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Santorum Sweeps the South; Panetta In Afghanistan, Amid Protests

Aired March 14, 2012 - 05:00   ET





ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Rick Santorum jumps right back into this race with a sweep in the Deep South, putting Newt Gingrich on the ropes. But he says he's ready to rumble on the convention floor.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I emphasized going to Tampa because one of the things tonight proved is that the elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The third place finishes leaving Mitt Romney with nothing but the math and money, and more people doubting that that may be enough as we move on your EARLY START.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you news from A to Z. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

So, we start with your top story.

BANFIELD: Alabama, Mississippi, Santorum country this morning. The former Pennsylvania senator pulling off an improbable Southern sweep, now vowing to win the nomination before the Republican convention.

SAMBOLIN: A heartbreaking tragedy in Switzerland, 22 children killed when a bus crashed in the wall of a tunnel. Take a look at that. That bus carrying 46 children, and six adults was returning to Belgium after a school ski trip. A total of 28 people died, police are investigating now.

BANFIELD: Prosecutors in Alabama plan to seek the death penalty against this woman, accused of literally running her 9-year-old granddaughter to death. The girl was forced to run around the family house for hours as punishment for lying about eating chocolate.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron holding formal talks at the White House today with the war in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the Syrian crisis, and the global economy all on the table. A little fun as well.

BANFIELD: It is one minute now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

Up first, Rick Santorum's stunning Southern sweep. The polls really had him behind by double digits in Mississippi and Alabama and then, whammo, the real numbers came out. Hardcore conservatives came out and they put him through this race.

The final numbers coming in from Mississippi, Rick Santorum at 33 percent on the leader board, Newt Gingrich coming in behind at 31 percent, and Mitt Romney just 1 percent behind at 30.

SAMBOLIN: And it was even a bigger margin in Alabama. Santorum wins with 35 percent of the vote. Gingrich beats Romney for second place by about 2,000 votes. Romney did manage to win Hawaii, 20 point win over Santorum.

But Santorum is not slowing down, not for a second.


SANTORUM: We're going to spend two days campaigning in Puerto Rico because we want to make sure everybody knows we're campaigning everywhere there are delegates, because we are going to win this nomination before that convention.


BANFIELD: Well, that is what you say. But here are the next three stops that you have to pull of on the primary trail. Missouri, the caucuses are this Saturday. And that will give a full 52 delegates to this race. Puerto Rico coming up this Sunday, 23 delegates there. And Illinois, a big one, primary is next week, on Tuesday, with a whopping 69 delegates.

Our CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live from Atlanta, probably typing away at the poll questions now for the next three races.

So, what a thrilling ride it was last night to spend with our CNN team watching the outcome. It was neck and neck and neck, and we don't have Hawaii yet. So, it's still neck in neck.

But here's the question: what the heck happened to Newt?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Newt Gingrich under- performed, I guess, you could say, and Rick Santorum over-performed. Listen, Santorum, you look at the exit polls, and I know you'll get into it more later. But among people who say they are conservative, Santorum won a plurality. Among people in Alabama and Mississippi who say they were born again Christians, that was the vast majority, again Santorum won a plurality.

I joined you guys yesterday from the polling station outside Birmingham, Alabama, that should have been more Romney or Gingrich country. Most of the people I spoke to said they were pulling for Santorum.

Our Jim Acosta caught up with Santorum last night and asked Santorum, is he going to ask Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race. Santorum said no.

Gingrich, of course, he sure does not sound like he's about to drop out. Here's what he said last night.


GINGRICH: I want to tell you a second what will become a challenge, we'll now have three or four days of news media, and they'll all say, why doesn't Gingrich quit? These are the same people, by the way, who said last June that I was dead. They recycle this every six weeks. And the biggest challenge is raising money we came in second, which is as much as we wanted, and we will have gotten delegates. We'll get between Santorum and myself, we will get over two-thirds of the delegates and the so-called front-runner will get less than one-third of the delegates.


STEINHAUSER: Gingrich is teaming there, teaming himself up with Rick Santorum. Santorum probably not so crazy about that, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And as I was running to desk, obviously, Hawaii coming in. So, all those races.

So, here's the deal. Listen, Romney may be looking at this as a third place finish but he still comes out with a whopping almost half of the delegates. It's still a good deal, isn't it?

STEINHAUSER: Exactly, because it's all proportional, and he did win Hawaii and let's not forget about American Samoa. He did win American Samoa as well last night, some delegates there. He gets most the nine there.

Before last night or before the results were in last night, Romney spoke with our Wolf Blitzer. Here's what he had to say about Santorum.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign and he's trying in some way to boost his prospects. And, frankly, misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of doing that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think he's a desperate end of his campaign?

ROMNEY: Well, I mean, he's far behind in the delegate count. He's far behind in the popular vote count.


STEINHAUSER: This is before Hawaii now, because Hawaii just happened in the last few minutes. You can see Romney with more than two to one advantage.

Ashleigh, there was no H.Q. last night for Romney. That was planned well before last night's results. They were kind of trying to downplay last night a little bit because they didn't think they would win and obviously, they didn't.

BANFIELD: What is H.Q.? Well, back up. What's H.Q.?

STEINHAUSER: H.Q., headquarters. Technical talk there.

BANFIELD: You are such a geek.

STEINHAUSER: I'm a little bit of a geek. I will say one last thing, though and I appreciate that. Illinois, remember we were saying about Michigan, that it was all about Ohio, next Tuesday. Now all about Illinois.

BANFIELD: And then you're going to start saying Pennsylvania, aren't you?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, pretty much. Yes, pretty much, yes.

BANFIELD: One last quick question and it's about the exit polling and all the rest, and that is this. That whole thing about the desperate end of the campaign, it looks to me if you look at the exit polling, that people fed up -- you know, we really like this Santorum guy but think Romney is more electable yet we're still going to vote by our hearts.

STEINHAUSER: A lot of people saying that. But, again, you're right on electability, who can beat President Obama in November, Mitt Romney is on top by far in all the exit polls.

BANFIELD: I'm not so sure of the strategery in that one.


BANFIELD: Paul Steinhauser, nice to see you.


BANFIELD: Stick around, you're not going anywhere. You are busy this morning. Paul Steinhauser joining us live this morning.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to talk about exit polls in a minute here.

Mitt Romney outspent his opponents three to one in Alabama and Mississippi, and Newt Gingrich had the home town edge, right? But Rick Santorum rules the day, because evangelicals and hardcore conservatives had his back. And Santorum made sure they knew he was grateful.


SANTORUM: You stood with a guy who comes from the grandson of a coal miner from a steel town in western Pennsylvania, but you knew shared your values, and was going to go out and work for you, and, of course, the integrity of the family and centrality of faith in our lives.


SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is examining the exit polling to see exactly how Santorum pulled off this unexpected Southern sweep.


I will tell you that comment you just heard from Rick Santorum is pitch perfect for what we see in the exit polling. I want to start in Mississippi, because as you know, we ask all these questions of people as they're leaving the polling place, and what's kind of interesting here is when you look at the breakdown of sex and gender here, you can see that women went for Rick Santorum, 35 percent of women said that Rick Santorum was who they supported. Mitt Romney for women came in second, 32 percent. And Newt Gingrich at 29 percent.

Something that's pretty interesting as well here is when you look at the conservative ideology, when you look within these numbers and see what people are really voting on, it's so -- it's so exactly Deep South politics here. You see someone who considers themselves very conservative, Rick Santorum got this vote and Newt Gingrich came in second.

When you talk to people who consider themselves somewhat conservative, that's where Mitt Romney peeks through and actually leads the pack and when you talk to people who consider themselves a moderate or a liberal Republican, that's where Mitt Romney stands out. It's also pretty interesting too, you guys, because Mitt Romney did well the high upper the income, the higher up the education scale and also the higher up the age scale. That's where Mitt Romney had to break out.

And when you ask the importance of someone's religion in this scenario, you can see that this is where Rick Santorum really, really rules the day. For those who said that a candidate's religion matters to them a great deal, that was Santorum territory, 43 percent. So, Deep South voters, women and men, people who make a little bit of money, make middle of the income range, people -- except for people who make $100,000 and more, these people went for Rick Santorum, ladies.

BANFIELD: Don't necessarily mirror the rest of the country in that big general election outlook.

ROMANS: No, no, no, and here's the thing. I mean, this is such a great point that Paul was making and you were making with Ashleigh, Paul, is that say -- people say we think that Mitt Romney is the most electable, but then they are maybe casting their vote for something else entirely. They are casting their vote for who they think is the truest conservative in the South and that is something that maybe will be a hallmark of Southern voting because Mitt Romney is -- he's consolidating delegates but he's not consolidating hearts and minds in the South.

SAMBOLIN: Was there electability in the polling?

ROMANS: They looked at electability and they looked electability and they think that Mitt Romney has electability. They think he has the electability factor but they voted for Rick Santorum.

BANFIELD: All right. Ten past, thanks, Christine.

You got to get a look at what's making top stories today.

And new violence erupting in Afghanistan this morning. At least one Afghan security officer killed in a motorcycle bomb blast in southern city of Kandahar. That's the same place where a U.S. soldier massacre, allegedly massacred 16 villagers in a shooting spree, mostly women and children. And this comes as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived unannounced in Afghanistan to speak to U.S. and Afghan troops.

SAMBOLIN: The jury is expected to get the case of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate's intimate encounter and then streaming it on the web.

Closing arguments wrapped up yesterday. The roommate, 18-year- old Tyler Clementi later committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

BANFIELD: Chevron is sopping up an oil spill in Mississippi. That company says about 45 barrels of heavy oil leaked in the water around the Pascagoula refinery wharf. It was discovered early yesterday and Chevron is now using boats and boom to try to clean up and contain. This is an area, by the way, the size of seven football fields.


Actor George Clooney will be on Capitol Hill this morning. He is testifying at a congressional hearing on the human rights crisis in Sudan. He accuses the Sudanese government of war crimes against civilians. So Clooney and activist colleague John Prendergast will be Soledad's guests at 8:15 a.m. Eastern on "STARTING POINT".

BANFIELD: It is 11:00 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Our Rob Marciano has been busy watching the ins and outs of the weather story if you're traveling or if you're plain looking to get outside.



And if you are getting outside, enjoy. Temperatures once again well above average.

Check out some of these record-breakers, in some cases 20, 25, maybe even 30 degrees above it. Eighty-four degrees in St. Louis yesterday. That's a record breaker. Same deep in Joplin at 83. Little Rock, 79, 70 in Albany.

It was warm in the Northeast. But your records set back in 1990 were astronomical. Today, 70 for the high temperature. That's good 20 plus degrees above average. It will be 73 in Philadelphia, same deal, almost 80 potentially in D.C. today, and that's well over 20 degrees above average as well.

Across parts of the Upper Midwest, 77 in Chicago, the heat will continue to bake the western Great Lakes for the next couple days. As a matter of fact, come St. Patrick's Day, that could be your warmest St. Patrick's Day in Chicago in over 100 years. So, might see the green river bubbling up just a little bit. Here's your heat pump, sub-tropical high. This is really more like a May scenario than it is a mid-March scenario.

But on the West Coast, it feels more like winter, very strong jet stream plowing in the Pacific Northwest and Sierra Nevadas, San Francisco through Tahoe, you are in for it for the next several days. Thankfully, snow beginning to pile up there.

Tomorrow's high in Chicago, 70, 84 degrees in D.C. It might cool-down get the jacket out, 60 in New York City to for the high temperature tomorrow. So --


MARCIANO: All in all, though, it will be pretty toasty for the next couple --

BANFIELD: Did you say cool-down to 60 in New York?

MARCIANO: How about that, huh?

BANFIELD: It's pretty weird.

SAMBOLIN: It's been really nice. So, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: I'm just hoping we're not going to extrapolate it will be 110 degrees by May.


BANFIELD: You're promising me, no, no, no.

SAMBOLIN: Could be a good thing. It could be a good thing.

All right. Thirteen minutes past the hour.

Just in: gas prices rising for the fifth day in a row.

BANFIELD: Look at your number, folks, that's what you're facing at the pump this morning as you head to work and fill her up. New national average per gallon of unleaded is now $3.81. Gas prices have now jumped by more than 16 percent so far this year. So take that for politicians who think that maybe we're doing better in the economy, gas prices don't seem to reflect that. That's just one measure.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Still ahead, moments of confusion and fear on a plane when a flight attendant flips out.


SAMBOLIN: Passenger said she ranted about crashing and September 11th. The 911 calls are out now. We are going to let you listen to them.

BANFIELD: So, gas prices, smash prices. Because Wall Street was soaring yesterday and it just might mean your 401(k) is a wee bit fatter today. Pretty good vibes from the Fed about our recovery. So, what does it all mean? We've got the perfect person here who's going to tell you.

SAMBOLIN: That was an Irish brogue you had there.

BANFIELD: A little bit.

SAMBOLIN: And Canada -- too dangerous for Dick Cheney? We're going to explain this.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: And good morning, New York. It is a beautiful 50 degrees with your tower cam shot there.

And guess what? Rob Marciano said it. Here's the number on your screen, as if you need the truth, warming up to 68.

SAMBOLIN: I got to tell you, it feels like it's 68 already outside.

BANFIELD: Gorgeous. Yesterday, it felt like 80.

SAMBOLIN: Enjoy it while it lasts.

It's 18 minutes past the hour here.

Time to check stories making news.

And here is Christine Romans again.

Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, ladies.

A stunning sweep in the south for Rick Santorum. He pulled off a six point win over Newt Gingrich in Alabama last night, with Mitt Romney finishing third and he edged Gingrich by two points in Mississippi, vowing to win the nomination before the Republican convention.

All right. Check out this police chase in Los Angeles. Officers pursued a pick up truck more than half an hour at normal speeds before a patrol car performed a pit maneuver to get the driver to stop.

The couple surrendered peacefully. There was a baby inside the car, by the way.

The woman accused of helping to run a high end prostitution ring in New York is free on $100,000 bail. Jaynie Baker's lawyer says his client was vacationing, and was not avoiding authorities who are looking to arrest her. The alleged madam, Anna Gristina was being held on $2 million bail right now.

The Encyclopedia Britannica will no longer be available in book form. The Chicago-based company is suspending production of its 32- volume sets after -- get this -- 244 years. Hey, the world has changed. Encyclopedia Britannica will still be available in digital form, but the publishers planning to add a new range of educational products.

I know --

SAMBOLIN: When my mom and dad bought these for all of us

ROMANS: Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: I'm saving them. Do you still have yours?

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BANFIELD: I think it's upsetting. I have to say. I don't think I want my kids to be using them for school projects now because they are outdated, but there is something about that.

SAMBOLIN: It's collector's item now.

ROMANS: Well, you can't surf anything when you read an encyclopedia.

BANFIELD: You got that right. We turned out OK, didn't we?

SAMBOLIN: Dead silence.


ROMANS: The jury is still out.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

It's 19 minutes past the hour here, and we're getting an early read on local news that's making national headlines.

And this morning, we have papers, kind of, sort of, from New York City, Los Angeles and Houston.

BANFIELD: They are somewhere.

SAMBOLIN: Bringing us everything, "The New York Times" though.

So, we have brand new scientific research published this morning that says 3.7 million Americans are at risk from constant coastal flooded expecting in coming decades. So, the experts are blaming a rise in the sea level on global warming. Virtually, the entire American coastline has some risk factor here with half of the nation's at risk population living on the Florida coast. Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey also majorly threatened.

Scientists say the nation must begin to plan to re treat from the coast.

Here is some good news that maybe I could share with you. They're going to publish their report online and you can actually search your zip code to find out what your exposure is.

BANFIELD: I always worry if we need water wings, living here, and, you know, working in Manhattan.


BANFIELD: So, you know whether we said we sort of have the papers, we do that, Encyclopedia Britannica saying we sometimes just get them online. So, here is my version of the online "L.A. Times.": But it's a drinking water story and it affects about a quarter million people. Are you ready for this?

Cows are popping so much and we're using so much fertilization that our ground water, especially for particular group of people in this area becoming so contaminated with nitrates that it's almost undrinkable. The prices to combat this may be cheaper to get other water supplies that fix the nitrate problem.

So, that's the story if you can imagine, we've got so many dairy cows out there and we're using so much fertilization, getting in the ground takes years and years to do this and one of the solutions if you don't go with the cheaper form of the solution is to use that poopy ground water, nitrate-rich ground water, to actually irrigate. So, you use nitrate-rich water yet again, those minerals go in the ground and they filter. You get cleaner water going in the ground system.

So, anyway, it is quite a story when you think about it.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And if you're having breakfast, sorry about that.

BANFIELD: Just the truth. You know what? I'm sorry.


SAMBOLIN: All right. "San Antonio Express" now. The federal government is exploring more civil approaches against illegal immigration, they are unveiling a new immigration detention center in Texas, does not look much like a prison. The detainees are held in suites or dorms with televisions and a private bathroom in them.

You're taking a look right there, those are pictures, the lowest facility has a soccer field as well and other recreation computer labs with Internet access. Similar detention centers are planned in Florida, in Illinois, everybody there is in an uproar. This is a $32 million facility and they say these are non-violent low-risk individuals and it would be cheaper, maybe $12 a day to use ankle bracelets and stuff like that to monitor them as opposed to $122 per person per day in that facility.

BANFIELD: Those were nicer than my college dorm.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no kidding. Beautiful, library.

BANFIELD: Hey, 22 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. That's when we like to get in your business. We mind your business.

And the U.S. markets big time rally folks, they are applauding for a reason. The Dow closed well above 13,000 yesterday. And if you're keeping score, it's the highest close since the end of 2007!

SAMBOLIN: Do you believe it?

BANFIELD: Dow up 8 percent so far just this year.

ROMANS: Forget all the bad stuff that happened since 2007, we erased it all.

SAMBOLIN: The NASDAQ closed at its highest level since of the year 2000. Stocks got the boost after the Federal Reserve said most of the nation's largest banks passed a so-called stress test. What is that?

Christine Romans --

BANFIELD: I know I wouldn't pass one.

ROMANS: You know how you get on the treadmill and they are checking your heart, and you're running on the treadmill and they are checking all of your vital signs to make sure in a controlled situation, to see how you can handle the stresses. That's what the Fed does to the banks. Puts them in a stressful situation runs them through whether they can withstand a bunch of things like a stock market crash, a big stock market crash, housing prices down another 20 percent, could they withstand 13 percent unemployment, what would their capital reserves look like, what would their cash cushion look like, how would they be able to withstand running on the treadmill under those really terrible circumstances for the economy.

And the Fed came out and said, guess what, most of the banks can do it all but four of them are in perfectly fine shape. It's -- they are healthy. They passed the test. Their hearts are getting stronger. Almost all the banks, the bailout banks.

This is what the bailout was for, right? I was to get them back on their feet. They want to make sure that none of these are going to take the economy down again and they did very well.

Now, earlier in the day, the Fed said the economy was getting better, there was a Fed meeting yesterday. That really helped things.

JPMorgan late in the day released their own stress test data and said, we're going to actually will be paying a dividend, we're doing so great. So, we're doing so great we will be able to give money back to our shareholders. That's when the stock market took off.

And then the Fed, after the closing bell actually released the results for all the others. So, you're going to see bank stocks really kind of moving around a bit today. Tech stocks also did well yesterday. The NASDAQ above 3,000. You have the Dow above 13,000, and the NASDAQ above 3,000 for the first time in history.

There was good momentum yesterday. I mean, really good momentum on the market yesterday, and the S&P reflects the stocks in your portfolio, you guys, that's up almost 11 percent. So, led by technology and financial stocks and the like. So, your 401(k) has had a pretty good return for the year so far.

I mean, I'm not going to say where it's going to go next. But we know that the economy is going to look better, we know that the banks can withstand a really tough run on the treadmill and that's good for the economy. And we know that it's been a good start to the year.

SAMBOLIN: So, if the banks are doing so well, then can we expect them to drop all those crazy fees that they keep imposing?

ROMANS: I don't think you're ever going to ever see that.

You know, and it's interesting, because there's a bank analyst this week who said it's the bank's fault we expect free things from banks. We don't expect free cell phone service. We don't expect free DVD service. We don't expect free computer service. Those are utilities we pay for.

Banking is like that. It's the bank's fault that they gave to us for free and then took it away.

But no, I think what you want to see from healthy banks is more lending. That's what we want to say. If they can strong and healthy, we want more lending.

BANFIELD: And coming up a little later, you're going to tell me about your conversation with President Clinton?

ROMANS: Oh, I will. Yes, he has some thoughts on jobs. He has some thoughts on jobs.

BANFIELD: She's always working, no matter she is. She bumps into President Clinton and she is working. We'll talk about that in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: But thank you very much.

Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START: from desperate end to new beginning, Rick Santorum's Southern surge rising again in the South. He's adding up a delegate count now.

BANFIELD: And an unwanted visitor -- robber tries to pull a fast one at a fast food drive through window. We're going to show you what happened, though, and the video is awesome. Awesome.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Flight attendant screaming about a plane crash and apparent mental meltdown.


CALLER: It looks like they are physically retraining a flight attendant.

DISPATCHER: OK. They are physically restraining the flight attendant?

CALLER: Yes, she's lost it.


BANFIELD: It was a rant that included if you can believe it, references to 9/11. We're going to have some of the 911 calls from inside that plane in a moment.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 30 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Time to check morning's top stories.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Rick Santorum pulling off a stunning southern sweep with victories last night in Mississippi and Alabama. Newt Gingrich finished second in both states, and Mitt Romney was third. Gingrich says he is staying in the race. Romney's campaign already looking ahead to Tuesday's contest in Illinois, purchasing almost $1 million in ad time.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Travel day for defense secretary, Leon Panetta. He arrived unannounced in Afghanistan overnight. All of this as fury has erupted in the streets in that country. Reuters is reporting that a motorcycle blast killed at least one Afghan security officer in the same city where a U.S. soldier allegedly killed several women and children in a massacre.

SAMBOLIN: Traffic is once again flowing over the landmark Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It was briefly shut down last night after a crane being towed in the east river hit the under side of the bridge. You know what? I saw that traffic pile up. I was wondering what was going on. Some scaffolding was damaged, but no injuries were reported.

BANFIELD: That's amazing. Look at that video. Holy cow! You never think a boat can do that with a crane.

And, the Iditarod, oh, was a great story, and we've got the winner of this year's dog sledding race. You've got mushing in his blood, folks. Twenty-year-old Dallas Seavey (ph) sounds like a rodeo winner, but no, Dallas Seavey (ph) set the record for the youngest ever to win the grueling race.

He beat competitors that included his daddy on winner (ph), also his grandfather who's competed in the first race 40 years ago. Look at that dog.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow! That's nice.

BANFIELD: Look at that dog.

SAMBOLIN: Nice tradition there, too.

BANFIELD: Those dogs are amazing. Just amazing.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Thirty-two minutes past the hour here. Newt Gingrich may have had the home field advantage, but the south is very much Santorum Country this morning. The final numbers from Mississippi's primary, Santorum has 33 percent, Newt Gingrich 31 percent, Mitt Romney 30 percent.

And even bigger margin in Alabama. Take a look. Santorum 35 percent of the vote, Gingrich beats Romney for second place by about 2,000 votes. Romney did manage to win Hawaii at 20-point win over Santorum. And Santorum sounding a familiar scene in his southern victory speech.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The time is now to make sure, to make sure, to make sure, that we have the best chance to win this election. The best chance to win this election is to nominate a conservative to go up against Barack Obama who can take him on on every issue.


SAMBOLIN: So, let's talk about this surprising win. Live from Washington, Democratic strategist, Jamie Harrison, conservative commentator, Penny Nance, and Jonathan Strong, staff reporter for "Roll Call." Jonathan, I'm going to start with you for a couple of reasons. I hear congratulations. You have a brand new baby?

JONATHAN STRONG, STAFF REPORTER, ROLL CALL: That's right. Her name is Susan. She's beautiful.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, how wonderful. So, give me some details because you rarely get to -- national television. How much does she weigh, how gorgeous is she?

STRONG: Yes. She was born March 1st, seven pounds, eight ounces, 24 inches, and mom's doing well, and we're just overjoyed to have a beautiful baby girl.

SAMBOLIN: Well, congratulations. Congratulations. All right. We're going to talk about Newt Gingrich if that's OK with you.


SAMBOLIN: He is vowing that he will not step down despite saying earlier that these were must-wins for him, right? And then, he went on to say that he thought the media would be all over him about the fact that he should step down. Ed Rogers said this in "The Washington Post." So, the media is all over it.

"Newt Gingrich lost the only chance he had at creating a rationale for his candidacy. Gingrich is a great rationalizer, so it will be interesting to see how he explains his current circumstances. Unless he admits he is staying in the race to help Romney, there is no point to his campaign." Is he right?

STRONG: Well, last night, we actually saw some quotes coming out of Gingrich's campaign, and he's like kind of now officially on a kamikaze mission to thwart Romney's candidacy.

And he says the purpose of staying in the race, this is from his spokesman, R.C. Hammond, is to keep Mitt Romney from getting 1,100 delegates, which is a very interesting switch in rhetoric. I mean, he's not even saying that he can get the number of delegates you need to outright win this thing.

SAMBOLIN: So, do you think also, he, perhaps, wants some influence at the convention?

STRONG: Right. And that's what his --

SAMBOLIN: Kind of like what Ron Paul has said he wants. STRONG: Yes. He's referring to scenarios from decades and decades ago when somebody, you know, Warren Harding came from behind and won at the convention. We have not seen that in a long time. This is the kind of, you know, imaginative path to victory by the Gingrich campaign.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Penny, you endorse Santorum, and you're a woman. So, I want to get your reaction to this. Santorum won the vote of women last night. So, let's take a look at it. In Alabama, he won 38 percent of the vote, in Mississippi 35 percent.

But overall, southern states are more conservative, and if you look at the latest "New York Times"/CBS poll, women voters, 50 percent of them go to Obama to Santorum's 40 percent. Is this going to be a looming problem ahead as we go to less conservative states?

PENNY NANCE, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. Actually, you know, Rick, as you said, did very, very well with women and very well with the youth vote. Right now, the candidates in the Republican primary are taking it to each other. They need to take the fight to Obama. If you look at the CBS/"New York Times" polling, though, over what the president did on the HHS mandate, not even women supported him on that.

So, the new rhetoric from the Obama campaign has been now reaching out to women. They realize I think as they blew it last week. You're going to see more work for women, but you know, I think this is not a race yet against Obama. When Santorum takes it to Obama, I think he'll do very well.

Women view him as being very authentic. He's a family man. He's very relatable. He's the Wal-Mart candidate. And that's what --


SAMBOLIN: -- ultra conservative stances there that someone don't --

NANCE: Yes. In married women, when you break it out -- women are not monolithic. You know that. Women are -- we can't just be one segment. Married women do -- Santorum does very well with married women and women with children. So, you know, it's not one or the other. I think you're going to see him do very well overall with women when it comes down to a vote between he and Barack Obama.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jamie, let's move on here. President Obama's team is completely ignoring Santorum's win, right? Instead, they send out this campaign e-mail last time. I'm going to read it to you. "If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney. According to the latest poll from "Washington Post"/ABC News, we cannot under estimate someone like Romney who has shown he will spend and say anything to win."

And David Axelrod, president campaign adviser tweeted at Mitt Romney. You know what they say as America Samoa goes, so goes the nation. Should Obama's team be refocusing their attacks in light of Santorum's win?

JAIME HARRISON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. It looks like the conventional wisdom that Romney will eventually still be the Republican nominee. I mean, he's a very weak frontrunner, but just looking at the numbers, the path to the nomination is still his for the taking.

And so, you know, I think it's in order for the Obama campaign team to focus their attention on him at the moment. But, I mean, Mitt Romney is probably the weakest frontrunner I've seen in a very, very long time.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jonathan, Penny, Jamie, I have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again on our six o'clock hour.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BANFIELD: I want to get you some breaking news off the coast of Japan. Apparently, a 6.8 magnitude quake has just hit, and if you do the math, this is just three days after the anniversary of that earthquake in Japan that wreaked absolute havoc, caused a tsunami and a nuclear reactor disaster at the Fukishima Plant.

Our Rob Marciano is joining us now live. 6.8 mag sounds pretty bad off the coast. How far? What's the story?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Far enough and not quite strong enough to do major damage, but a 6.8 magnitude quake is certainly enough to do some shaking. It's shallow, at only about 10 kilometers. It's about 150 miles from the northern island, and then about 200 to 300 miles northeast of Honshu and about 300 miles from Sendai.

So, right now, there are tsunami advisories in effect for the northeastern coast line of the big island. Won't be a big one, maybe a half meter or so, will probably happen now or over the next hour or so. This is not going to be big enough to propagate a tsunami eastward across the pacific. So, that's a good news.

This is a 6.8 magnitude quake. Typically, a quake has to be seven or larger to produce a larger tsunami. So, right now, just advisories across the northeastern coast line there of the northern island or the Honshu (ph). And we'll just wait to see what kind of damage reports we get back.

There was some shaking felt. The question is how much damage across this part of Japan. Nothing like last year, but certainly -- certainly worries --

SAMBOLIN: Scary for the people on that region.

BANFIELD: Thank, God.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. BANFIELD: I mean, just so close to in time. So, it's amazing. Rob, thanks. Keep an eye it for us.

Well, still to come folks, a flight attendant that's really freaking on the plane, screaming at the top of her lungs. The passengers certainly had a reaction to her meltdown. You're going to hear about it in just a moment.

And an attempted drive-through robbery. Aw! Look at this. Brazen? Yes. Videos rolling, oh, yes. Some heroic action by two fast food workers, priceless. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 43 minutes past the hour. Just released 911 calls are revealing the confusion on board an American Airlines flight last week where a flight attendant had to be restrained by passenger after she started screaming like a mad woman that the plane was going to crash.




SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine being on board that plane? That was cell phone video from one of the passengers on board American Airlines flight 2332. While that was happening, other passengers were using their phones to call for help. Alina Cho joins us now with what those phone calls are revealing this morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think when everyone heard about this story, we all wondered what in the world would provoke someone to do this, right? We're getting some clues now. Here's what happened. Remember that the flight was headed from Dallas to Chicago last Friday, and as the plane began taxing to the runway, witnesses say that flight attendant just snapped.

According to a just release police report, she got on the PA system screaming about 911, telling passengers the plane was going to crash. Other flight attendants, even some passengers trying to restrain her. Now, listen to these 911 tapes that have just been released.

You can actually hear the fear in the passengers voices. You can also hear how the 911 operators at first don't believe what they're hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're on flight 2332, and they're talking on the radio about crashing our plane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Who is talking about crashing your plane? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attendant over the PA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You're on board a flight?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're currently on board the flight, and attendants are announcing over the PA system --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that they're going to crash the plane?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: DPS communications, how can I help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey. I'm on a plane flight 2332.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got a second caller for it.


CHO: I mean, you can see the panic and you can see the confusion, eventually, as that 911 operator starts to get a clue about what's happening.

SAMBOLIN: I was just getting sucked into it.


BANFIELD: Especially when you hear the 911 operator yelling out to our callers, "I got a second call" -- you know, finally realizing, thinking back to 9-11, this is how it might have started back then. The call started coming in. So, the big thing is, what on earth kicked this thing off?

CHO: Well, you know, it's quite surprising. We are getting a big clue into what may have sparked all of this. Ultimately, it's still not clear, but according to the police report, she suffered, this flight attendant, suffered what's being called a mental episode. Another flight attendant told police that her colleague was bipolar and hadn't taken her medication.

Now, here's how bad it go. The 43-year-old flight attendant who has not been identified, had to be taken of the plane in leg restraints and even tried to spit on an EMT at one point. You can imagine the confusion. Now, listen to this, on "Starting Point" on Monday, Soledad spoke to Connor Ford, one of the passengers who helped out.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Were the passengers completely freaking out? CONNOR FORD, HELPED RESTRAIN RANTING FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Not really. They weren't all freaking out. Some were upset that you could tell, but mostly was confusion, wondering what was happening, why wasn't anybody taking control, I'd say would be the overall feeling of the plane at that time.


SAMBOLIN: Bipolar disorder, that's a difficult disease. How is she, and is she going to face charges?

CHO: Well, of course, that's the next big question, right, how is this flight attendant doing? Well, American Airlines says that she was taken to a hospital for treatment. We don't know much more beyond that, but local and federal investigators say, at this point, it does not appear she had any criminal intent so they likely will not file criminal charges against her.

Of course, there will be an internal investigation, but the interesting part about this is that, apparently, it got so out of hand that one of the passengers who was apparently a pretty big man was trying to restrain her and even he had a tough time holding her down. So, it took flight attendants and passengers to get her, you know, under control.

BANFIELD: No air marshall on this one? No air marshall on this one?

CHO: It doesn't appear so, because that air marshall would have acted.

BANFIELD: Right. Right.

SAMBOLIN: I called it a disease. It's a disorder, right? But, you know, it can be very powerful.

BANFIELD: Will she keep her job?

CHO: That's the big question. We'll have to wait and see. American Airlines is certainly looking into it.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alina.

BANFIELD: Alina, thanks. Good job.

SAMBOLIN: Still to come on EARLY START, just days after a somber anniversary, another earthquake off the coast of Japan. We'll have the very latest details for you.

Plus, visiting Iraq during war time, no problem for Dick Cheney. So, why is Canada too dangerous for the former vice president? We're going to get to the bottom of that. You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: And it is a full 51 minutes past five o'clock on the East Coast. Time to check top stories making news this morning. Christine Romans hard at work with those stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning you, guys. Breaking news right now.


ROMANS (voice-over): A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake has rocked Northern Japan. Japanese officials are warning of a possible tsunami in the very same region hit last year, triggering, you remember, a nuclear disaster at Fukushima. The epicenter this time is about 146 miles south of Kushiro, Japan.


ROMANS (on-camera): It's a relatively shallow 16 miles from the ocean floor. We will continue to follow this as more develop. 6.8 magnitude in Japan.

Meantime, Rick Santorum pulled off a stunning sweep in Alabama and Mississippi last night. Mitt Romney took Hawaii. Next up, the Missouri caucus on Saturday, the Puerto Rico primary Sunday, and the Illinois primary on Tuesday.

A homeless man in South Florida turning a fast food drive through window into a dive-through window. Police in Ft. Lauderdale say a quick thinking Burger King cashier grabbed the (INAUDIBLE) shirt. Another worker slammed the suspect on the floor and held him until police arrived.

Dick Cheney is citing safety concerns as the reason for cancelling an appearance in Canada. The former vice president was supposed to be in Toronto with his daughter next month. Security advisors say their personal safety was at risk from protesters who call him a war criminal. Ladies?

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-two minutes past the hour here. A man sues Apple saying siri isn't as smart as she looks.

BANFIELD: No. That's not very nice, is it?

However, Mitt Romney, also in our top stories ahead, repeating his pledge to get rid of Planned Parenthood. Obama campaign firing back saying women cannot trust him. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is five minutes now before 6:00 in the East Coast. We're keeping you in the pop culture loop this morning by taking looking at what's trending on the interwebs and social media. Siri, find me a lawyer, how about that one? Apparently, a New York man has filed a class action lawsuit because he is none too pleased with the performance of this new tool saying that Siri ain't as smart as she looks on the advertisements.

You know how the commercial goes. Siri do this, Siri do that, and bingo you got it. Well, the guy says it doesn't always work that way. And so, he's saying Siri's ads are misleading and deceptive, calling it actual fiction. So, how about that?

SAMBOLIN: Some folks love Siri.

All right. So, Nike, apparently, steps in it. Nike is now apologizing for a St. Patrick's Day theme sneaker, there it is, that became known as the black and tan. Why is this a problem? It was supposed to be named after the drink, the Black and Tam. It's right there. I had no idea what this was.

It's made by mixing stout and lager in a pint, but the beer refers to a British parliamentary force that became notorious in the 1920's for its attacks on Irish civilians during the war of independence.

BANFIELD: How are they supposed to know that?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Another retailers apparently didn't, and so, Nike is apologizing.

BANFIELD: Maybe they failed ninth grade history. Who knows, right? Not fair.

Anyway, three minutes now before 6:00. Ahead in our next hour, Rick Santorum sweeping the south. But now, with all that momentum, how about the math? How about the money? Does he got it? We'll talk about it. You're watching EARLY START.