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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Newt Gingrich; South Carolina Primary

Aired January 20, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John.

We're just one day away from the South Carolina primary. Newt Gingrich is gaining ground. Who are people going to vote for tomorrow morning? Can he pull off a much needed win? We spent the day with him and he comes OUTFRONT next.

President Obama meantime working to convince America's allies to sanction Iran -- is this the last chance to avoid a war?

And the latest from the cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy. Rescue workers finally resuming the search for missing passengers.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight we are live in Charleston, South Carolina. Tonight, Newt Gingrich, whose performance in tomorrow's primary election here will make or break his run at the presidency. No doubt the former speaker is surging in the polls. You can look around, you see that left, right and center. The latest show him within striking distance of frontrunner Mitt Romney. He's also ignited a fire storm, slamming the media over his ex-wife's accusation that he wanted an open marriage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right, I caught up with Newt Gingrich today about an hour and a half away from here in a town called Orangeburg, South Carolina to talk about the race, the issues and yes, we talked about his private life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: So, do you feel the momentum has changed for you over the past few days? GINGRICH: I think it really began to change dramatically after Monday night in Myrtle Beach, the debate. We were pretty good before then because you could -- we're back home -- as a Georgian I feel pretty good campaigning in South Carolina. We're getting a good, positive response, but Monday night seemed to galvanize people and all of a sudden it got better and then of course Sarah Palin said she'd vote for me. Then it got even better. And now today, we have Michael Reagan and Chuck Norris. And I think at every stage, you've had this continuing acceleration, if you will.

BURNETT: So I was at a Denny's today talking to a lot of people and asking them if they'd seen the debate. They had all seen the debate last night and they were -- a lot of them had changed their mind. They were Romney supporters and they're now saying well now we're going for Newt. And the reason was because of the beginning of the debate and how you responded to John King's question about your ex-wife. Did you expect that question right off the top?

GINGRICH: I sort of had a hunch that that would happen because I thought they couldn't contain themselves. And I thought that they would think it was clever, but I think there's something going on here that's very deep. Part of it is really deep dislike of the media at a level that nobody in the media wants to even think about yet because this has happened like five times now or six times now in these debates.

The other though is I think people want a leader who's forceful and who knows what they think and who's got the guts to stand there and say it. And part of it is, you know if I had said the color is blue, it's the forcefulness because they know we're in real trouble as a country, at least our side of the country, the Republicans, the conservatives, the Tea Partiers, the Independents. We all think the country is in real trouble, and so they're looking for a leader who has a forcefulness and a clarity and I think that delivery of that clearness is as important as a specific topic.

BURNETT: Yes, it was interesting. You know I was talking to men and women. The mayor of (INAUDIBLE) was there and his daughter. His daughter had been very into Mitt Romney before. Said she was on Facebook talking to her friend and she'd switched to you and it was because of the topic. She said you know we all have skeletons in our closet. I connected with him. I talked to another woman, she said I've been divorced too, and I wouldn't want someone to drag that up. So do you think that in a sense it's enabled you to connect with people in a more human way?

GINGRICH: Yes, I think it has. I think people are actually a lot smarter than our analysts believe they are. And they lead complete lives. And they look around and they go, you know, that's just not true. And there's a kind of judgment there that's real. In addition, I had a pastor who said to me, you know, in some ways having somebody who's had pain in their life is really helpful because you have somebody whose life has been so perfect they don't understand pain. It's hard for them to understand what the rest of us go through. And it was a very interesting way of thinking of it. And I mean I've had people come up to me up all day today and say that they were glad I responded so harshly that they were glad that I was so clear about it. Some people have written both close to me and said that they're sort of embarrassed for the country that that kind of thing was done to us. A number of people have said that we're in their prayers. It's a very interesting, human response.

BURNETT: I heard that, too. People also though do seem to feel that the question of morality affects someone's personal life as well as their profession life. And I talked to Tim, who was at Denny's today. And here's what he said.

He said, "If you're going to be the president, you have to be someone who is going to be of high moral character because you are the person who is representing our country, the most important person in this country." Then he said you know his marital past is not the first most important thing, but it will be a deciding factor. Don't you think it's fair that the morality question comes up?

GINGRICH: Sure. Of course, and -- but it's -- I don't believe anybody who is going to vote tomorrow didn't already know I had been divorced and remarried. I don't think -- because it's all been out here you know for eight months and there was a sense of well why would "ABC News" bring it up now? Why would they get into it now, and why would they do it the way they did it? And I think that's what people just said, wait a second, that's over the line.

BURNETT: Right.

GINGRICH: Of course you should measure it and you should measure whether it's Romney or Santorum or Ron Paul or Obama. All of us, if we are seeking to have you loan us the most powerful office in the world, we should be prepared to have a conversation that is amazingly detailed and amazingly opened and I don't object to that.

BURNETT: So, when people say well if someone would be unfaithful in their personal life or dishonest in their personal life, that they might be dishonest as a president or as a business leader. How do you answer that question? You said I was dishonest here. You've been honest about that.

GINGRICH: Yes.

BURNETT: So --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: How do you tell them to become comfortable with you as president?

GINGRICH: You just say look at who I am now. Look at how close Callista and I are as a couple. Look at how close I am to my daughters and my sons-in-law. Look at how close Callista and I are to our grandchildren. And you have to decide not 15, 20 years ago but is this now a person experienced enough and wise enough and with enough force of personality that I think he could actually get America back on the right track.

BURNETT: And now you're moving, you know -- the front-runner. You could win tomorrow. Win in Florida, right?

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: -- been like this, so who knows.

BURNETT: You come into a general election and you know it's interesting. All these issues become -- they're going to be looked at again, and so it's interesting. I looked -- presidential history. We've never had a president who's been married three times. One in 20 Americans have been married more than twice. When you get to a general election, if you're the nominee, you're against Barack Obama. He's a very stereotypically family guy. Do you think that that's going to be an issue where people say, do I connect with him? Do I have a lot in common with Newt Gingrich?

GINGRICH: I think the country's in so much trouble. Somebody said to me the other week, if you think you have a serious illness what you really want to know is not what kind of car does the doctor drive, but whether or not he's a good doctor. I think the burden that Barack Obama carries is that he's both radical and not very confident and people see that. He's likable. I would never beat Obama in a personality contest and I wouldn't try. He's a very likable person. But the presidency is not about likeability. The presidency is about you know, are you capable of doing the job. Are you capable of helping us with jobs? Are you capable of dealing with Iran and on the issue of capability, I think Obama has an enormous burden to carry.

BURNETT: So, what about you mentioned Sarah Palin right before we started this interview, her endorsement, and I know you mentioned her the other day, saying that you would consider her for some sort of a position. Have you thought more about that? I saw that, I said, wait a minute, what's he saying?

GINGRICH: Well I suggest you -- there's a movie that was made about her. I think it's called "The Undefeated" or "The Unvanquished" (ph).

BURNETT: Right.

GINGRICH: And it's a very interesting documentary. When you go back and look at her career as mayor, then on the Ethics Commission where she forced the Republican state chairman to resign, then her primary campaign against the incumbent governor, the amount she cleaned up the state and the amount and how effective she was negotiating with big oil. You'd have to say that she has great capability if she wants to do it. And she'd be somebody you'd consider as a talent in a variety of possible positions. But that's, you know I got to finish winning the nomination. Then you have to actually win the general election, so we're still a long way off from that kind of thinking.

BURNETT: You were talking about a gold commission and obviously that's something Ron Paul's been passionate about back since the Reagan years. And it was interesting talking to some Ron Paul supporters today. A couple of them were telling me well and you know how they are, they're passionate.

GINGRICH: Yes.

BURNETT: Ron Paul or nobody. But when I pushed really hard it was well maybe then Newt.

GINGRICH: Well I mean one of the -- it's a fact of life Ron Paul is going to get a significant vote --

BURNETT: Yes.

GINGRICH: And it's a fact of life that you want to find something that would give him a strong reason not to consider a third party and so you've got to say, OK, under what circumstance, he has a legitimate role. He's earned that role by running a very formidable campaign. And you want to find something that we're adequately compatible on that you could actually find something to do.

BURNETT: One final question and this is just I had reached out on Twitter tonight --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Social media -- I'm learning to use it too.

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) it's good.

BURNETT: And I had asked them for questions for you. There were questions about a lot of different things, but the main question that came actually was about last night. And it was about what you had said in 1998, talking to your PAC. April 22nd, you said, referring to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, "I will never again as long as I am speaker make a speech without commenting on this topic." There is a perception that is hypocritical --

GINGRICH: Yes.

BURNETT: -- you have been so aggressive on President Clinton about that and now say that you're past is not relevant.

GINGRICH: But you're very smart. What was the problem there? What was Clinton's problem? He lied under oath in front of a federal judge, which is a felony. It wasn't his personal behavior in the Oval Office. He lied under oath to a federal judge. He committed a felony.

BURNETT: So, that's the oath that bothered you, not the marital oath that he would have broken --

GINGRICH: Well -- look Clinton had a long -- there have been many articles for a long time starting with Gennifer Flowers. The problem was and you can judge that as a private citizen and say I don't like it or I do like it. The problem was perjury and he's a lawyer, so there's no excuse. Perjury in front of a federal judge in a case like that has jail time. Now you get to a point where you say are we going to become a third world country and as long as your poll numbers are good, who cares if you break the law or are we going to enforce the law.

And that's what the case was about. And there was enormous -- you know I actually think the country probably got to the right solution. He was impeached by the House. The Senate refused to convict. But we set a pretty tough standard for future presidents that says, don't break the law. You're not above the law just because you happen to be popular this week.

BURNETT: All right, well speaking of popular this week, last question. You're very popular this week. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

GINGRICH: And we'll be back.

BURNETT: You'll be back. You're going on and how much -- how great of a week has it been for donations?

GINGRICH: Been very, very good. I mean I don't know the details because I don't pay attention. I'm the candidate --

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Michael Crowe (ph) runs the campaign. But I can tell you that we're -- we have the resources to go on to Florida and we're very excited about it. I mean this has been as you said earlier, this has been -- in my entire career this is the wildest ride I've ever been on. It's amazing.

BURNETT: And it's amazing to cover it as well. Speaker Gingrich thanks so much.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right, well you heard from Newt Gingrich as everyone's getting ready to start voting tomorrow morning. Now, hear from the voters. This morning we went by a Denny's for a Grand Slam. We have not been eating well down here I have to say, just absolutely not been eating well. And they shared their thoughts on last night's debate and tomorrow's primary. We're going to share that with you and a woman who knows more about South Carolina politics than almost anyone. The state's former first lady, Jenny Sanford, comes OUTFRONT tonight and the latest developments in the fight over the SOPA, stopping piracy online. The bill is on hold, for how long? We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our crew woke up this morning in Charleston and decided that Bojangles was not enough. We needed to go to Denny's. We did, but everyone loves a good Grand Slam breakfast. The restaurant chain is based right here in South Carolina, which is -- we didn't know that until a few weeks ago, so we wanted to go and find out what voters were thinking and it was a good place to go, on their minds, the debate last night front and center and the primary tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH SUMMEY, MAYOR OF NORTH CHARLESTON: I think there were a lot of people who switched over to Newt Gingrich last night in South Carolina. I think he came out the winner in this primary because of the attack on his private life.

ANNIE FULLER, MAYOR SUMMEY'S DAUGHTER: I was Romney all the way until last night (INAUDIBLE) --

SUE CRANCE: As a pro-life Republican, I really like what Santorum has to say.

TIM HANSEN: I'm a Ron Paul supporter so I appreciated hearing him live, but I don't think that he was given quite the amount of time that I think the others were.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right OUTFRONT now Republican Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina, local conservative radio talk show host Vince Coakley and CNN's John Avlon. All right, wonderful to have all of you with us -- Congressman good to see you. I know you're friends with Newt Gingrich, have been for a long time. You have not yet endorsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BURNETT: What are you hearing, feeling today? How do you think it's going to go tomorrow?

REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'll tell you what, last night if there was a softball thrown at Newt Gingrich it was a softball that was ugly, but he hit it out the park. I'm telling you the truth. It changed the dynamics of the race. I would have said before yesterday that there would have been a photo finish with Romney cutting the tape first.

I would say today that that has flipped. Still a very tight race, but the truth of the matter is I was in a gym this afternoon and the folks in the gym paused and then they said, Newt. And I was very surprised. I think the momentum has shifted because the backlash towards the timing of the story seems to be running the tape and is running the race.

BURNETT: I was actually -- Newt was talking to me today about a book that had inspired him about the waves in television and to ride the wave. And he was actually talking about just that, very open about it.

SCOTT: And he's riding it.

BURNETT: Vince, what are you hearing? Obviously, you've been talking to voters in South Carolina all day. VINCE COAKLEY, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well it's a mix of things. There are people who very much are upset about the fact that he's had these cases of infidelity and of course we've always known this about Newt Gingrich, but what's significant about it is I think the people who are already opposed to Newt Gingrich they're still opposed to Newt Gingrich.

The others, they're actually more supportive than ever because what happened is they feel like the media has come down on him and now they're rallying behind him. So I think it's going to be interesting to see whether this actually has helped him in the long run.

BURNETT: It's interesting Speaker Gingrich and I talked about this media issue, the elite media, which is how he's been describing it and he did it in the town hall today. It did it in the interview. That has been working for him.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Look that is red meat for a Republican audience that feels that liberal media bias has been baking the cake for a long time. And notice here when Mitt Romney was (INAUDIBLE) millions of dollars of negative ads, the base didn't necessarily seem sympathetic, but when it's seen as the media attacking Newt Gingrich he can push off that with a base and get real gains. There's no question he's got the big mo right now. You can feel it and you can see it in the polls.

BURNETT: I guess he gets the crest (ph), right, then it could go well for him. But Congressman, you've known him for a long time. He's been a supporter of yours.

SCOTT: Yes.

BURNETT: You haven't come out and formally endorsed anyone. Why is that?

SCOTT: This is a very difficult race to call and honestly what we're looking for really is a guy that matches your values and who wins in the fall and that equation really is something that I'm still going through the process. I like what Mitt brings to the table. Mitt brings an organization, a very good structure, deep pockets and the opportunity to run the race for the long haul. Newt obviously brings the ability, the more you attack him, the better he gets and you've got to appreciate that --

BURNETT: He does love -- he loves being attacked.

SCOTT: It works for him.

BURNETT: Yes.

SCOTT: That's why I said that last night the ugly softball was truly a slow pitch. For the rest of us who may have been dodging it, not him. He stepped right into it and in a general election six or seven debates against this president who is very, very good we want our very best toe-to-toe (INAUDIBLE) heavy weight champion, frankly. And so what do you do? I mean, do you go with a guy that has the structure of the organization and the deep pockets, but may not do as well or do you go with the guy that you know that will win the debates, will hit hard, will hit often and the more he gets attacked, he has the ability to win the Independents on issues like this from my perspective.

BURNETT: What do you think, Vince, about this Independents issue because a lot of people (INAUDIBLE) conventional wisdom had thought Mitt Romney would do much better with that crowd frankly in part because of things like he's been governor of a state like Massachusetts.

COAKLEY: Right. Part of what's happening here, too, is I think another dynamic we can't forget is for a lot of people they're very supportive of Herman Cain and they feel like the media helped to bring him down. So this is another reason why --

BURNETT: And Herman Cain was very ardently defending --

COAKLEY: Exactly.

BURNETT: -- with the media --

COAKLEY: So now you are at a place where people are saying you're not going to take this man down. They're going to stand with him. So yes one of the things that I hear people saying over and over again is they love the way he is able to debate, the way he is able to frame an argument, the way he's able to inspire people and that frankly is kind of missing from some of the other candidates, so that's one of the strongest things that really helps him.

BURNETT: Tortoise and hare?

AVLON: Look, I mean the point is --

BURNETT: Mitt I guess being the tortoise now --

AVLON: I guess being the tortoise because look Perry supporters going to Newt. Herman Cain supporters they're not Mitt Romney voters. They're probably going to go to Newt. So you get that enthusiasm. Look right now Mitt Romney's camp trying to lower expectations --

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: And remember, they've got a great organization, but today I got two robo calls back-to-back. One from Mitt Romney affiliated super PAC and the other from Ann Romney. So they're definitely, I'm sure it was just coincidental --

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: But they're ratcheting it up. They know it's tight.

BURNETT: I have an image of like a little turtle shell and Mitt's face sticking out. All right, thanks to all three of you, appreciate it. And we'll see how it goes tomorrow. Still OUTFRONT, shocking new video from that cruise ship, we've got new video in from inside the ship. You of course know it crashed it a week ago off the coast of Italy and more from South Carolina. We found peaches in the Palmetto State. Georgia, you got nothing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We're in South Carolina tonight, so here are a few facts about the Palmetto State. State animal, the white tail deer, state amphibian, they got one, the spotted salamander, kind of like a newt, and most surprising of all the state fruit is the peach. You say what? Well Georgia is best known at the Peach State, but in the 1950's, South Carolina actually took over from Georgia as the biggest peach producing state in the union and even though California has since passed them both, South Carolina still produces way, way, way more peaches than Georgia, which brings us to tonight's number, 90,000.

That is the number of tons of peaches South Carolina produces every year. That is more than double you, Georgia, at 40,000. Commercially produced in 23 states including California -- this is the order -- California, South Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey, number four. South Carolina and Georgia both focus on their fresh, rather than processed peaches and their fruit feud pops up in the strangest places. For example, the 1972 album "Eat a Peach", released by the Allman Brothers Band, who were once based in -- back in Georgia. That iconic peach cover was actually designed by two guys from South Carolina.

All right, coming up on OUTFRONT a woman who has experienced the best and worst of South Carolina politics, the state's former first lady, Jenny Sanford comes OUTFRONT next and President Obama pushing for increased sanctions against Iran. It could be one of the last chances to avoiding direct conflict. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT five.

And, tonight, Newt Gingrich. We had the chance to spend time with him today in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Could he win tomorrow?

The former speaker of the House has been climbing in pretty much every poll over the past couple of days. And, in fact, a strategist for Mitt Romney admitted to CNN that his candidate could lose South Carolina.

Earlier, I asked Speaker Gingrich about his shift in momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it really began to change dramatically after Monday night in Myrtle Beach, the debate. We were pretty good before them because go back home to Georgia, and I feel pretty good campaigning in South Carolina. We're getting a good, positive response.

But Monday night seems to galvanize people. And all of a sudden, we got better. And, then, of course, Sarah Palin said she'd vote for me, and it gotten even better. And now today, we have Michael Reagan and Chuck Norris.

And I think at every stage, we've had this continuing acceleration, if you will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Number two, the United States is considering closing its embassy in Syria over security concerns. That's what two senior officials tell us tonight. We are told that the United States has asked the Syrian government for more security around its Damascus embassy and a decision to close the embassy will be based on a request. Closing the embassy would effectively end diplomatic relations with Syria. Six thousand people have been killed in conflicts there since March.

Number three, the National Highway Traffic Safety administration has officially closed its investigation into Chevy Volt battery fires. The investigation was initiated after coolant from the batter leak causing fires, days after an accident actually happened.

We looked through the report today. Investigators did not find a safety defect. They also supported G.M.'s fix, which reinforces the structure surrounding the battery. The fires were reported in cars that people were actually driving. This came from crash tests. So, we'll continue to follow it for you.

Number four, for the third straight month, existing home sales in the United State rose. They were up 5 percent in December. The National Association of Realtors says the annual phase reflected by that number is now 4.6 million homes. To give you context, that's the phase in nearly a year.

The number of existing homes for sale, which is inventory, obviously a crucial measure of how much we've got to work through to be better again in this country fell to 2.4 million. That is the lowest levels since 2005, and that is a really significant number to fixing the single biggest issue in this economy, which remains housing.

Well, it has been 168 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P all ended the week higher by more than 2 percent.

Well, she knows South Carolina politics better than absolutely anyone. Former first lady, Jenny Sanford, is not shying way from the political limelight here. In fact, she is already weighing in on who she will not be voting for tomorrow. Sanford is also the author of "Staying True," a memoir -- a really great book and she joins us now.

And good to see you, Jenny. I appreciate it.

JENNY SANFORD, AUTHOR, "STAYING TRUE": Yes, good to be here.

BURNETT: So, I wanted to ask you about the -- you were at the CNN debate last night and I know you were waiting to hear what everyone had to say, and you got to see that incredibly testy and rather memorable beginning to the interview with Newt Gingrich.

SANFORD: Yes.

BURNETT: What did you take away from last night?

SANFORD: From the whole debate or from the beginning?

BURNETT: Well, let's have the whole debate.

SANFORD: The whole debate, you know, I've said before, I find this debate, this whole debate, the whole -- not just last night's debate, but the whole race, actually very short on substance. And even though some of the candidates were able to clarify their positions a little bit last night, they remain a little too focused on bickering about one another and not really come out with clear reasons that you should vote for each of them. And I think that's part of the struggle with so many people in the electorate right now.

BURNETT: Yes. And it was interesting today, I didn't know exactly how -- talk about the beginning of the debate --

SANFORD: Right.

BURNETT: The conversation about Newt Gingrich's ex-wife and fidelity, how that would go over. And it seemed a lot of women talked to today actually seem to really rally around him.

But I wanted to play a quick sound bite about what Newt Gingrich told me this afternoon about that and ask you about it. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I don't believe anybody who's going to vote tomorrow didn't already know I had been divorced and remarried. And I don't think -- it's all been out here, you know, for eight months. And there was a sense of, well, why would ABC News bring it up now?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What's your reaction?

SANFORD: You know, I have a mixed reaction about that, because on the one hand, Newt Gingrich is the candidate who has just really risen up and is just getting the scrutiny of the national press. In other words, he hasn't been a candidate that's really been fully vetted for a long period of time in this race. And so, it is -- I believe the issue is fair game during a presidential race because he's asking to be the leader of our nation. So, I think the issue of his character, which is what we're talking about, is an issue. And so then, the question really then is suspect is the timing. And, you know, I am not so sure that sometimes in politics, you can control the timing. So --

BURNETT: Right.

SANFORD: You know, the other issue is was it a fair question on John King's part? I think it's a fair question to be asked. Perhaps it shouldn't have been the first question.

BURNETT: Right. I know, you know, talked about the speaker today, I mean, we had an extensive conversation about it and morality.

SANFORD: Right.

BURNETT: And he seemed to say, yes, I know, and it will be an issue in the general election.

SANFORD: Right.

BURNETT: But it's interesting to your point. It hasn't been talked about a lot recently, even though he is right. Everyone knows his past.

SANFORD: Right. Well, you know how politics is. I mean, there's no scrutiny focused really on the people, the lower also-runs or whatever they call candidates that are new in the race or low in the polls.

BURNETT: Right.

SANFORD: It's not until they become real contenders that the scrutiny is intense. And Newt's focus has just been recent -- and same thing with Santorum.

And so, I think what's interesting is you have Romney who's been the front-runner for a long time.

BURNETT: Right.

SANFORD: You have Paul who's been in the race really for just as long as Romney. And then you have these two that are kind of, you know, up and comers nipping at people's heels that are generating the excitement and the momentum in the race, but they haven't been flushed out. And I think that's just adding to some of the uncertainty and the unpredictability in the race. It makes it exciting actually.

BURNETT: It is exciting.

SANFORD: Yes.

BURNETT: And I know it's been a big -- your family has been watching and involved. You were there. Your ex-husband was there last night and your sons.

SANFORD: My two sons. And one of my sons left school today to go to a Ron Paul rally.

BURNETT: I was going to bring that up. So --

SANFORD: Yes.

BURNETT: So, he's going to vote -- is he old enough? He's going to vote for Ron Paul.

SANFORD: He's 18. He's 18.

BURNETT: He's going to vote?

SANFORD: He's just turned 18 in December.

BURNETT: He's in that sweet spot for the Ron Paul group.

SANFORD: He's in the sweet spot.

And, you know what's interesting about Ron Paul is Ron Paul -- he's the one that actually does have a clear message. And whether you agree with him or not, you know exactly what he's about. He wants to cut a trillion dollars. He wants to cut -- and he has a consistent record to back that up.

The question is, you know, where is he on foreign policy? To a younger person, a younger person -- I asked Landon, I said, well, how can you -- are you OK with his foreign policy stance? Are you OK with, you know, cutting back on the military, for example? He just says we can't afford it.

And for a young person's perspective, I mean, I get where he's coming from. He's not -- he hasn't thought through those issues. He's more concerned that the government is going to be bankrupt when he becomes of age to need any services.

BURNETT: Before we go, who do you think will win tomorrow given the negative ad campaigning here? Given the overwhelming blitz of ad spending? You've managed a lot of campaigns in the state.

SANFORD: I know. And I don't -- you know, every campaign I've ever managed, you go down to the end, like, this week -- sometimes the negative stuff really backfires. I think that it's anybody's guess tomorrow. I think that -- I wouldn't be surprised if Newt Gingrich won, but I wouldn't be surprised if Romney won, too, because at the end of the day, if there's a lot of uncertainty and you have all these last minute things.

Newt is a great campaigner, there's no question. But Newt is not a great leader. And I think if people remember it some point in time, there's a reason why he was speaker, and then why he left. I mean, there are a lot of questions. And sometimes when you go to the voting booth, sometimes, you know, people just really vote on instinct.

And so, you know, Romney -- I could see Romney being the voice of reason that, you know, that edges out. So, either way.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we shall see. But, anyway, great to see you. Jenny Sanford joining us here.

SANFORD: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: Well, the Internet giant spoke and Congress listened. This has been one heck of a fight over the past week. Today, two controversial antipiracy bills were put on hold indefinitely. Now, the move follows protest by tech companies including Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia. They all argue that the legislation went too far and that it would stifle free speech and really censor the Internet.

OUTFRONT has been on this story for a couple of weeks. We spoke to Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Bales just before he blacked out his Web site to protest the bills.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY WALES, CO-FOUNDER, WIKIPEDIA. I'm a big believer that we should be dealing with issues of piracy and we should deal with them in a serious way, but this bill is not the right bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Media companies including Time Warner, which owns CNN, supported the legislation, but it wasn't enough to convince Congress.

Just how big of a victory is this for Internet companies?

I'm joined by Declan McCullagh. He's been following the story from the beginning as the chief political correspondent for CNET.

Good to see you, Declan. Let me just ask you, how big of a win is this for tech companies? And I guess we should say, this is big established media versus big media.

DECLAN MCCULLAGH, CNET CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a pretty big win. I mean, this is huge and what's interesting is that the tech companies didn't even roll out the heavy artillery. This is the light artillery.

They -- Google for instance said sign a petition. They didn't say here's a link where you can get your members of Congress' phone number. Or rather, here's a link to his primary opponent, or her general election opponent, and maybe you should donate some money. I mean, that's the real heavy artillery.

And so, the tech companies have another weapon they can still use. And Hollywood did not see this coming. They got rolled by the Internet this week. This is a historic week in Internet politics, maybe American politics.

BURNETT: It was pretty amazing. All the presidential candidates weighing in on this issue last night. It's significant.

The blackout protests that we saw from Web sites like Wikipedia were effective. I'm just wondering, though, you're saying this is a huge victory. You know, this bill's going to get reworked and what if they don't like it then? Will a blackout work, or if they kind of, you know, they got the bang for their buck and that's it?

MCCULLAGH: Well, the danger that they face, it's not just tech companies, remember. I mean, this is something like 12 million Internet users being involved in a protest that's 4.5 million people signed the Google.com petition against these bills.

Wikipedia is not a tech company. It's a Wikimedia foundation run, it's a non-profit group. Its users voted to do that.

But there is a danger they can do this once. The first time Wikimedia, Wikipedia does this, everyone pays attention. It's a huge thing. It's never been done before.

They do it a second time, people get annoyed. A third time, it's like whoa, been there, done that, why are they still doing it? So, they better have gotten it right this time and I think they probably did.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We know there's a lot of people on the Internet who are going to be watching to see what's next. Thanks again.

All right. Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He's here with me in Charleston.

Anderson, what's coming up on "A.C. 360"?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C.360": Hey, Erin, we're just around the corner from you here at the College of Charleston, which I got to say is probably the most beautiful college I've seen. There's a lot of enthusiasm among the crowd here tonight, a lot in the enthusiasm here in the state of South Carolina.

We're going to take a close look, all angles of the race, including new signs that Newt Gingrich is not only surging, but possibly pulling ahead here.

Also, the fallout from last night's debate continues, and specifically, the question of Speaker Gingrich's divorce and reported request for an open marriage. New information tonight from ABC that Mr. Gingrich reportedly didn't exactly give the full story last night. We'll have an update on that.

All that plus the latest on the cruise ship disaster in Italy. New and frankly stunning details about what the captain was doing after -- after -- the ship hit those rocks. We're keeping them honest.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist," that's all at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to you, Anderson.

And Anderson talking about that cruise ship video that crashed off the coast of Italy. It is amazing. What the passengers were told just moments after they hit the rocks. We're going to show that to you.

And tonight's IDEA. We've been having, we've been exploring down here in South Carolina. We found a guy that has turned the world of vodka upside down. We'll take you there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle" -- where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And tonight, we begin in Iran. There are developments there. The U.S. top military official, General Martin Dempsey is in Israel for a series of high profile meetings with Israeli leaders. There is growing international concerns that the Israel government could act unilaterally to shut down Iran's nuclear program.

Now, the Obama administration has been pushing allies to sign on to sanctions targeting the county's oil industry and central bank in an effort to force Iran to abandon its nuclear pursuits without a war.

Karim Sadjadpour is a leading expert on Iran and we asked him how Iran is interpreting General Dempsey's trip to Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARIM SADJADPOUR, ASSOCIATE, THE CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: In the eyes of Iranian official, the United States and Israel are really indistinguishable from another. And I really think that Iran's hostility toward Israel is the key source of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran. David Frum once said that a country can enrich uranium and can call for Israel's demise. But I can't do both at the same time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That's Karim Sadjadpour.

Now, we go to Afghanistan. A day of heavy losses for allied forces. A helicopter crash in Helmand Province killed six American Marines. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for bringing down the chopper, but the NATO-led force reported no activity in the area.

In a separate incident, an Afghan soldier opened fire on unarmed French troops, killing four and injuring 15. This led French President Nicolas Sarkozy to suspend training operations and combat help in Afghanistan.

We asked CNN's Nick Paton Walsh how the NATO mission is affecting its French troops to pull out of Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Nicolas Sarkozy suggested he might bring troops home early. It's not so much operationally significant. There are 4,000 French soldiers here helping the training and security in some areas. It's more symbolic.

Sarkozy's facing great pressure domestically ahead of re-election in April. This war is deeply unpopular in France.

And NATO needs these contributors also to stay within the coalition, just help America fighting this war alone.

France badly needed here in Afghanistan. If they were to leave early, people might see signs of the coalition here crumbling -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And now to the U.K. and an update on the media hacking scandal that took down Rupert Murdoch's "News of the World" newspaper. Word that news international, which is the parent company of the now defunct newspaper has agreed to dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements to 18 reported victims, including some famous Brits.

A number of people have brought civil cases against News International over alleged phone hacking by its employees. CNN's Jim Boulden talked to us about the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Among those who said to have settled include actor Jude Law who reportedly received nearly $200,000. These are a fraction of the alleged phone hacking done on behalf of Murdoch's "News of the World" newspaper shut down last summer -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Italian rescue workers are now resuming their search tonight for 21 people who are still missing after the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. Now, we have new video to show you tonight which, as you'll see, shows the moments just after the ship ran aground. A crew member, speaking in Italian, is telling people to go back into their cabins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CREW MEMBER: On behalf of the captain, we ask you kindly to go back to your cabins. If you wish, you can walk around the hall. We have fixed the electrical problem we had, the generator problem. Everything will be calm. If you wish to remain standing up here, that's fine too, but I ask you kindly to go back to your rooms and to keep calm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It sounds and looks chaotic.

CNN's Dan Rivers has been covering the story from Giglio Island.

And, Dan, when you see this video of the crew member giving the instruction, saying it was a generator problem, everything's fixed, go back to your cabins, sort of seems like proof that the evacuation was complete chaos, doesn't it?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's certainly what some passengers are saying -- certainly the impression that you might be left after watching that video. However, one Costa employee writes in a local newspaper writes, we have heard so much nonsense with bitterness from survivors who's resorting to sensationalism (INAUDIBLE) information.

She is claiming that in fact if crew acted well, they did everything they could. They're well trained. They did the best they could. They got those 3,000 passengers off as quickly as they could.

Of course, all the passengers disagree saying they had to swim for it in some cases to get ashore alive.

BURNETT: It's interesting, Dan. Behind you, I think we are looking at the outline of the ship and there are some lights. Looks like the search and rescue mission is now back in progress. What can you tell us as to how that's going, what they're doing, and what the chances may be of anyone still being alive on the Costa Concordia.

RIVERS: Well, it's seven days since the accident now, Erin. They have had to suspend on a number of occasions this week the diving inside the ship. It's too dangerous. The ship is moving around on the rocks that it's sitting on. They have resumed in the bit of ship above water.

But, frankly, I think now, the chances of finding anyone alive are very slim indeed. They are going to get the pieces in place to start the salvage part of this operation. That's going to involve pumping 2,000 tons or more of heavy fuel oil. They need to bring in a tanker to do that. That's the kind of thing they will be looking at over the weekend.

And today, we have seen relatives of those who are missing laying flowers out at sea. Very poignant scenes, especially the mother of a 5-year-old girl, who's the youngest of the missing passengers.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Dan Rivers, thank you very much. We'll continue to watch and see what happens there.

All right. Well, up next, while we have been down here in Charleston, we went out to the barrier islands and we found the guy who checked out South Carolina and said, I don't want to live anywhere else, founded a company, changed an industry and make a whole a lot of money doing it. It's a sweet IDEA and it's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, about 20 minutes away from here, out in the middle of nowhere, beautiful country. A local company is disrupted the vodka market with a sweet Southern taste. Take a look at tonight's big IDEA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): Scott Newitt was a man on the move. He lived in 21 cities is as many years, always working for the liquor industry, but always searching for a place to settle down. In 2006, Scott finally found the answer here in South Carolina and sweet tea.

SCOTT NEWITT, FIREFLY: That's good.

BURNETT: Created here in a small distillery in Wadmalaw Island, Firefly is sweet tea and vodka, a marriage made in 70-proof heaven.

NEWITT: We make our vodka out of wine. So, we crush the grapes, we ferment the grapes, they make alcohol. Then we distill the wine and then it ends up, the vapors end up here because alcohol boils around 192 degrees.

BURNETT: OK.

NEWITT: And then we take this and transfer it to these larger tanks. And then we mix our tea and sugar together and then we bottle it. And then, that's Firefly sweet tea vodka.

BURNETT: For Firefly, the South isn't just a source of inspiration but ingredients.

NEWITT: This is Firefly sweet tea vodka made with all American tea, American sugar in the vodka, all natural, cane sugar.

BURNETT: OK. Cane sugar.

NEWITT: And remember, it's straight up, 70 proof.

BURNETT (on camera): Whoa.

NEWITT: Cheers.

BURNETT (voice-over): And the tea used in the vodka? They grow it right up the road on the Charleston tea plantation.

(on camera): So you get your American from here, American tea?

NEWITT: Yes, this is the only tea plantation in North America. We get a portion of our tea from here.

BURNETT: Right down the street.

NEWITT: Right down the street.

BURNETT (voice-over): Bill Hall owns the plantation, and he's a third generation tea taster.

(on camera): How do you end up being the only tea farmer in the United States?

BILL HALL, WORLD-RENOWNED TEA TASTER AND TEA MAKER: I guess I'm the only one crazy enough to do it. BURNETT (voice-over): Bill said he was skeptical about Firefly booze-infused concoction but these days, he's a believer.

HALL: When they came with the idea of the Firefly sweet tea vodka, I thought, good for you. Whether you can market it or not, that's another story. But their success story is quite incredible because it started here in Charleston and I don't know, downtown Charleston just grabbed ahold of this beverage and it's swept out throughout the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Maybe it's time to try some of that. Our show is over. Have a wonderful weekend.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.