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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Super Failure; Republican National Security Debate; Huntsman's Secret Weapon

Aired November 22, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, thanks so much to you, John. And we're going to talk more about that ad. We're on the front line in Washington, D.C., for tonight's GOP debate. The theme, national security. The candidates going to lay out how they plan to keep America safe.

Well, the clear frontrunner going into the debate is Newt Gingrich. We look at what he needs to do to stay ahead and what Mitt Romney needs to do to finally get ahead.

And the bottom line on the Super Committee. Yesterday's failure means big cuts to defense. Has a weak committee weakened America?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. And OUTFRONT tonight, we are counting down to the big CNN debate. We are just an hour away. Eight Republican candidates vying for the party nomination. And they're all taking to stage tonight. The topic, national security.

It has been 109 days since America lost its AAA credit rating. That's going to turn the rate on our mortgages and a whole lot more. And we're not doing anything about it. We are still mad as hell about the Super Committee failing yesterday to cut $12 trillion from our deficit. Today credit rating agency Fitch said the committee's failure would most likely result in negative action.

So we're upset about the Super Committee and they are mad, too. Panel member John Kerry was watching OUTFRONT last night. He got mad and he called in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think people are upset. I think everybody in the country is upset. They're looking at Congress and saying, why can't these guys get something done? But it's not enough for people just to say, oh, it's broken. You got to ask, OK, why? What is the matter that it is broken?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what now? Well, we're hoping for a shock and wow moment but it's not looking like we're going to see one soon. The Super Committee telling us they've got no plans to meet after the holiday. And some question whether any action will be taken until after the election.

But in the meantime as we get ready for this big debate on America's national security, the hail Mary for some, including Senator John McCain, is to take away those automatic defense cuts. President Obama says he will veto any attempt to do that which makes sense because if they were rolled back, it could mean some big-time downgrades which would make the August market plunge and economic stumble look like the happy days.

Since this is going to be a big part of tonight's debate, we did the math. Here is the bottom line. The Defense Department agreed to cuts already of $450 billion. Now if you add in the automatic cuts, total cuts rise to just about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Now depending how you count, there are a couple of ways to do it. That's a cut of between 11 and 14 percent of projected defense spending. That's a whole lot less than Nixon, Eisenhower or George H.W. Bush cut while they were in office. Eisenhower cut 29 percent.

Well, what would get hit? Defense expert Todd Harrison of CBSA tells us we could see more cuts to the Joint Strike Fighter program. And defense (INAUDIBLE) says we could see cuts of 80,000 men and women from the Army.

Well, the numbers indicate the Pentagon has choices and a lot of room to move. After all, America already spends 10 times more than Russia on its military, six times more than the next superpower, China.

But there's one thing that gives us pause. Before you say, hey, it's no problem, go ahead and cut, according to a few sources we've been talking to, the defense industry employs millions of Americans. Two million or more just in the armed services alone. And if you take away that -- some of those jobs you could see a hit of 1 percent to GDP.

If you look at our numbers next year, that's half of projected growth. With an economy that's struggling to grow you could see that could be a problem.

David Gergen joins us now, senior political analyst here at CNN. Gloria Borger is our chief political analyst.

All right, good to have both of you with us. Interesting what -- they're going to be talking about this in cuts, Gloria. For defense, it's going to be a big issue. It's not an easy issue.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it's not an easy issue, particularly for Republicans. Because I think what we're going to see happen is the hawks, like John McCain, are going to come into a big fight with the anti-tax Republicans. Anti-tax because the money has to come from somewhere.

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: If you are going to -- if you're going to roll back these defense cuts, where are you going to -- you know, where are you going to find the money to offset it? Well, some Republicans just might say, you know, you ought to look at the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. We can't afford to do that anymore.

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: So I think this is -- this is going to be a debate within the Republican Party.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not just the Republicans. The president and the Democrats have some issues here, too.

BURNETT: Yes.

GERGEN: And the president just went to the Pacific. He just talked about projecting more military power into the Pacific. And we're not going to back down as China flexes its muscles. We're going to go into Australia and places like that.

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: How are we going to pay for that without more in the defense budget? You've also got his own secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, has said these cuts would be unacceptable. They would threaten our national security if these automatic cuts go into place. So what are they going to do?

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: You know, the commander in chief can't simply let that happen.

BURNETT: And he said he would veto, interesting position, he's in. I'll veto your effort to get rid of those sequester cuts.

BORGER: I was talking to a senior White House official today who said to me, look. This puts Barack Obama in an interesting position. If he gets reelected, next December, you are going to be kind of up against the wall there.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: And then if Barack Obama is re-elected, he's sort of in a good position to say to the American Congress, OK, guess what, guys. Now you're going to have to figure it out.

GERGEN: It's also -- but this is exactly how you should not construct the defense budget. Normally you figure out, what are the threats?

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: What's our strategy to meet the threats. And then how much do we have to spend to do that? Instead of having -- coming up with sort of an arbitrary number and saying you've got to learn to live with this. You don't know how to plan.

And I would -- I would argue that the Pentagon is going to have a very hard time next year because they can't wait until next -- this January and how much money they're going to spend in January 2013.

BURNETT: Now they're going to do all the plans in advance.

GERGEN: They have to do the plans.

BORGER: Well, and they have to touch that first --

BURNETT: Right.

GERGEN: Yes.

BORGER: -- $400 billion --

GERGEN: Which is tough.

BORGER: -- which they're in the middle of doing right now. Now, I would also say that Leon Panetta used to be the budget chief in a different administration, in the Clinton administration. He was the big budget cutter. And now it's interesting to me to see him on the other side of the ax saying, you know what, no, no, no. Don't cut my budget.

BURNETT: How are they going to answer -- I think when the Super Committee comes up tonight, as -- and Wolf will bring it up, this issue of now that we've put this problem off a little bit, you now have unemployment benefits and you have the payroll tax, which is very popular. The two together. Estimates $160 to $180 billion.

It's going to be hard to not pass that. But you've got to find spending cuts on the other side. When he puts people on the spot in there, who's going to have a good answer for that question? Who would have the nerve to say, I would not extend either one of those extremely popular benefits.

BORGER: Well, unemployment benefits, I think, is an argument Republicans have an easier time making because we've already gone past the -- you know, ninety-nine weeks.

BURNETT: Ninety-nine weeks. Yes.

BORGER: And they say at a certain point they make the argument that it keeps people out of work, but the extension of the payroll tax cut affects middle class taxpayers, and I don't know who out there is going to say, you know what, we really ought not to extend this.

GERGEN: And Gloria is right. And as you know, Erin, if you end the payroll tax cut, it's actually like a tax increase. It's contractionary for the economy.

BURNETT: Right.

(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: I know the White House is saying, citing some numbers saying about $1,000 per family per year in increased taxes.

GERGEN: Yes. It's sizeable.

BURNETT: Yes.

GERGEN: What I think what you'll hear tonight is they'll say, look. We ought to extend, but we should not do that by raising taxes on the wealthy. That's -- we're not going to go there. We would -- would fight that. You've got to find spending -- their argument is basically that the Democrats, Obama, have larded up the budget, discretionary budget, would allow extra spending, you've got to cut that first.

BORGER: And Herman Cain will say 9-9-9 so everybody will have a tax cut anyway.

BURNETT: One thing I know he will say is 9-9-9.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

BURNETT: All right. Gloria and David are going to be with us throughout the show as we get ready for the big national security debate.

Thanks to both of you.

OUTFRONT next, we are less than an hour away as we countdown to when all the candidates will approach their podiums and take Wolf Blitzer's questions and say why they'll be a better commander in chief than President Obama.

Jon Huntsman is going to be out there. Now he's obviously trailing in the polls but he thinks he has a secret weapon? He is the Lexington of the evening. His daughters, the Jon 2012 girls, come OUTFRONT with us tonight.

And remember the bridge to nowhere? Who could forget. Well, we're going to look at Detroit's sidewalks to nowhere next. Seriously.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: "The Number" tonight is 4.74. That's the degrees of separation between two people on earth. That's right. It's not six anymore. It's 4.74. It means that I, for example, could be linked to someone in Belgium through four acquaintances or, quote/unquote, degrees.

So why did the number go down? Apparently it's social networks like Facebook, which actually published this data, are linking more and more people together and doing it in a way that is easier to study. Although I don't know. Does it count if you know someone if you've never met them?

I'm a little old-fashioned on that. I would say not so much.

OK. CNN's national security debate begins within the hour. At this minute, Republican candidates are preparing to tout their credentials as commander in chief. They are getting ready. They've been -- there you see Newt Gingrich arriving. Coming in, they're getting their hair and makeup. That's how it happens at these kinds of things.

And it's going to be tough for them to make the case against President Obama. The reason is, well, he's got really, really high approval ratings when it comes to foreign policy. And a lot of successes. The killing of Osama bin Laden, the scores of al Qaeda this year, handling of the Libyan conflict, of course and the end of Moammar Gadhafi.

And we got all that together. Look at the CNN poll. It shows the support. Sixty-one percent of Americans support the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

So how will the Republicans criticize the president and make it stick? That's going to be a challenging job.

Bill Burton is with us. He was with us last night. We switched seats, by the way, tonight with these two gentlemen to always make it even for President Obama. And Kevin Madden, former campaign spokesman for Mitt Romney.

You know, last night he was --

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN, MITT ROMNEY: Yes.

BURNETT: So what it is, it's always fair.

MADDEN: Bill complained.

BILL BURTON, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT OBAMA: That's one less degree of separation.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: All right. Well said. So what do you -- what needs -- what do they need to say tonight? Because his guy is really popular and seen as very successful on foreign policy.

MADDEN: Well, I think oftentimes these debates are a contest of who can be the most presidential. And they are oftentimes when you are doing an introduction to the American electorate about your foreign policy ideas, your vision, your credentials, this is a time to show a command and control of the issues.

And to make sure that people know that if they could envision seeing you in the presidency, but they can envision seeing you getting that 3:00 a.m. call in the Oval Office as president. So I think that's an important part of how --

BURNETT: Right. MADDEN: What a lot of these candidates want to do tonight when they -- when they're trying to reach voters.

BURNETT: And I guess that's true because when President Obama took office, right, that was the whole thing, the whole who would want to get the call. And people said, well, he is not experienced. And now he's stepped in and look at his track record approval.

BURTON: Well, sure. A lot of successes around the world. Lots of success in resetting the American relationships around the globe. And so I think voters are going to be looking at which one of those candidates could actually sit in the Oval Office. Who could be in that iconic photo from the situation room when the president put in the order to kill Osama bin Laden.

And you know I think that the question that people are going to have is, who's got the guts to make the tough calls. And you know the other thing people are going to look for is who's got the guts to take on the other candidates. Will Newt Gingrich stop running for vice president like he's basically been doing this entire time.

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: I mean -- the no attacks on Mitt Romney is a little pathetic.

MADDEN: This is what Bill Burton has to do. He has to stir up controversy within the Republican primary. But he does make a good point which is that this is one of the difficulties sometimes in a Republican primary. In any primary. Is that many times you agree on a lot of these issues. So the charge is that who can show that they're the strongest? Who's the one that -- the candidate that can show they're the most articulate or they have the greatest, strongest vision for the country. So that is -- that's what these debates offer these candidates the opportunity to do that.

BURNETT: I want to ask about Iran because I think it's important for both sides that you all represent. But first I really want to cover this ad which I know you both are well aware of since you worked with Mitt Romney and obviously work with the president.

So let's play the ad that Mitt Romney's camp put out today. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. We need a rescue plan for the middle class. We need to provide relief for homeowners. It's going to take a new direction. If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OK. But here's what the president actually said. So let's show you that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Clearly taken out of context.

MADDEN: Well, look. I think the most important thing. There's two -- there's two points to this. The first is the message, the second is the process part of it. The message part is important because I think in 2008, president -- then candidate Obama openly mocked his opposition because they couldn't talk about the economy.

And now, given the state of the economy, given his failure of leadership on that particular issue, he's having a very hard time talking about the economy, too. And doesn't want to. The Obama campaign in the early part of this year has said that they want to kill Mitt Romney and that they weren't going to talk about the issues but instead, they want to go right at him personally.

So I think that's the contrast that we see now in this particular debate. And that's the frame. The process part of it I think is also important. Right now the Romney campaign got exactly what it wanted. It's a one on one debate with the White House. With the president. And that's what puts him heads to shoulders above the rest of this field. And that's also a message, it's confrontational with the White House. That resonates very strongly with Republican voters.

BURNETT: But It's not honest. That's my -- that's my issue with it. Right? I mean why do you so blatantly cut it apart? Let me give you a chance to respond first and then -- and then --

BURTON: Well, a couple of things about what Kevin had to say here. I think that the Romney campaign probably does appreciate how much airtime this ad has been getting. However --

BURNETT: True, to be fair. We all are playing it and discussing it. So they're getting a lot of airing.

BURTON: But it doesn't tell us anything about Mitt Romney which we didn't already know which is that he can't be trusted. And if conservatives core concern about Mitt Romney is whether or not he's going to tell the truth about things that are important to them, to come out of the box with your first ad in New Hampshire, not tell the truth, and then preview the ad with reporters by saying that you're lying so that you can get more attention is not helping you to get voters to trust you even more.

BURNETT: Will this ad end up serving him well or not? Bottom line.

MADDEN: Well, look, I believe that when you have a debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the economy, which is what the debate that this ad looks to force, that is a good place for Governor Romney. And voters are going to be rendering their decision on who they want to be president based on that question.

Who is the candidate that best prepared to lead this economy forward and to fix it. President Obama has shown he can't. President Romney has put forth a vision to show that he can.

BURNETT: All right.

BURTON: But my friend, I think the problem here is that the debate hasn't been between Romney and Obama. It's been between Romney and reporters who are all saying that he's lying about what's in this ad.

MADDEN: I've never met a reporter and you haven't either who doesn't think they can run a better campaign, just like I've never met a press secretary or somebody on a campaign who doesn't think they can write better stories. That's always going to be the case.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to hit pause there. We're going to put on later in the show. Thanks very much to both of you. Good to see you.

All right. Well, we do a lot of serious stories on this show. But this one is a little more seriously. In Detroit, Michigan, the city decided to repave Grandy Street. And while they were at it the city also added wheelchair friendly ramps at every intersection. That's a good idea, right? Well, except for there's one big problem.

Most of the sidewalks don't go anywhere. Seriously. We're not kidding about this. Despite the fact that many of the sidewalks lead to grassy fields or debris and garbage, the city spent over $150,000, $12,000 per intersection, to add ramps to curbs along Grandy Street.

Now why you ask? Well, because in 1991, the U.S. Department of Transportation mandated that cities make their streets more wheelchair accessible. So now whenever Detroit repaves a road it also adds ramps to the curbs. Even those that lead to nowhere.

No one thinks this is a good idea. Not even Michael Harris, the executive director of a veterans group, which challenged the city for better access in 2006. He told the "Detroit News," quote, "We agree it does not make sense to put in curbs where they aren't needed."

But still, the city keeps doing it. And even though on the surface it's just a bunch of intersections in Detroit and you say it doesn't add up to a lot of money, it is part of a bigger problem. Politicians blindly enforcing laws while ignoring the true spirit of them.

As long as our elected officials keep behaving like this, we'll still be stuck with the same old problems. Seriously, Super Committee.

All right. Well, 40 minutes from the start of tonight's debate. Our panel makes their last-minute picks and predictions of who might rise and who might fall.

Tonight, Jon Huntsman hoping his daughters will be the spark his campaign needs. The Jon 2012 girls come OUTFRONT next.

And in tonight "Outer Circle," we go to Egypt where elections are a totally different story. In Tahrir Square teargas and Molotov cocktails. Ahead of the country's ruling military council says it will hand over power.

All of that OUTFRONT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Going into tonight's GOP debate, Jon Huntsman has what he hopes is a secret weapon. Well, three. As we said weapon is an appropriate word, given the topic of tonight's debate.

We're talking about the Jon 2012 girls. They are his daughters Liddy, Abby and Maryann.

Thanks for joining us coming OUTFRONT tonight.

All right, hey, great to see you guys in person.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: You know, I saw you in the ad where you were mocking the Cain ad, the Mark Block ad and --

ABBY HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: We didn't bring our mustaches. Sorry about that.

BURNETT: Yes, right. I know. Why didn't you put those on tonight? All right. So you guys are obviously want your dad to win. You're passionate about your dad. Your dad is having trouble in the polls. So tell everybody something that we just don't know about him.

Abby, start with you. What do people out there just not know about him, the person.

LIVINGSTON: I think a lot of people don't understand the substance that he has. You know he's up there on the stage. And I think what really people don't understand is that he understands these issues probably better than anybody up there. And he's really deep. And people are getting past this, who is the most entertaining sound bite, or how has the loudest applause.

Who we want to hear, how are we going to get out of the scary situation we're in, especially in a lot of the parts of the world that people are concerned about. And I think our dad really understands that. And that's -- I hope that he gets the time tonight to really explain where he stands on all these issues.

BURNETT: Mary Anne, what kind of a dad is he? I mean I think a lot of people don't know, I mean, you guys, you're among seven kids.

Right.

BURNETT: But one of your little sisters is on a postage stamp in China. Your adopted little sister. I mean your family is very unusual.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: Yes. He is a wonderful dad. And I will say there has not been a day that has gone by where he hasn't contacted my mom in their 28 years of marriage or the rest of us, and he has, you know, had us fight for our dreams all growing up.

And he's such an incredible dad and along with that, talking about what the country needs, it's someone that you can trust and that can bring people together. And that's what he's great at as a dad.

BURNETT: So what made you all decide you're going to do this -- these Jon 2012 girls?

LIDDY HUNTSMAN, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: I think we originally started. We wanted to keep all of our friends kind of up to date on what we were doing. And people around us started, you know, catching on and wanted to see kind of the background and the back scenes of what's going on in an actual campaign.

And so we started just kind of going with it and letting -- it was also a great way to let people know who my dad is. So it's been -- it's been fun, I think.

LIVINGSTON: We're just -- we're very honest in everything we say. And so I think people will like that honesty. And we're able to show a side of -- behind the scenes that a lot of people don't get to see and at the same time really introduce the country to our dad. So it's been a great experience so far for us.

BURNETT: Well, you've had fun making fun of some of the other candidates. I mean you're much more open about that. What do you say about how does Romney know anything about China? He's only been there once and that was for the Olympics. Panda Express doesn't count, Right?

Maybe your dad wishes he could talk to (INAUDIBLE).

L. HUNTSMAN: Well, I think at the end of the day, I mean that tweet came from, you know, we believe that my dad has the best experience and the best resume for China and for foreign policy. So when some other candidates get up there and speak when they don't have the actual experience that my dad has, you know, it -- I think that's kind of where the tweet came from out of frustration.

Where it's like, you know, my dad actually has the real experience and resume for it.

BURNETT: So you're going to keep doing it, Abby?

LIVINGSTON: Absolutely. We'll always have something up our sleeves. So stay tuned.

BURNETT: All right. Well, hey, nice to meet all three of you. We appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks so much.

BURNETT: It's nice to see kids supporting their dads.

All right, well still OUTFRONT, the clear frontrunner in the GOP race. As you know it keeps flipping and flopping, and it's a total rollercoaster right.

But will this be Newt's night? What the other candidates need to do to catch them. That's coming up after the break

And the Super Committee's super failure means big cuts to defense. Is the committee's failure to act weaken our country.

OUTFRONT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We're live in Washington, D.C., tonight with just under 30 minutes to go before the start of CNN's Republican presidential debate. The topic tonight: national security.

We're going to show you a live picture inside the DAR. That's Daughters of the American Revolution. That's the historic building where we are tonight, the Constitution Hall. A full crowd has been filing in as you can see.

And Wolf Blitzer is behind the scenes getting ready to moderate tonight's debate featuring all eight Republican candidates.

If you have a question that you want Wolf to ask the candidates, let us know. Please tweet now using the #CNNdebate.

All right. Well, we have more debate coverage ahead.

But we want to start our second half with the OUTFRONT 5 -- stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, make the calls and find the OUFRONT 5.

So, number one tonight: two new cases of child abuse against Jerry Sandusky have been opened by Children and Youth Services. Now, this is according to sources close to the investigation. We are told that the investigation is still in the early stages. But if found true, these would be the first known cases which involve current children, not people who are now in their 20s.

CNN also learned today, Sandusky's preliminary hearing on 40 counts of child sex abuse charges has been moved to December 13th.

Number two, wildfires in Arizona are caused by illegal immigrants, according to a government study that was issued today.

Now, the study from the independent Government Accountability Office confirms what Republican Senator John McCain said this summer. The U.S. Forest Service told OUTFRONT there have been nearly 2,500 wildfires between 2006 and 2010. According to the GAO report, 30 of those fires were identified as ignited by illegal border crossers. Some saying literally that they start them to stay warm.

Number three: the International Monetary Fund making it easier for countries to borrow money. The new, quote, "precautionary and liquidity line" can be tapped by countries which have good economic fundamentals but are in need of money quickly. Who isn't right now?

Well, it will also let countries borrow money as insurance against potential economic shocks. Economists at JPMorgan say that this is a step in the right direction but the revamped credit line will not alleviate the growing economic stresses in Europe which is in full-fledge debt crisis.

Number four, third quarter GDP revised lower by half a percent. That puts it at 2 percent. Now, that sounds bad and a big reason for the downward revision was that businesses had less inventory than originally thought.

But we talked to a lot of economists that say, OK. Sure that's disappointing but what it could be doing is setting us up for a little bit a pop in the fourth quarter. So, we will see.

Well, it's been 109 days since America lost its top credit rating. What we are going to get it back? Not enough.

With less than 30 minutes until the debate begins, the question is: who among the GOP field has the most to gain and the most to lose?

Well, Newt Gingrich tonight, as of tonight, the latest poll, the clear front-runner. The latest CNN shows that he leads Mitt Romney by 4 points, which is just outside the margin of error. Herman Cain now, he's ahead of him by seven points. The Quinnipiac Poll shows Gingrich with an even larger lead beating Romney 34 to 24 percent.

On Monday, Gingrich was in New Hampshire boasting about his debating skills.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who do you want to have debate Obama to draw a clarity between the various lies they will be telling and the truth? I think most people end up thinking I'm probably a better debater than my friends are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, with just 41 days left until the Iowa caucus, the nomination is still very much in play. Sixty-seven percent of Republican voters say they still could change their mind.

Let's bring in our CNN contributors: Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary; David Frum, former speechwriter to George W. Bush; and Ron Brownstein, "National Journal" senior editorial director and senior political analyst.

OK. Great to have all of you with us.

Newt is a confident guy.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He is a confident guy. Maybe he could do with a little Tabasco sauce seasoning of humility. It wouldn't kill him. One of the things that when he makes his point, though, about his debating skill, it's a strategic point -- not just a boast -- because Republicans view Barack Obama as very vulnerable. They feel very confident.

And a lot of them are hungering to see Newt Gingrich tear him apart. The problem is they lose sight of the fact to how they react to Newt Gingrich and how the broader electorate reacts to Newt Gingrich may not be the same thing.

BURNETT: Very diplomatically put. Sort of like a candidate Might put it.

What do you think, Ari?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, anybody who has known Newt for a long time, and I've gone to a lot of business with Newt Gingrich in terms of congressional meetings, et cetera. You know there's always two sides to Newt. There's Newt the sharpest guy in the room, and he often is, and the Newt, the very able Newt and inspiring Newt, the dinner speaker Newt.

And then there's the Newt who wilts under pressure and often brings it on himself. Who when the lights are shining brightest fails the most.

And that's what this primary campaign is going to test for Newt Gingrich. As anybody knows, campaigns are brutal. They're long. They're hard. Newt's yet to be tested. I'm not sure he's going to hold up.

BURNETT: And, Ron, when you look at the polls, Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich, among Republican voters, you see right now Newt Gingrich is ahead on the substantive things, whether it be the economy or foreign policy. But when it gets to morality, no -- not even remotely close.

It's interesting because when I interviewed Newt Gingrich a few weeks ago, we were talking about Herman Cain. I said, well, does morality matter in a candidate? And the answer was no. I'm wondering how you think that will play out over time.

ROB BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, I mean, in the immediate term, I think what David and Ari are saying is right. Newt Gingrich has emerged almost entirely through his debate performances. That has been the entire surge behind him.

He doesn't have any of the usual qualities that a candidate at the top of a field would have. He doesn't have of an organization. He doesn't have a lot of money. Not a really dynamic campaign presence. But the challenge for Gingrich as both are suggesting would to be hold it. He's going to have two separate issues. One is some of his issue positions. They're going to be difficult for the Tea Party side of the party that is embracing him to rally around.

He supported individual mandate, he supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. He sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi and talked about climate change.

And you also have his personal life which may or may not be a hesitant factor or factor causing hesitation among the evangelical side of the Christian party which has been moving towards him largely because he's the current guy standing who isn't Mitt Romney.

BURNETT: So, tonight, what does he need to do tonight to keep his lead?

FRUM: Well, what he think he's needs to do and maybe what he needs to do, what he thinks he's going to need to do is display more of the aggression -- more of the willingness to take the debate to the president and more of the disdain for the press that the Republican faithful like.

But you also need to bear in mind, and this is the thing Mitt Romney has been so good at, is not just Republicans who are watching. The whole country is watching to say is this -- does this person have temperament, the balance, the self control, the bigness of spirit, the generosity that you want to see in a president? And the more you look like, boy, I'm ready to just take down that antelope and cut it into pieces and serve the meat raw to my narrow factional base, the more the rest of the country says, I don't know about that raw antelope.

FLEISCHER: But that's what Newt has avoided for the most part in these debates. Newt has been the one guy who won't take the bait and go after fellow Republicans.

BURNETT: He's been sort of like the father in the room with the kids in the sandbox.

FLEISCHER: He's not just going to say after Romney even when he's baited to. That's where Newt has recognized there's something bigger here about Republican unity. Beat Barack Obama and it's helped propel him.

BURNETT: After Newt, then what, Ron? You spent a lot of time looking at the polls. I mean, let's just say -- OK, so maybe he stays on top. If he doesn't, really, Rick Santorum is the guy out there who hasn't been on top -- well, and Mitt Romney.

BROWNSTEIN: The Republican race has been extremely volatile. But the extent of it's been volatile in a structured way, you've had basically half a party that identifies with the Tea Party. That's the part that's been volatile. They know they don't want Romney. He's never gotten above 19 percent among that half of the party in your CNN polls all year. But they've been bouncing around trying to find an alternative. You know, Bachmann had her moment in the summer. Rick Perry was strong. We're on 40 percent late summer. Herman Cain around 40 percent. Each of them have plummeted and now Gingrich is up to about one-third of the Tea Party set.

The other side had been more stable. The half of the party that doesn't identify with the Tea Party had been moving pretty steadily toward Mitt Romney. He's gone from 16 percent in your polling in August to 35 percent in mid-October. That is now fallen in two straight polls. He's down to 19 percent. And the part of the party he should be consolidating.

And so, what you see is volatility on both sides of the Republican kind of electorate. In Gingrich, a candidate who potentially, I think David you would agree, can be stronger in the less ideological part of the party than Herman Cain or Rick Perry might have been able to sustain.

BURNETT: Yes.

FRUM: Gingrich has a history of positions that should appeal to the -- appeal to the less ideological Republicans. But the temperament and style are going to be very important. I think a lot of the people who are in the non-Tea Party side of the party want someone who just can calm this country down, who can take down the steam, take down the anger, and who can be president of all the country.

And that's the job that Romney has been running for. Newt Gingrich has not been running for president of all the country.

BURNETT: Right.

FRUM: He thinks there's the good half that don't use food stamps and the bad half that does. And a lot of people in the good half think I could be on food stamps tomorrow. That doesn't make a bad person.

BURNETT: All right.

BROWNSTEIN: It's the bad half of Woody Allen family values to take one of Newt's greatest hits from the '90s.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to hit pause there. If he stays on top, I want to follow up on that. The whole morality thing and his personal history with women voters will become increasingly interesting to talk about.

All right. Thanks to all three.

Well, we're 20 minutes from the debate.

The super committee could not get the job done which means big cuts to defense. So, did a weak committee weaken our nation? National security is the topic tonight. We get in there.

And in tonight's "Outer Circle," to Egypt where protests was raged for the fourth consecutive day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. We do this at the same time every night. It's our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And as promised tonight, we begin in Cairo. Big events in Tahrir Square. There's been a lot of demonstrations, tear gas all over the transitioning government.

Ben Wedeman is there for us.

Ben, what have the protesters accomplished so far?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, in the space of just four days, they've managed to achieve huge changes in Egypt's political landscape. They've managed to force the resignation of the government. They've forced the military rulers to set a deadline for the elections.

And what we're seeing now is a million man demonstrations. And they say they'll stay in Tahrir until they force the military council to resign. That's quite a lot -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now -- all right. Thank you very much, Ben.

And now we go to Italy. Well, we're talking about Silvio Berlusconi yet again. In a new album of love songs with lyrics penned by the now former prime minister out today. Among his favorite tracks, a low samba which translates into "If I lose you."

Barbie Nadeau is in Rome.

Barbie, will true love be a best seller as some of his other songs have been?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBIE NADEAU, REPORTER: Erin, I don't think there are any illusions about this being a best seller. But I think a lot more people will buy this particular C.D. because of Berlusconi's sensational resignation on November 12th. This was a man who, for better or worse, was a very colorful prime minister for the better part of 17 years. I think a lot of people will buy this C.D. as a keepsake.

Plus, Neapolitan love songs are always very popular in Italy, especially around the holidays -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. And Silvio still making a lot of money no matter what role he has.

All right. As we told you earlier, the failure of the super committee to reach a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from America's debt is going to have a tremendous effect on our nation's military. The Defense Department is going to bear about half of the cuts. They already agreed to cuts of $450 billion. When you add in the automatic cuts as a result of the super committee's failure, the total will be $1 trillion in cuts for defense over the next 10 years. That means men and women in armed services, that means the Joint Strike Fighter.

Does it move the needle or not? Some think it would and a lot.

It's a situation Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described as a doomsday scenario when he talked about it. Our next president will be the one tasked to deal with the economic shortfalls, cutting the deficit and dealing with our military.

Well, joining us to talk about all of these challenges, starting with the super committee, and moving on to Iran and al Qaeda, General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander. Duncan Hunter also joins us, former chairman of the armed services committee. And David Gergen is back with us, our senior political analyst.

General Clark, the super committee's failure. First of all, you think this is significant in terms of the amount of cuts that they're now going to have to make in defense?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I think it's really bad for the Defense Department. It's also bad -- it's a very bad signal about American government to send to the rest of the world. People around the world look up to and admire America. They admire our values.

But they look at the government and they say, why doesn't your government work? They don't understand that this is a political tactic by one party to try to push this into a success for the election in 2012. They see it as America has a problem. Why can't America fix its problem?

BURNETT: So, what do you think, David Gergen, when any of these people are asked on the stage tonight? Well someone, I think I know the answer to this. But let me just ask it rhetorically. Some would say, yes, I would have accepted a tax increase to deal with all the cuts that we want to push through and to prevent this automatic spending that's going --

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: These candidates were asked in an earlier debate if there were a deal that had $10 of spending cuts to $1 of tax increases, would they accept it. And a show of hands, no one would have accepted that deal.

BURNETT: Yes.

GERGEN: I think we know where they are on that question.

Let me go back to cover another point with regard to Wes' point. The strength of our country is dependent not only about the force of our arms. As every major president going back to Eisenhower and before, have recognized the strength of our economy also makes a difference. We were the model economic power. We seem to know how to run a democracy.

And when that breaks down you lose a lot of that reputational power.

CLARK: It's three things. It's the ability to afford the armed forces you need. It's the ability to bring other people your direction because you've got such a strong, vibrant economy. They want to be part of it. They want to trade with you. They want your investments.

And it's the signal about how good is America's system of governance? So --

BURNETT: Which is --

CLARK: So all of that has been thrown up by the failure of this super committee because one party is intransigent.

GERGEN: Well, I must say, there is a disagreement about that particular point, whether it's just one party. The Republicans clearly were intransigent. But if you read the Republican account, you know, they've got some points themselves about how much is being demanded on the other side.

They didn't want just small tax cuts -- increases. They wanted $1 trillion of new taxes. And that was -- everybody knew the Republicans weren't going to go anywhere close to that number.

BURNETT: Mr. Hunter, how do you think the candidates should address the question tonight about what the biggest threat to the United States is, especially given that -- coming from a position of economic security and economic strength is the most important thing?

DUNCAN HUNTER, FORMER CHAIRMAN ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: They've got to -- there are several balls they could hit out of the park here. They have to take on the president. That's what the Republican constituency is looking for.

They need, first, to not let this president over the next eight weeks as the last troops leave Iraq, claim credit for the victory in Iraq. They need to remind in this debate, remind the American people that President Obama, as a U.S. senator, along with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, voted against the surge, which was one of the touchdown passes of the victory in Iraq.

Secondly, they have to point out the failure in Iran of this American policy of trying through sanctions to blunt this nuclear program. That's been an absolute failure. The Republicans -- one of the Republicans should point that out.

And I think when you point that out, you have to make it very clear that in the end, you would accept the military option, but the big picture, what's on the horizon is clearly China. China is a military national security challenge for the next 20 years. And the Republican who wins this thing tonight or wins it over the next several weeks is going to have to say show how they can bring back this massive piece of the industrial base that we've sent to China.

The factories and industry that we've shoved off to China --

BURNETT: OK.

HUNTER: -- they're using those trade dollars to buy weapons, ships, planes and missiles and show how they're going to stand up to China over the next 20, 30 years. China is a big issue for national security.

BURNETT: Quick final word. Would you agree, China is our biggest military threat?

CLARK: I thin k it's not just the military threat of China but it's the economic potential of China and what it does to the nations around it and around the world.

So, we clearly are facing in China, a competitor like we've never faced before on every basis -- economic, military and so forth. Not that it's to be a confrontation, but we have to get our economic house in order and get this economy growing again.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks to all three of you. We appreciate it. China is going to be a big issue I'm sure in the debate tonight.

We're less than 10 minutes away from the start of the GOP contest. Wolf Blitzer is getting ready to take it away. And our panel makes its last minute picks and predictions OUTFRONT.

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BURNETT: All right. We are now just a couple of minutes away from the 11th debate of the year. You think wow, it's been a lot. Well, it has, because watching them is like watching Sunday night football.

OK. Let's focus on national security tonight. And there is a lot to talk about when it comes to that and the future of our country.

Gloria Borger, David Gergen and Ari Fleischer are back to weigh in on three key questions we have going into the debate.

So, let's start with number one, and this is going to be front and center with the supercommittee, should America go ahead with what we have now, $1 trillion in defense cuts? That question is going to get asked. How do they answer?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the Republicans say we ought to roll it back and we have to figure out a way to pay for it, and that's where the fight is going to come in the Republican Party. How do you pay for rolling back those cuts? Although President Obama has said he will veto it.

So, welcome to the campaign.

BURNETT: Yes, that's going to be interesting.

BORGER: Yes.

BURNETT: Do you think --

GERGEN: It's a terrible idea. A trillion dollar cut would mean that Americans would retreat all around the world at a time when we're being challenged and the world is still not a stable place.

You know? So I think that the question becomes not waiting for the election but can they find some answers and can President Obama -- Ari's been making the point he's been to passive on this in the past. I agree with that. The question now is whether he asserts his leadership and gets resolve or just leaves it for the elections.

BURNETT: A trillion dollars in defense cuts. Do you think that would send a signal as David --

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: If they're going to cut that kind of money and the Pentagon needs to be part of the overall budget that they do cut, but it has to be part of the overall mix so the approach is balanced, to use Barack Obama's word, and not just isolated in one part of the government.

BORGER: But I think he's going to let Republicans come up with a balanced approach. I don't see him weighing in heavily on that. He's already said he would veto that.

FLEISCHER: Well, Congress has to do that. That's still their job.

BURNETT: All right. Now, number two, Gingrich has got the biggest bump in the polls, as we know. He comes in tonight as the front-runner. Cain has recently taken the biggest hit.

But it's Mitt Romney that the president is currently running against and thinks he's running against the president who is the guy people still thinks is the one to beat. But what does he need to do to break out? What can he do tonight?

BORGER: Well, you know what he's trying to do? I think he's already -- we've seen it.

He's trying to break out on the China issue. One way he's distinguished himself, saying I'm for high tariffs. They're cheaters. They've got to pay. And Barack Obama is on the wrong side of that. We don't let people cheat.

It's very popular within the Republican Party, very popular out there in the country. There are lots of Democrats who actually agree with Mitt Romney on this. And I think that's the issue you're going to hearing a lot.

BURNETT: It would be disturbing to see him go for tariffs.

BORGER: Totally.

GERGEN: I don't think he breaks out by issues. I think he breaks out by finding a way to connect emotionally with the American people.

BORGER: Brings him to tears.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: But generally speaking yes, he's got -- listen -- he's very smart. He's a good manager. He has to convince people he's going to be an empathic leader, someone who understands them and will be on their side.

BURNETT: What do you think they should do or try to do?

FLEISCHER: No one is going to break out. The breakout event will be the Iowa caucuses. Whoever starts to win in Iowa and what you have now is math, eight people in the race, it's very hard for any one person to get above 30 percent, certainly 35 percent. So, 20 percent to 25 percent --

BORGER: No, it's hard for Mitt Romney to get above 25 percent.

FLEISCHER: It's hard for any of them. So, it will take the winnowing process which is what campaigning are all about.

BURNETT: Which leads me to the third question, how long -- how much longer are there going to be eight people.

BORGER: Iowa.

BURNETT: And then it goes down to what?

BORGER: Well, if Bachmann doesn't do well, I think, you know, she could leave the race. If Cain doesn't do well, I mean, it's all about money. And winning is what gets you money.

And if you don't win or come in a close second or third or in the top tier, you start losing your money.

GERGEN: But don't you think in effect some have already dropped out? Isn't there a first tier with Romney and with Gingrich and with Ron Paul?

BORGER: Well, what about Herman Cain? He's still up there?

GERGEN: Well, he's been slipping precipitously.

BORGER: He's been slipping. And I can see Ron Paul now to third party candidacy. FLEISCHER: I think you have half field dropped out after Iowa. I think Rick Perry's in the biggest trouble because he needs a big organization and he can't live off the land like some of the other ones can. By the time you get to South Carolina, which is January 21st, I think we're talking about a one on one race. Maybe Ron Paul is still sticking around. But Romney versus somebody heading into South Carolina.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all three of you. It's going to be a big night.

BORGER: Yes, very interesting.

BURNETT: All right. We're very excited and we're a few seconds away.

Wolf Blitzer is getting ready to take it away and put the questions to the eight candidates. The CNN national security debate starts right now.