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AMERICAN MORNING

Iowa Votes for President; Oil Near $100/Barrel; Late Night Laughs; Zoo To Reopen; Prison Guard Suicide

Aired January 3, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Beards, showgirls, presidential candidates and our correspondent inside the late night studio. How the writer's strike affected the funny on this AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: And welcome. It is Thursday, caucus day in Iowa, January 3rd. I'm Kiran Chetry. Good morning, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, Kiran, from Des Moines, Iowa, the Waveland Cafe, I'm John Roberts. We're here at the Waveland. It's just turned 5:00 here in Des Moines so nobody really in the diner yet, but we expect in the next 20, 30 minutes this place will get jammed. It starts early. Everybody loves their politics.

We're just a stone's throw away from Drake University, by the way, so expect to get a lot of young people in this morning as well and we'll be talking politics for the next three hours. Everything here in Iowa today depends on how many people the campaigns get to turn out at school, gyms and libraries across Iowa.

The precinct caucuses begin at 7:00 p.m. local time. That's 8:00 Eastern, and we could see results within a half hour of that. GOP results will come first because there's a simple presidential preference poll right at the top. The Democrats will take a little bit longer because their process is a lot more complicated than the Republicans.

CNN political analyst from "Slate Magazine," John Dickerson joins us now with a look at what to watch for today. And a story that's really starting to get a lot of buzz this morning, John, is some reports out of the Fred Thompson campaign, that if he doesn't finish well, that is if he doesn't finish above third or get more than 15 percent of the vote, he may drop out before New Hampshire, ask his supporters to throw their weight behind John McCain.

JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM: That's right. This is big news because on caucus day in the Republican party there is no second choice as there is with the Democrats. But this people are spending the day if they hear this story and they're Fred Thompson supporters, well, they might end up voting for John McCain, so this may have some impact in today's vote. If it doesn't going forward, if it does support McCain it will help in New Hampshire certainly, but it may really help in South Carolina.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, McCain could be a real viable candidate coming out of Iowa unless, of course, Fred Thompson chose well, then maybe he is the viable candidate.

DICKERSON: That's right. We're all looking to see who's going to come in third in the Republican race.

ROBERTS: And what about on the Democratic side? You were at a Barack Obama event yesterday in Coralville, Iowa, college town, obviously, a lot of support. You wrote a column based on that saying it's all over but the moonwalking for Obama.

DICKERSON: He was so jazzed. He was so into the moment, and he looked like a guy who is winning, you know, and the crowd was loving it. And there was this moment where he said, hold up your hands if you're a first time caucus-goer and you're planning to attend. It felt like the entire room raised their hand. The big question for Obama has been, will these first-time caucus-goers turn out, at least in that room, they are going to turn out.

ROBERTS: You were saying last night as we were chatting about this, that it seemed like he was almost doing an end zone dance.

DICKERSON: Yes. Well, you know, it's all about tamping down expectations with most candidates.

ROBERTS: Yes.

DICKERSON: But in his face you could not see any expectations that were anything but through the roof.

ROBERTS: What about Romney-Huckabee on the Republican side?

DICKERSON: Incredibly close. The big thing to watch for there is how, what's the floor for Huckabee? He's taken a pounding from Romney and how far can he fall. Also, turnout for him. He doesn't have the machine Romney has for going door to door to canvas voters, so the question -- it's a huge question mark for him.

ROBERTS: Yes. In terms of just how the caucuses are going to operate tonight and how the vote could turn out, he put together a few deal breakers for us. Tell us about that and how they might impact what happens tonight.

DICKERSON: Three things they talked about. Turnout, that's important for both parties. Second thing is sort of rural versus city. How do candidates do in the various different parts of the state? What does that say about their support? The other thing is second choice for the Democratic. Where do those people whose candidates aren't viable, where do they end up going in the end on the Democratic side?

ROBERTS: So this is if they don't reach this 15 percent threshold, their supporters could go elsewhere and that the results of the vote could turn around within the space of an hour?

DICKERSON: That's exactly right and who is the beneficiary of that may determine who wins tonight.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see you.

Kucinich has said throw your support behind Obama if I'm not viable, so we'll see how that can play out. John Dickerson, you'll be with us all morning?

DICKERSON: That's right.

ROBERTS: Good to see you again. Now let's go back up to New York, and here's Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, John, thanks. Keep it right here. We're going to be talking to many of the candidates live on AMERICAN MORNING.

We have Governor Bill Richardson up first. He's coming up at our next hour. Then, we'll be talking with Senator Fred Thompson, Senator Barack Obama, as well as Congressman Ron Paul and Senator John Edwards. All of them stopping by this morning. This is the place to hear from the candidates. We're going to be talking about some of the key issues that are going to be bringing out voters, as well as some last-minute 11th-hour strategies if you will.

And you can be part of the best political team on TV. For those of you caucusing in Iowa tonight, we want to hear your I-Reports about how things are going. Send us the video. Send us pictures to cnnpolitics.com. We'll feature some of them tonight. Our election eve coverage begins at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

There are also some new polls out this morning showing how the candidates fare in the next major battle run, and that would be the granite state, New Hampshire. Five days to go until that primary. The Franklin Pierce WBZ-TV Poll of likely Democratic voters showing Hillary Clinton with a four-point lead over Barack Obama but still a statistical dead heat. The margin of error is 4.9 percent. John Edwards polling in third place at 19 percent.

And on the Republican side, John McCain has a six-point lead over Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani at 10 percent, Ron Paul at six percent and Mike Huckabee at five percent in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire primary is next Tuesday.

Also new this morning, federal prosecutors launching a criminal investigation now into the CIA destruction of interrogation videotapes. The justice department says that Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham will be investigating whether or not the CIA broke any laws back in 2005 when it destroyed tapes that reportedly showed two high profile Al- Qaeda prisoners, including Abu Zubaydah being subjected to waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning and is widely considered torture. Attorney General Michael Mukasey called Durham a "widely-respected and experienced career prosecutor."

Also new this morning, army testing new high-tech helmets that would measure the causes and effects of traumatic brain injury. These helmets are equipped with a battery-operated sensor that can record what happens to a soldier during, let's say, an IED blast. They can also measure the jolt soldiers receive from the explosion. It's only six ounces. It attaches to the back of the helmet and according to a report in "USA Today," more than 1,000 soldiers will have them while they're deployed to Afghanistan in the spring. The military says IEDs account for almost 80 percent of injuries on the battlefield.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is out with his annual predictions for the New Year. He says that God told him 2008 will be a year of violence and chaos in the world. He also predicted a recession in the United States and a major stock market crash by 2010. Robertson's predictions, though, can often be wrong. Last year, the televangelist said millions of Americans would be killed in a major terrorist attack -- John.

ROBERTS: Kiran, a story getting a lot of play on the campaign trail today. Oil prices are near historic level this morning. Where are they headed today?

Our Ali Velshi at the business update desk with more, cracked 100 bucks yesterday. Where is it going today, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're looking at it now. Oil is back down to around where it settled yesterday, $99.62. But just briefly yesterday around 12:00 Eastern time, we got above that $100 mark and today we're expecting a key report on how much oil there is in storage in the United States that's available to be used as heating oil and fuel. If that number is lower than people expect, you can expect that to top $100 again.

Now the number, 100 is largely psychological, John, but the fact of the matter is we've been paying these prices that are in the high 90s, and when you look at it in gasoline terms in the $3 range for some time now and that is certainly having an effect on how people are spending.

Take a look at gasoline prices. In fact, they're only up 73 cents for the year, but we've seen gas prices higher over the course of the last year. That's a 30 percent increase. When you look at the price of crude oil, it's a 60 percent increase. And as we go into these caucuses and as we talk a lot about the election, the economy remains the number one concern for Americans in 2008 and that's because 2007 saw their home prices dropping and their energy prices increasing. So this will be something to watch very keenly, certainly over the course of the next few days but for the next month or so -- John.

ROBERTS: Ali, during the fall you were telling us that the price of a barrel of oil should be somewhere around $60. Is there anything to indicate that maybe sometimes this year it will start to come back down?

VELSHI: Something I thought you'd ask me about, John. In fact, yes, the long-term prospects for oil should be around $60. But as you point out very clearly, whenever I say that, this is a market and it is exactly what people will pay for it. And right now, people are prepared to pay close to $100 for a barrel of oil. That's the price of oil, but economists and people who watch this think that $60 to $70 is where we should see it long-term. Probably a little higher than that over the course of this year.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, we'll check back in with you a little bit later on. Thanks for that.

VELSHI: OK.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: Meanwhile, Florida is under a freeze warning right now. Record low temperatures are expected in some areas. Citrus growers worried about their orange groves. Farmers say that temperatures of 28 degrees or lower for four hours can ruin an orange tree.

Our Rob Marciano off today. Reynolds Wolf is at our weather update desk with a look at what Florida can expect today. They knew this was coming and they were trying to take some measures including trying to flood the fields with some warm water, the groves, I mean. But what are they looking at in terms of how long this freeze is going to be down there?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They're going to be seeing this for a long cold in parts of Florida easily for today, maybe even tomorrow and every second they're dealing with these freezing conditions. It is so detrimental to those crops.

Let's show you what we have right now, not just in Florida but across the southeast in terms of temperatures. These aren't windchills. These are actually issued (ph) windchill. Three is what it feels like to be exposed skin in Atlanta. Southward into Orlando, looking at 21 degrees. The windchill at Tampa with 19 right along the I-4 corridor.

Now let's show you the degrees, and it is 31. That's what you have in Orlando at this hour, 26 in Jacksonville, 16 in Atlanta. And as we zoom in on parts of Florida, you could see we have the windchill warning in effect. And, Kiran, right off the east coast of Florida, not far from places like Melbourne, we have a little bit of a mix on the radar showing a little bit of freezing precipitation. We're not out of the order. It would not be out of the real comprehension to get a little bit of snow flurries on parts of I-95 so certainly something to watch out for.

Meanwhile, the big easy is dealing with some big cold freeze warning in effect for much of southern Louisiana, certainly something else to be watched out for. And other temperatures from New Orleans, 30 degrees this hour. Thirty-three in Abilene, 22 in Oklahoma City and 36 in Laredo, where we have freezing conditions since some snow forming out in parts of West Texas near the Big Bend National Park.

Meanwhile, as we look farther to north in Iowa, here is the story. Any surprise today for the Iowa caucus, we're dealing with very chilly conditions. Temperatures mainly into the 20s and in the teens in many spots, but the windchill factors throughout the day, they'll be in the single digits. That is the latest we've got for you. A lot to talk about weather-wise today. Let's send it back to you in New York. CHETRY: All right. Thanks a lot, Reynolds. We'll check in with you throughout the morning.

Meanwhile, it's been a tense eight weeks of re-runs, picket lines, but the late night hosts are finally back on the air. Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel were without their writers, relying more on improv, interviews. Only David Letterman and Craig Ferguson have their staff back, and some of them also had beards back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Ladies and gentlemen, two long months but by God, I'm finally out of rehab.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Our Lola Ogunnaike actually was in Dave's audience last night, and she joins us this morning. There was a lot of anticipation around the return of "Late Night." How did Dave do?

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that rehab joke went over really well. And another joke that went over really well, Kiran, was about him taking this time off to, you know, have some introspection and what he realized was that in this time off, he enjoys drinking, whether or not he's working or not. So that joke also was a huge hit.

The chorus girls with the picket signs, another huge hit and Robin Williams definitely brought the house down. So I think, you know, the top ten Writers Guild strike stuff also worked. But after awhile, the crowd's energy started to wane a little and I think they felt that the writer strike stuff though important to discuss, it was a little heavy-handed and they just wanted to have a good time and him interviewing his associate producer did not go over well at all. You can hear crickets in the room. In fact, one of the women that I was sitting next to under her breath she said "this is boring."

CHETRY: That's interesting, though, because he was the one who really didn't have any of those restrictions. I mean, he could have had anybody and done anything he wanted to because he was sort of back in the game.

OGUNNAIKE: Well, that was the interesting thing in a weird sort of way. Parts of his show looked like he was the one who didn't have the writing team, and parts of Leno's show looked like he did have the writing team so that was a very interesting juxtaposition there.

CHETRY: What were some of the highlights, Leno and Conan O'Brien, two of the most well-known shows that did not have their writers?

OGUNNAIKE: Well, I thought Leno did really well with one of his field pieces. He essentially -- he took you to see the houses of some of the studio executives and then he took you to see the houses of the writers, and they lived in the shantytown. So that was hysterical and it just showed the disparity of, you know, the haves and the have nots.

CHETRY: Right.

OGUNNAIKE: And you know, everyone talked about who's going to win between Leno and Letterman. The real winners here were the writers because these shows essentially acted as glorified PR campaigns for their cause.

CHETRY: I got you. And what's up with the beards? Why are Leno and Conan wearing them or Letterman and Conan wearing them also?

OGUNNAIKE: Letterman joked about having been in rehab and not having had time to shave. But Conan was actually pretty serious about his beard and he says I have this beard in solidarity with the writers and also to prove that I have testosterone. So --

CHETRY: You know, he's not going to shave it until the strike's over. How about that one?

OGUNNAIKE: He was actually had a few good moments, too. I feel like he was the one who had the most trouble without having his writers, but at one point he jumped on his desk and danced, and that was cute. And then back stage he also had a moment where it was him playing rock band, the video game with his staff, so that also worked but his Bob Saget interview, also like watching paint dry and then watching him spin his wedding ring also did not go over well at all.

CHETRY: All right. Well, thanks so much, Lola -- John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Kiran.

Showing up late to a cold blue. A new study says thousands of heart attack deaths each year could be avoided.

And the San Francisco Zoo set to reopen today with new questions about a deadly Christmas Day tiger attack. A zoo witness reportedly says she saw two of the victims teasing big cats before the deadly rampage. A live report on that ahead here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: There are some new questions this morning about that Christmas Day attack at the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo is set to reopen today, and a new witness has come forward, speaking out to the "San Francisco Chronicle," a woman who says that she was there that day and may have seen the teens taunting the tiger before she escaped from her enclosure.

AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence is live at the San Francisco Zoo for us. It opens again today, Chris. We're not going to be seeing the lion and tiger exhibit open as well, but what are the new details on this supposed eyewitness?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this witness told "The Chronicle," Kiran, that she saw a group of young men screaming and even growling at the lions, but the victim's attorney says his clients did not taunt the tiger that attacked them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): As families return to the San Francisco Zoo, officials are questioning whether the victims provoked the tiger to attack on Christmas Day.

SAM SINGER, SAN FRANCISCO ZOO: There are a number of things that have been found in the tiger's grotto that the police are looking into.

LAWRENCE: A zoo spokesman says they discovered a large rock, branches and pine cones, things not usually found in the habitat.

SINGER: It's too soon to determine or to tell whether those are parts of taunting or whether the kids were throwing those things at the tiger.

LAWRENCE: The 350-pound Siberian mauled one teenager to death and attacked his two friends. All the big cats have been removed while crews secure the habitat.

LAWRENCE (on camera): This is a blueprint of one of the security upgrades that the zoo is considering, including a glass wall in front of the viewing area that rise about 19 feet from the bottom of the moat.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): That's three feet higher than the recommended height and nearly seven feet higher than the old wall. Investigators believe the tiger jumped the moat and scaled the wall. The survivors have hired celebrity attorney Mark Geragos. He says the teenager bled to death while zoo workers wasted crucial minutes responding to his friends' cry for help. I asked the zoo director to respond.

LAWRENCE: Did they take the attack seriously enough to alert the police what was going on?

MANUEL MOLLINEDO, DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO ZOO: My staff reported to the police and to the fire department what they knew at the time.

LAWRENCE: But 911 dispatch logs show the first call to the fire department showed little sense of urgency. The zoo worker even suggested the victim reporting a tiger attack might be mentally disturbed in making it up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: It remains to be seen how many families are actually going to come through these gates, though, when they reopen at 10:00 in the morning. Big term plan but the zoo plans to do is to install an emergency notification system park-wide, surveillance cameras around that tiger exhibit, and that glass wall, none of which were in place on Christmas Day -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. So making a lot of changes today as they reopen. We'll check in with you throughout the morning. Chris Lawrence, thank you.

ROBERTS: Kiran, new developments now in the brazen escape of two inmates who named a prison guard in a letter that they left behind. AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst Sunny Hostin joins us with more on that in just a moment.

Plus, a new look at Benazir Bhutto's final moments. Never before seen amateur video captures the former Pakistani prime minister up close just before she was assassinated. We'll have that for you when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It was a brazen escape. It was kind of like the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" where inmates dug their way out of a prison in New Jersey, even covering the walls with posters to hide the hole. They're still on the loose and now the prison guard named in the letter that they left behind almost taunting them, saying "thanks for the tools to make our escape," apparently killed himself just hours before he was to be interviewed about that escape.

AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst Sunny Hostin joins us now with more details on this. Unbelievable.

SUNNY HOSTIN, AMERICAN MORNING LEGAL ANALYST: Unbelievable.

CHETRY: Because in the "The Shawshank Redemption" as well, the warden also committed suicide...

HOSTIN: Exactly.

CHETRY: ... under different circumstances obviously, but it seems like, you know, life imitating art, if you will.

HOSTIN: Yes.

CHETRY: This guy, everyone said he was a really nice guy, did his job well.

HOSTIN: And by the book, by the book. He, apparently, he was one of the most stringent, one of the most by the book officers there, and it really is just a tragic, tragic, sad twist to this. He felt responsible because a by the book person is going to feel responsible for this.

But by all accounts, you know, he wasn't responsible, but he was going to be facing administrative charges. They were going to be interviewing him the very next day, and he has a wife, a 4-year-old daughter. This is a very, very sad twist to this case.

CHETRY: It is a sad situation. These two are still on the loose, by the way.

HOSTIN: They are.

CHETRY: And could the guard have been charged following this escape?

HOSTIN: Well, apparently, he was facing administrative charges and that means, you know, maybe he was going to lose some pay, perhaps he was going to be put on suspension. But the inmates when they escaped left this note that said that he had provided these tools and apparently the tools are a thick piece of wire and a 10-pound steel water shutoff wheel and they had a smiley face apparently on the note, as you just showed there, and also, you know, the middle finger up.

And so he was taunted, and his neighbors spoke to him prior to his suicide, and he said, "Don't worry about it." And he said, "But I'm probably going to be blamed for it." And so, I think he may have been facing administrative charges but certainly not criminal charges here.

CHETRY: Disturbing situation to say the least. What are the conditions like in jails? I mean, you know, people ask themselves, how did this escape happen?

HOSTIN: Right. You know, there is real incentive by a lot of prisoners because they're facing a lot of time, and the prisons are overcrowded. Everyone knows it. It's a big problem. We don't have enough prisons to house inmates. There isn't that much rehabilitation going on, and folks have this sort of nothing to lose.

We just saw it in Maryland the other day of a prison inmate went to get treated for alleged chest pains and escaped. He was facing -- he had a life prison sentence plus 40 years and so someone like that certainly has nothing to lose. He's not being rehabilitated by some accounts, by some reports, and I think it's sort of probably part of a larger problem. It's a problem that legal analysts have been discussing for years, prisoners rights groups and on both sides, also officers, prison officers are discussing this problem of overcrowding and New Jersey prisons in particular.

CHETRY: All right. Sunny Hostin, great to see you, thanks.

HOSTIN: Thanks, Kiran.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Oh, we've been talking about it this morning. In addition to politics, the last return to late night or sometimes in some cases didn't after weeks of reruns from the ongoing writer's strike, only the newly bearded David Letterman and Craig Ferguson have their writers back because Letterman owns those shows, cut his own deal with writers.

But Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel all returned without their writers. They were forced to rely more heavily on their improvisation skills or as Conan called it "killing time."

And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. The return of late night, will it help or hurt the writers? May there be more of a demand for them to come back now? Cast your vote at CNN.com/AM. There you go. The return of the late-night, will it help or hurt the writers? Vote to help or hurt. We'll be following the results, and we'll have all of that for you coming up later on this morning.

Caucus day has arrived here in Iowa after what seems like forever. We've got the candidates coming for breakfast, four of them, Governor Bill Richardson up first. What message does he have in these final hours?

Plus, new video is out today. Benazir Bhutto in the moments before her assassination last week. We'll show it to you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Welcome back. And thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. It is Thursday, the 3rd of January. A huge day here in the Hawkeye state. I'm John Roberts at the Waveland Cafe in Des Moines where we're tracking everything political this morning. Good morning, Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. Good to see you, John. I'm Kiran Chetry in New York. I can hear the clinking of the silverware and dishes and plates behind you. Once again, you're at one of the diner where it all happens, really, as people discuss politics and today, we're going to put those thoughts into action at the caucuses. We have a lot of great stuff coming up in politics this morning. A lot of big interviews with the candidates as well.

But also, we have some new video to show you that's emerged of Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto just moments before her assassination. It's amateur tape. It shows a close up of Bhutto standing up in her car and waving to the crowd after that rally. There she is through the sunroof. Then it shows, what appears to be, a bright yellow flash which we'll see in a second here. There you see it and it's over. It doesn't show any gunman as previously seen in other videos. Now, we'll see it one more time here. A flash and then, sort of goes away. There you see it, that explosion.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is asking for help in the investigation. A team from Scotland Yard is expected to arrive in Pakistan next week. Musharraf will also hold a news conference this morning with some 200 international journalists.

Well, 100 bucks a barrel for oil, after briefly getting into triple digits yesterday, a record. Oil closed in New York trading at $99 and change. And the government report, due out this morning, shows a bigger than expected drop in supply. Oil prices could, once again, climb over that $100 a barrel mark again today.

Seconds count after someone has a heart attack. In fact, a new study shows that hospitals may be responding too slowly, even though defibrillators are life saving. About a third of patients, did do not get the defibrillation within the recommended two minutes and those patients are more likely to die, end up brain damaged or disabled. The study was reported in the New England journal of medicine. We're talking with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta about it at the top of the hour.

John?

ROBERTS: Thanks, Kiran. New polls out this morning showing some surprises in the next big battleground in Campaign '08 New Hampshire. The Franklin Pierce/WBZ-TV Poll found the Democratic race tightening up yet again. Hillary Clinton, take a look at this now, with a four- point lead over Barack Obama. But that is still a statistical dead heat. Thanks to a sampling error of 4.9 percentage points. John Edwards in third place with 19 percent.

And on the Republican side, John McCain has more than doubled the support that he had in the summer at 37 percent. He holds a six-point lead now over Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani has dropped well back to third with 10 percent now. The New Hampshire primary coming up next Tuesday and of course we'll be covering all of that here on CNN.

And the late night hosts are back on the air, despite the writer's strike. David letterman had his writers. He cut a special deal with them. But Jay Leno and the others are still operating on their own. Leno's guest last night was Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee who jammed with the band, then sat down with Jay. And asked him about his decision to pull a negative ad against Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST: Celebrities can get drunk, pull in and get rehabbed.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think a lot of it is, you know, people who are looking for a president -- gotten where we are by being positive and talkative about what this country needs to be, rather than what's wrong with the other guys. And I just said, while you're making it, did you feel like "I need to go take a shower" or something. Or give Romney a shower maybe? I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Huckabee went in through a back door in the studio to avoid the picket line. He issued a statement saying that he supports the writers cause. The writer's guild thanked him and was disappointed that he crossed the line. On Letterman, Hillary Clinton had a two-line cameo. Our Lola Ogunnaike was in the Letterman audience. She's going to have the highlights coming up in our next half hour.

And one of the highlights this morning, also in our next half hour, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico who has joined us here at the Waveland Diner, just talking with a couple of folks this morning, who have shown up. Typically, the diner is packed just after 6:00 central time. It is only 5:38 central time. People aren't used to it being open, but already people are starting to trickle in. So, we'll sit down with the governor in just a few minutes and get his take on this last day before people start to vote in the caucuses.

Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Well, you know, speaking of the caucuses, we wanted to get a sense of just who was participating tonight. A relatively small group of people who have a lot of influence over the rest of the country. While 2 million Iowans are registered to vote in the 2000 caucus, only 59,000 Democrats and 87,000 Republicans voted. Almost 90 percent of the population in Iowa is white, and according to the University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll caucusgoers tend to be older, married and not many have young children.

The candidates spend months crisscrossing all of Iowa's 99 counties and there is a reason that no small town is too small to visit. The Hawkeye Polls found that caucusgoers are more likely to come from a rural area. They also have a higher income than the Iowan. Around $43,000 a year is the median household income.

So we ask what these voters care about. Our latest CNN poll found the most important issues for Democratic caucusgoers are the economy, as well as Iraq. Republican caucusgoers also most concerned about the economy, followed by immigration. So asked for how good Iowans are picking the eventual nominee, that the last caucus 2004 John Kerry won and John Edwards came in second. President Bush ran away with it on the Republican side as an incumbent. President Bush also won the 2000 Iowa caucus and then went on to win the White House.

John?

ROBERTS: You know, Kiran, there is so much emphasis on this race in 2008 though, that a lot of people believe, that the numbers that we have seen in past years could really increase dramatically and maybe set records this year, which would be interesting as well.

Cold temperatures here in Iowa again today. That's to be expected. But other places in the country, where the cold temperatures are not expected and causing a lot of problems. Our Reynolds Wolf, down in Atlanta this morning watching extreme weather. Good morning, Reynolds.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: Guess who is coming to breakfast? Governor Bill Richardson just arrived this morning. How he's feeling about his chances in Iowa and beyond. The governor is standing by live. He's going to be joining us, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING. So stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: A crisis in Pakistan, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the presidential race getting a renewed focus on foreign policy, my next guest is hoping for a late surge here in the Hawkeye State. He is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Also, Former Ambassador to the United Nations. He joins us this morning. Good to see you. You forced me to put a tie on today. Diner in Des Moines and I'm all dressed up. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, John, I'm a gentleman. I'm trying to get votes. You know, this is the last ten hours and I feel good. You know, I think a lot of the undecideds are breaking my way. Iowans make up their minds at the last minute. You know, maybe 30 percent of them, in the last three to four days and I'm seeing good movement.

ROBERTS: Hey, listen. Everybody likes to focus on the horse race and it's always intriguing. But, we want to talk to you about some issues this morning. Because, it is upon those which people will make up their minds as to who they want for president. Oil hit $100 a barrel yesterday, as president what would you do about it?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, I was Energy Secretary. What I would do is massive Apollo program to go from fossil fuels from imported oil. You know, that's one-third of our trade deficit going to OPEC countries, that some of them fostering terrorism to clean energy. We have to make that shift. It's going to involve asking the American people to sacrifice a little bit. It's going to mean going 30 percent of our electricity, renewable energy, fuel-efficient vehicles, 50 miles per gallon. You know, the Congress did 35. That's pathetic. We should go to 50. We need a new ethic that recognizes that it's in our national security interest to shift from imported oil, fossil fuels to renewable sources.

ROBERTS: On the topic of national security, you say that the Iraq war should be the number one issue in this upcoming campaign. You have prided yourself as being the only candidate who said that they would remove all of the troops from Iraq. You wanted to do it by 2010. John Edwards in recent days had said he would do it too, but he would do it in ten months. Is his plan better than yours?

RICHARDSON: Well, no. I mean, it keeps shifting. I can't keep up with all his 50 plans. I mean, I'm the one that's the most consistent that said within a year, but with a diplomatic plan, and we can safely and in an orderly way do it in a year. But get the three groups in Iraq for a political compromise, a U.N. peacekeeping force, a donor conference, so that we are not spending $570 billion in this war, money that should go at home. This is the fundamental issue in Iowa.

And so all of these candidates are now shifting to my position. Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, saying, you know, get the troops out as soon as possible. Richardson has been right and is gaining. So, I feel that this surge in my support is because I've been forthright on Pakistan. I've been clear on energy. I've been clear on getting all the troops out.

ROBERTS: You're in a real competition with Joe Biden for who has the most foreign policy experience. He says, he does and you say you do. Not sure who is right. You both have a wealth of foreign policy experience. But he took a swipe at Hillary Clinton, the other day, when she had suggested mistakenly that Pervez Musharraf, who was on the upcoming ballot in the upcoming Pakistani elections. Does she have the foreign policy credentials to be president? RICHARDSON: Well I think that Senator Biden and I have a lot more, but she has experience. But what I am trying to convey, John, is that you have to be able to have the experience to make change.

ROBERTS: And does she have that experience?

RICHARDSON: Well, she's got enough experience but she doesn't compare with me, especially in foreign policy. I mean, I've negotiated with North Korea, with Iran. I've negotiated across the globe. I've been U.N. Ambassador. I'm a special envoy. I got prisoners, American servicemen, out of harm's way. No, she can't compare with mine and can't compare with Joe's.

ROBERTS: I've got to ask you this question, because it's been on my mind since the Nevada Debate. When you said that sometimes human rights is more important than American National Security. Would you protect the rights of a terrorist if you knew that it could cost American lives?

RICHARDSON: I think you're asking the question about torture. Under no circumstances would I promote torture. It's against the military code. It's against the Geneva Conventions. You know one of the best moments...

ROBERTS: OK but promoting it and using it to save American lives may be two different things.

RICHARDSON: No. I wouldn't use it. I wouldn't promote it. You know, ten military officers, four-star generals, came to see me. They fought for this country. They said torture is wrong. Torture doesn't work either. It puts our troops in harm's way.

ROBERTS: Would you protect the rights of a terrorist, even if it cost American lives.

RICHARDSON: No. You can't frame it that way, John. You got to say that torture is unacceptable, to have forced interrogations. You know, we got to stand for something. We got to be a country that's for quality, freedom, our constitution. You know, our constitution is pretty important. One of the first speeches I'm going to make if I'm elected president, I'm going to follow the constitution of the United States. People rise up in Iowa. They love that. I mean, that's what this election is all about. Returning to our principles, standing against terrorists like Musharraf, getting our troops out of Iraq, being energy-independent, big, bold ideas. This is why I feel very confident.

ROBERTS: We were supposed to go, but you just said something I've got to ask you. You just called Musharraf a terrorist.

RICHARDSON: No, no, I tyrant.

ROBERTS: You called him a terrorist actually.

RICHARDSON: No, I called him a tyrant. It's 5:30. I called him a tyrant. ROBERTS: All right. Thanks very much, governor. We'll see you again and good luck tonight.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right, I appreciate it.

Kiran?

CHETRY: You have more candidates to come all morning as well. Fred Thompson is going to be joining us in the next half hour. And then we're going to speak with Senator Barack Obama and at 8:00 eastern, we're going to be speaking to Congressman Ron Paul as well as Former Senator John Edwards. Meanwhile, the caucuses begin at 8:00 eastern. The first results expected shortly after that. And you can catch it all here with "The Best Political Team on Television." Special all-night coverage begins at 8:00 eastern.

Certainly a rough year for air travel. So, which airport was the busiest in the country in 2007? We're going to tell you just ahead.

Also, caucus night in Iowa. If you are looking for last-minute information on the candidates or you want up to the minute details on how they're faring, Veronica De La Cruz will tell you the easiest way to do both. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

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CHETRY: Almost ten minutes before 7:00 here on the east coast. And if you're just joining us, here's a look at what's making headlines this morning. A published report says the San Francisco Zoo visitor witnessed victims of the tiger attack teasing and taunting the tiger before the deadly Christmas Day rampage. An area mother telling the "San Francisco Chronicle" that she saw four young men screaming and growling at the big cats, and she said the cats looked like they were getting upset by it. She calls the behavior disturbing and that's why she decided to leave the area with her family and that's why she remembers it.

Two of the men she allegedly saw were injured in that attack. Their attorney, Mark Geragos, is denying his client did anything to provoke the tiger. The witness also says the teen, who was killed in the attack, Carlos Sousa Jr., was the one person in the group that she said was not taunting the animals. The zoo will reopen later today, but for now, the tigers are not on display.

A prison guard named in a note left by two escapees has committed suicide. 40-year-old Rudolph Zurich was found yesterday hours before he was set to speak with investigators. The inmates chiseled their way out of a New Jersey jail last month. Left him a note, thanking him for the tools they used to break out. They're still on the run. Zurich was not implicated in the escape.

The army is testing a new high-tech helmet to measure the causes and effects of traumatic brain injury. These helmets are equipped with a battery operated sensor can record what happens to a soldier during an IED blast. It can also measure the jolt the soldier received from the explosion. More than 1,000 soldiers will have the helmets when they deploy to Afghanistan in the spring.

And it's the raining camp of roundtrips. For the third year in a row, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta was the busiest in the country. About 1 million flights came and went last year. It translates to more than 40 million passengers. Chicago's O'Hare close second and Dallas Fort worth coming in a distant third.

With the nation watching, Iowans are going to be caucusing for president tonight. Our Veronica De La Cruz is here to explain how to get the most comprehensive political information out there, and that of course is besides having your television glued to CNN.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's nice. Think of this as an additional resource. Maybe you're watching TV. Maybe you still have questions because, you know, the race is still wide open. You can always head to the web to get those questions answered

CHETRY: Absolutely.

DE LA CRUZ: Right. So, cnnpolitics.com. It is an amazing resource, a wealth of information there. We're going to take you to the page and give you a quick walk-through. Starting with the candidates. You want to click on the tab that says "Elections 2008." And that's going to take you to a section that's going to introduce to you every candidate, walk you through their bios. There you go, we're looking at the page right there. "Election Center 2008," that's where you can meet the candidates. You can compare each candidate side by side on all of the topics, ranging from abortion, gun control, to same-sex marriage, also immigration. There's also an explainer, Kiran, that's going to break down all of the states along the campaign trail. You know, people might have a lot of questions as to why exactly Iowa is important.

You can also find the latest poll positions for the candidates and you can get links to all of the hot political blogs as well. There's even a sound-off section on the page that's going to allow you to voice your own thoughts and opinions. Getting you to all of the video, there's lots of video available on the website as well. It's all raw and unfiltered. You can even hear what the candidates have been telling voters along the campaign trail. And then I don't know, do you have an iPod, Kiran?

CHETRY: Of course.

DE LA CRUZ: Are you in the whole podcasting?

CHETRY: No. I have no idea how to use that part.

DE LA CRUZ: Really? Come on, no.

CHETRY: My iPod actually came with a podcast with Larry King, but other than that, I don't have it.

DE LA CRUZ: All right. Here, we're looking at the "Best Political" Podcast. That is available to you for your iPod. Also you can subscribe that via all the various RSS feeds and of course, don't forget the "Political Ticker." That's also on the CNN Politics page.

And if you are out there tonight, if you are attending the caucuses, send us an I-report. We're going to get lots of those tomorrow. We're going to be sharing them with you right here on AMERICAN MORNING. So again, cnnpolitics.com. A tremendous resources available to you, right there, on the web. But like Kiran was saying, you got to watch CNN at the same time. So think of this as an additional resource. Right?

CHETRY: Sounds good, not bad.

DE LA CRUZ: Additional tool.

CHETRY: If I load a podcast on, does it use up more space than a CD, yes or no?

DE LA CRUZ: You know, honestly, I couldn't even tell you.

CHETRY: That's what I'm worried about.

DE LA CRUZ: I don't know how to use it either. I'm kidding. No, I do have an iPod and I do use the podcast. I'm going to teach you how do that, maybe on the break.

CHETRY: OK. As long as it doesn't kick off any of the CDs, you know, and the albums.

DE LA CRUZ: No, you don't.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, Veronica.

Well, we're still following some more news now. Some "Quick Hits". A bear cub back in the wild. This is an 80-pound cub that was released near Lake Tahoe in California. She had been hit by a car back in September, then nursed back to health by rescuers. Her release was moved up to get her out before the winter storm moves in later this week.

And a monster with a fish tail out of Florida. A 12-year-old from Connecticut reeled in a 551-bull shark off the coast of Palm Beach. It took him 45 minutes to land it. It looks to be a state record. The old record has been on the book since 1981.

And a rough start for the 2008 stock market. How will fears about the economy play out on Wall Street today? We're also following the cost of oil. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" coming up.

And here's a scary headline out this morning. If you're having a heart attack, you stand a better chance of surviving if you're in a casino than a hospital? Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us why when he joins us coming up at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: And welcome back. There is a live shot. We just heard from Governor Bill Richardson. We see him now enjoying breakfast. I don't know how the candidates can eat anymore, actually. I mean, they have in every diner in all 99 counties in Iowa. All leading up to caucus night, which is a mere 11 hours away now and...

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You see the guy at the end of the counter?

CHETRY: He is also enjoying himself now with Former Governor Bill Richardson.

VELSHI: Feels a little lonely over the end of the counter.

CHETRY: I'm sure he's not lonely. I'm sure he's got many phone calls and had many handshakes with the candidates, over the past several months. So, John Roberts also there. We're going to check in with him in a couple of minutes. But first, Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business." And there are still some worries hanging over Wall Street in 2008.

VELSHI: I got to say, for the first business day of the year, yesterday, January 2nd, there's a whole lot more business going on, than I would have imagined. The first thing that happened is that markets had to deal with this report about the manufacturing industry. It's a monthly report that comes out, and it showed that manufacturing in the United States had actually decreased. It had gone backwards.

Now, when we talk about recession, remember, the most important thing to think about a recession is that growth, even if it's small, is in the right direction. Recession is negative growth or going backwards. And we saw manufacturing activity in the United States go backwards just a little bit. That's where the markets started their tumble yesterday and then at about noon, when oil hit $100 for the first time ever, that sort of did it in for the day.

In fact, it was lower than it was through the course of the day. The Dow ended up higher, but it was still 220 points off to 13,043. NASDAQ was down. S&P 500 was down. This was the worst first day of trading since 1983, and as you know, Jill Bennett, was telling you earlier this week, that investors really do look at the first few days of the year to get some sense of how it's going to go. That's not really scientific, so you shouldn't worry about that too much. We have futures pointing to another negative open today on the stock market and we're going to get a key report on oil, which I'll tell you about in a few minutes, and that might push oil back up above $100 a barrel.

CHETRY: All right and this was the first time that it crossed it and came back down again. We talk a lot about...

VELSHI: We talk a lot about it for months and it actually happened.

CHETRY: All right. Ali, thank you.

VELSHI: OK.

CHETRY: Well, stay right here for up to the minute coverage of the Iowa caucuses, presidential candidates Fred Thompson, as well as Barack Obama will be with us in the next hour of AMERICAN MORNING.

Also, is a hospital the best place to survive a heart attack? Maybe not. We'll paging Dr. Gupta to find out why.

The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Stand and deliver.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you fired up?

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CHETRY: It's decision day in Iowa. We're live with five presidential candidates making their last appeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the (INAUDIBLE) I've ever seen it.

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CHETRY: Straight ahead. Barack Obama and Fred Thompson.

Bitter chill. State of emergency in Florida.

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