'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod, Mike Huckabee

George Stephanopoulos returns as host of "This Week" live from New Hampshire.

ByABC News
January 8, 2012, 8:52 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2012— -- STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to New Hampshire, the site of last night's debate, for a special edition of "This Week: Granite State Showdown."


FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn't for the big bank of Wall Street bailout, as Governor Romney was.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Can anyone stop Mitt Romney?

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People who spend their life in Washington don't understand what happens out in the real economy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will the conservatives close ranks behind Rick Santorum? And what does the Republican fight mean for their ultimate battle with President Obama? Questions for our headliners, the president's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod and the winner of the Iowa's caucuses four years ago, former governor and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee.

Plus, our powerhouse roundtable. George Will, Jake Tapper, Donna Brazile, Matthew Dowd, and Mary Matalin.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. Great to be back with you on Sunday mornings. Great to be here with this live audience here in St. Anselm College right here in Manchester. And we have got a terrific lineup this morning, right here on the same stage where all the candidates debated last night. And closing in on this first primary, the stakes were high. Mitt Romney, as you know, way ahead in this state, so he did take some early heat from his rivals, zeroing in on Romney's corporate background as CEO at investment firm Bain Capital.


SANTORUM: This experience doesn't necessarily match up with being the commander in chief of this country. The commander in chief of this country isn't a CEO. You got to lead and inspire.

GINGRICH: I'm not nearly as enamored of a Wall Street model where you can flip companies, you can go in and have leveraged buyouts. You can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers.


STEPHANOPOULOS: But no one mounted a sustained, effective attack. Romney stuck to his script, swatting away most of the challenges with a smile. In fact, it was the battle for second place here in New Hampshire that sparked the night's most tense moments, including this one between Ron Paul and the man he's called a chicken hawk, Newt Gingrich.


REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people who don't serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments, aren't -- they have no right to send our kids off to war.

GINGRICH: The fact is, I never asked for deferment. I was married with a child, and I personally resent the kind of comments and aspersions he routinely makes without accurate information and then just slurs people with.

PAUL: I need one quick follow-up. When I was drafting, I was married and had two kids, and I went.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Paul targeted Rick Santorum, too, trying to stop any momentum from Santorum's near-win in Iowa. That left Romney mostly free to focus on his prime target.