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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Santorum Pulls Off 3-State Sweep; Up-To-The-Minute Delegate Count; Anatomy Of A Murder Suicide; Escalating Violence in Syria; Jobs Opening at Three-Year High; Santorum Sweeps Three States; Romney Dodges Glitter-Bombing; Obama Returning Campaign Donation

Aired February 8, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are very happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 6:00 a.m. in the East. So let's get started here.

BANFIELD: We had to stay up really late last night. If you wanted to get the finale, the final numbers, but you know what? It was becoming evident all night.

SAMBOLIN: We have them.

BANFIELD: Big sweep for Rick Santorum winning Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, and reviving his campaign. Certainly raising questions for Mitt Romney, is it over for him or just one of those uncomfortable blips?

SAMBOLIN: Syrians fight for their lives as the killings rise. With the President Bashar Al-Assad refusing to cede power, what are the options now? Is there a military option on the table?

BANFIELD: And some chilling 911 calls from the case worker who dropped those two boys off at their father's home in Washington State before that father, Josh Powell, killed himself and his boys. It's shedding new light now on what happened in the moments before that terrible tragedy.

SAMBOLIN: And Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. That is the court ruling. So, is the next stop the Supreme Court?

BANFIELD: Up first though, a stunning and this is pretty much everyone's words, stunning three-state sweep for Rick Santorum and a miserable morning after hangover for Mitt Romney.

Missouri, you'll probably remember is a nonbinding primary so there weren't any delegates at stake, but you know, never good to lose something. It's always good to win something.

Santorum won it, 55 percent of the vote going to Santorum. Romney falling well behind with 25 percent and Ron Paul pulling in just 12 percent of the vote. Don't forget Newt Gingrich wasn't on the ballot there, but there were more numbers.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, the Minnesota caucuses, 37 delegates at stake, Santorum 45 percent. Ron Paul, Ron Paul, 27 percent. Romney is third here with 17 percent. Gingrich at 11 percent.

Colorado caucuses, 33 delegates up for grabs. Santorum 40 percent, Romney 35 percent. The former senator from Pennsylvania is sounding very presidential.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, I don't stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser live from Washington. Is this a game changer for Santorum?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, I think that's a fair estimate. Listen, he never got the credit, I guess, he deserved from his victory in Iowa. Remember it came two-and-a-half weeks late.

So Rick Santorum had a very big night and yes, it does alter the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Listen, Santorum said, you know what, these contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, it was kind of a level playing field because none of the campaigns -- and even the Super PACs spent a lot of money on campaigning in these states. It gave them a level playing field. Also he took some time in his victory celebration in Missouri to go after Mitt Romney. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Governor Romney's greatest attribute is, while I've got the most money, he's not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?

No, we're going to have to have someone who has other attributes to commend himself to the people of America, someone who can get up and make sharp contrasts with President Obama, someone who can point to the failed record of this administration and say that Barack Obama needs to be replaced in the Oval Office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: So what does Santorum do next? Well, about 90 minutes from now, he will be right here on CNN and then heads down to Texas later today, a little bit of campaigning, but mostly fundraising.

Now is the time for Rick Santorum to monopolize and capitalize on his big victories. He's got about $1.1 million cash on hand as of few weeks ago. He needs to increase that right now -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So what does Romney do next?

STEINHAUSER: Romney, listen, the Romney campaign was downplaying the three contests yesterday when they had a feeling that maybe they wouldn't win all three. They said Missouri, we didn't even campaign there. Nonbinding primary, didn't count.

But remember, he did go to Minnesota that was his first stop after his big victory in Florida. He was in Colorado last night. He spent two days campaigning there. But the victory celebration wasn't that much of a victory celebration for him in Colorado. That one had to hurt. Take a listen to what he said last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a good night for Rick Santorum. I want to congratulate Senator Santorum. Wish him the very best. We'll keep on campaigning down the road, but I expect to become our nominee, with your help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: You know, an interesting thing he also said last night. He spent most of his speech talking about Obama, but he said, listen, I'm the only candidate Democrat or Republican who did not work in Washington.

And Zoraida, I think that's where you're going to see more of, the Romney campaign and candidate painting Santorum as a Washington insider. You know, Santorum has it easy, I guess. He has escaped the full frontal attack from Romney -- that will now change.

SAMBOLIN: I know we normally see him attacking Gingrich. So we'll see where we go from here. Thank you so much. Paul Steinhauser live for us. We appreciate it.

BANFIELD: So, of course, it all brings up the big count, right? The delegate count and where it stands right now. It's a little bit tricky, but here is the CNN estimate at this point.

Mitt Romney is in the lead with 106 delegates with the contests we've been through. Newt Gingrich with 38. Santorum with 22. Paul with 20. Just don't forget though that those 70 delegates that were up for grabs last night are not factored into this count.

Because it's kind of a tricky process that I won't get into right now, but it takes a while for those to filter down the line. A whole bunch of state processes before they actually pledge those delegates --

SAMBOLIN: I saw that e-mail coming through and I'm like, I'm confused. BANFIELD: It's a whole phone book of rules. These caucuses get crazy. It's a Paul Steinhauser thing. That guy is smarter than anybody and even he has to think really hard about some of those issues.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Rick Santorum (inaudible) means Mitt Romney came up empty in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.

BANFIELD: But you know something going into those races one guy who wasn't concerned at all --

SAMBOLIN: Let me guess, Donald Trump.

BANFIELD: You bet you. He wasn't the least bit worried about Rick Santorum's momentum certainly after having endorsed Mitt Romney. I had a one-on-one interview with Donald Trump only about 10 hours ago it seems and I asked him about whether he might consider becoming a Washington insider. Have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Is there a place for you in a Romney cabinet?

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Well, it's certainly not something I'm looking for, but if I can do anything to help this country. We have to do something to help the country. We can't keep losing our jobs to other countries.

BANFIELD: Have you talked about it with Governor Romney?

TRUMP: No, I haven't. I haven't discussed that, no.

BANFIELD: And if he reached out to you, what would your reaction be?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's very early to worry about it. I think number one he has to get the nomination. Number two, he has to get elected. After that, I would certainly be open if I can do anything to help him or the country.

BANFIELD: And what cabinet position would it be that you would want?

TRUMP: Maybe a position where I negotiate against some of these countries because they're really taking our lunch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Taking our lunch. He's got a whole lot more to say about -- just about everything on the political landscape. So we'll have more later on this hour.

Make sure you keep it right here on CNN from now through November for the best political coverage on TV. At 7:30 Eastern, as if to prove our point, on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien is going to go one-on-one with the man who won last night, Rick Santorum. I'm sure he's having a great morning. So it will be a terrific interview.

SAMBOLIN: It is 8 minutes past the hour. Switching gears here, just released new 911 tapes from the Washington State man John Powell who killed himself and his two young sons Sunday.

BANFIELD: We're hearing at least one of the calls made by a terrified case worker as well as neighbors. That case worker had just dropped off Josh Powell's two boys for a supervised visit, but she was blocked from getting into the house. Listen to her phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SOCIAL WORKER: It exploded, yes, it exploded the house.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Ma'am, OK, do you know the exact address of the house?

UNIDENTIFIED SOCIAL WORKER: Yes. It's 8119 189th Street Court East, Puyallup.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. Do you know if anyone is in the house?

UNIDENTIFIED SOCIAL WORKER: Yes. There was a man and two children. I just dropped off the children and he wouldn't let me in the door.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. Stay on the line for the fire department. OK. I'm going to get them on the line. Do not hang up. Hold on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Our CNN legal contributor and former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin joins us live now. You know, Sunny, so many people are talking about the horrors involved with this story.

But then there's that major question on everyone's mind, how is it possible that there was a court-ordered visit, supervised or not, with the man who clearly had the potential to do something this violent?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it was that clear to the court, Ashleigh. It's very difficult to prevent visitation from a biological father without proof that he's been abusing the children or without proof that there is some sort of mental health issue.

That just was not evidence before the court. So clearly there was visitation, but it was supervised visitation. So there were some concern on behalf of the court but legally, it appears to me that everything was really done appropriately in this case.

BANFIELD: And I know there is so much grieving and mourning that still lies ahead. But down the road, I'm wondering what sort of legal options this family might have and, also, with regard to these 911 calls, whether they provide some evidence to perhaps bolster any case.

I want to play one part of that 911 call where the case worker was desperately trying to get someone to the house after being blocked from going in. And it didn't seem like anybody was too hurried or rushed in this emergency. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED SOCIAL WORKER: OK. How long will it be?

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: I don't know, ma'am. They have to respond to emergency, life-threatening situation first.

UNIDENTIFIED SOCIAL WORKER: This could be life-threatening. He went to court on Wednesday and he -- he didn't get his kids back. And this is really -- I'm afraid for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: "This could be life-threatening. I'm afraid for their lives." Sunny, this woman was asked three times what her name was. She was asked four times what the address was. And ultimately, nobody got there fast enough.

I don't know whether anyone could have prevented the calamity, but is there something in there that makes you as a lawyer say, you know what, I smell a rat.

HOSTIN: No question about it. I mean, it's extraordinary, isn't it, when you call 911 and you say that there is an emergency, which is what she was saying to the dispatcher, you expect immediate -- immediate reaction.

And that just wasn't the case here. It appears that the 911 dispatcher determined that this wasn't a true emergency. And so, clearly, that is going to be problematic.

Whether or not we will see civil litigation against the county, I don't know that that's going to happen, Ashleigh. And I don't know that anyone could have prevented, as you mentioned, this just terrible tragedy.

BANFIELD: Just quickly, Sunny, for me, if you would, what does this incident do to the case that still exists in Utah, the missing mother? Does it help the case that now we know Josh is a killer? Does it hurt the case because we can't interview this killer about the missing mother? What does it do?

HOSTIN: Well, certainly, the police department has indicated that this investigation into her disappearance continues. It has never stopped and they will continue searching for Susan Powell.

You know, there's no question about it that now they can't prosecute him, Josh Powell, if certainly he was the person that was responsible for her disappearance. But the investigation still continues. That's what I've been told. BANFIELD: Certainly can't get any information out of him, either. Sunny Hostin, thanks very much. Appreciate that.

HOSTIN: Thanks, Ashleigh.

SAMBOLIN: It's 12 minutes past the hour. Ahead on EARLY START, a warning from the U.S. to Syria's president, Bashar Al-Assad, your days are numbered. Is there a military option in the works now?

BANFIELD: What prosecutors are asking to have Jerry Sandusky kept indoors as part of his bail conditions?

SAMBOLIN: And Rob Marciano live at the weather center. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. A little winter weather heading to the east coast finally, but not terribly scary. Here it is on the satellite picture. It's a quick mover.

Again, I won't be spending too much time in the east coast. Ohio River Valley and all of it is heading towards Delmarva, D.C. beltway. Evening commute will be a bit slushy north and west. One to three inches of some snow.

So you will see some delays at that airport maybe Philly as well. Just some light snow showers expected across the metropolitan area and chilly air behind this system.

It's 13 minutes after the hour. EARLY START is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is 17 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast. Time to get you caught up on top stories this morning.

And Rick Santorum is having a great day already, pulling off a stunning three-state sweep last night and turning the race for the Republican nomination upside-down. Those victories last night were in Minnesota and Colorado, those were caucuses, and Missouri had that non-binding primary as well.

Also in the news, a weird one. Norovirus has broken out on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship again. Just days ago, the Princess Cruise Line declares that the ship was sanitized after a similar outbreak on another trip.

SAMBOLIN: The L.A. school board has fired Miramonte Elementary School teacher, Martin Bernard Springer, after he was formally charged with three felony counts of lewd acts on upon a girl under the age of 14. Springer pleaded not guilty yesterday. He's the second teacher at the school facing child abuse charges.

And prosecutors in Pennsylvania want former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky ordered to stay indoors as part of his bail conditions after complaints that he was watching children in a school yard from the back porch of his home.

BANFIELD: That's a difficult one.

Now, I want to take you to the crisis in Syria where opposition activists are saying that nearly 50 more people were killed overnight in the government's assault on the City of Homs. The pictures tell a lot of the story.

Opposition human rights observers say that three entire families were killed when military troops stormed through walls of their homes. Again, those are opposition groups giving us those reports. We can't, you know, independently verify them or confirm them. But what we can do is show you some live pictures that speak for themselves perhaps this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. These are live pictures now from a mass funeral in Daraa. Thousands of people - thousands of people gather for daily prayers. America's U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice telling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on CNN your days are numbered. The Pentagon said to be reviewing military options concerning Syria now.

Our Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, we want to show some images here. We see these disturbing images every day of injured children, cries for help, families being decimated. What are the military options that are being reviewed?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, this is what the military does in cases like this. They don't really wait for the president to ask for options. They start themselves by taking a look at what is feasible.

It should be said very much that the administration policy remains diplomatic and economic action against Syria. But if it were come to something, the military would want to be ready. So what we are told is they're basically looking at feasibility issues, what is out there, what do they have, what could they do if they were asked.

And, you know, that's the whole range of options from humanitarian assistance to assisting the opposition. I think at this point there's very little being looked at in terms of strike options because, again, the U.S. wants to see the Arab League Nations get involved in this as well. There's very little possibility, I think, that this would be any kind of unilateral action. But they are beginning to look.

And that's the real change here. That here at the Pentagon, officials are saying, you know, look, we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't put some options on the table, if we didn't look at what we could do in terms of military support for Syria, for the Syrian opposition. So that's what you're beginning to see. What could they do, what could they do for the Syrian people. But it would obviously be a presidential decision to go forward with anything, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: This is a very difficult situation. You know, we're hearing from people on the inside. Actually, you know, older gentlemen crying out for help. And there were reports that a Red Cross vehicle was actually shot at, as well.

So how can you get humanitarian help to that region when it seems almost impossible to do?

STARR: They - this has been a constant problem in so many places, you know, around the world, you know, Libya, Lebanon, over the years, so many places in Africa.

You know, a lot of people say, why can't the military just airdrop assistance in, you know. That's a very dangerous option, the airdrops. You can wind up injuring civilians quite inadvertently.

So the most feasible option would be to truck in aid if at all possible. But as you say, this has - this has become a hot combat zone.

So humanitarian organizations who are very experienced in operating in these kinds of areas are going to want to see some protection, some ability to actually move around. You can't get humanitarian assistance in unless somebody - unless, you know, there's Some level of security control. And that's the fundamental problem right now. As long as this combat continues on the streets of Syria, it is going to be a very difficult problem.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us. Thank you.

And General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander talks about - all about Syria at 7:00 A.M. Eastern on "STARTING POINT" that is with Soledad O'Brien.

BANFIELD: Coming up ahead on EARLY START, some more good news about jobs. And that's a good thing to hear when you're waking up. Apparently the job openings in December, highest numbers that we've had in years. So who's getting those jobs? Who's actually doing the hiring? Christine Romans is going to have that for you.

You're going to have to stick around for it. Good news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: I like that. "Stronger." I think there's a reason we're playing that song.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, because we are "Minding Your Business" now, and it is stronger. Some good news for the labor market. Jobs openings were at their highest level in three years in December.

BANFIELD: And, you know who the jobs guru is, right?

SAMBOLIN: Do we get a high five for that? Was that what you're doing?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: No. It wasn't what I'm doing. I'll tell you what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, that's the first part of that phrase, right? And that was really - and people who are listening to me talk about job openings are saying, wait, I've been looking forever. Look, you're right. There are almost four unemployed workers for every job opening in America, so your competition is three other people standing there. So I get that.

BANFIELD: But it used to be seven.

ROMANS: It used to be seven, almost eight. So it's going in the right direction. And we know from the Labor Department, the most recent Labor Department statistics yesterday that there are 3.4 million job openings - right now at the end of December.

In America, 3.4 million jobs are open. That's the best we've had in about three years. It's not what you want to see in a recovery and Ben Bernanke has said we're nowhere near normally operating job market, but it is an improvement. So we're heading in the right direction, 3.4 million job openings right now.

BANFIELD: Why is that not normal? Why is that not normal? Three-point-four, it's usually much, much higher?

ROMANS: It's usually better than that, yes. I mean, I think at the peak of the recovery, you have I think almost twice of that. No, 4.4 million is what you had at the - you know, before the recession started.

SAMBOLIN: I want to know where all the jobs are.

BANFIELD: Yes. That's bottom line. Where am I going to get jobs?

ROMANS: OK, here's where. They're in trade, transportation and utilities, we've seen that for some time. Those areas where there are a lot of job openings, hundreds of thousands of job openings right now. Retail, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality.

Two warnings here, retail and leisure and hospitality, two growing parts of the American economy. Most of those jobs you're not going to send a kid to college on.

SAMBOLIN: Right, yes.

ROMANS: It's the people who lost a job, say, as a manager of a semiconductor engineering plant in Massachusetts, they look at that and say - that's not going to do any good. I can't pay my mortgage.

But professional and business services, very interesting here. Because if I hear from CEOs is they want to hire but we have a mismatch of skills and the jobs that are available. I hear that a lot. There's some kind of a disconnect here between what companies want and what they say the American workforce can do.

I'm not sure how much of that is also a little bit of an excuse for not hiring and holding on as long as they can and keeping their costs low. But that's that.

BANFIELD: So we're just graduating a ton of English majors and they need, you know, skilled engineers?

ROMANS: I think that the jobs today are so specific. We've out- sourced a lot of jobs that were more -

BANFIELD: Generic.

ROMANS: -- generic. And so the jobs that are here are very - professional and business services are very specific jobs.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we talked a lot at the beginning of the recession about reinvention. So perhaps now is the time to start doing that as well. Start thinking about how do you reinvent yourself.

ROMANS: And entrepreneurship.

BANFIELD: If you can get the loan for your entrepreneur idea.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, Christine.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: -- jump over there and see what we can - put some people and some money together.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

It is 29 minutes past the hour. Ahead on EARLY START, Kid Rock's made in Detroit shirts actually made where? We're going to find out.

BANFIELD: And also, Rick Santorum's stunning a lot of people who were not expecting a three-sweep, winning Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota all in one night. He says the race is now a no man's land. Panel is going to weigh in. You'll find out what they have to say about that and whether this momentum is here to stay.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Good morning to you. It's 31 minutes past 6:00. It's a good time on the East Coast, I should say.

Let's get you caught up on top stories.

How sweep it is -- that's what he's saying this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Nice play there.

BANFIELD: How sweep it is. Rick Santorum going three for three in the Republican contest on Tuesday. He was winning all of those caucuses in Minnesota and in Colorado, and that nonbinding in Missouri as well.

So, a great night for Rick Santorum. Wow. Look how excited he looks.

Now, I want to take you to a completely different story that developed overnight.

These are live pictures over Daraa in Syria. This is a mass funeral where thousands of people have come out for their daily prayers, appealing to the international community to help them. They say the Syrian government is bombarding their cities and their towns and their people indiscriminately, killing upon dozens and dozens every single day. Homs overnight losing a number of people.

In the meantime, we, the United States, actually considering what we can do about it.

So, incredible pictures where they come out and say this is happening and we hope people will watch our plight.

SAMBOLIN: Entire families wiped out.

BANFIELD: That's what the opposition is saying. We can never confirm that because we can't get in.

Veteran NASA shuttle astronaut Janice Voss has died after a battle with cancer. She was 55 years old. And you might remember she was one of only six women to have flown in space five times.

SAMBOLIN: Four members of the Yahoo board of directors, including the company's chairman, are resigning. They're responding to stockholder complaints that they did little to prevent decline in Yahoo's revenue and its stock price.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation, the executive Karen Handel stepping down in the fallout over the charity's decision to cut Planned Parenthood funding. It was a decision that was later reversed by the Komen Foundation.

Well, it turns out Kid Rock's Made in Detroit clothing line is not actually made there. "The Detroit Free Press" reporting his designs are printed on clothing from India, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

BANFIELD: I just want you to say Honduras again.

SAMBOLIN: Honduras.

BANFIELD: Honduras.

SAMBOLIN: It just comes to the brain, Ashleigh. I can't -- it's hard for me to think it the other way.

BANFIELD: We have offices beside each other and then all of a sudden, she just turns into someone else completely when she's on the phone talking to the kids at home.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I like to learn a thing or two from you.

SAMBOLIN: Your pronunciation has gotten excellent.

BANFIELD: I'm trying hard.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour here.

A funny thing happened to Mitt Romney on his way to the Republican nomination, he got swamped by Rick Santorum.

BANFIELD: Boy, did he ever? Look how excited he is in these pictures last night. This is after the former Pennsylvania senator pulled off a three-sweep, three states -- crushing Romney in Missouri in that primary there, nonbinding one, and also the Minnesota caucus and finishing off that hat trick, for our hockey fans, with a win in Colorado as well.

And then taking the opportunity to give a little, you know, shot at his opponent, Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans respond because I do care about not 99 percent or 95 percent. I care about the very rich and the very poor. I care about 100 percent of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Well, you know, we might try to ascribe all of the strangeness to the state that gave us once Jesse Ventura and Al Franken as political leaders there, but maybe not. Maybe this is just the way it is and the way it's going to be.

So, live from Washington CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser joins us, along with Republican strategist Trey Hardin, and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

All right. Maria, I want to start with you.

I couldn't understand how these numbers came in the way they did, not just because I don't think that people expected to happen this way, but because of the past. In '08, Mitt Romney did a whole lot better in Minnesota and Colorado. I think it was -- gosh, I mean, just massive wins, 60 percent he had over his opponents in Colorado and 40 percent he got the vote in Minnesota.

And this was just a mess. But there was something else that played here, Maria. He had -- in Minnesota, he had the ex-Governor Tim Pawlenty endorsing him, and Senator Norm Coleman. He had everything he could possibly want and still, it was a disaster.

Is there some takeaway message for the Republicans as we head towards the general election here?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely there is, Ashleigh. And here is the problem, not just with Mitt Romney but with the whole Republican Party. Majorities of Republican voters, and they said this in exit polls and entrance polls, would like to see somebody else run for president. They're not that satisfied with this current GOP field.

And increasingly, they're not satisfied, and as Americans as a whole are not satisfied with the presumed front-runner, which is Mitt Romney, and he ran into that last night. And the issue with that is that he has not been able to consolidate the support from conservative voters which as you know are critical, especially when you're seeking the nomination.

And more important than that, I think what is starting to cement in voters' minds is that Mitt Romney is not somebody that you can trust. And voters, when they go into the voting booth to vote for somebody, they inherently vote for the person that, in their gut, they can trust to fight for them and to represent them.

BANFIELD: You sound like you work for Gingrich and Santorum, girl, with that whole line you just spat out. Hold on.

CARDONA: You know what? Last night, the voters took around.

BANFIELD: OK.

CARDONA: And they are listening now to somebody else.

BANFIELD: OK. Let's move on to something else that kind of dovetails out of this because "The Washington Post" said maybe what happened in Minnesota to Mitt Romney is that he didn't spend enough money and advertise in that state. That's why he took a walloping.

So, to that end, the advertising, the money that it takes to advertise, the super PACs that are getting all that money. Take a look at this picture of Rick Santorum last night and, particularly, I want you to focus on the guy wearing the green tie standing directly to the left of him.

We'll get the shot out so you guys can take a look. He's smiling. He's happy. That's his guy. That's his guy, Rick Santorum.

That man is Foster Friess. He is a big investment manager. He has given about half of the super PAC earnings for Rick Santorum. About $730,000 he's donated to Rick Santorum.

Nothing wrong with that, but for the fact you're not supposed to be cozying up to the candidate. You're supposed to be well apart. And he's standing there on stage.

So, Paul Steinhauser, I guess it's the reality. Have we come to a point now, even the Obama administration saying if you can't beat them, join 'em. I've got to do the super PAC thing. Where you can now do this, and in the victory speech, stand right behind them?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, the super PACs have been a huge story line. We saw it in the midterms in 2010. We're seeing it right now.

And as long as there's no coordination on strategy, on ads, it is allowed. Friess has donated a lot of money to the Red, White, and Blue fund, which is the pro -- independent but pro-Santorum super PAC, which did put up some spots in these states and the super PACs are such a huge story line.

But you're right though, in all three of these states, Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, not a lot of money spent on ads, not at all like what we saw in Florida and South Carolina.

So, as Santorum said, it was more of a level playing field in all three of these contests and that's why he's touting his big victory.

But remember, Mitt Romney and his super PACs still have a lot of money to spend. We've got two big states coming up with Michigan and Arizona at the end of the month, and then Super Tuesday. Money will matter.

BANFIELD: I'm wondering about that Arizona vote now with what we saw in Colorado. I'm so curious as to what's going to happen there.

Trey Hardin, weigh in if you would for me. If we look at these wins and losses, and who picks them up and who losses, are we starting to see the GOP as a fractured map? I mean, we're seeing this support of Gingrich in the South. We're seeing the Midwest supporting Rick Santorum. And we're seeing pockets of support maybe on the East Coast, on the West Coast, or at least towards the West Coast for Mitt Romney.

Is there anything wrong with that? Does it give us any insight at all?

TREY HARDIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'll tell you that I got to imagine that Mitt Romney is pretty happy this morning because now there are two conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney. And as long as there are two conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney, he is the likely victor because they will just continue to keep splitting delegate votes.

Listen, this is a marathon, not a sprint. And running for president is really a math equation at the end of the day, both for the nomination and in the general election. You choose the states you need to spend money in. You choose the states you need to have organization in.

You know, there was very low voter turnout in these states last night. Very little money spent.

It's definitely a big night for Rick Santorum. He's been running a sustainable, disciplined campaign that's built on retail politics and principled messages. But at the end of the day, he's not going to have the money. He's not going to have the independent voters in some of these primaries.

BANFIELD: Yes. You know what? You're right. It is not a sprint, it's a long haul.

But for the four geeks on the screen right now, we really enjoy looking at them every day, don't we, and analyzing it.

Paul, Trey, Maria, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Geek included.

SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour here.

Ahead on EARLY START: winning the White House requires big money. So why is President Obama giving back $200,000?

BANFIELD: And a one-on-one with Donald Trump who says, "I don't get Rick Santorum, I don't get that whole thing," and then within hours, Rick Santorum gets three states.

SAMBOLIN: This guy, Chuck Norris, says he knows what it takes to be a warrior. So who is he endorsing? We're going to find out.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Minneapolis. Oh, it's 19 degrees in Minneapolis.

BANFIELD: That's a chilly morning.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to be so warm later. Sunny and 29.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: That is balmy for February. I'm telling you, I'm a Midwestern northern girl and that is a nice -- Elvis Costello singing "Pump it Up" could not be more appropriate this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: Talk about being pumped up at 45 minutes past the hour, Rick Santorum, pumped up, our top story this morning, in fact.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Santorum pulling of the three sweep last night, three states, winning Missouri's non-binding primary and both the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado.

In the other headlines, though, Mitt Romney's new secret service detail busy working hard and saving the former Massachusetts governor from a glitter bombing. Yikes. Glitter bombing, not so dangerous, but there are other things that he has to be concerned about and that's why they're hard at work. This happened in Denver, and the man who threw the glitter taken into custody.

Actor, Chuck Norris, he says he knows what makes a true warrior. I don't think he said it in that voice, but he's announcing that he's endorsing Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the Obama administration is returning $200,000 in campaign donations from the family of fugitive, Juan Jose Roxas Cardona. Cardona disappeared after jumping bail in Iowa 18 years ago and has been linked to violence and corruption in Mexico.

And the president holding a fundraiser in New York last night called "Runway To Win." He hopes to raise money by selling tote bags, T-shirts and accessories made in America by some pretty impressive designers there.

And Madonna is releasing new details of her 2012 world tour. Ashleigh cannot wait. It begins May 29th in Tel Aviv, Israel and comes to America on August 28th. And it's starting in Philadelphia. It's a road trip for us.

On location with Madonna. What can I say? I'm a product of the 1980s. I grew up on the girl. I love her. Soledad O'Brien, product of the --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Shoulder cut off, come on. Black bangles, remember?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Yes, yes. And the hair.

BANFIELD: What you got coming up on "STARTING POINT"?

O'BRIEN: A lot coming up this morning on "STARTING POINT." This morning, we're going to talk to Rick Santorum as you've been talking about all morning, he swept three states last night. He'll join us live for his first interview of the day to talk about how he is feeling this morning.

Plus, there was a political ad that ran during the Super Bowl. It was called racist and disturbing. This morning, Michigan Senate candidate, Pete Hoekstra, is going to defend that ad. The only Asian- American woman in Congress will join us exclusively to respond.

Also, a morning-after pill dispensed by a vending machine on a college campus. 25 box a pop. We'll talk about that straight ahead this morning as "Starting Point" gets under way in just about ten minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is a beautiful day, and it is gorgeous in Denver. It's a beautiful day anywhere right now if you're Rick Santorum, but in Denver, 14 degrees. Later, sunny, going up to about 41.

SAMBOLIN: Seriously, 14 to 41, transpose those numbers.

All right, folks. Welcome back to EARLY START. So, love him or hate him, real estate mogul and reality TV star, Donald Trump, can command an audience. He's a lot of fun. He has a new book out. It is called "Time to Get Tough."

BANFIELD: And I had an extensive one-on-one interview with The Donald. He talked about why he thinks the guy he's endorsing, Mitt Romney, is going to win and why he doesn't understand Rick Santorum's momentum or whether he can possibly win it all, but that was ten hours before he swept three states.

He talks about a cabinet position as well. but of interest at this point that I want you to hear, I asked him about his effect and what he can do for Mitt Romney, particularly, with regard to Mitt Romney's image. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Do you think there's something you can do for Mitt Romney, because some people have said he's just that guy you want to like but that he's stiff and that he's maybe too rich or out of touch. Can you help with the every man approach? Do you feel that is a role for you?

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He's really a much different guy than you see on television. And I understand that. He maybe comes across whichever way you want to say, but he's a great guy in person. He's got a great personality, family, everything.

BANFIELD: Can you help him bring that to the little screen?

TRUMP: You know, I don't know. I mean, I'm not sure. Maybe it doesn't translate, but that doesn't make him bad in terms of what he does. He will be a great president. You know, the sad part about the world in which we live, if you do well in television, you maybe can get elected to something.

But that doesn't mean you're going to be any good at what the big picture is, which is running a country.

BANFIELD: All right. Talk to me about electability. Everyone talks about electability being almost the most important thing among voters, so far, who've been going to the GOP polling stations. Recent poll, I think ABC News/"Washington Post" came out saying that if the race were Obama versus Romney, Obama would beat him by six points.

And if that were Newt up against Obama, that difference would be 11 points. So, it's not looking good at this juncture.

TRUMP: Well, six points is nothing, and so (INAUDIBLE). They haven't really focused on Obama. The sad thing is they're focusing on each other, the Republicans. And it's rough. It's a rough, rough, nasty primary, but they're focusing -- they haven't really hit Obama yet.

BANFIELD: Have the right candidates dropped out?

TRUMP: Well, people have dropped out -- I mean, Huntsman never had a chance, if you look. You look at somebody like Ron Paul, he's interesting. Rick Santorum, look, Rick Santorum was a sitting senator who, in re-election, lost by 19 points. To my knowledge, the most in history of this country for a sitting senator to lose by 19 points, it's unheard of.

Then, he goes out and says, oh, OK, I just lost by the biggest margin in history, now I'm going to run for president. Tell me, how does that work? How does that work?

BANFIELD: He's doing well. He's not only doing well, he won Iowa.

TRUMP: Look, look, how do you work -- that's like me saying I just failed a test. Now, I'm going to apply for admission to the Wharton School of Finance, OK? He just failed the test. And now, he's going to run for president. So, I don't get Rick Santorum. I don't get that whole thing.

BANFIELD: Is there a place for you in a Romney cabinet?

TRUMP: Well, it's certainly not something I'm look for, but if I can do anything to help this country, we have to do something to help the country. We can't keep losing our jobs to other countries --

BANFIELD: Have you talked about it with Governor Romney?

TRUMP: No, I haven't. I haven't discussed that. No.

BANFIELD: And if he reached out to you, what would your reaction be?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's very early to worry about it. I think, number one, he has to get the nomination. Number two, he has to get elected. And after that, I would certainly be open if I can do anything to help him or the country.

BANFIELD: And what cabinet position would it be that you would want?

TRUMP: I don't know. Maybe a position where I negotiate against some of these countries because they're really taking our lunch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Yes. So, I asked him what about China, would you want to be an ambassador for China, and he said his railed on China, so he's like -- I don't think so. I don't think so.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. There's a lot more coming up on Soledad's show also, this interview.

BANFIELD: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're going to be right back. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Got a quick reminder for you before the finish of the hour coming up on "Starting Point" this morning with Soledad O'Brien. She is going one-on-one with Rick Santorum after the big, big finish last night. All coming up live at 7:30. But that is it for us. That's the news from A to Z. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Hey, good morning, ladies. Nice to have you.