Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Big Night for Rick Santorum

Aired February 7, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to a special edition of A.C. 360. I'm Anderson Cooper.

This is shaping up to be a very big night for a presidential candidate who hasn't had a win since Iowa. CNN is now projecting Rick Santorum will win the Missouri primary. He's currently leading in the other two states holding contests tonight, in Minnesota, as well as in Colorado, although the numbers in Colorado, very small percentage of the vote in, only 1 percent of the vote in.

But in Minnesota, there you see it, 43 percent for Santorum. Ron Paul in second with 27, Mitt Romney 17, and Gingrich 12 -- 13 percent of the votes counted there. Again, Colorado, big lead, but again only 1 percent of the votes in.

Santorum may be riding a wave and delivering a setback for front- runner Mitt Romney. It's still very early. A lot of drama ahead.

Let's check in with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Anderson.

Let's go right out to Colorado. Paul Vercammen is standing by in Aurora, Colorado, at a caucus there.

Paul, set the scene for us. Tell us what is going on right now.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are just wrapping up, and, in fact, they announced the totals for this room, Wolf, 22 precincts in this room.

And in this particular room, in this part of Arapahoe County, that bellwether county, it went as such, Mitt Romney 78, you had 18 for Gingrich, you had 28 for Santorum, and 20 for Paul. So a great night for Mitt Romney here in this room, and more shots of democracy at its best.

You can see them collecting some of the money here. Yes, she says we're collecting instead of spending. Well, she's a Mitt Romney supporter. Tonight, they had to raise the money to hold this in here. Again, 22 precincts in all here in Arapahoe County. This county as we discussed before divided very evenly like much of Colorado, where you have a third Republican, a third Democrat, and a third independent.

As I said, 78 votes here for Romney tonight. He more than doubled up the rest of the field, Wolf. BLITZER: Let's go from Aurora, Colorado, to Shakopee, Minnesota.

Chris Welch is standing by over there.

What do we know? What happened over there, Chris?

CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in Scott County, just 20 miles out of the Twin Cities, it's a very conservative county. And one of the three gathering sites with several precincts reporting have turned in their numbers here.

Where we're standing right now is actually a computer lab area in Shakopee High School. These are officials, representatives from the county Republican Party. They have given up our first numbers so far, and from the neighboring town. They have a setup just likes ours here. They had 289 people casting votes. Rick Santorum came in number one, 110.

We have been talking Rick Santorum has been doing well so far tonight. Mitt Romney came in number two, 79. Ron Paul 77, and Gingrich at 22. Where we were here in Shakopee, there were 14 more precincts. That's what they're tabulating right now. We hope to have those numbers very shortly. They will have me a heads up when we do. And we will pass those on as soon as we going to them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, thanks very much.

I want to go over to the magic wall. John King is standing by. I believe he's standing by. Where is John King? He's coming, I'm told he's coming.

John King, here we comes. John King was doing some major arithmetic back there.

You're working the magic behind the magic wall, right?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We can change the votes, but we have to update the programs every now and then.

Let's pop out and take a look. What are we going to call this, the sweater vest center...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: He won Iowa, the first contest, you know, and he hasn't won since. He's won Missouri tonight and we have already projected that. The state of Minnesota, if you watch it play in, why would this matter?

Number one, it would give Santorum a victory. Again only 15 percent of the vote in. But he's got a pretty comfortable lead at the moment. We will watch as this fills in. It would matter because it would give Rick Santorum two wins tonight. He already has Missouri. Let's be clear, no delegates at stake in Missouri tonight, but it's a big state for conservatives and it's a state where he will get momentum, and he will be able to say, hey, let's raise some more money moving on.

Why would Minnesota matter? Let's go back in time. This is 2008. Mitt Romney won Minnesota with 41 percent of the vote. John McCain, who was the ultimate nominee, 22 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney carried the state four years ago. You will hear that without a doubt from Santorum tonight if he can defeat Romney in the state of Minnesota.

And if you pull out and look forward at the map, let's come back to this year. This is the one we're going to watch very carefully. Again, I'm going to circle it as we do it, because again this is very, very, very early. We don't want to jump to any conclusions here, but Santorum winning Minnesota. Leading in Minnesota. We're just starting to get the votes in Colorado, 1 percent in right here, at 50 percent, but again, I want to go back in time to 2008.

Mitt Romney won Colorado with 60 percent of the vote. And what you're seeing here is a scenario the Romney campaign will try to explain this away by saying what is happening tonight -- what we might see happening tonight anyway is what happened to John McCain four years ago. John McCain essentially clinched the nomination with his win in the state of Florida, very early, in February, essentially, four years ago, and then if you look at the map, Huckabee won a bunch of states, Romney won a bunch of states our here.

Romney is the dark red, McCain is the lighter red. Huckabee won some other states. Iowa was the first state. And John McCain lost 15 states after essentially wrapping up the nomination in Florida. That will be the explanation from camp Romney.

But Wolf, without a doubt, as you look at this, if this fills in tonight, it will be a major boost for Rick Santorum. I would be interested to see what our panelist colleagues think about this, because then you will have not only Rick Santorum going after Romney, but you will have a Santorum/Gingrich competition for the conservative grassroots support, for the evangelical base, for Tea Party voters and for money.

Because as we move on, it gets much more expensive. Not a lot of money was spent in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. When you turn to first Michigan and Arizona, bigger states, and then March, 755 delegates at stake in March, that takes a lot of money to compete in a lot of states.

BLITZER: One thing is clear. If Santorum goes on and has a spectacular night tonight, already winning in Missouri, but let's say he wins in Minnesota, does really well in Colorado, you have a huge fight under way.

Gingrich not necessarily going to have a good day today, but he's not going anywhere. He made that clear when we spoke with him earlier today. This battle, don't forget Ron Paul. He could have a decent night tonight as well.

KING: Ron Paul, we're waiting to see. If Ron Paul underperforms again, it will be an interesting challenge, because people thought he would come in second place in Nevada, a lot of passion. It will be interesting to watch. Caucus states, Ron Paul, says, are his advantage.

As we watch in both Minnesota and Colorado tonight, Ron Paul's numbers are very important. Ron Paul believes he can win the state of Maine.

BLITZER: Which is next Saturday.

KING: That one is coming up on next Saturday, and I'm going to flash this through. This is what the Romney campaign initially expected. Guess what? We know that one is gone and we suspect that one might be gone tonight. We will watch that come in.

This is a very different looking map than most people were projecting just a few days ago. Never mind a few weeks ago. Then we will watch what happens here. The question is, if Rick Santorum gets momentum, you spoke to Speaker Gingrich earlier tonight. He said get me to Super Tuesday, get me into March, I will start winning.

I will fast-forward through some states here. I'm going to make a guess and give that one -- that's Gingrich, and I'm going to give that state here to Ron Paul for the sake of argument. This is a hypothetical. Now we're going to flash through and keep going. Ron Paul gets Washington and this is Super Tuesday. What happens if Rick Santorum is strong? Gingrich desperately needs Ohio...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's where he is tonight.

KING: Yes. His block Romney strategy counts on winning not just in the South. And remember he's not on the ballot in Virginia.

If Santorum is suddenly strong and he's competing in states like this, it keeps the race going for a long period of time, but it also thwarts the Gingrich strategy of trying to end the month -- their thing is get through April in relative parity with Romney. Not if Santorum is strong in the Midwest, that strategy for Gingrich simply won't do it. That state, again, this one would be in play. Fascinating. It gets very, very interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: There's a lot of time between now and the end of the month when Arizona and Michigan have their contests. And you know what? We have seen these fluctuations dramatically unfold even though you assume that Romney, there's a lot of Mormons in Arizona, his father was the governor of Michigan, he was born there. You assume he's going to do well. But you know what? There's plenty of times for things to change.

KING: And I will go back to these states. I went back in time. I took away.

This will now become -- just as Florida and Nevada were the fire walls at the end of January and into February for Romney, these will be absolutely critical. If Santorum puts some wins on the board tonight, this assumes Governor Romney holds Colorado. We will watch the results come in. These two will become absolutely critical. Again, another chance for Romney to say, whoa, stop.

And it does matter for both Santorum and Gingrich. To compete in Michigan, to compete in Arizona, costs more money. There's hardly any...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They're going to have to start spending money there.

KING: As Erin noted earlier, hardly any TV money was spent in these contests here. Most of the candidates sort of backed off. They treated them as much lower-key affairs.

If Rick Santorum gets some momentum and some money, he's had luck in the Midwest. You can bet he would invest here, and you can bet he would come down and try to play here. That would take some money and it would be interesting to see if we start ginning up the expenses of the race, Romney has the most money, and then you move into March.

BLITZER: He's got the biggest organization as well.

Anderson, a lot of dramatic developments happening today. We're waiting to see what happens in Minnesota and Colorado. There could be huge upsets in the works.

COOPER: Yes. Colorado would be particularly really fascinating.

How does a strong night for Rick Santorum change the race for Gingrich?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it makes it a little bit more difficult. I mean, Newt Gingrich presents himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

And Newt Gingrich has a Southern strategy, which is a Super Tuesday strategy, but you have to get to Super Tuesday on March 6. And, you know, if he does go zero for three here, which...

COOPER: In terms of competition for Tea Party votes, in terms of competition for fund-raising, he's now a viable alternative to Gingrich.

BORGER: Sure.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The main line you need to use to beat Romney is, I'm the alternative, I can beat him.

And if you can't beat him anywhere except South Carolina, you start to lose that argument. The fundamentalists, still, Romney is vulnerable if he gets taken into a one-on-one race because of conservatives unrest against him. That has to solidify if someone is going to beat Mitt Romney. Right now, Newt and Rick Santorum are splitting up enough of it that it helps Romney. Tonight could be the breakthrough for Santorum.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: It's amazing, though, when you think about it.

You talk about money, and we have talked so much about when we didn't have ad spending in Missouri. No one was really pursuing anything there. But look at the super PAC for Mitt Romney has outspent the super PAC for Rick Santorum by 41 times. There is about -- money buying elections. It's just sort of incredible to take a step back and see.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And he's going to go very negative against him.

(CROSSTALK)

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Remember all the surrogates that Mitt Romney has on his side. He will deploy them now to begin to attack Rick Santorum.

Look, Rick Santorum doesn't have the money of Mitt Romney, but what he has I believe is discipline. He spent 22 days in the states while the other candidates they spent 12 days combined. I think Rick Santorum appeared on the local news. He was in the living rooms, at the bars, at the bowling alleys.

FLEISCHER: He left Florida early to go out and do that.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I think the bigger narrative here, it does seem to me, is that Mitt Romney, who just a few days ago seemed invincible and also seemed to be doing very well as the electable candidate, now slipping behind Obama in general election measurements by a variety of different ways that you can measure, and also just took at least two hits tonight and possibly three.

Doesn't that sort of throw open this whole thing again?

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Well, it certainly does that, but it...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: It's unclear now.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: We all have to be cautious about going too far.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: I totally agree with that. (CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: Nonbinding, no delegates in Missouri...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And you're heading into Arizona and Michigan.

FLEISCHER: There's something here, but I wouldn't go too far.

GERGEN: I agree with that, but I do think that there's the makings here of three candidates coming out of this, each with regional strengths and nobody with national strength, that Gingrich becomes the candidate of the South, that Santorum becomes the candidate of the Midwest, and Romney becomes the candidate of the Northeast and the Mountain states and some scattered states.

COOPER: We're already getting a reaction I think from the Obama campaign.

Jessica Yellin is following that.

Jessica, what are they saying?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're saying that this is a sign that Mitt Romney does not have the trust of the base of the Republican Party, which is something I think you heard Ari Fleischer say a little earlier, and that he should be at a point where he can lock up the nomination now.

I would ad that a certain candidate Obama wasn't able to lock up the nomination himself at this stage in 2008, so it was a different dynamic, but we should keep that in mind. What is true, Anderson, is that this entire dynamic is great for the White House, because if Mitt Romney had swept tonight, instead of having this discussion, we would probably be turning our attention to President Obama and talking -- instead of this, we would be talking about the fact that he has done a 180 on his position on super PACs and we would be talking his clash with the Catholic Church on birth control.

So because we're having this fight inside the Republican Party instead, that keeps the focus off the president. And the longer that continues, the better it is for the White House.

COOPER: You all agree with that?

BORGER: Yes. To Ari's point about not overdoing this, and the White House can overdo this as well, is that we have got some big states coming up at the end of the month, Arizona and Michigan. Both of those states are very good for Mitt Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: He has to win Michigan.

BORGER: Right, and I would argue Arizona. (CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Gloria, these states will lose half of their delegates because once again, they decided to violate the party's rules and go ahead of the window, which is March 6.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: But that won't matter for the showdown in Arizona.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: But what matters is at the end of the day, in the middle of March, after Super Tuesday, when 437 delegates are at stake, we're going to start once again looking at all those states, proportionality of the delegates, and say, my God, this is a close race. Mitt Romney doesn't have it sewn in.

GERGEN: The other part of it that goes to it, Jessica Yellin was saying the White House is happy it takes the focus off some of these controversies for the president.

It's also true that the negativity that Mitt Romney is likely to resort to now that he goes after Santorum, that very negativity has been hurting him as a national candidate. And I think it will add to the burden he has to carry as a candidate in winning a nomination. That's a danger.

COOPER: I just want to break in because I want to go over to Mark Preston over here in the cube, our political director, just to get a sense of when we may be able to project a winner in Minnesota.

We were already able to project a winner in Missouri. Let's try to check in with Mark and also if we can find out about Colorado.

Mark, what are you seeing out there in terms of numbers?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, this is unlike any election that we have had so far, Anderson, no entrance polls, no exit polls, no sample of precincts. We don't have any pre-data to compare to this raw vote, so it's very hard right now to make a decision when we can actually make the call.

COOPER: Because that's usually how we project things. It's a combination of the actual vote count that we're getting and also the exit polls or the entrance polls.

PRESTON: That's exactly right. So we put it together in a mathematical formula, crush it together, go down to the quarantine room, which we have talked about in the past, and those guys down there are able to take that data and make a mathematical projection.

However, this time, there is none of that date. So we're working right off the raw vote. And when we feel that we have a decision to make, like we did in Missouri, we are able to make that decision.

COOPER: Is there a certain percentage of the vote that you need, or is it not that clear-cut?

PRESTON: It's really not that clear-cut, because the percentage of the vote is -- look, bigger counties mean a lot more than smaller counties.

COOPER: It depends where the votes are coming from.

PRESTON: Exactly, so you could get a large percentage of the vote out in a very major county and we would have to wait on that potentially to make a call in Minnesota or Colorado.

COOPER: But we should be able to get Minnesota before Colorado?

PRESTON: Well, who knows. And again, we don't know that. What is interesting about this is that we are really relying on volunteers, precinct captains to call in this information into the central point in both of these places to actually help make the call. This is not necessarily professionally done in many ways. These are folks who are giving up their time to really be part of the process.

COOPER: Right.

At this point, we're seeing a larger percentage of the vote so far in Minnesota than we have seen in Colorado. We will continue to check in with Mark, try to give you a sense of how quickly we can project a winner in either of those two states.

Wolf, let's take it back to you.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

As soon as we can, of course, we will project a winner in Minnesota and in Colorado. They're counting votes right now in Maple Grove, Minnesota and Castle Pines, Colorado. When we come back, we will check in on what's going on, on the ground. This was a night that so many of the so-called pundits didn't think was all that important, but guess what? A huge upset in the works. Rick Santorum doing remarkably well.

We will see what happens in Minnesota and in Colorado. We have projected he's already the winner in Missouri.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Very, very impressive night for Rick Santorum so far.

Let's take a look at Missouri. We have projected that Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, is the winner in Missouri. He's got more than 100,000 votes already with 55 percent. Look at this, Mitt Romney, second place, only 25 percent, 46,195.

Rick Santorum has more than doubled what Mitt Romney has in Missouri. Ron Paul coming in third with 22,452 votes, only 12 percent uncommitted, 4 percent. Newt Gingrich wasn't even on the ballot in Missouri. Very impressive night for Rick Santorum in Missouri. Let's take a look at Minnesota. What is happening right now? With 23 percent, about a quarter of the vote is now in. Once again, look at this. Rick Santorum, 44 percent. Ron Paul coming in second with 27 percent. Mitt Romney, 17 percent. Newt Gingrich, 11 percent.

Minnesota already shaping up to be a big night for Rick Santorum. If Rick Santorum wins in Minnesota, winning in Missouri, that's going to be huge.

Now let's take a look at Colorado, see what is happening in the caucuses in Colorado, early, very early numbers, but once again Rick Santorum with only 1 percent of the vote in has got 50 percent, 21 percent for Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney only 19 percent, Ron Paul 10 percent. We are about to get an update though from Colorado, and we will get some more numbers coming in. This is very, very early in the process.

I want to go to Shannon Travis. He's joining us now from Golden Valley in Minnesota.

What's the latest there, Shannon?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's taking a little bit longer here. There are 24 precincts here.

Basically, what is going on right now in these envelopes that you see right here are the different results from the different precincts that caucused here tonight. What is happening is one of the people here, we have this woman right here, pulls out a pink sheet from the envelope. That basically shows the results, how many votes Mitt Romney got, how many votes Ron Paul got, and so on.

She reads it to this person here who is actually entering that information into the computer. We just spoke with her a moment ago to try and see where the vote is kind of going. She isn't keeping tally yet. We will stand by for that.

But I want to turn over here to Chuck and Rob. They're basically the two people what are running this caucus site.

Gentlemen, how have things big going tonight? I will start with you first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have been going fantastic. We weren't sure how many people would show up, and it has far exceeded our expectations so far. And everything has been very efficient, very well run. Hit all our marks, and we're ready for some good results tonight.

TRAVIS: Some of the other areas of Minnesota have gotten results actually in. Why is it taking longer here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, part of it is the turnout. One, we have higher than usual turnout in this area. And then we are one of the highest delegate totals in the state of Minnesota, and so we have a lot more folks, we have a lot more delegates, and it just takes us longer to cycle through all of the people.

TRAVIS: And any idea how things are going so far, where the numbers stand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not yet. As you can see, we're busy putting everything together. And tonight we will have some results here fairly quick, but the remainder of it, with the delegates, we will get those over the next few days.

TRAVIS: One last thing, Wolf. These two gentlemen, as I was talking with them earlier, they were actually going to take the vote results and the envelopes there and head over to a local eatery and maybe have a little something to drink and actually hand-count it themselves, but the plan changed. They actually started counting them here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Shannon, thank those gentlemen for us. Thank all of the voters in Minnesota.

Let's walk over to John King and take a closer look at the magic wall on what is going on.

Shaping up to be, who would have known, a big night for Rick Santorum.

KING: I want to pull up to the big map first. You see we have already called the state of Missouri. Rick Santorum is leading in Minnesota. You see the map in Colorado. Santorum had been ahead with the very early results at about 1 percent.

Governor Romney now ahead, but just barely, two votes, two votes. See, I'm not so bad at arithmetic.

BLITZER: Yes.

KING: With 11 percent of the votes in there. So a long way to go. The point is in Colorado, a long way to go.

But if you come back to the Midwest, Rick Santorum has already won Iowa, and we have projected him the winner in Missouri. The question is now, in Minnesota, a state Governor Romney won and won big in 2008, can Senator Santorum hold on?

Now, some people might say, with 24 percent of the vote in and such a big lead, almost 20 points, why can't we call Minnesota? And Governor Romney is running in third place, we should note, at the moment. Why can't we call this state right now? We're always extra cautious here at CNN. And we have pretty good reason.

Let's look. You see the big cities, Rochester, Saint Paul, Minneapolis. Let's just tap in. Hennepin County is where you find Minneapolis. Only 21 percent of the vote in so far. So we want to get a little bit more than that. That's where the people are.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, 22 percent of the population.

KING: Right, 22 percent. Now, it's largely a Democratic area. You see this -- with 21 percent of the vote, that's not a lot of votes. We want to wait, because this is 21 percent of the precincts. We just want to wait. It's not necessarily 21 percent of the vote. It's 21 percent of the precincts.

So we want to wait to see. Let's move over to Saint Paul way here -- Saint Paul is here. You come here, Washington County, 4.1 percent of the population. Again, 16 percent of the vote, right down here. These are the suburban areas in between the two, about 10 percent of the population, 33 percent of the vote. So we're getting more, but we want to wait until this plays out.

And I want come down here as well to the Rochester area, 70 percent of the vote, so we're getting much more of the vote down there. But we just want to wait to be safe. Also a lot of the small, rural areas, I will just tap on a random county here, about 1 percent of the state population. You will not get a huge amount of the vote here.

But if you look at the map, 24 percent of the precincts. So we have three quarters of the vote still out. We want to be a little extra cautious because especially in these population centers, if some precinct comes in big with a lot of votes, it can swing it still a little bit. So we prefer caution to jumping out there. But if you look at this tonight, there's...

BLITZER: Let's go back to Missouri. Sorry for jumping...

KING: Sure.

BLITZER: Because if you take a look at Missouri, 108,000 votes already for Rick Santorum, almost 80 percent of the vote in. How purple is Missouri right now?

KING: The other campaigns will say, well, we didn't campaign here because it's meaningless. And we have to stress that point. It is absolutely meaningless in terms of the allocation of Missouri's 52, I believe it is, Republican delegates. That will be decided down the road. There's a caucus down the road and everyone is competing in that.

Some people will say this is meaningless. The Santorum campaign will say, no, it's a big bellwether state. We proved we can get conservative votes. And as you watch this fill in, let's go back in time to show you the difference. This is 2008, when John McCain just barely won over Mike Huckabee and Governor Romney ran a competitive third place back then.

Then you see -- this is a very important point to make about evangelical votes. This is the -- sort of the birthplace of the anti- abortion movement in the United States of America, down here in southern Missouri, a lot of evangelicals.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Huckabee did very well.

KING: Huckabee did very well. He's the orange color there. This is the Bible Belt, if you will.

You also see Huckabee doing very well up here in these smaller, rural -- today we might call them Tea Party communities, but a lot of evangelical voters. Governor Mitt Romney, I want you to remember this -- Governor Romney did well in Kansas City, very well in the center of the state. McCain carried the Saint Louis suburbs, the immediate suburbs, Saint Charles County right out there.

Romney did OK in the exurban areas a little further out. Now, watch this when we come back in time. I want to take this off and come here because. This was Mitt Romney four years ago. This was Mitt Romney four years ago. This was Mitt Romney four years ago. And again the Mitt Romney campaign tonight, Wolf, is going to say, we did not compete here. We didn't put money into the organization, we did not put money into turnout, we did not put money into TV, because it doesn't matter tonight.

But as a symbolic, moral boost for a guy who has been arguing for weeks the race would come his way, well, Senator Rick Santorum, at least tonight, it looks like he's going to be able to make the argument that he is at least the equal of Speaker Gingrich in trying to fight to be the conservative alternative to Governor Romney.

BLITZER: Yes. And a lot more people, I suspect, will have voted in that Missouri primary than in either of the caucuses in Colorado or Minnesota. So it may not necessarily be binding as far as delegates, but a lot of people in Missouri are saying what they want to do.

KING: One other quick point about the irony, this is how Minnesota is filling in tonight so far. And, again, we want to wait to get more votes. As Mark Preston just explained, we want to be careful here.

But Santorum leading right now, if you go back four years ago, when Mitt Romney carried this state, what did he tell the people of Minnesota four years ago? He campaigned as the conservative alternative to John McCain.

BLITZER: Yes.

KING: And now you have Rick Santorum saying I'm the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. So the tables have turned, if you will, on Governor Romney in four years.

BLITZER: Yes, Rick Santorum wins in Missouri. Minnesota very important.

Let's go to Chris Welch. He's in Minnesota watching what is going on.

You have got some new numbers for us, Chris? WELCH: Wolf, I am here in Shakopee, Minnesota. We're about 20 miles south of the Twin Cities, very conservative, very socially conservative.

And we just got some numbers here from the 12 precinct and two townships here in Shakopee. Rick Santorum came out on top.

What do we have here for Rick Santorum in Shakopee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Shakopee, Rick Santorum received 125 votes.

WELCH: And this is Brad Johnson. He's the county GOP chair.

Now, give me some more insight. What do -- you have got six of the seven sites here in the county so far reporting, just about all of them -- well, all of them in fact so far for Rick Santorum. What does that tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It tells me that either Rick Santorum's message is resonating well with the residents of Scott County, or he's got a very well-organized ground game. Either way, it's to his advantage.

WELCH: And Ron Paul almost in all of these as well coming in at number two. He had a lot of supporters here in Shakopee precincts coming out for Ron Paul. What does that say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think you see a lot of the younger voters coming out for the congressman. And then, again, his message works well, but he's got a very well-organized ground game, and has for years in the state.

WELCH: He really does. And we're still waiting on one more site here in Scott County. And as soon as we get those, we will have a full tally for you and get them as soon as we can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Welch in Minnesota, thanks very much.

We're standing by, Anderson, to get some more results in Minnesota. Perhaps fairly soon, we will be able to make a projection.

COOPER: Right. And it's certainly looking good for Rick Santorum.

What would it mean for Santorum to win Minnesota tonight?

GERGEN: Well, if he wins Minnesota and he's won Missouri, whether or not he wins Colorado, he can argue -- John King was charitable about it.

He said, well, he would at least be the equal. I think he can say: Look, Newt Gingrich is increasingly damaged goods. I had the chance to go one-on-one against Mitt Romney. I proved that I can beat him. Now help me do this. And I do want to say, I think all of us have been commenting here in the last two weeks that Santorum seemed to be really improving as a candidate. He was better in the debates than he had been. His talks afterwards, his debates -- I mean, his interviews with CNN, all of them seemed to be suggesting he was sort of ripening or maturing as a candidate, and more attractive.

And there's a certain justice, I think, to winning this after he was denied the publicity that came with an Iowa win because of a bad call. I think paid a penalty for that. And there's a certain justice tonight for him to sort of having his night out and get it restarted in the campaign.

FLEISCHER: And two ways, because now if he starts to get a lot more coverage and focus. Here's what, I think, the mainstream media is going to do to him. A relentless focus on him on social issues. They're going to make the case that he's outside the extreme, that's he's anti-gay, that he's homophobic, start to throw things up against him and try to paint him as an extremist.

He's going to have to show the people that that's not the case, that he is somebody who can carry a state like Pennsylvania.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But you know, Mitt Romney has already been attacking Santorum in a way that has a lot of resonance with Tea Party voters and the conservative base, which is he's been calling him an earmarker, a big spender, somebody who voted to raise the debt ceiling and all of that.

FLEISCHER: The ultimate Washington insider.

BORGER: The ultimate Washington insider. And that really hasn't had a lot of impact.

GERGEN: Pays attention.

BORGER: So far. Right. So far.

KING: No one's paid attention.

BRAZILE: But Mitt Romney cannot afford to attack another conservative candidate. I mean, we saw in Florida his attempt. Look...

BORGER: But he will. (CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: He has the money, trust me. He, I don't know, bakes it on trees, but he can afford it, but at what price? He'll pay what independents and other voters...

GERGEN: Interesting today, the story is playing out there. They called a global warming.

COOPER: Got to interrupt.

GERGEN: A hoax?

COOPER: I think Wolf's ready to make a projection.

BLITZER: Dramatic developments underway. We already know who won in Missouri, Rick Santorum, and now CNN is ready to make another projection.

Once again, Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, CNN now projects, will be the winner in Minnesota. In the Minnesota caucuses, CNN projects Santorum wins. Two for two so far. He wins in the Missouri primary. He wins in Minnesota. We're still waiting to see what happens in Colorado.

Dana Bash is standing by. She's over at Rick Santorum headquarters in Colorado. He's -- excuse me, in Missouri. He's going to be speaking fairly soon, right, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He should be speaking any minute. We just got word that he's going to come down and address the supporters here.

You're not hearing them cheer because they've actually turned off CNN's monitors in anticipation of the senator coming down, but this is huge. Winning here in Missouri, that was big, but winning in Minnesota is a real, real win because of the fact that the other candidates also competed there, and more importantly because of the fact that there are going to be delegates who will be awarded or at least estimated to be awarded tonight in that state. And it's also a state that Mitt Romney did quite well in four years ago. Not tonight.

So this is not just a moral victory. It's a victory that he can really take to the bank, so to speak, when it comes to delegates and gobbling them up, as he intends to do, he says, for months to stay in the race.

And his campaign was really banking on doing quite well for that reason, to make clear, as several advisers have said to me tonight, Wolf, that February is the time for them to really get on the books and show that they really can be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

And you know, Newt Gingrich, they are going to point out, I'm sure, either Rick Santorum will do it or his advisers will do it later. Newt Gingrich has done this really only once in South Carolina, and so now Rick Santorum has done it more than that, because he won Iowa. And now he has won Minnesota, not to mention the state where we are, Missouri.

BLITZER: In Missouri, in St. Charles, Missouri. Dana, stand by for a moment, because I want to tell our viewers what we -- the actual vote total we have in Minnesota right now.

We project that Rick Santorum is the winner. Twenty-eight percent of the actual vote is in. Forty-six percent for Santorum, 26 percent so far for Ron Paul. Coming in second, at least so far. Mitt Romney third with 16 percent. Newt Gingrich, fourth with 11 percent. There are four candidates, but Rick Santorum, we project, is the winner in Minnesota.

We're going to be hearing from Rick Santorum shortly. At some point, we'll be hearing from Mitt Romney. He's in Colorado. We don't yet know who's the winner in Colorado. Looks like it's shaking up to be a close race there, as well.

There's drama unfolding in this Republican race for the White House. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Very big night from Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator. CNN has projected he's the winner in Minnesota. He's also the winner in Missouri. Standing by for Colorado. The fight continues in Colorado. Let's take a look at the votes in Colorado where it stands right now. Look how close it is between Romney and Santorum. Right now, with 11 percent of the vote in, 359 for Romney, 357 for Rick Santorum. Thirty-seven percent apiece. Couldn't be closer.

Newt Gingrich with 17 percent, Ron Paul with 9 percent. But it's still very, very early in Colorado right now.

We're standing by to hear from the two front-runners, at least on this night. Rick Santorum -- you see his headquarters over there -- they're getting ready to hear from the former Pennsylvania senator.

And over at Romney headquarters, they're getting ready to hear from him, as well. We'll hear from Rick Santorum, I believe, first.

Let's go to Mitt Romney headquarters right now, Jim Acosta is standing by. What's the mood over there, Jim? Looks like two for two so far for Rick Santorum.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Wolf, I have to tell you, what happened in Vegas has stayed in Vegas. Just to give you a visual image of what this room looks like right now. I mean, this is a small fraction of the crowd we saw in Las Vegas on Saturday night for Mitt Romney after those Nevada caucuses. There were about 800 to 1,000 people in that room in Las Vegas. There are roughly 80 people in this room right now.

As you can see, I'm walking across this room, and I'm not really having to bump past any of the Romney supporters. So this appears to be, at least for now, a tough night for Mitt Romney.

I had a chance to e-mail a spokesman for the Romney campaign, Andrea Saw (ph), to get sort of a reaction to what they're seeing unfold in Minnesota and Missouri and even Colorado so far. The response I got was very short but to the point. Part of the process was the quote, no delegates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, there are delegates at some point. These are important bellwethers, if you will, but obviously, they're going to have to spin it some way. Some way. I'm sure they would have preferred to win in Missouri and Minnesota and Colorado. They didn't win in Missouri and Minnesota. Let's see how they do in Colorado.

They -- going in, they fully expected to win in Colorado. That's why Mitt Romney is there in Colorado on this evening, right?

ACOSTA: That's exactly right, Wolf. But keep in mind: earlier this week, there was talk that Mitt Romney would go to Minnesota. That was scrapped at the last second, and they sent Tim Pawlenty instead, the former governor of Minnesota, his top surrogate in that state. That obviously has not worked. It did not help Mitt Romney in that state.

He got 41 percent of the caucus vote back in 2008. He's going to pull off perhaps a fraction of that tonight.

If there's only -- if there's a silver lining for Mitt Romney in any of this tonight, it's this, it's that the -- not only is there some uncertainty about the GOP front-runner in this field, there's some uncertainty as to who the un-Romney is in this field. It used to be Newt Gingrich. Now it appears to be Rick Santorum. That potentially is a good thing for Mitt Romney. At least the other Republicans have not decided on an un-Romney at this point yet.

BLITZER: Yes. We're waiting to hear from Mitt Romney. We're waiting to hear from Rick Santorum, as well.

Anderson, earlier tonight, you know, we spoke with Newt Gingrich; we spoke with Ron Paul. They have moved on, basically, but these two candidates, they should be speaking fairly soon. We'll, of course, take their remarks live.

COOPER: And if you're Mitt Romney tonight, how do you spin this?

FLEISCHER: That you didn't compete in Missouri. That you didn't spend money in these places. That no delegates were bound -- were given tonight. And you've had -- you're having a great month. You're having a great campaign.

BORGER: I'll read to you how they'll spin it, because they've spun it before today, when they released a memo, because they knew they were not going to do well. And there's a headline that says the reality of February. And it's difficult to see what Governor Romney's opponents can do to change the dynamics of the race in February. No delegates will be awarded, et cetera, et cetera.

FLEISCHER: I used to do this stuff for a living.

BORGER: Right, well, there you go. There it is.

GERGEN: He should leave all those arguments to his surrogates, to his press secretary. He needs to be generous, take the high road. Say let's move on. Heard the message. I'm going to do a better job of communicating my message and appeal to people. I don't think -- I don't think he ever did that.

BORGER: He's already tried to...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: Yes. That feeds into the fodder of things, but he ought to go high road.

BORGER: Give a speech saying congratulations.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: Rick Santorum is, again, speaking any moment now. Of course, we'll bring that to you live.

You heard earlier that Rick Santorum is going to be trying to focus on President Obama.

FLEISCHER: He's going to give a little bit of a different speech, as people are telling me tonight. But he's not going to fire away at Mitt Romney. He'll going to talk about him a little bit, but his main focus is Obama. Remember, one of his biggest applause lines was he chided both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney for going after each other on issues that don't matter, and said what we really need to do is go after Barack Obama.

BRAZILE: You know, there's another big story tonight -- another big story tonight. That is that the enthusiasm that we talked about earlier. Once again, the Republican turnout tonight in Missouri is dismal. Missouri is a bellwether state. Perhaps the president and his team have decided not to compete this fall. They lost it by less than 4,000 votes in 2008. But still, the Republicans are having a hard time getting their people to turn out. All that attention, all the focus...

COOPER: Well, Gloria, I think you also -- you also heard from Romney people about turnout.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: And how turnouts reflect the general elections.

BORGER: The Romney people make the case that you can go back to the Democrats in 2008 with very high -- you know, that Democrats and Republicans both had high turnouts. One had to lose in 2008. You can go back over the years and look at turnouts in primaries, and they're not necessarily a predictor of turnouts or winning in the general election.

GERGEN: But they could demoralize them if turnout is down, though.

BRAZILE: When you're trying to put together a campaign team in the fall, it's going to be a very competitive race, and your people are not turning out, they're not feeling it. As Erick said, they're not feeling the love; they don't trust the candidate. Well, it is a problem in the fall. FLEISCHER: The biggest thing that will be the turnout in the fall is that people go to the polls and said, "This is a 50/50 race. Holy cow. I'm showing up. This could be close."

BORGER: I wanted -- and you know, one thing Romney might say about tonight is the turnout, as it turns out, is low in some of these places, and that that's why Rick Santorum was able to sort of pick off the most conservative voters.

BRAZILE: They're making excuses.

BORGER: I'm just saying that's what they're going to say.

BRAZILE: He has -- he has the party apparatus. He has former GOP officials, current GOP officials. He had Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota. He had everything going for him. He ran in 2008. He didn't have a, quote/unquote, name I.D. problem. He had money. And money is the mother of all.

BORGER: I just...

BRAZILE: Those little things, he should just say what the truth is, is that he didn't campaign in these states; he didn't spend all of his money there. Therefore he's moving on to the next state.

BORGER: And ironically, now Mitt Romney needs Newt Gingrich to stay in this race.

GERGEN: I do think the two speeches we're going to hear are actually more important than what we've been hearing the last couple times out. And that is that Rick Santorum, for the first time, is going to have people taking a fresh look at it. And this is a chance, from my point of view, whether he can appear to be a plausible person to be president. People will look at him and say -- can he be in the Oval Office or not? People were -- you know, dismissed him before.

COOPER: It's also the first time he's making a speech, saying, "I won tonight," because in Iowa, he never got to make that speech.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: And I think Romney, he needs to avoid going negative. And I think he has to -- which one is more presidential? Which one actually would be a better candidate. I think after all this negativity, Romney has to go on the higher road.

FLEISCHER: I got a tweet earlier tonight that said, "Why are you afraid to talk about Ron Paul? You think if you say his name your hair will explode?" Nobody saw him down in Minnesota. He really has faded from Iowa. He's coming in third and fourth over there tonight.

COOPER: Well, second. He came in second place in Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe so.

GERGEN: He didn't have a great night. To Ari's point, I don't think he had a great night.

COOPER: Because he really has put a lot of hope on caucus states.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Once again, Romney had an organization in place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You talk -- you talk a lot about people being motivated and who is going to care about voting for someone, as opposed to voting against Barack Obama. It's interesting. That's what you see with Rick Santorum. You see some of the turnout because they want to vote for him.

You look at the favorability ratings in all these three states: 60-plus percent, 70 percent for Rick Santorum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forty-five percent for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. A lot of that is because of the negative advertising and the fighting that's going on. But there's something about the person to person likability of the candidates.

FLEISCHER: There's another factor that plays into things that you've been covering, in that, even though no delegates were selected tonight, money is going to flow into Rick Santorum tomorrow. This does have a helpful effect on the grass roots, the Web page fundraising, all that's going to go...

COOPER: And on super PACs, as well.

FLEISCHER: You can't tell the people or person behind the super PACs, they're making a good investment, because you give incentive to keep it going.

COOPER: Right.

BRAZILE: And bragging rights. You can't put enough money behind that.

COOPER: How does the fact that -- I mean, these become incredibly important in the next few weeks, given that there's not another debate for another few weeks, I believe.

BORGER: February 27. Arizona.

COOPER: Right, in two weeks.

BORGER: Well, Newt Gingrich, of course, could have some trouble raising some money, and he wants more debates, as you heard him tell Wolf Blitzer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BRAZILE: The next debate is at the Mardi Gras, Anderson. COOPER: I'm well aware of that.

There's Rick Santorum. Let's listen in.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Wow! Conservatism is alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota. Thank you all so very, very much. It is great to be here. I just can't thank the people of Missouri. We doubled them up here and in Minnesota.

I want to also thank, I have to always thank -- first off, let me just thank God for giving us the grace to be able to persevere through the dog days, and blessing us and blessing our family.

My wife Karen here, what a rock. I mean, what a rock through the last few weeks. We have had -- we have had more drama than any family really needs. And she has just been an amazing rock and a great blessing to me. And I just want to thank you in particular, my sweet, for all you've done. Thank you.

KAREN SANTORUM, WIFE: Thank you. I love you.

R. SANTORUM: I want to thank my kids, the two that are here, Elizabeth and John, and all the kids listening at home. I'll be home in a couple of days. It's been a while. And I just -- I just want a particular little note to my Bella, who I know is watching me, looking at her daddy. So I love you, sweetie. Thank you so much. Get healthy.

Your votes today were not just heard loud and wide across the states of Missouri and Minnesota, but they were heard loud and louder all across this country. And particularly in a place that I suspect may be in Massachusetts. They were heard particularly loud tonight.

Tonight this was not just a victory for us. Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards, building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land. Thank you.

There's probably another person who maybe is listening to your cheers here also, and that might be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You better start listening to the voice of the people.

But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't listening. Why would you think he would be listening now? Has he ever listened to the voice of America before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

R. SANTORUM: Why? Because he thinks he knows better. He thinks he's smarter than you. He thinks he's someone who is a privileged person who should be able to rule over all of you.

But we have a different message for him. He's someone who, well, let's just go look at the record. If you look at when it came to the Wall Street bailouts, did the president of the United States listen to you when it came to bailing out the big banks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

R. SANTORUM: Why? Because he thought he knew better. He and his friends on Wall Street knew better than what was good for the country.

When it came to the problems that were being confronted on Obama care, when the health care system in the country, did President Obama when he was pushing forward his radical health-care ideas, listen to the American people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

R. SANTORUM: Why? Because he thinks he knows better how to run your lives and manage your health care.

When it comes to the environment, does the president of the United States listen to the American people, or did he push a radical cap and trade agenda that would crush the energy and manufacturing sector of the economy? Did he listen to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

R. SANTORUM: No, because he thinks he knows better.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need a president who listens to the American people. When the majority of the American people oppose these ideas and they speak loudly against them, we need a president who listens to them.

Here's the problem. The problem is in this Republican field, you have been listening. Tonight, the voters of America, the voters here in Missouri, the voters in Minnesota, and I'm hopeful the voters in Colorado, right?

I hope you have been listening to our message because if you listen to our message, and you found out that on those issues -- health care, the environment, cap and trade, and on the Wall Street bailouts -- Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama. And in fact, would not be the best person to come up and fight for your voices for freedom in America.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pick Rick! We pick Rick! We pick Rick!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pick Rick! We pick Rick! We pick Rick!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pick Rick! We pick Rick! We pick Rick!

R. SANTORUM: Tonight -- tonight we had -- tonight, we had an opportunity to see what a campaign looks like when one candidate isn't outspent 5 or 10 to 1 by negative ads imputing their integrity and distorting their record. This is a more accurate representation, frankly, of what the fall race will look like.

Governor Romney's greatest attribute is, "Well, I've got the most money and the best organization." Well, he's not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

R. SANTORUM: No. We're going to have someone who has other attributes to commend themselves to the people of America. Someone -- someone who can get up and make sharp contrasts with President Obama. Someone who can point to the failed record of the administration and say that Barack Obama needs to be replaced in the Oval Office.

People have -- people have asked me, you know, what is -- what is the secret? How -- why are you doing so well? Is it your jobs message? And yes, we have a great jobs message, talking about everywhere we go and particularly here in the industrial heartland of Missouri, where they still make things here in Missouri, by the way.

It's a message of -- as the "Wall Street Journal" called our economic plan, supply side economics for the working man, is resonating here in Missouri and here in Missouri and across this country. And you see that, when you have a Republican out there talking about growth, we're talking about growth for everybody, right? That Americans respond.

Because I do care about not 99 percent or 95 percent. I care about the very rich and the very poor. I care about 100 percent of America.

The real message, the message that we've been taking across this country and here in Missouri, is a message of what's at stake in this election. This is the most important election in your lifetime. This is an election, we've seen it so evident just here in the last week. This is an election fundamentally about the kind of country you're going to hand off to your children and grandchildren; whether they are going to have the level of freedom and opportunity that you have.

And we have a president of the United States, as I mentioned, who's someone who believes he knows better. That we need to accumulate more power in Washington, D.C., for the elite in our country, to be able to govern you because you are incapable of liberty, that you are incapable of freedom. That what this president believes.

And I -- and Americans understand that there is a great, great deal at stake. If this president is re-elected and if we don't have a nominee that can make this case and not be compromised on the biggest issues of the day, but can make the case to the American public that this is about the Founders' freedom; this is about a country that believes in God-given rights and a Constitution that is limited to protect those rights.

The president does not believe that. The president over the last few years has tried to tell you that he, in fact, the government, can give you rights. The government can take care of you and provide for you. They can give you the right to health care, like an Obama care.

But look what happens when the government gives you rights. When the government give said you rights, unlike when God gives you rights, the government can take them away. When government gives you rights, the government can tell you how to exercise those rights.

And we saw that just in the last week with a group of people, a small group of people, just Catholics in the United States of America, who were told, you have a right to health care, but you will have the health care that we tell you you have to give your people, whether it is against the teachings of your church or not.