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John King, USA
Newt Gingrich Under Fire; New Allegations Against Former Penn State Coach
Aired November 23, 2011 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight: dramatic new numbers in the Republican presidential race and because of those numbers, even more urgency to the biggest question after our big debate last night.
First the data. A new Iowa poll shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opening up a seven-point lead over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. And among Tea Party supporters in the Hawkeye State, Gingrich is now the runaway favorite. Now the question, did Gingrich put all of that at risk last night when he walked into the quicksand of Republican politics, voicing a moderate, compassionate view on how to treat millions of illegal immigrants?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Not a new position. Here's Gingrich earlier this week in New Hampshire explaining his position in more detail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: If you have been here 20 or 30 years, you have been paying your taxes, you have been obeying the law, you belong to a local church, you're married, got three kids, two grandkids, we ought to look seriously at the Krieble Foundation's idea of a red card program which would allow you to pay a penalty, allow you to be legal, but not a citizen.
To become a citizen you have to join at the end of the line the people who are not currently here, so that nobody gets cheated for citizenship who has been obeying the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: To Gingrich, it's common sense. To his rivals it's the Scarlet A word of immigration politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you're legalizing 11 million workers. If you're legalizing 11 million workers, it sounds like amnesty to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And we know amnesty is a toxic word in Republican politics today. Ronald Reagan may be their hero but most conservatives now think this was a galactic mistake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and who have lived here even though some time back they may have entered illegally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In today's politics we have real-time proof of the quicksand effect. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Texas Governor Rick Perry was a Tea Party favorite. Then he voiced opposition to fencing the entire U.S./Mexican border and he took after critics of his decision to give children of illegal immigrants state college tuition breaks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Governor Perry led our national polling in September. He's now in fourth place. Will stepping into the immigration quicksand do to Gingrich what it helped due to Governor Perry?
With us now is Billie Tucker. She's the co-founder of Florida's First Coast Tea Party.
Billie Tucker, straight up, how damaging what will the speaker said on immigration in our debate last night to be his candidacy which at the moment is surging?
BILLIE TUCKER, FIRST COAST TEA PARTY: It wasn't damaging. It wasn't damaging at all. He's explained what his policy is and we support that policy. Many of us in the Tea Party do.
KING: I want to show you why that is an important question. If you look at the new Iowa poll out today, not only is Gingrich leading by seven point over Mitt Romney if you look closely among Tea Party supporters in the state of Iowa the ARG poll has Gingrich at 42 percent, Ron Paul at 19 percent, Mitt Romney at 11 percent. You say this won't be damaging. When I was down for our Tea Party debate in Florida, a lot of people at that luncheon they consider his position to be amnesty. They didn't like it. Why do you say it's not damaging?
TUCKER: Well, he explained it more. And we actually have checked with him today because we wanted to find out more explanation, please, Newt, and we got the explanation and there are a lot of us.
We threw this out to our Tea Party and we asked them what they thought. And listen, he's right. There's a lot of people in the United States that have been here 20, 25 years, there's 11 million of them, and we have got to start talking about these people as individuals.
KING: You're a fan of Newt's. I'm just a tad suspect. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your perspective. But I want to show you in our polling we asked people, should the focus be on deporting illegal immigrants and stopping more from coming across the border? -- 42 percent of Democrats say that, 54 percent of independents, but 71 percent of Republicans, seven in 10 Republicans, say the main focus should be on deporting them and stopping more from coming.
Are you confident that the explanation that Newt gave to you that you buy will sell with the grassroots?
TUCKER: It's a definitely a tender conversation that we're going to have here, John. And, yes, some people are going to say throw them all out. We cannot be that way.
There are 25-year people that have been here and we have to have a conversation about it. We have got to get real.
KING: If it's OK for Newt to say that now, why was it so horrible when John McCain said that four or five years ago?
TUCKER: Newt explained himself.
You have got to talk about this. You know, you just said I'm a big fan of Newt. I'm a big fan of anybody that wants to support the rule of law, wants to support the fact that immigration needs to be legal immigration. We're all about that in our Tea Party.
We want people to be here legally. Those people that came here 20 or 25 years ago, remember, they came because Reagan said it was OK at that point. He gave amnesty and then a whole bunch of other people came over at the same time. We have got to address that issue.
Illegal immigration has been a problem for us forever and we have got to sit down and have a frank conversation and we have got to get real about the real issues here.
KING: Billie Tucker of the Florida Coast Tea Party, Billie, appreciate your time. Have a great Thanksgiving. We will touch base soon.
TUCKER: Thanks, John. You, too. Happy Thanksgiving.
KING: Thank you.
Iowa votes in six weeks and as such, it's the first big test of both the Gingrich surge and the power of the illegal immigration issue.
In Johnston, Iowa, tonight, chief political reporter Jennifer Jacobs of "The Des Moines Register" and "New York Times" national political correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, to you first. You have traveled the country in recent weeks. I'm a tad skeptical that Billie Tucker's position will sell with many if not most of grassroots conservatives and Tea Party people. Am I wrong?
JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think you're right about that, John. At least in the shorthand of this, what Speaker Gingrich was trying to say last night, it can be easily described as amnesty and that is exactly what Mitt Romney was doing today.
He happened to have a pre-scheduled campaign stop in Iowa. The timing was good for him on that respect and he said it offered a new pathway to amnesty. We will hear him say the words amnesty over and over again. Is that quite accurate? Probably not. But we saw exactly what his campaign did with Governor Rick Perry of Texas, and they did conference calls, mailings, other things. And they really drove this issue home.
Once difference, I think, is that Speaker Gingrich is better about explaining himself. So this is going to be a true test here.
KING: And the question, Jennifer, is six weeks from now, the people of Iowa caucus, and influential conservatives in that state have taken a pretty hard line on the amnesty issue, among them your Congressman Steve King who said in an interview with Iowa Public Radio and Iowa Public Television today, "I think if Speaker Gingrich had to do that over again he might couch his language differently. At a minimum, it is a form of amnesty."
Does the speaker, as Jeff notes, is he going to do more explaining in Iowa or can he -- as he said last night, I'm going to take some heat from this. Can he survive it?
JENNIFER JACOBS, "THE DES MOINES REGISTER": Immigration is a really tough issue. In Iowa there's just not a big constituency here for Iowa conservatives who consider a candidate a little bit left of the center on immigration and that was proven out with Rick Perry in Iowa. That was definitely one of the factors for why Rick Perry's poll numbers have dropped in Iowa.
KING: You say Rick Perry's poll numbers have dropped. And Gingrich has been a beneficiary. If look at the new ARG poll out today, Gingrich, 27 percent, Romney, 20 percent, Paul, 16 percent, everybody else in single digits. Jeff Zeleny, the explanation point you made is a key one, because Speaker Gingrich is a good communicator, and I think it's safe to say he's a better communicator than John McCain. But all of the evidence at the ballot box has been the party's moving to the right since 2008. If the position was on immigration and McCain was for path to citizenship, Speaker Gingrich has stopped short of that, he just says legal status -- but if it was so damning for John McCain, is Speaker Gingrich that good of a talker, that good of an explainer?
ZELENY: One difference is that Newt Gingrich enters this with more trust among conservatives.
Rush Limbaugh on his air today was not critical at all of Speaker Gingrich. I think he enters this with much more trust than Senator McCain did certainly. And so I think the burden is on him now to explain this. Perhaps there is a new way here. But, boy, it's really hard to believe that suddenly he will be able to be that persuasive.
KING: That trust points is very important. Also important, Jennifer, is the fact we're six weeks away from Iowa voting and the ball has been passes, if you will. It was Donald Trump, it was Michele Bachmann, it was Herman Cain, it was Rick Perry, and now it's Newt Gingrich atop the pack.
Is there a sense it's going to be keep bouncing or being passed around or is there a sense that things are beginning to jell there?
JACOBS: No real sense that it's jelling completely.
Newt Gingrich is definitely somebody Iowa conservatives are looking at. We have had some kind of powerhouses waiting in the wings to endorse. I know they're definitely looking at Newt Gingrich. Immigration has just been so historically touchy in Iowa that this definitely could be a problem for him. I'm not sure if people will move on from him at this point. I guess it remains to be seen, but there are some top Republicans who do think that this is going cost him in Iowa.
KING: Jennifer Jacobs, Jeff Zeleny, appreciate your time this evening. Have a great Thanksgiving to both of you. We will talk soon.
ZELENY: John, thanks.
KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, as Jeff Zeleny just noted, wasn't the only Gingrich rival to sense an opening on immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We're not going to have an amnesty system that says that people who come here illegally get to stay for the rest of their life in this country legally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: For the record, this is yet another issue where Romney has had, to be kind, a dramatic evolution.
Back in March 2006, "The Lowell Sun" quoted the former Massachusetts governor as saying "I don't believe in rounding up 11 million people and forcing them at gunpoint from our country." And he stood by that position in a December 2007 appearance on "Meet the Press."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: My own view consistent with what you saw in "The Lowell Sun," that those people who have come here illegally and are in this country, the 12 million or so that are here illegally, should be able to sign up for permanent residency or citizenship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Got it? Then for a process that allowed illegal immigrants possibly to get citizenship. Now criticizing Gingrich who favors legal status, but opposes citizenship.
Still to come, disturbing new allegations against the former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
And next, this will not go down as Mitt Romney's best week, but is it the beginning of the end?
KING: Ask 20 veteran Republican strategists who will win their party's presidential nomination, and 15, maybe more will say Mitt Romney, or most likely Mitt Romney.
Despite the Newt Gingrich surge in the national and key state polling, even the former speaker concedes Romney has a bigger, deeper ground operation and a much deeper fund-raising reservoir.
But here's tonight's "Truth." If there is a Romney collapse, you will trace the roots of the unraveling back to this week. Gingrich not only caught up to Romney in the national polls. He clocks him when Republicans are asks their preference if it comes down to two-way Gingrich/Romney race.
Romney launched his first TV ad of the campaign, taking a 2008 statement from then Senator Obama and using it grossly out of context. Romney's campaign theme is believe in America. Well, hard to embrace that if you can't believe or trust him.
More importantly to me anyway is that it is clear if you watch them that team Romney senses something. After our debate last night, Romney aides complained aggressively their candidate was cheated on time. Not true. Not even close. Romney was asked more questions than any of his rivals and trailed only Speaker Gingrich on the time clock.
Team Romney also complained that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman got so much time. Truth is, though, Huntsman didn't get so much time. He was sixth of the eight candidates on the time clock. It was clear team Romney didn't like this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The commanders on the ground feel that we should bring down our surge troops by December of 2012 and bring down all of our troops, other than, perhaps, 10,000 or so, by the end of -- of 2014.
The decision to pull our troops out before that, they believe, would put at risk the extraordinary investment of treasure and blood which has been sacrificed by the American military.
JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just about the generals on the ground. And listen, I think it's important for the American people to know we have achieved some very important objectives in raising standards in Afghanistan and helping to build civil society.
But at the end of the day, the president of the United States is commander in chief, commander in chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's be clear. On paper, Governor Romney is still the strongest GOP candidate. Today he was in Iowa showing off another big endorsement, conservative Senator John Thune of neighboring South Dakota.
There's a debate in the Romney campaign about how hard to fight for Iowa. I'm told the fight-to-win crowd has the upper hand at the moment with key decisions on investments due very soon. Maybe this will prove just not such a great few days. Every campaign has those ruts. But whining is not synonymous with winning.
The truth is, to borrow a little "Star Wars" lingo, Team Romney is acting as if it senses a disruption in the force.
Let's consider this question in detail with our political analysts, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, here to help set the post- debate table and the pre-Thanksgiving table.
Thanks for being here.
David, I want to go to you first. In the sense that when Cain emerged, everyone in the Romney campaign said, not a serious threat. Perry emerged and then his poll numbers dropped so quickly. They were calm for that first week or so. Then they didn't have to worry much longer.
If you were around them at the debate last night, I don't know what it was, but this is campaign number seven for me at the presidential level. I sensed something, that they were just a little bit antsy, and they're supposed to be the front-runner.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For the first time they have a rival who could actually go all the way. He's got the chops, Newt Gingrich does, to actually win this nomination, if he can survive the next two or three weeks in terms of the vetting process that we all knew was going to come about his personal life and about his financial life and as well as this whole question about immigration now. He, as he said, told Gloria last night he's ready, willing to take the heat.
But from the point of view of the Romney people, this is, you know -- ultimately, they thought they could easily polish off any of the other rivals, but Gingrich is a different kind of player. And I think there's -- you know, there's a new Pew poll out about Mormonism which suggests that one of the factors that may be in the mix on why Mitt Romney's having a hard time breaking out is that a number of Republicans are reluctant to nominate a Mormon, even though they would support him against Barack Obama in the general.
KING: Especially in the early states. That's a key point to look at, especially the early states, Iowa and South Carolina chief among them.
Gloria, I want to show you the new Iowa poll, because David makes a point about Gingrich perhaps having the chops to go all the distance. In the new Iowa poll, if you look at it, Gingrich, 27, Romney, 20, Paul, 16, everyone else in single digits. If you look at September, Newt Gingrich was at 8 percent. He's at 27 percent now. September to November, that's two months. That much math, I can do.
Romney's stayed pretty stable. But to the point David makes about staying power and the risk the speaker took last night, he has a lot of Tea Party support and growing Tea Party support, but he also made a play last night, I believe, what he was doing deliberately, because he explained this in detail in New Hampshire earlier in the week, for those more moderate, libertarian, even independent voters in New Hampshire to say, yes, I'm conservative, but I'm going to take a risk here on immigration and reach for the middle.
That's reaching for Romney voters.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. Newt Gingrich was nowhere, as you point out, in Iowa. If he doesn't win Iowa but he does pretty well in Iowa, it will be important for him.
Then he can move on to New Hampshire. Nobody expected him to win in New Hampshire. If he does well in New Hampshire -- and don't forget -- it's open to independent voters -- that's Jon Huntsman's play -- he thinks he can get those independents in the Republican primary.
But what if Newt Gingrich is going for those independent voters? And that's where his talk about immigration, opening up the party, being humane puts a new face on Newt Gingrich. You know, we have seen kind of the nasty face of Newt Gingrich, if you will, someone who scolds the media, who scolds other candidates.
Last night we saw the positive face, and I don't think that was just by coincidence. KING: If Newt Gingrich gets a lot of independent votes in New Hampshire, that will be a landmark for American forgiveness in the sense of what independent voters thought of Newt Gingrich after the impeachment days of Clinton.
KING: So that's a -- somebody write that down, and we will watch that number.
David, one of the interesting controversies this week about the Romney campaign is they launched their first paid TV ad and there's plenty of materiel to criticize President Obama on the economy. What they decided to do was take a statement he made in 2008, lop the context part of statement off and use Obama's voice in a way which was grossly out of context.
And the fact check reviews have been horrible. I have called it reprehensible. They have plenty of material and they don't neat to essentially cheat, and cut the president's -- take a statement and use it out of context.
Governor Romney, listen to him in Iowa today defending his ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: So there was no hidden effort on the part of our campaign. It was instead to point out that what is sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander.
And he spoke about the economy being a huge burden for John McCain. This ad points out, guess what, it's now your turn. The same lines you used on John McCain are now going to be used on you, which is that this economy is going to be your albatross.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Help me here because I'm having a hard time figuring out why a campaign of smart people and a smart candidate would do something deceptive when they have plenty of other Obama quotes from real time if they want to use something to say he's stumbling on the economy?
GERGEN: I can't help you on this, John, because I don't understand it.
The ad that he ran did not mention McCain, did it? The whole point was he cut McCain out of the ad. To come back and say today, you know, we were just trying to point out that John McCain said about this -- the burden on John McCain, I mean, it is like -- or on Republicans -- I don't get it. I think they're much better off -- Mitt Romney, one thing he's got going for him, he has a reputation for integrity. He has a reputation for being a straight shooter. He does not want to and he does not need to play around on the edges. He ought to chastise his campaign and just keep moving. A lot of the issues work in his favor. And right now -- I will tell you this. The other thing is, I am in Philadelphia tonight. I just talked to one of the top pros in this state and they said the Democrats here are just surprised at what the Republicans are doing.
They said you know today, if the election were held today, Mitt Romney would have a very real good chance of beating Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, as you know, such a critical swing state. But if they go to Gingrich, they have got no shot. So we don't understand what games they're playing, but we love it.
BORGER: Can I just say that all you have in politics is your integrity and your credibility?
And I think Romney undercuts himself with this and as a mom the first thing I teach my kids is two wrongs don't make a right. So if Barack Obama did it in 2008, that doesn't mean that Mitt Romney should be doing it in 2012.
KING: Authenticity, credibility would help in this campaign.
David, have a great Thanksgiving, Gloria as well.
Ahead here, tonight's "Number" will fill you up but also empty your wallet. And, no, we're not talking gas prices.
And next, a deadly escalation in Egypt and a key religious leader urges authorities to stop firing on civilians.
KING: Today, Egypt's military tried harder to end five days of bloody chaos, and it failed.
In Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egyptian military police took up positions between police and thousands of protesters. But after three hours of calm some protesters started throwing rocks. Riot police fired tear gas. The street fighting resumed, the fire bombings and gunfire stretching into the night.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, live in Cairo for us.
Ben, among the developments today, Egypt's grand mufti calling into a broadcast network urging an end to the violence and urging police to stop firing. Any end to the violence in sight?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you can hear this ambulance in the background, that would indicate there's still fighting going on in the streets off of Tahrir Square.
Tahrir Square itself is fairly I wouldn't say quiet, but it is calm at the moment. But I think to put this call by the grand mufti in context, he is the senior Islamic judicial figure in the country.
And in the days of Hosni Mubarak, if he were to actually criticize the government, criticize the Interior Ministry, he would very quickly be out of a job. So this is an indication of the new environment in this country where senior public figures are highly critical of the government, of the Interior Ministry, which, of course, many people are blaming for many of the deaths and injuries that have been taken place here since Saturday -- John.
KING: And, Ben, the next new development we will watch to see a test of the transition, the parliamentary elections scheduled for Monday. What are we expecting?
WEDEMAN: Well, it's hard to say at this point because I have spoken to many Egyptians and they basically say, I have to remind myself there are elections coming up next Monday.
The focus at the moment is so much on what's going on in Tahrir Square that many of the parties that are in the election have suspended campaigning. Others are threatening to boycott the elections because they feel it's just not appropriate at this time after the death and the injuries in Tahrir Square to hold it.
But if they do go ahead, certainly the worry is that this will provide some sort of stamp of democratic legitimacy to the ruling military council and that's something many people don't want to do at the moment. Another worry, of course, is the elections could be very violent and that has many people worried at the moment, John.
KING: Ben Wedeman live for us in Cairo, appreciate it, Ben. We will keep an eye on this in the days to come.
For more perspective, we're joined now by former U.S. State Department official Nicholas Burns, who now teaches at Harvard University, and CNN national contributor Fran Townsend, of course President George W. Bush's homeland security adviser.
Nick, to you first.
We knew this transition would be difficult, and we knew there was a risk of tension between the protesters and the military government. Now that we have seen this violence over several days, give your perspective of what the risks are at this fragile moment.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, John, it's a time of real testing for the Egyptian military. They had enormous credibility with the Egyptian people after the events of last January and February, when they protected the people against the Mubarak regime.
But now the tables have been turned. The military used live ammunition over the last week, killed 24 protesters, wounded 1,500. And their credibility has fallen through the floor. And so they have a real people with the people. They also cut a deal, as you know, with the Muslim Brotherhood to accelerate the transition to presidential rule. But that deal has upset a lot of those young people in the streets, because they don't want to see -- they want to see some justice here, and they want to see someone in the military authority resign because of what's happened.
So they can't control people in the streets. They do have elections coming up. Most people believe, John, that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties are poised to win those elections. So the Muslim parties want the elections to go ahead. The more liberal and secular parties are calling for a delay.
KING: And so Fran, if you're the president of the United States, I assume you can't meddle here; you have to watch it play out. If the Islamist parties, the Muslim parties have the edge right now, should you be worried?
TOWNSEND: Well, absolutely you should be worried. We've seen this play out when we had the elections of -- the Palestinian elections, and of course, Hamas won. And so there's a history here. The president ought to be worried.
You can't influence it now, but it's regrettable, John, that you know, the president, who took a very visible role in pushing Mubarak from power and supporting the protestors in Tahrir Square sort of went on to Libya, went on to other things, has domestic issues and really didn't lead, didn't apply leadership and resources that might have been helpful here in helping the military transition to a civilian democratic government.
KING: I want to turn both of your focus to last night's national security debate among the Republican candidates. I want to start with Michele Bachmann. She was participating in a conversation about the risks of Pakistan, whether the United States should end aid to Pakistan, how it should change its relationship with Pakistan. And she was discussing, in her view, the risks to the nuclear program. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They also are one of the most violent, unstable nations that there is. We have to recognize that 15 of the sites, nuclear sites are available or are potentially penetrable by jihadists. Six attempts have already been made on nuclear sites.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, there was some suggestion she was somehow talking about classified information right there. You can do a Google search and get most of that information, those specific statistics were in an "Atlantic" article published recently. So I think that that was overblown.
But to her point about the safety risks and questions, is that right? Are the Pakistani nuclear sites, as we speak, at risk? TOWNSEND: Well, John, this has been a concern for many administrations and, of course, our relationship with the Pakistani military gives us some cause for comfort that they have a very sort of robust command and control structure for securing the weapons.
The "Atlantic" article you mentioned, though, talks about Pakistan because of the tensions with the U.S. moving around tactical nuclear weapons in unsecure vans to hide them from the United States. If that's true, those allegations, any command and control structure that we used to be comforted by is clearly at risk, and this should be a huge concern to us.
KING: Another issue that came up with Syria. There have been some questions of whether the Assad regime can survive pressure from the opposition movement right now. Governor Perry of Texas, one of the Republican candidates says, let's have a no-fly zone. That was a point of contention in the debate. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you're putting those sanctions against Iran.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, they have 5,000 tanks in Syria. A no-fly zone wouldn't be the right military action. Maybe a no-drive zone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hop in here. Maybe specifically on the question of Syria, but maybe more importantly, as you watched this debate, separate the men from the boys, if you will. Did you see a commander in chief and did you see less than that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think, John, this is a real point for me. It was a debate of very sharp contrasts. On one hand, you have one very self-assured, knowledgeable people like Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, who have a lot of experience in international issues. Clearly can go into depth on them.
You have other candidates, for a variety of reasons -- Governor Perry's one of them, Cain and Bachmann are others -- who just don't have that experience. And they can't really speak to these issues in any detailed way, and it really matters, because the next president is going to be the chief diplomat for this country and the commander in chief. And the Constitution gives the president wide authority on foreign policy.
On Syria, of course, if you advocate no-fly zone, you're really advocating an armed intervention by the United States of America. We're the only country that can create it. And right now, I think President Obama has been wise in keeping us out of Syria militarily.
KING: What was your biggest takeaway about watching these Republican candidates? Republicans have at least 50/50 odds of winning the next election. From your takeaway, how different would U.S. global posture, U.S. foreign policy be if one of those Republicans wins?
TOWNSEND: Well, look, the whole point of the debate, and the point that the candidates were trying to make is they'd be more much more aggressive. They would be much more sort of leading from the front.
We've seen a number of ways. And President Obama looked -- in Libya, we wound up Gadhafi was overthrown. And while he was criticized for this leading from behind, it ended up just exactly where you'd want it to.
And so I think what you're seeing here is right now the candidates trying to make a sharp distinction.
Interesting, John, you know, the area I worked on was counterterrorism. Nobody really -- none of the Republicans really want to talk about Osama bin Laden because, of course, now he's dead, and that's President Obama's success.
KING: Find some other things to talk about on that front.
Fran, Nick, thanks for coming in tonight. Both of you have a great Thanksgiving. We'll see you soon.
And next, uprisings force a fourth Arab world leader to step down.
And later, a new problem for President Obama. Our polling reveals he's losing support among a crucial, very crucial group of voters.
KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI just issued a joint intelligence bulletin saying terrorists could choose to strike during the holidays and urged everyone to stay vigilant. It's similar to bulletins that came out before past holidays. It also says law enforcement is, quote, "not aware of any credible threats."
After 33 years in power and months of deadly protests, Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh today signed a deal to step down. He's the fourth Arab leader forced from power just this year.
In Bahrain, an independent commission today handed in a scathing report accusing police of using excessive force in torturing civilians during the pro-democracy uprisings. U.S. stocks fell sharply today after news of a lackluster report on the U.S. job market and new doubts about Germany's strength to withstand Europe's debt crisis.
Finally, courtesy of CBN's "The 700 Club," a little bit of Thanksgiving menu planning from former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and an interesting reaction from Pat Robertson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's that one thing at Thanksgiving you have to have?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Mac and cheese.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sister, that is my dish. That is one thing I can rock.
RICE: But only once a year.
PAT ROBERTSON, CBN'S "THE 700 CLUB": Good interview, congratulations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
ROBERTSON: What is this mac and cheese? Is that a black thing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a black thing, Pat. Listen, you guys, other people, the world needs to get on board with macaroni and cheese.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "You guys, other people?" "Is that a black thing?" Mac and cheese? Mac and cheese is bipartisan, Pat. Pat -- thanks to Kraft, the Republicans and the Democratic conventions for years now, they give us mac and cheese. And you can make it in a box. You can make it with fresh pasta, Pat. It's good stuff for everybody, Thanksgiving or any other day of the week.
And I'm sure Erin Burnett agrees. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin's here with a preview, not of her Thanksgiving menu, though. You're following a very, very important story, an American student jailed in Egypt.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": I am, although I have to say I like Annie's mac and cheese. I have to agree with you. It's sort of an American thing. I mean, not the healthiest thing we do, but pretty much an all-American thing.
BURNETT: We are -- we're talking about Cairo, and I know that you've been talking to Ben Wedeman. We're going to go live to Tahrir Square tonight. In Cairo, things obviously have really been falling apart and a lot of violence.
And now three American college students have been arrested in Cairo. Now, police there say that they were throwing Molotov cocktails in Tahrir Square. They've now been arrested. And Joy Sweeney, the mother of Derrik Sweeney, who's a junior at Georgetown University, and is over there in Cairo on his junior year abroad, is going to be with us. Her son is in jail this evening in Cairo, and she's just going to find out whether he's been charged. So we're going to be speaking with her.
We're also going to talk to the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony case and ask him, John, why do you think you lost that case? We've got that coming up.
Plus, a preview behind the scenes of "My Secret Week with Marilyn," the movie coming out this weekend with Michelle Williams. Some skinny dipping part of that interview.
Back to you.
KING: I can't watch that. Erin, we'll see you.
BURNETT: I'm not saying who is skinny dipping. I'm just saying, you know.
KING: OK. Got you. I got you. I'll have to watch to find out, I guess. It's a mystery for you. We'll see you in just a few minutes.
BURNETT: See you, John.
KING: Tonight's "Number" is important to you, especially if you're getting tomorrow's big meal ready. The number is 49.20. That's 49 dollars and 20 cents. That's the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people.
Now let's break this down a little bit. The average cost of a bird, $21.57. That's a big bird. That's not so bad, though.
Two hundred forty-eight million turkeys produced right here in the United States today. You see the top ten turkey-producing states right there. Not quite ten.
Now cranberries. Yes, those are cranberries. Talk to the graphics people. Up 7 percent, the cost of cranberries. Sweet potatoes, you'll have those at your table, maybe. Up seven cents this year. Cost of a pumpkin, up 41 cents this year.
We didn't work in the mac and cheese costs. We'll get to that next year.
Up next, more numbers. And guess what? President Obama won't like these.
KING: Some troubling numbers tonight for President Obama that underscore just how difficult his state-by-state challenge will be in 2012 compared to 2008. That's this map.
His overall job approval rating at 44 percent. Been stuck in the mid-40s in our CNN/ORC polling now for about six months. But there's a shift for the worst from the president's perspective. Among the constituency critical in some of the big electoral battleground states. Check this out. Ask all Democrats if they still want President Obama to lead their ticket in 2012, and 72 percent say yes; 26 percent say no. Just 18 percent of Democrats wanted another candidate just a month ago.
Now why the lower standing among Democrats? Look at this. Among white Democrats with no college education, only 50 percent want the Democrats to nominate Obama, down 24 points. That's a big number from just a month ago. That disaffection among blue-collar Democrats could be a huge problem if -- if -- it carries over to next fall.
Let me show you what I'm talking about. Remember back to the Democratic primaries in the 2008 campaign -- maybe I'm not going to show you that. She doesn't want to work tonight. All right. Well, Hillary Clinton had a big challenge with the president, but she beat the president among those voters in Pennsylvania. If that carries over after, if you look at these states across here, the Midwestern battleground states, the president could have a huge problem. Remember the Reagan Democrats from those days? A lot of them were blue-collar Democrats.
So let's crunch the numbers now. Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. Conservative Republican strategist David Frum. I couldn't show the numbers on the wall. She's having -- quit for Thanksgiving a little early on me, maybe. But to the sense that why? Why all of a sudden a big drop just in a month? This is a constituency the president has had trouble with going back to 2008.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: A couple of things. One is when you get such a dramatic drop in just a month from one poll to another poll, I've got to sort of look at that poll as a little suspect.
Other thing is, I think this is interesting, because I've got to push back on this a little bit. Because the ideal of whether or not we'll have another nominee I don't understand that question. Democrats have a nominee. He's not being -- he's not being challenged.
KING: It may upset (ph) the intensity of the party, though.
BELCHER: Seventy percent of Democrats approve of the job that the president's doing right now. And this is an area that the media has actually been working on for a while. You know, going back to the primaries they said, you know, Hillary Clinton was killing them with this group of voters. And he won the primary.
Take that into a general election. You know, he wasn't going to be able to win these voters. He won, for Democrats a landslide, picking up North Carolina, Indiana and Nevada and Colorado along the way.
KING: That was then. That was then. My question, though, is if he's hurting more among this constituency, white, less educated, those are the people Reagan called the Reagan Democrats. I don't know what we call them today. But people who are registered Democrats, some of them in unions. Sometimes it's the gun issue. If you look at Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, could be a very important constituency.
DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Ron Brownstein had a very important article just a few weeks ago, in which he pointed out that non-college whites, regardless of party, are the most pessimistic group in America.
If you ask questions like do you expect a better future for your children than you have? Those numbers are -- they are -- they are more likely to project the bad future than a positive future. Latinos don't think that way. Black Americans don't think that way. College- educated whites are actually not so optimistic either but still ahead of this group.
Why? Well, things are terrible for this group. They are reflecting objective reality. And Cornell's right. He sees a big move in one poll. You raise the possibility maybe it's an outlier.
But there's another possibility. Maybe we're seeing here another whiff of that winter breath of a downturn in the economy that this group of people is feeling faster than other groups in the American economy.
KING: You do see -- let's concede that maybe the next poll will swing back a little bit. If you take the margin of error, though, a 20-point swing, a 24-point swing, even if you cut it in half, something's happening if you see it out there.
To David's point, if you look at the unemployment rate, it is the highest or higher among -- if you're talking about white Americans among non-college educated white. Having a college degree is a huge factor in the unemployment right now. It is that -- do you attribute all of it to that? There are some people who always whisper, you know, this is a constituency that's always been uncomfortable with the African-American president.
BELCHER: Well, let's go back even further. I want to put it -- I'm going to dive in the race all the time, but I'm not going to dive this point.
Let's go back to when LBJ signed the civil rights legislation. A Democrat hasn't won the white vote since then. So it's not like, you know, even John Kerry and even Bill Clinton won the white voters. It's always been a struggle since LBJ signed the civil rights legislation.
What the president has to do with blue-collar white voters is stay competitive. Look, we didn't blow the world away with blue- collar white voters last time around, but we do have to stay competitive with them. And when you look at the choices across the aisle with the Republicans -- I will get partisan for a second -- the Republicans, I ought to argue, who want to let Wall Street write their own rules and to get away with doing away with Social Security and Medicare. I think I like our guy's chances. FRUM: You know, the president is doing, actually -- when you said the severity of this crisis -- has held up remarkably high in a way that's almost puzzling. Given that you're there through now our fourth -- actually, the recession starts in December of 2007.
So this is within an inch of being the fifth bad Thanksgiving in a row for millions of Americans. To be in the 40s, that is a testament to how the nonwhite parts of his base are sticking with him. But this is a very bad economy even though here in Washington, D.C., you can't get a restaurant reservation on a Thursday night.
KING: Do not trust anybody -- anybody who never leaves Washington, don't trust him -- that's the best advice.
David, Cornell, thanks for coming in. Thanks again. We'll see you soon.
And next, a new development in the Penn State child sex abuse investigation.
KING: Explosive new allegations against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. His attorney says one of two new cases of alleged child sex abuse involves a member of Sandusky's own family. Both allegations involve current children rather than adults coming forward to allege abuse from years ago.
With us now from Los Angeles, criminal defense attorney Trent Copeland, and in Florida, assistant state attorney Stacey Honowitz. She's a supervisor for Broward County's sex crimes unit.
Stacey, let me start with you. How much of a difference does it make? How does it change the dynamic of the case. And I should make it clear Mr. Sandusky's attorney denies these allegations. He says they're not true.
But now we're talking about victims who are children now as opposed to cases that are 10, 12, 15 years old.
STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Well, John, this is really not unusual. It happens quite often in a lot of big sex crimes cases. And what it goes to show is that the abuse has been ongoing for so many years. I mean, we're going back to all these young guys who are now adults and now we have kids that are younger.
So all it goes to show is something that we probably already knew that the abuse has been ongoing for a number of years. It's going to be very interesting. And I'm sure this is not the end of hearing from other victims.
KING: Stacey says it's not the end, Trent Copeland, and Mr. Sandusky has been freed on bail. That's been controversial to some. Listen to his attorney here. He thinks these new allegations could change that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concern is if they bring new charges based upon new people coming forward that bail's going to be set and he's going to wind up in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that a safe prediction?
TRENT COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: that's a safe prediction not only -- might the bail be set at a point, John, that he can't make his bail. They could also revoke the bail. That's another possibility, particularly given the fact that not only are these allegations, including the fact that he molested children potentially, you know, associated with that Second Mile charity organization, but also children in his own family.
The suggestion being that, look, this is a guy who's more like a serial molester than he is a pedophile who just simply targets random children. So the fact of the matter is, it's very likely that this guy is seeing the last few days that I think he has in terms of freedom. Because I think no judge will set a bail that he can reach. I think, instead, they'll probably set a bail that is so far out of the reach or revoke a bail altogether that he can't eve post it and he'll wind up in jail until this case finds its resolution.
KING: And so Stacey, it's not just Jerry Sandusky who is on trial here, at least in the court of public opinion, given that we know there was a campus investigation that went nowhere. Then you have a long delay between a victim coming forward and the grand jury getting about charging him.
Now you have the FBI director, former FBI director, Louis Freeh, seeing if there was some cover-up at the school. And with the cloud of a cover-up, you think years ago they're trying to hide these allegations. Then you find perhaps current victims. What does it tell you about this?
HONOWITZ: Well, I think, John, as I said before, I mean, this is not the end of what we're hearing. You're going to hear about a federal investigation. You're going to hear layers and layers of things that have been going on.
There's no doubt that there was some type of cover-up. You have the information in front of you, have the evidence that people knew and people didn't say anything.
So this investigation, while people might think we've heard the end, I'm going to tell you that this investigation is going to continue to go on. There's going to be people that we've never heard before that knew information that are now going to come forward. And you're going to see that this case is going to take on a life of its own.
KING: A life of its own, Stacey says. Trent, as a defense attorney, if Jerry Sandusky wanted your advice right now, what would it be?
COPELAND: You know, this is such a difficult case, John, because there's so many new allegations, as we've spoken about on this program before. This case seems to change by the day.
The first thing I'd do is I'd stop my lawyer from continuing to talk to the media. Because I don't think it ever benefits a defendant. When either the defendant is talking and the Bob Costas interview was a disaster and a mistake. I think it was a mistake for his lawyer to continue the conversation, the dialogue that he's having with the media.
So look, if I was his lawyer, I'd take my own advice and that advice would be I'd close my mouth a while and simply wait until these things play out. I would encourage my client to take a low profile, and I'd also encourage him to get his affairs in order, because I think he's going to be in custody very soon.
KING: In custody very soon, Trent says. Stacey, as a prosecutor, is there any reason at all that the state of Pennsylvania should not have Mr. Sandusky behind bars and soon?
HONOWITZ: No, you're going to see Trent's 100 percent right. Once these allegations come forward, there's going to be a motion to revoke or a new bond is going to have to be set. It's going to be tantamount, probably, to a no-bond hold.
KING: No-bond hold. How -- Trent, how does that complicate the case? Does it make any difference at all whether he's free or not in terms of getting ready for prosecution?
COPELAND: well, it always complicates the case, John. And that's a very good question.
I mean, the point is a defendant always wants to be out so he can assist his lawyer, he can help do some of the leg work, some of the footwork that's involved in an investigation from a defense standpoint.
So the fact that he's going to be in custody really hurts him. And another thing, when he walks into court and he's in custody, it really impacts how the jury perceives him. So I think it does impact.
KING: Trent Copeland, Stacey Honowitz, thank you so much for your time tonight. Both of you have a great Thanksgiving. You watching at home have a safe and great Thanksgiving, as well.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.
BURNETT: Thanks, John.