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Daring Hostage Rescue Raid; Battle for Florida

Aired January 25, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm John King reporting live from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the site of tomorrow's big Republican presidential debate.

Tonight, inside the daring Navy SEAL raid that rescued an American held hostage for months by Somali pirates and a closer look at the president's State of the Union hint about the top secret mission.

Plus, brand-new CNN polling ton underscores the stakes of our final Florida debate showdown, a tiny Mitt Romney lead over Newt Gingrich just as their battle for the GOP nomination takes another bitter turn.

And put up or shut up. Newt Gingrich snaps back at Nancy Pelosi after she tells me if there's one thing she knows, it is this. Her longtime nemesis, she says, will never be president.

A busy day of politics here in Florida and back in Washington, but we begin tonight with another stunning Navy SEAL success story that sounds like a made-for-Hollywood spy script, the U.S. military's daring raid to free an American woman and the Danish man held by pirates in Somalia.

Our first inkling something was up came as President Obama entered the House chamber last night for the State of the Union address. Listen here as he greets the defense secretary, Leon Panetta.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Leon, good job tonight. Good job tonight.


KING: Just hours before, U.S. special operations forces parachuted into Somalia near the pirates' compound. The strike team included Navy SEALs from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden. They shot their way in, killing all nine of the kidnappers, then rushed the freed hostages onto helicopters and got away without a single casualty.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is with us live tonight. And, Chris, tell us more about how this daring raid went down.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the military and FBI had been searching for these humanitarian workers since they were abducted in late October.

But officials now tell us it was only in recent weeks that the sense of urgency really started to rise. Part of the reason for that was the deteriorating health of the American woman, Jessica Buchanan. So when officials got specific intelligence, specifically where the hostages were and who was holding them, President Obama made the call to green-light this mission on Monday night.

On Tuesday night, the weather was perfect for an assault. And that's when the military went in. You detailed how they got there, how they shot all nine of the kidnappers. They did find the hostages at an outdoor encampment, hustled then onto a helicopter, got them out of the country, and then took them to the American base in Djibouti, where they were able to get some medical care -- John.

KING: And, Chris, the timing, just pure coincidence? The president's giving his State of the Union address in which he takes at least what some would call a little bit of a bin Laden victory lap.

LAWRENCE: Yes, he certainly worked it into both the beginning and the end of the State of the Union address while this raid was going on. I'm told by officials that at the moment that President Obama told Secretary Panetta good job, good job at that moment both men knew that the rescue team had rescued the hostages, but mission was not over.

In other words, the rescue team had not completely left Somalia and gotten safely back to the American base. So the mission wasn't a completely a done deal at that point.

KING: Fascinating details.

Chris Lawrence, live for us tonight at the Pentagon, Chris, thank you.

Here in Florida, Newt Gingrich's top rival is Mitt Romney. And, yes, the two Republicans went at it again today. But the former House speaker also took several opportunities today to fire verbal salvos at another former speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

She was here with us exclusively last night and Pelosi had this take on Gingrich.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He's not going to be president of the United States. This is -- that's not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it. It isn't going to happen.

KING: Why are you so sure? PELOSI: There's something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him, that's their prerogative. I don't even think that's going to happen.


KING: Earlier today, Gingrich fired back. Here he is on "The Today Show."


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She lives in a San Francisco environment of very strange fantasies and very strange understandings of reality. I have no idea what's in Nancy Pelosi's head. If she knows something, I have a simple challenge. Spit it out.


KING: He took another shot later in the day in this radio interview.


GINGRICH: I have a simple challenge for Speaker Pelosi to put up or shut up. I have no idea what she's talking about. I don't think she has any idea what she's talking about. But bring it on.


KING: Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, live now with more on this Gingrich-Pelosi grudge match.

Dana, the speaker -- let me get this straight -- Speaker Gingrich wanted to fire back today. What is the former Speaker Pelosi saying?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's saying that she's not hiding any secrets.

The problem, John, is that this isn't the first time where she's maybe sort of suggested that she knows something, but her office insists she doesn't know anything that isn't public record. In fact they put out a statement from her saying, "Any reference I would make to the Ethics Committee is confined to the public record," the Ethics Committee. This is really what this is all about.

It is an Ethics Committee report that has been talked about now on the campaign trail that came out while Newt Gingrich was in office. The issue is that Nancy Pelosi wasn't just an average member who read it and voted on it. She was part of the investigative committee that looked into it. She has said before that she was one of four people on the committee locked in a room reading thousands of pages of his stuff.

So that's why she seems to potentially know more than others. Maybe she just actually took the time to read it. But you know this, John, maybe more than anybody, that Newt Gingrich likes to use some entities as foils, the news media and, of course, the liberal left. What better an icon to use as a foil than Nancy Pelosi? And she's maybe fed into it with some of the things that she said.

KING: She certainly -- when I asked her that question, her eyes lit up. She was happy, happy to fire back at Speaker Gingrich.

Let's move onto the race before us right now. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich are in a tight race here in Florida, Dana. And John McCain, Mitt Romney's rival from the last campaign, came to his aid today. On a conference call, he was talking about that John McCain has campaigned against those earmarks, sneaking spending into bills for some time.

Let's listen here on a conference call today where he takes after and essentially blames Newt Gingrich for the explosion of this problem.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I saw these earmarks explode. I saw the corruption also that resulted from it. It was infuriating. While Gingrich was speaker, the number of earmarks doubled to more than 6,000 projects in the range of billions of dollars.


KING: Can't say John McCain would be a Tea Party favorite, Dana, but clearly that's what they're going at here for the Romney campaign trying to peel away some of the speaker's conservative support, right?

BASH: Absolutely.

And when Rick Santorum was on the rise, he said virtually the same thing about Rick Santorum. Look, John McCain is a good messenger for the issue of earmarks and spending because he has been on this crusade for years and years and years. He also accused Newt Gingrich of actually writing a memo back in 1996 telling the people who were in charge of the spending committees to make sure that people who are in tough elections were doled some of the most juicy earmarks.

So this is something that John McCain thinks that he has a really good handle on. He also is no fan of Newt Gingrich. He said on this conference call -- I was on it, John -- some of the things that we have been hearing in private from other members and former members of Congress about Newt Gingrich's leadership, specifically reminding people he left as speaker not because he thought it was time to go, but because he didn't have the votes to stay in office because people simply didn't think he had the right leadership style to stay there.

Still, I have to tell you, it is very interesting to listen to John McCain on a conference call on behalf of Mitt Romney, the guy who he was in Florida duking it out with four years ago almost to the day.

KING: Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent live on Capitol Hill tonight, Dana, thank you. An important fact-check now on a story that dates back to last week in South Carolina. Remember our presidential debate when Speaker Gingrich lashed out at my question about allegations his second ex- wife made in an interview with ABC News?


GINGRICH: The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested because they would like to attack any Republican.


KING: Yesterday, I asked the speaker about ABC's insistence that no such character witnesses were offered.


GINGRICH: Oh, that is just plain baloney. I mean, I will check with R.C. Hammond in a minute. But if they're saying that, they're not being honest, because they said explicitly the opposite. So I will check with R.C., because he was briefing me on this the whole way through. We had several people prepared to be very clear and very aggressive in their dispute about that. And they weren't interested.


KING: You heard the speaker there. He said, we had several people prepared, and they were not interested.

Well, tonight, after persistent questioning by our staff, the Gingrich campaign concedes now Speaker Gingrich was wrong both in his debate answer and in our interview yesterday.

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond says the only people the campaign offered to ABC were the speaker's two daughters from his first marriage.

Proof tonight Speaker Gingrich perhaps should worry more about Mitt Romney and Florida. Our new CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll shows a statistical dead heat here. The former Massachusetts governor has 36 percent among Florida Republicans likely to vote in Tuesday's primary, Speaker Gingrich 34 percent support, close, but the momentum is clearly with Governor Romney at the moment.

Speaker Gingrich was leading in the first day of our polling, but Romney significantly up in the final two days. Our debate here tomorrow night is the last face-to-face showdown before Tuesday's voting.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

Gloria, clearly, the debate the other night, the NBC debate, helped Governor Romney stop the momentum. He now has it. If you look at the polling, one interesting thing in there is look at the gender gap. The gender gap, people have always seen it. If you look at our polling now, among men, Gingrich 35, Romney 31, so slight advantage Gingrich, but among women, Romney 40, Gingrich 32.

In a bigger, more diverse moderate state, looks like at the moment the gender gap benefits Romney.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It does benefit Romney. He needs to start getting some men start to vote for him, though.

That's really important to him. We didn't see a gender gap for Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, because he whomped Mitt Romney throughout the entire state and did well with both men and women. But generally Newt Gingrich tends to have a gender gap, whether it's because of his personal issues or because men like the way he attacks and is very effective at that.

But I think that this news with Romney, such a wide lead among women, is good for him, but he needs to get some men to start voting for him too.

KING: And South Carolina, a very conservative state, Tea Party and evangelicals. Florida, a little bit more moderate, a lot more diverse. If you look at that breakdown among Tea Party voters, those who support the Tea Party, Gingrich 39, Romney 35, so again a close Gingrich lead but not as big as he probably would like.

Among Tea Party opponents or those who are neutral when it comes to the question of the Tea Party, Romney with an 11-point lead, 37-26. There are more of those people who are either opposed or are neutral on the Tea Party. In a bigger state like Florida, that could be advantage Romney.

BORGER: It could be advantage Romney.

The Tea Party people really are skeptical about Mitt Romney because of health care. Health care is a very big issue for the Tea Party, as you know. They look at what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. They don't trust him to repeal President Obama's health care plan.

But the entire state is not Tea Party. And that could be very useful to Mitt Romney. But here's the key. The key is, every Republican wants somebody who can stand up against Barack Obama. And that's where they look at Newt Gingrich in these debates and they say, you know what, he does very well. The last debate, Romney was on the attack. We will have to see what happens tomorrow night.

KING: Tomorrow night. Tomorrow night. We're going to bring Gloria back a bit later to continue our conversation about politics today.

She makes that point. Tune into our big debate tomorrow night.

Well, tonight, the man the Republicans want to beat in November, President Obama, he is on the road visiting five states now to push his State of the Union message, what he's calling the blueprint for an American economy built to last.

Part of that blueprint includes his call for higher taxes on the wealthy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do we want to keep investing in everything that's important to our long-term growth, education, medical research, our military, caring for our veterans, all of which are expensive, or do we keep these tax cuts for folks who don't need them and weren't even asking for them? Because we can't do both.


KING: After that stop in Iowa, the president headed west. He's about an hour now away from a speech in Arizona. After that, onto Nevada, then Colorado, back toward the east to Michigan.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, in Chandler, Arizona, just outside Phoenix.

Jess, tell us, gee, curious looking at that map, why these five states?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first he's pushing his agenda, which is twofold, to grow jobs in the U.S. and to inoculate himself against anticipated attacks from the Republicans.

So he's focused on jobs, saying that he's promoting an energy agenda, and promoting skills in the U.S. And these states, 48, that's the number of electoral votes among them, John. Three of the states are purple states that he won last time around, Nevada, Iowa, and Colorado.

One of them, Michigan, is a blue state that he won. But because they suffered so badly in the recession, they will have to spend a lot of time there courting those voters again. They expect to do OK there, though, because of the auto bailout and how much the president's administration helped.

But this is the state, as you know, that is a red state that Democrats don't usually expect to compete well in and that this team, this campaign team, thinks they have a shot at because of the big Latino vote here. A lot of Republicans think that that's a stretch. Some even think it's laughable. But the Obama campaign is convinced that they can pick it up with work -- John.

KING: Jessica Yellin live in Chandler, Arizona, a new state to add to the map this time, off the map last time just because, as she noted, John McCain.

Jess, thank you. We will keep track of the president's travels.

Up next: more insight on the training and coordination that goes into the daring raids like the one that freed those aid workers in Somalia. We will be joined by two retired Navy SEALs to break down the details.


KING: It's been fascinating throughout the day as we learn more details of last night's stunning rescue of a U.S. aid worker and a Danish citizen.

We learned today the U.S. strike team in Somalia included members of the Navy SEAL Team Six unit. That's the same unit that carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

A statement from President Obama today says: "As commander in chief, I could not be prouder of the troops who carried out this mission and the dedicated professionals who supported their efforts."

Joining me now to discuss this raid, two retired U.S. Navy SEALs, John McGuire, who runs the organization SEAL Team Physical Training, and Cade Courtley, who was a sniper, in addition to being a Navy SEAL.

Cade, let me start with you.

It's the same unit that had the bin Laden raid in Pakistan. What's the difference between a raid on a compound like that and this nighttime paratrooping operation into Africa?

CADE COURTLEY, HOST, "SURVIVING DISASTER": Well, I mean, John, they're kind of two very separate operations.

We don't know how much lead time we had on the bin Laden one. I understand we had upwards of three months on the hostage rescue one here. I won't get into specifics because the world doesn't need to know that. But, generally speaking, time is your friend in a situation like this.

You're able to look for vulnerabilities, find out best way to hit the target, plan, plan, rehearse. But the guys who did this are so good they could also get the call 10 minutes, and 10 minutes later it's done. That's just how good these guys are. They're a Super Bowl-winning team for the last decade.

KING: Super Bowl-winning team, indeed.

And, John, you have done this before, parachuting in from a helicopter under cover of darkness into what could be quite hostile territory. Take us into the training and then the mind-set as you jump out of the bird.

JOHN MCGUIRE, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: You know, the training for a Navy SEAL is not for the faint of heart.

And we train to never quit and to always win. And I will tell you, these guys are focused. Sometimes, on the news you hear about Olympic athletes, the focus it takes to win an Olympic gold medal. Well, these guys have that focus from the time they get into isolation for training until they come home and get a shower.

So, it's a lot of preparation and just a lot of rehearsal.

KING: And, Cade, we understand that the original plan hopefully was to capture and to take into custody these pirates. Go through the briefings, the rules of engagement, and when you make the call and how you make the call that we're not going to be able to do that, this has to be a gunfight.

COURTLEY: Well, look, rules of engagement are different for every evolution or every operation you go on.

But, at the end of the day, if you feel your life is at risk, you can take appropriate action. If somebody is shooting at me, I'm going to shoot back. And, clearly, these guys, if they're doing what they have done, in my opinion, don't deserve to be around. They got shot at. Make them disappear. That's the job we do.

KING: And, John, these SEALs are getting credit they deserve, the front lines in this attack, this heroic rescue and getting both of the hostages out alive. But take us behind the scenes.

There are people, names and faces we will never know, roles we will never know -- about the intelligence, planning, the support systems. What else goes in to an operation like this?

MCGUIRE: There's a lot.

And I think I heard in the news that about 50 people participated in this raid. And obviously for Navy SEALs, there was only men. But I'm sure behind the scenes, our military men and women from analysts all the way to the SEAL operator, many people have put a lot of time into this.

And like it was said earlier, sometimes you get a two-hour notice and sometimes you have two months' notice. But we always say in training we train how we fight. And the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war. So I'm sure they did a lot of rehearsals. And from the analysts back home all the way to the guys, boots on the ground, these guys did a lot of planning to make it a successful mission.

KING: And, Cade, we had the bin Laden raid, we have this dramatic raid. Are we just hearing about this a little bit more, or is this the new front lines, if you will, the new secret weapon in these wars? Troops coming out of Iraq, plans to bring troops back from Afghanistan. Are wars of the future or engagements of the future more likely to be smaller-scale special operations?

COURTLEY: Well, John, these guys, I mean, we have been at war for the last 10 years. And these guys have been busy. So just because you hear of something every couple of months on the news doesn't mean that's all they're doing. They're working around the clock.

They will go, they will do the op and then they will get ready for the next one. That's how busy these guys are. Now, if this is something that you're going to see more of in the future, I would hope so, because as we have seen in the recent past it's highly effective, these guys continually doing it right the first time.

And that's why SEAL training is so hard and so few guys make it, because when the president calls and said, OK, green light, you have to do it right and you have to do it right the first time. And, again,, these guys are phenomenal. They're knocking it out of the park. They're a Super Bowl-winning team every time they go do it. So, couldn't be more proud.

KING: Cade Courtley, John McGuire, gentlemen, can't thank you enough for your service and for your help tonight understanding this daring operation. And couldn't agree more, this is a Super Bowl- winning team.

Gentlemen, thanks again.

In just a few moments, we're going to hear from friends of the rescued U.S. aid worker as well, more details on this daring mission.

But, next, new details about why a cruise ship captain steered so close to land and how he ended up on a lifeboat when his ship capsized.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: Up next: a close look at a woman many people hadn't heard about until the daring raid by U.S. special forces rescued her from Somali pirates. Friends say she was passionate about helping people.

Plus: an in-depth look at the big spenders who are pouring money into attack ads right here in Florida.


KING: Welcome back to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the site of tomorrow night's big Republican presidential debate.

In this half hour, the school where now rescued U.S. aid worker impressed her friends and teachers with her passion for helping others.

Also, the truth about what former speaker Nancy Pelosi knows about Newt Gingrich.

And the government cracks down on online ads that look like news reports but aren't.

Jessica Buchanan's father tells CNN he was flabbergasted when President Obama called last night to announce his daughter had been rescued by U.S. special force. She was kidnapped last October while working in Somalia. One of Africa's forced in most chaotic and dangerous countries.

To better understand why she was there the in the first place, CNN's Brian Todd visited the small Pennsylvania college she attended.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Professor Glen McClure recommends when Jessica Buchanan returned from a trip to Kenya. His former student, he says, presented him with a carved elephant to thank him for helping her land a student teaching job there. After her October kidnapping in Somalia he looked at that figure often.

GLEN MCCLURE, PROFESSOR, VALLEY FORGE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE: I see it often. I just breathe a prayer, and Lord, help Jessica to get through this.

TODD: His prayers are answered. McClure, who taught and men toward Jessica Buchanan at Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania, is along with everyone on this small liberal arts campus ecstatic and relieved that Buchanan has been rescued by U.S. Special Forces.

DON MYERS, PRESIDENT, VALLEY FORGE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE: It's about 2:00, 2:30 this morning I happened to be check mike computer. I had been up and just briefly looked at it and I saw this note. Wow, I can't believe it.

TODD: Valley Forge president Don Myers says the school had been holding a vigil since October when Buchanan who graduated from Valley Forge in 2007 was captured. Professor David Scalforo's daughter Christine is Jessica Buchan's best friend and former roommate.

DAVID SCOLFORO, PROFESSOR, VALLEY FORGE CHRISTIAN COLLEGE: Its very day you woke up wondering, is this going to be the day that she could be free or is this going to be the day where you get news saying that she is not coming home forever.

TODD: Buchan's father, a furniture maker in Bedford, Virginia, told CNN off camera his daughter is doing well considering the circumstances. John Buchanan says President Obama called him saying "I have great news for you. Your daughter has been rescued by our military."

Those here who know Jessica Buchanan used one common word to describe her, passionate. They say she brought that attitude toward everything, toward her religious beliefs and toward teaching those less fortunate, especially in Africa.

MYERS: You could hardly talk about Africa with tears in her eyes.

MCCLURE: She had a beautiful relationship with the Lord, and I thank that and God's direction or the Holy Spirit working with her kind of ignited that passion, and she wanted to continue and follow through with that that.


TODD: When I asked John Buchanan what he would say to the members of the U.S. Special Forces who rescued his daughter if he could speak to them tonight, he had five words. "Thank you. We're very grateful" - John.

KING: And Brian, you also had a chance to speak to a top official at the Danish Relief Council, the organization Jessica worked for. What do you know about her security? The security precautions that were taken at the time the two were kidnapped?

TODD: That's right, John. I spoke to Andreas Kahn, the secretary general of that group. And he said that Jessica Buchanan and Paul Tiestad did have security with them. He said that security team was armed at the time that they were captured in October. He didn't mention many words. He said they are disappointed in what happened given the fact they had a security team with them. He wasn't sure how many members of the team were with them at the time. But he said they're going to investigate this as soon as they get a chance to talk to those two rescued relief workers.

KING: Brian Todd for us, Brian, thanks so much.

We're going to take a quick break. We will be right back. When we do return, big bucks, CNN all week going in-depth looking at all the big money being spent on presidential campaigns. Much more just ahead.


KING: All week, CNN is taking an in-depth look at the big bucks that go into financing a presidential campaign and where that cash is really coming from.

Tonight, we wanted to provide a closer look at how this is playing out here in Florida. It's not just an issue in the presidential campaign. First Florida though, the next GOP primary battle ground. The so-called super PACs are players in the TV ads this year. And at the moment is the heaviest hitters are the groups that support Mitt Romney. The pro-Romney group played the stud challenges Newt Gingrich on his constant comparisons to Ronald Reagan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reagan criticizing Gingrich saying Newt's ideas quote "would cripple our defense program." Reagan rejected Newt's ideas on leadership and character, team Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.


KING: Now, total ad spending in Florida so far, still a few days left though, is about $8 million so far, about half more than $4 million coming from super PACs. You see it right there. You might notice in this map of ad buys there's no Rick Santorum ad spending here. That's at odds with what he told CNN just six days ago.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're definitely no matter what happens Saturday you're going to Florida.


BLITZER: You got money?

SANTORUM: Actually we're starting our bye today.

BLITZER: When you say starting your buy what does that mean?

SANTORUM: We're starting to buy in Florida today advertising.

BLITZER: you are starting to buy advertising?

SANTORUM: Yes, we are starting to buy advertising.

BLITZER: Do you have enough money?

SANTORUM: We do. We've done very, very well since our Iowa win.


KING: You heard Senator Santorum say "we're starting our buy today." That was six days ago. Well there's been no such spending. The Santorum team now said that is being more cautious with resources because of polling showing him running a distant third here. And there are questions tonight about whether Senator Santorum will be in the state on primary night.

Now, those super PACs aren't limited to presidential politics. You'll see more and more once congressional races heat up. In our exclusive conversation yesterday, the house democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says her effort to regain control of the house will include a pledge from Democrats to be more transparent about campaign spending.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We want to disclose and we'll be making a big effort in that regard. And then when we win, we are going to reform the campaign system. Democrats will have as their legacy a new politics free of special-interest money.


KING: Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger back with me here in Jacksonville. Let's talk a bit about campaign cash. To leader Pelosi's point there, the Democrats say they will be more open, they will be more transparent. They want to make this an issue. I know many of them feel very strongly about it. But, no matter your passions on this issue, I can't remember a campaign that has turned on the money issue. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know you're not going to unilaterally disarm when you are in a race. And you're going to take the money. And maybe, you are going to say this is where the money comes from as we've seen in the presidential campaign these PACs have names that are very amorphous like restore our future so you don't know what candidate they're affiliated with.

So the Democrats may want to talk about it. But they're not going to turn away this money. And this money is so influential. Because I think what it has done in the presidential race, tell me if you agree, is that I think it's extended the life of campaigns or giving life to campaign. Someone like Newt Gingrich gets injections of, what $10 million from Shell Natelson? That helps.

KING: And yes. And you guys can put the chart back up showing spending here in Florida. Here's what I'm curious about.

They're obviously planning for the long term. But Gingrich is not spending a lot of money here. I think $45,000 so far on television in Florida, big state with several media markets. As of today the Romney campaign and pro-Romney super PAC outspending by millions.

Is the calculation there to try to just win on momentum in Florida and save for the long haul? Are they worried maybe; they raised about $2 million out of South Carolina.

BORGER: They did, yes.

KING: Are they worried they're not going to be able to sustain that so they're keeping money in the bank? That to me, if you want to win Florida you have to spend more than that.

BORGER: Well, and I think maybe what they're doing is, they didn't buy ads early enough. I mean, the problem is they're there are ten media markets in this state. Mitt Romney was buying ads early on because he knew he was going to come here in a big way. And there's only so much time on television. So that could also be a problem for the Gingrich campaign.

KING: It's also the first place we've seen any advertising aimed at Latino voters, Spanish language radio ads, television ads. Senator Marco Rubio, the new freshman senator from Florida, telling the Gingrich campaign to pull one they didn't like about Romney. How important is that constituency?

BORGER: Usually important. It's about 12 percent of the Republican Party here. And what we see between Gingrich and Romney are jockeying for Hispanic voters. By the way, Hispanic voters vote on the economy in this state; jobs very, very important. But also you see Romney now saying that he might vote for part of the dream act if it was the children of military families, softening his stance a little bit there, both of them really, really ardently anti-Castro competing for that. So yes, a very, very important part of the voting population here.

KING: Old Tip O'Neill, all politics is local, right?

BORGER: You bet.

KING: It's different when you vote into Florida. Gloria, thank you.

Still ahead tonight's truth. Last night on this program the house democratic leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Newt Gingrich would never be president. A moment of thermoses, or just a long-running feud?

Plus what prompted a Connecticut mayor to say this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What are you doing for the Latino community today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet.



KING: It's no secret, not withstanding a little time together on the climate change coach, that Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi don't like each other and don't respect each other. But as Democrat Pelosi privy to some secret damaging information about her long-time Republican nemesis, to some she left that impression when I asked her yesterday about the prospect of a Gingrich presidency.


PELOSI: Let me just say this. That will never happen.

KING: Why?

PELOSI: He's not going to be president of the United States. It's -- that's not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it. It isn't going to happen.

KING: How can you be so sure?

PELOSI: There's something I know. The Republicans if they choose to nominate him, that's their prerogative. I don't even think that's going to happen.


KING: Within minutes, headlines, reports of a Pelosi threat or a promise. And within hours, this counter punches.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She lives in a San Francisco environment of very strange fantasies and very strange understandings of reality, I have no idea what's in Nancy Pelosi's head. If she knows something, I have a simple challenge. Spit it out.


KING: Well, here's tonight's truth. In our conversation, it was clear to me that what leader Pelosi was saying, perhaps not so elegantly, was that she knows in her view, both politics and Gingrich and she can't imagine him winning.

Her spokesman backed that up today telling CNN, she simply meant, she knows there's no way Gingrich will be elected president. But, her spokesman ended something that underscores the long running Gingrich- Pelosi feud. He included in e-mail to CNN, an Internet link to the full house ethics committee report that led to a record fine against then speaker Gingrich. Truth is their bad blood runs deep.


PELOSI: I think he's done plenty dumb things and there's stiff competition for what is the dumbest he has done, of course including his violations of the ethics rules of the House of Representatives. I think the public record speaks for itself. I don't if there's any reason to go further than that. But, read the public record.


KING: Let's get some perspective on the Pelosi-Gingrich feud and the great race here in the state of Florida joined by three wonder guests Billie Tucker, the co-founder of the First Coast Tea Party, Jeff Zeleny is national political correspondent of the "New York Times" and Republican media strategist, Rick Wilson.

First Rick, I want to start with you on the end. It's no question, if you follow politics. You know Gingrich and Pelosi don't like each other. She lit up when I asked her about last night. Of course she wanted to respond to what she said, but it serves him no purpose in the dead heat there in Florida to be debating Nancy Pelosi, does it?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN MEDIA STRATEGIST: What you see about Newt, she understands one part. He's distracted by bright shiny objects and the minute she said that, he was up there like a shark on a tuna. This is a guy who cannot stop himself from pursuing the next little flashy thing in front of him. Its discipline I think reflects the 96 or 128 hours, whatever he's left to go in this campaign of the state. And he's talking about Nancy Pelosi, someone basically most Republicans think of as the crazy "M" the basement. It doesn't do him any good among this Republican primary electorate.

KING: Doesn't do him any good, Jeff. But they have this. She was on the ethics committee at the time. They have this on-going feud. She has a couple of times said suggested or people have implied from what she said that maybe there's more. Maybe there's some secret report she has that she would dump into the public. She insisted no, but she's part of this too.

JEFF ZELENY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And he has responded and sort of given some criticism by saying if she says anything, she'll be in violation of house rules, so speaker Gingrich has sort of fueled this. But I'm not exactly sure why she's doing this that as much because she's sort of playing into the Romney hand here by linking Pelosi and Gingrich. I mean, I think a lot of the Democrats would be happy to see him become the Republican nominee or at least win this Florida primary coming up next week.

But I think at the end of the day, the Gingrich voters I talk to a rally don't seem to be so concerned about the Nancy Pelosi even though there's someone showing up at every rally dressed like Nancy Pelosi. My guess is the Romney campaign is sending them, I don't know that but trying to link them. A lot of this is baked in the cake. People who like Gingrich like his confrontational style. They are not as concerned about the whole episode of them sitting on the sofa talking about climate change.

KING: So, what's happening in your state right now? We have a new times ORC poll out tonight, Romney, 36; Gingrich, 34; Santorum, 11; Congressman Paul at nine percent. If you look at the last two days of the data, it is clear that Romney suddenly, Gingrich is way ahead on the first day of the polling and Romney's way ahead by the end of the polling. What changed the momentum?

BILLIE TUCKER, CO-FOUNDER, FIRST COAST TEA PARTY: Well, we don't know what poll you did, but we did our poll here last night. And Newt Gingrich came in at 40 percent here locally in Jacksonville and actually Romney came in third behind Paul. So, that was from the tea party.

KING: Tea party.

TUCKER: The tea party.

KING: In our polling, speaker Gingrich does better among tea party voters and then. But, this is the most diverse state we will play out. And so, a tea party, if he can hold that, it helps speaker Gingrich. But non- tea party, people are neutral tea party people are for Romney. So, the tug of war continues.

TUCKER: Right. Right.

ZELENY: I think that's right, but I also saw some people at a breakfast at St. Petersburg yesterday where Newt Gingrich was. A lot of people in don't tread on me shirts are the tea party people. Even three women I talked to said they liked what Gingrich stands for, but are wrestling with the idea of his electability.

So, tea party member, the ones I have interviewed here are not quite sure this, but they're definitely taken by him. That's why he's getting huge crowds all across the southwest corner of Florida. I mean, Mitt Romney can't build these kinds of events. It doesn't necessarily matter, but it's a sign of something. KING: So, there's passion for Gingrich. Our idea was like the first that there's a lot of like for Mitt Romney in the Republican Party and not a lot of love. But Rick, he came out of South Carolina. That was the first state in the exit polling. It's a more conservative electorate than we have here, that I might add, is we go forward.

But that was the first state where people thought Gingrich was a better candidate against Obama. How important is it for Governor Romney in that hall tomorrow night to prove to Florida whether you like me or not, I'm the better candidate to debate Obama?

WILSON: I think the Gingrich bump out to South Carolina like all the polling has reflecting has started to fade. I think there's -- we're at an inflection point where if Newt Gingrich has another night like Monday and he stands there sort of inert, he's going to be a bad day on Tuesday.

I think a lot of the things that Mitt Romney has done in the state well in advance. As Gloria was talking about earlier, when he's brought a lot of media in the state for the month ahead of time, a lot of early ballots have come in and a lot of people are really starting to say, we've got to make a hard choice now. This is one of the most consequential political decision, they are going to make this year in the state. And really, they having to consider if Newt Gingrich is conservative as they need, taking aside his ability to go and do wonderful parlor tricks at debates as you saw the other night. So --

KING: Are you surprised? We showed the ad numbers up earlier. And about $45,000 so far in pro-Gingrich spending, you know, millions for Romney. Are they just late buying or they are just holding their money for later states?

ZELENY: I think it could be a combination. There's no exact of how much money they had. Don't forget, the last reporting period, he was far deep in the hole here. They may be paying all bills but Florida is the first winner take all state.

So, the Romney campaign is making a calculation here about how much money its worth for those delegates because one person's going to win them. So, it's more important for Romney to win than for a Gingrich I guess in some respects. But, I think I would think we would see more ads in the coming days. I'm a little surprise that's not been there but the super PAC is coming to his aid from Sheldon Adelson. And this is Adelson from Nevada.

KING: You're nodding your head. Governor Romney, the way I was saying it, is that Romney was Gingrich and Gingrich was Romney in the debates the other night. Gingrich for the first time was playing it safe. If he had momentum, he was playing it big. He was focusing on the president. And Romney who has done that for months was suddenly, if you asked him the color of his tie, he was going to attack Newt Gingrich. What are your sense and the stakes tomorrow night here?

TUCKER: I that think tomorrow night, we're going to have a lot better debate because CNN's doing it. Somebody asked us the other night. They said who do you think won the debate and I said CNN because the debate on Monday was horrific. It was terrible. And we just expect tomorrow night to have a great debate because you guys know how to put one on and it's much more engaging and people get to see the candidates better. So, we are looking forward to tomorrow night.

KING: I appreciate your support for CNN. I do want to defend my colleagues at NBC news. Those are good chatters. They're good guys. Brian Williams is a good guy. They did the best that they could. Look, I appreciate that. Thank you. Jeff and Rick, Thanks as well.

TUCKER: You're welcome. But, that's everybody said.

KING: All right. Thank you, guys. Let's check in with Kate Bolduan with the latest news you need to know right now. Hello again, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll take the compliments where we can get them, right John? Sometimes, that's all you can ask for. We'll get back to you in a second. We have some news to catch you up on everyone.

Starting March 1st, Google will combine all of your clicks and taps through its various websites and products including you tube and android phones into a single comprehensive user profile. They say it will give you a simpler, more intuitive Google experience. So, probably not surprising in various advocates and Google's rivals are less than thrilled.

Four East Haven Connecticut police officers have been arrested by the FBI for allegedly abusing Latino residents and business owners. When asked by a reporter, those prompted the East Haven mayor to say this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What are you doing for the Latino community today?

JOSEPH MATURO JR., MAYOR, EAST HAVEN CONNECTICUT: I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not sure yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: There has been a segment of this community that has been impacted by the FBI arresting four officers over alleged discrimination and you tell me --

MATURO: Alleged discrimination?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: And you tell me today that your priority tonight is I might go have tacos.


BOLDUAN: Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. is now apologizing for those comments calling them insensitive. He says the stress of the situation got the best of him. The federal trade commission today moved to shut down six marketers of online ads selling weight loss products call "Acai Berries." The fed says the ads fake newscast look is deceptive, so do consumers who forked over 70 to a hundred dollars for the berries. I'm sure you have seen those ads

And there were plenty of tears today as members of Congress said good-bye for now to Gabrielle Giffords who is leaving the House. The focus on her recovery from last year's assassination intent. Part of the resignation letter she handed speaker Boehner this morning says "I will recover and will return."


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I couldn't prepare anything this morning because I knew that I would not be able to hold it together very long.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Gabby's courage, her strength and her downright fortitude are an inspiration to us and all Americans.

PELOSI: The brightest star Congress has ever seen.


BOLDUAN: I was watching that happen live, John, it was really an extraordinary moment to happen on the house floor today.

KING: It sure that is an extraordinary moment. We wish the best to Gabby Giffords into her retirement from the House and wish her best support to her recovery. It was nice to see Democrats and Republicans come together today to pay such an emotional tribute to her.

Kate, thanks so much. We were just mentioning speaker Gingrich's ad as Rick Wilson, a strategist was walking up to the state said he heard they bought about 220,000. The pro-Gingrich super PAC tonight in Florida. We will watch that tomorrow night.

The former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, is among our guest as we lead you up to the big CNN Republican Florida presidential debate.

Have a great night. We will see you tomorrow. Erin Burnett, "OUT FRONT" starts right now.