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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Jobs Report; Obama's Green Card Policy; Murder Mystery

Aired January 6, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John.

Well of course it's four days until the New Hampshire primary. Mitt Romney has that huge lead, but can someone catch him? It's going to be a crucial few days.

And then a story we've been following closely on this show, Florida's missing mom, Michelle Parker, disappeared on November 17th. Her mother OUTFRONT tonight with a plea.

And the "Bottom Line" on employment, 200,000 jobs added in America in the past month. President Obama meet Ronald Reagan?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight is it morning in America for Barack Obama? The U.S. added 200,000 jobs last month. Now that absolutely trounced expectations and it brought the unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent. Now, that is the fourth month in a row that we have seen a drop in the unemployment rate. We are now at the lowest level in almost three years prior to the crisis.

But where did we see the growth? Health care and manufacturing are the two areas that stand out. Manufacturing in fact may surprise you, but really been the area bouncing back all year. But I want to put all this in perspective because it's really important for the election. So we made these graphics. I'm going to call this a pie. Looks like a pie, right?

OK, it represents the 8.7 million jobs lost since the recession began in 2008. That is a whole lot of jobs. All right, since then, though, 2.5 million jobs have been added. Now, that's about 30 percent of the pie. So you can see it as positive because it's improvement and it is but you could also say more than two-thirds of that pie is still red and that's a problem.

All right, there is one thing though that is most definitely good news for the president. The bottom line, the unemployment rate may be high, but the absolute number is not what matters when it comes to getting re-elected. That's about the trend. Every president running for re-election since World War II has won when the unemployment rate was falling and lost when it was going up. Best example, get ready --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's morning again in America. Today, more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history, with interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Pretty good sell. That was Ronald Reagan's iconic re- election ad. Now, this is pretty amazing. The unemployment rate when Ronald Reagan was getting ready to get re-elected (INAUDIBLE) from his re-election, 8.5 percent. Sound familiar? It is absolutely identical to the number you heard this morning, 8.5 percent right now for Barack Obama. But what made it morning in America for Ronald Reagan?

In the year prior to his election, this is the magic number. The jobless rate dropped to 7.2 percent. The president needs the jobless rate to drop like it did for Ronald Reagan if he wants to be re- elected. That's really the bottom line. What the unemployment number is next year is crucially important. So is it morning in America?

John Avlon joins us, Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, and David Frum, CNN contributor. All right, John, I've got to say I was pretty amazed today just at the coincidence of the fact that 8.5 percent was unemployment a year out from Ronald Reagan's re-election here (INAUDIBLE) Barack Obama. By the way, that number for Barack Obama is down a full percent from a year ago, but it's the next six months that matter.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right. Look the symmetry is amazing and the trend is Obama's friend. This is great news for the country. It's good news for Obama's re-election campaign. But as you said, I mean the really issue is the dynamic. And what was behind the drop in unemployment when Ronald Reagan was in office was also massive growth in GDP, eight percent in the third quarter of 1983. So President Obama is going to hope -- have to hope for a lot more of this. But the momentum, he's got it on his side, that's good news for the country. It's good news for his re-election bid.

BURNETT: What do you say, David Frum?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I like good news, but I was there in the '80s. I remember the economy took off like a rocket. This economy is taking off like a big, heavy blimp, slowly gaining altitude. In 1983 unemployment dropped by two points and then it dropped by another, as you say, 1.3, 1.5 in 1984. It didn't drop in the year -- last year, 2011, we saw nothing like the kind of growth that Americans saw as John says in 1983 and we hope for more growth in 1984. It does not feel like morning in America. It may feel like kind of morning after in America when we're clearing the cotton --

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: It's still --

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) pool is still smelling up the room like an old frat House --

(CROSSTALK)

FRUM: It's pretty bad.

BURNETT: Jamal, what's your take on this? Is this -- I mean the president obviously can't come out and celebrate this because of that pie, the fact that there is only -- there have been eight million jobs lost, but is that how they're feeling?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I think they're feeling upbeat. I mean you can't help but wake up this morning and feel like things are better today than they were yesterday and they're certainly better today than they were six months ago. But again I don't think anybody is uncorking champagne bottles right now to get ready for a party or the morning after that David seems to be so familiar with.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMMONS: But instead, I do think that -- I do think that people are looking at this as a trend line. I would like to temper expectations though. I don't think 7.2 percent is what we're hearing from any of the economists by the time we get to November. Instead I think we're probably going to be somewhere around eight percent, but the trend line is what the president is going to have to sell and he's also going to have to do a pretty hard job on whoever the Republican nominee is.

BURNETT: I want to get to the Republican response, but one thing just to add a little fervor to your point, as Ronald Reagan mentioned in that ad, you had interest rates, what, 18 percent and they were going down. Right now there is nowhere for interest rates to go but up and that's very significant for regular people's lives.

FRUM: And you had personal incomes going up. The people who are in work who have not lost their jobs do not necessarily feel better or secure.

BURNETT: Right.

FRUM: The typical American income after taxes -- sorry, after inflation before taxes is lower than it was in 1997. So you may not have lost your job and you're grateful for that, but you don't feel good.

BURNETT: All right, well that's going to be something the Republicans have to capitalize on if they're going to be successful. Here's how they responded on the campaign trail to the good number today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's good. It's going in the right direction. But if you measure unemployment by the method that we used to measure it by, it would be twice that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there might just be some optimism that maybe Republicans are going to take the White House and maybe that's spurring people to start taking some risks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This president doesn't understand how this economy works. It's time to get a president who does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What do you think?

AVLON: I think it's beating a dead horse because they know the dance beat. I mean they keep -- they want to run on bad economic news, so they're not going to adjust their rhetoric if they can avoid it. The reality is, is that if America is enjoying a greater stability, some modest growth, as Ron Paul acknowledged, it should be acknowledged. You need to change your rhetoric to meet changing facts and simply trying to run on a downbeat economy doesn't work if it doesn't fit the facts.

BURNETT: But the nuance of what you're saying, David Frum that oh, you know but interest rates are bad but your incomes aren't up, that's nuance and nuance doesn't play in the ridiculous campaign ads that we tend to see.

FRUM: No, but every American is the greatest living expert on how that individual American is doing economically. They do not need an ad to tell them they feel better, they feel worse. And no one will persuade them that they feel better if they feel worse. And one of the things that is a really dangerous sign, you saw it in the Rick Santorum message, when Rick Santorum is branding himself the high-risk choice. Yes, if you want to win the election go ahead with Mitt Romney. But if you want to have fun, choose me. I think Republican primary voters are saying I'm going with the low-risk choice.

BURNETT: Jamal, do you think --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

SIMMONS: Well I think the one thing the Republicans have to be careful of is not sounding like negative nellies (ph). When the American public is starting to see more job growth I don't think they want to hear their politicians try to find ways to bring them down on that. They want to hear people talk about what they can do better, how they can make it go faster, but not necessarily that well, you know it's not as good as it may look, things are still pretty down. I think people will end up getting punished for rooting against America versus trying to find a way to be supportive.

BURNETT: There's something to that. You've got to give him credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BURNETT: But you also want to defeat him. That's politically very difficult.

FRUM: Well and the thing that Romney says in every speech is the president was dealt a hard hand. And noting that fact, it's both true but it also shows some sense of fairness.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) Independents too.

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: It helps with Independents, right, because you're not saying, look, I'm (INAUDIBLE) sticking to my high partisan (ph) talking points, I'm acknowledging a problem, saying dealt a bad hand, could have played it better, but if you look at the job decline, if you look at that economic freefall that America was in, in the final quarter of 2008 and then it hits its (INAUDIBLE) right in January of 2009 when Obama is inaugurated and then starts to get better, there's a good story to be told. It's tough to tell people it could have been worse. It's tough to run on that, but the reality is it could have been and we are recovering and that's a good sign for all Americans, not just Democrats.

BURNETT: It is, Jamal, though, one of those things that always has struck me as sort of ridiculous about politics that you could be great or you could be terrible, but you are at the mercy of the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

SIMMONS: You are. And you know the president actually has very few things he can do in terms of short term things to make it better, but he's got to try to put in place some long term things to make it better and I think the president will probably argue that he did a bunch of things in the beginning, people didn't like them, people didn't agree with them but we've turned the corner. We're now on the path. Let's not change course as we go into the election.

BURNETT: All right, thanks to all three of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BURNETT: (INAUDIBLE) if I hear Mitt Romney talk about 787 billion one more time, all right, thanks to everyone.

We're going to be following this because it is so crucial and we'll look at the next six months as being what -- is that -- what's the trend going to be for Barack Obama? Well, we asked our "Strike Team". We've been telling you the 25 top business leaders, investors, entrepreneurs in America and I asked them just the other day if they're going to net higher in 2012.

Eight of them at a normal rate, two above, and four below, interesting, a normal rate, Union Pacific Railroad came in there. And the CEO there was telling me 1,000 to 1,500 jobs. But we're going to put all of this on our "Strike Team" Web site. Please take a look at it because those are the people that will do the hiring and firing that drives this election.

All right well there is many, as 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Does the president's new plan today amount to amnesty?

And the latest developments of the U.K. murder mystery. A dead woman found on the grounds of the queen's estate, the same estate the queen is at right now.

And tonight's "Outer Circle", the U.S. Navy rescues a group of Iranian sailors that were attacked by pirates. Would Mahmoud do that for us? All this OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, the battle over illegal immigration and the president's polarizing new policy that some say amounts to amnesty. All right so you've probably heard the number that there could be up to 12 million undocumented people in America right now. But for those who are married to or have kids that are U.S. citizens, the White House now has an offer. Come out of the shadows and identify yourself and ask for a green card.

Now to get it, you're going to have to leave the country but now instead of waiting years, maybe even a decade to find out if you can come back, you're going to get an answer more quickly and the chances of getting a yes to return permanently with a green card, greater. Now that's the plan. Some people are furious about it. Is it amnesty?

Let's bring in Kris Kobach. He helped write Arizona's strict new immigration law, which in and of itself as he is well aware is a very polarizing topic. He thinks this is a terrible idea. On the other side is David Leopold from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Good to have both of you with us. Kris, is this amnesty?

KRIS KOBACH, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIV. OF MISSOURI: It's part of an amnesty. It's part two of an administrative amnesty. As we know, the administration a few months ago announced that it was going to basically drop about 300,000 cases that were already in the deportation pipeline. That's one part of an administrative action.

This one basically allows thousands of people who would otherwise have to go out of the country and wait while they see if they can overcome this three-year bar or 10-year bar that Congress put into place in 1996, now they can just do it here in the United States. So really if the administration is going to do a back door amnesty, they need to take several steps and this is the second of the steps they need to take. So yes, it's part of an amnesty.

BURNETT: David, why isn't it?

DAVID LEOPOLD, AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION: It's not amnesty. What this is, is a -- it's a minor processing change. And what we're doing here, what the administration is doing is keeping U.S. citizens together with their foreign spouses. And what we have to remember is that in order to get this waiver, which is done in the United States, they still have to show that the U.S. citizen would suffer a hardship. So nobody is getting anything, Erin. This is a process change. This is going to allow people to stay together. This is going to promote family unity. It's going to keep America safer and it's going to be wise use of our tax dollars. What Mr. Kobach -- what Kris is talking about when he says -- he uses that word "amnesty," remember, amnesty is a word that people who hate immigration like to throw around instead of solutions.

And what this is, this is a solution. This is a solution that allows people to wait in the United States with their family rather than have to go sit in a city like Ciudad Juarez where people get killed, it's one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and this allows families to stay together. What's wrong with an American husband being with his wife? What's wrong with an American wife being with her husband -- nothing. I can't imagine any American would oppose family unity, so I'm very surprised that there's even any opposition to this.

BURNETT: I thought, David, that once -- if you were married to someone and you could prove that it was legitimate and you hadn't done so in order to get access to the United States, that you could get that card anyway?

LEOPOLD: I wish that were the case, Erin, but the law is so broken that even if you are married to a United States citizen, you still have to go through various different hoops to stay here. And what happens is folks that are in the country who are undocumented and they're married to United States citizens, they can't simply go and apply for a green card and what happens is the way the law is set up and the reason we call it a broken law is because the way this law is set up is they have to leave the United States. Once they step outside the United States, now they're barred from coming back and all that's going on --

KOBACH: And there's a reason for that.

BURNETT: But Kris --

LEOPOLD: Hang on Kris --

BURNETT: Let me ask you that. OK, hold on a second, David, because I want to get Kris in here. Kris, but is part -- does that deter people who shouldn't be coming in from coming in, the fact or not.

KOBACH: Yes.

BURNETT: Yes?

KOBACH: Yes, there's a reason Congress set this up. Congress in 1996 wanted to impose a penalty on illegal aliens, whether they decide to marry a U.S. citizen or not. And that was if you stay in the United States for six months, then if you are caught or if you acknowledge that, you have got to wait three years before you can even get in line in your home country to apply for a lawful visa. If you stay here a year illegally, you are barred for 10 years. Congress wanted to put people who have broken our laws in a worse position procedurally than those people who are in Mexico and are doing it the right way or in Sweden doing it the right way --

LEOPOLD: Actually that's not true --

KOBACH: -- and haven't broken our laws.

LEOPOLD: Kris --

BURNETT: David, that sounds rational put that way --

KOBACH: That's exactly what Congress did in 1996.

LEOPOLD: That's just not a fair statement of the law --

KOBACH: Congress did that in 1996. That is exactly what the law says --

LEOPOLD: That's not a correct statement of the law.

(CROSSTALK)

LEOPOLD: No it's not --

(CROSSTALK)

LEOPOLD: And I'm happy to show you the statute -- I'm happy to show you the --

KOBACH: I actually just looked at it before we --

(CROSSTALK)

KOBACH: I'm quite familiar with it.

LEOPOLD: Let me finish. What the Congress said, Kris, and I think you know this, is that if you marry an American citizen, generally speaking, you're forgiven. The problem is if you have --

(CROSSTALK)

KOBACH: You're talking about marriage. We're talking about the 10-year --

(CROSSTALK)

LEOPOLD: Kris, let me finish. If you enter the country without an inspection originally, even if you're a child, you can't get that green card even if you have a large family, even if you're married to a U.S. citizen.

BURNETT: OK.

LEOPOLD: You have to get a waiver -- BURNETT: Final word to Kris.

LEOPOLD: And so all the --

KOBACH: I think the bottom line here is -- I think we probably both agree that what the administration is doing is trying to get around the fact that Congress has not passed an amnesty and this administration wants one. And I think there's a larger issue here that people on the left and the right can hopefully agree on. If we're going to have an amnesty, let Congress do it. Let the people's representatives debate it. Let's not have the administration do it in a back doorway that isn't putting it on the table in front of the people.

BURNETT: All right, gentlemen, thanks very much to both of you --

LEOPOLD: This is common sense enforcement.

BURNETT: Thanks to both of you.

KOBACH: Thank you.

LEOPOLD: Thank you.

BURNETT: Please let us know on our Facebook page what you think about this one and whether you think there's political motivations as well coming into an election with the Hispanic vote.

Well tonight we have new clues in the royal murder mystery we have been following this week on OUTFRONT. Investigators say they're very close to identifying the body of a young woman whose age is somewhere between 15 and 24. The victim, whose body gave no visible clues about how she died, was found a couple of miles outside the Queen of England's Sandringham estate.

Now the discovery came just two days after the royal family was vacationing there. In fact the queen is still there. Investigators believe the victim could have been dead for up to four months but have no idea whether she was murdered on the grounds or if her body was just dumped there. Some of the victim's personal belongings have been found on the premises. That has not helped police solve the mystery. OUTFRONT spoke to royal family journalist Victoria Arbiter. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA ARBITER, ROYAL JOURNALIST: When the body was discovered it obviously was in more of a decomposed state than we were initially led to believe and so that's making identifying it really very difficult. For example, police have said they don't believe she was stabbed but there's not enough flesh left on the body to really establish whether or not she was stabbed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Victoria said the teeth and bones from the victim's body have been tested and police will have results in the next three days.

Well still OUTFRONT, with just four days to go until New Hampshire, Mitt Romney has what everybody would acknowledge is a comfortable lead, but another candidate could be surging. Who?

And FarmVille, Mafia Wars, just how much would you pay for those online games? We give you one heck of a number next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So video game players can be a pretty passionate bunch. They'll spend thousands on games, gear and memberships, but the fan of one game went above and beyond, I mean stratospherically. A Chinese man spent $16,000 on a virtual sword, $16,000 on a virtual sword -- I mean I'm sorry I just must live in another century -- anyway for the game Age of Wulin. This is a game that is not even being released in China until the spring. Now talk about a reminder of how China is getting so rich, now of course not every gamer is that crazy.

Sorry if I'm offending some of you or that rich, but some of the thriftier gamers purchased items like the Lordly Spear Sheath (ph) for a mere $2,500 and the Hook of Departure Sheath (ph) for a paltry $1,600. Well, even if you aren't that into gaming, you'd be surprised just how much people spend on casual games, which brings us to tonight's number, 680,000.

That's how many people are estimated to pay more than $1,100 a year to play virtual games on Zynga like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. The analyst comes courtesy of Australia's McCrery (ph) Research and also found that the average paying user spends about $280 on Zynga games (INAUDIBLE).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Still OUTFRONT, the "OutFront 5". A parent's plea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss her so much and I want her home.

BURNETT: Santorum strikes back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I'll take on Mitt Romney, rest assured. I'll take him on, on the issues.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5". And first tonight that better than expected employment report in the U.S., 200,000 jobs added; unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent in December. We went through the data, job growth for men and women in the fourth quarter equal, but the unemployment rate for blacks exactly where it was in December 2010, 15.8 percent.

Number two, Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the convicted underwear bomber has been denied a request for a new attorney. Abdulmutallab who represented himself in court complains that his stand-by lawyer ignored him and failed to share legal documents with him. In court documents obtained by OUTFRONT his stand-by attorney wrote that he supplied quote "all documents that were legally relevant to the case." He added that quote "the documents recently requested will not serve the purpose of advancing the court." The court papers do not mention the documents that Abdulmutallab requested. He faces life in prison when sentenced next month for trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009. It was a Northwest plane headed to Detroit.

Number three: an Army green beret charged with trying to bring explosives in a commercial plane, has been released from jail. We've learned that Sergeant Trey Atwater was let out on bond and released into the custody of his supervisor at Ft. Bragg. He's being escorted back to the North Carolina base. Now, Atwater said he didn't know C-4 was in his carry-on. Prosecutors found no evidence he intended to use the explosives. Strange story, we can't know the bottom line.

Number four, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will attend a vigil this weekend, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting that almost cost her her life. On January 8th, the Arizona congresswoman, husband Mark Kelly, and her staff will gather to honor the six people killed and 13 injured. OUTFRONT has learned that Daniel Hernandez, the intern who helped Giffords after the shooting holding her head will be at the vigil.

Recently, I spoke to Daniel and asked him about his day, January 8th, 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, FORMER INTERN FOR REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: The last time I saw her she was being carted in. For about eight hours, I was under the impression that she had passed away because I was being sequestered to wait for questioning by the authorities. And the last thing I heard was a nurse come out after gabby had gone in and say she's dead and then they took me away to a separate area, because they didn't want me hearing something from one of the nurses or someone passing by and that changing the quality of the testimony that I was going to give to the authorities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, there's been 154 days since America lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

The stock market could help if it keeps going up. Three major indices starting 2012 with gains, all up more than 1 percent for the week. And, by the way, looking at last year, I mean, our market really looked great compared to the rest of the world, which was terrible. All right, who can stop Mitt Romney? With just four days until the New Hampshire primary, he has an even greater lead that two weeks ago. A poll out tonight shows him winning the Granite State with 44 percent of the vote compared to 20 percent for Ron Paul and 8 percent for both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. As a front runner, Romney will be target number one in this weekend's high-stakes debates.

But interestingly, Rick Santorum refused to attack Romney. Here he is with Gloria Borger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You're not taking on Mitt Romney?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I'll take on Mitt Romney, rest assure. I'll take him on the issues. I'm not going to make -- I'm not going to make judgments about his character, I'm not going to make judgments about whether he's going to be weak or strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, it's interesting because New Hampshire may be a lock for Mitt Romney, but the focus is shifting to South Carolina, where a CNN poll today shows Romney with a comfortable lead, even among born-again Christians -- a group which has not been quick to back him in the past. And by the way, in stark contrast as we indicated to you last night, the last polls we had in South Carolina had Newt Gingrich far, far, far away in the lead. It had been a while since the poll was taken.

Gloria Borger is our chief political analyst and she's in New Hampshire tonight. Kevin Madden is former Romney adviser. And Penny Nance is the CEO of Concerned Women for America joins us from Washington.

And, Gloria, I want to start with you. You've been on the trail today. As we saw, you spent some time with Rick Santorum where he chose not to attack Mitt Romney.

Why, is he thinking about a future ticket?

BORGER: Well, he might be, Erin. I mean, he might be thinking somewhere down the future that maybe he'd be that values conservative who could help Mitt Romney out. But I think, look, what I was asking him about was, you know, Newt Gingrich has said publicly that Mitt Romney could very well be the weakest front runner in the history of the Republican Party.

And Santorum wasn't willing to characterize it that way. He does disagree with him on a bunch of issues and I guarantee you in the debates here over the weekend, you're going to see Mitt Romney have a big red target on his back because, as you were just saying, the polls in New Hampshire show Mitt Romney way ahead. That puts him in a formidable position going into South Carolina and giving him the potential to really lock this race up pretty early. So they have really got to go at him.

BURNETT: All right. Kevin, the polls in South Carolina do now show Governor Romney leading in born-agains and Tea Party voters. Gingrich and Santorum are closed behind. My question to you is: can he sustain this? Because you know, it was pretty clear the other late night in Iowa that born-agains and evangelicals were not -- they were going for Santorum, at least in Iowa.

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY ADVISOR: Well, look, polls are just a snapshot in time, and if there's one thing that defines this electorate right now, it's volatility.

I mean, just look at Rick Santorum. Three, four weeks ago, he was in single digits in Iowa. You know, vaulted to 22 percent, 24 percent in Iowa. And I think that we've seen these polls just like you indicated before, Gingrich was, you know, two weeks ago was leading in South Carolina and now he's down in South Carolina.

So I don't -- I'm not -- having worked on two presidential campaigns before, I'm not looking at any polls in South Carolina until we're finished with the contest in New Hampshire. The voters have a very funny way of figuring these things out for themselves, but I will say that Governor Romney, his focus and his message -- his message very focused on the economy and that's what voters are looking at right now. So, I think that's why you're seeing this high level of support across these primary states, but I can assure you that Boston and the Romney campaign is taking nothing for granted.

BURNETT: They made it clear last night. Eric Fehrnstrom was on the show, saying we're trying to play it like we're three points behind. Funny, even a James Carville were saying strategically that was the right way rhetorically to handle it.

But let me ask you, because you've been focusing on women and women matter. I say that with no personal bias. Just kidding.

They have decided every presidential election since 1964. How are they going to do in South Carolina?

PENNY NANCE, CEO, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, first of all, (INAUDIBLE) for a moment when you're talking about Mitt Romney. Let's admit it, he's a very boring candidate and is barely holding his own in the polls. Yes, the South Carolina is two weeks early. People will be deciding at the last minute, and I honestly think, I'll be you, in fact, $10,000 that there is no way that, you know, the blue collar people of South Carolina are going to warm to Mitt Romney. I think we're going to see a very interesting race coming on and, yes --

BURNETT: Kevin, do you want to bet $10,000? Do a virtual handshake?

NANCE: I'll bet you Mitt's $10,000. I don't have $10,000.

MADDEN: I figure I've got about $2 in my pocket. BORGER: There are plenty of blue collar voters in Iowa. And I'll tell you, in our entrance polls, as you know, Mitt Romney did very well with women voters.

BURNETT: Yes, he did.

BORGER: The chance to do better with women and he does very well with older voters. I --

NANCE: No, in fact, Santorum -- in fact, Santorum carried women in Iowa and we have noticed that --

BURNETT: It was very close, though. Gloria and I were looking at the numbers. It was very close.

(CROSSTALK)

NANCE: Well, indeed, we noticed that there tends to be a trend with conservative women. They tend to go more towards Santorum more than anybody else in the race. There's an authenticity there. There's a whole family there. They like his message. They like what he stands for.

And I think you're going to see that happen again in South Carolina.

BURNETT: Gloria, let me ask you --

NANCE: By the way --

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

NANCE: By the way, women are the ones that do the hard work in campaigns over and above men. We do the door-to-door work. We do the phone calls. We do the leaflets underneath the windshield wipers and every candidate needs women and they need to be able to inspire their base, and that's going to be the key problem for Romney, not just in the primary but in a general election.

BURNETT: Well, I have to say, at least in Iowa, we all know from Edith that women do the hard ballot counting.

But, Gloria, seriously, two weeks until South Carolina, 49 percent still undecided or say they may change their mind. Do you consider this race wide open or not?

BORGER: Well, I think we have to see, you know, one thing at a time as Kevin was saying. I think Mitt Romney looks to be the likely winner here in New Hampshire, but I think what the other candidates are trying to do, as we discussed the other night, was sort of keep him out of the stratosphere, right? They want to keep him below that 40 percent mark so they can then say, you know what, we took him down a peg and then we're going to deal with him in South Carolina.

He's got some pretty heavy duty help with him right now. He's got John McCain. He's got the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, and that's going to be very important to him in that state. But I do think that there are those values voters that do flock to Rick Santorum because he has a message that combines his values with his economic agenda that does have some resonance and he's going up on the air waves in South Carolina on Tuesday.

BURNETT: Well, Kevin Madden, will Mitt Romney go right and aggressively so on social issues if pushed this weekend? It seems they may come up because of all of the air time and the strong performance of Rick Santorum in Iowa?

MADDEN: I think Governor Romney has made very clear that he shares the same conservative values that many of the voters in South Carolina share. I think going to your earlier point, I think there's blue collar voter, there's white collar voters, there are women voters and there are men voters.

They are all very concerned. Their main anxiety in this election right now and what's animating the electorate is the economy, the state of the economy.

And Governor Romney has had a very focused message on what he would do to put the American economy back on track, to put Americans back to work. And I think that's why you're going to see that message resonate and that's why he's gaining a high level of support in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and all these early contests.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much to all three of you. We appreciate it. It's going to be a very busy weekend.

Gloria Borger, stay warm.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

BORGER: All right. Good to see you.

Now, let's check in with Anderson. Anderson, what do you have on this Friday night?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Erin, we're keeping them honest in the program. If the election comes down to putting America back to work, who is the better job creator in chief, President Obama or Mitt Romney? We're going to match up the records, compare the claims, keeping them honest.

Also tonight in crime and punishment, the main suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway goes on trial for murder not in Aruba or in the U.S., but in Peru. Joran van der Sloot can hardly keep his eyes open in his own trial.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: And, Anderson, that's pretty amazing (INAUDIBLE). But I know that trial is not related to Natalee Holloway's death. It's for murder he's accused of committing in Peru, right? COOPER: Right. A 21-year-old Peruvian woman, there's a connection to Holloway, which we'll tell you about that ahead on "360". It happened on one of the anniversaries of Holloway's disappearance.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much, Anderson.

The U.S. sailors rescued a group of Iranians after they were attacked by pirates. The full story in our "Outer Circle."

And the parents of Florida's missing mom, Michelle Parker, her mother OUTFRONT with a plea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

And today to the north, Arabian Sea where Iranian sailors were rescued by Americans stationed on the destroyer USS Kidd. It's near the crucial Strait of Hormuz. Now, the rescue happened just two days after Iran said the U.S. shouldn't send any more warships into the Persian Gulf.

Michael Adler is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. We asked him what this means.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL ADLER, PUBLIC POLICY SCHOLAR, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I don't think this will profoundly modify the confrontation we're seeing between the two countries over sanctions, the nuclear program and how to go forward. But it is ironic that a U.S. ship which was part of a group which the Iranians want out of the Gulf rescued an Iranian ship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. And now to Egypt and the trial of Hosni Mubarak. Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty by hanging for the former president. Mubarak is accused of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising last year. He denies it.

Steven Cook is a fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and we asked him whether Mubarak could really be hanged and how common this form of punishment is in Egypt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN COOK, SR. FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, it's not at all common for people to be hanged in Egypt. The prosecutors are clearly posturing for political effect. Although in this season of the unthinkable becoming reality, there is always the possibility that if Mubarak is found guilty, that the prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now to Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, fury over the government's decision to end fuel subsidies that doubled prices overnight. Hundreds of protesters have marched through the commercial capital of Lagos. Angry mobs set fires, shut down gas stations.

I've been there and seen that and it is terrifying.

Nigerian union chiefs are calling for a general strike next week.

Richard Downie is the deputy director of CSIS Africa Program and we asked him why one of the world's biggest energy producers would do this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD DOWNIE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND SENIOR FELLOW, CSIS AFRICA PROGRAM: There's a very strong economic rationale to the Nigerian government removing the subsidy. After all, it cost them $8 billion roughly last year. Politically, though, the decision is harder to explain. Most Nigerians on less than $2 a day and are really feeling the pinch from this decision and very unhappy on the streets of the main towns and cities in Nigeria right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now a plea for help. Thirty-three-year-old Michelle Parker disappeared seven weeks ago and her family is still looking for answers. The Florida mother vanished on November 17th after dropping off her 3-year-old twins with their father, Dale Smith. Smith and Parker were once engaged but their five-year relationship ended in a fight over an engagement ring on television, on "The People's Court."

Coincidentally, the episode aired the day Michelle Parker disappeared. Investigators have identified Smith as a primary suspect. He denies any involvement, has repeatedly turned down our request to appear on the show, and has not been charged.

Yvonne Stewart has been searching tirelessly for her daughter and I spoke with her and her attorney Matt Morgan exclusively before the show and she told me she continues to hold out hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YVONNE STEWART, MICHELLE PARKER'S MOM: You can't give up. When you don't know where somebody in your family is, you don't give up. You don't roll over and play dead.

BURNETT: Matt, let me ask you what you're doing now. I know you have been happy with how police and law enforcement have tried to help you, but, you know, looking at -- in Orlando, there's three detectives and they are incredibly busy.

Are you getting the support that you need right now or not? MATT MORGAN, ATTORNEY FOR MICHELLE PARKER'S FAMILY: You know, Erin, at this point I can't say enough about OPD's efforts. And they have done a tremendous job. But their resources are limited. And so, you know, we believe that at this time, we need more support from surrounding police departments in the central Florida area.

BURNETT: Yvonne, what do you think happened? Where do you think she might be?

STEWART: She could be anywhere, anywhere near us and we just don't know. We don't know how to find her with just Orlando -- the city of Orlando. We need -- we need help from the other sheriff's departments. We need -- we need support with other searchers to help us go out. We need people with canine dogs. We need all kinds of help.

We have a trust fund set up through we the people. We have our -- I mean for the people and we have a phone line that you can call me directly and I'll answer the phone and you can talk to us and tell us where you live and we can tell you how to help us. It's 407-687-9740.

BURNETT: And, Yvonne, let me ask you, I know that you have a custody agreement now with Dale, obviously the father of the children that we see here with their faces blurred out.

STEWART: Yes.

BURNETT: He and Michelle had a volatile and by all accounts at times violent relationship. He's the only suspect right now, but obviously has not been charged.

How is the custody arrangement working right now between you and he?

STEWART: It's working out very well. He's very agreeable. We haven't had any problems whatsoever.

I'm very grateful to see the grandbabies. I mean, they have been part of my life for three years now, and they're very much a part of me and I know that wherever Michelle is, she would want them to still, you know, be part of our part of our lives as well. And they're granting me that. I'm very, very grateful.

BURNETT: How have the children been? Have they been -- obviously, I know at first Matt had indicated that they were told she was still at work or would be coming back, but it's been a long time now.

STEWART: Right.

BURNETT: How have they been asking for her?

STEWART: Well, the thing that's really amazing is that we have Michelle's face all over us. We wear it every day. I'm going to be wearing these shirts until the day we bring her home.

We have billboards and we have signs all over central Florida. They see her as we're driving by.

And we just say, oh, mommy's away right now. Mommy's away? Will she be home tomorrow? And I go, I hope so. I hope so.

BURNETT: Looking back, do you wish that Michelle had done anything differently separating herself from Dale earlier or no?

STEWART: I think that Michelle did everything right. She worked hard. She loved her kids. She went to school full time. She worked full time.

She was an awesome mom. Those kids were so well taken care of. The only thing that I can see that she might have done is maybe she should have had somebody with her that day.

BURNETT: And, Yvonne, what is next for you? What are your days like now?

STEWART: We're trying -- we're searching every weekend. We're going to be searching again. Somebody saw that Hummer that night with the glow stickers on it. Somebody knows something and we're just hoping that they'll come forward and help us to find my daughter.

I mean, you can't imagine what it's like to have seven weeks not knowing where your daughter is. This beautiful, young woman, 33 years old and she just vanishes? And the last person to see her, he has to know something.

Somebody knows something, and I'm going to cry because I'm a mom, you know? I miss her so much. And I want her home. She needs to be where she's supposed to be. I need help.

BURNETT: She sounds like she was a wonderful mother herself from what you say.

STEWART: She was. She was the best mom ever. I was real proud of her. I told her that a week before she went missing, how proud of her I am. She's done everything right.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you.

STEWART: You're welcome. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And again, we wanted to make sure that everyone out there in case you do know anything does have the contact information for Yvonne as she had shared it with us -- 407-687-9740.

We're going to take a brief break. When we come back, a story about -- well, we'll take you to Italy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Holy cow. You have to take a look at this picture. This bovine has given birth to not one but four calves. I guess that would really earn her the word heifer. They got us thinking, how common is this?

Well, of course, we crunched the numbers and we found out the odds of quadruplet calves being born all female and all alive, one in 179.2 million. It got us wondering about how natural this is and if hormones were involved.

We asked Paul Roberts, author of "End of Food," why our reaction to this picture which was first rather cute was actually alarm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL ROBERTS, AUTHOR, "END OF FOOD": Well, you know, the first thing we think is what went wrong. You know, 100 years ago, four healthy births, we would have thought it's a miracle. Today, given all the questions we have about the food system, about where our food comes from, about the ingredients in it, about the conditions under which it's made, we are wondering if this is another sign of another problem. And that's really an indication of where we are in the food system and the level of distrust that a lot of people consumers have about the food system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That's pretty interesting thing to think about. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page about our food supply.

But now a story comes to us from far away, Italy. Cortina d'Ampezzo, a posh ski town in northern Italy. The winter resort is one of Italy's hottest destinations for the world's rich and famous. It got that Aspen combo of scenery with the hotels, shops, restaurants, sports cars, and, yes, skiing. It makes it sort of fru, fru.

Well, this week the Italian prime minister Mario Monti sent investigators to the town as part of his war on tax evasion and what they found was shocking. Of the 251, quote, "super cars," mostly Ferraris, found in Cortina, 42 belonged to people who claimed they could barely make ends meet. The people who owned those Ferraris declared annual incomes of less than 30,000 euros. That's about $38,000.

And yes, you are correct in noting that that would not buy you even a door of a Ferrari.

But this made me think of Greece. Do you remember last year when the "New York Times" reported that just 324 Athens residents admitted owning swimming pools but then Greek investigators looked at satellite photos of that same area and came to a very different number -- 16,974 pools.

That kind of tax evasion has played a significant role in the Greek debt crisis, the failure of that country. And some estimate that tax fraud has cost Greece as much as $30 billion a year.

And all of this got me thinking about a slippery slope, a slope that actually leads to Pakistan, a country where only 1 percent of the population pays their taxes. This summer I spent time there with three young men and I asked them about the problem -- and they said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It's really hard to build a country if you don't have a tax base. It's hard to have other countries give you money to build it when you don't have people in your own country paying taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gandhi said be the change that you want to see in the world, right? So the only thing you can do is change yourself. I pay my taxes. I pay all of them. Our politicians don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: They all were talking about that with great frustration. Those three young men are ready to leave Pakistan because there's no rule of law, no one pays their taxes and there's no chance to advance. In fact, when no one pays their taxes, you get what we saw in Pakistan, and that is wealthy people have their own ambulances and armies with AK-47s following them around in the streets because there are no police and there's no hospital at work. This is a terrible thing for a nation.

Tax reform has been a huge issue during the GOP race in this country. We hear a lot about who should pay more, who should pay less. But the most important thing is that we pay. Taxes fuel civil society -- arguing about the right rate and how much to cut or raise it is great, but choosing not to pay? That's what puts entire once proud countries like Italy, and Greece, hopefully never, the USA, in jeopardy.

On Monday, we're in New Hampshire.

And now, Anderson.