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American Morning

Payroll Tax War; Saving The Euro; Geithner Involved In Debt Crisis Talks; Bombings Kill 54 In Afghanistan; BP: Halliburton Destroyed Key Evidence; Syracuse Accuser Says He Abused A Boy; RPT: All Eight Alleged Victims To Testify; Red Sox Sex Abuse Suit; Rod Blagojevich Sentencing; Newt Surging In Iowa; Gingrich Surging; An Audience with the Donald; Payroll Tax Fight; Geithner Joining Euro Crisis Talks; Blagojevich Sentencing Hearing

Aired December 06, 2011 - 06:00   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Two bomb blasts rocking Afghanistan. Fears of new sectarian violence as the U.S. tries to pave the way out of the country.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Tick tock. President Obama puts Republicans on the clock, $1,000 in take home cash on the line for you.

CHO: Threatening to dish the dirt on Newt. Nancy Pelosi saying she has 1,000 damaging pages on the former House speaker. Gingrich saying, bring it.

COSTELLO: Donald Trump meeting the new GOP frontrunner and calling the other candidates a joke. But it's the Donald, the one voters are re really laughing at on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: And good morning. It's Tuesday, December 6th. Ali and Christine are off today. I'm Alina Cho along with Carol Costello who's well rested on this AMERICAN MORNING. Thanks for joining us.

COSTELLO: I've had four days of sleep so watch out.

Up first this morning, what's red, white and blue and can't agree on how to save you money? Well, Congress, of course. Democrats have offered a compromise proposal to extend the payroll tax cut before it expires at the end of the year.

But Republicans are not on board. Without a deal, pay roll taxes will rise costing millions of Americans $1,000 a year. The clock is ticking and President Obama is keeping the pressure on.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My message to Congress is this -- keep your word to the American people and don't raise taxes on them right now. Now's not the time to slam on the brakes. Now's the time to step on the gas. Now's the time to keep growing the economy, to keep creating jobs, to keep giving working Americans the boost that they need. Now's the time to make a real difference in the lives of the people who sent us here so let's get to work.


COSTELLO: Here's how Republicans feel about the Democrats' new offer. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch saying, quote, "It's hard for the majority to call this a compromise when the other side hasn't been involved."

CNN's Kate Bolduan is following developments. She's live in Washington for us. So, Kate, why aren't Democrats calling this a compromise if Republicans weren't involved?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senate Democrats, Carol, they call it a compromise offer because they say the proposal is smaller and comes with a different mix of measures to pay for it that they hope -- they hope will attract more Republican support.

Let's be honest. It's not likely to win over enough support to move forward. But here is what Senate Democrats are pushing. Like their original offer that failed on the Senate last week, the plan would cut the employee payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 3.1 percent.

As a reminder, if Congress doesn't act, the rate will go back up to a tax of 6.2 percent in January. And here's what Democrats say they're compromising in order to attract more Republican votes.

The Democrats have scaled down the surtax on income over a million dollars down to just under 2 percent tax from a little over 3 percent tax. They've also made that tax temporary and they say that's in response to GOP opposition to imposing a so-called permanent tax to pay for temporary economic stimulus.

The plan no longer provides tax cuts to employers in order to bring down overall costs and they've also adopted a provision from last week's Republican proposal to extend the payroll tax that would prevent wealthy Americans from receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Carol, we could see a first test vote on Friday, but again, it's not likely to move anywhere as the millionaire surtax is still included, and that has doomed many Democratic proposals in the past.

COSTELLO: We well know that. So if this plan is doomed and the deadline is fast approaching, how is this likely to play out?

BOLDUAN: There is still, this changes day by day, so check with me tomorrow, but there's still seems to be a general thought on Capitol Hill that they will get this done, that they will extend the payroll tax at least for employees in the end. But that leaves us plenty of time for more political messaging and posturing on both sides before they really get to the point where they feel the need to negotiate.

As you and I always talk about, when we always talk about Capitol Hill, Congress loves and generally needs a deadline. It seems that they're working right up towards their next one.

COSTELLO: Yes. OK. I'll check back with you tomorrow. Thanks, Kate.

Coming up at 7:00 Eastern, we'll talk with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey who drew up the Democrats compromise payroll tax plan to see what he has to say about all this.

CHO: Look forward to that.

The other top story we're watching this morning, trying to save the euro. This morning U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is joining talks on how to prevent the collapse of the euro and financial panic from spreading.

This after Standard & Poor's warned it may carry out a mass credit rating downgrade of euro zone countries. CNN's Diana Magnay joins us live from Berlin with more on that. Diana, good morning to you.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alina. Well, you remember when S&P downgraded the U.S. in August citing the extremely difficult political discussions that were going on at that time. This is pretty much the same thing.

It's saying that in the euro zone right now, political leaders aren't managing to really get consensus on how to pull the euro zone out of its problems. That's why it's put this ratings warning on 15 countries of 17 members of the euro zone.

You can imagine the criticism has been fairly strong. You know, why did it has to come out with this kind of warning especially this week, especially after the leaders, France and Germany, yesterday, said that they were on track to try and enforce some kind of fiscal discipline across the euro zone ahead of this very important summit on Thursday and Friday?

And it's this summit, which is the reason why Timothy Geithner is over here. It's his third visit since September sent by President Obama, who's called the euro zone the strongest head wind that might slow down the U.S. economy.

And he'll be holding talks not just with his finance minister counterparts, but also with heads of state here really trying to put the pressure on Europe to come to some kind of agreement, if Europe is prepared to listen -- Alina.

CHO: Diana Magnay live for us in Berlin. Diana, thank you very much. COSTELLO: Two bomb blasts rocking Afghanistan. At least 54 people killed when a suicide bomb exploded at a Shiite shrine in Kabul. And in another city, an explosion claims four victims. Now media reports of a third blast in Afghanistan. This one in Kandahar.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live from Kabul with the latest. Who's responsible for these blasts?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest we are hearing here is the death toll has risen to at least 54 with 150 plus injured. Official turned from the scene of this explosion word of his, one suicide bomber targeted a collection of Shiite pilgrims tightly packed together near a shrine here.

This was exactly in the heart of Kabul, just down the road from the finance ministry, defense ministry, the presidential palace not far away. Again, the sign of the insurgency, if this was the insurgency, they've yet to claim responsibility. Penetrating what should be the secure heart of the capital.

Now one eyewitness there describes the immediate aftermath, which he witnessed saying, really, bodies blown away in direction, like a fan almost out from where this one suicide bomber detonated this device.

Children, it does appear from the pictures he took to be among the dead. Women as well. This death toll troubling could rise further given at the last hour it appears to have traveled according to some accounts as they begin to actually know the full scope of the damage in the hospitals around here.

Again, this happened on an important Shia holiday. Concerns perhaps it could spark some kind of sectarian unrest here. Although we should bear in mind, this is not Iraq where the Sunni/Shia divide amongst Muslims was a part of the conflict there.

Afghanistan knew of these potential sectarian threats if this is exactly what it was, that have been tried to be initiated here. But seriously, troubling scenes here in Kabul, potentially one of the worst attacks we've seen for a number of years here, two to three at least, and a death toll that does appear to be continuing to rise -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Nick Paton Walsh reporting live for us in Kabul, Afghanistan.

CHO: We have an update on the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Oil giant BP is launching a lawsuit against one of its drilling partners Halliburton after the deadly rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

BP says the contractor, quote, "Intentionally destroyed evidence after the spill about possible problems with its (inaudible). The explosion killed 11 workers and dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. A Halliburton spokesperson said it is reviewing the court filing, but says it believes the allegations are not true.

COSTELLO: The third man to accuse former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine of sexual abuse now admits he is guilty of the very same crime. Zachary Tomaselli is facing 11 charges including gross sexual assault in Maine.

He tells CNN he plans to plead guilty to molesting a young teenage boy at a summer camp in 2009 and 2010. Tomaselli now 23 claimed Coach Fine fondled him in a hotel room in Pittsburgh in 2002.

And Jerry Sandusky may soon face his accusers. All eight alleged victims in the grand jury report on the former Penn State football coach will reportedly testify against him in open court. This is according to ABC News.

The preliminary hearing is set to begin next Tuesday. Sandusky, as you know, is accused of molesting the boys over an eight- year period. The alleged victims were part of Sandusky's organization, the Second Mile.

CHO: Meantime, two men are suing the Boston Red Sox alleging they were abused by former Clubhouse Manager Donald Fitzpatrick who died in 2005.

Now one of the alleged victims, Charles Crawford, claims that he was assaulted inside the clubhouse at Fenway Park when he worked there as a teenager in the early 1990s. The two are suing for $5 million.

The team paid a $3.5 million settlement back in 2003 to seven men who said Fitzpatrick abused them during spring training in the 1970s.

COSTELLO: A two-day sentencing hearing for Ron Blagojevich begins later this morning in Chicago. The former Illinois governor was convicted last summer on 18 corruption related charges including trying to sell the president's former Senate seat.

Prosecutors want the judge to throw the book at Blagojevich. They're asking for as much as 20 years in prison. Blagojevich is expected to make a personal plea for leniency. The judge's decision is expected sometime tomorrow.

CHO: I had almost forgotten about him.

COSTELLO: He's back.

CHO: Still to come, speaker versus speaker. How two old political foes, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi, are preparing to clash once again. We'll explain.

COSTELLO: And caught on tape. A car smashes through the front door of a restaurant and ends up in the dining room as people watch in horror.

CHO: And do you have what it takes to be a high-tech spy? If you can crack this code, you could be Britain's new version of James Bond. We'll tell you about it. It's 11 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: It's 14 minutes past the hour. Welcome back. Newt Gingrich is on a roll with four weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Just take a look at this brand new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. The former House speaker opening a 15-point lead over Mitt Romney and Ron Paul and on the issues of electability, empathy and handling the economy, Gingrich topped Romney in every single category.

CHO: The godfather of gridlock. That's what President Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, is calling GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich.

On "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," Axelrod slammed Gingrich's TV ad which launched in Iowa yesterday, saying the Republicans' theme of working together to solve problems would be a hard sell given his past.


DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR STRATEGIST, OBAMA RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN: I don't think there's any single person in this country that did more to create the kind of discord in Washington that we see today than Newt Gingrich. He's really the godfather of gridlock. He was the one who really created an environment in which people started treating each other as enemies and not as opponents here in Washington.

He was the one who shut the government down three times when he was trying to close the Department of Education and to defund the EPA and to cut Medicare in order to give tax cuts to the wealthy. He was the one who led to the impeachment of a president.

And now, he's offering himself as someone who can bring the country together. I think that's going to be a hard sell.


COSTELLO: Newt Gingrich has heard it all before. He's been around long enough to know how the game is played in Washington. When you're on top, things can get ugly.

So, while the former House speaker tangles with Mitt Romney for hearts and minds in Iowa, he's also preparing for attacks from the left, like from David Axelrod, and also a familiar old foe.

Jim Acosta has more.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a news conference in New York, Newt Gingrich insisted he can go toe-to-toe with his chief rival, Mitt Romney, in a 50-state battle for the nomination, even with a much smaller operation.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have all these articles about how businesses are getting leaner, how they are flattening their hierarchies, how they're doing all sorts of things. You have people now who work from home. You have virtual organizations -- all these cutting-edge ideas.

And then you have a group of consultants who believe you have to be slow, cumbersome and expensive.

The Donald has had the number one show in the country. OK? He is a genuine American icon in his own right. Why wouldn't you want to come and hang out with him?

ACOSTA: Part of the Gingrich plan also included a visit with Donald Trump, who has had enough meetings with White House hopefuls to host a presidential "Apprentice" reality show.

But Gingrich is tailoring a more serious image in Iowa with a new ad that's drawing comparisons to Reagan's iconic "Morning in America" spot. But the message is also eerily similar to, "Yes We Can."

GINGRICH: Yes, working together, we can and will rebuild the America we love.

ACOSTA: Team Obama is sitting up and taking notice with Gingrich surging to the top of the latest "Des Moines Register" poll.

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think a lot of people inside the beltway and outside the beltway woke up today to a very different political environment and one in which Newt Gingrich is very much for real.

ACOSTA: Democrats seem all too eager to face Gingrich. In an interview with the blog "Talking Points Memo," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hinted she may dredge up the congressional investigations into the former speaker's leadership during the 1990s.

"I know a lot of about him," Pelosi said. "I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of this stuff."

GINGRICH: I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for what I regard as an early Christmas gift.

ACOSTA: Gingrich responded that the House should act to repudiate Pelosi's comments, accusing her of using her office to damage his candidacy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?


ACOSTA: It's a sign the two former speakers aren't as chummy as their days battling climate change in this 2008 ad.

(on camera): Are you concerned about that information re- emerging?

GINGRICH: We turned over a million pages of material. We had a huge report. The total 83 charges were repudiated as false. The one mistake we made was a letter written by a lawyer that didn't read carefully.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Liberal Occupy Wall Street protesters are also champing at the bit after Gingrich told them to take a bath.

BEN CAMPBELL, OWS PROTESTER: We just want you to know that it's Newt Gingrich who's gotten filthy rich by roaming around in dirty corporate money and selling our government to the highest corporate bidder.

ACOSTA: But even some Republicans have their doubts.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: He did a wonderful job in organizing that. He's brilliant. He has lots of positives, but I still -- it would be -- I will have difficulty supporting him as president of the United States.

ACOSTA (on camera): Newt Gingrich is doing more than just meeting with the Donald. He's also in search of some campaign cash. If drawn into a 50-state battle for the GOP nomination with Mitt Romney, he'll need more than good poll numbers to come out on top.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


CHO: Never a dull moment.

A terrifying crash caught on camera that we want to show you. Take a look at this. It happened in Miramar, California, a car smashes through a restaurant straight toward -- look at that -- straight towards a group of customers. Surprisingly, just one person was hit on his way out the door. Thankfully, no one seriously injured.

The driver said she accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes.

COSTELLO: I hate when that happens.

CHO: That's happened before.


ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Whoa. You know, normally when we show that video, it's only like the first five or 10 feet of the storefront. But this went straight back to the kitchen as if they had a bad lunch or something.


CHO: Geez. Blame the cook.

MARCIANO: Yes, exactly.

Hey, watch this video out of New Mexico. Yes. We talked about snow yesterday at this time in New Mexico. Here's the proof in the pudding. But they still have parts of I-10, which borders the Mexican border, shut down this morning. I-25 south of Albuquerque also shut down because of snow and in spots, record breaking snow.

Here's some of the tally, Cedar Crest, 12, these are some of the higher elevations, a foot of snow. But even Albuquerque seeing three, four inches of snow. That is record-setting. And other spots seeing similar amounts.

Winter storm warnings out, mostly for blowing snow. The snow for the most part has come to an end. It's stretching back up into places like Kansas City. No accumulation expected there. And what we're seeing as far as precip across the Northeast right now is in the form of rain.

Obviously, temperatures are well above freezing -- 50s, and even lower 60s expected out ahead of this very slow moving front.

Down across the South, we've got stagnant air. Jacksonville up through Myrtle Beach, back through Greenville and Spartanburg looking at bad driving conditions, low visibility here. This may affect travel as far as air travel is concerned. There's your slow moving front, cold air behind it. Also breezy across southern California, one more day of the Santa Ana winds.

And here's the chilly air in Minneapolis, 16 degrees. There's your December. Meanwhile, 61 degrees in New York City.

So, it feels more like September there. Enjoy it. It gets chillier and more wet.

COSTELLO: It's winter somewhere in America and I'm glad I'm not there right now.

MARCIANO: It's heading your way soon.

CHO: All right. Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: See you, guys.

CHO: Still to come, Newt Gingrich now the fifth Republican candidate to seek a private audience with Donald Trump. But some Republicans are wondering whether an endorsement from the Donald could actually backfire. We'll talk more about that when we return.

It's 21 minutes after the hour.


COSTELLO: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. "Minding Your Business" now.

Some are calling this the make-or-break week for the eurozone. It's not off to a good start. Any confidence early in the day yesterday that the E.U. was moving forward to fix its problems was quickly erased after ratings agency Standard & Poor's put 15 eurozone countries on notice for possible downgrades. The main reason: heightened market tensions and greater risk of a recession in 2012 in eurozone.

Stocks came off their highs toward the end of the session yesterday, once the S&P news broke. And right now, U.S. stocks futures are trading higher ahead of the opening bell. But we'll keep a close eye on futures this morning, as there's a lot of market volatility right now.

European and Asian markets are down so far today.

Remember that Europe is America's number one trading partner. So, whatever happens there will have a ripple effect here in the United States. Today, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in Germany pushing for European officials to agree on a larger resolution to prevent any E.U. nations from defaulting. The big E.U. leader summit starts Friday in Brussels.

Back here in the U.S., that mass exodus from big banks not as big as we first thought. It turns out far fewer people switched to credit unions from large banks after the uproar over debit fees. The Credit Union National Association admits they're survey was misinterpreted and just 214,000 new customers switched to credit unions in October, not 650,000.

Credit union or not, Americans are on the ball this year with holiday shopping. A new survey by America's Research Group says one- third of Americans are already done buying presents for the holiday season. Shoppers took advantage of last month's big deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And across the whole week last week, online shoppers spent a staggering $6 billion. That's according to online shopping tracker comScore, and they're latest report says Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day on record with $1.25 billion spent. Wow.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back after a break.


COSTELLO: An audience with the Donald. Newt Gingrich in New York for a private powwow with the real estate mogul. On the road to the White House, does trust really matter?

We're getting answers on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING for a Tuesday. It's 30 minutes part the hour. Time for this morning's top stories.

Democrats have rolled out a compromise plan to extend the payroll tax cut before it expires at the end of the year. The plan would be paid for by a scaled-back millionaire's surtax. Democrats say letting the tax cut expire would cost the average family $1,000 a year. Many Republicans question whether the tax cut has actually helped the economy.

Oil giant BP files a lawsuit against Halliburton, one of its contractors during the deadly rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year. BP is saying Halliburton destroyed key evidence that pointed to problems with its cement slurry. A Halliburton spokesperson said it is reviewing the court filing, but it believes the allegations are not true.

And two men suing the Boston Red Sox claiming, they were sexual abused by a clubhouse manager when they worked in Fenway Park clubhouse as teens in the early '90s. The alleged attacker is Donald Fitzpatrick. He died in 2005. The team previously settled a case in which Fitzpatrick was accused of molesting minors during spring training in Florida.

COSTELLO: In the world of politics, Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls. A perfect time for a little chat with Donald Trump, right? Does seem to be a pattern.

Gingrich is now the fifth Republican candidate to get an audience with the Donald. They met last night in Manhattan.

But on the road to the GOP nomination, does Trump really matter?

Here's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a crush of cameras awaiting him, Newt Gingrich became the latest presidential hopeful to pay a visit to Donald Trump.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

SNOW: Gingrich defended plans for an upcoming Republican presidential debate to be moderated by the real estate developer and reality TV host, set to be sponsored by the conservative Web site, Newsmax.

GINGRICH: This is a country which elected a peanut farmer to the presidency. They have elected an actor who made two movies with a chimpanzee to the presidency.

SNOW: Definitely not participating in the Trump debate, Republican presidential hopeful, Jon Huntsman.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I'm not going to kiss his ring and I'm not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy. This is not about ratings for Donald Trump. This is about jobs for the American people.

SNOW: Also count Ron Paul as a definite no.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't understand the marching to his office. I mean, I didn't know that he had an ability to lay on hands, you know and -- and anoint people.

SNOW: Firing back, Trump, who's also promoting a new book, dismissed the criticisms in an interview on NBC.

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: I think that they are joke candidates. I think they're doing very poorly. And certainly Mr. Huntsman is doing extremely poorly in the polls, at 1 percent. And, frankly, it gives more air time to people that really have a chance of getting elected.

SNOW: While some conservatives and candidates have stinging words for Trump, who flirted with running for president, it hasn't stopped several GOP White House hopefuls from seeking him out.

Michele Bachmann has met with Trump four times. Also, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and, while he was a candidate, Herman Cain, each met up with Trump.

And now, Gingrich.

GINGRICH: Donald Trump is a great showman. He's also a great businessman.

If we're trying to figure out how to create jobs, I think one of the differences between my party and the other party is we actually go to people who know how to create jobs, to figure out how to create jobs.

SNOW: A new NBC and Marist Poll measured what an endorsement from Donald Trump could mean. Of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, 37 percent would be less likely to vote for a Trump- endorsed candidate. Nineteen percent would be more likely to support those who Trump green lights. In Iowa, the numbers are not that all different, either.

(on camera): And then there's an entirely different number that Donald Trump is talking about. In his new book, he claims to be worth $7 billion. You might remember when he was considering running for president, he wouldn't disclose that number.

Forbes had estimated his worth to be between $250 million and $3 billion.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


CHO: Exactly one month to go before the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich is emerging as a solid front runner the Hawkeye State. A brand new "Washington Post"/ABC poll has him 15 points ahead in the field.

Now, if he wins Iowa, still a big if, because anything could happen, the former House speaker could be sitting pretty, because he is gaining ground on Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, too.

Let's talk more about Iowa with Kay Henderson. She's the news director of Radio Iowa and she joins us by phone from Des Moines this morning.

Kay, good morning. You've been covering politics in Iowa for nearly 25 years. You have seen it all. Newt Gingrich is leading in the polls right now.

But a lot of people are wondering, does he actually have the manpower to get out the vote and win? What is his ground operation looking like in Iowa?

KAY HENDERSON, RADIO IOWA (via telephone): Well, the ground operation benefits from one thing. He doesn't really have to introduce himself to Iowans. Every Iowan knows who Newt Gingrich is.

Their challenge will be reaching supporters and potential supporters, and organizing to have a spokesperson at each one of the precinct meeting on caucus night. There will be more than 1,700 of these meetings around the state. So, the folks that Gingrich Inc. here in Iowa right now are trying to lineup at least 1,700 to 1,800 individuals who will speak their piece for Newt Gingrich before the votes are actually cast on caucus night.

CHO: You last interviewed Newt Gingrich on December 1st. What did he tell you?

HENDERSON: I asked him about several things. One of the interesting things he told me was that he is perhaps the most accomplished outsider to the running for president in modern history.

The question, of course, was: how can you be both an outsider and an insider? Gingrich presents himself to audiences here in Iowa and elsewhere as someone who knows the ropes in Washington, D.C., and would be a better president than President Obama, having that few decades of experience in Congress. But he also conversely talks about the past dozen years that he spent out of office making money as an author -- and he tries to be both things to Iowans.

CHO: But it appears that at least a third of Iowa voters are buying that argument.

HENDERSON: Right. He is -- he is positioned in this way, I think, because Iowans have been keenly interested in the televised debates. And there are two debates coming up. One on Saturday, and one on Thursday of next week, and I think those will be hugely important in helping Iowans make up their minds.

CHO: Let's talk a little about Ron Paul, because he is neck and neck with Mitt Romney vying for second place in Iowa. You know, some people want to write him off. But he's made quite a commitment in Iowa.

What are people there saying about his chances?

HENDERSON: Well, Ron Paul is saying he has a chance to actually win the caucuses.

CHO: What do you think?

HENDERSON: His campaign manager helped manager Pat Buchanan's surprise second place finish in 1988. And if you remember Bob Dole won first that year. Pat Robertson won second. And the sitting vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush, won third.

So, this is someone who knows the mechanics of the caucuses keenly. He helped Pat Buchanan come within two points of Bob Dole in 1996. And their organization mettle was tested for the straw poll, and they came almost within a whisker of tying Michele Bachmann for the win at the Ames straw poll.

So, these are folks who are very organized. Ron Paul has spent far more time in Iowa than most of the other candidates, say, for people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, and is paying dividends in sealing the deal with people who think as he does, particularly in regards to financial policies.

CHO: Well, someone who hasn't, apparently, Mitt Romney. You say what's missing between him and Iowa voters is a handshake.


HENDERSON: Exactly. He has not spent as much time here by far as he did in 2007 and a lead up to the 2008 caucus. But he does have a core of committed supporters who have been unwavering Romney people throughout this process, and I think he will spend some time here in Iowa over the next few weeks to try to make that handshake and seal the deal in person.

CHO: You know, with all the people that you've talked to over these past several months, I mean, what are the voters saying there about who they believe at this early stage is the most electable in a general election?

HENDERSON: I think that's a question that will be asked of Gingrich over the next few weeks. It's also a selling point that the Romney campaign will be making to Iowans that he is the most electable. These Iowa Republicans are in many ways in the same position that Iowa Democrats were in 2004. They are hungry to win back the White House, and electability is one of the key factors that they're using when they're making their choice.

CHO: All right. Kay Henderson, news director at Radio Iowa joining us by phone in Des Moines. Kay, thank you so much for your perspective.

HENDERSON: Good morning.

COSTELLO: Well, the Cain train won't be pulling into Iowa -- pulling into Iowa, I should say, come caucus time. Herman Cain, of course, suspended his Republican presidential campaign following allegations of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair. Sharon Bialek accused Cain of groping her back in 1997.

And last night, CNN's Piers Morgan asked Bialek how she felt about Cain dropping out of the race.


SHARON BIALEK, ACCUSED HERMAN CAIN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: You might think I would have been elated that. It was kind of bittersweet, in the sense that, yes, I was happy that he suspended it, but it saddened me, because even though he did so, he still has not spoken the truth. He's trying to blame these -- everything that's happened on everyone else except the one person that he should blame it on, and that's himself.


COSTELLO: Cain says the incident Bialek describes did not happen.

CHO: Well, two of college basketball's elite coaches joining another elite group. "Sports Illustrated" has named Tennessee's Pat Summitt and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski as the magazine's 2011 sportswoman and sportsman of the year. That's some good news from sports world, isn't it?

Summitt has been coaching Tennessee since 1974. She announced this past summer she had early onset Alzheimer's disease, but she pledged to keep coaching to show others they can live with it.

Now, Summitt and Krzyzewski are the winningest in men's and women's college basketball. They're just the third and fourth college basketball coaches to receive the honor. Good for them. Congratulations.

COSTELLO: Still ahead on AMERICAN MORNING: calling all spies, the British government may want to make you an offer, if you can crack this code.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It's 45 minutes after the hour.

Well, it turns out that Britain is looking for a few good spies. That's right. The government is using a unique recruiting tool to find the next generation of cyber specialists.

COSTELLO: Hmm. It's called a coded online puzzle. Crack it, and you may just have a career in intelligence. CNN's Brian Todd has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's your challenge, 160 combinations of numbers and letters and a countdown clock. You've got just a few days to your deadline. If you crack this code, could you be the next real-life James Bond?


TODD: Maybe not. But if you're a British citizen and you solve this crypt graphic puzzle, you could be recruited for Britain's next generation of high-tech spies. Posted online, publicized on Facebook and Twitter, it's put out by the government's communications headquarters, Britain's version of America's national security agency, a kind band of whiz-bang eavesdropping post, whose mission is to help catch finding terrorists.

This agency once posted job ads inside videogames. And official there tells us this puzzle's gotten thousands of hits and at least 50 people have solved it. If do you that, you're congratulated, offered a chance to apply.

What do you think of this as a recruiting tool?

MARK STOUT, INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM: I think it's a great idea. And one of the things that it does is it brings sort of awareness of the need for crypt analyst, cryptographers.

TODD: Former CIA analyst, Mark Stout, is an expert on code cracking at the International Spy Museum in Washington. He says for people with reasonable training in math and computer science, this code probably isn't too hard.

What kind of crucial intelligence can you gather by code breaking?

STOUT: Well, code breaking signals intelligence, as we call it, can be tremendously valuable, because it's one of the rare forms of intelligence that if done properly, if you get access to the right things, will give you the enemy's intention. What are they really thinking?

TODD: Tout and other experts say governments like Britain needs cyber warriors more than ever. Officials at the government communications headquarters say they want people with an interest in so-called ethical hacking. Illegal hackers need not apply.

How will that play? Marc Maiffret is a former hacker who co- founded a firm called eEye Digital Security. He says sophisticated hackers might find this puzzle gimmicky.

MARC MAIFFRET, EEYE DIGITAL SECURITY/FORMER HACKER: The thing that I would have sound funny or interesting as a teenage hacker would have been to actually hack the server that's hosting this challenge and actually change the challenge to have some funny message or some other thing.

TODD: Other cyber experts say the code's too easy. (on-camera) An official at the British government communications headquarters says it's not designed to be overly difficult, more to promote awareness of what that agency does. Maiffret and others say if that's the goal, then it's worth it. To get teenagers and other young people excited about potential careers in legitimate cyber espionage.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHO: Fifty people cracked the code. Not bad.

COSTELLO: Amazing.

NASA's Kepler telescope may have found our twin. EARTH II. Scientists say it circles a star just like our sun and it's just the right distance away from it to allow liquid water to exist and possibly harbor life just like our own little planet. NASA says the average temperature there is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, San Diego everywhere on that planet, but don't start packing yet. It's about 600 lightyears away and who knows what the heck lives if anything on that planet.

CHO: They're calling it --

COSTELLO: It's fascinating.

CHO: Yes. They're calling it the goldilocks planet. Not too cold, not too hot, not too far, not too close --

COSTELLO: Just right for life.

CHO: Just right.

Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Still ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, Mitt Romney and the race for the GOP nomination. Today, a former vice president will endorse the candidate. So, who is it? We'll tell you. We're back after this.


CHEECH MARIN, ACTOR: Hi. I'm Cheech Marin, and I travel somewhere between all the time and forever. Travel with time (INAUDIBLE) or any part in the duo life, that is like being married without the sex. You have to learn how to give each other space. Some people like blessed (ph) a little point of it. I like to fly.

I get flag every single time I walked to because I have an artificial need. Nothing any better than got (INAUDIBLE). Traveling is the best educator in the world. You don't have to think anybody's word for it. You've seen it. You've been there. You get to gain support (ph) in the country. And that's the greatest thing about traveling. I am very involved in collecting Chicano art and it has this (INAUDIBLE). I get to go see art in every part of the country because there's --


MARIN: I put together shows and I travel around the country at different museums, and so, that's my goal is to get as many people to see Chicano art as possible.

I'll see you out there in the road.



CHO: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day


CHO (on-camera): Bomb blasts rocking Afghanistan killing at least 58 people. Fifty-four were killed in a suicide explosion at a Shiite shrine in Kabul. At least 150 people were injured and police do expect to find more victims.

President Obama urging lawmakers to pass a new payroll tax plan proposed by Senate Democrat. He says it would give 160 million middle-class Americans an extra $1,000 in their paychecks. Republicans, though, are rejecting it say they had no input in the compromise plan.

U.S. treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, joining talks with his European counterparts on how to prevent a collapse of the Euro. This after Standard & Poor's warned it may carry out a mass credit rating downgrade of Euro zone countries.

A missing Georgia girl is found dead. Her body tossed in a dumpster near her home in Canton. Police say seven-year-old Jorelys Rivera was abducted, sexually assaulted, and beaten. She was last seen alive on Friday. Police are now searching for the killer.

Former Illinois governor, Rob Blagojevich, will be back in court this morning for his sentencing hearing. Blagojevich was convicted on 17 corruption charges related to his attempt to sell President Obama's former Senate seat. Prosecutors are asking the judge for a 15- to 20- year sentence.

And Dan Quayle is said to endorse Mitt Romney for president. The former vice president will make a formal announcement alongside Romney at an event today in Phoenix.


CHO (on-camera): That's the news you need to know to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Good morning.


COSTELLO: We were just chatting. If you watched Herman Cain's big announcement over the weekend, you probably saw what appeared to be his wife sticking by his side. Funny thing is, that's not what comedian, Jimmy Kimmel, saw that day. Take a look.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Gloria Cain was at the speech on Saturday, and she seems to be sticking by her husband no matter what.



CAIN: I am at peace with my wife.


CAIN: And she is at peace with me.


KIMMEL: Maybe she's not completely over it, but she was there. That's the important thing.


COSTELLO: The jokes will never end. Never.

CHO: But we've still got another, how many months? A year?

Anyway, your top stories are next. We're back after this.