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Diplomatic Crisis in China; Facebook Preparing to Go Public

Aired May 3, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight: China's leadership blocks access to a blind dissident who now says he wants to seek asylum in the United States. The administration says Chen Guangcheng left U.S. protection at his request. But GOP challenger Mitt Romney sees a day of shame for the Obama White House.

Plus, an economic report that could shape a defining day in 2012. If the jobs number released tomorrow is as anemic as last month's, it spells trouble with a capital T. for the incumbent president.

And as Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum finally make peace with Governor Romney, new poll numbers tell a surprising "Truth" about the Republican right.

Fast-moving developments surrounding Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng. Throughout the day, he has been phoning people from his room in a heavily guarded Beijing hospital, pleading for help and asking to come to the United States with his family.

Chen left the safe haven of the U.S. Embassy on Monday, but now says U.S. officials misled him.

In a dramatic moment a couple of hours ago, Chen phoned a congressional hearing and described the conditions at his home.


CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE DISSIDENT (through translator): I really am afraid for my other family members' life. And they have installed seven video cameras and even with the electric fence.


KING: Among those watching closely, President Obama's campaign opponent, Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reports are, if they are accurate, that our administration, willingly or unwittingly, communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family and also probably sped up or may have sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy. If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it is a day of shame for the Obama administration. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Stan Grant joins us now from Beijing.

Stan, your team spoke again to Chen today. This is very confusing, some conflicting accounts here. What's the very latest from his perspective?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His bottom line, John, is that he doesn't trust the Chinese government. He doesn't see that he has a future here. He still maintains that his family's lives are being threatened and he wants to get out.

Yesterday, when we spoke to him, he made a direct appeal through us to President Obama, saying, please, Mr. President, do all you can to get my family out of here. Now he is also saying that he wants to speak to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is in Beijing right now for top-level trade talks. And he wants -- there are some even suggestions that he wants to get on her plane when she leaves on Saturday.

But there is no doubt that this is a man holed up in his hospital bed right now, a man who has been very ill, who really is caught between China and the United States in this growing diplomatic riff. And all he wants to do is make sure that his family can live safely.

KING: But the United States and Chen himself have a lot less leverage now, Stan, right? He has left the U.S. Embassy. So, technically, he is on Chinese soil right now.

Are the Chinese limiting access to him? Can the ambassador from the United States go see him? Could Secretary Clinton go see him if she wanted?

GRANT: The hospital that he is at, John, is very, very heavily guarded. Journalists have been pushed away from there.

And there was an extraordinary image today of a very senior official from the embassy having to wait outside in his car because he could not get in. We actually put it to Chen, are you being held, basically, as a prisoner in the hospital? He said, I don't know, but if I am being held here, it is not the hospital that's doing it, i.e., it is the guards waiting outside.

He is really regretting the decision to leave the embassy. I think you saw those images yesterday, John, of the smiling Chen. He was hugging officials. He told officials at the embassy that he wanted to stay in China, he wanted to be a freedom fighter here.

But from leaving the embassy, getting to the hospital, meeting his wife, hearing about the level of threat, the volume of threat that was coming towards his family, and then speaking to us, he had backtracked. He said, no, I want to get out of here. He was actually upset with the embassy and saying that the embassy should not have encouraged him to leave. I sat down with the Ambassador Gary Locke today. And he said, no, they didn't do that. At all times, they were guided by what Chen wanted. Chen has changed his mind.

KING: Stan Grant continues to keep us ahead of this dramatic story. Stan, thanks so much.

Let's get some perspective now from Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Fareed also has an important essay on the changing Chinese politics in this week's "TIME" magazine, which is covering extensively the China challenge.

Fareed, when you hear there, there is some conflict here -- and we are not there. We are here in the United States. But Chen now says he feels he was duped. And one thing U.S. officials concede is even as they told him about the risks, they never talked to his wife. Sorry, but that strikes me as amateur.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, this whole thing has been mishandled.

I think that there weren't any good options. But what appears to have happened and what my sources tell me is that Chen was very unstable in the U.S. Embassy, I mean emotionally, and may have even had some kind of a breakdown. And in that context, they should have been very careful about -- they should have understood that there was a great likelihood that he was going to change his mind or change his mood, and in that context, talk to his wife, talk to the family, make sure that whatever arrangement they came up was pretty sturdy and robust.

That said, there weren't a lot of good options, but I do think this could have been handled better.

KING: And so let's listen now. I'm going to let you listen to a host of U.S. officials here, the U.S. ambassador, the top State Department spokesman, and the White House press secretary, all choosing their words very, very carefully.


GARY LOCKE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: We need to talk with him. We need to make sure we understand fully his wishes. And then we will take it from there.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are not sure in fact what his intentions are or what his goals are now that he's had a change of heart.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And we made clear we would continue to monitor his case and be in touch with him as time moved on so that we could raise concerns if there were concerns that needed to be raised.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, I understand and you understand better than I, Fareed, this is about as sensitive as it gets when it comes to a foreign policy challenge.

But they are acting as if -- like they don't know what he wants. He has been calling his friends, he has been calling reporters, saying he wants Secretary Clinton to come see him. He would like to leave on her plane if possibly and he would also like somehow to come to the United States with his family.

Now that he is out of the embassy and not on what is technically U.S. soil, is there any way the administration can make that happen?

ZAKARIA: It is going to be very difficult, because I think you are right. And the report suggested that he seems to have changed his mind. He did want to -- he had indicated many times that he wanted to stay in China, be a freedom fighter in China. He now appears to have changed his mind.

He wants to -- because he could have asked for asylum in the first place. Now granting him asylum becomes very difficult. Remember, the fundamental fact here is we don't have a lot of leverage with the Chinese. The Chinese are very, very tough on these issues in general. Think about it.

In 1989, at a time when the Chinese economy was much smaller, the U.S. was much more powerful, Fang Lizhi, the astrophysicist, went and asked for asylum at the U.S. Embassy, and we granted it. But it caused a huge controversy, years of turmoil. And finally in 1990, I think it was, Henry Kissinger and Deng Xiaoping worked out a deal where Fang Lizhi went back to China, but he had to write a letter of apology to the Chinese government and promise never to engage in subversive activities again.

In other words, they take this stuff very seriously. It is of course a mistake. This kind of repression never works. But, be that as it may, it is tough to see how China today, the largest creditor in the world, all the power they have, the second largest economy, is going to roll over when we ask them to grant asylum to somebody who is not even on U.S. soil.

KING: Very important reporting and perspective, CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, thanks. We are going to stay on top of this story, including in just a few minutes, we will talk with a U.S. activist who has been in touch with Chen Guangcheng throughout this ordeal.

Turning now to another dramatic economic story here at home, owning a piece of Facebook will cost somewhere between $28 and $35 a share if you are lucky enough to get in on the ground floor. The social networking Goliath set the price range today about two weeks before the company goes public.

Let's get to CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi.

Ali, break it down for us. How do these numbers stack up to some other big names, say Google? ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You and I talked about this a few months ago when we heard they were going public. And this is exactly the range we thought that Facebook was going to come out in.

It still makes it a very expensive stock, given what it is. But it is going to price in this range assuming there is the right demand for it. What happens is, a company says the range that they would like it to be and then they go out starting Monday with Morgan Stanley and they start going to hedge funds and mutual funds and saying, how many shares do you people want?

If the demand is high, it comes in at the high end of the range. If it's low, it comes in at the low end of the range. There are examples of it coming in much lower than the range that they even give or much higher. On the night before the IPO, which is May 18, on the night before, March 17, we will get a signal from the company that says demand has been stronger or weaker and the actual price of the stock will come out.

You will not be able to buy it at that price. It will list the next morning on May 18, at 9:00 in the morning, when the first trade opens on Nasdaq. And it will be anyone's guess as to what happens. Generally speaking, these tech companies with good reputations end up trading a lot higher.

I will give you an example. If Facebook opens -- let's say it prices at $35 and it starts trading and it is up $10 right at the beginning and you get to buy it. You can't buy it until it is out on the open market. Let's say you paid $45. And, frankly, I think you would be lucky to do that.

You are paying 87 times last year's earnings. Now, that's called the price-to-earnings ratio. That's how you determine what a company is worth vs. its peers. Google closed today at $611 a stock -- a share, and that's only 19 times last year's earnings.

So, if Facebook was at $45, it would still be expensive vis-a-vis its peers. That doesn't mean it is not going to go up. It just means it is expensive. Let me give you an example, John, of Google. If you remember back to Google days, the stock was priced at $85. That's what the IPO was. That's what it traded at on the first day.

It closed at $100. And many of us thought, wow, that's pretty high. A year later, it was $280, and today, as I mentioned, $611. That does not -- this is not an endorsement for Facebook, John. It is just something to tell you that successful, good tech companies like Google, like Apple have done particularly well.

KING: Well, so that was the follow-up question. And you seem to lean into it a bit there. And I know you want to be careful not to put the personal -- or the Ali Velshi stamp of approval on it.


KING: But does it seem like a good buy for the guy at home? VELSHI: Here is my view.

Generally speaking, yes. It will probably go up from its first day in the first year of its trading. But the individual who wants to buy that stock should know what they want to pay for it. So don't go in all willy-nilly and excited the IPO say saying I am going to get myself 100 shares no matter what it costs.

Decide, whether it is $45, or $55 or $65 or $100, because it might be there, are you prepared to pay for it? And if that stock goes higher than that before you buy it, don't buy it. If it comes in at the price you think is fair, buy it. That's all I'm saying. Don't get caught up in the excitement.

If I were not me and I were looking at that, I would say Facebook has a bright future, probably worth the investment at a certain price. But that's personal as to how you determine what that price is.

KING: I always apply the Vegas rules. If you are not prepared to lose it, don't...


VELSHI: Don't bet it. That's right.

KING: Ali Velshi, appreciate your help on that one. Thanks so much.

VELSHI: All right, buddy.

KING: In just a moment, we will talk with the activist who held the phone today as Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng asked U.S. lawmakers for help.

And later, Tampa's mayor explains his controversial request for this summer's Republican convention in his city.


KING: More now on the plight of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who has been calling several Western journalists and friends today, pleading for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take him back to the United States when she leaves China this weekend.

He even called in during a congressional hearing today, that hearing being held to discuss his current situation.


BOB FU, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, CHINAAID: He wants to come to the U.S. for some time of rest. He has not had any rest in the past 10 years.

CHEN (through translator): I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The man holding the phone right there, Bob Fu. He helped organize Chen's escape from house arrest and was there testifying on Chen's behalf.

He joins me right here in Washington.

Bob, it is good to see you.

A dramatic phone call like that, a Chinese dissident in a hospital surrounded by Chinese authorities allowed to call into a U.S. congressional hearing, and yet, U.S. Embassy officials who want to see him in person are kept outside the hospital and not allowed in, what does that tell you about what's going on in the Chinese leadership?

FU: I think it shows the Chinese leadership are having some difficulties to find the easy solution to handle this brave man and his story.

KING: I want you to listen here to Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador, who says that he says the United States team laid out the threats, laid out the risks and that Chen wanted to go.


LOCKE: He was very, very clear all along he wanted to be reunified with his family, he wanted to stay in China to be a freedom fighter, did not want to go to the United States.


KING: You hear the ambassador there say he did not want to go to the United States. And yet, as soon as he made it to the hospital, it seems Chen had a change of heart. What happened?

FU: What happened was one message conveyed by the U.S. official to him before he walked out of the embassy that really make his heart heavy.

That is, he was asked, if he didn't walk out of the U.S. Embassy that they, then he would no longer have an opportunity to reunite with his wife and two children. And he did explicitly tell me that he felt very, very hard and felt it is almost a one-way street he has to walk, so for the sake of -- just to see his daughter, his son and his wife. And he felt at least with some assurance from the U.S. government for the safety and freedom, so he walk out.

KING: You say some assurances. When we spoke the other day before this, you don't trust the Chinese government. And these are the pros in the U.S. Embassy. They certainly can't trust the Chinese government.

Anybody who has been involved in this kind of diplomacy before doesn't trust the Chinese government. Do you think the ambassador should have said, stay and give us a few days to see if we can work on getting your wife in here as well, or did the U.S. Embassy handle this right?

FU: I do think it was a mistake to just let him walk just on May 2, after six days. I do think the ambassador and U.S. negotiators should give him more days to think through and give him all the options, especially why not invite his family members to the U.S. Embassy to give them a safety environment?

KING: So what happens now? Secretary Clinton is there for another 48 hours or so. What should she do, in your mind?

FU: I think she should go to the Chaoyang Hospital and to request a meeting with Mr. Chen and his wife and their children, and to listen to them in an unthreatening environment, and what do they really want to do and want to go? And...

KING: But what if he says, I want to go and his wife is sitting right there? He doesn't have a Chinese passport at the moment. What leverage does Secretary Clinton have?

FU: Oh, I think this demands sort of a political negotiation.

But, I mean, John, even the Chinese government did not characterize Chen Guangcheng and any -- and his family members are criminals. They are not criminals. They have no even any legal sort of ramification around them. They are free men. And they are the normal Chinese citizens.

And so they should be given their Chinese passports and to -- as a normal citizen apply to come to the U.S. for a visit.

KING: If the secretary of state leaves and Chen stays behind, six months from now, what do you think will be his situation?

FU: I am so -- I am so concerned. I wish that would not happen. And -- but I think things could be worse now than in the past.

KING: Bob Fu, appreciate you coming in. We will stay on top of this story as it plays out.

FU: Thank you, John.

KING: Appreciate it. Thank you.

FU: Thank you.

KING: Early tomorrow morning, the government releases a critical report, the job situation last month. It will tell you about the economic climate. It will tell the president a lot about his reelection prospects.

But, next, a $100 fee for a carry-on bag? Can an airline actually get away with it?


KING: Welcome back. (NEWS BREAK)

KING: Ahead: You might call this a financial storm. Some folks at the federal agency that includes the Weather Service just got caught trying to spend your tax dollars on a magician.

And, later, the mayor who tried and failed to get a temporary handgun ban when his city hosts the Republican Convention.


KING: This half-hour: You footed the bill for this clown who performed at a government convention. And now it looks like it almost happened again. A different agency yanks a helped-wanted ad for a magician.

Glass bottles will be forbidden in downtown Tampa during the Republican National Convention, but a gun, well, that's just fine. I will ask Tampa's mayor about his gun control showdown with the governor.

Plus, it is a good day for Mitt Romney. A formal rival joins his team. And he is closing the gap in king swing states -- why it is a wakeup call for team Obama.

Tomorrow could prove a defining day in the presidential campaign. The government's report on the April jobs and unemployment situation will be released early in the morning. And if April was as rough a month as March, it will be a blow to the president's reelection hopes.

And you can see here the election year began with two months of pretty decent jobs gains. But only 120,000 jobs were created in March, raising fears the recovery is stalling. The consensus projection for tomorrow's report is about 160,000 new jobs in April. That's not enough to make any serious dent in the nation's unemployment crisis.

CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here to assess the crucial politics of the economy. It's early, some would say. However, pollsters will tell you the psychology of the economy is around the time of their summer vacation, voters decide, good or bad. The president can't afford another weak moment.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, some Republican pollsters in particular are saying that the next 30 days are really going to be key to voters assessing who they're going to vote for, for the presidency.

If the economic numbers do not take a turn upward, people's optimism will continue to stay where it is, which is not good for the president. Because most people believe we're not headed in the right direction.

And when you look at the polling, John, and you say, who's better able to handle the economy in the future, the president and Mitt Romney are about at parity. And that's not good. KING: Well, let's look at key three states. You're right: parity is not good if you're the incumbent president.

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: Let's look at three key states: in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Who's on the economy. You see the unemployment rates in those states. There -- those graphics -- there's a mistake in that graphic.

BORGER: Right.

KING: If you look hear, who's better to handle the economy? In Florida, Romney 49, Obama 40. In Ohio, Romney 47, Obama 43. In Pennsylvania, the president has a slight edge. It's essentially a tie.

BORGER: What about in Ohio, John? I mean, those are -- those are must-win states for Mitt Romney. And if you look at those numbers, that's good news for Mitt Romney.

Because those people want somebody who can handle the economy, because, of course, it's the top issue for everybody who's going to vote right now unless something happens in the foreign policy arena. It's going to be about the economy.

KING: And so the question is, do people view the glass as half empty or half full and assess that the president is right when he says, "I inherited a mess." He's absolutely right.

BORGER: Exactly.

KING: But elections teach us. He's the president. People tend to hold him responsible whether or not he could blame the past or not. If you look at just the total jobs lost and gained, jobs lost, 4.6 million during the Obama presidency. And he started in quite a ditch. Jobs gained, 3.9 million. So the net jobs lost right now, 740,000. He would like to at least break even by November...

BORGER: Right.

KING: ... which, if you're getting about 150 a month, he'll get there. But boy, that's just barely.

BORGER: And you -- and you really can't win by saying, "Look, it would have been worse if we hadn't had the stimulus plan," et cetera, et cetera.

So I think what both of these candidates have to do is come out with a plan for the economy. I mean, we've seen from Mitt Romney, a 59-point plan. I would argue, he's got to narrow that down a little bit and say, "OK, if we're going to reform the tax code and we're going to reduce the deficit, this is how we're going to do it."

He's enforced Paul Ryan's budget. But even that is not specific when it comes to the tax side. President Obama has got to do the same when it comes to cutting spending. And of course, as you know, after this election, there's going to be a showdown on the question of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

KING: We'll have a better sense this time tomorrow, sort of the numbers at least fueling the psychology.

BORGER: And it is psychology. It is psychology.

KING: A lot of it is psychology. Gloria, thanks so much.

Florida's governor and the mayor of one of the state's largest cities are feuding over gun control. The Tampa mayor, Bob Buckhorn, wants to ban firearms from downtown Tampa during this summer's Republican National Convention. Only the state, though, has that power.

The letter to Governor Rick Scott, the mayor wrote this: "In the potentially contentious environment surrounding the Republican National Convention, a firearm unnecessarily increases the threat of imminent harm and injury to residents and visitors for the city."

Governor Scott, though, promptly denied the request. Mayor Buckhorn is with us live tonight.

Mr. Mayor, were you acting out of an abundance of caution or do you have any reason to believe, a warning from your police chief, about that you've got a problem on your hands?

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA: Well, John, I think it was a combination of both. I think mayors tend to be practical. And my job and my responsibility is to make sure that this is a safe environment for the -- for the visitors and the conventioneers and the nominee and for the protesters.

And, as we have seen at WTO meetings, at G-8 -- at G-20, as evidenced by what we saw in Cleveland jut a day ago where five Occupiers were arrested, about to blow up a bomb, that there is a potential for violence to occur.

And I just don't think that a firearm interjected into that volatile environment is necessary.

I'm a gun owner. I was formerly a concealed weapons permit holder. I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I also have a responsibility to make sure that our police officers and our law- enforcement officials are safe. And I don't think we need guns in that environment.

KING: Well, you wrote this to the governor. You wrote, "As governor, you have the duty to meet dangers presented by events such as the RNC, the Republican National Convention, where there is a threat of substantial injury or harm to Florida residents and visitors."

The governor wrote back this: "It is at just such times the constitutional right to self-defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach."

Is this done now? Only the state has this power. So have you lost, sir? And I guess the question now is, if you've lost this fight, what will you do if you're worried in terms of extra police? I assume you get help from the state in this situation.

BUCKHORN: Well, I think this battle is over. The state legislature has preempted local jurisdictions from doing anything about -- about guns in their jurisdiction. The governor has obviously sided with those on the other side and, I think, made a decision that, if he were mayor, I think he would perhaps reconsider.

We will continue to train. We anticipated this decision would come from him, given his historical support of the gun issue and the Florida legislature's support of the NRA.

So I'm going to try and do the best I can to make sure we think of every possibility, that we plan for every eventuality, that we train and prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

KING: So help me here. Someone watching will say it's the Democratic governor picking a -- Democratic mayor picking a fight with the Republican governor. Is that what it is?

BUCKHORN: No, absolutely not. I'm going to be best host that the Republican National Convention has ever had. For me, this is an economic development opportunity for our city. I'm excited that they're here. We're working with them, hand and glove.

This is not about politics at all. This is about the practicality of interjecting weapons into a potentially volatile environment. I'm the guy on the ground that has to make things work. I don't get to sit on some perch and, you know, have some young lawyer draft a response. I've got to protect those delegates. I've got to protect this nominee, and I've got to protect those who choose to exercise their First Amendments.

It is, really, to me a simple decision. This is a national, special security event. This is not a random football game. I think this warrants special attention.

KING: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, appreciate your insights tonight and to explain this controversy. We'll see you a little bit down the road when you have the convention in your fine city.

BUCKHORN: You bet you. Look forward to seeing you, John.

KING: Looking forward to it, sir. Thank you very much.

Your tax dollars offered up by a government agency for a magician. May seem like a little deja vu, right? But we're not talking about the Government Services Administration's lavish Las Vegas convention. This is another government agency that just yanked its controversial want ads.

CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here. Hello. What's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, given the highly, highly publicized controversial things like a bike-building contest, a mind reader and, yes, a clown that the GSA had in their Las Vegas convention, it is really hard to believe that another agency did it.

But that's going to happen, and I want you to take a look at this, because they really have to see it to believe what the National Oceanic and Administration Agency did.

They put up an ad, a help wanted ad for a conference they're going to have in the D.C. area next month. And it asks for presentations with, quote, "magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor and team-building exercises." And the person they were looking for to hire was also asked to create a unique model of translating magic and principles of the psychology of magic tools, techniques and so on and so forth.

Now, this has been taken off the NOAA Web site but not before Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts sent -- cut and pasted it, sent out a scathing press release, saying that this was a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

KING: Well, yes. Now, he's campaigning for a re-election. So I'm sure it helps him to screen about this. But we would think after the GSA that maybe government agencies would be thinking twice about these things or thinking thrice about these things.

BASH: That's right. And we're waiting for what we hope will be a lengthy response from NOAA to explain why this got up on the Web site. But in the meantime, a spokesman says that they preferred this solicitation to the general counsel at NOAA and to the operations management.

We don't know yet how much this person was going to cost the taxpayer dollars. But that's the piece of information we're looking for. They do point out an underscore that no one at the end of the day was actually hired to come and be a magician at their conference.

KING: Government resources were spent even just putting up the posting and all that. Maybe it's an admission that these magicians do the weather forecast. I'm not quite so sure.

Dana, thanks so much. Ay, yi, yi.

Coming up, four months after dropping out of the race, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann endorses her former rival, Mitt Romney. Will her supporters follow her lead?


KING: It took a while but Michele Bachmann is now on team Romney and enthusiastically so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Mitt Romney's future for America would be a legalization of American energy, a legalization of millions of high-paying jobs. That's our future in America. That's something to get excited about. It's why we must elect Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States.


KING: And tomorrow, Governor Romney meets with another vanquished rival, Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator, well, he too will be on board soon, as well.

But Democrats are quick to note Bachmann, Santorum, and many others to the right of Romney are on record suggesting the GOP base can't trust him.


BACHMANN: We are never going to get rid of it unless we have a president committed to getting rid of it. And if you believe that states can have it and it is constitutional, you're not committed. If you've implemented this in your state, you're not committed. I'm committed to repealing Obama care.

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney raised $700 million in taxes and fees in Massachusetts. I never voted to raise taxes. Governor Romney even today suggested raising taxes on that top 1 percent, adopting the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric. I'm not going to adopt that rhetoric. I'm going to represent 100 percent of Americans. We're not raising taxes on anybody.


KING: Here is tonight's "Truth." Governor Romney has actually consolidated the Republican base more quickly than even he could have hoped. That is both a source of optimism for Republicans and a bit of a wakeup call to Team Obama.

Just look at three swing state polls out today. In Pennsylvania, President Obama holds a healthy overall lead. But Romney has 84 percent support among Republicans, comparable to the president's 83 percent support among Democrats.

In Florida, it's a dead heat overall. And Romney, backed by 87 percent of Republicans, the president, by 86 percent the Democrats. Much the same in battleground Ohio. A dead heat in a horse race and two very loyal bases. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans to Romney, 84 percent of Democrats for President Obama.

Now, those numbers don't lie. And they tell truths that suggest a very competitive election with both bases locked in. That's no surprise for a president who faced no primary challenge. But it is a noteworthy achievement for Governor Romney, especially given the bruises with his nomination chase.

Let's talk truth tonight with the "New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza; Obama campaign and White House (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Jen Psaki; Republican strategist Nancy Pfotenhauer.

Jen, to you first. Are you surprised that, if you start looking at this data, there were a lot of questions, a lot of suspicions, a lot of mistrust of Governor Romney, but the base seems to have said, he's our guy and he's got the numbers equal to the president.

JEN PSAKI, SVP, GLOBAL STRATEGY GROUP: Well, absolutely not. We always knew when there was a nominee that the polls would be closer. We knew this is going to be a very close election. This is about ending three of a nine-inning game.

The president is going to be campaigning this weekend. He's going to start to draw the contrast, which we've seen Vice President Biden do a bit.

KING: He hasn't been campaigning yet?

PSAKI: You know, he'll be out there doing rallies and really making the argument for why he's a better choice. And so we're at an early stage, and we've got a long way to go in this race.

KING: Are you surprised, given the campaign and given, you know, the reputation from the last campaign that he's a flip-flopper or you can't trust him? Is it pro -- is this a pro-Romney consolidation, or is this an anti-Obama consolidation?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's a combination of both. But I believe I have said on this show that the base was going to come behind Romney or whoever the nominee was right away. The intensity is on the anti-Obama side.

And what we didn't see in those numbers but we see in the crosshatch or in the polls that swing voters, the folks that intensely support or disapprove, rather, of Obama's -- Obama's behavior in office outnumber those who intensely approve. That's a problem because intensity drives turnout.

KING: You still do hear, Ryan, some criticism, some questions, largely from social conservative, Christian conservative organizations. How much of that is legitimate, "We don't trust you"? And how much is that these organizations need to raise money and so this is how they raise money?

RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER": Right. Look, if you're on the far left or the far right, you've -- you know, you've got to keep pressure on the center, right? That's your job in politics.

And I do think I totally agree with your opening here. Those numbers are startling. Given all of the talk we had in the primaries that he was going to have a base problem.

There is some mismatch between those numbers -- 80, 90 percent support among Republicans -- and the general enthusiasm of Republican elites. Some of these endorsements haven't quite matched the enthusiasm that some -- some Republicans had.

KING: And then some.

LIZZA: Well, I think it's a cautionary tale. The Republican elites don't necessarily speak for the grassroots. He does not have a base problem.

KING: I think we learned some of that in 2010 with the rise of the Tea Party against the Republican establishment.

The next litmus test, if there is one, for the right and Governor Romney, is going to be his vice-presidential pick. He has promised that pick would be pro-life or anti-abortion. You had Michele Bachmann behind him. She would like to be considered. I think probably not.

But you did have the governor of Virginia introducing Governor Romney today. Is this -- let's listen -- an audition?


GOV. ROBERT MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: We have a difference in vision. The vision of Mitt Romney versus the record of Barack Obama, which is a record of broken promises and not doing what he promised 3 1/2 years ago.


KING: I promise you, parts of it had a little bit more energy. When you look at this, Governor Romney has gone around the country now with several prospects. How important is comfort level, as opposed to resume when it comes to picking?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think he's got to go with somebody from an important swing state. And I think...

KING: Virginia is a pretty important swing state.

PFOTENHAUER: I also think that he...

KING: Ohio is important.

PFOTENHAUER: ... probably has to go with a governor rather than a senator. Because at this point, the Senate is really up in the air. And if you poll someone like Rob Portman, who's a great guy and well qualified. But if you pull him out, that puts that Senate seat in play. So there is a pretty big bar to clear.

KING: Vice-presidential chess.

PFOTENHAUER: There you go. That's what we're all doing right now, trying to figure that.

KING: At least they didn't have to worry about that with Joe Biden. I got a little bit nervous, a little for a while. Who would you pick?

PSAKI: Look, I mean, history has shown that the vice president and nominee on either side doesn't swing the ticket.

So, you know, he has a huge energy and enthusiasm gap, which Ryan touched on. And he has a huge problem there. So who can energize and excite not just the base but people who are going to follow him? Who is his base? I think that's a question we don't know the answer to yet. So maybe somebody a little bit more exciting than Governor McDonald who we saw today.

LIZZA: To your first question, though, I don't think who his best buddy is matters in these things. I mean, Kennedy and Johnson hated each other.

KING: That worked out all right.

LIZZA: That worked out OK. And I don't think Biden and President Obama had a particularly warm, cozy relationship. One of Biden's people have often talked about -- talked about how their whole theory of going into the White House was, we don't have to be best buddies with Obama. We just want the responsibility and the power that goes along with the job.

KING: Lost everyone on that at the end. Everyone, stand by. We'll be back in just a minute.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," though, coming up at the top of the hour. Erin, what's ahead?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, we're going to be talking about the situation in China. We actually spoke directly today to a few Chinese citizens who had sought refuge at the U.S. embassy to tell their stories about what the repercussions may be. So we have those. It's pretty amazing what we found out.

We also found out exactly what goes on at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, how it's designed and exactly where Cheng could have spent him time when he was there. We have all of those details. Plus, of course, we're going to be talking to the man in Washington who got that urgent call today in Congress from the Chinese dissident. So we have all that coming up top of the hour.

And you know, you're talking about politics there, John? I've got Mr. 999.

KING: Excellent. I haven't heard from Herman Cain in a while. Ask him if he should be on the ticket. Erin, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

BURNETT: Sure. All right.

KING: John Edwards' mistress gushed about her affair with the candidate, telling a campaign worker they were, quote, "very much in love." More details from the courtroom coming up.

And here's one way to court the youth vote. Why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is signing a student's tardy slip.


KING: Let's continue our conversation with Nancy Pfotenhauer, Jen Psaki and Ryan Lizza. Big unemployment report, though, April jobs report comes out tomorrow. Anticipating it, Governor Romney out on the campaign trail in Virginia, saying he would have a very different approach from the president.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a pretty dramatic difference between how we'd lead this country. This president says he wants to lead it forward. If the last three and a half years are his definition of forward, I'd hate to see what backward looks like.


KING: An attempt at humor from Governor Romney there.

How important is this jobs report tomorrow? You had a very tepid, anemic report in March that had a lot of people starting to think, whoa, have we stalled, has the economy kind of flat-lined? Both economically and politically, how important is it?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I mean, I think every jobs report between now and November will have a political impact, but I think the most important thing is whether people believe the economy is getting better.

Remember, the jobs numbers we're seeing now are not reflecting the people who have stopped even trying to look for work, so there's about six million of them. You throw them into the current unemployment rate and it pops up to 11 percent.

The bottom line is we've lost a million private sector jobs on his watch, and he promised to cut the deficit in half, and he added a trillion.

KING: If the economy starts to stall and the anemic job reports continue, it does kind of hurt the forward slogan, doesn't it?

PSAKI: Look, I think forward isn't just about the economy -- it isn't just about the unemployment rate. It's about many things, what your vision is for moving the country forward. What you're going to do to help middle-class families. And that's what the president is going to be talking about.

And this is a choice between what he's offering, what he's been fighting for.

And Mitt Romney's platform is basically returning to the policies that led to the crisis to begin with. So that's the contrast, I think, he'll be drawing out there on the campaign trail.

KING: Can Romney just hope for bad numbers or does he have to do more proactively and to say, "Here's where I would go. Here's the difference"?

LIZZA: He has to -- he has to put out a positive agenda, as well. He can't just tear Obama down. Any good slogan is not just about a positive message about your guy but a contrast, saying something negative about the opponent.

Change you can believe in back in 2008 was to point out the fact that you can't believe Hillary Clinton. It had a negative side. And of course, the forward suggests that Romney will take us backward to the Bush era.

PFOTENHAUER: I would take the comparison -- just being able to just dissect what's happened to the American people from an economic standpoint, we've reached a new normal that is a lower standard of living than we've had in this country in a long time. And I think the onus is on President Obama, who's been in charge, to explain why he's worth another four years.

PSAKI: Well, I'm sure he'll talk about the 4.1 million jobs that he's created since he came into office.

PFOTENHAUER: You have to do net jobs.

KING: A hundred and eighty-eight days. We'll resume. Nancy, Jen, Ryan, thanks for coming in.

Alison Kosik back with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hey, there.


Today the jury at the trial of former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards heard more about his affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter. A former aide recounted how Hunter knocked on his door one day in 2007 and told him she was in love with Edwards. He testified that later Edwards told him Hunter was crazy and denied there was an affair.

The NFL is facing a new lawsuit from more than 100 ex-players who say the league hid the dangers of concussions from them. Jamal Anderson, Chris Doleman, O.J. Santiago and many others added their name to the list of over 1,500 players who say they were deceived about the risks they were taking. The NFL has said over and over that player safety is a priority and that the claims have no merit.

Are you looking to build your own boat for summer cruising? Well, maybe you'll be interested in this scrap metal from the Sea Shadow, a radar-evading Navy ship that was built during the Cold War. The Navy is auctioning its parts with its top bid at about $140,000. They spent five years trying and failing to find a museum that wanted the entire warship. You've got until Friday to get your bid in.

Are you bummed you didn't get invited to the royal wedding last year? Well, now you have a chance to own a piece of the day, a slice of the cake from the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It goes on the auction block today. The auctioneer tells CNN it's expected to sell for anywhere between $1,300 and $1,600. You have three weeks to put in your bid.

What would you do with it, John? Would you freeze it? Would you eat it? Would you put it on your coffee table?

KING: I hate to say it, I'd rather have the Cold War ship than the...

KOSIK: I'll with you. It will turn to mold.

KING: I don't know what I'd do with that either. But I'm not going to -- yes.

OK, Alison, stay tight. Let's move on. Tonight's "Moment You Most Likely Missed" starts with a very important schoolyard code most of us remember. If you're going to be late for class, you'd better have a good excuse.

One New Jersey sixth grader nailed it. Watch here. He gets a permission slip from Governor Chris Christie after asking a question about bullies at a town hall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of need a note for school.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You need a note for school?

"Peter" -- it just says, "Please excuse peter from school today. He was with me." All right.


KOSIK: Something tells me he's going to frame that, and he may not necessarily turn it into the teacher. What do you think?

KING: If he's got -- if he's got civics class, that will help. But it shows you not only -- Governor Christie has a reputation for not being afraid, for being fearless, for saying whatever is on his mind. I think that kid got a future in politics maybe, not afraid to stand up and ask.

KOSIK: Yes, good for him. I'd be out playing in the halls causing trouble. He's there, you know, doing something really good.

KING: As long as he had mom or dad's permission that's all that matters. Alison, have a great night.

KOSIK: You, too.

KING: That's all from us tonight. We'll see you right back here tomorrow night, same time. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.