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AMERICAN MORNING

Decision Day: Final Pitch of the Candidates; McCain on Biofuels: Opposes Rules for Expansion; Cyclone That Hit Myanmar Kills Thousands

Aired May 6, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Just across at the top of the hour now, the polls are open right now. The two biggest prizes left, Indiana and North Carolina, both up for grabs today, and we're counting down now to closing time. Could be a brand new race at the end of the day if Hillary Clinton can sweep. One hundred eighty-seven delegates will be handed out tonight, 115 for North Carolina, 72 from Indiana. Both states actually received more delegates as a reward for moving their primaries back.
Remember, everybody wanted to go first. Now, those who are going last are going to actually make the difference. Right now, Senator Barack Obama leads Senator Hillary Clinton by 143 delegates in the overall count.

The best political team on television covering absolutely every angle of this race. Jessica Yellin picks up our coverage live from Indianapolis this morning. You know, Jessica, it's the smaller of the two states that are going today, but somehow it seems bigger.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a lot of intensity here in Indiana and at a lot of focus on the state. The candidates were here campaigning well past midnight. They're aggressively courting working class voters. They're hitting populous notes and making promises like these.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I've said is let's put in place the second part of the tax stimulus package.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're going to start creating new jobs, millions of new jobs.

YELLIN (voice-over): Vowing to do more to help the little guy.

OBAMA: The American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them.

CLINTON: Somebody who understands what you're going through and we'll stand up there every day and fight for you.

YELLIN: The key word is fight, and they're in a fierce one. Senator Clinton angling for a knock-out blow with the strikingly (ph) populous pledge. CLINTON: We're going to go right out OPEC. They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly, and we're going to give power to people in our country under our anti-trust laws.

YELLIN: This brand new ad, Clinton slams Obama for opposing a gas tax holiday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL)

NARRATOR: He's attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The Obama campaign responded with a list of Clinton supporters who are against that gas tax holiday. One calls it "Election-year theatrics."

And Obama is airing his own ad jabbing Clinton of going negative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL)

NARRATOR: Her hometown newspaper says she's taking the low road. Her attacks do nothing but harm.

YELLIN: But voters here in Indiana see most concern about matters that hit closer to home.

What issue matters to you most?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jobs and health care. We need that good (ph) health care for everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that the gas tax holiday makes sense. So I think we got something bigger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: John, I talked to a lot of folks here in Indiana and they are exceptionally engaged. I have to say they are well acquainted with all the issues the candidates are talking about, the gas tax holiday, the proposals for jobs. And if location tells you anything, this should be informative. Senator Clinton will be here in Indiana this evening, Barack Obama in North Carolina -- John.

ROBERTS: Jessica, what about all this tough talk from Senator Clinton over the last few days about Iran and Israel? Is that getting any traction there at all?

YELLIN: No. Voters never mention that. Even when they bring it up, they say it's less important to them right now than economic issues. It seems that the foreign policy talks we're seeing between the candidates is really aimed at those superdelegates, the other big race going on right now.

ROBERTS: All right. Jessica Yellin for us this morning. Jessica, thanks very much.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as Jessica just told us, the gas tax has emerged as one of the deciding factors in today's race, so much so, both candidates highlighted it in their final campaign rallies late last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opponent doesn't want us to have a gas tax holiday. Senator McCain is perfectly happy to have the holiday, but he doesn't want to pay for it, which would raise the deficit and take money out of the Highway Trust Fund. What I have proposed is that the oil companies pay it for the summer. They've got these record profits. It's time we start making them part of the solution instead of a continuing problem.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Clinton in the year 2000 was presented with the same idea and he said, you know what, I don't think that a gas tax cut is actually going to be passed on to consumers. That's what he said. Senator Clinton's own staff told the "Washington Post" that they really think this is going to work, but they thought it would be for politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Most people say high gas prices are a hardship. Take a look there. In the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 19 percent say it's a severe hardship. Forty-one percent say it's a moderate hardship. Thirty-nine percent say it's not a hardship.

Meanwhile, John McCain wants the EPA to ease rules expanding the production of ethanol. McCain and nearly two dozen other Republican senators are urging regulators to roll back requirements for a five- fold increase in biofuels. They blame increased ethanol production for higher food prices, but the White House says it's only had a small impact.

And we have some great political guests on this primary morning. Wait until you hear what we have on. Coming up in about 20 minutes, we're going to talk to Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Senator Clinton. David Wilhelm, who run President Clinton's campaign for president back in 1992, he now supports Barack Obama. Then, Bill Bennett joins us at 7:55 Eastern, and at 8:25, Clinton supporter and North Carolina governor, Mike Easley. Then, the mayor of Evansville, Indiana, Jonathan Weinzapfel, who supports Senator Obama -- John.

ROBERTS: Breaking news from Myanmar this morning and the numbers are staggering to say the least. According to the military government, up to 15,000 people now feared dead in the aftermath of the cyclone that tore through the country over the weekend. As many as a million people have been left homeless and much of the country without power and clean drinking water.

First lady Laura Bush attacked the ruling military junta for failing to provide early warning of the storm. She also promised that aid is on the way, but so far the State Department says permission to get that aid into Myanmar has been denied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: So I hope that there will be one good thing that comes out of such huge destruction and that would be the government's realization that the people of Burma need help, and they need more help than they can give them or that they've been able to give them. And the country is just been totally decimated with both education, agriculture. All of the things that made Burma one of the richest countries in Asia have now been dismantled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And here is a very descriptive way to look at what happened there. These are images from NASA. The first taken in 2004 shows the area of impact during Myanmar's dry season. Now, contrast that with images that were taken on Monday morning, more than 24 hours after the storm slammed ashore there. Take a look at this.

It looks very much like Banda Aceh after the tsunami there. You can see the massive flooding and swollen muddy rivers, and sort of in the lower right hand portion of that peninsula, that's where Bogole (ph) is. That's where apparently 10,000 people may have died just kind of right up that estuary there.

See that little green bit in the lower right hand side of the screen. Just up north of that is where Bogole is.

The United Nations moving at full speed to tackle the world food crisis, in the meantime, and in the Philippines today where residents were lining up to buy rice. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the food crisis grew out of more than a decade of neglect and ineffective development policies. A special task force is going to meet next Monday to try to figure out what to do about the whole thing.

And more deadly riots in Somalia over high food prices. Witnesses say Somali soldiers killed two protesters in Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of rioters including women and children threw rocks at shops and smashed car windshields. They're angry at shopkeepers who refuse to accept Somali currency and instead are demanding payment in U.S. dollars. Hundreds of shops and restaurants in the capital city are closed today for fear of looting.

CHO: Oil prices near $121 a gallon overnight. Could $5 a gallon gas be far behind? Ali Velshi will be with us next.

And the polls are open right now in Indiana and North Carolina. A big primary day. We're on the issues like gas prices important to voters. We're going to talk with campaign insiders too. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Coming up to 10 minutes after the hour, and here's a really interesting graphic to take a look at because this really explains how things are going here.

The delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination, the figure at the top there, 2,025. And back up, the votes 2,025 it went down 2,024 for (INAUDIBLE) back up.

Obama needs 280 delegates to cross that finish line. Hillary Clinton needs 423. The number of pledged delegates remaining in all the contests, including today's, 404, and the remaining number of uncommitted superdelegates, they just count on that, 223.

So if they continue to split the pledged delegates the way they have, Barack Obama would need certain number of uncommitted superdelegate to support him to win. Hillary Clinton would need far more. She needs probably about 80 to almost 90 percent of those unpledged superdelegates...

CHO: Yes.

ROBERTS: ...if she wants to cross the finish lines.

CHO: As John King pointed out, and he'll be with us in a couple of minutes, you know, Hillary Clinton not only needs to win, she needs to win.

ROBERTS: Not just big. Huge, huge -- by numbers probably unprecedented so far in this primary season. Well, she needs to win like she won some of those counties in Pennsylvania...

CHO: Pennsylvania.

ROBERTS: ...and the western part. You know, 75, 25...

VELSHI: And they could breaking 40-60, that kind of stuff.

ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) which she can do that across the state because Barack Obama keeps doing that in the cities so...

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: ...very interesting. We'll watch how this race develops (INAUDIBLE).

CHO: Yes. Anything can happen in politics, as you well know.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CHO: So we'll have to wait and see. We're watching is very closely.

Meanwhile, oil prices have surged through record levels once again.

Ali Velshi here with more on that with the barrel. Fire away. VELSHI: To that point, Hillary Clinton, in her speeches yesterday, so was Barack Obama and John McCain, but really talking about gas prices and oil prices and what she might do about that if she were president.

$120.93, it was the highest the price of a barrel of oil got this morning. We don't have a new record in the price of gasoline but it's just once cent off of that record. It's $3.61 for a gallon of gasoline self-served, unleaded across the country. That's the national average.

There are reasons why this is up this morning. There are some tensions going on. First of all, we have a slightly weaker U.S dollar. We have Kurdish guerrillas that have threatened some U.S interests and a Shell facility was attacked in Nigeria and all of -- those latter two points have actually resulted in less production of oil. So that's part of the problem.

Those of you out there are worried about the price of gasoline, obviously. We've connected to CNN Opinion Research poll about your fears, about where gas prices are going. We asked, is it likely that gas prices will get to $5 a gallon this year. Forty-four percent of you said very likely, 34 percent said somewhat likely, 22 percent said not likely.

AAA has predicted $3.90 cents a gallon by (INAUDIBLE). They're going too far away from that.

We also asked whether rising gas prices have caused you hardship. Let's look at the response here. In total, 60 percent of you said, yes, it has caused you hardship. Nineteen percent say severe hardship, 41 percent say moderate hardship. Only 39 percent which -- I mean (INAUDIBLE) 39 percent who are saying that gas prices have not caused a hardship at all for you.

So it is definitely -- it's key that this is a major issue and I think we're going to hear the campaigns and the candidates continue to hammer it home on what they might do. Some of the proposals are noble, some are interesting, some are not particularly useful, but everybody's listening.

ROBERTS: You know, we'll find that today in Indiana and North Carolina whether it's a winning issue or not (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: Yes. It'll be interesting to see how it pans out because there's the issue of the fact that gas prices are a problem, what do people think the candidates can do for them? Do they believe that they've actually got proposals that will help? It's a complicated issue.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is -- you know, she's promised to get this legislation through. But so far there's no sign of it going.

VELSHI: That's absolutely right.

ROBERTS: We're absolutely three weeks until Memorial.

VELSHI: That's exactly right.

CHO: Well, one thing is clear, it is the one issue that separates the candidates, right?

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

CHO: As we go forward.

All right, Ali, thank you.

Polls are open in Indiana and North Carolina, two big states on the line. We're going to take you there live to find out who has the advantage.

A price war is brewing over prescription drugs on the health front. We're paging Dr. Gupta. That's just ahead.

Plus Rob Marciano is watching the extreme weather on this primary morning.

Hey, Rob, 'morning.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Alina. We have decent weather shaping up for the primary states. Meanwhile, rough weather pounding parts of Texas. Severe thunderstorm warnings are posted right now. We run it down when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back. Stay there.

ANNOUNCER: "Minding Your Business" brought to you by...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARCIANO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much. Eighteen minutes after the hour.

Hey, we just want to bring to your attention. Apparently we're having some major audio problems this morning for which we profusely apologize and urge you to hang with us because the engineers have been working on this problem. We don't know if it's local distribution or if it's in our signal going out but apparently it's across the country.

We're getting e-mails from Washington, D.C., Mexico, Illinois. So again, our most sincere apologies to you for this audio problem. Stick with us if you can. Hang in there. We're promising that we'll get it fixed here. We're trying real hard right now.

CHO: As soon as we can.

ROBERTS: Yes.

So meantime, apparently, we sound like Rosemary's baby. So...

CHO: That's one way to put it.

ROBERTS: You're watching the most politics in the morning. Stay with us here. We're going inside the campaigns and the issues in this crucial primary day. What the candidates say when it comes to issues like Iran and gas prices.

CHO: And good news for budget-minded consumers. Chain superstores are offering cheaper prescription drugs. We're paging Dr. Gupta.

Hey, Sanjay, good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina.

Speaking of the election, this is one of the biggest issues on voters' minds -- health care costs. What can the private sector do? How can they lower some of these costs? Wal-Mart is setting the tone here. We'll tell you what it means for you possibly when AMERICAN MORNING returns. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: "Weather Update" brought to you by...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

First Wal-Mart, now Target is expanding its discount prescription drug program. Target matching Wal-Mart's offer of a 90-day supply of some drugs for 10 bucks. Sounds pretty good.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us.

So, hey, Sanjay, what do these plans entail? And how might it make a difference for customers? That's the big question, right?

GUPTA: Yes, exactly, what does it mean to your pocketbook. Well, this is sort of the next phase, if you will, of several phases that Wal-Mart is sort of implementing, trying to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. They're targeting several different generic drug (INAUDIBLE) the 350 generic drugs, and saying, look, if you need a 90- day supply, it's going to cost you about $10. Now that's pretty good. Previously -- the previously phase was $40 for a 30-day supply.

What does it mean for some specific drugs? Well, the generic brand of Fosamax, which is a medication we've talked about before for osteoporosis, you could take a look at the price there. It only about $9 for a 30-day supply, previously $54 for a 30-day supply. If you keep going down the list and look at some other common drugs, some of these you might recognize yourself.

Paroxetine, for example, Wal-Mart, 10 bucks, previously 150 bucks. If you look at some of the other pharmacies, Metformin, Levothyrozine, this could make a difference.

There's no question, Alina, as you mentioned, according to the Associated Press, Target late last night saying they're going to match some of these prices well. So a lot of people are going to have a lot of different options.

Look, people spend thousands of dollars amount overall on prescription drugs. And if you take a look at the health care costs, specifically over the last several years, now it's about $260 billions a year. We spend our prescription drugs. I don't think anyone imagine it will ever be that much. It's over 50 percent since 2001.

We know, Alina, that people forego taking their prescription meds so they can pay their mortgage, they can buy food, things like that. This, again, may help defray some of those costs.

CHO: Well, yes, and it's no secret, Sanjay, in this environment, particularly, that Americans are tightening the belt. So what else can they do to save money on prescription drug?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, there are other options out there and we sort of put together, I think, a best list. Some of those require some work on your part, but choose generic drugs if it works for you. Talk to your doctors specifically if the generic drug might be appropriate.

Also, when you -- you have to do a little reading here, but when you're actually looking at your insurance plan, if you're taking certain medications, find out if those medications are actually in your insurance plan's formulary or if there's a comparable medication.

Mail-order plans. Now with what Wal-Mart's offering and Target's going to be offering, you may not need the mail-order plans as much. Those are for, like, three or four-month supplies.

And also, specifically, look for a static co-pay instead of a percentage. You want to pay -- know that you're going to pay 10 or 15 bucks each time as opposed to a percentage, especially as some of these drugs skyrocket.

Also tell you as a doctor, a lot of people will tell you that -- to be cautious about this, but if you buy higher-dosed pills, oftentimes you can split them in half and you can get double the number of pills that you otherwise would have. Again, talk to your doctor specifically to see if the medication can be split. But many of them are actually scored along the tablet so you can do just that.

CHO: Some great advice, Sanjay. Get up to New York again, will you?

GUPTA: I'll be there soon. All right.

CHO: Soon? OK.

GUPTA: I may be in Burma tonight. I'll let you know about that.

CHO: Oh wow. All right. Well, we look forward to your reporting from there.

Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: All right. Thanks.

CHO: John?

ROBERTS: It's 24 minutes after the hour. We think we've narrowed down where the audio problem is with the CNN signal here. I believe it's coming out of our origination center because everybody is affected, whether you're on cable, DISH network, DirecTV.

We apologize again for it. But listen to the sound, I know how terrible it sounds. If you can hang with us, we'd be very much appreciative. We'll try to get that fixed just as soon as we can.

Rising gas prices in the minds of voters this morning. We've been hearing the candidates' plans to fix the problem, but this morning we want to hear your thoughts on any plan for a gas tax holiday. So far, 11 percent of you think that the plan is a good idea, 89 percent think it's political pandering.

Head to CNN.com/AM and keep those votes coming. Also send us an e-mail and you don't have to send us an e-mail that says our audio's terrible because we know that at this point. So -- well, send us your thoughts...

CHO: We're working on it.

ROBERTS: Yes, we're working on it. Send us your thoughts on this gas tax holiday. We'd love to hear from you. CNN.com/AM. Follow the link that says "Contact us."

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton targeting voters town by town, county and county, in North Carolina and Indiana.

CNN's John King at the magic wall for us coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: We are watching breaking news on that weekend cyclone devastation in Myanmar. As many as 15,000 people may be dead.

Joining us now by phone is Shari Villarosa. She is the top American diplomat in Myanmar.

We thank you for joining us. I know we had some technical problems earlier, so we're glad we have you with us. Earlier, we have some reporting from the U.N. that the government of Myanmar was going to allow international aid.

Miss Villarosa, are you understanding that that is the case, and if so, how soon might that aid come?

SHARI VILLAROSA, U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES TO MYANMAR: They have indicated that they would welcome international supplies, international relief supplies, and a flight from Thailand arrived this morning. In addition, the U.N. agencies that are already working here have some relief supplies on the ground. However, we'll obviously need to replenish those supplies due to the massiveness of the damage.

CHO: Well, I know everyone is running short on food and -- water. Power is out in many swathes of the country. I do have to ask you, I understand obviously, you're fine and we're thankful that -- for that. Where were you when the cyclone hit? I understand that your home had some damage. Can you talk about that?

VILLAROSA: I was in my residence that hit -- the strong winds kicked up around midnight and continued brew and strength all night with twirling around the -- all the trees falling down. I have a number of huge trees on my -- in my yard and they all started crashing down. And that went on until about 6:00 in the morning and then it kind of got quiet for about an hour.

And then, I guess, some eye cast over and then the winds picked up again and then a lot of more rain came in us.

CHO: Certainly...

VILLAROSA: But most of the damage was on earlier in the morning, though the height -- the sustained high winds. They're saying that it reached 120 miles an hour.

CHO: We're looking at the photos and it certainly is just a scene of utter devastation.

Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar, we thank you for joining us -- John?

ROBERTS: Fifteen thousand dead, still...

VILLAROSA: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: Still thousands more missing so death toll could go up.

CHO: That' right. That's 30,000 in some area.

ROBERTS: Far higher death toll.

CHO: Yes.

ROBERTS: Just crossing the half hour, polls in North Carolina have been opened for almost an hour now. Indiana's been voting for nearly 90 minutes. One hundred and eighty seven delegates up for grabs today.

Results tonight could energize the race for Hillary Clinton or push Barack Obama to the brink of the nomination, depending on how it breaks down.

Ann Lewis is a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign. David Wilhelm ran former President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, he's now an Obama supporter.

Good morning to both of you. Good to see you again.

ANN LEWIS, SR. ADVISER, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Good morning.

ROBERTS: David, let me start with you. Hillary Clinton is running a new attach ad in the state of Indiana where she is targeting Barack Obama on this idea of gas - the gas tax holiday, claiming that he is out of touch. Let's take a quick listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's happened to Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, we're living paycheck to paycheck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: She is painting him as elitist and out of touch. Is that going to hurt him in Indiana?

DAVID WILHELM, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I don't think so. When you look at your own survey this morning, it shows that 90 percent of the American people think that they're being pandered to. That ought to tell you something. I think this issue is working for Senator Obama big time because I think the issue is not just about gas tax policy but it is a window into the leadership style of each of the candidates. Senator Obama knows that if we're going to get real answers to the very difficult energy problems that this country faces, it's going to be - there's going to be long term answers. They require the cooperation of independents, Republicans. We need a national consensus that develops, that provides genuine answers to the American people and so because it is a window into the leadership styles of these two individuals, I think this issue is working big time for Senator Obama.

ROBERTS: Well, what about that Anne Lewis, Barack Obama is charging that this is a political gimmick? Where is this the legislation for this gas tax holiday that Senator Clinton has promised. It's only three weeks now to Memorial Day.

LEWIS: Well, I would agree that it's an example of leadership. Hillary Clinton says let's take on the oil companies. You impose a windfall profits tax. You use that money to pay to make the difference so that you can suspend the federal gas tax and you make sure with the Federal Trade Commission that those profits are passed on to the consumers.

ROBERTS: And again...

LEWIS: Senator Obama says that's too hard. We're not going to be able to do it in time. besides it's only $30 or $40. Well, that's actually about $70 average per family. If you've got to fill up your gas tank and buy groceries, that could make a difference.

ROBERTS: Let me come -

LEWIS: What Hillary is talking about the kind of politics, it sees a problems, takes on the challenge and says here's what we can do about it and I haven't heard any solutions from Senator Obama.

WILHELM: There's absolutely no evidence that that proposal would work. It's been rejected by just about every single economist and policymaker in this country of either political persuasion. It is an election year gimmick. Senator Obama has proposed by contrast in a $1000 year across the board cut for middle class families. That's the kind of approach we need to take. It is thoughtful. It is not pandering. It is a real solution that will generate bipartisan support.

ROBERTS: David, let me interrupt you -

LEWIS: Well, I think targeted tax cuts in fact go directly to the cost. They're squeezing families that are making a difference (inaudible). We've got people here pulling their trucks off the road because they just can't keep them on the road. We know that food prices are going up because the cost of gas is going up. Look, Hillary has been talking about long term solutions. Let's start developing alternative fuels. She's also talking about taking on OPEC because of the oil cartel. Because they do get together and decide how much they're going to produce and how much they're going to charge us for us.

She's got short term answers and long term answers.

ROBERTS: Let me just jump in for a second here.

LEWIS: The difference is she says it may be hard but we need to do it.

ROBERTS: Let me just jump in for a second here on this issue of exactly how much people would save. We talk about Len Burman from the tax policy center. Here's what he had to say about how much money this will put in the pockets of the average American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEN BURMAN, TAX POLICY CENTER: Best case scenario as I say has been an average of $28 or $29 over the course of the summer but in fact they would save only a tiny fraction of that because that assumes that the full amount of the gas tax is passed on to consumers and lower prices.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Ann Lewis, Hillary Clinton seems to be about the only person and you who say that it will be worth about $70 to the average American family.

LEWIS: Well, it assume - ROBERTS: And again, where is the legislation because we're running up against the deadline here. The Memorial Day holiday is only three weeks away.

LEWIS: You're right about that. Let me start by saying, assume as you say that it's an average. That means that people like me - I don't drive at all. You know, I'm lucky enough to live in Washington. I can use mass transit. I can get around in other ways. I'm not going to save anything but there are people in Indiana. There are people all over this country who drive 30, 40 miles a day just to get to work. They're going to save a lot more. So, let's be clear when we talk about an average. We're leaving out just those people who have the most at stake, the people who drive the most to get to work. And second, we're leaving out the cost to our food, to everything we buy that gets, you know, transported somewhere that we've seen these rising prices all summer. So, I think that understates the difference it would make for families. And I'd say again even if you look at $60 or $70 saving, if I'm filling up my gas tank and trying to buy groceries, that could go a long way.

ROBERTS: Ann Lewis, David, I'm just asking one more time, where is the legislation?

LEWIS: Well, I'm told by the people who work on legislation and you will understand that I'm on the campaign side.

ROBERTS: Understand.

LEWIS: I'm not on the legislative side. And I'm told that they're putting the legislation together.

ROBERTS: OK. David, Barack Obama said - let me switch gears. I want to get on another topic here if I could. Barack Obama has had a tough few weeks. Lost in the state of Pennsylvania, needs to really put on the wind column today. So, what does he need to do to turn things around here.

WILHELM: Well, I think things are turned around. I think he's had a good week. I think people view the gas tax issue as a window into the leadership styles of each of the candidates. I think he's going to have a good day. And you know, the interesting thing is that even since the Pennsylvania primary, superdelegates have broken to Barack Obama by a margin of 23 to 16. Since, super Tuesday, superdelegates have broken to Barack Obama 120 to 20. I think the Democratic party is coming together. They're coming together behind Barack Obama. I think he's going to have a good day today. And I think the real challenge today is the challenge that Senator Clinton faces. This is the only, this is the last chance she has to fundamentally change the dynamic of this race. She needs a game changer. She needs two game changers. She needs to win by significant margins in both states to turn about what is becoming a commanding lead among delegates.

ROBERTS: Well, we will find out in about 12 hours how it goes. David Wilhelm, Ann Lewis, thanks for being with us this morning.

LEWIS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Always good to have you on.

WILHELM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: All right. Take care.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: And more proof that the candidates don't just trade jabs, the surrogates do too. Well the first results coming just in time for the "Election Center," 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's political team on TV breaks down the results and the exit polls you want to stay tuned for that. And don't forget to set your alarm for a very special post primary edition of AMERICAN MORNING starting at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are targeting voters town by town, county by county in both North Carolina and Indiana. CNN's John King doing what he does best, at the magic board. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to the most politics in the morning and you're looking there behind me. Live pictures this morning as voters go to the polls in Indianapolis. 72 delegates up for grabs there. Meanwhile in North Carolina, the polls have been opened for about an hour now. The line's still there. North Carolina, the biggest prize of the night with 115 delegates at stake. So, let's go straight to CNN's chief national correspondent John King. He's looking at the breakdown on the magic board doing what you do best, as I mentioned earlier.

Let's take a look at North Carolina. Good morning, John. You know, Barack Obama obviously has an edge in that state, albeit, by a single digit. But Hillary Clinton really has the chance in at least three pockets, right?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She does. Obama structural in part because this is a state that is more than 20 percent African-American. He has done very well in Virginia, in South Carolina and across the south in the large African-American population. The key to Senator Clinton is out here in this part of the state out here. This is the congressional district that is more than 80 percent white. It is rural, downscale Democrats where she has done very well in other states. Another key test for Senator Clinton is in a area like this. I'm going to make this in blue. This is a congressional district. Some of North Carolina's congressional districts are pretty amazing in their shapes. This is at 45 percent black, 45 percent white congressional district. So, one of Senator Clinton's strategies, I want to show you that's why I'm going to play the audio - to talk about - I got to turn this off to do this - is to try to cut Barack Obama's margins among African-American. This is Maya Angelou, the poet, the writer, the former poet laureate from the Clinton administration.

This ad here, trying to help Hillary Clinton reduce Barack Obama's margin among African-American. That is critical for her there. Up in the Raleigh area, it is a modest but it could be a significant Latino population. So, Hillary Clinton has Spanish language as on up in the Raleigh area.

CHO: Interesting.

KING: So she needs to do the best over here and down here, where there are white rural Democrats and then try Barack Obama's margins in the middle of the state among African-Americans.

CHO: Well, the Clinton campaign has been very smart sending Bill Clinton to North Carolina to campaign there. He's obviously very popular among the African-American community. Take a look at Indiana now.

KING: Get rid of that and move on over.

CHO: Where the latest poll of poll shows that Clinton has a 40, 48 rather to 44 percent edge but Barack Obama really has a chance. He's a native son in certain parts of North Carolina.

KING: And a big debate in the Democratic party has been why has Barack Obama doing so poorly among those white downscale Democrats. Well, here's a place for him to prove he's at least beginning to turn it around and the thing that helps him is, you're right - here's Chicago right here. This is Gary, Indiana. This is the largest county and this largest Democratic district in the state right up here in the corner. It says only about nine percent is African-American, so there's a big percentage for Senator Clinton by demographics.

But they know Barack Obama here. They got Chicago television station all across here. So, this first congressional district, a lot of African-Americans, a lot of blue collar steel workers in the current steel industry and in the declining steel industry. It's a good battleground between the two of them right here. Catholic voters. Up here, the University of Notre Dame is in South Bend. That has been a Clinton strength. We'll see how Obama does there tonight.

One of the big battlegrounds has been this district down here in the southwest corner. This is a conservative Democratic district where the debate has been all about jobs. You just were talking a few minutes ago - this is that Hillary Clinton ad about the gas tax out there. Well, Barack Obama also advertising about the economy down there saying look I have a better plan to bring jobs back to the region. So up here, Hillary Clinton and in Indianapolis, again, needs to cut into the margins among African-Americans. This is a key test of whether Barack Obama can come to those superdelegates and say, look, maybe I lost Indiana by a point or two but I did much better among those white working class voters. Don't worry if I'm the nominee in November, I can bring them home.

CHO: Well, you talk about the nine percent black population in Indiana overall. 25 percent African-American in Indianapolis.

KING: Right there.

CHO: Barack Obama could do well there.

KING: And it's 14 percent of the state's population. So, in the population centers, Indianapolis, and then the smaller city up in Gary, Barack Obama has to get the African-American vote in huge proportions and get high turnout. In Indianapolis, and also down here ballooning to the college town. In the places where he needs his vote, he doesn't just need to win by the percentages, he needs big turnout.

CHO: It's fascinating to look at it county by county. CNN's John King, we look forward to having you back soon.

KING: Thank you.

CHO: John.

ROBERTS: It's coming up on 44 minutes after the hour. The candidates have been talking a lot about giving motorists a break at the pump. But someone is actually doing something about it. Find out who. Coming up.

Plus, they've been everywhere and they hear everything. Coming up, some real inside the belt way wisdom from D.C.'s taxi drivers. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALI VELSHI, CNN, SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Ali Velshi. There is the story right there. Oil hitting $120.93 this morning. Not a record in gas prices, $3.61 nationwide but that's still pretty expensive.

ROBERTS: That's going to change.

VELSHI: It isn't going to change. I don't know whether it's changing up or down but Chrysler is betting that you're tired of that. So, they've come up with this new offer. It starts today and goes until June 2nd. If you buy certain cars, by the way, not every car that they sell. Certain Jeep, Dodge or Chrysler vehicles, you can buy or lease but for three years, you will get a card that you will use to pay for gas and you will have a price locked in of $2.99 a gallon. Now, the amount of gas that you qualify to buy depends on the car you buy but the average across the cars they are selling is 700 gallons per year.

Now, based on the price of gas, you're savings will be determined by that. If gas is about $3.50 a gallon, you're saving over a year of only about $357. At $4.00, it's $700. At $4.50, it's over $1,000. At $5.00, which by way, our polls show that many of you think gas will get to, $1400 saving a year. If gas goes lower, you just buy gas at whatever price it is. But $2.99 locked in for three years. Interesting.

ROBERTS: So, where is the cost of this coming from? Do we know?

VELSHI: Well, again, lots of things that the car companies offer. They don't have any rationale where the cost comes from. They just want to sell more cars.

ROBERTS: This comes from somewhere?

VELSHI: You know, it just comes somewhere. That's why we see losses on some of them. Chrysler is not doing so well. So, they're trying to (inaudible).

ROBERTS: They'll probably do better after this. Ali, thanks.

CHO: All right. We want to just update you on some breaking news that Myanmar state radio now says that the cyclone death has now topped 22,000.

ROBERTS: Wow.

CHO: Earlier, we had reporting saying that there were 15,000 deaths. We are watching that story very closely. CNN exclusively has a reporter inside the country and we are looking for independent confirmation. We will keep you posted.

Still to come, political insight from those who hear it all. The taxi cab confessions from inside the beltway. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. We're following two pivotal contests in the Democratic presidential race today. Very big primary day. Right now, voting underway in both North Carolina and Indiana. And we have front seat view of the campaign from the political pundits who hear it all, taxi drivers in the nation's capital. CNN's Zain Verjee hailed a cab to hear their stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Taxi. The best pundits in Washington, D.C. maybe behind the wheel. It's a United Nations of political opinion. From Nigeria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this country?

VERJEE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 28 years.

VERJEE: Ethiopia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 16 years.

VERJEE: Pakistan. To right here at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In D.C., I've been a cab driver for 30 years.

VERJEE: how much do you talk politics with your passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, a lot. This is a political city. VERJEE: Do you ever change anyone's opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

VERJEE: Then news junkies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on NPR. I read the paper. "Washington Post."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I'm not going to watch the news, I'm missing something.

VERJEE: And the marathon Democratic race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very exciting especially this time but it takes too long.

VERJEE: Are you getting tired of it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting tired of it because they're not saying anything. They're not really sticking to the issues. You know, talking about this Reverend Wright. It doesn't have anything to do with the family when you go to the store.

VERJEE: What are some of the big issues in this campaign that are important to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially war on terrorism or whatever is going on in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the main thing is healthcare. You got millions of people who don't have healthcare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never had health insurance. You know, I can't afford it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The economy, number one. The dollar falling.

VERJEE: His passengers are mostly Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It goes between Hillary and Obama.

VERJEE: But even some Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't want to vote Republicans. They want to change.

VERJEE: Having eavesdrop on secrets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when Ronald Reagan was president. I had some guys, I don't know who they were but they said the president - the (passes)ph was being released. They were talking about it.

VERJEE: Any little nuggets you're picking up now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I don't know a thing. VERJEE: Thanks a lot.

And cabbies say it's sometimes good to talk to passengers about politics because it brings them more business and sometimes bigger tips. Alina.

CHO: That must have been so fun to do that story, Zain.

Zain Verjee, thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): Decision day.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want your vote. I want it badly.

ROBERTS: Voting right now in the biggest Tuesday left in the nomination.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Give us a chance to make history together.

ROBERTS: The last chance to sway the undecideds.

OBAMA: I need your vote everybody.

ROBERTS: Live with North Carolina's governor, it's the most politics on primary day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Four minutes to the top of the hour. Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Key primaries today in North Carolina and Indiana. A combined 187 delegates up for grabs. They are the two biggest states left in the primary season.

CHO: Let's take a look at the "Quick Vote" now. 13 percent of you say it's the gas tax holiday is good economic policy. An overwhelming 87 percent though think it's political pandering. It's interesting to watch this, isn't. Head to cnn.com/am. Keep those votes coming. We'll bring you a final tally at the end of the show.

ROBERTS: We've also been getting lots of e-mail on this as well as the audio problems this morning which apparently have been fixed. They never affected our HD signals.

CHO: That is good.

ROBERTS: Everything is right on track now.

CHO: That is good news. So, you guys in the major markets can continue watching now. Louise from Rich Hill, Missouri sending this e-mail. "I did the math on the gas tax and guess what I will keep approximately $300 this summer, not the $30 that Obama said. I need that money and it looks better in my pocket than the oil companies."

ROBERTS: Obviously, has a long drive everyday. From Diana in Canton, Georgia "saving a few pennies now is not going to put extra food on the table later. With a fixed income, it is becoming more and more difficult to do anything but drive to the grocery store and the gas pump. I wish our government could do something long lasting."

CHO: And Bob from Philly sends this "I think Obama is out of touch with the real Americans, to tell you the truth if someone walked up to me and said here's $30 I wouldn't look at that as crazy and walk away. I would take the cash. Right now, every dollar counts in my house."

ROBERTS: And Barbara in San Francisco writes to us this morning "I have already decreased my amount of driving by half and utilize public transit. I am paying less gas tax."

CHO: One way to save.

ROBERTS: Thanks for those. We will get some more out your way, in about an hour's time. We've been talking about how much is at stake for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let's get some perspective from the other side of the aisle. Bill Bennett is a CNN contributor. He's also host of "Bill Bennett's Morning in America." Bill, good morning to you. What do you make with what's going on with Hillary Clinton? All these tough talk on Iran and Israel, taking on and busting up the OPEC cartel. It almost sounds like she's trying to out John McCain-John McCain.

BILL BENNETT, HOST, "BILL BENNETT'S MORNING IN AMERICA": Welcome to our party or at least welcome to McCain's party, Hillary. Look, I think she's sounding very strong. She's obviously very confident. She's at stride. You know, one thing I learned in Washington, John, my rule of politics - you're either on offense or you're on defense. There's no in between. She's on offense. I don't think there's any question. And Obama because he's of the Reverend Wright stuff and other things is on defense. I know there's this thing about him being serene and rising above it all that's appealing and it is but it seems like she's got momentum. Whether she's got enough momentum to win North Carolina, I doubt it but she's in her stride.

ROBERTS: Do you think that she has become a better candidate than she was in recent weeks?

BENNETT: Yes. You know, the Clintons, they get their backs to the wall. I mean, Bill Clinton in the White House facing impeachment. That brings out the best of him. You know, one of these football coaches say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. They're tough. They are politically very tough people.

ROBERTS: Let me come back and ask you about this comment that she made about - "we would be able to obliterate them." Talking about Iran if Iran were to launch a nuclear strike against Israel. We had both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on yesterday. They talked about that statement. Let's listen to what they had to say.

BENNETT: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the question was asked, what would the United States do were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're running for president, you shouldn't be stirring up international incidents. We now have Iran bringing complaints to the United Nations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So the question is did she go to far, Bill, in making that statement. You know, is it right for a presidential candidate to be talking about annihilation during a campaign?

BENNETT: Well, she said if. It's conditional. I found it very interesting, you know, I don't want to argue (inaudible) but if a Republican had said that, if McCain had said that, we would be hearing about cowboy diplomacy and the old Ronald Reagan bombs away and all that kind of thing. It's very strong but she said if they invaded Israel, this is the consequence. I think it was actually not a bad thing for her to say.

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