All-Star panel: Ted Cruz shakes up 2016 race


This is a rush transcript from “Special Report,” March 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America. And that is why today I am announcing that I’m running for president of the United States.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER, R-WIS.: Voters tell me overwhelmingly they want a new fresh face. If we are going to take on someone from the past in former Secretary of State Clinton we need a face for the future. Secondly, they tell me they want someone with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington. And third, the most important thing I think — I hear over and over again — is they want someone with a proven track record.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: All right, let’s see what our panel thinks, starting off with Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Happy Monday to all of you.

And it started off with a bang. Mara, what did you make of the speech? Did Ted Cruz need to do — did he do what he needed to do?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think he needed to do what he did. I don’t know if it’s enough to win the nomination, but I think he had to get it out there in front, fast because he was already falling to the back of the pack. And he is clearly making a play for the evangelical Tea Party constituency of the party space.

The problem is that in years past there are a bunch of conservatives and the moderate guy, and the conservatives split the conservative vote and the moderate won. This time I think the lineup is a little different. I mean, you have some of the major candidates appealing to the same constituencies that Ted Cruz is. Scott Walker has real Tea Party support and he’s going to have to battle him before he becomes the alternative to Bush, which is what all second tier candidates are trying to be.

BREAM: Charles, what do you think? You talk a lot about the Constitution and freedom and liberty and very broad policy, and of course repealing ObamaCare, some of the things he has been working on and talking about since he got in the Senate.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, his play, I mean, his appeal is that I’m the constitutional conservative. I’m the guy with the liquid tongue. I can make the case and he does. That’s what he does all through his career, he has done that.

I think he has — the problem is that he’s going to have to fight for that constituency, although I think he does have an advantage. You could imagine, it’s the kind of constituency Huckabee had in 2008.
If Huckabee would run again, they would be tussling over that. But as Mara says, a lot of other candidates are appealing to that constituency.

His real problem I think is this: Senators are going to have a hard time. First term senators, we already tried a first term senator. That is why when Scott Walker says a proven track record, what Walker has, he doesn’t have the fluency on issues that a Cruz does. He has a made a lot of stumbles. But Cruz talks about you have to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. You have to have done something. But that’s not his record in the Senate. He’s a good rhetorician, but when Walker says I ran the state, I took on the unions, I took on the liberals and I won, I think that’s going to be a strong argument.

BREAM: Well, there has been this narrative that Cruz and others who line up with him are so-called “wacko birds.” He said it’s something that he embraces. I want to play a little bit of what California governor had to say about Ted Cruz, because they are not on the same page about climate change.


GOV. JERRY BROWN, D-CALIF.: It’s climate disruption of many different kinds, and that man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data. It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.


BREAM: So Steve, he shouldn’t be running. Forget winning nominations for general elections.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER,”THE WEEKLY STANDARD: To the extent that any Republican cares much about what Jerry Brown says about another Republican, that will work to Ted Cruz’s advantage. Charles is right about Scott Walker being able to say, look, I have done it. It’s Scott Walker’s line. It’s what he said in the clip that we played. He has got a proven track record. I think what Ted Cruz has is a different kind of outsider. He is sort of the insider’s outsider, if that makes sense. So he comes to Washington on this set when he did his interview with Bret he talked about being a disrupter. He compared himself to Uber. He said I come here to change things. We know what happens when Washington runs the way Washington has run for decades, and it doesn’t work. I’m coming here to change this. I want to be the disrupter. He is likely to end up being the most conservative candidate in this field. And in a Republican primary that is a pretty good place to be. You can imagine Ted Cruz doing very well in debates, for instance. He will know the subject matter. He’ll make good arguments.

I think he is underestimated by mainstream journalists and the mainstream Republican establishment, and the very reasons that they are skeptical of his ability to do well are the reasons that he will do well, I think, or that he will be a formidable candidate in the Republican primary.

LIASSON: He hasn’t actually changed anything in Washington. He has held up a lot of bills and he’s filibusters and he almost brought us to the brink of some shutdowns and default crisis. That is, I think, the argument that the other Republicans are going to make. He actually hasn’t changed things.

And just what sets Jerry Brown off, just to give that a little context, is I think they showed Ted Cruz in New Hampshire saying, hey, look, there is a lot of snow here. How could we have global warming? And that’s what made Jerry Brown go ballistic.

BREAM: So what’s the next —

KRAUTHAMMER: What a phrase. The man betokens such a level of ignorance. What does that even mean?

BREAM: If Charles doesn’t know, then we are all going to have to get out Merriam Websters.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, he is Senator Moonbeam — governor.

BREAM: Governor Moonbeam.

All right, so what is the next chess move then for the Scott Walkers and others, the Bobby Jindals who are maybe hoping to capitalize on this particular audience?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, look, Jeb set off the gold rush because he went a little earlier than anybody expected. He’s raking in a lot of money. Everybody is not in a panic he’s not going to have any money, so it has all been accelerated. Looking to get Rand Paul and we are going to get Rubio declaring next month and then it’s all going to be official soon.

But I do think it is true that Cruz is appealing to be the most conservative. But he’s going to have some challenges on that. I think Rubio can challenge him on that. Again, Huckabee if he decides to get in.
So it’s not going to be as if he’s going to have a clear run. But there’s also going to be a competition for who is the moderate and who is the establishment candidate. I think Walker has that appeal. Of course, Jeb Bush, Christie to the extent that he comes in. So there’s going to be a split on both sides. It’s not going to be the establishment candidate and then all the conservatives split the rest, which has happened in the past.

BREAM: Who thinks Christie will run?


LIASSON: He sure wants to.

HAYES: I think Charles is right. This is actually something, just in the short hand of how we are talking about the Republican field in 2016, everybody wants to put everybody in boxes and say this person fits this lane and this person fits this lane. I think what we’re seeing about this field is that a lot of those boxes don’t apply anymore. You just suggested that Scott Walker was going to be competing for the moderate slice and the Tea Party slice. I think you have a number of candidates like that. Marco Rubio, remember, was one of the original Tea Party candidates in 2010, and now people are talking about him as sort of the successor to Jeb Bush and Chris Christie’s moderate money if they don’t do as well as expected.

KRAUTHAMMER: But I think that is one way of saying that the difference between Tea Party and establishment is grossly exaggerated and has been in the mainstream media. And I think that is seen by the fact there are so many Republicans who have dual appeal.

HAYES: And the difference this time, if I can just one last note, the difference this time is you have a number of people running who are movement conservatives, who are visceral conservatives for whom conservatism isn’t a new foreign language where they’re trying to learn it on the go, but they actually believe this and have thought about these things for much of their adult lives.

BREAM: And we’re officially off, 20 short months to go.

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