ROMNEY: Well, again, I'm pleased with what I did as governor and I'm happy to talk about that record.
COOPER: Are you running for governor or for president?
ROMNEY: But I'm not running on President Bush's record.
(END VIDEO CLIP
COOPER: That's Mitt Romney there tonight at the Reagan Presidential Library here in Simi Valley. That's where we're joining you from right now. The former Republican governor from one of the most liberal states in the country, either an accomplishment or a curse, I guess you say, depending on who exactly is doing the talking. Back now with our panel, John King, Bill Bennett, Gloria Borger and Roland Martin as well.
Interesting exchange too with Mike Huckabee. I asked him -- I quoted Rush Limbaugh to him, who said that both Mike Huckabee and John McCain would destroy the Republican party. Let's show his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Governor Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh says if you or Senator McCain were nominated, you would, quote, destroy the Republican party. Your reaction?
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wish Rush loved me as much as I love Rush. I think he's a great voice for conservatism. It doesn't mean he's inerrant or infallible. On this he's very wrong. I want to make sure everybody understands, this isn't a two-man race. There's another guy, I would like to say, on the far right of the stage. If you want to talk conservative credentials, let me get in on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bill Bennett, this is something we discussed last night, the need now by really all these candidates, but John McCain, in particular, to try to reach out to conservatives and in particular conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
BENNETT: Yes, he needs to reach out and he needs do some things. It doesn't mean he has to qualify his convictions, but he has to repeat and remind people of the good parts of the voting record. He does, again, have to respond to these serious claims about -- that he is too far to the left on things like immigration, on campaign finance reform, on Anwar, on Guantanamo. There's a long list. And conservatives are circulating this, a lot of talk radio is talking about it as well. I had three hours of calls this morning of people angry at me because I was defending John McCain. I don't have a candidate. I haven't endorsed anybody. But the base was calling with this list and with these talking points. Now, John McCain, if he gets on his high horse and says, well, you all know who I am and I've done a lot, he's going to be in trouble. He's got to talk to these folks. I think he wants to. I think he wants to remind people, being here in the Reagan Library, how he starred.
COOPER: But, I mean, if it's a race between him and Hillary Clinton or him and Barack Obama, assuming he gets the nomination, does he need that base?
KING: That's a conversation. Bill is exactly right that McCain gets very prickly about this sometimes. He thinks, I've been around for 20 years. I'm with you 90 percent of the time. Who are you to question me? If that's his attitude going forward, he's going to have a problem. I think what the McCain camp's calculation now is, if they can have some of that conversation now, their main goal is winning the nomination, then they'll have a longer conversation in the months of March, April, May, into the general election. Their deal right now is have a big Tuesday next Tuesday.
So McCain has communication to do. But to the point Governor Huckabee made; if you're Mitt Romney, Governor Huckabee is as much your problem right now as John McCain. If John McCain has a big day Tuesday -- he won't get all the delegates he needs to get the nomination. But he'll be on an a path.
The snowball will be rolling so fast down the hill it will be hard to stop. And it's Governor Huckabee who is in Mitt Romney's way in some of the states where the doubts are biggest about John McCain, the culturally conserve states in the south, places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia. Missouri is another opportunity. Minnesota is another opportunity because of the right to life movement. And Mitt Romney doesn't have a clear path even in the states with the most conservative base.
BORGER: So you're going to see Huckabee and Romney go at each other to reach out to this conservative base. One of the first things that the governor said in this debate was -- he called McCain out of the mainstream of Republican conservative thought. Out of the mainstream! That's pretty tough language. It says, OK, you may nominate a guy to the left of his own party.
COOPER: Let's look at some of John McCain's responses tonight, particularly on taxes. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I think lower and middle income Americans need more help. Obviously, I think that's the case today. That's one reason why we're giving them rebates. I was part of the Reagan revolution. I was proud to be a foot soldier, support those tax cuts and they had spending restraints associated with it. I made it very clear when I ran in 2000 that I had a package of tax cuts which were very important and very impactful, but I also had restraints in spending. And I disagreed when spending got out of control. And I disagreed when we had tax cuts without spending restraint. And guess what? Spending got out of control. Republicans lost the 2006 election not over the war in Iraq, over spending.
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