'This Week' Transcript: Gov. Rick Perry and Stephen Colbert

And, Jon Karl, you were covering this group of social conservatives who met yesterday, trying to prevent that from happening. They have come behind now, Rick Santorum saying he should be the candidate to take on Mitt Romney.

JONATHAN KARL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but a couple points about that. First of all, it took them three ballots to get there. So it wasn't like Santorum was the overwhelming, immediate favorite here.

And, you know, there's no sign in South Carolina that social conservatives have rallied behind Rick Santorum. It remains a divided field among them, again, working very well for Mitt Romney.

And on George's point about Florida, there have been 400,000 absentee ballots already requested in Florida. Now, what is the one campaign that has an absentee ballot program going on? It's the Mitt Romney campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So he could already be putting it away in Florida?

Peggy, you spent some time this week in South Carolina. It seems like you came away with the impression that Romney was going to get it. The question is how much damage he's going to take.

PEGGY NOONAN, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, how much damage under these Bain attacks, how much money is spent by the super PACs and by campaigns to do the Bain attacks.

What struck me that's so interesting about South Carolina, is indeed it is true, the not-Mitts haven't had a chance to come forward because they're broken up. The evangelical vote itself is broken up. The Tea Party vote is broken up. So, the solid vote is the Romney vote. So, he looks like -- he's in a very good position.

The interesting point, also, is the dog that didn't bark -- and that is the assumption on many parts, that the evangelical vote in South Carolina would naturally perforce reject the Mormon candidate, hasn't happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly what I wrote in my notes. (Inaudible) to you, Cokie? Surprising?

COKIE ROBERTS, NEWS ANALYST: It is surprising. But keep in mind, Rick Santorum is C catholic. And they're not particularly popular in South Carolina, either.

So, I think that, you know, you've not -- you don't have the obvious person to go to. Newt Gingrich has all of his moral problems. You've got the Mormon, the Catholic and Rick Perry. And his campaign seems dead. So it really is, it's just too -- it's too hard for everybody to come down on the side of one of these conservatives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, Paul Krugman, I want to bring you in on this, and Peggy mentioned this. Really interesting to see the social conservatives now coming behind Rick Santorum. But you saw the establishment close ranks behind Mitt Romney even more in reaction to these Bain attacks.

PAUL KRUGMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" : Well, it's -- yes, because, look, the rule for the Republican Party these past 30 years has been you use your social conservative issues to rally the base and to win elections. But, ultimately, it's always in the hands of the economic conservatives.

Ultimately, it's always -- you know, whatever they talk about, in fact, the priority after the election is about cutting taxes on rich people.

In 2004, George Bush won reelection by promising to defend the country against gay married terrorists, and then the day after the election, he says now I have a mandate to privatize Social Security. So Mitt Romney is the kind of the guy that the Republican Party establishment has always wanted.


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