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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Iowa Caucuses One Month Away

Aired December 3, 2007 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Joy, thanks. If you thought the race for president had become pretty much predictable, tonight a reminder this is still anybody's race. New polling in Iowa and New Hampshire now shows the race has in fact turns upside down. Forget about who spent the most money or time trolling for votes in Iowa, tonight we've got new numbers showing Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney losing traction, Barack Obama gaining ground and Mike Huckabee going from just about nowhere to number one.
This weekend I spent a day on the trail with Huckabee to see what it is the voters are seeing. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You travel with a candidate like Rudy Giuliani and he's got a huge entourage of people or even John McCain. You've got this guy.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a real hurt. That ought to hurt, right? I got this guy, you see this guy, he's so much better than the next 10 guys.

COOPER: What do you think the biggest challenge you face in New Hampshire is?

HUCKABEE: Just simply being known. I'm an obscure governor from a southern state, but I'm not the first one that's ever been up here, either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More on the new leaders of the pack in a moment. Also tonight, thousands come together to mourn NFL star Sean Taylor and we'll bring you all the latest develops in the case that authorities say they had against four young men look at what connection they may have had to Taylor. Plus up close, the MySpace suicide of Megan Meyer. Here mother speaking out tonight here live after authorities today decided whether or not to file any charges against her adult neighbors who set up MySpace page posing as a teenage boy, a boy who taunted Megan before she took her life.

We begin though with the striking turnaround on the campaign trail. A reminder that the race for president suddenly seems a whole lot more open than it was just a couple days ago. We're going to dig a little deeper into who's ahead and why. The new "Des Moines Register" polls shows former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee out in front leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and ex-new York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

That is stunning. A month ago Huckabee was Mike Who? He's gained 17 percentage points since then. Fred Thompson, meantime, sees his support among likely caucus goers cut in half.

In the Democratic side, Barack Obama is on top of a statistical tie. Three percentage points up with a margin of error of 4.4, that too is a 180-degree change from a month ago when Hillary Clinton was narrowly out in front. Obama is leading among women voters as well. Now Hillary Clinton says the fun begins as she ratchets up an attack on Obama and Mitt Romney gets ready to address his fate.

Keeping them honest tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you don't like the politics in Iowa, wait a while, it will change.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's amazing how you go from being DOA to being a genius in about three weeks.

CROWLEY: He was never dead on arrival in Iowa, but Barack Obama now tops the "Des Moines Register" poll, giving him a burst of mojo.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm on my way to Mason City and then to Sioux City and then to Council Bluffs and then out and around.

CROWLEY: And threatening her aura of invincibility.

CLINTON: I got to run, dear, see you later.

CROWLEY: She's not nearly so shy on the stump.

CLINTON: So you decide, which makes more sense, to entrust our country to someone who's ready on day one to make the decisions and the changes we need, or to put America in the hands of someone with little national or international experience who started running for president as soon as he arrived in the United States Senate.

CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton still leads Obama slightly in two other Iowa polls but she's trying to jam him up enough to make a mistake. She's all over him in matters big and small.

OBAMA: I had not been planning to run for president for however number of years some of the other candidates had been planning for.

CROWLEY: Camp Clinton responded, citing stories that in third grade, Obama wrote a paper saying he wanted to be president. A charge Obama aides labeled the Kindergarten attack.

Clinton's roughest critic, John Edwards is counter programming. Mr. Positive, Mr. Laid Back.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In third grade, I wanted to be two things, I wanted to be cowboy and I wanted to be Superman.

CROWLEY: Moving on, Clinton also went after Obama over his political action committee, Hope Fund. Clintonites accused Obama of taking lobbyist money and giving it to Democratic candidates in key early primary candidates. She says it goes to character, contrary to what we have been hearing now for a year, she said, Obama's pack had lobbyist money and they were more than happy to take that money and use it to try to influence elections.

OBAMA: All these accusations that are starting to come out, seem to correspond to shifts in political fortune.

CROWLEY: Keeping them honest, Obama did give PAC money to candidates or state parties in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. That's illegal only if the contributions were coordinated with his presidential campaign.

Still one expert says it's unusual for a president campaign to maintain a political action committee. A big polling surprise as well for Republicans and suddenly everything we knew about the presidential race we don't know anymore.

Lookie who's on top, Mike Huckabee, formerly known as the little known governor from Arkansas, now fending off critics who said in a very un-Republican way he raised taxes.

HUCKABEE: It's a lot better than being ignored and if the target comes to the truth, then it will be good for me.

CROWLEY: Huckabee did raise taxes on gasoline and state services for a grand total of $505 million. Hoping to stop his slide, former Iowa front-runner, Mitt Romney, a Mormon plans a speech on religion later this week, aiming to bring back the conservative Christians he's been losing to Huckabee. Stick around, it could all change again.

CLINTON: We are really getting into the exciting period of this campaign.

CROWLEY: After 11 months of campaigning, the beginning is near. Candy Crowley, CNN, Des Moines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Beginning of what is the question. So why the turn around in Iowa as well as the tightening race in New Hampshire. Digging deeper tonight, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is in Manchester and with me here CNN's newest political analyst, Carl Bernstein, author of "A Woman in Charge, the Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton" as well as a string of other bestsellers. He's actually got his own section at the library. And Mark Halperin who writes the page at time.com, a tip shit for election '08 and has a new book out, "The Way to Win, Taking the White House in 2008."

Welcome all of you. Carl, it seemed like Washington insiders had crowned Hillary Clinton as the nominee months and months ago. That all seems upside down. Now what is happening in Iowa to the Democrats?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the old lesson, stay away from Washington insiders because Mark has written very brilliantly in the "New York Times" last week. Polls are just a snapshot and they tend to be behind what's really going on and I think people are digging deeper now, they're trying to learn who these candidates are.

COOPER: The more they're seeing of Hillary Clinton, the less they like?

BERNSTEIN: Clearly her numbers have been going down in Iowa. And in New Hampshire but I think it's very difficult to generalize too much. I would not say that she has lost the election at this point as some people seem ready to predict. What we have is a situation where Obama might create a two-person race, if he's able to do that, all of the dynamics change because that is the way for him to perhaps win the nomination.

COOPER: Mark, Karl Rove actually in an op ed over the weekend offered some free advice to Senator Obama. I'm not sure he's going to be listening to Karl Rove but he suggested the strategy for beating Senator Clinton, was "Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job not in a mean our ugly way but in a forceful and straight forward way. Hillary may come over as calculating and shifty but she looks in control. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Rove's op ed was actually pretty good advice. Maybe Obama doesn't like the source, but he said a lot of things in there that I think are true. One thing has not changed in Iowa. Hillary Clinton can win the Iowa caucuses, Obama can win them and John Edwards can win them. That's still true. What's changed is Clinton now feels that the only way she can win is to try to destroy Barack Obama. After she was attacked for several weeks, she decided she had to attack back. That's why this last month on the Democratic is going to be so intense. Because the attacks are going to be fierce.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And Anderson, I think that's very dangerous for Hillary Clinton because her Achilles' heel is likability. There are lots of folks who say that they don't really like her so she's got to walk a fine line. Because as a woman, she's known as the toughest Democratic candidate. But now she's fighting back and she doesn't want to be known as the meanest Democratic candidate and Barack Obama today had started a Web site cataloging what he calls her negative attacks on him. So he's going to make her into the meanie and that doesn't play well in Iowa.

COOPER: And Gloria, Obama now has more support among women and potential caucus-goers than Hillary Clinton does. And that is a sea change.

BORGER: It is a sea change. I think initially women were flocking to Hillary Clinton, because of course it's historic, you might want a woman to become president, you naturally would tend to look at her. But I think they have the same problems with her that men do, the question of likability, the question of honesty. I think the real battleground is among older women. Hillary Clinton really needs those older women and Barack Obama is trying to appeal to them and Oprah Winfrey may help with that when she goes on the campaign trail.

BERNSTEIN: You've got an interesting thing going on with three candidates right now, which is to say Obama, Huckabee and what's happening with Hillary Clinton and Giuliani, is that the two candidates who have been known in the past to have difficulties with questions of trust, of candor, are seeing dents and taking some hits and appear very vulnerable, especially Giuliani right now. He's in a kind of free fall while this back story is going on about his security detail and what expenses might have been reported and what might not but the real thing is he hasn't given a satisfactory explanation and it's taken a toll.

COOPER: It's interesting, though. I spent the day on Friday with Huckabee on the campaign trail in New Hampshire where he's trying to broaden his base from Iowa. And the word that everyone I talked to in the crowd, the word people used is authenticity. He's jumped 17 points in Iowa. What is he doing right there and can it move over to a New Hampshire?

HALPERIN: He's set apart from all the other candidates because he's so comfortable with himself. All the other Republican candidates seem awkward at times, some consistently awkward. He seems authentic, he seems like a nice guy. He's also a governor. Remember, governors typically do pretty well. We're dealing with guys who were, with the exception of Giuliani, senators with a different mentality.

The other thing is he is an authentic religious conservative on many issues that are important to religious conservatives. None of the other candidates can say look at my life record without blemish.

BERNSTEIN: And as Bill Clinton said, he's from Hope.

HALPERIN: He's the Man from Hope, part two.

BORGER: You know, it's also interesting to me that Mike Huckabee is a populist who's now doing well in a Republican field. And that's because he's a populist with a positive message. That appeals to Republicans but also might appeal to some independent voters. He may be quite conservative on social issues, but people who don't like the bickering like what they see from Mike Huckabee when he goes to those debates and those debates have been really, really important to him and to his campaign.

COOPER: How important is the speech Mitt Romney is going to make on Thursday about his faith?

HALPERIN: Really important because he's taking it on and saying to people who have concerns about this, listen to me on this one big moment, I'm going to explain it to you and make you feel comfortable. If he doesn't do it in this speech, given how close the voting in, given what the nature of our media culture is like, I am not sure he'll get a second chance. BERNSTEIN: I don't think it's just about his Mormonism, I think it's an opportunity for him to say take a look at all of me. If he knows he's going down right now in some polls that really count and that they reflect a trend that's been going on for a while, he's got to find a way back up.

COOPER: After all the money he's spent in Iowa, he's just got to be stunned at this moment.

BERNSTEIN: I don't know how stunned he is. Politics -- these guys are used to stuff and they're used to getting banged around a lot and they've got ways of coming back and if the way to come back is to say, you know, here's what you need to know about me as a Mormon, but here's really what you need to know about me as a person, I'm going to show you.

HALPERIN: Five different people could be the Republican nominee. All five of the have had great success inside and outside politics. None of them are losers, they're all going to fight really hard.

BERNSTEIN: And all of them come in with great disadvantages against the Democrats.

COOPER: It's going to be - the most fascinating race I've ever covered. It's going to be remarkable. Gloria Borger, appreciate. Mark Halperin, it's great to see you. Carl Bernstein, good to have you with us. Thanks.

In a moment, more on the Huckabee factor. He was in New Hampshire this weekend trying to build on his Iowa surge. I spent the day with him to see how he campaigns on a shoestring budget, but arguably getting a lot more bang for the buck than some of the other bigger names. We'll have that for you in a moment.

And later she was a victim of a cruel hoax. Megan Meyers seduced and dumped online. It wasn't a teenage boy who did it. It was a bogus MySpace page set up by a grownup neighbor. Now she is dead and her parents understandably want justice. But will that happen? I'll speak with her mom as 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What would Jesus do, would Jesus support the death penalty?

HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That right there is what people call the Huckabee factor. Sure, he didn't really answer the question, but his response made some people like him all the more. Just about every time the Republicans debate, Giuliani goes after Romney, Romney goes after Giuliani, Fred Thompson gets in a shot or two and Mike Huckabee gains a lot of ground.

People say they like his even temperament. His authenticity. Even those who disagree with him on hot button issues like religion and abortion. Recently I got a look at Governor Huckabee's style and substance up close traveling with the candidate in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you feel the momentum on the campaign trail?

HUCKABEE: I do. I really do.

COOPER: Crowds are bigger?

HUCKABEE: It's several things, not only are the crowds bigger but they're very enthusiastic.

COOPER: Soaring in the Iowa polls, Mike Huckabee is reaching beyond the Christian conservatives who first ignited his dark horse campaign. He spent the weekend in New Hampshire, a Southern Baptist minister stumping for Yankee votes. First on Friday at the Chamber of Commerce in Concord.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's cameras around. What's going on?

HUCKABEE: It's a new day, used to I was lucky if I had one print guy from a weekly.

COOPER: The focus this morning, taxes and education, not abortion, same-sex marriage or religion, the issues that have lifted his campaign so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you like your surging numbers in Iowa?

HUCKABEE: I like it a lot.

COOPER: In New Hampshire it will be a tougher sell. Faith isn't as much a factor here. Other candidates have spent millions on commercials, build formidable political machines. Huckabee's campaign is bare bones.

HUCKABEE: Anderson, do you want to get in the back seat with me?

COOPER: Sure, that would be great.

Huckabee's campaign is bare bones.

(on camera): You travel with a candidate like Rudy Giuliani, he's got a huge entourage of people, even a John McCain. I mean you've got this guy.

HUCKABEE: Boy, that's a real hurt. That ought to hurt, right? I got this guy. You see this guy, he's so much better than the next 10 guys.

COOPER: What do you think the biggest challenge you face in New Hampshire is?

HUCKABEE: Just simply being known, I'm an obscure governor from a southern state. But I'm not the first one that's ever been up here, either.

COOPER (voice-over): He's talking about Bill Clinton. Both men were born in Hope, Arkansas. Huckabee took over the governor's mansion shortly after Clinton won the White House. And though a republican governor from predominantly Democratic Arkansas says something about his appeal, many Republicans remain unconvinced. Economic conservatives charge on taxes and spending Huckabee and Clinton are cut from the same cloth.

(on camera): There's a quote from a Republican state senator in Arkansas who said you have a preacher's mentality when it comes to spending, you see needs and you think believe it's government's responsibility to fill those needs.

HUCKABEE: I don't see it that way.

COOPER: But you did raise taxes on fuel, on sales, on cigarettes, on beer.

HUCKABEE: When we raised taxes for fuel, we did it to rebuild our roads program.

COOPER: Is it possible to be too compassionate a conservative?

HUCKABEE: A conservative means you want to conserve the best there is. We make government the best it can be and the most competent it can be, we make it limited, we don't make it nonexistent.

COOPER (voice-over): In New Hampshire, fiscal discipline isn't Huckabee's only soft spot. His evangelical faith also draws some suspicion. We watch as he defends himself to one reporter.

HUCKABEE: There's this fear that if a person has faith, they're going to impose it on everybody. Quite the opposite.

COOPER: Huckabee freely admits, however, religion is central to his life.

(on camera): Do you have a favorite Bible passage?

HUCKABEE: I do. New Testament. Philippians Chapter Four, Verse 15. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

That verse came to me at a very important time in my life when I was a teenager. I grew up without a lot of self-confidence, being the kid that didn't have sometimes what I thought I needed to be as good as the other kids. That verse really kind of gave me the understanding that, you know, it's not what I have. But I can do anything.

COOPER (voice-over): Which is why perhaps this is Mike Huckabee's moment. On the campaign trail, he comes off as authentic, a natural. He's quick to point out he may be a preacher but he's no prude. He loves his rock and roll and all but worships Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards who years ago got a ticket in Arkansas.

(on camera): You pardoned Keith Richards.

HUCKABEE: I pardoned Keith Richards for a $162 misdemeanor traffic violation.

COOPER: That may come back in the general election.

HUCKABEE: I hope it does.

COOPER (voice-over): Huckabee does an excellent Keith Richards impression.

HUCKABEE: We get to talking, and Keith says, "Hey man, I've been here before. You know the ..."

COOPER: He hopes one day to jam with Richards but for now, he's content to strum along with the high school rock band in Tilton, New Hampshire. Winning over Republicans, one note at a time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We have found out some interesting facts about Mike Huckabee. Let's check the raw data. His campaign has spent about $1.7 million so far or about $53 million less than Mitt Romney's. His consulting firm once advised Bill Clinton and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Huckabee was diagnosed with Type Two diabetes in 2003. Since then he has lost more than 100 pounds and has completed four marathons. And he has never had a sip of beer.

My visit with Mike Huckabee was punctuated by a story that nobody in New Hampshire saw coming. The hostage drama at Clinton headquarters at Rochester, New Hampshire. Erica Hill has an update on that and more in a 360 bulletin. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a judge just ordered a mental evaluation for the man accused of taking five people hostage Friday at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. Leeland Eisenberg's attorney said his client had visions to sacrifice himself to bring awareness to mental health issues.

Prosecutors say he has a long criminal record including two rape convictions.

New insight on Iran from a newly declassified U.S. report which shows Iran actually stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 while under international pressure and likely won't have enough enriched uranium for a bomb for two to seven years.

In Sudan, a presidential pardon. A British teacher convicted of insulting Islam has been released from prison. She served nine days of her 15 day sentenced for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Some had called to for her execution.

And in Cherry Hill, New Jersey a surprise homecoming. While waiting to see Santa with her baby daughter, Sam Miller was shocked to see her husband, Army Specialist Adam Miller. He took early leave from Afghanistan so he could meet his daughter, Anderson, for the very first time. I think the Christmas wishes have already come true in their house.

COOPER: Better than seeing Santa Claus, seeing him coming back. That's great. Erica, thanks.

360 next, more with Erica. We ask what were they thinking when a thief sinks to a whole new low.

Plus, honoring Sean Taylor. Thousands gathered for his funeral. Tonight, the latest on the four men accused of killing the star NFL player. What was it that connected them to Taylor or his family, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time for our segment, what were they thinking? Erica, sadness turned to anger at a Las Vegas memorial service, with good reason. This is unbelievable. Family and friends gathered Sunday to remember this man, David Rayburn who died last week after falling 50 feet at a construction site.

So at the service people say a man no one knew stood up and shared kind words for the victim. And after talking, he stole about $10,000 that was collected for Rayburn's widow and simply vanished.

HILL: And it's sick.

COOPER: Can you believe it?

Police are looking for the thief. They say the man also stole two toy trucks that were supposed to go to Rayburn's four-year-old son. Unbelievable.

HILL: I can't -- What would drive anybody to do that? That poor family.

COOPER: And to have the audacity to talk at the service and then steal is unbelievable.

HILL: Absolutely. Makes it even worse.

COOPER: Up next Erica, remembering NFL star Sean Taylor, thousands gathered for his funeral today and recalled a husband, father and a teammate whose life was cut short when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: NFL star safety Sean Taylor was laid to rest today, thousands of mourners including his Washington Redskins teammate and the NFL commissioner attended his funeral in Miami. A week ago today Taylor was shot during an apparent robbery in his Miami area home. He died a day later. His girlfriend and their 18-month-old daughter went unharmed in that attack and four suspects have been arrested.

CNN's John Zarrella joins me now with the latest information. John, what do we now know?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I am at the Orange Bowl here in Miami and this is where Sean Taylor played football for the University of Miami. Thousands of people cheered him during his career and today, not far from here, thousands of people paid tribute to him, mourned him, his friends, his family, his former coaches, the entire Washington Redskins team was here along with O.J. Simpson and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. There were some very solemn moments and tributes. There were also some moments a bit lighter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Lord wants to set up a first-class all-star football team in heaven, I think he's all set, the Lord is all set at safety for eternity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Taylor was laid to rest a short distance from where he grew up at 24 years old in a very private ceremony. Anderson?

COOPER: John, as we talked about on Friday, police have four suspects in custody. How do they think the suspects came to target Taylor's property?

ZARRELLA: Well, it turns out that the events that triggered this may have happened solely by accident. Turns out that his half sister, Sasha Johnson held a party at Taylor's house. She had his permission to hold that party. It also turns out that Sasha Johnson dated the cousin of one of the men now in custody believed to be one of Taylor's killers. And it is also said that she may have bragged about her brother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD SHARPSTEIN, TAYLOR FAMILY FRIEND: She, like the rest of the family is devastated, emotionally overwrought with grief and pain. For her it's quite a bit. For Sasha it's even more because she was possibly the one who led the thieves into the house. Unwittingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Strictly by accident, totally unwittingly as you heard there. Now it is not clear if any of the suspects attended that party. But what we do know now Anderson is that the suspects will be in court tomorrow morning here in Miami at 9:00 a.m. They made an appearance in Lee County over the weekend. Tomorrow they'll be making an appearance here in Miami. They were transported here about an hour ago. Anderson?

COOPER: Have police said anything more or new about the evidence that they have or don't have?

ZARRELLA: What we know now is that they believe they know who the shooter was, which one of the four was the shooter. What they do not have is the murder weapon. They believe that it's very possible that the murder weapon was dumped somewhere along Alligator Alley that stretches between Miami and Fort Myers, and they may never find that murder weapon.

They also say that there is a very good possibility there was a fifth suspect involved. No more details on that.

And they're also telling us now that it is very possible that these men may well have also been responsible for the break in at Sean Taylor's home eight days before he was killed -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's so sad. John, appreciate the reporting. John Zarrella.

Tomorrow on 360, disturbing memories of life inside a cult, a cult notorious for the twisted family values it preached. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're watching a man unravel.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ, CULT MEMBER: I'm just loading some of my mags here. Hope you guys don't mind if I do that while I talk.

KAYE: Ricky Rodriguez had belonged to a sect that calls itself the Family International. He made this chilling tape two years ago.

RODRIGUEZ: This is my weapon of choice, the K-bar knife.

KAYE: Just days after this taping, two people will die.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: On Ricky Rodriguez wanted to kill and why and how he dealt with his demons, the chilling story. That's tomorrow on 360.

Now here's John Roberts with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson.

Wake up to the most news in the morning, including a new push for safer toys. Nonprofit groups are stepping in and doing their own independent testing. Why would the government have a problem with that? We'll find out and have a list of toys the groups say should be off the shelves.

"AMERICAN MORNING" begins at 6 a.m. Eastern. We'll see you then -- Anderson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Up next tonight, one of the more shocking stories you'll ever hear, one we've been following on 360 for more than a week, a teenaged girl who took her own life after falling in love, then falling victim to a bogus MySpace page set up by a neighbor, a grown- up neighbor, it turns out. Should these neighbors be prosecuted? The prosecutor's made a decision. We'll tell you what he said when 360 continues, and we'll talk to Megan's mom live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Up close tonight, new questions and more anger in the death of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after becoming the target of an Internet hoax.

Megan's mother is with us tonight. We'll talk to her shortly. She's here to talk about the latest developments in this disturbing case. Today a decision from the prosecutors. Now we're going to get to that in a moment. But first, how an act of deception ended in this tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Megan Meier was like many girls her age. But the smile you see masked a difficult childhood.

RON MEIER, MEGAN'S FATHER: She had big self-esteem issues. She had struggled with depression since she was in the third great.

COOPER: When Megan was 13, with the supervision of her parents, she created a page for herself on MySpace.com, the popular networking site that says it's a place for friends. For Megan, it became something more.

She met a boy on MySpace. His name was Josh Evans.

TINA MEIER, MEGAN'S MOTHER: He thought she was really pretty, posted on her comments on her pictures, you know, "This is beautiful. Your eyes are beautiful."

COOPER: Their online relationship seemed to quickly blossom. In one instant message, Josh told Megan, "Lucky me and lucky you, because you are my No. 1."

But suddenly everything changed and, for reasons Megan's parents couldn't explain, Josh turned on her.

T. MEIER: It was a whirlwind. It was Josh saying horrible things to Megan, Megan saying things back to him.

COOPER: Megan's father recalls one particularly ugly message.

R. MEIER: "The world would be a better off place without you, and have a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rest of your life." COOPER: Megan was crushed. The hurt was too much to bear.

T. MEIER: She was looking for me to help calm her down, like I normally always did and be there for her. And she just said to me, "You're supposed to be my mom. You're supposed to be on my side."

COOPER: Megan then ran to her room. Her parents describe what happened next.

R. MEIER: Tina left, walked upstairs. I didn't really pay much attention to it, and then I just heard a blood-curdling scream.

T. MEIER: I just saw her hanging from her closet.

R. MEIER: It's like, please, please, Megan. Breathe.

COOPER: Megan died on October 16. Her parents wanted to tell Josh Evans what he did to their girl. But when they checked his MySpace page, it had been erased.

A few weeks later, a neighbor told the Meiers a story that stunned them. Josh Evans did not exist. He was a creation of a woman who lives just a few doors down from the Meiers, the mother of a female friend of Megan's.

According to police, the woman says she and her 18-year-old employee invented Josh Evans to find out why Megan was fighting with her daughter. The woman, who's now become the target of public outrage over the hoax, says she's not responsible for Megan's death. Megan's daughter disagrees.

R. MEIER: If my daughter would have killed herself with a gun, they loaded the gun for her.

COOPER: If you're asking whether the woman now faces criminal charges, the prosecutor says it won't happen.

JACK BANAS, ST. CHARLES COUNTY PROSECUTOR: We can't put it in the box for harassment, either by the Internet or by just basic harassment.

COOPER: There is no disputing, however, this sad fact: Megan Meier is gone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Megan's memory is alive. Her parents are hoping to make sure that what happened to her will not happen to anyone else. As I said, Megan's mother is with us tonight. She'll join me in just a few moment.

But as you heard, the prosecutor said there was no harassment in this case. Let's find out why and if there's any legal action the parents can take against the woman behind the hoax.

Let's turn to or senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. I've got to say, I mean, I don't know much about the law, but I was stunned to hear that there's essentially, legally, no charges that can be brought against this other woman, this family.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: And it's very difficult. I had to say I was sympathetic to the prosecutor there, because there is not a box, as he said, that you can put this in, whether it counts as harassment.

Because now the facts have gotten a little muddier, because as he said, it is not clear that the mother of the neighbor set up the Web site, the MySpace account. It may have been that 18-year-old girl.

COOPER: An employee of the mother.

TOOBIN: An employee.

COOPER: But it does seem like she directed it. It was at her direction.

TOOBIN: Again, I don't know the facts. But you have to have intent to harass someone and commit an act that the law considers harassment. And sending messages, at least in this circumstance, doesn't appear to be it.

COOPER: That's what it boils down to, the key is intent?

TOOBIN: Yes, when it comes to harassment it's intent. And there are federal anti-stalking laws that I know the FBI has looked into in this case. But again, I'm sympathetic to the FBI that this was not what stalking was defined by Congress to be.

COOPER: But if you know somebody is, you know, emotionally, has certain problems or has emotional difficulties, as this mother must have, because her daughter was friends with Megan, I mean, isn't it sort of reckless disregard for someone's well-being?

TOOBIN: It's -- it's terrible cruelty. And certainly, I do think that the Meiers may have a lawsuit against this family, in the civil context, with the lower burden of proof. And also you have torts, which are broader than criminal -- criminal laws. Something like intentional infliction of emotional distress is something you can sue for.

Now, whether the Meiers want to go through the pain of reliving this all, and whether this family has any money that makes it worth suing for, I don't know. But certainly, a civil remedy seems possible, but whereas I do think that the criminal is very unlikely. Well, now impossible.

COOPER: It is such a horrific case.

TOOBIN: You see this case and you just want the law to get involved because it's so awful.

COOPER: I mean, does changing the law that they have in this town, does that matter? I mean, not -- obviously, not for this case, but down the road?

TOOBIN: Yes, it does. I mean, it does, because given the unusual circumstance of dealing with people electronically, with -- in a circumstance where you know you can inflict this kind of pain on someone, this law -- this law would allow a prosecution. But that can't help Megan.

COOPER: Jeff, thanks. Appreciate it.

Up next, we're going to talk to Megan's mom, Tina. She'll join us live. You can probably guess how she feels about the prosecutor's decision not to charge her neighbor. We'll hear from her right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That is Megan Meier, who at 13 years old killed herself after someone she met on her MySpace page turned against her.

Megan thought she was talking to a 16-year-old boy, a boy who liked her. As we know, the boy never existed. He was created by a neighbor, a woman, a mother who wanted to find out why Megan and her daughter were fighting.

Tina Meier is the mother of Megan. She joins me now from St. Louis.

Tina, I'm so sorry for your loss.

T. MEIER: Thank you.

COOPER: What went through your mind when you heard the prosecutor say there would be no criminal charges filed?

T. MEIER: Well, I met with him on Friday, and we went over this for three hours. And, you know, when I first spoke with him, I was extremely angry and disappointed. And I certainly couldn't understand why -- why there could not be criminal charges, when I felt that what she had done was absolutely criminal.

And once we went through the statutes line by line and what he had to work with. Unfortunately, again, there just is not -- the law just does not work with what has happened when you look at the intent and when you look at what he has to work with. Unfortunately, it's not there. But -- I'm sorry.

COOPER: And now there seems to be some -- I mean, this mother who, I mean, what is going through her mind or what was going through her mind? I can't even begin to understand.

But she apparently hired someone, an 18-year-old girl, to set up this page and I guess her own daughter contributed to this page, as well. Who do you hold responsible?

T. MEIER: I absolutely hold the mother responsible and the father. The father knew what was going on also. And, you know, in the beginning, we've always known that the mother probably was not the one who actually typed the MySpace. She had no idea how to do this. And so we've always known that it was probably the 18-year-old employee and the 13-year-old daughter who physically typed it, and she was probably the one who sat there and, you know, knew what was going on.

Bottom line is, she was the adult. She knew my daughter and had known us for years, knew that she was on medication. If you're an adult and you're allowing this to go on -- she's stated that she also stood behind her daughter when she typed messages to my daughter.

If you're going to allow that to go on, you absolutely should be charged with criminal charges.

We can't know what the outcome of things are. To say that she did not intentionally think that my daughter was going to commit suicide, I agree with that. I don't think that they went into this deciding, you know what? Your daughter's going to commit suicide, and that's what we want to do.

I think that they intentionally made this MySpace account. I think that it was one of those things. She wanted to see if my daughter was talking about her daughter. But you're playing with a child.

COOPER: It's completely reckless. I mean, there's no -- there's no doubt about it.

T. MEIER: Absolutely.

COOPER: What do you -- where do you go now? I mean, do you try to go after them civilly? What -- what is the next step?

T. MEIER: Well, we certainly haven't closed any doors, as far as a civil suit. But, you know, my biggest thing is regardless, I don't feel this as a defeat. To me, it is one step further that we're going to go.

We have to work with lawmakers. And the Internet has moved so quickly, and the laws have not. We have got to work with lawmakers to get the laws in place to work with what the Internet has. This is not going to be anything that's going to stop any time soon.

COOPER: And you want schools to address this issue too?

T. MEIER: Absolutely, we've got to get into the schools. We've got to address cyber bullying with the children, with parents, with educators.

COOPER: Do people take bullying seriously enough, especially cyber bullying?

T. MEIER: Absolutely not. But children are cyber bullied all day long. It's not just in school, where we used to get bullied. Now it's in school. You go home, you get cyber bullied there. And it goes out to hundreds and hundreds of kids.

And children, there's no stopping point. So we have to address it, absolutely.

COOPER: Tina Meier, I appreciate you coming on and talking about it. I know it cannot be easy. And again, my best wishes to your family. It just -- it is such a horrific story. And I hope in time you find peace. Thank you, Tina.

T. MEIER: Thank you.

COOPER: In a moment a dramatic fire on ice. "The Shot of the Day" is ahead. First, Erica Hill joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, Larry Craig's list of accusers is growing. Eight men say they either had sex with the Idaho senator or were the target of sexual advances by him during his political career.

That's according to the "Idaho Statesman." The newspaper has identified four men and reported details of the encounters they say involved Craig. In a statement yesterday, Craig said the newspaper's report was completely false.

A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years has agreed to a deal that will allow him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and avoid a second trial.

Mychal Bell was originally charged as an adult with attempted murder, even though he was 16 at the time. That fight followed months of racial tension at Jena High School in Louisiana.

A jury convicted Bell in June of aggravated battery, but that verdict was thrown out. Bell's second trial was scheduled to start on Thursday.

And Don Imus appearing on the airwaves today before a live studio audience. His debut on WABC-AM caps a come-back that seemed unlikely just eight months ago, when remarks he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team ignited a fierce backlash and cost him his job.

His new cast on his morning show, incidentally, includes a black woman, Anderson.

COOPER: There you go. There's second chances in America.

Just ahead, more ahead with Erica. Tonight's "Shot." When fire meets ice, ice usually wins. Not always, however. A Zamboni goes up in flames. You certainly do not see that. We'll show you what happened next on 360.

(END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Time for today's "Shot." Erica Hill joins me again.

Erica, not every day you see a fire on ice. Take a look. I know you're a big hockey fan. It happened Friday night at an ice rink in Ashland, Pennsylvania. Look at that.

That's a Zamboni.

HILL: That's insane.

COOPER: Caught fire after a high school hockey match. The fire filled the whole facility with smoke. Everyone had to evacuate. No injuries were reported. The Zamboni, however, was badly damaged.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

HILL: The Zamboni is toast. You know, I have always wanted to drive a Zamboni. Doesn't it look like it would be fun?

COOPER: Dream big, Erica Hill. Dream big.

HILL: Some day, Anderson Cooper, I will drive a Zamboni. But until then, I'll see you burning Zamboni, and I will raise you a dramatic animal video.

Just to start out the week here, a -- yes, a zoo in Bangkok, Thailand, comes from there. Turned the animal kingdom upside down.

COOPER: What the heck?

HILL: Look at this. Keepers put these piglets into the 6-year- old Bengal tigress. She cares for the little pigs as if they were her own.

COOPER: Yikes.

HILL: The striped coats are just to keep them warm, not to fool the tiger. She's too smart for that. And then...

COOPER: Isn't that bizarre?

HILL: It is bizarre, rather scary. And then here, let's just, you know, turn it around full circle here.

COOPER: What in the...?

HILL: Zoo officials apparently have been making the interspecies switches for the past few years. Apparently, they do it all, not in the name of preserving any animals or, you know, one animal lost another so they need to nurse from the pig. No, no, it's to amuse visitors, Anderson.

COOPER: Just because they think it's fun, they do this?

HILL: Pretty much.

COOPER: What sort of a zoo is this?

HILL: I don't know.

COOPER: Wow. There you go. Erica, thanks.

Up next, a weather alert. Mudslides, strong winds causing blackouts and more. Find out where and why and what's coming next in terms of weather when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Power lines down, trees down, rail service cut, a real mess there. Not to mention, it is tough to get a live shot out. So with us now on the phone is Jamie Wilson of Portland CNN affiliate, KPTV.

Jamie, how's it look?

JAMIE WILSON, KPTV CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it has been relentless rain for the last 24 hours. You know, all of us out here in the Portland area, we're used to rain. I mean, it rains six months out of the year here.

But when it comes down so hard and so heavy, as it has in the last day, you know, the earth just can't absorb it fast enough when it comes, you know, that hard all at once.

So it's not is main rivers in this area. It's not the Atlanta or the Columbia. It's the small creek beds that run throughout the east side urban areas. We're sitting here at Johnson Creek. A little trickle of a creek that's usually is very pleasant for people in this neighborhood. But it's spilling over its banks.

We've talked to many people who have flooded basements, people who've had to evacuate their apartments because they just were not prepared for this much water to come in.

COOPER: So how much water has come? And what's going to happen tomorrow?

WILSON: Well, it is tapering off a little bit for now. My meteorologist is saying that it is not going to end until probably Wednesday morning.

So even though people are taking precautions, putting sandbags up, you know, people are really watching closely. Some neighbors out here in the southeast Portland neighborhood we've been hanging out in tonight, they said that city crews were just too overwhelmed. They didn't have enough people to come out and help them.

So they spent hundreds of dollars on a load of gravel themselves and put it up against this bank here against the creek in this southeast neighborhood. And they had no other choice. They've been working for hours today to take this upon themselves, because they had no other choice. They were going to have flood damage in their homes.

COOPER: Jamie, appreciate you taking the time to call us. Jamie Wilson there from Portland.

Up the next the winds of change in Iowa and a new man at the head of the GOP pack. Mike Huckabee has managed to surge ahead while spending, well, tens of million of dollars less than his closest rival. How'd he do it? I spent a day with him on the campaign trail. The 360 interview, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight a reminder: this is still anybody's race. New polling in Iowa and New Hampshire now shows the race has, in fact, turned upside down.

Forget about who spent the most money or time trolling for votes in Iowa. Tonight, we've got new numbers showing Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney losing traction, Barack Obama gaining ground and Mike Huckabee going from just about nowhere to No. 1.

This weekend I spent a day on the trail with Huckabee to see what it is the voters are seeing. Take a look.

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