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AMERICAN MORNING

Bhutto Assassination, Bullet or Bomb? New Video of Bhutto Assassination, Kenya Vote Protest, North Korea Deadline, Iran's Nuclear Power, Iowa Countdown, Countdown to 2008, Battery Ban

Aired December 31, 2007 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Final moments. New evidence and new questions about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. This morning, the impact on elections and the Bhutto "dynasty."
Too close to call. Iowa comes down to the wire. The candidates join us live.

Plus, here comes 2008, ringing in the new year from New Zealand to New York. Live from Times Square and around the world, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

The preparations are being made, all the rain has cleared out. You're going to be there tonight.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Clear skies.

ROBERTS: What more could you ask for?

CHETRY: Thirty-eight degrees. Should be a great party in the middle of Times Square. I bet you a lot of people will be happy to watch it at home than brave any of the elements.

ROBERTS: I'll be watching it at home.

CHETRY: You won't be up.

ROBERT: Happy New Year to you. It's Monday, December the 31st. Welcome to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: I'm Kiran Chetry. Seventeen hours and counting until the ball drops at Times Square. Do you want me to call at 11:59 and say Happy New Year and hang up?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. If I miss it, it just wouldn't be the same.

CHETRY: The countdown for 2008 is on and preps taking place for the biggest party of the year. That of course will be in Times Square, the crossroads of the world. The final preparations are under way. Lola Ogunnaike will join us in a few minutes. We'll see a brighter ball this year, a green environmentally-friendly ball as well as changes for the confetti. I've always marveled at the fact that tons of confetti falls from the sky and within two to three hours after the sanitation crews have gotten everything off the ground.

ROBERTS: You might be able to read the confetti this year.

CHETRY: That's right, big secret.

Coming up, we're also going to bring you live pictures of the party taking place. Just one hour from now, ringing in the New Year in Sydney, Australia. You don't want to miss CNN's big I-party tonight. I'll be ringing in the New Year live from Times Square with Anderson Cooper. All of that is getting underway at 11:00 Eastern.

ROBERTS: New developments overnight in Pakistan to tell you about. A new video emerges of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto that raises new questions about the government's version of how she died. And we're awaiting a decision this morning on Pakistani elections which were scheduled for next week. CNN's Zain Verjee is live for us this morning in Islamabad.

Any word on what might happen with the elections? Will they go off as scheduled or might they be delayed?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the elections were initially scheduled for January the 8th but frankly, John, everything is now up in the air. It's really unclear as to whether or not they will happen on that date. It seems many people are saying it's inevitable that they will be performed. The election commission is going to be meeting tomorrow to make a final decision.

In the meantime, the Pakistan People's Party said, yes, it will stand. It will contest elections whenever they are held. Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif who initially said there's no way I'm going to stand in any election, he is now saying that he will stand. The cabinet has been meeting all day, trying to figure things out and discuss what's been the result of all the different consultations they've been having.

The other key thing is that the election commission is waiting for reports from different provinces and those reports are going to assess what the law and order situation is like, because what's happened in the past few days is, because of the violence and destruction, a lot of election officers have been burned and destroyed. Ballots have stopped being printed so we're going to have to wait until tomorrow for an ultimate decision. John?

ROBERTS: And what role, if any, might Benazir Bhutto's son, Bilawal, play? Is he expected to lead the party but not stand for election? How can he possibly participate?

VERJEE: He's not going to be standing for election. Essentially he's a figurehead. This is a symbolic move made by the party to try and unify it because the only way they could stick together is if a Bhutto takes control of the party or is at least in symbolic terms the head of the party and that really is what he is. He's not going to play any day-to-day practical role because he's 19. He's a teenager, he's young, he's inexperienced. He's in his first term at University at Oxford, studying political science. But we heard from him yesterday, where he did speak. He was very emotional. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILAWAL ZARDARI, BENAZIR BHUTTO'S SON: I am thankful to the CEC for entrusting me as a spokesman for the people's party. Like all chairman of the PPP, I will stand as a symbol of the federation. The party's long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor, and I stand committed to the ability of the federation. My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERJEE: The Pakistan People's Party is hoping that by putting Bilawal as a symbolic head of the party and having his father run things behind the scenes, because he is a very influential powerful person within the party, they can win the sympathy vote. Most people here in Pakistan are saying that whenever the elections are going to be held, because of the mass outpouring of sympathy, as to Benazir Bhutto's assassination, and what has happened to her, and her family, that they will win. John?

ROBERTS: Zain Verjee for us this morning from Islamabad awaiting word on the election; Zain, thanks very much.

It's being called Pakistan's Zapruder film; brand new footage that could be the most conclusive evidence yet that an assassin's bullet killed Benazir Bhutto. A warning to you, that some of what you hear and see is very graphic. Take a look at the video here. You can clearly hear three shots fired. And then you see Bhutto's head scarf and hair move on the left side of her head. She then falls back into the car before an explosion goes off.

This is the second tape to emerge of the assassination. It seems to go against the official government story. There you see the explosion, that Bhutto died from a fractured skull when she hit her head on the sunroof later after that suicide bomber detonated the explosives -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Also new this morning, charges of election fraud in Kenya sparking protests and deadly rioting. Police fired tear gas and shots into crowds for the second day today. Kenya's national broadcast reporting dramatic new numbers, 124 people killed in violence that erupted after Kenya's president announced he won re- election. European Union monitors are questioning the vote. The U.S. is accepting the results.

Also new this morning, it's deadline day for North Korea, Pyongyang has until today to come clean about all of its past and present nuclear programs. Earlier this year, earlier this day they promised a deal for exchange for release of sanctions.

Iran says it will begin operating its first nuclear power plant bit summer of 2008. The Iranian government says the nuclear power station is being built by Russian contractors. Russia began shipping fuel to Iran this morning, after a U.S. intelligence report said Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 and had not resumed it. ROBERTS: Eight minutes after the hour. It could be a white new year in the northeast. A storm is moving up the coast into New England, looks like it's going to become a classic nor'easter, hitting Albany, New York, snow falling there this morning. How much are they expecting throughout New England? Jacqui Jeras tracking extreme weather from the weather update desk in for Rob Marciano. Good morning, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Albany already has more than 9 inches of snow and it's been coming down at about half an inch per hour. Another couple of hours and it will be out of there so really this is going to be a big player this morning. But by this afternoon into tonight if you've got your New Year's Eve holiday plans, I think you'll be fine. Hopefully the roads will be cleared by then. Our biggest concern is what's been going on here and down-East Maine, the snow coming down extremely heavy.

In fact it's accumulating so quickly now that they've had to close the airport in Portland, Maine, because of the heavy snow, and it's not scheduled to reopen until noon today. There you can see the snowfall accumulations. The worst of it expected in northern parts of that state, up to a foot and here you can see the snowfall accumulations expected from this storm.

But another round is going to be heading in tomorrow by midday. So that's going to bring our two day totals well over a foot for many people into northern parts of New England. There's the clipper. It's going to be bringing in some snow to Chicago and Detroit by late this afternoon. They could be picking up a handful or so of inches, not quite as much as the northeast.

ROBERTS: Jacqui, I was awakened at midnight by an awful lot of ice rain bouncing off of my windows. What is it looking like for tonight for the big New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square?

JERAS: It's looking great. Partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper 30s to around 40 degrees so shouldn't be any problem for you.

ROBERTS: All right. Perfect, thanks very much, Jacqui.

Kiran, looks like you got good weather for the party tonight.

CHETRY: How about it? Clear and high 30s. Can't really ask for anything more.

Well just three days now until the Iowa caucuses, nearly every poll shows both sides of the race too close to call. On the republican side, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are in a dog fight for the lead and the rhetoric back and forth echoing that this morning. Huckabee is now accusing Romney of running a desperately negative campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been very clear about it. Mitt Romney is running a very desperate and frankly, a dishonest campaign. He's attacked me and yesterday or Friday I guess it was, he launched then just a broad-side attack against Senator McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: One poll shows that Huckabee's once double-digit lead is gone and that he's now trailing Mitt Romney in Iowa. Governor Huckabee will be joining us at the bottom of the hour so we'll talk to him about all of that coming up.

And Mitt Romney may have been a victim of a political dirty trick in South Carolina, another early primary state. Someone sent Christmas cards to voters, there you see it, quoting a controversial Mormon passage about race and the card claims to be from the Romney family and paid for by the Mormon Temple in Boston. Both the Romney campaign and the temple deny they sent it.

On the democratic side, there is a new poll showing a three-way tie in Iowa, an MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason Dixon poll has John Edwards leading the pack now with 24 percent but right on the heels according to the poll is Hillary Clinton at 23 percent and Senator Barack Obama at 22 percent right behind. Within the margin of error, it's too close to call. We're live on both sides of the campaign trail. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux covering the Democrats live from Des Moines.

You spent the day with Obama, with Senator Obama. How is that campaign feeling about just how close this race is?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's amazing, Kiran. It's anyone's race. I covered Obama yesterday, the days before, Clinton and Edwards. They feel like the crowds are growing, the momentum, the enthusiasm, and really an amazing evolvement that's happened with Senator Obama and his delivery, message, even his tone.

It is very simple, and it's punchy. Sometimes he uses humor and he uses repetition. He says if you believe, it f you believe, if you believe that I am the one to elect, when he talks about protecting civil liberties, he says plainly he taught the constitution. He believes in the constitution. As president, we would follow the constitution. This is really his closing argument he is making it in simple, plain language. He says that he believes that he is the one who is most electable.

He tries to make the case that Senator Clinton doesn't have the likability factor on the national stage to win. He talks about Senator John Edwards, his other chief opponent as not going after special interests hard enough and then what he seems to do is that he's been talking about hope, but now he is defining hope, so when he says that he turns to folks and he says, doing what you never thought was possible, that is what hope is about.

He talks about abolishing slavery, the marches of the civil rights movement and I found something that was particularly interesting in what he said yesterday invoking race as well as his name. I asked him about that in my one on one interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: You said, when you're a black guy running for president named Barack Obama, you've got to have hope. Tell me what you meant by that and why do you think it resonated with Iowa voters?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they understand that it's very unlikely for me to be in this position, that the testimony to what this country is about, it's a testimony to the American dream.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Kiran, obviously they're using the get out the vote strategy now. The Obama folks, they're going to be providing free baby sitting services for 90 minutes to get the folks out there. That is because their supporters are generally 45 years old and younger. They tend to skew on the male side.

The Clinton campaign has already purchased 600 snow shovels. They are worried about the weather. There are elderly ladies that support Clinton. They believe they got to get him out of the snow and ice if the weather is bad so that's what they're providing. It's going to be an exciting time.

CHETRY: Pulling out all of the stops. Apparently, the Clinton camp catering the food at these caucus sites.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Get them in early, see who is not there and clearly every vote counts.

CHETRY: Absolutely. Suzanne Malveaux great to see you. Thanks so much.

We'll check in with Dana Bash on the republican side of the race in the next hour. And as we said, in just a few minutes, Governor Huckabee will be joining us. Democrat John Edwards will be with us around 7:50 Eastern Time. Right here on AMERICAN MORNING -- John?

ROEBRTS: Just coming up to 14 minutes after the hour, Kiran, the biggest New Year's Eve party always in Times Square, just a few blocks from here.

Our Lola Ogunnaike has got a great place to ring in the New Year, live at times square this morning with a look at the upcoming celebrations and some squish (ph) glasses you got there, too, Lola.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. I'm styling in the New Year definitely with my new glasses and I'm here in Times Square. It's still relatively empty, not a lot of traffic. Still a little dark but by this time this evening, this place will be packed with close to 1 million people, and over 1 billion people will be watching the festivities around the world. So this is going to be quite the scene.

Again, I think it's best to get here early, because if you get here late you're not going to have a seat at all. Try to get here before 3:30. Remember to not bring any bags, pack light no, backpacks, no large bags and absolutely no alcohol. There will be cops on hand. There will be bomb-sniffing dogs to make sure that everything stays and there will also be a giant ball, a gorgeous ball, as you know.

It's going to be twice as bright as the ball last year, and it's going to emit 16 million different color combinations. Mayor Bloomberg will be the one pushing the button and he'll be here with the valedictorian of this year's police academy so it will be quite the scene.

Also, John, there are going to be a lot of entertainers here, Mylie Cyrus, Kid Rock, Lenny Kravitz, the Jonas Brothers so it will be quite the party.

ROBERTS: Sounds like a lot of fun. Mylie Cyrus, otherwise known as Hannah Montana, hottest ticket in the country these days so it will be great to see her there.

OGUNNAIKE: And it will be free so head on down and I'll be here with my glasses.

ROBERTS: All right, can't beat those. Lola Ogunnaike for us in Times Square. Lola, thanks very much -- Kiran.

CHETRY: She looks great in those.

You can never ring in the New Year without CNN. How about it? Join Anderson Cooper. I'll be there, too, live from Times Square. It all starts at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight. We also are going to be doing something new and fun this year. We want to you send in your pictures of you partying, maybe even video, what you're doing for the new year, all do you is go to our Web site, cnn.com/iparty and you know how to do the rest. We don't but you do. Go ahead and send in, uplink your video and we'll show some of the best clips on the show live so it should be fun.

Meanwhile, good news for the sleepy this morning. Scientists are saying about perhaps a new drug that could give you a much needed boost. Could there be something you spray in your nose that actually replaces sleep in the future? We're going to take a look.

And we're taking a closer look at what's being called Pakistan's Zapruder film. There are some new questions and the video is raising more about how Benazir Bhutto was killed. What the new tape reveals ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Benazir Bhutto's final moments caught on tape. Britain's Channel 4 aired new video that may prove it was an assassin's bullet that killed the former Pakistani prime minister. Now the government is facing questions about whether or not it had something to hide. Jonathan Rugman takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN RUGMAN, REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: It's late afternoon, and a crowd estimated at a few hundred is swooning around Benazir Bhutto's car. A clean-shaven man in sunglasses is watching at the fringes. He's concealing a gun. The sniper moves in to within a few feet of Bhutto, who is greeting her supporters. He fires three shots. (gunshots)

The last is that of the suicide bomber, blowing himself up. 21 people in all were fatally injured here. You can hear their cries of pain and shock.

Look at the shooting again. As the gunman fires at Bhutto, her hair is lifted. Her shawl is also seen to rise, and she falls inside her car. These images, broadcast for the first time, apparently contradicting the official version of events, which insist that Benazir Bhutto was not shot. The government says she was killed after fracturing her head on her car's sunroof lever, but many here say both pictures and eyewitness testimony make a mockery of the government's story.

A surgeon who treated Bhutto on Thursday night said she was shot twice in the head and the neck. You can hear the shots in this footage. And again, see the gun. But by Friday, the hospital mysteriously changed its story, saying no bullet wounds have been found. Instead, a government spokesman insisted she'd hit her head against her car, after the bomb exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then she was waving, there were three shots that were fired. So you could hear these three shots that were fired, but fortunately enough, none of the shots hit her.

RUGMAN: But look at the car. There's no sign of blood on the silver-colored sunroof lever, and though the car was damaged, it was bomb proof. Every other passenger in it survived. Our pictures show Benazir Bhutto had fallen into the car before the explosion, which suggests she was more likely killed by an assassin's bullet, seconds earlier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: That was Channel 4's Jonathan Rugman reporting. Bhutto's husband says the government is using this to divert attention from the main issue, who was behind the killing. Was it al Qaeda as the Pakistani government has claimed or someone within the Musharraf government. There are calls for international inquiry to get some answers.

ROBERTS: The tape is going to become Pakistan's Zapruder tape which will be recycled over and over and over again.

CHETRY: They've caught the incident on different angles with different cameras as well so all of that collectively may provide more answers.

ROBERTS: Interesting stuff this morning. Commonly used batteries will be on the airline's hit list in 2008. We'll tell you what you need to know when packing for your next trip.

If you had a tough time getting out of bed this morning, we have good news for you. A promising new drug that could help perk you right up. Sleep deprivation could be a thing of the past. We'll tell what you has scientists so excited ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's exactly 25 minutes after the hour. A warning for you this morning, loose lithium batteries can sink your travel plans. Beginning with the New Year, passengers can no longer pack lithium batteries loose in checked baggage. The Transportation and Security Administration says they pose a fire risk. That's actually not a lithium battery that you're looking at there but they're typically the coin batteries or camera batteries.

Air travelers will still be able to check bags with lithium batteries already installed in electronic devices, cameras, laptops and cell phones. If you plan on carrying spare batteries, they must be packed in plastic bags. The video was a little bit misleading. We showed nickel metal hydride. Regular alkaline AAs and nickel metal hydride but the lithium batteries, the ones in your computer that you can't pack separately.

CHETRY: All right. I hope you'll be standing apt the line before we get on the plane to tell us more.

ROBERTS: I'll be there to give people tips.

CHETRY: Hope for the weary this morning. I flagged this story over the weekend and sent it to you, because I'm sure a lot of us up this early know what it's like to deal with sleepiness. Scientists developed a nasal spray that may be able to eliminate sleepiness and down the road a need for a lot of sleep at all. The drug contains a hormone that, when missing, causes people to get tired.

They've done tests successfully in monkeys, they kept monkeys up for more than 36 hours and then gave them this drug and made them do cognitive tests and they performed, the monkeys on the drug, performed as well as the monkeys who were well-rested. The scientists say the drug does not come with the addictive qualities or other side effects typically seen in stimulants. However, the big however is that it's probably a decade down the road if they use it at all, and the first tests are going to be for people with sleep disorders like narcolepsy.

What's interesting about the whole thing and spooky, too, is that the drug was developed at the question of DRPA, the Defense Research Projects Agency.

CHETRY: Imagine as well, for soldiers out in the battlefield getting two to three hours of sleep and you have to make --

ROBERTS: Pilots who have to fly half way around the world. Incredible stuff. It would be great if it came out. I could have used it this morning.

Just three days into the Iowa caucus, the race too close to call on both sides. Mike Huckabee, the former governor Arkansas, joins us live in a couple of minutes.

And for the democrats, he's the new front-runner, at least one poll but by only a point. We'll talk with John Edwards live from the campaign trail, all of that ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A look at snow-covered Portland, Maine, this morning. It's 30 degrees right now in Portland and they're dealing with some snow. People still out on the roads, though, but boy, a pretty picture, as they get ready to welcome in the New Year. That's courtesy of WGME. Thanks for being with us. It is Monday, December 31st, New Year's Eve as we said.

I'm Kiran Chetry.

ROBERTS: And good morning to you. I'm John Roberts.

New this morning. We are waiting for a decision from Pakistan over whether election will take place as planned there, one week from tomorrow. The assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has put the vote and its timing into question. A spokesman for Pakistan's Election Commission says a decision about whether the elections should be delayed could come by tomorrow. Bhutto's party has already said that the vote should not be delayed and it is prepared to participate. Her 19-year-old son, Bilawal, has now been picked to lead Pakistan People's Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILAWAL BHUTTO ZARDARI, BENAZIR BHUTTO'S SON: Like all chairmen of the PPP, I will stand as a symbol of the federation, the party's long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor, and I stand committed to this ability of the federation. My mother always said democracy is the best revenge!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: We are hearing some reports this morning that the government may seek as much as a four-week delay in the date of the election.

And a new video has surfaced this morning showing the moment that Benazir Bhutto was killed. It may offer proof that it was a bullet and not a bomb or a sunroof lever that killed her. You can hear three shots in this video, and there's the shots and you see the former prime minister slump down into her car before a suicide bomber then blows himself up.

The government says it was the explosion that caused Bhutto to fatally injure her head as she was going back down into the car. There you clearly hear the shots there and the explosion, so that she hit her head on a lever that controls the sunroof. President Musharraf says he is now open to an international investigation. Doctors who attended to Bhutto say they felt pressured to agree with the government's version of events.

Well, the political crisis in Pakistan is blamed in part for a new spike in oil prices. The price of crude again near $100 a barrel. Crude oil approached $98 on Friday, immediately after the assassination, before settling back at $96.35. Oil prices nearly doubled in 2007 from a low of $50 a barrel in January. Some industry analysts predict that prices will top $100 in the New Year.

CHETRY: Also new this morning, a setback for peace in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is saying Palestinians must crack down on terrorism before Israeli forces will make any security changes. He is said to be furious over the killing of two off-duty Israeli soldiers who were killed while hiking in the West Bank Friday.

The search for a missing hunter in Alabama turns tragic for three would-be rescuers. Authorities are trying to figure out what caused their chopper to go down Sunday killing all three on board. Investigators say they had spotted the missing man and were actually hovering over his location, when that helicopter crashed. The hunter disappeared a day earlier in a state hunting preserve. He was eventually rescued and treated for minor injuries.

Report says Michael Leavitt talks about how to incorporate Mormon principles into state policy when he was governor of Utah. Leavitt is currently the secretary of health and human services. "The Salt Tribune" got a hold of documents with details of meetings between Leavitt and his advisers showing that the group talks about how lessons from Mormon scripture applied to modern government. Leavitt says the church has never tried to influence his decisions in state or local government.

ROBERTS: Coming up 34 minutes after the hour, just three days now until the Iowa caucuses and a brand new poll showing that it may be too close to call on the republican side. Governor Mike Huckabee is in an intense battle with Mitt Romney. Joining us now live from Des Moines is the former Arkansas governor, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Governor, good to see you. Best of the season to you. Happy New Year as well.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, John, and go hogs tomorrow in the cotton bowl.

ROBERTS: Well, my Redskins won yesterday so it's been a good end of the year so far. Governor, we've seen a different side of you in the past couple of days, as you've turned up your response to attacks on the part of Mitt Romney. Let's take a listen to how you put it yesterday and then I'll ask you about it.

HUCKABEE: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUCKABEE: Attacks have been not only desperate but dishonest and we feel like it's time to respond and set the record straight and tell the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You say his attacks have not only been desperate but dishonest, after weeks of avoiding such pointed rhetoric, why did you feel the need to go there now?

HUCKABEE: Well I think a lot of people are deceived and you know, you have to ask, do people want to elect a president who has been dishonest in order to get the job and said things about his opponents that simply aren't true. Not just about me but about Senator McCain as well. I regard Senator McCain as a true American hero and a personal friend and even though we're running for the same job we're not doing it by trying to slice and dice each other and I just think that the attacks by the particularly within the Republican party, totally violating Reagan's 11th commandment. And it certainly not the kind of I think, discourse that makes for a good election and for a good decision on the part of the voters.

ROBERTS: In a recent what it called anti-endorsement, the newspaper "The Concord Monitor" called Mitt Romney a phony, would you agree with that?

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't know that I'm going to use their language. They certainly can use any language they wish, but you know he said he was endorsed for the NRA and wasn't. He said he marched with Martin Luther King along with his father and he didn't. He said he was a life-long hunter and he's not. He claimed that he was always pro-life but just in his last days in office he signed a bill that created an abortion for a $50 co-pay. I mean, voters have to ask, if this person can be trusted, if he has made up things about not only his own resume, but if he's also said things about my record, whether it's on crime, or whether it's on immigration, whether it's on taxes, that are fundamentally untrue, and it's not me that's responding to it.

"New York Times" came out recently and showed that his attacks on my budget in Arkansas were completely ludicrous, and pointed them out on it. Newsweek.org showed that some of his attacks on the commutation questions and crime questions speaking about met; for example, I signed bills that doubled our methamphetamine sentences. We're not just talking not just about opinions. We're talking about factual errors and either he knew in advance or had some very, very sloppy research going on.

ROBERTS: Let me ask you this question then, if he becomes the republican nominee, will you support him 100percent?

HUCKABEE: Well, I'm going to vote for the republican nominee, and I'm going to vote for myself, because I believe I'll be the republican nominee, John, and one of the reasons is because people are looking for somebody whose views are consistent, and who has some authenticity about what he stands for. I think that's one of the reasons that you see me come up in the polls, despite being outspent here in Iowa, 20-to-1 by the Romney camp.

ROBERTS: But if I could, let me just pin you down on this. You say that you will vote for the republican nominee, and if the vote, if the republican nominee is Mitt Romney, will you support him 100 percent?

HUCKABEE: Well, I'm going to vote for the Republican nominee. I don't believe Mr. Romney is going to get there because I think Republican voters are looking for somebody who really not just has reflected in his recent rhetoric, but is actually reflected in his record a Republican record a conservative record, a pro-life, pro- second amendment and that's not what they're going to find if they continue to look.

ROBERTS: And you also mentioned governor that you've been outspent in the state of Iowa 20-to-1. A lot of that money that Governor Romney has spent has been put into his ground operation. You're very popular in the polls, but can you beat him on the ground? Because on caucus night that's often what really counts.

HUCKABEE: We have an extraordinary level of energy from our grassroots volunteers and we feel very good about what we're seeing going into Thursday night. I mean, we'll find out then, but I've never seen the kind of energy we're seeing in our rallies. We can't get the people in who come to them. I'm pretty excited about where this is going. And I think one thing; people in Iowa don't want to be bought.

They know that the presidency shouldn't be for sale and just because somebody is wealthy and can write a big check and spend whatever it takes, I think a lot of people in Iowa say that's not how we elect a president. We elect a president because of what he believes, what he stands for and what's going to do if he gets elected, not just because he can wave a bunch of money at us.

ROBERTS: Well, we'll see how it goes and governor; hopefully we'll be able to get together with you one more time before people go to caucus on Thursday night. Good to see you again. Thanks for being with us this morning.

HUCKABEE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.

HUCKABEE: Take care, John.

There may be a new front-runner on the democratic side in Iowa. We're going to talk with Senator John Edwards just minutes from now on AMERICAN MORNING. He had a late surge in 2004 and looks like it's happening again. Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Stuck in a mountain in blizzard conditions. Rather than risk his life, one man does what you're supposed to do, hunkers down in the snow and waits for help. We're going to tell you how he did it coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A skier lost in Washington State saves his life by digging a snow cave. Olympic National Park Ranger say that Randy Kraxberger survived a frigid night packed in snow and ice. The 53- year-old built a shelter after becoming surrounded by blizzard conditions. He first reported trouble Saturday afternoon. About a dozen park staff and other volunteers set off to find him. He describes what it was like the moment he saw the rescuers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY KRAXBERGER, RESCUED SKIER: As I was standing there trying to figure out what to do next, I heard voices coming on the wind, and I had a whistle with me, and I was, I started blowing that quite furiously, and Tony and Scott from the Olympic Mountain rescue team came over the hill, out of the wind, and located me there, so it was a wonderful experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Rescuers found Randy in good condition. They said he had the right gear with him to stay safe and of course that he also knew what to do, knew that it was the right thing to do, to build a snow cave, get some protection from the blizzard conditions.

ROBERTS: He looks like a fellow who has had some experience.

CHETRY: He sure does. If anyone was going to survive, it was Randy. So, good for you.

ROBERTS: Good for the mountain rescue folks, too.

New year's eve preparations well under way in New York City. Here's some live pictures at Times Square this morning, the sun coming up although it won't be a sunny day. New York City getting ready to host an estimated 1 million people to see the ball drop this year.

And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question, what is your new year's resolution? Cast your vote at cnn.com/am. Right now, 38 percent of you say, 39 percent say pay down credit cards and/or save more money. Thirty-nine percent say exercise or lose more weight, 6 percent say quit smoking which may be a reflection of fewer people smoking these days and 16 percent say do something nice for someone. We'll continue to tally your votes throughout the morning.

CHETRY: All right. We all make those resolutions. Sometimes they last into February, sometimes they do not.

Well, some close calls at two of America's busiest airports topping your "Quick Hits" now. One, a miscommunication between a pilot and an air traffic controller caused two planes to come within 8,000 feet of each other, this was on a runway at Los Angeles International last week. The pilot of one of the planes was told not to cross the runway but misheard the instruction. And there were back-to-back scares at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Two planes got a mile closer to each other than they should have been over Indiana, that same day, controllers improperly directed two planes as they were getting ready to land at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

A disputed presidential election causing deadly rioting in Kenya. What's going on and what can be done to stop the violence.

Also it's down to the wire in Iowa, the top three candidates are locked in a fight to the finish and coming up, we're asking current front-runner at least according to some of the polls this morning, John Edwards. What he needs to do to secure a win and what happens if he doesn't. He's going to be joining us live from the campaign trail in just a moment ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

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ROBERTS: Forty-seven minutes after the hour now. And if you're just joining us, here's a look at what's making headlines this morning. Pakistan is expected to make a decision by tomorrow on whether to hold parliamentary elections as planned on January the 8th. Former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto's assassination has put the date for that vote in question. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has already said the vote should not be delayed. They're prepared to go ahead. Bhutto's son, Bilawal, has now been picked to lead the party.

A contested presidential election triggers deadly violence in Kenya. Police clashed with thousands of opposition protesters in Nairobi who charged the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki rigged the vote. Kenyan television reporting at least 124 people were reported killed in two days of rioting.

European Union monitors are questioning the legitimacy of the vote count but the U.S. has already sent its congratulations to Kibaki.

The U.S. military says that 2007 will end as the deadliest year for U.S. troops since the war began with 888 troops killed. But violence dropped dramatically in the second half of the year after the so-called troop surge began. 20 Americans were killed this month that matches the lowest monthly total of the war.

CHETRY: To politics now, it truly is a dead heat in Iowa with just three days to go, the top three democrats are locked in a neck and neck race. We take a look at the numbers, John Edwards is leading in the latest MSNBC-McClatchy-Mason-Dixon poll in Iowa, but still as we said a statistical dead heat. He joins us this morning from Storm Lake, Iowa. Thanks for being with us, Senator.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you for having me.

CHETRY: All right, so there you are at the top of the latest poll. Are you expecting to win Iowa?

EDWARDS: We've got an awful lot of momentum now, you know. I can see it in the events we have here. We have overflow crowds, a lot of energy and enthusiasm, people can't get in the door. This is what you want to see at the end of a campaign. So we feel very encouraged.

CHETRY: What is the strategy if you do not come in first in Iowa?

EDWARDS: Oh, I don't have a strategy. My strategy is to make sure that caucus-goers and voters in subsequent states know what I want to do as president. What I want to do as president is to stand up for the jobs and the middle class in this country, fight the corporate greed stop the corporate greed destroying the middle class. We have the potential of losing 30 million jobs over the next decade and that has to be stopped, and as president of the United States I intend to stop it.

CHETRY: Well, you know, of course, all we've been talking about pretty much is Iowa, with the exception of New Hampshire. There's been some criticism of the emphasis that we've put on that one state, when it comes to picking a president. In fact, Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland says it "makes no sense to start the process in Iowa." I know you've spent more time there than any of the other Democratic candidates. When you take a look at the numbers, you have about 2 percent Black, 4 percent Latino, given the demographics. Do you think that Iowa should have so much of a say as to who becomes the Democratic nominee?

EDWARDS: Well, the first thing I would say is I think the three leading candidates have spent about the same amount of time during this campaign and the other two have spent many millions more here than I have spent, so it's sort of amazing what I've been able to do and we'll keep our fingers crossed for Thursday. What I would say about Iowa is I think it is important, and I think that democratic, the DNC tried to do something about this, to bring some diversity early into the process, and the nominating process.

But what happens in Iowa, what happens in New Hampshire, is enormously important, because you can't buy an election here. You just can't. I mean, the people who participate in the caucuses and then the primaries in New Hampshire, they see you, and they see you up close, and so grassroots campaigning and tough questioning is a day- to-day occurrence, many times a day, for the serious candidates and that's a gauntlet any presidential candidate would have to go through. We should not be able to soar through a presidential campaign about raising a lot of money, running an altitude and running a bunch of television ads, (INAUDIBLE) television ads. We have to actually answer tough questions in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

CHETRY: You know, you bring up some money issue, the Obama campaign taking some shots at you this morning, criticizing you for railing against special interests but allowing independent labor- funded groups to run TV ads that are supporting your bid. Do you think that you're exploiting loopholes in campaign finance reform by having those ads run in the state?

EDWARDS: Absolutely not. I'm opposed to 527's. They ought to be outlawed, and I have said that over and over and over again, but the difference between me and Senator Obama is I've been in public life for almost ten years now, and every day that I've been in public life, I have voluntarily rejected taking any money from Washington lobbyists, any money from special interest pacts, and I have made a personal commitment that in my White House, in my White House, when I'm president of the United States, no corporate lobbyist will be working because I think those people have entirely too much influence and they're lobbying against the middle class, lobbying against American jobs and I intend to put a stop to that as president.

CHETRY: But at the same time these ads are running, people who aren't affiliated with your campaign but they are supporting your bid and they're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to get you elected. So what's the difference?

EDWARDS: The difference is I've called on them to stop, and I said 527's are, should not be happening. By the way, the other campaigns also have independent groups supporting them. We don't have any control over that. It's a problem in the law. We can't control it. We can't coordinate it with it, coordinate with it. But as president of the United States, I will do everything in my power to put an end to this and actually what I'm for is public financing of all of our campaigns, so we don't have this problem.

I might add the other candidates are spending many, many millions of dollars, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama here in Iowa so they're being heard very clearly and very loudly, while they complain about other things. So the real issue is not that. What Iowa caucus-goers are going to decide between now and Thursday is who is willing to fight for them, who is willing to fight for the middle class, who's willing to fight for American jobs. We have the potential, as I said, of losing over 30 million jobs over the next decade, which has to be stopped. Many of those people will be college graduates. We've seen an erosion in the middle class. I mean, they're looking for somebody who understands that and who will fight it and fight the corporate greed that's causing it.

CHETRY: Before we let you go, you sound like you're losing your voice a little bit, I know you've been on this nonstop marathon. Are you taking a breather for new year's eve or still on the campaign trail?

EDWARDS: Oh, no, there will be no breathing. We've got a lot of energy and fun in this campaign and we don't have long to go. In fact, I'm doing a 36-hour campaign swing starting tomorrow, where we'll be focusing on the middle class, traveling across the state, doing town hall meetings and also, during the night, going to see supporters who are making phone calls. I mean, we are in the final push now. We have no intention of letting up.

CHETRY: All right. Besides winning Iowa and winning New Hampshire, some of those early states, what is your new year's resolution, your personal resolution for '08?

EDWARDS: My personal resolution is to try to get enough sleep to function.

CHETRY: Well, good luck with the 36-hour marathon. I don't know if that's going to happen for you. But hey, it's great talking to you this morning. John Edwards, thanks for being with us.

EDWARDS: Thank you so much for having me. CHETRY: So, after the last-minute campaigning, it will be of course, the people's turn. CNN's special coverage of the Iowa caucuses begins at 8:00 Eastern Thursday night. An unpredictable election year, as we said a lot of these polls have everyone in dead heats. What are the big issues that will bring people out? Who's going to eventually come out? You don't want to miss a minute of the coverage. CNN's election center, the Iowa caucuses Thursday night beginning at 8:00 Eastern.

ROBERTS: He has the same New Year's resolution as you and I.

CHETRY: To get some more sleep until the nasal spray gets approved, right?

ROBERTS: And no hope of ever seeing it come to pass either.

CHETRY: And you're going to be on the campaign trail as well, reporting from every diner in all of Iowa.

ROBERTS: Wednesday, we'll be in Iowa City, a preview of the caucuses and then Thursday morning, we'll be in Des Moines as well, the day of the caucuses. It will be a whole lot of fun, a lot of politics and eggs and we hope everybody will join us. And then we'll be doing the same thing in New Hampshire Monday and Tuesday of next week. Looking forward to that.

CHETRY: Should be interesting.

ROBERTS: Something new from iTunes coming your way in the New Year. We'll tell you what you might be able to get for your iPod now, that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, movies could soon be available for rent on iTunes. It's been rumored for a long time. But reports say Apple will finally introduce a rental service next month. Apple already has some movies on iTunes but only for sale. 20th Century Fox is reportedly the first movie studio to sign on with Apple for the new service. John and I were talking about, to figure out a way the encoding erases the movie after your time limit's up.

ROBERTS: You could be in the middle of watching a movie and suddenly it just...

CHETRY: There it goes.

ROBERTS: ... disappears. A minute before the top of the hour. Oil had a back up to the $100 mark. What's that going to mean for you in 2008? Jill Bennett from "Businessweek TV" and for Ali Velshi, "Minding your Business" this morning.

Good morning, Jill.

JILL BENNETT, BUSINESSWEEK TV: Good morning. Well, certainly the biggest story of the year behind housing. I mean, a big deal. We have oil surging 60 percent so far this year, really based on supply and demand. So, we have oil. It settled at $96 a barrel so that's about $2 away from it's all time high. And actually in electronic trading this morning, it is trading a touch higher than that. And all of these really does affect your wallet substantially.

In fact, we have gas prices right now, you probably noticed, standing in at about $3.05 per gallon. That is up 72 cents a gallon when you look at this time last year. And then also, taking a look at residential heating oil, you're paying a lot more, it's about $3.30 a gallon right now, and that's up 87 cents a gallon from last year. FedEx, meantime, hiked its rates by 5.5 percent. So, businesses are feeling the pinch from these higher prices and they're passing it right along to the consumers who are also seeing airlines go ahead and say, OK, we're going to tackle on the fuel surcharge.

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