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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Political Analysts Examine the Upcoming Iowa Caucuses; "Occupy" Movement Comes to Iowa; Get Real: Fear the Vest; Iran Threatens Action Against U.S.; Body Found On England Queen's Estate; President Obama Returns From Hawaii; Inside The Ron Paul Campaign; Bachmann Banking On "A Miracle"; Interview with Michele Bachmann and Family

Aired January 3, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody, welcome to our new show, which is called "Starting Point." We're live once again at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines, Iowa. Today, of course, is decision day. Today, the campaign stops thinking about polls and projections and actually starts being about real numbers.

Iowans, of course, going to cast their votes for the person they'd like to see run for president against President Barack Obama. The last poll before the candidates' real test has Rick Santorum surging. He appears to be the GOP candidate with the most momentum going into today's caucuses. He's been practically picking up his mail in this state.

Mitt Romney, though, hasn't been, and he's doing pretty well. He's been chatting a little Charlie Sheen and talking about winning, oozing confidence, people tell us on the campaign trail. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is asking, do you believe in miracles? She says we should get ready for a big surprise on her part in the Iowa tonight. She'll join us along with her kids to tell us why in a STARTING POINT exclusive.

Plus, get real. We have not found so far any skeletons in Rick Santorum's closets, just a lot of sweater vests -- like a lot of sweater vests. Facebook, Twitter picked up on his wardrobe. If you do not believe me, we're going to show you the music video of the sweater vest. Not kidding.

It's going to be a very busy two hours. Besides Michele Bachmann and family we also have Newt Gingrich and family as well, his two daughters joining us. Senator Rand Paul will be pitching for his father. The Iowa governor Terry Branstad is going to join us, and members of Occupy Iowa will be occupying the diner right here. So STARTING POINT begins right now.

A lot of heavy rock music this morning. Good morning, everybody. You're looking at the outside of the Waveland Cafe. Inside is where we are in Des Moines, Iowa. The first in the nation caucuses finally here. The candidates have been spending their final few hours in the state getting out their messages. And if this is a horse race, it's Mitt Romney leading by a nose. Ron Paul trying to make it a photo finish. It's Rick Santorum surging from the rear, and Newt Gingrich hedging his bets, admitting he may not be winning in Iowa. Michele Bachmann says put your money on the long shot, and, Perry, well, he is chasing Santorum at this point. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- win this thing with all of our passion and the strength and do everything we can to get this campaign on the right track to go across the nation, and to pick up other states and to get the ballots I need, the votes I need to become our nominee.

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow night. I think I'll probably come in somewhere between first and fourth, but I have -- I honestly have no idea where we'll be on that list. But it's, to me, a very exciting time.

RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If liberty is the most important issue, the most important responsibility of government is to protect liberty and not to be the policemen of the world and not to have a runaway welfare state.

MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think tomorrow night will issue a very different result than what people are seeing, because, again, still, 50 percent of the people register in the polls as undecided, in Iowa. Very strong suspicion we're going to see a lot of people coming out and voting for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes, but undecideds not the word of the day. The word of the day is momentum, and the candidate who has momentum going into tonight is Rick Santorum. A "Des Moines Register" survey taken on December 27th to December 30th had him 15 percent behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Then in a smaller two-day poll which was using just the two most recent days in that survey, he explodes. He jumps to 21 percent, surging past Ron Paul.

Let's get right to Jim Acosta, who's in Des Moines for quite a while. He's at the site of the rock the caucus event where Santorum and Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann will all be speaking later today. Jim, good morning to you. Give me a sense of the feel. Is it desperation among candidates? Is it enthusiasm? Is it confidence? What are you seeing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think it's excitement. You know, we were out chasing Rick Santorum around yesterday, and, you know, honestly, Soledad, I felt I was beamed into a "Twilight Zone" universe. Here we are with the international press and hundreds of Iowans chasing Rick Santorum around. You know, this is a senator, former senator, who lost his reelection bid back in 2006 by 18 percentage points, and now he is on the verge of perhaps winning the Iowa caucuses. It is kind of amazing to behold.

At the same time, I think the big question that will be answered tonight, Soledad, which Republican be Party are we looking at? The Republican party of Mitt Romney? Because if he wins the Iowa caucuses and then goes on to win the New Hampshire primary, he's going to be very hard to stop. If not, if Rick Santorum or Ron Paul wins these Iowa caucus, then, perhaps, this is a Republican Party who hasn't figured out who their standard bearer is. Perhaps it's a Republican Party that's out to stop Mitt Romney from winning this nomination. So I think it's very exciting and it's going to interesting to see what happens tonight.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we'll be watching closely as well. Jim Acosta, thank you. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to our panel. Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst, Jamal Simmons, a former DNC communications adviser. We have CNN contributor David Frum with us and Alex Castellanos as well, a CNN contributor. Appreciate you guys joining us. Let's get right to it. The tone is so interesting. He's like, I can't believe I'm chasing Santorum, who did not even win his reelection bid.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He lost by 700,000 votes in 2006, which is a big number. You know what feels that way even more -- Rick Perry. Rick Perry got in the race, he looked like he was the co-front-runner with Mitt Romney, and here in the final days of the Iowa caucus attacking Rick Santorum, which is kind of a measure how far his star has fallen. Someone has to win this caucus.

O'BRIEN: What the surge is --

BROWNSTEIN: There is a last-minute standing element.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Did you see the science fiction movie where everyone on the planet die, one guy wakes up and he's the only guy on earth? That's Rick Santorum. He has a retail campaign, actually, but not on TV. No one saw him. All the other candidates died. When Newt Gingrich collapsed, that vote had to go somewhere. Guess who, the only guy they didn't know? Rick Santorum.

O'BRIEN: His supporters would say, working every county. They would say here's a guy talking about blue collar jobs and connecting with people. It's not that everybody else in the campaign trail dropped dead and he's just the last guy.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The message, blue collar jobs is important and one that's referred to little in this race. That's very powerful. His support is responding to the pro-life message much more. I think we would -- a lot of press would like Santorum to do well because that would validate campaigning, because he has been doing Iowa the way you're supposed to. The way Jimmy Carter did it.

O'BRIEN: Old school -- 99 counties.

FRUM: And because the alternative is that actually Mitt Romney can win even though he's campaigned here very little and simply used the overwhelming power of money to defeat and destroy Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. If that turns out to be the storyline I think a lot of people in the press will not be so happy.

CASTELLANOS: Also, first of all I'm going to fake just a little bit like you're Gladys Knight and we just joins the Pips. We're all going to back you up.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I like that, by the way.

CASTELLANOS: We can't sing or dance.

O'BRIEN: Neither can I. Go ahead.

CASTELLANOS: I think when you look at what Rick Santorum has been doing, opportunity means preparation. I think what's certainly true is this candidate is so much better than what he was before. He's somebody who knows Iowa. He knows a lot of people he's been talking to, been there so long. I went to see him yesterday for a little while and he is so much more compelling on the stump that I thought he would be.

O'BRIEN: Apartment competent. He's actually --

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: There have been two central dynamics in this race all the way through. You had Mitt Romney who has been the solid if not spectacular front-runner, consolidating some of the more moderate secular, pragmatic parts of the part. And then you had the more conservative wing of the party, the overlapping circles of Tea Party supporter and evangelical Christian who have not been able to settle on a candidate. That's where we've seen the bouncing around from Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich and now Santorum.

BROWNSTEIN: The process demands an alternative to Romney. The question will be whether if it is Santorum here, does he have the capacity to grow into a true national threat? The Romney people right now are pretty dubious and they'd much prefer --

O'BRIEN: That's really the translation, that's let's not attack him yet. We're not sure he can be a national candidate.

CASTELLANOS: There's room in the Republican Party for the Budweiser candidate. The whole question you put on the survey is, who would you rather have a beer with? Who's the populist guy, the working man's candidate? You said it. This guy's from Pittsburgh. That's his home. He knows steel mills don't just build towns, they build families. And there isn't a candidate you know, Mitt Romney's campaign is a campaign for the American investor. No one's yet grabbed that slot for the American worker.

Hey, I don't believe Washington is going to solve our problem. I believe 300 million Americans are going to solve our problems. I believe in you. If he goes to New Hampshire and talks economics and talks about the American worker, there's a place for Rick Santorum to go further than you think.

O'BRIEN: Move him out of the conservative social space and --

FRUM: -- getting ready for the next state, and that is the mark on national security. He opened his rally yesterday, point number one he made is to criticize President Obama for not dealing effectively with Iran. But that's not just an attack on President Obama. That's the laying down of the attack on Ron Paul we'll hear of.

O'BRIEN: Speaking of the poll, let's go to this non-electable poll, I like that, and Ron Paul has a dubious honor of leading the unelectedable poll at 29 percent, and then Michele Bachmann at 28 percent and Gingrich at 11 percent. Mitt Romney, one of those electable polls obviously. So Ron Paul, you know, is this where, really, he's going to reach his height and then die?

FRUM: Ron Paul is running for president in the industry. I think he builds a newsletter, mailing list. He is going to -- because this is what he has been doing forever and will continue to do forever. It can be managed the way it becomes actually quite personally lucrative. That's what those famous newsletters were about. They were a way of earning a living. So he goes the distance because he lives on the land in a way that a candidate like Newt Gingrich cannot do.

SIMMONS: He's got a built-in following of folks, libertarians who -- anyway, a lot of Americans are libertarian more than they are conservative philosophically. His is a pure boiled down essence of libertarianism. And you're thinking of this as a long term strategy, and you have here today Rand Paul, and can't ignore the fact, Rand Paul spending time here, interesting to see if he shows up here --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: It is, you also are seeing, this is the kind of candidacy that has the rationale I think, Dave was saying, for a lot of reasons to keep going long after it's clear you're not going to be the nominee.

O'BRIEN: You guys are going to be sticking around with me all morning, which I appreciate greatly. I know what you'll be doing tonight, too. We'll be together tonight. Tonight we're going to have the caucus coverage for CNN right here.

Also we're going to talk about the Occupy Wall Street movement as well. Before I get to that, our special is called "America's Choice 2012 -- Coverage of the Iowa Caucuses." I'm sure we have a graphic to promote that for you. It begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern right here in the CNN Election Center.

O'BRIEN: Also we'll get to Christine Romans with other stories making news for us this morning. Hey, Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPODNENT: Good morning. Nice to see you this morning, Soledad.

Syria's news agency is reporting an armed terrorist group blew up a gas pipeline cutting off supplies to two power plants. But anti- government activists claim the regime blew it up to distract international monitors from continuing their work in Syria.

In Los Angeles, an arrest in connection with that string of arson fires. Police say 24-year-old Harry Burkhart is suspected of more than 50 fires. They're looking at an immigration dispute as a motive there.

And Mount Rainier Park in Washington State will be closed again to the public today while authorities investigate the death of a park ranger and mother of two Margaret Anderson and also the man suspected of killing her. The alleged gunman, Benjamin Colton Barnes, he was found dead in that park apparently from exposure.

U.S. markets back open today after being closed yesterday for the New Year's holiday. Stock futures for the DOW, NASDAQ, and S&P, all up sharply, pointing to a higher open right now to start of the new year. And Soledad, for the year last year, the S&P 500 basically flat. After all of those ups and downs, it ended right where it started, Soledad. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thanks. Appreciate it.

Coming up on STARTING POINT, the Occupy Wall Street movement making its presence felt here in Iowa. Three members of the movement are going to occupy our space at the Waveland Cafe and tell us what they have planned for today.

Also, Senator Rand Paul will be live with us. He's going to discuss his father's chances of pulling off an upset in Iowa. We'll ask him if the Texas congressman is running for office or if it's really about building a movement that could help his son eventually in 2016.

And Michele Bachmann will join us as well. She says she's banking on a miracle. She's polling last, though, in Iowa. She'll join us live along with four of her five kids. It's a STARTING POINT exclusive. We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A shot inside the Waveland Cafe this morning. Welcome back, everybody.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has literally spread to every corner of the country including right here in Des Moines. Protesters using the Iowa caucuses try to focus attention on their cause. They tried to disrupt the candidates' campaign events, like Michele Bachmann rallying (ph). Take a look at that. With their mike check chance, and then dozens of protesters have been arrested for disrupting rallies and protesting outside of candidates' campaign centers.

They promised a protest tonight, too. They say they're going to keep it to campaign headquarters. But some Iowa Republicans are worried that there will try to be disruption of the caucuses themselves. In fact, they're so nervous that they've moved the caucus vote count to a secret location.

So Jessica Reznicek, Marty -- Marty, Martha, but she said I could call her Marty Doyle, and Dutch Ruisch are protesters from the Occupy Des Moines movement. It's nice to have you guys. Thanks for talking with us.

No signs. You're so quiet. Not enough coffee for our protesters this morning. Jessica, let's start with you. Why do you feel like you're part of the 99 percent?

JESSICA REZNICEK, OCCUPY DES MOINES: Oh, I mean, the -- the socioeconomic gap has become so large that we're all part of the 99 percent. Everybody's saying in this room right here. And I think that it's our moral obligation to stand up and say, no, we need to take that money back. We need to take that -- those jobs back. We need to take our homes back. To make it fair and equal society.

O'BRIEN: Is it all about money and jobs and homes? And, you know, like, Marty, I was reading your story. You went from not having any education essentially for you. Post high school education to not getting one Bachelor's -- two Bachelor's Degree, then got your Master's Degree, then got your Ph.D.

And I thought, well, this is the face of the American dream, you know, that you -- why are you protesting? You sort of lived it?

MARTHA DOYLE, OCCUPY DES MOINES: Well, yes, I did go from poverty to middle class, but I also have five grandchildren that I want to have them have that chance as well. So I've been very fortunate and I feel very blessed, but then I also know a lot of --

O'BRIEN: You're worried.

DOYLE: -- my friends and family that -- that aren't doing as well, and I want my grandchildren to have that same opportunity.

O'BRIEN: Now, Dutch, you worked getting people mortgages and then you had to declare bankruptcy yourself. What did that experience teach you about the economic crisis that this country is in right now?

DUTCH RUISCH, OCCUPY DES MOINES: The American dream is becoming a dream of the past, like Marty said. It's becoming further and further out of reach for the average Iowan.

O'BRIEN: Why are you protesting here in Iowa? When people think about the caucuses, you almost think about the most grassroots democratic process there can be. People come together with their neighbors. They talk about issues. This would, to me, seems almost to be the last place that you'd want to occupy. Why here?

RUISCH: That's what the Occupy Movement is all about. We are the grassroots movement. Right now, the political parties are so partisan that by the time we have the opportunity to vote for any politician, they're already bought and paid for. Republican, Democrat, they're like two sides of the same worthless coin.

O'BRIEN: So you see -- we know, we've heard a lot about what you're doing on the Republican side. What are you going to be doing on the Democratic side to protest?

DOYLE: We've been busy be there, too.

O'BRIEN: So it is not a --

DOYLE: We're definitely non-partisan.

REZNICEK: Absolutely. I've been arrested twice with affiliation with the Democratic Party, once at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters. I occupied Obama's office for two days. Obama's headquarters for two days and I also was arrested at the Iowa -- or the at the Democratic National Committee --

O'BRIEN: So what's the goal with that? I mean you're giving me a litany -- I got arrested here, but what's the -- the end goal is to be able to say, and we accomplished -- what?

REZNICEK: Reshape the political and economic discourse that is currently being conducted by the --

O'BRIEN: About the conversation?

REZNICEK: Absolutely. So we start talking about real issues.

O'BRIEN: So if we had the candidates all sitting right here, you've been trying to break into their campaign (INAUDIBLE). Let's say we brought them here. So what -- what would you say to them? What -- what is the conversation that you feel that they're not speaking to?

DOYLE: Well, first of all, they're just not speaking to us, period. We invited them to come speak with us. That's what the caucuses are all about. Our candidates come to talk with us. And so we would assume that they would wanted to have talked to us, but they didn't, so we came to them.

O'BRIEN: Will you disrupt -- will you disrupt the caucuses?

REZNICEK: No. That is not at all our agenda.

O'BRIEN: Because it appears as you know of that that you will disrupt the caucuses?

DOYLE: We're -- we're trying to get used to that idea that people are scared of us.

O'BRIEN: What's going to -- what's going to happen tonight, in a word? Just watching what happens? Watching the turnout?

REZNICEK: The movement moves where it wants to move. It's very fluid.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate you guys coming in this morning.

REZNICEK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Occupy now -- occupy the counter and get a cup of coffee and stick around with us this morning. REZNICEK: Thank you.

DOYLE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Straight ahead on STARTING POINT, Michele Bachmann is going to join us live everybody. She's going to bring her family in as well. The Minnesota congresswoman, she's polling last in Iowa, but she's predicting a miracle, she says. She's going to bring four of her five kids in a STARTING POINT exclusive. That's straight ahead.

Then it's time to get real. What is up with the public's obsession with Rick Santorum's sweaters? I can't believe I'm even asking that question on television. The sweater vest making a comeback.

And then we'll talk to Ron Paul's son Senator Rand Paul, talk about his father's showing in Iowa. What it could mean for Rand's political career.

STARTING POINT is back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It is time now for a segment we call "Get Real," where I highlight a story that seems just a little bit crazy to me.

You tell me, should they "Get Real"? Today, we're going to take a look at the public's obsession with Rick Santorum's sweater vest. Yes, Rick Santorum, just like my seven-year-old twin sons, he does love the sweater vest.

"New York Times" points out that he owns them in navy, in gray and in a tan color. There's a Twitter feed about his vests which is @FearRicksVest. A Web site of same name sends readers to a pro- Santorum's Facebook page. And if that is not enough, there's also a music video, I kid you not, and it's on YouTube. Take a look.

Pretty catchy, huh? Well, Santorum told the "Times" that his sweaters started getting some interest, some attention, a few weeks ago when he wore one to a forum in Des Moines and the other candidates were wearing suits, so he stuck out.

But, come on, a Twitter feed, Facebook page, music video, really? Let's focus on the issue, people.

Still to come on STARTING POINT this morning, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul just walked into the diner wearing -- I should point out -- a sweater vest. He's going to talk with us about his father's chances of winning here and also going to the white house and maybe even Rand Paul's political future.

Plus, Michele Bachmann is going to join us with four of her five kids. We're going to ask her why she's so optimistic about the outcome tonight. And when you look at the polls it is not a good story for her. It's a STARTING POINT exclusive. We'll be back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien. And this is our new show which is called STARTING POINT. We're at the Waveland Cafe here in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ahead on our next half hour, we're going to be joined by Senator (sic) Rand Paul. His father is the oldest man in the race. And he might be doing the best job connecting with the youngest of voters. We'll talk about that.

I had a little chance to witness that firsthand. What happened at a packed rally and Rand says, it was just one of a number of packed rallies yesterday. We'll talk about whether it's a movement or an industry as well.

Also ahead, we've got a look at what's happening in the markets and other stories, too. Christine Romans joins us with top stories. Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad, in Iowa.

Iran delivers a stern warning to the United States. The country's army chief says Iran will take action if a U.S. ship returns to its post to the Persian Gulf located right near the coast of Iran. The ship left its post during Iran's navy exercises. Iran says it will not repeat this warning.

Police in England have discovered a woman's body on the Queen's estate. They're investigating a murder. Police say the body had been on the estate for quite some time. They're looking into missing person reports and cold cases.

Vacation over. President Obama now back in Washington after a holiday in Hawaii. The first family landed just a few minutes ago this morning at Andrews Air Force Base. President Obama is scheduled to speak to supporters in Iowa tonight through a video teleconference.

All right, U.S. markets back open today after being closed yesterday for the New Year's holiday. Stock futures for the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are all up sharply.

Up they are pointing to a higher open right now to start off the New Year after a flat year for the S&P 500 last year. Let's get a quick check of the weather right now and how it might affect your travel today.

It's cold in Iowa. It's cold in Atlanta. It's cold on the East Coast. Rob Marciano joins us now. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's give you a hint, Christine as to what you should pack if you're traveling today. It's definitely cold air driving down across the south and east. If you think you're going to bring your Bermuda shorts to places like Northern Florida, well, it's 24 degrees is the current wind chill in Jacksonville, 25.

And Tallahassee, feels like 7 right now in Atlanta and 14 is the wind chill factor in Birmingham. Daytime highs will rebound somewhat, 38 for the high temperature, but this is by far the coldest air of the season.

Freeze warnings in effect tonight for the entire mainland of Florida with the exception of Miami. If you're traveling out of New York, piece of problems because of the wind, but other than that, not too shabby at least a little better as compared to yesterday.

Midsection of the country is decent including Iowa, albeit chilly. Forecast high temperatures today in Iowa, Soledad, will be in the low to mid-30s, which actually is above average. So, good weather for the caucuses tonight. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Yes, good weather, but cold weather for the caucuses tonight. Thanks, Rob. Appreciate it.

I got a taste of my own taste -- of the Republican race yesterday here in Des Moines when I headed to a Ron Paul rally that was being held in my hotel room. I saw him talk to this very diverse crowd.

He was introduced by his son, Rand Paul. Young people, old people, conservative people, people who said they were moderates. People who said they were independents and hard core libertarians as well.

And the thing that kind of struck me was that you got a sense that it was more about a philosophy than necessarily asking people to vote for him. I want to take a listen to what he said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If liberty is the most important issue, the most important responsibility of government is to protect liberty and not to be the policemen of the world and not to have a runaway welfare state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was just one example where everybody in the crowd, it was a big crowd, broke into applause. The message seems to be catching on. He's at the top of the Iowa polls, just behind Mitt Romney at 22 percent.

So the big question is, can he pull off a win in the hawk eye state and his son, Senator Rand Paul, who I mentioned introduced him at that rally yesterday joins us now.

It's nice to have you, sir. Thanks for talking with me.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Good morning. O'BRIEN: You know, it was interesting that feel of the crowd. I wondered, and "Politico" has a little bit on this too. Is it a movement as they describe? Is it trying to get people to a philosophy?

Is it really about as other people said, it's an industry? Is it about -- actually about you and it's about your dreams eventually to maybe have a presidential bid and it's not really about your father?

PAUL: Well, I can say, it's not about me, but I can say it is a unique perspective. These are people who are economically conservative, but also want a reasonable foreign policy.

They're worried about nominating a Republican who would be reckless with nuclear weapons, who wouldn't show restraint, who wouldn't understand that Congress should vote to declare war.

So it's a new combination. These are people who say, well, yes, I'm economically conservative, but I want a more moderate or a more reasonable foreign policy, and it brings the young people by the droves.

O'BRIEN: It's about a movement?

PAUL: I think it's both. I mean, it's about a chance to really win. I mean, we're bringing in so many independents voters as well as Republican voters, that Ron Paul has a real chance of winning here.

O'BRIEN: You know, but when you talk to the young people and there were tons of young people at the rally that I attended, that they would burst into applause, at least a dozen times in your dad remarks yesterday.

Especially, when he said something like, you know, get the government oust your lives. I looked around. I thought how many of these students are on Pell Grants? How many of the older people here are on Social Security?

How many people work a five-day work? But those are all governments in your lives, isn't that a contradiction?

PAUL: Well, I think what they see is even the kids who are on student grants realize they have all of these loans to pay back, and there are no jobs out there. Why are there no jobs because we have such a massive debt that is dragging the country down?

Ron Paul is one of the few who would actually cut spending. Not cut the rate of increase in spending. He would cut $1 trillion in spending and balance the budget in three years. The young people believe him, because he's not always politically correct.

He's somebody who tells it as he sees it. He doesn't pull any punches and young people, I think, are cynical of the news. They're cynical of everything they see. Everything to them is reality TV. They see Ron Paul and they see something genuine. O'BRIEN: He is to the left of Barack Obama is what Michele Bachmann said about him because he wants to legalize cocaine and heroin, wouldn't stand up for a man marriage being just so --

PAUL: All of those things are just ridiculous.

O'BRIEN: But those are positions that social conservatives take.

PAUL: Yes and no. My dad believes in traditional marriage, between a man and a woman.

O'BRIEN: But social conservatives want your dad to say the federal government should stand up for that and he's taken the very hard core libertarian position, which is the federal government out of that conversation.

PAUL: And/or the constitutional position, which says the ninth and tenth amendment, says that if it's not written in the constitution, the federal government doesn't have the power to do it.

Those rights and powers are left to the people and states respectively. All he's doing is acknowledging the ninth and tenth amendment.

O'BRIEN: Don't social conservatives want him to say, actually we want to stop abortion? We want to stop gay marriage.

PAUL: Well, some do and some don't. I'm very conservative and I ran in a very conservative state and I believe in traditional marriage but I said, look, I don't want my guns registered in Washington and I don't want my marriage registered in Washington. And conservatives accepted that.

O'BRIEN: Your dad is number two in the polls under Mitt Romney, but when you look at the non-electable poll, in an electability poll, he's at the top, which is a really bad poll to be leading. Explain that.

PAUL: Well, the thing is you want to be at the top of the poll of people voting. The people voting today, he's at the top of that poll in Iowa. That's tremendous.

If you'd poll independents and say who would you vote for? More independents would vote for Ron Paul than any other Republican. Traditionally when we look at elections, we say that independents are important.

If you look at Democrats, more Democrats will vote for Ron Paul than any other Republican candidate. He is doing tremendous in the polls. I see nothing, but positive coming out of this, and if we win here today, it's going to be huge.

Some people may squawk about it, but the thing is, there are enough Republicans who also believe we want someone reasonable in charge of our nuclear weapons.

We don't want someone who's reckless and who wants to bomb every country in the world. We want someone who believes in some restraint.

O'BRIEN: I want to ask a question that has been a very sensitive topic -- this whole newsletter thing and back in the '80s and '90s, these newsletters your dad has disavowed them. He said he wasn't involved with them.

A racist, anti-gay content, for example, this one, order restored in L.A. when it came time for blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after the rioting began.

Another one says, I missed the closet, homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide those activities.

PAUL: I think the interesting thing is, is I've known my dad a long time. I've been to his first political speech. I've probably been to thousands of his speeches. I've never seen or heard him say anything publicly or privately that would ever allow me to think he would not judge an individual on the content of their character.

O'BRIEN: My question is not about that. My question is about the content. My question is about -- let me just --

PAUL: But I don't think that's consistent with who he is. He said he didn't write these. So to bring it up 20 years and again and again and again, I think is not to listen to him. People need to listen to his speeches and listen to what he talks about.

O'BRIEN: But I'll tell you why I bring it up because to me, doesn't it raise a leadership question? For 20 years, you have these newsletters going out that he said he knew that the newsletters existed.

He said he didn't write the content. So doesn't that make you question the leadership ability of someone who had this going on and really did nothing about it?

PAUL: I guess, when I look at the Republican field, one of the most important things to me is, who we elect as commander in chief will be in charge of our nuclear weapons.

I don't want someone who's reckless. I think Ron Paul would be wise. I think he would be restrained and I think a lot of people in the Republican field scare me because of their willingness to go to war.

Many of them have never served as soldiers. My dad served in the military, but he is reluctant to go to war. He thinks we only go to war with congressional authority.

That's what President Obama said also and then he carelessly took us to war in Libya without a congressional vote. So Ron Paul believes in the rule of law and that to me that type of judgment I think is unparalleled and separates him from the field.

O'BRIEN: What are you going to be doing tonight?

PAUL: Celebrating.

O'BRIEN: Where would you be putting all your efforts and time and your energy?

PAUL: I'll be doing a few television interviews this morning. Some radio interviews and we'll be here in Des Moines at our headquarters.

O'BRIEN: All right, good luck. Nice to meet you and chat with you. We appreciate your time.

PAUL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a short break and we are back in just a moment to continue our conversations with our exclusive Michele Bachmann and her family. They've all arrived and squeezed their way into the diner. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're at the Waveland Cafe this morning and it was not exactly the picture that Congresswoman Bachmann wanted to present the day that Representative Steve King came out to support the candidate.

It was a cafe in Iowa last week. It was kind of empty. No crowds. It's a scene that was in stark contrast to what Bachmann saw days ago early on her 11-day bus tour across those 99 counties in Iowa.

Look at that, jammed. Now the cafe visit unplanned spontaneous stop, but the fading crowds is coming at a time when she is fading in the polls a little bit too, coming last with just 7 percent of the vote in the latest "Des Moines Register" poll.

Here's what Bachmann is banking on though. The 41 percent who say they could be swayed to change their vote. So the question, of course, is does she have the organization, does she have the momentum to pull caucus goers to her side?

Joining me this morning is the candidate herself, Michele Bachmann, and is this your first TV interview as a family? I'm very honored. I appreciate it. It's second day of my show. First TV interview, very good.

Introduce me, everybody, in your family. Give me ages and briefly what they do.

MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll be happy to. My husband is Marcus, of 33 years.

O'BRIEN: He's not here. We're missing one kid, too. BACHMANN: That's right. Our oldest son is Lucas. He's a physician. And Harrison is 24. He's a teacher and Elisea is just finishing college. She has about two weeks left to go. Caroline is also in college, first year. Our other daughter, Sophia, couldn't leave college today. She had to go back. This is --

O'BRIEN: Can't skipping out our school.

BACHMANN: And we had 23 foster children, but they're grown and gone and launched.

O'BRIEN: So I'm going to start with the kids. When you meet people on the campaign trail, what do you say to convince them to vote for your mom? Outside the fact that she's your mom, what do you say? What's your compelling argument to somebody?

LUCUS BACHMANN, SON OF MICHELE BACHMANN: I think one of the compelling issues that people really resonate with Mom is where she stands on the issues. Like here in Iowa, a lot of people are the conservative types. And also how she's done in the debates. A lot of people have liked the fact she hasn't backed down on a lot of the issues. She's been willing to take it to the other candidates.

O'BRIEN: Sarah Palin was on FOX News yesterday and this is what she said about you. She said, as for Michele Bachmann, she, Bachmann, she has a lot to offer but I don't think it's her time this go-round.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Is that new to you? Have you heard that before? Or am I telling that to you for the first time?

MICHELE BACHMANN: I think what we've seen in this election cycle, candidates have gone up and candidates have gone down, but there's only one election so far, and I'm the only candidate that won that. A state-wide race.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Straw poll. You came in first.

MICHELE BACHMANN: The straw poll.

O'BRIEN: It gave a tremendous energy to your campaign.

MICHELE BACHMANN: It did.

O'BRIEN: What happened? Really after, that the polling started to drop?

MICHELE BACHMANN: You can ask that of any of the candidates. The candidates have been up, the candidates have been down. It's very fluid. Five days from now and two weeks from now the numbers are going to be completely different than the ones on the screen.

This is the early chapters of the whole 2012 race. There's a long way to go. I have a lot of staying power. I have the competency, the background. I'm a tax lawyer, a private, successful businesswoman.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: How well do you have to do today to have momentum going forward? Because right now --

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELE BACHMANN: We're going to do just fine.

O'BRIEN: You're number two on that.

MICHELE BACHMANN: We're going to do just fine today. We've already bought our plane tickets to South Carolina. We're moving forward because I intend to defeat Barack Obama and be the next president of the United States.

O'BRIEN: You have taken a lot of flak for some of your very strong social issues, where you stand on them, and I want to talk about some of them. Your stance on homosexuality and I want to read a little bit of what you said. You said, at an educators conference of 2004, "Gays live a very sad life in that it's part of Satan." That's a quote. You've taken a lot of flak for that. You pulled back on any of that.

MICHELE BACHMANN: It's a bizarre thing to bring up today. Today is the election. What people recognize is that the most important issue that people will be looking at is, who is the best person to deal with the economy? Probably someone who's created a business from scratch. I came from a family where I was below poverty. I had to earn my way up out of poverty --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What you're telling me is you don't want to discuss social issues because want to talk about the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I don't think it's a bizarre question. I think it's a fair question.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, it's a gotcha question coming way out of the past. I stand very strong for marriage between one man and one woman. I believe in protecting human life from conception to natural death. I believe in the family, religious liberty and for people to be able to practice their faith freely. That's important.

But it's also important we get rid of Obama-care. Obama-care is socialized medicine. It is wildly unpopular. Of all of the candidates in the race, I'm the one who led 40,000 Americans to object to Obama-care. And I'm the one who mean what I said. I say what I mean. I'm very consistent. People know that they can count on me. I won't be shifting my positions over the years.

O'BRIEN: How come evangelicals seem to give their momentum to Rick Santorum then? You have a lot of pastors who support you. And, again, I'll go to the poll. Rick Santorum has sort of the momentum in this and you don't. Why not?

MICHELE BACHMANN: If you're looking just at the shift of the last five day, that's one thing. I have over 200 pastors that have come out to endorse me. They're very influential in their communities, in their congregations. And I think we're going to see a real surprise at the polls tonight with a depth of support that people didn't recognize that was there.

O'BRIEN: All right. I want to talk about this evangelical choice poll on the other side of a quick commercial break. We'll talk where you're ranking in that poll.

We have to take a quick break and we're back in a moment. More with the candidates and the families. Today, Michele Bachmann's got her family with us here.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And we are back with more now with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. And in their first TV interview, four out of her five children. Her daughter, Sophie, had to leave, right?

MICHELE BACHMANN: A college student.

O'BRIEN: Had to stay in school so she is not here. Let me get the names right. We have Lucas over here. And we have Harrison. We have Caroline and Elisa. And her husband, Marcus, has joined us.

This is what I love doing a show in the cafe. People come on by. They jump on in.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me ask a question of the kids.

What has been the hardest thing about having a mom who wants to be president of the United States?

HARRISON BACHMANN, SON OF MICHELE BACHMANN: I think we know her kind of the mom who grew up in supporting you in different sporting events and all the games or whatever, and you see the mom that people see on TV, and the character and some of the things that they like and compare, and it's almost like two different people.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: People pick on your mom, and they do every candidate, frankly. Does it make you angry? HARRISON BACHMANN: You get used to it after a while. And then you realize it isn't so, because you know the real individual versus the people they project them to be, so.

O'BRIEN: Elisa, you are very quiet. What would you say people don't know about your mom?

ELISA BACHMANN, DAUGHTER OF MICHELE BACHMANN: I think they don't know exactly what we know. She is normal. She is an everyday mom. Talking earlier, she is home for Thanksgiving, she is home for Christmas. One of the first text messages I got was from my mom, happy New Year. I think if a lot of people knew that about her, they maybe would change their view of her and they would understand that she is normal. She's exactly kind of that mom that you have at home, and that's who she really is.

O'BRIEN: But my mom is a little crazy, so it's not the mom itch at home.

(LAUGHTER)

Maybe other people's moms they have at home.

MICHELE BACHMANN: We aren't going to tell your mom you said that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Oh, see, she would completely agree.

(LAUGHTER)

I want to talk about this, this least electable candidate poll. I want to throw that up on the screen, because Ron Paul comes in the top of that at 29 percent. But you are right behind him at 28 percent, as I said. And another poll showed where the evangelicals are putting their support. And this is a poll that is also a problem for you. Let me see if I can find that little jiggle. You have Rick Santorum at the top of that poll at 22 percent. And I would have guessed you'd be either there or right below him and you're not. You're down at the bottom, 12 percent. Explain that?

MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, again, there's only been one election and I was the one that was chosen in that election. And the polls go up and down and the sample sizes are pretty small. I think that tonight is going to be the poll. We're about 12 hours away, and I think the people will speak and it will be profound.

O'BRIEN: What makes you think the miracle, as you've called it, is going to happen for you?

MICHELE BACHMANN: Because in the last two weeks, we saw thousands of people, as we traversed Iowa, flip and go my way. They made the decision to go with me because they saw that, when it comes down to it, I'm the one true core conservative who hasn't flipped, who stood up on issue after issue, and I've accomplished something in my life. They want a real person.

O'BRIEN: Our reporters, Marcus, have said that at some of these events of the last few days, the numbers are dwindling, that the crowds are small. That's how people go in and they gauge how it's going, right? It's huge. It's packed. The media is here. Oh, it only has a couple can of people, it's not going well. How has your wife, you know, basically campaign stops been?

MARCUS BACHMANN, HUSBAND OF MICHELE BACHMANN: I think they've been tremendous.

O'BRIEN: Crowded? Jammed? The opposite of what reporters tell us and what we've seen?

MICHELE BACHMANN: We had 300 people, 250 people. The one you're talking about is a stop that Steve King chose and it's in a town of 500 people in the middle of the day when nobody is there.

(LAUGHTER)

That is not reflective of everything that we've been doing.

O'BRIEN: OK. I buy that. What has to happen in South Carolina? You have your tickets. You're flying coach into South Carolina.

MICHELE BACHMANN: We are.

O'BRIEN: What has to happen there to make you a viable candidate moving forward?

MICHELE BACHMANN: We're just going to go and make our case to the people of South Carolina. I think the values that I hold are very much in line with the values of the people in South Carolina. And they want someone who will be decisive as a president and lead. And that's what I've done and that's what I will do.

O'BRIEN: What will you be doing as a family this evening?

MICHELE BACHMANN: This evening?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELE BACHMANN: Probably partying, chasing all over, I imagine.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't know. What do you think?

MARCUS BACHMANN: I think we'll have some great food. And we have great friends and have other family that will be here. So it's sort of a family reunion.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Yes. O'BRIEN: You're going to hang out together to watch the results coming in?

Has this been a fun experience for you, 99 counties on a bus, 7,000 miles?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: A little hard.

CAROLINE BACHMANN, DAUGHTER OF MICHELE BACHMANN: I think it's fun seeing everyone and them being so positive. I think, for us, it's more motivation for us seeing the people out there and they're excited to see us. They're excited for what mom has to say. So it makes the experience, at least for me, all the more fun.

O'BRIEN: On to South Carolina and the bus, right?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It's nice to chat with you guys.

I appreciate Michele Bachmann joining us with her family. And her husband, Marcus, joining us as well.

Still ahead, we talk to Newt Gingrich about his chances in Iowa and his plans for New Hampshire and South Carolina. We'll talk to the Republican candidate and two of his supporters, his daughters, who are with him as well.

Stay with us. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)