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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Mitt Romney Speaks at Values Voters Summit; Pastor Jeffress Says Romney's Religion a 'Cult'; Civil Right Leader Reverend Joseph Lowery Interviewed; Political Analysts Look at GOP Presidential Field; Raiders Owner Al David Dies

Aired October 8, 2011 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you all. We're at the top of the hour here on the CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

We want to start with a live event that's taking place right now. Governor Mitt Romney has taken the stage at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. This is a collection of conservative activists. It's pretty much all the presidential candidates on the Republican side have been addressing the people there over the past couple of days.

You may have heard of the controversy that was sparked yesterday at this same Values Voters Summit when the person who got up, pastor Robert Jeffress, got up on stage to introduce an opponent. He got up to introduce Governor Perry of Texas. And he actually had some words to say about Mitt Romney and his religion some controversial remarks. He went on later to tell reporters that, in fact, he believes that Mormonism is a cult and that Mitt Romney is not a true Christian.

So I tell you all that to set up what we're seeing today. Mitt Romney just taking the stage, a lot of people wondering if he would address the controversy. He just took the stage moments before we hit the air here, so we're going to start this from the very top and let you hear all of Mitt Romney's comments. And he started by going after the president. Let's listen to him now.

(APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Wow, a lot of old friends here. Good to be so enthusiastically welcomed.

And thank you to Jay Seculow. Aren't we lucky to have a treasurer like that arguing our causes before the Supreme Court?

And speaking of hitting it out of the park, how about that Bill Bennett? Isn't he something else?

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I've been coming to this event for six years. And this is the biggest crowd yet. For that, I suppose we should acknowledge President Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

He is, after all, the conservative movement's top recruiter.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, it turns out he really is a good community organizer.

(LAUGHTER)

Although I don't think this is the community he had in mind.

In almost every other way, President Obama has been a failure. He faced a recession and he made it worse. He announced a recovery summer. A year and a half later, we're still waiting. And 25 million Americans are out of work or out of hope. Chronic unemployment is higher than it's ever been in recorded history. Home values and retirement funds have been devastated.

And all this didn't come cheap. In one term, he has amassed or will have amassed more debt than all of our prior presidents combined. We need stability and solvency. We got Solyndra. President Obama likes to remind us of what he inherited with one glaring exception. He forgets to mention that he also inherited a AAA bond rating.

(APPLAUSE)

But now the American people are starting to do some downgrading of their own. Last November and in special elections across the country since then, Americans have rejected the president's agenda. And maybe you can think back, just after an inauguration, he was on the "Today" show. And he told the interviewer -- not the innovator, the interviewer, he said if he couldn't turn the economy around in three years, why he would be looking at a one-term proposition. We're here to collect. We're here to collect.

(APPLAUSE)

The president has just unveiled his latest jobs stimulus. And he's furious that we're not enthusiastic about it. But, Mr. President, we remember your last stimulus, the one you promised would hold unemployment below eight percent. It ended up costing over a quarter of a million dollars for every job you said it created or saved, a quarter of a million dollars a job.

And we also remember your "cash for clunkers" program. That ended up costing $24,000 for every vehicle traded in. At the rates you're handing out government money, every American will have to pay your millionaire's tax.

(LAUGHTER)

President Obama has proved that old maxim from Ronald Reagan. It's not that liberals are ignorant. It's just that what they know is wrong. (APPLAUSE)

You see, I think to help create jobs, it helps to have a job.

(APPLAUSE)

I spent my career in the private sector. I've met a payroll. I've signed the front as well as the back of a payroll check. I've actually saved jobs and created jobs. I know what it takes to get America back to work.

Let me tell you some of the highlights of what I'll do. Beginning on day one of my presidency, I'll take bold action to help grow our economy and create jobs. I'll issue an executive order that directs the secretary of health and human services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states.

(APPLAUSE)

Obamacare is a wolf in wolf's clothing.

(LAUGHTER)

It's expensive, it's intrusive, and it's unconstitutional. And that's why I'm going to fight to repeal it.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll put an end to every one of the job killing regulations imposed by this Obama administration. I will open production of energy across the country.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll remove the barriers to developing our coal and oil and gas, natural gas resources. And by the way, I welcome renewable energy. But as an old venture capitalist myself, I can tell you this -- no more Solyndras.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm going to promote free trade and open markets. And for stealing our designs and our patents and our know-how, and for manipulating their currency to unfairly attack our industries and our jobs, I will finally clamp down to China.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll protect the right of American workers to vote by secret ballot. And I'll fight --

(APPLAUSE)

And I'll fight to stop union bosses from using the dues of their union members to support those bosses' favorite campaigns. That has to end. (APPLAUSE)

Now, those are just a few steps. I'm just getting started. But the full plan I proposed, you can take a look at it. You can download it for free on your Amazon kindle or at my website. It has 59 distinct action steps. And these actions will do something that's critically need -- they'll make America once again the most attractive place in the world for business and for investment and for jobs.

Did you read last week the CEO of Coca-Cola said that the business environment in China is better than that here in the United States? China? If that isn't an indictment of this administration and of Washington, what is? It's time to let a conservative businessman take the reins of government to make sure that America, not China, is the economic powerhouse of the world.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, there's a growing chorus of people in the country who believe that America's day has passed. They believe that we need to accommodate ourselves to a world of multiple, balanced powers. But god didn't create this country to be a nation of followers. America must lead the world or someone else will.

I'm guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion. This century must be an American century.

(APPLAUSE)

In an American century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world. Let me make this perfectly clear. As president of the United States, I will devote myself to an American century and I will never, ever apologize for America.

(APPLAUSE)

American strength rises from a strong economy, from a strong defense, and from the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this president, all three of those things have been weakened.

Now, I've already spoken about the actions I'll take to strengthen our economy. To strengthen our military, I'll reverse the president's cuts to the defense budget.

(APPLAUSE)

Time and again, we've seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price not only in treasure but in blood. I'm going to modernize our Navy and our Air Force, add active duty soldiers, restore a robust missile defense system and give --

(APPLAUSE)

And I want to make sure we give our veterans the care they deserve.

(APPLAUSE)

I also want to repair our alliances. Our friends should never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. I'll reaffirm our vital national interest in Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

(APPLAUSE)

I will count as dear our special relationship with the United Kingdom, and I'll begin talks --

(APPLAUSE)

I'll begin talks with Mexico to strengthen our cooperation on our shared problems of drugs and of security.

This is America's moment. I will not surrender America's role in the world. It's very simple -- if you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I'm not your president. You have that president today.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Now, the foundation needed for a strong economy and a strong military is the people of strong values, the values I learned in my home have enriched my life immeasurably. I had a mom and a dad. What a blessing that was. My parents' example led me to marry, to have children, and now to bask in the joy of 16 grandchildren.

(APPLAUSE)

For the last 42 years, Anna has been my partner and joy, and she's done those things which have brought more happiness to our lives than anything I've done, for she took the lead in raising our five boys. Did you see that Steve Jobs was asked whether he was glad that he had children? He said it's 10,000 times better than anything I have ever done.

(APPLAUSE)

But we know that marriage is more than a personally rewarding social custom. It's also critical for the well-being of a civilization. That's why it's so important to preserve traditional marriage, the joining together of one man and one woman.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's why I will appoint an attorney general who will defend the bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton, the Defense of Marriage Act.

(APPLAUSE) Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage, our government's policies are often out of step with our values. If a couple have a baby, the government will actually give them more support in the form of food stamps, welfare, other benefits, than if they do not marry than if they do. Our safety net programs penalize the decision to marry instead of rewarding it. That's just wrong. And that's why I'll eliminate these marriage penalties.

And I will hold fathers financially responsible for their child whether or not they've married the mother. They have to take responsibility.

(APPLAUSE)

Our values must also encompass the life of an individual child. There are of course strong convictions on both sides of this issue, yet it speaks well of our country that almost all Americans recognize that abortion is a problem. The law may call it a right, but no one ever called it a good. And in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year can't be squared with the good heart of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president --

(APPLAUSE)

-- I'll end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood. I'll protect the health care workers' right to follow their conscious in their work.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will nominate judges who know the difference between personal opinion and law. It is long past time --

(APPLAUSE)

It is long past time for the Supreme Court to return the issue of abortion back to the states by overturning Roe v. Wade.

(APPLAUSE)

Because the good heart of America knows no boundaries, a commitment to protecting life shouldn't stop at the water's edge. Taking innocent life is always wrong and always tragic wherever it happens. The compassionate instincts of this country should not be silent in the face of injustices like China's one child policy. And if I'm president, you will never hear me or my vice president tell the Chinese government that we understand or won't second-guess compulsory sterilization and forced abortion.

(APPLAUSE) Almost all Americans live for a purpose greater than ourselves. Our heritage of religious faith and tolerance has importantly shaped who we become as a people. We must continue to welcome faith into the public square and allow it to flourish. Our government --

(APPLAUSE)

Our government must respect religious values, not silence them. We will always pledge our allegiance to a nation that is under god.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, one more thing -- our values are noble, and as citizens they strengthen the nation. We should remember the decency and civilities are values, too. One of the speakers who will follow me today is across that line, I think. Poisonous language doesn't advance our cause. It's never softened a single heart or changed a single mind. The blessings of faith carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate. The task before us is to focus on the conservative beliefs and the values that unite us. Let no agenda narrow our vision or drive us apart. We have important work to accomplish.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, the 21st century must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It's our duty to steer it under the path of freedom, peace and prosperity. My hope is that our grandchildren will remember us in the same way that we remember the last generation of Americans who overcame adversity, that fought in world wars, that came through the Great Depression that gained victory in the Cold Wars.

Let future generations look back on us and say they rose to the occasion, they embraced our duty and they led our nation to safety and strength. The greatest generation is passing, but as their light fades, we must seize that torch they carried so gallantly at such great sacrifice. It's an eternal torch of decency, freedom and hope. It's not America's torch alone, but it is America's duty and honor to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

I believe in that America. We believe in that America.

Thank you, and god bless the United States of America. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

HOLMES: Well, there you have it, listening to Governor Mitt Romney and take a little hop of the stage there.

He's speaking at the Values Voters Summit, talked about, what, about 20 minutes there addressing conservative voters. He hit on some of the things you would expect to hear as one of the presidential candidates who will be talking to a roomful of conservatives.

But also important about what he did not say and not necessarily expected him to see. But there was controversy surrounding the Values Voters Summit after a Rick Perry supporter got on stage yesterday right before introducing Rick Perry and said some inflammatory remarks, but then later said to reporters that he thought that Governor Romney belonged to a cult and that Mormonism is a cult and that he was not a true Christian.

We're talking about Robert Jeffress, who is an influential evangelical pastor. He's head of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. But he made those comments to reporters yesterday and then he stood by those comments when he was asked about it repeatedly by a number of reporters, including our Jim Acosta. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. ROBERT JEFFRESS, SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult.

I think Mitt Romney is a good, moral man. But I think those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So there you have it, Jim, that was the controversy. I don't know if we expected him to address it, but he did not in his speech today.

But I want to ask you about something he did say. I'm trying to go through the list of speakers who will follow him. But he said at one point in there that some of this inflammatory language has no place in this dialogue. He said one of the speakers coming up later has engaged in that. Do we know who he was talking about?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Romney was talking about the man who is onstage right now, Brian Fisher. He is with the American Family Association. That is a prominent social conservative organization. It's also the organization that was involved with Rick Perry for that prayer event that was held in August called "The Response," you'll remember that, T.J.

Brian Fisher, I just heard a few moments of his speech just a little bit ago where he said that -- he basically said that the country needs a true Christian in the White House again, taking a dig at Mitt Romney, saying Mitt Romney is not a true Christian. I want to say Mitt Romney did sort of address this controversy in his speech.

I don't know if you saw that or heard that at the beginning of the speech, T.J. Mitt Romney said Bill Bennett, the speaker before Romney, Bill Bennett went after that pastor in that speech, strongly condemning those remarks and reminded the voters here at this summit that George Washington believed in religious freedom. So Bill Bennett went right after this controversy. And when Romney got up to give his speech, he said, quote, I think Bill Bennett hit it out of the park. It's no accident that he used those words because Rick Perry yesterday, when he was giving his speech said that pastor Jeffress hit it out of the park when he gave his remarks introducing the Texas governor.

So there's a little bit of a back and forth here. It's subtle, it's coded. But make no mistake, these two campaigns, as you've seen in all of these debates are going right at each other. And the Perry campaign said yesterday, well, we had no idea that Pastor Jeffress was going to say this. This was the event that put Pastor Jeffress here.

And the Romney campaign, while they're not commenting on it, I tried to get the governor to comment to this issue. He walked right past us. The Romney campaign, you better believe it here, they are dealing with this issue. And when Governor Romney made those comments at the beginning of his speech, that's what he was talking about.

HOLMES: Well, it was subtle and you had to be listening closely and we know you were.

Just quickly here, we have been talking about this controversy. It was big news last night. But there, with those conservative voters, do you get the sense that they want to talk about Mitt Romney's religion? Is this an issue for them?

ACOSTA: For a sliver, and it may be a chunk. It's hard to quantify. Evangelical Christian voters, Christian conservatives inside the Republican Party, yes, this is an issue. If it weren't an issue, this prominent pastor from Dallas, Robert Jeffress would not have said this yesterday.

And he said to me in his interview, there are pollsters that will say this is not an issue, but when they go inside the voting booth, it may be an issue.

Mitt Romney dealt with this in 2008. He gave that big speech at Texas A&M, dealing with this issue, reminding the American people what John Kennedy went through in the 1960 campaign. His Catholicism was held against him. But John Kennedy got to the White House and overcame that that as a political issue. That is the challenge. For Mitt Romney in this campaign, to get to those Republican primaries, T.J., he's going to have to overcome this issue once again.

HOLMES: Jim Acosta, thank you, as always.

We're at 25 minutes past the hour. And all this talk about Mitt Romney's religion, people say a lot of folks just don't know a lot about Mormonism. Let me give you some background on the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was founded by a farmer named Joseph Smith in the early 1800s. He says an angel guided him to a hill in New York state, and there on that hill church doctrine says Smith found golden tablets talking about how Christ visited an ancient in the Americas. Those tablets are the basis for the Book of Mormon.

Smith claims he saw god and Christ in the flesh on a hill in Palmyra, New York. His followers fled persecution in New York, heading out west and settling in what became Utah. Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are considered prophets and apostles of god. Also Mormons believe in Christ and god and consider themselves Christians.

Pastor Jeffress who you've been hearing about who is backing Governor Perry says basically he doesn't want to see Romney nominated because of his Mormon faith.

Also still to come as we get closer to the bottom of the hour, a 10-month-old girl is missing. Police say the parents are becoming less cooperative in the investigation. The very latest as we go live to Kansas City. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: As we get close to the bottom of the hour, we turn to a developing story in Kansas City. FBI investigators there searching a landfill as they look for a missing 10-month-old girl. Our Ed Lavandera is there on the ground for us. What is the latest? It seems there are different twists and turns that keep coming with this story.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been an interesting and tense situation here in this neighborhood in Kansas City, T.J., over the last few days as the search continues for a missing 10-month-old Lisa Irwin. She is in that house there, you see the sun shining on it this morning, and it was that window there on the right edge of the house, T.J., that the family says they found kind of pried open. Police had talked about that, as well.

But quite frankly, the family is saying that they're not getting the sense that the police at this point are believing their story. In particular, it was the father of the 10-month-old baby that came home after working the overnight shift, came in the house about 4:00 in the morning, had noticed that the lights were on, things weren't quite right in the house, and that's when they looked in the crib and found that the baby was missing.

The family has been saying that authorities here have been grilling them especially hard, especially the mother, Deborah, of the 10-month-old baby. She has told us earlier and several other news organizations that police told her she had failed a polygraph test. It's been extremely stressful despite all that.

We talked to one family member, a cousin of the mother who said they still have full faith in Deborah despite what many people here in the public in the Kansas City area believe at this point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL LERETTE, DEBORAH BRADLEY'S COUSIN: Absolutely. There's zero doubt in Deborah. You know, I don't want to go into it too much, but the police are doing their jobs, you know? If you don't have any other suspects, you go to the one person that's there that night, the last person to see her, you know, who else do you pout point your finger at? (END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: T.J., the disheartening thing here is police will frankly tell you they have no leads in this situation about five days after baby Lisa has gone missing. So that is the disheartening news. FBI investigators searched a nearby landfill. That didn't turn anything up. In fact they returned here to this neighborhood yesterday going door to door. They had gone with metal detectors into a creek area behind the home looking for anything that might provide any kind of clues. But frankly, police here say they have no leads, and that is disheartening, to say the least.

HOLMES: Ed Lavandera there in Kansas City. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, folks, stay with us. Joining me in studio, the dean of the civil rights movement. I'm right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: It's about 34 minutes past the hour now.

In his lifetime, the reverend Joseph Lowery has been there for some of the most iconic movements of the civil rights movement. He was also right there on the west front of the capital for the inauguration of this country's first black president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JOSEPH LOWERY, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We ask you to help us run for this day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Reverend Lowery is here with me.

But you started to chuckle yourself when you heard that play. Why?

LOWERY: I was listening to Mitt Romney. I wasn't listening to -- I wasn't chuckling about that.

HOLMES: You were chuckling about Mitt Romney. On the topic of Mitt Romney, you were telling me about the Republican lineup. Who do you like over there?

LOWERY: Well, I think it's the best thing Obama has going for him is the Republican lineup and is candidates. It's the best thing he has going. The man I think is probably one of the more expensive fellows in that line is Huntsman. But they don't pay any attention to him. They're interested in Herman Cain, bless his heart.

HOLMES: What do you mean, bless his heart? LOWERY: He's having the time of his life. He would give 10 years of his life for what's happening to him now. And I'm happy for him. I don't think he realizes that they're using him.

HOLMES: What do you mean, using him?

LOWERY: I think they're using Herman to send their resistance against Romney and Perry and the other fellows who are up top in the money raising. If you'll notice, I don't think Herman's money is anywhere near reaches his votes in the popularity contest.

HOLMES: You're right.

LOWERY: And that's how you can measure how much support he has, by how much money he raises.

HOLMES: Now, what would you think? A few years back people didn't think we would have a black president. But what would you say about the day people go to the voting booth and their options are to vote for the democrat, a black man and a Republican, a black man? What would you think of that?

LOWERY: Incredible. I didn't think in 1965 when we succeeded in getting the voting rights passed, Martin and others of us talked about the fact that we would never live to see an African-American president. We thought there'd be one, but none of us would live to see it.

Unfortunately Martin didn't, but thank god, he did let me live long enough to see it, and not only see it, but participate. But I didn't think we would. So I take the same position, a black Democratic candidate and a black Republican candidate -- I don't think I'll live to see that, and I don't think you will, either.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Well, you're here, you're 90 years old this week. You've got a big birthday celebration happening this weekend. But I don't know what 90 is supposed to feel like. What does 90 feel like?

LOWERY: It feels just like 89. And 89 feels good for 89 and 90 feels good for 90.

HOLMES: Now, here we are, just days ago, Fred Shuttlesworth, someone who you knew very well was right there with you all to help found the SCLC, march on the streets with you, he died. What is the significance of the elder statesmen, the civil rights era guys like you getting older? What's the significance of us losing those guys over time, those men and women over time?

LOWERY: Well, time moves on. And as much as we might regret it, we are all going to answer that bell when it tolls for us.

But god has rams in the bush. And I think you'll see from time to time leaders will come forward. And the leadership is proliferating. Back in those days, we depended on civil rights people for almost all the leadership. But now leadership comes from all corners. We have leaders in business, leaders in science, leaders in education, and we are experiencing and widespread proliferation of leadership that I think is healthy for the country.

HOLMES: Something you said to me that really stuck with me the last time I saw you, you looked at me and you pointed to me and said "It's your fault that there's no civil rights movement today." Folks like you opened up the doors for folks like me to work at good companies and we're not out there in the streets anymore. What about this occupy Wall Street thing going on, would you consider that a type of civil rights movement?

LOWERY: I'm excited about it. I don't have the details, but I'm excited about it. I think they have the right spirit. They're raising questions.

One of the things we've not grappled with in this country, and the Republican candidates all embrace it, is the fact that we favor the rich. Less than 10 percent of the people control more than 90 percent of the wealth. That's wrong. And they're not even willing to share anywhere near an equitable portion of this nation's resources, and that's unfair.

We've got to find leadership. And I keep waiting for someone in the Republican Party to come forward with a shining armor and raising the flag on behalf of the poor. The poor don't -- they don't have a chance with these Republicans. As a matter of fact, the Republican party, I don't know who they are. They're more like the old Dixie- crats. The old Republican Party of Eisenhower and Brooke, I don't know when it is.

HOLMES: I didn't plan on talking so much politics with you, but we went that direction. We wanted to say happy birthday to you. Always a pleasure to get a chance and talk to you. Don't party too hard this weekends.

LOWERY: Well, I hope you'll come out Sunday for our birthday party.

HOLMES: Good to see you.

Quick break here, folks, and we're right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: As we let you see a short time ago, Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., taking on President Obama. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now, I've been coming to this event for six years. And this is the biggest crowd yet. For that, I suppose we should acknowledge President Obama.

(LAUGHTER) He is, after all, the conservative movement's top recruiter.

(APPLAUSE)

It turns out he really is a good community organizer, although I don't think this was the community he had in mind.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: At the same time, Mitt Romney was getting some criticism himself, specifically about his faith. The Dallas mega-church pastor talked about Romney and Mormonism and actually said that Romney belonged to a cult, said Mormonism is the equivalent of a cult.

Let me bring in CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona as well as our Republican strategist and Lenny McAllister. Guys, we have to get right into it today. Let me start -- was this clearly politics, in your opinion, Maria? That this was no accident that faith came up at this conference?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, absolutely. I think it is politics. And we saw this come up somewhat in 2008, but it is clearly now rearing its ugly head in a way that I don't know that we expected it to, at least this early on this time around. And to me, obviously, what the reverend said and what the pastor said, Pastor Jeffress is absolutely atrocious. It's the reason why we have the First Amendment.

To me, Perry's silence on this one is deafening. I know he put out a statement, his campaign put out a statement, but we have not heard from Governor Perry himself. And he's going to have to address this, because I think it is becoming a big, big issue.

HOLMES: Lenny, on that point, does this have a potential to do some harm to Mitt Romney?

LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, because it's the October 2011. The good thing about this for Governor Romney is the fact that it's so early in the campaign. He's increasing a lead in front of Governor Perry. This is something that will be talked about for the next couple of weeks and won't go away. If anything, this is a millstone around Governor Perry because of the ranch situation, pause of the HPV vaccination, because of the Dream act down in Texas and now this. He is starting to get weighed down.

That's the reason why everybody wanted Christie to jump in, because they're losing hope in Perry pretty darn fast. And if he doesn't do well in these next couple of debate webs he's going to be an afterthought.

HOLMES: Lenny, let me stay with you. Let's turn to the president. He had a press conference this week. The first question was from an AP reporter who said, hey, Mr. President, wouldn't you be better off staying here trying to get a deal worked out with the Republicans versus calling them out by name around the country? Did that reporter have a point?

MCALLISTER: He did have a point. Furthermore, he was asked, hey, are people tuning you out? And the president avoided the question because the answer is yes, the American people are tuning out President Obama at this point in time.

This bill was a bill that should have come along in 2009. It's hard to sell all these bad pieces of legislation to the American people and come around with a sense of urgency going into reelection season.

The bottom line is this, he needs to make sure he gets something done that's tangible, that makes both sides like this legislation, and, therefore, at least look to moderates and independents as somebody who can get through divided government and get something done. He hasn't been able to look that way yet.

HOLMES: You tell me, as well, Maria. Is he any better served? If you want to get something done, stay in Washington, D.C. and work with the Republicans to get something that can pass?

CARDONA: T.J., he has bent backwards so many times trying to get things done with the Republicans. And where has that gotten him? It has not worked. He would love nothing more than to get things done for the Republicans for the American people and he will continue to try to do that.

But the best way to do that right now is to make sure that the American people understand what he's trying to do, which is to create jobs for them and to create jobs through bipartisan proposals. Why would you put out something that has been supported by Republicans in the past and then go to the American people and talk about that unless you know that it is something that Republicans are going to hear from, because Americans understand that right now the Republican's number one agenda is not to create jobs. It is to see this president fail.

And he is going to do everything that he can to get this jobs act passed because we have seen from independent analysts and from other economists that have nothing to do with the White House that this jobs act will actually create 1.9 million or more jobs. And so I think that that is the bottom line. He wants to get something done for the American people. The Republicans have absolutely no interest in negotiating with him to do that.

HOLMES: Well, guys, I know you don't want to leave it there --

MCALLISTER: The stimulus package is going to keep the unemployment at eight percent in 2009. This legislation is not going to do that --

CARDONA: The recovery act created and saved more than four million jobs.

HOLMES: I've got to go this time. We had Romney today and got some other breaking news. You know we'll have you both back. Quick break, folks. We've got other breaking news to tell you about right after a break. Stay with us.

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HOLMES: All right, we have sad news out of the NFL. The legendary owner of the Oakland Raiders we can now confirm has passed away. Al Davis, you know that name, you know his story, you know his background, you know his history. You know his triumphs and some of his defeats with the Raiders out there. But the iconic owner of the Oakland Raiders has now died at the age of 82. The team has now confirmed. We're expecting to see more of a statement a little later today. But this is what they have posted on their website right now, a dedication to him.

But Al Davis, who -- it's hard to imagine the raiders without Al Davis. Al Davis, a lot of people will give credit for making the franchise what it was in some of those historic years of legendary years in Raider football and in that raider nation that essentially he developed.

But still, the team fell on hard times over the past several years, kind of been at the bottom of the NFL barrel, if you will. But the team experiencing a resurgence this year, a rebuilding and a pretty good start. Al Davis will not be around to enjoy it and to see what his team is able to do this year.

But the team under his guidance has run several championships. Raider nation that so many have been familiar with, he was the one credited with putting Raider football back on the map. He was a team owner when he first joined at the time, but Al Davis, he's been in some questionable health. We don't see him in the public that much over the past several years, but people think Raider football and more so than anything else, they think Al Davis.

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Synonymous with raider football. Some say he's the Steinbrenner, so to speak, of the Oakland Raiders. He has had some incredible victories and sometimes that weren't so great. But yes, he was the franchise. He was the man. So very, very interesting to see what's going to happen there.

HOLMES: But sad news, again, he's been in some tough health over the past several years. But every once in a while he gave a press conference and said something fiery and everybody knows "Just win, baby, win," is what he coined. But Al David dead at the age of 82. We'll have more on his life coming up here in the CNN newsroom.

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HOLMES: Quick break and we are right back, folks. Stay with us.

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