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The Nevada Democratic Caucus; The South Carolina Republican Primary

Aired January 20, 2008 - 15:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the CNN Elections Center, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
It may be Saturday, but it is a pivotal day in the presidential race. In the next few hours, we will learn the winners of the Nevada caucuses both on the Democratic and Republican side.

Then later tonight, Republican candidates will compete in South Carolina. It is all unfolding right now. You can watch it unfold with the best political team on television, including "YOUR MONEY's" Ali Velshi, he is out in Las Vegas and Christine Romans, and she is here at the CNN Elections Center.

In Nevada, on the Republican side, the voting is scheduled to be over about now. We are going to put the results of the caucuses up on the big wall and the bottom of your screen as soon as we get them. On the Democratic side, there are still two hours for caucus hours to pick whom they want to be the Democratic nominee.

Already, we are showing based on our entrance polls, our entrance polls showing this be could a very good day in Nevada for Mitt Romney, showing, as far as our entrance polls are concerned, a very, very strong turnout for Mitt Romney. Having said that, it is obvious that Mitt Romney spent a lot more time in Nevada than the other Republican presidential candidates. He and Ron Paul were very visible only these past few days in Nevada.

The other Republican presidential candidates have been spending almost all of their time this past week and the week before in South Carolina where the primary is happening even as we speak right now.

We have reporters covering all of this including our own Ali Velshi. He is in Las Vegas; we will go to him shortly. Candy Crowley, she is in Las Vegas as well watching all of this unfolds, a big day for Democrats and Republicans there. Juan Carlos Lopez from CNN, he is watching what is happening out in Nevada, the first state that has a large Latino, Hispanic presence. We are watching that for you as well.

We are not ignoring what's happening in South Carolina. Susan Malveaux is there for us in Charleston as is our own Dana Bash, they are watching this contest. The big day for the Republicans in South Carolina. For the Democrats, that will be next Saturday. We will watch that as well.

Ali, I want to go to you first because you have been there now for awhile. Give us a lay of the land as far as these caucuses are concerned. This is really the first state where the unions are playing a significant role for the Democrats in Nevada.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: That's right, Wolf. That's why I am here on the strip at Las Vegas. I am at Caesar's Palace, which is one of nine locations where the Democrats will actually be caucusing. Now this is the first time this has happened. In the past, the caucuses in Nevada have been held later in the season. As a result, this he have not held the same influence in terms of the national contest that these ones do. Here, they are early. Secondly, there are special caucuses being held here on the strip for shift workers on the strip.

All you have to do if you are a Democrat is show up here and prove that you or at least swear that you started your shift already or are going to start within an hour of the caucus and you can partake in this. This is very helpful to workers here in the tourist areas. It is have he helpful to members of the Culinary Union which is the union to which most of the workers at the casinos be long. That is a union that is endorsed Barack Obama.

Now, Wolf, the issue here in Las Vegas is different than it is in other parts of the country. There has been a housing collapse, because of the speculative nature of people buying houses in the southwest, Las Vegas and Phoenix and places like that over the past few years. But other wise the economy, is doing better than you think.

While it has slowed down, the fact of the matter is there is there are a lot of other people coming in from parts of the world that are keeping these casinos and hotels busy. The unemployment rate is 5.4 percent; it is higher than the national average. Culinary workers I have been talking around here are telling me they are not feeling the pinch as much as you might think.

Occupancy rates at the hotels are lower. The economy is the number one issue for people in Nevada. Health care is another issue. A lot of these people are unionized. There are a lot of shift workers and non-unionized workers in Nevada. Health care becomes a major issue. As you touched on it in the beginning of the show, immigration is also an issue here. They want to hear the candidate's stances on the economics, their health care plan and immigration. That will be dominating Democratic voters, particularly, those, Wolf, who are voting on the strip today.

BLITZER: Ali, hold on for one second, I just want to alert out viewers, the Associated Press is now projecting that Mitt Romney will win the Republican caucuses in Nevada. They are doing this on the basis of the entrance polls, because we don't have official results yet. CNN is not yet ready to make that projection, because we are going to wait for some of the official numbers to come in before we go forward. Given the fact that these caucuses are a relatively new phenomenal out in Nevada, we are going to err on the side of caution.

The Associated Press is reporting that Mitt Romney will win the Nevada caucuses on the Republican side. He had made his presence felt in Nevada in recent days unlike the other major Republican presidential candidates. This is a state he wanted and even though the other Republicans are spending a lot more time in South Carolina. When it does the settles, Nevada will have more delegates at state than South Carolina. This will be an important win for Mitt Romney, if the Associated Press in fact turns out to be accurate.

We are going to get a little official results first. Then, we will move on. Candy Crowley is watching this on the Republican side and the Democratic side for us in Las Vegas. First of all, the AP's projection that Mitt Romney will win the Republican caucuses in Nevada, that is not much of a surprise given the fact that his presence has been a lot in that state?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It isn't, Wolf. There has been a lot of speculation as to why he would be here rather than South Carolina. The fact is that most people think that, obviously, he has less of a chance in South Carolina. Mitt Romney says, look, I made a play out here because there are more delegates.

As you know, these Republican candidates are going at this point delegate by delegate since the top tier has pretty much won a state, each of them. Romney says he came out here because of the delegate count. I will tell you that the people that I talked to around hearsay that there is also a not small Mormon contingent out here which may have helped Romney as well.

BLITZER: Candy, let's talk about the Democrats. Because for the Democrats this is a much more important contest in Nevada right now. The union involvement is significant. Every place elsewhere there are primaries and elections, what the union leaders decide to do may or may not have an impact on the average union rank and file worker.

It is much more difficult in Nevada for these union workers to go against their bosses, shall we say, because these are not secret ballots in Nevada. You have to publicly announce who you are supporting. If the Culinary Union is supporting Hillary Clinton -- excuse me -- Barack Obama, it is much more difficult for a worker to go against his union leadership and support Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. That complicates this matter for Edwards and Clinton.

CROWLEY: It absolutely does. The Clintons have been working very hard toward workers with the Culinary Union. Hillary Clinton, last night, made a public statement saying, well, we are hearing reports that there is pressure on union members to vote a certain way as she put it. She certainly hopes that people will still go even if they disagree with their union leadership.

The other question here is how many people will actually show up? As you know, there hasn't been a big turnout for Nevada caucuses in the past. That was before they got this spotlight. So there is some worry, both inside Culinary Union and other unions that members may not show up. So there has also been confusion about how it all works. So there is a lot of unknowns as we head into these caucuses.

BLITZER: Candy, we will be checking back with you periodically. As soon as we get some official results in from Nevada, we will share that with our viewers as well. I want to show our viewers some of the pictures we are getting, some of the images that are coming in right now. Take a look at this on the screen over here. These are primary voters getting ready to vote in South Carolina, the Republican contest today. They are voting right now all day in South Carolina. Next Saturday, the Democrats will hold their primary in South Carolina.

This is a caucus. It looks pretty empty right now for the Democrats because it hasn't really started yet. The Democrats start later in the day in Nevada after the Republicans. For the Republicans, it's basically a straw poll. You have a number and it is a lot simpler than it is for the Democrats who are basically using the Iowa rules and they will gather to their supporting and all of that.

We are going to continue our special coverage of all of this, what's happening in Nevada and South Carolina. John King and the best political team on television there standing by. We will take a quick break, much more of our coverage from the CNN Elections Center right after this.


BLITZER: I want to recap the Associated Press, now projecting the Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts will win the Nevada caucuses. The Associated Press basing that on entrance polls strictly on entrance polls asking people questions as they go in for these Republican caucuses.

We at CNN are not ready to make that projection. We are going to wait for some official numbers to come into CNN before we go ahead and make a projection, given the fact that in the history of caucuses in Nevada, somewhat sketchy at least until now. We are going to err on the side of caution. But the AP saying that Mitt Romney will win the Nevada caucuses. And important win for him.

Let's go to John King and the best political team on television watching all of this. He was active in Nevada, John, and Mitt Romney. It seems to be paying off.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He made a strategic calculation Wolf, that this race is going to go on for some time and it will be about delegates, not about the traditional states if you will. Normally South Carolina seals the deal in competitive Republican primaries.

Mitt Romney has made the calculation because you had three winners in the big early states, Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan. He has one of those wins in Michigan that this is about delegates, not about the traditional win the early contest and roll through the others. That is Mitt Romney's calculation. The results in South Carolina and then next week in Florida will prove whether or not he is right about how long this is going to go on.

It is an interesting calculation. Governor Romney at this moment, assuming he wins Nevada, will be in the lead when it comes to delegates. Does that matter? Let's bring in our friends on the best political team on television. Gloria, starting with you, it is a bit of a risk. Because in the south many are saying look this is the geographical face of the Republican Party. How can you be the Republican nominee if you won't compete if our base?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually, he didn't show up there a lot. He certainly kept a lot of television ads there. He didn't quite pull out. I mean, I think everybody realizes every candidate realizes that this is a Republican Party right now that is so divided that you have to divide and conquer yourself as a candidate. You have to figure out where your support is and go for it and start counting those delegates, which is what Romney decided to do the night of the Michigan primary.

Don't forget also, in the state of Nevada, there is a large Mormon population. Romney took a look at this and said, 34 delegates, well, maybe it is more valuable to me than the 24 in South Carolina and there are lots of Mormons in Nevada who might vote and help me out.

KING: Let me jump in on that point. The Democrats have an argument over race. Is there a Republican divide over religion? Has Mitt Romney, he tried in South Carolina, he was there all summer trying to convince the Christian evangelicals, you may not understand my faith but I will answer your questions about it and look at my positions, I'm with you. He obviously did not make enough in roads. Is that because of Mike Huckabee's success or was there a wall because of his religion?

BILL BENNETT: There is no wall. There are divisions as there are among evangelical Christians. Mitt Romney won more in Michigan than did Mike Huckabee. Let's use Gloria's template, because that's interesting. There are not only divisions among Republicans but there are divisions inside each Republican. I was smiling, not because I disagreed but you were describing Romney's strategies, I am not going for the momentum states. I am going for the delegates. Wasn't this the guy who was going to win Iowa and New Hampshire?

KING: It's all about change. We all picked it up.

BENNETT: It's a new ballgame. In some ways, necessity is the mother of invention. He has to go with this strategy. Now, it begins to look as if he might suggest or some people in the campaign might suggest a western strategy. Wyoming was too small. Wyoming and Nevada, you begin to look. The country is moving west and one can see it, but he has a lot of money. As he gets delegates, he lives to fight another day unlike some of the other guys we will talk about later.

KING: I want to share an opinion, as a Democrat watching the Republican race in South Carolina, the trend in the last several days, even though McCain who had the polls seemed to be going Huckabees way. Many say part of that was the confederate flag flap. Others say it is because he is authentic.

When he says things like, I want to get the constitution in line with god's word, a constitutional amendment banning abortion and same- sex marriage. He and other Republicans have squared those positions, but he talks about getting it in line with god's words. How does that play in the Democratic politics and how would it play if he were the nominee?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Mike Huckabee is John, is he is mixing traditional conservatism with economic populism. He is saying, I want to lift you up. I think the constitution should reflect your values but, at the same time, you need more money in your pocket. The people on Main Street are hurting.

So I think that is Huckabee's appeal. That's one of the reasons why Mitt Romney has had to abandon his 50 state strategy and cherry pick states where he can pick up delegates, rather than compete in all of the big states that will come before Super Tuesday.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: John, there is another point to keep in mind about South Carolina. 537,000 people voted in the primary in 2000 where George bush defeated John McCain. Let's see how many vote today. Republican turnout has been declining. This is a divided party in many respects. Michigan, it went down. New Hampshire, it went down. Iowa was up a little. Let's see if they can match the 537,000 of eight years ago.

KING: A question Bill and Gloria, Bill first. Do we lose Republicans after South Carolina?

BENNETT: Very possibly. I don't know what Huckabee does for money if he loses South Carolina or doesn't come in a strong second. McCain has a problem if he looses South Carolina. My guess is he goes on to Florida now because he is very close behind Giuliani. This is a very big state for Huckabee and McCain.

BORGER: Unless he has a very strong -- Thompson's campaign from day one was telling me, we have a South Carolina strategy and that is that we are going to win South Carolina. Now, they scaled that back a little bit. He has a very hard time continuing because he won't be able to raise the money. That will be good news for John McCain.

KING: A quick time out for now, a commercial break. Much more ahead. A very busy day in politics. The results of the Democratic and the Republican caucuses in Nevada and the South Carolina primary under way for the Republicans at this hour. Stay with us we will be back with more.


BLITZER: Welcome back. A big day for Democrats and Republicans in two states, South Carolina and Nevada. The Associated Press now projecting that Mitt Romney will win the Nevada Republican caucuses, capturing the delegates there. CNN is not ready to make that projection. The Associated Press doing that on the basis of entrance polls. We are awaiting for some official numbers to come in before we go forward with our projections. If the AP is correct a win for Mitt Romney in Nevada.

The Democrats are caucuses in Nevada right now. They will be closing their caucuses in the next few hours. We are watching all of this very, very closely. We are not for getting the Republican primary. There is voting underway in South Carolina right now. We will bring you all the results throughout the course of the day.

Ali Velshi is out in Las Vegas for us. Christine Romans is here at the CNN Elections Center, the co-host of "Your Money." Christine in South Carolina, let's talk a little bit about the economic issues that the people in South Carolina are facing that could motivate them, especially as we hear fears of recession.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: That is absolutely right. Across the country, the number one issue around the kitchen table is the economy. Nowhere more than in South Carolina. They have lost 94,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001 those are people who don't want to hear these jobs aren't coming back. They want to hear what these candidates are going to do about it. Retraining, you hear this from McCain and others, about retraining and subsidized community college education and the like; they want to talk about trade policies and big issues that are affecting the state.

Everyone is talking about the stimulus package. What are the congressional Democrats and the White House going to agree on? When is there going to be a check in their mailbox, who is going to get it and how much is it going to be and is it going to help? The timing of that stimulus package will be interesting. If they can get a check out by this summer, how will that shape the race? Later on this year, if people are going to get a lot of cash in their mailbox, then maybe that will help the recession.

BLITZER: They are excellent questions that we don't have the answers to. People want the answers. Ali Velshi is looking at the situation in Nevada. Ali as you see what is happening out there, the housing industry has taken a huge hit. This is an area in the southwest of enormous population growth. That's one of the big problems in Nevada right now, especially in the suburbs of Las Vegas.

VELSHI: Christine and I have often talked about this. If you are feeling a recession in different parts of the country, it is often for very different reasons. If you are in Detroit or you are in the Carolinas or the Midwest, you are feeling it because of the loss of those manufacturing jobs. In the southwest, Wolf, it is different. It is about housing. These are the places where there is so much demand for housing, you could go nowhere in the southwestern area, the fringes of Las Vegas and not see these housing projects under construction.

There are two things going on there, one is the prices were going up, people were taking mortgages of a bigger proportion of the price of the home. The other thing is, when you keep on building homes, you create construction jobs. When you look at the unemployment rate in Nevada, you have 5.4 percent, higher than the national average of 5 percent. A lot of these construction jobs and related jobs were lost. When you look at potential economic downturn in Nevada, it is not manufacturing jobs that were lost, it is people suffering because they lost value in their homes, and in many cases those homes are being foreclosed.

This state has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation; about 1 in 152 homes is under foreclosure right now. So a very different economic situation here. The other thing if there is a national recession, if there is a recession in other parts of the country, people don't spend as much which means they don't take those vacations to Las Vegas. We are seeing that hotel occupancy is going down a little bit here.

One builder of a major, several billion dollar construction site has been named in default of their loan payments earlier this week. There are several multi-billion dollar things being built on the strip. Who knows whether they will be getting completed? There are economic concerns in Nevada which reflect economic concerns in the southwest because of that building boom we saw here for so long, that building boom is coming just about to a halt.

BLITZER: Christine, we know the housing issue, the mortgage problems, the candidates are responding. Hillary Clinton the other day putting out this proposal for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures. If she had her way, putting a five-year freeze on mortgage rates for these people who could be in trouble right now. A dramatic proposal designed to appeal to the people in trouble.

ROMANS: You need some kind of moratorium. The experts say you have to figure out who is really in danger because they got pushed into a mortgage they could never afford. Who was playing the system or gaming the system or trying to put homes or buy the second or third home with no money down? You have to sort that out and figure out who you are going to help and who needs to maybe lose a property because of risky behavior.

Also, even if you are not -- even if you don't have a mortgage, you own your home outright, if somebody has a foreclosure down the street; it is going to hurt everybody, tax revenue in different towns. This is something that is going to continue to play out. A lot of folks say the worst is not over yet.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys. I want to go to Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst. He has some of the results from the entrance polls we have been doing out in Nevada. On the economic issues, these results are pretty interesting.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They are indeed. The economy was the number one issue among Republican caucus goers in Nevada, 38 percent cited the economy as their top issue, followed closely by illegal immigration, the economy 38 percent, illegal immigration, 34. Terrorism in Iraq were considerably lower.

Among the voters who cited the economy as their top issue, how did they vote? They voted for Mitt Romney, a former business executive, 47 percent. Second place was Ron Paul. Third, John McCain. Romney is a turnaround artist. He has turned around companies in the past and a lot of voters believe he can help turn around the economy.

Another factor in the Romney issue besides the economy, a lot of Mormon's in Nevada, in fact 25 percent of the voters in today's Republican causes were of the Mormon faith. How did they vote? Look at this board, they voted 94 percent, almost unanimously, for their fellow Mormon, Mitt Romney. So the Mormon vote was very important to his victory. Did he win wholly because of the Mormon vote? No. It wasn't only Mormons. That quarter of the Republican caucus goers who were Mormons clearly provided him with a clear base and a key voting block. BLITZER: I know you will be going through these other entrance poll numbers as well. Remember, these are caucuses in Nevada as a result. We don't have exit polls which we normally do in primaries and elections. These are entrance polls. We ask people information as they go into caucuses.

We are starting to get some real numbers in from Nevada on the Republican side. We are going to share those numbers with you, just recapping the Associated Press. Projecting Mitt Romney will win the Republican caucuses in Nevada. We will check the other headlines of the day. Lots more coming up from the CNN Elections Center.

We will be right back.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I am Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.

Here are the top stories right now. Snow, sleet and rain falling across northern Georgia. Forecasters warn highways could ice up, people are urged to stay off the roads. Hundreds of flights have been canceled in Atlanta at the airport. The FAA reports some flights are delayed more than four hours.

Take a look at this store surveillance video. See that man circled to the left. Authorities say that is fugitive Marine Cesar Laurean, he is wanted for killing the pregnant marine. They say he could be buying supplies used to cover up the murder in this video.

In Spain, 14 people are under arrest suspected of plotting an Islamic terrorist attack. They say they were in the process of gathering bomb-making materials. CNN's special election coverage continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center, I am Wolf Blitzer reporting.

We are following two states, Nevada and South Carolina. First to Nevada, the Associated Press projecting the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will win the Republican caucuses in Nevada. CNN is not yet ready to make that projection. The AP making the projection on the basis of entrance polls. We are only now beginning to get some very, very early numbers from the Republican caucuses.

If you take a look, with less than one percent of the precincts reporting, Mitt Romney, with 46 percent, John McCain Ron Paul, both with 15 percent, Fred Thompson with 10 percent. You can see, these are tiny, tiny numbers, 120 votes for Mitt Romney, 40 for McCain, 39 for Ron Paul. Once again, we are going to wait at CNN before we make our projection. It could be soon. We will err on the side of caution. Once again, the AP projecting that Mitt Romney will carry the Nevada caucuses. Ali Velshi and Christine Romans are here from "YOUR MONEY," Ali you are out there in Las Vegas right now. The economic issues like in so many other parts of the country, or should I say all of the countries are upper most on the minds of voters. Bill Schneider just reporting. You have been there a few days. Give us a little feeling of how it is playing.

VELSHI: Well, you know, the economic issues here are a bit of a challenge. They are different from what they are in different parts of the country. They are two major issues affecting Americans, on one side; you got those states like South Carolina, like Ohio and Michigan, places like that where manufacturing jobs have been lost because they have gone overseas.

Then, you have states like Nevada, and Arizona, Florida, California, where people bid up the prices of houses, there was so much development going on and so much speculation, as the housing boom started to collapse, you saw it around here first. You have more foreclosures in Nevada than you have in any other state. You have other issues as well. You have a lot of service workers here. Which is why I'm here on the Las Vegas strip, for the first time ever there are going to be nine caucuses at casinos here on the strip.

I'm at Caesars but nine of the big casinos here have caucuses. Democrats are now arriving to vote at those caucuses for whom they think is going to be their best bet. The Culinary Workers Union, which represents most of the unionized workers here on the strip, has put their support behind Barack Obama. There are a number of people who feel they don't want to vote the way their union bosses tell them to vote. Because it is a primary, because it is a caucus, not a primary, it is not a private vote. It's a meeting in a room.

We will have to see where that goes much the importance of that caucus is that it's come earlier in the session, in the season, than they have in the past in Nevada. They will have some influence. One of the other things that Bill Schneider just talked about, Mitt Romney being reported by AP as the winner of the Republican caucuses. The issue is if you are looking for someone who is a turnaround guy, is Mitt Romney your guy.

Well let's just look at his background. He in 1990 was appointed a CEO of a company that consults with other companies to turn them around. He did very well there; he restructured a whole lot of things with that company. He ended up turning that company from the verge of bankruptcy into profitability. Then, in 1999, Wolf, he took over the head of the Salt Lake City Olympics. That was another scandal and crises-plagued organization. Within a year, he had turned that around and created $100 million profit.

So, whatever you think of the rest of his policies, he has a resume that says he is able to turn around financial and business matters. That may have helped in a state where the issues of the economy are foremost in the minds of voters.

BLITZER: All right. Ali, stand by. Christine Romans is here as well. Christine, it is fascinating when we heard Bill Schneider tell us about the entrance poll results, what issues were most of the minds of these voters in Nevada where the economy, close behind illegal immigration and way, way behind, the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, which has clearly receded right now. The economy and immigration in a state like Nevada dominating the minds of voters right now.

ROMANS: For Republicans at least at this point. And you are right no matter what state you are in, foreclosures are a big deal. You are talking about high gas prices everywhere, $100 oil just a couple of weeks ago. People are talking about this. People know that their gas prices are up some 30 percent last year. They are having trouble paying their winter bills, 47 million still uninsured.

Even the big banks here in New York, $100 billion in write-downs. That's impossible to imagine. They have had to go overseas for $35 billion in bailouts. There is a real feeling that all different parts of the economy are coming unraveled. People are reflecting that in the polls.

BLITZER: I know you have profiled one individual to give us a sense of the mood out there. Tell us about what you have learned.

ROMANS: Amidst all this agility (ph) about the economy, high gas prices, all these things. We profiled a guy who never made more than $11 an hour and became a millionaire. You will be surprised at what he did with that money.


PAUL NAVONE: My model all along was, work for the money and then I want that money to work for me.

ROMANS (voice over): Paul Navone stands in stark contrast to a culture of consumerism that has left many Americans swamped with debt. What advice does he have for hourly workers looking to scrape together a few million of their own?

NAVONE: Number one, wisely invest it. Some people make the mistake, I think, a lot of people do, thinking that they will get into the market and make a killing, you know. That's the wrong attitude from the get-go. If you have been there with a solid common sense approach to it, you know, you will come out ahead.

ROMANS: Instead of living in luxury, the retired mill worker chose to give away millions. $1 million to a college near his home and another million to a local private high school.

NAVONE: I never denied myself anything. But, at the same time, I was frugal and I didn't waste my money.

ROMANS: What Navone chooses not to do makes him even more fascinating. He says he does not own a phone, has never read a book and buys all his clothes from thrift shops. The last time he watched television. NAVONE: Was Neil Armstrong making the moon landing.


ROMANS: We hope he isn't watching right now. If we get a check in the summer, maybe we would think about somebody like Paul Navone when you are deciding how to spend it. Spending is good for the economy; saving it might be a good thing for a lot of families who are having a little trouble right now.

BLITZER: He is truly an amazing guy. He is just a great guy working hard. Thanks for bringing us that story. We are going to continue our coverage for the elections. The numbers are beginning to come in from the Nevada caucuses. We are going to update you on precisely what we know. We will go from Nevada to South Carolina. Lots of political news unfolding on this important Saturday.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. The Associated Press projecting Mitt Romney will win the Republican caucuses in Nevada. We are reluctant to do that so far at CNN, because we are waiting for some real numbers to come in, not just based on the entrance polls.

Some numbers are trickling in. Right now less than 1 percent of the numbers have come in. Mitt Romney with 46 percent, Ron Paul 14 percent, John McCain, 14, and Fred Thompson 13. These are really, really tiny numbers coming insofar. We will wait to get some more numbers.

The Democratic caucuses in Nevada, they closed their doors for their caucuses at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, which is noon Pacific, about an hour and 15 minutes or so from now. It is empty in their caucus rooms. In fact, if you want to take a look at one in Caesar's Palace right now on the strip in Las Vegas, you see some people beginning to show up.

That's not your everyday caucus room. They agreed there would be these sites that would unable some of the Culinary Union workers to show up as well, those who have to work on a Saturday, went to the courts and decided this was an important idea to let these people who have to work on a Saturday to go ahead and vote on site at these casinos.

South Carolina, they are voting on the Republican side right now, the Republican primaries going on today. The Democratic primary in South Carolina next Saturday. They will be closing their polls in South Carolina. Here are some live pictures coming in to the CNN Election Center from South Carolina right now. The Democrats will be voting as I said next Saturday.

The Republicans have until 7:00 p.m. Eastern to vote in South Carolina. They will be voting there. The voting will stop. We see what's happening on the Republican side. All of this very important in the process to help select the nominees for the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Let's go to John King who is analyzing this with the best political team on television. We were saying earlier in Nevada on the Republican side, it is the economy and illegal immigration. I suppose for Republicans and a lot of Democrats, those are the key issues right now, clearly taking away from the war on terror and the war in Iraq.

KING: I was in South Carolina yesterday. Fascinating to watch all the Republican candidates pivot quickly to respond to the president's stimulus plan, generally supportive of it. Listening to Fred Thompson and John McCain, worried about too much government spending.

Bill, you have a Republican president eight years in office. History says, generally, not always, the other party usually wins that anyway. Now, you have an economy that is teetering at or near or in recession. If you are a Republican strategist in the room now, how are you trying to box your way out of this? The trends are against you.

BENNETT: First, count all the trends. I don't have to repeat them here about fundraising and registration and enthusiasm. Confusion. Their confusion is better. It's just two candidates they are undecided about. We still have four or five. Clearly, looking at the issues as well, the economy, we are moving toward immigration getting center stage very soon. It matters in South Carolina. It matters in Nevada, Florida. It matters huge, big-time.

Remember, on the war on terror in Iraq, one of the reasons it is not at the top, things are going better. That will accrue, I think, to some extent to the Republicans advantage. It is a balancing factor, so it is not on the top for the Republicans.

BORGER: But ironically, it may not work as well for John McCain. It is so interesting. It was his key issues. The war in Iraq. I was for the surge before President Bush was for the surge. It worked. Now, the train is shifting to the economic terrain, which is not John McCain's strong suit. His key campaign issue may get to the bottom of the list. An issue he is not as strong on may go to the top.

TOOBIN: I would like to dissent a little from sort of the poll analysis of the race. If you talk to actual human beings about John McCain, what they like about him is John McCain, not his stand on this or that issue. I think he is a person with an extraordinary life story, the years as a POW, a persona that was an outsider for a while, although that is less true than it used to be. I think that's really what he is running on more than any stand on any issue.

BORGER: But it didn't work in Michigan.

TOOBIN: I am not saying it is going to work. I am not saying it is going to work. It is what he is about.

KING: There is a huge question for John McCain which is can he win among Republicans? He wins in states where Democrats and independents can jump in. South Carolina is about as conservative as a state comes. Not all cultural conservatives. There are different wings of the conservatives.

BENNETT: It would be very good for him if he wins in South Carolina. I think it would be largely because of the reasons you said.

KING: The president of the United States who has been largely ignored by the candidates in his own party, talked about only by the Democrats who like to kick him. He is relevant at the moment because how he handles this economic argument in the country right now will affect the political dynamic for the next several weeks, if not longer.

We don't know what the economy will look like when we get to the general election. As voters are looking at this right now, George W. Bush says, I will sit down with Harry Reed and Nancy Pelosi. What's the challenge for the Democrats?

BRAZILE: The challenge of course is for the Democrats to talk about these issues and to continue to raise them to contrast with Republicans. They controlled the Congress for eight years with the president. They ran up the deficit and they didn't take care of jobs for the middle class.

So what Democrats are doing right now is talking about record home foreclosures and what the party can do to the American people no class, not just their future but also a future where the country will put jobs and the economy back on track. So I think this is a key moment for Democrats to build a contrast with Republicans before they try to pivot immigration and other issues that Democrats are not less comfortable to discuss.

KING: How do you handle this if you are a Republican candidate? You don't want to be seen as insensitive. People are hurting right now. You want to be seen as let's do something. Let's use the government to help people. We are conservative. You heard John McCain, give tax rebates but cut the spending, pay for them with spending cuts. Don't look liberal on spending. If you are going to be a general election candidate, you need to appeal to a broader base.

BORGER: Let's take a look at the Mitt Romney pivot. That is sort of a key one and he did it in the state of Michigan and it worked very well. You turn and say, I feel your pain. This is one of those moments when a candidate can really either connect with what the American people are thinking and feeling or not connect. Romney decided, I am going to feel your pain. I am going to connect with you. I am going to tell you your jobs are not going to disappear in the state of Michigan and you are going to be my job, number one.

TOOBIN: It is worth noting that when we talk about the stimulus package, that illusive thing, bipartisan ship, does seem to be happening now. There are differences in how much and who gets it. It does look like the Democrats and Republicans are actually going to agree on something in Washington. I don't know who that represents.

KING: They will sit down and try to agree. We need to get in a quick break. I am fascinated by this issue. Particularly on the stimulus plan, Romney is bigger than the president. We will talk about that later. With a quick break, a busy day ahead. The results starting to come in from Nevada on the Republican side, the Democrats in Nevada beginning to vote. In South Carolina Republicans also casting votes today and what could be a pivotally presidential primary.

Much, much more ahead and a busy day of presidential politics, stay with us right here on CNN.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN Election Center. We are going to go right back out to Nevada right now because we are watching one or two reasons why Nevada was selected by the Democratic Party for the caucuses to move up their caucuses, give them more prominent after Iowa and New Hampshire. One reason being the unions, the union president in Nevada much more significant than Iowa or New Hampshire. Another major reason the Hispanic presence, a significant Hispanic population in Nevada right now unlike Iowa or New Hampshire.

Juan Carlos Lopez from our sister network CNN Espanol is out in Las Vegas right now. A significant percentage of the Democratic voters in Nevada Hispanic and they could play a key role, there is antidotal evidence Juan Carlos directly from speaking to people out there that they like Hillary Clinton. But give us your lay of the land, what you are seeing right now.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL: Well that is what they have been saying and that is what the polls say, about 60 percent of Hispanics support Hillary Clinton, she is a known name. But an interesting factor Bill Richardson was the only Hispanic in the race and he received very little support from the Hispanics because they weren't aware that he was a Latino.

Hillary Clinton has the support and it has been a big issue in Nevada with the support of the Culinary Union to Barack Obama, and people saying well nobody asked me if I wanted the union to go for Obama. I like Hillary and that is something we are probably going see in those caucuses in the casinos when people go and some may not take part just because they are going to have support a candidate that they don't like, others might follow the unions for (ph) and proceed when it is over if Obama gets the Hispanic vote or not.

BLITZER: Exactly one hour from now, they are scheduled to close the doors at the Democratic caucuses. Juan Carlos in Nevada.