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Christie Not Running for President; Amanda Knox On the Way Home

Aired October 4, 2011 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf. Good evening, tonight, New Jersey governor Chris Christie says no running for president and as he steps aside he urges those in the Republican race to up their game.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: In my view, they should be communicating I'm freaking you out, aren't I? In my view, then you know we should be communicating on the really important issues and I don't think they've done that yet, to a large extent.


KING: As President Obama visits the turf of GOP contender Rick Perry fund-raising. He's the incumbent so he also makes a plug for his economic plan with the Texas twist saying it's time to take money away from oil companies and put into schools and big investments at home. Our strategists rank the 2012 line up, in a moment.

But first as always, the news you need to know right now.

As we know that Governor Christie today said he thought long and hard running for president but his answer's, like it's been all along, no.


CHRISTIE: I've explored the options. I've listened to so many people, and considered whether this was something that I needed to take on. But in the end, what I've always felt was the right decision remains right decision today, now is not my time.


KING: We saw the governor's sense of humor, his command of the room as he answered questions for a long time this afternoon. Our political correspondent Jim Acosta was right there.

Jim, he was heavily urged to run, he was flattered, the pressure came from people of high stature, in the end it wasn't enough, why?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, answering that question should take a couple of minutes, but Chris Christie, who never is at a loss for words, held court in the news conference room for an hour and listened as every reporter in the room basically poked him with a stick, trying to get at why he was not going to make this decision to run for president. He was asked about whether or not it was that compressed primary calendar that all of the Republican conditions are looking at right now. He was asked about his weight, whether or not his health might be an issue. He was asked whether his views as a Republican are just too moderate for the party.

But in the end Chris Christie said you could not get around one issue. And that is he's only been in office 20 months, John, and he has things to accomplish here in New Jersey. He says he wants to take on things like education reform. So Governor Christie said, as he said during that press conference earlier today, sorry, New Jersey, you're stuck with me.

But he did indicate, at least perhaps, what might be another hanging reason out there why he's not running for president. He said that he may, in fact, run for political office in the future after his time is up here as governor of New Jersey. So, perhaps this is more about 2016 and not about 2012, John.

KING: Alright, Jim Acosta in New Jersey tonight. The governor also said he was not interested being the vice presidential candidate. He said, if he was picked, the president might need a food taster. That's a sense of humor.

Right now, Amanda Knox is on her way home to Seattle, Washington, her plane due to land in two hours. Today, the brother of Meredith Kercher, his Knox's dead roommate, he has told CNN the family " accepts an Italian the court's decision to overturn that murder conviction of Knox and her one-time boyfriend," but Kercher's sister says the family can't forgive anyone until they know the truth.

Drew Griffin is CNN's special investigation unit is waiting for Knox's plane to touch down at Seattle airport.

Drew, there has to be a great sense of anticipation there among family and friends and the community enlarge. What's the scene like?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT: Well, the scene is chaotic where the media has been told we'll at least get to see Amanda Knox and we will hear from her parents. You can already see the gaggle of press behind me. This is two hours in advance of it. The idea is two-fold. Everybody knows that they want to see Amanda Knox on American soil here in Seattle. The family's desperately hoping this will pacify just a media that is insatiable at this point. They're afraid she is going to be literally pestered once she gets here. And so they're trying to have some kind of an appearance where at least she can spend the next few days settling down, getting back to life, as normal as she can here in Seattle, Washington.

KING: And Drew, so many questions. Will she need counselling? Will she need any other help adjusting after being in prison going through the ordeal? Will because her family faces court costs and other cost, will she try to sell her story? Any idea what's next for Amanda Knox? GRIFFIN: This is what we have been told. This is prior to Amanda's release. But they are going to try to go dark as they say, for about six weeks, and try to decide what they're going to do. Amanda Knox does fancy herself as a writer, and we do know there have been several overt offers for book deals. The family as you say has been mortgaged to the hilt, the grandmother has borrowed an incredible amount of money to pay for the defense. They're not a rich family. So, I would believe they would try to recoup some of their floss some kind of a book or movie deal I'm not sure what. But they're exploring all of those activities.

KING: Drew Griffin on the ground for us in Seattle. We'll keep our eye on that town as Amanda Knox makes her way home. Drew thank you.

In Detroit, a bizarre first day of jury selection in the trial of the man, known as the underwear bomber. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate a bomb aboard an airliner on Christmas day back in 2009. He's also, what makes the trial a bit bizarre, acting as his own attorney. In court today, he shouted that the terrorist al-Awlaki is still alive and said Islam's fighter will, quote "wipe out the cancer, United States."

One person is dead, four injured after a private helicopter crashed in New York City's east river this afternoon. Mayor Michael Bloomberg briefed reporters, just moments ago.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: Apparently, four out of the five people got out of the helicopter on their own. The fifth was trapped in the helicopter, whether they were conscious at the time or not, we just don't know.


KING: The government agency in charge of screening air travellers unveiled a new program to shorten time some frequent flyers spend in airport security lines. For now, it will only be available to delta passengers in Atlanta and Detroit, and American airlines passengers in Miami and Dallas. If the program works, the government says it will be expanded.

In North of Virginia today, a Somali pirate was sentenced to life in prison for his rule of hijacking of a yacht last February off Oman. The four Americans aboard the yacht and held hostage, then shot to death.

Republicans in the house Judiciary Committee today called for a special counsel investigation of the attorney general, Eric Holder. Documents leaked to CNN and other news organizations indicate Holder may have known about a botched gun operation earlier than he indicated during testimony before that same committee back in May.

A justice department source rejects that characterization. The program, operation fast and furious, was supposed to trace how U.S. guns got into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Until some of the guns allowed to go south of the border started turning up at murder scenes in both countries?

Steve Jobs is not on hand today as Apple executives unveiled an iphone upgrade called the iphone 4s. Wall Street was expecting a much more radically designed iphone 5. Apple stock as result closed down. The broader market however, closed up but though it had been sharply lower for most of the day. CNN Alison Kosik watching it all in New York.

Alison, what was the spark for late-day rally?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it was a stunning reversal in the final 10 to 30 minutes of the trading day. We sell stocks deep in the red most of day and then literally in the final ten minutes of the day, you saw the Dow jumped up 150 points. We even heard traders cheer when the Dow actually crossed into positive territory and stayed there.

What did it? A report came out that European officials are working on a plan to help shore up European banks. You have to understand what's been weighing down the markets. It's the European debt issues, the worries that Greece could default, the worries that Europe can't get a handle on its debt issues. It's enough to push the S&P 500 today to trade in bear market territory, meaning, it traded today a 20 percent off of its highs from April. But as you can see, the one headline has been market. And that one headline sent the Dow up 153 points, John.

KING: Safe to assume a bad headline tomorrow or the next day could send us back close to bear market?

KOSIK: It could. I mean, with this kind of market that you're seeing it really has more sort of downside risks than upside potential at this point because the reality is nothing has changed between when the opening bell rang and when we heard the closing bell.

The realities are, we have anemic growth in the U.S., the jobs market, and the housing markets are still weak. Europe still has to get a handle on its debt problems. Nothing has happened in that respect. And now with Wall Street can be looking for third quarter earnings season happening in the couple of weeks. And already it's not looking good.

Analysts are even downgraded their expectations especially with banks. So it looks to be, could be a weak earning season. You know, there could be an upside surprise. But it doesn't look that way. Bottom line with the market, Europe and Greece are driving the bus, and what Wall Street is looking for is something concrete, some concrete resolution, before we see the market hold on to its gains. John?

KING: Alison Kosik, live in New York. Alison thank you.

In testimony to Congress today, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke predicted the second half of 2011 will see better economic growth than the first half. But -


BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: It is clear that overall, the recovery from the crisis, has been much less robust than we had hoped. Recent revisions of government economic data show that the recession was even deeper and the recovery even weaker, than previously estimated.


KING: The U.S. government will be open for business tomorrow. This afternoon the house passed yet another temporary spending bill. This one funds the government through mid-November.

Still ahead tonight, can you make the case for four more years after conceding the first four weren't so great? But first, a new cold war with China, the house intelligence committee chairman tells us Beijing is stealing American business secrets at an astounding rate and warns American workers, that means you are the real victims.


KING: Breaking news on Capitol Hill. After a dire warning about the level of Chinese espionage, both corporate and military targeting the United States. Listen here to the charm of the house intelligence committee.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R), SELECT INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: China's economic espionage has reached an intolerable level and I believe the United States and our allies in Europe and Asia have an obligation to confront Beijing and demand they put a stop to this piracy.


KING: Find out what he means just moments ago I spoke to the chairman, Mike Rogers.


KING: Chairman Rogers, you say intolerable level the United States and its allies need to do something about it. What specifically what specifically do you think the United States should do to retaliate against China for this?

ROGERS: Well, first of all we've got get our act together here. We need to give our intelligence community and the private sector the tools that they need and we have policy, you know, the laws have not been updated really to address this onslaught of state-sponsored cyber-industrial espionage. And so we've got to get our policies up to date. That's the first step.

Then we need to engage our allies, both in Europe and Asia to come together to start putting pressure on Beijing. You know this is one of those things that nobody's wanted to talk about. We've danced around it for years. It is a real and growing problem and it doesn't mean when they steal it today it's damaged today. It means once they take it, and then reprogram it, and use it for economic predatory behavior by putting it and challenging it against us in international market, a few years from now, that means people are going to lose their jobs, and we're going to be less of a powerful economic force in the world, and that's why so it's dangerous and we have to get our act together.

KING: Well, let us be as specific as you can be. What are they stealing, plans for new products? Is this just economic? Is this military as well?

ROGERS: Well, they have traditional espionage activities and those would be military plans and intentions and technologies and those things. That traditional espionage, yes, they're clearly interested in that. But this is something different and something that nobody in the intelligence community has quite seen before, even at the height of the Soviet Union and their prowess in the intelligence business. This is purely commercial espionage.

They're going into manufacturing plants and businesses of all sorts and oil and gas and you name it. They're getting into those commuter networks and stealing intellectual property, research and development, and there is case after case after case where they have done that. And they're slow and they're methodical about it because they want the secrets that those companies hold so they can take it back to China, re-create it, and then get in the business of whatever that they have just stolen and sell to rest of the world and that's the real trouble and why it's so trouble. I know Europe is having this problem. Our friends in Asia are having this problem. This is very, very serious, and it really does attack us at our economic prowess, and that's what's so concerning to me.

It's at a breathtaking pace, John. And that's why today I thought it was so important that we finally start addressing it to Beijing and start building, I think, an international pressure on Beijing to stop industrial espionage at the level they're doing. It's just, as I said, breath taking and it's dangerous.

KING: And for somebody watching at home, nine percent unemployment in the country right now, can you put a price tag on it, how the value of the information they are stealing, and the potential number of American jobs that could get lost because of what you see as a brazen crime?

ROGERS: Well, I will tell you. From just from their lack of protection on intellectual property in the last decade when it comes to automotive part we think it was 750,000 jobs lost just in doing it that way. They've come into a new phase and I think that 750,000 job is going to be a drop in the bucket when this thing is done.

We know how - one example, one particular company had over a billion, with a "b" dollars of research and development of a product they were getting ready to take to market. We know that company had that information stolen. Think of the job possibilities there. Think of the lost capital, think of the lost investment that happens when that kind of thing happens and that's just one company.

And we know, I think there are two kinds of companies out there, those that know that they have been penetrated and those that don't. And that's how serious it is. And so you can just extrapolate the lost economy, as we move forward, and I think this is part of Chinese national structured strategy on how to slow down and bring the United States to our knees in the future and it's something we better get our hands on now.

KING: Well, they deny doing it, of course. The Chinese government recently said, "Allegations that the Chinese government supports hacking activities are completely unfounded and made with ulterior motives." Address that, I think I know part of your answer. But as you do, does the political leadership here, your speaker has just said on a bill that would impose some trade restrictions because of China's currencies said we don't want to met until that.

Does the president of the United States have to worry about Chinese holding U.S. debt, other issues in the relationship, do you see whether it's the Republican speak or the democratic president, the resolve to take it to the level you think it needs to go?

ROGERS: Well again, I think this is completely different. Think of it this way. If I showed up in a factory in des Moines, Iowa, and stuck a gun in the plant manager's forehead and said give me your blueprints and your plans for your production facility and I get them and jump on a plane and go overseas, I guarantee you there's a team of FBI agents shortly thereafter coming to get you and we're looking for extra decision and all of those things.

What's the difference if somebody steals that through a pipe or electronic? It's the same thing. It has the same impact. My argument is this is thievery. This is very different than nation states who are trying to find out plans and intentions for different nation and what their threat level would be. This is wholesale platen thievery of intellectual property and it's happening in thousands and thousands of times all across the country and I think it's going to have a huge economic impact. I think we can come together, I did a, after the committee, it was very bipartisan, both my ranking member and myself are clearly in line on this particular issue and we've joined voices on this.

And I think that's important. So I think we can make this bipartisan. We should make it bipartisan. And by the way, when they deny it that means all of the Europeans are wrong, other nation states are wrong, United States is wrong, and the only one that's not wrong in this is China. So, I think this is time for them to shake themselves out and say do you want to be a good world citizen? Do you want to play by the rules? Do you want to engage in trade that's fair and honest, or do you want to steal your way to a better future for China? If you're going to do that we have to stand up and take a strong against what they are doing.

KING: Fascinating challenge. Thanks for your time tonight.

ROGERS: Thanks, John. Appreciate your time. (END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Up next, the defining question of 2012. Are you better off than you were four years ago? We'll put it to truth test with some can't miss numbers, next.


KING: It is always the defining question when any incumbent president asks for a second term, framed classically by Ronald Reagan in 1980.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Are you better off than you were four years ago?


KING: Here's the odd twist in this campaign. The incumbent is answering the question before his challenger can ask it. And that answer is hardly upbeat.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I don't think they're better off than they were four years ago. They're not better off than they were before Lehman's collapsed, before the financial crisis, before the extraordinary recession that we're going through.


KING: It is a risky political strategy to tell voters your first four years hasn't made their lives any better or easier and then ask for another chance. But here's tonight's truth, it is the risk the president has to be candid about because numbers don't lie, and he done have enough time to change them.

For example, 90 percent of Americans say economic conditions in the country are poor today. That means everybody, Democrats, Republicans, and independents are in a big funk about the economy. And that's just one leading indicator and answering the "are you better off" question.

Let's take a look at some others. One way a lot of you at home might say, am I better off today than four years ago? It is the simple question of unemployment. If we go back four years ago to today, that's 2007, 4.5 percent, you see unemployment right now, 9.1 percent, way higher than four years ago, also higher than when the president took office in January 2009. That is just one indicator.

Here's another right here. Let's take a look this way. Real GDP, that's growth in the economy. Again, four years ago from today, GDP was actually growing at three percent. Now it's about 1.3 percent. On this one, it's actually better than when the president took office but not better than four years ago. That's another one. Here's another way people ask the am I better off question, consumer sentiment. Do you feel good about the strength of the economy, your personal economy? Again, four years ago, 59 percent, today, 83 percent. The University of Michigan survey four years ago, down from four years ago, down also from when the president took office in January 2009.

Here is the last one, and this one hits home for many Americans, the value of your home. Four years ago numbers were up here, the average value, you see that steady decline where we are today, right here, very tough sledding for the president. He knows people don't feel better about that.

So, can he win four more years after conceding the first four weren't so great? Let's explore the policy and the political challenges with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Fareed, on that point, the data is just simply not good for the president. And then on top of that, that's looking backward on the data we already know, today markets are talking about a bear market, financial markets don't look good, the housing market don't look good, the president can't look out at the horizon and see anything to be optimistic about, can he?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks pretty grim. There's a famous model that was designed by a professor in economic at Yale, Ray Fare, which predicts outcome of presidential elections. He's never been wrong in 40 years. And the basic inputs are economic growth, unemployment, inflation you know your basic economic data that the theory is that the campaign itself is actually irrelevant, that you give me the economic data and I will tell you whether the incumbent will get re-elected. Well if you use those kinds of models and those numbers, the situation looks very tough for the president.

KING: And this one issue. The president answers the question, no, people aren't better off than they were four years ago. This is in one issue on which you would say he's in absolute agreement with his chief nemesis politically, that would be the house Republicans. Listen here for the majority leader, Eric Cantor.


ERIC CANTOR, MAJORITY LEADER: The president said yesterday that people in the country are worse off than they were when he was elected. We feel the same way. The economy continues to sputter.


KING: Is the president's only hope to say it's not all my fault, it's their fault too?

ZAKARIA: I don't think that's going to be as convincing. I think his hope is probably the tact he's taking to say, things are very bad, they're bad because of the very broad forces beyond our control, the collapse of Lehman, the financial crisis, the global financial crisis, Europe and the euro zone crisis. But here's the issue, I have a plan. I have a plan to help get us out of this. And that is my jobs plan. And I have a way to pay for it. And the Republican Party, on the other hand has no plan.

He has to draw that distinction and he has to hammer home the idea that he has a set of proposals that are powerful that would take immediate effect that would help Americans and the other side doesn't. I don't think spreading the blame around or complicating the issue is going to help as much.

Elections are referendum. And there has to be referenda on something. If it's not about the plan, it's going to be about him. And frankly I think he's better off it being about a comparative analysis of the plans rather than just a referendum on him.

KING: And how complicated is it? How hemmed in is he by the fact that a lot of the long-term things that need to be done, whether entitlement reform, dealing with debt, other structural issues in the U.S. economy might be at odds. Those long-term challenges might be some would say certainly at odds with his short-term political needs?

ZAKARIA: I think the sensible thing to do economically is pretty clear, which is to have a short-term plan that has some stimulus for the economy, and various forms, tax breaks, extensions of unemployment, a very significant infrastructure bill because that is what you get. What the government can do more than anything else is rebuild America and put people to work and a debt reduction plan you know.

And you do it altogether so that you reassure the markets that while spending some money now, you're going get your fiscal balances in order. Politically this seems impossible. And that is the dilemma I think that the president is grappling with that he's not able to get any of that stuff done that would actually have an impact on the economy because you know, there is so much political gridlock and opposition in Washington that he can't manage to make it happen.

KING: Tough truths. Tough issues. Fareed Zakaria. Appreciate your insights.

ZAKARIA: My pleasure, John.

KING: Still to come here, here is Chris Christie says no to the 2012 Republican presidential race. Is it a victory for the candidate whose top advisers call him the tortoise? And was Christie thinking about Alaska when he said this?


CHIRSTIE: People sent me to Trenton to get a job done and I'm just not prepared to walk away.


KING: And up next, tonight's numbers close to home yet also a fascinating worldwide sensation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

One person is dead, four injured after a helicopter went down this afternoon in New York City's East River.

In Arizona a huge dust cloud enveloped Interstate 10 north of Tucson, causing a chain reaction of wrecks that killed at least one person.

Washington's National Cathedral will reopen on Saturday, November 12. It's been closed due to the damage caused by the East Coast earthquake back in August. Repairs are expected to cost in the tens of millions.

The bank fees keep on coming. The latest, Citi, which announced it will start charging customers who hold its mid-level Citibank checking account $20 a month if they don't keep a combined balance of $15,000 in all of their other accounts.

In about 90 minutes the plane carrying Amanda Knox is due to land in Seattle, Washington. Already turning into a mob scene. Knox, seen here at Heathrow Airport in London today, was released from an Italian prison yesterday after a court overturned her murder conviction in the 2007 killing of her roommate. Knox always denied she or her boyfriend are the killers.

And that brings us to tonight's number: 336 million. Three hundred and thirty-six million. What do we mean by that? Let's take a look. It's related to the Amanda Knox story. Three hundred and thirty-six million searches for Amanda Knox on Google today. An astounding number, right?

Well, let's put it into context for you here. Amanda Knox searches, about 336 million. President Obama had about 250 million searches results today. Governor Christie, who decided he's not running for president, about 130 million results. About 4.4 million for the New York Yankees, who of course, are still involved in the American League playoffs. This is how it played out on Google.

What about in the Twitterverse? Look at this here. You see a lot of conversation in the United States, especially out here in the Pacific Northwest. That's her home. She's flying that way right now.

Even talk down here in South America, talk in Africa, as well, across into Asia, southeast Asia. A lot of talk across Europe. The trial of course, was in Italy, right here. The victim, Meredith Kercher's family from the U.K., amazing, watching this play out in the social media and on the Internet. A fascinating story.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin is here now with a special preview. You had an exclusive conversation with the treasury secretary today. What did you learn? ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Well, we are -- we're going to talk about those bank fees you just mentioned, the ones that Citibank is crossing. And they're just the latest, John, as you know, between credit card fees and ATM fees and just using your debit card. So we talk about that.

We also talk about the risks of a double-dip recession. And whether there could be another Wall Street bailout. All of that, also counting down to the Amanda Knox -- really amazing; that Twitter map that you just had was really neat. We're counting down to that, as well.

And we're going to be speaking, of course, to Obama's senior campaign strategist, David Axelrod, will be our guest. And we'll see what they think, John, now that they don't have to go against Chris Christie.

KING: No Christie in the race, but they'll get someone. A tough climb for them.


KING: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." We'll see you in a few minutes, Erin. Thanks.

So we know Chris Christie is out, as we just mentioned, but who in the Republican race would benefit from that? And is it time to consider Sarah Palin a contender or a pretender? That's next.


KING: We were confident here one week ago on Tuesday night when we opened the program by saying this.


KING: He isn't running. And while he's listening closely, very closely to friends and fundraisers begging him to reconsider, the best bet is that Governor Christie stays on the sidelines.


KING: So I guess I need to thank the governor. Today he proved us right. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey saying he would not run for president. He said he was flattered at all of the interest, but in the end, he decided it was time for him to stay put, finish his -- at least his first term as New Jersey's governor.

What impact will that have on the Republican race? Let's bring in Erick Erickson. He's the editor in chief of the conservative blog. Republican strategist Kevin Madden is with us today. He was an adviser to Mitt Romney the last time around. Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster for the Obama presidential campaign.

I'm going to go to you first, Mr. Madden, as the Romney guy in the room, the zeitgeist is that this helps the other northeast Republican. It helps the more established Republican. He already picked up Ken Langone, who is a Christie guy, as a fund-raising. Does it help a little, a lot? Is it a turning point?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ADVISOR TO MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Anecdotally now, and probably in the next few days empirically we will start to see a number of fund-raisers, I believe, start to move towards Governor Romney. I've already -- you're already getting word out of that, Boston, behind Ken Langone and probably a couple of dozen others who may start to move off the sidelines and start to help in the money game.

But I still think that this was going to be a competitive election, a competitive primary contest without Governor Christie, and it's still going to be a competitive primary contest with Governor Christie -- were he to get in. So you know, this still is -- it's still October. We still have a number -- the first contest in Iowa and New Hampshire haven't even taken place yet.

KING: They're closer than we thought a few days ago.

MADDEN: But Governor Romney still has maintained a good level of support, while everybody else has fluctuated up and down, and that's a good sign for his campaign.

KING: Here's the question. I hope we can show our viewers a little graphic here of the candidates we know are in the race. We have a Republican field. And we have one question mark.

Erick Erickson, is that our field to the left of your screen, and should we consider now Sarah Palin, forget about it, or do we still have to ask the question, will she run?

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: I think we still have to ask the question. There is a report out that her lawyers have been making inquiries into early ballot access dates, although we don't know if that happened recently or some time ago, and some of those deadlines have changed.

My gut tells me this is the field, but she could surprise us. I do think it's interesting right now any name that's circulating as possibly getting into the race is someone who will hurt Herman Cain and Rick Perry. Chris Christie's the last guy who probably could have gotten in to hurt Mitt Romney. So now you're going to see conservatives battling it out, trying to be the anti-Romney, and they've only got about 80 days to do it.

KING: Well, let me ask the Democrat in the room, and I'm not sure this is a fair question, per se, but Erick makes that point. Do you see now, is your question now, will the conservatives who don't like Romney say this is -- we've got to deal with this and come to him? Or will they have a bloody primary? Is that your question?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Right. That is my question, I mean, not as partisan, as a historian of politics. You know, the dynamics of this race still haven't settled. We see all these national polls that come out and say Romney's on top, always on top, and you know those are fairly worthless until the first couple of contests, which will shake up the dynamics of this.

But to me, the Tea Partiers still haven't spoken, and if you look at what they did the last election, the midterm election, when they took out sitting incumbents, and they were organized and they were energized, to me whoever gets the energy and the power of the Tea Party behind them in that primary is going to be hard to beat.

KING: Well, you can see Governor Romney trying to make a concerted effort. He seems to view this right now as a race between him, Romney, and Rick Perry, the Texas governor. Anybody disagree that that is the principal dynamic in the race right now?

MADDEN (?): No.

KING: Silence. We don't get that very often. So what you have, what you have among other things is this. I'm going to hold this up, and it's kind of clever and kind of not clever. But the Romney campaign who's handing this out in New Hampshire. Looks like a nice glossy book, right? This is Texas Rick Perry's plan to get America working again. Shows the Texas governor firing off a handgun on the front of the cover here.

Now, I want to show you this. It says here -- you can't see it, but trust me -- "paid for Romney for president." And then again, this is the Perry economic plan, those pages are empty.

You know, Mr. Madden, you were working there full time last time. You would have been -- you would have been a bit more creative than this. But that's -- this is where we are in the campaign. Romney's trying to find a way to essentially push Perry out, saying he doesn't have an economic plan, can't win the election.

MADDEN: Look, I think that's something that has -- that's a fundamental that's still in this race right now. Governor Romney has made very clear why he wants to be president. He's laid out a very articulate, very detailed vision, 59 points on an economic plan in a 160-page booklet.

Oftentimes, reporters always say, "We don't have any details." In this case we have a lot of details. He's made the case to voters in early primary states. He's made the case to voters across the country why he wants to be president.

And I think one of the big problems here is that Rick Perry didn't decide to get into this race only until August, and in a way he sort of backed into this race. And I fundamentally believe that you cannot say that you want to be president of the United States by backing into a race. You have to really want it. You have to really have a vision, a detailed vision, about -- to take to the American public about why you want to be president, and I think that's been the fundamental difference here.

KING: And Christie decided not to do that, in the end. I was talking to somebody very close and very involved in the governor's decision. He said two big political points: one when Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, the former governor, he dropped out and Perry got in. The Christie source told me there's a ground swell that's saying, "Governor, we need you in the race. We need another candidate in the race."

And then they said it went off the charts, Erick Erickson, about ten days ago when Rick Perry had what everybody would agree was a shaky debate performance. They say at that point people with incredible high stature across the Republican spectrum came to Governor Christie and said, "Sir, you need to reconsider."

When you saw him today, Erick, he was funny at times. He can be combative. There was a little bit of that today. He was in command of the room as he called on reporters. I have to assume we take -- you know, take him at his word. He just decided "It's not for me."

Is there anybody like him? Is there a hole still in this field or are we fine?

ERICKSON: You know, Republicans never like their candidates historically. I mean, last time anybody got really energized about a Republican candidate was in 1980 with Reagan. Seriously, look, in '88 you had a big fight with George H.W. Bush, where he was just the Reagan heir, and '92 Republicans weren't excited about him. In '96, Bob Dole, woo-hoo.

In 2000, everybody just presumed it was going to be George W. Bush. But he wasn't -- he didn't have that excitement at first. He built it. And that happens with most of these candidates. And they will -- you know, I do have to say about Chris Christie today he answered more questions in one press conference today than Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the crew...

MADDEN: That's not true. Governor Romney -- Governor Romney's done a lot of interviews.

He's done a lot of interviews.

ERICKSON: I was impressed.

MADDEN: I was, too. I was, too. But I will say, you're right about Governor Perry. Governor Perry hasn't sat down with any editorial boards. He's not sitting down with any -- really that many interviews. He hasn't really been. The only scrutiny he's gotten is on the debate stage, and on that debate stage he's had a terrible go of it.

KING: Could governor Christie have won the Republican nomination? Could he have won the Republican nomination? Here's a guy who, look, he's very aggressive, and he gets a lot of support because he's gung ho on the issues of the day: spending, the economy, taxes, dealing with the union entitlements in his state of New Jersey.

However, as a Republican, in a primary, as a guy who said six or seven months ago path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, who has supported some gun control, would there be enough forgive and forget for Chris Christie? MADDEN: I was one of those guys in 2008 that said there's no way that John McCain, given his historical problem with conservatives and on many of the big issues that we've had could win the nomination, and he won the nomination. So I would never say never.

It would have been a very competitive path, though. I think on just -- in the organizational side and the money side it was a challenge just getting in this late, but if he were to take a look at the race earlier in the year, earlier in the cycle, there's no -- there's no saying that he couldn't do it.

KING: All right. A quick break. Hold on. We're going to get Mr. Belcher more involved next time. Because President Obama was in Governor Perry's home state of Texas today. But his sights on one particular Republican back here in Washington.


KING: It's often said that timing is everything in politics. Well, today, the timing was more than a little bit off for the president and his reelection campaign messaging. Here's the president in Dallas today, saying Congress should vote on his jobs plan without delay.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to put teachers back in the classroom, pass this bill. If you want construction workers back on the job, pass this bill. If you want tax cuts for the middle class and small business owners, pass this bill. You want to help some veterans, pass this bill. Now's the time to act.


KING: And here's an afternoon e-mail from the Obama deputy campaign manager, Jim Messina. "Though it's been nearly a month since he laid out his plan, House Republicans haven't acted to pass it. That's fair enough. But the Senate is controlled by the president's party, the Democrats. Look at what happened there when Republicans called for a vote on the Obama jobs plan.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The objection is heard.


KING: Yes. The Republican move was a political stunt designed to embarrass the Democrats but the Democratic leader there, Harry Reid, the majority leader, his objection also proved the president and his party either aren't on the same page or don't have their act together. Maybe both. Let's pick up there with Erick Erickson, Kevin Madden, and Cornell Belcher. Mr. Belcher, how can the president go around the country saying, "Vote on it now, not today, not tomorrow, why didn't you do it yesterday," when his own party won't vote on it?

BELCHER: Well, he is -- he is trying to say vote on it now and try to move the process forward. Look, what the Republicans did is...

KING: His party controls the Senate.

BELCHER: What the Republicans were trying to do in the Senate.

MADDEN (?): Of course it's a stunt.

BELCHER: And leader Reid is going to bring it up. But these things usually start in the House.

Look, Cantor and the Republicans have been in charge of the House for, what, over a year now. How did they burn up one jobs bill? No. They've done nothing but say no, no, no, stop, stop, stop, stop.

Look, the president is out there working the crowd, saying, "Look, this is -- we've got to rebuild this country. We've got to move this country forward."

The Republicans are standing in the way saying no, no, no. And he's absolutely right to call out Cantor on this thing and say, "Look, don't block this anymore. Pass this bill. Take this bill up. Let's get moving."

KING: You say called out Cantor. Let's listen to the president. Because it is unusual for the president of the United States who by name is talking about House Republican leaders, including the majority leader, Mr. Cantor.

We don't have that there. The tape froze. But he said, "If Mr. Cantor came down here to Dallas to explain what exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in," essentially the president calling him out.

But my point, and I want the Republicans into the conversation in a minute. But does that lose credibility when your own party. Maybe Harry Reid can't get all the Democrats to vote for it, Some of them might have a re-election question, and it might be embarrassing. We know he probably can't' get 60 votes because no Republicans will help out or at least very few Republicans will help out. But shouldn't he just bring it up and have a vote and not point fingers?

BELCHER: You're acting like senator, the Leader Reed can't bring it up. He is going to bring it up. Not going to fall into Republican stunts. But the problem is going to be on the House. The problem is not going to be on the Senate side. The problem is going to be on the House side where, quite frankly, they will continue to stand in the way of really wealthy people paying -- paying their fair share.

ERICKSON: That doesn't make any sense. This doesn't make any sense.

KING: It's Washington. It's not supposed to make sense.

ERICKSON: If the president wants real optics, if you want the optics of it, you do what they did on health care. You do what they did on the budget reform. You do what they did on the deficit. You have the Senate pass it and then go to the House and say the House isn't passing what the Senate passed, not start in the House.

The only reason they're saying start in the House is because they can't get it past the Democrats in the Senate. Look, the Senate Democrats killed his budget 98-0. And now he can't even get a majority in the Senate to pass his jobs bill, because he's become a paper tiger as a president. He's blown his political capital. And Harry Reid may bring up this bill, but my God, you've got the president saying do it now, do it yesterday, and Harry Reid is "Well, I'll do it someday; just not today."

MADDEN: Look, Erick is exactly right here. And the problem that the president has here goes beyond the pageantry and it goes beyond the flawed message. Is that it fundamentally underscores just how incompetent he is as an executive.

This was a jobs plan that was presented pretty much as a press release attached to a political campaign. There was no plan to work with Senate Democrats on putting together the structure that they were going to need to get 50 votes on this. If this bill was voted on today, it wouldn't have even gotten 50 votes. And that would have been even -- in many ways, Harry Reid saved him from even greater embarrassment.

BELCHER: Look -- no. Look, the problem has been the House holding this up the whole time. Look, Harry Reid, Senator Reid is going to move forward...

ERICKSON: The Senate is holding it up now.

BELCHER: The problem, no one...

BELCHER (?): When he's ready? When he's ready?


MADDEN: You know this because you've done the polling around the country, that the president is also toxic. You have folks like Senator Tester out in Montana saying that he is against the president's proposal. You have Senator Webb of Virginia, a very big battleground state, saying this is a terrible approach. This is a big problem.

BELCHER: No, it's not. But you're never going to get...

MADDEN: You're never going to get support in key states with key senators.

BELCHER: You're never going to get all the Democrats to rally around one thing. That's just the way it is. But the problem on this, the problem why this bill won't pass as those not moving is not Democrats in the Senate. It's going to be Republicans in the House.

MADDEN: One reason Senator McCaskill is not with the president tonight.

ERICKSON: Have a vote.

KING: Have a vote. That's what we do in a democracy. But not always going to...

BELCHER: Have a vote, Harry Reid. That's the Republicans' plan. Let's have a vote on that. You've been in charge for how long now, and have you brought a jobs plan at all to the floor? No. Eight hundred eighty-eight days without a budget because of the Democrats.

KING: Again, a moment of silence. We're not going to move forward. I want to change the subject as we close here tonight. Look at the latest polling in the Republican race. It's Governor Perry who's come down a little bit. It's Herman Cain, the businessman, who has come up. Romney, 25 percent, Cain at 16 percent, Perry at 16 percent.

So when you're doing better in the polls, you try to get even more of a bounce. You do things like go on "The View."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're an associate pastor at your church. Are you going to separate that from you have to lead -- you have to run a country with a lot of people with a lot of different beliefs.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am going to make my decision based upon the Constitution of the United States of America. That's what the president has a responsibility to do.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": That's what Obama said, too.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": You're certainly not Obama.


KING: We saw him on "The View," a whole bunch of other interviews today. Erick Erickson, to you first. Is this lasting or is this just his 15 minutes?

ERICKSON: Yes. I'm starting to wonder he's on a book tour not a campaign tour. I love Herman. I replaced him on his radio show in Atlanta. I'm a big fan. But in the last few weeks I think he lost five staff members and right as he's peaking, he started to lose staff, which is not a good sign.

MADDEN: The big challenge here for someone like Herman Cain when you get this momentum is scalability. Are you -- do you have campaign infrastructure where you start to raise more money, you can start to build organizations in all those key primary states and continue to help bring that momentum all the way. Because we still haven't had these first contests. You've got to remember. Public opinion is a non-event; it's an evolution.

BELCHER: I can't think of anything sadder than condemn an entire field in the fact Herman Cain is a rising star in this field, that Herman Cain is moving up in the polls in this field right now. I can't say anything more damning about that field than the fact that Herman Cain is a serious candidate.

ERICKSON: That's more an indictment on Obama, I would think.

BELCHER: That was a pretty good indictment on Romney and your boy Perry.

KING: It was Governor Romney I assume wants Herman Cain to stay strong in a place like Iowa so you split the right, am I wrong?

MADDEN: John, this is where I always say that Governor Romney is going to focus on his campaign, his message and making the case to the Republican voters.

ERICKSON: That's smart.

BELCHER: Yes, John, the answer to your question.

KING: The answer is, yes, Governor Romney wants Santorum, Bachmann, Herman Cain taking votes away from Governor Perry. That's pretty good math, right?


BELCHER: What happened to Bachmann?

KING: She's gone down a little bit. All right, gentlemen. We'll continue the conversation. A couple of moments of silence tonight. We've got to call one more right here. We'll see you right back here tomorrow night. That's all for now, though.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.