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Santorum Sweep In Deep South; Panetta In Afghanistan; Obama and Cameron Get Down To Business; 6.8 Magnitude Quake Off Japan Coast; Gingrich Vows To Stay In Race; Santorum Storms The South; Romney: Get Rid Of Planned Parenthood; Child's Running Death; "Dive Thru" Robber Arrested; Cheney Cancels Canadian Trip

Aired March 14, 2012 - 06:00   ET






ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Rick Santorum jumping right back in to things this morning with a nice big deep sweep of the south, putting Newt Gingrich on the ropes, but he says he is ready to rumble anyway, right on to 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.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third place finishes leaving Mitt Romney with nothing, but the map and, of course, the money. More people doubting that is enough, as we move on, on your EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: I am Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. We are happy you are with us. It is 6 a.m. in the east so let's get started here.

A grandmother is facing the death penalty allegedly forcing that little girl, a 9-year-old little girl to run until she literally drops dead. And we're hearing this was all over a candy bar.

BANFIELD: Also, hot spots are people, too, seriously? Homeless people apparently turning into walking hot spots, walking Wi-Fi stations. It's being called a charitable experiment, but some folks are saying this is just exploitation at its worse. We're going to talk to the person who came up with the idea. You might be surprised why some people are saying it's a great idea.

And it is now 2 minutes past 6, your top stories now. Alabama, Mississippi, Santorum country, folks, all this morning, it's all his. Former Pennsylvania senator pulling off an improbable southern sweep and is now vowing to win the nomination before the Republican convention.

SAMBOLIN: And new overnight, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arriving unannounced in Afghanistan to try and diffuse a crisis. New fury this morning.

A motorcycle blast killing at least one Afghan security officer in the same city where a U.S. soldier is accused of killing several women and children in a massacre over the weekend.

BANFIELD: President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron holding formal talks at the White House today that's after arriving here yesterday. Talks over Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the Syrian crisis, and, of course, the global economy, all of those topics on the table today.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to start here with breaking news. A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake has rocked Northern Japan. We were a little concerned about whether or not it could turn into a tsunami. Is it yes or is it no, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It would only be a local one. So this is nowhere near the 9.0 quake that happened really just a year ago over there. A 9.0 over 6, a huge difference, a lot rhythmic scale, it's like 2,000 times more energy released than the 9.0.

But 6.8 is nothing to sneeze at. It can do some damage and they certainly felt the shaking across the northern island of Honshu. Here's Sendai, that was the most affected area, and Fukushima, of course, with last year's quake.

This is about 300 miles from there. The northern island of Hokaido, also is feeling some shaking with this, but this tsunami advisory that has been issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency, issued for the North Eastern Honshu and it does not include Sendai.

And, we think probably less than a meter of a wave. So nothing like a massive tsunami we saw last year, but certainly enough for people to feel it.

And maybe some light damage and definitely enough to give people at least moving quickly away from the coast in anticipation of a small tsunami across the north eastern Honshu.

BANFIELD: All of this enough for some really bad memories just three days after the anniversary. All right, Rob Marciano, thanks very much. It is now 4 minutes past 6 on the East Coast. He didn't eat grits and he didn't spend millions, but Rick Santorum sure did enjoy a nice helping of southern comfort last night. Polls had him trailing by double digits in Mississippi and Alabama going into these contests, but the conservatives served up a big old win for Rick Santorum.

SAMBOLIN: Southern comfort, so the final tally for Mississippi, Santorum has 33 percent, Newt Gingrich 31 percent, Mitt Romney 30 percent.

And even wider margin in Alabama, Santorum with 35 percent, Gingrich beating Romney for second place by 2,000 votes. Romney did manage to win Hawaii with a 20-point win over Santorum, but Santorum sensing he has the momentum.


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're going to win this nomination before that convention.


SAMBOLIN: And here are the next three stops on the trail. Missouri caucus Saturday, 52 delegates. The Puerto Rico primary on Sunday with 23 delegates and Illinois's primary Tuesday with 69 delegates. CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser is live in Atlanta. What happened?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He over performed. The former senator from Pennsylvania over performed with very conservative voters. You look at the exit polls I know you're breaking down more in a minute.

He did really well with people who said they were Born Again Christians, other social conservatives, a lot of voters in Mississippi and Alabama. You know, I was at a polling station yesterday outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

That should be more Romney or Gingrich territory, but a lot of people said they have voted for Rick Santorum. Our Jim Acosta caught up with Santorum last night.

He asked Rick Santorum if he's asking Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race. Santorum said, no, but let's be honest. This is really looking like a two-person battle, Santorum and Romney for the nomination.

But Gingrich, Gingrich remains committed to marching on. Here's what he said last night.


GINGRICH: I want to tell you just a second. What will become a challenge is we will now have three or four days of news media. These are the same people, by the way, who said last June that I was dead. Recycle this every six weeks.

And the biggest challenge will be raising money because we came in second, which is as much as we wanted and we will have gotten delegates. Between Santorum and myself we will get over two-thirds of the delegates and the so-called frontrunner will get less than one third of the delegates.


STEINHAUSER: You have already seen voices now from the Republican establishment saying Newt Gingrich time to drop out, but no course yet. We'll keep our eyes on that -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So let's talk about that delegate count because you are our number (inaudible) here. Is it possible, I know that Mitt Romney believes that he could still get the delegates that he needs, which is 1,444, right, before the convention. If you do the math, is it possible for him to get there?

STEINHAUSER: He can still do it. It's going to take a while. I mean, this is probably late May or early June. The primary process doesn't end until the end of June. You saw right there, 49 that's before Hawaii.

We haven't factored Hawaii, 17 delegates and of course, Mitt Romney did win American Samoa and those 9 delegates as well. Interesting, he didn't have a speech last night.

No HQ from him. No headquarters. That was planned in advanced. He did congratulate Rick Santorum, but he did point out in a statement that he is expanding his lead in the delegates --Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: On to Illinois, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: And Mitt Romney's millions and Newt Gingrich's hometown edge could not stop Rick Santorum from ruling the south because the Evangelicals and the hard court conservatives just ended up really in his corner. Rick Santorum made sure that they knew he was real grateful for having his back.


SANTORUM: You stood with a guy comes from the grandson of a coal miner from a steel town of 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 the centrality of faith in our lives.


BANFIELD: Sure sounds nice when he talks. Christine Romans examining the exiting polling to see how Santorum pulled off what a lot of people were saying was an improbable sweep.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You guys, family and faith, I mean, this is something that really resonated especially among women in the south. I want to look at the exit polling from Alabama and I want to break down gender here and see how different people went.

When you look at women, Rick Santorum resonated with them, especially married women, but 38 percent of women voted for Rick Santorum or told the exit pollsters that they did. Romney comes in 30 percent. Gingrich is third there at 25 percent.

Now look at men, Newt Gingrich actually won men in Alabama. Santorum came in second, Mitt Romney third there. You know, with a nod, I guess, to Newt Gingrich and the media bias looking for reasons to push Romney, let's take a look at what it took.

Let's slice the data to see exactly what it took for Mitt Romney to get on the scoreboard here. You know, it's a few different things that really worked for him. And frankly, you have to kind of dig a little bit deeper to find it all.

Take a look at people who make $100,000 or more. Mitt Romney, no problem there, 36 percent. People who consider themselves moderate or liberal, by southern standards and by Republican standards in Alabama, 39 percent of those people went for Mitt Romney.

People who oppose the Tea Party, 41 percent of the people who told pollsters I am against the Tea Party. They supported Romney overall and people who say the economy is a top issue, they went for Romney.

Other than that other than that, other than what I have just shown you, this was Santorum territory, top to bottom, guys.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Christine. Thank you.

It is 9 minutes past the hour. Mitt Romney's not licking his wounds from the southern shutout. He's touting the 2-1 delegate gap between him and his chief rival.

He is campaigning in Missouri. Romney offered a few suggestions on how he would cut the deficit including his plan for Planned Parenthood.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My test is pretty simple, is the program so critical, it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it. On that basis, of course you get rid of Obama care, that's the easy one. But there are others -- Planned Parenthood, need to get rid of that.


SAMBOLIN: Planned Parenthood responded in a statement saying, quote, "When Mitt Romney says he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood, he means getting rid of the preventive health care that 3 million people a year rely on for cancer screening, birth control and other preventive care. Mitt Romney simply can't be trusted when it comes to women's health." BANFIELD: It's now 10 minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast. And then just after a few hours after George Clooney is going to be testifying at a congressional hearing on the human rights crisis in Sudan.

He accuses the Sudanese government of war crimes against civilians. Clooney, along with activist colleague, John (inaudible) will be Soledad's guest at 8:15 Eastern Time this morning on "STARTING POINT." So make sure you tune in for that.

SAMBOLIN: It's 11 minutes past the hour here. Still ahead, moments of confusion and fear on a plane when a flight attendant flips out. Passengers say she ranted about crashing and about September 11th. The 911 calls are out now. We're going to let you listen to them.

BANFIELD: And remember the old "Seinfeld" line, can you spare a square? Apparently, there's an entire city running out of toilet paper in a fight over money. This is not a joke, but there are apparently not enough rolls left to last the end of this week.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious.

BANFIELD: I hope it's not your city, my friend.

SAMBOLIN: And a team sentenced by her mother to wear this shirt. We're going to share the story behind that when we come back.


BANFIELD: Good morning. It is 15 minutes now past the hour.

It's time to check stories making top news this morning. Here's Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Ashleigh.

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

But Romney did win Hawaii with a 20-point win over Santorum.

Happening now, tsunami watch after a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked northern Japan a short time ago. It happened to the same region that was hit last year, triggering of course nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Minding your business this morning -- U.S. markets rally a big day, you guys. The Dow closed well above 13,000 yesterday, the highest close since the end of 2007. The NASDAQ above 3,000. That's never happened in history. Both of them closing above those milestones. Why?

Federal Reserve says most of the nation's largest banks passed a so-called stress test that also said the economy is recovering.

All right. You can't fight city hall and you may not be able to go to the bathroom there either. A toilet paper shortage could shut down city buildings in the capital of New Jersey. Trenton Health Department says paper supplies at 11 buildings, including city hall, are dangerously low because of a budget battle.

And talk about tough love. After her 13-year-old daughter was caught shoplifting, a Louisiana mom made her wear a green t-shirt saying, "Hide your money, hide your clothes, hide everything because I'm a thief". Danica Walker (ph) says he wants her seventh grader to know the embarrassment she felt.

I don't know, guys. What do you think?

BANFIELD: It's the second time this week that I've heard a story where a parent tries to do the public shaming of child for some kind of infraction like that. Criminal infraction.

SAMBOLIN: I feel bad for the child but I so relate to the mom. You really embarrassed me, and so, what do you do?

BANFIELD: I don't know where I fall on this one, honestly, because I do think sometimes kids do need real tough love but I'm not sure about the shaming part.

ROMANS: She was embarrassed about the shoplifting, now even more people know about the shoplifting. You know?


ROMANS: I mean, make a private conversation. I don't know

SAMBOLIN: Actually, there are a bunch of psychologists who would weigh in on this one.

BANFIELD: Take away from a laptop. Take away the, I don't know, allowance. Aren't there all sorts of other -- I've got 6-year- old and 4-year-old. So --

SAMBOLIN: I have a 13-year-old.

ROMANS: And then all of these people say positive re- enforcement works on kids, not punishment.

BANFIELD: Not mine. Nothing works on mine.

SAMBOLIN: This is one that moms will debate for centuries.

Thank you so much, Christine.

BANFIELD: I'm sending my kids to you, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: Eighteen minutes past the hour here.

Ahead on EARLY START: was the punishment worth the crime? Grandmother facing charges for allegedly forcing a little girl to run to her death.

BANFIELD: Also, did Cheney apparently not too well liked by the neighbors to the north? That's Canada, folks. What happened?

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It's 21 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast.

A grandmother is going to face capital murder charge, accused of forcing her own 9-year-old granddaughter to run until she dropped dead. Prosecutors say they're also seeking the death penalties.

SAMBOLIN: Authorities say 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died last month. Her grandmother made her run four hours as punishment for lying about eating chocolate.

There's the grandmother there.

The little girl collapsed. Paramedics came. A few days later, that little girl right there was taken off of life support.

At a press conference, a local sheriff said that he and the other investigators were absolutely shocked by what happened.


SHERIFF TODD ENTREKIN, ETOWAH COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: How it affected me and I think each one of them will tell you how this effected them, a 9-year-old child was actually run to death in this day in time.


SAMBOLIN: It is shocking.

And joining me now from Birmingham, Alabama, Farrah Ashley. Her 8-year-old daughter Natalie used to play with Savannah.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

You are a neighbor to this family. Can you tell us what you remember about the particular day? Did you see anything?

FARRAH ASHLEY, MOTHER OF SAVANNAH HARDIN'S FRIEND: I did not se anything that day. My daughter, which, of course, Natalie, she's one of the last to get off of the school bus. She rode it every, you know, every afternoon with Savannah.

And on that particular day, my daughter was -- after there were several kids let of the school bus that day, where Savannah lives, there's other people that live down the driveway she lives on. After they let her out, the grandmother did approach the school bus and told the bus driver that she was going to make the little girl run for eating the candy bar the day before until she couldn't run no more, is her exact words.

My little girl was on the bus.

SAMBOLIN: Did you know --

ASHLEY: And my little girl had seen her running at that time. She'd seen her running.

SAMBOLIN: Your little girl saw her running?

ASHLEY: Yes, ma'am.

SAMBOLIN: And Savannah's grandmother, Joyce Garrard, what do you know about her?

ASHLEY: I really don't know that much about her. I do know I went to pick my daughter up over there one day and she was screaming. I could tell that she was -- I don't want to use the word rough, but a mean-like lady. I could tell she was a mean lady.

SAMBOLIN: You said you went to pick up your daughter. Were they having a play date?

ASHLEY: Yes, ma'am. She went over there and spent the night. She actually spent the night several times and had went over there and played, but it was strange because she would never let Savannah come and spend the night with Natalie, my daughter.

SAMBOLIN: And the stepmother here, Jessica Mae Hardin, do you know anything about her?

ASHLEY: I don't. She seemed very nice when I -- when I met her. But as far as anything, I've never been around them that much, you know? So, I didn't know.

But like I said, I would just take my daughter over there and, you know, drop her out and they would play for a while or she would spend the night. I would go and pick her up. It was kind brief. My meetings with them were brief.

SAMBOLIN: And so, you never witnessed any punishment you thought was too severe for a child that age?

ASHLEY: No, ma'am. I never witnessed anything. Now, my daughter over the past year she has made several comments to me and --

SAMBOLIN: Like what? What did she say?

ASHLEY: She's told me likes, mommy, I feel so sorry for Savannah. They make her run and pick up sticks. But I did not know the severity of it. I did not know that it was that serious. I thought maybe a lap or two, you know, but I never witnessed any kind of, you know, beatings or anything like that.

SAMBOLIN: And not running for three hours.

You were on Dr. Drew show last night and so was Dani Bone, Joyce Garrard's defense attorney. Here's what we he had to say. I'm quoting here. Oh, let's listen, actually.


DANI BONE, ATTORNEY FOR JOYCE GARRARD: Ms. Garrard loved her granddaughter as she loved all her other grandchildren and her children. Joyce and Savannah were extremely close. And under no circumstances did Joyce Garrard cause the death of her grandchild.


SAMBOLIN: How would you respond to that?

ASHLEY: I'm going to respond that, yes, she did. She come to the bus and told that she would make her run until she couldn't run anymore, and that's literally what she done. I feel like that she made -- Savannah died in a harsh way and I feel like she should do the same.

SAMBOLIN: And how is your daughter Natalie coping with the loss of her friend?

ASHLEY: At first, it was really hard on Natalie. And -- but now she's doing a whole lot better with it. She's doing a whole lot better with it now. But at first, yeah, it was tough.

SAMBOLIN: Do you think her grandmother deserve the death penalty?

ASHLEY: Yes, ma'am, I do. I do. Her granddaughter, I mean, like I said, she died in a harsh way, I think she should, too. Savannah did, you know? I think her grandmother should die in a harsh way, too.

SAMBOLIN: We're looking at some amazing pictures of Savannah.

Farrah Ashley, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ASHLEY: Thank you for having me.

SAMBOLIN: And to your little girl.

BANFIELD: Twenty-seven minutes now past 6:00.

And still to come on EARLY START: some pretty telling surveillance video. A homeless man diving through drive-thru window making a real poor choice.

And also, a leisurely chase. Look at that. Just went on and on at a fairly slow speed. A couple taking police half dozen freeways later. Guess what they found in the car after a slick maneuver? Look, bang, ouch.

And when you find out what was in the car you may not be too thrilled with that video.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 6:30. Welcome back.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Ashleigh Banfield.

BANFIELD: It's time to check our top stories this morning.

Rick Santorum pulling off the stunning Southern sweep with victories last night in Mississippi and Alabama. Newt Gingrich finished second in both states. Mitt Romney coming in third.

What were those polls saying yesterday?

Newt Gingrich says, you know what, too bad. I'm staying in the race.

SAMBOLIN: And happening right now, a tsunami watch after a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked northern Japan. It happened in that same region that was hit last year, triggering a nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

BANFIELD: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arriving unannounced in Afghanistan overnight as fury erupts in streets. The motorcycle blasts killing at least one Afghan security officer, in the same city where a U.S. soldier is accused of killing several women and children in a massacre.

SAMBOLIN: A surprise ending for officers after a long police chase in Los Angeles. They pursued a pickup truck on six freeways for more than half an hour at normal speeds. A patrol car performed a pit maneuver to get the driver to finally stop. The couple surrendered peacefully.

BANFIELD: Rick Santorum enjoying some unexpected Southern comfort this morning after a stunning sweep --

SAMBOLIN: Not the drink, right? Or is he?

BANFIELD: Who knows? I don't know the guy.

But the votes, by the way, Alabama and Mississippi, they were -- before they were even counted, you've got to here what Romney had to say about Rick Santorum.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The desperate end of his campaign and trying in some way to boost his prospects --


BANFIELD: And the final numbers from the Mississippi primary go something like this: Santorum, 33 percent, Newt Gingrich,, 31 percent, Mitt Romney, 30 percent.

And an even bigger margin in Alabama, Rick Santorum scoring a six-point over Gingrich and Romney.

Romney did manage to pull off Hawaii. So, congratulations there. A 20-point win over Santorum.

Santorum sounding confident after the Southern sweep as well. Listen up.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We want to make sure that everybody knows we're campaigning everywhere there are delegates because we are going to win this nomination before that convention.


BANFIELD: That's confident talk, isn't it? We're going to win this nomination before even the convention.

Does the math hold up?

Live from Washington are: Democratic strategist Jamie Harrison, our conservative commentary Penny Nance, calling in the live shot too this morning, and also, Jonathan Strong, the staff reporter for "Roll Call" this morning.

Jonathan, I'm going to start with you.

Do you think for Mitt Romney not to have a speech last night was a good thing or a bad thing? Does it sort of smack of unsportsmanlike conduct? Or does it just say, I'm moving on, I want to forget all of this?

JONATHAN STRONG, ROLL CALL : Well, this is part of a broader theme we've seen with Romney, that he has decided to stay out of the limelight in many cases, he has not done very many interviews. He's not going to Sunday shows very often, hardly at all. This is calculated strategy.

But, you know, at this point, he's got to balance two things. On the one hand, he's got to drive his message. On the other hand, he's shown a propensity for gaffes and mistakes in his public remarks. That could really hurt him.

So, he's kind of his own worst enemy and I think that's what they're worried about.

BANFIELD: So, what about this whole business with Wolf Blitzer yesterday? Mitt Romney was suggesting that there might be a desperate end in sight to Rick Santorum's campaign. Have a listen to how he put it.

Oh, rats. We didn't have it. I apologize.

Desperate end. Is that -- I mean, come on. Is that fair? Desperate end, and then Shazam, he comes off with two big wins?

STRONG: The funny thing is that his campaign got caught last night, you know, quoted saying that nobody expected Romney to win Alabama or Mississippi. And, you know, just yesterday on CNN, he was talking about how this is going to be the desperate end of Santorum's campaign.

So, obviously, they made a mistake here raising the bar on expectations for last night and turned out to be a huge victory for Santorum. Very difficult night for Romney.

That being said the math is still difficult for Santorum in term of these delegates. Romney has a got sizable lead and the campaign that we have ahead of us will also, you know, contribute to that difficult math for Santorum.

BANFIELD: All right. Let's look at some other map. The exit polls because they tell a pretty interesting story. They really tell who the conservative voter truly is.

And to that end, let's look at Mississippi. It shows that the folks who don't have college degrees, 57 percent of them were headed to the polls. It could be the Republican GOP voters. Of them, 28 percent voted for Mitt Romney, 34 percent voted for Santorum, 34 percent for Gingrich.

Look at the bar in the middle. The highlighted bar, because that's really the winner-take-all bar. Those who make under $100,000, they went for Santorum as well. The evangelicals or born-agains, they also went for Rick Santorum.

And you know what? The picture wasn't a whole lot different in Alabama, either. The winner-take-all in all of those categories as well. Right there in the middle, it was Rick Santorum.

So, my question to you, Penny, where do Newt's voters go if, in fact, Newt wasn't maybe telling the entire truth that he's going to stay in all of the way to the convention? And what if he does pull away from this fight, where do his supporters end up, do you think?

PENNY NANCE, PRESIDENT & CEO, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, and also I should say that I texted early this morning with Rick Santorum and he has already touched down in Puerto Rico. So he's not drinking Southern comfort, if anything, probably rum this morning.

BANFIELD: Wow, run, at 6:30 in the morning. I want to party with that guy.

NANCE: I don't -- yes, I don't think he goes there.


BANFIELD: I'm going to quote you on this one. I'll play that all day.

NANCE: But, anyway, clearly, clearly for conservative voters, for women, for pro lifers, for people who are pro family, social conservatives, Rick is the top choice. And certainly, Newt Gingrich was able to skim off some of those votes. But if he's out of the race, they clearly will go to Santorum and make him a front runner.

BANFIELD: You're so sure about that? Are you so sure about that?

NANCE: Yes, I am so sure about that. Let me just tell you --

BANFIELD: You don't think they'll just stay away with the polls?

NANCE: No, I don't. I don't think they will because they want to defeat Obama.

BANFIELD: All right. Fair enough.

NANCE: And so, the other point -- the other point is, Newt Gingrich has a choice right now. He can be a superstar or he can be a spoiler. And he has a decision to make and he's going to be thinking that over very carefully and I hope that he does.

BANFIELD: Jamie Harrison, you got one quick moment to look at the delegate math. But my math, Romney has 489 delegates coming out of this race. That's still a big lead over Santorum.

Is there real math that can get Santorum past this before the convention?

JAMIE HARRISON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Santorum and Gingrich are both thinking let's push this to the convention, let's deny the nomination to Mitt Romney because they are -- we will have a fair shot at trying to broker a convention. And so, it's going to be very hard for Santorum and it's going to be very hard for Gingrich.

But, you know, Mitt Romney has shown he's weak front runner. And I don't think many Republicans they think can beat Obama with him at the head.

BANFIELD: All right. Jamie, and Penny, and Jonathan, you guys stay stayed up late and early for us. And we appreciate that. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

HARRISON: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.

Still ahead: a flight attendant screaming about a plane crash and an apparent mental meltdown.


CALLER: It looks like they're physically restraining a flight attendant.

DISPATCHER: OK. They're physically restraining the flight attendant?

CALLER: Yes, she's lost it.


SAMBOLIN: It was an incredible rant that included references to 9/11. More on the 911 calls from inside that plane. You are going to hear them, coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 41 minutes past the hour.

We have new details emerging about that frightening moment on board an American Airlines plane when a flight attendant just started freaking out.

BANFIELD: And we're learning about what may have sparked her outburst. We're hearing some of the 911 calls from all the people who are on that plane and pretty worried about it, to say the very least.

Our Alina Cho is here with us this morning with us this morning with the new developments.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. Good morning.

You know, can you imagine what it would be like to be on board that flight?


CHO: Well, the plane, remember, was headed from Dallas to Chicago. It had just left the gate and was headed for takeoff.

That is when a flight attendant got on the P.A. system and started screaming, making references to 9/11, saying the plane was going to crash, even referencing the airlines bankruptcy reorganization.

Passengers got right on it. They jumped up and helped other flight attendant restrain her. And that's when the 911 calls started to pour in.


DISPATCHER: Hello, sir?

CALLER: It looks like they're physically restraining a flight attendant.

DISPATCHER: OK. They're physically restraining a flight attendant?

CALLER: Yes. She's lost it. People are helping out.

DISPATCHER: OK. Yes. They're restraining a flight attendant?

CALLER: Yes, that's correct.

CALLER: I don't know what's happening.

DISPATCHER: OK. We have got people coming to you. I want you to know that we've got people coming to you. OK?


DISPATCHER: And everything is -- you're going to be OK.


DISPATCHER: OK. As long as that plane doesn't take off, you are still fine. You're still on the ground, right?

CALLER: Yes, we're still on the ground.


CHO: I mean, I think that it was better, I think, that the plane was on the ground, right? Had it been in the air it would have been, I think, pure chaos.

BANFIELD: A different story.

CHO: I think so.

SAMBOLIN: I hear there's a police report out and you may have more details on that?

CHO: There is. You know, a lot of people were wondering what in the world would have sparked someone to do this. We are getting one big clue.

Co-workers are telling police that the flight attendant was bipolar and that she may not have taken her medication. That report also says that the flight attendant made a comment about a co-worker being killed on 9/11 when her plane went through the World Trade Center.

Now, on Monday one of the passengers who helped subdue her described the scene to Soledad on "STARTING POINT."


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The plane was just taxiing off, right? Beginning to do those announcements. What happened? Is that the first sign you figured something was really wrong?

CONNOR FORD, HELPED RESTRAIN RANTING FLIGHT ATTENDANT: The first thing when we noticed it seemed that nobody was in control. The flight attendant kept on coming over saying something was really wrong. You would hear from other flight attendants that the plane was fine, that we're going to continue to go. And as we kept on going and going towards to takeoff is when the flight attendant started to say that the plane was going to crash and that's when I saw the pushing up front.


CHO: I'm going to say this again. Imagine being onboard that flight.

Well, it doesn't appear that investigators are going to file criminal charges. They are calling this a, quote-unquote, "mental episode." They even referred to her as a patient, not a suspect in the police report. Now, American Airlines, of course, will conduct its own investigation. As for the flight attendant, the airlines says she was taken to the hospital.

Beyond that, we're not exactly sure of her condition. But, you know, on the one hand, you can understand, if this was, indeed, a mental episode where she hadn't taken her medication, you want to try to as an investigator cut her a break with criminal charges. On the other hand, imagine being a passenger on that plane.

SAMBOLIN: Being up in the air and what could have happened.

CHO: Or future passengers, does she keep her job or not.

SAMBOLIN: That's right.

CHO: And also, those passengers, a lot of them said no one from the airlines said anything to them. They just, you'll have a new crew soon and you'll be moving on.

BANFIELD: I think that they're going to be looking at policy, as well.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. Alina Cho, thank you for that. We appreciate it.

CHO: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: It is 45 minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Hey, ladies. Sorry. I was actually getting some work done. Good morning. Good morning. Starting in just about ten minutes, we're going to talk to George Clooney. He is just back from a trip to Sudan and South Sudan. The border there, of course, the focus of a lot of violence. He's going to be testifying on Capitol Hill today.

But first, he will talk to us along with his colleague, also an activist, John Pendergrass about the dire situation in Sudan. Clooney says that the Sudanese government is committing war crimes against civilians. We'll discuss that. Plus, Oscar winning actor and native New Yorker, Adrien Brody, is going to join us. He's got a new film. It's called "Detachment." Amazing cast. And it really focuses on public schools and public schoolteachers. We'll discuss that film which is going to open on Friday and really how he was able to research his role. That's all ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We'll see you guys right back after the commercial break.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-nine minutes past the hour. Time to check stories making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning. Rick Santorum pulled off a stunning sweep in Alabama and Mississippi last night.


ROMANS (voice-over): Romney did win Hawaii with a 20-point win over Santorum. Next up, the Missouri caucus on Saturday, the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday, and the Illinois primary on Tuesday.

A homeless man in South Florida turning a fast food drive-thru window into a dive-thru window. Police in Ft. Lauderdale say a quick thinking Burger King cashier grabbed the would be thief's shirt. Another worker slammed the suspect on to the floor and held him until police arrived.

Dick Cheney's security people think Toronto is too dangerous for him to visit. The former vice president and his daughter canceling an appearance there next month. Security advisers say their personal safety was at risk from protesters who call him a war criminal -- Ashleigh, Zoraida.


BANFIELD: My home country being rough? I can't believe it. Thank you.

So, homeless people being used as Internet hot spots. I am not kidding. This has all been cropping up at the South by Southwest Festival. Give a donation, get yourself some Wi-Fi. So, is it a good thing, is it a bad thing? Some varying opinions on this. You're going to hear about it. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is a controversial story coming out of South by Southwest. That's a festival. An advertising agency recruited 13 homeless folks to act as Wi-Fi spots.

BANFIELD: Yes. You heard it. That guy right there, wearing the t-shirt saying, "I'm a homeless Wi-Fi spot." They're paid $20 per day, and they carry a 4G signal that's supplied by the ad agency, BBH, which is Bartle Bogle Hegarty. That's the brains behind the idea, but they did consult homeless agencies and here is one of the men who took part. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I swallowed my pride. You know, at first, I was kind of embarrassed about it. But being homeless has changed me, a different outlook and life about people.


BANFIELD: So, here to explain and discuss this is Saneel Radia who is head of the innovation for BBH. Saneel, so, the first time I heard this story I think I had some of the reaction that other people had and that was, what? Are you kidding me? How could this happen?

Then I started to read a little bit more about it, and I think I'm getting a better read on it. But I'd like to hear from you. For those who cannot believe that this is going on, why is it a good thing?

SANEEL RADIA, HEAD OF INNOVATION, BBH: Yes. Actually, it's been a very positive thing. Anyone who's spoken to any of the participants or the shelter that we work with, the number of homeless advocates that have kind of come to support the idea has been exceptional.

It's a good thing, because it's built after the street newspaper model. Street newspapers are those print publications that support homeless populations in multiple cities around the world.

BANFIELD: Yes. When you see the homeless guy getting on the subway and he's selling newspapers that's actually a project that is created by work done by homeless people, and then, they actually earn the money. So, are you suggesting that this saying (ph), if I extrapolate, this is kind of the new age media sales. It's just like that, but we're doing it digitally?

RADIA: Yes. I mean, our goal was to try to create something that street newspapers and homeless organizations could learn from and adopt to make sure that they're very important street newspaper model could adapt for a digital age. And the reason that street newspapers are so important are not just the financial benefit --

BANFIELD: It's the work, right?

RADIA: -- to the homeless individual. Certainly, the work is a key part and very important, but there's another aspect that's also critically important, which is the personal interaction with the actual homeless individual.

BANFIELD: And I do know that some of these guys, and there's only about 13, I think, or so of them who are involved in this, the homeless men and one woman, who are down there. I know that they said that they've liked the interaction with people, but sometimes, I wonder what that interaction really is and if they understand some of the interaction, because I want to read a tweet from one of the people down at South by Southwest named AustinAni. "Anyone else find using homeless persons as homeless hot spots at South by Southwest disturbing, dehumanizing and offensive?" And it did make me wonder if maybe the people who are stopping by and talking to these guys are doing it in an exploitive way or, at least, maybe, running them down without them knowing it. Do you see the problem there, perhaps?

RADIA: You know, I think it's a very important to issue to look at. Certainly, you know, we listen to every ounce of criticism around the issue. That said, if you speak to any of the people involved or the shelter that we worked with, you will see that it's actually quite humanizing. This is an opportunity for these people, these homeless individuals that are participated in this program to say, you know what, they run this like their own small business.

They have an opportunity to tell their story. These individuals have felt very empowered by it. It's been a very positive experience for them. And they're just happy that people are stopping and talking to them, and they get a chance to actually give them some perspective on what it's like being a homeless person.

BANFIELD: And we should note as well that this is all done by PayPal. So, anybody who wants to engage in this, does it by donation, I think the suggested donation is about $2 for every 15 minutes. So, it's a PayPal transaction. And that money goes right to the homeless person that's supplying the Wi-Fi, right?

RADIA: That's correct. A 100 percent of the proceeds go to the specific individual you choose for to it go to. In fact, if you still go today to, even though they are no longer out and about at South by Southwest interactive, there's still the opportunity to donate. Certainly, one of them, main benefits of all the media coverage of this is hopefully helping these guys, A, tell their story, and, B, earn some money.

BANFIELD: So, just quickly, do you think maybe the problem is in the T-shirt that says "I'm a homeless hot spot." Do you think maybe it's in the -- you're the marketing guy. Do you think maybe it's in the marketing -- maybe that could change?

RADIA: Certainly, that's potentially one of the bigger issues. You know, we made an effort to be something as very provocative to help people want to engage these people. Ironically, one of the staunchest defenders of the T-shirts has actually been -- actually multiple users of the T-shirts, the actual participants.

BANFIELD: The homeless people.

RADIA: They thought they were great marketing tools.

BANFIELD: It's a free T-shirt. Don't forget that, Saneel.

RADIA: That's true.

BANFIELD: Saneel Radia, it's good to talk to you. Thanks for coming on to talk about it, and I don't think the story is over. And I appreciate you shedding some light.

RADIA: I appreciate you talking to us. Thank you.

BANFIELD: All right. So that is EARLY START, the news from "A" to "Z." I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.