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'Ballot Bowl '08'

Aired March 10, 2008 - 12:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Good afternoon. Or good morning, depending on where you are. But wherever you are, this is CNN's "Ballot Bowl," the Monday edition.
I'm Candy Crowley in Jackson, Mississippi. Mississippi, of course, the center of the political universe, at least tomorrow, where they hold a primary. They are not often used to Democratic attention here in Mississippi, which hasn't vote for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter. Nonetheless, every delegate counts in this squeaker race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So, Mississippi the big deal, at least for tomorrow.

This, of course, is your chance to hear from these candidates whether you are in Mississippi or any place else. You will hear them unfiltered. Sometimes they are taped, sometimes they are live, but these are big portions of their speech which you will be able to hear without reporters' analysis, without anything, unfiltered, for you to judge, as you consider your vote in this very exciting political year.

Joining me now, Suzanne Malveaux, who is in Scranton, Pennsylvania, helping us out today, as well as Dana Bash, who is in St. Louis, Missouri, where John McCain will soon appear. Understand he is raising a little money, doing a little campaigning today.

We want to start first with Suzanne.


Well, obviously, the big prize is going to be Pennsylvania, but we're looking down the road here -- that's April 22nd, 158 delegates up for grabs. Senator Barack Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton, fighting over those delegates. They're not wasting any time at all. That is why we expect to see Senator Hillary Clinton here in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

You will hear her talk a little bit about her background. This is where her great grandparents from Wales came over here to Scranton, Pennsylvania. She will talk about -- a little bit about how her father -- this is the place where she was taught how to shoot a gun, how to go fishing, but also talk about her values, working hard, that type of thing. So she'll be here later today.

Also, Senator Obama, after a quiet weekend, both of them not on the campaign trail, well, he is back in business, as you know, in Mississippi. I'm sure you can talk a little bit about what he's doing and campaigning for that big day gearing up for tomorrow -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Suzanne.

Mississippi at this moment looking like a Barack Obama state. But we want to take you back first to this weekend, where Obama picked up another state, the interior west, Wyoming. He picked up seven pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton picking up five. A net gain obviously of two in what still remains a very tight pledge delegate race.

Barack Obama did campaign in Wyoming over the weekend, as you know. One of the big issues that has come up over the course of the last week or so is national security, who would be best, in fact, to answer that red phone, the crisis phone in the White House. Would it be Hillary Clinton? She says, yes, her experience says that it would be her. But Barack Obama argues differently.

Here he was in Casper, Wyoming, over the weekend.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She was quoted either this morning or last night in Mississippi, because one of my advisers had said that in an interview overseas that, well, Senator Obama, you know, would not -- you know, he's given a time frame for withdrawal, but obviously it would be subject to decisions at the situation and the time. And so Senator Clinton used this to try to imply that I wasn't serious about bringing this war to an end.

Now, I just have to mention this because I don't want anybody here to be confused. I was opposed to this war in 2002. If it had been up to me we would have never been in this war.

It was because of George Bush, with an assist from Hillary Clinton and John McCain, that we entered into this war, a war that should have never been authorized, a war that should have never been waged. I've been against it 2002, 2003, 2004, '05, '06, '07, '08, and I will bring this war to an end in 2009.


So don't be confused. Don't be confused when Senator Clinton is not even willing to acknowledge that she voted for war. She says she voted for diplomacy, despite the title that said "Authorization to Use U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq." So, you know, I don't want to play politics on this issue because she doesn't have standing.


CROWLEY: Again, Barack Obama, last Friday in Casper, Wyoming.

Again, he won those Wyoming caucuses Saturday, picking up two delegates net, winning seven pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton winning five -- a good at least pick-me-up for Barack Obama, who of course lost three states to Hillary Clinton the Tuesday before.

We will be hearing more from Barack Obama in Columbus, Mississippi, later this hour. Right now I want to toss it back to my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux, who is already looking ahead to Pennsylvania -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Candy, certainly Hillary Clinton looking forward to Pennsylvania, but lest you think that she's given up on Mississippi. She has not. We saw last week her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, her daughter Chelsea, both of them crisscrossing the state, trying to emphasize that they believe that she will do the best job there. She is remaining, she believes, to be competitive here.

If you look at Mississippi, about 36 percent of the population is African-American. It translates to about 50 percent of the Democratic -- likely Democratic voters who will be participating tomorrow. But Senator Clinton tried to emphasize last week that she is not going to give up on this state.

She was in Canton, Mississippi. That is where she blasted President Bush for the lack of response when it came to her Hurricane Katrina. And she also made a pledge as well, that she would be more attentive to the needs of those residents.

Take a listen.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, whether you're supporting me or not, you're supporting the kind of historic change that comes maybe once a generation. This is our time, Democrats! This is our opportunity!


And what we have to decide is how do we seize this moment? How do we make it real? How do we translate the excitement of this campaign in the hard work that will transform lives?

I'm convinced that we can do this. You know, America has given me opportunities that my parents certainly never had.

My 88-year-old mother lives with us. She was born before women could vote. And every single day I think she gets up just marveling, as she would say, that she's still here, but also that she has a daughter who is standing here before you as a candidate for the presidency of the United States.


But I know very well I would not be here had it not been for people like Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers, the names we know and the names that are lost to history, whose values and commitment, whose struggle, whose blood paved the way for Senator Obama and myself.

Now, I'm so pleased that Mississippi's voice will be heard in this election because it needs to be heard, and it needs to be heard loudly and clearly! And I'm well aware that Senator Obama has an enormous amount of support here.

You know, some people -- and as he should, as he should have -- some people said, well, you know, Mississippi is very much a state that will most likely be in favor of Senator Obama. And I said, well, that's fine. But I want people in Mississippi to know I'm in favor of you, and I'm going to work for you, and I will be there for you and be your partner as we make this future!


And what we have to decide is what will this future look like? Well, I come here tonight, having been your neighbor for many years in Arkansas, having labored with some of you here to make life better for those in both of our states.

So what I did was to work to expand health care into rural areas, to bring to particularly the delta and the pinewoods of the South access to health care that had not been there before. Because I have always believed, ever since I can remember as a young girl, that health care is a moral right, it is not a privilege. And in this great country of ours, we should make it available and affordable for all.


MALVEAUX: Senator Hillary Clinton in Canton, Mississippi. That is where tomorrow the primary, 33 delegates up for grabs. Conceding that Barack Obama is the favored candidate in that state, but also acknowledging that she is fighting for every vote and every delegate, that she is not giving up on that state.

I want to turn it over to Dana in St. Louis.

Obviously, John McCain at the forefront. He is going to be talking about fighting for votes, as well. But clearly, in a much better position, perhaps a favored position than the Democrats now, now that he is the chosen one -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, his fight in terms of his own party is over. But he is now fighting to stay in the news and to stay in the storyline. And in fact, he is going to be coming here, Suzanne, to St. Louis to do what he has been doing for the past several weeks, pretty much every day, which is raise money, raise much, much needed funds to keep his storyline going and to keep the campaign going looking ahead to the fall.

We're going to talk about that and a whole lot more about John McCain and his candidacy coming after the break.

Stay with us.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to CNN's "Ballot Bowl," the Monday edition. I'm Candy Crowley in Jackson, Mississippi, where tomorrow the Democrats, again, will contest in the presidential primary. Of course a very tight race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Now, this is your chance to hear these candidates unedited, live, sometimes taped, but nonetheless, unfiltered for you to judge for yourself as you ponder your vote coming up this fall or in a primary near you.

Right now, though, I want to turn to the Republican race. Our Dana Bash is in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dana, no such problem for John McCain, who has already clinched the nomination. What's he doing now?

BASH: You know, it's interesting, Candy. He spent the weekend, just like last weekend, he spent the weekend back home in Arizona.

On Saturday, he hosted some of his biggest donors at his ranch which is just outside Sedona. And today he is coming here where I am. He's coming to St. Louis, your hometown, Candy. And he's going to be doing what we've seen him do frankly pretty much every day for the past couple of weeks, which is raise money, follow the money.

That is so, so crucial for him right now as he tries to catch up. I mean, this is something that when you really think about it, is pretty remarkable, that Republicans are so far behind Democrats in the fundraising race. And he really has a lot of work to do to catch up. So that's what he's been spending a lot of his time doing, is putting as much money in the coffers as possible as Democrats slug it out.

But he is also trying to stay in the headlines and stay in the news. And what he did, at least last week, was tape a segment for "60 Minutes," and part of what he talked about on "60 Minutes" is something that he first brought up a week ago today, which is he's trying to jump into the Democrats' debated over that 3:00 a.m. phone call, who really is the most qualified to answer the phone, as they battle it out on the Democratic side.

He says, wait a minute, I'm the one with the most experience. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have the experience and the knowledge and the background to make the judgments that are necessary to move this nation forward and make it safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying that Senator Obama doesn't have the experience, that he's too naive to be president?

MCCAIN: No, I'm saying that I have that. And if the phone rings at 3:00 a.m., I think the American people would want me to answer it first.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: So national security clearly is the issue that John McCain is hoping propels him into victory in November, Candy. But more and more, it's really interesting. On the campaign trail, McCain is starting, talking in his stump speech about not national security, but about the economy.

It is definitely dominating voters' minds. And you can see that seeping into his campaign events, as he's been trying, again, to stay in the headlines. He's been holding town hall meetings, in addition to having these fundraisers in order to sort of bone up on the campaign trail as he prepares for the fall -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It seems like you're not going to have any success in your campaign this year unless you put the economy first and foremost in that race.

BASH: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: Dana, I want to sort of move you to an adjoining state, to Illinois, where Denny Hastert's seat which he has held for two decades has gone to a Democratic. It seems to me this is pretty much a "yikes" moment for Republicans on Capitol Hill.

BASH: Absolutely. It's a "yikes" moment for Republicans on Capitol Hill, but Candy, I think it's also a "yikes" moment for John McCain, because, you know, you and I are really seeing the inverse of one another in terms of the enthusiasm on the campaign trail. You've been covering Democrats. You see these enormous rallies with all kinds of -- you know, of outreach and Democrats really getting out there and being clearly very excited about both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And you see very, very different crowds on the Republican side, but much more importantly, different numbers in terms of who has been voting on the Republican side. So, it's absolutely, as you put it very well, a "yikes" moment for congressional Republicans, because it's a symbolic punch in the gut to lose the seat that was held by the longest-serving Republican speaker in the House, and that's Denny Hastert's seat. But it also is, Republicans are very worried, a harbinger of what's to come in terms of November.

It's really interesting, Candy. You and I in 2006 both covered the congressional race in a neighboring district, and that was Tammy Duckworth. You'll remember she was a Democrat, an Iraq vet wounded, somebody who had an incredible story, and she was running against a Republican to try to do essentially what just happened in Denny Hastert's seat, to get rid of a Republican seat that had been in Republican hands for decades. She didn't succeed. The fact that this Democrat, at least in the special election, succeeded is another reason why it's giving Republicans a lot of heartburn right now, worrying that this is something that's a harbinger of what's to come in November -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Dana Bash. We sometimes forget in all of the excitement of this presidential race that there are, of course, congressional and Senate races this year. Thanks, Dana.

So, we are now awaiting Barack Obama, who is about to speak in Columbus, Mississippi. Coming up next, when "Ballot Bowl" returns, we're going to talk a little bit about that so-called dream ticket. There was a lot of talk about it this weekend.

We'll be right back


CROWLEY: Welcome back. This is the Monday edition of CNN's "Ballot Bowl."

I'm Candy Crowley in Jackson, Mississippi.

Later on tonight, Barack Obama will be here at Jackson State University for a rally. Right now, though, he is getting ready to speak in Columbus, Mississippi. Obviously campaigning in a state which at this point looks very favorable to Obama, at least if you can go by the polls, which often have been wrong.

Nonetheless, this does look like territory that is fairly fertile for Obama. He's working this state obviously up until the last moment.

Right now though, we want to talk about something that keeps coming up, particularly being brought up by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

I want to bring in our Suzanne Malveaux, who is in Scranton, Pennsylvania, awaiting Hillary Clinton.

Suzanne, it seems to me this whole idea of a dream ticket is something that the Clinton camp keeps stirring up.

MALVEAUX: They certainly are, Candy. I mean, we have noticed this kind of back and forth. And it really took on a different kind of tone over the weekend, that perhaps it was something that they were realistic floating out there.

The Obama campaign really sees this as a political trap, that this is a strategy here to really kind of diminish his position. And they are kind of rejecting this out of hand, finding it somewhat amusing here, because they say he's ahead in the delegate count, but we have heard it time and time again now from the Clinton surrogates -- Governor Rendell talked about it, we heard it from former President Bill Clinton. He was in Pass Christian, Mississippi, an area that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And what he's trying to do here is make this pitch, this argument that, yes, you can support Hillary Clinton because she will potentially bring along Barack Obama as number two.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the most of these places, he would win the urban areas and the upscale voters, and she wins the traditional rural areas that we lost when President Reagan was president. If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force.



OBAMA: You won't see me as a vice presidential candidate. You know, I'm running for president. We have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and have a higher popular vote. And I think we can maintain our delegate count.


MALVEAUX: And we also heard from one of Obama's campaign supporters, one of the co-chairs, former Senator Tom Daschle. Candy, he said over the weekend he thought it was quite curious and rare that you would have the one person who is placing at number two now reaching out to the number one, offering the number two position for vice president.

Clearly, the Obama camp sees this as somewhat of a manipulation, if you will, a real strategy here to try to convince voters you can have it both ways here, but not in the way, not in the sense that Barack Obama would be the presidential candidate. So, interesting how we hear President Clinton talking about the upscale voters, the urban voters from Barack Obama's camp uniting with the rural voters, the older voters, white rural folks that Clinton does so well with, and combining this for this unstoppable ticket. But there's much too much competition. And as you know talking to folks, clashing, a little bitterness between these two camps to think of anything like this, at least for now -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. You know, Suzanne, the Obama camp thinks obviously this is a political ploy to sort of suggest to those voters who might be thinking, gee, I wonder if he's experienced enough, to say, oh, you mean we can have Hillary Clinton and then eight years of Barack Obama as a vice president and then another eight years?

So I know they don't like this discussion, but I've also talked to or people who say that, let's pretend for a moment that somehow Hillary Clinton does pull this out, that there might be pressure on Barack Obama who has brought in so many new voters to the party, there might be pressure on him actually to take it.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely right. Because of the whole idea of the Democratic establishment and the superdelegates, the Clinton campaign is still quite confident that they have the bulk of the superdelegates to propel her forward, even if Barack Obama, say, when it's all said and done at the convention, is about 40, 50 delegates, pledged delegates ahead of Senator Clinton, that she will have made a strong enough case to the Democratic establishment that she's winning the big states, that she's winning the states that the Democrats need to beat the Republicans in a general election. And that because she has that kind of heft, the kind of experience, and those relationships with the traditional Democratic establishment, that that may put more pressure on him to take a second look at that and perhaps make a deal somehow.

CROWLEY: Suzanne Malveaux in Scranton, Pennsylvania, awaiting Hillary Clinton.

One more note on the so-called dream team. Producer Sasha Johnson (ph) was on a phone call with Howard Wolfson, the communications director for the Clinton campaign. He was asked, in fact, why Clinton might be talking about number two for Barack Obama, when as far as she's concerned, he hasn't passed "the commander in chief test." And Wolfson's reply was the ticket is something Clinton isn't ruling out, but Obama has not passed the test.

So, for whatever that adds to the mix.

We're going to be going back to the Republican side and our Dana Bash, who is in St. Louis, right after this break.

"Ballot Bowl" will continue.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome back to BALLOT BOWL. This is our Monday edition. And I'm Candy Crowley in Jackson, Mississippi.

Mississippi, of course, the center of the political universe, at least for a day tomorrow, when they vote in the Democratic primary. Of course a very, very tight race at this point. We are expecting Barack Obama to be here later in the day. Right now he is preparing for a speech and a rally in Columbus, Mississippi. Not far from here.

Right now we want to talk a little bit about the Republican side. I'm going to bring back in our Dana Bash, who is in St. Louis, Missouri. A very nice city, I might add.

Dana, we sometimes forget, because John McCain has in fact clinched this nomination, that he's not the only one in the race anymore.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's not the only one in the race, you're right. Ron Paul is absolutely still in the race. He has not dropped out. Not only that, Candy, he was on "American Morning" this morning and he made clear he has no intention of going anywhere. Listen to what he said.


RON PAUL, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. No, it's not over. It's certainly winding down. There are a lot less primaries left. Super Tuesday has passed. And McCain has the nominal number. But, you know, if you're in a campaign for only gaining power, that is one thing. If you're in a campaign to influence ideas and the future of the country, you know, the campaign is never over.

I'm not likely to support John McCain unless he changes views. I mean he doesn't represent anything I've talked about for 30 years. Nonintervention, foreign policy, personal liberties, civil liberties, free markets, no McCain/Feingold, No Child Left Behind. I mean, he doesn't stand for any of those things. So how could I reject everything I've talked about for 30 years and galvanize 350,000 people and say, oh, OK, now it's over. Unity is the most important thing. Now I endorse John McCain. Nobody would understand that and I certainly would have a difficult time adapting to that.


BASH: So it's all about party unity right now, Candy. All the Republicans are talking about getting behind John McCain. But the man with 21 delegates, just 21 delegates, is saying he's not going anywhere. He's staying in this race despite the fact that John McCain has clinched the nomination, at least mathematically. He did that last week.

And, you know, no surprise there, he is also making clear why he wants to do it. He's essentially wants to stay in to protest the ideals and ideas and policies that John McCain supports, particularly the war in Iraq. I mean those two could not be more different on the war. And Ron Paul, frankly, couldn't be more different than most Republicans on the war, as you know, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely. You know, realistically, I'm not sure Ron Paul can change John McCain's position on the war in Iraq. But is Ron Paul in a position to do McCain any damage within the Republican Party or in a general election?

BASH: You know, that's a good question. You know, I think if you would have asked me that a few months ago, several months ago, before the voting started to take place, I probably would have said yes. But the fact that he was -- he had all of this money, you know, millions of dollars, raised an unbelievable sum on the Internet and in ways that other Republicans were just basically very jealous of, and he still only got 21 delegates after all of those contests, he doesn't really -- you know, he doesn't have the electoral backing to do that much damage to John McCain, particularly one he's got enough of a fight I think against the Democrats.

But it is interesting that Ron Paul definitely is still in there. And he does represent -- it's not a big percentage, but it is a percentage -- of the Republican Party that simply thinks that agrees with the Democrats, particularly when it comes to the war. They think that it's wrong-headed and it's time at least to start thinking about bringing the troops home. Again, it's not a big percentage, but it does exist, Candy, as you know.

CROWLEY: You know, Dana, one of the great perks of finally getting the nomination is you don't have to campaign 24/7. I know McCain took a little advantage of his leisure time at one point a couple week ago to entertain friends and reporters at his ranch near Sedona. What's he been up to lately over the weekends where he seems to kind of enjoy a little R&R?

BASH: Basketball. A little basketball, Candy. He surprised us by showing up at the Phoenix Suns game yesterday. He was introduced, along with his wife Cindy, during the game. Muhammad Ali was there as well, I should tell you. And for those "Desperate Housewives" fans, Eva Longoria Parker was there because the opposing team was the San Antonio Spurs.

But, you know, it was really interesting. McCain was an observer and he was there as a fan, but he also wanted to get involved and talk a little bit about strategy. At least basketball strategy. Listen to what he said.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you see Shaquille O'Neal dive into the crowd like that, you know you have a guy that's going all out. And I just thought he put on a performance today that, in the playoffs, that level of play is going take us a long way. So buy your tickets now!

I get back from campaigning. I turn on the sports and, you know, and for a while there I was a little disappointed when we were 3-5. But if Shaq can play that level, and I'm sure he will because he's a great athlete and a great competitor, I think we're going to see a lot more games in the playoffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now how do you find time in the middle of all this campaigning?

MCCAIN: Late at night. Sometimes I ask them to be taped. Sometimes on the East Coast it comes on real late, so after my final event I can watch them. For me, in a way, it's a form of relaxation, you know, because I've been watching them for so many years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like you've said, you've been a Suns fan forever.

MCCAIN: And when I've lost a primary, it takes my mind off it.


BASH: There's John McCain talking up Shaq, talking about his hometown team, the Phoenix Suns, at a game he went to yesterday.

But, Candy, as you know, it's very interesting. You know, some of these events and some of these visits seem as though they are what they are, but there's something subliminal there, I think, and that is John McCain trying to show his vitality and the fact that he is vibrant at a time where people are starting to think more and more about the fact that he's 71-years-old.

Over the weekend he told "60 Minutes" that he is going to release his health records. We're expecting that, he said, in the next month. There is a big concern about the fact that he had skin cancer about eight years ago or so. So by going out to a basketball game, by sitting there and enjoying himself and, you know, talking up strategy with the local reporter there, there's something else that is sort of trying to be a reminder to people that he's got a lot of youth in him still.


CROWLEY: What's that about a picture being worth a thousand words? I think that's probably what we have in play here, Dana. Thanks so much. Dana Bash in St. Louis, Missouri, covering John McCain. Thanks.

BASH: Thanks.

CROWLEY: Now when we think of Katrina, basically you probably would say New Orleans. But the fact of the matter is, Mississippi was also hard hit by that storm. Could Gulf Coast recovery also play a part in the Mississippi primary tomorrow? We'll have some of that coming up. We are also awaiting a Barack Obama appearance in Columbia, Mississippi. All of that when BALLOT BOWL returns.


CROWLEY: Good afternoon, good morning, wherever you are. This is CNN's BALLOT BOWL, our Monday edition. I'm Candy Crowley in Jackson, Mississippi. Later this evening, we will see Barack Obama here. Right now, however, we are awaiting him in Columbus, Mississippi, where we expect him momentarily to come out and address this rally.

Right now I want to bring in our Suzanne Malveaux, who is with Hillary Clinton or awaiting Hillary Clinton in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

You know, Suzanne, I mentioned going into the break that Gulf Coast recovery is not just a Louisiana issue. It is also a Mississippi issue. And one that candidates dare not ignore going into this primary.


There are a lot of people who are looking to both those candidates, Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, about what are they planing on doing to help the resident there. We have heard Senator Clinton talking a lot about her economic plan, bringing jobs back to the area, talking about lowering gas prices and actually renewable sources of energy, that type of thing.

And all of this is really related. And it is related to Gulf Coast recovery after Hurricane Katrina. We have heard Senator Clinton in Mississippi -- Canton, Mississippi -- talking about specifics. And she talks about how President Bush did not have a plan in place, that it was quite disappointing, the government's response, and how she would do better.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, the president did not respond and did not tend to the needs of the people here in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. It should not have taken the staff of the president to give him a video of the footage from CNN for him to look at it to find out about the devastation that had swept across our country. And still to this day, we do not yet have the level of response and urgency that natural disaster, which turned into a national disgrace, deserves.

I have said that I will do whatever I can to make up for lost time as your president. There will be one person in the White House who is responsible every single day to give me a report about the progress we're making in rebuilding, getting people back into their homes, fixing the infrastructure, dealing with the insurance claims. Because I know you can make a lot of speeches about all that's wrong. But what people are looking for are solutions. What is it you're going to do to make my life better, to solve these problems, to give us back our sense of pride and progress?

Well, I worked with your leadership here in Mississippi, especially with former Senator Lott, to try to make some of the changes that were needed. And I was happy to stand with you and vote to permit more drilling in the Gulf so you could get more money to protect the coastline. Something that is important if we're going to mitigate against storms that might come in the future. And I will do whatever I can to be your partner and your supporter because I fear that you won't see very much more progress before the current president leaves office.


MALVEAUX: I was with President Bush covering that in the hours and the days just after Hurricane Katrina hit and how the administration responded to that crisis. Our own Sean Callebs also went to Biloxi, Mississippi, where he discovered, once again, two and a half years later, a lot of the problems that existed just in those days after the storm hit still exist today.


DERREL NUTTER, BILOXI RESIDENT: That's the house my father built. The house I was raised in.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Brothers Derrel and John Nutter grew up in Biloxi. And like many here, are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina two and a half years later.

JOHN NUTTER, BILOXI RESIDENT: Some people care. Some people just don't. A lot of folks probably better shape than we are right now.

CALLEBS: The mortgage company just foreclosed on the family home.

MARK JONES (ph), URBAN LIFE MISSIONS: The people here aren't interested in an education. They're interested in a bed and a pillow and a place they can call home. And there are no homes here for these people.

CALLEBS: Mark Jones is the president of Urban Life Missions. He moved here from New York City to help, but says his organize is out of money to help the Nutter family.

JONES: Everything that candidates are talking about is important to the candidates. But I don't believe it's hitting the pulse of what's happened to the gulf and the people here.

CALLEBS: The irony in Biloxi, casino business is booming.

MAYOR A.J. HOLLOWAY, BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI: This year they did over $1 billion in gross payment revenue. So what you see right out here is what we're doing with casino money.

CALLEBS: A.J. Holloway is the mayor of Biloxi. Tax revenue from casinos paid for this brand-new school. But Holloway knows little's been done to help individual homeowners.

HOLLOWAY: We still need to maybe have some type of a stimulus that the government could come in and do something, put some kind of businesses if here like that, that could bring more people in here with more money and better jobs.

CALLEBS: Looking ahead to Tuesday's primary, voters long Mississippi's Gulf Coast say the next two years must be better regardless of who wins the White House. Because, they say, things can't get any worse. For the Nutters and thousands in the same situation.

J. NUTTER: I'm done with it. I'm thinking if a few days we're going to be out on the streets. We got nowhere else to foe.

CALLEBS: It has been two and a half years of misery for many along the Gulf Coast. But now there is a sense of hope. And that is the tremendous interest that this year's presidential campaign has generated. Many here hope to seize the moment, grab the candidates' attention and hopefully foster some long-term, positive change.

Sean Callebs, CNN, in Biloxi, Mississippi.


MALVEAUX: A sense of hope. Also a sense of frustration for those in Mississippi, as well as New Orleans, Louisiana. The Louisiana primary obviously giving it to Barack Obama. But still a lot of voter who have questions about the specifics from these candidates. What are they going to do to make things better for those people in those areas.

Candy, obviously, you're in Jackson, Mississippi. I know a lot of people still talking about those concerns, talking about the economic plans, as well as how they're going to move forward in their own lives.

Candy. CROWLEY: Absolutely. No bigger economic issue than where you're going to put your head down at night.

Thanks so much, Suzanne Malveaux.

We want to take you to quickly to Columbus, Mississippi, and, as promised, Barack Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Give him a big round of applause. Thank you, governor.

I want to thank all the elected officials who are here, all the dignitaries who are here, although I do have to give one special shout out to somebody who's been on the team from the get-go, and that's Miss Johnny Patton (ph). Please give her a big round of applause. Thank you.

And finally, I want to thank Dr. Claudia Limbert (ph), president here at this wonderful institution. Thanks for your hospitality.

All right. So this is a town hall meeting. So we're going to spend some time in a conversation. But I'm going to make a few remarks first, if that's OK. And then we'll open it up for questions. And we've got microphones in the audiences. And I'll try to take as many questions as time allows.

Now, I have been running for president for a little over a year. And I have to say that when I first decided to run, standing on the steps of the old state capital in Springfield, Illinois, the building where Abraham Lincoln served for so many years before he went to Washington, the city where I served for many years in state government before I became a United States senator, there were those who asked me, why are you running this time? You're a relatively young man. Why are you running so soon? You can afford to wait.

And what I had to explain was that I was not running because of some long-held ambition. I know people have been looking through my kindergarten papers, but that's not why I decided to run. I'm not running because I think it's somehow owed to me. I'm running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now. The fierce urgency of now.

Because I believe there's such a thing as being too late. And that hour is almost upon us. We are at a defining moment in our history.

Our nation is at war. Our planet is in peril. And the dream that so many generations fought for feels like it's slowly slipping away. You know it here in Columbus. You see in your own families and your own neighborhoods and your own communities. Everywhere you go, people are working harder just to get by.

You never paid more for college. You've never paid more for gas at the pump. Our health care system leaves 47 million people without health insurance. And if you have health insurance, you've seen your copayments and deductible and your premiums going up and up and up every single year.

Our school system, despite the slogans, leaves millions of children behind. Unable to compete in this international economy. People are in threat of losing their homes because the foreclosure crisis, because Washington, for so many years, seemed to let mortgage lenders engage in whatever predatory or deceptive practices that they wanted. Good jobs are leaving the country.

In such circumstances, we cannot afford to wait. We can't wait to fix our schools. We can't wait to fix our health care system. We cannot wait to provide good jobs and good wages. We cannot wait to bring this war if Iraq to an end. We cannot wait.

So when I decided to run, it was based on the idea that the size of our challenges had outstripped the capacity of a broken politics to solve. See, the problem is not just the issue. The problem is our politics and our politicians. I was certain that the American people were tired of a politics that was all about tearing each other down. They wanted a politics that was about lifting the country up. The people were tired of spin and PR. They wanted straight talk. Honesty and truthfulness from their politicians.

But see, most of all, when I decided to run, I was making a bet on you, the American people. Because some of you know I now live in Chicago. I'm not originally from Chicago. I moved to Chicago -- I moved to Chicago after college because I wanted to work in a grassroots level. And I worked with churches who were trying to help people who had lost their jobs when the steel plants closed in the area. So I set up job training programs for the unemployed and brought economic developments to communities that had fallen on hard times.

And it was hard work. But it was the best education that I ever had because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they're given a chance. So I came away from that experience believing that change does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up. It happens because ordinary people get involved.

And that is what's happening. I have now been traveling and crisscrossing this country for a year now. I've talked to hundreds of thousands of people. I've shaken tens of thousands of hands. I have kissed hundreds of babies. I have eaten hundreds of chicken dinners. And after this year of being in a conversation with the American people, I am here to report to you that my bet has paid off. My faith in the American people has been vindicated because everywhere people tell me they are ready for change. They want something new. They are ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history.

Now, I recognize that all the great turnout we've been seeing, all the involvement among young people, people who haven't been involved in politics for a long time, all the enthusiasm, the energy, I can't take all the credit for. Part of it has to do with the fact that people know this November they're going to be choosing the next president of the United States. And no matter what else happens, the name George W. Bush won't be on the ballot. And that makes everybody happy.

No Bush. No Bush. No Bush. The name of my cousin, Dick Cheney, won't be on the ballot. Some of you read about this. Me and Cheney got I have a distant ancestor in common, which was really embarrassing for me. But his name won't be on the ballot. So the failed policies of the last seven years, Katrina, and wiretaps, Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence, Karl Rove politics, all that will be over next year. We're bringing that to an end.

But that's not the only reason that you're here. You are here, not just because you want to be against something, you're here because you want to be for something. You want to feel like we, in this country, still have the capacity to bring about big change. To make things happen that will improve the lives of the American people.

And we know that there is a whole lot that needs to be changed. But here's the thing. You know, I'm confident in my ability to move this country forward. But I can't do it by myself. I can only do it if you are involved. If you believe in change. Because if you are ready for change, then we can go ahead and tell the lobbyists and the fat cats and the special interests that are running Washington, their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They will not run my White House. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

If you're ready for change, then we can stop talking about the outrage of 47 million people without health insurance. I don't know how many people I meet, and I know there are people here in this audience, who don't have health insurance, maybe they can get it through a government program for their kids but they don't have it for themselves. Senior citizens who are taken half a prescription because they can't afford the full dose.

This is personal for me. My mother died of cancer when she was 53 years old. And that was bad enough. But I -- what made it worse was seeing how she had just gotten a new job and the insurance company was saying, maybe there's a preexisting condition. Maybe we don't have to reimburse you for your health care. I know what it's like to see a loved one suffer, not just because they're sick, but because of a broken health care system. And it is wrong. It is wrong.

And that's why, that's why I put forward a plan that say, if you already have health insurance, then we are going to work to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family, per year. If you don't have health insurance, if you're self-employed, or underemployed, or unemployed, for whatever reason, then we will have a government plan that is at least as good as the plan I have as a member of Congress.

And it won't exclude anybody for preexisting conditions. And we'll negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price on drugs. And if you can't afford it, we will subsidize you. Nobody will be excluded. And we don't do this 20 years from now or 10 years from now, we will do this by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America. If you're ready for change, then we can start having an economy that is fair and just. You know we've got a short-term problem because of the housing market crash. And so I've put forward a $10 billion home foreclosure prevention fund to help people stay in their homes and to help them renegotiate with their bankers so they don't lose their homes.

But the problem is not just short term. The problem is long term, because we've got an economy that is not fair. I believe in the free market. I believe in entrepreneurship. I believe in everybody having to work hard to get ahead. But when a CEO is making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in an entire year and the CEO's getting a tax break and workers are left holding the bag, something is wrong, something has to change. I intend to change it as president.

So we're going to take tax breaks away from companies that ship jobs overseas and we're going to give those tax breaks to companies that invest in Columbus, Mississippi. We are going to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans and put those tax breaks in the pockets of hardworking Americans who deserve them.