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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Interview with Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois; Pay For Pain; GOP Presidential Candidates Prepare for Super Tuesday; Interview with Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine; Strong Stance on Iran; Never Too Old
Aired March 6, 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 HOST: Welcome, everybody. It's Super Tuesday.
That, of course, is the biggest payout of primary season. There are 10 states in play, a total of 419 delegates. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are neck in neck in the state of Ohio. Newt Gingrich is banking on a big win in Georgia. And Ron Paul is hoping to play the spoiler in whatever way he can. We'll find out why Steve Moore is laughing.
The leader of Israel is on Capitol Hill. But he could get some stronger support for an attack on Iran than he did from President Obama. We're going to talk to Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff this morning who says Israel is not able to outsource its fate to the United States.
And then paying for pain. An NFL scandal is now unraveling. Bounties for hits for some big time players like Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. We're going to hear from a former player who played with the coach who's at the center of all of this.
Those are our starting points for March 6th, 2012.
O'BRIEN: Journey. Well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of my favorite songs. I love that song.
O'BRIEN: Steve Perry was the lead singer of Journey, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
O'BRIEN: You could sing along with Steve Perry. Wow. I like a little Journey in the morning. I might start my morning with that tomorrow.
Welcome back, everybody. That's Brett's -- that's your playlist this morning. Brett, of course, Brett O'Donnell is the advisor to Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann's campaigns and also in their, what's the word I'm searching for? The debates. It's early. You've obviously coached their debates.
I'm having a hard time early this morning.
Steven Moore joins us as well. He's a senior economics writer for "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page.
And Farai Chideya is back with us. She's at fellow at the Institute of Politics, the IOP, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
It's nice to have you all as we get going.
Our STARTING POINT, of course, is today is Super Tuesday, biggest single day of the Republican presidential campaign. Underway right now on the East Coast -- it's voters, 10 states, casting their ballots.
And you're looking at live pictures from a polling place in Struthers, Ohio, where looks like no one is there yet.
FARAI CHIDEYA, SENIOR FELLOW, IOP, HARVARD'S KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Ten voters.
O'BRIEN: Ten voters.
STEVEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's the enthusiasm.
O'BRIEN: Well, it's early yet, as I said, as I stumbled over words. It's early. Heavy turnout in Ohio. Not yet, but it's early.
As I mentioned, 419 is kind of the number to watch here. And both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been upping the ante, of course, on their attacks against the front-runner, Mitt Romney. No surprise. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He will be the weakest candidate we could possibly put forward on the most important issue of today.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of the state of Illinois joins our panel this morning. He's also a Romney supporter.
It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Hey.
O'BRIEN: We appreciate your time this morning.
All right. Let's -- we all know Ohio is a must win. What about the other nine states. Mitt Romney has said, you know, I believe if I win Ohio, I'm going to be the nominee. Do you think that's true?
SCHOCK: Well, I think it's true and I think regardless he's going to win a majority of the states tonight. And, you know, everyone expects this to have been wrapped up by now. The fact of the matter is, statistically, he couldn't have wrapped it up by now.
But there's no candidate with more delegates than Mitt Romney. There's no candidate with more support around the country than Mitt Romney. I think he's got the momentum to ultimately close the deal and be the nominee. And I'm confident he will be.
O'BRIEN: Is the momentum undermined if Rick Santorum who's leading right now by 18 points in the state of Tennessee and who's leading in Oklahoma as well has big wins on those two states? Tennessee has the second highest number of delegates.
SCHOCK: Well, Rick Santorum has proven to do well among some of the more conservative members of our primary voters. But at the end of the day, Mitt Romney has held his own among Republican conservative voters, but he's also proven to be the strongest for independent and swing voters that will ultimately decide the election in November.
And I had to chuckle when I heard your play in there of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum criticizing Mitt Romney. The fact of the matter is the polls show he is the strongest candidate for our party to nominate in the general election.
So I think the Republican primary voters get it. It's why they have chosen him time and time again in all of these primary states, why he has more delegates.
O'BRIEN: So you think that's what's responsible for the coalescing as opposed to last week it was a big debate over who was the true conservative. You think it's a "Listen, we need a nominee and we're going to now coalesce," or is it "Listen, Mitt Romney is the true conservative"? What is it?
SCHOCK: Well, look, it's all relative. I mean, compareD to Barack Obama, all of the candidates in the race are true conservatives. A year ago, Mitt Romney was the conservative alternative to John McCain. Many of the same people who are claiming he's not conservative enough were backing Mitt Romney last time because they thought he was more conservative than John McCain.
At the end of the day, I'll tell you what my voters in central Illinois are concerned about is the economy. It's the unemployment but it's also the growing cost of living in America -- whether it's the gas prices, whether it's the food prices, whether it's the health care costs that continue to skyrocket despite the passage of the health care bill. These are the things Americans are concerned about.
And Mitt Romney laying out his very comprehensive tax reform proposal, his background in job creation -- those are the things that I think compel both Republican primary voters and also those independent voters to say, you know what? We've tried the Obama policies. They haven't really turned this around. Obama's words said, you know, if we don't have this turned around in three years, it will be a one term proposition.
That's why more than half of Americans are saying it's time for someone new. And I think Mitt Romney is the strongest guy to lead in the general election and ultimately to succeed President Obama.
O'BRIEN: First Lady Barbara Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, was on our affiliate WFAA in Texas. She said this is the worst ever. I'm going to play a little chunk and we'll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: It's been I think the worst campaign I've ever seen in my life. I just hate it. I hate the fact that people think compromise is a dirty word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I always love that she never really minced words when she was in the White House. Do you think that's true, that it's just really spun out of control and this is the nastiest ever?
SCHOCK: Well, look, I love Barbara Bush. I would say that, you know, the primary that George Herbert Walker Bush had in the Republican primary when he was running for reelection was pretty nasty.
You know, there have been tough battles before. President George Herbert Walker Bush, his primary with Ronald Reagan was tough in the '80s.
I do believe, though, at the end of this election, people will be looking back after November and saying this was one of the nastiest general elections they've ever seen. And part of that is because I'm from the president's home state, and I know that the president's record is not a positive one that he can run on.
And having followed, you know, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs and the Chicago machine, if you will, this is -- this is bare knuckle politics. Chicago machine politics gets pretty nasty. And if these are the guys that can get Rob Blagojevich, the corrupt governor of Illinois, re-elected, I have no question in my mind what kind of presidential campaign will be run. It will be the politics of persons of destruction and they will be going after whoever our nominee is with all the negative ads that money can buy, that a billion dollars can buy. So, I think it's going to get --
O'BRIEN: Hold on one second, Congressman Schock. Let me stop you there because I want to ask Steve Moore.
Of course, you write this editorial page. Do you think that's true? Do you think when he points out is this the nastiest as the former first lady says? Do you think it is going to be the nastiest as the congressman thinks?
MOORE: It's been nasty. But the stakes are high. And these races always get nasty.
But, you know, it's interesting -- Congressman, great to see you, by the way. As you know, I'm from the great state of Illinois.
But I wanted to ask you -- and, by the way, I agree with you entirely. If Mitt Romney wins this race, I think it will be because he took our advice at the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page and came up with that ambitious tax plan.
O'BRIEN: Are you promoting?
MOORE: No. I think that tax plan that he came out with, with the across the board tax cut I think it was really critical.
But I wanted to tell you something that kind of makes me angry. Now, I live in Virginia and when I get back from New York today I'm going to vote in the Virginia primary.
What troubles me is in Virginia, we don't -- neither Rick Santorum nor Newt Gingrich are on the ballot in that state. Why is it that Republicans are denying the candidates the ability to --
O'BRIEN: We let Congressman Schock answer that question.
O'BRIEN: So, why is it, do you think?
SCHOCK: Well, look, every state has its own rules. I can't speak for why Virginia has the more onerous rules that they had, but -- I mean, at the end of the day, let's face it, each candidate that got in the presidential race knew what the rules of engagement were, knew what the rules for each state were. And Newt Gingrich made the calculation, Rick Santorum made the calculation that for whatever reason they were not going to get the signatures required.
I'm not an expert on Virginia law, but I understand you have to get a certain number in each congressional district. It's very onerous.
But it's up to Virginia to change its rules. And the Virginia legislature, or the Republican central committee there to make those rules changes.
Look, I think everybody should be able to play if they play by the same rules and I think regardless, Mitt Romney would be doing very well in Virginia regardless of who's on the ballot. I certainly share your frustration.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Aaron Schock, it's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning.
SCHOCK: Good to be with you.
O'BRIEN: Steve Moore's mad. He's mad this morning. Nice to have you.
MOORE: There's not a lot of choices in Virginia.
O'BRIEN: All right. We got other news making headlines. Christine has got those.
Hey. Good morning, again.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.
The teen who admitted to the deadly school shooting in Ohio will appear in juvenile court. T.J. Lane is accused of killing three students and injuring three others. Prosecutors plan to move his case to adult court. They're also trying to block the release of more information about Lane's past.
Also today, funeral services are scheduled for one of Lane's alleged victims, 16-year-old Demetrius Hewlin.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Republican members of Congress this morning. Yesterday, he met with President Obama, in hopes of reaching an agreement on dealing with Iran's nuclear program. Netanyahu warning the U.S. and Israel are running out of time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: For the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of our security, for the sake of our children, Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Mitt Romney has an op-ed out today in "The Washington Post." He writes, "While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress towards obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world.
Coming up at 8:45, Naftali Bennett joins us. He's the major of staff for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Former Major Leaguer Lenny Dykstra, the man they called Nails has been sentenced to three years in a California state prison. Dykstra has pleaded no contest to charges of grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement. A Los Angeles County judge rejected his request to withdraw his plea and fight those charges.
Gas prices dropping for the first time in almost a month. The national average for a gallon of gas now stands at $3.76 a gallon. This according to AAA. Hey, but don't spend it all in one place, OK, because experts say gas prices will probably remain high and even rise further throughout the spring and summer.
Tomorrow marks the 47th anniversary of the first Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. A reenactment of this 54-mile march is going on right now. It led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The marchers including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, they're 11 miles in right now, we're told.
This march targeting Alabama's new voter ID law. Critics say it's an assault on minority voting rights -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: And also targeting Alabama's new immigration law as well.
All right. Christine, thank you.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a mom, a true hero. She lost both of her legs because she shielded her kids in the middle of these tornadoes when everything collapsed on top of her. They ended up being completely unscathed. We're going to hear from her this morning.
Plus, bounties for big hits on big players. These scandal now exploding in the NFL, spreading to more locker rooms. We're going to hear from the former players, there's nothing new.
First, though, "The Best Political Team on TV" right here on CNN. Special coverage will be here all night, including a unique perspective.
Tom Foreman explains what you're going to see tonight.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, we're going to do something we've never done before. We're going to watch the returns from right here, a virtual convention floor, to see what the Super Tuesday vote will mean to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul.
We will be tracking the delegate count. How many people will actually show up here to support each of these candidates and whether the whole party is inching closer to a brutal, bruising, brokered convention. That's still considered a long shot, but unless one of the contenders can fill enough of these seats with his backers to make it clear that he is decisively the party's choice, real trouble could be brewing for the GOP -- a nasty floor fight, possible efforts to draft a last-minute compromise candidate, and some deep fractures that will have to be mended before they can even think about tackling the Democrats.
We'll be watching to see if that is where this party is headed minute by minute right here from our virtual convention tonight.
O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.
The NFL bounty pool controversy is now being called a huge scandal. There are 14, so far, that have been implicated, and the NFL is now interviewing more coaches and more players. According to one report, NFL security officials met with Gregg Williams yesterday. Of course, he is the defensive coach for the 2009 Super Bowl winners, the New Orleans Saints.
Williams admitted to running bounty pools of up to $50,000. People got paid out, players, if they made aggressive hits. Some got as much as $1,500 if they had a game ending injury, you know, done on another player. One of Williams' former players is speaking out said this/
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COY WIRE, PLAYED FOR GREGG WILLIAMS IN BUFFALO IN 2002: In buffalo, we had a culture of relentlessness. You know, we wanted a competitive edge over our opponents and, you know, we crossed the line. We went a little too far when we took pay for play to a level where it shouldn't have gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Former NFL safety, Izell Reese, joins us this morning, played for Williams when he was head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2003 to 2004. It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning. So, the pools exist, and you took part as a player in those pools. Describe for me how far it went, and like specifically, what was the conversation around the pool?
IZELL REESE, FORMER NFL SAFETY, 1998-2004: Well, in terms of that, well, first off, playing in Buffalo, just to stand corrected on Coy's comments is we never had the coaches involved. Gregg Williams was never involved. It was strictly with the players. And my seven- year career, this is something that is just a culture of the sport of football, especially playing on defense.
But it was never to the point of trying to jeopardize a player's career or injure a player or player being carried off in a cart. But big hits, interceptions, big plays causing a fumble was more what it was about as opposed to trying to physically injure a player. I mean, I've had several injuries myself, and I would never go out to inflict that kind of pain or cause an injury in a player's career.
O'BRIEN: It seems like some of these pools, though, it was very specifically about big injuries. If you were able to inflict an injury that got the person carted off, you get $1,000. If you got an injury, that meant that the person was not going to come back at all in the game, you got $1,500. So, this seems to maybe even go a step farther than that. How prevalent do you think this version is, the one that does seem to be, you know, trying to really injure somebody and maybe even end their career?
REESE: Well, if it comes out factual, I mean, that's a very unfortunate thing. But again, when I played the game, we never played to that level of trying to physically injure or take a player out of the game. You wanted him to -- you wanted to impose your will on players. You wanted to play the game at the physical level, especially as defense. Very physical sport, like hockey.
I mean, you have to impose your will on players in order to succeed. In order to succeed and make it to the NFL, this is something that's a culture of football, and I think it's a great opportunity for the NFL to really take advantage and set the precedent to young players and young athletes across the nation to preach sportsmanship and safety of players.
But it has never been something that's been a part of us as players to physically injure a player to that caliber or carting a player off. And so, it's unfortunate to hear about this egregious (ph) caught up in the situation, but, I guess, the details remain to be seen and that will shed its light in the coming weeks.
O'BRIEN: It does sound like some have said, yes, in fact they did do this and create a pool at this level. Do you think it's strange to have a coach involved, that it's not just sort of the players throwing money in, but a coach, too? Kind of take it to a different level.
REESE: It does. It does. And again, I don't know just yet if it's factual. I don't think any of us do at this point, but it does if it's to that case, and it's an unfortunate situation if that's the case. But, I'm sure the NFL will definitely do what's needed as far as setting fines and limitations to it. But again, I think if that's the case and with so much media attention to it at this point, I think the NFL definitely needs to send a message, and I'm sure they will.
But, it's unfortunate. And, you know, I hope that Gregg Williams, he's a class act. I hope that it's untrue at this point. But, I know players have always done it, and it's no different than putting stickers on your helmet in high school, getting a pat on the back or getting accolades for a big hit. It all kind of falls along the same lines, and it's a really gray area at this point.
O'BRIEN: So, you're the executive vice president for the National Collegiate Scouting Association, which means you deal a lot with high school students who are really hoping to become, you know, pro-football players. What kind of conversations do you have with them?
I mean, how do you navigate that great space? What's between a good, clean hit, obviously, in defense, you want to take somebody out, clearly, but how do you, you know, keep that from going overboard and injuring them so badly? How do you have that conversation with a high schooler?
REESE: Well, the game -- I mean, players at this point in time, first off, bigger, faster, stronger athletes are. And so, it's going to be unfortunate situations sometimes, but as far as aiming at a player's knees, hitting a player in the back of the head or an ear hole or side of the head, those are always dangerous situations. But again, football is a physical sport, so, what we try to teach at NCSA is leadership, sportsmanship, and being positive athletes and taking care of your fellow peers.
And so, in terms of injury, I mean, you want to just teach sportsmanship and teach character development and try to teach these players in the right form or fashion the same way I played the game. I mean, and that's what you want to instill and continue to instill with so many players do in giving back to the youth and working with the youth.
And I'm sure the NFL, the NFL Players Association will be heavily involved with this as they are right now and making sure the right message is sent. And, you know, if it's the case where a coach is involved, it's an unfortunate situation, but I'm sure it's something they will deal with as well.
O'BRIEN: I bet you're right about that. Izell Reese is a former NFL player who played under Gregg Williams. It's nice to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. Appreciate it.
REESE: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, does the constitution protect home grown terrorists? Why Attorney General Eric Holder says, sometimes, it's legal and constitutional to target Americans overseas. We'll discuss that straight ahead on STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: That's another good way to start the morning. That's off Brett O'Donnell's playlist. Van Halen, "Dreams."
Lots to come, still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a woman who lost both of her legs, parts of both of her legs, but she was able to save her two children during those deadly tornadoes in the Midwest. We're going to hear her story. She talks about how she really risked her life to save her kids.
Plus, dead heat in Ohio. The Super Tuesday, the state that has a knack for picking presidents, but today's vote could tell you about the GOP's chances from November. We're going to talk to the attorney general of Ohio who's going to be with us live, straight ahead.
And Israel's prime minister says the country cannot afford to wait much longer. Will President Obama buy any time for sanctions? We're going to talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu's former chief of staff.
That's all straight ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: That's Johnny Cash. That's off the Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine's playlist. I like his playlist. He's going to join us. You can see our entire play list every morning on our Web site CNN.com/StartingPoint. Headlines we begin with this morning, Christine has those for us. Good morning, again.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Attorney General Eric Holder defending the targeted killing of an American accused of terrorism. Holder referenced the fifth amendment of the constitution that says no one can be deprived of life without due process of the law. He says due process doesn't mean judicial process, especially when it comes to national security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States sit center or list who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: American Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a targeted U.S. drone attack in Yemen last year.
Police in Houston hoping a $10,000 reward will help solve the murder mystery. An Iranian college student, an activist, was gunned down while she was driving home two months ago. The case has gained worldwide speculation that she was a target of a political attack. She was outspoken in promoting Iranian women's rights and criticizing the Iranian government.
Take a look at this disorder in the court in Springfield, Massachusetts. It turned into a free-for-all. Two members of the alleged victims' family tried to get at the suspect, Jose Santiago. They were tackled by courtroom officers and wrestled to the ground. The two men face charges for disrupting a court proceeding and assault and battery on court officers.
The tornado-torn town of Branson, Missouri, says its tornado warning system failed and no one got a warning before the storm hit. Officials say the code red system was supposed to call residents with a storm warning, but the company didn't turn it on. The program was put into place three years ago. It has warned residents about floods last spring.
An incredible story coming out of those deadly storms, a mother who saved her kids by shielding them with her own body as the tornadoes hit her home. And 36-year-old Stephanie Decker, she lost parts of both of her legs. This morning from her hospital bed she says she made a split second decision to tie up her children in a comforter and then throw herself on top of them in the basement of her Indiana home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was reaching around holding them and trying to keep everything away from them so it didn't hit them. I had two steel beams on my legs and I couldn't -- I couldn't move. I was stuck. They're screaming, mommy, I can't live without you. I don't want to die. Please don't let me die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Wow. That wreckage piled on to Decker broke seven of her ribs. It almost severed both of her legs. The father says their two children, five and eight, barely suffered a scratch. Soledad, when it's storms like that, you really can only survive underground. It's amazing she was able to get out and to think of a way so quickly to try to save her kids.
O'BRIEN: What a brilliant move to wrap them in a comforter and protect them with her body. That's incredible.
ROMANS: God bless her.
O'BRIEN: Wow. All right, Christine. Thank you for the update.
We're talking Super Tuesday this morning. First polls are open. Ten states will be holding contests, of course. One of the very biggest prizes is the state of Ohio, where there are 63 delegates up for grabs. There's a brand new poll to show you. It shows that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are tied in that state, 32 percent each. Just a week ago it was Rick Santorum who had a major lead there. Mike DeWine is the Ohio attorney general. He switched to Rick Santorum. We appreciate you talking to us this morning. When you look at how Ohio is looking right now, what are you predicting for the outcome for tonight?
MIKE DEWINE, (R) OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, it's going to be very, very close. What you really have in Ohio in the last several weeks is tremendous energy behind Rick Santorum and a lot of money behind Governor Romney. It's the most massive amount of money that's ever been spent in Ohio in a short time by one candidate. Romney has spent about $12 million. It's about a 12 to one ratio. It's absolutely phenomenal. Almost all the ads have been negative. So the fact that Rick Santorum has been able to hang in there despite this barrage of negative ads is, frankly, telling you something about his support and his appeal to kind of the average person. What this race really boils down to is the establishment candidate, Romney, in Ohio versus the people's candidate. And so it's going right down to the wire.
O'BRIEN: So when you look at the polls though, you've seen in the state of Ohio, really not only is Romney putting a lot of money into that race, but in the polls Rick Santorum is losing ground. So that's happened over the last couple of weeks. Does that, do you think, correlate to his focus on social issues?
O'BRIEN: Am I wrong?
DEWINE: No. It's money, money, money. No, it's money, money, money. There is no substitute for money, and Romney has just dumped -- you know, $12 million. I don't know how to explain how big that is in Ohio, but in a governor's race you might spend 20 over months and months and months. This is concentrated in two weeks. People cannot turn on their radio or TV without seeing Romney's negative attacks.
So the fact that Rick has been able to survive this and hang in there and has a real shot at winning this tonight I think speaks volumes, frankly, about the appeal of these two candidates. What I've seen with Santorum is that he appeals to the average voter, the blue collar worker. It's going to make him very, very strong in the fall when he runs in Ohio. Romney, for whatever reason, has not -- cannot connect with the average voter.
O'BRIEN: But he's doing better when it comes to Catholics, right? And he's doing better in polling in Ohio. He's up six points among Catholics. He's up five points among women. It may not be the average voter but probably a big, important chunk of Ohio.
DEWINE: With all due respect, I don't know why sometimes the media can't understand if you dump $12 million in negative ads -- we all think that they don't work. They do work, and that's what's happening. But Santorum is still in there. And he's got a great grassroots support. We have got people out today working the polls, people making phone calls, tremendous energy behind Rick Santorum in this state, and it's going right down to the wire tonight.
O'BRIEN: Well, and I agree with you. No question that millions and millions of dollars poured in will have an impact. We've seen that in other states. But there are certainly people who look back and have seen how the last couple of weeks have gone and not based on money but based on sort of the messaging from each candidate. And Rick Santorum really started losing some of his ground in polls when he started talking about some separation of church and state, contraception. You don't think that has anything to do with where he stands in the polls today in Ohio?
DEWINE: Well, no, I really do not. It is all about money. Look, Rick has been talking about jobs in Ohio. I've been with him for every speech he's given in Ohio. Every speech has been a nuanced speech. Yes, he's talked about abortion. That should not come as a surprise with a pro-life candidate. But he's also talked about manufacturing. He's talked about jobs. He has talked about what we have to do to get the entitlements under control, very nuanced speeches, every single one of them. And so I think he does have that appeal.
And I think the significant thing is when you look to the fall, who can reach the average Ohioan? Who can reach those people we used to call Reagan Democrats? I don't know what we call them today, but we're going to have to win a significant number of them in the fall. And I think it's clear that Rick has more appeal to those individuals than Governor Romney does.
O'BRIEN: Mike DeWine is Ohio's attorney general. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it.
DEWINE: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, how long will Israel wait to go at it alone against Iran? We're going to talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu's former chief of staff. You're watching STARTING POINT. We have got a short break and we're back right after the break.
O'BRIEN: Couple of quick headlines to get to this morning. A last-minute change of the upcoming G8 summit is moving from Chicago could Camp David. The White House says likely protests did not factor into the change. They say Camp David is a better place for more intimate discussions and probably safer. The summit kicks off on May 20th.
Also, former President Bill Clinton will help President Obama fundraise on the campaign trail this year. They'll appear together in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's good news for President Obama because Bill Clinton's likability rating is something 6y percent.
It's time to get to Carol Costello and see what's ahead on "CNN NEWSROOM" this morning. Hey, Carol, good morning.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Coming up on this crucial Super Tuesday morning, three Republican candidates are on the stump. They're talking Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons. We'll tell you if presidential politics are ratcheting up tensions in that part of the world.
Is there really a Republican war on women? Didn't Rush Limbaugh prove it? We'll ask former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann who has been a target of sexist comments herself.
And the great underwear controversy. Navajo nation sues urban outfitters over its nifty Navajo design on women's briefs. As I said, the Indian nation is not happy. It is now suing the retailer. We'll expound on that and much more coming your way at 9:00 a.m. eastern.
O'BRIEN: All right, Carol, we'll see you then. Thank you.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, former chief of staff for Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, we'll sit down and talk to him. How far apart are the United States and Israel on any kind of time line on a possible strike on Iran? That's straight ahead on STARTING POINT. Short break. Back in a minute.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to meet with members of Congress today. Of course, the conversation will be about Iran. Netanyahu had a similar discussion with President Obama yesterday and then he topped off the evening by speaking at APAC, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: My friends, Israel has waited -- patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We've waited for diplomacy to work. We've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: The former chief of staff for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, joins us. Nice to have you with the panel. We appreciate your time this morning.
NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: It's great to be here.
O'BRIEN: So describe for me where you think the main points of difference are between the Prime Minister and President Obama after their conversation of yesterday.
BENNETT: I mean, I think the good news is that President Obama made it patently clear that it's in America's national interest to prevent Iran from going nuclear. That's the good news. The bad news is that amid these discussions words in Washington don't stop centrifuges in (INAUDIBLE). So chief inspector, Chief U.N. Inspector Amano reported just now that Iran has tripled the pace of production of 20 percent enriched uranium, installed 2,600 new centrifuges underground during the past few months.
So the main problem is that the current sanctions are too slow and too soft to stop Iran and that means that we're not going to be able to prevent the need for an attack. And that's the main point of difference.
O'BRIEN: The new word out today was that Iran says they are going to allow nuclear inspectors for one time. Do you think this changes -- this new word changes the conversation at all?
BENNETT: I think Iran's way of going -- their modus operandi is to maneuver. So they invite you in. They show you five percent of it, slow you down. And they just want to buy time while they're racing to acquire the bomb. They also know that they're transferring their facilities underground so it's in a relatively short time frame they'll be immune from an attack. So that's the race; the race to become immune.
O'BRIEN: Senator John McCain talked about sort of red lines. I want to play for you what he told me yesterday and then we'll talk about where those red lines are in your mind after this.
BENNETT: Sure. Sure.
O'BRIEN: Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I would like to see the President of the United States say, here's the following red lines. If the -- if the Iranians cross those lines, then proper action will be taken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So what are the red lines and what does proper action mean in your mind?
BENNETT: Well, I want to emphasize, A, Israel never in its history has asked America to fight for it. We're not doing that now. Always in the history it was Israel who did the job of the world. We did it in '81 when we took out Iraq's nuclear reactor and we did it in 2007 allegedly when we took out Syria's nuclear reactor.
I'll just point out that had we not done it and Assad's regime is about to fall, imagine if he had three or four bombs right now what he would do. So A, we're not asking America to fight anyone else's war. We're willing to do what's necessary. What we do need -- and there is one last chance to prevent the need for an attack -- is to immediately apply paralyzing sanctions on Iran's regime to bring the regime to the brink of collapse. That just might prevent the need of an attack.
O'BRIEN: Spell them out for me. What are they?
BENNETT: Well the first thing is to move up the time frame. The current central sanction is on Iran's central bank. It's only set to play in, if at all, in June. Why do we need to wait for June? We need that now, yesterday, today. Just do it.
Secondly America has to present the plausible threat that the Iranians will understand that America means business. I think to a great extent Obama's made progress this week on that. So it's a combination of -- of carrying a big stick. I think the stick that America is carrying right now is not big enough yet.
O'BRIEN: The smaller stick.
BENNETT: That's right.
O'BRIEN: Here's what the President said at APAC. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Between our two countries -- my personal commitment -- I think we will do what it takes to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself against any threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: There are some who were unhappy with the President's words of support. BENNETT: Yes.
O'BRIEN: Do you feel like that's changed? You're feeling better about that.
BENNETT: I think again the words are powerful. The sanctions right now are not, and that's the main gap. What we need in order to retain security and quiet is immediate, paralyzing sanctions that will bring Iran's regime to the brink of collapse.
O'BRIEN: Naftali Bennett is the former chief of staff for the Prime Minister of Israel. Nice to see you thanks for talking to us.
BENNETT: Thanks -- thanks for bringing me here.
O'BRIEN: "End Point" is up next with our panel. We're back in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 90 mostly seafarer years Jim Henry harbored a secret, the lobster man and fishing boat captain couldn't read or write.
JIM HENRY, AUTHOR: I was so ashamed of myself that I never told anyone.
GUPTA: Growing up with a strict Portuguese father, Henry was put to work as a young child. His father didn't care about school so Henry seldom went to class.
HENRY: I didn't learn a thing. I didn't know nothing, absolutely nothing.
GUPTA: And yet his teachers kept promoting him to the next grade. Henry eventually dropped out of school, he kept working, he got married and he used his street smarts to get by. His wife knew he couldn't read a word. Friends and family had their suspicions but never asked. It wasn't until his wife became ill that he finally openly admitted he was illiterate.
HENRY: I says, I've got to do something. I says, I can't go on for all of my life this way.
GUPTA: With the help of family and friends, Henry began to teach himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He went through the entire dictionary from back to front reading.
GUPTA: Studies show as the human brain ages it becomes more difficult for someone to learn a new skill, especially at the age of 90. But Henry thought time might be running out so he hired a tutor to help him. And two years later, he succeeded.
But Henry decided to take it a step further. He had all these stories stuck inside his head with no way to pass them along so now armed with the written word, he put them in a book called "In a Fisherman's Language." It's a reflection of his life. He published it at the age of 96. It's become very popular, especially among people with learning disabilities.
MARK MORGAN, TUTOR: I always thought that he would draw on something of his life. I never realized that this would happen, that this book would be so popular.
GUPTA: Today Henry shakes his head when someone calls him an author. It's hard for him to process the last few years, but he says it's been a journey like no other.
HENRY: I don't know how I survived, but here I am.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: We're playing Train, "Hey, Soul Sister." You're looking at a picture of Central Park. It's like a perfect ending to a perfect day. Time for "End Point." We've asked Naftali Bennett to stick around; what's your "End Point" for this morning, sir?
NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO ISRAELI PM NETANYAHU: If we don't act within a few months, we might wake up to an Iranian bomb that will threaten Paris, Rome, and Madrid. That will be a nuclear nightmare. The challenge of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is to prevent a second holocaust.
O'BRIEN: All right. Let's move on to Farai Chideya. What's your "End Point" takeaway today?
FARAI CHIDEYA, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, you know, looking at Super Tuesday, I really think that I am hoping that the conversation, whatever happens with the race, turns away from the social issues in which women I think have been punished in the debate rather than political points won.
O'BRIEN: All right. Mr. Moore?
MOORE: I think the most important statistic to pay attention to tonight in the Super Tuesday is voter turnout.
MOORE: Republicans have had a big, big problem.
O'BRIEN: Down 9 percent.
MOORE: What I call the excitement deficit. And it will be really interesting to see in Virginia and Ohio, two battleground purple states in November.
O'BRIEN: I would agree with you on that. And finally, Mr. Brett O'Donnell?
BRETT O'DONNELL, ADVISOR, BACHMANN 2012 CAMPAIGN: Well, four years ago, Super Tuesday --
O'BRIEN: He's going to go four years -- he's going back four years. That's an ominous start to my 30 seconds that you get.
O'DONNELL: Four years ago Super Tuesday ended Mitt Romney's candidacy. Tonight Super Tuesday could cement his candidacy. But we'll see if he meets the benchmark.
MOORE: He's got to dot i in Ohio.
O'BRIEN: Yes, he certainly does. We've said that about almost every single race.
I think you panelist; Mr. Bennett as well. We appreciate you joining us this morning.
CNN's Super Tuesday coverage will begin tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Special edition of "John King USA" followed by the primary results coverage which starts at 7:00 p.m.
And then tomorrow "Early Start" is going to begin an hour earlier at 4:00 a.m. with all the Super Tuesday results plus we're going to be joined by Newark mayor, Cory Booker. He's going to join the STARTING POINT panel.
That's all tomorrow.
First thought, we get you right to Carol Costello with "CNN NEWSROOM." Hey Carol, good morning to you.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning Soledad. Guess what we're going to talk about first off -- Super Tuesday.