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Barrel Bombs and Beheadings; New Details on Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death; Heroin Overdose Epidemic; Christie Declares "State Of Emergency"; Romney's Second Try at a Presidential Run?; Kicker With No Arms Goes to Super Bowl

Aired February 3, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thank you.

Happening now, new savagery in Syria's civil war, from barrel bombs to beheadings. Amid fears the violence could spread to this country, is America's Syria policy failing?

Heroin on the rise -- new details on the death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, as an old plague brings addiction, overdoses and fear to a new generation.

And our new CNN poll shows new trouble for Chris Christie. Just as conservatives welcome him back to an important gathering, another group of voters may be crossing over to his biggest rival.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We begin with new concerns that Syria's savage violence could spread to the United States. Civilians there are caught in the middle. As the regime drops barrel bombs that flatten buildings, Islamist militants are butchering and beheading people, even as al Qaeda says one of its allies has simply gone too far.

Is the Obama administration's Syria policy falling apart right now?

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She has the latest -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the question is, how bad is it?

Consider this. Al Qaeda is still there and possibly heading for U.S. shores. Chemical weapons are still there. And civilians are being killed by the hundreds.


STARR (voice-over): The horror for Syria does not stop. Punishing air raids by Bashar Al-Assad's forces onto the city of Aleppo. Two dozen people killed Monday, another 90 people killed over the weekend, according to an opposition group.

But the suffering may get even worse. The most violent al Qaeda affiliate in Syria now operating at will.

SETH JONES, RAND CORPORATION: This must keep Ayman al-Zawahiri awake in his bed at night in Pakistan. This is a very, very serious challenge to his authority and a very serious challenge to the future of the organization he has spent so much time trying to build.

STARR: The group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has been disowned by Zawahiri, according to Jihadist forums. It happened because the group would not obey Zawahiri's plans for a rival al Qaeda group to lead his fight in Syria, leaving the rogue group potentially even more dangerous.

JONES: It's killed civilians. It's beheaded individuals. It's alienated the local population. This is a nightmare for the Syrian opposition.

STARR: For Syria's civilians, no word of new help from Washington.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is absolutely necessary to press for a negotiated political resolution to this conflict. There is no other alternative.

STARR: But the United Nations' special envoy is not hopeful.

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: In Homs, we haven't been able to do anything. And about prisoners, kidnapped people, disappeared people, again, we haven't been able to do anything.

STARR: Also worrisome, the Assad regime is now weeks behind schedule in shipping chemical weapons out of the country.

Questions about whether that agreement is falling apart.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It's not falling apart, but we would like to see it proceed much more quickly.


STARR: And analysts worry the rise of this al Qaeda organization in Syria could lead to more attacks in neighboring countries, like Jordan and Lebanon, and embolden the group to move against Western and U.S. targets, like U.S. embassies in the region -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What an awful situation.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Secretary of State John Kerry himself lost faith in the administration's Syrian policy. He met privately with U.S. lawmakers this weekend during a security conference in Munich, Germany. Reports out of that meeting are stunning.

Joining us now is Josh Rogin, the senior correspondent for "The Daily Beast."

Josh, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: You've got a piece, the headline, quote, "Senator Kerry Admits Obama's Syria Policy is Failing."

What's going on here?

ROGIN: Well, according to John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who were in Munich and met with John Kerry on Sunday, Kerry expressed deep frustration with the administration's Syria policy. He said that the Russians were not being helpful. He said that the Syrian government was slow rolling the chemical weapons issue. He said that we need a new approach, which includes arming the rebels. And he said that basically all of his faith in the administration's current policy to date was failing and that he is advancing for more internal measures, which are opposed by the White House.

BLITZER: Now, you know the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, he's pushing back on your report.

I'm going play a little clip of what he said today.


CARNEY: I think the stories you're referring to actually appear to be a reflection of what Senators McCain and Graham think of our Syria policy, not what Secretary Kerry thinks.



BLITZER: Go ahead.

ROGIN: Right. So he's not denying any of the space allegations, though. The State Department has said that John Kerry didn't raise the arming issue, but they haven't said that he didn't say any of the other things.

Sure, there's a difference in tone between what John Kerry is saying and what McCain and Graham are saying, but the level of frustration is deep. And it's been well reported over many months that John Kerry has been arguing for a more aggressive Syria policy internally, along with other members of the administration, but they have been stifled by the White House, which is opposed to any further U.S. involvement in the conflict.

BLITZER: So you see a split developing between John Kerry, on the one hand, and the White House, on the other hand?

ROGIN: I think this split has been apparent for years. If you'll remember, two years ago, Hillary Clinton and Dave Petraeus advocated for arming the rebels and were opposed by the White House. Now the split seems to be John Kerry and CIA Director John Brennan, on one hand, and the White House, led by Denis McDonough and Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, on the other hand.

BLITZER: The whole point, though, is -- from the U.S. perspective, is that Al Qaeda has developed an enormous base in Syria right now. A lot of of foreign fighters have come in. And now they're beginning to go back to various countries, whether in Europe, Africa or the United States.

So here's the question.

How serious of a threat, to the United States homeland, is there from the al Qaeda operation in Syria?

ROGIN: Well, the senators were particularly shocked by testimony last week by director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who said that the intelligence community's assessment is that al-Nusra Front, a branch of al Qaeda, has the intent to attack the homeland. They saw that as an acknowledgement of their fears all along that if we stayed out of the -- Syria long enough, that al Qaeda would place a foothold and eventually their ambitions would be to attack the United States.

They said that John Kerry confirmed those fears and Clapper's assessment in the private meeting.

BLITZER: You know, the president is going to go to Saudi Arabia next month to meet with King Abdullah. The Saudis don't like the U.S. policy. They don't like it in Syria, they don't like it toward Iran, they don't like what the U.S. strategy in Egypt. There's a real problem there, between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

ROGIN: Right. And you showed the clip of Lakhdar Brahimi saying the talks had failed. At that same conference, which I attended and which Kerry and McCain and Graham were at, a Saudi prince said that they were frustrated with Obama for not fulfilling his promise to strike Syria when he said he would and for not consulting them on a range of issues related to the Syria crisis.

The Saudis have been arming the Syrians. The U.S. has little or no control over that arming. And this will be at the top of the agenda when President Obama meets the king.

BLITZER: It certainly will be.

All right, Josh, thanks very much for coming in.

ROGIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Josh Rogin of "The Daily Beast."

February is off to a terrible start for investors. The Dow plunged another 326 points today, over 2 percent, after a worse than expected report on manufacturing. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ also lost over 2 percent.

It's been a very rough year for Wall Street so far. The Dow dropped more than 1000 points from its all time high that was hit the last day of 2013. And it fell more than 5 percent last month alone. That's the worst January since 2009.

Up next, new details on the death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a shocking upsurge in heroin use in the United States.

And Chris Christie firing back at the "New York Times" and a former ally, who has now apparently turned on him.

And also new details of an amazing story about a teenager defying the odds on the football field. We're going to tell you how CNN viewers stepped up to give him a weekend he will never forget.



BLITZER: We're learning new details about the shocking death of the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. An autopsy today is expected to confirm that the Academy Award-winning actor died of a heroin overdose. A law enforcement source tells CNN Hoffman's body was found with a needle still in his arm.

The story is igniting a huge debate here in Washington and across the country about the growing use of heroin and what some call an overdose epidemic.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in THE SITUATION ROOM and working the story -- Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're now getting information from two prominent government agencies on this. They say that heroin use in the United States is growing steadily and has been for the past few years. They say it's easier to get, cheaper, and, in many cases, more deadly than it's ever been.


TODD (voice-over): There were close to 50 envelopes in his apartment believed to contain heroin, according to law enforcement sources, along with more than 20 syringes. If he did overdose on heroin, Philip Seymour Hoffman's final hours reflect what U.S. officials say is a menacing tide.


TODD: In a 2002 survey, according to the government, 166,000 Americans said they'd used heroin in the past month. Now...

DELANY: About 330,000 people are using it every month.

TODD: Heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. went up 45 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the CDC. One big reason for the rise in use, the nationwide crackdown on prescription pill abuse. Those drugs are now harder to get and more expensive than heroin.

JAMES CAPRA, CHIEF OF OPERATIONS, DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY: On the street, if it's going to cost you $80 to get a pill, some opiate type of pharmaceutical drug, versus $10 for a bag of heroin, that's what we see.

TODD: The highs from prescription drugs and heroin can be similar.

DELANY: It has a similar long-term effect of mellowing people out and of kind of numbing them.

TODD: Though heroin tends to give people that high in a quicker rush.

Going from prescription drugs to heroin is especially dangerous, because unlike prescription drugs, doses of heroin are very inconsistent and can be laced with deadly additives. Last month, at least 22 people in Western Pennsylvania died after using heroin that had been mixed with fentanyl, a narcotic sometimes used to treat pain in cancer patients.

This young man, named Andrew, was almost one of them.


ANDREW, RECOVERING HEROIN ADDICT: I just finished doing, you know, the heroin and I walked into the bathroom and I just woke up on the ground.

TODD: Experts say fentanyl is mixed with heroin to enhance the high. It only takes a small amount of fentanyl to get you hooked or to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's gun in terms of micrograms. It's so tiny.

TODD: And if you mix any of that with heroin, what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to dilute it. So, the heroin user has no idea what they're getting and they put that into their arm, place with fentanyl, and it's a deadly -- it's what we call hot shots.


TODD (on-camera): The DEA's James Capper (ph) says police are telling them that it's not untypical to see a user whose injected fentanyl with heroin dead with the needle still in their arm. It can kill you that quickly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Brian, you're also getting some additional disturbing information about who's using heroin now for the first time.

TODD: Just about every piece of information we're getting now on heroin use, Wolf, is horrible. I mean, it's amazing. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin users are starting at much younger ages now. The average age now for a first-time user, just before their 15th birthday. These are children.

BLITZER: Terrible. All right. Brian, thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with Jeff Deeney. He's a writer and social worker, himself a recovering addict. His article about Hoffman and the epidemic of heroin overdoses is in "The Atlantic." Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeff, he was a father of three, an Oscar winner, so many movies. Explain how this could happen to someone like him.

JEFF DEENEY, SOCIAL WORKER AND WRITER: Well, Wolf, recovering addicts can relapse. That's not an uncommon thing. It's something that in the recovery community, you know, you try to exercise sort of maximum vigilance towards maintaining your recovery, but, you know, everybody is human and, you know, anybody can slip up, especially I think as you get older and you've been clean for a long time, things come up, medical procedures that require narcotic pain medications, surgeries, things like that.

Those are things that in the recovery community, people have a lot of anxiety about that and talk about it a lot in terms of as I get older, how will I handle those situations where I may need to take narcotics medically. Sometimes, you know, they come into your life.

BLITZER: Our law enforcement sources have told us here at CNN that what they found inside Hoffman's apartment was pretty shocking, close to 50 packets of heroin labeled, quote, "ace of spades, several empty baggies labeled ace of hearts, 20 plus used syringes." What does that say to you?

DEENEY: Well, it sounds like a full-blown relapse to me. Obviously, he was using very heavily. I think the first report I heard was that he also had five empty bags next to him when he was found dead, which says to me that it's possible that he got a hand on some of the fentanyl-tainted heroin, but, you know, he was using quite a bit.

I think if you're going to put five dime bags of heroin into a spoon and cook it and shoot it regardless of whether you're a very heavy using addict, you're really walking a line there. That's very dangerous.

BLITZER: And you know, it's hard to believe this could happen because allegedly, supposedly, he had been clean for, what, 23 years. That's what we were told.

DEENEY: Sure. Sure, sure. And I think that part of the problem is the way that we provide drug treatment for opiate users is typically rehab as people understand go to a detox program to stay an inpatient for a period of time and when you come out of those programs, if you relapse, you're at a very, very high risk for overdose because your tolerance for the drug has reset itself.

And if you go back to the amount that you were accustomed to using prior to going into treatment, you could overdose very easily. And so, I think that there is some thinking here in terms of how we provide drug treatment and whether somebody like Seymour Hoffman would have been better off, for instance, taking a drug like suboxone or methadone, another maintenance drug where he maybe wouldn't have been totally abstinent from all drugs, but the craving would be taken care of and the overdose risk when you're using this medication is far, far less.

BLITZER: Jeff Deeney, thanks very much for joining us.

DEENEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, Chris Christie declares an emergency, but the weather isn't the only crisis facing him. We have new poll numbers on the New Jersey governor just out.

And could Chris Christie's troubles give rise to another White House run by Mitt Romney?


BLITZER: Plus, this story inspired so many of you, a teenage football star born without arms. Wait until you hear about the remarkable turn of events that followed our report.


BLITZER: In New Jersey, the snow is swirling like the scandal around the governor's administration. And while his state takes a beating from the elements, Governor Christie is taking a beating in our latest poll. Our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has the very latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in about two hours, Chris Christie will appear on an "Ask the Governor" radio show in New Jersey, and it will be the first time he will answer extensive questions in public since that marathon press conference last month where he denied knowing anything about so-called Bridgegate, but behind the scenes, Wolf, Christie's team is already pushing back hard on the latest accusation that Christie is not telling the truth.


BASH (voice-over): A snowy day in the Garden State, Christie turned to Twitter to warn constituents about hazardous conditions and declare a state of emergency.


BASH: While the state of Christie's own national future is increasingly unclear, support from independents held to make him a different kind of Republican. But a new CNN/ORC poll shows Christie losing independent voters to Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical 2016 matchup, 39 percent to 52 percent, a dramatic change from just one month earlier where it was the complete opposite, Christie got 59 percent from independent voters and Clinton, 33 percent.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Thank you very much to all of our partners, the NFL, the team owners.

BASH: Even this non-partisan Super Bowl ceremony appeared to turn political this weekend.

CHRISTIE: Enough speeches of the same thing.

BASH: Boos coming from the crowd during the governor's brief remarks. Still, Christie is trying to get back on offense against former adviser, David Wildstein, whose layer claims to have evidence that Christie knew about September GW Bridge closings while they were happening.

This memo goes after Wildstein in a blistering, personal way, attacking his character with examples that start in high school saying of Wildstein, "As a 16-year-old kid, he sued over a local school board election. And he was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior."

In his press conference last month, Christie tried to dispute reports he and Wildstein were childhood friends.

CHRISTIE: I was the class president and athlete. I don't know what David was doing during that period of time.

BASH: A concerned Christie friend told CNN those remarks may have antagonized Wildstein, but Christie is doubling down. Christie is seeing new support from some lukewarm (ph) to him in the past, conservatives, accepting an invitation to the annual CPAC event, a who's who of conservatives that dissed him last year. Its leader saying this --

AL CARNDENAS, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION CHAIRMAN: You know, the CPAC is for like professional sports, the all-star game. Some years you get in and some years you don't.


BASH: Now, Christie is throwing red meat to conservatives by going hard after one of their favorite targets, "The New York Times," for initially reporting that Wildstein had evidence that Christie was not telling the truth, only to later soften that to reflect the more vague accusation that Wildstein's lawyer really made. But I talked to a high profile conservative, Wolf, who told me today that Christie's attack the media strategy and conservative sympathy for that only goes so far.

BLITZER: A lot. Well, depend on actually what comes out of this investigation to be sure. That's a lot more important. Dana, thank you.

Christie's team is acting like a best defense and maybe a strong offense. Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, the "Crossfire" host, S.E. Cupp, and CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent of "The New Yorker" magazine.

I know you've been doing some checking with your resources. What are you hearing about all these documents that are being subpoenaed and about to be released? What are you hearing about all that?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: I was actually chatting -- we came on with one of the Democrats on the community investigating this. And look, they haven't gone through these documents. I think, frankly, they were talking about the snowstorm. They wanted to get out of Trenton and they received some materials today, but most of the 20 folks who have been subpoenaed asked for extensions, right?

So, nobody delivered anything before today. Today was the deadline. But, I don't think we're going to learn much about what's in the stuff that they received for a little while. They don't have a huge staff there. And, they're being affected by the snowstorm, and frankly, most of the stuff they asked for is now the subject of these extensions. So, I think we're looking at months, this playing out for months, this material --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I know for a fact that Ryan Lizza was disruptive in high school.


TOOBIN: And I'm not sure you should listen to anything he says on this issue.


BLITZER: Have you spoken to his social studies teacher?


TOOBIN: I have. And you know, obviously, it's important for viewers to know this.

BLITZER: What's up with that?


BLITZER: Why would anyone care about he was 16 years old that he may have been disruptive, social studies teacher thought he may not have been -- I mean, what's the point?

TOOBIN: I mean, I think desperation makes people look for silly arguments and they have looked for a silly argument here. And of course, it only makes Christie look ridiculous. And again, what matters are the facts of this investigation. These documents either will or will not incriminate Christie. Other people will come forward or they won't come forward.

Again, to me, the most important issue is when and if these principle figures, Wildstein and Kelly, the two people in the original e-mails whether they get immunity, whether we'll hear their testimony, and you know, what David Wildstein did in high school is going to be very irrelevant.

LIZZA: Can I ask one thing on this ridiculous high school accusation -- he's talking about high school there. But, if you look at the article that Christie's people are actually referencing, the article, itself, says that the teacher who Wildstein allegedly had this accusation, that he was deceptive, they put out a joint statement saying it was a big misunderstanding. So, even the high school --


BLITZER: I'll repeat, what's up with this? Because it doesn't look very presidential. This is a guy that Christie himself put on the Port Authority. if He was such a jerk, why did Christie as governor create this special position for him on the Port Authority?


S.E. CUPP, CNN ANCHOR, CROSSFIRE: I think that's the more obvious, important question, the glaring contradiction here. I don't care if the kid had c cuddies in high school. It really doesn't matter to me. The point I think that the Christie's statement really ignored is the fact that you put this person in a very high up position where you were meant to trust him implicitly with a lot of big state goings on. Why did do you that if you had so many questions about him?

But the problem with these "New York Times" stories and the democrat pile-ones, the Dawn Zimmer.

BLITZER: She is the mayor of Hoboken.

CUPP: Correct. There's this urgency and giddiness to get ahead of the fact. And as John (ph) says, the facts of the investigation will come out. That's what will tell where this story goes. All this is doing, getting ahead of the facts, is shoring up his sympathy with the very people who trusted him the least, the far right Republicans. Nothing has changed about Chris Christie's positions between last year and this year, yet suddenly CPAC has decided he no longer is too liberal for CPAC. You're going to see more and more of that over the years if this keeps going the way it is going.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But that's not enough for Chris Christie to sort of recover his place in the 2016 hierarchy of Republican candidates.

CUPP: He has got to survive all the allegations. That has to prove out to be -- he has to prove clean on that. But absolutely, I mean, if you might be losing independents for him but you're gaining them on the far right and the numbers will bear that out.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But mathematically, that's not a general election strategy.

CUPP: Right. It's good for the primary, though.

TOOBIN: Well, the whole idea of Chris Christie as a national candidate is he was going to get the independents and if his strategy suddenly becomes, vote for me because "The New York Times" doesn't like me --

CUPP: Sure.

LIZZA: Funding under the ACA or my immigration position or my gun position of New Jersey, remember, he has problems with conservatives.

CUPP: That's right. The very people who are now sympathetic --

BLITZER: New Jersey Republican and obviously he is a little bit more attractive conservatives now because the liberal media and others are piling up on him.

CUPP: Right.

BLITZER: Here's polls from our brand new CNN/ORC, Republican choice for nominee 2016, Huckabee 14 percent, Rand Paul, 13 percent, Jeb Bush, 10 percent, Chris Christie, 10 percent. So, he is basically still up there.

TOOBIN: That is really remarkable when you think about how there is not a front-runner. There has really almost never been a Republican presidential candidate race in our lifetime where there hasn't been at least somewhat of a --

BLITZER: Even this early?

TOOBIN: Even this early.

CUPP: It's a little early. Obama was absolutely being blown away by Hillary in the polls.

TOOBIN: Republicans. I'm sorry.

CUPP: Sure. But --

LIZZA: For decades Republicans on the Republican side, there was always the last time.

BLITZER: You know who the front-runner was three years before the election, the 2008 election. At this point in 2006 it was Rudy Giuliani, the Republican front-runner who didn't exactly do that well.

Now, we showed how independents were aligning themselves in this brand new ORC poll with Clinton versus Christie back in December. Christie actually beat Hillary Clinton with registered voters, 48 percent, 46 percent. This is all voters, Democrats, Republicans, independents.

But now look at this. Hillary Clinton would beat Christie 55 percent to 39 percent as the election. This is a hypothetical election, obviously.

CUPP: If it weren't today.

BLITZER: But it goes to show you the difference between December and February.

CUPP: Well, a lot has happened for Chris Christie, right? And, you know, it's no surprise that the immediate reaction to even just the insinuation of a scandal, let alone some pretty serious allegations is reflected in the polls. I mean, the folks in New Jersey who were maybe Democrats, maybe Republicans who voted for, they still like him. They still like Chris Christie. They still want Chris Christie to be their governor. But nationally, people in the middle of the country, all they see is scandal, scandal, scandal.

TOOBIN: The problem with this scandal is there is a factual question that is completely unanswered at this point. Who ordered this bridge? Who ordered these lanes shut down and why? And it's genuinely a mystery, certainly to me and I think most people covering it.

BLITZER: Does anybody really think that Bridget Kelly, the deputy chief of staff to governor Christie, she woke up one day, she sent an e-mail to Wildstein, you know what, start some traffic problems in Fort Lee?

LIZZA: She either was told to did it by someone higher up, including maybe the governor himself or there was a culture in that office in the Christie administration where his closest aides thought this was an appropriate thing to do and neither one reflects good on Christie, right?

BLITZER: What do you think?

CUPP: Agreed. That's the question I want answered. Most people want it answered. It's a legitimate question. I believe that with all of the subpoenas, I believe with all of these investigations we're going to get answers. But let's not get ahead of the story.


BLITZER: All right. We're not going to get ahead of the story.

CUPP: We don't do that here.

LIZZA: 2016 matchup --

BLITZER: You guys will get ahead of the story on "CROSSFIRE" which is coming up what, in about an hour or so.

CUPP: That's correct.

BLITZER: We will be watching. S.E., you'll be there?

CUPP: I will there tonight.

BLITZER: Of course you will be. Thanks very much.

CUPP: Thanks.

Up next, President Obama facing troubling poll numbers. Details of where he's losing some public support. Our brand new poll numbers are coming up.

And would Mitt Romney run for president again? We're looking at the shifts on the political landscape that could send him back on the campaign trail.



BLITZER: All right. This just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM. After cities near all-time lows, President Obama's job approval rating has edged up a little bit in our brand new CNN/ORC poll taken in the last couple of days, 45 percent say they approve of President Obama's handling of his job, 50 percent disapprove. It's not all good news, though, for the White House.

Let's turn to our senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, walk us through the latest numbers.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, what they are showing us is as president Obama tries to boost his presidency in the final three years, Americans have a lot of pessimism about what he has accomplished and what he hopes to accomplish and that includes people who are rooting for him, who wanted to succeed.

Now, in this poll, Americans were asked if they hope President Obama's policies will succeed, 58 percent said yes. That's certainly more than a majority but that is down 12 points from a year ago when 70 percent said yes. And what's perhaps more discouraging for the White House is that even though a majority of Americans hope his policies will succeed, many more Americans doubt that they will. Only 37 percent of those polled said they think the president's policies will succeed. That is down 17 points from 54 percent a year ago. So Wolf, skepticism even among those who are really rooting for President Obama.

BLITZER: Did his state of the union address have much of an impact on these numbers?

KEILAR: Well, that's really the thing because this poll is also showing that not a lot of people watched or really paid a whole lot of attention. Check this out. It's pretty stunning. Only 16 percent watched the whole speech, 17 percent watched some of it, 14 percent watched a little of it and more than half of Americans did not watch any of the president's state of the union.

So this really highlights, Wolf, what a huge task President Obama has in not just trying to get people to like his agenda and what he's done but to seen get them to pay attention to it. And if you ask people in this poll, you know, did they have a positive reaction to the state of the union when from what they saw, from what they heard, 44 percent of people had a positive reaction but more than half were either unsure or had a negative reaction to it, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna, thank you very much. Brianna is over at the White House.

Let's bring in chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN political commentator Kevin Madden, a former Romney strategist. Speaking of Romney, you know Kevin, he said to the "New York Times" on January 18th, if he was going to run again a third time for the Republican presidential nomination for president of the United States, he simply said this. He said oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. People are always gracious and say, you should run again. I'm not running again.

But now there's a little bit of talk out there that maybe he should reconsider.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How is it only in politics we can final enough people to think that there's a but at the end of the 14 nos? Look, I don't believe -- I take him at his word. I don't believe that there's any chance that he should run again. I think that the speculation is a product of two things.

First, the recent mitt documentary that has come out, it's changed people's perceptions about Governor Romney. It's painted him in a very positive way. So, there's a little bit of buzz about it. And the second part is, because of some of the troubles that Chris Christie has had, people do believe that there may be a space there again for a northeastern moderate who was a former chief executive to maybe occupy that space. Those are the only two really reasons that I -- the two real reasons --

BLITZER: Here's another reason why. Maybe, maybe he should reconsider because a poll came out about a month ago, basically a poll between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. If the election were today, a year after the election, who would you vote for? And --

MADDEN: Real quick, I'll agree with you. All of these polls are absent the normal pressures scrutiny of a day to day campaign. So, it really are reflections in the MID (ph). And I would say that there is some buyer's remorse between those -- the most mobile part of the electorate that may have voted for Barack Obama and now regrets it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think it is donors, Wolf, who -- if Chris Christie falters, if Jeb Bush doesn't run. OK, maybe they would go back to Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: But you spoke to him in June.


BLITZER: You asked him that question.

BORGER: I did.

BLITZER: Let me play what he said to you.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was hard work. I say it was like a roller coaster. Yes, there are ups and downs, but you still pay to get on the roller coaster. It's a real thrill and an experience that we will never forget and, frankly, I'd do it again -- BORGER: You would?

ROMNEY: Look --

BORGER: Again?

ROMNEY: I would do it again but it's not my time.


ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Thank you. I'll go with that.


M. ROMNEY: Ann might -- but I would love to do it again. Are you kidding? I'd love to do it and win, but it's not my -- it's not my time. I had my chance.


BLITZER: You know, as you know, Gloria, Ronald Reagan did not get the Republican nomination the first time he ran.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Didn't get the Republican nomination the second time he ran. Third time he ran he got the Republican --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: The Republican nomination and became president of the United States.

BORGER: Yes. But I -- but if you listen to what Mitt Romney is saying there and you look at Ann Romney, first of all, who was having none of it, right?

MADDEN: Fright.


BORGER: Yes. Scared. She would not do this again. Right? I do not believe she would go willingly into this.

MADDEN: Right.

BORGER: But if you listen to him, he's saying generationally it's not my time. I think would Mitt Romney at some point in his life -- and maybe Kevin can answer this better than I can -- see some kind of public service for himself? Absolutely. Does he think he would be a better president than the one that's currently sitting there? Yes. His wife has said so. He clearly believes so.

But I do believe that generationally, if you look at Mitt Romney, you would say to Mitt Romney, who would you like to be president of the United States? He'd probably tell you Paul Ryan. MADDEN: Yes.

BORGER: You know?

MADDEN: And more importantly he doesn't feel the need to be in politics to sort of validate his public life. He knows that there are other avenues where he can do it, whether it's supporting other candidates or just playing a role and talking about some of the issues he cares about.

Most important to him, I believe right now, having known him and worked with him for a long time, is spending time with his family and I think that's something that came out there in the documentary, how much time he loves spending with his family. I think he's pretty happy doing that right now.

BORGER: And --

MADDEN: I really don't see much of (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: And if you talk to people in the campaign, who were in the campaign, you know, in addition to Kevin, they're all shaking their heads going, this is totally organic and it's nothing that the Romney folks have anything to do with.

MADDEN: The band is not getting back together.

BORGER: It's not there. Right. Yes.

BLITZER: It's the -- politics is a crazy business. You never know. You never say never. Let's see what happens.

BORGER: There's no reunion of this thing. None.

BLITZER: All right. Kevin, Gloria, thanks very much.

And you know what, we're going to get a chance to hear from Mitt Romney himself. He's going to be my special guest this Wednesday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about that, we'll talk about a whole lot more.

Stay with us for that. Wednesday, Mitt Romney, here with me live in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just ahead, our viewers were so inspired by a story we brought you last week on an armless high school field goal kicker that this young man was given a weekend most could only dream about. His incredible story, that's coming up next.

And exclusive new details about the threat from potential so-called black widow suicide bombers at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. We're going live to Sochi. That's coming up as well.


<17:52:03> BLITZER: What an incredible few days it's been for 14-year-old Isaac Lufkin. Last week we told you his story, how he was born with no arms but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a place kicker on his high school football team and helping lead his team to the freshman state title.

But it doesn't end there. Since our story aired on Thursday Isaac has had a weekend most people could only dream about.

Here's CNN's Poppy Harlow with the story.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a moment that seems simply unimaginable for Isaac Lufkin just last week.

ISAAC LUFKIN, HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL KICKER: Yes. He kicked a field goal off of that.

HARLOW: Football is Isaac's passion, but when you see him kick, you quickly realize that it's more than passion. It's proof almost anything is possible.

LUFKIN: I want to play in the NFL, the Ravens or --

HARLOW (on camera): You want to keep wearing purple?

LUFKIN: Yes, purple.

HARLOW (voice-over): He helped lead his Classical high school freshman football team through an undefeated 2013 season to the Freshman Football State Title in Rhode Island. Remarkable considering Isaac was born without arms.


HARLOW: This 14-year-old's perseverance is evident every day, as he strives for the big leagues.

(On camera): Well, Isaac may not have made it to the NFL just yet, but his story caught the attention of NFL officials and they decided to bring him here, to the Super Bowl.

LUFKIN: Exciting.


HARLOW: What did you think when you walked down here?

LUFKIN: I couldn't stop smiling. And I still can't stop smiling.

HARLOW (voice-over): Smiling ear to ear, from the official tailgate party to special entrance on the field during player warm-ups.

LUFKIN: Oh, there's the field goal kicker.

HARLOW: To front row seats in a suite. Complete with celebrity sightings. And then this.


LUFKIN: I am, too.

CLINTON: You having a good time?


CLINTON: Good man.

LORI LUFKIN, ISAAC`S MOTHER: This has meant everything to him. He is so awed just by the experience. We were just talking maybe two weeks ago, mom, imagine what it would be like to go to the Super Bowl, just in casual conversation. And this is amazing for him. Like mind blowing.

HARLOW: Can you believe how good the view is?

LUFKIN: It's perfect.

HARLOW (voice-over): Despite all the attention Isaac's gotten, he remains humble and focused on his goal. Of one day playing at the big game. And to everyone who made this night possible.

LUFKIN: Thank you. Like a lot. It means a lot.

HARLOW: Poppy Harlow, CNN, at Super Bowl XLVIII.


BLITZER: Even though Isaac was rooting for the Broncos, he obviously still had a great night.

Isaac, by the way, has gotten calls from tons of media reality shows, even the White House reached out to his mom.

What a great, great young man.


Coming up, exclusive new details about the threat from potential black widow suicide bombers over at the Winter Olympics. The security crackdown is reaching far beyond the host city. We're going live to Russia for the very latest.

And the Super Bowl weather may have held up, but the warm air is long gone. The latest on the nasty weather snarling travel for much of the country.


BLITZER: Happening now, security scramble. Russia takes drastic new measures with the clock ticking toward the opening of the Olympic Games. CNN has exclusive new details. Plus storm emergency. Hundreds of flights are canceled in and out of the northeast. Millions of people are stuck in a snowy mess right now, including fans who can't leave town after the Super Bowl.

And talking cars. It's not a fantasy. It's real life technology that could warn drivers when they're in danger and about to crash.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.