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U.S. Marine's Death in Iraq Brings Troop Death Toll To 100 In October; Sharpshooters, IEDs Pose Deadliest Threat

Aired October 30, 2006 - 07:00:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: It is Monday, October 30th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

We begin in Iraq in the violent Anbar Province where a U.S. Marine was killed yesterday in combat. The 100th American serviceman to die in the war this month. CNN's Arwa Damon live in Baghdad with more -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Miles, it is a very grim milestone for U.S. forces who are operating here, really trying to bring this chaos under control.

A lot of the troops who are here are here on their second, sometimes even third and in some rare cases, their fourth tours of duty. And they say they are operating in an even more challenging and difficult environment than in their previous deployments, especially those that are in Baghdad and in that volatile al Anbar Province.

Many of the deaths that we have seen in October have happened around the capital and al Anbar Province. Many of them are the result of roadside bombs and small arms fire. We are seeing roadside bombs becoming increasingly more effective, increasingly able to penetrate through U.S. armor. We are seeing small arms fire attacks, snipers rounds only becoming more accurate, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa, tell us about this bombing at the marketplace, a particularly deadly one.

DAMON: It was, Miles. It was at a marketplace in the area of Sadr City, that is the Shia slum that is home to some 2, 2.5 million Iraqis. It is also a Mehdi militia stronghold. That is the militia that is loyal to radical Shia Cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

At about 7:50 this morning, a bomb hidden in a plastic bag, that plastic bag, then concealed in a pile of garbage, exploded on a group, a large crowd of day laborers, Iraqis who were just looking for work. That attack killed at least 26 Iraqi civilians, wounding dozens more. It comes at a time where violence is only increasing between Iraq's Sunni and Shia population.

This attack, like many we have seen in the past, in this very same neighborhood bearing the markings of sectarian violence intended to incite even more violence between Iraq's Sunni and Shia populations. The area is normally secured by the Mehdi militia. What we are seeing today is that there is very little that Iraqis can do to protect themselves, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon, thank you. Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: One reason for the increased U.S. death toll in Iraq is snipers. The military is now investigating that increase. CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us this morning.

Good morning, Barbara.


We're asking the most difficult question there is, how is it that so many U.S. troops lost their lives in Iraq this month and one answer is, indeed, snipers.

U.S. military sources tell us this morning, that indeed, over the last three months, actually, they have seen what they call a gradual increase in sniper activity. It is known inside the military as precision small arms fire, of course.

What they are doing now is stepping up what they call their counter-sniper operations. One of the things they are trying to do is talk to the troops out there on foot patrol, show the troops how to be more watchful, more aware, look out for vehicles that keep passing them by, going back and forth, that may be eyeballing them.

And try not to stay in place for any one particular period of time, not be standing around on the streets of Baghdad, keep moving. That's what they're trying to teach the troops with the increase in sniper attacks that they have seen.

And they, indeed, have captured some cells, dismantled some. They've seen vehicles with sniper sites in them, with mattresses in the back, so these people can carry out their deadly work. But they are going after the sniper cells that they can find.

Also, it is the case that IED attacks remain the number one killer of U.S. troops. What we are told now is there are new techniques, new tactics there. The insurgents are adding what they call accelerants to the IEDs so when they go off, they cause a fire, they cause maximum casualties. The U.S. has lost three to four troops in some of these individual attacks, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us this morning. Thank you, Barbara.

Roughly 14,000 U.S. pistols, rifles, machine guns, shot guns and grenade launchers are missing in Iraq. And the Pentagon has not been keeping track of hundreds of thousands of serial numbers on most of the weapons that have been issued to the Iraqi security forces. Government auditors also discovered that the military can't say just how many Iraqis have been trained to support security or just how Baghdad has been spending money on security and reconstruction. The inspector general who found all these problems will be our guest in the next half hour -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: A new twist this morning in the mystery of that kidnapped U.S. soldier in Iraq. "The New York Times" reporting he is 41-year-old Ahmed Qusai al-Taei, an Iraqi American, "The Times" says the soldier who is a translator broke military rules and married an Iraqi about three months ago. That woman's family says al-Taei was kidnapped by Shiite militiamen when he went to visit his wife on October 23rd. No comment from the Pentagon on that story so far.

Now the politics of war: With the election drawing near, poll after poll shows Americans rank Iraq right at the top of their list of worries. The big question: How much will that affect their vote? CNN's Ed Henry, from the White House with more.

Good morning, Ed.


In the last two elections, it was Democrats who were playing defense over national security, but not necessarily this time.


HENRY (voice over): With violence in Iraq front and center in the midterm elections, Republican candidates continue to break with the president on conduct of the war. Michael Steele, the Republican contender in the hot Maryland Senate race, was asked does he think Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would resign?

MICHAEL STEELE, (R-MD) CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: Let's put it this way. He wouldn't be my secretary of Defense. And ultimately that's going to be a decision that the president of the United States makes.

HENRY: But House Majority Leader John Boehner joined the president in offering a ringing endorsement of Rumsfeld.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years. All right? This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation. I think Donald Rumsfeld is the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution.

HENRY: Fuel for the Democratic mantra of change.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: It's true President Bush may not be on the ballot, but people like Boehner and people who support Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush, they're on the ballot. This is a referendum on the war and the incompetency of the Bush administration.

HENRY: Republicans insist key races will turn on local issues, not Iraq. But just in case, they're once again pointing out Democratic plans to withdraw U.S. troops.

SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: We're trying to find a way to complete this war, to get our troops home as soon as possible. The Democrats appear to be content with losing. And by losing, I mean, you know, if you don't complete the mission and you pull out, then there's going to be an eruption in the Middle East.


HENRY: Republicans are banking on a get-out-the-vote operation. Even Democrats admit have been stellar in the last two election cycles, but this time there are some conservatives disillusioned, in part, over the war. This Republican turnout machine will face its biggest test ever -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ed, the president has a busy day -- actually has busy coming days, doesn't he -- campaigning for various folks all throughout the nation?

HENRY: That's right. In the final stretch he'll be doing a lot more of those large public rallies that you were talking about in the last hour. Basically, today the president heading to Georgia, then to his home state of Texas. In fact, the district of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He left Congress, as you know, he resigned under an ethical cloud. It's a once-safe Republican seat that all of a sudden has become yet another race that's up for grabs, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much. Ed Henry, at the White House.


S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, Saddam Hussein's trial under way again in Baghdad after a boycott that lasted a month. Hussein's chief lawyer promptly walked out again. The judge is now appointing new lawyers. A verdict in Hussein's first trial is expected this coming Sunday.

Six Algerian men are on trial today in Madrid, Spain. They allegedly belonging to an Islamic terrorist group. One of the defendants also faces charges of planning an attack on a U.S. military base in Spain.

Pakistani troops attacked a religious school near the border with Afghanistan today. The school was allegedly training Al Qaeda terrorists. Local leaders say, though, the victims were innocent civilians. At least 80 people were killed.

In Mexico, federal police stormed the city of Oaxaca, took back control there. Protesters had been holding the area for five months. Keep in mind, this was a region, a popular tourist destination. The outgoing Mexican president, Vicente Fox, had resisted calls for force. He had been negotiated instead. But on Friday, an American and two local residents were killed and that prompted Mr. Fox to send in thousands of troops. In Nigeria, aviation officials are now criticizing the pilot of that plane that crashed this weekend. They say the pilot should have known better than to fly straight into a storm, nine people survived the crash, 96 others, though, died. Among those killed, the country's top Islamic cleric, and the son of a former Nigerian president. Moments ago, Nigeria told the company that owns the plane it can no longer fly in Nigeria.

Firefighters finally getting the upper hand on the wildfire in Southern California. It is the one that's taken just a devastating toll, but in lives and property. They say the 62-square-mile fire is now about 85 percent contained. Already, four firefighters were killed, a fifth is in critical condition. And investigators are looking for an arsonist.

New York City, a public hearing on banning transfats in restaurant food. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants the Board of Health to forbid restaurants from serving French fries and other foods that contain the artery-clogging substance -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, President Bush hitting the hustings and hitting them hard. We'll take you to Missouri, the Show-Me state, where Republicans are showing some unexpected vulnerability. Candy Crowley will weigh in with her words of wisdom.

Plus, killer winds in the Northeast. We'll get a look at the damage ahead.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Top stories we're following for you this morning. President Bush is campaigning for Republican candidates in Georgia and Texas today. Eight days to go before the midterm elections.

And the U.S. Supreme Court back in session this morning. Among cases being heard, lawsuits from inmates who want to improve prison conditions.

Parts of the Northeast battered by weekend wind storm, blasted New York and the region with gusts of over 50 miles an hour. Trees were knocked down, power lines, too. Two people were killed.

A motorcyclist in Massachusetts is the latest of the fatalities. Police say the biker was killed when a gust knocked over a tree that then fell on top of him.

In New Hampshire a man drowned when his kayak overturned on a river that was running fast, because of the storms heavy rainfall. Another person is missing after falling off a cruise ship, on Lake Winnipesauke (ph) during the storm. Thousands of homes and businesses in the region remain without power today.

It's 13 minutes past the hour. Let's get right to Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT) M. O'BRIEN: Republicans aiming to hold the U.S. Senate have identified three so-called firewall states, Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri. These are the states the GOP feels it must win to retain control. Missouri was leaning Republican, but now is appears to be a dead heat between incumbent Jim Talent and the challenger Claire McCaskill. CNN's Candy Crowley joining us live now from St. Louis, with a look the big final push there.

Candy, good to have you with us this morning.


M. O'BRIEN: Let's go right to the poll numbers, shall we? "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" out with a poll this morning. It doesn't get any more even than this. Jim Talent at 47 percent, Claire McCaskill, 47 percent, plus or minus 3.5 percent on the margin of error.

Big surprise?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, not in this environment. This always tends to be a close election in Missouri. It's one of those bellwether states that tends to swing. And also to sort of tell you what's going to happen in the rest of the country.

Just like most of the states, this is a state, Missouri, that is affected by Iraq and in some portions of the state, by the economy. This is a tough race for Talent. He is under, obviously, 50 percent. That's always a dangerous position for an incumbent to be in. But here, as in other places, Republicans feel they have a good turnout machine.

Now, McCaskill also has a turn out machine. She ran for governor a couple years ago, so they're both statewide names. There is, as you know, a stem cell research on the ballot here, so that's also affecting how Missourians are going to vote, and whether they're going to vote.

M. O'BRIEN: You mentioned that. And, of course, we've talked an awful a lot about the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, and the ad that he filmed for this race, and some others. Has that had -- and of course, the backlash from Rush Limbaugh and all the things that have followed since -- has that really impacted those numbers?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, they have been basically, those numbers, where they are for almost a year despite all those ads, despite a lot of campaigning. They're both neck and neck, as they were about a year ago.

So, what's happening here, I think, with the stem cell research initiative on the ballot is a lot of people think that this will help Claire McCaskill, because about 51 percent of Missourians favor this initiative.

On the other hand, we look at conservative Christians, evangelicals, they are a power base for Republicans here in Missouri. They tend to be against it. So, had they had any thoughts that they might stay home, a lot of people in the Talent campaign believe this initiative will bring them out.

Then, too, they've had sort of a counter-commercial that has come on the air here, that features two very well-known sports figures here in Missouri -- that were against the initiative. There's a lot going on, on the air waves and on the ground here that can tip this election. Which is almost anything can tip it when you're 47-47.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, I should say, just breathing different could tip it I suppose. Let's talk a little bit about what lies ahead, not just in Missouri today, but on the political calendar today.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, it's interesting to me, there's been a lot of discussion, sort of nationwide, about where the president is going, Georgia and Texas. These are not exactly Democratic bastions. And whether or not the president is helpful. Certainly he is helpful when it comes to raising money. And in some of these districts, he remains popular, he remains a plus.

The question is what happens to the independents and maybe Democrats who may be thinking, oh, I might stay home. If George Bush appears in your district, and you tend to be sort of angry with him, it might be something that brings you out to vote. On the other hand, if you tend to like him, it tends to be something that will bring you out. What George Bush is doing right now, is doing what everybody does in the last week or so of an election, that is, go out, get your base excited, and get them to come to the polls.

M. O'BRIEN: Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television. Thank you.

All the day's political news available at ticker. Click on -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Stories that we're following for you this morning. ATM usage fees hit an all time high.

And don't let your eyes fool you. Those aren't birds flying south for the winter. We'll tell you about a special farewell for a fighter plane. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Top stories we're looking at: An Explosion in an Iraqi marketplace, at least 26 have already died after this morning's blast in the Shiite section of the Baghdad, known as Sadr City.

And the top U.S. general in South Korea says he doesn't have any new intelligence, but he expects North Korea will carry out another nuclear test -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: So, you keep your money with the bank and guess what? The banks are keeping more of our money. No surprise that banks are now charging more than ever before, according to a new survey. Surcharges are up at most banks. The fee for ATM use, if you're not an account holder, is now $1.64 on average. Penalty for bouncing a check, $27.40 -- 27 dollars and 40 cents!

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, man.


S. O'BRIEN: That's obscene.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm going to the mattress. I'm going to the mattress.

S. O'BRIEN: Keeping your money in the mattress? Here's a tip from the experts. Sign up for overdraft protection.

M. O'BRIEN: How much does that cost?

SERWER: $27.40 a month.

S. O'BRIEN: Some banks, it's free. My bank, it's free.

M. O'BRIEN: You've got a good bank.

All right, Andy Serwer is here trying to connect sexy costumes for Halloween and business.


M. O'BRIEN: Go to it, Andy.

SERWER: And I'm not having any problem.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah?

SERWER: We have couple of stories that are somewhat I guess seasonal, here. First of all, we want to talk about the business of death. It is a growing business in the United States, and that is because of the growing population.

S. O'BRIEN: You mean like funeral homes?

SERWER: Funeral homes, indeed; 2.4 million deaths in '05. We expect 4.1 million in 2040. There are different values though, that the funeral business is sort of playing off these days. Personalization with video tributes, maybe a display of golf clubs. But cremation is increasingly the choice that many people are taking. And that is leading to a whole different set of businesses.

For instance, and Miles, you're going to be very interested in this. A company called space services.

M. O'BRIEN: I know about them.

SERWER: Which will send your cremated remains into space. For $1,295, your cremated remains will go around in space. For 12,000 it will be blasted out into space.

M. O'BRIEN: It will go into solar orbit.

SERWER: Right. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of "Star Trek" had his remains shot out. And so did James Duhann (ph), who was Scotty.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you want to do it, Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: I've been just thinking about it. Actually it sounds good for me.

SERWER: And then there is Life Gem. Have you heard of Life Gem?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Which takes your cremated remains and turns them into diamonds and precious stones, for memorial rings and necklaces.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes. I interviewed them once.

M. O'BRIEN: Isn't that a little creepy?

SERWER: Isn't that wild?

S. O'BRIEN: Well, the people I talked to once had a daughter who died and they turned her remains into a diamond. And they felt they could carry her around with them always. It was actually pretty moving.


S. O'BRIEN: Weird, it sounds like but --

SERWER: Yes, well, it's a personal choice.

M. O'BRIEN: Trying to wrap my head around it.

SERWER: A family choice.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Switching form the macabre to the macabre, we're going -- funny macabre. We're going to Halloween costumes. You know this is a growing business. You see it all around. Young adults are getting into these Halloween costumes, and increasingly they're racy, they're sexy, they're fun. This is just something people want to do. One woman interviewed for a story, said one year she was a sexy good witch, next year a sexy bad witch.

S. O'BRIEN: You have no pictures for this segment?

SERWER: We're supposed to have pictures.

M. O'BRIEN: There we go.

S. O'BRIEN: There we go. M. O'BRIEN: Now, what do we have here?

SERWER: These are sexy Snow Whites.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow, that is Snow White and the bad stepmother.

SERWER: Yeah, like you never saw her before. And you can be a sexy Little Red Riding Hood; we have a sexy cop.

M. O'BRIEN: Not my daughter, that's all I'm going to say. This is not happening in my house.

SERWER: That's Village People. Then you've got Super Girl.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness gracious.

SERWER: So for Miles, I'm thinking --

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, wait a minute --

SERWER: -- we should create these, what about the sexy space man.

M. O'BRIEN: If I ever had a trick-or-treater like that --

S. O'BRIEN: What's a sexy space man look like?

SERWER: I'm thinking up one for Miles.

S. O'BRIEN: You're covered in a space suit. What do you see?

SERWER: Yeah, but it could be short, kind of cut off.


S. O'BRIEN: That's not a very good space suit then.

SERWER: No, it would be problematic.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, Andy, thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's get Super Woman back on, can we?

SERWER: No, that's enough.

M. O'BRIEN: Anyway, we'll see you in a little bit.


M. O'BRIEN: Here's an aerial farewell we want to tell you about, in New Mexico. After 25 years -- check this out, look at this picture -- this is just about every F1-17 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter that exists. They are all based at Holloman Air Force base, out there in New Mexico, Alamogordo. And they flew in formation, en masse, to commemorate their anniversary, but they're on their way out, too. The F-117 Nighthawk is being replaced by the F-22a. SERWER: Is that the Black Bird?

M. O'BRIEN: No. The Black Bird, that's the SR-71. That has long since been retired.

SERWER: How do you know this stuff?

M. O'BRIEN: But -- look at that. Isn't that spectacular?

SERWER: That's pretty amazing.

M. O'BRIEN: One thing about those things, when they're coming at you, you can't hear them, can't see them. They're stealth. Before you know it, it's too late -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Pretty neat.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: A look at some of the stories we're following for you this morning. Did you guys hear about this report? Thousands of American weapons that were bought for Iraqi security missions are now missing in Iraq. And hundreds of thousands are untraceable. They have no security codes on them. We're going to talk to the official who is behind this new stunning government report straight ahead.

Also a look at the top issues for value voters. We'll hear from some young evangelicals, as we continue right here, on AMERICAN MORNING.



O'BRIEN: There are three new disturbing reports out of Iraq today. Thousands of weapons intended for the Iraqi troops are missing, there's confusion about the training of security forces, and there are failures in the rebuilding of Iraq. All these reports come from the office of Stuart Bowen. He is the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Mr. Bowen's with us this morning from Washington, D.C.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: When you look at some of these numbers, I got to tell you, it's shocking, really. Did you have any idea before you went to this audit just how bad some of the things were, especially as regards -- where the weapons are -- how bad things were going to be?

BOWEN: Well, Senator Warner asked us to perform an audit regarding logistics support to Iraq security forces. In conjunction with that, we looked at weapons accountability. And let me bring some perspective to this audit. We looked at about 370,000 weapons that were purchased with Iraq relief and reconstruction funds. Of that, less than 4 percent were not accounted for. By that, I mean not issued nor warehoused. So over 96 percent were accounted for.

My greater concern was the lack of tracking of serial numbers, but that issue has now been addressed by the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and is being done now.

O'BRIEN: All right, so it's being addressed now. But let's look a little more closely at that issue. You have over 500,000 -- more than half a million weapons that were given to the Iraqi soldiers and the Iraqi police, and that includes rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, sniper rifles. And, actually, only a tiny percent, 2 percent of those, can be traced with those serial numbers, right? That's an alarming number, don't you think?

BOWEN: It's because the practice was not followed early on regarding tracking DOD-purchased weapons for the Iraq security forces. The Army Material Command agreed with our conclusion that they should be tracked and they're now being tracked.


O'BRIEN: I'm sorry, forgive me for interrupting. But how are they going to go back and track these nearly half a million weapons, or are you saying from now on?

BOWEN: They're tracking them moving forward.

But the issue, really, that you pointed to in your opening about missing weapons needs to be put in perspective. Of the 12 categories of weapons that we looked at, three showed some lack of accountability. The total amount of weapons that either were not issued or were not warehoused was 14,000, about 3.8 percent. O'BRIEN: The weapons, some of them in that category, are weapons that never made it to the warehouse: 751, or every single one of the M-1 assault rifles, missing; 100 of the MP-5s -- what, I guess, are machine guns, missing, all of those. Do you assume these are stolen? Do you assume that some of these weapons are in fact being used by insurgents against U.S. forces?

BOWEN: We don't make any assumptions about where these weapons are in our audit. We just identify where the material weaknesses are.

The more important part of our review of Iraq security logistics is the need to ensure that the Iraqis are ready to sustain their police forces and their army once we transition control to them. And that, I think, is the more significant finding of the two reports.

O'BRIEN: And in your report, you gave that -- you said that there are red flags there because, of course, they're supposed to be handing the mission over to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. What are the red flags on that front? BOWEN: With respect to both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, we need to be sure that there are adequate numbers of Iraqis trained to support their forces in the field.

Upward of 320,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained to date, but if they can't be supplied and sustained in operations in the field, then we're not going to get the full value of that investment.

BOWEN: It's a really disturbing report.

Stuart Bowen is the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Thanks for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it.

BOWEN: It's good to be with you, Soledad. Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, you know the old saying, it's the economy stupid, but some polls suggest that the war in Iraq is more important to voters this year, and that means Democrats could actually get help from Republican voters.

We get more from Allan Chernoff.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Money manager Jim Awad is a proud Republican, and there's proof in his wallet, and his office, where he displays a framed letter from Ronald Reagan. But the war in Iraq, Awad says, has him disillusioned with his party, and especially its leader, President Bush.

JIM AWAD, AWAD ASSET MANAGEMENT: In many ways, he has embarrassed us as a nation.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Embarrassed us?

AWAD: Embarrassed us as a nation, because we went into a war that did not necessarily need to be fought. My personal opinion is I think he's done the country damage that could take a century to repair.

CHERNOFF (voice over): Awad says he wants the Democrats to rein in the Republican administration. So for the first time, he says, he's voting for a Democrat for Senate -- Hillary Clinton.

AWAD: I want Hillary so that she can stand up to the Republicans. And I would like to see the Democrats control Congress. I like to see what they would do.

CHERNOFF: Awad is voting Democrat, even though his business, managing over a billion dollars in investment funds, has been thriving under the Republicans.

(on camera): Usually when the economy is healthy, as it is now, and stocks are rising, many people vote their pocketbooks for the party in power. But this year, some Republicans like Jim Awad are saying, there's something more important than the economy: the war in Iraq.

(voice over): A CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation found 42 percent of Republicans said Iraq is extremely important to their vote. Only 29 percent cited the economy. And most interesting, 13 percent of Republicans said they plan to vote for Democrats, which would more than double the crossover vote of 2004. That could make the difference in tight races.

In nearby Connecticut, some registered Republicans say they'll vote against Republican congressman Chris Shays, a supporter of the war, in favor of his antiwar Democratic challenger, Diane Farrell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm a registered Republican, but I'm going to be voting Democrat this time around.

CHERNOFF: If the U.S. keeps troops in Iraq, as the president has pledged, the war could also be a decisive issue two years from now, in the next presidential election.

(on camera): Would you vote for Hillary for president?


CHERNOFF (voice over): Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


M. O'BRIEN: And you can find all the day's political news any time you like. Could be all the night's political news, on the CNN political ticker. Where do you find it? -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, the battle over a proposed abortion ban heats up in South Dakota. We'll take a look at an Election Day fight that could affect the rest of the country. That's ahead. Stay with us.






S. O'BRIEN: What about the values voters? Some people say those voters made all the difference in the last election? So what are the issues most important to value voters this year?

Here's AMERICAN MORNING's Delia Gallagher.

Good morning.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad. You know, evangelicals as a political force were galvanized by the abortion issue in the '70s. But 30 years later, with the new generation of voters, and many other issues in the forefront this election, what are their values today? I went to an evangelical university in Minnesota to find out.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): Bethel University attracts some of the most conservative evangelical students in the country.

ERIC SWARD, BETHEL UNIV. SOPHOMORE: You know, I was raised going to pro-life rallies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe in family values.

GALLAGHER: All students here sign a covenant.

(on camera): We will abstain from use or possession of alcoholic beverages. We believe that sexual intercourse and other forms of intensely interpersonal sexuality activity are reserved for monogamous heterosexual marriages. This is a tough moral standard.

EMILY HOLMES, BETHEL UNIV. JUNIOR: We stand by these, because we're a community.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): These kids were brought up on a diet of what evangelicals call family values, the staples of which are opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

And yet here on this deeply religious campus, these four students, two Republicans, a Democrat and an undecided, say that while those family values are important to them, they're not the only values they'll vote on.

DAVID MILLER, BETHEL UNIV. SENIOR: The state of humanity globally, and that could encompass things like, you know, AIDS and poverty, things like that, is tremendously important right now to students. I think domestic poverty and family values on top of that.

GALLAGHER: The students aren't alone in shifting away the predominant emphasis on family values that has shaped the evangelical political voice in the last 30 years. Tonight, they are among 2,000 at this evangelical strong hold applauding Reverend Jim Wallis, one of the most liberal evangelical leaders.

REV. JIM WALLIS, AUTHOR, "GOD'S POLITICS": We support values, but all our values. And I'm on record of saying those who say there are only two moral values are mistaken.

When I find 2,000 verses in my Bible about poor people, I insist that fighting poverty is a moral values issue, too, so is protecting the environment. Here they call it "creation care."

GALLAGHER: Some conservative evangelical leaders are coming aboard too. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelical is even featured in a new movie on global warming, once considered a liberal issue.

REV. RICHARD CIZIK, NATL. ASSN. OF EVANGELICALS: To deplete our resources, to harm this world by environmental degradation is an offense against God.

GALLAGHER: And Cizik just signed an open letter to President Bush, urging him to do more to stop the genocide in Darfur. It's a letter also signed by conservative leader Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Land says he's long been concerned about Darfur, the environment and poverty, but he says the fight against same-sex marriage and abortion should and will remain the issue among top value voters.

DR. RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: I care about people, but a poor child, if he gets born or she gets born, at least has some hope of escaping poverty. If he's killed before he's born, he doesn't have a chance to escape anything, because he's dead.

GALLAGHER: But will those values remain the priority for evangelicals just entering the political processed?

MILLER: There's a shift that's happening. I mean, I've seen it since I came here.


GALLAGHER: Now these students aren't embracing all of Jim Wallis' beliefs on the left, but they're not entirely aligned with the right either. So candidates on both sides hoping to win evangelical votes in the future may have to reconsider their values.

S. O'BRIEN: So then when you look at this election in eight days, what do you think among those students who you talked to would be the No. 1 most important issue, an issue that's going to drive them to the polls and make them elect who they like?

GALLAGHER: Well, you know, for these kids, they're talking about Iraq, they're talking about security and those sorts of things. But in -- by and large, the value voters still votes on the abortion question.

And I think it's interesting, for example, this morning's "New York Times" says Democrats are running to the right, that there are some Democratic candidates who are now sort of voicing antiabortion platforms.

So in terms of these elections that are coming up, you might see a shift from those evangelical voters who generally vote Republican because of that issue. If they find a Democratic candidate who agrees on that issue, you might see a small shift in that.

S. O'BRIEN: Interesting. Delia Gallagher for us this morning. Thanks, Delia.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.






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