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THE SITUATION ROOM

Supreme Court Looks at Health Care; Herman Cain Falling; Gingrich Receives $300,000 from Freddie Mac; Interview with Rick Santorum; Political Analysts Examine GOP Presidential Candidates; Mitt Romney's Race to Lose?; Cain Sinks, Gingrich Soars; Cain: Vegetable Pizza is "Sissy Pizza"; Cain Compares Rivals to Ice Cream; College Sports And Penn State Scandal; Report: At Least 9 Dead in China Explosion

Aired November 14, 2011 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Struggling with allegations of sexual harassment, Herman Cain drops like a stone in our latest poll, as Newt Gingrich soars, joining Mitt Romney as a front-runner. Stand by.

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to rule on the health care reform law and a decision on President Obama's prized achievement could come right in them middle of the race for the White House. I will talk about that race with Republican candidate Rick Santorum. We will also discuss what he calls the horrific and devastating scandal of his alma mater, Penn State University.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But first, a stunning new shift in the Republican race for the presidency. Our new poll shows Newt Gingrich has gained 14 points since October. That puts him in a virtual tie for the lead with Mitt Romney. Herman Cain has lost his front-runner status, dropping 11 points. That puts him in a battle for third place right now with Rick Perry.

Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann follow with Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum rounding out the field. Herman Cain's plunge comes as he struggles with allegations of sexual harassment going back more than a decade. And now Herman Cain's wife is speaking out, but she isn't the only one.

CNN's Joe Johns is tracking all the latest developments for us.

And there have been many Joe. What's the latest?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with Herman Cain losing support in the polls, the latest person to step out of the shadows and challenge Cain's version of events in the sexual harassment controversy happens to be a man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): It is a case in the court of public opinion where proof can be illusive. Herman Cain says he doesn't recall meeting Sharon Bialek, who has accused him of sexual harassment, but her former boyfriend remembers her complaining at the time.

DR. VICTOR ZUCKERMAN, FORMER BOYFRIEND OF SHARON BIALEK: When she returned, she was upset. She said that something had happened and that Mr. Cain had touched her in an inappropriate manner.

JOHNS: It's no smoking gun, of course, since Dr. Victor Zuckerman wasn't there when the alleged inappropriate touching occurred, but it is potentially important from a public relations standpoint because Cain recently said he doesn't recognize Bialek and Dr. Zuckerman says he saw them meet at a reception in Chicago. Zuckerman suggested he has no political axe to grind.

ZUCKERMAN: I'm a pediatrician. I'm also a registered Republican. No party or candidate from any organization has contacted me. The public has a right to know this information to help them make an informed decision.

JOHNS: The account from someone who knew Bialek at the time may bolster her credibility, which is why celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred held this news conference, pointing out that her client Sharon Bialek isn't the only woman accusing Cain.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: It is more like she said, she said, she said, she said, and he said.

JOHNS: Still, Bialek admits she never filed any official complaint at the time which in terms of evidence would then to support Herman Cain's assertion that the alleged sexual harassment involving Bialek did not occur.

Cain's campaign by the way also came forward with a witness of its own, a character witness, none other than the candidate's wife, Gloria Cain, who in excerpts released from this interview with FOX News says the stuff she has heard about her husband doesn't sound anything like him.

GLORIA CAIN, WIFE OF HERMAN CAIN: To hear such graphic allegations and know that that would have been something that was totally disrespectful of her as a woman, and I know that's not the person he is. He totally respects women. And I'm thinking, he would have to have a split personality to do the things that she said.

JOHNS: It may be very difficult to figure out who is lying, unless someone involved in this mess files a lawsuit claiming they have been harmed by false statements made by the other side. But given that they are the only ones who really know what did or didn't happen, the rest of the American public is free to guess about it.

And among all respondents to the latest CNN/ORC poll, 33 percent believe Herman Cain. And 50 percent believe the women making the charges. But those numbers are almost reversed when the question is asked to only Republicans -- 51 percent of Republicans believe Herman Cain and 37 percent believe the women.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Herman Cain has said he might take a lie detector test to prove he is being truthful when he says he hasn't harassed anyone. No word on when or where that lie detector test is being scheduled, Wolf.

BLITZER: If it is going to happen.

All right, Joe, stand by. We will have more on this story coming up. But there is other important news we are following as well, including the United States Supreme Court. It has now agreed to decide whether a cornerstone of President Obama's agenda is in fact constitutional.

The court will focus on a key provision of the sweeping health care reform law, the section mandating that virtually all Americans buy health insurance -- 26 states have challenged that and the court should rule by June during the heat of the presidential campaign.

And Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is joining us now.

Briefly, Jeff, summarize the arguments pros and cons.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Pro: The Obama administration says health care is 16 percent of the national economy. Whether you choose to buy insurance or not, you are part of that system, so the government has the right to regulate it and force to you buy health insurance even if you don't want to.

Con: The argument is, look, never in the history of the federal government have they required you to buy a private product. That is more power for the federal government than they should be allowed to have under the Constitution. That's what you are talking about.

BLITZER: All right, so you know the nine, the nine justices who have to make this decision. That's the name of your book. What do you think? How is it going to shape up?

TOOBIN: Four votes certain to uphold it, the four Democrats on the court, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, one vote certainly to strike it down, Thomas.

I think that momentum has changed in the last few weeks because two very important senior appellate court judges, Laurence Silberman and Jeffrey Sutton, have said the law is constitutional. So I think chances are the liberals will get one or more votes and the law will be upheld.

BLITZER: At least Justice Kennedy, the swing vote.

TOOBIN: Justice Kennedy is certainly the most likely target, but I also think Chief Justice Roberts is a possibility. I think the proponents of the law are more optimistic now than they were a month ago.

BLITZER: So you think some of these conservative justices will be swayed by Silberman, who himself is a conservative?

TOOBIN: Very conservative, who said, look, maybe I wouldn't vote for it if I were a legislator. But this is within Congress' power to address a national problem, which is the absence of many people having health insurance.

BLITZER: If the Supreme Court were though to knock it down, what would happen then?

TOOBIN: You know what? That's part of what they are arguing about. Because the question is, could you just take out the individual mandate and leave the rest of it or would the whole law fall apart?

And even if the individual mandate is struck down, how will the Obama administration even finance the rest? So there is no such thing as a partial loss for the Obama administration. If they lose the individual mandate, practically, if not legally, the whole law will fall apart.

BLITZER: Because that individual mandate, the healthy people who will be forced to buy insurance, they were going to pay for the people who weren't so healthy.

TOOBIN: Exactly. If those people are out of the system and or have the right to opt out of the system then the financing seems to fall apart completely.

BLITZER: Big picture, how big of a case will this be before the United States Supreme Court?

TOOBIN: Without question, the biggest case since Bush v. Gore because it just has enormous impact on health care which is a huge part of the national economy. But it also will tell us what the Supreme Court will allow in terms of federal legislation, how big can the federal government be, and that applies across the board.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

So how important is this legal battle over health care to the economy of the United States as a whole?

Erin Burnett is here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching this part of the story.

Erin, health care it is a huge part of the economy.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: It is a huge part. As you heard Jeff saying, the Obama administration is estimating about 16 percent and that is about right.

And you are now looking at the biggest chunk of the U.S. economy. A couple of years ago, you might have looked at a number like that talked about construction and housing. But now it really is health care. And when you look at all the jobs and where the stability has been, it has been in health care.

BLITZER: How does it play out? Assuming let's say the Supreme Court decides it's unconstitutional, the mandate, then what? BURNETT: So that's not good for health insurers. This is sort of an alliance a lot of people didn't expect. The health insurers love this idea, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Right, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, UnitedHealth insurance.

BURNETT: They get all these new people coming onto their health insurance rolls. They weren't against this. So it actually would be kind of a negative for them. You saw a little bit of that in the market today.

But overall the problem with the health care bill was it did not necessarily address the whole cost problem. And primarily the place where you see the biggest jump every year in cost is actually not drug costs, but it's hospitalization. So a lot of this hadn't dealt with the real kind of cost inflation in the system, which was a criticism from both the left and the right.

And to the Obama administration's credit, they had tried to deal, if you recall, with doctors' costs and how they keep surging, but were unable to do so.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And if the Supreme Court rules it is unconstitutional then it just goes forward. What they call the Obamacare goes forward.

BURNETT: Yes. It goes forward.

And what is interesting is Dan Ripp is from Bradley Woods, an independent firm for Wall Street, ran some numbers for me today. If it goes forward as expected, you look at 2019, which is the 10-year horizon here, we would be spending a hundred billion dollars more under the plan than we would without the plan. And that's an independent analysis. You are talking out of, what, $4.6 trillion. In that world, a hundred billion dollars is sort of chump change.

BLITZER: Yes, but for that hundred billion, you're getting tens of millions of people who don't have any health insurance, they would get health insurance.

BURNETT: You are getting that, although one of the interesting things about that was a lot of the people that were not getting health insure were eligible originally under Medicare and Medicaid, but simply were not aware of it.

BLITZER: And so that's that. We will see what happens. It will come right in the middle of a campaign next year.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: It sure is.

BLITZER: But if Jeffrey Toobin is right, it looks like the legal pendulum is swinging in favor of President Obama on this issue and the Democrats.

Thanks very much. We will see what happens. They can surprise us.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You will have more in the 7:00 p.m.?

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Yes. We're going to have in the 7:00 p.m.

You have got a lot more coming up on other subjects as well.

BURNETT: All right.

BLITZER: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" 7:00 p.m. here on CNN.

Jack Cafferty has a question about the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. And we are going to talk about it with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. He is a Penn State grad. He is calling it horrific.

Also, Newt Gingrich's potential problem with Freddie Mac, it stems from hundreds of thousands of dollars he received as a consultant.

And caught on tape, the attempted assassination of Venezuelan presidential candidate.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, as the Penn State child sex abuse scandal continues to grow, and it's just getting started, there are more and more questions about how this thing got so out of hand.

At least part of that answer lies in the outsized influence of sports teams on college campuses all around this country.

At Penn State, football is a religion, and for almost five decades, the coach Joe Paterno was a god.

That could be why officials looked the other way when they learned that an assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was allegedly raping little boys in the shower room on campus.

It appears Penn State cared more about protecting the football program than protecting the children -- sort of the same way the Catholic Church responded to its own child sex abuse scandal.

Of course, big sports means big money for these colleges. And with big money comes the potential for corruption and misplaced priorities. Oftentimes, people affiliated with these sports programs develop a sense of entitlement. The rules don't apply to them. As one expert told "The Boston Globe," quote, "You are making a deal with the devil. These programs become larger than life and it has nothing do to do with higher education," end quote.

What's ironic here is that Penn State was known as a college known for running a clean program when it came it football. Yet they still manage to land themselves in what is arguably one of the worst scandals to ever hit a U.S. college campus. Some think it's way past time to take a hard look at the role of college football or basketball for that mater on college campuses. Others say it won't make a difference, that the culture is way too powerful and too deeply entrenched and it generates way too much money.

Here's the question: what role did the outside influence of college sports play in the Penn State child abuse sex scandal?

Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The more we learn, the more shocking it's become.

CAFFERTY: This thing is going to get worse too. I think we're just, you know, scraping the surface. The lawsuits and the investigations to come, it's very sad.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich made a stunning jump to the front of the Republican pack but with his campaign looking more viable, Newt Gingrich is also coming under closer scrutiny, with new questions about his role as highly paid adviser to a troubled mortgage giant.

Our Lisa Sylvester is looking into this story for us.

Lisa, what are you learning?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, you know, Newt Gingrich has been an advocate for small government. He was against the bailouts and critical of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the role in the housing debacle. But Gingrich has, in fact, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Freddie Mac. And now that he is moving up the leader board, this may become a problem for him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The odds are very good that the next crisis in finance is not going to be banks. It's going to be Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who, by the way, are impervious to the decisions. It's like saying the guy who sank the Titanic is now in charge of your new boat. SYLVESTER (voice-over): That was Newt Gingrich in 2010, addressing the RNC state chairmen's meeting. Gingrich harshly criticizes Democratic lawmakers for failing to oversee the mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But it turns out Gingrich himself was a paid adviser to Freddie Mac, which was bailed out by taxpayers. His consulting firm was paid a whopping $300,000. Gingrich's involvement with Freddie Mac is now a campaign issue.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: A lot of people in this town made a lot of money off of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae back in the hay day. There was a lot of money moving around because they were making a lot of money. So, he is not alone in this. He just happens he's the one who's running for president.

SYLVESTER: In 2006 when Gingrich was hired by Freddie Mac, several Republicans in Congress were increasingly worried that Fannie and Freddie were in financial trouble. There were calls for more regulation. The question now: did Gingrich act as a lobbyist to help fend off congressional scrutiny?

Gingrich's in last week's presidential debate said no.

GINGRICH: Every contract that was written during the period when I was out of office specifically said I would do no lobbying and I'd offer advice. And my advice as a historian when they walked in and said to me, we are making loans to people with no credit history and have no record of paying back anything but that's what the government wants us to do. As I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.

SYLVESTER: And as Gingrich climbs in the polls and becomes the new "it" candidate, more details will begin to emerge about his past.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The bigger issue in this whole Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac advocacy or history lesson payment is that it becomes symbolic about of what we have to learn about Newt Gingrich. Up to this point, Newt has been able to stand on the sides of the podium during debates and play on on offense, never having to play on defense. But, look, Newt has a very long history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now, Gingrich was a paid consultant. He says that he gave his advice as a historian and he says that he tried to warn Freddie Mac but ultimately he says they ignored him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The campaign is confirming that he did take $300,000. Is that right?

SYLVESTER: Yes. He was asked this question point blank at last week's debates. Did you take the $300,000? And what was your role essentially? I'm paraphrasing the question here.

But at no point has the campaign denied that he has taken the $300,000. In fact, they have put out a statement since elaborating, making it very clear that he was not a lobbyist. That he was merely there as an adviser, that he gave his advice and that they chose not to listen.

BLITZER: You know, you run for president. Everything is going to obviously come out at some point. There's no doubt, especially as you're moving up in the polls. It comes with the territory.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

Cameras roll as gunshots ring out. We have chilling video of an apparent assassination attempt on a Venezuelan presidential candidate.

Plus, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about the child sex abuse scandal rocking his alma mater, Penn State University.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Pretty compelling pictures from the Middle East today.

Lisa Sylvester is back. She's monitoring that story and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do you have, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, take a look at this YouTube video showing what activists say is a huge celebration over the weekend after the Arab League voted to suspend Syria over its deadly crackdown on antigovernment protesters.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SYLVESTER: And now, Jordan's King Abdullah is urging Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign. The king tells the BBC Assad should step down and make sure that a new government can change the status quo in Syria. We will have extensive coverage of this story coming up in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.

And in California, police in riot gear dismantle the "Occupy Oakland" camp before dawn this morning. Officials ordered protesters out over the weekend after a deadly shooting at the camp.

And in Portland, Oregon, there was a tense standoff between police and "Occupy" protesters who defied orders to close their camp, although most eventually complied.

The nationwide demonstrations began as "Occupy Wall Street," protesting unequal distribution of wealth and other causes.

And for the first time, the government is fining an airline for excessive delays on the tarmac. American Eagle is facing a $900,000 penalty for delays earlier this year. That left passengers on 15 flights waiting on the tarmac more than three hours. All of the incidents happened at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. American Eagle blames weather and congestion.

And we have chilling images -- take a look at this -- of an apparent assassination attempt. A Venezuelan newspaper says this picture shows a gunman on the back of a motorcycle who fired on the bus of opposition presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado. She was talking to reporters nearby when shots rang out.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SYLVESTER: Wow, check that out there.

Machado wasn't hurt but she said a supporter was injured and CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of that video -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Lisa, thank you.

He is a presidential candidate, also an alumnus of Penn State University. Rick Santorum says he is horrified by the child sex abuse scandal that's rocking his alma mater. He is standing by live. He'll join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we are working on for our next hour:

New fallout from the Penn State sex abuse scandal -- details of a major shakeup at the charity founded by the accused former coach Jerry Sandusky.

Also, what we're learning about a mysterious Russian scientists who helped the Iranians advance their nuclear program.

And President Obama firing back at Republican presidential candidates who bashed his foreign policy.

Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(MUSIC)

BLITZER: It's not just the students and faculty at Penn State University who are devastated by charges of child sex abuse scandal against a former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. The school's alumni are also stunned and outraged by the scandal.

Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, is one of those alums.

He's joining us now live.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf.

Good to be with you. BLITZER: I want to get to politics and your race for the White House in just a moment. But when you first heard about all these accusations -- and they date back more than a decade, covering up alleged pedophilia at Penn State University, of all places, what did you think?

SANTORUM: I just felt like I was punched in the gut. I -- I couldn't believe it. I mean I -- you just don't want to believe it. You just -- you just can't think that, obviously, an institution that is your alma mater, you love and that you -- you support, could do something like that.

But it was a systemic failure. I mean from the -- from the -- from the graduate assistant who just inexplicably could witness something like this and do nothing, I mean do nothing at the moment, much less do nothing afterwards. To me, it's just -- I don't know -- I don't know what's being taught up there anymore. It's just...

BLITZER: I mean...

SANTORUM: -- it's a little frightening.

BLITZER: -- allegedly, the graduate assistant told Coach Paterno, who coached -- who told the athletic director...

SANTORUM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- who told the university president, Graham Spanier. But nothing really happened. I assume you know most, if not all of these people.

SANTORUM: I -- I don't -- I don't know the -- the two people who were supposedly -- who were indicted, Curley and Schultz. I don't know them. I know everybody else in the -- in that. I know Paterno. I know the -- the president.

But, you know, what -- what you have here is the situation where there is an investigation, Wolf. I mean this is just not just telling people, they actual looked into this and decided not to do anything. That's -- this is what is just confounding that it -- that's why I'm saying it's a systemic failure. This -- there's -- and heads have rolled, but I -- we're not done yet. And -- and we shouldn't be done yet, until we get this thing completely cleaned out and -- and do it out of respect for the -- for the damage -- the horrific damage we did to these children and their families and -- and, obvious, to the university, secondarily.

BLITZER: You've seen all these comparisons saying Penn State University, the hierarchy, they were so afraid of what could happen, they were told to protect the football...

SANTORUM: Image.

BLITZER: -- the football team and the -- the whole football operation at Penn State University. It was almost, they say, like the Vatican covering up pedophilia among priests. When you hear that kind of comparison, what goes through your mind?

SANTORUM: It's sickening on both levels. And, you know, one of the things I learned in -- in my life is that, you know, gosh, just tell the truth and -- and, you know, everybody, you know, bad things happen. And -- and, you know, it's not the fault of Penn State if -- if a bad thing happened on their campus. The bad -- the -- the worse thing is to allow it to continue to happen. I mean they're -- you know, obviously, he wasn't working for the university at that time and he did something horrific.

You know, admit that that's the problem and -- and even if it was a problem with the university, admit the problem. Find out, open it up, air, freshen it out and -- and protect these kids, which is -- seemed to be not anybody's -- on anybody's mind while this was going on.

BLITZER: Were you familiar with that charity -- that -- that effort the coach, Jerry Sandusky, he had a charity to help troubled youth...

SANTORUM: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in Pennsylvania. I assume you -- you're familiar with that group, the Second Mile.

SANTORUM: It's -- it was well known throughout the state. It was -- it was one that I had -- i had friends and -- and political supporters and -- who were -- who are on that -- on that committee, who've raised money for them, who just, you know, lifted up this guy as -- as this great humanitarian. And -- and, again, I talked to a few of the donors and a few of the folks on the board. You want to talk about people who are disillusioned. You want to talk about people who feel like, you know, they were saying, you know, Rick, it's like saying -- it was like someone coming up to me and saying, Rick, your an ax murderer. That's how -- that's how stunned they were that -- that this man did this.

It -- he -- he did an, obviously, an amazing job hiding the sickness from a lot of people.

BLITZER: Apparently more people knew about it, but they didn't say anything...

SANTORUM: They didn't say anything...

BLITZER: -- and, worse, they didn't even...

SANTORUM: -- yes.

BLITZER: -- do anything about it. But we'll stay on top of this story.

Let's get to your race, the presidential contest right now. I want to put up on the screen our latest CNN poll, our CNN/ORC poll numbers, and -- and the headlines, Romney's con -- you can see, since October 26th now, 24. But look at Newt Gingrich. He's gone from 8 percent to 22 percent among Republicans nationally. Herman Cain has dropped big time, 25 to 14 percent. Perry staying at about 12 percent. You've gone from 2 percent to 3 percent, a little silver lining, but not a whole lot more.

What's going on here? is it just someone that Republicans are looking for to challenge Mitt Romney, because a lot -- a lot of Republicans apparently aren't ready to endorse, support Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I increased my support by 50 percent, Wolf. That's pretty good.

BLITZER: Yes, 50 percent is good. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: No. Look, my feeling is those national polls don't mean a whole lot. If you asked those folks how many of those are committed to voting for the people they said they're for, you'd find about what we find. When we call people in Iowa and New Hampshire, about 70, 75 percent of the folks are still very much undecided. And they're going to -- they're going to start paying a lot more attention to this race as we get down to it.

What we feel good about is that we're -- we're focused on -- like a laser beam -- on the state that matters right now, which is Iowa, and the state after that, New Hampshire. Those are the two states we're spending the bulk of our time in. We believe we can do exceptionally well there. We're going to be, you know, breaking out of that pack and slowly but surely climbing the ladder and have the organizational strength there.

I've been to all 99 counties and -- in -- in Iowa. Next week, I'm going to be in all 10 counties of New Hampshire. We're working the grassroots. They're the folks that turn out. They're the people that -- that make a difference in this race. And we're going to surprise a lot of people.

BLITZER: You know, the debate Saturday night, a -- most of the Republican candidates, and I believe you, too -- and I watched it -- support waterboarding as opposed to the current president, who says that's torture.

But John McCain, who was the Republican nominee last time around, as you will remember, who himself was tortured when he was a POW in Vietnam, he said this. He put out a Tweet: "Very disappointment by statements at S.C. South Carolina GOP debate supporting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture."

Now, he knows something about torture.

You support waterboarding, is that right?

SANTORUM: Well, I do. And certainly I -- I support John McCain and his, you know, his great sacrifice that he made for this country. And when I was in the United States Senate, John and I disagreed on this when I was in the Senate. And, you know, I -- I respect him. We just have a public policy disagreement on what constitutes torture. And -- and, by the way, what -- how effective this -- this program has been.

We -- we certainly have gotten very, very critical leads that -- that led to the -- to the -- to the capture and killing of -- of several terrorists, high level terrorist suspects. And this is -- this is something we should not use cavalierly, by any stretch of the imagination. But if it's absolutely necessary for, you know, for the security of our country, we have to have methods available to extract from people who are not protected by the Geneva Convention.

And I think this is really important to point out, Wolf, that we have a Geneva Convention to make sure that -- that wars are fought as humanely as possible and that -- that civilians are protected and that people are -- that -- that -- that -- that things are -- are conducted in a way that, if you can, through war civilly.

And this is -- these are folks who are outside, who are -- who are doing things that -- that do not give them that protection. And therefore, they should not be treated with the same kind of -- kind of rights.

BLITZER: Let me ask a quick question about the frontrunner, Mitt Romney. A lot of Republicans say they don't trust him because he's so -- supposedly flip-flopped on a lot of key issues, social issues, economic issues, other issues over the years in order to gain support, did one thing when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, another thing when he's running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Do you trust Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: I trust me. That's one of the reasons I'm running, because I -- I look at the field and I'm someone who's been that consistent conservative, someone who has not flipped. I mean you're absolutely right, Mitt Romney has taken a variety of different positions on a variety of different issues. And people have to look at that as to whether they want someone to go into that cauldron of Washington, that very difficult place to -- to do business, with a lot of pressure from the media and from the -- from the culture to -- to back off your conservative principles.

I've been there. I did it and I stood -- stood my ground. I had a bold plan to get this economy going, that's based on conservative principles of lower taxes, less regulation, you know, reforming the litigation environment in this country. I've got a strong plan on moral/cultural issues that I announced last week in Iowa. And, of course, you heard last night, there's no one who's more Reagan conservative when it comes to foreign policy than I am.

So we're -- we're -- we're right across the board, the Reagan conservative and I've proven it, unlike, really, everybody else in the field.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but can I assume you don't trust Mitt Romney then?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I -- when I say trust him, I'm -- I'm not going to go to the issue of trust. I'll go to the issues that -- that, you know, you have to look at what he's done in the past when he was in difficult situations and he didn't stick by conservative principles. I think we want someone who -- who has a track record of standing up and -- and fighting because he believes it in here. He believes it in here and it comes from his soul. And I think most folks who know me, that's where it comes from.

BLITZER: Rick Santorum, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck out there.

SANTORUM: Thanks.

BLITZER: We want to remind our viewers, Tuesday night, November 22nd, cnwll bring you the Republican primary debate. We're going to focus exclusively on the issues of national security and foreign policy. I'll be moderating that debate, co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

The debate will take place in Washington, DC, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday night,, only on CNN.

We'll be at Constitution Hall for that debate.

Herman Cain makes an unflattering remark about rival Michele Bachmann, comparing her too tutti-frutti ice cream. We're going to talk about that and much more. The Strategy Session is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Despite our new poll showing a Newt Gingrich surge right now, there's an emerging view among many so-called pundits that Mitt Romney is going to win the nomination. The "Washington Post" writes today -- let me read a line from the "Washington Post," - "In the past few weeks a realization appears to have dawned on political world. Mitt Romney is very likely to be the Republican nominee. What's interesting about the Romney rise is that it isn't a rise at all. Romney has remained steady while his potential rivals have fallen."

And Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" said it a little bit more colorfully.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": I'm calling the fight. Throw in the towel. It's over. Republicans, you had your chance. You didn't want Romney, too bad. You are now stuck with Mitt, mother-(EXPLETIVE) Romney. Done. He is the winner. Romney wins. We're calling it tonight.

Presidential primaries, as in little league -- if one team is up 10 to nothing in the third, you call it a day and you head over to Friendly's for some Fribbles and some food poisoning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now let's talk about what's going on with our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and CNN contributor David Frum of FrumForum.com. David, I'll start with you. Is it over?

DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: It's not over, but it's getting to be over. Remember that line of Sherlock Holmes's, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the right answer.

So the Republicans are one by one eliminating the impossible, and Mitt Romney is what is left. With Newt Gingrich it's like Republicans who don't want Romney, they have been trying every door in the room to use a slightly different analogy. Now they're back at the very first door they started. It's no more promising than it was 18 months ago, which is why according to the latest polls 48 percent of Republicans, a plurality, now say that Mitt Romney is the most likely person to win.

BLITZER: If you see what a lot of Democratic activists are saying, Donna, and you know this very well, from their perspective they're focusing almost exclusively on Mitt Romney right now. Not paying much attention to the other Republican candidates. I'm sure you've noticed that.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's because set front- runner. The problem with this front-runner is that he cannot clear the field. Every week the spotlight is on another candidate, last week Herman Cain, today it's Newt Gingrich, next week possibly Rick Santorum. He hasn't had his moment in the sun. So, yes, he's likely to become the nominee of the Republican Party. But you know what? Those hardliners, those Tea Party conservatives, they haven't fallen in love with him yet.

BLITZER: When you take a look at the whole picture right now, this surge, David, of Newt Gingrich, and it is pretty impressive if you see where he was in October.

And our brand new CNN/ORC poll right now he is within the margin of error with Mitt Romney right now. That's pretty impressive. You got to admit.

DAVID FRUM, FRUMFORUM.COM: Well, he speaks to something powerful in Republicans. That he's much tougher on the president. He's willing to call them all kind of names and a class warrior and in a hot room, crowded with enthusiastic people with the same point of view, that's very powerful.

But remember, the Republican Party is bigger than the activist. It is bigger than the Iowa caucus voters. It is not an organization exactly, but it's a pretty big network of like-mined people and most Republicans, about half are not so radical as those and they will find Romney a kind of reassuring presence.

One thing about your comment about the Democratic ads that are coming, I see them as simultaneously attacking Mitt Romney as flip-flopper and a radical right wing extremist and memo to the Democrats, he can't be both.

These two ads are going to cancel each other out. So they need to pick a narrative and stick with it. Because the two actually, if he is a flip-flopper, I guess he can't be much after right wing ideological extremist.

BLITZER: David, I'll let Donna weigh in. You could make the case he used to be on the left when running for governor of Massachusetts, but now, he is on the right. He is a right wing conservative. Can't you make that case?

FRUM: Yes, but some day he may be president. What will he be then?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's the whole question, David, because no one really knows who Mitt Romney is. He seems to --

FRUM: Well, stop telling people he is a radical right wing extremist.

BRAZILE: He's that this week. Next week, he'll be someone else. Look, if you give him enough time, he might turn into something else. That the problem with Mitt Romney. You don't know his core values.

You don't know exactly where he stands on the issues. You don't know what his true convictions are. That's the reason why he has not been able to break above the fall. And every week as the race continues to twist and turn, Mitt Romney becomes a pretzel.

FRUM: But we know one thing. There is an important article in the "Financial Times" this morning talking about how President Obama's weakness as a manager brought chaos to this White House and how much -- how heavy a price the administration paid.

It is an article worth reading, but someone not at all hostile to the administration. What we do know with Romney, whatever the question mark over his fundamental views about certain questions. We know where he is on the economy and financial issues. But he brings a certain set of core competencies and maybe that's what the country is looking for.

BRAZILE: We also think that the Democrats will be able to make a large case about his so-called business experience, every time this guy, you know, tried to turn a page and open up a new business, you know what?

We saw massive layoffs and we saw jobs ship overseas. So no matter how you look at it, Democrats are ready for this battle with Mitt Romney. Next week, it might be Michele Bachmann. She might have her second chance, her attempt to come back from the dead.

BLITZER: You want me to read to you a quotes from Herman Cain whose dropped significantly in our new poll in a new interview in "GQ" magazine. He said this, former Godfather's Pizza CEO.

The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believ, the more manly he is. A manly man don't want to piled high with vegetables. He would call that a sissy pizza. You got a problem with that, Donna? BRAZILE: Well, you know Herman Cain clearly has a quote/unquote, "women's problem." He doesn't know how to address women. He doesn't know how to respect women.

And now he is making this comment about, you know, bring on more toppings. The truth of the matter is that Herman Cain, his math doesn't add up. His 9-9-9 doesn't add up and now these allegations clearly have left Herman Cain with a huge credibility problem.

BLITZER: And very quickly, David, he was asked to compare some of the Republican candidates to ice cream flavors. He said this about Michele Bachmann. He said, Michele Bachmann, I'm not going to say it.

I'm not going to say it, but then he said it, tooty fruity. I know I'm going get it n trouble. Have you a problem with tooty fruity and Michele Bachmann?

FRUM: Well, it is undignified. It's is un-presidential. That one of the things that we are looking at as we look at these people and say just, how are they going to bear under the tremendous gravitational pressures of that office?

You know, even his harshest critic will have to see that President Obama is a man of tremendous dignity. He fills the office. Whatever you think of the particular policies he is doing. His challenger has it stand on the stage of with this man of such dignity and say be by look like a president as much as this person does.

That means you have to not say clownish things. I think things that are intended to be demeaning and complicated ways of rivals whose support you will need in the future.

BLITZER: David and Donna, guys, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is asking, what role did the outside influence of college sports playing the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Your e-mail and a lot more news coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLIZTER: Jack's back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is what role did the outside influence of college sports play in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal?

Jim writes, "Your question is an understatement. At the "Pop Warner" level, a kid who is bigger than the rest or possesses better than coordination is identified. And that starts the special treatment for life.

In succession, little league, middle school, high school, college and the NFL coaches are awaiting the arrival. The special education training table, locker room enhancements, easy courses, medical care and alumni with their hands out all make for a privileged life. And at the end, the especially groomed athlete makes millions. Las Vegas betting makes billions. TV networks make multibillions all because of "Pop Warner" and Little League who make nothing."

Dan in Long Island writes, "It's the money sports that corrupt. There are a lot of college sports that are enjoyed by student athletes where stadium ticket sales, t-shirts sales, corporate sponsorship, pro- agents and network executives aren't so embedded. The Penn State situation is a corporate athletic crime. Money out leveraged the truth as it's so often does."

Nancy writes on Facebook, "Not nor nothing. This is just another male-dominated institution. It's like the Catholic Church where they all closed ranks and protected each other and the group as their first priority. Was it only because sports is big business? I'm not so sure."

Pete writes, "It probably played some role, but unfortunately what occurred is not that rare in locker rooms across the country. If you have spent much time in high school and college male locker rooms, you have likely seen or maybe even experienced sexual harassment, bullying and/or molestation.

Actual sodomy is more rare, but even that is not unheard of. Males are even less likely to report it than females because of the humiliation factor."

Mel in Houston writes, "Maybe a fractured cliche is the appropriate answer. Money talks and common sense walks." If you want it read more on this go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

I think Rick Santorum had some interesting observations about this. He gets it.

BLITZER: He is an alum too.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Class of 1980. Thanks very much. This important note for our viewers, CNN's Anderson Cooper has the first TV interview with the attorney for the alleged Penn State abuser, Jerry Sandusky. It will air tonight, "AC 360" 8 p.m. Eastern.

Grim new developments for basketball fans, now it looks like there may not be any NBA season at all.

Then at the top of the hour, President Obama responds forcefully to Republican presidential candidates who are slamming his foreign policy, details of his message to the GOP hopefuls who want to replace him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The company will build planes and there is an option for another 20 planes, which would add $8 billion to the deal. Boeing says it has been a record year for the 777 with 82 orders so far.

A liquid gas leak is being linked for a huge explosion at a restaurant in the central Chinese city this morning. China's state run news agency says at least nine people were killed and 34 injured most of them passersby. The blast shattered windows as far away as two miles and threw an air conditioning unit more than 50 yards.

And three senators are introducing legislation calling on the Defense Department to bring home the bodies of 13 American sailors who died more than 200 years ago. The men were killed when their ship blew up in Tripoli harbor in 1804 during the campaign against pirates along what was known as the Barbary Coast. The sailors are buried nearby, some in mass graves, in what is now Libya.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.