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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Mitt Romney Wins Illinois Primary; French Police Surround School Shooter in Building; Neighborhood Watch Killing Garners National Attention; "Al Qaeda Suspect" Surrounded In France; Sgt. Bales Facing Homicide Charges; 11 Countries Exempt From Iran Sanctions; New iPad Too Hot To Handle?; Dream Headbanger Duo!; Romney's Win In the Heartland; Threat From Iran?; New Clue In Earhart Disappearance
Aired March 21, 2012 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning is breaking news, a suspected terrorist is now cornered after a shoot-out in France. He is wanted for a string of killings, including shooting three children, killing them at a Jewish school. We're live with the very latest this morning.
Plus, Mitt Romney gets a big bounce. He takes President Obama's home state of Illinois, and now, he's looking to Louisiana. Other three candidates say, so what? This is going to go to the convention.
And demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Black teenager who was shot and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. A grand jury, the FBI, and the justice department are all now involved in this case.
And in the real -- our "Get Real" this morning, I should say, the right to bear arms, as in sleeveless vest. Yes. We're back to the sweater vest. The Santorum campaign is cashing in, no joke, on Rick Santorum's sweater vest. We'll tell you --
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The sweater that keeps on giving.
O'BRIEN: The sweater that keeps on giving, and it's a fashion forward statement as well. It is Wednesday, March 21st, and STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: That's right, off of Hogan Gidley's playlist, the Jackson 5 "I Want you Back," great song to wake up to. Hogan Gidley of course is Rick Santorum's national communications director, and he's going to join us live in just a few minutes.
Let's get right to our panelists this morning. John Fugelsang joins us. He's a political comedian and radio personality. Ron Brownstein is a senior CNN political analyst and editorial director for "The National Journal." Will Cain is a CNN contributor and a contributor for TheBlaze.com.
Our STARTING POINT is with this breaking news story on those shootings in France, and 300 police officers now are surrounding the home of a suspect who is wanted in the shooting of that Jewish school that happened on Monday, killed a rabbi, two young sons and a young girl that was killed in the shooting. France says two officers were wounded in a shoot-out overnight and Reuters is reporting saying he wanted revenge for the killing of Palestinian children.
The raid happening in the southern city of Toulouse, and that is where Diana Magnay is for us this morning. Diana, we had heard about this time they were expecting the suspect inside the house would be coming out, turning himself over to police. Where does that stand?
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That's what the suspect said that he would do. He's been talking to police. They said he was extremely determined, extremely stubborn, not exactly a negotiating position really, but apparently he said he would come out at midday. It's midday now and we haven't heard anything. There are around 50 police surrounding the house, 300 police all in all, taking part in this huge operation, the culmination of a manhunt which has been ongoing, really, since that first killing ten days ago.
Now, this man is 24-year-old, holed up in a building up the road, told authorities is he responsible for the killings of three soldiers last week and for the killings of these Jewish children on Monday in revenge for the death of Palestinian children, he said. He has apparently spent significant time in Pakistan and Afghanistan and says he's linked to Al Qaeda. And right now, Soledad, apparently the police are able to track his every movement in that house, using infrared censoring devices. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: Diana, we'll obviously stay with the story and stay with you as we wait for something to happen in this case as 300 police officers are now standing by to try to see if they can get that suspect out of that home. Diana, thank you.
Let's turn to politics now, where the number one issue for voters in Illinois, is defeating President Obama, according to CNN's exit poll. That's what drove conservatives and middle income voters to rally around Mitt Romney. Governor Romney scored a decisive win in Illinois. He took home 47 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum's 35 percent of the vote, and that win helped Mitt Romney pad his delegate count, now at 562, Senator Santorum has less than half at 249. Mitt Romney's grasp on the nomination tightens. He is taking new jabs at President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We once built an interstate highway system, and the Hoover dam. Now we can't even build a pipeline.
ROMNEY: I mean, we once led the world in manufacturing and exports, investment. Today we lead the world in lawsuits. You know, when we replace a law professor with a conservative businessman as president, that's going to end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Talking about himself, of course. Last night no doubt a big blow for Rick Santorum. You'll remember that he had predicted if he won, if he won Illinois he'd win the nomination. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I predict if we are able to do what I know most people think is impossible, which is to carry the state of Illinois, that will fundamentally change this election like no other contest to date. It will put us in a position where they'll stop talking about delegates and start talking about how are we going to stop Rick Santorum from being the nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: All of that did in fact not happen. What a difference 24 hours makes. What did happen to the Santorum campaign?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The grooves are cut deeply in this race. Rick Santorum has a base of support, and the most conservative evangelical wing of the party but has not been able to expand beyond that and Illinois is a state where those voters simply are not present in the kind of numbers he needs to compete, as 58 percent of the vote was not evangelical and in no states so far. In no state with an exit poll has Santorum won more than 31 percent of voters who are not evangelical. He is competing among too narrow bandwidth in the Republican Party to threaten Romney for the nomination.
CAIN: Which makes me wonder. I know in a moment we'll have Hogan Gidley campaign manager talking and going to disagree with this but we have our numbers guy, Ron Brownstein --
O'BRIEN: You do it by hand on loose-leaf paper?
CAIN: This is my opinion, my perception, the fat lady may not be singing but standing off to the side of the stage warming up ready to walk out.
BROWNSTEIN: The challenge is Santorum is not strong enough to overcome Romney's advantage, but Romney has not proven he's strong enough to drive Santorum from the field, because there are a number of states on the calendar that tilt toward the voters that favor Santorum, which Santorum could win starting in May. The only plausible argument is we're going to deny Romney a first ballot nomination and see what happens, because right now it seems difficult to imagine -- O'BRIEN: Let's see what Hogan Gidley says is the plausible direction. It's nice to see you. Good morning. What is your analysis? You heard from Ron Brownstein. What do you say?
HOGAN GIDLEY, NATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SANTORUM PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Where to start? Ron, I love you to death, but there are a lot of things left to happen.
O'BRIEN: Here it comes.
GIDLEY: That's right. There are a lot of thing still left to happen in this race. Louisiana is the halfway point. We haven't even finished the first half. We have a whole second half to go, prepared to go the distance, we've structured our campaign that way. We've got a low burn rate, we're prepared to go on into the other states.
O'BRIEN: What happened in Illinois, would you say? What went wrong?
GIDLEY: Illinois is a tailor-made state for Mitt Romney. It's a hugely moderate to liberal state. And it's Obama's home state, and of course Mitt Romney is going to play well. We continue to do well amongst conservatives and the primary because Rick Santorum has taken the message and resonating with people. What does it say about Mitt Romney to spend $13 for every vote he gets? We spend $3. That either makes him a horrible businessman or a horrible candidate, and that's how this is playing out now.
O'BRIEN: What does it say about your conservative support with the exit polls? The categories when you look at them that went for Mitt Romney different I think that we've seen in some times in the past -- 30,000 plus was Mitt Romney, true conservative also for Mitt Romney, support the Tea Party, Catholics, Mitt Romney. Those are categories Rick Santorum used to win fairly handily.
GIDLEY: Well you're trying to put several things into a box. I can walk out of a polling place and say I'm Mickey Mouse but that doesn't make it so. A lot of people across this country and you've seen some of the other states who are more conservative than Illinois that have come out strongly for Rick Santorum. What does it say about Mitt Romney that he can't lock this thing up? He's got the establishment money. He's got the establishment support. He's the establishment candidate. But for some reason, and we saw this starting to build in 2010, conservatives are refusing to be force-fed a candidate hand selected by a minority moderate wing of the party.
O'BRIEN: So Ron Brownstein, Hogan keeps saying, what does it say about Mitt Romney? What does it say about Mitt Romney? Is this a derail Romney as opposed to let's try to get Rick Santorum elected?
BROWNSTEIN: Realistically they can hope is deny him a first ballot nomination because they're not going to overcome him. The big question for Santorum if you can only win in states dominated by evangelical Christians, if you can't win more than about a third of anybody else in the Republican Party in any state how can you make the case you are a more viable nominee and appealing more broadly within the party. Romney is having trouble winning the most voters in the GOP, but Santorum is having more trouble reaching beyond that vanguard.
CAIN: That's key what Ron just said. Hogan might say Illinois is tailor made for Mitt Romney. In order for Rick Santorum to deny Mitt Romney the nomination he has to win some states that are tailored to Mitt Romney like California and New Jersey. What's going to happen in those states?
O'BRIEN: What is the strategy, Hogan? We'll give you the final word this morning.
GIDLEY: Those states while they vote more moderate in the general election, the conservative base in those states is very strong. So we plan to do very well moving into Louisiana. We obviously have Pennsylvania and Wisconsin coming up, those are big states for us as well.
Look, we are playing extremely well in these states. Rick Santorum has taken that message, it's resonating. The support is growing. And for you go is to pretend like he doesn't win anything but evangelical voters is ridiculous. He won a state in Pennsylvania and won very well there and won in democrat districts 70 percent Democrat districts for congress. So his appeal is broad, it's just trying to be pigeonholed into this. The conservative side of this ballot is being split up by Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. The fact we're even competing with Mitt Romney is absolutely amazing at this point. It's just a great American story.
O'BRIEN: Hogan Gidley, nice to have you. Thanks for starting our morning with "The Jackson 5," by the way, we appreciate that.
GIDLEY: You're welcome. I do it every morning.
O'BRIEN: I might start that, too.
We have to get to other headlines. Let's get right to Christine. Good morning to you.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. We're following a developing story south of the border this morning. Mexican officials assessing damage from yesterday's 7.4 magnitude earthquake. It shook buildings and rattled nerves in Mexico city some 200 miles from the epicenter. In Guerrero state reports as many as 800 homes damaged or destroyed. Amazingly only 11 injuries reported.
President Obama's oldest daughter Malia was on a class trip in Mexico when the quake struck. The White House says she's OK and was never in any danger.
A brand new witness in the controversial shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Records confirm Martin's girlfriend was on the phone with him minutes before he was killed by George Zimmerman. She says martin told her Zimmerman was following him and she told him to run. The Martin family says that testimony proves Zimmerman did not act in self-defense. Coming up in about 10 minutes the latest in this investigation with the president of the National Urban League.
The Keystone pipeline extension back on the fast track or part of it. Sources telling CNN the president wants to cut the red tape for a part of the expansion of that oil pipeline. The part where the green arrow is pointing the part of the pipeline the president wants to expedite. The goal, develop domestic energy sources, bring down oil prices in the long-term, that's the hope, and maybe in an election year defuse some of the rhetoric on the campaign trail coming from some of the GOP candidates. At issue, though, still a big chunk of that pipeline that has to go through fragile terrain in Nebraska, terrain that happens to be right on top of an important aquifer.
A daily dose of aspirin might significantly reduce the risk of cancer and prevent tumors. Researcher found people who aspirin regularly took it for five years reduced their risk of developing cancer by, get this, 37 percent. But experts warn that the drug can cause dangerous side effects like stomach bleeding.
And a milestone for twitter today, exactly six years ago on March 21st, 2006, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey posted the first ever tweet. It read "Just setting up my Twitter." "Twitter" minus the vowels was the original code name for the product. Twitter was publicly launched less than four months later. Billions of tweets later, Twitter is the most popular platform in the world, averages more than a billion tweets in less than a week. Soledad.
O'BRIEN: I am not surprised. Christine, thank you very much.
Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Syria's look at the threat from Iran. Could an attack on its nuclear sites make Iran more dangerous? We're going to talk this morning to Congressman Peter King who is holding a hearing on that today. He'll join us for a preview of that hearing.
Also, we told you about the new iPad, how it's been apparently overheating. "Consumer Reports" takes a look at some of those reports about overheating, the verdict is straight ahead.
And our get real focuses on Rick Santorum's sweater vests. It can now be yours, available in one color only. We leave with you Ron Brownstein's playlist. Always with the Bruce Springsteen.
BROWNSTEIN: Great album.
O'BRIEN: You say that every time. "Land of Hopes and Dreams." You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back after this break.
O'BRIEN: New developments to get to in the shooting death of 17- year-old Trayvon Martin. A Florida jury is investigating what happened along with the FBI and department of justice. Martin was unarmed when he was shot and killed in a neighborhood near Orlando, Florida by a man named George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Last night a rally with the NAACP. Mark Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League. It's nice to have you. MARK MORIAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Good morning, Soledad. Great to be with you.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, we appreciate that. The Urban League is a number of organizations calling for more people to sort of enter this case, the FBI, the Department of Justice. Do you think police are intentionally not doing the job on this case?
MORIAL: The civil rights leadership is unified on this case, because the facts just strike out and they shock you. This innocent boy who was minding his own business effectively in this neighborhood, but you know what strikes me, Soledad, is that the police very quick l quickly sought to classify this as self-defense. And to me that violates every established protocol of a clear investigation. So not only are we saying investigate and bring justice for Trayvon Martin and bring George Zimmerman, charges against George Zimmerman, I also say the actions of the police department need to be carefully examined by the Justice Department.
O'BRIEN: The police department has said a lot of the reasons that they had not arrested George Zimmerman is because of the stand your ground law.
MORIAL: Let me tell you what the police did is they quickly sought to classify this. They didn't do what police are expected to do in cases like this, which is to say we reserve judgment until such time as there can be a complete and thorough investigation by our department, by the grand jury, and let the process go forward. But for, I think, the actions of civil rights organizations and the media shedding light on this case, this may have been a case that could have been easily swept under the rug.
O'BRIEN: It's going to be hard to prove racial bias, which is if you're going to prosecute this under the federal hate crimes law, you're going to have to prove that.
BROWNSTEIN: I don't think it would be hard to prove that at all. I think the language Mr. Zimmerman uses at 1:52 in the recording falls under the guidance of our hate crime laws. This is the two words he uses.
O'BRIEN: So let's play a little bit of this recording. And of course we're not able to play the part of the recording where he breaks into a whisper and that's really what people have been talking about. I want to play a little bit of his earlier call to 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH CAPTAIN: Hey, we've had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there's a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Further on in this 911 call, at two minutes and 21 seconds, he curses and says a racial slur, and it's whispered, it's hard to hear, but I could hear it pretty clearly when I listened to it on the recording.
MORIAL: I think people the hate crime aspect of it is important, but you have a basic fundamental murder, which may have taken place, and I'm saying "may" because I don't want to preempt the authorities. And a hate crime can occur with an underlying crime, and that's usually how it takes place.
But look, this is a young man, 17-year-old, who was where he was, had a right to be, on a public street, and I am so, so shocked at what's coming out about this alleged neighborhood captain. We had a neighborhood captain program that was significant, highly successor when I was mayor of mayor of New Orleans and everything he did beyond making a call broke neighborhood protocol.
O'BRIEN: The guy who was a sponsor of the stand your ground law said this, "Nothing in standard ground authorizes a person to pursue and confront. This makes it entirely different." There are people in the Justice Department who said anonymously and legal scholars they think hate crimes laws are just hard to prove.
CAIN: At the federal level that's true, requires you to get inside someone's head. John's correct if we have audio evidence that allows you inside someone's head to their motivation it helps. As someone slow to give an opinion on this case I want to see evidence, Mayor Morial's opinion is spot on. There's still a hole in the time line. We don't know when Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were standing face-to-face and how deadly force was escalated. But at some point the burden shifts to George Zimmerman, is the one that ended up shooting Trayvon Martin and self-defense is something he has to prove.
MORIAL: That's true.
CAIN: The police department gave him the benefit of the doubt.
O'BRIEN: You do know a little bit about what happened. The girlfriend, who is literally on the phone with trayvon martin is having a conversation in that sort of time period that everybody's looking and here is a little bit of what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he lost the man, and then the man, Trayvon said the man still was following him. I asked him to run and Trayvon said he's not going to run. Trayvon said he ain't going to run like that, he was going to walk fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNSTEIN: We know from the other recording that someone, not Zimmerman, was screaming help before the gun went off.
O'BRIEN: And then the screams for help stopped.
MORIAL: And I think what you have is there were two other women, you have additional evidence that is coming out that, had the police department conducted an investigation and not rushed to judgment, they would have had this available to them before they make a determination this was self-defense.
So we wait for the state's attorney. We encourage the state's attorney to conduct a thorough, complete and fair investigation. We'll be watching them closely as well as the Justice Department. So this case is going to continue to attract attention. And I think leaders on the ground in Florida, and leaders nationally, and I think people in America who have just, love and favor justice have to keep a close eye on this case. As a father of a young son, it just shocks me that this can happen in the 21st century.
BROWNSTEIN: In the end we're not going to settle this case in a TV studio in New York as you know so what do you want at this point? What do you want from authorities at each level? How do you want them to proceed?
MORIAL: I think the state's attorney should conduct a thorough and complete investigation that I'm confident should lead to criminal charges against George Zimmerman. What those charges are could be a number of things.
Secondly, I think that the watchful eye of the Justice Department and the civil rights division should keep a close eye on the state proceedings and reserve the right to bring civil rights charges. But in addition to that, I'd like an examination of the police department there in Stanford, Florida.
O'BRIEN: I think there will be a close examination of what the police did in this case, to me which is very baffling.
MORIAL: Congratulations. Glad to see you back.
O'BRIEN: It's nice to be back. We liked having you with us this morning. We hope they are able to bring justice in this case.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Iran's supreme leader says the country will strike back if it's attacked. How real is the threat? We'll talk with Congressman Peter King in a moment.
Plus our get real this morning, the sleeveless revolution. Yes, men, I'm speaking to you. Will Cain, think how good you would look in this.
CAIN: You will never, ever, ever see me come on this set.
O'BRIEN: In is what you're getting from Christmas from me this year, Rick Santorum's famous sweater vest. We leave you with rush, "Tom Sawyer."
O'BRIEN: Marvin Gaye. This is your selection this morning. You're get no love on screen for it.
O'BRIEN: Let's get to our "Get Real" this morning. I love this story. More than 3,000 Santorum sweater vests have been sold. Hogan Gidley tweeted "The warmer temperatures make this difficult to believe, but the Rick Santorum has sold more than 3,000 sweater vests. Fear Rick's vests."
If you take a look at the website, you can go online, and for a contribution of $100 or more, you get a gray sweater vest, only one color, and you fill out obviously the appropriate paperwork on the website, but when you get this wrapped and delivered at Christmastime from me with love.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
CAIN: That's a great graphic, 300,000, Romney. I think Santorum is winning that category in the sweater vest fund-raising.
JOHN FUGELSANG, COMEDIAN: As a comedian, I have to say it's always inspiring seeing homophobes who have a large collection of multicolored sweater vests. But I understand Romney is selling us loafers without tassels.
BROWNSTEIN: We're at the point in the race where they're ransacking the attic for ways of making money. It's beginning to get dry.
O'BRIEN: In terms of cash. They're doing well. Hey, Romney folks might be like, hey, what can we sell? Jeans! That could work. It could work.
All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney wins in President Obama's home turf. New exit poll numbers could spell trouble for the president, especially about the economy. We're going to talk about that this morning.
And one of the biggest mysteries of the last century hasn't been solved. There's a new hunt for Amelia Earhart's plane, 75 years after that plane disappeared and she disappeared as well. There's an old photo that's giving new hope.
And a glam rocker's dream line-up. "Kiss" is teaming up with another classic. Details of the match up straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: We go from Rush to B.B. King.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two mornings in a row.
O'BRIEN: A lot of B.B. King on this show in the last couple of days. "Let The Good Times Roll" Steve Israel's playlist. The congressman is going to be joining us in just a few moments.
First though, got to get a look at the headlines. Christine Romans has that for us. Hi, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.
Following breaking news this morning, new information on the suspect surrounded by police in France right now. He is wanted in connection with several deadly shootings over the past week including one at a Jewish school where three kids were killed.
According to Reuters, a prison director in Afghanistan says the gunman escaped at Kandahar jail in 2008 during an Afghan insurgent attack. French authorities expect him to surrender at any moment.
The U.S. army sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians is likely to be charged with homicide tomorrow. The attorney for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales expects other charges to be filed, too, and says the case could take two years to prosecute.
Lawyer, John Henry Browne, telling reporters he doesn't see much evidence against his client so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR SGT. BALES: I heard what the allegations are, right, and I'm a defense lawyer so I deal with the evidence and I don't know about the evidence in this case. I don't know that the government's going to prove much. There's no forensic evidence. There are no confessions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Sergeant Bales is being held in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His attorney has met with him twice this week for a total of 11 hours.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praising 11 countries for significantly reducing their oil purchases from Iran. The list of countries includes Japan and several European nations. Clinton says other countries that have not reduced buying oil from Iran could face sanctions.
At 7:45 Eastern this morning, Soledad O'Brien will talk to U.S. Congressman Peter King about his investigative hearing on the potential terror threat from Iran.
The new iPad is hot, hot, hot, maybe too hot, though. Just as Apple announced it sold 3 million new HD iPads in just four days, people started complaining the device heats up way more than the previous version.
"Consumer Reports" did a study. Comparing the iPad 2 and the new HD iPad, the new one heated up to 116 degrees at one point during the test, 13 degrees hotter than iPad 2.
Apple says the iPad operates, quote, "well within our thermal specifications." They advised anyone having any problems to contact Apple Care. And head bangers, Soledad, you're one of them I know. Rejoice. Two of the biggest hard rock bands will tour together for the first time since the 1980s, "Kiss" and "Motley Crew," clowning around together in L.A. yesterday to announce the tour they called "The Tour," Soledad. Starts in Bristol, Virginia.
O'BRIEN: What is the average age? How old are those guys?
ROMANS: Doesn't matter if you have sunglasses, big hair and all that makeup, you're ageless, right? They're going to play 40 days in North America until the end of the summer. Tickets go on sale this Friday, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: That's great. When they come to The Garden, I am so definitely going.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell which one is "Kiss" anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something about 40 days and 40 nights --
O'BRIEN: OK, let's turn to politics, Mitt Romney picking up new momentum at the GOP race heads into Louisiana this weekend. He scored a big win in Illinois last night, the political home turf of President Obama, of course.
Romney picked up 47 percent of the vote to Santorum's 35 percent and last night, both men directed their attacks at the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After years of too many apologies and not enough jobs, historic drops in income and historic highs in gas prices. It's time to say this word, enough. We've had enough.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is one candidate in this race who can go out and make that contrast, with the current occupant of the White House, someone who has a track record of being for you, being for limited government, being for solutions that empower people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Democratic Congressman Steve Israel of New York joins us this morning. He's the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Nice to see, sir. Thank you for going with us.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you. "Motley Crue," sounds like elements of the Republican caucus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right out of the gates, Steve. You're right out of the gates.
O'BRIEN: Really, I haven't even formulated the question yet. Let's first get your thoughts on Governor Romney's win last night. Analysis of the race.
ISRAEL: Well, my analysis is first of all he should be congratulated for that win. Now we go on to the Pennsylvania primaries, where Senator Santorum is gearing up, that is his home state.
It seems like every time that Governor Romney thinks that it is the ninth inning, two outs, two strikes and he's got the lead the game goes into extra innings. This game is going into extra innings.
Romney and Santorum are going to continue to devour each other. They can't seal the deal. Mitt Romney can't even seal the deal with himself because there are so many Mitt Romneys.
The president is going to continue talking about creating jobs, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses and strengthening and deepening this economic recovery.
O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk about the economic recovery, because in our exit poll we asked this question. Is the nation's economy starting to recover, and 46 percent, the bottom line, 46 percent say it's getting worse.
The 34 percent said it's staying the same, starting to recover is kind of a wimpy 20 percent. How concerned are you about those numbers when many people have said and you might be included in that many people have said that re-election for President Obama is really going to depend on that starting to recover feel.
ISRAEL: Well, I'm more concerned about actually creating job growth and supporting small businesses, and continuing this recovery than what the polls say. Secondly, the poll, those exit polls are a subset of a subset of voters.
Those exit polls are Republican voters in a Republican primary in Illinois so I'm not sure it reflects the depth and breadth of the electorate. Third, when you contrast the actual policies what, Democrats are trying to do.
Including House Democratic candidates as problem solvers with the rhetoric of Romney and Santorum and the Republicans, one thing is clear. Under their policies, we lost 700,000 jobs a month three years ago, under Democratic policies, we at last month we picked up over 200,000 jobs.
Now, 200,000 jobs isn't where everybody wants to be, but I'd rather be going in that direction than losing 700,000 jobs a month under these Republican policies.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Israel, good morning. Ron Brownstein from "The National Journal."
ISRAEL: Good morning.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One thing that has been consistent in this race is that Mitt Romney from state to state has run best among better educated more affluent voters in suburbs President Obama is counting on to win in the general election and what you're counting on is to recapture seats you lost in 2010.
How do you rate Governor Romney as a competitor for those white color votes that are becoming increasingly important to Democrats?
ISRAEL: Well, you're absolutely right that in our drive for 25 seats to win the majority in the House of Representatives and protect Medicare, we have got to win those fairly moderate, independent suburban communities that we won in 2006 and 2008.
So we need to focus on those communities. Now, Governor Romney in a moment of time may be doing well in those communities but it depends on which Governor Romney is campaigning in those communities.
In those communities, the debate is not necessarily going to be between Governor Romney and President Obama. The debate is going to be between Governor Romney and Governor Romney. He has said every different thing to everybody in those communities, and I think in those communities where, Ron, you have so many independent voters, they want two things.
They want straight shooters and they want problem solvers. They don't want the typical politician who says whatever he thinks he needs to say in order to get votes and that is absolutely what Mitt Romney has been about and will continue to be about.
He will say whatever he thinks he needs to say to win. There are two, three, four Mitt Romneys. There is a multi polarity with Mitt Romney and those independent voters will be turned off by this kind of, those kinds of tactics.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Steve Israel joining us, a Democrat from New York. Nice to see you. Thank you for your time this morning.
ISRAEL: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Going to get to commercial break.
Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Iran already operating inside the U.S., is New York first on the list? We're talking to Congressman Peter King straight ahead this morning.
And a mystery that stumped historians and sparked co conspiracy theories. Some new possible clues in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after this.
O'BRIEN: My gosh, so this is what it the playlist has come to, people starting to submit their own school's victory march.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Huge points for creativity.
O'BRIEN: That is the Notre Dame victory march by the University of Notre Dame band. Representative Peter King is a Notre Dame Law School alum and he's currently chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
In less than two-hours, that committee is going to hold a hearing to examine Iran's capacity to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and also its links to the militant group, Hezbollah.
It comes one day after the president marks the Persian New Year with the direct message to the Iranian people about the country's suspected nuclear program. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That the Iranian government pursues irresponsible path, it will be welcomed once more among the community of nations. And the Iranian people will have greater opportunities to prosper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So how great and how immediate is a threat from Iran? Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has a very different message.
He warns Iran will not hesitate to strike back if it is attacked saying this, "We have said we do not have atomic weapons and will not build any. But if there is any attack by the enemies, whether it's the United States or the Zionist regime, we will attack them at the same level as they attack us."
Let's get right to Congressman King. He joins us from Washington, D.C. this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Your choice of music is very interesting. Let's begin with the threat.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: As we talk about Iran, how great is this threat from Iran, how immediate is the threat from Iran in your mind?
KING: Soledad, that is the purpose of the hearing. Our preliminary findings are that this could be a very, very significant threat. Now most Americans don't realize that Hezbollah has had agents and operatives in this country for many years.
The conventional wisdom among intelligence and law enforcement officials they were here for fundraising and facilitation and recruitment and not necessarily to carry out terrorist attacks.
However, we do know that a number of them have been trained as terrorists. So the question is, how quickly they could be made operational, and would they carry out an attack?
And based on what happened last October, when it turned out that Iran was planning to actually kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington and kill hundreds of Americans, the American intelligence community believes we are very much at risk for an attack by Iranian operatives, which would be Hezbollah.
That is a terrorist trained force in this country that really is the "A" team of international terrorism, far more sophisticated than al Qaeda.
O'BRIEN: What is the goal of the hearings today to be able to articulate those potential attacks or take it further than that?
KING: We have experts coming in including from the NYPD showing what we believe the extent of the threat is, how real it is, what we should be doing and it's important to educate Americans and members of Congress, most of whom are not aware Iran has a significant number.
We estimate in the hundreds maybe thousands of Hezbollah agents here in this country and again, especially if things intensify between Israel and Iran, between the United States and Iran.
Could Iran take pre-emptive action in this country? So Hezbollah -- what we should be doing and maybe this would deter what I believe is really unbalanced and irrational attacks upon groups like the NYPD who are trying to act pre-emptively.
BROWNSTEIN: Congressman King, good morning. Ron Brownstein from "The National Journal." Beyond the terrorist threat, "The New York Times" reported a couple of days ago that the war games that the Pentagon has suggested that if Israel attacks Iran that the U.S. would be drawn in to a military conflict in the region. What's your assessment of that conclusion?
KING: Yes, I have to watch how I say this. There's no doubt that if Israel does attack Iran, this is not going to be easy. It's not going to be (inaudible). And again, the U.S. could find itself implicated or involved in it.
Having said that, I don't think we can rule out an Israeli attack. I think we have to keep all the pressure out there. Sometimes the president has sent mixed signals. I think in recent weeks, his measure has gotten more consistent to Iran.
But, again, the fact that there can be complications is not a reason why Israel shouldn't do it or we shouldn't do it. We have to make sure whatever we do that it is going to work, that we know about it and realize that Iran cannot be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Peter King joining us this morning. Nice to see you sir. Thank you.
KING: Soledad, thank you.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, a new clue sparks a new bid to find Amelia Earhart's plane. Hillary Clinton is paying attention. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
O'BRIEN: That is off of Will's playlist, "Dire Straits." OK, so there's a possible new clue in the 75-year-old mystery. Investigators are looking at this old photograph. Can we show that photograph?
BROWNSTEIN: Not quite as old.
O'BRIEN: Cold. It could help them figure out where Amelia Earhart's plane went down. She, of course, was trailblazer of her time. A female aviator, incredibly unusual of course, breaking barriers left and right.
Hillary Clinton announced yesterday a new effort to try to figure out what happened to Amelia Earhart. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: She embodied the spirit of an America coming of age and increasingly confident, ready to lead in a quite uncertain and dangerous world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. So here's the history and there's the photograph right there. This is a picture taken in October of 1937. It's a photo of a shoreline of an island called (inaudible) and there's a blurry object that's sticking out there.
But they've circled the blurry object. People have said that blurry object is consistent with the strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra, which was the plane that Amelia Earhart was driving.
And they already had some evidence that possibly her plane may have gone down in this area. Her last radio transmission showed that she thought that she was lost. So it will be interesting to see what happens next.
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: It's an amazing story and it's not so much a new clue as it is new funding and a new high profile endorsement of this investigation.
But it's going to be terrific. It's going to teach a new whole generation of children about Amelia Earhart. I'm launching an investigation to find people who paid to see Hillary Swank's Amelia Earhart movie.
O'BRIEN: People will start watching that Amelia Earhart movie. I think it's fascinating. My daughter who is 11 was in here yesterday. She wanted to talk about Amelia Earhart. I like that a new generation of girls and young men as well.
CAIN: The landing gear was sticking out of the water?
CAIN: It took 60 years to locate landing gear sticking out of the water?
O'BRIEN: I think it's more of an effort now because in July they're going to start bringing in underwater gear and so the photo has been around since 1937.
CAIN: So we'll know, right. Gosh, we ought to locate that and look down there.
O'BRIEN: We, being scientists who say they'll do a 10-day mission.
FUGELSANG: They believe it's one area of this barrier reef. They know what they're looking for. I guess, the big hope is that if it is the plane, there may be bone fragments to DNA test.
BROWNSTEIN: It is amazing how many stories captivate people decades later.
O'BRIEN: They had bones that they thought were bones of Amelia Earhart potentially and they did testing on them and they were inconclusive. But, of course, DNA testing is so much better now if they hadn't mislabelled and miscategorise the bones and lost them in the 1940s a lot of that could have been solved.
CAIN: It's amazing is that Soledad's daughter, born long after this mystery has taken place, knows who Amelia Earhart is and will daughters in the future be so obsessed?
O'BRIEN: I think so.
All right, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, breaking news. We're going to continue to talk about that suspect who's cornered in France. He's wanted for a string of killings including three children shot and killed at a Jewish school. Latest developments on that story.
The United States Postal Service is more than $5 billion in debt. It wants to solve that debt problem by delivering more junk mail. We'll talk about that solution straight ahead on STARTING POINT.