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Voters Are Out in Nevada and South Carolina; Stormy Weather Affecting Travel; Search Continues for Marine Cesar Laurean; The Temporary Economic Package

Aired January 19, 2008 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well we are crisscrossing the country today following presidential contests in the South and in the West. Here is what we are watching right now. Republicans in South Carolina, it's a primary day there in Nevada, both Republicans and Democrats are holding caucuses, there. So, when the dust has settled, we could have a frontrunner in both camps. I'll be closely watching, as should you.
So, let's start with the South Carolina Republican primary where voters have been casting ballots for more than five hours, now. CNN's Dana Bash is at Charleston's polling station where John McCain just made a campaign stop. We saw the pictures, there.

So, what has the turnout been like, particularly because the weather's kind of nasty outside?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The weather is very nasty outside. It's actually just raining here in Charleston, in the southern part of South Carolina along the water, very different in the weather in the western/northern part of the state where it is actually snowing. And so, across the board, though, the weather is not good at all. Officials here do expect and are already seeing that turnout is lower because of that.

It is hard for them to tell, Fredricka, because they don't have a lot to compare it to, because this day, obviously, it's Saturday, this is something that South Carolina hasn't seen before, and Democrats and Republicans are voting on different days. The Democrats aren't until next week.

So, for those reasons its kind of hard to judge, but you're right, where I am right now is a place where John McCain is. He's actually right outside as we speak. He is coming. He is shaking hands with voters here. This is a place where John McCain is hoping will give him his victory. John McCain is relying on these coastal towns.

You see him arriving here in Charleston at the polling stations. The coastal towns that tend to be a little bit more moderate, that tend to be a lot more military and veteran rich. Those are the key constituencies that John McCain is hoping propel his to victory here in South Carolina.

Quite different from the kind of base that Mike Huckabee is actually hoping to draw from in the western part of the state. But regardless, this is such an important day for John McCain, for Mike Huckabee, for all of these candidates because this could be a determining factor, certainly not the final factor in who gets the nomination on the Republican side, as it has been in the past. Everybody says it might not be that difficult fin tif (ph), the results tonight.

But certainly, it is going to be absolutely key to see if John McCain's comeback in New Hampshire, if he gets a boost from that here in South Carolina. If Mike Huckabee, who won in Iowa, if that is not just a one-state win for him. And also Mitt Romney.

Now, Mitt Romney, obviously did well in Michigan. He is not even here today. He, instead, is off in Nevada. But, he's trying to kind of play it both ways. He has a lot of TV ads up here, he's got a lot of staff and organization, here. So, he is trying to downplay the fact he could do well here.

But, you know, you never know what is going to happen on a day like today, particularly because the weather could really throw a wrench into things here ...

WHITFIELD: You mentioned the importance of this state to so many candidates; however, Romney is not there, as you mentioned, Giuliani, Thompson. What's your explanation?

BASH: Well, Rudy Giuliani has really not been in any of the contest states or at least not been playing it big in the early contest states because his strategy all along has been to sort of look down the road. He is in the state of Florida that is the next contest state. So, while we haven't been paying a lot of attention to him because he has not been competing heavily in these early contest states, he will be in the next state, and that is in Florida.

You know, we talked a little bit, I think we should be maybe even more specific about the history of the state of South Carolina. You talk you can to any Republican here and they will remind you that since 1980, the state of South Carolina has -- the person who they have voted for in the Republican primary, that person has gone on to be the Republican nominee. So, that is why there is a lot of focus on this particular state.

However, because this is such a jumbled year, because there is not one candidate who really has momentum, which is generally what carries the day for a candidate, it's unclear if this will have that kind of outcome for the Republican race.

WHITFIELD: All right, important pivotal state, as you stated, historically and certainly in this election. All right, thanks so much Dana Bash.

So, what kind of American do the candidates actually stand for? This Monday, the Democrats may face the toughest questions yet when they debate before the Congressional Black Caucus. That's Monday night, January 21, 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Now, let's go to Nevada where the Republican voters are just beginning to gather there. The presidential contenders gambling on the turnout at today's caucuses, Democrats will be out later. That party's contentious candidates giving voters plenty to mull over.

Jessica Yellin takes a look.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the campaign trail, the candidates are promising to heal economic wounds.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think your government, that you pay tax dollars to, should do more to help small businesses.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We modernize our unemployment insurance laws to cover more people, that we get help to the states directly.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call for a tax rebate. Every American immediately gets $250 and then an additional $250 if the economy keeps on getting worse.

YELLIN: Sounds substantive, right? Well, while the candidates are talking issues, the campaigns or their supporters are on the attack.


YELLIN: The ad says Hillary Clinton supporters went to court to prevent working people from voting and Hillary Clinton has no shame. The ad is paid for by a labor union that supports Barack Obama. Now, John Edwards is calling Obama a hypocrite since the ad is paid for by one of those reviled special interest groups.

EDWARDS: I hope Senator Obama will call for this ad, first denounce the ad, second call for it to be stopped.

CLINTON: But, don't take it from me...

YELLIN: And camp Clinton is getting in on the circular firing squad, leaping on this from Obama.

OBAMA: I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that bill Clinton did not.

YELLIN: Clinton's supporters say they're stupefied, baffled that Obama would praise Ronald Reagan, a man they say made life worse for women, minorities and the homeless and proves she's the real Democrat in the race.

(on camera): The tit for tat doesn't end there. Now, Senator Clinton is calling senator Obama on the mat, saying those Spanish- language ads endorsing him are shameless, offensive and untrue and he should demand that they stop. Bottom line, there is not a lot of love lost out here on the campaign trail.


WHITFIELD: All right, and I know we are trying to confuse you. Yes, she was on tape, there, but now, she's live.

Hi, Jessica. All right, so some people might say, and even describe, during the earlier debate, they were quite lovey-dovey. So, what happened?

YELLIN: Well, you know, it got really ugly here pretty quickly because this race is so tight, Fredricka. You know, what we have had was a win in Iowa for Obama, a win in New Hampshire for Senator Clinton and this really is a tie-breaker. So, they are vying so intensely to be the one who comes out ahead.

They are doing what they like to call this campaign season sharpening the contrast, sharpening their differences, which is really going on the attack against each other. Traditionally this hasn't worked very well, and especially when it is Obama and Clinton going at each other. John Edwards is the one who benefits.

WHITFIELD: And, and you also hear the argument that as they tried to, you know, kind of sharpen their positions, what they're also doing is sharpening a divide, a divide among Democrats and maybe even Independents?

YELLIN: Right. And they are keenly aware of it. That's one of the reasons, one, that we saw that whole argument and debate about the race question and whether Senator Clinton was provoking racist sentiments. Saw that one go away, they realized it was really dividing the Democratic Party and the base.

But, as far as these other attacks, this is sort of par for the course in primary season and you know, in the general election, everybody says they'll come together against the big bad boogeyman, which is whoever the Republican candidate would be.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, I guess historically, when have you ever seen a candidacy, a race for the presidency that was lovey-dovey and touchy- feely all the way down to the wire? Not going to happen, not this time either.

Jessica Yellin, thanks so much.

All right, among those issues that makes these candidates go at it, the economy. It is the No. 1 issue in early voting states. So, we've got a special live campaign edition of "YOUR MONEY" today. Join Wolf Blitz, Christine Romans and Ali Velshi from Las Vegas, where else? That comes your way at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Then at 2:00, Wolf stays with us for special coverage from our election center in New York. Get the first results from the Nevada caucuses. And be sure to stay around for more of CNN's "BALLOT BOWL." We're bringing you the candidates unfiltered and in their own words. CNN's "BALLOT BOWL" kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. All right, how about that snow outside and rain and everything else? Here, lots of snow. Live pictures right now in of all places, Atlanta. The weather in Atlanta is affecting the airport as well, one of the busiest in the world and one where many travelers certainly make a lot of connections. Well, apparently, there are a lot of delays, so not everyone is getting where they want to go.

And then, take a look at this snowy scene. Not even Alabama is immune to this cold front. Reynolds Wolf is in the Weather Center.

Yeah, I know, folks are used to seeing snow in January, that's not so unusual, but what they are not used to seeing is this kind of snow in the South?

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly. I mean, Fredricka, you grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. So it seems though...

WHITFIELD: Well, we know snow.

WOLF: Yeah, it's not a big deal, but when you are in the southeast, you get flurries and you live in central Alabama, you grow up there like I did, the place goes absolute bananas.


WOLF: Goes absolutely crazy.

WHITFIELD: And we're seeing that here in Atlanta. People cannot drive. Just stay off the road.

WOLF: It does happen. And I'm one of those people.

WHITFIELD: Oh, oops, sorry.

WOLF: Hey, full disclosure. Hey, seriously, though, we do have a lot of weather to be dealing with, today and of course, we've got a lot of big stories. One of them, of course, in South Carolina, people are trying out to get to the polls. They are going to be dealing with some raindrops, but later on today we could be dealing with some snowflakes and they could cause all kinds of issues on the roads.

Keep in mind that in South Carolina, where it may snow, into the higher elevations, in the extreme western corner of the state, you don't have the same kind of snow removing equipment that you have in say, Chicago or say in D.C. or in New York, so you're going to have some problems.

In Atlanta, back over to parts of the Carolinas, we are seeing the mix, mainly rain first, then we're seeing the snow. The snow in Atlanta, but just scattered showers along the Carolina coast. We are back towards Columbia, getting some dry air that's infecting at this time.

But, farther back to the west, mainly a rain event from Anderson back over to Greenwood. But notice just in the northern fringe of the state, we're seeing that freezing precipitation coming down, some sleet, some snow. The way it looks right now, I'd say maybe an inch of snowfall for the extreme western part of South Carolina, but for the eastern part, I would say, flat lands along the coast, I would say definitely a rain event. So, certainly, we are not going to worry about that the flights there.

Atlanta, we have seen the transformation. We started off this morning with raindrops. Now, we have the sleet, now we're getting the snowfall. Snow, not just on the north or the west side of I-285, but now, moving a bit toward the east side, too. Farther to the south, we're seeing just rain. But notice that cold air decks in from the west, then you have the (INAUDIBLE) moisture, it's going to mean more snowfall for a lot of people in the state of Georgia.

Back in Alabama, central Alabama, seeing some scattered snow showers there as far south as Auburn University, the snow is going to come down. That's the latest on your forecast. Busy time in the south, no question.

WHITFIELD: Oh, but I love the snow. I am so glad to see it. It's beautiful. Just stay off the roads.

WOLF: You ever shovel a whole lot of it? You know, it's kind of crazy to shovel that pretty stuff when it is about three feet down the front drive.

WHITFIELD: Well, OK, true. Unless you have a little motorized, you know, help.

WOLF: Exactly, exactly. You know, but I agree. It is a beautiful thing to see. And I'll tell you, temperatures are going to be well above freezing tomorrow, so much of what we get today will be gone by tomorrow afternoon.

WHITFIELD: OK, so enjoy it while we have got it.

WOLF: Exactly, good way to look at it.

WHITFIELD: Thanks a lot, Reynolds.

WOLF: You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right, caught on tape, serious news, surveillance video of a suspected Marine killer. CNN obtained this video from the TV program, "America's Most Wanted." You are looking at those images right now. Authorities in North Carolina say that it shows Corporal Cesar Laurean, circled right there on the left, at the bottom of the screen, buying supplies that could have been used to cover up the killing of Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach.

This video was take December 16, two days after Lauterbach was killed. And she was eight months pregnant, by the way.

Police also released a frame of this video. They say it shows Laurean withdrawing money from an ATM in Jacksonville, North Carolina allegedly using Lauterbach's card on Christmas Eve. Laurean is wanted on a murder charge. A suspect's van may contain new evidence in the case of a hiker killed in the north Georgia mountains. Investigators say they found a second van belonging to Gary Michael Hilton. Authorities are combing the van for evidence. Hilton is charged with kidnapping and killing 24-year-old Meredith Emerson, she disappeared on New Year's Day while hiking with her dog.

And perhaps you are worried about your job. The economy is keeping a lot of people up at night. We'll take a look at your financial security.


WHITFIELD: All right, some relieve could be on the way for cash strapped Americans. President Bush is asking Congress to immediately pass a temporary economic package to try to keep the country out of a recession. It's a 140 plus billion dollar stimulus package, with tax relief for businesses and temporary relief for taxpayers. The president wants you to put the money in your wallet and go out and then of course spend it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To be effective, a growth package must also include direct and rapid income tax relief for the American people. Americans can use this money as they see fit, to help meet their monthly bills, cover higher costs at the gas pump or pay for other basic necessities. Letting Americans keep more of their own money should increase consumer spending and lift our economy at a time when people are otherwise might spend less.


WHITFIELD: And you can get more on the new plan to stimulate the economy, how it could affect your taxes and your bank account at

And worst case scenarios may be keeping many of you pretty awake at night worrying about your mortgage and the hidden clauses or perhaps your credit card interest and how that could suddenly explode.

Well, here now is CNN's special correspondent Frank Sesno with a "Financial Security Watch."


FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What if the ripple effects from the housing collapse, the credit crunch, the market meltdown, record losses in the financial sector, $3 a gallon gasoline become an economic tsunami? It's the question that's got everyone worried. The president wants to put money in people's pockets.

BUSH: Passing a new growth package is our most pressing economic priority.

SESNO: The candidates are making promises.

OBAMA: The $10 billion fund that would help prevent foreclosures.

CLINTON: A $30 billion fund to help hard-hit communities.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will fight to bring back good jobs.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The old jobs won't come back.

SESNO: The fed chairman says if there is going to be a stimulus package, there's no time to waste.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: For this to be useful, you would need to act quite quickly.

SESNO: But, what if a $13 trillion economy won't turn on a dime or a 100 or a $150 billion stimulus package? It means from Wall Street to Main Street, tighter belts and hardy significances lie ahead. For a preview, turn to the states where tax revenues are down, governments are cutting. In California, the Governator proposes across the board cuts. They may close state parks, cut money for schools, stop paying dental care for the poor.

In Rhode Island, state workers may be forced to take unpaid days off. In Kentucky, rescue squads and emergency management are among the agencies getting cut. From Ohio to Alabama, Maryland to Arizona, less hiring and services from border security to child support enforcement, cut back. What if this is a preview of 2008?

Maybe it will scare the politicians into actually doing something. It will change the nature of the campaign, but someone should tell the truth, this bubble isn't done bursting, probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: And stay with CNN for the latest information regarding your financial security.

And we talked about weather impacting everything from the primaries today in South Carolina, to travel in and out of any airport across the country. Well, how about Hartsfield Jackson International Airport here in Atlanta? With a lot of snow, that means a lot of delays and in the middle of it all, stuck there in one of the terminals, our own Rusty Dornin who's trying to get somewhere.

Rusty's on the phone with us, now -- Rusty.

VOICE OF RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am trying to get anywhere, Fred. Well, Delta apparently did preemptedly (ph) cancel dozens of flights concerned about the inclement weather that was going to be happening this morning. My flight was at 8:00 a.m. and by the time they were able to rescheduled me, I'm not going to be on a flight until 7:00 and that's to San Diego, I'm not headed towards any other snow, so a lot of people here at Atlanta Hartsfield just waiting to try to see what other flights they can get on, a lot of frustration, a lot of people sleeping, of course, on the chairs.

They're saying that the arrivals are about four hours late, right now. We can see the snow coming down outside, it's not sticking. I just spoke to the airport spokesperson who says that the all runways are opening. They have about 10 de-icing pads and it's up to the pilots, apparently, whether they decide to use those pads or not.

But right now, they have all the crews in place, maintenance crews, to try to keep all the runways open. It's just going to have to -- it's one of those things that is just going to have to work itself out. I tried to ask them, how much worse could it get because the snow is supposed to get heavier before they start shutting down runways and he just didn't want to talk about that. He said, at this point, all the runways are open -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So, Rusty, of course, you know, I was gloating about how much I love the snow and how pretty I think it is and of course, maybe a lot of other folks agree with me too, unless you're at the airport like you. So, how are all the passengers doing? Are people getting frustrated? I mean, overtly, do they seem agitated?

DORNIN: Well, a few folks. I have seen a few agitated folks. A lot of people just seem to be taking it in stride, because there were a lot of preemptive cancellations and people were told by cell phone. I got a call last night, actually, telling me it was canceled and they had re-booked me already last night. I came this morning in case thinking that maybe this was all going to clear up.

But, the funny thing was, when I got here, there was no snow, there was no rain and it was clear, but they did not reinstate those canceled flights. So, I just kept thinking that perhaps, you know, they would decide to do that but they didn't.

WHITFIELD: Well, they saw something you didn't. But now, you see it.

DORNIN: Right. That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right, Rusty Dornin, thanks so much. Maybe you can get a little cup of joe or hot cocoa while you wait another four or five hours. I'm sorry about that. All right, Rusty, thanks for checking in.

Much more news straight ahead, including news across the rest of America, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right, "News Across America," right now, Ames, Iowa, a 20-year-old man trapped in a flaming car, that one right there. Thanking his stars to be alive. His dramatic rescue caught on this police dash cam. They dragged the unconscious driver to safety seconds before the fire engulfed the entire car.

In Florida, a police officer gets help from a good Samaritan and rescues two women whose car went out of control and then plunged into a canal. The mother and daughter were taken to the hospital and they're said to be doing just fine.

And a bad night at the casino. Police say an elderly driver lost control of his car outside of Pennsylvania gambling hall, he hit an ambulance, jumped a curb and then plowed into a group of pedestrians. Five people were actually injured in that.

So, how big a role does race play in the campaign for president?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pigmentation, one of the truisms of this life is, I can't wash off this black, I can't bleach it off, I can't even pray it off.


WHITFIELD: All right, pretty powerful words on a sensitive subject. The role of race, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: All right, 29 minutes past the hour. "Happening Right Now," it's decision day in Nevada and South Carolina. Voters in both states could weed out the week in the presidential race. We may have preliminary first returns in about an hour from now, actually.

And then take a look at this, right here, this surveillance video. It shows a marine accused of killing a fellow pregnant marine. Authorities in North Carolina say the man circled on the left right there and sort of at the bottom is Corporal Cesar Laurean, buying supplies that could have been used to cover up last month's killing of Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach.

All right, South Carolina now, a key battleground state in the fight to win the African-American vote. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports on the connection between race and politics.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the candidates may be downplaying the race factor, make no mistake. For some voters, it's bubbling just below the surface.

SAMUEL ROBINSON, AWENDAW, S.C. CITY COUNCIL: It's not going to go away, pigmentation. One of the truisms of this life is I can't wash off this black, I can't bleach it off. DIANE WIGGINS, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: There's too much history with the fact that there is too much racism. And I believe that the blacks are mores racist than the whites.

MALVEAUX: Almost everyone we talked to said race is not a factor in deciding who goes to the White House.

JANIE POLUTTA, CHARLESTON RESIDENT: I think the qualifications are what's important.

CHERYL MACK, CLINTON SUPPORTER: We are united regardless of our race, color or creed.

MALVEAUX: But some who think race is a factor, say it's almost a little embarrassing to admit.

CAROL SMALLS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: If Obama get in there, it's truly a change and that's what I would like to see. And it has nothing to do with his color. Though, you know what, I'm going to be honest and that's all I can be. Yes, I think I would like to see a black man in there.

MALVEAUX: Understandably, Barack Obama is a source of black pride. But he has transcended race and won the support of many white voters as well. But in South Carolina, dig beneath the surface and you find an unease.

WIGGINS: I feel that they have so much anger towards us, what is it, African-Americans. They're not African-Americans, they're Americans, whether they're black, white, yellow, green, whatever. This is what I'm saying. They play such a big card on being an African-American. They're not. And this is what makes me angry.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Why does it anger you?

WIGGINS: Because they say that they, you know, everybody should be equal and so forth. They're not. They're -- we're not equal.

MALVEAUX: What do you mean by that?

WIGGINS: Because they -- everybody's playing the white card, the black card.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): There is mistrust on both sides. Some suspect Obama's win in almost all-white Iowa was a fluke.

(on camera): Why do you suppose there were whites, though, in Iowa, who were publicly supporting a black man?

ROBINSON: It was fashionable.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): There is also among some black voters a nagging doubt about whether whites in South Carolina will give Obama a chance.

ROBINSON: When we close the curtain, when the lights go down low and we can vote our prejudices, because we're hidden.


WHITFIELD: All right, some pretty powerful thoughts there, spoken and unspoken. Our Suzanne Malveaux is joining us live now from Charleston, South Carolina.

Suzanne, I think you were about to say something, I kind of interrupted you. But you want to go ahead with your thought before my question that I've got for you?

MALVEAUX: Sure, I was just going to say you just heard that gentleman. And what he's reflecting is what happens in South Carolina is the primary is a closed process.


MALVEAUX: And it's similar to New Hampshire. And so, the fear among some voters is that they're not really going to get a true read of how these candidates are going to do, including Obama because of that issue -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, so meantime, race clearly an issue, whether voters are willing to say it outright or not. But perhaps there in South Carolina, there are clearly some other issues that are influencing your vote. What might those be?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly, race is an issue. But a lot of people I talked to said that it is not the primary issue and it's not the first issue. They think that it's somewhere maybe second, third, fourth here. But what they're looking at and primarily looking at here is the state of the economy, which candidate has a plan that's going to make their life better, whether it comes to better education, better jobs.

There are a lot of people who are not doing so well here in South Carolina, Fred. You got 20 percent uninsured, a lot of people, about 14 percent, below the poverty line. We went and visited one of the volunteers. Went to an elderly couple who was essentially one of the -- the lady was bedridden. They had to read the mail to the father, to the gentleman, her husband.

So, a lot of people suffering here. And that is the main concern, those economic concerns. So, they're looking at the candidates very closely. And a lot of people who I talked to, Fred, really, it's one thing to compare these economic plans, health care plans, different candidates.

But race is a really tough thing to talk about. A lot of people uncomfortable about it. But they said it is something that they are trying to get over.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is difficult for a lot of people to talk about. But at the same time, since we see in your piece, you did talk to a number of people, did that represent just about everybody you approached or were the numbers fairly low in terms of those who were willing to go on camera?

MALVEAUX: The people that you see in the piece are the ones who were the most candid. A lot of people were saying, look, we know it's always going to be an issue, it's going to be a problem here. But that's certainly a small segment of the population. But a lot of people just wanted to be a little bit more hopeful. They said, look, we know it's an issue, but we're trying to get over it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much from Charleston, South Carolina.

All right, well, I mentioned there are caucuses in Nevada as well. They will test more than just the candidates. It is the first indication of how strong the Latino vote has become. Latinos make up nine percent of U.S. voters, but are 12 percent of voters in Nevada.

Chris Lawrence looks at how Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been fighting for this growing minority.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dana Ramos is a child of immigration reform.

DANA RAMOS, FIRST TIME VOTER: I wasn't documented until Ronald Reagan passed his amnesty program.

LAWRENCE: Now, she's a U.S. citizen and college grad. But immigration is still her priority.

(on camera): You were leaning towards Obama before you went to the debate. Are you firmly in his corner now?

RAMOS: I am. I'm definitely ready to caucus for him on Saturday. I think he has prioritized immigration more than Senator Clinton at this point.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): There are more Latino voters in Nevada than the national average. And the Democratic rivals are fighting for every one. The owner of this restaurant is caucusing for Clinton because her health care plan mandates coverage for everyone.

JAVIER BARAJAS, RESTAURANT OWNER: I'm worried every day that one of my kids are going to get sick or that I going to go to the hospital. And how I going to pay?

LAWRENCE: Obama won the official endorsement of the culinary workers, Nevada's most powerful union. But Clinton has been urging individual members to vote their conscience.

MIGUEL BARIENTOS (ph), RADIO HOST: And this is where you're going to see the split among the culinary workers.

LAWRENCE: Radio host Miguel Barientos and others told us a lot of Latino workers were never consulted by union leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And seven out of 10, that's what they say. They never asked me. I don't know why they choose Obama.

LAWRENCE: Barientos says the choice comes down to immigration.

BARIENTOS: And we don't think Senator Obama will be able to handle this the way we expect Hillary Clinton, with her experience, to be able to deal with it.

LAWRENCE: Dana remains committed to Obama, but won't give him a pass on his promises.

RAMOS: You know, just a resident program or attaining a path (ph) to citizenship. I expect him to deliver on that.


WHITFIELD: All right, that was Chris Lawrence reporting.

Meantime, 2008 may become, indeed, the year of the Latino voter. Nevada has the fastest growing Hispanic population in the country and their vote could determine who wins and who loses.

Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN En Espanol joins us live from outside one of today's caucus sites, Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. So, we know that 12 percent of the voters in Nevada are Latino as we heard. But then, how does that representation fair when it comes to the caucuses?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: We'll only know, Fredricka, when this process is over and I came quickly from the outside from Caesar's Palace to the Cashman Center where Democrats will be receiving their results.

Now, the question is were the efforts enough to get Latinos in Nevada to get involved in the process, because first, they had to learn the caucus process, as everyone in Nevada did, because they never had before this one such a significant event. And now, they have to see if they're going to vote today, if they're going to go and participate. And that's why having nine casinos hosting caucuses is going to be so important.

And we're going to see. I have heard that discussion. I've spoken with people here in Nevada, in Las Vegas, about supporting Obama because the Culinary Union tells them to, and other people saying that they're going to speak their mind. But we will only know at the end of the day.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. Well, as a whole, Americans have said the important issues to them are the economy, Iraq, health care. Are these the same issues that the Latino voters are saying are important to them or is there a particular standout?

LOPEZ: They're the same issues of U.S. Latinos. They have the same concerns, the economy, health care, the war in Iraq. Immigration is not the main priority, but it is an issue that is getting people to go out and vote.

Last year, over a million Hispanics registered or applied for citizenship. It's the highest number ever. It was double what they did in 2006. And that might be reflected in the polls. But they consider immigration an issue that moves them to vote because they consider the debate on immigration to be against Hispanics as a whole, not only against illegal immigrants.

WHITFIELD: All right, Juan Carlos Lopez. Thanks so much, of CNN Espanol, joining us there from Nevada -- or Las Vegas, Nevada, I should say. Thanks so much.

LOPEZ: My pleasure (ph).

WHITFIELD: All right, well indeed, the economy has become a No. 1 issue in the early voting states. So, we've got a special live campaign edition of "YOUR MONEY." Join Wolf Blitzer, Christine Romans and Ali Velshi from Las Vegas. That comes your way 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Then at 2:00, Wolf stays with us for special coverage from our election center in New York. Get the results from the Nevada caucuses. We will have some early results, so you want to hear them. And be sure to stay around for more of CNN's "BALLOT BOWL." We're bringing you the candidates unfiltered and in their own words. CNN's "BALLOT BOWL" kicks off 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

So, when did a suspect's wife know a female marine had been killed? That's just one of the questions we'll address with our legal team straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Good to see you, Avery and Richard. See you right after the break.


WHITFIELD: All right, interesting legal cases to get to this week. Let's bring in our regular guests on our legal issues, Avery Friedman, civil rights attorney and law professor. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor. Good to see you as well.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey, Fred, we should be in Vegas. Everybody's is in Vegas.

WHITFIELD: I know, maybe next time. We'll work out the (INAUDIBLE), the whole O.J. thing.

FRIEDMAN: We like the cold weather, actually.

WHITFIELD: OK, well good. Well, let's talk about the North Carolina marine case. And now, we're hearing information about the wife, Christine Laurean who knew a lot about this alleged crime to take place. Her husband still missing. So Avery, is she a co- conspirator in the case? Police say she's cooperating. But what does that mean? FRIEDMAN: I don't think she is, Fredricka. I think actually she's as much of a victim as one can be because -- the fact is there's no evidence to support the co-conspiracy theory. Indeed, she provided the evidence ...

WHITFIELD: Really? Even ...

FRIEDMAN: None, none. She provided ...

WHITFIELD: No evidence, when apparently she and her husband, Corporal Laurean went to an attorney and talked about things?

FRIEDMAN: They did, but the evidence that was turned over by Christina is the critical evidence that the police have used to start this investigation. I'm convinced that she's a cooperating witness. I can't believe for one second ...

WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.

FRIEDMAN: ...that she was part of the murder.

WHITFIELD: You are so kind because Richard, I know you're going to let at it. Come on ...

HERMAN: Oh, Fred.

WHITFIELD: their home that they share, a crime allegedly takes place. Blood splatter, et cetera, she doesn't know about it?

HERMAN: There's no question she's a co-conspirator here and she ran to save her butt by cutting a cooperation deal with the authorities here. No question about it. And that document, that note that was left by her husband to her which Avery claims is so critical.

Yes, it's a critical document except it's not admissible because there's a spousal privilege. So, that will not be admissible at any trial in this case. She covered up with him. They painted the house. They cleaned up the mess inside. She's in deep with this guy.

FRIEDMAN: I don't believe this guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes, even if during the crime, you weren't a participant, post-crime, that makes you just as culpable, right?

HERMAN: Absolutely, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: Well, there is culpability, but again, I mean, here is this poor woman who knows that her husband probably raped the victim. And I think she did everything she could to protect herself. She knew that this is a bad guy. I don't believe it for a minute.

WHITFIELD: Oh my God, it's a bad situation to say.


WHITFIELD: OK, so what if he is found in Mexico, because there have been friends who said if he got into trouble, he said he'd go to Mexico.


WHITFIELD: If that's the case, what's the extradition policy between these two countries?

HERMAN: Well, we have an extradition with Mexico except they will not consent to an extradition in the event a person faces the death penalty.


HERMAN: That they don't go for.


HERMAN: So, North Carolina ...

WHITFIELD: North Carolina death penalty state?

HERMAN: This case is a -- North Carolina is a death penalty case. This case would qualify for the death penalty and all the government has to do is say -- or the prosecution to say no, we're not going to pursue death penalty. Then, they can get him back here ...

FRIEDMAN: Then, they'll get him back up (ph).

HERMAN: Then they can put it back on the books ...


HERMAN: ...and there's nothing Mexico could do.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery, quickly, there's new surveillance tape showing that Corporal Laurean was at a Lowe's getting supplies that may have been used to cover up the crime. What do you do with that material that -- how do you prove that?

FRIEDMAN: More and more incriminating evidence.


FRIEDMAN: It's horrific. Again, I'm convinced the note triggered all this. And that's where the government is building their case. I think if he's in Mexico, the government has to agree not to -- against the death penalty. We'll get him back.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery, Richard, thanks so much. Enjoy this snowy day.


HERMAN: Take care, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: Take care.

WHITFIELD: See you all next weekend.


WHITFIELD: All right, well, how about this? Speaking of snow and film, beautiful setting there. So, are the streets of Park City paved with gold as well? A lot of independent filmmakers seem to think so. We'll check in with one of the stars appearing at the Sundance Film Festival right after this.


WHITFIELD: Well, take a look at this. A clerk in Springfield, Missouri didn't run when a robber tried to stick up her convenience store. Instead, she whacked him, as you just saw, in the head with her broom. The would-be robber was armed with a gun, but decided a quick exit was in order. Police think this guy had robbed or tried to rob eight stores this month. I guess he won't try again after that.

All right, the Sundance Film Festival, a chance for independent filmmakers to shine, especially in light of this year's screen writer's strike. Our entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson is covering the party and everything else in Park City, Utah.

How's it going?

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's going really well, Fredricka. Thank you so much. I am here at the Sundance Film Festival where a number of films actually address the Middle East and also the war in Iraq, including "American Sun," starring Nick Cannon.

And I'm pleased to tell you that Nick is joining me right now. Good to see you, Nick.

NICK CANNON, ACTOR, MUSICIAN: Good to see you, too.

ANDERSON: Now, congratulations! The movie premiers here in a few hours, actually.

CANNON: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: And you know, it is a big deal because it's not easy to get into Sundance. You must be very proud.

CANNON: Oh, I'm extremely proud. I mean, the process to be up here in such great company with all these other films and you know, a place where they really take the craft of acting seriously. It's exciting for me.

ANDERSON: A dramatic role for you. You play a marine who is about to be sent to Iraq.

CANNON: Right.

ANDERSON: Many people can relate to this.

CANNON: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: What did you learn about the struggles that men and women and their families face before deployment?

CANNON: Well, that's the interesting thing about this film. It actually is more of a family film and even a love story at the same time because it humanizes, you know, the plight that these young men and women have to go through and you know, the decisions and the emotions that come with actually being able -- you know, to separate yourself from your family and everything that's going on internally.

So, it was definitely something I had to dig deep inside. And then, you know, through research and conversations with different people, have to really understand like wow, this is not only a life- changing event, but a coming of age event, where like, you're becoming an adult at the same time.


CANNON: Because these are young men and women in the middle class that represent our country. So, it's definitely tough.

ANDERSON: Have to grow up very quickly.

CANNON: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: And you're a very versatile actor. And your career has really taken off in the last five or six years, especially since "Drum Line."

CANNON: Right, right.

ANDERSON: You know, most aspiring actors can only dream of the kind of success you're having and the work that you're getting to do. Do you just have to pinch yourself sometimes?

CANNON: Absolutely, I mean, coming from being a young stand-up comic, you know, back in the day, just wanting to be on stage and just being a kid that just had, you know, hyperactive energy, to actually be able to have a career and be able to look back on things and look forward to things as well, it's just like amazing to me.

ANDERSON: And you seem to be really focused on your career and your priorities. Is that how you keep your head on straight and resist the temptations that many people fall prey to in Hollywood?

CANNON: Absolutely, you got to stay focused out here, especially, I mean, you know, Sundance is a place where it's like you can do one or the other. You can go party or you can go focus, and I'm trying to stay focused this time.

ANDERSON: Congratulations. "American Sun," looking for a distributor, right?

CANNON: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: OK, best of luck, Nick Cannon.

CANNON: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you so much -- Fredricka, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, smart guy, stay focused. This is an incredible opportunity.

ANDERSON: Right, great advice.

WHITFIELD: All right, great, Brooke, thanks so much. Enjoy the snowy Park City, and beautiful, too.

All right, well, not every political reporter on the campaign trail is a grizzled veteran. Meet the next generation.


WHITFIELD: Acing the ACT, a perfect score on the college entrance exam is pretty impressive. Well, even more amazing when twin brothers do it. Nebraska teens Brian and Ross Devol (ph), identical twins with identical scores. Wow, only one in 4,000 students scored a perfect 36 on the ACT last year. The national average is about 21. Both brothers are running for class valedictorian, which of course, they'll both get. And yes, they've both maintained straight As.

Well, in the crush of reporters following Rudy Giuliani's Florida campaign, you may have missed Shelby Fallin. Our John Zarrella ran into Fallin in Lakeland, Florida. And he thinks she's one reporter that you should get to know.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You are never too young. Just ask nine-year-old fourth grader Shelby Fallin.

SHELBY FALLIN, SCHOLASTIC REPORTER: So, what is that you like about Mr. Rudy Giuliani?

ZARRELLA: Shelby is a reporter covering the presidential candidates.

S. FALLIN: My name is Shelby Fallin. I work with Scholastic News.

ZARRELLA: Scholastic is a publication read by students across the United States. Shelby was chosen as one of Scholastic's kid reporters based on essays she wrote, one about why she'd make a good reporter. That was easy.

S. FALLIN: Thank you, Alex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wonder what's for lunch today.

S. FALLIN: Me too, Gisella. Let's go to Carly in the kitchen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's cooking, Carly?

ZARRELLA: Shelby's been reporting for Griffin Elementary School in Lakeland, Florida since second grade.

CINDY FALLIN, SHELBY'S MOTHER: She's always been one that she can pretty much do anything she sets her mind to.

ZARRELLA: Shelby's first assignment on the campaign trail, covering Republican Rudy Giuliani. As you'd expect, education is important.

S. FALLIN: If it wasn't for education, there wouldn't be Scholastic magazine. And I wouldn't have ...

ZARRELLA (on camera): Did they tell you to say that?


ZARRELLA: And you wouldn't have what?

S. FALLIN: I wouldn't have this reporter job.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Like a veteran reporter, she studied her questions. And with the rest of the media, waited.

(on camera): You have five questions.


ZARRELLA: If you only get to ask him one, which one is it going to be?

S. FALLIN: I'm going to ask him if -- how will you lower the gas prices if you were president.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): But, the day didn't go as Shelby or anyone else expected. A bomb threat forced us to move to another location where we waited again.

S. FALLIN: I think that it's kind of long, but I'm getting used to it.

ZARRELLA: After two hours, the candidate showed up and spoke to supporters, but didn't take questions. For Shelby, this was a learning experience.

But what about that interview? Monday, on his way through Lakeland, Giuliani stopped and Shelby got her one-on-one. How did it go? Well, you'll just have to read her article to find out.

John Zarrella, CNN, Lakeland, Florida.


WHITFIELD: All right, tough cub reporter. Good job. All right, stay with CNN throughout the day for complete coverage of today's voting with the best political team on television. A special election edition of "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.