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Iowa Caucuses; Interview with Michele Bachmann; L.A. Arson Fires; Park Ranger Killed

Aired January 2, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Tonight the "Bottom Line" in the Iowa caucuses, which are just 24 hours away, Michele Bachmann, once the candidate to beat in her home state, now polling at just seven percent. She comes OUTFRONT tonight.

And then more than 50 fires in four days, but is a spree of arsons in the Los Angeles area finally over? Tonight a man arrested and the search on for a motive.

And Iran's military test fires long-range missiles into the gulf. Is it just military posturing? Or would Iran fire on American ships and bases in that region? No more important question for this election, let's go OUTFRONT.

Well, good evening, everyone, I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight from CNN's Election Center, because yes, it has begun and it's an episode of survivor, at least that's how Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum described the Iowa caucuses.

But here is the thing about Iowa, and no offense, Iowa, you are really important, but you're also small. Only two million registered voters, 640,000 of them Republicans. And if the 2008 caucuses were an indication of what is ahead for tomorrow, only about 100,000 of those Republicans will actually go out on a cold January night to cast their votes.

And those who do, only a 50 percent success rate when it actually comes to picking the eventual nominee. So what's all the hype about Iowa? The bottom line is it has a huge influence in who stays and doesn't stay in the presidential race. Maybe small, but it packs one big punch. Just listen to the candidates today. They know what is really at stake tomorrow.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are not looking for a chief executive officer for this country. We're looking for a commander-in-chief. We're looking for someone who has experience, someone who can lead.

REP. RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next generation is here today. That is why we have to change things today and bring back the traditions of America which means liberty, peace, and prosperity. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has failed. He said if I can't get this economy turned around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition. I'm here to collect. We're going to take it back. We're going to take it back.


BURNETT: All right, I'm here to collect, so pretty optimistic, by the way, three-way tie in the latest polls today and some already downplaying expectations.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think I'm going to win. I think if you look at the numbers, I think that volume of negativity has done enough damage.


BURNETT: All right, so they're all out talking. One thing that's just been so amazing abut Iowa, we talk about what a punch it packs. Take a look at my walls. And I am real excited about my walls here. We've got two walls and you're going to see amazing things that they can do tomorrow night. But let's just show you this.

These -- Iowa's poll, example of what we have seen. And this just shows the point of how volatile and how important Iowa is. This is among Republican, likely voters in Iowa from June through now. You can see Mitt Romney was number one back in June. And as we progress a little bit further you see Michele Bachmann number one in July with 32 percent rating right there.

Romney number one in October, but then you see the rise of Herman Cain up to 34 percent, highest to that point. Mitt Romney once again, but really hovering right in that mid 20s which is where he has been effectively stuck all the way along. Herman Cain, again in November, then when you see Herman Cain get out of the race on the accusations of sexual harassment, you have Newt Gingrich.

And that was a real surge up to 33 percent. Ron Paul then, 28 percent as the leader. And then, Mitt Romney, once again, but still in those mid 20s at 25. And you see Mitt Romney there. Now had this gone just a couple of more days you would have seen Rick Santorum who doubled from 11 percent of likely voters last Wednesday to 22 percent on Friday, which is pretty stunning.

And as you can see all those different leaders, since this began, so a few votes can make a huge difference and that's why Iowa is so important. Because a few votes can make the difference between a win and a loss and between who eventually becomes the nominee for the GOP. That's where John Avlon comes in and you've looked at this back in 2008, the margin of victory between a winner and a runner-up not very big.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not big at all. The difference between Mike Huckabee who won the 2008 caucuses and Mitt Romney who'd outspent him heavily and invested so heavily only 10,000 votes.

BURNETT: Stunning.

AVLON: The difference -- stunning. The difference between the number three person, who was Fred Thompson and Ron Paul who came in fifth, less than five -- 400 votes. So you're talking about very narrow margins. This is a high intensity, low turnout election. And it's not even particularly representative of the state of Iowa as a whole. It's highly conservative. Eighty-eight percent of people last time identified as conservatives. Only 11 percent is moderates. So it is -- skews (ph) right and the margins we're talking about are very tight.

BURNETT: And high intensity right now benefits Rick Santorum who has momentum. We've been looking at that "Des Moines Register" poll. Seventy-six percent of people who are going to vote for him are going to the poll, highest of anybody. And something that happened today may actually influence that. Here is Rick Santorum and his wife just a few moments ago.


SANTORUM: It is so important to recognize for the family, to recognize the life of that child. And for all the children to know that they had a brother and a sister.


SANTORUM: And they did. Little Elizabeth. They were young. But Elizabeth was here. I know it's hard. It gives you opportunity to see that we all go through this. This is part of life.


BURNETT: Obviously Rick Santorum very conservative, and as you were just hearing on John King passionately and for years fought for that partial-birth abortion. John Avlon, can he win? And does he have the staying power that Mike Huckabee did not?

AVLON: Well look there is no question he has got the big mo (ph) at the right time and moments like that, you know we see a lot of crocodile tears in campaigns. That was a moment of genuine emotion. And it helps project that authenticity, that realness that I think people really want to see in a candidate.


AVLON: Something Mitt Romney has butted up against. Look, if Rick Santorum can coalesce that 75 percent of voters who consistently keep looking for an alternative to Mitt Romney, he has the big mo (ph) at the right time. He cannot only have a win tomorrow night. But then he can -- if he performs reasonably well in New Hampshire, very different electorate, open primary, Independent voters vote --

BURNETT: Right. AVLON: -- least religious state in the nation, he can then (INAUDIBLE) to South Carolina that then becomes a long protracted play. You are also going to see -- obviously Ron Paul supporters are also very intense. They are not going away. Those are the top tier. But there are going to be some surprises. Rick Perry trying to put forward a ground game. Newt Gingrich lowering expectations, trying to go for sympathy votes --


AVLON: -- saying hey look I'm a victim of negative attacks. Here is the key. If you're trying to figure out if you stay in at the end of a race, if you've been a conservative populist, if you're appealing to social conservative voters, and you come in at the bottom of the race in Iowa, you've got a big problem.

BURNETT: And what made you -- what made you make your decision? You, of course, were an adviser to Rudy Giuliani. Now not a social conservative --


BURNETT: And he didn't play in Iowa, but he did make his big bet in Florida and when he lost he got out right after.


BURNETT: But how do you make that decision of, if you are not a winner when do you get out?

AVLON: You figure out what state is the must-win for you, what state is the best fit for the kind of campaign you want to run and Florida tends to be the tiebreaker. But in the case of Florida, Rudy had the Florida strategy and when Florida didn't work out, when he came in third in Florida he knew the game was up. He pulled out the next day and endorsed John McCain. If you are a social conservative candidate, if you've been running on that conservative populist train, and if you're -- especially if you're Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann, and you end up at the bottom of the caucus-goes (ph) on Tuesday night, you've got a real problem.

The question becomes do you pack up your tent? Do you endorse someone else, call it a good fight another day or do you camp to South Carolina. And if you do that, you have a fractured conservative field that's an asset for Mitt Romney.

BURNETT: All right, well thank you very much John Avlon. There could be no better setup for the person that joins us now. One candidate, who is here, poll numbers in Iowa surge, as you saw, was the leader this summer for a while, but then fall is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The latest "Des Moines Register" poll has her at just seven percent, which would put her, according to this poll, in last place, six out of six.

She joins us now from Des Moines. Good to see you, Congresswoman, appreciate it, nice to talk to you again. You know it's interesting how John was putting this. That if you are a conservative and a social conservative, that Iowa is a must-win state. Do you feel that way? If you come in last in Iowa, does that make your Rudy Giuliani moment?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well we are looking forward to tomorrow night to see the results. Because we have done what no other candidate has done after the last debate, in Sioux City, Iowa, we got on a bus. We traveled 6,900 miles through all 99 Iowa counties. And we saw quite literally thousands of Iowans on the spot, flipping from being undecided to voting for me, voting for another candidate to voting for me. Because the biggest issue in the last debate was the issue of whether Iran should have a nuclear bomb.

Ron Paul said he had no problem with Iran having a nuclear bomb. I took on Ron Paul. I took on Newt Gingrich. I took on Mitt Romney. People saw in me someone who is capable of taking on President Obama, defeating him and going on to be president of the United States. And so I think tomorrow night, we'll issue a very different result than what people are seeing. Because again, still, 50 percent of the people registered in the polls as undecided and I have a very strong suspicion we're going to see a lot of people coming out and voting for me. In addition I have over 200 pastor endorsements across the state of Iowa. No other candidate has that level of evangelical support, so I think we really need to wait until tomorrow night to see what the results are.

BURNETT: And you are -- there was a sign that said you were the biblical candidate -- or biblically approved? Can you explain what that means?

BACHMANN: Well that's what someone said. I am the candidate that I hope will be Iowan approved. That Iowans will stand up for me whether they are fiscal conservative candidates -- Iowans because of all the candidates I am the strongest fiscal conservative. I am a federal tax lawyer. I am a successful private business woman. For five years I have been fighting against out of control spending in Washington.

That's what Iowans are looking for in their next president. They want someone who is going to stand for them and stand against Washington. I have been proven and tested. That is a big difference between myself and other candidates. Mitt Romney is a big spender, Newt Gingrich, big spender, Rick Santorum, he voted for the "bridge to nowhere". He is all about earmarks. So we can't have our nominee be a big spending Republican. We need to have a fiscal conservative and I'm the one of all the candidates that fits that bill.

BURNETT: Let me ask you though, if coming out of this -- you end up in a situation where you have Rick Santorum, you have Rick Perry, you have yourself, and you all continue and nobody gets out. And what you end up doing is splitting the conservative vote and therefore, handing the nomination on a silver platter to Mitt Romney. If you're staying in ends up with that outcome are you all right with it?

BACHMANN: This is conventional wisdom on the part of the punditry, but it will probably bear no relation to reality. This is very early in the book about the 2012 election. There are a lot of chapters that have yet to be written. People thought I didn't have a chance to win in the Iowa straw poll and yet I defied the odds. I was the first one in the history of the straw poll to actually win the race.

There has only been one statewide race so far. I have won it. We have already bought our tickets for -- going to South Carolina. We'll be on a plane after the Iowa straw poll. We'll be campaigning for three days in South Carolina.


BACHMANN: Then we'll be on to New Hampshire. We'll participate in the debates and we look forward to being the nominee of the Republican Party and defeating Barack Obama in 2012.

BURNETT: Congresswoman Bachmann thanks so much. Good to talk to you again and you heard her say here she will be on a plane no matter what to South Carolina right after the caucuses tomorrow.

Well, Los Angeles authorities have made an arrest in that rash of arsons that have really put the area on edge. So who is the suspect? And did anger at the American government play a role in the fires? This is an interesting story about immigration.

Plus, a shooting rampage that led to the murder of a ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park. That is over. And a former Iraq war veteran believed to be the shooter dead.

And the father of baby Ayla, the missing toddler from Maine spoke out for the first time since his daughter disappeared.


BURNETT: Tonight a man under arrest in Los Angeles accused of arson in the dozen of fires that have been set in the city over the past four days. He was taken into custody early this morning after police stopped a suspicious van in the Hollywood area.


CPT. JAIME MOORE, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: The van resembled a description provided by the arson task force as possibly being related to the recent fires and the driver resembled a person of interest seen in a videotape released by the multi-agency arson task force the previous evening.


BURNETT: All right, so let's show you that video. You are looking at it right now. And as you can see it shows a light complexioned man, if you look closely, with a ponytail who police say was also caught on camera at several of the arson sites. Now a total of 53 fires were set in the Los Angeles area between early Friday morning and today. As you can see, it is a terrifying thing. Tonight the "L.A. Times" reports the man in custody may have been angry with the U.S. government. Andrew Blankstein has been covering this story for the "L.A. Times" all the way through and he joins me now. Andrew, good to have you with us, so what can you tell us that you know specifically about this man's issue, anger with the U.S. government?

ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, REPORTER, L.A. TIMES: Well, we know that his mother had recently undergone some kind of immigration hearing. And that it didn't go well. That he was very upset about it. Now the question is, was it the motive for this particular crime? And obviously, with his arrest now, and this was information about the suspect that was provided by federal authorities to the arson task force. So obviously one of the things that they're trying to do is establish is this the motive or are there other factors involved, and this is part of what they're moving forward today very quickly with this investigation following this arrest.

BURNETT: And your reporting indicates that he was perhaps from Germany?

BLANKSTEIN: That -- our law enforcement sources are telling us that he is of German origin. Obviously the van had British Columbia, Canadian plates which add kind of an element of mystery to it. Did he go to Canada first? How long was he in the Los Angeles area?

Was he in the Los Angeles area with his mother? Those are things that still are kind of unfolding and obviously things that we are pursuing in reporting this story. But, again, obviously four days of pretty terrifying nights where these fires were just popping up all over the place in a very tight period of time.

BURNETT: All right, well thank you very much. Andrew, we appreciate it. As we said (INAUDIBLE) reporting on the immigration story on whether the man had originally been from Germany has been the one who broke all of that for us. All right, well in Washington State tonight the massive search for the killer who went on a shooting rampage and gunned down a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park is over.

Now authorities say a body found in snow-covered terrain is that of Benjamin Colton Barnes, an Iraqi war veteran. He was suspected of murdering Park Ranger Margaret Anderson on New Year's Day. Now the victim was a mother of two. She was shot at a checkpoint leading into the park. The gunman who allegedly wounded four people at a house party then fled into the woods.

Now Barnes served on the front lines in Iraq and may have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, at least that's what some are saying given what happened. Although of course there is no definitive link at this time. The big question is what is the motive? What happened?

Why would a 24-year-old man go on a horrific shooting spree like this? It's a mystery that a lot of people want to solve especially as we have so many people who sacrifice so much coming home from the Iraq war. Joining us now forensic psychologist Michael Brannon and it's good to have you with us, Michael. We appreciate it. So in your --


BURNETT: In your expert opinion, is this something that would indicate by any of the behavior or what you saw that it could be linked to PTSD?

BRANNON: Well it certainly could be. With post-traumatic stress disorder, especially combat related post-traumatic stress disorder. Often times what you find is people who have a heightened sense of danger and reaction to danger. So what in essence they do is that they strike out or have plans to defend themselves in situations that ordinarily are not dangerous situations. It is not uncommon to see individuals especially those trained with weapons to overreact in a way where they employ (ph) those weapons against enemies who aren't really enemies, who they overreact to or over-estimate the risk of that actual person's intent towards them.

BURNETT: I mean this is a horrible tragedy and if indeed it was linked to PTSD and if we are able to ever know that. We have all of these troops coming home. Are they being diagnosed and treated or do we have the potential for a lot of people with, whether minor or major cases of this, who just are going to, at the least, lead very stressful and unhappy lives because they're not able to get treated?

BRANNON: It is really a great question because many of the people returning from the war, the soldiers returning from the Iraq wars, and really all wars who have been through combat, severe combat, are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. And in essence what may happen to them is that they may return home with horrible traumatic memories of casualties, of murders, of being in fire fights, of being in incredible danger. And they may in turn not be identified; they may not be identified because they don't talk about it. They keep it to themselves. They hold themselves up a lot of times and are embarrassed by what they're experiencing.

BURNETT: All right Michael thank you very much. We appreciate it.

BRANNON: Thank you.

BURNETT: Iran says it has developed its first nuclear fuel rod. The big question of course is this just the first step to nuclear weapons? General Spider Marks comes OUTFRONT in tonight's "Outer Circle". And your wife says she really likes FarmVille, but what is she really doing on Facebook? FarmVille, that's tonight's number.


BURNETT: So I stumbled across a story today I couldn't believe. According to the British divorce Web site, Divorce-Online, yes, there is such a site, a third of all divorce petitions filed in the United Kingdom last year that cited unreasonable behavior also mentioned Facebook. Not kidding. And that's a sharp increase from 2009 when apparently only one in five petitioners mentioned Facebook as a reason they were filing for divorce. This is probably why we have seen social media theme (ph) cheating sites popping up online. Because according to a rep from the company, quote "Social networking has become the primary tool for communication and is taking over from text and e-mail in my opinion." It's Mark Keenan from Divorce-Online. "If someone wants to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex, then that's the easiest place to do it."

It's also a profitable place, which brings us to tonight's number, 100 billion. That is the dollar amount Facebook hopes to be valued at as it moves forward with its initial public offering. Based on that value analysts expect Facebook to net about $10 billion when its shares hit the market. Now that estimate would make it the sixth biggest IPO in American history and a $100 billion market capitalization sounds huge.

It is. It is equivalent to more than two Ford Motor companies. But it is still only one quarter the size of Apple and about half the size of Google or Walmart. Well analysts expect Facebook to file its papers, IPO, not divorce, in the first quarter of the year. Reuters reports 1,000 new millionaires will be minted that day who currently work at the company. Hopefully they don't go online on Facebook, have an affair and lose half of it in divorce court.

Still OUTFRONT countdown to the Iowa caucuses, unemployment down. Housing is up. Housing prices up in Iowa. There is a number that might really matter.

And the latest from Maine, baby Ayla has been missing since mid December. Her father speaks out for the first time.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT five.

First tonight: countdown to the Iowa caucuses. Earlier tonight, Michele Bachmann came OUTFRONT. She is currently polling below 10 percent in Iowa. And I asked her what happens if she doesn't have a strong showing tomorrow.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is very early in the book about the 2012 election. There's a lot of chapters that have yet to be written. People thought I didn't have a chance to win in the Iowa straw poll and yet I defied the odds. I was the first one in the history of the straw poll to actually win the race.

There has only been one statewide race so far. I have won it. We have already bought our tickets for going to South Carolina. We'll be on a plane.


ROMNEY: Going to South Carolina. Tickets bought.

Number two: an independent panel will examine hazing at Florida A&M University. That's the same school where drum major Robert Champion died from hazing. An attorney representing his family told OUTFRONT that, quote, "We hope that the FAMU administration focuses its time and resources on developing substantive strategies that protect its band members from hazing, that is the legacy Robert would have wanted."

Champion collapsed on a band bus in November. One band member has said Champion died after taking part in a rite of passage where a band member is beaten while walking down the aisle of the bus.

Number three: Venezuela claiming victory in a legal fight over its oil. The South American country said it will pay just $200 million to ExxonMobil. That's just a fraction of the $10 billion Exxon wanted after Venezuela nationalized Exxon's oil assets.

Oil is big business for Venezuela. We looked at the numbers. Oil makes up 95 percent of export earnings for the country.

It is a major supplier to the United States. And nearly 1/3 of Venezuela's GDP is oil-related. America relies on Venezuela, 10 percent of our oil imports come from the country and used to be a huge country for consumer products companies as well.

Number four: euro zone manufacturing fell for the fifth month in a row in December. Likely it's going to drop into 2012 according to a survey released today. European crisis is taking a big toll.

But an economist at the Chicago Federal Reserve told OUTFRONT something I think is way more important. The United States is going against the global trend, saying manufacturing is going to grow in this country in 2012, and the second biggest economy in the world, China, well, biggest competition to the U.S., but we need them is also seeing gains in manufacturing.

That would be fantastic news.

Well, it has been 150 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the big -- economy is a big issue in this election. But in Iowa, it may not be issue number one.

All right. Let's take a look at what we have data here on the economy. Look at unemployment in Iowa. It's pretty amazing. You've got unemployment down and housing prices are up.

Look at the jobless rate in Iowa -- 5.7 percent. That is almost 3 points lower than the national average of 8.6.

But the number that really stood out to me when we ran the numbers from was real estate. Median home prices in Iowa are up 14 percent since the 2007 peak in national housing prices. I mean, average housing prices in this country are down more than 30 percent. But yet, you have them up in Iowa. That is stunning and it's partly because of state's ethanol and farm-based economy.

Now, the economy is still not doing great. There are a lot of issues there. But voters there may be less concerned about it than, say, Florida, or South Carolina, where unemployment is near 10 percent.

So, how big a role the economy played in deciding who to support tomorrow -- is something we're going to be watching as the caucus results come in. And we're going to be doing that with the help of our magic wall.

All right. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is going to be with us as well.

Now --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's have a new name for this. John King has a magic wall. I don't know. We have to think of a name.

BURNETT: I mean, we have I have been saying, Gloria and I think it's a cool thing. I don't want to do anything to mess it up. But like we can fling things into our other wall, we can catch and throw. So, you know, this is sort of an acrobatic wall -- maybe.


BURNETT: We'll come up with a name. But there is all the things we can do, faces we can show.

But a couple of things that I know you are looking in tomorrow is the electability question. And so, let's take a look at that. This is "The Des Moines Register" poll.

What does this tell you about what Iowa voters are thinking?

BORGER: Well, it tells you that this is really good news for Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has been selling himself on somebody who can beat Barack Obama.

One thing that unites all Republicans this election season is they want to beat Barack Obama. You look at this number for Mitt Romney -- 48 percent say that he is the most electable. Gingrich is trying to sell himself that way. Ron Paul says he can go the distance. But, down the line.

This -- so, if Romney were to win tomorrow --


BORGER: This would be a very big part of the reason. Not because people love him. But because they think he can possibly win.

BURNETT: Right. And this is something, we should let everyone know. In the entrance polls, we have a slew of questions. And among them will be, what -- you know, are you looking at electability? Are you looking at values?

Which brings me to something else that you want to just talk about, which is who best relates to Iowans which tells a different, certainly, a different story when it comes to Mitt Romney.

BORGER: Right. Mitt Romney, remember at the beginning of this campaign, we spent a lot of time saying isn't Mitt Romney going to compete, because, of course, it competed in 2008. It didn't work out so well for him, big evangelical contingent here. Don't really love Mitt Romney. Then he decided to jump in, has not spent a lot of time in the state, which is why he is at 10 percent.

But, look at Michele Bachmann, who, by the way, is not doing very well. Although she said to you she is going the distance. But, she spent a lot of time in the state.

Ron Paul has a great organization in the state.

Rick Santorum, has had over 350 town halls in the state.

That's why these people do well on, whether you relate to Iowans.

Now, whether that's a calling card for winning the presidency is something else. But, you know, Iowa, is a tossup state. So, it doesn't hurt.

BURNETT: Because when you look at the split in terms of registration, Ds and Rs evenly split. What's your view, though, Gloria, we have all this conversation today about Rick Santorum? Assume he comes in first, second, or -- does he have the staying power -- I was talking about this with John Avlon -- that John Huckabee did not when he won the state in 2008?

BORGER: Well, nothing succeeds like success, right?

BURNETT: You're going to back a winner.

BORGER: They want to back a winner. They want to give money to a winner. So, Rick Santorum had a heck of a time trying to raise some dough. Suddenly, if he does really well, is going to have the wind at his back, he's going to have an easier time raising money.

Now, whether he can go the distance? You know, who knows. He could do very, very well in South Carolina. We just don't know.

He's being portrayed as an insider, somebody who supported earmarks, you know, who voted for the debt ceiling. He is going to go to a debate and let's see how he is treated as a punitive front-runner in the debate. We just -- we don't know. We'll see how he does.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Gloria and I will be here at our walls tomorrow. Ooh, we are excited.

BORGER: Very excited.

BURNETT: I mean, seriously, this is some cool stuff. BORGER: Big secret. So, we'll tell you tomorrow.

BURNETT: All right. As we just said, Mitt Romney is seen as the most electable by a landslide. When you look at the 48 percent that Gloria was just referring to.

And in a CNN Iowa insider survey, almost 2/3 actually think that Mitt Romney will be the winner. And apparently Mitt Romney does too because listen to what he just said a few minutes on the campaign trail.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to win this thing with all of our passion and strength and do everything that we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation and to pick up other states and to get the ballots I need, the votes I need to become our nominee.


BURNETT: All right. So, let's go straight to somebody who knows Mitt Romney darn well. Kevin Madden, Romney's 2008 campaign adviser.

Kevin, great to see you.


BURNETT: Do you think that sort of talk is the right way to go? I mean, you know, you and I have been talking a lot over the past couple months. And you've managed expectations with, you know, you don't expect to win Iowa. Not a big deal if you don't.

But now, it seems that things have changed. Do you think he's going to win?

MADDEN: Well, I think there's a lot of momentum on the ground in Iowa. You know? I think Governor Romney goes out to these events, whether it's Davenport, Dubuque or Des Moines. He's had such incredible turnout of people out there showing support for him that he does feel very warmly right now about his chances.

But I think what Governor Romney is talking about is his ability to win this nomination. It starts in Iowa. I think that's something that we have to remember is that Iowa is not where the clock ends, but where the clock begins on this campaign. And he's going to work very hard in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and across all those early primary states to earn the nomination from Republican voters.

BURNETT: If he comes in second or third, is that a Romney loss? Or do you see it as long as Newt Gingrich isn't ahead of him, that's a win for Mitt Romney?

MADDEN: Well, I think the plan was always to compete strongly. So, I think a position in one of the spots would be one where he showed that he did compete strongly in the state.

But I think most important to this campaign is this is a campaign that's going to be one that's won over the long haul. That if you look at all these other states. New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida -- they all figure prominently in the delegate fight.

And until, a nominee gets 1,144 votes, that's when I think that we'll finally know who is going to be our -- who's going to lead the Republican Party against Barack Obama.


MADDEN: So, I think unlike other campaigns though, we don't have to win Iowa in order to gain this momentum and build up all the support from a financially in order to make it to another state.

Governor Romney can compete very well in Iowa and then go out to these early primary states and still secure the nomination.

BURNETT: Which seems clear. I mean, even when Newt Gingrich had his big urge. You know, we had all those -- we were covering all those big money lunches and dinners in New York, he had no problem raising money.

But I'm just going to show, Kevin, the viewers something that I showed them at the top of the program. This is just Iowa since June, in terms of the winner, the front-runner. And you see Romney, then you see Bachmann, you see -- my point is we keep touching these, you're going to see everyone take the lead. He was among them. But obviously, six or seven have been in the lead.

MADDEN: Right.

BURNETT: But what I'm highlighting here in this line, which is a dark red for viewers, is that Mitt Romney never goes above 26 percent. He never goes below 23 percent. Last time, he came at 25 and still didn't win the state.

Are you frustrated with this kind of national problem where he can't get above 25?

MADDEN: Well, what good is it getting 39 percent in August or September, when now you're at 11 percent? I think that if you look at Governor Romney's support, he's had a very strong resilient number, all the way through this entire campaign.

And that's why -- that was the plan which is to make sure that we are competing very hard so that when you get to these contest --


MADDEN: -- where we are here in January going to Iowa, and New Hampshire, this is where you get those voters who are still having yet to be persuaded, who are still undecided to come into your fold. And then you try and win those, try and win those -- compete very strongly in those contest and then win the nomination to the long part of the calendar.

All those other campaigns have gone up and they have gone down very quickly. Governor Romney has stayed right there competitively the entire way.

BURNETT: All right. Kevin Madden, thank you. And talk to you soon.

MADDEN: Glad to be with you.

BURNETT: Tomorrow night at 7:00, our special coverage of the Iowa caucuses, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, the rest of our political team analyzing the results right here on CNN, starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And I got to tell you, we got the acrobatic wall. And it is very, very cool.

All right. So, now, let's turn to James Carville, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: From the wall to me. I can't compete with that wall.

BURNETT: That wall.

CARVILLE: That wall is something.

BURNETT: All right. So, what do you think about Kevin Madden's point. And they try to make the point, look, he doesn't go below. He doesn't drop. So, he is stable and he's resilient.

So, don't worry, Erin, that he will never go above. But what --

CARVILLE: It's a good point for them to make, I guess. He's kind of steady. But I know that the Romney people are banging their heads against walls.

The last thing they wanted to know was for former Governor Romney to say we are going to win tomorrow and talk how he is going to build momentum across the United States and talk campaign strategy. I am sure that they would have much rather him talk about message and, said we are going to do fine here. Do fine as he goes on.

I thought that was, he doesn't make many mistakes. But I thought that was not a major mistake. But a little bit of a mistake.

BURNETT: One of those sound bites that comes back.

Let me ask you something that's interesting obviously about this caucus, the caucuses in Iowa. You can go in as a Democrat. And you can go to the door and say, I'm going to become Republican for tonight and I can go in and vote.


BURNETT: And people say --

CARVILLE: And you don't need an ID card either.


BURNETT: That opens up a whole another can of worms, right?


BURNETT: But there's always all kinds of conspiracy theories about how much of that will happen, and whether there will be spoilers and people from the other party trying to influence. Operation chaos we call it. You have been an adviser.

CARVILLE: It's hard enough to get people to come out for your own guy. Much less, the campaign to go out you know -- the well is not that cold, it's still cold. And there are not that many people, not that many Democrats are going to go out to mess on somebody else's --

BURNETT: You got to be a real hater.

CARVILLE: Yes, I don't think it's going to --

BURNETT: Real hater.

CARVILLE: It's not a big, big problem.

BURNETT: So, what about from the Obama perspective here? What outcome is best and worst for the president?

CARVILLE: I think -- I think the thing that keeps this going. I think this process is good for the president. I think the Republicans, professional Republicans and Republican strategists would like for it to end on the night for this. This has not been the best process for the Republicans. Let's not kid ourselves. This has been a pretty unimpressive field so far.

I think they'd like to see Romney win in Iowa. You know, go to New Hampshire and win. And try to tie this thing up pretty soon. That's the scenario that I don't want.

BURNETT: Right. That's the scenario the Republicans want. It's not the scenario the president wants.

CARVILLE: Yes, that's not the scenario the president wants.

BURNETT: He wants to see Santorum's surge continue through South Carolina to fight.

CARVILLE: Yes, we were kind of pretty pro to the Newt surge, the Democrats were, maybe David Axelrod, for Herman Cain. I don't know who they would -- anyone of them I would have taken. Michele Bachmann was filling in for a while, too.

(LAUGHTER) BURNETT: All right. Well, James Carville, thank you very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Love the wall. Great wall.

BURNETT: The great wall. That's what it should be.

CARVILLE: Hey, we got a name here.

BURNETT: I think you just did it.

CARVILLE: All right.

BURNETT: All right. Well in tonight's "Outer Circle," Iran says it's developed its first nuclear fuel rods. Nuclear weapons, are they far behind? It's the question that may finally be ready to answer?

And the latest development in the case of Maine's missing 20- month-old child. Baby Ayla missing since mid-December. Why is her father speaking out only today for the first time?


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

And we begin with Iran tonight which says it has succeeded in building and testing its first nuclear fuel rods.

Now, will they use this knowledge to build nuclear weapons?

Here is retired U.S. Army General Spider Marks.


GENERAL SPIDER MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET): We have to assume that Iran is going to use its nuclear capability for hostile intent. For us to assume, for the international community to assume otherwise would be a perilous path. We have to get Iran to open itself up to international inspections.


BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) by test firing long-range missiles into the Gulf. But is it trying to prove it could hit Israel and American bases in the region?


MARKS: Iran's intentions are very, very clear. They are a regional power and they are extending their capabilities and their increased military capability clearly is directed against Israel and their ability to try to shut down the Straits of Hormuz through which most of the world's oil supply passes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: And now to North Korea where the South Korean president is offering to cooperate with the North. The South Korean president said he's prepared to offer economic aid to the North in exchange for Jim Jong Un ending the nuclear program.

Meanwhile, North Korea blames the U.S. military stationed in South Korea for preventing peace in the region. North Koreans once again calling for America's 28,000 troops to withdraw.

Gordon Chang is author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World." And he told us what would happen if America did withdraw those troops.


GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": North Korea has demanded that the United States withdraw its troops since the end of the Korean War. So, it isn't going to happen now. But if it were, it would destabilize the region from South Korea to India because in the last couple of years, China has become more assertive in ways that are unnerving its neighbors. And they're looking to the United States to re-engage in Asia, not to withdraw. So, we're going to be there.


BURNETT: Well, the father of baby Ayla, 200month-old from Maine, who's been missing since mid-December spoke out today for the first time about his daughter's disappearance.

Now, as home video of Ayla played, Justin DiPeitro has been asked on the "Today" show about why it has taken him so long to come forward.


JUSTIN DIPIETRO, FATHER OF AYLA REYNOLDS: Initially, the first few days, I was emotionally incapable of coming out to do an interview. And I had been advised that by coming on and doing an interview by law enforcement, that it could possibly hinder the investigation, and I'm here to help in any way I can.


BURNETT: Marc Klaas isn't buying that. You may remember his family's tragic story. His daughter Polly kidnapped and murdered in 1993. He's now an activist for people who are trying to find lost children. He joins us now from San Francisco.

And, Marc, always good to see you.

Why are you skeptical of Ayla's father?

MARC KLAAS, FATHER OF POLLY KLAAS: Well, happy New Year, Erin.

First of all, this whole idea of not talking to the press when your child is missing really is a failed concept from a time in the past when victims of -- parents of missing children were supposed to sit by the phone and wait for the ransom call to come in. That doesn't happen. There's no better advocate for a missing child than that child's parent.

BURNETT: Why do you think police haven't named him as a suspect? I mean, I know, as we've been covering this story from the beginning, they had always indicated that they thought that he was, but they haven't named him. So, he hasn't been charged. They haven't -- why do you think that is?

KLAAS: Well, it's a matter of evidence. I suspect that they are still gathering a lot of evidence, trying to figure out exactly what happened, the series of events that occurred that night.

And as I said before, the universe of possibilities here of suspects existed within that house that evening. They'll take them apart, they'll try to find inconsistencies, then they'll be able to put a case together.

BURNETT: So, they now say it's a criminal investigation, not a search for a missing person. So what does that mean to you?

KLAAS: Well, that means you bring in different resources and you look in different directions. They're probably no longer looking so much at the stranger scenario simply because that happens so very infrequently.

They're looking at the family. They're looking at peripheral contacts. They're looking at registered sex offenders.

They're bringing in different resources. They've changed jurisdictional agencies, and they're using different types of experience than they would have in a missing person's case.

BURNETT: All right. Marc, thank you very much. It's always good to talk to you.

KLAAS: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, now, we're just a few minutes away from Anderson Cooper and he's in Iowa.

So, Anderson, I know it's cold there. What do you have on deck?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Hey, Erin, it's Anderson. I'm live in Des Moines tonight for a special edition of "360." All the latest on what the candidates are doing. It is really down -- this is it, it is the last night before the Iowa caucuses.

All the six candidates -- what a fascinating race we've seen with all of them, constant surging, somebody becoming a front-runner only to fall back in the pack. Tonight, it is Rick Santorum who appears to be having a late surge in the last few months here in Iowa, visiting all 99 counties. What the latest, what Santorum is doing to try to capitalize on his surge? Mitt Romney, confident, but certainly not saying he's going to be winning. But they are confident tonight, they're out campaigning again tonight.

We'll have all the latest on the campaigns and all the latest poll numbers, Erin, as we come to you live from Des Moines.

BURNETT: All right. Looking forward to seeing you then, Anderson, in just a couple of moments.

In the meantime, I spent last week doing something that I really, really love. And next, the 411 on GPS.

OUTFRONT back in a moment.


BURNETT: So, last week, I did something I love. I rented a car on vacation. I love driving.

This summer I drove through Oregon, stopping in former gold rush capital Baker City for a great Fourth of July. Another place that's memorable is Romania. Horse drawn carts share roads with sleek European sports cars going insanely fast.

Well, last week, I had the chance to go to Barbados, 21 miles long by 14 miles wide, an island roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., but wow, it has a lot of roads. Little country roads where they drive on the wrong side -- I mean, sorry, the British side of the road.

There are no signs, there are lots of hairpin turns. Trucks coming at you.

You see this picture? Warping potholes. The kind of place where you beep before every corner and slam on the brakes to make room for the guy coming the other way. And you get lost big time because that map is worthless.

On this trip, we used maps and sunlight to navigate. The maps were frankly terrible. We had no idea how we could have gotten so lost on such a small island.

But when I told people about it, they said, why not use a GPS? But to me, the fun of travel is no GPS. Which brings me to Valens (ph). Valens is a barber, and the taxi driver who drove us to our rental car. There he is.

On the way, I asked him if he ever used GPS. No, he scoffed. And what's more? He didn't know the names of any of the roads. He simply grew up knowing how to get around and that is that -- self- reliance and a figure it out attitude. Probably not surprising that Barbados had a school at the University of the West Indies called the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. I had to stop and take this picture. Look at that. My encounter with Valens got me thinking. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Eric Schmidt of Google. And he told me that humans shouldn't have to remember anything. That's for computers and certainly makes it easier.

And maybe he's right. Just because something is right or easy doesn't mean it's fun. People actually use GPS to get to the grocery store in their home town now. And I wonder if we're giving up how we navigate through life to computers and whether we're really filling that space in our mind with better things, or whether we're really letting our brains go to mush.

But here's to the next road trip, GPS-free, destination, suggestions welcome via Twitter @ErinBurnett, or

Anderson Cooper from Des Moines starts now.