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Decision Day;

Aired May 31, 2008 - 15:00   ET


ICKES: A concession? Give me a break. Under their formula, Hillary Clinton loses delegates, not gains delegates. It is just a perversion of words to call that a concession.

REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS-JONES, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I also want to add that how is it, how could it be that here we are with the Democratic Party that one of the candidates is going to propose that they are giving us a break. He's not the nominee yet. We have the opportunity, we're still in this race, we're still going to be part of it and how could he then propose to me, oh, here's the gift on our engagement. Come on!

BLANCHARD: The key here again from my point of view is how do we go forward in Michigan and carry the state for our nominee? And how do we do that in Florida? The goal here is to elect a new Democratic president and change the country, and change our policies in the world in November. It isn't to argue over a couple of delegates here or there. And if the voters aren't respected in those two states, however the primary was run, I am concerned, deeply concerned and I think most voters would feel that way.

Most voters watching right now would say that I thought every vote counts, I thought I count. I thought this is a democracy. That's what's really at stake. That's what I'm hoping and trust that the rules committee will do the right thing.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Howard down here. Regardless of what the Rules Committee --

Ron Kirk who is an Obama supporter. Let me just get your take on what we heard. Some pretty tough language there.

RON KIRK, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I think its more heat than life. The reality, there are rules around every game. You can care passionately about electing your candidate in the primaries but if you show up at the polls at 8:00 and the polls closed at 7:00 as they do in most states you don't get to vote. You're passionate, you believe every vote ought to count, but that's one of the rules. The party has the right to enforce its rules. But in the big picture, I think it's clear that there's going to be some resolution of the issue on Florida.

Michigan is a little more difficult, I'm not so sure they aren't just bargaining at this point by asking that they not only have full reinstatement of the delegates but at full voting strength but the committee's got to make a decision not only that resolves this for the day but doesn't create absolute chaos the next time we go to the polls, the next time around. Because it is going to be precedent setting. But I do find it a bit curious now that these leaders from Michigan in particular are so passionate about protecting the interest of their voters but none of them gave that thought when they willfully made the decision as Senator Levin mentioned to go ahead and violate the party's rules and say we're going to have a primary anyway when it was made crystal clear that if you do this, those votes may not count and your delegates aren't going to be seated.

BROWN: You pointed out earlier, Jeff, that's part of the reason why there isn't nearly as much sympathy for Michigan as there has been for Florida in trying to get those delegates.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR ANALYST: Absolutely not, Michigan is a much less sympathetic case. However the thing that struck me about the whole Michigan debate, the second half of the morning's proceedings was that Hillary Clinton's interests are not really aligned with the Michigan people's interest. There are people there who want to settle this issue today even if it helps Hillary Clinton somewhat; it doesn't help them as much as Hillary Clinton wants to win. So even if Michigan is resolved on terms favorable to her, it won't be as favorable as she wants.

BROWN: Robert, I'm sorry.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I think the point here is that the proposal by the Michigan leadership has no basis by their own admission in the rules and bylaws of the Democratic Party. I think what we're missing here is the answer is not whether the decision favors Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the answer is first of all, let's be realistic, it is absolutely scandalous that there was not a revote held in both states, but that's history. Now going forward, the issue is making sure that the decision is based upon the rules, respecting the vote and respecting the bylaws of the Democratic Party.

BROWN: Suzanne talk a little bit about what's been going on behind the scenes because there have been efforts made to try reach some sort of compromise.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure and what you're going to see after the lunch break is the committee is going to try to come forward. And what they are trying to do here is instead of a 50/50 split doesn't work for Michigan then perhaps 60 for Clinton and 40 for Obama. The Obama camp feels as well as some other that would help. What would help this argument here is to bring in Edwards, Richardson, Biden and say, OK the uncommitted 40 percent, we approve that this goes strictly to Obama, this is something that we're weighing in that we feel is a fair resolution.

Whether or not that's going to go over, I don't know, but I already spoke with someone in the Edwards campaign, who not surprisingly, he endorsed Obama, he said sure, go ahead, I think that's a fair way of dealing with it.

TOOBIN: But what makes Michigan hard under the rules is that there is precedent in the Democratic Party that says when uncommitted is on the ballot, uncommitted is where the delegates go. And what they're trying to do is reach a compromise from uncommitted goes to Barack Obama. I have no doubt that they can do that because that's a political process, it's not a legal process, they can figure out a way to compromise, but it is a departure from how the rules have been interpreted previously.

BROWN: We can see really heated debate and discussion coming up when they come back in about an hour from now.

TOOBIN: We can only hope.

BROWN: Well, who -- do we think this is going to get resolved today? Ron.

KIRK: It's got to get resolved today. I enjoyed watching the passionate, I'm wearing so many hats as a former elected official but I'm also a former secretary of state and I do take one issue with one thing that Robert said with the singular exception of maybe Kathleen Harris, there's another secretary of state in America that would have advised that you could of come back and have done a revote under these difficult circumstances, but back to your broader point I don't think one person's mind was changed in that room today.

TOOBIN: I agree.

KIRK: These members know they have a job to do. They've given Senator Clinton every opportunity to get this resolved through other means toward that, but they're now ready, they've heard the evidence, people have to feel good about having had a chance to have their case made, but hopefully I think they're going to make a decision by the end of the day.

ZIMMERMAN: First of all, Ron, if you were secretary of state in Florida, I have no doubt it would be a fair and impartial revote. I have no doubt you would pull that off. But the other point here is even though you have Senator Clinton and Obama supporters in the rules and bylaws committee you also have a number of very independent actors on that stage that are veterans of four or five presidential campaigns. So I think we'll see some real debate and dialogue and yes, I think there will be a consensus and if Carl Levin wants to go to the credentials committee, he'll march alone.

BROWN: I wanted to bring someone else in. Juan Carlos Lopez is in Puerto Rico and spoke with Hillary Clinton about all of this just a short time ago. We want to hear what she had to say.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell. And Hillary Clinton, I asked Hillary Clinton if she thought that after Wednesday she would still be in the campaign, she said that she did. She will follow the campaign and that she hopes this will lead on, that the fight is still going on.


LOPEZ: Campbell, Hillary Clinton, talking about the race, she believes it won't be over by Wednesday. She hopes -- she says she will be in the campaign going further and saying that she believes her rival Barack Obama simply doesn't understand the rules because I asked her if some people says that she wants to change the rules after the game started, she believes that Barack Obama doesn't understand them well.

BROWN: All right. Juan Carlos we're going to work on getting that sound fixed on Hillary Clinton's interview that you did just a short time ago and we'll bring that to you shortly. Let me go back to Suzanne, I know you have a point to make a moment ago.

MALVEAUX: One of the things that struck me, the minutia, and both camps have been very consistent about their messages. We heard from Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and Harold Ickes it is all about voting rights and woman suffrage. That is obviously what they are pushing for here, that there is a bigger picture. And the Obama folks are saying this is about wrapping this thing up. This is obviously they want to compromise but they want to move beyond this process. It reflects where these two campaigns are right now.

The Obama folks jumping two steps ahead here. Let's get something expedient, it is fair let's get this done and really Clinton and her supporters are really emphasizing that this fight is not over yet, this about a much bigger issue.

BROWN: All right. Guys we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, John Roberts he is over at the magic wall and he's going to walk us through with all of his technology some of the scenarios we've been talking about and we have been hearing about in this hearing room all afternoon. Stay with us we will be right back.


BLITZER: It's decision day for the Democrats. The DNC, the Rules Committee has been meeting. They're on a lunch break right now, they're going to continue their deliberations very, very shortly let's bring in John Roberts. He's here at what we like to call our magic wall. We've got a lot of different scenarios. You include Michigan and Florida, don't include them, what's going on?

JOHN ROBERTS: We're going to need a little extra magic today Wolf to go through this whole thing. Just for reference purposes, here's where we are right now. Under the current rules 2,026 delegates needed to win. That's where Barack Obama is in 1,984 delegates. Hillary Clinton has 1,783. Number of proposals, Wolf, as you said, let's take one that is out there. It's counting half of Florida's delegates pledge and super and all of Michigan's delegates. You can see that the numbers change. Now the finish line is 2,152 delegates. These numbers change a little bit because superdelegates from both Michigan and Florida have pledged their preference.

Here's where Hillary Clinton is and here's where Barack Obama is. Now we're going to start to move things around. Bring out the state of Florida here. If you allocate 50 percent of the delegates that would give Barack Obama about 32 pledged delegate, Hillary Clinton would get about 47 of those. Now up in Michigan, talking about a number of different scenarios, Hillary Clinton wants a 73-55 split for those 128 delegates. Barack Obama looking for 64-64.

Carl Levin is recommending 59 for Barack Obama and 69 for Hillary Clinton. So let's put those in and you can see how that the numbers have moved now. You can see that there's still pretty much the same distance apart as they were before. Let's add in Puerto Rico now as a final point. Hillary Clinton leading in Puerto Rico quite substantially 55 pledged delegates. I think a 60/40 split is probably a good scenario to talk about, hypothetical let's just give her that. We will give her a 60 40 win which would give Barack Obama 22 delegates, Hillary Clinton would get 33 delegates. So there we've allocated all of the delegates from Florida, Michigan and Puerto Rico of course Montana and South Dakota still to go.

BLITZER: Next Tuesday.

ROBERTS: Next Tuesday on the 3rd. So where does that put us now? Here's where we are right now. Let's match it with the projections that we just made, Barack Obama now he is within 48 of winning. There are 54 delegates left. There should be only 41 because of Montana and South Dakota but there are some John Edwards delegates that haven't been allocated from Florida and Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd from Michigan and a few other states have not fully counted all of the delegates.

Just for argument's sake let's allocate those 50/50. Let's give Barack Obama 25 delegates and Hillary Clinton 25 delegates. Barack Obama now within 23. All he has to do is slice off a little piece of those and he's across the line. So the math is still very difficult for Hillary Clinton. She would need to make the argument, take these superdelegates back. She would need to make the argument to almost all of these superdelegates to support her to get her across the line.

BLITZER: It's really early at this point to convince those superdelegates she's more electable than Barack Obama would be against John McCain in November.

ROBERTS: Which is why they're making the arguments about the popular votes where she is strong as well. If we come back to our map here, these are the states that Hillary Clinton is --

BLITZER: The light blue.

ROBERTS: The dark blue is the states that Barack Obama has won. Let's look at it on a county level here. This tells the tale of the story that Hillary Clinton and the case that Hillary Clinton will make to the superdelegates. Look at the battleground states up here in the heartland. She wins so many of these rural counties. He wins the dark blue spots which are the urban areas, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, in here Indianapolis, Gary, Indiana a couple of places in Kentucky as well, but it's almost all light blue in that area and if you look down here in Florida as well, it's almost all light blue. Why is that important? Because if you transpose the results of the 2004 election. Look at all the red in here.

BLITZER: Those are counties that George W. Bush carried. ROBERTS: Republican strongholds in this area, so Hillary Clinton is saying when you take a look at the overlay, my wins versus what happened with George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, it almost mirrors it. I'm strong in these states. Now what does that mean for the general election? Let's bring up the electoral map. So Hillary Clinton argues that she can do well in Ohio. How many electoral votes are there in Ohio? 20. Let's just take a look here before we turn that blue. Here's the results as a point of reference from the 2004 election.

BLITZER: With John Kerry.

ROBERTS: We've allocated George Bush's 286 electoral votes to John McCain and Hillary Clinton's 252 that is what John Kerry got. So Hillary Clinton says I'm strong in Ohio. Maybe I can turn that one blue. She's over the line. Maybe she can't, she can perhaps get West Virginia with five votes. Doesn't quite get her there, perhaps she can turn Florida as well. So she's going to make the case to these superdelegates to say I beat Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, I beat Barack Obama in Ohio, I beat Barack Obama by a wide margin in West Virginia and I beat him in Florida as well. I am the stronger candidate to carry the party into the November election. If she wins all of those states, she hands John McCain his lunch. Will the superdelegates buy that argument? That's the question.

BLITZER: That's the argument she's going to try to make. You know, on this whole notion of giving 100 percent of the delegates to Michigan, 50 percent to Florida, it seems to me, the rules committee is going to have to make this decision. It's unrealistic they would have two standards, one for Michigan and one for Florida, don't you think?

ROBERTS: It is highly unlikely. What we're more likely to see 50/50 for both. And if you have that scenario then the finish line is 2,118. Graph that out linearly. You've got 245 pledged delegates left. Roughly 50/50 on that, so 120, 135, a little too many to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Barack Obama pretty much makes it across the finish line just with the 50/50.

BLITZER: If they do the 50/50 split he'll do better with the 50/50 split as opposed to 100 percent of the allocation of the seats.

ROBERTS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. John thanks very much.

ROBERTS: Just that one other scenario that Jon Ausman (ph) was talking about in Florida about having half the number of pledged delegates. The full number of superdelegates it gives Hillary Clinton a little bit bigger pool of superdelegates to try to take her across the finish line.

BLITZER: The combination is endless. Thanks, John. We'll take another quick break, when we come back; we'll go to Florida, see what the reaction is from down there. Our man on the scene is John Zarrella. And we're also going to go back to that hotel, Tom Foreman is standing by. Bill Schneider is at the CNN Election Express. is where you can get a whole lot more information. We're standing by for the resumption of this hearing. Much more of our political coverage right after this.


BLITZER: It's decision day for the Democrats in Washington D.C. Welcome back to our continuing coverage, I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. Our reporters have been assessing what's been going on as we've been watching this hearing of the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee. John Zarrella is down in Davey, Florida in Broward County. Tom Foreman is it over at the hotel and Bill Schneider is over at the CNN Election Express outside the hotel where the 30 members of the Rules Committee have been deliberating and hearing statements from the respective states.

Michigan and Florida as well as the various the two remaining campaigns. John Zarrella, what's the reaction from people down in Davey, Florida, and Broward County which is very heavily Democratic county in south Florida?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're at Lefties here, a tavern here, lot of Democrats gathering in Dade, Broward County, of course, a stronghold for Democratic politics in the state of Florida. We've been watching this whole process unfold. And Diane Glasser, you're the vice chairman of the Democratic Party of Florida. Are you OK with the way things seem to be shaking out? Perhaps everybody, all the delegates seated but you only get half a vote. You're a superdelegate; you may only get half a vote.

DIANE GLASSER, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I'm perfectly satisfied to get a half a vote. I think everybody should be treated fairly and we shouldn't be treated any differently than the delegates that got elected from the position. I'm happy with what's going on. If they can come to resolution of giving us all the delegates seat and give them a half a vote each including the super delegates, that pleases me immensely.

ZARRELLA: Now, Kathy, how about you? We've invited all of you Democrats here today to join us. Are you okay with all of this? I mean how do you think the state ought to be split up?

KATHY RICHARDS, DEMOCRATIC PARTY ACTIVIST: I think they should give it 50/50. I think that would stop this whole thing. Get on with the election because we would have a viable candidate.

ZARRELLA: Even though Hillary Clinton had more votes in the primary?

RICHARDS: I think it doesn't matter. I think we need to settle this today and start campaigning for the election. I think it's very important thing.

ZARRELLA: Bernie, you want this over with, you want to move on, is this hurting the Democratic Party? Is it going to hurt in November that this has dragged out so long?

BERNIE PARNESS: No, I think it's strengthened the party because Democrats like to put all the issues on the table, discuss them, I am very happy with the process now it's that come down to the final day, I think it should be over when the committee decides it, we should get on with our lives to defeat Republicans in November.

ZARRELLA: So, Wolf, I think what you're seeing, Wolf, there's this consensus, they all want this over with, but you know, not everybody is completely convinced that it ought to be a half a vote, it ought to be seat all the delegates but they want it over with. They want it over with today, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people want it over with. But you know what they say, John, it ain't over till it's over. Not over yet. I want to make one point; we invited those Democrats to come over to this restaurant and join you today, are that right?

ZARRELLA: That's right. We invited all these Democrats to join us today. At lot of folks are just people who came in off the street, just normally having parties, little league party here off to my left. And people we've spoken to here, a real mixed opinions on what they think ought to be done, but they all say, look, our votes ought to count and they all say we want to move on and we want to get ready for November, that's the consensus.

BLITZER: We might learn today, I say might learn today, whether the votes in Florida and in Michigan will count for anything as far as the Democratic presidential nominee is concerned. Stand by for that, John, thank you very much; we'll be getting back to you.

Tom Foreman is inside the Marriott Wardman Hotel where these deliberations have been going on. Give us a flavor, sense of what's happening behind the scenes. Because we saw there was some passion in front of the cameras.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is passion in the hallways, too, Wolf. When you talk to all the people here, there's very much an awareness of the fact that the general election is looming. However much more the Obama people say let's get it over with and get on with the general election and the Clinton people are saying not so much. The simple truth is in any situation like this, people are looking for some sort of compromise that means people giving things up. And almost every Clinton supporter I've spoken to here has made it clear they are very hesitant to work out any kind of compromise because they'll compromise their candidate right out of the race as John pointed out earlier, the numbers are bad right now.

You heard Harold Ickes who supports her on the committee here; at one point said she'll only lose this portion of the delegates. He said why don't you take 10? Why don't you take 20? Why don't you take them all? That's reflecting the sense that so many Clinton supporters have that she needs absolutely every delegate now and any compromise that loses any of those for her could lose the race. That's what you're hearing in the hallways, too, Wolf.

BLITZER: They'll be reconvening what in about 45 minutes or so from now. And then they'll go into their own deliberations in front of the cameras and make a final determination as best as they can. Is that your understanding, Tom?

FOREMAN: Yes, it is, Wolf. We know also that this has run longer than many people were predicting already in some ways. It is expected to run quite some time with those deliberations, as you know they met last night for five hours in a private meeting over dinner. The indication when they came out was not that they had made any more progress. Today they've gone through these steps. We don't even know how they divided the bill last night, but we'll see if in this public forum with all of these tempers and passions running so high if they can really reach an agreement that can stick with everyone.

The simple truth is someone is going to go away unhappy, maybe a lot of people, we'll find out what they can do about that.

BLITZER: They can just divide that tab at the restaurant and split amongst themselves that would be sort of fair. All right. Tom stand by. Bill Schneider is over at the CNN Election Express watching all of this. It's fair to say, you and I have been covering politics for a long time, I don't remember the last time if ever, we've had nationally televised hearings of the Democratic National Committee Rules Committee at this stage in the process, do you?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't remember anything like it. We've seen Rules Committee fights on the floor of the convention between Kennedy and Carter between Ford and Reagan way back in 1976. A fight like this we haven't seen before, it's very complicated because this committee, when it reconvenes to deliberate has to take into consideration five different interests.

The Florida Democratic Party and the Michigan Democratic Party, they want their delegates seated. The Clinton campaign wants the primary results reflected in the apportionment of the vote the Obama campaign wants some delegates seated but they don't want the primary results to be acknowledged and then of course the Democratic Party which wants its rules enforced and a message sent out to the states you can't get away with breaking the rules without having to pay a penalty. So there are five interests that they have to balance this afternoon.

BLITZER: And do you get a sense they're going to really be able to nail this down, resolve it once and for all, what to do about those delegates in Michigan and Florida? Will they be able to do it in the coming hour or is this going to drag on and on? Because you know, Howard Dean, the chairman, and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, Harry Reid, the majority leader, they want this thing resolved today so they can start moving on next week.

SCHNEIDER: I think they're very likely, not certain, but very likely to come to some resolution, probably very late tonight, maybe even tomorrow, but some time this weekend, they'll come to resolution of this matter. The question is will it stick, because that resolution can be challenged. There are comments you're hearing from people that this is only a first decision. It can be appealed to the Credentials Committee, it can even be taken to the floor of the convention. Very few people want that, but if some people who are dissatisfied with whatever this committee decides and they're under enormous pressure to come up with something, they can take the process even further. And there's going to be a lot of complaints if they do that that they're just dragging it out.

BLITZER: And helping the Republicans in the process. That will be the allegation. All right, Bill, stand by, we're going to continue to cover these deliberations. Decision day for the Democrats in Washington D.C. We'll continue our coverage, they will be resuming the deliberations right at the top of the hour. We'll be back, we're not going very far away. Campbell Brown is here with the best political team on television. John Roberts's over at our so-called "Magic Wall." We'll check some other news on the other side of this break, Randi Kaye at the CNN Center with that. We'll be right back.


RANDI KAYE, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: From CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Randi Kaye in for Fredricka Whitfield. Our big story today is a crucial meeting in Washington, which you've been watching that could go a long way towards finally resolving the Democratic presidential race. The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee is tackling the disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida. We will continue our live coverage as soon as the committee finishes its lunch break.

In the meantime, we're going to bring you up to date on some of today's other news.

And they are off, the first storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season has formed near the coast of Belize. Tropical Storm Arthur is expected to dump as much as ten inches of rain on the Belize and the Yucatan for weakening later today. Arthur is a storm ahead of its time it formed one day before its 2008 season officially begins.

Much of the northeast bracing for dangerous storms, today. A system moving through the region could bring hail, strong wind gusts and tornados. Yesterday, the Midwest got hit. High winds ripped the roof right off this apartment building in Indianapolis, several people were hurt, and trees and power lines were went down leaving tens of thousands of people without any electricity.

In Kansas, it's a weekend of cleanup and recovery. Tornadoes ripped through the state Thursday night flipping over a tractor-trailer and damaging several homes and businesses.

For more on those storms threatening the northeast, let's turn to meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the CNN Weather Center, watching it all.

Hi there, Jacqui



On to the tropics now, yeah, you heard it, that's right, we've got our first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season a day early. You're taking a look at Arthur. And really what we really need to watch for Arthur is the potential for some very heavy rainfall over the Yucatan Peninsula down towards Belize into Guatemala and Honduras. We could see as much as 10 inches of rainfall. Where is Arthur going? Well, it's going to be moving over the peninsula and we're expecting it to move back into the Bay of Campeche. If it does that, it will likely strengthen again and so this is going to be a storm we'll be watching very closely over the next several day, but right now, Randi, not posing any type of threat to the U.S.

KAYE: Arthur clearly wanted to be first. All right, thanks, Jacqui.

A toilet pump, a Japanese lab module and the toy astronaut "Buzz Lightyear," just a few of the items loaded onto shuttle "Discovery" set to liftoff just a couple of minutes past 5:00 Eastern Time. That pump is a crucial item on this mission. Astronauts aboard of the International Space Station need to fix a finicky toilet. Our Miles O'Brien is at Kennedy Space Center, watching it all happen.

Hello there, Miles.

MILES OBRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Hello there, Randi. What does potty talk, plastic toys and a Japanese space module have in common? The space shuttle "Discovery." About a half hour from now, the shuttle is slated for liftoff here from the Kennedy Space Center, the seven person crew, led by Navy commander, Mark Kelly, strapped in, facing upward right now and appears, so far, all systems are go.

You hear a plane flying overhead right now, that's the chief astronaut, Steve Lindsey, is who is flying weather mission around here to see if the weather is OK. But, there is not a weather problem in sight. It is now 90 percent go on the weather front.

Let's tell you a little bit about this Kibo (ph) module as you look at the closeout crew, as they're closing the hatch up there, 195 feet above sea level there on the shuttle launch pad. The Kibo module, 30,000 pounds, the size of a school bus, is a big deal for the space station because it lays the groundwork, it significantly increases the scientific potential of the space station, built by the Japanese, as I said, but it also lays the groundwork for this time next year doubling the crew size to six.

Here's the thing, it takes about two astronauts full-time just to run the space station, so having a three-person crew has drastically limited the amount of science they can do. They've done virtually no science so far. This module, with six crew members, suddenly there are four people available to do some real science. Using robot arms it will be attached if all goes well.

No, the No. 1 priority, if you will, Randi, is that pump we were talking about. The space station toilet, the one and only toilet on board on the Russian modules, the crew habitable module. There you see with some tape shots last year with astronaut Suni Williams, she's not up there any more -- demonstrating the liquid collection device, relies on suction.

The pump which creates the suction has been on the fritz more than a week. A spare was put in, it broke. Another spare was put in, it broke. They were of the same manufacturer's lot, so another part from a separate lot was airlifted from Masco to Orland, driven down the highway here on Thursday, it was tucked into the space shuttle, that crucial piece, hopefully will solve this problem. The toilet is working, but not in 100 percent fashion, inquiring the crew to do a lot of manual flushing every third opportunity to use it. And it's rather inconvenient. Not a health issue, but certainly a convenience issue and you want to make sure this is OK.

You asked about Buzz Lightyear. Buzz Lightyear is actually on the shuttle. You may ask why, Randi? Why would Buzz be on there? Well, turns out the Disney folks, clever as they are, have a new ride at Disney world it involves "Toy Story" characters and they have dovetailed this with an educational opportunity where they'll have buzz floating around on the space station teaching lessons to kids. And so...

KAYE: This is how you got you into it, right Miles? This is what go you interested. Because I have Buzz right here, too, I can see why he's such a draw.

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, DOLL: I'm buzz lightyear.

O'BRIEN: To infinity and beyond. You have Buzz, too? Oh, you do.

KAYE: I have him.

LIGHTYEAR: Buzz lightyear to the rescue.

KAYE: Buzz Lightyear...

O'BRIEN: Oh, you've got kids at home.

KAYE: This one was provided.

O'BRIEN: Well, wow, it's you know, what can I say, the real Buzz Aldrin has given this Buzz, the plastic Buzz a little pep talk on how to get ready. And they actually dunked him in an aquarium, put him through some training and so forth.

KAYE: Yeah, you have to press the buttons just the right way to get him to say "From here to infinity" I've noticed. There we go.

O'BRIEN: There we go, yes. Anyway, so -- I say this is a shuttle mission that has something for everyone. Certainly the 6-year-olds in the group with the plastic Buzz Lightyear and of course the potty jokes.

KAYE: Yeah, the potty jokes, something to get kids interested in science, a little bit of everything. All right, Miles, thanks so much, good to see you as always.

O'BRIEN: All right, you're welcome, Randi.

KAYE: Well, let's talk about some brainy kids, find out who won the national spelling bee and what he had to spell to do it.


KAYE: It is a Texas hold'em of a different sort as members of a polygamist sect await the return of some 300 children. Members of the FLDS church thought they'd get their kids back soon after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state should not have removed them last month, but the judge wants the mothers to sign the order first.

Last day of school didn't go down very well for a substitute teacher and tenth grader in suburban Atlanta, both have been charged with disorderly conduct after they were captured on this cell phone camera wailing away on one another. Police and the school system are investigation that brawl

He was a 13-year-old on a mission after his sister tried unsuccessfully three times to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Indiana boy decided to do it himself,


Guerdon, g-u-e-r-d-o-n.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a champion.

Seven years of studying in that family paying off, his sister three times, his fourth time is a charm. I don't think he expected to win, but I know it feels great right now.

Sameer Mishra, champion of the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee.


KAYE: Sameer Mishra had finished in the top 20 past two years and now he takes home the trophy along with it more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. His big ambition though, goes beyond this to be a neurosurgeon. So, what does guerdon mean? Well, it means reward or recompense, something that one has earned or gained.

Another day, another record high at the gas pumps. Driving looking for cheaper prices are turning to the Internet, but how much help can you find there? Well, we will get a reality check, coming up next.


KAYE: In Afghanistan, 100 suspected militants have been killed in a crackdown on the Taliban. The Afghan interior ministry says security forces and coalition troops carried out the two-day operation in the Farah Province, that's near the Iranian border. Among the dead are five reputed Taliban commanders and two police officers

And word from eastern Afghanistan that two NATO soldiers killed in a suicide vehicle bombing. The International Security Assistance Force says four other soldiers are wound. The names or nationalities of the soldiers have not been released.

The threat of another catastrophe in China. Officials are moving some 200,000 people because a lake created by earthquake debris is threatening to flood. The lake is rising six to nine feet a day. A CNN crew is the only Western media to reach that area. Chinese soldiers and engineers are working around the clock to build a spillway to drain the lake. Some of the people being evacuated are moving now for a third time. Another 1.3 million people are being told to be ready to get out on just a moment's notice

Large planes have been barred from landing at the airport in Honduras' capital as authorities investigate a deadly crash. Five people were killed in more than 80 hurt after a Grupo Taca jet overshot the runway, yesterday. Investigators from the FAA and NTSB will assist local authorities. The plane landed amid high winds and low visibility, but officials don't believed that weather played a role in that incident

Thailand's prime minister has backed away from a threat to use force to break up a political protest. Thousands demonstrators have been taken to the streets all week. They're protesting a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect the ousted prime minister from prosecution.

For the 24th consecutive day, we have a record high price at the pump. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of regular is just over $3.97, that's up near lay cent from yesterday. With new price records being set daily, drivers are looking to save little money at the pump. There are a bunch of Web sites that claim locate the cheapest gas in your area, but are they accurate. CNN's Alan Chernoff hit the road to investigate.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Driving into Brooklyn with a tank near empty, hoping to use the Internet to save a few bucks on a fill-up.

(on camera): The zip code here is 11217, let's punch that in and find some cheap gas.

(voice-over): promoted itself to CNN, so we're checking it first. But the repeated response on the Web site, "data is not available." So we begin with a printout from, just a half hour old.

(on camera): says the price here is $4.19 a gallon. But the actual price, it's $4.29. When was the last time you were charging $4.19 here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it was two weeks ago.

CHERNOFF: Two weeks ago.


CHERNOFF (voice over): Now the Web site is providing prices online.

(on camera): says that price at this Shell station is $4.25, but the actual price is $4.19 for regular, six cents cheaper than what the Web site says. (voice over): Next, directs us to a Mobil station on Third Avenue. Turns out though there's no Mobil station here, it's a Citgo.

(on camera): It says you're a Mobil station.


CHERNOFF: Have you ever been Mobil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No (INAUDIBLE) more than 10 years -- more than 10 years.

CHERNOFF: For premium, what are you charging?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For premium, I charged $4.42.

CHERNOFF: Wow. It says $4.32.


CHERNOFF (voice over): Only one of the five stations we checked on was entirely accurate. The Web site says the prices come from credit card transactions, but concedes its data provider, which it would not name, is not always timely.

JAMES BELL, AUTOMOTIVE.COM: It may be four or five to seven days before a dealer -- sorry, a gas station can upload us with the new information. It then goes into that vendor and then is supplied to

CHERNOFF: There are at least a half dozen Web sites claiming to find cheap gas. MapQuest gas prices shows stations in New Jersey when we plug in our Brooklyn zip code., which relies on spotters who report prices did a better job. This price was accurate, but at this Sunoco the price quoted online was six hours old.

With gas station changing prices so quickly, sometimes several times a day, it's almost impossible for the cheap gas Web sites to keep up, even when they're getting reliable prices.

(on camera): We came to this Mobil because gasbuddy said the price was on $4.05, but by the time you got here, 4.09. What are you going do? Fill it up and keep on paying.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Brooklyn, New York.


KAYE: Prices at the pump, CNN tackles America's fuel troubles. Don't miss our issue No. 1 fuel special, "4 Bucks! What's Next?" Tonight and tomorrow night, 8:00 Easter, right here on CNN.

A reminder, the countdown is on, "Discovery" is fueled up and ready for launch. You're looking there at a live picture of the crew doing their last-minute checks getting ready. The shuttle is carrying crucial parts for the International Space Station, among them a new Russian-made pump to repair the station's malfunctioning toilet. "Discovery" will also deliver a $1 billion addition to the ISS, a new section of the a Japanese science lab. And there you go. Once again, that live picture as the crew is preparing for the launch. Our Miles O'Brien is standing by at Kennedy Space Center. CNN will carry the launch live at 5:02 Eastern Time, this afternoon. You don't want to miss that

Well, of course our big story today, the crucial meeting in Washington, D.C. that could go a long way towards finally resolving the Democratic presidential race. You're looking there now live at a pictures of the empty room, folks there, of course, as you know are on a lunch break. We've been listening to them try and make their points all day. The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee is tackling the disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida. We will continue our live coverage with Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown, right after this break.