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Mitt Romney Wins Iowa By Narrow Margin; Bachmann Pulls Out; Rick Perry Stays In, Will Focus On South Carolina; McCain Endorses Romney; Obama Shifts into Campaign Mode; Critics: Observers Failed in Syria

Aired January 4, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a surprise survivor and a political casualty on the road to New Hampshire.

Rick Perry's refusal to bow out like Michele Bachmann, it could have a real impact on the Republican presidential race.

Plus, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum gear up for a rematch after Romney's razor-thin victory in Iowa. Can Santorum compete in Romney's backyard? And the Iowa women applauded by our election team and caucus watchers around the country and indeed around the world. Stand by to learn more about Edith and Carolyn, who solved the case of the missing votes.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So long, Iowa. Hello, New Hampshire. The Republican presidential candidates are zeroing in on the next battlefield and a big primary coming up on Tuesday. The front-runner, Mitt Romney, is following up his squeaker win in Iowa with a new endorsement from Senator John McCain, who beat him in the New Hampshire primary four years ago.

Several of Romney's opponents also are in New Hampshire right now. But Rick Perry says he's heading south. He sent out a tweet today saying, "Here we come, South Carolina."

And a photo from his morning run confirming he's staying in the race despite his poor showing in Iowa. Michele Bachmann made a very different decision, ending her presidential bid today after a crushing defeat in the state where she was born.

Rick Santorum lands in New Hampshire later today pumped up by his almost win in Iowa, a mere eight votes, eight votes behind Mitt Romney.

CNN's Dan Lothian is joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Dan, it will be tougher for Santorum to do that well in New Hampshire, which is almost like Mitt Romney's home state.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and political strategists here in New Hampshire say that it would be very difficult to shake him from that high double-digit lead that he has held here in New Hampshire for quite some time.

As you pointed out, he's the former governor of the state of Massachusetts, which is very close here, right next door, has a vacation home here, spent a lot of time in this state when campaigning back in 2008. Now, he is not strong among those social conservatives. And that was an issue certainly in Iowa, but that is less of an issue here in New Hampshire.

Today, as you pointed out, he did pick up a big, big boost from an endorsement from his former rival John McCain, very popular here in the Granite State. He beat George W. Bush in 2000, also beat Romney in 2008, but, today, he said that he was here to help New Hampshire -- quote -- "catapult" Romney to victory.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Our message to President Barack Obama is, you can run, but you can't hide from your record of making this country bankrupt, from destroying our national security and to making this nation one that we have to restore with Mitt Romney as president of the United States of America.


LOTHIAN: Now, Newt Gingrich, who took a lot of hits from Romney in Iowa, was one of the first to land here defiant as ever, painted himself as the true conservative and referring to Romney as the timid moderate from Massachusetts.

So, he will be certainly turning up the heat. He has stayed away from launching a negative campaign, but he said he also wants to tell the truth and we have seen that already landing here having some strong words for Gingrich -- for Romney.

Now, I should point out, Wolf, one other thing on a lighter note. So much has been said about the razor-thin margin of victory for Romney in Iowa, just eight votes. Today, here, he was joking about it himself, saying that he would try very hard to make sure that he won here by more than just eight votes.


FENTON GROEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE SENATOR: The supposed 40-plus percent that Mitt Romney has in New Hampshire now, I think when people see what Santorum's capability is, this has the potential to turn very fast.


LOTHIAN: And that was a Rick Santorum supporter. He's a state senator. He has been supporting him long before he officially got into race.

And he said one of the things that he has been hearing from his friends now for quite some time is that they always felt that Santorum would be their first choice, but they never thought that he could get elected. Well, based on what happened last night in Iowa, he says he's more optimistic that that will change -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very, very impressive showing by Rick Santorum. Dan Lothian in New Hampshire. Six days to go before that primary.

The Republican contest could heat up even more when it goes South on January 21. There are some key differences between South Carolina and its primary and the contests that come before it.

David Mattingly is joining us from Aiken, South Carolina, now.

It looks like it's going to be bitter and tough where you are, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and that key difference you're talking about comes down to one word: conservatives.

We're talking about social conservatives, evangelical voters. By some counts, these voters make up more than half of the Republican primary voters here. So, by conventional wisdom, it looks like Rick Santorum coming out of a strong showing with these voters in Iowa will find a very welcoming crowd here in South Carolina.

But I had a long conversation with the director of the Republican Party here in South Carolina. Generally, he describes Republican voters here as very energized and very anxious to find someone that they believe can beat President Obama in November.

They are looking now for that kind of candidate. And Mitt Romney has been trying to position himself as that candidate from very early on. So, his message will also be able to resonate with voters who are looking in that direction. In the meantime, we're finding out today that Rick Perry is indeed in this race. He's going to be coming back here to South Carolina.

We're actually in Aiken today. We were expecting to see him today, but he went to Texas to reassess his campaign. He's going to get back on with it, hoping that the conservative voters here get his campaign back on track. So, for him, South Carolina could become the land of second chances.

It could also be that way for Newt Gingrich, who just a month ago was polling double digits ahead of Mitt Romney. We haven't seen any polls since then, but he did have a strong base of support here and it's going to be interesting to see if he can reclaim that support after the damage he took in Iowa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, South Carolina's going to be very, very important. David, thanks very much.

Let's talk about all of this with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief national correspondent, John King.

Gloria, why is Rick Perry after saying he's going to reassess, going back to Texas, why is he staying in this race? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Why not? Why shouldn't he? He made the point earlier today, there are lots of independent voters who participated in the caucus for Ron Paul.

He's going to South Carolina. It's terra firma for him. Why not? He's got the money. He feels that he can, he can have some kind of an impact, that Gingrich is going to be attacking Romney. So if you're Rick Perry and you say, as his wife said today, we don't quit, we're not quitters, why not do it one more time?

BLITZER: I raise the question because only hours before he said he was going to go back to Texas and reassess, I think he told you, John, he's going first thing in the morning to South Carolina. Instead, he went to Texas.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what he said a few hours before Iowa voted. Then Iowa humbled him. He's a big state governor. He's never lost an election. He got 10 percent of the vote after spending a lot of money courting evangelical voters in Iowa. And he worked pretty hard at the tend.

Big debate gaffes cost him. Here's their calculation and you're right. Gloria's right. There was a divide in the team. Some said go right on to South Carolina. Some said come home. Protect your legacy. This was a tough night. Governor Perry slept on it, woke up this morning. Here's their calculation. They believe if Gingrich comes in third or fourth again, he's done in New Hampshire, after the embarrassing Iowa showing, that they think Gingrich is done if he comes in third or fourth again.

They think Rick Santorum has one week to prove that he is truly a credible, lasting conservative alternative to Romney. If that doesn't happen in New Hampshire, they know the right have so many questions about Romney, they will be looking for somebody. They think a Texas governor making a stand in South Carolina, call it his Alamo. He's got one more state.


BORGER: And these are their values voters that they really believe if Rick Santorum can't -- doesn't have the money, can't make the play there, they believe their theirs.

I think the calculation probably was by the governor, I don't want to go out with my tail between my legs. I want to go out strong and I want to make this final showing.

BLITZER: South Carolina has a history in terms of moderate Republicans, conservative Republicans. The fact that Rick Perry's going to compete in South Carolina makes Mitt Romney's folks happy.

KING: To a degree, it does, if Santorum comes out reasonably strong. Romney people would have liked Michele Bachmann to stay in through South Carolina.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Remember what happened to John McCain. John McCain eked it out in 2008 with 33 percent of the vote. Mike Huckabee got 30 percent. Mike Huckabee swept the Bible Belt, the evangelical area from Greenville across the top of the state. What happened? Fred Thompson got 16 percent of the vote.


KING: If you're team Romney, you're thinking if Perry, Gingrich and Santorum can split that vote, then they can squeak through.

But the question is, will Gingrich and Santorum be as strong or weaker, depending on who we're talking about, Santorum is strong right now, Gingrich is on the cusp, by the time we get to South Carolina.

But one other thing. South Carolina's voters on paper are very conservative, but the South Carolina Republican Party has a history of pragmatism. They like to decide the elections. George H.W. Bush won South Carolina.


BORGER: They're not going to. I think it's going to be Florida.


BLITZER: Very quickly to both of you, Gloria first.

Ron Paul. He did well in Iowa. Came in third. Impressive third, I must say. He's competing aggressively in New Hampshire. He will compete aggressively in South Carolina. How does that impact what's going on?

BORGER: Well, look, I think there are independent voters in New Hampshire who are going to be a attracted because of their anti-war feelings to a Ron Paul. I think he has less of a shot in South Carolina, where they are more conservative, more robust foreign policy.

He's not a -- Tea Partiers -- as our entrance polls showed last night, Tea Partiers are not big fans of Ron Paul largely because of his foreign policy. They like his economic views, so I think he hangs around. And, again, that's probably good for Mitt Romney, because they're not attracting the same voters.

KING: Paul has a very good chance of being an impact player again in New Hampshire because of the looser rules, more moderate Republicans, independents, young people. There's no Democratic contest. They can come over and vote in the Republican primary if they so choose. South Carolina will be the true test. Is Ron Paul a lasting player as we get into closed, meaning Republican-only primaries?

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by because we will continue a lot of this analysis and also stand by to hear more about the race after Iowa from Rick Santorum. He's John King's guest on "JOHN KING, USA." That comes up right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

The only female in the GOP race drops out. Jack Cafferty has a question for you about women in the Oval Office.

And CNN after dark. When the hour is late, we get a little loose and anything can happen, including the birth of two new stars, Edith and Carolyn. CNN after dark -- we will explain.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Michele Bachmann's dreams of being president are history and so, too, is the possibility of the U.S. electing its first woman president, at least for another four years.

This was the second election in a row where a woman tried and failed to become president. Hillary Clinton made a great run in 2008, but in the end, she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.

When Clinton bowed out, she acknowledged she wasn't able to -- quote -- "shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling" -- unquote, but that her supporters had put about 18 million cracks in it. At the time, polls suggested Americans were more ready for a black president than a woman president.

Fast-forward four years and there were high expectations for Michele Bachmann in the beginning, at least in her birth state of Iowa.

Bachmann entered the race as a Tea Party favorite, became the first woman ever to win the Ames straw poll in August. Unfortunately for Bachmann, that was a high point of her campaign. She finished sixth in yesterday's caucuses, got just 5 percent of the vote. She didn't win a single one of her home state's 99 counties.

Michele Bachmann had been sliding in the polls since the summer in Iowa as evangelicals and social conservatives jumped ship to back other candidates like Rick Santorum. Bachmann's campaign was also marked by infighting and a series of gaffes often coming from the candidate's own mouth.

However, the campaign suggested that sexism was partly to blame. What a surprise. Just like supporters of Hillary Clinton blamed the media for its sexiest coverage.

Hey, it's not like these men we keep electing are doing such a great job, you know what I mean? Other countries seem to get it. Fernandez in Argentina, Merkel in Germany, two recent examples of enlightened electorates.

So, here's our question: what's it going to take for this country to elect a woman president? Go to, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. Good question.

Here's a look at some of the other political headlines making news on the CNN Political Ticker right now:

Some Tea Party star power is in New Hampshire getting ready for Mitt Romney. A source tells CNN that California Governor Nikki Haley will campaign with Romney on Friday and Saturday, just days before New Hampshire's primary, one week from today. She'll also be stumping with him in her home state Thursday. The New Hampshire primary, I should say, is six days from today. Haley endorsed Romney for president last month. New Hampshire primary is next Tuesday.

Donald Trump tweeted his opinions about the Iowa caucuses. One reads, "Congratulations to Rick Santorum for coming out of Iowa -- a winner." He saluted the only woman in the race in a tweeted reading, "Michele Bachmann got less than 1,200 more votes in the caucus than she did in the Ames straw poll. Very sad for her. A nice woman."

And he slammed Ron Paul tweeting, "He should be ignored. Ron Paul's foreign policy is a dream come true for our enemies and he has zero chance to beat Barack Obama."

Trump made no mention of Iowa winner Mitt Romney.

For complete political coverage, please be sure to go to

Just hours after the Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul calls Newt Gingrich a chicken hawk. That and more, that's coming up in our strategy session.

And President Obama just back from his Hawaiian vacation, he hits the campaign trail. Stand by to hear what he said to supporters in a key battleground state.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, Iran is essentially saying that the United States is looking for trouble if it moves warships into the Persian Gulf.

What's going on?


Well, the U.S. has had a presence in the Persian Gulf since World War II, but things escalated after the aircraft carrier passed through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran now warns of what it calls mayhem if the U.S. comes back to the oil-rich Gulf. Iran threatened last week to block the strait if its oil exports, rather, were sanctioned.

And police are still working on a DNA profile in the murder mystery of Queen Elizabeth's royal estate. A body of a young white woman believed to have been between 15 and 23 years old was found on the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate this week. It was just a mile from Sandringham house where the royal family spends Christmas.

British police hope cold case files may help the investigation.

And separating the haves from the have notes. A nonpartisan government report says income inequality is growing as top earners receive better payouts from stocks and dividends while the Bush tax cuts allow the group to keep more of their money. From 1996 to 2006, after tax income for the top 1 percent of taxpayers soared 74 percent on average, the bottom 20 percent saw their income fall by 6 percent.

And the IRS opens the 2012 filing season with a bang, saying taxpayers have until April 17th. The move was made because April 15th falls on a Sunday. It also announced several improvements, including new navigation features and interactive video on to help with tax issues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

John McCain endorsing Mitt Romney and raising expectations. Details of what he's predicting will happen in New Hampshire. Stand by.


BLITZER: Lots of news happening today. Let's discuss what's going on in our strategy session.

Joining us, the Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. She's a principal at the public affairs firm the Dewey Square Group. And Terry Holt, a former spokesman for the current House Republican leader, John Boehner. Maria's also a CNN contributor.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Terry, you were one of the first who saw Santorum's dramatic surge. I'll pat you on the back and play this little clip from December 26th. Listen.


TERRY HOLT, FORMER JOHN BOEHNER SPOKESMAN: We have a majority of people undecided. People have changed their mind a number of times. Rick Santorum has the kind of profile and the attitude it takes to surprise people in Iowa and I look for a surprise from Rick Santorum in the first in the nation caucus.


BLITZER: When you said that, Terry, did you think it would only be eight votes between him and Mitt Romney?

HOLT: No. And it was so exciting watching you guys last night. I thought your OMG moment was classic, Wolf.


BLITZER: But that was when about 98 percent of the vote is in, was in, and one vote separated the two of them.

HOLT: It was a classic moment. I love television when it just stumps even a guy like you.

You know, Rick Santorum, you know, everybody else had their 15 minutes of fame. Santorum benefitting from good timing, but he'd also done the work. All that shoe leather, all those miles on that truck, it was going to pay of if he got a chance.

And, you know, you saw his stump speech last night. It was authentic. He connects with blue collar voters, with evangelicals that are so important in Iowa. So, he punched his ticket and we'll see what he does with, excuse me, what he does with.

BLITZER: How worried should Democrats be about Rick Santorum? I know you guys are totally obsessed with Mitt Romney. But what about Rick Santorum?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Democrats are going to be ready and I've said this before, Wolf. Democrats are going to be ready at the end of this process to run against whoever becomes the Republican nominee, because one thing is for sure. There is no difference between any of them on issues pertaining to the middle class, meaning that they are doing nothing to protect the middle class and to protect workers and to protect small businesses while this president wakes up every single morning figuring out how to fight for them.

So, that is a fight we are willing to have with anybody.

And so -- but what last night really did is elucidate for the rest of the country, the fight for the soul for the Republican Party. And Mitt Romney may end up being the nominee, but they still don't like him. They still don't trust him and they don't believe that he's got the conservative bona fides that they would like for him to have, which is why Rick Santorum was only eight votes behind him.

BLITZER: Seventy-five percent of the Republicans who went to the caucuses, Terry, didn't vote for Mitt Romney. He got 25 percent. He won by eight votes. He'll do better I assume, in New Hampshire.

But then comes South Carolina -- what will happen there?

HOLT: Well, it's too soon to say, isn't it? But I think to be fair to Romney, two months ago, I don't think anybody thought that he was going to win the Iowa caucuses and a win is a win. He did what he had to last night. Now, he moves to home turf.

I think in fact, the expectations for New Hampshire are the first hurdle for Mitt Romney. He has to do well there. And in that case, I think he's well-positioned.

He got the McCain endorsement today as you saw. He has his own organization. The momentum he gets out of New Hampshire will be crucial for how well he does in South Carolina.

BLITZER: Maria, here's the endorsement -- a clip of John McCain going up to New Hampshire and endorsing Mitt Romney. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm really here for one reason and one reason only, and that is to make sure that we make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America. And New Hampshire -- and New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory in a very short period of time. That's why I'm here.



BLITZER: How important is that endorsement for Mitt Romney, Maria?

CARDONA: Well, look, no one is going to change their vote for Mitt Romney just because John McCain has told them to. But it is important in that Mitt Romney is desperately trying to convince the Republican Party that he can be their prom king. He's got the looks, he's got the hair, but he clearly, and this comes from last night's results, they don't think he's got the moral character. Independents don't like him. Youth doesn't like him.

He didn't win the middle class last night.

So, anything that can help him convince GOP voters that he actually will be their standard bearer when he is somebody who has flip-flopped so many times, and now, ironically, has more conservative extreme positions than a lot of the candidates on that stage, but yet, they don't think that he has a real core? Any help that they can get is one he desperately needs.

BLITZER: Terry, you're shaking your head.

HOLT: Well, if we're using Democratic angst as the barometer for the electability, Mitt Romney, my friend Maria here is signaling that they're afraid of Mitt Romney. They've already started attacking Mitt Romney and that's one of the things that he did score well last night among Iowa voters. They do think he's electable, that he has strong leadership qualities. His economic message resonates.

And so, even if he still has a job to do to convince conservatives to come his way, we're going to ultimately unite behind a Republican candidate and I think it at least at this point, Democrats fear Mitt Romney of all the candidates.


CARDONA: Bring it on.

BLITZER: They do. The DNC, some of the other Democratic organizations they've put out ads attacking Mitt Romney. I haven't seen many attacking any of the other Republican candidates.

Guys, stand by. We have more --

CARDONA: Wolf, we're so excited to run against him.


BLITZER: As the remaining Republican candidates turn their attention to New Hampshire, President Obama goes on the offensive today in Ohio. You're going to hear what he said in this battleground state.


BLITZER: We're back right now with the Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Maria Cardona and the Republican strategist Terry Holt.

Guys, once again, thank you.

The president of the United States was in Hawaii, came back from vacation. One of the first things he does, he has this teleconference with Democrats in Iowa, an important battleground state coming up in November and today gets up and flies to Ohio -- another key battleground state.

Listen to what he said in Ohio, obviously campaigning. Ohio's going to be critical. Watch this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that you're hearing a lot of promises from a lot of politicians lately. Today, you're only going to hear one from me. As long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I promise to do everything I can every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something and everybody can get ahead. Not just those at the very top. Not just those who know how to work the system.


BLITZER: Terry, you know, I covered Bill Clinton's re-election campaign back in '96 against Bob Dole. It seems to me that almost every lesson that was -- that Bill Clinton learned in getting re- elected in '96, this president has learned now and a lot of the Democrats who helped Clinton are helping him right now. He's got a strategy. He's got a plan, raise a ton of money. Go to Ohio, go to these states and get the job done.

This is not going to be an easy challenge for any Republican nominee, whoever that might be.

HOLT: It's always hard to beat an incumbent president. He has the power of the office. He has the megaphone of the White House and the Oval Office.

But, you know, this president is much more comfortable as a candidate than he is as president. I don't know that he learned all the right lessons from Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton moved to the center and worked with Republicans on an agenda before his re-election took place. This president has stayed in campaign mode from day one, so I don't expect him to do anything different today, tomorrow or for the rest of the year.

BLITZER: Terry makes a good point. They called it triangulation back in '96, moving to the center, moving a little bit away from the Democratic base from the Republican base and that seemed to have worked for Bill Clinton.

Here's the question. Do you see President Obama doing anything close to triangulation this time around?

CARDONA: Well, what he's doing I think is what he has been doing since day one. And that is focusing his fight and focusing his fervor on helping the middle class and working class who have been the ones who have been so hard hit by this recession that was frankly caused by the failed economic policies that Republicans have put in place and that every single candidate on the GOP side, including Mitt Romney, wants to put in place again.

So, call it triangulation, don't call it triangulation. Call it fighting for the middle class and the working class, while Mitt Romney and the rest of the GOP are only going to be fighting for millionaires and billionaires. That is a fight that the president is ready to have.

BLITZER: It sounds to me though -- it sounds to me, Maria, correct me if I'm wrong, he's not interested in finding Republicans out there and coming up with some sort of compromise this year for example like welfare reform, which is what President Clinton did back in the '90s.

CARDONA: Absolutely, he is, Wolf. Let's not forget that it was this president, when he first came into office, that invited Republicans to the White House --

HOLT: For a photo op.

CARDONA: -- to start talking to them about how they could work together and he was bending over backwards trying to work with him. They were the ones who continued to say, no, no, no and no.

The American people understand that. So, if he's not going to be able to get anything done with the Republicans, he's going to try to continue to get things done with the American people, because that's why he was elected and that's why he's going to get reelected.

HOLT: I'll take that. Go ahead, Wolf. I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Go ahead. Finish your thought, Terry.

HOLT: I was just going to say I'll take that fight any day of the week. President Obama said today he'd only make one promise to the American people. That promise is everything for everyone. I'll take the campaign any day of the week, the fight for the middle class and whose agenda is better.

At this point, the president's agenda is higher taxes, more debt, more deficit and not any jobs created. Let's have that fight for the middle class.

CARDONA: He cut taxes for 95 percent of the middle class, Terry.

BLITZER: Speaking about fighting, the fighting amongst the Republican presidential candidates, Terry, right now, the internecine warfare I might call it, is intense. Yesterday, Newt Gingrich calling Romney a liar. Rick Santorum saying Ron Paul is disgusting.

Ron Paul today going after Newt Gingrich in an interview on CNN. Listen to this.


REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what -- you know what I laughed about is that nobody can -- nobody disagrees with me that my reputation is I strictly adhere to the Constitution, I strictly adhere to balanced budget and never vote for spending that we can't afford, always lower taxes. I don't want to ever fight a war that's unconstitutional -- and I'm the dangerous person?

You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger. He chickened out on that. He got deferments, didn't even go.

So right now, he sends these young kids over there to endure the danger and the kids coming back and the young people coming back, the ones in the military right now, they overwhelmingly support my campaign. We get twice as much support from the active military than all the other candidates put together.

So, Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he's putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a chicken hawk and I think he falls into that category.


BLITZER: A chicken hawk -- chicken hawk, he told Soledad O'Brien -- disgusting, liar, chicken hawk.

Terry, are have you ever seen any kind warfare amongst the Republicans -- these are Republicans speaking about Republicans? Forget about the Democrats.

HOLT: Politics ain't bean bag, Wolf. You know that.

These guys are all fighting for a small slice of what's left after Mitt Romney is the clear front-runner. And I think frankly, that the speeches last night, particularly Newt Gingrich's, was just ungracious and there's no place for that.

But let's not -- let's not, you know, put kid gloves on these guys. It's a fight. It's a fight for something important. The Republican nomination, the future of the country. I'm not going to -- I'm not going to go second guess people having tough talk during a campaign. That's what campaigns are about.

BLITZER: And, Maria, will the Democrats use these sound bites in ads down the road?

CARDONA: Well, I think what the Democrats are going to use, whether it's sound bites and whether it's statements the Republicans have put out, are their own words in focusing the fact that they are there only to help the top 1 percent of the population and the fact that their economic plan from Mitt Romney on down does absolutely nothing to help middle class families and to help workers. And that, I think, is the reason why you see President Obama going to continue to fight every single day to focus on how to help middle class families and workers.

And frankly, what the Republican Party is going through is a fight for the soul for the party because you have extremes and then you have further extremes, who are trying to figure out how they can be the ones to beat, to represent the Republican Party. But guess what? Who ever comes out winning because they've had to go so far to the right, very tough for them to be able to win in a general election.

BLITZER: We'll see if that's true. They said that about Ronald Reagan back in 1980 when he was challenging an incumbent Democratic president. We know that Jimmy Carter served one term and Ronald Reagan was elected. But we'll see what happens this time.

CARDONA: President Obama's not Jimmy Carter.

HOLT: You hope not.

BLITZER: We'll soon find out, soon enough.

All right, guys. Thanks very much.

CARDONA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: They got on a bed in the middle of the night in Iowa, and now, Edith and Carolyn -- Edith and Carolyn, they are famous. We're going to show you how they helped us and the American people clear up some major caucus confusion in Iowa.

Plus, a side of Rick Santorum many people don't know. Details of his compelling and controversial family story.


BLITZER: We'll get back to the latest political news in a minute. But, first, another important story we're working on.

The situation in Syria, it is dire right now. Just today, at least 21 more civilians were reportedly killed. Arab League observers are still there on a mission to try to stop the violence, but critics say they are totally failing.

CNN's Arwa Damon explains why.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a darkroom amidst wails of sorrow, hands gently caress the dead girl's face. A voice on the tape says her name is Dalal Al-Halup (ph). She was just 16 years old. According to activists, she was killed in Hama by Syrian government forces while shopping, just as the Arab League observer mission arrived to the city last week.

It's the type of death many hoped the mission would help prevent.

Abdel Rahman (ph), an activist from Hama who we reached on Skype cursed the Arab League. He was among the few who managed to actually talk to the observers.

"We were initially cheered," but then he says, "They didn't even stop in the hardest hit area. They just drove through like tourists. We were following the cars like beggars, like slaves. When they eventually did stop, they were surrounded by people clamoring for help."

"The monitors," Abdel Rahman says, "simply nodded."

This video posted to YouTube is said to be from Hama on Tuesday. People are heard telling the observers about snipers. The man says the tanks are just being hidden from sight.

A woman shouts at another observer, "My 30-year-old brother was killed. Killed. We collected his brains with our hands." "Come to the office and file a complaint," the observer responds. "They will detain us," voices cry out.

"They say come se us in our office. File a report," Abdel Rahman recalls resentfully. "I responded, do you want us all slaughtered?"

From the onset, the Arab League mission has come under sharp criticism. Its head Sudanese Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Dabi himself is accused of human rights violations in his homeland. And contrary to Arab League's statements, activists say the military hasn't withdrawn anything, pointing to numerous YouTube videos. In one, people wearing the orange Arab League vests are clearly seen in front of a government armored personal carrier.

Rami Khoury, a Beirut-based analyst said the failure of the mission is no surprise. They report a foregone conclusion. It will state, he says, that the Syrian government has partially complied.

RAMI KHOURY, ANALYST: So, there's no way they're going to be successful on the ground. They'll do a little bit and being an institution that reflects the Arab governments, they're structurally incompetent as most Arab governments are. But they are also politically dynamic. They're trying something new. The critical thing is what will happen in Cairo when the report is submitted?

DAMON: But for these people, living the brutality and bitterly disappointed by the observers' visit, there was little hope the Arab League will find the teeth to save them.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, Egypt has not made good on promises to the United States to let U.S. based nongovernmental organizations get back to work. I got to tell you, I'm not surprised.


Two of the U.S.-based rights organizations say they can't lose their offices and still don't have the money seized in the police raid last week. Egypt's leaders initially accused prodemocracy organizations of activities that included giving money to Egyptian political parties. But the U.S. groups denied it. The raids could jeopardize more than $1 billion in aid that the U.S. taxpayers give each year.

Detroit's big three are on the road to a higher market share. December sales were very good for Chrysler group, up 37 percent, which boosts full year sales by 26 percent. Number one U.S. automaker G.M. put up a 4.5 percent gain last month, a 13 percent increase in sales for the year, and a 10 percent rise in December sales was the best for Ford Motor Company in five years.

A stock plunge, though, for Kodak, amid reports that bankruptcy may be weeks away. Shares already dropped 92 percent in the last year, but dipped again today after "The Wall Street Journal" reported Kodak may file Chapter 11 if it can't sell several digital patents.

The New York Stock Exchange threatened to delist the company in six months if stock prices do not recover -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, on that story in Egypt, Lisa, I've been very, very worried about what's going on. When Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, calls General Tantawi, the head of the Egyptian military, and gets a commitment from the Egyptians to allow the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, to reopen and get all their stuff, their computers, their laptops, everything back, gets that commitment, and now this -- there's going to be outrage in Congress about the billion plus dollars a year U.S. taxpayers provide the Egyptian military. I think this is a crisis that's going to be huge.


BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to get more on this information, Lisa. Thank you.

A woman in the Oval Office, Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.

Plus, tragedy and controversy marking Rick Santorum's family life. Details you may not necessarily know about him. Stand by.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, in light of Michele Bachmann's departure from the Republican presidential race, we asked the following: what's it going to take for this country to elect a woman?

Rich writes, "A woman who has the presence, determination, leadership and political savvy that Margaret Thatcher had when she became prime minister of England. Right now, I don't see anyone in either party, man or woman, who has those qualities."

David in Virginia writes, "Bachmann spun the wheel and lost, but for no gender-discernible reasons. Hillary Clinton was eminently electable until Obama got in her way. Back then, you asked, what is it going to take for an African-American to become president? Are you never satisfied?"

Jim in Los Angeles, "You must be kidding. Being the weaker gender, women get kicked around my men, are expected to maintain a home, earn a second income, be submissive, provide fantasy sex, raise kids and behave. Hillary Clinton would make a fabulous president. She acts like a man."

Bill in New Mexico writes, "It will take everything that was required for Obama to be elected. The previous party's president has to be hated enough, despised enough, dumb enough for the voters to completely forget all of their biases. That's what's required for a woman to be elected president."|

Paul in Texas writes, "When the last good old boy retires, that may not be that much longer."

Ken writes, "Good question. The only answer is that, first, woman must be elected vice president. From that platform, she'll be halfway to being elected. Mrs. Clinton would have been a good choice in that last election to be the V.P., and therefore, could have been president in 2016."

And Shirley writes, "It will take smarter men."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,, or through our post in THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf. Not in our lifetime -- at least not in mine.

BLITZER: You know, you're going to live many, many, many years, Jack.


BLITZER: Some unlikely stars emerge from the Iowa caucuses. Their names, Edith and Carolyn and they were one of the highlights of our caucus coverage here on CNN.

Lisa Sylvester is here with more.

Lisa, these women, they're going viral right now.

SYLVESTER: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. Certainly big time stars of YouTube and Twitter and the best moments of the night actually came after 2:00 a.m. Eastern with a couple of late night calls from Carolyn and Edith and they helped call the race in the wee hours of the night.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): It was the closest GOP caucus ever, a nail biter.

BLITZER: Rick Santorum, look at this. He's 13 votes ahead of --

SYLVESTER: One minute, Rick Santorum up. Five minutes later, it was Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney is 13 votes ahead of Rick Santorum.

SYLVESTER: On and on throughout the night.

BLITZER: OMG. Look at this. Look what's going on. One vote.

SYLVESTER: It finally came down to ward two, precinct two in Clinton County, Iowa, midnight and no results yet.

Carolyn Tallett heads the Clinton County Republican Women's Club.

CAROLYN TALLETT, CLINTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN WOMEN'S CLUB: It's late here, they were in bed. And the chair was also in bed. And --

BLITZER: So, what you're saying is --

TALLETT: So, I know they needed the information, so I came to Edith's home and pounded on the door and woke her up.

SYLVESTER: That would be Edith Pfeffer, the Clinton County, Iowa, Republican chairwoman.

Pfeffer says she reported the numbers to the state GOP officers much earlier in the night, but there was some kind of a glitch and the state office still had no received them.

CNN was able to get her on the phone, where she officially called the election.


EDITH PFEFFER, CLINTON COUNTY, IOWA, REPUBLICAN CHAIRWOMAN: Mitt Romney won with 51 votes. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul tied with 33 votes each.

KING: So that's 51 to 33. If in the missing precinct, Wolf.


KING: Add it up there. Mitt Romney wins.

SYLVESTER: As John King did a little quick math, Edith showed off her feisty side at 2:00 a.m.

KING: If this is what's missing and we need the state central committee to clear this up, but the numbers we're receiving from the state do not match the numbers we just received from the county chairwoman right here in Clinton County. If these are the final numbers --

PFEFFER: What do you mean, the numbers don't match?

BLITZER: I'll explain it to you. John, you go ahead and explain it.

It looks like the math we got from Edith and Carolyn, our ladies in Clinton County, Anderson, who would have thought.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was the best live phone call ever.


BLITZER: Edith Pfeffer and Carolyn, you know, they knew what they are talking about.

SYLVESTER: Edith and Carolyn starting blowing up on Twitter.

STEVE KRAKAUER, CNN SENIOR DIGITAL PRODUCER: They took the Twitter-verse and media by storm last night around 2:30 in the morning when they came to the rescue of everyone and solved the mystery of the missing votes in Iowa.

COOPER: You're trending worldwide on Twitter, I just learned from Ali Velshi. Are you big on the Twitter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not so good. 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-anchor of a new program, CNN after dark?


SYLVESTER: Edith and Carolyn joined CNN for a second time of the night after the results were finalized, getting an ovation from CNN's top anchors and contributors.

BLITZER: Guess what? Joining us now on the phone, Edith and Carolyn. Let's give them a big round of applause.


BLITZER: 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.

PFEFFER: I am just overwhelmed with all of this.


SYLVESTER: And I spoke with the Iowa GOP office today. You know, they are still trying to figure out exactly how the snafu happened. Edith Pfeffer says, you know, her people called in the numbers. She thought everything was OK, so of course she headed off to bed. And we all know what happened next, Wolf.

By the way, it looked like you were having a fantastic time there, yesterday.

BLITZER: Two wonderful women, indeed. I want to thank them, once again, and Lisa, to you as well.