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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Romney Widens Lead In Florida; The Flight For Florida; Santorum Ready To Resume Campaign; Pakistani Doctor Helped U.S. Track Osama Bin Laden; Occupy DC Deadline: "Get Out or Go to Jail"; Florida Housing Trouble; Interview with Senator David Vitter; Guilty Verdict in "Honor Murders" Trial; Romney Stretching Lead In Florida; Police: Blood Found Belongs To Ayla; Contempt Hearing For Fmr. Edwards Aide

Aired January 30, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a very, very good morning to you. It is 6:00 in the morning on the east coast and it's an EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. So let's get started here.

It's a last full day in Florida for these guys to get out there and stomp for their votes. Gingrich is losing ground and resorting to name calling. He is calling Romney a liberal and liar.

BANFIELD: Rick Santorum planning to be back on the campaign trail after a real tough weekend. He is in the hospital with his little baby daughter, but he is now saying that she has had a miraculous turn around.

SAMBOLIN: That's good news. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is speaking out on Pakistan and Bin Laden saying someone in the government must have known where he was hiding out.

CNN's national security analyst, Peter Bergen, someone who interviewed Bin Ladin where on the U.S. and Pakistan should go from here.

BANFIELD: And we are watching the occupiers, especially in D.C., because they're facing a deadline of about 12:00 noon to pack up those tents and tarps and get on out of there.

But now we're expecting some tense moments could be even earlier. It's all just happening blocks away from the White House. We will see what happens as they close in on the occupiers.

SAMBOLIN: And on the eve of the all important Florida primary, Mitt Romney is on a roll here. Gingrich and Romney campaigning hard in Florida. Gingrich is trying to portray Romney as a liberal. Romney is relentless harping on what he calls Gingrich's failed leadership in Congress.

BANFIELD: And a new American research group poll has Mitt Romney ahead 43 percent to 32 percent for Newt Gingrich. And, by the way, that lead, if you look at the NBC News/Marist poll, Romney's lead is even wider over Gingrich. He is at 42 percent over 27 percent. Candidates at this point just keep clawing away at each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you've ever tried to hire someone for a job you look at not just what they say, but also what they've done and what their record is.

And his record was one of failed leadership. We don't need someone who can speak well perhaps or who can say the things we agree with, but does not have the experience of being an effective leader.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am, in fact, the legitimate heir of the Reagan movement, not some liberal from Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The delegates scoreboard so far after Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Gingrich with 23, Romney 19, Santorum, 13 and Paul 3. Florida is a winner-take all primary so 50 delegates are up for grabs tomorrow.

So let's talk about the vote there from CNN Center in Atlanta, independent political analyst Goldie Taylor and from Washington, Republican strategist, Matt Keelen and Democratic strategist, Jamie Harrison. Jamie, we're going to start with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds good.

SAMBOLIN: Everybody is looking to Marco Rubio for the endorsement there. He is a Tea Party darling. He is Latino. Latino vote in Florida is very important.

He says though he is not going to endorse a candidate, but it does not stop the candidates from praising him. So let's listen to this and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I actually thought about Marco Rubio in a slightly more dignified and central role than being in the cabinet.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, you're saying Marco Rubio is an impressive guy.

ROMNEY: Of course, Senator Marco Rubio, a terrific Hispanic- American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Everybody loves him, right? But a Univision/ABC poll doesn't show Rubio would actually help with Florida's Latinos. Only 43 percent of Latino is more likely to vote if Rubio is vice president and that support coming mostly, this is what's important from foreign born Cubans. So how much can even an association with Rubio help?

JAIME HARRISON, PRINCIPAL AT THE PODESTA GROUP: I don't think he can help very much. You know, Senator Rubio is a darling of the Republican Party at the moment.

But you know, the big thing is he can't cover the anti- immigrant stances of some of the Republicans right now. What you hear coming out of Arizona with Governor Brewer, Steve King out of Iowa, you know, those are very anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic sentiments.

And I don't think Senator Rubio, even if he is their vice presidential nominee, will be able to cover that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Matt, Mitt Romney is definitely still a appealing to Rubio, nonetheless. And it could help him get the Tea Party electorate that he doesn't have, but he also needs those really important dependents.

According to the latest "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, 42 percent of independents have somewhat or a very negative opinion of Romney. That is actually an increase of 20 percentage points from just two months ago.

So more independents have a negative opinion of him, how does he get that all important independent votes back?

MATT KEELEN, FOUNDER, THE KEELEN GROUP: Really he needs to get beyond the primary and into the general election. The last two weeks have been good for as far as Republican primary voters, but it's really hurt him with independents.

He needs to start squaring off solely against President Obama and not have the distraction of Gingrich and Santorum and Paul. Until that time, I think you're going to see his numbers dwindle with independents.

Hopefully for Romney he has a lot of time before picking up the nomination and going to the convention to go back to the middle and talk to the independents and Democrats, as well.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Goldie, let's talk about another person who has not endorsed. It's Governor Jeb Bush, right? At one point, he was actually being called to enter the race.

He says that he's already voted absentee, but he won't say who he's voted for, that he's really unhappy about the rhetoric in this race as it relates particularly to immigration.

And you know, Romney has been courting him heavily. So do you think if he doesn't endorse it's going to hurt?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GOLDIE TAYLOR PROJECT: No, I don't think -- I don't think it's going to help or hurt. I mean, Jeb Bush was one of those Republicans that, you know, we tried to recruit to get into the Republican primary very early on. But he said then, just as he's saying now, that the rhetoric was just not the kind that he wanted to stomach this year.

So I think he's right. The longer this primary goes on, the more to the right we tilt, the more out of the American mainstream we tilt, and more difficult it's going to be for candidates to come back to center.

Candidates like Mitt Romney who, you know, at one point was very, very appealing to independents and now you see the displeasure with him has risen economically. The same is true with Newt Gingrich.

But this race this fall is almost wholly dependent upon the ability to track independents to your side. And these Republicans, at least this cast of Republicans, haven't been able to do that. I think Jeb Bush's non-endorsement has certainly been a part of that.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Jamie, Matt, and Goldie, thanks for joining us this morning. For the best political coverage on television, keep it right here on CNN.

At 6:30 Eastern, Louisiana's Republican Senator David Vitter joins us live to talk about the GOP race. At 7:00 a.m. Eastern on "STARTING POINT," former presidential candidate, Herman Cain tells her why he decided to endorse Newt Gingrich this past weekend.

BANFIELD: Rick Santorum is ready to hit the campaign again, not in Florida. He is headed instead to Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada, all those next contests.

Says he'll visit those states today and tomorrow. And this weekend he spent actually most of yesterday, part of Saturday as well, with his 3-year-old daughter, Bella at her bedside at a Pennsylvania hospital.

She's got pneumonia in both lungs. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth filled in for her dad in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH SANTORUM, CANDIDATE'S DAUGHTER: Dad wishes he could be here with all of you today. I'm talking to you. It's just so encouraging to see all of you here, but my dad today is exercising his most important role, which is being a dad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: And while Elizabeth didn't talk a lot about Bella, we are being told her condition is really improving. She's not out of the woods yet, but Rick Santorum is headed back to the trail and he says it's a miraculous recovery and he's thanking everyone for their prayers as well.

SAMBOLIN: We certainly wish her well. It is 6:08 in the east. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talking to CBS' "60 Minutes" about the Bin Laden raid in Pakistan.

He says he sees no evidence to support it, but Panetta believes someone in government must have known where Bin Laden was hiding.

Panetta also says Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. track bin laden is now in prison and that he could be charged with high treason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm very concerned about -- about what the Pakistanis did with this individual. This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence on -- that was very helpful with regards to this operation.

And he was not in any way treasonist towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistan. As a matter of fact, if Pakistan's -- and I've always said this, Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Pakistani officials tell CNN they haven't decided whether to try the doctor for high treason.

BANFIELD: Tell you what. I'm very jealous of Scott Pelley being able to fly in that mobile command center of Leon Panetta. That looked incredible.

SAMBOLIN: All right, coming up, Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst. He is someone who interviewed Bin Laden. We'll talk to him about 6:50 Eastern.

BANFIELD: And also, the deadline is fast approaching for the folks who are occupying near the White House in D.C. They're being told pack up your camps by noon today or you may end up going to jail instead. We're going to talk live to a protester who has been hanging out there since October.

SAMBOLIN: And Rob Marciano hanging out in Atlanta. Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Zoraida. Hi, Ashleigh. We are looking at problems across Northern Florida again today after that deadly accident yesterday. Still dense smoke in the area.

Here's a map highlighting exactly that I-75 in and around the Gainesville area showing a fair amount of fog yesterday. More so just smoke today. Temperatures are chilly actually right around the freezing mark. The problem is you go up 1,000 feet or so.

Temperatures are much warmer than that. That's putting a lid on the atmosphere keeping that smoke close to the ground. Temperatures across much of the U.S. will be warm over the next couple of days. That's the other big story.

New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, you will have some problems because of wind. Couple of weak systems across the northern area with some snow showers but again, the warming trend will ensue in full force tomorrow. Great check on weather. EARLY START is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It's 14 minutes past 6:00, the capitol building is lit up beautifully amid 35 degree temperatures. Remember that temperature as we bring you this next story.

The National Park Service has an ultimatum for the "Occupy D.C." protesters, quit your camping or go to jail.

SAMBOLIN: The demonstrators have been camped out at two D.C. area parks since October. If they are not out by noon today they will face arrests. We're watching for any movement between police and protesters before that time.

Dramatic video of police tazing a protester yesterday. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you coming at me? Please. Get away from me. I have done nothing wrong. I have done nothing wrong. I have done nothing wrong. I have done nothing wrong! I have done nothing wrong! I have done nothing wrong.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): That protester was reportedly tearing down fliers that were announcing today's deadline. He has been charged with disorderly conduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And with us right now is Sara Shaw. She's an Occupy protester who's been camped outside McPherson Park since October 5th. Thanks for joining us this morning.

First off, can you tell us anything about that tazed man? Were you there to witness that?

SARA SHAW, MEMBER, OCCUPY D.C.: I was there to witness, yes. What had happened is the park police who are coming through issuing their third notices that we needed to no longer be camping, that they would be enforcing that law. He was -- he was very upset about that. He lives here.

He began telling them that this was not fair and he began taking down the signs that they were posting. He had walked all the way across from the park. They followed him and began to arrest him. Once they were trying to detain him they then tazed him, which was definitely very unnecessary.

SAMBOLIN: Do you know anything about him? Has he returned? Is he OK?

SHAW: He is OK. So when they were taking him over to the cop car, he was demanding an ambulance. He then ended up laying down on the ground and we're not sure what was happening, but he was convulsing a little bit. But they took him to the hospital and they said that he was OK. He then spent the night in jail and his arraignment is today.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Sara, the clock is ticking here on the ultimatum. And I was reading that fellow protesters are going to try to play games all night as a loophole in the no camping law. Do you know anything about that?

SHAW: Yes. So they're not actually trying to clear us out off the park. The park service who has jurisdiction over our park says that we are allowed to be here under our first amendment right to hold a 24-hour vigil. So they're allowing tents as long as there's no camping material or anything of that sort. So no one is allowed to be sleeping.

So they're going to be coming in at noon. They say they're beginning to enforce the no camping law. So they're looking for bedding material, food preparation, and people sleeping.

SAMBOLIN: And you have been camping out since October, we understand. And we just bumped in with a shot over there, Sara, which is 35 degrees. Are you getting some support from the locals in the area?

SHAW: Yes. We do have a lot of support from locals in the area. We get donations of blankets and warm coats and everything like that, almost on a daily basis. So all of us who are staying out here are very well equipped to stay warm throughout the night.

SAMBOLIN: And what are you planning to do when and if they come and start arresting people?

SHAW: So all of us here at McPherson Square, we are planning to remain here and await their arrival on or around 12:00. We'll begin gathering probably in the center of the square to come together as one and show that we are the citizens here in the center are the ones fighting for our democracy who's saying corporations are people and money is free speech, which doesn't really make sense to us, so we're going to make sure we're there to meet the park police.

SAMBOLIN: So if you are arrested, forced to leave, do you think you'll go back or will this be a blow to your movement?

SHAW: Sorry. What was that?

SAMBOLIN: I said if you're forced to leave, you're arrested, do you think you will come back or will this be a blow to the movement there at that particular park? SHAW: I don't think this will be a blow to our movement. I think they are trying to make it as hard as possible for us to remain in the park. But the park is just one of our tactics. We're occupying space on K Street, in between K Street where all the lobbyist and money are flowing into the White House, which is a block away from us, also near the capitol. So it's definitely a strategic tactic that we are using and we're going to fight to defend our right to be there. But it's definitely whatever happen, we're not going away.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Sara Shaw, thank you for joining us this morning.

SHAW: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And still ahead at 19 minutes past 6:00, we're going to talk about Medicare and the housing bust and all those issues that are near and dear to Floridians. But are the politicians doing honest promises or pandering for votes?

You're watching EARLY START.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOMARO CANTU, CHEF AND MOLECULAR GASTRONOMIST: We serve an edible menu here, we have almost since day one. And that's because serving edible menus makes a lot of sense.

Every month about 20 tons of paper are wasted in restaurant menus alone, and so, you know, by that rationale, if you just ate your menu that was made from organic, local products, you could eliminate that paper waste. It looks like a sushi roll, it tastes like a sushi roll, but it's your menu.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: We are "Minding Your Business," this morning as we like to do regularly. The U.S. markets closed kind of mixed on Friday. The NASDAQ was up about half a percent. The Dow and S&P though down less than one percent. Never know what to say about those ups and downs arrows and what they really mean --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I like to look at a week by week, quite frankly. And last week was sort of like one of the first weeks in a while that it took a step back. We're so near the highs from last April so -- I mean, this week could be kind of a tough week because there's a lot going on ending with the jobs report. So we'll see. I mean, don't get too wrapped up in the day to day, folks.

SAMBOLIN: I wish that we could have had the cameras rolling while we were having this conversation a little while ago about the (ph) mortgage crisis in Florida.

BANFIELD: That's unbelievable.

ROMANS: And, you know, I was in Jacksonville last week. And I don't know how there's any way somebody goes to vote on Tuesday and doesn't have the foreclosure crisis, the housing crisis, the jobs crisis first in mind. I mean every neighborhood has evidence of this. If you're in your house and paying your bills next door to you is somebody who isn't. You've got somebody who your home value is down, cut in half in some places. Home prices in 2005 when the peak was pretty much cut in half. It's worse in some parts of Florida.

And it's interesting, because as Floridians are trying to kind of pay their bills they're being rained down by money. The Romney ads, $6.9 million alone in Florida, that includes the Super PAC and also the campaign.

So there's this interesting dichotomy in Florida where there's -- all of this money is coming into Florida right now, but the story in Florida is about how there isn't enough money. Isn't that interesting?

BANFIELD: And I'm pretty annoyed by that fact. I mean, what? It's tens of million of dollars in advertising and people are trying to find a place to live.

ROMANS: Except he's doing well now. He's doing better now in Florida because his business acumen -- his business acumen is something that people there are saying, look, maybe he's the guy who -- who can fix this.

I want to show you pictures of somebody we met named Scott Nicholas in Florida. He was going door to door knocking on houses. A busy real estate agent in Florida. He's busy because he's checking to see if somebody lives in those houses.

These are the realities in this neighborhood. People have left or people have left and now someone else has moved in and isn't renting in those houses. The banks are kind of just getting a sense of which houses they own. They want to know if there's anybody in there so they can sell it.

A good sign. You're starting to see more short sales, which is better for the community because it means somebody is probably living in that house and they're taking care of it, they're mowing the lawn.

BANFIELD: But remind me of a short sale is.

ROMANS: Short sale means you're living in the house, you tell the bank, look, I'm not -- I'm underwater. This house is never going to be worth -- and the bank is negotiating with you to sell it for less than you pay for it. Kills your credit. I mean all of this kills your credit, but most of these people are not going to be buying a house in the very near term future.

I mean, I'm hearing from academics and the experts down there that the worse is behind them, but when you talk to people who live in Florida they don't say that. They are probably fighting with a bank right now trying to figure out how they can stay in their house or how behind they are. It's just been a real mess. And I haven't heard from people that they're very confident about the housing rescue plans that they've seen so far. SAMBOLIN: No, no. They're actually awful. But you were saying earlier there was somebody who thought that maybe there was a trend for this to turn around. Saying that perhaps they're headed in the right direction.

ROMANS: All the seeds are there. You've got foreign buyers from China, from Brazil, from other places coming in buying -- paying cash for houses. So you are seeing cash sales. You've got mortgage rates that are so low, 3.24 percent. If you can refinance, you know, you've got mortgage rates that are so low.

BANFIELD: Why -- why would they bother with cash? Why wouldn't they keep their money and invest it still?

ROMANS: I know, because other parts of the world have lots of dough.

BANFIELD: Lots of cash. Lots of cash.

ROMANS: And they see value in these housing prices. But if you don't have a job you can't pay mortgage and that is the number one issue going on in Florida right now.

SAMBOLIN: Well, it's nice that you were there talking to people face to face about what they're going through.

ROMANS: And they were thoughtful about what they were going to doing to do on Tuesday. And they're really engaged in the -- in the primary. I thought that was interesting.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Christine Romans, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

It's 6:26 in the East. Here still to come on EARLY START, was the stimulus package money well spent? I bet Christine has got a lot to say about that. A new book breaks down how it was passed and how stimulus dollars were handed out. The author is going to talk to our Soledad O'Brien.

BANFIELD: And since we're Florida, Florida, Florida, how about this? The primary is tomorrow but can Newt Gingrich regain his momentum? We're going to talk to Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter who may have some thoughts about this candidate and other issues in this race. He's live with us.

And you're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Hello and welcome back to EARLY START.

It is 6:30 in the morning in the East and that is an EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thank you for joining us.

Here are your top stories:

Mitt Romney lengthening his lead with just one day to go before the Florida primary. He has a 11-point cushion over Newt Gingrich. That's a new American Research Group poll and 15-point margin in the latest NBC News/Marist poll.

BANFIELD: The National Park Service is cracking down on Occupy D.C. campers. The protestors are supposed to clear out their camping gear. It's just two blocks away from where the White House is. And if they're not cleaned out by noon, they're going to be forced out by the police, arrested.

We're watching for any movements by police this morning. They are enforcing the ban on sleeping and eating and that kind of thing -- all the things that campers would do in the park. Some demonstrators say they're not going anywhere. They're waiting it out. They're going to stay in the park without sleeping for as long as they can.

SAMBOLIN: And did you see? It was big night for "The Help" at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The film won three major awards, including the top prize, best ensemble cast. Two of its starts were also honored. Viola Davis for best actress, and Octavia Spencer for best supporting actress. It was great.

And on the TV side, "Modern Family" won for best comedy ensemble, and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" for best ensemble in a drama series.

BANFIELD: On the eve of the Florida primary, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are really ripping apart each other's resumes. Gingrich is painting Romney as a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase liberal.

Romney is ramping up his attack on Gingrich's failed leadership as speaker. And this all might be resonating in Florida, where they got a whole lot of issues to chew on down there. Romney has got double digit leads now in two different polls in that state.

Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana is kind enough to come in and join us live to talk a little bit about this and other politics that are at play.

So, real quickly weigh in on this race. I might as well just ask you right off the bat, Senator. Are you endorsing anybody?

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: No, I'm not. I think I'm like a typical Republican voter still looking at the candidates very, very carefully and still seeing how the race is ultimately going to develop.

BANFIELD: Are you leaning?

VITTER: You know, it's had such wild swings and so many debates that it's hard to predict.

BANFIELD: You're not leaning one way?

VITTER: Well, I'm personally closest, personally as well as the issues probably, to Rick Santorum. But, of course, he's not a leading candidate in terms of one or two right now. So, we'll see if this changes.

BANFIELD: Isn't this -- I mean, a lot of people are saying isn't this Rick Santorum's last stand if he can't seem to muster much in Florida? It's a winner-take-all state.

VITTER: I don't think it has to be. But, clearly, if he performs poorly here, it's going to be a setback.

BANFIELD: And I think Jack Welch is even hitting towards Ron Paul should perhaps consider getting out of the race all together. Do you feel that way?

VITTER: I don't think there's any chance Ron Paul is going to do that. He clearly has the attitude and the wherewithal in terms of organization. He doesn't need a whole lot of money to go probably to the convention. I think we have to count on that.

BANFIELD: OK. So, Senator, so let's talk business here. You're part of a group of 44 sponsors putting forth a bill regarding the Keystone XL pipeline this week.

VITTER: Right.

BANFIELD: Hoping to push that forward, perhaps even tying it to the payroll tax cut extension issue. While you're doing that, you've got to know that it doesn't have a lot of chance in the Senate and the president has already talked about a veto on that issue.

Is this the kind of thing that gets you numbers like this when Congress -- when people are asked about Congress and how they approve of them the numbers are abysmal. Here it is right here -- 11 percent of Americans polled approve of you and your folks in Congress and what you're doing. Does this bill that you're about to sponsor on the pipeline, do you think that's going to do much to help that?

VITTER: Well, actually, I'm not sure who my folks are in Congress but we're introducing --

BANFIELD: All of you, Democrats and Republicans alike.

VITTER: OK.

BANFIELD: Everybody is -- these are equal opportunity offenders.

VITTER: All right. We're introducing a stand-alone bill. I have no idea if it's going to be tied in any way to the payroll tax cut, number one. And we're doing it to create jobs and good energy for our country.

And I think Americans when they look at the issue, absolutely agree with that in huge numbers. It's very important for the country and it's a no brainer for most people. It's 20,000 immediate jobs. It's a lot of oil from Canada every day, 700,000 barrels. That's the amount we get from Venezuela. We can turn them away completely. We could lessen by that amount what we need to get from the Middle East.

BANFIELD: And many of the opponents I'll just say on their behalf, sir, they would say all sorts of issues haven't yet been hashed out. They haven't had enough time to hash this out. There are the environmental issues, et cetera.

So, clearly there's a fight on both sides of this pipeline.

VITTER: They will say that. There is no substance there. The only real issue is in Nebraska and Nebraskans have figured out how to solve that with the new route in Nebraska. And that's incorporated in the both our legislation and the attempts we've been making over the last month or so.

BANFIELD: Now, I know --

VITTER: So that's really solved. That's a non-issue.

BANFIELD: I'm going to do a right turn here. I know you're a professional politician and I know you go on TV a lot, and I know coming on TV with me today, you had to know that this question was coming. So, and it's awkward for me to even ask it but I got to, and I think you know where I'm going with this.

Newt Gingrich --

VITTER: I don't, but go ahead.

BANFIELD: OK. So, here I go.

Newt Gingrich has been suffering some heat over his cheating on his first wife, cheating on his second wife with his third wife. And you have also suffered heat in your political career as well back in 2007, admitting to having made call some calls to an alleged prostitution operation.

You did very well when you ran for re-election in 2010. In fact, if I look at the numbers, I think you trounced your opponent by, what, 19 points or something like that? You seemed to manage that baggage very well. I want you to weigh in on Newt Gingrich's baggage and handling that baggage, and what it is like for a politician who has some serious baggage trying to be elected.

VITTER: Ashleigh, the good news is, in America, it's not up to CNN. It's up to American people and it's up to voters. That was the case in my election in 2010. That's going to be the case in this presidential election.

And I think the voters are going to look carefully at all sorts of issues. But my guess is what concerns them now is this horrible, horrible economy, and their future and their struggles around the kitchen table.

BANFIELD: Well, I appreciate that you say it's not up to CNN. But I like to say we're the messenger here and one of the messages that you gave was this quotation about your incident and you said, "This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible."

And that's why I bring it to you, not so that CNN can dictate how voters will vote, but so that we can take your message, including that one, which was kind of a embarrassing thing to admit to as Newt Gingrich has had to admit to some embarrassing things and allow the voters to take those messages.

VITTER: Right, Ashleigh. Sure. OK. You're personally, in my opinion, outdoing King, but go for it -- John King, but go for it.

BANFIELD: I'm not trying to outdo anyone, sir. I am trying to hold you accountable for the things you did. And I also said that you beat your opponent by 19 points, which is a pretty nice thing to say.

What I'm asking you is -- can you compare the difficulties that you struggled with to what Newt Gingrich is struggling with?

VITTER: No, I can't.

BANFIELD: And that's that?

VITTER: Again, I think the great news is, in America, is it's going to be up to the voters. And the voters are looking at a lot of issues. They're looking at the backgrounds of all of the candidates.

But I think, ultimately, what they're most concerned about is they try to figure out how to pay their monthly bills, is this horrible economy, how we come out of it. But again, that's going to be for them to decide.

BANFIELD: I appreciate greatly, not only you getting up early and coming in to speak to me, but also equating me with John King, because I think he's pretty great. Thanks, Senator. Appreciate it.

VITTER: Great. Go for it.

BANFIELD: We'll talk to you again soon, I hope.

And for the best political coverage on television, despite what the senator thinks, you can keep it right here on CNN at 7:40 a.m. Eastern.

"STARTING POINT," former presidential candidate Herman Cain tells Soledad O'Brien why he decided to endorse Newt Gingrich this weekend.

SAMBOLIN: And still to come on EARLY START, the verdict in Canada's honor murders case. The judge's harsh words for the killers there. We have a live interview coming up.

You are watching EARLY START.

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BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 6:42 in the East.

SAMBOLIN: And guilty verdict in the Canadian honor murders trial. Three members of a family of Afghan immigrants have been convicted. They killed four female relatives. Their bodies found in an Ontario canal.

Paula Newton is live from Kingston, Ontario.

If you could just first start by giving us background on this case for those of us unfamiliar with it.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Incredible story. It's still sinking in here. These were three teenage girls and the woman they called auntie, she was actually their father's first wife in a polygamist marriage. Again, this family, immigrants to Canada. They were here from 2007. They were on a road trip.

And somehow these women ended up in an open canal drowned, basically in seven feet of water.

The prosecution proved in this case, Zoraida, that what, in fact, happened was one family car rammed the other, that the mother, the father, and the son killed those sisters.

And Rona Amir, the first wife in this polygamist marriage, the reason, an honor murder here, basically that the teenagers were rebellious, unruly, not adhering to very strict rules of the family had set. And the crux of this whole thing really were some very incriminating wire conversations.

Zoraida, really incredible, the judge after this verdict did not hold back. He said, "It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime."

And, in fact, these three defendants were sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole. And the entire case really, these riveted (INAUDIBLE), one of these things where people were dipping into the details. But when we had the verdict yesterday, many, many people going online listening in and trying to figure out exactly what were the details -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And, you know, I was reading here that honor killings actually are -- I'm not going to call them common but a lot more than I suspected -- 5,000 honor killings every year. That's according to the United Nations.

Have you seen any other cases like this?

NEWTON: Absolutely, Zoraida. I mean, just from my time in covering these stories in Britain, the British police estimate that at least a third of them, but perhaps three times as many go unreported. So, you can imagine that there are these mainly young women completely helpless in their own homes, that had stories of girls being kidnapped, taken back to certain countries because they were being disobedient.

What's so difficult here, Zoraida, in dealing with these is that social services is at a loss. Culturally, they don't really know what to do and many times they don't have the information they need. What they're looking for in many of these communities is more of an early warning system so that these honor crimes don't happen.

SAMBOLIN: Such a tragedy. Paul Newton, live from Kingston, Ontario, thank you for that information.

It is 45 minutes now past 6:00 on the east coast. Soledad O'Brien is live with us now to take a look at what's coming ahead on "Starting Point." Hi, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, ladies. Good morning to both of you. This morning, we're talking to former GOP candidate Herman Cain. He endorsed Newt Gingrich over the weekend, but didn't he endorse the American people? We're going to talk to him about his second endorsement this morning.

Also, we'll chat with investigative reporter, Michael Grabell. He's the author of "Money Well Spent?" It's a story of the truth behind where that trillion dollar stimulus went. That straight ahead on "Starting Point" which will start (ph) in just about ten minutes. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us, everybody.

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SAMBOLIN: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. It's time to check the stories making news this morning.

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SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Mitt Romney is stretching his lead over Newt Gingrich with one day to go before the Florida primary. He's opened up a double digit margin in two new polls. Gingrich maintaining the nomination will be his because the Republican Party will never select a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase liberal from Massachusetts.

BANFIELD (voice-over): I'll bet he has something to say about that. Also making news, a very disturbing story in Maine. Police there finding the blood of missing toddler, one-year-old Ayla Reynolds. They found that blood in the home where she vanished, and they say the amount was, quote, "more than a small cut would produce."

Ayla's been missing since December 17th, and police are growing very frustrated with the three adults who were with Ayla the night she disappeared. They say that her father, aunt, and her father's girlfriend have not passed the, quote, "straight faced test."

And John Edwards' former aide, Andrew Young, will be back in court to face contempt charges. The Young and his wife are accused of giving investigators sealed documents from a civil suit filed by Edwards' former mistress, Rielle Hunter. Hunter is suing the couple for invasion of privacy to reclaim personal photographs and an alleged sex tape.

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BANFIELD (on-camera): So, if you were watching "60 Minutes" like, oh, I don't know, millions and millions that people did last night, you saw the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, talking about that raid on Osama Bin Laden, and saying, you know, while we don't have 100 percent definitive proof, we still kind of have an idea that someone, somewhere amongst the Pakistani officials must have known where Bin Laden was hiding.

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LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Don't forget, this compound had 18 footwalls around it, 12 footwalls in some areas. It was the largest compound in the area. So, you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, what the hell is going on there?

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BANFIELD: Yes. Strong words from the defense secretary. And joining us now is Peter Bergen. He's CNN's national security analyst. He facilitated the 1997 CNN interview with Bin Laden. Peter, good to have you. I'm glad you're here on this morning, because the Pentagon is reiterating exactly what the defense secretary said in the interview.

We do not have the definitive proof. It's just a gut feeling. So, why bother? Why bother saying these kinds of things when the rhetoric between these two nations right now is so heated?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, I think Leon Panetta and the "60 Minutes" interview was careful to say that this was his personal opinion that Pakistanis -- somebody in the Pakistan government must have known that Bin Laden was living in this compound. But the fact is is that the United States has recovered, you know, millions of document from that compound.

They've all been translated. They've all been sifted through. And if there was a real smoking gun pointing to official Pakistani complicity given the delicate state of play between the two countries, we would have found out about it by now. And, you know, officials that I've expected (ph) say that there isn't any smoking gun in these documents.

Now, you know, that said, it is a very large compound. It is in the middle of an important Pakistani military city, less than a mile from Pakistan's largest military academy. As Secretary Panetta said in the broadcast last night, Pakistani military helicopters were flying over this compound.

And, so, you know, it's a legitimate question to ask. In my view, Osama Bin Laden was extremely paranoid guy, very secretive, and he wasn't telling people who even lived in his own compound. They weren't even sure who he was. So, the fact -- the idea that he'd be telling a lot of strangers that he was (ph) seems implausible to me.

BANFIELD: All right. Let's move on to the issue of Dr. Shakeel Afridi who is the doctor in Pakistan who, apparently, conducted some tests to try to surreptitiously gain DNA from children and other members inside that compound to help the Americans link Osama Bin Laden to that compound.

He has been arrested, and he is facing treason charges there. Not yet, but he could. And the defense secretary spoke to that issue. I'm just curious whether you think he did more harm than good suggesting that the Pakistanis better layoff that doctor.

BERGEN: Well, you know, you can read it both ways, Ashleigh. I mean, he essentially admitted that Dr. Afridi was on the CIA payroll. On the other hand, the Pakistanis already know that. And by making it a public matter, he may have increased pressure on the Pakistanis to release this guy.

That said, you know, the United States prosecutes spies from even friendly powers. Think of Jonathan Pollard, the American spying for Israel. So, Pakistan would not be the first country in the world to take a very dim view of somebody's spying for a foreign power, even a friendly one, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And, you know, things are just so ugly between us. I hear the rhetoric. It seems to increase week by week. This is a nuclear nation. This is a nation that we depend upon to deal with what we're dealing with in our other front in Afghanistan. What on earth, Peter, in your opinion, can America do right now or needs to do or does it need to do to try to a peace the Pakistanis? What do they want?

BERGEN: Well, appease is not, I don't think, exactly the right verb, but certainly, the, you know, relationship, as you pointed out, is very bad. Nine percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. It's one of the largest countries in the world.

One thing you do hear often, Ashleigh, is Pakistani textiles is a very important part of their economy of taxed at very high rates by the United States compared to other countries. And that will be the single thing that would get us the most credit in Pakistan, but good luck with that in Congress.

BANFIELD: Yes. One last question for you has to do with Panetta and budget. He's the budget director under Clinton, and now, he's kind of happened to deal with the big old budget problem with military. Do you think he's going to be able to do a good job or just something that our enemies are going to seize upon and say this is your Achilles' heel now?

BERGEN: I think defense expenditures went up like 80 percent in the last decade, and there's no doubt that there are areas -- everybody is going to have to give some blood at this particular bank, Ashleigh. I mean, the defense department and other departments are going to be cut, so, you know, he's the perfect man for the job, as you know.

He was the budget director under Clinton. I think he'll -- I think he will be very careful about what he -- what cuts he makes. He says so "60 minutes" interview. He's not going to make the same mistakes in the past. But I think the defense department knows what's coming, and you know, they have a plan.

BANFIELD: It is always a joy to speak with you. You are just one of the brightest bulbs out there. Thanks, Peter Bergen.

BERGEN: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Also, I want to let you know that Peter Brooks, the former deputy assistant of secretary of defense is going to join Soledad O'Brien coming up next, and we're going to talk a little bit about, obviously, U.S.-Pakistan relations and whether our officials might be talking a little too much right now.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on "Starting Point", Herman Cain joining Soledad O'Brien talking about joining forces with Stephen Colbert and endorsing Newt Gingrich. You're watching EARLY START.

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BANFIELD: And as take a last sip at the morning elixir, it is the end of EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Soledad O'Brien is next. Good morning to you.