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Rivals Gang Up on Romney; Obama's Chief of Staff Steps Down; Iran Sentences American to Death in Spy Case; Interview With Jon Huntsman's Daughters; First Lady's Tensions With Staff Revealed; Santorum Losing Iowa Momentum?; Attacking Mitt Romney's Record On Jobs

Aired January 9, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, Ron Paul gets the political star treatment in New Hampshire on this, the primary eve. Big crowds and new polls suggest Ron Paul may be emerging as Mitt Romney's toughest competitor.

Plus, three reasons for voters to take another look at Jon Huntsman. I'll ask his daughters about their dad's presidential campaign and whether his focus on New Hampshire is paying off.

And what's behind the surprise resignation of the White House chief of staff, William Daley?

A new book suggests the first lady has rubbed some past administration officials the wrong way.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We're just hours away from the voting in New Hampshire and Mitt Romney's five opponents are hammering at his record and trying to chip away his lead. The race for second place in tomorrow's primaries heating up right now.

Two polls out today show Romney still is way ahead in the state next door to his home base in Massachusetts.

Ron Paul holds the number two spot and both surveys of likely voters.

Jon Huntsman has moved up to third place.

Ron Paul may be positioning himself as the anti-Romney candidate heading into tomorrow's contest and the next critical battle in South Carolina.

Our senior co -- our -- our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is covering Ron Paul's campaign for us -- Dana, what's the very latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The very latest, Wolf, is that Ron Paul spent a lot of time here in New Hampshire, gripping and grinning, doing the kind of retail politics with New Hampshire voters that they like and they even demand. He did it kind of under the radar.

But today, It was very clear that's over.


BASH (voice-over): At MoeJoe's Restaurant in Manchester, Ron Paul's offbeat campaign goes mainstream.


BASH: He came to press the flesh, but had trouble getting through the press.

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: There's a lot of congestion up here.

BASH: A crush of cameras and reporters out to see the insurgent candidate on the rise. So he scrapped plans to sit for breakfast and left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: when are you guys over...


BASH: Up the road in Hollis, a less chaotic scene and a chance for voters to hear firsthand what makes him so different from any other candidate, wanting cut all foreign aid.

PAUL: Every penny you spend overseas doing almost anything overseas is a drain from the economy.

BASH: Appealing to New Hampshire's live free or die sensibilities.

PAUL: We know what our government is supposed to do. It's -- it's supposed to protect our liberties.

BASH: Meanwhile, Paul's campaign is gaming out how to stay in the race for the long haul. He told CNN that may mean putting resources into caucus dates like Nevada, Maine and Louisiana and not focusing on Florida, which comes first.

PAUL: We don't have a big campaign plan there, but they'll know we're there. And we have the caucus states that we'll be paying more attention to.

BASH (on camera): Does that say anything about your efforts to actually secure the nomination? I mean it's sort of hard to do it without really competing in a state like Florida.

PAUL: No. Well, I think it tells you that we are realistic. And that's the way we approached Iowa. We thought we did pretty well there. And right now, the polls are looking good up here.

So I think we're being realistic. We shouldn't be acting like the government and planning to spend money we don't have.

BASH (voice-over): Translation -- he may be able to raise more cash and compete in Florida if he does really well here in New Hampshire.

This Independent voter came undecided.


REGINA MCCALMONT, INDEPENDENT VOTER: I am going to vote for Ron Paul.

BASH (on camera): Did he just convince you?

MCCALMONT: Yes, he did. I was on the fence last night. I had been considering Jon Huntsman, as well.

BASH (voice-over): But Paul's early exit back at MoeJoe's turned off Karen Keller, who tried to follow him outside.

KAREN HELLER, INDEPENDENT VOTER: And it was like, wait a second, you were supposed to come here. We came here early. We held a table. You were supposed to come and talk to us. And now you're taking off.

BASH: We asked Paul about Heller's beef. He blamed the media madness.

PAUL: Because you, the media, did that to her. She should have been furious with you.


BASH: And, as you see, Dr. Paul was less than thrilled with that question. But the Independent voter that we were talking about made clear to us that she has met candidates many times face-to-face, even in the midst of intense media scrums, not unlike what we saw today.

But, Wolf, Paul's campaign issued a statement after that saying that he has done lots of face-to-face, one-on-one time with voters here, but that today's event was -- was deemed unsafe for the candidate because the press created a, quote, "mob-like atmosphere" for him and his wife -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We expect, Dana -- correct me if I'm wrong, you're there in New Hampshire -- maybe 200,000, 250,000 people to vote in the Republican primary tonight -- tomorrow night, tomorrow during the day but get the results tomorrow night. Maybe 40 percent of them will be Independents. And that's a -- that's a good, solid base for Ron Paul.

BASH: It is a good, solid base for him. And just anecdotally, Wolf, a number of the voters I talked to who were at events for him throughout the day today did say that they were Independents.

Now, as you know very well, people who call themselves Independents here in New Hampshire aren't necessarily really Independents. They tend to really vote with one -- one party or the other.

But I have to tell you, I talked to several, including some in that piece, who told me that they voted for Democrats in the past. One even voted last time for Barack Obama, which is why she said that she wanted to listen to Ron Paul, because she wasn't sure if she wanted to make that kind of switch. But she said she might.

BLITZER: Yes. I think a lot of Democrats who will vote in the Republican primary in -- in New Hampshire tomorrow, a lot of those Independents. They like Ron Paul's anti-war policy. That's probably popular amongst a lot of them.

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you very much.

And remember, we're going to be here in the CNN Election Center tomorrow night for complete coverage of the New Hampshire primary -- the results, the battle ahead. Join us beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night.

Now to the surprise exit from the Obama administration, just as a tough election year is getting underway. The president announcing today, his chief of staff, Bill Daley, is stepping down, and that budget director, Jack Lew, is taking his place.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My chief of staff, Bill Daley, informed me that after spending time reflecting with his family over the holidays, he decided it was time to leave Washington and return to our beloved hometown of Chicago.

Obviously, this was not easy news to hear. And I didn't accept Bill's decision right away. In fact, I asked him to take a couple of days to make sure that he was sure about this. But in the end, the poll of the hometown we both love, a city that's been synonymous with the Daley family for generations, was too great.


BLITZER: Daley will stay on the job through the end of the month and end the president's State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress at the end of this month.

Let's talk a little bit more about Bill Daley's exit with. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here -- you know, I knew there were issues, because, what, a few weeks ago, Pete Rouse, the deputy chief of staff, was taking on some of the day to day responsibilities of the chief of staff.

But this did -- did come as a surprise to me.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A bit. Bill Daley had sent word that some time around the end of the year, he was going to make another reassessment. And now he's decided to go home, Wolf.

There are a number of factors here. Number one, his brother just lost his wife. It reminds Bill Daley, you want to be home with your family. He's not a young man.

More importantly, he came to DC expecting -- remember his history, the Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, good relationships with a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

He thought he would be that liaison, the bridge builder with Republicans, on issues like the debt ceiling, like deficit reduction, like some grand compromise to bring down the deficit, maybe reform entitlements.

None of that is going to happen, Wolf, in the election year. We all know that now.

Jack Lew coming in, the budget guy, now the chief of staff. Washington -- the debates in Washington will be about temporary spending measures, getting the government by through the next election.

Bill Daley looked around and said, you know what, I've done this before. I'm not a kid. I don't want to be in a campaign environment. He did h some frustrations within the White House, I'm told. He thought too many people had access to the president, did not think it was as disciplined an organization as he would like. He just decided, you know what, I'm not the right fit for this job at this time, let's go home.

BLITZER: And when you say his brother lost his wife, you're talking about the former mayor...

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- of Chicago, who did recently lose his wife. He's 63 years old, Bill Daley.

You know, remind our viewers why we should care who the White House chief of staff is?

Why is this -- I mean you and I have been been White House correspondents.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: We know how important this job is. But people, they hear Bill Daley out, Jack Lew in, you know, so they say, who cares?

KING: Well, the chief of staff, in most White Houses, controls who get to see the president and who doesn't. And so if -- the president gets the final say, but he has the second to the last say over the president's schedule.

In a campaign year, when you have an incumbent running for election, he needs to coordinate with the outside people. The Jim Messinas and the David Axelrod will coordinate with the White House chief of staff. If the president needs to do a policy event maybe in Town X, the campaign staff says oh, no, no, no, no, no, we need him over here in state wide.

So you're a gatekeeper. There's a lot of tension in that. Bill Daley will be leaving. A. Jack Lew is a veteran of the Clinton administration, too. So he's not just a numbers guy. He has some political experience.

But Bill Daley is going to advise the Obama campaign out in Chicago. And, you know, we were here really late last week, in Iowa, maybe that's just a little omen for November. Remember, Bill Daley was the top adviser to Al Gore...

BLITZER: I remember.

KING: -- in recount land.


KING: I was in Nashville that night. Bill Daley was there when he was coming with Al Gore to concede. And then they said oops, never mind.

BLITZER: They did. They said, "Not so fast." Thirty days later that happened, as all of us remember.

KING: Yes, that's helpful.

BLITZER: You're going to have a lot more on this...

KING: I don't know if that is an omen or not an omen. I don't know.


BLITZER: On -- for our North American viewers, you'll have more on this...

KING: You bet.

BLITZER: -- coming up right after us, "JOHN KING USA".

Thanks, John.

Let's go to Iran right now, where the U.S. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, is confirming uranium enrichment has started a new nuclear facility. The move is boosting international concern that the country could be one step closer to building a nuclear bomb, even though Iran says it's all for medical purposes.

The top U.S. official tells CNN no point has been agreed on as to when military action might be taken to try to stop the country's nuclear efforts.

The Iranian president, meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is in Venezuela, getting a warm welcome from his close ally and friend, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. It's the first stop on a four nation tour of Latin America.

All this as an American ex-Marine fighting for his life in Iran right now after being sentenced to death for spying, a charge both his family and the U.S. government strongly deny.

Let's go straight to our Brian Todd.

He's following this case for us.

He's joining us now with more -- Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Iranians accused this young man, Amir Hekmati, of being a spy for the CIA, of trying to act as a double agent, among other things.

American officials and Hekmati's family say this is all a big fabrication and they are worried about his safety.


TODD: (voice-over): His family says he went to Iran to see elderly relatives. They're now pleading for the Iranian government not to, quote, "murder their son."

AMIR MIRZAEI HEKMATI: My name is Amir Mirzaei Hekmati.

TODD: former U.S. Marine Amir Mirzaei Hekmati has apparently been sentenced to death by an Iranian court. Iran's state-run news agencies say he was convicted of "working for an enemy country" and that during trial, he confessed to the motivation behind his efforts to infiltrate Iran's intelligent system as a CIA agent.

The CIA referred us to the White House,, which, along with the State Department, is calling on the Iranians to give Hekmati access to legal counsel and...

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We consider that the charges are a fabrication and he ought to be released.

TODD: The family previously said all he had was a government appointed lawyer. Asked by CNN about his sentencing, Hekmati's family in Michigan would not go on camera. But in a statement, his mother said they're terrified by the news. The family denied that Amir Hekmati is a spy and said, "His very life is being exploited for political gain." (on camera): Could someone come down now quickly and talk to us?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really, sir.

TODD: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're happy to be here.

TODD: All right. Thanks.


TODD: The Iranian Interest Section here in DC not responding to the family's comments, not saying why they gave Hekmati permission to go to Iran before he left, even after he had told them about his military service; not really saying, again, what has changed since, you know, between now and then.

Also, the Iranian mission at the U.N. are not responding to our calls and e-mail.

(voice-over): Hekmati's family says he went to Iran in August to visit elderly relatives there and has been detained since then. The family says he worked as a contractor after his military stint teaching languages and foreign cultures to soldiers.

Former CIA officer Reuel Gerecht, who once tracked Iranian intelligence, says the CIA would never take a ex-US Marine and send him into Iran as a spy.

REUEL MARC GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The regime loves confessions. They love televised confessions. They love beating them out of you.

TODD: (on camera): How do you this see this playing out?

GERECHT: Well, I don't know. I mean, I'm worried. They could kill him. It's possible. The -- the Iranians obviously know he's not a spy. So the issue is, is what can they get for him?


TODD: When I asked the -- what the Iranians would want for Hekmati, Gerecht said the regime often demands and gets cash from families when they arrest and detain foreigners.

We tried to get response from Iran's representatives in the U.S. to that and to Reuel Gerecht's comment that the regime loves to, quote, "beat confessions out of people."

We still have not heard back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, can he appeal the sentence?

TODD: Amnesty International says they believe he's got about 20 days to appeal this. It's not clear if that sentence will be carried out after that period regardless of how this appeal goes. The Obama administration is trying to get the Iranians to get the Swiss representatives in Iran to have access to him. The U.S. does its business, as you know, Wolf, in Tehran through the Swiss government.

No indications yet that the Swiss are going to get access to this young man. So he could be in some trouble right now.

BLITZER: He certainly could be.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

The president's chief of staff is leaving, just as a new book is out revealing details of tensions inside the West Wing involving the first lady, Michelle Obama. We're going to take a closer look at the first lady's role behind-the-scenes.

And Rick Santorum says he is ready for a rematch with Mitt Romney.

But is he capitalizing on his near victory in Iowa?

We're covering the countdown to the New Hampshire primary tomorrow.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just as many predicted would happen, a civil war is now threatening to engulf Iraq. Just today, a car bomb attack in Baghdad killed at least 12 people, wounded more than 50 others. The bomb targeted a Shiite mosque in a market. A roadside bomb earlier today killed at least one Shiite pilgrim, wounded ten others.

Hundreds of people have been killed in bombings around the country in the last few weeks. All as thousands, hundreds of thousands of Shiites make their way to Karbala for a pilgrimage. These people have been the target of nearly daily attacks. The spike in violence coming during Iraq's worst political crisis since the U.S. invasion.

With U.S. military forces gone now, the Iraqi government is tied up in a political gridlock along sectarian lines. And a lot of people are worried that a civil war is just around the corner. Senator John McCain says Iraq is in the process of unraveling and could split into three different states, Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.

McCain blames the Obama administration for failing to secure a long-term troop agreement with the Iraqi government. Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry, says he supports deploying U.S. troops back into Iraq. Perry says the United States can't afford to allow Iran to come back and take over Iraq.

To put it bluntly, Iraq's problems are numerous, too numerous to count. There's the Shiite/Sunni war in politicians, the daily bombings, the power of (INAUDIBLE) when American troops withdrew, that's now being filled by everyone from al Qaeda in Iraq, to Sunni militants, to Shiite militias that are often backed by Iran.

And there's the turmoil in neighboring Syria. If the al Assad regime should fall, it could send thousands of Sunni refugees who fled to Syria with the fall of Saddam Hussein back into Iraq. It's not a pretty picture.

Here's the question. Was it wrong for the United States to just a walk away from Iraq? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

Way back when we first went in there, it was argued that Saddam Hussein, Wolf, was the only one capable of keeping a lid on the tribal violence that threatened to engulf that country, and it was predicted as soon as we left, it would start to rear itself again, and it's beginning.

BLITZER: Yes. It's sort of reminded me of when Tito left the Balkans, Yugoslavia just crumbled into all those separate states. Saddam Hussein was a thug just like Tito, and he kept all those various groups together, but now, look, the U.S. spent nearly nine years doing the best it could. It's now up to the Iraqis, and we see what's going on, and as you point out, Jack, it's not pretty.

CAFFERTY: They got to solve their own problems, I guess.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Jack, thank you.

When we got word today that Bill Daley is leaving as White House chief of staff, we started thinking more about a new book called "The Obamas." Among other things, it reveals some tensions between the first lady Michelle Obama and some past administration officials.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. We asked her to take a closer look at the book and what's going on. What are you learning, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is the book. It's going to be out tomorrow. We were able to get an advanced copy, and from what I've been able to get through in the last few hours, overall, it really paints a picture of a transition to Washington life, the ups and downs of being in the public spotlight, raising kids under that glaring spotlight.

But, of course, there are some juicy tidbits in this book that are getting a lot of attention, specifically ones that deal with conflict between First Lady Michelle Obama and some of the president's top advisers, including the former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who has now offered an apology for one event that's described in the book.


KEILAR (voice-over): In September of 2010, two French journalists claimed that Michelle Obama told French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy living in the White House was quote "hell." White House aides move quickly to repute the story, and Bruni, through a spokesperson, said it was false.

The incident led to what is, perhaps, the most eyebrow raising assertion in a new book on the Obamas by "New York Times" reporter, Jodi Kantor. Then, White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, unloaded, cursing Michelle Obama after top Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, said the first lady was dissatisfied with the press office's response to the alleged comments.

White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said the book overhypes and sensationalizes events, but wouldn't say the account was untrue.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sometimes, that intensity leads people to raise their voices or have sharp exchanges, but, the overall picture is one of remarkable collegiality and a genuine focus.

KEILAR: Behind the scenes, administration officials and sources close to the president are pushing back firmly, stressing that Kantor didn't interview the president or Mrs. Obama for the book and hasn't talked to them since 2009. One source provided a list of errors in the book.

On NBC's "The Today Show," Cantor stood by her portrayals saying they were based on her interviews with dozens of current and former white house aides and friends of the Obamas, including Robert Gibbs, but she also said the main thrust of her reporting about the first lady was how her role in the White House has changed over time.

JODI KANTOR, NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: This is about Michelle Obama's learns and transformation as first lady, because she, at this point in narrative, is moving away from more of an emphasis on fashion and style and towards much more substantive work. She really wanted to fill her first ladihood with meaning.


KEILAR (on-camera): And just a short time ago, Robert Gibbs and Valerie Jarrett put out statements in a coordinated fashion. Gibbs is in apology saying that, "In any high-pressure work environment, there are occasional arguments and disagreements. That is certainly true in the White House." He said, "I regret speaking in anger and regret that these disagreements became so public, but those moments pail in comparison to the important issues facing our country."

And Wolf, Valerie Jarrett saying that they always worked through their disagreements and out of my mutual respect for the president. So both Garrett -- pardon me, Jarrett and Gibbs trying to show that by gones are bygones as the White House is certainly anxious to move past this, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it snowing there at the White House? It looks like you got little snow coming down.

KEILAR: It's beautiful, Wolf. I was just in the islands in Hawaii last week, and now it's snowing, sort of a rude awakening for me.

BLITZER: So nice. All right. A little snow in Washington. Good to see. All right. Thanks very much for that, Brianna Keilar.

Jon Huntsmans' daughters become internet sensations while campaigning for their dad. I'll speak to them about his chances in New Hampshire tomorrow, their popularity online.

And do Newt Gingrich's supporters have their facts straight in a blistering new ad targeting Mitt Romney's tenure at a private investment firm?


BLITZER: In New Hampshire right now, new polls suggest Jon Huntsman is making gains while Rick Santorum appears to be stalling somewhat. We're following all the last minute appeals before tomorrow's primary in the red-hot fight to be the so-called "anti- Romney candidate." Joe Johns is covering the Santorum campaign for us. What's the latest there, John?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Santorum is certainly looking better than he has in the last two or three weeks. Nonetheless, the bad news is he has not been able to capitalize on all of that momentum coming out of his big showing in the Iowa caucuses.


JOHNS (voice-over): He was all over the place when the final full day before the primary, shaking hands and taking questions, but this event in Nashua said a lot about the Santorum campaign. Nine o'clock in the morning, a crowd of about 100 people huddled together in the cold on a big soccer field, hearing Santorum explain how he's got to do things on the cheap.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We buy in bulk. We are Sam's Club and Costco folks, and that's the way we operate to try to be as efficient as we can.

JOHNS: The strain is beginning to show, aggravated by Santorum's choice of words or loss of words in that "oops" moment the other day.

SANTORUM: I don't want to make 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.

JOHNS: Santorum says he wasn't talking about Black people, and he didn't actually say the word "Black." So, I asked Santorum about that. He didn't like the question.

SANTORUM: That's just absurd. First off, I didn't say the word "Black." I got my tongue tied. You guys are making -- look at my track record. Look at what I've done for opportunity and helping people. Look at my record of employment, look at my record of working in the community. You guys -- JOHNS: Meanwhile, the thing Santorum does like to talk about right now is his populist message, reaching out to blue collar voters while attacking the president. Santorum said Mr. Obama was engaging in snobbery and hubris by wanting all American students to get a college education.

SANTORUM: I mean, imagine, the president of United States stand up and say, everybody should go to college in America. What intellectual snobbery is that?

JOHNS: Demographically at first glance, this conservative message which he ties to his Catholic faith seems like a good fit since 32 percent of the state's residents are catholic. Value's voters who are here respond to Santorum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that he is the only one with real and true character. Something that this, he stands for what this country was originally based on.

JOHNS: But New Hampshire is fiercely independent and widely seen as one of the least religious states in the country. Contrast that with the next primary state, South Carolina, which is one of the most religious. Santorum went to South Carolina over the weekend telling an audience there the presidential race will soon be on their shoulders.

SANTORUM: If South Carolina doesn't stand up and say, we want a conservative on the ticket, ladies and gentlemen, we very well may not have one.


JOHNS (on-camera): Which raises the question, why didn't Santorum just go to South Carolina and camp out there rather than trying to push the rock up the hill here in New Hampshire? Well, the answer to that is, he hasn't had a lot of money, so in order to capitalize on all the free media, he had to be here the action is -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point, Joe. Thank you.

Jon Huntsman is certainly gambling that New Hampshire will ignite his presidential bid after pretty much bypassing Iowa. Three of the most valuable assets to this campaign right now, they're joining me. We're talking about his daughters, Abby, Liddy, and Mary Anne. They're joining us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Ladies, thanks very much for coming in.

Abby, let me start with you.

If your dad comes in third after Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, is that good enough to continue?

Abby, can you hear me? ABBY HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: Sorry. It cut out a little bit. I think you were talking about coming in third. We're looking at it --

BLITZER: Yes. If he comes in third, is that good enough?

A. HUNTSMAN: We're not looking at a number specifically. We're looking at exceeding expectations. And what we're feeling on the ground here is a lot of momentum, a lot of energy. And I think you're going to see that tomorrow when we see the votes tomorrow night.

So, we're really looking at exceeding expectations, and I think that's going to happen here. We're really excited.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, let me bring in Liddy.

Is it disappointing though, to a certain degree, he's not doing better in these polls than you would have liked?

LIDDY HUNTSMAN, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: Actually, I mean, I think we've seen the last couple of days that he's actually surging in the polls. He's the only one out of the candidates that is actually rising. So, I mean, I think that's very encouraging to us. It's showing that, you know, we're going to beat expectations tomorrow and surprise New Hampshire.

BLITZER: Mary Anne, let's talk a little bit about what it's like to be out there on the campaign right now. Your dad, you see him all the time. Does he ever get discouraged? Does he show discouragement to you?

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: You know what? My dad is one of the most positive human beings I have ever met. And so, it's really nice to have the whole family together, because every night we see each other, we laugh, we tell jokes, and that sort of gets his mind off of it.

But I will tell you, Wolf, he is so energized right now. And when you're talking about polling, it's really hard to go off of polls, because there is still, I think, 40 to 50 percent of New Hampshire that's undecided. So I think that we will see a surprise come out of New Hampshire tomorrow.

BLITZER: We'll know soon enough tomorrow night.

Let me go back to you, Abby. Did you read the long article by Jim Rutenberg in "The New York Times," the front page Sunday paper yesterday about your dad?

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: I probably have heard about it. We've been campaigning full time here, so not a lot of reading goes on right now.

(LAUGHTER) BLITZER: Because I read the whole thing. And this paragraph sort of jumped out at me. Let's talk a little bit about it, because you know the people a lot better than I do. It talks about your dad's relationship with your grandfather.

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: Oh, I did read that, yes.

BLITZER: "It is one of the great incongruities of the year: that a race being run by the son of one of the richest men in the world -- the chemical magnate Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. -- could feel because of a lack of a money. People familiar with the situation have described the standoff between the two headstrong Huntsmans, one unwilling to help greatly if he is not asked, and the other unwilling to ask."

Did that paragraph seem accurate to you?

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: Not at all. Look, resources come with momentum. And what we're seeing here is momentum, and we've seen -- things can change overnight. I think we've seen that on the campaign cycle.

And in terms of my dad and grandpa, they are very best friends. They talk every single day. So people can think what they want, but what we know is they're very best friends.

And my dad, like he did in Utah, he's not going to pay his way to the White House. You know, you want support of the people. He's the people's candidate. And so I think you're going to see the resources come with momentum, and that's exactly what we're seeing on the ground.

BLITZER: You know this relationship, obviously, Mary Anne. Tell us about this relationship from your perspective between your father and your grandfather.

M. HUNTSMAN: They are very best friends. They talk every single day. My grandpa has been the biggest support to him. So, as far as that goes, I will say that they have a very strong relationship, and he has been there for us 100 percent of the time.

BLITZER: And is it true -- and I'll bring in Liddy -- is it true that he hadn't asked your grandfather for money? Is that his nature, that he wants to do it by himself?

L. HUNTSMAN: That is just the nature of my dad. You know, he is the people's candidate and he wants to earn it. He wants to earn the people's trust.

And I think that's what makes him such off different candidate, I think different than anybody else on stage, is that he wants trust from the people, which is exactly what's missing right now in Washington. So I think that's what sets him apart from anyone else up there.

BLITZER: As you guys know -- I follow all of you on your Twitter, which is @jon2012girls -- isn't that right? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

BLITZER: So I sent out to my followers -- I said, "What would you ask these three young women if you could?" Here's one question, and I'll throw it to you, Abby. "If your father was not running, who would they have voted for?"

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: Who would may parents or who would we have voted for?

BLITZER: No. Who would you have voted for if you dad wasn't running?

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: You know, I don't know that we can answer that. We know that our dad is the best for the job, so that's really the only person we're thinking about voting for right now, unless my sisters have another idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Huntsman all the way.

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: Yes, I think we're all for Huntsman even if he weren't running.

BLITZER: All right. So you're not going to tell me who you like the most out of the other candidates. Is that right?

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: You can't get us in trouble here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I'm not going to get you in trouble.

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: You're going to get us in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not the day before the primary.

BLITZER: You won't be surprised that the most commonly asked question -- and I got a lot of responses when I said, "What would you ask these three young woman?" There was a variation of these questions --

"Would any of you consider dating a Democrat?"

"I would ask them to marry me. Love them."

Dinner Friday night?"

Obviously, you've got a lot of fans out there. And all of them want to know your status.

So let's start off, Mary Anne, and we'll go down.

Tell us your status right now. Are you available to a lot of young men who are looking out there and would like to get to know you a little bit?

M. HUNTSMAN: Well, all I can say, Wolf, is that I hear that you are the best matchmaker, so maybe you can line me up with somebody.

BLITZER: Maybe I'll try. That would be lovely. M. HUNTSMAN: That's all I'll say.

BLITZER: I'd love to be able to do that.

Abby, I know you're out of the picture, right?

A. HUNTSMAN LIVINGSTON: I've been married for a little bit over a year now.

BLITZER: I knew that, and I know you're very happily married.

What about -- Liddy, go ahead.

L. HUNTSMAN: The only boy in my heart is my dog, Arthur. He's a little Maltipoo, and that's all I'm going to say.

BLITZER: Well, I'm going to try to work on that matchmaking and see what I can do.

Hey, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you work on it, Wolf.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for having us.



BLITZER: Always good to see the three Huntsman girls, as they call themselves.

Guys, thanks very much.

This note. Jon Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye, the mom of these three lovely young ladies, they will be guests tonight on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." That's for our North American viewers 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Mitt Romney touts his record as a job-creating CEO, but a new attack ad by Newt Gingrich supporters say that's not the case at all. We're finding out who's right.

And an exclusive interview with Pakistan's ousted president, that's coming up as well.


BLITZER: The battle for South Carolina getting a bit uglier. A so- called super PAC that supports Newt Gingrich launching a whopping $3.4 million ad buy there. The goal, to attack Romney's record on creating jobs when he was a CEO of Bain Capital.

Mary Snow is taking a closer look -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Mitt Romney touts his private sector experience as a main reason why he should be president. A pro-Gingrich super PAC is using Romney's business days to make the case that he shouldn't be president. The numbers provide mixed results.


SNOW (voice-over): This is the latest salvo fired by a pro-Gingrich super PAC, a video taking aim at Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital.

NARRATOR: Mitt Romney became CEO of Bain Capital the day the company was formed. His mission? To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and them guys, they don't care who I am.

SNOW: Romney was head of the private equity firm from 1984 until 1999, and his business record has been fodder for campaign attacks since he first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994. In New Hampshire, Romney responded to the latest attacks.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll find out. Free enterprise will be on trial. I thought it was going to come from the president and the Democrats, from the left. But instead, it's coming from Speaker Gingrich and apparently others.

SNOW: Because Bain Capital is privately held, it doesn't have to publicly disclose its financials. But "The Wall Street Journal" looked at 77 businesses Bain invested in while Romney led the firm, finding mixed results. Twenty-two percent of those companies either filed for bankruptcy or closed eight years after the Bain investment.

For another eight percent, all the money that Bain invested was lost. It also found $2.5 billion in gains in those 77 deals. Those who study private equity firms say the results are complicated.

STEVEN DAVIS, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: The firms that come under control tend to have unusually large amounts of job loss and unusually large amounts of job loss and unusual amounts of new jobs created, and that makes it's easy for both critics of private equity and the advocates of private equity to cherry-pick the worst cases and the best cases, depending on the position they're trying to push forward.

SNOW: One position Romney has been trying to push forward is that of a job creator.

ROMNEY: The fact that if you take all of the businesses that we invested in over our many years, over 100 different businesses, collectively, they net-net added over 100,000 new jobs.

SNOW: That's a claim that's come under scrutiny. When we asked the campaign for the numbers behind that calculation, they provided job gains to the present for Staples, the Sports Authority and Domino's, exceeding 100,000. questions the math. DAN PRIMACK, SR. EDITOR, FORTUNE.COM: He doesn't actually have the number of jobs that were lost under his tenure at Bain Capital or total jobs created, because Bain didn't keep track. So, of him to say it was 100,000 net, what's the addition and subtraction that he's using?


SNOW: And Wolf, Romney was asked about that 100,000 number at Saturday night's debate and whether it included jobs created and jobs lost. He insisted that he was a good enough numbers guy, in his words, to get both sides of the equation. Still questions though about that math -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure there will be. All right. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.



BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Was it wrong for the U.S. to just walk away from Iraq?

Alexandria writes, "It was wrong for us to go there in the first place. Did we really think we could win that war? Within hours after our troops left, the place began coming apart."

Carla writes, "Oh, for heaven's sake, make up your mind. First, everyone is yelling to bring the troops home, stop the killing and the destruction of our economy that cannot afford these trivial wars. Now it's, oops, maybe we shouldn't have pull the out. We had no business there in the first place."

Jeff in Minnesota writes, "We didn't walk away. We were told to leave. Now, did the decision of the Iraqi government make sense? Probably not, but such is politics. However, when the ruling government says it's time to go, you need to go, regardless of what you might think is best."

Abbie in Indiana writes, "Just walk away? Jack, we were there for eight years. I hardly think that constitutes abandonment. Iraq should have been over years ago. We can't spend all of our money and time baby-sitting."

Pete in Georgia writes, "No. What was wrong was going in there in the first place with no more knowledge of the 5,000-year-old insane culture than the average fourth grader possesses. We have to be the most arrogant, foolish, nation of our stature ever to grace this planet."

And William writes, "The only way to prevent sectarian violence is to be in Iraq with American forces forever. The Shiites and Sunnis have been at war with each other for centuries. If we left after 100 years, the hatred would still be there."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

A heart-wrenching mystery solved. Jeanne Moos is next with one dog's amazing story.


BLITZER: It may have been the surprise of a lifetime for one fisherman when a normal day on the water turned to peril. Not for him, but for the dog paddling toward him.

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're out fishing for small sharks and mackerel off Florida's Siesta Key when you catch -- a dog? Well, he didn't actually catch the dog. The dog caught him.

RORY O'CONNOR, RESCUED DOG: He seemed to be making a beeline towards me.

MOOS: Rory O'Connor lifted the Hungarian Vizsla on to his kayak.

O'CONNOR: I usually keep a camera running just in case I catch the big one.

MOOS (on camera): But, I mean, you did catch the big one. His name is Barney.

O'CONNOR: Yes, I know. He is such a sweet dog.

MOOS (voice-over): But the story has no sweet, happy ending.

O'CONNOR: I immediately saw that he was in distress. He was shaking a lot.

MOOS: His legs were cut up. One paw was especially bad.

(on camera): Hungarian Vizslas are excellent swimmers, but this one seemed in danger of drowning. The kayaker says the dog was half a mile from shore and struggling.

(voice-over): Rory patted the dog, he rubbed the dog. But the real rub, where did he come from?

O'CONNOR: My first thought was that he had fallen off of a boat. You know, maybe he slipped off the back of a boat while the owner wasn't paying attention.

MOOS: So Rory approached the closest boat.

O'CONNOR: You didn't lose a dog, did you? He just came swimming up to me.

MOOS: But Barney's trip started as a walk. Fifty-three-year-old Donna Chen, a wife and mother of three, was jogging with Barney on Saturday afternoon, when police say this man lost control of his car as he rounded this bend.

Police say he was driving drunk and speeding away from another accident he had caused moments before. When the dog's owner was struck and killed, Barney bolted and ended up running across the key and into the gulf.

O'CONNOR: I mean, who knows what he was thinking? He was trying to get as far as away from that scene as possible, I imagine.

MOOS: When Rory landed the kayak, Barney was so scared, he wouldn't get off the boat at first. Rory's sister took the dog to a vet. The driver who allegedly killed Donna Chen, 22-year-old Blake Talman, held back tears in court as his lawyer argued for bail saying Talman would soon be a father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has a child on the way, due in about two months.

MOOS: Now he's facing charges ranging from DUI to negligent manslaughter.

Barney's injuries weren't serious. He's back with his family. He went for a walk. He went for a swim. And he ended up in a lifeboat.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: The accused driver, by the way, in this case is being held on bail pending an arraignment where he will issue a plea.

Remember, we'll be here in the CNN Election Center tomorrow night for complete coverage of the New Hampshire primary. We'll get the results as they come in. The battle ahead. Join us beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night. We'll be here in the CNN Election Center.

In the meantime, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.