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JOHN KING, USA

Presidential Race Moves to Florida; Mitt Romney Gets Personal; Interview With Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Aired January 23, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Mitt Romney gets personal as he tries to halt the Newt Gingrich surge in Florida.

A Tea Party senator long critical of TSA scanners and pat-downs gets an up-close lesson after setting off airport alarms in Nashville. And a woman at a Rick Santorum rally today stood up and said President Obama is a Muslim, illegally in the White House. How did the candidate respond?

Senator Santorum joins us tonight.

Tonight, the spotlight's on Florida and the pressure is on the Republican presidential candidates and it building. The more intense the pressure, the more personal the attacks. Just a week ago Mitt Romney had a comfortable lead in Florida, but today I reviewed some polling data from two veteran Republican firms showing Florida a dead heat, with Newt Gingrich carrying momentum from his big weekend win in South Carolina.

It's not just Florida that has team Romney more than a little nervous. A new Gallup national tracking poll -- you see it right there -- shows Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich in a virtual tie among Republicans. Just a week ago, Romney was more than 20 points ahead.

Desperate to stop the bleeding, Romney today warned voters, take another look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As you look at the speaker's record over time, it's been highly erratic. And in the case of the speaker, he's got some records which could represent an October surprise. We could see an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There's also a blistering new Romney campaign ad targeting Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Sanctioned for ethics violations, Gingrich resigned from Congress in disgrace and then cashed in as a D.C. insider. If Newt wins, this guy would be very happy. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gingrich focusing at the moment on desperately needed money to keep up that momentum, laughing off Governor Romney's latest attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have been told by a variety of people that Governor Romney has been saying unkind things. I prefer personally not to believe it.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: But on the other hand, if you have been campaigning for six years and you begin to see it slip away, you get desperate. And when you get desperate, you say almost anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Jim Acosta is in Tampa for us tonight.

Jim, you had a chance to catch up with the former speaker about this pointed and personal back and forth. What did he have to say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it goes back to this charge from Mitt Romney earlier today. He had a media availability in which he told reporters that Newt Gingrich was essentially a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and gave the line that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

Well, I went to the former earlier speaker this afternoon and I said, you have said that you were not a lobbyist, you were not a registered lobbyist. Mitt Romney is saying you were a lobbyist for Freddie Mac. His response to me was short, but it was sharp. He said that basically this is the reason why John McCain and Mike Huckabee said that Mitt Romney was dishonest back in the 2008 campaign.

And that's just a sign of things to come, John. When we heard Newt Gingrich then get on stump after making the comments to me, he basically got up and he made the comment that you just played a few moments ago. But he also said that you have heard of Mitt Romney's pious baloney. Newt Gingrich said get ready for some desperate baloney. Perhaps he should open up a deli here in Florida. He might do quite well.

The rhetoric is being dialed up, and rightly so. There are two debates this week between now and the primary. There's very little time basically for these candidates to get their message out. They're going to be doing a lot of it over the airwaves. They're going to be doing a lot of it at the debates.

And just one other storyline that is developing. I was just able to confirm some of this in the last couple of minutes. It looks like Speaker Gingrich is going to be going after Mitt Romney's ties to Charlie Crist. At that event earlier this afternoon, Newt Gingrich actually went after Governor Romney's staff pointing out that a few of them worked for Charlie Crist during that are 2010 midterm battle between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio that also got very ugly and very personal.

I asked Marco Rubio's staff earlier today, will Senator Rubio be endorsing anybody before Tuesday's primary? The response, no, they're staying neutral until the Florida primary -- John.

KING: Jim Acosta for us live in Florida, Jim, thanks very much.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky already is one of Capitol Hill's most vocal critics of the government's airport security operations. Well, don't expect that to change any time soon, especially the senator's run-in with the TSA today at Nashville's airport.

Our CNN congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, live on Capitol Hill.

Dana, what happened?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What happened according to Senator Paul is he was going through the scanner that anybody who travels has been through, the full body scanner.

It went off. So the TSA said we want to give you a full body pat-down. He said no. Perhaps I will go through the scanner again. They said no. He said maybe you can just look at my leg. And he said he pulled up his pant leg because he thought that was where the potential problem was and they said no.

They had this standoff. The bottom line is he missed his flight and he wasn't allowed through because he refused the full body pat- down. While he was there, he also said he was talking to some TSA agents who he says told him that sometimes the scanner just goes off randomly with alarms going off, not because there's any evidence of a problem.

You mentioned, John, this is all in the context of Senator Paul being a longtime critic of the TSA, saying that the procedures are simply too broad and it hurts people's civil liberties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Let adults go back through the scanner if they choose to do that, vs. an invasive body search. Or give someone discretion. In the Nashville Airport today, no one had the discretion to say, oh,hello, there. I have seen you four times. I see you come through here every week.

And I'm not asking for special privileges because of the office I hold. I would expect the same thing for any frequent traveler.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So there you have it, John. This is something that we have heard from Senator Paul many, many times. And now he has firsthand experience, let's say, of what he thinks is very wrong with the TSA.

KING: He also has a father who is running for president who complains about the government all the time. Did Ron Paul jump into this one?

BASH: Oh, you bet he did. This is campaign candy for Ron Paul, for his father. He jumped in and said that he believes that this is evidence that there is a police state in this country. He said that the TSA embodies what is wrong with the civil liberties in this country.

He even talked about the fact that they grope and grab our children and senior citizens, people with disabilities. And, of course, in his campaign and even before his campaign, he has proposed to eliminate a trillion dollars from the federal budget and totally do away with the TSA.

For somebody who is running as a libertarian, this is something he simply could not stop touting as example of what's wrong with this country and specifically the federal government.

KING: Dana Bash live for us tonight on Capitol Hill. Both Pauls getting involved into this one. I bet it doesn't stop tonight. Dana, thanks very much.

There's late word tonight Newt Gingrich may be about to release some of the records about his relationship with Freddie Mac. That's government-backed mortgage giant that many people blame for pushing risky loans that helped fuel the U.S. housing bubble.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

We're waiting for a contract. He had a contract. He was a consultant to Freddie Mac, allegedly about $1.6, $1.7 million. What are the big questions as we await this? This is part of a transparency dual between Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure it is. You release yours, I will release mine. Right?

The big question, the big difference, first of all, Mitt Romney says he was a lobbyist for Freddie Mac. And Newt Gingrich says no, I was a consultant. There is a difference because lobbying is when you go to Capitol Hill and you tap a senator on the shoulder and say vote this way because I'm representing a certain company or whatever.

Consulting is different. But the question that the Romney campaign wants answered, and I think the large question out there is if you're on the payroll of someplace as a consultant, then normally one would assume you are giving them strategic advice to help them, not to hurt them.

So what the Romney campaign would like to see is what kind of advice actually did Newt Gingrich give. Now, we have heard him say that he alternately served as an historian or that he told them what they were doing was crazy. But they want to see more detail.

This may just be the details of a contract that he signed with Freddie Mac and it may not give us a lot of the details.

KING: But you make an important point. When he's been asked about this, his initial answer was historian. Then he said some strategic advice.

In that way, his problem could be the things he said about this. We will read the contract. What does it specifically say he was asked to do? Another question is, he has said a lot of this money went to a bunch of people in his firm. It doesn't all come to him. It sounds like a lot of people, $1.7 million, but it was spread out. We assume maybe there's contract language about that as well, although we don't know...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And I just got some word in my ear from our producer that this is going to be released within a half-hour which CNN will have and then we will know the answer to some of those questions. I wouldn't be surprised however if we see the contract and then Mitt Romney says but it doesn't answer all the questions.

KING: Speaker Gingrich did this last week right before our debate. He released his taxes literally as the debate was beginning. He knows this is a source of contention with Governor Romney, releasing this debate just as a debate is beginning tonight.

And Governor Romney in the morning will release his tax returns, which have become an issue in the last few weeks. If Speaker Gingrich releases his contract, Governor Romney releases his tax returns, what are they going to fight about?

BORGER: I don't know, maybe policy. How about that?

KING: God forbid. Wouldn't that be something?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Gloria Borger, thanks. And we will watch as Newt Gingrich releases this Freddie Mac contract. We will scrub it, look for the details, bring any news to you as soon as we can.

When we come back today, a woman at one of Rick Santorum's rallies called President Obama an avowed Muslim, who she says is in the White House illegally.

Next, the former senator explains why he didn't correct her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president's a big boy. He can defend himself and his record. And I'm going to go out and talk about the issues that the president and I disagree on and try to defeat him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Gingrich vs. Romney or Romney vs. Gingrich. Read about the Republican presidential race the past 24 hours, most of the buzz is about this new dramatic two-man race between the winners of South Carolina and the New Hampshire primary.

Well, not so fast, insists the guy who won the first contest.

The Iowa caucus winner, Rick Santorum, is with us today from Lady Lake, Florida.

Senator Santorum, it's good to see you.

You understand the dynamic in the race. Speaker Gingrich is raising money based on his South Carolina win. Governor Romney has a deeper financial network than Senator Santorum. Even earlier today, you told this to reporters before an event there at a manufacturing plant: "Sitting on the sidelines watching two people destroy each other creates an opportunity itself."

Is that what you're hoping for, that maybe Speaker Gingrich takes out Governor Romney and then, all of a sudden, the party says, whoa?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, has been the narrative from actually the very beginning of this campaign. The media always tries to make this a two-person race.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That's not the media. That's -- you said that, Senator. You said that. You said, "Sitting on the sidelines watching two people destroy each other creates an opportunity."

That's not us.

SANTORUM: Well, yes, it was in response to a question about a two-person race. So, yes, it depends on the question that was asked.

So, having said that, obviously, those two are getting the media attention. And you can't deny that. That's obviously the case. And there are advantages. As we have seen throughout the course of this campaign, one thing is for certain. Things are going to change. And we believe things are going to change again, and that as people continue to look at the candidates -- there are now four candidates.

This is a field where three have an opportunity to become president and are actually running not just to change the party, but to change the country and actually become president. And I feel very, very good that, as this campaign continues, our stock is going to rise again and we will be right in the mix of this thing, and starting tonight.

KING: And you get the sense -- tonight is one of two debates this week in Florida. You get the sense that you view your number-one priority is trying to appeal to those conservative voters who might be leaning the speaker's way right now.

I say that because Governor Romney just said, nominate Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party might get a dangerous October surprise. Sometimes, it sounds like you're on the same page with Governor Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: When Newt was speaker of the House, well, within three years, the conservatives in the House of Representatives tried to throw him out. And in the fourth year, they did.

Why? Because he wasn't governing as a conservative. He didn't live up to all of the hype. It's great to be glib, but it's better to be principled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just today again, Senator, Speaker Gingrich said, "I'm the Reagan conservative in the race."

You disagree?

SANTORUM: I'm the Reagan conservative in the race, if you look at the track record of someone who not only espoused those principles consistently, as well as someone who when they were in a position of leadership led and actually had conservative -- broad, strong, consistent conservative support from not just within the ranks of the Senate, but from outside.

And, you know, I'm not just a conservative in the race, I mean, vis-a-vis Newt Gingrich. I'm the conservative in the race vis-a-vis Mitt Romney. So, both of them have problems in winning a general election and rallying our base.

And I have been out there talking about issues that are going to attract voters, both Republicans and Reagan Democrats, talking about growing this economy, manufacturing base, getting this economy going again, strengthening our national security, and, of course, shrinking the size and scale of government.

And so we have been out there on a very clear message as we did here today at the Villages in Florida. And we're going to continue that message for quite some time.

KING: Senator, at your event there earlier today, a woman stood up and she delivered a pretty out-there attack on the president. I want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never refer to Obama as President Obama, because, legally, he is not.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, well, he constantly says that our Constitution is passe. And he totally ignores it, as you know. He does what he darn well pleases. He is an avowed Muslim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And this, sir, is how you responded.

SANTORUM: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: I'm doing my best to try to get him out of the government right now.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: And -- and you're right about how he uniformly ignores the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You're not responsible for what somebody in the audience says, Senator. I want to make that perfectly clear.

SANTORUM: Right.

KING: But do you feel any sense of responsibility to say, whoa? Senator McCain repeatedly in 2008 would stop people who went down that line, saying, look, let's fight him on policy, let's not go there.

SANTORUM: I have repeatedly done that.

I don't feel it's my obligation every time someone says something I don't agree with to contradict them. And the president's a big boy. He can defend himself and his record. And I'm going to go out and talk about the issues that the president and I disagree on and try to defeat him, because I think that's the best thing we can do for the future of our country.

KING: I understand on every point, but something like that, standing up and saying he's an avowed Muslim, you don't feel any obligation to say, ma'am, let's fight him on taxes, let's fight him on spending, let's fight him on size of government, but let's not do that?

SANTORUM: I think I have repeated that many, many times throughout the course of this campaign.

I don't really feel an obligation to go out and repeat it over and over again as people bring that up. My position's clear. The president's position is clear. I don't think the president's a Muslim, but I don't think it's my obligation to go out and repeat that every time someone who feels that way says something.

KING: Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former senator, Senator, good luck in Florida. Appreciate your time today.

SANTORUM: Thanks, John. You bet.

KING: Mitt Romney's releasing his personal taxes tomorrow morning. But we already have access to records from his charity. And we will show you just where his money is going.

And next: something new at Starbucks that packs more of a wallop than caffeine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Tonight: The plans are set now for Penn State's final goodbye to the legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

Plus, tonight's "Truth" about why big spending on attack ads is the new normal in American politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In this half-hour: a close look at Mitt Romney's favorite charities. Where the money goes says a lot about who he is.

Tonight's "Truth" looks at the new normal in U.S. politics, attack ads, big spenders, and no end in sight.

Plus, tonight's moment you missed. We will tell you who is pointing their finger at Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Terry Bradshaw, scolding him on live TV.

Pennsylvania's governor today ordered state flags flown at half- staff until the burial of the former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Public viewings are scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday at a chapel on the university campus. There's a private funeral Wednesday afternoon and then a public memorial service Thursday.

Paterno, Penn State's head coach for 46 years, died Sunday of lung cancer.

But, as CNN's Jason Carroll reports, many think he died of a broken heart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Paterno's family says, like in life, he fought until the very end. But there are many here at Penn State who feel strongly, fight as he did, he was dealing with more than physical health problems.

CAROLINE GOGGIN, PENN STATE STUDENT: Penn State was his life. And Joe Paterno was Penn State. So I definitely think he died of a broken heart in some respect. JENNE LAHOV, PENN STATE STUDENT: He built this the university, without a doubt. I believe that he died of a broken heart.

CARROLL: And students at Penn State aren't the only ones who feel that way.

Bobby Bowden, former Florida state coach, was Paterno's friend and football rival for 50 years.

BOBBY BOWDEN, FORMER FLORIDA STATE COACH: It seems like he got hit with everything at one time. And many times, I was thinking, how in the world can he handle all that? I have got a feeling broken heart played a big role in him passing.

CARROLL: Bowden remembers what happened to another famed football coach, Paul Bear Bryant who once said, "Quit coaching? I'd croak within a week." One month after Bryant retired, the former Alabama coach died from a heart attack.

BOWDEN: At least he got to retire. He thought he might croak in a week. Well, he lasted a month.

CARROLL: Can someone literally die from a broken heart? Give up the will to live after losing a spouse or leaving a lifelong career? Cartoonist Charles Schulz died shortly after he announced his Retirement. So, too, did "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney.

Some research shows the idea of having a broken heart is not a myth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If all of a sudden the thing that you love most is taken away from you, there's some very powerful physiological responses such as the stress hormones that we were talking about that can affect how blood flows to the heart and can affect how well you can fight off infection.

CARROLL: In November it was revealed Paterno had a treatable form of lung cancer. He made it clear in what would be his final interview, he wished he had done to more to respond to allegations assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexual involvement with a young boy.

The university fired Paterno after some 60 years of service. It was a strong emotional blow for a man who, by all accounts, dedicated his life to Penn State.

Ultimately, one of his oldest friends believes his legacy will be a great one.

BOWDEN: People like me and people like his players and people that know Joe personally, we're going to think the good things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And John, when you listen to those who know Joe Paterno or those who knew of him, they all will tell you they hope that he is remembered for his 60 years of service that he gave to Penn State rather than for the months and for the weeks that happened following the scandal here -- John.

KING: Jason Carroll on the campus tonight. Jason, thanks so much.

Now, no matter what state you live in, especially if it has a Republican primary, brace yourself for an unprecedented flood of attack ads. That's because this year, big donors like corporations have no limits on how much money they can spend.

Get this: so far this election cycle, some $30 million have already poured into organizations known as super political action committees. Super PACs for short. This week CNN is going in depth with a series of reports to help you understand what they are, where the money comes from and how much impact they have.

Once again, here's CNN congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Romney's objective was never a focus on creating jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt attacks because he has more baggage than the airlines.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ads are everywhere. Their source? A new breed of political action committee aptly named the super PAC.

VIVECA NOVAK, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: This is the first presidential election where we're watching these new creatures that can take any amount of money from just about any entity or individual and spend it any way they want as long as they're independent of the candidate.

BOLDUAN: And boy, are they spending. Some $34 million so far in the 2012 race, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

There are almost 300 super PACs currently registered.

(on camera) And much of this explosion can be traced back to the Supreme Court and the landmark Citizens United decision two years ago. The justices eased prior restrictions on federal election spending by outside groups, allowing corporations, unions and advocacy groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence an election.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, SCOTUSBLOG.COM: Five more conservative members in the majority said this is an easy case. This is elections. It's why we have free speech. Therefore, this is constitutionally protected.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The ruling put corporations and unions on equal footing with individuals who have in reality been able to spend their own personal fortunes advocating for campaigns for decades. For example, Newt Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson and billionaire Democratic backer George Soros. Previously though, those fortunes had to be spent by the individual directly, not through a group like traditional political action committees.

While experts dispute the direct impact of the Citizens United decision, they agree it created an environment ripe for historic spending in elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always been true in campaigns that money is like water. It will leak around, find the cracks and crevices. It will find ways to evade restrictions. But Citizens United on some level just blew a hole in the wall and said, you know, "Come on through. The Constitution gives you this right."

BOLDUAN: Some rules still do apply. Super PACs must disclose their donors and cannot coordinate with a candidate or campaign.

But outspoken critics of the ruling call it one of the worst decisions in the court's history.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's now the system under which we operate, which leads to this kind of campaigning and will lead to corruption and scandals, I guarantee it. When you have that much money washing around campaigns, there will be scandals.

BOLDUAN: Another critic? President Obama himself.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests. Or worse, by foreign entities.

BOLDUAN: But that hasn't stopped his supporters. Former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton heads up a super PAC backing the president.

BILL BURTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It was my view when I left the White House that the president shouldn't have to go -- shouldn't be left undefended against all these attacks that are coming in from the outside. But there's going to be a lot of money in this race, make no mistake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: The bottom line and honestly, John, like it or not, huge spending by outside groups is the new name of the game in politics. And every candidate in this presidential race has close supporters ready to play that game, and that game is through Super PACs -- John.

KING: Kate Bolduan, thanks so much. We'll see you in a little bit.

And as Kate just noted, the super PACs are the new normal, like it or not. Their impact so far, though, is a source of debate. The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future without a doubt did major damage to Newt Gingrich out in Iowa. However, it also spent heavily in South Carolina. Let me show you the numbers here.

Look at this when it comes up. The Romney super PAC spending 3 million, $3.3 million when you combine the campaign and the super PAC. Almost doubled Gingrich's spending. Guess what? Gingrich won that state in a walk.

Let's move on now to Florida. That's the next battleground. Watch this when I bring this up. This is TV ad spending in Florida. All Romney so far, Romney and the pro-Romney group. They're already up big in Florida. More than $3 million spent there so far just by the pro-Romney PAC. The group supporting Speaker Gingrich and Rick Santorum, as you can see, they're weighing buys, but they haven't bought any time yet.

Well, here's tonight's "Truth." The battle of the GOP super PACs is about to ramp up. We'll know before too long just how much of an impact that spending will have on picking the nominee.

After Florida closes out January, there are seven GOP contests in February, including Nevada, Arizona and Michigan. Then comes the bigger test: 19 states vote in March. And TV resources will be critical. Truth is, there will be a significant advantage for the candidate who gets the most help from his friends.

And then we pause for the biggest test, the multimillion dollar super PAC general election showdown.

Let's get a first impression tonight from our political pros. I'm joined by Republican pollster Ed Goeas; CNN contributor, Democratic strategist Paul Begala; and veteran Republican strategist, senior Mitt Romney advisor Kevin Madden.

Let me start with you. How do you explain South Carolina? You see all this spending. Is part of the lesson here that it doesn't always work?

KEVIN MADDEN, SENIOR MITT ROMNEY ADVISOR: Well, that's right. I think oftentimes, you know, everybody looks at how do you have the momentum and do you have the infrastructure? Well -- I'm sorry the message and infrastructure. Well, in this case, the momentum actually happened.

Also, I think what's really important, too, is that voters aren't just looking or they're not making their big opinions based on just the soft imprints of advertising, but they're also learning a lot from these debates. A lot of the earned media that has taken place in this campaign is really shaping voter opinions.

So as much as we try to put an overemphasis sometimes on the amount of money spent, it still does come down to whether or not you have the message and whether or not you're mobilizing those key -- key voters.

And if that's right that the debates and momentum have so far at least competed and sometimes outweighed the ad spending when we get into the later months, when we've got all those contests, is it your take, Ed, that that's when this money will matter because the candidates can't be anywhere? There will be fewer debates?

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Absolutely. Up to this point, the campaign has almost been -- it's been all driven by the debates. If you look at Newt's numbers, 48 percent voting for him if they saw all the debates, 36 percent most of the debates, 21 percent some of the debates, 11 percent if they've seen none. It's almost reality TV driven by the debates at this point.

It changes now. It moves to what is the real campaign, and the campaign's going to really make a difference.

KING: And the Obama super PAC is raising money right now, keeping its powder dry for the most part. Although you do see some groups. There's a labor-union-tied group in Florida right now going after Governor Romney, essentially replaying what we saw in Nevada last time. Democratic groups going after Republicans in primaries, essentially trying to pick the nominee. No?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You may see some of that. As you know, I advise that pro-Obama Super PAC. And I think the lesson I take from this, just watching the Republicans is that unilateral disarmament doesn't work.

Newt had a surge in Iowa. He might have won Iowa, but Governor Romney's allies and his super PAC crushed it. Newt didn't match him. He didn't have to match him. He had some money. Momentum without money is still death in politics if the other guy is having unanswered attacks. That's what I learned, at least, from South Carolina.

I'm helping President Obama's super PAC, the one that's independent but supporting him. And we don't want to allow them to attack him without having a defense.

KING: So the message there, spend more money, have more attacks. All right. You guys stand by. We're going to come back in just a moment here.

Up next, what Mitt Romney's charitable donations say about his personal priorities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow morning, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will release his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011. We already have some documents dealing with Romney's charitable giving. CNN's Tom Foreman has been digging into ten years' worth of tax returns.

Tom, tell us what you've uncovered.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've discovered a cure for insomnia for one thing.

No, really, this has to do with a group called the Tyler Charitable Foundation which was set up by the Romneys back in the 1990s. And it does give you an idea as to what they do with their money in a charitable way. It's just a little window. But take a look at this.

This is how much they have donated to the Tyler Foundation over the past few years. In 2007, more than $2 million worth, 2 million 500 or so. 2008, a little more than a million. You can see there, 2009, $49,000. The money tends to come from these blind trusts from either Mitt or his wife. And this would suggest a declining number here over these past few years. But that's just these three years. If you look over all the years, he kind of goes up and down and changes with the year. So there's no reason to believe that next year they might not give much, much more. But that's where it is coming from.

And distributions also seem to fluctuate each year: how much this charity gives to other people. 2007, you see about a half million dollars given there. In 2009, almost $2 million went out and then last year, about $600,000.

The fund right now, John, is believed to be worth about $10 million. And that gives charity to various groups out there.

KING: And you say various groups. Can we say specifically who's getting this money?

FOREMAN: Yes, some of them are very predictable. The biggest part of his money has gone to the LDS Church, the Mormon Church, where they're members of. And that is used for charitable purposes by the church. LDS, if you don't know, has a massive, massive outreach program all over the world through its charities. So that's where most of the money goes.

But a lot of it goes to other things you might expect like cystic fibrosis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, research for those diseases. That's the United Way. Very standard things that a lot of people might expect, John.

KING: And as we await the governor's personal returns tomorrow, you go through the foundation, any controversial groups on that list, tom?

FOREMAN: Yes. Let's bring up that last slide there, because it's kinds of interesting. Some would be controversial, depending on how you look at it.

For example, the Massachusetts Family Institute is a group that really promotes views of a traditional family, many gay and lesbian right group really dislike them, say that they're anti-gay, that they're trying to stop sex education, all of that, many of which, I suppose, the Massachusetts Family Institute would say they agree, that's what they're trying to do.

The Hoover Institution is based at Stanford University. That promotes conservative and libertarian ideas, by and large.

The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. This is a group that promotes hunting and fishing rights. So some people might not like that. My Sister's Keeper is a group that reaches out to help women in poor communities all over the world. Right now they have a focus on the Sudan, on Africa.

And the Beckett Fund is also involved in religion in that it is a group of lawyers basically that aggressively tries to fight what they see as bias against religion. For example, they're involved in the pushback against the idea that religious groups can be forced to include birth control as part of their health-care plan for workers there.

So depending on your political point of view, if you're a liberal, there's plenty in this group that will tell you, "He's the conservative I don't want." And if you're a conservative and you look closely enough, you'll even find some things in there that might make you say, "He's the moderate I don't want."

But again, it's just a look they're giving, John. This is not all of the charitable giving by the Romneys. It's just how they have addressed this one group that they started.

KING: Tom, thanks so much.

Let's get back to our conversation. Republican pollster Ed Goeas; CNN contributor, Democratic strategist Paul Begala; and Kevin Madden, who's a senior advisor for Governor Romney.

That's from a Family Foundation. You see those contributions there. I suspect that last slide, Governor Romney is having trouble with very conservative voters. I suspect he might -- he should that, maybe, and mail it around to those groups.

Let's get back to the bigger issue tomorrow: the tax returns. This has been a huge issue. It's one of the reasons he started to fall in South Carolina. Is it the transparency question that causes people to move? Is it that he just seemed uncomfortable talking about it? You know him a lot better than I do. I talk to people who say the governor is a private person and he doesn't like talking about his wealth.

MADDEN: Well, I think first of all, I mean, I think that the campaign was always going to -- was always prepared to have a certain level of disclosure.

KING: If it was always prepared -- forgive me for interrupting. First, he said I'm probably not going to release them. Then he said, "I might." Then he said this; then he said that. He's been at this a while. Don't you need to be consistent?

MADDEN: Precedents related to campaigns is first of all, you have a very robust financial disclosure that you go through. Related to the tax returns, that usually happens in the spring when you become the nominee.

I would say that, in hindsight, we would have liked to have been better prepared and we would have liked to have these ready now. But he's not the nominee now.

But now understanding this, and look, I think the big problem was that down in South Carolina, we spent two days talking about tax returns. We didn't spend two days talking about the economy. So he will admit that. And this is why this is really important to put this in the rearview mirror and again, talk about the most important news.

The governor didn't decide to run for president because he wants to run on, you know, the financial disclosure laws in the country. He wants to run for president, and he's running for president because he wants to turn around this economy. He thinks America's better days are still Ahead. And that is what we have to get this campaign back to.

KING: But the reason he couldn't get back for he lost a week or several days on it, Ed, is because his Republican opponents picked up on this. The Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee, for weeks and weeks was saying release them, Governor. That's easy for a Republican to say, "Go away." No Republican is going to get mad at you for pushing back at Obama.

But it's when Governor Perry and Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum started pressing him. Why did it matter to Republican voters?

GOEAS: Well, it's more what Newt is presenting out there. Right now he has the advantage of running as a populist. He's an anti-big government. He's anti-big labor. He's anti-big business and he's anti-big media.

KING: I hadn't noticed.

GOEAS: And he's combining all of those not just as a conservative but as a populist. I think getting out of the tax issue and really getting it out on the table, it wasn't that the tax issue wasn't as important as it was painting Romney as a big business person.

KING: So as a Democrat, do you worry, if he's the ultimate nominee, that he's getting this out now and that the Democrats lose what they thought was some kind of a weapon?

BEGALA: He needs to disclose it the way his father did. At least a dozen years. That's what President Bush did, or around a dozen, first George W. Bush. Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas released at least a dozen years of his tax returns. That's the standard. It's the standard his own father set.

And I'm wondering, look, we know he's generous. He's a man of profound faith. I admire that. But we know he's already admitted that he pays less than 15 percent rate, which is less than a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters out there, even though he's a mega millionaire. That's a real problem.

I wonder if in those past years maybe there were years when he paid zero. A lot of rich people, a lot of fat cats like Romney find ways around paying all taxes altogether.

KING: Well, they're going to release these documents -- release these documents tomorrow morning.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You've been part of the conversations about the communication strategy tomorrow morning, I assume. What's been the hardest thing in dealing with the papers? And what do you think the biggest question has been?

MADDEN: Well, you know, I do think these things are voluminous, and I think the most important thing that you can do is do it right the first time. That way you don't have to do it three or four times. So that's been the focus on the campaign, is like making sure that the details there are right, that this is done once and then we can move on in the debate.

And just back to Paul's point, I don't think then-candidate Obama met that standard that you're now applying to Governor Romney.

BEGALA: Well, he should. He's certainly not a fat cat.

KING: He released -- he released a couple or a few years. He was trying to use it as a lever against Senator Clinton. He did it early on.

So let's -- let's move on. This is a transparency debate, but it's coming to the Republican primaries. You guys want to talk about who's better on the economy. Speaker Gingrich wants to say, you know, "I balanced the budget with Bill Clinton." And we talked about taxes in Governor Romney's case, transparency about this Freddie Mac we could get any minute from Speaker Gingrich.

Ed, to you again, where -- Governor Romney's out with a tough ad right now in Florida. Hard hit by foreclosure. Saying while you were struggling, while your home was going into the tank, Newt Gingrich was taking $1.7 million From Freddie Mac. What is the test tonight when this contract comes out?

GOES: And that is going to play a lot. And on the contract, it really goes back to the full campaign with Newt. I mean, right now, if you listen to Newt, everything good that has happened in Washington the last 30 years, he's been a major part of. Everything bad that has happened in Washington in the last 30 years, he's had absolutely nothing to do with. That's where the Freddie and Fannie issue really kind of Comes in. It busts apart his campaign of "I've been part of all the good and not part of any of the bad."

KING: What, as a communicator, Paul -- I know you're not a fan of Speaker Gingrich, but he has managed, to Ed's point, on the campaign so far to get people to say here's the good part of me. I'm a good messenger. I'm a good debater. If you put me against President Obama, who knows if I'll win, But you will love the match- up. As you go through that, how does -- why are Republican voters note at least so far listening to, "Oh, yes, that's right. Maybe he overplayed his hand on impeachment." Or "That's right. He was censured. He did have to leave."

BEGALA: In South Carolina, there wasn't enough time. He peaked right at the end. It was clearly a strategy. First, he bashed Juan Williams of the FOX News Channel. Then he bashed you, of CNN. This is clearly -- we'll see what he does tonight. There's a debate on MSNBC. Then Thursday, there's another. In almost every debate, he's found some reason to bash the media.

That plays great with the Republican base. That problem is it really works with Republican primary voters. We saw that. It doesn't work with swing voters. Swing voters don't sit around saying, "Gee, my life is great, but I wish someone would attack John King."

My mother just went -- oh, she loves you, John.

KING: God bless her.

BEGALA: Seriously, it fades out when you move to a broader electorate. In fact, it looks a little angry. We do not want an angry president.

KING: It's a somewhat broader electorate. Still a Republican electorate, but it's a somewhat broader electorate in the state of Florida. What lessons did team Romney learn in South Carolina about making the case against Gingrich that we will see in the next seven days in Florida?

MADDEN: Well, I think first of all, we have to have our own moment with persuadable voters out there related to the economy and related to electability. I think the voters in South Carolina had a very distorted view of what electability looks like related to Speaker Gingrich. And that's because Speaker Gingrich represents the status quo in Washington, and everything that has gone wrong in Washington.

And that is why, if we were to put him forth as our nominee, we won't have the ability to run and drive a strong contrast against President Obama in the general election as we would with Governor Romney, who's been -- has based his career outside of Washington.

KING: I do think Republican voters also want to see a little more fight in the debates. They want someone to fight President Obama. Some of them, win, lose or whatever.

Kevin Madden, Paul Begala, Ed Goeas, thanks for coming in tonight.

Up next, the Stanley Cup champions visited the White House today and the Chicago president tried to welcome them with a little bit of Beantown slang.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Well, I am happy to welcome the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to the White House. I know you're all wicked happy to be here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll show you a document just into CNN. You've heard this talked about on the campaign trail, Republican campaign trail for weeks. Will Newt Gingrich release his contract with Freddie Mac, the quasi-public mortgage giant?

Well, here's the front page of this contract. We're going through it right now. Kate Bolduan is with me on the set.

I can tell you off the top, just by looking at it, there's the contract. It is from -- this is part of it. The one-year contract January 1 through 2006 through the end of the year in 2006 pays the Gingrich firm. It's called the Gingrich Group, Newt Gingrich's lobbying firm, $25,000 as a monthly retainer fee.

And Kate, if you go through it, it calls him a consultant and it talks about services. But it's not terribly specific. What are you finding out?

BOLDUAN: And of course, we're still just reading through this, but one line did pop out to me, which this, of course, is just on first read. It does say "the consultant," meaning specifically Mr. Gingrich, will have to supply -- will have to supply them with copies of any disclosure reports that may be required to file by laws, as of course, filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

So that's not saying one way or the other, but it's noted in this contract. Of course, we need to dig deeper on what the real services were that are described in this contract, will be, I think, very interesting.

KING: And you can know that his campaign rivals will look at that word, either fairly or unfairly. We'll read more closely to it.

That says he has to report frequently to Freddie Mac any conversations, anything new. It says he has to protect the confidential secrets of the agency, as well. Talks about regulators. Obviously, the housing market, financial markets are heavily regulated. This is, having read a lot of contracts, a lot of contract legalese, that's sort of the way these things go.

You have your severability clause and all that. We're going to keep reading this document.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is also reading this document. CNN will be all over this as we go through it.

But finally, before we leave you tonight, a "Moment You May Have Missed." Broadcaster and Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw interviewing the New York Giants after last night's big playoff win by the Giants. Someone interrupted him. Take a peek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRY BRADSHAW, BROADCASTER: Victor -- where's victor? Come here, man. How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't pick them.

BRADSHAW: Excuse me -- I'm sorry. I'm getting hammered for not picking the Giants, Kurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The funny lady there is Ann Mars. She's the widow of the longtime Giants owner, Wellington Mars. She's upset that Bradshaw predicted the giants would lose that game and previous games.

BOLDUAN: You got to love her.

KING: She's not shy.

BOLDUAN: I think he was surprised as anyone that she walked up and she said, "You never pick the Giants."

KING: She's got a career in cable television if she wants to give up...

BOLDUAN: On live TV.

KING: All right, Terry. Way to hang in there, buddy.

That's all for us tonight. Again, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. They're looking over this Gingrich contract. Don't go anywhere.