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tv   CNN Newsroom  CNN  December 31, 2011 1:00pm-1:20pm PST

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hello and thanks for joining us. i'm frld fr i'm fredricka whitfield. first an update on some of the top stories of the day. ♪ bangkok, thailand, rings in 2012. we're bringing you new year's celebrations from around the world for new year's eve. bangkok holds out all the stops. it's a new year's eve tradition in thailand to set aside this night for total indulgence, they say. and quite the opposite in syria.
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huge protest crowds are turning out across the country again today. and the death toll has grown. earlier today an activist network reported nine deaths in clashes with security forces. it has now changed the number of dead to at least 13. the united nations says more than 5,000 syrians have died since mid march. two opposition groups have reached a deal on a plan for democracy in case syria's president steps down. back in this country, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake has rattled ohio near the urban centers of youngstown and warren. this same area has been the center of a lot of controversy over fracking, a method of getting natural gas out of shale rock. critics worry it could cause earthquakes and other damage. and customers complained and verizon listened. the country's largest mobile phone provider is scrapping its $2 fee for customers to make a one-time bill payment. the movement sparked outrage from thousands of verizon customers for having to pay a fee to pay their bill.
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and the new year will mean new lives for entertainers, russell brand and katy perry, the entertainment power couple is calling it quits after little more than a year of marriage. brand tells cnn, i'll always adore katy and i know we'll remain friends. we'll follow the republican contenders live in iowa as they criss-cross the states. "the contenders" 2012 starts right now. good afternoon and welcome to "the contenders 2012." i'm candy crowley. today you're going to hear from the republican candidates at their live event events as they make their cases to iowa voters why they should be the next president of the united states. i want to bring in our jim acosta. jim, you just had an interview with rick santorum who really has had what could arguably be the best week of his campaign, at least so far as the polls are concerned.
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>> reporter: that's right. candy, you and i both know after covering this campaign for some time now that rick santorum was almost sort of an afterthought, just to be really honest about things during this race leading into the iowa caucuses. but steady as he goes. day in and day out, rick santorum was hitting a different corner of this state, going to the farflung places that not a lot of us reporters were going to slowly but surely putting together a base of support in this state. and it's happening at a critical time. he went from basically the back of the pack to a serious contender for third place, maybe even better, come caucus night. i had a chance to talk to him about all this. and i was asking him, do you have the boots on the ground to translate this latest success in the polls to an actual turnout on caucus night. he feels very comfortable about
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this because he's put in the time, he's put in the resources to try to make this happen. and it's sort of a throwback to the way things used to be done in iowa. this race, as you know, this time around in iowa, it's been dominated by these super pac ads, by the more well-healed candidates like mitt romney and rick perry and even ron paul who have had the time, the money, the energy to put into the state to really turn out a successful outcome on tuesday night. but rick santorum has been sort of the macgyver candidate, he's been duct-taped and wd-40'd. everybody's had their chance just about to be the un-romney in this race. this is his time. and people seem to be responding to that message. i tried to get him to draw the contrasts a little bit between himself and mitt romney and ron paul. and he hasn't really done that. his fight seems to be at this point with rick perry. when i asked him about "what about these earmark that is rick
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perry keeps bringing up that you supported when you were a senator in washington?" . and rick santorum said, wait a minute, rick perry has sent lobbyists up to washington to lobby on behalf of the state of texas. this is kind of a race for third place right now with rick santorum and rick perry, kind of the battle of the ricks. three tickets out of iowa, if rick santorum has one of those ticks, it's going to be very interesting to watch to see how he does in the coming weeks. >> it will because lots of times, i think when we look at these candidates and we think, you get a ticket out of iowa, but you have to have the money to back it up. and i think that's where the santorum campaign, if they believe they're going to get one of those three tickets, must be looking now saying, this is great, but moving ahead, certainly in a state like south carolina, certainly in florida, you've got to have some money to put down so that you can do the ad wars. is there any sign -- i haven't
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seen it and i'm sorry to ask you this because i don't know if you have the answer. any sign that his fund-raising his picked up at all? >> reporter: he has said and i saw a local interview here in iowa just last night where he said that he's raising more money online now than he has at any point during this campaign. and as a matter of fact, he has one of those money bombs being advertised on his campaign website right now, which is -- the money bomb is sort of the ron paul thing, one of those short-lived fund-raising bursts of activity where they try to get all of their supporters to go in and give money to try to raise a lot of money. and ron paul's been very successful with that. to a see money bomb on santorum's website is remarkable, it's interesting to watch. it's a sign that perhaps, yes, the money is starting to come. but that money bomb is for a total of $250,000. that's not a whole lot of money to a lot of the other candidates, to a mitt romney or a ron paul. but to a rick santorum, it puts more gas in the car, keeps things going. you mentioned south carolina. i think that's exactly right.
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does it make sense for rick santorum to go to new hampshire after iowa when mitt romney looks like he's going to clean up in that state and finish perhaps far ahead of the rest of the pack? maybe it makes more sense for a rick santorum to go to south carolina, talk to those social conservatives who he obviously has done well with here in iowa and perhaps stitch together the same kind of boots on the ground, retail politicking, go to those far-flung places type of campaign. if newt gingrich is fading. if michele bachmann because perhaps some people say she's imploded in this last week, maybe she gets out of the race and the field is smaller, that potentially opens up an opportunity, i think, for rick santorum. >> let me ask you something, because you have followed him more closely than i have over the last month or so. is there -- is the part that he now says in, at least the two speeches we've seen today, about electability, don't listen to the pundits, this isn't about electability, this is about the
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strongest candidate, the strongest candidate will be electable. is that a new part of his speech? it strikes me since he came up into third, what we've done a lot of talking about is whether he is electable in a general election. >> reporter: that has been part of his overall argument, i think, for a little while now. he's talked about the fact that, hey, he's won elections in pennsylvania, which is a swing state, a purple state, maybe even a blue state. and he said he did that because he's been able to make that appeal to those reagan democrats. one of the things he talks about, we don't talk about the bread-and-butter issues of this campaign. one of the things rick santorum has talked about a lot, iowans are responding well to his made in the usa economic plan, focused on getting the manufacturing base up and running again. and he would do all of those things, he would get that manufacturing base going if he were elected president by --
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through conservative principles. he wants to cut regulations. he wants to reduce taxes on the manufacturing sector and those sorts of things. he thinks that will potentially get the manufacturing sector going in this country. but it is one of those kinds of appeals that i think could work across party lines and perhaps go to those conservative reagan democrats in places like ohio, pennsylvania, west virginia and in the midwest. and i think that is part of his overall strategy, to make that kind of appeal. but what i also have picked up on in just talking to him a few minutes ago is there's just a little bit -- i was trying to drag it out of him. and i know you sensed it and you were saying, nice try, jim. i was trying to pull it out of him just little bit, he was starting to draw a contrast a little bit with mitt romney and saying, i'm the true, full-spectrum conservative, the reagan conservative, maybe some of other guys aren't that way. it's sort of a kid-glove treatment on mitt romney from rick santorum.
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but what he's trying to say is, he's not one of you guys, i am. >> jim acosta, santorum was on the second of five cities when he talked to jim. he can talk a lot about manufacturing i know in pella where they have a bit of a manufacturing base. jim, we'll talk to you later on in the day. up ahead on "the contenders 2012," our wolf blitzer sits down with mitt romney. but first -- the other big story today. it is already 2012 in some parts of the world. you're looking at pictures from hong kong where they're 13 hours ahead of us in the u.s. [ child ] it's so cool! you can put a force field on him and be invisible! [ child 2 ] i call first player.
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no. i already called it. [ dad ] nobody's playing anything until after we get our homework done. thank you. hello? test drive's not over yet. [ male announcer ] it's practically yours. [ louder ] hello? but we still need your signature. right now during sign then drive, it's never been easier to get the all-new passat, the 2012 motor trend car of the year, for practically just your signature. that's the power of german engineering. visit vwdealer.com. that's the power of german engineering. what is it about taking a first step that we find so compelling? is it because taking a step represents hope? or triumph? at genworth, we believe in taking small steps every day to keep your promises, protect what matters, and prepare for a secure financial future. no matter where you want to go, one step at a time is the only way to get there. go to genworth.com/promises.
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welcome back. you are watching "the contenders 2012." it's where we give you all an opportunity basically to see what iowans have seen for the past year or so, these small town hall meetings, drop by little places of business where the candidates, giving their closing spiel. the caucuses are tuesday and urging folks to come to the caucuses for them. we have seen thus far -- it has included seeing newt gingrich on the stump. he was in atlantic, iowa, where we find our joe johns. joe, as i was listening to gingrich give his talk to these folks, i was struck by how it opened, with his complaints about the negative advertising and trying to turn it into a "get out the vote" if he can nichl, sif he can nichl, saying, 45% of the
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negative ads have been against me. it has been a big part of that 19-point drop gingrich has seen in the last three weeks. >> reporter: yeah, you're right. that's quite a spin on it, isn't it? we've had all those negative ads come to the caucuses on tuesday and turn it around on them, show them, you don't like negative ads by voting, basically, for newt gingrich in the caucuses. that was definitely one of the stories of this event here in atlantic, iowa. he began the town hall with that message. he talked about it at the end of his remarks here. he also talked about it in a media avail just a few minutes ago right around the corner. i asked him about it. the long and short and the message from here is, number one, he says he's going to make some adjustments. he's going to -- going forward on ads -- draw an even sharper
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contrast to some of these other candidates. he calls the ads that have been coming out particularly the ones from the super pac that supports mitt romney as dishonest. here's an example of one of his remarks here when he was talking about the ads at this event in atlantic just a little while ago. >> the level of dishonesty in these ads -- if somebody wants to run an ad and say, gingrich reformed welfare and that was the wrong thing to do, they couldn't do that in a republican primary, but they could take parts of my record and they could attack me in an honest way. and that's fine. that's what this is about. but the level of just sheer dishonesty in these ads, to me -- it's taken me two weeks to get reoriented and to realize -- and i'm now kind of sad that we didn't have money or two more debates. because i would have been much more direct with a couple of these candidates about the degree to which they're just plain dishonest.
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>> reporter: so i do hope in aly l while we'll be able to turn around some of the surround from this media availability that was around the corner just a little while ago because i asked him two or three questions about this issue of the ads and how he'd respond. and there have been a lot of reports, a lot of discussion from behind the scenes in the campaign trail that people are telling newt gingrich he needs to go ahead and do some negative ads of his own in kind to respond to the mitt romney super pac and others. so what he told me was, there's no immediate plans to respond, if you will, in kind. but he did say, yes, they're going to sort of adjust their message, again, to create a little bit more contrast with some of these other candidates. he also said that had he known these ads were coming out, he would have drawn much sharper contrast in the previous debates with some of the other candidates. but all of that is water over
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the dam, if you will. the other news out of atlantic here today, candy, is that the campaign says they're going to join a lawsuit in the state of virginia over getting newt gingrich and several other candidates on the ballot. rick perry started all of this off, when newt gingrich did not get on the ballot in virginia. now the gingrich campaign says they're joining with some others to try to open up the process because he calls it sort of an encumbrance for people to run in the state of virginia. candy? >> by the time we get around to virginia, it may be a moot point for some of those candidates. but maybe not. maybe we'll four or five of them in by the time we get to that primary. joe, in my experience, drawing a sharp contrast has always meant going negative. did he seem to mean anything else by that? >> reporter: well, that was my question, are you going to go negative? his answer was, we're going to draw a sharper contrast,
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perhaps. but he also said, not necessarily before the iowa caucuses but down the road. so it doesn't sound like he's planning on doing this immediately. and, you know, immediately, between now and tuesday s a big problem for newt gingrich because he's seen such a drop in the polls since those negative ads started airing. and the other problem, of course, and the thing a lot of us are not getting at, really, is that newt gingrich did not have money to run with the big boys as it were on the issue of negative advertising, the mitt romney super pac just had gobs and gobs of money that they just poured into ads. ron paul poured a lot of money into ads. in fact, there's this report out that something like 45% of the negative ads that have been run in the last little while all were focused on newt gingrich. he just didn't have the kind of money to respond. so how suddenly you bring enough
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money in now to really start fighting back, it's pretty hard to say, especially given the fact that he's a drop in the polls because when you have a drop in the policy,

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