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AMERICAN MORNING

Britney Spears Hospitalized Again; Sprint to Super Tuesday: Dems Debate Tonight in L.A.; Hollywood Hot Ticket: Clinton Versus Obama Debate; GOP Fight Night: McCain and Romney Square Off in Debate

Aired January 31, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you. It's Thursday, January 31st. I'm Kiran Chetry in New York and, of course, John outside the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, talking about post debate last night, the GOP back and forth debating tonight. It's going to be the Democrats. But, of course, John, leave it to Britney Spears to upstage our political discussion this morning with some breaking news overnight.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's a shame and obviously something hopefully will be done and something will come out of that and will be constructive.

It's going to be a huge night here. The Democrat field now whittled down from eight until only two remain, Clinton versus Obama. This CNN Democratic debate is the hottest ticket in town. The California Democratic Party says it has been getting more requests for tickets than the Oscars are getting. It is the last face-off before more than 20 states vote in a huge Super Tuesday contest next week.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are going to fight it out now for the Democratic nomination after John Edwards suspended his campaign yesterday. And it was a little bit more crowded at last night's final Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. John McCain and Mitt Romney spent most of the night attacking each other, trying to secure the conservative vote in California, both staking a claim to Ronald Reagan's legacy. But only one is getting the big endorsement from Governor Schwarzenegger today. CNN's Dana Bash joins me now. So by all indications, Schwarzenegger is going to throw in with John McCain today.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that is going to be likely the headline at the end of the day today. But, you know, the headline as you know last night was what you just talked about, the big confrontation between John McCain and Mitt Romney, particularly over the issue that John McCain's campaign thinks is their biggest strength, and that is Iraq and national security. But, John, Governor Romney tried to go at what they think is McCain's weakness, and that is perhaps that he has challenged his own credibility and character especially for the man who calls him the candidate of straight talk.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): You want to know how raw this Republican race is, just look at those glares and listen. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Timetables was the buzz word for withdrawal.

(CROSSTALK)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not using the actual quote. That's not what I said.

BASH: The testy exchange over a fight John McCain picked with Mitt Romney in Florida, accusing him of supporting a timetable for troop withdrawal in Iraq.

ROMNEY: I do not propose nor have I ever proposed a public or secret date for withdrawal.

BASH: Romney was quick to invoke the GOP icon whose library was host.

ROMNEY: It sort of falls in the kind of dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator McCain, tough words.

MCCAIN: Well, of course, he said he wanted a timetable.

BASH: Just five days before votes in 21 states, they mostly clashed over conservative credentials. Mitt Romney is trying to halt McCain's momentum by questioning his.

ROMNEY: I believe. If I'm correct -- correct me Senator, he voted twice against the Bush tax cuts. Only two Republicans did that.

BASH: McCain shot right back.

MCCAIN: As I understand it, his record was that he raised taxes by $730 million and that he called them fees.

BASH: But on one huge McCain weak spot were conservatives, illegal immigration, a concession.

When asked if he would vote for his own legislation allowing citizenship --

MCCAIN: No, I would not because we know what the situation is today. People want the borders secured first.

BASH: And more than once, a stern reminder from Mike Huckabee, it's not a two-man race.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want to talk conserve credentials, let me get in on that. The only person that's sitting here today that is consistently supported the human life amendment.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: But with what is essentially a national primary just five days away, and that is, of course, Super Tuesday, the goal of all of these campaigns as you know, John, is to get as much national exposure as possible. Yesterday, John McCain got that with a big endorsement from Rudy Giuliani. As we talked about just the beginning here, we do expect him to get a big endorsement from the governor here, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ROBERTS: And, of course, Schwarzenegger very popular in the state of California. Does that translate outside of this state?

BASH: What's interesting -- what the McCain campaign is essentially hoping for is to it translate perhaps more outside of California than inside California. He's very popular certainly among the population at large, but when you're talking about the Republican primary voter here in California, it might be a little bit iffy about whether it helps John McCain so, so much because there are conservatives who don't love the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a moderate. But when you look at the national stage as we were talking about, 21 states, people all across the country are going to hear the name Arnold Schwarzenegger associated with John McCain. That's the kind of star power you just can't buy.

ROBERTS: Instant recognition, certainly. Dana Bash, thanks very much for coming in early this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Thank you. My pleasure.

ROBERTS: I caught up with Mitt Romney and John McCain after the debate last night and asked them about the swipes that they were taking at each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator, you went at Governor Romney pretty hard tonight. Why did you feel the need to do that this evening?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. It was really responding, I think, to the critical issue of our time is whether we withdraw from Iraq and whether we set a timetable or not, and I think that it was a very spirited conversation about that. That's what people went to see.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody said what he said was just simply wrong, reprehensible. I think it was a huge mistake on his part. He wants to stick with it, so he's going to take the shots for it as long as he's doing that. Senator McCain is just I think out of step with Republicans on issue after issue, and that's what is going to hopefully get me the nod.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: I also talked with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. We're going to have that coming up for you in our next hour here on AMERICAN MORNING. And, Kiran, I just want to point out, the place where I interviewed Mitt Romney last night, his holding room is a replica of the Reagan Library of the Command Center on the USS Ronald Reagan Aircraft Carrier. Really interesting place, that library.

CHETRY: Yes. It was very neat. We had a -- we got a little bit of a tour of that yesterday. And boy, you're looking at a piece of history and it was very, very interesting.

Well, speaking of history, this is also fascinating if you think about it. For the first time, the Democrats will nominate either a black man or a woman for president, not a while male for the first time ever, and Hillary Clinton making experience the key to her claim that the presidency on the presidency. And Barack Obama banking on change, the field now officially wield down to two after former Senator John Edwards suspended his campaign yesterday. He made that announcement from New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward. It's the same place where he announced he was running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for me to step aside so that history can -- so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. What we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified and with our convictions and a little backbone, we will take back the White House in November and we'll create hope and opportunity for this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Edwards did not want to endorse either candidate and also, he announced he was suspending his campaign as opposed to actually dropping out. And in general, it means that they can keep any delegates that they want up to that point and they can actually continue to raise and spend campaign funds. So we'll keep you posted about that. Both Obama and Clinton have promised at the behest of John Edwards to make his anti-poverty message something that they touch on as well in their campaigns.

So, are they for Obama or anti-Clinton? Let's check out the front page today of the "New York Post." And you can see it right here. It says, "Post" endorses Obama. And they are endorsing him for the New York primary. "The "Post" says, "Obama represents a fresh start. His opponent and her husband stand for deja vu all over again. A return to the opportunistic scandal-scarred morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency." Now, "The Post" also says that Obama has his faults but then he's "not team Clinton."

The CNN Democratic debate begins tonight. Its at 8:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer will be moderating this one. And you can catch an encore presentation of the Republican debate. That's going to air right here on CNN at noon Eastern time.

Also today, we're following extreme weather across the country. Snow and avalanche danger shutting down Interstate 90. This was in Washington State after two cars were buried under snow. Police say that four people trapped inside the cars got out OK, and the wind, a big factor in the Midwest as well as the northeast Wisconsin. Getting slightly warmer today after temperatures plunged more than 50 degrees within hours earlier this week. Buffalo also slammed with near hurricane force wind gusts yesterday causing Lake Erie to rise more than 10 feet leaving behind rivers of ice as you see there as well.

Reynolds Wolf tracking all the extreme weather for us this morning. And boy, Reynolds, even here in New York City, you talk about those wind gust, I almost got blown over a couple of times.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You got to be really careful when you have these windy conditions, especially when that wind goes right between those buildings down the street. It's really intensifies its power. Now, as it stands, we're expecting the wind to really gain more strength as we get to the midday hours and in to the afternoon. That could cause all kinds of delays in the northeast corridor. But right now, the big weather story is what's happening in parts of the central plains. Let's go right to that right now on the weather computer, and you just see it beginning to take shape. On one side, you get cold air that's driving in from the north. At the same time, plenty of moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico, and it's going to be that combination with that frontal boundary rolling from the west to the east. It could bring just all kinds of rough weather to places like Dallas, Texas, Oklahoma City.

Right now, a string of showers and storms moving just into the Waco area, right along parts of I-35 and not too far from Nacogdoches. Now, when you take a look at what's happening in portions of the Midwest, St. Louis currently under a winter storm warning. They may see up to a foot of snowfall between now until tomorrow evening. So that is certainly a big area of concern for us.

Another thing we're watching, of course, more showers and potential severe weather in parts of Mississippi and Alabama. And, of course, Kiran, again, back in the northeast, we're talking about the winds this morning primarily out of the east and all locations anywhere from nine to 10 to 15 miles per hour. And as I mentioned, that will cause some delays.

Right now, we do anticipate some delays in Boston. Now, in New York Metro Area, in fact, all the airports you see delays of 40, say 30 to 45 minutes. And same story in Philadelphia, it is going to be a morning where you're going to have to really be patient in travel. That is the latest we've got for you, Kiran. Let's send it right back to you in the studio.

CHETRY: All right. We'll be checking in with you throughout the morning for our weather update. Thanks, Reynolds.

Meanwhile, Alina Cho is here with some stories breaking overnight, including more trouble at the home of Britney Spears.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just when you thought it couldn't get worst. Kiran, good morning. Good morning, everybody.

That breaking news overnight that troubled pop star, Britney Spears, is back in the hospital. Police were called to Spears' home just after midnight L.A. time. They physically removed her and escorted her in an ambulance to the hospital. According to the "Associated Press," she is now being held on a 72-hour mental health evaluation. It was apparently prompted by a call from Spears' psychiatrist. This is the second time Spears has been taken from her home and hospitalized on a mental health hold in a month. We'll have much more on this coming up in the next few minutes.

Also, new this morning. There could be a showdown today over who gets a rebate check and for how much. The Senate Finance Committee has approved an economic stimulus plan that will shrink the rebate to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples, but more Americans would be eligible. Individuals making $150,000 a year and couples making $300,000 would get checks. That's up from $75,000 and $150,000 respectively. The House and the White House are urging the Senate to pass the package that's already been approved by the House.

Brand-new rules starting today at the border with Canada. Americans and Canadians will now have to show government issued I.D. and proof of citizenship to enter into the United States. For example, you would need a driver's license and a passport or birth certificate before you could just tell border agents where you are from. Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve will have more on what you have to know in the next hour.

The IRS is issuing a warning. Watch out for tax rebate scams. The Feds say identity thieves are posing as IRS agents calling people and telling them they can't get their rebates unless they provide information about their bank accounts for direct deposit. The IRS says the scammers, of course, are trying to take advantage of all the people who are expecting a rebate from that economic stimulus plan. So --

CHETRY: You don't have to give your information over the phone to anybody.

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: Right. And you shouldn't do it, anyway. But anyway, you should make sure that it's the official government Web site if you are going to go and get that information at all.

CHETRY: All right. Alina, thank you.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Kiran, thanks very much. You're watching the "Most News in the Morning" here on CNN. It is being called the hottest ticket in town. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sharing the stage in tonight's final Democratic debate before Super Tuesday. The issues they are debating and where we might see fireworks just ahead. We're also following breaking news here in southern California. Britney Spears rushed to the hospital again. We'll go live to a reporter who was outside of her home all night as the drama unfolded. That's coming up next here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Yes, that is Britney Spears and there's some breaking news overnight that the troubled pop star is back in the hospital. The "L.A. Times" reporting that she was physically removed from her home a few hours ago, taken to the UCLA Medical Center, and is now being held on a 72-hour mental health evaluation. This is the second time she's been held in a month on a mental health evaluation.

Andrew Blankstein of the "L.A. Times" was outside of Spears' home all night, and he joins us on the phone right now. Andrew, what was the scene like outside of Britney's home?

ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, "L.A. TIMES" STAFF WRITER: Well, I arrived there about 11:20 this evening and at that point, there were news helicopters circling overhead Mulholland Drive, where the front entrance to her home is located which was lined with dozens of news photographers and paparazzi staking out both the front and side entrances to her home. At that point, it was one LAPD unit on scene outside and they were issuing parking citations, mostly people were milling about.

But about an hour and a half later, right around 1:00, more than a dozen officers, most on them on motorcycles and several cruisers and the rescue ambulance came in through the front gate. They were in there about 10 minutes before. On the radio, you could hear the package is on the way out, and then go, go, go and secure the gate. She was whisked out the side entrance and the police motorcade made its way down Coldwater Canyon towards the west side of Los Angeles and onto UCLA Medical Center.

CHETRY: And, Andrew, clearly, that was prompted by a phone call from within her house. Did the police give you any indication as to why they were called there and why they ended up taking Britney out?

BLANKSTEIN: Well, at this point, we know that her psychiatrist did call the Los Angeles Police to her home late Wednesday, but authorities citing privacy concerns declined to elaborate on it. So we don't know exactly what prompted that call and they wouldn't say if she did this willingly but they also said they didn't report any problems.

CHETRY: OK. Andrew Blankstein giving us a little bit of the information about what exactly went down outside of Britney's home this morning. Andrew, from the "L.A. Times," thank you.

We're also bringing in AMERICAN MORNING's legal analyst, Sunny Hostin. We were here as we said earlier in the month talking about this very same thing. Now, we're learning, at least according to police telling "L.A. Times," it was a call from the psychiatrist.

SUNNY HOSTIN, AMERICAN MORNING LEGAL ANALYST: That's right.

CHETRY: Do we even know that she was seeking some sort of treatment or at least getting some sort of mental health treatment?

HOSTIN: Well, it's been reported that she now does have a psychiatrist. And I think the interesting thing is the call must have come from a medical professional because Kiran, we discussed this before, it's very difficult to involuntarily commit someone. There's a process. It's called the 5150 hold to have somebody involuntarily committed. But the way the process starts is that a doctor must intervene, a medical health professional or police. Until that's what seemingly happened.

This sounds like something that was in the works. It had been planned. It was carefully orchestrated. You hear the police said the package is on the way. You know, we had the paparazzi sort of held at bay so that she could get the treatment that she needed. I think this was carefully orchestrated. Obviously, the family is planning this sort of intervention.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: But how is this going to be any different than a month ago when she was at Cedars-Sinai? They didn't even hold her for the whole amount of time and then she was back out again.

HOSTIN: That's true. What typically happens is that a psychiatrist has to determine that she's a danger to herself or to others. Obviously, the last time they didn't think that. But we know we've seen a downward spiral. She's been diagnosed reportedly as having bipolar disorder. That's something that sometimes treated with lithium. I think that this time, because she's half as (ph) downward spiral, it is possible that she will be held. But a judge will determine she's a danger to herself or to others or a medical professional will determine that, and we may see her get the help that she needs, which I think in my view, could be helpful to having her get some sort of visitation or limited custody of her children.

CHETRY: Down the road, does it hurt you in a child custody case if you had to be treated for a diagnosed mental illness? Does that affect whether or not you will ever be able to be with your kids?

HOSTIN: I don't think so. I think each case is certainly different. But we know that Britney loves her children. We haven't heard anything about her hurting her children. We know that she misses her children. The standard here, Kiran, is what is in the best interest of the children. And most people will agree that it's in the best interest of every child to have a loving relationship, a positive relationship with both parents, not just one. So I think this is the best thing because now, hopefully she's on the road to recovery.

CHETRY: All right. We'll see. As we said, breaking news tonight. Britney Spears taken to the UCLA Medical Center according to the "L.A. Times."

Thanks a lot, Sunny. Good to see you. HOSTIN: Thank you.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: Coming up now and 20 minutes after the hour. How do voters think the Republican candidates did last night? We'll show you their instant reactions from our debate dial test.

And gasoline prices is about to fill up again. What is behind this latest jump at the pump? That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: This is headlines now, and get ready for another record setting surge in gasoline prices, unfortunately. Oil analysts predict prices will spike again in the spring as refiners and gas stations switch from winter to summer fuel blends. The price jump could begin as early as February in southern California and could push the national average to $3.50 a gallon.

Starbucks losing some steam. Closing about 100 stores across the country that aren't doing well. Starbucks also plans to stop selling hot breakfast sandwiches and put a new focus on its stores overseas.

And it looks like TV sales are up big ahead of the Super Bowl. Certainly, good news for stores at a time when a lot of people are worried about the economy. One industry survey estimates that consumers will buy close to four million new televisions in time for the big game on Sunday. Now a lot of people in New York, too, because, you know, excited about the Giants, going out and buying those plasma screens.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. There's going to be so much interest in this game. The Patriots, 18-0 now, and the Giants in it as well. Yes. I feel like I'm going to be the only person not watching because I'm going to be traveling at that time. Just my luck, as always.

Hey, there is a debate fever here in Los Angeles tonight. Our CNN Democratic debate, it's the hottest ticket in town here. The two Democrats still standing will go one-on-one for their first time, and their final debate before Super Tuesday. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama yesterday were sharpening their attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know it is tempting after another president named George Bush. This is our second one now. And so I know it's tempting to simply turn back the clock, look backwards and try to build a bridge back to the 20th century. It is not enough to say you'll be ready from day one, you have to be right from day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, Hillary Clinton had this to say in response, "That certainly sounds audacious, but not hopeful, and not to Barack Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," He went on to say I would certainly hope that we could get back to talking about the issues, drawing the contrasts that are based in fact that have a connection to the American people."

CNN's Jessica Yellin joins us now. So we could expect more of such fireworks in tonight's debate?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that we'll see exactly the dynamic that played up yesterday happen tonight. Barack Obama is making such an aggressive bid for John Edwards supporters, that he's trying to draw these contrasts with Hillary Clinton in ways we haven't seen before. He's directly going after her for her failure to pass health care reform, a more direct on Iraq and her support for Iraq as he sees it. And also, that she has this effect of uniting the Republicans.

For Senator Clinton, the response could be tonight to try to do what she did right there, stand back a bit and try to be above it as much as she can, so she's not accused of going negative.

ROBERTS: Our Roland Martin was saying last night in post-debate coverage, that as hot as the two of them got at our last debate in Myrtle Beach, that Barack Obama has to step it up a notch tonight. This is his one shot at really making a play to say, I can stand up to her.

YELLIN: Absolutely. He has to show that he can be tough with Senator Clinton, but that implies he can also be tough with whoever the Republican nominee would be in the general election. The danger is he has campaigned as the candidate of hope, the candidate who doesn't making negative attacks. And there's a danger that he is working against his own narrative if he does that. The Clinton campaign yesterday, her aides even went more negative than she did. They called his attacks false, personal, unwarranted.

ROBERTS: Now, you certainly can't allow your opponent to define you. You have to define yourself. A lot of talk, of course, over the last couple of weeks about the role that her husband's complain in the campaign. She had something to say about that yesterday.

YELLIN: She did. She was asked on "Nightline" whether or not she was bothered by her husband's comments. And she said, you know, I take responsibility for what he has said. I'm the candidate. But again, that's my campaign. You're judging me, not him.

ROBERTS: So, what kind of effect do you think John Edwards departure is going to have, not just at the debate tonight because he won't be there on the side lines saying, hey, there's three of us in the debate and I'm the adult here, and also, overall in the campaign as we head towards Super Tuesday?

YELLIN: Well, first of all, it will allow them to mix it up even more. I mean, we saw that in South Carolina, so they could really go at it. And also, we'll see them try to go at his supporters, all those people who embraced that populous Democratic message. Maybe we'll hear them voice sort of different or embrace that poverty message that we've heard with John Edwards.

ROBERTS: Do you think they'll break one way or another or might they split between them?

YELLIN: They really look likely poised to split.

ROBERTS: Interesting. Jessica Yellin, thanks very much. Good to talk to you this morning.

That brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Who do you think will benefit more from John Edwards' departure from the presidential race? Cast your vote at CNN.com/am. We're going to have the first tally of votes coming up later on in this hour. But right now, back to New York, and here's Kiran.

CHETRY: Thanks, John. And we're also getting up close and personal looking at the chaos in Kenya. Our own Zain Verjee reporting from her native country on the increasing violence there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): They burned the house yesterday, and she's just been sitting here since.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: There are many, many stories like that, troubling developments this well. A live report from Zain just ahead.

Also, instant reaction from voters right as the candidates were debating. We're going to take a look at what you thought when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING and this sign says it all, Thursday, January 31st. I'm John Roberts, outside of the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, the scene of tonight's final Democratic debate before Super Tuesday.

Good morning, Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And then there were two. It should be interesting. We're going to hear Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama one-on-one debating each other. So, certainly you can expect some fireworks, I'm sure.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. I think that if we thought it was a smack down in Myrtle Beach, it could even get more so tonight. Very intense.

CHETRY: That's right. There's no referee except for Wolf. So it should be interesting.

Meanwhile, last night an intense fight on the CNN's Republican debate were John McCain and Mitt Romney. At times, seemed like they were just the two on stage and they sparred over each others conservative credentials. Once the two leading candidates stopped attacking, all four candidates on stage talked about their view of the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An economic stimulus plan has to put money in the hands of consumers and businesses and homeowners now.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we've got to return to the principle that you don't lend money to people that can't pay it back.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he really wants an economic stimulus package, look at what infrastructure investment does.

RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where are you going to get the money to build the highway? Same old thing. You know, we have a foreign policy where we blow up bridges overseas and then we tax the people to go over and rebuild the bridges overseas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All four candidates said they support the stimulus package that's making its way through Congress.

John?

ROBERTS: So, Kiran, what did prospective voters think of the debate last night? We gathered together a group of undecided voters for what we call a "Dial Test."

They sat down in a room. They watched the debate. They're asked to turn the dial one way when they hear something they like and turn it the other way when they hear something they don't like. The higher the collective graph goes on the screen -- that red line there, the more voters liked what they were hearing.

Our Chris Lawrence was in with this dial test last night. He joins me now with the results and overall what did people think?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the thing that really jumps out at you is that every time that John McCain went after Mitt Romney, McCain's approval numbers nose-dived. In fact, if you look at this debate as a whole from this dial testing, you'll see that as a whole, over the entire debate, John McCain was about right here consistently. Mitt Romney, 20 points higher.

ROBERTS: Wow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Mitt Romney didn't run away from President Bush and these voters approved. ROMNEY: He did something for our party that was important to do, which is to show that when someone attacks America, there will be consequences and he kept us safe these last six years.

(APPLAUSE)

LAWRENCE: Those remarks scored near the top of the scale. And when John McCain claim Romney supported a timetable to withdraw American troops from Iraq, voters can site.

ROMNEY: How is it that you're the expert on my position, when my position has been very clear?

MCCAIN: I'm the expert on this when you said. I won't weigh in, I'm a governor. You couldn't weigh in because you were a governor.

LAWRENCE: McCain's aggressive style made the meter drop like a rock, especially when he criticized Romney for spending money on attack ads.

MCCAIN: If you want to, you can spend it all. But the fact is that your negative ads, my friends, have set the tone unfortunately in this campaign.

LAWRENCE: Mike Huckabee flat line when he talked about abortion but on foreign policy and defense, which aren't normally considered his strengths, he got his highest marks.

HUCKABEE: We've got to have an army that is well-staffed, well- trained, well-financed and that is prepared for anything and hopefully, because it is so well-prepared, it never has to be used.

LAWRENCE: Ron Paul connected by explaining how he would fix the economy.

PAUL: We need lower taxes, less regulations and we need to free up the markets.

LAWRENCE: And one of the few times McCain scored with voters was when he aimed his anger at Wall Street.

MCCAIN: I think we've got to return to the principle that you don't lend money to people that can't pay it back. I think that there's some greedy people in Wall Street that perhaps need to be punished.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Obviously, immigration is a huge issue here in California and when McCain admitted at one point that he would not vote for his original plan that would secure the border but also open a path to citizenship that scored very low with the voters who were watching. When Mitt Romney talked about no amnesty and no free ride, John, his numbers spiked.

ROBERTS: Well, it certainly just, you know, terms of the attacks back and forth that would seem to indicate that when you take the high road, you get high marks.

LAWRENCE: It seemed like voters were looking -- for at least these, these two dozen voters with the dials, they were looking for a different tone from John McCain, but they didn't get.

ROBERTS: Well, maybe they'll get that in the next few days. They like to go positive in the last few days leading up to the election.

All right, Chris, thanks very much. Fascinating stuff this morning.

CNN, by the way, has learned that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse John McCain. That news coming from two Republican sources close to the situation. It will come today when the two men visit a solar energy facility. However, when I caught up with the governor last night, he was refusing to show his cards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: You say that you're not ready to endorse anyone yet. When do you expect that you might be able to do that?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: I don't know that right now either. But then it will be sometime in the future.

ROBERTS: Will you do like Governor Crist did in Florida, wait just before the primary, or will you...

SCHWARZENEGGER: I have not watched the way he did it, but then I will do things my way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: He always does things his way. Sources say that McCain will also get the endorsement of Georgia's two Republican senators, Georgia and California both part of next week's Super Tuesday.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Yes. You were certainly busy running around yesterday trying to get reaction from people who didn't necessarily really want to weigh in, did they?

ROBERTS: Can I tell you something? Trying to door stop Governor Schwarzenegger is very difficult. He is always on the move. He is a peripatetic politician. No question. So, you can only grab him for a few seconds here and there. But we did get him for a few minutes after the debate. We'll show you that a little bit later on this morning.

CHETRY: That's good. I was going say you were running after him, trying to block his way. You're very brave.

Also new this morning, investigators were looking into the emergency landing of an American Airlines flight. It was 757. The cockpit filled with smoke last night.

Passengers say the plane just shuttered and the lights went out. They were told to prepare for an emergency landing. They were headed from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Philadelphia, landing safely, though, in Palm Beach, Florida. The pilot, co-pilot, three flight attendants and two passengers were taken to a hospital. None of the injuries life- threatening.

The Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be back at work this morning. He emerged last night from a week of seclusion following a text messaging scandal and a public apology. Prosecutors were looking into messages he exchanged with his chief of staff suggesting they had an affair. Kilpatrick's speech was carried live on the local news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KWAME KILPATRICK, DETROIT MAYOR: I have to tell you, I felt more emotion in the last week than I have in the past 20 years. I've been truly hurting. I've been hurting because I know that many of you are hurting. And most of all, I've been hurting because I know my family is hurting and I'm responsible for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Kilpatrick seated next to his wife there did not specify exactly what he was apologizing for. The text messages seem to contradict sworn testimony in a Whistleblowers lawsuit last summer in which the mayor and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, both denied they had a physical relationship.

There are troubling developments in Kenya this morning. Another opposition lawmaker was killed. The violence seems to be unending in the months since the disputed presidential election.

And our CNN's Zain Verjee has been reporting from her native country. She got an up close and personal look at the fallout from the violence in Kenya's Rift Valley. She joins us now from Nairobi.

It must be difficult to report on this and to hear those heartbreaking stories all around you, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is. It's very tragic for all Kenyans. The Rift Valley, though, has always been synonymous with beauty. It's actually one of the wonders of the world with the great lakes and the mountains and the flamingos and wild game. But now it's becoming much more connected with the violence and destruction that's going on here in Kenya. We took a helicopter out to the Rift Valley and went to look at it first hand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice-over): The Great Rift Valley is ablaze here. Rival tribes run out of their homes with fire.

Oh, my goodness, look. Look at all this. Tribe on tribe violence ignited ferociously after last month's disputed election results. Village after village scorched. The Shambas (ph) fields are silent, empty. This was Kenya's bread basket. Victims flee their homes, fearful of much worse.

On the ground, the people say a young man of their clan had his eyes poked out, hacked, then burned to death. This is how they lashed back.

(on-camera): It's unclear how it's going to end, but both sides say they want revenge. Many that we have spoken to say that what they want is to go back to their land because land is really the key here. The dispute over it and who owns it.

(voice-over): More home, more flames. A Kikuyu teacher fled, attacked by the tribe across the road. As we flew over, we spotted 75-year-old, Dina, and her grandson spared from the fury of her neighbors, sitting under the shrubs. I asked her what happened.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

So they burned their house yesterday and she's just been sitting here since.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

What do you feel in your heart? I'm in pain, she says. So is much of Kenya, where tribal carnage now stalks the landscape once known for its beauty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Now, the United States is putting an enormous amount of pressure on Kenyan politicians to use diplomacy and try to find some kind of compromise out of the political disputes over the election results. The U.S. is saying that it could impose travel visa restrictions to politicians, they say, may be connected to fuelling this kind of violence. But, Kiran, it's really hard to see how diplomacy can make a break through with much of the country burning.

CHETRY: Yes, it does seem very hopeless at this point. Hopefully, that's not the case though. Zain Verjee for us in Nairobi this morning. Thank you.

Still ahead, California has some of the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to your health and environment. So is it making a difference? Are people in California healthier? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a report from Los Angeles this morning.

And also there is new research eating up the debate about the relationship and any type of connection between vaccines and autism in children. We're going to get details on that as well ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Coming up now at 15 minutes to the top of the hour. The Republican frontrunners are a little bit battered and bruised this morning. Mitt Romney and John McCain may have been smiling and chuckling but they traded some pretty hard shots in last night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I guess I'd also note that if you get endorsed by "The New York Times," you're probably not a conservative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Let me note that I was endorsed by your two hometown newspaper who know you best, including the very conservative "Boston Herald," who know you well better than anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Did either of them get an edge heading towards Super Tuesday? Joining me now is Mike Allen, chief political writer of ThePolitico. It was almost like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on that stage last night, wasn't it?

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO: That's right, it really was. Governor Huckabee could have stolen the line of John Edwards and say he represents the adult wing of the Republican Party.

ROBERTS: So what did you think of last night's debate? Did either one of them make a score of any points by going at each other so hard.

ALLEN: Well, what you saw here was the time crunch that Governor Romney is in. He has five days to say, whoa, wait, conservatives, you don't want John McCain as your frontrunner. If you're going to buy his remorse, have it now, not the day after Super Tuesday. And so, that's why that was such and important opportunity for him.

Now, I was fascinated by your dial testing because the pundit class has been saying that this showed that John McCain is willing to be tough, he's willing to fight and this will serve him in the general election. It totally showed the two ends of the telescope.

ROBERTS: Yes. There was definitely one point last night where John McCain kept on pressing Mitt Romney. It was over this idea of whether or not Romney had been talking about a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The buzz word was "timetables," "timetables." Governor, the right answer to that question was, no. Not what you said and that was, we don't want to have to lay, have them lay in the weeds until we leave.

ROMNEY: How is that you're the expert on my position when my position has been very clear?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Even Ron Paul came out and said that whole exchange was silly. And when we looked at the dial testing and when Mitt Romney say, how was that you're the expert on my position, the dial testing went up from where it had been, which was way down. So did John McCain hurt himself a little last night, do you think?

ALLEN: Well, I don't know. You can see Governor Romney's frustration here, but as politico's Jonathan Martin put it, John McCain was happy to just sit back, he slumped a little bit and he had a sly smile and he just let Governor Romney have to explain himself. It's clever. I think most of the newspapers have looked at it say that I'm the merits here. Governor Romney is right but it's politically clever.

ROBERTS: You don't think that McCain was too snarky last night?

ALLEN: Clearly, the tests showed that voters did not like that. And in the Super Tuesday states, they're largely selling themselves to a new audience. These are states that are just tuning in and so that definitely isn't the sort of impression you want to make.

ROBERTS: As you said, Mike Huckabee could have been playing the part of John Edwards saying, hey, there are some other candidates in this besides these you two guys. On the issue of conservatives and who is the person who can best represent the conservative wing in the Republican Party, Mike Huckabee had something to say about that last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: This isn't a two man race. There is another guy who would like to sit down here on the far right of the stage. You want to talk conservative credentials, let me get in on that. I created the first ever broad-based tax cuts in the 160-year history of my state when I became governor with a 90 percent Democrat legislature.

I also balanced the budget every one of the 10-1/2 years. And the only person that sitting here today that is consistently supported the human life amendment...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So do you think that what happened last night between Huckabee, Romney, McCain and Ron Paul will have any kind of effect on what happens on Tuesday?

ALLEN: Well, sure it does, because it helps set the table for it. These individual states are going to get only glimpses of these candidates. The strategy of Governor Romney is to have TV ads in place that make it seem like he's there, while he's traveling in other states. But no one could hit all these states. Their traveling schedules are crazy. So every glimpse matters. And again and again in the polls, in this race as you been covering, people are deciding late this time amazingly enough.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see how that may change in the next few days here in California and some of those other Super Tuesday states.

Mike Allen, good to see you this morning.

ALLEN: (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: Thanks very much.

It brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. We saw what happened yesterday in the democratic side. John Edwards dropped out of the race. Suspended really is the technical way of putting it so that he gets to hang onto those delegates, who is going to benefit more from his departure? Here's what we've got so far, we're just split right about down the middle here.

49 percent of you say Hillary Clinton will benefit, 51 percent say Barack Obama. Continue to cast your votes this morning at cnn.com/am. We'll keep on checking those votes. We'll bring you the final tally and we'll get it to you just before 9:00 Eastern.

New information for parents who are worried that vaccines might cause autism, we'll have the details of that, coming up.

And California has not been able to pass universal healthcare. So what does that say for the chances of nationwide coverage? The obstacles and what it could mean for you, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Eight minutes now to the top of the hour. And new evidence out today, backing up the claim that mercury in vaccines does not cause autism.

Researcher say mercury in the preservative, Thimerosal, dissipates 30 days after children are vaccinated. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposed these claims that Thimerosal causes autism. Little or none of the preservative is used in the American vaccines but it is approved for use around the world.

Well, California has some of the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to public health and the environment. Now, it's taking on health care. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGGER: For us, what is important is health care reform. As you know, we struggled for all year, negotiating with Democrats and Republicans, bringing them together to health care reform. It has failed, just a few days ago here in the Senate. We are going to go back and try again. But at the same time, we feel it's very important for the federal government to create universal health care in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

This is a real issue that the governor had on the table there. This idea of greater health care -- universal health care, for people in California and he would like to see that across the nation.

How big of a problem is it here in the Golden State?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me say, first of all, that failed in the Senate Health Committee. That specific proposal, ABX1, and it was a pretty ambitious proposal to provide universal health care for all Californians, including the children of undocumented workers all add as well. There was sort of modeled on the Massachusetts model. You know, which, all...

ROBERTS: Mitt Romney's model.

GUPTA: A Republican governor, also his model. But you know, some of the criticisms of that model, $400 million in cost overruns may have fueled some of the dissension on this particular model here. But California has the same health problems anywhere else in the country.

I mean, you sort of imagine the fit bodies, the tan bodies here. It's a little cold here today. But the 56 percent obesity rate is something Governor Schwarzenegger has targeted, specifically in adults but also in their kids.

And they have cancer rates that are not far with the rest of the country so they have the same health issues and they have about 5 million people who are uninsured. They don't have access to health care here.

ROBERTS: So they're suffering, what we see across the nation, and as opposed to, as you said, that tanned, fit, running down the beach, Dennis, sort of image that we have there and very much like any other state in the nation?

GUPTA: Yes and it affects the parents as well as the children. You remember Prop 10 -- you may remember Prop 10, from covering the political stuff. That was 1998. That was specifically adding a cigarette tax to cigarettes, obviously, and taking some of that money and trying to use it towards children's issues, specifically the childhood obesity issues.

Some of the ads -- people really remember these ads, they're up all over California, trying to remind people that there is an obesity problem in this country and as a result of that, there has been some improvement, but still give up 30 percent of California's children who either overweight or obese, and again about 56 percent to 60 percent of the adults. ROBERTS: You know, California is taking some fairly aggressive measures to try to clean up the environment. I know that Governor Schwarzenegger wanted an exception from EPA laws to increase fuel emission standard from its aspects and that. And they're also taking some interesting steps in terms of trying to protect children against second-hand smoke.

GUPTA: They are. There has been 29 different environmental bills here. All sorts of different things. Again, from the food, such as there is a bill that's out to try and ban trans fats in restaurants, which by the way, they did in New York where you normally are.

But also, there is an interesting one about stickers actually on cars. So when a car is driving by, you will be able to tell exactly how much sort of gas that it's emitting into the atmosphere. You know -- I don't know what that will do for people. If they look at cars and say, look, you know, you need to cut that out or what it is, but it sort of that public perception that may fuel level of this.

ROBERTS: Lots more to talk about with you this morning. Thanks for being here. And don't forget Sanjay's "Broken Government" special is tonight at 11:00, immediately following our debate coverage. You'll want to see that.

Now here's Kiran in New York outside.

CHETRY: That's right, John. Sanjay, I'm out here at Central Park. And you know what, something is missing. What's missing is that this entire January, there has been no snow in New York City. No measurable snowfall. In fact, that's the first time in 75 years. Why is that?

New York's not the only city that's had some quirky weather. There's been some very extreme weather throughout the winter. Strange record about to be set. We're going to have much more on that coming up when the second hour of AMERICAN MORNING gets under way in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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