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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mitt Romney Wins Florida Primary; Interview with Gingrich PAC Adviser Rick Tyler; Interview with Mitt Romney; Little League Coach Cuts Girl; Get Real! Little League Coach Cuts Girl Because She's A Girl; Pakistan Denies Helping Taliban; Judge Rules Against "Occupy DC"; JFK Assassination Tapes Released; Romney Wins Florida; Scott's Popularity With Voters; U.S. Urges U.N. to Weigh in on Syria, Russia Vows to Block U.N. Resolution; Number of Negative GOP Political Ads Unprecedented

Aired February 1, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, ladies. Thank you very much. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT this morning.

And of course, the news is that Mitt Romney is the big winner in the state of Florida. So, headed to Minnesota with the momentum that he picks up. We'll talk about how much momentum that is. He also says the GOP is going to recover from the ugliness of the Florida race. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us, and we will win.

(CHEERING AND APPLUSE)

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see if that's actually true. To what degree does it divide the electorate? Mitt Romney is going to join us live this morning. We'll talk about his victory.

Also, Newt Gingrich, he didn't call, he didn't really concede, and what he said was, I'm re-launching. I've got 46 states to go. He is literally vowing to fight all the way to the convention. What will that do to the GOP in November?

And in this story, she's got game, but she can't play ball because she's a girl. We're telling you this morning one little league coach get real. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Ron Brownstein, look, he comes in strong.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: -- first thing in the morning. We appreciate that. As you know, we like to highlight our panelists' choices off their iPods, and we've had some low lows and some very high highs. So, Ron Brownstein, we appreciate you. I think this is the first time you contributed --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the first time I contributed, yes.

O'BRIEN: -- and it's strong, Will Cain. Take note of that.

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: What is she talking about when she said we've had some low lows?

O'BRIEN: Slow lows is what I should say. I want to remind everybody on Friday we're going to take everybody's suggestions. So feel free to tweet us or tweet me @SoledadObrien. I would love to hear from you and not just the crazy people who tweet me, all the other people. You can also send to @StartingPoint. We would love to know what you suggest.

I'd like to introduce our panel this morning. We have Will Cain who is a columnist for "The Blaze." I like the tweed.

CAIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: It's very professorial. The actual professor though is next to you, and that would be the former Virginia congressman Tom Davis is back with us. I said a long goodbye to you yesterday, and I'm like, oh, he's back. We loved having you. He is also the former chair of the Republican House Campaign Committee. He teaches political science now. And Ron Brownstein is the editorial director of the "National Journal" and he is with us as well.

So let's move on to the state of Nevada because the state of Florida is over. It is next. The state caucuses are this weekend. Mitt Romney is going to head west with new momentum after this big win in Florida. He won 46 percent of the vote. Newt Gingrich was at 32 percent of the vote. That was the second place finish. And 13 percent for Rick Santorum, seven percent for Ron Paul.

Rick Tyler joins us this morning. He's the senior adviser to "Winning our Future" PAC and former Gingrich spokesman. Nice to see you, sir.

RICK TYLER, FORMER GINGRICH SPOKESMAN: Good morning, how are you?

O'BRIEN: I'm really well, thank you. How are you doing I guess is a better question. Did the margin of victory for the competition surprise you?

TYLER: A little bit. But, you know, the team Romney spent over $20 million here. They ran 0.1 percent positive for Romney, which is a little disturbing because it's very difficult to move on and build political capital that way. In other words, Romney didn't run any ads about how he's going to balance the budget or how he was going to fix the unemployment situation, how he's going to pay off the debt, how he's going to fix entitlement programs. It was all about how you shouldn't vote for Newt Gingrich, and that clearly had a lot of damage.

But I think going forward, you know, we got mired in the swamps here, if you will, in Florida. But we're heading for the high ground. We're going to talk a lot more about Newt Gingrich's conservative legislative achievement record when he was in Congress. That was four years of balanced budgets, tax cuts, 11 million new jobs created. Stock market went up, NASDAQ went up. It was great success and we're going to focus on that because we feel that Mitt Romney cannot compare to that.

O'BRIEN: When you complain about the negative ads, you run Winning our Future, the PAC, which has had its fair share of negative ads and just not as well funded is the issue. Aren't you equally to blame for the negativity on both sides?

TYLER: You might remember, Soledad, back in Iowa we didn't run any negative ads. In fact, Gingrich admonished us through the media not to run any negative ads. We didn't do that. We felt like that that over time and he did too, that was not sustainable. When we finally fought back, we won South Carolina by a similar 14-point margin. And so we came to Florida and they had already spent more than $5 million here. They spent a total of $20 million in Florida.

O'BRIEN: They out spent you by a lot. You just got hammered negatively and also moneywise.

TYLER: Yes, we did.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a quick question. No concession speech. No concession call. Isn't that unusual? Isn't that, I guess, sort of bad form in a race, even if you're staying in and you're going to move on to the next contest?

TYLER: I can't speak to that. I'm not part of the campaign. I did note, you know, usually the people who concede speak first. And Romney went right on immediately and spoke first. I thought that was fairly unusual and no one has commented on that. I don't know beyond that.

BROWNSTEIN: Rick, Ron Brownstein from "National Journal." When you get to March, you have some states that are more demographically and ideologically favorable to you, like Georgia and the Tennessee and Ohio, but you do have to get there first. As you look at this next month of contests through the month of February, what, if any, are the states on that list that you think Gingrich has a realistic chance of winning in this next month?

TYLER: Well, it may surprise you but we're going to compete in ne Nevada. We're going compete in Arizona. One thing Mitt will do, which is what he's done before, is to run a national campaign. I think you can do that with the media now. When people do national programming, this program reaches, as does talk radio reach people nationally. The Internet reaches people nationally. I think you can have an overall national message.

Where are we going to compete with dollars I think we would focus on states like Nevada, states like Arizona. Remember, it's a little different than the last time. It's not winner take all the whole way through. There are a lot of proportional states. Even coming in second in states we can still accumulate delegates until we get to, as you say, super Tuesday where I think we'll pick up a fair number of delegates.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about exit polls. When you look at exit polls that focus on women, Mitt Romney won those 52 percent to Newt Gingrich 28 percent. When you look at Latinos, Mitt Romney won 54 percent to Gingrich's 29 percent. There is a theory that says an issue with affairs in the past turns off women. There is a theory that says, if you talk about, you know, language of the ghetto, that's going to turn off Latinos. Do you think that had an impact?

TYLER: I'm not sure -- you know, perhaps. It may have had an impact. But I will point out that, you know, we won the evangelical vote in Florida. And Newt won the very conservative vote. And those who identify most strongly with the Tea Party, he won those folks, too. Yes, there's more work to do with women voters, there's more work to do with Latino voters. Newt has been working on that issue for quite a number of years. It didn't work out this time but we'll keep competing for that vote.

TOM DAVIS, FORMER VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: This is Tom Davis. I had the privilege to serve with the speaker in the House. But his natural base right now, the party base, the more conservative base has been most activated in caucus states but that's where thing or pays off, months of organizing in between. It seems like you're kind of airdropping into these areas that are your natural strength and that you ought to be winning.

How are you going to handle caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado, over the next month? Naturally that ought to be your base, and even in Nevada where Sharron Angle was elected last time in the Republican primary, a natural, hard conservative base, but these things take time to organize. What is the outlook at this point?

TYLER: Well, sometimes you can go into a state and organize it yourself, other times you can sort of adopt the organization that's already there. The Tea Party is a natural group to attract and get to go to work for you.

The good thing about the caucus states which I think you are intimating is that there are more educated voter because they are -- they care about the issues and actually go to the meetings, actually organize, actually walk the precincts. And therefore we think we have an advantage with those people because we know that those people tend to be more conservative. They know Newt's record about balanced budget and tax cuts. As you say, they know best about the Republican revolution and what he was able to accomplish as speaker.

So we think we have an advantage with those people, but, you know, it will be a challenge. And our super PAC is prepared not only to run ads, but we're prepared to engage and get a ground game going as well. We'll do whatever it takes to make sure that Newt is the nominee back here in Tampa and in August.

O'BRIEN: Rick Tyler with us this morning. Appreciate your time.

TYLER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Other stories making headlines. Christine has those. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Breaking news this morning out of Syria. Government security forces clashing with armed protesters overnight if the city of Homs. At least 20 people were killed. This latest fighting comes as the U.S. and the Arab league press for a U.N. resolution to have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down. Russia and China are blocking it.

Is Iran the biggest threat to America's national security? U.S. intelligence officials in their annual threat assessment to Congress, they say Iranian leaders are now more willing to plot and attack on U.S. soil if their regime is being threatened. Officials point to Iran's alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington last year. Tehran's nuclear capability also a major concern.

California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa threatening to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt if holder doesn't turn over documents related to the botched Fast and Furious gun walking administration. That operation allowed weapons to reach Mexican drug cartels. Issa claims Holder's Justice Department is, quote, "actively engaged in a cover-up." A Democratic report found that ATF agents not Justice Department officials were responsible for that program. Holder is scheduled to testify before Issa's House committee tomorrow.

And the search for victims of the Costa Concordia shipwreck in Italy is over. Officials say conditions are simply too dangerous for rescue workers right now. And 17 bodies have been recovered. More than a dozen people, including two Americans, they have not been found. This as a new report says that six of the cruise wreck survivors are suing for $460 million.

"Minding your Business" this morning, positive economic news set to boost stocks today. DOW futures are up 90 points thanks to upbeat manufacturing data out of China and Europe. But who cares about that? It's about Facebook, right, Facebook's long-awaited IPO filing? It could happen any moment today. Facebook reportedly looking to raise up to $5 billion in its initial public offering. That would make it the biggest tech IPO in history ahead of Google which raised nearly $2 billion when it went public back in 2004. An IPO filing is just the first step. Shares wouldn't be listed for several months, of course.

And first lady Michelle Obama on "The Tonight Show" last night talking about her workout routine and showing off her left hook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": You got a little testy with Al Roker.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Oh, no.

LENO: Show that footage.

AL ROKER: Are jumping jacks your exercise of choice?

MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, I do everything. I mean, jumping jacks, squats, lunges, a little boxing.

ROKER: Does the president have to worry about the boxing part?

MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, sometimes when he sees me punching, he kind of --

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: Boy, you are competitive. Man.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I didn't mean to hit him that hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That was a great appearance, wasn't it? Really, really fun. Great timing on both of them.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you. It's true, she was very good when asked about the Romney singing, she gave a very political answer. It's a great song, a very high end. I would like to say stop with that, please.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I head this morning on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney is going to join us live. He will not be singing on this program. He is heading west though with all of his momentum. We'll take a look at that this morning.

Plus, Pakistan helping the Taliban? There are new concerns that Pakistan knows where Taliban fighters are hiding.

And then our "Get Real" this morning, a little league coach tells this little girl that she can't play because she's a girl. Unfair. We're going to talk about that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It was a big margin of victory in Florida for Mitt Romney. In case you missed it, here are the results. Romney got 46 percent of the vote, 32 percent for Newt Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum. And it was Ron Paul who came in with seven percent of the vote.

The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney joins me from Tampa this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Congratulations are in order for you. We appreciate you being with us.

How are you feeling as you move forward and you see those results?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Soledad, that feels pretty darn good. Florida in some respects is a microcosm of the nation, in part because so many people move here in their retirement years.

We've got good support here. Actually I understand a record number of votes in a Republican primary. So I'm pretty pleased.

O'BRIEN: So, let's talk about things that may be less pleasing. If you look at exit polling on conservatives and exit polling on Tea Partiers, you lost both of those categories to Newt Gingrich. How do you - how do you get them?

ROMNEY: Actually we won both conservatives and Tea Partiers in Florida. So I'm - I'm pretty pleased that we had good support here. We were also able to do very well with Hispanic voters. I think the last time I ran I got 14 percent of the Hispanic vote, this time, 54 percent.

The difference is that people care about the economy and they understand that that's been my background. They really don't think that people who spent their entire life working in Washington are prepared to take on the problem of getting our economy strong again.

O'BRIEN: OK. But when I talk about Tea Party and conservatives, I think I should clarify very conservative and strong Tea Partiers. When you look at that focus, which is a very energized and core group of the party you are trying to represent, they went with the other guy. How do you get them?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I have to make sure I get the majority in each state I go to. And so I want to have good support from the Tea Partiers and from conservatives, but I recognize there may be some who decide to go elsewhere. That's the nature of the process.

But if I can keep winning and getting the delegates and I become our nominee, I want to make sure that people know who I am, what I stand for. I'm not going to try to veer to one direction or another trying to get one group or another.

O'BRIEN: You know, Newt Gingrich, he gave a speech but it wasn't really a concession speech and he didn't give a concession call. Did that offend you, upset you in any way, shape or form?

ROMNEY: No. As has been said long ago, politics ain't bean bags. You know, we're battling to become the nominee. He's going to do it the way he thinks is best. I'll do it the way I think is best. So far my process has given me a good start. I know we're going to go on.

But I'm feeling pretty good at this point, Soledad. I really do think the American people do not want to take us into the politics of Washington and the practices of Washington. They want to take us in a direction that gets this economy going again. And we re-change the way Washington works fundamentally.

O'BRIEN: I've never heard that, politics ain't bean bags. I'm going to write that down so I can throw that at some other people one day.

You know, you said - and we played a little clip of it from your speech last night, you said, "Listen, competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us and we will win." But isn't there a downside to all of this negativity?

When you look at independents' opinion of you, and I think we have a graphic of this, the favorable has only gone up one percent since December and the unfavorable is 20 percent increase since December. Isn't - doesn't that seem to be a very big problem among independents who often decide a race in the general election?

ROMNEY: Well, I think if there were some way of having no negative ever launched against you, even by the Democrats, why, the argument might make sense. But frankly, I know that if I'm the nominee, Barack Obama is going to spend almost a billion dollars attacking me.

So you might as well get it out there now. Learn how to respond, and make sure that we're able to get back to the real issue people care about when the time of the general election comes around. And that real issue is how to get America's economy so strong that we're creating jobs for people again and how to change Washington from becoming the, if you will, the bloated beast that's taking over larger and larger part of our life. Those kinds of issues I think are - what will win.

O'BRIEN: Do you get distracted - do you get distracted from that conversation when you have someone like Newt Gingrich saying, yes, I'm going to stay in the race. Forty-six states yet to go so you don't really get to have a conversation with President Obama. You end up having a sort of a battle on two fronts. That's got to be not a good thing.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, you take what comes. Each candidate has the right to stay in the race as long as they want to. You know, I welcome the fact that we're going to be honing our message and battling against the attacks that will come. But I recognize that this is going to be a long road and particularly if Speaker Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Ron Paul want to go on a long way, why, I certainly want to go a long way. I want to go upfront (ph) to the convention as a winner.

And so we'll take what comes and be prepared for President Obama who will do everything in his power not to talk about his record. And the truth is he has failed the American people. He's lost more jobs during his presidency than any other president, I believe in history. Home value is down during his presidency. He doesn't want to talk about that, but that's what we're going to talk about. O'BRIEN: It might be challenging to get that conversation going if you have a prolonged battle. And if you look historically, when Republicans are in these prolonged battles for this nomination, it actually bodes poorly for them in the general election, right?

I mean, I think it's only Eisenhower in 1952 who was able to emerge victorious. The same is not true on the Democratic side. You sound very not concerned about it, but the statistics would say maybe you ought to be concerned about it?

ROMNEY: Well, I guess I'm very concerned about things I can change. But I can't possibly suggest that I'm going to tell somebody else in the race what's right for them. They have to pursue the course that's best for them. And I think with regards to winning in November, it's going to come down to whether people want to have Barack Obama, who has been extraordinarily unsuccessful and inexperienced, continue to lead a nation at a critical time, both internationally with the threat in Iran, as well as domestically, with an economy that continues to bump along the bottom.

O'BRIEN: When I was in Florida, you were absolutely just hammered with those ads. I mean, literally, it was an incredible thing. Now we know that was the most negative ads ever in the history of forever, something like 92, 93 percent negative ads.

When you look at the spending for ads in the campaign, you just killed it, really. Your campaign spent about $9 million. Your Super PAC, over $10 million. And 13,000 ads compared to Newt Gingrich's, you saw the number up there, 200 ads.

Is this what we're going to see as we move toward through the rest of the primary season into the general election, just money flooding with negative ads and that's going to be the tone of this entire campaign?

ROMNEY: Well, you are going to see us talking about the contrast between me and the other people in the race.

O'BRIEN: That's a yes?

ROMNEY: When we were in South Carolina - well, when we were in South Carolina, I was vastly overspent with negative ads attacking me. And we sat back saying a positive message, focused on President Obama would be just fine, and I got beaten there. And we said, well, that doesn't make a lot of sense.

And so our campaign made sure that we were more appointed on our message and pointing out the differences between me and Speaker Gingrich and our respective records.

As to what the various PACs do out there, there's not much I can do about that. I can't tell them where to go or where to spend their money. Obviously the reading was that the PAC - Super PAC that supported Speaker Gingrich which was financed by Sheldon Adelson, the thought was he was going to spend a lot more money here in Florida. My guess is he's saving his powder for races in Nevada and other places to come.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a final question. And there's a poll that came out a few that says, understanding the needs of average Americans. And President Obama rates at 55 percent in this polling. You come in at 39 percent.

And the Conservative Writer, Kathleen Parker, wrote about, you know, it's that Romney can't connect with the people as has been - it isn't that Romney can't connect with the people has been pronounced repeatedly. It's that the people cannot connect with him. This also explains why the far less perfect Newt Gingrich can attract support against all reason. How do you fix that?

ROMNEY: You know, just let people get to know you better. The nice thing about what happened here in Florida is I got a chance to go across the state, meet with people. They heard what I am concerned about. They understand how I will be able to make things better.

I think people want someone who not just throws an incendiary bomb from time to time but someone who actually knows how it takes to improve their life, get home values rising again, to get jobs again in this country, and to make sure when soldiers come home they have a job waiting for them. And make sure people who are retired don't have to worry about what's going to happen at the end of the week.

This is a time people are worried. They're frightened. They want someone who they have confidence in. And I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. And, by the way, I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.

I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I'll continue to take that message across the nation.

O'BRIEN: All right. So I know I said last question, but I've got to ask you. You just said I'm not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.

O'BRIEN: Got it. OK.

ROMNEY: The - the challenge right now - we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and - and there's no question, it's not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor.

But my campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign - you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That's not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That's not my focus.

My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That - these are the people who've been most badly hurt during the Obama years.

We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.

O'BRIEN: All right. Mitt Romney, congratulations to you on your big victory last night. Thanks for talking with us. appreciate it.

ROMNEY: Thanks - thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, she plays ball better than her little brother, but apparently it doesn't matter. A seven-year-old girl is getting a lesson in gender bias. That's at the young age of seven. That's our "Get Real" this morning.

Plus, Miami un-Occupied now. Police in riot gear tear down tents and hauled protesters out. We'll update you on what's happening there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's an oldie but an oldie. Congressman Tom Davis' playlist this morning for us. I like it. I like it.

DAVIS: They got it out of the archives.

O'BRIEN: We did. We did. And that's Johnny Tillotson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

O'BRIEN: Wow. How many Johnny Tillotson's songs do you have on your iPod?

DAVIS: Just a couple.

O'BRIEN: All right. I'm going to change - trade with you. A little Jay-Z for me, a little Johnny Tillotson from you, and in a year both us -

DAVIS: Broadening my (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: And you and me -

CAIN: I'm continually shocked at how - and I'm not suggesting you were, Congressman. Sensitive people are about criticism on their music, including me, and probably are when it's get complicated. It's just music.

O'BRIEN: It's not just music. It's the audio part of our show, people. Let's be serious.

OK. We're getting to "Get Real" this morning. I want to introduce you to a little girl. The name is Anna Kimball. She just turned seven years old. There she is right there on the website. She plays baseball on a Little League team in Texas. And she plays with her - her little brother whose name is Carson, they're teammates. Actually, they were teammates.

The team's coach told Anna's mother that Anna is now being cut from the team. Let me remind you, she's seven years old and she outplays her little brother who I think is six years old. The reason is that he is moving the team to an all-boys league next season so that they can be more competitive. Little girl ousted.

Her mom said this to a local station, I can't believe that she's seven and already she's having to face this. She is already having to hear someone say, because of who you are, because you were born a girl, you're not allowed to go do something. Well, Anna, welcome to the world. No, kidding. That's terrible.

Now her little brother is her biggest fan, which I think is sweet. It's nice to have a brother who loves you as opposed to fights with you. He says that if his big sister can't play, forget it, he's not playing either.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, solidarity.

O'BRIEN: A 6-year-old with solidarity of his sister. And the bigger question I think is, I had the same issue with my kids, right, which is at some point, the girls and boys cannot play together. They do. They oust the girls from the team. It's unfair, I think.

BROWNSTEIN: But the real story is this --

O'BRIEN: What's the real story?

BROWNSTEIN: The real story is this is a story, is that, you know, 20, 30 years ago this would have been routine, but now it's unique enough to be worthy of mention. The fact is that we've kind moved so far past this in most places, but when it happens you know this.

O'BRIEN: Ron Brownstein finding the silver lining in the story of a little girl --

BROWNSTEIN: It's true.

O'BRIEN: It's progress kind of. All right, we got to take a short break. STARTING POINT this morning continues with former Governor Rick Scott joining us.

You know, he has talk a lot about his experience as a businessman and why that makes him a great governor and why that would make Mitt Romney a great president in his word.

So we're going to talk about what really is the connection to private sector success when you're in office? Governor Scott will join us straight ahead.

And the violent battle over Syria. Have you guys seen some of these pictures? My, God in the streets and the U.N. as well. Resolution could help, but it is going to be tough to get there. So people are saying it's dead in the water.

Plus, long lost recordings from the Air Force One flight back to Washington, D.C. on the day that JFK was killed. We'll hear the chilling tape. That's all straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We have a short break. We're back right on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome whack, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Lots to get to, we start with headlines. Christine Romans has those for us. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you again, Soledad.

A leaked NATO report says Pakistan is directly assisting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are denying this report. The BBC obtained it. They say it's based on 27,000 interrogations with captured Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

Police in Miami are clearing out an "Occupy" protest camp. They stormed the encampment last night, kicked out demonstrators, tore down tents and they also made a few arrests. Protesters had been camping out on that location for more than three months.

A federal judge clears the way for police in Washington, D.C. to keep "Occupy" protesters from camping out in two local parks there. One demonstrator had asked the court to issue a restraining order against police, claiming camping out is a form of free speech.

America's deficit will drop this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It's all thanks to additional tax revenues and cuts in government spending. The catch, it's still going to be $1.1 trillion. Last year's deficit was $1.3 trillion.

The U.S. National Archives releasing long lost recordings of the Air Force One flight back to Washington on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

There is 42 minutes of never before heard audio, including a discussion between U.S. Navy physician, Gregory Berkeley, and Army Surgeon General Leonard Heaton, about what to do with the president's body.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL BURKLEY: General Heaton, this is Dr. Burkley.

GENERAL HEATON: Yes, Burkley. ADMIRAL BURKLEY: Yes. You, the military district of Washington, in regards to the taking care of the remains of the President Kennedy and we are planning on having the president taken directly to Walter Reed and probably Mrs. Kennedy will also be going out there. We will clarify that later.

GENERAL HEATON: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The entire two-hour 22-minute recording is made available by U.S. National Archives. You can find them all online if you're interested.

Time for "Minding Your Business." Wall Street is expected to start the new month with a modest rally thanks to upbeat manufacturing data from China and Europe.

This comes after stocks close out their best January in 15 years. That should bode well for the rest of the year because, as Wall Street says, as goes January, so goes the year. There you go -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Is that always true?

ROMANS: It's almost always true. Yes, and you know, election years tend to be good years. The second half of the year tends to be good years for election years too.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Good. Then I'm glad we had a strong January.

ROMANS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.

We heard from Mitt Romney just a few moments ago. He clearly has momentum this morning, 50 delegates after his big win in Florida last night. Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott joins us.

He's in Tallahassee this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. I know that the polls all show that Mitt Romney was going to win.

So give me a sense of when you see the actual numbers, how you feel about last night's race?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, you know, what Florida voters cared about is the economy. You know, we've had a good year in 2011. Unemployment dropped 2.1 percent, the second fastest drop in the country, but we still have 900,000 people out of work.

And so what Florida voters want is they want a president who is going to focus on reducing taxes, reducing regulation and you know, get our economy back to work. And last night, Governor Romney was that candidate. O'BRIEN: Governor Romney has said, I think as you also said in your campaigning, that being a CEO, which you were, you know, has its benefits because you can tackle issues like this economy, unlike other competitors. Has that borne out for you as governor?

SCOTT: You know, Soledad, I think the real benefit is you have a better feel for what business people need. Every business in this country worries about taxes and fees and regulation and permitting and litigation risks.

And if we want more jobs in this country, which is I want more jobs in Florida. That's my whole job is to build jobs in our state, is we've got to think about the size of our government, we've got to reduce taxes, we've got to reduce regulation.

The other thing is we've got to listen to business people. They're competing with companies around the world. Our country was built on the free market, on capitalism. We've got to say we've got to be -- we've got to understand we're competing with Brazil and India and China.

If we don't put American businesses at a distinct advantage, the jobs are going to go overseas. All of us want more private sector jobs here.

O'BRIEN: How come then your approval numbers are not better. I mean, if you follow through that a CEO who's successful in the public sector really can come right in and be successful in the government, you know, kind of look at the country as a private sector kind of thing.

Your numbers and you've struggled a lot. You know, I'm not telling anything you don't know, 47 percent disapproval, 43 percent approval. That's not great numbers. Is that an indication that maybe CEO isn't such a great job for being the president or being a person who is leading a state?

SCOTT: You know, what you have to do as governor or president is you have to make the tough choices. If you do that it works. And in my state, you know, my judgment is the third Friday of every month what happened on unemployment.

And fortunately for our state, unemployment has dropped considerably down 2.1 percent. So that's really the judge. People judge us on how we deal with the economy. Think about your family. You care about, my children get an education, can I get a job, and does government keep the cost of living low.

That's who people care about. That's what the election was yesterday. Who is going to be the right president? Who is going to be the right partner for the progress we're making in Florida? Unemployment down, getting jobs going, we need somebody that's going to think the same way. The choice was Mitt Romney.

TOM DAVIS, FORMER REPUBLICAN VIRGINIA CONGRESSMAN: Governor, Tom Davis. Your numbers are actually coming up. You make the tough decisions the first year and get them out of the way. If things work out your numbers are back up.

I wanted to ask about Governor Romney's numbers. Right now, we have polls showing him losing the state to President Obama. The election, of course, is nine months away. How do you see this playing out over the next nine months? What do you think the governor's chances are going to be in November?

SCOTT: Well, I think in November people are going to go to the polls and they're going to choose whether it's President Obama or whether it's going to be the Republican nominee. They're going to say, who can help my family.

You know, partially it will depend on what happens to the economy over the next nine months. Partially it's going to be who has a plan that people believe in and, in my case, I ran a very specific campaign.

Seven steps to 7,000 jobs over 7 years. I could explain it to people and they believed in it. And that's what -- whether it's going to be the Republican nominee or President Obama, they're going to have to come out and say, we have a plan, this is how my plan is going to work.

And they're going -- I think they're going to have to do the same thing I did in Florida, is really go sell every day and talk to people and explain it and get them to buy into what -- what they believe in. Now, backgrounds are very important. But really it's going to be who has a plan that people believe?

O'BRIEN: Governor Rick Scott joining us this morning. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate your time, sir.

SCOTT: Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, likewise.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, the U.S. urging the United Nations take some action on Syria, but Russia is vowing to block a resolution. Secretary Clinton has some strong words for those who are not on board with the resolution. We'll tell you what she's saying this morning.

Plus, Planned Parenthood is losing the support of the nation's leading breast cancer charity. Why the Komen Foundation is cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood? Here's a little hint, it's all political.

We're going to leave you with a little Will Cain music this morning. Rolling Stones, classic.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Never go wrong.

O'BRIEN: You're just going for the low-hanging fruit, easy wins. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Violence continues to rage in Syria. The U.S. urging the United Nations to weigh in. And Russia is vowing to block a U.N. resolution on Syria, saying it has, quote, "no, chance of passing." Secretary Clinton has some strong words for the countries that are not on board. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: At the end of the day, every member of that Security Council has a choice to make. If you do not choose to try to stand on the side of the Syrian people, then you are standing on the side of the continuing killing and abuses that are carried out every single day. I know what side we're on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Some of the pictures we've been seeing out of Syria are horrific.

Jamie Ruben is a former assistant secretary of state and international affairs adviser to New York governor, Andrea Cuomo. He joins our panel.

Let's talk about the options, especially diplomacy. It seems that it's not good right now.

JAMIE RUBEN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, normally, in the international diplomatic protocol, if the Arab League, the regional organization, takes the lead on something, it's very, very rare that the United Nations wouldn't support that regional initiative. That's the basic way business is done, if it were in Africa, the E.U., in South America, the OAU. So for the Russians to be holding back and preventing a regional initiative like this by the Arab League is extremely unusual in international diplomacy.

O'BRIEN: Why is that? Why are they doing that? And China, too.

RUBEN: Only they know for sure, but I think there are several factors. Number one, Syria is one of the last places that Russia can remember what it's like to be a great power, where it has an ally, who has a naval base that it can use, who buys weapons from it, who has close personal relations between the two leaders. So that gives them that sense of, we're a player and we have to go along. I think that's one reason.

Number two is payback. They felt they were -- went along with the Libya operation where a U.N. resolution permitted NATO to use military force and overthrow Gadhafi. They were saying they were misled and they're not going to let that happen again.

DAVIS: I think the question a lot of Americans are wondering, watching this everyday, is why did we intervene on the humanitarian grounds in Libya, and why are we standing apart from Syria?

O'BRIEN: How is Syria different? RUBEN: The Arab League, believe it or not, asked the United States and NATO -- it was a really unprecedented thing -- to come in, in the case of Libya. They were afraid of an imminent slaughter and they asked for military assistance, which was incredible. They haven't reached that point yet. So the Arab League is still hoping to find a diplomatic solution.

DAVIS: If they do reach that point, do you think that would be the tipping point in our decision making? If there was a request, would we answer?

RUBEN: I think we would have to seriously consider it. I hope we would do something to contribute to preventing the mass killing of Syrians. But I would say that Syria is a much, much tougher case. There are far more complexities, far more regional difficulties. You have a large ethnic group on one side and you have a minority led by Assad on the other, and people imagine a long-time civil war that would be much worse than what we faced in Libya, which was obviously many months as well.

O'BRIEN: Jamie, I've got to hit our commercial break so I'm going to stop you there.

Jamie Ruben, nice to have you talking with us.

RUBEN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: The pictures have been incredible when you see them on YouTube mostly. Most of us, that's where we've been seeing them. Amazing.

RUBEN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for being with us --

RUBEN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: -- and explaining some of the complexities.

We've got to take a short break. But coming up next, GOP campaign hitting a new low for going negative. We're going to have reaction from our RNC chairman, Reince Priebus, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If you turn on the TV in Florida over the last couple of weeks, here's what you would have seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD NARRATIVE: Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.

AD NARRATIVE: What kind of man would mislead, distort and deceive just to win an election? This man would. Mitt Romney. TOM BROKAW, NBC VETERAN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight he has, on his own record, the judgment of his peers, Democrat and Republican alike. By an overwhelming vote, they found him guilty of ethics violations.

AD NARRATOR: If we can't trust what Mitt Romney says about his own record, how can we trust him on anything?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, this morning on "Early Start," Ken Goldstein, the president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, called the number of negative ads unprecedented. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN GOLDSTEIN, PRESIDENT, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYSIS GROUP: This last week in Florida, over 90 percent, 92 percent of all the ads were negative. I've certainly never seen anything like that. I've never seen anything like that in a Republican presidential primary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Reince Priebus is the Republican National Committee chairman.

You have said, sir -- and good morning to you. Nice to have you back. You've said, hey, competition is a good thing for the party. But if you look at some polls, especially you say Mitt Romney's standing, negativity among Independents, he's up 20 points in people who dislike him more. Isn't that really, this kind of stuff, a big problem?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I don't know what poll you're referring to, but we can talk generally about it. I don't necessarily believe that tough primary competitions carry in the general elections. The history there, Soledad, is that it really doesn't. I mean, if you're really being objective here, and not spinning here, Soledad, you look back --

O'BRIEN: Appreciate that.

PRIEBUS: -- you look back at Obama and Hillary Clinton --

(LAUGHTER)

You look back at Obama and Hillary Clinton, that's the most obvious and most recent example that our country has of a very, very difficult primary election. The chairwoman of the DNC was on Team Hillary campaigning against Obama. Hillary called Obama a hypocrite from the very beginning.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Oh, it was ugly. There's no --

(CROSSTALK) PRIEBUS: But, wait. I've a good point here.

(LAUGHTER)

Hang on. Hang on. I've got a good point here.

O'BRIEN: OK. I'm waiting.

PRIEBUS: It's going to take 15 seconds.

(LAUGHTER)

Obama said that Hillary Clinton didn't have the moral fiber to lay a wreath -- or his people -- he said, his people said this -- Hillary didn't have the moral fiber to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Now she is the secretary of state. So my point is this. Primaries are tough. And even in that case, I mean, Obama won very easily. So my point is this, this is a process that, you know, yes, would I prefer everyone adhere to Reagan's 11th commandment? Of course. But I have to let the process play out.

O'BRIEN: Got it. OK. I hear, yes.

PRIEBUS: I have to support the nominee.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead.

DAVIS: Reince, Tom Davis. You have no choice. You have to let it play out. It's still early. Nine months is an eternity in this business.

PRIEBUS: Sure.

DAVIS: So I think there's plenty of time to recover. But this race to the bottom, these negative ads -- 92 percent of these ads were negative in this particular way, are not helping particularly in a state like Florida, which is a key state. I think the faster we can get this thing back on a --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's not even a question. That is a plea.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That is a plea from the congressman to stop.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: Republicans outside are saying, why are we doing this? And so good luck is all I can say as you move ahead.

O'BRIEN: Before I let him go, I have to ask him a question.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: No, let me ask a question, no, because I have to hit a hard commercial break.

I have to ask you a question about this cruise ship thing.

PRIEBUS: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Here's what you said. You know what I'm going to ask you.

PRIEBUS: We're back to that, OK.

O'BRIEN: I know. I know. But you and I haven't discussed it. You said -- let's play the chunk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: In a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama, who's abandoning the ship here in the United States, and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Inappropriate? You're talking about a tragedy that's claimed lives while they were still trying to fish bodies out of the ship?

PRIEBUS: Well, first of all, clearly our hearts and prayers go out to folks that are either missing, perished, injured. A terrible, terrible piece of the story. But I also made it very clear, Soledad -- and if you're being fair -- that even when I mentioned -- you cut the clip off -- but even when I mentioned it, I couched it to the discussion that we were having that a president, who's more interested in campaigning and worried about his own job, instead of the millions of people that are out there and out of work, is something that I think that the American people need to think about. I made it very clear in the analogy, I don't think you can really --

O'BRIEN: All right. All right. I just want you to explain to me --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: -- fairly, say --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I try to be fair with everyone, Reince.

I have to go, because I have to hit a hard break --

PRIEBUS: OK, well good.

O'BRIEN: -- but I did want to hear you explain it.

We're back in a moment.

PRIEBUS: OK.

O'BRIEN: I thank you for being with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)