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Romney Defeats Santorum By 8 Votes; Romney Wins Iowa by Eight Votes; Santorum Ready for Rematch in New Hampshire; Spotlight On South Carolina

Aired January 4, 2012 - 05:59   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: That is correct. Welcome to the CNN Election Center. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. Did you miss it last night? So, 122,255 people voted.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: But only eight of them really matter.


SAMBOLIN: Well, they all mattered. Look at this. Mitt Romney, 30,015 votes, Santorum 30,007. Closest caucus in Iowa history. Only eight votes separated them.

BANFIELD: What a difference eight votes can make?

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: If you think you don't matter when you go to your polls. Yes, this is a caucus, but should we just tell you that even though it's a caucus and even though we don't have final delegate counts out of Iowa, we do have that presidential preference.

Write the name of the candidate they like and they count those names and numbers and that's what we got. But we didn't even get it until about 2:30 Eastern Time. Crazy stuff.

SAMBOLIN: In case you missed it, just go to and pick that up.

BANFIELD: And not only that, the "Des Moines Register," when it went to print last night, they didn't have the final decision. But what they decided it was close enough for a split decision.

So they put Romney on the left and Santorum on the right because essentially when they went to print, it looked like it could have gone either way.

It was really like a tie that jockeyed back and forth, but in the end, at about 2:30 in the morning Eastern Time, those eight votes finally came in from I think the county of Clinton that was holding up the whole process and they got those numbers.

SAMBOLIN: And we're going to head over to Christine Romans. She's on that magic wall for us and she can actually do a breakdown of Evangelicals and independents. Why? Because in New Hampshire, it's going to be the Evangelical vote --

BANFIELD: No, the independents.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sorry, the independents. And so we're going to take a look to see if we can kind of guess here a little bit as to how folks are going to be voting.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. So let's look at the independents first because no surprises, the Republican caucus. There weren't awful lot of Democrats who showed up to cast their ballot and to register as a Republican to do it.

But 75 percent were Republicans at the caucus sites and 23 percent were independents. That's an important number, right? Because this is most likely the person who's going to change their mind and it's also most likely the person who's going to turn around and vote for the president if necessary so, you know, who led here?

Obviously, the person who consider themselves a Republican voting for the Republican candidate was going for Santorum. The independent, no surprise again, it's Ron Paul. He's got a diehard early base and those are the people who are independent minded.

Now I want to go up a little bit here and talk about the Born- Again or the Evangelical Christians and Rick Santorum won this category as well.

Mitt Romney more likely to be in the category of folks -- show you that 57 percent of the people in Iowa identified themselves as Evangelical or Born-Again and 43 percent said they were not. You can see obviously how that turnout went.

Now I want to take a little bit closer look -- oops.

BANFIELD: You're no John King.

ROMANS: I know. It's a little different than the magic wall, but I want to come over here and take a look at the gender by gender of Evangelicals because this is interesting as well. These are Evangelical Christian men.

This is how they voted for Rick Santorum, 31 percent voted for Rick Santorum. Ron Paul came up here with 21 percent and Rick Perry who spent an awful lot of money and awful lot of time in the state of Iowa. He came up with about 14 percent.

Now let's take a look at women, how they came out, 36 percent of Evangelical women voters came out for Santorum and Ron Paul, again, Evangelical voters and independent voters, both putting Paul in their top category here and Rick Perry with 14 percent.

So there you go. That's how the independents and Evangelical voters all came out, both very two important categories in Iowa. But you're very right, you guys, as you go to the next state, different groups of voters are going to have different impacts depending where you are in the country.

BANFIELD: You may not be John King, but you are so much prettier --

ROMANS: That's the second time you've said that today.

BANFIELD: I'm hitting on you. Thanks, Christine.

You know, what Christine was breaking down was critical because John Avlon, one of our contributors who is just about to join us had been talking about this for a long time.

That is the independent voters of New Hampshire are critical. He even wrote a book about it called the "Independent Nation." I know it sounds wonky, but (INAUDIBLE) and he joins us now.

You know what, John, I love that you wrote that book, as we go into New Hampshire. You have the critical voice on this. I'm trying to remember the numbers. About 48 percent of voters in New Hampshire are considered independent or at least registered independents?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's 42 percent -- yes, it's an open primary state and that's critically important because that 42 percent of New Hampshire voters are registered independents, not Democrats or Republicans.

They are more independents in New Hampshire than Democrats or Republicans. So this year in the Republican primary they can vote and that makes all the difference in the world in terms of contrasting it with the Iowa caucus.

They're completely different opposite ends of the political spectrum. So that's why, you know, Mitt Romney has such a commanding lead in New Hampshire is in part because of strong support from independents who traditionally voted for the more center right candidate.

That's why Jon Huntsman has put all of his marbles in New Hampshire hoping for a Hail Mary. He didn't even bother to play in Iowa. Really, the story of New Hampshire is the story of how independents break in this open primary.

It ultimately is a better test of general election, electability than, for example, the Iowa caucuses, but it's where all the attention will be the next week. It's all about independent voters.

SAMBOLIN: Right. We're trying to figure out who's headed to New Hampshire, right? Is Rick Perry going to head to New Hampshire?

BANFIELD: I don't think so. SAMBOLIN: Let's listen in on what he had to say and then we're going to talk to Mark Preston about that.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, and determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.


SAMBOLIN: Well, is there a path forward for him? Is there a path forward for Michele Bachmann? Mark Preston joining us to talk a little bit about that.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Rick Perry was supposed to be on his way this morning to South Carolina where David Mattingly is setup, waiting.

You know, I got to tell you. I think it would be very difficult right now for Rick Perry who is not even going to go to New Hampshire because his appeal was going to be to the Born-Again and Evangelical voters, which would have been in South Carolina.

However, it would have been here as well and he wasn't able to convince them here.

BANFIELD: Is it over then? Is it over for him?

PRESTON: Again, I can't imagine he's going back to Texas, re- assess his campaign and then convince his supporters especially the money people to say we're going to continue to battle.

BANFIELD: He's got a lot of money. He's got a lot, doesn't he?

PRESTON: He does, but the question is how much has he burned through? We don't know much he's burned through over the past couple of months.

We know he spent a lot of money on ads. The really big question is, what's Michele Bachmann going to do in the next 12 hours? So is she going get out of the race? Who has made the phone call to Michele Bachmann?

Is it Newt Gingrich? Is it Mitt Romney? Is it Rick Santorum imploring her to get out of the race and to back their candidacy? Now I don't know how big her appeal is, but she certainly does have appeal, certainly with social conservatives.

So Michele Bachmann is supposed to be in South Carolina this evening. We'll see if she actually shows up.

SAMBOLIN: Can I put you on the line here and just ask you, who do you think she would lend her support to?

PRESTON: You know what?

BANFIELD: I'd say Romney.

PRESTON: Well, you know the story is --

BANFIELD: Tell me.

PRESTON: There's a story she's actually talked about doing that, apparently chatter. Her old campaign manager said that, in fact, she was trying to line herself up to be Romney's V.P.

I'll give you two different scenarios. Her politics align better with Rick Santorum, OK, the social conservative politics. But let's assume she has a lot of debt, and who do you want to align yourself with? Money men.

BANFIELD: Money men. And she hasn't taken any pot shots, I don't even know she's taken any at Mitt Romney, has she?

PRESTON: She's been very carefully guarded in how she's attacked him.

BANFIELD: All right, so Ruben Navarrette, you're out there live in San Diego, weigh in on this. The Michele Bachmann factor. You come in with a number. Grab them in front of me right now, 5 percent of the vote last night.

I don't think we were all expecting, you know, massive numbers with the polls going into, you know, Iowa caucuses. The 5 percent is paltry and it's right down there among the 1 percent of Huntsman. So what do you think the plan has to be for her at this point?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP: I think it's a good thing that she decided not to necessarily go back to assess. I think she's determined to make it to South Carolina and to go another round or two, but I don't think she'll fare any better.

So it's just sort of delaying the inevitable for her and trying to figure out, you know, who she throws her support to. I like what Mark said about how she's probably two minds on this.

One is she's very much in line with Rick Santorum. You recall, you asked about whether or not she had attacked or badmouthed Mitt Romney. You remember that whole thing about Newt-Romney, Newt-Romney.

She attacked both Gingrich and Romney? Yes, during the debates. So I think there's some distance there between Michele Bachmann's view of the world and Mitt Romney's.

She may decide just for the sake of practical reasons to throw her support behind Mitt Romney in the hope of some sort of a V.P. nod. But she's probably very much of two mix minds here because her politics and -- Mitt Romney's politics aren't necessarily congruent.

SAMBOLIN: Right, that would be an odd matchup there. Let's bring in John Avlon here because when we heard from Michele Bachmann last night, it wasn't a concession. It was confusing, right?

What is she going to do? What is that final decision that she'll make? She kind of made it seem like she's going to stay in, but how is she going to stay in?

AVLON: Well, you know, Michele Bachmann was predicting a miracle going into the caucus. What we've seen, really, it was a time for prayer. It didn't work out for her.

Her vote total was actually only around 1,000 votes more than she got back in August when she won the Ames straw poll. That is a sign of a failing, flailing campaign. And she may not realize her campaign is dead yet, but it functionally is.

Now she's going to be getting a lot of calls today, as Mark Preston was saying. She's going to be getting calls from Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich saying, look, get out of the race because her support would logically come to them.

The other call she'll be getting is from Mitt Romney probably saying, please, stay in the race. Because he wants -- that's the best possible thing for him. So, look, I mean, at the end of the day, her performance last night was dismal and end up at the bottom of the pack.

SAMBOLIN: Your work actually, John, I don't know if you just wrote this to me or if you blogged it. But it was a note to me, it's really long and really involved and I loved it.

You said, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry might not be willing to admit it yet. Their campaigns are dead, roundly rejected in the caucus dominated by the conservative populist. So you really mean it? Dead-dead, or suspended it so they can keep fundraising?

AVLON: No. Dead, dead-dead. There's an old Johnny Carson joke about after your dead, your hair and fingernails keep growing, but phone calls taper off. You know, she's dead.

Now she may decide to fight for South Carolina, a bunch of different tactical reasons. But you can't come in last in Iowa with only 1,000 more votes than you got in the straw poll and say you're a strong contender. If you do, you're just drinking your own Kool-Aid, which Michele Bachmann has been known to do.

SAMBOLIN: All right, standby there for a minute, John, because there was an e-mail that came in. I kept on teasing that we're going to talk about this.

This is from Obama's camp, it's two points here. One, the extremist Tea Party agenda won a clear victory. No matter who the Republicans nominate will be running against someone who has embraced that agenda in order to win.

Vowing to let Wall Street write its own rules and Medicare as we know it, roll back gay rights, leave the troops in Iraq indefinitely, restrict a woman's right to choose and gut Social Security to pay for tax cuts for millionaires or corporations. So are we setting a stage here? That's quite an e-mail. That's two part. I only read you number one.

BANFIELD: I've got to say, when I read that, that first part about it was just a Tea Party thing. It sounded like a swipe at the Tea Party. But Mark Preston, correct me if I'm wrong, didn't the Tea Party support Obama in 2008?

PRESTON: Well, I mean, here's the thing. And John could weigh and we all could weigh in on this. I mean, the bottom line is, that's a fundraising e-mail that was probably written months ago that was sent out at the right time last night during the Iowa caucuses.

And everything in there is traditional Democratic talking points and they've wrapped it up in this little package called the anti-Tea Party, right? I mean, that's what the Democratic Party's trying to do and that's what President Obama in his re-election campaign is going to do.

They're trying to tag the Tea Party as an extremist group, much like we're seeing Republicans trying to take the "Occupy Wall Street" folks and tie that to Obama legs and throwing them off the pier.

So that's exactly -- it goes back to something John is very good at, just explaining very, very crass politics. That's really, where we are right now as a nation.

BANFIELD: Lots of crass politics. I think. Who was tweeting about Ron Paul last night said something really nasty? It's Ron Paul's camp, tweeting something very nasty at one point. It was tweeting about Huntsman. We found your one voter. Something like that. I remember you were probably live at the time, I was watching you, but it was nasty, nasty.

SAMBOLIN: We have to take a quick break here. We'll be right back and we'll talk more about that with John Avlon as well. Stay tuned.


BANFIELD: Good morning, everybody. 6:15 on the East Coast if you're just waking up with us. What a night it was.

By the hair on his chinny chin, chin, Mitt Romney by eight votes came out on top of the leader board in Iowa last night, but it took until about 2:00 in the morning for us to really find that out.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Wolf Blitzer actually had an opportunity to sit down with Santorum and let's show it to you.

BANFIELD: He came in second.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he did. Number two.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: It was not that long ago you were nowhere in Iowa, but now it's a virtual tie. You may win, you may lose by one or two votes. But for all practical purposes you're a winner. Give us a thought right now on how it feels.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, this is the first step in the process, and we're going to be on to New Hampshire. We're going to work hard and compete there. You know, I'm a little bit behind the curve in the sense that Governor Romney has been spending a lot of money and a lot of time up there and has been running for six years.

But we feel like we were go up there and compete, and we've got a great team on the ground. We have -- my campaign manager is from New Hampshire. He started out as my New Hampshire guy. And so he knows how to win races. He managed Frank Guinta's campaign up there and we've got a lot of Frank's organization that was able to win a tough congressional seat up there.

We have about 25 state reps already. This is before tonight who have signed up. And they haven't just signed up, we've got some hard- working state reps up there. You know that New Hampshire is all about grassroots politics. And we feel very good that we're going to climb that -- climb that ladder just like we did here.

BLITZER: Senator, Piers Morgan is here and he wants to ask some questions as well -- Piers.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator, you must be feeling a bit like Rocky Balboa tonight. How are you going to knock out Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: Well, there's going to be a rematch, and we're going to go -- we're going to go to New Hampshire and take -- and take him on, and, you know, we're going to -- we're going to run a campaign talking about my vision for this country.

You didn't hear me go on after people tonight. I just laid out what, where America needs to go and how the Republicans need to -- to address those issues, and talk about, you know, a strong economy and make sure the economy is going to be vibrant for everybody in this economy and that we have an economy that's built on strong families, too. And that message will resonate not just here but will resonate in New Hampshire also.

MORGAN: I mean, you made a very personal speech this evening, and Mitt Romney made a very presidential speech, some would say, going out to President Obama. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, made what sounded like a pretty angry speech, and it looks like he may well turn out to be your corner man, doing the fighting for you. How do you feel about that?

SANTORUM: Well, Newt's a good friend and someone who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I mean, he's -- he's been out there in the battles, and I was here in Iowa and I can understand why Newt's feeling the way it is. I mean, it was a pummeling that he took here in the hands of Mitt Romney and it was -- it was literally every commercial break, and, you know, that's -- that's difficult when you have someone with those kinds of resources, and I can understand why he feels the way he does.

But Newt's a -- Newt's a fighter. He's going to stand up and articulate his ideas, paint his vision for this country and we'll have an opportunity to talk about those ideas on -- on the debates this weekend, and I'm looking forward to maybe being a little closer into the middle than I was before.

BLITZER: I assume, Senator, you've heard that John McCain is going to endorse Mitt Romney in New Hampshire tomorrow?

SANTORUM: Yes, that's fine. You know, I would have expected that. In fact I'm surprised that he hasn't done it earlier.

But, you know, I -- John McCain is a great man, and is someone who it was an honor to serve with. He has served this country and sacrificed more than frankly anybody that I've had the privilege to know in any way.

And so I commend Governor Romney for -- for getting his endorsement, but I'm not surprised by it. I mean, you know, John is a more moderate member of the Republican team, and I think he fits in with Newt's -- excuse me, with Mitt's view of the world, and I, you know, I wish him the very best and, again, I have nothing but respect for John McCain.


SAMBOLIN: You know, we saw or we heard a little bit there about this little love fest that's going on between Gingrich and Santorum. Have you been listening?

BANFIELD: Well, in their, you know, speeches last night?

SAMBOLIN: Yes -- well, no, a couple days ago, Gingrich also talking about Santorum in a very loving way. I thought, you know, he's getting a little tough now, but not with Santorum. They seem to have this really interesting relationship going.

BANFIELD: Well, I sort of feel like that -- that the White House, David Axelrod's speech last night about, look out, Santorum because that --



BANFIELD: Here is the -- is the big machine, coming to get you. So, really, Santorum hasn't been at the -- suffered the brunt of all of the attacks that every other leader has had, because he's just been the most recent leader in all the polls leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

SAMBOLIN: The unexpected one. Right.

So let's take a look at this flash poll here that we have out of New Hampshire. So if you look at this, Romney has, you know, kind of maintained that same level that he's always had, January 3rd and then December, comparing it to that.

But look at the bottom, the fourth. Santorum. There's actually a five percent difference now, and this is as you head into New Hampshire. So, who knows? You know, maybe he will get a bump, maybe he'll continue some momentum -- some momentum coming from Iowa. We'll see.

BANFIELD: And you see Huntsman there, 13 percent in November and then 13 percent at our flash -- when we say flash poll, we truly mean like a moment in time. Last night the New Hampshire voters are watching what's going on in Iowa, and for about 45 minutes we're asking the question, what do you think this is going to mean for you?

So -- but this is the best part. While, you know, Jon Huntsman is expected to do very well -- New Hampshire's the cornerstone, make no mistake, of Jon Huntsman's campaign. He has been focusing on that state, and he was the subject of a nasty, nasty little tweet by Ron Paul last night. You ready for this?

Ron Paul tweets out, "Hey, Jon Huntsman, we found your one Iowa voter. He's in Linn precinct 5. You might want to call him and say thanks." And because that was so snarky, we actually thought there might have been a hack job that has been going on, and we checked it out. CNN had our folks checking out Ron Paul's tweet machine, and it really was Ron Paul's tweet machine.

So, whether that's going to have any effect on New Hampshire's voters, or whether huntsman's going to have the kind of turnout and the support he thinks he may, that 13 percent level, I love that we can say only time will tell.

SAMBOLIN: You know, he famously skipped Iowa, and it was his 150 appearance in New Hampshire.

BANFIELD: Oh, yes. He's banking at that itty-bitty little state.

SAMBOLIN: He's going to go around running there.

BANFIELD: We got to go to break, but we have a whole lot more to talk to you about as we come back, including not only the leader board, what it means, what's going on in New Hampshire, but don't forget, South Carolina's just around the corner, too. So there's a lot coming out of there.

SAMBOLIN: And there are already ads in Florida, so we're going to talk a lot --


BANFIELD: That's the assignment I want, because it is freezing everywhere else in this country.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. We're at the CNN Election Center. I'm Zoraida Sambolin, with Ashleigh Banfield. Thank you for joining us this morning.

So let's go to the leader board, shall we, because if you were sleeping, you missed a lot last night. So let's show you the results --

BANFIELD: All sorts of fun.

SAMBOLIN: -- coming out of Iowa.

BANFIELD: Eight point difference.


BANFIELD: Eight vote difference, folks, and I can't tell you exactly where those eight votes were. Some say Clinton, that county, or maybe somewhere around Cedar Rapids.

And there's more to Cedar Rapids than just a few votes. That's where our Shannon Travis, CNN's correspondent, is standing by live for us, spent the evening.

I was watching you. So clearly, you have not had a lot of sleep, Shannon Travis, as you were going in to -- in and out through all the machinations of the Cedar Rapids caucus. I saw them counting the votes, I saw you in there, counting the votes with them, watching it all as it transpired. And you had a chance to speak to two of the candidates as well.

Tell me about your night.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Well, sleep, I don't really know what that is right now. But I was actually -- I was actually in the Cedar Falls area. It's very close to Cedar Rapids. A lot of people, you know, think that they're pretty much one and the same.

But in terms of my night, it was fascinating being inside a caucus site in this huge athletic center at the University of Northern Iowa, where there are -- where they were expecting about 6,000 people, but it turned out to be a little bit less than 4,000. But to actually go inside, peel -- peel back the curtains of this thing called a caucus. A lot of people have heard about them, they know that we cover extensively, but what actually goes on there.

So you had a lot of friends and neighbors going in and basically trying to prop up one candidate, vote for another candidate. So it's fascinating, being inside. BANFIELD: I had you mixed up with that fabulous movie that I just saw a while ago, but Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, it was a rapid fall for at least a few of the candidates last night. I'm just doing pun to get myself out of that mess --

TRAVIS: Easy to confuse.

BANFIELD: -- I put myself in.

Shannon Travis, thank you, my friend. And you look very good, may I say, for a man who barely slept, so whatever you're drinking, keep drinking it. Me thinks it's caffeine.

That's one hard working man. I'll tell you.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.


BANFIELD: Good morning. 6:28.

SAMBOLIN: That's a lot of caffeine that's happening this morning.

BANFIELD: Yes. I -- I only screech good morning because, for us, it's -- we're not really sure. It's the depths of the night for -- for everybody working at CNN.

SAMBOLIN: It's been a lot of fun, though, because -- yes, we've been watching -- we've been watching -- let's show you the leader board, in case you're just seeing it for the first time.

So Mitt Romney, you know, eked ahead, 30,015 votes to Rick Santorum's 30,007. So only eight votes separated them. This is historic in Iowa because this has never happened before.

BANFIELD: That's what we call --

SAMBOLIN: That's the closest one.

BANFIELD: Yes. It's what we call a squeaker, and there is -- is the rest of the pack. There's a good story that comes out of Rick Perry, probably Michele Bachmann as well, and Huntsman, too. And we'll tell you that shortly.

But, in the meantime, if Mr. Romney needed any more momentum with an eight vote win, he's going to get it today in New Hampshire, because John McCain, the senator he battled in 2008 for that state, and the senator to whom he lost that state in an ugly, ugly fight. That man on your screen is about to go to New Hampshire today and put all of his weight and energy behind the leader, Mitt Romney, today.

SAMBOLIN: And so, what is going to happen in New Hampshire? We're trying to figure out -- we're looking ahead, right?

So Christine Romans is joining us, and she's got that magic wall. So show us some magic and let's make the comparisons and try to understand what is going to happen next with the voters.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know, and understanding what's going to happen in New Hampshire, what might happen in New Hampshire, you've really got to look back at Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008 and 2012.

This is 2012 in Iowa. This is what happened yesterday. You see all this purple. That's Rick Santorum. He is, of course, the Mike Huckabee of 2008. This is Huckabee territory in 2008. Look at all of these counties that Mike Huckabee took.

And look at Ron Paul down here, just this one county, down here in 2008. This is 2008 for Ron Paul.

And I want to go back out then and take a look at what these means for New Hampshire, because if you come with me over here to New Hampshire, and we look back, 2008. You see, this was John McCain territory. You talk about that pitch battle between McCain and Romney. All of this red here is John McCain. Mitt Romney has this darker red.

And look at this right here. Two different counties here for Mike Huckabee. So, remember in Iowa, I just showed you all that Huckabee territory that went to Santorum. And now you've only got two counties here in New Hampshire, and this one down here for Ron Paul.

So, this is when I want to bring in Mark Preston because Mark Preston knows all this better than everybody.

What does all of this mean, when we look at New Hampshire, Mark, for what happened in Iowa in 2008 for Santorum and Huckabee, that territory, what happens in New Hampshire coming up in the next few days?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, the difference between what happened in 200 a8 and what we'll see in a few hours, is that Mike Huckabee decided not to play New Hampshire. He realized that his views were not going to mesh well with New Hampshire voters.

New Hampshire voters tend to be libertarian, but they also tend to be very fiscal-oriented. You know yourself growing up in Iowa, caucusgoers tend to be a little more evangelical, a little more religious. So, we'll see for Rick Santorum, though, is head over to New Hampshire.

ROMANS: He's going to do New Hampshire and do it big?

PRESTON: He's going to do it big because he has to. He has no money.

The whole national media right now is at the Des Moines airport. They are heading east and they're getting into Manchester. I'll be up there in myself in a couple of hour.

What he's going to try to do is try to get as much free media as he can. He's got no cash.

ROMANS: So, if you're thinking about dropping out in Iowa because of your showing in Iowa, you also want to go to New Hampshire? You don't want to drop out now?

PRESTON: Well, it all depends, because Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann knew they had no shot in New Hampshire. If they were going to stay in the race, they needed to go down to South Carolina. Now, Rick Perry is on the rope, says that he's re-assessing. Michele Bachmann she's in, but she's not up there.

ROMANS: Does Romney get that McCain territory? Did the McCain, the former McCain and McCain voters go for Romney this time? I mean, this was pretty decisively -- that looks, well, 37 percent to 32 percent in 2008 for McCain.

PRESTON: Well, the thing about Mitt Romney is that he owns a house right up here. He basically lives in New Hampshire.

But now, he's going to have to -- look, bottom line is, he's going to win New Hampshire, right? He's going to get McCain's endorsement. He's going to win New Hampshire.

But the real race is going to be between two Catholics, OK, in an area that's predominantly Catholic -- Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum. They're going to try to get this blue collar voters, because the real race right now is not for number one in New Hampshire. It's for number two.

ROMANS: Isn't that interesting, guys? I mean, trying to take the results from 2008 and 2012 in Iowa, look at a whole year of campaigning, but trying to get aboard.

BANFIELD: I bring it all down to one line, Christine. It's actually in song. Can I engage? Can I sing Fleetwood Mac?

ROMANS: Please.

BANFIELD: Landslide. Because isn't that what they're really saying about New Hampshire with Mitt Romney with 47 percent? And that really hasn't changed?

SAMBOLIN: Stay that way, yes.

BANFIELD: And my singing bites at 6:30 in the morning.

SAMBOLIN: No, it's great. Just a little more energy.

BANFIELD: Yes, it's not the Texas trio that sings that song, by the way. It's really Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks that sing that song in person and did a great job of it.

Yes, let's talk papers because papers are coming out. Everybody is coming out with their headlines and they're great. They're great.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's start with the "Washington Post." It says Romney leaves Iowa with the same problems that he had in 2008, which is really true here. It says -- he's set to leave here with the same share of votes he snagged four years ago in the Republican presidential caucus.

BANFIELD: Minus six.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, minus -- so, right around the same amount. Back then he spent $10 million. A lot less money was spent this time.

But, you know, the question is, what has changed about him? And can he bring that more conservative vote to the table? There are suspicions about his conservatism, he struggles to connect with voters, although his wife is doing quite a nice job for him in that department, if you watched her.

BANFIELD: I loved it when she fell on her butt in Dubuque. Remember, she did that cute thing back in '08. She's really a sweetheart.

SAMBOLIN: Well, now, she's -- you know, she's really softened him up. She's appearing a lot with him, talking to voters and it appears to be working. So, you know, can he rally are more Republicans around his candidacy? That's really what this article is about today.

BANFIELD: And good morning, Texas. I missed you. I used to live there, four and a half years I spent in that state.

SAMBOLIN: Actually with big hair.

BANFIELD: You've seen my hair.


BANFIELD: And you know what? I'll pick my ex (ph) from Texas and I'll tell you something, Governor Perry is on his way back, if he's not already there. He left last night, Iowa, headed back to Texas, and the "Houston Chronicle" this morning is essentially saying that he is going to re-assess that bid, and they're using pretty strong language, crushing fifth-place finish. First loss for the governor in his political work in 30 years.

He was an Ag minister when I was there. He was -- or secretary of agriculture in Texas when I used to live there. The governor for the better part of the decade. This is not something he's used to, losing.

And so, despite spending $6 million -- $6 million -- just last month in Iowa, he's not going to New Hampshire. He's going to Texas instead to re-assess the bid. Beyond difficult is what the "Chronicle" is saying to actually restart and energize his campaign again.

Here's the best part, the math that the "Houston Chronicle" did on the money that Perry spent equates to $900 per vote in Iowa, $900 per vote in Iowa.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. A lot of money spent on these campaigns.

All right. So, let's talk to some folks about that. Mark Preston, if you can join us over here again. He's our CNN political director. They're getting him for us.

BANFIELD: Get your booty over here.

SAMBOLIN: He's over there talking to Christine Romans.

We need your expertise here.

We also have -- we have John Avlon. You know, I'm new around here, John. I'm sorry.

You know, listening to Ashleigh a lot and she calls you biff.

BANFIELD: No. No, I don't. I call him Piff. It's his nickname among family, Piff.

SAMBOLIN: I'm so sorry, Piff. Or John as I am going to call you.

And then we also have Ruben Navarrette, CNN contributor and syndicated columnist for "The Washington Post" writers group.

All right. Let's talk about Romney's problem that the "Washington Post" is talking about here. You know, last time, he spent an awful lot of money, at $10 million is what they're saying. This time, you know, a lot less money, but the margins are kind of same, right? He walked away with the same vote here.

And, is he having -- is he going to continue to have a hard time pulling that conservative Republican core group on to his side?

PRESTON: Well, let me answer the question in two ways, which I think is crystal clear of why Mitt Romney is having problems with Republicans but at the same time is going to win the Republican presidential nomination.

First of all, if you look at those numbers out of Iowa, just a few hours ago, right? Because the election is just called. It shows that he's not able to get over 25 percent. And we've seen that consistently since the election begin. He has not able to break the 25 percent.

BANFIELD: John Avlon calls that his glass ceiling.

PRESTON: Yes. Actually, John is correct when he says that. Having said that, though, the whole field was splintered and John mentioned it a short time ago. Michele Bachmann, stay in, stay in because I want you to stay in because it will help dilute the vote, with some of the social conservatives that might go to Rick Santorum.

The bottom line is, Mitt Romney was successful and has been successful because the conservative vote has been so fractured. When he becomes the nominee, though, where will Republicans going to go? Of course they've got to support Mitt Romney. Where are they going to go and support?

So, even though we talked a lot about Mitt Romney being in trouble with Republicans, they're certainly not going to vote for Barack Obama.

BANFIELD: Well, Ron Paul seems to think that he's not going to be out of this race anytime soon. I'm sure Mitt Romney loves that. Split it up. Keep them in the race. Everybody should stay in the race, according to Mitt Romney.

But Ron Paul was talking about staying focused, raising money, moving ahead. Take a look at this.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will go on. We will raise the money. I have no doubt about the volunteers.

There's nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied and ready and raring to move on, on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire.



BANFIELD: Well, and he's got lots of momentum. And I'll tell you what, he's got money as well. He's got young people.

So, Lenny McAllister, I want to bring you into our panel. You're live in Iowa. And here's the deal -- while Santorum did very well in Iowa. Nobody disputes that, and he's got boots on the ground like crazy, and he visited every single one of those 99 counties, he does not have that kind of stamina for the rest of this race.

So, is this a reality check for Mr. Santorum, Lenny?

LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: It could be, but here's the thing -- he did not expect to be able to get to this close to first place. Think about it -- just a few weeks ago, he was polling in the low single digits. Now, he lost by eight votes.

This is something he can take and recruit volunteers, recruit money and say, listen, I have the Washington experience and I am the "anybody but Romney" candidate that does not have the personal flaws that Newt Gingrich has, or the foreign policy flaws that Ron Paul has, or has the flubs that we've seen at the debates that Rick Perry has had.

He can start solidifying that base, go down to South Carolina in a politically savvy state that's used to seeing him in Washington from his time as a congressman and as a senator, and start galvanizing that conservative base, and if he can do that and start raising the money, he can start making himself more of a formidable candidate moving forward from here.

So, this is something that will definitely give him that bounce if he takes advantage of it properly.

BANFIELD: OK, I get it. So, all right, he gets bounced. He gets -- I don't know how much bounce you need to move beyond New Hampshire, and then to South Carolina and to Florida. I almost feel like Howard Dean right now -- yee-haw!

Let me get -- let me get Ruben Navarrette. I can never resist that sound bite. I am so sorry.

Ruben Navarrette, jump in here for me. Is this enough of a bounce for Rick Santorum as he moves ahead? Or has he pretty much put all of his eggs in these early baskets?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it is a bounce and I think he will get a bounce. I think that people wait to see how well he'll do. It's the same thing that happened when you think about it with Barack Obama winning Iowa in 2008. There are a lot of folks out there who once he won Iowa, he made -- he convinced a lot of folks. He convinced some people who doubted his ability to win.

I think likewise as it's happened now with Santorum. He can finish respectably in New Hampshire. He'll do probably better in South Carolina, but the checks will start coming in. His apparatus, I think, will start coming together.

And I'd like to get back to one of the things that Mark mentioned earlier. I think it's -- we -- pundits I think have it upside-down. This business about Romney being able to sort of cobble together all these, you know, second place finishes, or first place finishes, 25 percent ceiling. And then, all of a sudden, people will come in and support him in the general election.

The enthusiasm has to be there to get people out to vote. So, yes, they're not going to vote for Barack Obama, but they could stay home and not vote at all.

So, I don't see how it is that somebody who is consistently at 25 percent and has 3/4 of the party against him all of a sudden miraculously turns those people around and excites them. You are either with Mitt Romney today or you are not. He is not very good at persuading the people saying they could are persuaded to vote for somebody.

So, you know, the dye is cast for Romney. He's got who he's got. He's not getting anymore.

BANFIELD: But we can't wait to ask him about that because guess what? We've got him. Right here, at CNN, interviewing Mitt Romney just after the 7:00 hour.

SAMBOLIN: And Ron Paul as well.

So, that is happening for you live -- headed your way shortly here after 7:00.

We're going to take a quick and we'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: New Hampshire is coming up next. Dan Lothian is standing by live for us there. And Dan, everybody's headed in that direction now. Santorum going with a lot of momentum from Iowa. What do we think is going to happen over there for him?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That is the big question now. This is a state that for the last few weeks has been occupied solely by Jon Huntsman. Remember him? We haven't been talking about him a whole lot, but he has been working the ground here.

He has made about 150 different stops at events. We went to an event last night here in New Hampshire, in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where he had one of the biggest crowds yet, we are told, but now, you have this new momentum from Senator Santorum coming into the state of New Hampshire.

And his supporters are banking on the fact that the surge that happened in Iowa will continue here in New Hampshire as well. They said the reason he was able to succeed the way he did was because he spent a lot of time on the ground, visiting all those counties as we've talked about there in Iowa, and people got to know him on a personal level.

And now, he has a chance to do that here. Think about how the voters are positioned here in New Hampshire. These are people who simply aren't going to rubber stamp anything that another state does or another caucus does. They want to meet their candidate one-on-one. They want to, essentially, kick the tires.

We've been using that phrase a lot to find out what that candidate is all about. They don't know a lot about Senator Santorum. They certainly have heard a lot about him now over the last 24 hours or so. And so, his supporters are hopeful that they can get a bounce into New Hampshire.

Then you have Mitt Romney who consistently has been leading the pack here by a wide margin, and the reason is, it's because he's well- known. He campaigned --

SAMBOLIN: And a big endorsement expected there.


LOTHIAN: That's right. And so, he's well-known. He has the big endorsement. Then, his campaign, obviously, hoping that he can continue that strong showing here, but it's all up in the air. You never know what will happen until Election Day.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan Lothian live for us in New Hampshire. We're going to keep on checking in. Thank you.

BANFIELD: And we're literally like energizer bunnies who go week to week as Dan Lothian will wrap up there in New Hampshire, then he'll probably or colleagues of his will probably be hop scotching South Carolina, Florida, et cetera, et cetera.

But let's hopscotch down to South Carolina right now, because that's where David Mattingly is standing by live in Aiken. I keep wondering just exactly what sort of bounce, what kind of cash, what kind of momentum, what kind of push, all of these leaders are going to actually have?

Because, you know, we have two clear leaders coming out of Iowa, but we have one clear leader in New Hampshire, and I don't even know where the polls stand in South Carolina anymore, because they're a month old.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They are a month old. I mean, they are ancient in political terms. So, it's anybody's race right now in South Carolina. In fact, the head of the GOP here said that he believes that this state is wide open. Every indication is that any candidate could win if they're able to put together the right kind of race here.

Mitt Romney already has the support of the Governor Nikki Haley. Newt Gingrich will be coming here looking for a second chance. He polled very well in those polls, you mentioned, from early last month. Double digits over a second-place Mitt Romney, but, again, those are very long ago in political terms.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens after New Hampshire to Newt Gingrich's status here, but he was very much looking at this state as a second chance, as was Rick Perry, who now is not even coming to this state at all. In fact, he was the reason I'm standing here in Aiken right now.

He was supposed to be coming down the street later today, shaking hands and meeting voters, trying to get his campaign restarted and back on track in this conservative southern state, but that's not happening now as he's back in Texas to reassess. Rick Santorum here has already been on the ground quite a bit.

He's expected to appeal very much to conservative voters, social conservatives here. A poll, that same poll from last month was showing that about 60 percent of the voters here, Republican voters here, like some of the ideas of the Tea Party. Only 15 percent or so actually call themselves Tea Party voters. So, that will also have some effect on the support for Rick Santorum.

But, again, everyone here, this very state is very much in play for any of the Republican candidates, and it's going to be interesting to see after New Hampshire who's able to build that momentum that they need to carry this state.

BANFIELD: After New Hampshire, took Florida, and then Nevada, but I don't want to get too far ahead. I still want to stay with you right there. I know you got a busy day ahead of you. You're going to have to figure out somewhere to go. How about Nikki Haley? Are you going to be following where she's going to be?

Is she actually making her agenda public? Is she going to align with Mitt Romney this early or does everybody get to sleep at least a day and night before all of that kind of shenanigan begins?

MATTINGLY: She's already stated her intention. She will be campaigning with him and supporting him. Mitt Romney is supposed to show up in the state tomorrow. So, we'll wait and see exactly how those plans firm up, but it's very interesting to have watched South Carolina over the past couple of months.

They went through a lot of effort to move their primary back up ahead of Florida this year, just so they could be that first voice in the south for this primary. That's something that's very important to them. Since 1980, the entire history of this primary, of the winner of South Carolina's Republican primary, has gone on to win the party's nomination.

That's something they're very proud of. They feel like that they have been the bellwether state for the Republican Party. They want to keep that going. So, people will be watching South Carolina when everybody gets here to start working in earnest.

BANFIELD: I've heard that before, though. I mean, there've been so many different elections where different states have claimed to say, listen, no one's ever lost my state without going on to, you know, become the candidate, and then, all of a sudden, something changes.

Thanks so much, and we're going to watch, actually, David, for Nikki Haley, because that endorsement, really, was a big deal, and we all thought the Southern Sun may have had a huge advantage there, you know, Newt Gingrich, but then, with that endorsement, Nikki Haley, beloved in that state. I mean, very well. Uber-conservative. So, it's a critical endorsement for her behind Mitt Romney.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's checking on what's coming up after us. Soledad O'Brien is standing by live in Des Moines, Iowa. You got a couple of big interviews headed our way.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Very big interviews and a late night last night like everybody else. I was in Clive, Iowa, which was one of the caucusing sites. There were two precincts there's. And really, what we saw there last night is exactly what matches the headline in the "Des Moines Register" this morning. Romney wins.

But here's the critical point, by eight votes. So, the question this morning as we talk to Mitt Romney will be, what's the strategy now with Rick Santorum nipping at his heels? What he is going to do? We're also going to talk to Ron Paul as well coming in number three. He gave a fiery speech to his supporter talking about the movement.

What does he do now as everybody puts their focus on New Hampshire? And, of course, we're going to continue to talk to the best political team on television as we look forward as well to Florida, see where this is all going ahead this morning on "Starting Point" in just about seven and a half minutes. See you then.

BANFIELD: I don't know how you look so good. I don't -- you must just stayed up all night and a lot of concealer and cucumber.

O'BRIEN: You know, I took a cat nap, but it really is concealer. That's it.


SAMBOLIN: And a lot of excitement. I'm sure. You're running on adrenaline. Thank you so much, Soledad. We'll be watching.

BANFIELD: We're going to go back to South Carolina -- we're just on the South Carolina things as we like the two states ahead. That's just the way we roll. We roll two states ahead. We're going to go back to South Carolina. We're going to talk to one of the people who knows politics real good in South Carolina. That's in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. And I know we're all headed to New Hampshire. We just talked to Soledad who's there.

We want to move forward to South Carolina. And with us this morning is Gina Smith. She's a political reporter for "The State," we understand the largest newspaper in South Carolina. Are you there?

GINA SMITH, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE STATE": Yes. Good morning, ladies. Thanks for having me on.

BANFIELD: Are you ready? Are you ready for some serious politics coming to your state? I'm guessing you might have been up all night, too, watching?

SMITH: Absolutely. We're so excited in South Carolina. We're looking forward to having the candidates here. South Carolina voters are definitely going to give Santorum a second look this morning. So, lots going on in the Palmetto State.

BANFIELD: You know what, we can't even put up polls on the screen anymore, because we're so committed to, you know, the best accuracy we can being here at CNN that those polls that last came out about a month ago that showed at the time that Newt Gingrich was performing very well in South Carolina.

We just don't know anymore, really, with the way things work in the GOP race. You know, the peaks and valleys have just been too numerous. What is your read in that state at this point? Do you have your own polls? Do you know how your state is thinking at this point? SMITH: Well, I would say that you're right. In the last poll that we saw which was a month ago, incredibly old. Gingrich was leading, but if you look at South Carolina polling since the summer, the one team that stands out is Mitt Romney has always been in the number one or number two spot.

When he was in the number two spot, he was mainly behind -- he was always behind sort of the flavor of the month. So, I think if we get some new polls soon, we're going to see that, indeed, I bet you Romney is back on top. I bet you that all the negative ads against Newt Gingrich has affected him in South Carolina.

What to really watch for in South Carolina is what's going to happen with Santorum now? Mitt Romney has never been able to get over about a 25 percent approval rating in South Carolina. There's a lot of South Carolina voters who are looking for an anti-Romney candidate.

Now that Santorum is going to come out with a nice bounce out of Iowa, I think that he has the possibility of gaining that anti-Romney crowd in South Carolina and running with it here.

SAMBOLIN: So Gina, here's what you can claim. South Carolina's known for picking presidents. Every Republican who's come out -- who's won a South Carolina primary since 1980 went on to become the nominee. So, look into your crystal ball. Who do you think is going to win?

SMITH: Oh, my gosh. I couldn't possibly say. It's way too early. We've got to see what shakes out from Iowa, what happens in New Hampshire. But, definitely, I think that Romney stands very strong chance in South Carolina. I think that Santorum, like I said, is going to get a nice bounce, especially with Rick Perry leaving the state.

Rick Perry, with him out, that helped Santorum. Newt Gingrich, though, will also be (INAUDIBLE) in the state. He and Santorum may be fighting it out for that anti-Romney vote in South Carolina.

BANFIELD: I've got to say, I'm always fascinated by your state. No voter registration. It's an open primary. Home of Bob Jones University. Extraordinarily evangelistic and also very conservative. I know Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney, but he is a Mormon, and you know, that has been something that has been a bit of an Achilles' heel for his campaign.

They won't allow us to even shoot pictures of him going to his church on Sundays. I just -- I just really, I really want to know what your feeling is about Mormonism in the deep south and whether that's really going to affect him in a serious way, notwithstanding Nikki Haley?

SMITH: Well, I think you have to look to Nikki Haley for that answer. I mean, our governor here in South Carolina was raised as a Sikh and as an adult converted to Christianity. She's 38 years old. She is our first non-white governor. She's a woman. I think South Carolina has a little more going on, a little hipper than people may give us credit for, but the Mormonism issue, certainly, is something that we're going to have to watch for. I think in 2008, it gave Romney some problems in the state, and he finished fourth here in 2008.

BANFIELD: Gina, thank you. I don't think there's time for Mitt Romney to convert, but I do thank you very much for your time, and we're going to touch base with you real, real soon, my friend. Thank you.

SMITH: Thanks. Bye-bye.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're done now. We're going to toss it over to Soledad O'Brien who is live in New Hampshire.

BANFIELD: With some serious guest power.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we do. Some big names talk to this morning. Welcome, everybody, to our new show. It's called the "Starting Point," and we are live once again at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Our starting point this morning is the closest GOP presidential contest ever. Mitt Romney winning but by eight votes, came down to one mystery precinct and one missing county. We've already staked out in the next two critical battlegrounds, of course, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

And we're talking to last night's big winner as he moves on to home turf, and also Ron Paul later on. "STARTING POINT" begins right now.