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Snowstorm Hits Northeast; Former Cop Accused of Murder at Large; Young Girl Who Performed at Presidential Inauguration Killed; Pundits Assess Political Futures of Marco Rubio and Chris Christie; Interview with Singer Elle Varner

Aired February 9, 2013 - 10:00   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, I'm Martin Savidge in for Randi Kaye. It is 10:00 on the East Coast, 7:00 on the West. Thank you very much for starting your day with us. And welcome, of course, to all of our viewers joining us from overseas.

We're following three big stories today across this country. One, a monster blizzard is smacking the northeast with hurricane-force winds and burying something cities in more than two feet of snow.

On the west coast, a manhunt underway for a suspected cop killer in southern California. Police say Christopher Dorner is armed and dangerous.

And then in Chicago, there is the memorial for an honors student by the name of Hadiya Pendleton. She was gunned down there just a week after performing at President Obama's inauguration.

First, to that blizzard. CNN crews covering the story from about every angle you can imagine. Some have been knee deep in the snow. Some have actually been in the snow. Our coverage spans Atlanta to New York to Rhode Island. And that's where we begin this morning. Poppy Harlow is in downtown providence where it is a tad chilly. Good morning.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Just a tad chilly. Good morning you to, Marty. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us on this Saturday morning.

What was treacherous here in Providence, Rhode Island overnight has turned beautiful, a snowy, white, downtown Providence, still pretty bare. A lot of people not yet coming out of their homes. All of the roads in Rhode Island under the direction of the governor are completely closed to anything but emergency vehicles because they have a big issue with downed power lines. We've still got about 179,000 homes here in Rhode Island, that's nearly a fifth of the population that are affected or without power completely. No power means no heat. They want to keep the roads clear, get the emergency vehicles where they need to be. Get power back up and running.

The real issue here overnight was the whipping wind, the heavy, wet snow that weighed on those power lines. This morning, no whipping winds, light snow. It's going to continue here until about 2:00 eastern time. So that's the scene here. It was a whiteout behind me. Now it's clear, and a few people coming by including snow-shoers.

But I want to take a broader look at this massive winter storm, really the biggest since the great blizzard hit New England in 1978. Our Deb Feyerick has that.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was billed as a monster nor'easter and didn't disappoint. For hours and hours across the northeast from eastern Pennsylvania up to Maine two feet or more of snow blanketed the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably the biggest I've seen in my lifetime.

FEYERICK: Connecticut got slammed with the most snow, the National Weather Service recording some of the biggest accumulations. Look at this -- Milford, 38 inches, New Haven, 34, Bridgeport, 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're crashing a lot. They're going too fast. You got take your time.

FEYERICK: In Hartford, it is slow going for the snowplows. Driving so treacherous the governor has ordered all cars off the road except emergency vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All in all, I think things are going relatively well. And I'm most appreciative because citizens are listening to the warnings that we're giving.

FEYERICK: Massachusetts has also banned unnecessary driving. More than two feet of snow in some areas. It was the howling winds up to 75 miles per hour that took its toll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have lost power here in Dennisport, several times throughout the course of the night. It's gone off, it's come back, it's gone off.

FEYERICK: Briefly knocking out electricity to the nuclear power plant in Plymouth and leaving hundreds of thousands without lights. These two were lucky. You did not lose power all night.


FEYERICK: How was it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was fine. We watched a couple movies and went to sleep.

FEYERICK: Travel severely impacted, no one on the roads. Airports in Boston and New York shut down. More than 5,000 flights canceled.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARLOW: Deb, thank you. I told you about the power issues here. One of the men taking charge and trying to fix it all is Steve Pare. He's the public safety commissioner. He joins us now. Thanks for taking the time out. Biggest question for folks here in providence and across Rhode Island -- when is their power going to get back on. I know you've had progress this morning.

STEVEN PARE, PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER, PROVIDENCE: Yes. We're working with the national grid, our electrical company. We've got to open these roads in order for them to get in and restore power. So that's a priority. We ask people to stay off the roads here in providence as the governor has in the state of Rhode Island. That gives us an ability to get the experts in to put the power back up. That's a concern. That's a priority we're working on.

HARLOW: What do you think, by tonight possibly, at least for providence? I know you still have about 5,000 people in this city without power.

PARE: Yes. We're hopeful, we put -- the national grid put about 2,000 people back up in the short period of time, so some are going to be more complicated. But we're working, going to work throughout the day.

HARLOW: I know an alert went out, folks. If you're here in providence, in Rhode Island, a lot of stop lights are out because of the power outage. That makes driving treacherous. I think people see the scene and see that it's light out and that the snow is not heavy. They think they can come back out. What's your message?

PARE: Please stay off the roads. There's a restriction. Do not drive. And we have lights that are out. We have a lot of pedestrians. We had one hit this morning. So please do not come out. Let us clear the roads, restore power. And then we're hopeful by tomorrow people can resume their normal duty.

HARLOW: All right, we appreciate it. Sure is a beautiful scene, but again, treacherous if you're on the road. Appreciate it. We'll let you get back, we know you have a lot to do. Thank you very much for joining us.

Folks, want to take you live to Boston where our brave Jason Carroll is. I was watching him be whipped around literally by the snow and the wind in Boston all night, Jason. No one looks better when they're doing it. How are you doing this morning?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Oh, Poppy, we're actually still getting bands of snow coming through in Boston. And I know officially the snow count in the city is 21.8 inches. But that's not really where the reality of the situation is. If you come to neighborhoods like this in south Boston, you see the magnitude of what has happened here. You've got drifting -- drifts of snow that have literally buried cars like this one. I know it's hard to make it out, but if I climb up here, you see this is actually the hood of this car here. And if you look up the street here, it's that situation going all the way up the street on all the side streets out here, as well.

The story here in Boston, Poppy, it's going to be the big dig, everyone coming out of their homes or at least a lot of people coming out of their homes in this neighborhood trying to do what they can to dig. I've got Rich here, Rich, let me bring you in. I know you were digging this morning for, what, an hour you were out here digging?


CARROLL: How has it been for you so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been good. Car's out. I turned the car on. Opened the doors.

CARROLL: You were one of the lucky ones. You spent yesterday like so many working from home. You're an accountant. I think the city is glad for people like you who heed warnings and stayed inside. What was it like weathering out the storm? What it what you expected?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. No problems. Power didn't go out.

CARROLL: I also noticed this road behind us, this road has been plowed several times throughout the night. We were here last night. They were in here plowing again today. It seems as if the city's response was really effective in terms of getting the plows out, getting the salt spreaders out, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, a couple of positives. They're doing a good job.

CARROLL: Rich, thank you very much for joining us, coming out this morning. I really appreciate that.

Poppy, the mayor of the city basically saying that 3,700 pounds of salt and sand have been spread on the streets so far. They're ready to bring more of that out. Some 400,000 people in the state are without power. Most of those people are not here. They're down several hours away if you're driving in these conditions at the shore. So they're dealing with that down there. But up in this particular area, it's not about loss of power. It's about digging out from all of the snow. Poppy?

HARLOW: The big dig, I see it here, as well, people trying to dig out of this massive storm. Jason, thank you. Let's send it now back to Marty in Atlanta.

SAVIDGE: All right, thank you both. We will be checking back with you.

And let's talk about some updated numbers now we have regarding the storm in the northeast, and that's power outages especially. Power companies reporting nearly 660,000 customers -- that's up -- without power across nine states. More than half of those are in Massachusetts. Power's been going on and off in many places as crews try to keep one the fallen power lines. And airlines at both JFK International and LaGuardia, expected to resume some passenger flights soon. Newark's flights not expected to begin until at least noon due to the runways being down overnight. But expect most airlines to operate on a limited schedule. So more than 1,800, and that's a new number, 1,890 flights canceled today according to flight aware tracking. Boston's Logan Airport closed until 3:00 p.m. eastern. And Bradley Airport in Connecticut remains closed, as well.

Connecticut, by the way, was pounded by the storm, in some places, about three feet of snow. Let's look now at Hartford. Most places in that state have about two feet of snow or more. We talked to the mayor earlier who said that the snow was falling at about four inches an hour. That was last night. And city crews were struggling then to keep the snow of the streets. Snow will continue to be falling for several more hours. Meteorologist Alexandra Steele has been following all of this for us this morning and continues to do so. Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you. In Kentucky, especially western auto -- in Connecticut, especially western Connecticut, it is over. The storm has moved eastward. We'll see it ending in New York, Connecticut, ending in Boston this afternoon, then Maine tonight.

But look at some totals, unbelievable, Milford along the coast, 38 inches, New Haven, 34 inches, Bridgeport, 30 inches, Hamden, Connecticut, 34, Madison, like right along the shoreline, the 95 corridor, Madison, Guilford, Branford getting pounded with over 30 inches. But it wasn't just the shoreline, it was that 91 corridor, as well.

So all that moisture from the water coupled with the cold air in place and that's what we've got. Bridgeport, there's 38. It just wasn't Connecticut. On long island, Islip, 27, Stony Brook on Long Island, as well, 27. In Worcester, 27, even Boston, 21.8 inches, really the breadth and depth of this throughout the northeast. Although places to the west like Albany, New York, picking up only around four inches or so, pretty interesting.

New Jersey, 14, New York, 11 inches at Central Park. Logan airport in terms of the winds, 76 mile-per-hour gusts. Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, the bridge heading through the cape, winds incredibly strong, as well. Winds coming down. The snow is winding down. So things are on the improve, that's for sure.

Here's the radar picture. The white delineating where the snow is finally, the bulk of the snow off the coast. So that is the good news. New York has cleared out, western New York, western Massachusetts, Vermont. Hey, the skiing is going to start soon, right? Mt. Snow in Stratton, there's the snow, kind of the eastern side of Connecticut through providence and Boston. That, again, will hold on there. This thing will clear out from west to east. So that's how we'll go in terms of the airports, as well, I'm sure. New York will start first. They will get into Hartford and then finally in Boston.

So we will see this clear out through the afternoon. You see by noon where this area of low pressure is. And then it continues to move. Of course, watching the snow line by this afternoon, it is done in Maine. But look at these iso-bars. Those are showing lines of equal pressure. The closer they are, the stronger the winds are going to be. So even through this afternoon and tonight, we won't see 60 and 70 mile-per-hour winds, but we'll see 40 and some 40 mile-per-hour gusts, 30 mile-per-hour wind gusts, 41 gusts, and that's tonight at 10:00. So Martin, as we head toward tomorrow, still the winds beginning to abate. You see how low they get toward Sunday. Things on the improve for sure.

SAVIDGE: Glad to hear it. Thank you very much.


STEELE: Now for some other news making headlines today -- a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck southern Colombia last hour. Thankfully we have had no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Tremors were felt about 500 miles away in the capital of Bogota.

Former Illinois congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has signed a plea deal with prosecutors. The son of the well-known civil rights leader was under investigation for misusing campaign funds. Details of the detail are unknown. According to local reports out of Chicago, he could still face prison time.

And at a White House ceremony next Friday, President Obama will honor the six teachers and staff killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting massacre with the second highest civilian honor, and that is the Citizens Medal.

A big announcement by AOL. They have announced increases in their revenues in the fourth quarter. So why is that? Well, it's the first overall growth in eight years for AOL. They say an increase in ad sales is responsible for that uptick.

The massive manhunt for a suspected triple killer is resuming. California police are now searching for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner. They warn that he is extremely dangerous. A live report is coming up. Hi.


SAVIDGE: Snow's been a problem in the northeast. It's also been a problem out west. The heavy snow there is also affecting today's other major unfolding story. That's the hunt for an ex-cop and suspected triple killer. Snow forced search teams to scale back their search for Christopher Dorner overnight. CNN's Nick Valencia is in downtown Los Angeles. Nick, I presume the search is resuming now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Martin, the search is back underway. It was expected to be underway at about 7:00 a.m. this morning. It's well past that now. The sun is out here in Los Angeles. Yesterday, there was more than 125 officers from throughout southern California that were assisting the San Bernardino county sheriff's department in that investigation there in Big Bear. Today, that operation is slightly scaled back. But the sheriff's office does tell us there's a presence there in Big Bear.

SAVIDGE: And what do you think the searchers are going to be focusing on today and trying to find him?

VALENCIA: Well, yesterday they combed through about 400 cabins and houses in the area. They also looked through abandoned cabins in about an eight-square-mile stretch of that mountainous area there in Big Bear.

And today, Martin, good news for the secretary of team. They're able to use helicopters weather permitting. The weather has been cooperating so far. We heard from the sheriff's department a short time ago in beg bear that they will be using aerial search, just aerial search today to look for Chris Dorner.

SAVIDGE: And of course you know, that's a vacation area for a lot of people. And I'm wondering, is there a concern for the tourists that are out there, the civilians?

VALENCIA: It is. It's a very popular tourist destination. It's also very popular with the locals here in southern California. A lot of people, snowboarders, skiers, head there to Big Bear this time of year. But yesterday the Big Bear Lake Authority issued a statement saying that their part of the resort will stay open. We've heard reaction from some of the people in the area, some residents. Some residents are taking precautions, while others, Martin, seem to be pretty oblivious to the massive manhunt taking place right there in Big Bear.

SAVIDGE: Quick before we let you if, what's the mood like of authorities as they go about this difficult and really dangerous search?

VALENCIA: Yes, it is very dangerous. It's quite tense. A lot of anxiety here, especially because you have to take into consideration the training that Chris Dorner has. He's a military marks man. He's also got a handful of years of police training. And there's concern among the police department that he may know the tactics in this type of situation. And it's the element of surprise, Martin, that's the scariest thing and causing the most anxiety. A lot of anxious people there in that Los Angeles police department behind me. In fact, some of the people mentioned in his manifesto work in this police department right here right behind me. Martin?

SAVIDGE: Nick Valencia live in Los Angeles for us with the update. Thank you.

Hidiya Pendleton, that's the teen that was gunned down just a week after performing at President Obama's inauguration. She will be buried in Chicago today. We are taking a special look at her young life that was ended so very soon.


SAVIDGE: In about 90 minutes, first lady Michelle Obama will attend the funeral for 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. As you may know, the Chicago honor student and band major was gunned down just a week after performing at President Obama's inauguration. CNN's Athena Jones is live in Chicago with the story. We've said this is so tragic, Pendleton had no gang affiliation and apparently was not even the intended target. Correct, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Martin. She was a bystander. She was standing with her friends in a structure in a park not far from her school. That's one of the things that's so tragic about this. Hadiya Pendleton had spoken out against people joining gangs, urged her friends to stay on the straight and narrow and not get involved with gangs. This is something that the vice president, Vice President Biden brought up about Pendleton just a few days ago when he was speaking to house Democrats.

And it's something that makes it such a tragic situation that's too common in cities like Chicago and around the country. It's helped focus the nation's attention, not just people in Chicago but the nation, people in Washington. That's why the first lady will be coming to the funeral service today along with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. We just saw Reverend Jesse Jackson arrive. This is becoming more of a symbolic event, certainly of importance, great importance, the sadness to the Pendleton family. But it's a way for the whole nation to focus on this issue of gun violence. Martin?

SAVIDGE: You mentioned that Pendleton's family supports using her tragic debate to help shape the gun control debate?

JONES: That's right. You know, her father, Nathaniel Pendleton, says they want to see both parties work together. As he put it, he doesn't want there to be a Democratic approach and a Republican approach. He believes there should be what he called a multifaceted approach. They're very aware of the fact that this tragedy, their own personal tragedy, has taken on a larger scope nationwide. And they want to see Hadiya Pendleton's death serve as something to bring the parties together and maybe do something that can help reduce gun violence.

SAVIDGE: Is the first lady expected to speak, or is she attending?

JONES: No, she's just attending. We're told we should not expect her to be making any remarks. She was heartbroken, according to her office, to learn of the death of Hadiya Pendleton. She wants to be here to offer her condolences and her support for Pendleton's family and for Pendleton's friends and loved ones. But she won't be speaking. Martin?

SAVIDGE: Athena Jones, thank you very much for that.

JONES: More than half a million people waking up today in the cold and, well, not so dark now, but we're talking about the power outages that are affecting more than 650,000 people. We'll have more in a moment.


SAVIDGE: Well, the weather outside's frightful, but it should be getting better. Welcome back, everyone, I'm Martin Savidge in for Randi Kaye. And we're keeping you updated on the blizzard this morning. More than a half million people are waking up today with no power. Here are the latest numbers -- power companies are reporting nearly 660,000 customers are without power across nine states. More than half of those are in Massachusetts. Power has been going off and on in many places as crews try to keep up with the fallen power lines.

And that blizzard is stopping the U.S. Postal Service. Mail service has been suspended in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and areas north of New York City due to weather conditions. But we do also have some good news for airline passengers. Airlines at JFK international and LaGuardia are expected to resume some passenger flights soon. Newark flights are not expected to begin until at least noon due to the runways being down overnight.

How about this -- more than 1,890 flights canceled today according to flight aware tracking. Boston's Logan Airport closed until 3:00 eastern and Bradley Airport in Connecticut remains closed, too.

Here are some other stories we've been watching this morning. In California search teams are trying to find and bring in an ex-cop and suspected killer, Christopher Dorner. He's still at large, possibly in the resort area of Big Bear Lake. Dorner is the accused, or is accused, rather, of killing three people in revenge for losing his, quote, "dream job" with the LAPD. He allegedly has a hit list of dozens more people.

The U.S. department of transportation shut down the California company involved in last weekend's deadly bus tour crash, saying that that company posed "an imminent hazard to public safety." Eight people died in the wreck. This marks the second time this year that the government has ordered the company to close following a fatal crash.

An emergency meeting taking place in London today as ministers, food inspectors, and retailers try to we'll do a bizarre discovery of horse meat, yep, horse meat, in beef products across Europe. So far millions of pound of processed beef -- products, that is, have been pulled from shelves from the U.K. and France.

And monopoly, it gets a new game piece.

Iran's president nearly gets a shoe to the face.

And some tourists in Hawaii get the scare of their lives. In case you missed it all, a look now back at the week that was.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Boy Scouts prepare to vote on whether to end its ban on gays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pose no harm to anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to lead to human tragedy.

BALDWIN: The postal service is eliminating Saturday deliveries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're now at a point where it is absolutely necessary to make that move. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monopoly fans, you have spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In comes a cat.

SAVIDGE: Monopoly makes a move, the post office makes a change, and the Boy Scouts of America, well, they can't make up their minds. To ban good days -- ban gays was the question. That set off a frenzy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happens when we go camping and there's units that allow gays and homosexuals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a local scout leader, I don't need to worry about gay rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If this ban is lifted it will be a great first step.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a catastrophe for the Boy Scouts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The decision was a big dud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to believe this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are delaying the decision until their annual meeting in May.

SAVIDGE: No delaying for the U.S. post office this week. They made their decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say good-bye to your Saturday mail.

SAVIDGE: Except for those important packages.

JIMMY FALLON, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Postal workers were shocked. They were like, we were supposed to deliver mail on Saturday?


SAVIDGE: So why the cutback?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People pay their bills on line. It's simple, it's easy, it's free. You cannot be free.

SAVIDGE: No, you can't. It's not like we're talking monopoly money here, although folks are talking about those tokens.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Now there's a game- changer coming. One of these iconic tokens is about to go away.

SAVIDGE: Yep. After an online vote, the iron's out. The cat's in. And NBC, well, they had the big exclusive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have it right here on the set. Nice. Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It goes to show you if you let the internet decide, it will always choose cats.

SAVIDGE: Hey, at least they kept their shoe. The same can't be said for this guy who hurled his at Iran's president this week in Egypt. Kind of reminiscent of this close call in 2008.

Speaking of close calls -- this is what whale watching can look like in Maui. Folks in that small canoe found out the hard way. Their other lesson -- it's breeding season in Hawaii. And that's "The Week that Was."



SAVIDGE: How about that live image of a place without snow. Good morning, D.C. You're looking at pictures of the U.S. capitol where they escaped the big blizzard this time around.

Time for our look at the top political stories of the week, but we will actually start with next week. On Tuesday, President Obama gives his state of the union address. But most of the talk has been about the Republican response. It will be given by Florida senator Marco Rubio. He is on the cover of the new issue of "time" magazine. It's being called "The Republican Savior." Rubio's responded with this tweet, "There is only one savior, and it's not me, #Jesus." Rubio is clearly, though, the star of his party now.

And joining me to talk about Rubio and the rest of the political hot topics, CNN contributor Maria Cardona, and Amy Holmes, anchor of "Real News" on "The Blaze." Maria, I know that you were talking about the fact that Rubio will give part of the response in Spanish. So good move? Do you think it's going to sway Latino voters?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'll say this, Martin, it is a good move. The Republican Party when it comes to Latinos, they're starting from less than zero. So anything that they do will count toward trying to attract Latino voters.

But it's going to take more than words. It's going to take more than Spanish words. They've got to do more than talk the talk. They got to start walking the walk. What does that mean? Margo -- mark Rubio can speak Spanish but then has to lead his party toward legislation, something to lead to a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants here. That is what the Latino community has clamored for. Frankly, the majority of the American people are there.

When it comes to other issues, they have to just not change their tone but change their policies. Stop talking about repealing Obama care that gives nine million Latinos health care coverage that didn't have it before. That is where we're going to see the truth as to whether he is the savior, as "TIME" magazine puts it, of the Republican Party.

SAVIDGE: All right, Amy, it seems like Republicans might be bending over backwards to be more inclusive when it comes to Latinos. I'm wondering, any danger they alienate the base? AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: With the "TIME" magazine cover, beware of the build-up. The media loves that. They also like to tear the person down. Marco Rubio, he is one of the stars of the Republican Party. As we saw at the Republican convention, there are a number of stars in the Republican Party that are trying to create a bigger tent, a more diverse, more inclusive Republican Party.

But as far as Marco Rubio goes, he's an interesting sort of figure for Republicans, not just because of his Hispanic background and ability to speak Spanish and reach out to Spanish language listeners, but also because he is a Tea Party favorite and he won statewide in a swing state in Florida that is very key, as we know, to 2016 and presidential elections. It's very key to the Republican Party to be able to win, you know, in a swing state, in a blue state, and reach that kind of constituency not just the Latino community.

SAVIDGE: And let's talk about Chris Christie this week. A new poll showed that his approval rating, over 70 percent. So far no really big names have been thrown or have thrown their hat into the ring who opposed him --

HOLMES: Big hat intended.

SAVIDGE: There you go. We're getting to that in a minute, in fact. Now take a listen to this.


DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: I have made jokes about you, not just one or two, not just ongoing here and there, intermittent, but --



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I didn't know this was going to be this long.



SAVIDGE: I think that's what you were getting to, Amy. The only negative was the chatter about his weight and the health implications. I want to ask you both, who could win, Chris Christie or Marco Rubio, Amy?

HOLMES: Who could win the Republican nomination in 2016?


HOLMES: It's a wide-open field, no pun intended. I think Chris Christie is showing a great sense of humor. I've met Chris Christie, he's round, he's just not very tall. I think that's where you get the proportions with him. But one of Chris Christie's great appeals, though, is that he's the common guy. He has the common touch. Clearly being on with David letterman he was able to show that and showcase that great communication ability.

SAVIDGE: And Maria, you agree?

CARDONA: I do actually. I think Chris Christie does have a much broader appeal than a lot of the Republicans that are being talked about as presidential material for 2016. I think the problem for Chris Christie is that he might have too much appeal among Democrats. We saw that in -- during the election when Chris Christie's embrace, wide embrace of President Obama did not make very many Republicans very happy. And a lot of them are grumbling that this is going to have a real effect on Chris Christie's path to trying to get the Republican nomination if he so chooses in 2016.

So right now I think it's working very much to his advantage. New Jersey is a Democratic-leaning state and so that does work to his advantage. I do think he's got great comedic timing. So if it doesn't work out in 2016 for him, he could always get a stint on the comedy channel, on Comedy Central.

SAVIDGE: Yes. I think you're right. You know, he does -- he carries himself very well, as I would say. So Maria Cardona, Amy Holmes, thank you very much for joining in the conversation here. It's nice to see you both in a place that's not buried in snow.

All right, across the northeast, CNN viewers have been helping us tell the story of the historic blizzard, like this guy who can't get back out his door. More of your pictures and your videos after this break.


SAVIDGE: Down the stairs, off the wall, wearing a one-sie, nothing but net -- you got to see this. That's a toddler showing off his amazing basketball trick shots. By all accounts, it's totally legit. Two-year-old Titus is a baller. The guy who posted this video on YouTube says he began shooting baskets shortly after learning to walk. He started filming some and got totally carried away. It was close to two million hits so far on YouTube since Sunday. We think he left Chuck E. Cheese with enough tickets to buy a Ferrari.

Here's a parenting lesson for you. Bribery works, as if you didn't know. A father from Massachusetts named Paul Baer paid his daughter $200 to drop Facebook, even drew up the contract and posted it on his blog. It says the teenager has to stay Facebook free for five month, and dad gets her password so she can't reactivate the account.

Now to Lady Gaga's diva demands. There's a bizarre request in her backstage suite. She requires a mannequin, specifically with pink hair down there. And she also requires fresh roses, white leather couches, black satin drapes, and old rock posters from her favorite artists like Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Billy Holliday. She also has to have Jameson, wine, and 40 bottles of room-temperature water with a pack of long straw that must be extra-long according to the document.

Finally, right on cue, the skeet shooting Obama doll goes on sale. The people at Hero Builders, an action figure company, are trying to cash in on the political -- trying to cash in on the political controversy. It comes with a toy hunting shotgun and sells for $19.95. You'll remember that the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David after critics on the right questioned whether he really did. So much for the animation.

Our iReporters across the northeast are sending in great picture and videos of the blizzard. George Howell has been keeping an eye on them and he joins us now with what he's found. George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Martin, you know, we've got a lot of cameras here at the big CNN worldwide. You know, to be everywhere, that is where you come in. We certainly appreciate all the pictures, the videos that you bring to us through iReport.

I want to start with this picture now from Darrell Lucas. Take a look at this. He shows us when he woke up, cars just covered in snow. This is in Middletown, Connecticut. He owns an Italian restaurant there in town. And made the -- you know, gave the impression that he won't be getting out on the roads any time soon. The cars are covered. The streets are unplowed.

And keep in mind you're going to see a lot of that in those rural areas in places, you know, outside the city. It may take some time for views to get to your area. A lot of snow on the ground, and officials say it will take time.

I also want to talk about what's happening on twitter. We've been mining the word "snow" to see what officials are saying. I want to start with what Connecticut Governor Malloy says, "This is a record- setting storm. It's going to take time to dig out of the snow. Stalled or abandoned vehicles will only slow that process." Also the same thing coming from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, he says, "Please stay off the roads. This warning as crews work to clear the snow." So officials sending out the same message, you know, just to stay off the roads. It will take time to clear the snow.

I also want to talk about this. So we are staying on top of all of this. If you go to, you can find a great interactive map. You can look at the iReports that come in. For instance, let's go to Nantucket Island. Look at this. It played. That's cool. Yes, you know -- you can see what's happening, that happened a few hours ago. That's the scene there. And iReports are still coming in. We appreciate everything that you bring in to us. You bring them to us, and we'll pass them on, thank you.

SAVIDGE: All right, George. Thank you very much. We do appreciate it. Remember, keep it safe out there.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

SAVIDGE: Get your pictures as best you can.

OK, big week for my next guest, Elle Varner, whose hit song "Refill" is up for a Grammy Sunday. That's after picking up an NAACP image award for outstanding new artist. She joins me from Los Angeles. It seems, I have to say, like your rise to fame has happened so fast. Your debut album of just released a few months back, and there you are up for awards, singing at the United Nations, with Stevie Wonder. And maybe, you know, coolest of all, you know, you've won over very big fans at the White House, Michelle Obama and her daughter, Malia, and just 23 years old. What does it all mean to you?

ELLE VARNER, R&B SINGER: Yes. It's just incredible. I mean, I'm so blessed. I feel like I have a purpose and a destiny. And I'm fulfilling it through everything that's happening. And to have everything on line now with the awards, with, Michelle Obama and Stevie Wonder, it's just -- it's incredible.

SAVIDGE: What's it like to get an endorsement from the first lady?

VARNER: Like the most amaze thing that could ever happen.

SAVIDGE: I'm sure.

VARNER: It just -- it really reminds me why it's best to stay true to yourself, to myself, because I made an album that's very different from everything that's out right now. And I really took a leap of faith doing my music. And to know that she, her daughters, and so many people are discovering my music and loving it for what it is and who I am, it's incredible.

SAVIDGE: And we mention that you already have won the NAACP's best new artist award. What would a Grammy -- for best R&B song off of your debut album mean to you now?

VARNER: I mean, it's the highest achievement in music. It is -- just to be nominated, it's such a huge accomplishment. To be acknowledged by my peers in the music industry, not just the fans. It's -- and I would actually nominated in college most likely to win a Grammy. So fingers crossed.

SAVIDGE: There you go. They already had some good insight. Where do you find your inspiration?

VARNER: I find my inspiration from a lot of the old greats. I started listening it Stevie Wonder and Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, at a young age. I would watch Diana Ross and her performances for inspiration. Just classic, true artists.

SAVIDGE: Some people I think are surprised maybe at such a young age, 23, that you can write, sing, and produce R&B music. You're not surprised. You know what you can do.

VARNER: I grew up in a musical family. My mom and dad, singer/songwriters/producers. So there was always some musician sleeping on my couch, and I was in the studio at 5:00 just watching, learning. And it's brought me to this point now.

SAVIDGE: I want to point out that the way you dress is quite demure when, say, compared to other young artists today. Your look, for example, is much different than, say, Beyonce at the Super Bowl. Is your style an important part of your image? And do you get pressured in some way to wear something else?

VARNER: Well, style is -- another form of self-expression. And I'm a singer/songwriter. So I'm always finding different ways to express who I am. I think it's very important for me as a young artist, knowing that I have young fans, to be a role model and show them that you don't have to have everything all out. You can still be sexy and beautiful, but it really comes from within, not without.

And you know, I always try to make sure it's one thing. It's not everything. I leave something to the imagination. But I think that there's artists like Beyonce who do it in a classy way. If they, you know, wear a leotard or whatever, she always keeps it classy and beautiful.

SAVIDGE: What do you make of CBS asking artists to cover up for the awards?

VARNER: Honestly, I can understand a little bit because there's just -- there's been some crazy things that I think lately people are more and more just taking off the clothes. And it's a beautiful night. It's a classy night for music. I think that's how people should dress.

SAVIDGE: What will you be wearing on the red carpet? What should we look for you in?

VARNER: You should look for me in -- I say it's like Chanel meets Elle. It's very classy and very -- it's classic but it still has that flair of funkiness that is me.

SAVIDGE: I like the ring to that, Chanel meets Elle. Win or lose, what's up next for you?

VARNER: What's up next for me is my second album that I'm working on currently. I'm excited to tell my story of where I'm at. Since "Perfectly Imperfect" was my coming of age, it was going through college, the motions. Now it's like I have this whole new life. I'm an up and coming artist. I have Stevie Wonder and Michelle Obama, like everything has changed. I really want to reflect on where I'm at now as a woman, as an artist, and just keep it coming.

SAVIDGE: Thank you very much. Elle Varner, and good luck to you.

VARNER: Thank you very much.

SAVIDGE: It was a pleasure talking to you.

VARNER: Thank you. Thanks.

SAVIDGE: Bye-bye.

Later today, CNN's A.J. Hammer looks at the top five things we can't wait at the Grammy awards. That will be today, 2:30 eastern right here on CNN.

We've got a lot, much more -- that's redundant -- ahead in the next hour of CNN Saturday morning which starts after this quick break.