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CNN Larry King Live

Analysis of the Presidential Debate

Aired June 05, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: This is Larry King atop the hall. Wolf, a great job and a great night. Ten candidates. The early leaders take some jabs at each other. A few issues divide them -- immigration, abortion, Iraq. They kept it mellow for the first half and then things heated up during the audience questioning towards the end.
Rudy Giuliani is set to join me in a moment. And then governor Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley is with us, John King, the whole team -- the best team in broadcast journalism.

And down on the floor, always deep in the fray, is my friend, Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, thanks very much.

We'll also be talking to Senator John McCain in a few moments.

Right now, let's check in with Candy Crowley -- Candy, any surprises?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't know if there were any surprises.

A couple of things. I think there were two targets this evening, two main targets. One was the Democrats. And the other, in some ways, George W. Bush. You began to hear some of these Republicans walking away from him, the main one among them John McCain.

In a very poignant moment for three of the candidates, when the young woman talked about her brother, who died in the war, John McCain stood up, you know, sort of bodily reached out to her and talked about how that some mistakes have been made, that the war had been terribly mismanaged and that there had been what he called some unnecessary sacrifices.

Again, that was probably the most powerful moment of the night, Anderson, when you saw Duncan Hunter say, "My son joined the Marines the after 9/11. He served tours there."

And Rudy Giuliani also getting up and saying to this woman, "I believe that you have made us safer" when there were two questions about people who had served in Vietnam -- I'm sorry -- who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So that, to me, was the most powerful moment. The most interesting thing, of course, were the targets of tonight's debates.

COOPER: John King standing by and watching the debate, as well -- John, your thoughts?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The more distance some of the candidates tried to show with President Bush tonight, I think, was a remarkable and a very telling moment of how they perceive even changes in the Republican electorate when it comes to Iraq.

And, also, Anderson, a much more polite debate than we saw from the Democrats the other night -- not any name calling, not any direct turning to each other. Governor Romney at one point saying well, he's my friend, of Senator McCain, even as they sparred over their policy differences on education and even as they distanced themselves from the president's management of the war.

Looking backwards, a very different contrast from these Republicans, than what we heard from the Democrats the other night about what should happen now and in the short-term, looking forward in Iraq. Most of the Republicans saying you need to keep the troops there, it's going to take a little bit more time and that leaving would be a disaster.

So the Republicans leaning much more into a longer term U.S. presence in Iraq than we heard from the Democrats the other night.

Quite a bit of contrast there -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

I'm standing by with Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain, how -- how did it go?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Fine. Fine. It was good. I wish we could get more into the details, you know, of immigration reform. That's a hot button issue. You know, there were things said about it that I was kind of astonished because they're in the bill.

But I enjoyed the debate. I thought the questions were good and thought (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: What astonished you about -- about what was said about immigration?

MCCAIN: Well, we are securing the borders for 18 months before anything moves forward. We do have an electronic database, an employment verification system, that's part of the bill, where we could track everybody. People have got to come out of the shadows if they want to work.

They said it's a special path. Yes, it's a special path. It's fines, background checks. It's learn English. It's go back -- if you want to become a citizen, go back to the country you came from. These are very tough provisions. COOPER: So those critics, though, who say that this is amnesty no matter what you call it.

And you say what?

MCCAIN: I say examine the bill. It's very tough. Amnesty means forgiveness. But, honestly, with people like that -- and I respect their views -- anything short of deportation is "amnesty."

What we're doing is making it very tough and making them pay a heavy penalty for having violated our laws. They may be wonderful people. Two million of them aren't, according to the secretary of Homeland Security. But they broke our laws and people who waited outside of our country have to -- legally, have to go ahead of them. That's why it's an eight to 13 year process that we're going through.

COOPER: You've been very critical of Governor Romney for being opposed to this legislation, but not really speaking about what he would do in its place.

Do you think he clarified his position tonight?

MCCAIN: I think he's -- he's very eloquent. But, no, I didn't see where he made a case for anything different from what the president -- Governor Bush, I, other conservative Republicans and Democrats, have joined together to do things for the American people. The American people want this solved. It's a national security issue. And if you do -- don't do something concrete, then it's de facto amnesty.

COOPER: Governor Romney says it is simply not fair to those who have been waiting in line, to those millions around the world who would like to be citizens here, who would like to live in America.

MCCAIN: I don't understand that, because the main part -- one of the main parts of this legislation is you have to get in line behind everybody else, everybody who has applied legally, before you could even move forward the slightest amount, and pay fines and background checks and go back to the country of origin and other things.

And, by the way, I think maybe we ought to make this funding for the securing the border mandatory, so everybody is sure that we've got to secure the border first.

COOPER: Do you think the governor has flip-flopped on this issue?

MCCAIN: Well, I think he had a different position just a short time ago. But that's -- that's, you know, that's for others to judge.

COOPER: Senator McCain, appreciate your time.

Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

MCCAIN: Good to see you.

COOPER: Let's go back to Larry upstairs -- Larry.

L. KING: Thanks, Anderson.

We're awaiting the arrival of Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney.

Let's check in with our own Wolf Blitzer, who truly did the hard work tonight -- Wolf, your impressions?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, there clearly were some significant differences, especially on the issue of immigration. And I think they were underscored throughout both hours of this debate.

Some other issues involving Iraq. They seem to be pretty much on the same page, more or less. Some differences as to what some sort of complete solution, involving the partition or the division of Iraq into three parts -- a Sunni, a Shia and a Kurd part -- you know, the nuances. But, by and large, I think they're all anxious to try to get General Petraeus, to give him a chance to see if he can turn things around.

I didn't hear a lot of confidence that the Iraqi government itself was necessarily up to the job.

I think more than differences, Larry, among -- among Republicans, these 10 Republican candidates, what we clearly saw was significant differences between these Republican candidates and the eight Democratic candidates that we had here on the stage two nights ago. Whereas almost all of them were ready to do away with the "don't ask, don't tell" gays in the military policy, and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military, you didn't hear that. You heard the direct opposite of that here tonight.

And on the issue of health care, while the Democrats are clearly going for some sort of major universal health care program, you heard a very different line from most of these Republicans here tonight.

So the country is, you know, faces a clear choice, no matter who becomes their respective nominees.

L. KING: Thanks, Wolf.

That was Wolf Blitzer down on the floor.

You know, the last New York mayor to run for president was John Lindsey, more than 30 years ago.

Now we have the latest, the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Good to see you again (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...


L. KING: You're seeing some baseball games this year, right?


L. KING: Is it harder for a mayor...

GIULIANI: To run for president?

L. KING: Yes. I mean mayors don't...


L. KING: ... generally...

GIULIANI: Not particularly. I mean, when you consider, the mayor of New York, the government of New York is the third or fourth largest in the country, it gives you the executive experience that you need to run for president. The issues that you face as president are very similar. I mean they are much bigger.

But the reality is, when you look at the other, you know, ways, in which people -- the Senate -- you don't have executive responsibility there. As a mayor, you're running a massive budget, one of the largest in the country; a massive work force.

I think it probably prepares you as well as anything else that I can think of for being president

L. KING: Were you happy with tonight?

GIULIANI: I was very happen with it. I thought we had a very good debate. I didn't think it was as hostile as people thought it was going to be.

L. KING: No, it wasn't.

GIULIANI: And I think people got a chance to explain their viewpoints, the different views that we have on immigration. The things I find wrong with the bill, which is, for me, the bill has to achieve our being able to figure out who is in the United States. And it doesn't do that. It provides four or five different forms of identification, no individual tamper proof card...

L. KING: Is there a perfect bill?

GIULIANI: No, but this is an important part of it. If we have confusion about who is in the United States, then these situations like we've had in New Jersey, like the situation we had in Fort Dix with the attacks that take place -- we're after September 11 now. And if this bill is going to be worth all the compromising that's necessary, it has to achieve a complete database of the people who are in this country

L. KING: I think of all the candidates, you were the one attacking the Democrats the most, mentioning by name the debate of two nights ago.

Are you running already?

GIULIANI: Well, you know, I'm running against the...

L. KING: Have you got the nomination?

GIULIANI: I'm not running against the people on that stage. I mean we have some...

L. KING: Well, you are.

GIULIANI: Well, I'm not really. I have some disagreements with them, but largely, I hear things that I agree with. I mean, a lot of the things Senator McCain said, I agree with. Mitt Romney, at least three or four times, said, "I agree with mayor Giuliani."

I probably disagreed with him most of the time.

My disagreements with are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards. John Edwards saying that the war on terror was just a bumper sticker, and not even amending that after this plot in New York was uncovered to attack Kennedy Airport.

It's not a bumper sticker. It is a real war. And whatever you think about Iraq, it's bigger than Iraq.

These people want to come here and kill us...

L. KING: But Iraq is...

GIULIANI: ... and we have to be on offense about it. We can't be in denial.

I think the Democrats want to put us in reverse to the 1990s. All I heard on that stage two nights ago was to go back to the 1990s. The 1990s -- when our taxes were 24, 25 percent higher. The 1990s -- when we weren't recognizing the Islamic threat against us, when they attacked the USS Cole and we didn't retaliate. We didn't do anything about it.

They attacked us in 1993. We had a criminal justice response, not a response commensurate with a terrorist threat

L. KING: But we only have a minute left.

You will agree Iraq is the gorilla in the room, though?

GIULIANI: Iraq is...

L. KING: You can't escape Iraq.

GIULIANI: Iraq is very, very important. But how you deal with it is going to say a lot about how we deal with this terrorist threat. And to give the enemy a timetable of our retreat -- when in the history of war has any army ever been required to do that? And that's why I think the Democrats are in denial

L. KING: Can the Yankees can still win?

GIULIANI: The Yankees can still win. But I'm an optimist, Larry. That's my prescription for the country and it's my prescription (UNINTELLIGIBLE) always think hopefully.

L. KING: Thanks, Rudy.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

L. KING: Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In a little while, Governor George -- Governor Mitt Romney -- George was his father. I knew him, too. Right now, back to the floor and Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Larry, thanks very much.

And we've got a panel standing by -- Arianna Huffington from the Huffingtonpost; Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, as well as legal New Jersey political analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Let's start off with Mike Murphy.

Mike, a quick headline from you about the night.

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Big three do well. I think McCain had the biggest single moment of his campaign in that question with the woman whose brother had been killed in Iraq. He admitted mistakes, he was straight and right to her on the point, no political kind of dancing to it.

If the president of the United States, I think, addressed it that way, he'd be in better political shape.

A strong Romney, a strong Rudy night, though. I think all the contenders did well. No breakout from the second tier, although Tommy Thompson got back in the race a little tonight on health care.

COOPER: Arianna Huffington, a headline from you?

Your headline for the last debate, as I remember, on, was 10 middle-aged white guys on the stage.

What's your headline tonight?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: My headline tonight is that this was John McCain's night, maybe because we're in New Hampshire, which has been such a good state for John McCain, where he won in 2000.

The fire, the independence, the compassion all came out.

I remember in 2000, when the Straight Talk Express was going throughout the state. And, you know, his position on immigration that he expressed so eloquently tonight, contrasting with Romney and with Giuliani, could be very effective here in New Hampshire, where the Independents have a plurality. So you're not appealing to an anti- immigration conservative base.

So this was a very great night for McCain.

And, in contrast, not a good night for Giuliani. I thought Giuliani came across talking about nation building, saying we are safe now, trying to use the alleged JFK plot and Fort Dix -- two plots that have been kind of discredited in the last few days.

So, not a very great night for him. A little too belligerent.

COOPER: A long headline, but you're a blogger, so I guess that's allowed.

Jeffrey Toobin, a headline from you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I thought the most eloquent person I heard, either tonight or Sunday night, was Mike Huckabee. I thought his answer about evolution and his one about what it means to be pro-life were breathtaking.

I also thought John McCain did something remarkable. He went in there as the only candidate supporting his own bill -- one out of 10. Yet he had both the rhetorical, and, I thought, the political high ground in talking about immigration, which was quite a trick.

Finally, I didn't really understand some of what Mitt Romney had to say. His first answer -- the first answer of the debate about Iraq, was, frankly, incomprehensible to me. And then he -- when he started talking about abortion, he said he studied stem cells, which reminded him that "Roe v. Wade" actually was wrong, which he changed his mind about.

I just didn't get it.

COOPER: You mentioned...

TOOBIN: So that's my head. That's my take.

COOPER: You mentioned Huckabee.

Let's just quickly play that sound bite that Jeffrey was just talking about, Mike Huckabee talking about creationism.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the beginning, god created the heavens and the earth. To me it's pretty simple. A person either believes that god created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own. And the basic question was an unfair question because it simply asked us in a simplistic manner whether or not we believed, in my view, whether there's a god or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Mike Murphy, a lot of talk about god tonight on this stage, about creationism and evolution.

Who was that targeted to and was it effective?

MURPHY: He got himself doing the lightning bolt just to punctuate the whole thing.

I think the Christian conservatives are a big part of the primary, a big part of the Republican coalition. They're a particularly a big part of the Iowa caucus.

And both the Huckabee and the Brownback campaign are trying to build their base in that crowded Iowa caucus field with Christian conservative voters, who make up 25 or 35 percent of that primary.

So I think Governor Huckabee was very eloquent, as was Sam Brownback, in talking about some of the social conservative issues that appeal to them.

And I'll quickly defend Mitt Romney. I thought he had a good performance tonight and I thought he was -- it was impressive that he brought up China, which is a huge economic issue that I think is going to play big in the general election.

COOPER: And, Mike...

MURPHY: I thought he was very clear about Iraq, which is fight terror.

COOPER: Governor Romney is going to be able to defend himself in just a moment.

He's going to be speaking live to Larry King.

We're going take a short break and we'll be right back.

You guys are in the spin room.

We'll be right back from the hockey arena.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Governor Romney, what would you do with the 12 million or so illegal immigrants who are right now in this country?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, one is to enforce the law as it exists. The law that was passed in 1986 -- the law passed in 1986 asked for us to secure the border and said also to put in place an employment verification system. Neither one of those was done. So let's make sure we enforce the law as it exists. And if you want to improve this bill, well, one thing you can do to make it better is to take the Z Visa and make it temporary instead of a permanent right to stay in America. That's simply just not fair.


L. KING: We're here on raw politics with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who fielded that question, as well as the first question tonight.

And he joins us now.

By the way, what do you think of the oncoming entrance of Senator Fred Thompson?

ROMNEY: I think it's going to be fun. I said come on in, the water is fine, that great line from "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?"

And I think he's going to find it enjoyable. It's, you know, it's a real thrill to run for the president of the United States and to get your agenda out before the people. I think it's a critical time for our country and we have great opportunities.

But he'll -- he'll just add to the mix. It'll be fun

L. KING: It doesn't worry you?

ROMNEY: No, no. I mean if I -- if I were depending on running for office to make a living and to have myself -- my sense of self- worth, why, it might worry me. But I'm in this to make a difference for America. This is -- this I'm doing out of a sense of duty and obligation and love of this country. And if somebody else can help make that -- that message clearer, I want to make sure we get it out there

L. KING: No one was asked tonight about Attorney General Gonzalez.

What do you think should happen?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think a lot of us watched and wondered whether he had been involved in some activity that was wrong and that should require his being removed. And there's no evidence of that to date.

I think you do have to ask today whether the attorney general's office and the whole department has been dispirited by virtue of what's going on here and the...

L. KING: They might be.

ROMNEY: ... and the mistakes that have been made. And if that's the case, then I think someone looks at that and says, gosh, I'm going to do what's in the right interests of my department and the right interests of the president.

I don't think he's been shown to do something -- have done something wrong, but I think his leadership has now called into the question the support of his entire team L. KING: Governor, isn't it a little awesome to say I can -- I can lead this? I'm the best person to lead this country?

ROMNEY: It's an -- it's an extraordinary thing. And, you know, no one person could do it. What I have learned over my life is that I've been able to take on tough situations or huge opportunities by bringing together extraordinary people. That is the key -- finding the right team, bringing them together, agreeing on a course that you're going to follow, tracking, motivating, benchmarking. And, as a team of the best people in America, I know how to pull that team together. That's what makes me confident that we can have great days in the future. And despite the fact that I'm just one guy, I know something about building a team

L. KING: Are you getting tired of the Mormon question?

ROMNEY: You know, that keeps coming up. You know, it's fine. You take what people give you. And if people have interest in that, in the media or otherwise, then I'm going -- I'm going to take the question and respond.

You know, I really think that the people of America, however, are saying, you know, enough already. This is America. We're not going to choose someone to lead our country on the basis of what church they go to. That's what our -- the people across in the Middle East are doing. We don't do that in this country and I really don't think it's going to have a role to play in the final analysis

L. KING: You'll spend all day here tomorrow?

ROMNEY: I'll be here all day tomorrow and then all over the country.

L. KING: Thanks, Mitt.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Larry.

Good to see you.

L. KING: Governor Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. The hat is firmly in the ring.

Back down to the floor -- we're heading down there -- and Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, Larry, thanks very much.

We are going live all the way until midnight tonight, focusing in the next two hours on how the Republican Party, on some major issues, is in disarray, and particularly on the issues of immigration; also looking at stances on the war.

The latest polls showing dissatisfaction with this current administration, as well as with some Democrats in Congress, at a 10 year low.

So we're going to be focusing from 10:00 to midnight tonight on the ramifications for that for the GOP.

Right now, we're talking. Let's go to the spin room, a room that has some 600 journalists and 25 bloggers or so. A lot of the candidates' surrogates go there to basically spin -- put their spin on the evening.

We try to avoid those people at all costs, but we do check in with our analysts Jeffrey Toobin, Arianna Huffington from the, and Republican strategist Mike Murphy.

Mike, you talked about this -- this moment of Senator McCain during the debate, talking to a woman in the audience. There was another moment when he talked about Iraq and the cost of what it might mean if the U.S. pulled out.

Let's play that right now.


MCCAIN: I am convinced that if we fail and we have to withdraw, they will follow us home. It will be a base for Al Qaeda and we will be facing greater challenges and greater sacrifices than that already made by Matthew Stanley and his family.


COOPER: Mike, Senator McCain now finds himself allied with this administration on two key issues -- on the war in Iraq, as well as immigration.

It's a dangerous place for him to be, no?

MURPHY: Yes. There's great irony to it. I was with him on a bus eight years ago and it was a little different back then. But McCain always does what he thinks is right and, you know, takes the political consequences. And I think a lot of people respect him for his courage.

The question is -- and I think on the war, most Republicans are with him, and most of the other Republican candidates support where he is.

The question is on this immigration issue, where he is in a position -- probably a minority position -- among the primary voters in supporting this bill -- can he move that needle?

Can he convince them the bill is a good thing, that the president also supports?

Or will he at least get some respect for having the guts to stand up and tell people something they may not want to hear?

It's vintage McCain. It's the best bet he has and that's what he's going with. But he's definitely taking some hell out in the primary on the immigration issue from conservatives, who don't like the bill.

COOPER: Arianna, did any of these candidates distinguish themselves on the war tonight, in particular?

Did any of them -- you know, that question was asked about what specifically would they do if -- if the, you know, if General Petraeus comes back in the fall and says the plan is not working.

Did any of them have an answer?

HUFFINGTON: Well, it was interesting, because Senator Brownback came out clearly for partition, which is basically the Joe Biden solution, and talked about bringing forward a bipartisan bill about that.

And then Tommy Thompson -- Tommy Thompson was further away from the administration on the surge than anyone else, other than Ron Paul, on the stage.

So there has definitely been some movement there.

The thing that was really moving that John McCain did that actually may help him to move the needle on immigration was when he talked about the Vietnam Memorial and all the Hispanic names there, therefore putting a kind of patriotic spin on this issue that otherwise could be a big vulnerability for him.

COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, how closely are these candidates' futures dependent on what happens on the ground in Iraq?

TOOBIN: Very. I mean, I kept thinking you had all the major candidates endorsing, without equivocation, the president's policy -- a policy that at the moment is opposed by about 70 percent of the American people. And, you know, you listen to them and you think well, this is the only approach.

You know, every single Democratic candidate is for withdrawing troops and ending or beginning to end the commitment.

And, you know, I just think this is going to be a fall campaign, largely about the war. And if you believe the polls, the Democrats have, by far, the more popular position.

MURPHY: I'd argue...

COOPER: Ron Paul, the only voice on the stage dissenting with that.

Mike Murphy, go ahead.

MURPHY: No, I'd just argue that it's a leadership test, too. Sometimes saying what's unpopular is the right thing. Polls and foreign policy don't always mix. Polls in the media, I believe it was either Gallup or Harris, after the Nazis marched into Paris, showed a vast majority of Americans didn't want to fight World War II. It wasn't until Pearl Harbor.

So you've got to be -- a president is a leader who sometimes has to push the country in directions that public opinion polling says you shouldn't go to...

COOPER: And that...

MURPHY: And that's a test of leadership and I think we see some bravery in the Republican Party.

COOPER: And that's certainly the argument that John McCain has been making out on the stump -- he made it again tonight -- that sometimes the tough choices -- you've got to make the tough choices.

He makes that on Iraq, he says, and also on the immigration issue.

We'll be talking more about the immigration issue coming up.

Also, CNN's Joe Johns is going to look back at some of the most telling moments tonight.

We'll have the results of our minute-by-minute dial testing when our coverage from New Hampshire continues.



BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, what do you think the consequences for the nation are if this immigration plan proposed by President Bush goes through?

GIULIANI: Well, the problem with this immigration plan is has no real unifying purpose. It's a typical Washington mess. It's -- everybody compromises, four or five compromises. And the compromises leave you with the following conclusion. The litmus test you should have for legislation is it going to make things better. And when you look at these compromises, it is quite possible that it will make things worse.


COOPER: Rudy Giuliani responding to a question earlier tonight. While the Republican presidential candidates were debating earlier, we and a local station, WMUR, were gathering real time reaction. It' called dial testing. People literally registering their response, positive or negative, to what the candidates have to say literally minute-by-minute. CNN's Joe Johns has been crunching the data for us. He joins me now.

Joe, how did it go?

JOHNS: Anderson, a lot of positive reaction tonight to supporting the troops, including to the statements made by Senator John McCain. But in some ways, the audience saw a debate that was a little different than what some of the experts saw.

Nineteen Republicans and independents selected randomly got an opportunity to do a little more than listen to the night's debate. They got to participate by registering their reactions with meters to things the candidates said in real-time. Now, watch the lines in the middle of the screen. Red is for Republicans, yellow is for independents, the middle is the average. If the lines go up, that's a positive reaction, if they don't or if they go down, you get the picture.


MCCAIN: ...and the reality that we have to respect the fact...

JOHNS (voice-over): The fireworks started with immigration policy. Big peaks on the meters for trashing the immigration bill before the Congress.

GIULIANI: The organizing purpose should be that our immigration laws should allow us to identify everyone who is in this country that comes here from a foreign country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what it allows is people who have come here illegally to stay here for the rest of their lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To bring jobs back to this country, we're going to have to...


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

COOPER: It is fascinating to see that in real-time. Joe, thanks. Up next, we're going to turn the cameras literally around with our panel taking questions from the audience members. You're watching RAW POLITICS: A REPUBLICAN DEBATE from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. We'll be right back with Larry King.



MCCAIN: I'm going to give you a little straight talk. This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time, and Americans have made great sacrifices, some of which were unnecessary because of this management of the -- the mismanagement of this conflict.

I believe we have a fine general. I believe we have a strategy which can succeed so that the sacrifice of your brother would not be in vain, that a whole 20 or 30 million people would have a chance to live a free life in an open society and practice their religion, no matter what those differences are. And I believe if we fail, it will become a center of terrorism.


KING: We're back with RAW POLITICS. I am wearing appropriately a New Hampshire tie. I thought that would fit the setting. Our panel will take a couple of questions from the audience, made up of citizens here in the area. The panel is Paul Begala, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor; Amy Holmes, Republican strategist and speech writer for Bill Frist when he was Senate majority leader; and our own Wolf Blitzer who moderated and did a great job again tonight. He anchors CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" and "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER."

All right, Paul, what's your overall read?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think strategically the Democrats had to like this because there's one overriding issue in America and that's the war. All eight Democrats Sunday night stood up here with Wolf and in one way or another said they're against the war. All 10 -- well, that's not true, all of the major Republicans tonight in one way or another told Wolf they're for the war. The election is going to be about the war. The American people oppose the war. The Republicans lose the election. I mean it's as simple as that strategically.

KING: Amy?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But I would say getting down to business who won this debate tonight, I'd have to say John McCain and of all issues immigration where we thought he was the most vulnerable. He was isolated on the stage tonight. But -- his opponents, they didn't bash McCain, they bashed the bill. And in the final citizen Q&A, I think he really brought it home on immigration, how our immigrants are our friends, our neighbors, those serving in our armed services. We need to be tough on border security and legal immigration is wrong. But surprisingly on this issue, I think that John McCain won the debate.

KING: Wolf, compare the two debates.

BLITZER: You know it really does, as Paul points out, paints a stark difference between Democratic candidates and the Republican candidates by and large whether on Iraq or some of the other specific issues. Almost all of the Democratic candidates were ready to do away with the don't ask, don't tell policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military, none of the Republicans wanted to do that.

On the issue of English as an official language of the United States, with one exception none of the Democrats thought that was a good idea. John McCain was sort of isolated on the stage here tonight on that idea. The Republicans by and large were very firm in saying there needs to be English as the official language of the United States.

So by and large, I think whether on those issues or health care issues, universal health care, there is a stark difference between the mainstream Democratic candidates and the Republican candidates. And I think when you take a look at the four hours, the two hours for the Democrats and the two hours for the Republicans, that comes across vividly.

KING: It means we're going to have a heck of a race. Let's take a question from one of our New Hampshirites, is that correct, New Hampshirite?

OSCAR GREEN, VOTER: We'll take it.

KING: Oscar Green -- Oscar.

GREEN: I'd like to know what the candidates are going to do as far as moving the monies from homeland security to the local law enforcement agencies which desperately need it.

KING: Paul?

BEGALA: That's a great question. The Republicans, they work with Democrats. President Bush created this department of homeland security and they generally espouse a theory that the government closest to you works best. And yet, you've had this massive consolidation of power in the federal government as a response to 9/11. And you saw a lot of Republicans tonight very uneasy with that, particularly some of the so-called second-tier candidates who said they don't like the big spending that's happened under President Bush with a Republican Congress. They don't like the consolidation of federal power. So you saw real fracturing, I think, of the Republican Party.

Other candidates like Rudy Giuliani seemed very comfortable with a very strong central government as long as he's running it. So I think it's an interesting and it's a new tension in the Republican Party and I think it's part of the legacy of President Bush.

KING: Amy, it wasn't mentioned tonight, was it, homeland security?

HOLMES: Briefly in terms of border security. But Giuliani, you had to also remember, he was the mayor on the front lines of 9/11. So this is an issue that is very sensitive to him about getting that federal money to the local places that are at the most at risk for a terrorist attack.

BLITZER: I was surprised to a certain degree, Larry, at how far these Republican candidates were willing to go in bashing President Bush and his administration. They're being very critical of so much that has been done over these past what, six-and-a-half years or so. And I think that sort of same through pretty dramatically.

KING: Rafiel Pesehiera, right there.

RAFIEL PESEHIERA, VOTER: Hello. Yes, my question is do you think that Mayor Giuliani's position on abortion will ultimately keep him with sticking with the conservative base and being the nominee for the Republican Party?

KING: Paul?

BEGALA: It'll cost him the presidency one way or the other, yes. Only, there's a Pew poll that's just come out, the Pew Research Center. Only 43 percent of Republicans even know that Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice. In other words, the majority of Republicans still don't know that he is pro-choice on the abortion question. There's a lot of Republicans out there who are Republicans because of the life issue.

And if -- I think if Rudy Giuliani somehow becomes their nominee, which I think is unlikely because of that and other problems that he's got as a candidate, I think you'll see a third-party candidacy much as Ralph Nader drained enough left wing votes away from Al Gore to throw the election to the Supreme Court....

HOLMES: Paul, I've got to disagree. I think that's a lot of wishful thinking on the Democrats part. The last thing they want is a pro-choice Republican nominee. If you look at the polling data nationally, Giuliani is way out ahead among Republican voters over McCain and Romney. I think it's an open question. I think that evangelicals, pro-lifers are going to be looking at electability.

In politics, you always have to ask the question: compared to what. So they're seeing Hillary emerging as a leader, the front leader of the Democratic Party. They may very well go with a Giuliani who in national polling does very well head to head.

BEGALA: But then they need to send a letter of apology to every Democrat they called a baby killer for the last 30 years. That's pretty slimy. If you say that about people who have an honest disagreement on a difficult issue of principle and then your whole party flip flops on it, as Mitt Romney has done...

HOLMES: Do you remember in the first debate Sam Brownback said he could support a pro-choice nominee when he was asked... BEGALA: So he did tonight.

HOLMES: No, tonight he switched his position. He said that our party should nominate a pro-lifer.

BEGALA: But he said he would support...


BLITZER: He struggled with that, Larry.

HOLMES: He did.

BLITZER: You saw how Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas was struggling with it. But in the end he did say that if he was the nominee of the party, he would support them.

KING: Wolf, what will Fred Thompson bring to the party?

BLITZER: Charisma, charm, he's a big tall guy. He's got that likability that Ronald Reagan certainly had, and that's why a lot of Republicans who aren't satisfied with this field -- there are 10 of them up there, you'd think, well, you know, isn't that enough. Well, no, there were plenty of Republicans out there who just aren't comfortable with McCain, aren't comfortable with Giuliani, aren't comfortable with Romney, and they wanted somebody else. And they talked former Senator Thompson into doing this and he's doing it.

KING: Paul, what will he bring, do you think?

BEGALA: Yes, I think he'll bring probably less equivocal conservative credentials than say a Mitt Romney who's now trying to run as a conservative when, as was pointed out in the debate, he ran for the Senate just a few years ago against Teddy Kennedy saying he'd be more pro gay rights than Teddy was. And he ran as a pro-choicer. So I think Thompson will be able to say, I was -- as we say back home in Texas, I was country when country wasn't cool, right. I was conservative back when Mitt was liberal and I think there'll be a pretty clear clash between those two.

KING: We've been following each other up and down the stairs and he's now upstairs. Let's go up to Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Larry, thanks.

Up next on the program, the Fred Thompson factor. He was not here but he was here, the man some are calling the next Ronald Reagan. Is that really true? Oh, figure that out. RAW POLITICS from New Hampshire tonight on CNN.

Also, next month in partnership with YouTube, the Democrats will debate again in South Carolina. And this is going to be really interesting; you will submit your own questions via YouTube, and the Democrats will have to answer your questions and also see your videos. So be creative in how you make them. It's only going to be on CNN, the best place for politics on TV. We'll have more information on CNN and on YouTube in the coming days. Stay tuned.


FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have to bond together and face this thing together against these forces because they're going to pick us off one by one. We've seen our country attacked time and time again over the last decades. And now you're see it, whether it's Madrid, whether it's London, whether it's places that most people have never heard about. They're methodically going around trying to undermine our allies and attack people in conventional ways while they try to develop non-conventional ways and get their hands on a nuclear capability and ultimately to see a mushroom cloud over an American city.


COOPER: That was Fred Thompson tonight on Fox News. Thompson of course is a dark horse for the GOP. It is almost official. CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look at who he is.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's taking on the feel of a political striptease, Inch by inch he's getting there and the audience cheers him on.

JOHN HAWKINS, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: I think he's got the experience. I think he's got the character. I think he's got the gravitas. And I think he's the guy we need.

CROWLEY: Basically the former senator and "Law & Order" actor is not quite a candidate but he plays one on the campaign trail.

THOMPSON: And I think the American people are looking for somewhere to go, and we've got to give them somewhere to go.

Great to be here with so many...

CROWLEY: In less than a month, he's given five speeches to political groups. He does a daily Internet podcast, recently taking on the immigration bill and Michael Moore. He's a regular blogger of all things political. Even not running, perhaps because he's not running, Thompson runs third in the polls.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fred fills a gap in the imagination. Whether once he gets in, if he gets in, under scrutiny if he still satisfies remains to be seen.

CROWLEY: Though seen as a mostly reliable conservative on social and fiscal issues, Thompson's Senate record shows an independent streak, occasionally running up against party orthodox. His popularity is seen as a reflection of dissatisfaction among Republicans with the 10 people already in the race, especially the upper tier, where McCain is criticized as too much of a maverick to be trusted. Romney is too much of a flip-flopper and Giuliani is too liberal on social issues. At the very least the Thompson flirtation indicates that conservatives are not convinced they've found the perfect date.

BENNETT: There's this sense that someone else needs to step in. It would be a great thing if someone else stepped in. And Fred seems to be where that light is now.

CROWLEY: The truth is this shadow campaign is working very well but with 10 candidates already in the field, competition is fierce for money and staff. Sooner rather than later the tease has to stop.

Did you catch the final moments of the "Law & Order" season?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm no politician, Arthur.

THOMPSON: Yes, everybody says that.

CROWLEY: Friends believe Fred Thompson will officially announce his presidential candidacy sometime in July.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.


COOPER: So the Fred Thompson factor. Here again is Republican strategist, Mike Murphy.

Why is he suddenly number three in the polls when no one seems to know who he really is?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I have to tell you, these early national polls are meaningless. Any poll before the Iowa caucus is fun sport to watch but it doesn't really say anything. Most voters make their decision in the last 30 days, the early primary voters.

COOPER: So what is the appeal of Fred Thompson?

MURPHY: Well, I think one is Fred is famous. You know pop culture figures are ubiquitous. And that helps Fred. He's very, very well known and that's part of the game.

COOPER: Right.

MURPHY: And second, there's tremendous media attention to me because we're kind of on a six-week cycle. There's kind of a -- you know McCain was the front-runner and then it was Rudy mania and Rudy raced to the head; and then Romney has had a good run. So there's this free season where everybody gets some time. And Fred is a charismatic guy. Conservatives like him. And there's so much mentioning that drives these polls and then we report the polls and it spirals up. And then it goes down when the guy gets in the race and starts asking -- excuse me, answering tough questions.

COOPER: People are comparing him to Ronald Reagan I guess mainly because both were actors. The difference though, Ronald Reagan left acting because he was so driven politically that he went into politics. He was so moved to enter. The opposite seems to be the case with Fred Thompson. He was in politics and then he had left.

MURPHY: Yes, he had done some acting earlier. But yes, I think the Reagan analogy is kind of overplayed. All of these guys can make an analogy to Reagan.

COOPER: Is he the one spreading that, by the way, that analogy?

MURPHY: They all are, you know. I mean it's like -- you know the party is in a little bit of trouble like we are now. You go to nostalgia.

COOPER: Right.

MURPHY: Sometimes it's a sign of weakness. I'm a huge Reaganite but we're hearing a lot of Reagan and the question is the future.

I think Fred would be a good president. I know him. I have a lot of respect for Fred. But Fred is in the best position he'll ever be in his political life right now, which is rumored to be in a lot of enthusiasm but without the responsibility of being a candidate, being on the firing line, taking tough questions and raising money. And that's coming next.

COOPER: Can he raise the money? Can he get a political team behind him?

MURPHY: Yes, I think he can run a credible campaign. Will he raise enough money? There are a lot of if questions on Fred. But I think he has the potential to turn the big three into the big four. But again, I, like a lot of the candidacies, it may peak the day it's announced and get a little rougher. But I think he'll be a candidate all the way through. He's got a lot of charisma and he's got a good voting...

COOPER: Who does he hurt the most by entering the race? Is it a Romney?

MURPHY: You know I don't think any of the campaigns are fully formed enough to really know that. You can speculate. One theory is he hurts Romney and Rudy more because, McCain, you either like him or you hate him. You know McCain's kind of got that chuck of -- another theory is he hurts everybody because he's attractive as a conservative and he's attractive as kind of a common sense character. He was a reformer. He was a big McCain supporter in the last campaign in 2000. He campaigned for McCain. He may cut into some McCain vote there.

I think the only thing that'll count is in the full process, Fred will gut out there, if he runs, he'll campaign. People will make up their own minds and this real race will be next January. And Fred will be it, but I don't see any early lock for everybody.

COOPER: There is a lot of equivocation on the stage tonight about whether or not these candidates would pardon... MURPHY: Right.

COOPER: ...Scooter Libby. Fred Thompson has said, point blank, he would.

MURPHY: Right. No, he's been a leader in the Libby defense fund. I thought both Rudy and Romney did kind of a soft yes, you know I'm going to check all the paperwork and think about it, but it's probably right, which I think is the right position. And McCain kind of hinted at that but not quote as strongly.

But yes, Fred had been the way out there. And this is the next chapter of Fred, a million questions. He's been kind of floating over the process now. I can guarantee you every one of those candidates that they want -- get him her in the frying pan, turn Wolf loose on them and let them join the rest of us here in the real deal.

COOPER: We're always watching. Mike Murphy, thanks for talking to us.

Throughout these next two hours, we're gearing up for a special edition of "360," looking at the issues that unite and divide Republicans. And right now there is a lot of division among Republicans and what voters are looking to see from the party.

Up next, however, some final thoughts for the hour from John Roberts. You're watching RAW POLITICS, the Republican debate here on CNN.



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

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

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

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


KING: Before we wrap things up tonight and have some closing thoughts and lead into "AC 360," let's get thoughts on the debate from our very own co-host of "AMERICAN MORNING, John Roberts -- John. JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Hey, Larry, I've got to go out on a little bit of limb here tonight and say I don't think that there was any clear winner. I think all of the top-tier candidates had their moment. I think John McCain got hurt a little bit on immigration as we saw with the dial testing that Joe Johns was tracking. People that didn't like the idea that he was defending a bill that many of them think is unpopular. But he did come back in the town hall section and give a very eloquent, a very personal one too, getting up and engaging with the audience in the way that Bill Clinton did during those 1992 town hall debates, on the issue of the Iraq war saying it was badly mismanaged.

I think Mitt Romney did himself a lot of good with his answer on the idea of Mormonism and invoking the memory of John F. Kennedy, and saying a religion very much like yours, nothing to be afraid of here. That's something his campaign believes he's going to have to engage in probably more than just tonight as the campaign goes along.

Rudy Giuliani, I think, did himself very well. It was interesting to watch him take almost every topic and bring it back to the issue of terrorism.

I was a little stunned that Tom Tancredo went as far as he did in public talking about President Bush, saying he would tell him never to darken his door ever again. He said similar things in the past, but when you get it on stage like that in a debate forum and it suddenly seems to be a little bit louder.

Mike Huckabee also suggesting that the Bush administration has lost credibility with the party.

And Tommy Thompson when he said that he would never nominate Bush to be the ambassador of the United Nations.

We're going to be talking with Tommy Thompson by the way and Tom Tancredo as well tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING." So we'll talk to them on a little bit about those comments on President Bush, how divided is the party, can any one of these candidates unify the way the party the way George Bush did in the year 2000. And we'll talk to Tommy Thompson a little bit more about the issue of health care. Don't forget he was the secretary of health and human services. He had a pretty good idea and articulated it well tonight on health care. So all of those issues, Larry, coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING" tomorrow as we continue our post-debate analysis.

KING: Thank you Jonathan.

Tomorrow night, we'll be in New York. And on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be talking to Andrew Speaker. Mr. Speaker is the man in Denver who was hospitalized and receiving treatment for tuberculosis. And of course, he's traveled the world with a dangerous form of that tuberculosis. He'll be on with his entire family.


KING: That's tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE. Great working with you, Anderson, I'll see you back home.

COOPER: Larry, as always, thank you very much, sir.

KING: Carry on.