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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Western Journalist Killed in Syria; Controversial Pardons in Mississippi; Republican Enthusiasm?
Aired January 11, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. It is 10:00 on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight with breaking news from Mississippi, where a judge has issued a temporary injunction just earlier this evening that's going to keep pardoned prisoners behind bars, at least for now. That's in response to a move by outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour that's outraged crime victims and their families, hundreds of convicted criminals, from shoplifters to rapists and murderers, granted pardons.
Now, in his last days in office, Barbour approved full pardons for 199 people, including 14 convicted murderers.
Barbour declined our invitation to be on the program tonight, but Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood will be on tonight. He went back to court to block some of those pardons tonight.
He says they're a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement. He will join me, along with Jeff Toobin.
First, though, four of the convicted murderers who received full pardons were released on Sunday, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. And one link between them is that, as inmates, they all worked at the governor's Mansion on a type of work release program.
One of those men is named David Gatlin. That's him there. The shooting victim he left behind and the family of the victim who didn't live to tell the story are, in a word, scared.
Martin Savidge has that part of the story tonight. He joins me live -- Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's been a very chaotic last couple of hours as the legal wrangling has been under way to try to at least bring to a halt in some way the pardon process that of course was brought about as a result of former Governor Haley Barbour.
And as you point out, there has been success tonight on the part of the Mississippi attorney general. they have got that temporary injunction. What that means is that those that are still in prison, about 21 prisoners, that have not been released, they'll stay in prison. As for those murderers, they are out, but they are ordered now that they're going to have to report to the Department of Corrections on a daily basis. But right now, they are still essentially free.
And what that means for the families of the victims, they're not going to sleep until those men are back behind bars.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): I went for a strange drive with Randy Walker.
(On camera): You're feeling the butterflies.
RANDY WALKER, VICTIM: A little bit. I don't know why.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): We ended up at a trailer park.
(On camera): So how does it feel to be back in the neighborhood?
WALKER: It's a little bit weird.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): That's probably because this is where he nearly died.
July 2, 1993, the same trailer park, and that's Randy on the stretcher.
WALKER: I heard the first gunshot. He had stepped up to Tammy with her holding that baby in a cradle position, and shot her with that baby's head no more than eight inches from where he shot her, I mean just real close. And he came around the edge of the bed, put the gun between my eyes, and I turned my head sideways, and instead of shooting me in the forehead, he shot me on the side so that probably saved my life.
DAVID RUTH, FIRST POLICE OFFICER ON THE SCENE: It was a very, very bloody crime scene. Two people shot in the head. Just very horrific.
TIFFANY BREWER, VICTIM'S SISTER: Got to my mom's house, and she came up to me and hugged me, and she said he killed her, Tiffany. And I knew immediately that it was David Gatlin.
SAVIDGE: David Gatlin shot his estranged wife Tammy Ellis as she held their six-week-old son in her arms. Then shot her friend, Randy Walker. Walker survived, Ellis didn't. David Ruth was the first police officer on the scene and has never forgotten what Gatlin did.
RUTH: I think he's a barbaric individual that can just senselessly cold-blooded shoot someone like that, and especially holding his child, his own child, and him leave that child laying on the floor.
SAVIDGE: But Governor Haley Barbour saw Gatlin differently. The confessed murderer worked in the Governor's Mansion and apparently impressed the governor. Barbour called him diligent and dedicated. But that's not all. Barbour also canceled Gatlin's life sentence, setting him free.
You heard right. As of early this week, David Gatlin, convicted murderer, is a free man. (On camera): A full and unconditional pardon.
SAVIDGE: Which means --
WALKER: Which means he has the same rights you have. He has the same rights I have.
SAVIDGE: Including to carry a gun.
SAVIDGE: Do you worry about David Gatlin?
SAVIDGE: I mean are you afraid of David Gatlin?
BREWER: I'm afraid that he will come after my family, Randy's family, and like Randy says, finish what he started.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): She also fears Gatlin will try to contact the son he left in his dead mother's arms, who is now 18, and the family is desperately trying to protect.
So with a simple swipe of the pen, Barbour has triggered a strange role reversal. Gatlin goes free while his victims say they are now sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in fear.
And it's not just Gatlin. Victims say they have the same fears for the dozens and dozens of violent convicted criminals Barbour turned loose in his last days, including other convicted murderers.
WALKER: How is the state of Mississippi better off? How is the country better off? Because all these guys aren't staying in Mississippi. They're going to be all over the United States.
SAVIDGE (on camera): Do you feel betrayed?
RUTH: I feel that the system worked for the victims in this family. But I feel that the governor at that time is the one that let this family down, not the system.
SAVIDGE: Governor Haley Barbour.
BREWER: In my heart I would like to think that he didn't know, because if he did, we've had a monster for a governor, you know, a nonhuman feeling person.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins me now along with him -- and from Jackson, Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood.
Attorney General, thanks for being with us. The court has just issued a temporary injunction, which you saw it, blocking the release of any of the pardoned prisoners until a hearing takes place. Is it the sheer number of pardons that you take issue with? Because other Mississippi governors have pardoned convicted murderers before.
JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: That's correct, but in this instance he didn't follow what's required by the Constitution. I just got out of the courtroom, where the court issued a temporary injunction because our Constitution expressly says that in order for a pardon to issue, the person who is applying for it has to publicize in the local paper for 30 days prior to grant of the pardon.
We have already found that that wasn't done on many. The court ordered that the 21 that are presently was being -- were being processed by the Department of Corrections, she's -- has made the Department of Corrections stop processing those until we have a hearing a week from Monday.
The five -- four murderers and one armed robber are out and they will have to report back to the Department of Corrections daily. I wish we could have gone out and arrested them, but the law wouldn't allow me to do that on those five. So we're doing the best thing that we can there. And then as far as the other pardons that he's issued, we'll have to go back through all those to see if there's any publication.
COOPER: So if there was no publication in these newspapers -- in newspapers 30 days before, do you -- and the folks are still -- are out already, haven't been -- have already been released, do you want to -- would you call for them to come back to prison?
HOOD: That's correct. They'll have to report to the court unless they can show that it was published there --
COOPER: So all their pardons would be null and void?
HOOD: Right. And they'll have to go back and serve their sentence.
You know, former Governor Barbour, he kind of ran the state and the Governor's Office like Boss Hog. I mean he didn't follow the law. This is a very simple constitutional provision, and Governor Barbour just didn't even follow it. I mean it was very clear that he had to have this information. He didn't obtain it before he signed these pardons, and that's caused, you know, a public safety issue.
These families are afraid out here, and these victims have been through a terrible amount. It's a slap in the face to all the law enforcement in the state of Mississippi. Jurors -- I was district attorney, some them he's probably cut loose. I haven't had a chance to check the list for those, my former customers that I prosecuted years ago. So you know, this is a -- this is a significant problem, but I think we're going to get a handle on it. I think the evidence we've already seen, he violated the Constitution and those many or if not most of those so-called pardons he gave will be held null and void.
COOPER: And Jeff Toobin is here with us. Jeff.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Mr. Hood, I wonder if I can just ask you a question about this provision requiring publication in a newspaper of the application for a pardon 30 days before the pardon is granted.
In your experience has this ever been done in the earlier pardons, earlier in Haley Barbour's term or in previous governors? Had this been honored, this requirement to publish news of the application for the pardon?
HOOD: Yes. I mean, there's a -- you know, when you apply, the parole board sends you a packet saying -- telling the lawyer, whomever wrote the letter for you, what you have to do. And many of them have followed it, and in fact, you know, just two years ago because of some of Governor Barbour's actions, we had to pass a legislation requiring him to give notice to the victim and an opportunity to be heard before he issued a pardon.
So we passed a law and he signed it. He completely violated that. He never even sent any information to these victims and gave them a chance to respond. So you know it's just apparently something that -- there again, I mean he's tried to rule the state like a boss hog and he didn't follow -- didn't think that the law applied to him. Certainly now we're having to clean up the mess he's made.
COOPER: Attorney General, a lot of folks may not know, you are I think the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi. Obviously Governor Barbour is Republican. Some folks -- maybe even Governor Barbour -- are going to say your -- your actions are politically motivated.
HOOD: No. There are so many upset law enforcement officers that are Republicans. This isn't a partisan issue. I mean either you followed the Constitution or you didn't. And a judge has already found that the Constitution is clear, that it appears the governor didn't follow it in many instances. And I think by the time this is over with, everyone can -- can go online to find Section 124 in Mississippi Constitution will agree.
COOPER: And Jeff, you agree. You just read the section --
TOOBIN: I have to say, I was unfamiliar with this provision. Most states, and certainly the federal government, does not have this provision. The president can pardon anyone he wants and it's been controversial. President Clinton pardoned Mark Rich at the end of his term.
TOOBIN: But this requirement, it's really very straightforward. You don't have to be a lawyer to understand it. It says no pardon can go into effect without --
COOPER: So you think this could be overturned?
TOOBIN: I think these will be overturned unless they can prove that these -- that these applications were made in the newspaper.
COOPER: Governor Barbour has just issued a statement. And I want to read you part of what it says. He says, quote, "Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody and a majority of them have been out for years. The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases."
How do you respond, Mr. Hood?
HOOD: You know, the statistics kind of excuse the situation. I am not talking about those who are ill, that we released on medical release or suspended sentences. Only ones that we're dealing with are those that got full pardons. And I think there's probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 of those -- of the 216 total that he's issued. So we're going to just deal with those on pardons.
Some may have been entitled to a pardon. I mean, they may have been grandfather done things right out there. But, you know, you still got to follow the Constitution. And he -- the governor didn't do that. He didn't get the assurance that that publication was done in the proper manner before he signed those pardons. And now you see the results from it.
COOPER: And Jeff Toobin, so for someone who -- like that man who was convicted of murdering that woman, shooting her while she was asleep, trying to shoot the other guy, is this as if that never happened now if he is pardoned?
TOOBIN: Yes, I mean that's -- that's the thing about pardons that are really so extraordinary. It really goes back to before the American Revolution. It goes back to the power of kings. It's as if he wasn't even arrested.
You know, if you're released from prison, you're still a convicted felon. You still can't vote in many states, you can't get a gun, you can't run for office. If you have a pardon, all of that is out the window. You can buy a gun tomorrow, you can do anything that someone who was never convicted of a crime. A power is a really powerful tool.
COOPER: Mr. Attorney General, I think a lot of people may not realized, there's a long history of convicted murderers working in the Governor's Mansion in Mississippi. I stayed in the Governor's Mansion under Governor Finch. My dad wrote a book about growing up in Mississippi, and I stayed in the mansion there, and at that time when I was a kid in the -- like '74 or '75, there were convicts working in the mansion.
Do you think this is just because Governor Barbour met these people, knew these people, that he felt he would make these pardons?
Attorney General Hood, can you hear me?
HOOD: I'm sorry, Anderson.
COOPER: That's OK. I'm just saying --
HOOD: There's a traffic on the street here. I did not hear what you said.
COOPER: There's a long history of convicted murderers working in the Governor's Mansion. It's part of this program. I stayed in the Governor's Mansion back in the '70s once because my dad wrote a book in Mississippi under Governor Finch.
Do you think this is just because Governor Barbour knew these guys that he decided to pardon them?
HOOD: Yes. I mean, you know, there is a history for that. But you know, you still got to follow the law and, you know, he failed to do that and do it in a proper manner. Now he had the Department of Corrections try to publish notices for those five who were recently released. The ones that worked at the mansion. But they didn't get them done in time. They began publication, one in particular on December 15, and the governor signed the pardons on January 6.
So that's not 30 days. It's out of compliance with the Constitution. It's not the convict's fault, but nevertheless, the law is the law and we're going to have to follow it.
COOPER: Attorney General Hood, we'll continue to follow it. Thank you very much.
Jeffrey Toobin, as well, thanks.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles, or follow me at Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Up next: the latest from South Carolina, which could be the last chance for the rest of, well, everybody else to stop Mitt Romney.
Also, the shadowy super PACs paying for all those attack ads -- why the government's only election watchdog can't seem to do its job on campaign ads, campaign finance, or, well, campaign anything.
And later, the brutal and mysterious death of a Western journalist in Syria. We'll talk to Nic Robertson, who was there just moments before it happened, this as Syria's dictator launches even more violence against his own people and a new campaign of lies to the world.
Let's also check in with Isha and see what she's following -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, he seemed to be falling asleep in court the other day, he couldn't stop yawning. Today Joran Van Der Sloot managed to stay awake and alert enough to enter a plea to the murder charge against him. We'll tell you about the plea and the case against him. That and much more when 360 continues.
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now on the campaign trail: the big reason the Republican primary battle especially between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney has gotten kind of nasty.
Not surprisingly it has to do with money, with a system that allows people and companies to donate unlimited dollars with very limited accountability and almost no one there to make sure they obey what few rules there are.
It's a setup that's turning the race for South Carolina into what Newt Gingrich called Armageddon. That's where all of the major candidates were today. Mitt Romney trying to make it three in a row after his victory last night in New Hampshire. He finished fourth in South Carolina in 2008 but is leading this time in the polls.
Rick Perry standing by his attacks at Governor Romney's record at Bain Capital, today calling Bain investments -- quote -- "get rich quick schemes." Newt Gingrich echoing that line and slamming Governor Romney in a new ad as someone who -- quote -- "governed to pro- abortion" and quote, "can't be trusted."
For Ron Paul, who came in second last night, this was his last day campaigning for a while. He's taking the next four days off. For the rest, it's a nonstop scramble to stop Mitt Romney.
Newt Gingrich tonight describing to Piers Morgan, as we mentioned, in biblical terms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is going to be Armageddon. I mean, they will come in here with everything they have got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack. At the same time, we're going to be basically drawing a sharp contrast between a Georgia-Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate who's pro-gun control, pro-choice, pro-tax increase, pro-liberal judge, and the voters of South Carolina have to look and decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You can see all that interviews on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Those ads that he's talking about are the kind that tore him to pieces in Iowa and were bought and paid for a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney called Restore Our Future.
According to "Wall Street Journal" Restore Our Future" has spent nearly $4.5 million on anti-Gingrich mailings and advertisements since the beginning of the election cycle. But "Keeping Them Honest," before you start feeling too sorry for Speaker Gingrich, the super PAC supporting him, Winning Our Future, hopes to spend $3.5 million in South Carolina, including this half-hour documentary entitled, "When Mitt Came to Town." It was running infomercial style on a number of local stations.
Super PACs are new things this campaign cycle. The product of a Supreme Court's ruling that allows people, corporations, labor unions, anyone really to make unlimited political donations. The super PACs and campaigns are not allowed to collaborate, but Restore Our Future is run by old friends of Mitt Romney. And Gingrich loyalists and former operatives run Winning Our Future.
And while Speaker Gingrich rails against Romney fat cat donors, his super PAC has its own sugar daddy, if you will, casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson. He's written Winning Our Future a $5 million check.
As we said, though, it is very difficult to know who's donating what. The Federal Election Commission rules require that super PACs disclose their donors either monthly or quarterly. Many have timed it so they won't have to name names until the end of the month. And by then, the race may -- well, may be close to decided.
"Keeping Them Honest," though, it gets worse when you look at the Federal Election Commission or FEC. A coalition of watchdog groups is going after it. In their words -- quote -- "The FEC is without question one of the most dysfunctional agencies in the federal government."
This from a letter of the group sent to President Obama last spring.
It goes on -- quote -- "It is unacceptable that the only agency charged with enforcing campaign financing rules on our nation's highest elected official is largely AWOL."
And here's why. It's split, three to three, Democratic, Republican, each are appointed by party leaders. That deadlock, that political deadlock has stopped a number of potential investigations recommended by the nonpartisan FEC staff from going forward. In fact, right now the standoff is preventing the FEC from even revamping the rules to take these new super PACs into account.
Now the House held hearings on the FEC dysfunction last fall, but they only lasted one day. Members only questions the six FEC commissioners, not any outside experts who might suggest ways to reform the commission. They promised more hearings. So far they haven't held any.
Joining us now to talk about all of that and the free-for-all shaping up right now in South Carolina, Republican strategist and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer. Also Democratic strategist, Obama 2012 pollster, Cornell Belcher, and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief for RedState.com. So, Erick, the rules state super PACs can't have any contact with the campaigns or with the candidates. Is there -- is there really any chance that someone like this guy Sheldon Adelson would fund a 27- minute anti-Romney film if Newt Gingrich didn't want him to do it?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, probably not. I mean, they take their queues from the candidates on the campaign trail. I really think the issue of money and politics is overwrought by a lot of people. And most of the voters in South Carolina don't care. These ads are going to come one way or the other.
I think about the only thing sillier that trying to get the money out of politics is assuming we're going to have peace in the Middle East.
COOPER: Ari, I mean, attack -- I mean, it might hurt Romney. Could it end up hurting Gingrich as well?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think the Bain attacks are definitely going to hurt Newt as well. They could also hurt Romney. There's a rally around Romney right now because attacks on Bain are seen as an attack on free enterprise, on profit and loss, the very thing that makes capitalism and job creation work. So that's the risk to Newt here.
But Anderson, I have got to remind everybody. The reason that we have these super PACs is Campaign Finance Reform. The parties used to basically be the policemen, and these things are really unheard of. They -- when the parties were in charge. They banned soft money and the money just flowed elsewhere. They flowed where? To the millionaires with the money.
COOPER: Cornell, I mean, isn't there a chance these Bain attacks are maybe coming to soon from a Democratic perspective? With all the coverage is there a chance they might be old news to voters by the time the general election hits?
CORNELL BELCHER, POLLSTER: No, because I think it reinforces a narrative that's going to happen anyway about sort of, you know, in Perry's words this vulture capitalism. So no, I think from a Democratic standpoint, you know, they can't come soon enough.
It doesn't -- it doesn't stop what we're going to do. We're still going to, you know, follow this narrative about sort of whose side Mitt Romney is on. I think it's interesting that Republicans are now sort of latching onto that populism.
And I wanted to say, if you look at a state like South Carolina where you have twice the unemployment as you have in New Hampshire, an election has a lot more down ward scale, and you have -- you know, that sort of populism strain there I think is a place where a Perry or a Newt can take advantage of. And you see a very -- a main street grassroots conservatism versus a Wall Street conservatism that says you can't question authority, you can't question the rich and powerful.
I think it's an interesting divide in the Republican Party and I think Perry and Newt are crazy like foxes to be going after it.
COOPER: Erick, are you surprised that the field is still this crowded? That basically everyone got a ticket out of New Hampshire?
ERICKSON: Yes, to a degree, I am. I actually am starting to be surprised by Jon Huntsman moving on. I'm a little bit surprised by Rick Perry staying in, although these guys all think they have an avenue.
I think what a lot of people miss, Anderson, is that this year isn't like prior presidential election seasons because the Republicans changed the calendar.
Up until about April 3, pretty much every one of the delegate races is going to be proportional. It's not until April that these become winner-take-all so someone could -- based on the calendar, -- ride this wave for a while, and try to build momentum going into March 6, Super Tuesday, where again most of them are proportional. Sixty percent of the delegates for the Republican National Convention won't be decided until after April. So a lot is up for grabs. We picked 2. 01 percent as of yesterday.
COOPER: Yes, but, Ari, I mean, to Erick's point, in South Carolina, that's really the last retail politics stop before Florida. Florida, you need big money.
FLEISCHER: And South Carolina is not even retail anymore, Anderson. This is going to be ad wars. We're now at the phase where the old-fashioned TV campaigns and they show up in the state really to get on TV. Iowa and New Hampshire are over.
Each candidate is hoping to be the last man standing because Mitt Romney is vulnerable if someone can get him one on one. I think Newt is really realistically the only one left who has even a chance and he has virtually no chance at all.
I'm shocked Jon Huntsman is staying in. Jon Huntsman to me looks like he could be dressed in a Red Sox uniform sitting in the bleachers at Yankees Stadium. That's how much he fits into South Carolina. His base is not a Republican base.
And Rick Perry is just not doing well. He's just not credible. Rick Santorum, I just don't see him having the money or the credibility. And that's why it really comes down to Newt and to Sheldon Adelson.
If that money can wound Mitt Romney, then Newt might be the last man standing, get him one on one. And as Erick points out, because of proportionate rules, this could go a long way.
But Newt has got to decide that. Newt can do tremendous damage and Newt could never win the presidency. So Newt has to make a judgment call about what does he want to get out of being in this race. Does he want to take down the likely nominee and hand the election likely to Barack Obama or stand in and make a point?
COOPER: Ari, thank you.
Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, as well, thanks.
We're following a number of stories. Isha Sesay is back with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Anderson, nearly 13,000 people were killed in Mexico by suspected drug violence in the first three quarters of 2011. That's according to new data released by the country's attorney general who said the numbers showed the rate of killings is slowing.
Joran Van Der Sloot pleaded guilty to all charges against him in the killing of a Peruvian woman and then apologized. The 24-year-old Dutchman will be sentenced Friday. He faces 30 years in prison. His lawyer has asked for a reduced sentence. U.S. Food Safety officials say they are testing all shipments of imported orange juice for traces of fungicide. Officials say they learned last month that the juice company in Brazil found low levels of fungicide in its juice. The company hasn't been identified.
And Anderson, try to wrap your head around this. An international team of astronomers has calculated that on average there's more than one planet per star in the milky way. That adds up to a grand total of about 100 billion planets in all. Their findings were published in "Nature."
COOPER: When I -- when I start to think about that, like the size of the universe, my head explodes. I just -- I cannot --
SESAY: You have such a small pretty head.
COOPER: I cannot wrap my head around it.
SESAY: No. Well, keep your head as it is.
COOPER: It's crazy.
SESAY: No. That is crazy. A hundred million?
COOPER: It really -- it will drive you insane I think to think about it.
SESAY: So let's leave it there.
COOPER: Do you -- I don't know. I was just thinking about this the other day. Really -- anyway.
SESAY: You were? Over breakfast?
SESAY: You were thinking about this?
COOPER: Yes. I was worrying about this. I was worried about the ever extending universe.
SESAY: That's what's keeping you up at night.
COOPER: Yes. All right. We'll check back with you a little bit later on, Isha.
COOPER: Just ahead, how many delegates Mitt Romney won last night and how many came out to vote, will it actually mean big turnout for the Republicans in the general election this fall? John King crunches numbers. It's the "Raw Politics."
Also ahead: inside Syrian, chaos after a deadly mortar strike in Homs, a French journalist was killed. Our own Nic Robertson was nearby. He joins me ahead.
COOPER: Raw politics now. A new numbers. CNN is now projecting that Mitt Romney took seven of New Hampshire's 12 delegates in his victory last night with 39 percent of the vote. Ron Paul picked up three, Huntsman the remaining two, leaving Gingrich with none. You need 1144 delegates for the nomination. As for the number of voters, it was a record but not by much. The question tonight, does the turnout in New Hampshire and Iowa signify success for Republican candidates this fall?
We asked John King to look at the numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there were two contests into the Republican race. One of the big debates in American politics, are the Republicans showing the necessary intensity to beat Barack Obama. Let's look at the Iowa caucuses and Republican turnout there.
If you look from 2000 to 2008 to 2012, numbers go up, but Democrats look at that compared to that and say that's not so great. If you want to beat our president, you need more excitement and more passion than that. Those are in the Iowa numbers. Republicans say we will see you in November.
Well, let's move on to New Hampshire because we are having the same conversation after last night's primary. Again, look at the statistics.
In 2000, 2008, 2012, sure, that's a new record, Republicans say. Democrats come back and say a lot of those voters were independents, a record number of independents voting in the Republican primary. They say Republicans shouldn't be proud about that number. So, where do you go next?
We go to South Carolina. Now, this will be a red state in November by all accounts, but will we see Republican intensity? The 2000 number was not matched in 2008. Turnout actually went down. What will we get in 2012? That's the question we'll answer in ten days. Among factors there, look at this. Darker the area, the higher the number in this screen of voters who say they are evangelicals. Are they excited about the possibility of a Romney nomination? Excited about the possibility of stopping him? We'll watch that vote. Another vote we will watch, this was a strong tea party state in 2010. Again, the darker the area, higher the percentage of tea party voters, will they come out. South Carolina will add to the debate about Republican intensity. But Republicans say Democrats are overstating any problem, and the reason they say that is look at this.
A new poll in Florida just today, despite all of this conversation about intensity, shows Governor Romney in one of the biggest fall battlegrounds ahead. Statistically in a dead heat with the president of the United States. And they looked at the most recent national polls.
The CBS news poll, Romney - Obama, again Romney slightly ahead. That's a dead heat. So, Republicans say this. Maybe we have room to improve. Maybe we need more passion, a little more intensity, but at this early point in the race, we think if Romney is the nominee, we would be in pretty good shape. They think if any Republican could beat him, numbers would look similar. This debate, Anderson, will continue from now until November.
COOPER: John, stick around. I want to bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. You saw what John just outlined. If Romney has able to harness anti-Obama intensity among Republican voters, will that pretty much be game over in terms of the primary?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look. It would be important for him. Intensity is what Mitt Romney has never had before. Voters in the Republican primaries and caucuses have been looking for the anti-Romney. And what we saw in New Hampshire was 61 percent of the people that voted said you know what, it would be fine with them if Mitt Romney were actually the nominee. So, if he can finally focus that intensity and get people enthusiastic about his candidacy, then I think he is on his way to getting a nomination.
COOPER: Well also, John, as long as Santorum, Gingrich and Perry are all splitting the more hard core conservative vote, Romney has got to feel pretty secure.
KING: Feels pretty secure in getting the nomination. But that still underscores the challenge of unifying the party going ahead. You know, doesn't have quite the ring to no drama Obama in the last campaign. But Romney is a no drama candidate. He likes to stay calm. He likes to things cool. He likes to be collected. You have an evangelical base. You have a tea party base that's very anti-Obama.
They want more red meat. They want more passion. They don't see it in Romney, plus they have some policy questions. So yes, a fractured field in South Carolina helps Governor Romney. If he wins there, he has prohibited favor then he has to go on, the exclamation point being Florida. But, there's a challenge of convincing those people who are not for him now to be there in November even if they have reservations, Anderson.
COOPER: Gloria, how important do you think it is for the Romney campaign to try to advance this narrative inevitability?
BORGER: Well, I don't think that's what they want to do because that really never works. Remember Hillary Clinton, there was the air of inevitability about here and that didn't work out so well.
It is generally the media that makes a candidate inevitable. We tend to talk that way. I think what they want to advance is the notion of electability. Which is that if he goes up against Barack Obama, he can beat Barack Obama, and his challenge in terms of enthusiasm is to get those people that really want to beat Barack Obama enthused about Mitt Romney, if he is the nominee, his vice presidential nominee and get them out to vote. John McCain had to pick Sarah Palin if you recall to get the base all jived up to come out and turn out at the polls.
COOPER: You mention, John, that polls show Romney doing well against Obama in Florida. We all remember the 2000 election in Florida, obviously crucial. What do the numbers tell you at this point?
KING: The numbers are more reflection on a vulnerable incumbent. Look, Barack Obama will be able to raise money. He has a great campaign team. Not having an opponent allows them to watch the Republican race now and learn valuable lessons.
But, but he will be running with unemployment somewhere in the ballpark of eight percent. As we have this conversation if it is Romney, and let's make it a capital IF, let's see what happens in South Carolina and beyond.
But if it's Romney and let's say some tea party voters and evangelicals stay home. Well, the Republicans would argue guess what, maybe African-American turnout won't be as high because it won't be a history making election. Maybe Latino turned out this down or Republicans get a slice of that vote. Maybe some liberals don't like that Gitmo is still open or don't like his record on gay rights. Maybe democratic turnout is down a little bit.
So, as we watch for intensity on the Republican side and it is an important conversation to have, there's still a huge question mark come November about intensity on the democratic side as well.
COOPER: John king, Gloria, thanks.
COOPER: Coming up, reports of two dozen more deaths in Syria, including a French journalist at a pro-government rally in Homs. There are questions about who is responsible. Our own Nic Robertson was there, we will talk to him and find out what he saw coming up next.
Also, a head to search for a missing toddler focuses now on a river in Maine.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tonight, a new sign of growing danger in Syria. The U.S. state department has ordered a number of state department employees to leave the country as soon as possible. This is opposition groups reported 24 people were killed today, including 10 in flash point city of Homs, where a pro-government rally was targeted by a mortar strike. The attack caught on video. Take a look.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
COOPER: A French journalist Gilles Jacquier was among those killed in the attack. He is the first western journalist to die in Syria's ten month old uprising. There was a rally as part of a government authorized trip. After the strike, the scene was chaos. Need to warn you, the next video is hard to watch. You are going to see the French journalist's girlfriend, also a journalist, rushing to the car where he has been moved.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
COOPER: Gilles Jacquier was a veteran war correspondent and prize winning reporter. Our own Nic Robertson was nearby at Homs when the mortar hit. He is safe tonight. Nic joins me on the phone.
Nic, you were in Homs today. You actually left the area less than ten minutes before the attacks happened. What did you see out there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): The government minders escorting us said there was a pro- government rally. They told us that they would like us to go in cover. We said no. We have seen enough government rallies, and they'd agreed and as we were driving away from that area, the exact area of the strike where the incident happened where we had been filming in the past hour, we saw Gilles and the other reporters following the small pro-government crowd as we drove away.
Less than ten minutes later, we were getting phone calls to say Gil and the others had been hit. Now, this was an area that just before had been quite busy bustling with people. But at the time, it was very close to the front line. Just a few minutes from the frontlines. We had seen wounded soldiers were in there in an ambulance a few minutes earlier, Anderson.
COOPER: Is it known who is responsible for the attacks, is that even possible to find out?
ROBERTSON: I would say at this time it is impossible to find out. The government binned us with us and very quickly blamed the opposition. They said the opposition knew that foreign journalists were going there, that's why they targeted it. Well, I can tell you a lot of journalists on the bus with me would question that assessment. It doesn't add up. And it doesn't make sense. But you may never know who fired the mortar rounds.
COOPER: Most opposition groups are desperate for journalists to come tell their story. ROBERTSON: Absolutely they are. And only yesterday, the president of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, came on the television and absolutely blamed the very same western reporters who were caught up in that attack today for being responsible for the opposition, for making the opposition bigger than they were.
He spent several minutes of two hour speech vilifying western reporters and others. Yet as you rightly say, the opposition have looked for journalists like us to come and cover them because their message for the most part is almost impossible to hear and impossible to get out. So it doesn't add up that they would be the ones killing these.
COOPER: Were you able to go, I mean, you're under tight control by the government. You were able to go to some anti-government protesters. I want to play a clip of what you saw on the streets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: The level of anger and passion here is absolutely palpable. We are just a few miles from central Damascus. This is a crowd here -- thank you. Thank you. This is a crowd of perhaps several thousand people. They are taking over this whole area. They are putting rocks in the road to prevent the police coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at him, 32 years, only because he said --
ROBERTSON: Who killed him, who is responsible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is responsible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am afraid there, when I am talking to you now. Why? Because I am going to lift this scarf and go into my home and I am not 100 percent sure that I'm going to be safe because if not today, if not tomorrow, they will arrest me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And so many have been arrested. It is amazing people were willing to talk you on camera, even while admitting they're afraid of what might happen. Even though they know you're under observation.
ROBERTSON: You can see the fear in their eyes. As they're so desperate to get their message out. They feel that they're completely cut off from any means of telling their story of what's happening to them on a daily basis. We only got into that situation because a couple of Arab league monitors went to find out details how the man was being buried in that protest, which was also a funeral, to find out details how he was killed.
I was told by one of the protesters if the monitors hadn't been there, they would have been too afraid to be out on the street. They were grabbing an opportunity, even though they knew it might cost them their freedom. And this all happened what you saw there, happened just less than 15 minutes drive from the center of Damascus. That gives you an idea of what's going on outside this capitol that at times looks fatal.
COOPER: You spoke to pro-government supporters also on the street. I want to play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This opposition is not legal.
ROBERTSON: It's not real.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Legal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not for real.
ROBERTSON: How do you mean not legal or real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: How tightly are you being controlled?
ROBERTSON: We couldn't go to Homs today, for example, without government permission. And we went on a bus that was organized by the government, and there were government minders with us. They don't interfere and stop what we do. But at the same time, we go to locations of their choosing. We wanted to go to areas where opposition was strong in Homs. They wouldn't let us do that. They said it is not that we are trying to hide it. We admit these are problem areas. But it's too dangerous.
At the same time, when we were in Damascus, we have more freedom. We were able to roam around and get to that opposition rally. But essentially the government here controls our movement and controls our time in the country.
The reason I am talking on a telephone is because they banned us from bringing into the country any live broadcast equipment. They're making it very tough for us to work. They are keeping our visas short and then extending it for a few days at a time. They're essentially what they are doing is keeping us on an incredibly short leash that you can imagine will be yanked if they feel we transgress on.
And I have already been told that the lady of administrative information that handles us is upset for some reason which is just another message of intimidation that you have to follow the government line. Of course our reporting will be independent. But that's the kind of atmosphere we work under here.
COOPER: Well Nic, stay safe. Thank you for doing what you do. Appreciate it.
Nic Robertson in Syria.
Up next, latest in the disappearance of 21-month-old Ayla Reynolds in Maine. And also, why two ships trying to bring fuel to an isolated Alaskan town are having an icy tough time getting there.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Isha Sesay with the "360 News and Business Bulletin."
An Iranian nuclear scientist is dead after a bomb was placed on his car in Tehran. Iranian officials are blaming Israel for the attack. And Israeli spokesman said he has no idea who carried out the bombing but quote "he doesn't share tear."
Divers remain in search the frigid river today for missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds. The 21-month-old girl vanished nearly a month ago. Police suspect foul play in the case. Ayla's father reporter her missing on the December 17th. Investigators say they haven't ruled out any scenario or suspect.
U.S. coast guard ice breaker and Russian field tanker are having its tough time reaching Nome, Alaska. They only covered 50 feet yesterday in the frozen bearing sea opt advancing 50 miles on Monday. The ships are carrying 1.3 million gallons of fuel for Nome which missed it three weeks of delivery due to a storm.
Hostess has filed for eleven bankruptcy protection for the second time. The company said, it will continue to make those Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and other snacks. The many in the bankruptcy world are questioning whether Hostess can survive another trip to bankruptcy court.
And Beyonce and Jay-Z's new born baby isn't wasting any time. At just 4-day-old, Blue Ivy Carter is the youngest person ever to land on the billboard chart. Had released his song about his baby girl, glory two days ago. Blue Ivy cries in crucial recording which is already number four in billboard's RnB Hip Hop chart.
And that's the latest - Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up. Me, Camille Grammer, the real housewives of Beverly Hills and her shake weight. It's a must made in ridiculist next.
COOPER: Time now for the "ridiculist." And tonight, we are adding the makers of a little product called the shake weight. That's right, the shake weight. Not since the thigh master has there been such revolution and shall we say, suggestive exercise equipment.
Let's take a walk down memory lane. Think back to the first time you saw the shake weight commercial. Perhaps you were in your living room when suddenly this came on the screen and you wondered is this for real? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a revolution. This is shake weight for men. And it's going to kick your butt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just shake it. Back and forth. There's no motor. No batteries. And you get the results you want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, I have nothing disparaging to say about the product itself, makers of the shake weight are the ones on the "ridiculist" because they had to know. They just had to know that there would be parodies. And, there have been some parodies. Here's a little bit of one from "Saturday Night Live."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know now, you seen the shake weight commercial has been inconvenient. You never know when it's going to be on. Sometimes, you only catch the very end of it. But, now, there is a convenient way to see the shake weight commercial every day. Introducing the shake weight commercial DVD. A lightweight DVD featuring the shake weight commercial three times on a loop, then some static and then nothing else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this DVD is great. First of all, you can show your friends that it's an actual commercial. That's kind of cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, I, too, have been shaken to my very core by the shake weight. The other night, I was on (inaudible) Bravo show. Watch what happens live along with Real Housewives, Camille Grammer. And as he wants to do, Andy made Camille and I play a game and here's what happened live there the final category. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Camille, anatomy and physiology. Show me your best dance moves and I'll award the point. Hit it maestro.
CAMILLE GRAMMER, CAST MEMBER, THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS: They want me to dance? Yes? What am I doing? I don't know. What do I do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She gets the point. Thank you very much. Anderson Cooper, show me how to use this shake weight and you get the point.
(LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, Camille won the game, but I'd like to think I won on principle. There are some things I just won't do on TV. I won't dance, I won't sing and I won't get tricked into vigorous demonstrating how to use a shake weight. That's the try and break.
I will, however, play a shoulder game with Camille. How can you not?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson, what has Camille tried to communicate with your shoulders? Is it seduction, exuberance or disgust?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent. You both get points.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I'll say it again. Woman has very expressive shoulders. And to the makers of shake weight, I'm betting you knew all along you'd get the last laugh on the ridiculist.
That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Erin Burnett "OUT FRONT" starts now.