I'm asking for your vote.

SANTORUM: If you want a strong principled conservative who's not going to be the issue in the campaign, who is going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign, please vote for me and help us out.

ROMNEY: We believe in the America that challenges each of us to be bigger and better than ourselves. This election, let's fight for the America we love.

GINGRICH: I'm not going to compete with Obama in singing because I'm not running for entertainer-in-chief. I'm running for president.

And I would say to him now, Mr. President, you cannot sing your way past a disaster of your presidency.

PAUL: Well, if enthusiasm wins elections, we win hands down.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Those were the candidates earlier tonight. Governor Romney's wife Ann also speaking out. Candy Crowley asked her if she's concerned about the negative tone this primary campaign is taking. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: You know, it's always unfortunate that politics has a negative side to it, but I'm not going to be talking about that. I'm going to be talking about the positive side of what I think Mitt can bring to the table. And you know I've seen him in all different situations in my lifetime, and I think right now the voters care about the economy and about jobs. And I think they want to turn to someone, and I think Florida is really going to exhibit this because Florida is really hurting.

It has been a heartbreaking trip for us to be here. I got to tell you, I love this state. My parents, you know, lived here for a long time. It breaks my heart to see how many people are underwater in their homes and are out of work. But I think people are hoping that Mitt, once he gets to the right job, can actually do something about turning this economy around, and I have seen him doing it.

I have seen him do turnarounds time and time again, and I've seen when institutions get in trouble, whether it's the Olympics or the state of Massachusetts or businesses he's a turnaround guy, he fixes things, and I think people are going to say it's time for somebody that has experience and that knows what they're doing to get in there and turn this country around.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And last question, we've heard -- seen your husband described as a liberal, a moderate, you know, a man from Massachusetts -- a Democrat from Massachusetts. You describe him.

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: It's been funny to me. I mean what is next, a communist? I don't know. I mean it's been humorous. Because I know -- I know where his values are on -- you know on a personal level. He's a conservative guy. I know how he's governed, it's been, from a conservative point of view. I know how he will govern which will be a conservative place, which is to rein in spending. And to, you know, cut back in government excess. So, you know, it's politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Governor Romney's wife, Ann Romney, earlier tonight.

Candy Crowley who has been covering the Romney campaign for us all night long, joins us from a very empty Romney headquarters at this hour.

The campaign already -- have they -- has Governor Romney already left for Nevada? We're told Gingrich is leaving tonight.

CROWLEY: No, he's actually going to Minnesota. And you know, as you know, these come pretty quickly. There are also I think three states that are up next Tuesday. So he's up from Minnesota, he'll hook up there with Tim Pawlenty who, as you know, dropped out of the race and has endorsed Romney.

So -- but you will see him in Nevada and you'll see him in Colorado, I think which is also next Tuesday.

COOPER: It was interesting to hear Ann Romney talk about her husband as a turnaround guy. Is that a theme that they're going to continue to try to hit moving forward, the notion that he's turned around companies, he can turn around the country?

CROWLEY: Well, that was always their theme. I mean the Romney campaign went into this venture saying this is the perfect time for business credentials. Now we've seen his -- the type of business credentials he has, a venture capitalist, be questioned as, you know, vulture capitalism, et cetera, et cetera, but nonetheless they have always felt that in hard economic times that Mitt Romney can sell himself as someone who has turned around companies and therefore can turn around the country. Understands what businesses go through, what -- you know, what's hampering them from hiring people, et cetera.

So that's all along been the way they saw this campaign shaping up. Obviously there have been distractions along the way but that's the message that they have long wanted to have out there.

COOPER: All right. Candy, appreciate the reporting tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Anderson.

Let's go to Jim Acosta, he's over at the Newt Gingrich headquarters right now.

Are they having any explanation why there was no congratulatory call from Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney, no even congratulations in his speech tonight. What are they saying?

Hold on, Jim. Jim, I'm not hearing you. We're going to fix your audio. Unfortunately, something has gone wrong. Count to five.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim Acosta --

BLITZER: OK, we got you right now. We got you. All right. So go ahead. Explain why no congratulations.

ACOSTA: My mic was on.

BLITZER: All right.

ACOSTA: You know I had a chance to talk to R.C. Hammond, who's the spokesman for the Gingrich campaign, and he said, listen, this is not a sign of how person this race has become. It's a sign that this race will go on.

And I had a chance to go up to Speaker Gingrich a few times after the speech tonight, Wolf, and I have to tell you, I pressed the question to him on multiple occasions as he was trying to leave this room this evening, shaking the hands of various supporters who were in this room. He simply did not answer the question, Wolf.

You know as these candidates are heading out West and they're flying -- country and head to Nevada over the next couple of days. You know the voters may be grabbing their air sickness bags because that is how personal this race has become. You know, the Gingrich folks have talked about how negative and nasty and dishonest they feel the Romney campaign has waged this contest down here in Florida.

Unfortunately for them, the numbers just weren't on their side. If you take the numbers of voters who were -- who were in support of Newt Gingrich tonight, add them to the number of people who voted for Rick Santorum tonight, they still may not have beaten Mitt Romney here in Florida, and there's one other big numerical challenge for Newt Gingrich, judging by those exit polls. The fact that he was crushed by Mitt Romney with women voters, that is something they just have not addressed out on the campaign trail. They have not put Callista Gingrich forward the way that Ann Romney has been s put forward by the Romney campaign. You saw that interview with Candy Crowley.

The Gingrich campaign has studiously decided not to do that. Up until this point. It raises the question whether or not they can continue to do that going forward with the fact that so many women voters have turned their backs on Newt Gingrich down in this state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but there's no doubt he's continuing, at least for now. He says 46 states to go, Anderson. No indication whatsoever that the setback in Florida is going to cause him to rethink that strategy.

COOPER: That's right, Wolf. Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz is the kind of young brash lawmaker who might have been right by Newt Gingrich's side back in the early '90s. In 2012, though, he's more of a thorn in his side. He supports Mitt Romney. He's been shadowing Speaker Gingrich on the trail, offering the Romney rebuttal.

Congressman Chaffetz joins us now.

A big win for your team tonight, for Governor Romney tonight. Why do you think your governor, why do you think governor Romney was able to make up some of the deficit he had among evangelicals, among Tea Party supporters?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: Well, look, I'm as Tea Party as it gets. I was ranked the second most conservative member in the House. I'm not ceding the conservative base to Newt Gingrich. To the contrary, I think the base of the party, the Tea Party activists, want somebody who comes from outside Washington, an clearly that's Romney. And they are concerned about jobs and the economy.

The only person in the race at this point that has the experience to make that happen is Mitt Romney because he fundamentally understands government doesn't create jobs, people and entrepreneurs do and I think Mitt Romney relates to those people better than anybody else.

COOPER: The rhetoric on both sides has been pretty brutal. No signs of that dimming in the -- in the days and the weeks ahead. You've taken part in some of that. Is there a point, though, that it starts to hurt your candidate, that it starts to hurt all the Republican candidates and the Republican -- the Republican mission?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, you've got to go through a number of matches where you're sparring with each other, it makes you stronger as Governor Romney pointed out tonight. It makes you stronger going into the general election. Not only the candidates themselves, but the organizations, the staff, the fundraising, all of that becomes very important. So you're having to run a hard pro-active campaign now. It gets stronger in the fall. And look, if you think it's tough now, just wait until the fall. This is nothing compared to what it's going to be like.

COOPER: Do you believe that Speaker Gingrich will stay in this race all the way through the convention?

CHAFFETZ: Well, as a candidate, everybody is going to say that, but there's going to come a point, I think, when you see victory after victory where it -- you know, there becomes a point where enough is enough. And look, even past this point Mitt Romney was in the race and then finally bowed out and did so in a very graceful way, but of course every candidate is going to say that they're in it to win it. And they're in it to the end. I don't blame Speaker Gingrich for that.

COOPER: When do you see -- when do you think your candidate can claim victory? When do you think the others will drop out?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I hope -- hopefully sooner rather than later. I think that the campaign really transitions into a national campaign, you can't park your candidate in a state for a week. You got to be able to move nimbly as Governor Romney will be in Minnesota, will be in Nevada, and then quickly you got to pivot to Colorado.

And then when you start to have Super Tuesday, you better have the resources, the organization, and the right candidate with the right message, and I think when you add all that up, it's clearly Mitt Romney. And the sooner that we can get on to focusing entirely on Barack Obama, the better, but I certainly wouldn't want to trade positions with anybody else at this point in the campaign.

COOPER: Representative Chaffetz, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, the key factor for so many Republicans today. Which candidate can beat Barack Obama. John King has the numbers on that tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It is supposed to be the central question in every primary campaign. Can our nominee beat the nominee in November? Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich have made electability a big part of their sales pitch.

Here's Governor Romney tonight focusing sharply on the general election. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Three years ago this week, a newly elected President Obama faced the American people and he said look, if I can't turn this economy around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition, and we're here to collect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's Governor Romney, a big winner tonight. The question is, do the hard numbers suggest that he'd also be the likeliest Republican winner in November. Once again John King has some of the numbers at the wall.

What did you see?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with this. Let's show our viewers at home, don't say these guys are crazy. Let's remember, 46 states to go, as the Gingrich campaign said. But Romney does have a lead. So let's just project this out. If he can pull this out, let's go to the map. This is the 2008 map. Obama winning with a lot -- the electoral votes have been adjusted a bit.

But let's take tonight's state, Florida. Everyone says that'll be a toss-up. North Carolina, Virginia will be a toss-up, New Hampshire will be a swing state, Ohio will be a swing state, Indiana went Obama, most people think that won't happen. Michigan could be in play this time. Iowa will be a swing state. Colorado will be a swing state. Maybe New Mexico. The Democratic think they may have a prayer in Arizona without John McCain on the ballot. Let me make that a swing state. And Nevada, the highest unemployment rate in the country.

So I just took those states away. If you're watching at home, if you're a Democrat, you might say no, give some of those back, if you're a Republican, you might say some of these Midwestern states might be swing states, but let's just start with this scenario.

And, Anderson, let's assign them. We're doing a hypothetical here. Let's, for the sake of argument, say the president keeps Virginia, growing Democratic population there. Republicans will say no way, but it's a hypothetical, bear with me.

Let's say the Republicans get North Carolina. Let's give the Republicans Ohio, and let's say despite high unemployment that the bail-out, the auto bail-out helps this president and he keeps Michigan. Most Democrats concede Indiana is likely to go Republican.

Let's come over here. Colorado, I'm going to give it to the Republicans for the sake of argument here. I'm going to keep the Republicans winning Arizona, the president is going to make a big push there. And let's keep New Mexico in the Democratic column. Look where we are right now. Obama at 260. He needs 270 to win. So for the sake of argument, let's just say Governor Romney is the nominee and he wins New Hampshire. Well, now he's closing in.

Let's just say that Governor Romney can win out here, and let's keep this in the Democratic column. Look where we are. Who voted tonight, the state of Florida? That's a pretty easy scenario where Florida decides who the next president is. Donna Brazile and Ari Fleischer.

COOPER: Right.

KING: Remember this did happen at one time in our history. So if it went Republican, Mitt Romney or whoever the Republican nominee squeaks over, and if it went Democrat, that's not land slide, but that would be a win. So I can give you a number of scenarios and people at home who are watching and they live in these states, they're saying no, no, no, you could put more states in play, you could put Minnesota in play, potentially Wisconsin in play, but just in those places I put on the swing, if you allocate them in a reasonable scenario, this is what we do know.

With 8 percent plus unemployment, we're going to have a much more competitive map than we did in 2008, and you can have a scenario where a state as small as Iowa or a state like Florida or Ohio, we could be up, you know, on CNN after dark, November.

COOPER: And earlier in this race, we heard candidates like Michele Bachmann saying don't settle, don't settle for someone who doesn't share your conservative values. Tonight, we saw the number one priority among voters in Florida who can beat Barack Obama.

KING: And it was the same in South Carolina. In the South Carolina, the more conservative electorates, they thought Newt Gingrich is that candidate. Tonight in Florida, the most -- the biggest state so far, the most diverse state so far, the most ideologically diverse Republican state so far, they said Mitt Romney was the most electable.

That is the question going forward. Republicans are hungry. The reason the Romney campaign will say it's important, Florida tonight, Florida Republicans know their state is a big general election battleground. South Carolina is going to vote Republican. The challenge is, can you carry it consistently on? But look, we're learning. The map is going to be much tighter this time.

COOPER: And as you said, Florida, the most diverse state that we've seen so far in this Republican race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.

There's no doubt that a lot of Democrats have been watching very, very closely. What's going on in Florida. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a congresswoman from Florida. She's also chair of the Democratic National Committee. She's joining us from Tampa right now.

So Mitt Romney wins, we've been saying, a shellacking in your home state of Florida. That's got to get you and a lot of other Democrats nervous. Florida, Florida, Florida, a key battleground state in November if he should get the nomination.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIRWOMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: No, it doesn't get me nervous. What gets me concerned is that Mitt Romney has spent this entire primary buying the election. He ran 13,000 ads versus Newt Gingrich's 200. And really drowned Newt Gingrich in ads. So with 65 percent at least of Republican voters that voted tonight, identifying with the Tea Party, that's an -- pretty extreme right-wing field of an electorate.

And that's not an electorate that's reflective of the general election voters in Florida, who are moderate, who are middle class and working families, and who Mitt Romney and the rest of the field are dramatically out of step with. So we're going to continue to organize and use their primary process as an organizing tool. We've got 11 offices open here in Florida around the state. We've made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and we're going to continue to fight hard with President Obama to get this economy turned around and see if more jobs --

BLITZER: You've got to be -- you've got to be concerned, though, Congresswoman, that he did so well in Miami-Dade and Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the largest population centers in the state. Those are counties that the president of the United States will desperately need if he's going to have a shot in Florida.

SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama, I'm quite confident, is going to win overwhelmingly in South Florida. Like most presidential candidates do on the Democratic side. The Republicans really need to be concerned tonight because if there was so much fervor on their side to defeat Barack Obama, they would have had a bigger turnout in their primary in 2012 than they did in 2008. It was actually a lower turnout.

And -- so that's reflective, Wolf, of the fact they're not very enthusiastic about their field. And so I think that's going to cause them some problems down the road. Florida is the biggest battleground state and it is going to be part of a key to whichever candidate wins the general election, which I think will be Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Is he the strongest Republican candidate from your perspective? Is the one you fear the most as a Democrat?

SCHULTZ: You know, fear is certainly not the term I would -- I would use. It doesn't much matter which one of the Republican candidates ultimately is their nominee because they're all extreme. They've all embraced the Tea Party. The general election voters are not supportive of the priorities of the Tea Party.

General election voters like independents and moderates in particular they support a candidate like Barack Obama who's been fighting to create jobs and get the economy turned around, fighting to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to be successful, unlike Mitt Romney who thinks that we should continue the loopholes that he benefits from in the tax code, continue the tax rate that he benefits from where people who make far less than him pay a higher tax rate.

And, you know, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that everyone in America has a chance to live the American dream, and a dramatic contrast between any of the Republicans and Barack Obama is going to be quite stark when it comes to Election Day in November. And that's why Newt -- Mitt Romney has been catering with moderates and independents in the general election polling that's been done, because his overwhelmingly negative campaign continues to turn voters off. BLITZER: If he gets the nomination, there will be three presidential debates as you know in the fall, the president of the United States versus the Republican nominee. Let's assume it's Mitt Romney, for argument's sake, and he says he would repeal the president's health care law on day one. What would the president, do you think, say to Mitt Romney?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHULTZ: Well, I know in Florida, the president would say to Mitt Romney that that would reopen the doughnut hole for prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. It would return to the days when insurance companies could drop you or deny you coverage for a pre- existing condition.

Forty-five percent of Americans, Wolf, live in this country with a pre-existing condition. I'm a breast cancer survivor. I can tell you that the millions of breast cancer survivors that live in this country would be incredibly resentful of the notion that Mitt Romney would take that comfort and that security away, that the Affordable Care Act brings them.

The 2.5 million young adults who can remain on their parents' insurance now thanks to the Affordable Care Act, would lose that coverage. And the 12 million more that will gain that coverage by 2014 would lose that coverage as well. So that position to repeal the Affordable Care Act is unacceptable.

It would return power to the insurance companies over our health care decisions and I don't think that's something that the American people are going to support. And that's what Barack Obama would tell Mitt Romney in any head-to-head debate.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a congresswoman from Florida, also the chair of the Democratic National Committee, joining us from Tampa. Thanks very much.

Anderson, let's go back to you.

COOPER: Coming up, Wolf, John King looks at which candidate won the Latino vote tonight and how diverse that voting group really is. That and more as our special AC 360 primary night coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey, we're back with special 360 coverage of primary night in Florida, the winner, the big winner, Mitt Romney. Let's look closer now at just how he won. That's really what's key now. One big key in Florida, the Latino vote. John King has the -- is at "The Wall," crunching the exit poll data.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": This is the most diverse electorate, still an overwhelmingly white electorate, a very small African-American (INAUDIBLE) But look, 14 percent of the vote, Latinos -- you didn't see that in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina. And among Latino votes, you look here, Governor Romney winning huge, 54 percent to 29 percent for Speaker Gingrich, 9 percent for Senator Rick Santorum -- 54 percent, a clear majority of the Latino vote, going to Governor Mitt Romney.

On the issues here, I just want to show, the economy was by far issue number one among all voters. Illegal immigration, and issue that perhaps in the Latino community more than some others, a very minor issue tonight in the state of Florida, with high unemployment, the foreclosure crisis, the economy dominating.

Let's go over to "The Magic Wall." We'll show you how this breaks down in the state. Again, Governor Romney with 95 percent of the vote count, is winning huge, a 14-point lead over Speaker Gingrich.

Let's pull out some of the demographics here, and you see Latino voters. The darker the area, the higher the percentage of Latino vote. So you see a significant now -- let's us some red so you can see it better -- down here in the Miami area, up here across the I-4 corridor a little south of Orlando, and Tampa up here.

Down here is where you get the high percentage of the Cuban vote, and Governor Romney winning convincingly, winning a majority again among the Cuban-American vote down in here. But Florida is not just Cuban-American votes. You have a large Puerto Rican population in this state that will be important in the general election, Mexican, Central American and South American population as well.

But Anderson, the first time we've seen this key constituency will be a swing vote in so many states -- Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and beyond -- come the general election. So the Romney campaign will view this tonight as an important down payment, Anderson, of winning the Latino vote.

We're going to move on to Nevada. There will be another huge constituency there. Colorado comes up in the weeks ahead. So we're beginning to get our first taste of how the Republicans fare among a slice of the electorate that will be absolutely pivotal come November if we have a competitive race.

COOPER: Yes. And we're back with David Gergen, Gloria Borger. Also joining us, Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanol.

You know, when you think about the Latino vote in Florida, as John just pointed out, it's very important to realize you cannot paint it with a broad brush, that it is a very diverse population in that state.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, CNN ESPANOL: It is, but this is a Republican primary. It was a close primary. And Republicans are very organized in Florida. You have other voters. You have more registered Democrats in Florida, and you have over 431,000 independents or with no party affiliation. So this was supposed to happen. This was expected. This doesn't mean that we're going to see this repeated in other states. COOPER: Right.

BORGER: Well, you know, for Cubans, immigration is not a huge issue. And so I think, you know, you see that reflected. What we saw from Mitt Romney, though, was he kind of softened his position on immigration from what we heard in Iowa. He allowed that he would accept part of the Dream Act, for example, for the military. And he talked about self-deportation.

And he -- so we heard a little bit from a different Romney on immigration issues, whereas Gingrich was much softer on immigration and he didn't do as well.

GERGEN: Yes, even though he has softened, that's true, Mitt Romney has, but nonetheless, in a general election against President Obama, he's going to be the clear underdog among Hispanic voters. And the question becomes, can he add a few percent here and there. And I don't know the answer. You have Marco Rubio on your ticket in Florida, whether that's enough to move Florida over to the Republican column, and that could win the election.

COOPER: It is such a big shift because I mean, remember, under George W. Bush, Republicans were trying to reach out to Latino voters in a way they hadn't before. Some of the advances they had made have clearly been reversed.

BORGER: Oh, absolutely. Well, you can...

LOPEZ: Well, the issue is immigration, and it's not -- for example, Cubans don't need immigration reform. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth. But the tone of the immigration debate moves people. It unites the community. The community -- you can say it's very diverse. You don't have one Hispanic community. There are many communities in the Hispanic community.

But people feel offended by the tone. They feel it's an attack on the Hispanic community. And it brings people out to call (ph) it (ph) on one issue, which is immigration. If the tone doesn't change, then Hispanics are going to go -- as they were saying, polls show that President Obama, even though he hasn't delivered on immigration reform, has over 60 percent of the Hispanic vote.

GERGEN: Right. And George W. Bush got it up to around 38, 29. A Republican has to get up in somewhere in that vicinity to have -- in a national election, especially as this population grows. And that's why Marco Rubio becomes such an interesting player in all of this. He didn't endorse. I think he -- like Jeb Bush, he stayed out of the endorsement game in Florida, which I think makes him a stronger...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Although he did say...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... to anybody who -- the person who wins in Florida is going to become the nominee.

BORGER: But he also scolded Newt Gingrich. Remember? There was that radio ad talking about the language of the ghetto, and he said that's -- you know, that's a terrible ad and Gingrich took it down.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: ... healing that needs to be done after this.

LOPEZ: But Rubio has a...

(CROSSTALK)

LOPEZ: ... position on immigration that most -- even members of Congress in Florida -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the foreign services -- foreign service committee -- she backed Romney. And she says, We don't agree with him on immigration, but we think we can get him to change. And that's part of the tone.

COOPER: Alex Castellanos, as you listen to this, how do you see immigration playing out in the states ahead?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's certainly going to be much more important in the general election than here, and in Western states, where you do have a very different Hispanic population.

You know, the Cuban voters here -- look, it's still a closed primary, and it's primarily dominated in Florida by Cuban voters. And they come here -- you know, they were for Gingrich. A lot of them love Newt Gingrich, but they saw him as marginalizing himself, irrelevant. Romney, a business guy, aspirational, he's going to move the economy.

But as we get to these Western states, then it's a very different story. These are a different kind of Hispanic voter that is still sending money back home, for example, to maybe a country in Latin America, to Mexico, a Hispanic voter that is -- has family or knows someone or works with someone who may not be a legal citizen.

So all of a sudden, the tone, I think, does make all the difference in the world. The Republican nominee, you know, needs to explain that this is still a country with strong hands (ph) and borders but a big heart to welcome people.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Florida (INAUDIBLE) representative of the Latino population overall in the country. Sixty percent of the voters, Mexican. And while it's important to have a Spanish surname, it doesn't necessarily help you win the Latino vote. We've seen with even Susanna Martinez in New Mexico, most of her votes came from white conservative voters and not necessarily Latino voters.

So it matters to have a good, strong position on immigration, on education, on jobs and the economy. And I think the Republicans will come up short.

One thing we didn't mention is that overall turnout among Republicans in Florida was down, a 15 percent drop over 2008.

COOPER: I got to take a quick break. We'll get Ari and Paul's perspective in just a minute.

But sure to check out CNNPolitics.com for more from Juan Carlos on why Romney took the Latino vote in Florida.

Next, the role of negative campaigning. People say they hate the attacks. We hear that over and over. Experience shows they do listen to them. They do seem to work. They certainly seemed to work this time. We'll show you how it played out today at the polls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey, welcome back to our 360 coverage of the Florida primary. Here's a staggering number -- 92 percent. Now, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, negative ads accounted for 92 percent of all political ads airing in the last week of this campaign -- 92 percent negative. And that's just the ads.

Out on the trail, the attacks, the counterattacks -- they were almost constant. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the speaker's not real happy, Speaker Gingrich. He's been flailing around a bit. These debates have gone pretty well. Speaker Gingrich wasn't very happy with the debates, though.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: So Mr. Speaker, your trouble in Florida is not because the audience is too quiet or too loud.

But Gingrich is not revealing himself to be the kind of person that I think he (ph) would want to be seen.

Send it to the moon he says. All right, well...

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: We look for qualities in a president, many qualities, but we don't look for whining and excuses.

You know, he's -- he's now finding excuses everywhere he can.

He was given the opportunity to lead our party. We elected -- you're right, he failed. He ultimately had to resign in disgrace! He can't rewrite history!

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe the Republican Party is going to nominate a liberal.

-- not some liberal from Massachusetts!

-- Massachusetts liberal...

-- Massachusetts liberal...

-- Massachusetts liberal who is pro-abortion, pro-gay rights...

He has no understanding of the importance of conscience and the important of religious liberty in this country!

-- pro-tax increase, represents the establishment in Wall Street and New York...

Governor Romney has never had one day of experience trying to get something done in Washington.

What a pathetic situation, to be running for the president of the United States with nothing positive to say for yourself!

There was this huge wave of dishonest Romney ads.

-- breathtakingly dishonest, the most blatantly dishonest answers I can remember in any presidential race in my lifetime.

You cannot be president of the United States if you cannot be honest and candid with the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We heard a lot of harsh words. Earlier tonight, Paul Begala said the primary is about bile, bitterness and bad blood?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Bad blood. Alex Castellanos predicted Republicans would come together this fall. I mean, is all this rhetoric -- is it hurting long-term?

CASTELLANOS: Not yet. If it continues for too long, sure, it could. But right now, we do suffer, I think, the luxury -- we have the luxury of Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... Gingrich calling Romney a liar, can you take that away?

CASTELLANOS: Well, and he was punished for it in Florida. You know, that's what happened. Look what Republicans did. That's one reason I think Newt Gingrich became unelectable in Florida. The jury is very efficient at these things, the American people, Republicans and Democrats. Lookit, when a candidate is attacking someone for their own gain instead for the good of the country, they'll disqualify them. And that's what happened to Newt in Florida.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And negative ads, negative attacks from the stump work if they have such a sufficient core of credibility that the public nods their head and says, You know what? That's kind of what I thought, and you're reinforcing it.

If you come up with something that's totally out of whole cloth and say, My opponent is against kosher food, you know, people just aren't going to believe it. It doesn't have that air of credibility.

So you still have to put your faith in the hands of the voters. And Florida particularly, where the voters are elderly, pay more attention, read a lot, watch a lot. They are able to wade through these things. If it doesn't have credibility, it doesn't work.

BRAZILE: Paul suggests that the Republican brand is badly tarnished. So the longer this goes on, the harder it will be for them to try to rebrand themselves in the fall. Look, they're hurting them on independents. I don't think the -- you know, the long race will help Mitt Romney regain some of his narrative about being a confident businessman that can turn things around.

The key thing right now is for the Republicans to try to close it down. But it's tough because you have so many conservatives who are still looking for an alternative to Mitt Romney.

CASTELLANOS: But you know, victory -- victory washed his -- a lot of grime and mud away, guys. We've seen it over the years.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It can with Republicans, but independents are watching, too. And these negative things stick. They go to character and they go to ideology. And both of those things, I think, Romney's taking on water. And voters are watching this, independent voters, swing voters. And we remember -- it's the way we're wired.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, great Republican, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, wife of Speaker Longworth, once said this. If you don't have something nice to say about someone, come sit by me. That's how we're wired. We want to hear this. And this stuff about his business record, this stuff about his veracity, this is going to last and it's going to linger.

CASTELLANOS: Well, if that's the case, then Barack Obama is doomed because he's running -- he is the most polarizing figure in American politics. He's running a hugely negative campaign. He ran a hugely negative campaign last time. He ran more negative ads...

BEGALA: And how did that work out for him last time?

(LAUGHTER)

CASTELLANOS: He ran more negative ads...

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: He ran more negative ads than anybody...

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: ... than anybody else, and he won. BEGALA: ... the president of the United States.

CASTELLANOS: ... and he's the president of the United States. My point is...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It's because of the...

CASTELLANOS: ... parties get over this.

BRAZILE: It's because of the political climate. The country is deeply divided. And let me just tell you, it doesn't matter who's in the White House at this point. You're going to have half the country oppose you simply because they don't support your political party.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: You do have to start to worry about if this thing goes on too long, that it does have the potential to hurt the candidates. And it's too early now and the candidates have the right to get into this -- and I'm -- I'm prepared. I think you can go to March or so, maybe even April. But at a certain point, this will start to hurt Republicans. You just have to let them both sort it out. You can't stop it.

BRAZILE: Let the people decide.

CASTELLANOS: Beyond the politics, there is actually real substance that we're beginning to see the outlines of the general election here. These Republicans were campaigning on growth and jobs. That's what they were talking about on the stumps. Yes, the negative ads were trying to disqualify them on character and all of that. But when you look at Barack Obama, he's talking about redistributing the pie. I have to take from you to have more for me.

BRAZILE: That's not what he's saying.

CASTELLANOS: Republicans are talking about growth. It's a populist negative campaign...

BRAZILE: He's saying that the American dream...

CASTELLANOS: ... versus the campaign about growth and the economy.

BRAZILE: ... should work for everyone. It should not...

CASTELLANOS: I think that's the general.

BRAZILE: The American dream should work for everyone. It shouldn't just work for the well-to-do. It's not about taking away. It's about insuring that everyone has an equal shot at becoming successful.

COOPER: All right, let's pause on the talking points on that one.

More to come tonight. Up next, we' re going to show you how the delegate count stands right now, what the delegate map looks like down the road. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey, welcome back. We're live tonight with a special AC360 primary edition after a big Mitt Romney victory in Florida. There you see it, 46 to 32 percent, 50 delegates, winner take all.

Let's take a look now at where the delegate count stands for Governor Romney, as well as the rest of the field. John King is at "The Magic Wall" with that -- John.

KING: Long way to go, but if you look at tonight, you need 1,144 to clinch the nomination. Romney at 84, Gingrich at 27, Senator Santorum at 8, Ron Paul at 10.

So the question is, where do we go from here? Well, January is over, Anderson. So now we go forward. And Nevada is next on the 4th. I'm going to do a hypothetical here. Romney is favored right now for the month of February, so I'm just going to run the map for you. Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado -- we go through there. The Maine caucuses, could be a Ron Paul surprise in Maine. So let's watch that. But I'm going to give it to Governor Romney right now.

Let's go through Arizona and Michigan, the two biggest prizes in February at the end of the month. So we could get all the way through the month of February. If Romney wins them all, he would be about 256. They're proportional, so we're giving some delegates to other candidates. But Romney would be about there.

So now let's fast forward through March. We see we go through this real quickly. Washington caucuses, we're going to give that one to Ron Paul. You keep (INAUDIBLE) super-Tuesday. This is why Speaker Gingrich says he's going to stay in. He believes when we gets down to the South here, he can be more competitive.

As you watch these states now, you're starting to see some fill in Romney, some fill in Gingrich, especially down here in the South. Again at home, if you're a Santorum or Paul supporter, this is a hypothetical, just to show you why Speaker Gingrich thinks he can stay in and keep going.

Now, if you get us all the way through, Louisiana goes there, you get to April 3rd, out of March and into April, Texas is a big prize here. If Gingrich were to win that -- let's stop right there. Look at this. Now you'd have Romney just shy of 700, Gingrich at 445. Again, the finish line is here. So Romney would be ahead, but not by so much that Speaker Gingrich says he wouldn't stay in. So that's why Speaker Gingrich says this battle will go on.

Let's see if Romney runs the board in February, if that changes the dynamic. But as they go on, a couple final points from the exit poll data tonight to the conversation, Anderson, you were just having with the consultants. Are you happy, satisfied if Romney wins the nomination? Thirty percent of Florida Republicans voting today said no. That's proof that he has some healing to do. He did win the state big, of course. It's a shellacking. Sixty-five percent of Florida Republicans say yes, but thirty-one percent say no, bit of a problem there.

But they do like Mitt Romney. So this works in his favor. Seventy-six percent of those who voted today say they have a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney. Here's to me a warning sign for Speaker Gingrich as he goes forward. In Florida tonight, 55 percent had a favorable view, but 4 in 10 Republicans -- these are Republicans -- 4 in 10 Republicans have an unfavorable view of Speaker Gingrich. He can blame the negative ads, if he wants, Anderson, but going forward, that could be a problem. If his negatives among Republicans are high, hard to win votes.

COOPER: Yes. Certainly is. John, appreciate that. Let's get some quick final thoughts from all of you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, I've just been thinking about how important all these debates have been. In South Carolina, Newt Gingrich did really well in those debates. He obviously won decisively in South Carolina. But in Florida, Mitt Romney did really well in the two debates that were in Florida. He won decisively in Florida.

I've covered these elections for a long time. Four years ago, I moderated five presidential debates, including that last one between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at the Kodak Theater. As important as all of those he debates were then, in this particular contest, I think these debates have been so much more important. And the exit poll numbers show that so many people were influenced by all those debates.

COOPER: No doubt about it.

BORGER: I think this was Romney's first really clean win. This wasn't a tie in Iowa. It wasn't in his back yard of New Hampshire. It was in a big, diverse state which required a lot of organization, a lot of money.

The thing to keep in mind, though, as you head forward is the difficult task that Mitt Romney has, which is he has to keep up the pressure on Newt Gingrich, but he also has to take a turn to Barack Obama. So he's got to do two things in one.

GERGEN: I think this is the most important contest of the season so far. Coming out of South Carolina, Mitt Romney faced a mortal threat, and he turned that threat back and did so decisively. He did it in a state which is a battleground. The number of people who voted here in Florida is about -- is roughly equal to twice as many people as live in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina combined. This is a big state.

A point about going forward. Ron Fournier of "The National Journal" has pointed out something really interesting tonight. And that is on protracted nomination fights in the Republican Party -- there were five in the 20th century -- Republicans lost four of those elections, one of the reasons they want to shut this thing down.

COOPER: It's been a fascinating night. Our special 360 coverage continues, and then Piers Morgan talks to Newt Gingrich's daughters about their dad and where his campaign goes from here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It is quite a race and it has been quite a night. That is it for us at 360. Thanks for watching. Thanks to our entire team tonight. CNN primary night coverage, though, continues right now with Piers Morgan. I'll see you tomorrow.