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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Rick Santorum on Front Liner Women in Combat; Ron Barber's Running for Congress; CPAC Happened Today; Pelosi Battles Colbert; Petty in Pink; Powell Murder Suicide; Sandusky Asks For More Freedom; Casino Mogul Meets With Romney; Insider Trading Ban To Pass House; Greece Debt Deal Uncertainty; Marines Pose With Nazi-Like Symbol; Getting In Touch With The Tea Party; Nuclear Power Plant Cleared for Construction in Georgia; HBO Movie on Supreme Court Case that Lifted Ban on Interracial Marriage

Aired February 10, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Good morning. We are live this morning from the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, which is here in Washington, D.C. And our "Starting Point" this morning is this. The big day for conservatives. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich all speaking at CPAC today. Who can win the big conservative backing? We're going to take a look at that.

Also, a green light on the first new nuclear reactors in more than 30 years? It was a 4-1 vote. And this morning, we're going to talk to the one in that. The man who says it's not a good idea. He will join us this morning right here on "Starting Point."

And then, Nancy Pelosi kind of has a sense of humor. She targets, would you believe, Stephen Colbert over Super PACs. "Starting Point" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. I relate to this song. I resemble this song. I've been everywhere. This is from Congressman Connie Mack's play list, Johnny Cash. I have been everywhere. I love this song. I feel like everyone on this panel could say that as we've been stomping around in the primary and caucus season.

Welcome, everybody. We've got Congressman Connie Mack, a Republican from the great state of Florida joining us as well. Erick Erickson is at the far end of the table. Ryan Lizza, staff writer for "The New Yorker." Nice to have you back. And Andrew Breitbart is joining us. He is also the publisher of breitbart.com and biggovernment.com. Nice to have you all. Thanks for joining us.

Let's get right to it. You have said, Andrew, that CPAC is like "X Factor." What does that mean?

ANDREW BREITBART, PUBLISHER, BREITBART.COM & BIGGOVERNMENT.COM: It's "X Factor" this year because there's a game changer now in the Santorum momentum that's happening right now and CPAC is a very dynamic place. If a person has a speech that takes over the place, it could change everything.

I was at the straw poll, the Florida straw poll about three months ago when Herman Cain won. And that surprised everybody. And that started his momentum going forward until the Herman Cain implosion occurred. And I think that right now Rick Santorum has a unique opportunity to gain unprecedented momentum because Mitt Romney has chosen not to connect with the conservative grass roots. The tea party --

O'BRIEN: So, there could be -- right. So, Mitt Romney is going to give a speech but he's also met with conservatives because of all those things that you say. He's kind of getting in to get a one- on-one message here sort of private meetings. And then, number two, Rick Santorum will also be speaking today has to deliver a message that leverages off the momentum. How does he do that do you think, Eric?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this crowd yesterday when I mentioned it, if you just mentioned the name Rick Santorum, the crowd went wild.

O'BRIEN: Really?

ERICKSON: he didn't have to do anything. He just (inaudible) line ever. Clearly he has their heart. Mitt Romney is going to have to take the stage. He has got to show them if he's not one of them he sat least for them. There's a suspicion that he's not one of them. He's going to have to actually say something, take a position on entitlement reform. Take a position on tax reform. His 59-point plan isn't selling people. The "Wall Street Journal" has gone after his tax plan. He's revised his tax plan. He's going to have to say, you know what, I'm with Paul Ryan on this budget. He has come out for it. He needs to make it clear. He needs to show them he's willing to actually not just manage a decline as his opponents have painted him but fix the mess quickly.

O'BRIEN: Here's what he said, I think he was on -- I think it was with Hannity last night on FOX News. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I look at my report and describe my record as governor, some of these things bed hidden over time. People forget. I have a record of being a strong conservative on the issues that matter. And I'm going to point that out when I gather with my friends at CPAC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Is that the strategy, point out the record as governor? That seems to have worked against him in the past.

REP. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA: Let me start with this. I think it's important to remember at the straw poll in Florida that Herman Cain didn't have this huge rise because of Herman Cain. The rise came because Perry fell apart. And if you remember four years ago Mitt Romney at this convention and around the country was a conservative. So this is kind of an ebb and flow of this election cycle.

Mitt Romney has a very conservative record. I agree he will come to this event. He will connect to conservatives because it's one. Everybody here is looking to create jobs. He's the one candidate that knows how jobs are created in the real world, not in the government setting.

ERICKSON: It's the one thing that he said that strikes me is governor, his record as governor. For the past six to seven months he's campaigned on his private sector experience.

O'BRIEN: Right. That's a shift for sure.

ERICKSON: He shifted now to his gubernatorial record. And the primary reason I think is because his private sector record has been on fixing the economy. If the economy is beginning to fix itself, he needs to pivot now and say look at all the things I did when I was an executive, an elective executive.

BREITBART: You're talking about the issues here though but this group of people over the last three years has been attacked by the mainstream media, has been attacked by the organized left. The occupy movement was created to counter conservative grass-roots tea party type behavior. And Mitt Romney needs to figure out a way to say to these people I appreciate what you've done for the last three years to change the topic, to fiscal responsibility and a return to the Constitution. They've been attacked, they've been attacked. They're looking for somebody like Scott Walker who is willing to stand up against threats against their being.

O'BRIEN: But there's been so much time has been spent. It's the 16 debates, right? So, it seems odd to me that you're saying well, now, we need to this when we --.

BREITBART: It's less about hearing a specific thing than it is feeling that the candidate is willing to march side by side with this grass roots group of people. It's less about an issue than it is about a connection with them.

O'BRIEN: What about social issues?

RYAN LIZZA, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's not just been 16 debates. It's been since 2007 when Mitt Romney arguably before that when he left the governorship of Massachusetts that he's been running for president. I think there's a danger for him. All the pressure on him today is to appeal to this group. Remember, he's going to have a general election and the folks who get really excited about coming to CPAC cannot elect him alone.

And he's getting squeezed right now. He's having trouble with his conservative base and he needs to do some work on that. But at the same time, the president has started the general election campaign. Independents and moderates will be important to Mitt Romney come -- if he wraps this nomination up.

O'BRIEN: He's playing on a bunch different firm. LIZZA: He's got two -- he's got two groups there squeezing him.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about social issues. And I think I have a clip of Republicans who have been really attacking the White House on some of these -- last week was like -- this week, social issue Tuesday, basically, when all these things broke. I want to play a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Government shouldn't be telling this institution what to do and they certainly shouldn't be pressing them.

JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This attack on religious freedom cannot and will not stand.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This administration is assaulting the Catholic Church. And people of faith across our nation, by forcing their pro-abortion agenda on religious hospitals, on charity, and on employees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: They're all talking about this contraception issue. And it seems to me now the conversation has moved away from the economy, economy, economy because of that chart that really shows the economy with the slow improvement has shifted dramatically into social issues. How do we see that play out here at CPAC?

MACK: I think this is a huge issue that continues to show that this administration doesn't believe that the Constitution and that personal freedoms and liberties matter. And they keep this in an assault on our freedoms.

So, whether it's a Barack Obamacare forcing help to buy something they may not want to be buy, and now this, reaching in to the church -- enforcing the church to do something that is against its own tenets, this shows arrogance and it's almost this -- you've got President Obama who is a lawyer. And so he has decided that whatever the words of the Constitution are don't matter to him, he will interpret it in a different way. And that I think is what is creating this frustration.

O'BRIEN: You know there are Democrats all over the country right now who is throwing things at the television at. The president doesn't care about the Constitution.

MACK: If you look at his own record, he has done everything to move against the Constitution. You can't -- you cannot have Obamacare and say that you respect somebody's liberties.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to say again, roughly over two zillion people who would disagree with you. I have to get to our updated news coverage. We got Christine Romans is standing by with us. She has got the headlines for us. Gentlemen, stick around. We'll continue our conversation.

Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

That's right. We're following the latest in Syria this morning. The slaughter of Syrian civilians escalating out of control today. Again, another 25 deaths being reported overnight in Syria's northern city of Aleppo. Anti-government dissidents reporting government troops shelled the city of Homs for the fifth straight day yesterday, killing 137 people, including women and 10 children.

Happening now, protests in Greece. We're monitoring the live pictures from Athens. Demonstrators are angry over tough new bailout conditions. Euro zone finance ministers want more cuts and austerity pledges for a new Greece bailout. Mean time, the trade unions called for a two-day strike to protest this austerity the measures.

The chairman of the house financial services committee is under investigation for possible insider trade violations. The Washington Post report investigators are looking at some suspicious trades on Alabama Congressman Spencer Bacchus' financial disclosure forms. The Republican lawmakers could be the overseas the U.S. banking and financial services industries. Again, I'm on "the Washington Post."

A witness in the lacrosse murder trial says he saw the defendant George Hughley with his arms around the neck of than girlfriend Yeardley Love, just a few months before Love was found beaten to death. That witness says Love screamed help me. She managed to struggle free. More witnesses are expected to take the stand when the trial resumes today.

A cancer drug may offer hope for Alzheimer's. Scientists say mega doses of the Claritin, a drug used to treat skin cancer erase Alzheimer's disease in mice. Researchers say the drug might now work on people. They hope to try it out on healthy humans in two months.

Minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open right now. Any optimism about a debt deal being reached in Greece quickly erased overnight when European leaders said they need more time to review the terms. The longer this to remain the results of course, the more volatility will likely to see in the market.

All right. Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords back in Washington this morning. She will visit the oval office to witness President Obama sign the final piece of legislation she sponsored. It's the ultra light aircraft smuggling prevention act that gives law enforcement more authority to combat drug trafficking on borders.

And a former aide to Giffords who was also injured in the January 2001 shooting now running for her old congressional seat. Ron Barber told CNN's Piers Morgan that Giffords asked him to run.

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RON BARBER, FORMER AIDE TO GIFFORDS: Very hard to say no to Congresswoman Giffords. I've never said no to her in my life as we worked together of the last five years. But I did go away from that conversation and gave it considerable thought, looked at the pros and cons and finally I was able to say her to, congresswoman, I will do that.

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ROMANS: Again, Ron Barber to Piers Morgan -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Wow, he looks good. Shot twice. Goodness. All right. Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

We're back to our conversation with our panelists.

So yesterday I think it was on "JOHN KING USA." Rick Santorum was a guest. And he was talking about the contraception issue we were just talking about. But he also talked about women in combat. And he said this. I want to play a little bit. We will talk on the other side.

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RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do have concerns about women in front line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.

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O'BRIEN: Where people normally -- naturally may not do things that might not be in the interest of the mission because other types of emotions that are involved. Who wants to jump into that one for me? What does that mean?

MACK: Well, I -- well -- you know, if you think people got upset with my characterization of the president on the Constitution, I mean, you know that there are women around this country who are saying, what is he talking about?

O'BRIEN: That's what I said. I was like, emotional? What does that mean?

LIZZA: And this is Rick Santorum and you are trying to convince conservatives not only are you conservative, which I think a lot of people agree that he, is. But you're electable. Every time you make a mistake like that, that's going to cost questions.

O'BRIEN: Is that a mistake?

ERICKSON: You know to his credit, very few unforced errors. And I think this may be one of them.

O'BRIEN: Some of that is he has not had everybody staring at him and partly --

ERICKSON: Exactly. He needs to come and clarify what he meant. Did he mean soldiers on the front lines wanting to protect the ladies on the front lines?

MACK: No.

BREITBART: I don't think there's an explanation for it.

ERICKSON: I have no idea what he meant. I mean, my best rational guess for what he meant is crickets in my head. I don't understand.

MACK: I think it's pretty clear what he meant.

O'BRIEN: What do you think he meant? I don't know. Honestly.

MACK: I think he meant there's not a place, that he didn't think there was a place for women or the front line.

O'BRIEN: Because girls are emotional?

MACK: Emotional or whatever. But that is just false. It's just not true. You know, this -- again, this kind of feeds into the whole line that we're going to somehow divide Americans. I mean, look, if there are men and women who are serving our country and admirablably and men and women equally can do the job and we ought to treat them as such.

O'BRIEN: Will there be an impact from this, do you think?

BREITBART: You know, people don't really know Rick Santorum yet and they know that he's surely conservative and they know that he is willing to talk about that when other people would rather talk about things like the economy. And that's one of the things he's going to have to doer do here is define himself, what he does stand for. And if he's going to be such a strong socially conservative candidate, what are those values that he's going to fight for first and foremost?

O'BRIEN: That's a lot of tap dancing.

(CROSSTALK)

BREITBART: I don't know what he said.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's a problem.

ERICKSON: It's going to be a problem of Rick Santorum because of independent voters.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for not answering the question.

All right. We will take a short break. Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. We're talking about Jerry Sandusky. Apparently some say he's been watching school children from his porch. His neighbors now say they want him confined indoors. Sandusky says wants more freedom. In fact, there's a hearing today. It all goes to court. We will tell you what is going to happen this morning.

Also, a photo of marines posing in Afghanistan with a Nazi like flag, talk about how the marine corps is handling that controversy today.

And our "Get Real" this morning. A girl high school basketball team wears pink uniforms to support a children's charity. But the other team cries foul if refs step in and they lose. We'll take a look at that story this morning.

And now from my play list, Anita Baker "Sweet Love." She was performing last night in Carnegie Hall. I was the host. She sounds amazing to this day. Everybody, listen.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Have you seen this? Nancy Pelosi declaring war on Stephen Colbert and his Super PAC? And how Stephen Colbert has been now brought into this election cycle I find it very strange. I'm going to play a little bit of it for you and then we'll talk about it on the other side.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Join me in stopping Colbert and creating a new politics, free of special interest money. The first step is passing the Disclose Act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: She goes on to talk about -- it just goes on. You can see it online. It's very funny.

But it's kind of strange, right, because we're in the news yesterday we were talking about the president and the Super PAC and, of course, he's been against Super PAC money, but sort of said, stealing a line from Newt Gingrich when we head the head of the DNC on, that actually everybody has got to be, you know, unilaterally armed otherwise somebody loses. But I find the whole thing very strange. What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I find the whole thing very strange.

O'BRIEN: You can't copy my own words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- I saw this yesterday. It was very light hearted.

O'BRIEN: It's funny. It's hilarious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To her credit, everybody is talking about the Disclose Act on TV because of this ad.

LIZZA: Yes, exactly. I mean, that's how it is in the modern media environment. You have to find these opportunities to breakthrough and what better way than to embrace what Stephen Colbert is doing and use a little humor.

It does point out this -- this division in the Democratic Party where on the one hand Democrats say they're trying to close this loophole, but yet on the other hand the Obama campaign is very aggressively now supporting Super PACs.

O'BRIEN: Is this going to be an issue in the election, do you think?

MACK: First of all, I think it was a huge win for Colbert.

O'BRIEN: Of course. He could win. He could win. He could beat --

MACK: He might be running up in the polls.

O'BRIEN: If it goes to a brokered convention.

LIZZA: You know, that's right.

ERICKSON: Maybe I'll endorse him. I don't know.

MACK: I think what it does, though, is it really creates a problem for the Democrats. So you've got the president who says, you know, he speaks out against all the Super PACs. We're not. And then all of a sudden now he's, you know, telling all of his people to go to the Super PACs. I'm --

O'BRIEN: Don't you think a lot of people would say because if everybody is arming then you've got to arm.

MACK: It might be -- it might be because -- that might be the because. But when the president has spent so much time saying that we can't do this, it's special interest, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad. And now his own words is bad and he's going do it. So he's welcome to do it.

ERICKSON: We always have in election cycles this campaign finance discussions.

O'BRIEN: Right, yes.

ERICKSON: The donors. Voters don't care about campaign finance. They never have cared about campaign finance. They didn't care about McCain-Feingold. They don't care about Super PACs. The voters -- this is just not an issue for voters.

O'BRIEN: But then I'm done talking about it. ERICKSON: Politicians care about it.

O'BRIEN: I'm done.

ERICKSON: And reporters care about it.

O'BRIEN: You know what? I'm done.

ERICKSON: Voters care about unemployment.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to a commercial break. I'm never discussing it again, sir. Gentlemen, never. It's done.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the social worker in that really disturbing case that we were talking about earlier in the week, Josh Powell, she's now speaking out for the first time. You're going to hear what she experienced. She's the woman who dropped those boys off. They went right into the house and the next thing she saw was the house explode.

Then petty in pink is what we're calling it this morning, this high school basketball game. These girls -- take a look at them -- they're wearing these uniforms because they're trying to raise money for a children's charity. They end up getting punished for it. It's our "Get Real" straight ahead.

And this is his playlist. Who is this? The Okkervil River, "Rider"?

LIZZA: Yes. You just said to take the top songs. Yes, it's Okkervil River. We got to mix it up a little bit.

O'BRIEN: I know. I like it. I'm not criticizing. Just trying to pronounce it right. The Okkervil River.

LIZZA: The Okkervil River, yes.

O'BRIEN: Got it. Here it is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: See? That's the Black Crowes' "Hard To Handle." That would be Erick Erickson redeeming himself from the not so great pick from yesterday. You leave it down, but you have to pick something better. I like that. See? That is --

ERICKSON: There you go. My wife would be proud.

O'BRIEN: And time to "Get Real" this morning. The girls' basketball team at Burke High School, which is in Omaha, Nebraska, decided to do what was a really nice thing last Monday night. They wore pink uniforms because they're trying to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation.

After the second quarter, though, the opposing team's athletic director pointed out a state rule. That state rules says this, "All home teams must wear white." So then the referees had no choice but to slap the Burke Bulldogs, who were leading at the time with a technical foul. And their opponents picked up two, you know, kind of easy two points. And then Burke went on to lose the game.

The good news in this, of course, they raised $2,600 for the Make a Wish Foundation and also, I believe, the good news is other team karma will come back and bite you. You do that. I personally believe.

Anyway, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a Marine Sniper Team posing in front of what looks to be a Nazi symbol. The Military says they wouldn't be punished. We're going to talk about that straight ahead this morning.

And two of the biggest players in the Tea Party will join us live. We're talking to Congressman Steve King and Congressman Allen West is back to talk with us this morning.

And from Congressman West's playlist, what do you think he likes? Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb." And we'll do that as we head to commercial break.

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O'BRIEN: This is The Temptations, "Papa was a Rolling Stone." The Temptations last night -- do you know what time I got into D.C. this morning? 3:15 A.M. You know, what time I had to get up? 4:00 A.M. That's because I was at this -- at Carnegie Hall for a tribute to the music of Motown, like I was the host of it.

And that was The Temptations along with Dennis Edwards from The Temptations was performing. It was amazing. Look. This is Dionne Warwick. These are off my BlackBerry, so if you don't like the quality of the photos I apologize. BeBe Winans, oh, my gosh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh --

O'BRIEN: I love him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a one up on the name drop.

O'BRIEN: It's my show. Me, there's Dennis from the temptation. Yes, it is one upping from the name dropping, but pictures off by Blackberry.

Later on the next hour, I'll do my small children pictures as well. This is my favorite. Boyz to Men from Philly. I literally wanted to call all of my girlfriends from high school and be like, na- na-na, I'm in a picture with Boyz to Men.

If I fall asleep in the middle of the second hour, I know you'll understand. I got lots to get to this morning including some headlines. Christine Romans has that for us. Hi, Christine. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad. The social worker in the Josh Powell home explosion case, she's speaking out.

Josh Powell was supposed to have a supervised visit with his two little boys of the day of the fire that killed him and his sons, but social worker, Elizabeth Griffin-Hall tells ABC, Powell grabbed the boys and locked her out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH GRIFFIN-HALL, SOCIAL WORKER: I saw Josh, I saw Josh for just one second. His eyes caught mine and he had a look in his eyes. Just kind of sheepish and he just shrugged his shoulders at me like that.

And then he slammed the door and I thought that was an accident that he didn't mean to lock me out. And so I knocked and I knocked and I rang the doorbell and I started yelling at, "Josh, let me in."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Powell's attorney has come forward to say the fire was intentional. Police have classified the incident as a murder/suicide. Authorities are also investigating the 2009 disappearance of Powell's wife.

Later this morning, former Penn State Football Coach Jerry Sandusky will be back in a Pennsylvania courtroom. Neighbors want the accused child sex offender confined to inside his home.

They're complaining he's been looking at school children in a playground near his house. Sandusky's attorney plans to ask the court to do just the opposite and grant him more freedom while he's on bail.

CNN has learned casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, met with Mitt Romney last week in Nevada campaigning. Adelson has donated $11 million to that "Super PAC" supporting Newt Gingrich.

Sources tell CNN Adelson assured Mitt Romney that he will be behind Romney 100 percent if he wins the GOP nomination.

The House is set to pass an insider trading ban in Congress. The legislation barred lawmakers and staff members from making financial trades based on non-public information.

Critics say the House bill doesn't go far enough because it doesn't include a provision to treat the, quote, "political intelligence industry" like lobbyists.

That political intelligence industry, it helps companies seek out private congressional information to sell to financial firms who are looking to profit from it.

Minding your business this morning, today Greece, U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open right now. The Greek government has a plan for stricter austerity measures.

But European Union finance ministers say it may not be enough to secure the next bailout from the E.U. The longer this deal remains unresolved the more volatility we will likely to see in the markets.

The U.S. Marine Corps says it not discipline an elite team of Marines who posed for a photo with a flag that has a Nazi like symbol on it.

The photo was taken in 2010 in Afghanistan. It just came to light after it was posted online. The Corps says has advised those Marines the symbol, is quote, "not in keeping with our Marine Corps values" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, Christine. Appreciate it.

Today could be a turning point for some GOP candidates. We've got Mitt Romney speaking today. Rick Santorum is going to speak today. Newt Gingrich will speak today. We're at CPAC.

It is a chance to shore up the votes for the Tea Party, which really has yet to rally around one candidate. Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa joins us now, right next to me. He's a member of the Tea Party.

It's nice to have you, sir. You joined us before. Let's talk a little bit about Mitt Romney and even maybe Rick Santorum as well. What do they have to say in order to coalesce? Coalesce is that word we've used a lot. What do they have to say in their speeches today?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: At this point, what haven't they said?

O'BRIEN: Right, that's what I said.

KING: -- in the last year for Rick Santorum so I don't know. I would see it as real opportunity to be on a stage where you've got reacting conservatives.

And if they step out there and pour it out from their heart and if they can connect with this audience, sometimes you'll catch that tone when you give the speech of your life and if Romney can do that, he can gain some momentum here.

I listen to the applause last night when they announced the speeches this morning and it seemed to be relatively tepid for Romney. A little bit more warm for Gingrich and very strong for Rick Santorum.

O'BRIEN: A lot of that could be momentum coming off a big win. That was a surprise.

KING: That's what you either have to capitalize on or change depending on which of those three candidates you are. This is going to be -- the straw poll in my mind today is going to be the reaction to the speeches of the presidential candidates that are given.

I can about predict for you what's going happen in the straw poll by the decibels of the response to the candidates as they speak today. But one thing has been missing here is that shining city on the hill speech.

That presidential candidate that paints that picture of what the next level of America --

O'BRIEN: Optimistic, hopeful, looking forward. So do you think the negativity in the campaign, I think it was the state of Florida had the most negative ads, has that really hurt Mitt Romney as a frontrunner?

KING: Well, it may have. And as we watch this, the presidential candidate saw this in Iowa and it held together all of the way through. As soon as candidate would reach the summit of the polls, they would be a game of king of hill and everybody would pull them down.

O'BRIEN: I thought that was kill the guy with the ball was the game they were playing, which was literally pile on and take him out.

KING: Yes. You grew up in flag country. Same game. So as they pulled each other down off that pedestal, Tim Pawlenty and then Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and it went on and on.

Mitt Romney kind of hung around the summit and never really claimed it until New Hampshire, which was his territory anyway, home team advantage. When they went to South Carolina, then you saw the Gingrich money torch Mitt Romney. Then the --

O'BRIEN: You can't tell me all that doesn't hurt in the general election because I've had this conversation before. Everybody says, yes, but you know what, when you get to the general, everybody will rally around the not President Obama and that will bring Republicans out.

You cannot -- I just -- I have no grounding in believing this, but I really just feel in my gut that if you do all of this negative campaigning. You look at the turnout numbers. They've gone like this. They're low. That has to have some kind of implication for Republicans in the general.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just remind people about when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were locked in to a tight primary --

O'BRIEN: High enthusiasm though. There was so much enthusiasm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it was very negative. It was all of the things that you're describing in this Republican primary --

O'BRIEN: But no high enthusiasm in this one.

RYAN LIZZA, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": The difference was, I think, in that primary, it was -- the Democrats had these two choices and they couldn't believe they had been given this in the Democratic perspective, these two diamonds. It was this great -- Sophie's choice to decide between them. Conservatives at least judging from CPAC are not that happy. They don't like the field. They don't like the choices.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The danger --

LIZZA: A lot of reluctance.

ERICKSON: The danger to Soledad's point is Republicans will go vote against Barack Obama, but you can't sustain enthusiasm in any campaign from a city level to federal level. You can't sustain passion against something. You've got to give them for something.

O'BRIEN: Sitting on the hill.

ERICKSON: That's the alternative. The problem is if the campaign continues to be so negative and it drives enthusiasm down, when they get into the general, they'll go vote.

But they won't make phone calls to their independent friends. They won't go door to door to independent and moderate friends. They've got to sell their candidates.

O'BRIEN: We were talking about a brokered convention. You guys think that could be -- you're laughing at me.

KING: There's a long ways to get to a brokered convention.

O'BRIEN: Some people have said actually all you have to do is get to Super Tuesday and if it's not decided then, that means a brokered convention.

KING: Perfect political match-up to be able to go to a brokered convention. I think as politicians and those of us who watch, we would love to see that. I went through a nominating convention to win the election for Congress.

And it was like the 15th round of "Rocky One." I said no, rematch. I'm literally into the microphone, no rematch. I don't want to do it. I don't want to put that on the presidential candidates, but it would be exhilarating.

But here we have -- we have four tests before Super Tuesday. If you look at the state of Michigan, for example, a rust belt state, Rick Santorum has been speaking to rust belt workers all along.

O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney has an in, his father was the governor.

KING: So that could be the clash of the titans before the Super Tuesday.

O'BRIEN: Here's what Senator McCain had to say about a brokered convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I found in the past that those who are losing candidates always predict a brokered convention. The fact is that Mitt Romney took a setback Tuesday night. We know that.

And we're going to reinvigorate and pursue the effort in the states that are actually picking delegates right away. But there are a lot of ups and downs in these campaigns, but I'm confident at the end of the day it will be overwhelmingly a victory for Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Are you as confident as he is confident?

KING: I don't think you can be confident in this race at all from what we've seen bouncing through our states Iowa and Florida.

REP. CONNIE MACK, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: There is a lot to be said for what Senator McCain just said. That, you know, everybody, depending on where you line up in this race, has a different theory and strategy they they've want to put out to show that their person can win.

So if your person is not in the lead right now, then you talk about this brokered convention idea to try to create, you know, hope for people who are supporting another candidate. I think this is still Mitt Romney's election to win in the primary.

And I think that what -- my suggestion to Mitt Romney would be is to continue to do what he's been doing. He's been travelling I know in the state of Florida. He was talking about the shining city on the hill.

He's been talking about the future of America. He's been talking about job creation. He's been talking about things that people in America care about.

LIZZA: It's worth remembering that McCain, he wrapped up the nomination pretty early. That's one of the reasons the Republican Party decided to change the rules this time around and to make sure that the contest would last a little bit longer.

I think Michael Steel actually said the other day that when he was head of the RNC, he wanted something like a brokered convention. He wanted the delegate selection process to go on a little bit longer. So we're kind of getting what the RNC wanted here, aren't we?

O'BRIEN: We'll see. It all moves to Super Tuesday. Can we play that Johnny Cash song again? I've been everywhere.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, for the first time in three decades, there are new nuclear plants cleared for construction.

Our next guest though voted against it. It was a 4-1 vote. He was the one. He said it was a bad idea. We'll talk about why straight ahead.

Plus, a look inside Steve Jobs had an FBI file. They considered him to be a liar and a narcissist and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We'll take a look at his file ahead.

This is from Erick's play list. He's trying to make a comeback. This is a beautiful song. Ella Fitzgerald, "Solitude."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I'm getting a little love this morning from my producer. She's -- yesterday, begging, nothing, but today, thank you, clearly getting a little juice. That's Mary J. Blige, "Real Love."

This is how I start my morning. That by the way, pays wise people? Helps the viewers join us. See, see? Let's talk a little bit about nuclear power.

For the first time in more than three decades a nuclear power plant has been cleared for construction. The plant is going to be in Waynesboro, Georgia. It is expected to be up and running by either 2016 or 2017.

It was approved by a vote of 4-1. The lone vote against the project was commission chairman, Gregory Jaczko. So he joins us this morning.

Nice to see you.

The 4-1 vote, you were the one. Why did you vote against it?

GREGORY JACZKO, COMMISSION CHAIRMAN, NUCLEAR REGULATORY AGENCY: Good morning, Soledad. As you said, this is really a historic moment for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A lot of good hard work went into preparing this license and reviewing it at the agency.

But in the end, I felt that it was very important that we had some kind of condition that would ensure, before the plant operates, that all of the things that we've learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident would be incorporated into the plant before it started.

O'BRIEN: What specific things? I know when you discussed your vote, you basically compared it to sort of a broker doing that sort of list of things you need before you do your house closing, and you said you wouldn't go ahead and do the house closing without getting specific things on that list fixed. What specifics are you talking about?

JACZKO: There's a number of lessons that we've learned from the Fukushima accident. Some is spent fuel pools where fuel would be stored after it comes out of the reactor, making improvements to those structures, making improvements to the instrumentation, but also things like improving how they staff the organization. So if you have an accident and, in particular, if you have an accident that could affect all of the units at that site -- and when these plants are built, this site will have four units, which will be one of the largest sites in the United States. Making sure you've accounted for all of people and you've accounted for them properly, so that they're not pulled in many different directions and they can properly perform their emergency response functions.

O'BRIEN: People, for a long time, have talked about a nuclear renaissance and then this 2009 study out of MIT that I know you're familiar with talked about nuclear energy costing 14 percent more than gas to produce a unit of electricity, 30 percent more than coal. Obviously, I was in Fukushima. I covered that story. What do you think the future of nuclear energy is in this country?

JACZKO: It will be very interesting to see. I think this project and one that may follow along fairly soon, I think they will really be the important barometers for whether or not there will be a lot more nuclear in this country. I think it's vitally important that these projects are built on time and on budget. And, of course, for our purposes, as a regulator, most importantly, that they're built safely, and that they can be operated safely. And so that's what our focus will be, is making sure that they do that. And as we go forward, we'll keep a visual eye on them.

O'BRIEN: Gregory Jaczko is the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Thanks for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

JACZKO: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, a crucial Supreme Court case back in 1967 overturned the ban on interracial marriage. Now there's a new documentary that's going to air on HBO that shares a story of the couple that was at the heart of the case, the Loving couple. Their daughter will join us up next to talk about that.

Plus, two terrorist attacks this morning to tell you about in Syria. Violence and bloodshed, really a tipping point there. We're going to bring you live developing details out of Syria.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We have to take a short break. We're back on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It was a seminal movement in the civil rights movement. The date was June 12, 1967. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving versus the State of Virginia and they voted unanimously to overturn the ban on interracial marriage in 16 states. There's a new documentary on HBO. It tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILDRED LOVING, PART OF BIRACIAL COUPLE: We were married on the 2nd day of June, and the police came after us the 14th of July.

It was 2:00 a.m., and I saw this light. I woke up and there was the policemen standing beside the bed. They told us to get up and we was under arrest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Peggy Loving Fortune is the daughter of Richard and Mildred. She joins us this morning.

It's nice to see you.

I should mention you are sitting next to Philip Hirschcop, who was one of the ACLU lawyers who represented your parents.

It's nice to have you.

Peggy, let's start with you.

I know you were only about 8 years old at the time the Supreme Court made this decision, but tell me how your parents -- how it played a role in your life. Was it something that was important to your parents? Did they talk about it all the time with you as a child?

PEGGY LOVING FORTUNE, DAUGHTER OF BIRACIAL PARENTS: No, they didn't talk about it all the time. Mostly, my mom talked about it after my father's death. We would go back and get the 10-by-13 pictures that "Life" magazine took of us and talked about the good times that we had. And she didn't really talk about the struggle. But those pictures meant a lot to her.

O'BRIEN: You're very private people. Was it something that they felt that they had to do? I think in a lot of ways it was a surprise that such a quiet couple would suddenly be in the headlines on something that the entire country and then the world was watching.

FORTUNE: Well, it's my understanding they wanted to be private anyway, but then they also had to be private because of something that they were doing that wasn't legal, I guess you could say.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: So, Philip, you were two years out of law school when you and attorney, Bernard Cohen, presented oral arguments to the Supreme Court. What was that like?

PHILIP HIRSCHCOP, ATTORNEY: Well, it was exciting. You'd expect it to be exciting, particularly that particular court with the great nine justices that did so much for our society.

O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting is my parents, in the same year, 1958, were actually asked by the ACLU to be the couple that would test the ban on interracial marriage as well. My dad and mom declined because I think, like your parents, Peggy, they were very private. They just didn't want to derail their lives to be part of something like that. They lived in the state of Maryland where interracial marriage was also illegal.

Did your parents ever talk, Peggy, about regrets about the case or did they feel very proud about the changes that they ultimately were able to bring to the country?

FORTUNE: They were very proud. I know my mom realized that, you know, if they won the case they would help other people as well. And, sure enough, they won, and it was overturned in 16 states. Very proud. And they really wanted to win because they wanted to go home. They were banned from the state of Virginia for 25 years. They wanted to go home so they pushed forward.

O'BRIEN: So ultimately, there's video and clips and, sort of, I think, high-eight film that's in this new documentary that's going to air on HBO. Would your parents be excited by that or do you think that they, as private people, would sort of hate that idea?

FORTUNE: I know my parents probably wouldn't do it, but it's a story that I think needs to get out there for the -- not only the United States of America to know but the whole world, to know that what our forefathers had to go through in order for the world to be like it is today.

O'BRIEN: To this day, Philip, the ACLU points to this case as one of their huge victories. Do you think enough people sort of study and understand this case? Whenever I give a talk about this case a lot of the college students I talk to have no idea what I'm talking about.

HIRSCHCOP: Well, it's one of many cases, the building block to get our society a great deal better than it has been in the past. It was an important case for constitutional reasons to recognize family reasons. Now it's a very important case for gay marriages and to recognize the right of all people to be able to marry free of interference from the state.

O'BRIEN: Philip Hirschcop and Peggy Loving, it's nice to have you. Thank you for talking to us.

I should mention that documentary is going to air on HBO. It's a great documentary.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the late Steve Jobs, a liar? A narcissist? That's what it says in his FBI file, and that is not all. We're going to talk about what is in that file straight ahead.

Plus, we've been talking with California Congressman Connie Mack all hour. Up next, we'll meet his wife, his lovely wife, as he describes her, his beautiful wife, as tells me. She, of course, is another member of Congress in Florida. Representative Mary Bono Mack is going to join us up next.

Her play list. She likes the Doobie Brothers. All right, I like that.

You might have better taste than your husband, ma'am.

(LAUGHER)

"Listen to the Music" is what she picked.

REP. CONNIE MACK, (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes, dear.

(LAUGHTER)