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JOHN KING, USA

New Allegations Against Herman Cain; Interview With Newt Gingrich and South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott

Aired November 28, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: South Carolina votes third just 54 days from now and often settles Republican nomination battles. Leading Republican contender Newt Gingrich is on campus tonight and will join us shortly for his first television interview since picking up the coveted endorsement of New Hampshire's leading conservative voice.

But we begin tonight with breaking news of explosive new allegations against another presidential contender, Herman Cain. About an hour ago, Cain revealed to CNN that a woman is coming forward alleging she had an extended affair with him. He denies it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This individual will accuse me of an affair for an extended period of time. I don't want to specify because I don't know what is in the story. Secondly, it is someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Television station WAGA identifies Cain's accuser as an Atlanta businesswoman named Ginger White. She claims her affair with Cain lasted for 13 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGER WHITE, ALLEGES 13-YEAR AFFAIR WITH HERMAN CAIN: It wasn't complicated. And I was aware that he was married and I was also aware that I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, Cain denies having an affair. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Cain says the latest accusation won't force him out of the presidential race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But you're staying in this race?

You're not dropping out?

CAIN: I'm not dropping out of this race, no. As long as my wife is behind me, and as long as my wife believes that I should stay in this race, I'm staying in this race, because I am sick and tired of the hurt and harm that somebody out there is doing to my family, more so to me, with these baseless -- these baseless charges.

See, what this says is, is that somebody is awfully afraid that I'm doing too well in this Republican nomination to continue to dig up these stories to try and put a cloud and a damper on my campaign. We are going to stay focused on this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's discuss the impact on the Cain candidacy with CNN contributor Erick Erickson. He is the editor in chief of the conservative blog RedState.com. Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher is with us also. He is working for the Obama reelection campaign. Republican strategist CNN contributor Mary Matalin is with us and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

I want everyone to hang on just one second. I want first our viewers to hear a bit more. Some extended sound from Mr. Cain's interview a short time ago with our colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: They just said, you know, they -- they mentioned the name of the individual...

BLITZER: And you know this woman?

CAIN: And I do know who -- who she is. And they mentioned what the accusation is going to be. But until the story comes out, I'm not at liberty to respond to something, at this point.

Now, when the story breaks, through my attorney, Lin Wood, of Atlanta, Georgia, we will respond.

We chased all of these other rumors for two weeks before. And as it turned out, they were baseless.

Why?

Because they weren't able to come up with any documentation, any proof or anything that was credible.

And so we will address these when they come out. But at this point, I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I don't have anything to hide. And we will address every one of the details as we know them.

BLITZER: Well, tell us the nature of your relationship with this woman.

CAIN: Friend and trying to help a friend because not having a job, etc. And this sort of thing. That's all there is to the relationship.

And here again, I don't know what's going to be claimed in the story. It was someone who was supposed to be a friend, but, obviously, they didn't see it as a friendship.

BLITZER: And when you say friend, was it an a -- I mean I'm asking. These are awkward questions, but I will ask you the questions you're going to be asked.

Was this an affair?

CAIN: No, it was not.

BLITZER: There was no sex?

CAIN: No.

BLITZER: None?

CAIN: No.

BLITZER: And if this woman says there is, she's lying, is that what you're...

CAIN: Well, Wolf, let's see what the story is going to be. I don't want to get into, you know, being pinned down on some things until we see what the story is going to be.

BLITZER: Because -- but they basically gave you the outlines, this Atlanta television station...

CAIN: They gave my attorney the outline. And so I'm now speaking secondhand in terms of what I know about the story. When we know the story, we will respond.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Mary Matalin, to you first.

Herman Cain said it's not true. He also said he needs to know more specifically about what the woman he is alleging. As someone who knows the rough and tumble of campaign politics, how damaging is this to Herman Cain's candidacy which was already struggling a bit?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he didn't just say it wasn't true. He said it with emotion, although he was calm. He was very clear. He was definitive, he was demonstrative, he was calm. I don't know of any campaign that has ever survived such a moment like this and turned out to be bare-faced lying.

We all know what the one example is but that's the only one. And I don't think it can be repeated, mostly because of how you started the question. His campaign is already struggling. Newt Gingrich, whom you're with -- and you're in a very good place to evaluate how this will play out -- has ascendant and Cain has been static or descendent.

It certainly is distracting. But if it's a completely unfair assault, then who knows how people will respond in a fair-minded electorate. KING: Erick Erickson, to that point, I'm in South Carolina which votes third 54 days from now. This is a state that Herman Cain had hoped to do well in. If you talk to activists here, they say he was already struggling a bit. We have talked in recent weeks about the struggles of the Cain campaign on some of the issues in the debates. On some of the sexual harassment allegations, which he said were baseless.

Can a campaign that needs to be near perfect, because he is an outsider, because he doesn't have the infrastructure, survive something like this?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not sure whether it can. Whether it's fair or not, I'm not sure.

To his credit, though, listening to his conversation with Wolf, unlike the last time where they came out and they made their defense without knowing all the facts, at least this time they're going to wait for the facts. The problem though is that his lawyer has released the statement.

I just got a copy of it a few minutes ago and it says that this is not an accusation of an assault. This is a private alleged consensual conduct. This is outside the public's right to know, basically turning what the public views as Republican philosophy for the last 10, 15 years with Bill Clinton on its head, saying this was a private relationship. We will not comment and the public doesn't really have a right to know.

Now if there is nothing there, I think they want to come out and be very forceful with it, as Herman was, without this lawyer's statement that, well, this is a private matter.

KING: Gloria, to that point, Erick was reading from some of that statement and I will read a bit more of it.

Lin Wood said in that statement: "No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office of a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life." The attorney put out that statement. Then you heard Herman Cain saying to Wolf Blitzer that once he knew more, he would answer the questions.

So the candidate trying to respond on live television, I get the difficulty of that, but saying something that essentially contradicts a least what his attorney wants him to do.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

What Cain issued to Wolf was a blanket denial. What his attorney issued was a statement which essentially said this whatever it is should not be relevant to the companion because it's not a charge of harassment or assault. And he made the case that it is not something we ought to be talking about.

I would argue that the voters ought to decide what's relevant to their votes in the Iowa caucuses or in the South Carolina primary. But what you have got, and that was the most interesting thing to me was the different statements from Herman Cain denial vs. his attorney which essentially skirted the issue of whether this was true or false by saying, there is not an allegation here that Herman Cain broke the law by sexually harassing somebody who once worked for him.

KING: So, Cornell Belcher, you're the Democrat of the group so I'm not expecting you to defend Herman Cain, the Republican candidate. But a you watch this play out in this particular case, what goes through your mine?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: What goes through my independent is that you cannot run for the office of presidency and be naive. This is not a game.

We have people who are trained professionally to tear your life apart. The glare and the spotlight of running for presidency will burn your house down. And right now, Herman Cain's house is on fire.

KING: Herman Cain, house on fire.

Gloria, to that point, this has been a campaign that has reacted in different ways to the accusations, often criticizing the news media, harshly criticizing some of the accusers. They were hoping -- this was the week he was hoping to get back focusing much more on the economics as we get closer and closer, inside six weeks now to the first votes. Do they have a group together, a coherent group together to deal with this?

BORGER: I don't think so given what we just saw today and the way he handled the charges today and the way he -- his attorney handled them, which was completely different.

Look, I think the Herman Cain campaign has been on a downward trajectory. I think it's really not largely because of the sexual harassment charges. It is because of the way he did not answer the question on Barack Obama's Libya policy. It is because Republicans have decided maybe they don't like 999 because of the national sales tax.

Maybe some people believe he equivocated on the question of abortion. So I think that there are lots of other issues that play into this. I think the question of this will come down to who is telling the truth here. We don't know a lot about this woman at this point. We know that Herman Cain has unequivocally denied it. And at some point people will have to try and figure out whether he is telling the truth or she is telling the truth. And they may consider that to be relevant to their votes.

MATALIN: John, this is a relevant point.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I will ask everybody to stand by.

Go ahead, Mary. MATALIN: This is a relevant point to primary voters because they want a well-oiled team. And Lin Wood, we all know him as he great lawyer, but that doesn't mean he is a good political communicator.

He is saying -- his non-denial in our world is perceived as a confession. That doesn't mean it's true. It just means he is bad at politics.

BORGER: That's true.

KING: An interesting point, the difference between legal advice and political advice often can make a huge difference.

Much more on the explosive new allegations against Herman Cain in just a few moments ago.

Also, we're just a few moments away from an exclusive conversation with the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He is the surging Republican candidate at the moment, but there are a lot of questions about his candidacy as well. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Once again this hour's breaking news story, Herman Cain revealing to CNN, a woman is coming forward accusing him of having an extended extramarital affair with her.

Atlanta TV station WAGA identifies Cain's accuser as Ginger White, a businesswoman who claims her affair with Cain lasted for 13 years. Cain denies this affair but for now is not going into specifics and says he won't drop out of the presidential race. Let me bring you through some of the statements on this.

This first, this from Cain's attorney, Line Wood. He wrote -- quote -- "This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace. This is not an accusation of an assault which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate. Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private alleged consensual conduct between adults, a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office of a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life."

That statement from Lin Wood a short time ago, Cain's attorney. But Mr. Cain himself was a guest in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Not only did he deny this. He said that already he has talked about it with his wife, Gloria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: My wife's reaction was very similar to mine. Here we go again. And when I told her what little information that I knew about it, her response was the same as mine. And that was, here we go again. We will basically show, when the details become available, that I didn't do anything wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, the woman's making the accusation is an Atlanta businesswoman named Ginger White. Here's what she told station WAGA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITE: He made it very intriguing. It was fun. It was something that took me away from my sort of humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN contributor Erick Erickson, Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher, Republican CNN contributor Mary Matalin and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger still with us.

Erick Erickson, you live in this market where this is playing out. You know Herman Cain. He said/she said, but he said/she said at a very critical time of this campaign.

ERICKSON: It is.

You know, listening to this stuff, it makes wonder why anyone would ever want to run for office, the stuff that comes out. You have got to make sure your ducks are in a row. And largely, I think a lot of people -- not Herman himself. Herman really got into this thinking he could make a difference and he could win. But I think a lot of the people who are surrounded with Herman, they never really thought that he could be president but they could probably get something out of it.

And so the campaign team wasn't really in it to win it, so to speak. And to Gloria's point earlier, this is coming at a time when he is going down in the polls, not because of these other accusations. If anything they make him more sympathetic to a number of people who feel like he's attacked.

They to a degree inoculate Newt Gingrich against a lot of the attacks that may come with way with a there they go again attitude. But he was already going down and now it will be very difficult for him to get back on message to try to rebound. I'm not sure in the next five, six weeks, he will be able to rebound enough.

KING: So, Mary Matalin, if you're a campaign and you're dealing with this, the question is what do you do tonight and tomorrow?

MATALIN: Well, Cornell -- and people have done campaigns -- we were talking about this.

We want to beat Obama. We're willing to take a not perfect conservative for a good campaign. This is demonstrative of a not very good campaign. It's that either the lawyer wasn't vetted or the lawyer is not a good communicator or Herman Cain just does his own thing. Not relative to the actual charges, the handling of this will be just get as important and relevant to primary goers. He has to get up tomorrow and do what he said he was going to do. Quit talking about it, but get back on message somehow. It is not an easy task he set up for himself.

KING: So, Cornell Belcher, Herman Cain to his credit out doing interviews today knowing this was coming. If he's your candidate, do you tell him go into the bunker until we know more or do you have him out there on live television saying something that ends up being a direct contradiction of what his lawyer wants him to say?

BELCHER: Well, first of all, we were kind of scratching our heads in the studio, why is he in these odd places doing interviews as opposed to being in South Carolina and Iowa and New Hampshire if he is running a real campaign?

Look, in the end, it is -- there is too much smoke for there not to be fire. In the end, for better or worse, us guys, women are the majority of the electorate here. Whether you're a conservative woman or a liberal woman, you're looking at all this. If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, at some point a woman says there's way too much smoke and in the end, women pick who our presidents will be not us men. And I think this is too damaging for him right now with women voters, whether you're a conservative or a liberal woman.

BORGER: John, to that point already, if you look at the polls among Republicans, he wasn't doing very well with women. This kind of allegation on top of the allegations of sexual harassment is certainly not going to help him at the very least.

And it is a campaign, as you point out, that is already headed in the wrong direct. And Republicans want someone who can beat Barack Obama. If they have to keep every day waking up to new stories about Herman Cain, no matter how sympathetic they may be to Herman Cain personally, no matter how much they may like him, at a certain point, they're going to say, you know what? We don't want to be surprised in the general election with more stories about a candidate. We need somebody that we actually think can win.

ERICKSON: Can I just say that Mitt Romney is the luckiest man on the planet?

(LAUGHTER)

ERICKSON: All of these guys just keep imploding. Their campaigns implode. And Romney just holds steady at like 22 to 25 percent. You have got the two luckiest men in the world going into a general, Barack Obama, who can't apparently get a Republican who can beat him, and Mitt Romney, who sees everybody else around him implode.

Man, they're lucky. They need to play lottery numbers.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Mary Matalin, he sounded quite defiant in his conversation with Wolf, Mr. Cain sounded quite defiant that he is staying in this race until he said, unless his wife tells him I have had enough, I have had enough.

Do you expect Mr. Cain to still be actively campaigning? He obviously can't take his name off the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire. But do you expect him to stay in and try to fight this out?

MATALIN: There is no reason to get out now. It is not clear that Iowa or New Hampshire will be dispositive. I think South Carolina will be more telltale than the first two states.

We're in a completely different calendar this time. But I have never seen a campaign that could behave this poorly -- I'm just setting aside the issue -- relative to what we know is coming at us, as Cornell keeps saying, a fire, fire, burn down our house, there's smoke, there's fire, they're carpet-bombing us.

We want to see a good campaign. We need to see a campaign that can respond to this stuff separate from whatever the charges and the surprise and all that is. We're not seeing it now.

KING: So, Mary, if you were advising him, what should he do tomorrow?

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Get out.

MATALIN: No. He shouldn't get out. For his family's sake, if nothing else, he should get with his lawyer and say I'm the only one that is putting out statements here.

There should be one voice. It's either the lawyer or it's him. There's one message, whoever is delivering it. And there is immediate pivot to 999 or Uzbekistan or whatever it is. I would say the economic message. Pivot to message and have one definitive thing, statement on this, and don't go after the women or think about the motivations.

Although anybody who says 13 years -- affair is an uncomplicated and simple thing makes me question her as a woman. But he should stay out of all that. He has a tendency to answer questions he doesn't need to. It's a lesson he needs to learn, I thought he already did learn actually.

KING: Mary Matalin, Gloria Borger, Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, appreciate your time.

When we come back, we're live in South Carolina tonight because the Republican candidate who is at the moment surging in the race, Newt Gingrich, is here making an important appeal in this conservative state to the Tea Party activists.

Newt Gingrich and Republican Congressman Tim Scott just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Newt Gingrich is here in South Carolina tonight looking to bolster his standing in the state that brags it tends to settle Republican presidential nominating contests.

It's a heady time for the former House speaker. He skyrocketed to the top of national and key state polling. This weekend, he also picked up the covet endorsement of "The New Hampshire Union Leader," the state's leading conservative editorial voice.

It is clear he's trying to leverage the buzz, here in South Carolina today, tougher criticism of the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and a clear effort to consolidate the anyone-but-Romney vote. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I'm the one candidate who can bring together national security conservatives and economic conservatives and social conservatives in order to make sure we have a conservative nominee.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Now, here at the College of Charleston, the former House speaker will make his case at a town hall organized by Congressman Tim Scott, a local Tea Party favorite who has emerged as a leader in the freshman class that returned Republicans to the House majority. That town hall in a few moments.

First, though, Speaker Gingrich, Congressman Scott here to talk politics with us.

Gentlemen, welcome.

I want to get to the specifics of this campaign. But tonight a woman in Atlanta is accusing Herman Cain, one of your rivals, of a 13- year extramarital affair. Relevant issue, not a relevant issue?

GINGRICH: It's something that Mr. Cain will have to settle with the country and talk to the country about. It is sad to see that level of pain brought out, but I think he is going to have to deal with it.

KING: It comes at a time when many people have questioned the viability of his candidacy, someone who skyrocketed in the polls, has tended to go down of late. What is the buzz about Herman Cain in your state right now?

REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the challenges are real. We have seen a lot of folks trying to second-guess themselves, trying to find a new candidate. And I think we may have the newest candidate to my right.

KING: The newest candidate is right here. He's to your right.

Is that where you want to be, to his right?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let's talk about that, because as you have skyrocketed in the polls, you know what comes with that. You get the kick-me sign. And your rivals are picking issues. One of them is what you call the humane position on immigration, that you're not going to round up and kick whatever it's 10 or 11 million people who are in this country illegally, you're not going to round them up and kick them out.

Congresswoman Bachmann, one of your rivals, says you are the most liberal candidate in the Republican field on immigration. One of the things she cites is this letter you wrote back in 2004 trying to help President George W. Bush push his policy through, where you say, "Keeping an open door to those with the will and the heart to get here is vital to our economy, our culture, our role in the world, and our historic tradition has led to freedom and opportunity."

Are you the most liberal Republican candidate for president on the immigration issue?

GINGRICH: I have no idea. I think I'm the most commonsense. My position is that we should control the border.

I'm prepared to guarantee control by January 1 of 2014. We should have English as the official language of government. We should have an easier process of deporting those that should not be here. We should also have easier visa program for those who want to come here legally to be guests, to be visitors, to go to school, to do business.

I do think that with a guest worker program probably outsourced to American Express, Visa or MasterCard, so it would actually work, and there should be much steeper penalties for employees who hire people illegally.

What I did say the other night was when you get done with all that, we need to have something like a World War II selective service board, where local citizens would review and certify people who have been here 25 years, who have been obeying the law, paying taxes, might have two or three kids, a couple grandkids, be a member of your local church.

I can't imagine that America is going to send police in to tear somebody out of a family in a community in that kind of setting. And so I want to get to a commonsense solution. No citizenship. No right to vote, but end the illegality for people who have been here a very long time.

For those who have been here a short time, they should go home. They should start over.

KING: Now, to many, that sounds perfectly reasonable.

But you know, Congressman, if you go some Tea Party rallies, some Tea Party event, anything that allows somebody who broke the law to get here to stay, they call amnesty. Is his position going to be a tough sell?

SCOTT: I think it is going to be more difficult here than it is in other places in the nation, without any question. We are simply a very strong anti-illegal-immigration state. And we will stay that way. You don't have to find the perfect candidate, however. What we need is someone who can beat President Obama and someone who makes sense, and that can bring our base together. We need to be able to attract independent voters at the same time.

So his immigration stand will not be the same as mine. But that's OK. We have to find the common ground that moves this nation forward. With 10.5 percent unemployment in South Carolina, that's the problem that we're focused on.

KING: Another -- there was the "Washington Post" story over the weekend. Your finances. When you left the speakership and you left Congress, you set up a number -- a publishing house, a consulting firm and the like.

And "The Washington Post" did a story, says it took in something like $100 million. I will call it Newt, Inc. And we can show our viewers at home -- you can't see it here -- Gingrich Productions, Gingrich Communications, the American Solutions PAC, the Americano targeting Latinos, the Gingrich Group, the Center for Health Transformation, Renewing American Leadership, American Solutions, all businesses, all things that you...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Sure.

KING: You have every right in a capitalist society to go out and make money. However, your opponents are going after that. Tea Party supporter of Congresswoman Bachmann in this state today said this: "Unlike Newt Gingrich and some of the other candidates, Congresswoman Bachmann hasn't played the Washington insider games to pad her own pocket." How would you respond to that?

GINGRICH: Well, I would say, as you said. I was a private citizen. I was out of government. I did what I think Republicans and conservatives believe in. I started businesses. I hired people. I created jobs. In the process we served a wide range of people. I had...

KING: An easier time doing that than John Q. Public, because you were Speaker Newt Gingrich.

GINGRICH: Sure. And then I was relevantly famous. But for example, I had 13 "New York Times" best sellers. Now, you would normally think that's a real achievement. Callista and I have done seven documentaries, several of which of have been very successful. They weren't successful because lobbyists bought them. They weren't successful because of insider deals. They're successful because they're good documentaries.

Callista just did a new -- a new book for children call "Sweet Land of Liberty." It became a "New York Times" best seller. Now, that's not insiderdom. That's old-fashioned, American hard work, doing something that I think Republicans and Tea Partiers believe in, which is the work ethic to create businesses, to create jobs. You know, it's the other team, the left, that is opposed to being successful. It's not Republicans.

KING: Can Congresswoman Bachmann make that case, though, that this guy is no outsider?

REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Listen, I think anyone can try to make any case they really want to make. The question really is can this guy lead us into the promised land? We are used to, we've enjoyed for a long time, less than 7 percent unemployment. The question is, will he lead us back there?

He was the first speaker of the House for a Republican after 40 years, four decades of a war on poverty that failed miserably. If this guy is the ideas guy that he has always been, I think we may be in the right place.

KING: You have said -- and you're getting tougher of late -- that Governor Romney is inconsistent. My term. Not yours. Inconsistent on some issues. One of the issues where you have had a change of heart is the individual mandate. I want you to listen. This is Newt Gingrich on "Meet the Press" back in early 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: All of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently, we ought to have some requirement, either to have health insurance or you post a bond.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Would a President Gingrich have an individual mandate or encourage states to have an individual mandate?

GINGRICH: One of the places where I wasn't very clever -- Mitt raised this issue in one of our debates. If I would have been clever, I would turn and say, "I've admitted I was wrong. I've learned, and I've changed my mind. Why haven't you?"

KING: Couldn't he say that on some of the issues where he's had a change of heart where people have criticized him?

GINGRICH: Sure. I think...

KING: Why is it OK for you to say, "I was wrong. I had a change of heart," but that his rivals would say, "Well, that's a flip-flop"?

GINGRICH: I think part of the difference is the scale. And if you run to the left of Teddy Kennedy, it's a little trickier than trying to run to the right of Newt Gingrich.

Part of it is the way he did some of it. But I also think it's legitimate. The question is, how -- first of all, if you've been active as long as I have and you haven't changed in some things, you must be impervious to new information and new knowledge. I mean, there's a certain amount of growth that's inevitable. And people will look at new circumstances and new situations.

But I had over my entire career, a 90 percent voting record in the American conservative union. I don't think anybody thought of me as anything less than a solid conservative. I campaigned with Reagan in 1979, 1980. Helped with that majority in the early '80. I think the Contract with America speaks for itself.

The clear difference. And I want to be clear. Mitt Romney is a terrific person. Callista and I are very fond of him. I think he is a good manager.

KING: Can he beat Barack Obama?

GINGRICH: I think he can probably beat Barack Obama. I think both of us can beat Barack Obama. The question is, who do you want?

KING: He's stronger in South Carolina, Romney or Gingrich?

SCOTT: Today, I'd say Newt is stronger than Romney. The question really is how -- how do we divide the conservative base? Do we divide it so much that it makes it more difficult for Newt?

At the end of the day we'd love to see Romney spend more time in South Carolina. But I believe that today, if you were to hold the election, those are the two guys that would be at the top of the ticket. I think Newt would win, today.

KING: Listen to the speaker's appeal to your voters in just moments in town hall.

SCOTT: There will (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Fifty-four days to the South Carolina primary. Iowa first. Mr. Speaker, Congressman, thanks for your time. Appreciate that.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

KING: When we come back, Black Friday and Cyber Monday add up to a happy holiday season start for the nation's retailers. Stay with us. We've got economic (ph) numbers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We get back to our breaking news story. An Atlanta businesswoman claiming she had a 13-year affair with Herman Cain. Her attorney joins us now on the telephone now. Mr. Edward Buckley.

Mr. Buckley, thank you for your time tonight. Let me ask you quite simply this question first. Why did Ginger White decide to go public with this allegation?

EDWARD BUCKLEY, ATTORNEY FOR GINGER WHITE (via phone): Mr. King, there were a number of media, news media, and I suppose information media who were calling Miss White and contacting her and asking her to tell her story and posing questions to her. And she decided to -- rather than have other people characterize or mischaracterize what happened, that she would -- she would take the opportunity to go ahead and set the record straight and hopefully be done with it, though that doesn't appear to be the case.

KING: Comes at a sensitive time.

BUCKLEY: Excuse me?

KING: I'm sorry for interrupting you, sir. A telephone connection. I apologize. I apologize for interrupting. It's a sensitive moment in the campaign and some will say -- some will suggest, especially Mr. Cain's supporters will suggest, she must have more political motive or some financial motive. Can you assure us that neither of those is true?

BUCKLEY: I don't think either of those is true, and there certainly has been no discussion of that. And I candidly think it's not in her financial interests to do this. I'm concerned about whether or not she'll be able to keep her job.

KING: Mr. Cain told my colleague Wolf Blitzer he thought of this woman as a friend. What was the nature of their relationship?

BUCKLEY: Well, Mr. King, I don't know that, since I wasn't there, it's appropriate for me to characterize their relationship. I'm sure you've seen the broadcast that was on the news earlier today. And I think that's probably -- that's certainly the characterization that Ginger has made. And I imagine that some of that was friendship, certainly.

KING: I just want to come back to where we started. You say news media and information media. Were these all people in my business who had heard rumors about her or the like who came and inquired for her, or were any of them affiliated with other campaigns?

BUCKLEY: There were -- there were people in various news outlets in your business, yes, sir, who started calling her last week, and she would get sometimes eight calls a day from one media outlet. And, you know, became concerned about what she should do. So this is -- this is what she did. Yes.

KING: Edward Buckley is the attorney for the Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White. Mr. Buckley, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much, sir.

Up next here, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Are they enough to turn the economy around? Or at least make you more optimistic heading into the holiday season? That outlook coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight's "Number," $1.2 billion, but we concede it's only a guess. One point two billion dollars is how much the experts predict Americans will spend online today. Wow. It's Cyber Monday, the high-tech follow-up to Black Friday and the start of the Christmas and holiday shopping season.

One point two billion dollars would be a Cyber Monday record. But it's just a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $52.5 billion -- $52.5 billion -- U.S. consumers spent from Thursday to Sunday this year. Despite the sluggish economy, that's a record, as well.

But economists caution a big start doesn't always guarantee a robust holiday season. And they're afraid that may be -- may be -- the case this year.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour. Erin is here to give us her take on the start of the holiday shopping season. And that is the fear, right Erin. With all these bargains, everybody gets in early, spends early, and then pulls back. The markets sure liked it today.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: The markets sure did. I mean, nearly 300 points higher, and really, that was the reason, John. There's been so much doom and gloom. And you know, a lot of the punditry out there has been saying we'll have a double-dip recession. And even though a lot of the business executives around the country didn't see it coming, it still surprised the markets when we saw this strength.

And when you give those numbers for what we saw over the weekend, the $52 billion, it's 16 percent higher than it was a year ago. It is a big jump.

The big question to your point is going to be whether a lot of that was just people who said: "Hey, look. Things are cheap. Things are on sale. I get it on that first week. I'm going to front load my spending so the overall season might not end up being as strong or whether it is a sign of strength. It was nearly $400 on average spent this weekend, which is a big total.

So it could show more strength than people think. And on the same day that we found out that debt in America for the average American household has dropped a little bit, which is another good sign. So that all contributed to a positive day.

KING: A positive day there. And I don't know what to call this. A mixed result, I guess. The Fitch, the bond rating agency, the credit rating agency says it will keep the United States credit rating at AAA, but it revised its downlook to negative, suggesting that over the course of the next year or two, it does expected the U.S. outlook to go down. And maybe we would get a downgrade. But how will that factor in?

BURNETT: It's important, John. And we were expecting this to come. There are three major credit rating agencies, as you know. Standard and Poor's, which downgraded the U.S.; Moody's, which is in sort of a battle with S&P's, so kind of isn't going to do so, because that's what he did. And Fitch, the third one. They came out and basically downgraded the outlook. Not yet the rating. But they said that means there's a more than 50 percent chance that they will cut the rating.

Their estimates, even in a middle-term scenario, John -- I'm actually looking at a report right now -- show that we're going to be spending 20 percent of the tax revenue of this country -- 20 percent on interest expense on our debt alone within the next eight years. So it's a pretty grim forecast.

And obviously, the combination of economic growth, which would do a whole lot to eliminate borrowing, combined with serious cuts in our debt itself, whether that comes through spending or tax revenues, is going to be a big part of it. But that's what they're saying. Twenty percent of our tax dollars, one in five, going to go to paying interest. That's pretty grim.

KING: That is pretty grim. Erin Burnett, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

BURNETT: Sorry to end on that note, John. We'll try to be more optimistic.

KING: South Carolina, both of them -- It is a little grim-ed up. That's why I'm going to be a little optimistic here. I had lunch today with some voters in South Carolina. Both of the two I talked to said they're more optimistic this holiday season than last holiday season. So we'll see how that plays out.

When we come back, Egyptians flock to the polls in the first free elections in more than a generation. Will it be a gain for democracy or for Islamist forces? Fareed Zakaria with us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Across the Middle East today, a remarkable contrast. After casting off a dictator earlier this year, the Egyptians today voted in the country's first free elections in more than a generation.

Contrast these hopeful images with the latest pictures out of Syria. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad organized a pro- government rally. Officials called the Arab League, quote, "deluded" for imposing economic sanctions designed to end months of oppression, violence, and Syria's refusal to adopt democratic reforms.

Let's get some perspective now from Fareed Zakaria of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." He joins us from New York.

Fareed, let's begin in Egypt. You were there several months back at the beginning of this transition. What does it mean to have this country that has the educational, the intellectual cradle of the Arab world having this historic vote?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It is incredibly important. You remember these are the third elections now that have taken place. You had them in Tunisia. You had them in Morocco. But now you have them in Egypt.

But Egypt is the heart of the Arab world, as you described. You know, you go anywhere in the Arab world, the songs they sing are Egyptian songs. The sit-coms they watch are Egyptian. The movies they see are Egyptian movies. And the political trends that come -- that come to take over the Arab world are Egyptian. So that even if you think about the two great political trends that have come out of the Arab world in the last 40 years have been Arab nationalism, and Islamic fundamentalism. And both started in Egypt.

So it's not too much to say that, if Egypt is able to successfully navigate its democratic experience, this too could be a political trend that courses through the Arab world.

KING: And I spoke just moments ago to one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And he says the United States should not worry at all, that the United States should celebrate this democracy.

Egypt has been so important to U.S. relations in the region, U.S. policy in the region. Should the U.S. administration, this one and the next one, be at all worried?

ZAKARIA: Yes, it should be worried. And I think that the gentleman from the Muslim Brotherhood would be -- would not be honest if he didn't admit a lot of Egyptians are worried. A lot of Egyptians I talk to from all walks of life are worried about the Muslim Brotherhood.

It doesn't mean that they will are necessarily bad or evil or that they will pose problems for Egypt's democratic experience. But they will to do tend to send some mixed signals. And it is very important for them in the next year or two to realize that they really are on trial here in a way that is much larger than -- than about themselves.

So, we should be worried, but we shouldn't jump to conclusions. This is a group that has -- that has denounced violence for 30 years now. It has very actively participated in the -- whatever democratic processes were there. It has worked with other parties. So there are good signs.

But you know, we have to make sure that this is a -- this is a party that will respect minority rights, respect the religious rights of others, respect in particular the rights of Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of the population. And the proof will be in their actions, not just in them telling you that we shouldn't worry.

KING: And another institution we're watching is the Egyptian military. which of course, has seen by the tens of thousands of protesters back at Tahrir Square, who are protesting what they believe is foot dragging by the military, what they believe is a heavy hand still. Violence committed by the military regime. Is the military regime ready to step back? It was prominent under the Mubarak dictatorship. Is it ready to step back and yield power to a new civilian government?

ZAKARIA: I hope it is, because if it isn't, this will be a very messy situation. I think the Egyptian military thought they could reshuffle the deck and get rid of Mubarak but maintain all their extraordinary powers and privileges. I think that most Egyptians seem to understand that is simply dictatorship under a different name.

It seems to me Egypt has two choices, and the military faces these choices. It can either go down the path that Turkey has gone down over the last 20 years, which is one in which there has been increasing democratization of the society and of the government, and that has meant, crucially, civilian control of the military. The military is a very important part of Turkey, but the civilians are ultimately in charge.

Or it can become Pakistan, a country in which the military really runs everything, the civilian government is dysfunctional. The whole place is always in danger of teetering on the brink of a certain kind of collapse. And you can see Turkey as a successful functioning modern state becoming an emerging market giant, and Pakistan as a basket case economy.

So I hope the Egyptian military understands that, by clinging onto their own little powers and privileges, they're risking the success of this extraordinary and extraordinarily hopeful situation for Egypt.

KING: And as we watch Egypt and we have some hope that it will, as you put it, follow the path of Turkey, not Pakistan, we also see quite a contrast in Syria, the Arab League announcing new sanctions, trying to get the regime of Bashar al-Assad to stop the crackdown, to institute some democratic reforms. But the regime is pushing back. Listen here to Syria's foreign minister essentially telling the Arab League, "Go away."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALID MOALLEM, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): If you think you can undermine the Syrian regime, you are deluded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the regime pushing back against the Arab League. Where does this one head? Is there a Libya-like solution to Syria, led by the Arab League, or do we just have to watch this one play out?

ZAKARIA: I have -- I have for a long time thought that the Syrians would manage to cling to power because they are being just so goddamn brutal in the way that they are handling things. They're being very tough on their people. They're slaughtering them in the streets.

And one of the things we've seen through history is, if a government is willing to be really brutal, really open machine-gun fire on men, women and children, crowds tend to disperse. And that has been the key to their success so far, nothing other than sheer brutality and force.

But I think that they are running out of money. More than anything else what is apparent is that the Syrian regime is running out of money. They face a very fragmented opposition. It is not the way it was in Libya, geographically concentrated. Remember, Libya had this advantage that there were two halves of the country, and the rebels were able to take control of Benghazi and turn that into a base and then NATO was able to provide air cover.

None of that applies in Syria. The opposition is fragmented. But the government doesn't have oil money. It doesn't have, as far as one can tell, any money other than what the Iranians give it and perhaps a little bit from here and there in terms of world trade. So if they will run out of money, this minority regime, the Alawites, will not be able to bribe enough generals, enough colonels, enough army officers to continue to shoot its own people.

I don't think it's going to happen in the next few weeks. But the more I look at it, the more I get the sense this is a regime where the money is running out. And that means that, at the end of the day, its ability as a minority regime, the Alawites are 10 percent of Syria. For this minority to stay in power, they just don't have enough walking around money as they sometimes call it in the United States.

KING: Fareed Zakaria, as always, thank you.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure, John.

KING: That's all from us tonight. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.