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AMERICAN MORNING

Senator Ted Kennedy Facing Tough Decisions; Barack Obama Closer Than Ever to Democratic Nomination; Big Political Fight Brewing in South Florida

Aired May 21, 2008 - 08:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So the idea here is that he is the person to beat. That was the message that was clear to the superdelegates and he made that message. He delivered that message here in Iowa. This is of course where the big win happened. Surprise everybody. Surpassed anyone's expectation and what he is trying to say is I can do this in a state that is 95 percent white, that is a swing state, a valuable state for the general election. That now is time to get on board. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, CHIEF STRATEGIST, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: No nominee of the party has ever been nominated without a majority of the elected delegates. We have that now. And it's important that we're in Iowa because we're going to contend vigorously and have a great chance to win this state and many other states.

Our message is that we're ready to compete with John McCain across this country and make the case for change as he makes a case for more of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And, Kyra, that was from my interview last night with David Axelrod, the chief strategist of the Obama campaign. Really kind of laying it out for you. There was another thing that happened last night that was very significant. That was Barack Obama reaching out in a way that we have not heard before to Hillary Clinton.

He brought out his family, his wife and his daughters on stage and he said to Hillary Clinton that she has shattered barriers, that she's broken these myths, and that this is something that will really change the lives of his own daughters in the future going ahead.

So, he's clearly making a very strong pitch, a personal appeal, not only to Hillary Clinton but also to her supporters that now is the time to go to his side.

Kyra?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much. We'll keep checking in.

John? JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Here's a look at how last night's victory has changed the delegate math. Senator Barack Obama now has 1,953 delegates. That's including pledged delegates and superdelegates. Just 73 more now needed to cross that magic mark of 2,026 to clinch the nomination.

Senator Hillary Clinton's win gives her 1,770. She needs 256 more to clinch the nomination. Still available in the remaining three contests -- 86 delegates and 215 uncommitted superdelegates left.

Well, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama head to Florida today. The party still has to work out what to do with Florida's delegates. They're going to do that on May the 31st in a public meeting in Washington.

Clinton begins her day in Boca Raton, then campaigns through South Florida. Obama is holding a rally in Tampa, where some 20,000 people are expected. And that is where we find CNN's Jessica Yellin out there in the sunshine this morning.

Jessica, looks like we're back. I don't know. Have we gone back to January or are we looking ahead to the general election here?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are looking ahead to the general election in a big way at least for Barack Obama. He's showing up here at the St. Pete Times Forum later today. And Barack Obama knows that this state has enormous electoral and symbolic importance for the Democrats this year.

Florida went twice to Bush but it's also gone to Clinton and the Democrats want to reclaim it. So, he is showing up because he has not campaigned here because they had this rule saying that the delegates here don't count. So, Obama making his first visit here to Florida since the delegate rules were instated.

The St. Pete Times were telling today that winning here won't come easy to Barack Obama. He's going to have to campaign hard. He is visiting Tampa, then Orlando, and he'll be throughout the state in the next few days.

Senator Clinton, as you mentioned, John, also coming to the state. She is much more focused, though, on the primary. She wants those delegates to count. As you know, she won in the state and she wants the Democratic National Committee to sit all the delegates as they voted. Barack Obama saying, look, that wasn't the rule. And the Democratic National Committee goes on May 31st to decide exactly how that delegate seating will turn out.

So, a lot going on here in Florida today. It's a hugely important state and there always seems to be some sort of difficulty when it comes to voting here, doesn't there, John?

ROBERTS: Oh, there does seem to be a sort of a trend in that direction. Jessica Yellin for us this morning from Tampa -- the real battleground there in Florida, part of the I-4 corridor.

Jessica, thanks.

Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's bring our political panel back in once again. Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, a Clinton supporter and Liz Chadderdon who also supports Obama, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez and CNN political analyst John Dickerson.

First of all, did all of you know that John majored in -- he's actually a physicist? Did you know that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, see, I caught him.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: Which brings -- OK. But if you read what you wrote today in Slate.com - "Lady, You're in My Way" is the title. I want to get all of you to react to this.

John says, "The race for the Democratic nomination, "race" is hardly the right word, is it? Now she feels like a quantum physics problem: How long can body exist in a state approximating motionlessness without actually stopping?"

Can Obama do anything to get Clinton out of the race?

JOHN DICKERSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, no and he can't, and he probably shouldn't. You know, Hillary Clinton supporters have been very, very strong behind her and they continue to be so. Now, everybody thinks about the Obama movement, but she has this extraordinary movement of women behind her. And he needs those women in the general election.

We've talking a lot about white, blue-collar males, and that's an important part of his piece. But women, they are very important part of the Democratic equation to win in the general election. He doesn't want to do anything to take off those supporters and so he's not going to push her out of the race.

But the math is still very, very bad for her. It got worst last night as he took the lead in the pledged delegates. And so, it was a huge win for her last night in Kentucky, but that's not going to change this picture.

PHILLIPS: Well, I thought it was very interesting the way Obama stepped up and recognized Hillary Clinton and what she has or is going to do even for his daughters in the future. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've had our disagreements during this campaign, but we all admire her courage and her commitment and her perseverance and no matter how this primary ends, Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Leslie, they might be coming together. I don't know. This whole dream ticket conversation, it might be a reality.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's more of a train wreck. It could be a reality show, but I don't think it's necessarily reality. I do think it's an important point that John raises regarding women and their voting and how excited they are. To think about the 19 states that John Kerry won in 2004, 9 would have been lost without that gender gap. Critically important especially in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Ohio, where women tend to be open-minded, independent conservatives or weak Democrats. They can move and split ticket.

So, those are tremendously important goals and I think you have a lot of women who see this as 1976 all over again. This is Barack Obama who's getting kind of a free ride, a pass by the media. I know we've talked about it in the past, but there's still -- it's very much a line of thinking -- the tops of mind for older voters who want to see Hillary Clinton take it all the way to the end.

PHILLIPS: Yes, and 60 percent of the vote in Kentucky, that's a lot of people, Julian, that still want her to stay in the race.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Most Democrats want her to stay in the race. And you know, leaving aside this debate between quantum physics and classic physics for just a second there is a -- there is it's like the Einstein-Gore debate.

There are some basic rules of politics leaving again -- outside physics for a second -- that Obama must observe. He has to take it to the voters in places like West Virginia and Ohio. Simply boycotting West Virginia, I don't think was very intelligent. There's notion about stopping a re-vote in Florida and Michigan. I mean, that may be good for his delegate math right now, but I'm not sure if it's a particularly good general election strategy.

Obama is really going to have to step up. He's likely to be the nominee. He's really going to have to step up and start going after these voters in a much, much more effective and I think persuasive way. He's started to do that by being in Iowa last night, which I think was intelligent, even though some people think it was a victory lap

But he's really going to have to go after these voters because all of the data is showing that with Republicans so far down in the national polls because how Republicans have run this country into a ditch in the last eight years, McCain is still very, very competitive with Obama in about half a dozen to a dozen states where Obama ought to be winning.

PHILLIPS: So, Liz, what does he have to do? I mean, you heard the interview with our friend Cooter there, the former Georgia congressman, Ben Jones. And he said Obama has got to get down with the people. He's got to be eating the grits. He's got to be going to the NASCAR games. He's got to get the mountain people. He's got to get, as he calls, the "Rednecks in the Promised Land."

LIZ CHADDERDON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. And I think he's going to do that by talking more about economic issues. I mean, we are in a period with $4 gallon gas and $5 gallon milk. Those are the issues that relate no matter what state you're in, but they're definitely relating in some of the states like West Virginia, Kentucky, some of the Appalachian states, where the economic issues are really, really bad.

That's what he needs to talk about and I think that's what he is going to talk about once he becomes the nominee, which I do think is going to happen. And I wanted to say I agree that he absolutely has to bring women back -- the women that are currently wit Hillary Clinton over to his side once he's the nominee. And that's why he's doing this, thanking Hillary for all of her work, saying that she's changed the world for his daughters, which I thought was a great thing to say. And I don't think Senator Obama has ever said throughout this process that she should get out. He's saying, no, she has every right to stay in this race. We all know she is going to stay in the race. And that's the right thing for him to say.

PHILLIPS: Yes, we got to leave it right there.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: I promise you that. There's an issue of gender and women in this race. Thanks, you guys.

All right, John?

ROBERTS: Coming up on nine minutes after the hour now. Democrats ready to pull up a surprise win in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a one-trick phony. He doesn't know the trick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't apologize for caring about the plight of enslaved people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Our John Zarrella is finding out why a once reliable voting bloc may be having a change of heart in the sunshine state.

Plus, Senator Ted Kennedy facing some tough decisions -- how to treat his malignant tumor. We're getting a look inside the options with our own brain surgeon, Dr. Gupta, coming up next.

And we'll be talking with the former head of the National Institutes of Health who survived her own battle with brain cancer.

And later this hour, a CNN exclusive -- the U.S. power grid still vulnerable to cyber attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a skilled attacker wanted to penetrate the network, they could do it with ease.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: A disturbing new report on how hackers could put the country in the dark. Another CNN exclusive, ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, TED KENNEDY'S LONGTIME FRIEND: My dear friend, I love you and I miss you. And Erma, Erma, Erma, my darling wife, Erma, would want to say, thank God for you Ted. Thank God for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Senator Robert Byrd honoring his longtime friend Senator Ted Kennedy in the well of the Senate yesterday. Kennedy's doctors are waiting for more test results before deciding how to treat his malignant brain tumor that was discovered over the weekend.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a brain surgeon, operated on plenty of tumors himself, using software from the GE advantage workstation this morning to give us a look inside the brain and talk about what Senator Kennedy might be facing.

We're obviously looking at slices of the brain here, Sanjay. Where is his tumor located and what does it say about the possible options that he's looking at here?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, you're getting a pretty rare look here. You can sort of see as we slice up, you can see the eyes here, the mouth and nose. That is the top of the brain here. Come take a look at this slice over here, John. Orient yourself again. The eyes, nose up here.

This is the area of the brain that they're so concerned about. It's called the left parietal lobe. You can sort of blow it up a little bit. A lot of questions to be asked here. How superficial is it? How deep is it within the brain? How close is it to this area over here which is responsible for motor strength or area just in front of that which is responsible for speech. These are some of the questions they're trying to answer probably right now.

John?

ROBERTS: Do these tumors tend to be focal or are they diffuse? I mean, in terms of going in there -- to try and get it out surgically, what would a doctor be facing.

GUPTA: The best way I sort of describe this to people -- think about this almost like an octopus. It is local, but it has these tentacles which often sort of reach out which make this thing malignant. It doesn't spread throughout the body, typically, John, but this is the type of tumor that will spread throughout the brain like these tentacles in various areas.

ROBERTS: So, that makes it very difficult to get out, particularly if it's going in to see this motor or speech centers of the brain?

GUPTA: That's right. And I give you just another quick look at it over here like this. If you take a look at the side of the brain now and sort of just flip this around, reorient yourself again. Here you have the spine, the eyeballs again. We're talking about this particular area. Yes. Those tentacles sort of reach out and get into various areas of the brain.

ROBERTS: You and I were speaking about this last evening when you were, you know, going through programming the software. He had a what's called carotid endarterectomy where they slice out the carotid artery and scrape out the plaque.

Would that had any -- I guess, that would be totally unrelated to this, wouldn't it? But would they have taken some scans at the time which might give an indication how long this tumor has been there?

GUPTA: They probably would have. It's a great question. Let me just show you real quick here, when we look specifically at the carotid artery, you can actually strip away some of the skin here and then strip away -- let's see here -- strip away some of the muscle as well and you see the blood vessels down here.

That's where the vessels are actually been operated. They probably would have done a little scanning. See the jawbone, see the artery coming up. Doctors operate in that very region. They would have done a scan probably at that time, John, it's a good point because maybe they didn't see anything, which just gives you an idea of how fast this particular tumor can grow.

ROBERTS: Wow. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. Sanjay, thanks.

Kyra?

PHILLIPS: The nomination now within reach. But a potential Barack Obama/John McCain match up in November has some recalling a low point in Democratic history 36 years ago.

Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Rudy Giuliani says they both got something right. Barack Obama got dead wrong. The former candidate weighs in on the war over diplomacy, straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: John McCain looking to shore up support among Cuban- American voters. He was in South Florida saying he would maintain the embargo on Cuba if he's elected president. McCain criticized Barack Obama for what he calls a willingness to sit down with Cuban leader Raul Castro.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro, an unconditional meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never said that I was prepared to immediately normalize relations with Cuba. The only person who's flip-flopped on this issue is John McCain, who in 2000 said that he would be prepared to start normalizing relations even if a whole host of steps had not yet been taken. That's a reversal from the position he's taking now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Obama said that his policy would be a show of good faith that would help move the U.S.-Cuba relationship in the direction of normalization.

ROBERTS: But Democrats in South Florida are sensing an opportunity, targeting Republicans who have staunchly backed the embargo. CNN's John Zarrella explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big political fight is brewing in South Florida, and it pits Cuban-American against Cuban-American. Democrat Joe Garcia is running for U.S. Congress against Republican incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart.

JOE GARCIA (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is your form to register to vote.

ZARRELLA: Garcia needs every vote he can get, including looking to newly sworn-in American citizens. For years, his opponent, Diaz- Balart has been virtually untouchable. Garcia claims Diaz-Balart is obsess with Cuba.

GARCIA: He's a one-trick pony who doesn't know the trick.

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: I don't apologize for caring about the plight of enslaved people.

ZARRELLA: Garcia says Diaz-Balart is in lockstep with a tired warned Bush hard line stand against Cuba.

GARCIA: Visionless status quo policy towards Latin-American, particularly towards Cuba, has turned off a lot of people, and I think it's created an opening.

ZARRELLA: Democrats are also going after the congressional seats of two other powerful Cuban-Americans. Mario's brother, Lincoln, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Democrats say a growing disenchantment with the Republican Party has made all three incumbent vulnerable. LOURDES DIAZ, CUBAN-AMERICAN DEMOCRAT: We have been made a lot of promises by the Republican Party. They come here, they say, you know, Viva la Libertad, down with Fidel Castro, and then they ignore us.

ZARRELLA: Diaz-Balart says he has heard it all before.

DIAZ-BALART: The reality is there's no change. This community is steadfast, it's solid. It understands the value of freedom.

ZARRELLA: Republican leaders here say Senator Barack Obama actually helped their cause when he stated he would meet with Raul Castro. That, they say, with will unify Cuban-Americans for John McCain and it's a theme they intend to play up from now until November. John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And Republicans in South Florida say they are now focusing on many non-Cuba issues including Everglades restoration and funding for a new military headquarters in Miami. The president will make remarks on Cuba this morning at 10:25 Eastern in the east room of the White House. CNN will of course provide live coverage of the event for you.

PHILLIPS: Hey, you're watching the Most News in the Morning. Can Barack Obama beat John McCain in the critical swing states, or is he headed for a repeat of a legendary Democratic disaster?

ROBERTS: And a flyfish to be seen caught on tape. Some wild video. And all the days news ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

PHILLIPS: Have you catch a flyfish?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: It's not yet a done deal, but Barack Obama is closer than ever to the Democratic nomination. Some have said an Obama-John McCain race could be reminiscent of George McGovern's presidential bid which failed miserably in 1972. Gary Hart remembers that. He managed the campaign. He went on to become a senator, though, and ran for president in 1984. Gary Hart who is supporting Obama joining me live now from Denver.

Good to see you, sir.

GARY HART, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Great pleasure. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, taking a look at last night, what do you think? Has Obama locked up the nomination in your view?

HART: No, I don't think he would claim that. But he's obviously getting very close. And what the importance of that, of course, is once he get some majority of the delegates, he, in effect, controls the convention and the party machinery. And that's the key thing from his campaign's point of view. PHILLIPS: So, how does he do it?

HART: How did you do it?

PHILLIPS: How does he do it? How does he move forward? You're saying it's not clinched yet.

HART: Well, we've got at least three more states, and then the remaining superdelegates will be under great pressure after June 3rd to make a decision. And I think he will have the nomination by mid- June. And then it's a question of party consolidation, organization of the convention, and he has already wisely, I think, begun the fall campaign.

PHILLIPS: Yet there's an increasingly troubling trend going on in the party right now. I want you to take a look at this exit poll in Kentucky last night that revealed a further exodus of the Clintonides, you know, should Obama become the nominee. Take a look at the numbers here.

You know, McCain 41 percent, Obama 33 percent, and those that would not vote 23 percent. Two-thirds of Clinton supporters said they would vote Republican or not at all. How big of a problem is this for Democrats?

HART: Well, if that holds true, it is a problem. But I don't think it's going to hold true. If Democrats vote for John McCain given all that's happened in the last 7-1/2 years, it will be a travesty. And I just simply don't see that happening.

I think when the sides are drawn more clearly, that is to say, between Senator Obama and Senator McCain and against the backdrop of the endless Iraq war and a declining economy and rising gas prices and people losing their jobs, if they vote for John McCain, then there is little hope for people like that.

PHILLIPS: So, if, indeed, it comes down to Obama and McCain in the general election, do you believe that Obama can beat him?

HART: Oh, no question. And frankly, looking at it from right now, I think it will be by a sizable margin.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's go back. Analysts are comparing this potential McCain-Obama match up to the Nixon-McGovern match up from 1972. You managed that campaign. An editorial in "The Chicago Tribune" urges McCain to follow Nixon's lead. And here's what it says --

"Nixon turned McGovern's pledge for peace into a prescription for disaster, charging that McGovern was a defeatist, unpatriotic, would forfeit for naught the tens of thousands of lives already lost and create unmitigated havoc in Southeast Asia."

Do you see any cautionary similarities there?

HART: Not at all. I can't imagine what was going on in the mind of the editorial writer. This is a totally different situation. The country was deeply divided and the Democratic Party was deeply divided about Vietnam in '72. Right now, two-thirds or more of the people in this country think we ought to get out of Iraq, and they've felt that for two years.

In fact, the Democratic Party is being criticized for not ending the war quickly enough in the Congress. So, the vast majority of the American people have decided this was a very bad venture and want to get out of it as quickly as they can. And, therefore, they will vote for a Democrat.

PHILLIPS: And then again, there are a number of critics that come forward and say there is a lot of division within the Democratic Party to kind of contradict what you're saying there, which is interesting. So tell me why you believe there isn't division and what would be your advice to Obama now?

HART: There is no major difference that I can see on the issues between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both agreed that they will, if elected, liquidate the war in Iraq and turn their attention to rebuilding the American economy.

There is no major division of the sort that we had in '68 or '72. This is a difference of personalities and of generations. The same kind of contest that I was involved in in '84. And I think the Democratic Party and the country is now looking for a new generation of leadership and that's why Barack Obama is going to be elected.

PHILLIPS: Gary Hart, appreciate your time today.

HART: Great pleasure.

PHILLIPS: John?

ROBERTS: Well, former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is now working on behalf of John McCain. Earlier on AMERICAN MORNING --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: ...against the visually impaired because U.S. paper currency is all the same size. The Treasury Department may appeal to the Supreme Court that could mean it could be years before they might be any change in U.S. currency.

Incredible story. A police officer is recovering this morning after being hit by an out of control pickup truck. The officer is being credited with pushing two people out of harm's way before being hit and it was all caught on tape. The officer was responding -- amazing, right? That officer was responding to an accident just outside Detroit when that happened. The driver of the pickup was arrested on suspicious of operating a vehicle while impaired. The officer has been released from the hospital.

And fleet week begins today here in New York. Are you familiar with this one, Kyra?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Of course. We all know about those warships.

CHO: Five of them. I'm not talking about the warships. Five American warships will drop anchor for the 21st annual observance. More than 3,000 sailors and marines will paint the town. Three Canadian ships will also arrive for the eight-day event. There will be tours, simulated combat demonstrations and there will be a whole lot of drinking.

PHILLIPS: A lot of crew cuts, too. That's when you know it's fleet week.

CHO: A lot of uniforms.

ROBERTS: they're going to have to lock you in your room for three days.

CHO: I was going to say, women tend to spend a lot of time outside during fleet week for some reason.

PHILLIPS: ... fighters on any carriers. That's the only thing that will draw me out to the ships, I'll tell you that.

ROBERTS: They'll find them. For you, they'll find them.

PHILLIPS: All right. Severe storms knocking out power to thousands of people in north Georgia. We're going to tell you where the rough weather is coming up.

ROBERTS: Also, gridlock. The group charged with overseeing part of America's power grid claims most of the facilities are no longer vulnerable to terrorism. Not so fast, says one representative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On appearance, they just made those numbers up.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is that acceptable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not acceptable. It's outrageous. It's unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Our Jeanne Meserve on how vulnerable we really are. That story when AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 34 minutes now after the hour. Nearly 10 million people in the United States could be without power all thanks to a few key strokes by a cyber attacker. A congressional hearing today will look at gaping holes in the computer systems that control electricity in this country. Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is live in Washington with a look this morning. Jeanne, just how vulnerable is the system these days? JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Well, John, the largest publicly owned utility in the country with 52 nuclear hydro and fossil fuel power facilities is vulnerable to attack by computer. That's the bottom line of a new report obtained by CNN. The Tennessee Valley Authority provides electricity to almost nine 9 million people in the southeast. But the lights could go out. In a new report obtained by CNN, the Government Accountability Office says the utility has failed to adequately secure the control systems that run its power plants from cyber attack, leaving them vulnerable to disruption.

JOHN BUMGARNER, U.S. CYBER CONSEQUENCES UNIT: If a skilled attacker wanted to penetrate the network, they could do it with ease.

MESERVE: And that could cause a blackout that could cascade beyond the TVA's region, knocking out power to a larger portion of the country. Last September, CNN first showed you dramatic video of what a cyber attack could do. The footage of a government experiment called Aurora shows a cyber attack on a control system actually destroying an electric generator. Generators can take months to replace. In October, the nongovernmental group that oversees the power system told Congress that 75 percent of utilities had closed the aurora vulnerability. But Congress has now determined that statement was misleading.

REP. JIM LANGEVIN (D), RHODE ISLAND: On appearance, they just made those numbers up.

MESERVE: Is that acceptable?

LANGEVIN: It's not acceptable. It's outrageous. It's unacceptable.

MESERVE: The group says it regrets the confusion, but as a result, Langevin says, there is no clear picture of just how vulnerable utilities are to cyber attack. There is one piece of disturbing evidence, however - CNN contacted Cooper Industries, which experts say is the only manufacturer of hardware that can close the aurora vulnerability. The company estimated it would need to sell about 10,000 devices to fix the problem nationwide. It has sold just over 100.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Langevin says he will be pressing to give the federal government new authority so it can make sure utilities do what they have to do to protect the power supply we all depend on. John.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to more coverage of that hearing later on today. Jeanne Meserve for us in Washington this morning. Jeanne, thanks.

PHILLIPS: You're watching the most news in the morning. Doctors waiting for more tests before deciding how to treat Senator Ted Kennedy's brain tumor. But coming up, we'll meet a woman given he same diagnosis and you know what, she beat the odds. Senator Barack Obama inching ever closer to that nomination finish line. So, how would he fare against Senator John McCain? John King is at the magic wall for a cross country look once AMERICAN MORNING returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Our chairman of the board, John King in just a moment at the magic wall. But first, tracking extreme weather, a wildfire in Fresno County, California has burned more than a dozen homes and 400 acres we're told. Officials there have not issued an evacuation order yet, but a lot of homeowners have already left on their own.

And thousands of people in the dark after storms rolled through northern Georgia. Tornado warnings were up, but a twister has not yet been confirmed. Rob Marciano is tracking it all for us. Rob, what are you finding?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Well, Kyra, we have, like you said, two reports of tornadoes, actually three, one in Montana, but two on the map here that did do some damage. We first take you to one in Charlotte, just north of Charlotte where they're having the Coca- Cola 600 this weekend, so campers being turned around here just south of Concord. But the twister itself or suspected twister just south of Charlotte. All right. To Atlanta we go, north of Atlanta, and Cherokee County, where we had the damage yesterday evening.

Aside from this twister, we also had a lot of hail. I mean, in some cases hail that in diameter almost over four inches. So, you're talking about grapefruit, softball-sized hail. That was really the big story. Very, very dark clouds around north Georgia yesterday. Today we are clear. So it looks like we're looking good. Drier air has moved in and most of the instability is gone. Instability beginning to fire up across the west with showers rolling in through here on top of some big-time snow melt. We've got the potential for seeing floods in some of the mountain rivers from Missoula over to Bozeman and the Billings as well towards parts of western Colorado.

The pattern has shifted. We still have this cool, damp kind of area across the northeast. It won't be too damp, but it will be kind of cool. Heating up in this area, and this area is where we'll see the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms over the next several days, but the big story out west is the relief of the heat. Yesterday, Yuma, 112. Phoenix 108. Austin 101. Houston 95 and Salt Lake City 93. You guys should be up in the 70s up there in New York for Memorial Day weekend. Not too shabby.

PHILLIPS: That will be nice considering all the rain and trekking through these streets. It's not fun, as you know, Rob. Having to walk home in the pouring rain in New York when it's cold.

MARCIANO: Come on back to Atlanta. We'll welcome you back.

PHILLIPS: I'm working on it. I'll see you soon.

MARCIANO: All right. See you. PHILLIPS: John.

ROBERTS: Senator Barack Obama now nearing the finish line for the nomination. So, how would he match up against Senator John McCain in the national election? Let's go to the magic wall, our chief national correspondent John King. So, do the math for us. Play with the board.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fascinating because Hillary Clinton says it's not over yet but in the Obama campaign and most of the Democratic Party and certainly in the Republican Party, the McCain campaign are preparing for this.

ROBERTS: Even James Carville said this morning likely it's --

KING: That was quite telling. He sounded resigned to it. So, let's start with the basic math of the last election. Assign McCain what George W. Bush won. Assign Obama what John Kerry won in the last election. There's no reason to believe the map will be exactly the same but play it out starting with that. How would these candidates make a difference. Let's start with Barack Obama. You just heard Gary Hart talking to Kyra. He says, you know, the Obama campaign, we're registering new voters, especially out here in the mountain west, in the plain states. So maybe Colorado, we could switch that from red to blue. Look at what that would do?

ROBERTS: How many electoral votes?

KING: 270 to win it in Colorado. Right there. See it. Nine electoral votes. So you start to move the Republican map back a little bit. Barack Obama also says, you know, George Bush just won New Mexico, only five electoral votes, but if I can swing that back, I get a little more.

ROBERTS: Chipping away a little bit at a time.

KING: The huge fight will be over Latino voters. The Democrats think because of the immigration debate and otherwise they can make some progress there. Arizona trying to be safe for McCain. But maybe out here in Nevada, five more electoral votes. Just those three states, if you start with the Bush map, push McCain underneath and get Obama to the finish line. But we would not be done there. Number one, back here, Obama again from his perspective says, you know what, high African-American turnout, they already have two in a row. Virginia has had Democratic governors, maybe I can turn that 13 electoral votes from red to blue.

ROBERTS: But even if you switch Virginia back, he still gets across the line. This is part of that western strategy that they're talking about, which is an alternate route, which if you get a big state like Pennsylvania, you don't need to win Ohio or Florida.

KING: Correct. Because the Democrats are gaining out here anyway. They believe they can make more progress but the reason he may need Virginia, is remember this is Clinton's argument, he's struggling with those white, working-class voters, she thinks she can make Ohio blue, doesn't think Barack Obama can, say of course West Virginia and possibly Kentucky. This could become one of the key fall battlegrounds right here. 21 electoral votes, has not voted Republican in a long time. John McCain thinks Barack Obama's problem with white, working-class voters and with older voters, this is the second oldest state in the country, could turn that one and then that would immediately would flip it back.

So, Barack Obama has to work on it here. And McCain also thinks at this early juncture, and this is debatable, but on this map, he would include the possibility of turning Wisconsin and the possibility of turning Minnesota. So, McCain starts with a map of about 300 electoral votes in play. Obama says I'll fight you for those and keep those, but in the end, John, if you want to look at it now, essentially we're looking at 10 to 12 states now. We'll probably knock a few of these off as we get closer, McCain won New Hampshire. He thinks they like him up there. Independent voters, more libertarian state, but these are the states that we have highlighted here likely to be the big battlegrounds in the end. And these two guys start, even though the fundamentals so favor the Democrats, they start with a very competitive electoral map.

ROBERTS: Conventional wisdom as it comes down to either Ohio or Florida. Will it be that way or would some of these other states in play, is there another way to get there?

KING: Because they are so big, there are other ways to get there, but you have to run the board. Barack Obama would have to hold these and pick up those. The reason these states loom so important is no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio, it happens to be cliche but it also happens to be true. So if Barack Obama could somehow change that state, which is why the governor, a Clinton supported, Ted Strickland, factors in his VP. If he could change that, and it really hurts the Republican map. And again, this state, remember Gore v. Bush?

ROBERTS: Yes.

KING: 500 and something votes down here. 27 electoral votes. And again down here, Obama's problem is with older voters. Hillary Clinton has had great success among older voters. So Barack Obama, if you're looking at what does he have to do now if he clinches? Work on older voters, critical down here and here, and work on white, blue- collar voters right in this area.

ROBERTS: So, whoever's on the campaign trail will be spending an awful lot of time in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania.

KING: We have plenty of time. You want to take the show on the road. John, plenty of diners in those places.

ROBERTS: John, thanks very much. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: CNN NEWSROOM just minutes away now. Tony Harris at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Glad you made it to the set there, Tony. TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I was running a little close there, Kyra. Good to see you. Good morning, everyone. The great race on the NEWSROOM rundown for you. No primary there but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigning in Florida today. They split victories in Tuesday's primary states.

This woman, how about this woman, trapped for nine days by the China quake. The dead now numbers more than 41,000.

Gas at a new record high. Ditto for crude. Oil tops $130 a barrel for the first time today. Oil and gas execs, get to Capitol Hill right now. Join us in the NEWSROOM top of the hour on CNN. Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Tony. Thank you.

Will parrots pick a president?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ah, for the good old days, when parrots said things like PolLy want a cracker?

Or the old stand by.

POLLY: Polly want a cracker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

MOOS: Now it's Polly want a president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to vote for Barack Obama?

POLLY: Barack Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Oh, yeah. The political battle pretty much goes to the birds. Jeanne Moos gets the scoop when AMERICAN MORNING continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: This morning, doctors are waiting for more tests before they determine the best course of treatment for Senator Ted Kennedy's brain tumor. While some experts say that the prognosis is grim, there is always hope. Dr. Bernadine Healy is the editor of "U.S. News & World Report." She used to also be the head of the National Institutes of Health and the Red Cross. She was diagnosed with a similar malignant brain tumor ten years ago but she beat the odds and she has written a book about it, called "Living Time." Faith in fact have transformed she joins us now. Dr. Healy, it's great to see you. Tell us a little bit about your experience and how it might inform us as to what's happening with Senator Kennedy.

DR. BERNARDINE HEALY, EDITOR, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT:" Well, John, it wasn't terribly different from what the senator is going through in that you're feeling perfectly fine, and out of the blue you have a symptom, a seizure, which is what the senator had, what I had. You wake up from the seizure and say what's going on? I feel great. You can see from his pictures that he looks wonderful. He's with his family. He's the same Ted Kennedy. These tumors tend to grow slowly. You don't know they're there. And when they show up, they show up with this kind of symptom. Now, what he's also experiencing is people looking at him and saying, oh, this is grim, this is terrible, referring to him in the past tense, John. And that happened to me, too. And you have to resist it. Imagine you're the patient who's ready to fight this cancer, not to lie down and be buried by it.

ROBERTS: Yes. In your book, you said you were lying there in the emergency room in a Cleveland Clinic thinking to yourself, so, this is how I die? And here you are ten years later and I mean, you were to become the head of the Red Cross, and now the editor of "U.S. News & World Report" and things are going great for you.

HEALY: That's right. And that's what every patient has to understand. When you look at it from 5,000 feet up and all the pundits talk about how many months someone has to live, those are the averages. They can be misleading. You must give the patient always the benefit of the doubt. Be optimistic. And there are patients who live longer, and Senator Kennedy is in his living time, he's not in his dying time and let's not take that away from him.

ROBERTS: Now, there are many different kinds of brain tumors. Yours was an oligodendroglyoma.

HEALY: Hey, you got it.

ROBERTS: Thank you and we don't know what his is but what were your treatment options and might his be?

HEALY: For all of the malignant tumors, the gliomas, since you can almost never get them entirely out, they tend to infiltrate the brain, the surgeons usually try and get as much out as they can without harming function. And in this case, it is in the parietal lobe, and it is fairly close to the speech center, so they have to be careful.

ROBERTS: And you were actually awake during your surgery, right, and they were talking to you because yours was very near the speech center?

HEALY: For the very reason so that they would stay away from the speech center. I always say it was the most important speech I made in my life. And in fact, I think I am still speaking and understanding and I think that's the same concern they have with the senator. But the important thing is we have these options. We have surgery. There is radiation, which is an historic therapy, and just starting about ten years ago there has become the use of chemotherapy early on in the course of these tumors. And that's largely, John, determined by the genetic profile of the tumors, which is also something new. So, there are new things on the horizon that had been emerging for past ten years, and I think they will help the senator.

ROBERTS: And Dr. Healy, I can confirm that you're speaking absolutely beautifully this morning. What about this? There are also researchers at Cedars Sinai who are doing some work into a cancer vaccine? How promising is that? Is it ready for clinical application yet?

HEALY: Well, it's going to be in clinical trial. So, I think as they map out of the senator's treatment course with him and with his family, this will be one of many experimental therapies that will be considered. There is a whole theory, very rich treatment options going that route. And I think first step will be what is the tumor specifically, what is its genetic profile, what are the best conventional therapies that we can use, including chemotherapy, and then, if that doesn't work, usually that's when they move on an experimental therapy. So, there is a lot of fight here for the senator and he is a fighter and I think that's what we have to focus on.

ROBERTS: And you are living proof that you can beat the odds even when the initial prognosis is grim. Dr. Bernardine Healy, it's great to see you .n Thanks for coming in this morning.

HEALY: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: All right. I appreciate it. Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, as you know, Senator Ted Kennedy's condition has prompted an outpouring of reaction. Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with some of you I-reports. Lot of e-mails, lots of calls and his colleagues.

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Lots of e-mails and lots of calls. Yes, you're right, his colleagues. And our i- reporters especially paying tribute to Senator Kennedy this morning.

Russell sent us this photo and says "my grandchildren will know him and the many things he and his brothers did to fight for labor, the civil rights, the poor and children. My family's prayers go out to Mr. Kennedy and his family. Godspeed."

You know, it's times like this when people want to share their stories. And we have received some amazing stories of survival after a brain tumor diagnosis. This one from Sheryl (Browles) in Oregon says she was diagnosed with a tumor in 2000, told she only had one year to live. She said even though I have what is considered terminal cancer, the last eight years have been the best in my life. I've raced in mini triathlons, bike around crater lake, climbed Mt. Shasta, coached a baseball team and much more. I figure if I keep busy and moving, the GBM, or glioblastoma will never catch up to me. I am a survivor

Now, if you'd like to share your stories, you can always logon to i-report.com. You know, Sheryl was saying she was diagnosed with GBM back in 2000. She also says that the last time she had an MRI, no sign of a tumor. PHILLIPS: That's a great story.

DE LA CRUZ: Amazing story.

ROBERTS: Yes and as we said with Bernadine Healy, who had a different type of tumor -- and we got to remind people we don't yet know what Senator Ted Kennedy has - but you can beat the odds. It's possible, positive attitude part of it.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Veronica.

ROBERTS: Veronica, thanks.

Barack Obama's campaign not only has legs, it has wings. Jeanne Moos introduces us to a fine-feathered friend who is voicing his support for Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, check this out. Pretty remarkable footage, wouldn't you say? A fish literally flying into the record books. A TV crew actually caught this off the coast of Japan. Captured the fish completely airborne for 45 seconds. It was traveling about 20 miles an hour. And you can see occasionally, it sorts of taps into the water with its tail to gain a little momentum. The fish's flight time, well, it breaks the previous record by three seconds and when you want to catch a flying fish?

ROBERTS: Yes, a viewer in New Brunswick wrote in this morning and said that fly-fishing, of course.

PHILLIPS: Creative.

ROBERTS: They live along the Salmon River there in New Brunswick.

PHILLIPS: Oh, salmon. I like that.

ROBERTS: I learn about fishing. Well, the presidential candidates do an awful a lot of flying but you might be surprised to learn that some of their supporters also have wings.

PHILLIPS: They talk too. Now, if they could only vote. It's the most Moos in the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know when Barack Obama says --

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we can.

MOOS: And the crowd parrots it?

CROWD: Yes, we can!

MOOS: Well, now --

SMOKEY: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

MOOS: Even the parrots are parroting it. Oh, yes, Smokey can.

SMOKEY: Obama. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

MOOS: Can you believe it? Take it from Smokey's owner, who produces commercials in California.

VOICE OF DOUG DILG, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Obama will come on and be speaking and he'll hear Obama go, Obama, yes, we can, yes, we can.

MOOS: Ah, for the good old days when parents said things like -

PARROT: Ahhh -

MOOS: Or the old standby.

POLLY: Polly want a cracker?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

MOOS: Now, it's Polly want a president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to vote for Barack Obama?

POLLY: Barack Obama.

MOOS: Maybe he's another Obama supporter. But Hillary has hers, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want Hillary to win?

MOOS: Who's parroting who with all the nodding? But Smokey has the most extensive political vocabulary.

SMOKEY: Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

MOOS: He's flying around the web attracting comments like limit that bird's CNN viewing. Doug, how do we know that's really the parrot speaking?

DILG: Well, you can see that it's him, can't you?

MOOS: Well, it sort of - I don't read beaks well. Smokey doesn't just talk politics.

DILG: He says "oh, my god" a lot. And for some reason it sounds like "oh my cow" on this recording.

MOOS: Oh, my cow is right. Listen closely. You'll hear barking. Was that the dog or is that the parrot?

DILG: That's Smokey.

MOOS: Barking?

DILG: Yes, that's Smokey barking.

MOOS: The parrot parrots the family dog. [ barking ] Smokey began squawking Obama slogans around the time the Will I am video started making the rounds.

WILL I AM, SINGER/SONGWRITE: Yes, we can.

SMOKEY: Yes, we can.

Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

MOOS: But for the bird who says no, I can't, how about this as a slogan for the parrot who doesn't care about any of the candidates?

PARROT: Whatever. Whatever. Whatever.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

ROBERTS: Yes, if the bird can say yes, we can, but can he say si se puede?

PHILLIPS: Just a little Spanish there. I keep thinking Jimmy Buffet. I want to hear "cheeseburgers in paradise."

ROBERTS: Thanks for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you back here again tomorrow.

PHILLIPS: CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris begins right now.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are it the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: You will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Wednesday, May 21st. Here's what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: The battle over disqualified delegates. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama campaigning in Florida today. They split the primary