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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  January 21, 2012 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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little wet. it rained overnight, didn't it, rob? >> the snow level didn't drop until about noon. now down to 5,000 feet. it should stay at that level tomorrow into monday. nbc bay area "nightly news" is next. tonight nbc news can project newt gingrich has won the south carolina primary, a dramatic reversal of fortune in the race for the republican nomination. winter blast. after a mild start to the season, tonight there's snow and ice from coast to coast. and another twist from mother nature on the way. and the captain's story. he's been called the most hated man in italy. now, what he says really happened when disaster struck at sea. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening to our viewers in the west. we begin with a stunning result tonight in south carolina. just a short time ago, the polls in that state's presidential primary closed, and nbc news can project that newt gingrich is the winner. nbc news projects that mitt romney will finish in second place. it's unclear yet whether rick santorum or ron paul will finish third. gingrich's win caps off a spectacular reversal of fortune after mitt romney finishes in iowa and new hampshire. three different winners of the first three republican contests, when just a few days ago, it looked like mitt romney was on his way to a clean sweep. the importance of this primary is underscored by the fact that since 1980, the republican winner in south carolina has gone on to clinch the nomination. our political team is in place
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to cover this breaking news, and we'll begin with reaction at jubilant headquarters. >> as perhaps you can see and hear behind me, they are having quite the celebration here at the gingrich headquarters. this as you mentioned at the top of the broadcast has been a reversal of fortune for the speaker. he trailed in the polls here to mitt romney in double digits. but once on the ground here, he quickly ramped up the rhetoric. a little rough around the edges here, a little rough and tumble, and that's kbexactly what he delivered here. he went hard after mitt romney, and he went hard after president obama. he went to the distance, if you will, against president obama in particular on monday. he got a rousing standing
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ovation at a presidential debate as he declared president obama the best food stamp president he's ever seen. and on tuesday, another rousing standing ovation when he beat the moderator after asking a question in an interview his ex-wife mary ann delivered. tonight folks will be asking what happened to the conservative base here in the republican party? rick santorum will either finish third or fourth here in south carolina and has vowed to stay in the race. he plans to go to florida, he plans to go to nevada right after that, so perhaps the vote will continue to be split. ron paul says his strategy is simple. collect as many delegates as he possibly can and he plans to continue on as well. now, also we should point out that newt gingrich is expected to speak with this crowd here going forward. he has got to raise some money. he's already tweeted asking supporters to dig a little deeper. he's going to need it. the romney machine is well fortified financially in florida and beyond.
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>> starting us off tonight in the gingrich headquarters. let's go to peter alexander at the romney headquarters. peter, what's the mood like there? >> a short time ago an adviser for mitt romney told us that they called newt gingrich to congratulate him on his win here. you'll remember newt gingrich did not call mitt romney after his win in iowa and new hampshire just a short time ago. we heard from romney on stage. take a look at what he had to say. >> president obama has no experience running a business and no experience running a state. our party can't be led to victory by someone who also has never run a business and never run a state. >> reporter: also just a short time ago, a senior adviser to mitt romney says he's picking his opponents. the candidates feel very strong that will they match-up well against newt gingrich in this race. in the course of the last several days, they've been trying to lower expectations
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here, governor romney even telling us yesterday this has always been an uphill battle in south carolina, reminding us just four years ago in the state he finished fourth with just 15%, and perhaps there's some evidence that mr. romney is preparing for the long haul. there was a picture of him today tweeted out by his son doing laundry at the hotel, and he also took his family to the movies, lester, to get a little relaxation as well. >> peter alexander at romney headquarters. thank you. what voters had to say as they left the voting booth. we turn to tamron hall about what's going on at those voting booths. tamron? >> they're giving us information about why newt gingrich won. it's showing he got a big surge of support before today's primary fueled by his performance in recent debates. more than half of today's voters, 55%, said they decided who to vote for within the last few days. and among those voters, take a look, 44% say they selected newt
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gingrich while 22% picked mitt romney. now, about those recent debates, we asked voters how important they were in choosing a candidate. here we go. 13% said the debates were the most important factor and another 52% said it was one of several factors, which means nearly two-thirds thought recent debates were important, and half of them, 50%, decided to vote for newt gingrich. another important factor that worked in gingrich's favor today, the ability to beat barack obama. 45% said that was the thing they were looking for, the quality that mattered most to them. and among those voters, gingrich beat romney 51 to 37%. you see the number there. explosive night for gingrich and these are some of the numbers, lester. >> tamron, thank you. let's bring in our nbc political team now for inside analysis. our political director chuck todd, andrea mitchell and "meet the press" moderator david gregory. david, i'll start with you. how did romney receive so much
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ground on this electability issue? >> i think the debates are a big part of that. newt gingrich very fleis reflect anger and anxiety among conservatives who more than anything else want to beat barack obama. he pulled off a very big surge in south carolina. also, romney's missteps with regard to his tax returns. i think these electability questions are starting to loom a little bit larger. and as you pointed out at the top of the broadcast, we don't have a one-way cruise to the nomination for romney, which is what the narrative was just a week ago. >> how quickly things change. and we mentioned at the top of the broadcast since 1980, the republican winner in south carolina goes on with the nomination. here you have three winners in three contests here. do any historical facts apply as we move forward here? >> they don't. you almost have to go back to the 19th century and start wondering if you're going to start seeing broker conventions
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and chatter like that when you have such a chaos, if you will, in the nomination. but romney is still the institutional front runner at this point. but i think what south carolina exposed is the classic cliche that his support might be a mile wide among the party but it's an inch deep. he doesn't have the conservative support. he has yet to see it in iowa, didn't see it in new hampshire and clearly not seeing it in south carolina and that's his problem. gingrich can fire up those conservatives, but gingrich has a money problem. can he go the distance dollar for dollar? that's where romney still has an advantage. >> andrea, things got very nasty in south carolina, as you know. romney clearly would like to change the conversation from things like when he'll release his tax returns. how difficult will that be? will gingrich keep going at him? will he go with what's worked so far? >> absolutely. newt gingrich has figured out that this works even though he himself has been vulnerable on his own tax returns.
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he released his return just before thursday night's debate, but it shows, when you look closely at it, a lot of his earnings are sheltered and not released in those returns because they're in specific categories. mitt romney can't go after newt gingrich for his taxes until he figures out an answer for his own taxes. the fact that newt gingrich managed to reverse what new hampshire voters said about electability just by those debate performances. those voters in south carolina think he is the one who can take it to barack obama, and they really are most anxious to see somebody who can confront the president, and they think it's newt gingrich, not mitt romney. >> david, of course, we have another debate right here on monday. what will change, do you think, as a result of what we see in south carolina as to how these two go about it on stage together? >> it's a huge question. i think the question is how will romney respond now.
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he has to use these debates and go on the offensive to make some bold contrast here. he did it in his speech tonight by suggesting that dehumanizing free enterprise will hit the nominee. he hasn't been doing that in these debates, newt gingrich has. >> david, chuck and andrea, thanks to all of you. newt gingrich will be among david's guest tomorrow morning on "meet the press" on nbc. as we note, now everything turns to florida. that's where we find brian williams. he's gearing up for that monday night nbc debate we've been telling you about. brian? >> we've been at this for a long time, and you know as well as anyone that kind of overnight into tomorrow morning, the attention and the candidates shift here to florida, the next battleground after the history that was made today. what david just said about mitt romney and the stakes coming into this next debate monday night, and think about the
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gingrich camp. they're looking at those late deciders and how many of them were influenced by gingrich's performance at the last debate. so those are the stakes. they couldn't be higher. we'll have all four of the gop candidates, tampa, florida, monday night, 9:00/8:00 central across the nbc network. that means on this nbc station. lester, back to you in new york. >> all right, brian. thanks. when nightly news continues, the other big story tonight. the wild turn in the weather. snow and ice from coast to coast and another twist on the way. and later, what that cruise ship captain now has to say about that deadly night at sea.
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we're back now with a winter blast hitting millions of americans from seattle to boston. after a mild start to winter, much of the country is now covered in ice and snow. a lot of folks dealing with plunging temperatures. nbc's michelle franzen is here in new york tonight. >> reporter: good evening, lester. this is the heaviest snow that the northeast has seen since that wallop last october. winter finally arriving after it ushers in after a mild and slow
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start. the first big snowstorm of the season left its mark from the midwest all the way to the northeast, but parts of new england saw nearly a foot of snow. aside from a few accidents like this overturned tractor-trailer on interstate 70 in pennsylvania, winter's better late than never arrival was a welcome sight. >> we are really happy to be out here because we have been missing the snow. >> reporter: in new york, just over four inches of snow blanketed streets and parks. just enough and just right for sledding and snowballs. >> truth is i don't love the snow, but with three kids they have been really, really itching for us to have snow. >> reporter: the snow first hit in the midwest yesterday. in chicago, it made for a messy and treacherous commute. it is a far cry from last winter when storm after storm after storm left record snowfall. this time last season in new york city, crews had to bring in
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special machines to melt the 31 inches of snow that had already piled up. this season just over seven inches of snow has fallen in the city. that lack of snow is also evident in new england and the upper midwest. meanwhile, northern california and the pacific northwest are getting hit with more rain and wind than snow. except in and around seattle where rain on top of this past week's rare snowstorm created a slushy mess. forecasters say the missing ingredient this winter has been cold temperatures that have finally moved in. >> this year we could be looking at a flip-flop where we start mild and there's time to catch up as we head to february and march. it's not over yet. >> reporter: not over. and so far this winter has left most people wanting more. >> i'm looking forward to a few more snowy days, but hopefully winter doesn't come with a vengeance now that it's come so late. >> reporter: and this storm still managed to cause quite a few delays and cancellations at airports around the country. nearly a thousand cancellations
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just today. on top of that, just 300 alone in the new york area and on top of the nearly 700 in chicago yesterday. >> michelle, thanks. for more on the wild weather from coast to coast, let's turn to weather channel's meteorologist paul goodloe. >> good evening. again, we are two months still to go in this season of winter, but finally we have seen the winter weather return to us. take a look at the snow totals michelle was talking about, chicago, we had over half a foot of snow there and across new england the most snow since that october 30-31st snowstorm. the good news, that snow is out of here. we'll see 40s and 50s by monday. the southeast still dealing with severe weather, mainly a hail and damaging wind threat and that continues into your sunday and even a chance of tornadoes as we head into the overnight hours and this includes the ohio valley as well. currently to the west, we still
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have plenty of mountain snow. and the forecast for more snowy weather out to the west and more valley rain and the dry weather across the northeast, but our focus as we head into this week and into next week, we have a lot of rain and snow heading towards the west coast. l.a. a soggy start to your week and perhaps a couple feet of snow in the mountains. perhaps 100-mile-per-hour winds in the mountains. lester? >> paul, thanks. some good news from reno, nevada, where firefighters say a huge wildfire has been contained. tonight, we have learned how it started. officials say a man admitted to accidentally starting the fire when he improperly discarded ashes from his fireplace. the fire destroyed 29 homes and forced some 10,000 people to evacuate. up next here tonight, new developments in the scene of the cruise ship disaster in italy. what the ship's captain is saying now. there is late word tonight
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that joe paterno's health has taken a turn for the worse. the former penn state coach announced in november that he has lung cancer and tonight, nbc news has learned that the 85-year-old paterno has developed further health complications over the past few days.
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and doctors now characterize his condition as serious. paterno is hospitalized and doctors have stopped chemotherapy treatments due to the complications. now, the latest on the cruise ship disaster in italy where tonight the death toll has gone up to 12. there's also new information about the captain under house arrest and under fire. tonight he's defending himself, fighting back and we get our report from nbc's michelle kosinski who remains on giglio island. >> reporter: blasting more access holes into the concordia. conditions finally giving divers a window of safety. they resume their search. then, late afternoon, a discovery. the body of a woman among the 21 missing. their families nearby, including the daughter of missing american barbara and jerry heil from minnesota. comforted by another on board.
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her face showing the emotional strain. divers focus on this area they have been trying to access for days. called deck 4, and it would have been the meeting place where passengers would come with life jackets on to wait to be rescued. but it's on the side of the ship that's submerged. pictures from today's search show what it's like down there. and everything left behind. here someone's luggage. and today, an italian newspaper reports what it says are captain schettino's statements in court. he says that night he was having dinner with officers and the ship's hostess and told the crew to let them know when they reach six miles from the giglio island. he wanted to steer closer, a salute to a retired commander. radar shouldly showed a rock. he turned the ship, desperate and too late. he states he called the company, told them i messed up and explained what happened. then arranged the evacuation. he says he didn't sound the alarm immediately to avoid panic. but panic came.
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and he claims he tripped, fell into the sea, was rescued by a boat, insisted they bring him back, but says they refused. in a phone call with the coast guard after the accident, he told them he'd be the last man on board. i will stay here, i think it will be just me. he's accused of manslaughter and abandoning the concordia. the families gathered here from around the world. their desire to lay their loved ones to rest starting to surpass hope of finding that miracle of survivals now. michelle kosinski, nbc news, giglio, italy. a 16-year-old from the netherlands capped off quite a feat today, sailing into a harbor in st. maartens to complete a year-long solo journey around the world. laura dekker said she's the youngest to complete the around the world voyage, but won't be recognized by the folks at
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guinness world records because they're trying to discourage young sailors from making such dangerous attempts. back in a moment with more analysis from south carolina where newt gingrich is the projected winner.
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back more with some more analysis of the south carolina primary, nbc news projecting that newt gingrich has won. we want to go back to "meet the press" moderator david gregory. david, this is kind of a reset tonight.
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where do things go from here? >> reporter: it is a reset. we're going to be watching through the night. we know who won, it's gingrich. whael what's the margin here? this was set up as a test for romney from conservative voters in the south, in a prime state. it appears newt gingrich had a significant night. we know he's won, so it does matter in terms of where the romney campaign goes from here. going on now to florida, another debate where gingrich has been so strong. how does the romney campaign change direction now to make an argument that there is still a front runner? can they make that argument before the voters of florida and beyond? >> lots to watch here. thank you, david. that is ""nbc nightly news"" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from the primary. we'll have more on this station tonight at nbc and nbcpolitics.com on line. i'll pick this up tomorrow on the "today" show and tomorrow
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night as well. keep it on nbc news. for now in new york, i'm lester holt. have a good night, everyone.

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