Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Ron Paul; New Hampshire Holds Primary; Undecided Until the Last Minute; U.S. Rescues Iranians At Sea; Firing People: What Romney Really Said; Gingrich Slams Paul Supporters; How Do You Win Without Florida?; Are Romney's Rivals Helping Obama?; GOP Campaign Uproar Over Capitalism; Outrage Over Pardons For Killers

Aired January 10, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: It's round two of the Republican presidential fight. After months of campaigning, voting is under way in New Hampshire. We will have the first exit polling results. And in just a few hours, we will learn who will survive, who may fall by the wayside.

With Mitt Romney the clear favorite, New Hampshire may be all about the runners-up. This hour, I will speak with Ron Paul. And next hour I will go one on one with Jon Huntsman, who has bet the ranch on a strong showing in Mitt Romney's backyard.

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

The first primary of this 2012 election campaign season began at midnight in New Hampshire. Most polls close three hours from now. We will have complete coverage. Here is what we're watching for. First, Mitt Romney's margin of victory.

Final polls show him with a nearly 20-point lead. If Romney wins big, he may seem almost invincible heading into South Carolina. If he doesn't win big, he may start to look pretty beatable, at least some experts predict.

Second, in second place -- who comes in second? Jon Huntsman gambled on a good showing in New Hampshire. He has the chance to show he's a viable candidate. Ron Paul's libertarian ideas played very well among many in New Hampshire, and could help him emerge as the anti-Romney candidate.

Finally, independents can vote in this open primary, so how will they vote? They may decide the winner. What will that signal for next November? We're watching all of this unfold.

New Hampshire state officials are expecting a record turnout of a quarter million primary voters on this day. At one polling place, the candidates got caught in the crush as did some last-minute campaigning.

Let's go live to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's joining us from Manchester right now.

What's going on there, Jim? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this polling place in Manchester was the perfect backdrop for the New Hampshire primary. There were plenty of candidates and plenty of chaos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a shot at working your way closer there, Jim?

ACOSTA (voice-over): Outside this Manchester polling place it was time to play catch a candidate if you can.

(on camera): We're live on CNN right now. Do you feel like the comeback grandfather here in New Hampshire? Is that right?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, somebody said I was the comeback kid and I said at my age it's probably more correct to be the comeback grandfather. I think the contrast with Romney that will matter is the contrast on his record as governor. He raised taxes. I fought to lower taxes. He was for gun control and raised the tax on guns. I am for the Second Amendment rights. I think you will find there's a real contrast.

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's unclear whether Newt Gingrich ever found any voters at this stop. He and Mrs. Gingrich were trapped inside the media mosh pit until they made their way back on the bus.

N. GINGRICH: It was Mardi Gras, without the fun, the alcohol, and the excitement.


N. GINGRICH: It was certainly as crowded as Mardi Gras.

ACOSTA: But New Hampshire's version of Fat Tuesday wasn't over. It just got bigger when Mitt Romney and his entourage arrived on the scene.

Unfortunately for the front-runner, the protesters were ready for him. And they were all too eager to remind Romney of his comments about how he likes to fire people. As he held up a child one demonstrator asked, are you going to fire the baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to fire the baby?

ACOSTA: Jon Huntsman was also looking for some polling palooza magic, in the hopes that his "New Hampshire or bust" campaign will live to fight another day.

(on camera): New Hampshire has the knack for big, historic upsets. Is that what you're hoping for here?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have always thought that New Hampshire was the place to come, where you can upend conventional wisdom. And I think tonight conventional wisdom will be upended yet again. ACOSTA: Is this do or die for you?

HUNTSMAN: We have to do well, make no mistake about it. And we have worked this market harder than anyone else, 170 events. We have given it our heart and soul. We have done everything humanly possible.

ACOSTA: Last but not least, Ron Paul came to play, too. He defended Romney, calling the uproar over those fire people comments just politics.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And reorganization is a proper function in a free market. So I think this is just typical politics, and I think they're unfairly attacking him on that issue.


ACOSTA: The New Hampshire secretary of state is expecting a record turnout in today's primary. A big surge of moderate and independent voters could give Jon Huntsman the strong showing he's looking for, Wolf.

BLITZER: He really wants a strong second-place showing in order to show he's viable. He will have to beat Ron Paul for that. It's very close, all these polls coming in to today, for second place. Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, I will be speaking with both of them live, this hour and next hour, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But the latest indications you're getting is that Jon Huntsman is getting a little bit of a surge over the past couple days?

ACOSTA: That's right. You can just look at the crowd outside this polling place today, Wolf. There were as many Huntsman signs at some points as Mitt Romney signs. And he's obviously the front-runner here.

As you heard Jon Huntsman say in that quick interview that we had with him, he really is counting on something big happening in New Hampshire, for New Hampshire to really go back to its history of producing historic upset victories. He says if he gets that, he's going to keep fighting. But as you heard him in that interview, Wolf, if he doesn't have a strong showing here, it sounds like he will drop out of this race.

BLITZER: It's a huge battle for second place right now.

Jim Acosta in Manchester, thanks very much.

Let's bring in John King right now. He is at the magic wall for us.

John, the demographics of this state are intriguing from anyone's perspective.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Intriguing and the potential opening for Jon Huntsman. Let's be honest. He had hoped to do win Iowa. He had hoped Iowa would weaken Mitt Romney, as it did four years ago, and he would have an opening to win.

That looks unlikely because Iowa did not weaken Mitt Romney. But as you look at the state right now, this will fill in live tonight as the results come in. I want to go back to 2008 just to help illustrate the point. I want to bring this up a little bit. I want to show you the southern part of the state. Most of the population in New Hampshire is from Manchester down.

You see the dark red down here? That's Mitt Romney back in 2008. John McCain is the lighter red there. Nashua, right here, down here in the southern part of the state, a lot of transplants from Massachusetts. That's Romney country. They move up here for the lower tax environment, a lot of undeclared voters down here -- 40 percent of the voters in New Hampshire, the most interesting demographic, look, this is a largely white state like Iowa. Not that many evangelical Christians, unlike Iowa, but it has 40 percent of the voters are registered as undeclared.

They can all come to play today -- 37 percent of the electorate four years ago were those undeclared voters. They went for John McCain. Look what happens down here. Mitt Romney has to run it up big down here. If Jon Huntsman is performing well down in the southern part of the state, that would be a good sign, because you had a lot of people who were Democrats and moved up from Massachusetts and are now undeclared.

If they're coming into the primaries, this would be a place to look for the Huntsman factor. The attacks on Mitt Romney over Bain Capital in the Manchester area right in here -- we need to turn this part off and come in here. This in here, gritty, blue-collar communities. The attacks on Bain Capital, is he heartless, is he greedy, they just started in the last 24 hours, if they have an impact, you will see it in the blue-collar communities right in this area here.

Where else do you look for in New Hampshire tonight? I want to come over here, and again we're still on the 2008 map here. This is Hanover, a largely Democratic area of the state, but college campus. Dartmouth is right there. If Ron Paul is doing well on the college campuses, as he did in Iowa, he could have an impact out here.

You see these two orange spots, the two counties in New Hampshire carried by Mike Huckabee four years ago? That is the question. Can Rick Santorum carry the Iowa momentum over into New Hampshire? He's campaigned here, Santorum has, more as a blue-collar economics messenger than a Christian conservative, but let's see if Rick Santorum can match up the magic.

Let's just come back to 2012 map as we close here, again, a huge night for Huntsman. He has to have a strong second place. Coming in third doesn't mean he will get out of the race, but will be very disappointing.

The biggest question tonight in terms of long-term prospects, can Newt Gingrich continue to come in at the bottom of the pack and make the case that he's a stronger potential nominee as Mitt Romney? One more back in time. Governor Romney had 32 percent last time, four years ago, and John McCain won with 37 percent. Just about every smart Republican strategist tells you Romney not only has to outperform the 32 percent, he better be in the 37 closer to the 40 percent range to be able to call what we expect to be his win tonight convincing.

I say expect to be. All the polls show Romney is going to win. Every expectation is Romney is going to win. But New Hampshire, ask Barack Obama four years ago, sometimes surprises us on election night.

BLITZER: Exit polls had Barack Obama winning in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton surprised a lot of folks when she actually won, according to the official ballot count.

John will be with us of course throughout the night. We will see how long we go, John. Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John King has those maps down, doesn't he?

BLITZER: He certainly does.


BLITZER: Push those little buttons and makes miracles work.


CAFFERTY: Very compelling stuff.

"Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican."

That was President Reagan's 11th commandment and the mantra for the Republican Party. These days, not so much.

For a while there, Newt Gingrich was all about running a positive campaign. Remember, back in Iowa, he called on his supporters to stay positive and avoid attacking fellow Republican candidates.

The former House speaker said he would refrain from such attacks so the eventual nominee could emerge from the primaries to face President Obama "unbloodied." The plan was to devote his, Gingrich's energies to "real issues," like the economy and unemployment.

That lofty rhetoric matched his onetime lofty standings in the polls. When his numbers started to drop, so did Newt Gingrich's civility. Eventually, Gingrich imploded in Iowa and finished a distant fourth in the caucuses.

Flash ahead to New Hampshire, and guess what? The old Newt is back, snarky and snarly as ever, spewing personal attacks on an almost basis.

Gingrich has called Romney a "liar," said he's full of "pious baloney."

He's described Romney as unconservative and "a relatively timid Massachusetts moderate."

It's the same old story with these guys. They all say going negative is not their first preference. Newt says he needs to defend himself, but at what cost to the party? Pat Buchanan writes that the "bad blood" between several of the Republican candidates could wind up damaging the eventual nominee. He likens the Republican primary process to a circular firing squad.

Buchanan is suggesting the candidates' attacking each others' character could play right into the Democrats' hands -- quote -- "Such wounds take time to heal. Some never do, and some will not be closed before the Republican convention" -- unquote.

So here's the question: What happened to Newt Gingrich's promise to take the high road?

Go to, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Politics is a tough business, as you know, Jack. And you get hit, you are going to get hit right back. I think that's...


CAFFERTY: Well, then don't tell me up front you're going to be a nice guy. Just tell me up front the minute you throw a punch at me, I'm coming at you with knives in each hand. Don't give me the crap in the beginning about, I'm going to run a high road campaign, I'm going to be honorable, I'm going to do the right thing. Don't lie to me.

BLITZER: OK. Fair enough.

Jack, thank you.

Two of the candidates are standing by to join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM on this important primary day. Ron Paul, he is up next. I will ask him about the attacks on Mitt Romney for his venture capitalist past. Will Ron Paul condemn them or not?

And coming up in our next hour, Jon Huntsman, he will join me live. He has banked everything on New Hampshire. Will his gamble pay off?


BLITZER: Some New Hampshire voters are still making up their minds as they walk into the polls places today. And those undecided voters could make all the difference.

CNN's Dan Lothian is joining us from Manchester in New Hampshire right now

What's going on over there, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, some of the voters here said they really struggled with nailing down their choice. Yes, they did get a chance to meet some of the candidates. They watched a lot of the debates, but even after months of these candidates campaigning very hard here in the Granite State, some of the voters told us that they only made up their minds in the last week, the last day or the last minute.


LOTHIAN (voice-over); At the hottest polling place in Manchester, New Hampshire, the candidates made one final pitch -- amid a crush of cops, supporters and the media.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have also thought that New Hampshire was the place to come.

LOTHIAN: And walking the gauntlet was first time voter, 19- year-old Melissa Rose (ph) and her mother Donna, both still trying to find clear skies in what has been a murky political process.

(on camera): It doesn't seem like there was a lot of love involved in this process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There wasn't, really. There wasn't a lot of love.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): She finally settled on a choice yesterday, but Melissa walked in still undecided.

(on camera): So you're going to decide when you walk in and pull that curtain.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): And nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shaking my hand as I was trying to write.

LOTHIAN: Inside ward 1 as voters streamed in to pick their candidate, moderator Diane Beaten (ph) saw signs of uncertainty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even as they're walking up, they're going, I still don't know who I'm going to vote for.

LOTHIAN: Some voters blamed the indecision on the Republican field that they say failed to inspire them in a convincing way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mitt Romney had a best chance against Obama. However, I agree more with Ron Paul and where he stands on the issues.

LOTHIAN: Back of the voting booth, Donna Rose was in and out quickly. Her daughter Melissa stayed behind the curtain for almost a minute and a half, finally emerging from her first voting experience, no longer undecided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ended up voting for Ron Paul.

LOTHIAN: Her mother declined to say who she voted for, but seemed convinced her choice was the right one.

(on camera): Will your candidate who you voted for, your mystery candidate, be able to beat President Obama?



LOTHIAN: Well, just another example of how fluid the situation was right up to the last minute. This morning, Jon Huntsman and his wife were at a local diner. They ran into a couple undecided voters. Mrs. Huntsman made the hard sales pitch, and the voters said they would vote for her husband.

So, Wolf, a lot of voters there trite down to the wire still trying to decide who to vote for.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, historically the last person, an undecided voter, hears from usually has the good shot of getting that vote. I suspect that's what's going on right now. Dan Lothian, thanks very much.

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

The stroke of midnight brought the traditional first votes in New Hampshire, in a small down of Dixville Notch. Four independents, three Republicans, two Democrats cast their ballots. And the results, a tie between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, with two votes each, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are tied with second, with one vote each. The other three votes went to President Obama.

Newt Gingrich's wife says his campaign has been an emotional experience for her. Here Callista Gingrich with her husband in New Hampshire earlier today.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's it like traveling with Callista?


N. GINGRICH: It's extraordinary, like everything else hanging out with her.

C. GINGRICH: We have a lot of fun together.

N. GINGRICH: In fact, if she wasn't with me, who would fix my hair in the morning?


C. GINGRICH: This has been a tremendous experience, and, you know, just getting to know people across the country. I loved being in Iowa, back in the Midwest. I grew up there. New Hampshire has been great and now I'm --

N. GINGRICH: She was very sentimental last night.


N. GINGRICH: I think she had gotten back to the sort of Iowa rhythm.

C. GINGRICH: I got a little teary. It's all been a fabulous experience.


BLITZER: Her story has inspired people across the U.S. and beyond. Now, the wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is getting her own comic book. The new edition of Female Force tells Giffords' store from her starred as a Tucson businesswoman to her remarkable comeback from an assassination attempt one year ago.

The comic series has also profiled the likes of Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin.

For complete political coverage, be sure to go to, for the place to go.

They sound like Democratic talking points, but it's Republicans attacking Mitt Romney for his past business deals.


GINGRICH: Is capitalism about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money?


BLITZER: We'll go inside the surprise debate now dominating much of the Republican race for the White House. We'll talk about that and much mower in our strategy session. Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, they're both will be standing by live.

But up next, Ron Paul, the presidential candidate, I'll talk to him about the attacks on Mitt Romney for his venture capitalist past. What's going on? Will Ron Paul condemn him like several other Republican candidates?

Stand by.


BLITZER: Coming up shortly, my live interview with Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate. Stand by for that.

In the meantime, let's check in with Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including another American rescue of Iranians at sea.

What happened here, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Well, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued six Iranians in the Persian Gulf after their small merchant vessel apparently flooded. The Americans responded to flares and flashlights from the boat. They treated one for injuries and gave them all water, blankets and food.

Just last week, the U.S. Navy rescued Iranian sailors whose ship was taken over by Somali pirates.

And a court ruling today means pregnant women in Texas who want an abortion may be required to have an ultra-sound first. A three- judge federal panel overturned a lower court's order that blocked key parts of the legislation, meaning Texas can enforce the law while the court battle continues. The law requires a woman seeking an abortion to look at the picture of embryo or fetus and hear a description of its development before having the procedure.

And the family of a Florida A&M student who died after being beaten on the bus announced today they will sue the bus company for negligence and wrongful death. Robert Champion died in November from trauma he suffered as part of an alleged band hazing rituals. Relatives believe the fact that Champion was gay may have been one of many factors leading him to be beaten more severely than others.

A family attorney says his death was not a hate crime, but a hazing crime.

And an oil tanker and its Coast Guard escort are within 100 miles of their destination to Nome, Alaska. The tanker is carrying more than a million gallons of fuel for the ice-bound city. The Coast Guard cutter has broken through ice ridges as high as four feet. There's no way to way to deliver fuel by land to Nome where gas sells for almost $6 a gallon.

And the markets are up for a good year. The Dow and S&P closed at the highest levels since July. Financial stocks led the way as the Dow gained nearly 70 points and the S&P was up nearly 1 percent. Investors reacted to optimism about Europe's debt crisis, as well as a decent start to quarterly corporate earnings report -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good news on Wall Street. All right. Lisa, thank you.

Up next, we're going to go inside the surprise debate now dominating the Republican race for the White House in our strategy session. Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin, they are standing by in New Hampshire. Also, we're standing by to speak live with Ron Paul.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now on the surprise debate all of a sudden over capitalism unfolding in New Hampshire. The Republican presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, is joining us now live from New Hampshire.

Congressman, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: And I want to play the clip, the full context of what Mitt Romney said yesterday, that's causing some of your Republican colleagues out there to condemn him for what he said. I'll play the whole thing and then you and I will discuss.

Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services for me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, I'm going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.


BLITZER: All right. Several of your Republican counterparts on the presidential campaign trail have condemned him for saying he wants to fire people, but you're stopping short of that. Give us your perspective on what's going on here.

PAUL: Well, if the other candidates that are criticizing Mitt are serious, then they don't have the vaguest idea about the market, because he's talking about is the market.

If they do have an understanding of the market, they're just politically demagoguing this to try to get a political point, but to pick and choose your consumers and your customers, that's the basis of the free market.

Also to condemn him for restructuring and making some money, if somebody restructures and doesn't get any money from the government, doesn't commit fraud, restructuring is a very important part of the free market.

This is how you cleanse the system. This is how you clean up a corporation. If you don't restructure when they're on the ropes, everybody loses. As a matter of fact, that principle ought to be applied to the federal government.

That's what I've been trying to do, do a lot of restructuring at the federal government and get rid of all the wasteful departments and the wasteful spending.

BLITZER: If you don't -- and I totally understand what you're saying. You obviously don't want to criticize Mitt Romney on the issue of when he was CEO of Bain Capital. He was involved in capitalism, if you will. Where do you have your biggest problem, though, with Mitt Romney?

PAUL: Well, I think it's been not knowing exactly where he stood in the past. I mean, he's flip-flopped. I mean, he said different positions on quite a few things. Of course, the single mandate that he had in Massachusetts, that worries me a bit.

And he's supported TAPR bailouts and he's pretty supportive of the monetary system, which is friendly to banks. Those are the areas, and of course we have strong disagreements on foreign policy.

So, yes, we have our disagreements. But in this case, I just think that it was undermining some basic free market principles that annoyed me a little bit. That's why the made those comments.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich really launched the broad side against you today in New Hampshire. I don't know if you heard it, but I'm going to play it. A lot of our viewers probably did not. Here's what he said about you and your supporters.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're young, enthusiastic, and at some point, you know, people will figure out this is actually the legalized drug group, and once that becomes clear enough, I think you'll see Ron Paul support shrink rather than (inaudible).

You know, Paul has two great driving groups. Don't worry about Iran's nuclear weapons and you know, legalized drugs. Each of those ultimately shrinks his appeal.


BLITZER: Do you want to respond to the former speaker?

PAUL: Yes. I guess he's worried, because his appeal isn't quite as good as our appeal because we're talking about freedom, freedom of choice, freedom across the board, individual liberty and economic liberty, and a foreign policy that makes sense.

But when he says I don't care about the Iranians, that's nonsense. I'm just trying to avoid another war. But to say I don't care about them getting nuclear weapons, that's complete nonsense.

So, yes, I think he's struggling and probably pretty desperate, so he's saying those kinds of things. But when he talks about the supporters, that gets a little annoying. I don't like him to attack my supporters.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of them. I don't know why he would want to annoy supporters if he wants to be a Republican candidate. So he's attacking a lot of people by saying supporters do this and that.

The one thing is they believe in freedom. I'm not so sure that Newt clearly understands what that is all about.

BLITZER: Is he right, though, when he says a lot of supporters support you because of legalizing drugs?

PAUL: No, I think he's wrong on that. I think there are some, but legalizing freedom of choice. This is sort of like saying if they support me because I believe in the first amendment of legalizing freedom of choice and religion.

That means that -- and they know I wouldn't interfere, that means Ron Paul is legalizing atheism. Because you legalize something, you don't endorse it. That's something a lot of people have no understanding on. Legalizing freedom of choice doesn't mean you endorse the choices people make, whether it's personal or religious or economic.

The way people spend money. This is why -- this whole idea of liberty that I talk about is so important, and it allows people to make choices on economic choices as well as personal choices. This is what the young people really like.

Because they might want to make a choice, go off and gamble, do something else, they have to assume their own responsibility for themselves. If we allow people to pick their own religion and their own intellectual pursued, I argue the case, why is it that people don't have enough brains to make their own choice being their own body?

I mean, today you can hardly pick up any food without getting permission from the federal government to tell what's in it or not in it. We depend on the government to take care of us, yet we allow a lot of freedom of choice when it comes to intellectual matters and when it comes to religious matters so why the obsession with telling everybody what they can do and not do.

As far as people say they support me mainly because they want to legalize drugs. As a matter of fact that is not exactly my position. I just want to get rid of the federal drug war. That's the disaster.

Trillions of dollars of expenditures and the prisons are full with non-violent people and if you want to regulate drugs like alcohol, that is fine, that would be up to the state.

That's quite a bit different than him demagoguing saying everybody wants to legalize drugs and that's why they support Ron Paul. He's completely off base on that.

BLITZER: Explain, Congressman, will you campaign aggressively in Florida, or are you effectively going to bypass Florida and move on to some of the caucus states that are going to be taking place in February?

PAUL: Well, at the time moment we're going to move to the caucus states. We've been a little concerned. Of course, we get a lot of money in, about you we spend it. That's why we've been doing well in Iowa and we expect to do well here tonight.

So it's hard to commit to, you know, a candidate -- our lead candidate gets a lot of money from Goldman Sachs. He's going to have a lot of money to run a campaign, winner take all. There's a bit of logic to this.

Besides, they gave up half their delegates, but that doesn't mean we won't doing anything, and we'll weigh this as time goes on. I'll be in South Carolina tomorrow and we'll see how we do tonight and see how we do in South Carolina. Who knows what will come about? I'm always amazed how much money the supporters send. So much is spontaneous, but still even with their generosity.

It's hard to compete in a state like Florida in advertising when you need $50 million or $60 million in the bank all the time. So we have to use strategy and going to the caucus and going to the states where you get a proportionate share, why not use common sense rather than going and spending money that might not bear fruit.

BLITZER: One final question, we're out of time. Do you think you'll come in second tonight?

PAUL: I do. I really expect to, but, you know, a real, real close third I guess is conceivable, but I think the polls are holding up, and we're pretty optimistic about tonight.

BLITZER: Good luck, Congressman. Always good to have you back here on the program.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLITZER: So will the attacks on Mitt Romney's business experience from some of his fellow Republicans help Barack Obama win re-election? Jessica Yellin standing by. Also our "Strategy Session."

And just minutes from now, the first exit polls in New Hampshire. What's on the minds of voters, as they cast their ballots?


BLITZER: Mitt Romney's Republican rivals have been slamming him, at least some relentlessly, for his background as a financier. They accuse him for getting rich by gutting companies and laying off workers, but are they giving the Democrats valuable ammunition in the process?

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is looking into this part of the story for us. Jessica, what are you finding out?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Democrats are trying to brand Mitt Romney early as a Wall Street jobs killer, but in doing that they run the risk of being branded by the opposition as anti-business.

Well, now they're getting help from an unlikely quarter, the other Republican candidates.


YELLIN (voice-over): Pretend Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee. Could you hear President Obama say this?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.

YELLIN: Or this?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of others and walk off with the money?

YELLIN: Top Democrats expect to run against Romney. For months have been trying to define them as a fat cat who, well, Gingrich says it best --

GINGRICH: I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods and leaving behind a factory that should be there.

YELLIN: It almost seems Republicans stole Democrats' talking points on Romney's old company Bain Capital. Here's David Axelrod Sunday on ABC.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA 2012: They closed down more than 1,000 plants, stores and offices. They outsourced tens of thousands of jobs.

YELLIN: And here's Rick Perry today.

RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will suggest they're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. Then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

YELLIN: Romney tweeted his fellow Republicans for adopting the Democrats line, but says, he can take it.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought it was going to come from the president and the Democrats on the left, but instead it's coming from Speaker Gingrich and apparently others. You know, that's just part of the process. I'm not worried about that.


YELLIN: Now Wolf, today Newt Gingrich came until attack by both Rush Limbaugh and the "Club For Growth" for his assault on Mitt Romney and his business background. Gingrich defended his attacks, saying in part he's defending himself from Romney's attacks and, quote, "he's for free markets, but against rich guys looting companies."

Now I should also add that he says these attacks against Mitt Romney's line saying he likes firing people aren't fair, because that was taken out of context -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica is at the White House for us. Thank you.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session right now." Our CNN political contributors are joining us, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. They're joining us from New Hampshire.

Mary, this tough talk on Mitt Romney, it sounds like it could come from Democrats, but it's coming from Republicans. How does that make you feel?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It has come from Democrats and Mitt Romney's right, and it's good practice for him. But for the Republicans to be doing is philosophically incoherent, intellectually dishonest.

I think it's shameful, other than Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul, they've been shameful on it. On the issue of firing people, if we don't have choice and competition, we don't have the kind of insurance that we've come to enjoy in this country.

That was 100 percent right. He's not an evil man looting companies. He saved companies and created jobs. I'm saying this as an unaffiliated person, but in philosophical incoherence and intellectual dishonesty will be a shame for some of these candidates to wear going forward.

BLITZER: It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Donna, it's not amazing that the Democrats are going after Mitt Romney, taking that one comment about liking to fire people totally out of context from what he said.

We played the whole clip about insurance companies, if they're not doing the job, consumers have the right to fire those insurance companies, but look at the DNC.

They have already come up with an ad just taking that one clip. I want to press you, you'll tell me the truth how you feel about it.


ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The good news is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fired, you're fired, you're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're fired. ROMNEY: I know why jobs and why they go.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to need your key card.

ROMNEY: I know how jobs are created and how jobs are lost.





ROMNEY: I understand how jobs come and how jobs go.


ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people.


BLITZER: You see how they took that one line. Are you comfortable with using that snippet out of its full context, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, when Mitt Romney's campaign ran that ad a couple weeks ago, taking something President Obama said out of context, the Democrats were all up in arms. I said, you know what, this is the modern political world.

Look, Mitt Romney is running as a person who has created jobs. He's touted his private sector experience. He's contrasted it with Washington insiders, so there's no question that the Republicans, as well as the Democrats, should question his validity in terms of job creation.

He has a record at Bain Capital. We're going to use that record against him. We're going to look under the hood and kick the tires to see if it's factual or not. I don't think there's any foul play here, especially when the candidate himself said some of the things you just played.

BLITZER: Donna, if you had an insurance company that you were totally unsatisfied with not doing a good job for you, wouldn't you want to fire them?

BRAZILE: Wolf, let me say this. This is a presidential campaign. Mitt Romney has said some things that clearly it's coming back to bite him. He said things on choice, on gay marriage. You know, I keep telling people, I mean what Mitt Romney are we talking about? The '94, the Mitt Romney that ran for governor or Mitt Romney that ran for president in 2008 or the Mitt Romney today. So there are a lot of things out there on Mitt Romney.

He has a huge playbook that the Democrats will likely use against him. The Republicans decided that the coronation is over with. We're going to question his record on job creation.

We're going to credit his background in the private sector. It's fair play on the Republican side. It will be fair play if he becomes the nominee and President Obama has to run against him.

BLITZER: Mary, are you ready to ask the Republican National Committee, whoever gets the nomination to promise they won't take any of President Obama's comments totally out of context?

MATALIN: No. Wolf, that's a completely separate issue. These spots -- people are -- voters are increasingly impatient with this. They're smart enough. They can figure it out. What I would like the national party to do is to demand some philosophical coherence to why we are conservative, to not vilify capitalism.

I would like some of these candidates to talk about there can be no free markets or capital markets without virtue, without morality, and that's the evidence of our philosophy. So to do the dirty work of the Democrats by Republicans is offensive to me.

All this campaign stuff, looking at his record, all that is legitimate, goofy spots, it isn't being -- but we have to stay true to why we are conservatives. And the policy that is flow from it that will beat this president, because that's where the country is.

BRAZILE: The Republicans will have a difficult time painting President Obama -- painting a President who's cut taxes for small businesses being anti-business, when he's trying to give the incentives to create the kind of jobs we need to grow or economy.

BLITZER: It's one of the reasons why so many people are cynical and hate politicians, because both sides, they totally distort the other side, and that's just the nature of the business and politicians go ahead and keep on doing it, but we can discuss that philosophy on another occasion.

BRAZILE: And the media also plays the back and forth, and there are so many reasons why we know that the public is turned off from both make political parties, but the media has played a large role in that as well.

BLITZER: That's why there are so many, 40 percent of those voting in New Hampshire are calling themselves independents, because they don't want to be identified with the Republicans. They don't want to be identified with the Democrats. They want to be independent.

Guys, thanks very much. Donna and Mary will be with us throughout the night. Jack Cafferty is asking what happened to Newt Gingrich's promise to take the high road. Your e-mail coming up. And in just a few minutes, what voters were thinking when they actually went in to cast the ballots. Our first exit polls, coming up from New Hampshire that's coming up.


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

CAFFERTY: Question this hour is whatever happened to Newt Gingrich's promise to take the high road.

David in Missouri writes, "Old Washington Newt is not the future of this country. He lost his luster a long time ago, through no fault but his own. Newt takes the high road, the low road, any road to get where he imagines he wants to go."

Ralph in Florida writes, "It goes against his nature. Newt Gingrich is strictly a low-road kind of guy." Curtis in Philadelphia, "I don't know, Jack, what happened to Newt's promise to love, honor and obey his first wife and his second wife. That's right, promises are made to be broken."

Terry writes, "I'm going to defend Newt Gingrich say that staying positive only works if everyone is doing it. It's like nuclear disarmament. If everyone gets rid of their weapons, it works wonderfully."

Craig on Facebook wrote, "Much like the promises of all politicians, it went away when it was no longer convenient." Tom in Texas says, "Zebras don't change their stripes same with politicians. New leaf Newt is obviously from the same toxic tree. Is anyone surprised? He's been that way all his life. Rarely is there a stage at change in someone's character after about the age of 30."

Tom in New York wrote, "Newt, the bull, Gingrich cashed a political reality check in his own China shop. Anyone who knows anything about politics knew that wasn't going to happen."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. Eye-popping pardons. A governor uses his last days in office to set convicted murderers free and families of the victims are outraged.

Coming up in our next hour, the first exit poll results from New Hampshire, giving us our first snapshot of this critical contest.


BLITZER: Convicted killers set free by a conservative governor in his final days in office. CNN's Martin Savidge has details of the uproar in Mississippi -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was the pardoning of four convicted murderers yesterday by Governor Haley Barber that sparked outrage and anger by many in Mississippi, especially victims' families.

Now we've learned that may have been the tip of the iceberg that state officials are working on an additional 200-plus pardons that were executed or signed off on by Governor Barber before he left office today. Why did he do it?

We may never really know. The former governor doesn't have to explain himself. There's no way to go through the details of those that have been pardoned, but of the four murderers, there was one case in particular that was definitely egregious.

And that was the case of David Gatling, who in 1993, broke into his estranged wife's home, shot her in the head while holding a 2- month-old baby, and shot another person there, a friend of hers, and left them for dead.

The mother of the victim is absolutely shattered by this information. Listen to what she had to say.


BETTY ELLIS, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Is Governor Barber going to pardon us for our aches, pains and hard ache that we have to suffer? Is he going to pardon a child that had to grow up without a mother? Is he going to pardon me from never being able to feel her arms around my neck again?


SAVIDGE: For victims' families all they got was a phone call, a heads-up this person was going to be released from prison. There is no recourse. There is nothing they can do. The pardons are final -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Martin Savidge, thank you.

A deadly explosion in a crowded marketplace, Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some other of the top stores in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, at least 35 people are reported dead in the attack in northwest Pakistan and more than 60 wounded. It happened in the country's volatile tribal region.

Officials there say a bomb was placed in a vehicle belonging to a local militia fighting militants in the area. The initial investigation shows the bomb was detonated by remote control.

Military officials in Pakistan say they're going to raise the house where Osama Bin Laden spent his final years. They plan to invite global news media to witness what they call a big event.

The house is first being pummelled by rocket-propelled grenades and then bulldozed. They say they want to prevent the home from becoming a shrine to Bin Laden who was killed by U.S. forces last May -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.