'This Week' Transcript: 2011 Year in Review

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GILLESPIE: Well, I'm not sure about failure. But I would agree with George in terms of disappointment that Mitch didn't run. I'd add to that John Thune and Haley Barbour as well. I think that had those three been in the field, it would be a, you know, more fulsome field right now.

And so I think that there's -- there is a sense of disappointment amongst many Republicans, that those three in particular opted out rather than in.

AMANPOUR: So you said those who've opted out, do you think Mitt Romney, the sort of target of this -- Anyone but Mitt! -- is actually going to be the nominee?

GILLESPIE: Well, I don't know. It's been very fluid. And the fact is, that's the question right now, is that a, you know, is it a ceiling that he is facing? Or is it, at the end of the day, people are going to gravitate toward him?

You know, we saw this a little bit with John McCain in the last cycle, you know, he was down and then -- and, you know, people resisted going to him. And at the end of the day, they did. I don't know that that's going to be the case this time...

ROBERTS: But that didn't turn out so well for the Republicans in the end.

AMANPOUR: Do you think...

GILLESPIE: Well, it was a tough -- you know, I agree with that, obviously, very tough environment. I don't think -- I think it's a very tough environment for the president this go-around.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, Jon, that even at this late date, all of this anxiety could result in a third-party candidate?

KARL: Well, look, the conditions are practically perfect for a third-party candidate, especially if Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee. You have -- you have two candidates for the parties that have absolutely -- I mean, almost no support among independents at this point, I mean, completely alienating independents. And there is the environment. But I just -- who?

ROBERTS: Yes.

KARL: I mean, you know, who's out there?

ROBERTS: Ron Paul.

WILL: Traditionally, successful third-party candidates have three things: a regional base -- George Wallace -- a burning issue -- George Wallace or Ross Perot, who got 19 percent of the vote -- and a vivid personality, and Lord knows Wallace and Perot had both. I don't see anyone with any of the three.

AMANPOUR: So quick, lightning round, then, who do you think was the most influential politician of 2012? Real name, not the president?

WILL: John Boehner...

AMANPOUR: John Boehner?

WILL: ... who consistently managed an unruly caucus and bested the president time after time.

ROBERTS: I'm not -- I can't say the president, because...

AMANPOUR: No.

ROBERTS: ... oh, OK. Well, I'm afraid I'd have to agree with George, then, John Boehner.

AMANPOUR: Otherwise, why the president?

ROBERTS: Because the president's still the president, and he -- and he can set an agenda in a way that, you know, that others can't.

GILLESPIE: Paul Ryan, who put forward a very concrete plan to reform entitlement spending, withstood an onslaught by the left in defense of it, and I think has shaped the debate and made clear to Republicans and conservatives that this is an argument we can make, and make with confidence.

AMANPOUR: Yes.

KARL: Yes, and I'll say Paul Ryan, slightly different take. I mean, he put forth the idea that you could actually tackle entitlements and survive politically. And he got every single Republican in the House to sign onto his plan. Now we'll see if it works.

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