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AMERICAN MORNING

Super Tuesday: Now Open in Three States; Democrats Fight for Delegates; Ugly Betty Backs Clinton; Breast Cancer Tests: How Well Do They Work; New York Giants Come Home to Cheering Crowds

Aired February 5, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And it's their final appeal --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot wait to bring change to America.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am confident I can unite and will unite and am uniting this party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: The issues -- the voters. We're live with three possible presidents and live from seven states. It's Super Tuesday on the "Most Politics in the Morning."

Homecoming kings, the Big Apple welcoming back Big Blue. Ticker tape and a stroll down the canyon of heroes on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And welcome. It is Super Tuesday, February 5th from the Adam Clayton Powell School in Harlem. I'm Kiran Chetry. It's one of the polling sites, one of the many around New York State this morning. Hey, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, Kiran. From the Atlanta Diner in the northeastern part of Atlanta, I'm John Roberts, where it's a big day all across America. As close as we're going to come to a national primary, 24 states up for grabs today, 21 on the Republican side, 22 on the Democratic side. And we are live across the board -- 1,681 delegates available for the Democrats to pick up, 1,020 delegates for the Republicans.

Right now, polls are open in nine states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri and Tennessee. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York opened an hour ago at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. The candidates are crisscrossing the country. We're talking with three of them this morning. Barack Obama wakes up in Boston before heading home to Chicago tonight. Hillary Clinton votes this hour in her hometown of Chappaqua. She attends a rally later tonight in Manhattan. We spoke with her on our last hour.

And Senator John McCain begins his day with a rally in New York City. He will then jet to San Diego before heading to Phoenix. Mitt Romney will attend a convention of West Virginia GOP delegates. It's going on this morning in Charleston and will then head to Boston -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, we have our team on the issues, talking to voters from coast to coast this morning. Sanjay Gupta and Gerri Willis are in Atlanta with John this morning. Chris Lawrence is in San Francisco actually. Ed Lavandera in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with Mary Snow in Charleston, West Virginia. Our Jason Carroll is in New Jersey, and Suzanne Malveaux is in Boston for us.

And speaking of Boston, we start in Massachusetts. The polls just open at the top of the hour. Forty delegates are at stake for the Republicans, 93 delegates at stake for the Democrats. Obama, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made your money a big issue in their campaigns. And, in fact earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, I had a chance to speak to Senator Clinton about her plans to solve the mortgage meltdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would have a very aggressive policy toward trying to stop home foreclosures. Again, I'm the only candidate left in this race on either side who's been talking about the mortgage crisis for nearly a year. We need to put a moratorium on foreclosures to help people stay in their homes, and we need to freeze these interest rates that continue to escalate, driving more and more people into foreclosure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Boston, and that's where Senator Barack Obama is this morning as well. We're going to be speaking with him actually in the next half hour. Suzanne, what is his focus on this Super Tuesday?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's funny because you see both of these candidates crisscrossing the country, spending millions of dollars on advertising, and also using rap videos, town hall meetings, everything to try to get the voters to get a better sense of knowing the candidates. What we're hearing from both of these candidates is a talk about the economy, making lives better for voters.

But also more recently, we're hearing from Barack Obama. He's starting to talk about his stand against the Iraq war. He believes this is one of his strengths when it comes to the voters and he's painting this picture now of what it would look like to run against John McCain. He believes that this is something that the voters will resonate with and that it's a real distinction between the two, and it also proves that he is possibly electable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I honor John McCain's half a century of service to this country. And I think that it's something that we have to all honor because, you know, he's been a war hero and I think he's done good work in the Senate. But the fact of the matter is that John McCain is not the person who is going to lead this country in a new direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, Kiran, neither one of these camps believe that this race is going to be over after today. They believe that they're not going to get the majority necessary to win the nomination. So this is a battle that is going to continue at least into the next month or so.

But already, you have that expectations game that is being played out. The Obama camp trying to play down, lower those expectations, saying they fully expect that Senator Clinton is going to get more states. She's going to get more delegates. But they say that Barack Obama if he comes within 100 delegates of Clinton and he wins some states, that that's going to reach their threshold for success and better position them to get the nomination later on down the road. It's all about those headlines on Wednesday, exceeding expectations and making the voters in those future contests believe that that is the candidate who is most electable. And also, perhaps even urging some of those folks who have yet to endorse the candidates that they're the one that they should go for -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. The morning-after bragging rights still important even though it's not winner-take-all at least for the Democrats. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you -- John.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Kiran.

ROBERTS: Five minutes after the hour. West Virginia now and the Republican race -- no primary or caucus there. The state's Republican Party has decided to split up their delegates and host a convention. It gets under way in about two hours from now at 9:00 Eastern. Eighteen delegates at stake there.

Mitt Romney will be there. So will Mike Huckabee. Romney is promising a Super Tuesday surprise saying don't count on a McCain sweep. He told voters in Oklahoma that he is the man who can protect their money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Executive leadership works. You've got to get out of the Senate and the House where you -- where you're there with what? Hundreds of other people, voting yes or no, serving on committees. But the real economy is where I've been, is where these folks have been, and we need to have somebody from the real economy, in my view, go to Washington and make sure we keep that real economy strong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator John McCain heads to California later on today after picking up an endorsement from former New York Governor George Pataki. McCain told the crowd that a vote for him means keeping more personal freedom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll have a vigorous debate, and it will be all about a conservative Republican philosophy or a big government liberal Democrat philosophy. And I'm confident the American people will choose to let American families make the choices for themselves and America rather than the government do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And the candidates are talking with us today. We spoke with Hillary Clinton in our last hour of AMERICAN MORNING. Mitt Romney joins us live at the bottom of this hour from Charleston, West Virginia. And at 7:50 this morning, we'll talk live with Barack Obama.

Polls are open right now in the Tristate area. In New Jersey, 52 delegates at stake for the Republicans, 127 for Democrats. And all of the candidates are hoping to attract independent voters who can vote in New Jersey today. Our Jason Carroll is at a polling station in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Jason, the poll is open for more than an hour now? How's it going there so far?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Going pretty well here in Fort Lee, New Jersey. This is a fire station that has now become a polling place. You can see the volunteers are all here ready to go. When voters show up, they're going to head to one of these electronic voting booths right here where the choice will be easy. They'll make a choice for either one of the Republican or Democratic candidates.

As you know, John, actually New Jersey moved its primary up so they could have more influence on choosing a presidential nominee. And the state may have gotten its race because the Democratic race is too close to call. Senator Barack Obama held a rally here yesterday in East Rutherford where he was joined by Senator Edward Kennedy. It's the second time that he's held a major rally in northern New Jersey within the past month. Senator Clinton supporters say that she's enjoying a slight lead here in the state. They dispatched Chelsea Clinton out to the state to do some last-minute campaigning.

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain has held a double- digit lead over Mitt Romney, according to many of the polls. Even so, Senator McCain stopped through a Trenton suburb yesterday. He did some last-minute campaigning there. Mitt Romney dispatching his son to the state to do a little bit of campaigning. Voter turnout here in the state of New Jersey expected to be somewhat higher than it has been in years past, simply because they moved up the primary date -- John.

ROBERTS: You know, so many of these states wanted to move up the primaries to this point in the process because they wanted to play a decisive role in finding out who the nominee was going to be. But, Jason, things are so close. It's sounding like none of these states will be decisive.

CARROLL: Yes. You know, John, you may actually be right. I mean, things definitely close here in the Democratic side here in New Jersey. But when you talk to folks here in the state, they, for the first time in many, many years since the mid '80s, feel as though they at least have -- they are able to participate in the process of choosing the presidential nominee, which they didn't feel as much in years' past -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see how it goes today. Jason Carroll for us this morning in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where on the Republican side, we should mention, it is a winner-take-all state.

It's the Super Tuesday marathon live from the CNN Election Center. The best political team on television covers every race all day and all night long. Forty nonstop hours of Super Tuesday coverage on your home for politics, CNN. And we'll be up bright and early tomorrow morning for a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING on Wednesday, starting things off at 5:00 a.m. Eastern, continuing live Election Center coverage of the Super Tuesday results. That's tomorrow morning starting an hour early at 5:00 a.m. So, Kiran, the suggestion this morning is sleep early.

CHETRY: Sleep early or just don't go to bed. You know, it's going to be so exciting tonight.

ROBERTS: Oh, either one.

CHETRY: I can't imagine shutting the TV off.

Well, it's Super Tuesday suspense. In fact, California, as we've been talking about, has the most delegates up for grabs today. But we may not know the result in that state for days to come. We're going to find out why just ahead.

Also, if you're flying today, you may have to pack light or pay up especially if you're on one certain airline. We'll explain.

And there are new tests -- they say they can predict if breast cancer will spread. It's helping women decide what kind of treatment they should choose. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING live from Atlanta, Georgia, in the Adam Clayton Powell School in Harlem.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: The sounds of the Grateful Dead headlining a concert for Barack Obama last night in San Francisco. The three remaining members of the Grateful Dead are Obama supporters, and they perform their first concert in four years to help Obama's campaign get out the vote. See, all it takes is a political candidate to unite the Grateful Dead. How about that?

Also, Hillary Clinton getting some help from a celebrity before Super Tuesday as well. America Ferrera who plays "Ugly Betty" on the popular TV show spoke at a Clinton rally. This was in New Mexico. She also stopped by the campaign's Volunteer Center in Albuquerque. Ferrera has also appeared in a Clinton event in California and Nevada, and she also made an appearance at our CNN debate. So, very active in politics at a young age. Good for her.

Our Alina Cho here with some other stories this morning. Hey, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Kiran, good morning.

New this morning. The economic stimulus package has passed a key test in the Senate. Senators voted 80-4 to approve the $161 billion plan. The House approved it last week, but Democrats are still pushing to add $40 billion in help for seniors, disabled veterans and the unemployed. A test vote is not expected until tomorrow. That's when Senators Obama and Clinton returned from the campaign trail to vote.

Baseball's Roger Clemens heads to Capitol Hill today. He'll speak privately with lawyers from a Congressional committee, investigating performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. Clemens was named in the Mitchell report on steroids in baseball. He has vehemently denied the charges.

A judge says Michael Vick can keep most of his bonus money. The Atlanta Falcons were trying to recover nearly $20 million in bonuses because they say Vick used it to finance a dog-fighting operation illegally. But the judge ruled Vick can keep more than $16 million because Vick had already earned it playing for the Falcons. He is currently serving 23 months in jail.

Legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight has abruptly resigned. The 67-year-old Knight stepped down as head coach at Texas Tech last night in the middle of the season. His son Pat will now coach the team. Knight, of course, well known for his outbursts on the court, but his 902 career victories are the most ever by a men's basketball coach.

Well, if you're flying and you plan to check more than one bag, it's going to cost you. Starting May 5th, United Airlines will start charging $25 each way to people who check a second bag. And if you want to check a third one, that will cost you an extra $100. United says more bags means more weight on the plane. More weight means more fuel and, of course, they're going to pass that cost on to you. Great.

There's another big break today, and it has nothing to do with the White House. It's a much taller building we're talking about. The 31st Annual Empire State Building Run-up kicks off in just a couple of hours. People getting ready there. Two hundred thirty runners from 17 countries will race up to the observation deck of the Manhattan landmark. That, of course, was last year's event. In case you're wondering, that's 86 floors and 1,576 steps. Good luck to all those runners.

And if that race in Super Tuesday isn't enough, it's also Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras parades will be held all over the country, but the biggest, of course, will be held in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is the day before the Christian holiday that marks the beginning of Lent. It's the last day to eat whatever you want before fasting begins in preparations for Easter. Or you can just give up one thing like chocolate or something like that.

All right. That's a look at the news at this hour. We'll send it back to you, John, in Atlanta.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Alina. So maybe we should call this Super Fat Tuesday.

CHO: Yes. Twenty-four states.

ROBERTS: It's certainly the way --

That's certainly the way I'm feeling after doing this tour of diners across America. I'll tell you.

CHO: I bet you are.

ROBERTS: Hey, the weather could play a huge part in the turnout today. Our Rob Marciano at the weather desk just down the street from here tracking the extreme weather. And who's in the crosshairs today? Who's going to have a difficult time getting up to the polls, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, several states, John, we have -- as luck would have it, we have a pretty good storm that's rolling across the country -- snow, rain, record-high temperatures and severe weather because of that clash in temperatures. And here is where it's going to pan out.

On this map, you'll see a big mess. But the white, highlighted borders is where voting is taking place today and there's one spot in the middle there, the mid Mississippi River Valley really, which is under the gun for severe storms as we go through the day today. What kind of severe weather are you expecting?

Actually, very springlike severe weather. This is a kind of a springlike storm with widespread damaging winds, some violent tornadoes possible along with some hail. So this is a little bit farther north than what we would expect for this time of year. But nonetheless, if you live in Memphis, Tennessee, even as far east as Nashville, Paducah, Kentucky, up to Evansville, Indiana, you're talking about, you know, some weather here that's going to be not so good.

Behind this system is definitely going to be some snow we're already seeing across Denver. We already have a severe thunderstorm. Watch out for Dallas and northern parts of Texas. They're not voting today, but folks who live say in Illinois, you're getting some severe weather down to the south, and this will be pushing off to the east and through New York State. A big state that's up for grabs, California should be a-OK.

Georgia, John, we're looking good as well. I'm excited to head to the polls myself by this afternoon. Temperatures actually may very well get to near record-breaking highs across parts of the southeast. Back up to you there up I-85, John.

ROBERTS: Hey, thanks, Rob. You know, I still can't get over the fact that when I walk out the door of the diner it's not 20 below. It's a shock to the system.

(CROSSTALK)

MARCIANO: Welcome to --

ROBERTS: Hey, we're talking to the candidates this --

Thank you. Yes. We're talking to the candidates this morning. Mitt Romney running on his ability to strengthen the economy. Just ahead, we'll ask him about that as voters choose who should lead their party in the race for the White House.

And its party time in New York City. How the Big Apple is celebrating its Super Bowl champions. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Polls open up here about an hour and 20 minutes ago at the Adams Clayton Powell Elementary School in Harlem. Today, 4,000 people are registered to vote here at PS-153. They're trickling in slowly but surely this morning. Of course, New York one of the big states that the poll watchers are going to be keeping an eye on today as Super Tuesday officially gets under way. There are 24 states in play today, but the first Super Tuesday votes are actually being cast by Americans living overseas in Indonesia.

Expatriate Democrats chose Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, 75 percent of the nearly 100 votes went to Obama. Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, and results from American Samoa are expected by 6:30 Eastern Time.

California holds the biggest delegate prize today. That's 370 for Democrats and 173 for Republicans. They're expecting a record turnout in that state. That combined with a return to paper ballots, it could mean a big delay in getting some results. Officials are trying to get a head start on the crush of vote counting. Some 2.2 million mail-in ballots have already been returned.

You'll want to stay with CNN today for sure. Our Super Tuesday marathon just getting under way. We're just getting started, 40 nonstop hours of Super Tuesday coverage. And also, set the alarm for a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. It is 5:00 a.m. Eastern, and we'll be joining you tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a lot of results by then. But as we said, John, we may not know California even by the time we go on the air tomorrow morning.

ROBERTS: Yes, things are so close there on both the Democratic and the Republican side. It may take a while for all of those votes to come in and project a clear winner.

Well, you may have heard a test that can predict breast cancer if it will spread to other parts of the body. Critical information in deciding what kind of treatment a woman should choose. Now, there's a study out looking at those tests. And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here with us this morning to talk more about that. What did this study find?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the study came out of Hopkins, and it sort of addresses the population of women who have just been diagnosed with breast cancer. They may have had a biopsy or some sort of operation. Not quite sure what to do next. Should they get chemotherapy or not chemotherapy? It's not as cut and dry as people think. Oftentimes, it's based on your age, looking at the tumor itself. But this test basically looks inside the tumor, John, tries to look at the genes themselves and figures out, are they active or are they quiet? If they're active, that means they're more likely for the cancer to come back and more likely for it to spread.

There are three types of tests out there now. There's the Oncotype DX test which sorts out about different genes. There's also the MammoPrint, which looks at 70 different genes and the H.I. (ph), which looks at two genes. They haven't all been widely tested yet. But keep in mind, about 178,000 women who get breast cancer every year in the United States, about 40,000 of them will die. So this might be of some help to them, John.

ROBERTS: Is there one of those tests that you mentioned, Sanjay, the doctors like to use more than the other ones?

GUPTA: Yes, I think it's the Oncotype DX, mainly because it's been around longer. It's also more widely available. But also specifically for women who have early stage breast cancer. So again, they sort of fall into that sort of gray area. Should they go ahead and be aggressive now and get chemotherapy, or should they not and just sort of follow it along? Also, for women who have hormone receptor positive cancer. So these are the types of cancers that respond specifically to a specific type of treatment. But their lymph nodes aren't negative. I mean, are negative. They are not positive, so they actually -- when they are tested they say, well, your lymph nodes are fine. And the woman says, well, I'm on the clear then. I don't need to have anything else.

ROBERTS: Not necessarily.

GUPTA: Are they really?

ROBERTS: Yes.

GUPTA: Now, that's the question.

ROBERTS: And what about insurance? Does it cover these tests?

GUPTA: Well, we looked into that as well. They can be expensive. About $3,000 per test. As it stands now, and this isn't a scientific study, about half of the insurance companies that we looked at actually cover this, so not everybody. Two of the tests, at least the MammoPrint and the H.I., have not been widely studied enough yet to be approved for that sort of purpose. But in the long run, they may be more coverage.

ROBERTS: All right. GUPTA: They are some of the things we're talking about earlier.

ROBERTS: Exactly. We'll see how that turns out.

GUPTA: Right.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, thanks. We'll see you back here again soon.

GUPTA: All right.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: Thanks so much, John. Well, the Super Bowl champion, New York Giants, are home this morning. The team returned to Giants' Stadium last night. There were tons of cheering fans who were waiting to greet them when they got off the bus. Some of the guys say that their win over the unbeaten Patriots was just fate. The Giants will be honored today with a ticker tape parade, the first one in New York City in eight years. And, boy, do they deserve it.

John, it's going to be really exciting today, not only because of the voting but because of the hometown boys taking it all in the Super Bowl.

ROBERTS: And every time I see Eli Manning escaping that sack and throwing to David Tyree, I still can't get over how incredible that play was.

Hey, the candidates we're talking to us this morning, helping you decide what is most important before you head into the voting booth today. Republican Mitt Romney is going to be our guest, coming up next. And we're also going to be speaking with Barack Obama about the issues that he is focusing on as we help you choose a president. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama live. Plus, the day's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Live picture this morning from midtown Manhattan. There is Cindy McCain and her husband, John McCain, flanked by Rudy Giuliani. There's Peter King and Charlie Crist there as well, a campaign event in New York City before the senator flies out to San Diego and then ends the day in Phoenix as he campaigns on Super Tuesday. Senator John McCain holding a campaign run.

That's right in front of my apartment building, Kiran. So if I were home right now, I'd be looking at that.

It's February 5th, Super Tuesday from the Atlanta Diner here at Atlanta, Georgia. I'm John Roberts. Good morning, Kiran.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: That's a big if because I don't know if you're ever going home. For the past month, you've been on the diner tour of America. And who knows when it's going to end. It might not end on super Tuesday or the day after. I'm here at the Adelaide School in Harlem. ROBERTS: Yes, this could carry all the way at the convention.

CHETRY: It really could. And it's certainly exciting which is why we're going to be on the air 40 hours straight, starting now, and continuing all the way into tomorrow and beyond.

Behind me, this is one of the polling stations here in New York City. We've had a lot of people show up so far. People still trickling in. But the polls opened here at 6:00 Eastern time. With a lot of voters still trying to make up their minds, we've been focusing on the issues this morning. And earlier I had a chance to speak with Senator Hillary Clinton. As for two of the biggest issues in the minds of voters, at least what they tell us from the polls, and that's health care as well as the economy. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only candidate left in either party who has a universal health care plan that will cover everyone. And there will be help through health care tax credits and limiting the amount of percentage of income that anyone ever pays for a premium.

I would have a very aggressive policy toward trying to stop home foreclosures. Again, I'm the only candidate left in this race on either side who ahs been talking about the mortgage crisis for nearly a year. We need to put a moratorium on foreclosures to help people stay in their homes and we need to freeze these interest rates that continue to escalate, driving more and more people into foreclosure. A lot of people were misled. They were the victim of predatory lending practices, and we need to stabilize the housing market. And then I've put forth a plan of how we would put investments into the economy, make sure the unemployment compensation system and the assistance for heating aid is available quickly to people. And let's start generating new jobs with green collar jobs in addition to the rebates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Coming up in about 20 minutes, we're also going to be speaking with Hillary Clinton's rival, Senator Barack Obama. So, you would want to stay tuned for that as well. John.

ROBERTS: 32 minutes after the hour now. Kiran, super Tuesday polls are open and voters are weighing in. Voters in the republican race today are casting ballots in 21 states after the candidates' last-minute mad dash for votes. Mitt Romney crisscrossed the country yesterday with stops in Nashville, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and California before flying red eye overnight and arriving this morning in West Virginia. And that's where Governor Romney is this morning.

He joins me from Charleston, West Virginia. Governor Romney, good morning to you. So, California is starting to look a little bit better to you here. You're even in some polls. You're even ahead in a couple of polls. How important is California going to be for you today? MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think, it could be very important indeed. I think a lot of people in California who are conservative, that had been tuning in to this race have recognized that we just don't want to have Senator McCain who's so liberal on so many issues become the nominee of our party. And so these conservatives have said, you know what, the one guy that can beat McCain in this race is Mitt Romney. They got behind my campaign. The rally we had in the airport in Long Beach. We had 24 hours to set it up. We had over 1,000 people there cheering. I'm pretty pleased with the response I'm seeing and I hope that I'll be able to duplicate that in some other states as well.

ROBERTS: If you do well in California today, Governor, does it buy you some time to try to figure out another avenue that you can try to pursue John McCain and stop his candidacy?

ROMNEY: Well, I think if I do well in California and some other key states, it will indicate that conservative voices in our party are standing up and saying, wait a second, we want to make sure this party does not leave the house that Ronald Reagan built. And if that happens, I think we're going to see a very clear pathway to gain additional delegates from the ongoing contests and put together the winning combination to get this nomination.

I just don't think that the party is going to want to choose someone who voted against Anwar, somebody who voted against the Bush tax cuts, somebody who is in favor of McCain-Feingold which hit the first amendment and our party very hard, somebody who is McCain- Kennedy, that gave amnesty to illegals and finally this new bill McCain-Lieberman which adds a 50-cent-per-gallon charge on gasoline. These ideas are not republican ideas. And I think Senator McCain is finding a lot of resistance in our party.

ROBERTS: You presenting John McCain as not being a true conservative and presenting yourself as a true conservative. John McCain has got something to say about that. Listen to what he said about it yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am confident I can unite and will unite and am uniting this party because we look at the state of Florida, we look, which was a republican-only primary, you look at South Carolina, New Hampshire, a majority of republicans supported me, republican conservative of our conservative base.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So Senator McCain, Governor Romney, is saying I am a conservative here. And he does appear to be getting some support among the conservative establishment, people like Tony Perkins of the Family Resource Council as saying, hey, let's not count him out here even though people like Rush Limbaugh and Colter and others were saying, you know, a fox on whoever votes for John McCain.

ROMNEY: Of course, you can't count John McCain out. And he is conservative on a number of issues. The -- the touchstone issues that he's best known for where his name is on the legislation, of course, were pieces of legislation where he took a sharp left turn, got to work with the democrats. Watched across the aisle, if you will, didn't reach across the aisle, walked across the aisle and I think put in places some legislation that's been very harmful to America and to our party. But sure you're not going to say he's not a republican. Of course, he is. And he is a good man, a national hero as well.

I - I do think, however, that as you look at the eight contests that had been held so far, and there have been eight. He won three. I won four, and Mike Huckabee has won one. So it's not by any means a done deal. I won Michigan, for instance, a very important primary. Because Michigan is going to have to come in the republican column if we're going to win in November. And in Florida -- he won Florida. He did that with a great success. But you know, he beat me there, 34-31, so it's not exactly a blowout. So I'm going to keep on battling with him and I think I'll be able to get the support I need. Particularly among main stream republicans who are going to say we're not going to depart from the principles we believe in, in order to nominate John McCain.

ROBERTS: Governor, there's been a lot of talk that Governor Mike Huckabee is siphoning votes away from you among conservatives. He appeared yesterday on AMERICAN MORNING. He had harsh words for you over what he thought was your suggestion that he should drop out of the race. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's incredibly presumptuous and even arrogant to suggest that the voters who are voting for me would automatically gravitate to him. And I think quite frankly, they would not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, let me ask you this - are you suggesting that he drop out. And if he did drop out, do you believe that all of his supporters would go to you.

ROMNEY: Well, first of all I never suggested that he vote out -- excuse me, drop out. He's certainly entitled to go in this race until the very end just as I am. He's worked hard to get here and deserves every opportunity to take this race as long as he wants to take it. And never suggested anything to the contrary. Where do his votes come from? Are they shared with me? Yes, by in large they are. The polls are accurate that the majority of people who are voting for Huckabee would vote for me if he weren't there. By the way, the same is true for my folks. The majority of those who support me would vote for him if I weren't here.

So, we're both taking the conservative side of the republican party and our both being in the race does detract from our ability to stop the McCain express, if you will. But, you know, politics what it is. It's the nature of the sport. You don't try to get other people out of the race, you compete with them. And I think what you're going to find is that as people go to the polls, they're going to say, do I really want to have a conservative nominee for our party, or do I want to have John McCain.

And in most cases, people who make that assessment are going to say, if I want the conservative, I've got to vote for Mitt Romney. He's the one that has a realistic chance of getting this nomination.

ROBERTS: Governor Romney, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us this morning. Good luck on this super Tuesday?

ROMNEY: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll talk to you again soon.

ROMNEY: Let's go back to Harlem now. Here's Kiran.

CHETRY: Still ahead, skiers stranded by the snow in the California mountains. They use life-saving lessons, but get this, they learned by watching the Discovery Channel. We'll have more on how they made it through coming up.

Also, what does super Tuesday hold in store for Barack Obama. We're going to ask him. Senator Obama is one of three possible presidents we're talking with live this morning on this super Tuesday special edition of AMERICAN MORNING, THE most politics in the morning.

And it is the biggest super Tuesday for the fight for California and it will go into the wee hours today. In fact, polls don't even close until 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. We sent our Chris Lawrence to find out what our voters are looking for in a president.

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CHRIS LAWRENCE (), CNN, CORRESPONDENT: There are more people living in Los Angeles county than the entire state of Michigan. We wanted the hear from even more Californians, nearly 16 million registered voters.

CHETRY: On the road and a front seat to one of the biggest battleground states. We're live from California, Georgia, and New York and much more. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in morning. We are waiting now for Senator Hillary Clinton to cast her vote this morning as you take a live look right now at one of the many polling sites. That is Douglas Grafflin Elementary School in Mrs. Clinton's hometown of Chappaqua, about 30 miles north of New York City. The polls opened there a little more than an hour and a half ago and they're going to stay open until 9:00 00 Eastern tonight. And for the democrats, a mountain of delegates up for grabs. 232 democratic delegates to be awarded in New York state. That's more than 11% of the total needed to clinch the nomination. A bit unique though because New York's delegates get handed out based on votes. They are not winner take all. The time now is 7:43, and Alina Cho holding down the fort for us back at the Time Warner center with a look at other news making headlines this morning besides presidential politics. Hey, Alina.

ALI CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: And we're talking about the president, Kiran. Good morning, everybody. The president's record -- $3.1 trillion budget is getting an icy reception in Congress. It includes $515 billion in military spending while cutting nearly $200 billion from health care programs. Democrats say the president's lame duck proposals will never happen. Still, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the White House budget director will go to Capitol Hill today to defend the plan.

In Illinois, investigators now have a detailed description of the gunman who killed five women at a Lane Bryant store in suburban Chicago. The suspect is described as a black man with thick braided hair and receding hairline. They say one braid had four light green beads. The FBI joined the search for the shooter.

Jury selection expected to begin today in a medical negligence lawsuit filed by John Ritter's family. Ritter died in September of 2003 at the age of 53. His family says he would still be alive today if doctors recognized he had a tear in his aorta instead of treating it like a heart attack. The Ritter family is seeking $67 million in damages.

Two skiers stranded near Lake Tahoe over the weekend are safe this morning. They say they survived the freezing cold for two days by using survival skills they learned by watching the Discovery Channel, like building snow caves, rationing energy bars, even melting snow in plastic bags for drinking water. Incredibly, they suffered only minor frostbite to their toes.

And it might not seem possible but news of a clean machine in the air. Virgin Atlantic said it will test fly a 747 that flies on biofuel. The flight will go from London's Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam later this month. No passengers will be on that test flight. It could be big for the environment, of course, and for the airline's bottom lines, let's not forget. Of course, with those soaring fuel prices cutting into profits. In fact, Kiran, so much so, as you all know by May 5th, United is going to be charging $25 extra bucks to check a second bag. I like to say, they're going to charge you extra money to lose it. I always seem to lose my bag. Yes, I'm always the unlucky one who losses my bag on the flight. I guess the lesson is don't check.

CHETRY: That's right and you know with the carry-on, it's hard. You can't bring in a bunch of stuff into the plane wither because there is no room. Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: Well, the returns from the southern states might be one of the exciting ones to watch this afternoon. Our Ed Lavandera is live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this morning where the polls will open in just about 15 minutes. Good morning, Ed. ED LAVANDERA, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. Well, the polls indeed are opening here 8:00 a.m. Eastern time. We've already seen a steady stream of voters coming out here to check out the polling place. But we're outside the Concord Baptist Church. We'll be taking a look at the super Tuesday primary southern style as voters in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas all head to the polls today.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Did you know that one out of every eight Americans lives in California? I'm Chris Lawrence. And coming up, I'll tell you which is driving the nation's largest group of voters coming up on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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ROBERTS: Coming up now on ten minutes to the top of the hour. Voting is under way in eight states already this morning, including Massachusetts, where 40 republican delegates are up for grabs and 93 democratic delegates can be won. Joining me from just outside of Boston is democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Senator Obama, good to see you this morning.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to talk to you, John, thank you.

ROBERTS: I wanted to drill down on health care. Because this is really emerging as probably the pre-eminent issue on the democratic side and the real difference between you and Senator Clinton. Your health care plan, do you consider it to be universal coverage?

OBAMA: I do. Because what we do is set up a plan that allows anybody to get health care that is as good as the health care I have as a member of Congress. We will subsidize those who can't afford it. People won't be able to be excluded for pre-existing conditions so that anybody who's self-employed, anybody who doesn't have health insurance or is underinsured can join this plan. Now, we also work to lower costs for those who already have health insurance and so we expect to provide about $2,500 of relief per family for their premiums. That's the kind of cost reduction that I think is going to be so important to make sure that the plan is sustainable.

ROBERTS: The real difference between you and Senator Clinton is that you make your health care plan available to everyone. She would mandate coverage. You do have a mandate for children, we asked her about that this morning. Here's what she had to say?

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CLINTON: And the idea that you would have parents going uninsured who are the main stays of their families while they are required to cover their children makes absolutely no sense. So, I think both on the merits and on the politics, his approach is just not doable. It doesn't really represent democratic values or solving the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Senator, she suggests you're falling short here by mandating coverage for children but not mandating it for their parents. What do you say?

OBAMA: Let's break down what she really means by a mandate. What's meant by a mandate is that the government is forcing people to buy health insurance and so she's suggesting a parent is not going to buy health insurance for themselves if they can afford it. Now, my belief is that most parents will choose to get health care for themselves and we make it affordable.

Here's the concern. If you haven't made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate. I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house. The reason they don't buy a house is they don't have the money. And so, our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident if people have a chance to buy high-quality health care that is affordable, they will do so. That's what our plan does and nobody disputes that.

ROBERTS: Now, there are a couple of issues out there in regard to that. There are studies that are showing that 70% -- 20% of people who are uninsured make $70,000 a year still don't buy health insurance. And Jonathan Gruber from M.I.T., who's a well-known and respected economist did a breakdown. He suggests that for $102 billion, which is greater than the costs you've estimated, you cover 23 million people. But if you add another $22 billion on to that to make it a total of $124 billion, you could cover everybody. So, he suggests that your plan costs 80% as much a mandated plan to cover everyone but only covers 50%. How does that make economic sense?

OBAMA: John, I've got to say, everybody's got experts. I've got President Clinton's former secretary of labor, Robert Reich who says my plan is superior, cuts costs, and more likely to achieve universal coverage. I mean, the truth is that we both have a plan to provide universal coverage. There's a technical difference in terms of how we approach it. I believe that the most important thing is to drive down costs first. Here in Massachusetts, the state where I'm broadcasting from, they have a mandate, but they've had to exempt 20% of the uninsured because those folks still can't afford it. And you've got some people who are not paying fines but also still don't have health insurance. And that's what I don't want to do. I don't want to put people in a position where they can't afford it but they're not getting fined by the government, or as Senator Clinton put it, they're having it taken out of their paychecks.

ROBERTS: Let me switch gears to Iraq if I could. In the 2007 state of the union address, President Bush suggested that Iraq wanted a long-term strategic relationship with the United States that may involve a sort of South Korean style placement of U.S. troops for decades to come in Iraq. In an Obama White House, what would that strategic relationship with Iraq look like?

OBAMA: First of all, it would not have us setting up permanent bases and a permanent occupation in Iraq for decades. Which is not only what George Bush's suggested, but also John McCain. I think it's important for us to say to the Iraqis that we are willing to help them. We want to be partners with them but we are not going go there in perpetuity. And I've been clear, I will end this war. We will get combat troops out. I hope to do it by the end of 2009. We will have a strike force available to prevent terrorist camps from setting up in Iraq. But we can't sustain $9 billion a month, money that could be spent here in the United States investing in schools, college for kids, rebuilding our infrastructure, putting people back to work. We cannot sustain that indefinitely, I think that doesn't make us safer and, in fact, undermines our economy, not to mention, obviously, the enormous burden placed on our military families who have done everything that's been asked of them and it's time for us to start bringing them home.

ROBERTS: One more question if I could, senator, everybody talks about this idea of a dream ticket, you and Senator Clinton. A Hillary Clinton supporter, a very prominent one, sent out an e-mail yesterday saying if you want the dream ticket, vote for Hillary, because she's likely to include you on her ticket. The suggestion is you wouldn't be likely to include her on your ticket? What do you say?

OBAMA: Look, I think there's some gamesmanship going on right now. It would be presumptuous of me to suggest that Senator Clinton wants to be my vice president. I think that folks on her side, I think, should recognize that we're in a tough contest right now. If she wins the nomination, then they can start speculating on who the running mate will be. I'll - I'll make sure that I focus on winning the nomination and once we do that, then we'll bring the country together and we'll all go after winning the White House.

ROBERTS: All right. We got to let you go, senator. Thanks for being with us. Good to talk to you, it's been a while. Good luck today.

OBAMA: Thank you so much, John. I Appreciate it.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll see you again soon. And now let's go back to Harlem. Here's Kiran.

CHETRY: One of the biggest questions on the minds of voters today, how are the candidates going to fix the mortgage crisis? Now, we heard from the candidates this morning, at least some of them. In the next hour, we're going to match their plans up side-by-side. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Super Tuesday -- more than 20 states, 40 contests. Candidates give their final pitches right here.

CLINTON: I am so committed to making sure nobody goes without health care.

ROMNEY: We want to make sure this party does not leave the house that Ronald Reagan built.

CHETRY: The issues hit home - health care, the housing crisis. We're talking to voters in the north, south, east and on super Tuesday's

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