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AMERICAN MORNING

Deadly Tornadoes: 25 Killed, 100 Hurt; Close Fight Between Obama and Clinton; McCain Leads; What's Next: Critical Voting Ahead

Aired February 6, 2008 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: But Huckabee shows strength.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today has been a day when the people have spoken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And extreme weather, tornadoes across four states, more than 20 people killed. The damage just coming to light on this AMERICAN MORNING.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. We have a lot to cover this morning. We're glad you're with us right now on AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry along with John Roberts. A big day of politics and also this breaking news. The treacherous weather down south in this rare winter storms.

ROBERTS: It was incredible as people were trying to get out to the polls yesterday, this line of storms swept through the mid south. We got the latest now on that line of storms breaking out. A major line now heading through Alabama and Tennessee. This, after a slew of deadly tornadoes touched down last night. Thirteen people were killed in Arkansas, 11 dead in Tennessee, three in Kentucky. Twisters also touched down in Mississippi as well.

The storm left several buildings destroyed at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. It ripped right through two dorm buildings. Eight students were trapped inside those buildings for a time, but they were all rescued. There was a high school in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, that was also hit. It's going to be closed for the foreseeable future as well. Union University, by the way, in Tennessee closed for the next couple of weeks.

We've got our Rob Marciano tracking the storms for us this morning. We'll be getting to him as frequently as necessary, keeping an eye on the storms all morning for you. We'll have an update for you in just a couple of minutes. So stand by for that. But right now, more on Super Tuesday and where we're headed from here. And here's Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. You know most the results. What it all means is still to be figured out. The Democratic race for the White House certainly not decided by last night's voting. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama still battling for every single delegate right now. Let's take a look at the numbers, where it all broke down.

Hillary Clinton winning eight states and some of the biggest prizes here. So, look --Arizona, California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee, all going to Hillary Clinton. Now, Barack Obama ended up winning more states than Hillary Clinton, 13 in all, including Missouri. That's known as a presidential bellwether in many, many years. The people that win Missouri technically go on as their party's nominee in the general election.

But another look, Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri and Utah, as well as Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota, all of them going to Barack Obama. One race still too close to call right now and that is New Mexico. They'll be picking up the vote counting there later this morning. And both candidates looking ahead to the next races and beyond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While Washington is consumed with the same drama and divisions and distractions, another family puts up a "for sale" sign in their front yard. Another factory shuts its doors. Another soldier waves goodbye as he leaves on another tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. It goes on and on and on.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Together we're going to take back America because I see an America where our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top, where prosperity is shared and we create good jobs that stay right here in America. I see an America where we stand up to the oil companies and the oil- producing countries, where we launch a clean energy revolution and finally confront the climate crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: We heard a little bit from the candidates. Let's take a look at how it shook out on the Republican side yesterday. John McCain certainly expanding his lead, declaring himself the front- runner. He won nine states, Arizona, of course, his home state Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Oklahoma, as well as California, the big state, Delaware, Missouri and New York. All going to the John McCain column.

Mike Huckabee, though, another name in the headlines this morning for pulling off a series of wins especially in the south. He won his home state of Arkansas, as well as Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia. So, where did that leave Mitt Romney? Well, he was hoping for a better night, but he was able to take seven states, including his home state of Massachusetts, as well as Alaska, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota and North Dakota. Fellow Mormons gave him Utah -- John.

ROBERTS: So, an exciting night is carrying over now into a fascinating morning and beyond. A look now at the winners and the surprises.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won primaries in the west.

ROBERTS (voice-over): The big news of the night was a new role for John McCain.

MCCAIN: And although I've never minded the role of the underdog and have relished as much as anyone come-from-behind wins, tonight, I think we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican party front-runner for the nomination of the president of the United States.

ROBERTS: The senator from Arizona racked up wins in Missouri, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, states where it's winner-take- all when it comes to landing delegates. And McCain scored a solid victory in delegate-rich California. For Mitt Romney, expectations were not met. But the former Massachusetts governor did win his home state as well as Utah and several caucus states. He vowed to stay in the race for now.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there are some people who thought it was all going to be done tonight, but it's not all done tonight. We're going to keep on battling. We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing, and we're going to get to the White House.

ROBERTS: And the surprise of the night came from Mike Huckabee and his supporters. The former Arkansas governor swept the south, winning his home state as well as Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the past few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what? It is and we're in it!

ROBERTS: In the Democratic battle, major victories for both candidates. Senator Hillary Clinton captured some big states like California, her home state of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Arizona. Senator Barack Obama answered with W's in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Connecticut, and his home state of Illinois. Both candidates acknowledge their race is far from over.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I congratulate her on her victories tonight. She's been running an outstanding race.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Well, he finished strong. He pulled off upsets across the south. So what next for Mike Huckabee and the Republican Party? We'll talk with Governor Huckabee coming up live at our next hour right here on the "Most Politics in the Morning" -- Kiran.

CHETRY: We're also following breaking news right now in this line of severe weather that's still on the move this morning. A look right now at the radar picture. The watches and warnings right now in effect. Those are what are lined in red. The storms last night touched off tornadoes in four states. It proved to be deadly in three states. At least 27 people killed in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee.

And the storm being blamed for an explosion at a gas plant near Nashville. Flames shooting hundreds of feet into the sky. Jackson, Tennessee, also hit hard. Nearly dozens of elderly people have been trapped in damaged buildings. You see the damage to the cars. This was at two dorms destroyed at Union University. The school president calling it a war zone.

Our Ed Lavandera is live on the Union Campus this morning. And as I understand it, it could get worse as they head out today, to try to assess more of the damage from that deadly line of twisters.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Could very well be the case, Kiran, here on this campus in particular. Search and rescue teams have been working through the night making sure that there were no more students that were trapped inside these buildings or any faculty members that might have been trapped inside the buildings. That from our vantage point here, at this point we can tell, we see some serious damage. All in all, an incredibly frightening night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In Tennessee --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just took the house and everything and my horses and my dogs.

LAVANDERA: In Arkansas -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I have left is my front porch. The rest of it is gone.

LAVANDERA: And in other parts of the south, many people lost their homes in an instant, when killer tornadoes roared through on Tuesday night.

Among the dead, an 11-year-old girl and her parents, victims of a powerful twister that hit their home in Atkins, Arkansas. In Memphis, Tennessee, three people were killed when part of a warehouse collapsed on them. Three more people died in Kentucky when their mobile home park was hit by a storm. Throughout the region, twisters and severe storms tore through buildings, ripped down power lines, and even caused a gas explosion. In Memphis, people were evacuated from the Hickory Ridge Mall after the roof collapsed from strong winds at the Sears store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, it started shaking. The air started moving. Everything started falling. About 10 seconds, there was chaos and so quiet.

LAVANDERA: Authorities say the full extent of damage to the region won't be known until later today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: And, of course, across the region, rescue crews and emergency teams working in various places are waiting for that sunlight to come up so they can really start getting a better sense of just how much damage these storms have left behind. But here, as we look out into the darkness here, we can see dozens of cars here on this campus flipped over by this storm. You really get a sense when you're up this close, just how powerful these winds and storms must have been -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And you can imagine with 27 people losing their lives, and as we said, 100 or more injured. And this was with advanced warning. I mean, a lot of these universities, they're saying that people were able to get to safer ground because they were able to warn them in advance.

LAVANDERA: Right. We heard from a university official say there are about 1,800 students that live in the dorm rooms here on campus. This is the men's dorm that you see right behind me where there are eight students trapped last night. The women's dorm also suffered a great deal of damage. That's a little bit further that way. Officials here say the vast majority of these students were able to get out because of the early warnings. But there were still some students who weren't able to make it out. Amazingly, no one killed here on this campus.

CHETRY: They send off those text messages now to the cell phones, to students at many of these colleges, a sign of the times and technology as well. Thanks so much, Ed.

Meanwhile, our Rob Marciano is at our weather update desk. He is tracking this line, the storms still potentially causing problems for us this morning. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Kiran. We have a couple of tornado warnings that continue to be posted and extended as these storms move off to the east. Here is the line. And we also had a watch that was just issued until 10:00 Central Time. You see it just pop up there on the radar screen. It does include the cities of Birmingham, Huntsville, Alabama, and parts of Montgomery, Alabama, as well, and extends into Tennessee. Also, into extreme northwest Georgia, it may very well be extended eastward as we go on through time.

All right. Couple of tornado warnings that are posted here for you. DeKalb County, Jackson County and Marshall County. This line of thunderstorms heading this way, the rotation on the Doppler Radar. Still, no confirmed reports of tornadoes on the ground there, but they're moving northeasterly at 45 miles an hour. These are not something that you run from. These are something that you certainly hide from. All right. Down to the south, Perry County, Dallas County, Marengo County and Hail County, with this storm. This one really looks like it has some rotation to it. Here you see it moving quickly northeastward at about 45 miles per hour. I want to show you this cell, and we're going to turn it on its side and then show you a three-dimensional look at it. Here it is. Here it is, and we kind of peer into the clouds and show you exactly what's going on here.

This is what would be the hail shaft moving up into the clouds. And then right in through there, that's what we call a hook echo. That's where we think there may very well be a tornado that's on the ground. No reports of that yet, but when we talk about radar indicated tornadoes, that's what we're talking about. That's the kind of signature that we look for, and that's when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning.

Concerned about this tapping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Biloxi, Mobile, you're also in a tornado watch for the next couple of hours. And then this line will move off to the east, John, with a slight risk of thunderstorms, which, you know, in the month of February, that would be considered an active day. Yesterday, we were moderate risk and then they upgraded to high risk, about 100-mile- radius in Memphis. And I think the big story with this is -- yes, we had a tremendous amount of tornadoes roll through, but also in a very populated area, and that's why we're seeing the -- that's why we're seeing the damage, unfortunately, the death toll with this line of storms moving through the mid south. Kiran, back up to you.

CHETRY: Rob, thanks so much. We'll check in with you throughout the morning.

MARCIANO: OK.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: So where does the race for president go from here? The best political team on television breaking down the results for you this morning. Our Dan Lothian is in Little Rock, Arkansas. Following the Republicans, Jessica Yellin in Los Angeles. She is following the Democrats. And Bill Schneider looking at the exit polls, telling us who voted and why, and what that might mean going forward. Let's begin with Jessica who's in Los Angeles. Jessica, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can claim some bragging rights this morning even though Hillary Clinton did seem to soundly beat Barack Obama, at least in the popular vote.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure are claiming bragging rights, John, and they're already looking ahead to the next contest to see how one of them can come out with a distinct advantage. As you know after the results last night, it looks like they're going to end up carving up the delegates and coming out with a split decision that puts neither of them at a substantial advantage, which means this race goes on.

Already, both campaigns talking about elections taking place next week in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington State. Both campaigns acknowledging that Barack Obama has the advantage in those races. But the Clinton campaign looking even further forward to races that will come up in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, which have big delegate counts, and where Clinton really feels she's much more competitive.

Now, it wasn't supposed to be this way. The whole point of frontloading this primary process was for the Democratic Party to allow itself to choose a nominee early so there would not be a bruising primary fight and they could focus on beating the Republicans. It just wasn't meant to be. It looks like this one is going to go on for sometime, and both the candidates say they are ready for the long slog.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After seven years of a president who listens only to the special interests, you're ready for a president who brings your voice, your values and your dreams to your White House.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our time has come. Our movement is real, and change is coming to America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, Barack Obama has had a healthy advantage in fundraising. Last month, he raised twice as much as Senator Clinton. So she has a new tactic. Her campaign is saying she would like one debate a week between now and for each primary to come. Barack Obama has not accepted that challenge just yet -- John.

ROBERTS: Certainly, our couple of debates at least in the offing, this goes all the way into March. Jessica Yellin for us this morning covering California and the Democrats. Jessica, thanks -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, for the Republicans, it was a decisive night for John McCain, piling up 40 percent of the delegates needed to win thereabout. Mitt Romney says he is not giving up his fight, though. And the surprise of the night -- Mike Huckabee, a strong showing in southern states winning not just his home state of Arkansas, but taking Alabama, the pretty big prize of Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.

CNN's Dan Lothian joins us now live from Little Rock with more on what's next for the GOP race. Good morning, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And certainly a surprise strong showing for Mike Huckabee. Although, if you talk to him, he will tell you that they did really expect to do well in those key southern states. One of his advisers telling me that they spent a lot of time working in those critical southern states while his opponents were in Florida. They were reaching out to the GOP base, really showing that he is the conservative alternative to McCain, and they answered that call.

Now, speaking to his supporters last night, Huckabee, who is also a Baptist minister, used a couple of biblical references to just kind of set up where he is in this race. Using one of them, David and Goliath, he, of course, being David. And he told his supporters that he's not going anywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the past few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that that this is a two- man race. Well, you know what? It is. And we're in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: What's interesting is that Senator John McCain now just last summer, he was all but written off in this race. And now, of course, he says he's relishing this whole aspect of coming back and he can now call himself the front-runner.

As for Mr. Romney, he, of course, had some disappointing numbers last night, although he did win in some key states like his home state of Massachusetts. These were states where he was expected to do well. He did tell his supporters that he does expect to stay in this race, but he's expected to meet with his advisers today to decide which way to go forward in his campaign.

Now, for the Republicans in terms of reaching that nomination, they now look forward to the next contest in Louisiana and Washington, a Washington state that will be taking place this weekend. And then from there, to Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Of course, John McCain now is hoping that he can build on this momentum to catapult him into getting the Republican nomination -- Kiran.

CHETRY: It will be interesting to see because conservatives clearly have not decided on John McCain from all the exit polling and from what we've heard from Bill Schneider today. So it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Dan Lothian for us this morning in Arkansas. Thank you, Dan.

And the race goes on. So what's next on the primary calendar? Let's take a look. Saturday -- Louisiana. Republicans in Kansas and the Democrats in Washington vote. On Sunday, it's Democrats only. That's in Maine. And then next Tuesday, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. On the 19th, Democrats in Hawaii will cast their votes.

ROBERTS: Can I cover that one?

CHETRY: You deserve it after your month-long road trip. Republicans in Washington and in Wisconsin as well. And Hawaii may not be decided. You may have to stay there for weeks, you know, just to get all of the nuances.

ROBERTS: Wouldn't that be nice? That would be great. I can use like a 2000 election decision in Hawaii.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Stay there for a bit. So what else is going on? CHETRY: Well, we've got March 4th, 444 delegates at stake then. That's Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont. Ohio also, as you know, one of those states everyone will be watching closely and campaigning quite heavily in.

ROBERTS: And some people thinking that maybe March 4th may be the defining moment for the Democrats. But they thought it's going to February 5th.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: Yes, that's what we said today. That's true. You're right.

ROBERTS: So we'll see where it goes.

CHETRY: Well, by the way, you can log on to CNN.com/politics to get up to the minute news and results. You can also keep it here on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll be bringing you the latest all morning long.

ROBERTS: So as we're looking at a long drawn-out process, what do the candidates have to do to sew up the nomination in each party? We'll take a look at their next move ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Super Tuesday shed a little bit more light on the race for the White House. Neither party, though, able to nail down its nominee just yet. Jim VandeHei is executive editor of Politico.com. I was interested to see what your guys' headline was this morning, and it's Clinton's big-state win gives her an edge. Is that the common wisdom this morning, Jim?

JIM VANDEHEI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, POLITICO: Well, these are small edge because I think we're down to a delegate fight here. She won slightly more yesterday than Obama did. But Obama had a pretty big night, especially if you look at it in the context of where he was 10 days ago. He won 13 states, basically, won a majority of the votes, which, I think, is a big deal. And he showed that he had a lot of geographical reach. And I think he's going to use that and the money that he has to really try to build ahead of momentum.

If you hear -- if you remember, the money -- the fundraising in January, you had Obama raising over $30 million. Clinton raised only $13 million. That shows there's a momentum in the grassroots at least in the money community towards Obama. If he can keep getting that money, and you move into states where he can spend time campaigning, especially any state that has a significant African-American population, he could do quite well.

CHETRY: Let's talk about some of things that we can tell from the way that it shook down for the Democrats, the results. It looks like Hillary Clinton did well among Latinos especially in the important state of California.

VANDEHEI: Right. CHETRY: That she did well among women and older voters, where Barack Obama did better among men, among blacks, among younger voters as well. So what does that mean as we head into states like Ohio in March?

VANDEHEI: Well, I think Ohio -- that's why Clinton is so excited about getting to that race in Ohio because there are a lot of working class whites and she feels she does extraordinarily well with that demographic. What's fascinating when you break down the exit polling data from yesterday, is that essentially from Iowa through last night, we have a very predictable pattern in how this race is playing out, and you just described it pretty well. You have Obama who's winning young voters, rich voters, African-American voters, and basically splitting the white male vote. Hillary Clinton is doing tremendously well with white women and Hispanics and lower income Democrats. And this has held true in virtually every single state.

So, what you want to do now is you want to apply that formula to all the states going forward. So, you look to next week when you're in Maryland and Virginia. If you look at the demographic makeup of those states, it looks pretty good for Barack Obama.

CHETRY: Right.

VANDEHEI: That's why even the Clinton campaign concedes that Barack Obama should do pretty well in February 12th in the Potomac primaries.

CHETRY: That's right. Let's talk about the GOP side for a minute. We had John McCain clearly the winner of the night, if you will, even though there were some surprises out there with Mike Huckabee.

VANDEHEI: Right.

CHETRY: But he got a string of delegate-rich states. And let's take a look right now at where that all shook out. Our exit polls also show -- there you see it -- a total of 507 last night, and Mitt Romney with 175 and Huckabee at 146. Our exit polls show him coming in second nationally among conservative voters, though. So how will that play out? How much does he need? The conservative vote?

VANDEHEI: McCain is blessed by the division inside the Republican Party right now, because essentially you have southern conservatives really rallying to Huckabee, and then conservatives in other regions, the west, in the northeast, taking a close look at Romney. And the one person who's winning independents by virtually a two-to-one margin is McCain. So, any place that has an open primary he's doing tremendously well in. If you look at the delegate count and you look at the money, it's really hard to see how McCain doesn't win the nomination, unless somehow Huckabee, you know, catches fire, who, you now could make a plausible -- that he is the second guy in the race.

CHETRY: But, Jim, does that change if one of the two -- either Mitt Romney or Huckabee bows out and then the conservatives unite behind one of them? Right now, they're split.

VANDEHEI: They are split, but they're also split -- there are some conservatives who also like McCain. It's not clear that if Romney drops out, all that Romney support goes to Huckabee or vice versa.

McCain is picking up some of the grassroots conservative support especially national security conservatives. The problem McCain has is that there are so many conservatives in Washington, and especially in the talk radio community, who hate him, and they're making it their personal crusade to make sure that he doesn't get the nomination.

It didn't work that well last night because he was able to win those big states and pick up the delegates. But it's a huge structural problem for this campaign. If he cannot rally conservatives in every faction of the conservative base to his side, both now and in the general election, that's a huge problem. And when you got Rush Limbaugh and Dobson and all these other grassroots activist conservatives, and they don't like him at all and don't want him to get the nomination, he's got to figure out a way to rectify that.

CHETRY: Or could it work in his favor in some small way? Jim VandeHei, very interesting to talk to you this morning, executive editor of "Politico," thanks.

VANDEHEI: Take care. Enjoy the day.

ROBERTS: Just turning 26 minutes after the hour now. Extreme weather on the move right now. A night of tornadoes in four states. Our Rob Marciano is tracking the storm system for you. We'll have the damage and the forecast ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. A look at the live radar pictures. The storms sweep through Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. We'll be right back with the latest on it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Twenty-nine minutes after the hour. Your financial news now. Overseas, markets are down sharply on concerns about the U.S. economy. Major Asian markets closed off five percent. Europe also trading lower this morning after the Dow dropped 370 points on Tuesday. That's the biggest one-day drop since October. The selling on Wall Street began with a report that business activity was at its lowest levels since right after 9/11.

Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama are heading back to Washington today to vote on the economic stimulus package. Democrats say they need at least nine Republicans to vote with them for the measure to pass -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, you're watching the "Most Politics in the Morning." And trouble for Mitt Romney after Super Tuesday. There are questions about whether or not he can stay viable in the race. A political insider will break down his chances coming up.

Also, dozens of tornadoes sweeping across the mid south. Twenty- seven people losing their lives and hundreds of others injured. It's not over yet. Where the storms are right now. We're going to take a look with Rob Marciano. He's tracking it all for us from the extreme weather center this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. It's Wednesday, February the 6th. I'm John Roberts.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. We're following breaking news this morning in addition to the results from yesterday's Super Tuesday.

We also had a rash of terrible weather in the south. In fact, a deadly line of storms now heading east, stretching from Alabama through Tennessee right now. At least 27 people were killed across three states last night from these tornadoes. 13 people killed in Arkansas, 11 in Tennessee, and three in Kentucky. And there is some heavy damage in Mississippi as well.

Union University in Jackson, Tennessee hit very hard. Two dorms and other buildings destroyed. Rescuers had dug through rubble in the dark. They were able to pull out 13 students. All of them are doing okay this morning. That storm is being blamed also for sparking an explosion at a gas plant. This happened northeast of Nashville and Hartsville, Tennessee. Flame shooting 500 feet into the air, leaving the sky glowing orange. They were able to put that fire out.

Well, John, we're going to be covering this all morning with Rob Marciano who is tracking this line of storms for us from the weather center.

ROBERTS: It's important to keep a sharp eye on that. 34 minutes after the hour. Our other top story this morning. Counting the votes from Super Tuesday. New Mexico still undecided. It is that close there.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won eight states: Arizona, California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, her former home of Arkansas, Massachusetts, her current home of New York as well as Tennessee. Barack Obama took 13 states: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah.

Right now, Clinton is projected to have 825 delegates in total. So far, Barack Obama not far behind, it's 732. That's not a whole lot different than it was going in to the Super Tuesday contest in terms of the differential there. 2,025 delegates needed to win the Democratic Party nomination. Here's what both candidates had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For seven years, we have seen President Bush's answers. They don't know what's at stake in this election, but we do. We know what we need is someone ready on day one, to solve our problems and seize those opportunities. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a choice between going into this election with Republicans and independents already united against us, or going against their nominee with the campaign that has united Americans of all parties from all backgrounds, from all races, from all religions, around a common purpose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: On the Republican side, John McCain won nine states including his home state of Arizona as well as Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Oklahoma, the big prize of California, Delaware, Missouri, and as well the big prize of New York state.

Mike Huckabee mounted a huge comeback with wins across the south. He took five states including his home state of Arkansas. Also, racking up Georgia, West Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Mitt Romney lost a lot of ground to John McCain, but he was able to take seven states including his home state of Massachusetts. He also won Utah.

Right now, John McCain is projected to have 619 delegates, Romney, 269 so far, and Huckabee, 175. Don't forget, 1,191 needed on the Republican side to win that nomination.

Here's what McCain and Romney had to say about the results last evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Although I've never minded the role of the underdog and I've relished as much as anyone come-from-behind wins. Tonight, I think, we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nomination of the president of the United States.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there are some people who thought it's all going to be done tonight. But it's not done all tonight. We're going to keep on dialing. We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing and we're going to get to the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And so the road to the nomination continues. There are contests this weekend, next Tuesday, and then a big one coming up on March 4th when Ohio and Texas hold their contests.

Kiran?

CHETRY: John, thanks. You know, Super Tuesday really doing little to clear the political landscape. There's a lot up in the air still this morning.

John Dickerson, our political analyst and chief political correspondent for slate.com joins us now. Focusing on the Republican, let's talk first about how big of a win this was for John McCain and what it bodes for the future?

JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM CORRESPONDENT: It's a big win for him because he has twice the amount of delegates as his closest rival. But it's a muddled win for two reasons. One, there were 12 states that went for somebody other than John McCain. So how are you the frontrunner when you won nine and the opponents won 12? He also isn't doing well with conservatives. He lost with conservatives overall in the states that were in play. And that's obviously a key part of his party.

CHETRY: You have to feel bad for Mitt Romney. I mean, when you heard him talk yesterday. You know, he's soldiering on, you can see from the pictures. I mean, clearly, tired and probably wondering what's going on. I mean, he's getting conservative support, but Mike Huckabee, in a way, a fly in the ointment for Mitt Romney.

DICKERSON: A huge fly in the ointment for Mitt Romney. It was a very bad night for Mitt Romney because he has spent a great deal of money on ads and on organizations. And this last week, he has been the favorite of the conservative talk show hosts who said, "forget about Huckabee, you may like him, but rally around Mitt Romney."

And with all of that support from conservative talk show hosts, he still couldn't close the deal in those crucial southern states. The South is the heart of the conservative part of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney couldn't do it.

CHETRY: What's the problem?

DICKERSON: Well, two problems. One is that there is an authenticity problem with Romney. And while conservatives may not like McCain, they're not rushing to go hug Mitt Romney. And Huckabee is a wonderful, happy warrior there who believes in a lot of the evangelicals, who are strong in the southern states he won. He is one of them. And so they vote their conscience and their heart and they're not playing an electability game.

CHETRY: It is interesting how these endorsements play out or don't play out. I mean, you saw some big-time endorsements for Barack Obama that didn't necessarily come through in terms of states, like Massachusetts, and also, as you said, this push by talk radio -- conservative talk radio. Yet, Huckabee managed to take five states in the South, including the big southern prize, Georgia.

DICKERSON: That's right. There's a very interesting dynamics here in the Republican Party right now, because it's not only McCain who those conservative talk show host, but they don't like Huckabee either. And Huckabee has a throughout his race -- even when he was a nobody, and nobody was covering him, was saying -- you know, these people who claim to talk for conservatives, they don't talk for the regular people, and that's being born out now.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to talk more about this throughout the morning with you. John Dickerson, thanks.

ROBERTS: Coming up 40 minutes after the hour. We've got some breaking news to tell you about right now. Reports of a tornado on the ground along the Tennessee-Georgia border. Our Rob Marciano is tracking this from the weather center in Atlanta.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROBERTS: We don't yet have a nominee, but we do know a little more about who is supporting which Democratic candidate and how that affects the race from here, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

45 minutes after the hour. Barack Obama is still playing the role of underdog. But after last night, there is a new feeling of momentum. Here's what he told supporters last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: In states north and south, east and west, what began as a whisper in Springfield has swelled to a chorus of millions calling for change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, at least 13 out of 22 states went to Obama last night. Roland Martin is a CNN contributor, who is watching all the returns come in late last night.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just a couple of hours ago.

ROBERTS: You had a couple of hours sleep, maybe 90 minutes. He joins us this morning. So last night was a pretty interesting night to watch. Hillary Clinton -- if you look at the results from California, she's still strong among white women, older Americans, lower income earners, but Barack Obama beginning to gain in white men. How important is that for you?

MARTIN: Well, that is critical, because he is to be able to put together this sort of coalition building -- that is a pieces from this group, this group, and this group. But the problem is this -- in every Democratic primary, women have made up about 57 plus percent of all voters in various primaries. That is a critical voting block and so he has to be able to really grab a lion's share, anywhere from 30 to 35. Look, she's overly 40. She's probably going to pick up 70. But any time she gets over 72, that's a problem in any state.

ROBERTS: As we saw in many of the states across the country last night -- the Super Tuesday races, with the exception of Illinois, she won the majority of the Hispanic vote as well. How much of a problem for that? Where's that exactly going to be going for?

MARTIN: The problem is Texas. That's where you probably had the largest group remaining overall the primary states. And so, he must do real well. I think part of the problem here, and I think when it comes to Hispanics, but also dealing with low income voters is that Obama does not focus more on the community organizing days. If you actually -- listen to Michelle Obama's speech on Sunday in Los Angeles and UCLA, that's act of the speech that he should be giving. She talked about going to public schools. She talked about being out there, working with steelworkers, working to public house and complexes, because the perception is that he is a candidate that went to Harvard University. You know, University of Chicago, Constitutional Law professor.

But he is to be able to connect with people saying -- wait a minute, I'm there with you. My mom was on food stamps. I understand what it felt like from being a single parent household. He has to make that case better. She's doing extremely well. She's going to stay on message and to focus on those folks.

ROBERTS: So that's lower income. Why is she doing better with Hispanics?

MARTIN: Well, I think because of Bill Clinton is hugely popular. I talked to Paul Begala last night. I talk about when he went down to Texas and then went down to the various barrios, and went to Corpus Christi on Brownsville and so you have that unique relationship, but you're also cannot deny the reality of this black-brown friction that we have seen take place across the various states.

And I was debating someone here at CNN about this, saying -- look, I'm born and raised in Houston, Texas. I covered stuff in Dallas and Austin. I've seen it since 1989 coming out while I was still in college. That is real. And so he has to be able to take the Hispanic supporters and say, look, this is a guy who we are behind.

Also, we did do a debate, John, he did make the point that he was only one of two U.S. senators who actually march in many of those immigration marches around the country. People probably forget that. If you don't make the point, they don't know.

ROBERTS: So how important was her win in California to blunting the momentum that he was beginning to build up. And then look like the last-minute polls in California were dead wrong. They had just about an even race. She beat him pretty handily.

MARTIN: Well, but he's dealing with the last-minute polling, which you don't take into consideration. One-third of all ballots cast were early voting. And so, they really started right after New Hampshire. She did a real welcoming after that. The problem now moving forward is now more folks know who he is, but she did very well. That was a critical strategy for her to get those early ballots, because she saw him coming down the back stretch towards the end of the campaign.

Probably one more week, he could have been able to generate the people, but you have half a million people vote early, it's difficult to overcome a double digit lead.

ROBERTS: Well, they're still very close in delegates and we got a long way to go.

MARTINS: That's right. So I'm saying, Vermont, those votes are going to be real pretty for those delegates.

ROBERTS: Exactly. Howard Dean loves that. Roland, thanks very much. Good to see you.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Yes. We're tracking some breaking news as well with this tornado situation, John. We have reports that a tornado did touch down between Tennessee and Georgia right along the border. There's a look at the radar right now. And also, we told you earlier, 27 people were killed in this severe line of storms that went last night in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Now we're hearing that Alabama also confirming a death this morning. And they say that the numbers could climb as they start to comb through more of the damaged homes. Our Rob Marciano tracking all of this. We're going to talk to him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Keeping you updated on our breaking news this morning. There's the latest radar image of the area down in there in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee where that huge storm system now is moving in to the Chattanooga area. We have reports of a tornado on the ground there.

Rob Marciano was saying it was just west of the Chattanooga area, moving to the northeast, very, very quickly. About 40 miles an hour or so. A tornado warning in place right now for Chattanooga. If you're just turning us on this morning, get to shelter, either in the basement or somewhere safe in the center of your home, because those storms are bearing down on you right now.

Just updating the situation across the mid-south from yesterday and going into today. A look there at the damage. Kentucky, according to the AP reporting four more deaths, which would bring the death toll to 31 up from 28. But, then, CNN also reporting one death in Alabama in Lawrence County, which would raise the death toll to 32.

And according to Lawrence County Emergency Management Director, Hillary Frost, the number of people killed in Alabama could rise as searchers come through more damaged homes. But again, that tornado apparently on the ground, along the border between Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, with the tornado warning in effect for Chattanooga. So get to shelter. We'll keep watching the story for you this morning.

54 minutes after the hour now. Here's Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks. You know, part of what made John McCain the GOP frontrunner with his win in California, Hillary Clinton also winning in California where roughly 3.5 million Democratic voters went to the polls. So how did the vote break down in the Golden State?

Senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, joins us now with a look at the exit polling. Good to see you, Bill. Let's talk first about how it broke down according to race? How did voters' race influence who they chose in California?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of influence. Take a look here. White voters among the Democrats in California, which is only about half the white voters in that state. That was a tie, virtually, between Clinton and Obama. White voters, split. African- American voters, as you might expect, went heavily for Barack Obama, almost 80 percent, over Clinton, by about 4-1.

How did she win, then? She won because she had a big margin among Latino voters who were 29 percent of the voters in the Democratic primary in California. Hillary Clinton did very well there. And Asian voters, much smaller group about 8 percent, and they went, 3/4 of them for Hillary Clinton. So she won on those minority votes.

CHETRY: Very, very interesting. Also, the top issues for California voters, especially among the GOP.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans here. McCain won a big victory. Take a look at the top issue, the economy. A third of Republican said that's what drove their vote. McCain beat Romney even though Romney was a business executive, who touted his economic experience. McCain vested him on the economic issue. But here's an issue that has some trouble for McCain and that was illegal immigration. A very big issue in California, which is a border state.

There, McCain only got a quarter of the vote. Mitt Romney did much better getting almost half the vote. That's a problem for John McCain going forward.

CHETRY: We talked about some of the big endorsement. And you saw Oprah Winfrey, as well as Maria Shriver out there for Barack Obama. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the big must-get for the GOP. How did his endorsement fair for John McCain?

SCHNEIDER: Very, very well and his very popular among Republicans. He's one of them in California. And among those who said they strongly approve of Governor Schwarzenegger, which is 22 percent of the Republicans in California, McCain wiped out Mitt Romney, 70 to 15, that was a big victory. And McCain really benefited from that Schwarzenegger endorsement.

CHETRY: The Governator. He certainly brought it through for McCain in California. Bill Schneider, great to see you. Thanks.

John?

ROBERTS: Breaking news, right now, Kiran. The death toll from deadly tornadoes in the south risen yet again and more twisters touching down just minutes ago in Alabama. We are tracking where the extreme weather is at this hour. A look at the live radar picture. That massive storm system moves across the border, the Tri-State border there between Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. We'll be right back with the very latest on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: No end in sight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Our movement is real. And change is coming to America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Clinton and Obama can both claim victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Thank you all. Thank you.

ROBERTS: And fight for every last delegate.

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