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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Libby Sentenced; The Republican Debate

Aired June 05, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He was also fined $250,000.
The former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney had asked for probation. Libby's appealing and tonight the Republican candidates were asked if they would pardon him if elected.

Joining me now is CNN Chief National Correspondent John King and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

John King, first of all, how did they answer? They basically kind of equivocated.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The candidates did equivocate on that question. Though there was two of the candidates -- Congressman Tancredo and Congressman Hunter said they would pardon "Scooter" Libby. The other ones said, Anderson, they wanted to wait to see how the appeal process played out.

But Rudy Giuliani in particular was harshly critical of the prosecutor. Rudy Giuliani harshly critical of the prosecutor for how he handled the "Scooter" Libby case.

Let's listen to a little bit of the play from the debate earlier.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would see if it fit the criteria for a pardon. I'd wait for the appeal. I think what the judge did today argues more in favor of a pardon. Because this is excessive punishment.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't pardon anybody as governor because I didn't want to overturn a jury. But in this case you have a prosecutor who clearly abused prosecutorial discretion by going after somebody when he already knew that the source of the leak was Richard Armitage.


KING: A chance for the candidates there, Anderson, to say either they would pardon "Scooter" Libby or they would think about pardoning "Scooter" Libby, in the process, to criticize the prosecution of a man who was very close to Vice President Dick Cheney. The politics of this, the whole debate about why we went to war in Iraq, of course, at the heart of "Scooter" Libby case. They will be an issue during the appeal. They are an issue -- you already hear the Democrats talking about this case and obviously a question that the Republican candidates will face as this goes forward and the president of the United States himself, the current president, under pressure from many conservatives to issue that pardon. He's going to wait to see how the appeal plays out too -- Anderson.

COOPER: Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin joining us.

Was it fair?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This was a very tough sentence. I mean, you know, The federal sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory, so Judge Reggie Walton would have been completely within his rights to give him probation, nothing at all.

But he was so offended by Libby's conduct and so sure that Libby was guilty that he gave him not the max, but close to the max. And 30 months, that's a long sentence. He has to serve under federal law 80 percent of that even with good behavior. He's going to serve two years in prison. That's a long time for a guy with young kids at home.

COOPER: He was -- the judge who you said was offended, offended by not only what he was convicted of doing, but the fact that he didn't show contrition?

TOOBIN: He didn't show contrition. He abused high office. And, you know, never acknowledged that what the jury found was accurate. Never admitted that he lied under oath. And the judge just said he'd had it with him.

COOPER: Libby's asked to stay out of jail until his appeal is seen through. Can he?

TOOBIN: That's a huge issue. The judge put that issue off for week. But that also plays very heavily into the pardon decision. Because he basically said today he thought he was going to deny bail pending appeal, which means that "Scooter" Libby will go to jail in a couple weeks.

If that's the case, I think the pressure on President Bush will be intense to pardon him because, you know, "Scooter" Libby will be in prison. If he grants bail pending appeal, this appeal could easily stretch on for a year or even longer.

COOPER: Are there really grounds for an appeal?

TOOBIN: You know, there are always appeals in criminal cases. I think the grounds for appeal here are very weak. This case was not legally complicated. It was a factual issue. Did he lie, did he not lie. I don't see a lot of issues that are likely to get this case overturned. But so that means the real issue here is pardon or not pardon.

COOPER: John, as Libby left the courthouse, there were some hecklers who yelled go to jail right now, take Cheney with you. How much of an impact did this trial have on the vice president? KING: Well, it's -- even the prosecutor himself said there's still a cloud over the vice president's office because of how all this played out, how the White House decided to attack. Remember the roots of this case, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, when he questioned whether the president, in a sense that he accused the president of misleading the nation into war.

Anderson, I thought what was very striking today was the vice president issued a statement on this -- not from the White House, not an official White House statement, but a personal statement issued through his lawyer in Washington, voicing sympathy for "Scooter" Libby, making clear, the vice president, that he thought "Scooter" Libby was innocent.

So you could read that, if you will, too, as a public effort by the vice president to shape opinion on this case. He will, of course, be part of any administration deliberations about whether there should be a pardon.

We know that former administration officials who left the White House are lobbying the president to pardon "Scooter" Libby. So, to Jeff's point, what happens in that hearing next week will be dramatically impacting the politics of all this.

And President Bush, we are known from sources in the White House, believes that "Scooter" Libby was unfairly prosecuted in this case. The question is whether he's willing now to make the politically risky decision of stirring this all up all over again by issuing a very -- what would be a very controversial pardon.

TOOBIN: And his leading defender has been -- Libby's leading defender has been the now presidential candidate Fred Thompson to complicate matters further.

COOPER: That's right.

All right, Jeff, John, we'll be watching. Thanks.

The Libby investigation revealed the White House obsessed with criticism of its decision to go to war in Iraq.

Democrats, of course, have turned that decision into a punching bag. In their debates, they pummeled the president and each other over Iraq.

Tonight, Republicans had the stage.

Here again, John King.


KING (voice-over): They stood 10 across and from the start it was clear the Republican debate would be very different than the Democrats.

On Iraq. ROMNEY: I supported the president's decision based on what we knew at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely the right thing to do.

KING: And in tone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to Senator McCain?

ROMNEY: Well, he's my friend.

KING: Politely, though, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney did take issue with the immigration reform plan crafted by his Republican rival.

ROMNEY: The point is every illegal alien, almost every one, under this bill gets to stay here. That's not fair to the millions and millions of people around the world that would love to come here.

KING: Senator John McCain said the bill was far from perfect, but that compromise is a part of leadership.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty.

KING: Much of the positioning was familiar. The Republicans casting Democrats as soft on terrorism and too reliant on big government when it comes to making healthcare more affordable and accessible.

ROMNEY: Every Democrat up there is talking about a form of socialized medicine.

KING: What was new was bigger steps away from the current Republican president, especially after a New Hampshire voter named Erin Flanagan (ph) asked about a brother killed in Iraq and pressed the candidates for ideas to end the war.

ERIN FLANAGAN (ph), BROTHER KILLED IN IRAQ: My family has been devastated by the loss.

MCCAIN: This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time. I believe we have a strategy which can succeed so that the sacrifice of your brother would not be in vain.

KING: Hanging over all of this is the likelihood of an 11th entry soon. Actor and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson plans to enter the GOP race in early July. A GOP long shot with the same last name couldn't resist.

TOMMY THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if you're talking about a reliable conservative, it is this Thompson, Tommy Thompson, not the actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, thank you, governor.


COOPER: John, were you surprised at all the debate was so civil? Some people had expected -- it was a hockey rink, after all, some elbows at least to be thrown.

KING: That's a perfect analogy, Anderson. I am a bit surprised because beforehand, the Romney camp had signaled it planned to be very tough in getting in Senator McCain's face on immigration. And the McCain camp had signaled if that happened, it would get right back. But in the end, it decided -- the candidates all decided to obey what Ronald Reagan used to call the 11th commandment and be polite. They aired their differences very politely, the Republicans not attacking the Republicans like the Democrats did two nights ago -- Anderson.

COOPER: Tough words from Tom Tancredo saying he would not allow President Bush to darken the door of the White House if he became president.

During the debate, we and local station WMUR were gathering real- time reaction. It's called dial testing. People registering their response, positive or negative, to what the candidates had to say, literally minute by minute as they were saying it.

CNN's Joe Johns has been crunching the data. He joins me live now.

Joe, what'd you find out?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's sort of the story of what the audience felt. Watch the lines in the middle of the screen here. A handful of Republicans and independents, selected randomly, got an opportunity to do a little more than listen to tonight's debate. They got to participate by registering their reactions with meters to things the candidates said in real time.

Now, the red is for the Republicans. The yellow, of course, is for the independents. White is the average response. If the lines go up, that's a positive reaction. If they go down, it's a negative reaction.


JOHNS (voice-over): On Iraq, topic A, audience meters registered approval when candidates praised the troops, but you wouldn't call it a homerun.

Look at what happened when Senator John McCain responded to a question from a woman whose brother died in Iraq.

MCCAIN: This is wrong and hard and tough, but I think we can succeed and God bless you.

JOHNS: On the other hand, immigration policy brought big peaks on the meters, mostly for trashing the immigration bill before the Congress. GIULIANI: The organizing purpose should be that our immigration laws should allow us to identify everyone who is in this country that comes here from a foreign country.

ROMNEY: And what it allows is people who've come here illegally to stay here for the rest of their lives.

JOHNS: The peaks turned into a valley when the bill's co- sponsor, John McCain, tried to defend it.

MCCAIN: And it weeds out those who shouldn't be here and it gives others a chance to remain in this country.

JOHNS: McCain tanked again on energy policy when he brought up nuclear power.

MCCAIN: Nuclear power is safe. Nuclear power is green.

JOHNS: Giuliani scored on what's usually a Democratic issue -- global warming. In fact, he got good reactions from all important independent swing voters.

GIULIANI: We need a project similar to putting a man on the moon.

JOHNS: But here's a real sign of the times. Some of the stronger, more favorable reactions to what the candidates said came when one or the other was trashing Republicans, including the GOP- controlled Congress that lost power in the last election.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Republican Party as a whole deserved to get beat. We've lost credibility.


JOHNS (on camera): The real-time metering was sponsored by Hearst Argyle's WMUR and done in conjunction with two researchers from Southern Methodist University -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's so fascinating to watch that happen in real time.

Joe, thanks for that.

Before the debate, two candidates had the lead among Republicans here in New Hampshire. Here's the raw data on it.

A CNN/WMUR poll had a virtual tie between Senator McCain and former Mayor Giuliani -- 29 percent of the people surveyed supported each candidate. Former Governor Romney followed with 17 percent. The gorilla in the room tonight, Fred Thompson, got 3 percent. He actually wasn't in the room, just metaphorically speaking.

Another possible candidate, Newt Gingrich received 2 percent.

Fourteen percent of those polled were undecided. New Hampshire is one of the smallest states in the Union, but every four years, usually in January, it is first in the nation's primary. Makes the Granite State stand tall in our political landscape.

Jennifer Donahue is with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and has more on why the state matters so much.

There are a lot of people who sort of said, you know, New Hampshire doesn't matter as much this year because a lot of states are frontloading their primaries. Why does it still count?

JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: What we thought originally wasn't going to matter as much, but now it's looking like it may matter more because there is so much (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And New Hampshire is almost a focus group, if you will, like the one Joe Johns has reported on of real people.

So while it's a small state, it's people who go out and vote constantly and they're telling you what they think as they meet the candidates.

COOPER: It's fascinating to be here because everyone seems to have met these candidates, you know, in person and years gone by and they kind of withhold an opinion until they actually get to meet them. I mean, it's unlike any other state I've really ever been in except perhaps Iowa at times.

How do New Hampshire voters differ from the nation at large?

DONAHUE: Well, first of all, you just put your finger right on it, which is your poll is probably reflective of reality, although I think maybe McCain is a little higher in that poll than he really is in the state right now.

The truth is, the biggest group of voters right now are undecided and they will remain so for months, even with Fred Thompson getting in the race.

New Hampshire voters traditionally decide in the last week, if you can believe that. And Bill Gardiner, the secretary of state, may move the primary date up. So you're going to see a race that's been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for a very long time.

And I think tonight you even saw Romney actually reaching into that, preparing for the entry of Thompson.

COOPER: Why are independents so important in New Hampshire?

DONAHUE: Well, they can go in on election day and pick either party's ballot. So you can walk in as an undeclared voter and say I'll be a Republican today or I'll be a Democrat today. They also make up more than a third of the electorate in New Hampshire.

COOPER: And are they breaking more Democrat this year? DONAHUE: Well, in November they broke more Democrat, which is why we saw the entire state shift to Democratic control, both the statehouse and Senate and both Congressional seats.

Sununu's in trouble in '08, as you know.

So right now there's a Democratic trend. It's not, I don't think that people have actually switched parties. It's that the Independents are up to grabs, and I think that's true in much of the country.

COOPER: How much time here are the candidates spending? I mean right now it's so early, but you know, I guess it's not -- the process is already under way.

DONAHUE: It's under way, and not only that, but they've been spending a lot of time here.

Romney's been here quite a bit. He's got a house in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so he actually does live here in part. So, he's been here a lot.

Senator Clinton is becoming a bit of a fixture.

Senator Obama is spending a lot of time getting crowds of 1,000 to 5,000 people. This is unheard of in June. This has really never happened before and we've never had a race this wide open and this up for grabs on both sides of the aisle, so the voters are very engaged.

COOPER: Appreciate you being here. Jennifer Donahue, thanks so much.

DONAHUE: Good to see you.

COOPER: The debates are far from over. You are going to be able to participate in the next one on CNN, live from South Carolina. It's an unprecedented debate.

Our partners, YouTube and are going to give the power to you to ask candidates the questions. I'll be hosting, but all the questions are going to come from you and your videos.

The candidates are going have to sit through and watch your videos. So make them creative, make them smart. The next round on CNN begins next month, July 23rd. Never been done before.

Seems like everyone's doing polls on the presidential race, of course, so the question is, who's out in front when you put all the poll numbers together. We'll show you, next.

Also, the battle over the border, the war in Iraq, plus global warming and conservation. Stay with us for more hot issues from tonight's debate.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor Giuliani, same question to you. Was it -- knowing what you know right now, was it a good decision?

GIULIANI: Absolutely the right thing to do. It's unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not been be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.

The problem the Democrats make is they're in denial. That's why you hear things like you heard in the debate the other night that, you know, Iran really isn't dangerous. It's 10 years away from nuclear weapons.


COOPER: Rudy Giuliani tonight on the war and whether it was right. In politics, like sports, you just can't tell the frontrunners without a scorecard.

Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider has just that. Tonight's CNN's so-called poll of polls.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Going into the debate, was the Republican race getting any clearer? Actually, no. It's been getting muddier.

Look at CNN's poll of polls over the last three months. Rudy Giuliani's the frontrunner. Has he been picking up speed? Nope. He's been slowing down. Giuliani's support averaged 37 percent in four national polls conducted in March, 36 percent in four April polls, and 30 percent in seven polls taken in May. Is anyone catching up with Giuliani? Not so much.

John McCain has picked up a few points, but he remains firmly in second place at 22 percent.

Fred Thompson hasn't even declared, but he's already running third. He's an actor, and a lot of Republicans are looking for a new Ronald Reagan.

And Mitt Romney? If slow but steady wins the race, watch Romney. His numbers have been creeping up.

What about the other seven contenders? Brownback and Gilmore and Huckabee and Tommy Thompson and Hunter and Tancredo and Paul? Not one of them has been getting over 2 percent.

So, what are we left with? Confusion. Partly because with the vice president not running, there's no heir apparent, no one to carry the Bush administration's banner. And it doesn't sound like the candidates really want to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did, however, not do a great job after we knocked down Saddam Hussein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been so disappointed in the president in so many ways since his -- actually for the last several years, not just the immigration issue, but several other things.

SCHNEIDER: Plus the fact that conservatives have no champion to rally behind. For them, the leading contenders are all suspect.

GIULIANI: My view on abortion is that it's wrong, but that ultimately government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman.


COOPER: Bill Schneider joins me now, along with John King.

Bill, you say that the Republican race is getting more and more muddled. Will the New Hampshire debate help clarify anything?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think McCain had a good night, and that can muddle it even more because no one expected him to do very well. It looked like his time had come and gone. But I thought he had an effective moment. He reminded New Hampshire voters of what they saw in him in 2000, which was the straight talker.

Even on issues where most Republicans disagree with him, like immigration, I thought he made his case with boldness and honesty.

And there was a very strong moment when he answered the question from the woman who tragically had lost her brother in Iraq and he explained to her that his sacrifice, while it was terribly painful, eventually she'd understand that it was for the good of the country. And the camera shot of that woman's response was very, very dramatic. He had made a connection.

COOPER: Interesting.

John, Giuliani's numbers have been declining over the past few months, I think from 37 percent on March to 30 percent in May. Does tonight's performance help him?

KING: Unclear. It could help him possibly here in New Hampshire because this is a very different Republican Party here. They tend to be more liberal or libertarian is probably the better word when it comes to social issues. They don't want the government involved in such decisions.

His numbers have been coming down most though and the Republican Party say as his views on those social issues have been getting more scrutiny.

One -- just one little caveat about the polls, though. If we were having this conversation at this point in 1999, John McCain was a distant third here behind George W. Bush and behind Elizabeth Dole. John McCain, of course, won the New Hampshire primary. So, these polls, right now a lot of them are based on name recognition and the celebrity status of the candidates. And they could be very, very different by the time this state gets around to voting in the primary -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, this question was asked about Fred Thompson who did not participate in the debate, wasn't here. He hasn't declared his candidacy, but he's polling better than most of the candidates that we heard from tonight. Why is that? Is that simply because he's an actor and he's kind of an unknown?

KING: Well, part of that is that he's a celebrity. He's a very well-known name because of his acting career. But there's also no question that some Republicans, even some who support Mayor Giuliani or Senator McCain or Governor Romney, or one of the longer shots, they're not quite sure that this is what they want just yet.

Conservatives are still looking for somebody in part because they're dispirited about -- not necessarily that they don't agree with the war in Iraq, but about the public opinion, about the president, about the war. They're looking for somebody they think can keep the White House in Republican hands, and they're not sure the current fields can do that.

So, Senator Thompson is benefiting from that. The problem, Anderson, is once he's in the race, he's a politician like everybody else. He'll have to answer questions about what would you do in Iraq, what would you do about abortion, what's your position on stem-cell research.

So, sometimes being out of the fray is a safer place than in the middle of the fray.

COOPER: Bill, Romney is behind Fred Thompson in the polls by about 10 percent. How big a factor is religion in these poll numbers, and if it is, was he able to change any minds with his performance tonight? He spoke out very forcefully on it tonight.

SCHNEIDER: He did. He obviously had an answer prepared because he has to face this question all the time. And he made a compelling case.

But the answer to your question, how big a factor it is, is we don't really know. We are always surprised to see that somewhere between 25 percent and 30 percent of the voters say that they will not vote for a Mormon.

Now, part of that could be they don't know the right answer. When you ask would you vote for an African-American or a woman, they say I'm not a racist. I'm not a sexist. Of course. But a lot of people don't know that it's a sign of bigotry to say I'm not going to vote for someone because of his religion.

I think that when people get to know the candidates in reality, the real man, they'll say, well, he's not a terrible person. He's just like me and he has the same values.

So in the end, I imagine it won't be a terrible problem. COOPER: John, you know, a lot of this, too, at this point in the race is not really about polls or about changing voters' minds because we just heard New Hampshire voters at the very least often, you know, hold off making decisions until the last week.

A lot of this about raising money. Did anybody tonight do themselves any big favors in terms of bringing money in?

KING: Especially the longer shots, Anderson. This is about paying the bills right now. It's not necessarily about winning votes, which is why you have zingers from candidates like Tommy Thompson, from Duncan Hunter, who was sharply critical of the administration on the immigration issue.

Those candidates, they need money to stay alive in this race so that they are in the debates come September, October, November, and into early next year when voters are finally saying it's time to make up my mind.

And so, they're looking for one or two moments, one or two lines. Some of them were frustrated in the earlier debates, they didn't think they got enough chances. And the advice from all of their campaign staff has been don't worry how many chances you get. If you get one, use it to make a point that we can then use tomorrow on the Internet, in our direct mail, to raise a little bit more money to stay alive.

That is the biggest challenge right now, especially for the lesser-known candidates.

COOPER: You talk about those lesser known candidates. We all imagine that they have big entourages.

I was in the airport the other day, saw one of the candidates leaving New Hampshire, carrying two of his bags, his garment bag over his shoulder, another bag on wheels, all by himself, trying to catch a flight. I thought, you know, it's not glamorous running for president.

John, Bill Schneider, guys, thanks very much.

Up next, we're going to take a closer look at the candidates and the hot-button issues from abortion to Iraq, including the battle over the border and how it's splitting the GOP. That's next. Stay tuned.



MCCAIN: This was a national security issue first and foremost. Ever since 9/11, it's a national security issue. People came to Fort Dix, New Jersey, from across our southern border and tried to kill our soldiers. For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty.


COOPER: John McCain tonight on immigration reform or, if you will, amnesty. That's what his critics call it.

The bill he helped craft, now working its way through the Senate. The issue causing a major split in the Republican Party, of course. The question is, how is immigration reform playing with the voters?

Here's CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.



MCCAIN: Now I'd like to move on to another non-controversial issue, and that is immigration reform.

CROWLEY: Now stand back. As Republican angst over illegal immigration pours out, in a firehouse in Gilford, New Hampshire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mind subsidizing people who come to this country illegally?

CROWLEY: In a ballroom in Sioux Falls, Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has to do with a superhighway that's supposed to be built from the Mexican border through Kansas City to Canada.

CROWLEY: Immigration reform are fighting words inside the GOP, and New Hampshire blogger Doug Lambert fears for his party.

DOUG LAMBERT, BLOGGER: It just seems like an issue that would absolutely cause a rift in the Republican Party at a time where the party doesn't need something like this going into the '08 elections.

CROWLEY: The rift is as simple as it is real. It is embodied in an ongoing to and fro between John McCain and Mitt Romney. It is about those who favor a pathway to citizenship for the country's millions of illegals.

MCCAIN: It's as long as 13 years -- 13 years before that they would be eligible for citizenship in this country.

CROWLEY: And it is about those who think pathway to citizenship is code for amnesty.

ROMNEY: They do not have to go home permanently. They stay here for the rest of their lives.

CROWLEY (on camera): In the end, the parties' split may well influence who Republicans pick for their nominee. But in the general election, the faithful are far more likely to overlook differences when the White House is at stake.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Joining me now Democratic Strategist and CNN Contributor Paul Begala and Conservative Strategist Amy Holmes, who was a speechwriter for Bill Frist.

Amy, John McCain, really kind of the lone man on the stage supporting the president's policy on immigration at this point.

I want to play for our viewers some of what Tommy Thompson had to say about the bill. Let's watch.


T. THOMPSON: Securing the border is going to allow everything else to follow. But unless you secure the border, it is not right to give 12 million individuals who have illegal rights in this country status before that border is protected.

There should be no amnesty. And this bill, no matter how you cover, it's an amnesty bill.


COOPER: We saw in the dial testing, when McCain was talking about defending the bill, the dial testing was just going down. It's not a representative sampling. How do you think he did defending his position?

AMY HOLMES, CONSERVATIVE STRATEGIST: I thought he did well defending his position. And in a certain way, I thought he won tonight by not losing on immigration.

Going into it, a lot of commentators, and myself included, thought it would be a brawl with nine other candidates on the stage -- well, except and perhaps (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are going after John McCain as one of the front -- front leaders. But you know, this is a deeply unpopular policy -- bill in the Senate that John McCain is supporting among Republican voters.

And immigration is the number one issue for Republican voters on domestic issues.

And even in his own state of Arizona, Scott Rasmussen (ph) came out with a new poll that 50 percent of Arizonans oppose this bill.

So, it was a very touchy issue, but I thought he handled it well tonight.

And as we discussed earlier, in the very end with the Q and A with the citizens from the audience, he really showed some compassion when he was talking about immigrants, people -- our neighbors who have served our country honorably.

So, in terms of this debate tonight, John McCain did well. Going down the road, however, it's still very...

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: There was a lot of expectation, Paul, that there would be not blows, but at least some elbowing between Mitt Romney and John McCain. Certainly, there has been some, you know, barbs back and forth on the campaign trail. Why wasn't there tonight?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that was a missed opportunity for Senator McCain. I thought he did pretty well in...


COOPER: ... for McCain.

BEGALA: For McCain. Because he is on the losing end of the issue in terms of the Republican primary electorate. They hate this. They hate this. They're all -- you know, they're right with Lou Dobbs. OK? Lou doesn't, I think much like immigration -- I'm picking that up.

COOPER: You've heard that?

BEGALA: I'm a discerning viewer.

COOPER: Yes. Ok.

BEGALA: But he is right...

COOPER: He's does like one program on it, I think.

BEGALA: I think so. But -- but, you know, Lou is speaking for a whole lot of Americans, many of whom will be voting in this primary for the Republican Party.

McCain's better strategy would have been to make it a character issue. And not only that he has character, which I think he does in abundance, but I think if I were working for him, I would have said you should turn to Mitt Romney and say, you know, Mitt, you said I was your friend because I campaigned for you. When I campaigned for you, you supported my position on immigration and you hired illegal aliens yourself. Pow.

You know, that makes it a character issue. He becomes a hypocrite then and you move it off of the dynamic of whether it's a good bill or not, which he cannot win...


COOPER: Does he then fall into the John McCain is angry?



HOLMES: I was going to say it would have been mean spirited, it would have been angry John McCain. I thought the way that he...

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: He is angry.

HOLMES: I thought the way that he approached it, however, did work for him when he talked about it as a national security issue.

Those are themes that Republican voters can understand that it was not -- that we need necessarily more immigration just for the sake of it.

So by wrapping it up in national security, he protected himself.

But again, going down the road, listen, the "Washington Times" is reporting that state Republican parties are raising money in opposition to this bill.

COOPER: Hmm. We've got to go.

Amy, Paul, stay right there. There are plenty more issues to cover, including social issues from abortion to gay marriage and gays in the military. How they played in this race.

And then the Goliath issue -- Iraq. The fine line candidates have to walk dealing with an unpopular war that is still supported by their base. Stay tuned.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor Giuliani, recently we've learned that several talented, trained linguists, Arabic speakers, Farces (ph) speakers, Burdu (ph) speakers trained by the U.S. government to learn those languages to help us in the war on terrorism were dismissed from the military because they announced they were gays or lesbians. Is that, in your mind, appropriate?

GIULIANI: This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this.

ROMNEY: I agree with what Mayor Giuliani said, that this is not the time to put in place a major change, a social experiment in the middle of a war going on.

MCCAIN: I think it would be a terrific mistake to even reopen the issue. It is working, my friends. The policy is working.


COOPER: Ever since Ronald Reagan came along in 1980, you could count on Republicans to be in lock step on certain social issues like their opposition abortion.

This election cycle could see a major shift, but it won't come without a fight.

Here again is Joe Johns with a closer look at the battle for what some see as the soul of the Republican party.


JOHNS (voice-over): Social issues from abortion to gay marriage to stem-cell research have united and empowered the GOP. But now they seem more like wedge issues dividing the party.

The conservative base is unhappy with Rudy Giuliani's support for abortion rights. Evangelicals are also uneasy about the fact that he's been married three times.

The base is also wary of Mitt Romney. He says he's pro-life, but that seems to be a recent change of heart for the former Massachusetts governor. It's also unclear whether the country is ready for a Mormon president.

Senator John McCain supports stem-cell research, which upsets the anti-abortion crowd.

Our current president won two elections largely by rallying that conservative base, focusing on wedge issues, and by splitting the independent vote.

But 2008 could be different.

AMY WALTER, "THE HOTLINE": That strategy of playing simply to your base isn't going to work in this election. So, if you're the Republican candidates right now, you have this very difficult balancing act, which is you want to look and play to the base. You want to look strong and play to your base, and at the same time be careful that you're not turning off Independents because they are already very wary of Republicans.

JOHNS: Make no mistake -- cultural conservatives who are often deeply religious and can vote in droves don't buy permissiveness on reproductive rights and traditional marriage, a man and a woman.

But after 9/11 and with a country in a prolonged war, voters may be more greatly affected by other issues.

The 2006 midterm elections were a wake-up call for Republicans. Many say they can't take swing voters for granted and may need to move to the middle.

JOHN DANFORTH, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: American politics is too polarized as it is. We're going to have to try to see common ground on a lot of very big issues for our country, and if all we do is to drive the wedge issues relentlessly, we're going to lose that common ground.

JOHNS: So, cultural conservatives may find themselves nominating the candidate who can win in November, not necessarily the candidate they want.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Joining us again, CNN Contributor, Democratic Strategist Paul Begala, along with Conservative Strategist Amy Holmes.

Amy, it would have been a surprise if any of the candidates on the stage tonight had said they were for reversing the don't ask, don't tell policy, gays in the military.

HOLMES: Correct. Moving to the left on this issue does not help them with Republican voters. And the same "New York Times" found immigration as the number one issue, and social values as number two.

But something surprising happened tonight that really shocked me is that Mitt Romney, he revealed yet another flip-flop. He said that he was against the don't ask, don't tell policy. And now, after seeing it in practice, is for it. Now that's not a way to reassure those values voters who already is being attacked on flip-flopping on life, that he is one of them.

COOPER: It's so interesting, and I guess that was the point of the question, Paul, to compare the answer tonight to the answer that all the Democrats gave, which was every one of them saying change the policy.

BEGALA: Right. And Hillary Rodham Clinton invoking Barry Goldwater, the founding father of modern conservativism, in support of gay rights and gays in the military. The world's turned upside down.

I mean, when I was a kid, like I knew who the Republicans were. They were pro family and pro gun. Well now, get this, Rudy Giuliani's been married more times than Mitt Romney has been hunting. It's true, three to two. So, where is that sort of bedrock base? I think that's why so many social conservatives are unhappy with this field.

COOPER: Certainly, the question of creationism came up tonight. Mike Huckabee talked about it very eloquently. Let's listen to what he said.


HUCKABEE: If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it. I don't know how far they will march that back. But I believe that all of us in this room are the unique creations of a God who knows us and loves us and who created us for his own purpose.


COOPER: I think at one point John McCain sort of said ditto to what he said. I can't say it any better. Did he come off the best in terms of appealing to conservative Christians tonight?

HOLMES: Well, I think he best articulated their point of view. And that -- that reference, by the way, to primate -- that's buzz language for evangelicals in terms of evolution and Darwinism, which they reject. But I think Huckabee -- tonight he actually turned that question a little bit, I have to say, against (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by saying, you know, I'm articulating a point of view that many Republican voters and many Americans share, which is a belief in God and a belief in, you know, God loving each individual -- to all the rest of the guys on the stage tonight you saw, yes, I believe what he said.

COOPER: Do -- are the Democrats, Paul, as effective in talk about faith? I mean, last night we saw the sojourners event. It did not come up so much in the Democratic debate as it did in this debate tonight. Is this an issue the Democrats are now weighing in on because they feel they can?

BEGALA: Yes. I think this is an enormous change in my party.

John Kerry was I think sort of the last of a breed who said don't ask me about my religion, it won't affect my vote, which sort of echoed JFK from 1960, but the world has changed. People now are asking Democrats not what they asked JFK, which was are you too religious, are you too Catholic, will the pope direct your policies, but instead, do you share my faith at all.

And Democrats are finding their voice. Last night with Soledad, in Sojourners, they did a very good job of giving voice to that faith.

And I think those of us who comment and cover need to understand that religious progressive is not an oxymoron.

I liked in Joe Johns' report that he said social conservatives, many of whom are religious or religious people, many of whom are conservatives. Many religious people like myself are very liberal. And our faith in Christ leads us -- you know, Jim Wallace, who runs Sojourners notes that 3,000 times in his three-year ministry in the gospels, Christ told us to take care of poor. He never once told us to beat up on gays.

Now, maybe there were no gays when Jesus was around. I don't know. I tend to think there might have been. But he never found time to beat up on gays. He told us 3,000 times to take care of the poor. Well, Democrats should give voice to -- if their faith animates them to care for the poor, and mine does, they should give voice to that.

COOPER: A lot more ahead with Paul and Amy as well.

Still ahead, the issue that has shaped this administration and no doubt the next one -- the war in Iraq. It's popular with conservatives, unpopular with most of America. So how do these candidates walk that line? That's coming up next.



REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The sooner we come home, the better. If they declare there's no progress in September, we should come home. It was a mistake to go, so it's a mistake to stay. If we made the wrong diagnosis, we should change the treatment.


COOPER: Ron Paul there speaking out, the only man who's talking about withdrawal from Iraq from the Republican Party. Right out of the starting gate tonight, the candidates were asked was it a mistake to go to the war in Iraq? The war is by far the trickiest issue Republican candidates are facing. The challenge, distancing themselves from the White House without abandoning the cause. Certainly, a tricky dance.

Here's CNN's John Roberts.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's no longer a question of whether some Republicans will distance themselves from the president and his war in Iraq, but a question of how far.

TONY BLANKLEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST," Certainly, some Republicans in Congress are going to start going south on the president and we'll see whether any candidates for president -- I'm not so sure that any of the leading candidates will actually break with him.

ROBERTS: It is an especially delicate line for the GOP candidates to walk. Most Republican voters still support the president and the war.

BLANKLEY: They can't afford to offend the majority of their own natural voting block, the Republicans -- self-identified Republicans. On the other hand, they don't want to identify too closely with an unpopular war and an unpopular president.

ROBERTS: Nine out of the 10 GOP candidates support the war, but in varying degrees. McCain has been a staunch supporter of the so- called surge. Giuliani is supportive, but talks more about the war on terror than about Iraq. And with no obvious solutions in Baghdad, all the candidates are stuck finessing a bad situation.

BLANKLEY: Their ambiguity is going to be to sort of rhetorically distance themselves while not particularly changing policy because I don't think there's any logical place for them to go to.

ROBERTS: There is no question the war in Iraq will be a major influence in shaping the 2008 election and that Republicans are more at risk.

But will it cost them the White House?

That may depend on how well the Republican candidates can articulate change while still staying sort of the same.

ROBERTS: CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


COOPER: Certainly a fine line to walk. Plenty of opportunities to lose your balance.

I want to go back to conservative Analyst Amy Holmes, who's here with Democratic strategist and CNN Contributor Paul Begala. They're able to join forces here together.

BEGALA: Kumbaya.

COOPER: Let's just start by playing the very first question of this debate. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: well, the question is kind of a non sequitur, if you will, and what I mean by that, or null set. And that is that if, if you're saying let's turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEE inspectors, and they had come in and they'd find that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in.


COOPER: What do you make of the answer, Paul?

BEGALA: Well, you know, my wife, by the way called me and told me that I was yelling too much and that I needed to behave myself.

HOLMES: I forgive you.

BEGALA: The last time we talked about this, but it is simply a matter of fact. He said if Saddam had opened up his country to weapons inspectors, we wouldn't have had this war.

Saddam did open his country to weapons inspectors. Mitt Romney should know better. He should -- should not be, you know, a leading candidate for the presidency if he doesn't know that. But he's in a difficult situation. Set that factual mistake aside. These candidates are in a terrible position. This is the tightrope you're talking about. They're running in a party in which the war has a 70 percent support rating, and the president has a 70 percent support rating in that sliver of America that it still identifies as Republicans.

That's only 25 (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BEGALA: That's only 25 in a country, but that's who's going to pick that nominee off of that stage.

At the same time, though, they have to run a country where 70 percent opposes the war. And I think that's an impossible mission. I don't think they can balance the two.

HOLMES: Amy, here's how Giuliani answered the question about whether it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Let's listen.


GIULIANI : It's unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in the vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.

The problem the Democrats make is they're in the denial.

COOPER: Is that fair? Well, Republicans' candidates got their licks in pretty early. Especially that John Edwards, saying that the war on terror is a bumper sticker. I actually thought that Giuliani's answer to that question was the most interesting, when he was asked directly, if you knew what you knew now, if you knew then what you now, would you have supported it? And he said yes, unequivocally. And he also took the rational that we're moving Saddam at that time with what we know now is a part of the war on terror.

They're going to see all of the candidates. We've been talking more abut the regional foreign policies -- resolution to this war, a successful resolution is necessary.

We were talking earlier, and you listen to Democrats talking about this. They talk about withdrawal, but they don't talk about the Middle East as a foreign policy question.

Tonight, with Republicans we did.

COOPER: Did Giuliani come across as the strongest on defense, on national security, or does he share that with McCain?

Begala: It's hard to beat John McCain. I mean, with all due respect to Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of a big city.

John McCain was tortured for 5 1/2 years. He served his country with remarkable heroism. So I don't think anybody can touch him on that stage. Certainly, not any of the fest of those guys on that stage.

The thing that Rudy does that that I think worked tonight is he conflates. He did it just in the at sound byte. He conflates Iraq with terrorists. Now, Saddam was a bad guy, but he was a secular fascist. He was not in an Islamic jihadist. In fact, he was killing and torturing Islamic jihadists.

HOLMES: There's plenty of debate over that. There's plenty of debate over that.

COOPER: Well, there's no evidence...

HOLMES: Well, not that he's an Islamic jihadist

But he has changed his flat to Arabic. He started praying. It's as if you were an Islamic and would he have helped Islamic terrorists in the future?

He was no friend of the United States. In fact, he's a declared enemy.

But what you did see tonight in terms of distancing themselves from the president, all of them said the president mismanaged this war. The president, you know, bungled the follow through with this war. That's how they're distancing themselves from the president while still saying we want...


COOPER: Did any of them say that two or three years ago? I mean, I seem to remember a lot of them defending -- McCain was very critical or Rumsfeld.


HOLMES: ... said that we needed more troops in there. I think the others -- why should Giuliani be wading in before he's even announced his candidacy?

COOPER: A reminder, be sure to catch the next CNN debate in South Carolina. It is next month, July 23rd. You're going to be able to submit your own questions to the candidates trough YouTube at We'll be right back.


COOPER: Tom Foreman joins us now with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hi Anderson. Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff is going to the iron bar Hilton. As we mentioned at the top of the Hour, Lewis "Scooter" was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison for lying and obstructing the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's name. He's also being forced to pay a $250,000 fine. Libby's attorneys are planning to appeal that verdict.

On Wall Street, stocks slid on a fed warning that inflation is still a major concern. The DOW lost 80 points, the NASDAQ and S&P also closed down.

And unusual news in the graveyard business. Because of a lack of space, the British government has approved a plan to bury people in existing gravesites. Certain graves more than 100 years old would be dug up and those bodies buried deeper, leaving room for someone else. graveyard business. Because of a lack of space, the British government has approved a plan to bury people in existing gravesites. Certain graves more than 100 years old would be dug up and those bodies buried deeper, leaving room for someone else. -- Anderson.


ROBERTS: Yes COOPER: That's creepy.

ROBERTS: I keep telling my kids I want to be buried in New Orleans, but don't wait until I'm too old to enjoy it. That's my plan.

COOPER: Tom Foreman. There you for, Tom.

Sounds like a good plan. Tom, thanks.

Sounds like a good plan. Tom, thanks.

Still to come, every issue, every question, every exchange. If you missed the debate earlier, your second chance is coming up. First a little more of 360, and it's going to be good right after the break.