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JOHN KING, USA

Supreme Court to Tackle Immigration; Gingrich Surges in Iowa; Interview With Rep. Keith Ellison; Interview with Rep. Jason Chaffetz

Aired December 12, 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: Good evening, everyone. I'm John King.

And we're reporting live tonight from the River Music Experience in Davenport, Iowa, beginning a weeklong visit to the state that in just 22 days casts the first official votes of the 2012 presidential campaign.

New polling out tonight confirms the Newt Gingrich surge here in Iowa. And the former House speaker's appeal was also evident at a lunchtime conversation with three Republican voters here today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE WHALEN, IOWA VOTER: Obviously, if you could have a cloning machine, and you could put the passion of Herman Cain with the policies of Newt Gingrich and the steadfastness and the president thing of Romney, you would have the perfect candidate...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: If only it worked that way, huh?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Much more on the Iowa stakes and the state of play here in just a moment.

But, first, as always, we begin the news you need to know right now. We will shift up to New Hampshire, where the campaign is in full swing there as well. Newt Gingrich just wrapped up a debate with the former Governor Jon Huntsman. But it seems the real sparring today was between Speaker Gingrich and the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney threw the first punch saying on TV this morning that Gingrich should return the nearly $2 million in fees paid to him by Freddie Mac.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things that I think people recognize in Washington is that people go there to serve the people and then they stay there to serve themselves.

QUESTION: Do you believe they should give that money back?

ROMNEY: Oh, I sure do. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: From the former speaker, this counterpunch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Governor Romney would like to give back all of the money he has earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, then I would be glad to then listen to him. And I bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won't take the offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And responding to characterizations by the Gingrich camp that going negative is a sign of desperation, Governor Romney added this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We are not running any negative ads at that point, but we may. This is after all politics. There is no whining in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Get that? There's no whining in politics.

Let's bring in Jim Acosta now. He's in Manchester, New Hampshire, site of the Gingrich-Huntsman debate.

Jim, take us to that moment first. The old Lincoln-Douglas-style debate. Governor Huntsman is struggling. Speaker Gingrich at the top. What was the highlight?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think you put it right just a few moments ago. This was really a sideshow between the fight that was going on between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich earlier today. But it did get interesting at times.

Newt Gingrich at one point advocated regime change for Iran during this debate. Governor Huntsman would not go that far, saying only that all options should be on the table. But this was less Lincoln-Douglas and more of a love fest. It got so mind-numbing at one point that Jon Huntsman quipped on stage one of his own daughters was nodding off in the audience. And then Newt Gingrich chimed in, well, just to be fair, she was nodding off when I was speaking.

So this was really more of a gentleman's, I guess, discussion than a debate, I would say.

KING: And, so, Jim, take us inside the Gingrich-Romney feuding. Governor Romney for months has led in the state. He has a vacation home there. He was governor of the neighboring state of Massachusetts. Gingrich has closed the lead dramatically. Does the Gingrich camp think it can actually catch Romney in New Hampshire as much as everywhere else? ACOSTA: They do. In fact, they're going to pull out the heavy artillery here in the next couple weeks. I confirmed with a Gingrich spokesman, R.C. Hammond, earlier today that the Gingrich campaign will borrow a page from the John McCain playbook. You will recall, it went pretty well here in New Hampshire.

They will launch a Straight Talk Express-like bus tour in the early voting states, didn't offer whole a lot of details and didn't say whether or not it would come to New Hampshire. But suffice to say that R.C. Hammond was saying earlier today that they're already starting to look at which way the seats should face inside the bus and how much time Speaker Gingrich would get talking to reporters.

This is very much like what John McCain did back four years ago. He spent a lot of time in that bus, crisscrossing the state talking to reporters. It's a contrast the Gingrich campaign likes to put out there. He is talking to reporters. Mitt Romney at least in recent weeks has been more standoffish with the press -- John.

KING: And Governor Romney is starting to come see us more a little bit, Jim, because of that. Jim Acosta tonight in Manchester, New Hampshire, 29 days until New Hampshire votes, 22 days until Iowa kicks it off, where I am tonight. Jim, thanks. We will see you soon.

Should states have the individual authority to enforce immigration matters? The Supreme Court said today, it intends to take on that controversial topic. At question in this case, whether Arizona can enforce its immigration laws, over the strong objections from the White House. Federal courts have already blocked key parts of the law but Arizona argues illegal immigration creates a financial hardship and safety concerns for its residents.

The Obama administration counter that immigration issues are under the exclusive authority of the federal government, that Arizona's interference as the administration calls it only makes things worse.

Joining us to help sort it all out, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, the Arizona case has generated a lot of national controversy. A handful of other states have copies. Other states are debating it.

What is the key question now before the justices?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is really one of the oldest issues in front of the Supreme Court. What powers belong to the states and what powers belong to the federal government?

The Supreme Court has been dealing with that issue in various forms since the 18th century. In this issue, in this case, you have the issue of immigration at the heart of it, which is both politically and legally fraught. And as you pointed out, many states have used the Arizona law as a model. And if states get the green light in this case, we can look forward to a lot more laws restricting what immigrants can do in a state and also allowing law enforcement more powers to stop, detain and perhaps even expel illegal immigrants.

KING: Is just the fact that the high court took the case, is that a setback to the administration? Or does the administration as much as Arizona need these questions answered?

TOOBIN: I think this is one reason why we have a Supreme Court. There are so many laws like this now. The court really does have to sort out the law. I think the politics of this are really fascinating, because I think with swing voters, most of those voters are generally supportive of these sorts of laws.

But Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly against these laws. And as you have reported many times, the Obama administration is making a real push in states like Arizona, Colorado, to embrace and support Hispanic voters. And they are going to have a very high-profile support from the Obama administration in this case. So I think the politics are not entirely clear in terms of who is helped in these cases.

KING: We will watch this case before the court. Jeff Toobin, thank you. A decision likely in the middle of next year's presidential election. So we will keep our eye on this one. Jeff, thanks.

A somber moment today at one of the nation's most sacred sites. President Obama and the Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, that to pay respects to the nearly 4,500 U.S. troops killed in the eight-year conflict.

Earlier, the two leaders held a joint news conference to declare the war formally over now that all U.S. troops are scheduled to come home, that all done by this month. But there was an uncomfortable moment for the president.

For more, let's go to CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

And, Dan, that uncomfortable moment, the president reminded of something he said much earlier in his political career. Take us inside.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

He was then state Senator Obama of the state of Illinois. It was back in 2002. And he was making some remarks at an anti-war rally. He was criticizing the planned invasion of Iraq by saying -- quote -- "What I do oppose is a dumb war."

A reporter today asked the president if on this occasion, as the administration was marking the end of the war in Iraq, if the president still felt that it was a dumb war. The president saying that he would leave it up to history to decide whether or not it was -- the original decision to go in was the right decision. But he did add that because of the sacrifice of not only the military, but also civilians, that a lot of progress had been made in Iraq and that that country has enormous potential.

KING: And one of the big questions now is how does this relationship continue and in what fashion does it continue once the U.S. troops are out? I understand the subject of continuing some military-to-military relationship, including weapons sales -- what happened there?

LOTHIAN: That's right. What we won't see are boots on the ground there once the remaining few thousand troops pull out at the end of the year.

But what we did hear at the news conference today is discussion of a sale of additional F-16 fighter jets to Iraq. And later, national security spokesman Tommy Vietor told us that the administration today had notified Congress of interest to sell an additional 18 F-16s to Iraq.

As you know, a lot of Iraq's airpower was destroyed during the war that lasted almost nine years. Vietor pointing out that this shows, this decision of asking for this -- Congress for the sale of these F-16s, shows that Iraq is in a good position to carry out its own security. But as you know, there are a lot of questions still about whether or not Iraq indeed can handle its own security once U.S. troops do leave that country for good.

Today, Prime Minister al-Maliki saying they're saying.

KING: Dan Lothian live at the White House -- Dan, thank you so much.

Iran, more specifically, that downed U.S. intelligence drone, also on the president's mind today. President Obama has asked Iran formally to return the drone which Iranian TV claims is seen in these pictures right here. In addition to the propaganda victory, Iran is also claiming it is already gathering intelligence from that craft. Iran says it has no plans to give it back.

A shocking figure from the United Nations tonight about Syria. It says more than 5,000 people have now been killed in the months-long uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad. And in the city of Homs, it appears a clock is ticking. Opposition leaders say the city is surrounded by forces loyal to President Assad, that an all- assault is imminent, and that rivers of blood will run in the streets. They say electricity and water have been cut off. Food and medicine are scarce.

The latest now from CNN's Jim Clancy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, in the embattled city of Homs, Syria, people are on edge and they have good reason to be.

The city is surrounded and they are facing a deadline to lay down their arms and hand over defectors or members of the so-called free Syria army. They have no intention of doing that. And it looks like a showdown is looming. We talked to Homs a short time ago. Listen to what one of the leaders of the opposition has to say.

ABU FARIS, OPPOSITION LEADER: The gunfire started from the early morning. There are a lot of tanks inside the city. But security forces and the (INAUDIBLE) army is still surrounding Homs. And we don't know when they will attack the city. So people expect the possible attack at any moment. But we don't know when.

CLANCY: John, Abu Fairs also told me that they couldn't leave the city even if they wanted. Militiamen have set up checkpoints around that city and he said the freedom of movement has been limited. They are hoping that they can stand up against all of this. They say they're still optimistic, but they are predicting a very bloody showdown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Jim Clancy monitoring the latest in Syria from Beirut. We promise we will keep a close eye on that as it plays out.

Still to come here, Lowe's bows to conservative pressure and pull its ads from a show documenting Muslims living in the United States. We will talk to the organization that pushed for the move and a Muslim member of Congress who now wants to punish Lowe's.

And next, inside the Iowa campaign, including a unique look at how this weekend's debate was scored in the Twitterverse.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Looking at live pictures. We're in Davenport, Iowa, tonight. This is the River Music Experience right in downtown Davenport in the southeastern corner of Iowa. We're here all week long.

We will cross this state because 22 nights from tonight Iowa kicks off officially the 2012 presidential campaign. This is Scott County, where Davenport is tonight. Let's get a sense of the Republican campaign here in Iowa and how Democrats are feeling about the state.

Remember, this has been a swing state in presidential politics. President Obama carried it easily in 2008, but many Republicans here think it will be very much in play come next fall.

So let's talk with Karl Rhomberg. He's the former Scott County Democratic chairman. Steve Grubbs, a veteran Iowa Republican activist and the former Cain Iowa campaign chairman. And Judy Davidson is the Republican county chairwoman right here in Scott County.

I want to first focus on where we are today as you watch this Republican race play out. You had a big debate over the weekend. There's one more, essentially three weeks away from the vote. ARG comes out with a new poll tonight and it confirms Gingrich is leading right now. The ARG numbers, 22 percent for Gingrich, 17 percent for Ron Paul, 17 percent for Mitt Romney, 13 percent for Governor Rick Perry.

Let's start. This is your county. Is there one candidate that you feel has upward momentum? Those Perry numbers are up a little bit. Is there a bit of a surge happening here?

JUDY DAVIDSON, SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: No. I don't think so. I think Scott County voters are still deciding. They're very educated voters. They take this responsibility very seriously. They will not base their decisions based on poll numbers, but on what the merits and the accomplishments are each candidate.

I was just talking several people over the weekend who are still undecided. And I think there will be a good percentage of people that show up on caucus night that will still be undecided.

KING: I want to show, Steve, as we bring you into the conversation, you lost your candidate, Herman Cain. I want your sense of the race, but I want to show -- your company did an analysis of some of the tweets after the debate Saturday night.

If you show the entire pie chart, you can see that in terms of the share of the conversation in the Twitterverse, Gingrich and Romney were discussed the most. Then if you look at the positive and negatives, a lot of negatives for Gingrich and Romney. Is that their critics taking after them? Can you read anything into that? Or is that just when you have a debate, things get loud out there?

STEVE GRUBBS, FORMER HERMAN CAIN IOWA CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, it confirms these are the candidates who are getting the lion's share of discussion on the Twitterverse.

But second they're now going to draw fire from those who are supporting the other candidate. And this also includes anybody that is tweeting, Democrats or others. When we looked at the actual verbatim statements, clearly people are taking sides with their candidates and I think we know that these two are the front-runners at this point.

KING: This is the state, Karl, that put Barack Obama, then Senator Obama, on the map, proved he could compete with Hillary Clinton. In fact, he won this state. And then we went on.

A lot of Republicans when you talk to them here, say, aha. In 2006 and 2008, you Democrats had the intensity gap. We have it back now. Is your sense today that Iowa will be tight next fall?

KARL RHOMBERG, FORMER SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: The undisputed winner of the Iowa caucuses will be President Obama. Having said that, I don't believe the Republicans will mount a sufficient effort to take Iowa to the Republican camp in November.

KING: Why not?

RHOMBERG: The Democrats are very strong.

We just won a special bi-election over in Cedar Rapids that was very highly contested in a district that was majority Republican registration, majority independent registration. But the Democrats are very united behind President Obama. And I think he is going to emerge as the president in 2009 (sic).

KING: You have a confident Democrat there.

I want to show a map of the state, just to show this part of the state. Mitt Romney carried this county back in 2008. It was Governor Huckabee carried much of the middle of the state. As you look here, you can see map if you look down at the monitor there.

What is your sense this year about the differences in the party? Since we were here last time, obviously, as Karl just noted, the Democrats did well here in 2006. The Democrats did well here in 2008.

Madam Chairwoman, your party had a very good year here in 2010. What is different about the Republican Party, the Tea Party? If you look at polling, the evangelical voters seem to be split at the moment.

DAVIDSON: Well, I think the Republicans and independents and a lot of the Tea Parties actually are -- party people are at a point where they are fearful of their country. They're much more motivated, much more energized to do whatever it takes to defeat President Obama in the fall.

Our Republican registrations, when we analyzed it in October as compared to October 2007, before the '08 cycle, we are up 7 percent. And in 2010, we carried a Republican governor, Governor Branstad by 52 percent, when just two years earlier, we carried President Obama by 57 percent. So you can see that the cycle has turned and that people are actually becoming more motivated in terms of the Republican Party.

KING: One of the reasons we wanted to come out here and spend a week is to travel the state and to talk to voters individually. Just being here a day -- we were here a couple weeks ago as well.

You get a sense, Steve, that the character of the Iowa campaign has changed some because of the technology. If you look at the number of days spent in the state, Senator Santorum, Rick Santorum has been here 85 days. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann 65 days. Speaker Gingrich 51 days, Ron Paul 39, Rick Perry 19, Mitt Romney only 10 days so far.

You have Speaker Gingrich, who is sort of in the middle of the pack time spent here, and Governor Romney, who is way down near the bottom, leading here. Used to be you had to say I have been to all 99 counties and you have the voters who say I have only met the guy three times. How can you get any pickup? Now some of that is cliche. But has technology changed? Is it taking away some of the character of a traditional Iowa campaign?

GRUBBS: Maybe it's taking away a little bit of the character. But for the most part, having candidates that many days, most states would love to see candidates that much.

But having said that, there is no doubt that social networking, the way people can connect through Facebook and Twitter, it is changing the nature of it.

If you think about it, this is the first campaign in the history of the world where voters are fully manifested into Facebook and other social networking sites. So what we're watching today completely changes the way that all of us professionals engage in campaigning and how we work with the candidates and voters.

KING: Which Republican do you want to be the nominee? Who do you think would be -- who do you want?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You're laughing, but it's...

RHOMBERG: Bring any one of them. I think the Ron Paul campaign is probably the most interesting.

And I think Ron Paul could be a very surprising candidate on Republican caucus night. There is -- the top two candidates, Gingrich and Romney, seem to be running back advertising- and media-driven campaigns. Steve mentioned the social networks, certainly a large part.

But the Paul people are actually on the ground organizing volunteers. That's how you win a caucus. You have to deliver bodies to a meeting at 7:00 on a cold January night, and much as Huckabee did four years ago.

KING: You're more likely than not if you want in the street and someone approaches you for them to be a Paul supporter.

Do you see -- whether it is Ron Paul or anything I haven't mentioned, do you see a surprise here?

GRUBBS: I don't think the surprise is who finishes first or second unless the media that comes out of Romney super PAC drops Gingrich's numbers. But otherwise, if he can survive this week, he should be in -- finish first in the caucuses.

KING: Do you see a surprise, somebody we haven't...

DAVIDSON: No. I don't see a surprise at this point, no.

KING: Do you think Gingrich or Romney will win the state?

DAVIDSON: I think that's a good possibility. Yes.

KING: That's a good possibility right now, a diplomatic chairwoman.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Judy Davidson, Steve Grubbs, Karl Rhomberg, thanks so much for your time tonight.

Just ahead, why would a reality called "All-American Muslim" spark controversy, especially when feelings like this are expressed?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being in Dearborn has allowed us to practice our faith without losing our sense of American patriotism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The debate is so heated, there are now calls for a boycott against the national retailer.

We will explain in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Media mogul Russell Simmons says Lowe's -- quote -- "endorses hate." Actress Mia Farrow calling for a boycott of the home improvement change.

It's all part of the angry consumer backlash against Lowe's after the retailer pulled ads from the reality show "All-American Muslim," a series about Muslim families living in Dearborn, Michigan. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today is the day I'm going to D.C. I hope they don't annoy me and have to do a random screening.

I was on a flight to D.C. and had a woman sitting behind me say, see that veiled woman? I'm very uncomfortable. So, I turned around, I told her, I said, and you get your ass off the plane because I have a meeting to get to, to educate people like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Lowe's pulled the advertising after groups, including the Florida Family Association, complained, calling the show propaganda.

David Caton is the executive director of the Florida Family Association and he joins me now.

Mr. Caton, I want to read a bit from the letter your organization you wrote complaining about this. You wrote -- quote -- "Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show."

What evidence do you have that this particular show is trying to manipulate people or trying to somehow get us all to turn away from jihad?

DAVID CATON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FLORIDA FAMILY ASSOCIATION: The evidence is the lack of inclusion of the fullness of the term Muslim.

The dictionary defines Muslim as people who worship Islam, who are followers of Islam. And I beg you to find an imam -- imams in this country anywhere, the mosques, the leadership that would come back and say that they are -- they do not believe in Sharia, they do not believe in the application of Islamic code on American -- or American Muslims.

And that's our concern. This show is totally absent the true essence of Islam which is the focus of the Muslim believer. So these five people that are on this show, God bless them. They're great people. I love them. But they do not represent the hierarchy, the imams in the mosques of America.

KING: Well, the show is about them.

I'm sure a lot of imams would disagree with what you just said. We have had an imam on the program in the past who says the last thing he is telling anyone in his delegation is to practice Sharia law to the extent that it goes against our democracy.

But to your point about these people on the show, if you have nothing against them, why can't you take your other concerns somewhere else instead of pressuring companies to boycott this, to pull their ads from this program?

CATON: Well, it is our First Amendment right to believe what we believe and to see what we see.

And we believe that this show is propaganda. And we have called on advertisers across the country to pull. And, ironically, Home Depot was the first company to send us an e-mail saying they had no plans on advertising on this program in the future, a general middle- of-the-road acknowledgement letting us know, heads-up, hey, we are not going to be on the show anymore.

Nobody complained about Home Depot. And we got a similar response from Sweet'N Low and from Pernod Ricard, an alcoholic beverage distributor -- 65 other companies have not appeared on the show after receiving e-mails from our supporters.

So I see this attack on Lowe's and I see the senator's desire to violate the U.S. Constitution, First Amendment by writing something that violates the establishment clause that we shall not -- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion and the free exercise thereof to be partial to this particular situation, and to go beyond that and, as a public official, to call on a boycott of one company that -- when there were 65 companies that quietly and silently went somewhere else. This is -- this whole thing is blown up. It's a distortion. And people are unfairly targeting Lowe's in this particular situation.

KING: David Caton is the executive director of the Florida Family Association. Sir, I appreciate your time.

I believe the distinction is that Lowe's had a longstanding package of ads in the program. Other shows -- those other companies had purchased ads in the past; they're not renewing them. Lowe's actually pulled an existing package, but we'll look deeper into that distinction, Mr. Caton. Thank you for your time tonight.

Let's get another perspective now from Congressman Keith Ellison from Minnesota. He's the co-chair of the Congressional progressive caucus and one of two Muslim-Americans serving in the caucus. He's been listening to our conversation with Mr. Caton.

Congressman Ellison, does he have a point?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (R), MINNESOTA: No, he doesn't have a point. As a matter of fact, he's displayed a startling lack of information about Islam. I mean, I'm a Muslim, and I can tell him that the people who are on that show are typical.

Yes, Muslims do have babies. They coach football. They have interfamily disputes. I think it's a pretty typical show. Some people are more devout. Some people are more secular. It's just -- it's life in America.

And -- but the thing is, you know, I'm not here to attack Lowe's. I'm here to ask Lowe's to do the right thing. And this is a great American company that I think, by this decision, has demonstrated a degree of fear that they don't have to possess. They don't have to be afraid of a fringe group such as the one that's trying to intimidate them. And we're just calling on them to say, "Look. We're going to -- we're going to stand up and be a company that is open to all Americans and doesn't exclude people."

KING: Over the weekend Lowe's put this statement up on its Facebook page. I want to read it to you, part of it: "It appears that we managed to step into a hotly-contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective, social, political and otherwise, and we've managed to make some people very unhappy. We are sincerely sorry."

Is that enough? An apology? Or do you still think, unless they restore their ads or buy new ads on this program, that people should not shop there?

ELLISON: Well, it informs my buying decision about Lowe's. I mean, I personally, as an individual citizen, probably won't go in there if they are going to succumb to that kind of pressure from a fringe group that is literally promoting hatred and bigotry.

I mean, if you look on the Web site of that group, they don't only hate Muslims. They're against gays. They're against different groups of Americans. And it just is somewhat surprising.

And I'll also say this. My office called the Discovery Channel and TLC and asked them for a list of all the companies that have withdrawn ads. And they told us they don't disclose that information.

Therefore, I'm a little bit curious to know where the individual who you just talked to got this information. I actually called one company, a Minnesota company, and asked them -- that was on the list and asked them to verify whether they had pulled, and they said they had not pulled. So I think there is a lot of doubt. And I think that, you know, this thing needs to be looked into to a greater degree, because I think there may be some misrepresentation.

KING: Well, we'll try to sort that out. It sometimes is hard to get that information, but we're trying to give each side a chance to make its case. We'll try to sort out the facts from -- if there are any distortions.

Congressman Ellison, I appreciate your time tonight on this important subject.

And up next here, Occupy protesters attempt to shut down ports along the West Coast. Well, were they successful? We'll take a look when we come back. We're live tonight (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right here. Beautiful day. We're out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Occupy protesters trying to disrupt commerce at ports on the West Coast today. They said they're calling attention to corporate greed. Some arrests were made, but disruptions were minimal or temporary.

A preliminary court hearing tomorrow for Jerry Sandusky. He, of course, is the former Penn State coach charged with dozens of counts of child sex abuse. Some of his accusers expected in the courtroom.

A broad sell-off on Wall Street today. Investors expressed concern about a resolution for Europe's debt crisis. The Dow Jones average lost 163 points.

And how's this for the past meeting the present? Cambridge University now posting online thousands of pages of the pioneering scientific work of Sir Isaac Newton. He conducted the studies in the 1600s. A reminder from grammar school: Isaac Newton was the father of gravity.

Tonight's "Number" represents our location tonight, Davenport, Iowa, one of the quad cities. However, despite the nickname, there are actually five cities, not four. They include Davenport and Bettendorf, on the Iowa side; Moline, East Moline and Rock Island across the border in Illinois. We'll be traveling in Iowa throughout this week, from Des Moines to Ames to Sioux City and Cedar Rapids. Stay with us as we continue to cover the Iowa campaign. Twenty-two days from tonight, Iowa votes and kicks it all off.

When we come back, the most mocked moment of the debate and why it might cost Governor Mitt Romney some support here in Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour, and Erin is here with a preview -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, John, we have an exclusive conversation with former vice president, Dick Cheney. Perfect time for it, when you've got al-Maliki in Washington, with President Obama talking about U.S. troops pulling out of Iraq. Of course, Dick Cheney, one of the people who put those troops into Iraq. We talk about this moment, also about what he thinks the U.S. should be doing in Syria. We also talked about Hillary Clinton and the drones. Something great on that. But here is what he had to say about the Republican field and Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not endorsed anybody on either side. The thing I remember about Newt. We came to Congress together at the same time...

BURNETT: right.

CHENEY: ... seventy-eight. And when Newt showed up, he said, "We can become the majority. We can take back the House of Representatives." We hadn't had the House since the 1940s.

And initially, none of us believed it. But he was persistent, and he was tenacious. He kept it up, and kept it up, and kept it up. And finally by '94, he's the newly-elected speaker of the House of Representatives with a Republican majority. So I wouldn't underestimate him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That's the headline, John. Don't estimate -- underestimate Newt Gingrich. And we'll have his full comments there. Plus what he said to say about Hillary Clinton. All that coming up at the top of the hour.

Back to you.

KING: Looking forward to it. Always great to check in with the former vice president. And I can see from that smile there, he was having a little -- little playfulness talking about the campaign.

BURNETT: Yes, he was. All right.

KING: We'll see you in just a few minutes. Thank you.

There's one more GOP debate here in Iowa before the caucuses. It is this Thursday night in Sioux City. Six of the Republican contenders squared off Saturday night in Des Moines, and this exchange between governors Romney and Perry was the most memorable and now the most mocked moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You were for individual mandates, my friend. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what? You've raised that before, Rick. And...

PERRY: It was true then. It's true now.

ROMNEY: Rick, I'll tell you what. Ten thousand bucks? Ten- thousand-dollar bet?

PERRY: I'm not in the betting business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And that line reverberated a bit on the campaign trail today. First Governor Romney call on Speaker Gingrich to return the $1.6 million or so Gingrich made as a consultant to the mortgage giant, Freddie Mac. Speaker Gingrich returned the salvo.

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NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the way he and his consultants do these things. I would just say that, if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he's earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees, over his years, that I would be glad to listen to him. And I'll bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won't take the offer.

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KING: Well, here's Governor Romney's comeback.

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ROMNEY: There's a big difference between working in the private economy and working on K Street and working as a lobbyist or working as a legislator or working to connect businesses with government. If he was working as a spokesman for Fannie Mae -- excuse me, for Freddie Mac, if he was there because of his political connections, and then if Freddie Mac fails, I think a fair question is asked. Why did he profit as Freddie Mac failed?

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KING: Do you think maybe things are getting a little testy? Maybe all the candidates will need those hard hats, like the guys behind Governor Romney there. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah is with us tonight. He supports Governor Romney. CNN contributors Erick Erickson and James Carville with us, as well. Congressman, I want to go to you there. If you can hit the rewind button, should Governor Romney said, "I bet you 20 bucks, bet you 50 bucks but not bet you $10,000?"

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Yes. Maybe bet a Big Mac or something. It's a bit of the silly season. I mean, seriously. If that's what they're talking about, I guess when you're followed on every word and every movement. But I just happen to think Mitt Romney is the best guy for the economy. The best guy, too, for jobs and the best guy to beat Barack Obama come the fall.

KING: Erick, what's the fallout after this debate? Anybody out there in the conservative grassroots think he can move the numbers? Or just another entertainment? One of our Republicans here earlier was saying this campaign is a little like reality TV.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don't know that it moved the numbers other than maybe for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, both who had pretty good debate purposes. Newt Gingrich held his own. Mitt Romney, I think, did himself no favors but he didn't hurt himself very bad. I would say that, apparently, Lindsay Lohan had her purse stolen today and $10,000 went missing, and she maybe should call Governor Romney. He might be able to help her.

KING: Now, now, now. James, to the congressman's point, he says it's the silly season. However, if you're Governor Romney, and Newt Gingrich now has -- leading in Iowa, leading in South Carolina, leading in Florida, and catching up to you in New Hampshire, you've got to be careful that you're talking about your No. 1 priority and not caught up in any distractions, right?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he's got to talk about Newt Gingrich. I think he's getting ready to lose. And I think you're going to see a lot more of what you saw today. You can tell that the tension is starting to wear.

The thing is, January the 3rd, the holidays, probably not a lot of people will be paying attention. You know, plus or minus two days around the Christmas holiday and then you've got New Year's coming. So I think this thing is going to step up. And I, you know, I think we'll see more of what I enjoy so much, this tit for tat between the speaker and the governor.

KING: Congressman Chaffetz, one of the criticisms of Governor Romney is he has an issue connecting sometimes with real people. He is a man who grew up privileged. You can't fault him for that. But he is someone who, in his business career, has made a lot of money and again, you can't fault him for that. All of us want to go out and get money. But he's trying lately to be a bit more personal in how he connects to people. Listen to this exchange earlier from the campaign today.

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ROMNEY: When people say, you care about business. You don't care about people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I worry about the very poor, and I want to make sure that our safety net is there for the very poor. I don't worry about the very wealthy. They're doing just fine. This economy hasn't hurt them. But the people I really -- I'm concerned about right now are those in the middle class.

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KING: Why, Congressman, is Mitt Romney, who if we went back three or four months ago, everyone would say he's inevitable. Now a lot of people think he's teetering.

CHAFFETZ: I do hope he's our nominee. I think when the people look at his family, the strength of his family, I think that they go back and look at the Olympics. The way he was able to rally as a state and the nation shortly after 9/11 and bring this community together, and the success in the Olympics, the turnaround. Because it was a financial disaster, and things were falling apart at the seams. And he brought that together.

But they look at the fact that he was there at the state legislature while he was governor. There was more than 85 percent Democratic. He had over 800 vetoes in fighting against that Democrat- controlled legislature that he was dealing with.

The fact that we in the House have been fighting, in part, against Newt Gingrich along the way. I hope people expose and go back and look at that story and talk about the fact that here you have -- he was doing, Newt Gingrich was doing a video with Nancy Pelosi talking about global warming to help Al Gore. He was out there fighting against Paul Ryan. I'm on the budget committee. We needed help rallying around our budget, and we were fighting against Newt Gingrich.

So the common issue of the two, I think, when people really focus, the strength of Mitt Romney will be his family. It will be his steadiness, and it will be the fact that I think he's a very successful leader.

KING: Erick, does the buzz on RedState.com, the reaction now that many people believe -- and I think Iowa might still surprise, but now that many conservatives seem to think it's a two-man race. You heard the congressman there talking about the video with Nancy Pelosi, other things in Newt Gingrich's past that might not sit well -- I'm being polite -- with conservatives.

ERICKSON: You know, I'm not sure this race is completely fleshed out. And it wouldn't surprise me if conservatives rallied to Gingrich. But it also wouldn't surprise me if they go back and look at some of the other guys in the field that are still standing. I just -- I've got the sneaking suspicion that conservatives aren't ready really to gel yet. The polls are suggesting otherwise.

But, you know, I think the biggest story here is that Mitt Romney's had this since 2008 and still can't close the deal. And that debate performance I think helps -- or hurts him in the ability to close the deal.

But I don't know that Newt Gingrich at the end of the day is ultimately going to be able to close the deal either when people really start getting into his record. The next at least weeks, James is right, we're going to have Christmas. We're going to have New Year's. People aren't going to be paying attention. I think this could roll into South Carolina with some really brutal attacks going on.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Listen to this from President Obama. Go ahead, James.

CARVILLE: I say, I just think they need a lot more attacks. The good Congressman from Utah, an issue of an attack on Newt Gingrich, we need more on that and we need Newt Gingrich to respond. That's what this campaign needs is more attacks and more savageness out there.

KING: Carville's a boxing manager. He may be a Democrat, but he's a boxing manager. Congressman.

CARVILLE: I'm a fan.

KING: He's a -- Congressman, I want you to listen to this. President Obama did an interview with "60 Minutes." And he talked a little about the campaign, but he also talked about why he hasn't been able to keep his promise to have Washington be a more, shall we say, friendly bipartisan place. Let's listen.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Republicans made a different calculation which was, you know what? We really screwed up the economy. Obama seems popular. Our best bet is to stand on the sidelines, because we think the economy's going to get worse, and at some point just blame him. And so we haven't gotten the kind of engagement from them that I would have liked.

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CHAFFETZ: All right. I disagree with the president. He really doesn't reach out. I think from an objective viewpoint -- talk to Democrats, talk to Republicans -- the president does not reach out and work with us. It just doesn't happen.

KING: Congressman Chaffetz, appreciate your time. Erick Erickson, Mr. Carville, as well.

When we come back, one of the reasons we're so happy to be out here in Iowa is we get to talk to the voters. Just 22 nights from tonight, three weeks and a day, they kick off the campaign. Tonight's "Truth" focuses on what they want.

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KING: We're in Davenport, Iowa, tonight and are off in just a few minutes to attend some evening Republican events in Cedar Rapids to the north of here. By Friday we'll have crisscrossed nearly 400 miles west to Sioux City, looped back to Ames at one point, and then end the week at the capital in Des Moines.

Barack Obama carried this state easily in November 2008. The Democratic intensity advantage here in Iowa was both obvious and overwhelming. But remember, George W. Bush was the general election winner here in 2004, and Republicans had a very good year in Iowa in 2010. Which brings us to tonight's "Truth."

The caucuses will not only help shape the GOP nominating contest but will test Republican intensity and whether Iowa will once again be a presidential general election swing state next fall.

Our first taste of the GOP mood came earlier today at the Machine Shed restaurant right here in Davenport.

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LARRY WITT, RESIDENT: I am leaning towards Michele Bachmann. And it's because I think that she's the most concerned about controlling the out-of-control budget deficit. And I think that's one of her main issues.

I've got a 4-year-old son. And I don't want to pass on all this debt onto him and any future grandchildren and throughout the generations.

KING: You are a Herman Cain guy? With the Restaurant Association.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes.

KING: So now that -- how's your search going?

MIKE WHALEN, RESTAURANT OWNER: Well, I mean, obviously if you could have a cloning machine and you could put the passion of Herman Cain with the policies of Newt Gingrich and the steadfastness and the presidential thing of Romney you'd have the perfect candidate...

KING: Doesn't work that way.

WHALEN: Doesn't work that way. They're all human beings. And they all have to rise to the occasion. I'd probably like either -- will be either for Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.

KING: How about you?

MATT FISCHER, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER AND STUDENT: I'm leaning towards Newt Gingrich right now. Just because my interest is in education. And things need to change with our education system right now with No Child Left Behind. It seems like it's just a mess.

KING: What has he said to say that's the guy?

FISCHER: I just -- putting more responsibility on the states. Newt -- I've read quotes from him where he wants to put responsibility back in the states' hands and take it away from the federal government. Which, from my experience dealing with teachers, my friends that have already gone into the teaching position, they have expressed frustration with No Child Left Behind to me and the issues with the federal -- the federal issues involved.

KING: Does that matter to you, beating Obama? Or is it more picking a guy you agree with? WHALEN: Well, it's kind of the Buckley rule: pick the most conservative candidate who can win. Yes, electability probably is at the top of my list, because I don't think we can take, you know, another four years of this current administration.

But on policy, Newt Gingrich is right on down the line. He gets health care, consumer-driven health care. He gets tax policy. He gets the fact that the entitlements have to be reformed. He gets all that.

KING: President Obama sort of launched himself here when he beat Clinton...

WHALEN: He did.

KING: ... and Edwards and others back in 2008. Then he carried the state. Iowa was one of those swing states that can go back and forth. You think Obama will win Iowa in November?

FISCHER: I think if it was today, I think he would win it. I just -- the sense I get from talking with my friends.

KING: You think Obama will carry Iowa?

WHALEN: Eleven months out is infinity. Right now I'd say no. I think he'd lose the state by three or four points.

WITT: Yes, I'm thinking Obama will lose this state.

WHALEN: Yes.

KING: Why?

WITT: It's always close in Iowa. But I think -- I'm thinking it's going to be a Republican here again.

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KING: Did you see the size of that cinnamon bun in the center of that table there? Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Our thanks to the Machine Center. Also, our thanks to the River Music Experience right here in Davenport, Iowa.

Rick Santorum, the senator from Pennsylvania, will be our guest tomorrow night. That's all for us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.