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President Bush Endorses John McCain; The Latino Vote; House Explodes in Pennsylvania

Aired March 5, 2008 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: John McCain and Clinton. As Hillary Clinton makes a comeback, it is a wrap for the Republican presidential race, but the Democrats show no signs of slowing down.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The big question, John McCain will face whom in November?


WHITFIELD: Good afternoon from the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Lots of political news to cover, but, first, we want to get you to this, what appears to be a home explosion. It's coming from Plum, Pennsylvania. Here is what we are told. A house -- if you are in that area, it's in the Hollywood Park neighborhood of Plum, Pennsylvania -- destroyed -- destroyed -- again in what is believed to be a large explosion there, at least one neighboring home, at least one neighboring home also sustained damage.

The latest information we got is that the explosion was reported on 1:30 on Mardi Gras Drive in Plum, Pennsylvania. Two civilians, we're told, transported from the scene. Not sure of their injuries. One home exploded, but several neighboring homes were also damaged as a result. The Red Cross and local utilities have also been dispatched to the scene here.

As soon as we get more information, we're going to continue to follow this and we're going to bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, but again, home explosion, Plum, Pennsylvania, and you are looking at the debris and firefighters trying to put out hot spots.

WHITFIELD: Hillary Clinton is trumpeting last night's primary victories in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island. Her biggest win, Texas, where she beat Barack Obama 51 percent to 48. We are still showing election results on the bottom of the screen, since the Texas caucuses are still in play.

In Ohio, meantime, Clinton's margin was bigger. She got 54 percent of the vote to Obama's 44 percent. In her victory speech, Clinton pointed out that no candidate in recent history, Democrat or Republican, has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary.

Nevertheless, Obama who won the Vermont primary, says hat the delegate count is what matters.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went into the Texas and Ohio down 20 points. You know, we had won 11 straight. Senator Clinton decided that they can only contest in these two states where she had an advantage, and she did well. But as I said before, we emerged with the same delegate gap between her and me that we had essentially before we got in. And so, you know, we have constantly focused on the next states in front of us. We have got Wyoming and Mississippi this week. We think we will do well. And then we go on to Pennsylvania and the other states that follow.


WHITFIELD: Meantime, Clinton is looking ahead to a general election match up with John McCain.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think what is important here is that this campaign has turned a corner. It is now about who is strongest against the Republican nominee, John McCain.

You know, people who voted a month ago didn't know who the Republican nominee was going to be. They didn't perhaps factor in that it will be about national security, because indeed, with Senator McCain, that is what it will be about.


LEMON: Eight years ago, they were bitter primary rivals. Now it seems they have put their differences behind them. John McCain and President Bush appeared this afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, where the presumptive GOP nominee got a presidential endorsement.

Let's go straight to the White House and CNN's Kathleen Koch.

Hi, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, as you pointed out, what a difference eight years makes.

Today, we saw lots of smiles, handshakes, a real feeling of warmth all of the way around, again, quite a change from 2000 when these two men were both competing to be the Republican presidential nominee. Now, today, the president literally rolled out the red carpet.

He greeted McCain and his wife at the North Portico, an entrance that is normally reserved just for heads of state on formal visits.

And then, in remarks in the Rose Garden, the president praised Senator McCain for his incredible courage -- quote -- "strength of character, and perseverance." And he gave him his endorsement.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a man who cares a lot about the less fortunate among us.

He's a president -- and he's going to be the president -- who will bring determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt.

And, so, I welcome you here. I wish you all the best.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate his endorsement. I appreciate his service to our country.

I intend to have as much possible campaigning events and -- together, in keeping with the president's heavy schedule.


KOCH: Now, the men both rebuffed questions about who Senator McCain's possible vice presidential nominee might be, though the president quipped, be careful who you put in charge of your selection committee. As you will recall, Dick Cheney was in charge of President Bush's.

The rest of the questions really focused on whether or not this endorsement and the presidential campaigning for John McCain would hurt or help him. With the president's approval rating hovering at a mere 32 percent, still, the president said he wants McCain to win, that the election is about him, that the voters should be looking at John McCain and judging him.

The president said -- quote -- "I have done my bit." But he added that whatever the senator wanted him to do or not do when it comes to campaigning, that he would certainly abide by his wishes -- Don.

LEMON: Hey, Kathleen, at least at this moment, maybe symbolically, it seems that the president's time is nearing. Obviously, we knew that, 10 months left in office, but this is a symbolic moment where he knows one more step to the end. He seemed a little bit more jovial than normal today.

And I saw you at that press conference. Did you get that assessment as well?

KOCH: You did sense a bit of levity there. I don't know if it was genuine. I know certainly obviously both men knew how carefully they were being watched and wanted to certainly have the appearance of getting along, of -- that any of the hard feelings from 2000 were gone.

But the president, you know, when it comes to the next 10 months, he says he is going to sprint to the finish. He is not done yet. He has a lot he wants to accomplish, but there could be a certain sense of relief as he sees the end nearing.

LEMON: Kathleen Koch -- thank you very much for that, Kathleen.

KOCH: You bet.

WHITFIELD: John McCain's lock is Mike Huckabee's loss. The former Arkansas governor bowed out of the GOP race last night, urging his supporters to vote for his former Republican rival in November.

Our Mary Snow joins us now from Little Rock -- Mary.


Mike Huckabee is now looking to work with the McCain team on how he can help get John McCain elected. This comes after Mike Huckabee told his supporters that he fought the good fight and he lasted in this campaign longer than anyone expected and also outlasted rivals with a lot more money.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.


SNOW (voice-over): With that, Mike Huckabee exited the Republican presidential race and headed home to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he started his campaign staffed with just his family 14 months ago.

Virtually unknown outside Arkansas as a former governor, he became known as the dark horse who shook up the presidential race with a surprise victory in Iowa on a low budget.

HUCKABEE: Basically, a dime to a dollar of what everybody else has had. And to have gone this far and outlasted so many others I think is a pretty remarkable story. Wish it had ended differently, but, you know, it is what it is.

SNOW: Huckabee shared his closing thoughts on his campaign with a press that traveled with him. His spirits remained high despite the defeat, even engaged in an impromptu game of bowling in the (INAUDIBLE) aisle.

While his lighter side often gained him attention, Huckabee made it clear he was dead serious about paving his way to the White House. He sees his loss in South Carolina as the turning point from which his campaign never recovered. Huckabee says he never had a plan B and his future is uncertain.

HUCKABEE: I'm a young guy, relatively speaking, so who knows what the future holds. I am not going to rule anything out. The only thing I have ruled out for certain is I won't be running in a Senate race this year. I have made that about as clear as I know how to make it. If somebody needs a bass guitar player for their traveling rock band, I am available.


SNOW: So, does Mike Huckabee want to be John McCain's vice presidential running mate? Mike Huckabee says he doesn't think he's going to be asked, but his campaign director also pointed out that, when people are asked for that position, it is a question that they don't turn down very often.

And, Fredricka, of course, there is always the possibility he may run again in 2012.

WHITFIELD: That is right. Anything is possible.

All right, Mary Snow, thanks so much from Little Rock.

SNOW: Sure.

WHITFIELD: So, what perhaps is next in this race? Wyoming holds its Democratic caucuses this Saturday. Three days later, Mississippi holds primaries. Republican caucuses take place in the virgin Islands one month from today.

And then another big state, Pennsylvania, holds its primaries April 22.

All the latest campaign news is available right at your fingertips. Just go to, plus analysis from the best political team on television, that and more,

LEMON: All right. Want to get you back live to that explosive situation we have been telling you about happening in Plum, Pennsylvania. Apparently, a house exploded there, injuring several people.

According to the Associated Press, those who were injured, an elderly man and a 10-year-old boy. And this is what CNN is getting from local hospitals there. A Mercy Hospital spokesperson is telling us they have received two patients from the house explosion in Plum. One person is being airlifted to the facility. And they are not sure of the status of the second patient in this case.

Just to give you a little bit of background, this neighborhood called the Park Hollywood -- Holiday Park, I should say, neighborhood in Plum, a home there destroyed because of a huge explosion. This home, if you are in the area, is on Mardi Gras Drive near Havana Drive, blown to pieces in a blast that happened around 1:30 this afternoon.

At least one neighboring home sustained damage. We are also hearing possibly several others sustained damage. And you can see firefighters are at the scene now. They're sorting through that debris on the ground trying to extinguish the remaining flames.

Now, here is what we are getting also according to one of our affiliates there. Affiliate WPXI is reporting that a medevac helicopter was called, this as medevac helicopters were called in the scene. A 4-year-old girl is being flown to one of the hospitals there, possibly Mercy Hospital, in critical condition with a fractured leg and facial burns.

And now that report from WPXI, our affiliate, and then, according to the Associated Press, a 10-year-old boy and an elderly man, they are going to receive patients at the hospital, those two patients at a hospital, and not sure of their conditions.

This is a terrible story.


WHITFIELD: Oh, it really is, so sad.


WHITFIELD: All right. We are going to continue to follow that.

Meantime, some pretty devastating storms like that right there. Two tornadoes touched down in west central Alabama yesterday. We continue to watch the developments in this situation. One home was destroyed; 29 more were damaged in Greene County. And then in neighboring Tuscaloosa County, seven families are picking up the pieces.

These fierce winds blew down a lot of trees in South Carolina as well, mostly upstate; 15 homes there were damaged, but no one was seriously hurt. That is good news. But more trees are down across North Carolina. Heavy rains have prompted flood warnings across the southwestern part of that state.

Pretty grisly situation there. Farther north, snow and icy rain all causing lots of headaches.


WHITFIELD: Meantime, don, you have an update on...


WHITFIELD: ... another very serious situation.

LEMON: Yes, Fred and Chad, it's -- we were talking about that home that exploded. And just looking at the picture, it just looks devastating.


LEMON: We want to get an update now, see how many people are injured and what is exactly going on, on the ground.

Maria Leaf, 1020 AM News Radio in the area, what do you know?

MARIA LEAF, 1020 NEWS RADIO CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we know that there are at least two people injured at this point, a man. And I know that a young girl was carried from the house.

When you look around the scene, I'm sure you can see the pictures there, there's just charred insulation everywhere. You can see -- I can see thick smoke coming up from the sky, flames from the house. We know of at least about a dozen homes that were damaged because of this, whether they had windows blown out or shingle damage at this point.

The authorities are obviously keeping everybody quite a ways away as they try to figure out just what happened here. I actually have a neighbor with me right now. He lives just a few doors down. His name is David.

He is going to talk to you right now.

LEMON: Hi. Dave, are you there?


LEMON: Hey, Dave, so, you live in the neighborhood, right? Do you live close to this house that exploded?

HEISER: Yes, I live three doors down from it.

LEMON: Tell us what happened.

HEISER: Well, I was getting ready to go out. And there was this loud explosion, and I thought my house blew up.

But I ran around the house and looked, and there was, you know, some -- everything was blown off the walls and the chandeliers were blown off and my windows were blown out, but, otherwise, it was intact. So I ran outside to see what had happened and there was debris falling out of the sky, insulation, tar paper and things like that.

And I saw up the street there was some smoke, so I ran up there to see if I could do anything. And one of the neighbor ladies was holding a little girl walking around out in the yard calling for calling for Lick (ph), I think she was calling for. There was the old man's name, her grandfather.

But she -- apparently, the little girl had been sitting in their house on the coach, and she got blown out, landed in the yard. But the house is just leveled to the ground. There was nothing left when I got there.

LEMON: Goodness.

Dave, so, obviously, you know these neighbors, not that you have to name them, but do you know if they are all OK? But some of -- we hear -- maybe the elderly gentleman that you're talking about has been taken to the hospital?

HEISER: No, I don't think they found him. At least before they chased me out, they hadn't found him. So, I don't think that he made it.

LEMON: So, this house obviously completely destroyed. We heard just from Maria, the young lady who handed the phone to you, that at least a dozen homes in the area are damaged from this?

HEISER: Yes, if nothing more than having all their windows blown out from the concussion, yes. There are at least a dozen of us.


Are you talking -- obviously, the emergency workers on the scene, they were telling you guys back, right, telling you guys to move back out of the area, correct?

HEISER: Oh, yes.

They won't let me in my house. And that is as far as they went on this side. So, that's three houses down from where the house blew up. They have got it all cordoned off.

LEMON: Real quickly, I have got to ask you, because in neighborhoods like this -- is it a fairly new development?

HEISER: No. It's very old.


HEISER: It's from probably the '60s.

LEMON: I was just wondering if there was gas or if some areas have propane, so at least give us an idea of what might have happened. We're not sure.

HEISER: No, it is regular gas.


LEMON: Dave, Dave Heiser, right?

HEISER: Yes, it is.

LEMON: Dave, we appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

Can you put Maria back on the line for us?

HEISER: I will. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

LEAF: If you guys are still there, I actually have an update.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead. That is why we got you back, Maria. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK) LEAF: Yes, I just spoke with a firefighter who tells me that at least 15 moments were damaged. Four people have been taken to the hospital in very critical condition. Two of them are believed to be young children and two of them believed to be adults at this point.

They are not saying a cause as of right now. We are waiting for official word at this point, but they are still trying to put out the flames.

LEMON: OK. Hey, Maria, real quickly, go slow for us again.


LEAF: Hang on one second. There is -- now I am hearing there's one or two fatalities.

LEMON: And you are hearing this from who?

LEAF: This is from a firefighter who is kind of not an official press person, but is just kind of giving me the information to give to you guys.

LEMON: OK. We have not confirmed that, but, Maria, if you can, go through your list of -- you said at least 15 homes. How many people injured?

LEAF: Right.

We had heard at least 15 homes are damaged in some form. Four people were taken to the hospital. It now appears that possibly two of them are fatalities. We know the people who were taken to the hospital overall are in very critical condition and it is believed that children were among the people taken to the hospital. We do not know if they are the ones that may have not survived this explosion.


Maria Leaf from 1020 AM News Radio there in the Pennsylvania area, thank you very much for that, and also to Dave Heiser as well for joining us.

It is just an unbelievable situation unfolding right here in the CNN NEWSROOM, Fredricka, getting an update from the radio reporter there from someone who is on the scene, who she says is an official about 15 homes, four people taken to the hospital and possibly two fatalities.

We are going to try to confirm the information that Maria gave us, but, again, this is according to our affiliate there, our radio affiliate, 1020 AM News.

We are back in just a moment with an update on this situation.


LEMON: Breaking news into the CNN NEWSROOM coming out of Plum, Pennsylvania. A house exploded, and maybe 15 other homes around it damaged as well.

Here is what we are hearing from a radio reporter who was just on the scene just a couple of minutes ago, 1020 AM News in the area telling us at least 15 homes damaged, four people taken to the hospital, possibly two fatalities. And the people who were taken to the hospital according to this reporter are in pretty bad shape.

You can see that the debris there on the ground, and firefighters trying to put out those hot spots. This is coming from Plum, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh, not far from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As soon as we get more information on the fatalities, the number of people injured and again how many homes were damaged here, we will bring it to you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: OK. With huge turnouts in precincts across the nation, minorities are playing a major role in this presidential set of primaries. How did the Latino vote in particular influence Ohio?

CNN en Espanol's Ines Ferre is in Columbus checking out the Latino vote.

And what have you found?

INES FERRE, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, let me tell you that Latinos made up about 4 percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries. Now that is not, of course, as big as Texas and the support that Hillary Clinton has gotten from the Latino vote in Texas, but this is a growing population here in Ohio, the Latino community.

Now, I asked some Latino voters who had voted for Clinton why they had voted for Hillary Clinton. Many associate her with Bill Clinton and the good economic times during those years. Remember, Ohio is a state where they have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last seven years, so they really associate her with Bill Clinton.

And one voter told me that this could be -- the Latino vote could be very decisive in these elections if Hillary Clinton keeps getting the kind of support that she has gotten from this community.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Latinos, I think it -- and my belief is one of the persons -- or it is what she needs. For her to win, we have to vote -- the Latinos have to vote for her. And it's, who is going to put her in the White House? The Latinos.


FERRE: Now, some of the big issues for Latinos here in Ohio, of course, is the economy, health care. Immigration is very big and of course the war in Iraq as well -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ines. And, so, it sounds from that one voter that Latinos, especially in Ohio, feel very empowered. They know their place, so to speak, in this whole race. But is the sentiment in Ohio essentially resonating among other Latino communities in other states?


Definitely, I think that Latinos feel that their voice is being heard more and more. And they really feel empowered to go out and vote. And they think that, you know, each election that goes by, more and more of them are voting, and that they can really bring out the big issues that are important to them.

WHITFIELD: Ines Ferre, thank you so much in Columbus, Ohio.


WHITFIELD: And we continue to monitor a tragic situation there in Plum, Pennsylvania.

Take a look at the debris, the field of debris, right there from a single house exploding. Still unclear exactly why, but you can see the spread of that debris impacting some 15 homes in that neighborhood -- much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


LEMON: And that breaking news happening this afternoon is coming from Plum, Pennsylvania. A house exploded in a neighborhood there, injuring several people. Several people had to be taken to the hospital. And, also, there was some damage to several homes in the area, as well.

Again, a giant explosion in this area. And just moments ago, we spoke with a radio reporter from 1020 A.M. News and she told us what she knew about the situation that moment.

LEAF: Yes, I just spoke with a firefighter who tells me there are at least 15 homes that were damaged, four have been people taken to the hospital in very critical condition. Two of them are believed to be young children and two of them believed to be adults at this point.

They are not saying a cause as of right now. We're waiting for official word at this point. But they're still trying to put out the flames.

LEMON: OK, hey, Maria, real quickly, go slow for us again...

LEAF: Sure. Hang on a second. There is -- now I'm hearing there is one or two fatalities.

LEMON: And you're hearing this from whom?

LEAF: This is from a firefighter, who is kind of -- not an official press person but is just kind of giving me the information to give to you guys. LEMON: OK. We have not confirmed that. But, Maria, if you can, go through your list of -- you said at least 15 homes. How many people were injured?

LEAF: Right. We had heard at least 15 homes are damaged in some form. Four people taken to the hospital. It now appears that possibly two of them are fatalities. We know the people who were taken to the hospital overall are in very critical condition and it's believed that children were among the people taken to the hospital. We do not know if they are the ones that may not have survived this explosion.

LEMON: OK. Maria Leaf from 1020 A.M. News Radio there in the Pennsylvania area. Thank you very much for that.

All right. Again, and that information she was getting on the phone just as were speaking live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Again, she was saying she was speaking to a fireperson who was on the scene there. CNN has not confirmed the information about the fatalities and the number of homes that may have received damage, as well -- and, again, about the number of injuries. But we're working to confirm that and also checking with our affiliate there and our desk -- our Northeast Desk checking on that, as well.

As soon as we get more information on the situation, we are going to bring it to you right here in THE CNN NEWSROOM. Before I let this picture go, I want to thank our affiliate there, WPXI. WPXI in Pennsylvania, thank you for providing these live pictures for us and for the information that you're giving us throughout the afternoon.

Well, the Republican race is a wrap. The Democratic race might only be starting. John McCain has clinched the GOP presidential nomination and Hillary Clinton has broken Barack Obama's winning streak with some key wins of her own. The question on everyone's mind -- what now?

Let's get some answers from the Democratic strategist Donna Brazil and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Hello to you guys. Have you gotten any rest this week, either of you?


LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. Exactly. We wait for this.


Hey, guys, thanks for joining us. I know you had a very late night, but it was pretty interesting, don't you think?

BRAZILE: I found it very exciting. Look, we have two incredible candidates who are energizing the Democratic Party. The entire country right now is in a frenzy about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And while neither candidate clinched the nomination last night, this race will now go to Wyoming, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota.

LEMON: And Donna...

BRAZILE: So we're excited about it.


LEMON: We never thought it was -- it was going to get there. Leslie, I'm going to let you get in, but I want to know...

SANCHEZ: Thank you, yes.

LEMON: I'm going to let you get in here. But I want to ask Donna because, you know, you have done a lot of work on campaigns. You're very familiar with this.

Did -- what Hillary Clinton did over the last couple of days -- going on talk shows, being more personable, keying in on the experience thing, the red phone ad -- did that work for her?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. She controlled the conversation. Barack Obama was on defense, not playing offense. Look, if you're going to assume the role of frontrunner, you must also be prepared for the kind of attacks that he had to endure. And he will endure more attacks.

John McCain is chomping at the bit. As soon as he completes his homework -- he has a lot of homework and house cleaning -- he will come after Barack Obama or Senator Clinton.

So Barack Obama, here's the message...

SANCHEZ: You know, I would...

BRAZILE: ...they will attack.

SANCHEZ: Have to say a couple of different things. One, with respect to John McCain, it's a very good day today because now he gets the support of the Republican National Committee and the money in those coffers. He can start building and preparing for a national campaign. This is critical for the Republican side to start building that base and raising money.

But with respect to the election last night, there's some very interesting things. Look at Texas and the Latino vote. Yes, Barack Obama was competitive and trying to get the Bexar County, San Antonio youth voter. And Hillary Clinton kept it within five points. She secured Hispanic women. She secured older Hispanics, which we knew she would. But that middle group, from the age of 30 to 45, even going to 50, he did not close the deal. You have a lot of conservative Democrats, military veterans who, like I say, do not like to see the American Eagle become a sitting duck.


BRAZILE: Well, Leslie...


LEMON: So listen, at this point...


BRAZILE: He hasn't had 20 years to build a relationship like the Clintons with the Hispanic community. But I assure you and any other Latino leader out there that as soon as they get to know Obama, as well as Senator Clinton, they will like what they see.

LEMON: OK, Donna, let me get in here, because there are a couple of things I want to get in here.

This will probably and maybe will be decided, on all likelihood, by super-delegates. But some folks are asking should Florida -- should Florida vote again.

Hang on, listen and we'll talk about it.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: It would have to be a full out primary election where everybody had access to their private ballot, to know that that ballot was going to count and was going to count as intended and that it's not going to be paid for by the taxpayers of Florida, who already paid $18 million for the election that was held January the 29th.


LEMON: OK. So, Leslie, it did not count. It did not count. And if they do it again, this time it will count. Should they vote again?

SANCHEZ: I would leave that question up to Donna. Donna was part of the campaign that said no, they shouldn't.

LEMON: I was trying to get you in. Donna, go ahead. Should they vote again?


BRAZILE: Leslie, you know, I thought you were tough.


BRAZILE: Look...

SANCHEZ: It's not my first time at the rodeo, Donna. You know, I know how to shoot that back to you.

BRAZILE: I believe that some accommodation should be held for the voters of Michigan and Florida. But we first need to listen to the voters in the 48 states and the territories that, of course, you know, did support the rules.

My principle is that we all have to support the rules. And super- delegates are part of the process. They are part of the rules. And, you know, while inside the rules, we don't have any, you know, rules that govern how we determine our choice, there are many principles that will guide our decision as this process continues to unfold.

LEMON: So you're saying it should not...

SANCHEZ: Yes, but...

LEMON: Wait, wait. Hang on. Hang on. You're saying no -- just yes or no, they shouldn't vote again, Donna?

BRAZILE: You know, let me just say this -- and I have a great deal of respect for Senator Bill Nelson. I wish we could have solved this problem before this contest got underway...


BRAZILE: We need to allow the process to continue to work its way out. And at the appropriate time, when the Credentials Committee of the committee -- of the convention -- gathered, this will, I'm sure, be one of the first orders of business.

LEMON: OK, real quickly...


LEMON: I want to get to the president in the White House today with John McCain and what he said about -- he was asked a question about the vice president, who it should be -- a woman, an African- American, should it make history?

Take a listen.


QUESTION: Should history make a difference with a woman or an African-American on the Democratic side?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People don't vote for vice presidents, as much as I hate to say that for those who have been candidates for vice president. They're going to vote for who gets to sit inside that Oval Office and make decisions on how to protect the country and keep the taxes low and how to have a culture that respects the dignity of every human being.


LEMON: OK, Leslie, I'm going to ask you this time -- I'm going to give you this one. The Republican candidate, John McCain, is going to be up against two -- possibly two firsts -- and maybe on the same ticket -- or at least one first. And if they're on the same ticket, two firsts.

Do you think that the vice president -- the vice presidential nominee on the Republican side should be a minority or someone who can make history? SANCHEZ: No. I think the vice presidential candidate should be the right candidate for the job and somebody who is going to support what Senator John McCain wants to do, his vision for America.

This is not affirmative action plus. This is who is the right candidate for the job. I don't think we should be looking at those types of things. I think the fact that we have qualified candidates all the way around who are different genders, different race, is the point of how far this country has come.

But I will say an interesting with respect to, you know, the super-delegates. I'm going to jump back to that real quickly. I think there's a little bit of buyer's remorse. You have some of them who have held and they have held their cards and waiting to decide. And I think a lot of voters are going to be looking at Barack Obama and wondering whether he's the right one, has the momentum ...


SANCHEZ: ...and that's something that even Independent voters are going to be looking at.

LEMON: OK, Leslie, you'll have to get the last one on the super- delegates.

Donna, you can answer this on a later show if you want. But I want to get you -- what do you think about what she said, it doesn't have to be affirmative action when it comes to the (INAUDIBLE)?

BRAZILE: Well, I don't want to get offended because I understand her point. It should be someone who is qualified to be the president of the United States. And there are many qualified women as well as minorities in this country who can handle that job.

LEMON: Donna Brazil, Leslie Sanchez, thank you very much. Always a pleasure having you guys on. I know you're going to be making the rounds again tonight. Try to get some sleep, though.


BRAZILE: We will.

LEMON: All right. Have a good one.


LEMON: All the latest campaign news is available at your fingertips. Just go to Plus, analysis from the best political team on television. You saw two of our commentators there. And a lot, lot more at

WHITFIELD: OK. He's the head of the FBI, testifying today in the Senate. No easy question -- the terror threat and waterboarding among them.

We're live in Washington. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Check this out. What this in the world is going on here? Look at this huge crowd, Alameda, California. This is apparently a school walkout. That's according to the Associated Press and also our affiliates there in California. Students at -- hundreds of students have walked out of their classes at Alameda in protest over the state's proposed budget cuts.

Students from this high school that you see there marched off campus straight to the high school's district headquarters when the school board voted to cut $200,000 out of sports programs and to increase class sizes on some campuses in order to save money. And you can see students there apparently not happy about it, walking out of class in protest.

We'll follow it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Another hot button issue -- waterboarding, sensory deprivation, treatment of terror suspects. The U.S. intelligence community refers to as "enhanced interrogation techniques". So far, the FBI has watched the controversy from the sidelines -- until today.

FBI Director Robert Mueller before a Senate committee there faced the question -- would he waterboard a suspect who knew about a bomb that would go off within the hour?


ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: That's the horror that one would not want to see and I would hesitate to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would you water...

MUELLER: I would hesitate -- no. I don't feel that I can give answer at this juncture to a hypothetical like that because of what be drawn from an answer from that hypothetical. I am comfortable in telling us...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're saying...

MUELLER: ...what our policies are, what I believe our policies should be, given our mission. But I am uncomfortable on answering a hypothetical along those lines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could happen...

MUELLER: It could happen.


MUELLER: It could happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you respond?

MUELLER: I don't know.


WHITFIELD: All right.

CNN justice correspondent, Kelli Arena is watching today's testimony. Pretty emphatic -- I am not going to won't commit to that kind of answer to that kind of question right now -- Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right. And, you know, Bob Mueller has really been able to stay out, as you said, of this whole debate. That's because when the CIA actually started using harsher tactics, Mueller ordered FBI agents to stay out of those interrogation rooms. And the FBI's policy matches the military's policy. It does not allow waterboarding. But he was not -- he just would not definitively rule it out. And, of course, you know, that, of course, sets off Congress. But, you know, the attorney general also didn't rule it out.

WHITFIELD: OK. And so they're in sync there, he and the attorney general. So what's the inference? I mean what would be next for Capitol Hill?

ARENA: Well, you know, both those men have refused to deal with what they call hypothetical situations. The attorney general has been asked if he thinks that waterboarding is legal. And he says, look, I'm not going there. He'll only say that he hasn't had to deal with this issue. If and when it does happen, he'll have to consider the circumstances, which is basically what the FBI director said today -- I don't deal in hypotheticals.

And I think that, you know, much to Congress' dismay, you know, they're looking for very definitive answers. They want somebody to stand up there and say waterboarding is terrible, the intelligence community will never ever, ever do it again. And they just didn't get that.

WHITFIELD: It's not going to happen.


WHITFIELD: So, also today, Mueller talked about an upcoming report about national security letters...

ARENA: Yes, he did.

WHITFIELD: ...and actually said that it would show the FBI misused them in 2006. Explain.

ARENA: Well, you know, national security letters allow the FBI to get personal information about people from private companies without having to go to court. Last year, there was another report. The inspector general found that the FBI misused that power between 2003 and 2005. And according to Mueller, this new report that we've been expecting will show that that power was also misused in 2006. Basically, NSLs were used in non-emergency situations. Now, they're only supposed to be used in very dire situations.

But Mueller then followed that up and quickly pointed out look, he said, look, that's kind of old news, because major reforms were put in place after that and the conditions today are very different. And, you know, amazingly, that strategy seems to have worked, because you didn't hear a peep from lawmakers about NSLs after that.

So it was sort of a preemptive strike on Mueller's part. We'll see what happens when the report comes out. We've been expecting it for a while. We think maybe next week. You know, maybe we'll hear some huffing and puffing then. But today, at least, you know, they took what he said and said all right, you know, we moved on and they seemed to have moved on.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kelli Arena in Washington. Thank you.

ARENA: You're welcome.


LEMON: Our breaking news into the CNN NEWSROOM today. A home explodes, injuring several people, possibly killing two people. We'll get an update on that and the damage.


LEMON: Unbelievable live pictures coming from Plum, Pennsylvania -- a home that exploded, injuring several people. We're told by our affiliate, WKDK News Radio 1020 that at least four people have been taken to the hospital and the have possibly been two fatalities in this. The people who were taken to the hospital, we're also told by our affiliate that they are not in good condition.

We'll continue to check on this. But we also want to tell you, at least 15 homes in the area damaged.

WHITFIELD: Tremendous.

LEMON: So can you imagine being in your home and all of a sudden hearing an explosion?

As one person, Dave Hizer (ph), who was on our air. He thought his home had exploded, got up, ran out and saw that it was his neighbor. He saw his neighbor, he said, carrying a baby and then looking for her elderly father. So there you go. Just a really terrible situation happening in Plum, Pennsylvania. A home exploded. We'll continue to follow it.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, some mixed messages from Venezuela. Its president says we want peace. Yet Hugo Chavez keeps sending troops to the border with Colombia.

Tensions rose over the weekend after Colombian troops killed a Colombian rebel leader in neighboring Ecuador. Colombian leaders say they have proof Ecuador and Venezuela have been helping those rebels. Chavez has warned Venezuela will fight back if any troops cross its border. He also says conflict is inevitable, with the U.S. the only country so far to support Colombia.

LEMON: Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer to see what's happening at the top of the hour -- and, Wolf, I mean you could not have written about this. It's unbelievable, what's going on with this election.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It really is, Don. It's an amazing, amazing story. And it's not over with by any means.

Another huge day in the Democratic contest for the White House. We're still waiting for partial results coming in from Texas, the caucuses there. The race very tight right now. We'll have all the numbers as they come into "THE SITUATION ROOM."

The Democrats are calling it a dream ticket. Will one of the candidates take the number two spot? Hillary Clinton is talking about it. You're going to hear precisely what she's saying.

And it's an endorsement like none other -- President Bush rolling out the red carpet over at the White House for John McCain. See what made this one pretty unusual.

All that, guys, and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM."

WHITFIELD: And, Wolf, what in the world are you made of? No bags under your eyes, no nothing.


WHITFIELD: You are just the Energizer Bunny.

BLITZER: This is an exciting story. You know, when you're young, you work.

WHITFIELD: It is an exciting story, but you are remarkable.

LEMON: I know.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll be watching.

LEMON: And he's young. What is he, like 25 or something?


LEMON: Something like that.

WHITFIELD: A spring chicken.

LEMON: Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: A little bit.

LEMON: Thank you, sir.


LEMON: We'll be watching at the top of the hour.

The closing bell and a wrap of all the action on Wall Street straight ahead.


LEMON: Chad, breaking news. Take it away.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, for Boca, actually, Boca Raton and this area here. Tornado warnings for you. If you're hearing the sirens or even if you're not, a tornado warning for you until 4:30.

A wall cloud reported right here on the county line just to the south and southwest of Boca, near West Boca, moving to the east at 20. No tornado right now, but that wall cloud could produce a tornado at any time. Take cover -- Don.

LEMON: All right, thank you very much for that, Chad.

MYERS: Sure.

WHITFIELD: All right, a last look at Wall Street.


WHITFIELD: Susan Lisovicz is there.

LISOVICZ: Well, this little story caught my interest, Fred and Don. You've heard of the Fortune 500. How about The Fortunate 400? "The Wall Street Journal" says the top 400 taxpayers reported nearly $86 billion in income for one year alone. That's about $214 million apiece.


WHITFIELD: Oh my, gosh.


WHITFIELD: I just...

LISOVICZ: $214 million apiece.

WHITFIELD: I can't even (INAUDIBLE) with figures like that.

LISOVICZ: That's in income for one year, not over a lifetime.

LEMON: Wait, say that again. The top 400...

WHITFIELD: That's not fair, is what that is.

LEMON: The top 40 what?

LISOVICZ: I would be happy to have that estate for my whole life.


LISOVICZ: But that is for one year. That's what they're calling The Fortunate 400.

LEMON: Oh, man.


LISOVICZ: For their income taxes.

WHITFIELD: Oh, what a problem.


LEMON: Yes, imagine what they're making in order to be able to afford that.

LISOVICZ: They must have -- they must have an accountant with a sharp eye, I'll tell you, with all those zeros.