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JOHN KING, USA

Republicans Make Final Push in Iowa; Interview With Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Aired December 30, 2011 - 18:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us. I'm Candy Crowley, in for John King.

Tonight, in Iowa, it's getting rough out there. Mitt Romney's comparing President Obama to Marie Antoinette. Ron Paul's facing new questions over what he's written about AIDS, minority rights and sexual harassment.

Also tonight, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin join us to preview live coverage of New Year's Eve in Times Square, and you never know what will happen when those two get together.

But, first, here we are, just three days from the Iowa caucuses and Mitt Romney seems to be feeling good enough about his chances that he's spending tonight and tomorrow morning elsewhere, in New Hampshire. He's also back to attacking President Obama, this time, comparing him to Marie Antoinette.

CNN's Jim Acosta was at Romney's early stops in Iowa today -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, there are several reasons for Mitt Romney's growing confidence.

One is the fact that -- we have been talking about this for several days -- Newt Gingrich has been staying positive, not really going after Mitt Romney. Ron Paul, Romney's chief rival in the state, is leaving the state this weekend and he's going back to Texas to spend New Year's Eve with his wife and family.

Michele Bachmann, a former campaign manager, Ed Rollins, tells me via e-mail earlier today that Michele Bachmann has basically been laying off of Mitt Romney in the hopes of being his vice presidential running mate. So it's no surprise that Romney out on the campaign earlier today with his top surrogate, Chris Christie, was going after President Obama, comparing him, as you said, to French royalty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The other day, President Obama said that it could be worse. That was his line. It could be worse.

Can you imagine hearing that from a pessimistic president? It could be worse. That goes down with Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: He's in Hawaii right now. We're out in the cold and the rain and the wind because we care about America. He out there. He just finished his 90th round of golf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, Romney will be back in the state this weekend. He will be continuing to campaign, heading into the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday night.

But, Candy, another sign of Mitt Romney's confidence, he already has an op-ed featured in the state newspaper. That's in South Carolina. That's a couple of contests from now. It just goes to show you he's feeling pretty good about his chances on Tuesday night.

But I think we will get one more sense as to how Mitt Romney is doing when the "Des Moines Register" poll comes out Saturday night. That's usually a good gauge as to how all of this could break down when the caucuses get going, Candy.

CROWLEY: Our Jim Acosta tonight against a backdrop of downtown Des Moines, thanks.

Chalk it up to the pressure of the campaign or the rush of holiday memories, but Newt Gingrich was fighting back tears today. The unusually emotional moment came while he was talking about his late mother's health problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And my whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing -- see, I'm going to be emotional of dealing with, you know, the real problems of real people in my family.

And so it's not a theory. It's, in fact, you know, my mother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Our Joe Johns is following the former speaker.

That is quite a moment. This is a man in public life for a very long time, an unusual moment for him, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure. You don't see Newt Gingrich cry all the time, although to be totally honest with you, I looked on the Internet and saw back around Thanksgiving, in fact, he did break down in tears in public, a completely different situation, though.

Still, just want to tell you a little bit about where I am, Candy. This is Creston, Iowa. It's a coffee shop. And we're waiting right now for Newt Gingrich to appear within the hour. That event that you saw, I was in the room. That actually happened at a coffee shop inside Des Moines proper.

And so the question, of course, is, you know, here's a guy who is down in the polls, he's been attacked in multiple ads, and he needs a spark. So, you know, politically, how is this crying incident, if you will, going to play among the voters here in Iowa, the people who are going to the caucuses?

I have a captive room here of Republicans waiting to see Newt Gingrich. So I just happened to walk around and talk to a few people. Most, the vast majority of the people I asked about this had not heard about it, had not seen anything on TV.

And the two people I spoke with who said they actually did hear something about it said they thought it was sort of irrelevant to selecting the Republican nominee for the president of the United States. So, we will see how to plays, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, our Joe Johns, covering the Newt Gingrich campaign tonight.

Remember that old advertising slogan, can you hear me now? Well, tonight, the folks at Verizon Wireless got your message. Only one day after announcing it, Verizon is dropping what they called a convenience fee for some customers.

CNN's Alison Kosik is here now from the New York Stock Exchange with the decision to reverse the charges -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And you know what, it's interesting how this didn't take long. In fact, it took less than 24 hours, as you said, after announcing this new fee that Verizon Wireless said, you know what, never mind, we're not going to impose this fee. You can go ahead and put another check mark in the win column for angry consumers who spoke out about this.

Now, this battle began Thursday afternoon. Yesterday afternoon, when Verizon announced it would impose a $2 fee for every one-time payment that you would make either with a credit card or a debit card, whether you did it online or over the phone, and immediately it set customers off.

Just the idea that you may have to pay a fee for the privilege of paying a bill caused a huge outrage on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, and clearly the outrage worked, because by this afternoon, Verizon Wireless succumbed to the pressure from consumers and also a warning from the Federal Communications Commission that it was interested in looking into this matter as well. And Verizon Wireless went ahead scrapping the fee after, yes, listening to feedback from their consumers.

CROWLEY: Alison, what makes a difference here for some of these companies? Because there have been sort of a lot of outrageous fees it seems to me that have been out there for banks and a number of other things. And some sort of turn on a dime and others don't. It took Netflix a little while to respond to all those folks dropping out of their program. This was so quick. Was it the sheer volume of complaints?

KOSIK: It was the sheer -- you know what? It was a little bit of the sheer volume, but sort of the outcry online that really took hold.

You used Netflix as an example, but I also think of Bank of America. Remember that $5 debit card feed that Bank of America was going to impose and then you got that backlash from consumers. In this time, in this day and age, when everybody is sort of scraping two nickels together, we're all struggling. And you have got 13 million people out of work.

And then you hear about these big companies with a lot of money looking to impose these fees like a $5 debit card fee if you make charges on your debit card or a $2 fee here. So, yes, you are going to get this kind of outrage. What really happens here is it becomes a huge P.R. nightmare.

I think what you saw here is Verizon Wireless saw that and immediately took action, less than 24 hours after making this announcement, Candy.

CROWLEY: So, complain loud enough and long enough to become a P.R. nightmare.

KOSIK: Yes.

CROWLEY: That's the lesson we take from this. Thanks so much, Alison Kosik. Appreciate it.

Next up, we will be joined by a top liberal in Congress who is in danger of losing his seat and not at all happy about the reason.

Later, what will they say this year? Before Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin join us to preview their New Year's coverage, we want to look back at some of their past shenanigans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: Will you admit some of them fall asleep sometimes? Have you ever caught David Gergen like nodding off a little bit, a little bit -- come on, at lunch?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: That is nighttime downtown Des Moines. We are coming to you tonight live from the beautiful capitol in Des Moines.

One of the leading liberals in Congress, Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, is in danger of losing his seat, not to a Republican, but to another Democrat. Here's why. Ohio is losing congressional districts because of the state's declining population. The people who draw the maps looked at the current districts anchored in Toledo and in Cleveland and decided to combine them.

The new district looks like this. Now, here's the problem. Both of the old districts were represented by prominent Democrats, and now there's only room for one of them. That set up what you might call a clash of the titans.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here to tell us all about it.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, by most accounts, this is a very tough decision for Dennis Kucinich, how to stay in Congress given the fact that his seat disappeared.

The Ohio Democrat even flirted, Candy, with the idea of moving to Washington State to run, but ultimately he decided to stay local and hope the fact that he is a former mayor of Cleveland and a longtime representative of the area, hope that that pays off.

Now, I'm told that he also should have an advantage because of fund-raising. He has good lists, I'm told, because of the fact that he has run for president in the past. His problem, of course, is that he's running against the dean of the Ohio delegation, Marcy Kaptur.

And she also happens to be the longest-serving woman in the House of Representatives. You and, Candy, know Marcy Kaptur well, covering her in Congress, but she certainly does not have anything close to the national profile that Kucinich does.

Still, you talk to Democratic strategists and they say that she is very much the inside player, tight with local leaders, fixated on pro-labor and sort of has the Rust Belt ethos that plays well in that part of Ohio. But for Democrats nationally, Candy, this is going to be a tough primary to watch, because it seems to be either's for the taking.

CROWLEY: Yes. And it's always tough, because they're allies obviously.

BASH: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: They're not only in the same caucus. They're in the same state caucus. So it's always tough.

But, Dana, this will in no way put Democrats in jeopardy of losing that seat to a Republican.

BASH: That's right. Whomever wins this primary, either Dennis Kucinich or Marcy Kaptur, is expected to win in November. So the primary is where it's at.

But it certainly at this point should not affect the balance of power in the House. CROWLEY: Dana Bash, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss his campaign to stay in Congress is veteran Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

I know this is a tough thing for you, not to mention for Congresswoman Kaptur. But let me ask you just kind of what went through your mind. As Dana mentioned, she's the most senior female in the House. She's brought home to Ohio more federal dollars than any other state lawmaker. What do you bring to the table that she doesn't already have there?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Well, first of all, the seat doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the people.

And my approach has always been to stand up and speak out on behalf of the economic rights of people. In the Cleveland area, I have been instrumental in helping to save or create thousands of jobs. People know me there as a person who gets involved. When everyone else that stands on the sideline and says it can't be done, I get involved, change the outcome, not only in the big-picture items, like helping to save a steel mill or an electric system years ago, but also on the matters where people need help, Social Security, Medicare.

My office gets involved and helps people, in some cases, save their lives. So my -- I'm a can-do person. I'm used to being in tough situations. And it's been the story of my life and landing on my feet. So I'm -- I know that this is a competitive race.

CROWLEY: You know, tonally, how is this going to work? She was asked what's the difference between you and Congressman Kucinich? And she said that she's operationally effective, the implication being that you don't get things done, you always have a point of view, but that she gets things done.

How do the two of you get through this campaign without going negative? Is that a pledge you're willing to take, that you won't take out negative advertising on her? How will it work?

KUCINICH: Well, first of all, this campaign is not about, you know, my criticism of another candidate. I'm not going to do that.

Marcy Kaptur's my friend.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: So you will do no negative ads?

KUCINICH: I don't even think in those terms.

Candy, one of the problems with politics in America today -- and I have seen the coverage of Iowa primaries -- people are just tearing each other up. It's important for candidates to say what they're going to do for people to create jobs, health care for all, education for all, retirement security for all, and peace.

And that's the message I'm going to take to people in Ohio. And, frankly if they hear it and I get my message out, I should have a chance to succeed. But one cannot succeed by simply disparaging another. That's what's wrong about our politics and it's something that I can demonstrate in this campaign, a way of changing the direction of our politics.

CROWLEY: So, from you, no negative words, no negative ads about Marcy Kaptur?

KUCINICH: Why should I? It's about -- first of all, she's a friend of mine. But beyond that, we need to change our approach to politics.

People are fed up with the politics where candidates just rip each other apart and then the voters lose in the end because no one really knows what anybody stands for.

I'm going to continue to get my message out to people from Cleveland to Lorain to Toledo about my efforts to save and create jobs, my efforts to stand up and speak out as a vigorous spokesperson for peace in a time when people are rattling the sabers to drag us into more wars. And take a look at what's happening with Iran right now and you will see why it's important to have a voice like that.

But I -- but it doesn't have to be done at the expense of another candidate.

CROWLEY: OK.

Let me ask you, just -- you brought up 2012. I want to ask you a couple of 2012 questions. The first is, do you think that -- would you welcome any kind of inter-party challenge to President Obama? There's been lots of complaints on the left about some of what he's done. Do you think there will be a challenge to him?

KUCINICH: No. I think that President Obama is assured of the nomination. This is really going to be a choice between President Obama and whoever the Republicans nominate.

CROWLEY: And I want to play you something that Rick Santorum had to say yesterday about one of his colleagues on the presidential campaign trail, Ron Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very important vote you're casting here in Iowa. On national security, there's no more important. Iowa needs to send a message that we want a candidate that is not in the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party running for president under our ticket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: I wonder if you consider Ron Paul to be in the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party.

KUCINICH: Ron Paul is a force in and of...

CROWLEY: You both do agree on...

KUCINICH: He's a force in and of himself. And I'm not going to inject myself into Republican politics.

But I will say this. When you have candidates that are trying to take us into war against Iran -- remember, we went to war against Iraq based on lies. I led the effort in the United States Congress in challenging the Bush administration's march towards war.

I said in October of 2008 that there was no proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or had the intention or capability of attacking the United States. Here we are. Almost 4,700 troops died, tens of thousands injured, over a million Iraqis dead. It will cost $5 trillion in the end for the war. What did it prove?

It proved that the people who supported the war were wrong and the people who are beating a drum for war against Iran are just as wrong. It's time for us to take a new direction. Don't we have problems here at home? Don't we have a need to create jobs and save homes and give people a chance to have their kids go to better schools and protect Social Security and things like that? They're still talking about war? Come on.

CROWLEY: And on that, there's some bipartisan agreement, I think, between you and Ron Paul across the party line.

Thank you so much, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, an interesting year ahead for you. Thanks for joining us.

KUCINICH: Happy new year.

CROWLEY: Same to you.

Next : some proof that things tend to balance out. Just as one prominent couple calls it quits, another big names ready to say "I do" again.

We also have much more from Iowa. Two-time caucus winner Bob Dole tells us who he thinks should win this year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

CROWLEY: Next: a voice from the past. Two-time Iowa caucus winner Bob Dole tells us who he's supporting this year and why it isn't Ron Paul. And here's another blast from the past. Before Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin join us to preview their New Year's Eve special, here's a look back at how things got going in 2009. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to Times Square, a warm night compared to last year.

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: Why don't you start over? Let's just take that from the top.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN: I'm here with not Ryan Seacrest.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I'm, yes, a pale comparison to Ryan Seacrest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: In this half-hour of JOHN KING, USA: He won the Iowa caucuses in 1988 and 19986. Bob Dole's ready to tell us who he thinks should win this year.

Congressman Ron Paul may have disavowed some of his controversial newsletters, but how will he explain what he wrote about AIDS, minorities and sexual harassment in a 25-year-old book?

And in just 15 years, the dynamic duo of Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin join us to preview CNN's special coverage of New Year's Eve.

If anyone knows how to win the Iowa caucuses, it is Bob Dole. As we just noted, the former senator did it twice in '88 and '96. This week, Dole's been calling prominent Iowa Republicans and urging them to support Mitt Romney.

When we heard about it, we asked him to give us a call as well. We spoke a little bit ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: You knew personally a lot of people in the field. You chose to back Mitt Romney over, for instance, Newt Gingrich.

Do you think some of the rap on the former speaker has been that he's just not temperamentally suited to be president? Do you agree with that?

BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, I tried to work with Newt or worked with Newt for about 10 years. And we had our good times and our bad times.

I think some of Newt's statements, he's forgotten that Congress is composed of a House and a Senate, and the senators had a lot to do with welfare reform and NAFTA and cutting taxes, Reagan tax cuts. It wasn't just a one-man show in the House of Representatives.

But, you know, Newt is Newt. And it's sometimes his way or the highway.

CROWLEY: So, the other person that I know you know, at least somewhat, in this field is Congressman Paul. What do you make of his popularity inside the Republican Party?

DOLE: I'm really -- I'm not certain I ever met Ron Paul. He's a fascinating person to watch. I don't believe he'll be the Republican nominee. His foreign policy is way out of the mainstream of the Republican Party. And I just don't believe he'll -- he may do well in Iowa. He's been surging along with Rick Santorum. But I don't believe that after Iowa he'll, you know, he'll be winning states.

But he's -- he's a hard worker and he's been out there a lot in the past year. He has a good organization. You've got to give him credit for that. And he could pull off a win in Iowa, and so could Rick Santorum. He's been living there almost. Pretty much a one- issue campaign on abortion. But again, Rick's a hard worker, and it's starting to pay off now.

CROWLEY: You know, Senator, when I hear you talk about reaching across the aisle and President Reagan and the 70 percent, and I look back at the days when I covered you in the Senate and then later in your presidential campaign, but you know, I imagine that, as you look at your Republican Party now, that has been quite swayed, if not controlled, by the Tea Party, you see an entirely different group, because this has not been a party that has been prone to want to compromise or reach across the aisle.

A lot of people think that's why Mitt Romney has had trouble consolidating support in the primary, is that he's too moderate.

DOLE: I don't -- if reaching across the aisle is moderate and compromise is moderate, then I've had the wrong definition the last 25 or 30 years. You know, you need to get things done. There's been a stalemate in Congress, really, for the past two or three years, and that's because some in both parties refuse to bend. I mean, there are no flexibility. I don't mean you surrender your principles, but there are certain things that you can compromise on for the good of the people of the United States.

And that's Romney's goal, is to represent the people, provide leadership for the people, just as he provided leadership as governor. And he's got, I don't know, I couldn't tell you all of the plans, 59- some action plans he has, 10 of which he's going to announce on the first day of his presidency. So I think -- I think he's ready for the job. He looks like a president. He acts look a president. He talks like a president. And just seems to me this is Romney's time.

CROWLEY: Senator Dole, I thank you so very much for your time. I hope we can get together in the new year and have another conversation about what's happening. Also tonight, there are new questions and scathing criticism from Congressman -- for Congressman Ron Paul. An editorial by "The New Hampshire Union-Leader's" influential publisher calls the congressman an extremely dangerous man and labels his supporters as the lunatic fringe.

Also, a book the congressman published back in 1987 is attracting new attention because of what Paul wrote about AIDS patients, minority writes and sexual harassment victims. The book is called "Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution After 200 Plus Years." It was written ahead of Paul's 1988 bid as a presidential candidate.

CNN political reporter Peter Hamby is also in Des Moines and has been following this growing controversy. Peter, I want you to listen to what Ron Paul wrote about sexual harassment. Quote, "Employee rights are said to be valid when employers pressure employees into sexual activity. Why don't they quit once the so-called harassment starts?"

Peter, any -- any kind of reaction to this from Ron Paul?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, the Paul campaign, unlike these controversial newsletters that surfaced, you know, in both of his presidential campaigns, he kind of dismissed those and said, "A ghost writer did those. I wasn't aware of these things," because his name wasn't on it.

His name is on this book, and the Paul campaign told me today that he wrote it, and he's always been an unapologetic defender of individual rights and personal liberties.

But, you know, this presents a two-fold problem for Ron Paul. He can't say that someone else wrote these things. They are, while not perhaps as inflammatory as what was in the newspaper -- newsletters, rather -- they're certainly controversial.

And Ron Paul's competing aggressively for independent voters here in Iowa. Also in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where independents can vote in the Republican primary. And you know, as much as Ron Paul's has tried to say that his views on debt and spending are in the Republican mainstream, this is another reminder that his libertarian views might be too far out there for many Republican voters and not palatable for most Republican voters. Only about 6 percent of Republicans, according to the CNN poll last week, say that he can beat Barack Obama, Candy.

CROWLEY: And then, one more passage here. Congressman Paul wrote this on the rights of minorities, Peter. Quote, "Every year new groups organize to demand their rights. White people who organize and expect the same attention as other groups are quickly and viciously condemned as dangerous bigots. Hispanic, black and Jewish caucuses exist in the U.S. Congress but not a white caucus, demonstrating the absurdity of this approach for achieving rights for everyone."

Peter, any sign that this is in any way hurting Ron Paul among what has been a very fervent following? HAMBY: Not here in Iowa. And I don't think it will, because his -- you know as we've talked about, his supporters are so devoted and people are coming from out of state, as you've been talking about, to canvass for the guy.

And I think, as you head into other states where independents might be open to voting for Ron Paul based on his fiscal message, when they hear sort of suspicious racial language like that, it might turn them off. And that's going to be a problem, because mainstream Republican voters aren't necessarily for Ron Paul. It's those independents and Democrats that he's pulling well among along with Tea Party folks out here in Iowa -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Peter Hamby, thank you so much, joining us tonight from Des Moines.

With us now, "The Washington Post" national political reporter Phillip Rucker and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Frank Bruni. Gentlemen, thank you both.

Let me switch gears from Ron Paul and ask you about Mitt Romney, who this morning you both went to an event. He was with New Jersey governor Chris Christie. And then he took off for New Hampshire. They announced that he was adding some folks to his staff in South Carolina. So, is he hedging his bets or is he flexing his muscle?

PHILLIP RUCKER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": It seems like he's flexing his muscle. I mean, New Hampshire is where he's had this commanding lead for most of the year, and I think he's touching back there to try to rebuild that fire wall, if you will, and make sure that his support is still strong. He'll be back in Iowa 30 hours later. He's due in Lamars (ph) in the northwest corner of the state tomorrow afternoon and has planned a blitz of rallies all around the state on Monday.

CROWLEY: I took it as flexing his muscle, sort of, oh, by the way, look where I am in New Hampshire. That this is really a campaign where you get the sense, you know, they don't want to say it, that they think they've got this.

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": He's polling really well in Iowa right now, and he has seen so many other candidates. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain surge and then fall. Well, his support has stayed pretty steady. And he's been near the top of the pack, if not at it, for a long time right now. So I think right now Mitt Romney's feeling terrific.

CROWLEY: And they don't -- the problem, of course, is you don't want to feel terrific and come in third. That would hurt him.

RUCKER: You don't flow what's going to happen. It's not about the polls. It's about people going out at 7 p.m. at night. And I mean...

CROWLEY: Speeches. RUCKER: It's about the fervor of a small number of people's support rather than how you really poll across a broad spectrum of people.

BRUNI: The interesting thing that we've seen happen this week, is that his crowds have become larger and not just larger but more enthusiastic. It's pretty unusual backlash, then, to see people applauding frequently during his speeches and staying for 20 minutes, 30 minutes to shake his hand, and we're seeing that now pretty much everywhere he goes in Iowa. There's some momentum building.

CROWLEY: It just -- it remains me of a little bit of Howard Dean and John Kerry, when everyone, you know -- he kind of came roaring into Iowa and Howard Dean was the guy. And of course, he ends up losing to John Kerry. And it was -- what came out of that was, well, voters dated Howard Dean and married John Kerry. I feel that same sense going on now.

BRUNI: You think they might not marry Mitt?

CROWLEY: I think -- no, I think they might marry Mitt.

BRUNI: They might marry Mitt?

CROWLEY: Yes.

BRUNI: But not Ron Paul?

CROWLEY: But not Ron Paul. That's my...

BRUNI: There's another dynamic here, which is if you talk to voters, the desire to defeat Obama, the dislike of Obama is so intense that you may see an Iowa right now, voters not do something contrarian but actually kind of go with the candidate that everyone is telling them has the best chance of beating Obama. That may happen this year.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich, who was with a group of moms today. He was asked a question about his mom, and it was difficult for him to get through it. I mean, he kind of broke down.

I remember very well Hillary Clinton breaking down and -- she didn't break down. She had to pause a little and collect herself in New Hampshire, and that helped her. And my sense is, that kind of does Newt, too, as well, except for I wonder about the timing. Are we frozen? We're going into a new year's weekend. Does anything matter right this second?

BRUNI: I think a lot is about trajectory, and his trajectory is downward, you know, from a very high point. I don't know that a few tears is going to turn that around for him. You know, and you and I have been on campaigns together, Candy. It's funny how candidates always get emotional in the days before the big decision.

I remember George Bush in 2000 often getting teary on the trail toward the very end of the process. So a lot of this isn't just them showing human sides of themselves. It's them just really being exhausted with everything they've been through.

CROWLEY: They've kind of been through the mill.

When you look at the totality of what we're seeing in the polls -- and basically, we've had a couple of polls showing Mitt Romney ahead, not by much, then Ron Paul, then Rick Santorum, then the downward spiral of Newt Gingrich -- you expect that to hold?

RUCKER: Perhaps. But you know what? We probably expect to hold some -- is Ron Paul or Mitt Romney doing well, which if you talk to the Romney campaign, that's a win either way. They feel like if Ron Paul's the one who emerges out of Iowa as the main conservative alternative to Mitt Romney that they can dispatch of him pretty easily in the big states down the road like Florida.

CROWLEY: Frank Bruni, Phillip Rucker, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

RUCKER: Thanks for having us.

CROWLEY: Coming up next, we will be joined by Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. They've given us many memorable and even a few embarrassing New Year's Eve. You suppose they can top this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know what you mean. I don't -- what are you talking about?

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: I meant the one in Jersey. You know, with Snooki. That's going to be off the chain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Putting Iowa politics aside for a moment, it's almost time for another one of those wild traditional events where anything can happen and you can never predict what someone will say.

Again this year, CNN's Anderson Cooper teams up with Kathy Griffin to ring in the new year with a whole lot of their closest friends in New York City's Times Square. Right now, they're in a nice warm studio to give us a preview.

COOPER: Hey.

CROWLEY: And I want to start out with basically, I think you guys, is the question, every time, and that is, what will it take to get Kathy banned from the air at CNN?

GRIFFIN: Thank you, Dana [SIC].

CROWLEY: What can you say and that will be it?

COOPER: The question I keep asking every year is why on God's green earth have they hired her again? That's the question I don't...

GRIFFIN: OK, so I came in today, and I actually went to the security desk downstairs. And I said "Nancy Grace plus one," and I swear I have a tag here that says "Nancy Grace plus one." So the crack security team thinks I'm Nancy Grace, which, by the way, is my dream.

Now, Candy, that's a real reporter, Nancy Grace.

COOPER: Candy, you may not realize this, Candy, but Kathy's actually...

GRIFFIN: Did you forget my name for a second?

COOPER: I did.

GRIFFIN: You went "Uh... Kathy."

COOPER: Is actually an obsessive watcher of CNN and HLN.

GRIFFIN: I have not missed a moment of Carol Costello. If it were up to me, she'd be on 24/7.

COOPER: You like the Nancy Grace and you like the Jane Velez- Mitchell?

CROWLEY: OK, you guys.

COOPER: Sorry.

GRIFFIN: Oh, sorry, Candy.

COOPER: Go ahead.

GRIFFIN: Candy, how's Iowa? What's the capital?

CROWLEY: I just wanted to say, can you guys see this? These are the questions I have to ask you. See, so you can't just take over the show.

GRIFFIN: I just really don't know the capital of Iowa. I really don't.

CROWLEY: Well, it's beautiful, actually. You should come sometime. It's very pretty.

GRIFFIN: I was just -- I was shown Cedar Falls.

CROWLEY: Really?

GRIFFIN: Yes.

CROWLEY: You can come to Des Moines? Why are we having this -- wait a second.

COOPER: You can't -- Candy... CROWLEY: Off the rails here. Let's get back on the rails.

GRIFFIN: ... the Cracker Barrel, where they have, like, an old tiny candy shop.

COOPER: I like the Cracker Barrel. It's just great. No matter where you go, it's the same. And they have the old-timey candy shop.

GRIFFIN: And you can get a theme rocker.

COOPER: I know, I know.

GRIFFIN: We're not paid spokespeople. We're just talking about the meatloaf. I'm sorry, Dana [SIC], back to you.

CROWLEY: OK, Candy [SIC]. But it's all right.

All right. Now, listen, we want to show something that got tweeted out here to give our viewers the sight that you all are going to see. So in other words, when you look into the camera on New Year's Eve, there is a sign that's going to be held up that says -- I don't know if you guys can see it -- "No nudity." Who has to be reminded of that? Which one of you?

GRIFFIN: Anderson Cooper has a problem. He's like an exhibitionist, I guess, is the word for it.

COOPER: Last year, there was a sign being held up, which was "Please don't swear." And I guess what, now "no nudity"? That's what it's come to?

GRIFFIN: First of all, you're not wearing pants right now. Candy, he's not wearing pants right now.

COOPER: Not true.

GRIFFIN: Stand up. Stand up.

COOPER: I'm not going to stand up.

GRIFFIN: Stand up and show that you are pants-less. He's wearing a protective cup, that's it. Because I guess he has, like, a football game later. I don't understand it. I don't know athletics that well. But...

CROWLEY: This is a news show here, folks. TMI.

GRIFFIN: I understand. The capital is Des Moines.

CROWLEY: OK. I'm trying to get that picture out of my head here.

Somebody asked me to ask you how much time and alcohol it takes to prep for this show.

GRIFFIN: Well, my mother goes through a box of wine... COOPER: Yes.

GRIFFIN: ... but that's at her home.

COOPER: We'll actually not be drinking. You don't drink at all.

GRIFFIN: I don't drink, believe it or not.

COOPER: And I usually have a glass of wine. So you know, we actually don't drink. She's like this all the time.

GRIFFIN: But Dr. Drew gave me some sedatives for you know who.

COOPER: Yes. Not true.

CROWLEY: Anderson, Kathy Griffin...

GRIFFIN: Dr. Drew doing the show for me? Because he helps people.

Sorry.

COOPER: Go ahead. Go ahead, Candy. Just ignore her.

CROWLEY: You guys let me -- let me know.

Yes, sorry. Someone also suggested, Anderson, that all of this whole evening in Times Square is just a way for you to search for people with alcohol problems that you can bring on your daytime show to get cured.

COOPER: You know, there's actually no alcohol allowed in Times Square, Candy.

GRIFFIN: But you're right, that's true.

CROWLEY: Really?

GRIFFIN: He told me on commercial break, don't expose the fact that the only reason I to do it is to find people with addiction problems to talk about on my daytime show.

COOPER: I'll tell you the reason I started...

GRIFFIN: It's weird that you said that verbatim.

COOPER: ... you know, I started doing this ten days -- ten years ago and...

GRIFFIN: That was a bad Freudian slip, but it wasn't even a Freudian slip.

COOPER: Getting sharp for tomorrow night. I started doing this ten years ago because I really don't like going out on New Year's Eve, because I've never actually had a fun time going out on New Year's.

GRIFFIN: But now we have fun.

COOPER: Now I have fun every year on New Year's Eve. And being in Times Square is actually really fun and fun -- and cool. Well, it's not cool.

GRIFFIN: Well, what about when I threw your glasses off the riser last year?

CROWLEY: I think he just paid you a compliment.

GRIFFIN: I know. I am taking it in, and I'm so excited to be here with John king in person, because I love the way he covers the Congress people and the way they vote on bills. You know, bills. Bills are for laws. They're written to pass laws, et cetera. I'm like a White House correspondent at this point, Candy.

CROWLEY: I know, and we see you, in fact, at the White House Correspondents' Association, but yet again, we digress. So if you both could swap out your co-hosts for someone else.

GRIFFIN: Right.

CROWLEY: Who would you pick, Anderson, for New Year's Eve?

COOPER: Wow! I'd go solo. Because I mean, at this point in my career I don't really need a co-host.

CROWLEY: "I'm going to go solo." That's such a guy thing to say.

GRIFFIN: I'm going to go ahead and say I would do three hours straight with David Gergen. David Gergen is one of your political pundits who is -- or for...

CROWLEY: I would pay money for that.

GRIFFIN: Or I would just get a pelvic exam from Sanjay.

That's not part of the news?

CROWLEY: Seriously, do you all, like, kind of script out this show or do you just sort of...

COOPER: Oh, yes.

GRIFFIN: Totally scripted.

CROWLEY: ... go with the organics of it?

GRIFFIN: Actually, Anderson writes the copy; I just read it.

COOPER: This kind of TV gold, you can't -- you can't -- you have to script this stuff out.

GRIFFIN: Yes. We memorize it like a monologue.

COOPER: We prep for it a lot. A lot of prep. Kathy actually does preparation.

CROWLEY: So Anderson, but you just kind of go off...

COOPER: Yes. I have no idea what's going to happen.

CROWLEY: Do you really?

COOPER: I get scared every year, and I -- I talk to CNN management every year.

GRIFFIN: Well, then, maybe you should wear pants. He's not wearing pants, Candy. I don't know what kind of violation...

COOPER: I don't know what quite to expect, but it always ends up usually sort of OK. And there's usually some sort of headline on the Drudge Report, like, "This is CNN?"

GRIFFIN: Oh, the Drudge -- we're now referring to the Drudge Report.

COOPER: Well, I'm just saying as an example of what happens the day after.

GRIFFIN: I mean, Perez Hilton, that's a real Web site. Sorry. I'm in the news business, Candy.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry -- I'm sorry to interrupt your show, but, if I can just ask you, do either one of you have New Year's resolutions?

GRIFFIN: Uh, yes.

COOPER: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Mine is to -- mine is to be a little meaner. A little meaner. I feel I've been too kind to the Kardashians, and that's going to change.

COOPER: Wow! Really?

GRIFFIN: Yes.

COOPER: Because now there's two young Kardashians.

GRIFFIN: There's the other ones, Kendall and Francine, coming down the pike. And I've got my eyes on them, or whatever their names are.

COOPER: Kendall and Francine.

GRIFFIN: I don't know their names yet.

COOPER: It's got to be a "K."

GRIFFIN: Well, of course. They're very big into alliteration. The Kardashians.

COOPER: I do have a New Year's resolution, but they're so boring Kathy will make fun of me if I say them aloud.

GRIFFIN: Is one of them to wear pants? Really, Candy? How does he get away with this?

CROWLEY: Come on. Isn't that the whole point?

GRIFFIN: Oh, OK, yes, come on.

CROWLEY: Honestly. They're really boring. I want -- I want to, like, eat better.

GRIFFIN: Less designer wear.

COOPER: No, I want to eat better and get more out of each day. I don't know.

GRIFFIN: Wake me up when you're done with this hilarious bit. I mean, honestly, Candy, I don't know how you put up with him.

Can Fareed make it? What are you doing tomorrow? Is Gary Tuchman running already? Is he already in the race with his daughter?

COOPER: Gary's going to be running.

GRIFFIN: I already missed him. I've been trying to stretch this to keep up with Gary Tuchman and his daughter in the park.

CROWLEY: OK. I'm going to call time now.

COOPER: So what? It's a long day.

CROWLEY: Your show starts 11 p.m. -- well, you know, what can I tell you? I knew it was you all, so I said, "Hey, clear the show. They're coming on."

GRIFFIN: We're saving the good stuff.

CROWLEY: OK. Eleven o'clock tomorrow night, Eastern Time, you all in Times Square.

CROWLEY: Oh, Candy, one more thing. Anderson just told me that he is officially endorsing Rick Santorum for president of the United States.

COOPER: What? No.

CROWLEY: Breaking news. Put it on the ticker.

COOPER: Obviously, I haven't said anything of that kind.

CROWLEY: I know that not to be true, and before anyone starts tweeting, Anderson would not endorse anyone publicly. Thank you very much.

GRIFFIN: Whatever. CROWLEY: Thanks, guys. See you tomorrow night.

COOPER: Bye.

CROWLEY: Next up, the brand-new list of words and phrases that ought to be banned. You heard them, and you'll hate them.

Also, today's moment you missed. New Jersey governors -- New Jersey governors reinforcing a stereotype just for fun.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. We have returned to Saturday, and here is Lisa Sylvester with the latest news you need to know right now.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Candy.

Well, China has just unveiled big plans for its space program. They're promising to launch a space lab and collect soil samples from the moon during the next five years and eventually build their own space station and land astronauts on the moon.

And for the 37th year Lake Superior State University of Michigan has put out its annual list of words and phrases that should be banned from the English language.

And the winners are: "amazing," "baby bump," "shared sacrifice," "occupy," "blowback" and "man cave." And we didn't have room to put in ginormous and "the new normal," but they want to get rid of those words, too. Ginormous.

Well, depending on where you live, the new year also brings in some new laws. California is banning the production or sale of beer with added caffeine. Both Oregon and California will prohibit the sale of shark fins. And while Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia will require businesses to enroll in the e-verify program to check on employees' immigration status, a new California law specifically prohibits state and local government from requiring employers to use e-verify.

Candy, and I don't know what other words you would add to your list, but I know I'm kind of tired of "O-M-G." So I'm kind of surprised "O-M-G" didn't make the list. Apparently not.

CROWLEY: I would like to ban "double down."

SYLVESTER: Oh, good one.

CROWLEY: I'm so over that phrase. Yes.

SYLVESTER: And...

CROWLEY: Maybe next year we can get rid of it.

SYLVESTER: Yes, and the whole "grown-ups" line.

CROWLEY: Happy new year, Lisa. Thanks so much.

SYLVESTER: Yes, the whole "grown-ups" line, "acting like grown- ups." That was another one.

CROWLEY: Right. Exactly. We could go on, but we shouldn't. Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester. Happy new year to you and yours.

And now the moment you may have missed. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in Iowa today, stumping for Mitt Romney. And listen to this warning he had for the people who live in the Hawkeye State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: And so, listen, I want to tell you something. I want to tell you something really clearly. I'm in a good mood this morning. I'm feeling happy and upbeat. I love being with Mitt and Ann, but let me tell you. You people disappoint me on Tuesday, you don't know what you're supposed to do on Tuesday for Mitt Romney, I will be back, Jersey style, people. I will be back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This weekend is your chance to see the Republican candidates for president offer their closing arguments, uninterrupted, in their own words. "The Contenders 2012," CNN this Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern.

That is all for us tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.