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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

No Super Tuesday Knockouts; Santorum Takes Three States; The Race Drags On; Romney Edges Santorum In Ohio; Romney Wins Six Out Of 10 States On Super Tuesday; "Joe The Plumber" Wins GOP Primary

Aired March 7, 2012 - 05:59   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: Super Mitt.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to let you down. I'm going to get this nomination.

SAMBOLIN: Mitt Romney pads his lead with Super Tuesday wins but can't land that knockout blow.

SANTORUM: We need a fighter.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Rick Santorum keeps hanging around, thanks to the Romney doubters in the reddest of red states.

SANTORUM: We have won in the west, the Midwest, and the south, and we're ready to win across this country.

SAMBOLIN: And Newt Gingrich, have you learned not to count him out?

GINGRICH: There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BANFIELD: The republican race moves forward on your EARLY START.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): A very good morning to you, folks. It is one minute to 6:00 a.m. This is EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from "A" to "Z." Let's get started here.

BANFIELD: Morning after.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Morning after Super Tuesday, can I say? All candidates still standing Mitt Romney, though, feeling like maybe he's standing better ground but not as much ground as he'd like to be stand on? Here's a look at where we stand the morning after.

Mitt Romney taking Ohio, that much sought after state. Also Alaska, two races that couldn't even be called until most of you very well sound asleep. And he also won Idaho and Vermont. Of course, Massachusetts, which he trounced everybody, and that was expected. He won Virginia, too. Rick Santorum, though, can't be counted out. He took Oklahoma, he took Tennessee, and he also really smoked them in North Dakota, too.

Newt Gingrich no, surprise here, he took his home state of Georgia by a massive margin so brand new delegate estimate, including Alaska and thank you to the wonderful and talented Robert Yun who does the math all night long for us.

We've got your totals, 404 delegates for Mitt Romney, 165 for Rick Santorum, 106 for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul still tricking along 66 delegates total as of the most recent delegates count.

It's hard to do too because it's a real tricky little formula. Mitt Romney telling supporters, though, I am so into that math. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, we're doing some counting. We're counting up the delegates for the convention. It looks good. We're counting down the days until November, and that looks even better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: How did he get into good at the man smiling at the mic? The exit polls told a pretty interesting story. Catholics, Catholics really helped Mitt Romney squeak by in Ohio, 44 percent of the Catholics chose Mitt Romney.

But only 31 percent chose the Catholic, Rick Santorum. Our political editor, Paul Steinhauser is in Columbus, Ohio, live for us this morning. It ain't the first time we've heard that story before.

That the Catholics didn't go for the Catholic either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, but was that a surprise to you?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, our polling for our CNN poll from yesterday -- from two days ago indicated that it could happen and there it goes, it happened. Ashleigh, this is like deja vu all over again. It's like Michigan last week, a squeaker for Mitt Romney right here in Ohio, but a win is a win.

Look at the vote totals, the latest vote totals, and that's pretty close, just a little over 10,000 votes separating Romney from Santorum. How did he do it? Well, ad spending was one thing greatly outspending Santorum and Romney "Super PAC" doing the same thing, greatly outspending Santorum "Super PAC."

Here in Ohio, you mentioned the Catholic vote and the exit polls, but he has trouble. We saw it in Michigan. We've seen it elsewhere. He's not doing very well with very conservative voters.

Romney did not do well with working class voters or Evangelicals here in Ohio, but, Ashleigh, a win is a win. And I guess, everybody can weigh a winner last night. What about Rick Santorum?

Take a look at Tennessee, a state where he had big lead in the public opinion polls about two weeks ago. It was almost dead even a couple days ago, but, look, he eked out -- more than eked out. He had 9-point victory in Tennessee.

He also won Oklahoma, doing very well in the southern states, in the conservative states. Newt Gingrich, let's go to the vote totals in Georgia.

Well, he said he had a win, no problem. Look at that. That is a very convincing win, over 20 points ahead of Romney and the rest of the field in Georgia. Newt Gingrich staying in the race.

Ron Paul, we're not talking a lot about him, but he did win delegates. You know, that's his game plan. Win delegates, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: He got delegates. He's up to 66, which I think might surprise some people because they keep wondering since he hasn't won any states so far how does he keep racking them up, but he does.

Let's talk about -- because, you know, our viewers get up early so they are on the ball, Paul Steinhauser and they're already looking to the next prize.

On Saturday, we've got Kansas. On Tuesday of next week, we've got Mississippi and Alabama. Those are no jokes. So what are we looking at? What's the story in those states?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, you know, for our viewers, I guess, Super Tuesday was so yesterday. Listen, these states may be tough for Mitt Romney because they're all pretty conservative. Where is Rick Santorum going to be today? Kansas.

It's a lot like Oklahoma, very conservative state. Santorum could also do well in those southern primaries you mentioned next Tuesday, Alabama, Mississippi. Gingrich can be campaigning there as well.

Our Gloria Borger learning that the Santorum campaign could be spending some big bucks on ads. Romney, you know a lot of favorable states are down the road, like on April 24th, a long way down the road where New York and Pennsylvania vote. But that's a long ways away, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's that Pennsylvania I keep waiting for because it's always Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that stream headlines in the general election. So I can't wait for that one.

In the meantime, though, I'm thrilled with everything you report on. Thanks, Paul Steinhauser. Appreciate it.

STEINHAUSER: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It's 4 minutes past the hour. Mitt Romney did win six of the 10 states during Super Tuesday, but this was not the outcome his camp was hoping for.

Rick Santorum winning three states, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Dakota. Newt Gingrich winning Georgia. Both doing more than enough to extend this race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We survived the national elite's effort to kill us in the summer because of you, because people who said, we are not going to allow the elite to decide who we are allowed to nominate.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a big night tonight, lots of states. We're going to win a few. We're going to lose a few. But as it looks right now, we're going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole lot of silver medals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And what does that all mean? John Avlon, senior political columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast" is going to try to explain it.

And from Atlanta, we also have Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona. Maria, I'm going to start with you. We heard last night Newt Gingrich said he's going to stay in the race. I want you to listen to this and then let's talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Remember when it was Tim Pawlenty who was going to crowd me out and remember then when it was Michele Bachmann? And then it was our good friend, Herman Cain the first time and then it was Herman Cain the second time, and now it's Santorum.

And you just can't quite get across to them, it's all right. There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP0

SAMBOLIN: I love all these sound bites. So if Santorum really wants to win, Gingrich needs to get out. But analysts are saying that it's in Romney's best interest for both of them to stay in the race. And that way they divide the votes and you know, he can pull off the squeakers like he did last night. Do you agree?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's exactly right, Zoraida. You know, part of what the story line that was last night for Romney that is not a very positive one, and Christine Romans went through these numbers, he still can't seal the deal with the Tea Party, the most conservative voters.

But as long as both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum stay in that race and those voters split their vote amongst those two, Mitt Romney continues to win states even though they're squeakers and he continues to rack up delegates.

About Newt Gingrich, I said this to you all before. I call him the Lazarus of politics. He does keep rising. But the fact of the matter is he's going to need to do more than win just Georgia. So who knows? Maybe it will take more than Jesus Christ this time around to really revive his campaign.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he certainly stays in and his vowed to do it this time. We'll see if that actually happens. I want to take a look at the exit polls, John, 41 percent of the voters have reservations for the candidate that they favor.

We saw the GOP have weights like Eric Cantor, Senator Tom Colburn who endorsed Romney and it seems like the Republicans want to unite around Romney.

And some did, but a lot are holding out. What does this say about the race when they can't wrap their arms around it? I think they said they wanted Romney to be the presumptive nominee, but he's looking like the inevitable nominee.

JOHN AVLON, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. Well, there's nothing inevitable about Mitt Romney. That becomes clearer and clearer because the base still has a lingering distaste for this candidate.

The establishment however is rallying around Mitt Romney. In years past, Super Tuesday is the day where the nominees able to seal the deal. He's able to sort of win big enough to say, you know what, it's functionally over, let's move to the convention and then I'll take it to the general election.

That's not true this year. That's not true because this is a proportional fight. It's not a winner take all fight. It's not about momentum, it's about math. Mitt Romney still has 1,000 delegates to go.

Even if he wins all the delegates going forward it could still take him up until May to clench the number. Most importantly, these other candidates in the race, Newt, Santorum, Ron Paul, it's very unlikely they're going to get out of the race.

So this is going to be protracted even as establishment tries to rally and solidify support around Mitt Romney because he seems like the most electable nominee in the fall.

SAMBOLIN: Did you say that this was going to go on until May earlier? Is that what you predicted?

AVLON: Yes, if you just look at the delegate math. Mitt Romney has 404. He needs 1,144 to clinch this nomination. That takes a while. That's just a function of the way these primaries are set up. SAMBOLIN: All right, I want you both to weigh in on this last issue here. The number one issue in the exit polls seems to be the economy. Let's use Ohio as an example here, 54 percent see the economy as the most important issue.

But we've been seeing a lot of social issues on trail as well, like contraception. Timothy Stanley, an Oxford historian wrote this in an op-ed for CNN. The Republican contest has been side tracked by issues of little immediate importance to most voters, contraception, gay rights, abortion, et cetera.

The GOP primaries have become a private conversation to the exclusion of the rest of the country. We're headed into really conservative states like Alabama and Mississippi. Social conservative issues play well here. So is he right? I'm going to start with you, John.

AVLON: Well, look, economic issues are the best case Republicans have to make. It's how they can connect with independent voters. The problem is preoccupation with social conservative issues does rally the base.

It does rally social conservatives' special interests and can bowie a candidate like Rick Santorum in particular, but look at the cost. Rick Santorum narrowly lost Ohio last night in part because he lost women voters.

That can be seen as a proxy for some of these contraception debates they've been having, which are really a distraction from the real debates that they want to have, which is all about the economy.

SAMBOLIN: I know you're a Democrat, Maria, but I'm going to let you weigh in on this one.

CARDONA: Yes, I think that's exactly right. I think that the problem with not just Romney, but with Santorum and frankly, the whole field as they do delve into these social issues is that their negatives continue to go up.

They continue to go -- to tank with independents, frankly, the more that voters hear about what these candidates have to say the less they like them. That's not the way to win the general election.

SAMBOLIN: All right, John and Maria, thank you for joining us this morning. Thanks for staying up so late.

All right, you can keep it here on CNN for the best political coverage on television. At 7:00 a.m. Eastern on "STARTING POINT" Soledad O'Brien will be joined by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

BANFIELD: And it is 10 minutes past 6 a.m. on the east coast. Still to come on EARLY START, Mitt Romney may have pulled off six of ten, but is that a big winner thing or is that chicken dinner?

You know that whole thing, winner, winner chicken dinner? Never mind. The exit polling will break down the numbers. It will tell you what the story really is. It will certainly tell that campaign what it needs to know moving forward.

SAMBOLIN: All right, all the -- is building. Have you heard about this? Apple about to unveil a brand new iPad.

Yes, wohoo indeed. We're going to get all the details on that and whether you should trade in your old one. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Cleveland rocks. It's Cleveland Rocks, but you know what's close to Cleveland? Columbus. Columbus, Ohio, is close to Cleveland, right?

SAMBOLIN: It works for me.

BANFIELD: Hey, it's 14 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast, which it means it's time to get you caught up on the top stories this morning.

And this will be the topper: Mitt Romney capturing six of the 10 states were up for grabs.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that smile.

BANFIELD: They're happy. Or are they?

They did win the knuckler, the white-knuckler, Ohio.

But Rick Santorum just won't go away. And Newt Gingrich is still there, too. Both vowing to stay in the race. Santorum took three states, big ones, too -- Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. And Gingrich took the biggest, Georgia.

SAMBOLIN: And new this morning, violent raids in Syria. Soldiers storming villages with tanks. Government forces blasting a bridge, wounded refugees were using to escape into Lebanon.

Nearly 8,500 people killed in this year long crackdown. Most of them are civilians.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is heading to Syria on Saturday to try to convince President Bashar al-Assad to end all of this violence.

And state television in North Korea is showing rarely seen footage of military drills near the disputed border with South Korea. Take a look at this video, folks.

A commander is threatening to turn the capital city of Seoul into a sea of flames. The fiery language comes as diplomats hold talks on the U.S. restoring humanitarian aid to the communist nation.

BANFIELD: Gas prices down this morning. And that's the second straight day that we can report that happily. National average is at $3.76. And that's a drop once again of about three-tenths of a cent.

SAMBOLIN: Sixteen minutes past the hour here.

Ten states were up for grabs but Ohio was the big prize. And it belongs this morning to Mitt Romney barely.

BANFIELD: Yes, just barely. If you look at the numbers you see there's a 1 percent margin between Romney and Santorum.

Here's the final tally in the buckeye state, Mitt Romney eking out the squeaker, 38-37.

Our Christine Romans has been going behind the numbers, digging in, finding out what was on the voters' minds as they were coming in and, more importantly, coming out.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Geeking out is what we call it. Geeking out with the numbers.

BANFIELD: Geeking out. But you're the prettiest geek I know.

ROMANS: Oh, that's nice --

BANFIELD: Yes. What have you got?

ROMANS: It takes one to know one.

All right. Let's talk about Catholicism, Protestantism and what religion had to do in Ohio. It's so interesting because if you look at the Ohio breakdown of how different religions voted, the Catholics went for the Mormon. They went for Romney, 44 percent, over Rick Santorum 31 percent which who is, of course, a Catholic. Protestants went for the Catholic, Rick Santorum. People who said they were Protestants went for Mitt Romney, 39 percent. And for Gingrich, who is also Catholic, 11 percent.

I want to take a little look here about how important this was -- the importance of religion to your vote in Ohio. And if you look here, I'm going to pull them all up for you. It really tells an interesting story, I think. For people who said religion didn't matter, they mostly went for Mitt Romney, 44 percent, right?

For people who said, it mattered not much -- again, Mitt Romney here.

But look, somewhat mattered, 50 percent. Whenever something is somewhat or maybe or middle of the road, people go for Mitt Romney in these Republican exit polls that we've seen.

And for those who said that religion mattered a great deal, 53 percent went for Rick Santorum.

So, that's how it broke on the religion front on Ohio.

And it was kind of pretty interesting. And I know Paul Steinhauser has been talking about it before, that the Catholic vote went for the Mormon, the Protestant vote went for the Catholic. Interesting, right?

BANFIELD: You know? Thank you for the nod on the New Gingrich tweet, my girl friend there, because I just pulled it up.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: It's gratifying he tweets, "It's gratifying to win in my home state. So decisively to launch our March momentum money bond. Donate now."

ROMANS: I told you earlier a lot of people were reaching out to me saying, how come you guys aren't talking more about Georgia? Why aren't talking about the Gingrich win in Georgia, the big Gingrich win in Georgia, his home state? Gingrich clearly trying to take that -- this has been strategy all along, right? Really focus on his home state and try to make that move through the month to raise some money and get some other states in the South.

BANFIELD: Get the mojo. We like to call it.

SAMBOLIN: That's one we can call a decisive win.

ROMANS: That's right.

BANFIELD: Thanks for the heads up on that, Christine.

Also, still to come, folks, the next generation of, you guessed it, iPad. But don't go calling it the iPad 3. It may be a widely popular tablet but its upgrade is kind of fancy and funky. There's an HD in the spelling of the new one. So, we're going to break it down for you and tell you what the newest elements of this tablet are and whether you need to go spending the money on a brand new one.

SAMBOLIN: That was interesting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: This could be big news for gadget lovers. Apple is unveiling a new iPad, it's not that one that she has in her hand.

BANFIELD: No.

SAMBOLIN: It's going to happen later today in San Francisco. We're getting ahead of ourselves here.

BANFIELD: It never is the one that I have.

SAMBOLIN: How many generations back are you?

BANFIELD: Actually, I'm not too bad. I do have the iPad 2. So, I was thinking, of course, I would get the iPad 3, right?

And I would be wrong. Yes, big changes are coming. Yes, some upgrades are coming. But the new name is not going to be the iPad 3.

So what is it going to be and what is it going to have and do I need to really get rid of this because I'm just getting to know it.

Bridget Carey is the senior editor of CNET. She's here with some inside scoop.

All right. Bridget, break it on down. Do I have to get rid of this? Do I --

BRIDGET CAREY, CNET: I don't think you have to get rid of it. In fact, probably looks just like the one you have in your hand. They're thinking it's going to be called the iPad HD, not the iPad 3. It's third generation but it's going to have the same look, it's just going to have better inners.

Make it a better camera, a better high resolution screen, high definition screen. So, it's going to be more -- a better experience but kind of the same look and feel.

BANFIELD: So there's the statistic that will my mind, although anything Apple shouldn't surprise me, and that is the sale of the number of units they had in 2011 -- 40.5 million iPads were sold world wide, Bridget, in 2011. Listen. That's a 62 percent share, market share, of tablet market.

And that statistic for me was fascinating because I thought if you sell 40.2 million units in 2011, how are you going to launch the new version in '12?

CAREY: I know, Apple is a juggernaut. I would not be surprised if they sold more now, because now you've had the iPad out for two generations. If you were the kind of person who always were saying, you know, I'm going to wait, there might be a new one out. Now is the year where it's all around you. Tablets are a craze, whether it's Apple or other brand.

And now, you're going to say, well, I think it's the time to get it.

BANFIELD: So, here's the weird thing I'm going to do. I don't know if this is going to work or not. But when the camera comes back to me, I'm actually shooting my view of the camera that I'm looking at. And there's Pete. Say hi, Pete. Wave.

Here's what I loved about this one, Bridget. I can do this. I can just turn this camera around with one little point and I can shoot two different ways at any moment.

CAREY: Yes. As a camera in the front and in the back. And this next one will probably have a same thing, just a better camera.

The one you're holding right now, the back camera isn't even as good as the latest iPhone camera.

BANFIELD: What?

SAMBOLIN: Ooh.

BANFIELD: So, you're saying I look crap by and maybe 10 years older than I should when I'm doing this?

CAREY: I'm not at all. Not at all.

BANFIELD: You'll be invited back.,

All right. So, here's the deal, pricewise, A, is it going to be really expensive and, B, what the heck do I do with this if I want to sell it? Can I sell it? Can I get as much for it? Can I kind of break even if I want to switch it for the next one?

CAREY: Apple products really old their value. So, if you're going to resell it, you're going the get good money for it still, yes. If you want to upgrade, chances are they are going to keep it about the same price as the iPad 2 is sold, so expect start at $500, $700.

And the iPad 2, the one you have will probably lower in price maybe 50 bucks or so. Yes, you can resell these things. Walk into a Best Buy or go on Amazon and get a gift certificate. There's a lot of buyback programs that makes it easy to get your money back on an old version, an upgrade.

BANFIELD: Or you can eBay it to China because I hear they are having a tough time to get their hands on these things.

All right, Bridget. It's great to talk to you. I hope you will come back to us and talk to us again.

CAREY: Of course. Thanks for having me.

BANFIELD: Bridget Carey from CNET.com, thanks for being here.

SAMBOLIN: I want apple to swap them out. Say I take that one and you can buy this one.

BANFIELD: You know what I want Apple to do? Send us free samples so we can show them on the air.

SAMBOLIN: It's great idea, too.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START is the spin after the win. All of the Republicans claiming important victories on Super Tuesday. Which candidates benefitted the most from the results?

"STARTING POINT" anchor Soledad O'Brien is starting early with a lot of analysis.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: And a very good morning to you. It is 30 minutes past the top of the hour, which means it's an EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thanks for being with us this morning.

It is time to check stories making news.

Mitt Romney padding his lead, winning Ohio and five other states on Super Tuesday. But he could not land that knockout blow on Rick Santorum who won three states, or Newt Gingrich, he took his home state of Georgia.

In a primary battle that pitted two long-time members of congress against each other, Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, lost his bid for re-election. The winner was fellow long time House Democrat Marcy Kaptur. The veteran lawmakers were forced to face-off after a redistricting battle when Ohio lost two congressional seats.

BANFIELD: And full disclosure from the New Orleans Saints -- though the team admits to paying players bonuses for hitting other players viciously. Coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis issued a joint statement apologizing for those, quote, "bounty systems" that they promised it wouldn't happen again. The Saints faced fines, suspensions, even lost draft picks.

And the winner of last night's 336 -- it's hard to say the number, I'll be honest with you -- $336.4 million powerball jackpot has come forward and she is adorable. Eighty-one-year-old from Rhode Island. The winning ticket sold at a Top and Shop supermarket in Newport because wants ice cream late at night. Lump sum payment is that young lady right there, $210 million.

And as Christine Romans says, go girl, spend it. Don't save, don't invest, just go ahead spend it.

SAMBOLIN: Happy story. Spend the money. Spend the money.

Thirty-two minutes past the hour here.

Mitt Romney won six states last night, building his delegate lead to a whopping 400, broke that 300 mark.

BANFIELD: Yes, that candidates are still a long way of that magic number of 1,144. That's the number of delegates you got to have to clinch the actual nomination, which is really what this is all about, isn't it?

"STARTING POINT" anchor Soledad O'Brien getting up a lot earlier this morning to come.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": As we all did.

BANFIELD: You know, half the time I don't know if your going to be at a polling station at midnight.

O'BRIEN: Me, too.

BANFIELD: And then the diner --

O'BRIEN: -- because it's fascinating to watch though, isn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

O'BRIEN: I mean, Super Tuesday, I thought was so interesting with 10 races, of course. It was interesting before Super Tuesday to hear Mitt Romney saying, listen, I believe if I win Ohio, I'm going to win the nomination. Of course, last night the big takeaway was -- no really big front-runner. That's a big problem.

Here's what he said when he gave his speech last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And tonight, we've taken one more step towards restoring the promise of tomorrow. Tomorrow, we wake up and we start again and the next day, we'll do the same. So we'll go day by day, step by step, door by door, heart to heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Day by day, step by step, door to door -- that means it's not ending any time soon. That's how you read that.

It's interesting, of course, to hear Rick Santorum talking at his victories last night and some of these losses, too, which he framed as the silver medal. That's kind of interesting.

BANFIELD: A passel.

O'BRIEN: A passel. Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was a big night tonight. Lots of states. We're going to win a few, we're going to lose a few. But as it looks right now, we're going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole passel full of silver medals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Of course, the big question is, is a silver medal enough when you try to wrap up a nomination. When you look at Ron Brownstein who's going to get in our show starting at the top of the hour, he would say the problem is everyone is doing really well among the people they do really well among.

SAMBOLIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: Meaning if you don't expand the base, there's no way you can actually fight your way quickly to a big victory.

SAMBOLIN: Nobody is breaking away. However, if, you know, the question is, will Newt Gingrich stay in the race, right? Any lasting --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes. I was going to say, he did.

Yes. No.

BANFIELD: The elitist, right?

O'BRIEN: He just thought it was a rid class question. Like why should I get out of the race? He basically pointed to Rick Santorum, he was told to get out of the race too and then he surged and now, no one even mentions that --

SAMBOLIN: He only got that one state.

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, he has Southern strategy. I think he's looking forward to Alabama. He's looking forward to Mississippi on Saturday.

Here's what he said last night about bunnies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember when it was Tim Pawlenty who was going to crowd me out? And remember then when it was Michele Bachmann? And then it was our good friend Herman Cain the first time. Then it was Herman Cain the second time. And now it's Santorum.

And you just can't quite get across to them, it's all right. There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: But as you point out, Zoraida, if the tortoise doesn't start winning more actual primaries that could be a big problem, where he could do, is he could be a spoiler for Santorum in that Southern strategy. So it will be interesting to watch that race. And maybe that's sort of what people are looking for it to be decided or maybe not. I think with the super PAC money, what's the real incentive to get out at this point.

BANFIELD: Silver medals are nice for your wall but they don't give you that coveted spot. There's only one guy who gets to run up against Obama.

O'BRIEN: It's first time I've ever heard someone talk about a loss as a silver medals. That's an interesting speech.

BANFIELD: Shiny.

SAMBOLIN: It is. And I think, you know, the Republicans really want to have a candidate finally. They're probably the one most frustrated.

O'BRIEN: Well, the word of the week is coalescing. We're finally coalescing. We're coalescing. You know, conservatives coming out in support of Mitt Romney and the coalescing doesn't seem to have reflected in the polls.

BANFIELD: The word of the day was legume. It was harder to work than in coalescing --

O'BRIEN: Legume like vegetable?

BANFIELD: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Oh.

BANFIELD: Sarah Palin had a legume colored jacket.

O'BRIEN: OK. I'm with you. I'm with you.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I just missed it. Studying.

BANFIELD: O'Brien, man.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-six minutes past the hour.

Still to come on EARLY START, Romney wins six of 10 states during Super Tuesday. We've been tell you that all morning, right? So, we're going to go me hind the numbers to see where this race might be headed next.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is 39 minutes past 6:00 a.m. And that means we're back live.

Hi, everybody. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're really happy you're here with us this morning.

So, we now know how Republicans voted across the 10 Super Tuesday states.

Joining me now is the president of the poling company Woman Trend, Kellyanne Conway. She's a pollster and senior strategist for Newt Gingrich.

Thank you for being with us. And since you're --

KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT, WOMAN TREND: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning. Since you're a pollster, I'm going to put up some polls and graphics.

Ohio came down to the wire here, right? And it seems that electability is what won here over empathy.

This is a CNN exit poll -- 42 percent of Ohio Republicans felt that the most important quality in a candidate was electability. An overwhelmingly there, 42 percent went for Romney. However, 41 percent of Ohio voters say they have reservations about the candidate.

This is a key swing state in November. What does this say to you about the Republican field?

CONWAY: It says several things. But particularly it's an indictment of Mitt Romney and his campaign. I mean, he's been called the inevitable, electable candidate for over a year now. He ran on inevitability, not ideas, Zoraida, and it's caught up with him.

You can have infrastructure, organization, money, but if you don't have message and you don't connect with the voters, and if you're not a true conservative. I mean, these contests are important but the most important thing that happened in the last week was Mitt Romney saying, hey, I'm not going to light my hair on fire to prove I'm a conservative. If you're a real conservative you won't have to touch the hair, we'll just know it.

So, he's having a problem not just connecting with, quote, "average people". That's its own challenge for him, but he's having trouble convincing voters that somehow 2012 will be different from 1996 and 2008 where the Republican Party nominated moderates who had lost the time before and the election went to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. People don't want this to be 1996 and 2008 all over again.

You can say I can win, and I can win about electability. But I think that's what happened is 2010 showed many underfunded, unknown candidates now sitting in our state Congress and state houses saying you want win, you're not the front-runner, you're underfunded, they ran on a message and they won. And I think that's what voters are looking for this year.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I think that Newt Gingrich would probably like to be in Romney's place right now, right, at least with electability. You're advising Newt Gingrich. He won home state of Georgia last night. The second state he won after South Carolina and that was in January.

Listen to what he said last night. And I want your take on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: There are lots of bunny rabbits that run through. I'm the tortoise. I just take one step at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: OK. Then we get this tweet that I'm going to look over that just came in. It is gratifying -- this is from Newt Gingrich, by the way. "It is gratifying to win my home state so decisively to launch our March Momentum money bomb. Donate now: Newt.org."

What is the next step for Gingrich in order to catch up?

CONWAY: Well, these victories in Georgia and South Carolina do show his strength in the south. Now we're going to the deeper South in Alabama and Mississippi, followed by Kansas and then back to Louisiana.

We've got Texas looming now in late May. Not April. That's 155 delegates just in one day. Proportional delegation.

And I think that the fact is that there are 27 states, Zoraida, where the voters have not yet spoken. They have a right to voice their opinion as to who should be the nominee. And that's why Newt is in this race. Santorum is staying in as well.

That combined with the fact that as the calendar gets deeper it gets worse for Mitt Romney.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Let me ask you this. Alabama and Mississippi are coming up next Tuesday. If Gingrich does not win there, does he drop out?

CONWAY: Well, if he wins there, he should keep going. I look to reverse the question, also.

SAMBOLIN: But if he doesn't.

CONWAY: I doubt it because we're going to Texas and California. We're on the ballot in every congressional district here in New York where the delegates for the delegates filed for Santorum and Romney have both been challenged. Ours were not. And believe me, if they could have been challenged, they would have been.

But these big prizes still loom large. Texas, California, New York, for example, New Jersey in June with 50 delegates. That's winner take all.

But the fact is most delegates have not been awarded and somebody can be declared the front-runner on, quote, "money and infrastructure." And even, quote, "I could win. I can beat Barack Obama."

There's less and less proof of that now. I mean, Romney's negatives have gone on significantly among independents because of all this negative advertising. He outspent everybody 5 1/2-1 in Ohio and squeaked by.

So, there are some real reservations there and people like a real contest. So these states are all very different. The voters all make up their own minds. They won't be told whom to vote for. We're excited.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we see that. Kellyanne, I want to ask you something completely different here.

Rush Limbaugh has gotten more fallout now after he called Sandra Fluke a slut and prostitute. I know you're aware of that. Two radio stations have dropped the show. And now, at least 20 sponsors have pulled their ads from their show. The Web site that helps people cheat on their espouses actually offer to purchase air time.

CONWAY: Well, first, let me make sure my husband did not tune in to that interview given the man's -- services. Look, what Rush Limbaugh did was apologize, and it takes a very big person to do that. People don't like to say they're sorry these days. I think we should take him and his apology the way we took Harry Reid's for making very disparaging comments about Barack Obama in the "Game Change" book.

We should take that apology. I don't think it hurts the, quote, "brand among Republicans women" because I think Republican women are very smart. These women are very smart. They're savvy, and they --

SAMBOLIN: And you don't think they're offended by that?

CONWAY: Yes, they may be offended, and I'm offended, but I also believe that Rush Limbaugh probably talks about a million words a week and most of the matter very much and most of them are spot on, the message. And he has apologized for these two words that he used. He wrote this woman a letter, not an e-mail, not a tweet, not a text like everyone else does.

But let me just say, women can be offended, but it doesn't mean that they are single issue voters, Zoraida. Women will have jobs, and economy is the number one issue, and they will look at a whole bunch of issues, impressions, individuals, and ideas and to the big voter and spare it up and make a decision.

I think the left is really overplaying their hand on the whole contraception issue, because they're insulting women. We, Republicans, want to talk to the heart, the head, the mind, body and soul of women, not just their wombs.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kellyanne Conway, thank you for joining us this morning.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Twenty? The advertisers now, 20 have dropped?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Oh, man.

SAMBOLIN: It's the latest number.

BANFIELD: Not good. Forty-six minutes past 6:00 a.m. on the east coast. Time to get you caught up on top stories this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Six out of ten for Mitt. Mitt Romney had a Super Tuesday, but it wasn't super enough to really close the deal he wanted to close, even though he won that big nail biter over Rick Santorum in Ohio last night, but Santorum off three other states, good ones, too.

And Newt Gingrich took a big fat one in Georgia, the most for the delegates for the whole night. Both Romney's rivals vowing to stay in the race, or should we say, all three of this rivals, because Ron Paul is still there, folks. He's still kicking around, collecting delegates.

Now, let's move on to this. Look at that picture, look at it closely. It's a bridge that collapsed into water. Look at the man with the gun. Syrian rebels were pounding rebel held towns this morning, blasting that bridge because refugees, women and children, were trying to escape across it into Lebanon.

If that doesn't make you sick, it may be why former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan is traveling to Syria on Saturday to beg President Bashar al-Assad to stop this. Stop these bombs. Stop the assaults. Stop the murders.

Back here in this country, "Joe the Plumber" is in the running to become Joe the congressman. It is official. Joe's real name is not "Joe the Plumber." It's Samuel Wurzelbacher, and he won his GOP primary in Ohio last night. He became famous back in 2008 when he challenged then presidential candidate, Barack Obama, from the crowd, challenging him about taxes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): It is 6:48. Still to come, putting war heroes back to work. Veterans are having a tough time, folks. Big unemployment numbers more than the rest of us. Why? Don't we owe them? Shouldn't we be doing a lot more? You're going to meet someone who said, yes, you bet, and he's doing something about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT" -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT: Hey, good morning, ladies. We're going to continue our analysis, post-Super Tuesday voting. This morning, we're going to chat with the Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty. He's going to join us.

Also, you know, of course, he was in the GOP race at one time. Alice Stewart will join us. She, of course, is with the Rick Santorum campaign. She's press secretary. RNC chairman, Reince Priebus will join us. Kevin DeWine is the head of Ohio Republican Party. He's going to talk with us as well this morning.

Joining our panel is Newark's mayor, Cory Booker. Maybe he wants to give up this whole political thing and join me as co-anchor on the show one day.

Also, we'll talk to Jay Roach, he, of course, is the director of that controversial movie, HBO movie called "Game Change." As you know, Sarah Palin slammed it and talked to Senator McCain. He also slammed the movie as well. We'll ask him about that movie and much more. That's all ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We're right at the top of the hour. Back to you guys.

BANFIELD: All right. Thanks, Soledad. Appreciate that. Looking forward to it. Here's a number you don't want to hear, 800,000 vets are unemployed in this country, and that is a higher jobless rate than for the rest of us. It's unconscionable, but it's true, folks. In January, the unemployment rate for the vets out there, 9.1 percent, and that's versus 8.3 percent for folks overall.

Not fair, you say? Well, then you need to meet our next guest, because here's a guy who's about to announce 30,000 job listings. John Pike is the CEO of America Wants You from Los Angeles this morning.

John, first of all, A, I can't believe I'm reading this statistic that veterans have a tougher time than the rest of us getting a job and, B, I'm thrilled that there's someone like you out there. But who are you and what is this? How do you, all of a sudden, have access to post 30,000 jobs for vets?

JOHN PIKE, CEO, AMERICAWANTSYOU.NET: I don't really have the access. What I do is I have the mission. And we have had the most extraordinary support. We announced this initiative actually 15 days ago. And this initiative is all about one thing.

We have one mission and that is to get jobs for the men and women who serve our country and keep us free and safe. And the support we have gotten from the grassroots level have been beyond outstanding.

BANFIELD: So, John, maybe get me up to speed on why it is that America isn't thanking veterans every chance they get by hiring them. Like, why are they having a tougher time than the rest of us getting a job? I thought they'd have a leg up.

PIKE: I think it's very difficult after serving this country in two or three or four tours to come back and try to reintegrate yourself into the society. I think they come with a bit of a disadvantage. There is a transitional period by which you have served, and now, you come back and you try to reintegrate into an economy that is actually very badly damaged right now.

We have an extraordinary problem with unemployment. And, America Wants You basically said one thing, we're mad as hell and we want to do something about it. BANFIELD: So, I'm looking at some pictures of probably paratroopers in training. And all I can say is that, while they may not have had some of the same job skills training as some other people, they have remarkable job skills, like way more than the rest of us could ever hope to have. But isn't that valued out there in the job market?

PIKE: I think it is valued, but I don't think it's understood. I don't think that the men and women who can actually provide jobs understand the type of individuals that are coming back. They are well trained. They are computer savvy. They work in all aspect of industry.

And they are incredibly dedicated employees. And I believe it's the responsibility of the men and women who occupy the corner offices to say, hey, we're going to give you a break.

BANFIELD: I agree.

PIKE: And we call it cocoa.

BANFIELD: I hear you. As fellow Americans, we owe them. We owe then a lot. John Pike, thanks for doing what you do. I'm just going to read out quickly what your website is because that's important, AmericaWantsYou.net. AmericaWantsYou.net. If you're an unemployed vet, go there, and John Pike has a mission to help you all. And John, thanks very much for that.

PIKE: We thank you.

BANFIELD: And we will be right back after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: You know, normally this is the time when we say it's over, but it's not over yet.

SAMBOLIN: Peyton Manning. So, the Indianapolis Colts have actually called a news conference that's happening at 12:00 noon Eastern. We suspect they're going to be talking all things Mr. Peyton Manning.

BANFIELD: That's (ph) the bad news.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Well, maybe it's good --

SAMBOLIN: Maybe good news for us.

BANFIELD: Exactly. Two minutes before the hour. This is the right time to send it over to Soledad O'Brien with "STARTING POINT."