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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Deep South Votes

Aired March 13, 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: It does not get closer or more exciting than this. We're watching very close races in Alabama and Mississippi right now. And this could be a very good night for Rick Santorum.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly could be. It's turning out to be another nail-biter, though, in the Republican race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a new fight for the Deep South with jabs at Mitt Romney's weak spot.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm learning to say y'all, and I like grits. And things are -- strange things are happening to me.

ANNOUNCER: Two rivals jump at another chance to try to trip up the front-runner.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike one of my competitors, I have had grits before.

ANNOUNCER: And knock each other out.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would like everyone to drop out. But that's not the way it works.

ANNOUNCER: Will all four candidates still be standing after three new contests in Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii? It's America's choice.

Mitt Romney is the clear leader in the delegate race, but he's still a long way from claiming the nomination.

ROMNEY: We're counting up the delegates for the convention, and it looks good. And we're counting down the days November, and that looks even better.

ANNOUNCER: Rick Santorum is giving Romney a run for his money after cutting into his Super Tuesday win.

SANTORUM: We have won in the West, the Midwest, and the South, and we're ready to win across this country.

ANNOUNCER: Newt Gingrich with proven appeal in the South thinks this could be his night.

GINGRICH: If we win Alabama and we win Mississippi on Tuesday, for about the ninth time, the news media will suddenly be reporting a totally new race.

ANNOUNCER: The Republicans competing in two red states and on President Obama's home turf. When will they finally be able to focus on their ultimate goal?

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never think it's do or die from everything. Everybody is still in the race.

ANNOUNCER: GOP concerns are growing as the race keeps going and the candidates charge into battle again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And welcome to our primary night edition of A.C. 360. If you're just joining us, welcome to our special coverage, two big races in Alabama and Mississippi tonight, and one very tense night for the Republican presidential candidates.

Rick Santorum now leading in Alabama. Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich locked in a close fight in Mississippi. Earlier, Romney told our own Wolf Blitzer "Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign."

It looks as though he may have spoken too soon. Let's take a look at the numbers as they are right now. First in Alabama, with 34 percent of the vote in, Santorum ahead by some 7,871 votes. It just went up, 7,918 votes. He got 35 percent of the vote. Gingrich in second place with 30 percent. Romney back with 28 percent in third.

And then over in Mississippi, 79 percent of the vote in. Rick Santorum, 33 percent of the vote. He's 1,813 votes ahead of Newt Gingrich, who has 32 percent of the vote, and Mitt Romney is back in third place with 30 percent of the vote, certainly not what candidate Romney wanted to see tonight, but it could be a very good night for Santorum, and we're watching the numbers very, very closely.

BLITZER: Nobody is watching them more closely than our own John King, who is studying all these counties and taking a look what is outstanding. It looks like Santorum is in much better shape in Alabama than he is in Mississippi, but he's ahead at least as of now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at the moment, this is the national map. Here are the two states we're talking about, Mississippi and Alabama.

If you look at them at the moment, if they stay purple, you may want to call Romney back tomorrow to see if he will come back on the show and talk about the desperate end. That does not look like the desperate end of the Santorum campaign. What it could be is the end of the Gingrich campaign if this holds up.

Gingrich won South Carolina, he won Georgia. He desperately needed to win heading across the South.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Second place in both of these states, I think, would probably keep him in the race.

KING: I think it would keep him in the race. The question is does it make him a viable candidate? He will get some delegates. The question is the bragging rights at stake tonight. You look at Alabama right now, this was a state that borders Georgia. This is the one that Gingrich most needed to win.

If you look at the moment, this is counting a bit more slowly than Mississippi, way more slowly than Mississippi, 35 percent of the vote in you see. It's hard to say that much out, things could still change, but this has held pretty steady as the vote count has run up, Santorum at 35 percent, Gingrich at 30 percent, Romney at 28 percent.

If Romney was to spring a surprise here, Wolf, he's winning in all of the places he would need to win to spring a surprise in Alabama. He's winning in the major population centers and in the suburbs. The difference between this state, we can go back and look at Ohio a week ago, because he's winning, yes, and he's winning by a decent margin, but the turnout is so low, he's not getting a big enough vote cushion to offset what the other candidates are doing in the other areas of the state.

That was Birmingham, come up to Huntsville, same different here, 300 votes. He's winning this area. This is where he needs to be running up a margin of thousands of votes if possible. Come down and drop down here to Mobile, just 1 percent of the vote in. Again though he's winning by a decent percentage, but that's nothing. It's in the 40 votes. He's not getting a net out of his victories to offset what is happening in the rural areas which is at the moment much more Santorum and a little less Gingrich.

That's in the state of Alabama. If you move over to Mississippi, a few hours ago, the Romney campaign was saying if we're going to get one of these states, this is it. And yet at moment he's running third. And he's running out of time, 75 percent of the vote in. You see 33 percent for Santorum, 32 percent for Gingrich.

And again follow this pattern in state after state. Look at the population centers, Jackson the most important one to look at here, Hinds County, almost 9 percent of the state population. The governor -- this is the capital, the governor was for Mitt Romney. A big, big win for Romney in this county with 83 percent of the vote in, but look how low the turnout is, again not enough to cushion. He's losing in other areas.

If you move around the area, a veteran Mississippi Republicans said look at Rankin County, just to the east of Jackson. Yes, Romney is winning, a couple hundred votes. He is winning in the counties he needed to win in. If you can move around here, Madison County, he's winning, maybe 400 votes there. If you move over here, Yazoo County, that's the home of Haley Barbour, the former governor, Romney winning again, but by a small amount of votes.

BLITZER: Go to Pascagoula for a second. Shannon Travis is standing by there. Let's set the scene for him.

KING: He's right here. He's in Jackson County. Pascagoula is right here, along the Gulf Coast, just to the east of Biloxi.

You look and it's another county, this was critical. Romney needed to win along the Gulf Coast to have an opportunity to win the state, and again he's winning in the county, but look at the margin. He's not getting enough of a vote cushion so far, we have 35 percent of the vote in. Maybe Shannon can advance us some, I'm not sure, but that's not enough of a cushion. The margins are fine, but he needs...

BLITZER: Keep the numbers up for a moment. I will bring in Shannon.

Shannon, are you getting new numbers over there where you are in Pascagoula?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I actually have new numbers, but momentarily, I will have even fresher numbers.

My good friend Danny here, Danny Glascox (ph), he is printing out some new numbers for us. But I will read you what I have so far. It couldn't be much closer than this, Wolf, 39 votes separating Mitt Romney and Santorum from the unofficial results we have reporting for 14 out of the 31 precincts.

I will read you the numbers. Mitt Romney, 2,871 votes. Again, Mitt Romney, 2,871. Rick Santorum, 2,832 votes, again, 2,832. Newt Gingrich, 2,403. And Ron Paul at 406. And again, as I just told you a few moments ago, Danny here was about to print me some even fresher numbers.

I'm not sure if you guys are getting these numbers because we're on the scene here, on the spot. I'm not quite sure how quickly others are getting these, but because we're here, we're getting them as fresh as he can give them to us.

He's loading up these cards into the machines. The cards are pretty much read by these machines, almost instantaneously and they're uploaded into the computer.

Danny, how are you coming along in terms of -- we have a fresh report coming out now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have 157 cards loaded out of 235.

TRAVIS: And how many precincts is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't count the precincts.

TRAVIS: And you're about to do a printout now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm going to do you a printout now. TRAVIS: Wolf, if we stand by for just a few seconds, I can give you even fresher numbers than that. He's putting a title on the report just to make sure that everyone understands that these are unofficial. And, OK, and we will come back to you when we get fresher numbers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by, Shannon. Get me the numbers in as soon as you get them. We will check back with you.

But if we look at the numbers right now, it's very, very close, obviously. Not enough of a spread, though, for Romney to be picking up a lot of votes.

KING: In this county, with these latest numbers, he's actually losing ground. If you see the difference between Romney and Santorum, this is a county where Romney needs to pad, he needs to grow out. If you compare the numbers we had officially beforehand, Romney had about a 200-vote lead, just shy of that.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Hold on. Shannon has got the new numbers.

Go ahead, Shannon.

TRAVIS: Yes, I told you momentarily they would be coming out. They're right here.

This is 18 of the 31 precincts in, Mitt Romney, 3,407, 3,407. Rick Santorum, 3,340, again, Rick Santorum, 3,340. Newt Gingrich, 2,852, again, 2,852, and Ron Paul at 539 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So you see Mitt Romney still ahead in Jackson County, but obviously I don't think it's going to be enough necessarily to make a major difference statewide.

KING: He's losing ground from where he was a moment ago when he needs to be gaining ground in these key counties.

Again Shannon is right here in Jackson County. This area along the Gulf Coast is critical to Romney. At the moment as we're getting the latest numbers from having reporters on the scene, there's nothing that beats on the scene reporting, I'm going to zoom out to the state, I'm going to turn this off. These numbers will shrink as I pull out.

What you needed to have is Governor Romney pad his totals here, pad his totals here, and we're still waiting for Greenville out here. You see Romney is doing well out here. The question is in a low- turnout election, Santorum gaining here, even though Romney is still ahead.

Santorum is closing the gap. What happens in places like this? Again, this is Hinds County, it's a large county, but 90 percent of the vote is in. It's not enough.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Let's check out Alabama right now because Dana Bash is standing by over there. She is in Birmingham.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Dana, what do you got?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About 60 percent, a little bit more than 60 percent of the vote in here in Jefferson County. And Mitt Romney here is still ahead, but not by much. You see here, he's ahead by about 1,000 votes, Mitt Romney 13,801 votes, Rick Santorum behind him at 12,825.

And up here, you will see that's Newt Gingrich, 12,322. You want to look at the percentages, Mitt Romney, 33.43 percent, Rick Santorum, 31.06 percent, and up here again, Newt Gingrich, 29.85 percent.

It's still extremely close between the three of these. You know, this is changing every single second because this is amazing technology. It's updated as they get the numbers. And the numbers are pretty much, I think, all coming into the building here. So the computer is updating them pretty quickly here.

But Mitt Romney here, at least, is doing well. He may not have the pad, as John mentioned about Mississippi, may not have the pad in this very important county that he needs to take the state, but he is still winning.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Dana, stand by. These numbers show that Romney has is, what, about 1,000 votes ahead, but he was a little bit more than 1,000 votes ahead with 58 percent. But these are brand new numbers.

KING: As we get the brand new numbers, Romney is holding his lead again in this county, but his lead is shrinking. Alabama was a longer shot for the Romney campaign, but for Romney to have a chance to pick it up as the rest of the vote comes in, that needs to be going in the opposite direction.

In these places where you have the urban areas surrounded by some vote-rich suburbs, where Romney tends to do well with your suburban Republican voters, he needs the numbers to be going the other way. He was hoping for Santorum and Gingrich to have a split of the conservative vote, and he picks up the more establishment Republican vote and some Republicans in the suburban vote. That's not enough.

His gap is narrowing, his advantage is narrowing when he needs to be stretching it out. Again if you pull this back and come out more broadly in there state, he's winning where he needs to win with the exception of Huntsville up here in the top of the state. You see Santorum, tiny margin, but Santorum winning here.

The Romney formula has been win in the urban and the suburban areas. He's mostly matching it here but the margins aren't big enough, and very low turnout in both of these states. At the moment, if you come out to the full map, if we end the night like this, we have a very different Republican race.

BLITZER: With Santorum winning both of the states, that would be huge for Santorum.

A lot of the vote is already in, but a lot more is still out. We're watching very, very closely what is going on. We will take a break. We will also hear from the Obama reelection campaign. Robert Gibbs is standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's been an extremely close race in Mississippi and Alabama, a three-man race, but right now, CNN is ready to make a projection.

And CNN projects Rick Santorum will win the state of Alabama. Take a look at this, the former Pennsylvania senator going ahead and winning in Alabama. The exit polls earlier had said he was ahead. The numbers are now coming in. He's building up a lead, a significant, major, major development for Santorum. He's also ahead right now in Mississippi.

If Santorum wins both of these states, that dramatically shakes up this Republican race for the presidential nomination. Let's take a look at the numbers. What we have right now, take a look at this. We will look at Alabama and Mississippi. The official numbers are in.

Alabama first. We have projected Santorum as the winner with more than half of the vote already in, 53 percent. Santorum is ahead by 12,443 votes, 35 percent, to Newt Gingrich, so far, he's in second place with 30 percent. Mitt Romney in third place with 28 percent. Ron Paul way behind with only 5 percent.

Santorum, we project the winner in Alabama. Look at this, though, in Mississippi, 79 percent of the vote is in. And Santorum is also ahead in Mississippi right now, 2,416 votes to be precise, ahead of Newt Gingrich, 33 percent for Santorum, 32 percent right now for Gingrich. Right now, Mitt Romney is in third place with 30 percent, only 4 percent for Ron Paul.

Take a look at this, dramatic developments. If Santorum goes ahead, and we have not made a projection in Mississippi yet, but if he were to go ahead and win in Mississippi, he would be winning both of these Southern states.

Anderson, it would be a dramatic night and it would certainly shake up this race for the White House.

COOPER: There's no doubt about it.

Let's go to the senior adviser to the Obama campaign. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is joining us now.

Mr. Gibbs, as you look at what looks to be a very good night for Rick Santorum, what do you make of these numbers? ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first of all, Anderson, I want to say I'm from Alabama and I like grits. Just, I wanted to get that off my chest.

Look, I think this is shaping up to be a remarkable night for Rick Santorum. I think it's a pretty bad night for Mitt Romney, and, certainly, not a great night by any means for Newt Gingrich. If you're going to be a regional candidate, you better win the states in your region. But I think Rick Santorum is on the verge of a pretty remarkable night in this race.

COOPER: As far as your campaign is concerned, do you want to see both Gingrich and Santorum stay in this as long as possible?

GIBBS: Well, look, I think those are decisions that each of these candidates is going to make.

Like I said, I think Gingrich has a tougher time waking up tomorrow and not having won in a state that touches his home state and the next state over. Those are certainly decisions that he's going to make. I think there are certain political realities that he has to look at, but I think if you look at all three of these candidates, they represent largely the same philosophy, an economic policy that would take us back to a tax cuts for the wealthy, adding trillions and trillions of dollars to our deficits and to our debts, many of the same policies that got us into the very mess that we're trying to get ourselves out of right now.

I don't think that there's a great distinguishing characteristic among all three of these.

COOPER: And yet in the most recent "New York Times"/CBS News poll, your candidate, President Obama, his job approval numbers have dropped significantly just in the last month. It was 50 percent last month -- 41 percent of the people polled in this latest poll approve of the job that he's doing; 47 percent disapprove.

GIBBS: And, Anderson, still beating all three of those candidates.

Look, we have been at this for five years. There's going to be a poll taken tomorrow. There will be a poll every day between now and Election Day, and these numbers are certain going to bounce around, given different methodologies and different ways people ask questions.

If we got too exuberant over one poll, we wouldn't last long in this business because this certainly goes up and down. The American people understand what we have had to claw our way out of.

But there isn't a day, Anderson, that I wouldn't rather be our campaign than any of these three. They're clawing it out with each other. Mitt Romney vastly outspent Rick Santorum -- I think an interesting story -- outspent Rick Santorum 5-1 in Alabama, 3-1 in Mississippi, almost all negative ads, and still very little to show for it at the end of the night. COOPER: Mitt Romney earlier in the day said to our Wolf Blitzer that he thinks Santorum is at what he called the desperate end of his campaign.

Tonight, do you think that statement still holds up?

GIBBS: Well, I think that sounds like Mitt Romney thought he was going to do a whole lot better in Alabama and Mississippi than the actual results reflect right now.

I don't think that -- look, Mitt Romney has said and his campaign has said that it would take an act of God for them not to be the nominee. Usually, a campaign with divinity on its side would be doing better than they are tonight.

COOPER: Robert Gibbs, I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks.

GIBBS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to bring in our analysts, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, reporter Candy Crowley.

A huge win for Santorum in Alabama and looking like a very good night for him in Mississippi as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I just was e-mailing with an adviser to Santorum, and I asked him to respond to what Romney said, sort of the end of a desperate campaign, and he said, no, it's just the beginning of a campaign.

So it's very clear that they're buoyed by this, if they should be, if they end up winning, and that there's going to be more pressure, I think, from the Santorum camp to get Newt Gingrich out, because it's in their interest to get Newt Gingrich out. It's in Romney's interests to keep him in, right?

COOPER: Although if you're Gingrich and you come in second, if the numbers hold up, you come in second in Alabama and Mississippi, it's not a win, but is it enough wind at your back to keep you in?

BORGER: You get delegates.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If you go mano a mano with Santorum in your own backyard, in the South, he's the Southern candidate -- Rick Santorum was not the Southern candidate.

It's an away game, as Romney would call it, for Rick Santorum. If Rick Santorum wins, he has a very strong argument that this ought to be a one-on-one with Romney. What is I think surprising all of us is not only the exit polls, but all of the expectations that were built up coming into this and by the Romney people in part, and that comment made about Rick Santorum being at the desperate end of his campaign I think set the evening up as Romney was going to win one of these.

And the early exit polls said he was about five points ahead in Mississippi. And now we have this shift and I think we're all sort of, whoa, yet again.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me put in what may be happening.

We heard Haley Barbour through one of our reporters, Peter Hamby, talking about the turnout. Henry Barbour, who is a nephew and also very involved in politics, tweeted out and was talking about metro Jackson, Mississippi, 100 percent in, in Madison County, "Nice percentage for Mitt Romney, but turnout is killing us, 7,658 voter total, and we should get 12,000 to 10,000."

Romney got 42 percent in Jackson, Mississippi, but the turnout -- it's what John has been talking -- turnout was so lousy, it was not enough to boost him even into second at this point.

BORGER: We have been talking about this throughout the primary process, which is the turnout has been low in these primaries.

The question is whether that is really an indicator of what turnout would be in a general election. Romney campaign people say no, it is not, that the Democrats had the second highest turnout in history in 1988, and they lost.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: We don't know.

COOPER: Erick Erickson, I think saw a tweet from you. Aren't schools in Mississippi closed and so a lot of folks...

(CROSSTALK)

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

Public schools in Mississippi are on spring break this week pretty much across the state. A lot of people are out of town this week. In fact, my sister works on the northern end of Jackson, Mississippi, in Ridgeland, the more affluent Republican part of that country, and she was the only person in the office who went to vote today. Nobody could make up their mind who they wanted to vote for. Weather wasn't that great. They all stayed home.

COOPER: I want to bring in our Peter Hamby, who had that interview that Candy was talking about.

Peter, what are you hearing on the ground?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Candy mentioned I that talked to Henry Barbour, who was a Rick Perry supporter that came around to Governor Romney lately.

But he's longtime political operative in Mississippi and is extremely skeptical of the trends right now. He said it's discouraging. It's hard to see the math. He's disappointed in the turnout. Look at a county like Rankin County around Jackson that John has been referencing all night. This is one of the biggest Republican counties in the state.

Typically, he said Republican turnout in a primary is somewhere around 30,000 votes. Tonight, they're only seeing a few thousand votes. So, basically, the bottom line here from a prominent Romney surrogate is that Romney is underperforming and Santorum is overperforming.

Typically, a surrogate is not going to go on the record with a reporter about that if they don't see a bad night ahead, so another sign of bad news tonight, Anderson, coming out of Mississippi.

BORGER: It speaks to your passion for a candidate, as Erick says, if you're willing to sort of go out and vote in a primary, and Rick Santorum's supporters clearly are more passionate about him because their arguments are more about cultural issues, what they feel their values...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm sorry.

I have got to bring in Eric Fehrnstrom. He's a senior adviser to the Romney campaign. He's joining us now.

Mr. Fehrnstrom, thanks very much for being with us.

As you look at this, we have called Alabama for Rick Santorum, and it appears as if Santorum is doing very well in Mississippi, not a good night in either state for your candidate. What happened?

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SENIOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, I think it's important to keep in mind, Anderson, our goal tonight going into the contests -- and there are four because we have some Pacific island contests that we won't know the results on until early, early in the morning -- but our goal was to take out one-third of the delegates and possibly do slightly better than that.

I think we will exceed that goal. It's important to...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Your goal wasn't to win one of these states?

FEHRNSTROM: I don't think anybody expected Mitt to win Alabama or Mississippi. As Mitt said early on in the campaign, that this was an away game for him. And I think that's true.

Look, this is a delegate contest. And like I said, our goal was to come in and take a third of the delegates. We will do that. And once the dust clears, you will be able to look and see that there really will be no ground that our opponents have made up against Mitt Romney. And as you look at the upcoming contests on the calendar, there are no opportunities for them to have significant wins that allow them to accumulate large numbers of delegates so that they can close that gap with Mitt Romney. COOPER: Earlier in the day, Governor Romney said to Wolf Blitzer on CNN that he thought Rick Santorum was at the desperate end of his campaign.

Would you still say tonight that Rick Santorum at the desperate end of his campaign?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, unless you can explain to me how he gets to 1,144 delegates, I mean, we're fast going to be approaching the point where there will be fewer delegates remaining than what Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich needs to get to that magic number.

So, if somebody can explain to me their pathway to 1,144, I'm all ears. But, mathematically, it's -- we're fast approaching the point where it's going to be a virtual impossibility.

COOPER: I want to bring in our Gloria Borger and also David Gergen, who I know have some questions as well.

BORGER: Eric, it's Gloria.

Can you explain what people are calling really low turnout in the state of Mississippi and actually throughout the entire primary process? We have seen really low Republican turnout.

FEHRNSTROM: Look, I can't explain the turnout.

I haven't seen those numbers, Gloria. I can tell you that Mitt visited both Mississippi and Alabama, and the response he got was very encouraging. Folks there, of course, are suffering under this bad economy that President Obama has given us. They're dealing with high gas prices, high food prices, high health care costs.

Of course, their incomes are declining or they don't have a job at all or they're looking to trade up from a part-some time job to a full-time job with better benefits. So they're -- these people are hurting. They're hurting all around the country. That's what we have encountered from one end of the United States to the other.

COOPER: Eric, I have just to ask, earlier, your candidate was quoted as saying he wants to -- I want to get the quote right -- he said, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that."

Does Mitt Romney really want to get rid of Planned Parenthood?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, a few months ago, Mitt Romney put out his deficit-reduction plan. And he actually singled out some areas of the budget that he would either eliminate or curtail, all in the name of achieving a balanced budget.

And the test that he said he would be applying is, is this program so valuable that we're willing to go borrow money from China to pay for it? And there's going to be a lot of programs that don't meet that Romney test, let's call it. But that is not a new proposal from the governor. That was actually part of the deficit-reduction plan that he produced some months ago. COOPER: So, that just means defunding it, no longer funding it, not actually trying to get rid of the organization?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, no, it would not be getting rid of the organization. They have other sources of funding besides government appropriations.

But in order to achieve balance, we are going to have to make some tough decisions about spending, Anderson. And, as I said, the test that Mitt Romney will apply is, is this program so worthwhile and so valuable that we're willing to borrow money from the Chinese to pay for it?

COOPER: Eric Fehrnstrom, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

FEHRNSTROM: Thank you.

COOPER: David Gergen, Gloria Borger. Again, we're back with Candy Crowley.

We're waiting to hear from Rick Santorum. His family, you see them behind the door. They are waiting. They're going to be making a speech. We're not expecting to actually hear from Governor Romney tonight. Does that surprise you, that Romney is not going to be speaking tonight?

BORGER: Well, Candy has been covering him, but to me, if you think you're going to win, you come out. If you don't think you're going to win, you don't.

CROWLEY: They had planned this a couple of days ago when, actually, I would argue a couple days ago, it looked kind of like it was going to be the night it actually turned out to be.

In some ways, you know, listening to Eric, I think they're right. You know, four, five days ago, you thought, you know, Romney in the south, it's not going to work. And then, like he tends to do in these races, he sort of pulls ahead in some of the polls, and you think, holy cow, he could really pull it off here. And then when he doesn't, it looks worse.

So they did kind of -- they get those expectations built in the last two days, but I will tell you that they didn't plan on him coming out. He's on his way to New York to do a couple fund-raisers.

COOPER: And make a last-minute stop in Alabama.

GERGEN: But he's clearly gotten caught by the expectations, which magnified the Santorum victory or victories tonight.

COOPER: Santorum being introduced. As soon as he comes to the podium, we'll -- well, let's just listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he talks kind of funny. So when I heard that, now, you know, he thinks we talk funny, but that's how it works in south Louisiana. So because of that, I decided he deserves the right to be an honorary Cajun. So tonight...

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

Thank you.

We did it again. Thank you all very much.

First and foremost, as we continue this campaign and continue to work hard, I just want to thank everybody. I want to thank everybody. I get this question all the time: what do people say to you when you get around and you meet all of the people we have been meeting as we crisscross the country?

And the most common thing I hear from people -- and I know I'm not alone -- is people come up and say, "I'm praying for you." And I just want to thank you for that. I want to thank God for giving us the strength every day to go out there and be clear in our vision and message for this country. And that's what this race has been about.

People have said, you know, "You're being outspent," and you know, everybody is talking about all the math and all the -- all the things that this race is inevitable.

Well, for someone who thinks this race is inevitable, he's spending a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable.

This is a grassroots campaign for president. Who would have ever thought, in the age of media that we have in this country today, that ordinary folks from across this country can defy the odds, day in, day out?

I want to thank the people of Kansas over the weekend. We would not be here today -- I said when I was in Wichita, and I know I did really well in Wichita, because my wife Karen spoke at that caucus, but -- the first couple times I got this from some reporters who were doing interviews with me and Karen, it was funny. Now it's becoming a little bit annoying. They keep telling me after the interview, you know, "You should speak less and let Karen speak more. You'd do better."

She -- she has been an amazing asset to this campaign. But more importantly, she is an amazing gift to me and to these children, John, Daniel, Sarah, Maria, Peter, and Patrick, who are here behind me. They -- this team up here on this stage has just delivered time and time again for me in my life, and I just want to thank them again publicly for all that they're doing for us. God bless you.

My daughter Elizabeth is in Hawaii. Tough duty, I know. But she's in Hawaii, and so we're counting on Elizabeth to surprise them all out there with the results tonight when you wake up in the morning, and we'll see how well my daughter did. Thank you, sweetie, for the sacrifice.

And of course, I always have to say hello to my little sweetheart. I know she's watching me at home, my little 3-1/2-year- old little Bella. Thank you, sweetie. Bless you. I love you. This campaign is about ordinary folks doing extraordinary things. Sort of like America. Sort of like America, going out there and exceeding expectations. Going out there and defying the odds, because we believe in something that's bigger than ourselves.

That's what America has always been about. It's not been about self. It's been about serving. It's been about giving and trying to do something for someone who needs help more than you do yourself.

And I looked around and at the crowds we had in Alabama and Mississippi, and I just have to tell you, I was so encouraged. All the polls were showing us trailing, and they kept coming out, and they kept saying, "We believe in you. We're going to go out. We're going to work hard. We're going to make the difference."

So I just want to say first to the people of Alabama, you made a great difference tonight. Thank you very, very much for your support.

I don't think there was a single poll that had me anywhere close to winning Mississippi. Not one, and yet I knew when I was traveling around on whether it was all the way up in Tupelo or all the way down in Gulfport, the folks that I met and the passion in their heart, they understood how important this race is for themselves and their families and for the future of our country.

And I end all my speeches by talking about the Declaration of Independence and how we have to pledge to each other our lives, our fortune, our sacred honor. Every generation does, in order to maintain the great freedom, the great torch that has been given to every generation of Americans.

And -- and the people of this country, the folks who were out there who are affected when gas prices go up, the quality of their life is affected with a government that is irresponsible and irresponsive to the needs of average people, particularly when it comes to gas prices in this country.

I'm here in Lafayette, Louisiana, tonight. And I wanted to be here because of them. This is the heart of the oil and gas industry on the Gulf Coast. And this administration almost put this town under with the moratoriums, the delays in permitting that are getting worse and worse and worse. And as a result, the ability for the men and women who go out and drill these wells and service these wells to go out and earn an income and more importantly for them to get that oil and gas into the shore so we can use it here in this country.

We're seeing gas prices at what are projected to be historic highs. And yet this president almost put this whole region out of business. By -- because of the extreme environmental policies of this administration. And we wanted to be here in Lafayette to say to average folks who are struggling right now because of those energy prices, we will put this town and this region back to work so you can go back to work and have a better quality of life.

I finally just want to say to the people of Mississippi, I just can't thank you enough. I don't know, we've been out here a few minutes. I don't know whether the race is called or not, but I can tell you this. What the folks down there did, in spite of all the odds, all the money being spent, all of the establishment -- all of the establishment being on the other side of this race, you stood with a guy who comes from the grandson of a coal miner from a steel town in western Pennsylvania, but you knew, shared your values, and was going to go out and work for you to make sure that this country was free and safe and prosperous, based on believing in free people and free markets and free economy, and of course, the integrity of the family and the centrality of faith in our lives. Bless you.

Now -- now, Missouri is next. We did well in the primary. We hope to do even better in the caucuses this weekend. And of course, next week, next week, we'll come back here, and we expect a huge win here in Cajun country. We will compete everywhere. We will compete everywhere.

The time is now for conservatives to pull together. The time is now to make sure, to make sure that we have the best chance to win this election. And the best chance to win this election is to nominate a conservative to go up against Barack Obama, who can take him on on every issue.

If Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, and yes, Puerto Rico, which we are headed to tonight, I might add. And we're going to spend two days campaigning in Puerto Rico, because we want to make sure that everybody knows we're campaigning everywhere there are delegates, because we are going to win this nomination before that convention. Those states do their part, starting right here in Louisiana. If you folks do your part and you help us like the folks in Alabama and hopefully the folks in Mississippi did -- we did?

You do your job -- you do your job next week, we will nominate a conservative. And if we nominate a conservative, we will defeat Barack Obama and set this country back on the right track.

Thank you. God bless.

COOPER: And Rick Santorum just making a statement. Some have called the state of Mississippi for Rick Santorum. We have not yet. Ninety-six percent of the vote in. Santorum well in the lead, some 3,500 votes ahead with 33 percent of the votes. Thirty-one percent for Newt Gingrich, who's in second, and Mitt Romney at 30 percent.

We've got to take a quick break. Our poll coverage continues. We're expecting comments from Newt Gingrich. We'll obviously bring those to you live, as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Huge night shaping up for Rick Santorum. Here are the latest votes we're getting right now.

Ninety-six percent of the votes in Mississippi. We have not yet made a projection, but it's looking very, very good for Rick Santorum. He's 3,500 votes ahead of Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney right now in third place. So it's looking good for Rick Santorum. We're getting ready to hear from Newt Gingrich at some point.

Let's go over to John King right now. It's looking like Santorum has got a significant lead in Mississippi. We've already projected he wins in Alabama. You know what? I want to bring in Shannon, Shannon Travis. He's in Pascagoula, Mississippi, with some new numbers.

Shannon, what are you picking up? Because I think we're getting very close to a projection.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. These are the freshest numbers that I have so far with 96.8 percent of the vote in here in Jackson County. Here's what I have. A 180-vote difference separating Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Here are the numbers: Mitt Romney, 4,969. Again, Mitt Romney, 4,969. Rick Santorum, 4,789. Again, Rick Santorum, 4,789. Newt Gingrich, 3,993, 3,993. And Ron Paul, 780 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So those are the numbers you're getting right now. I think we're getting ready for some major news. Let's pause right now.

All right, look at this. Rick Santorum, we now project, is the winner in Mississippi. Earlier, we projected he wins Alabama, a doubleheader. He wins both of these southern states tonight. Rick Santorum, a huge, huge development. A lot of people thought Romney could win in Mississippi. Some thought Newt Gingrich would win in one of these two states. But it's Rick Santorum, who captures the popular vote in both states.

Now, having said all that, John, the key thing is delegates right now. It's proportional. In both of these states, not winner take all, and we're getting some estimates.

KING: So there are two running narratives and two running conversations. That is the competition in the Republican Party. One is, is it winning in momentum. Senator Santorum will make the argument, "I'm winning, especially in the geographic base in the party."

The other is, you're winning but, but being the new rules in the Republican Party, what happened with the delegates. We know entering the night Governor Romney had a big lead in delegates.

So let's just take the state of Alabama. You're looking at it right now. Statewide, if somebody gets 50 percent, they get all the statewide delegates. Well, nobody gets 50 percent. So the state-wide delegates will be proportioned, 35 percent for Santorum, 30 for Gingrich, 28 for Senator [SIC] Romney. Paul will get no delegates if he doesn't meet the threshold. If it stays like that. The state-wide vote is roughly proportional.

So then the rest of the delegates are congressional district delegates. And let's pull over this little transparency. You can see the congressional delegates. Seven districts in Alabama. Down here, it looks like Mitt Romney will win this district. Why do I say that? Santorum is winning these counties. He's more popular down there. Mitt Romney winning that district. Up here, around Birmingham, it looks like Romney will probably win this district, even though you see these rural counties for Santorum. Rural population center right here. This one could be closer. I'm making a guess, looking at it. But that's what you do.

After you proportion the statewide delegates, then you go through each of the seven districts. Up top, Santorum is carrying that congressional district, without a doubt.

This district here, Santorum is carrying that district, without a doubt. This district here looks more competitive. You see Gingrich and Santorum counties filling in. We'll have to count the votes there.

Down here, looks like this could either be, if this population center is big enough, and sometimes it happens this way. Could be a Romney. Otherwise, this looks like a Gingrich district down here. We'll have to count them. And that's what we have to do with each of these states. You apportion the state-wide delegates, based on this percentage of the final vote. And you're right: that's only 79 percent, and then you go through the congressional districts.

So the Romney campaign is correct when it says that, even when it's not going to win any of these states tonight, it's going to come away with a third or more of the delegates.

Let's go next for the state of Mississippi. I want to do the same thing. State-wide, nobody wins 50. You have to be over 50 percent to win all the state-wide delegates. Ron Paul will not meet the threshold, so he'll get no state-wide delegates. This is 96 percent of the vote, so assuming this is roughly what you're going to get.

Romney will get 30 percent of the statewide delegates, so on and so forth.

Then you come over with the congressional district map, again. This is where the Romney campaign says, look, you see a big one right here, I hauled it off here, let me bring it back. I can tell you by looking at that, Romney will most likely win this congressional district. This one looks more competitive. Some Romney, some Santorum, some Gingrich. Population here, maybe slight edge Santorum. Have to count the votes there.

Down here, the population center in this district is here for Gingrich, here for Romney. Have to count the votes. That looks like a competitive district here, and this district up in the top northeast corner of the state looks pretty much like a safe Santorum district for me.

So again, the argument from Senator Santorum is I just won two southern states. Where are you, Speaker Gingrich? You were supposed to be the southern candidate. Where are you, Governor Romney? You haven't won in the geographical base of the party.

The flipside for the Romney campaign is, Wolf, let me switch this map. I'll move this down a little bit. Is -- this was the contest coming into the night. This is where we were coming into the night. The race to 1,144. Romney had a big lead.

So what happens tonight? Something like this: Santorum wins both of these. I'm assuming, and we'll wait for this to come in later -- we're going give for this hypothetical, Hawaii to Romney, American Samoa.

So even though Santorum wins two states, Romney is still comfortably ahead. The argument for Santorum going forward is I'll see you in Puerto Rico, Illinois, Missouri, and beyond.

BLITZER: He's got some political momentum, Rick Santorum. He was outspend dramatically in both of these southern states by the pro- Mitt Romney super PAC and others. Anderson, a huge, huge night for Rick Santorum.

COOPER: No doubt about it.

We're waiting to hear from Newt Gingrich. Right now, though, joining us now is Vince Haley, the deputy campaign manager for the Gingrich campaign.

Thanks very much for being with us. Last week, your campaign said that your candidate had to have a win tonight. He does not have a win tonight. You had said, his campaign had said he had to have a win in order to remain viable. By your own logic, is he no longer viable?

VINCE HALEY, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, GINGRICH CAMPAIGN: Newt Gingrich has said that he's going to go on to Tampa, no matter what happens tonight. And, you know, tonight, we worked hard to win. Rick Santorum had a good night. Congratulations to him, but it doesn't change the underlying dynamic of this race. And that dynamic is a three-way dynamic. This is not Ford/Reagan in '76, going state to state and one person gets the majority; the other candidate gets the majority.

This is a three-way dynamic. And this dynamic is going all the way to the convention. Nobody can wrap up the delegates before the convention, and what it also means is that the person that finishes strongest is very likely to be the nominee.

COOPER: Right, but I don't understand why last week your campaign was saying unless he has a win tonight, he's no longer viable. What has now suddenly changed that you're saying he should continue on to the convention?

HALEY: Well, like I said, Gingrich has said very clearly that he's going on with his campaign. He's moving to Illinois tomorrow. Look, you had a -- you had a three-way race tonight. It looks like we're coming in a close second. There are big differences on the conservative wing of this campaign between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. We benefit from the long campaign, because you can't do delegate math by -- day in and day out. You actually have to focus again on the big issues and who's going to be the most effective at changing Washington. In that equation, Newt does great against Rick Santorum.

COOPER: Mr. Haley, your candidate's wife is speaking. So let's listen in. Callista Gingrich.

CALLISTA GINGRICH, NEWT GINGRICH'S WIFE: Newt and I are engaged in this race because we believe America is at a crossroads and care deeply about the future of this country.

In a few months, we will face the most important election of our lifetime. Our only opponent is Barack Obama. And we are committed to removing him from the White House. Over the last week, president Obama and the White House seem to have gotten that message.

They have stepped up the rhetoric against Newt and his plan to maximize American energy production. Yet, it's clear Americans are eager to develop our abundant energy resources.

Newt is -- that's right. Newt is the only candidate with the experience and knowledge necessary to rebuild the America we love. He has a successful national record of creating jobs, balancing the budget, and reforming our government.

Today, we need a leader with bold solutions to create a better future for all Americans. I believe that leader is my husband. Please welcome former speaker of the House and the next president of the United States, Newt Gingrich.

(MUSIC: "Only in America")

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me thank all of you for your very, very hard work and all of the work you did. I particularly want to thank Governor Wagner, who has just been tireless in crisscrossing the state. And I'm delighting that he and Marilyn are with us tonight, and we congratulate them on their 54th anniversary. And it's just wonderful to have them here with us.

I also want to thank Michael Ciamora, who from the very beginning, helped us put together a campaign in Alabama.

It's quite an evening. Obviously, we would have like to have come in first, but I start by saying that I congratulate Rick Santorum on a great campaign. He has won a victory in both states and he's worked very hard to achieve it. I know how much he's put into this campaign, he and his family, over the last year, and I congratulate him on a positive evening and a positive result.

And I'd also point out that, because this is proportional representation, we're going to leave Alabama and Mississippi with a substantial amount of delegates, increasing our total going towards Tampa. And we are grateful to you because you made that outcome possible. And with your help, we're going to take a much bigger delegation than we had yesterday. So thank you very much for that.

I emphasis going to Tampa because one of the things tonight proved is that the elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed.

The fact is -- the fact is in both states, the conservative candidates got nearly 70 percent of the vote. And if you're the front-runner -- if you're the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a front-runner.

And frankly, I do not believe that a Massachusetts moderate, who created Romney care as the forerunner of Obamney care, is going to be in a position to win any debates this fall. That's part of the reason I've insisted on staying in this race. We need someone who can go toe to toe with Barack Obama and debate him and win the debates decisively.

Now, I will always remember -- that's exactly right. Anywhere, anytime. I will always remember campaigning in Mississippi and Alabama, because it was here in the last week that the issue of gasoline and energy was crystallized.

And while we're having -- we haven't always gotten our message across in terms of getting as many votes as we'd like, we clearly were changing the national dialogue all week.