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JOHN KING, USA

School Shooting in Ohio; Romney Tries to Win Home State; Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers; More Info in Deadly Ohio School Shooting; Santorum Takes on Universities; GOP Ignoring Muslims in Michigan?

Aired February 27, 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: Good evening from the CNN Election Center. I'm John King.

We're watching breaking news tonight, new photographs of the suspect, plus chilling eyewitness accounts of the deadly shooting at a high school in Ohio.

Also, a sharp new film today from Mitt Romney attacking Rick Santorum on the eve of the must-win primary in the state of Michigan.

Plus, an accidental explosion exposes an apparent plot to assassinate the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

First tonight, the breaking news from Ohio, where authorities just gave out more details about today's deadly shooting at a high school in Chardon, Ohio. That's near Cleveland. The shooting left one student dead, four others wounded.

A short time ago, authorities said two of the wounded students are in critical condition, one is serious, and another is stable. Yet another student, Nate Mueller, showed a reporter from WKYC where one of the bullets grazed him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATE MUELLER, VICTIM: Yes, right here on my ear.

I was actually -- as I was turning away from the gunman, he caught me right on the ear.

QUESTION: How's your hearing? For a gun to have gone off -- how close was he when he fired that shot?

MUELLER: We were at the table right next to him. He was within three feet of us. And three of the victims were at my table as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The student we just saw identified the gunman as T.J. Lane, seen here in a picture from his Facebook page. Authorities won't confirm the gunman's identity other than to say he's a student and a juvenile. The shooting happened in the school cafeteria about 7:38 this morning. That school immediately went into lockdown. One of the teachers chased the gunman out of the school and ultimately caught him. Frantic parents answering phone calls and text messages from their children rushed to the school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She texted me and said there's been a shooting and I'm in a closet, but don't worry. I just said keep texting me, so that's what we're doing. I just keep texting her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN Ted Rowlands is outside the school in Chardon. Again that's about 30 miles northeast of Cleveland.

Ted, what are we learning about the alleged shooter?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're learning this is a young man that became a bit of a recluse in recent years, according to his friends.

We heard from one witness/friend who said he used to hang out with him in middle school, and elementary school, but in the past few years, he had stuck to himself and he started dressing in black clothing, sort of that Goth look. We have also heard stories from witnesses he may have been teased at some level because of that. That's not been confirmed by authorities.

As you mentioned, they are not even confirming his name because he is a juvenile. He was chased out of the school, he did give himself up right away, apparently, though on school grounds here. He is in custody tonight.

KING: Ted, bring us up to date about what we know about the student who sadly was killed and the wounded students this evening.

ROWLANDS: Well, the student that was killed was a 16-year-old. He was on his way to a vocational school. A lot of the students that go to this school also take classes at a vocational school. He was on his way there, waiting for a bus when he was gunned down. His family issued a statement saying they are utterly shocked, asking for their privacy.

As you can imagine, at one moment they drop off their 16-year-old to school and within an hour they learn he's being airlifted to a Cleveland hospital, where he eventually died. We did hear from a family member of one of the other critically injured students who is also at a Cleveland hospital tonight. That family member tells us that that student is out of surgery.

He was shot in the stomach and there was some fear that he would be paralyzed, but according to this family member just recently, they got an update, he's doing very well and they hope he will make a full recovery. KING: We hope as well he makes a full recovery.

Ted Rowlands live for us on the scene of this horrible tragedy. Ted, thanks so much. We will get back to you as your reporting warrants.

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge has a personal connection to this story. He spoke with CNN by phone just about an hour ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everybody in this community, and certainly in that high school, has just been shocked and horrified by the day's events. And talking with students here, you can see how deeply shaken.

It began, of course, early this morning, during the morning announcements or shortly thereafter, about 7:30, when the principal gets on the loudspeaker system in the school and announced that they were in lockdown.

Now the students initially said, look, we've had these drills all the time. But they could tell by the emotion in his voice that this was not a drill.

A lot of the kids can't even bring themselves to talk about it. We've reached out to a number of families, especially families whose children were either in the cafeteria where the shooting took place or who were in the hallways. And -- and they just are so emotionally distraught. Initially, when they got out of the classroom, when they got out of school, they felt fine. But now the news has begun to sink in.

That particular teacher which is so often cited, the students know him as Mr. Hall. It's actually Frank Hall. He is a -- a football coach and a big guy. And the kids say they are not surprised in any way, shape or form that Mr. Hall would have been the one that chased the gunman out of the school and probably prevented any further disaster from happening here.

Now, I'm also hearing there are other teachers who did other heroic events, some of them quite remarkable, outside the line of the classroom, going to rescue wounded children, bringing them to their classroom and to care for them and protect them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Linda Sopchak has two sons at Chardon High School. Both of her boys were close by the deadly shooting in the school cafeteria.

Linda joins me on the phone now.

Linda, please, take me just through your terrifying, horrifying morning. How did you first find out there was a shooting under way at the school where your two sons were? LINDA SOPCHAK, MOTHER: Well, one of my sons had contacted me from the parking lot of the school across the street, the Maple Elementary School, because he was in the hallway outside of the cafeteria.

I believe they were preparing to go to their health class, and he did not I -- don't believe he saw the shooting, but he heard the pops of the gun, and thought at first it was a cap gun or something, and I think that he just reacted to that, along with any of the few other students there, and they just started running, and they ran across the street to the parking lot where they gathered and were just trying to come to grips with what they just went through.

They weren't really quite sure. I think the phones were out. They were texting. He called me, took a couple of times to reach me, called his dad, and from that, we just gathered that we needed to get there, waited for more information, tried to reach my other son, who happened to be on the other side of the cafeteria in the locker room for gym class.

And I eventually reached him, and he had no idea what was happening, because he was in the locker room, didn't hear the shots, but I believe the teacher must have kept them in there for security purposes

KING: Do either of your sons know the alleged gunman?

SOPCHAK: No. I believe they just know who they are, the shooter or the victims. They aren't acquainted with any of them.

KING: But no conversations in recent days about trouble at the school or threats at the school or any behavior -- if you read this young man the alleged suspect, and we need to use the word alleged, if you read his Facebook page, some pretty disturbing writings. Any concerns at all before this horrible event this morning?

SOPCHAK: No, not that they were aware of, not that we were aware of. I think that everything was pretty normal and pretty routine.

KING: In terms of the school arranging to get the children out, obviously, need to worry about the gunman first, they had the lockdown.

What's your sense of -- how would you grade the school's performance of dealing with this and making sure it got the information out and got the students out?

SOPCHAK: Oh, I think the school did an excellent job. I think the police department and all -- I think everybody, they did an excellent job.

I felt comfortable being around the community as we gathered waiting for our kids. The schools did an excellent job. It took a little bit of time to get the information out to us, but -- so we were kind of getting more information through our kids' communications with cell phones and stuff, but the school did the best they could in the situation given, and they reacted admirably, everybody. KING: Linda Sopchak, appreciate your help understanding this tragedy tonight. Our best to your boys as well. Please, take care in the days ahead.

And we will have more from Chardon in a little bit.

Now shifting to some politics and tomorrow's primaries and Arizona and Michigan. For Mitt Romney, the Michigan contest is a must-win. It's the state where he grew up. And tonight a brand new poll shows it's a dead heat, Rick Santorum 36 percent to 35 percent lead over Governor Romney, that of course within the poll's margin of error, dead heat, call it.

Mitt Romney spent today barnstorming across Michigan, hitting Rick Santorum with sharper and more personal attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad he recognizes this has got to be a campaign about the economy. It's time for him to really focus on the economy and for you to all say, OK, if the economy's going to be the issue we focus on, who has the experience to actually get this economy going again? Senator Santorum's a nice guy, but he's never had a job in the private sector.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: About an hour ago also in Michigan, the former Pennsylvania senator threw the criticism right back at Romney. Santorum says no one, especially Governor Romney should question his conservative credentials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leading ahead of the curve on conservative issues, to be attacked on television as someone who is not an authentic conservative by a Massachusetts governor.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the trail in Michigan for us.

Jim, has to be a tense night for the Romney campaign. They know how important Michigan is. And with the polls showing a dead heat, they have got to be feeling the hit.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

They do not want to take a trip down into Al Gore country and lose their own state. And that is really where the stakes are right now for the Romney campaign. That's why you heard Romney earlier today talking about why Rick Santorum should get back to economic issues. That was a dig at Rick Santorum, because we know over the last several days he's been put under intense scrutiny over some of those comments on socially conservative issues. He's strayed away from his economic message and Mitt Romney was talking about that.

But I have to tell you, John, behind the scenes, the Romney campaign was fielding lots of questions today about some of those comments that Mitt Romney made in the last 24 to 48 hours, really going back to Ford Field in Detroit when he was talking about the Romney family's car collection, those two Cadillacs that his wife drives, and then on Sunday at the Daytona 500 when he said I'm not really much of a NASCAR fan, but I do know some owners of some NASCAR racing teams.

All of that was being asked of some Romney advisers behind the scenes today. Those Romney advisers were pushing back saying this is really just part of a media narrative. They were dismissing it and saying that Mitt Romney does, indeed, connect with voters when he's out on the campaign trail, John.

KING: We're going to see how he connects in his one-time home state of Michigan tomorrow with the primary there. Jim Acosta on the ground in that critical state for us tonight, Jim, thank you.

Also in the news tonight, new explosion and rage over the burning of holy books in Afghanistan. At least nine people died in a suicide bombing outs an air base in Jalalabad. There are no NATO causalities. The Taliban calls the attack a retaliation for last week's Koran burning by NATO troops.

Also overseas to Syria now and what is being called a horrifying massacre, reportedly boosting today's death toll to 125 people, more than half of them at a security checkpoint in the rebel stronghold of Homs. The European Union now fighting the intense bloodshed with new sanctions, freezing key Syrian government assets, but the regime insists reform is already in the process, pointing to a new constitution. Again, this is the regime speaking. It says it's just been overwhelmingly approved.

Coming up here, we talk about the possibility of arming the Syrian rebels. We will ask the question to Congressman Mike Rogers. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. We will ask him if he think that's a smart idea.

And the private e-mails from a major security firm hit the Internet courtesy to WikiLeaks, but tonight questions over whether those leaked e-mails are real or forged.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In addition to new bloodshed in Syria and Afghanistan, today also brought a strong new warning against military action targeting Iran.

In a newspaper editorial, the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, predicts the consequences of a military strike against Iran would be disastrous.

Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and he is just back from a trip to Israel last week.

Mr. Chairman, let's try to go through some of these hot spots in the region quickly, because they are many. You were in Israel. There are some people in the United States, including high up in the Obama administration, who think the Israeli prime minister is going to wait maybe until May, and then if he does not see Iran backing down, he will launch a preemptive strike.

Did you get that sense?

REP. MIKE ROGERS, R-MICHIGAN: Well, I got the sense that Israel is incredibly serious about a strike on their nuclear weapons program.

They have a very different set of eyes on this problem. One is the fact that they have got problems on their southern border. Egypt is becoming, growing unpredictable. Hamas is getting stronger and more weaponized. And you have Hezbollah on their northern border that Iran is supplying pretty advanced weapons to.

Their argument is if that nuclear umbrella comes over Iran, it's so destabilizing and dangerous to their very existence, let alone a Middle East arms race, nuclear arms race in the Middle East, that they are going to have to do something.

If you look at it through their perspective, they have got a hard choice to make here.

KING: And did you try to disabuse them of their perspective at all? The president's top military commander, the country's top military commander, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told our Fareed Zakaria about a week ago, he said, look, it wouldn't be prudent, they need to wait, they need to give sanctions more time.

Do you think the prime minister of Israel would do this, say, in a month or two regardless of what the United States thinks?

ROGERS: I think that they believe, it's their calculus that the administration, when they say, because of those public comments, that they should wait and do other things, is not serious about a real military consequence to Iran moving forward with its nuclear program.

So, given that, I think they believe they are going to have to make a decision based on what's good for their national security interests, aside from what they think might be good for the United States. So I do think they believe they are going to have to make a decision on their own, given the current posture of the United States administration.

And that's where -- we were hoping to pull this thing together. I think this would be better done with rolled-up sanctions, really tighten them up fast, don't wait until July, crank everything down, continue to put pressure on them, and have a real option of military consequence for Iran.

They don't believe it -- Iran, I mean -- and neither does Israel. We have to change that equation if we're going to I think have an impact on Iran backing down from their nuclear weapon program.

KING: How and what should the United States do to change the equation in Syria? Should the United States, for example, now support arming the opposition? Do you have any concerns about that? Do you think -- I think you have said in the past you're worried there could be some al Qaeda influence there.

ROGERS: I do. We just don't have a good handle on who those rebels are.

We do know, we have very credible information al Qaeda has been working through some of those rebel groups in Syria. You don't want to go in and arm the wrong people. We have been down that road before, and it just didn't work out all that well for us. I would walk very slowly.

I think there are some options, though, John. We can empower the Arab League to do more. There is some talk of maybe establishing a safe haven somewhere in the country through the Arab League to give a little breathing room so that people could understand who the rebels are, could understand the way forward in a way that doesn't jeopardize the stability of the region and continues to put pressure on the Assad regime.

I think all of that is possible. The U.S. needs to be much more aggressive, I think, through the Arab League. I think if we do that, we could have some very real success there.

KING: Mr. Chairman, let me bring you home to domestic politics.

Your state's primary is tomorrow. That's the state of Michigan. Mitt Romney was raised there. His dad is the former governor, was a big auto CEO. And yet in what should be Mitt Romney's home turf, we have a dead heat tonight going into tomorrow's primary in a must-win state for him.

You're a Romney guy. What's this problem?

ROGERS: Well, again, this has been a long primary, and it's been Republican-on-Republican viciousness since the beginning.

So the only thing the public gets a chance to hear right now is why one Republican doesn't like another Republican. Never really good for us in the long run, but what is happening is his economic message in Michigan. Remember, this is a state that lost a million manufacturing jobs that went over the last decade. It's been absolutely devastating for our state.

He has a very strong economic issue, and that's why I think you're seeing the polls turn a little bit towards Romney. When people show up to vote, John, I think they are going to vote on who they believe can turn the economy around. And I think most of them can see that Mitt Romney's plan will do just that.

KING: We will track those results tomorrow.

Chairman, appreciate your time tonight on those world issues, as well as your home state. Thank you so much, sir.

And tomorrow's Michigan primary will be the first time we hear from an important group of voters. Michigan is home to a large and growing Muslim community. Just ahead, what they think of the Republican race.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: When we come back, we turn back to a serious note, though, back to Ohio for more on today's shooting at a high school near Cleveland. Authorities finished an emotional briefing just a short time ago.

Plus, heads up on possible Democratic dirty tactics in tomorrow's Michigan primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In this half-hour: new details on a deadly shooting at an Ohio school. And officials tonight have some advice to every parent: If you haven't hugged and kissed your kids lately, do it now.

We will update you on the shootings in just a second.

Also ahead, Michigan's Muslim voters prepare to weigh in on the Republican presidential race.

And it isn't a movie. It didn't take home an Oscar, but Angelina Jolie's right leg, well, it's all the rage on this day after the Academy Awards.

Let's bring you the latest now on that deadly high-school shooting in Ohio that left one student dead, four others injured. The suspected gunman, a student, chased out of the school by a teacher and later arrested. And tonight we're learning more about what happened in Chardon around 7:38 this morning and what comes next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BERGANT, CHARDON SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the five victims in the case. Just really not a lot you can say when you're responsible for the safety of 3,100 kids other than the fact that we're going to do the best we can to make sure that our schools continue to be safe.

DAVID BOYLE, RAVENWOOD MENTAL HEALTH CENTER: There is no normal response to this kind of event. Some will seem to handle it in stride. Others will be very distraught, and it's all within normal limits. What we'd like to say to you is that it is -- it is our opinion that it's best for you to talk about and deal with these events as soon as you can after the event and thereby reduce the long-term impact of this terrible tragedy.

BERGANT: Classes will be cancelled for the entire Chardon schools tomorrow, so there will be no students in attendance. I'm asking that our teachers and our faculty and all support staff with the exception of about five maintenance people in case we need access to the buildings, we want them to stay home and spend some time reflecting on family. And I hope every parent, if you haven't hugged or kissed your kid in the last couple of days, you take that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A lot more information feeding into us tonight from Ohio. Now we're getting a clearer picture of just how today's shooting unfolded. CNN's Deborah Feyerick keeping track of these developments.

Deb, what do you know about the timeline of all this? It starts this morning about 7:38 and...?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. As a matter of fact, the bell rang at about 7:18. Within about ten minutes after that bell ringing, parents started getting frantic calls from students inside the school, saying that there was a gunman inside and that he was firing.

Now, what we know so far is that he's a 17-year-old teenager. You're seeing the picture of him right there. He's identified as T.J. Lane, a vocational student, who had been living with his grandmother and who appeared to have some family problems, even though he's described as well-liked by a number of the students who were there.

It appears, and police are investigating the possibility that Lane apparently targeted a specific table, a specific group of boys who were in the cafeteria. One of them, a boy by the name of Nate Mueller, says that he had been friends with Lane, but then they sort of went their own separate ways. But the table that he was aiming at, one of the boys apparently seems to have been dating the ex-girlfriend of this T.J. Lane. That is something that police are investigating.

The school was immediately put on lockdown. The school having prepared for this kind of tragedy, they were immediately put on lockdown. Doors were shut, children cowering in areas where they thought that it would be safe. Some of them, we are told, locked themselves into closets as they were texting their parents. Nate Mueller was able to place a phone call and then get out into the parking lot and call police. That's when they responded.

But by that time, this hero teacher, Coach Frank Hall, apparently was able to chase the alleged gunman out of the school, thereby saving numerous lives. The police responded, set up a perimeter, and that's by about 9, he was taken into custody.

KING: When you hear all that, it sounds -- it's a horrible tragedy. It sounds as if not, for the sequence of responses, could have been worse.

FEYERICK: Absolutely, no question.

KING: Deb Feyerick, important reporting. Deb, thank you so much.

The alleged shooter, T.J. Lane, wrote on this -- wrote this on his Facebook page: "Feel death, not just mocking you, not just stalking you, but inside of you."

Haley Konacek (ph) is a friend and classmate of Lane. She joins me now live on the telephone from Paynesville, Ohio.

Haley, friend and a classmate. Did you have any indication, any indication that T.J. was planning a shooting at the school, that he was so troubled that he wanted to take out revenge on any fellow students?

HALEY KONACEK (PH), FRIEND OF T.J. LANE (via phone): No, not at all. He seemed like a very normal, just teenaged boy. He seemed happy. I mean, he did have a sad look in his eyes a lot of the time, but he talked normally. He never said anything strange or -- it was a really big shock.

KING: How often would you speak with him?

KONACEK (PH): Well, he had a very, like, sketchy attendance record. He didn't go to school very much, but when he did, we'd talk a few times a week, like two or three a week.

KING: And in terms of this student who was killed and the others who were shot, there are indications from reporting from other students at the school that he specifically targeted this table, this group of students, for a reason. Did you know the victims?

KONACEK (PH): No, I don't know them. I know of them, but I do not know them personally.

KING: Do not know them personally. What else do you know about T.J.? Did he like guns, for example? Did he talk about using guns in any setting, whether it would be in maybe, I'm going to say, appropriate settings like hunting or inappropriate settings at all?

KONACEK (PH): Yes. Yes, he did. He told me he enjoyed hunting. He enjoyed video games, just normal things. I don't know.

KING: You say just normal things. Let me ask to put into context. Did you notice anything in say the last several days to a week that was different from how he was, say, a month or three ago?

KONACEK (PH): Not at all.

KING: So this is a total surprise to you?

KONACEK (PH): Complete shock. He's always been quiet, but...

KING: He's always been quiet. What was it like at the school when this happened?

KONACEK (PH): Everybody was just in disbelief. Nobody could believe that T.J. -- he was student of the month. Like, it was just a really big shock.

KING: And did T.J. ever talk to you? Lived with his grandmother, apparently some family issues. Did he ever talk to you about that?

KONACEK (PH): I've asked him once or twice, but he never would go into detail. He just said he had family trouble.

KING: Haley Konacek, appreciate your help tonight trying to find out more about this disturbing story. Thank you so much for your time. Best of luck.

Coming up here, the truth about Rick Santorum's sharp, some would say inflammatory rhetoric, since he's been in the presidential spotlight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In Lansing, Michigan, today, another stunner on the Republican presidential campaign trail. Rick Santorum endorsed the Sierra Club. OK, that's a stretch, but stay with me a minute and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices. The bubble burst in housing, because people couldn't pay their mortgages, because we were looking at $4 a gallon gasoline.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, blaming gas prices for the housing bubble puts Santorum and the Sierra Club on the same page, but here's tonight's "Truth": while there is no doubt higher energy prices were a factor in the recession, the strains in the housing sector were crystal clear well before energy prices started to spike back then, and truth is, this is hardly the first recent Santorum statement that has kept the fact checkers working overtime.

The overwhelming culprit in the housing shock was the subprime loan debacle and the collapse of the mortgage-based securities market. Today wasn't the first time Senator Santorum blamed gas prices for the housing crisis, but he's getting more attention now, much more, because of his rise in the polls and not always making the best use of the spotlight.

Pressed after that Lansing event to explain how gas prices caused the housing bubble to burst, Santorum said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: I said that that was a factor. I'm sorry, you know. I'll make sure I'm much more specific.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here's some other controversial comments of late. On the Glenn Beck program he was asked about beheadings on the U.S. side of the Mexican border. Local law enforcement officials blame the drug cartels, but Santorum sees something else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Tell the truth about what the threat of radical Islam is all about, and we don't. We have a president who won't even use the word "Muslim" or "Islam" in any national security documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On that same program, Santorum blamed colleges for driving young Americans out of the Christian faiths.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Sixty-two percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment, leave without it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A 2007 survey by an evangelical organization called Lifeway did find 7 in 10 young protestants who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, but "USA Today" quotes the president of Lifeway as saying parents and other factors are to blame and, quote, "going to college doesn't make you a religious dropout." A Catholic University sociologist echoed that view, telling the newspaper, quote, "Higher education is not the villain."

So does the senator need to be more careful? Here to talk "Truth" tonight, Amy Kramer of the Tea Party Express; CNN contributor Erick Erickson, RedState.com; and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Amy, we have seen this cycle when you rise up, whether you're Michele Bachmann early on in the spring, Herman Cain, governor Perry at one point, you do get more attention and you have a chance to take advantage of that spotlight, or sometimes you can talk your way into trouble. How's the senator doing?

AMY KRAMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Well, I think some of these things he probably should not have said. The housing burst bubble -- the housing bubble burst was not about gas prices. We all know what happened with Fannie and Freddie, and that happened before prices climbed back during the 2008 election so -- or in the summer of 2008.

So I think he needs to be a little bit more careful about what he says, because when these people do rise up, they are in the spotlight and they are getting a lot more attention. And they need to be cognizant of that.

KING: So you have this moment where you can step up and seize it, Erick, or sometimes you end up hurting yourself. How's he doing? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not so well the last couple of weeks. He keeps saying that he would like to talk about jobs and the economy, but it's the media who keeps getting him to talk about the cultural issues. It's -- not really. He keeps going on cultural programs, rallying evangelicals to his support.

And he's doing very well in places like Georgia, where his numbers are very -- going up and elsewhere from Super Tuesday, rallying evangelicals. But he's talking about cultural issues, not jobs.

KING: And that's the hard part. Because he is. Look, we do focus on these things sometimes, but he's talking about them. And Erick makes a key point: he's going on certain programs to talk about certain items, because he wants to win. And he wants to knock Newt Gingrich out. He's trying to consolidate conservative support to first knock Gingrich out and then get a one-on-one on Romney. But, you know, sometimes the short-term gets in the way of the long-term.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And look, in the short- term he knows exactly what he's doing. Evangelical voters are very important in the Michigan primary, could be as much as half of the vote among the Republican electorate, so you know, that's important for him.

But what he's doing is he's turning of fiscal conservatives, who could also be important, the Tea Party. And -- and in the long-term, independent voters. You know, calling President Obama a snob for saying that kids ought to aim to get a college education, you know, I think that -- I think that becomes a problem.

The thing that I'd watch about Rick Santorum, following him out on the campaign trail just a little bit, is that when he gets asked a controversial question, he doesn't turn away from it like some politicians would do and say, "You could ask that, but I want to talk about the economy." He actually doubles down. That's what he does. He wades right into it.

KING: To a degree, that's what he did in the debate last week when asked about earmarks. I shouldn't say to a degree. He defended his record in the Senate; he explained the Senate process. As I said in the questions (ph) in the debate, earmarks are about this much of the federal budget problem, which is this much.

BORGER: Right, right.

KING: However, it is a litmus test for many members of your movement, right?

KRAMER: Let me tell you something, John. I had a social conservative radio talk show host say to me recently in South Carolina, actually, you know, "Us social conservatives feel like the Tea Party movement is shoving us to the side and kicking us, that you don't need us."

And I said, "Well, you may feel that way. We have the independents and moderates over here, and there are some Democrats that identify with these fiscal issues. The economy, that's what it's all about. And we don't want to alienate them either."

And that's why we stick to the fiscal issues, and it's about reigning in Washington and getting our spending under control. That is what resonates with Americans all across the country right now, because it's affecting their pocketbooks. And that's where all of these candidates need to stay, is on the economy.

KING: And so one of the ways you try to appeal to blue-collar voters is you show up at NASCAR. And the Daytona 500 was today. It was supposed to be yesterday. But Rick Santorum was down. He sponsored one of the cars. And here's how Rick Santorum talks about NASCAR.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: You're starting at the back of the pack in the 21st row. I said, you know, let's use the Santorum -- let's use the Santorum strategy. Hang back, let the other -- other cars in front get in wrecks and -- or drop out of the race and then move up at the end. That's hopefully the -- that's hopefully the pattern he'll use.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So Rick Santorum talking about the driver who starts in the back of the pack, and he says he'll surge, Rick Santorum, a little campaign metaphor there. Blue-collar appeal.

Here's Mitt Romney, also down at Daytona. Does he follow NASCAR, he's asked. "Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners."

BORGER: And they drive a couple of Cadillacs.

ERICKSON: You know, he's burning a candle at both ends, with ends with nothing left. He's -- he's the first Republican, I think, ever to campaign on the progressivity of the income tax. And he's saying -- he wants to use Barack Obama's rhetoric on the 99 and the 1 and then fall into the caricature of the 1, but I just -- these guys are playing to their weaknesses, not their strengths.

BORGER: Neither of them -- neither of them is closing in a very strong way, I would have to say, in the state of Michigan, and that's why it's a tie. I mean, Romney, these haven't been his best days either. He keeps making unforced errors.

KRAMER: That's why -- I'm sorry, Gloria. That's why I think that you're hearing more and more about this brokered convention, because none of these candidates are really closing anywhere, and the passion just isn't there for the candidates.

BORGER: You want that?

KRAMER: I don't -- I mean, I -- I want to wake up -- go to bed tonight, wake up tomorrow, and have it be over.

KING: This is what happens when you do have the longer, drawn out, when no one clinches right away, because you don't get to rest. Everybody's tired. The candidates are tired. The staff is tired. All the people who are supposed to help the candidates are tired. The voters are tired.

Remember, now President Obama, Senator Obama sometimes forgot what committees he was on in the United States Senate. He said some things in the campaign that were quite controversial. Secretary Clinton, then Senator Clinton said some things. So it happens in a campaign. The question is, how do you recover from it? And when you get the reset button. We may not get a reset button in this race.

ERICKSON: We may not get a reset button for a long time, if at all, until the convention, and that shouldn't be a problem for the candidates. They wanted to drag it out this time, because remember, in 2008, there were, I think, three times as many elections by now. They wanted to drag it out. It may be a little more exciting, but when you're suffering, in effect, with the weakest candidates, plus Romney, who can outgun them all with the checkbook, you get in this mess.

BORGER: But there is no incentive to get out when you have a super PAC sugar daddy who keeps -- who keeps writing those checks for your campaign. And by the way, we haven't talked about Newt Gingrich. Let's wait until Super Tuesday. He's getting some more money.

KING: We're going to see. We're going to see.

BORGER: Right around the corner.

KING: It is. Just one week from tomorrow.

BORGER: Tomorrow.

KING: We'll see. We'll see. We're still at this one.

Amy, Gloria, Erick, thanks.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin, you're staying on this tragic school shooting. What's ahead?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, unbelievable story, obviously, everyone again this morning around 7:30 when the shooter came into a cafeteria at a high school in Chardon, Ohio. We're going to go there live. We're finding out some new details tonight about why the five kids who were shot, one of whom died, were targeted by this particular gunman. Whether he had indicated he'd bring a gun to school on Twitter.

And actually, John, what we know at this point about the gun and what the gunman, the kid who shot these five kids, was thinking, why he chose to do this. We have some new details on all of that.

And also on Michigan when we talk about Rick Santorum versus Mitt Romney, there's a man, Joe Desano (ph), Democratic strategist, who says, "Let's wreak havoc, Democrats, and go vote for Rick Santorum tomorrow." He's going to come "OUTFRONT" and talk about why he's asking Democrats to do that. Is that the American thing to do? Is it a patriotic thing to do, or is it not?

All that coming up top of the hour. Back to you.

KING: Erin, we'll see you in just a few minutes there.

Erin mentioned the possibility of Democratic mischief in tomorrow's Republican primary in Michigan. We also know there's Tea Party voters, evangelical voters, and Michigan will be the first test of the Muslim vote. Joe Johns explores that in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The GOP race in Michigan couldn't be closer. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum in a dead heat a day ahead of the big primary, so it seems like the candidates would be trying to drum up every last vote, right? So what are they doing to reach out to Michigan's Muslim community? Well, some say not much. Here's senior correspondent Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pentramak (ph), Michigan, some call Bangladesh Avenue, a multicultural community where a lot of Muslims live and work. The worker of Aladdin Cafe, Alin Shafe (ph), says she's detecting among Muslims a lack of enthusiasm for the top candidates in the Republican race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For primary, it's not really because base is not excited and not energized.

JOHNS: In fact, the people in the community feel Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren't exactly beating down the doors asking for their vote, though Muslims we talked to like Nadia Bondi (ph) don't feel as though they've been ignored. Far from it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I don't think they're ignoring us. I think they are using us as a pawn to strengthen a rather radical ideal of what it means to be American that's not inclusive.

JOHNS: They say it's about how some candidates have talked about Muslim issues. Sharia Law, for example, or even jihad. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich criticized the president's apology for the destruction of Qurans in Afghanistan. Gingrich has made the dangers of radical Islam a focus of his speeches.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, my view is that we need to -- we need to have a president who is prepared to tell the truth about who's trying to kill us.

JOHNS: Former senator Rick Santorum holds himself out as a champion of religious freedom, which could seemingly work in his favor in a religious community, but not this time.

SANTORUM: I think it's very important that we understand that Sharia Law is incompatible with the United States Constitution. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He truly, you know, believes defending his own religion, but when it comes to, you know, defending the religious rights of others, he clearly believes that, you know -- he wants to impose -- he wants the law of the land to reflect his views of his religious, you know, institution and nothing else.

JOHNS: Among Muslims we talked to here, the reaction to Mitt Romney was much less about his views on Islam and more about his relationship from the state, as a guy who grew up here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Romney specifically, you know, with his legacy in Michigan, having been born and raised here, you know, was kind of taking our state for granted until recently.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And anecdotally, John, the one Republican candidate who seems to have gotten a certain amount of praise here in Michigan from Muslims happens to be Ron Paul. Of course, because of his emphasis on civil liberties and even libertarianism. He's gotten endorsements from the Muslim newspapers in the area, as well as an endorsement today from the Arab-American Republican Leadership Association, John.

KING: So, Joe, does that mean Ron Paul has the edge? Or this community much like the rest of Michigan, the rest of the Republican party, split, fractured? Having trouble picking one?

JOHNS: Well, it does seem that people are having trouble picking one. Nonetheless, I have to say that Mitt Romney has been very careful in the way he has talked about the Muslim community. He's been very careful, also, to talk about religious liberties and not sort of go on the attack. He says it's partly because he grew up here in the Detroit area and knew a lot of people of faith and differentiates between them and the people who are, as you call them, extremists.

KING: Joe Johns is live for us in Michigan tonight on the eve of the critical primary there. Joe, thanks so much.

Kate Bolduan's back now with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hello again.

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

Good evening, everyone.

New troubles for an Italian cruise line. The BBC reports the Costa Allegra with more than 1,000 passengers aboard, is without power in the Indian Ocean following a fire. This ship is from the same fleet as the Costa Concordia, which capsized off Italy in January. I'm sure you remember that.

A homecoming photo of a male Marine kissing his boyfriend created quite a stir. The picture has gotten over 14,000, quote unquote, "likes" and 3,000 comments on Facebook since Saturday. Marine Brandon Morgan and his partner say they're surprised by the attention their photo is getting.

And it seems actress Angelina Jolie's leg has legs, so to speak. In the wake of last night's Academy Awards ceremony, Jolie's dress and provocative pose sparked a new Twitter handle: @AngiesRightLeg showed up and has been filling up with snarky comments.

John, I just looked and she has over 20 -- her right leg has over 20,000 Twitter followers.

KING: That's not something to be snarky about. Not at all. Not at all.

BOLDUAN: I'm not going anywhere with this. I tell you.

KING: What's to snark at?

BOLDUAN: Nothing snarky here.

KING: All right. Finally, finally, finally, tonight's "Moment You Probably Missed." As you know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supposed to be nonpolitical in that job, strictly, but during a visit to Tunisia, she told a group of students she's sure President Obama will be re-elected this year. CNN's Elise Kapp (ph) asked the secretary about that comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I did think I needed to point that out to the audience and probably you know, my enthusiasm for the president got a little bit out of hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no -- no political juices flowing there?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm trying to dampen them down. I'm trying to have you know, them taken out, blood transfusion, but occasionally, they rear their heads. No, it just suggests that I want what's best for my country.

(END VIDEO CIP)

KING: Occasionally they rear their head. That's called your DNA is your DNA, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, but you know what? She handled it the way that I always think people should. When you -- if you think you misspoke, laugh it off and admit it and go on.

KING: Well, but she didn't think she misspoke, though. She said it was irrational exuberance. Irrational exuberance.

BOLDUAN: If there's any family with politics in their DNA, I think the Clintons fit the bill.

KING: Kate Bolduan. Kate, thanks for your help.

Remember to be here tomorrow night, special coverage before the Michigan and Arizona primary results right here in this hour. Then our political coverage all night long. Please be back here with us.

That's all for us tonight. I'll see you tomorrow. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.