Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Mortgage Rescue Plan; McCain's Mission to Win Conservatives; Obama Versus Clinton

Aired February 12, 2008 - 10:59   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning once again, everybody. You're with CNN.
Hi there. I'm Heidi Collins.

New developments keep coming in to the CNN NEWSROOM. It is Tuesday, the 12th day of February.

Here's what's on the rundown.

A new government plan to save your home from foreclosure. Who qualifies? The announcement coming live in just minutes.

And decision day on Potomac. Voters in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., make presidential choices. Live primary coverage all day on CNN.

Winter draping icicles on a wide stretch of the American heartland.

Sunshine Street on ice, in the NEWSROOM.

The mortgage crisis spreads beyond subprime. This hour, the Bush administration rolls out a new plan to help more people avoid foreclosures.

CNN's Ali Velshi is live from New York now with more on this.

And that's the key here, to help more people than last time around.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, it's a broader number than -- in December there was a program that was offered that was going to freeze some rates for a very specific subset of people. And after you started checking out the list, down the list of criteria, a lot of people weren't involved.

But what we're expecting within the next 15 minutes is an announcement by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. It's called Project Lifeline. It involves the six banks that were involved last time.

Here's what it does.

It helps seriously delinquent homeowners, people who are 90 days or more past due on mortgages. Once you're 90 days or more past due, what happens is your loan goes into foreclosure. It's a long process, sometimes. This suspends those foreclosures, suspends that process for 30 days, gives the borrower and the bank some time to negotiate, some time to refinance, figure out a better solution to the problem at hand.

Take a look at the banks that are involved in this right now. It is all the major lenders, the biggest lenders in the country: Bank of America, Citigroup, Countrywide, JPMorgan Chase, Washington Mutual, and Wells Fargo. Those are the banks that are involved.

We're get details on this in about 15 minutes or so, but it will cover a much broader group of people, people who are in default, regardless of whether you're subprime or not, regardless of all those conditions that we had back in December. So, I'll keep you posted on what the developments are when we get the specifics of it, but that sounds like the news we're getting -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. OK, Ali. Very good. Thank you.

VELSHI: OK.

COLLINS: Battle along the beltway. Presidential primaries are under way this hour. Voters are making choices in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. We're calling them the Potomac primaries, but the key word may be momentum.

Republican front-runner John McCain is looking to sweep the three contests. Underdog, Mike Huckabee, is rejecting calls to drop out of the race.

Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton could be looking at another sweep by Barack Obama. Today she's traveling to other states and focusing on delegate-rich contests in Ohio and Texas.

For Republicans, today's contest may be less about the delegates and more about the message, specifically whether John McCain can win conservatives now so he can capture the White House later.

CNN's Mary Snow is in Alexandria, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very proud to have your support...

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He won endorsements from former Florida governor Jeb Bush and evangelical leader Gary Bauer. Still, Senator John McCain really could use a strong showing in today's Potomac primaries, especially after losing two contests over the weekend.

MCCAIN: Well, I hope that we'll do well here.

SNOW: But he didn't do well in Kansas, losing big to Mike Huckabee. He also lost in Louisiana. McCain did win Washington State by a narrow margin, and that result is being challenged by the Huckabee camp, which claims it was called too early. If McCain is worried, he isn't showing it.

MCCAIN: We're doing fine. We have 700 and some -- close to 800 delegates. And the last time I checked, Governor Huckabee has very few. So I think I'm pretty happy with the situation that we're in.

SNOW: But McCain's losses are a signal some conservatives are not happy with him. Huckabee is hoping that unhappiness continues in Virginia.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think our victories in Kansas and in Louisiana have shown them that this race is not over.

SNOW: Huckabee says he's staying in the race and that conservatives need a choice.

HUCKABEE: We want a candidate who believes in the human life amendment and in the marriage amendment. We want to vote for a president who believes that embryonic stem-cell research on humans is wrong.

SNOW (on camera): As voters cast ballots in the Potomac primaries, Senator John McCain is hoping for a strong showing and not to repeat what happened last weekend. He lost two of three contests to Mike Huckabee, despite the fact that mathematically it's virtually impossible for Huckabee to catch up to McCain when it comes to delegate count.

But Huckabee's victories are seen as a sign that conservatives remain unhappy with John McCain. He's been reaching out to them, trying to unify the party, particularly here in Virginia. This is seen as a test. The next test, to see how well McCain's efforts are going.

Mary Snow, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Barack Obama looking for a second straight primary sweep today. Hillary Clinton looking down the road to states with bigger delegate prizes.

So, where do this things stand right now? The answer from CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like we're having March madness a little early.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Working off the adrenaline of a clean-sweep weekend and the possibility of a Tuesday trifecta, Barack Obama pounded through Maryland arguing his issues and his electability.

OBAMA: I am happy to have a debate with John McCain, because we are the party of tomorrow. He's the party of yesterday.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: He is the past. We are the future. That's an argument I want to have with the Republican Party, not to mention -- not to mention, I want to attract some Republicans into the fold.

CROWLEY: One hundred and sixty-eight delegates are at stake Tuesday in the Potomac primary, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. All have sizable African-American populations, as well as significant numbers of affluent, highly-educated white voters, the so- called latte liberals. Obama has significant candidate leads in the state polls.

With the possibilities of tomorrow and the realities of those weekend caucus victories in Washington state, Nebraska, Maine, and the Virgin Islands, as well as a win in the Louisiana primary, the momentum is all his at the moment. But she is having none of it.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's have the elections. Instead of talking about them and pontificating or punditing about them, let's let people actually vote.

CROWLEY: Still, it's not going the way they thought it would, proof of which came in the midst of her winless weekend, when Hillary Clinton threw her campaign manager overboard for a new one, while today dissing Obama's shutout.

CLINTON: In the case of Louisiana, you know, a very strong and very proud African-American electorate which I totally respect and understand and would expect that, you know, by the fall we would be united and going forward to victory against the Republicans.

You know my sense of caucus states. They are primarily dominated by activists. They don't represent the electorate. We know that. As I said, my husband never did well in caucus states either. So, it doesn't surprise me. It doesn't affect me one way or the other.

CROWLEY: Her strategists look to early March primaries to get Clinton back on her game. Ohio and Texas are delegate-rich states full of the working-class Democrats who have fueled her campaign. But many of those close to the Clinton campaign say she needs a win sooner to prevent him from running away with it.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Join the best political team on television for analysis of the primary returns in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. You can watch CNN tonight, 8:00 Eastern, only on your home for politics.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Democracy in action. Voting is under way in three more primaries now, so where do the presidential campaigns go from here? We're going to talk to two party insiders.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The presidential primaries -- John McCain way ahead among Republicans. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slugging it out for their party's nomination.

So, what are the game plans?

Joining us now from Washington, two party strategists, Republican Tara Setmayer, and Democrat Jenny Backus.

Appreciate you both being here at this point and time in this huge, long process, huh?

Let's begin, if we could, with a question to both of you.

Some people saying that Clinton really underestimated Barack Obama.

Tara, do you think that's the case? And if so, what has that meant to the campaign?

TARA SETMAYER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. I've said oftentimes that if she loses this nomination, it will be because her campaign was one big, gross underestimation. And I think that it's really reflective of their -- her sense of entitlement and people not accepting that.

Barack Obama has done something that no one ever expected to do. His own wife admitted that this is remarkable. He's a formidable candidate, and he's taken on the Clinton machine in a way that no one ever expected.

She's shaken up her campaign. She's clearly on the defensive. And she's honestly been on the defensive for many months.

Barack Obama has been able to really put her in a position where she comes across as seeming -- there's a very significant contrast between what Barack Obama has done for their own electorate, versus what Clinton has done. And he's winning.

COLLINS: Jenny, Hillary Clinton, is she in trouble?

JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do think that the Hillary Clinton campaign has some troubles right now, but I disagree with Tara that she took this nomination for granted or she feels like she's entitled. Where I do think she made a miscalculation is, I think her campaign wasn't necessarily as in tune with the mood of what the voters were -- the mood that the voters were in than the Obama campaign.

She was prepared for sort of a rerunning of the 2004 campaign. You know, being very tough against the swift boating machine of the Republicans. Barack Obama's advisers were very active in the 2006 campaign, which are all about change and the new direction in Washington. So, I do think that Barack Obama has a stronger message for where the voters are right now, and the Clinton campaign has been adjusting.

I also think that the place that Hillary Clinton has been a little bit more ahead of the curve than Barack Obama has been on her economy message. I think that's the one area where it is an advantage that -- her being married to former President Clinton. I mean, there's other advantages, but because the Clinton economy was so strong, when Senator Clinton talks about the economy, voters remember that and identify with that.

So, I think you're going to see her talking a lot more about the economy as she heads into Ohio and Texas. But Tara's right that...

SETMAYER: Well, but it's not resonating. It's not resonating.

BACKUS: It was resonating. And actually, if you look at the exit polls, Tara, downscale voters are voting for Senator Clinton. Barack Obama has made a huge move there.

I'm not disagreeing with you that Barack Obama's run a fantastic campaign and that the momentum is on his side. But I'm saying...

SETMAYER: Absolutely.

BACKUS: ... you can't discount Senator Clinton's strength with voters who choose the economy as a huge issue, with older voters, and with some downscale women.

SETMAYER: But she's losing significantly in the Potomac primaries, which right now, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, with men, with women, with African-Americans. She's down by 60 points.

BACKUS: Well...

SETMAYER: So whatever message she's been putting forth is obviously not resonating because Barack Obama is obviously doing a better job of it, which is why she got rid of her campaign manager, which is why that party insiders in her campaign are panicking about whether Texas and Ohio are actually within grasp for her.

COLLINS: OK, ladies. Let me jump in...

BACKUS: Go ahead, Heidi.

COLLINS: ... and just ask quickly the question for you, Tara -- when do you think everything will be decided for the Democrats? When will we know who the front-runner is?

SETMAYER: Well...

COLLINS: Give us your prediction.

SETMAYER: ... some people think it's going to go all of the way to convention. And I'm leaning towards that.

But given -- like, even "The New York Times" today had an article where, like I just mentioned, that party insiders, including superdelgates, are really concerned about the results of not only these primaries today, but Texas and Ohio. Some are saying that if she doesn't have a strong win in Texas and Ohio, she may be done.

COLLINS: Jenny, you were shaking your head, though. You were saying, no, you don't think it's going to go all of the way to the convention?

BACKUS: I don't think it's going to go all the way to the convention. Here's where I agree with Tara. I do think that the Clinton campaign has got to figure out what to do with this constant momentum from the Obama campaign. It seems like every other day he's adding more numbers to the board, he's racking up wins.

I think looking -- I think it's going to end somewhere between Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

COLLINS: OK.

BACKUS: Those are the big contests coming forward.

COLLINS: All right. Let's get to the Republican side of things.

A lot of people say, you know, well, we already know the deal there. John McCain is the front-runner. But the fact of the matter is, Mike Huckabee is certainly still in the race, and certainly in his mind he is still a contender.

Let's listen for just a moment to some sound from him yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: I decided that until somebody gets 1,191 delegates by the rules that have been designed by the very party boss who now want to shut it down, they said that's what it took to win. Ladies and gentlemen, until somebody gets that, we are in this race for you and for every other conservative American who wants a choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Tara, does Huckabee still have a chance?

SETMAYER: Well, no.

COLLINS: No?

SETMAYER: He doesn't have a chance to win the nomination, by any means. He's clearly setting himself up for a position, whether it's a cabinet secretary position, maybe education might be a good fit for him. Others have pontificated that it's about a vice presidential nod, which I don't think is actually going to happen. McCain really doesn't gain anything by bringing on Huckabee. But, you know, this has been a very interesting -- interesting strategy on the part of Huckabee. And I have to say that McCain does have a problem with conservatives. And Mike Huckabee is still winning. He's getting delegates. And it's a little difficult to bow out when you're still winning races, even though statistically he really doesn't have a shot.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes.

But Jenny, you actually said that if Huckabee does well in Virginia today, he could actually earn a position on the ticket.

BACKUS: I think so. I think Mike Huckabee's running a fantastic campaign both for president, but really for vice president.

He has been very careful not to insult Senator McCain. I know some people say that his position on taxes or immigration makes him -- that McCain can't afford to pick him. But the evangelical voters inside the Republican Party are overwhelmingly handing their votes to Mike Huckabee. And he will energize them. And those are the voters that John McCain needs.

There's different kind of conservatives in the Republican Party. There's anti-immigration conservatives...

COLLINS: Yes.

BACKUS: ... there's economic. But evangelical conservatives are the ones that Karl Rove tapped into.

COLLINS: That's right.

BACKUS: I saw it. He did it to me in 2004 and in 2000. And if Mike Huckabee can get that group of voters who have been with him, with no money, with, you know, nothing that any of the experts thought, then he's going to be a formidable addition to the McCain...

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Well...

SETMAYER: But Karl Rove didn't write a $2,300 check to Huckabee, he wrote it to McCain. And believe me, if he felt as though he would be that formidable of a candidate, Karl Rove would have backed Huckabee.

COLLINS: Interesting.

BACKUS: I'm saying he's a formidable VP candidate.

COLLINS: OK. Got you. Got both points there quickly, because we are so out of time.

Thank you very much, ladies.

Tara Setmayer and Jenny Backus, appreciate your time. SETMAYER: You're welcome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

COLLINS: Living to 100. So what are your odds?

Earlier, I talked with CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about new research and the key to living longer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: More people than ever are living longer.

COLLINS: Yes.

GUPTA: And that's something that I think a lot of people realize. But even more than that, even if you have heart disease or diabetes, you still have a pretty good shot at living to 100. You can even change things later in life that really give you -- improve your odds, if you will, about this.

There's about 55,000 people in this country that live over 100 right now. And the fastest-growing population in the country, as things stand today, people older than 85 -- 85 and older. So, those are important things to keep in mind.

What is it that allows certain people to live so long when others don't? That was the question. They actually surveyed 2,300 people in their 70s and evaluated their lives for 25 years. And what they found was, if you...

COLLINS: Clean living.

GUPTA: ... led a pretty clean life, Heidi -- I guess you're off the list.

COLLINS: Oh, thanks.

GUPTA: Sorry. Exercise, you had a 54 percent chance, better than not, of living to at least age 90. It starts to go down.

A sedentary lifestyle decreases your odds, 44 percent. High blood pressure, as you might expect. But obesity and smoking the most so. Add all those risk factors together, Heidi, and it decreases your chance to less than 10 percent of making it past 90.

COLLINS: Yes.

GUPTA: But look at those numbers, still, though. We think 100, we think it's just for a very select few. More and more people are actually getting to that mark.

COLLINS: Yes. No question about it. I do wonder how much of it is genetic. And can you start increasing your chances of living longer later in life, or is it just too late?

GUPTA: A couple of interesting things came out of this. One is that you absolutely can. You can make changes later in life to address heart disease or diabetes and still have a significant impact.

COLLINS: Good.

GUPTA: With regards to genetics, they actually did twin studies on this, Heidi. And what they concluded after looking at twins was that about a quarter of your lifespan is due to your genes, which means about 75 percent is due to the things that you do every day, modifiable risk factors.

So, that's good news for people who actually want to take charge of their health. But even more than that, they found that aggressively treating heart disease and high blood pressure and diabetes later in life made a huge impact. Sort of reversing something that people all ageism.

COLLINS: Yes.

GUPTA: You think someone's too old to benefit from the therapy, therefore don't treat them. That seems to simply not be true. No matter how old they are they should get treatment, and they might live much longer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Quickly now want to get back to a Washington, D.C. You're looking at Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announcing the details of Project Lifeline. This is a foreclosure rescue plan we've been telling you about.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: Particularly those borrowers who put little or no money down and whose mortgage exceeds their home value.

No program can bring every struggling homeowner into the counseling and evaluation process, and we cannot help those who choose not to honor their obligations. But Project Lifeline has the potential to offer new solutions to responsible, able homeowners who want to keep their homes.

Overall, the Hope Now Alliance is striving to help as many able but struggling homeowners as possible, where it's prime, alt-A, or subprime buyers. Clearly, there is much more work to do, but progress has been made since the formation of Hope Now. A lot of progress has been made in the four months since the Hope Now Alliance has been going.

In those four months, Hope Now membership has grown from 60 percent of the subprime mortgage servicer market to 94 percent today. Twenty-five servicers are now represented.

The nationwide hotline, 888-995-HOPE, has been publicized and expanded. Daily volume has -- daily call volume has increased from 625 to 4,000.

Servicers and investors are now providing funds for counseling. Previously, only government and foundations provided funding.

In the first three months, Hope Now servicers sent 775,000 letters to at-risk homeowners. Early results show a 16 percent response rate.

Homeowners who had previously avoided contact are now calling for help. And over 200,000 additional letters are being sent out every month. Today, all Hope Now servicers are contacting subprime borrowers 120 days before their interest rate resets.

In the second half of 2007, the industry assisted an estimated 869 homeowners. And coincident with the formation of Hope Now, the loan modification rate in the fourth quarter doubled over the rate in the third quarter.

Secretary Jackson will also update us on FHA's progress in moving borrowers into affordable long-term mortgages.

These results are before implementation of the American securitization forms, the FAS, fast track, refinancing and loan modification framework. Servicers began implementing that plan in January after resolving a number of important issues, including receiving accounting guidance from the FAS -- excuse me, from the FCC on Fas-140 and they got that clarification on January 8th. We have a lot of work ahead of us. These efforts can succeed only if they are pursued industry-wide.

I am particularly focused on two important steps. First, I'm eager to see the ASF framework and project lifeline adopted by all servicers. This is very important. If the AFS plan works the way it is intended to, subprime borrowers who have made payments on time at the initial rate and who want to stay in their homes but can't afford the higher rate, should be fast tracked ...

COLLINS: All right, once again, we are listening to some of the details now from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as a new foreclosure rescue plan, if you will, called "Project Lifeline." Still a lot to talk about here.

In fact, Ali Velshi is standing by to talk a little bit more about it with us. Ali, so he said new solutions for responsible and able homeowners. What exactly does that mean?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means two things. One is that they're using the word responsible because of the critics who say that this is a bail-out. I mean ...

COLLINS: Yes. VELSHI: ...I had somebody tell me this morning around here, why bother paying your mortgage anymore? If you wait long enough, the government will bail you out of it.

COLLINS: Yes.

VELSHI: So, this is the sense that you have to be able to somehow work out a plan where you would end up paying for that house.

Here's the thing: a survey that the government cites says that the average amount that the bank loses when they foreclose on a home is about $50,000. So, the bank doesn't want to get stuck with a home. But if you're in over your head like Secretary Paulson said, your mortgage is bigger than the price of your house, you've got yourself a problem.

They're saying that most people don't know what their options are as that foreclosure process gets underway. So, what they are announcing today is a 30-day stop on all legal proceedings, all legal foreclosure proceedings for people who are more than 90 days past due.

Typically, you don't start seeing a foreclosure proceeding until you are 90 days past due on your mortgage. This is going to suspend that process, it's going to get the lender to call the borrower and say, can we do something else here, can we work something out, can we refinance you into a fixed loan, can we change your five-year into a 15-year or a 30-year, reduce your payments. What can we do to keep you in this house? That's the aim.

In 2007, according to Realty Track, which we use to track foreclosures, there were more than 2.2 million foreclosures in the United States and more than 400,000 people lost their homes, Heidi, to foreclosure. So, this is an effort to forestall that process because once you get foreclosures, when you get homes on the market, you're kind of stuck. The property values go down. You can't resell those. Even if you didn't get foreclosed upon, if you've got foreclosures in your neighborhood, it hits your property value.

So, that's what this is an effort to do. However, it is aimed at people who can somehow refinance or fix something so that they can pay their mortgage.

COLLINS: Yes, so the big question, is it going to work?

VELSHI: Well, that's a good question. It's going to keep some people in their homes, hopefully. That would be the benefit to all of this. It's much broader than the announcement that they made in December about freezing some rates. This is anything (ph) ...

COLLINS: The Hope Now.

VELSHI: .. with -- yes, right. And this is still part of the Hope Now. It's still those six banks that we talked about ...

COLLINS: Yes. VELSHI: ...Bank of America, Citigroup, Countrywide, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Washington Mutual. The idea here is anybody, no matter what your credit rating is, if you are 90 days past your payments, you're 90 days post-due, you can take advantage of this.

COLLINS: All right, a lot of details to work out, obviously.

VELSHI: Yes.

COLLINS: It's going to take some time, really, to see how well it's going to work.

VELSHI: Yes.

COLLINS: All right, well, we appreciate that. Ali Velshi, nice to see you again.

VELSHI: OK, Heidi.

COLLINS: We want to go ahead and get on over immediately to Rob Marciano who's standing by in the severe weather center. Something about a, I think it's a tornaodo watch at this point, right Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, just issued.

COLLINS: OK.

MARCIANO: Let me get my clicker untangled here. We talked about the significant threat for for severe weather sown across the south of the storm. It's been really pegging a lot on the ice event across the Ohio Valley. That certainly has been significant, not only today but yesterday.

But this risk for severe weather now is becoming more evident. We had strong to severe thunderstorms roll across southeast Texas during the day today, especially this morning. And those will be coming a little bit more potent as they slide their way across the Sabine River.

So, here you go. Here's Jasper, Texas. About to move to the Golden Triangle, Beaumont, Port Arthur. But as they get into the more juicy southern part of Louisiana, those parishes from Lake Charles across the Atchafalaya, will likely be under the gun here in the next several hours.

So, out of this storms prediction center, a tornado watch box, you see just flashed up there in the last frame of this sequence, highlighting that the atmosphere in this area prime for the possibility of tornadoes firing up, especially as this strong line of thunderstorms with some potent upper level winds begins to drive south and east.

So, we'll watch this area along the I-10 corridor, Heidi, for possible tornado development. This is in effect until 4:00 local time. So, we have several hours to go through before this thing hopefully expires. COLLINS: Yes, so weird. It's like before with the tornadoes in at least the five states that they hit, specifically Tennessee where I went, you know, you talk so much about the cold weather and it being rare to have these tornados at this time of year. And people that we talked to were very surprised by that in that area, too.

MARCIANO: Well, that was the case then. We had record-breaking warmth ahead of that system, we had a lot of moisture ahead of that system. It was certainly a more potent event because of that.

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: I don't think the atmosphere is that juiced up for this to happen. That looks like a bad frame, so just ignore that. You would see tornadoes in a line like this, call them kind of gustnaodes (ph), typically they're smaller than the F-4s that we saw. Nonetheless, they're still dangerous. And this time of year, they can pop up along these little squall lines that develop.

So, we'll watch that. The atmosphere not quite as dynamic, not quite as goosed (ph) ...

COLLINS: Good.

MARCIANO: ...as far as the heat and moisture with this.

COLLINS: OK.

MARCIANO: And so, hopefully we'll get it out of here before too ...

COLLINS: Yes, hopefully. All right, we know you're watching it. Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right.

COLLINS: Well, don't call him a quitter. Mike Huckabee changing the pace of the Republican race. But is he really a threat to the frontrunner?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Mike Huckabee, a fly in John McCain's ointment, but is he really hurting the Republican frontrunner?

Here's CNN's John King, part of the best political team on television.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Huckabee.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Virginia, Shenandoah Valley, stressing his supoport for a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that the issues and the sanctity of human life is the foundation of who are as a civilization and a culture.

KING: While promoting a consumption tax as an alternative to the income tax.

HUCKABEE: Instead of killing trees, we would be killing the IRS and this is what we do with the 1040.

KING: Someone forgot to tell Mike Huckabee it's over.

HUCKABEE: (INAUDIBLE), and vote for me. Let's change this country.

KING: After big weekend wins in Kansas and Louisiana, Huckabee is hoping Virginia sends another message Tuesday. He raced to four events across the state. John McCain held just one in Virginia.

HUCKABEE: You know, we're busting it.

KING: The math is daunting. Huckabee has won a modest 16 percent of the delegates awarded so far and would need to win an overwhelming 93 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. But winning out right isn't his only calculation.

HUCKABEE: He's got to get 1191 and then you definitely to go to the convention. And then, it's all bets off.

KING: And so at every stop, Huckabee brushes aside growing calls from party leaders for him to step aside.

HUCKABEE: I just think the people ultimately lose when we have this kind of microwaved election. We ought to cook it slow.

KING: It is, overall, relatively polite. But some of his attacks on Senator McCain are raising eyebrows. One new favorite is comparing himself to Ronald Reagan in 1976 and John McCain to the man who beat back Reagan's conservative nomination challenge, but then lost the general election, Gerald Ford.

HUCKABEE: Here's why they lost. They elected a person who did not really energize the conservative base of the Republican party.

KING: Some Republicans worry talk like that will make it more difficult for McCain to make peace with skeptical conservatives, but there are contrarians.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: As long as Mike Huckabee stays positive and as long as he does not stimulate a third-party challenge from the right in the fall, Mike Huckabee staying in could actually help John McCain. Moreover, if very conservative spokesman continue to criticizing, it makes John McCain look better to the Independents, who are going to decide the election in the fall.

KING: For his part, Huckabee thinks a longer competition will benefit the winner.

HUCKABEE: Competion breeds excellence. The lack of it breeds mediocrity and sloth, you know. Anybody who doesn't have to work hard every day, you get sloppy. When you're out there fighting every day, you just build your stamina, you build your strength and it's like training. And it's best for both of us.

KING: So, on to another stop, and at least for now, another day.

John King, CNN, Weyers Cave, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: A close race, will Virginia's Latino voters make the difference?

CNN's Deborah Feyerick with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was an army nurse.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My specialty was intensive care unit.

FEYERICK: And you won a purple heart?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent, yes, I won a purple heart.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Now a tax consultant in northern Virginia, Gusman (ph) says her vote isn't about race or gender, but about experience and fixing the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama has a lot of new people following him, but I'm not looking because he's black or he's a man. My feeling and my feeling is Hillary Clinton should be the president.

FEYERICK: At the start of the race, the Latino vote was seen but all but locked up by Senator Clinton. She won by huge margins among Latinos in California, New York, Florida and Nevada, prompting some to question whether Obama was being hurt by racial tensions between Latinos and African-Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That perceived tension does not necessarily translate into the fact that Latinos will not vote for an African- American. The Latino community, the electorate has matured as a voting block.

FEYERICK: Which is why both candidates have been aggressively courting the small but significant Latino vote here, in communities largely ignored in the past because the frontrunner was usually chosen well before the Potomac Primaries.

(on camera): The voters we spoke with say they don't believe there's a such thing as a unified Latino voting block. What they do believe is because the Democrats are so close in this race, for the first time, they feel their vote really matters.

(voice-over): Community activist Oreseli Panameno agrees so strongly with Obama that undocumented workers should get drivers' licenses, she printed up her own "Latinos for Obama" bumper stickers at a local store.

ORESELI PANAMENO, OBAMA SUPPORTER: And the gentleman that was assisting me was an African-American and he wanted to know what was the difference and why I was leaning Obama. And so, when I explained, he became a little bit upset, and I think I might have changed his vote.

FEYERICK: If the race stays as close as it is, it just might be Latinos in the final caucus in Puerto Rico who could decide which Democrat gets the presidential nod.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Stay tuned for much more on the candidates as they crisscross the country. Don't miss a full hour of the CNN's "BALLOT BOWL" from noon until 1:00 Eastern. Join us for live coverage of the candidates as they make their pitches. And remember, CNN equals politics.

GM bleeds, the largest yearly loss ever for a carmaker. Plus, new buyouts for workers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: GM losing money and getting rid of jobs. The company announced this morning it's offering buyouts to 74,000 workers in the U.S., that's an entire hourly workforce. The buyout packages are worth up to $140,000 being offered. They're being offered to workers represented by the United Autoworkers. GM is also reporting a huge loss, almost $39 billion last year. That's the biggest annual loss ever for an automaker. But get this. GM says it had a better than expected fourth quarter, earning a narrow profit of $46 million when special expenses are excluded.

So, call it a coffee break if you will. Starbucks stores across the country will close their doors for three hours later this month. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange now to tell us why.

OK, Susan, what's what's the deal?

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

COLLINS: On to this now. The Potomac River cutting through Washington, Virginia and Maryland and maybe the dreams of presidential candidates. Voting right now in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Disturbing video out of Florida. A quadriplegic thrown from a wheelchair by a sheriff's deputy. This morning an investigation.

Here now Mike Deeson of affiliate WTSP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE DEESON, WTSP REPORTER (voice-over): Meet Ryan Sterner, who broke his neck almost 14 years ago and is a quadriplegic. But watch what happens when Sterner, who can drive and was arrested on a traffic violation gets to the Orient Road Jail.

BRIAN STERNER, DUMPED OUT OF WHEELCHAIR: Deputy Marcia, you know, she looked at me and she didn't believe that I was a quadriplegic, I guess. And she walked behind me with those handles on the back of that hospital-grade wheelchair and just dumped it straightforward.

DEESON: Sterner says he tried to roll as he was going down but hit so hard he thought he had broke two ribs. Then when he was on the floor deputies frisked him and tried to get him back in the chair.

STERNER: I told help how to pick me up and put me back in the chair, but without sensation, like I don't feel anything from my chest down, so I didn't know they were broken then, my ribs.

DEESON (on camera): The Hillsboro Sheriff's Office didn't know anything about the incident until we showed them their tape. And now an investigation is under way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has all come to light today, therefore, this review very active.

DEESON (voice-over): And while we asked for a written report of the incident, the major in charge here at the Orient Road Jail told us there isn't one, because as far as they're concerned, they didn't have a problem with nor cause of problem to any inmate in a wheelchair. But don't tell that to Brian Sterner.

STERNER: It's incredibly degrading. It's an example of how poorly trained the Hillsboro County Sheriff's Office is. You know, if they're trying to figure out if somebody is in a wheelchair or not, there are many other ways you can do it besides dumping somebody on their face.

DEESON: But it's something Sterner had to face, and now the sheriff's office will have to face the fact that a deputy at the jail thought it was appropriate to dump someone out of a wheelchair on to the ground, and another deputy appears to think it's funny.

In Tampa, Mike Deeson, Tampa Bay's 10 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: This morning the sheriff's office says the deputy seen in the video has been suspended without pay. Three other employees are on leave with pay while the investigation goes on.

CNN NEWSROOM continues one hour from now. "BALLOT BOWL" is coming your way next. I'm Heidi Collins. Have a good day, everybody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com