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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Utah Judge Strikes Down Part Of Anti-Polygamy Law; Who Can Win In 2016?; Christmas Week In the Dark; For Rent: NFL Player's Apartment; Belieb It Or Not?

Aired December 26, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, you're lead counsel in the sister wives polygamy case. What's your view? Is your clients' case more similar to the gay marriage cases we've seen recently or does it have more in common with, say, the interracial marriage decisions from the 1960s like Loving versus Virginia?

TURLEY: Well, Joe, I think that the best analogy would be to Lawrence V Texas ten years ago, when the Supreme Court said that you could not criminalize homosexual relations. That's what the court said in Utah, this is a second judge in the same courthouse, and the judge said you can't criminalize these plural families. There's a difference between polygamy and bigamy. What's occurred after this decision is that polygamy is legal in Utah.

You can have that family, that's what this law was designed to get at, and no one can commit bigamy. I will note, by the way, that most bigamy prosecutions involve people who hold themselves out as traditional marriages. Polygamists generally only have one license and the rest are called spiritual unions. So this is a victory I think more for privacy than polygamy.

JOHNS: Jonathan Turley, thanks so much for that.

TURLEY: Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: Coming up next, she's still deciding whether to run so Hillary Clinton might want to check out our new polls. Who's the only Republican that beats her in a head-to-head matchup?

Plus, he has no shot of playing in the Super Bowl, but he is still hoping to make some money off of the game. One NFL player is renting his apartment to fans. How much is it going to cost you to live like a New York Giant for a week?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Joe Johns filling in for Jake Tapper. In our Politics Lead, CNN is releasing brand new polls this hour measuring the voters' choices for president in 2016. John King is here to break it down for us. John, what do the polls tell us about our potential presidential frontrunners?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, we should make clear from the get-go that late 2013 polling is a far from reliable indicator of what the American people will be looking for when they next pick a president in 2016. But these early numbers fun for holiday political conversations and they could have some impact on how the potential candidates look at the weeks and months ahead. Here's the test.

Early Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton versus nine Republican 2016 prospects, and with just one exception, Secretary Clinton comes out on top in most cases by a landslide. She beats former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 21, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee by 15 points, 18 points is the Clinton advantage over Texas senator and Tea Party favorite, Ted Cruz and she's up 17 over the Texas governor, 2012 candidate, Rick Perry.

Another 2012 GOP contender, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum behind Clinton by 19 points. Two Senate newcomers, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, well, they run behind Clinton by 13 points and 19 points respectively. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, remember Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate in 2012, he comes closer. Our new poll shows Clinton with an eight-point edge over the Wisconsin Congressman.

So who's the one exception? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, of course, Christie edges Clinton actually 48 percent to 46 percent among registered voters. That's a statistical dead heat, but nonetheless, some early bragging rights as Christie begins a busy 2014 schedule crisscrossing the country. What makes him so much stronger against Clinton than other Republicans? Don't underestimate name recognition this early.

He's been in the headlines a lot because of his big recent re-election win in New Jersey. Digging deeper, he does beat Clinton by 26 points among independents and by nine points among suburban voters and runs much closer to her in the northeast than any of the other Republicans. So these numbers, a nice Christmas present for Governor Christie and for the most part, they should also give Secretary Clinton a bit of holiday cheer.

But this cautionary note, at this point in the 2008 presidential cycle, meaning polling conducted in late 2005, Hillary Clinton was the runaway leader among Democrats. Rudy Giuliani, the early Republican frontrunner. Barack Obama at that point, a freshman senator from Illinois. So have fun with these new numbers. There will no doubt be a lot of Clinton-Christie chatter, but I wouldn't use it to make any early bets in Vegas -- Joe.

JOHNS: Thanks for that, John King. So right, a lot to go over here. Let's bring in our political panel, Ron Brownstein, a CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of "National Journal," Cornel Belcher, a CNN political commentator and Democratic pollster, and Terry Jeffrey is editor-in-chief of cnsnews.com and a nationally syndicated columnist.

So Ron, just to start with you, John King makes a pretty good point, 2008, Rudy Giuliani at the front of the pack. How much stock can we put into this? RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYSTE: Presidential polls three years out are probably the least valuable, kind of the predictive tools, in the sense that as John pointed out, it is heavily about name identification at this point. But they can affect the dynamics in the race and once they get going, and I do think what you see here is something we will hear a lot of that will cause heartburn for Terry's side of the Republican Party, which is going to be the argument that Chris Christie is the strongest general election nominee, has the best opportunity to deal with their two systemic problems, suburban whites and minority voters. That will be an argument used against him by conservatives who are reluctant to entrust him with the future of their party.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They are fairly worthless, a year out, two years out. Your poll had Obama down and McCain and Hillary tied. The contours of the election haven't been defined yet and that's what elections are about. We define the concept of the election about experience being a negative, which we used against Hillary and McCain. To me, what's most problematic is for Republicans, I don't care who the nominee is, and it will be a he, unfortunately, if he can't compete with minority voters, you know, they are not going to get a wide electorate.

Look what happened in Virginia last time around. That electorate is not getting whiter. We lost white women by 16 points last time around on the way to winning every state office in Virginia.

JOHNS: Before we go off on the Republicans, got to ask you, plan b. If Hillary Clinton doesn't run, who do you see?

BELCHER: If Hillary Clinton doesn't run, I think we have a strong finish. There has been talk about right here in Maryland, the governor of Maryland -- Joe, you know what, Joe Biden, I will say this, Joe Biden won over a lot of Democrats in the debate where he did to Congressman Ryan what many were hoping that the president was going to do to Mitt Romney. So don't underestimate Joe Biden in the Democratic primary if Hillary Clinton is not --

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CNSNEWS.COM: Let me point out, that was a spot-on report by John King, but here's an irony. At the end of 2006 when people thought Hillary Clinton might be a lock for the Democratic nomination, they weren't thinking about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton went out and ran to the left of Obama on health care. She was the queen of the individual mandate. Barack Obama was not for that as a candidate. Of course, we all know that she was the first one who spearheaded her husband's efforts to create a universal health care plan in his presidency. Hillary this time around is definitely not a strong candidate.

JOHNS: Chris Christie isn't a lock, all right?

JEFFREY: Yes, definitely not.

JOHNS: So who else besides Christie --

JEFFREY: First let me say there's a big difference between Giuliani and Christie and also a difference between Giuliani and Romney. Giuliani was a social liberal, social liberals will not survive a Republican primary. Mitt Romney was someone who transparently flip- flopped on issues. In Christie's first run in '09 he ran as a pro- lifer. He's walked away from same sex marriage, lost a little of his credibility on same sex marriage, but will not be the conservative candidate in the primaries. I will say that.

BROWNSTEIN: That's why his electability argument will be very important. The party divides almost exactly in half between what you would call the managerial side, more upscale and affluent and economically focused, the populist side, heavily evangelical. The divide last time was Romney was the managerial candidate. They kept looking for Mr. Right on the other side. It became Santorum. Christie I think is a very strong candidate for that managerial half of the party. The other half will resist it, but numbers like this become an asset.

JEFFREY: Romney benefited from Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative base.

BELCHER: Do you think Chris Christie can come out of a Republican primary dominated by the Tea Party? I have a hard time --

JEFFREY: One big problem he has, he accepted the Obamacare Medicaid offer. That's going to hurt him.

JOHNS: Let me jump in there. I got one more thing to touch before we go. We have some other polling CNN released today. One of these things that is particularly telling, it sort of shows a racial divide, if you will, on the right track/wrong track question. Most whites say Obama's policies would move the country the wrong direction while most non-whites say the opposite. Why is that?

BROWNSTEIN: First, it's a consistent divide and it's basically the white middle class is deeply skeptical that most government activism will benefit them. That's the problem. They see Obamacare primarily -- been going on for a long time. What it really underscores is the stakes in what the electorate looks like in 2014. In 2012, Mitt Romney won 59 percent of white voters and Barack Obama beat him by five million votes.

In 2010, Republicans won 60 percent of white voters, almost exactly the same percentage, and had the best midterm for either party since 1938. The reason for the difference was who voted. So there's enormous stakes for Democrats. This shows how important it is for Democrats to turn out more of their presidential year coalition in the off year. Without it, it could be a very tough November.

JOHNS: Yes, briefly.

JEFFREY: Both parties in 2014, they need to motivate their base and get out their base. Republicans have to watchdog illegal immigration in Congress. They do that, it will hurt their base.

BELCHER: But they are also fighting. You know, you have Karl Rove being attacked by Tea Partiers so there's a lot of tension within the Republican Party. Not so much the Democratic Party, thankfully.

BROWNSTEIN: Because in 2016, a Democratic change --

JOHNS: Thanks, guys. Thanks so much. Ron Brownstein, Cornell Belcher, Terry Jeffrey, thanks to all of you.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, freezing temperatures, power outages and snow, we'll take a look at what you can expect whenever you're traveling this holiday week.

Plus, Serena Williams grabbed the honor on the female side. Who is crowned the male athlete of the year? That's ahead on our Sports Lead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Bing Crosby never dream or sang about an iced Christmas and there is a good reason for that. More than 100,000 customers in Maine and Michigan who spent Christmas without electricity might have to wait until tomorrow night to have their power restored and the ice on the power lines and tree branches from this week's deadly ice storm isn't going to melt easily. The bottom is about drop out of the thermometer and more snow is in the forecast. Let's check in with CNN meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Joe. Yes, we had a lot of ice from last weekend's storm and the problem is temperatures haven't gotten above freezing so that's why they are still dealing with the ice and it's causing a lot of stress on those power lines and branches, and so big problems in the north. We have seen some lake effect snow for today, not huge amounts, but still adding insult to injury when you already have all that ice on the ground. You don't want anything else falling.

Watertown could see some more snow as we go through the evening hours, as well as places like Buffalo, even Cleveland. When you look at snow totals, two to four inches in Syracuse as we go through tonight and then even in portions of Maine, one to three inches possible. Temperatures are still very, very cold, holding on in the 20s. Detroit at 27, did not get above freezing for today and 27 in Burlington right now.

The good news for a lot of folks in the north, temperatures will actually get above freezing Saturday and Sunday. Burlington, you will be at 38 on Saturday, 31 on Sunday, so you will have a little window where we could get some of that ice melt to go on. Then Detroit could reach 40 degrees on Saturday. Even Sunday at 35.

Then we will get a little bit of sunshine that will also help melt some of the ice as well. That will be good news for folks. It's actually warming across the country, Denver at 51 degrees today. So it is warming across much of the country.

JOHNS: Really good news for people who have to still drive around New Year's Eve or so. Thanks for that, Jennifer Gray. Let's switch over to the Sports Lead now. What do you get the king who has everything? How about a new crown? Today, Lebron James was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. It was a good year to be king. James won a second NBA championship and a fourth MVP award, and he got married. He's only the third basketball player to win the men's award in its 82-year history. A couple guys named Bird and Jordan are the other two. You know them. Serena Williams was named Female Athlete of the Year earlier this week.

If you want to live like a football player without all the hard hits, icy-hot and free Gatorade you might want to check out our Craigslist in Central New Jersey. New York Giants rookie, Cooper Taylor is offering his apartment for rent during Super Bowl week. The 900 square foot pad is a stone's throw from Met Life Stadium where the big game will be played. The giants aren't going and apparently Taylor just doesn't want to be anywhere near the place.

The ad says we are big fans of a local team here and unfortunately will not be attending this year. Dogs are OK and there's a great pancake place nearby. He's asking a mere $9,000 for a week's stay. If you got it, you got it.

When we come back, if you have a teenaged daughter you probably spent Christmas consoling her after Justin Bieber announces his retirement. Is it really the end for Bieber believers everywhere?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In pop, he didn't stick around long enough for us to witness the full meltdown. At least there's always behind the music. Twitter-soaked in tears from tweens after Justin Bieber announced his retiring from singing. This huge announcement has nothing at all to do with the fact that his new movie came out on Christmas. What if this really is it, with his fan base now hitting their 20s and with his adorableness disappearing with every paparazzi he allegedly attacks, can he reinvent himself?

Joining us now is Christopher John Farley, editor of the "Wall Street Journal's" entertainment blog "Speakeasy" and author of the new book "Game World." You look at this kid, so much success at such a young age. He's 19, sold 15 million albums. He's worth an estimated $130 million. Why not retire?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, EDITOR, WSJ ENTERTAINMENT BLOG "SPEAKEASY": For the very reasons you said because of the millions of records he's sold, because of the millions of records he may sell in the future, I very much doubt he's retiring. This is a common thing in pop music. People get disgusted with the industry, overwhelmed with work and suddenly announce they're retiring. It's also used as a way to leverage whatever product they're trying to sell.

Remember Jay-Z retired to help sell his album, and of course came back out of retirement and is still rapping to this day. You never know about retirement in pop music. Justin Bieber issued this tweet about his retirement just as he released his new movie documentary, "Justin Bieber's Believe," which didn't do too well at the Box Office. It was at about 1,000 screens and only pulled in about $1.25 million which is not very good.

For example, "The Hobbit" took in $9 million on the same Christmas day that Bieber's documentary was released so it needed a lot of help at the Box Office, needed a lot of help in social media, and I think this tweet was designed to pump up the sales of his documentary.

JOHNS: Wow, 50 million Twitter followers almost, probably the smartest movie ad of all time. Biebs was probably on Santa's naughty list this year, caught urinating in a bucket, caught in a brothel, took heat for saying Anne Frank would have been a believer. Think this is a good time for a time-out?

FARLEY: It probably is, especially for artists of around his generation, way to get attention is to do something outrageous, something that will get you retweets, get you on Instagram, it will get your name out there. So people are talking about you and after a while, that gets exhausting. We saw that kind of shock marketing work for Miley Cyrus to great effect this year, but it's unclear if you can do that year after year and Justin Bieber has been at this for a while.

He's only 19 years old, but kind of like Kobe Bryant. He has a lot of wear and tear on his celebrity knees here. He's been working it for a long time. He probably feels it's time to take a break and retire. There are suggestions out there that maybe this retirement doesn't mean full retirement, it just means taking a break and coming back at some later point.

When I contacted his people, I haven't heard back from them yet so I don't know exactly what it means, but I suspect it means we're not done with Justin Bieber yet. He sent a follow-up tweet that seems to suggest just that.

JOHNS: You think he was over exposed?

FARLEY: You know, I think to his core fans, there's no such thing as Justin Bieber overexposure. Many people aren't into Justin Bieber. A little goes a long way. The fact this new movie was not a huge hit at the Box Office, in fact, it looks like it's shaping up to be a flop with only $1.25 million on its first day, you have to think it's time for him to recharge his batteries, think about what direction he needs to take his celebrity next and see where he can really have maximum impact in the future.

JOHNS: So a decade from now, what do you see, Justin Bieber, J.T. or Lindsay Lohan, pick one.

FARLEY: Justin Bieber is a guy who has some real talent. We'll see whether or not he can redesign his career and really be someone who can have an impact in the future. Justin Timberlake has already done that. Anyone who has seen "Inside Lou and Davis," he's in that so he goes from a boy band, being in a boy band to being a star of a really cool movie by some of the best film makers around. He's really been smart about his career. Justin Timberlake's in it for the long haul.

JOHNS: Christopher John Farley, thanks so much for that. Good to see you.

FARLEY: Thank you.

JOHNS: Free samples are great at Costco, but in music they're what lawsuits are made up. The lead singer of Ponderosa Twins Plus One is suing Kanye West. Ricky Spicer says West sampled the group's 1970's song "Bound" without its permission. Spicer claims he can hear his voice at least four times on West's song "Bound 2." In the album credit, Def Jam Records says the song was licensed through Rhino Entertainment and Robinson Music Group. Spicer says he owns the copyright on the original song.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Joe Johns. I turn you over to Brianna Keilar, who is filling in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."