Return to Transcripts main page


Caucus Day Today: Iowa Votes for President; Oil Near $100/Barrel; Late Night Laughs; Fight For Iowa: Where Do They Stand; Interview with Senator Fred Thompson; Life Saving Shock: Hospital Treatment Too Slow

Aired January 3, 2008 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We're live with five presidential candidates making their last appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the closest and the tightest I've ever seen it.

CHETRY: Straight ahead, Barack Obama and Fred Thompson.

Bitter chill, state of emergency in Florida. Farmers fight to save your favorite produce.

Plus, late night laughs.

ROBIN WILLIAMS, ACTOR: Ladies and gentlemen, General Lee!

CHETRY: Jay and Dave return to TV. Our Lola Ogunnaike in the Letterman audience for a first hand look on this AMERICAN MORNING.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome. It's Thursday, the 3rd of January. I'm Kiran Chetry.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm John Roberts, and this is it. It's the day we've all been waiting for so long for, in many cases almost three years. The Iowa caucuses tonight, 1,781 precinct meetings. They're going to be figuring out who they want to see as president in November during the election.

Wow, it's just amazing. We're here this morning at the Waveland Cafe, where people are starting to arrive now just past the official opening we expected.

CHETRY: What's happening to Des Moines?

ROBERTS: We have a full crowd here, and we're going to be talking with many of the candidates. We have Fred Thompson coming up. We have got Barack Obama coming up, as well as Ron Paul is going to be joining us, and John Edwards in our last hour here of AMERICAN MORNING. After months of campaigning and millions spent, it all comes down to this. Everyday, people talking politics in coffeehouses, firehouses and grandmas' houses across the state of Iowa. The candidates are already up and out. We talked with Governor Bill Richardson just a few moments ago. Precinct caucuses begin at 7:00 p.m. local, and that's 8:00 Eastern. We expect that we could see some results within a half hour of that at least on the Republican side.

CNN political analyst John Dickerson joins me now. So John, what are the big things that we should be watching for today?

JOHN DICKERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We look for three things. Look for turnout. A lot of people on the Democratic side. Is Huckabee able to turn voters out without that traditional organization that Romney has? Look for second choices in the Democratic race. Those candidates who don't meet the 15 percent viability threshold we've been talking about for the last several days. Where do their voters go?

And then lastly, how do these voters get apportioned, rural versus say, the city voters? Does Edwards get the rural voters like he's been claiming he will, or does Obama get into that different part of the Democratic constituency?

ROBERTS: All of these candidates have spent the last 72 hours making their closing arguments here as they crisscrossed the state and go outside of the state. Mike Huckabee went to Los Angeles yesterday to be on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Jay leno asked him about the ad that he was running or didn't run on Mitt Romney, that attack ad. Here's a little bit of that exchange. Take a listen.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'd really wanted to be disingenuous, what I would have done is run the ad for three days and say, oh I have a conscience now. I think I'm going to pull it.

JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: You did that very well, "Oh, I have a conscience now."


ROBERTS: So the fact that Huckabee picked up, went to Los Angeles, ripe for an attack by Mitt Romney.

DICKERSON: Sure. And this is the difference between the two campaigns. Mitt Romney is a very traditional campaign. He does everything on time, by the book. Huckabee is all of it. It's a freewheeling campaign, and this will be the great, big difference.

And so, Romney knocked him again for a second point, which is -- Romney has been talking about, you know, the presidency is a very serious matter and Huckabee is a likable jokester. And so, Romney is trying to say, you know, here you dashed off to this funny show at the last minute when you should have been here campaigning. ROBERTS: Yes. The caucuses are here in Iowa, not in Los Angeles. Huckabee had to cross the picket line to get to the show as well. If he were a Democratic candidate, that could really spell trouble but does it really make much difference for him?

DICKERSON: No, and arguably it might help him in Republican politics.

ROBERTS: What about Barack Obama? You spent the evening out in Coralville at a Barack Obama event. You came back. You and I talked about it. You said it was like he was doing a dance in the end zone.

DICKERSON: Well, you know, it's hard to tell from one event but boy, watching this one event he looked like a guy who's winning. He had the wind in his back. And not only did he think he was winning, but boy, the audience was full of beans. And there was this moment where he asked them how many of you will be caucusing for the first time, it felt like nearly the whole room raised their hands. This is important because Obama is premising his victory on the idea that he can turn out new voters who've never been a part of the process before.

ROBERTS: So he stands like a man with the wind at his back?

DICKERSON: Absolutely. And it seemed Hillary Clinton the night before she gave a very, very good speech, one of her best that I've seen her give, but it was nothing like this Obama moment where it just felt like he was going to be the winner today or at least he thought he was.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see what happens not too long from now. God, we've been waiting such a long time in Des Moines.

DICKERSON: Finally, and put us out of our misery.

ROBERTS: Pretty amazing. John, thanks very much. We'll see you again next hour. Now let's go back up to New York, and here's Kiran with more.

CHETRY: Well, we just heard from Governor Bill Richardson and we just saw him a second ago as well still eating his breakfast there at the diner. We have more candidates to come here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Senator Fred Thompson is up next. There's a live pic of Senator Fred Thompson. He's also out there at the diner with John this morning in Iowa, and we're going to be speaking with Senator Barack Obama. And in our next hour, we're going to talk with Congressman Ron Paul as well as Senator John Edwards.

Well, if you plan to caucus tonight you can be part of the best political team on television. Send us your I-Reports. Log on to You could see them in our primetime election coverage. It all begins at 8:00 Eastern tonight.

Well, the fight is in Iowa tonight for sure. There are new numbers this morning showing how the race is shaping up in the next big arena, and that's New Hampshire.

Five days to go until that primary and the Franklin Pierce/WBZ-TV Poll of likely Democratic voters showing Hillary Clinton with a four- point lead over Barack Obama in that state. It's basically a statistical dead heat. The margin of error is 4.9 percent. John Edwards is at 19 percent.

And on the Republican side, John McCain with a six-point lead over Mitt Romney in the granite state. Rudy Giuliani at 10 percent there, followed by Ron Paul and then Mike Huckabee. The New Hampshire primary, by the way, is next Tuesday.

They're launching a criminal investigation into the destruction of the interrogation tapes by the CIA. The justice department says that John Durham, who's a U.S. attorney from Connecticut, will be heading up that inquiry. He'll determine whether 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. The Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, called Durham a "widely respected and experienced career prosecutor."

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson is out with his annual predictions for this year. Not good. He says that God told him 2008 would be a year of violence and chaos in the world, predicting a recession as well and saying that oil will reach $150 a barrel. Robertson's predictions, though, are often wrong. Last year, the televangelist said that millions of Americans would be killed in a major terrorist attack -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, he came within 50 bucks of predicting oil prices. This is getting a lot of play in the campaign trail today. Oil prices up near a historic level this morning. Where are they headed today?

Our Ali Velshi at the business update desk tracking all of this, and he's got the oil barrel there with him. Where are we headed today, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're probably, you know, it's entirely a guess but I think we're probably headed up. Why? Because we've seen oil overnight get to higher points. It hit $100 yesterday at about noon, just for a moment and then pulled back. But for most people, that's just trading jargon because it's been around that amount of money all day and continues to be.

Right now, we're a little higher. But today at about 10:30, there's going to be an important report that shows how much oil inventory we have in the United States that's available to be made into other products like heating oil and gasoline. For the last several months, we've seen a decline in inventory of oil in the United States. If the numbers today are a decline and they're worse than what analysts expect, you'll probably see that pop because there's not much further to go to get back over $100.

But $100 was the top level that it reached yesterday and then came back immediately afterwards. We're looking at $99.70 right now. Take a look at where oil settled yesterday, $99.62, compared to where it settled on the first trading day of 2007, which is January 3rd. That's a 71 percent increase in the price of crude oil. Take it over to gasoline and see how that has changed.

Gas actually was higher back in May and as a result of that, you don't see the same increase but gasoline prices were $2.32 on January 2nd, $3.05 yesterday so that's a 73 cents increase, only about a 31 percent increase but still 31 percent, $3 a gallon across the country -- John.

ROBERTS: All right, Ali, thanks very much. We'll check back in with you a little bit later on -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, with hundreds of jobs on the line, a late night host made a much anticipated return to the air waves. Only Dave Letterman and Craig Ferguson, who was part of Dave Letterman's production company, had their writers. The rest needed to find a way to fill time on their own. Jay Leno took questions from the audience. Conan O'Brien twirled his wedding ring. He did more than that.

But a newly-bearded Letterman began his show with a rousing nod to the strikers. Our Lola Ogunnaike was in Dave's audience, and here's her lowdown on the laughs.


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

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was back on the air last night for David Letterman despite the ongoing writers' strike. Letterman hammered out an agreement with the writers union so his writers can work. So with writers in tow, Dave seemed crisp and ready for action. His beard was a running theme, as were the woes of striking writers, who delivered his top ten list. The top demands of striking writers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like a date with a woman!

LETTERMAN: Number four, writer and director Nora Ephron.

NORA EPHRON, WRITER AND DIRECTOR: Oh, hazard pay for breaking up fights on "The View."

OGUNNAIKE: Letterman was not alone in his return. All the other late nighters were also on -- Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel. Jay was without his writers, but it didn't seem to slow him a bit. He even got a few laughs out of it.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I shot some cell phone footage. This was not pretty, just to give you an idea of how the negotiations are doing. Take a look. As you can see, it didn't --

OGUNNAIKE: Conan, also without his writers, sported a beard to rival Letterman.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": I looked like the character of young Kris Kringle in "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." Check it out.

OGUNNAIKE: There were a few misses for those without writers, but not many. And Leno seemed to relish going back to his roots.

LENO: It's fun writing it yourself! You know what I'm doing? I'm doing what I did the day I started. I write jokes and I wake my wife up and then I go, "Honey, is this funny?"


CHETRY: There you go. So was Leno funny?

OGUNNAIKE: I think he actually was. You know, people were expecting him to really suffer because he didn't have his writers, but he held his own. He had some good jokes with Emeril Lagasse, some good jokes of Huckabee who was also on his show, and he had some good field pieces. So overall, he held his own.

CHETRY: And out of all of the five late night shows, was there a clear late night king on all that have been out of practice for two months as Letterman joked "I'm out of rehab."

OGUNNAIKE: Yes. They were all a bit rusty definitely. There is no clear winner just yet. Maybe we'll know by the end of the week or in a few weeks but for now, no clear frontrunner.

CHETRY: Does this have any impact on whether or not they're going to be able to hammer out a deal between the writers and the studios? I mean, what goes on the air and how people respond to it give either side a little bit of a leg up?

OGUNNAIKE: Well, I think that clearly the writers have the advantage now because they have all this momentum. You have five hosts that essentially dedicated their shows to your cause, so that was the best PR campaign that they could have ever imagined.

CHETRY: All right. Well, let's ask our audience as well, because we have our "Quick Vote" question today on this, Lola. In fact, the return of late night, does it help or hurt the writers? Meaning, does it help them? As Lola said, they're getting a lot of publicity about it. Does it hurt them if the shows seem to be able to go on OK at least for now?

Cast your vote Right now, 33 percent of you say it is helping their cause, and 67 percent of you say it is hurting their cause. Interesting, Lola.

OGUNNAIKE: It's interesting. They disagree with me. They're wrong, I'm right.

CHETRY: Well, we're going to continue. Hey, you can log on and vote if you want to as well, Lola. We'll continue to update the votes throughout the morning -- John.

ROBERTS: Kiran, thanks. It's cold here in Iowa. It's expected to be so, but Florida is under a freeze warning right now. Record low temperatures are expected in some areas, and citrus growers worried about their orange growers. Farmers say temperatures of 28 degrees or lower for four hours can ruin an orange tree.

Our Rob Marciano is off today. Reynolds Wolf at the weather update desk down in Atlanta. And how is it looking for Florida this morning?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's certainly going to be cold there. There's a chance of not only dealing with these freezing conditions, John, but we may have some snow flurries. It's hard to believe in the sunshine state, but it certainly could be in the mix today.

Take a look at what we have right now for you. Temperatures across the map in the great state of Florida, we've got currently 26 degrees in Jacksonville, 31 in Orlando, 29 in Tampa, 39 in Miami. You know, as we put this in motion and get a little bit closer, you can see that we have the windchill warning in effect and with that prevailing sea breeze coming in from both the east and from the west, we could see some scattered snow flurries. That's right along parts of the I-4 corridor, I-75 corridor, even into I-95, so it's certainly something so watch out for.

Meanwhile, in the big easy, we've got a freeze warning that is in effect. That is also going to be a chilly time for you in Austin, Texas, and 24 degrees. Currently, 21 in Wichita, 22 also up in Tulsa. The freeze warning in effect for south Texas is going to be certainly something you're going to be dealing with in Victoria this morning.

And in parts of the nation's heartland, from Mason City southward to Des Moines and in Cedar Rapids, a cold day for you for the Iowa caucus. Temperatures mainly into the 20s with windchill factors, John, it's going to feel like it's in the single digits for many locations so cold time for people going out there to make their voices heard. That's the latest in the forecast. Let's send it right back to you.

CHETRY: Well, thanks, Reynolds. Every second counts for a patient in cardiac arrest. There's a new study that says hospitals often don't deliver life-saving defibrillation within the recommended two minutes. In fact, one scary headline this morning said that you'd stand a better chance in a casino than a hospital.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live in Atlanta with this story. I know there are those defibrillator machines all around casinos. Is that the reason?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly is part of the reason here, but I think I want to explain this a little bit because that was sort of a scary headline. No question, Kiran. First of all, cardiac arrest basically means either your heart is beating too fast or it's beating in some sort of irregular rhythm. We also know that applying some sort of electricity to that can actually sort of jumpstart the heart out of that abnormal rhythm, and it's best if you apply that electricity within two to six minutes or before two minutes, I should say, is the most important time frame here.

What we also know is that in casinos, for example, public places, about half the people survive cardiac arrest. With hospitals, it's closer to about a third. Too many patients are taking too long to get that electricity, that defibrillation in hospitals as compared to these public places, Kiran.

CHETRY: So why would a doctor delay giving the defibrillator treatment in a hospital?

GUPTA: Well, obviously, it's not an intentional thing but if you sort of think about the setting overall, imagine a casino or an airport, lots of people around. If a cardiac arrest happens, someone falls to the ground it's going to be noticed immediately by lots of people, add to that, that you have lots of defibrillators around. So someone sees something happen, they might immediately be able to actually provide treatment.

In hospitals, interestingly enough, but if you think about it, a patient may be alone in their hospital room, in their hospital bed and unless they are in some sort of cardiac monitoring, where their heart rhythm is being monitored and viewed somewhere else, somebody may not know the person just had a cardiac arrest until someone actually goes there and notices that patient. That's probably the number one reason.

The number two reason I think is also important to note is that people in hospitals are sicker. I mean, these people are in the hospital because they have a more significant health problem. It could be a more significant health problem. They may be sort of sicker in the first place as well, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. That's something to take into consideration as well. Well, defibrillators aren't obviously available all the time. How about CPR and some changes right now in guidelines for CPR?

GUPTA: Yes, I encourage everyone to read about this. You can go to the "American Heart Association" if you're someone who wants to be well versed in CPR. There have been some changes, some significant ones. The biggest one in a nutshell, Kiran, is that typically you think about doing 30 chest compressions and then doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

What the guideline suggested in some cases, it may be appropriate to just do the chest compressions. People may not be doing the mouth- to-mouth effectively and may not make a big difference. Instead of doing nothing at all, doing the chest compressions could make a huge difference and that's sort of the biggest change. It doesn't apply at all situations, and it does make a difference how far out or how long the person has actually been in cardiac arrest so read about it, but that's one of the big changes.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay Gupta, great to see you as always. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Kiran, he was the big buzz of the summer when it was rumored that he was getting into the presidential race. How he's doing now? Fred Thompson joins us live, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Fred Thompson got into the game late and with the anticipation that he would be the next Ronald Reagan, an actor-turned- Conservative politician. The former Tennessee senator is running third in our latest poll. He joins me now this morning.

Senator, first thing I've got to ask about --


ROBERTS: Yes. You like that? Here he is on stage. Got to ask you about this report that's out today. If you don't finish better than third, you may drop out of the race before New Hampshire and throw your support behind McCain.

THOMPSON: Any speculation as to what I may or may not do it's just totally that. I mean, it's obviously some other campaigns thought it to their advantage to put that up. I've never said that. I've never implied that in public or in private, and we should take that for what it's worth.

ROBERTS: You did tell us, though, last week when you joined us that you would like to finish better than third but you never attached to any notion about that.

THOMPSON: No. No, of course not. I mean, nobody's talking about, you know, any kind of scenario, past tonight. I mean, you look and see and the whole world changes. You know, some people have the wind at their back and some don't, and you have to analyze the results and go from there.

But I'm not playing into any pessimistic scenario. I think we have a great opportunity, and there's going to be better than a lot of the so-called experts think. As I look back in 1980, in '88, to 2004, they were all wrong and some pretty important outcomes and you know, we've been getting big crowds.

ROBERTS: You've done what, 50 cities?

THOMPSON: That's right. Zogby (ph) says we are seeing a little surge and a little way to make up but we're getting there, doing retail politics like we used to do in Tennessee and feeling good about it.

ROBERTS: Senator, I know how much you want to talk about the horse race but we'd like to talk about some issues here this morning.

THOMPSON: All right.

ROBERTS: $100 a barrel oil yesterday. It looks like it could be heading up there again today. As president, what would you do to bring down the price of oil? Can it be brought down?

THOMPSON: Well, that's, that second question I guess is the best one, John, because it's a global market. There's nothing that we can do in the short run, unilaterally, that's going to bring it down like that. We're too dependent on foreign oil. It's always 60 percent of our oil is foreign.

We're not going to become energy-independent in the near future, but we can be more diversified. And that's the thing, we've got to move forward. We're getting too much oil from too many hot spots in the country. We can do better using the oil reserves we've got, nuclear, clean coal, alternatives, renewables and more research, and to the solution to the future. So we've got to start doing a lot of things a lot better.

ROBERTS: One of the big stories that's out there today, the Department of Justice is initiating an investigation into the destruction of these CIA tapes. You were on the intelligence committee when you were in the Senate. Do you suspect that there could be obstruction of justice here in the destruction of those tapes?

THOMPSON: I think we have to keep in mind that this is not an investigation into the tactics that were used on these terrorists. This is an investigation as to the tapes of the tactics and so forth. So we're getting a little bit removed from the crux of the matter.

Now, if they lied or obstructed justice, they need to be investigated and prosecuted, but I don't know Washington is sometimes and when something like this happens, it becomes politically unpopular then they solve their political problems by going to court and prosecuting people. One or two people are selected out for special treatment in terms of being prosecuted. I don't like that. But if you got a responsible person in there that will do the right thing and not try to please the politicians too much, but just do the right thing under the law, then I think it's probably the right direction to go in.

ROBERTS: I just want to close this morning, Senator, by asking you about something you said in the campaign trail the other day. You said that you're not consumed with politics, and here's the pertinent quote "I'm not sure in the world we live in today it's a terrible good thing that a president has too much fire in his belly." Should voters be wary of anybody who looks like they want the job too much, and is there anyone currently in the race who might fit that description?

THOMPSON: I don't think it's a good thing if you want the job too much, if you have too much personal ambition. I think one thing, if you're trying too hard, it makes you want to change your positions to fit the circumstances, and then you lose all morals and the person can't tell what you really believe and sometimes you might have a hard time really remembering what you really believe.

I've tried to avoid all that. I feel like I could be a good president. I feel like I know what the leadership of the next several years is going to require in our country and the kind of world we live in. But I'm not personally consumed with the notion of achieving the office or listening to "Hail to the Chief" all that much. So it's, I guess it's an odd way for me to approach it, but that's the way I feel about it.

ROBERTS: Everybody's got their own way. Senator, thanks very much for joining this morning.

THOMPSON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

ROBERTS: Good luck to you today. We'll follow where you go from here.

THOMPSON: Thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. John, thanks.

Well, you want incentives to keep those healthy New Year's resolutions? How about cold hard cash from your employer? We'll tell you what companies like IBM are willing to do for you.

Also, the truth about diet pills, the risk and the rewards.

Plus one of's most popular stories right now, three foods that you think would add pounds but could actually help you stay slim. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has some answers for you ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: How's this for Workmen's Compensation? Employees getting cash rewards for companies like IBM for their healthy habits. IBM employees received up to $300 a year for completing healthy eating, exercise and preventative care program. The company launched its wellness incentive program four years ago, and this year they plan to give workers money if their kids start eating right. So many IBM employees have lost weight, stopped smoking and otherwise improved their health. But the company says it's paid out $130 million but says it's saving three times as much.

And if losing weight is your New Year's resolution, can taking a pill help? We're paging Dr. Gupta to weigh in and we also have the morning's top stories.

Plus, we're going to speaking with Senator Barack Obama when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: Beautiful sunrise this morning as we take a look bright and early on this Thursday, January 3rd. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York. Boy, it looks a lot warmer than it really is. Really all across the country today, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN, ANCHOR: Oh, yeah. You know, it is so, so cold. Unbelievable. Though people here in Iowa are used to it being cold. We're not used to it being cold down there in Florida. It could cause problems for the citrus crops. So, we'll be watching that for you as well. Good morning from the Waveland Diner here in Des Moines. I'm John Roberts following all things political this morning. Kiran.

CHETRY: That's right. We've seen the candidates coming through sitting down with you this morning. And we're going to be talking to Senator Barack Obama actually in just a couple of minutes. But first let's get you caught up on some of the other stories new this morning.

There is new video emerging of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, amateur video, in the moments before her assassination. It shows a close-up of Bhutto standing in her car, through that sunroof, waving to the crowd after her rally. It then shows a bright yellow flash, seemingly an explosion. It does not show the gunman seen in previous video. Pakistan's President, meantime, Pervez Musharraf has asked for help in the investigation. A team from Scotland Yard is expected to arrive in Pakistan next week. Musharraf will hold a news conference this morning with some 200 international journalists.

The price of oil back up near $100 a barrel this morning. It crossed $100 before settling back. Oil closed in New York trading at $99 and change and we're waiting for a government report this morning if it shows a bigger than expected drop in supply, oil prices may go back over $100 a barrel again.

The San Francisco Zoo getting set to reopen today after the deadly tiger attack on Christmas day and there's a new witness now that has come forward telling the "San Francisco Chronicle" that the tiger may have been taunted before she escaped. She says she was there with her family and saw the victims of the attack teasing the animals, screaming, growling at the big cats and saying the cats seemed like they were upset by it. She called their behavior disturbing and said it actually caused her family to leave the scene. Two of the men she allegedly saw were injured in that attack. Their attorney, Mark Geragos is denying his clients provoked the tiger. The witness says the teenager killed in the attack was the one person she saw not taunting the animals. John.

ROBERTS: It is caucus day here in Iowa. They will begin gathering tonight, 7:00 p.m. local time, 8:00 eastern. Polls are still close to call at the top of each party. The candidates have been making the most of every last second. Two of them have already dropped by to talk with us this morning, Governor Bill Richardson and Fred Thompson. Barack Obama will be joining us in the next couple of minutes. Governor Richardson told us his name is not at the top of the polls but he says front-runners are following his lead on Iraq.


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am the one that's the most consistent that has said within a year, but with a diplomatic plan and we can safely and an orderly way do it within a year but get the three groups in Iraq for a political compromise. A U.N. peacekeeping force, a donor conference, so that you know, we're not spending $570 billion in this war, money that should go at home. This is the fundamental issue here in Iowa and so all 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.


ROBERTS: On the republican side, Senator Fred Thompson is running third in our latest poll. Just moments ago I asked him what he will do if he does not finish at or near the top tonight.


FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I look back in 1980 and '88 to 2004, they were all the end of some pretty important outcomes and you know, we've been getting good crowds.

ROBERTS: You've done what? 50 cities?

THOMPSON: Right. We're expanding a surge and little way to make up but we're getting there doing retail politics like we used to do in Tennessee and feeling very good about it.


ROBERTS: Senator Thompson also completely shot down these reports today if he does not finish better than third he will likely drop out of the race and throw his support behind John McCain. We've still got a lot ahead from the Waveland Diner. We're going to be talking with Ron Paul and John Edwards and Kiran is also going to be speaking with Barack Obama as well.

CHETRY: That's right, from Davenport, a little bit over to Des Moines now. He's been firing up thousands of supporters before tonight's caucus. Every one of them will count with a virtual three- way tie at the top of the democratic race. Senator Barack Obama joins us now from west Des Moines. Senator, welcome to the show. Glad to have you with us this morning.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Kiran, great to talk to you.

CHETRY: The sum of the latest polling in Iowa has you on top going into these final hours. As we know it all comes down to who turns out to vote. In fact, "The Washington Post" asked today, is Obama another Howard Dean or can he actually bring the support and the excitement out to the caucuses? Are you expecting to win tonight?

OBAMA: You know, I'm expecting to do well. We've seen these enormous crowds as we travel across the state in this last week, and the weather's been brutal, so for these folks to be coming out just to hear a candidate at the last minute, it's doubtful that they're not going to go to caucus, and we've got a great ground game, but most importantly, I think the American people are just hungry and ready for change. We've been seeing it throughout this campaign, they want republicans, democrats, independents to come together to solve problems, and I believe that they're seeing in how I have conducted myself and what's taking place in our campaign, the possibility of breaking some of the gridlock and actually doing something about health care, actually doing something about energy policy, and bringing this war in Iraq to a close. So we feel good about our prospects tonight.

CHETRY: I even see behind you the poster that says "stand for change" and that is what you've been running on. You've also been saying that people will see a new kind of politics. If you are elected president, senator, what would be the first thing that you would change?

OBAMA: Well the first thing I would change would be the habit of automatically pushing away the other party. I would bring folks together. I would bring my Joint Chiefs of Staff in to a meeting to give them a new mission, and that is how would we phase down our involvement in Iraq, in a way that's responsible, and careful, but sends a message to the Iraqis that it's time for them to start taking responsibility on the ground for a political accommodation. And I would also then immediately convene a bipartisan group to start moving my health care agenda forward. I want every single American to have health care, at least as good as the health care I have as a member of Congress. They pay my taxes or they pay my salary with their taxes. I think they deserve to be able to access health care that's affordable, and so that that we can control costs and not break the budget.

CHETRY: Let's talk about that for a minute. You've been taking some heat from the other two top rivals, Senator Hillary Clinton as well as John Edwards. You know, similar health care plans, theirs requires a mandate that everybody get, that all U.S. citizens get health care insurance, yours does not and they say that leaves 50 million uninsured. How would your plan tackle the problem of making sure that everybody who wants and needs health care has it?

OBAMA: Well, we do have a philosophical difference. I believe that the reason people don't have health care is not because they don't want it. It's because they can't afford it. So what we do is we emphasize reducing the costs. If you don't have health care, you'll be able to buy health care, with my plan, no preexisting conditions will exclude you from participating, and if you already have health care, we're going to reduce costs an average of $2,500 per family on premiums. We think that people will desperately go after an affordable health care plan, and we also say that for young people, that group between 21 and 25, that may not buy health care, even though they can afford it, that they can stay on their parents' health care plan.

If we do those things, we don't anticipate that they're going to be millions of people who are trying to avoid getting health care. We think people want it. They just can't afford it right now.

CHETRY: The question is how do you pay for it, by raising taxes?

OBAMA: Well, what we would do is very conservatively, we estimate that we can get about $100 to $150 billion in savings every single year by emphasizing prevention, making sure that a person who is overweight is getting a dietitian as opposed to waiting until they have diabetes and require much more expensive treatments, making sure that children are getting regular checkups instead of going to the emergency room for asthma. So a big chunk of the spending for including people who don't have health insurance is going to be from making the system more efficient. We would then roll back the Bush tax cuts on the top 1% so they'd go back to the rate they were in the '90s. We think that's fair, and we actually think that over time, it will make for a healthier economy, better economic growth, and a better quality of life for the American people.

CHETRY: You announced yesterday that former Governor Jim Hodges will be joining your campaign as a national chair. He runs a consulting group which offers "highly effective lobbying services." You've talked and rallied against lobbyists saying they would not work in your White House. How do you reconcile that?

OBAMA: Well you know, Jim Hodges is the former governor of South Carolina. After we finish Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada, we go down to South Carolina. Jim Hodges has not done lobbying related to anything that we're doing, but what he can do is provide us advice in terms of how to reach out in those southern states that are going to be so critical for this election. And I'm honored to have his support. He's a great public servant, greatly admired by the people of South Carolina and it's indicative of the kind of coalition that we're putting together, people of every demographic group, people of every walk of life, who recognize the need for big change in this country right now, that's what we think we can deliver.

CHETRY: Do you take a credibility hit, though, having federal lobbyists working for you on your campaign?

OBAMA: Keep in mind that I don't take pack money. I don't take federal lobbyist money. I'm the only candidate in this race who actually passed laws to reduce the power of lobbyists and so what we have said consistently is that lobbyists and special interests have not funded my campaigns. They won't run my White House, and they won't set the agenda in Washington. And I'm grateful that we've got the support of people like Jim Hodges, who I really think know what the American people are looking for. They want practical problem solving and that's what we're going to try to offer.

CHETRY: Senator Barack Obama, great talking to you this morning. Hang in there. A few more hours to go. I can hear it in your voice, it's been a long haul but good luck tonight. Thanks a lot.

OBAMA: Thank you, Kiran.

ROBERTS: All morning long, we're going to be talking to the candidates here live on AMERICAN MORNING. In the next hour we're going to be speaking with Congressman Ron Paul, as well as Senator John Edwards as well. CHETRY: Well, if losing weight is one of your new year's resolutions, stick around, we're paging Dr. Gupta to find out if the pills, some of the newest generation diet pills really work and also how you can possibly eat steak, ice cream, even hamburgers and still trim down, that's next on AMERICAN MORING.


CHETRY: Well, if one of your New Year's resolution is to lose weight you've come to the right place. Can you find something, a diet pill or how about an ice cream or some of the other foods that we consider off limits normally. We're paging Dr. Gupta about those questions this morning, CNN's chief medical correspondent and a "Time Magazine" columnist. Good morning, Sanjay, great to see you again. You wrote about these in a recent article for "Time" magazine in a column there about the diet pills. They have some new ones that seem to be out there. What did you find?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: People are obviously fascinated with their diet pills. But we're not talking about your mother's phen-phen. People remember that and that particular diet pill and the gazillion lawsuits that came out of that as well. But there are a couple of diet pills, three diet pills, around the world, two that are FDA approved now. We really want to take a look and see just how effective some of these pills are. Two of the ones that we hear most about in you United States, are pills called Meridia and Meridia and Alli. Now, they're both actually seemed pretty good in the short term in terms of weight loss, about 5% to 10% weight loss over a year if you take the pills regularly and you keep a sensible diet.

Longer term studies were a little bit harder to find. They both had pretty significant side effects, too. I think this is important to mention. Meridia in particular, high blood pressure, constipation. With Alli , some of the side effects are frankly just sort of unappetizing for morning television related to your GI system. There was another diet pill known as Ramonabant, which is not actually available in the United States but was approved in Europe. This is an interesting pill, Kiran. I wrote a lot about this. This actually blocks what is known as the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The same receptors that are activated when someone smokes marijuana for example and they get the munchies. The idea was if you block those receptors, you stop the munchies, could people lose weight? The answer came back, yes, you do lose weight by blocking those cannabinoid receptors but there were lots of side effects including depression, including anxiety. The FDA ultimately nixed it because of the concern about suicidal thoughts. But that's what's sort of happening in the diet pill world, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. So, you know, you told us a little bit about that. How about this one, it was very popular, it was on yesterday. One of the most e-mailed stories about bad foods that are really OK to eat, as long as you do it the right way. Let's start with steak, actually. Steak is one of the ones that it's OK to eat.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, you're not going to be surprised when a lot of nutritionists, or doctors, or people who are experts in the field say look, it has to do with moderation and has to do with the types of foods. Steak and eggs for that matter often get a bad wrap because of he fat content, because of the ability to raise cholesterol, but they can be excellent sources of protein. And if you eat it in moderation, you eat the particularly lean steak, it can actually be a very good source of protein and can actually put you on a weight loss plan if you do it right.

CHETRY: How about eggs?

GUPTA: Eggs, the same thing. Eggs are personally speaking, eggs are one of my favorite foods but they've gotten a bad rap for years because of the concerns about cholesterol, understandably so. But if it's part of a sensible diet, eggs can be a good source of protein and if you watch your cholesterol levels and the other parts of your diet, it shouldn't be a problem.

CHETRY: All right. Same setting with ice cream, in moderation. Can't sit there with the whole container of Haagen-Dazs, you can have a little.

GUPTA: Yes. And there was a great study looking about the relationship between dairy, whole fat dairy and weight loss. What they found, they're not exactly sure why, but what they found was that people who actually had one serving of whole fat dairy, and it could be ice cream, could be just whole milk, it could be cheese, actually had a better chance of having weight loss over the long-term than people who avoided those foods all together. Unsure why that is. It could be that it's part of a better diet overall. It could be some sort of factor within the whole fat dairy that's causing weight loss but there seems to be a relationship there. People obviously seized onto this ice cream, Kiran, but any dairy seems to work.

CHETRY: All right. We'll take it. Sanjay, thanks so much. Great to see you.

GUPTA: All right, thank you.

ROBERTS: Kiran, things are heating up at the Waveland Diner here in Des Moines but a cold snap could spell big trouble for citrus growers in Florida and just about anyone who loves their fruits and vegetables. We have a live report from the orange groves of Florida. That's coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: It's nine minutes now to the top of the hour. A published report says a witness saw victims of a tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo teasing animals beforehand. She tells the "San Francisco Chronicle" she saw four young men screaming and growling at the big cats trying to get their attention. The woman called their behavior "disturbing" and said it was the reason her family left the area. Two of the men she allegedly saw were injured by the Siberian tiger. Their attorney, Mark Geragos, though, denies that his clients did anything provocative. The witness says the teenager killed in the attack was the one person in the group she did not see taunting the animals. The zoo reopens later on today.

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

As the reigning champion of round trips 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, that translates to more than 40 million passengers. Chicago's O'Hare Airport was a close second and Dallas-Ft. Worth came in a distant third.

Now to the bone-chilling cold gripping much of the southeast right now. The sunshine state of Florida is under a freeze warning from the panhandle all the way south to Miami with temperatures expected to dip into the high teens and 20s. That is a major concern for the citrus growers. Jeff Lennox of our affiliate WESH is live for us from the orange grove in Winter Garden, Florida. Jeff, how cold is it there this morning?

JEFF LENNOX, WESH, CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, not as cold as we originally thought it was going to be here in central Florida. The temperatures right now where we are located in winter garden sitting at about 30 degrees. You would think that would be bad news for the citrus growers here in central Florida but it's actually not the case. The danger mark for them is 28 degrees. When that temperature hits 28 degrees, if it stays that way for four hours or more, that's when these citrus growers in central Florida really start to worry. You can take a look right here. All morning, these growers had been walking up and down these roads, checking on the oranges. As you can see right here, we pulled this a couple of minutes ago, you can take a look. the juice still free-flowing this morning. This is what they want to continue to see. The leaves as well on these trees, doing very well, no frost covering the trees here this morning. I can tell you right now. We actually have a lot of farmers, citrus growers out here pulling a lot of oranges from these trees yesterday at this citrus grove in Winter Garden, they got about 2,000 boxes from this grove, just to put that in perspective for you. These trees hold about five boxes each so, so far so good. Not as bad as what everyone originally thought things would be here in central Florida. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Yes. OK. Jeff, thanks very much. Any idea how long the cold is supposed to last? Will it clear out by the weekend?

LENNOX: It is expected to clear up. We do expect temperatures to be somewhere in the mid-70s by the time the weekend rolls around. So that's great news for these growers out here.

ROBERTS: Great. Let's hope that they dodged the bullet. Jeff Lennox this morning from WESH-TV. Jeff, thanks very much. Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks. 54 minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi is here "Minding your Business" with some news from the Auto World, Ford.

ALI VELSHI, CNN, BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ford, which we've known for a long time has tried to, in order to focus on its business, get rid of some of those brands that they acquired. So, For has been trying to sell Jaguar and Land Rover. And the word in this morning is that they are in advanced negotiations with Tata of India. Tata, you may not be familiar with but if you travel around in developing countries, you'll notice a lot of cars and trucks made by Tata. It's a major, major manufacturer and it's sort of a sign of the shift of industry to the east these days that two major brands like this, Ford and Jaguar could be bought by an Indian auto maker.

At this point, Tata has confirmed that they are in advanced negotiations and it seems to be that Ford is about to confirm that as well. So, it could be that Jaguar and Ford, two storied brands, both British brands, originally owned by Ford for the last several years could be now owned by an Indian company. Those negotiations are still ongoing. Obviously, with Ford the idea is to sell some of these brands and get the money for it to help it out of its trouble that it's been in, in the last few years. All of the major U.S. auto makers have been on this sort of redesigning the platform, making the cars more attractive and getting rid of things that they consider not core to their business.

CHETRY: Streamlining, still their bread and butter are still the trucks.

VELSHI: Ford, Ford is still the leader in the "F" series trucks. They are for many years now, decades, the best selling vehicle bar none in the United States.

CHETRY: Ali Velshi, thanks. John.



ROBERTS: He has raised millions of dollars online, Kiran, but that hasn't yet translated into broad appeal. We're talking live with Republican Ron Paul about why his grassroots support isn't paying off in the polls. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



CHETRY: Crunch time. Caucus day has dawned in Iowa. We're sitting down to breakfast with five potential president. Just ahead, John Edwards and Ron Paul.

And showtime.

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW," HOST: Welcome to the "Tonight Show." Ladies and gentlemen, General Lee!

CHETRY: The laughs return to late night but not all the writers did.

CONAN O'BRIEN, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN," HOST: American's are forced to read books and occasionally even speak to one another.

CHETRY: Our correspondent was inside.