CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Senator John McCain; Gas Prices Up For 27 Days Straight; North Korean Leader's DMZ Visit; Interview with Newt Gingrich; Earthquake in San Francisco Area; Super Tuesday Countdown

Aired March 5, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching STARTING POINT.

Oh, Abby, Abby, we're going to talk about what it's like to have your dad run for president. That's straight ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: President Obama less than three hours away from a showdown at the White House with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Will Israel attack Iran? Senator McCain is going to join us live to talk about how that aspect should be handled.

Also, Newt Gingrich is joining us live in this hour. The former House speaker says he's got to win Georgia tomorrow to remain a, quote, "credible candidate". So, what's next if he doesn't win?

And "SNL" spoofing the Romneys. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we feel great. Michigan was just another case of voters taking a look at Mitt Romney and saying, I guess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes, I guess.

Wait until you see how the Romney sons were portrayed. We're going to get Abby to weigh in on that for us, how it feels to have your family on TV mocked a little bit at times.

Our STARTING POINT for Monday, March 5th, 2012.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Ooh, that's my love, Luther Vandross, "Dance with my Father". Everybody should buy it if they don't already own it.

Welcome back, everybody.

Let's welcome our panel as well. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, Democrat from California, joining us this morning. It's nice to have you.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Naftali Bendavid is "Wall Street Journal" political reporter. He's going to talk politics for us this morning.

And Abby Livingston is the daughter of a former presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman. That's why we're going to talk about the Romney boys.

First, though, today, President Obama is going to be meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who said he fears a second Holocaust should Iran get a nuclear weapon. Today's sit-down comes one day after the president made a strongly worded speech before a pro-Israel group.

And the president warned he would launch his own military strike if Tehran tries to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Arizona Republican Senator John McCain is joining us this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for being with us.

We should mention that you are a Mitt Romney supporter.

Let's talk, though, about what we were just hearing from President Obama, talking about Israel and Iran. This will be the ninth meeting today when he sits down with the Israeli prime minister.

You have said that he has not been -- and some people have criticized the president as not being tough enough on Iran, not protective enough of Israel.

Do you think now he's taking a strong enough position for you?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think he gave a good speech as he always does at AIPAC. But the fact is, a couple of weeks ago, he sent his national security adviser and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel to tell the Israelis and then to the public not to do anything to prevent Iran from their continued development of nuclear weapons, thereby weakening Israel dramatically.

The fact is that if we had a -- he's asking Israel to rely on the United States for protection against a country that is dedicated to Israel's extinction. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called them a rational nation. The national security adviser says they haven't decided on whether to use a nuclear weapon or not, to develop one or not -- when they are taking all the steps, including digging into mountains to protect those facilities.

So, his words are excellent. His deeds have been -- have served to weaken the position of Israel in the Middle East. And the Israelis -- now, the president wants the Israelis to be dependent on a decision made by the United States.

O'BRIEN: What would you like to see?

MCCAIN: I would like the president of the United States to say, here are the following red lines. If the Iranians cross those lines, then proper action will be taken. There's no separation between --

O'BRIEN: And what would proper action be?

MCCAIN: Tougher sanctions we need to examine in order to prevent Israel from acquiring the nuclear weapon which they have dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel.

O'BRIEN: Bombing Iran?

MCCAIN: If there's a country in our hemisphere -- if there's a country in our hemisphere that was developing weapons that we couldn't counter over time and were dedicated to our destruction, I think that we would not rely on another country for our security.

O'BRIEN: So, are you saying that if those red lines were crossed, that would mean bombing Iran?

MCCAIN: No. I'm saying that appropriate action needs to be taken to prevent, as the president has said, but lays out no specific blueprint for. Meanwhile, sending messages of distance and weakness on the part of the Israel is.

O'BRIEN: There's indications now that Iran is supporting the Syrian forces in these brutal attacks that have happened -- I think it's something like 62 people were just killed on Monday alone. What do you think the course of action should be? We've talked in the past, you and I, about arming the opposition. No one really seems to be moving forward in that direction with any speed.

What should happen right now?

MCCAIN: Well, actually, the United States as usual is not moving forward. The Saudis have said they want to provide weapons. Qatar has said that. Other nations are considering those options, including the Arab League.

As usual, the United States is leading from behind. We should have sanctuaries. We should have no fly and no travel zones. We should be providing weapons. We went into Bosnia and Kosovo, Soledad, because massacres were taking place and ethnic cleansing, not because of threats to American national security. We need to do the same thing with Syria.

And yes, the Iranians are there. And they are there in some strength and providing arms and training and equipment, as are the Russians.

It's an unfair fight.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about Russia then. Vladimir Putin, as you well know, has been re-elected, something like 65 percent of the vote with 70 percent of the results in. Opponents, American analysts, say the whole thing has been rigged and it's been rife with fraud.

What is your reaction to his re-election?

MCCAIN: My reaction is that what most of us have said, it was a fraud. Putin's days are numbered. The Arab spring has already come to Russia and it will continue. He maybe able to stay in power for a period of time.

O'BRIEN: Where do you see that? Where do you see that? Those protests didn't seem --

MCCAIN: Thousands and thousands -- thousands and thousands of protesters. The blogs, the tweets, the new middle class in Russia that won't stand for this any longer.

O'BRIEN: You have a tweet that I assume is from you, that went like this: "Vlad, the Arab spring is coming to a neighborhood near you."

So I guess I would say, first, do you tweet yourself? Did you tweet that? And --

MCCAIN: Sure.

O'BRIEN: And Vlad is Vladimir Putin, right?

MCCAIN: Sure. And I just tweeted this morning, surprise, surprise -- dear Vlad, surprise, surprise. You won. The Russian people are crying too.

O'BRIEN: Does he tweet you back?

MCCAIN: He reacts.

O'BRIEN: Has he answered you back on it?

MCCAIN: He said that I was a bloodthirsty person who enjoyed people being killed like Gadhafi and I had been kept in a pit for two years and that I was nuts. That's one of his latest on a television in Russia.

O'BRIEN: There are some people who say it does not look like the Arab spring is coming to Russia in the same way we have seen it in other countries. What is your evidence that it is? MCCAIN: In case you missed it, Soledad, thousands and thousands and thousands of people demonstrating in subzero weather. There's no doubt that the Arab spring is coming there. And by the way, it's going to come to China, too.

It's a new world we're living in now in the 21st century. And there's no doubt in my mind that the people of Russia are not going to stand forever for a corrupt government such as that of Vladimir Putin.

And the reset obviously has not worked. Look at their support -- continued support of Syria. Unacceptable.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about politics if we can.

MCCAIN: OK.

O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney pulling ahead in the polls. He's been endorsed by Coburn. He's been endorsed by Eric Cantor.

The fight seems -- maybe I'm stepping out of the limb here -- but maybe it's coming to a bit of an end. Reince Priebus said to me that he thought it was all of this infighting in order to get to the nomination was a good thing. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I feel good about this. And I know that people argue over whether, you know, having a tough primary is a good or a bad thing. I just happen to believe that it's good for our party, as you and I have talked about many times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And he and I have talked about it many times, but you and I have talked about it and you said it's not good for the party. What do you think the cost has been so far?

MCCAIN: Well, all you have to do is look at the latest polls, the unfavorables of all of our Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, who I'm a strong supporter of. The unfavorables are very high. The president has opened a gap between himself and the Republicans, as he has watched by.

It's been the tenor of this campaign, not the length of it -- the personal attacks, all the kinds of things that super PACs are pouring money into negative ads have made the general election much more difficult than it otherwise would have been.

O'BRIEN: Do you think Rush Limbaugh adds to that? Or do you think people say he's an entertainer, it's not sort of a straight political forum?

MCCAIN: Well, I'm sure he's -- I'm sure he's an entertainer. But his remarks are totally unacceptable, totally and completely unacceptable, and there's no place for it. O'BRIEN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about "Game Change" the movie. It's going to will air on HBO on Saturday. Julianne Moore is playing the role of Sarah Palin and Ed Harris plays you. I'm going to play a little bit of a trailer and ask you question on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure how much she knows about foreign policy.

JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS (as Sarah Palin): You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. What have we done?

MOORE: Was it my fault I wasn't properly prepped?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, I know that's not the first time you've seen the clips. What do you think of the movie? Are you going to watch it?

MCCAIN: Of course not. It's based on a book that was innuendo, unsubstantiated remarks, quotes that were un-attributable. It was a great piece for the re-election of President Obama by authors who were obviously committed to it. And, of course, I wouldn't watch such a thing. I have better use for my time.

O'BRIEN: Tweeting, for example.

All right. We appreciate you joining us this morning.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on.

O'BRIEN: Senator McCain, always nice to chat with you. Appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich is going to join us. He says he's got to win Georgia tomorrow. But what happens, though, if he wins only Georgia? We'll talk about that.

And then "Parenthood" star Monica Potter is going to join us. She'll tell us why she wants to share our breakfast and how she juggles three kids.

Plus, Ms. Sanchez's (ph) playlist, Gym Class Heroes, "Stereo Hearts". I've never heard this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. Let's get right to Christine for the headlines. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. A developing story in Wisconsin right now where the search for a missing college student is about to resume.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Students from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point joined police in the hunt for Eric Duffey. He was last seen celebrating his 21st birthday with friends at a local bar early Saturday. In his last text message to a friend, Duffey said he was going home. Hasn't been seen since.

Gas prices rising for 27 days straight. The new national average for a gallon of gas stands at $3.77, up a fraction of a cent in the past 24 hours. AAA just posted this on its website, "we're getting uncomfortably close to the $4 a gallon mark," which experts say is when people start to curb their gas consumption because they have to save money.

New developments on the Korean Peninsula where North Korea's new leader is still talking tough. Kim Jong-Un visited the demilitarized zone for the first time since he took control of the country last December. The communist nation is threatening a sacred war with South Korea over its joint military drills with the United States.

Former first lady, Barbara Bush, doing a little campaigning for Mitt Romney in Ohio. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Hi. This is Barbara Bush calling for Romney for president on behalf of our friend, Mitt Romney. We have known the Romneys for years, and believe Mitt is the best man to lead the country for the next four years, and Ann will make a great first lady.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The former first lady also recorded a robo call for Romney in Vermont.

And did you catch "Saturday Night Live's" the spoof of Mitt and Ann Romney? It also featured funny man, Bill Hader, doing a creepy imitation of Fox anchor, Shepard Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you feel about the Michigan win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we feel great. Michigan was just another case of voters taking a look at Mitt Romney and saying, uh, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You keep making gaffes that paint you as a wealthy businessman who's out of touch with the middle class voter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not focusing on that, Shepard. I'm focusing on the victories. And as we say in the Romney house, I'm happier than a poor man eating a can of beans from a Dumpster. Yum, yum, yum, yum.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Romney's five sons also got spoofed, "SNL" makes them seem like a big group of robots. Let's listen to a little bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm tick tack. I'm the rebel, because I eat sugar.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love sugar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I keep a handle of Twix in my pocket.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I'm dying to hear what Abby Livingston thinks about that.

O'BRIEN: Oh, you know. We are all wearing red today. Abby is no exception to that. I don't know what happened there. So, what was it like when your dad was running to be president, because those kind of spoofs mocking and --

ABBY LIVINGSTON, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRES. CANDIDATE JON HUNTSMAN: Yes. That was a great skit. I mean, you can't help but laugh. They had so much material to use this time around, but you can't take it too seriously when you put yourself in the public life like that. I think at the same time, you know, children can really help.

I'm surprised that the Romney boys haven't been out there more, because I think they could help humanize their dad. You know, I think he's had a tough time connecting. And, they were out four years ago a lot more. I know they had their bus. And so, I'm just surprised they're not out more.

O'BRIEN: When you represent for your dad, did you people like people coach you? Were they worried that you and your sisters might, you know?

LIVINGSTON: I'm sure they were. I mean, one of my other sisters is very honest and blunt. But at the end of the day, I think you can learn a lot from someone based on how their kids are and how they represent their dad and just how they were raised. You have to trust that. And, you know, I think Governor Romney should trust that his sons will represent him well, and they should have them out more, because it's a family affair.

NAFTALI BENDAVID, POLITICAL REPORTER OF WALL STREET JOURNAL: Were you guys spoofed a lot? Was it weird to see your family out there?

O'BRIEN: Did it hurt ever?

LIVINGSTON: You know, I think you have to get to the point where you laugh at it, you know? Unless, it's a real personal attack. You know, there was an ad that came out on my little sister that was tough, but beyond that, you kind of rise above it, and you know you're in that situation, and you just kind of have to have fun with it.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think it's also the age. You know, for example, in the first Clinton election, we didn't see Chelsea out on the road. And then, the second one, we really didn't see her. But when her mom was running, we would see her out. So, I think if, you know, if you're of the age --

O'BRIEN: So, your sisters are much littler -- like eight and nine-ish.

LIVINGSTON: I think they would have a tougher time. As you get older, you become a lot more involve and you have fun with it.

O'BRIEN: That was very funny. I hope they don't hate that, but we're laughing.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich is going to join us. Is he going to remain in the race beyond Super Tuesday if he wins Georgia but nothing else but Georgia? We'll talk about that.

Plus, "Parenthood" star, Monica Potter, is going to join us. She's taking on childhood hunger. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: OK. Good. I was going to say -- I was going to say we have no love for you today. We get to do a musical playlist. That was Congresswoman Sanchez's playlist, Jason Derulo, "It Girl." Nice song. I'm going to share a playlist --

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: I think it's fun.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's really fun. Welcome. We're going to introduce you this morning to Monica Potter. She plays the mom on NBC's primetime, which is called "Parenthood." She juggles a lot of stuff both in real life but also on the show. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICA POTTER, ACTRESS: OK. Special day. Guess what? We're all going to eat together. Me, you, Haddy and Merryl (ph). My three special kids on this special, special day. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. That's Jen. I have to go to a student council meeting. Don't cry. Please don't cry.

POTTER: Bye, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, dad's gone. Can I just go eat in front of the TV?

POTTER: Sure. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just going to eat in front of the TV.

POTTER: OK. We're going to have some pancakes. I'm just going to get fatter and fatter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Monica Potter is now teaming up with Kelloggs to combat childhood hunger with the "Share Your Breakfast" campaign. It's our Cause Celeb segment today where we bring you issues that need attention and tell you can help as well. It's nice to have you.

POTTER: Nice to meet you.

O'BRIEN: That show is so realistic.

POTTER: Especially that scene. I haven't seen that episode yet. I'm a little behind, but that is really true to life, as to what I do in the mornings as well. Everybody sit down and eat together. Or else. And they're just like, we have to go.

O'BRIEN: They have stuff to do.

POTTER: Yes, but that was kind of funny.

O'BRIEN: Why is breakfast your focus now? I mean, some of the statistics about kids really in poverty, it's like 16.2 million kids who struggle with hunger.

POTTER: Which is crazy in our country. I actually had no idea when I signed on to do this that one in five kids go to school every day hungry. And I just -- I don't know how that's possible.

O'BRIEN: The implications, obviously, are huge, right, if you're hungry, you can't focus --

(CROSSTALK)

POTTER: Yes, academically, it's really hard, and they can't have fun. You know, I just feel like kids really just need to focus on other things that are important, and that should be a given that they eat.

O'BRIEN: I was surprised at the number of kids who are eligible for breakfast at school because they're embarrassed. And I know a couple of kids like this. They're embarrassed so they won't take it.

SANCHEZ: And they make you embarrassed about it. You know, they call out two lines. You know, this is the food line. This is the whatever line. And kids get -- I mean, really, it hampers them.

POTTER: Which is why Kelloggs wants to make it, you know, everyone can have breakfast. It's not just about the kids that maybe are impoverished that don't have that opportunity to eat in the morning. So, they're giving breakfast to everyone. So, I'm really excited --

SANCHEZ: And breakfast is important because if I feed my kid but you don't, because you don't have the means, let's say, and they're in the classroom together, my kid is going to make sure your kid is not learning because he's going to be agitated, he's going to be unfocused, you know? So, we really need to have kids concentrating on the work that's going on --

LIVINGSTON: Especially at that age. That's an age where you're growing. Your mind is growing. And I feel like you need to have the proper nutrition in the morning.

(CROSSTALK)

POTTER: If I skip breakfast, I'm like cranky, irritable. You know, all three of my kids, I try to make sure that they have a breakfast, even my oldest who is in college. So, I'm like, did you eat this morning?

O'BRIEN: Yes, mother, I ate. So, what Kelloggs is doing is they're going to match breakfast. It's called "Share Your Breakfast," right?

POTTER: Yes. "Share Your Breakfast," and it's National Breakfast Week this week. And "Share Your Breakfast" meaning, if you go on Facebook.com/Kelloggs, and share what you have for breakfast, whether it's eggs and oatmeal or whatever it is --

O'BRIEN: Or Danish which is probably what I'm having.

POTTER: Sometimes, I'll have sushi. It's weird. They'll match a breakfast for a breakfast. So, no matter what. I think it's up to one million breakfasts, which is fantastic.

BENDAVID: But is that a long-term solution? Is this something they're doing on a temporary basis or is there more than we need to do on an ongoing basis?

POTTER: I think we need to all step up and make sure that this is an ongoing thing.

O'BRIEN: It's a terrible thing in this country to have, really --

POTTER: In this country --

O'BRIEN: We struggle with obesity on one hand, and then, you'll have all these millions of children who literally --

POTTER: But obesity also that kids are malnourished.

O'BRIEN: Right.

POTTER: So, just because they're overweight doesn't mean they're healthy, which is a whole other --

SANCHEZ: We are lucky at home. We have (INAUDIBLE) who was one of the CNN Heroes this past year, and he's feeding kids. He's got a restaurant. He's been feeding kids for like 15 years now, a meal every night to the motel kids that we have in Anaheim and stuff.

POTTER: Really?

SANCHEZ: Yes. He's just amazing. I mean, this guy is just amazing, and it's really brought the community together to donate.

O'BRIEN: I think it's a really community focus thing. So, it's good for you. I know you're going to go visit a school, so thank you for coming by and talking to us.

POTTER: I get to go down to Orlando where this has been done and it's been tested and it worked really well.

O'BRIEN: Good for you. Good for you.

POTTER: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: Love your show, by the way.

POTTER: Oh, thanks. Thank you.

LIVINGSTON: And thanks for wearing blue, so you can --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You didn't get the red memo? What's wrong with you?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That's Monica Potter.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk to the former speaker, Newt Gingrich. What's he going to do to stay in the race beyond just tomorrow?

And then this story. Girl Scouts robbed. Yes, robbed, Monica, robbed.

POTTER: I have a Girl Scout, oh, no. O'BRIEN: But they don't back down. Instead, they fight the guys. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: That's "The Wave" by Fastball, Naftali Bendavid's. Finally, I was worried about you for a minute.

Ten states are up for grabs tomorrow on Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich is looking to jump-start his campaign with a win in Georgia, a state he represented for more than 20 years. There are 419 total delegates up for grabs tomorrow, and 76 of them are in Georgia more than any other Super Tuesday state. While the polls show that Gingrich is leading his old stomping grounds, he has also failed to secure some high profile endorsements. In the last hour, I talked to one high profile endorser, House majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia, and he said he is backing Mitt Romney instead of Newt Gingrich. Here's why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR, (R) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Mitt Romney is really the only man in the race who has a plan, a bold pro-growth plan, to create jobs and get this economy back on track. And this is a central issue for this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is joining our panel this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us. You just heard Eric Cantor saying he's going to support Mitt Romney. How much does it hurt your campaign on to have a guy who is a tea party favorite, a southerner, support the other guy?

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we would all like to have endorsements. But the fact is Romney is the Washington establishment candidate. It's true, if you look at where does his money come from, where are most of the lobbyists lined up. So I think he goes around the country and he's legitimately collected most of the insiders. I like Eric cantor, but he is sort of quintessentially a part of that same group.

Ironically the quote you just had was exactly backwards. The "Wall Street Journal" said I had the bold plan for economic growth and that Romney's plan was so weak, or "timid" was the word they used, that it could have been Barack Obama's.

O'BRIEN: I think that was for his first plan, not his second -- you're right for the first 59-point plan. The second plan, I don't think they said that.

GINGRICH: Not for plan two, which was after plan one. And plan three will come out pretty soon.

O'BRIEN: Just trying to be clear.

GINGRICH: OK. No, you're doing fine. I'm just suggesting to you that -- I guess the second plan was the baseball stadium plan where he had 62,000 or 63,000 empty seats.

I think that I have run a populist campaign. We have about 173,000 donors, 95 percent of them less than $250. I have run a campaign that is focused on things like getting gasoline prices down to $2.50 or less a gallon, creating an American energy plan so that no future president would ever bow to a Saudi king, and I think that I represent very, very dramatic change for Washington. So I think it's just a little bit difficult -- go ahead.

O'BRIEN: Forgive me. I was going to ask you a little bit more about your southern strategy, because you have said, and I believe it was on CNN, that you have to win Georgia to be credible. Let's say hypothetically --

GINGRICH: Yes, absolutely.

O'BRIEN: If you don't win Georgia, you drop out. Let's say. You're ahead by a lot. So that's fair to say?

GINGRICH: Yes. It's pretty safe this morning to say that I'm willing to gamble on Georgia.

O'BRIEN: OK.

GINGRICH: The last poll last night --

O'BRIEN: I'm starting slowly. I like to build on my conversation.

GINGRICH: You're doing good.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. I appreciate that. Let's say you do win Georgia, which all the polls are saying you will, but you don't win other southern states super Tuesday. You don't win Tennessee or Oklahoma. What happens there, if your Super Tuesday southern strategy begins and ends with Georgia?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it puts me in a more difficult position. But on the other hand, next week we have Mississippi and Alabama and Kansas, and I think I'll win at least two out of three. The latest poll in Tennessee shows a 17-point jump, shows me very competitive -- excuse me -- in Tennessee.

And the fact is we'll be today in the tri-cities and then down in Knoxville and in Chattanooga. J.C. Watts and Herman Cain and my daughter Jackie are all three campaigning in Oklahoma today. And I think we'll be very competitive in both of those states. And our hope is to also pick up some delegates in Ohio and possibly some in Idaho. So I think this will -- today is going to be a mixed bag, and I think the race will go on -- there won't be any decisive winner today.

NAFTALI BENDAVID, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mr. Speaker, this is Naftali Bendavid with the "Wall Street Journal." I just wanted to ask, even if you win Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, you know, you won South Carolina, isn't it a southern strategy an inherently limited one?

GINGRICH: Well, but it's the beginning of a base. And I think that that's the first thing. Twice in this race I have been the front-runner, one time by as much as 21 points according to Rasmussen. And I think that happened because I talked about big solutions and big ideas, and I'm going to continue to do that.

I think we need to recognize we are in serious trouble as a country. We don't just need somebody who can raise a lot of money off Wall Street and run negative ads. We need somebody who actually has a very large proposal that will fundamentally get us back moving in the right direction. And I think that's a direction that will make the Washington establishment inherently uncomfortable. I think it's very difficult to get the scale of change we need in a way that the Washington establishment and either party feels comfortable with.

O'BRIEN: Rick Santorum has said, you know, doing the math, if you would go ahead and get out of the race, he could beat Mitt Romney. You would add your votes and his votes. Here's what he said, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly, if you continue to combine the votes that Congressman Gingrich and I get, you know, we are doing pretty well. In Michigan we would have won easily, had those two votes been combined. But, you know, that's a process. I think Newt's got to figure out, you know, where he goes after Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It sounds like he is sort of saying, you know, maybe take one for the team, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: I know. And I suggested that about a month ago, and Rick said he didn't think so. He surged after that. So I'm taking his advice. I think a month ago he had that opportunity and decided to keep campaigning.

I think that there are real differences between the two of us. He voted against national right to work. He voted for the unions on Davis-Bacon. He voted for the unions to organize FedEx in what was a very difficult fight in Tennessee. So I think we'll continue to campaign. And I have great respect for Senator Santorum, but I think that I represent much larger change, a much greater willingness to take on the system.

As he pointed out in our last debate, he did a lot of things that he actually doesn't agree with because he was a team player. I haven't done that. I have actually had a tradition of being very clear about where I stand, even if it means on occasion fighting with the Republican president. But I didn't go --

O'BRIEN: Or fighting with your fellow Republicans sometimes. Abby has a question for you.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, JON HUNTSMAN'S DAUGHTER: Speaker Gingrich, I'm Abby Livingston, Jon Huntsman's daughter. I know you're hoping it goes to a brokered convention. Do you really think this is a healthy thing for the party? What do you see as a positive in a brokered convention?

GINGRICH: I don't know if that it goes to a brokered convention. I think somebody could break loose sometime in April or May, and you can see a delegate migration to one person. I think the challenge has been that Governor Romney has had a huge amount of money, most from Wall Street and a great deal from companies that were bailed out by the taxpayer. But he has used that money very effectively first against me and then against Santorum. But he can't close the deal. And he can't close the deal in part because people inherently don't trust what he's saying and think that he isn't always very candid with them, and sometimes, frankly, isn't straight.

And so you have this challenge that you have really right now a three-way race with Ron Paul representing a base of protest that's very real, but he's the least likely. I think you have a three-way race that isn't clear how it's going to work out. I suspect in April or May you'll begin to see some clarity and each of us has our own reason for thinking it will be us. But it's not at all clear to me right now that Romney can get above a certain ceiling. And the question is whether or not ultimately his money starts to run out. It's very clear in any kind of relatively evenly financed campaign Romney would not win.

O'BRIEN: Newt Gingrich is a former House speaker and we'll see how it goes on super Tuesday. Nice to see you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Other stories making news this morning, Christine has a look at those. Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, again, Soledad. FEMA this morning beginning to assess the damage in the tornado zone. The death toll stands at 39 after 14-month-old Angel Babcock was taken off life support. The Indiana toddler briefly survived a tornado that wiped out her entire family. State police in Indiana say the destruction is so extensive it's anyone's guess how many homes have been lost. In Kentucky, 21 tornadoes hit.

The town of West Liberty was one of the state's hardest-hit areas by a storm that was a mile wide. This morning Mother Nature is adding insult to injury with several inches of snow on the ground.

Advertisers leaving Rush Limbaugh's radio show, the conservative host losing eight sponsors after calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her views on insurance contraception coverage. Limbaugh issued a written apology saying, in part, "My choice of words was not the best, and in an attempt to be humorous I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."

Girl Scouts scuffle with bandits who stole their cookie money. the girls were selling outside of Wal-Mart in Fort Bend County, Texas, when a man grabbed their cash box and hopped into a getaway car. Two scouts caught up with the car. One of them punched the thief in the face. The other tried to stop the driver. But the bandits got away. Now the girls are out $200. And as part of the Girl Scout rules they are financially responsible for any of those losses.

And speaking of financially responsible, Soledad, I have been investigating what Girl Scouts really stand for in today's "Smart is the New Rich." It turns out Girl Scouts aren't anything that you've been hearing lately about them. They are really capitalists. The girl scouts turn 100 this year. They are redesigning their badges. They have 13 badges for money smarts. Amelia, Ava, and Emily are learning about saving, and they are not saving for toys.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: College.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It costs a lot of money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: They are saving for college. They are like seven. These girls have on average $22,900 in debt when they graduate college. Also cadets are learning about compound interest, taxes, mortgages, and 12-year-old Gabby is about to find out, Soledad, whether she can afford her dream home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you take your $2.5 million house that you want, and you put 20 percent down, that means you're going for a $2 million loan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really couldn't afford it. It was a bit too much money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Soledad, I love that this girl picked a $2.5 million house.

ROMANS: My kids do the same thing. They are like I like this from "The New York Times" magazine. It's $26 million. Can I afford that? Well, we spent some time with the girl scouts and learned nothing about communism, lesbianism, or any of the other things that --

O'BRIEN: Compound interest.

ROMANS: We learned only about finance. There you go.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you. Got to take a short break. We're back right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN,: Welcome back, everybody.

Some breaking news to get to. It looks like there has been an earthquake, a small earthquake, in San Francisco area. The epicenter apparently about one mile outside of El Cerrito which is in the East Bay that would be about 10 miles outside of Oakland, California. It happened just around 5:33 a.m. on the West Coast, so roughly 15 minutes ago.

We're going to obviously update you as we get more information. But we're told it's roughly possibly a 4.0 earthquake based just outside of El Cerrito which is in California's East Bay. I'm getting a lot of notice on Twitter that the earthquake happened before we were hearing it.

Let's get right to Carol Costello because today is the day she kicks off her new show on "CNN NEWSROOM". Good morning, congratulations to you. What you got coming up?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. I appreciate it. This is my first day on my brand new show, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. and thank you for joining me ahead of time.

Just ahead, at least 10 states are struggling to recover from that outbreak of devastating tornadoes. But one governor is turning down federal help. Is it a political statement or is someone looking out for your money? We will take a closer look.

And then we go to the tiny town of Cushing, Oklahoma; it's where America's oil pipelines intersect. And it's also where politics and economics collide. CNN's Ali Velshi will join us live from there with a closer look. Those stories and much more.

Of course we also have the latest on the earthquake for you in just about 12 minutes. Back to you Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right we'll see you then Carol, thank you and congratulations again.

We're going to have more with STARTING POINT coming up in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: You know we've got to start with "Foo Fighters." I like that. We're going to wrap up our (INAUDIBLE) this morning. Let's get -- that's "Ever Long." That's how we pick.

Let's talk politics if we can for a minute before we run out of time this morning. It's been interesting to hear of course all of the candidates and their representatives weigh in this morning. Mitt Romney pulling ahead of the pack for first time I think since November in the national polls. I think all the conversation about the brokered convention is beginning to disappear.

NAFTALI BENDAVID, POLITICAL REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Disappear yes. Yes, I mean, I think people are really looking at Super Tuesday not just because it's tomorrow but because there are these states that seems like Romney is probably going to win. Virginia where there aren't many people on the ballot. Massachusetts where he was the governor.

But there's this whole array of other states; you know Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma. And if somebody, whether it's Santorum, whether it's Gingrich, can make a real push there, I think that's sort of the last chance to derail this Romney trail.

O'BRIEN: Right now in the polling, it looks like Santorum is leading in Tennessee and he's leading in Oklahoma and it's a very tight battle in Ohio, right?

BENDAVID: Right.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JON HUNTSMAN: Well, I know they keep talking about it, but I do think Ohio is the one state to watch because it shows it's a purple state. It shows who can really carry it in the general election. And if Santorum can take that, it gives him legs to keep going.

O'BRIEN: To go into what, though? I mean, if you take Ohio, right? What else does that --

BENDAVID: Well, that's a very good question. But it does -- it weakens Romney more than it strengthens Santorum.

O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

BENDAVID: He is just you know, here you've got this front-runner who can't seem to close the deal on all these major states. And Ohio is very central and you know, but on the other hand, the polls are closing there much as they did in Michigan. And I do think -- and I do think Romney has a fairly decent shot. If he does win Ohio then I think he's in a pretty good place.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I think you'll see him taking Ohio. Ohio is an incredibly interesting place. I was there last Monday when the shootings were going on in Cleveland. And I was around campaigning. I mean, you've got some really interesting races going on, both for Republicans and Democrats in the primaries.

And you know -- and it's a very depressed, very, very, very depressed area. Working class people, they are really a bellwether for what's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Do you think the infighting has hurt? BENDAVID: I think it has actually.

(CROSSTALK)

LIVINGSTON: Absolutely.

BENDAVID: I mean, there's a lot of comparison with Hillary and Obama but I think it's different. Because I think there was real enthusiasm for both candidates there.

O'BRIEN: And their negative numbers never went below 70, right? And I think if you look at Mitt Romney, his unfavorables are down to 60.

SANCHEZ: And I think everybody was tired of Bush. Everybody was tired of Bush. You can't say the same thing about Obama.

O'BRIEN: Says the Democratic congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: No, really.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: No, no, it's true. You can't say the same thing about Obama. Not everybody is tired of Obama. Obama's got his base. Obama -- you know is coming back. He is flourishing. He's starting to campaign you see, you know. With Bush, it was a dead deal. It was over.

O'BRIEN: But trend lines -- I will capitulate this to you, the trend lines economically are starting to go the right direction for him, other way and if they came --

(CROSSTALK)

LIVINGSTON: I think, you know, people are really just sick of the negative. That's also why the party needs to come together and form another message, a positive one where people can be attracted to it. And they need to start that now. I think the longer this goes on, the more it hurts the party.

O'BRIEN: People have to vote.

BENDAVID: It's not just about what states they win. Romney needs to prove that he can win among lower income, less educated voters. Santorum if he's going to continue, he needs to prove that he can win among better educated, wealthier voters.

O'BRIEN: And by the way, all the exit polls don't show that.

BENDAVID: Exactly. And I think that's the problem.

O'BRIEN: Al right. We've got our "End Point" up next, which is when you give us your news final, final thoughts. That's straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A little Stevie Wonder. I love him so much. I should sing along with that. No -- kidding.

"End Point" this morning, let's get to our desk. Congresswoman, would you like to start with us -- you're wrapping it up for us.

SANCHEZ: I believe Obama and our nation is going to be very strong in supporting Israel as we move forward against what is really a danger, Iran.

I believe that the elections -- Tuesday is going to be interesting. Ohio is going to be interesting. I'm more interested quite frankly in what's going on with the Senate and the Congressional races.

O'BRIEN: We'll be watching those --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right. I like that "End Point".

SANCHEZ: People aren't watching that. And then I just would like to say that, again, when you see what's happened with these tornadoes, there's going to be some fights in the House about, you know, how united we are in helping our fellow neighbor.

O'BRIEN: All right. Naftali, what's your point this morning?

BENDAVID: Well, you know, we saw Eric Cantor try to unify the party. We saw Newt Gingrich talk about why the party isn't unified. And I think tomorrow on super Tuesday we're going to see which one of those narratives prevails. That's going to be very important going forward.

O'BRIEN: Abby, you get the final word this morning.

LIVINGSTON: I'm going to actually end up with this point (ph). I think, you know, we have seen so much negativity, and people are not happy about that.

But what inspired me today was the true American heroes with these tornadoes. You see, they are the ones that are -- really the heroes of America and people that inspire me every day and all of us. And the couple we talked to, they had lost their restaurant, their whole life. But they were talking about other people. And that was inspiring.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All they could think about is everybody else. That is so true.

O'BRIEN: Our panelists, I thank you.

We turn it over to Carol Costello now. She's got "CNN NEWSROOM." Hey Carol, good morning.