Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Continuing Election Coverage

Aired January 12, 2008 - 17:00   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hear the candidates in their own words. And the reason why we're in Nevada, is because one week from today the Democrats will have their next big contest, that is the Nevada caucuses. We have been seeing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama go mano a mano in this state over the last 48 hours. And that will continue to happen over the coming days as these Democrats try to recapture that momentum, one contest for Obama, one contest for Hillary Clinton. And this next one could well determine how this race shapes up as this race moves forward.
But I want to throw it out to my colleague, Mary Snow, who is up in Michigan where it may not be 61 degrees as it is here in Las Vegas. But Mary, nonetheless has a race that is heating up just outside of the Motor City, is that right, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Jim. Not 60, but not too bad for Michigan right now. And the next big test for republicans comes Tuesday here in Michigan where there is a primary and the two main rivals here, Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. We've been following the campaigns throughout this afternoon, hearing candidates in their own words out on the campaign trail. Coming up this hour we're going to be hearing from Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton out in Reno. We'll also be hearing from Rudy Giuliani, the Republican presidential hopeful who is campaigning in Florida. He's at a live event as we speak. And we're going to be hearing from Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. He is campaigning in South Carolina. Jim?

ACOSTA: And that race is very interesting up in Michigan, Mary, because Mitt Romney has been saying and it sounds like their campaign is saying if they win Michigan all of the sudden they have momentum going into South Carolina. Is that what you're hearing?

SNOW: He really has put so many of his concentration and focus right now on Michigan after his defeat in Iowa and New Hampshire. He had been airing ads in South Carolina, but he pulled them. And now he's focusing winning here. And he said it's a personal battle for him. As you mentioned, his father was governor here, he grew up here.

We want to just go back, though, to Florida. Susan Candiotti is covering the Giuliani event in Bradenton, Florida. Susan, how heavily is Rudy Giuliani blanketing that state with the other Republican contenders campaigning elsewhere?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very heavily, Mary. As a matter of fact, he is now on the eve of a three-day, 12-city blitz throughout Florida. He is speaking now at a town meeting at a senior citizen activity center in Bradenton, Florida very conservative are here. But the audience is made up of all ages here. And many of the people with whom I spoke said they're here, but they have not yet, interestingly, not yet, made up their mind about which Republican they will vote for, although all of them say they do intend to vote in November for a Republican candidate.

Now, up until just recently, Rudy Giuliani enjoyed a double digit lead here in Florida. But since the caucuses, the primaries has begun, he has lost that double digit lead. It's down to single numbers with Mike Huckabee nipping at his heals. When I last covered Giuliani the night of the Iowa Caucus, in fact, he was here in Florida, as we all know, saying he was not at all worried about what he calls his proportionate strategy. Mary?

SNOW: Yeah. And that strategy really in focus now as we heard yesterday, that some of his senior staff aides are going to go without pay for this month as they save up really betting on January 29 primary in Florida. He's really hoping to win there to go on to Super Tuesday, where there will be 22 primaries. And in terms of the latest polls, Susan, has there been dramatic shifts in recent weeks?

CANDIOTTI: We haven't seen any new polls come out in recent weeks since the Iowa caucus. But indeed, when you talk to his staffers, they will tell you that this is obviously a make-and-break state for him. They have to make the money last. That's why those top staffers were said to have voluntarily given up their salaries.

They know that if he doesn't win here in Florida, it will be much harder, obviously, for Rudy Giuliani to raise contributions. They could dry up. So a lot hangs in the balance here about how well he does on January 29th. And remember, in the state of Florida he cannot enjoy any cross-over votes from independents, people who have more moderate views. Because in Florida you must vote for the party in which you are registered.

SNOW: All right. Susan Candiotti in Bradenton, Florida, following the Giuliani campaign. We're going to be hearing from another Republican presidential hopeful coming up in this hour, that's Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. He is campaigning in South Carolina. But first we're going to head back out to Las Vegas, the warmer location and Jim Acosta. Jim?

ACOSTA: Thanks very much, Mary, that's right. And this race is heating up considerably in Nevada. Las Vegas is really the epicenter of this race right now. Although Hillary Clinton is in Reno today. Las Vegas is a big battle ground for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton appeared at the sheet metal workers union earlier today, not only making an economic pitch to voters here, but also rallying Hispanic voters to her cause. We can see the banner behind her in Spanish saying "Huntos con Hillary" (ph), "Together with Hillary". It was certainly a sign that she is now in New Hampshire anymore.

But we're going to go to a break now. After we come back we'll be hearing from the senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. That's right after this.


ACOSTA: I'm Jim Acosta in Las Vegas, Nevada. Welcome back to "Ballot Bowl '08" where you the viewers get to hear the candidates in their own words. And one of those candidates is Barack Obama, he was in Las Vegas last night picking up the key support of a union here, the Culinary Workers Union which has a lot of workers in the casino industry here in Las Vegas. That is a big endorsement for Obama, very critical to him picking up the Nevada caucuses one week from today.

But one thing that we are hearing from the senator from Illinois is the knives are getting sharpened. Barack Obama, while he did speak Spanish yesterday to supporters, he also drew some pretty sharp contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton talking about this issue that we've heard time and again during this campaign, change versus experience.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to show America that what happens in Vegas -- no, no, it's not going to stay in Vegas anymore. We're going to start something in Vegas, and we're going to send it across Nevada and across America. And everybody is going to know the power of a united people.

We're going to take this message and take it to every corner of the nation. We're going to make sure that workers in every union have the right and opportunities that you have fought so hard for right here in Nevada because, let me tell you something, the time for change has come in America. The time has come to tell all the fat cats and the special interests in Washington that their money and their influence don't speak louder than our collective voices. They don't own our government. We do, and we're here to take it back.

Those special interests, they didn't fund my campaign. They will not run my White House and they will not drown out the voices of the American people, working people when I'm president of the United States of America.

The time has come to make healthcare affordable to every American, every single American. And I'm going to do it the same way I expanded healthcare for the people of Illinois, by bringing Democrats and some Republicans together, to get things done. That's how we're going to do it. We're going to reach out and make it happen.

The time has come to actually have an economy that works not just for Wall Street, but works for Main Street, that starts closing the divide so that we don't want CEOs to make more in ten minutes than ordinary Americans make in a year. We don't want them getting tax breaks while you're left holding the bag. We don't need that.

And we're tired of an administration that gave lenders and lobbyists their way on sub-prime lending knowing that it was going to get people in over their heads. So many families now foreclosing on their American dream. That is not going to happen when I'm president of the United States. We are going to regulate the banks. We're going to regulate the lenders. We're going to make sure that they're doing the right thing by the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

I'm tired of giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. I'm tired of giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires instead of the hard working Americans who deserve it. And when I'm president, I'm going to take those tax breaks away and I'm going to put them in the pockets of the hard working Americans like the folks of Local 226.

And, by the way, I didn't just start talking like this. You know, we put our proposal out four months ago. We said we're going to cut taxes for folks making less than $75,000 a year. We're going to give homeowners a break if they don't itemize on their tax forms, they still deserve a break. It shouldn't just be people with big expensive houses that get all these deductions. We said that if senior citizens don't make a lot of money, that they don't have to pay income tax.

We're going to put money in the pockets of hard-working Americans who deserve it. That's who I'm fighting for. That's why I'm here with you today, to fight for the American dream for everybody.

You know, it's time for us to provide tax cuts for all of you. We need a middle class tax cut now, not later, not five months from now, not a year from now. We need it now.

I proposed a plan that says homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages need a little bit of help and relief, especially if they were ripped off by unscrupulous lenders. It's time to extend unemployment insurance to those who find themselves out of work. And the time has come to make sure that we don't raise the minimum wage every 10 years. When I'm president we're going to raise it to keep pace with inflation every year to make sure that, if you work, you are not poor.

That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.

I want to be a president who finally ends this war in Iraq and brings our troops home. Somebody who restores our moral standing in the world, somebody who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes. It should be a way to unite the American people around the common threats that we face in this country.

We should be helping poor countries all across the world, but when we're spending nine, ten billion dollars in Iraq, we could be spending that money right here in the United States of America making sure our economy is stronger and our families are stronger. And that will make us safer. That's why I'm running for president of United States of America.


ACOSTA: And there you have it, Senator Barack Obama picking up a key endorsement from the Culinary Workers Union here in Las Vegas. And you heard Senator Obama touch on a lot of themes during that chunk of sound.

And the knives are coming out. He is sharpening the contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton, talking about how he opposed the war in Iraq from the start. And, of course, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the war in Iraq. And that vote has become a big issue in this campaign.

And we expect to hear more from both of these candidates over the coming days as the Nevada caucuses approach one week from today.

Now coming up after the break here on "Ballot Bowl" on CNN you're going to hear from Mike Huckabee, another guy from Arkansas, the former governor of Arkansas. He is campaigning in South Carolina which is a very big state for him. After doing so well in Iowa, he is now down South where he probably feels very comfortable talking to voters. We'll hear from Mike Huckabee coming up after the break. This is "Ballot Bowl" here on CNN.


SNOW: You're watching CNN's "Ballot Bowl," a chance for you to hear directly from the presidential candidates as they are out on the campaign trail. We are in Clawson, Michigan. Michigan is the site of the next primary here on Tuesday where Republicans will have their next battleground.

We're going to now be hearing from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He was here in Michigan. He returned to South Carolina. He is in Columbia and speaking right now. Let's go straight to Mike Huckabee.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES: It's because of people like you across America. We were in Birch Run, Michigan, last night. When I finished the rally, people yelling and screaming, like you guys, all jazzed up.

I was walking through and talking to people, and I'll never forget what happened. I was walking through and a lady reached out to shake my hand. And then she says, I don't have any money, but I want to give you something for the campaign. And she reached over and gave me a little gold ring. I said, I can't take that. She says, no, you have to. It's what I want you to use for the campaign. This is what I have. I can give you what I have. I can't give you what I don't have.

And that was when I realized that we're going to win because, if people are willing to make those kind of sacrifices because this election is that important to them, and as important as it is to some of you who have been out working all day. We have got folks who are here tonight, some of whom were part of that group of people ages six to 76 years old in the Lexington area that went out and touched 8,000 doors today. Eight-thousand today.

I've said many places, this is no longer just a campaign. It is a cause. It's a cause to reclaim the heart and soul, not just of the Republican Party, but of this country. This can't be a campaign just about Republicans, although I'm unashamedly a Republican. It's about America. It's about the fact that this country is going to be in trouble if we don't remember that what makes us a great country is not our government, it's the extraordinary things that our people are willing to do to give the next generation of young Americans a better future. The kind of sacrifices that most of our parents made for us.

My parents did it for me and many of your parents made those sacrifices for you. My parents lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They knew hardship. Like so many of your parents who lived in the Deep South of South Carolina like mine did in Arkansas during that period of time. It was a time of intense poverty in this part of the world.

And often people were struggling just literally to have food. My dad was one of those guys like probably some of yours. He worked two jobs. Not one. One wouldn't have paid the bills. It took two.

All he ever knew in his life was hard work, heavy lifting, grime on his hands that he never got off as long as he lived, no matter how hard he tried. He was a fire fighter. And on his days off he worked as a mechanic rebuilding car generators.

I tell people the only soap we had in our house was lava soap. I was in college before I found out, it's not supposed to hurt when you take a shower.

My mother grew up the oldest of seven kids. When she was a little girl they had dirt floors, outdoor toilets. She had to go to work early to help with her brothers and sisters. She never complained about it. It was just the way people lived then.

We often call them the greatest generation. The reason we call them that is because they were willing to do things that we just now are finding out in many ways that they did not just for themselves, they did it for us. They wanted their kids to have a better life. And boy, were they ever successful.

Most of us, we look at our lives and we have to say, we're living better than we ever imagined we would be but when I ask the question how many of you believe your grandkids or even your kids will be living better than you? A lot of people can't answer and say yes because they're not sure that's the case.

The reason this election is important is because we need to once again revive the spirit and soul of this nation so that you'll be able to look at your kids and grandkids and say you will have a better life. And the only way that's going to happen is when some leadership gets in Washington. Not the folks that have been there. Because they have had a chance. They've been there and if they could have fixed it, they should have. If they haven't fixed it, they're not going to fix it. And it's time to bring some fresh faces to Washington with the experience of getting it done.

And I like you, too. We know we've got borders that have been left untouched, and as a result of that it's harder for you to get on an airplane in your hometown than it is for someone to cross the border with not a scrap of paper on them and we don't know who they are.

And here is what's really amazing. Half the people who are illegals in this country came here legally but they're living here with expired visas. It's not bad enough that our government can't secure the border. That's the first thing I'll do, we'll secure the border with American labor and American fences in 18 months.

(Inaudible) is that our government (inaudible) lost track of half of the people who are here who have never ever got their visa ....

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you doing the beeper or on cam?

HUCKABEE: Now how incompetent is it, how dysfunctional is it ....


HUCKABEE: ... when our government says there are millions of people here and we have no idea who they are and we have no idea where they are.

Look, if you order something today on they'll give you a tracking number. And you know what? You can find out exactly where UPS has that book you ordered. You'll know whether it's in the warehouse, whether it's in the truck, in transit or whether it's at your door. You can log in on the Internet and you can know exactly where that book is.

If and UPS can keep up with a $5 book, are you telling me that our federal government can't keep up with 10 million people?

So this I pledge to you. We will either fix it ourselves as a federal government, or we will give that job over to ups and they'll be able to find those folks.

SNOW: Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas making his case to voters in South Carolina ahead of next week's primary there. Mike Huckabee had his upset victory in Iowa, is trying to take that victory and momentum from Iowa and win in South Carolina where there's a heated contest in that state.

We're going to take a quick break and then we'll be back. We have lots more ahead on CNN's "Ballot Bowl." Stay with us.


MARY SNOW, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. We're out on the campaign trail with the 2008 presidential candidates. You're hearing them in their own words.

We're going to go back to Columbia, South Carolina. That's where Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is making his case to voters there ahead of next week's primary. We just heard him talking, taking -- really talking about illegal immigration. That is a big topic among Republican voters.

We also want to break away for a moment to go to our producer, Peter Hamby. He is somebody that has been entrenched in South Carolina for several months now. He's most recently been following Mike Huckabee.

Peter, since you've been there, you have seen quite a change, haven't you, in terms of the organization Mike Huckabee has had from September until now, right?

PETER HAMBY, PRODUCER, CNN: Yeah, absolutely. The campaign here is still fairly bare bones. Mike Huckabee's crowds have ground by leaps and bounds. I covered him back in September and I was the only reporter there and still had a ten minute one-on-one interview with him. He's still very assessable but the swarms of reporters around him these days are massive. It's certainly a different story than it was in November.

SNOW: You went from being the only reporter with him, getting these exclusive interviews after Iowa and his upset victory there. Now he has a big crowd. He's really making his case in South Carolina. How important is it for him to win in South Carolina?

HAMBY: It's very, very important for him. You heard former Governor David Beazley introduce governor Huckabee. He called it a firewall. It is a firewall for Mike Huckabee. It is a proving ground for his mettle on evangelical Christians who certainly turned out for him in Iowa. He's making a play for them in Michigan. If you can't win here, it's a question of whether or not you can win elsewhere. That's his bread and butter constituency.

SNOW: You were also with Mike Huckabee in Michigan up until this morning. How did it go for him here? What is he expecting? He is coming back before Tuesday's primary?

HAMBY: Well, it was interesting after New Hampshire, most people thought he would camp in South Carolina and be here until the primary on January 19th. He went to Michigan and got very large crowds there the last 24 hours. The campaign decided today they were going to go back to Michigan and stay there until Tuesday's primary. So he said today he doesn't think he can win. He really wants to win, but he's expecting third place. Clearly the campaign thinks they can make a statement there because of the evangelical population in the western part of Michigan is very receptive to his message.

SNOW: Peter Hamby, thank you very much for checking in from Columbia, South Carolina.

We're also going to take a look and listen to Fred Thompson, the Republican presidential hopeful. He was campaigning in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, talking about what he should be thinks should be the characteristics -- this is taped interview from Fred Thompson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FRED THOMPSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't see all that much difference to tell you the truth that kind of hit a hot button with me. When they're talking about the latest polls or what are your tactics on this one or that one or fire in the belly or things like that. My thinking is, our worst enemies are trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons and we're bankrupting the next generation. I'm not particularly interested in your question. Not you -- (LAUGHTER).

They hit something that was important last night and I reacted accordingly.

You know, I am me. And sometimes I get kind of pointed. And sometimes I get -- I don't think excited would be the word. But I'm basically a laid back guy. I always have been. I was laid back when I was a federal prosecutor at 28 years old. I was laid back when I was Watergate council when I was 30 years old. I was laid back when President Bush called me and asked me to get a Supreme Court nominee through the chief justice process -- Chief Justice John Roberts. I was laid back when I won two races in Tennessee by 20-point margins in a state that Bill Clinton carried twice. (APPLAUSE).

What you see is what you get. I mean, let's don't focus too much on one question to one debate. That's tactics. I'm not making any commitments to run around here and be clicking my heels three times before I hit the ground.

This is serious business about serious things. And I think that -- you know, we used to look for presidents that showed strong leadership and a certain amount of gravitas and personal honor and good judgment. It didn't used to be about fire in the belly. If that's changed now, so be it. I don't believe it. I still think they're looking for the same qualities in the president. The media is all caught up in some of this other stuff, but I'm not.

Last night, you know, they asked the question. What do you think about the Reagan coalition? They asked Governor Huckabee and said, your campaign manager said the Reagan coalition is dead. And my response is, well, he just let the cat out of the bag because that's what they believe.

And this is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party and where the Republican Party is going to go over the next several years. On the one hand you have the Reagan coalition, which was based on sound conservative principles handed down from the very beginning of our country, a strong national defense and strong military and national security, always looking out for the country first, limited government.

On the other hand we have people now saying, well, we need to be more populous. We need to talk about the man is holding us down. We need to side with employers versus employees. We need to talk about people not getting a fair shake. There are things like that going on in this country. We can stand improvement, but it's not about all of that. I live -- I can out poor boy any of them. I grew up under more modest circumstances than anybody on that sage stage. I knew if I behaved myself I had a chance at the American dream. I listed a bunch of things that I disagreed with the governor on. When he talks about an arrogant foreign policy; he talks about shutting down Guantanamo in order to curry favor with the international community, bring those prisoners here. He talks about, you know, back in Arkansas he was very supportive of taxpayer funded programs for illegal immigrants. It's just that simple. He received the endorsement of the NEA, went up there and spoke to the NEA convention. The only Republican up there. The Democratic candidates spoke there. He came out and said he would sign a national smoking ban in public places. Well, I thought that was up to localities and people in the communities and, at most, states. Whatever happened to federalism and state's rights? That's a different direction.


SNOW: That was Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson yesterday in South Carolina referring there to the fire in the belly that obviously has been talked that he didn't have fire in the belly to run for president. He says he does and he's really been taking aim at Mike Huckabee for the conservative votes there ahead of next week's primary.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back we'll hear from Mitt Romney who has so much at stake here in Michigan.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hello. This is Jim Acosta reporting from Las Vegas, Nevada. We're keeping an eye on the Democrat race for the White House. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are going at it at this state. Hillary Clinton has been in the state campaigning, not just in Las Vegas, but in Reno, Nevada, she's at a Mexican restaurant right now. Actually, leaving after taking more than an hour of questions from supporters and do not adjust your television set. That is Latin music playing at a Hillary Clinton event. It goes to show you how she is reaching out to Hispanic voters, a key voting block here in Nevada, a very big important factor in this upcoming Nevada caucus one week from today.

Meanwhile, we should let you know that we've got something special coming up at the end of "BALLOT BOWL '08." We won't let you go away without having you hear the most important members, only half kidding there, in this race for the White House. That is what the Vegas odds-makers have to say about the various candidates in this race and hat their odds are becoming president. We'll have that information coming up.

Hillary Clinton, of course, is holding some good cards right now coming out of New Hampshire and trying to double down with a victory here in Nevada. With all of that gambling jargon, I'll throw it back to Mary Snow up in Michigan.

SNOW: You know, we have the music playing, the bet making going on. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun out there.

ACOSTA: It's slightly more colorful down here. Come on down anytime.

SNOW: We'll take you up on that. We're in Clawson, Michigan which is the next battleground for Republican candidates. We have been hearing from Republican presidential candidates here in Michigan today and other states.

But we want to take you now to an event that happened earlier today where Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor was making his case to voters here in Michigan ahead of this Tuesday's primary. Here is Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm absolutely convinced that Washington is broken, that we have challenges around the country, and Michigan in particular has challenges. And Washington politicians get up and tell you what they're going to do and how they're going to make it better. Somehow year after year after year nothing changes.

So they say they're going to stop illegal immigration, but they haven't. They say they're going to shovel the problem of social security, but they haven't. They say they're going to get healthcare for our citizens, but they haven't. They say they're going to get us free of our dependence on foreign oil. But they haven't. They say they're going to reduce the burden on middle-income taxpayers, but they haven't. I'm going to go to work to finally get the job done in Washington to make sure we do the things that have been promised year after year after year. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

Now, I've had the fun. You probably had a chance to look at that. You wonder where did that come from. I've had the fun of having almost 200 town meetings across the country over the last year. These are things I heard they wanted me to get done -- make America stronger, strengthen our military, better intelligence, stronger alliances around the world. They want us to end illegal immigration, get our taxes down and cut the pork.

Every time you listen to a politician from Washington, they're all so proud about how they've been fighting against earmarks and pork barrel spending. Somehow every year it goes up-and-up and up. I'm going to say, you know what, we're putting a cap on discretionary spending, not military spending. We're going to veto it. You see number five up there? We have a commitment of honor to our veterans. I'm going to fulfill that and get better care for our veterans. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

You know, there are other people on the other side of the aisle that say the candidates of change -- you know Hillary Clinton said she'd change America. Barack Obama, I saw him at a speech, he had a great big sign behind him. It said "change." Someone joked to me and said, that's what you'd have left if he were president, in your pocket.

I don't want to fuddle the pathway they want to go down, down toward the Europe of the past, with big government, big brother telling us how to live our lives, big taxes. I want to follow the path Ronald Reagan laid out, which is -- they believe that hope comes from government. I believe hope comes from freedom and from the free American people. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And I want to strengthen our military. I want to strengthen our families. I believe that the family unit, that a mom and dad raising kids, that's the most important single thing we can do in this country for America's future. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

I saw a guy up here with a sweat shirt. There it is. It says, "Kids still need both parents." I agree. Before kids have baby, they should be taught they should get married. Marriage comes first. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

And I want to strengthen our economy. You know, a lot of people look around and remember the Michigan that I remember when I was growing up. When I lived here, Michigan was the envy of the world and the nation. Boy, we were just a power house. People talked about the motor city. I remember how exciting it was to go to the international auto show. My dad used to get escorted there with motorcycles because he was head of a car company, American Motors. It was OK I had to go in a rambler. We still got to go. It as pretty thrilling.

Things have changed. Washington has dumped mandates on us, made it more difficult for our companies to compete. And have they helped? Have they helped ease the burden, make it easier for American manufacturers? No, they have not. They made it harder and harder. Oh, they're aware of the problem, aware they keep saying layoff after layoff and our industry shrink and shrink and shrink. But it's time for us to finally do something to strengthen the automotive sector, the manufacturing sector, to strengthen our economy, particularly at a critical time. I spent my life in the economy. I think it's time to have somebody as president of the United States who has actually had jobs in the private sector and knows how the economy works. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE).

There are a lot of ways we thing then -- strengthen our economy. One is to get ourselves off foreign oil which we've been talking about for years. It's important for us to keep the burden on American citizens down. I have a special tax plan, by the way, for anybody earning $200,000 a year or less. That's almost everybody. This idea is this. Whenever you want to save your money, the dividends, interest you get, any capital gains you get, the new tax rate is zero. Save your money tax-free. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Let me tell you, I know a lot of people think about Michigan. But I care very deeply about Michigan. This is where I was born and raised, where I met my high school sweetheart, where we got married.

Let's see, you weren't born here, were you? No. But my third son was born here. I was here taking the bar exam. Suddenly he came unannounced. Our roots are very, very deep here in Michigan. I will not rest as president until Michigan is mentioned again, growing successful and the pride of the nation. I'll fight for Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: And that was Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney earlier today making his case to the voters in Michigan after his defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire. He is really putting so much focus on winning here on Tuesday in the state's primary.

We're going to take an in-depth look at what the voters here in Michigan are looking at in terms of issues and how this race is shaping up. We'll be speaking with Charles Crumm from the "Oakland Press." We'll be right back. Stay with us.


SNOW: Well come back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. I'm Mary Snow in Clawson, Michigan. You heard from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaking earlier today.

We're going to bring in Charles Crumm from the "Oakland Press." He has been covering these campaigns here in Michigan.

And Charles, we heard Mitt Romney just a few minutes ago talking about the automotive industry and the economy. You hear all these candidates talking about their economic plans. Is this really an issue that can make or break a candidate in this state?

CHARLES CRUMM, "OAKLAND PRESS": The economy is definitely an issue that can make or break a candidate in the state. Michigan is a state of 10 million people. It's got the highest unemployment rate in the country, while other states have recovered since the 2001 recession, Michigan has not. We've continued to lose manufacturing jobs. Both candidates speaking of Mr. Romney and John McCain have to address those in order to win in Michigan.

SNOW: And as we hear from these Republican candidates as they lay out their plans, it's also getting fairly heated between the chief rivals here, John McCain and Mitt Romney, right?

CRUMM: That's correct. I think it's still fairly civil, but they're not above taking decision at each other. Obviously Mitt Romney is emphasizing his ties with the state, his experience in the private sector. John McCain is emphasizing his national security, military experience, experience in the Senate. At the end of it, at the end of the day, it really depends on who is going to get their message across to the voters.

SNOW: Can you explain to our viewers the reason why Republicans are here, but we're not seeing Democrats for the most part, because they're largely avoiding the state?

CRUMM: State of Michigan moved their primary up ahead of both parties -- in violation of both party's rules. The Republican Party penalized their side by stripping half their delegates. Democratic Party penalized theirs by stripping all their delegates. In response to that, Senator Obama and John Edwards removed their names from the ballot, so we have an abbreviated primary ballot in Michigan, which is not even a really fair popularity contest simply because some of the front running candidates aren't on the ballot. SNOW: Charles Crumm, thank you for checking in with us at the "BALLOT BOWL."

We're going to head back out to Las Vegas.

Jim Acosta, I understand you have a research project that you've been working on this afternoon. Sounds like a tough assignment.

ACOSTA: It was a tough assignment, Mary. We put our crack political team, staff on this. We wanted to get to the numbers that really matter in the race for the White House, not the polling numbers we've been hearing about over the last several weeks, but the Vegas odds-makers have weighed in on how this race is shaping up for the White House.

Place your bets. The odds have been laid on the table for the various candidates and looking at the Democratic side, let's start there first. The odds-makers in Las Vegas say Hillary Clinton has the best odds, seven to five, followed by Barack Obama, five to two. And bad news for John Edwards, 100 to 1 there.

Flip over to the GOP side. John McCain, five to one, Rudy Giuliani ten to one, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson.

We're out of here. "Lou Dobbs" coming up after the break.