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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Death of Trayvon Martin Continues to Garner National Attention; Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Health Care Reform Law; Study: 33 Is The Happiest Age; Gingrich Campaign Gets Facelift; Health Care On Trial; Budget Debate

Aired March 28, 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: Good morning. welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning is Trayvon Martin's parents who are taking their call for justice right to Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FULTON: Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The family is going to join us live this morning.

Also, some new information about just who stopped the local police for arresting George Zimmerman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this story, he was screaming "they're going to take us down."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: This is a flight in air at 30,000 feet on JetBlue. A pilot having a complete mental collapse. Can you imagine if you're a passenger on the flight? That is absolutely terrifying. And I have to say, again, right, again, someone having a mental collapse on a plane. We're going to talk about what happened there.

And then, the last word at the final day of arguments at the Supreme Court over President Obama's healthcare law. Jeff Toobin said yesterday that this law could be in great, great danger. I think he used the word "train wreck." We'll talk about that as well.

It's Wednesday, March 28, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: That's off my playlist, the Pointer Sisters "Automatic." how long has it been since you've heard the Pointer Sisters people?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Never.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: Has that been that long for you, Bishop?

O'BRIEN: Even the Bishop, it's been a while. We welcome Bishop T.D. Jakes to our panel. I hate to show, this is the galleys, but the book is out called "Let it Go -- Forgive so you can be Forgiven." Those who know me know I'm not a forgiving person, so we'll have a long conversation about how we'll make that work. Also John Fugelsang is with us, a political comedian, and Will Cain is with us as well, columnist at TheBlaze.com.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is new information to tell you about that puts a new twist on the Trayvon Martin case. ABC News is reporting the lead homicide detective investigating the shooting wanted to file manslaughter charges against George Zimmerman from day one, but sources tell ABC news the state's attorney's office says there was not enough evidence to make an arrest. And this revelation is coming the same day Trayvon's parents were in Washington, D.C., demanding justice for their son. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon is your son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

FULTON: A lot of people can relate to our situation, and it breaks their heart just like it breaks mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning, Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, along with their attorney Benjamin Crump, and also Kristal High, the editor in chief of Politic365.com. They're going to be honoring Trayvon tonight. But first I want to talk to Sybrina and Tracy. It's been a month now, how are you doing?

FULTON: I'm taking one day at a time. I have strong faith in god and I know that everything is going to be fine. It's just like trying times right now, and it still hurts us. We still cry. We're praying a lot and a lot of people are praying for us, so that helps a lot.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure a lot of people are praying for you. As you were talking Bishop Jakes, who is sitting with me, was nodding his head yes, that you're praying and that's holding to you together.

Tracy, an ABC report of an investigator who right after the shooting felt that George Zimmerman should be arrested and should be charged with manslaughter. He was overruled by the state's attorney what shade not to charge him, there wasn't enough evidence. What do you make of that report, sir?

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: It's obvious that the investigator who's experienced in what he does saw fit that an arrest needed to be made, and to hear that the state attorney's office said that there was not enough evidence is just heart-wrenching because that lets me know from the outset that something wasn't right about the investigation.

O'BRIEN: You, I know, have met with the special prosecutor, Angela Corey. She told me that she's been trying to answer all the questions that you have as she's spent the last couple of days trying to get her team to look closely at every aspect of this investigation. What kinds of questions have you had for her? What do you want her to explain to you?

MARTIN: Why was our son gunned down? Why wasn't this individual arrested? Why was evidence not processed? Why wasn't the right thing done from the beginning in this case?

O'BRIEN: And why do you think, what is the answer to those questions? Why do you think in your mind the right thing hasn't been done?

MARTIN: I really don't know. I really don't know what ties Zimmerman has to any individual. All I know is that my son was carried away in a body bag and Zimmerman was left to go and shower and sleep in his bed.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Crump, if I can ask you some questions as you've been discussing over the last day or so, there has been some information has been leaked about Trayvon's school record, his suspensions, things like that. Of course those things are protected by federal and state law because Trayvon was a minor. Who do you believe is leaking this information and to what end?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Whoever is leaking it, it is a smear attempt, to get us off focus, to demonize and blame the victim, Soledad. The real issue here is George Zimmerman, an armed vigilante disobeyed the police that night, and starting to pursue Trayvon to have this what we now know fatal encounter, and that is the important thing. Nothing matters but what happened on February 26. We know Trayvon was never arrested, never suspended for anything violent and never been suspended for anything criminal.

And if he experimented with marijuana with his friends, even that there is irrelevant, and it is just the police trying to make him look bad while they say oh, don't listen to what Zimmerman did. Forget that 911 tape. Forget he disobeyed us. And this armed vigilante can't get away with this because what message does that send to the world.

O'BRIEN: Do you think race in your mind was a factor, no doubt to you?

CRUMP: Well, I certainly think when you listen to the 911 tapes, that's why he was suspicious to Zimmerman. Now why the police ask the higher ups accept his story above Trayvon and not do a background check, not a drug and alcohol analysis on a person who just killed a kid who was unarmed with Skittles, and don't do a background and drug and alcohol analysis, and do that on the kid, it just doesn't add up. That's why people are outraged and people are rallying. They're saying enough is enough. How long is it going to take before he's just arrested.

We're not asking for an eye for an eye. We want him arrested and equal justice under the law. We don't want no more, no less.

O'BRIEN: So I talked to a guy yesterday on the show named Joe Oliver and he described himself as a friend of George Zimmerman's and he's African-American, he's like I fully get the conversations that are happening around race in this story, but in his mind this had nothing to do with race. I'll play a little bit of our interview for you that we had yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE OLIVER, FRIEND OF GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I understand completely the furor and anger that's out there over this case. If I didn't know George Zimmerman I'd be right out there, too, but I do know George and I do know the portrayal that young black men have had. I experienced that growing up. I get that. I understand that. But in this one spark incident, that wasn't the case. Race had nothing to do with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Tracy, do you believe in your mind that race had everything to do with this case?

MARTIN: I believe so, and it's just amazing to me how Zimmerman's friend can go on not knowing my son, not knowing the circumstances. If he listened to the 911 tape, it clearly states that Zimmerman was profiling my son. So for this individual to go on and say that George was not a racist, maybe he wasn't a racist to him while they sat around and talked, but clearly on the tape he was profiling my son, and that leads me to believe that he in fact was a racist.

O'BRIEN: Sybrina, I'm going to ask you a question that is really a terrible thing I think to have to ask a mother, but I know you got Trayvon's body back and that he's been buried. And a lot of the conversation was about injuries to George Zimmerman, bruises that he had, broken nose, that he had cuts and lacerations that he had. Tell me about the injuries that Trayvon had. Did it look like he had been the victim of a beating in some way?

FULTON: I couldn't absolutely tell that, because it was difficult for me to see my son's dead body. When I did see him, it was after he was fixed up, so I did not see him prior to him being handled by the funeral home. I have no confidence that my son chased this guy. I really believe that this guy chased my son and my son was protecting himself. My son was exercising his stand-your-ground rule.

O'BRIEN: What do you think, Tracy, that ultimately justice looks like? Is it the arrest? Is it a conviction? Is it people having a conversation? I know the story has gotten much bigger than literally about your son. It's also sort of about black young men and how they're treated by the police in this country as a whole. What is justice?

MARTIN: To me justice would be starting with an arrest, then with the conviction, and then being sentenced to -- for the crime that he has committed. A crime has been committed here. Everyone's trying to turn the focus off of George Zimmerman and trying to make George Zimmerman become the victim, when in fact Trayvon is the victim. Trayvon's family is the victim. We have a dead 17-year-old son that life will never be replaced, and you have these people out trying to make Zimmerman as to be the victim.

O'BRIEN: Kristal, I'll give you the last question this morning, if I may, and I know Politic365 is honoring Trayvon for being a game changer, an agent of social change. How do you think that people harness the anger, the energy of all the marches and all the conversations and turn that into something that's productive and positive out of this young man's life and it doesn't fester and become something who horrible?

KRISTAL HIGH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF POLITIC365.COM: I think it starts with recognizing how game changing this experience actually is. You know, we face a paradox in this country, when it comes to young people and people of color, whereas you know, on one hand we face these high unemployment rates and under-education rates, and often end up on the wrong side of the health care and digital divide.

But then you think about the stellar leadership in our communities, you look the work of folks like Marc Morial with the National Urban League or AT&T's Tanya Lombard. So I think uplifting Trayvon's name, making sure we recognize that he stands at the pinnacle of what it means to be a young person of color, vibrant, full of life, so much promise, so much potential. And he also represents the pitfalls of being a young person of color.

And so I think that recognizing his legacy, his potential, who he could have been, what he aspired to be, and taking this energy, taking some of the anger, taking some of the frustration and channeling that in a way that lets people say hey, he is our Arab spring. Trayvon Martin is our call to action. Let's not have violence beget more violence but let's take some protective measures of where we want to see our communities go. Let's go to the hill. Let's go to our local community leaders. Let's go to state legislatures. Let's really get civically engaged in a way that's positive and continue to drive change in a progressive manner.

O'BRIEN: Kristal High is the editor-in-chief of politics365, Benjamin Crump is the attorney for the Martin family, and Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are Trayvon's parents. I thank you for talking with us. we genuinely appreciate your time. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to two House Democrats. There was that congressional forum I was just talking about that Trayvon's parents attended. We'll talk to Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver straight ahead. Tomorrow we'll have a town hall, we're shooting it tomorrow and it will be on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern. It's called "Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America." I'm hosting the event. You can watch it on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

If you'd like to be part of the studio audience on Thursday, though, go right to our Web site, and until 9:00 this morning you can go to CNN.com/startingpoint and you can register to join the audience as well.

We'll also later this morning talk to T.D. Jakes. The bishop is here as part of the panel because all of the questions bring up the issue of forgiveness. I just don't know how, you hear the pain in every word the parents say. How do you move on? How does a community move on? Is it even possible? All that is straight ahead this morning.

First we've got to get to headlines, and Christine Romans has that for us. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Some terrifying moments on a JetBlue plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it down!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A pilot put in a choke hold, restrained by passengers on a trip from New York to Las Vegas, the pilot, after he suffered an apparent mental breakdown in the middle of a flight. You can hear him ranting about the Middle East and a bomb and the plane going down, all on this video here. That's when a group of passengers who were on their way, by the way, to a security conference, jumped into action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGE KAPCHITS, JETBLUE PASSENGER: I saw about two or three guys right next to him jump up and another four guys rush right past him towards the front of the plane.

DAVID GONZALEZ, JETBLUE PASSENGER: He started to curse at me, hey, you better pray, Iraq and Iran. And so I said you know what? I'm going to show you what Iraq and Iran is, and I took him in a choke hold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Take a look at the images the pilot being wheeled off that plane, restrained and in a stretcher, before he was taken away in an ambulance. The co-pilot quick thinking somehow got him out of the cockpit, locked the door behind him originally so he could not get in the cockpit again. Newt Gingrich laying off about a third of his staff, including his campaign manager, cutting back his campaign appearances. He says it's a change in strategy to make it to the GOP convention in Tampa, but it is fueling speculation this morning he may be dropping out of the race, and that's what a majority of Republican voters want to see. A new CNN/ORC poll says 60 percent of them say the former speaker should get out of the race now.

Coming up, Soledad is going to talk to Gingrich communications director Joe DeSantis about the new development of the Gingrich campaign.

Gas prices rising for 19 days in a row, the national average now $3.91 a gallon, up 17 cents just this month according to AAA. And more than half of you traveling Americans out there say if gas prices rise at least another 26 cents you're going to be making some changes to your summer vacation plans this year because of the high cost.

Get out your dollar bills. The mega millions jackpot now bigger than ever. No one picked the winners in last night's drawing for $363 million. So the jackpot goes up to $476 million for Friday. That would be the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. And Soledad I just put in $10 with Dean and the floor crew. But I also have the statistic for you, you are 18 to 120 times more likely to die from a flesh eating bacteria than win the lottery. It's a $10 risk I'm willing to take.

O'BRIEN: If I win I'm like pack up my office stuff and send it home.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, forget high school, forget your golden years. What age are we the happiest? There's a new study that has the magic number. I'll take a poll of the panelists and see if they agree.

Also today, final day of arguments over the president's health care law. We'll talk to Senator Jack Reed straight ahead. He's a Democrat who helped craft the law, along with Jeff Toobin, who yesterday was calling the thing a train wreck. We'll leave with you Senator Reed's playlist, a suggestion from his daughter Emily. It's Hannah Montana, so again a suggestion from his daughter's Emily, "Best of Both Worlds." I think that's the theme song from "The Hannah Montana Show." You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: That's U2's cover of "Instant Karma" off John's playlist.

So was it a train wreck for the Obama administration yesterday? That is how senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin described what was going down yesterday at the Supreme Court, and it looks like the fate of the individual mandate could be in jeopardy. Justices offered sharply divided views on the controversial provision that is at the heart of the 2010 federal health care reform bill.

Perhaps what is most telling so far is Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is usually the court's swing vote, expressing skepticism on the mandate's constitutionality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, SUPREME COURT: And here the government is saying that the federal government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act, and that is different from what we have in previous cases. That changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Today there's going to be arguments in the final two issues of the case, whether they can extend Medicaid to a larger pool and if the mandate is found unconstitutional, can the rest of the law survive? Joining us this morning talk about that, Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and a member of the committee which crafted the health care law, and CNN's senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin. We'll start with you, Senator Reed if we can. You heard Jeff Toobin describe this as a train wreck. Would you say that's how it's gone so far, sir?

SEN. JACK REED, (D) RHODE ISLAND: Not really. I think what yesterday demonstrated serious, hard questions to be asked, not unusual, typical on the Supreme Court argument. The real discussions I believe begin once the lawyers leave and the judges in their conference begin to talk about the law. I think they understand its historic importance of this case and I think they also understand the realities of this case.

Health care is 17 percent of our GDP. It's 60 percent of bankruptcies have a major factor of health care cost. So I think they are looking for a way to sustain this legislation, not to strike it down.

And I think also, too, they have to be conscious of what they might be doing in the future. There are people from generations who have spoken about Medicare as being in position of a tax for health care I don't want or don't need. That will pick up with great fervor if this decision is struck down and I think they have this broad historic context.

O'BRIEN: When you heard Donald Verrelli stumble, it was a hot mess, I want to play a little bit of the audio from his arguments where he started choking up a little bit. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD VERRELLI, U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Insurance has become the predominant means of paying for health care in this country. Insurance has become the predominant means of paying for health care in this country, for most Americans, for more than 80 percent of Americans, the insurance system does provide effective access. Excuse me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So he stops to take a drink of water, and a couple of minutes in, the other justices start peppering him with questions. Is this typical or did it seem to be atypical from what you know, Jeff?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not typical. It was awful. I mean that thing you quoted was his opening line to the justices. And you know these lawyers, they work for months to craft an opening line, something that will focus the justice's attention and that stumbling opening was how Verrilli started and -- ahem, excuse me, I'm having my own problems here which --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Oh, judge and be not judged, Bishop.

TOOBIN: Exactly, which is a good reason why I should not be solicitor general of the United States. But this is, it was a problem.

Now, you know, I don't want to overstate it. These justices, they know what they think about these issues. The lawyers I think really don't matter all that much. But you know you want to put your best foot forward and they didn't.

CAIN: Jeff, this is Will Cain. I want to try to make this clear to the audience what we heard yesterday and see if you agree with me. The justices were constantly asking the solicitor general for a limiting principle, if we allow you to do this what can't do you. And Scalia and Roberts used the example of food, and Alito used the example of burial insurance. And the mistake he made I think is the same mistake that the senator just made, with all due respect essentially responded with a policy argument instead of a legal argument. He never answered the question, where does your power end?

TOOBIN: Well and it was interesting, the person who really took on that question most enthusiastically was Stephen Breyer who in many respects took over the defense of the law from Donald Verrilli and said look, it's up to Congress to define the limiting principle. We have political checks.

If Jack Reed's constituents think he's doing a bad job and thinks he's overstating they'll throw him out of office. But it's not the Supreme Court's job to decide what the limits of what Congress should do are. And frankly, I thought that was a lot more persuasive than anything Donald Verrilli said in defense of the law.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask the question of Senator Reed. Let's say hypothetically this in fact is struck down. Can the bill live without the mandate? That's kind of the direction we're heading now. What happens next? REED: I don't assume that's the direction we're heading. I think --

O'BRIEN: I meant in terms of the conversation, not in terms of whether or not it would be struck down, sir.

REED: Again, I think that, I feel that the law will be sustained. I think Jeff said it very well, that these judges probably have a pretty good sense of what they're doing. They were pressing for a limiting principle but as Jeff said accurately, Justice Breyer pointed out that's sort of almost a case by case basis based on the legislation. So I think that they're going to give it fair consideration or I'm confident they'll uphold it.

I think what they not only decide but what they write in their opinions, and it will probably more than one opinion, will suggest, if there's ways to modify it, if there's ways to make it constitutionally permissible in its case they do strike it down. So at this juncture to talk about what's plan b, I think we have to wait for this decision. And I think we can't essentially also relieve them of the need to make a fundamentally and historic decision about the constitutionality of this case.

O'BRIEN: Senator Jack Reed joining us from the state of Rhode Island and Jeff Toobin, thank you very much.

REED: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Will Cain, which age were you the happiest?

CAIN: Right now, today, my birthday. I feel like a jerk mentioning your own birthday.

O'BRIEN: No, I love it.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Today a new study is out that says there's a certain age that is the happiest age. We'll poll everybody and see if they agree.

And in honor of Will Cain's 23rd birthday, we leave you once again with Willie Nelson, the only person he likes to highlight on this show. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our "Get Real" this morning is about the happiest age. Bishop, what do you think is the age at which people are most happy?

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, AUTHOR: Your 50s. It takes a while.

O'BRIEN: That would not be the answer the poll gave.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: The day before birth. O'BRIEN: And Will Cain says today because he is 37 today?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right.

O'BRIEN: OK, our get real, yes, 37 for Will. Mine was 26. I thought 26 was a great year.

CAIN: Your happiest?

O'BRIEN: Yes, that was definitely my happiest. A British web site, which is called "Friends Reunited," says that 70 percent of people who are over the age of 40 pick 33 as their happiest age, 6 percent pick their college years, 16 percent say their childhood.

FUGELSANG: Jesus might disagree and so would John Belushi.

O'BRIEN: Psychologists say that 33 is the perfect age because you've had enough time to shake off your naive childhood years, the awkward teenage years and still have some youthful energy. How many people say that their happiness is the age when they had children? Only 30 percent.

FUGELSANG: Yes, speaking of someone who's got a 16 -- it's not my happiest.

O'BRIEN: Not exactly. A shocker on that one. How about people who find joy in their job?

CAIN: Are you going to read the rest of this explanation by the psychiatrist despite the presence of the bishop here?

O'BRIEN: Absolutely, absolutely. People who find joy in their job is 20 percent, I'm right behind them and there is a woman who's interviewed in "The New York Post" and she says, listen, 33 makes sense because she says it is sexy. She says you're hitting your stride.

CAIN: Definitely you're hitting your stride. You are a lot more confident and you can attract younger guys.

O'BRIEN: Honey, that works at 46 as well. I actually tried not to curse today because occasionally I let it slip.

FUGELSANG: If the Lord didn't like sex, he wouldn't let you cry out his name when it's really good, right?

JAKES: Go forward.

O'BRIEN: You know what? That's an excellent idea, Bishop.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, wall here -- ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about Newt Gingrich getting rid of a third of his campaign staff.

FUGELSANG: I made the man laugh.

O'BRIEN: Why he thinks that could be a winning move moving on. And I also got one on one with Carmelo Anthony.

CAIN: Really, did you take him?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I did. I threw him about a question about President Obama. He's a five-time NBA all-star, Olympic gold medalist. He was fun to talk to. We'll bring our interview on that.

Medina, "You and I," -- playlist. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's the Canadian Invasion "One Hand Collapse The Other" from Gingrich communications director, Joe DeSantis' playlist this morning.

That campaign is seeing a radical facelift. It's announced a new campaign manager, laid off a third of the staff as well, all this amid a new CNN poll that shows that 60 percent of Republicans think Newt Gingrich should drop out of the race.

Joe Desantis joins us morning. A third of the staff out, the campaign manager out, I think people could look at all this, Joe, and say this is an indication that this campaign is on its very last legs. Is that a fair assessment?

JOE DESANTIS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, GINGRICH 2012: No, it's not. It's just an indication that we are reorganizing to execute the strategy we think we need to win the nomination.

And right now, what that's going to mean is that if you look at the math, we're not going to get to 1,144 before June 26th, the last two primaries so what we're going to have to do is convince delegates in the 60-day period between the last primaries and the convention that newt is the candidate to defeat Obama and to change Washington.

And so once you realize that's the way we have to go forward, we'll focus on key states to pick up delegates, we're going to engage, you know, continue engaging the national media and engaging in the national narrative and continuing to take the fight to Obama.

Like Newt has done with his $2.50 gas plan, which is put the White House on defense for the past three weeks.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain, question for you. When you hear a plan like that, what's your takeaway immediately, I mean, that this is a strategy to try to win the White House is what Joe is saying?

CAIN: You know, one of the questions I will have for Joe, would love to hear from Joe is the assumption, what he said they're also going to deny Mitt Romney his ability to get to 1,144. Does Newt Gingrich's presence help or hurt that? Does it help Rick Santorum's quest to deny that?

O'BRIEN: Of course, there's argument, of course, Joe, right, that actually by Newt Gingrich staying in the race, you hurt his ability to get to 1,144, which means that eventually it -- the strategy is to be a spoiler and clearly sounds to me the strategy is not that Newt Gingrich could possibly win 1,144 at this point.

DESANTIS: Well, he can win 1,144 at the convention. I mean, your own poll which you referenced earlier showed that Gingrich dropping out of the race helps Mitt Romney dramatically more than it helps Rick Santorum.

So if Newt were to drop out of the race, I apologize, it would actually virtually guarantee Mitt Romney the nomination. If conservatives really want to rally around a conservative standard bearer, someone whose platform is going to be very bold, very conservative.

It's going to be reform oriented in the tradition of Reagan and Thatcher, they're going to have -- they need Newt to stay in to prevent a Romney nomination.

O'BRIEN: Of course, the word of the campaign is in huge debt. We were talking about that yesterday and there was a report that Mr. Gingrich is selling photos at 50 bucks a pop to try to raise money.

We now know he's not going to travel as frequently. He's going to start actually just chatting with the voters or potential voters online.

All of this to me seems to say what the strategy is here is try to figure out how to not spend money and stay in the game and have people, you know, cover what the campaign is doing without actually putting the expenditure in. Is that what's happening?

DESANTIS: Well, clearly, you need to design a structure and a strategy around the financial realities of your campaign. Our reality is we have 176,000 donors, but you know, 95 percent of them have given less than $250.

It is a small donor-driven campaign and we're still seeing the steady stream of small donations coming in. It's one of the reasons why Newt is still in the race, he feels like he owes it to the donors that are keeping this campaign afloat.

So we have the financial means to execute the strategy that we're employing, and we think that by the end of this process, remember, Iowa was only 11 weeks ago. You think about all the ups and downs, you know, since the Iowa caucuses, and then think about the fact that --

O'BRIEN: But really for your campaign there haven't been a lot of ups and downs. You won two states. I mean, you probably could argue that for someone like Mitt Romney there's been a lot of this.

DESANTIS: Right, Georgia which was a lot of delegates as well and South Carolina is a key state, because it is, it was winner take all and 23 bound delegates. The states we've won have been very impactful in terms of the delegate count. O'BRIEN: There's only two of them, that's the problem.

DESANTIS: Conservative states also awarded delegates in a way, for instance in Oklahoma we came in third, but we walked away with one less delegate than Rick Santorum from the state.

So we think that if you look at the actual delegate count, obviously Governor Romney is ahead in the delegate count, but we're pretty competitive in terms of the number of delegates we have.

O'BRIEN: You have 136. You can see on that graphic, Governor Romney is a way ahead, he's got 469 delegates. He's actually way ahead of the number two guy, Rick Santorum who has just over 250 delegates there so that might be a huge challenge to you.

Joe Desantis joining us. He's the Gingrich communications director. We'll obviously follow what's happening with this campaign as it carries on. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate your time.

DESANTIS: Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a passenger basically has to choke out a pilot at 30,000 feet as the pilot literally freaks out on the plane.

There's a new tape of this breakdown that happened on the JetBlue flight. We'll tell you what happened after this was shot. You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break and we're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's final day of arguments over at the Supreme Court over President Obama's health care law. It was a very tough day for Democrats yesterday as the administration argued its position on the individual mandate.

The key component in the sweeping health care reform law, and Jeff Toobin had some pretty harsh words for how it went. Take a look.

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JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it's going to be struck down.

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O'BRIEN: The court's swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, appeared to be siding against the administration. This morning, we talk with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer from Maryland. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

As we've been telling people, Jeff Toobin, who was on our air just a few minutes ago as well said, listen, it was a train wreck even from the opening statements, it seemed disorganized.

It seemed like there was a lot of stumbling. Would you describe it that way, this presentation as opening arguments as a train wreck?

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: One of my top staffers who worked on this bill and who is very knowledgeable about this issue indicates that there was a rough start, but that both Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy at the end were asking questions of the other side that seemed to reflect a fairness of view.

Now we'll see whether that's the case, but the case isn't over until it's over, and the justices are going to have to reflect upon the issues here, and they'll meet in joint session with one another and discuss it.

So I think it's way too early to say, that A, it was a train wreck or that this case is over. I think this matter will be resolved, that the mandate is, in fact, constitutional and this bill will go forward.

O'BRIEN: So what are the political implications? Because ultimately I think that's what a lot of people are examining for either option, either it's constitutional or it's ruled unconstitutional.

If it's ruled constitutional, what are the political implications and if it's ruled unconstitutional, what potentially are the political implications for President Obama and any kind of re- election campaign?

HOYER: Well, of course, Soledad, there are an awful lot of portions of this bill that are very popular with the American people. Clearly like the fact that their children or themselves can't be precluded from pre-existing conditions.

They like the fact that young people between the ages of 22 and 26 that can't find insurance can stay on their policies. They certainly like the fact seniors, their prescription drug costs are going down. There are a lot of component parts.

When you say unconstitutional, will they find the mandate unconstitutional, the balance of the bill OK? Do they work together and therefore the whole thing falls? We don't know the answer to that question, but I think frankly there is no doubt there is a problem.

The problem is making sure that 30 million to 50 million Americans have access to affordable quality health care. We think the bill that was passed, signed into law does that and we frankly haven't heard any alternatives from Republicans on how to get that done.

But everybody agrees that objective is one that needs to be accomplished. So we'll see what the ramifications will be after the court makes its decision.

O'BRIEN: John? FUGELSANG: Good morning, Congressman. You mentioned some of the positive aspects of the bill from eliminating pre-existing conditions to allowing people to be covered under their parents insurance until age 26, which has motivated a lot of businesses the higher young people.

The problem progressives have had with this bill from the beginning is that they don't like the mandate. They see it as a conservative idea that the Democratic Party adopted for this bill.

Is there a concern that the Supreme Court if striking this down will dispense with all the good things of the bill or do you think there's a chance that only the mandate may be struck down and the elements that Americans of both political stripes favor may still survive?

HOYER: Well, I don't know the answer to that question. I think experts don't know the answer to that question at this point in time. Clearly, we believed and it's ironic as you point out that the mandate was a conservative idea, on how you get people involved in the insurance pool, to spread the risk and bring costs down.

That clearly is the objective, and it's ironic that now the conservatives that came up with this idea are so vigorously attacking it, largely because I think it was a Democratic, what they perceive as a Democratically-sponsored piece of legislation.

But I don't really think we know the answer to whether we can keep the good stuff and lose the bad stuff because the bad stuff being from people's perspective the mandate.

What we're saying is, look, everybody has to be included in the risk pool. Otherwise, you don't bring the price down. If you don't bring the price down, neither government, business nor individuals are going to be able to afford having health insurance.

And if that's the case, our society won't be as healthy and our people won't be as protected.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain.

CAIN: Congressman Hoyer, Will Cain here. I want to shift directions if I can for one moment. You guys, the House Democrats, just yesterday put out your budget proposal for the coming years.

In it you put out a proposal that doesn't really touch on Medicaid and Medicare. I want to you ask this. Most people watching know I come from a conservative perspective.

But just from a sense of honesty, look, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security take up 40 plus percent of the budget and in the 30 or 40-year time span, most people project it will take up 100 percent of our tax revenues.

Is it really possible to reform our budget, to achieve a balanced budget without touching these programs? HOYER: No, I think that as you may have known, I've given a number of speeches on the fact that Chris Van Hollen has been very involved in this as well. We need to solve our budget deficit and debt problem by balanced package.

A balanced package that reflects something along Bowles- Simpson proposal where everything is on the table, everything needs to be addressed. What we don't need to do is what the Republican budget does and what our budget does not do.

That destroys the guarantee that Medicare in fact will be available. Yes, do we need to make sure it's fiscally sustainable? Absolutely. Do we need to, however, put at risk the receipt of Medicare and the insurance of Medicare for our seniors and others?

The answer to that is an emphatic no. Our budget that we put forward is a balanced package. It's very much like the president's package, balanced in terms of revenues, cuts and moving forward to reduce the deficit.

Very frankly the alternative budget offered by the Republicans today and tomorrow is not balanced. It will not bring down our deficit in the foreseeable future. And the cuts that it proposes simply shift from the middle class and poor, the burdens to them, and wealth to the wealthiest in America.

That's not a fair program. That's not a balanced program. It's not a program that we think will get us from where we need to be, where we are, to where we need to be. And in fact, in the Republican budget there are no specifics.

And they are unrealistic in terms of cuts that can be affected and exceedingly unrealistic in terms of the $10 trillion in revenue cuts that they suggest can be offset with the elimination of preference items that they refer to generally but not specifically. They don't take on the hard questions.

O'BRIEN: Minority Whip Steny Hoyer joining us this morning. Thank you, sir. We appreciate your time.

HOYER: You bet.

O'BRIEN: STARTING POINT is back in a moment. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, passengers have to tackle a ranting JetBlue captain. People on board talking about just how close they feel they came to disaster this morning.

Plus former Governor Mitt Romney showing his lighter side on late night. You can hear what he thought about Rick Santorum in a Romney administration.

CAIN: Really? O'BRIEN: Yes. Plus, Bishop Teddy Jakes is on our panel this morning. He's got a new book that we want to talk about. It's called "Let It Go." It's all about forgiveness. I struggle with that so much. A little session on that straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

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