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AMERICAN MORNING

Crucial Tuesday; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Middle East for Two Days of Shuttle Diplomacy; Heinz Food Issuing Recall This Morning; An Avalanche on Mars

Aired March 4, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Crucial Tuesday. Will John McCain wrap it up? Can Clinton hold the Alamo?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's do the Texas two-step tomorrow. Let's go out and win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Her financial campaign chair joins us live as polls open in Texas right now. The "Most Politics in the Morning.

Election Day mess. Extreme weather threatens to knock out power at the polls on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ROBERTS: And good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Tuesday, the 4th of March. I'm John Roberts.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And if a primary wasn't enough in Texas, they're going to have a caucus there too tonight. So very busy day. Good morning everybody. Glad you're with us. I'm Alina Cho. Kiran Chetry has the morning off.

ROBERTS: They have got one of the more complicated systems down there (INAUDIBLE).

CHO: Yes, they do. You were talking about it earlier. Yes.

ROBERTS: A primary, then a caucus, proportional allocation of delegates on the Democratic side.

CHO: Gives you headache.

ROBERTS: And proportionally on the Republican side too. My goodness. A lot of the other contests are winner-take-all. Not this time around. Right now, the first polls are open in all four states, including the two critical states of Texas and Ohio. Across those four states, 370 delegates up for grabs for the Democrats today; 256 for the Republicans.

John McCain could clinch the nomination tonight. The Best Political Team on Television is spread out across the country and live from the four states that are voting today. Our Ed Lavandera is in Dallas, Ali Velshi with the Election Express in Bandera, Texas today, Jim Acosta is in Cleveland and Dan Lothian in Williston, Vermont this morning. Also, Deb Feyerick in Providence, Rhode Island.

Polls have just opened in Texas, but 60 percent of registered voters, that's 2 million people, have already cast their ballots. Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas for us.

Ed, that's obviously an indication that people are very pumped up about this primary today.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's absolutely fascinating what's happening here in Texas. Of course, this is a state that hasn't gotten a lot of attention in more than 30 years in the primary, much less the Democratic primary. So that interest in this tight race clearly driving a lot of voters to the polls.

We're here at the Mark Twain Elementary School and voters are already starting to show up here this morning. John, five times as many people voted early this year than they did in 2004. So that's really gives you a sign of just how much intensity voters are showing up to the polls and state officials here are predicting a record day in terms of turnout.

John?

ROBERTS: The big question there, in the way that the vote is splitting up between white men, white women, African-Americans and Hispanics, is that the critical voting bloc there seems to be Hispanics. Any idea on which way they're going to go?

Traditionally, they've supported Hillary Clinton. But some people have written that while her support there may be wide, it's not very deep and many of those Hispanic voters may be willing to change their minds and go the other way.

LAVANDERA: Right. We've heard a lot of talk especially along generational lines. Perhaps, a lot of older Hispanics especially down in South Texas, out to El Paso to San Antonio area. That's why you've seen Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton really campaigning down there quite a bit.

But there is a little bit of a generational divide some people predict. Perhaps, the younger Hispanics going for Obama. But as you mentioned earlier, the complicated system here in Texas that there are more delegates to be won by winning votes in the Houston in the Dallas area, where you have bigger African-American populations and there's lesser delegates to be won down in South Texas. So, that might influence what we see here at the end of the night.

And remember, it is possible here in Texas to win the popular vote and still come up on the short side of the delegate count.

ROBERTS: Yes, certainly a very complex system there. Everybody who votes in the primary eligible to vote in the caucus. And delegates allocated on the basis of how many they get in the primary and how many they get in the caucus. Wow, I wouldn't want to have to figure it out.

LAVANDERA: Make you head spin.

ROBERTS: Yes. Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Ed, thanks very much.

Alina?

CHO: Well, the weather could play a big part from Ohio to New England. Snow, rain, freezing rain. Jim Acosta keeping warm and dry, thankfully. He's inside a polling station at St. Dominic Church in Cleveland, where polls have been open there for about an hour and a half now.

So, Jim, I understand you have a voter with you right now, huh?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alina. We've seen a steady stream of voters heading into the polling station that we're at this morning. We're at the St. Dominic Catholic Church in Shaker Heights, Ohio just outside of Cleveland. And I'm joined by voter George Yarborough (ph).

And I just want to mention that we are inside a Catholic Church. So, if we could respect the sanctity of the polling station here. And I'll not ask you for your candidate or who you are supporting in this election as we have other voters within ear shot. But what issues are on your mind, George, this Election Day?

UNIDENTIFIED VOTER: Well, we live in an industrial state and, of course, the economy would be at the top of the list because we used to manufacture a lot of things here in Ohio. We don't manufacture those things anymore. And so our job base has shifted. We need more jobs here to help our economy here in Ohio.

And of course, I am hopeful that we will soon get out of the war in Iraq. That's my second issue because I don't believe we need to lose any more young lives over there for a war that we're not really winning.

ACOSTA: And was it an easy choice for you? A lot of Democrats have been telling us and telling other reporters that it's right up until the last minute who they vote for.

UNIDENTIFIED VOTER: Oh, heck no. I had no problem knowing who I was going to vote for. I've known for a long time. You have to remember that I come from a state where I am old enough that I was not allowed to vote. So I had my mind made up in plenty of time.

ACOSTA: George, thanks very much.

And Alina, I'll throw it back to you. But that is the situation here in the Buckeye State. They are expecting record turnouts across this state today. 141 delegates up for grabs. And as you know, this is one of Hillary Clinton's firewalls. A lot of people say she's got to win here or it's all over for Hillary Clinton.

Alina?

CHO: Jim Acosta, live for us in Cleveland. Jim, thanks.

ROBERTS: In the state of Vermont, polls in some locations opened an hour ago. Others won't open for another couple of hours. Some early voters have already made their way to the polling stations to cast their ballots. Vermont has got 15 delegates at stake for the Democrats and 17 for the Republicans.

Dan Lothian is in Williston, Vermont this morning. Dan, what are voters paying attention to as they head to the polls today?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, we were talking earlier about some of the issues that voters here are concerned about. Certainly, like voters all across the country. They're concern about the economy, the health care, the environment.

But certainly as -- even Jim was talking about in Ohio, voters here also concerned about the war in Iraq. A liberal state, a strong anti-war element here in the state. Very concern about getting out of Iraq. And we were talking to one voter a while ago. And he was saying, you know, that was really what was driving his vote.

He wanted someone who could provide change and change, specifically, he said, about the war in Iraq. He also was telling us how he felt good that Vermont was finally in the limelight. It certainly isn't Texas. It is not Ohio. But certainly when every vote counts, this state is important.

The delegates here, as you mentioned, 15 for the Democrats, 17 for the Republicans. Take a listen to what he told us a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MEASE, REGISTERED VOTER: We always sort of watch New Hampshire have its, hey day and we were sort of a second thought. So, it's nice to have Vermont have a say in this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Now state officials also expecting heavy voter turnout here in the state of Vermont in part because of the issue of the war in Iraq and also because of the tight race on the Democratic side.

The weather also could cause some problems here, expecting some ice storms. Certainly some of that wintry mix could be happening later in the day. So, we'll have to see how that impacts the voter turnout here.

John?

ROBERTS: All right. A hearty group of people there in Vermont, though. They're used to the winter weather. I'm sure that they'll be able to get out there to the polls. Dan Lothian for us this morning in Williston. Dan, thanks.

And stay with CNN for the best coverage of the crucial primaries. Today, we're going to have up-to-the-minute results from Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont on CNN's Election Center, starting at 7:00 Eastern tonight, right here on CNN.

And join us tomorrow morning if you can't stay up late tonight, for a special early edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I get tongue-tied just thinking about this. We're going to be here at 5:00 a.m. Eastern with the final numbers, analysis and the Best Political Team on Television.

I don't know if it's going to be early to bed or stay up all night.

CHO: I think you should do early to bed, John.

ROBERTS: Thanks for figuring that out.

CHO: All right. And I love that music, by the way.

All right, some other headlines new this morning. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Middle East for two days of shuttle diplomacy. She's meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders today trying to get those peace talks back on track. Rice is blaming Hamas militants for provoking Israel's military offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 100 Palestinians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The negotiations and we talked about this at the time of the Annapolis. The negotiations are going to have to be able to withstand the efforts of rejectionists to upset them, to cause violence and chaos so that people react by deciding not to negotiate. That is the game of those who don't want to see a Palestinian state established. And Hamas does not want to see a Palestinian state established.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Well, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended peace talks in response to Israel's air strikes in Gaza.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East will brief the Senate today. Admiral William Fallon is expected to tell the Armed Services Committee that security in Iraq has improved significantly. But those games, in his words, are not irreversible and violent extremism remains a threat to Iraq's government.

Faster airport screening could soon be a reality. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff has ordered a review of the whole security screening system at airports. Chertoff told "USA Today" the plan is to make, quote, "Significant changes to remove some of the burden over the next 30 to 45 days." He also wants crews and passengers of private jets to provide their names, birth dates and other information before they take off so they can be checked against terror watch lists.

Heinz Food is issuing a recall this morning. 40,000 cases of its Boston Market lasagna pulled off store shelves. Beef from Hallmark/Westland was used in the product. You may remember that Hallmark/Westland recalled 143 million pounds of beef after a disturbing video surfaced showing cows being abused and that so-called downer cows were potentially entering the production line.

Federal investigators this morning say the fires which destroyed three $2 million homes just outside of Seattle could be the work of eco-terrorists. The homes were not yet occupied and a banner left at the scene questioned whether they had been built using green construction standards.

The banner was signed with the initials of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front, commonly known as E.L.F. Nobody was injured. Investigators are going to be holding a news conference on this at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

John?

ROBERTS: One of the key issues for Democrats leading up to today's crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio is what to do with NAFTA. We'll explain why the North American Free Trade Agreement could play such a big role today.

And primary day will be a wet one for some voters. Vermont and Ohio expecting lots of rain. Coming up, what you need to know before heading to the polls, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Ohio is expecting some nasty weather this morning. It could affect voter turnout. Our Rob Marciano at the weather update desk in Atlanta. And we've got bad weather across a large swathe of the country today. What can we expect in Ohio, Vermont, places where people are going to the polls?

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHO: The hat is back. Ali Velshi traveling around Texas. He's on the CNN Election Express talking to voters about important issues. Two big primaries today, of course, in Texas and Ohio. And they could decide who Democrats nominate for this year's presidential elections. And on one issue, free trade. Voters in Ohio and Texas may hold diametrically opposed views.

So what are they, Ali? Good morning.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know, Ohio, is an industrial manufacturing state. It's been in decline for some time, irrespective of trade agreements. But they say NAFTA has hurt Ohio more than it's helped. Here in Texas, Texas has got a lot of industry but it's also the nation's biggest exporter mainly of oil.

But two people, two different states, two different problems and that is making things very tricky for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Texas and Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI (voice-over): Enacted in 1994, Ohio is a different story. It's lost nearly 200,000 jobs just since 2000. Unlike Texas, Ohio has suffered. And that's why voters in these two states seem to hold diametrically opposed views on free trade, especially NAFTA.

It means both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to do a little tap dancing on the issue. They've stayed relatively silent on the deal, while in Texas, but they both attack NAFTA outright when they are in front of Ohio audiences.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do have a plan not just to criticize NAFTA but to change NAFTA, to improve NAFTA so it works for Ohio and America.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If our trade agreements don't have strong labor standards, strong environmental standards so that U.S. workers aren't being undermined, NAFTA didn't have those things. And that's why I opposed NAFTA.

VELSHI: The Texas/Ohio split on free trade bears out nationally. According to a CNN Opinion Research Corporation Poll taken last fall, Americans are almost evenly split on the benefits of foreign trade to the overall economy. And that's why both Clinton and Obama continue to advocate keeping the trade benefits of NAFTA, while renegotiating things like labor laws and environmental standards to make it better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELSHI: Now Alina, as we've been discussing all morning, this is going to cause a wrinkle for Barack Obama, after news reports that his people were talking to Canadian government officials saying that this is more rhetoric than policy.

On the Republican side, by the way, John McCain is a supporter of NAFTA. He says that the results of NAFTA are immeasurable. The success of NAFTA is immeasurable. So that's where we sit on the issue of trade in at least Ohio and Texas.

Alina?

CHO: All right. Ali Velshi aboard the Election Express. I hope you're getting some sleep, Ali, on that bus as you travel.

VELSHI: Not in the next 24 hours but after that.

CHO: OK. All right. Well, we look forward to seeing you later on in the week. Ali, thanks.

All morning long, we've been asking what do you think should be done about NAFTA. 30 percent of you think it should be renegotiated, 60 percent want to get rid of it all together, and 9 percent say leave NAFTA alone. Again, this is not a scientific poll and you can still vote. Cast your vote at cnn.com/am. We're going to tally your votes and bring them to you throughout the morning.

John?

ROBERTS: Well, they helped George W. Bush win two terms in the White House. But has the religious right warmed up at all to the new face of the GOP John McCain's uphill battle within his own party. That's coming up.

And a lucky shot. An avalanche that is just out of this world. It's one of cnn.com's most popular stories right now and it's coming up ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. One of the most popular stories right now on cnn.com. You got to see it to believe it. Take a look. An avalanche on Mars. A NASA spacecraft caught the first-ever snapshot. You can see ice and dust falling in a giant dust cloud settling at the base of the 2300-foot rock wall. This is just one of thousands of high resolution shots NASA is releasing today. Incredible.

ROBERTS: Well, a landslide is what John McCain is hoping for. Today's contests in Texas and Ohio could give him the delegates that he needs to effectively lock up the Republican nomination. But is he getting any closer to mending fences with religious conservatives.

Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council. He is also the author of the brand new book "Personal Faith, Public Policy," and he joins me from Washington.

Tony, first of all, speaking personally, has John McCain won you over yet?

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think that John McCain can gain the support of social conservatives. I personally like John McCain, as I have found many of these candidates likable. There are some policy differences between us.

I hope that during the course of this campaign that he is able to convince social conservatives that he can lead the entire nation, including those that have social conservative issues that they focus on.

ROBERTS: But, I mean, he's a hair's breath away from being the nominee. He's the presumptive nominee now. Will you support him?

PERKINS: Well, I think that -- this is the first step in a long journey. He does appear to be able to wrap up the nomination today. But then he has to win the presidency. And I think to do that, any Republican candidate has to be able to pull together, the conservative coalition, which includes the fiscal, the defense, and the social conservatives.

Can he do it? I think he has a foundation, John, from which he can build upon but he's going to have to convince social conservatives that he cares about their issues and that he will advance those issues. ROBERTS: All right. Let's take a look, Tony, at this in the context of your new book, "Private Faith, Public Policy" where you say that there are seven urgent issues that need addressing. Those are the value of life, immigration, poverty and justice, racial reconciliation, religious liberties, rebuilding the family and the environment and global warming.

Is McCain the right person to help address and solve those issues? What issues does he do well on? What issues does he fall short on?

PERKINS: Well first, John, the book is design not to be a prescription for politicians but rather it's the prod to people in the pews to be a part -- greater part of solving our nation's most pressing issues. But it does give, I think, politicians an insight into what social conservative value.

I do think that, for instance, on the life issue with the exception of the embryonic stem cell research, he has a good pro-life record. He has work on some family issues, but not been out in front. I think he's going to have to become more comfortable with talking to those issues. I think, yes, he can play a role in helping solve the immigration issue.

But what we put forth in this book is that we believe that Christians in this country, people of faith who are guided by historical truth and biblical principal can be a part of solving some of these issues at Washington, quite frankly, has not solve.

I mean, the immigration issue is a big issue. Global warming is scaring a lot of people, but there's a lot of misconceptions out there. And so we're trying to put all this into perspective for people -- Christian people, evangelicals to be a part of the solution.

ROBERTS: Is John McCain completely on the wrong side of immigration and global warming for you?

PERKINS: Well, I think on immigration, let's take that, John, he's actually changed his position since he cosponsored the measure in the United States Senate, which tells me he can listen and he can hear and can modify his positions when necessary.

I do think he's closer saying first, we have to secure the borders. Until we secure the borders and make sure that our country is safe, let's not talk about what we do next. Let's secure the borders first. And I think that's where most Americans are. That's where most evangelicals are. Let's secure the borders. Then let's talk about a compassionate, reasonable approach to dealing with those who are here in this country.

ROBERTS: And just quickly, sorry, on the issue of global warming.

PERKINS: Well, I do think he's going to have a lot of trouble on that issue. I think that evangelicals are concerned about the environment. They are concerned about our overdependence upon foreign oil and what that does to us from a security standpoint. But I do think there is common ground to work from. But in terms of relinquishing national sovereignty and frightening people into adopting the policies that the global warming theories are advancing, such a population control. I don't think evangelicals are there.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we will certainly be watching closely to see how John McCain does today. Tony Perkins, author of the new book "Personal Faith, Public Policy." Also, the head of the Family Research Council. Good to see you. Thanks for being with us this morning, Tony.

PERKINS: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: And stay with CNN for the best coverage of the crucial primaries. We've got up-to-the-minute results from Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont on CNN's Election Center, starting at 7:00 Eastern tonight right here on CNN.

CHO: Well, you are watching the most news in the morning. They are predicting record voter turnout in Texas today, one of the key states. More than half of that state's registered voters got a jump on the primary process. We're live in Dallas with details. Our Ed Lavandera is there. We'll check back with him in a little bit.

And Hillary Clinton says she is just getting warmed up. What does her campaign think it will take to stay in the race? We're going to talk to Clinton's campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe. That and today's headlines when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: There are three states where the polls are open this morning and people are out there voting. You see Williston, Vermont, Providence, Rhode Island, Cleveland, Ohio, inside polling places there. Big, big, big election day. Polls also open in Texas now as well.

Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING on this critical Tuesday. I'm John Roberts.

CHO: We could be seeing record turnout. Nice to see people at the polls so early in the morning.

Good morning, everybody. Glad you're with us. I'm Alina Cho. Kiran Chetry has the morning off.

ROBERTS: Texas primary voters are expected to turn out today in record numbers. Truth be told, they've already done so. An amazing 60 percent of registered voters, that's some two million people, cast their ballots early.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas for us this morning.

Ed, why such a huge turnout for the early voting?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, John, quite simply, it's been more than 30 years since the Democratic voters, in particular, in this state have actually been voting in a primary where their vote is actually going to have an influence on who will turn out to be the Democratic nominee in the state. So clearly that's driving a lot of people.

And there are a huge number of people that are brand new to the system. In fact, some breakdowns of the early voters that turned out. Those two million people that you were talking about are showing a lot of new voters, people who hadn't voted in a Democratic primary before, a lot of Republican crossovers coming over to vote in the Democratic primary as well.

So this is an incredibly complex and fascinating situation that many political people are looking at closely. And of course, the big question is how all these people will turn out to vote and how will it affect the final tallies.

Here at Mark Twain Elementary School on the south side of Dallas, people turning out in a steady stream here this morning. So they expect a record turnout.

And just to put into context, that two million voters you're talking about that voted in the early period alone, that is almost as many people voted for the governor of this state two years ago -- John?

ROBERTS: It's just an amazing interest in the race this year.

Ed Lavandera for us in Dallas this morning.

Ed, thanks -- Ali?

CHO: Well, in Rhode Island, polls have been open now for about 90 minutes. Officials have printed twice as many ballots to help with the anticipated high turnout. The polls will stay open there until 9:00 Eastern tonight. Twenty-one delegates at stake for the Democrats, 17 for Republicans.

And our CNN's Deborah Feyerick live in Providence for us.

Deb, Rhode Island not used to all the attention but certainly they are getting a lot of attention today.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely not. And you can see just behind me this line. This is nothing compared to what it was about a half hour ago. You had about several hundred people by our count alone, people who are on their way to work, people who just wanted to cast their ballots early in this race.

Now we spoke to three people just randomly. We pulled them out. They were obviously rushing so we got who we could get. Three of them were all Democrats. Three of them Obama supporters. And here's one of the reasons they gave us as to why they were voting that way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Obama today.

FEYERICK: Because why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I think that the most important thing that a leader can give us is vision and leadership and hope. He can't do it -- he or she can't do it alone, and I think that Obama is best positioned to take our country in a new direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: But this is really Hillary Clinton country, and they know that. Chelsea Clinton is actually going to be arriving here in Providence, Rhode Island a little later today. She's going to go to a restaurant and then to her mom's headquarters and then over to talk to a union. She'll be here for just a couple of hours. But because this has been such a heavily -- Hillary Clinton state, they want to make sure that they hold on to that. And that's why they are sending Chelsea Clinton here later today.

But again, you can see polls behind me just here, people trickling in. Those who vote early will have the entire day to see whether their candidate won -- Alina?

CHO: Key for the Clintons to fan out especially on this very important voting day.

Deb Feyerick live for us in Providence. Deb, thanks.

John?

ROBERTS: In a campaign filled with must-wins and decisive days, there is no question that today's vote especially for Senator Hillary Clinton and her staffers. How do they feel on this critical day?

Terry McAuliffe is the chairman of the Clinton campaign and he joins me this morning from Columbus, Ohio.

Terry, good to see you. How well does Senator Clinton need to do today to stay in this race? What does she need to do in Texas and Ohio?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, John, we're going to do well today. I'm in Ohio. I've been here for a couple of days. I spent last week in Texas. You can feel the energy. You can feel the excitement. I think what's happening now in the campaign, people are closing on the big issues. Who would be the best commander in chief? Who can do the best stewardship of the economy?

And here in Ohio where 200,000 jobs have been lost, people are coming out. In the events I was at yesterday, I mean, people are coming out in record numbers to support Hillary because they know that she can deal with these big issues on the economy, on national security. As you know, 30 generals have come out to endorse Hillary Clinton. She's been a leadership on health care issues. So I feel very good about Texas, Ohio, we also at Rhode Island as you just showed on your show. So I think it's going to be a big day for us. I'm very excited.

ROBERTS: Terry, let me just ask the question again.

MCAULIFFE: Sure.

ROBERTS: Bill Clinton said a couple of weeks ago that Texas is for all the marbles. Are you still feeling that way? If she doesn't win Texas and Ohio it will be difficult to keep going?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think is, John, we're going to win Texas and Ohio. I've said this for a long time. These are two big states. There's a lot of big issues, national security, the issues on the economy. Those are Hillary's issues. She's been out front in the polling data on all of those. Where Hillary now is dealing with those big issues, as you know, now Senator Obama is having to deal with whether his officials talked to the Canadian officials about NAFTA...

ROBERTS: Right.

MCAULIFFE: ...and what he said. The Rezko trial and issues about relationships. So we're closing in on this campaign talking about things we want to talk about, the economy, job creation, health care. Who would be the best commander in chief? We had generals all over the country saying Hillary Clinton -- General Hugh Shelton just came out for us, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

We have a record number of military folks who are fanning out all over Texas and Ohio. So it's going to be a very good day for us today. And you add, John, big wins here to California and New York and New Jersey and Florida and Michigan -- New Jersey, I mean, Hillary is winning those states. We have to win in the general election.

ROBERTS: She certainly likes to win the big states. No question about that.

Let me bring you back to what you just said on NAFTA. You have been talking about this meeting with Austin Goolsby and a member of the Canadian consulate there in Chicago, and what was said about NAFTA, the charge being that Barack Obama talks tough on NAFTA but he winks and nods to the Canadians to say we're not going to do much about it.

He has denied that. The Canadians have denied it. And here's what he said in response to that yesterday. Listen.

MCAULIFFE: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's not disputed is that Senator Clinton and her husband championed NAFTA, worked on behalf of NAFTA, called it a victory, called it good for America until she started running for president. That's indisputable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Terry, what do you say to that?

MCAULIFFE: First of all, Hillary has always made clear on her stance on NAFTA. There are parts that worked and many parts that didn't work. And she has said as president she will renegotiate these trade agreements, have an annual review of the trade agreements.

But let's go back to the fact. When this story first came out, they denied that a meeting had ever taken place. Now it is clear after a memorandum came out of 1300 words of what actually occurred in the meeting, they're no longer saying the meeting didn't take place.

Well, the meeting took place, but it really didn't say what we said. The bottom line is, you can't go out and campaign and say one thing here in Ohio on NAFTA and then secretly meet with Canadian officials and say, oh don't pay attention to it. It's just political rhetoric.

To the 200,000 people, John, who lost their jobs here in Ohio, it's not political rhetoric. They are trying to feed their children, educate their children. They want a leader like Hillary who will get out there and tell them the truth. Hillary will always tell you the truth. She'll tell it the way it is and she'll get this economy going and she'll be a great steward of the economy.

ROBERTS: Terry, another big point that you're trying to make here is who would you rather have answer the phone at 3:00 in the morning.

MCAULIFFE: Right.

ROBERTS: Hillary or Barack Obama. Here's what governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, said about that yesterday...

MCAULIFFE: Sure.

ROBERTS: ...on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

MCAULIFFE: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Well, I want Senator Clinton to answer the phone whether it's 3:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m. She, obviously, is a person with great experience. She's a mature individual. She has had lots of life experiences working in the former administration, former Clinton administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: He seems like he couldn't quite put his finger on experience that she's had to make her more qualified to answer that telephone at 3:00 a.m. What are those life experiences that she has that would make her more qualified? MCAULIFFE: Well, sure, John. First of all, being first lady, she traveled over 80 countries, met with world leaders. As you know, she worked on opening the borders in the Balkans. I was just at a huge event getting ready for St. Patty's Day in Cleveland, Ohio, an Irish-American event for Hillary Clinton. We would not have peace today had it not for Hillary's hard work in Northern Ireland...

ROBERTS: Right. But...

MCAULIFFE: ...working with her husband.

ROBERTS: But what crisis has she dealt with?

MCAULIFFE: John, it's the whole scope of these events and I'm talking about working in Northern Ireland. It's going to China in front of the world leaders in China and saying to them, you're violating human rights. You are -- you are violating women's rights. These are big issues that affect people. She has taken on tough challenges. Those are life experiences. She's been all over the world.

Every world leader knows her first-name basis. I think building relationships is important with the Bush administration has failed to do. Those -- all those experiences together, the places she's been, the people she knows, the experiences of 35 years dealing on health care, education.

Why have 30 generals and admirals come out to support her? Why did the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs come out and support her, the former secretary of the army, the former secretary of the Navy? They've worked with her, John, and they know that she has what it takes to be commander in chief for the United States of America. Over 2,000 military people out helping this campaign.

ROBERTS: One quick -- real quick question, Terry. Why does it take her six rings to pick up the phone in the ad? I'm just kidding. Just -- Terry McAuliffe, thanks.

MCAULIFFE: We need new phone service.

ROBERTS: Thanks very much.

MCAULIFFE: Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Great to talk to you. Good luck today.

MCAULIFFE: You bet.

ROBERTS: Alina?

CHO: Good question. Stay with CNN for the best political coverage of the crucial primaries. We're going to have up-to-the- minute results, of course, from Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont, all starting at 7:00 Eastern tonight right here on CNN. Bet you're going to watch throughout the day, I'm sure. And join us tomorrow morning for a very special early edition of AMERICAN MORNING. John and Kiran back at 5:00 a.m. Eastern. One hour early with the final numbers and analysis from the best political team on TV.

We told you yesterday about the airliner that scraped a runway in Hamburg, Germany. Take a look at the pictures. This morning, we're going to be talking with an American passenger who was aboard that flight. What was going through his mind and his own pictures of the aftermath? That's coming up.

And weather a big factor in some of today's primaries. We'll have the information voters need to know before heading to the polls. That's also ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Forty-three minutes after the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Extreme weather could be a big factor in today's Ohio primary. Ice and heavy rain expected today across the state. We're going to take a live look at the weather from Cleveland this morning, and there you have it.

Rob -- Marciano rather tracking all of the extreme weather for us this morning.

You are busy this morning, Rob. Hey, good morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

CHO: All right, Rob, thanks. John?

ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes down to the top of the hour. You've seen all these Democratic and Republican strategists on our air waves. Well, here's your chance to play campaign strategist.

How can Hillary Clinton catch up to Barack Obama or how quickly can John McCain wrap everything up? You can find out with CNN.com's delegate counter game.

CNN estimates that Barack Obama is leading in the total Democratic delegate count but he is still 647 short of the 2,025 needed to win the Democratic nomination.

Our Veronica de la Cruz shows us how to break the numbers down on CNN.com.

Good morning.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning to you. And yes, like you were just saying, this game is online to help you look at all the different possible outcomes, John.

So looking at the race right now, 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. Obama still ahead of Clinton, very tight race, though, 1378 for Obama, 1269 for Clinton. But as you know, two really, really big contests today, four total, Ohio and Texas being two of them.

Here's Ohio. 141 delegates needed in Ohio or up for grabs in Ohio, rather and about 193 for Texas. So playing that game, hypothetically speaking, let's just say, Senator Clinton takes Ohio today, she stays strong in the polls, maybe tomorrow, we wake up and we still don't really have a clear-cut nominee.

But if Barack Obama takes both Texas and Ohio, then, you know, John, it's going to be extremely difficult for Senator Clinton to stay in the race.

ROBERTS: Yes, at least from a perception perspective, if nothing else because it still wouldn't give him enough delegates to take the nomination.

DE LA CRUZ: Exactly.

ROBERTS: What about on the Republican side?

DE LA CRUZ: Well, let's take a look at that. On the Republican side, it's very difficult for Governor Huckabee at this point to play catch-up. I don't even think it's mathematically possible. But Senator McCain has 10,000 -- or 1,047, Huckabee 247. 1,191 needed to clinch the Republican nomination.

And like we were just saying, you know, it's not really possible at this point, 256 delegates up for grabs. Senator McCain is about 144 away from that nomination. But Governor Huckabee has said that he is not going anywhere until somebody has the necessary delegates need so.

ROBERTS: He enjoys staying in the race and, why not? He's having fun.

Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: CNNPolitics.com, you can check it out yourself.

ROBERTS: Good deal. Thanks very much. Try it out at home or at the office. As you said, play the delegate counter game, CNNPolitics.com -- Alina?

CHO: All right, John, thanks. CNN NEWSROOM just about 13 minutes away. Tony Harris at the CNN center in Atlanta with a look of what's ahead.

Hey, Tony. Good morning. Good to see you.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Alina, good to see you. Good morning, everyone.

Election day finally on the NEWSROOM rundown for you. Voters finally deciding in Ohio and Texas. Today's big delegate prize is a full slate of guests joining us with their crystal balls in hand.

Police trying to figure out a grisly crime scene at a Memphis home. Six dead, three wounded. Many of the victims children.

Spring-like storms hit the south. A possible tornado injures 14 at a National Guard barracks in Mississippi.

Breaking news any time it happens here in the NEWSROOM. We get started just minutes away, 12 minutes or so, top of the hour, right here on CNN.

Alina, back to you.

CHO: We'll look forward to it. Tony, thanks.

Coming up, frightening moments as a disaster is avoided. We showed you video of a plane dipping and tipping in the wind, scraping a runway. What was it like inside that plane?

One of CNN's i-Reporters was on board. He's going to tell us, that's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. We first showed you the incredible video yesterday. Take a look. Gusty winds overtook a plane attempting to land in Hamburg, Germany. The pilot of Lufthansa flight 44 did an incredible job stabilizing that aircraft and saving the more than 130 passengers on board.

We had an i-Reporter on board that plane. His name is David Gering from Wisconsin. David sent in a photo of the left wing after it grazed the runway. Take a look at that. He also described what it was like to witness the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIG GERING, LUFTHANSA FLIGHT 44 PASSENGER: The flight was pretty uneventful until we began the descent. And for the entire descent it was so rocky, up and down and side to side, it felt like a roller coaster. There were moments when I could not feel the seat below me, just like on a roller coaster. When that pilot turned that plane from angled to straight, all of a sudden, the right wing popped up and when that happened, the left wing hit the ground.

The plane bounced. I think I felt the wheels leave the ground, hit the ground again, and then I saw the runway disappear from under us. The plane had slid all the way to the side and we heard the roar of the engine. People were holding the hand of their neighbor very tightly. I had a stuffed bear for my daughter named Honey I was clinging to. And when we did finally land the second time heading into the wind, everyone cheered and applauded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: You know, David said in an earlier interview that it was silent on the plane. There wasn't any screaming. He's from Wisconsin originally. He was traveling to Germany on business. He's in Munich right now and we're trying to establish contact with him so we'll try to get that.

Meanwhile, the airline says the pilot performed a, quote, "absolutely professional maneuver." That's an understatement.

ROBERTS: Yes, we were hoping to have him joining us right now, but unfortunately some technical difficulties there. So I'm sure that, you know, he can hang around in the studio and be up on NEWSROOM...

CHO: Oh yes.

ROBERTS: ...in the next little while. But he was saying that he didn't want to fly at all, that the weather was just so bad. It was -- didn't even want to get on the plane and then that happens.

CHO: That's a close call.

ROBERTS: Yes. All right. Well, hopefully, we'll be able to talk with David coming up in the next few minutes.

Quick look now what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM. Voters at the polls in Texas and Ohio. The big prizes in today's primaries.

An ice storm could trip up voters across northern Ohio.

Fourteen National Guardsmen are hurt by a possible tornado in Mississippi.

Six people killed in a Memphis home. Three children survived the massacre.

And YouTubers poke fun at a Hillary Clinton ad.

NEWSROOM just minutes away at the top of the hour on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Want to get right to this. We told you we're trying to get David Gering in. He was our i-Reporter on board that Lufthansa flight there that had that really wild landing over the weekend.

David is in Munich this morning.

David, as we're looking at these pictures of the plane coming in and the wings swooping back and forth, actually touching the runway, kind of walk us through what happened there, what it was like to be on that plane during the time?

GERING: Well, John, more than the landing was wild, the entire descent was very rocky. The plane was being tossed up and down and rocked side to side. It was like a roller coaster. In fact, there were even brief moments when I couldn't even feel the seat beneath me. The plane would just drop suddenly. So it was not like turbulence because it had such great magnitude to the movements.

And, of course, that continued all the way down toward the ground and I wasn't really concerned during the descent because I trusted air traffic control and this wasn't safe to land, we wouldn't be landing here.

ROBERTS: Right. So what happened...

GERING: But once we got to the ground, he started (INAUDIBLE) because...

ROBERTS: Yes, he came in for that crosswind landing and we see the wing on the right-hand side come up and the left wing actually touches the ground.

What was the experience like being inside the plane as you actually scraped the wing?

GERING: Oh, it was awful because the plane hit the ground, actually bounced and then I felt it hit again and then I saw the runway disappear beneath me as the plane slid all the way across it in the wind. And then we heard a roar of the engines as the pilot really floored it, so to say. And that was the most scary part because we knew something had definitely gone wrong.

And everyone was completely silent.

ROBERTS: Wow.

GERING: You could hear nothing. People were just gripping their neighbor. I was gripping the stuffed bear that my daughter stowed away in my suitcase. We were all praying that God would help this pilot stick this landing. And he had -- he did. He was able to take off, circled for about 10 minutes and then he came on a little later and told us he had convinced their traffic control not to use that runway anymore and we land again this time going into the wind, not across the wind.

ROBERTS: Right. Yes, that's probably a good idea. I mean they do cross...

GERING: And when we finally did land...

ROBERTS: Right. Sorry. Go ahead.

GERING: Yes, and again it was just as rocky coming in. Again, it was totally silent. Everyone didn't have any breaths so there's no screaming and I couldn't even breathe I was so nervous.

ROBERTS: Wow.

GERING: But when we could feel the wheels on the ground, we all cheered. It was a big triumphant, happy moment. ROBERTS: Well, listen. David, we're out of time. But stay where you are because we're going to had you off to the NEWSROOM program which is coming up in just a couple of minutes and you can tell more about this.

GERING: OK.

ROBERTS: I just can't imagine what it was like to be on that plane. Wow. Incredible stuff.

CHO: Yes. Incredible to hear it and stay around. We'll hope to hear from him later.

A final check of the quick vote. What do you think should be done about NAFTA? 32 percent think NAFTA should be renegotiated. 59 percent want to get rid of it altogether. 9 percent think NAFTA should be left the way it is.

Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Alina Cho.

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