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Interview With Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren; Interview With Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Aired March 7, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight: Super Tuesday leaves Mitt Romney with a delegate lead his team says is insurmountable and leaves the Santorum and Gingrich camps in a better spat over who deserves a one-on-one shot at the front-runner.

Plus, Israel's ambassador to the United States tells me the new offer of more negotiations with Iran may in the end simply give Tehran the time it needs to finish building a nuclear weapon.

And Republicans pounce as the defense secretary says the Obama White House would seek international permission before using military force to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

We begin this evening with the new post-Super Tuesday reality in the Republican presidential race. A few things are obvious. Mitt Romney for example is the clear and undisputed front-runner but a front-runner with giant question marks -- 10 states voted last night and Romney won six, including the big contested battleground of Ohio.

The math now very much on his side. Romney's 429 delegates are more than all of his three rivals combined. And they put him almost 40 percent of the way to the magic number required to clinch the nomination; 23 states have now weighed in on the Republican race. And Romney has won a combined 3.2 million votes or 39 percent. Rick Santorum is a distant second at 2.1 million votes or 25 percent.

But there is no rush for the exits or for a Romney coronation.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a great opportunity in the next few weeks and this primary season to stand up to the establishment, to stand up to all the money, to stand up to all the power brokers, stand up to all the lobbyists who are organizing the favorite campaign and have an insurgent candidate.


KING: Senator Santorum now gets a week that plays to his advantage. Conservative-dominated contests in Kansas, then Mississippi and Alabama. But what he won't get is a clear shot at Romney. Newt Gingrich says Santorum doesn't deserve it.

We will try to fix the audio on that and bring it to you later.

Joe Johns is on the trail tonight with Rick Santorum in Lenexa, Kansas.

Joe, the senator told a rally a short time ago he not only needs to win, but win big. How much of that is a reflection of the delegate math reality, how much of it is an effort by Santorum to send a message to Gingrich?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know it's both when you really think about it, the math when you look at it. I'm not just talking about other campaigns looking at it. I'm talking about academics, college professors.

It's very hard to see how a Rick Santorum or a Newt Gingrich under current circumstances with both of them in the race actually gets to that magic number of 1,144 delegates without somebody dropping out. So that's one thing. The other half of it, of course, is there really is a message going out from the Santorum people to the Gingrich people, and that seems to be a message of, it's time to get out. I mean, that came directly, at least, from the Rick Santorum super PAC today.

They put out a message today saying it's time for Newt Gingrich to go. Gingrich, of course, says he's not going anywhere. As far as he's concerned, perhaps Rick Santorum isn't worthy of Newt Gingrich getting out. So bottom line is, probably going to be in this for a while, John.

KING: Bottom line, I like the way you put that. Newt Gingrich doesn't think Rick Santorum is worthy. I think that's exactly the point he was making today.

Joe, one clear Santorum goal as campaigns is to try to inoculate voters against what he knows is coming, negative ads from Romney and the pro-Romney supporters.

Let's listen.


SANTORUM: Governor Romney and his super PAC will be out there spending millions of dollars telling you how I'm not a conservative and this governor of Massachusetts who signed in Romneycare is.


KING: Now, Santorum didn't spend a lot in Ohio, Joe, and his campaign just barely lost. So in part they think this tactic works, right?

JOHNS: They do.

And I have asked Santorum about it more than once, about the ads. And frankly, he says, look, I have been hit by these ads again and again and again. I'm still standing. While he admits he hasn't been able to pull out all of the wins he'd like to, nonetheless, he says, he's been able to perform very well with those ads coming against him.

So he thinks he's just going to keep on doing what he's doing. At the same time, he is planning on putting a significant million dollar ad buy out there coming up very soon in these upcoming states in hopes of generating a little television advertising buzz of his own, John.

KING: And we will see, Joe, after all the criticism of the negative Romney ads whether the Santorum ads are positive or, voila, negative as well. Joe Johns for us on the trial tonight in Kansas. Joe, thanks.

The Romney campaign tried today to portray an image of unrivaled strength. It announced it raised $11.5 million just in February. Its top strategist suggested -- and there is some merit to this -- that it is now mathematically impossible for any of the other candidates to get to the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

The candidate himself sounded confident he could with President Obama's help, he says, heal the internal GOP wounds once the nominating race is over.


ROMNEY: The community organizer has organized us in a big way. We're going to come together because we really believe that he needs to be replaced, that he's over his head, that the debt he's amassed, that the jobs he has not created suggest that this is a guy whose time has come for early retirement.


KING: Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us from the CNN Election Center to help sort the truth from the spin.

Gloria, I moved over to the wall just so I can show folks the map. If you look at the map, Romney is starting to get impressive, wins in New England, wins in the Midwest, wins out West including Alaska. Santorum in here. But I'm going to circle what comes. Senator Santorum is in Kansas today, Mississippi and Alabama next. Yes, Romney has this lead. Yes, the Romney campaign says it has money and confidence.

What happens next week when you go to ground that is not Romney territory?


They know that, which is why his staff came out today and said he's a winner. We're going to win. And they figure the more they say that, the more this inevitability takes hold and that people will vote for somebody that they believe is actually going to be the nominee.

But they understand that they have got a bunch of tough races coming up which are really going to be contests not for Mitt Romney, but they're going to be between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The problem for Mitt Romney is that, honestly, John, he doesn't really want either Santorum or Gingrich to drop out, because the longer they stay in it, they divide the vote that he's not really getting, which is the working-class, conservative, evangelical voters.

KING: And let's show folks just what you mean by that because we have the Kansas contest. Then you have Mississippi and Alabama. I want to go to the delegate map. Here's where we are right now after Super Tuesday.

You see Governor Romney again almost 40 percent of the way to the finish line, 1,114. Nobody else is even close. What he wants to happen, as Gloria mentioned, let's say Senator Santorum carries Kansas. Then the question is if Santorum can win Mississippi and Alabama that would make Santorum the conservative alternative. That would likely drive Gingrich from the race.

So, Gloria, this is what they're looking for, something like this to happen.


KING: Gingrich wins here, maybe Santorum wins one of them after winning Kansas or maybe Gingrich wins them both, but it's with Santorum.

If you had something like that happen, here's what you would get. Romney would pick up some delegates along the way. Even if Gingrich wins the two Southern states and Santorum wins Kansas, Santorum would be in second place. But a 2-1 lead for Romney, Gingrich a distant third.

Is this -- even though you would be losing three contests in a row is that more or less what I will call the best scenario, I won't call it the dream scenario for Romney?

BORGER: They'd like to have kind of a split decision between those two guys, no matter how it works out.

I mean, the Romney campaign says that they're looking towards Illinois, they're looking towards Missouri, they're looking towards, John, what we call the Yankee primary April 24, which has lots of states in which Romney could do well, although Pennsylvania is in that group, so Santorum could do well there.

But they want to give themselves enough time to get a larger lead than they already have. So they really need these two fellows to stay in it and even Ron Paul, by the way, to stay in it and keep dividing up their wins so that Romney can continue to move ahead.

Don't forget, these races are proportional, John. So there's not going to be another Super Tuesday. You're going to have to crawl across the finish line, right?

KING: Crawling, that's not exactly what an athlete likes to have said about them as they get to the finish line, crawling across the finish line. BORGER: But true.

KING: But true indeed.

Gloria Borger, thanks for your help tonight.

Let's shift overseas now. For the first time today the United Nations humanitarian chief and her envoy were allowed into the shattered Syrian district of Baba Ama. She had just 45 minutes to tour the bombed-out neighborhood following the government's deadly drawn-out siege there. In a word she calls the areas "devastating."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a different word, unacceptable.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The regime's refusal to allow humanitarian workers to help feed the hungry, tend to the injured, bury the dead marks a new low. Tons of food and medicine are standing by while more civilians die, and the regime launches new assaults. This is unacceptable.


KING: Tough words from the secretary of state there. But on Capitol Hill there's friction over what to do next.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning against military action. That's not how Senator John McCain sees it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: How many more have to die, 10,000 more, 20,000 more? How many more?

LEON PANETTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the question, as you stated yourself, Senator, is the effort to try to build an international consensus as to what action we do take. That makes the most sense. What doesn't make sense is to take unilateral action at this point.


KING: Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is tracking this and standing by for us tonight.

Chris, why it's calm words, but a pretty aggressive pushback against what McCain wants.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's because -- I have talked to some Pentagon officials here. They say it's because going into Syria is incredibly risky. And they don't want the United States to bear that risk alone.

They want to share the burden, so to speak. They look at the situation and say this could easily devolve into a civil war. They look at 100 different groups making up the opposition. And they look at the options and the risks involved with each. The Pentagon has prepared detailed military options, but they all carry risk.

Establishing a humanitarian corridor, well, hard to see how that would happen without ground troops to protect the food trucks. Establishing a no fly-zone, well, Syria has managed to inflict a whole lot of damage with tanks and artillery on the ground, not so much in the air. And even limited airstrikes are being considered.

But again, they look at the fact that Syria has five times the air defenses of Libya, that it's got some highly densely populated areas that carry a lot of risk of civilian casualties and the fact there's no free zone. There's no Benghazi like you had in Libya, where you could say the rebels are on this side, the regime's on that side, so we know exactly where to strike.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, look, we could easily do a quick strike raid. That's doable. But any sort of sustained operation is going to be pretty challenging.

KING: And, Chris, you mentioned the challenges, the policy challenges, the action challenges if you will if you do have an operation.

The secretary was talking about if it came to that, if they were trying to build some sort of international coalition. He used some language that piqued the Republicans' interests. Let's listen.


PANETTA: When it comes to the national defense of this country, the president of the United States has the authority under the Constitution to act to defend this country. And we will.

If it comes to an operation where we're trying to build a coalition of nations to work together to go in and operate as we did in Libya or Bosnia, for that matter, Afghanistan, we want to do it with permissions either by NATO or by the international community.


KING: Senator Jeff Sessions in particular, Chris, took issue with seek permission. What did Panetta mean by that?

JOHNS: I spoke with a senior Defense Department official just a couple hours ago who explained or tried to clarify the secretary's remarks.

He said, look, he wasn't ceding American authority to some foreign body. What he said was he was trying to reemphasize the need to get some sort of international mandate which gives the operation more legitimacy.

But I also spoke privately with Senator Sessions after that hearing. And he said, look, this is a real window into both the Pentagon and the administration's mind-set, that they spent weeks trying to romance all these other nations while ignoring Congress. Jeff Sessions doesn't buy the administration line that the Assad regime is doomed to fail. He said dictators have a way of hanging on. He said the window to stop Assad may quickly be closing.

KING: Interesting difference between the two parties on that one. Chris Lawrence live at the Pentagon tonight, Chris, thanks so much.

Iran's growing nuclear capabilities a growing concern to Israel. We're checking the mind-set of Israel's leaders who say time is running out to take military action.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republican Party does not have any room right now, right now, for anyone who is willing to deal with comprehensive immigration reform.



KING: Will Israel strike Iran in 2012? The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says diplomacy hasn't worked so far and in his words time is running out.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Iran's nuclear program continues to march forward. My friends, Israel has waited, patiently waited for the international community to resolve this issue. We have waited for diplomacy to work. We have waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.


KING: How do we define much longer?

Joining me now to answer that question, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

Mr. Ambassador, it's good to see you.

Sober tone from the prime minister. Since that speech, the international community has reached out to Iran again and said come back to the table. Israel is cautiously optimistic about that. But how worried are you that, in giving Iran more time for diplomacy, what they're getting in the end is more time to work on their weapons system?

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, we know from experience that Iran has used talks to delay and stall while it keeps on enriching uranium, while it keeps on developing its international ballistic missile program. We have had some bad experiences. As the prime minister said, we have been waiting now for 20 years, been warning about this program. We have had 10 years of diplomacy, six years of sanctions. And according, not just to our sources, according to the international intelligence, Atomic Energy Agency, they say that the program keeps on advancing, keeps on accelerating apparently now at three times its speed.

KING: Critical and we're told at some times tense meetings between the prime minister and the president of the United States and their delegations this week. It seems there's absolute agreement that Iran must not get a weapon. The president says his goal is not containment. His goal is to deny them getting a weapon systems, which is exactly what Israel wants.

Where the disagreement as we're told is where's that trigger, where's that red line, where's the point of no return? Why does the administration see more time than the Israeli government does?

OREN: Well, it's sort of a built-in structural difference.

The United States is a very big country with a big window. It looks out that window and sees the Middle East from very, very far away. We are a tiny country. We're less than 1 percent the size of the United States and with a very small window. And we look out our window, we see Iran in our backyard.

So it's built in. But I wouldn't characterize that meeting as tense in any way. I have been in that meeting, I have been all the meetings. It was a very cordial meeting, a very constructive meeting. And we have had an ongoing dialogue about the Iranian issue and other Middle Eastern regions. As you note, the entire region is aflame.

KING: The Republicans candidates for president, three of the four, say the president of the United States has essentially been soft on Israel. They say when the president of the United States says, I have got Israel's back, they say not true. Let's listen.


ROMNEY: Israel doesn't need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.

SANTORUM: From everything I have seen from the conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of Israel.

GINGRICH: The red line is not the morning a bomb goes off. The red line is not the morning our intelligence community tells us they have failed once again. The red line is now.


KING: Are they right? Has this president of the United States undermined the relationship? Has he turned his back on Israel? Is he asking Israel to do things that prior U.S. presidents, Democrat or Republican, have not done? OREN: Well, of course I'm not going to get involved in internal American politics, John, as ambassador.

But I will say that President Obama, the security relationship between our two countries under his presidency is really at a very, very high level, very close security relationships. He's led a courageous international effort to impose crippling sanctions on Iran. He says that all options are on the table, including military options. He says containment is not one of those options.

But, most importantly from our perspective, he says that Israel has a right to defend itself by itself against any Mideastern threat or even accommodation of a Middle Eastern threat.


KING: It sounds like you're saying they're wrong.


OREN: I'm just repeating what President Obama said. He said at the end of the day, Israel is a sovereign country and only Israel can decide what's best for its self-defense.

KING: If the Iranian issue isn't enough for the neighborhood, you have a lot of other hot spots in the neighborhood. One of them is Syria.

Senator John McCain essentially says the Obama administration has waited too long to get tougher with Assad. Listen.


MCCAIN: Can you tell us how long -- how much longer the killing would have to continue, how many additional civilian lives would have to be lost in order to convince you that the military measures of this kind that we are proposing necessary to end the killing and force -- to leave power, how many more have to die, 10,000 more, 20,000 more?


KING: The administration is reluctant especially to act alone. Syria is your neighbor.

I know you have no love lost for President Assad. Would United States military strikes, would some sort of a NATO or international operation, an Arab League military operation, would that help or hurt the situation right now?

OREN: Well, whether it be America's policy toward the Syria situation or toward Iran, these are internal American issues. And there are legitimate debates on both sides of the aisle.

KING: It's your border. It's your border.

(CROSSTALK) KING: ... military jets flying, dropping bombs on Syria right now help or hurt?

OREN: At the end of the day, no one is a prophet here. I come from Jerusalem, the home of prophecy, but no one can tell you what is going to be in Syria in two weeks, two days, or even two hours.

And we don't know what kind of government would replace him. Having said that, we do think that it would be better if he departs and we have that blow to Iran and liberation for Lebanon.

KING: Mr. Ambassador, appreciate your time today.

OREN: As always.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Still ahead: Cops bust a man smuggling seven pounds of heroin through a Florida airport. But it's how he was hiding the drugs that left authorities scratching their heads.

Plus, will he or won't he? Tim Tebow finally speaks out about whether he will join "The Bachelor"'s upcoming season.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: In just a minute here, our Candy Crowley tells us what's going on behind the scenes today at the Mitt Romney campaign and why his people think their man now a lock for the nomination.

We will also talk with two-time presidential candidate the Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He's just become a victim of a redrawn congressional district and maybe -- maybe -- anti-incumbent fever.


KING: In this half hour, the road ahead for Mitt Romney and why his people think the battle for the Republican nomination is all but over. We'll also talk with the two-time presidential candidate and liberal iconoclast Dennis Kucinich, who just lost his bid for a ninth term in Congress.

And all of you gadget junkies, that old iPad 2, so 2011. Stand by for a look at the new and, yes, improved iPad.

First what's going on behind the scenes at the Mitt Romney campaign on this important day after Super Tuesday. His people are doing the delegate math and say their man is going to win the nomination. But they're also asking, where's the love? And they know, at least they say they know, they have some work to do.

Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, also the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," is here with us.

KING: You were reporting today -- up at Romney headquarters last night -- reporting today on their sense after. They're trying to say, "It's us. We're inevitable. Everybody else should understand the math." But?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first of all let's just remember that there's a lot of psych ops that goes on here in the political realm. Remember Hillary Clinton and candidate Barack Obama and it was always about she should get out.

So look, they're saying mathematical improbability. You know, we all know you could -- if you won every primary from here until June, you could probably pick it up. They're talking about mathematical improbability.

They do notice two weaknesses. And that is folks who make under $50,000 a year. And they say they're doing some reach out. They have a particular ad that they like a lot that they think is about, you know, moral compasses, et cetera.

And they also acknowledge the fact that he's kind of loses the empathy game. And that's something they're trying. And I think we've seen it along the way, actually, for the past ten days or so we've seen some sort of moments. Trying to warm up the candidate they say they know that hasn't been out there.

KING: Working at that. The math is in their favor. And when they look at the field -- field of four including Governor Romney, they know every now and then you hear this buzz. Well, if Santorum or Gingrich can't take them out, then maybe we'll have a brokered convention. Maybe somebody will get in late. Does that make them nervous? Should they worry?

CROWLEY: They're not. And I'll tell you one interesting thing I learned today, that during the Huckabee forum where everyone except for Ron Paul showed up, there was a casual conversation between the three candidates, Gingrich, Santorum and Romney, about the idea of a brokered convention that some sort of fifth person would suddenly become -- they all said no way.

Ten weeks between then and November to put up a fight against a sitting president of the United States is not going to happen.

KING: They don't think that; we've worked hard. It's going to be one of us. At least they agree on one thing.

CROWLEY: Agree on that. They agree on that. What they think, brokered it seems to me they think about, well, how about if you pair up with this guy, you know, and keep it in the team?

KING: Negotiate, not new person. Got it.

Candy Crowley, appreciate your help tonight. Thank you very much. President Obama, remember he's on the ballot, too. He made a quick trip to North Carolina today. At a truck factory near Charlotte, he pushed his "all of the above" approach to energy sources, and he called for fuel-efficient vehicles as well as an end to government subsidies for big oil companies.

The president won North Carolina back in 2008. And yes, he'd very much like to take it again this year.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I always tell people, I am one of the best advertisements for North Carolina. I love this state. I love this state. Everybody here is so nice, so welcoming. Even the folks who don't vote for me, they're nice to me. They usually wave five fingers.


KING: While the president was on the road pushing his message, his campaign was making news of a different kind of messaging. In an effort to help his re-election bid, the president is also going Hollywood with a new documentary about his first term, set for release next week. CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin has more on that.

Jess, what do we know about this documentary and why?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's one of those things that comes standard these days with a campaign, John. You know, you've got a candidate; check. Logo; check. Campaign film that frames the narrative of the campaign; check.

This one's more like a short film or a long video. It's about 17 minutes long. And this one also is about the first president's, as you say, first term. It's not his personal biography. It tells the story about his presidency the way his campaign strategists want voters to see it.

The director is Davis Guggenheim. He did the original Obama biographical films in 2008. Remember, he won an Oscar for the Al Gore climate-changing movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." And they're going to show it at house parties next week. According to FEC reports, it cost about $163,000. Chump change by Hollywood standards.

KING: Well, it's chump change by campaign standards these days, too, I guess, as well. Those are the optics of the campaign. The messaging of a campaign is very important. I understand there's a fight, though, within the party over what role same-sex marriage should have at the Democratic convention later this year, right there in North Carolina where the president was today.

YELLIN: Yes, this could get interesting. The man who chairs that convention, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, he says today that support for gay marriage should be included in the Democratic Party platform. Obviously, that's a problem, because the president himself has not come out for gay marriage. He says his position is, quote, "evolving" on the issue.

Today Obama campaign manager, the president's campaign manager, Jim Messina, kicked the can down the road, saying that he's going to leave that decision to the delegates. The convention delegates will decide eventually what goes in the platform.

But John, as you know, this is a difficult balancing act. Because on the one hand, the campaign doesn't want to risk angering their liberal base or, frankly, angering wealthy gay donors they're counting on. On the other hand, they can't alienate socially conservative swing voters in key swing states.

KING: Here's predicting they kick the can down the road for now and try to deal with that before the convention so they don't have a big fight at the convention over same-sex marriage. Just a bet. Just a bet. Jessica Yellin.

YELLIN: I'll side with you on that one.

KING: Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Jess, thanks.

Now we turn to a former presidential candidate who found out yesterday he's about to become a former member of Congress.



DENNIS KUCINICH (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. And the rest of the account -- it was unidentified flying object.

This Department of Peace would hold peace as an organizing principle.

Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.


KING: Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for re-election last night to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur in a redistricting match-up that pitted the two Democratic colleagues and friends against each other. It was a bitter campaign. In the end Kucinich offered what you might call half-hearted congratulations.


KUCINICH: I would like to be able to congratulate Congresswoman Kaptur. But I do have to say that she ran a campaign in the Cleveland media market that was utterly lacking in integrity.


KING: Congressman Kucinich joins us now from Capitol Hill. Congressman, you were not thrilled last night, and my condolences on your loss. I know it's hard to lose a campaign. You were not thrilled last night. I want you to listen. Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, spoke to the winning candidate, Marcy Kaptur, today. She says you guys have been friends and she hopes this.


MARCY KAPTUR, OHIO CONGRESSWOMAN ELECT: We have a personal relationship as well as a professional one.


KAPTUR: I think that that will remain. A little time for healing, but I think that will remain.


KING: Will there be healing? Are you friends? Will you be friends?

KUCINICH: Thank you for this counseling session. I can tell you that, look, I get along with everyone here. It was a tough campaign. It was basically set by redistricting, when there were two separate redistricting efforts to try to stop me from staying in Congress. And once the redistricting's done, in this case it was very difficult for me to be able to make up the lost ground at the voting booth yesterday.

KING: You explored running out in Washington state. That's one of the things that your former friend anyway or maybe your future friend Marcy Kaptur, used against you. She compared you, and this is dirty talk in Cleveland, to a guy named Lebron James. Let's listen to a bit of that ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First there was Art Modell.



LEBRON JAMES, BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'll take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like next in line to abandon us is Dennis Kucinich.


KING: You thought that was a cheap shot, didn't you?

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, think about it, OK? My district is chopped up so I had just part of it left. There had been rumors they were going to eliminate everything. That's when the other stories came out about, well, maybe I'd run in other places.

Hello. I ran in Cleveland. That's my home. I made every effort to keep that seat for the people in the community. And so, you know, it didn't work out.

But the way that the campaign was run was something that was surprising to me. But I'm going to go beyond that. Look, this country has bigger problems than whether I'm in Congress or not. This country has to be concerned about getting jobs for all and health care for all and education for all. Stopping a war with Iran.

KING: How does Dennis -- forgive me for interrupting, but how does Dennis Kucinich do that going forward? I first met you when you were the mayor of Cleveland. You've been in Congress, where people agree or disagree with you. You've been a loud and active voice in the peace movement, in the social justice movement. How do you get your voice heard now?

KUCINICH: Look, you only need a place to stand. I mean, you have a place to stand. The point is that, you know, if you -- if you are committed to social and economic justice, whether in or out of Congress, you can make a difference if you want to.

There are many people making a difference. I mean, Dr. King never held an office. Gandhi never held an office. There are people who are archetypes in our society who have never held office and made a difference.

I happened to have the privilege of serving in Congress. It will be 16 years at the end of this term. And I think I made a difference here on important issues.

But you know what? The defeat? Look, I've lost before. And there's always a tomorrow. And I am very grateful for all the people who have supported me over the years. But my commitments are solid. They're as constant as the North Star.

KING: Congressman, we'll keep in touch in the future and see whatever those future endeavors bring. Appreciate your time tonight, sir.

KUCINICH: Thank you very much.

KING: Take care.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each say they're the one to take on Mitt Romney. But it's Governor Romney in the driver's seat. The truth about where the race stands the day after Super Tuesday.

And there are more than 1,200 billionaires in the world. Who's the richest? We've got the new list.


KING: Tonight's "Truth" is about last night and where Mitt Romney's six out of ten Super Tuesday leaves us the evening after. He is without a doubt in the driver's seat and with a commanding lead. But truth is, even top Romney advisers have that -- you know, the nervous look in their eyes and for good reason. To hear Newt Gingrich talk of being the tortoise among all the bunny rabbits -- his words -- is to be reminded this has been a pretty wacky Republican race.

And while Governor Romney has now lapped his leading rivals at least a couple of times, he remains on a path with some tough potholes. He continues to struggle, for example, among white evangelicals and Tea Party voters. His own top aides concede a problem connecting, the empathy thing, with struggling downscale voters. And he's yet to win a contested race in the south. In short, the man likely to win the Republican nomination is succeeding despite, not because of, his party's base coalition.

Now, don't get me wrong. Governor Romney has many strengths as a candidate, not the least of which is winning despite weaknesses. That's a sign of toughness and smarts. But his rivals, well, they just can't accept it. They know the delegate math. They know the fundraising advantages. They have to hope that, in this case, the numbers do lie.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got some great states coming up for us. This race is going to change again in the next week. And Kansas can lead the charge.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we win both Alabama and Mississippi next Tuesday night, this is a whole new race for, I think, the ninth time in the cycle. I mean, this race is doing this.


KING: "Truth" is in the week ahead there is more than anything a contest between Gingrich and Santorum. If both are still in the race a week from now, after Kansas and Alabama and Mississippi weigh in, that would make the likely Romney nomination even more likely.

Four, as in four candidates, is another number that works to Governor Romney's advantage.

Let's talk truth tonight with Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. He's a Romney supporter. CNN contributors Mary Matalin, a Republican, and Democrat Maria Cardona, also with us.

Congressman, to you first. As a Romney supporter, the math is pretty convincing. He's almost 40 percent there. No one else is even close. And yet, we hear all these doubts, all these questions. What does your guys have to do to seal the deal?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, he just -- he needs to keep doing what he's doing, which is winning. You've got to remind people that the majority of delegates that have been offered to date have been won by Mitt Romney. Not the plurality, the majority. So he needs to keep doing what he's doing, and that is winning.

And as you look at the calendar going forward, you've got to remember: all these states coming up are proportional until we get to Utah. I'm going to go ahead and bank on the fact that Mitt Romney is going to carry Utah.

KING: Mary, you've been through a few of these rodeos. What is it? When people come up to you and say, "Romney, can't have this, can't have that. Don't like this." What's the doubt?

MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The process is designed -- it's a new process to give more people in more states a voice. And they're taking advantage of this.

The "Romney can't close" argument, the converse is also true. The conservative "any but Romney" can't close. And he is closing better than they are. He overcame a double-digit deficit in Ohio. He won Catholics in Ohio. He was second in every place he wasn't first except North Dakota, which included Newt's neighbor, Tennessee, and et cetera.

So just -- he needs to keep doing what he's doing. And you put up and -- rather than focus on his negatives, you raised a very important point. He's tough. They were all attacking him in all those debates. Every ad that's up and attacking him, he doesn't whine. He gets up and he keeps fighting. He made that point last night: "I'm going to get up; I'm going to keep doing it."

KING: Let me play devil's advocate. A lot of people last night were looking at the Ohio map: where Romney did well, where Obama did well. Hillary Clinton won Obama in the Democratic primary four years ago.

Romney wins in Cincinnati. He wins around Columbus. He wins around Cleveland. He's winning in the urban areas in the suburbs. And a lot of Republicans are saying that means he's weak, because he's not winning out in those rural counties. Rick Santorum's kicking his butt out in small, rural, downscale.

Let me play contrarian. What if it means, if Romney wins the nomination, that those rural votes come home, because they're Republicans, and he gets them any way and he's actually more competitive than the other Republicans in the areas where Democrats need to get votes? Is that what you're worried about?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, certainly, the White House and this president knows that, no matter who ends up being the nominee -- and I think right now we all believe, at the end of the day, it will be Romney -- it's going to be a tough election. It's a 50-50 country. There's no question it's going to be a tough election.

But when you look at places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, I think the argument that this White House and this president certainly are going to put forward is that this election is going to be about a choice.

And Mitt Romney has said some things that don't make that choice very positive for him, in terms of the working-class voters and middle-class families that are really struggling. And President Obama has really been speaking directly to them and putting forth policies that are going to let them succeed. That's what I think.

KING: This is a little silly, and I concede the point. But we had a camera in Wasilla, Alaska, last night. Governor Palin, who does not work for this network and gets paid by another one and isn't really supposed to come on this network, decided to talk to that camera. So I thought maybe she had something she wanted to say. I asked our cameraman who was there to ask her a question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this open convention question, if we wind up with an open convention, if someone wants to place your name into the hat, would you stop them? Would you be open to that?

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: As I say, anything is possible. And I don't -- I don't close any doors that perhaps would be open out there, so no, I wouldn't close that door. And my plan is to be at that convention.


KING: Congressman Chaffetz, what do you make of that? Is the leader of the Republican Party, its vice-presidential nominee last cycle, is that person supposed to say, "Let's see what happens" and "I'm going to be there," or is it say, "of course not. It's going to be one of those candidates"?

CHAFFETZ: I think it was a fair enough answer. I thought the question is -- come on, we're not going to have an open convention at this point. As long as Mitt Romney keeps doing what Mitt Romney's doing: talking about jobs and the economy. Of course, he is the leader at this point. He's going to have to slug it out and fight for each and every vote, but we're going to have an open convention, I don't think.

KING: Mary, you're going to be at that convention. If somebody comes to you and says we're going to put your name in...


KING: Why isn't the answer "Of course not"?

MATALIN: I don't know. I'm a big fan of hers, but of course not. There can't be a brokered convention, because there are no brokers. And there can't be. There just aren't any more. The product (ph) changed a lot. And there can't be a contested convention, because Mitt Romney, unless something careless happens, is going to get the delegates that he needs. So I think this is part of conservatives really continuing, wanting to say, "Look, we're not connected to you yet. We want to trust but verify. We're going to be with you, but we want you to know we're watching."

KING: This is fun for you, so you only get half a sentence. I'm sorry.

CARDONA: It's vintage Sarah Palin. And it's all about her, but it does underscore the fact that her supporters don't like Romney.

KING: Well, she voted for Newt and guess what? Romney won Alaska.

Congressman Chaffetz, appreciate your time between votes tonight. I know it's hard to do so. Appreciate it.

Mary, thanks for coming in. Maria, as well.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour.

Erin, you've got an important guest tonight, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Tell us about that.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Senator Dianne Feinstein's going to be our guest tonight, John. And we're going to talk about Iran. We're going to talk about Syria.

Of course, Leon Panetta and John McCain with some sometimes tense back and forths today. John McCain thinks the U.S. should be arming the opposition, getting involved in Syria. We're going to talk to Senator Dianne Feinstein about what she thinks, what this country might do, and what it might cost, and also about the very latest intelligence reports that she has gotten over the past couple of days about Iran. And, John, there's some news on what she thinks Israel may be prepared to do right now with Iran.

Back to you.

KING: Very important conversation. We'll see you in just a few minutes, Erin. Thank you.

When we come back, the biggest solar flare in five years lights up the surface of the sun. Why NASA now says we might be feeling that storm soon.


KING: Let's check back -- back in with Kate Bolduan. She's here with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hello there.


Good evening, everyone. Some stories to catch you up on. The Vatican has been hacked. The international group Anonymous says it's responsible for shutting down the Catholic Church's Web site for several hours today. The hackers say they're not attacking the faithful, just the church for its doctrines and the way it handled sexual abuse scandals, among other things. The U.S. arm of Anonymous has targeted many government and religious Web sites.

And take a look at this. You're looking at images of the Sun unleashing a huge solar flare overnight. It's pretty amazing. It's the biggest in five years, and NASA says its blast of radiation is rushing towards Earth right now. It could trip up power grids and GPS signals, in addition to forcing some planes to change their flight paths. Sounds like a movie that we'll be watching soon.

And there are 1,226 billionaires on Earth, but it takes $69 billion to be the richest. Telecom tycoon Carlos Slim tops the Forbes list of the world's richest people for yet another year. Microsoft's Bill Gates in second with 61 billion, and investor Warren Buffett lands in third with 44 billion. That is a lot of billions.

KING: It's like the only game I wouldn't come coming in third in that one.

Finally, here we go: tonight's "Moment You Missed." A congressional face-off gets really heated. But it's not the fight, it's not political. It's savory.

Minnesota's entire congressional delegation took part in a hot dish cook off. One of this year's winners, Senator Al Franken, poked fun at his cook-off competitor, Michele Bachmann.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I'm still a little hurt about not winning last year. A little bitter.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I know. You're a bitter, bitter person.

BACHMANN: That was judgmental.


KING: Lot of fun there.

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