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Callista Gingrich Steps Up Campaign Role; Whitney Houston Death Investigation Continues; Interview With Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey

Aired February 13, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight: new details of how pop icon Whitney Houston died and new tributes to her remarkable, yet tragic career.

Plus, Israeli diplomatic cars in two countries are targeted by explosives. Is this the latest turn in a deadly spry war between Israel and Iran?

And Callista Gingrich steps up her campaign role, sometimes at a price.

We begin this evening with new developments in the death of Whitney Houston. Her body believed to be headed home to New Jersey tonight, two days after the legendary singer was found dead in a bathtub in a Beverly Hills hotel room. Officials say some prescription drug bottles were found in that room. We still don't know though what killed her. Police do say though this is not a homicide.


LT. MARK ROSEN, BEVERLY HILLS POLICE: As of right now, it's not a criminal investigation.

We have concluded our portion of the investigation at the hotel. We have a team of investigators that are specifically assigned to this case, but, as of right now in this state, on this date, it is a coroner's case.


KING: Casey Wian live for us in Los Angeles tonight with more details.

Casey, how long until we get a definitive answer just what did kill Whitney Houston?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it will be between six and eights weeks according to both the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and the Beverly Hills Police Department.

That's when toxicology results on the autopsy that was performed on Whitney Houston yesterday will be complete. Neither the coroner's office nor the police department say they will give any more details about the investigation until then.

Let's back up a little bit and give a little bit of a timeline based on what information we do know from official sources. At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Whitney Houston's body was found in the bathtub of her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by a member of her staff. At 3:43, a 911 call was laced to the Beverly Hills Politics Department. CPR efforts were undertaken by members of her staff and by fire officials who had responded to the scene.

At 3:55, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead. Beverly Hills Police Department then took over the crime -- excuse me -- the investigation which they as you mentioned said was not a criminal investigation. Their preliminary investigation they said this morning is now completed.

But the Beverly Hills Police Department saying that investigation has been sealed pending the results of the toxicology reports. Also, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office coming out this morning and saying that yes, in fact, prescription medications were found in Whitney Houston's hotel room, but the coroner says not in any great quantities, in fact, no more prescription medications than would be found in the coroner's own home -- John.

KING: Casey, as we await the important toxicology results, what do we know, what can you tell us about the funeral plans?

WIAN: We do know the funeral plans are being put together right now. We're expecting the funeral will happen later this week, perhaps Friday, perhaps Saturday, and Whitney Houston's body is going to be transported back to New Jersey where that funeral will be taking place, John.

KING: Casey Wian live for us in Los Angeles, Casey, thanks so much.

We will have much more on Whitney Houston's death and reaction from around the world later in the program, including a conversation with CNN's Piers Morgan, plus a reporter who, get this, was expecting to visit with Houston Saturday night only to learn of her shocking death.

Now moving on though to major international news and major intrigue. It's being described as global sparring with potentially deadly consequences.

This is what left. Look here. That's a van carrying Israeli Embassy employees in New Delhi, India. The blast wounded four. Israel blames Iran. Iran in turn says Israel did this to itself to -- quote -- "tarnish" -- end quote -- Iran's image.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is here now to put this into context.

Chris, we remember not that long ago the mysterious death of the Iranian nuclear scientist. Is this being considered retaliation? CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I spoke with a senior defense official who had to note the similarities between these attacks on Israeli diplomats and those attacks on Iranian scientists and officials who have been working on Iran's nuclear program.

In India, in the Delhi attacks, what you had was a man on a motorcycle riding up to a moving car and then attaching a sticky bomb to that car. In Tbilisi, Georgia, we're told there are reports that it was a similar attack planned, but the bomb did not go off. Those attacks that happened inside Iran were reported to be someone on a motorcycle coming up to a car and attaching the bomb to the car.

So Iran has said that Israel -- or I should say Israel has said Iran is responsible for these latest attacks, but Iran has publicly accused Israel of working with dissident groups within Iran to try to attach those bombs and target its nuclear scientists.

KING: And as we try to sort all this out, Chris, Iran has mentioned from time to time the possibility of attacks against U.S. interests overseas. What is the United States learning, and what's their sense, the take on today's bombing?

LAWRENCE: Well, right now, the White House is saying they're in talks with the Israelis, but they don't have enough to publicly assign blame yet. Some of our intelligence sources say they're looking at some of the usual suspects.

The defense official that I spoke with said, look, he knows and the U.S. knows that Iran uses Hezbollah to carry out attacks around the world. But he said, we don't have enough yet to the assign blame for these particular cases. But it goes beyond just some of these soft targets. One of the highest ranking Navy admirals over the weekend publicly came out over and said, look, if Iran is planning to do anything overtly in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy is ready to confront any sort of aggression head on.

KING: Chris Lawrence live for us tonight the Pentagon, Chris, thank you.

At the White House, President Obama today delivered his 2013 budget, and it's a $3.8 trillion -- that's with a T. -- plan that pumps new money into job creation programs, infrastructure and education and it also would raise taxes on the rich, no more Bush era tax cuts for high earners.

If your household draws an annual salary of over $1 million, you would send at least 30 percent of that to Uncle Sam.

Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been looking through the budget.

I'm sure you have read all 2,403 pages of it by now. Republicans say this is a political document and it's more about the president's reelection campaign than the federal budget. With all this talk of dead on arrival on the Hill, where do we go? BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you can bet the house that obviously it's not getting through Congress.

You're watching political theater play out here, the president unveiling this budget proposal that speaks very much to these populist priorities that he's been laying out for months now, and with Republicans hitting him as not being serious about the fiscal situation of the nation.

What you will see play out in the coming weeks is that House Republicans will unveil their budget and it's expected to have an overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid, big drivers in the debt. But then you can cue Democrats in the White House hammering Republicans as trying to dismantle a safety net for the elderly and the poor.

You're really seeing, John, these two competing messages being laid out in an election year and will be seeing in the coming months and essentially in November which one really wins.

KING: And so, Bri, the president wants to say here's my budget document to the American people. Here are my priorities.

But let's remind the American people, here's something he said in early 2009.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.


KING: This new budget, Brianna gets us not even close to that. How does the White House explain that?

KEILAR: Not even close. You're right there. I asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about this today, was this a mistake for President Obama to make this promise?

He said it was a promise based on what the White House and economists knew at the time and that as it turned out, the economy was in much greater distress than they had expected. Now, it is a promise that the president has repeated more recently, but I think what you really have to do is kind of look how this message of cutting spending has played out over the last year.

President Obama was much more, I guess you could say, into this topic last year, certainly going through the debt ceiling negotiations with Republicans, but then that grand bargain that he was trying to work out with House Speaker John Boehner, it fell apart. The president spent a lot of political capital on it.

So, at this point, the president's campaign and the White House, they think that they have a better message by talking about tightening the belt a little bit, not too much, and focusing on the economic recovery.

KING: Brianna Keilar live at the White House tonight, this new budget the beginning of a conversation, nowhere near the end, Bri, thank you.

Coming up here, more on the budget. One Republican senator says it's tough to see this glass as half-full when he looks at the president's budget.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I certainly hope we can get something accomplished, but it's getting harder and harder to be optimistic about this.


KING: Throughout the night, we will also have the latest on the Whitney Houston investigation and reaction. We will talk to Piers Morgan about how Hollywood is reacting, that in about 20 minutes.


KING: The president's budget proposal for the next fiscal year makes clear he will not keep a key promise to the American people. That is to slice the deficit in half in his first term.

In a sad sign of the times here in Washington, the White House proposal also does nothing to advance the needed debates over how to rein in spending on Medicare and Social Security and other entitlements. Instead, it is largely an election year blueprint. The modest deficit reduction it does call for is based on raising taxes on the wealthy, something most Republicans refuse to consider.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do we want to keep these tax cuts for wealthiest Americans or do we want to keep investing in everything else: education, clean energy, a strong military, care for our veterans? We can't do both. We can't afford it.


KING: On Capitol Hill, well, Republicans declared themselves less than impressed.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: It's not dead on arrival. It's debt on arrival.


KING: Let's discuss the road ahead with freshman GOP Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who made slashing spending and deficits a central point of his 2010 election campaign.

Senator, it's good to see you.

You look at this document, it's an election year document. Republicans don't like it. At the White House, they say, can you blame us? Anything we do in this environment would be overpoliticized.

Where is the circuit breaker?

TOOMEY: Well, I would say, where is the leadership?

The president of the United States has an obligation to provide some leadership. If you ask me, there are two primary objectives that everyone in Washington should be pursuing. One is policies that maximize economic growth, so we can get this fragile economy moving. And the second is to put us on a sustainable fiscal path, because we're not on that path now.

In fact, we're on a disastrous path. This budget fails on both counts. Massive tax increases such as the president has proposed in a variety of ways can only be harmful to the economy. And his complete unwillingness to address what he himself has acknowledged is the driver of our deficits long-term, the big entitlement programs, especially health care, this is a terrible abdication of leadership.

KING: Well, let's not look back. I think we could assign blame to both parties if we look back at how we got to this point.

As we are where we are now, is there any way to do anything, to get anything done between now and the election, or are we just treading water until we find out the verdict of the American people in November?

TOOMEY: I certainly hope we can get something accomplished. But it's getting harder and harder to be optimistic about this.

I was on the super committee. I made a proposal that was outside of my comfort zone to try to find a way to find the common ground to reduce these deficits, to put us on a sustainable path, was not met with a receptive ear on the other side of the table. The president's abdicating his leadership here.

What I worry, John, is that there will be some exogenous event, a financial crisis, spooked bond markets, or something really unpleasant that would force us. I hope we don't have to wait for that.

KING: At this time of divided government, what is the circuit breaker?

Let me say this, for example. If the president were to win reelection, I know you oppose the tax increases he calls for here. The White House would say the rich should pay their fair share. The White House would say at least the polling shows the American people are on their side. Set that aside. If the president wins reelection in January, would Republicans say, you won fair and square, sir, we will raise taxes on wealthy Americans now?

TOOMEY: First of all, most Americans don't think that people should be paying 40 percent of their income in taxes, which is what the president wants to take us to.

Look, I think -- I'm not going to support policies that are going to weaken our economy and that will put more people out of work, prevent the kind of growth that we need. You can do the math. Any way you do it, you cannot solve this problem by raising taxes.

The big health care entitlement programs are growing at three and four times the rate our economy is growing. They will consume the entire economy in time. So tax increases don't solve the problem. What will solve it is a structural reform of these programs, make them viable, make them viable for a future generation.

But, you know, we can't continue pretending that this is going to go on forever. It's certainly not.

KING: But in this public environment, can we keep sticking to an environment where both sides refuse to budge on some big things? You know the president's case. He says give me higher taxes on wealthy Americans and I will sit down at the table with you and we will talk about perhaps deeper cuts in Medicare, for example, than my party would like.

Will there ever be a tradeoff or are we just going to fight this thing forever?

TOOMEY: As I said, I offered a proposal, a framework within the super committee that would have addressed -- that would have put more revenue on the table, more than I thought we should have to agree to, more than I think is necessary, in return for some really modest changes in the entitlement side of the equation.

And we couldn't get that done. I think we have demonstrated a willingness to be flexible. I certainly have. But the president has never put on the table an actual proposal that even begins to significantly bend the curves. He's OK with arbitrarily cutting back on health care providers, hospitals, doctors.

We have done an awful lot of that. We're already losing access to quality health care. We can't go down that road. We have got to the change the architecture of these programs, and he really ought to show some leadership here.

KING: Senator Toomey, appreciate your help today.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me.

KING: Take care, sir.

Coming up: Jerry Sandusky can visit with some of his grandchildren. The house arrest rules have been loosened for the former Penn State assistant football coach.

And we're remembering Whitney Houston throughout the hour. As we head to break, here's Whitney February 1988.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: Newt Gingrich's wife, Callista, steps onto the campaign spotlight. We're looking past the pearls, past the Tiffany's credit line, at her blue-collar roots. And you will hear from a childhood friend.

And of course our coverage of Whitney Houston's death continues. Up next, Piers Morgan shares his thoughts on the artist, her voice, and the outpouring of raw emotion from Hollywood.


KING: In this half-hour, Rick Santorum says he supports working women. Here's a question, do they support him?

Plus, a journalist who thought she would visiting Whitney Houston gets a panicked knock at the door and the stunning news the superstar is dead. She tells us what it was like inside the Beverly Hilton.

And it's Whitney like you have never heard her before, just 21 years old when she wowed her first national TV audience. See the performance that introduced America to that powerful, soulful voice, now stilled.

Whitney Houston spent a quarter century in the public eye. She had so many shining moments, matched by some moments of personal torture.

Piers Morgan, the host of "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," joins me live from Los Angeles now.

And, Piers, celebrities have been coming forward the last 48 hours talking about Whitney Houston's death, her life, her career. Let's reflect here a little bit of your interview with Lionel Richie over the weekend.


LIONEL RICHIE, MUSICIAN: She had that voice that could just turn a story, a melody into just magical, magical notes.

I think about it all the time in terms of watching her. Just there was no end to what range she could hit. And, of course, you think, OK, she can't get any better than that, and then she comes up with another lick that's even more amazing than the last lick.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Piers, what's your takeaway from this celebrity outpouring? What jumps out, strikes you the most?

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": I think exactly what Lionel Richie said there, is I think there's an incredible feeling amongst other singers in particular that they have lost possibly the best of them all.

You know, the number of people who have been saying what Lionel Richie said there, I saw Tony Bennett say it, I saw Tom Jones say it, a lot of people saying that, without any doubt, Whitney Houston had the best singing voice they had ever heard.

And that's what the industry has lost. That's what the world has lost. And, yes, she had all these problems and these issues in her life, well-documented.

I suppose my overriding feeling about it is that it must be incredibly difficult for anybody that had a voice as good as hers -- and I saw David Foster, the great producer saying this today -- to lose that quality of voice, as Whitney did. To not be able to sing that way again, I think, must be a crippling thing to deal with. And I think a lot of her problems, I would imagine, can be charted back to that moment of awareness.

KING: You have covered and been the editor for many celebrity tragedies over the years. What is it about Whitney Houston's death that you think captures us?

MORGAN: You know, the sad thing, I think, is although everyone is talking about what a great shock it was, I think, as with Amy Winehouse and to a certain degree with Michael Jackson, I don't think it was that shocking. You know, Whitney Houston has been on this downward spiral in her life for a long time. And I think that it was incredibly sad news, but there was an awful sense of inevitability just as there was with Amy Winehouse and with Michael Jackson.

I think that we're losing a lot of incredibly talented people. Those three would be three of the greatest performers that, certainly, I've seen in my lifetime, all snuffed away before they even reach, you know, pensionable age.

And it's that terrible loss, all three of them linked to a form of drug addiction. And I think, you know, it's a huge wake-up call for Hollywood, for other musicians. Drugs were always seen in the '60s and '70s as a kind of cool thing for musicians to be involved with. It doesn't seem very cool today, does it? I mean, it seems like a ruinous route to take your life down.

KING: And you mentioned just there the sense of inevitability around some troubled performers, even brilliant performers. You spoke to Clive Davis, her mentor, just a day before all of this unfolded. Was there any sense -- any sense of this?

MORGAN: Not at all. It was quite eerie when I look back on it. Clive Davis, first time I've interviewed him, with Jennifer Hudson. And we began talking about Whitney, and I asked Clive if Jennifer was as good as Whitney. And he wouldn't commit to that, but he did say she was heading that way.

And then Jennifer broke in with this wonderful story about how when she was a young child, she would stand in front of the mirror and dream of doing a duet with Whitney Houston. This was her heroine.

When I watched the Grammys last night, I saw Jennifer Hudson do that haunting performance of "I Will Always Love You." I was just tossed back 36 hours earlier. There I was talking to this wonderful singer about her hero worship for Whitney. None of us in that room, obviously, had any idea what was coming.

Clive Davis will be destroyed, and Jennifer Hudson has put a statement out, I think, in the last hour, talking about how she can barely stop crying.

This is hitting lots of people, I think, in ways they didn't expect, particularly a lot of young women who I think really looked up to Whitney for her incredible talent. She was a trailblazer for so many of the great divas: you know, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and so on. And there's a lot of people who didn't make it into the world of fame who I think looked up to Whitney Houston, who watched "The Bodyguard," heard that magical voice, and it inspired them to do things in their lives.

And yes, she had these terrible problems. Yes, she had this awful drug addiction. We don't know the answers to what happened on -- on that day on Saturday, and it may take a while to find out.

But the talent is just inarguable. I've never heard a better voice. And I don't think the world possibly has ever heard a better natural singing voice than Whitney Houston. And that's the tragedy, is that we won't hear that again.

KING: We will not. Fascinating reporting and perspective from my colleague Piers Morgan. And stay with us tonight. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" at 9 p.m. Eastern. Much more on this tragedy, including perspective from Chaka Khan and Jennifer Holiday, as well.

Piers, thanks so much for helping us out tonight.

Allison Samuels walked into the Beverly Hilton Hotel expecting to visit with her friend, Whitney Houston, as she has done many times before. But instead of hearing from Houston, she heard a frantic knock at the door by Houston's assistant, Lynn Volkman, who announced the singer was dead.

Allison Samuels, a senior writer for "Newsweek," joins me now from Los Angeles.

Please just take us back to that moment when there's the knock on the door. What went through your mind?

ALLISON SAMUELS, SENIOR WRITER, "NEWSWEEK": Well, what was -- I was actually there to do a VH-1 interview, "Behind the Music." Whitney was also going to follow me in that interview to sort of talk about Brandy from "Behind the Music." And I was going to hang around and sort of, you know, talk to Whitney because I hadn't seen her in a while.

Then we had a knock on the door. It became louder and louder. We stopped taping. Went to the door. Her assistant came in and said, "Whitney can't do it. Whitney can't make it." And then she said, "Whitney's dead."

And, you know, the room just sort of stood still because we couldn't believe this was happening. I couldn't believe it. As someone who had met Whitney so many times, interviewed her so many times, had that feeling just as you were talking about that this day may come, but I never thought I'd be there at the very time and the very moment to hear the words that Whitney is dead.

KING: So Allison, there have been some suggestions, some reports that there were days of erratic behavior before the tragedy of Saturday. What do you know about that?

SAMUELS: Yes, there were reports. Many of the people at the hotel told me that she had been sort of skipping around the hotel, doing hand stands at the pool, doing all kinds of things that just weren't normal for someone, you know, her age and in her position.

So the days leading up to her death, she'd been out that Friday night drinking, having fun with friends, smoking, something that she had said she was going to stop doing to sort of preserve her voice or to get her voice back.

So a lot of it led up to -- a lot of things I think led up to the eventual event on Saturday where she actually passed away. She had been, you know, really doing things that she had promised a lot of people that she was going to stop.

KING: You just heard my colleague, Piers Morgan, talking about this sense of inevitability. You brought it up yourself. At one point, am I right, after an interview before, earlier in her career, a bit back, it went off the rails a bit, you decided to prewrite an obituary?

SAMUELS: Yes, the last time I interviewed her extensively, which was about six years ago, she was at the height of her career, really. I interviewed her. She was not herself. Incoherent, really; totally, you know, words being slurred. I couldn't understand what she was saying. Totally not the Whitney that I had met so many times before. It was very disturbing to see.

And at that point, it sort of hit me. Like, if she doesn't get it together, this is going to end very tragically for her. And I felt that just because she was so out of control. And this was over the course of two days. I had dinner with her. She was that way. And then I saw her the next day, and she was exactly the same way. And it just hit me that, you know, we're going to lose you very young if you don't get yourself together. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happened. KING: Allison Samuels, appreciate your help and your perspective this evening. Thank you so much.

SAMUELS: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

Make sure to stick around. Later in the program, we're going to show you Whitney Houston's first national television performance on the Merv Griffin show. Her talent evident the first time she took the stage.

Newt Gingrich's campaign says we'll be seeing a lot more of his wife, Callista, in the coming days. She'll be showcasing his softer side. We got a glimpse of that on Friday, when she introduced her husband here in Washington at the influential CPAC summit.

Our Randi Kaye sheds a little more light on the candidate's wife. She was once called Kelly Lou.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On most Sundays, Callista Gingrich sings in her church choir, but it wasn't until recently that she found her voice on the campaign trial.

CALLISTA GINGRICH, NEWT GINGRICH'S WIFE: Let's give a warm welcome to my husband and best friend, Newt Gingrich.

KAYE: Still, moments like that are rare. Getting anywhere close to Callista on the campaign trail is challenging, to say the least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras and sit down.

KAYE (on camera): Are they trying to keep Callista away from reporters?

KAREN OLSON, CALLISTA'S FRIEND: You know, I'm not aware of that they're trying to.

KAYE (voice-over): Yet, when we asked to interview Callista, the campaign said no but agreed to let us speak with Karen Olson, Callista's friend since the second grade.

Growing up, Olson recalls Callista was a cheerleader. They played piano together and attended Luther College in Iowa, where Callista majored in music. Callista practiced six hours a day. She graduated in cum laude in 1988.

After college, Callista moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a clerk with the House Agriculture Committee. In 1993, Callista began a six-year affair with Newt Gingrich, who at the time was speaker of the House and on his second marriage.

(on camera) Did she ever talk to you about meeting Newt or dating Newt? OLSON: You know, yes, we knew about it, but she didn't say a lot about it.

KAYE: Did you ever offer her advice?

OLSON: You know, you just -- you want the best for your friends. You don't want to see them get hurt. You know, having a high-profile relationship, you know, we were just concerned.

KAYE: Was she concerned, do you think, or...

OLSON: I think so.

KAYE (voice-over): Callista and Newt married in 2000. But their affair still dogs them today on the campaign trail. After Newt's second wife told the media he had wanted a, quote, "open marriage," they ran into this question in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just to clarify, I wanted to see if you all are -- if you all are in an open marriage.



KAYE (on camera): How do you think she handles that sort of thing, being put in some tough situations or getting some hard questions out there?

OLSON: You know, publicly I think she handles it very well. Privately, it's -- can't be easy.

KAYE: Early on, Callista made headlines when staffers accused her of undermining her husband's campaign, pulling him off the trail to go on a luxury cruise to Mykonos and to appear at Callista's book signing for her new book featuring Ellis the Elephant.

C. GINGRICH: Hi, I'm Callista Gingrich and this is my friend, Ellis the Elephant.

KAYE: And despite sagging poll numbers, Newt skipped town again last fall to attend his wife's French horn performance, all that on top of the uproar over the couple's $500,000 credit line at the jewelry store Tiffany & Company.

(on camera) Callista grew up an only child in a blue-collar family the small town of Whitehall, Wisconsin. Her mother, a secretary, named her after the wife of a bank president she'd once worked for. Callista's middle name is Louise, so her family called her Callie Lou.

Money was so tight growing up, Callista's mother used to sew all of her daughter's clothes by hand.

(voice-over) These days Callista is always well dressed, brightly colored fitted suits and pearls. Newt's campaign spokesman, R.C. Hammond, told "The New Yorker," quote, "I don't think she owns a pair of jeans." And her perfectly-coifed platinum blonde hair has caused such a stir, there's even a Facebook page devoted to it. Late-night comedians poke fun too.

ANDY RICHTER, ANNOUNCER, TBS'S "CONAN": I've got to have a Callista here.

KAYE: That probably made her chuckle, Olson says, because she loves to laugh. The couple's favorite movie is "The Hangover," a comedy Newt says they've watched seven times.

Callista, her friend says is trying to loosen up on the campaign trail, too, to let voters know, before it's too late, there's more to her than what the headlines suggest.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


KING: Ahead, CNN asked the first lady, Michelle Obama, to join a chat with our online audience, but someone forgot to charge the iPad.




KING: We did get it working. Your questions and her answers coming up.

Plus, more on the incredible career of Whitney Houston, including a look at her very first national television experience.


KING: If you needed any, here's some proof Rick Santorum has a chance to upend the Republican race for president. He now runs even with Mitt Romney in national polls, and Santorum is leading in the state where Romney was born and raised, Michigan.

The new national numbers from Gallup and the Pew Research Center will help Senator Santorum sustain his recent fund-raising gain but the Michigan numbers from the American Research Group, which show Senator Santorum at 33 percent and Governor Romney at 27 percent, well, they're more important. Why? Because Michigan and Arizona both vote next in two weeks and Romney is banking on winning both to get his campaign back on firmer footing. So there's no doubt now -- no doubt that the Santorum challenge is for real.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think this is a two-person race right now. And we're just focused on making sure that folks know we're the best alternative to Barack Obama and we have the best chance of beating him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And yet, here's tonight's truth. The former Pennsylvania senator has a women problem. And if he can't fix it, it could significantly hamper his chances. Even in that new Michigan poll, for example, Senator Santorum has a gender gap and leads Romney by five points among men but trails Romney by six points among women. Back when he lost his Senate seat in 2006 in a blowout, Santorum lost among married women by 16 points and among unmarried women by a staggering 38 points, 69 percent to 31 percent.

Now, granted 2006 was a huge Democratic year. When he won his Senate seat back in 2000, Santorum trailed among women but by just two points. So this hasn't always been a problem, but it is now.

The "Truth" is, here's betting that, among Republican voters now, the issues are more language and tone than policy disagreements. In an interview here last week, for example, Senator Santorum spoke against giving women a greater role in combat in the military.


SANTORUM: I think that could be a very compromising situation where -- where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.


SANTORUM: Now, he later clarified that he meant the emotions of men, not women.

Santorum has also used strong language in arguing religious institutions that provide health care to their employees should not be required to pay for contraception.


SANTORUM: It's the church's money. And forcing them to do something that they think is a grievous moral wrong, how can that be a right of a woman?


KING: Now again, many conservative women agree with Santorum on the policy. The question is, is there a kinder, gentler way to talk about these things. Let's talk truth with Torie Clarke is a veteran of several presidential campaigns and the former Pentagon spokeswoman in the George Bush administration. Terry Holt is a Republican campaign strategist and spokesman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. And Democratic strategist and Obama pollster Cornell Belcher.

Let's start with the woman at the table. Is it -- you know, conservative voters, most of them agree with him on the policy. Why is he seeing a gender gap in the polls? TORIE CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Which policy? I know us -- I know a lot of conservative women who don't necessarily agree with him on the women in the military.

KING: Women in the military?

CLARKE: Women in the military have been essentially in combat roles for quite some number of years now. And the unconventional nature of warfare, they have been very much in combat roles. The military is just trying to take the steps to codify it. So I think there are a fair number of women who disagree with him on that.

But I think you're right. If you look at the substance of the issues, say, on the contraception, there are plenty of Catholics that he's trying to appeal to there. Many of them may agree with him on that. But time and again and again we hear Santorum say something or do something in a way that just doesn't ring quite right.

I was upset when he was trying to explain the passages in his book from 2006, and he kind of stumbled around. And then he says, "Oh, my wife wrote that." Communication's 101. Don't throw the wife under the bus. So this has not been his best week.

KING: Wife 101. Wife 101.

So what is it? If you look throughout the Republican race, Republican -- we're focusing on Senator Santorum now. But Governor Romney has always done better among women in this race. You'll find some exceptions. Look at the South Carolina Newt Gingrich blowout. But overall, what is it?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I feel like he's better known to most Republicans than definitely more voters than Rick Santorum who's really still kind of an unknown quantity to most folks.

When I think of Michigan, though, I think of the economy, and I think most women, working women or un-working women, married or unmarried, they're going to care more about the economy than any other issue, hands down. And if he's going to be successful in Michigan, he's going to have to appeal to Michiganders based on economic issues and not social issues.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: And I think, quite frankly, the Republican race is now really a hot bed for feminism. I think where this really will impact him in the general election last time around for Senate in a battleground state where we had a big gender gap.

If he goes into a general election scenario with that sort of gender gap among married women and particularly the increasingly important unmarried women, it's really hard to win an election when women are 52, 53 percent of the election.

KING: Those words have not been spoken in this race until the last week or so. If he goes into a general election. We're talking about Senator Santorum. Look at the Gallup numbers then and now. February 8 through 12 versus February 1 through 7. Governor Romney at 37 percent in the first week of that polling, then at 32 percent. Senator Santorum goes from 17 percent to 30 percent.

Torie, when you talk to your Republican friends, are there people who now think Santorum is a viable nominee?

CLARKE: They -- what all my friends are saying is we all have to say, oh, this is over. Romney just needs to do this or Gingrich just needs to do that. This thing really isn't going to be over until it's over.

And I keep saying the Republican Party is going through the Goldilocks syndrome. You know, this one's too hot. That one's too cold. That chair's too big. That one's too small. And I kept thinking that Goldilocks was figuring it out. They're still trying to figure out what it is they really want at the end of the day. We're not there yet.

HOLT: There's still an anti-Romney sentiment among some Republicans, but it continues to be divided up among at least three other candidates. And as long as it's true, I still see that he has a very difficult -- Santorum has a very difficult to path to the nomination. You need money. You need organization. You need to be on the ballot everywhere, and you need not to have your support whittled away by Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich every time you turn around.

BELCHER: One way to speak on that, not as a partisan, just as a pollster...

KING: No, not as a partisan.

BELCHER: No, just as a pollster, you know, his movement up 13 points over such a short, brief span of time without millions of dollars being spent on advertising is something we rarely see.

There's an -- there's an earned -- what we call in the business an earned media campaign going on against Romney that is clearly sort of having an impact on what his brand is. And you clearly sort of see, you know, all this money being spent, but he's gained 13 points without spending blankets of millions of dollars. That's an amazing thing.

HOLT: In a poll. But that's different from getting votes...


HOLT: ... in an organized and in a competitive environment like Michigan. I grant you...


KING: But, Santorum...

HOLT: A generation.

KING: If Santorum wins Michigan -- if Santorum wins Michigan. Put the RAG (ph) numbers up. Santorum, 33; Romney, 27; Gingrich, 21. That's a tight race, including the margin of error, if you do the statisticians backing all that.

But if Santorum wins Michigan, George Romney was governor of Michigan, American Motors back in the day, supposed to be a Romney state like Florida and Nevada is firewalled in case bad things happen. If Santorum somehow beats Romney in Michigan, what happens?

CLARKE: Heads explode.

HOLT: Right.

CLARKE: A lot of reservations from Tampa, saying this thing could go on forever. But this -- Santorum's surge couldn't happen at the worst time for him. The rest of February is a very long month. You don't have a debate until the 22. You don't have the primaries until the 28th. That's a long time to try to keep that going.

HOLT: And here's the problem for Romney. It only -- Michigan's only news if he doesn't win it. It's one of those things that he would have to -- he would have to pour everything in to win it at this point, and he might not even control the headline if it's close.

KING: I think he'll -- I think he'll take it. No?


KING: So do you -- last word here. In team Obama, it's always been Romney's a stronger guy, Romney's a stronger guy. You're just making you could get Santorum -- do you ever think maybe we're wrong? Maybe there's something happening we don't understand?

BELCHER: I think -- I think not only are Republicans scratching their heads, I think Democrats are, too. And if he does, in fact, win Michigan, we may have to look at some different things.

HOLT: I think we're all just a little confused.

KING: Cornell, Terry, Torie, thanks for coming in.

Still ahead here, if you watched the Grammys last night, you're not alone. Just how many people tuned into music's biggest night as we continue to monitor the news out of Beverly Hills and New Jersey, where Whitney Houston's body now being transported this hour. More details when we come back.




(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back. Kate Bolduan is here with more on news you need to know right now.


This is a wild one. This is -- only to Justice Breyer this would happen. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed by an intruder armed with a machete last week while vacationing in the Caribbean island of Nevis. Justice Breyer's family owns a home and -- on the island, and his wife and two other guests were in the home at the time.

Officials say no one was hurt, thankfully, in the incident, though the male suspect took $1,000 in cash before fleeing. Pretty wild.

And last night's Grammys were a huge success for CBS. Looking into a little bit of it right now. Overnight ratings were the second highest ever for the music's biggest awards program. More than 39 million viewers tuned in. The last time the Grammys had audience as big as last night's was 1984, the year Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was the biggest winner.

And first lady Michelle Obama, she sat down with CNN's iReport audience to discuss the second anniversary of her Let's Move initiative. She also took a question on President Obama's favorite food. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mrs. Obama, my favorite healthy snack is Goldfish. What is President Obama's favorite snack?

OBAMA: If he's watching a game, he can eat a whole bowl of guacamole and nachos. So that's, I think, one of his favorite snacks. Bu thanks for asking and keep eating your vegetables.


BOLDUAN: Keep eating your vegetables. She also talked about in this interview how she stays healthy, the exercise that she gets done as well as how she manages balancing all of the...

KING: Guacamole, not exactly a healthy snack. It's good, but it's...

All right. Tonight's "moment You May Have Missed" is a look back at Whitney Houston before fame and stardom, before the spotlight. We leave you with this: Whitney Houston's first nationally televised performance, April 29, 1985, on "The Merv Griffin Show" when the world saw her sing for the first time.