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Clinton-Obama Debate: What Latino Voters Want to Hear; Can Clinton Stop Obama?; John McCain Increases Lead

Aired February 20, 2008 - 20:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to the Recreational Sports Center at the University of Texas in Austin. We have not come here for the basketball, the volleyball, the handball or racquetball courts, not even eastbound for the weight training room.
We are here tonight for a heavyweight political fight. In just under 24 hours, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be right here for a debate sponsored by CNN, Univision, and the Texas Democratic Party. Another round of primaries, including delegate-rich contests in Texas and Ohio, are now less than two weeks away.

A lot of people think that Senator Obama came close to scoring a knockout last night. His lopsided wins in the Wisconsin primary and Hawaii caucuses extended his winning streak now to 10 in a row over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. But look again. When it comes to convention delegates, the race is still nearly tied.

Obama is ahead, but by just 69 delegates. It makes tomorrow's debate on CNN and the March 4th primaries more important than ever.

Senator Clinton is not giving up, and Senator Obama is not letting up. Today's back and forth was tougher than ever.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans have a choice to make in this election and that choice matters. It's about picking a president who relies not just on words, but on work, on hard work, to get America back to work, to get America working again for all of our people. We need to make a choice between speeches and solutions.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, Senator Clinton told us that there is a choice in this race. And, you know, I couldn't agree with her more. But contrary to what she's been saying, it is not a choice between speeches and solutions. It is a choice between a politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn't work in South Carolina and didn't work in Wisconsin and will not work in Texas.


ROBERTS: Both Democratic candidates are here in Texas tonight. And so is our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

So, the word from Hillary Clinton today, even though she didn't mention the defeats last night in Wisconsin and Hawaii, was have to move from good words to good works, have to move from sound bites to sound solutions.

It seems like,if anybody needs some solutions, it is the Hillary Clinton campaign.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what's interesting is listening to the rhetoric today and adding it up with what we heard last night is that each are now kind of trying to fill in their weak points.

So Hillary Clinton becomes this kind of planner with dreams. And he becomes this sort of dreamer with plans. They're kind of going at it from one another's direction. She is not changing much, as far as I can tell. There was an hour-long conference call with Clinton strategists and communications chief, and they said, well, the reason we have lost all these things basically is we were outspent and he was underscrutinized, and now people are beginning to look at him.

She's going to go ahead with what you heard here, which is, wait a minute. Stop all the talk. He is all about rhetoric. I'm all about doing things. So let's get real, as she says. This is really important. So, there's an urgency to it that they want to convey, but there's also an urgency to it, obviously, as far as her campaign is concerned.

ROBERTS: She is portraying herself as the fighter, which of course was the mantra that Al Gore had back in the year 2000, John Kerry to some degree in 2004 as well. Is that the right message for this election year or do they want this sort of idea of a grand vision?

CROWLEY: Well, so far, I think we can say that there's this idea of a grand vision, although -- and I know you will talk to Bill about this in those exit polls -- we saw that even people who thought the economy was the most important went for Barack Obama, et cetera, et cetera.

But one of the things that the Obama campaign thinks is happening here is, they believe that Hillary Clinton is now in a box, because they think she needs to go after Obama. That's how you bring him down a little bit. But, when she does that, if you step over the line, it looks like old-school politics, what everybody hates.

ROBERTS: Because she did that back in November, I think it was, and it didn't play well.

CROWLEY: Right. Didn't work. It just says, old school, old school. You know, you don't went to sound like John Kerry. You don't want to sound like Al Gore. You know, people want a little hope in this election, a little inspiration. So, she's kind of walking a fine line, because she does have to go after him on these very things. You have heard her, like, well, what's his plan about this and what's his plan about that? And I can do this because I'm seasoned.

ROBERTS: Well, we have got this debate tomorrow night here. But between the debate and March the 4th, there's a whole lot of time in there with not much going on. Does she have an opportunity to change things?

CROWLEY: She absolutely does. But how much can you change things? We look at the math and both these campaigns are saying, you know what? We're probably going to Denver without someone that has enough of the numbers to be a nominee. So, won't that be a fun convention?

ROBERTS: Howard Dean will be staying up a lot of nights, I think.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Candy Crowley, thanks very much. Stay around because we want to bring you back a little bit later on for a panel. We have got a lot to talk about tonight.

Barack Obama is chipping away at voters who up until now had been loyal to Hillary Clinton. You can be sure that both campaigns have spotted important trends in the latest exit polls. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is here to give us a look at what happened last night and what it portends for the future.

So, Bill, what did those exit polls tell us last night about what's happening with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, momentum means you win because you're winning. And that can easily happen if Democrats like both contenders. They can move from one to the other.

Look at what happened to Hillary Clinton's core constituencies in Wisconsin. On Super Tuesday, women voted for Clinton. Barack Obama only got 43 percent of the women's vote. But he split women in Wisconsin yesterday 50/50 with Hillary Clinton.

Seniors on Super Tuesday, just over a third of them voted for Obama. Now his support among seniors not quite a majority, but it's up to 41 percent. And look at rural voters. How about this? Rural voters, which doesn't like an Obama constituency, jumped from about a third to 57 percent. They seem to be at the cutting edge of change in this country.

White voters, there's always been a question. Can Obama attract enough white voters, supporters? Is he going to have a problem because of race? Well, on Super Tuesday, he got only 41 percent of white voters. But now, in Wisconsin, an overwhelmingly white state, he carried white voters 51 percent.

And then there are those all-important blue-collar workers that Hillary Clinton had on Super Tuesday, non-college educated voters, voters who said their top issue was the economy, union households. Every one of those groups has tipped to Obama in Wisconsin. And that's a bad sign for Ohio because Wisconsin looks a lot like Ohio in terms of an industrial Midwestern blue-collar state. ROBERTS: (AUDIO GAP) chip away at her core constituency, Bill. What's happening with his core constituency? Is he reinforcing that or what's going on?

SCHNEIDER: He is holding them and adding to them. African- Americans, he's up to 91 percent in Wisconsin. Young voters, always been a core constituency for Obama, he had them on Super Tuesday. His support in Wisconsin, a phenomenal 70 percent of voters under 30.

College graduates, very well educated voters have been with Obama for a long time, up to 60 percent. Independents, he now carries independents by nearly two-thirds, 64 percent. So, he is reinforcing his core supporters.

ROBERTS: And, of course, the big contest coming up here on March the 4th in Texas. Who are Texas voters and how does it play with both candidates there?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Texas voters include in the Democratic Party roughly equal numbers of African-Americans and Hispanic voters. Hillary Clinton is relying on those Latinos because they have been her core supporters in the past.

And in fact on Super Tuesday, Latinos voted 63 percent for Hillary Clinton across the country. And she's hoping to reinforce that in the debate tomorrow night, which will be carried by Univision and which will be broadcast in Spanish.

How did they hold up for her in Wisconsin? We don't know because there weren't enough Hispanic or Latino voters in Wisconsin for us to measure. But there's certainly going to be a fight over Latino voters, who are not really very familiar with Barack Obama. And he is going to try to use that debate to make them more familiar with them, to introduce himself to them, and to make them more comfortable with him.

ROBERTS: All right, Bill Schneider for us tonight with an analysis of the exit polls and looking ahead.

Now, to give us a better idea of who Texas voters and what they want, we're joined now by Wayne Slater. He's a senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning News." Also, if his name rings a bell, it's because he's also the co-author of several books about Karl Rove, including the famous book "Bush's Brain." And CNN contributor Roland Martin is a born and bred Texan who spent a lot of his time here, what, 10 of his -- 12 of his 18 years as a journalist working for Texas media outlets. And they both join us now.

So, Hillary Clinton is using Texas as her fire wall. Wayne, is it still really strong for her?

WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Well, it is getting weaker by the day, by -- or any other occasion. Look, I was with her the other day in San Antonio. I was with Barack Obama in San Antonio, with her in the Valley. She still seems to have strong support, a good network in South Texas. She needs two-thirds at the least of Latino voters in this state if she hopes to win. By all indications -- she's got Henry Cisneros out there working for her. All indications are she is in pretty good shape, but, man, two weeks is a long time.

ROBERTS: A day is forever in politics.

Roland, though, she's got long and deep historic ties here.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, she has. She has those ties. And what we have seen this campaign has been, Obama is able to come into a state where folks don't know him, is able to close the gap. Houston and Dallas are going to be critical for him. Eighty- five percent of black Texans live in those two cities. You're going to see an over-indexing of black voters in those two cities.

But the other thing is, and we talked about Hispanic voters, the point for Obama is not to get 50 percent. If he is able to get anywhere from 30 to 35, maybe 38, she's in trouble. She has to get 70-plus percent of Hispanic voters to be able to stave him off. And white voters are going to be critical and, Wayne, you and I have talked about it, especially in east Texas and west Texas.

SLATER: Yes. In fact, you saw Hillary Clinton send -- the campaign send Bill Clinton to east Texas. East Texas, yellow dog Democrat country, people who would rather be a yellow dog than a Republican there.

The ones who remain Democrats are moderate. Those could be working-class Democrats, the kinds of people who Hillary Clinton needs as part of her white constituency in order to hold off this Obama surge.

ROBERTS: So, a big opportunity for them tomorrow evening here on the stage at the University of Texas to make their case to Texas voters.

Roland, what issues are Texas voters going to want to hear these candidates talk about?

MARTIN: Being an Aggie, to hear you say University of Texas pains me.


MARTIN: But, look, two things I think stand out.

ROBERTS: Want me to say it again?

MARTIN: No, no, don't say it again. Don't say...

ROBERTS: Hook 'em, Horns.

(LAUGHTER) MARTIN: Saw them off.


MARTIN: Two things stand out, John, first and foremost, the housing crisis. You see foreclosure rates skyrocketing in Dallas County, Collin County, also in Harris County. But the other issue is the fact that we're on a college campus.

Rising tuition, that is absolutely vital, because again we have seen tuition costs explode across the country. We see it in Texas. And now, with Sallie Mae cutting back on student loans, that's going to be cause a problem. I think people want to know about those pocketbook issues.

SLATER: That's no question. But another thing is health care. It is important in all these primary caucus states. It is important here. That's what those candidates are being asked about. Obama spent five minutes in San Antonio yesterday trying to explain the differences between his health care plan and Hillary Clinton's.

Hillary Clinton has a more direct approach, whether you agree with it or not. And frankly, the approaches are very similar. She has, I think, the edge in pushing the health care issue, an important issue in the state.

MARTIN: Real quick, the war. Six out of 10 Texans are against the Iraq war. That's going to be the critical issue when you look at the amount of money we're spending on the war as it relates to what the spending domestically. If that's going to be a critical part of the debate tomorrow, she might have an issue trying to explain that.

ROBERTS: What about this idea of Barack Obama as an agent of change? Robert Samuelson in "The Washington Post" did an interesting column today in which he went over some of things that Barack Obama is presenting as his campaign platform and suggesting that a lot of it sounds like the typical stuff that most Washington politicians put forward, even to the point of saying that he is sort of sanctifying the status quo on Social Security. Do people here in Texas, Wayne, buy him as an agent of change?

SLATER: Yes, they do. All indications that I have seen that they are. He really is an extraordinary, appealing person. And we have seen that in primary and caucus after primary and caucus. You saw lines that I have never seen before in Houston and in Dallas today for Barack Obama.

This message of change, this message of looking forward, this inspirational message clearly has taken hold a lot of them with these young people in Texas, a lot with African-Americans, a lot of with white progressives in the state. I think this is Hillary Clinton's state to lose at this point, but Barack Obama may have something here.

MARTIN: John, it's going to play very well in Dallas County. This is a Republican state. No Democrat holds any statewide office here in Texas. Dallas County used to be all Republican judges. A couple of years ago, African-American elected D.A. in Dallas County, Hispanic elected sheriff. All judges now in Dallas County are Democrat. You talk about change, that's a place where they have changed.

ROBERTS: And no question in a state that's been historically Republican for the last bunch of years, it's creating an enormous amount of excitement in the Democratic Party.

MARTIN: It used to be a longtime Democratic state. That's different about Texas.

ROBERTS: Yes, a long, long time ago.


SLATER: One thing very quickly, the biggest applause line I think that Barack Obama got on stage in San Antonio was, George W. Bush's name will not be on the ballot. And here are good Texans, Democrat Texans, screaming and yelling and in applause.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we will see how it goes, not too long from now. Wayne Slater, Roland Martin, as always, thanks very much.

MARTIN: Get 'em.

ROBERTS: Hook 'em, Horns.


ROBERTS: A lot happening on the campaign trail, but we're about to show you what's going on behind the scenes. There's arm-twisting aimed basically at black superdelegates.

We're also going to show you which groups of voters are abandoning Hillary and going to Barack Obama. And this is no secret. John McCain isn't waiting. He has already opened fire on Barack Obama.

You will hear it coming up.


ROBERTS: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both desperate to win support from the 800 or so superdelegates, the ones who are not elected in primaries or caucuses and are free to make up their mind any way they want.

This quote from an article in "The Hill" newspaper caught our eye this week. It says, "Members of the Congressional Black Caucus who support Senator Barack Obama for president are pressuring their colleagues backing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, telling them to listen to voters and switch their endorsements."

We asked our Dan Lothian to do some digging into this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, is also a superdelegate who pledged his vote for Senator Hillary Clinton last August.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: I would have endorsed Senator Clinton even if I had known that at one point Senator Obama would become the front-runner.

LOTHIAN: Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus would like nothing more than to convince him to switch his allegiance.

CLEAVER: I don't think there's been any twist-the-arm pressure. The pressure had been applied to some of my colleagues.

LOTHIAN: While his fellow superdelegates have been getting the hard sell, Cleaver says in his case the pressure has been more lighthearted.

CLEAVER: It is all in a jovial manner. Nobody is threatening each other.

LOTHIAN: In this tight race, where the Democratic nomination might be decided by superdelegates, the battle is on for every vote. Representative David Scott of Georgia, once a Clinton superdelegate, recently switched his pledge to Obama, saying he wanted to reflect the vote of his constituents.

The Congressional Black Caucus has been reaching out to influential members like Representative John Lewis also of Georgia. As of now, Lewis says he is still supporting Clinton, despite recent reports that he was shifting his allegiance.

The national online advocacy organization Color of Change has posted a petition asking Congressional Black Caucus members who are superdelegates to pay attention to how their constituents are voting.

JAMES RUCKER, COLOROFCHANGE.ORG: Well, it's bewildering that representatives from those areas would actually cast a superdelegate vote for Hillary Clinton, undermining the will of the voters.

LOTHIAN: For now, Representative Cleaver says no amount of pressure will change his vote.

CLEAVER: I don't think is that I can give someone my commitment to support them, and then change because the day has become cloudy.


LOTHIAN: Of course, he's hoping that some of his colleagues will feel the same way about that.

We did, John, by the way, reach out to Senator Clinton's campaign and also Senator Obama. No response from Senator Clinton, but Senator Obama's campaign saying that this essentially shows that there are a lot of energized people out there who are trying to help grow their campaign.

ROBERTS: A lot of arm-twisting going on. We will see if it goes all the way to the convention.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: And then it becomes horse-trading.

LOTHIAN: That's right. Exactly.

ROBERTS: Dan Lothian, thanks very much.

Well, let's find out a little bit more about this now and how much pressure is being put on members of Congress to switch. Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee joins us now. She's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a supporter of Hillary Clinton. She's in Houston tonight.

Congresswoman Lee, thanks very much for being with us. How much pressure are you under to switch your vote or your support at least from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: John, it is good to be with you as well. You know, I have just returned from Pakistan, where the people of Pakistan spoke about democracy through their votes. They respected different viewpoints and they voted peacefully.

I would like to think that democracy reigns among African- Americans, Latinos, women, working groups. All of us have the right to consider the message and the mission of these two outstanding candidates. Certainly, there's a great deal of energy here in Texas I'm excited about. I'm excited about the people who have come out in droves to see Senator Obama.

And I'm excited about those who are strongly supporting Senator Clinton. This has to be the most historic time of our lifetime and what I hope it will be, an opportunity for people to express themselves, but they will also respect the opinion and the rights of those who choose to participate in this democratic process.

ROBERTS: So, let me ask you again, how much pressure are you under to switch your vote?

JACKSON LEE: Well, you know, it's -- pressure's all in the perceiver of that. I have seen a lot of talk shows and a lot of people who are enthusiastically supporting their candidate, but I always respect those people. And I would hope that they would respect me. There have been people who have indicated that, if your constituency votes one way -- the national groups have been talking that way -- how would you vote?

I really haven't gotten to that point yet. I'm supporting Senator Clinton. I am very strongly in support of her message and her mission. I don't oppose any candidate. I'm just enthusiastically for a candidate. So, I'm listening to my constituents, because I always respect what they have to say. But I feel strong in my viewpoint. And you know what I'm doing, John? I'm going out trying to sell Senator Clinton's message and mission.

ROBERTS: As you know, Congresswoman, there's all this debate over how superdelegates should vote. Should they vote their conscience? Should they go with the vote on a congressional district level, a state level, a national level?

Here's what Congressman William Lacy Clay of Missouri said about you. He said: "Say, for instance, the city of Houston overwhelmingly votes for Obama. I would think that Ms. Jackson Lee looks at how her district voted. She may have second thoughts or what I call buyer's remorse."

Would you have buyer's remorse if Barack Obama won your 18th District over Hillary Clinton, and would you switch your vote?

JACKSON LEE: I think my good friend Lacy Clay represents his district. He knows his constituents. We all have different districts. I represent the constituents in the 18th Congressional District.

We have a certain level of respect for each other. I respect their votes and would hold their votes as important. But, at the same time, I would ask them to respect the idea that I'm not committed as a superdelegate to the idea of voting for myself.

I'm committed to the idea of what Senator Clinton represents, her vision for America, the excitement and historic nature of her election, and how I believe she can be a problem solver.

With that in mind, the throngs of people voting one way or another should not impact. However, I do believe it's important that we solve this before we get to the convention. Democrats want to win in November. And what I have said is that we will all be unified to take back the White House.

I have confidence. And I'm going to be engaging with chairman Dean very soon about how we work towards solving this before the convention. I want voters to be at ease that their votes truly count. But I also want them to respect each of us individually for how we have perceived America's future to be.

Great candidates, Senator Obama, Senator Clinton. It might be a dream team coming, but I think I run -- the idea of running here in the 18th Congressional District, the way I run is on mutual respect. And I respect Lacy running in his district. I won't comment on what happens in his district. And I know that he will respect what happens in the 18th Congressional District.

ROBERTS: OK. All right. We hear you.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thanks very much for joining us tonight from Houston. It's good to see.

JACKSON LEE: Thanks, John, for having me. Come on -- I'm glad you're in Texas.

ROBERTS: Oh, good to be here. Thanks very much.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, in the early primaries and caucuses, Hillary Clinton could always count on certain groups of voters. But, lately, their loyalty is switching to Barack Obama.

We will show you whose minds are changing -- coming up.


ROBERTS: The battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama heads now to the critical big delegate states of Texas and Ohio. But you may be surprised at one group where Hillary Clinton is losing some ground.

Barack Obama is winning the votes of younger women, 18 to 29, by a huge margin, and older women as well, not quite over 60, but certainly older women. It still is Hillary Clinton with the votes of older women over 60. They went to Clinton by a wide margin still.

The younger women seem less concerned with gender issues like the glass ceiling. Hillary Clinton has focused on that. Take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With your help, we will shatter the highest, hardest glass ceiling, because that's what we do in America. We break barriers. We open doors. We make sure every voice is heard.

It will take leadership and hard work. But we have never been short on either. So, I hope you will join with me.


ROBERTS: Well, joining me now is Maurie Levin. She is a professor at the University of Texas Law School and also an Obama supporter and campaign contributor. Lulu Flores is president of the National Women's Political Caucus and also a Clinton supporter and campaign contributor. Jennifer Kim is a member of the Austin City Council and a Clinton supporter who has also contributed to her campaign. And Dera Barlow is a University of Texas student and an Obama supporter. They all join us now to talk more about this.

And Dera and Lulu, why don't we first start with you. What is it about Barack Obama that attracts young women? What is it about Hillary Clinton that attracts more mature women? Lulu will have to go first.

LULU FLORES, PRES., NATL WOMENS POLITICAL CAUCUS: Age before beauty here? OK. Well, we are, as you heard Senator Clinton say, we are concerned about the glass ceiling. As being a candidate myself at one time, I think there is definitely a bias against women candidates and we need to -- make no mistake, we're not supporting her because she is a woman. ROBERTS: Yes.

FLORES: We strongly believe she is the best qualified, has the most depth, most experience and her actions speak louder than words.

ROBERTS: And what is it about Barack Obama that you think attracts younger voters? We should say, Dera, that you were a Hillary Clinton supporter and recently switched your support. Why?

DERA BARLOW, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Yes. About three weeks ago I actually switched to become a Barack Obama supporter, simply because I thought he's inspiring. I read one of his speeches as a Clinton supporter, and I was inspired to actually support him. And he is a catalyst for change and I really do believe that he is progressive and will bring change.

ROBERTS: Right. Progressive and will bring change.


ROBERTS: All right. A lot of people say and, Maurie and Jennifer, ring in on this. A lot of people say that Hillary Clinton speaks to the head, but Barack Obama speaks to the heart. And books have been written on this idea that political decisions turn on emotion.

MAURIE LEVIN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: It may be true that he does speak to the heart, and I don't think that that's anything that supporters should be defensive about. I think that he has the ability to inspire people, and he has inspired people to get involved in this election. And I think that that speaks volumes about what he might be able to do in the future as a world leader.

ROBERTS: All right. And, Jennifer, what about this idea that Hillary Clinton speaks to the head and Barack Obama speaks to the heart?

JENNIFER KIM, MEMBER, AUSTIN CITY COUNCIL: I think Hillary Clinton does a great job of speaking to both the head and the heart when you talk about health care.

ROBERTS: Really?

KIM: When you talk about family issues and the middle class and making sure that all our working families can get ahead. That is something that's very personal for people, the economy, and also just a well being of their children. She was a strong advocate for early childhood development programs, the CHIP program in Arkansas.

These are things we need -- children's health insurance. All the things that we need to make sure that all our children are doing well in society, and I think Hillary Clinton's definitely has the ideas and the solutions for that.

ROBERTS: Dera, what are the issues that are important to you, and how does Barack Obama speak to those? BARLOW: OK. Well, primarily I'm a student right now. I'm an undergrad and I hope not to be in debt for the rest of my life trying to get an education. And the reason why I definitely support Barack Obama is that I like his stance on making education affordable, especially for those of us who come from lower income families, who want the opportunity to get an education.

So that's number one. And also, civil rights. He has a wonderful stance on civil rights issues such as racial -- ending racial profiling and things like that. So that's definitely up my alley.

ROBERTS: Lulu, what are the issues that are important to you and how does Hillary Clinton satisfy your yearning for those issues to be addressed?


FLORES: Obviously, women's issues are extremely important to me, and Hillary has stood behind us and with us and she supported prevention first. She supported this Prevention First Act.


FLORES: You know, helping -- have access to birth control. She stood behind. And on our issues, she supports families and she stands behind the middle class and making sure that for the bread and butter issues, for families who are working hard, to make sure they have food on their table. Hillary speaks to that, and that's very important to us.

ROBERTS: Both candidates are saying that they are the agents of change. Maurie and Jen, who do you believe is the real agent of change here? Is it Barack Obama or is it Hillary Clinton?

LEVIN: I think it's perfectly clear that it's Senator Obama and that we need, we badly need a really clean break from the past and that he is the one that can offer that. Not Senator Clinton.

ROBERTS: Jen, what do you say to that?

KIM: I think that Senator Clinton has a strong record in producing change from her work at the Children's Defense Fund, making sure we have policies that are promoting families and making sure the working class is really taken care of, the underserved. And she is a voice for those that are -- that don't have a voice because she really stands up for the people and not the powerful and the privileged. I think she is the agent for change for us.

ROBERTS: You know, you really cite Senator Clinton's record when you talk about her qualifications. And Dera, do you think that Barack Obama has got the degree of experience that she does to address the issues that are important to you?

BARLOW: Well, I think that the most important thing about Barack Obama is that he's inspiring and I think that that can trump years and years of experience. If you can provoke change, provoke people to move, make action, that's more important to me than anything else.

ROBERTS: Right. So let me just quickly go down the list here and just one-word answer. Who do you think is going to win the women's vote in Texas? Maurie?

LEVIN: I got to say Senator Obama.


FLORES: Hillary Clinton.


KIM: I think Senator Obama has a bright future ahead of him in politics, but Senator Clinton is ready to lead change now and get our country back on track.

ROBERTS: And Dera, do you think that Barack Obama can really beat Hillary Clinton among her core constituency here in Texas?

BARLOW: There's no doubt in my mind.

ROBERTS: There you go. Well, no doubt on who you all are supporting. All right. Backing them up. Thanks very much for being with us tonight, ladies. Good to talk to you.

LEVIN: Thank you.

KIM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right. So coming up next, the battle is joined between the McCains and the Obamas. The potential first ladies trade words about pride. Now, one of them is doing some damage control. And John McCain opens fire on his fellow senator.

You'll hear it coming up.


ROBERTS: Well, breaking news tonight. "The New York Times" Web site has posted a report questioning the nature of a relationship between Senator John McCain and a female lobbyist. The story identifies the lobbyist as Vicki Iseman. "The Times" says they both deny ever having a romantic relationship.

However, the report says McCain's advisers were alarmed for some years about the appearance of a bond between the senator and a lobbyist whose clients often had business before McCain's Senate committee. CNN is reaching out to the McCain campaign. So far, there has been no reaction.

Well, two potential first ladies are caught up in a long distance fight over patriotism and pride. It started with this remark on Monday by Michelle Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: Hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.


ROBERTS: That "proud of my country for the first time" comment started a firestorm on conservative talk radio. The criticism made the jump to the campaign trail yesterday.


CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country.


ROBERTS: Well, this afternoon, Michelle Obama tried doing some damage control.


M. OBAMA: For the first time in my lifetime, I'm seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven't seen and really trying to figure this out. And that's the source of pride that I was talking about. You don't run for president of the United States and put yourself and your family through this if you don't feel some level of deep pride and possibility for your country.


ROBERTS: Well, the husbands are also fighting it out. In the way John McCain and Barack Obama are throwing jabs, you would think that the conventions are over and the final race for the White House has already begun. They are now battling over accepting the strings attached to public campaign financing. The trick is if they take public money, the amount that they spend is capped by law at $85 million.

Right now, that looks bad for Obama because he is raising tons of cash; $36 million in January alone. Only $12 million for McCain. So a clear advantage to Obama there. Today in "USA TODAY," Obama wrote, "I propose a meaningful agreement in good faith that results in real spending limits." Well, some call that hedging. But John McCain calls it going back on your word.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A year ago, I signed a piece of paper and committed that if I were the nominee of my party, that I would take public financing for the general election campaign. At that time, Senator Obama made that same commitment. Now, I notice in a column in "USA TODAY" today, he is talking about other outside money, about working out. Look. That's -- that's Washington double speak.


ROBERTS: Washington double speak. Well. Joining me now, senior political analyst Gloria Borger. She is in New York, and senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Good to see you both. Thanks for coming back, Candy.

Gloria, let's start with you. How much of a problem is this for Barack Obama?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think if you read his original language, he did make an unequivocal pledge that he was going to take public financing. And I think if he's going to change his mind about that, he needs to say that he's changing his mind because this election is so important or something like that, but he needs to admit publicly that, yes, he is changing his mind. Because what you saw John McCain doing, John, was turning this into a character issue against Barack Obama.

ROBERTS: And Candy, does this raise questions about what Barack Obama would do as president? Would he say one thing and then decide to change his mind and do another?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly that's the Clinton line of attack at this point. I mean, they were one of the first to bring up the whole public campaign financing when it looked like the Obama campaign was beginning to back off. That was part of an entire conference call by the Clinton people because that's another net (ph). They say, well, he's running on rhetoric and he's running on promises and look, he's already broken a promise.

So, you know, it has some resonance. You know, I love the fact the he wants to kind of negotiate this. And you and I have watched them negotiate for weeks about how many debates they're going to have, so I cannot imagine them trying to, you know, figure this out.

ROBERTS: Gloria, how firm is the ground that Senator McCain is standing on here? He put his name to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.


ROBERTS: He took public -- he took private -- he shooed, I should say, public financing for the primary season and he has said that he will take public financing for the general election if, if his opponent agrees to it.

BORGER: Look. Nobody can challenge John McCain's record when it comes to campaign finance reform. I mean, he is the author of campaign finance reform but that chart you showed before, John, the reality also is that John McCain isn't raising the kind of money that Barack Obama is raising. So the reality is that it is in his self interest to limit what Barack Obama can raise and what he can spend, because he knows that he's going to be outspent by Obama and that that's going to hurt him in the general election, so he's got a great issue here.

Hillary Clinton, as Candy said, teed it up for him. Right? He's got a great issue here. He's going to use it against him and turn it on him as a man who's not of his word and somebody who doesn't really believe in reform. We'll see if it works.

ROBERTS: Now, from campaign finance to how the general election might go, we've been getting a little bit of an indication of that in the campaign trail. Listen to a couple of things that were said between John McCain and Barack Obama during the day.


J. MCCAIN: I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change.

B. OBAMA: I respect John McCain for his service to this country. He is a genuine American hero. But let me tell you, his policies are not the policies of change and that's the choice in this election. It's time to move beyond the politics of yesterday because we are the party of tomorrow.


ROBERTS: Well, to listen to the two of them battling it out in the campaign trail today, Candy Crowley, you would think that the conventions had already decided who the nominee was going to be in the general election.


CROWLEY: Absolutely a dress rehearsal. I mean, there is no getting around it.

ROBERTS: But -- game this -- game this out for us. What would a general election match-up between the two of them look like? It looks like it could be a little ugly.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Actually, it looks like it will be the Clinton/Obama campaign again because here's John McCain going, whoa, this guy's got no experience. He's all about rhetoric. You know, he is naive about foreign policy. And you think, where have I heard that before? Well, you've heard it from Hillary Clinton.

Now, the question is, if it's Barack Obama and he becomes the nominee, does it work any better in the general election that has worked so far in the primary election which is to say it hasn't worked?

ROBERTS: And Gloria Borger, the longer this fight goes on between the Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, during the primary campaign, does John McCain benefit from that?


ROBERTS: Looking at forming this national campaign going forward?

BORGER: Yes. I think he does, although, of course, he's got his own problems he's got to deal with. Mike Huckabee being foremost among them and conservatives in his own party that he's got to -- that he's got to unite and rally. I think that it's going to be interesting to see what happens in Austin tomorrow night at the CNN debate...

ROBERTS: They will be.

BORGER: ... to see if they really start brawling because if they start brawling, that's not going to help the Democratic Party at all. And I think they're both walking a pretty fine line there because as Candy pointed out, you know, she is really got to take him on. It's now or never.

ROBERTS: Yes. All right. Well, we'll see what happens tomorrow night, less than 24 hours from now.

Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

Well, Ron Paul isn't quite the Republican Party's favorite son here in Texas. So how much longer will he be a presidential candidate? I asked him. Wait until you hear his answer. That's coming up.


ROBERTS: John McCain has built an all but insurmountable lead in the quest for convention delegates. By CNN's estimate, McCain is miles ahead of Mitt Romney who isn't even in the race anymore, as well as Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul who still are. Congressman Ron Paul racks up five to 10 percent of the vote in most of the Republican primaries. On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" today, I asked him just how long he plans to stay in the race and why.


REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stay in as long as my supporters want me to. You know, I was very reluctant to enter the race, didn't expect a whole lot to come of it. Thought I would last for a month or two. But to my amazement, you know, we literally got hundreds of thousands of supporters and many, many millions of dollars, and they're still very enthusiastic. And I say, as long as the number of volunteers continues to grow and the money comes in and there are primaries out there and they want me to be involved, I'm going to stay involved.


ROBERTS: Congressman Paul may end up using his sizable campaign war chest to help congressional candidates who share his beliefs in low taxes, free trade and ending the war in Iraq.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes time. Larry joins us now. And it's a big night for you, Larry. Got a great guest.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Hey, John, we sure do. He's been rehearsing right down the road apiece. He will again host the Oscars this year. He's Jon Stewart of "Comedy Central." He's our special guest. He'll be with us for the full hour with phone calls, e-mails and all sorts of things. Jon Stewart at the top of the hour.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to it, Larry. We'll see you in just a few minutes. One not to miss.

Tomorrow's debate is co-sponsored by the Spanish language network, Univision. When Latino voters tune in, what will they want to hear from the candidates? I'm about to get some insights from a Univision insider.

Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Well, right here on this stage, just 23 hours from now, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will go one on one, head to head, live in the next big Democratic presidential debate. This could be a turning point in this primary season.

It's co-sponsored by Spanish language network, Univision, the Texas Democratic Party and CNN. Joining me now with some insights as to what we're going to see, Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas. She joins us now.

So, when we look at Hispanic voters, Maria Elena, what are their bread and butter issues and how will we see that reflected on this stage tomorrow night?

MARIA ELENA SALINAS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Well, on a national level, the issues that are most important to Hispanics, of course, are education, health care, Iraq, the economy. Immigration reform is a very big issue, and I would say that they're very similar to Hispanics in Texas. They're called "tejanos." And one of the issues that they care about the most, however, is the border wall. The wall that is being built there on the border.

This is a border state that lives, border life in a very active way. They shop there. They visit their families there. They work there. And this is a very important issue for them and they're going to be looking out to hear what Senators Obama and Senator Clinton are going to be doing about this border wall. As we know, both of them voted in favor of it.

ROBERTS: Yes. You know, Hillary Clinton has got a long history with Hispanics here in the state of Texas, going all the way back to the McGovern campaign of 1972. But if we look at some tracking polls here, Barack Obama has been making some inroads with Hispanic voters in a lot of these primary states. Since February the 9th, he has gained 18 points among Hispanic voters, whereas Hillary Clinton has lost 17 points. How did that happen? SALINAS: Well, one of the ways that this happened is very similar to the way that it's happened with all other polls, not only with Hispanics. We have seen little by little Senator Obama win more and more, probably some of the undecided voters. Some of those voters who were before supporting Senator Edwards are some of the ones that are also now supporting Obama.

ROBERTS: Right. So, you know, if we look at the overall numbers, too, here in Texas, things are beginning to tighten up. Hillary Clinton was way out in front for the longest time, but the latest CNN Texas poll has her ahead only by two points, well within the margin of error.

You've spoken to Latino voters. What are they telling you? Is this part of a national shift? Is this just a state shift? How would you characterize it?

SALINAS: Well, I think as you can see by the numbers that you have been talking about in the last hour, there is a shift in the general population towards Senator Obama.


SALINAS: And something similar has been happening with the Hispanic vote. Now, remember that in Texas it's particularly important because Hispanics are 25 percent of the electorate. But even more important, they're expected to be about half of the turnout on March 4th. That's why it's so important for both Clinton to try to retain the, what, six out of ten approximate voters that she has had up to now, and for Senator Obama to try to not only earn the votes of those who were undecided before but also to try to take away some of the loyal supporters of Senator Clinton.

But usually, Hispanics tend to be very, very loyal supporters and very loyal voters. So this is going to be a battle and this is why this debate tomorrow sponsored by CNN and Univision is going to be so important...


SALINAS: ... because Hispanics will be watching. They'll be watching in English. They'll be watching in Spanish, too, and listening to what they have to say.

ROBERTS: Certainly will be a very, very important event. Maria Elena Salinas, thanks very much for being with us tonight.

The CNN/Univision Texas Democratic debate starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's tomorrow here on CNN, and it airs later on tomorrow night in Spanish, as Maria Elena was saying, on Univision.

Just a few minutes from now, it's all "LARRY KING LIVE." He's got Jon Stewart with him for the entire hour. Make sure to stay around for that.