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Super Giants!; Obama: "I Deserve a Second Term"; Slaughter In Syria...Stalemate In U.N.; Komen VP Blamed For Planned Parenthood Decision

Aired February 6, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A very good morning to you. It is 5:00 on the East. And this is 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 is 5:0 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started.

Little football game going on, right?


SAMBOLIN: The Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. It was a thrilling come from behind victory. Almost a replay of Super Bowl XLII.

Obama called it -- President Obama called it. He said it's going to be a nail biter. And it was. That time, the Giants also beat the Patriots.

BANFIELD: And you know, Obama was calling something else, too. To NBC's Matt Lauer, he was calling for four more years. He didn't chant it, but he did say he deserves it. You'll find out why. And, of course, you will find out the fallout from saying those things.

SAMBOLIN: And a deadly factory collapse in Lahore, Pakistan. It's a three-story building that exploded. At least two people are dead. Dozens more are believed to be trapped inside. Some have been rescued as well. We're going to have a live report for you.

BANFIELD: And also, a terrible story out of Washington. Look at those flames. While that's a terrible story for anyone, it is loaded onto a horrible story from the beginning.

A father and two sons dying in that house explosion. Police saying he set it to kill his two children. He is the father who was suspected in the disappearance of Susan Powell back in 2009. Remember the woman he said he went camping, winter camping, with his two babies while his wife disappeared. There are vigils planned for those boys.

But my goodness, does this open up a can of worms in that investigation?

SAMBOLIN: A very sad story to wake up to. Poor family.


We are going to begin with the big story that you were likely watching even if you're an early riser. And that was the Super bowl. Some people calling it deja blue. The Giants beating the Patriots.

I hope my two little boys are not awake to hear me say that because the score was 21-17. They won Super Bowl XLVI. It's the second time in four years the Giants beat the Pats for the title. Giants scored the game-winning touchdown in just the final minute of the game.

It was a repeat just like they did four years ago. The only thing I can say is it's a good thing my boys are only 4 and 6 years old. They were in bed when that happened.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I don't think they're up now at 5:00.


SAMBOLIN: Giants quarterback Eli Manning, he is the MVP. We have a little ticker tape parade in New York Tuesday. An estimated 111 million people in the U.S. watched the Super Bowl.

BANFIELD: That's amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Quite an audience, right?

BANFIELD: That's amazing.

SAMBOLIN: I just found out that Madonna didn't get paid for her half-time show because that's the exposure you get. I guess nobody does.

BANFIELD: They all get freebies?



SAMBOLIN: Well, an exposure.

So, Mark McKay live at Indianapolis for us.

And President Obama said it was going to be a nail biter and they certainly delivered one.

MARK MCKAY, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he said it and they delivered here. Giants fans on this chilly Monday morning in Indianapolis warmed, their hearts are warm that they are once again Super Bowl champions after a thrilling game behind me at Lucas Oil Stadium that ended literally just a few hours ago, you know?

Eli Manning, during the season, he was asked if he was an elite quarterback. He got a lot of heat for it when he said, yes, I think I'm in that class. He certainly was last night, engineering fourth quarter seven come backs, including one of the biggest games of his life, the Super Bowl.

Fifty-seven seconds, that's when the Giants went ahead for good. Tom Brady tried to lead his team down to the other end, but instead it's the Giants Super Bowl champs once again.


ELI MANNING, SUPER BOWL MVP: You know, I'm excited to win a championship, excited for my teammates. We have a number of guys, this is their first one -- obviously some other ones who are getting their second and more. Just excited for them, excited for Coach Coughlin, all the judges of the Giants organization. This is -- you know, this isn't about one person, this is about a whole team coming together getting this win.

So, I'm just proud of our guys. Proud of the team, the way we fought all year. Never got discouraged. Kept our faith. Kept our confidence, and just fought to the very end.


MCKAY: Eli Manning now a two-time Super Bowl most valuable player, a two-time Super Bowl winner. He has one more than his big brother Peyton. What's that do in the Manning family, guys, huh? This goes up a few notches, now doesn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Not bad, not bad.

So, Mark, there were mixed reviews from Madonna's half-time show. What did you think?

MCKAY: Well, from one of the 68,000 that got to see it in person, it was fantastic, even though we were high in the rafters of Lucas Oil stadium. What a techno here. I mean, the dancing, the music inside there was fantastic.

I understand there was a little bit of a finger malfunction, but, you know, when you're far away as we were --

SAMBOLIN: Do we have that? That M.I.A. There it is.


MCKAY: That doesn't play well on national or worldwide television now, does it, guys?

SAMBOLIN: No. Apparently they didn't get it on camera, but there was a photographer that was able to capture that moment. That was M.I.A. who's performing with Madonna.

BANFIELD: Maybe she had an ex-boyfriend in the crowd. You never know. Perhaps.


BANFIELD: I'm just giving her some love, you know, what she was up to.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Mark McKay live for us -- thank you very much.

BANFIELD: All right. So, President Obama doesn't just want to be president for another term. He says I deserve four more years in the White House.


BANFIELD: It all came during an interview. Look at how excited he is. He got the crowd all revved up just like the Republicans are getting everybody all revved up. I feel like we're in the general election.

But, you know, he did that annual sit-down before Super Bowl with Matt Lauer and said to Matt that he believes the economy is headed in the right direction. And he sounded pretty determined to, quote, "finish what he started."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I deserve a second term, but we're not done. Look, when you and I sat down, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Now, we're creating 250,000. We created 3.7 million jobs over the last 23 months. We've created the most jobs since 2005, the most manufacturing jobs since 1990. But we're not finished.


BANFIELD: And, of course, the interview wasn't just all about the sort of domestic issues in the economy. It was a lot about foreign policy, too. Iran a big issue. The president saying, quote, "no option's off the table".

But he also says he doesn't think Iranians have the chutzpah, the wherewithal, the capability to attack us within our own borders.

SAMBOLIN: And as the economy slowly improves, so apparently does the president's chances of getting that second term that he says that he deserves.

Here's a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. And it's a hypothetical match-up between President Obama and Mitt Romney. And it shows Obama beats Romney 52 percent to 43 percent. This is among all- Americans.

BANFIELD: Three states are up for grabs tomorrow in the Republican presidential race, but, wait, before you get too excited. It's a little different here. There are caucuses in both Colorado and Minnesota.

There's a weird kind of nonbinding primary in Missouri. No delegates at stake. In fact, you got to wait kind of a month until the primary in that state allocates the delegates.

Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum have campaign stops planned for Colorado today. Paul is campaigning in Minnesota. And after tomorrow's contest, the next ones are Arizona and then, kahuna, Michigan, in three weeks.

SAMBOLIN: All right, 5:07 now.

Minding your business this morning, stocks spiked Friday after a surprisingly strong jobs report. The Dow jumps 1.2 percent. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 both up about 1.5 percent each.

BANFIELD: That was last week. This is this week.

SAMBOLIN: Famously. Yesterday, today.

BANFIELD: That was yesterday's news. That's why Christine Romans basically works 24 hours a day, seven days a week --

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, I always tell you don't get too wrapped up in one day. But on Friday, the NASDAQ closed the highest in 11 years. I was like, so the last decade was all a bad dream in stock market.

BANFIELD: No, it wasn't a bad dream. I was living it.

ROMANS: Yes, I lived it, too.

But the Dow was up some 48 percent since that horrible low in March 2009. Remember when the bottom was falling out of the stock market? When the economy was tanking, when we didn't know whether Wall Street and Main Street were going to be able to get its act together ever again. We were talking about auto bailouts and bailouts of banking industry. The Dow is up 48 percent since then.

So, the economy has gotten better. The jobs market is healing. The president -- you just heard the president tout all of his accomplishments in the labor market and say that he deserves a second term, but there is more work to be done.

There is more work to be done, but there has been a pretty decent distance that has been covered so far in the labor market. So, you saw the stock market really reflecting that this week to close the week.

This morning, though, we're looking, the futures are a little bit lower, and that's because of Europe.

So, whenever there is a step forward because of the U.S. economy, it's Europe and the rest of the world that brings us back a little bit.

SAMBOLIN: So, the GOP has been attacking Obama on gas prices.

ROMANS: Because they can't on jobs and stocks.


BANFIELD: They have been.

ROMANS: They will. They will, don't worry.

SAMBOLIN: Lately, it's good news. So, how about the gas prices?

ROMANS: Going up. They're going up. And they're going up pretty significantly. You know, it was actually Michele Bachmann who is the first one I heard really sort of attacking the president on gas prices. Remember she said so famously she could bring gas prices down to $2 a gallon, remember?

BANFIELD: I don't know why I loved it. I love to hear that but I kind of know that's nuts.

ROMANS: I know, because -- well, I mean, because if you have $2 gas, I mean, every expert that I talked to said you'd have to have a massive recession to have $2 gas because that would -- so let me show you where we were.

Obama's first day in office, gas prices were at $1.84. Today, they're at $3.48.

SAMBOLIN: That's sobering, huh?

ROMANS: That's really sobering. I mean, it shows you gas prices are up 89 percent. Why? Because of Libya, because of Iran, and the E.U. is tangling with Iran. We'll have a moratorium enforced on Iran.

U.S. consumer isn't in a depression anymore. Although, interestingly, consumption -- our consumption of gas is actually down.

BANFIELD: I'm not surprised by that. Are you?

ROMANS: It's anticipation. So, speculators in the market and anticipation that prices are going to go up, with the economy is going to get better. That's why gas --

BANFIELD: Better vehicles.

ROMANS: This is from the Oil Price Information Service says 60 cents or more higher by May.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

ROMANS: Chicago, New York, L.A., those are places really going to --

BANFIELD: Before Memorial Day.

ROMANS: Well, it does every year. But you got other things working there too.

BANFIELD: Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Rob Marciano is someone else who just never leaves the office because if he left the office, we would never know what was happening in the weather.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, there's more qualified people than me that could tell you that.

BANFIELD: Oh, come on. You sell yourself short.

MARCIANO: Good morning. Happy day after Super Bowl, and day after National Weatherman's Day. Thank you for the cards and the flowers and the candies.

Yesterday, it was 70 plus. I'm thinking this is Super Bowl weather and I get an e-mail from the National Hurricane Center. You know, we're checking something out in the northwestern Caribbean for tropical development. Here it is. And something that has a chance of developing maybe a subtropical low or tropical low itself, not looking all that healthy this morning.

But nonetheless, gives you an idea just how whacky our weather has been. We're in non-hurricane season, of course, unless our models are taking it to south Florida. Regardless, if it develops or not, it's going to be a rain maker for sure.

Some of the rain will get into the Carolinas. Mild weather, yes, across much of the Northeast. Temperatures will be in the 50s from New York to D.C. to Chicago, 45 degrees there.

Where's our winter? Well, in London, they got some. Here are pictures out of Heathrow. They had to actually -- that's just London.

But Heathrow, they had to cancel a good chunk of flights because of snow over the weekend. And from London to Rome, cue the violins, snow over the Coliseum. Are you kidding me?


ROMANS: Just to the east of Rome, folks are without power. This is part of a two-week onslaught of winter that has unfortunately killed hundreds of people across especially Eastern Europe. But as far south of Rome, they're getting snow. And even some of the canals in Venice are freezing over.

BANFIELD: I have never -- I don't know if I've ever heard of that. Have you?

MARCIANO: It's only snowed in Rome to that extent I think three times. They've been keeping records since 1975 or '85.

BANFIELD: How are they going to get around?

SAMBOLIN: It's going to take a while, huh?

BANFIELD: They're going to need ice breakers.

MARCIANO: They're (ph) smoking cigarette and just wait for it to melt.


SAMBOLIN: Hey, Rob, I had to look it up because I didn't believe you. National Weatherman's Day is February 5th. Well, congratulations to you.

MARCIANO: Thanks. Again, thank you for all the gifts.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sorry, I forgot. We'll send some. I have no idea.

BANFIELD: It was supposed to be in my calendar. I just forgot.

SAMBOLIN: We'll get you on your birthday. Thank you.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BANFIELD: OK. Let's move on to some international news. There's a lot actually happening on the international front. And this one is breaking as we speak right now.

This building collapse in Pakistan's second largest city, Lahore. Apparently, the reports are coming in that at least two dozen people are feared -- are dead and that dozens are trapped at this time. Thirteen people so far apparently have been rescued from this complete disaster. The explosion happened in a three-story factory building that was apparently making veterinary products.

And here's what's so sad. Apparently it had been ordered closed but it had re-opened.

SAMBOLIN: And, Ashleigh, there is no letup to the violence in Syria. The government forces have been bombarding the cities of Homs overnight. The bodies are piled on hospital floors.

And this violence comes on the heels of that failed U.N. resolution to isolate Syrian President al-Assad. China and Russia, you know, vetoed that measure.

So, listen to what Danny, he's a Syrian activist, desperately pleading for help from the West.


DANNY, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: We're not animals. We're human beings. We're asking for help. We're asking for your help.

They got rockets. They're going to kill us all. If you don't help us, they'll kill millions and no one will find out about us.


SAMBOLIN: You heard what he said -- they're going to kill us all if you don't help us.

The Obama administration is adamant so far that the United States will not intervene militarily in Syria.

BANFIELD: State Department is saying it is, quote, "deeply concerned" about the possibility that 19 Americans could be facing trial in Egypt. Forty-three people in all are facing prosecution. It all has to do with those NGOs, and the Egyptian crackdown on the nongovernmental organizations.

The defendants include Sam LaHood. If that name sounds familiar, it's because he is the son of our transportation secretary, Ray LaHood.

Ben Wedeman is live in Cairo right now.

Ben, look, there has been lots of posturing before with people who are detained, even high-level people who are detained, but there seems to be a different essence here, that there is really some fear. In fact, Mr. LaHood saying he isn't feared for his safety. He truly fears for his future.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In fact, Sam LaHood, who runs the International Republican Institute, is one of several Americans who have taken refuge in the U.S. embassy here in Cairo, Ashleigh.

And, in fact, I got off the phone with one of those Americans involved in the case, and he says their lawyers are flabbergasted, that they've been shown no documents. All their attempts to meet with justice ministry officials here in Cairo have come to naught, that they haven't been, for instance, served any legal documents in this case.

One of the lawyers apparently saying that it's not lawyers they need in this case, it's diplomats, because nothing seems to make sense. These Americans are flabbergasted with the way the Egyptian justice system is dealing with their case.

And it's widely believed that this is something of a ploy by the military rulers who run this country at the moment, trying to deflect public criticism away from them, given the clashes in the streets of Cairo that have been going on now for their fifth day. That they're trying to shift public anger away from themselves and on to some sort of mysterious foreign hand that some of the Egyptian media is suggesting is sort of riling up all of the trouble in the streets here -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right. Ben Wedeman, keep an eye on that for us. Thank you for that.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5:16.

A family tragedy in Washington state. A husband of a missing woman kills himself and his two songs. How did he do it? It was an explosion. Why did he do it is what we're trying to figure out.

BANFIELD: Two Florida cruise ships hit by a fast spreading stomach virus, 500 passengers sick. Heard this story before?

So why does it happen over and over, and what's going to be done about it now?

SAMBOLIN: Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, he's under fire for those eleventh hour pardons before leaving office. You know about that. Well, he's making a very public appearance today. Where is he headed? We're going to tell you.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty minutes past the hour. It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

At least two dozen people were killed and a dozen injured when a boiler burst in Lahore, Pakistan, causing a three-story building to collapse. Those are the images. Up to 35 people could still be trapped inside.

And 30 more civilians killed today in Homs, Syria, bringing the total to 300 people killed since the Syrian government stepped up its deadly assault on anti-government protesters late last week.

China and Russia blocking a U.N. resolution over the weekend, calling for President Assad to step down. And the State Department is saying it is deeply concerned about Egypt's plan to put 19 Americans on trial, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Nonprofit organizations are accused of helping stir up political unrest.

BANFIELD: The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots, 21-17. They won Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

I bet you already knew that, but what you might not know is that in a Super Bowl sit-down with NBC, President Obama said he doesn't just want a four year term, he said he deserves four more years. You'll find out why.

And also, the race for the GOP presidential nomination. The next contests are going to take them to caucuses on Tuesday in Minnesota, in Colorado, ands then a nonbinding primary in Missouri, where no delegates are at stake. Yes, that is strange. But no delegates at stake.

SAMBOLIN: Memorial vigils are scheduled today at elementary schools for two boys killed in an explosion. Officials say their father, Josh Powell, intentionally blew up the home.

BANFIELD: You might remember that he is the husband of that missing woman, Susan Powell, who vanished two years ago in Utah. And it was that strange story where Josh Powell said he was just out winter camping with his two little boys when his wife disappeared. So he was a suspect right from the get-go.

Josh Powell's brother-in-law is now reacting to this tragedy.


KIRK GRAVES, BROTHER-IN-LAW, JOSH POWELL: We're in shock. We are simply -- it's beyond belief. We had suspicions of various things Josh was capable of, but I for one didn't think he was capable of this.


BANFIELD: We turn now to our Thelma Gutierrez, who is live in Washington. So many questions about this incredibly layered story, Thelma. But just for start, where does the investigation go from here or is it over now that Josh Powell is dead.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are so many unanswered questions, Zoraida. In fact, that investigation continues on, as you said, to try to find out exactly what happened. Did this -- did this man have this plan for a while? There are so many questions that people want to know, especially in this area.

This home was about 100 feet behind me. You can see the police car behind me. It has been reduced to ashes. Now this was an unspeakable tragedy. Two children, 7 years old, Charlie was 7 years old. Five-year-old Braden Powell brought by a caseworker to visit their father, Josh Powell, Sunday afternoon.

It was supposed to be a planned supervised four-hour visit, and then all of a sudden, the caseworker reports that the children get to the door. They are pulled inside by their father. She smells gas and immediately starts to pound on the door, which is locked by that point.

Then she goes out to call her supervisor. About two minutes later, she reports that the home explodes into a ball of fire.

Neighbors in the area say that the explosion was so violent their homes rocked. They didn't know what was going on. In fact, they didn't even know that Josh Powell lived in this neighborhood with his father, Steven.

Now, Steven Powell was arrested back in September for possession of child pornography, also on 14 counts of voyeurism. That is the point at which Josh Powell lost custody of his children. They went to the grandparents, to the parents of Susan Powell.

Josh Powell was trying to regain custody of his sons. Last week, he went to court. The judge denied it, asking him to go through psychological evaluation and taking a polygraph test. But at that point, authorities say he became very despondent at losing his son and -- or his sons and losing that custody. And right before --

BANFIELD: I just didn't want to interrupt you but I have to say all the way through this case, Josh Powell has acted in such a bizarre way. He has avoided investigation. He has refused to speak to police officers on so many instances in the disappearance of his wife, Susan.

His father has acted in a bizarre way. They launched a Web site to diminish Susan, suggesting she probably ran off with some man.

There's been sort of whisper rumors all along that Josh and his father may have acted complicitly in the death of Susan.

So, are the investigators now with the death and the tragedy -- the death of not only the father but his two sons, are they looking at Steven, Josh's father now, to continue this investigation and find somebody who might have answers about where Susan is?

GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, and that's exactly what they're going to have to do because he is the only one who is left now to talk about this, to respond to these questions, Zoraida. But all along, the sole person of interest, sheriffs have said all along, has been Josh Powell in the disappearance of his wife. As you had said, this is a very bizarre situation.

Right after that explosion, people say -- several of his relatives say that they received e-mails saying I'm sorry and good- bye. Also, his attorney received an e-mail and so they believe that this had been planned for a bit.

BANFIELD: You know, I spent some time -- I've got to tell you, it's Ashleigh. I know we sound difficult over the satellite lines. But, Thelma, I spent some time with Susan Powell's parents, the Coxes in Puyallup, Washington.

And I remember how despondent they were. They were not allowed to see those children before that action was taken to take those kids out of that house. Josh Powell wouldn't allow them to see their grandchildren. How much -- this is such a -- almost a pathetic question, but how are they doing now having to deal with this horrifying tragedy? They lost their daughter and now their grandchildren are dead.

GUTIERREZ: It's so hard to imagine how they must be feeling right now. I don't think anyone could put themselves in their spot at this time. However, through an attorney, they did release a statement just asking for prayers, privacy at this time -- very difficult time.

BANFIELD: Thelma Gutierrez, thanks so much. It's a difficult story. We appreciate your work.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't his dad behind bars as well for some -- I think they found some child pornography?

BANFIELD: The child pornography issues as well.


BANFIELD: But let me tell you something, he is also being investigated. He is part of the investigation on the disappearance of Susan Powell. And there are some very strange stories that have yet to come out in the press about his behavior with Susan Powell before Josh and Susan --

SAMBOLIN: I remember that, yes.

BANFIELD: -- left Washington to head to Utah.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure there will be much more on this.

BANFIELD: It's so sad.

SAMBOLIN: It is indeed. It is.

Twenty-seven minutes past the hour here. Ahead on EARLY START: did you hear President Obama say "I deserve a second term"? Did you hear him explain why? Did he make a convincing case? We're going to have our panel of experts weigh in on that.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 5:31 in the east. Time to check the stories making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Two Fort Lauderdale-based Princess Cruise ships are clean, and they are returning to sea after nearly 500 cases of neural virus were reported. The CDC is still trying to determine the cause there.

And an appeal hearing in Florence, Italy today will determine whether the captain of the "Costa Concordia" cruise ship will remain under house arrest, go to jail, or be freed. A decision is expected by Thursday.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, still under fire for his controversial last- minute pardons. He's expected to speak publicly this afternoon at a ceremony at the Reagan library.

Also, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is announcing there will be a ticker-tape parade for the beloved Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants, scheduled for tomorrow morning in lower Manhattan. Get your brooms ready.



SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. President Obama making his case for four more years in the White House. Did you hear it with Super Bowl interview with NBC with Matt Lauer? He says the economy is turning around, and he needs that time to complete the jobs.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I deserve a second term, but we're not done. We created 3.7 million jobs over the last 23 months. We've created the most jobs since 2005, the most manufacturing jobs since 1990, but we're not finished.


SAMBOLIN: I should have said to complete the jobs agenda. So, let's talk to our panel about this. live from Washington, Democratic strategist, Jaime Harrison, CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, and from Chicago, we have conservative commentator, Lenny McAllister. Nice to see you all.

All right. Paul, I'm going to start with you. You heard President Obama touting those numbers. They were much better than expected. Romney not too happy. Let's listen and talk about it.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not so fast, Mr. President. This is the 36th straight month with unemployment above the red line your own administration drew, and if you take into account all the people who are struggling for work or just stopped looking, the real unemployment rate is over 15 percent.


SAMBOLIN: So, Romney was citing an economist there with those numbers who says with under employed, it's 15.2 percent actually. President Obama's numbers are correct, Paul, because we were trying to do some fact checking this morning. However, it leaves out the government jobs are on the decline.

But the unemployment rate is definitely improving, the lowest since February of 2009, and the political headline this morning was 2012 game changer. So, it's an improving economy. Is that a problem for Romney?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It sure is a problem for Mitt Romney. Here's why. His whole argument has been since he's been running for the White House over the last year, I can do a better job creating jobs than President Barack Obama, but now, the unemployment level is starting to inch down month by month, and that is an issue. That sound you just played from Romney there was from Saturday night.

He had another very big victory in the Nevada caucuses, two in a row. And he's looking -- you know, he's starting to become the firm frontrunner, obviously, in the battle for the Republican nomination, but he needs to, I guess, change his message a little bit, because if the economy continues to improve and if the job level -- the unemployment level continues to come down, that is an issue for him as he takes on President Obama if he wins the nomination. SAMBOLIN: So, Lenny, let's talk about that. Gingrich not doing as well. He's losing a lot of support lately. In fact, look at the few of the races, we have them here. He's been trending downwards. A far cry from the South Carolina surge, and here, on top of that is Tea Party supporter from a House majority leader, Dick Armey's, take on this.


DICK ARMEY, (R) FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I don't think Newt will be able to replicate that magic moment he had in South Carolina. He had a confluence of circumstances that came, and he had just one masterful moment where he transformed himself from perpetrator to victim, attacked the media. I think he's played that string up.


SAMBOLIN: Lenny, can he get the magic back?

LENNY MCALLISTER, RADIO HOST, "GET RIGHT WITH LENNY MCALLISTER": He's going to have to get the magic back by way of debates. This is something he's done previously. He does not have the money. He doesn't have the money for the ads, therefore. The only way he can close the gap is through the debates. The problem is, he fell flat during the two debates going up to the Florida primary.

And because of that, people are looking at this and saying, Romney's going to gain momentum in these weeks between debates. He's starting to pile up victories. Is there a way for Newt to catch up other than more debates? And with them starting to be a little bit more spaced out over these next couple of weeks, he's going to have a hard time recapturing that momentum.

Plus, he's already done this two or three times. I think people are getting a little exhausted with Newt riding this roller coaster of momentum. They want somebody stable. They really want to start getting behind a candidate sooner than later. Now, I think, this is going to play to a disadvantage for Newt Gingrich and probably will play to Mitt Romney's advantage.

SAMBOLIN: Matt, we can certainly say that it's all been very exciting, the up and down and all of the debates. So, Jamie, this next month, a lot of races are scheduled, but the pace changes, right? Previously, late last night, decision in the Iowa caucuses, right, we were very excited about that.

Then, a sudden shift in the Iowa results robs Romney of the New Hampshire victory lap. We're watching some of these special moments, "CNN After Dark." Then Gingrich's victory in South Carolina also. So, it's been debate after debate. It's been a thrilling political theater, right, but now, it's a bit of a lull. So, what does this month mean politically? How can we get all of that excitement back?

JAIME HARRISON, PRINCIPAL AT THE PODESTA GROUP: Well, you know, right now, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are definitely going at each other. I think just yesterday, Newt Gingrich called Governor Romney timid. And so, those definitely are fighting words if I've ever heard them. And so, I expect the speaker to do a lot of things, probably a lot of atypical things in order to generate headlines and just to continue to build on momentum.

He definitely needs it right now, but his goal is to fight till Super Tuesday when some of the southern states will be up with either a primary or caucus.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paul, Lenny, Jaime, thanks for joining us this morning. we'll see you again in the next hour.

HARRISON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And still ahead on EARLY START, the best Super Bowl ads of the night.

SAMBOLIN: Did you see them?

BANFIELD: I saw a lot of them, but I think I might have seen the best of them.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, we're going to preview them again.

Also ahead, Virginia lawmakers consider a so-called Tebow bill. We're going to tell you what this bill is all about. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: And no, that's not a live concert you're hearing in Indianapolis, but it is a live picture. Nice to see you this morning in Indianapolis. I'm sure you have a bit of a hangover, but what a city. What a party. What a performance. Not just by Madonna, but by the teams as well and by the advertisers.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. It's time now for some post game analysis about the commercials. If you're like me, it's why you watch the game. More than 50 of those commercials, actually, aired during that game. And if you can do -- the math is amazing. Let's see, on average advertisers paid about $3.5 million for a 30 second spot. Do the math and that's about $175 million.

Wow! Zach Newcomb also saying wow, because he's a marketing and brand expert. His company, Rokkan, works at brands like Virgin Atlantic, Nintendo, and Google. They're all the big ones. Here's here to talk about the commercial. Thanks for coming in.

ZACH NEWCOMB, MARKETING AND BRAND EXPERT: Cool. Thank you for having me.

BANFIELD: Watched the whole game? Stayed up late?

NEWCOMB: I watched the entire game, I did.

BANFIELD: So, you got up early for us. We appreciate that.


BANFIELD: Let's talk about these. We aired in advance the commercial about the dog, the chubby dog.


BANFIELD: who chased the Volkswagen. So, he exercises "Rocky" style and is finally able to get out the dog door. It was adorable, but how much do you think this resonated with people? Is it the biggest talker of the day?

NEWCOMB: I don't think the ad, itself, was that exciting. I think people that's -- I think what was smart about VW and what they did was that they had a lot of traction with that original, the kid as the Darth Vader. Remember that --

BANFIELD: I loved it. I still think about it.


BANFIELD: It was so sweet.

NEWCOMB: That was, I think, way better, but what they were smart about doing it's like really harnessing the power of that and getting people excited about that. And they're like, all right, listen, something else cool is going to come out and sort of like a trailer for a movie ad. They had all of these kind of ads and all these little bits and pieces about showing, OK --

BANFIELD: It's kind of hard to beat little Darth Vader, I got to be honest with you

NEWCOMB: Yes. I don't think they did.

BANFIELD: High expectations. All right. Let's move on to Pepsi.


BANFIELD: The minute I saw Elton John, I was like, you had me at hello.


BANFIELD: But then, all of a sudden, Melanie Amaro with the "X Factor" started to sing. Let's play a bit of it for anybody who might have missed it. Take a look.


ELTON JOHN, SINGER: And what do you do?





BANFIELD: Yes. We just had someone in the studio yelling out, wow! I said the same thing because I don't watch the "X Factor." And now, I just might because of this young woman. Apart from it being wow, Elton John, amazing voice, do you think people are going to remember his gutsy (ph)?

NEWCOMB: Yes. I mean, I think so. I mean, I think that (INAUDIBLE), that, you know, they lobby (ph) name brands, you know, the "X Factor" as something that resonates big across, you know, large audience. So, I think, people were really excited about that. The commercial saved a lot of money, because Elton John it was actually his wardrobe that they (INAUDIBLE) he just came on and felt better at it.

BANFIELD: Come on! Are you joking? Those are his platforms? I guess, I should --

NEWCOMB: Yes. He just showed up.

BANFIELD: I was a fan of his in the 1970s, and you were just near baby.

NEWCOMB: I was a baby at that point.


BANFIELD: Let's talk Coca-Cola, the polar bears. Polar bears are my favorite animal. I'm Canadian. I love the polar bear commercials. This was different this week, though, because with the scarves, they were supposed to represent, you know, pats fans, giants fans, and they could actually react real time, like, obviously, this is a pats fan freaking out, you know?


BANFIELD: It's really clever, but I have to be honest. I didn't catch that.


BANFIELD: I might be a bit stupid, but I didn't catch it. Do you think a lot of people would have caught that?

NEWCOMB: It depends. It depends on the demographic. What they did that people don't realize is they actually had a website going at the exact same time of showing the two bears watching the ad, I mean, watching the game. And so, what happened is if the paths like threw a big pass, the guy with the path scarf would get up and like start cheering. If the giants had a big play, he do the same thing. So --

BANFIELD: How many people watched the website?

NEWCOMB: They didn't actually show the number of people who liked it, so you couldn't see the total audience, but what would happen is the second the commercial came up one of the bears would leave and they'd show a specific commercial. You know, the commercials were different. They had different ones lined up.

BANFIELD: Ready to go. Depending on how the game went. I thought that was great.

NEWCOMB: Really cool.

BANFIELD: Although, now that I know, I just didn't know it at the time.

NEWCOMB: Yes, yes, yes.

BANFIELD: Bit thick headed. All right. So, my fave, Ferris Bueller. I grew up with Ferris Bueller.


BANFIELD: Huge Matthew Broderick fan because of Ferris Bueller. So excited to see the commercial. Let's play a little bit of the Ferris Bueller redocks (ph).



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling the studio, Matthew. You're not shooting today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are depending on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Movies bring so much joy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just get some rest.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can I handle work on a day like today?



BANFIELD: OK. I loved this beyond, beyond, beyond. But then, I started to think, while I loved it, I'm 44. I don't know that I'm always the target demo. And you're 30.

NEWCOMB: Yes. BANFIELD: Is this the kind of commercial that would resonate among the 18 year olds who were barely even, you know, cognizant when Ferris Bueller was a hit.

NEWCOMB: Yes. Well, I know you're giving me guff before about not being I have to see this (ph). I remember this. I remember Ferris Bueller very well. I think that -- I mean, selling a Honda which probably, I don't --

BANFIELD: Oh, you know what, i forgot they were selling a Honda.



NEWCOMB: So, you know, I might not be in the market for a Honda. But I think, you know, what was smart about it is they figured out a way to like create a sort of a genre that would really resonate with people. It's really "Star Wars" with VW.


NEWCOMB: It's something that people can like really, say, oh, this is awesome. And so, they want to watch it, and then, yes.

BANFIELD: Zach Newcomb, it's great of you to -- especially since you stayed until the very end of the game and the rest of --

NEWCOMB: For you guys, what it took.

BANFIELD: Nice to meet you.

NEWCOMB: Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It's fun. Thank you very much. It's 5:46.

Rockets, gunfire, bombs. We have live pictures now as government forces launch another attack in Syria, wile the United Nations still squabbles over a solution there. Is there any hope for a peace plan?

And will the state of Virginia produce the next Tim Tebow? This is for all of you home schoolers out there. Proposed change and state law could up the chances. Details on a Tim Tebow bill. That's coming up next. You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is now 50 minutes past the hour. Time to check your top stories.


BANFIELD (voice-over): There is no end in sight to the violence in Syria. The rebels there say the government is firing rockets into its neighborhoods and homes. In the meantime, the United Nations failed. No resolution from that group to pass a resolution of peace.

Also, hundreds of people killed across Europe during a cold snap that has lasted more than a week in which temperatures have dropped well below freezing.

And a trial begins today for this young man. University of Virginia lacrosse student on trial for murder. George Huguely accused of beating his ex-girlfriend, also a lacrosse cross player. Her name, Yeardley Love. She died in a violent attack at her apartment.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen, deals with fallout after reversing its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. That decision is now being blamed by Komen insiders on its vice president, Karen Handel.

And a New York woman is releasing a tell-all book claiming she had an 18-month affair with former president, John F. Kennedy, when she was a 19-year-old White House intern.

And the Virginia legislature considering a so-called Tim Tebow bill. It would permit home schooled students to play sports at local high schools as Tim Tebow was allowed to do in Florida.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Good luck with that.

BANFIELD (on-camera): I have to just a comment on that Kennedy story. I've read the excerpts from that book. It is a disgusting story, appalling. I mean, if we thought Lewinsky was bad, that's nothing compared to what this woman says --


BANFIELD: -- happened. And she got --

SAMBOLIN: The timing now, though, of releasing something like that.

BANFIELD: She's in her like late 60s, perhaps. I'm not sure what to make of the timing, but what I will tell you is the details will want to make you sick. I have to be honest, the details, if true, are just repulsive, you know? And like I said, we were so blown away by the Lewinsky scandal, this is child's play compared to what this woman says.


BANFIELD: Yes. Remarkable stuff.

If you were watching "Saturday Night Live." You don't stay up very late. Do you stay up on Saturdays?


(LAUGHTER) SAMBOLIN: If I do, I'm not watching television, I'll tell you that much.

BANFIELD: Stop right there, because I don't want to know.


BANFIELD: OK. So, there was this hilarious send-up about Newt Gingrich and his plans for the moon. He's now got a moonocracy. He's the president of moontopia. It was quite funny. The funny GOP candidate lunar ambitions lampoon. We're going to show you the segment. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: You just knew that this is going to happen, right? We were teasing a little bit about the whole moon colony. Some people find it very serious. Newt Gingrich is --

SAMBOLIN: I didn't watch it. So, I'm really looking forward to this.

BANFIELD: You're going to see it now, my friend. "Saturday Night Live" doing a huge send-up about Newt's plans for the moon. I can't even explain it, so watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Moon President Gingrich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do, little girl?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you're not at school?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work as a janitor at the school per your moon decree (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, on Earth, they thought the idea of student janitors was crazy. I guess, that's why they didn't want me to be their president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people of South Carolina wanted you to be president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not all of America is as forward thinking as South Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A good moon to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And may divorce be with you. (LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Moon President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice Admiral Herman Cain.





SAMBOLIN: May divorce be with you.

BANFIELD: I heard it.

I love that. There was also another point that was very funny. Mitt Romney showed up on the set as well. It wasn't real Mitt Romney, it was fake Mitt Romney, showing up on the set. And, he was supposed to be a stow away from Earth who begs for a job in the new addmoonestration. Very well. I thought --


BANFIELD: My delivery was supposed to be so good. It just fell flat.

SAMBOLIN: Oh! All right. I have to watch it.

BANFIELD: You will.

SAMBOLIN: End line (ph). All right. So, top stories are coming up next. We have a different look at Super Bowl ads, folks. How did people respond emotionally to them?

BANFIELD: How can they tell?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, seriously, facial expressions. We have a facial coding expert who's going to talk to us about that, coming up. You're watching EARLY START.