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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Ron Paul; Interview With Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Political Analysts Examine the GOP Presidential Race Going Forward; Interview with Reince Priebus and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; Bachmann to Hold Press Conference

Aired January 4, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody.

I'm Soledad O'Brien, host of our new show, it's called STARTING POINT.

We're live this morning once again at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines, Iowa.

And our starting point today is the closest GOP presidential contest ever. Mitt Romney wins Iowa by just eight votes. It came down to one mystery precinct in missing county.

Already staked out, the next two critical battlegrounds, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

We're talking to Ron Paul in this hour, who is still in the hunt until most of you were in bed last night.

STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Results are in, Mitt Romney wins Iowa, but not by very much. It was the closest GOP presidential contest in U.S. history. It only became official just a few hours ago. Mitt Romney had 30,015 votes and Rick Santorum only eight votes behind of 30,007 votes.

And just a couple of minutes ago, Mitt Romney told me he's staying focused on President Obama, despite the slim margin of victory last night over Rick Santorum. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MTIT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The right place to focus on is President Obama. Of course, people are going to ask us about the differences on our positions on issues and backgrounds and so forth.

But really, if we talk about what the American people want to hear is how we're going to be different than President Obama when it comes to getting the economy going, preserving America's security abroad, and making sure we rein in the scale of the federal government. Fundamentally, we're going to turn back to the president and say, Mr. President, you failed -- you failed to get this economy going. That was job one. And I understand the economy. I'm going to make it work for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Romney now goes on to New Hampshire.

He is also picking up a big endorsement from Senator John McCain today, who twice won the New Hampshire primary and who beat Mitt Romney in 2008.

As for Rick Santorum, the surge is coming at the right time, but just short. It was built on a traditional Iowa caucus campaign, close to 400 rallies and all 99 counties.

Santorum with one message to Iowa voters before it's off to New Hampshire. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much, Iowa. You, you, by standing up and not compromising -- by standing up and being bold and leading, leading with that burden and responsibility that you have to be first. You have taken the first step of taking back this country.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And after a disappointing showing in last night's caucuses, the Texas Governor Rick Perry said he's got some thinking to do. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But with the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: In the end, Iowa is all about Romney and Santorum. And that, to some degree, Ron Paul to ask ala Franken, well, what about me?

Ron Paul finished third with 21 percent of the vote. He led entrance polls, both as the true conservative candidate and also the choice of more moderate voters.

Paul promised to keep on fighting. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best way to promote a cause, that is win elections. That's the way you promote it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Winning New Hampshire, though, might be tough. Polls have Ron Paul a distant second, 27 points behind Mitt Romney.

Representative Ron Paul joins us now.

Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

How are you feeling this morning?

PAUL: Thank you. I'm doing well. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk a little bit about last night. You, in your speech at the end, you talk about how after thanking all your volunteers that you really felt that freedom is possible -- that's a quote -- and that this was a movement.

Tell me a little bit about that speech.

PAUL: Well, that's what I have been talking about for 35 years and I was impress with the enthusiasm of the young people. Obviously, we did get a large majority of the young people voting last night. But the volunteers are very often the young people, the college kids that come in and they have such enthusiasm.

And they respond very well to this message of freedom and change foreign policy where we don't sacrifice ourselves overseas and waste our resources, and we balance our budget, and we emphasize personal liberty and we emphasize economic liberty, and they're enthusiastic about it.

So, I would say that this message is growing by leaps and bounds and it's going to continue to do so.

O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at some of these polls from last night. These are the Iowa caucus entrance polls when people took a look at those who voted by age, 17 to 29. You killed in that category -- 48 percent of young people were voting for you.

PAUL: Right.

O'BRIEN: When they took a look at people who characterized themselves as independents, again, at the top, 44 percent.

When you got to the candidate who can beat Obama, Mitt Romney came in at 49 percent leading that and you came in at a very, very low 9 percent.

How big of a problem is that number for you, sir?

PAUL: Well, I'm not quite sure how those questions were asked. But if you say that I have, you know, an attraction to young people, that's what you need. That's what Obama had. If you look at independents, what kind of Republican thinks they can win without the independent vote? I mean, you have to get the independent vote in New Hampshire so the primary is wide open and more independents than anybody else.

So, I would say, if you're looking to Obama and I can show you some other polls where we do very, very well, equal to how Romney does, you know, against Obama. So, I think that's down the road a little bit, but I think if you look at it carefully you'll find out the message of liberty is appealing to everybody across the board and to others, because we have a lot of Democrats that come over and come to our rallies, as well as the enthusiasm of the young people.

O'BRIEN: What's your strategy now as you head towards New Hampshire where you are polling significantly lower than Mitt Romney is polling?

PAUL: I think we're in second place and that's a good place to start. So, I think we're going to have some momentum and we're going to continue to do what we're doing. It's -- it's a live free or die state. They're very freedom-oriented. So, that message will spread there and I'm confident we're going to do quite well.

O'BRIEN: Newt Gingrich said about you, he believes that you are a stunningly dangerous candidate. And, of course, as you well know, said that he would not support you. You're laughing.

Do you worry about that? And his ability -- I mean, he came in fourth and he is still moving on in this race. Are you concerned about that at all?

PAUL: You know what -- you know what I laugh about is that nobody disagrees with me that my reputation is, I strictly adhere to the Constitution. I strictly adhere to balance budget and never vote for spending that we can't afford and always lower taxes. I don't want to fight a war that's unconstitutional and I'm the dangerous person.

You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s, during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that and he got deferments and didn't even go.

So, right now, he sends these young kids over there to endure the danger, and the kids coming back and the young people coming back -- and the ones in the military right now, they overwhelmingly support my campaign. We get twice as much support from the active military personnel than all the other candidates put together.

So, Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he -- he is putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a chicken hog and I think he falls into that category.

O'BRIEN: When you look at your position on illegal drugs. I think we have a graphic that we can show folks. Your position is you would eliminate the war on drugs. You would eliminate most federal drug laws. You have spoken about that a lot.

Social conservatives may have a very hard time with that. What is your challenge there? Are you going to be able to maintain that position and win some social conservatives and make up a big part of the Republican Party?

PAUL: Well, yes, that is my position. It's not exactly as you cited, but I came in pretty good in a very, very socially conservative state. That tells you, it's a very popular position.

We have not had a federal war on drugs in our entire history. But just to say it's legalized is not the case. I take a constitutional approach where the states regulate it, sort of like what they do with alcohol.

This war on drugs has been a detrimental personal liberty. It's been a real abuse of liberty. Our prisons are full of people who used drugs who should be treated as patients and they're nonviolent. Some day, we're going to wake up and find out that prohibition -- we are following right now with drugs is no more successful and maybe a lot less successful than the prohibition of alcohol was in the '20s.

So, people are waking up to this. This has not been harmful. I have a very conservative district in Texas. They have known my position and they strongly support my position.

O'BRIEN: There was this tweet that I saw last night because I follow you on Twitter. And it said Ron Paul says, "@JonHuntsman, we found your one Iowa voter. He's in Linn precinct 5, you might want to call him and say thanks."

Did you send that?

PAUL: Well, I didn't quite understand even what you just read. But, obviously, I didn't send it. So, I don't even understand. I'm sorry, I didn't catch the whole message there about Jon Huntsman.

I never -- I haven't talked about Jon Huntsman in a long time. So, I don't know what's going on there.

O'BRIEN: Well, it was sort of a snitty message that was sent out under your name, under your Twitter handle @RonPaul, was sent to another candidate, fellow candidate and kind of a snarky message.

And what you're saying is that you don't tweet for yourself, someone else is sending out messages? Is that right?

PAUL: Yes, I have some (ph) on tweeting, yes.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, when I read that, the first thing I saw, again, because I follow you on Twitter was that didn't sound super presidential to me. And again your Twitter handle supposed to be sending out your messages. Is that something you look at and back away from or say, it's Twitter, who cares?

PAUL: Well, to tell you the truth, I don't understand why this is an important issue or what it means and why Jon Huntsman wasn't even in the campaign. So, I'm not sure the importance of what you're talking about. It just seems to be irrelevant to me. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, I'm going to ask you to meet some of our panelists.

David Frum has joined our panel. And we're back with Ron Brownstein and Alex Castellanos, and also Jamal Simmons. And I'm going to bring them in to ask you some questions, sir.

He says irrelevant and maybe Twitter is a little over the top and irrelevant. But to some degree, it also brings up issue who is speaking for you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALSYT: (INAUDIBLE) obviously raises that issue.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Congressman, Alex Castellanos here.

As I travel the country and talk to Republicans, they say, you know, I agree with Ron Paul on a lot of economic issues, maybe even more than other candidates, but when I hear him talk about foreign policy and social issues, gee, he kind of sounds like a 1960s leftist, peacenik, "if it feels good, do it" Democrat.

If you're kind of two- thirds Democrat and one-third Republican, would you ever consider running as a Democrat?

PAUL: No, not really. I haven't.

But it tells you what the philosophy of liberty does. It appeals to people across the board. And the Constitution appeals to people across the board because it brings people together.

Personal liberties, it's not judgmental. It also allows people to use their liberties as they see fit, as long as long as they don't hurt other people.

But it also allows people to spend their money as they see fit. But how can we -- how can we separate some of these issues, say, foreign policy from economic issues? They're one in the same. The Soviets are brought down because they spread themselves too thinly around the world and they went bankrupt and their system collapsed.

That's what we're doing right now. We're in debt of $4 trillion because of the senseless, non-winnable and unconstitutional, undeclared wars. That is an economic matter.

So, money is being spent overseas and wasted is just taken away from medical care and health care and the problems that we have here at home.

We worry about borders overseas and we forget about our borders at home. So, it is an economic issue. So, you can't say they agree with me and my job, my job is --

CASTELLANOS: I was going to say -- so, running as a Democrat is something you'd rule out. PAUL: Yes. I haven't put that in -- right now I'm doing pretty well.

O'BRIEN: I'll take that as a no.

PAUL: Right now, I'm doing pretty well and I think I'll go to New Hampshire and try to gain a little bit on Mitt Romney. I think that's what I ought to be doing.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK, Congressman, David Frum here. I have a question.

PAUL: I do work with Democrats. There's no doubt about it. Your point is well taken. I do work with Democrats. There's no doubt about it because that is across the board.

But that's our problem. We have been polarized so much so the freedom message, you know, brings people together and you get rid of that polarization and that's why I think that -- especially young people can see this. They're a little bit more principled. They're not locked into some of these stereotypes.

So, I think they understand the message of freedom very well and that's why we get nearly half of all their votes.

FRUM: Congressman, David Frum here. I have a question.

I attended a caucus, a precinct caucus last night with a person who spoke on your behalf. Didn't mention drugs, didn't mention any of those things. He described you as a strong social conservative, someone who supported the marriage of one man and one woman, and also somebody who is strong on defense. In particular, he said you supported both of the use of force in Afghanistan and he said you had supported the use of force to kill Osama bin Laden.

Now, some of your own past statements are a little various at what that talker on your behalf said. So, I wonder if you could clarify. Would you today affirm that you supported both the use of force in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden?

PAUL: Yes. I have. I mean, check my records. Check my vote.

FRUM: Yes to both?

PAUL: Check the vote, yes.

FRUM: Yes to both?

PAUL: Pardon me. I said check the vote.

BROWNSTEIN: Congressman Paul --

O'BRIEN: This is going to be our last question.

BROWNSTEIN: Congressman Paul, Ron Brownstein. Congressman Paul, Ron Brownstein. Rick Santorum has said as recently as this week, that he does not believe there's a right to privacy in the Constitution, and the Supreme Court's famous Griswold case was wrongly decided. That means, in his views, states should be able to ban private sexual behavior and maybe even contraception.

What do you think about that view of Senator Santorum?

PAUL: I think he's very confused. First thing is, most of these problems should be solved out of state. What he's doing is rejecting the ninth and the tenth amendment, because the problem should be solved at the state level. And, so, I would say if poverty rights and individual liberty and the fourth amendment doesn't protect privacy, what does the fourth amendment do?

I mean, that is privacy. You're not supposed to have the government come in and invade our houses. That's what the Patriot Act has done. And this is why the Patriot Act repealed the fourth amendment, and Rick Santorum is completely wrong on that.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Ron Paul joining us this morning. Congressman Paul, thank you. Congratulations on your third place finish as you head into New Hampshire. We appreciate you being with us.

PAUL: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Still to come on STARTING POINT this morning, the DNC chair, you bet, DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is going to join us live. We'll ask her about the Democratic strategy now following Mitt Romney's eight-vote victory in Iowa.

And it's still a few weeks off, but the Florida primary could be shaping up to be a potential king maker. We're going to head to Miami and talk about why when STARTING POINT continues, so stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Inside the diner, we're doing our show from this morning. Welcome back, everybody. The Obama's re-election campaign has been gearing up for a fight with Mitt Romney. They might get it after squeaking out a victory in Iowa last night. Romney took the stage and hammered President Obama. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's on track to put almost as much public debt in place as all the prior presidents combined. This has been a failed presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins me this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. OK. First, sort of analyze the race for me last night. What did you get out of it? What did you take away from it as the DNC chair? REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, really, if you look at this, win is a win. A loss? It's a loss when you're Mitt Romney and you spent the most and only beat the guy who spent the least in the state by eight votes and spent six years and millions of dollars with the repeat and got fewer votes than you got four years ago.

So, Mitt Romney has come out limping from Iowa into New Hampshire, and he did it in a way that now he's embraced extremism, embraced the Tea Party, and is really going to have a hard time going through the rest of the race when compared to President Obama, who is a man of conviction, who's begun to keep this economy turned around, who's been fighting for the middle class, and so --

O'BRIEN: So, in your mind, you think Mitt Romney has to move further to the right?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think Mitt Romney has done a good job moving very far to the right and bracing extremism and not standing for anything and flip-flopping and having very little conviction.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to cut you off, you know, when you get to the talking points --

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, it's not talking points, it's reality.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: How does the campaign look at what Rick Santorum was able to pull off last night?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it's a pretty stunning victory. I mean, it also shows, though, that this is a field that there is not a lot of enthusiasm for. There has been anybody but Romney cadre for a long time. They may coalesce around Rick Santorum, but I think -- what we did last night is, we had 25,000 people show up on sites (ph) in Iowa.

7,500 people signed up to volunteer with the campaign, and we're coming out of Iowa with a strong grassroots operation. We used the organizing opportunity last night to move forward and put together a grassroots campaign.

O'BRIEN: You're also coming out of Iowa with a low approval rating for the president. You look at the numbers, and I think we have it on a graphic for you. Forty-nine percent approve, disapproval is 48 percent. That's low.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, every poll nationally that's been done shows head-to-head that the president beats any of the Republicans running, and that's because he stood up for the middle class. He's got --

O'BRIEN: That's my question. My question is, so, with a low approval number for the president, what is being done?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Even with a relatively low approval rating, he still beats any of the Republicans in the field head-to-head because Iowans, Americans understand that the president has been fighting for the middle class, giving 95 percent of Americans a tax break, made sure that we went from bleeding 750,000 jobs a month when he took office to now having 22 straight months of job growth in the private sector.

They want a president that is going to fight for working families, not one who are going to fight to help the wealthiest and most fortunate Americans.

O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney's strength, of course, and we saw this when you talked to people last night at the caucuses. They would say, one, we think he can beat President Obama. Number two, he has the experience as a businessman to really be able to help fix the economy.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: His experience as a businessperson is one of dismantling businesses, laying people off, forcing companies into bankruptcy. A corporate buyout specialist is not someone that should be holding up his record of job creation. Mitt Romney is focused on making sure that the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans have the wind at their backs.

And when it comes to middle class policies, there's not a single thing that he's laid out in his economic plan that would help the middle class be lifted up and give them an opportunity for the American dream.

O'BRIEN: But someone who is trying to figure out the American dream would say, right now, President Obama is my president. And I have a very tenuous hold on the American dream. So, you can point to Mitt Romney and here's what he did when he was running (INAUDIBLE), but you can say, right now, with Obama as my president, the middle class dream seems to be crumbling, as well.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Let's point to where Mitt Romney was when he was governor of Massachusetts. They were 47 out of 50 in job creation. Mitt Romney does not have a record to write home about when it comes to job creation. And, Americans look at where they were four years ago, three years ago, where the economy was the precipice of economic disaster, and now, three years later, we've had 22 straight months of job growth in the private sector.

O'BRIEN: But most people doesn't feel good.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, it's starting to get turned around. We have a long way to go. President Obama has acknowledged that, but he's been in there swinging to make things better, and the Republican field would take us back to the failed policy for the past.

O'BRIEN: We really have a few seconds left.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Sure.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask you about Robert Reich is predicting that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the vice presidential nominee along with President Obama.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That is inaccurate prediction.

O'BRIEN: Categorically untrue?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Joe Biden and President Obama will be the ticket through the November 6th of this year.

O'BRIEN: All right. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Congratulations on your show.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Thanks for being part of it this morning.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

We're going to have much more as our panelists (ph) back in just a minute. We're looking forward to talking about New Hampshire, Rick Santorum trying to prove he's not an Iowa wonder only. And Mitt Romney is sitting very pretty in the polls despite his very narrow lead. We're going to talk about all that straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Still ahead, we're looking forward. The focus is on Florida is what I'm trying to say. The race there could be the first true snapshot of how the nation feels and that brings us to our reveal this morning. Should these early states matter so much? Would there be a President Obama, in fact, if Iowa didn't go first? We're going to take a look at that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's where we are this morning, the Waveland Cafe. Welcome to our new show, STARTING POINT. We are live in Des Moines, Iowa. We appreciate the hospitality from the folks at Waveland.

Stunning Iowa vote to talk about in the next half hour. Mitt Romney wins Iowa and now out to a big lead in New Hampshire, reportedly scooping up pricy ad time in Florida, which is where Newt Gingrich is going to be a very big factor. We'll talk about all of that this morning.

And we're live looking to the next two critical battlegrounds, New Hampshire and South Carolina, of course. How could the polls change as the candidates start to bow out is what we're expecting. Voters here in Iowa have kicked off the Republican presidential race, producing the GOP's first round of winners and losers.

Up next, New Hampshire, which essentially is a home state for Romney, and a CNN flash poll shows him way, way ahead in South Carolina, which is another state dominated by evangelicals and could easily go to Santorum or Gingrich, Bachmann if she stays in the race with a socially conservative message. That takes her into Florida or one that is dominated by evangelicals. And, really, could be the first true test of the nation's pulse.

This morning we're joined by Republican Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen live for us in Miami, and Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. He's live in Washington this morning. Nice to see you both.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN OF THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's begin with you Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. What do people in Florida take away from what has happened?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, (R) FLORIDA: I think Florida is more representative of the United States. Iowa is a great state, but how well does it represent the demographics of our country? Not very well. Neither does New Hampshire. South Carolina comes a little bit closer, but Florida is a great microcosm for our great country, and I think that we're going to see a strong Mitt Romney presence here. We're going to come out in record numbers. Obviously, I'm for Governor Romney. I think he has the right message to get our economy going.

And I know that the main stream media always says, oh, Florida, Hispanics and immigration, like it goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But I'm characterized as a Hispanic voter, I was born in Cuba. And I have gotten many of these Romney mailers and they are talking about who can beat President Obama. And it is all about the economy and all about repealing Obamacare and cutting federal spending. Those are the issues that really resonate with Hispanic voters. It is not just immigration, which is what the main stream media and the DNC my good friend Debbie always tries to sell people.

Mitt Romney is not an extremist. She said the Romney-Rubio connection would be the most extremist in American history. It's so hyperbole and so overblown. Mitt Romney is the guy who can beat President Obama.

O'BRIEN: OK, so I get it, Mitt Romney. You support Mitt Romney. When you look at the big issues in Florida, Reince Priebus, the economy, as we heard, is number one. Certainly the deficit is another one, top one. Florida is really struggling at this time. What is going to happen there?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think it is the same thing that the entire country is watching, and that's what we're highlighting at the Republican National Committee. Soledad, the nice thing about the election for us is that when the facts are on your side it makes things a whole lot easier. And the facts are that this president has specifically made many promises to the American people that he hasn't even come close to meeting.

Number one, he said he cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. What did he do? He introduced the biggest structural deficit in the history in the world. He said he'd get the debt under control. He introduced more debt than every single president before him combined. He said he'd got health care costs down and health care costs have actually gone up.

O'BRIEN: But the facts also are that after a tough battle in Iowa you have three people who move forward. You see a lot of split and you really see a divide that I would say is between people who are economically conservative and people who are socially conservative and isn't that ultimately going to potentially tear apart. Let me finish my question. Isn't that potentially going to tear apart the GOP? Why not?

PRIEBUS: Soledad, no bad news here at all. We're outpacing the Democrats in Iowa two to one in voter registration. We had the biggest turnout in Iowa caucus since we have records, since 1980. I think probably of all time, but I don't want to go that far. But, certainly, the most in modern times, over 123,000 at the caucuses. It's all good news.

I mean, the entire country is talking about who is going to save this country from a president who is intent on continuing policies that are clearly driving us into bankruptcy. So, we're feeling great at the RNC. We have more cash in the bank than the Democrats. People are coming to our side and it's our candidates that everyone is talking about, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Ros-Lehtman, I can feel you rolling your eyes already as I ask this question, but I have to because it is Florida. And Florida, the 22 percent Latino population, it's grown, 57 percent over the last decade. And it is Mitt Romney who says, I will veto the DREAM Act. And he has moved very strongly, come up - is this potentially going to be a problem for him, not only in the state of Florida, but in any state that has a large Latino population given that Latinos, obviously, care about the economy, too. They care about bringing education, all those things and, also, polls show very clearly care about immigration. It is important.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I agree. Immigration is an important topic. I disagree with Governor Romney with his position on the DREAM act. However, I don't think that immigration is the overriding concern of Floridians or especially Hispanics who live in Florida. They are concerned about this terrible, stagnant, Obama economy where we had no job growth. Hispanic families are like every family. They worry about the future for their children. Do we have a good education system? Do we have jobs that are waiting for them once they graduate from college or graduate from high school?

And I think Romney's pro-growth, pro-small business, less taxes message resonates with the Hispanic voter. It is not, really, the truth that Hispanics only care about immigration and Romney victory on January 31st will prove that this is not --

O'BRIEN: I didn't say that.

PRIEBUS: Well, no, I'm not saying that you did. I apologize for that. But we will find out when Mitt Romney comes out on top that Hispanic voters in the GOP, especially, care so much about the economy and they want to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president. We made disagree, Mitt Romney and I, on a host of issues, but for me, defeating President Obama, making sure he's a one-term president and getting the economy back on track with a Mitt Romney pro-small business growth plan, that's what I think is the overriding factor for many of the Latino voters who will go out in the GOP primary January 31.

And I'm so glad that Florida moved up our election to this time, even though we may get penalized, but it was the right thing to do. We were down in the pack and I get mad at --

O'BRIEN: Everybody will be talking about Florida come January 31st. Appreciate your time this morning. I want to bring back the panel. Ron Brownstein is with us, Jamal Simmons is with us. We also have added Paul Begala -- it has been a long night. I have -- you were out later than me, and David, as well. I'm losing it. We have to end the show soon.

Let's talk about what they talk about. I get the congresswoman's point. People think Latinos and all of a sudden it's immigration, immigration. As a Cuban-American, I totally get that. When you poll Latinos, immigration is higher than people who are non-Latino.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here's the thing. If you look at president Obama's approval rating among Hispanics it is down significantly from the 67 percent of the vote he won among them in 2008. That is the opportunity that congresswoman is talking about. We're talking about jobs, the collapse of housing values and this overall economy has hit African-American and Hispanic communities especially hard.

When you do the early matchups of him against the Republicans, like Mitt Romney, his vote share goes back up toward where he was in 2008.

O'BRIEN: So it's not going over to.

BROWNSTEIN: Because immigration may not be the most important issue for Latino voters, but it is a threshold issue. If Republicans discuss it in the way that many have in the primary, it goes beyond the specifics and kind of threatens to suggest a lack of respect for the community.

DAVID FRUM, FROMFORUM.COM: Let's remember economically that immigration creates winners and losers. The biggest group of losers are the previous cohorts. When you look at who gains and who loses. The Latinos who have most recently arrived are the people who are most threatened economically by further waves of immigration.

O'BRIEN: That's true. But a lot of the polling also points out. I think when you just chat with people, that sense of hostility. You can have people who know the immigration fight. They have generations of relatives who have been in --

FRUM: It depends on how you talk about it. It is, I think, fool's gold to suggest that there is gain from supporting immigration, but there is great danger in opposing it in the wrong way. But immigration does have very large economic effects and Latinos feel it most. O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney comes out against the DREAM act and people who have no dog in the fight about immigration often will feel emotionally about the DREAM act. When he does it, is he going to be pulled more to the right and have to do more of that because of Rick Santorum's good showing last night?

FRUM: If you're going to have a middle class economic agenda that you can't do it without regard to the impact of immigration on middle class wages. And 40 million since 1970s, it has to be a big factor in depressing wages in the middle of the economy.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What's driving Mitt Romney's position on immigration is not a thoughtful analysis in the economy. It was raw, sheer demagoguery. He drove Rick Perry down and presumably out of the race and Newt Gingrich way down by demagoguing the immigration. This is the guy who used to have a liberal position on immigration and now here in Iowa, where, you know, there aren't lots of immigrants, he ran ads, I saw them, hammering Newt Gingrich saying Newt Gingrich's position is amnesty. It's not. Sorry to defend Newt Gingrich. I swore a blood oath never to do that. But that was an unfair attack.

And he attacked Rick Perry, one of the most conservative governors of America, for committing the apostasy of wanting to educate the children of undocumented workers. This is going to hurt him over time. It is the largest voting bloc in America -- it is growing, rather. And the Republicans under Mitt Romney, at least, are killing themselves with that.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: Take a middle class economic approach, it could help the Republicans and not hurt.

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: But here's the problem. As Ron said, this is a threshold issue and every election is about trust. Do I trust this person to look out for me in the room when nobody else is watching? And that's the reason why Latinos have a hard time here. No one is complaining about Canadians streaming across the border taking jobs. We have to be focused.

O'BRIEN: Those Canadians.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We have a clip I want to show you. This is an interview that I did with Ron Paul a little bit earlier and we asked him a question. It was like 98th question in the list of questions about this Twitter, this tweet that he sent out. Let's play a little chunk of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Ron Paul says @jonhuntsman, "We found your one Iowa voter. He's in precinct five. You might want to call him and say thanks. Did you send that?" RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't understand what you just read, but I didn't send it. I don't even understand. I'm sorry I didn't catch the whole message there about Jon Huntsman. I haven't talked about Jon Huntsman in a long time. I don't know what's going on there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, he said after that he said, well, that's irrelevant. You know what was interesting to me, and tell me if you guys think this has a potential problem for him, right, because to me it sort of flash back to the newsletter thing. He disavowed it and said he did not write and, also, decades didn't really step back from it. Am I reading it wrong?

BROWNSTEIN: It raises the same issue. With the newsletters, the question is not only read them in advance and not read them after they came out after his own name.

O'BRIEN: That is a verified twitter account, by the way.

FRUM: It's always with Ron Paul a truth telling question. When he says that doesn't remember, is that true? I was at a precinct where somebody said he supported the killing of Osama bin Laden. And I asked him, would you reaffirm that, because at the time he criticized the killing of Osama bin Laden. On TV he said, yes, I did. That was not true and that is a big problem. This man with his image of integrity actually says a lot of things that are very much at variance from the truth.

SIMMONS: Let me ask another question, does he know what Twitter is?

O'BRIEN: Honestly, he gave the same answer my mother would have given. I'm not being sarcastic. He seemed very baffled and it's a verified account, which means it is supposed to be him tweeting.

SIMMONS: If you want to lead the country, are you going to be responsible for the people who work for you and under your name.

O'BRIEN: Interesting question.

All right, panel, stick around. Ahead on STARTING POINT, we take a look ahead at our reveal. The burning question -- why do Iowa and New Hampshire get to go first anyway? STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We have been discussing today the importance of the early caucus state and the fight among them for which goes first to pick the president. An opinion piece in the Orlando Sentinel suggests a fairer process could be rotating the states so that Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida each get a chance to go first. To sort of like how the bowls rotate the college football championships. So how important is the order of states in a presidential campaign? As an example, let's take a look at the 2008 race for the President and the marathon fight that took place between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. What if instead of the current rotation in 2008, it was Florida's turn to lead, then followed by New Hampshire, then Iowa and then South Carolina?

Instead of Senator Obama stunning the party establishment by winning in Iowa, Senator Clinton would have launched the race with a Florida win, followed hypothetically of course by a winning New Hampshire.

And you could argue that her momentum would have then easily led to an Iowa win and then a South Carolina victory. So, instead maybe of having the first African-American in office, perhaps we would have had the first woman in office.

On the other third hand, and I know I'm talking about my mom a lot today, but she would have said there is no would have, could have, should have window at the race track. So maybe all that crunching and guessing does not matter at all.

Still ahead this morning we're talking Mitt Romney and Ron Paul as STARTING POINT continues. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's the Waveland Cafe making the eggs. This is where it's all happening this morning for STARTING POINT, our new show.

Earlier this morning I spoke to Ron Paul and also Mitt Romney and I got a pulse reaction to Newt Gingrich calling his foreign policy "stunningly dangerous" for the United States. Also, Romney's take on his failure to get the conservative vote in Iowa last night. Here's what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My reputation is, I strictly adhere to the Constitution. I strictly adhere to balanced budget and never vote for spending that we can't afford. Always lower taxes. I don't ever want to ever fight a war that's unconstitutional and I'm the dangerous person.

You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He -- he chickened out on that and he got deferments and didn't even go. So, right now he sends these young kids over there to endure the danger and the kids coming back and the young people comes back and the ones in the military right now, they overwhelmingly support my campaign.

We get twice as much support from the active military personnel than all the other candidates put together. So, Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he, he is putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a chicken huff and I think he falls into that category. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I continue to believe the right place to focus is on President Obama. Of course, people are going to ask us about the differences on our positions on issues and backgrounds and so forth but -- but really, if we talk about what the American people want to hear is how we're going to be different than President Obama when it comes to getting the economy going, preserving America's security abroad and making sure we rein in the scale of the federal government.

So those will be the issues, I think, that really are the focus of the campaign over the next several months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And ahead this morning, STARTING POINT takes a look at the "End Point". Right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Getting to some breaking news now. We're hearing from the Michele Bachmann campaign that Ms. Bachmann is going to be holding a press conference in West Des Moines, Iowa at 11:00 this morning, local time. She had told us yesterday when she was on the show that she was planning to hop on a coach flight and get right to South Carolina to continue her campaign.

But last night the results very disappointing for her. She got 5 percent of the vote, actually about the same number of people voted for her as voted for her in the straw poll where she had this amazing victory.

There are some expectations at that press conference at 11:00 will be to say that she is considering dropping out of the race after her huge loss, but, of course, we're going to carry that for you live when it happens to see what Michele Bachmann is saying at 11:00 at her press conference in West Des Moines.

We have reached the "End Point" of THE STARTING POINT. The cleverness. This is killing you all, isn't it? We are just -- it's all about the quickness. What is the most important thing to take away from today as we think about not just New Hampshire, but also South Carolina and maybe even Florida, too.

Why don't you start?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Besides having a great three days here in Iowa with you.

O'BRIEN: Oh, you flatterer.

BROWNSTEIN: Mitt Romney got exactly what he wanted out of Iowa in one sense. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry disabled. Rick Santorum elevated as his chief challenger. But if Santorum can steer this race in an upscale-downscale, one-track direction there will be moments in the next few weeks when Mitt Romney remembers the old adage, beware of what you wish for.

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, first of all, Ron Paul may or may not know what Twitter is -- we all heard that this morning.

O'BRIEN: I am going to say not.

SIMMONS: But the second thing is, you know, Romney should actually check, get a food taster while he's in New Hampshire whenever Newt Gingrich is around. Newt Gingrich is so dead set to come back at Mitt Romney for some of the negative mail, negative ads that he ran against him. He charged him with abortion and ethics and all sorts of things while he was here on the ground.

I think that they're going to be in a death match up in the Granite State.

O'BRIEN: Paul Begala, whose name I now recall. I've only interviewed you 638 times over the last 25 years --

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: He's cabinet department.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: When you look at the stack of paperwork and statistics and polls that we have from last night, what's your take away? What is the poll that is the poll?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The number that matters most is 30,015 which is the precise number of votes that Mitt Romney got. Four years ago, he got 30,021. So he spent at least $4 million, he and the PAC that is aligned with him on TV ads. We don't know how much he had on the ground. It cost $4 million to lose 6 votes.

I could have lost him 6 votes for $2 million. This is a terrible return on investment. If there is a movie about the Romney campaign the title would be "They're Just Not that Into You". There's something about him that three-fourths of Republicans just can't warm up to.

O'BRIEN: The last 30 seconds goes to you, David Frum.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I disagree with that. He may not have gotten as many votes, he got enough. They say there are three tickets out of Iowa but of the people who hold those three tickets, only one has a landing permit in the White House. Rick Santorum will not be president; Ron Paul will not -- couldn't be mayor; Romney is a potential president. He's the only survivor of Iowa among the potential presidents. He's a huge winner.

O'BRIEN: Well, that is it for STARTING POINT this morning. STARTING POINT has had a little bit of a home away from home right here at the Waveland Cafe and we couldn't have done it without our friend Dave Stone. Have a shot of Dave. Dave is the proprietor there and he has been incredible. Yes, really, not only plying us with coffee and giving us hash browns, which we truly appreciate but also incredible hospitality because you can't really tell from the shots. We're kind of camped out right in his front door, which has been a little bit difficult for his patrons to come in and out.

But he has been an absolute gem as well as the folks here, really wonderful. We truly, truly appreciate him and appreciate the fact that he let us start STARTING POINT right here at the Waveland Cafe. We thank him.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips begins right now. We'll see you tomorrow guys.