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Mitt Romney Targets Latino Vote; Zimmerman Reenacts Trayvon Martin Shooting for Police

Aired June 21, 2012 - 18:00   ET


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

Tonight: Mitt Romney makes a direct appeal to Latino voters. Will a softer tone win him a second look from a constituency he says President Obama takes for granted?

Attorney General Eric Holder calls a bid to hold him in contempt of Congress an election-year stunt. And Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ups the ante, calling it payback for Holder's opposition to what Pelosi calls Republican voter suppression efforts.

And watch George Zimmerman reenact his deadly fight with Florida teenager Trayvon Martin -- why the defense wants you to see and hear Zimmerman recount that fateful night.

Up first tonight, presidential politics, a major shift in tone, but not much new on the policy front, as Mitt Romney makes a direct appeal for Latino votes.

Speaking to a national convention of Latino elected officials down in Florida, one day before the same group hears from President Obama, Governor Romney began by asking Hispanic voters to remember promises the incumbent has failed to keep on immigration and other issues.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He'll imply that you don't really have an alternative. I believe he's taking your vote for granted. I have come here today with a very simple message. You do have an alternative. Your vote should be respected, and your voice is more important now than ever before.


KING: Making his case, Governor Romney focused primarily on economics.


ROMNEY: Is the America of 11 percent Hispanic unemployment the America of our dreams? We can do better.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: But he also offered a broad outline of his immigration policies. Governor Romney, for example, pledged a permanent solution to provide legal status to young illegal immigrants brought across the border by their parents, and he promised new border security measures, also promised to make keeping families together a priority for green card approval, and he said a stronger employer verification system is necessary to deter illegal immigration.


ROMNEY: Immigration reform is not just a moral imperative. It's also an economic necessity.


KING: Now, while short on specifics, the shift in tone was striking. In the GOP primaries, we heard this.


ROMNEY: You know, I think you see a model here in Arizona. They passed a law here that says -- that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E- Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.


KING: In those same primaries, you also heard this.


ROMNEY: Well, the answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here. And so we're not going to round people up.


KING: Today, you might say his language was kinder, gentler.


ROMNEY: We could find common ground here. And we have got to. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to ensure that our country remains the land of opportunity.


KING: So was it enough to change minds and, more importantly, to win votes?

Arturo Vargas is executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Mr. Vargas, let me start right there. I assume before Governor Romney came in, a lot of skeptics in that audience. After he left, what was the conversation? Were there people saying, I will give him a second look, I was impressed, or was it flat?

ARTURO VARGAS, NALEO: Well, I think there was a great deal of respect the fact that Governor Romney made the time to appear before this audience.

This is not an audience that is -- necessarily was with Governor Romney during the primaries. There certainly was a large number of Republican Latinos here. But it's an audience that is interested in wanting to know exactly what Governor Romney's vision is for Latinos in the future of this country.

KING: One of the things he focused on, we just outlined some of his views on immigration. He also spent a lot of time on economics suggesting that the last three-and-a-half years under President Obama have not been good years for the Latino community. Let's listen to a bit more.


ROMNEY: The middle class under President Obama has been crushed. More Americans are living in poverty today than at any point in American history. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day when President Obama took office.


KING: What is the sense?

These are elected and appointed officials. They understand. They have to keep in touch with people back in their home communities. How much are economic conditions driving the conversations among them about who to vote for and who to support and what their constituents are telling them and how much of it is an issue, say, immigration?

VARGAS: Well, I think, in fact, the economy is the most important issue in this election. Poll after poll of Latino voters demonstrate that the number one issue that they care about is the effect that the great recession has had upon them and their families, the foreclosure crisis.

The loss to Latino families of wealth has been enormous in this great recession. And many of the elected officials who are here at the NALEO conference are dealing with this issue at the front lines. They're running cities and school boards and counties and states with budget deficits and dealing with the effect of unemployment on their own constituents.

So what we wanted to hear today from Governor Romney, we will want to hear tomorrow from President Obama, is what is the remedy to the economic crisis that will specifically improve the economic outcome for Latino families in this country? KING: And help me understand. How big of an opening? Is there an opening? President Obama got two-thirds of the Latino vote in the election in 2008. Governor Romney is trying to get above what John McCain received four years ago. How big of an opening is there? You mentioned the skepticism. We talked about the skepticism of Governor Romney because of what happened during the Republican primaries.

What about for the president? He did promise, for example, he would introduce comprehensive immigration reform in his first year. He didn't do that. And he hasn't been able to deliver on that promise. Poverty, unemployment up in the Latino community, up in the country. How big is the question mark for the president?

VARGAS: Well, in fact, I believe that the campaign and the battle for the Latino vote began today at the NALEO conference, because if you look at the whole primary season, the president made virtually no campaign during the Democratic primaries, unlike four years ago.

And Governor Romney only really campaigned for the Hispanic vote here in the state of Florida. Now we're moving to a new phase of this election, the general election. I think you're seeing Governor Romney move to the center. That's exactly where the Latino electorate is. And today the campaign for the Latino vote has begun. And it is a vote that will decide this election, much like it decided the election in 2000 here in Florida, 2004, 2008, when President Obama won this state.

And in 2012, with the 12 million Latinos who will vote, again, a decisive element of the electorate.

KING: Arturo Vargas, appreciate your insights tonight. We will check back as the president comes to speak to your important organization tomorrow as well. Thank you, sir.

VARGAS: Thank you.

KING: President Obama does, as I noted, take his own turn at the Latino convention tomorrow. Here in Washington today, the president focused on two other important pieces of his voter turnout puzzle.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress does not get this done, in a week, the average student with federal student loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year.


KING: That event from the president to focus on younger voters and his confrontation with Congress over student loans, and this new ad from the Obama campaign focuses on women.


NARRATOR: So the first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the exact same work, because President Obama knows that fairness for women means a stronger middle class for America.


KING: Let's assess the state of the race 138 days out with "Washington Post" chief correspondent Dan Balz.

Good to see you, my friend.

I want to go through this in two different ways. One is focusing on, Dan, the bigger economic numbers we got today. Those are not such good numbers for the president, not just today, all this week. You see numbers, for example, housing, the bad housing numbers today. There have been bad numbers about hiring and job openings this past week.

You heard the Federal Reserve chairman just yesterday say the economy, the recovery is weaker than they thought just a couple of months ago. There's all the uncertainty from the Eurozone and based on recent unemployment claims filings, every reason to expect another weak jobs report, maybe an uptick in the unemployment rate.

On the big picture, the big economy numbers, how do they deal with this inside the Obama campaign, knowing things are not getting better?

DAN BALZ, CHIEF POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, they deal with it the way they have begun to deal with it, which is to try to disqualify Governor Romney as someone who has a set of solutions that will do any better than the president has done.

I mean, they are stuck with the economy they have, and they're going to be stuck with the numbers that we will be seeing over the next weeks and the next couple of months. They know that there are some potential real problems out there on the horizon, depending on Europe and elsewhere.

And so what they have begun to do is try to say, Governor Romney tells you he knows how to create jobs, but there is nothing in his record as governor of Massachusetts, for example, to show that he was able to do that. And they will continue to try to pound on that.

KING: And they're also doing what I call jigsaw puzzle politics. They're the incumbent. They understand they could have a wave against them or a tide against them because of the economy.

So, you see the Latino vote tomorrow will be a top focus. They just showed you with the younger students on student loans, the ad on women. He has a new radio ad aimed at African-Americans. I'm over at our electoral map now. This where we stack it right now, Dan, about 247 either strong or leaning for Obama, 206 strong or leaning for Romney.

As you well know, you have to get to 270 to win it. I want to come out to the national map, though, because you get mixed results if you look here. I talked about the bigger picture, the economy. That's not good news for the president right now.

But if you just look, there's a brand-new poll out in Florida today. And look at this. It's close. It's close. But you have the president ahead now. This same poll back in May had Governor Romney ahead. So, in one of the biggest battleground states, they have to feel a little bit better about that.

And then we all thought after the Wisconsin recall, boy, should we make that a tossup? Might that one be trending Republican? But a new poll out of Wisconsin just the other day shows the president, again, this is still close, but the president still on top in this battleground state.

And, Dan, I'm interested in getting your take on this one, also new numbers out of Michigan. And this one here has to have the Romney campaign encouraged. He just went through there on the bus tour, 47 percent to 46 percent, so essentially a toss-up in this poll in Michigan.

When you look state by state, Dan, you have got six or seven toss-up states, three or more states we would call battleground states. What strikes you most at this point 138 days out?

BALZ: Well, John, a couple things I think are important.

One is if the whole water table moves in a direction either toward the president or Governor Romney, these state polls will begin to look different. And so I think we have to take all of these, as you well know, with some reservation at this point.

But I'm struck by those numbers in Michigan. I would not have thought it would be that close at this point. When you -- I was in Wisconsin with Governor Romney on Monday, and the Republicans in that state think that that will be a competitive battleground.

They have tried hard in the past and come close, but lost. So you have to say that at this point the president still has an advantage. I was in Iowa on Monday afternoon with Governor Romney. That state looks very competitive at this point.

So, you know, all in all, the map still seems to favor the president, but, you know, of all of those states we're talking about, I still think a lot will come down to Ohio. If Governor Romney can't win Ohio, it's unlikely he's going to win some of those surrounding states like Michigan or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. So I think that's a very important bellwether that we will continue to watch as we have the last several elections.

KING: It's time to get out of town and get out to the battlegrounds. Chief correspondent for "The Washington Post," Dan Balz, Dan, thanks for your help.

BALZ: Thanks, John.

KING: The attorney general, Eric Holder, he can go across the ocean to Europe, but he can't get away from questions about Wednesday's contempt vote in the House committee. We will assess that situation next.

And as the jury begins deliberations in the Jerry Sandusky case, a blockbuster -- a new accuser comes forward, Sandusky's own adopted son.


KING: The attorney general, Eric Holder, is in Europe holding meetings with European officials in Denmark just one day after the House Oversight Committee voted to recommend holding him in contempt of Congress for not handing over documents in the Fast and Furious investigation.

Even overseas, the attorney general couldn't avoid questions about the big vote.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would say that the action that the committee took yesterday was both unwarranted, unnecessary, and unprecedented.

We put before the committee a proposal that would have allowed for a resolution of that matter consistent with the way in which these have been resolved in the past, through negotiation. I think the possibility still exists that it can happen in that way.


KING: Republicans, unless there is a deal struck, plan a full House vote on charging Holder with contempt next week.

Let's dig deeper on what comes next with our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, you heard the attorney general. He thinks this is an election year stunt. He's right when he says it is unprecedented. Does your gut say we will have a negotiation here or, given the polarization, the partisanship, will we have a vote?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think the latter, frankly.

The -- there are really two possibilities. The one possibility is, as what happened with Janet Reno when she was almost held in contempt during the Clinton administration, that there was sort of some sort of deal worked out allowing access to some, but not all, of the contested documents.

That's one possibility. The other possibility is that they will find him in contempt next week, and that will lead to a court dispute, which will go on almost certainly for the rest of President Obama's term. In other words, this is likely to remain political theater, rather than a legal -- a serious legal dispute for the foreseeable future. KING: You would think if you're going to have productive negotiations, to get access to the documents, for them to strike some deal, you get these documents, you don't get those documents, you would want calm, you would everyone to dial back the rhetoric.

But I want you to listen here. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, was taking questions from reporters today. She says not only is this vote in her view shameful; she thinks she knows why. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: They're going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states. This is no accident. It is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of Republicans.


KING: You can see her anger there, and she's also making a pretty serious charge, that because the attorney general opposes the efforts in several states to require tougher identifications for voters, she calls it voter suppression, that they're going after him.

TOOBIN: You know, this is where politics is so difficult, because, you know, it goes to the question of motive.

Why are politicians acting one way or another? I mean, it is certainly -- there is certainly evidence out there that suggests there is a political motive behind what the Republicans are doing to Holder. Holder has been a target for Republicans almost since the day he became attorney general.

However, Democratic Congress -- members of Congress tried to get documents from President Bush, from the first President Bush, from President Reagan. So -- and their motives were questioned. It is very difficult to untangle the motives. But that -- and there's certainly ample evidence for cynicism on both sides.

KING: How much does it undermine the White House case, number one, that they waited until last minute? These documents requested for months and months and months and months and only at the last minute did they bring up the prospect and then actually use executive privilege.

That's one thing, what he did as president. And then there's this. I always say that running for president is very different from being president. When you are president, you might have a different perspective.

Listen to then Senator Obama here criticizing the Bush administration for doing just what he did yesterday.


OBAMA: There's been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place. And I think, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean on this.


KING: Candidates say the darndest things.

TOOBIN: Boy, he has aged, hasn't he? Certainly, that was my reaction to that statement.

I think -- you know, again, he was questioning the motives of the Bush administration. Republicans are questioning his motives.

It's very difficult to untangle. Most voters who are following controversies like these bring their own biases, bring their own conclusions. I don't think anybody is going to be convinced by these arguments.

But, frankly, it looks like it will wind up in the courts, and the courts will then work document by document and decide whether these documents are covered by executive privilege, whether they reflect internal deliberations that the executive branch should not have to disclose, or whether they are simply ordinary documents that Congress in its right to oversight to investigate has the right to see.

That's what the courts will do. And that's where it looks like it's heading to me.

KING: And that means we will get an answer in 2013 or 2014.

Jeffrey Toobin...

TOOBIN: Don't hold your breath.

KING: Yes, I appreciate your help tonight.

Jeff will stay on top of this one next week, along with the big Supreme Court decisions we expect next week.

Jeff, thank you.

TOOBIN: We are...


KING: While lawmakers debate whether the United States should send weapons to Syrian rebels, there's a new report claiming the CIA is already doing it.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: Ahead here: Jury deliberations begin in the Jerry Sandusky case. But the biggest bombshell comes from a witness who never testified, Sandusky's adopted son.

And George Zimmerman returning to the exact spot where he admits he shot Trayvon Martin -- he says it was in self-defense.

That's ahead.


KING: This half hour of JOHN KING USA, Jerry Sandusky's own adopted son now says he's one of his father's victims, as the child sex abuse case goes to the jury.

Also, new video tonight of George Zimmerman, not just telling police how he shot Trayvon Martin. He's showing them right there. The exact scene.

Plus the truth about Mitt Romney's stance on immigration. Would he undo President Obama's executive action or not?

Tonight, in his own words, we're hearing George Zimmerman's side of the story about shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. In a police video just released by Zimmerman defense's team, the volunteer Neighborhood Watchman gives officers a step-by-step replay of what he says happened on the night of February 26. The tape lasts just under 18 minutes. Watch here. This is a one-minute excerpt when Zimmerman describes firing his gun.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ON TRIAL FOR SHOOTING TRAYVON MARTIN: I kept yelling, "Help, help, help," as long as I could. He put his hands on his nose -- on my nose and his other hand on my mouth. He said, "Shut the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up."

And then I tried squirming again, because all I could think about was when he was hitting my head against it, it felt like my head was going to explode. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. So I tried to squirm so I could get -- he only had a small portion of my head on the concrete. So I tried to squirm off the concrete.

And when I did that, somebody here opened the door and I said, "Help me, help me."

And they said, "I'll call 911."

I said, "No, help me. I need help." And I don't know what they did, but that's when my jacket moved up. And I had my firearm on my right side hid. My jacket moved up, and he saw it. I feel like he saw it. He looked at it. And he said, "You're going to die tonight, (EXPLETIVE DELETED)."

And he reached for it but he reached -- like, I felt his arm going down to my side. And I grabbed it, and I just grabbed my firearm and I shot him. One time.


KING: CNN's Martin Savidge has been going over this tape and other police documents that were just released.

Martin, you see Zimmerman with the bandage on the back of his head there, saying Trayvon Martin was the attacker, Trayvon Martin said he was going to die. How much does the defense team think this bolsters their case?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think they obviously believe that it bolsters their case a great deal. George Zimmerman had some credibility issues just coming up to this, because as you remember, his bond has been revoked under concerns, at least by the judge in the case, that he may have lied or at least misled the court about money he may or may not have had when it came to getting bond.

So credibility is key. It's a self-defense case here. So George may have seen his credibility damaged somewhat. Now the release of this video on the part of the defense team, they may perceive it as bolstering his case. He makes a credible argument, especially in the kind of very visceral show and tell. So that might have been the strategy here. There is a potential bond hearing coming up in about a week.

KING: And the defense also released, Martin, an interview from the police station. Zimmerman's written account of what happened that night. Obviously, the prosecution has access to all of this, too. What's your sense? What can you tell from sources that they're looking for as they pore through all of this evidence?

SAVIDGE: Yes, they're looking clearly for discrepancies. He tells his story a number of different times. They're waiting to see if it wavers in any way, shape or form.

There are some subtle discrepancies. We didn't see major discrepancies. But the big issue is, was there racial profiling? That's something that the prosecution is still going to maintain here, that in some way, shape or form, it was George Zimmerman that started the tragic trigger of events here, because he identified Trayvon Martin, who had every legitimate right to be in that neighborhood, as somehow a suspect. And that led to the eventual deadly confrontation. So I think that's still an issue that the prosecution is going to very much try to make a case of.

KING: Fascinating to see all this right out there in the public domain as the case goes forward. Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

KING: Shifting to another big criminal case tonight: the child rape case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky now in the hands of the jury. But tonight we're learning a new alleged victim is stepping forward, Coach Sandusky's adopted son, Matt.

CNN contributor Sara Ganim is live outside the courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.

Sara, I want to read a statement from Matt Sandusky's lawyers. Quote, "Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky's abuse. This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt."

Sara, tell us more about this meeting and why didn't Matt Sandusky in the end become part of the prosecution's case?

GANIM: We don't know. We don't know why prosecutors did not call him to the stand. But it's my understanding that this meeting was after the prosecution initially rested on Monday of this week. So the defense was already presenting their case when they had this meeting. That's my understanding.

Now, they had a chance for a rebuttal case after Jerry Sandusky's attorney rested yesterday, and they declined to present any evidence. And we don't know why that is.

However, you know, Matt Sandusky has been denying that he was a victim in any way of Jerry Sandusky for many, many months. Actually almost a year. And he even testified before the grand jury that's investigating Jerry Sandusky still. And we don't know exactly what he said, but Joe Amendola, Jerry Sandusky's attorney told me that he wasn't worried at all about Matt Sandusky's testimony.

Now, interestingly enough, his mother, his biological mother, not his adopted mother, because that would be Dottie Sandusky. His biological mother has been saying for more than a year that she believed that her son was abused in some way we Jerry Sandusky. She said she witnessed all kinds of strange behavior and really resented the fact Jerry Sandusky, in her own words, stole her son from her family to adopt him.

Now, he was 18 already when he was adopted, but he had been a foster child in the Sandusky home for a couple of years at that point. And she testified before the grand jury, but when the charges were filed against Sandusky in November, Matt Sandusky was not a part of that grand jury presentment.

KING: Sara, this case is now in the hands of the jury. You were in the courtroom during the closing arguments. What was Jerry Sandusky doing? How -- what was he -- what were his reactions during that phase?

GANIM: One of the most compelling things for me, John, was watching him during prosecutors' closing arguments. There were so many moments where he was either smiling or silently laughing, and they were really the moments where prosecutors were hitting the most important points, the biggest evidence that they presented.

Talking about Dottie Sandusky, what she said. Talking about -- there was one point where Joe McGettigan, the prosecutor, called him a serial predator pedophile, and Jerry Sandusky smiled.

Talking about the gifts that he allegedly gave these kids. Talking about his -- using his status as a celebrity in the community. All of these times Jerry Sandusky would smile.

And really probably the most compelling part of those closing arguments was the very last thing that jurors saw and heard from either of the attorneys. That prosecutor walked back from the jury box. He stood right behind Jerry Sandusky, and he said, "You need to convict him. He knows what he did. You know what he did. Find him guilty on everything."

And Jerry Sandusky, again, he had this smirk look on his face. It was very -- it was very interesting to watch him.

KING: Interesting. I think that might say a bit bizarre there. The case now in the hands of the jury. Sara Ganim outside the courtroom. Sara, thanks so much.

Up next here, we shift to politics. The truth about what we really learned during Mitt Romney's big speech to Latinos on immigration.

And some major banks get a big credit downgrade. We'll tell you which ones. And also, we'll tell you what it might mean for you.


KING: For just a fleeting moment today, it appeared Governor Romney was going to answer a question he's dodged for days.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive order. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure.


KING: Now truth is, that still is not a complete answer. Whatever you think of his politics, Governor Romney is a smart man, a very smart man. He knows it would take weeks, if not months, to get a new law passed granting younger illegal immigrants legal status.

But what he has yet to answer, clearly anyway, is whether he would repeal the president's executive action while pursuing that new law or leave the president's temporary measure in place until a permanent fix is passed. But where Romney left no doubt is why he thinks the president made the policy change to begin with.


ROMNEY: He called it a stop-gap measure. That he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election.


KING: That speech today and the appeal to Latinos overall is very important. The Hispanic population has increased by 15 million people in the past decade. Twenty percent of that growth came in five key battleground states: Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia.

And the steepness of the hill for Governor Romney, well, it's pretty obvious. Look here. Among Latino voters President Obama enjoys a whopping lead at the moment. And "Truth" is, it's hard to see Romney winning the White House unless he can chip away at least some of that lead.

Joining us tonight to talk truth about the Latino vote, three CNN contributors. From Florida, Republican strategist Anna Navarro and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona here in Washington with Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker."

Anna, to you first. You're the Republican in the group. This is a huge test for the Republican candidate. Can he begin to have an honest exchange? Can he begin to make progress among Latino voters? How did he do today?

ANNA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think he did have an honest exchange. I think what we heard from Mitt Romney today was a sober presidential policy speech.

Look, he didn't say all the things I wanted him to say. But you know what, John? Four years ago, I heard all the things I wanted to hear. I heard them from Barack Obama. And after 3 1/2 years, nothing has happened. The only thing that has happened is that deportations have gone up.

So I think Mitt Romney really did not fall into the trap of pandering, election-time pandering to Latinos. And he made that point over and over again: "I'm not going to be Barack Obama who shows up with Valentine's Day gifts, with flowers and bonbons every election time. I'm going to give you some truth. I'm going to give you some reality."

And he made some good suggestions, some good proposals, things that can help solve the problem. Not entirely, but can certainly improve parts of the immigration problem.

KING: So Maria, did Governor Romney say anything that, as a Democrat, makes you think, "OK, he gets it. He's on to something here. We're going to have to work harder"? Or flat?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. Absolutely not. I do give him credit for coming. I think that that was smart of him. He absolutely needed to do it for all the reasons that you stated earlier.

But the problem is, and you stated this, too, this group wanted to hear from him more than what his plan is on the economy, which frankly would be devastating to Hispanic communities around the country. But in terms of immigration, they wanted to hear clearly if he is going to repeal the president's policy. And he said today that he would repeal it, and he would put in his own permanent solution. He also said, interestingly enough...

NAVARRO: Well, you and I are different people.


CARDONA: Also that Latinos -- that Latinos should also listen to what his words are. And we listened very clearly during the primaries, and he was unequivocal, when he said that he would veto the DREAM Act if he got elected and if that got to his desk.

And he also failed to mention today, John, what he would do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants that are in this country today. And, again, if we heed his words during the primary, he would make life in this country so difficult for them that he would want them to self-deport.

So those two things still stand. I talked to a lot of people that were here today. They believe that those two things still stand for Mitt Romney.

KING: So let's -- I want to get to the president's challenge in a minute. But Ryan Lizza, if you look at what's happened in the last three presidential elections, George W. Bush wins, just barely in 2000 with 35 percent of the Latino vote, plus the Supreme Court. Thank you very much.

In 2004 he gets 44 percent of the vote. John McCain gets 31 percent in 2008, loses in an Electoral College blowout. But I assume Romney has to get above 31, closer to 35 to have a reasonable chance to win the presidency?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": Absolutely. Look, Obama can lose Florida and still win the election. So it's important. Hispanics are in Florida. That's not -- that's not crucial for Obama.

You could even argue that the whole race depends on Hispanics in two states. Colorado and Nevada. Colorado in 2008, Obama split the white vote about 50/50. He won that state. He won Colorado in 2008, because he ran up a huge margin among Hispanics, which I think made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2008.

So this is a battle for a very small number of Hispanics in a couple of crucial states. And look, Romney today, he's absolutely right when he says Obama had 3 1/2 years to address immigration and waited until the election year to do it.

2009, 2010, those are big priorities, getting the economy going, health care, and cap and trade. Immigration reform was not on the legislative agenda. So Romney is absolutely right about that.

But what I've seen last week -- over the last week since Obama's decision is Romney doesn't know what to do. The White House... KING: Boxed in.

LIZZA: He's boxed in. They don't have a policy yet. They're surprised at what Obama's policy. And he hasn't figured out the specifics of his plan yet.

KING: Everybody stand by.

CARDONA: Hey, John...

KING: Hang on just one second. Just one second. We'll be back to the group in just a second.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin's here with us for a preview.

And Erin, some breaking news tonight. The credit rating agency Moody's downgrading 15 global banks, including two big ones right here, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. What's that mean?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know what? And the reason, John, isn't going to surprise you. Moody's saying it's very concerned about global financial stability.

But the bottom line is, this means banks get downgraded just like people. That means it's going to cost them more to borrow. It means they have less money to lend. And as we know, that's already a problem in this economy.

Europe continuing to bleed. Congress continuing to not act. That's really the one thing that could change. We're going to be joined by Senator Rand Paul top of the hour. You know what, John? I think he's going to say something pretty darn interesting about, well, you know, what he thinks of Democrats and whether he sort of might be -- might be a Democrat. That's coming up top of the hour.

Back to you.

KING: That's going to keep us -- that's going to keep us waiting right here. We'll see you in just a few minutes. See you then, Erin. Thank you.

When we come back, this is horrible. Middle school students ruthlessly bully a 68-year-old woman. We have the video, and whether or not they fessed up.

And just look at those floods. Homes under water. Streets are rivers. Floods have even drowned zoo animals. We'll have the latest from Minnesota.


COOPER: We're back talking of the competition for the Latino vote with Anna Navarro, Maria Cardona, and Ryan Lizza.

Maria, I want to come back to you on this question. You heard Governor Romney say today when President Obama comes here tomorrow, remember all the promises he broke.

I don't think there's any question the president will win the Latino vote. The big question is will turnout be -- will he win by as big a margin? Will it be an intense turnout? What does the president have to do to tell this community, "Yes, I know you're mad at me about some things but"?

CARDONA: Well, frankly, he has already been talking about that for the last two years now. And I think what he did last week was a long way towards assuring the Latino community that he wants to continue to keep that promise, which by the way, I've always said he shouldn't have made. But in fact, when he made it, he didn't know that the economic hole was so big that he was going to be handed when he walked into office.

But let's go back to something that Romney said and that Ryan actually repeated, which is about that promise. And basically saying that what the president did last week was all political, because he hasn't done anything on immigration up till now. That is just factually not correct.

In 2010, he famously tried to push the DREAM Act, calling Republican senators, trying to get them to support it. He only got three Republican senators to support it, has always talked about comprehensive immigration reform. The 11 Republican senators that are still in the Senate today just a few short years ago supported comprehensive immigration reform, including John McCain, who had his name on the legislation, have turned their backs.

KING: He needed -- he did need the Republican votes. The reason he couldn't pass it was he needed those Republican votes. I think some of his critics, including in your community, Maria, say they didn't see the president out there pushing for it and pushing for it and pushing for it and pushing for it.

LIZZA: Maria, the big thing Obama did on immigration was -- was record deportations, and he's very tough on security. I mean, frankly, that's the -- that's the -- the most significant thing in his record on immigration.

CARDONA: I think last week was the most significant thing on his record in terms of immigration right now.

NAVARRO: And Mitt Romney was completely right. It was -- last week's announcement was a stop-gap measure. It was to stop the gap of enthusiasm he's got in the Latino community.

Maria's right: Obama has talked about immigration for the last 3 1/2 years. It's been about a sentence and a half in every one of his State of the Unions. And he has had a lot of meetings with folks like Eva Longoria and other Latino celebrities.

What he hasn't done is propose a real plan. He hasn't met with the congressional leaders who are the champions and have been the champions on immigration reform. John McCain has told me he hasn't spoken to Barack Obama on immigration, has not gotten a call from him in months, if not years. And many of my Democrat friends in the Senate have told me exactly the same thing.

But I do want to correct, John, please, something that Maria said in the earlier segment. She said that Mitt Romney had said he would repeal Barack Obama's policy. You know...

KING: I don't think we got a clear answer on that one. I don't think we know what he's going to do.

NAVARRO: No. We didn't get a clear answer -- but we didn't -- he said he was going to replace it.


CARDONA: ... and put in his own permanent solution and...

NAVARRO: Well, Maria, unless he says it, I don't think it's clear. You know, it's not clear to me that he's repealing it. I heard him say he would replace it...

CARDONA: And by the way, there's already...

NAVARRO: I would like to hear more details.

CARDONA: There's clear legislation on comprehensive immigration reform. There is clear legislation that existed. So the president didn't have to present anything. He just needed for the 11 Republican senators to not turn their back, to not say, "We're not going to help this president because..."

NAVARRO: No, Maria, a one-term president...


CARDONA: ... not to solve the big problem...

NAVARRO: A president has a duty to lead. He has not led on immigration.

CARDONA: He has talk to legislators. He has talked to the community.

NAVARRO: The immigration proposal that exists on immigration is Bush's proposal, not Barack Obama's...

KING: I don't -- I don't think we're going to settle this one tonight. I don't think there would be much grumbling, as many in the community think he should have spent a little bit more time on this early on.

Ryan, sorry you got a little blocked out there by the feistiness there.

LIZZA: That's OK.

KING: As you can see, we got a feisty debate. I want you two ladies now to go out and have a cocktail or something and try to settle this one. We can fix it all by tomorrow.

Anna, Maria, thank you. Ryan, as well.

Kate Bolduan is back with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hey there.

BOLDUAN: Hey there, John.

Hello again, everyone.

Four middle-schoolers have taken responsibility for ruthlessly bullying their school bus monitor. Some of that was caught on video. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karen, you're so fat. You take up the whole seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're look like a troll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I stabbed you in the stomach and (EXPLETIVE DELETED), my knife would go through you like butter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they didn't want to be near you.


BOLDUAN: Those words were especially cruel against 68-year-old Karen Klein, whose son killed himself ten years ago.

This took place, all of this, in upstate New York. Supporters of Klein's have raised more than $300,000 on really an Internet campaign to hopefully send Klein on a vacation of her dreams.

And flash floods in Duluth, Minnesota, cause up to $80 million in damage to infrastructure alone. Neighborhoods are underwater. Homes have been evacuated. Just look at this video. And streets have turned into what looks like raging rivers. The unprecedented rainfall last night closed 60 roads and even drowned several zoo animals that were caught up in it. Fortunately there were no -- have been no other reports of death or injury.

And white Americans now have 22 times more wealth than black Americans, according to new census numbers. You can see the huge difference in this graph.

Just look here. White households, median net worth hit over $110,000. Asian households, nearly $70,000. Hispanic households, $7,000. And black households, under $5,000. These gaps have gotten much worse over the past few years.

And there are ten brands you know may be gone by next year. That's according to at least -- here are the top five. And this is according to 24/7 Wall Street. They kind of put this out every year. American Airlines. You see Talbots, Current TV, Research in Motion. That's the company that makes BlackBerry. And Pacific Sunwear.

The 24/7 Wall Street, they looked at several factors like big loss, drops in sales, as well as rising costs. Other factors, inefficiency and losing their competitive edge.

So those are -- it's not -- not predictive. We don't know we're going to be losing these brands, but they're in a little bit of trouble.

KING: I think in ten years we'll have the airline. That's just my guess. We'll see.


KING: All right. Kate, stay right here.


KING: Tight moment, "Moment You May Have Missed" unless you were up late, watching "Conan." Mitt Romney's five sons -- that's Craig, Ben, Josh, Matt and Tagg -- all squeezed on Conan O'Brien's set last night. And while we know the Romney family loves pranks -- that's what they tell us anyway -- we don't often get behind-the-scenes footage. Check this out.


MITT ROMNEY: Governor, Mitt Romney, how are you?

MATT ROMNEY, MITT'S SON: Hi, how are you?

MITT ROMNEY: I'm just fine, Governor. How are you doing today?

MATT ROMNEY: Good. Good.

MITT ROMNEY: What can I do for you?

MATT ROMNEY: I want to ask you a bunch of questions, and I want to have them answered immediately.

MITT ROMNEY: Go right ahead and shoot.

MATT ROMNEY: Who is your daddy? And what does he do?

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, TBS'S "CONAN": Matt, was he irritated? Because he was -- after that?

MATT ROMNEY: For a few months, I was fearing retribution. I really was. But he still hasn't gotten me. Thanks for the reminder, though. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'll see you back here tomorrow night. They're funny kids.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," take it away.