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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Pentagon Plans for Smaller Army; Next Stop: New Hampshire; GOP Presidential Candidates Look Ahead to Upcoming Primaries; Analysts Discuss Mitt Romney's Mormonism and It's Possible Effect on His Presidential Bid; GOP Candidates Canvas New Hampshire
Aired January 5, 2012 - 07:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien. You're watching our new show that is called STARTING POINTS. We're live at the Airport Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Just a few days, of course, this state will host the country's second vote. So our STARTING POINT this morning is something you'll be hearing a little bit later on the campaign trail no doubt -- the future of the American military. In just about three hours, President Obama is going to reveal his plan for a slimmed-down force that will no longer be able to fight two full-blown ground wars.
And despite the sparring in 2008, in this very state, Senator John McCain -- he is now backing Mitt Romney and he told us why just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think that he is best suited to run this country and, frankly, the best chance we have against President Obama in the general election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And we'll talk to the man who literally wrote the book on Mitt Romney, this book right here. Why he says this endorsement from McCain could lead to something very ugly with another candidate in New Hampshire.
Our reveal this morning. You know to the rest of the world, you are the 1 percent. How much you have to make to be considered part of a global elite.
STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're inside the Airport Diner.
I'll let you in on a little secret here. They have bathrooms marked coach, business and first class.
This morning, we're talking about the military, though, bracing for some seismic changes and severe cuts, too, because today, President Obama will join the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to discuss the Pentagon's new strategy for cutting billions of dollars from the budget.
It includes these things -- no longer fighting two ground wars simultaneously, removing 4,000 troops from Europe and cutting at least 47,000 Marines and troops over the next five years.
While we are downsizing, Obama's opponents say China's military is growing. Iran is in enlarging its nuclear program and the problems in the Middle East are worse than they've ever been.
CNN's Chris Lawrence is live at the Pentagon working on the details of this this morning.
What are we expecting to hear from the president this morning, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, we're not going to hear a lot of the nuts and bolts details from the president or more than likely won't hear from the defense secretary either, but some of our sources have been giving us some information about what is expected to happen. You know, you mentioned that 47,000 number of reduction in soldiers and Marines.
We're hearing that there's talk that that could go even higher, perhaps, you know, 20,000, 30,000 more troops reducing those number of troops. So, really what you've got here is a money problem. When you've got to cut half a trillion dollars from the budget, there's not enough money to pay for everything.
So, you're shifting from two-war strategy to a one-war strategy, drawing down the number of troops, all of this to meet sort of that financial goal.
O'BRIEN: It's unusual for the president to be addressing reporters at the Pentagon. I've read that that really hasn't been done before.
How much of this is political posturing? You know, they want the president to be in this sort of position when his potential opponents, at least one of them, running around also with air time talking about military might.
LAWRENCE: Yes, surprise, Soledad. It's 2012, it's an election year.
So, you're likely to see some things we don't normally see here at the Pentagon, like the president coming over to actually give this address. You know, but I think it's interesting in that, you know, a lot of what's been made on the campaign trail is about cutting budgets, about reducing the debt. Things like that.
So, I think in some ways, you know, candidates will have to calibrate their message, wanting a strong defense, but at the same time, finding money to pay for it. You know, all of this really comes down to where you think the threats are going to be. Are they in the near term? Are they in the long term? Do you need a big military?
The problem is the former Secretary Robert Gates used to joke, he said, we've had a perfect record when it comes to predicting our next war, we've never once been right -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Chris Lawrence for us this morning -- thanks, Chris. Appreciate it.
Let's get right to retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's got 26 years experience as an intelligence officer in U.S. Air Force.
Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.
So, when you hear the numbers that Chris just laid out of the reduction and all this coming in the announcement later this morning -- what's the first one you think?
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON, USAF (RET): Well, Soledad, I'm worried about how far we're going to go with those reductions. I look at what we're doing right now. Some of the policies, you know, in the services such as the Air Force and the Navy that are supposedly not going to be cut by the new defense strategy, they're actually being cut right now. The Air Force, for example, has come out with a reduction of 6,000 civilians that they did in the first increment and they're coming up with another increment just in the next few months.
And, so, that's part and parcel of it. The Navy is also being reduced. If you have an "Asia first" strategy, which the strategy seems to be, that's going to be a situation where you have to have a strong Navy and a strong Air Force to project our power across that vast region. And that's really my main concern that we won't be able to do that, even though we're advertising that, again.
O'BRIEN: But -- but ultimately, is it about weighing an economic reality? As Chris said, just can't pay for it any more versus U.S. safety in the globe?
LEIGHTON: Well, that's the dichotomy. You have that very clear set of priorities on the domestic side getting our financial house in order from a budgetary standpoint, and then you have military and geopolitical necessity. And it's really a question of what role do we want to play in the world.
And I think what we're seeing is a retrenchment in that role. We're looking at the idea of not being able to fight another Iraq and another Afghanistan at the same time and that is one of those area where we have to be very careful, because once we say we cannot do something, then we can be sure that others will test us and will try to take advantage of what they perceive to be as our weakness.
O'BRIEN: But, ultimately, isn't the nature of war changed that you may not have to fight a war on two fronts like that. You can use drones and you can use people who are basically spying and then going in and doing these strike forces. The nature has changed.
LEIGHTON: The nature has changed and you're right that we're not going to be fighting another World War II type scenario, at least not a high probability that we will. But what could happen is that we could be tested in the form of unconventional warfare. And it does take a lot of very especially skilled people to employ drones, to employ our intelligence resources and to make sure that we're also up in the cyber realm.
And those are the things that we have to be careful of. There is word that this particular strategy is going to actually emphasize cyber, emphasize intelligence, and that will be good because the wars that we fought right now, or just recently, have actually been wars that have been led in large part by intelligence in the sinking of intelligence and operations, which has actually been done very, very well.
But that is something that we want to make sure we maintain that advantage and that's what I'm going to look for when I look at the strategy that is unveiled today.
O'BRIEN: Cedric Leighton is colonel and he is a retired Air Force colonel -- thanks for being with us, sir. We appreciate it.
LEIGHTON: Thank you so much, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: President Obama is going to be announcing -- you bet -- announcing the plan for the pentagon after a decade of war. It includes massive cuts. We'll get more details on it when we hear from the president at his briefing which is at 10:50 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Time to check in now with CNN's Christine Romans for the other stories that are making news this morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
A series of deadly bombings in Iraq leaving 24 dead and dozens wounded. The attacks by militants fueling fears of an increase in sectarian violence following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
One of six Utah police officers shot overnight has now died. The officers were trying to serve a drug-related search warrant at a home in the city of Ogden, Utah, when a suspect opened fire. The five other officers and the suspect are being treated now at a hospital.
And Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will attend a candlelight vigil in Tucson on Sunday. This will mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting that severely wounded her and killed six people.
The weekly jobless claims report out in just a few minutes. It's expected to show that about 375,000 people lined up for the very first time last week for unemployment benefits. Sounds like a lot. But any time this number comes in below the key 400,000 level, it shows the labor market is healing.
Right now, U.S. stock futures for the Dow, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 pointing to a slightly lower open this morning.
But, Soledad, it will depend on how that jobless claims report turns out, the big jobs report tomorrow -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: We're going to watch that. All right. Christine, thanks.
War of words that started on Twitter, we were kind of involved in that, has spread to TV. It started with a tweet that we talked about yesterday. It was posted on Ron Paul's Twitter account.
It mocked Jon Huntsman's showing in Iowa and said this, "We found your one Iowa voter, he's in Linn precinct 5. You might want to call him and say thanks." That's kind of snarky.
Well, Congressman Paul told me yesterday that he knew nothing about it and pass the buck along to his staffers. Last night, both Huntsman and Paul addressed the dust-off with CNN's Piers Morgan. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was done through staff. It was supposed to be good humor. And, I mean, I just didn't think that was a big deal.
I can't imagine that anybody making that. But he was the one who sent the first Twitter. I thought he was a nice guy. He and I got along real well. I thought he had reasonable ideas. But I can't imagine him attacking me, you know?
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Piers, first of all, thanks for having me. You think he would have learned the perils of ghost written subject matter by now. But I have to tell you, at the end of the day, I actually found it to be pretty humorous.
I discovered it last night. Somebody shared it with me and I thought it was pretty funny. You have to have a little bit of levity and humor in this business or you'd go crazy.
So, just tell Dr. Paul that I owe him in a tweet in return and he should be expecting one some time soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Oh, it's a little terrifying if the politicians are going to start tweeting each other back and forth, not just the ads. We have (ph) Twitter. Hmm.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney, he's polling 30 points ahead of the rest of the field in New Hampshire. We're going to check in with our expert political panel and look at even if a surging Santorum will be able to knock him off.
Then, Rick Perry, he was reassessing and then he decided to stay in the Republican race. Well, Michele Bachmann has decided to drop out. How do the changes in the field impact New Hampshire's outcome?
Then, he richest 1 percent. Who are they? Where do they live? Give you a hint: you're probably one of them. The reveal is coming up.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.
Just five days, Mitt Romney could become the first presidential candidate to win the vote both in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, it appears to be Romney's race to win or lose at this moment, at least. The latest CNN/ORC poll has him 30 points ahead of the field, with Ron Paul and everybody else.
So, is he a shoo-in?
From Washington, we've got Ron Brownstein. He is CNN senior political analyst, joining us this morning. Also in D.C. with him is CNN contributor Hilary Rosen. And here with me in Manchester, New Hampshire, Juliana Bergeron. She's a member executive committee of New Hampshire GOP. And Andrew Cline is the editorial page of the "New Hampshire Union Leader."
Nice to see you.
Andrew, I'm told I am supposed to call you Drew. So, I'll start with you. Is that OK?
ANDREW CLINE, "NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER": Yes.
O'BRIEN: You heard just a moment ago, we were talking about some of these military changes. There's I think probably not a tremendous impact here in New Hampshire from those, that -- what we're going to hear from the president later today. But how did this play out in the race as the politicians pick up on what the president says this morning?
CLINE: Well, it's interesting because the big issue is the economy and jobs. So, you know, at this point I don't know that there is a big difference on military issues between -- among the candidates except for Ron Paul and everyone else. Huntsman is more aligned with Ron Paul.
So, in terms of giving Santorum or Gingrich or anybody an edge to catch up to Romney, I don't see how that really helps. So, then, there were five, right? Plus, you add back Huntsman who wasn't in Iowa at all. How does the landscape change dramatically, Julianna, as we are here in New Hampshire versus what we just left in Iowa?
JULIANA BERGERON, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP: I'm not sure that New Hampshire's landscape is going to change. I think, actually, Mitt is polling above 40 percent, and even if the other candidates pick up, you know, what Michele Bachmann and what Rick Perry have had for support, I don't think it's going to be enough to stop Mitt in New Hampshire.
I mean, there are some undecided people, I think, that's running at about 16 percent, and that could make a difference, a slight difference, but unless something changes dramatically, I think we're looking at Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. O'BRIEN: All right. So, Hillary, you know, what I've really enjoyed, honestly, about covering these caucuses and primaries is that politicians will say something like, I think he's a fine gentleman, and then, they like cut him, and then, they're like, but he's a fine gentleman. Jon Huntsman is a really good example of that.
A charming man, but, you know, kind of goes for the jugular and then charming, again. I want to play you a little bit of what he said about how the race is going. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a message to the winner of tonight's Iowa caucuses?
JON HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A message to the winner of the Iowa caucus? It would be welcome to New Hampshire, nobody cares.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And then, it's delivered in that deadpan kind of way. What do you make of what he's saying? First of all, is that true?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it might be true for the New Hampshire primary voters, but it's not going to be true if he won the nomination and had to go back to campaign in Iowa, which is actually a swing state and get a ball for either Republican or Democrat. Look, Jon Huntsman is throwing everything he has at New Hampshire because this is really his make or break state.
It's the only place he's really got the shot. It's where he's been investing everything. And if he can't succeed there, he's pretty much going to be out of it. That's why he's doing whatever he can.
O'BRIEN: Ron Brownstein, you know, everyone keeps talking about this historical first. If Mitt Romney can win in Iowa and then moves to New Hampshire and wins in New Hampshire, it's a historical first.
But when you break down the numbers, I think in Iowa, it was like five percent of the population, maybe just under six percent, actually, participated in the caucuses. New Hampshire is a state that has a million people in it. How big is this historical first?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Democratic candidates have won both Iowa and New Hampshire. It's Republicans where no one accept an incumbent president has in a modern primary system has won both Iowa and New Hampshire in the same year in a contested race, in effect, and there's a reason for that, Soledad.
It's because Iowa and New Hampshire are the yin and yang of the Republican coalition. You were talking about before whether they are truly representative states of the broader electorate. It's a problem on the Democratic side because Democrats now get about 40 percent of their votes from minorities, and though, each state is some seeing minority growth.
They are preponderantly wide states. Much less of an issue on the Republican side because the Republican coalition is, for better or worse, overwhelmingly white. Ninety percent of John McCain's votes came from Whites. Now, Iowa is one leg of that coalition. It's the evangelical, very socially conservative, somewhat more blue collar.
New Hampshire is very different. It's more upscale, more college educated and much more secular. Only about quarter of the electorate are evangelicals. That's why it's been so hard for one candidate to win both in the same year. South Carolina, which comes next, has traditionally, since 1990, been the decider. It's pick the winner in each of the last five contestant Republican primaries.
So, if Mitt Romney wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, the challenge for everybody else is, can they get enough momentum to seriously threaten him in South Carolina, because if he wins that, also, with Florida coming right after that, very hard, I think.
O'BRIEN: It's a done deal. We'll take a closer look at what Rick Santorum is able to do. He is kind of stepping around things that he has said. We'll talk a little bit more about that when we ask our political panel to stick with us. We're back in just a moment after this short break.
O'BRIEN: We're back at the Airport Diner. I'm Soledad O'Brien. You're watching STARTING POINT this morning.
Let's get right back to our political panel. We've got Ron Brownstein. He's in D.C. We also have Hilary Rosen. She's in D.C. with him. Here with me in Manchester, we've got Juliana Bergeron. She's a member of the executive committee in New Hampshire GOP. Andrew Clyne is the editorial page director of the "New Hampshire Union Leader."
Nice to have everybody back. Let's get right to Rick Santorum as he rises in polling, as he rises in focus. Everyone starts to parse his every single word. Here's a little bit of what he said about a week ago on the campaign trail. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to make (ph) people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. You know what, you guys, cue that up again. I want to play one more time, because that is kind of the $64,000 thing. Many people think he said, I don't want to make black people's lives better. Let's play it again, and listen carefully. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I don't want to make (ph) people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: All right. So, for my take, sounds like a mumble to me, and in fact, when Rick Santorum was talking to John King on "JK USA" yesterday, he said that very thing. Here was what he told John, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I've looked at that quote. In fact, I looked at the video, and I don't, in fact, I'm pretty confident I didn't say black. When I think, I started to say a word and sort of mumbled it and changed my thought. But I don't, I don't recall saying black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So, two things out of this. I'm going to start with you Hillary Rosen. Number one, this is an indication that everybody literally is watching so carefully to be able to jump on something that this candidate is saying and really any candidate, and especially him now that he is the rising. You know, he's the one with the momentum. What do you think is the impact on Santorum, at this point, because he said a lot of other stuff, too, that mumbles that could get him in some trouble?
ROSEN: He has a long history of attacking minorities and doing other things. It looked to me like he started to say Black and then thought better of it and changed his mind mid-word. \\
But, you know, I think the issue is as much about what this says for the Republicans versus President Obama as anything else, because you know, the conventional wisdom here is that the longer this presidential Republican primary goes on, the better it is for President Obama because Mitt Romney is going to get really bloodied.
I actually, you know, am sort of anti the democratic talking points on this because I think that you've got a guy like Rick Santorum who is so unacceptable to the middle that when he charges consistently against Mitt Romney that he's too moderate, you know, that's only going to help Romney in the general.
I want to sideline Rick Santorum as quickly as possible and have the focus really be on why Mitt Romney would be a terrible choice for this country. And so, you know, the more that Rick Santorum does stuff like this and that people are talking about his terrible record, the better Mitt Romney ends up looking overall, and I think that's trouble for Democrats.
O'BRIEN: So, Ron Brownstein, then, what does it mean that Rick Perry who said he was going to go sort of rethink things the other day and then didn't drop out kind of a shocker, actually, he decided he was going to stay in the race? What is the fact that he's staying in mean and who does it help and who does it hurt?
BROWNSTEIN: Good news for Mitt Romney. As I said before, the basic dynamic of this race is that Romney has done a solid, but hardly spectacular job of consolidating the kind of center of the Republican Party in more secular and pragmatic side.
As we saw in Iowa, he's still facing enormous resistance among the kind of conservative an guard, the overlapping circles of tea party activists and evangelicals or Christine O'Donnell described you as evangelicals. Only won 14 percent of evangelicals in Iowa. But, the evangelicals did not consolidate nearly as much as they did in 2008.
Mike Huckabee won almost half of them last time. Rick Santorum won only a third of them this time. If Rick Perry continues in South Carolina and Newt Gingrich, as well, there is the risk for conservatives that more conservative vote will fragment again and potentially allow Romney to do in South Carolina what John McCain did last time, which is win a plurality victory with very limited support from the most conservative parts of the party.
Don't forget, 60 percent of the vote in South Carolina was evangelical in 2008, same as in Iowa, but if they fragment as we saw in Iowa, Romney can put together a small, but plurality coalition.
O'BRIEN: All right. I will ask my political team to stay here because we're going to keep this conversation going talking about what's going to happen as we look toward the New Hampshire primary.
And of course, we want to make sure you're watching CNN on Tuesday night, because everybody is looking at New Hampshire. Me, Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, and john king, like the way I put myself first in that list. A live coverage of The New Hampshire primary. That's CNN, Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. eastern time.
Still ahead, he has John McCain in his corner now, and he's got a 30- point cushion. So, that looks pretty good for Mitt Romney. Can he close in on New Hampshire this time around or does Rick Perry's continued run help him do it? We're going to ask the author who wrote the book about Mitt Romney. A man and his politics, straight ahead.
O'BRIEN: That's what it looks like outside, but inside where we are. Welcome back everybody. Soledad O'Brien, and you're watching STARTING POINT. We're launching our show this week inside the Airport Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire. Coming up in this next half hour, Michele Bachmann is out, you saw that yesterday. Rick Santorum is saying thanks to her as he heads to New Hampshire and South Carolina. And then attention Wall Street protesters. The rest of the world probably considers you the 1 percent. That is ahead in today's "Reveal."
So breaking news to get to first this morning. Let's check in with Christine Romans. Hey, Christine, good morning, again. ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. This just in to CNN this morning. The prosecution in the case against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak calling for the death penalty. The ousted leader is accused of ordering the killing of protestors during those demonstrations which removed him from power last February.
A major shift in U.S. defense strategy. President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will unveil their money saving plan today which will cut tens of thousands of ground troops, potentially saving billions of dollars. Officials say the U.S. will no longer be able to conduct two wars simultaneously.
U.S. officials are working to bring a Texas teen home after she was somehow deported to Colombia by mistake. She was arrested for theft and then she was missing for more than a year. She ran away and was arrested for theft and then somehow got the immigration system and mistaken for a foreign national and sent to Colombia. But she's an American citizen and she doesn't speak Spanish.
The accused Hollywood arsonist Harry Burkhart being held on $3 million bail. Burkhart now charged with 37 felony counts for that arson over the holiday weekend.
All right, the Labor Department just announced that 372,000 jobless claims were filed for the first time last week. That's good news, below that 400,000 level. That shows some growing strength in what is overall a weak labor market. ADP, a company that processes paychecks, in its own survey it says that it thinks that 325,000 jobs were added to the economy in December. Tomorrow we'll find out for sure when the government releases its labor statistics for the month. More economists are expecting something like 150,000. Right now U.S. stock futures for the DOW, NASDAQ, S&P 500 pointing to a flat open, up a bit from earlier from those jobs, that jobs data. Soledad, back to you.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thanks.
Republican field is spinning. After a disappointing sixth place finish last night, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign. And then it was Rick Perry who for a moment looked like he was bowing out, as well. But then the Texas governor decided he'll keep going. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what made you change your mind about reassessing?
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did say I was going to reassess last night. I reassess. We're headed to New Hampshire and then South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you'll participate in both debates in South Carolina?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: How do these changes affect the frontrunner Mitt Romney? We'll chat about that this morning. We're joined by R.B. Scott. He is the author of this book, "Mitt Romney, an Inside Look at the man and his Politics," and also Jennifer Donahue of the Eisenhower Institute joins us, as well. Nice to have you both. Let's talk a little bit about Mitt Romney's motivation. He is way ahead, at least here in New Hampshire in the polls. Why does he want to be president?
R.B. SCOTT, AUTHOR, "MITT ROMNEY -- AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE MAN AND HIS POLITICS": I think it begins with his father, who wanted to be president in 1968 and because of the misstatement did not become president in 1968. I think as time went on that the mantle of the father and son thing went on and he became the anointed son to seek political office and that was the genesis for his desire to seek, to become a politician eventually and to seek eventually the presidency.
O'BRIEN: Even before he was governor of Massachusetts, the Salt Lake Olympics, really, were quite an amazing thing. I have a friend who told me when there was a traffic jam on the streets, that at one point Mitt Romney got out of his car and started like literally directing traffic because he was that involved in making sure that that thing, which was a little bit of a disaster in the making he really saved was great. If it meant he got out of his car and direct traffic, he was going to do it.
JENNIFER DONAHUE, THE EISENHOWER INSTITUTE: That is his reputation at Bain Capital. He is a fix-it man. He goes in and re-hauls and fixes things. He is trying to make the case. He can do that with the U.S. economy.
The problem Romney has is this cap and the fact that conservatives who care about social issues and who care about issues other than the economy just haven't coalesced around him. He doesn't seem to have that retail campaign-ability that soaks people in, that gets them to look them in the eye and say, I like this man. I want him to be my president.
O'BRIEN: Which Rick Santorum really, truly has --
DONAHUE: Santorum has much more of it, actually. And Huntsman even has it, and Ron Paul who have sort of solid followings. Santorum, someone who has a great personal narrative, a story where he's come from behind, blue collar roots, Catholic --
O'BRIEN: He talks about being Catholic now and when we catch him on the campaign trail all the time and how it shapes his decisions and he is always talking about being a Catholic. You don't hear the same thing about Mitt Romney talking about his religion.
SCOTT: He tends to stay away from that. I think it's because Mormonism has been an issue that's chased him in a negative way since he ran for the Senate against Kennedy in 1994. It was an issue in 2008 when he ran for the presidency. And it's been a huge issue for him again this time around. So, he's -- he's not the kind of guy that brings it up. It is brought up. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that. You know, you're a Mormon, as well. He was Mormon, he is a devout Mormon. He is Mormon leadership. You know, just like President Obama did that race speech, Mitt Romney did a speech about religion. Even in that speech, he only mentioned the word "Mormon" once. You run through it. So, why that strategy? Is that something that is going to backfire? Doesn't have to be a, let's talk about it, people, so we can move on.
SCOTT: I asked that question a lot of times. What is it about Mormonism or recommends somebody to be president of the United States? I will lay out the case of the things you learn as a Mormon that will serve you.
O'BRIEN: Like what things?
SCOTT: Service, accountability, personal responsibility, taking and owning a piece of the rock and being responsible for what you do, those kinds of things. If he could sell that, I'll get through that explanation and reporters will say, why the heck doesn't he talk about that? We never hear of that kind of thing.
DONAHUE: The real problem is this race moves south to South Carolina and then down into the deeper south. Evangelicals reject Mormonism in large part -- 40 percent of evangelicals say they know someone who will not vote for a Mormon, 60 percent say they don't believe that Mormonism is Christianity. And that's a real challenge for Romney who is trying to make the case that he has good family values. Mormonism does suggest that, but there's a real bigotry against Mormonism.
O'BRIEN: What do you think it could mean for the country if a Mormon is elected president?
SCOTT: I think no change at all. It's such a remarkable thing that -- unremarkable thing that I think people will be surprised --
O'BRIEN: Maybe not talking about it in a, I don't have to educate you. No big deal about it. Let's not talk about it.
SCOTT: There is no big deal. But reporters don't ask, what is it about Mormonism that evangels eject to?
O'BRIEN: What is it?
SCOTT: I have no idea.
DONAHUE: It's a different take on Christianity. The book of Mormon is vastly different from the Bible, and I think you can't ignore that. I think, honestly, a huge difference. I think that if Romney were elected president, it's another first.
SCOTT: But the question --
DONAHUE: The question is whether the country wants a first in Christianity, a first Mormon. And I think that's a real issue that can't be overlooked. I respect it.
O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see if the strategy is so then let's not talk about it but let's bring it up and talk about it.
DONAHUE: Eventually he'll have to bring it up because his opponents will bring it up.
SCOTT: Jennifer Donahue from the Eisenhower Institute, nice to have you both at the diner with me this morning. Enjoy your coffee, I appreciate it.
DONAHUE: Right back to our political panel to talk more about this and much, much more. Heading first to D.C., Ron Brownstein and Hillary Rosen. Let's talk about this, this Mormon thing. When you read through the transcript of the speech that he gave back in 2007, I was surprised. It's a beautiful speech and all about religion and very little about, he doesn't mention the word "Mormon." Is that a strategic mistake, Ron?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would think so. Sooner or later he does have to acknowledge it. I think it is much more of a primary issue than a general election issue. The problem, you know, you're talking about the problem with evangelicals, it's most heavy with southern evangelicals and he didn't get more than 20 percent of the vote. He did a little better among evangelicals among the south.
But if he is the nominee I really can't see it being a big problem because the people who are most concerned about his religion are also the same social conservatives who are the most opposed to Obama and the most likely to fall in line behind the Republican candidate. So I think it is an issue in the primary, but this is towards the broader trend in American life. We are becoming a more inclusive and tolerant society. We are knocking down first in our politics all the times, and I don't think this is an issue for him. Bain Capital, yes. Mormon church, not so much in the general election.
O'BRIEN: So you think, all right, let's talk for a minute then a about Bain Capital.
HILLARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think Bain Capital is his issue. First of all, Barack Obama, people should just know, is not the kind of man who will attack another man because of his religion. He believes in service and his religion takes him to all the same places that Romney does.
O'BRIEN: That's what surrogates are for.
ROSEN: No, I don't think he'll stand for it for the surrogates either. It's not just who he is.
But there is so much material there with Mitt Romney and when we talk about its history, it has nothing to do with his religion. The fact that he made his money at Bain Capital essentially taking over and laying off workers and that he can fix the economy, sure. He can fix it for, you know, his friend and other wealthy folks and that's what people are going to hear more about once people focus on Mitt Romney and not some of the other candidates that are more likely to move past the primary. And I think, as I said before, we need to get to that point as Democrats, and that's why I disagree with the folks who want this Republican primary to go on and on and on.
O'BRIEN: Let me get right to Juliana Bergeron and Andrew Cline. Andrew, you're editorial page director of "New Hampshire Union Leader" and you endorsed Newt Gingrich. What will Newt Gingrich's role be now? He's mad and he's palpable every time he speaks and he could be a real spoiler in a lot of ways.
ANDREW CLINE, EDITORIAL PAGE DIRECTOR, "NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER": Newt's role, what he needs to do --
O'BRIEN: I didn't say "needs to." I said what will he do?
CLINE: He will go across and he's got scheduled events and a bunch of town hall and he will make his case to the voters. We'll see how effectively he makes that case. If he makes that case aggressively, if he says here's why you should vote for me, I think he'll potentially do well.
O'BRIEN: But Juliana, what he could say is I'm in fourth place and maybe this won't happen for me. What I could do is just chip away and hack away at the man who did a lot of negative advertising against me. How likely is that going to happen?
JULIANA BERGERON, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP: At this point I think it's pretty likely unless he looks in the mirror and decides if he wants to make a difference with the voters in New Hampshire, he has to stop whining and feeling like a victim and looking more like a candidate. He'll be in my town tomorrow. So, I'll get a chance to take a peek.
O'BRIEN: Andrew Klein, Juliana Bergeron, Ron Brownstein, and also Hillary Rosen, thanks, guys. I certainly appreciate this morning.
Still to come, we'll hear from people in New Hampshire, at least people in the diner. Five days to go before the primary we'll find out what they care about.
In this morning's reveal, tracking the one percent. Do you know where the world's most wealthiest people live and how much they really make? We'll take a closer look. The "Reveal" is straight ahead on STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We are at the Airport Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, which is only two miles away from the airport actually. On the inside we're talking to some of the folks in this diner. Eric Lundgren's (ph) with me. You're a Romney supporter because your main issue is --
ERIC LUNDGREN, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: Yes, the economy. O'BRIEN: Ok and are you a strong supporter or are you like a lot of folks I've talked today in this diner a kind of a waffling supporter?
LUNDGREN: For me, it's just there's no other choice. To guide the economy, we need to have someone that knows how to pull the levers and push the buttons and make the economy work. Make businesses work and then behind that, I think, jobs will follow. So, for me, that's the number one driver.
O'BRIEN: All right. Are you feeling enthusiastic about the race ahead or are you feeling I think some people sound very frustrated when I talk to them.
LUNDGREN: I think for me I think I hope Romney comes out of here and I hope people will see that he's the guy that can drive the economy and I think really, the race after New Hampshire is going to be the important part.
O'BRIEN: All right Eric, thanks, I appreciate it.
I'm going to walk over here to Susan. I've to start with apologizing for you because I know we have been in your way all morning.
SUSAN, WAITRESS: Oh, that's fine.
O'BRIEN: Oh, she lies. It's been very hard as people try to do their jobs while we're sitting in the middle of the diner.
O'BRIEN: So tell me a little bit about who you are going to support in the primary five days away?
SUSAN: Well, I'm really undecided, but I was pretty excited about how Santorum only lost by seven votes. I mean, that was pretty exciting. The American people are just looking for something new and fresh. We're scare, we're sad and we just want to get on with our lives and we want to know that we can be secure as to who to vote for.
I mean, it's really a difficult situation now because I'm an Independent. I'll vote for the right person and vote for, and keep the promises that they make to us.
O'BRIEN: What's been your biggest frustration in the race as you've seen it so far?
SUSAN: Well, my biggest frustration was what it a week or two ago that Romney's people announced that he's already won Iowa and it was pretty surprising when Santorum only lost by seven. So nobody's won. We want to win as American people right now. So, please, please, be honest and help us. And it's a great country.
O'BRIEN: Great, thanks. Again, we apologize for being under foot all morning.
This is Ben (INAUDIBLE), nice to see you thank you for talking with us. I appreciate that. You're a pharmacist, right.
BEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: Yes definitely.
O'BRIEN: So I'm sure health care is one of the issues that you deal with. First of all, who do you think you're going to support in the primary in a couple of days?
BEN: I'm -- I'm undecided because I haven't seen anyone come up with the solution for the repetitive registration of the elderly, the elderly for the health care for Medicare part D.
O'BRIEN: So you have, I assume, a lot of clients and patients who come to see you. What do they ask, what are their worries?
BEN: Yes a lot of senior instead of getting ready for the holidays every year have to come up with going through the Internet. As people age, you have 70 year olds, 80 year olds have to call. They have to call Medicare and they have to call, go on the Internet. I mean --
O'BRIEN: Just figure out how they're going to navigate paying their bills.
BEN: Yes and an 80 year old should not be spending time on the Internet looking for health care plan. No candidate has come up with any plan or even discusses how to take the agony (ph). I assume most of them will be getting to that age but most likely because (INAUDIBLE) have it their way.
If they can come up with a plan, that would help the elderly seniors. People who are 80, 90 year old and they don't have to go on the Internet looking for insurance first. It's not helpful.
O'BRIEN: You sound frustrated and I think that's what we're hearing.
BEN: Yes that's true.
O'BRIEN: Yes a lot of people here are frustrated about how it's looking in the field. I guess we'll hear and we'll see what happens in just about five days.
Coming up, next, right after this short break. Who are the one percent? You might be surprised by the answer because it's probably you. Take a look.
O'BRIEN: Oh it looks so good. Eggs Benedict, my favorite thing in the morning. I'll have that in a minute or two.
Time now for the reveal. Today we have an interesting look at the world's richest one percent and where they live. This data that provided by World Bank economist Franco Milanovich (ph) and his new book which is called "The Haves and the Have-Nots." First let's take a look at where these people live, typically four million of them live in Germany some are scattered across Europe, South America and Asia. Nearly half of them, 29 million live in the United States.
Now, that's not all that surprising, right? We know compared to most countries, we here in the United States have it pretty good. But what might surprise you is that you are likely in that one percent because to be on that top global rung, you need to bring home $34,000 per person after taxes; $34,000. It turns out the median income for most of the world is $1,225 per person per year. Even the poorest five percent of Americans are better off financially than two-thirds of the rest of our planet. And yes, those numbers are adjusted for different costs of living around the world.
Still ahead, what panelists learned this morning on our "End Point", coming up.
O'BRIEN: Breakfast in full swing at the Airport Diner, but we are about to wrap up, we're about to end with the "End Point" this morning. Back to our political panel. Ron, why don't you start for me. What is your big take away of the day?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Once people start voting, races consolidate really fast. Very revealing John McCain siding with Mitt Romney. Very revealing that conservatives are beginning to talk about whether they can unify behind Rick Santorum. The big question: is Santorum a big enough figure to really consolidate the ride against Romney before he wraps this up?
O'BRIEN: Hilary Rosen, what do you think?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I was listening to the people you were talking to in the diner, Soledad. And what I learned was that New Hampshire voters really don't want this primary to be over. You know, despite, despite the hurried nature of the rest of us, they've got some things to say and they're not sure they've got the right candidates to listen to it.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I definitely noticed, Jennifer Donahue, that people seem frustrated. I mean nobody -- there's not a palpable excitement about, let's get it done. It feels like, I'm really unhappy about the economy and a bunch of other things. What do you think?
JENNIFER DONAHUE, THE EISENHOWER INSTITUTE: I think there are a lot of undecided voters up here and I think what you're going to see over the next several days is people trying to coalesce around retail politics because there hasn't been a focus on retail on the ground in New Hampshire yet.
Iowa has taken up all the oxygen. So I'll be watching to see whether Rick Santorum can consolidate and try to have a retail ground game on the grass roots level. And whether Gingrich can have a retail game on the grass roots level. Romney has already had a retail game in New Hampshire and I think that will help voters decide.
O'BRIEN: All right. Final word, we'll go to Andrew Cline this morning.
ANDREW CLINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER: I am looking for aggression. I want to see which candidates -- which non-Romney candidates go out there and attack Romney and which ones make the aggressive, positive message, I'm the conservative alternative. Forget these other guys.
The voters want to go to a town hall meeting and be inspired. They want to have a connection. I want to see which candidate can do that.
O'BRIEN: That's a great way to put it because I think from the people we heard from the diner, no one sounds inspired. People say -- whatever the word is that is the opposite of inspired, that's what it sounds like. Make sure you're watching.
Thanks, guys, I appreciate it. Make sure you're watching on Tuesday night, of course, because all eyes will be right here on New Hampshire. I'll be reporting along with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, John King. Our live coverage of the New Hampshire primary, CNN Tuesday night 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Big thank you to the folks at the Airport Diner who allowed us to be under foot all morning and we'll be back tomorrow. So, hopefully they'll bear with us once again.
"CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips begins right now. Hi, Kyra.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hey, Soledad. Thanks so much.