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Tornado Outbreak In Kansas, Two Missing After Coast Guard Crash; Romney Rolls In Arizona and Michigan; Raw Emotion Tweeted Out; 9/11 Remains Mishandled; Dow Closes Above 13,000; Romney Rolls in Arizona and Michigan; Virginia's One-Gun Per Month Restriction Is Set To End; Teed Admits To School Shooting

Aired February 29, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's nice to have you here with us where we bring you the news from A to Z post- election night. It's 6:00 in the morning on the east. Let's get started.

While you were sleeping, there is some breaking news to tell you about. There were tornadoes overnight that were tearing across the plains. This is brand new video that's in to CNN. It shows damage in Harveyville, Kansas.

Look at how those trees are snapped like twigs, roofs blown off of houses and a real swath of damage miles and miles long, may not be over yet, either.

Rob Marciano has been watching this and monitoring the watches that are out there, the watches and the warnings. He's going to keep us up to date.

SAMBOLIN: And in politics, the next stop now, Super Tuesday, but what happened yesterday? Mitt Romney sweeps one week before the biggest night of primary season. It was a really close one in his home state as everyone predicted. They thought he would have pulled it off, but he did, saying a win is a win in Michigan.

BANFIELD: And new 911 calls, as well as tweets, that describe the absolute terror in the voices of those who suffered through the Chardon High School shooting. Did social media help or harm the hysteria?

SAMBOLIN: Outrage and anger after the Pentagon admits that some September 11 remains were dumped in a landfill.

BANFIELD: It's 1 minute past 6:00 in the morning. We begin with breaking news this morning. Severe storms ravaging the nation's heartland as you were sleeping. Tornado watches and warnings in effect right now. At least 10 people at this point have been reported injured this overnight. In Harveyville, Kansas, near Topeka, really that was one of the hardest hit places and we've some pictures to show you.

They are fresh in to CNN, apparent tornadoes downing trees, power lines. That stop sign is bent like a twig. Nine injuries reported. One person in critical condition. We're told the damage in one Missouri county apparently runs up to seven miles long.

And you really know the power of the wind when you start to see the aftermath once it passes through a community. Rob Marciano is at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. All too often you and I talk about these stories, Rob, it never ceases to amaze when you see the aftermath pictures.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And this storm has already made history. We had one tornado in Nebraska. We've never seen a tornado on at least one that's on record in the month of February so certainly early in the season for this to happen.

Right now, we have several states not only under a tornado watch, but warnings as well including northeast parts of Arkansas, western parts of Kentucky, and especially Illinois right now. This one, just southwest of Evansville, Indiana, Williamson County, that one has a tornado that's been reported on the ground.

This may very well be the same cell that dropped a tornado in Buffalo, Missouri. So this line is holding together and it continues to move off to the east very rapidly. This time of year, we have quite a bit of wind energy, and they're moving 60 to 70 miles an hour.

Now on the top of the tornadoes, on the red spots, those are tornado reports. We saw at least 10 last night. Blue squares, those are wind reports. We've had winds gusting over 60 and 70 miles per hour.

Not just tornado damage, but just straight line wind damage with this potent system that continues to push off to the east right now. We have tornado watches that are in effect. These are in effect until 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. local time.

And these will probably be extended off to the east as we go through time. This is a huge storm that's already reaching into the northeast. The northern fringes of it, blizzard warnings are posted for the northern plains. Areas just north of Minneapolis have already seen a foot of snow at this.

The snow is beginning to move into the northeast as well. We could see a foot of snow in parts of upstate New York and Northern New England. Obviously, Ashleigh, the tornado threat is the immediate concern right now.

BANFIELD: I was trying to write as fast as I could as you were listing off all of those states, but did I get it right. The warnings and the watches for tornados that are currently in effect, Nebraska, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, did I miss any?

MARCIANO: A lot of that shifted off to the east and moving quite rapidly. Right along the confluence of Ohio and Mississippi River and with that, it stretches all of the way down to the mid south. So it's a huge swath of real estate that effected.

BANFIELD: And for several more hours. All right, keep an eye on it for us, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

BANFIELD: Appreciate it.

SAMBOLIN: And also breaking this morning. The search on right now for three people after a coast guard chopper went down in Alabama. The Coast Guard says one crew member who was rescued has now died.

They're searching the waters of Mobile Bay, Alabama, where that chopper went down. This is video that we just got in of the search. The helicopter that went down, an MH-65 Dolphin, it is a search and rescue chopper. There's a picture of it there.

It was on a training mission when it crashed. We talked to Captain Dan Rose earlier today, and he said he's not quite sure what happened there. There is fog in the area now, which is hampering their search and rescue operations. But as soon as we get more details, we'll share those with you.

BANFIELD: It's five minutes past 6:00. Another big story we're following, what happened last night. Mitt Romney is really exhaling this morning after surviving that big scare in his home state of Michigan last night, political scare, none the less.

But he cruised to real a victory in Arizona. The totals from Michigan are on your set. Romney came in at 41 percent of the vote while Rick Santorum squeaked in behind with 38 percent of the vote.

You can see Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich well behind in the numbers, 12 percent and 7 percent respectively. But you know what? With numbers like that, Mitt Romney certainly sounded relieved. Have a listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this room are the people who knocked on the doors and made the calls and went to the polls. It made an enormous difference. We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that's all that counts.


BANFIELD: In other words, a win is a win according to former governor. Arizona, by the way, it was a total blowout. Look at these totals, if you were asleep when they finally rolled in, here is the final count, 47 percent of the vote went to Mitt Romney, 27 percent to Rick Santorum.

And again, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul falling well in behind with 16 percent and 8 percent respectively. So that was just last night. But there is that overall contest, the delegate scoreboard, Michigan still being divided up. It could take time to assess the real numbers there.

But as of midnight here's how it looks, Mitt Romney coming in now with 165 delegates in this race since early January. Rick Santorum, well behind with just 44 delegates. Newt Gingrich with 38 and Ron Paul with 27.

Our CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser is live in Pontiac, Michigan. You are the math man. Not only do you do polls, but you keep track of all of these delegates for us, as well.

I love to watch the delegate count because that's really what this is all about. But I always wonder if the voters out there are watching the delegate count and looking at how the race is going or if they're really just watching what happened yesterday and last night and everything in last couple of days.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, Arizona, Michigan, 59 delegates at stake, but really the true story was momentum. Mitt Romney did what he had to do, actually he won. Take a look at this.

This is the headline in "The Detroit News" one of the two major newspapers in the area. Mitt Romney brings home a win. That's really what he needed to do here. Exit polls indicate he still had trouble, troubles with conservative voters.

But you know what? Nobody is going to remember that. They're going to remember that he did win. As for Rick Santorum, listen, second place was almost as a good as a win for him. Take a listen to what he said last night.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, we came into the backyard of one of my opponents in a race that everyone said, well, just ignore, you have really no chance here. And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates and all I have to say is, I love you back. Thank you.


STEINHAUSER: Here's a take from the Santorum campaign. Listen, this is Romney's home state. He was always expected to win. They kind of forget about the fact that Santorum was up in the polls here big time about two weeks ago.

They also say they were outspent here in Michigan by more than 2-1 margin so they're pretty happy. As you mentioned, they're going to get some delegates out of this, but listen, Ashleigh. They still have a big thing ahead and that is called Super Tuesday, 10 states next Tuesday.

BANFIELD: And that's when you don't sleep basically. Paul Steinhauser, thank you for being with us this morning.


SAMBOLIN: It's 8 minutes past the hour here. Let's head to that school shooting in Ohio. The community coming together to heal at a prayer service in Chardon, Ohio. Thousands turned out last night for a vigil.

That's at the church near Chardon High School. They're remembering the three teenagers who died. Danielle Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin and Russell King Jr.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands of people here, thousands. The whole city of Chardon and other cities here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's time for everyone to get together and just support one another.


SAMBOLIN: Earlier in the day, the alleged shooter, TJ Lane, there's a picture of him right there was in court. The prosecutor said afterwards that he would be tried as an adult even though he's in juvenile court now.

He said that he admitted to firing off 10 rounds. He said it was a random act. He said this was not a case of bullying. We're also hearing some very dramatic 911 calls. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911. What is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Chardon High School calling. We are in lockdown. We need assistance right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a student with a gun.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a knife. Where is he?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is he guys? We don't know. He's in the school somewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: All the horror also played out on social media, one tweet from a terrified student here. School in lockdown. Kid with a gun. Expletive.

Brian Reese, social media editor for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." He followed the students' tweets as they were happening. Good morning to you. Thank you for being with us. For those who don't use Twitter, how were you able to follow what was happening?

BRIAN REESE, SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Twitter is organized by hash tags or news events like this. So a lot of kids were using Chardon in their tweets. What you can do is go back, find some of those tweets and trace their way back to the beginning.

I started that around 9:00 in the morning. A lot of tweeted, I'm in school, lockdown, shooter with a gun. Trace the story out. Cops arrive as people dealt with the aftermath, grabbing for each other, helping one another out. It was really fascinating to watch.

SAMBOLIN: Did you compile all of this data.

REESE: I did. I did. I had 40 tabs open on my computer. Tracking some of the kids I was pretty sure was in the school and some I was positive was in the school.

From the time line in the beginning from the ones I thought were the first tweets all of the way to the night where the kids talking to each other, consoling each other and talking about the candlelight vigil.

SAMBOLIN: You know, as I was watching this all unfold and then I heard how you compiled all of this information, I said as a parent sitting at home, boy, I would want to be a part of this. How critical is this in order to get out the information to everyone, parents included?

REESE: It's critical. You can see also on Twitter is how the tweets are being sent. Some were sent with an iPhone, some were sent by text message.

We were following what the kids were doing when it first happened. I believe the shots kind of rang out around 7:30 in the morning. By 7:49, 7:50, a lot were tweeting, we're in lockdown. I imagine they're texting their parents at the same time.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I got to tell you something that one of the first things I did was tell my son who is 13 years old, always carry your cell phone and always keep it charged based on that, in order to get the information. It's one of the lessons learned, right?

I want to talk about some of the tweets that struck you most. We have two of them here. Shots in the school. What the heck. This is messed up. And another one, pray for us. Gunman in the school.

Quite a sense of panic there, right? Do you think it played out on Twitter that way?

REESE: Absolutely. You see these tweets and you think, imagine these kids huddled under a desk in a classroom, thinking it could be their last. That's terrifying.

You know, when you look at those and you look the other ones where they start thanking the schoolteachers that stepped up and kind of shuffled the shooter out of the building, the other who grabbed a student and pulled him into their classroom.

It's really amazing and brings you there. Brings you to the scene, which I think is different from previous shootings where we watch on the news, we hear reports about what it was like, but now was can almost go on Twitter or even on Facebook and see what it was like in real time, which is terrifying.

SAMBOLIN: Brian, as you look back at your time line and now you see all of the developments that have unfolded, is it a pretty accurate time line of how everything happened?

REESE: I think it is. Yes, you know, it started with the first shots and then the kids were talking about the lockdown, the cops arriving. There were a lot of rulers flying around. A lot of them the shooter's name.

Some named another kid, which wasn't correct. Before the media was reporting who had been shot these kids were all saying it was their friends, they were naming them.

So looking back on it you can pretty much match tweet for tweet the facts, but it's also important to be careful with the rumors there, too.

SAMBOLIN: Now, absolutely. Another tweet that struck us and you say it caused or expressed a lot of emotion. Here it is. It says, I think we all need to thank our amazing staff and police. They did a great job especially Mr. Hall for chasing the shooter out of the building. Were a lot of the students talking about this?

REESE: For sure. We saw a lot of tweets about Coach Hall as well as Mr. Richie, the math teacher. That was one of the first thank you to the police, thank you to these two teachers.

That was the first step in kind of healing, it seemed, which is almost immediate given how previously the shooting happened. They were around 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning. Clearly, the facts spread quickly.

SAMBOLIN: How are they tweeting in an effort to heal?

REESE: You know, a lot of them change their profile pictures both on Twitter and Facebook to the school's logo in solidarity with each other. Just like they're wearing their colors when they go to these vigils and gathering in the school.

It's the same thing on social media. They're supporting each other. They're inviting each other to each other's house, playing a game of basketball, any way they can to get together. A lot of that happening on social media.

SAMBOLIN: Brian Reese, this has been fascinating. You have to wonder if the police also follow on Twitter, perhaps you know, getting their information as well.

REESE: They are.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, they really appreciate it. Social media editor of "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." Thank you.

BANFIELD: You know, I was talking to Dave Colin who wrote the book "Columbine" and one of the big things that he said was after a shooting like this don't push the healing.

These kids need to take a lot of time and the Columbine kids, the ones who survived all said that was the biggest complaint they had. People were pushing them to get closure and healing and they said it took lot longer than anyone had thought and that they needed that time.

SAMBOLIN: Well, it looks like they have a brand new way of doing that and they share. I love it.

BANFIELD: It's so fascinating.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I love the power of social media.

BANFIELD: So still ahead, a disturbing story to tell you. I don't know how this could possibly happen and I think a lot of people are shaking their heads. 9/11 was something that will go down obviously as one of the somber moments in American history.

So how is it -- how is it possible that some remains, human remains from the victims of 9/11, ended up in a landfill? I'm not kidding. We're going to take you live to the Pentagon to try to sort this out.

Also, Mitt Romney certainly breathing a sigh of relief. A big Tuesday for him. Two states, critical states. How are these primary states in the grand scheme of things going to measure up though in the bigger story? Super Tuesday is just around the corner.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 19 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

A stunning revelation about 9/11 victims contained in a Pentagon report on improving the Air Force mortuary in Dover, Delaware. Last year, it was discovered that partial remains of U.S. troops were dumped in landfills. BANFIELD: U.S. troops, yes. But now we're also learning that cremated remains of victims from 9/11 -- 9/11, more than a decade ago, some of them disposed in the very same way, in the landfill.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live from the Pentagon to try to sort this out. At first, I couldn't believe the headline in that story, Barbara, that remains of our returning troops going to Dover mortuary were disposed in this way. And then I got completely confused when I heard that there could be 9/11 victims in the midst (ph) of that story as well. Can you sort this out?


What we're talking about, we had a press conference here at the Pentagon to discuss this problem that they discovered several months ago. Remains of the war dead and now we know remains of 9/11. What happened is these are elements, remains, DNA material, too small to identify, to small to test and try and find out what exactly it is or who it belongs to. So it was incinerated.

It was then sent to a contractor for disposal. And that contractor disposed of it as medical waste, putting these incinerated small remains into a landfill. Completely inappropriate by military standards.

But we didn't know until yesterday that this also included remains from 9/11. Remains from the attack here at the Pentagon and, according to this report, remains from Shanksville.

But here's more confusion. The local Pennsylvania County coroner that handled the Shanksville remains says they maintained control of those remains at all times and none of it was ever even sent to Dover for analysis.

So further anguish for the families of the Shanksville attack and anguish here at the Pentagon that 10 years later, they're still finding out new details about what happened.

Everyone all the way up to President Obama has expressed concern about this situation at Dover. The Air Force says it's taking steps to fix it and make sure this doesn't happen again -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Barbara, the only thing I can -- the only thing I can think of as to how this happened is just some confusion over legal language, the words "final disposition." That perhaps the military has a different definition of final disposition than perhaps the contractor, meaning they can go to different areas depending on what that actual phrase means?

STARR: Well, you know, sure. Maybe that's the legal -- you know, I think you would agree, Ashleigh. Maybe that's the legal reasoning behind all of this.

You know, some contractor didn't understand and the Air Force didn't understand. But the bottom line is really is the results, that even if these are such small bits, incinerated remains, they are remains that were disposed of in a landfill as medical wastes. And we already have heard from this (INAUDIBLE) Industry, the mortuary profession, that this simply is not the way it should be done -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Distressing. Thank you, Barbara. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START, the Dow above 13,000. That has not happened since 2008. Is it a good sign? Imagine the answer to that is yes. Will it continue?

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: Hi. Good morning. It's 25 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast. This is the time we like to "Mind Your Business," whether you like it or not.

The Dow is closing above 13,000 yesterday. Everybody all smiles, of course. The Dow, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 all green arrows up yesterday. That's usually a pretty good sign. Makes people happy.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is. And CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow is in for Christine Romans this morning. So, Poppy, let's talk about the last time this happened, 2008.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: A long time ago. The economy was sort of has been in free-fall. May, 2008, so it's been a long time since we've seen this level on the Dow.

Also the S&P 500, which frankly matters more to your investments, that's at the highest level since June, 2008. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, highest level since 2000.

So very, very strong market here. You're probably scratching your head asking why, we still have a jobs crisis. It is the economy still struggling. Yes, but take a look at what is driving this.

First of all, yesterday we got the highest reading in a year of consumer confidence. Economist is a big form of -- confidence is a big form of stimulus. Also, companies keep turning very strong profits.

We've got some negative numbers not as strong house number -- housing prices number. Not a strong number on durable good sales, that means big ticket items that you buy here.

But also, oil prices fell $2 a barrel. Gas prices are up again today for the 22nd straight day. So the question here is are gas prices going to continue to rise? Because if they do what we see is the consumers pull back on what they're spending. Their confidence falls, that affects the market. But we've got some big things coming out today at 8:30. We will have the latest reading on fourth quarter GDP. That's going to show us how much the U.S. economy grew in the last three months of 2011. That's very important.

Right now investors very positive heading into the session. Futures are up all across the board here.

So you know, you still have this tale of two Americas. We've got crisis in jobs. You've got the middle class suffering so much. The bottom falling out. But the market is turning around.

The question is are we ready for a pullback? Or correction here -- is the market outpacing where this economy really is? But, again, remember, the market is a reading of companies and companies reflect what people are buying all around the world, not just what's happening in the United States.

So it's not a direct reflection of how the U.S. economy is doing, but we'll take it and it's helping people's investment.

SAMBOLIN: I like that confidence story and that's getting stronger, and hopefully we're headed in the --

HARLOW: It's getting a lot better.

BANFIELD: What did you say last time, confidence is the cheapest form of stimulus?

HARLOW: Yes, and it's not my quote. It's Larry Summers.


BANFIELD: Poppy, thank you.

Still ahead on EARLY START, remember this name because it is an important name -- Frank Hall. He is the assistant coach who might have prevented a far greater crisis in that school shooting yesterday if it hadn't been for him chasing the alleged shooter out of the school. You're going to hear from him, a man who is now being called a hero.



BANFIELD: Good morning to you. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

The Coast Guard says three people are still missing after a chopper went down during a training mission. That's in Mobile Bay, Alabama. One crew member who was rescued early on has now died. It was on a training mission when it crashed.

And this just in -- we are learning one person was killed in the aftermath of severe storms that moved through Missouri overnight. Tornado watches and warnings in effect right now across the mid-South. A funnel cloud caught on tape as a twister touched down in Reno County, Kansas, last night.

BANFIELD: And we are hearing for the first time from a man named Frank Hall. He is a heroic teacher and assistant coach who put his life at risk in Ohio by chasing that shooting suspect out of the school yesterday. It was T.J. Lane who is suspected of doing the shooting in the cafeteria.

Listen to the coach.


FRANK HALL, TEACHER: I just want to say that I'm sorry to the families of the victims, I wish I could have done more.


BANFIELD: The suspect appearing in court after it was announced that a third victim of the rampage died. Sources saying T.J. Lane admitted to the rampage, told authorities that he stole the gun that he used from his uncle.

Moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has decided not to run for a fourth term. She said she is simply fed up for the political polarization in Washington. It could be a huge blow to the GOP's hope of retaking control of the Senate in November.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

With Super Tuesday just six days away now, Mitt Romney has regained some much needed momentum. A convincing 20-point win in the Arizona primary, Romney with 47 percent, Santorum with 27 percent. It's a giant exhale in his home state of Michigan. It was a really tight three-point win over Santorum.

So what did Romney do? He went back to attacking Obama.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He thinks he deserves a second term. He says, "We can't wait," to which I say, "Oh, yes, we can."


SAMBOLIN: Let's talk to our political panel. From Washington, Republican strategist Matt Keelen. Here in New York, we have John Avlon, senior political columnist with "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." And in Washington, Marjorie Clifton, Democratic strategist and national editor of

John, I'm going to start with you.

Romney wins Arizona and Michigan, that's great. But Michigan we saw super narrow. What does this really close margin mean going forward to Super Tuesday for both Romney and Santorum?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It does indicate a lingering weakness in Mitt Romney's campaign. Remember, this is his home state. His father was a very popular governor here. He won it by nine points last time around. With many of the same voter, he lost this time around to Rick Santorum. Add to that a delegate split.

And one of the real question, while it's great news that they avoided a disaster of losing Michigan, the weakness they have shown in the home state is going to keep lingering questions in place. It's going to stop, I think, Republicans from looking for a white knight savior going forward, which is good news for Mitt, but sets up Super Tuesday while he's going in strong, lingering questions. And there are a lot of problems on that primary map on Super Tuesday, he's going to have to confront.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about the frustration within the GOP.

Matt, let's talk to you about. The GOP kind of didn't like its field, right? David Brooks yesterday in "The New York Times" was blasting the primary campaign.

Here's what he said. Two kinds of candidates emerge from this process. First, those who are forceful but outside the mainstream. Second, those who started out mainstream but look weak and unprincipled because they have spent so much time genuflecting before those who despise them.

So, we know Romney won, right? But a very close margin. And Romney said this before the victory. Let's listen and we'll talk.


ROMNEY: I'm not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. I am who I am.


SANTORUM: Not willing to light his hair on fire. I don't know what he needs to excite the field, right? We don't know that that's going to be it.

Earlier you said that Romney is going to get his groove back in Ohio. How is he going to get that groove? Everybody is frustrated. He can't seem to connect.

What -- we know what he can't do. What can he do?

MATT KEELEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, if I had hair like Mitt Romney's I wouldn't light it on fire, either.

One of the keys that he has to do is start reconnecting with independent voters. What we have seen in the negativity in this race over the last several weeks is that both Romney and Santorum have been hurt with independents. We've seen Obama's numbers come back up. Although over the past week, Obama's numbers are starting to come back down with independents as well.

But he has to start talking about the general election. I think what he did last night, talking about the president directly and being gracious to his other opponents in the primary is the key. He has to bring this race back to one where he is running against Barack Obama, not against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Marjorie, let's look forward then to the general election. One of the things that weighed heavily on the voters this time is the split over the auto bailout, right? Huge issue in Michigan for obvious reasons there.

But Barack Obama is also looking forward to the general election. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same folks who said if we went forward our plan to rescue Detroit, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. Now they are saying, we were right all along. I place my bet on the American worker and I'll make that bet any day of the week.


SAMBOLIN: How of a roll will that play in the general election?

MARJORIE CLIFTOIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, that speech is actually seen as more of a win than any of the speeches that Romney were giving in the state. And I would say the investment in G.M. and auto bailout has proved, while risky, has proved to be a big win by the administration.

And, you know, Romney and Santorum have both been putting their feet in their mouth quite a bit and that's what we're sort of holding out to see going to happen in the next coming weeks. And talking on social issues as we have seen with Santorum, talking about birth control, criticizing the president for having a good education and coming out seeming like he is anti-the American Dream of education or higher education, I should say, has not been winning for the Republican nominees.

So I think the economy is their best bet. If they're going to really win the American public, they're really going to have to focus on bettering the economy because they're not winning on social front right now.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I'm going to totally switch gears on all three of you now. It's a final question here. It's a crazy question this morning. One phrase answer only.

We talk a lot ability congressional legislation all the time, right? So there's a new bill referred to ways and means. I don't know if you've heard of this. It's called the Stache Act.

It's a $250 tax break for Americans with mustaches. There's no gender discrimination. This applies to both men and women.

Insane or genius?

Matt, we'll start with you.

KEELEN: Genius.



CLIFTON: Insane. I think women would have a lot more tax credit that we should be able to get if they give us a tax credit for mustache. And hide your children. A mustache parade is very scary.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? I'm going to agree with you on that one.

And, John, how about you?

AVLON: And does he or she have a mustache?

SAMBOLIN: Does he or she have a mustache? Insane or genius?

AVLON: Insane.

SAMBOLIN: Insane. I think -- I think it's kind of genius, actually.

Thank you so much for playing this morning. We appreciate it.

KEELEN: Take care.

So, at 7:00 a.m. on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will be joined by Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. We'll get his take on Romney's big night and on Super Tuesday.

BANFIELD: Still to come on EARLY START, should juveniles be charged as adults? It is a renewed debate after a 17-year-old was brought in on that awful shooting in Ohio. He has not been charged yet. We do not know if he will be charged as an adult. But should he?

First, though, tornado watches in the mid-South. Our Rob Marciano is live tracking it for us.

What's the latest, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have four active tornado warnings across the mid-South, heading across Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Right now, the most dangerous of which is just to the southwest of Evansville, Indiana. This has a history of producing tornado across parts of southwest Illinois and these are all moving rapidly to the east at 70 miles an hour, all part of a larger system.

Number of tornado watches as you mentioned up until noon and 9:00 this morning as this potent line of storms really doesn't show much in the way of weakening the northern side of it, a blizzard warning happening right now across the Northern Plains.

You're up to date weather-wise.

EARLY START is coming right back.


BANFIELD: Good morning to you. It is 43 minutes past the hour. Time to check the news making top stories.

SAMBOLIN: One crew member died and three still missing after a Coast Guard helicopter copper crashed off the Alabama coast. The Coast Guard says it crashed during a training mission in Mobile Bay. And we are learning one person killed in the aftermath of severe storms that moved through Missouri overnight. Tornado watches and warnings are in effect right now across the mid-South.

Severe storm in Kansas are damaging Kansas and Missouri with 10 tornadoes touching down.

The storm chasers captured this one as it touched down in Reno County, Kansas.

And Mitt Romney, you know, he is exhaling this morning -- escaping with a three-point win over Rick Santorum in his home state of Michigan. A loss there could have crippled his campaign. Romney also registering a nice 20-point win over Santorum in Arizona's primary. Super Tuesday in six days now.

BANFIELD: Virginia's one-gun per month restriction is set to end on July 1st. It was a law enacted in 1993 to curb gun trafficking along the East Coast. And a recent poll found that two-thirds of Virginia residents wanted to keep the restriction. Governor Bob Donald said he spoke with people on both sides of the issue before signing the repeal.

Also, a Brazilian thief arrested for trying to open a bank account with this picture ID. Look closely. Look real closely. Does that look like someone you know, like a major Hollywood actor, like Jack Nicholson? It is. It's Jack Nicholson's photo. But, police say that the 41-year-old man who is trying to use it doesn't look anything like the 74-year-old actor. Whose picture he used on the fake ID. And, yes, that would be a charge.

SAMBOLIN: I would like to see those side-by-side, wouldn't you? BANFIELD: I would very much like to see his mug shot.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-five minutes past the hour. Here's Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning to you.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Oh, my goodness. Good morning to both of you, as well. Lots ahead on "Starting Point" this morning. First, we're going to focus on the very latest on those Ohio school shootings. T.J. lane, who is he? What exactly was behind this shooting at this school?

He is said to have confessed, but why? We're going to talk to a young person who is friends with T.J. Lane and also can describe some of the chaotic moments inside the classrooms.

Also, Mitt Romney, Michigan, Arizona, he can notch those down as victories, but he won Michigan by a smaller margin than he did back in 2008. So, the question, of course, is, can he capture the energy of his conservative base? We're going to talk about that this morning.

And then, we're going to talk to the author of a new book. It's called "The Escape Artist: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery." It's a behind the scenes account of how President Obama's economic team from his inauguration all the way through the end of his first year really messed up what the stimulus and what the implications are today that we are living with.

All that and much more ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We'll see you in about 15 minutes to go.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 50 minutes past the hour. The teen suspect in the deadly Chardon High School shooting in Ohio is making his first court appearance admitting to firing the shots that killed three students with one victim now still in the hospital.

BANFIELD: The prosecutors say that 17-year-old T.J. Lane is likely to be tried as an adult, and that means he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Of course, Lane will likely possibly have to face a jury before that, but what ultimately happens when a teen who's tried as an adult gets convicted and then sentenced to a very long period of time for a horrible crime like a school shooting?

I can take you back a little bit in history to give you an idea. Do you remember Kip Kinkel? He was 15 years old. Look at that young face on your screen. Fifteen years old back in 1998. In Springfield, Oregon, he killed his parents, and then, the next day, he shot up his school cafeteria and killed two students and wounded another 22. Wait for it. Look at him now.

Look at how he's changed. That is Kip Kinkel today. He was tried as an adult, and he was sentenced to 111 years without parole. Of course, not all brutal crimes come from kids who are shooting up schools. There's another example of a young person who did something terrible. Alex King. Look at that child. Twelve years old back in 2001. Twelve years old. Now, he looks a lot different.

Look at that mug shot. He was tried as an adult and charged with first-degree murder in the killing of his father. He pleaded guilty to third-degree, got seven years, and he was released in 2008.

Jayne Weintraub is a criminal defense attorney who's defended young people, including Alex King of these kinds of crimes. I thought of you first, Jane, when I heard about this story. You think it's pretty much (INAUDIBLE) that T.J. Lane will be tried as an adult in Ohio?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I do. The statute says, Ashleigh, that if the child is over the age of 16, creates a serious offense with a firearm, he will be tried as an adult. And in this case, T.J. lane is so close to being of adult's age anyway. A majority that I don't think it's even close.

BANFIELD: So, essentially, as I looked at the statute, it's called aggravated murder. The prosecutors already talked about the fact that there could be three counts of it. Let me just play a quick sound bite from what the prosecutors said outside court yesterday. Have a listen.


DAVID JOYCE, PROSECUTOR: The 17 years old, committing an act like this, most likely be three kinds of aggravated murder as well as other counts that we anticipate going forward. Provided the juvenile court judge finds that there is probable cause ,and he will be bound over as an adult.


BANFIELD: So, Jayne, if that's the case, this will be a regular old trial like we see with other people. Could be a plea bargain, we don't know. But if he does end up with the ultimate punishment in this state, because right now, there's a moratorium on the death penalty in Ohio. We should say that right away. It's called "L walk" among legal circles. That's life without the possibility of parole. Is that, essentially, what this kid is facing?

WEINTRAUB: Yes it is. And besides which, Ashleigh, under the Supreme Court case in 2005, juveniles can no longer be eligible for the death penalty sanction. And the reason, interestingly enough, behind the Supreme Court's decision was that the brain is not fully developed and formed under 18, and so, therefore, we're not going to execute them.

BANFIELD: That's a bit inconsistent, isn't it? We can try them as an adult even though the Supreme Court says they're not fully formed adult brains?

WEINTRAUB: That is actually what I was trying to say. Yes. I agree completely.

BANFIELD: Yes. All right. WEINTRAUB: But the problem is that he is looking at --

BANFIELD: Go ahead.

WEINTRAUB: He is looking at life without parole, and the question is, where does he go between 17 and 21 to be convicted and -- to be confined?

BANFIELD: Exactly what my nest next question was. You read my mind, because I've always wonder, when young kids, particularly that picture of Alex King that we showed looks like he's about eight years old. When young kids end up in the adult system, do they get escorted right out of that courtroom and into an adult prison?

WEINTRAUB: Well, in most cases, they will have a segregated wing in an adult prison or an adult facility for juveniles such as this defendant. It's more troubling, of course, as the defendant is younger and younger. In this case, because he's 17 already, I think he will be taken to an adult facility.

He's not going to be looked at as eligible for juvenile justice like Alex was at 12 or 14 years old. There's a big difference.

BANFIELD: So, Jayne, what's it like in those prison then if there isn't a segregated wing, say, for the 17-year-old who ends up in an adult male prison. Is he just like anyone out there and do they face risks or do other prisoners take them under their wing, look after them, almost like surrogate fathers?

WEINTRAUB: I think that most people will take him under his wing. It's not as if this is a sex crime. This is a -- this is a very troubled youth. Even according to the prosecutor's statement outside of court yesterday, he said, he is not a well person.


WEINTRAUB: I mean, anyone who does something like this, obviously, is facing serious mitigation evidence of his background, psychologically. We know that both his parents have been convicted of very violent crimes. They've both been in prison, raised by the grandparents. I mean, he's got just a lot on his plate.

BANFIELD: I'll be interested to find out what his defense attorney mounts as a defense. It is troubling, indeed. But, Jayne, it's great to see you again. Thanks very much.

WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Ashleigh.

SAMBOLIN: It is 55 minutes past the hour here. In our next hour, you know that deadly line of tornadoes moving across the Midwest, but there is now a confirmed death there. The danger is not over. Stay tuned. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: And that is EARLY START, the news from A to Z. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien coming up next, and I understand you have something on a senior al Qaeda militant that was arrested in a Cairo airport.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We've got lots of breaking news to start with this morning. So, thank you, ladies. Appreciate it.