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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Four Killers "Hit the Road Running"; Natalee Holloway Officially Declared Dead; Warning to Iran; A Kinder, Gentler Campaign?

Aired January 13, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you, everyone. This is EARLY START -- or as some might say at this hour, a very early start. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. We're very happy that you're joining us this morning. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. Let's get started here.

BANFIELD: The White House, some strong words, telling Iran: don't go crossing the big old red line. They're referring here to the Straits of Hormuz because that is a big threat from Iran, the closure of it, and the U.S. is bearing down on that as well as the accusations we killed their scientist, their nuclear scientist. You'll those words in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: And there are new efforts this morning to take away parole power from the governor in one state. And this is reaction to that fiasco that happened in Mississippi where the outgoing governor decided to give full pardons. And so there are four convicted murderers on the loose right now, the attorney general there is saying there's going to be a nationwide manhunt for these guys who just took of running.

BANFIELD: I still don't understand that. How can you work for a guy who's now technically innocent?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Weird. We'll get to the bottom of it.

And also, here's one for the funny books. Stephen --

SAMBOLIN: Or is it? Or is it?

BANFIELD: I love this man. But would he be a good president? Could he be a good president? Could he even be president?

He made a big late night announcement. It ain't the first time Stephen Colbert has suggested throwing his hat in the ring for president. We'll tell you what the polls show.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We have some amazing video here. Look at this. These are iPhone riots in China. I love my iPhone but -- I didn't know I'd be going there. Yes, they egged the store.

So, we're going to go there live to find out how security handled all of the chaos there.

BANFIELD: First, though, let's get you to something else that's explosive and potentially dangerous. And that is our relationship shall I say euphemistically with Iran at this point. There is quite a chess game that's going on between the Obama administration and, of course, the administration in Iran.

"The New York Times" is reporting this morning that we are warning Iran's supreme leader that closing the Strait of Hormuz is a red line.

SAMBOLIN: The Strait of Hormuz is the most vital oil shipping lane in the entire world that would bottle up a fifth of the world's daily oil trade. The strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson has arrived in the Arabian Sea now. And they're denying it's shuffling the Navy fleet, that this is actually related to the problem that's happening in Iran.

BANFIELD: And here's the thing, I know you feel like you've heard it before, the threat of, you know, closing the Strait of Hormuz. We've been cat and mousing on this a little bit. But it's ramping up because Iran is now threatening it again because one of its nuclear scientists was killed and there's been a response to the nuclear program there.

And now the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei is blaming the CIA as well as the Mossad, which is Israel's intelligence agency, for that killing of that nuclear scientist. Now, our government is saying it had absolutely nothing to do with it.

And you can listen closely to our defense secretary, Leon Panetta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON E. PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: On the nuclear scientist, you know, let me state what the secretary of state made clear and I will state it as firmly. We were not involved in any way -- in any way -- with regards to the assassination that took place there. I'm not sure of who was involved. We have some ideas as to who might be involved, but we don't know exactly who was involved. But I can tell you one thing, the United States was not involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Well, it sounds pretty clear, right? But then there's there -- a source tells CNN's Barbara Starr, you cannot infer anything from what the secretary says.

BANFIELD: I don't know. I feel like I can.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it's pretty clear and concise there. BANFIELD: The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also defending the nuclear program in that country this morning, saying that the United States is just using this as an excuse that Iran is not looking to make any atomic bombs and that it goes against human morality to do so.

They have said all along. They maintain that this is for medical reasons. Those centrifuges have to do with cancer research, et cetera, and energy.

So, that's their story and then we've got ours.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We're going to talk to a reporter about that, as well.

But now we want to talk about the fallout from the Mississippi pardon mess. Oklahoma Senate is making a move to prevent a similar thing from happening there. CNN affiliate KOCO reports State Senator Harry Coates filed a resolution that would take parole power away from the governor.

He released a statement. It says this, "The current controversy in Mississippi highlights the potential drawbacks associated with having a governor in this position. This is a common sense effort to mitigate any such risks by allowing the qualified and experienced members of the pardon and parole board the opportunity to determine the best course of action in each case."

So, meantime in Mississippi, the state attorney general is still searching for those four released killers, threatening a nationwide manhunt now. They got out of prison on Friday after full pardon before a judge halted Governor Haley Barbour's additional pardons.

Alina Cho is joining us now to shed some light on this.

This is just an outrageous story.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So many are outraged about this and at this point, it's a case they're trying to undo what's already been done.

BANFIELD: I don't know.

CHO: Well, and that's the big question. You know, first off we should mention that a judge has issued an order preventing at least for now the release -- is my microphone working? The release of any more -- any more prisoners -- maybe we should work on my mic.

SAMBOLIN: How about this?

BANFIELD: Big mic.

CHO: All right.

BANFIELD: There you go.

CHO: You know, but it doesn't change the fact that four convicted murderers are on the loose and cannot be found.

Now, legally the four of them are supposed to report to authorities on a daily basis. But here's the catch. They're not required to do so until they receive an official copy of the court order and that cannot happen because authorities can't find them. They've disappeared because they were pardoned.

Now, once these four convicts were pardoned, it's as if -- remember -- it's as if they never committed the murders. So, they were free men. They had no obligation to tell authorities where they were going and what they were doing. And there's not much authorities can do legally right now to find them.

Now, technically, because they haven't broken any laws, authorities cannot issue an arrest warrant. Mississippi's attorney general told our Martin Savidge that tracking them down is priority number one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is going to be a national search for some of them. We will catch them. It's just a matter of time.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you know where they are?

HOOD: No.

SAVIDGE: No?

HOOD: We know where their family. We're in contact with their family, local law enforcement. There is a search going on for them and we'll lay hands on them at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Now, Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour pardoned 200 convicts, including the four convicted murderers. That you might ask, how is it possible that four convicted murderers were pardoned? Well, here's the clue, those four murderers worked at the governor's mansion. They worked in the kitchen, even washed the governor's cars according to ABC News.

The victims' families want Haley Barbour now to give them some answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MCABEE, BROTHER KILLED BY RELEASED INMATE: The whole nation is wanting to know why. I think that he needs to at least be accountable to the citizens of -- to the people of Mississippi. He needs to stand up and take a stand and at least explain his decision to do this. He's abuse his authority as a governor to pardon all these criminals, these murderers, and let them go back out on the street.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHO: Now, the only explanation we have gotten from Barbour is a brief statement that he released on Wednesday. In it, he says that 90 percent of the people pardoned were no longer in custody and that a majority of them had been out for years.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that four convicted murderers are on the loose. They cannot be found. And it doesn't change the fact that those four convicted murderers were not not in custody anymore. They weren't among that 90 percent.

And so, as you've have said, you know, the whole nation is riveted by this. They're wondering how could this have happened. Again --

BANFIELD: Don't you think it's weird, though, that the A.G. in that state is saber rattling and saying, we're going to go after them, there's a manhunt? How is there a manhunt? It's like a manhunt for me and you. We've done nothing wrong, right?

SAMBOLIN: Don't they have to jump, they have to check in?

BANFIELD: Not only they are served or something. Can you do a manhunt for people who haven't been served at anything, or technically innocent?

CHO: Well, they can search for them. They technically can't issue an arrest warrant.

BANFIELD: Right.

CHO: But the problem is, is yes, you know, they want them to check in every day. They can't do so until they're served with a court order. They can't get the court order because nobody can find them.

BANFIELD: And it's issue of asking me to check in every day. It's like asking you or me to check in every day. Well, why? I didn't do anything wrong. It's weird.

CHO: It is also rare, as you know, from Jeffrey Toobin, to have these pardons overturned. So, we'll have to watch this one.

SAMBOLIN: Very scary.

All right. Alina Cho, thank you for joining us.

CHO: You bet.

BANFIELD: Every morning, we also like to get you an EARLY START we like to call it to your day by getting you up to speed on news that's happening now but developing. It's going to become big by tonight.

In just a few hours, a judge in Peru is going to tell Joran van der Sloot how many years he can expect to spend behind bars in that country. Earlier this week, he pleaded guilty to killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores.

The sentencing comes just a day after Natalee Holloway -- remember her? She was declared legally dead in this country after that whole mystery in Aruba, where Joran van der Sloot was a suspect.

Investigators believe that van der Sloot killed Stephany Flores in Peru after she found something related to the case on Joran's computer.

SAMBOLIN: And Rick Perry wants in Virginia. A federal court will hear Perry's challenge to get his name on Virginia's primary ballot. His campaign didn't give enough signatures to qualify. Right now, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot.

BANFIELD: And this is great video -- iPhone riots in China. Apple saying this morning it's going to stop selling the iPhone 4S in China because it's just gotten way too dangerous. The company had to close the Beijing store after shoppers egged the place and went after the security.

Scalpers have reportedly got more than a thousand people standing in line for them so that they could then sell the phones on the black market. They did that here in New York, as well. A whole bunch of people being paid 100 bucks to stand in line to get those phones so they could sell them on the black market.

SAMBOLIN: I agree. I love my iPhone, but yes, I'm not going there.

BANFIELD: You can sell your own broken iPhone on eBay and get more money here than they paid for it here if someone in China --

SAMBOLIN: Unreal. Unbelievable.

All right. So, U.S. markets closed higher but not by much. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 all had gains of less than 1 percent.

BANFIELD: You're such a naysayer.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's not much. That really isn't much.

You know, I'm telling you, it's earnings season and earning season for the banks right now. So, that's really going to be directing things. So, I'm expecting things to be choppy in the near term. It's all going to be about the earnings seasons for the banks and we'll get those today.

BANFIELD: Earning season for the banks -- well, they release them all at different times.

ROMANS: Yes, different times of the day, different days of the week. So, we'll get an idea of just kind of how, I don't know, how healthy the U.S. banks are. That's important.

SAMBOLIN: You threw this here. And I love it because I was reading it yesterday and I thought, 2011 graduate salaries are up.

ROMANS: I know. SAMBOLIN: Specifically for certain areas, right?

ROMANS: So, look, if you are in high school right now trying to pick your college major, listen. If you are in college right now wondering what is going to happen, listen -- average salary for 2011 graduates is up to about $41,000, almost $42,000 a year, and that's up about $959 from last year. The top earners, guess? Engineers, engineers, computer science, computer engineering, those blow away everything else.

And I'll tell you, the lowest paid majors are criminal justice, English, psychology and then just a little bit better than those is education, about $37,000, $38,000 a year for education major. If you're special ed major, you get a little more and communication majors only got $35,000.

SAMBOLIN: Did you know what the number was for the engineering majors?

ROMANS: Sixty-one thousand and there's good demand for engineers. And how many times have I told you that. I mean, it's five years of school usually. It's more of an investment on the front end.

And that's what's important here. I always tell you and the big, you know, college planning experts say you don't want to borrow more for college than you expect to earn in your first year out. So, that's why this report from National Association of Colleges and Employers and I'm going to tweet so you can follow it. Give it to the young person in your life because --

BANFIELD: Because the young person in your life is probably asleep right now.

ROMANS: And that person is probably borrowing money. And you can't -- you shouldn't borrow more money -- rule of thumb, don't borrow more than you expect to earn in the first your out. Finally, though, I mean, you got kids in marketing, in engineering, especially in engineering but in marketing and business and economics who are getting -- would are still in college right now but getting letters for jobs in the summer, real jobs in the summer. I haven't seen that in about three years. So, that's good. That means young people are getting jobs again.

SAMBOLIN: Especially if it's not your passion though, right?

ROMANS: You know, you got to find the thing you love, the thing you're good at, and the thing someone will pay for you.

SAMBOLIN: Right.

ROMANS: You can really love something, but if you're going to be struggling with student debt, I mean, you're going to ultimately be unhappy, right? So, I'm saying, just go for something for the money. I mea, I probably couldn't be an engineer although my parents pushed me to be an engineer.

BANFIELD: My first salary out of college --

ROMANS: What?

BANFIELD: Seven thousand a year.

ROMANS: Really?

BANFIELD: Seven thousand Canadian dollars.

ROMANS: I think mine was right here, $18,000 or $19,000. It was something ridiculously low, but I thought it was so much money.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes. You have nothing and you go there.

BANFIELD: And it was 24 years ago. I don't think 24 years ago, makes it in -- it doesn't mitigate at all but that was a horrible salary.

ROMANS: The highest paid English majors write technical work for engineering science technology. So, the thing is, find out what you're good at, and then translate it to the growing fields. But I'm going to tweet this out if anybody wants to look at it for young person in your life.

BANFIELD: So, let's figure out what's happening weather-wise cross- country in case you're travelling. Our Jacqui Jeras is filling this for Rob Marciano today.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys.

Travel is going to be a huge problem today especially across the Great Lakes and the Northeastern corridor. You know, we've been dealing with this winter storm. So, the snow is an issue. But in addition to that, the wind is going to make things even worse.

Check out these pictures we have for you from Cookeville, Tennessee. They've got about a half of an inch to an inch of snow from yesterday. Not a whole lot, but enough to close the schools down. And there's a lot of black ice all across the area, too. I-40 reporting a lot of accidents across Tennessee overnight and early this morning. So, be aware of that.

Take a look at some of the other totals, a little bit more impressive as you take a look at the state of Illinois. Check out Rockford, about six inches there. Chicago, O'Hare, 4.6 inches is what you got.

And this is the 11th latest you've ever had, two inches of snow or more. About three inches in Milwaukee but you had a little more at the airport, more like six.

All right. The cold air is pushing in. It is going to hit the entire Eastern Seaboard. This is last day of those warmer temperatures in the Northeast as those temperatures fall. Winds will be gusting up to 50 miles per hour, so that could cause spotty power outages, not to mention that mess at the airports.

Back to you, guys. BANFIELD: Jacqui, thank you.

Fifteen minutes past the hour right now.

And still ahead, Natalee Holloway -- remember that teenager at the center of that mystery in Aruba? Well, legally now, she is considered dead. She was declared such by a judge in this country. We'll tell you what her parents have to say about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Charlotte. It is, what, 36 degrees now? They are --

BANFIELD: What?

SAMBOLIN: Not going to be sunny and 45 later. There's a cold front everywhere, right? We're just listening to Jacqui and she said, get ready.

BANFIELD: But you know what is hot in Charlotte? The ads on TV.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Lord, I am so sorry if you're having to watch the barrage the ads in your state. It will be over soon, my friend. I know it's ugly.

SAMBOLIN: Give folks a lot to talk about, though.

BANFIELD: Whatever.

It is 19 minutes past the hour.

So, if you're just getting ready, hold on, wait, don't do it yet until you got your local news that's making headlines across the country. We like to call it our "Early Read."

We got papers this morning from Atlanta and from Phoenix. Why don't we start in Atlanta?

"The Journal Constitution" is reporting if you're a flier and go airline to airline, you may not have to do that so often because if Delta gets its way, it wants to take over American Airlines. It's pretty amazing.

American's parent company is called AMR. And you probably seen all the headlines, they're bankrupt. Delta and some private equity firmer are reportedly putting together a bid in bankruptcy court. But at this point, nobody is commenting. Those airlines don't want to be talking publicly about this.

And as far as frequent flier points, wait. You're going to have to get the comment from them. We have no idea what that was.

SAMBOLIN: That would be quite a monopoly. BANFIELD: Huge. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

OK. So, we're going to go to Arizona. The Democrats in Arizona plan to introduce a bill to repeal the state's controversial anti- immigration law. It's known as SB-1070. Why are they trying to recall the law? Because the Senate president, Russell Pearce, was recalled using the architect of that law. So, they're hoping -- the Democrats are hoping it gives them an opportunity to do this.

So, listen -- do you know the details? The law orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times. Failure to carry them would be considered a crime.

And police have broad power to question people they suspected to be in the United States legally. If they stop you and you don't have that information and they think you are not a legal resident, then that's the one --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: And the governor of that state got a bit tongue-tied over that one as well. That's not been non-too-friendly a law for a lot of people in that state. But others really like it.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to end up in court.

BANFIELD: You know, that would have been me two years ago. If I had lived in Arizona, I would have to carry my card around me to prove I could be in this country legally, because I'm an immigrant.

SAMBOLIN: But you know, what people argue is that you don't like --

BANFIELD: I'm too white. Nobody would ask me to show my card. I think that's what a lot of people will say.

We're also waiting on a story that's developing right now. A judge in Peru is going to hand down the sentence that Joran van der Sloot deserves. Two days ago, he pleaded guilty to a violent and vicious murder of a woman in Lima hotel room back in 2010. The court proceedings are getting under way at 10:00 Eastern this morning. Just under five hours from now.

But you might remember also that van der Sloot is a prime suspect in Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba, almost seven years ago. He was arrested a couple times and held behind bars and the suspicion was just enormous but never charged in that crime and Natalee's body was never found. So, no one ever knew what happened.

And yesterday, a judge in this country in Alabama finally declared that young girl dead and it was a sad day for Natalee parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S FATHER: Well, it's been tough. You know, we learned about Natalee situation 10 days into the investigation. The FBI told us that they were investigating this from a homicide investigation and, you know, we've been dealing with her death for the last 6 1/2 years. And hopefully this meeting today will kind of put some closure on it.

BETH HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: Natalee's father wanted to see this through and, of course, it makes me very sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Very sad, indeed. The attorney for Natalee's father whose name is Dave Holloway joins us now from Birmingham, Alabama.

Mark White, thank you for doing this. Thank you for getting up to talk to us about it.

Such a sad topic, and I'm really glad I'm talking to you about it instead of to your client because I don't even know where I'd begin to ask him about this. So, I'll ask you -- how is he doing? Is he OK after that ruling?

MARK WHITE, ATTORNEY FOR DAVE HOLLOWAY: Well, I think this was a painful but necessary process. Dave is doing I would say as well as one could anticipate because this has been a long, painful journey for these parents, for this entire family. But it did -- it did -- we did accomplish, I guess yesterday, the legal requisite that we set out to do.

BANFIELD: And I though that there were some technicalities. There is a college fund in Natalee's name that couldn't be released unless she was required dead and medical insurance payments that were also at issue, as well. But my curiosity at this point -- and I'm a mom, so I could not go through what these two parents have gone through -- does it have any effect on the investigation into what happened to this young woman? Does it have any effect on the Arubans? Will they continue to try to solve this case? Does this declaration of her death make a difference ask?

WHITE: Well, those are all questions that this family ask every day, and they continue to cooperate constantly with all law enforcement authorities, both in this country and the other country, as well. There is a pending case here in the northern district of Alabama involving the attempted extortion of Beth Holloway, and ultimately there will have to be legal adjudication on that case.

BANFIELD: How would that happen because he's being sentenced -- Joran van der Sloot is being sentenced in Peru today that could be a sentence of upwards of 30 years, not to say he would serve that much. But if he does end up getting the maximum and let's just say he serves a portion of it, 10 or 20, might the Americans want to extradite him before, during or after that sentence, and actually try to prosecute him here for that extortion?

WHITE: I think the U.S. attorney here is committed absolutely to prosecuting that case as to whether it will be after he is sentenced or after he serves that sentence, that remains to be seen. BANFIELD: Mark White, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. And if you would, please pass on our condolences to Beth and to Dave, as well. This has got to be a terrible time for them. And thank you for your time.

WHITE: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 25 minutes past the hour, switching gears here. Still to come on EARLY START: new candidates supposedly entering the field.

BANFIELD: And you know what? Some people aren't so sure if it's a joke or if it's serious.

SAMBOLIN: If some people would vote for this man. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert making a run for the White House? We're going to dig in on some big joke on that one.

BANFIELD: All I can say is I hope so. I really hope so.

SAMBOLIN: You're watching EARLY START. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

It's 29 minutes past the hour. And so, we thought this was a good time as are most times at this hour to get you caught up on the headlines, top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (voice-over): That fiasco in Mississippi, well, apparently, it's having some reverberations in other states because lawmakers in Oklahoma are now taking up a bill that would strip away some parole power from that city's governor. Pretty word (ph) thinking might happen there, I guess.

The state senator who's introducing the measure says that the situation in Mississippi just highlights the potential drawbacks of having a governor with that kind of power and that kind of position.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): So many questions there.

And the U.S. reportedly warning Iran not to cross the red line. "The New York" says the Obama administration has signaled Iranian leaders that's closing vital shipping lines in the Strait of Hormuz would be a so-called "red line" and provoke a U.S. response.

And I would go to freak out this morning when I read that the chief of naval operations is saying that the Strait of Hormuz and business going on in the Arabian golf is what keeps him awake at night.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD (on-camera): It keeps me awake at night.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD It does.

Also, this keeps folks awake at night if you're a police officer married to one or have one in the family. The headquarters of the New Orleans Police Department evacuated. Apparently, there were live grenades found inside a car that they were processing. Some car, apparently, involved in a shooting. They opened up the trunk, they find a safe, and inside the safe are two grenades.

Think about the guy who's driving the car knowing he's got grenades in the back and someone shooting. Yes, that would not be a place I'd want to be. That would keep me awake at night.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Oh, my goodness.

BANFIELD: I know.

SAMBOLIN: That's a crazy story, right? Crazy stories this morning.

It is 31 minutes past the hour now. With eight days to go before the South Carolina primary, the candidates are getting a warning saying from the GOP heavyweights, right? They're stop cannibalizing the frontrunner. Romney is taking heat over his work at Bain Capital.

Rick Perry called him a vulture capitalist. Gingrich and Santorum slamming Romney as well. So, Rudy Giuliani on "Piers Morgan" last night said cool it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both Newt and Rick are good friends of mine. They are two people that I would have a kind of inclination to support. I think their positions are closer to mine than even Mitt Romney's, same thing with Rick Santorum, but I think the attack that they are leveling against Romney is not only an unfair attack, I think it's an attack that hurts what Republicans stand for, which is a free market economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: We're going to talk about that with our political panel. In Washington, Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, and CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, and from Chicago, we have conservative commentator, Lenny McAllister. Lenny, I'm going to begin with you. Did you ride your snowmobile in this morning?

(LAUGHTER)

LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I mussed dogs in. We got an OK. I saw Santa trying to finally get back to the North Pole with his reindeer. He had a little bit of difficult at the snow, too.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Well, we're happy that you made it in. So, let's talk about the leadership at the RNC telling Republicans to basically cool it. Apparently, Rick Santorum is listening. Let's listen to this and then we'll walk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a president who sees, well, America like King George III saw America at the revolutionary war, a country that should be ruled for the benefit of the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, here's a potential problem, right, Lenny? Nobody has actually won the nomination yet. So, is focusing on Obama a good strategy?

MCALLISTER: It is a good strategy. Here's the problem, though. You still have this civil war within the conservative base between the establishment Republican Party and the Tea Party movement that's never had a chance to pick a presidential candidate, and now, you have the establishment who's not supposed to get involved in primary elections, all of a sudden, saying, hey, cool off because we kind of have our nominee, this isn't good.

This is not how democracy supposed to work. Again, if you look four years ago, if that would have happened back then, we wouldn't have the president we have now. I don't think it's a great move for conservatives. It may backfire with the Tea Party really raising up in South Carolina and Florida, and it has the potential of being a big mess within the conservative base if this goes awry.

SAMBOLIN: OK, Paul, let's bring you in on this. How do you feel about that? You know, we don't have any polls since Iowa, right? And so, you know, how does this strategy work for Santorum?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, you know, Santorum to his credit was one of the few Republican candidates who didn't criticize Romney over his time at Bain. He says there's plenty to talk about when he was governor of Massachusetts.

So, he never went that extra step that some of the other candidates did, and since then, they've kind of taken it back because, listen, Republicans, all Republicans, not just establishment Republicans are saying this is going at our core, free market principles. Stop criticizing Romney on that.

There's plenty of other things to talk about with Mitt Romney if you want, but not on that, because you're just giving ammunition to the Democrats and to somebody like Maria Cardona.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: So, Maria, let's you bring in on this. Is the Republican leadership essentially saying let Mitt Romney win?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's exactly what they're saying, and I completely agree with Lenny that, you know, if I was a Tea Party activist, I would not be happy right now, because, essentially, they're telling me to shut up. And, that's exactly what the Tea Party activists have been against for the last two years, which they have an agenda.

They don't think that the Republican establishment has been listening to that agenda, and this goes completely against everything that they have fought for these past two years. But what is also interesting is that, you know, this is definitely a fight and attention between -- and I've written about this, what I call or for the soul of the GOP because they don't understand which side it is that they want to placate.

Whether it's the republican establishment, the more moderates, who understand that if a tea party activist nominee gets the nomination, it's going to be very tough for that person to compete in a general election, but what's also interesting is that Mitt Romney has been basically practicing political jujitsu and moving to extreme positions to the right to try to placate exactly the Tea Party activities who don't like him and don't trust him.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I want to deal with one more issue here. Gingrich, apparently, is one person who is not going to try to keep it clean here. He has another new web ad that we talked about yesterday out that was against Romney. And he has this one that compares Romney to Massachusetts liberals like John Kerry, Michael Dukakis. Let's listen to this because the ending is kind of weird here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massachusetts moderate, Mitt Romney, he'll say anything to win. Anything, and just like John Kerry --

JOHN KERRY, FORMER SENATOR: Laissez les bons temps rouler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He speaks French, too.

MITT ROMNEY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bonjour. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Romney

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's still a Massachusetts moderate, and a Masschusetts moderate cannot beat Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Lenny, very quickly, what's that all about?

MCALLISTER: I don't know. I guess, it's trying to play off European socialism. But I mean, wiwi (ph). I don't know understand why that's supposed to scare folks.

SAMBOLIN: Maria. CARDONA: Again, I think it shows the desperation within some in the Republican Party to try to find an anybody but Romney candidate. And the problem is, if they don't coalesce behind somebody, behind Gingrich, behind Santorum which probably won't happen or behind Perry which probably won't happen, Mitt Romney is going to run away with this. And I think that's what they worry about.

SAMBOLIN: Here's the deal, Paul, I got to let you have the last word.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, listen, taken a page from an old playbook, you remember the 2004 campaign trying to paint Kerry as rich, in touch with Europe, not a real American, all that kind of stuff. It worked back then with George Bush, maybe Gingrich is trying it now.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paul, Lenny, Maria, thank you very much.

CARDONA: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: And of course, you can keep it on CNN now through November for the best political coverage on television. On Thursday night at 8:00 eastern, it is the southern Republican presidential debate. It's live right here on CNN.

Then one week from tomorrow, the road to the Republican nomination for president stops in South Carolina. Tune in to CNN, Saturday night, January 21st at 6:00 eastern for the most comprehensive primary coverage you will find anywhere.

BANFIELD: And still ahead, if you plan to go to China anytime soon, don't go get the iPhone. It's really dangerous. Check this out, the video at the iPhone store as they tried to (INAUDIBLE) iPhone store that's so mad. You know, you'll find out why this crowd was livid. What did it get as to love (ph) his brand-new iPhone. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: I don't know about you, but when I was a little girl, I loved me my Barbies.

SAMBOLIN: I didn't so. I wasn't a Barbie girl.

BANFIELD: No?

SAMBOLIN: No.

BANFIELD: Why is that?

SAMBOLIN: I don't know. I liked figure dolls. I like little babies, I think.

BANFIELD: I liked the ones where you, you know, you could do their hair --

SAMBOLIN: I like it now though.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Because you have an eight-year-old daughter.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: But I was big into doing the hair curling and all the rest. What's interesting about reminiscing about is that there is a new pitch out there for Mattel to actually come up with a bald Barbie.

SAMBOLIN: That's fantastic.

BANFIELD: Barbie with no hair. Apparently, there are 80,000 supporters who are on Facebook asking for this, liking this, and the numbers keep on growing. There's the page right there. And if you're wondering why all of this is a put (ph), there is a campaign to help kids who are affected by cancer. And, of course, the hair loss that comes along with the treatments of cancer and also conditions like alopecia.

And the campaign was started by two women who both have cancer in their families, and they're both affected by cancer. One of those women is Jane Ringham who's live from Philadelphia with her nine-year- old daughter, Belle. Good morning to both of you.

JANE RINGHAM, STARTED REQUEST FOR BEAUTIFUL & BALD BARBIE: Good morning.

BELLELIANA (BELLE): Good morning.

BANFIELD: So, Jane, I want to start with you. I think this is a fabulous idea. Putting together the concept, the movement to reach out to Mattel to say, you know what, this might just be the right kind of Barbie for the right kinds of kids who are either affected by hair loss and cancer or any other kind of affliction themselves or who have it in their family.

And turns out that's really your story, isn't it? You have cancer and your daughter has been affected by it. Can you round that out for me and let me know what's happened.

JANE RINGHAM: Yes, I was diagnosed with an incurable form of non- Hodgkins lymphoma five years ago. I was able to do immunotherapy for a number of years, and this past summer, I started a chemotherapy round, and my hair started falling out, and I decided that it was just -- instead of watching it fall out, I was kind of shave it off, and my daughter had some --

BANFIELD: Reservations about that.

RINGHAM: Some coping issues with mom going from long hair to bald dealing with it.

BELLELIANA: it's creepy.

BANFIELD: Belle, honey, can you hear me.

BELLELIANA: Yes.

BANFIELD: Your mom was saying that you had some coping issues. How did you feel about seeing your mom, all of a sudden, going from having all that long beautiful blonde hair to shaving it off and being bald?

BELLELIANA: I felt really bad for her, and I felt really sad, because I like I'm not used to seeing her without hair. I'm used to see her with really long hair.

BANFIELD: Yes. Like yours. You have beautiful hair, and I think your mom looks really good. I'm here to say, live on TV, I think she looks terrific. Jane, this is really just a terrific idea. Have you had any response from Mattel on this idea to produce -- to mass produce Barbies that are bald so that other kids can benefit from that?

RINGHAM: In our attempts of contacting Mattel, we've already received form letters saying that they don't take outside -- unsolicited suggestion suggestions, but as the movement has grown, the form letters coming back have become a little more understanding in saying that they hear the outpouring.

BANFIELD: The need, yes. Well, I want to mention, as well, because, Jane, we did reach out to Mattel, as well. I think we got some of the same kind of response that you got.

They said to us, "Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll, and as you might imagine, we receive hundreds of passionate requests for various dolls to be added to our collection. We take all of them seriously and are constantly exploring new and different dolls to be added to our line."

And in fact, a woman who kind of started this whole movement who you connected to when you read about her through a friend who worked at Mattel, she was able to get two -- just two bald Barbies made for a young girl who was sick in the hospital.

But do you think it may stop there? Do you think you might actually get some traction and be able to move forward with this -- well, your Facebook has thousands of people liking it. You only expected about 500 when you got into this.

RINGHAM: Yes. We started the page, I believe, on December 20th. After I had read the article about the woman who was able to get the two one-of-a-kind bald Barbies for the two cancer patients and she's actually come on board and is an administrator on the page, as well. Her name is Beth and --

BANFIELD: Sorry. Go ahead.

RINGHAM: It just really took off. It seems to have resonated with so many people, people in the alopecia community, people in -- that have been touched by cancer themselves or a child, even a mother, an aunt. And there's even been people saying, well, what about the boys.

BANFIELD: Sure. Sure. I mean it's a great idea, and I wish you tremendous luck in your effort, and I want to also say thank you to Belle for showing up and being such a great public speaker. Thanks to both of you.

RINGHAM: Thank you.

BANFIELD: OK.

SAMBOLIN: We'll be right back.

BANFIELD: Sweetheart. We'll be back right back after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 5:48 in the east. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. You're very excited about this. I know, Ashleigh.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Ooh!

SAMBOLIN: We have some political news here from the website Politico. It reveals a big announcement in the GOP presidential race. Last night, comedian, Stephen Colbert, announced he might run. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: I am proud to announce that I'm forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina. I'm doing it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: This is on our front page faces, and on the phone with us now is political reporter, James Holmann, who is in South Carolina. James, is he serious?

JAMES HOLMANN, POLITICO: No, but he's making a serious point. And he'll get a good amount of attention which is the whole campaign finance system in this country is broken and he's created the Super PAC, and this will definitely draw attention to the way in which money is pouring into the state.

But what prompted the run or this exploratory thing that is part fun is a poll that was done by public policy polling in which they put him into the race. And they wanted to see how he polled, and he actually did slightly better than Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, who's campaigning his heart out down here right now. So, I think, Colbert a fun opening for some fun publicity.

SAMBOLIN: So, here's the question, could it actually hurt the campaign then for a legitimate candidate?

HOLMANN: We were finally getting to the point where the campaign was getting serious. We had months of the season, and, at this point, it's the conservatives in this race are trying to establish themselves as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and Colbert sort of there's a wrinkle there now.

Interestingly, he can technically run. He can go through the notions, but he won't be on the ballot. The South Carolina ballot doesn't have a space for write-in votes.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he actually offered to pay for the South Carolina primary, right, when they were, you know, trying to decide who was going to pay for it. So, what does he do with all that money that he's accumulated, because a lot of people would love to see him run?

HOLMANN: Yes, and the open primary, too. There's no contest on the democratic side. So, if he was actually in the race, he would be able to get a lot of Democrats who'd cross over to vote in the Republican primaries. He actually has reserve ad time we reported late last night on some local TV stations so he can run some ads and have some fun with this.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Do we have any preview of those ads?

HOLMANN: We don't. I imagine that we'll see those rolled out on his show, and that he'll find a way to kind of get maximum effect out of it.

SAMBOLIN: So, more of a political play, or actually, a play for his show, right, than anything else?

HOLMANN: Right, and he's trying to make a real point, and that's what the last year has been about with the Political Action Committee which he talked about on his show and he talked about pondering his decision last night by talking to his money, and he's having fun making a point that a lot of people in Washington think is very real.

SAMBOLIN: All right. James Holmann from Politico, thank you so much for joining us this morning. People are having a lot of fun with this one.

BANFIELD: Yes, they are. And I love that he says the United States of South Carolina which is awesome. And I think he's turned over his Super PAC money to Jon Stewart.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he has.

BANFIELD: Stewart makes his way on to our show again.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Hello, China, where is my iPhone? Apparently it's lost in this melee. This is the iPhone story Beijing being egged by angry mobs. Why are they mad and why aren't they going home with the iPhone? You'll find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: All right. If you're going to Beijing anytime soon, don't expect to line up for your iPhone. The store there, iPhones are not for sale out of a store anymore. It is just too dangerous to get one.

SAMBOLIN: That is incredible. Amazing pictures. Apple had to close its flagship store in Beijing after shoppers egged the place. Stan Grant live in Beijing. What is going on?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary, isn't it? Over a phone? But if you see those images, they really speak for themselves. You know, people had camped out overnight to try to get one of these iPhone 4S as they officially went on sale. Then, 7:00 a.m. came and went, and people got angry.

The doors would not open. They were told that the phone would not be for sale today. That's when they started throwing eggs at the building. Security were chased, pursued, and beaten up. Police were called in to try to move the people away. People who wouldn't leave of their own volition were dragged away from the scene, and all of this, because people could not get their hands on the iPhone.

But, really, it strikes a much deeper chord here in China. There's a rising sense of anger here. You know what, people are angry at authority for a whole lot of thing, pollution or traffic or inflation or factories closing. They're pointing the finger and they're getting angry and they don't like what's happening here or don't like what they see. This was a chance to get one back.

BANFIELD: I can't -- you know, I really got a second here, Stan, but let me ask you. Is it just that tough to get the electronics because there are so many people in China or is there something else to the iPhone there that's akin to the frenzy here without the violence?

GRANT: Look, they love getting their hands on new gadgets, especially the young app with the mobile Chinese. The problem here is, there were some in stock. The issue was security. The police saw how many people were outside. They didn't trust the mob, and as you saw what happened, how things can turn nasty. Now, you can't buy an iPhone in any story, only online.

BANFIELD: Stan, you're great for braving that.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: He's OK.

BANFIELD: He gets an award or a purple heart. One of the two. Thank you, Stan.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Almost six o'clock here. Ahead in our next hour, it was caught on tape. An L.A. cop punches a homeless woman. So, a war vet slips the video past police so we could see it. We have that and the 911 tape. You're watching EARLY START.

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