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Mitt Romney Leads in Maryland Republican Primary; Tornadoes Strike Dallas-Fort Worth Area

Aired April 3, 2012 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Wisconsin closing in one hour, but in a few seconds let's see what we can do. In fact let's do it right now.

And CNN can now project that Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney is the winner in the state of Maryland based on the exit poll information. We've been taking it throughout the day. Voters coming out. We do project Mitt Romney will be the winner in Maryland. We'll give you the exact numbers shortly.

We are not able to make a projection in the District of Columbia simply because we did not have exit poll information data in the District of Columbia, but real numbers will be coming in shortly in the District of Columbia. We'll share those numbers with you shortly.

Let's put up on the screen right now the exit poll information for Maryland.

And here's why we could make this projection that Mitt Romney is the winner in Maryland. Take a look at this. Based on the exit polls, what people were telling us as they left the polling booths throughout the day, 49 percent in Maryland said they were voting -- they already had voted in fact for Mitt Romney, 28 percent for Rick Santorum, 11 percent for Newt Gingrich, 10 percent for Ron Paul.

Based on those exit poll numbers, we are able to make the projection that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is the winner in Maryland. Not a huge surprise, but an important win for Mitt Romney.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And an important win also because of whom he won with, Wolf. Look at Maryland over here, the state that tends to vote Democratic. But look at what our exit polls showed in terms of how people responded to all of this.

Look at this. Vote by ideology, very conservative voters, somewhat conservative, moderate or liberal voters. Very conservative. This has been Rick Santorum territory. Look what they did in Maryland over here. Rick Santorum 40 percent, 40 percent for Mitt Romney, too. Very conservative voters lining up with Mitt Romney. We have not seen that to this point.

But as you move further down to the somewhat conservative, there you see Mitt Romney 59 percent to Santorum's 25 percent. That's one of the crushing numbers out of this certainly for the Santorum people. They can't be happy about this. Born-again or evangelical Christian voters, 63 percent of the people said they were not that in Maryland and look what happened with them, 55 percent for Mitt Romney instead of Santorum.

And as we move down here a little bit further, Wolf, look at this, most important issue in Maryland, like everywhere else it's the economy. On the economy vote, 56 percent for Mitt Romney. That's crushing to Santorum's 22 percent on the economy. That's been the biggest issue all over this country, every state we go to. Time and again people say that's the issue. That's a better than 2-1 defeat on that.

If we move down here for just a couple of other things, vote by income. This has dogged Mitt Romney. He has had trouble, trouble, trouble with lower-end voters. If you go to $100,000 or more, look at this, Mitt Romney wins 54 percent to 25 percent. There's no surprise on that. But now I want you to bring down here to less than $50,000, less than $50,000, and Mitt Romney wins that 40 percent to Rick Santorum's 33 percent.

That is something we really have almost not seen before. Somehow he got traction with the lower end voters that Santorum has been able to rely on. And one last category because this is the one that everybody keeps talking about on the -- on the Republican side. The most important candidate quality. The number one thing people wanted in Maryland who voted today was a candidate who could defeat Barack Obama.

And look at how they voted on that. Seventy-two percent for Mitt Romney. Only 12 percent thought that for Rick Santorum.

Wolf, this is an overwhelming bundle of numbers for Mitt Romney right now and why we can so easily say this is the way Maryland voters went today in the Republican primary.

BLITZER: Good numbers, in fact, for Mitt Romney indeed, I should say. Thanks very much, Tom. We'll be checking back with you throughout the night.

One quick note. By the end of the night on the Democratic side it looks official. President Obama will have enough delegates to ensure his re-nomination. He had no opposition, so that's not much of a surprise, obviously, as well.

But let's bring in our panel. Joining us, our political analyst Gloria Borger and David Gergen. Also Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Republican strategist, Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush.

I want to get a quick initial thought from all of you. Gloria, first to you.

Not a huge surprise that he wins in Maryland, but you know what, Maryland is on the border with Pennsylvania, his home state, was a crushing win for Mitt Romney today. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And of course what Rick Santorum will say if he loses in Wisconsin as well is that he's heading into Pennsylvania. That's where he's going to be this evening. That's where his big win is going to be. It's his home state. And then he believes he can carry on if he wins Pennsylvania, take it through May to some states.

BLITZER: May is a better month than April.

BORGER: Some states that might be better for him, states like Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas. But I think you'd have to say, Wolf, that after tonight Mitt Romney will have a commanding lead not only in delegates but he also would have bragging rights saying, you know what, I have been able to beat Rick Santorum across a range of battleground states.

I've proven myself as a candidate, let's get on with it. President Obama attacked Mitt Romney today. Republicans are thinking time to start getting in a general election mode.

BLITZER: Rick Santorum has won 11 states. That's nothing to sneeze at.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He's won 11 more states than most people thought he would win. That's all started -- you know, so you have to say he's run a very credible campaign, he remains a credible candidate, but I think it's all but over. And if Mitt Romney wins all three tonight, including Wisconsin, that's one we're watching, then I think you'd have to say, Wolf, he's finally got his bandwagon rolling again.

He was in the ditch for a while but I think he's got it rolling again and it's going to be very, very hard to stop. I don't care whether it's May, June or -- you know, August, he's going to be very hard to stop.

BLITZER: I listened to the president's speech today and I know you did, Donna, as well. He mentioned Mitt Romney by name, first time he's really done so in the course of this campaign. I didn't hear him say much about Rick Santorum.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he understands that Mitt Romney has, you know, technically won the nomination, although we still have to go through a number of states before he will get to that magic number of 1,144.

I voted for president Obama today, so I guess that kicks it off.

BLITZER: In the District of Columbia.

BRAZILE: He should -- absolutely. Three delegate votes -- I mean three electoral votes in the fall, I'm proud of my vote, and I can take this off now. But look, Mitt Romney is ready to pivot. He's ready to pivot to the general election. He knows that President Obama is waiting for him. We've been waiting in the wings, we've known this for weeks. And, you know, my thought right now is that Mitt Romney will at some point claim victory. The establishment want this -- they want the race over with and we're ready to take on Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: My own sense, Ari, tell me if you agree, is that every time the president of the United States or one of his advisers like David Axelrod or Robert Gibbs mentions Mitt Romney by name, that helps Mitt Romney among Republicans.

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it does. I mean it sends a signal to everybody that he is the one that the Democrats are running against, creates inevitability. But let me step back. I want to make a broader point about something interesting in my party. Primaries draw you to the right if you're a Republican and draw you to the left if you're a Democrat, except for Republicans recently.

It looks like Mitt Romney, who certainly isn't the most conservative, will win. John McCain wasn't the most conservative, he won. George W. Bush was not the most conservative in 2000, and he won.

BORGER: Well, don't you think he's dragged to the right?

FLEISCHER: The fact is the party keeps nominating somebody other than the most conservative. Now you're going to make the point it pulled him to the right, et cetera.


BORGER: Dragged him off to the right.

FLEISCHER: My point is, still somehow, the candidate who is not the most far right candidate keeps winning Republican primaries.

BORGER: Right. But in the -- but in the process, I mean, Mitt Romney -- this process has not been great for him and has dragged him to the right, particularly on the issue, like, immigration reform where you have to look towards Hispanic voters. That's why Marco Rubio in the Senate wants to propose some kind of revision of the Dream Act so he can get some Republicans to vote for it because he understands that this has been damaging.

FLEISCHER: Well, Gloria. That's all true. Remember, Barack Obama in his first three years of president got drawn to the left as he governed. They both have done that and both have made mistakes.

GERGEN: That's true. But -- and President Obama may have some real problems in the fall because of that, you and I agree on that. But I don't think Mitt Romney just got dragged to the right, he got dragged to the far right.


GERGEN: Ari, just in the last few days Republicans have been scrambling to figure out how do they appeal to women. How do we bring the women back. How do we appeal to Hispanics. We ticked them off through this campaign. What do we do about the Ryan plan? The president obviously saw the Ryan plan as being a vulnerability for Mitt Romney. Went straight at him.

BRAZILE: You know, how do you govern from the left when basically your policies, you know, is to bring the country back from the brink of a recession, to expand health care coverage for children, to restore equal pay for women with the Lillie Ledbetter Act. I mean how do you really govern from one side when you're really just trying to preserve an economy?

BLITZER: Hold those thoughts, all of you, because I want to move this conversation along. We have reporters at both the Romney and Santorum headquarters. At least on this night. Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is over at Romney central, Joe Johns is over at the Santorum campaign outside of Pittsburgh.

Let's go to Candy first.

Candy, give us a little sense of what's going on over there.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not much at the moment, but I can tell you that for a couple of days now they do believe in the Romney campaign that he's going to win Wisconsin. It will then be a clean sweep for tonight. Romney said during his campaigning here, if I pull out a win here in Wisconsin, I believe I will then go on to grab enough delegates, the 1,144 delegates I need before the convention, sort of trying to put an end to all that talk about a brokered convention or going there without having enough.

So it is full steam ahead. You're still seeing Mitt Romney going after the president, responding to the president today and what the president had to say, so this is very much a general campaign wrapped inside the primary campaign. And the Mitt Romney folks certainly believe that he is now back on track, as David said, and moving along. So they'll gather here in Wisconsin. They think they will look back at Wisconsin, if not the day that he gets the actual number that he needs, but a day when there has been a big psychological pivot and they expect to see more people coming on board after tonight, should the win come in as they're hoping.

BLITZER: I'll be curious to hear what he has to say, Mitt Romney, when he speaks to that crowd behind you later tonight.

Candy, thanks very much.

Joe Johns is over at Santorum's headquarters in Mars, Pennsylvania, not far from his hometown over there.

Set the scene, Joe, for us over there.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, quite frankly, I think the Santorum campaign is feeling just a little besieged these days with questions about the candidate's future. Got on the phone with one top aide with the Santorum campaign today. Three times prefaced the conversation with we're not getting out, we're not getting out, we're not getting out. So the question, of course, is, what is Santorum up to right now? And of course as far as his campaign is concerned, this event here in this room in Mars, Pennsylvania, as well as the candidate's travels across the state, starting tomorrow, are considered to be the kickoff, if you will, of Santorum's race for the state of Pennsylvania. The primary of course on April 24th.

He sees that as critical to him and he thinks he has to do well, of course, here in his home state of Pennsylvania, the state that he represented in the United States Congress for so many years. Beyond that, they are looking forward to the state of Texas and some of the other state primaries that occur in the month of May.

So Santorum showing no signs of getting out, even though this doesn't look like it's going to be a very good night for him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Joe, thanks very much. And we'll be anxious to hear what he has to say. He's going to be speaking behind you as well.

Let's show you the actual numbers coming in from the state of Maryland. We've projected Mitt Romney is the winner in Maryland, but right now they have only started coming in, a trickle, 1 percent or so of the vote is in. Romney way ahead. You can see 50 percent, 30 percent for Santorum, 10 percent for Gingrich, 8 percent for Ron Paul.

Similar to the exit poll numbers that we had, but this is -- these are the official numbers that are just coming in.

Let us know what you think about what's going on. Remember, we're on Facebook, we're on Twitter, @ac360. You can follow me on Twitter @WolfblitzerCNN.

And as we mentioned at the top, there's other news we're following here on AC 360 including the devastation, true devastation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We'll have the latest from Ed Lavandera. He's on the ground in Texas. That's next.


BLITZER: Two breaking stories tonight, primary night and major tornado damage in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Some of the video is frankly almost surreal. You can see in this shot a man standing in the doorway of what appears to be a totally intact bedroom but one thing is missing, the roof. Or images of a funnel cloud cutting through a trucking depot, picking up trailers and cabs, and tossing them hundreds of feet into the air.

We've enhanced the video so you can better see just what's going on. Look at this, two massive trailers being swept up into the storm and a sea of sheet metal, lumber and other debris swirling all around it. Tornadoes like this one forcing Love Field and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to shut down for a time. Scores of aircraft damaged, hundreds of flights cancelled. Especially hard hit the cities of Arlington, Kennedale, and Lancaster. Hundreds of homes damaged in Lancaster. Injuries in Kennedale but so far no reported fatalities.

And just in today amateur video taken by someone named Vincent Tang, directly in harm's way as the storm touched down in Lancaster. Watch this.


VINCENT TANG, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Look at the debris fly. Oh, my god. Please. Oh, shoot. Buddhists bless America. My god, look at that. Holy, holy -- it's about a block or two away from my house. Look at that. Oh, shoot. Oh, shoot. Oh, holy shoot. Look at that. Oh, my god. Holy molly. Debris is flying. Holy molly. Oh, my god. Oh, my god, rain coming. Holy molly. Oh, my god.


BLITZER: The voice and the pictures of Vincent Tang. He probably should have taken cover. Instead he went up on the roof to get a better shot. But he's OK. We spoke with him earlier.

Let's go to Ed Lavandera. Our man on the scene. He's in Lancaster right now. He's joining us as well.

Ed, what kind of damage are you seeing where you are?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, today has been just a simply amazing day considering that this is a part of the country used to seeing these types of storms, especially this time of year. But the video images you've been showing really have taken -- just stunned people around here. The kind of damage we're seeing around here, Wolf, is very similar to this. This is a neighborhood in Lancaster. Very hard hit. Almost looks like a direct hit here in this area where the city of -- the mayor of the city of Lancaster says some 300 homes and buildings were destroyed or damaged because of the storm that ripped through here.

This is a sight that kind of caught my attention here just a little while ago, Wolf. This is a ladder that takes people into their attics in their home. This ladder just strewn out here on the lawn, sucked out of these homes. And that's what a lot of people who described who were inside their homes when this tornado struck is that force and that feeling that people got that the storm was essentially just going to suck you and rip you right out of their home.

We spoke with a woman by the name of Gwen Dabbs. She lives in that home, in that corner window, Wolf. And we talked to her. She wasn't able to make it to an interior room in her house in time before the tornado struck. She had to jump into the corner and cover herself with blankets and a small little ottoman to protect herself. And she said as the tornado hit, all of those windows right there just began to shatter and she described just how terrifying that whole experience was.


GWEN DABBS, RESIDENT OF LANCASTER, TEXAS: Oh, so scary. It was too scary. It just came so fast, quick. And then I hear until I couldn't move fast enough. I went to get my purse and my medicine to take in the bathroom and it hit before I could get up -- before I could get it. And it's just right there.

LAVANDERA: You ducked into the corner of the room over there. You couldn't make --

DABBS: Yes. By the window. Yes.

LAVANDERA: By the window. Covered yourself in blankets?

DABBS: Some blankets, some pillows and the ottoman. And the wind was pulling that cover back and I was pulling the cover, hold on to it. And I just saw debris, debris, debris. Glass flying, glass breaking, it was scary. It was so scary. It reminds you of the "Wizard of Oz" when the tornado hit and everything was going around and round.


LAVANDERA: It was like the "Wizard of Oz," Wolf. She also went on to tell us that she thought she was -- at that very moment about to die -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us as he always is. Thank you.

Let's get some more now from Chad Myers. He's at the CNN Weather Center.

What is the latest? What's happening right now, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, the weather has moved off to the east rather significantly. Kind of like a big broom that has pushed all of the weather away. It is now not only taking the weather with it, it's taking the humidity with it which means taking the potential with it, and pushing it into northeastern Texas and also northwestern Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas.

But let me back you up about, oh, I'll go five hours probably from now as we had two rotating super cell tornadoes, one in Dallas County, one in Tarrant County, one moving up I-35 and one -- W, and one moving up I-35 east. We had two tornadoes on the ground simultaneously about 30 miles away, 40 miles away from each other.

As they moved on up, the tornadoes were causing damage in here from Cleburne back into Burleson and even up toward Arlington. Pretty significant damage with this storm. The helicopters haven't got that far to the west because the weather was just bad most of the day but all the damage you've been seeing here is in the Dallas County storm.

I'll go ahead and move that out of the way. The storms did travel on up toward the north and toward the northeast and they put down damage all the way through.

Now, Wolf, as we move you ahead, the weather has come through. The line of weather has moved through Dallas and about 60 miles to the east of Dallas pushing all of that weather and all of that potential damage away, well off to the east -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So is it fair to say Texas is now in the clear?

MYERS: It is fair to say Dallas-Fort Worth metro is in the clear, but if you're anywhere from Texarkana to just east of Waco, you still have some of these bigger cells to come yet, although we haven't seen anything rotating significantly in the past -- I'm going to give at least the past hour. I haven't seen anything like with a tornado on the ground. You can still get hail, you could still get wind. And some of these storms today put down tennis ball-size hail. That will do damage even if it's not blowing around.

BLITZER: Chad, I want you to listen to this next interview. Vincent Tang is now joining us on the phone. He's the individual who shot that remarkable video from his rooftop. We showed it to our viewers just a few moments ago.

Vincent, can you take us through what it was like to be so close to the tornado?

TANG: I don't know what to tell you, sir. It's kind of exciting or it's kind of scary. But I don't feel at that moment when I was looking at the TV, I was watching TV, and my ex-boss calling me from California, Sacramento, California, he said, Vinny, you know that tornado is going to touchdown in your area. I said, yes. Are you OK? He's asking me, are you OK? I said, yes, I'm prepared. I've got a camera with me. And then he said, are you OK? I said, yes. I don't see any tornado yet but the tornado warning, the weather alert, everybody -- I don't know any tornado hit down on the ground yet.

And then me and him, we hang up the phone probably about two minutes later and the light just went out. No more light. The light is totally out. It's blackout. And then I ran out to the outside of my backyard. I saw the debris flying. I ran back inside the house, I grabbed my video camera, I climbed up to my rooftop and recorded. And then in a certain -- like probably about a minute or less than a minute, I saw the big debris fly so quick, fast and really high towards me.

And so climbed back down and fell from the ladder probably about three or four steps. I ran back into the house and I'm thinking, I said, no, I've got to go back out there and record it.

BLITZER: But, you know, Vincent, when a tornado is coming, they say get to the ground level or below. Get into a bathtub, hide out, get into a shelter. What made you stay up on that roof and risk your life?

TANG: I don't know. I just -- I feel like it's not going to come towards me, to my house area at all. But I saw it, the actual tornado is going probably, I would say, west-northwest. So I think to myself, I will be safe if I keep, you know, recording and --

BLITZER: All right. TANG: Actually it turned and is going west-northwest so I'm safe but I'm OK.

BLITZER: Well, Vincent, we're happy you're OK, but next time be careful. Go down to the ground level, go into a secure area and don't -- as much as this video is very impressive, we want you -- much more important for you to be OK. Thank god you're OK right now, Vincent Tang, shot that video and we showed it to our viewers.

As you can imagine, the mayor of Dallas has a lot to deal with tonight. We're going to talk with him just ahead.

And as we wait for the results in Washington, D.C., the District of Columbia's Republican primary, we could be making a call any moment. Stand by for that as well.


BLITZER: More now on the breaking story out of Texas where a string of tornadoes ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The damage, extensive. The Dallas mayor, Mike Rawlings, is joining us on the phone right now.

Mr. Mayor, what can you tell us, first of all, about the damage that you're seeing in your community?

MAYOR MIKE RAWLINGS, DALLAS: Well, I think the damage is significant, but the big headline is that we dodged a big bullet. I mean this storm had the potential to be much worse. You know, we're saddened by the damage the system did, but we've got nobody that's dead and no significant injuries. And so that's -- it really is a miracle that we dodged this.

BLITZER: No significant injuries. That's really amazing when you see some of the destruction that we've been showing our viewers.

What's the status of the search and rescue effort? Because I assume people are going house to house, making sure that there's no one stuck inside.

RAWLINGS: We have. We have been. I was out this evening checking each of the houses. The neighbors are out in the front yards. I talked to families that saw those trailers coming towards their house and landing in the back of their house.

At the same time, the next door neighbor is alive. The amazing story of a couple that had just left their house going to work at the children's medical center there, and just five minutes later the house is destroyed by one of those trailers.

A couple retired ladies that have lived there since the '60s were in their house. The whole back of their house is destroyed, but they're OK.

BLITZER: When you say there are no fatalities, fortunately, and no significant injuries, I assume that you're referring to the city of Dallas. You're the mayor of Dallas. Is that true all in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth greater area?

RAWLINGS: We've been reaching out to the whole area and we're not hearing of any fatalities at this point.

BLITZER: Really? That's really great to hear.

RAWLINGS: Everybody is still assessing and getting all the information back in, but the information we've got is that while there's been major damage done, that people are walking away with their lives.

BLITZER: That's good to hear. Mayor Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much.

RAWLINGS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're following some other stories on this busy news night as well. Susan Hendricks is joining us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Forensic investigators are back on the scene of yesterday's deadly rampage at Oikos University in Oakland, California. Police say a 43-year-old One Goh killed seven people, wounded three others and is showing no signs of remorse. We are getting our first listen to dispatch tapes recorded during the police response.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a female bleeding down on the ground, face down on the concrete and bleeding, shots coming from inside the building. People are running out screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like he's got a gunshot to the head, non-responsive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shooter is going to be a male Korean, about 40 years old, 5'5", heavy built. He's wearing a blue jacket and a baseball cap.


HENDRICKS: Again, chilling to hear, seven people died.

An update on the health of former Vice President Dick Cheney, he left a Virginia hospital today. Ten days after undergoing a successful heart transplant. Dick Cheney has a history of heart trouble and suffered at least five heart attacks since 1978.

How about this, U.S. automakers revved up sales in March you could say. Auto data reports the big three saw a nearly 13 percent jump last month, capping off the best sales quarter since 2008.

And Donald Trump will allow a Canadian transgender beauty contestant to compete for the Miss Universe title. The 23-year-old underwent sexual reassignment surgery four years ago, but organizers initially disqualified her for not being a natural-born female.

Trump's decision came just after she addressed reporters alongside her attorney, Gloria Allred. Trump owns the pageant, by the way. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Susan, thanks very much.

President Obama and his team are sending clear signals about who they expect to face in November's election. We'll have more on what's going on.

They have been trading verbal shots with Mitt Romney as well. I'll talk to President Obama's deputy campaign manager. That's just ahead.


BLITZER: In Wisconsin, voters are still casting ballots. They'll close the polls at the top of the hour. It's considered the race to watch tonight.

Meantime, President Obama is being pretty clear about who he expects to clinch the Republican nomination. In a speech today, he blasted a House Republican budget proposal that Mitt Romney has endorsed and he mentioned the former governor of Massachusetts by name. That's a first.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This isn't a budget supported by some small group in the Republican Party. This is now the party's governing platform. This is what they're running on.

One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency. He said that he's very supportive of this new budget and he even called it marvelous.


BLITZER: President Obama and Mitt Romney spent the better part of the day trading some verbal punches. President Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, is joining us now.

Stephanie, thanks very much for coming in. We heard the president today point to Mitt Romney by name, the first time this year at least. Can we expect to see a lot more of this moving forward?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OBAMA 2012: Well, I think it was appropriate to mention Mitt Romney today in a speech about, you know, specifically the Ryan budget and the unbalanced approach it takes to reducing our deficit.

And the burden that it puts on the middle class and seniors, because Mitt Romney wholly embraced that budget. He's been traveling around Wisconsin all week with Ryan telling, as you said in your opening, that this is what he was going to do on day one of his presidency.

So I think it was absolutely appropriate that this is the Republican orthodoxy. This is the mainstream thought of the Republican Party. The kinds of things that they want to do to Medicare, to middle class programs, to investments in the things that we need to grow this economy.

They say to decimate all of that so that they can protect tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. It was a very well-laid out speech, thoughtful approach with facts and figures to back it up, and, you know, it's interesting to see the response from both Mitt Romney and Ryan.

BLITZER: Romney certainly has been calling the president by name for a long time on a daily basis if not an hourly basis sometimes. He's raised the volume himself recently. Let's show our viewers some of what we're talking about. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president put an ad out yesterday talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me.

What he has done has made it harder and harder for the small operators, the drillers to get more oil, more gas, more coal.

This is a person who has done everything he can to make it harder to take advantage of our fossil fuels in this country.

This president has made it harder and harder for American enterprise to get the energy that it needs.

He was the one that stopped the drilling in the Gulf. He somehow doesn't like the energy we have in abundance.

This is a president who doesn't like oil, coal, natural gas, coal, oil, natural gas, from coal to gas, the natural gas.

He has made it harder and harder for us to get those resources.


BLITZER: You see the same poll numbers we have, Stephanie. Americans obviously very worried about gas prices. They're upset. Your team released an ad yesterday pushing back on Romney and his energy attacks. Is that perhaps a signal Governor Romney's landing some punches here?

CUTTER: No, it's a signal of a couple of different things. One, we got attacked by an ad completely funded by the oil industry and we weren't going to sit back and take it particularly when we have an excellent record of reducing dependence on foreign oil and increasing domestic production, the highest domestic production in eight years. On top of that, doubling renewable energy, you know, increasing fuel efficiency for our cars. All of the things that you need to do. As the president defines and all of the above approach to, you know, protect consumers at the pump, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil so that we can stop having this fluctuation in gas prices every year or so.

And the second thing that I would point out is that Mitt Romney is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil companies. He's protecting $4 billion in subsidies for the oil industry. So it's absolutely appropriate to include Mitt Romney in the push back to that because he's repeating the distortions.

Everything that he just said that I just heard you play, tapes of things that he's saying on the stump are actually not true.

BLITZER: Stephanie, Gloria Borger, David Gergen have questions for you as well. Gloria, first to you.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Stephanie, we all heard the Supreme Court arguments last week about health care reform. If the Supreme Court should strike down in June, all are part of health care form, what's the administration's plan B?

CUTTER: Well, Gloria, we think that the law will be upheld. We think it's absolutely constitutional and at this point, we are not engaging in hypothetical or going to a plan B.

Because we believe the Supreme Court will uphold the law and you know, I'll just remind you that as the president said that this is not some hypothetical theory. This is not some arcane debate.

This is about real people's lives and we're going to continue implementing the law so that those benefits are realized.

BORGER: But since it's about real people's lives, don't you feel that you need to sort of figure out what you would do, for example, if all of the law were struck down and insurance companies were not required to take people with pre-existing conditions?

CUTTER: Well, we don't believe it will be struck down, which is why we made the arguments that we did in the court last week. We believe as two lower courts, conservative judges have done, both on the Sixth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit, very conservative judges upheld this law. We believe the Supreme Court will follow soon.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Stephanie, David Gergen. It's good to see you. The president went after the Ryan plan today. When will we see a Democratic plan for the future? When will we know what the president plans to do after the election in the lame duck session when so many of these laws expire and there's a taxageddon as people are calling it.

CUTTER: Well, David, the president put out a budget and that is out there for everybody to see, $4 trillion in deficit reduction, a balanced approach to putting our deficits on a track to get them below 3 percent of GDP.

And to continue making the investments that we need in the middle class and seniors and innovation and education. All of the things that we need to do to grow this economy and make sure that we're competitive in the 21st Century.

So that budget is out there for everybody to see, that's the president's budget. We believe it's a balanced approach. It's a pretty stark comparison to the Ryan budget, two very different visions for this country. We're eager to have that debate.

BLITZER: All right, Stephanie Cutter, we've got to leave it right there. Thanks very much. We need to get back to our panel in a few moments.

We are also going to take you to Santorum headquarters and talk to a spokeswoman over there about the results tonight and whether the candidate is still planning to stay in the race until the convention.


BLITZER: Update you on the official vote tally coming in from Maryland right now. We've projected Mitt Romney is the winner, 8 percent of the vote is now in, 53 percent for Mitt Romney, 27 percent for Rick Santorum, 10 percent for Newt Gingrich, 8 percent for Ron Paul.

Washington, D.C., District of Columbia, the polls have closed there as well, but we did not have exit polls. We have not yet made a projection. We're waiting for official results to come in. we'll standby for that.

The next polls close, by the way, in about 12 minutes or so at the top of the hour. Wisconsin. We'll see what happens in Wisconsin and we'll see if we can project a winner at that time.

Heading into today's primaries, Mitt Romney had more than twice as many delegates as Rick Santorum. Tonight, he's picked up some more.

So far, Santorum certainly has not blinked. He maintains he can still make the math work for him. Alice Stewart, his spokeswoman is joining us right now. Alice, thanks very much for coming in.

It looks like Senator Santorum could end up losing maybe even all three races tonight. If that does happen, how big of a setback would that be for him?

ALICE STEWART, SPOKESWOMAN FOR RICK SANTORUM: Well, Wolf, every primary night you're going to have some winners and you're going to have some losers. One night, we'll have an up and the next night we'll have a down same with the Romney campaign.

But we're looking ahead. We're looking at the calendar ahead of us and not behind us. April 24th is going to be a great night for us. We have Pennsylvania and we have some other key states further down the primary calendar as well with North Carolina, Arkansas and Texas.

So we're looking at that. We're planning to put our flag here in Pennsylvania tonight and launch our full-scale campaign effort here in Pennsylvania and Rick is looking forward to it.

BLITZER: According to our exit polls in Wisconsin, Alice, Governor Romney is doing surprisingly well in some demographics where normally Senator Santorum has the edge.

For example voters in the lower to middle income ranges, those who identify themselves as very conservative, voters who say they are Evangelicals or Born-Again Christians.

Romney also holds a wide lead with Catholics. Do those who say this indicates the entire Republican Party is coalescing around Governor Romney, what do you say to them?

STEWART: We're not seeing that. We're expecting to see as things move further is the coalescing around the true, consistent conservative in this race and that's Rick Santorum.

You know, Wolf, we've been faced with a tremendous financial advantage by Mitt Romney, tremendous name I.D. and been running for president for six years.

For Rick to even have him up against the ropes like he is just goes to show that Rick that has the message that is resonating with people in this party. He is the consistent conservative.

What people -- we're hearing more and more and more, we spent the past several days throughout Wisconsin talking face to face with people, not with fancy ads on TV, but real face to face and what we're hearing from people is they want someone who can really be a contrast with President Obama.

They want someone who can go toe to toe with him on the key issue of Obama care, on cap in trade and Wall Street bailouts. Mitt Romney can't do that. He was the godfather of Obama care and advocated for it on the national level although he's been saying that he didn't.

He supported Wall Street bailouts, he supported cap in trade and these issues are important to the people across this country and they say Rick Santorum as the person who can debate President Obama on this most important issue. We're hearing more and more people don't want Obama care and certainly don't want the person that wrote the model for it.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise and then we'll wrap it up, Alice. If in fact, Rick Santorum loses his home state of Pennsylvania, does he drop out then?

STEWART: What we're looking at is we're expecting to do very well in Pennsylvania. We're going to launch a full-scale attack across this state. He's expecting to do well at his home state, but mark my word, Wolf, Texas will be a critical state in this primary process. Keep an eye on Texas, that's going to be important. We have a three-week break between now and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania will be important, but also Texas. We expect to do well also in North Carolina and Arkansas. But we're looking to the future and expect the things ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Alice Stewart, thanks very much. Let's bring back our panel once again, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Donna Brazile, and Ari Fleischer. Ari, let me start with you. What do you think of the case she made?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think much of it. I hate to say it. Put it that bluntly but I don't and the reason is because voters do think about the things she said, but then they go ahead and vote for Mitt Romney.

So what she says saying is not being proven out by the voters. Rick Santorum needs to get hot, stay hot. That's how you topple the guy who's on top. He got hot and then fell backwards and hasn't recovered.

That's the fundamental dynamic of the race. It's hard to see it stopping. At a certain point, every candidate needs to say to themselves at what point do I need to say am I doing damage to the party and the chances of winning the presidency.

I think Rick Santorum has earned the right to fight through Pennsylvania. I don't think he has much beyond that if he decides to go that far.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that President Obama became a better candidate because of the stiff competition he got from Hillary Clinton four years ago in the Democratic primaries. Is Mitt Romney a better candidate thanks to Rick Santorum?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think so. I think Mitt Romney is on his game when he's negative, when he's attacking his opponent, when he's attacking the president. He really hasn't given us a message for the fall.

He hasn't told us what he would do differently. In the beginning he said I'm going to fix all of President Obama's problem. I'm going to fix the economy, but lately we don't know what exactly he's going to change.

BLITZER: Do you agree that he's not a better candidate because of all the practice dealing with these Republican challengers?

GERGEN: Look, I think he's better, more effective on the stump. He's easier and more relaxed and all those things. But Rick Santorum did draw him into the question of the fight over women's contraception and health care for women.

And that is clearly going to come back. I think is going to come back. Olympia Snowe, Republican senator today, just on the record today saying, you know, I'm so unhappy. We have a retro debate going on. I thought these issues were settled way back when.

BLITZER: Quickly.

BORGER: You know, President Obama does very well with women, but President Obama does not do so well with men and white men in particular. So there can be a large gender gap, but President Obama has to get his numbers up on the other side of that ledger. So we'll have to see.

BLITZER: We've got a good night ahead of us. Don't go too far away. We're moments away from the polls closing in Wisconsin.

Up next, Tom Foreman takes a special look at what we'll be watching for as the votes are counted.


BLITZER: The polls in Wisconsin close in just a few moments, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Let's check in with Tom Foreman once again. What are you looking for right now?

I'm anxious to know will we be able to make a projection at the top of the hour. I don't know the answer and you don't either, but what are you looking for?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's tricky. Well, you know what the Romney people are looking for. They want to see what just happened over in Maryland happen for them up there. Look at that, Romney, Romney, Romney, Romney, one county out here that seems to be leaning Santorum's way.

When you get up here to this state where you have a lot of rural areas and some little cities, what are we going to see? If we look at our exit polls, who showed up today, it's an open primary, 12 percent of the voters were Democratic.

We want to see who they chose in this process, 30 percent independent. It will be interesting to see what happened with them, against a backdrop of 58 percent Republican.

Look at this, the biggest group were the moderates or the liberals in terms of who showed up by ideology and how they see themselves. If you look at Born-Again Evangelical Christians, we know Rick Santorum has done very well all over the country, but 64 percent of people do not put themselves in that category.

That's very different from Louisiana where he had a big sweep so we'll have to see if that works against him and whether or not these people who are not Born-Again Evangelical Christians then get on board with Mitt Romney.

Beyond that opinion of the Tea Party, 57 percent of the people support that, and that should work in favor of Rick Santorum. Again, we'll have to see if it does because there have been some endorsements that could change things. The size of the place they voted in, 23 percent rural, 27 percent urban, suburban, 50 percent -- Wolf. BLITZER: Tom, don't go too far away, we have a lot still coming up. Tonight polls about to close in Wisconsin. Piers Morgan takes it from here. Another edition of 360, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.