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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

New Hampshire Voting Winds Down; Analysis of Candidates' Chances

Aired January 8, 2008 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight most polling places have just closed in the nation's first primary election; New Hampshire voters turning out in huge numbers today for a primary that could shape the entire presidential election campaign. We'll have complete coverage for you. We'll be with the candidates. We'll have the very best of political analysis here, all of that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, January 8. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening everybody.

Voters turning out in higher than expected numbers for today's primary election in New Hampshire; some towns reporting shortages of ballot papers, the primary could be a turning point in the Democratic race. Senator Barack Obama is hoping for a decisive win over Senator Hillary Clinton. This primary could also shake up the Republican contest, but not to the same degree.

Senator John McCain seeking a victory in New Hampshire that has been elusive and which could re-energize his campaign. We have extensive coverage of that primary election, the candidates and the issues and the very latest exit polls. The last polling places closed within the hour. As you can see, live from New Hampshire now, voters tonight are still arriving at polling places and arriving in large numbers. We begin our coverage tonight with Suzanne Malveaux in Nashua, New Hampshire with the Obama campaign. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we have really seen massive crowds, a lot of enthusiasm coming from the voters supporting Barack Obama. Really, there is an inspiration factor, you can't measure it right now, but certainly you can see it in some of those numbers. The turnout numbers, though, Independent as well as first-time voters, that could definitely work in Barack Obama's favor. And that is something that they are counting on.

This is a race over the last 48 hours that has gotten somewhat a bit testy, perhaps even nasty you could say. There's been attacks from both sides. Senator Hillary Clinton really going after Barack Obama when it comes to his record, to his experience, Barack Obama essentially fighting back saying that he has the kind of experience but more so the kind of change that voters are looking for. Take a listen from earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand they're frustrated right now. I suspect that they'll try to get back on track in terms of the strategy, but (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So Barack Obama today spent the day at an early- morning rally at Dartmouth College, obviously trying to get those Independents and young voters who came out in record numbers in Iowa, to repeat that here in New Hampshire. We are told by close friends, as well as his aides, that he has worked out this evening.

He's taking a nap, trying to rest up his voice to come here to greet the crowds. It will be himself as well as Michelle and his sister who is in town that will all come here. Not that his little girls, they're back in school, but we're told that he is very optimistic about what is going to take place this evening. And he is keeping his hopes up high. Lou?

DOBBS: Suzanne, is it possible that Senator Obama has now in -- something of a difficulty with the expectations, now given all of the press coverage and, if you will, the sort of national media swoon over him, is it possible that he could disappoint here if he doesn't significantly beat Senator Clinton?

MALVEAUX: Well, that's very possible. We'll have to take a look at the numbers and actually see what the Clinton folks are hoping is that they don't get a trouncing. That at least he doesn't beat them by two digits, which would be a real disappointment, at least that's how the Clinton campaign would define failure here. They believe that she could be the comeback kid once again, if it's in the single digits, but Obama, of course that is the risk when you raise those expectations that you could disappoint. So far they think they're in a strong position here to move to South Carolina and Nevada -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you, Suzanne Malveaux with the Obama campaign.

Senator Clinton today spent her time trying to mobilize her supporters, of course, and to win over Independent voters in New Hampshire. But some Clinton supporters trying to play down any expectations for the vote tonight. President Clinton himself acknowledging that it's difficult to counter Senator Obama's bounce in the polls after his Iowa victory. Candy Crowley reports now from the Clinton campaign headquarters in Manchester. Candy, the mood there at the Clinton camp tonight?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a word, they don't expect to win tonight, Lou. It's going to all be about the margin of loss. What you're going to see here is the Clinton campaign looking at how big a quote, "bounce" Barack Obama is going to get out of here, and how big a bounce he got out of Iowa. Again, as Suzanne said if it's 7 percent or under, look for the Clinton campaign to say, he didn't get that much bounce. I will tell you that they are ready for this fight. As one campaign source said to me, Barack Obama is a totally untested candidate and he's about to get into a real fight. Having said that, they are looking at a number of things, including some additions to the staff, including some reworking of the map as to where they're going to go next.

Where, frankly, they can find a win. As for the donors, a lot of them at this point getting just a little hinky (ph) about what's going on here. I talked to the Clinton campaign about that, and they said, listen, donors get upset if the sun doesn't rise exactly on time. We sort of expect this kind of thing. They do have it in Terry McAuliffe a person who is very good working with the donors, so they say they expect to hold on to those nervous fund-raisers. Nonetheless, there are a lot of things for this campaign to think about in the coming days. Lou -- sorry.

DOBBS: Thank you, Candy, appreciate it. Candy Crowley from Manchester with the Clinton campaign.

In the Republican race Senator John McCain today appearing very confident of victory in New Hampshire. The latest opinion poll show Senator McCain may defeat his principle rival in New Hampshire Mitt Romney. But the outcome of this election remains far from certain. Dana Bash has our report from Nashua, New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Off the bus, one last time. He likes it here. And apparently New Hampshire likes him.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)

BASH: A win would reassert John McCain as a GOP force. Win or lose, he claims a special granite state bond.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And they may not agree with me on every issue, but they know they can trust me to do the right thing.

BASH: Just that he has that chance is remarkable, last year what he calls doing the right thing sent his poll numbers plummeting.

MCCAIN: This is a first step, but important step in moving forward with comprehensive overall immigration reform.

BASH: Reviled by the GOP base for pushing an immigration bill, giving undocumented workers a path to citizenship. Chastised for demanding more troops in Iraq when the mood of the country was, bring them home.

MCCAIN: The troop surge be significant and sustained.

BASH: By summer, out of money, campaign staff turmoil, freefall. He renamed his bus "no surrender", kept campaigning and taking tough questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't believe in amnesty and how do you feel about that.

BASH: On immigration, a shift in emphasis.

MCCAIN: My lesson is, secure the borders first.

BASH: On Iraq, the surge is showing success. And I told you so, the experience in judgment pitch.

MCCAIN: I'm the only one running for president. It's said the Rumsfeld strategy would fail. We have to adopt this Petraeus strategy.

BASH: Now amid the crushing crowds, brief reflection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A very dark place just this summer and now you have all of this around you.

MCCAIN: Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth.

BASH: Truth is he needs a win here to carry on. But it's been quite a ride.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, one thing that people might not know about John McCain is that he's a very superstitious man. This ballroom is the exact place where he had his victory party when he won here in New Hampshire in 2000. Right now he's upstairs in a hotel room, the very same hotel room, Lou that he stayed in when he had that win. Today he wore the same sweater he wore eight years ago on that day, so he's trying very hard not to jinx this because everybody here knows you talk to every adviser here, they know that everything's riding on what happens tonight. I talked to one adviser in particular who said look if we win tonight we could go on to the nomination. If we don't, all bets are off -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well everything is on the table tonight so we'll see which and what number comes up here, whether for or against the senator. But it's looking very favorable for the senator, at least in the pre-election polls. Any suggestion that that is turning here in the final day of this election?

BASH: No, not at all. In fact, it's interesting, John McCain's campaign is so under-funded, they can't afford to do their own internal polling, so one of the things they've been telling us, a lot of the advisers today is, they've been looking at the public polls and they have been noting, of course that in the last nine polls or so over the past week, he has been up, at least (INAUDIBLE) up in eight of those nine polls, so that is one of the things that is giving them the optimism.

Another, of course, is just the fact that John McCain has such a connection with the people of New Hampshire. And he has really been here, even when he was very down in the polls, he basically camped out here and did what he did in 2000 when he was an unknown. He was a front-runner early in the race. He did poorly and then he essentially tried to build himself back up and that's why he is where he is today, Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much, Dana Bash.

Mitt Romney today appeared undeterred by the Senator McCain surge. Romney predicting Independent and Republican voters will support him in this election and he would win today's primary. The vote is a critical test, of course, for Governor Romney, who launched his presidential campaign confident of victory in both New Hampshire and Iowa.

Romney lost in Iowa, of course, last week, making the outcome of the New Hampshire contest even more critical to his campaign. We'll have much more on the New Hampshire primary election, the best political analysts and strategists in the nation join us.

We'll also have the latest exit poll results for you and President Bush refusing to acknowledge the severity of the crisis facing this nation's middle class. Christine Romans will have the report for us -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the word on the campaign trail is change and the president remains characteristically upbeat about this economy, even as many fear the economy is veering toward recession -- Lou.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you, looking forward to that report and startling new evidence of the huge cost of our illegal immigration crisis. We'll have that special report and President Bill Clinton blasting all of his wife's political rivals. Now he's criticizing me as well. And I'm not even a presidential candidate, as you probably noticed. We'll have that story and a lot more, and I'll have a few words of perhaps explanations and illumination for the former president.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The final polls are about to close in New Hampshire, the first official results about to come out. And we're told it may be a record turnout in New Hampshire. Exit polls are already showing the economy is the top issue for voters of both parties in this primary election. McCain supporters are gathering, as you see here, outside the Nashua headquarters and joining me here in our studio is two of the very best strategists and political analysts in the country, Donna Brazile, CNN contributor, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. Good to have you with us, Donna, and Bill Bennett, CNN contributor, radio host of "Morning in America". Good to have you with us, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Let's start with Obama and Clinton. Has Senator Obama allowed expectations to get out of control? Is he facing perhaps sort of an inverse impact as a result of what may be a victory?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's had five days of extraordinary media, great crowds. But throughout this entire time, Obama has stated that he wanted to bring people together. He's been downplaying expectations. Remember, this is not a state that was a firewall for Barack Obama. He's been trailing in the polls since day one here in New Hampshire. So turnout tonight, if it exceeds expectations, Obama will win, and win big.

DOBBS: All right. And turning to the Republican contest, Bill, Senator McCain looks like he's going to win, at least on the polls leading up to Election Day. Is this a make-or-break for him?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, he's got to win somewhere. But if he wins here, it doesn't settle it. There's still a lot of unhappiness with John McCain among the base, particularly on immigration and campaign finance reform. But he's got to win somewhere. I think Barack Obama if he wins, he wins, even if it isn't double digit.

DOBBS: Right.

BENNETT: This is a big win and now he goes into his strength, South Carolina, and maybe even Nevada, I heard the culinary union was going to endorse him, which is a huge thing.

DOBBS: Right, Nevada caucuses coming up.

BENNETT: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: But I think the Republican thing, though, is going to go on for a while. This is going to go at least until February 5th.

DOBBS: And let's look at this -- "NBC" today -- NBC reporter quoted as saying it's very difficult not to get carried away. We've heard a number of reporters in national news organizations talking about, it's almost as one of our analysts put it, almost as though there's a Stockholm syndrome at work here. Is there something really unique at work here, or is this a national media that is giving, as Bill Clinton said, a past to a presidential candidate?

BRAZILE: Well absolutely not. Look, this is a tidal wave. Obama has inspired young people to come out. He's inspiring new people to turn out in record numbers. I was just spending some time talking to Reverend Jackson in the green room who, once again, back in 1980, inspired a new generation to take their seats at the table. This is a new day in American politics. Obama, as well as Huckabee on the Republican side, they're talking about national reconciliation, so this is a tidal wave that will not be stopped after tonight.

DOBBS: All right, OK, a tidal wave, reconciliation. Is there something -- I'm going to say, as I ask the question, I for one...

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: ... see the reconciliation.

BENNETT: You don't get it.

DOBBS: I don't see the partisanship in any way dissipating.

BENNETT: Well, it won't after a little time passes, because when we look at Barack Obama's positions, we'll see that he's got positions that are to the left of Hillary Clinton's. We'll have that discussion, debate later on. But look, I think what the Clintons missed here is the poetry and romance and that's part of the American story.

You know we're -- this country is infused with romance. It's you know the whole story of America and it happens. This is "Morning in America". You know this is Ronald Reagan. This is -- this happens every four, eight, 12, 16 years. We believe in this stuff and it gives us a lift. It's very much part of the American story, but...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It's what Mike Huckabee said, it's not left versus right, it is right versus wrong. And what Obama represents is, you know, the disaffected people, the people who feel like they have no voice in the process, and he talks about them. He doesn't talk about himself. That's what the American people are hungry for.

BENNETT: Inspiration comes first. The persuasion and the argument will come later. But first you have to have lift. People have to fall in love with a candidate. They have to fall in love with the candidate.

DOBBS: We're going to be talking through the evening. But at this point you expect Obama to make a big showing in New Hampshire?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. Look, record turnout proves that Allah (ph) was no fluke.

DOBBS: And you expect McCain to prevail in the Republican side?

BENNETT: I think he will. I think it will be pretty close. I think Romney lives to fight another day. Again, long time, stay tuned on the Republican thing...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: But don't count Hillary Clinton out of this too early.

BENNETT: Count Hillary Clinton out of this...

BRAZILE: I disagree. You don't know Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: She's in it.

DOBBS: I'm going to take your views, as I'm sure our audience will, but I'm not going to count anybody out of anything.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Bill Bennett, thank you very much. Donna Brazile, thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Now for our poll question tonight. Are you tired of the national media reporting on the presidential race in terms of charisma, change, dynasty, momentum and of all things likeability instead of the candidates' positions on the issues? We would love to hear from you on this. And I'd like to have asked even a secondary question, which is do you mean it when you say no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results here later.

Up next, much more on the New Hampshire primary and President Clinton has blasted all of his wife's opponents on the campaign trail. Now he has a few words for me -- I'm not running for office, of course, but I'll have a few thoughts for the president. We'll have that story and what's left of our middle class in this country struggling to survive as our mortgage crisis worsens, but President Bush says our economic fundamentals are strong. We'll try to set the record straight and perhaps even the president in just a moment.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Nearly all of New Hampshire's polling places are now closed. Just a few across the state remain open. Results are just minutes away and here on CNN we'll be bringing you those results. Clinton supporters are gathering at the senator's campaign headquarters in Manchester now. They're waiting, of course, for the remainder of those polls to close and for the results to begin to come in.

For Senator Clinton and the other candidates, illegal immigration has shaped up as a critical issue in this campaign. Some in fact are calling for tougher measures, while some are still calling for amnesty, though some are trying to toughen things up around the Republican side, none of the Democratic candidates are in any way retreating from the amnesty position. Campaigning last night in New Hampshire, former President Bill Clinton said his wife's plan would put more than 12 million illegal aliens on a path to citizenship and the former president questioned why I won't go along with her plan on that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't understand why Lou Dobbs is against this and keeps calling this amnesty. It is for a conservative ought to be forgiving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship because it's the only way of identifying who is in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well I would take exception, Mr. Clinton, with the idea it's the only way to find out, but secondly, I would suggest to you that conservatives in this country are all for illegal immigration. They're the ones along with corporate America and all the illegal employers who have created this problem and are all for illegal immigration, and of course, for amnesty.

President Clinton putting millions of people who are in this country illegally on a path to citizenship as a first condition is simply amnesty. If we are to be a nation of laws, as you say, how can we possibly put forward as a condition precedent the reward of those illegal aliens with citizenship for breaking our laws and crossing our borders?

I have said for some time, and I would urge you to talk to your wife about this particular idea, Mr. Clinton, we cannot reform our immigration laws if we can't control immigration. And we can't control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports. I invite you to consider that syllogism and show me where it's wrong.

Well turning now to communities across this country who are paying the price for the federal government's failed policies on illegal immigration, it's an issue the candidates as I've said barely mention and certainly on the Democratic side. As Casey Wian reports, there is no evidence that those costs to communities are simply staggering.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten percent of Los Angeles County residents are illegal aliens, the highest concentration in the nation. According to county supervisor Mike Antonovich, the taxpayer bill for illegal aliens in Los Angeles now exceeds $1 billion a year, not counting education.

Here's the breakdown: $444 million for welfare and food stamps; $400 million for health care; and $220 million for jail and other public safety costs.

MIKE ANTONOVICH, L.A. CTY. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: As long as we provide welfare, as long as we provide free health, as long as we provide all of these other services, it's a magnet for those people coming from other countries.

WIAN: Antonovich says children of illegal aliens now receive 25 percent of county welfare and food stamp money. In Arizona, a new Harvard University study commissioned by supporters of the state's employer sanctions law found illegal aliens depressed wages by $1.4 billion in 2006; hardest hit, low-skilled legal workers, whose wages fell nearly 5 per cent. Some economists argue that illegal aliens provide benefits to the economy, such as paying taxes and lowering prices that make up for those costs. STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: We estimated that they not only paid about seven billion in Social Security taxes, but they paid nine billion in other taxes on top of that. The problem is the services they use outweigh that by quite a bit in our study.

WIAN: Nationwide, 40 percent of households headed by an illegal alien receive welfare benefits and 56 percent have no health insurance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Standard and Poor (ph) reports that educating illegal alien children costs states and the federal government more than $11 billion a year -- Lou.

DOBBS: The issues of costs of illegal immigration, of course, unfortunately as some of the advocates for open borders and amnesty try to say that those benefits, and frankly, they're being absolutely disingenuous and disassembling when they suggest it, that the benefits outweigh the costs. The reality is that whatever benefits accrue, accrue to the illegal employers who are exploiting that labor and that is the unfortunate reality.

WIAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: So...

WIAN: And one of the things that they continually ignore, Lou, as you well know, is the fact that the people that are being hurt most by this influx of illegal aliens is the lower skilled American citizens who can't find jobs because they're being under priced by the illegal workers -- Lou.

DOBBS: In point in fact, these illegal aliens entering the country, according to a Pew study of about a year and a half ago, most affected adversely were Hispanic low-skilled workers in the country already. Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, is setting the record straight tonight on a published report that claimed he wants to abolish birth right citizenship for children born to illegal aliens under the terms of the 14th Amendment. Appearing on CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, Huckabee denied that he ever promised Minuteman Project (ph) founder James Gillmakrist (ph) the he would force the Supreme Court to challenge the 14th Amendment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I did not advocate that. I said that the Supreme Court would have to make that decision. If they review that decision, we would follow what they have ruled. But so far, lower courts have ruled that the 14th Amendment still does apply and so that's my position.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DOBBS: Governor Huckabee says he does not support a constitutional amendment to change birthright citizenship, which is the basis of the so-called anchor baby phenomenon in illegal immigration. Huckabee has been sharply criticized for his policies on illegal immigration while governor of Arkansas.

Well time now to take a look at some of your thoughts. Bart in Washington said, "Lou, I heard you talking about the insane media saying that this race is over with Iowa and New Hampshire. Thank you. Let's look at a few issues in a few other states before we declare a winner." I'm all with you in that.

And Debra in Arizona, "I want to thank you for being one of the few in the news media who thinks the other 48 states might have a say in who the next president will be. According to most of the media it's over with. Won't they be surprised?" I suspect you're right.

And Chris in Florida said, "I must say that I'm glad you're not going to run for president. You're one of the few on television who actually tell us what's really happening out there."

And Scott in Missouri, "Lou, please don't run for president. Where the hell would I turn to hear the truth?" Thank you for those kind thoughts. We'll have more of your e-mail here in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit", the book that corporate America, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and most of their presidential candidates, if not all, certainly don't want you to read. Go out and disappointment them.

Up next, Independent voters are playing a critical role in the New Hampshire primary and nationwide the presidential election. For the best and brightest political commentators and analysts, join me here to discuss the impact of Independent voters and what we can expect. Also we'll be telling you which issues at the top of the voters' minds in New Hampshire tonight.

We'll have that special report, the latest exit polls, and President Bush; well by golly he's optimistic about the state of our economy. We'll tell you all about that as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: The latest exit polls and President Bush, by golly he's optimistic about the state of our economy. We'll tell you all about that as well. We'll be right back.

With less than 30 minutes to go, the exit polls in New Hampshire are now telling us the principle issue on the minds of voters in that state in both parties is the economy.

Joining me now with a lot more in what these exit polls are telling us, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill, give us some guidance here.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the economy's stupid. No offense, that's the --

DOBBS: None taken. On a given day, I can't be.

SCHNEIDER: The top issue to republicans, the economy followed by the war in Iraq, illegal immigration and terrorism. Democrats, given a slightly different list.

DOBBS: Let's take that again. The economy?

SCHNEIDER: The economy, the war in Iraq, illegal immigration, terrorism. They were pretty closely bunched to each other. The economy did come out first, and the economy came out first for democratic voters, followed, again, by the war in Iraq. The democrats are offered the choice health care. That came out as their third choice. The main thing that this shows is, the economy's on the minds of these voters. Particularly today if you look at what happened in the stock market.

DOBBS: We do look at what happens in the stock market. It dropped almost 300 points in terms of the Dow Jones Industrials. We have seen the market fall 700 points since the beginning of this year. We're watching an economy that appears to be stalling, unemployment rising to five percent. It is no wonder that it's on the minds of voters.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

DOBBS: It is a wonder that it's not on the minds of these candidates and the issues that they're discussing.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah. The economy, I mean they have talked about it. They've offered various plans. The economy doesn't seem to be an issue that it was like the issue for Bill Clinton in 1992. His issue was the economy. I wouldn't say the economy is any one candidate's issue really in either party in this election.

DOBBS: My guess is, once it's clear that this is a principle issue for the voters of both parties, it will become, if one of these candidates wants to be president, a principal issue for them. You mentioned in the democratic list of issues, critically importance, you did not mention illegal immigration. Why is that?

SCHNEIDER: Because it wasn't asked. The democrats --

DOBBS: Unbelievable.

SCHNEIDER: Consortium with five networks and the Associated Press, they have endless meetings to agree on these exit polls. They decided illegal immigration isn't being discussed by the candidates in the democratic race because they don't really disagree. They all support comprehensive immigration reform. Therefore, it probably isn't of concern to the democratic voters. I don't know how you get from a to b in that argument. But that's what they concluded. So they didn't ask about it.

DOBBS: In my judgment, here's how you do it. You have a bunch of elitist mainstream national news media making these determinations instead of looking and listening to the American people. Let me ask you another question. Was the crisis in public education on that list in the part of this consortium?

SCHNEIDER: No.

DOBBS: Amazing. When 50 percent of the blacks in this country, 50 percent of the Hispanics are dropping out of high school, these idiots in that consortium don't understand what an issue is. This is amazing. Now the national news media is trying to tell us who the winners are at this point. We'll have had Iowa. We'll have Wyoming, two caucuses, and we will have had New Hampshire today. What in the world is going on here, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: This is partly the media, but it's also partly the political parties in these states who have rushed to the front. You know, you would almost believe the process starts in Iowa and ends in New Hampshire, the way the New Hampshire primary is being presented as a kind of climax to the whole thing. They're talking about candidates who may drop out after New Hampshire? What percentage of the voters have voted?

DOBBS: Let me tell you that. Less than one-half of 1 percent at the end of this hour will have voted, less than one-half of 1 percent of all of the eligible voters in this country will have voted. And we've got national news organizations, commentators, pundits and mavens but not our own, thank goodness for you, Bill Schneider, suggesting this is a conclusion rather than the beginning of a process. It's shameful what the national news media is doing here.

SCHNEIDER: This is likely to change, because if candidates start dropping out after the New Hampshire primary, millions of voters in Texas and Florida and California and Michigan are going to say, wait a minute, why didn't I have any say in this? And they're going to be mad and they may do something about it.

DOBBS: It would be nice to see the American people decide to hell with these two parties and it's time for us to take back this country. That would be a wonderful thought to descend upon the American people. Bill Schneider, you're terrific. We thank you very much. Looking forward to listening to you throughout the evening.

SCHNEIDER: OK

DOBBS: As Bill Schneider just reported, the threat of recession and the mortgage crisis making the economy a top issue, the top issue, for voters in New Hampshire, voters of both parties, and the Bush administration this day under more criticism for not acting earlier to deal with the economic problems that are hitting our embattled middle class directly, and powerfully. Christine Romans has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRES. GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES: I'm optimistic about the economy. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the rose garden today, the president characteristically upbeat about an economy he admits has problems. An economy many fear is skidding toward recession.

BUSH: I like the fundamentals. They look strong. But there are new signals that should cause concern. One of the signals is the fact that the housing market is soft. It's going to take a while to work through the downturn.

ROMANS: Only Monday, he called the economic statistics increasingly mixed. And last week hailed a near standstill of the jobs market in December as the 52nd consecutive month of job growth. His critics find him something of a Johnny come lately to the ailing economy.

CHRISTIAN WELLER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The president is certainly somewhat out of touch with the economic realities. He's coming late to realization that things have gone off the track.

ROMANS: Weller cites long-term problems like stagnant wages, burgeoning deficits and income inequality. Middle class voters are grappling with higher costs for food, tuition, healthcare, energy. The head of the National Bureau of Economic Research, the group that officially dates economic cycles says the odds of recession are now 50/50. Sales of existing homes last month, again slowed dramatically. And the National Association of Realtors does not now expect home prices to rise until 2009. The president only recently admitting these storm clouds, and the candidates?

JOHN GEER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: The economy is not the critical issue based on the campaign rhetoric right now. But it will be. It's a product a lot of times of the kinds of questions that reporters ask as well. Right now, it seems to be Obama 24/7.

ROMANS: Professor Geer says expect the democrats to seize more on the economy once the pack thins.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The president today says he is looking at all different options to work through this period. But he expressed confidence in the economy, and in his administration as a steward of economic growth. Lou?

DOBBS: It is remarkable how long it is taking for action to be instituted. Any thought on how long it will be before we see -- by the way, we should talk about monetary policy as well here. Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, there is no question rates have to come down. In terms of fiscal policy, there is no question that there has to be stimulus in what is a very stimulated economy, but nonetheless, in my opinion, there has to be stimulus, and there has to be a program, a programmatic response to the credit crisis and the mortgage market.

ROMANS: The treasury secretary talked today vaguely about expanding this hope now campaign for homeowners, freezing some rates. There's been two emergency auctions scheduled later this month to put more money into the system to help the banks.

DOBBS: That's institutional. It is the wrong approach to take in my judgment as a sole policy response. If it is coupled with a program that puts people first, a populous program, if you will forgive me, Henry Paulson, you son of a gun, think about the people along the way here, if you don't mind, then it makes some sense. But there's no reason -- these people know what needs to be done.

ROMANS: Well, right now there are a lot of people who think that there could be a recession. We might already be in it in terms of employment in the private sector. That's going to hurt a lot of folks, no matter what kind of plans they're coming up with. It's going to hurt a lot of folks in the near term.

DOBBS: Professor Martin Feltstein who is a brilliant economist, I have the highest regard for him, is talking very directly about policy responses, and when it's coming from him, even the idiots in this administration, in Washington, D.C., I would hope would begin to listen, since they obviously are not behaving correctly and listening to you and me every night.

ROMANS: The voters clearly care about it according to polls at least.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Whether it's a recession or not is immaterial. People are hurting. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

Coming up next here, the last polls closing in the New Hampshire primary in just moments; will independent voters be determining the outcome of this election? Four of the best political analysts and strategists join me here next. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, four of the best political analysts in the country but before I introduce them, we are getting early results in from New Hampshire. Again, these are very early results. There you see them. Eight percent of the precincts reporting and I want to be very careful as we begin to look at these numbers as they're being tallied. Initially, Senator Clinton, 38 percent. Senator Obama, 36 percent and at 17 percent, former Senator John Edwards, at 4 percent, former United Nations Ambassador and Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. But again, with 8 percent of the precincts reporting, and we will, of course, be updating these as quickly as these precincts tally them up, we will be bringing you those results and updating them.

We're going to go now over to the republicans. Senator John McCain with 37 percent and Mitt Romney, 28 percent, Mike Huckabee at 12 percent, and Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, 9 percent.

Now, again, that is with 8 percent of the precincts coming in. It is very early. I can't tell you where those precincts are. We can't attach a great deal of analysis to the flow of these numbers, but those are -- with 8 percent, they are -- that's where we right now. We'll be updating them.

I want to turn now to our panel. Reverend Jesse Jackson joining us here; good to have you with us, Jesse.

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: Michael Goodwin, Pulitzer prize winning columnist New York Daily News, Hank Sheinkopf, democratic strategist, and up in New Hampshire, our good friend Roger Simon of Politico.com. Let me begin with you, Roger. With those early results, and we're going to be updating them. Any surprise there for you?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: Well, if Hillary Clinton goes on to win, it will be a surprise. But she has got to win here tonight. She is looking into the abyss, and the abyss is looking back at her. If she loses even narrowly here, I think she's going to have a hard time selling the comeback kid scenario. She's not her husband. And she's not running against Paul Tsonga. She's running against Barack Obama. And she faces a very tough calendar in Nevada and South Carolina, two states designed openly by the Democratic Party to increase the voice of Latinos and African-Americans in the process.

DOBBS: And Jesse Jackson, do you agree with Roger's assessment on the democratic side? Your thoughts on the republican as well.

JACKSON: Of course, these numbers, if Barack comes out, you know, narrowly in the lead, South Carolina would be a big state for him. It would redefine this field.

DOBBS: And that now, of course, more than a couple weeks away. Senator McCain, at 37 percent, that looks pretty good for him. Again, early numbers. We don't know which way these are going to turn but again, if he can hold something close to that, Michael Goodwin, my goodness.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: That would be a very big deal and of course, it's all going to depend on how the independents go. I think, what, 44 percent of the voters in New Hampshire are independent. Whether they go for Obama presumably in the democratic line or for McCain on the republican line could affect both races. They can only vote once, hopefully.

DOBBS: It's a modern era. We'll presume that.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Cloning.

DOBBS: Cloning.

SHEINKOPF: Cloning voters is the new deal.

DOBBS: Are you surprised that even at this early stage, that Senator Clinton would be ahead of Senator Obama?

SHEINKOPF: Based on the coverage of the last several days, which has certainly been about Barack Obama, because he's so exciting and different, it is surprising. Let's not hold too much with these numbers. Senator Clinton wins tonight by a hair; she's still in the game and becomes very competitive. She doesn't win tonight, as I said the other night on this broadcast, no go, no dough. It's not going to be very easy.

DOBBS: A man who appreciates a rhyme, Jesse Jackson.

SHEINKOPF: Reverend Jackson, in honor of him.

DOBBS: Is it your judgment that Obama and Clinton and Edwards are in this for the long haul? Because we've had a number of pundits suggesting to us this thing could be over with only -- well, Wyoming, Iowa, and New Hampshire less than half of 1 percent?

JACKSON: In February, if Obama holds up in New Hampshire the way he did Iowa, he's likely to win in South Carolina. We have a combination of magnetism, and message of hope and money and machinery, I'm not sure that he can be there come February 5th.

DOBBS: Wow. Roger Simon, do you agree?

SIMON: Yes, I do agree. He is trying to put together a coalition of Latino voters, African-American voters, young voters, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has still never forgiven Hillary Clinton for voting for the Iraq war, not saying it was a mistake, and not apologizing for it.

In February 5th states, there are a lot of minority voters. If Barack Obama can get 80 percent of those voters, it becomes a very difficult math to beat him. Let's not forget, it may sound ridiculous, but Hillary Clinton not only has to worry about 2008, she has to worry about her reelection in 2012. She cannot afford to be humiliated on February 5th in the state of New York. And if it looks like she's going to be humiliated, she's going to have to make a choice.

DOBBS: That's a very interesting point, Roger. And I don't know whether Senator Clinton tonight is most worried about that tonight or the results in New Hampshire. But that's an excellent point.

GOODWIN: I hate to be the skunk at the garden party, Lou, but I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here. Hillary Clinton is going to have enough money, I think, Terry McAuliffe was saying today through February 5th. A lot of states, Obama, anything could happen in really three weeks, almost a month now. I wouldn't -- yes, tonight would be bad. South Carolina would be terrible. Nevada, all these things could really build the wall against her. But I wouldn't count her out until February 5th.

DOBBS: Hank?

SHEINKOPF: That's a fair analysis. Never count a Clinton out. Will there be a comeback kid? We don't know. We'll know later when the numbers come in. I'm suspicious of trying to base analysis -- I've done a lot of analyses in my career on those numbers. This could be the beginning of an end of an extraordinary political career and it could be the beginning of the new part of that political career, notably Mrs. Clinton.

JACKSON: Oddly enough, the tears may have bounced back in her face. It has seemed to humanize her. Many identify with the tears as a strength of a force, than tears as weakness. They seem to be sincere as opposed to being weak.

DOBBS: I have to say and I would love to know what you think about this, referring to her reaction to the question, how do you do it, which I thought was a pretty good question of any one of these candidates. Her voice, in the moments leading up to those tears in her eyes, or teary eyes, however you want to judge it, was as honest, as natural as I've heard the woman speak, in I don't know how long, and I have to say, you've articulated something that I have thought but haven't said, and that is, you know, I think that that may have been a moment of authenticity, a moment of truth for her that's compelling. Roger, you can be a skunk at the garden party, too, and just -- well, I won't say what you could do with that as a skunk, but have at it.

SIMON: I think you're right. But I have to say in my own totally unscientific poll of just asking people, men have reacted to that moment much better than women have. I find it negative reaction of some women saying, oh, she's just showing that women are too emotional to do the job. They resented it. But men find it humanizing. If it works for her tonight, and I would not make any predictions based on 8 percent of the vote in, if it works for her tonight, she's got to keep doing it. But don't forget one of her problems is that in her speeches, she talks too much about me, me, my experience, what I can do. And Barack Obama constantly talks about we, the country, the nation, unity, coming together. So a continued focus just on herself and her own feelings may be problematic for her.

DOBBS: Hank?

SHEINKOPF: Nice tears, right moment. It's about time she was treated like a human being. I think some of the press attacking her for those tears today was outrageous I mean, beyond description.

GOODWIN: Well, I'm somewhat suspicious about those tears. But I think the issue really is, that we even debate whether the tears are authentic, were they scripted, was it planned, was the woman a plant to ask the question. All of these things, I think whatever the answers are, the questions --

DOBBS: The Clinton campaign would never do that.

GOODWIN: Precisely. The questions go to heart of the doubts about her. That's her fundamental problem. Not these tears, but all these other years.

JACKSON: When we debate about her authenticity, Obama talks about the hopes he has. His authenticity, he seems to be likable. You have a combination of message, money machinery and he's just -- people just like him. There's something magic about him it seems.

DOBBS: We're going to find out how much they like him in New Hampshire tonight with 9 percent, now updating the earlier numbers. The republican side staying the same, again, with Senator McCain holding 37 percent of the vote. At this point, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton, tied with 37 percent. We'll have a lot more of that, the results of our poll tonight. That question we ask you about authenticity, are you tired of the national media reporting on the presidential race in terms of charisma change, dynasty, momentum and likability? 94 percent of you saying, you bet you.

Our coverage of the New Hampshire primary continues now with Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just minutes from now, the last polling places close in the state of New Hampshire. And the results start coming in.

Voters turned out in huge, possibly record numbers today. And tonight, their choices could dramatically shape it. Already thrilling and historic presidential race.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team on television.

Anderson Cooper is standing by with analysts John King and Gloria Borger and Jeff Toobin. Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider are going over all the exit polling on how New Hampshire voted and why. We're going to share those numbers with you shortly. Our correspondents are out in force tonight; Dana Bash, with the McCain camp; Mary Snow with the Romney camp; Joe Johns with the Huckabee campaign; Suzanne Malveaux with the Obama campaign; Candy Crowley with the Clinton camp; And Jessica Yellin with the Edwards camp.

We're watching all of these races very, very closely. All of these campaigns are thoroughly covered. What an exciting day it's been so far. Some polling places reporting they were short on ballots. People are showing up, as I said, in potentially record numbers in New Hampshire, just as was the case in Iowa last week during the Iowa caucuses.

Anderson Cooper is watching all of this, together with the best political team on television.

Anderson, you know, we've covered a lot of these races over the years. This one tonight could be a story.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it. There's a lot of energy. I was just up in Manchester last night, remarkable amount of energy there last night. What are you expecting tonight, John King? What are you going to be looking for?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm looking number one to see if Barack Obama can put together two in a row against the woman who just a few months ago was viewed as the prohibited if not the inevitable front-runner, another largely overwhelmingly white state. Can Barack Obama win again? On the republican side, it is even more volatile than the democratic race in many ways. Mike Huckabee comes out of Iowa. Can John McCain come back from the political dead? If he does so, he will have a leadership role in the republican race once again.

COOPER: Just minutes away from poll closing. Gloria Borger, what are you looking for?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm looking to see how the independent voters vote. They're 45 percent of the electorate in the state of New Hampshire. I'm also looking to see if there could be a little generational war going and how these that's going to affect Barack Obama's final vote and Hillary Clinton's final votes. She attracts older voters. He attracts younger voters.

COOPER: Jeff Toobin?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm thinking whether this is the beginning of the end or just the end of the beginning because at the end of tonight, only about 400,000 democrats will have voted in the entire United States, and fewer than that republicans. There are 300 million people in this country, that's not a lot of people. Maybe we're going to have to listen to a few more.

COOPER: Is it make or break night on the democratic side or republican side, any of the main candidates?

KING: You can argue it's make or break for Hillary Clinton in that if she loses two in a row, whatever was left of that inevitability or the powerful of her is gone. She says she will stay and has the resources to do so. For John McCain, it's make or break. He won New Hampshire in 2000. He fell off the rails during the summer months because of immigration, the controversy over Iraq. John McCain he might stay in if he comes in a close second, but he has to win New Hampshire.

COOPER: If he wins, he will be the comeback kid. And will he be the front-runner?

KING: You'll still have no front runner. You'll have no front- runner. He will be, along with Mike Huckabee, heading into Michigan and South Carolina at the front of the pack.

COOPER: All right. We're less than two minutes away from the polls closing. Wolf Blitzer, let's take it back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Anderson, very much.

I want to show the viewers some of the real numbers coming in. Some of the polls in New Hampshire closed earlier, within the past hour, hour and a half, two hours. We're getting precincts reporting right now.

Let's take a look. Among the democrats, with 10 percent of the precincts officially reporting right now, so far, Hillary Clinton with 38 percent, Barack Obama with 36 percent, John Edwards with 17 percent, Bill Richardson at 4 percent. Remember, only 10 percent, only 10 percent of the numbers have been -- of the precincts have been reported.

Let's take a look at the raw votes. Among the democrats right now, 11,734 for Clinton, 11,097 for Obama, Edwards down with just more than 5,000, Richardson with a little bit more than 1,000, Kucinich with 595, Mike Gravel with 47.

Once again, this is early. Only 10 percent of the precincts have reported so far. Let's take a look and see how the republicans so far are doing. Once again with 10 percent of the precincts reporting, John McCain, so far, with 37 percent, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts 12 percent, Mike Huckabee who won the Iowa caucuses right now with 10 percent in at 12 percent, coming in third, Rudy Giuliani with nine percent of the vote so far with 10 percent of the precincts reporting. Here are the real numbers, the raw numbers, official numbers coming in based on those 10 percent of those precincts; McCain with 6,860, Romney 5,182, Huckabee 2,247, Giuliani about 1,600, Ron Paul 1,500, looks like a little battle going on there so far with 10 percent between Giuliani and Ron Paul; Fred Thompson, a very disappointing 268 and Duncan Hunter, from California, he's still in with just more than 100 votes so far.

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