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Confrontation In The Air; Deadline For Fixing Obamacare Website Looms; American Jailed For Parody Video; Biden For President In 2016?

Aired November 29, 2013 - 17:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, China confrontation. Fighters jets take to the sky after U.S. military planes enter disputed territory. Can tension be defused before the crisis escalates?

International nightmare. An American man arrested and jailed in Dubai on shocking charges. What was his alleged crime?

And Biden in 2016. Some say the vice president is positioning himself for his own White House bid, but will he really run?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

Long simmering tension over disputed territory has suddenly heated up. China's military scrambled fighter jets today after U.S. and Japanese planes entered an air defense zone Beijing unilaterally declared just last week. It's over the East China Sea in a cluster of small uninhabited islands claimed by both China and Japan.

CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following developments for us. Barbara, we had China declare the zone, U.S. planes flew through it, China warned again, U.S. planes flew through again. What's to keep this from escalating?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Joe Biden. The vice president is headed to China next week. He's going to sit down and talk to them. But this is all happening in the middle of war games between the U.S. and Japan in the region and escalating tensions here at the Pentagon, what U.S. officials, the line they are trying to push is that they routinely fly through this international air space, that these are reconnaissance flights, nothing unusual they say.

They're not trying to poke China in the eye. They're not trying to escalate tensions. But the question now is, can China keep this up? Has china overplayed its hand? Does it have the midair refueling capability to keep sending its fighters into the air? Does it have the radar coverage to keep looking for these planes? What if the U.S., Japan and South Korea just keep sending larger and larger numbers of planes into this zone?

What are the Chinese going to do about it? Are we headed to an incident of potential miscalculation? Nobody thinks there's going to be a shooting war. No one is talking about that. But miscalculation in tight air space, planes come close to each other, they miscalculate, perhaps, they crash. Nobody wants to see that happen -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, you mentioned Vice President Biden's going to be there next week. What is his message? Is it a conciliatory message? Is it a tough message saying, hey, you got to stop this now? How does he get that balance right to bring an end to this?

STARR: Well, he is the one that's being sent to deal with this. It was a preplanned trip to actually talk more about trade and the economy, but now, this is on the agenda. Biden will sit down with Chinese officials, we are told by administration officials, and say basically what's up? What are your intentions? What are you trying to do here? What are you trying to accomplish?

The Chinese know by now several days into this, they are facing overwhelming opposition, of course, not just from the U.S. but Japan, South Korea, all the other U.S. allies in the region. So, Biden will say to the Chinese, what are you trying to accomplish here, and maybe, just maybe, everyone might look for a way to dial some of this back.

But right now, that is not happening, at least, not with the Chinese rhetoric. They still appear to be really determined to enforce this zone with their new restrictions -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll be hoping that both sides find a way to ratchet this down. Thanks very much to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

We're going to get more now from CNN's Rene Marsh to explain exactly what this air defense identification zone is, how does it work. Rene, walk us through what they've actually declared here.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Jim, you probably know that U.S. sovereignty doesn't end at the coastline. It extends 12 miles beyond that. But what we're talking about today is different, the air defense identification zone extending hundreds of miles beyond that 12-mile limit. So, this is the United States and that zone extends some 200 miles beyond the borders.

That's what we can tell you here. So, this all comes down to national security, essentially, allowing nations to protect themselves from approaching threats. So, here's how it works. If you are an aircraft and you're coming into the United States, you have to identify yourself. You also have to report your flight plan and you also have to report your exact location.

Now, just last week, China announced that it was creating this new air defense zone and this is exactly where they're marking that zone there. Well, here's what the conflict is. This is Japan's air defense zone and this is South Korea's air defense zone. You can see that there is an overlap there.

And what the problem is now, because of this overlap, the other countries are not essentially honoring China's request for notification when flying in this area because they simply don't recognize this as a legitimate zone. This is also a route for commercial aircraft. Japan air carriers, they are flying through this space, but we are not seeing Chinese fighter jets approaching commercial planes.

The focus has been on military aircraft and when those fighter jets do intercept, it doesn't mean that they're preparing to shoot down an aircraft. They're simply sent up in this area, Jim, so that they can I.D. that plane -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A lot of overlapping interests there, and now, a lot of overlapping air planes, military planes, ships, you name it, all in one tight little area. Thanks very much, Rene Marsh.

Coming up this weekend, you can expect lots of finger crossing and breathe holding at the White House tomorrow. That's the administration's self-imposed deadline to fix the malfunctioning Obamacare website which badly scarred the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is at the White House for us. So, Jill, less than 24 hours to go, is there a sense that the White House, they're going to make this deadline? It's going to be a good day tomorrow? Are they nervous there?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they seem pretty confident that they can at least, the website can handle about 50,000 people at any one given time, but HHS secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, is urging customers to shop at off-peak hours, that would be mornings, evenings and weekends, and the idea, of course, is not to overwhelm that site.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Withering criticism of the initial rollout of has intensified the pressure on the administration to get this fix right for Saturday. The White House hopes it can do that, at least, for the vast majority of users.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this website is going to get fixed.

DOUGHERTY: opened for business October 1st and it's been a disastrous two months. The site crashed, unable to cope with people trying to sign up. Small businesses still won't be able to use the site for another year. Insurance industry insiders tell CNN some customers' personal data is getting mangled or even lost.

The White House says the site will be able to handle 50,000 users at one time, but they admit there will be times after Saturday when does not function properly. And they're bracing for another possible huge surge in volume that could force some people into virtual waiting lines for call-backs.

Officials say consumers who pick a plan by December 23rd and pay their premiums by December 31st will have coverage effective the 1st of January.


DOUGHERTY (on-camera): And this may be a holiday weekend, but you can bet Republicans and a lot of other people are going to be watching hat site very carefully to see if the White House can actually keep its promise -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching as well. Thanks very much, Jill Dougherty at the White House.

Coming up next, a parity video lands an American man in jail in Dubai. We have details of the shocking charges he's facing there.

Plus, brawls at the mall. Unbelievable scenes as shoppers go wild, trying to get the best bargain.


SCIUTTO: Protesters are targeting Wal-Mart on this Black Friday.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): This rally in Ontario, California was one of at least half a dozen across the country. Protesters are calling on Wal- Mart to pay its employees what they say would be a living wage. All of the demonstrations were peaceful, but it wasn't necessarily the same inside some Wal-Mart stores.

Look at this shopping melee at the Wal-Mart in Elkin, North Dakota -- North Carolina, actually. Incidents were also reported at stores in Texas, Tennessee, and Iowa. Not where you want to be when you're doing holiday shopping.


SCIUTTO (on-camera): We're going to get more now with CNN's Margaret Conley. Margaret, what do we know about these Wal-Mart fights going on as several of them around the country. How did they happen?

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, all of that violence, all for a better deal. There was a shooting, there was also a stabbing and it was all over shopping. But, those were mainly isolated incidents, and we spoke more about this with an executive from Wal- Mart.


DUNCAN MAC NAUGHTON, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, WAL-MART U.S.: We served, as I said, over 22 million customers yesterday. We have over 4,100 stores, and actually, we had quite a safe environment across the country last year. Unfortunately, this one incident is being talked about across the country and it's unfortunate for the customers and the folks that were around that incident last night.


CONLEY: Now, things here at Macy's, they're pretty calm right now. Definitely busy, Jim, but calm.

SCIUTTO: So, we know we kept the stores -- they kept the stores open to boost their shopping numbers. You get a sense that the Black Friday is going well for retailers? It's a big indicator of the economy going forward.

CONLEY: They're saying they're not (INAUDIBLE), but they're definitely up (INAUDIBLE)

SCIUTTO: We're losing Margaret Conley there. Bad connection in New York. So, we're going to go on now to Las Vegas where a man was shot carrying a television outside a Target store there. According to reports, the suspect took the TV and tried to load it into a car where another suspect was waiting. The victim then tried to get it back when the shooting occurred. He was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. No description yet of the suspects.

And at a Wal-Mart in Virginia nearby, two men were arrested and jailed after what appeared to have started as a fight over a parking space. When police arrived at the scene, they found one man with a rifle and a knife and the other with a severe knife wound on his arm. Charges include malicious wounding and branding a firearm as well as disorderly conduct and assault and battery. All that shopping on a holiday.

Now, we go overseas. A developing international crisis. An American man now being held in jail in Dubai. His alleged crime, creating a parody video. CNNs Ted Rowlands has been following this. Ted, can you walk us through how this happened? How did he end up in jail?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will walk you right through it, Jim. It's pretty simple. A guy and his buddies make a parody video they think is funny. They post it on YouTube, and now, an American citizen is sitting in jail in Dubai.



ROWLANDS (voice-over): This 20-minute video about fictitious crime fighters in suburban Dubai may have landed 29-year-old Shezanne Cassim (ph), a U.S. citizen from Minnesota in prison.

SHEVRON CASSIM, SHEZANNE CASSIM'S BROTHER: It's like someone in the United States making a parody video of a Brooklyn hipster and then getting thrown in jail for it and being held in jail for months without bail. That's what's going on here.

ROWLANDS: In the video which begins with a disclaimer explaining that it's fiction, you can see Cassim as he and others pretend to use shoes and cell phones as weapons while supposedly patrolling the streets of an affluent neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very dangerous area. Where are you going?

ROWLANDS: Cassim who has been working in Dubai for seven years as a business consultant has been in jail since April.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: What I think we need to do is call attention to this so that the United Arab Emirates steps back and looks at this again and expedites his case so that there's justice for this young man and his family.

ROWLANDS: CNN has not confirmed the exact charges Cassim is facing in the United Arab Emirates. His family says they have no idea how long this will go on, and they're worried.

CASSIM: It's just a straightforward silly comedy video and he's being treated like some sort of dangerous criminal they have to keep under high security, maximum security conditions.


ROWLANDS (on-camera): And Jim, the state department is obviously aware of this. They issued a statement to CNN. it Says basically that the U.S. government is troubled. It says in part, "The U.S. embassy and the consulate general have engaged with the UAE counterparts there to urge a fair and quick trial or judgment in this case."

Bottom line is the family is very upset and confused because if you watch this video, it is clearly a parody and the fact that he has been sitting in prison since April, it's just shocking, really. The family is very, very concerned, saying that they have a member of the family taking turns always in Dubai and they say that his mental and physical health is deteriorating.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Looking at this film, you know, I'm sure a lot of our viewers had the same reaction. I don't see what's egregious about it. What was supposedly upsetting? Do they have any sense?

ROWLANDS: They don't -- they're asking questions what is it specifically in this film that made them pull the trigger and arrest him. I mean, it's 19 minutes and I tell you, it's horrible, if you're going for comedy. It's not a great comedic, you know, endeavor here. But, there doesn't seem anything that is critical of the government or anything that would really stand out as being egregious. So, the family says they have so many questions and they really want their loved one back.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Guys, 19-minute film, now seven, eight months in prison at this point. Thanks very much, Ted Rowlands there in Chicago.

Coming up, growing signs Vice President Joe Biden wants to drop the vice. What are his prospects if he runs for president in 2016?

Plus, we'll show you why one of Mitt Romney's sons is smiling at the scene of this horrible car accident.


SCIUTTO: For the first time in modern history, the vice president is not considered the heir apparent for his party's nomination to be president. A new CNN poll suggests Democrats all but assume that Hillary Clinton will be the party's standard bearer in 2016. But with Joe Biden heading to Asia Sunday at a key moment in U.S./China relations and a quiet support raising campaign now under way for him, some are wondering if Biden might have some Presidential Joe-mentum of his own.

CNNs Brian Todd has been looking into that today. You know, Brian, anybody who's met Vice President Biden knows he's not a guy who's going to rest on his laurels. You get the sense that he's running already for 2016?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He could be, Jim. And as you mention, he's going to will need some Joe-mentum, momentum, any mentum he can get to overtake Hillary Clinton in all these speculative races that we're running right now. Still, Joe Biden's got enough experience, gravitas, and political skill to bear in this whole thing, but we have to take his potential candidacy very seriously.


TODD (voice-over): He's a natural hand-shaker and back slapper, evidenced on inauguration day. That common touch combined with decades of experience in the Senate, an impressive portfolio as vice president, and some recent subtle political moves have analysts talking about a potential Joe Biden presidential run in 2016.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He is reaching out. He's keeping in contact with key Democrats in states such as Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire. That is critical because if he does decide to run in 2016, that's the support he is going to need.

TODD: He's also about to head to China, Japan, and South Korea for key strategic talks. What Biden's not doing, fundraising. That would be poor political form this early in President Obama's second term and before the midterm elections. Analysts say there are two other things Biden hasn't done that may help him.

He was sidelined by Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, during stalemated talks over the government shutdown and debt ceiling. And he was almost nowhere to be seen during the disastrous Obamacare rollout.

NOAM SCHEIBER, THE NEW REPUBLIC: He can look back at the Obama administration and point to the initiatives that he's been involved in stimulus, foreign policy, things that actually went pretty well, and I think he can point to a record of accomplishment. Being involved in the Affordable Care Act rollout would be a blot on that record. It would taint that record of accomplishment.

TODD: But Joe Biden's awkward public moments and speaking gaffes like this one on C-Span are inescapable.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You cannot go to a 7- 11 or Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent to -- I'm not joking (ph). TODD: Then there's the most obvious impediment to a successful bid from Joe Biden or just about any other Democrat, a potential Hillary Clinton run. She's 51 points ahead of Biden who's in second place in the latest CNN/ORC poll of potential candidates.

Is the only way he can win in 2016 if she doesn't run? Is that the only way he can win?

PRESTON: Look, at this moment in time, if Hillary Clinton runs, nobody can win. She's clearly the front-runner. She will be the democratic presidential nominee.


TODD (on-camera): And from the Obama camp, there seems to be some ambivalence over Joe Biden. He is said to have built good relations with the president and some of his key advisors, but one analyst says the Obama team is still seething from last year's moment when Biden overstepped on gay marriage, voicing support for it before the administration was ready to make an announcement -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Long memories in Washington. What about age, Brian? Is that considered a disqualifying factor for Biden?

TODD: You know, it could be. I asked about all of that. He's going to be 74 years old on inauguration day 2017. If he is being sworn in as president, Jim, he'll be the oldest person ever to take office in a first term. But many analysts now say he's in good enough health and age is no longer as big a factor as it was back in the day.

Also, you have to remember, Hillary Clinton is going to be 69 years old on that day. She's -- that would be about the same age Ronald Reagan was when he took office.

SCIUTTO: That's right. And he served two terms after that. Thanks very much to Brian Todd in Washington.

To get more now on the vice president's chances, other political news, with our great CNN team here. We got John Stanton from BuzzFeed, L.Z. Granderson in New York, CNN political commentator and our own Mark Preston, CNN political director to talk 2016.

The president -- I'm going to start with you, Mark. Is it a Hillary/Biden race? Is it a Hillary/Hillary race? What are the numbers telling you right now?

PRESTON: Look, Jim, I think at this point, it's Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton. If she decides to run, she's so far ahead right now. She's at 51 percent lead over anybody else. Her closest person is Joe Biden. Remove Hillary Clinton from the equation, then you get Joe Biden as the leader.

However, everything will get scrambled up at that point and a couple of names we really have to look at is Elizabeth Warren. Liberals want to see her run. Andrew Cuomo is chomping at the bit, governor of New York, he's dying to run. And Martin O'Malley can't hide the fact that he is already laying the groundwork right now to run in 2016 if Hillary Clinton doesn't.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask John, actually, I want to ask you, L.Z., as well. Do you agree, because it's early? We got three years to go. You know, if we were here in 2005 thinking about 2008 or in 2009 thinking about 2012, you know, we might have thought differently about how the race would turn out. Do you agree that she's a lock?

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Oh, I do at this point. I think there are a number of things could happen. She may not want to run or, you know, the progressive wing of the party has been pushing very hard, this idea of Elizabeth Warren or somebody like her with Warren running to run to the left of her.

And if they are able to build a campaign around Warren or someone else or even just around the notion that Hillary is not as democratic as she should be, that could open up the door potentially for Biden to be more of a challenger to her. But even then, I agree with Mark. I don't see how anybody fits in if she's in the race.

SCIUTTO: L.Z., I want to ask you in New York, is Hillary definitely going to run? I think people make the assumption that, you know, it's an automatic. Maybe it's not.

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know, everyone I have spoken with and just watching her moves, her very smart moves, by the way, it seems she's positioning herself to run as far back as 2008, even after the president was being inaugurated for the first term. I don't see anything in front of me and I haven't talked to anyone in D.C. or even in New York to suggest that she wouldn't run.

She's just being very cautious and also respectful of President Obama. Remember, he just got inaugurated a few months ago. Let's get another year under the belt before made more rumblings (ph).

SCIUTTO: Sorry, I put you in New York. You're in Michigan. You mentioned the president --

GRANDERSON: Yes. No worries.

SCIUTTO: ABC's Barbara Walters did an interview with him today. The ABC released some quotes and I want to read the first one because he's talking about his own low poll numbers. He said, "I've gone up and down pretty much consistently throughout, but the good thing about when you're down is that usually you've got nowhere to go but up."

I suppose that goes without saying. But do you agree that he shouldn't be -- sounds like he's not worried. Should he be more worried than he sounds, Mark?

PRESTON: He's got to be worried at this point. I mean, the fact is, you know, his approval rating has been a roller coaster, but at this point, you know, he's closing in on the final three years of his term at this point, Jim, and the bottom line is, the Obama administration is going to hate me saying this, he's a lame duck president at this point. He just changed the rules in the Senate. He was, you know, the puppet master behind the idea that they're going to change the rules in the filibuster and the bottom line is that he needs the support of his grassroots activists to get behind him if he wants to get any other major accomplishments done.

SCIUTTO: But, wait a second. To be fair, lame duck at this point, but let's say tomorrow, 80 percent of users can get to, they rescued the website. He's just negotiated a historic deal with Iran. You got the Syria deal. I mean, it's not all falling apart here. Can we turn it around a month, two months, if he has some successes?

STANTON: His personal ratings, sure, could probably go back up pretty substantially if that were to happen. But the reality is the House is not going to flip. Even if the health care problems all get solved -- it's impossible for Democrats to take control of the House at this point. Therefore, the House is going to block everything he wants to do.

There is zero interest amongst anyone on Capitol Hill or at the White House of working together at this point. They don't really like each other very much. I don't see how he gets much in the way of a marquee piece of legislation through in the next three years.

SCIUTTO: The president clearly thinking about his second term. Another quote from the interview with ABC News, "Every president in their second term is mindful you've only got a limited amount of time. You want to make sure you're squeezing every last ounce of energy that you have to try to deliver on the commitments you made to the American people.

L.Z., if I could ask you, in Michigan, he squeezes all those last ounces of energy out. You think he can turn it around?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I think it's way too early in his second term to talk about him being a lame-duck president, first of all. Americans have very short-term memories. Very, very short-term memories. And so something as simple as the Obamacare Web site actually functioning as it's supposed to function a couple of weeks ago, next you know he's the greatest thing since sliced bread until the next disaster comes around.

I know that if he showed up in Michigan right now he would have a great deal of support. And it's also one of the factors about President Obama that's really important, especially coming in 2014, and that is the fact that he's still an incredible fundraising machine. So even if Democrats may feel a little queasy about being near him right now because his poll numbers are so low, the similar fact that he's still popular among voting Democrats, he still is able to draw dollars.

And they can use those dollars to help secure seats in the Senate. I agree, the House is a no-go but they have about three Democrats who are very vulnerable that need those dollars to help fight off any challengers for them to keep the Senate. SCIUTTO: Mark, I get this sense you disagree?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, look, the bottom line is that he needs the support from the grassroots to try to put pressure on Washington, but the fact is he needs support in Washington and you have Democrats who are frustrated that the Obama administration really bungled the rollout of the health care Web site.

The bottom line is on health care is that a majority of Americans actually are in favor of it or they don't think it goes far enough. What we've seen, though, is that the rollout in the past month has taken his approval rating, it has -- you know, dragged it down and if you talk to Democrats on Capitol Hill, they will tell you right now that Barack Obama is really hurting them at this point.


GRANDERSON: Of course they did.

STANTON: If you look at Ira, that -- a lot of Democrats were much more willing to come out against the president in much more clear-cut terms than they might have been otherwise because they feel that they've been sort of burned by being so close to him.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's talk about the hill for a moment because if we were at this table a month ago post-shutdown, people were pronouncing the GOP dead in 2014. Right? And now, you know, the pendulum has swung and for good reason. You know, the signature legislative achievement of the president's second term -- first and second term, having all this trouble. Can it flip as quickly?

PRESTON: Yes, but let's just look at the mathematics of it all. He doesn't have the House of Representatives so he's not going to get any major piece of legislation through the House. And he's got several Democrats who are vulnerable that are from states that aren't necessarily Obama friendly, you know, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana.

These Democrats are going to be a little bit more careful about supporting President Obama on some controversial issues than perhaps they would be if they weren't up for re-election.

SCIUTTO: We're lucky because we're going to have you -- all three of you back after the break. Hold your thought, L.Z., we'll come back very soon.

We are going to talk about Republicans next and whether Chris Christie can be considered the frontrunner.

Also, the amazing new technology that could get your plane in the air faster.

Plus, one of Mitt Romney's sons comes on the scene of a terrible accident. Find out why he's smiling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCIUTTO: We're back talking about the 2016 White House race with our all-star panel, John Stanton of BuzzFeed, CNN commentator L.Z. Granderson out in Michigan, and CNN political director Mark Preston.

As we begin, I want to get a look at another poll which shows the Republican side of the race here. You have Chris Christie increasing his lead by seven percentage points since September. He now has an 11-point lead over Paul, Rand Paul, and a few other candidates, Ryan, Cruz and Bush.

As we look at those numbers, I want to ask you first, L.Z., if I can, does he keep this lead? Is he a clear frontrunner? How solid is his support?


GRANDERSON: You know, talk about too early to say. One thing we do know about Chris Christie is that when you look over that list, in terms of personality, he is the most compelling figure in the list. And I think that's what you're really seeing, is that people are drawn to his strength or bullying, depending upon your perspective, but they're drawn to him personally and because of that, he registers above all the others.

I mean, one of the big disappointments from I think Paul Ryan was the fact that when he joined the Romney ticket, he wasn't a compelling figure that they thought he would be, and that people weren't attracted to him and voters didn't show up for him. He lost his own district on election night.

So that's what you're seeing from Christie, a compelling figure with some solid appeal in terms of bipartisanship but it's mostly about his personality.

SCIUTTO: You agree with that? It's mostly personality? He has some smart political positions here, right? He's elected overwhelmingly in a Democratic state, New Jersey. There must be something more there than personality.

STANTON: I mean, I think -- I do think personality goes a long way for him. He's clearly this sort of bombastic character, people are drawn to that. But he's also shown a tendency to be able to work with Democrats, whether he's praised President Obama, I think that clearly sort of signaled to other people even outside the Republican Party, and, you know, his handling of gay marriage, I think a lot of people look at that and they say OK, well, he understands when he's lost a fight and is willing to sort of move on from there.

You know, I think he -- you know, yes, I don't think it's just his personality but I think it is an issue.

SCIUTTO: You're from political consultants at every level of politics, there's a big drive among voters to get the bums out, right, to get -- you know, get the folks out of Washington, they are open to a different kind of candidate.

Mark, do you think he's too different, maybe? You know, if people see too much of him, will they not like him anymore?

PRESTON: You know, yes. I think a little bit too much Chris Christie is like eating a little bit too much cake. But I think that's with any politician, right? You know, I think in those terms. What's interesting about Chris Christie is a couple of things. One is he crushed his opponent in a Democratic state on election night just a few weeks ago. He won women. His opponent was a woman.

He won Hispanics. Republicans are doing terribly with Hispanics. Chris Christie has this crossover appeal, I think, at least at this point that John's talking about. But what is really interesting about our poll, Jim, is these numbers right here, he is seen as a blue collar conservative, somebody who would do well with the Reagan Democrats type or really blue collar Republicans.

Look at these numbers right there. He doesn't even win the blue collar Republicans at this point. That goes to Rand Paul, which really fascinates me, because Rand Paul doesn't seem to have that connection, I think, to blue collar Republicans. Something Chris Christie obviously needs to work on. But, you know, he's doing pretty good right now.

STANTON: Also, he's a New Jersey guy. I mean, he -- he's almost stereotype walking around. I think, if you go down south, I'm not sure how well that plays in South Carolina or Florida, places that he's going to need to be able to win certainly early primaries. And I'm not -- you know, those -- that kind of character sometimes rubs people in the south the wrong way.

SCIUTTO: L.Z., is there an element --


SCIUTTO: Of us getting more excited about him maybe than voters are? Right? He's a different kind of candidate. We love to cover this kind of candidate and we have a tendency of talking -- of course, us in the media, to focus on the most interesting next thing.

GRANDERSON: Well, I mean, he's also in the New York hemisphere. And we can't overestimate the power of being around New York and being sort of an appealing character when you're based in the northeast like that.

But you know, just one other point in regards to Paul and his numbers with people who are actually blue collar, you know, I think those numbers show that if -- a Republican making 50 grand or more vote towards Christie, if you're making 50 grand or less, they're going towards Paul. Why? Because I think Paul is always talking about cutting taxes, always talking about spending less, whereas Christie is someone who took in all this Obama money and talking about more, more, more funds.

And so I think if you're making less than 50 grand you've got a candidate that's talking about cutting taxes, that's money in your pocket. That's appealing to them.

SCIUTTO: All right, thanks very much, covering it all in 2016. The Republican and Democratic side.

L.Z. Granderson In Michigan, Mark Preston, political director, and John Stanton of BuzzFeed, thanks very much for joining us.

With a pre-Thanksgiving rush out of the way, the next potential nightmare for travelers comes quickly on Sunday, when people across the country head home for the holiday weekend.

And for airline passengers, that could mean delays not just at the airport but also on the tarmac. But there's new technology that could potentially put an end to some of that in the future.

Let's bring in CNN's Rene Marsh with the details.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Well, we all know, we just saw what bad weather can do to the highly coordinated task of getting planes to take off and land on time. That's one cause of delays. But it really comes down to coordination and the system is all about precision. So that when a plane gets the green light to leave the gate, it's not stuck in a traffic jam on the tarmac.


MARSH (voice-over): Sitting on the runway, a frustration for flyers ready to take off but instead they wait for sometimes what seems like hours.

(On camera): And you look out the window and you see a long line of planes ahead of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think I'm never going to get home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrible. You know, it's simple -- if they had ways to fix this and you're in line to take off and it takes an hour to take off.

MARSH: Now NASA, the same agency responsible for this --


MARSH: -- has developed software to help controllers make delays go away. It takes perfect coordination for air traffic controllers to get them in the right place at the right time to avoid passenger delays. NASA's software will make the choreography smoother.

TOM DAVIS, NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER: It's going to reduce your delays in bad weather by as much as 10 or 15 minutes, maybe, and in not so bad weather, you're going to feel less delay on the ground and you're going to -- you're going to feel a little bit less delay in the air.

MARSH: NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley created the new technology called Precision Departure Release Capability.

(On camera): Think of it as a car pulling on to the roadway. The software says precisely when to pull out of your spot. It knows you have to drive down a road and through a light, merge on to a highway and it would get you to your designated spot between this bus and this Honda on time.

(Voice-over): And that precision in the control tower means shorter lines of planes waiting to take off. A test at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport last year showed a dramatic improvement.

DAVIS: The aircraft were able to merge into en route streams and hit their targeted slot in the overhead streams about over 80 percent of the time, which is up quite a bit from today's capability where they're able to hit it only about half the time.

MARSH: NASA's $5 million program is estimated to save $20 million a year, mostly in fuel costs. It will cut pollution and help get you where you're going on time.


MARSH: All right. Well, for now, the FAA says it's too early to know when the system could be deployed at airports around the country, but after what we just saw this holiday week leading up to Thanksgiving, I'm sure passengers want that to be in their airport ASAP -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Can't come quickly enough.

Thanks very much to Rene Marsh here in Washington.

When we come back, Mitt Romney's son tweets a photo of himself smiling in front of a car wreck. Find out why, next.

Plus, new video of a truck that plunged into a sinkhole. We'll tell you exactly how it happened.

And a cancer survivor describes her near-death experience. And what brought her back. In a CNN special report, "TO HEAVEN AND BACK."


SCIUTTO: Here's a look at some of the other stories we're monitoring in THE SITUATION ROOM. And this news just coming into CNN.

A commuter ferry has collided with a pier in Jersey City, New Jersey. There are reports of four minor injuries. According to officials, one of those people was taken to the hospital. There was minor damage to the boat and to the pier. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

A Thanksgiving rescue for one Utah family courtesy of Josh Romney, the son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He tweeted this picture of himself standing in front of their car after it plowed through a home. The message reads, quote, "Was first on the scene of a big accident. I lifted four people out to safety. All OK. Thankful."

Police say the driver appeared to have suffered a seizure and veered off the road. His wife and two children were not seriously hurt. Now look at this video. A truck that fell into a sinkhole on Chicago's South Side, the only person in the vehicle was able to get out safely. Police say there were two water main breaks in the area and described the area now as a complete washout. Lucky escape there.

Their stories are always riveting. People who survive a brush with death who then talk about seeing something they couldn't quite explain, maybe the afterlife.

This Sunday, CNN's Anderson Cooper brings us the extraordinary stories of three such people, including this cancer survivor who talked with CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): But you could still see your husband and how was he reacting to the fact that you were in this coma and he thought he was losing you?

ANITA MOORJANI, CANCER SURVIVOR: He was very distraught. He was there by my bedside. He was holding my hand and I could feel he was willing me to come back.

KAYE: And you had a choice to make.

MOORJANI: I had a choice as to whether to come back or not. At first, I absolutely did not want to come back because why would I want to come back into this sick and dying body? But then it was as though in the next moment, I understood why I had the cancer. All the years of beating myself up, feeling flawed, had turned my own energy against me and manifested as cancer.

KAYE: Fear in a way poisoned your body.

MOORJANI: Yes. It did. And I understood that now that I knew this, my body would heal.

KAYE: You had this huge revelation and Sony and your father both affirmed what needed to be done.

MOORJANI: Both of them said to me go back and live your life fearlessly, and it was around that time that I started to come back.

KAYE: So how long were you in the coma?

MOORJANI: About 30 hours. I was in the intensive care unit but within four days, they were able to take off the oxygen. They were able to take out the food tube and the tumors shrunk by 70 percent.

KAYE: And the doctors, they kept testing you, right?


KAYE: They kept looking for --

MOORJANI: For cancer. KAYE: -- your cancer. They kept treating you.

MOORJANI: They were saying there's no way that cancer disappears like that.


SCIUTTO: You can check out Anderson Cooper's special report "TO HEAVEN AND BACK." It airs Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN. It's really worth checking out.

Coming up in our next hour, millions of Americans suffer from migraines. Now there's talk of a possible cure. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with the details.

And newborn twins cuddling make bath time an Internet sensation. Jeanne Moos is next.


SCIUTTO: These twin newborns cuddling in a bath are now officially an Internet sensation. Who better to tell the story than CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rub a dub-dub, twins in a tub. Make that newborn twins in a sink. Cuddling while taking a spa bath only a week out of the womb.

The cuddling is what has the Internet swooning. French newborn nurse Sonia Rochel developed this bathing technique.

(On camera): Sonia says she first got the idea for a baby spa about 15 years ago while she was taking a shower.

(Voice-over): She loved how the water felt streaming down on her head. She figured it would make a newborn feel right at home.

SONIA ROCHEL, NEWBORN NURSE (Through Translator): I tried to reproduce the memories that the babies still have of life in the mother's belly.

MOOS: To relieve the trauma of birth, Sonia started streaming water on babies' heads while massaging them and playing soothing music. Now she's graduated from single babies to the twins, a boy and a girl.

Sonia warns that some of the head handling moves shouldn't be attempted by untrained parents. For instance, when she cradles the baby with nose and mouth just above the surface, the eyes submerge.

A neonatologist we talked to didn't seem too worried about the spa bath, saying babies have good reflexes to avoid drowning. And we also wondered if this would have any long-term benefits.

Not since Spanish twins held hands moments after a C-section has the Internet been so smitten with newborns. Though there are always naysayers. "Please, people, stop waterboarding your babies" and "OMG, world, stop sharing this creepy video."

But Sonia likes sharing.

ROCHEL: Thank you for babies.

MOOS: She credits the twins with spreading a wonderful technique.

(On camera): And this is neither here nor there but does the baby without much hair remind you of anyone?

(Voice-over): Looks an awful lot like Putin, posters noted. Russian president Vladimir Putin. While Sonia scoffs, they do both like water, not to mention being undressed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SCIUTTO: Happening now, drone debacle. The U.S. apologizes to Afghanistan for mistakenly killing a 2-year-old child. But a sensitive deal affecting American forces may be in jeopardy.

Plus, nightmare before Christmas. The crowds, the brawls and the bottom line for the economy. Is Black Friday worth it?

And migraine relief. A new surgery may actually cure the horrific headaches disrupting the lives of millions of Americans.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.