Tuesday, January 31, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
video 'podcast'

Guest host: Bill Press

watch whole playlist

Florida primary coverage:

# ...with Eliot Spitzer, David Shuster
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)

# ...with Alan Grayson

# ...Romney's speech
YouTube (courtesy of C-SPAN)

# ...with Craig Crawford
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)

# ...with Eliot Spitzer, Steve Kornacki
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , , ,

BILL PRESS: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Singing in the Sunshine state.

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: America! America! God shed his grace on thee.

PRESS: Romney serenades supporters as the polls show him ahead by a wide margin. But Gingrich whistles a different tune.

(Excerpt from video clip) REPORTER: So how close is this to being over?

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: I would say probably six months.

(Excerpt from video clip) REPORTER: Six months?

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: I would say June or July, unless Romney drops out earlier.

PRESS: The polls are now closed, and the results are rolling in. With analysis from Eliot Spitzer, and live from Florida with Craig Crawford, "Countdown's" David Shuster and Alan Grayson. "Countdown's" coverage of the 2012 Florida Primary begins now.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: From sea to shining sea.


PRESS: Good evening. It's been an exciting night. It's good to have you with us. Thanks for joining us. This is Tuesday, January 31st, 281 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm Bill Press, sitting in for Keith Olbermann. And this is our "Countdown" Coverage of the 2012 GOP Florida Primary.

And what you want to know?

At this hour CNN, FOX and MSNBC have all called the Florida primary for Mitt Romney. No surprise there. Maybe they don't need surprises, they called it so early.

Romney started the day leading his chief rival, Newt Gingrich, in all of the polls released in the past week, scoring double digit-leads in most of them. It looks like that's how it's going to turn out. And now with just 43 percent according to the Associated Press, not just - that's a big block of votes in.

Romney is ahead of Gingrich by 48-31 percent, 17 point spread. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul trailing as expected. Santorum with 13 percent of the vote at this point and Ron Paul with seven percent of the vote. Last week's campaigning saw a brutal ad war dominated by Romney, who outspent Gingrich nearly five to one, along with buys of personal attacks from both men, of course.

Gingrich accusing Romney of being a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights, pro-tax increase, liar and liberal. It's hard tell which of those two is worse - liar or liberal - for some Republicans.

And Romney, who seemed to enjoy unhinging Gingrich, attacked the former Speaker of the House as a desperate Washington insider with more baggage than the airlines, who was, of course, forced to resign as Speaker in disgrace for ethic violations while he was in office.

So in this hour together, it's going to be a moving target. We'll discuss the outcome, we'll look at the numbers, hopefully, we'll hear from some of the candidates, we'll examine the issues and we'll talk about where we go from here with our crack team of analysts tonight, including former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, "Countdown" correspondent David Shuster in Tampa, Florida, former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, politics blogger and author Craig Crawford and Salon news editor Steve Kornacki.

On set with me for the entire hour, Governor Elliot Spitzer. Good to see you, Governor.

ELLIOT SPITZER: Pleasure to be here. Thank you.

PRESS: All right, so there it is. Mitt Romney's the winner. Marco Rubio, senator, today said - early today - that whoever wins the Republican Primary is the Republican nominee. Do you agree?

SPITZER: Not only do I agree, I think this is the first of many dominoes to fall in the next couple days. The establishment, the elected officials - senators, governors, those outside from, you know, Karl Rove on down, who speak for the leadership of the Republican party - saying, not only he is the nominee, but implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, saying to Newt Gingrich, "You're staying in this race as an act of narcissism, damaging to the Republican party, get out. End it. Let us now coalesce."

Mitt Romney's having just the night he wanted. One last point. After South Carolina - and that was probably the worst week of campaigning he's ever been through, you know, from his taxes to the attack on Bain's - it was a disaster. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, the old cliché. But it's kind of true. He has bounced back and now, trial by fire, he is saying to people, "Look, I am here, stronger, better, tested. You'd better be on my team."

PRESS: All right. Now let's go down to Tampa, Florida. David Shuster, look at that crowd. That's a crowd waiting for Mitt Romney there in the Tampa Convention Center, which is right behind David Shuster, across that pond, or whatever it is down there. David Shuster, good to see you tonight. So, it came out kind of the way we thought it was going to, didn't it, David?

DAVID SHUSTER: It did, and the exit polling bill revealed sort of the secret of success for Mitt Romney.

First of all, the voters here in Florida decided much earlier than other primary states, and secondly, the two debates here really matter, according to the exit polling. Four out of 10 voters, Bill, decided before the start of the month. So, in other words, 40 percent of the voters here were making up their minds well before South Carolina.

In other words, based on the results in Iowa, New Hampshire - when Mitt Romney was doing very well - only 25 percent of the voters here in Florida decided just in the last few days. And to put that in some context, in South Carolina - where Newt Gingrich won - 55 percent decided in the last few days.

Now, as far as the debates, again, two out of the three voters here in Florida, Republican voters, said that the debates were important. And that was very significant to the Romney campaign because, as you know, the Romney campaign was convinced that he turned in a very strong debate performance in both debates here in Florida, and that New Gingrich was something off of his game.

The other issue which is so important, Bill, for the Romney campaign - as they try to now spin the victory - and that is electability. Forty-five percent of the voters here in Florida in this primary said that electability, the ability to beat Barack Obama, was the number-one issue for them in deciding this race.

And again, the Romney campaign had hammered Newt Gingrich in all these ads suggesting that Newt Gingrich was too much of a lightning rod, that he wasn't disciplined, that he would flame out. Gingrich kept trying to hit back at Romney by saying Romney's not conservative enough. But the voters clearly decided that, no, Romney's - even though he's not as conservative as Gingrich - he's more electable in a general election and that's why they gave Mitt Romney the victory today.

PRESS: The indicator from the exit polls, but also, David, the indicators from looking at those who voted by absentee, or who voted early. ARG today released a poll. There were 605,000 votes cast before the polls opened today. And of those votes, 51 percent said they voted for Mitt Romney, 29 percent for Newt, which is a bigger spread, I think, than we're going to see tonight. Doesn't that indicate that Mitt Romney was there early with a lot of money and a lot of organization, both of which New Gingrich lacked?

SHUSTER: That's right. And also, he was up on the airwaves much earlier than Newt Gingrich.

I mean, we recall that, of course, after New Hampshire - never mind South Carolina being the next stop - Mitt Romney was already on the air here in Florida and a super PAC was already on the air.

And when you look at the early start in the advertising and also the frequency - the intensity, I mean - between Mitt Romney and his super PAC, an ad supporting him and attacking Newt Gingrich ran something like 13,000 different slots that the Romney super PAC and the campaign bought here in Florida. Newt Gingrich, he bought 400 slots. So, it wasn't just in money - the intensity, the frequency was all on the Romney side.

And one other thing, Bill, that I think is so intriguing with the exit polling, and that is - you had Newt Gingrich, of course, hammering Mitt Romney for only producing two years worth of tax returns and all of his money that he made at Bain Capital, where they profited from companies that went bankrupt. And yet, when the voters here were asked, "Who best understands the average voter's problems," one out of three said, "Mitt Romney." Only one out of four said, "Newt Gingrich."

So, in other words, the attacks on Romney with Bain Capital and the tax returns didn't have the effect that Newt Gingrich had thought that it would.

PRESS: Now, when we look at New Hampshire, and New Gingrich's amazing swing from being 12 points down in New Hampshire, to 12 points ahead in South Carolina, and now this swing from Gingrich being up 12 points in South Carolina, and - it looks like - losing by double digits in Florida. Was it the money that made the difference? I mean, Mitt Romney vastly outspent Gingrich in Florida.

SHUSTER: Yeah, that's right. I mean, it was something like - between Romney and his super PAC - it was over $15 million in ads, compared to three million dollars in ads for Gingrich and Gingrich's super PAC.

Newt Gingrich is trying to spin it today as this was an election that was essentially bought by Mitt Romney and that Mitt Romney lied about his record. And that he's not conservative enough for the Republican party.

But the fact of the matter is that Mitt Romney turned in the sort of organization, the advertising, the overall campaign that he had hoped. He started early, he had a lot of the local, sort of, precinct leaders all across the state. He had far more districts offices across the state.

And so, in a state where, of course, organization, as you know, is pretty important and it's also more ethnically diverse, and it's important to run the Spanish-language ads, and it's important to run the issues that are important in South Florida, they're not as important here in North Florida. The Romney campaign had that all sort of figured out, and the Gingrich campaign, by most accounts, was flailing on some of those organizational issues. And that made something of a difference today.

PRESS: "Countdown's" David Shuster on the ground in Tampa, Florida. David, hold on, do some more ground work there. We'll be back to you a little bit later in the hour. Thanks. Thanks so much.

So, Governor, you're Newt Gingrich.

SPITZER: Please, don't do that to me.

PRESS: Sorry about that. What do you do right now? Right are you thinking?

SPITZER: Look, he needs to put a positive spin. I think what David just said is maybe their best argument - "We were outspent five to one, this was not a state that was hospitable to us. But give us a few more weeks, there are southern states, there are states demographically more like South Carolina."

And, as he will say, "Look at that board right there, Romney is only getting 48 percent of the vote. The majority of Republican voters still don't want Mitt Romney. They are looking for somebody - I'm that person." Now, it's not an argument that is going to persuade many people. I think Newt Gingrich's negatives have piled on like crustaceans on the bottom of a boat. He can't scrape them off, he can't get rid of them.

Now, if it were possible for a Jeb Bush to come in and make that argument, maybe a different dynamic, but let me tell you - right now, Mitt Romney's on a roll. He has, in the public mind, won everything but South Carolina. You know, people forget, Rick Santorum actually won Iowa. But right now, Newt Gingrich is flailing away without a meaningful argument.

PRESS: And yet, Newt did say today that this is going to go on for another six to eight months. With typical Newt irony he says, "Unless Romney drops out first."

SPITZER: You got to love - you got to love the guy's bravado. He's like a cat with nine lives, he just comes bouncing back - different incarnation, a slightly different look. And crazier ideas each time, arguably. But, you know, the public will respect that, but he also isn't looking presidential. Just look at the different feel of the campaign settings tonight. New Gingrich is done.

PRESS: Speaking of not looking presidential, I like to play - this is Mitt - I'm sorry, Newt Gingrich. Last evening, going after Mitt Romney, I mean, it's - the question is whether or not this really sells with voters - the Newt that we've seen in the last week, particularly - getting more and more desperate. Here's a quick clip:

(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Every time we nominated a moderate we lose. You know? So, 1996 we nominated a moderate, Bill Clinton wins re-election by a big margin. 2008, we nominate a moderate, Barack Obama wins. Why would anybody in the establishment think that a Massachusetts moderate, which is a liberal by Republican standards - pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase, pro-gay rights - why would they think the he is going to be able to debate Barack Obama?

PRESS: A little desperation in his voice?

SPITZER: A little desperation. And, you know, he may get a job as a pundit somewhere. But that's not the candidate -

PRESS: Wait, he used to have one.

SPITZER: That's true, that's true.

PRESS: Maybe he'll go back to it, right?

SPITZER: That could be. Could be.

PRESS: But, I mean, this idea of labeling Romney as - not just a moderate, but then he moved it to "a liberal" and "a liar" - will that hurt Romney with the tea party people that he's going to need?

SPITZER: Well look, there is a harsh reality here that Newt Gingrich has got to face up to. There is, unfortunately - from my perspective, your perspective, I think I can say that for you - a lot of venom directed towards President Obama. The tea party votes are going to go with the Republican nominee, barring some third-party surge that we don't envision right now.

And so, Mitt Romney will harvest those votes and, frankly, it makes more sense for the Republican leadership to put somebody a bit more moderate in the middle who can take advantage of the anti-Obama sentiment and not be so alien to moderate voters who would be a little worried about a Newt Gingrich or some of the other - a Rick Santorum.

And so, I think it is smart for the Republican party. And I think John McCain may be looking at Newt Gingrich right now saying, "Who are you calling moderate?" You know, John McCain views himself as a down-the-road, straight conservative.

PRESS: Right. So, one thing about Florida is, if you take these 50 electoral votes in Florida - even though they were cut in half, because Florida moved its primary up - that is -

SPITZER: Convention votes. Delegates.

PRESS: I'm sorry, convention delegates, right. That is still greater than the total of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined. Plus, Florida is much more reflective of the population of the United States and demographics in the United States as a whole. So, for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, looking at this - that this is sort of how they might run nationwide. That's got to mean something, I guess, to the Republican Party.

SPITZER: Look, Mitt Romney and the leadership of the Republican Party tonight are looking at the map - put aside Santorum's win by eight votes, whatever - and they're saying, "Mitt Romney won Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida." As you just said, that is a pretty good cross section of the nation that Mitt Romney needs to win in November to win the election.

So they're saying, "South Carolina went to the right, okay, they're going to come back, we're not worried that South Carolina is going for President Obama. So, that's fine. Give that to Newt."

They are saying, "We are positioning ourselves very nicely to make that centrist argument. Let the tea party scream and shout a little bit, but we think we can now win maybe Ohio, maybe Pennsylvania, some of those real ..." Remember, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio - the traditional three determinative states - you have got to get two of them to win in November. They're saying Mitt Romney is showing he can win in Florida, and this matters.

PRESS: It certainly buttresses his electability argument.

SPITZER: Absolutely.

PRESS: For sure.

SPITZER: Absolutely.

PRESS: Governor Eliot Spitzer, we'll be back to you again.

And in Florida, again - CNN and FOX and MSNBC have all called the winner. Mitt Romney as the winner. Huge win over Newt Gingrich. They're not sure exactly what the numbers will be. But now, with 52 percent of the vote in, it's 47 percent, holding just kind of steady there. Forty-seven percent for Mitt Romney, over 31 percent for Newt Gingrich.

This big win for Mitt Romney in Florida, what does it mean, maybe, for President Obama in Florida in November? Nobody knows better than former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson will join us next on the "Countdown."


PRESS: Welcome back to "Countdown" on our coverage of the results of the Florida primary.

Newt Gingrich's best hope tonight was to keep it under double digits. He did not succeed. A look at the numbers here on your screen now. With 53 percent of the vote in, 47 percent for Romney, 31 percent for Gingrich. Rick Santorum, 13 percent, Ron Paul at seven percent.

You can see that Mitt Romney has taken over the Tampa Convention Center. His supporters there waiting for him to show, cheering the news as they see it on their TV screens. What does this all mean?

Joining us now is the former United States congressman from Florida, and currently running to get his seat back again - we'll give him all of the help we can - the good Alan Grayson.

Hi, Alan, great to see you. Thanks for joining us.

ALAN GRAYSON: Thank you.

PRESS: Just give us your reaction - as a Floridian and elected official there, soon to be again - about what this means for Florida, for the Florida Republican party, that Mitt Romney could come in with such a stunning win tonight?

GRAYSON: Well, somebody had to win, somebody always does. But, frankly, I think they're all losers. If you want to know what a president looks like, what a president sounds like - you saw it a few days ago during the State of the Union address.

And they have been so un-presidential during this race. Mitt Romney thinks that Newt Gingrich is a liar, Newt Gingrich thinks that Mitt Romney's a liar. Maybe they're both right, I don't know. But I do know that the contrast to President Obama has been very, very dramatic and will stay in people's minds for a long time to come.

PRESS: Seniors in Florida went - according to early polls - went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney, 46 percent to 32 percent. Congressman, you know this is a party that - and Mitt Romney supported it - that voted for the Paul Ryan plan to clearly end Medicare as we know it. So, is that going to present a problem for them in the fall?

GRAYSON: Oh, without any question. I think that there's already a big problem for them. In fact, it's hard to believe that, in any real sense, they're running for president of the United States. When the governor of Texas was running, Ron [sic] Perry, it seemed to me like he was running for president of the Confederacy. And I think that when I listen to Santorum, he's running for pope. When I listen to Gingrich, he's obviously running for president of the moon.

None of these people seem to actually want to be the leader that America needs. They don't talk about jobs. They don't talk about housing. They don't talk about education. They don't talk about health care. They talk about whatever the fantasies are that are in the minds of the tiny fraction of people that vote in the Republican primaries in America these days.

PRESS: Yeah, I might point out - I found it interesting - that, on the lunar colony, the latest PPP poll in Florida showed that only 21 percent of Republicans supported it, and 53 percent opposed the lunar colony. Even though, as you point out, Newt Gingrich might have been one of the first people to be - to be sent to the moon.

Congressman, let's look at the big picture here. I mean, it's not just re-electing President Obama, or election for the president of the United States. Every House seat is up, and the control of the United States Senate as well. With a Mitt Romney at the head of the ticket - you've been out there now, not only trying to get your own seat back, but to help other Democrats win, raising money for other Democrats around the country - what are the chances of the House getting back in Democratic control, particularly given, it looks like, Romney as the nominee?

GRAYSON: Well, I guess that's probably true. But, you know, we have felt that way so many times before.

PRESS: True.

GRAYSON: In Iowa, there were eight leaders in the polls in seven months. Things seemed to change pretty dramatically among the - how can I say this? - the manic-depressive element of the electorate, so that, from time to time, it looks like somebody's winning, but you really can't tell. I think they're all one scandal away from being eliminated from the race.

But if Romney is, in fact, the nominee, I think he'll be a formidable one. There'll be an enormous amount of money arrayed against the president - sewer money, PAC money, lobbyist money - and that will also be arrayed against the House and the Senate Democratic candidates. If the election were held today, I think that it would be close, but I think you'd see the Democrats winning the House, the Democrats winning the Senate and the Democrats also keeping the White House.

PRESS: We are told that Mitt Romney is just minutes away from coming to speak to his supporters there in the convention hall in Tampa. We will, of course, bring you that live, if that's the case. That would be interesting, that he is kind of rubbing Newt Gingrich's nose in it one more time by not waiting - as candidates normally do, traditionally - for the one that was not successful to give a concession speech first. We'll see how that plays out.

But, Congressman, I also wanted to ask you, in terms of, sort of, another issue that has come up, is - Republicans are back again with English language only, English only, as the official language of the United States. They've introduced that legislation in the House. Again, given the big percentage of Latino vote in Florida, and in other key states, how do you think that plays in November?

GRAYSON: Well, I mentioned a week ago on national TV that - only four years ago - Newt Gingrich had said that Spanish is a ghetto language, and he wanted to take English [sic] out of the schools, out of the motor vehicle bureaus, out of the police stations. And, in this case - in a state that is almost a quarter Spanish-speaking - it is a terrible imposition. And that's true all across the southern tier of the United States.

It's simply overt racism and I think that Newt Gingrich is running the most overtly-racist campaign at the presidential level that we've seen since George Wallace. It can only hurt the Republicans. It is hurting the Republicans. It will continue to do so.

PRESS: The ever-outspoken Alan Grayson. Good friend, good to have you with us tonight, Alan. Thank you so much. Good luck in your race.

GRAYSON: Thank you.

PRESS: We're going to take a quick break and hopefully come back with Mitt Romney on the other end in Tampa, Florida. It's "Countdown."


PRESS: It's "Countdown," the Florida primary. You see the crowd there at the Tampa Convention Center. This is Mitt Romney's family - the famous sons and their wives. There's Ann Romney. They're walking up to the podium. We're seeing, with 62 percent of the vote in, 47 percent for Romney, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich. On set with us, Governor Eliot Spitzer. I guess we're going to hear Ann Romney introduce her husband, Governor, so let's listen in:

(Excerpt from video clip) ANN ROMNEY: Thank you, Florida! We are so grateful to all of you for being here tonight and how great all of you are. Thank you, this is a very wonderful reception. You know, this experience of Mitt running for president has been extraordinary for our family. It's just - it's just hard to express what it means for a wife and a mother to see -

PRESS: Governor, while were waiting for Governor Romney to come up and listening to Ann Romney. I just want to ask you - we've been looking at these numbers since we got on the set. It's now 62 percent and still 47 percent to 32 percent. I mean, this is locked in. It's going to be 15 percent or more.

SPITZER: Absolutely, once you have 62 percent of the vote in, it's very hard, mathematically, for it to shift, and you have such a huge sample. This is an overwhelming victory for Mitt Romney - repudiation of Newt Gingrich. And - a lot of questions ahead - but clearly Mitt Romney got exactly what he wanted tonight. Newt Gingrich is sick to his stomach right now.

PRESS: And again, in terms of any bragging rights, if Newt were able to get within maybe six, seven, eight, he could say, "Look, I'm still a viable candidate." Can he still say that now?

SPITZER: Well, only to the true believers. I don't think that he has any capacity to say that - to a larger audience, outside the voters of South Carolina - he has a broad enough appeal to really challenge Mitt Romney. And I think over the next couple days, we're going to see the entire Republican establishment coalescing around Mitt Romney saying, "We have our candidate, we have our challenger."

It going to be a tight race, as Congressman Grayson said, this is going to be a real doosey of a battle between now and November. Every week with new economic data, a new political fact coming out and changing the dynamic a little bit. This is going to be a long, drawn-out, tough fight.

PRESS: I think that we cannot ignore, also, the significance that this is Ann Romney, he's been married to her for 42 years, right?


PRESS: Right?


PRESS: And this is sort of a message too, isn't it, to Republicans about Newt Gingrich?

SPITZER: Look, not only with respect to Newt Gingrich. But, let's face it - everybody knows a partisan Democrat will want the president to be re-elected. This is a very nice-looking family that speaks to what people want to see in a family where the father - or the mom some day, let's hope - is running for the presidency of the United States.

This is going to be a real, serious contest. Mitt Romney is a smart, effective guy. Disagree with him, view him as a flip-flopper - whatever the attacks may be - this is going to be a real campaign between two capable contestants. And I think Mitt Romney, after the past week, has show he can bounce back, play tough and throw a punch.

PRESS: There are a lot of tourists among the - maybe getting close here to introducing her husband. I think we're going to -

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: The father of my five sons, the grandfather of my 16 grandchildren and the next president of the United States.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Thanks, you guys. Wow, how about that? Wow, thank you. Thank you.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Thank you so much.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Mitt, Mitt!

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Thank you to the people in this room and of the people all over Florida, thank you tonight for this great victory.

There are fewer candidates tonight than when the race began. But three gentlemen are serious and able competitors, and they're still in the race and I want to congratulate them on another hard-fought contest in this campaign.

Primary contests are not easy and they're not supposed to be. As this primary unfolds, our opponents in the other party have been watching and they like to comfort themselves with the thought that a competitive campaign will leave us divided and weak. But I've got news for them, a competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us. And we will win.

And when we gather back here in Tampa seven months from now, for our convention, ours - ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America.

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

And you know the results. I mean, it's been 35 months of unemployment above eight percent, and under this president, more Americans have lost their jobs and more home foreclosures have occurred than under the administration of any other president in history.

In the last 10 days, I met with a father who was terrified that this would be the last night his family would be able to sleep in the only home his son has known. I've met seniors who thought these would be the best years of their life. And now, they're worried, day to day, about how to make ends meet. I met some Hispanic entrepreneurs who thought they'd achieved the American dream, and now they're seeing it disappear.

In the State of the Union Address, the president actually said these words, he says, "Let's remember now how we got here." Don't worry, Mr. President, we remember exactly how we got here - you won the election.

Leadership - leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Payne is reported to have said, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." Well, Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow and now it's time for you to get out of the way.

I stand - I stand ready to lead this party and to lead our nation. As a man who spent his life outside Washington, I know what it's like to start a business; I know how extraordinarily difficult it is to build something from nothing; I know how government kills jobs and yes, I know how it can help from time to time.

My leadership helped build businesses from scratch. My leadership helped save the Olympics from scandal and give our American athletes the chance to make us all proud, as they did. My - my leadership cut taxes 19 times and cast over 800 vetoes. We balanced the budget every single year and we kept our schools first in the nation. My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of American prosperity.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: This campaign - this campaign is about more than replacing a president. It's about saving the soul of America.

President Obama and I have very different visions of America. President Obama wants to grow government and continue to amass trillion-dollar deficits. I will not just slow the growth of government, I will cut the spending of government. I will not just freeze government's share of the total economy, I will reduce it. And, without raising taxes, I will finally get America to a balanced budget.

President Obama's view of a free economy is to send your money to his friends. My vision for a free-enterprise economy is to return entrepreneurship and the genius and creativity to the American people.

On one of the most personal matters of our lives, our health care - President Obama would turn decision making over to government bureaucrats. He forced through Obamacare and I will repeal it.

You know, like his colleagues in the faculty lounge - who think they know better - President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy. I will make American the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, for innovators, for job creators. And, unlike the other people running for President, I know how to do that because I've done it before.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience. I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations that trample on our first freedom.

President Obama believes that our role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. He's intent on shrinking our military capacity at a time when the world is facing rising threats. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would ever think of challenging it.

President Obama has adopted a policy of appeasement and apology. I will speak out for those seeking freedom and I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends around the world. You see - you see, President Obama wants to fundamentally transform American and make it something, perhaps, we wouldn't recognize. I want to restore to America the values and principles and made us the hope of the earth, and I'll do it.

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Our plans - our plans protect freedom and opportunity. And our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States. Together, we will build an America were hope is a new job with a pay check, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker.

Now, let me be clear. The path I lay out is not one paid with ever-increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurance that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise the most goodies and the most benefits, then I'm not your president. You have that president today.

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

I'm asking each of you to remember how special it is to be an American. I want you to remember what is was like to be hopeful and excited about the future, and not to dread each new headline. I want you to remember when you spent more time dreaming about were to send your kids to college then wondering how you'd make it to the next paycheck. I want you to remember when you weren't afraid to look at your retirement savings, or the price at the gas pump. I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.

That America is still out there. We believe in that America. We still believe in the America that is the land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom. We believe in the America that challenges each of us to be bigger and better than ourselves. This election, let's fight for the America we love, we believe in America.

Thank you so much! Florida, you're the best! God bless the United States!

PRESS: Mitt Romney thanking his supporters. Mitt Romney in Tampa, Florida, giving not so much a victory speech tonight, as an acceptance speech at the Tampa convention. I think that's the same speech you'll hear a few months from now when he does accept the nomination. And it looks like he wrapped it up tonight.

Governor Spitzer, I think the key phrase at the end is when Mitt Romney said, "I ask for your vote." These people have already voted. So, he was really talking to the rest of the country tonight. And he pivoted right away - smartly, I think, right? - to take on President Obama and the themes of the 2012 campaign.

SPITZER: He dealt with his primary opponents in a completely cursory way. He was gracious to them, then dismissive. Said, "We will be unified," and then he immediately laid the foundation, in what I view as a purely vapid - but good - speech geared to towards November.

Touched all - pushed all the buttons, touched all the bases, a lot of soaring rhetoric, gauzy in all the right places. Didn't tell you anything about how he was going to do it. But that's what the nature of these speeches happens to be all about. He delivered it nicely.

But Newt Gingrich is sitting there saying, "Hey, I'm still here." Mitt Romney is saying, "No, you're not."

PRESS: Craig Crawford watching the speech down in Florida with us. He will join us next.

This is "Countdown." Mitt Romney, now still, with 73 percent of the vote, up over Newt Gingrich by 15 points. And we haven't heard yet from Newt Gingrich. Maybe we won't. But we'll be back, on "Countdown."


PRESS: Well, as you know, the polls had no sooner closed in Florida, then MSNBC, FOX News, CNN and Associated Press - AP - all called it for Mitt Romney, it was a 15-point spread then and is still a 15-point spread.

Mitt Romney just coming out, thanking the crowd and giving, what we have to say, was a presidential-sounding address at any rate, at least laying out the themes that he plans to run on. And, listening down in Orlando, Florida - Florida native Craig Crawford, Craig, no bright spot for Newt Gingrich at all tonight, huh?

CRAIG CRAWFORD: Well, I just heard that South Carolina announced it will succeed from Florida.

You know, the really bad news for Gingrich - and the really good news for Romney, other than the bright-line numbers here - are that the exit polls show that two out of three voters today self-identified as tea partiers, meaning that Romney's starting to bring some of that vote in. Forty percent said they are very conservative. He beat Gingrich by 22 points among women.

The only bright side I can find, so far, for Gingrich is that they tied among evangelicals. Now, that didn't make a big difference because 60 percent of these folks said they're not evangelical, but we're moving on to deep south states that are evangelical-rich and they tied here among that vote. So, that might be the only glimmer of hope for Gingrich, if there is one.

PRESS: And Craig, the unspoken message of Mitt Romney's address tonight seemed to be - "The primary is over," right? I mean, "Now, here is what we're going to talk about," and it's all going after Obama.

CRAWFORD: Yeah, I think he just launched Newt Gingrich to the moon tonight, at least in his own mind.

But, you know, Republicans have something to worry about. The reason they tried to design a primary system backloading the primary to later in the year, is - they didn't want a situation where you had a presumed nominee in February who now has to fight for media attention for the next 10 months. They tried to design a system that did not do that, but these states didn't cooperate, so, now we may have that situation and you've got a sitting President which much more ability to command the news and control the news agenda, and here, Romney is going to be having to figure out ways to get attention.

PRESS: Now, Romney is also going to have to start expecting some incoming fire from the Obama campaign. And we saw the first part of it in a very, I think, funny way. David Axelrod tweeted, yesterday, a tweet: "How loving owners transport their dogs."

And then he put this photo on it. You can see the photo is President Obama in the presidential limousine with Bo looking out the window. A not-so-subtle way of saying Bo is not strapped on top of the car in a kennel, correct?

CRAWFORD: You know, those things are funny, but that's part of what I see as the psychological warfare of presidential politics and Mitt Romney just proved he's very good at it in Florida against Gingrich. And that's what the Obama folks are going to do.

I think - I believe - I'd be interested in how the governor feels about this. I think Democrats should go negative early and often and maybe right now, because Mitt Romney's going to get a lot of media attention in the short term in defining himself. I think Democrats need to define him on their own terms, but before Romney does it for himself.

A lot of Americans haven't paid that much attention and they're going to start paying attention and this is the time to define him on Democratic party terms with lots of television ads. Bill Clinton did that against Bob Dole in '96, very early - oddly enough, tied him to Newt Gingrich, who said "Medicare should die on the vine." And they connected Dole to that. It was very effective. And they did that early and they spent a lot doing that.

PRESS: Yeah, don't wait until the convention to get started.

Craig Crawford, "Countdown" contributor. Thanks for being us tonight, Craig.

It's "Countdown's" coverage of the Florida primary. I'm Bill Press and we'll be right back.


PRESS: Welcome back to "Countdown."

The sun shining big time in the Sunshine state from Mitt Romney tonight, with still a 15-point lead over Newt Gingrich. Joining us now for "Countdown's" coverage, news editor for Salon magazine, Steve Kornacki. Steve, short on time tonight, but let me just ask you - in Florida, Romney outspent Newt Gingrich by five to one. Is that what made the big difference?

STEVE KORNACKI: You know, I think it's a critical part of it, but I don't think it's the only part of it and I think it would be a mistake to just chalk this up to the money.

I think there was sort a winning formula that the Romney people stumbled upon here, but it's also what the Republican party establishment stumbled on. And that is that Romney took the lead in leveling all sorts of attacks on Newt Gingrich, talking about his past leadership, taking about the ethics controversies - all of the reasons why Republicans wouldn't want to nominate this guy.

That was amplified with the advertising that the Romney forces put on the air, but I think the key piece to all of this, that doesn't get talked about enough, is that this sort of opinion-shaping class of the Republican party - whether that's elected officials, commentators, pundits, the people who really hold some sway when it comes to the opinions that, sort of, rank-and-file of the party hold - that class was basically split into two camps here.

The first camp amplified further the charges that Romney was making. They basically echoed everything Romney was saying. The rest of them, though, sat on their hands while Gingrich basically got mugged for the past week, which I think set a very clear signal to me, that this a party establishment that isn't that enthusiastic about Mitt Romney, but that really - at its core - even sort of tea party-friendly members of the establishment fear the nomination of Newt Gingrich and don't trust him as a leader and they're not going to lift a finger to help him.

So, in the absence of - really - any help from the establishment, besides a little bit from Palin, and Cain and people like that at the end. You know, this is strong formula for Mitt Romney the longer this race goes on, if it really goes on at all.

PRESS: So, with the super PACs - Huntsman had his, and Newt has his, and Romney has his and there are some on the Democratic side - is this going to come down to be known as the "super PAC election" of all time?

KORNACKI: Well, yeah. I mean, so far, we are one-for-one with that, I guess. I mean, the big question, obviously, going forward now is - what's the future of the Gingrich super PAC? Because, the Gingrich super PAC -

PRESS: Is one guy.

KORNACKI: - Out in Nevada. And if this guy decides to write another $5 million check, he's still in this - he's still in this game.

PRESS: Right. All right, Steve Kornacki. Thank you so much, Steve. Sorry we have to run, but short on time.

And I want to rap here with Governor Spitzer again. So, we're going to have - Mitt Romney's going to be the nominee, I'll just state that, all right?

SPITZER: I could not agree more.

PRESS: Up against President Obama. And the issue is the economy.


PRESS: All right. So, Mitt Romney's either going to come across as a guy who can fix it, or the guy who is so out of touch with the average Joe that he could never relate to the 99 percent.

SPITZER: Well, there will be screaming and shouting. The White House will say, "Which Mitt are you electing? Mitt is multiple personalities." "Mitt versus Mitt will the best debate," will be a White House line.

Three numbers, I think will determine which way this economic argument cuts.

The first one, obviously - unemployment. Does it continue to trend down so the president can build a sense of success? A sense we're moving in the right direction. The trend is the critical issue there. It doesn't need to be below 7.5, but the trend is critical.

Second, housing prices, again. Today we see they're continuing to drop. For most of the American public, that is the single biggest asset in our portfolio. If housing prices continue to drop, people feel poorer. That is bad news for the incumbent president. Foreclosures go up, all bad stuff.

Third one - the wild card, - gas prices. Right now, drifting down a little bit, but something in the Middle East could send them through the roof. That, obviously, is a wild card.

Those three numbers, I think, are forming the backdrop of how we feel about the economy. That will dictate the terms of this debate.

PRESS: That being said, of the whole crew we saw, Mitt Romney was the strongest candidate of the bunch, right?

SPITZER: There was never any doubt. I think that's why we called it prematurely, time and time again. Newt is like a cat with nine lives, but you got to believe - at some point - it's game over.

PRESS: Governor Spitzer, thanks so much for being with us tonight.

And that's "Countdown" for tonight, a big night for Mitt Romney, a disappointing night for Newt Gingrich.

And on behalf of Keith again, and all of us here at "Countdown," thank you so much for watching our coverage of the Florida primary. And our coverage continues with "The War Room" now, and Governor Jennifer Granholm from San Francisco.

Have a good one. We'll see you tomorrow, right here on "Countdown."