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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Romney Defeats Santorum by Eight Votes
Aired January 4, 2012 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the CNN election center. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, guys.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, we're working around the clock in case you've been with us for quite some time now.
SAMBOLIN: We are at the CNN election center here. We've got lots of breaking news for you. I don't know if you've been watching all night, but we have.
BANFIELD: And we are a little punch drunk, as you can tell.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. It's been quite an exciting night. Mitt Romney declared the winner here, 30,015 votes. And Rick Santorum, 30,007.
So, if you do the math, it is eight votes that separated them.
And as Ashleigh's been saying, you know, you should always exercise your right to vote. Because the reason that the results came in at 2:30 in the morning is because that last precinct, we had to wait until they reported in order to get to these numbers. It was back and forth and back and forth.
BANFIELD: Like two-and-a-half hours ago.
The whole CNN team has been here. In fact, I'm still wondering if they're putting their shoes back on.
I saw Wolf, John King, Gloria Borger. We asked them to stay. They're, like, huh-uh, no.
Hey, listen. Most pious among the voters would be me. I'm a new American, so I am so thrilled when had I get a chance to vote. And I can't stress it enough today. Today's results tell you, America -- vote.
Here is the fabulous "Des Moines Register" front page. Of course, they go to print before they even knew what the decision was.
Split decision, yes. But there was a clear winner on the left- hand side of your screen. The clear winner by eight votes: Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum.
Good news for Rick Santorum. You can't deny, as Rick Santorum comes out of this vote, those last two days of polling last week proved to be true. He was getting incredible momentum. And both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had this to say before the final numbers even came in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Iowa, for the great send-off you're giving to us, and to the others in this campaign. Look, this is -- this is a campaign night where America wins. We're going to change the White House and get America back on track.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know that New Hampshire's all about grassroots politics, and we feel very good that we're going to climb that ladder just like we did here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: So that was Romney once he was declared the winner and Santorum actually talking to Wolf Blitzer after he found out that he came in number two.
So, we were sitting here waiting and waiting and waiting, as all of the precincts and the counties were reporting.
And Christine Romans actually has a breakdown for us, county by county, right, Christine, of how people voted.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Let's look at Iowa and the John King as I love to call it, the John King's magic wall. This morning, Christine Romans' magic wall.
This is 2012, last night here in Iowa. But I want to go back to 2008 first. And I want to show you.
Remember, 2008, that was Huckabee. Huckabee was the story in 2008. And he's this orange in the middle. He took the whole sort of center swath of Iowa.
And down here, this peach, that was Ron Paul who only had 10 percent of the vote back in 2008, just that one little county down there in southeast Iowa. And then the whole middle here went to Mike Huckabee. And you had Mitt Romney in the red around here, and then, of course, around Des Moines and a county here in the south.
Let's go back to 2012. You can see that that Huckabee momentum went to Rick Santorum. He got this middle swath of -- this very rural part of the state here. These are small farms. These are people who many of them said that they were voting for values reasons right here down the middle.
And then look at what happened with Ron Paul. He came in with 21 percent of the vote. But Ron Paul, instead of having one little county, Ron Paul came up here and got a lot more momentum this time around than he did four years ago.
So why did Romney who had 25 percent and technically won this thing, why did Romney win if all of this is purple and you had this big growth from Ron Paul? And I'll tell you why, because where Mitt Romney was-- and this is scaling it now for population -- where Mitt Romney won replaces with more people. Scott County, Davenport, Iowa, you got right here in the center where Des Moines is, over here by Council Bluffs which is across the river from Omaha. And right down here, this is actually a tie. That's what that green is.
So you can see that Mitt Romney won where there were more people. And that's why he came out on top here. But really interesting to see the Ron Paul momentum over the past four years, to see that the Huckabee style voter went to Rick Santorum and how different it was this time than the last time.
BANFIELD: And you know what I love, Christine, when you show that graphic of Mitt Romney's win? It sort of harkens back to the 2008 Mitt Romney counties. And if you do the math, since we're talking about just a few voters, there's a win tonight, today, this morning of eight voters, right?
ROMANS: Eight voters.
BANFIELD: And Mitt Romney actually lost six voters from last night. His total vote count that came in two hours ago is six people fewer than he had from those counties you're showing from 2008.
BANFIELD: It's bizarro.
ROMANS: And maybe that tells you that the same people who were supporting him last time are supporting him this time. And the momentum and the energy is in the young people around Ron Paul, it's among conservative voters who are going for Rick Santorum. Last time it was Huckabee, this time, they have Santorum.
And you've got the static approval, the static support in the state for Mitt Romney.
BANFIELD: I always wonder if there's switcheroos and it just that coincidental, I don't know.
ROMANS: I have entrance polls. I can show you that in a few minutes.
BANFIELD: Working hard for your money. Make your moneymaker, girl.
And by the way, did you notice that beautiful manicure that was holding the "Des Moines Register" newspaper when we bump in with our program at the top of the hour?
SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's Lisa Desjardins. You know, am I mispronouncing your name? Are you there for us, Desjardins, or Desjardins?
LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hey, you guys. Desjardins. It's not really exotic how you say it like that, Zoraida. I like it.
Desjardins. That's right. I'm worried about my nails and I'm glad my mom is asleep and not watching, to be honest.
BANFIELD: Look, I love that headline. What does the rest of the paper say?
DESJARDINS: Right. This is what's interesting. We saw the headline, "Split Decision". And I have to say, this came out pretty late because they have at the bottom what the percentage was when this printed, 25 percent, 25 percent, 22 percent. So I think that was around 98 percent of precincts reporting.
But guys, I think what's interesting here is what they chose to highlight in the paper. Two facts about each candidate: Mitt Romney, "The Des Moines Register" says, his visits to Iowa were rare until late into the campaign. Rick Santorum, it says, "Persistent from the outset. He stumped in all 99 counties."
So, what are they focusing on here below the fold? They're focusing on who spent time in the state. And while these two men are declared in a virtual tie right here, a little bit more positive for Santorum on the cover of this paper.
One other thing I want to point out that I think we need to talk about, while this is obviously the amazing story of the night, we were all really spellbound by it, together Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum got 50 percent of the vote. That means 50 percent of Iowa caucusgoers voted for someone else.
So you have to remember, there's going to be a shift now in other states as well. I think one of the big stories overnight, of course, was Rick Perry who said that he's now going back to Texas to reconsider whether he should stay in the race.
And something a lot of folks don't realize, Zoraida and Ashleigh, is Rick Perry actually won two counties in this state. He's the only other person to win a county other than these two men. He won two, but he still placed fifth. So --
BANFIELD: Small comfort.
DESJARDINS: Rick Perry also a big story last night. That's right.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Lisa Desjardins, I believe.
SAMBOLIN: Desjardins. Is that the way it goes?
BANFIELD: I think so.
DESJARDINS: Think of Danger Dan, right.
SAMBOLIN: Danger Dan.
SAMBOLIN: Poor girl growing up. But thank you for that because that is actually going to help me.
All right. So, we've been talking a lot about Romney, about Santorum. Let's talk a little bit about Gingrich now, because he said he was going to try to stay clean and not attack his opponents. But he's changing his mind. So let's listen to this and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, one other great debate. And that is whether this party wants a Reagan conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and helped change Washington in the 1990s as speaker of the House, somebody who is into changing Washington. Or we want a Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay but has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any ability to change the culture or change the political structure or change the government.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: Let me be clear because I think it's important given all the things that were done in this state over the last few weeks. We are not going to go out and run nasty ads. We're not going to go out and run 30-second ads. We're not --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: But I do reserve the right to tell the truth.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on his record than it is on politics.
So, this is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning in New Hampshire and will go on for a few months. And I am convinced that the Republican Party will pick an heir of Reagan, a committed conservative, and somebody with a track record of changing Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: I think it started right there. It's not going to start tomorrow. And actually, did you hear Gingrich also call Romney a liar?
BANFIELD: It was -- I don't know. I feel weird about that. That made a big headline. He answered the question, "Are you calling him a liar?" And he simply said "yes."
SAMBOLIN: He said yes.
BANFIELD: And then later, he sort of couched it. So, he didn't actually come out and use the nasty language. He just sort of answered Norah O'Donnell, yes.
SAMBOLIN: He was asked the question and he said yes.
So, let's bring in -- we have Ruben Navarrette, CNN contributor and syndicated columnist for "The Washington Post."
Thanks for being with us this morning.
We have John Avlon as well standing by.
Ruben, I do want to begin with you. Is this the only way that they're going to -- Gingrich is going to accomplish anything, by getting nasty like this? And how did you feel about that liar comment?
RUBEN NAVARRETTE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I thought it was accurate and appropriate. Here's why: A few weeks ago, I interviewed Newt Gingrich. Yes. I interviewed Newt Gingrich.
And at the time I was interested in the fact that he had taken views on immigration that were different, we were told, than what they thought in Iowa. Yet he was leading in Iowa. And he said in my interview, he said, you know, I have found that if you tell the truth and people see that you're working hard, they'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Where Mitt Romney crossed the line as far as Gingrich was concerned was in lying about Gingrich's record and doing so through these super PAC ads.
And then what really got Gingrich inflamed was when the question was put to Romney, do you avow these ads, do you claim these ads? He played dumb. Romney pretended he had nothing to do with these ads. He had nothing to do with the super PAC. He didn't even know these people.
And, man, Gingrich erupted at that. That's where that came from. He really does think that for better or for worse, Gingrich thinks he tells the truth. Sometimes uncomfortable truths, truths people don't want to hear.
And for him, the cardinal sin is being attacked by this opponent, this phantom super PAC that is spreading what he considers to be untruths.
BANFIELD: I want to bring in Mark Preston, our political director here at CNN as well -- because I just recalled and grabbed it out of a file some ads that Mitt Romney was running in New Hampshire, I believe, about a month ago that were anti-Obama and took Obama's words, saying -- and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."
Now, those weren't Obama's words. Those were Obama quoting Senator McCain. And there was a big to-do made.
And Obama's camp came in and said you are lying. This is a lie. If you use those words and you don't use the words before it saying I quote Senator McCain when I say, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."
So, you know, maybe there is some legitimacy to this comment that Mr. Gingrich was making.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, but I would also have to say Obama is taking quotes and taking them out of context.
BANFIELD: Everybody does it, right?
PRESTON: Everybody does it. It's political speak. And it's fortunate that we can do it in this country, that you can speak freely of your mind. The problem with it, though, is some people lie about it.
BANFIELD: Has Gingrich done the same thing? You know, he's claiming to be the clean machine right now. And he's been around for, you know, a good -- I'm trying to do the math, 1978, right, when he was first elected to Congress?
PRESTON: Yes. He was a House member, yes, in the late '70s, of course, and then he went on to become speaker.
BANFIELD: Do you want to do the math at 5:12 in the morning, how many years?
PRESTON: Well, then I'd have put his age on him.
BANFIELD: Thirty-eight, 39, something like that. Yes.
But I mean, he's had plenty of missteps, nasty comments, outbursts, that sort of thing as well. I just don't know if he's done the same sorts of things as we're claiming right now, or at leat claiming right now of Mitt Romney.
PRESTON: Well, what we need to do is a couple things we have to say. "A," he doesn't have the money to run negative ads, nor does he have the support of super PACs that would run those ads on his behalf, right? So, I mean, we have to tell the truth to tell the truth now. Perhaps if there were super PACs that were as well-funded as Mitt Romney has, perhaps we would see those ads.
The second thing is, though, he put himself in a corner. He said I'm not going to go negative. Well, by doing that, he could never go negative. He was never able to put up any kind of a defense which now we hear him say these things which makes us think -- well, now you want to go negative when in some ways it's defensible for him to say, look, enough's enough. What they're saying are lies about me, and this is what differentiates myself from Mitt Romney.
But the way he does it, the anger comes out. And that's what's going to hurt him.
SAMBOLIN: Erick Erickson, CNN contributor and member of redstate.com is joining us as well this morning.
Can you chime in on this? What do you think about the way that Gingrich is behaving? Some people are saying that this is -- this is who he is. And this is what we should expect moving forward.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yu know, he has evolved over time. He has tried to become this fatherly figure in the party shepherding new ideas that he considers conservative, not necessarily others do. But he considers them.
At the same time, I think that Newt campaign needs to remember, and frankly a lot of political reporters say, oh, he can't go negative -- it's Newt Gingrich attacking debate moderators and Barack Obama and even Mitt Romney from the stage that got him to the dance.
For him all of a sudden to say, I'm not going to do this, I'm not going to be negative, I'm not going to be the guy who's smiling while I'm sticking in the knife, that's out of character. That's why the Tea Party members and others have rallied to him is he's the guy who is willing to throw the punch no one else would.
BANFIELD: And, Lenny McAllister, I want to ask you about David Axelrod's latest tweet. As the results were coming and people were suggesting this is actually quite a good win for Rick Santorum, you know, coming within eight votes of an actual victory, David Axelrod from the White House tweeted this, "The sound Santorum is hearing right now is not the buzz of victory. It's the worrying of the Romney super PAC preparing to carpet-bomb him."
So I guess if we're talking, you know, negative campaigning, is Axelrod suggesting that gear up, Mr. Santorum, you've had a bye and a pass up until now, but it's just about to get started?
LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, and that's probably true. Right now, he's going to have to go after Rick Santorum because Mitt Romney did not look like this squishy conservative. At least with this showing here in Iowa, he can at least try to promote the argument that he is somewhat of a conservative, probably still not going to stick with the vast majority of Tea Party supporters.
But if he comes after Rick Santorum in the way he came after Gingrich, this is not going to make Romney look very good at all. In fact, it may backfire on Mitt. I think he's going to try to play it safe the same way Newt tried to play it safe at the top of the polls by saying I'm not going to go negative.
Now, he had to go negative on Newt because Newt was about to run away with this thing. Santorum's not likely to run away with this, not at this point in time, especially going into New Hampshire. So, he doesn't have to do the same exact thing.
So, what Mr. Axelrod is saying, it's a little farfetched. I mean, he's going to go after him but nowhere near the same way he came after Gingrich here in Iowa.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Gentlemen, we're going to have to take a quick break here.
When we come back, we want to talk about an e-mail that just came out from the Obama campaign. And it starts like this, "The extremist Tea Party agenda won a clear victory." Do you want to hear more? Join us right after the break.
BANFIELD: Ooh, that's a tease.
BANFIELD: Hey, everybody, welcome to the CNN election center. It's 19 minutes past 5:00.
And if you're just waking up and getting ready for work, we got news for you.
SAMBOLIN: Boy, did you miss a lot.
BANFIELD: Great night. Real fun stuff to watch.
This was neck and neck until just two hours ago. Mitt Romney is coming out as the leader in Iowa by just an eight-vote margin. You heard it right -- eight votes, not percent, eight votes.
Rick Santorum pulling it up real well.
You know, Ron Paul not doing what we expected he was going to do, but a good showing nonetheless. So, it's all on New Hampshire and South Carolina which are the next votes in the next few weeks.
Our David Mattingly is on the ground right now in Aiden, South Carolina, where Rick Perry was expected to be today.
But we also got big news, David, that rick has amscrayed to Texas.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Let me paint a picture for you here. The reason why I'm standing on this street, it's because Rick Perry was supposed to land here to hit the ground running in South Carolina, virtually ignoring the campaign in New Hampshire to come here and, to re-establish himself, to reinvigorate his campaign. He was going to be walking down this very street to meet with voters before having a town hall meeting later this afternoon.
Well, all of that is off the table now. He's back in Texas reassessing his campaign. And leaving everyone to scratch their heads, wondering what's going to be happening with South Carolina in the days to come.
We know that Mitt Romney has already acquired some backing from Governor Nikki Haley here. But Rick Santorum has also spent a lot of time in South Carolina. Expect him to come here soon to appeal to the conservative voters of this state.
And as they wake up today, South Carolina voters are going to be finding out they're exactly in the position that they wanted to be in when they moved their primary up to ensure that they would be the first Southern primary of this race. They wanted to be the ones who maintain that tradition of actually being able to say, we're the ones who pick the true front-runner, the true nominee of this party.
Now, they're in the position to do that again after that close race in Iowa.
BANFIELD: I get it. I get it when you move your race up. It's a whole lot of fun. But you also take a hit and you lose -- you lose delegates.
And we're still sort of waiting to find out, David Mattingly, if the states who decided to move their primaries up are going to continue to suffer that loss or if the GOP organization is going to reverse the decision to penalize all of those states who decided to move.
I want to penalize him because he took away my Christmas break. That's all I'm saying about that.
We have other reporters on the ground as well.
SAMBOLIN: We have Dan Lothian, yes.
And so the question is, does Iowa affect New Hampshire, right?
So let's bring in Dan Lothian because there's this flash poll that we did. And there were 554 likely Republican voters that were contacted between 9:20 and 10:00 p.m. They actually watched the results that were coming in from Iowa.
And so, we want to know what happened there -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, in a word of caution because that poll is not reflective of all of the voters in this state. It's just those who watched the Iowa caucuses on television. Those tend to be your more dedicated voters.
But nonetheless, when you take a look at those numbers, pretty much steady for all of the candidates with the exception of Rick Santorum -- Senator Rick Santorum. While you see Romney at 47 percent from December to last night, Rick Santorum has jumped from 5 percent in early December to 10 percent last night.
I was at Senator Santorum's headquarters here in New Hampshire last night, enthusiastic supporters. And what they see there is that -- what they hope this will be is a bounce from his Iowa performance, much more than a lot of people expected.
It is certainly what they expected here because they said he really waged a very effective campaign on the ground in Iowa where he spent time visiting all of the counties there, talking to people on the ground, listening to them, giving people a chance to essentially kick the tires and get a sense of who he is.
And so now they're hopeful that here in New Hampshire, that voters will, again, be kicking the tires to give him a second look, and they believe that that surge that happened in Iowa will continue here in New Hampshire.
Now, we should point out, according to his campaign, Rick Santorum will be arriving here sometime this afternoon. He will be doing a number of media interviews, but then also has a big town hall style meeting here in New Hampshire as well.
So, again, we'll be closely watching to see how the numbers, the results of Iowa impact the race here in New Hampshire ahead of the New Hampshire primary.
SAMBOLIN: I don't know if we're expecting such a nail-biter. But we're going to stay tuned.
Stay tuned there for us because we're going to check in with you again. Thank you very much for that.
BANFIELD: It was a nail-biter because they lost votes. I mean, they were literally, there was Clinton County was trying to find out where some of these votes were. And it was critical because we're talking about an eight-vote win. So, the two women who were actually --
SAMBOLIN: Sweet ladies.
BANFIELD: -- who were trying to figure out what this debacle was -- let me just say this -- if this isn't enough for you to come back and listen to their conversation with Wolf Blitzer, it's Edith and Carol coming up.
SAMBOLIN: You know, they said maybe they should do a little show for them, right?
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin, along with Ashleigh Banfield.
So we had a classic moment happen on air. We were trying to figure out, there were some votes missing, what was happening. And so --
BANFIELD: It all came down to one county. In this nail-biter, it all came down to Clinton County.
And Wolf Blitzer, bless his heart, the energizer bunny of politics, was on the air for, what, 1,000 hours.
SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh.
BANFIELD: A thousand hours last night. And he got a telephone conversation with the two women who are essentially responsible for figuring out the mess.
SAMBOLIN: They've been at this for a very long time. So these are not novices. These women know what they're doing.
BANFIELD: Edith Pfeffer is the Clinton County GOP chairwoman. And Carolyn Tallet s the president of the Clinton County Republican Women. And he got both of them on the phone.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We've got two women calling in -- we've actually called them from Clinton County from the Republican Party in Clinton County.
Edith, can you hear me?
EDITH PFEFFER, CLINTON COUNTY GOP CHAIRWOMAN (via telephone): Yes, I can.
BLITZER: All right. Now, Carolyn is with you, too?
CAROLYN TALLET, CLINTON COUNTY GOP: I received a call from about 12:20 from the state central committee asking if I knew how to get ahold of someone from 2-2. At that time they gave me a name, and I tried calling because it's late here. They were in bed. And the chair was also in bed.
BLITZER: So, what you're saying is --
TALLET: I needed information. So I came to Edith's home and pounded on the door and woke her up and got her up.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ward 2, precinct 2. Who won?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney won with 51 votes. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul tied with 33 votes each.
KING: So that's 51 to 33. If this is the missing precinct, Wolf, add it up there, Mitt Romney wins by 20-something votes.
BLITZER: What's the total for Clinton County, Romney, Santorum, Paul?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh. Are they correct? I haven't done -- I -- oh, God, I added them up. I added them up a couple times. Oh, man. I show Romney coming up with a total of 437 votes from Clinton County. Santorum had 354. Perry had 73. Paul had 292. Huntsman, 12, Gingrich, 151, Michele Bachmann, 62, and there were five votes for Herman Cain.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The numbers we just received from the county chairwoman right here in Clinton County. If these are the final numbers --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean the numbers don't match?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just to be precise, we didn't wake you up. The state chairs in Des Moines, they called you. They woke you up, is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I woke her up. This is Carolyn.
KING: Carolyn woke her up to get the numbers --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they were waiting for the results, but I was told by the party. And so, I came to wake up Edith, who didn't answer her phone.
KING: You ladies don't have any fresh coffee brewed, do you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but I think I'm ready for it.
BLITZER: Guess what? Joining us now on the phone, Edith and Carolyn.
BLITZER: Let's give them a big round of applause. Let me start with Edith. Edith, thank you so much on behalf of all of us, on behalf of the American people, we want to thank you for clearing up this mystery. Tell us how you feel right now, Edith.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am just overwhelmed with all of this.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're trending worldwide, apparently, on Twitter. I just learned from Ali Velshi. Are you big on the Twitter?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not so good. And I got an iPad for Christmas, but I don't know how to work it yet.
KING: Would you, ladies, like to be the co-anchors of a new CNN program, "CNN After Dark"?
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: "CNN After Dark." Ooh! Man, that's working it.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And worldwide trending on Twitter. So, Mark Preston, I have to say this, he's the one who actually got those two women on the phone for us, so thank you for that. That was fantastic.
BANFIELD: Our political director.
BANFIELD: Good morning, everybody. And there's Mark.
SAMBOLIN: Yes, there he is.
BANFIELD: There he is. Love him! It's 5:31.
SAMBOLIN: Working nonstop. I want your rolodex, by the way.
BANFIELD: You want to talk to Edith on your off hours at 2:00 a.m.?
SAMBOLIN: Yes, I do.
SAMBOLIN: I'm up. I'm up. I'm up. If you were sleeping, what happened was this. Take a look at this. Mitt Romney, 30,015 votes, Santorum, 30,007, only eight votes separated them, and the reason that Wolf Blitzer walked out of here with John King and the crew that you saw at the wee hours of the morning is because this came down to the last precinct reporting.
And those eight votes really counted, folks. So, when it's your turn, get out and vote because you just never know the difference that you can make.
BANFIELD: Yes, close caucus in Iowa history, not the closest caucus ever. That goes to Guam, one of our protectorates, and that was a seven-vote difference between Hillary Clinton and President Obama back in 2008, but darn close, nonetheless. So, exercise your right to vote is the headline coming out of there. And the headline coming out of the "Des Moines Register" is -- it's a split decision.
Now, they go to press before they even get the answer to the question who won. And they essentially put this up because you know what? If you look at the numbers, an eight-vote split really means Santorum did get somewhat of a win out of this, but I think it's Mitt Romney who's going to get the big one with the endorsement coming out today.
SAMBOLIN: All right. And next, we're going to? BANFIELD: John McCain. I got to be honest with you. I love that story that John McCain is coming out today in New Hampshire to endorse Mitt Romney. OK. If you don't remember back to 2008, this is a big old deal because John McCain was in a bitter-pitched battle in that primary in 2008 against Mitt Romney and beat his pants.
And it was an ugly contest. And yet, here they come, kumbaya, four years later, and he's going to endorse him. So, I can't wait to see -- I always love seeing that stuff.
SAMBOLIN: The worst-kept secret, thought, right?
BANFIELD: Kind of.
SAMBOLIN: They've been talking about it for a while, and it should officially happen today, so we're looking forward to that. And then, we have this New Hampshire flash poll that we want to share with you as well. So, take a look at that.
BANFIELD: I always like this, because the flash poll isn't what you're used to with normal polls. It's kind of like a moment in time last night. Just a -- literally as it sounds. It's like a flash moment of caucus watchers in New Hampshire. While they were watching all of our coverage, they were asked these questions. What do you think for your poll? And look, I think Romney has an interesting number.
SAMBOLIN: Yes. It just hasn't changed. It's really what that shows, right?
BANFIELD: Yes, but look at Santorum --
SAMBOLIN: Except for that.
SAMBOLIN: With Romney, Paul, is just exactly the same, which is kind of what Romney's been doing, right? He's been riding this middle ground all the time. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
BANFIELD: He's the tortoise.
BANFIELD: He's the tortoise who can't seem to push past 25 percent of the vote, which still continues to be a terrific story going forward and gives us the nail-biter as we move into the caucuses and the primaries coming up.
SAMBOLIN: Well, "The Washington Post" this morning had an article asking what happens now, because, clearly, what you saw with the Iowa results is that there are a lot of people who still can't say, hey, Romney is my guy.
BANFIELD: Right. SAMBOLIN: So, what's going to happen going into New Hampshire? I mean, he definitely has the lead there, but what happens next, and can he pull it off?
BANFIELD: Those buttons that say "ABR," anybody but Romney. And I did -- poor guy. He seems such a nice guy, he's clean-cut, he's got the family, he's got everything. He just doesn't have that ground swell of base support, but he does have this.
He's got his words and he's good with them. And several of the contenders last night had something to say before they ended up probably going to bed.
SAMBOLIN: Or hopping on a plane.
BANFIELD: Well, yes. Many of them did, too.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We said three years ago that after being inaugurated, he was on the "Today" show, and he said, look, if I can't get this economy turned around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition, and we are here to collect, let me tell you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: I will go to work to get America back to work by making America once again the most attractive place in the world for job creators, innovators, and investors, and jobs will begin to flow like they have in the past. I'll keep our tax rates competitive, get regulators and regulations to see their job as to encourage enterprise.
Make sure we open up new markets for American goods. And finally, take advantage of the energy resources we have here in oil and gas and coal and nuclear and renewable.
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The essential issue in this race is freedom. Whether we will be a country that believes that government can do things for us better than we can do for ourselves or whether we believe as our founders did that rights come to us from God and when He gave us those rights, he gave us the freedom to go out and live those rights out to build a great and just society not from the top down but from the bottom up.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
REP. RON PAUL, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The country has suffered a lot in a negative way. The economy's in trouble. Our civil liberties are being trashed. Our foreign policy has been a mess and drains us both economically and our military forces, but at the same time, people are coming together, and we had the task which where we are very successful is reintroducing some ideas Republicans needed for a long time, and that is --
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PAUL: That is the conviction that freedom is popular!
BANFIELD: You know, it's funny. I kind of forgot about Ron Paul a little bit, you know? Listen, he did well. He had a 21 percent showing, but I think because those headlines are screaming so loud, eight-point difference between the leader, Mitt Romney and second place, Rick Santorum, we're forgetting a little bit that Ron Paul did well, was expected, maybe, to get second place, but certainly, thought he'd be either a second or third place finisher.
SAMBOLIN: And so, a lot of folks are wondering what were people thinking as they were headed into the polls. And we were actually thinking these were exit polls we were talking about, but Christine Romans has our entrance polls for us this morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Because in Iowa what happens is on the way in, they ask you what they're going to do when they cast that vote, and so, these are entrance polls in Iowa that we talk about. And you're so right. You know, a third, almost a third of Iowa GOP voters, almost a third went in there and said, they had reservations about their candidate.
When asked the opinion of their candidate, 31 percent had reservations, four percent were voting because they didn't like everybody else. They just picked their guy because they didn't like the whole field, and 63 percent strongly favored. When you look at who wins those categories, Ron Paul.
Ron Paul folks are die-hard. They love Ron Paul. He wins this strongly favored category. And ABR, you were saying, Ashleigh, anyone -- look at that. Look at this. Thirty-one percent. That was the category of people who had reservations, and that was won handily by Mitt Romney. I want to go up a little bit here and talk about when -- sorry about that -- about when did you decide whom to support?
Before December is when most people really thought that their guy was -- there you go, Ron Paul. And then, this is the surge from Santorum in December, the last few days and today. This is when you saw Santorum really gain momentum. I want to look a little bit more clearly at when did you decide who to support?
I want to go over here to the other wall and take a look at this. So, for the people who decided before December, you can see it was Ron Paul handily by 37 percent. OK. So, in December, you can see that Ron Paul people are slipping a little bit and the Santorum surge is beginning, 28 percent.
Over the last few days, now, it's Santorum. Santorum, over the last three days, with 33 percent. Paul is slipping to 13 percent here. And today, it was Santorum. And even Mitt Romney, people were even going until the last minute and saying, all right, fine. I'm going to cast my vote for Mitt Romney. So, really interesting to see how the last few weeks have meant a surge for Santorum. People voting for Romney, but saying, I'm voting for Romney with some reservations, and Paul really having the bulk of his support later part of last year. Those people were already decided.
BANFIELD: All right. Christine, I love the fact that we talk about how well Rick Santorum did and what the voters said about it going in because he had a lot of boots on the ground. He had a lot of captains in those caucuses, but New Hampshire ain't a caucus. And there isn't all that debating. And you don't get to put your disciples in your places.
SAMBOLIN: And he doesn't have any money.
BANFIELD: And he's low on the dough. He's big time low on the dough. When we come back after the break, that's exactly what we want to do, take you into New Hampshire, because that's where this race is going, take you into South Carolina, because that's where this race is going, and, of course, Gingrich.
SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes, we got to talk about him, and how he's changing, perhaps, strategy now or maybe the old Gingrich is coming back. Stay tuned for that. You know what? We've got a lot more on President Obama as well and his campaign putting out this e-mail I teased you earlier. We're going to share it when we come back.
BANFIELD: Welcome back, everybody. This is EARLY START, and it was even earlier than regular. It's 5:44 in the east if you're just waking up with us. We've been up all night, and we've been on the air for, I don't know, about 100 hours or so. The CNN Election Center has been very busy, because, of course, we had a real screamer.
SAMBOLIN: There is the leader board for you. Romney eked it out, 30,015 to Santorum's 30,007. Only eight votes separated them. This is historic here, right? I mean, crazy. It's kind of crazy.
BANFIELD: Crazy town.
SAMBOLIN: It got down to actually one precinct. And we had to wait till the bitter end, and then, you know, some issues with some votes there as to what exactly happened.
BANFIELD: Like Bush/Gore 2000 all over again, and we thought we were going to have to set up camp like Tallahassee. We do that back in 2000. We though we're going to have to set up camp in Des Moines, but we're not. We're moving on, folks, because we did get a result, and we're moving on to South Carolina.
SAMBOLIN: And there are no recounts. You know, there was all this conversation about recounts. That doesn't happen at this level.
BANFIELD: David Mattingly, you're smiling. I love that you're smiling. You got the early shift in South Carolina where I don't know if it's as cold as it is in Atlanta. I had an ice fall that I saw in a fountain in Atlanta, and that cold front has been blitzing through, particularly, I think for the candidate you were expecting to follow there today.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a bit cold today for Rick Perry supporters. He's not going to be showing up here today as he was scheduled to do, instead, going to Texas to reassess his campaign. Coming out of Iowa last night, everything here in South Carolina still apparently up for grabs.
We've got Mitt Romney who's going to be positioning himself here as the candidate who can beat President Obama. That message is going to resonate with voters here. We also see Rick Santorum coming here, saying, that he's going to be the true conservative speaking for true conservatives in the Republican Party. That's going to resonate as well.
But this could be the land of second chances for Newt Gingrich. He polled very well here about a month ago with a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney, but that poll was taken at the end of November and early December. So, it's been an eternity in political time since that poll came out.
But it was clear when the dust was settling in Iowa last night that he is preparing to come out of Iowa prepared for a fight.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I have one other great debate. And that is whether this party wants a Reagan conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and helped change Washington in the 1990s as speaker of the House.
Somebody who is into changing Washington, or we want a Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay, that has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any ability to change the culture or change the political structure or change the government.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: Let me be clear because I think it's important given all the things that were done in this state over the last few weeks. We are not going to go out and run nasty ads. We're not going to go out and run 30-second gotchas. We're not --
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: But, I do reserve the right to tell the truth.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GINGRICH: And if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on his record than it is on politics. So, this is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning in New Hampshire and will go on for a few months. And I'm convinced that the Republican Party will pick an heir of Reagan, a committed conservative, and somebody with a track record of changing Washington.
MATTINGLY: Newt Gingrich there tossing down the gauntlet, talking about the truth in this campaign, the truth remains here in South Carolina, and the chairman of the GOP here confirmed this. The race here is wide open right now, and nothing happened in Iowa last night that would change that.
BANFIELD: You mentioned before that, David, that Newt's lead about a month ago is an eternity in politics. And it's an even more specific eternity in GOP politics lately, because I think each one of these canned dates has jumped ahead in the leader board for about four weeks by my math.
I think some might have held on for about six weeks, so you're absolutely right. It would be wide open by those standards. Thanks, David. We'll check in with you in a minute.
SAMBOLIN: We're going to head down to Dan Lothian. He is in Manchester, New Hampshire, standing by for us this morning. I was just reading on "The Boston Globe" right now on their website. It says -- this is from Santorum's campaign. It says, "we came a long way in just a couple of weeks. The crowds are growing. Momentum's building."
They especially are expecting to hit the Catholics of New Hampshire and to actually make a difference and maybe gain some ground there. What are you hearing?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. I mean, the big difference between what has helped Rick Santorum surge in Iowa compared to here is that you have a lot of social conservatives who are voting, casting votes there in Iowa. You don't have that large number of social conservatives here in the state of New Hampshire.
And so, that is where those who might be criticizing whether or not or raising questions about whether or not he can get that same kind of surge here, we'll point to that, that you don't have that large number of social conservatives who can give him the boost that he needs here.
But nonetheless, his supporters believe that when he arrives here later today and he begins going out and meeting folks, holding town hall meetings, that people will give him a second look and will see that he is the best candidate who can beat President Obama.
The key is whether or not he can raise the funds to make him competitive not only here but also in South Carolina. He realizes that himself. Last night, he put out an e-mail to his supporters saying that he needs an emergency infusion of cash, $35, $50, $75. He said he shocked the world last night, but he needs this money in order to pass the next test which is here in New Hampshire. SAMBOLIN: All right. So, lots of folks there talking about his electability. Will he be able to pull that off? And the money is a very big issue that folks continue to talk about. So, we'll wait and see. We'll see whether that money starts coming into his coffers. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
BANFIELD: And I keep wondering where the money is going to go, because that is such a big story coming out of, not only just Iowa, but also, New Hampshire. That's the momentum. That's the money trail, and we're following it both. We're following the momentum. We're following the money trail.
And we're following all the people who invoke that (ph) and the iron lady and Reagan, because I love that stuff at states (ph). It's almost like grasping at straws, but not quite. Got a whole bunch more of that coming up in just a moment.
SAMBOLIN: Be right back.
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. I'm Zoraida sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. And we are going to head over to James Pindell, WMUR. He is joining us now from New Hampshire. Good morning to you. I got to you, I was reading your bio last night. You know your politics in New Hampshire, but you look like you're 12.
JAMES PINDELL, POLITICAL ANALYST, WMUR: Well, my mom did drive me here today.
SAMBOLIN: This one's our joke here. OK. So, I'm reading online right now. It says, "Iowa doesn't have much effect on New Hampshire except when it does." So, what kind of an effect do you think the results in Iowa are going to have on New Hampshire?
PINDELL: Well, look, as you know, no candidate's ever won Iowa and New Hampshire, yet Mitt Romney is posed to do just that. He comes in here a very big frontrunner throughout this race. The question here in New Hampshire has been how do you feel about Mitt Romney? And in the same question is, if you don't like him, then who?
In our last 11 polls going back to February 2010, we've had one frontrunner, Mitt Romney. We've had eight different people in second place, and we have polling later this week. We'll probably have a ninth, Rick Santorum.
BANFIELD: All right. So, question for you. "The Union Leader," very significant newspaper in New Hampshire, about a month ago, came out with its endorsement. At the time, it was a surprise for a lot of people. They endorsed Newt Gingrich. And in that paper today, James, there's actually -- there's a terrific ad that we want to show.
It's Newt Gingrich's ad. You've got it, right? Can you show it? Because I haven't seen the actual paper --
PINDELL: Yes, we do. Again, you know, again, this is, you know, an example of how this week changes. This is the most magical week in American politics. Just a month ago, Newt Gingrich was billed (ph) as Mr. Positive. And today, after being in fourth place in Iowa, he's got a full-page ad in the local paper, "The Union Leader," talking about the choice, about comparing himself and Mitt Romney and kind of slamming Mitt Romney a lot on the issues.
We expect to see a different tone from Newt Gingrich as it appears that his campaign really needs a Hail Mary pass.
BANFIELD: We have not heard the last from you, my friend. And Mark Preston, our political director at CNN, says he wants to meet you at the airport. I think you're going to be seeing him in a few hours in New Hampshire. I ask your mom --
PINDELL: Mark's a good friend.
PINDELL: Mark's a good friend. Anything for Mark.
BANFIELD: OK. I'll bet that on. James Pindell, thanks so much. We have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour. We're just a few minutes from the top of the hour. A full wrap-up on everything that just happened, because if you are just waking up, you slept through a huge story.
SAMBOLIN: And show you that difference in eight votes. What that -- the big difference that that can make, right? We'll be right back with so much more.