CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

French Police Corner "Al Qaeda Suspect"; Romney Rocks Illinois; "Al Qaeda Suspect" Surrounded In France; Exxon Valdez Sold For Scrap

Aired March 21, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. We are very happy you're with us this morning.

It's 5:00 in the East. We start with your top stories.

Breaking news in France: police have a home surrounded. They say an al Qaeda suspect wanted for committing that Jewish school massacre is inside. France also says two officers were wounded in a shootout there overnight. We'll take you live to that scene in just a few moments now.

And a big night for Mitt Romney, after a decisive 12-point win over Rick Santorum in that Illinois primary. He's setting his sights on Louisiana. Romney has nearly half the delegates that he needs to secure the nomination.

And shocking new revelations in the shooting death of a Florida teenager. The girlfriend of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin says she was on the phone with him just minutes before he was killed. And now, lawmakers are calling his death a murder and a hate crime.

In assessing the damage in Mexico after a strong earthquake rattled the massive capital all the way to the resort city of Acapulco. Hundreds of homes were damaged. At least 11 people are injured. Luckily, no deaths reported there.

Water rising and raging in Texas. Take a look at this. The fire department forced to pull a woman from her car that was carried downstream after she ignored a warning and drove around a barrier. Severe storms expected to unleash flooding across the South and the Plains today.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BANFIELD: And we've got breaking news this morning.

About 300 police are surrounding an al Qaeda suspect right now in France. He's apparently wanted in that horrible massacre at a Jewish school. We're told he's surrounded inside the home, the interior minister saying that they want to get him alive. And that he is expected to surrender and for some reason they're thinking that could happen in two hours.

There were two officers who were already wounded in this incident. The person inside is accused of murdering that rabbi, his two young sons and then also a young girl who is at that school. The youngest victim of that school shooting is just 3 years old.

We are told that somehow the interior minister knows that the man said he wanted revenge for Palestinian children. This according to "Reuters". A suspect whose brother was inside the house turned himself in to police already.

All of this happening in a raid in the southern city of Toulouse in France. That's less than two miles from the Jewish school where that massacre actually played out. It's already near the sites of three deadly attacks, just over the past several days.

Our Diana Magnay is live in Toulouse, France, right now.

This sounds like such a developing situation, Diana. Maybe you could get me up to speed on exactly where we stand right now in this situation.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Ashleigh.

This is now the seventh hour of this operation. As you said, 300 police involved in this, after an unprecedented manhunt, really, to find who people were considering a serial killer. It's a fairly fluid situation.

You have police coming up and down this road all the time. The interior minister has been here overnight and police officers have been in negotiations with this 24-year-old suspect through his door. We heard from the mayor earlier that he was being very uncooperative, very stubborn and very determined. Then we heard this development that he'd thrown a gun out of the window and said that he would surrender himself in a couple of hours time at 12:00 noon local.

So the interior minister says he certainly hopes that will be the case. Police do, however, presume that he is heavily armed. He is capable of carrying out more attacks despite this gun. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire earlier. Two policemen injured.

So, it remains to be seen what will happen over the next two hours. But as you say, they have said they want him brought out alive -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Diana, how do we know that they think this might actually wrap up in two hours? It seems like that's an awful lot of information for a situation that's currently in a standoff.

MAGNAY: Well, because the suspect has himself said that he would hand himself over in two hours time. He has been talking to police, not in a very cooperative fashion but talking to them through the front door. And he's apparently admitted to the fact that he committed the attacks in the Jewish school to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children. He also says that he was the man responsible for killing those three soldiers in two separate attacks last week, soldiers of Northern African origin.

And we also know a little bit about how investigators came to that man, came to this house. They say that first killing of the soldier, Sunday a week ago, happened at a rendezvous where that soldier said he wanted to sell a motorbike. That happened via e-mail. The I.P. address on that e-mail was traced and at that point they'd already got this man under suspicion, apparently, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Diana Magnay, good job. Keep your eye on it. We'll keep tapping in to find out what the developments are -- thank you -- in Toulouse this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is five minutes past the hour here.

It was a decisive win in the Illinois primary for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor now the clear front-runner with nearly half the delegates that he needs to clinch that nomination. The final Illinois totals here, Romney 47 percent; Santorum, 35 percent; Newt Gingrich dead last there as you can see, with 8 percent.

CNN's delegate estimate -- here we go -- Romney, 562; Santorum, 249; Gingrich, 137; Ron Paul with 69.

Mitt Romney is sensing this could be his campaign's defining moment. He is urging the party to rally behind him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Each day we move closer not just to victory but to a better America. Join us. Join us. Together, we're going to ensure that America's greatest days are still ahead. Thank you, guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And next up, here we have Saturday's Louisiana primary, 46 delegates at stake there. Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin primaries follow on April 3rd as well.

Let's talk to CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser. He is live in Washington, D.C.

I've been doing some math this morning. I didn't get it right the first time. But if you add up all of the delegate counts, Mitt Romney is still ahead. If you add up Santorum, that is, and Gingrich and Paul, he still has more delegates.

How did he do in the exit polls, though?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He did pretty well in the exit polls. It's interesting, Mitt Romney won, Zoraida, where he needed to win, which was the suburbs in Chicago. He took over the vote in that heavy populated area.

You know, that's where I was yesterday. And I spoke to a lot of voters. And they said beating President Barack Obama, the most important thing.

And take a look at this, here from the exit polls. You can see almost 40 percent, four in 10 said electability. That's it, the most important issue for a candidate quality, 36 percent right up there.

Of those people, go to the next, those people who said can this candidate defeat Barack Obama, look a who's on top by far, Mitt Romney. Almost three out of four of those people who said electability was important, went for Mitt Romney. That's part of the story of why he won.

The exit polls also indicate he still has a problem and Santorum won the vote with those very, very conservative voters, those strong Tea Party supporters and those people who say they are evangelical Christians. And Santorum did win those true conservative areas in southern Illinois.

Of course, Louisiana is next, as you mentioned. And that is a more conservative state -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: How did Romney do with women?

STEINHAUSER: Romney won women again as he has in almost every state we've seen in the exit polls.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's talk about Newt Gingrich, because yesterday he said that phase one is taking Romney out. So, I was thinking perhaps he drops out in order to help Santorum take Romney out.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, his statement last night sure did not indicate that. It was critical of Romney, the statement that he put out after the results came in. And he still says he's looking ahead all the way to Tampa, to the convention in late August.

Louisiana, I guess that's another test for Gingrich, a Southern state, on Saturday, if he does well, maybe he continues on. If he doesn't, well, I don't know, I can't get in Newt Gingrich's mind -- Zoraida.

STEINHAUSER: We want you to stay fired up for us. So, the more ammunition, the better. Thank you very much -- Paul Steinhauser live in Washington.

BANFIELD: Nine minutes past 5:00.

And a major earthquake has rocked southern Mexico. The epicenter is located about 200 miles southeast of Mexico City. Apparently, 200 to 800 homes, I know that's a wide estimate but that's all we have right now, flattened in one particular town. This thing measured 7.4 magnitude as well.

You can see some of the facade damages at least in the initial video that's coming in to us. The tremors were felt in Mexico City, also in Acapulco. Obviously emotions running deep at this point.

We know of 11 people who were injured. But right now, no reports coming in of deaths -- thank God for that.

The quake also shook the Mexican parliament.

And here's something we don't often report. The president and the first lady's daughter was on a school trip, the media does not cover that normally but because of what's happened in Mexico, we do. Malia was on a vacation, a school vacation in Mexico. First lady's spokeswoman says Malia is OK and that she was never in any danger and that's the reason that the press has been given the green light to report that, because of the potential danger for the first lady and the president's child.

SAMBOLIN: In the video there, where you saw the woman who was very upset, it's because she was happening right when she was in her car. You can hear somebody saying, "don't move, don't move, just stay still." I don't know that I would not have moved in that case.

BANFIELD: I'd be frozen in fear if anything, right?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh!

All right. So, Rob Marciano is at the CNN weather center with word of tornado warnings in Deep South.

It seems like every day, we're talking about this, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's a slow moving system. It hammered Texas yesterday with flooding rains and tornadoes.

And this system is now in through Louisiana, southern Louisiana is where we're seeing tornado warnings right now, in through parts of Cameron, Arcadia Parish, Jeff Davis Parish, along the I-10 corridor, between Lake Charles and Lafayette. This is where we have some circulation right now.

And different from tornadoes we've been seeing lately, these are moving from the south to the north, all with this circulation that's not making much eastward progress. Tornado watch in for most of Louisiana and a little sliver of Arkansas for the next few hours as these storms slowly edge to the east but mostly go from south to north.

And with this slow movement we've got a tremendous amount of rainfall obviously going over one play. So, flood watches and warnings across much of western Louisiana, getting up into Arkansas as well, up to six inches possible and in some cases, we've already seen that. So, a tremendous amount of rainfall coming out of this system as it moves slowly to the east, into a big bubble of warm air.

Temperatures continue to bake. Chicago unbelievably, another day of 80-degree plus temperatures, 85 in Chattanooga, Nashville, 84, 83 degrees in Cincinnati. These are more like June as opposed to the middle of March.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding. I'm hearing all about it on Facebook -- come back home, taste the weather over here. It's tough to watch. Thank you.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BANFIELD: So, 11 minutes past 5:00. You know what that means. Our breaking news, this just in, as it is every morning. I got bad news for you.

SAMBOLIN: I know.

BANFIELD: It's not just bad, it's double bad. The gas prices are ticking up again almost twice as much as it has every day. The national average jumping almost 2 cents -- I'm sorry. It's according to AAA. You can blame them -- well, I think you can blame a lot of people for it.

A gallon of gas now, $3.86, up 1.8 cents, by the way. It's been on the rise for 12 straight days. We're going to continue to se the prices this high until the cost of oil all around the world on that pesky world market goes down.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Maybe it will happen.

Speaking of oil, the Keystone Pipeline extension is back on the fast track now. Sources telling CNN that President Obama wants to cut the red tape for the extension of the oil pipeline. What does this mean?

BANFIELD: And here's the catch -- part of the pipeline. How good is the pipeline if you only have part of it?

The president has been criticized all over the campaign trail for blocking the permit. So, why the 180 or is it even a 180? Or is it only kind of a 60? I'm not quite sure.

Christine Romans is here to fill it in.

So, yes, I've been confused all the way along about building a southern part of the pipeline.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BANFIELD: Because you can't get the stuff from the north to fill the big empty space in the middle.

ROMANS: We already have a lot of big pipeline in this country. Make no mistake. This isn't the only oil pipeline, right?

And I want to show you a picture of what it's supposed to look like. This is the Keystone Pipeline, incredibly political. Republicans have been hammering the president. The part that the president wants to fast track is the part by that green arrow down from there from Cushing, Oklahoma, down to Port Arthur, down to Houston. That's where we're trying to get this, you know, bottleneck of supplies down to the refineries.

But you look up, then you can see there's an awful lot more that needs to be built. It goes right through something called the sand hills of Nebraska. And that is the big sticking point overall. And this part has not been approved yet.

TransCanada wants to build this big pipeline underneath a very fragile and beautiful part of the country that I think most people would be surprised how -- it's so fragile and desolate and beautiful at the same time.

I was there in 2010. Those are the pictures we took. It's got some oil, little oil derricks. It's got a lot of grazing cattle. It's got a lot of rail lines, taking huge loads over and over again of coal. It's a really pretty part of the country where underneath there's this huge aquifer and there are concerns about this pipeline and this aquifer.

TransCanada and people who support the Keystone Pipeline are trying to figure out where to root this thing. The president, though, wants to get things started, wants to fast track the bottom part, the southern portion of this pipeline extension so it can be under way.

People in the oil business are saying, look, longer term, it's good to have this diverse you know, diverse supply line for oil from North America but we're not there yet.

SAMBOLIN: How significant is it right now, though, with the suffering that folks have at the pump?

ROMANS: It's not going to do anything today, to your price of oil, your price of gas. Again, like I told you guys yesterdays, all of these things are very subtle and long term, and there are some political fights over this.

There was something else that moved oil prices a lot yesterday, and we're talking about last night, and this administration also giving some waivers to 11 different countries for the business that they're doing, buying oil from Iran. And those waivers on some sanctions for Iran actually saw oil prices drop sharply. They're up a little bit this morning.

BANFIELD: These are waivers to say you can do more business?

ROMANS: Yes, because they have already --

BANFIELD: Wow.

ROMANS: They have already decreased their purchases so substantially of Iranian oil --

BANFIELD: Amazing.

ROMANS: A little bit of a waiver there.

So, there's a lot beginning on in the international markets of oil that we're watching closely.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 15 minutes past the hour.

Police in New York clashing once again with Occupy Wall Street protesters, this in Lower Manhattan. Three hundred demonstrators removed overnight from Union Square. At least one person was arrested. The city says it can tolerate 25 demonstrators at a time, but demonstrators cannot sit down or lie down.

And still ahead -- digging deeper into the case of Trayvon Martin. He was that unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. The focus is now on the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida.

BANFIELD: And we talked a lot about tornadoes. Now, we're going to talk about fires, folks. Flames rising from the debris and threatening the homes that were just rebuilt in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

SAMBOLIN: And can an aspirin a day keep cancer away? Hmm, ponder that thought and come join us again.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Nineteen minutes now past 5:00. And that is a good time to check the top stories making news this morning.

Christine Romans is busy for us.

ROMANS: Good morning, ladies.

Let's follow breaking news in France this morning. Police have a home surrounded. They say a man claiming to be an al Qaeda terrorist wanted for committing that Jewish school shooting, he's inside that house. France says two officers were wounded in a shootout there. The interior minister saying they want him alive and he's expected to surrender within the next two hours.

Illinois goes to Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor scoring a decisive win in last night's primary, picking up 47 percent of the vote. Good enough for a 12-point margin over Rick Santorum. Romney is nearly halfway now towards 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

A wildfire that's already burned nearly 100 acres in Alabama has jumped a containment line. It's burning in a debris field near homes that were rebuilt after the deadly tornado in Tuscaloosa County that killed dozens of people last April. So far, no one has had to evacuate the area because of that wildfire.

A daily dose of aspirin might significantly reduce the risk of cancer and prevent tumors. Researchers found people who took aspirin regularly for five years reduced their risk of developing cancer by 37 percent. Experts warn that the drug can cause dangerous side effects like stomach bleeding.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, Christine.

The mother of gunned down Florida teen Trayvon Martin says she cannot eat or sleep until her son's killer is arrested. The Martin family attorney says brand new witness accounts reveal Martin was murdered by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

Trayvon Martin's girlfriend has come forward. She says she was on the phone with the teenager minutes before he was shot to death. Phone records confirm that the girl tells ABC News Zimmerman was following Martin and she told him to run.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he lost the man -- but the man Trayvon said was following him. I asked him to run and Trayvon said he wasn't going to be running. Trayvon said he ain't going to run like that, he was going to walk fast.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Martin was killed just moments later. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense. The FBI and Justice Department are now investigating.

John Zarrella is live in Sanford, Florida, with the latest for us.

And if we could first begin with these eyewitness accounts, what did they say they saw?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, what we are hearing right now is, of course, you know, the police department has come under a great deal of fire over what happened and the handling of it. The police here are telling us that they are confident in the way they handled it and they are inviting the federal officials, the DOJ, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to come in and take a look.

But last night on the Anderson Cooper show, Anderson talked to two women who live in that gated community who have apparently talked to police and given statements. But now, they are talking exclusively with Anderson Cooper about what they say they saw inside that gated community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": So, you saw Mr. Zimmerman on top of Trayvon Martin?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

COOPER: When you say on top of, how so?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Straddling him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

COOPER: His legs were straddling him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One on each side, on his knees, with his hands on his back.

I didn't believe it was self-defense because of what we saw when we walked out on the porch. If it was self-defense, why was he on his -- on Trayvon's back?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now, police here have not -- police here have not released that transcript of the interviews that they have done with these women at this point. But, again, you heard there what they say transpired on the night of February 26th.

Here last night as well, in Sanford, just a few blocks from here at a local church, there was another major rally. The community coming together again asking for some -- for Zimmerman to be arrested, for Zimmerman to be picked up. As we know, George Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime nor has he been arrested -- Ashleigh, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. John Zarrella, live for us in Florida -- thank you very much.

Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: It is now 23 minutes past 5:00 in the morning. It's the time we get a chance to do an early read on the local news that's making national headlines.

This morning, we got a whole stack of them. Look at this, the whole stack of papers. We're going to start with the "Chicago Tribune." And here's what's coming out of good old, Illinois.

That state is having a real tough time coming up with the money for college students and aid to go to school. Apparently, it's running out. The students who apply for state tuition to get help paying their tuition next year, a lot of them will be turned away because apparently the funds are being awarded on a first come, first served basis.

The money is depleted now in record time. And so, there's a huge percentage of kids in Illinois who just aren't going to qualify for it, because too many other people want it and there just isn't enough.

SAMBOLIN: And that is insult to injury because the 529 program in Illinois, a mess as well.

BANFIELD: I feel bad for them.

SAMBOLIN: So, parents are really struggling there.

BANFIELD: But, listen, that's not the only place that you can get student aid. There are federal programs as well. Don't be in despair if you're hearing this right now.

SAMBOLIN: Sure.

BANFIELD: There are other places but that one spot isn't as good as it used to be.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Detroit news now.

Lawmakers in Michigan say kids should be older when they enter kindergarten. I know a lot of moms agree. The state is considering raising cutoff age for kindergarten eligibility. A lot of dads I would imagine agree as well.

Kids currently need to turn 5 years old by December 1st to enter school and the bill proposes a cutoff date to be September 1st. Supporters say younger kids aren't ready for the challenge of kindergarten and smaller classes save the state money. Opponents say parents would have to eat the savings and alternate child care as well.

It's the school of thought, whether your kid is ready or not, whether you should put them in school because that brain development is so critical during that time and they should be challenged a lot to talk about that in that --

BANFIELD: It's all those parents who are sneaky, too, saying I want my kid to be the biggest kid and the oldest kid and smartest kid so that he comes out on top, because he's 7 when the rest of them are 5.

SAMBOLIN: Also, they hold them back for that reason? Interesting.

BANFIELD: Mostly for sports.

SAMBOLIN: I would never do that.

BANFIELD: It's a huge trend, mostly for sports. So that the boys are the biggest and the burliest. And by the way, the trend goes right through the NHL. If you look at NHL hockey players who are the biggest, baddest and brightest and most highly paid, many of them were younger -- were older when they went into first grade.

SAMBOLIN: (INAUDIBLE) educating the kids.

BANFIELD: Oh, yes, there's that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour here.

Ahead on EARLY START: President Obama headed to South Korea next week for a nuclear summit. He's going to do something there that he has never done before as president.

BANFIELD: Oh, that's a tease.

Also, do you remember that oil tanker -- man, was this a long time ago. Exxon Valdez, folks. It was the ugliest environmental nightmare up in Alaska, 24 years ago.

It's being sold for scrap. What someone paid for the Exxon Valdez. Will it become someone's luxury liner? Who knows, but we'll fill you in in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is 5:30 on the dot on the East Coast. Welcome back to early, early, EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is time to check the story that are making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A big 12-point victory in the Illinois primary for Mitt Romney. He picked up 47 percent of the vote with the backing of conservatives and Tea Partiers. Saturday's Louisiana primary is next with 46 delegates at stake there.

BANFIELD (voice-over): And breaking news this morning, police in France are said to have surrounded a suspect and cornered him in his very own home. Started off with a big raid. He's the man who's wanted for killing four people at a Jewish school just a few days ago. He claims to be a member of al Qaeda. France says two officers were injured in that late-night shootout and raid overnight.

SAMBOLIN: The band Sugarland is refusing to give depositions in last year's deadly stage collapse lawsuit. Remember that? Seven people died there when a strong wind gust blew down the rigging at the Indiana State Fair just minutes before the band's concert. That was last August.

BANFIELD: President Obama's gearing up for next week's nuclear summit in South Korea. And while he's there, he'll visit U.S. military troops stationed in the demilitarized zone. It will be his first trip as president to the heavily fortified border.

SAMBOLIN: A ship demolition company has paid $16 million for the oil tanker formerly known as the Exxon Valdez. In 1989, 11 million gallons of oil from the ship spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound. It was the worst tanker environmental disaster in U.S. history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Magic number is 1,144. By now, doesn't everyone know what that means?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, it's ingrained, ingrained in our brains.

BANFIELD: If you don't know you're in big trouble, folks, you should be reading your papers. Mitt Romney is halfway there. It's the delegate count. Come on. So, he's about halfway there after convincing -- after a very convincing win over Rick Santorum in last night's Illinois primary. That's the thing that happened last night in Illinois. I'm teasing you now.

Here are the final vote totals out of that state. The big win with the checkmark, Mitt Romney with 47 percent of that state's GOP voters, Rick Santorum falling 12 points behind there at 35 percent. That's kind of a whopping lead. And look at Newt Gingrich, way, way down, even lower than Ron Paul. He sunk to eight percent of the vote.

So, that is a significant drop for Newt Gingrich as well. CNN's up to the minute delegate estimate looks a little like this, everyone. 562 delegates for Mitt Romney, 249 for Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich still in third place there, though, with 137 delegates, and Ron Paul still doing his thing, making his way to the convention at 69 delegates.

Rick Santorum is certainly trying to put a positive spin on last night's setback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With 54 delegates at stake, yes, we think we'll win anywhere from 15 to 17, maybe if we're lucky, 20, which isn't a bad haul, in a state that's not necessarily the most friendly to a conservative in the state of Illinois. So, we feel good.

We thank you very much for coming out, and we look forward to coming here in about five weeks after a big win in Pennsylvania.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: There's a long way to go before the Pennsylvania primary, because next up is Saturday's Louisiana primary, and 46 delegates at stake in that state. Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin primaries, they follow on April 3rd. So, there's a lot to talk about as we move forward.

Live from Washington is Shira Toeplitz, our political reporter for "Roll Call" magazine, also Democratic strategist, Tim Punke is here with us, and in New York, Republican strategist, Boris Epshteyn. OK, you three, let's start with this, shall we? Rick Santorum had said, I believe, if my memory serve, coming in to Illinois, "If I win Illinois, I can guarantee you, I am going to be the nominee."

Well, that didn't happen, Boris. That really didn't happen at all. In fact, if I show you the leader board again, he's so far behind Mitt Romney at this point. I don't know what he was thinking or where he thought the math might pay off, but where exactly is he headed in this game?

BORIS EPSHTEYN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he said, if he wins Illinois, he can guarantee it. That's a pretty safe thing to say, because he probably knew he wasn't going to win it. So, he doesn't have the guarantee to win now. -- Pennsylvania primary. Rick Santorum has the worst loss of any sitting Republican-Democrat as an incumbent ever. He lost by 18 points in 2006 in his home state of Pennsylvania. So, I don't know how it count on Pennsylvania that much if I were him.

Where is he headed? Not until the nomination as the GOP nominee of the (ph) president, but it's going to be Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is the strongest one we have, and he's the one who should face Barack Obama in November.

BANFIELD: OK. So, let's have a little bit of a look at the exit polls, so that we can get an idea of what people are thinking and how they're voting when they think that way. In Illinois, it turns out the evangelical and born-again numbers amount to about 42 percent of the vote.

Those who consider themselves very conservative, 29 percent of the vote. Fast forward to one of the next contests in Alabama and see how those numbers compare. Are you ready? In Alabama, that evangelical vote goes a whopping up to 75 percent. Against, don't forget, Illinois is 42, Alabama 75, and for those who say they're very conservative, 36 percent.

Don't forget, Illinois, they were just 29 percent. So, Tim, it kind of looks obvious. Those who are very conservative and very religious tend to vote for Santorum and those who aren't so much tend to vote for mitt Romney.

Does that tell us anything, though, in the votes that are coming up in the states that still have to elect their nominee?

TIM PUNKE, STATE DIRECTOR, 2000 GORE-LIEBERMAN CAMPAIGN: Well, it certainly tells you that there's going to be a lot of up and downs still to go. I mean, I think everybody views Louisiana as a state that Rick Santorum is going to win.

And to me, what it really says is the big story coming out of Illinois is not so much Romney's win, which I think was expected given that he outspent Santorum 7-1, and frankly, really had to win that after losses in Mississippi and Alabama. The big story coming out of Illinois is Newt Gingrich's loss, especially coming in under 10 percent.

And what I think you're really going to see now is not the party coalescing around Mitt Romney as he suggested last night in his speech, but really a push from conservatives to coalesce around one candidate. And I think with Gingrich being so far behind now in Louisiana and some of the southern states and Santorum really getting the momentum. And Santorum is only behind four to five points nationally. So, I think if Gingrich gets out, he really has a shot. And you're going to see conservatives pushing that Gingrich exit pretty quickly.

BANFIELD: So, I misspoke. The reason I was quoting the Alabama polls, exit polls, is because, of course, people exited the Alabama poll because they had that vote already. And I was extrapolating for Louisiana, which is not that far away from Alabama, but that's the race that's coming up. And your point spoke beautifully to that. So, thank you for saving me.

So, speaking of speaking, Gingrich had something to say last night. He released a statement after Illinois, and it seems to me that increasingly, these concession speeches are really nasty, or at least, they kind of have a dig, and I think that's how you could read into this one. This is how Gingrich responded to the results in Illinois.

"To defeat Barack Obama, Republicans can't nominate a candidate who relies on outspending his opponents 7-1. Instead, we need a nominee who offers powerful solutions that hold the president accountable for his failures." Shira Toeplitz, I get it. Take the fight to Obama, because that's a better thing to do, but do you have to be so, like, snarky to the winner of the race from last night?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, POLITICAL REPORTER, ROLL CALL: Well, at this point, Newt Gingrich has to do something to get attention right now. he's certainly not winning contests. Another notable thing about that statement he put out, he's remarking about how much Mitt Romney is spending at 7-1 spending margin.

Well, I think if you're a Republican voter who's going to go up against a president who might raise as much as a billion dollars this cycle, is that really such a bad thing that you're going to have a well-funded nominee? Look, Newt Gingrich is in kind of a precarious position right now, because he wants to keep going.

I'm sure a lot of people, a lot of his supporters are telling him to stick in there, wait until the convention, see if you can galvanize delegates on the floor, see if he can do it, but the reality is, between now and then, he's just going to be befuddling around the states, taking the so-called zutors (ph).

He goes and checks out a lot of these animals with his wife. He's not really campaigning. He's not a candidate anymore. He's not in this race.

BANFIELD: You make a great point. You could look at that like you bought that thing last night, or hey, man, you can raise a lot of money and you can buy a lot of things --

PUNKE: And Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: -- when you're campaigning. Guys, I got to cut it off there. Shira, Tim, Boris, thanks very much. We'll talk to you in an hour if you can all stick around. PUNKE: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Good to hear. Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: So glad they are. We have nothing to do with the six o'clock hour.

All right. Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Coming up, things that go boom in the night. This is still bizarre. A big mystery in a really small town. What is behind the loud noise waking everyone up at night? I'd be out of there.

Plus, Peyton's in place in Denver. Does Tim Tebow even have a prayer of staying with the Broncos.

BANFIELD: Oh, he's got a prayer.

SAMBOLIN: He always has a good prayer. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: In Chicago, it's 85. We're just talking about how nice and warm it is in Milwaukee.

BANFIELD: I know. At some point, this is going to very thin (ph) on you, folks. This is the Milwaukee Tower cam. We keep telling them it's so warm so early, right? Sixty-one degrees in Milwaukee. If you're one of those people driving, put your windows down. And if you're not, and you're going to go outside a little later and pick up your newspaper --

SAMBOLIN: I don't think they can hear you.

BANFIELD: Unless, they're on satellite radio. Hello. Seventy- nine degrees in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin. Seventy-nine degrees. Amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Lovely. Lovely. Good morning to you on that note.

So, listen to this, a mystery this morning in Clintonville, Wisconsin to be specific there. It's a small town not too far from Green Bay. People are flooding 911 with calls trying to figure out what is going on there. They have been awakened three nights in a row by underground rumblings, rattling windows, and lots of nerves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like constant boom, boom, boom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost felt like a heavy duty thunderstorm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a weird, weird feeling and sound. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Weird, weird, yes. So far, scientists have no explanation for that. A town meeting is scheduled for this evening to talk about all of it. City administrator, Lisa Kuss, is trying to get someone to figure it out, and she is on the phone with us this morning. Good morning to you.

VOICE OF LISA KUSS, CLINTONVILLE CITY ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: So, tell me what specifically you have heard?

KUSS: I experienced it myself. I don't actually live in the region that's most affected by it, but I did hear it, obviously, because I've been out there a lot, and the loudest that I heard was last night. It is a -- people describe it, it sounds like someone exploded something if you're in a building just outside the building. Like a firecracker.

SAMBOLIN: Has anybody recorded the sound?

KUSS: Well, again, because we were hoping after the first night that it didn't continue, we didn't set anything out. The second night we do have recording audio and video devices at our utility building, which is in that area, and we will be able to check that stuff this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Has anything like this ever happened before in the town's history?

KUSS: No, it has not.

SAMBOLIN: And so, has a seismologist looked at this? Do we know that this is not earthquakes?

KUSS: We have confirmed with geologists both at two different universities and through the different stations that they have, which is about 30 minutes away that there is no official recording of any earthquake activity.

SAMBOLIN: And we said in the intro going into this story that it's only happening at night. Is that true? And how odd is that?

KUSS: Again, we don't know if it's something geology, earth- releated, which would be affected by the temperature, but it, clearly, has been most worst at night. It doesn't mean that we're reporting nothing during the day.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Is everybody freaking out about this? Is everybody worried?

KUSS: I think that certainly people are concerned and unnerved. By no means is there other chaos. But, people obviously want answers just as much as we, as city officials, want answers. I will report that whether people are not calling as often or they were not actually woke up last night, but I did speak to my police dispatchers prior to coming on the air with you, and we have the no received any official calls since 11:20.

And however, my two police officers and dispatcher did report feeling or hearing something at around 3:00 a.m. And we have a live news feed from our larger newspaper in Appleton, Wisconsin, that thought they felt something around 1:00 a.m.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. All right. Well, Lisa Kuss, we are going to wish you lots of luck, because I would imagine that the little kiddies are a little freaked out as well. Clintonville City administrator, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KUSS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: It's the monster from tremors.

SAMBOLIN: This is what worries them.

BANFIELD: They know it.

SAMBOLIN: The kids, can you imagine?

BANFIELD: The monster from tremors. I'm just telling you.

(LAUGHTER)

It's 46 minutes now past 5:00.

And still ahead, losing control. Take a look at your screen. That's not something you want to be near as a gas station pump explodes. And you know what this was all about? An impatient driver cut in the line.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no.

BANFIELD: Oh, yes.

Also, a brand new hunt for Amelia Earhart's plane. Seventy-five years ago, she disappeared and it's one of our biggest mysteries, but now, a new photo might help to solve it once and for all. We're going to tell you all about it. It's so exciting, I can't wait.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-nine minutes past the hour. It is time to check the stories making news this morning. Here's Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Let's start in France where police say they now have a gunman claiming links to al Qaeda cornered in his home right now and that he may surrender soon. CNN has learned his name is Mohamed Marah (ph). He's wanted for killing four people in that Jewish school shooting this week. France says two officers were injured in a shootout there overnight.

Illinois in the win column for Mitt Romney. He picked up 47 percent of the vote last night. Good enough for a 12-point margin over Rick Santorum. Romney winning, thanks to strong support from conservatives and Tea Partiers.

Frightening moments at a gas station in Miami. Witnesses say a jeep tried to cut in front of a hummer, but the driver lost control and slammed into the gas pump causing a fiery explosion. The driver escaped unharmed and was not charged. The jeep, though, was destroyed.

Tebow mania is out, Peyton places in. Peyton Manning introduced as the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos yesterday. His deal is worth $95 million over five years. It's expected Tim Tebow will now be traded, but Manning says, hey, it will be just fine if he stays on.

PEYTON MANNING, NEW DENVER BRONCOS QB: If Tim Tebow is here next year, I'm going to be the best teammate I can be to him and he and I are going to help this team win games. If other opportunities present themselves for him, I'm going to wish him the best. He's going to be a great player wherever he is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars are among the teams reportedly interested in trading for Tebow -- Zoraida and Ashleigh.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Wow. That video at the pump wouldn't like the lesson of the day, Christine.

ROMANS (on-camera): Yes.

BANFIELD: Don't cut in line because you could blow up.

ROMANS: Be patient, everyone. Be patient.

BANFIELD: And who's cutting in line to pay $3.85 a gallon anyway? So, cool your head (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: And in a big, big truck. All right. Thank you, Christine.

5:51 on the East Coast here.

Coming up, the house doesn't always win. A black jack player cleans up in Atlantic City. It's pretty shocking.

BANFIELD: Also, new clues in the search for Amelia Earhart, 75- year-old clues. How good are they? You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: There's a reason we're bumping in with this music.

SAMBOLIN: Go away --

BANFIELD: Sing it.

(SINGING) Known when to run.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Nice. Nicely done. The gambler, well, planned (ph) it, because there's this guy, and this is our pop culture thing for you today. There is this guy who literally broke the bank in Atlantic City. Are you ready for this? His name is Don Johnson (ph), which could not make the story better, but he apparently single handedly nailed down $6 million in one night.

He broke the revenue stream for a month for Tropicana. And that wasn't the only time that he was able to bring in a big win. Six million in one night? Yes, whatever, because he took the Borgata for five million in another night, and he took Caesar's for four million. $15 million, folks. Are you ready?

SAMBOLIN: You think somebody was watching him?

BANFIELD: I tell you, they were all over him like white on rice, but guess what? Even though the security cameras were on it, the pit bosses were on it, they have come to the conclusion this guy was just great. He's just a good card player.

SAMBOLIN: What a great story.

BANFIELD: Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Here's another one for you. There's a new search for Amelia Earhart. She disappeared on a flight across the pacific 75 years ago. Historian, Rick Gillespie (ph), says a photo taken on a remote pacific island three months after her plane vanished may show the landing gear sticking out from a reef. Really?

BANFIELD: Wow!

SAMBOLIN: And we missed it before? The crew will head there on July 2nd, 75 years to the date that she disappeared with high-tech subs and a Discovery Channel crew in an attempt to possibly, possibly, Ashleigh pull up the plane.

BANFIELD: Can you imagine?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I know you're going to be speaking to Rick Gillespie in the next hour. Looking forward to that. BANFIELD: A lot of questions about it and why Hillary Clinton is big on it as well.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Also coming up in the next hour, we're going to take you live to France where a tense stand off is ongoing right now as we speak with an al Qaeda suspect they think might be behind that horrible shooting at the French school in Toulouse where four people died. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)