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JOHN KING, USA

Santorum's Surge; Carnage in Syria; Interview With Arizona Senator John McCain; Interview with Rep. Bachmann

Aired February 8, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: a dramatic reshuffling of the Republican presidential race. Can Rick Santorum sustain his sudden surge?

Plus, the White House tries to find a contraception compromise, hoping it will quiet a backlash among Catholics.

And the Pentagon has a new secret weapon, a robotic twist on an age-old helper.

Good evening, everyone.

Three states in one night. Rick Santorum's surprising surge in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado is at least, at the very least shaking up the Republican race. It's placed a new lens on the front- runner, Mitt Romney's campaign. Santorum's wins raising questions now about why can't just Romney close out the nomination battle?

The former Pennsylvania senator says there's something to be said about being the underdog.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the great gifts that I have had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I could ever win anything.

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: The gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift.

And I think we might have seen a little bit of that last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Last night stunning Santorum trifecta reshuffles the Republican race. The question tonight is can he sustain it?

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, was at the Santorum victory rally in Missouri last night. She's back in Washington and with us live tonight.

Dana, he's off to Texas today to raise money. Is that priority number one now that everybody's suddenly paying attention again? DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is priority number one.

And I just got off the phone, John, with a senior Santorum source who said that on their Web site today they raised twice as much -- excuse me -- they had twice as much traffic as they had after he won Iowa and raised three times as much in donations on his Web site as he did after Iowa. He said they're not sure exactly how much that is yet, but it is a lot, so much that their Web site actually crashed at one point today because of the traffic.

And this is about dollars. Santorum himself said on CNN this morning that just at midnight last night they raised about a quarter of a million dollars. What did he do today? He went to Texas not just to campaign, but primarily, I was told by a couple of his aides, to raise money because there were donors there who had money, they wanted to give it to him and they wanted to see him face-to-face, so that's where he went.

KING: Dana, I'm going to walk over to the map. Let's take a look ahead to the next contests, the next primaries up. There's a caucus in Maine on this weekend. Rick Santorum, let's just start there. Any hope at all playing in Maine? A lot of the voting is already done. Or is he giving up?

BASH: I have not heard the word Maine pass the lips of anybody in Santorum world.

KING: Then we go to Michigan and Arizona. We round out the state with two important primaries there. If you look at the endorsements, if you look at the organization, you would say advantage Romney.

Your sources are saying look for Santorum to focus much more in Michigan. That's where Mitt Romney was born. His dad, George Romney, was the governor. Why Michigan?

BASH: Because it looks better for the Santorum campaign than Arizona. At least what they think now.

One reason is because Arizona is winner take all when it comes to the delegates, and Michigan is not. Another reason is the demographics. Yes, they understand full well that it is effectively Mitt Romney's backyard, the fact that his father was governor. But they also believe that there are voters there who are potential Santorum voters. There are blue-collar voters, Reagan Democrats, social conservatives who might be able to -- they might be able to get.

KING: Stay with me one second because I'm going to switch maps. I want to go ahead now. We close out the month here. In the end -- you mentioned he's competing in Michigan in part because it's about delegates. Let's walk through where we're going and let's say for the sake of argument that Ron Paul gets the victory there. I will get it. Ron Paul wins Maine. Then, as we know, Michigan and Arizona. For the sake of this conversation I'm just going to give these to Governor Romney. We will see if this one plays out, if he can get his momentum back. Then we get to Washington State on March 3, another caucus state. For the sake of the hypothetical, I will give that one to Ron Paul, although, Dana, you say Senator Santorum wants to play out there. Right?

BASH: He told me last night in an interview that he feels that they actually can do quite well in Washington State and to expect to see him out there. Unclear how well he would do, but I think that's another area where if they can get a couple of delegates that's better than zero.

KING: Very important Christian conservative base in the Republican Party in Washington State.

And then comes Super Tuesday. We're talking at the map. This is where it gets tough. This is where that money he's raising today would come in handy. If he looks at the Super Tuesday map, Speaker Gingrich's home state of Georgia, he believes that's an advantage. I understand Speaker Gingrich is leading in a new poll in Oklahoma. But Rick Santorum likes Oklahoma. Is Ohio the other big Super Tuesday target?

BASH: Definitely. Ohio is another Super Tuesday target. North Dakota is another target and also Tennessee. Those are all targets for him because of the Christian conservative population. That is the population that he clearly did very well with last night in his trifecta. But also because again those are states that are not winner take all. Those are states where he can try to come in there and get a few delegates to add to his roster, which is absolutely critically important for him as he moves forward.

The bottom line is he said to me last night and he keeps saying that his reach is beyond the Christian conservative base. We will see if that happens. Because as you well know, we didn't have good exit polls last night to really tell us exactly who voted. But if you look at the states that he won and the areas in those states where he won, it looks like that is still primarily what was driving his win.

KING: No question it was a lot of evangelicals and Tea Party last night. If he's going to win as the map expands to Super Tuesday he will have to prove himself among blue-collar Republicans as well.

BASH: Exactly.

KING: Dana Bash, thanks so much.

After last night it's not much of a surprise, it's no surprise Mitt Romney today going after Rick Santorum in addition to Newt Gingrich, lumping them together as Republicans who went to Washington, Romney says, as conservatives but ended up supporting billions in deficit spending and those pork barrel earmarks.

Here's what the former Massachusetts governor had to say just a short time after landing in Atlanta. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich, they are the very Republicans who acted like Democrats. And when Republicans act like Democrats, they lose.

And in Newt Gingrich's case, he had to resign. In Rick Santorum's case, he lost by the biggest margin of any Senate incumbent since 1980.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More aggressive Governor Romney today.

Turning now to the White House, the House Speaker John Boehner slamming a new administration rule that would require religious schools and charities to offer birth control under their health care plans. Speaker Boehner says the rule "cannot and will not stand."

But in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed today, three female senators backed the president accusing the Republicans of launching "an aggressive and misleading campaign to deny this benefit to women."

Then there's the resurgent Rick Santorum coming off his big Tuesday wins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: A small group of people, just Catholics in the United States of America...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: ... who were told, you have a right to health care, but you will have the health care that we tell you, you have to give your people...

(BOOING)

SANTORUM: ... whether it is against the teachings of your church or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Jess, with all this uproar, is the White House looking for a compromise?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have been on the phone all day today, John.

Sources tell me the administration is working on a way to thread the needle so that women will get free contraception coverage, but without forcing religious, especially Catholic charities, hospitals, institutions to pay for it. The truth is, the administration had never finalized their rule on this issue, but they sure botched the press announcement around it.

It ignited this firestorm of criticism from the church. So now they're working backwards to figure out the right policy that will be sensitive to the church while giving women this coverage, John.

KING: And it is an incredibly delicate political balance. It's a big policy question, but it's a big political balance. How's it playing out?

YELLIN: So according to a new PPRI poll, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, agree that employers should offer women free contraception coverage. But when it comes to this touchy question, should Catholic or religious hospitals, universities, institutions be required to offer contraception coverage, only 45 percent of Catholic voters agree.

That's the previous graphic we had up. So that's where the president finds his opposition. But a majority of women support the move, and almost 60 percent of young voters, ages 18 to 29, support the move. So women and youth, very important constituencies for the president. It's a bit of a split move there.

KING: Important politics and very important policy. Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Jess, thanks.

Moving overseas now, snipers, nail bombs and constant shellings. Activists say at least 60 people have died today alone in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. And they say not even infants, hospital patients or doctors now are safe from these attacks.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, joins me now live.

Chris, one activist calls this a huge crime against humanity. And you have been reporting the Pentagon now drawing up contingency plans. How detailed are these plans? But how serious is this? Is the Pentagon really thinking about military options or is this designed to pressure the regime?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the plans are very serious, but they're also very preliminary and would need the president to call for them and authorize them.

Two administration officials confirmed to us that these plans have quietly been in the works for a couple weeks now, military officials looking at options. And what that means is, they look at the other military commitments in the region and then they see what assets are available, what sort of missions they might be able to accomplish, and perhaps most importantly what would the risks be to those troops, those ships, those planes.

These are very early, preliminary options. Normally, a document like this wouldn't even get to the president's desk unless he specifically asked for it. And at that point, they would flesh it out. KING: And what does your reporting tell you as we're in this preliminary phase about the specific options that are being proposed and kicked around?

LAWRENCE: There's been several options put forward. All of them have significant risk, humanitarian aid, for one. One official said there's almost no way that without the Syrian government's OK that you could deliver any sort of humanitarian aid without a sizable military presence to guard those convoys and delivery systems.

Another option that's been talked about is arming some of the rebels or the opposition. The problem there is that Russia is a serious ally of Syria. And there are questions, if the West heavily invests in arms to some of these opposition groups, that Russia doesn't step in on the other side and then you have got a much more well-armed conflict.

Finally, the least likely option is actual military strikes in Syria. People have made comparisons to what we did in Libya. But Syria has 30 times the population density of Libya. That means civilian casualty rates would be much higher. Syria's army is five times the size of Libya. It's got a much more robust air defense system, meaning those jets and those ships offshore would be in much greater danger, John.

KING: All very difficult options being weighed by the Pentagon. Chris Lawrence, thanks for your help reporting that.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

KING: You may love your iPhone, but the wireless carriers? Not so much. We will explain a bit ahead.

But, first, what will having John McCain on Mitt Romney's side mean in Arizona?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I hope it has some effect. But I do also think that endorsements are very much overrated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We have been watching the brutal crackdown in Syria for months, noting the death toll as it climbed from a few into the dozens, then into the hundreds, and now the thousands, horror for months, but more and more so in recent days, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad escalates the killing, tries now to snuff out the opposition.

And with more bloodshed, more cries for outside help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not animals. We're human beings. We're asking for help. We're asking for your help. They have (INAUDIBLE) rockets (INAUDIBLE) hours now. They're going to kill us all. If you don't help us, they will kill millions and no one will find out about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: As we reported a few moments ago, CNN has learned the Pentagon is compiling contingency plans for humanitarian assistance and possible, possible military options.

But the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations tells CNN in her words the aim is to resolve this through peaceful means.

Is there more the White House could and should do?

Arizona Senator John McCain is the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Senator, should the Obama White House, should the administration be doing more on a unilateral basis?

MCCAIN: I think we can do a lot more on a multinational basis, John.

And, by the way, I think the time for -- quote -- "peaceful means" has long ago been exhausted, in all due respect to our ambassador to the U.N.

But the fact is that we could do things like providing them with intelligence information, with satellite information, with information on the movements of the Syrian armed forces, Bashar al-Assad's armed forces. We could provide medical help. We could provide, as the -- well, the Turks have said that they welcome any refugee into Turkey and they will make them safe. We should consider no-movement zones.

We can consider a wide range of options, including provision of weapons to the Syrian national army, but -- the rebellion -- the rebellious ones, the ones that are trying to overthrow Assad.

KING: Do you see any scenario that should be on the table that would put U.S. boots on the ground inside Syria, whether they be covert operatives or outright military action?

MCCAIN: I do not at this time, John.

I think that there's sufficient number of other nations' personnel that probably would blend in better and also might do the work that needs to be done. But I think there's a lot of technical help that none of them have except us that we could be of great assistance. But, no, I don't see American boots on the ground.

But I do see looking for ways to provide them with any assistance possible. The estimates are 6,000 Syrians have been killed.

KING: Senator, I want to shift your attention to presidential politics. MCCAIN: Sure.

KING: You were the Republican nominee in the last cycle. You won Florida. That essentially wrapped up the nomination. You got bumped up a few times after that, but you were on the path to the nomination.

Governor Romney suffered a trifecta last night, losing Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. What is the conservative base saying to a man many thought, after Florida and Nevada, was the inevitable nominee?

MCCAIN: Well, I think that, in Florida, the conservative base was very active on behalf of Mitt Romney.

I think this was really very small numbers of people that turned out. And I respect their views, but I don't believe that they are representative of the broad majority of Republican voters.

KING: But is it a problem, Senator? Is it a problem? Governor Romney won Minnesota four years ago. He went to that state and said, I'm the conservative alternative to a guy named John McCain. He won Colorado four years ago with the same message. We need a conservative alternative to John McCain. And a lot of people turned out.

You say not that many people turned out. Is that the problem; Governor Romney is not exciting people?

MCCAIN: Well, I think when most voters felt that it really didn't have any significant, direct impact on the selection of the nominee, it mattered.

Look, I'm not saying that Mitt Romney has a smooth and easy path. I lost 19 states when I was competing for -- and successfully -- for the nomination. And I'm sure that there'll be some bumps in the road. But I'm confident that, in Arizona, that he will do well. And I'm sure that, in Michigan, he will do well and a number of these other states, Ohio, and that he will be our nominee.

But, look, it's never easy, nor should it be easy. And I think he will be a much better candidate against President Obama once he emerges victorious, which I'm confident he will.

KING: Well, what's your sense of what's happening? I think sometimes the grassroots, sometimes they follow the leaders, if you will, institutional politicians, but sometimes they rebel against them.

For example, Governor Pawlenty was with Governor Romney in Minnesota, and it meant zip, forgive me. What will having John McCain on his side in Arizona mean?

MCCAIN: Probably zip.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: No, I hope it has some effect. But I do also think that endorsements are very much overrated. They give certain legitimacy to a candidate, but I'm not sure that they help make up a voter's mind.

So, I really believe that when you have 1 or 2 percent of the registered voters turning out, that that's not a very good indicator. But I do congratulate Senator Santorum on his victory, and certainly the Romney campaign knows we have a challenge.

KING: A challenge ahead for a man who knows that challenge quite well.

John McCain, Senator, appreciate your time tonight.

MCCAIN: Thanks, John.

KING: Once again, Congress nears the deadline precipice, deja vu over extending the payroll tax cut, lawmakers, yes, in a political standoff yet again.

Then, the military looking to unleash -- look at that -- this robo-mule. I will explain coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: A faster way to get through airport security, the tradeoff between convenience vs. your privacy.

And in about 10 minutes, former GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, what she's saying about Rick Santorum's surge in her home state of Minnesota.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In this half-hour: tonight's "Truth" about Rick Santorum's stunning trifecta, what it says about Mitt Romney and the game of politics.

Why do evangelicals and Tea Party activists have doubts about the front-runner? Former GOP candidate Michele Bachmann weighs in.

Plus, police strikes in Brazil threaten its iconic Carnival celebration, tense standoff just two weeks before thousands of tourists are expected to flood Brazil's streets.

If you're frequent traveler, you know the headaches at airport security screening checkpoints. Now the Transportation Security Administration is hoping to speed up the process for passengers.

Here's the deal. You give them more personal information and you get faster service.

CNN's aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Keep your shoes on? Check. Belt, too? Check. Even a jacket? Check. This is PreCheck.

PERRY DAVIS, PRECHECK PARTICIPANT: If you're in a hurry, the benefit is that you get through security a lot faster. And you don't have to take your computer out of the bag or your liquids or your shoes off. And that saves some time.

O'LEARY: It's a fast track-route complete with a dedicated security lane that will be in 35 of the busiest U.S. airports by the end of the year. The idea is that travelers who give the government more personal information -- your name, birthday and gender -- and are well-known to the airlines, like frequent flyers, are less of a security threat.

TSA administrator John Pistole calls it reducing the haystack of risk.

(on camera) How big a deal is that?

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, it's a significant paradigm shift for TSA and the traveling public in the way we engage in a partnership to say, look, let's work together to say if you're willing to share some information about yourselves, then we can work with you perhaps to have expedited screenings so we can focus on those that we know less about and can focus on those higher risks that we assess.

O'LEARY: To join pre-check you either sign up for a special customs program or be a frequent flyer and get invited by your airline. But we found no shortage of people who'd like to move faster and more fully clothed.

NANCY TOPING-TAILBY, TRAVELER: It would make my line shorter. And if I got out of the line it would make everybody else's line shorter. So it seems to me it's a win-win situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Lisa is still with us now. Haven't we seen this before? The program Clear, private company, right?

O'LEARY: Yes, private company went through bankruptcy. But the big difference here, if you get invited by the airline, this is free. And the reason behind that is sort of twofold.

One, the TSA is trying to change the way it looks at who's risky. And that dovetails very nicely with the interests of the airlines. They would like to see their business travelers, who are their economic backbone, go through expedited security. Still get pulled every now and then for a random search. But the idea it would reduce wait times for everybody and be more, as they like to say, risk-based screening.

KING: Traveling a lot this campaign. Maybe I'll get to give it a try. Haven't gotten my invitation yet. Hope it comes soon.

Liz, nice to see you. Welcome aboard.

Last night's sweep by Rick Santorum just proved that the race for the Republican nomination -- guess what -- still wide open. Our CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, here now to break down what each candidate needs to do going forward to stay in the race.

Well, Gloria will be with us in just a moment, I'm told.

As he celebrated his victories last night, Rick Santorum said it was proof. Tea Party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came in a bit earlier. Let's talk to her now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: As he celebrated his victories last night, Rick Santorum said it was proof Tea Party supporters and evangelicals will not settle for Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight is a victory for the voices of our party: conservatives and Tea Party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party and building a voice for freedom in this land. Thank you!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Minnesota's one of the states Senator Santorum carried last night. That, of course, the home state of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who had hoped her presidential campaign would catch fire with those groups now behind Santorum's surge.

Congresswoman Bachmann joins us now.

It's good to see you. Wow, wow! What happened last night? And how serious should the fire alarm be in the Romney campaign?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, last night was a shot across the bow. And I think what we saw is the voters haven't made up their mind yet on who the Republican nominee should be. But really, the biggest signal that was sent is that Barack Obama is in big trouble. And this is why.

It's because of his radical policy on forcing the Catholic Church and other religious organizations to pay for contraceptives, against church doctrine. Again, the Catholic Church would have to subsidize people's -- people's contraception when that isn't what the church teaches.

KING: I...

BACHMANN: Because of that, you saw this unbelievable reaction. Because I think you'd have to say, John, quite fairly this was the first social issue election that we've had so far. That's what you saw in Minnesota. That's what you saw in Missouri and Colorado. You saw social conservatives weigh in in a big way for the first time. And I think it's because of Barack Obama's policies.

KING: And so if the race has changed, then it's not about "I'm a businessman. You can trust me with the economy." It's about who do you want to send to Washington to stand up to President Obama might disagree with how you characterize that. But to stand up with President Obama on social issues, does that mean advantage Santorum going forward in your view?

BACHMANN: This was a big advantage for Rick Santorum tonight.

KING: Will it be if you go to Michigan and Arizona and Washington state on Super Tuesday?

BACHMANN: I think one thing that what we're seeing is that the issues of the date also really drive these elections. So the Republican Party has always been a three-legged stool. We're a party that believes in strong national security, defense. We believe in strong fiscal conservative policy but also strong social policy.

What you saw last night was the social conservative wing of our party saying, "We are very concerned about this issue." Plus also we saw the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals make the decision to strike down the people's will on the definition of marriage as one man, one woman. All of that came together. And I think you saw the results last night.

KING: And why don't those voters trust Governor Romney?

BACHMANN: Well, I think they wanted -- they wanted to make a sound last night. And I think that the candidate that they've been hearing talking about this issue, that's the candidate that they got behind.

But I think this race is far from being settled. Every single state has had a very different issue set. We're not done. Michigan will be different from Oklahoma and the states going forward. They'll all be very different. And I think that we'll continue to see multiple results going forward all the way to Tampa.

KING: How worried are you that the turnout is down so much?

BACHMANN: Well, I think each of these candidates represents part of our party. And that's why we have to come together and have unity. We are seeing tremendous fractualization (ph). And I think once we pull everyone together, it will be more than just the party. It will also be independents and disaffected Democrats. Then I think you'll see the momentum, but we haven't seen that critical mass yet. And I think that's where we need to go.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, appreciate your time tonight.

BACHMANN: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. Good to see you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Let's try this again. Last night's triple win by Rick Santorum, if it proved anything, it proved this. The Republican race now wide open.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here with some advice, perhaps, talking points for what the candidates might need to do going forward. Gloria, you think Rick Santorum has a choice to make. What do you mean by that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. Well, he's got a couple of things he can do. One is he can continue to run a tactical campaign, which he has been doing, or he can adopt a broader strategy.

Now, by a tactical campaign, I mean he continues to go state by state, try and win in the states he knows he's doing well in, like Arizona or Michigan.

But in talking to some Republican strategists today, John, they're talking about perhaps he ought to change the narrative a bit. And I know how campaigns love getting advice from people who aren't in the campaign. But one Republican strategist suggests, how about taking on Washington directly? Tapping into the anger that's out there about Washington? Not saying, "I'm a businessman. I know how to fix problems," but "I'm a businessman. I know how to dismantle Washington in the way it needs to be taken apart. And here are the ten things I would do to fix it."

They think that would have some resonance with the -- with the Tea Party voters who are skeptical about him and could get voters more enthusiastic about his candidacy.

KING: And so Rick Santorum is getting a second look now from the fundraising community...

BORGER: Right.

KING: ... and from voters, as well. You think he needs to do two things. Position himself as a credible alternative to President Obama, and this one, I think, we both agree on, get ready for a barrage of attacks.

BORGER: Well, and I think he's starting to do both. You know, we heard in his speech last night, John, we listened to it. It was a very good speech. And he talked about Barack Obama and started to take him on.

I think he's got to position himself as a plausible presidential contender. Because so far a lot of people, including independent voters, haven't really looked at him that way. A lot of Republicans haven't looked at him that way.

But he's going to get carpet-bombed by Mitt Romney. He's got to figure out how to respond to those attacks while remaining optimistic and positive and likable. Because Republican voters like him. And that's the key to his success. So he can't go too negative. Because he doesn't want to lose that kind of appeal that he has right now.

KING: Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Fascinating race going forward. Gloria, thanks.

BORGER: Sure.

KING: Coming up here, the truth about how that big Tuesday loss for Mitt Romney has changed the GOP race. And later, why Brazil is taking on Twitter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Yes, you would still have to say advantage Romney when stacking the Republican presidential race. But it is an advantage built largely on a deep bank account, an impressive organizational letterhead. And last night Governor Romney was reminded of a very important truth: politics at its best is a passion sport.

This is a fascinating moment and experience. A methodical frontrunner again knocked on his tail by an upstart insurgents, by someone long ago written off as interesting but not a threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the great gifts I've had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I could ever win anything.

Don't -- the gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, tonight Rick Santorum is a threat, just as Newt Gingrich was a threat the morning after South Carolina. To borrow a tennis metaphor, the fragile frontrunner has now twice lost serve at a moment he could have put the match away. Or, if you prefer baseball, he's twice now blown a critical save opportunity.

Governor Romney still leads the delegate chase, but Senator Santorum has the most wins: four states to Romney's three. The Pennsylvania upstart gets a second look now from the voters and, listen here, from Governor Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He voted to raise the debt ceiling I believe five different times to a tune of about an additional $3.5 trillion. I believe that, while Senator Santorum was serving in Congress, and in the Senate, government spending increased by some 80 percent. Republicans spent too much money, borrowed too much money, earmarked too much, and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have to be held accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: "Truth" is, there's nothing like losing to bring things into sharper focus. And we know Governor Romney was able to recover after the South Carolina bruising. And on paper, on the map, the race is heading to places that should favor Romney. Maine is up next, a bit dicey because it's another unpredictable caucus state.

But Governor Romney is in strong positions in the big primaries that close the month: Michigan and Arizona. But the pressure on him is extraordinary. February was supposed to be the Romney firewall month. Now it is the Romney fire alarm month.

Let's talk truth to Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who supports Mitt Romney. John Brabender is a Republican media strategist and top consultant strategist for Rick Santorum. And Torie Clarke, who is a veteran of many presidential campaigns, also the chief Pentagon spokeswoman in the George W. Bush administration.

John Brabender, I want to go to you first. Congratulations. You won three states last night. You have changed the Republican race for president. And when that happens, one of the things that's going to happen is that your candidate is going to get another look, whether it's a second look or a third look.

And one of the things Rick Santorum does not apologize for is his faith. I want you to listen here and watch here. He was in Texas today raising money. But he also had a visit at a conservative church. Listen to your candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: I have seen the interaction with faith and public life. And to me, the bounds there are not boundaries at all. I can't and I won't check my faith at the door. Because it motivates me to do things that I believe are best for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There are also some remarkably powerful images, John, of some of the congregants of that church coming to pray with Senator Santorum after that event. You know how this plays. So with the evangelical base of the party, with most people of faith in the country, they think this is a beautiful scene. Those images you're seeing right there.

But you also know -- and especially Senator Santorum, ran in a tough state like Pennsylvania -- there are some who get a little nervous here. They want a clearer line, a separation if you will between faith and policy, church and state. How does the candidate handle that going forward?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN MEDIA STRATEGIST: I think what Rick Santorum is saying is that each individual should have the right to practice the faith that they believe in and have that freedom.

We already saw this week that the Obama administration, once again, was trying to disregard for the freedoms that our founders gave us and try to take those away. He's done that time and time again.

Rick Santorum is somebody, as I like to say, who not only talks a good conservative game but lives a conservative life. And I think that that's important to other conservatives.

You look at a state like Colorado where everybody thought that Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide, I think, yesterday. I think even the Romney people. And Rick Santorum did quite well, winning by about 6 points over Romney.

I think there's a lot of people who understand the sincerity of the senator's faith. There's a lot of people who can relate to that. Even of different faiths. They feel that they should have that freedom. And I think they appreciate that somebody is not afraid to do, just like our founders did, to talk very openly and publicly about that.

KING: What's the secret, Torie? Some candidates pull it off quite well. Some candidates are very uncomfortable bringing their faith into the public sphere. But others, Senator Santorum -- you see the pictures there. We'll see how this plays out. George W. Bush was someone who was very open about it, and it was a political asset when some people said, "Well, are you sure you want to go there?"

TORIE CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: I think it's something you apply very skillfully and very carefully. Because of what you said: it works for some of the voters, not for others.

I think if -- and you see this with Senator Santorum -- you're very respectful of others, saying, "I'm not imposing this on everyone else. I'm not saying this is for everyone else. This is who I am," and you're pretty honest and straightforward and consistent about it, it may help you. Certainly, it can help you in this primary.

KING: Congressman Chaffetz, what happened to your guy last night? He won Minnesota handily four years ago. He won Colorado with 60 percent of the vote four years ago. He ran in those states saying he was the conservative alternative to John McCain back then. I guess he's getting now what he was getting then.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, look, Rick Santorum had a good night. But I think once the sunlight gets so focused on Rick Santorum's record of more spending, more earmarks, the raising of the debt ceiling. That's when these candidates tend to fade.

The reality is, Rick Santorum has no electoral experience. He endorsed Arlen Specter for president of the United States, and there's a reason why the people in Pennsylvania -- rejected him by beating him by -- by 18 percentage points.

He did not support Pat Toomey, for instance, who was by far the more conservative person in the race. And when that gets a little bit more exposed, a little bit more sunshine on it, I think you'll start to see people gravitate back towards what is the strength for Mitt Romney, which is jobs, the economy, and his conservative outside Washington, D.C. experience that's going to compel him to the nomination and becoming the president of the United States.

KING: John, Congressman Chaffetz isn't going to be the only one saying that. Governor Romney isn't going to be the only one saying that. You're about to see, oh, probably two to four to six to $8 million of advertising saying that dumped on your candidate's head. How does he respond? Senator Santorum has been unapologetic, saying, "You bet I supported earmarks."

BRABENDER: You know, what I think this is almost more telling about Governor Romney. They put out a press release yesterday saying that the reason they're still going to be the nominee and the best candidate is because they have more money than anybody else. Certainly an inspiring message for all of America. They should have bumper stickers printed up that say "Romney for president, because I have more money than you do."

The truth of the matter is, I will put Rick Santorum's fiscal responsibility record up against the governor anytime of the day.

Let's not forget that the governor was the chief architect of what ultimately became Obama care.

Let's not forget that the governor came out and supported the Wall Street bailouts which was the largest earmark in American history, something that certainly motivated the Tea Party yesterday to vote against the governor.

And let's not forget that the governor is supportive of radical environmental issues like cap-and-trade that would kill American jobs and help other countries.

And so Rick Santorum on the other hand is the one who did reform welfare. Rick Santorum in one year introduced more bills cutting the deficit than anybody else.

And so this is what happens with Governor Romney. When he has a bad night, what they do is they send out their attack dogs and put their attack team targeting towards Rick Santorum. And I think this is one of the reasons that Rick Santorum's favorables are so much higher than the governor's, and I think people are going to find this type of approach again offensive.

KING: So Torie, not your first rodeo.

CLARKE: No.

KING: We met at a presidential campaign. You were 5 years old or 6 years old at the time. It was a while ago. Is this healthy or hurtful to the party?

CLARKE: Wow.

KING: To have this? Now we have Santorum, Romney. It sounds a lot like Romney, Gingrich of a couple of weeks ago.

CLARKE: Two things. One is a flashback to '92. But the first one is, I have this visual image of Romney in a tank and it is firing on Gingrich. And in half a day, it has just turned, and he is going to put withering fire power down on Santorum now to try to push that away.

In '92, every time -- you could say 1,000 times that Pat Buchanan pounding on George Bush and pounding on him didn't make a difference. It did because it went on for months and months and months, and the president went into the general election wounded.

And I think we're getting perilously close to that point where the Republican Party is going to have to get behind a candidate and say, "OK, we're all in this together and let's move forward."

KING: And gentlemen, let me give you a couple of seconds. Is Torie right? Are we perilously close to that moment?

CHAFFETZ: No, I don't think so, as Governor Romney has said. This prepares us for the fall. If we think this is difficult fire, just wait until the fall when there's a billion dollars of Barack Obama and the DCCC and the DNC trying to rain down on you. So one of the strengths of Mitt Romney is he's been able to withstand that, that pressure and that bombardment. That's his strength.

KING: Is this good for the party, John?

BRABENDER: Well, I think it depends who the nominee is. One thing I will says is, if Governor Romney is the nominee, he probably will not get the same type of attacks, because he seems to agree with the president on health-care mandates, on the bailouts and on radical environmental legislation, so there's not as much to attack him on. They seem to be quite similar on those issues.

KING: Clear -- clear after a big night, we've got a contentious campaign going forward. John Brabender, Congressman Chaffetz, Torie Clarke, appreciate your insights. It's a fascinating race and all the more fascinating because of what happened last night. Thanks everyone for coming in.

Up next, the terror of watching a home go up in flames with two young boys inside. You'll hear it in the voice of the social worker who called 911 on Josh Powell, and exclusive details from Powell's in- laws tonight about the warning signs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Kate Bolduan is back with more news you need to know right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, John.

And this is a story that I know we've all been watching. It's so painful to talk about still. A social worker's chilling call to 911 outside Josh Powell's home. She had just brought Powell's two sons for a court-ordered supervised visit with their father, and just minutes later, the home explodes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's two little boys in the house, and they're 5 and 7. And there's an adult man. He has supervised visitation, and he blew up the house and the kids!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Investigators say -- investigators say the explosion was part of Powell's premeditated murder-suicide. Powell was a suspect in his wife, Susan Powell's, disappearance in 2009. Susan's parents, Chuck and Judy Cox, spoke with HLN's Nancy Grace about Josh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HLN ANCHOR: Tell me this. All the way back at the beginning when Susan first started with Josh, what was he like then?

CHUCK COX, SUSAN'S FATHER: He -- he was still the same. He was a person that people talked to, and you'd get a feeling that he was strange, different. A problem. But you didn't think he was dangerous. It's the type of thing, OK, yes, that's not right, but you know, he's harmless.

And most people would, after 20 minutes, want to get away from him and basically not associate with him anymore. But still, that was him. I mean, it was just Josh. He was a kind of overbearing type of person.

GRACE: What is all this business of making -- making Susan wear long sleeves, forcing her to garden and grow food rather than give her money for groceries? I mean, she was working full time and taking care of the boys, and she had to garden and grow her own food, as well?

COX: And we learned about that afterwards, you know, after she was missing, that the reason she gardened is that she was not allowed to have any food or buy anything in the store. Because Josh was controlling all their money. He took everything she was making supporting the family, and she was not allowed to have anything or provide for the children.

GRACE: Chuck, do you have any doubt that he murdered Susan?

COX: No. I -- my only doubt -- I -- and before this, I wasn't sure how he could have done it, but I know he's responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Other news we are following, Carnivale, the Brazilian celebration of decadence, may not happen this year. Thirty-five hundred troops are deploying to the city of Salvador (ph) to stop the violence that erupted when police officers went on strike last week. But it may not be in time. Carnivale starts in less than two weeks.

Also in Brazil, the government is suing Twitter, because it doesn't want users tipping off drivers about police roadblocks and radar traps. Recently, Twitter said it would censor users if countries ask for it. This could be a first case of that.

And it's news that could make Larry Byrd want to lace up his high tops once again. With that shot -- I think we're watching it -- Paul Pierce is now the Celtics' second highest scorer of all time. He knocked -- he knocked Byrd down to third. But Pierce has 4,600 more points to go to reach the top man, John Havlicek, who scored more than 26,000 for the Celtics. Did I say that right, 26,000 points?

KING: John Havlicek. Havlicek stole the ball, one of the most famous radio calls in history. Great.

BOLDUAN: I know. I told you about that. In my vast NBA knowledge -- Havlicek has eight titles, but Pierce, only one. Thank you, control room.

KING: Very good. Very good, very good. I'm old enough to have seen all three of them play. That tells you everything you need to know.

Finally, the moment you may have missed. If you were glued to the TV last night, watching our returns from the Republican contest, chances are that you didn't get an invite from President Obama's reelection team to a swanky Manhattan fashion event.

It was called the Runway to Win, hosted by Scarlett Johansson and the "Vogue" editor in chief, Anna Wintour. For sale, everything from a $40 nail polish kit to an 85-dollar Vera Wang tote bag.

Better believe Republicans didn't waste any time using this as ammo against the president, the Republican National Committee putting out this Web video, joking, "Watching the Obama campaign host a ritzy New York City fashion show while 12 million Americans are out of work: priceless."

Kate, don't place your order. You can't get involved in politics.

Tomorrow, Rick Santorum will be here. That's all the time we have tonight. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.