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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Critics Blast Afghanistan Announcement; Facebook Files to Go Public; GOP Blasts Afghan Announcement; Semi-Truckin'

Aired February 2, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a very good morning to you, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

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

The Obama administration looking to bring an early end to the war in Afghanistan. The GOP is blasting that announcement, saying not so fast. This is a bit premature.

BANFIELD: All right. Also, if you were looking at these pictures, if you're the police officer who is running the dash cam, what is that going across the sky?

I'm trying to hum that song. That's a pathetic effort.

Anyway, some people very concerned about the UFO possibilities here. We have the answer to what that fireball in the sky was.

SAMBOLIN: Is that do, do, do? What are you trying to do?

BANFIELD: I was thinking about that '80s show, that '90s show, whatever.

SAMBOLIN: OK, now.

All right. A woman wins gas money after she sues Honda. She spoke to us when she first filed this lawsuit. She said the car's manual promised her 50 miles per gallon. It didn't deliver. Can others cash in on her lawsuit?

BANFIELD: And Mitt Romney, fresh off the big win, talks to CNN. Our Soledad O'Brien saying something along I'm not concerned about the very poor.

All right. Hold on. Was that all he said? Or has he been eviscerated unfairly? We are going to get to the bottom of context and why it matters.

SAMBOLIN: But up first here, a war of words over ending a war. Reaction is pouring in now after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that combat in Afghanistan will end next year.

This was on a plane to a NATO conference in Brussels. He told reporters, quote, "Our goal is to complete all that transition in 2013 and then, hopefully, by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we will be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advise and assist role."

BANFIELD: But this is not highly unexpected during a campaign year. But the GOP front-runner at this point, Mitt Romney, came out blasting this announcement, saying the Obama administration is giving our enemy an edge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Announced that, so the Taliban hears it. The Pakistanis hear it. The Afghani leaders hear it. Why in the world do you go to the people that you're fighting with and tell them the day you're pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense. It's naivete. It's putting in jeopardy the mission of the United States of America and our commitments to freedom.

He is wrong. We need new leadership in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: From one politician to the other, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, also had harsh some pretty words about that. We'll get to that in a moment.

First, to Barbara Starr who's live at the Pentagon.

First question right out of the gate: everyone's asking, Barbara, is this just too soon?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, perhaps a hard reality check is in order here, Ashleigh. NATO has said the Afghans have agreed -- all troops, all foreign troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That is long agreed to. That is the reality. End of 2014.

So, what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is saying is there will be a transition period before that, training the Afghans, just like we saw in Iraq. So, you have to start that before you leave the country, don't you? He's saying, basically, in 2013, they will start wrapping up combat. They will shift to this training role and stick to the NATO plan of being out by 2014.

The question is whether the Afghans will be ready for all this.

BANFIELD: Exactly. And then why is it we're hearing the critics saying this is a year sooner than we expected, and even the chairman of the Armed Services Committee -- and I know you know how strong these kinds of remarks can be -- saying this: "The committee has not seen a single assessment by our commanders that indicates they have any confidence in such a swift transition."

STARR: It's all -- you know, it's politics plus military policy, isn't it? You know, how unusual in Washington.

But, you know, you're seeing people select certain facts. The question is going to be this -- I mean, Governor Romney, still, what he says is what a lot of people are saying.

Will the Afghan forces be ready? Can they look after security in their country? Are you handing the Taliban a reason not to negotiate, not to come to the peace table and just wait it all out? Can you do something about those safe havens across the border in Pakistan in time?

All these are key questions. But the alternative would be for U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan in definitely after more than a decade of war. Everyone knows that that is not a sustainable option.

BANFIELD: All right. Barbara, thanks very much for that. I have so many more questions for you. I'll touch base with you at 6:00 on that.

And I also to let our audience know that we got a great guest coming up as well. Major General Spider Marks is going to join us. He is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. He'll weigh in, as well.

And then, at 8:00, Soledad's going to go further on this. She's going to talk to Wesley Clarke -- not only a general, but a former presidential candidate. Wow, so politics and the military. This should be a great interview Soledad is going to have, as well.

SAMBOLIN: And it is 5:05. Minding your business now.

Stocks kicked off a new month with solid gains. The NASDAQ led the way, rising more than 1 percent, that's thanks to some strong earnings from the tech sector.

BANFIELD: And the big news might though have been Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. You probably saw it, heard it.

The company finally did the filing. We were waiting and wondering yesterday was the day. Yesterday was the day.

Christine Romans, you were the first to tell us at 5:00 in the morning yesterday.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And status update on the IPO is that they're going to file for an IPO. Now, we know.

We have a look, as I was saying, under the hood of this company. And we know how much money it made. And what kind of revenue it had and where that was coming from.

Basically, this is how it stacks up with the rest of the big tech giants. I mean, it made about $1 billion of profit last year. You can see that makes it a bit smaller than the Microsofts the IBMs, the Googles of the world when you look in terms of its income. Its revenue was something like $3 billion, almost $4 billion in revenue -- 85 percent of that comes from advertising.

So, now, we know how that is the bulk of the money it makes. This company has a lot to prove. There's so much Facebook hype now about going public.

Now, this company has a lot to prove. It has to prove it can grow that $1 billion in profit to something that matches the other companies. And the valuation on Wall Street, people are so excited about this. They're going to value this company very, very big. Maybe even dwarf Hewlett-Packard. And it's got $1 billion.

So, it has a lot to prove. When it gets access to all of the investors and that cash, that's how it grows, right?

But now, Mark Zuckerberg's going to have to answer to hedge fund managers. And he'll have to answer to people who are investors in his company. And so, it will be interesting to see how the company might have to change and how things might have to change for us because of that.

SAMBOLIN: So, that's kind of the downside, right, because it's a cultural change for them.

ROMANS: It is. And, you know, along with these filings, Mark Zuckerberg sort of wrote a letter attached to these filings and he talked about sort of how could code wins arguments, the engineering, the hacker way at this company.

I mean, it is really a singular kind of culture there. And a lot of tech companies have this issue. And they become public. And it's like, don't change us because this is what has worked for us.

But also, I'll tell you something so interesting about the letter with Zuckerberg put with this IPO filing. I'll tell you, it's very humble. "We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television. Today, our society has reached another tipping point."

Ooh, the printing press and the television. So, Facebook has changed the world. Yes, it has. It has a $1 billion profit last year.

How is he going to drive that company so match that kind of language?

BANFIELD: That's 845 million active users on Facebook. And I heard a crazy thing yesterday. Tell me how crazy it is. One of these analysts said, you know, Zuckerberg might just come out and give every one of the users one share, just to be really different.

ROMANS: Wow.

BANFIELD: Weird.

ROMANS: Wouldn't that be interesting?

I keep thinking about the people. There's 3,200 employees who work there. Think of the people who work there who maybe took stock options early on instead of pay. I mean, remember Google and the massage therapist, there's Dell-lionaires in Austin, Texas, secretaries who took stock options in Dell years ago instead of being paid, because they didn't have cash.

I mean, so there could be people -- I mean, I think that's a heartwarming story. But for us, you were telling us about your son.

SAMBOLIN: Yesterday we had this -- I was telling Ashleigh, too. We had this full conversation about Facebook and how can he get in on the action? He's 13 years old. My gosh, what an opportunity for kids, right?

Because this is something they know. And to them, this is a big deal. And they want -- how do you do that? How do you get them focused?

ROMANS: You don't want them to get in the stock if it didn't pan out the way everyone thinks it's going to. But that is a good question because you want kids to get involved in finance through things they know, like Facebook. So, I think I'm going to find an investment club in this neighborhood.

SAMBOLIN: That would be very cool.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: At 13 years old, he can turn into Ali Velshi. Ali Velshi was reading "The Wall Street Journal" at 13.

SAMBOLIN: There were go.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: My brother was doing fantasy stock book portfolios at the age of 12.

ROMANS: I love capitalists. I'm not one, but I love capitalists.

SAMBOLIN: If he turns out to be like Ali Velshi --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I wonder what Mitt Romney was up to early in life.

ROMANS: I know, that's a good question.

BANFIELD: That's your next assignment. Thank you, Christine. Awesome.

I want to move on. Every morning at this time, we like to give you an EARLY START to your day by alerting you to the news that's not only just happening now. It's happening later. It's also developing now for the big story tonight.

In just a few hours, Attorney General Eric Holder is going to be grilled about the botched Fast and Furious gun tracking program.

Yesterday, Congressman Darrell Issa threatened to hold Holder in contempt, and then accused the Justice Department of a cover-up. In Fast and Furious, the agency just kind of lost track of over 1,000 different weapons that they were tracking after they were sold to so- called straw purchases. Some were covered from crime scenes, including one where a U.S. border was murdered.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama speaking at the national prayer breakfast this morning. We'll have his remarks for you live at 8:00 Eastern. Protesters are expected to be outside, including gay rights demonstrators and other groups who say the event is not inclusive enough.

BANFIELD: I was reading this thing in "The New York Post" this morning. Page six?

SAMBOLIN: Ooh.

BANFIELD: Yes. A crazy story in Page Six about --

SAMBOLIN: Waking up to TV tension.

BANFIELD: Yes, that's it.

SAMBOLIN: Was that the one?

BANFIELD: We talk about early reads. We read really early. And it just turned out, we were reading about yourselves.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And so, it says, "A lack of chemistry is already plaguing CNN's new show, EARLY START, as it attempts to gain footing one month after launch. Hosts Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin," by the way, they have your picture in there, but not mine, "had expressed frustration about the schizophrenic nature of the show, a source said. Another source said they just don't gel. Banfield says too much."

BANFIELD: You're talking too much right now.

SAMBOLIN: "Sambolin doesn't say enough."

BANFIELD: You be quiet.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently, I'm supposed to be telling you that.

BANFIELD: So, here's the deal -- why is it you never hear about the guys on ESPN having catfights?

SAMBOLIN: Well, you never hear about that stuff.

SAMBOLIN: No, because it's more fun when you talk about girls having catfights, right? So, anyway. Love you, girl.

BANFIELD: All right. We got to move on. We got a lot more news -- a lot more important things happening in the world than that. But thanks anyway, "New York Post."

So, we got this most unbelievable scene that was developing in Egypt. Not what you think. This instead a soccer match in Port Said, Egypt. The fans rioted, hitting each other with rocks and chairs.

And if you thought riots got out of hand, this one has a death toll of 79 people.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BANFIELD: Hundreds of others injured in this riot.

SAMBOLIN: So, witnesses say police did very little to stop the violence. Authorities are investigating the cause of the riot now. Did it stem from sports rivalry? Or was it politically-motivated?

Three-day national mourning period is now being observed there.

Ben Wedeman live in Cairo for us.

Are you hearing about this being politically motivated?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as any, everything -- with everything in Egypt these days, there is a political element to it. Now, just to give you some background, it was the Cairo team called Al Ahli that had gone to this stadium in Port Said to play against the local team.

Now, the Al Ahli team is famous for its participation in the political clashes that have taken place in Egypt over the last year. In fact, in November and December, they were leading the clashes with the police.

So, many of the members of that club, of the hard-core fans of that club, are accusing the police of just standing by and allowing their rival, the rival team's fans, to go after them with, as we saw, everything -- rocks, bottles, sticks and in some cases, according to eyewitness accounts, firearms, as well.

Now, many people here in Cairo are blaming the military for simply not being able to maintain law and order -- not just at football games, but throughout the entire country.

SAMBOLIN: Are they also being blamed for causing the tragedy? I read that somewhere.

WEDEMAN: Yes, there are members of Al Ahli team and their supporters who are saying exactly that. That this was the revenge of the security forces on the fans of the Al Ahli team because of their participation in those clashes. Obviously, we don't have evidence to suggest that.

But, certainly, now, we're hearing calls from leading politicians for the minister of the interior to be -- to resign and for people to go on trial for this massacre in Port Said.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ben Wedeman -- live from Cairo -- thank you for that.

BANFIELD: It's 13 minutes past 5:00. We get a check on the top stories making news this hour.

SAMBOLIN: Leon Panetta's announcement on Afghanistan, expected to make even more waves on the campaign trail today. It came on a plane without the president yesterday. The announcement that U.S. forces in Afghanistan are expected to end their combat role in 2013 and continue a training role through 2014.

BANFIELD: After taking a bit of hit, Planned Parenthood has now raised $400,000 in just 24 hours. How all of a sudden did all that money come in donations? Well, it follows an announcement from the Susan G. Komen Foundation that they were going to pull their funding from Planned Parenthood.

Komen is blaming the cuts of congressional investigation over Planned Parenthood abortion services. The founder is denying it had anything, though, to do with political pressure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY G. BRINKER, FOUNDER AND CEO OF SUSAN G. KOMEN: As we move forward, we will implement these new strategies which will allow us to serve even more women. We will never bow under political pressure. We will always stand firm to our goal to end breast cancer forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: That is Nancy Brinker, who is the sister of Susan G. Komen. Nancy Brinker founded that foundation. She was a big contact with George W. Bush, as well. But this is a huge story.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And a California woman has defeated Honda in small claims court. You'll remember Heather Peters of Los Angeles. She spoke to us after she filed a claim against the auto giant because their Honda Civic hybrid didn't come close to getting the promised 50 miles per gallon. She's been awarded nearly $10,000.

BANFIELD: And you probably didn't see it in the Northeast or the Northwest. But if you were in Texas or Oklahoma, what on earth was that streaking across the night sky in those states? Check out the video from the police dash cam.

You know, I was going to sing some crazy song. But, listen, it was a routine traffic stop that caught this. But the FAA is weighing in on what that is. It is a meteor. That's the fireball. It was an actual meteor.

The reports came as far south as Waco, Texas. And as far north as Oklahoma City of people saying, yikes!

SAMBOLIN: So much more fun to say it was a UFO.

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Rob Marciano is in Atlanta with the national weather forecast. Did you see it, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. But that's striking video. It looks more like a UFO than a fireball or meteor. But I'll take FAA's word on that.

Another picture from space, actually, the dark side of the moon. Check this out. Ebb and flow, a twin satellite project, a grail that's orbiting the moon that takes the side we don't see. This is the dark side, the elusive one. And, boy, you see just how many impact craters are on that, especially down across the south pole. That, my friends, is good stuff. Thank you, NASA.

All right. Also, good stuff, you probably enjoyed it in Trenton, New Jersey, yesterday -- 67 degrees. New York City, 64. Record-breaking heat. This is going away.

The temperatures today will still be a good 10 degrees or so above average. Seventy degrees in Atlanta, 52 degrees in Chicago, some rain across parts of the Delmarva. Still some cloud cover today, at least for the most part this morning across Pennsylvania.

It's February 2nd. You know what that means.

Fog across parts of the South, hit the low beams across I-10.

And then blizzards taking shape across the high plains. Storms coming out of the Colorado Rockies, 12-plus inches possible from Denver across Nebraska beginning later on today.

Guys, happy Groundhog Day. Back to you.

BANFIELD: All right. That's when I said the Groundhog was going to be sweaty when he came out. That was going to indicate how the spring would be like.

MARCIANO: Oh, that's the new gauge.

BANFIELD: Yes, instead of your shadow. And, by the way, I was waiting for the Pink Floyd reference on the dark side of the moon.

MARCIANO: Nice.

BANFIELD: I know you're old enough.

MARCIANO: Yes. Very much so.

SAMBOLIN: I actually just found out how old he is.

BANFIELD: Can we say it, Rob?

SAMBOLIN: I was shocked. Do you mind?

BANFIELD: You're 14.

MARCIANO: Thank you. There you go. I like it.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Rob Marciano.

Ahead on EARLY START: A story from American Airlines, looking to cut thousands of jobs. Here's the weird thing. Why is American Airlines saying, oh, no, no, this is going to save jobs? What's that going to mean for you, too, when you fly? We'll tell you.

SAMBOLIN: And the Washington state senate passes the same sex marriage bill. Gay marriage is still not a done deal however. What happens next? You're going to find out in early read.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Well, good morning to you, Milwaukee. It's 5:20, 32 degrees now. But later, it is going to be sunny and 44 degrees.

BANFIELD: Very nice. And in fact, Milwaukee's a good town to start with because we're doing our early reads for you. Getting a look at your local news that makes national headlines.

This morning, papers from Milwaukee, as well as Seattle. So, let's start in Milwaukee.

"The Journal Sentinel" is having this report in its newspaper. Five hundred fifty people are filing sex abuse claims against the Catholic archdiocese in Milwaukee. They are all part of a bankruptcy proceeding, and there was a timeline, a deadline on this. The archdiocese has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but it's facing these civil fraud lawsuits over its handling of clergy sex abuse cases.

Those cases are sealed, so we can't say who these people are filing. But we had the stories before. And the archdiocese is requesting that a lot of the claims be thrown out.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Moving on to "The Seattle Times." And we actually have a copy for you this morning. It reads, "Historic vote clears the way for same-sex marriage."

Washington state senate passes the gay marriage bill. It's a big step on the path to legalize same-sex marriage there. The bill now heads to the House where it is expected to pass easily, they say. If it does, the governor says she is going to sign it.

Washington would be the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage. So, you know, in addition to 26 lawmakers who previously announced their support, two more Republicans joined onboard, Senators Andy Hill and Joe Faine (ph). So, overall, 24 Democrats, four Republicans voted or the measure.

BANFIELD: Something says it could be a Supreme Court suit. They always end up in that route. But an interesting story now.

SAMBOLIN: It's been a long, 10-year battle.

BANFIELD: Has it ever.

All right. So, another big story we're covering for you, some deep and painful cuts at American Airlines. It's not the story you want to hear when we're in an economy like this. But the parent company wants to eliminate 13,000 jobs from that company, remaking the nation's third-largest airline under bankruptcy protection. Unions, as you can expect, not particularly onboard with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA GLADING, PRES., ASSN. OF PROF. FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: The term sheet they put down today is not where we're going to wind up. It was absolutely outrageous. It brought up issues and made proposals that were never discussed in our four years of bargaining. It was so far-reaching that even I, who was expecting a very, very outrageous proposal, was completely shocked.

TIM SMITH, AMERICAN AIRLINES SPOKESMAN: It's a difficult day for all of our employees -- no question about it -- from the senior management to every -- to the newest employee of the company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So, our CNN brand-new aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzy O'Leary, is joining us now live from Washington.

So, Lizzy, let's just start right off the block by saying welcome.

LIZZY O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And also, what kind of jobs are we talking about? Right across the board? Or things we need to be worried about.

O'LEARY: They are, across the board, though, they're a little deeper in some places than others. So, when you look at the overall numbers, 13,000, that's the big headline number that are proposed. And it's important to remember the airline has got the threat of the bankruptcy court behind them. So, you hear the union say those numbers are outrageous.

But there's a court proceeding here. That's why this sort of gets pushed so aggressively. So, we're talking about maybe 400 pilots, 2,000 flight attendants, mechanics, about 4,600. That certainly something that raises eyebrows with fliers.

BANFIELD: Yes, I'm a flier. When I heard that number, is that safe? I mean, how are we supposed to digest that news as fliers?

O'LEARY: In two ways. Number one -- remember, these are union jobs. So, what is likely to happen when you look at the way other airline bankruptcies have happened, you're probably looking at taking some of those union jobs and shifting them to nonunion employees, or a slightly different workforce. It still means there are mechanics working on your plane, but maybe they weren't trained in the union shop. Maybe they have different hours.

It could also mean -- and this is something we're watching, where the work gets done. American used to do its work on all of its planes in-house. A lot of airlines don't do that anymore.

So, the question of does it get moved off-site. Who is watching that?

BANFIELD: Sure.

O'LEARY: Does it stay in the United States? That's another thing to keep an eye on. We don't know yet.

BANFIELD: The CEO said that, yes, this will be an end of a journey for a lot of people, meaning a lot of layoffs. But in the end, he says that it's going to preserve tens of thousands of jobs. And God, hope, yes, that's the case.

But in the end, what does it mean for everybody who doesn't have a job with that airline but flies and pays for tickets?

O'LEARY: Well, it's very soon to say what's going to happen overall right now. American is worried about your business. They would love your business. They've been advertising very cheap fares over the past day or two because they know that fliers are worried about that.

In the longer term -- yes, it probably means, as they get rid of some planes, planes are expensive, that the roots will be cut down. That could put pressure on ticket prices. But there are so other things that go into what makes up the ticket -- the taxes, what's the cost of oil. So, we don't know entirely yet. We'll be watching that for a while.

BANFIELD: Lizzy O'Leary, nice work and welcome again to the network. Good to have you.

O'LEARY: Thanks.

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks for being with us.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on EARLY START: Mitt Romney's Florida victory celebration didn't last very long. Can he recover from a comment that he made to our very own Soledad O'Brien?

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're joining us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: Hi. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

It is 29 minutes past the hour. Time to get you caught up on the stories making top headlines this morning.

The Republicans are blasting the defense secretary's announcement that the U.S. and NATO plan to end our combat mission in Afghanistan in the middle of next year. The administration says the time is right. But Mitt Romney says this jeopardizes the mission there and essentially give the enemy an edge.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And deadly violence following a soccer match in Egypt. Take a look at this. Nearly 80 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede by the fans. Authorities are investigating whether the rioting was triggered by sports rivalry or whether it was politically motivated. Egypt's military leaders have three days of national mourning now.

BANFIELD: And Florida state troopers are keeping a very close watch on smoke conditions. Smoke conditions that could force parts of I-95 to close because of low visibility. It is a targeted stretch between Statehood City and 407 in both directions. Important to say that because of this.

The authorities have been so cautious because of last weekend's chain reaction collisions on I-75 that killed 11 people. Those crashes were caused by extremely heavy smoke and fog from a nearby brush fire and a strange weather pattern that wouldn't allow that smoke to escape that particular valley.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): We're really happy to hear that, right?

BANFIELD (on-camera): Yes.

SAMBOLIN: They're watching it very closely.

All right. Democrats and Republicans finally agree on something this morning. Mitt Romney really stepped in it. The GOP frontrunner stunned a lot of people yesterday. He wins Florida, then, he kills the victory buzz by saying this to CNN's Soledad O'Brien.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs to 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 America. The 90, 95 percent of Americans who, right now, are struggling. And I'll continue to take that message across the nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, pundits on the left and on the right are taking Romney to task. The frontrunner can't shake the out of touch rich guy image. So, let's talk to our political panel about this. Live from Washington, Shira Toeplitz, political reporter for the "Roll Call," Democratic strategist, Penny Lee, joining us, and Jonathan Collegio, former press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Thank you for joining us this morning. All right. Shira, I'm going to start with you. Apparently, Romney has a history of making these unfortunate comments, is what I'm going to call them. Let's listen to some of them, and then, we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

I'll tell you what, 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?

I know what it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired. There were couple of times I wonder whether I was going to get a pink slip.

I should also tell my story. I'm also unemployed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we know a lot of these comments are taken out of context, but unfortunately, especially in some of these, there's always an economic undertone to them, which could be a big problem for him. He's now headed to Nevada, where there's a 12.6 unemployment rate. It's one of the highest in the nation. And, you know, these are gaffes he can't afford to have.

Economy is the number one issue. And 56 percent of Americans say that Romney is out of touch. The Tea Party, the conservative Tea Party, is now in play in Nevada. It wasn't the last time he was there. How does he recover from all of this as he's headed into the Nevada caucuses?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, POLITICAL REPORTER, ROLL CALL: Well, he can do it two ways. He can sort of flood the zone and he can go out and give as many interviews as possible or he can start shying away from interviews with the news media to avoid these kinds of gaffes. The bad news for Mitt Romney is he's made a habit of this as you just shown.

I mean, that reel of tape is basically an attack ad for Democrats that they can run over and over again this fall if he's the nominee. So, Mitt Romney has two ways of dealing with this, but I do think that in the end, his advisers or people around him need to talk to him about this, because this is a problem with his candidacy and a long standing one.

You know, he's not the most articulate candidate we've seen on the campaign trail, and especially next to Barack Obama, who no matter what you think of his politics, he's a very eloquent man. That's going to be a big difference this fall if he doesn't work out the Kingston (ph), his personalities of political candidate. SAMBOLIN: So, Jonathan, speaking of attack ads, part of the reason that Romney is view as so out of touch is because of the Super PAC ads about Bain Capital. Those are super effective, and you're communications director for one of the most influential, and that's American Crossroads. It's advised by Karl Rove.

And some are saying that the Super PACs are contributing to the most negative campaign ever. The exit polls in Florida actually show that 71 percent of voters said that the ads were, indeed, a factor in their vote. Are Super PACs contributing to shaping all of these negative messages that we are constantly seeing?

JONATHAN COLLEGIO, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, AMERICAN CROSSROADS: One of the interesting things about Super PACs is that they are really part and parcel of the campaign finance reform efforts of ten years ago. If you remember back in 2002 when Congress passed that McCain-Feingold legislation that was supposed to really limit the influence of political parties, much of that money went to outside organizations on the left and the right.

Remember that the left, really, was the ice breaker and the spearhead of outside groups in 2004 with moveon.org and Americans coming together and all of these groups that tried to defeat George W. Bush in 2004.

The other thing that the campaign laws do was that because outside groups cannot coordinate with candidates, it makes it very, very difficult for outside groups to run positive ads, because we can't coordinate to get footage of a candidate to put into an ad in a positive way.

SAMBOLIN: So, you're saying you have no choice?

COLLEGIO: No. What I'm saying is at the end of the day, you end up with a situation where it's much easier to get the negative footage like you showed on the earlier segment and to turn that into an ad, because then, there's undoubtedly no coordination with whoever you're hitting.

So, in a weird way, it's the result of the campaign finance reformers that we have all of the outside groups operating today.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Penny. Let's stay on the Super PACs. Six Democratic Super PACs reported fund-raising of just over $19 million. It's significantly less than Jonathan's Super PAC hall which was $51 million, and maybe, not as concerning for President Obama who ended the year with $81.8 million in the bank, but the house races are in contention, as well.

The Tea Party as well as Jonathan's Super PAC have a lot of Democrats in their sight. If we're talking about Super PACs shaping the election, are you concerned that the Democrats aren't able to get as much money or the same amount of money as the Republicans?

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There's always concern. I mean, when you have someone like Mitt Romney going out there in a state like Florida, you know, carpet-bombing a candidate for him to be able to win, that's how what he did to Newt Gingrich. I mean, we're all concerned that we're going to have that same effect on House races, on Senate races.

But I got to tell you, a lot of it also backfires. I mean, you saw Mitt Romney, even though it was a highly negative ad, his own negatives went up. Now, he has independents, 50 percent of independents now question whether or not they like him. And you also have three to five Republicans now that are saying, wait a second, I don't think we want who we have right now for our nominee.

So, these ads are effective. We are concerned about them. But, also know that they also have a double-edged sword to them. So, you know, we will run a positive campaign. We will have the necessary money to be competitive. How it all shapes up will be very interesting.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Shira, Jonathan, and Penny, thank you for joining us this morning.

COLLEGIO: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And keep it right here on CNN for the best political coverage on television at seven o'clock eastern on "Starting Point." Soledad is going to have an interview with Mark McKinnon. He's a former adviser to President George W. bush and Senator John McCain. Soledad is going to ask him how he would advice Mitt Romney right now.

We have plenty coming up, so make sure you keep it right here at 5:37. We're back right after this.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Wow. Love, peace, and soul. Remembering Don Cornelius, the oh so cool creator and host of "Soul Train." Cornelius was found shot dead yesterday in an apparent suicide at the age of 75.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And Cornelius was the genius behind one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history, folks, 1971 to 2006. "Soul Train" brought the music of Black America to the entire world, catapulting the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, public enemy, you name it, right? His hand was there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Christopher John Farley, an editor for "The Wall Street Journal" is joining us this morning. I got to tell you, on "USA Today," on the cover story, it says, "Soul Train laid the rails of a cultural revolution, and Don Cornelius was the hip trip's engineer."

I think it can't be stated better than that. We were in a meeting yesterday when we found out about this. We were totally shocked, and that to find out that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. What do we know about that?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SPEAKEASY EDITOR, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, we do know that he had some health problems, that he had gone through some bitterly contested divorce from a second wife, but we don't know much more than that. I'm sure more will come out in the coming days. I think the focus right now, really, is more on his legacy.

What we do know -- because what we do know that is "Soul Train" is a very important show, not only for Black America, but for White America, really for all Americans. To bring soul music straight to your home. I mean, this show started before YouTube, before Twitter, before all these other ways we have of sharing what's going on with music and fashion and dance.

And it took these things that people might not have gotten to see in their hometowns, and they got to see the latest moves, the latest dance moves. The artists that they only heard under boom boxes or their walkmans. They finally got to see them in their homes and got to experience what other people were getting to see in the big city.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I read somewhere before MTV, there was "Soul Train." And you wrote on a website here, you said that you were a kid in Suburbia, watching "Soul Train," and that show was actually perfect for suburbia. Could you explain that?

FARLEY: Yes, I think a lot of times, because of "Soul Train" focused on urban music. OK. This is really for big city kids, but no, it was for everyone, especially for people who didn't get to have these kinds of acts come to their hometowns. I grew up in Bradford, New York, a small town outside of Rochester, New York, and we didn't get to see the Aretha Franklin and the Stevie Wonder come to our town to perform.

I mean, it was a college town. Sometimes, they did come to visit for luxurious, but they weren't there to perform for big stadiums, but we did get to see them on "Soul Train." And that was very important, I think, for a lot of people who love great music.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And you know, it was the first day of Black History Month, which I consider very ironic, as well. Are we hearing anything about tributes planned from, you know, all of these greats where he helped launch their careers?

FARLEY: Well, tributes already flooding in on the wet, the quest love, the drummer for the roots, and the house band for late night with Jimmy Fallon. He's written a very passionate, very interesting (ph) tribute about how much Don Cornelius meant to him, especially from the business standpoint. This is a guy who show featured a lot of commercials for Black products.

It was a nationally syndicated show, and he owned the show. And that was something that was really pioneering for someone of that time to actually own their own show, to have it nationally syndicated and be a Blacked-own show. It really paved the way for a lot of music moguls today. Again, not just for Black music moguls, but also for White ones, as well.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Definitely a pioneer there. Christopher John Farley, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

FARLEY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Forty-four minutes past the hour. Time to get you caught up on the top stories of the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Republicans blasting the defense secretary's announcement that the U.S. and NATO plan to end the combat mission in Afghanistan by the middle of next year. For his part, Mitt Romney, on the stump, saying this jeopardizes the mission there and essentially gives the enemy an edge. Leon Panetta did also say that an early transition to a training role does not necessarily mean that the U.S. is pulling out early.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Legendary boxing trainer, Angelo Dundee, has died. The Hall of Famer was best known for guiding Muhammad Ali to glory and was also in the corner of welterweight great, Sugar Ray Leonard. Dundee was 90 years old.

BANFIELD: And big rigs may be about to get a whole lot bigger. Proposed federal transportation bill would allow heavier and longer trucks on our nation's highways. House Republicans are behind this. They like the idea, but the congressional critics are a bit worried about safety here. One of the democrats saying, quote, "If there was ever a prescription for disaster, this is it."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Bigger isn't always better, right?

BANFIELD (on-camera): But wait for it. It's certainly going to be a healthy debate on that issue.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Still ahead, the Texas teenager mistakenly deported is back home with her family. There are still lots of questions about how and why she was sent to Colombia. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 5:48 in the east. Welcome back to EARLY START. So, this is a shocking story. Remember the American teenager mistakenly deported to Colombia? The 15-year-old Jakadrien Turner is back home in Texas. So, exactly what happened to her is still something of an international mystery.

BANFIELD: That really is. And CNN's Ed Lavandera has been getting to the bottom of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this is your room?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LAVANDERA: Is it like how you remember it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's everything.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): More than a year ago, Jakadrien Turner ran away from home. She's back with her family, and we're trying to unravel the story of how this American citizen, with the name of Tika Cortez, was deported to Colombia. This name, Tika Lanayene Cortez, where did that come from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a name she made up.

LAVANDERA: Tika Cortez was Jakadrien's new street name. Her family says she was lord (ph) to Houston and forced into prostitution. She was scared and trying to get away when she stole clothes to pay for a bus ticket home. But the family suspects mall employees knew her as Tika and gave police the name. But Jakadrien's family insists the teenager never tried to fool law enforcement agents.

RAY JACKSON, TURNER FAMILY ATTORNEY: They didn't believe her. They told her to shut up and keep her mouth closed.

LAVANDERA: How many officers did she try to tell I'm Jakadrien Turner, I'm not Tika Cortez?

JACKSON: At least three.

LAVANDERA: Immigration officer?

JACKSON: Immigration officers.

LAVANDERA: And how many of the Houston police officers?

JACKSON: She never told the Houston police officers that she was a U.S. citizen, so that never came up.

LAVANDERA: Jakadrien's family says the judge asked where do you want to be deported to. Jakadrien said Puerto Rico. And when she was told Colombia, she thought it was Columbus, Ohio.

JACKSON: When she was with immigration, not only did they tell her that she was from Colombia, they told her who her mother was. They told her where she was born in Colombia, at what point she came to United States.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): Immigration and customs enforcement officials say the Turner family's accusations are absolutely false. ICE says its found no evidence that Jakadrien tried to give its officers her real name or to claim that she was a U.S. citizen. ICE also denies that the name Tika Cortez matched the name of a Colombian citizen scheduled to be deported.

And on top of all that, a law enforcement source tells CNN that there are jailhouse recordings of Jakadrien telling officers that she is Tika Cortez from Colombia.

ICE agents have been saying that she was the one that from the beginning told them that she was Tika Cortez from Colombia. Are you saying that's not the case at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's not the case.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It took less than two months for Jakadrien Turner to get deported and put on the streets of Colombia.

Can you talk to yourself Spanish while you were there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I talk (ph) some Spanish. (INAUDIBLE)

LAVANDERA: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Si.

LAVANDERA: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Muy bien.

LAVANDERA: Jakadrien Turner is now three months pregnant and the fight over how she was deported will likely be settled in court.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Excellent.

SAMBOLIN: Her accent was very good. Yes. I thought.

BANFIELD: She had learned all of the Spanish while she was there.

SAMBOLIN: That's what she said. She learned it while she was there.

BANFIELD: That's amazing. It's still a very mysterious story.

Coming up at 7:30 on Soledad's "STARTING POINT," she's going to actually speak with Jakadrien Turner along with her mother. We'll find out a little bit more about that and their attorney will be them as well, and we will be back right after this.

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SAMBOLIN: I got that feeling.

BANFIELD: Tonight's going to be a good night? I hope it's going to be a good day. I love it. You know what you're looking at? In Pennsylvania.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: This is gobbler's knob.

SAMBOLIN: Look at all the people out there. My goodness!

BANFIELD: At 5:55 in the morning on the east coast, this many people turn out for the celebration at Gobblers Knob, because every year at this time, this is where Punxsutawney Phil --

SAMBOLIN: His big day, his dig debut.

BANFIELD: Oh, I love it. I want to know who that is singing. I thought that was our producer in my ear.

SAMBOLIN: It does kind of sound like him, right? Will he see his shadow? Big question.

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to monitor the details there and bring them to you.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Punxsutawney Phil

SAMBOLIN: It's been a very mild, mild winter. No complaints, right?

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So, we're keeping you in pop culture loop this morning by taking a looking at what's trending on the web and on social media.

BANFIELD: Or as I like to call it, the interwebs.

SAMBOLIN: The interwebs.

BANFIELD: Yes. This is great. This interwebs story comes from "The Huffington Post." Are you ready for this? A guy by the name of John Goodman, not the actor, but he could be because this is a really funny story. That's John Goodman and his girlfriend. He is 48 years old. And she is 46.

Why do I say that? Because he's trying to adopt her. You did not hear on (ph). He's trying to adopt his girlfriend so that he can, somehow, manipulate getting out of -- paying out of assets in a wrongful death suit. Can you believe? This is the way he's trying to make sure that he can try to protect his assets by adopting his long- time girlfriend.

If he does it, if he is actually able to go through with the adoption, legally, she's entitled to part of his trust. Apparently, there's a court, another court, that's trying to overturn this adoption.

SAMBOLIN: And what happened? Do we have anything on the wrongful death? BANFIELD: Well, the wrongful death, I believe, was a car accident. He ran a stop sign back in 2010. And, it was a serious incident. There was a person who died. And of course, the family of that person who died launched the wrongful death --

SAMBOLIN: And he's trying to get away with not paying anything.

BANFIELD: He wants to get away with not paying on his assets by, you know, trusting them to the girlfriend, but again, he's 48, she's 42, and he is trying to adopt her.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up on six o'clock here, still to come on EARLY START, the U.S. to end combat operations in Afghanistan next year. This big announcement draws big criticism. James Spider Marks, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center weighs in. You are watching EARLY START.

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