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New Hampshire Prepares to Vote; The Evangelical Factor

Aired January 9, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with the very latest on an old-fashioned New Hampshire slugfest, as the first campaign of 2012 is about to get under way jut two hours from now, the first ballot being cast, as always, at the stroke of midnight in the tiny town of Dixville Notch.

Now, the run-up to that moment has been unlike anything we have seen, especially from Republicans. Whether barnstorming New Hampshire or campaigning in the state that's next, South Carolina, they throw mild jabs at one another and some haymakers at Mitt Romney.

The latest polling from Suffolk University still shows him the overwhelming favorite, but his lead over Ron Paul is slipping and the other candidates have been going at him with all they have got, fairly or not. And "Keeping Them Honest," they have been using his own words and his own record against him, especially on jobs.


JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.


COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest," Governor Huntsman stretched that one a little out of context. Here's Governor Romney's original remark.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say that if -- I'm going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.


COOPER: That sentence, whether you think it's spot-on or tone- deaf, came at the end of a long argument against a current health care reform law and people having the ability to fire insurance providers, not a long argument about the virtues of eliminating jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I was talking about insurance companies. We would like to get rid of insurance companies that don't give us the service we need.


COOPER: Opponents are also pouncing on this.


ROMNEY: I know what it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.

And I care very deeply about the American people.


COOPER: That drew this from Rick Perry on the trail in South Carolina.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slip, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out, because his company, Bain Capital, and all the jobs that they killed. I'm sure he was worried he would run out of pink slips.


COOPER: That remark was tame compared to this from the super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich.


ROMNEY: Everything corporation earns ultimately goes to people. So where do you think it goes?



ROMNEY: Whose pockets? Whose pockets?

NARRATOR: The story of greed, playing the system for a quick buck, a group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney. More ruthless than Wall Street. For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.


COOPER: That's a 30 second portion of a three-minute trailer to a 28-minute documentary the super PAC is running. We will have more on that and Speaker Gingrich's attack strategy shortly. First, though, Mitt Romney keeps making claims about his job record and they seem as odds with what his own campaign spokesperson has been saying about his jobs record. Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," here's what Governor Romney said last Tuesday.


ROMNEY: I'm very happy in my former life we helped create over 100,000 new jobs. By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country. If the president wants to talk about jobs, and I hope he does, we will be comparing my record with his record, and he comes up very, very short.


COOPER: That 100,000 number, it got a lot of attention, including from the "Washington Post" fact-checker, a Romney spokesman telling him that it came from three people, Domino's Pizza, Staples and the Sports Authority that Romney helped start while at Bain Capital.

However, it does not include job loss, layoffs at other Bain companies. In addition, as we reported on Friday, those numbers include a dozen years worth of jobs growth after Romney left Bain. But now listen to Governor Romney just yesterday.


ROMNEY: In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.


COOPER: Well, he's saying the numbers now take layoffs into account, that's the net-net he's talking about. Remember, that's different from what his spokesman just said. Notice Governor Romney says "Those businesses have now added 100,000 jobs."

That is technically accurate, but it glides over the fact neither he nor Bain may have had much to do with many of those jobs because as we and many others had pointed out, he had long since left the firm.

That said, even narrowing it down to the time he was at Bain, it's hard to get a clear picture of how good or bad Mitt Romney's record was on jobs and that's because Bain doesn't release figures and a lot of the companies it bought or invested in were private or still are private.

Now, "The Wall Street Journal" did some digging for today's paper. It looked at 77 businesses Bain invested in while Mitt Romney led the firm -- 22 percent of those companies either filed for bankruptcy or closed eight years after the Bain investment. For another 8 percent, all the money that Bain invested was lost. "The Journal" also found that those 77 deals netted Bain investors $2.5 billion. They made Mitt Romney very, very wealthy, up to a quarter billion dollars wealthy.

Let's bring in the panel now, senior political analyst David Gergen, Saint Louis Tea Party organizer and editor Dana Loesch, and GOP strategist and former Gingrich spokesman Rich Galen.

David, a lot of they Republican candidates seem to be hitting kind of very populist themes very hard. Some of those ads you think could be run by Democrats. Are you surprised to hear the Republicans sounding kind of like Democrats in their attacks on Romney like this?


There's a desperation to some of these. And more than that, there's an hypocrisy. We have been hearing during these 15 debates every one of these candidates stand up and defend the free market. Well, Bain Capital is a success within the free market system. For them to go after it in this way, I think that does -- it certainly smells of hypocrisy.

The harder questions are, when you look at Bain itself, how did it operate during the Romney years? I don't know all the facts, Anderson. I can tell just you this. Within Boston where I live now and Bain Capital is located, Bain has a very good reputation. They are not seen as corporate raiders. They're seen as responsible in the way they buy out things.

I have had one personal experience in a corporate setting where they came in and bought the company. We were very, very proud, in terms of the company and having Bain as partner. And Domino's Pizza, I can tell you from another conversation today with someone who was very involved in that, Bain came in, they did it -- very responsible. Domino's had that niche in the market of delivering pizzas, they almost went down, and Bain came in, turned it around and they have done well.

Are there other examples? Yes. Teddy Kennedy pointed out other examples that are much more questionable. He ran against him back for the Senate. But, overall, I must tell you within the business community, Bain has a general reputation in Boston as very positive.

COOPER: Rich, is it a sign of desperation for Newt Gingrich, your old boss? They're talking about corporate raiders and with this super PAC ad.

RICH GALEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they said they would spend $3.5 million in South Carolina. I don't think you can do that without actually buying a TV station. I'm not sure think there's enough time available in a week to spend $3.5 million in those markets.

But one of the things about what Gingrich is doing is that the other night, I forget which debate, but he went after the president for suggesting that the president wants to have a French socialist/European, I forget the litany, kind of economy. In fact, by attacking what Romney did at Bain or what all the people at Bain did, he is in effect suggesting that we ought to go to a French system.

And in the French economic system, every employee in every company is, in effect, a tenured professor. It's almost impossible to get rid of somebody after they have worked for a very short period of time. I think this is not going to have a long-term effect. It's the kind of thing you want to get into in January and February. It's good for the Romney campaign to actually learn how to deal with it and pivot off of it because they will certainly hear it again in the fall.

COOPER: To that point, Dana, we heard Democratic activists or operatives saying that the president's super PAC could rerun the Gingrich super PAC anti-Romney film as their own basically without a single edit. Do you think this is helping kind of Romney prepare for that eventual attack or is it really hurting him?

DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: I think it's helping him prepare overall, because I think the execution was bungled from this attack from the get-go with messaging. It won't really have an effect on him overall.

There are two things happening simultaneously here. Conversations are split. They upset because they see some unethical behavior is what they say with the corporate raiding in Bain Capital. There's a dirty part of capitalism but it's still capitalism. You either like it or you don't.

The other part -- and I spoke with Rick Tyler today, who is a former Gingrich aide and he is associated with the super PAC that supports Gingrich who bought the rights to this film. When I spoke with him, one of the things that he didn't mention that I actually had to bring up was the fact that Bain Capital received a $44 million taxpayer bailout for GTS, the steel mill that is in Kansas City.

If people want to criticize that, that's definitely worth critique. That's anti-conservative. But if you're going to criticize tenets of capitalism, which Newt Gingrich himself has enjoyed relationships with corporate raiders, I believe he was on the advisory board of a certain company and he also received campaign donations back in the '90s as well, if you're going to criticize capitalism, that seems to be detrimental and it is not going to have an effect on the intended target.

COOPER: It's certainly an un-conservative position.

David, does Romney face, still face this obstacle of coming across as somebody who is relatable?

GERGEN: I think he faces a very big obstacle there, Anderson. And he's made statements which I think will come back to haunt him. Corporations are people. Today, he said, I like firing people.

When you look at the context, it seems to be a fairly harmless although sort of somewhat mindless comment. But the way he talks, trying the make a $10,000 bet in middle of a debate, all of that sort of puts him into an elite class, and sort of a class that is seen as unsympathetic, that I think does get in his way.

I was at New Hampshire last night and I heard him at a big rally with Chris Christie. He has got some continuing problems with emotional connections with people, and that's not to say he will be a bad candidate, I just think he's got a lot of work to do.

COOPER: We have lot to cover tonight. We have to move along.

Dana Loesch, thank you, Rich Galen as well.

David Gergen, stick around. We will talk to you a little bit later.

Up next: more on why Newt Gingrich is changing tactics, going on the attack. Hear what the candidate has to say about that and that aggressive 30-minute spot slamming Mitt Romney.

Also tonight, how Romney's and Jon Huntsman's Mormon faith is playing in South Carolina. It cost Romney a lot of votes in 2008, but this time around, will it matter as much? We went to a mega-church to find out. Answer on that ahead.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Google+, you can add us to your circles, or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will tweeting some tonight. I have already begun.



COOPER: In "Raw Politics" tonight: new polling that shows just how sharply a race can turn in just a couple of weeks.

The latest Quinnipiac survey down in Florida showing 36 percent support for Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is 12 points back. That is a pretty much stunning turnaround. You may remember just a month ago in CNN's own polling, Speaker Gingrich was ahead in Florida by 23 points, different polls, but not different enough to account for a 35-point swing.

Understandably as we mentioned at the stop, the speaker seems to be reassessing his campaign.

More now on his "take no prisoners" plan to take on Mitt Romney in that half-hour attack ad from the super PAC that supports him.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spend time with Newt Gingrich, and you get the feeling it's now or never.

QUESTION: Speaker, why should New Hampshire voters vote for you tomorrow?

TUCHMAN (on camera): What do you need to have happen in New Hampshire?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's already happening. Everywhere we go, we have big crowds. Everywhere we go, people are very, very positive and I think we will have a pretty good night tomorrow night.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): People who are very, very positive. But does that includes Newt Gingrich himself?

GINGRICH: We proved in Iowa, you can't survive just by being positive.

TUCHMAN: Gingrich is now in attack mode, despite early promises to stay away from negative campaigning.

GINGRICH: I was having a great time just being totally positive and talking about big ideas and big solutions. I would be glad to go back to that. But I don't believe in unilateral disarmament.

NARRATOR: Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America.

TUCHMAN: So now a big weapon is being loaded. A super PAC called Winning Our Future which supports Newt Gingrich is about to start airing an approximately 30-minute advocacy film ahead of the South Carolina primary blasting Romney.

NARRATOR: A story of greed, playing the system for a quick buck, a group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney, more ruthless than Wall Street.

TUCHMAN: Presidential candidates are not allowed to coordinate the actions of such super PACs. But when Newt Gingrich was asked on CBS News about "your super PAC," Gingrich declared:

GINGRICH: I think there's a huge gap between where Mitt Romney is and where I am and I think that's what we hope to communicate clearly in South Carolina.

TUCHMAN: Was Gingrich acknowledging that he was directly involved in the actions of the super PAC, which would violate the law?

(on camera): Mr. Speaker, are you giving any direction or advice to Winning Our Future?



TUCHMAN: Are you affiliated with them at all?

GINGRICH: I am not affiliated with them at all. I don't talk with them at all. I have not actually seen the film. TUCHMAN: As speaker of the House, Speaker Gingrich was second in line for presidential succession. To get closer than that, he has to start doing much better than his fourth-place finish in Iowa.

(voice-over): In what has become a battle to be the one and only Republican alternative to Mitt Romney, on Monday afternoon, he announced an endorsement.

GINGRICH: About 20 minutes ago, I got a very nice phone call from Todd Palin, Sarah's husband, and he indicated that he was endorsing me today and was going to speak out on behalf of my candidacy.

TUCHMAN: Newt Gingrich says he's feeling momentum.

GINGRICH: I think this is still a very wide-open primary.

TUCHMAN: A primary which now features a much more aggressive Newt Gingrich.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper now on momentum. David Gergen is back, along with chief political analyst Gloria Borger and David Webb. He's the founder of TeaParty365 and hosts "The David Webb Show" on SiriusXM Patriot.

Thanks for being with us.

Gloria, who do you think voters want to see at this point, which Newt Gingrich, kind of the aggressive Newt Gingrich or the kinder, gentler, don't speak badly about the candidates Newt Gingrich?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they probably want to see a little bit of each, because what Republicans want is somebody who can take it to Barack Obama and they also want somebody who can win.

And what happened to Newt Gingrich in Iowa was that he got bombarded. And as he said in the piece Gary did, he couldn't win. I think there has to be a bit of nuance to a campaign and that is what we don't have from Newt Gingrich because he went out of his way to say I'm going to be the positive person and then now he's turning negative.

It's a bit of re-branding that takes a bit of adjustment. But in fact, voters want somebody who can fight for himself.

COOPER: David Webb, tomorrow night, no one is really asking if Mitt Romney will win New Hampshire. That's considered to be guaranteed. But the question is how much does he have to win by in order to blunt any momentum by other candidates heading to South Carolina? What do you think? DAVID WEBB, FOUNDER, TEAPARTY365: Well, I think Mitt Romney has to pull out a win somewhere around 37 percent. It would be nice to see him get to 40 from the campaign's point of view. That would give him a solid bounce going into South Carolina, where he's polling very well within the state, especially on the economic issues.

But the real big story in New Hampshire is going to be second and third. How will that play out with Huntsman picking up some steam, he's polling in the double digits, around 13 percent. And does Ron Paul drop off, allowing Newt Gingrich to rise a little bit?

New Hampshire, as you know, Anderson, likes to violate the polls, because we have the U.V.s, the unaffiliated voters, who can choose on Election Day to register and vote as a Republican or choose to stay as a U. That will play heavily and they have a high percentage in this state. That will also play into it.

COOPER: David Gergen, it would be obviously refreshing for the Mitt Romney campaign to be above 25 percent in any kind of race because they haven't been able to break that in polls or anything.

GERGEN: Anderson, New Hampshire is capable and like surprises. And there are over 35 percent who are undecided as of this weekend.

These last-minute events could affect things. but generally speaking, Mitt Romney has been above 40 and now is in the mid-30s in some of the polls. I think if he comes in less than 30, he gets hurt in the media interpretations. He's got to come in the mid-30s, and I think then he will have what would be called a major win.

If he gets over 40, then I think that will be regarded as crushing by the media. But I think under 30, in terms of the expectation game, he's got to beat that, or, otherwise, even if he pulls out a victory, the media will revive this idea that he really has a ceiling, even where he's a sort of hometown favorite.

COOPER: Gloria, talking about these independent voters or undecided voters in New Hampshire, how big a factor are they do you think tomorrow night?



BORGER: The most important, the most unpredictable, four out of 10 of them, four out of 10 of people who go to the polls are going to be these independent voters.

And it's going to be very important for Mitt Romney, because he does very well with them. The big fear of the Romney campaign, and I heard this when I was at an event with Romney in Derry over the weekend, is they're afraid some of their supporters think, oh, he's got such a big lead, we don't need to go out and vote and that would reduce their lead.

What Romney said to all the people at this event was, you know, please show up at the polls. We need you, because he understands what David Webb was saying, which is that he needs to win by a very convincing margin, no matter who places number two.

COOPER: David Webb, I'm curious. As a Tea Party supporter, how do you view all these attacks against Romney for his time at Bain Capital, particularly this thing Gingrich has put out or his super PAC has put out?

WEBB: Well, Anderson, it's exactly what it is, an attack. It has very little merit when you look at the facts of Bain Capital. Overall, Bain Capital was 70 percent success stories -- success percentage and on average, venture capitalism is about 60 percent. They're going to go after him. They're going to go after him in apples and oranges comparison to President Obama and Solyndra.

But you have got to look at the difference. Bain Capital was a private company, is a private company and these are private investors taking risks, making decisions to roll up companies, make decisions to push them forward.

COOPER: But does it disappoint you to hear Republican candidates making these charges which are, you know, not really necessarily conservative positions?

WEBB: I'm not that surprised.

Let's look at the fact this is hardball politics. In politics, you're going to get your nose bloodied. You're going to get attacks that will come from either side. So I'm not surprised. It doesn't disappoint me. I don't like it, but negative does work. We saw in the case of Newt Gingrich's attack on Romney that he managed to take Romney down about four points, but at the same time, the collateral damage was that Newt lost a few points.


BORGER: Anderson, what we're seeing happen is kind of interesting to me is, in the Republican Party, you seem to be having a class warfare argument among Republicans.

You have Rick Santorum saying essentially that Mitt Romney isn't a guy who can feel the pain of the middle class. That's what this fire people, you know, fight is about, you know, I like to fire people, which as David points out was taken out of context, on Mitt Romney, corporations are people and the rest of it.

It's not good for the Republican Party to be having this argument internally about who is best to represent the middle class when the nominee could well end up to be Mitt Romney, and you're just handing these lines to Barack Obama.

COOPER: David Webb, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, thank you very much. Going to be fascinating stuff.

Obviously, one other quick item. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is stepping down. He's the older man on the right. He's going to be succeeded by White House Budget Director Jack Lew. Daley, you will recall, replaced Rahm Emanuel who went back to Chicago to succeed Daley's brother, Richard Daley, as mayor. Small world.

Up next, more "Raw Politics": religion and the Republican nomination . How will Mitt Romney's Mormon faith play with evangelicals, particularly in South Carolina, where the race moves next. Will it be his Achilles' heel just like it was in 2008?

Also ahead tonight, "Crime & Punishment": revelation in the case of a missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds, what her grandmother is now saying about her own whereabouts the night the child disappeared. Details ahead.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight: A group of powerful evangelicals has called an emergency meeting in Dallas this coming weekend to decide which Republican candidate to try to back. The question may be more complicated than ever this year.

In South Carolina, the next big battle after New Hampshire, evangelicals make up about 60 percent of Republican voters. In 2008, Romney's Mormon faith cost him heavily in the state's primary. This year, his opponent Rick Perry is planning an aggressive push for evangelical support with some heavy backing. Evangelical Pastor Robert Jeffress slammed Romney's religion months ago when he endorsed Perry in the fall, calling the Mormon faith a cult.

When CNN's Jim Acosta asked him about that, Jeffress didn't back down.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you don't mind me saying, Pastor Jeffress, you created a bit of a stir coming out of that speech because in talking to reporters, you said in pretty strong, plain language what you think of Mormonism. You describe it as a cult. And you said that if a Republican votes for Mitt Romney, they're giving some credibility to a cult.

Do you stand by that comment?

REV. ROBERT JEFFRESS, SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: Oh, absolutely. And that's not some fanatical comment. That's been the historic position of evangelical Christianity. The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination of the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult.

I think Mitt Romney's a good moral man, but I think those of us who are born again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian, like Mitt Romney.

So that's why I'm enthusiastic about Rick Perry.


COOPER: Well, Romney's called on Perry to disavow Jeffress' endorsement. Perry has not done so.

Meantime, the latest CNN poll shows Romney with a solid lead in South Carolina. The question of course, how do evangelicals factor in?

Here's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The road to the Republican nomination runs through here, South Carolina's congregations of evangelical Christians. This is where, four years ago, Mitt Romney was buried in fourth place.

(on camera): Mormonism, is that the elephant in the room for Romney?

PASTOR GREG SURRATT, SEACOAST CHURCH: Obviously, I think it's an issue, probably similar to Catholicism for John Kennedy 50 years ago.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Greg Surratt is pastor of one of the state's biggest mega-churches. And among these born-again Christians, there are deeply held opinions about Romney's faith and the question: are Mormons Christians.

(on camera) A show of hands FOR people who think they are not. Is that going to affect how you view him as a candidate?

JERRY MCSWAIN, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: We can't be one-issue type of people. We have to broaden our viewpoint in some form or fashion. I do think in terms of religious issues or spiritual issues, they go to the issue of character.

MATTINGLY: In this election, evangelical voters here say that character and conviction matter more to them than a candidate's denomination. Surprisingly, social issues barely come into the conversation at all.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Small businesses.

MATTINGLY: Does that mean that the wallet has taken the place of the Bible when it comes to voting?

SURRATT: You know, that's a pretty powerful stimulus, is the wallet. I'm hoping, as a believer and a leader of believers, that it's secondary.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Four years and a bad economy have these voters feeling vulnerable. Ray and Cindy Ferrell pray to God for relief.

CINDY FERRELL, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: Without our faith, we would be toast.


MATTINGLY: Former real estate developers, the Ferrells lost their business, their salaries, their health insurance, their retirement, and the tears come easily.

R. FERRELL: Took away our livelihood. At one point, I thought I lost my dignity, you know, who I am. We couldn't do the things we used to do. It was tough.

MATTINGLY: The Ferrells struggle daily with their losses, and it drives their votes. Hard times leave little room for hard questions about a candidate's faith.

(on camera) Is that enough to affect your vote when you're looking at Romney?

C. FERRELL: No. Not for me.


C. FERRELL: First of all, I'm not looking at a president to be the leader of my church.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But the Ferrells and other evangelicals are looking for someone who will help answer their prayers: prayers for an economic recovery and a stronger future.


COOPER: David joins us now. I've seen conflicting polls including our own. How's Romney doing among evangelicals?

MATTINGLY: We saw he was doing 37 percent here, leading the pack statewide. He's just a couple percentage points less than born- again Christians and leading the pack there, as well. But when you drill down on the numbers, that's where it gets really interesting. We see that born-again Christians who are leaning toward the Tea Party are less likely to support him than others. So again, you see how the economy is coming into play here.

COOPER: And I guess some people would ask how could -- if they don't accept Romney's way of worshipping, how could they vote for him? But as a lot of people point out, evangelicals are not necessarily single-issue voters and it's very easy to paint them with a kind of a simplistic brush.

MATTINGLY: That's right. And there's a very strong need here not just among evangelicals and born-again Christians. There's a need, they feel, to find someone that they believe can win. Because they believe that the Republican nominee, whoever -- whoever wins here, could go on to become the nominee and have a chance at beating President Obama. That's what they're looking for, because right now the complaints they have are about how the country is being run right now and being less concerned how it might be run after the election. COOPER: David Mattingly, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Programming note, stay with CNN for special live coverage of the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. We start tomorrow night, 7 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Let's check on some other stories we're following. Isha is back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, activists in Syria say at least 23 more people were killed today, including 13 in the city of Homs. The government has long restricted international journalists from entering the country. A CNN team is now inside Syria, but it has prevented them from doing live reports.

Iran has sentenced a former U.S. Marine to death. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati is accused of espionage. His family and the U.S. government deny the charge. Hekmati, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in August while visiting relatives in Iran.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was at a memorial event over the weekend, a year after she was shot in the head. Giffords led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at the event at the University of Arizona.

And Anderson, a leopard has reportedly been released into a nature preserve in India days after it attacked three men, killing one of them. We warn you, this may be tough to look at. The leopard wandered into a residential area in northeast India Saturday and attacked the men. A bystander managed to snap that horrifying picture. The leopard was eventually tranquilized and taken to a zoo. Just really frightening.

COOPER: Wow. Bizarre stuff. Isha, thanks.

Still ahead tonight, the search for a missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds, continues in Maine as her grandmother seems to make a big revelation. It's the CNN exclusive interview ahead.

Also tonight, a big break in the murder mystery that turned the queen's country estate into a crime scene. Details ahead.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment." new details in the case of the missing toddler, Ayla Reynolds, 21 months old. And her father, Justin DiPietro, reported her missing on December 17. Police have said they believe someone took Ayla from her home in Waterville, Maine, that she didn't just wander off.

According to police, several adults were in the house the night that Ayla disappeared, including one person who isn't a family member. Now, in an exclusive interview with CNN on Friday, Ayla's grandmother implied that she was in the house that night. She said she didn't hear any noise and wasn't the last one to go to bed. Now it seems she's changing her story. Here's Susan Candiotti. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a story full of twists, the latest, a bombshell. Ayla Reynolds' grandmother, Phoebe DiPietro, wasn't home the night the toddler disappeared. In an exclusive CNN interview, she left the opposite impression when talking about what happened that night.

(on camera) You didn't hear any noise?

PHOEBE DIPIETRO, GRANDMOTHER: I did not hear anything.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): She didn't hear it because she was somewhere else she now exclusively tells CNN, another location she now declined to publicly disclose.

Why not come clean from the start? DiPietro says she was trying to protect the investigation at the request of police but then felt she needed to set the record straight.

What does it mean for an investigation entering its fourth week and with no sign of the little girl? DiPietro says it shouldn't matter. She says police have always known her whereabouts that night.

Outside her home this weekend, people continue to stop by, leaving gifts and praying for her safe return. She disappeared about a week before Christmas, after her father says he put her to bed, only to discover her missing the next morning when he called police.

(on camera) Who do you think would do such a thing?

DIPIETRO: Again, I've given my theories and my opinions to the Waterville Police Department and detectives. I just keep hoping that law enforcement is going to bring Ayla home, and they are going to find her.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): But if police are any closer to finding the little girl, they haven't yet said so. Police suspect foul play but from the start of the investigation, have refused to say who was home the night Ayla vanished.

This is home video shot last fall of the toddler, who would now be 21 months old.

DIPIETRO: She's quiet and very sweet. Her eyes, she's got the bluest eyes and the longest eyelashes.

CANDIOTTI: This video, exclusive to CNN, was shot in Phoebe DiPietro's living room. Steps away is Ayla's bedroom, which she shared with her cousin, who was untouched that night. Her face is blurred.

(on camera) When you found out that she wasn't there, what did you think?

DIPIETRO: I thought that I didn't want my son to go get any of his friends and go kicking in doors looking for her.

CANDIOTTI: I take it you don't think some stranger walked in off the street and did this?

DIPIETRO: It is a very creepy feeling to think that somebody had been casing your house, that they had been watching the family's activities.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): After Ayla vanished, her grandmother told detectives some things around the house didn't look the same.

DIPIETRO: Some oddities that I had noticed, and we told the law enforcement what those were.

CANDIOTTI: She would not reveal them to us. Ayla's parents never married and live apart. The child's mother, who has spent time in rehab, her family says, questions whether the father, Justin DiPietro, mistreated Ayla, suspicious about a soft cast she had on her left arm the night she went missing.

Justin's mother said she was home when her son tripped while carrying Ayla into the house. In other words, it was an accident.

Police say both families are cooperating in the investigation.

Although she wasn't there that night, DiPietro says none of the people who were there are responsible for Ayla's disappearance.

DIPIETRO: Justin is a great dad. He really truly is, and I know he loves Ayla.

CANDIOTTI: This sparkling reds dress and books are among Ayla's Christmas gifts never wrapped.

DIPIETRO: I have to believe she's OK.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Do you have anything to say for whoever took Ayla?

DIPIETRO: Please bring her back. Please bring her back.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): So she can see her dancing again.


COOPER: Susan joins us now.

There's obviously been a lot of questions raised about this family. Why -- and did she on Friday tell you one thing, that she was -- or imply that she was in the house, that she didn't hear anything, and then later admit she wasn't in the house or say she wasn't in the house?

CANDIOTTI: Yes. She said that she didn't mean to do it. I had interviewed her late at night. The next morning, I went over to see her and her son, Justin. She took me in and said, "I have to tell you something. I have to tell you the truth. I made a mistake. I told you the wrong thing." But she said, "I was trying to be so careful to follow the police's instructions about not saying anything about what happened that night that I screwed up." She was really upset.

You know, I felt sorry for her. I give her credit for telling the truth.

COOPER: The -- she said there were oddities in the house that she told police. It's understandable why she wouldn't tell anybody else, because if somebody is arrested, that could be part of the investigation.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. Exactly. And she wouldn't tell us exactly. That's why.

But I could tell you that the inside of the house was covered in fingerprint dust. It took them a long time. They were still cleaning it up when we went in the house. And if you look around the outside of the house, you can see that there are windows on the side and in the back. So if someone wanted to make entry that way, if they came in to take her and snatch her, kidnap her, there are a lot of ways they could have come in.

COOPER: When you asked her about whether she -- who she suspected or what her thoughts were, or was it a stranger, she didn't really answer that question?

CANDIOTTI: She answered her own question. But you're right: she didn't say it. And because the police have told her, "Keep your mouth shut. We don't want to give any clues away about what we know," and that's why she wouldn't tell us.

COOPER: Susan, appreciate that your reporting on that. Thank you very much.

A new twist coming up in a royal murder mystery. We now know the name of the teenage girl who was found dead on the queen of England's estate. The question, though, is who killed her. We're going to get the latest from CNN's Max Foster in London.

Also ahead, incredible video of a terrifying fall from a bungee jump, an Australian woman falling more than 350 feet after her bungee cord snapped, and she survived. We'll show you the video ahead.


COOPER: Well, there's a major piece of the puzzle in the royal murder mystery tonight. But still a lot of questions. The body of a 17-year-old girl found on the Queen of England's estate in Sandringham last week has been identified. DNA tests confirm her identity, but police have not given a cause of death, only saying they are, quote, "investigating the murder."

Tonight, I spoke with CNN international anchor and royal correspondent Max Foster.


COOPER: Max, this girl whose body was found, what do we know about her?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, we know that she moved over with her family from Latvia in 2009 and settled in a town called Wisbech, which is around 30 miles away from the Sandringham estate.

We're told that she was out-going and fun loving. That's what the police have told us. And they're very quick to scotch any rumors that said she was involved in the sex industry. They say that's not true at all. In fact, she was getting ready to start college on a beautician's course in September, but that was around the time she disappeared, Anderson.

COOPER: Do police have any idea how long ago she died?

FOSTER: She went missing at the end of August, beginning of September. That's all we know, and the body has been in situ for up to four months in Sandringham. So that's a mystery.

She was last seen on the 31st of August in a car with two men. The police managed to find those two men. They've questioned them, but they haven't arrested them.

And in the meantime, they're really focusing their efforts on the Sandringham estate, really combing that area and trying to find out if there are any functions or events at the beginning of September which may have drawn her to the estate. So they've been speaking to people that worked there, and there are people that work on the estate. So the game keeper, the royal game keeper, the royal estate manager, they've all been asked questions, all in an effort to find some sort of lead.

COOPER: So is this -- I mean, I haven't been out to this estate; I haven't seen it. Can anyone just go out onto the grounds? Are they open to the public? Is this kind of thing -- it's easily accessible?

FOSTER: You have 20,000 acres, so it is open to the public. But most of the people that live there are on the queen's properties. They work on the estate, so they're all largely known by the queen.

And the royal family may well have been out shooting there in December. That is traditional in this area. And the queen is staying there still with Prince Philip about two miles away from where the body was found. So she is being kept informed. We don't think she's been questioned, but she's being kept informed about all of this, Anderson. A crime in her own backyard, effectively.

COOPER: Yes. Max Foster, appreciate the latest. Thank you.


COOPER: And let's check back in with Isha with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha. SESAY: Anderson, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a 73-year-old woman told police she was forced to wear an explosive device around her ankle and attempt to rob a bank by a man who broke into her home. The bank was evacuated and police removed the device from the woman's ankle. When police went into her home, they found her husband tied up. They believe the suspect fled in the couple's pickup truck.

Warren Jeffs' phone privileges have been suspended for 90 days for violating policy at the Texas prison where he's serving a life plus 20-year term for sexual assault. Prison officials say the leader of the FLDS polygamist sect pitched a Christmas day sermon using a prison phone.

Severe weather hammered the Houston area today, and emergency officials said as many as 30 water rescues were carried out after flash flood left streets and highways impassable. Thousands were left without power.

Alaska's National Guard is being sent in to help residents of Cordova, dig out. A record 18 feet of snow has buried the isolated coastal town, home to about 2,000 people.

In 2011, 373 people were killed in plane crashes worldwide, but there wasn't a single passenger death here in the United States. An incredibly safe year for air travel, considering there were about 10 million flights in the U.S.

And caught on tape, an amazing story of survival. An Australian woman is lucky to be alive after her bungee cord snapped as she leaped off Victoria Falls Bridge into a crocodile-infested river in Southern Africa. She only suffered cuts and bruises in that fall. Just incredible.

And now, our "Beat 360" winners. It's our challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo we post on our blog every day.

Tonight's photo, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman gets a kiss from a dog.

Our staff winner tonight is Joel. His caption: "I know it's a bit early, but I'm looking for a running mate that the voters will love. You are on my short list."


SESAY: Oh, yes. Our viewer winner is Suzanne. Her caption: "I know just how to lick the competition. Trust me."


SESAY: Oh, yes. Suzanne, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

And Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Coming up, a man gets arrested in Wisconsin, but it's his name that lands him on "The RidicuList." We'll explain.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding a gentleman who, for the sake of convenience, I'm going to initially refer to as Mr. Bop-Bop. He's the man who got arrested in a park in Madison, Wisconsin, after police allegedly found marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a knife on him.

According to court records found by the "Capitol Times," his name used to be Jeffrey Drew Wilschke. Wilschke is kind of a tongue twister,. I'm guessing he got tired of people mispronouncing it, because back in October, he legally changed his name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zoppitybop-Bop-Bop. Legally changed it.

My favorite part of this story is how different newspapers have been dealing with the conundrum of what to call him on a second reference. Some call him Zoppitybop-Bop-Bop. Some call him just Bop- Bop or just Bop. Some even call him Beezow, although clearly, that is his first name.

Doo-Doo would be his middle name. And Zopittybop-Bop-Bop is his last name. And if he marries someone with the last name of -- I don't know, say, Skiddly-Bop-Doo-Doo-Wop, and she decides to hyphenate her maiden name and married name, her new last name would be Skiddly-Bop- Doo-Doo-Wop-Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. Easy, right?

What I want to know is what would compel somebody to change his name to something like that? My first thought, maybe he's a Cab Calloway fan and wanted to pay homage to "The Scat Song."


CAB CALLOWAY, SINGER (scatting): Just skeep-beep de bop-bop beep bop bo-dope skeetle-at-de-op-de-day!


COOPER: Or possibly he's a David Lee Roth fan. His name does kind of sound like the break in that song, "Just a Gigolo (I Ain't Got Nobody)."


DAVID LEE ROTH, SINGER (singing): Hummelly, beep-a-ly, zeeb-a- ly, boop-a-ly, hummelly, beep-a-ly, zeeb-a-ly bop. I ain't got nobody


COOPER: It's possible. Possible. Or maybe Mr. Bop-Bop is just a really big Hansen fan.


HANSEN, MUSICAL GROUP (singing): Mmm bop, ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop, ba du, yeah, yeah. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm sorry. You probably only recently got that song out of your head from 15 years ago, and we just put it right back there in. I apologize for that.

And yes, "Mmm Bop" was released in 1997. Do with it what you will, that information. Not trying to make anyone feel old.

But I digress. According to what seems to be Beezow Doo-Doo Zoppitybop-Bop-Bop's Facebook page or maybe just someone who coincidentally has the same name, he is, indeed, a music fan. His tastes, though, run more to the Grateful Dead and Stereolab, so I'm not sure the David Lee Roth or Hansen theories hold any water.

So the only other thing I can imagine is that, when he changed his name, he wanted attention. So congratulations, Beezow Doo-Doo Zoppitybop-Bop-Bop. Mission accomplished on "The RidicuList."

OK. That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.