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Texas, Ohio Voters Heads to Polls; Bush Promises Free-Trade Agreement to Colombia; Ohio Faces Messy Election Weather; Iraq War Important to Vermont Voters; Youth Vote Could Play Role in Rhode Island

Aired March 04, 2008 - 13:00   ET


DON LEMON, CO-HOST: March 4, or else. That's pretty much the prospect for the four main candidates for president as four states hold what could be decisive primaries.
BETTY NGUYEN, CO-HOST: Yes. John McCain almost will surely march forth to the GOP nomination after contests today in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island. And Barack Obama could wind up near unstoppable in the Democratic race, or he and Hillary Clinton could fight on to Pennsylvania, more than a month from now.

LEMON: And you know, there is a wild card in Ohio. It is the weather. Heavy rain in the south, freezing rain and snow in the north. Will voters stay home? That's a big question.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN headquarters here in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: Hi, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in today for Kyra Phillips. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Take a look. Also standing by for President Bush to speak from the White House today. We do expect him to talk about his phone call to it president of Colombia. As we've been reporting, troops from Venezuela and Ecuador have been ordered to their Colombian borders. It is a tense situation that we've been following in the NEWSROOM. And as soon as the president begins to speak, we, of course, will listen in.

LEMON: All right. Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont. The races. The rallies. Of course, the results. The best political team on television has fanned out across the country and across the political landscape. CNN is your home for politics. We'll cover all four of these crucial contests all day and all night right here on CNN.

Let's start with the biggest prize, though, from out of Texas. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live in Austin for us.

Hi, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don, it is the biggest prize, and it is a very important day for these candidates, particularly Senator Hillary Clinton. Her own campaign looking at Ohio and Texas as really some must-wins to move forward here. I am at Barton Hills Elementary School, and this is really where voters are out to do two things here. It is fondly called the Texas two-step. You're not dealing with bad weather or anything like that, but a complicated process here that people have to understand.

The candidates, Barack Obama, Senator Clinton, have been trying to explain it to voters. It simply means, they've got to show up here for -- to vote in the primary process. That counts for two-thirds of the delegates that are awarded when it's all said and done.

But then voters are also asked to come back at the end of the day. That is for the caucus process. To go to their precincts and to caucus for their candidate. That accounts for one-third of the delegates allotted when it's all said and done.

So voters have already been showing up here to the elementary school, but the are again asked to come back later in the day. This is going to be critical for both Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama has performed much better when it comes to the caucus process. We've seen Senator Hillary Clinton performed better in the primary process. So we're seeing how this all shakes out.

But obviously, a lot of delegates at stake here. We see the candidates. They are still campaigning up to the very last minute here in Texas today. In Houston, San Antonio, throughout the state, trying to win those last-minute voters. You see the beeping in the background there as people start to gather. This is going to be a critical, critical contest for these candidates today -- Don.

LEMON: Suzanne, they seem to be excited behind you, with the horn honking and the signs. All right. Obviously, we're going to be checking back with you throughout the day. And it appears to be at least sunny. Thank you, Suzanne.

Sunny there where she is, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, but not the case where we're about to take you. A rainy mess across much of Ohio, but that's not expected to dampen the spirits of voters.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Shaker Heights, which is outside of Cleveland.

And a good thing you're indoors. Let's hope that a lot of people get to those polls, despite the weather outside.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Betty. There's a wintry mix in the forecast for the Cleveland area today. We're in Shaker Heights, where so far, knock on wood, the weather has not been much of an issue. We've seen a steady stream of people coming in. And that is pretty much in line with what election officials are expecting in this state. They're expecting a record turnout for a presidential primary in Ohio.

And three are many issues are on the minds of voters on this primary day. And I want to bring in one of those voters, Rich Jaina (ph), who just cast his ballot inside St. Dominick's Catholic Church here in Shaker Heights, which is outside of Cleveland.

And to -- and since we're in a Catholic church, we should respect the sanctity of the voting place, the polling place, as well. And so I don't want to ask you exactly who you're voting for, because we have other voters within ear shot. But what are some of the issues on your mind on this primary day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there's a lot of issues that are important to me, but there's been a lot of issues affecting America for the last 50 years that everybody talks about, everybody promises, but they don't do anything about. And so I think we do need change.

There's one candidate that, you know, wants to do a lot of change, but he's untested, no track record, hasn't accomplished anything. And I'm very leery of that. It's a roll of the dice. There's another candidate who has some experience, and I feel more confident with that particular candidate.

ACOSTA: And we're hearing that the economy is the No. 1 issue on voters' minds.


ACOSTA: And so that is going to play out throughout the day. And, Rich, they're telling me I've got to wrap. I was going to work on another question there, Rich, but...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. But again, the economy is critical. And we can't afford more debt. There's a lot of things we need to do. And I'm not happy that -- the plan we have right now.

ACOSTA: All right. All right. Look...

NGUYEN: ... you right now, Jim. Sorry about that. But we want to go to Washington and the president, who is speaking today after having a phone call to the president of Colombia. Let's listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... in Venezuela. I told the president that America fully supports Colombia's democracy, and that we firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region. I told them that America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers.

President Uribe told me that one of the most important ways America can demonstrate its support for Colombia is by moving forward with a free-trade agreement that we negotiated. The free-trade agreement will show the Colombian people that democracy and free enterprise lead to a better life. It will help the president, Uribe, counter the vision of those seeking to undermine democracy and create divisions within our hemisphere.

Our country's message to President Uribe and the people of Colombia is that we stand with our democratic ally.

My message to the United States Congress is that this trade agreement is more than a matter of smart economics. It is a matter of national security. If we fail to approve this agreement, we will let down our close ally, we will damage our credibility in the region, and we will embolden the demagogues in our hemisphere.

The president told me that the people across the region are watching to see what the United States will do. So Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to come together and approve this agreement. By acting at this critical moment, we can show the Colombian people and millions across the region that they can count on America to keep its word, and that freedom is the surest path to prosperity and peace.

Thank you very much.

NGUYEN: So there you have it, the president speaking about his conversation with the president of Colombia.

Now, all of this was sparked at the onset of an operation that occurred on Saturday, which the second-in-command of the Far Colombian Rebels as was killed. It was a joint operation by the Colombian national police and the military forces. But that raid did lead Venezuela and Ecuador to order troops to their Colombian border. So it's a tense situation.

And as you heard, the president saying America will continue to stand with Colombia. And we, of course, will continue to watch this situation as it unfolds.

LEMON: All right. Freezing rain. Flood watches. Almost anywhere you go in Ohio today, it is a mess. Our Reynolds Wolf is in Cleveland.

Any chance the weather will clear up before the polls close, Reynolds? That's a big question.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Don, that's the million-dollar question. Everyone wants to know that, the answer to that.

And I'll tell you, we've seen intermittent showers. A little bit of rain, a little bit of freezing rain, a few bits of sleet, and even a few snowflakes. But it's an on and off game that nature's been playing.

However, into the afternoon hours, late afternoon, into the evening, we could see a little bit more of this, around an inch or so of accumulation. In many places, far less. As you mentioned, we've got a couple things we're dealing with.

We've got flood watches in the morning, scattered throughout the state. At the same time in this area, for much of northern Ohio, we also have a winter weather advisory that remains in effect. So there's a real risk of some glazing on many of the roadways, on the overpasses, a lot of bridges. So there certainly is some concern there.

Already, weather's caused some issues. Not necessarily here in the Cleveland area but about 140 miles south of the city in a spot called Jefferson County. Jefferson County, Ohio. They have had some issues with some polling locations. No closures, but they've had to move a couple of polling places due to the threat of flooding. That is certainly something that may cause some issues as we may go into the late-day hours.

Take a look at the front of this page, front one of this paper. This is the "Free Times." And the big question is, will your vote count? And the answer to that is, it will if you can make it to the polls.

I have a feeling that many people, they're bound and determined to get there. This is Cleveland. This is the Snow Belt. A little bit of this activity is not going to keep them away from going to the voting booths, the polling areas.

However, if anyone out there is looking for an excuse, they might use this not to show up. Go figure. Back to you.

LEMON: All right, Reynolds. I think people in that area are pretty used to some horrific weather. And, yes, you can use the newspaper to double as an umbrella. All right. Thank you, sir.

NGUYEN: He is definitely experienced at that.

Well, rain, sleet, snow. Not exactly inviting weather for voters today.

Chad, does this mean that we could possibly see some polls closed because of it?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, so far we haven't heard of that. We heard a couple because of flooding, actually, got moved. They weren't actually closed, but they moved the location. Big signs where the old location was saying, "Hey, you know what? These creeks are out of their banks. We need to move." And they got to some higher ground.


NGUYEN: It just had to happen on such an important day.

MYERS: Yes. Nothing going on in Texas yet. So I guess that's good. Texas was yesterday.

NGUYEN: Yes. It's a little cold in parts of Texas, though.


NGUYEN: But nothing to keep you away from the polls.

MYERS: Right.

NGUYEN: Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome. LEMON: So you know what Barack Obama looks like, right? Well, he's the one with his back to you in this picture that you're about to look at. But do you know who the other guy is? Obama's critics sure do. His trial is underway. What could it mean for the Obama campaign?

NGUYEN: Plus, did you ever take any of this stuff? Look at it there.

LEMON: Yes, I did.

NGUYEN: I know a lot of people have. And if you did, you might have some money coming your way. Yes. Airborne is paying a settlement that is nothing to sneeze at.


LEMON: OK. So along with Texas and Ohio, two New England states are holding primaries today. CNN's Dan Lothian joins us now from Williston, Vermont, and our Deborah Feyerick is in Providence, Rhode Island.

Dan, why don't we begin with you?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, you know, this is a state that really hasn't gotten that much attention in the past, because typically the race is pretty much decided by the time it comes to here, and certainly, it hasn't gotten the kind of attention that we've seen in Ohio and Texas.

But nonetheless, voters here do feel like they are part of the process, in fact. They feel, one voter telling me that he feels "like my vote really does count," because there's so much emphasis on the delegates, because the race, at least on the Democrat side, is so competitive.

We're at a polling station in Williston, and you can see behind me, some folks lining up. They're just signing in. That's to my right. Over to my left, many of these currents are drawn, because folks are casting their votes here.

And one of the things that we've been hearing, not only yesterday as we were walking around town but also here at the polling place today is the issue that stands out in a lot of people's minds, is the war in Iraq. Yes, they're concerned about the economy. They're also concerned about health care, but as their voting they're thinking about the war in Iraq. Take a listen.


STEVE MEASE, VERMONT VOTER: I think getting out of Iraq, you know, ending the war is really important. So -- the one presidential candidate who seems to be wanting to do that is Barack.

LOTHIAN: So I guess that's who you voted for?

MEASE: That's who I voted for.


LOTHIAN: Now the candidates really haven't spent any time here. We know that Barack Obama did come about a year or so ago. He's done fund-raising here. Senator Clinton has not been here, but she did send her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

They've had their surrogates here working on the ground. Senator Obama having a strong ground operation here. Senator Clinton really setting up her operation here in the last few weeks.

The secretary of state's office telling us that they expect because it's a competitive Democratic race, that there will be a heavy voter turnout. And certainly, we've seen a very nice stream of voters coming into this polling place. They also believe that the issue of the war in Iraq, which so many people here are against, is driving some of the forces that would be getting people out to the polls -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Dan Lothian. Dan, thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, now a small state with some big stakes. Voters in Rhode Island know they really matter this time around. So let's take you straight to Providence and CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

Are they feeling that power today, Deborah?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're definitely feeling the power, especially because clearly this race could come down to just a couple of votes, a couple of delegates.

And so both sides, both on the Democrats, both Democrats have been really out there canvassing as much as they can. You've got people across from the polling place, holding their signs in proper distance from the site, just making sure that people hear either the word Obama or Clinton as they're walking in here.

We can tell you that about 60 percent of all of Rhode Island are -- is Catholic. All of those Catholic voters. I spoke to the editor of a local Catholic newspaper who said she's not convinced that it's religion that's really going to be playing a role in this particular race here in Rhode Island.

It's actually the youth vote. Some 20,000 newly registered young people who will be voting in the primaries today. And that is likely to make a difference.

Now, for the Democrats, they've really weighed both of these candidates very, very carefully, and for some, it really has been a tough choice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could make a blend of the best qualities of each, we'd be in heaven. I'll tell you, I lean towards Obama, because I think there's something a little strange to have two royal families occupying the White House for almost 30 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The economy, No. 1, I would say. But also foreign policy. I think that the world that we live in, and I think she has the experience that would really be able to work well in kind of our world now. She's been in that -- she's been in the White House.


FEYERICK: So again, the point that if they vote for Hillary and she doesn't get the nomination, then it's very likely they'll vote for Obama, having the opportunity to vote for two historic candidates in the long run.

And we can tell you that both campaigns have been very active here. The Obama campaign had hundreds of young volunteers out targeting homes where there would be likely voters. They knew exactly what doors to knock on. They sent everybody out yesterday and today. Signs all over the place. Establishments allowing people to put up big Obama posters.

But the same for Hillary Clinton. Her people were out there putting up big signs, as well. And this morning, I'll tell you, between 5 and 6 in the morning, I was watching a new channel. It wasn't CNN; it was a local channel. I can tell you that I saw at least three ads for Hillary Clinton, at least three ads for Barack Obama.

So for a state that usually, not this in the game this late in the stage, well, in fact, they are very much a player in this race.

NGUYEN: Well, the stakes are very high, and we can see why they're playing a tough game out there in Rhode Island. Thank you, Deborah.

LEMON: Why don't we take a look at the numbers that are at stake today. Three hundred and seventy Democratic delegates in the four states today. The latest CNN estimates shows Barack Obama with 1,378 total delegates. Hillary Clinton has 1,269. Two thousand twenty-five are needed to clench [SIC] the Democratic nomination.

With 256 Republican delegates at stake today, John McCain could sew up the GOP nomination. Right now, McCain has 1,047 delegates. Mike Huckabee has 247. Eleven-hundred ninety-one is the magic number there.

Make sure you stay with CNN all day for coverage of the high- stakes Democratic primaries in Ohio and Texas. And at 7 p.m. Eastern, results start rolling in to the best political team on television, live in the CNN Election Center.

NGUYEN: Environmentally-friendly luxury homes, well, they go up in smoke, and now the FBI suspects a radical environmental group of starting that fire. Is this a case of home-grown terrorism?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: It's 24 minutes past the hour. Here are three of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Well, we are just minutes ago from President Bush who just got off the phone with Colombia's president. Mr. Bush says the U.S. fully supports Colombia in a standoff with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez moved thousands of troops to the Colombian border after Colombia's cross-border raid into Ecuador.

We're also hearing this hour from federal agent investigating apparent arson fires that gutted several expensive model homes north of Seattle. They're looking into whether an eco-terrorist group might be responsible.

Some 40 homes remain evacuated in the Southern California desert town of Mecca, after a train derailment. At least one car was leaking toxic gas. Now, there's no word on what caused that train to derail overnight.

LEMON: Well, to begin the month of March, stocks are marching lower. Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with the very latest on that.

Yes, they are marching lower this month. Aren't they?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure are. March did not come in like a lion. It came in like a bear, and as with the previous month, the reasons are quite familiar to us.

And the sell-off that we've been seeing as a result are typically rooted in two areas. Financials, of course, and technology. And we have two big scapegoats in both sectors.

Let's start with Intel, the world's biggest maker of semiconductors, you know, the brains for your PC. It also makes memory chips, which are also used in great demand for things like MP3 players, digital cameras. Well, the prices fell much lower than Intel expected. Intel is a tech bellwether. It's shares are down 2.5 percent. So that's hurting the NASDAQ. It's also a member of the Dow 30. So it's doing double damage.

Then you have a huge financial, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch saying that its earnings are going to be lower than had been expected. A big investor in Dubai said that Citi is going to need even more than the $22 billion in capital it already raised to weather the credit crunch.

And of course, the credit crunch started in the housing market, when all of these people with risky loans started to default on them.

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, speaking today to community bankers in Orlando, said things are going to get worse before they get better, but more needs to be done. Specifically, one of the things he's asking for is that bankers write down the amounts that people owe on their loans.

In the meantime, we've got a nasty sell-off. No getting around it. The Dow right now down 154 points. The NASDAQ is down 22 -- Don.

LEMON: All right. So that's Wall Street. What about Main Street, Susan?

LISOVICZ: Well, and that's the vicious circle. You'd think that as the economy slows down, that inflation wouldn't be as much of a problem, but it is. And we're seeing it, of course, in oil and gas prices.

Gas prices are going up. The government says that gas prices rose more than 3 cents last week, close to record levels. The average price, $3.16 a gallon, for regular unleaded, up 66 cents from just a year ago.

And if you drive a truck, you're using diesel, you're really in trouble. The second week of record highs there; jumped 10 cents over the past week to $3.66 a gallon nationwide. That's up more than $1 from a year ago.

In the next hour, hey, Don, we're going to be talking about a lottery. A unique lottery, not one where you can win money that you'd buy a big house or get a fancy car. This one will enable you to get a doctor's appointment, and we'll talk about that in the next hour.

Back to you.

LEMON: Sounds very interesting. OK, Susan. Thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: Well, as Texans head to the polls today, we want to take you to Houston, Texas, where John McCain is holding a town hall meeting. He is right past that sign. There he is. You can see him. Let's take a listen.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a guy that's living in Pakistan, or Afghanistan, and we know his name is Osama bin Laden, my friends. And he is now able to get out messages that motivates, recruits and instructs these jihadists and these Islamic radical extremists.

My friends, I look before you, and I tell you that, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden, and I will bring them to justice. I will bring him to justice!

As General Petraeus has said, the central battleground in the war against radical extremists in this struggle is Iraq. And my friends, I'm happy to stand before you today to tell you that the new strategy and the surge is succeeding, despite what the Democrats will tell you. They were wrong when they said that the surge wouldn't succeed. They were wrong when they said that, politically, that Iraq couldn't function. They are functioning. We are succeeding.

And I will tell you right now, there were times, obviously, when my political campaign was not viewed as the most viable in America, as you probably know. In fact, I was reminded of the words of Chairman Mao, who once said it's always darkest before it's totally black.

But I said at the time, as you know, I would much rather lose a political campaign than lose a war.

But I have to tell you, and please remember this, if you forget everything I told you today. Al Qaeda is on the run. They are not defeated. OK? They are not defeated. Right now there's a huge battle going on in the city of Mosul in Iraq. And I'm happy to tell you that it is Iraqi military that are taking the brunt of that battle, and Americans are in support, and that's what the success of the surge is all about, is the Iraqis taking over our responsibilities.


And there's a lot of things I want to tell you, but after this war is won, then we will decide what kind of relationship we have with the Iraqis, as we did with the Kuwaitis after the first Gulf War, as we have with the South Koreans, et cetera, et cetera, after the war is won. And I believe we can continue to reduce our numbers of troops there and gradually leave.

So, my friends, it's a long, hard struggle. All of us are frustrated. All of us are frustrated and saddened by the sacrifice that has been made. But I say thank God, as you do, that no American is divided in our support of the brave, young Americans who are serving this country in the military today.


And you can be most proud of the Texas Guard and Reserve. The Texas Guard and Reserve has done more than any guard and reserve in the history of this country, and the next time you see one of them, just go over and say thanks for serving. It's remarkable what they've been able to do and what they've been asked to do, and we're going to have a bigger Army, and a bigger Marine Corps and a bigger military so we don't have to ask these brave families to make the long deployments and the frequent deployments that they've been asked to.

Finally, just let me say to you, my friends that every once in a while you van experience that puts everything in the right priority, and the right way of looking at things, because sometimes we with our ambitions get that a little bit skewed. And that happened to me last august at a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. A woman stood up and said, Senator McCain, would you do me the honor of wearing a bracelet with my son Matthew Stanley's name on it. She said Matthew Stanley was 22 years old, he was killed in combat outside of Baghdad just before Christmas last year. I said I would be honored to wear this bracelet with your son's name it. And then she said, Senator McCain, I just want you to promise me one thing. I want you to promise me that you'll do everything in your power to make sure that my son's death was not in vain. My friends, I will continue to do everything in order to make sure that he and the other sacrifices that have been made are not in vain.

(APPLAUSE) And I am convinced that if I am honored and humbled to become president of the United States, I will inspire Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest. I believe it's the noblest of all thing we can do with our lives and I believe America is ready for it than ever before. When I'm around young Americans I'm never more inspired than there willingness to serve this country, especially in the military, but in many, many other ways. And, my friends, with your help and your vote today we will be able to achieve an honorable goal. I'm honored to be here, I'm grateful for your presence. I appreciate your support and your vote. Thank you very much.

NGUYEN: And there you have it. John McCain on the campaign trail today in Texas, Houston, Texas to be exact, where voters will be heading to the polls in the primary there. In the Republican primary, there are 137 delegates at stake. Of course, we'll continue to follow this.

Now, voters in four more states get to weigh in on the presidential race today. And most eyes are on the big battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. We are going to hear from "Time" magazine's senior political analyst, Mark Halperin.



NGUYEN: Well, you could call it Super Tuesday part two, because hundreds of delegates are at stake today in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont.

But unlike the real Super Tuesday all of the suspense today is on the Democratic side. Can Hillary Clinton stage a comeback?

Well, joining us now from New York is Mark Halperin, "Time" magazine's senior political analyst.

And let's get straight to it -- can she survive past today? Will she stay in this race?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE SR. POL. ANALYST: Well, I think she very much wants to. I was out covering her last week and talked to her a little bit about how determined she is. She feels an obligation to go forward, if she can.

The question, I think it's a two-part question -- Will the results be good enough in her own mind to think she has a chance? And then to the extent she doesn't absolutely destroy Obama today, are there voices in the Democratic party that become overwhelming that force her out of the race, and we'll know that in a few hours, I think.

NGUYEN: Well, you spent time with her, what, on Friday. What was that like? I mean, what is it like inside the Clinton camp at this hour?

HALPERIN: Well, I think you know, things have changed a little since Friday, because she's had some good news. I think Friday was the day that she launched this new ad against Obama, with the famous ringing phone and the sleeping children. Nothing more menacing than some video of sleeping children. And I think, you know, the Obama campaign pushed back hard.

But this is her best issue. If there's a way for her to overtake Obama, I think her campaign believes it's to make people think that she's more qualified to be president than Barack Obama, particularly on national security. So, I think as she started to find her voice and her legs that day on this issue, which again, has been the issue that's been out there and they've yet to find a way to make it stick. This may have been the way, at least for this set of primaries.

NGUYEN: Let's talk about Obama right now because I want you to look at some video from a news conference yesterday in San Antonio where reporters were asking Obama about his connection to political fundraiser Tony Rezko. Take a look at that, at that interchange there.





NGUYEN: All right, that's kind of hard to hear, but what he was saying was, essentially, look, I think I've answered about eight questions here. I think I've pretty much answered it all and then he exited the stage. Is this a case where a lot of people are really criticizing the media, saying you know what, you haven't come down on Obama and finally, we're seeing Obama being faced with some tough questions?

HALPERIN: I think it's partly that. It's also that happened to be these two stories, both the story about NAFTA and the Canadians as well as the Tony Rezko trial that are putting him under pressure.

And again, if you're looking for reasons why Hillary Clinton might be looking to say whatever the results, I'm going to try to make an argument to stay in the race, part of it is she is delighted, I can tell you, that Obama is finally getting tough questions at a press conference.

Most of the reporters who cover him regularly said that was the toughest press conference he's faced. And that was not so tough by some standards, and he's finally having to answer questions on topics that's she's been trying to push.

So, I think she will look at that as a sign that perhaps, even though I don't think she thinks the coverage will ever be fully equal, perhaps he will get tougher coverage from here on out and that would give her a chance to try to press her case. NGUYEN: Well, some of that top coverage, obviously centers around the Rezko trial, which is underway. Do you think voters have enough information? Have they followed it enough, especially in these key states to really have that issue make a difference come tonight in those polls?

HALPERIN: I don't think so. I think probably the NAFTA issue may have gotten more play in Ohio, at least, than the Rezko issue, and truth be told, there's nothing about Senator Obama's relationship with Rezko that raises any concerns that I think voters would have based on what we know now.

What the Clinton campaign has argued and some journalists have tried to pursue is, you know, there are some questions that haven't been answered and those might lead to new questions and perhaps new answers that voters would be interested in.

The trial is going on. They're doing jury selection. It will go on the judge thinks for several months. Again, no accusation of wrongdoing related to this case and Senator Obama, but there are some questions about his relationship and you never want to have one of your headlines during a critical voting period be that someone you were closely associated with is under indictment in federal prosecution. That's just maybe Politics 101.5.

NGUYEN: OK, and very quickly, we just heard earlier, Don was telling us that Rush Limbaugh in Texas is asking the voters there, you know, forget about Obama. I want my Republican folks out there in Texas to vote for Hillary Clinton because that's going to help the Republicans. Do you think that's really going to play out that way?

HALPERIN: No, that kind of strategic voting never really does anything. As influential as Rush Limbaugh is, I think it's mostly an interesting talking point. And it is true that for now at least, the Republicans are enjoying watching this back and forth, although it does give Senator McCain a tougher time to figure who to focus his attention on. I think to some extent, people are overstating the case. If there is a Democratic nominee, I think in some ways, that'll be easier on McCain.

NGUYEN: All right, Mark Halperin, senior political analyst with "Time," we do appreciate a little bit of your time today. Thank you.

HALPERIN: Thanks, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, if you are a political junkie, is the place for you. Check out our new interactive delegate counter game where you can play realtime, "what if" scenarios with delegates and superdelegates and you can see how today's primaries affect the race. That and so much more,

LEMON: Airborne, you've heard of it, you're supposed to take it for when you're in a confined place, a popular product during flu and cold season. So, why is the company having to doll out millions of dollars?


LEMON: All right, it's no doubt some of you have used, and probably many of you with the money they're going to have to pay back, those fizzy tablets sold as Airborne, they promise to help fight off the common cold? Well, that claim gave the company a giant headache and there's word today of a giant refund.

Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is on the case for us and fill us in. I've used this. I know lots of people have used it, and it doesn't work.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, lots of people have used it, like you say, because they were getting on an airplane.


COHEN: And the product claims that it helps you in germy environments, like an airplane. And so, apparently, there was a gentleman in Florida who used it when he went on plane to Europe. And he thought oh, this'll get rid of my cold, but it didn't. So, he sued, and, well, he didn't end up with $23 million, but at the end of the lawsuit, $23 million to basically help let consumers know that these claims don't have science behind them.

For example, claims like miracle cold buster, or natural cold remedy. So, if you bought this stuff and you want a refund, you can go to and you will find a link to where you can try to get your money back. You don't even actually have to have receipts. If it's just like six or so bottles or fewer than that, you don't even have to have receipts.

Now, here's the response. We called Airborne to see what they had to say. And they said, "Airborne is an immune booster. We are pleased to have reached this settlement which relates to advertising claims."

Again, a $23 million settlement and now, there is Attorneys General and FTC looking into this, so who knows what else is going to happen.

LEMON: OK, so, they're saying that it's not necessarily that it doesn't work, there's no science to back it up, is what they're saying.

COHEN: There's no science to back it up and they're not saying that it makes you sick. They're not saying that.

LEMON: So, yes, is there anything wrong with it, can it make you sick or?

COHEN: From what this lawsuit has to say, no.


COHEN: They're not saying it's going to make you sick.

LEMON: All right.

COHEN: They're just saying they can't back up their claims.

LEMON: OK, all right, so nothing will make you sick. All right, so what if you can -- what can you do to fight the common cold? Obviously, Airborne, it's got a bunch of stuff in it, it's supposed to be an immune booster. But are there other things you can do, obviously, to?

COHEN: There are things you can do ...

LEMON: Cover your mouth, wash your hands?

COHEN: You can -- right, exactly, all that, right, exactly, exactly. Unfortunately, there's no cure for the common cold. And anyone who comes up with it, they will be really quite wealthy.

But there a couple of things that you can do, some tried and true methods. Let's talk about those. Pain relievers, just plain old Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, things like that. Also, nasal sprays, saline nasal sprays can help clear that nose out.

The jury is still out on Zinc. Some studies show it works, some studies show it doesn't. Some people swear by it. Others say it did nothing for them. Not entirely clear.

LEMON: Mostly if you think it's going to work for you, it might.

COHEN: You know, the placebo effect is huge, it's huge. So, keep that in mind.

LEMON: All right, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

NGUYEN: Environmentally-friendly luxury homes, well, they go up in smoke and now, the FBI suspects a radical environmental group of starting the fire. So, is this a case of home-grown terrorism?


NGUYEN: This just in: federal investigators have wrapped up a news conference on a suspected case of eco-terror, a devastating fire you're look at right now on a so-called "Street of Dreams" in a Seattle suburb.

And our Thelma Gutierrez was inside that briefing, she joins us now. And what came of it?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, ATF and FBI held a news conference just a short time ago. They say they are investigating this as a possible case of domestic terrorism. They say that because a banner with the word "ELF" scrolled on it was found out here tied to a fence post near this street, and that's one of the hallmarks of this particular group. Now, they say that they are down in the area, which is right behind me, about a half mile down the road in a very wooded area. There are five homes in that area. Three were completely burned down. The fire started yesterday morning. Two other homes were pretty much damaged.

We went in there a short time ago with investigators. It was very interesting to see them combing the area for clues, looking for forensic evidence. They also brought with them a dog that is used by ATF, which can pick up trace elements of accelerants that are used because they say that there were absolutely no explosive devices found in these homes. They're trying to determine exactly how this fire started, when it started and how many people may have been involved.


DAVID GOMEZ, FBI ASST. SPECIAL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: The Earth Liberation Front is an organization without organization. There's no leaders. There's no hierarchy. There's no membership list. There's no place you go to sign up. These actions are actions of individuals or individual groups throughout the country, and in fact, throughout the world.

So, if you take down one conspiracy, one group, there's always a possibility that similarly motivated people will get together and try to commit another action in support of the movement.


GUTIERREZ: Now, on this so-called "Street of Dreams," the builders have touted these 4200 square-foot multi-million dollar homes as environmentally-friendly, and so, on that banner that was marked ELF, there was also a phrase that said, "Built green, no black," mocking the builders' claims these were actually green homes.

But, again, right now, investigators are just trying to determine exactly who may have started this fire. They say they're not ruling anything out, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, so -- and just to clarify because when people look at this, they're thinking well, if this group is supposed to, you know, stand for things that are environmentally-friendly, why would they burn down eco-friendly homes? But ELF is claiming, at least according to the briefing that you got out of, is that these weren't indeed eco-friendly homes?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, you know, one of the things that was very interesting, Betty, is that you think of ELF as an organization with structure. And the FBI says that's absolutely not the case. These are rogue individuals who are acting on their own and then go and leave behind this kind of banner. So, who knows what they're motivation is.

But clearly, these people believe that these homes are not eco- friendly, contrary to the builders' claims. I mean, after all, these are 4,200 square foot mcmansions that are out here and many people have been very upset at the building of these huge homes in areas like this. This is a wetland area. It was very controversial when these homes were starting to go up.

So, again, who knows exactly what the motive is, but the investigators say they're not ruling anything out.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez joining us live. Thank you, Thelma.

LEMON: NAFTA, just mentioning the word stirs strong sentiments in Ohio. But what about in Texas? We'll hear what voters there are telling our Ali Velshi.