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JOHN KING, USA

Murder-Suicide in Texas; Newt Gingrich's Past

Aired December 26, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off tonight.

Long-hidden files reveal surprising details about presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's first divorce. For one thing, they seem to contradict the story on Gingrich's own Web site.

In Texas, a man in a Santa Claus suit guns down a family. We have horrifying new details from the murder-suicide investigation.

And you simply won't believe what the TSA airport screeners confiscated this time, because they thought it was a security risk.

But, first, with eight days to go until the Iowa caucuses, it's a virtual dead heat. And that bad news for the previously soaring Newt Gingrich. It's leading some folks to wonder whether Ron Paul might actually take the Hawkeye State.

CNN political correspondent Joe Johns joins us now from Des Moines.

Hi, Joe. So just how close is it now?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, you said it. It's very close, a statistical dead heat among the top three presidential contenders right now.

The local newspaper here, "The Des Moines Register," said it all this morning, asking the question, could Ron Paul win, which would be quite a surprise for a lot of people here, so Ron Paul 21 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 20 percent, Newt Gingrich at 19 percent.

Several storylines here, the first one obviously, Ron Paul, what's happening with him? Well, very good organization in the state of Iowa, and there's some people also suggesting that because he's kind of flown under the radar for much of this contest, he hasn't been attacked as much as some of the others, and perhaps that has something to do with it.

Newt Gingrich, another story you mentioned, just -- just two weeks ago flying high right now, still in the top tier, but certainly not as much as he was before. That, he attributes to the fact that he was attacked a great deal in ads and otherwise and has brought his numbers back down to earth. Another story you have to talk about is Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, who's spent so much time in this state, but is not reflecting it in the polls, only 4 percent right now. The other thing of course is the undecideds. That's a pretty large number if you take a look at it, 12 percent of people undecided.

A lot of volatility all over with the Iowa caucuses as far as we can see. Some people have said they have had more than one favorite and could change their minds again. But if you look at New Hampshire, it's a very different story there. Mitt Romney seems to be doing just great, at least for him. The latest "Boston Globe" poll released on Christmas Day shows him with 39 percent support, followed by Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul tied at 17 percent.

You also have to point out the former Utah governor there, Jon Huntsman, doing pretty well at 11 percent. So, Jess, all in all you look at this, Iowa looking very tight at the moment, New Hampshire not so much -- back to you.

YELLIN: Yes, Iowa looking like a jump ball, hijack that 39 percent a breakthrough number for Mitt Romney, because for so long it looked like he couldn't get above the 20s. Thanks so much, Joe. Stay warm in Iowa.

JOHNS: Sure.

YELLIN: All right.

He is trailing in the polls, but Rick Santorum may have bagged the big prize in a pheasant hunt today. It's not what he shot, but rather who he shot it with, influential Iowa Congressman Steve King. He's considered to be a kingmaker in Iowa's conservative circles.

Let's bring in CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, you spoke with him today, so give us a sense of why King's endorsement is so important and what you think it means.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is very prominent when it comes to the Iowa Republican community. And he is somebody who has rock-solid conservative credentials.

In the past, four years ago, for example, he did endorse Fred Thompson, who was kind of nowhere in the polls. And he ended up coming in third in Iowa and his campaign lived on to South Carolina, which nobody really expected it to do beforehand.

He told me today, very interesting, that he had planned to endorse months ago, that was his plan, but just like a lot of other Iowa Republican voters, he can't make up his mind, he just doesn't know which horse to back in this field, if any. He might not endorse anyone at all right now.

YELLIN: And what is his assessment of the field?

BASH: Well, interesting. Newt Gingrich, one of the front- runners at this point, he says that he thinks he has a really good economic plan, but Steve King is a hard-liner when it comes to immigration and doesn't like Newt Gingrich's position on immigration.

And Ron Paul? Oh, boy. He certainly -- there's no love lost there, particularly when it comes to his position on foreign policy. King was talking about the fact that Ron Paul, for example, says that the military should come home. He said that would be -- could go down in history as one of the greatest mistakes ever.

But very interesting, he said one of the things he's weighing is whether or not he should go for somebody like Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann, one of King's closest friends, or someone else who's kind of in single digits, not so much because he think that they will do well this time, but maybe he says his best bet right now is to position someone for four years from now.

YELLIN: An important reflection of what social conservatives could do in Iowa. They can't decide. They could divide the vote among a lot of different social conservatives. Who knows.

BASH: Exactly.

YELLIN: Don't go far. You're coming back in just a little bit. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: Thanks.

YELLIN: And turning overseas now, tonight, the world is waiting for important new signals about who's running the snow in one of the world's most secretive and dangerous countries.

By now, you have probably seen images of deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong Il lying in that glass case. Well, on Wednesday, the nation will hold the official funeral ceremony. And around the world, officials will study who is standing where among the mourners and analyzing just what it all means.

CNN's senior State Department producer Elise Labott is among those reading the tea leaves.

Elise, thank you for joining us.

Do we know what official delegations are invited into North Korea and who's going to pay their respects?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Jessica, there are really no official delegations going to be at the funeral.

There are going to be very few non-Koreans there. We assume that some Chinese and Russian officials that are very close to North Korea may be there, but South Korea has decided not to send an official delegation, the and only real delegations that are coming right now to pay their respects in advance of the funeral are the widows of the former Vice President Kim Dae-jung, who launched that sunshine policy for opening up with the North Koreans. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for that. And the widow of the chairman of Hyundai in South Korea, who's known as -- that company really trying to open up North Korea to business and tourism. But the only non-Korean that we officially know of that might be there is this woman Princess Tenko, who is a Japanese celebrity, who said that she has been invited and she's thinking about, ready to go, but North Korea really sealing off those borders and not letting anyone in for the actual funeral.

YELLIN: Will we get to see pictures, will the outside world see pictures of the funeral itself?

LABOTT: I don't think it's going to be something -- I'm not sure, but I don't think it's going to be something that CNN will be able to cover live. Of course we would want to cover some event like that.

I think the North Koreans will choose some carefully orchestrated pictures that to show Kim Jong-un, the successor to his son, to Kim Jong Il, in a position accepting mourners, mourning his father. But I don't think it's going to be something that they will be having live pictures of, for sure.

YELLIN: Right. Well, it is North Korea, one of the most closed societies on Earth.

LABOTT: That's right.

YELLIN: Thanks so much, Elise.

Turning now to Syria, where there has been more bloodshed. We're going to show you now video, a YouTube video said to be from the city of Homs on the very day members of the Arab League arrived to investigate how committed the government is to ending its brutal crackdown.

Now, for more on both the violence and the official visit, let's check in with CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom, who is monitoring the event from Cairo.

Mohammed, hi. So what exactly are the Arab delegates there -- Arab League delegates looking for?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jessica.

Well, the Arab League observers that have gone into Syria are hoping to get to the flash point areas in Syria, cities like Homs, provinces like Idlib, to really try to put an end to the violence, according to this agreement they signed with the Syrian government to make sure the Syrian government stops the crackdown, releases detainees and withdraws the military from these towns and villages across Syria.

But there's so much concern from the activists and opposition groups we were speaking with in Syria. Will these observers actually be given unfettered access? And one of those concerns is because we have heard that the Arab League delegates will be taken around Syria by security forces for their protection. So it begs the question, will they actually be taken to the neighborhoods where the crackdowns really are going on?

The Arab League observers we have spoken with seem optimistic about it. But really the opposition figures say if something isn't done seriously to stop this violence soon, they're really concerned that genocide will happen -- Jessica.

YELLIN: The outside world is also very intrigued by the first lady of Syria, who's British born and people are starting to wonder whether she will continue to stand by her husband in the wake of the brutal crackdown. What do you know about her?

JAMJOOM: Well, Asma al-Assad was seen as somebody in the past decade, she was seen as a progressive, she was written about as though she were a champion of human rights and women's rights.

And many people said that she went around the country speaking to the poor, running an NGO there, trying to end some of the problems in that country. But at the same time, experts who know her say that she does enjoy the lifestyle there, she enjoys the palace lifestyle. And the fact that you haven't seen her in the past few months and she hasn't been written about doesn't mean that she's not standing by her husband.

In fact, it probably means the opposite. There's really very little belief that she would split or break away from Bashar al-Assad. And the experts that know her and have written about her believe that she is standing by her man and that even though she has this reputation as a reformer, that she will continue to do so -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right, Mohammed Jamjoom reporting for us, thanks so much.

And still ahead, watch the baby's hand and the president's mouth in this video. Stick around to see what happens next.

But coming up right away, details we have never known about Newt Gingrich's first divorce, they seem to contradict the story on his presidential campaign's Web site.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: The fact that Newt Gingrich has been married three times is becoming an issue in this campaign. When discussing the details of his first divorce, Gingrich has always insisted it was his wife who asked to end the marriage.

But court documents obtained by CNN show otherwise. The divorce papers filed in Carroll County, Georgia, show Newt Gingrich was the plaintiff, meaning he filed the divorce papers, and Jackie Gingrich asked the judge to reject her then husband's request.

All of this dredges up old questions about Gingrich's character.

We will delve into that. But first let's get the fact from CNN reporter Alan Duke, who broke the story.

Hi, Alan. Great story today.

First of all, Newt Gingrich's daughter has defended her father, saying that her mother initiated the divorce. Now, these court documents you got tell a different story, so explain, what did you find?

ALAN DUKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, it was her column she wrote back in May that really got me thinking about this. This is a story I have covered about more than 30 years. I started my journalism career in Newt Gingrich's hometown about the time he started his political career.

So I am very familiar with it. And to hear her write and then later on the campaign Web site them say that it was Jacqueline -- or Jackie Gingrich who requested the divorce, I thought was very unusual and I started asking people about it, and I just got laughter from them. They just could not believe that, being from her hometown.

And so I decided to go to the county courthouse. Well, Jackie Sue Gingrich Cushman, the daughter who was 13 at the time of the divorce, is on the campaign trail speaking for her father along with her sister, Kathy, who was 17 at the time of the divorce, and they're saying their father is great, he's matured, he's 68 years old, he's a grandfather now.

And they're saying that the divorce wasn't what everybody thought it was. And the main thing that caught me as odd was their saying that their mother was the one who requested the divorce. And the court papers that I found this week show differently.

YELLIN: This is the wife we have all about. The rumor goes that Newt Gingrich delivered the papers to her as she was recovering from cancer surgery. He's denied that. Everyone says that's not a fair assessment of exactly how it went.

Do you have a sense why Jackie Gingrich doesn't go on the record and tell her story now that her husband is running for president?

DUKE: Well, actually, I have to say that Newt Gingrich has been the victim of myth, of a legend that has been perpetuated.

I know the real story, I do believe, because I know very personally people who -- someone who was in the hospital that day. No, she wasn't on her deathbed. She did have surgery, part of her cancer treatment the day before. It wasn't divorce papers that were being served. He had a stack of papers that were involving the settlement and was talking to her about it. And that's what upset her.

He acknowledges a pretty good bit of that story. So he was -- this whole mythology about that she was on her deathbed, that's not true. Well, the thing is that Newt Gingrich has had to confront that for 30 years now. And he came out and is trying to challenge it and it's become quite a problem for him. But by -- saying that his wife requested the divorce was the shocker.

YELLIN: All right, Alan Duke, thanks so much for your reporting. Appreciate it.

So what does all this have to do with Gingrich's political record? It was back in 1988 that questions about Gingrich's marital history were first thrust into the stoplight during the impeachment trial, remember that, against President Bill Clinton. Rumors about Gingrich's divorce from his first wife began to surface. And at the same time, Gingrich was cheating on his second wife with the woman who is now his third wife, Callista.

Got all that?

Joining me now to discuss what all of this means for Gingrich's presidential campaign, Dana Bash, senior congressional correspondent at CNN, and David Chalian, Washington bureau chief for Yahoo! News.

BASH: These are the days of our lives.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: Right. I know. Oh, my gosh, can you keep it straight? It's like too much to take in.

So let's, first of all, play a moment from the campaign trail because I want to ask both of you, does any of this really matter? Apparently, to the Romney campaign, it does, because here is an ad featuring Ann Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: And if you really want to know how a person will operate, look at how they have lived their life. And I think that's why it's so important to understand the character of a person.

To me, that makes a huge difference. Maybe, some voters, it doesn't, but for me it makes a huge difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Dana, is that an indirect dig at Newt Gingrich?

BASH: I think it's kind of a direct dig. You don't have to really read too much between the lines is exactly what that is, there's no question about it.

I was talking to Congressman Steve King in Iowa today and I actually just happened to ask him since he has his ear so close to the ground about what Republicans are thinking whether or not he thinks that this whole issue is going to hurt Newt Gingrich.

He actually told me that he would have said not that long ago, no, that it wasn't going to hurt him, but he said that he's actually -- as we get closer to caucus day, he's hearing more and more that it is playing into voters' consciousness and that they're actually more worried about it than he had anticipated.

YELLIN: David, your take?

DAVID CHALIAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, I think that marries up, actually, Dana, with what we're seeing the other campaigns doing. It's not just that Ann Romney ad.

We see Rick Santorum closing with a strong family message. She's been incorporating that all around. We see Rick Perry very much closing with a strong family message as well, talking about his marriage and how important fidelity to marriage is for him.

Clearly, these folks are talking about it because it does have some resonance. I do think though that it's not a silver bullet of an issue, right? It's an issue that gets at a larger sort of character assessment of someone. And what you see these campaigns, especially the Romney campaign, doing, they're not just relying on that Ann Romney ad. They're building an entire character case against Newt Gingrich, really trying to paint him as an insider and perhaps not a fair dealer, and all of these other things that add up to character questions.

I think the marriage is just a piece of that.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: That he's been dishonest, for example, maybe on Freddie Mac claims and that he's not told the full truth on a number of different categories.

OK, you work -- you run the Yahoo! office here. You were co- sponsor of a debate in which he was asked, Newt Gingrich was asked directly about infidelity and whether it matters. Let's play a clip of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said up front openly, I have made mistakes at times, I have had to go to God for forgiveness, I have had to seek reconciliation. But I'm also a 65- year-old grandfather.

And I think people have to measure who I am now and whether I'm a person they can trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: When he answered that, everybody thought, what a beautiful answer, asked and answered and he did away with the question, his poll numbers were high then, and now they have fallen.

So quick answer from both of you, if you could, could he still win Iowa, David? CHALIAN: I think he could still win Iowa. I don't -- he's not the front-runner there right now. If he doesn't win Iowa, it's not going to be because of the three marriages.

BASH: And I will add to that that remember when Newt Gingrich's campaign imploded, one of the things that he said that he had differences with his campaign staff then over was the fact that they said we have to really get out in front of this infidelity thing, about your -- quote, unquote -- "baggage."

And he said you're playing that too much, and that people care about the economy more. And in a lot of ways, he was right. And that's why he's doing so well now.

YELLIN: Great to have you both on.

BASH: Thank you.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

YELLIN: Thank you.

Moving on, so if you were a Middle East leader with a not-so- great reputation, what country would you pick if you wanted to get away from TV cameras and questions? The answer may surprise you.

You will also want to stick around for our moment you missed. President Obama is about to get upstaged by a very cute baby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

YELLIN: We noticed something in "LIFE" magazine we just can't resist. They have compiled some of this year's best quotations, but they're leaving the rest of us to guess who said it.

Coming up, was it Abe Simpson, the grandpa on the television show "The Simpsons," or former Senator Alan Simpson who said -- quote -- "Grandchildren now don't write a thank you for the Christmas presents. They're walking on their pants with the cap on backwards listening to the enema man and Snoopy-Snoopy Poop Dog, and they don't like them"?

Well, we will have the answer ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: In this half hour of JOHN KING USA, you'll find out where one of the most notorious leaders in the Middle East wants to go in order to avoid TV cameras. Some important people don't agree it's the best possible choice.

Watch closely. President Obama is about to get upstaged by that little baby he's holding. And in about 15 minutes, a guilty pleasure, courtesy of "Life" magazine. See if you can guess whether Muammar Gadhafi or Charlie Sheen was the source of one of this year's most memorable quotes.

First, an unbelievable story. A soldier survives a suicide bombing in Afghanistan only to be shot and paralyzed at a homecoming party in his honor. CNN's Isha Sesay spoke with the mother of 22- year-old Christopher Sullivan earlier today.

Hi, Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi there, Jessica. This -- it really is such a tragedy. I mean, 22-year-old Christopher Sullivan served his country with honor and distinction in Afghanistan, even winning the Purple Heart due to his heroic actions there. And then he comes back and at his own homecoming party this happens, shot and paralyzed, allegedly because of an argument over football.

I spoke to his mother, Suzanne, earlier on today. It was a really tough conversation to have with her, and she gave us an update on how her son's doing right now. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE SULLIVAN, MOTHER: Christopher's hanging in. He is on life support. But that's only to sedate him so he won't move or get hurt. Little by little, they'll give him -- let him breathe on his own, but it's going to take some time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Jess, this family quite simply is in the middle of a nightmare right now.

YELLIN: I can imagine. Do they know anything about the suspected shooter?

SESAY: Here's what local police are saying. His name is Ruben Ray Jurado, a 19-year-old. Allegedly, this comes actually in an argument over football with Christopher's younger brother, his baby brother. They were having this disagreement, and allegedly, Christopher intervened to calm things down. And that's when this alleged shooter pulled out a gun and shot Christopher twice. He then fled the scene. Local authorities say right now his whereabouts are unknown, that he is considered armed and dangerous, Jessica.

YELLIN: What a devastating story. Isha, thank you.

A man nobody seems to want would like to come to the United States. Yemen's president, he survived an assassination attempt this year, and he agreed to accept down after 33 years in power. Well, now he seems to think that the United States would be a good place for him to lay low.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, PRESIDENT OF YEMEN (through translator): I will go to the United States, not for treatment because I'm fine, but to get away from attention, cameras and allow the government to prepare properly for elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The Obama administration is not happy about this at all. CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is here with more. Jill, this seems to be a real dilemma for the U.S. Any indication what the administration is likely to do?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this stage, and I think you hit it exactly correctly, Jessica, they say they're studying it. They have not made a determination as far as we know. But it really is a problem, because they want, more than anything -- they want President Saleh out of the country, out of Yemen. He's promised to do it. He's indicated that he's do it -- he would do it, but then he doesn't do it. He doesn't leave.

And the worry is that -- let's say they let him into the United States. He might want to stay or go back and try to stir up some type of political intrigue and that is what he has been doing.

You know, when he was injured in that assassination attempt in June, he went right back after staying in Saudi Arabia in September. And by the way, the one thing the administration now is saying or a senior administration official is saying, the only way he's going to get a visa to the United States is for legitimate medical care, nothing else.

YELLIN: And then the other piece complicating all of this is al Qaeda, which has a strong presence in Yemen. How does that factor into the U.S.'s decision?

DOUGHERTY: Well, that's overriding everything, because after all, al Qaeda has been a very strong presence there. They are trying to exploit the troubles, the political dilemma that they are in right now. There's supposed to be a transition, but it's a very dangerous situation. The country basically almost fell apart politically, is stymied right now, can't get a government together, can't get those transitions going. And they're supposed to be moving toward elections. And so al Qaeda is doing everything to take advantage of it.

YELLIN: All right. Jill Dougherty for us from the State Department.

And on a lighter note, which we can use on this post-Christmas Monday, it is called Mega Monday, and it is billed as the third biggest shopping day of the year, as folks flock to return gifts they didn't like and take advantage of post holiday sales.

CNN's Alison Kosik was in the thick of all of it.

Alison, how was it out there?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, shoppers are said to be return $46 billion in holiday merchandise. This after the Christmas holiday. And that's a record high, in part because of those record-breaking sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And the National Retail Federation says if you've got those high sales. It's expected that you're going to have those high amounts of returns. But people today not just returning merchandise. They're also out there spending their money again.

(voice-over) Lots of retailers are offering deep discounts, because they're trying to get rid of all of their inventory that they're still stuck with. They're trying to get rid of their inventory before the spring stuff arrives. So a lot of people out there looking for discounts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought there maybe would be sales, but instead I think it's a big return day so the lines are crazy to just get in line and pay. And then the fitting rooms are full, too. So I don't know. It's just craziness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I shop all year for everybody else. This is usually the day I set aside to shop just for me.

KOSIK: And there's a reason why retailers call the week between Christmas and New Year's the "Second Season," because just last year retailers in that one week brought in $62 billion. This year they're expecting to top that, bringing in $72 billion. We'll get the exact numbers in the coming week when the National Retail Federation tallies up the numbers -- Jessica.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Thanks, Alison.

In about 25 minutes, a surprise guest crashes a Utah family's Christmas party, a devastating surprise.

But next, CNN's Ali Velshi joins us to try his hand at something we found in "Life" magazine. We'll let him guess whether Charlie Sheen or Muammar Gadhafi said, quote, "I will deploy my ordinance to ground."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Just eight days before the Iowa caucuses, it's now Ron Paul who finds himself at the top of the polls and on the front page of "The Des Moines Register" today. They're asking the big question of the political world: could Ron Paul win?

Here with me to answer that question and a lot more are Rich Galen, former press secretary to Newt Gingrich; Nancy Pfotenhauer, former advisor to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign; and Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.

Thanks to all of you for being here. And let's start with something Mike Huckabee, who was the winner of the Iowa caucuses last time around, something he said on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would probably say that Mitt Romney will end up winning it, today. Now I think, again, Ron Paul, because of his organization put, and that's where Mitt is really at a disadvantage. He doesn't have the devotion. If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad and it's real tough to get out, Ron Paul will win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now he's talking about the Iowa caucuses. Almost no one thought Mitt Romney would win the Iowa caucuses until recently. Nancy, let's start with you.

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, FORMER ADVISOR TO JOHN MCCAIN'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: He's playing the expectations game very well this time. Former Governor Romney learned last time around, and so he's played it right. At this point, if he comes in first, I think he gets bounce. Of course, Iowa is famous for giving a bounce sometimes to the person who comes in second or third and adding some drama to it.

YELLIN: But Penny, so you think that Mitt Romney is going to win the Iowa caucuses?

PENNY NANCE, CEO/PRESIDENT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: It's crazy to say this, but believe it or not, it's still to early to know. You know, honestly, because we know that about 70 percent of Iowa caucus-goers make up their mind that day and another 10 percent during that week. So fully a third of people don't know right now how they're going to vote. And turnout is key in caucuses. It's not the polling. It's not the lip service. You're going to go out on a snowy night and stay strong.

YELLIN: Rich, you're uncharacteristically waiting your turn. What has happened? You're not jumping in.

RICH GALEN, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO NEWT GINGRICH: I could barely see you because of the curvature of the earth.

YELLIN: Did they seat you too far away?

GALEN: It's the terror of small numbers. Less than 120,000 people came out to the Republican Iowa caucuses four years ago. And we saw that in the Iowa straw poll. A very small difference of a handful of votes, and Ron Paul would have won that, not Michele Bachmann.

But I think -- I think either one of those two. The interesting player in this expectations game, I think, is Gingrich, who, you know, three weeks ago, is proudly proclaiming victory as the nominee...

YELLIN: right.

GALEN: ... and then Thursday said, if he comes in fourth, that will be fine.

YELLIN: But will it be fine?

GALEN: Because if he's...

YELLIN: Where does he have to place to keep going in Iowa?

GALEN: At least third. Because if he comes in fourth, it means he was beaten by either Santorum, or Perry or Bachmann, and I don't think he can sustain that.

NANCE: And remember in 1980 that Ronald Reagan lost Iowa. It was actually George Bush who won Iowa, and then Reagan went on to win New Hampshire.

PFOTENHAUER: John McCain came in fourth in Iowa in 2008.

YELLIN: Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and didn't go on to serve...

GALEN: Iowa doesn't pick the winner. What it does do is it does pick losers.

YELLIN: Here's the point: if Ron Paul wins in Iowa, the media's not been taking him seriously as a potential nominee. Does the media need to then start taking him seriously as much more seriously than the media has been?

GALEN: You're in the media. I don't know the answer.

NANCE: I would say as a spoiler. As a spoiler is really the position he's set up to be, and I think Republicans will be looking at themselves.

GALEN: I think he's -- I think it's helpful to Romney, who I think will be the nominee, but I'm not rooting for one or the other. I just think that's that what will happen. And if it ends up being -- being Ron Paul and Mitt Romney all the way down the line, that sharpens Romney's skills for the full campaign. So I think that's kind of helpful in a weird sort of way.

PFOTENHAUER: I think the people who are -- what we're seeing with Paul is a real -- a very strong anti-government passion. People who do not like the fact that government is intruding in their lives. And I think eventually, faced with Obama and a Republican nominee, any of these Republican nominees are going to put less government in their lives than Obama has. And so I think you will eventually see those people sway into line.

NANCE: I agree.

YELLIN: But could that be into Ron Paul's line?

PFOTENHAUER: I don't think he makes it. I don't think he makes it through some of the biggest states. I just don't.

` YELLIN: Why not? PFOTENHAUER: I don't.

GALEN: Because he's of the wing of the libertarian movement that thinks stop signs are a violation of your Fifth Amendment rights.

PFOTENHAUER: He's so easy to characterize.

NANCE: And the thought of him running as a third-party candidate, I think. But I think it's very key at this point, though, for Republican contenders to embrace him and not to alienate his base, because they're going to need them later.

YELLIN: Where do you see the social conservatives going on -- in Iowa? Before we move on to Mitt Romney, I just want to ask you, because there's a lot of talk that the social conservative vote will divide among so many different candidates.

NANCE: I think it's been an issue. Again, I don't know how this is going to shake out, but I certainly will say that they're not going to go with Ron Paul. It's -- Mitt Romney is not their first choice. He's more -- viewed more as a big government, socially liberal candidate. So they are drawn more towards, you know, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and -- and even Newt Gingrich, despite his marital issues.

PFOTENHAUER: You know and that's strange to me, because I think Newt Gingrich, while I think he's a man of bold ideas, he can be boldly wrong. And -- and I think he's essentially a big-government conservative.

And even when people -- when he was likening or defending himself and by referencing Jack Kemp in one of the debates. I love Jack -- I love Jack Kemp on tax policy. As soon as he got in as HUD secretary, he democratically expanded HUD policy.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: Huckabee -- Huckabee only won Iowa with three or four percent of the vote. So it doesn't...

PFOTENHAUER: Thirty-four percent.

GALEN: Yes, 34 percent. So 2/3 of Iowans four years ago wanted somebody else. Obama, by the way, only won with a little less than 38 percent of the vote. So 62 percent of Iowans didn't want Obama to be their nominee either. So again, it's the tyranny of small numbers. It's something to talk about.

YELLIN: There's a brand -- there's a new "Boston Globe" poll out that shows Mitt Romney with 39 percent support in New Hampshire. So right after Iowa comes New Hampshire, and Romney sort of staked his claim on that state.

And the 39 percent has Romney, you know, way above the next challenger, Newt Gingrich, at 17 percent. The reason this is meaningful, beyond his huge lead, is because there's been so much complaining that Romney can't break the mid 20s, he can't get support above 25 percent, and that means he's lukewarm; the support in the Republican Party for him just isn't there. Is this a meaningful breakthrough?

NANCY: Only -- only in that, if he can't break 25 percent in New Hampshire, he is done.

PFOTENHAUER: Yes, right.

NANCE: So it is the helpful to him, but I don't think it says...

GALEN: If he doesn't well in Iowa, I think -- I think he'll crack 40, maybe 50 percent, especially if Gingrich collapses.

The other thing about polling in New Hampshire, and under New Hampshire rules, independents can walk in. They don't -- they don't have to be recorded (ph). They just have to take a ticket from one side or the other. And nobody ever knows how many independents are going to show up.

YELLIN: I've got to ask you about this, Rich, because -- because it's the Newt Gingrich quote of the week. He did not qualify for the Virginia ballot. Then he said he would run a write-in campaign, but you can't to that. And then his national campaign director said that this is just like Pearl Harbor, basically.

GALEN: It was worse because he said, "Newt and I both agree that it's just like Pearl Harbor." I mean, I understand, because I've worked for Newt and around him and against him for, you know, 30 years. What he was trying to say was that the American Navy came back from Pearl Harbor and ended up winning the war -- naval war in the Pacific in relatively short order. That's what he was saying. But...

PFOTENHAUER: ... grandiosity and...

NANCE: We need you back, Rich.

(CROSSTALK)

PFOTENHAUER: One point on intensity: the intensity here, everybody is obsessed with, you know, does Romney engender strong feelings in support of. The intensity here is going to come in the general election against Obama. The incumbents are not beaten by challengers. They defeat themselves. And we're really waiting -- that's why I think Obama is really running against the economy. We just have to have a Republican nominee who doesn't screw up.

YELLIN: So you need this primary to end quickly and get a nominee, you think is the trick?

NANCE: Yes. Weeks ago.

YELLIN: All right.

GALEN: I think Romney's much better since they got worried about Gingrich, and they began to engage. It's like being... YELLIN: We've got to wrap it up.

GALEN: It's like being a boxer. You have to have the scoring card. You've got to feel the punching.

PFOTENHAUER: I agree with you.

YELLIN: All right. Thanks to all of you. I think there will be a lot of boxing ahead.

Thanks to all of you.

And coming up at the top of the hour is "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," but Ali Velshi is sitting in for her.

And Ali, you're there. Ali, hi!

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: I wish you hadn't stopped that conversation. That was such a good conversation. I was really enjoying it, but you know what? We'll talk more politics. And I think they're ready to go; they're ready to keep talking. We'll be talking more politics on "OUTFRONT."

The other thing, Jessica, there's a very worrisome story that we're following out of Indiana. A 9-year-old girl has gone missing from a trailer park in Indiana. She's a girl who suffers from a number of cognitive disabilities. There's some talk that maybe she's a sleepwalker. We're not sure what happened. But she disappeared on Friday morning. Now not only the local police but the FBI are involved. We're going to be talking to that young girl's grandfather on "OUTFRONT" to try and figure out where they think this girl -- where she could be. It's getting cold out there. We want her home safe and sound as quickly as possible.

So we're talking about that. We're talking about some things going on around the world that should be of concern to you, even as you are relaxing and enjoying this holiday week. We've got a full hour coming up for you in about nine minutes, Jessica. It's great to see you, as always.

YELLIN: It's great to see you. Sounds like a great show. But Ali, don't go. I have a news quiz for you. OK? We've got a quiz courtesy of the folks at "Life" magazine.

VELSHI: Do you -- do you ask Erin quizzes, or are you just doing this for me?

YELLIN: Just for you. It's to torture you. These are notable quotes from 2011. OK? So we know you have the answer to this. Who said this: Abe Simpson from the television show "The Simpsons" or former Senator Alan Simpson, OK? Ready?

VELSHI: OK. Yes.

YELLIN: Quote, "Grandchildren now don't write thank you notes for their Christmas presents. They're walking on their pants with the cap on backwards, listening to the Enema Man and Snoopy-Snoopy Poop Dog, and they don't like them."

VELSHI: Snoopy-Snoopy Poop Dog. I guarantee you it's someone whose first initial is "A" and last name is "Simpson." But I'm not going to -- you want an answer?

YELLIN: Yes.

VELSHI: Am I supposed to answer?

YELLIN: Yes, you are.

VELSHI: I think it's the character, the Simpson character.

YELLIN: It was former Senator Alan Simpson. He actually said that.

VELSHI: Really? He said Snoopy-Snoopy Poop Dog?

YELLIN: Yes, yes.

VELSHI: Wow.

YELLIN: He is known for saying some unusual things. We have one other. He's retired, by the way.

VELSHI: He's gangsta.

YELLIN: No, no, OK. He's -- OK, who said this? Charlie Sheen or Muammar Gadhafi said, quote, "I will deploy my ordinance to the ground."

VELSHI: Oh, that's Muammar Gadhafi.

YELLIN: Charlie Sheen.

VELSHI: Charlie Sheen?

YELLIN: We'll give you a chance to catch up tomorrow. Good to see you.

VELSHI: Nice to see you, Jessica.

YELLIN: OK. We'll see you in a few minutes. We'll be watching.

All right. And still ahead, one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors -- bachelors is no longer single. We'll have the details.

Plus, an unwanted guest who just wouldn't leave. How this deer crashed a family's Christmas party, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back. Here's Lisa Sylvester with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hey, Lisa. LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jessica.

It was supposed to be friends getting together for Christmas, but for one Bountiful, Utah, family, an unwanted guest crashed the party. Yes. Take a look here at this. A 5-foot tall buck broke through the family's basement window and made himself quite at home in the master bedroom. Look at him there. Thankfully, the deer didn't do too much damage, although he did crush some Christmas presents. Officers from the Utah Division of Wildlife had to be called in to remove that unwanted visitor.

And he is a famous actor. He likes to work out at the beach and has been known to play the bongos naked. We could only be talking about actor Matthew McConaughey and he plans to add "husband" to his list of accomplishments. Yes, yes, it's true.

The 42-year-old actor proposed on Christmas day to longtime girlfriend Camilla Alves. McConaughey and Alves have two children together.

And finally, Matthew McConaughey isn't the only Hollywood heartthrob making headlines this weekend. Tom Cruise's new movie, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" took in $26.5 million at the box office, making it by far the big winner of the weekend. This is, in case you've been counting, the fourth installment in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, and to date, the spy thrillers have grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide.

That's a pretty nice take.

YELLIN: It is. I was so happy when I heard that Matthew McConaughey got married, that he married the mother of his children. I read it.

SYLVESTER: I know. Do you know how many women out there are just boo-hooing?

YELLIN: I know, but they're such a pretty couple and their kids are so cute.

SYLVESTER: They have beautiful children.

YELLIN: Please, let it be the one who had his kids. You never know.

All right. Well, here's the moment you missed. Much to the delight of military families in Hawaii, President Obama and the first lady joined them in the mess hall for Christmas chow. And instead of heading for the food, the president headed for 8-month-old Cooper Wagner and his parents. Mom and dad were thrilled to see the president and little Cooper was -- check that out -- more interested in the president's mouth and nose. He stuck his hand right into the president's mouth.

SYLVESTER: Did you see that, though? The parents are actually still staring straight ahead. They're, like, oblivious. They don't know what's going on, what the kid's doing.

YELLIN: If you have an infant do you act totally cool about that when the kid sticks their hand in the president's mouth?

SYLVESTER: They probably think there's nothing you can do. They have no idea that this is the president of the United States. They're just like, "Oh, look, it's a mouth."

YELLIN: Maybe you're so dazzled that you just think, you know, you don't know what to do.

The president was totally immune.

SYLVESTER: That's a moment. And they will be showing -- that family will be showing that videotape again and again and again.

YELLIN: That's true.

SYLVESTER: That's a great little souvenir.

YELLIN: That's all from us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.