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Tension on the Tarmac; The Fight for Florida; Freed American Awaits Return; Brewer: Obama Is "Thin-Skinned"; Inside The Navy SEAL Team's Daring Rescue

Aired January 26, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I thought I was going to have to sneeze right off the start of the show.


BANFIELD: Not a good thing.

Hello, everybody. It's nice to have you here with us on EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

BANFIELD: This was a good one, guys, if you missed it. The tarmac in Arizona got hot.

It wasn't about the weather. It was about the president and the governor. Jan Brewer and Barack Obama getting testy on the tarmac and Brewer even pointed her finger, shaking it, wagging it at the president.

What was this all about? Why did they have an issue? And have they resolved it?

SAMBOLIN: So, they are just five days left until the Florida primary. There are four folks out there. We're talking Gingrich and Romney in a dead heat. Can someone land a knockout blow at tonight's CNN debate? That's debate number 19.

BANFIELD: If you're counting. And we are.


BANFIELD: Also, this amazing story of the rescue of these two aid workers in Somalia. Here are the graphics but, boy, is there a story behind these graphics. If you like Blackhawks, you like rescue, do we have the details for you. Check out the pictures. We're going to tell you how this all went down, step by step.

SAMBOLIN: And we talked about this yesterday. There is a lot of anger building up in East Haven, Connecticut. A report found that the police engaged in bias policing, unconstitutional searches and seizures and the use of excessive force against Latinos. And then the mayor apologize are about a taco remark that he made about Latino. Is it enough? Is it enough to calm the controversy there?

EARLY START starts right now.

So, up first, the tension on the tarmac. The president and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer getting into a verbal confrontation about the president as he arrived in Phoenix on Air Force One. At one point, we see Brewer pointing her finger at him.

BANFIELD: It's hard to see because they're behind the limo. But people who were there say this was awkward. It all kind of got triggered by things that Jan Brewer said in her book "Scorpions for Breakfast." In turns out in the book, she talked about an encounter that she had with the president in the Oval Office when she was there visiting back in 2010, and said that he was patronizing and that it wasn't a good visit. And the White House doesn't recall it being quite like that.

In fact, here's what Brewer wrote about it, quote, "We sat down and we started with some chitchat. And after a few minutes, the president's tone got serious and condescending. He proceeded to lecture me about everything he was doing to promote comprehensive immigration reform which was code for encouraging more illegal immigration by letting those in the country illegally jump the line."

Not good.


Talking to reporters, Brewer called the president thin-skinned.


GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I had a little handwritten note for him. When he wanted to know what was in the envelope. I told him exactly what was in there. And he changed the subject to my book "Scorpions for Breakfast," and was a little bit disenchanted, if you will, about how he was portrayed in the book. I believe that the book is a very straightforward, honest recollection of exactly what took place at the White House.

Bottom line is, I wanted to be there to welcome him, to come and see firsthand what Arizona has done in regards to our economic recovery. He wanted to talk about the book. And I thought that he was pretty thin-skinned.

They always say that a picture is what it is. But I must say that I was not hostile. I was trying to be very, very gracious. I respect the office of the president and I would never be disrespectful in that manner.

REPORTER: Did he walk away from you at the end?

BREWER: I believe when we were in the conversation that I was in the middle of a sentence and he walked away. I wasn't angry at all. I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, in the attitude that he had because I was there to welcome him. I was there and glad and pleased that he was here to share with us the Arizona comeback. I mean, we've worked hard to get Arizona back from being number 47th in job growth to number seven. So, I was there to share with him what we have done and ask for that opportunity to sit down and to talk with him.


BANFIELD: That's pretty serious stuff, her saying she felt threatened.


BANFIELD: Threatened by the president? OK.

SAMBOLIN: He had his hand on her arm the entire time when they were speaking.

BANFIELD: Do you think he was squeezing?

SAMBOLIN: You never know, right.

BANFIELD: I'm just teasing.

Here's what I can say, the White House certainly has something to say about this and they issued this statement. "After the last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book. The president looks forward to continuing taking steps to help Arizona's economy grow."

But I'll say one thing. That statement didn't talk about threats or feeling anger or squeezing arms or anything of the like.


BANFIELD: And didn't even respond to Jan Brewer's suggestion that she felt threatened.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure there's going to be a lot more talk about this. I know we're going to talk about it with our political panel and get their thoughts on it as well.

All right. It's 5:05 in the East. As Florida's Republican primary draws closer, the stakes get higher. Right now, it is a tossup between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in Florida. Here's the latest CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll: Romney 36 percent, Gingrich, 34 percent.

The primary now is five days out. The four GOP candidates face off tonight at the CNN debate in Jacksonville. It is the 19th GOP presidential debate.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Jacksonville with a preview for us. And, Paul, we understand that 25 percent of the folks say that they could perhaps change their minds. So, this could kind of change these numbers.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Oh, exactly. That's why this debate is so important. It may be number 19 but it's the last one before Tuesday's primary here. Remember, 50 delegates at state, winner take all. You win, you get all 50, you come in second, doesn't matter.

Let's take a look at that polling you just mentioned, our CNN/"TIME" poll to break it down. And interesting, you know, Newt Gingrich had a lot of momentum coming out of the South Carolina win.

Look at this, we started polling on Sunday, here's Gingrich up, he's ahead. But look at the Monday and Tuesday numbers, that included that first debate here in Florida. Look who's ahead, Mitt Romney.

So has Gingrich's big mo coming out of South Carolina slowed down? Another reason this debate is so important.

Go to the next number -- you just mentioned that, Zoraida. Look at that right there. Here's proof -- you said it, here's the proof. Twenty-five percent of the people we questioned say --

SAMBOLIN: I love how excited you are about this.

STEINHAUSER: I'm excited. I'm awake. I'm awake.


STEINHAUSER: Twenty-five percent said they still could change their minds. And that is another reason why this debate is so important.

You know one of the story lines, this whole cycle has been these debates have been outside importance, I think tonight will be just as -- OK, want more proof? There's the bus behind me. It's a big deal if we bring the CNN Express. Right there, that's the building right there. That's the building the candidates will be debating tonight.

BANFIELD: I thought that's where you slept. I thought that was your hotel.

STEINHAUSER: I slept in the bus, in the bus.

SAMBOLIN: Are you hearing anything about what is that one issue out there that is going to get people to change their minds? What is it they're waiting for?

STEINHAUSER: You know what? I think a lot of people still, yes, they want to hear more about jobs. And especially in this state, they want to hear a little bit more about illegal immigration and home foreclosure rates because in this state, such a high level of home foreclosure states.

All that will be up tonight, Wolf Blitzer moderating, 8:00 Eastern. SAMBOLIN: You know what? It bears repeating. Thank you very much, Paul.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer will moderate tonight's GOP debate at the University of Florida in Jacksonville.

BANFIELD: You better look forward. He's better wear his Kevlar jacket, right?


BANFIELD: If you're going to get a cue from our John King.

SAMBOLIN: It could get a little ugly.

BANFIELD: Things could get testy.

Let's switch gears a little bit here to that remarkable story that involved our Blackhawks.

Kidnapping victim Jessica Buchanan and her family could be getting back together today. I love it. I know, thrilled for her really.

She was freed from her Somali kidnapers by an elite Navy SEALs unit and other military members early this week. Rescue operations were pulled off by the same SEAL Team 6 group that got Osama bin Laden last year. We don't know if it was the same men, but it was the same unit.

They parachuted in, landed about two miles away. They came in fixed wings, right? Real quiet, real high up, came down in the black of night in their parachutes, marched that two miles to the compound, encountered enemy gunfire, took out nine of the Somali gunmen, all of them, all killed but not one of our guys killed.

Thirty-two-year-old American Jessica Buchanan and 60-year-old Danish citizen Poul Tisted were both unharmed and rescued by waiting helicopters that swooped in to get them. I can't tell you just how exciting this story is, because they're safe and it could have gone two different ways.

Live from Nairobi, Kenya, Nkepile Mabuse, who's our correspondent there.

All right. I just got to ask you how things went down there. That is a remarkable operation and when we see the graphics, I know it's not exactly like it really was, Nkepile, but it sure does look a lot like the bin Laden raid. They had this absolutely down to a "T," didn't they?

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of people say much riskier than the bin Laden raid. This was a daring and dramatic raid by U.S. Special Forces who really parachuted into Somalia in the middle of the night. And then, as you said, advancing on foot towards those compounds where the two hostages were being kept. Gunfire, nine people killed. We're hearing from government sources on the ground that there were some injuries and that some hostage-takers were also taken captive by the U.S. forces. But, of course, the White House has not confirmed this.

And then the hostages were taken to Djibouti, which is where the U.S. has its biggest military camp here in Africa. It's just northeast of where I am here in Kenya. Really dramatic stuff and really anything could have gone wrong and it didn't.

And so many people who know Jessica Buchanan here are so relieved that she's out there alive after 92 days, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Nkepile, I want to ask you. You're in Nairobi. You talked about the hostages not too far from you in Djibouti. As I understand it, Jessica's husband lives in Nairobi and obviously, he is awaiting her return to this part of the world and also her dad is en route from the U.S. it's what, 1:00 in the afternoon there? What's the status?

MABUSE: Well, at the moment, we're hearing many reports from different sources. ABC News is reporting that her dad will be reunited with her in Italy. We're hearing that Jessica Buchanan's husband who actually lived in Somalia with her, has left Somalia and he's on his way to Djibouti.

Now, the White House has not confirmed any of this. And we are working our sources to just find out when this meeting is going to happen and exactly where, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Another quick question for you. Something sort of sat a little oddly with me when I heard the White House saying the window of opportunity was now, because Jessica was in ill health. But then our Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon reported that the aid organization actually says she wasn't that sick.

Do we know what the story is here about her health and the timing of this?

MABUSE: You know, we all can't wait to get those questions across to the person herself. Exactly. The company she works for, the NGO that she works for, the Danish Refugee Council says that there was a thorough examination, medical examination, done on her in Djibouti at that base that I was telling you about, the U.S. base here in East Africa and that she was OK. And we also are hearing that it was her deteriorating health condition that really expedited the authorization of this mission.

So, we really are waiting to hear confirmation from her, see her, see how she's doing, you know, to confirm whether she is very, very ill or whether she is OK -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Nkepile Mabuse, great work. Excellent. And we'll work forward to your updates, too, as the day progresses there as well.

And we also want to remind our viewers, there are still several hostages being held in Somalia. Among them, a British tourist, two Spanish doctors who were in Kenya, and an American journalist who was just kidnapped on Saturday. Dozens of sailors also are being held captive by Somali pirates off the coast.

SAMBOLIN: It is 13 minutes past the hour. Minding your business now.

U.S. markets closed higher yesterday. The Dow was up about 0.5 percent, NASDAQ got a boost from the jump in Apple stock, and the S&P 500 up about 1 percent. Part of that market boost was because of statements from the Federal Reserve in the afternoon.

Christine, tell us what they're saying.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Fed Chief Ben Bernanke is saying interest rates are going to will stay low, even maybe longer than some have thought, maybe into 2014. So, we know that interest rates are going to stay low, because the Fed and Ben Bernanke, they are concerned about how slow the economic recovery has been. Ben Bernanke before has said that he's also concerned about structural unemployment, that means unemployment, people being out of work for more than six months and having a really hard time finding a job.

The second line you're seeing on the screen, "There is a case for additional policy action," that line is what got markets to turn around and actually close higher, because that means the Fed is considering maybe doing some more bond buying, revving up its plans to keep money flowing throughout the economy. And that's something that the markets really liked.

BANFIELD: Does it work? I only ask that because interest rates have been historically low for a long time now.

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: And everyone says, whoa, everyone goes in and buys up houses. That's not necessarily the story.

ROMANS: You're right. When interest rates are low, that means mortgage rates have been low for you. I mean, there are record-low mortgage rates right here if you can qualify. That's been the problem. That has been what's (INAUDIBLE) below interest rates for the housing markets.

For companies, they love the clarity that for the next few years, things are going to stay very low. It means they have clarity in the fiscal outlook for the financial outlook.

BANFIELD: Stability.

ROMANS: They can -- they know they're going to be able to borrow money at lower rates, maybe they're going to build another plant, maybe now they're going to make some capital improvements, maybe they're going to do some big purchases because they know rates are going to be low. That's where the Fed hopes it will spur growth in the economy.

BANFIELD: Create jobs.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And we have -- Timothy Geithner says he doesn't want to stay a second term with President Obama.

ROMANS: Bloomberg Television reporting this yesterday in an interview with Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, that, you know, he doesn't expect to be asked to stay for the next term and, you know, he wants to go on doing something else. It's not really a surprise. It has been a parlor game in Washington, how long Geithner is going to stay.

We all actually conventional wisdom was that after there was debt deal which was signed in August, that he'd be done. He has made -- look, he's been -- he went through the financial crisis. He had -- the first two years were very, very difficult with stimulus, trying to sell the stimulus, trying to stabilize the economy. His people close to him and who have worked with him say they're not sure what he's going to do next, but all -- no one expected I think that he stay on for a second term.

Interesting as well, Hillary Clinton, I think this is going to be the end for her in terms of her role as secretary of state as well.

SAMBOLIN: She keeps on saying it and nobody wants to believe it.

ROMANS: I know. Exactly, right?

BANFIELD: Some people do. Some people want to believe that.

ROMANS: I think Tim Geithner wants to come back to New York. I think -- you know, he has a son who's going to be graduating from high school. It's been a very, very rough couple of years in that job of treasury secretary.

BANFIELD: Not unusual for secretaries for one term. And also, like you said, he's almost been through two wars.

ROMANS: Yes, at least.

BANFIELD: Christine, thank you. Good stuff.

Also, we want to get you your travel forecast with Rob Marciano who's standing by live.

Everything is good down there?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, not too shabby, we got some issues down South and actually up North.

So, let's start with what happened yesterday in Dallas and around the Texas area -- big state, big drought problems, big rain yesterday. Here's the video. Across northern Texas, flooding issues not only in Dallas but in Houston as well. We also had a couple of tornadoes touch down in the Houston area.

Feast or famine there. They've been suffering drought, they need the rain badly but obviously not all at one time. So, a lot of roads closed throughout the day yesterday. That water beginning to drain.

Here are some of the numbers -- Austin setting a record yesterday, 5.67 inches. That blew the record away by almost -- by over four inches. Dallas and San Antonio, almost 3 inches. Oklahoma City is also getting into the act.

Here's the rainfall, making its way towards the East, not a lot of severe threat right now. Most of this as more gentle rain across parts of Mississippi, although the threat for thunderstorms as we go through the day is certainly in the forecast.

A little bit of light wintry precipitation across the Northeast. This isn't a big deal. Actually, mostly, pretty far north of New York and Boston is where we'll see the precip pick up throughout the day today. And that will be in the form of snow. But warmer air moving into the bigger cities.

So, New Orleans, Birmingham and Cleveland, those are the cities that are going to be problems today, in between, not too bad. Another storm coming into the Pacific Northwest.

Guys, back up to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, Rob.

It is 17 minutes past the hour.

Coming up, Connecticut's mayor -- East Connecticut's mayor remarks about the tacos outrage. Or the tacos comment that has outraged the Latino community. It's gone viral, folks. Why some are not buying the apology now.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: The arrest of four Connecticut police officers on federal racial profiling charges was supposed to be the end of big controversy but it turned out to really just be the beginning.

SAMBOLIN: The town of East Haven, the Mayer there, Joseph Maturo, Jr., is under fire for something he said. It started when the reporter asked the mayor about relations with Latinos.


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

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


BANFIELD: That did not go over very well to say the very least. In fact, those comments went viral. They are national comments now and yesterday, the mayor had to come to Jesus and do an apology. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATURO: I created something that went viral. It was something that the media says gotcha, and ran with it. I accept full responsibility. I've apologized profusely.


BANFIELD: Well, joining us now is Mark Zaretsky, who is a reporter for the "New Haven Register," right next door to East Haven.

Thanks for coming in.

Media gotcha? I hear that a lot. Is it a media gotcha? Because I also have heard that this mayor was exhausted. He had done dozens of interviews and just kind of lost it. Which is it?

MARK ZARETSKY, REPORTER, NEW HAVEN REGISTER: I think -- I think he sort of let fly with something before he fully had a grip on what it was.

BANFIELD: You know him. Is this really him? Is he really like this or was this a stupid mistake? Because God knows we've all made stupid mistakes.

ZARETSKY: I think it was a stupid mistake. He's been mayor -- well, he was mayor for 10 years and has just come back. He's --

BANFIELD: He's well liked, right?

ZARETSKY: Generally, he's well liked and he's pretty much -- he's not an ultra-professional person. He was elected as sort of, you know, guy of the people. And sometimes acts like one. And --

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk -- I hate to interrupt you, I'm sorry. Let's talk about some the allegations here.


SAMBOLIN: And what exactly folks are saying that's happened within the police department there, if you can clear that up for us. Some of them are pretty serious allegations there. That's why his comments seem so flip.

ZARETSKY: They clearly have a problem in the East Haven police department. It didn't just start. And this investigation has been going on for a while and there's -- before it ever started and before all this stuff --

SAMBOLIN: It's racial profiling. Let's talk about --

ZARETSKY: Well, it's worse than profiling. It's --

BANFIELD: It's abuse.

ZARETSKY: There are some allegations about beating people up who are already handcuffed and already under control and, you know, bashing people's heads into the sides of police cars -- and with regard specifically to Latinos, you know, stopping people just because of who they are or what they look like or -- and, you know, I can't tell you that they're all true but I can tell you that during the last couple of years, we've been writing about this stuff for a couple of years now, since this first came up. And I've heard enough things from enough Latinos in and around East Haven about what this officer or that officer did or said.

SAMBOLIN: But there's a history here, right, in 1997 an officer shot an unarmed black man as well?


SAMBOLIN: So, this isn't new. This is a history that's been happening for quite some time.

ZARETSKY: You're referring to Malik Jones.


ZARETSKY: And that was, you know -- there were marches on East Haven, you know, the NAACP out of New Haven led a march. You know, it was very tense. There were people lining the streets, you know --

SAMBOLIN: I'm interested to find out, though. You made a small comment, I want to watch forward as you say there could be more people in the line of fire in terms of being arrested. It's good work. Continue to update us, Mark, as to what happens in East Haven, because now the whole country is watching.

ZARETSKY: I should say, there are plenty of good people in East Haven who really wish they could not be on CNN in the morning and on the front page of newspapers.

BANFIELD: Especially with flip comments like that.

Mark Zaretsky, "New Haven Register" -- thanks. Appreciate it.

ZARETSKY: Thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Ahead on EARLY START as well, the fight for Florida, the politics get hot. If they're not already hot, they're in a hot state. We're going to preview a big hot debate. It's coming at you, tonight on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: And the Navy SEALs, they do it again. It was the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden, they pull off that daring Somali rescue. How did they do it? Step by step, we're going to walk you through it.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

It is 29 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

Just five days to go before the Florida primary.

BANFIELD: Why are you excited about another primary and another debate?

SAMBOLIN: You know what? Because Paul Steinhauser kind of lit me up this morning. I loved it.

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are running neck and neck in the latest polls. Tonight, the candidates debate for the 19th time. You can watch it live on CNN. Wolf Blitzer moderating. It's going to be a good time.

BANFIELD: I love the Blitz, as Herman Cain calls him.

Also, several American citizens --, this is a strange one -- being barred from leaving Egypt. And among them, Sam LaHood, the son of our Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. His son is one of five members of the International Republican Institute. That group stopped while trying to board a plain out of Cairo last weekend. He's in Egypt to monitor that country's elections.

SAMBOLIN: More drones. That is the Pentagon plan that will be presented later today by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Panetta is proposing a 30 percent expansion of its global network of drones and Special Operations bases while cutting back on conventional forces.

BANFIELD: Wow! All at the same time there is a major black-ops and successful black-ops raid at that. Interesting all at the same time.

It is not exactly the campaign pose that a president wants to strike.


BANFIELD (voice-over): Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, doing one of these, shaking her finger at him at the Phoenix airport on the tarmac as the two kind of got in each other's face. I don't know if we can say that, but that's what people are calling it anyway.

Why was she shaking her finger and why the tense of exchange? She told reporters the president was upset with about how he was portrayed in her book.

GOV. JAN BREWER, (R) ARIZONA: Bottom line is that I wanted to be there to welcome him, to come and see firsthand what Arizona has done in regards to our economic recovery. He wanted to talk about the book. And I thought that he was pretty thin-skinned.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Well, what was it? I wish we had special mics for that moment, but instead, we have CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, who's live in Jacksonville, Lenny McAllister, our conservative commentator and radio host who is in Chicago, and Jaime Harrison, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the House Democratic caucus who is with us from Washington.

I want to do round the horn real quick with all of you because I feel like you all have something to say on this. Paul, let me start with you. Is this a big media moment or is it a bigger moment than that?

STEINHAUSER: It's a big media moment for her, no doubt about it. They haven't seen eye-to-eye, you know, Brewer and the White House, dating back to 2010 over that controversial immigration law in Arizona. Listen, we know what she said. I would love to know what the president has to say about this. Until we hear from him, I don't know.

BANFIELD: Lenny, what do you make of it?

LENNY MCALLISTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: It's an oversensitive president that seems to be very in-tuned to what the media says about it. And an oversensitive governor that's buying into the conservative boogie man that is President Barack Obama. It's just a clash of those two different ideologies, once again, coming to a head in front of cameras.

BANFIELD: So, Jaime Harrison, if I may quote the great Sarah Palin, is everyone just getting their panties in a wad?


JAIME HARRISON, FMR. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: No. you know, I think Governor Brewer said some, you know, some negative things about the president in the past. And, I think, you know, the president is getting in election mode, and he's pushing back, which I think a lot of Democrats are very happy to see.

BANFIELD: OK. Let me switch gears now that we've basically all chew that as well as we can. I know it makes for a great picture and great talking point, but we have a big thing happening and that is an election and the debate and the primary that's coming on. Paul, let me start with you with the numbers you deliver to us.

You do this every day, and I adore you for it, because I don't know. They seem to tell a different narrative, and that is that they change all the time. Here are the latest numbers. Romney ahead by two points, which is, you know, that's within the margin, I think. Yes. Margin is plus five. So, sure, within the margin.

But maybe the bigger story is this volatility set of numbers, which show Gingrich on Sunday at 38 percent, and then on Monday, tanking to 29. Romney on Sunday at 32 percent, and on Monday, just from Sunday to Monday and Tuesday, soaring to 38 percent. What a difference a day or two can make, right?

STEINHAUSER: Oh, that's the beauty of this election, so far, this campaign for the GOP nomination. If you don't like the numbers, if you don't like the frontrunner, just wait a minute, it's going to change. And we see that. Listen, we knew Gingrich was going to get a lot of big momentum, you know, coming out of South Carolina. He did.

But our poll and another poll that came out yesterday indicated the same thing, maybe that big mole (ph) was starting to fade a little bit. And as you mentioned, our first number, the overall, you look at it, it is dead even. And one more number from our poll, one out of four people likely to vote on Tuesday say, you know what, I may change my mind. All that means our debate tonight, very important.

BANFIELD: Yes. And more volatility expected. Let me get this out there. Jaime, I want you to weigh in on something that could have been capitalize on by Mitt Romney. The Univision anchor who was interviewing him yesterday, Jorge Ramos. Is that the right pronunciation, Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: Very nice.

BANFIELD: Jorge Ramos.



BANFIELD: I'm so glad she's here, because I actually really suck at this.

SAMBOLIN: You're good. You're good.

BANFIELD: -- when Jorge asked Mitt Romney about his heritage, and specifically, his family's heritage, having hailed (ph) from Mexico. Let's watch this.


JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Your father was born in Mexico. So, the question is, are you Mexican-American? Could you be the first Hispanic president.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly, in a Florida primary.


ROMNEY: But I think that might be disingenuous on my part.


BANFIELD: OK. I fell in love with him at hello for that, because, you know, a lot of people would think that a candidate would capitalize on it, milk it for all it's worth, especially in a place like Florida with 13, 14 percent Hispanic voters. What do you think about that, Jaime?

HARRISON: Well, I was very surprised as well. You know, given Governor Romney's tendency to flip-flop, I expected him to say he was Mexican-American in Florida, and then, going to Arizona and say that he wasn't. So, I was pleasantly surprised as well.

BANFIELD: And it's no ammo for the Democrats who are looking for everything they can against Romney, because he's, you know, -- according to the Democrats, he's the presumed frontrunner in all of this, potentially, their candidate to beat.

Let me move on to something that I want to dedicate to Frank Zappa's offspring, Moon Unit Zappa, because Newt Gingrich has been talking a lot about going to the moon and colonizing. Look, I say (INAUDIBLE).

I think there are a lot of people out there who think it's great and serious, especially people who live on the space coast in Florida who've been really hurting with a lot of the cutbacks there, but let's listen to what Newt Gingrich had to say about setting up a permanent base on the moon.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.



BANFIELD: OK. There wasn't anyone laughing. I just want to point that out. Nobody laughed at that, and nobody laughed at this, either. When Newt Gingrich said that earlier in his career, he would allow American residents on the moon to petition for statehood once they reached a population of 13,000.

Let me just let that sink in for a moment. Once 13,000 people are living on the moon, they can become a U.S. state. Lenny, you want to -- go with it. Just say what you want.


MCALLISTER: I know it sounds crazy, but let's think about the political strategy behind this.

BANFIELD: Go ahead.

MCALLISTER: Number one, he's in Florida. There's a space state. He's talking to people and he's talking about what, jobs, economy, industry, legacy, history. On top of that, he is the candidate of big ideas. You can't say that you're the Reagan of this generation or the Kennedy of this generation, a president with big ideas, and not say something bold like that.

Remember, he hasn't spent $4 million in the Florida market yet. He has to come with big ideas, get to our debate tonight, perform well there, and capture the imagination of Floridians in order to win on Tuesday. This is a move in that direction. So, it makes sense from that regard. Of course, it sounds crazy to colonize the moon to us. BANFIELD: Just a bit.

MCALLISTER: But from a political standpoint, in Florida, it makes sense.

BANFIELD: I'm just wondering how the Democrats may be able to play with that extensively, and I would like to know if there's going to be --

MCALLISTER: Trust me, they'll have fun with that.

HARRISON: He's appealing to the "Star Trek" convention.

BANFIELD: YouTube remix of any of that (ph). That's his music with our segment mixed into it in all deference to moon unit. Guys, thank you. Great to see you, as always.

HARRISON: Good to see you.

MCALLISTER: Thank you, Ashleigh.

Also I want you to know, once again, Wolf Blitzer is one tough cookie, because he's decided he is going to go ahead and moderate the GOP debate at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, despite what happened to John King at the hand of Newt Gingrich last time around. It all begins eight o'clock eastern right here on CNN. Just don't miss it. That's all I'm saying.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to be fun to watch.


SAMBOLIN: All right. 5:38 on the East. Coming up, more on the elite American commandos who saved the two aide workers that were taken hostage in Somalia. We're going to talk to a former navy SEAL who knows what it takes to pull off that daring mission. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Ashleigh Banfield. It is 5:41 in east. And this morning, the American woman freed during that daring U.S. raid in Somalia could be reunited with her father and her husband. Jessica Buchanan's father is said to be making his way to Nairobi, Kenya, as we speak right now.

We're also learning more about the elite commandos who carried out Tuesday night's mission. It included members of the navy SEAL team that killed Osama Bin Laden. They parachuted in and entered the compound, killing at least nine pirates. They escaped with the unharmed hostages by helicopter.

Eric Greitens is a former navy SEAL, and he is joining us this morning. Very nice to see you. Thank you for being with us.

ERIC GREITENS, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Pleasure to be on with you, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: The pleasure is all ours. You know, as we're watching all of this and listening to all of the details, we're really riveted by it. We find out that it's SEAL Team 6, the same elite team that took out Osama Bin Laden, although, we don't know that if it is the same people that were involved in that team. Can you talk us through the planning and the rehearsal that has to happen in order to execute this?

GREITENS: So, for an operation like this, it's likely that planning for this kind of contingency, Zoraida, would have been happening for months. As soon as an American hostage was taken at the end of October, members of this unit and this intelligence community would have started to think about how to plan for an operation for rescue.

As they developed a fuller intelligence picture, they would have assessed their options and then determined when they were ready to go.

SAMBOLIN: So, we knew from the Osama Bin Laden raid that they actually built a compound very similar to it in order to practice. Would that happen in a situation like this, too?

GREITENS: Navy SEALs always try to prepare as best as they possibly can. It's very likely that if they had had the opportunity to build a compound like this, to practice, to do mock assaults, they would have done everything that they can to rehearse every aspect of the operation. Whether or not they did so in this case, we don't know, but relentless preparation is part of what goes into making all of these operations successful.

SAMBOLIN: I was reading online that the aerial surveillance of the scene was hampered because it was a cloudy night. What is going through the head of a navy SEAL when they are dropped in a situation like that?

GREITENS: When they're dropped into a situation like that, every SEAL is thinking about execution of the mission. In this case, they knew that in order for this to be a successful mission, they had to bring out both of those hostages alive. So, no matter what else is going on, all they're thinking about is how can they work together as a team to accomplish that mission.

SAMBOLIN: Now, what are the rules of engagement in a situation like this? Because we understand, we're watching right now, a simulation of a firefight. And we do know that there was fire. Do they have to wait until they're fired on or are they allowed to fire first? What are the rules of engagement there?

GREITENS: The rules of engagement are going to be set by the chain of command. The Pentagon hasn't yet released the specific rules of engagement that they gave to the SEALs in this particular situation. Sometimes, the enemy can be what's called declared hostile. That was the case with Osama Bin Laden.

That means the minute that you see Osama Bin Laden, he's a hostile enemy. In other cases, they actually say that there has to be some aggressive action before the enemy is hostile. We don't know what the specific rules of engagement were for this operation yet.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we're hearing more about situations like this, of course, the Osama Bin laden situation and this one. Do you think that this is going to be used as a more prominent tool going forward?

GREITENS: Absolutely, going forward. We're going to be relying more on units like this, more on special operations than we have even in the past. When you think about what's happening, not just in Somalia and Afghanistan, but you think about threats in Yemen, for example.

All of this is dependent upon the use of special operations and teams of intelligence professionals who can come together and eliminate threats like this with surgical precision.

SAMBOLIN: Can you just talk a little bit before we go here about the training that takes place in order to become a navy SEAL? I think that's what we're looking at right now.

GREITENS: Navy SEALs go through the hardest training in the world. BUDS stands for basic underwater demolition SEAL training. It's considered to be the hardest military training in the world. And the pinnacle of that training is a famous week called hell week. It's considered to be the hardest week of the hardest military training in the world.

SAMBOLIN: How many make it through?

GREITENS: In my class, we started with over 220 people in the original class, and by the time we graduated, Zoraida, we were down to 21.

SAMBOLIN: Wow! Well, Eric Greitens, we could talk to you all day. We really appreciate you stoping by this morning.

GREITENS: My pleasure.

BANFIELD: And still ahead, some serious problems being uncovered at Arlington National Cemetery. Can you say $12 million? Where did it go? You're going to be surprised when you find out what some of the suggestions are for this missing money. And why on earth would it happen at a place like this? You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Good morning, New York. Gosh, that's pretty. It is pretty, honestly.

SAMBOLIN: Pretty cold.


BANFIELD: Nothing like this city. And it is, you're right, a little bit chilly, but not everywhere. Weather's not so bad where you live, I'm sure. Unless, it's Nome, Alaska, where you're digging out.


BANFIELD: It's 50, five-o, minutes past the hour. Time to get you caught up your top stories before you get going on your morning.


BANFIELD (voice-over): And this is a good one.

Although, it's behind the limo, you can see the president and the little tiny tuft of blond hair is the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer. They got into it a wee bit on the tarmac.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A wee bit.

BANFIELD: Yes. A wee bit. Apparently, Jan Brewer is actually shaking her finger at the president, all of this happening just in the shadow of air force one in Phoenix yesterday. Brewer says the president was not happy about how he was portrayed in a book that she wrote about immigration.

SAMBOLIN: And Ohio-born student detained by Syrian authorities three weeks ago has been released. There he is. According to his family, 21-year-old Abotta Mozaic (ph) was handed over to his father last night. Mozaic (ph) is a dual American and Syrian citizen. He was studying engineering at a private university in Damascus.

BANFIELD: That's good news we've been talking about him.

You know, there's also another story with a reward. And it's a familiar story with a different twist. A reward to actually find those convicted murderers who were pardoned by Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour. Joseph Osmond (ph) did not show up for his court hearing that was in an effort to challenge his pardon that happened Monday.


BANFIELD (on-camera): And officials say they do not know where Mr. Osmond is, but they are offering cash to you and me and anybody else in the country who might be able to find him. The weird thing is --

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Can I just say why would he show up?

BANFIELD: I hear you. I hear you. He's not a popular guy right now. So, they're not saying how much the reward is for. They're just saying there is a reward. Kind of bizarre.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We're going to have a report on that.

Still ahead on EARLY START, controversy in Chicago's public schools. They're trying to make the school day longer. Some parents are not really excited about this. How long is too long is what they're saying? You're watching EARLY START. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Hi! Welcome back, everybody. It's six minutes now till six o'clock. We're hard at work here getting all sorts of stuff for you. We stack the papers. We go through them. We find your national headlines that are coming from local papers. And today, we're pulling out papers from D.C. and Chicago.

And this one here, "Washington Post," I know you're familiar with it. You got to go to the metro section, though, for this one. It's on the front cover. Arlington Cemetery is missing $12 million. How do you just miss $12 million? That's a quarter of their annual budget.

SAMBOLIN: Where did it go?

BANFIELD: Good question. In fact, it is an investigation now to find out where this money is. A senate hearing under way to try to figure all this out, but here's what they think. They don't think it's something nefarious like stealing.

They don't think somebody stole the money (INAUDIBLE), but what they do think is that, perhaps, they might have done some really bad contracting, an actual fraud, like some fraud in the contracting of some of these projects. And we've had all sorts of reporting about --

SAMBOLIN: That's kind of like stealing, though, isn't it? I mean, when you do that?

BANFIELD: It depends. It depends on what the, you know, what the mindset is or if it was wasteful, you know, bad and fraudulent, wasteful. But here's that's really interesting. The army runs that place, and they've already dumped the two top people in charge of it, but, there's still a lot of messy stuff going on like miss mark in graves (ph) and all -- so, they got a big problem. They need to fix that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And I don't have the paper like you do to show up, but there's a big debate in Chicago over how many hours kids should go to school each and every day. Next fall, Chicago public schools are scheduled to expand to a 7 1/2-hour day. So, there's a group called 6.5 to thrive.

They are collecting signatures now. They're petitioning for 6 1/2-hour days. Why? Because the parents say that the kids are exhausted in one school that's actually experimenting with a 7 1/2- hour day. They're also upset, because they say that they really have no input or no say into this, and they would like the mayor to listen to them.

But I founded it's really interesting article in here, and it was from Arne Duncan. Apparently, they give waivers to schools who actually do this. And so, you could spend the money in different areas, so you could spend your money on a longer school day. And he says, the fact that Chicago has, out of 50 of our largest school districts, the shortest school day is a disgrace. And so, it started a while back, you know, and -- I get the argument, don't you?

BANFIELD: I get it. I mean, if you look globally, I think we have the shortest school days of anybody across the globe.

SAMBOLIN: And we're having so many problems with our kids testing.

BANFIELD: How about a short school year? I mean, a lot of kids go to school right through the summertime. But, you know what, the kids are going to go bananas if I talk about this at three minutes set while they're getting up and getting ready for school. I keep --

SAMBOLIN: Parents may love it.


BANFIELD: Love it. I do.