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American Morning

Mitt Takes Michigan; Polite Fight Night; Manhunt In Georgia; New Details of Tiger Attack at the San Francisco Zoo; New Details in Search For Marine Accused Of Murdering A Fellow Pregnant Marine

Aired January 16, 2008 - 08:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: That brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Do the winners of the early voting states make a difference on who you will vote for? Right now, 19 percent of you say yes, 81 percent say no which would seem to back the trend of the polls that we're saying. Cast your vote at We'll continue to update the votes throughout the morning.
The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

Mitt takes Michigan.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight marks the beginning of a comeback. A comeback for America.


ROBERTS: Now three frontrunners in the Republican race.


ROMNEY: I'm cautiously optimistic.


ROBERTS: Polite fight night.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama and I agree completely.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can work on this really.


ROBERTS: The Dems play nice in Vegas but draw out the battle lines.

The "Most Politics in the Morning," live from New York and Las Vegas on this AMERICAN MORNING.

And welcome back. Thanks for joining us. It is Wednesday, the 16th of January. Welcome to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm John Roberts live on the chilly Las Vegas Strip in Nevada this morning.

Kiran, it's a lot colder here than I thought that it was going to be.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I thought you'd get a break and at least get some warmth out there, out west. But its funny, I'm thinking its 5:00 a.m. for you, where you are. Usually there would be more people waking up. For your location, I'm sure there's more people going to bed, actually, because the streets look like they were very crowded at 3:00 in the morning, when you first came on the air. Well, I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York.

And Mitt Romney pulling out a big victory and he desperately need it. It was in his home state of Michigan and now really on the Republican side, it's up in the air as the candidates head to South Carolina. No clear front-runners for sure. Romney won the Michigan primary, promising to bring jobs to the state with the nation's worst in economy. Senator John McCain came in second, followed by Mike Huckabee.

For the Democrat, Senator Hillary Clinton won Michigan, but she was the only major candidate on the ballot. The others protesting Michigan, moving up their primary date. And while it could build some momentum, it didn't actually give Clinton any delegates out of it -- John?

ROBERTS: I spoke with the Michigan winner Mitt Romney in our first hour of AMERICAN MORNING. He told me that the economy is in a fragile state. So I asked what he would do as president to stimulate it.


ROMNEY: Of course, the key here is that you recognize that the stimulus of the federal government is a small part of the economic strength of the nation. The keys that I've described are the most elemental and most important which are, first of all, stopping the continued decline in the housing market through shoring up this subprime mortgage market and the mortgage market overall. That's a credit matter and that something which the fed has begun to do. But we've got a lot more work to do there.

Number two, showing our willingness to be confident. And then number three, helping people make investments in the future. Just giving people money only ends up with dollars going off to the oil- producing nations. Let's give people money in a way that they could save and help rebuild our capital based. That's why I proposed a middle income tax cut based upon savings. No taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains. That's the right beginning.


ROBERTS: Romney says he's not looking at a first-place finish in the next big contest which is South Carolina, but he has the most delegates and so far is cautiously optimistic about winning the Republican nomination. He is also doing well here in the Silver State, Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Saturday. Both the Democrats and Republicans playing on Saturday. We're going to be talking with another Republican candidate, Fred Thompson, coming up in just a few minutes here on AMERICAN MORNING. So look forward to that.

The Democrats, as you know, bypassed Michigan heading straight to Nevada for Saturday's caucuses. It's their first test here in the west. The three top candidates held a debate last night in Las Vegas. It was a mostly cordial affair with no loud or angry exchanges.

The candidates did butt heads though on the issue of removing combat troops from Iraq.


CLINTON: We have to protect our embassy. We do need to make sure that, you know, our strategic interests are taken care of, but it's not only George Bush. The Republican candidates running for the presidency are saying things that are very much in line with President Bush. You know, Senator McCain said the other day that we might have troops there for 100 years, Barack. I mean, they have an entirely different view than we do.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is dishonest to suggest that you're not going to have troops there to protect the embassy. That's just not the truth. It may be great political theater or political rhetoric, but it's not the truth. There is, however, a difference between us on this issue. And I don't think it's subtle. The difference is I will have all combat troops out in the first year that I'm president and there will be no further combat missions and there will be no permanent military base.


ROBERTS: At one point Barack Obama accused Clinton of using terrorist scare tactics to score political points.

From here to Las Vegas, we're going to be heading to South Carolina ahead of Saturday's GOP primary. We'll be there on Friday morning. We're hitting all of the battleground states on the road to Super Tuesday talking with voters, candidates and focusing on the issues to help you choose a president -- Kiran?

CHETRY: And President Bush is in the air right now. He is on his way home from eight days in the Middle East finishing up the trip in the last hour. He held a joint press conference with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. The president reaffirms his commitment to achieving a peace deal by the end of his presidency.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I believe the leadership in Israel, the leadership of Palestinians is committed to a two-state solution. And I know nations in the neighborhood are willing to help, particularly yourself, and I appreciate your strong, constructive support to the process. And I told the president, I'm going to stay -- there's a wonder whether or not the American president, when he says something, whether he actually means it. When I say I'm coming back to stay engaged, I mean it.


CHETRY: President Bush met with Saudi King Abdullah last night and came away encouraged that OPEC would cut oil prices.

Also happening right now, a manhunt in Georgia. Police looking for two men who shot and killed two off-duty police officers. It happened overnight near Atlanta. Police say the officers were working security at an apartment complex and they were apparently responding to a call about a suspicious person when they were shot. One officer died at the scene. The other died on the way to the hospital.

There were also some new details this morning in the Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. A judge is now allowing people to look at cell phones and -- police rather to look at cell phones and a car that belonged to Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal. Those are the brother who survived that mauling. The person that they were with, their friend, Carlo Sousa Jr. died. Police believe that the cell phone and the car could hold some evidence, possibly showing the tiger was provoked.

Meantime, there's an audio excerpt from that frantic 911 call. It's been released now. It was made by one of the Dhaliwal brothers, just minutes after the attack where he was heard repeatedly pleading with rescue workers to care for his injured brother.


DHALIWAL: It's a matter of life and death. How long is it before they get permission to go there?

DISPATCHER: OK. I understand that, but at the same time, we have to make sure the paramedics don't get chewed out, because if the paramedics get hurt, then nobody is going to help you.


DISPATCHER: OK, I understand that, all right?

DHALIWAL: (INAUDIBLE), get an ambulance in here.

DISPATCHER: OK, the ambulance is staging. I need you to understand that if the ambulance people, paramedics

DHALIWAL: What do you want me to understand? My brother is going to die out here.

DISPATCHER: OK, calm down.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: Well, the attack seriously injured both brothers and killed their friend Carlos Sousa Jr. The zoo has since reopened and the walls of seven animal exhibits were raised after it was discovered that the tiger's habitat was four feet shorter than national standards.

O.J. Simpson will be back in court today in Las Vague to decide whether he will be kept in jail until his trial in April. Prosecutor say Simpson violated the terms of his bail agreement when he tried to contact one of his co-defendants. Speaking of his co-defendants, a judge declared Charles Ehrlich and Clarence Stewart indigent, meaning the taxpayers of the state of Nevada will be helping to pay for their defense -- John?

ROBERTS: Coming up on eight minutes after the hour, new details this morning in the search for the marine accused of murdering a fellow marine who is eight months' pregnant. Police have found Corporal Cesar Laurean's abandoned truck at a motel north of Jacksonville, North Carolina. At the same time, the marines are defending how they handled a rape accusation from the murdered mother- to-be, Maria Lauterbach.

AMERICAN MORNING's Ed Lavandera joins us now from Jacksonville with the latest on the search for her killer. Ed, they have got his truck. Do they have any idea where he might be?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They still don't know where he might be, and they continue to do a nationwide manhunt. There is some concern that he has family in Mexico and perhaps he might be headed that way but, you know, the military has been under a great deal of pressure over the last few days to explain how they handled the early part of this investigation.

They laid out a lengthy timeline yesterday of what they knew and when they knew it yesterday, and it's clear, no one questioned. Everyone thought Maria Lauterbach just disappeared on her own.


SHERIFF ED BROWN, ONSLOW COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: Laurean's name was not mentioned in the report.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Sheriff Ed Brown has repeatedly said his investigators were not given Cesar Laurean's name until 20 days after Maria Lauterbach was reportedly missing. But after conducting a lengthy internal review, military investigators say the sheriff's office was indeed told about Laurean on December 19th, the day she was reported missing.

PAUL CICCARELLI, NAVAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR SERVICE: It was that, that particular day that NCIS, special agent that was working the rape investigation, special agent Megan Graf (ph) and contacts Onslow County -- actually they contacted us and engaged in conversation that was not a superior officer. It was actually a corporal and the corporal's name was Corporal Laurean. LAVANDERA: Military official say every clue suggested Lauterbach left on her own. She left her roommate a note saying she was tired of marine life and wanted out. Even though she claimed Laurean raped her, military official say he never violated the military protective order to stay away from Lauterbach.

COL. ROBERT SOKOLOSKI, MARINE STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE: When she was specifically asked by each of those individuals whether she felt threatened by Corporal Laurean, she responded that she was not and did not feel threatened by Corporal Laurean.

LAVANDERA: Five days after Cesar Laurean disappeared, his truck was found near the Raleigh, North Carolina airport, but still there has not been a confirmed sighting of the marine since he's been on the run. Laurean's wife is also a marine, and military sources say she's been ordered to continue her work on the Camp Lejeune base.


LAVANDERA: John, we have not had any response here from the sheriff's office to what the marines said yesterday. And of course, the focus remains on finding Cesar Laurean and no one around here is really know that perhaps along the way he's getting help from friends or people who might be sympathetic to him -- John?

ROBERTS: Are there any talk there, Ed, about how to forge better communications between the military and civilian law enforcement?

LAVANDERA: Well, there is some talk here. The problem is -- here, that no one is willing to really lay out, point any fingers as to where the miscommunication was or perhaps where the ball was dropped, and where the attention might have been focused on Laurean sooner.

Everyone here saying they've got a great working relationship and that they go to great lengths to communicate, but obviously, many of these entities work in their own world and work separately from each other, and that's something investigator here at the sheriff's office have been saying for several days.

ROBERTS: All right. Ed Lavandera for us this morning in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Ed, thanks -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Well, actress Gwyneth Paltrow was back home this morning supposedly doing fine. Her spokesman confirmed that Paltrow was admitted to New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, Monday, did not give a reason why. But "New York" magazine is reporting that it was because Paltrow was on a live food fast, eating only salads, juices and other raw organic food.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at our medical update desk with more on how safe these fasts are. You hear about them all the time. Not necessarily obviously recommended by doctors for people but a lot of people do them.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think doctors necessarily come down too hard on them if they're done in the right way. There are things like detoxification diets, for example, which typically early on involve some fasting and then a gradual re-introduction of raw foods, raw vegetables, raw salads, water. So usually just a few days of fasting.

Sometimes that sort of supplemented with herbal laxatives, sometimes enemas for sure. But the goal is to try and remove all the toxins from the body. Dairy, caffeine, meat, all that sort of stuff. Now keep in mind, your own body does a pretty good job of removing toxins as a general rule. Your liver and your kidneys are sort of design to do that and there's no evidence to show that detoxification diets actually remove toxins from the body but people sometimes say they feel better afterwards -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Now, what about the side effects? What can land you in the hospital if you're on one of these?

GUPTA: Yes -- again, you know, to be fair, a lot of people say, look I just feel better when I do this and, you know, if you're in reasonably good shape to start with, it's probably not going to land you in the hospital or get you into trouble for that matter. But if you're someone who hasn't been as healthy as you should have been in the first place, there are side effects certainly from any kind of diet like this.

Simple dehydration, obviously, from people just not getting enough fluids, but also headache, rashes, cramping, weight gain in children. That can be particularly problematic leading to things like poor growth and anemia. When you simply have low blood counts can be a problem as well.

If people follow these diets in an improper way or for too long, and that can result in significant fatigue sometimes requiring hospitalization. But again, these are popular diets. People say who restrict their calories, who go on a detox diet, sometimes say they psychologically feel well. You know, best advice, talk to your doctor ahead of time if you're trying to do something like this.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CHETRY: Still ahead. Bench is clear so does every row behind them. It's an all-out brawl at a high school basketball game. And why it won't happen again this season. The fallout. We'll explain coming up.

Plus he finished fourth in Michigan. South Carolina now is a real tipping point for Fred Thompson's presidential hopes. He joins us ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Well, looks like the Republican race really blown wide open after yesterday's win for Mitt Romney in Michigan. Now, it looks like there's really no clear front-runner. Both Romney, McCain and also Mike Huckabee picking up a state each so far in some of the big early battlegrounds.

But where does that leave Fred Thompson? He's been campaigning hardly in South Carolina. And that state's primary is Saturday. What's he doing to ensure a win there? Well, he joins us now from Clinton, South Carolina.

Fred Thompson, thanks for being with us this morning. You know, we had you on last week and you were already down there campaigning. One of the big issues that was talked about in a lot of the recent debate, especially in Michigan and South Carolina, is the economy. Now, when we had spoken with you last at a debate in October you said the economic outlook for the U.S. was rosy. Have you changed your view since then?

FRED THOMPSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I hate to start off with a correction, but I've never used the term outlook rosy as far as the economy is concerned. We've had a good stretch. In fact, since 2001, 2003 tax cuts, no question about that. But we are facing a downturn now in terms of rate of growth. Unemployment is about 5 percent which is moving in the wrong direction. Although a short time ago that was considered to be full employment.

So we just need to keep it in perspective and not do drastic things until we know exactly where we are. But there are troubles on the horizon. Back in 2001, we had a stimulus package that involved tax rebates. I think something like that needs to be looked at, but the longer-term consideration is lower tax rates across the board and less regulation, less imposition on the economy. Those are the kinds of things that are going to sustain us over the long run.

CHETRY: You know, when we talk specific South Carolina also does have unemployment rates that exceed the national average like we saw in Michigan as well. Some of those having to do with jobs leaving the state and leaving the country. What is your solution for ensuring that jobs stay in states like Michigan and South Carolina?

THOMPSON: We live in a global economy. We live in a free society. Government is never going to come in, if I have anything to do with it, and tell people what they can and cannot do in that regard. What we've got to do is make sure that we protect our own companies in this global competition we're in.

We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. We're only one of two countries that hasn't lowered the taxes on businesses since 1994, makes us less competitive. The regulations we put on our company here's make us less competitive. The trick is that for every job we lose, we need to gain a couple of jobs. Frankly, that's happening, in the South Carolina and other places. BMW, for example, just announce that they are adding on a couple hundred jobs here while they're downsizing in other parts of the world. So it's not all bad news.

And if we would treat our companies right here, and induce more companies to come in here and start jobs, for every one we lose, we would gain, and that's the trick in a global economy. Nobody can ever promise anyone that a job is not going to leave, or job is not going to shut down. But if you have a growing economy and good economic policies, good fiscal policy, lower taxes, less regulation, it will benefit the overall economy and produce a net gain of jobs.

CHETRY: Just to be clear, your quote from the Dearborn, Michigan debate back on October 9th was, I think if you look at the short-term it's rosy. I think if you look at the ten-year projection it's rosy. You also went on to say we're spending money we don't have. What do you think the role of the government should be in job creation and retention?

THOMPSON: A ten-year projection -- ten-year projection is rosy? No, I've been saying that if you look down the road a little bit, that it's disastrous. The -- the short term looks OK, in terms of our overall economic well-being. We were not talking about a recession in that discussion that we were having there in Michigan. We were talking about the economy in general. The shorter term looks OK. Our deficits within historical norms and so forth, but because of the mandatory spending that we're locked into, if you look down the road a little bit it is disastrous.

We're spending the next generation's money. We're burdening them with debt and these mandatory spending programs will consume our entire budget within a shorter period of time than most people realize. Probably 2040, somewhere in there. And so we need to tackle those things now. So we're talking about a little bit apples and oranges here, but shorter term we're going to be fine regardless. Longer term is going to be disastrous unless we do some things, for example, to reform social security, and reform Medicare, for the long- term benefit of the economy.

CHETRY: Let's talk a little about the state of South Carolina. A lot of people looking at the race, and saying that perhaps the social conservative vote, the socially conservative and the evangelical voters are going to be split between you and Governor Mike Huckabee. How do you convince those voters that you are the true conservative?

THOMPSON: Well you know, I don't divide people up like that. I say the same thing in all parts of the country and where I stand does not depend on where I'm standing or what office I'm running for. I've been the consistent conservative, the only one in the race for my entire public career.

I've been fighting for lower taxes and less regulation and fighting for the second amendment and fighting for good, conservative judges who will obey and abide by the laws instead of making it up as they go along and compiling 100 percent pro-life voting record along the way. Strong national security credentials. Having served on the Intelligence Committee and other relevant committees. So I think I'm the only one that fits that bill.

I was walking the walk back before some of these others were talking the talk. And I do not believe that the coalition that we've put together in the '80s is dead, because it's based on the constitution of the United States and fundamental principles. Those principles found in the constitution are as relevant today as they've ever been.

And that's why I say that this is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. And we're going to adhere to those basic principle, the once I've been fighting for all this time or we're going to go off to another direction and we're going to nominate someone who is newly convinced, apparently, of some of these basic conservative ideas.

CHETRY: Are you talking about Mitt Romney?

THOMPSON: That name would come to mind, yes.

CHETRY: You're also referring to Mike Huckabee's campaign, one of his campaign managers quote about the Reagan conservative, that coalition being dead.

THOMPSON: Yes. Yes, I think.

CHETRY: Do you believe that Mike Huckabee is a liberal?

THOMPSON: I think that his campaign manager let the cat out of the bag, when he said the Reagan coalition is dead. That's what they believe. If you look at Governor Huckabee's record in Arkansas, you know he is very liberal in terms of illegal immigration policies. He supported public funding of illegal immigrants. He resisted state legislature's attempt to require people to prove that they were citizens before they would be allowed to vote. He opposed that.

He's been endorsed by the National Education Association, was the only Republican to appear before them, and got their endorsement because he opposed school vouchers. Yes, when it comes to economic policy and when it comes to foreign policy, as best I can determine, what he's fought foreign policy beliefs are, liberal would be the word that I would apply to it.

CHETRY: You've been putting a lot of time in South Carolina. What does it mean to your campaign if you do not win South Carolina?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm not going to talk about unsuccessful scenarios. We're getting good results down here. The crowds have been overflowed. The fire marshals had to close us down a time or two and the poll numbers are looking good, we're gaining. Others are falling down some, and so momentum is good and the direction is good. And that's important to us. There is no question we've got to do very well here. But different people are winning these different major contests, and I think a different person will win Saturday in South Carolina.

So it's still very much open. No one has settled in on anyone. Everyone is the -- you know, gets to be a hero of the day, and so it's a very open contest and that's very conducive to our kind of message in a place where, you know, strong, good, solid, conservative, constitutional principles are still things that are very, very valued.

CHETRY: All right. So you're hoping to break the field even wider open and rack up a win for yourself there in South Carolina. Hey, thanks for joining us this morning to talk.

THOMPSON: That's right.

CHETRY: We appreciate it. Our Republican presidential candidate, Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. Thanks.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Appreciate it.

ROBERTS: A high school basketball game gets real ugly. Punches and spit flying. Now the gym may be closed to fans for good.

And a new wrinkle in the mortgage meltdown. A city full of foreclosed homes takes on the banks. That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Benches even the bleachers cleared out during a high school basketball game in Florida. It was Palatka High School. They had to suspend nine players and they banned every fan from every boys and girls home game for the rest of the season. In fact, only the parents of the girl's team are now allowed in. One parent said the fight started when an opposing player spit on his son. There you see the benches and as we said bleachers clearing out. Not going to have that problem again, because they're taking some drastic measures there, John.

ROBERTS: Yes. Tough love in terms of sportsmanship there.

So how much influence do the early results in these early primary states have on the rest in the primaries and caucuses in the process to nominate the candidates who will run for president? Well, we can already see it here. Rudy Giuliani is slipping in the national polls while John McCain is surging. It's happening in some of the state polls as well. Giuliani is banking on Florida to get his campaign rolling before the mega-prize day on Super Tuesday.

And that brings us to this morning's "Quick Vote" question. Here it is. Do the winners in the early voting states make a difference in who you will vote for if you're in one of those later states? Right now, 17 percent say yes, 83 percent say no. Cast your vote at We'll continue to update the votes throughout this morning and we'll bring you a final tally just before we hand it over to "NEWSROOM" at 9:00 Eastern.

Well, coming to a supermarket near you, cloned meat and milk. The FDA says science shows there's no danger. We're "Paging Dr. Gupta" about the controversy and what consumers need know.

And a friendly fight. The democrats played nice here at a debate in Las Vegas last night. But can it last? We're bringing together a political roundtable ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. It is Wednesday, January 16th. Welcome to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. I'm Kiran Chetry here in New York.

ROBERTS: And good morning, I'm John Roberts live on the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The native son shines in Michigan last night. Republican Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary with promises to bring jobs to the state with the nation's worst economy. Senator John McCain came in second, about nine points behind followed by Mike Huckabee.

On the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Clinton won. She was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot because of the state's decision to hold the vote so early. They were being punished for that. 40 percent of voters came out to file uncommitted ballots on the Democratic side in Michigan.

John McCain campaigned in Michigan by telling voters some of the jobs lost would not be coming back. Mitt Romney strongly disagreed on that point and said he could bring those jobs back. I spoke with him earlier on AMERICAN MORNING and asked if he was just telling Michigan voters what they wanted to hear.


ROMNEY: The key is to be able to rebuild the economy and I spent my life in the private sector. It's something I have done. I've traveled around the world doing a business. I understand why businesses and jobs come and go, and I will use all that I've learned to try and strengthen our economy, whether in the transportation sector or other sectors. You simply can't look at a major sector of America and just write it off and say it's gone, particularly when it continues to employ hundreds of thousands of people directly and possibly millions of people. And that's true for industries across America.


ROBERTS: Romney told us that he thinks that the economy overall is in a fragile state, and that it's important not to let it fall into recession.

The Democrats running for president made nice, oh, for the most part in their debate here in Las Vegas last night. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards did clash on /the issue of removing combat troops from Iraq, and at one point Obama accused Clinton of using terrorism to score political points. Clinton has said that Al Qaeda may test the next president early on and that the next president had to be prepared. So, it's an all-out fight on both sides of this race.

CNN's Jessica Yellin and "Time" Magazine's Mark Halperin join me now to talk a little bit more about this. And Jessica, let's pick up on this point that Hillary Clinton made last night about this idea that Al Qaeda may seek to test the next U.S. president early on and, therefore, you need a president who's prepared? That's a pretty good shot at Obama. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. She's made this point all along. You need a president who's ready from day one to assume the job and yesterday she said you need a president who's basically ready to take on Al Qaeda from day one.

It was an interesting remark from her, because in the past, she has hit the Bush administration and Karl Rove hard for making similar comments about this next president and what the president has to do. She's called it, using the fear card, playing the fear card. And as you said, Obama accused her of doing just that last night.

ROBERTS: In terms of cards, it did look like they put away the race card last night. Let's take a quick listen to some of what they said about last evening.


CLINTON: I think that what's most important is that Senator Obama and I agree completely that you know neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign.

OBAMA: One of the premises of my campaign and I think of the Democratic party and I know that John and Hillary have always been committed to racial equality. It is that we can't solve these challenges unless we can come together as a people.


ROBERTS: So, Mark, what happened? Did these candidates decide, wait a second. We're risking a schism here in the Democratic party. We need to come together on this?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think they got some concern about the party but I think it's mostly self-interests. Neither side felt comfortable having that fight over race for slightly different reasons. They also both want to talk more about the economy, about gas prices, about the mortgage crisis. That is a message neither of them wants to drive. You saw in the debate, they walked it back. I suspect it will come up again between now and the South Carolina primary, a week from Saturday.

ROBERTS: Now, did the fact, too, Jessica, that 68 percent of African-American voters in Michigan voted uncommitted. Does that present a problem for Hillary Clinton going forward in South Carolina? Where she's really trying to win over African-American women.

YELLIN: This is a deeply troubling development from Michigan yesterday. The fact that so many of the African-American voters who turned out did not want to support Senator Clinton in a contest in which her name was on the ballot but the others guys really weren't competing in that race, not good sign.

But as Mark points out, they all really do want to focus on the issues that matter. There is still time before South Carolina. There was not a big turnout of Democrats. All these are reasons Senator Clinton could hope to maybe turn that African-American vote around before South Carolina.

ROBERTS: John Edwards won South Carolina in the year 2004. He proved last night that he's still out there fighting. I mean, he was in that intimate setting with the other two candidates, the ones getting all the news. Does he still face the possibility of a resurgence in South Carolina or might it be pretty much over for him?

HALPERIN: He's got to keep in the game, get people like us to think about him. He will be in more debates. There are more debates coming up this month. I think in South Carolina, the opening for him is with white men. Hillary Clinton is not doing particularly well with white men in South Carolina. It's not necessarily a great group for Barack Obama. He needs to keep that as his base and try to build on it, go into the African-American vote a little bit. He's got to stay in the game. I think he has to hope one of the other two candidates falters.

ROBERTS: Well, I'll be talking to him a little bit later on today for our election center special tonight. So, we'll hear what he thinks about all of that. Mark Halperin, Jessica Yellin, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Always appreciate you getting up early to be here with us. I know it's tough -- Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks.

Well, here's a quick look at what's ahead. Saturday, the Nevada caucuses for the Democrats and the Republicans in South Carolina. The Republicans have their primary. The Democratic primary in South Carolina is in the following Saturday, January 26th. And the Florida primary is Tuesday, January 29th. A little bit of trivia. John Roberts hand crossed out every single one of those other states. Because he's been all over the place.

And to remember our political coverage in primetime, John Roberts and Lou Dobbs are going to be on tonight. They're going to be in the Election Center at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

We have some other headlines new this morning to tell you about. President Bush is in the air right now. He's on his way back from an eight-day trip to the Middle East. He finished up the trip in Egypt talking about Mideast peace and in a joint news conference that took place with Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt.

President Bush says that Israel, and the Palestinians and their neighbors are all committed to peace, and he's optimistic a deal can be done before he leaves office.

Now, Wall Street worries are spreading around the globe this morning. Tokyo's Nikkei lost more than 3 percent of its value. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 5 percent lower and the Dow lost 227 points Tuesday afternoon after Citigroup announced a $10 billion fourth quarter loss. JP Morgan Chase became the second bank this week to report disappointing quarterly results. It also said it would take a write down of more than $1 billion dollars on securities-linked to subprime mortgages. And these are desperate times for people who have lost their homes in the mortgage meltdown. And First City is suffering along with them. Now, one city is taking action. Cleveland is actually suing 21 mortgage lenders saying they are to blame for thousands of loans now in default. CNN's personal financial editor Gerri Willis has been looking into this. It's fascinating as well because the mayor also blaming the lenders for larger problems like crime in neighborhoods and other things that have been taking place.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Yes, you bet. Well, that's exactly what happens in these foreclosures, Kiran. They lose tons of money. It's all about the dough to begin with. As a matter of fact, if you take a look at Cuyahoga County, how much they stand to lose in the mortgage meltdown, something like $462 million nationwide.

Cities, counties, local governments will lose $223 billion. Think about the lost equity to individuals here. $164 billion that you will you lose, equity in your home, of course, if you go into foreclosure. I just want to say, this is a tricky thing, Kiran. Because at the end of the day what happens in these neighborhood is that you get a ton of crime. Druggers -- druggies move in.

We went to one neighborhood in Phoenix last summer, and the pools in the backyard were full of pond scum, breeding mosquitoes. It was a total mess. The local governments have to come in and fix all this. It costs a lot.

CHETRY: How do you make the argument that the lender is to blame for all of the periphery things that happen because of foreclosures?

WILLIS: Well, it's falling dominoes. I mean, you got to figure put at the end of the day whose fault is it and there's a lot of blame to go around here. There's lenders who came out with all kinds of products but folks couldn't afford. There are the mortgage brokers who are probably too aggressive in selling some of the stuff.

You know, some of the people were put into subprime loans who actually qualified for prime loans and they ended up paying more. There's also the borrowers themselves in some cases who didn't know what kind of loan they getting, didn't understand the terms. They didn't know what they were on the hook for.

CHETRY: It will be interesting to see if this is part of a nationwide trend that other cities start to follow suit with what Cleveland's doing. I'm sure a lot of people will be watching how it turns out.

WILLIS: Well, Baltimore is suing as well. They're suing Wells Fargo. We're starting to see investigations by attorney generals across the country. This is just the beginning of a bigger and kind of broader wave of lawsuits that are going to go on.

CHETRY: All right. Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: My pleasure.


ROBERTS: Mike Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse case, has just filed for bankruptcy. He cited $180 million in liabilities. That's the potential damages from lawsuits filed against him by the former Duke Lacrosse players. Nifong accused three players of raping a woman hired to perform as stripper at a party but the case fell apart as the accuser changed her story. Nifong was then disbarred for more than two dozen violations of the North Carolina state bar rules of professional conduct.

The FDA says meat from cloned animals, safe to eat, but not everybody's onboard yet. Is it different from what we're used to eating? We're "paging Dr. Gupta" coming up.

And with race drowning out the issues this week, the Democrats now heading to a state where minorities could make or break a candidate. The battle for Nevada coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Welcome back. The FDA is saying meat and milk from cloned animals -- safe to eat. And you may not know you're actually buying it. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is at the medical update desk. More, the ruling was from the FDA that they approved the sale of cloned meat for use at our dinner tables, saying it's safe. And the reactions seemed mixed. We did a quick vote question on it yesterday. And the majority of people said they would not eat meat from cloned animals.

GUPTA: Interesting. There's a huge factor when it comes to this few people say, I see that the science is there and it's sound, and there were lots of studies around the world. But they actually looked at trials of studies that existed around the world to arrive at this conclusion. That is fact, cloned meat is biologically no different than traditional meat and they say, look, our job is to basically say, scientifically it's safe.

It's not to tell consumers that one product is different than the other in forms of labels or anything like that, but it is interesting how people sort of respond to this. About 22 percent of people from the international food council say in a survey. They have a favorable attitude towards cloned meat. So, maybe this is something that will catch on or not, but for the time being, science is sound. Reaction, not as sound. Kiran.

CHETRY: And the other interesting thing, federal officials say they're not going to label the products cloned. So how will people know what they're eating?

GUPTA: They may not. And this is a very interesting thing. We've seen it before with various other sort of food types including organics, for example. Again, the FDA when asked specifically about this says, our job is to sort of determine whether something is safe, and if it is safe, there's no reason to actually label it as different. Now, think of it sort of reverse labeling, though. People who sell products that are not cloned may say, look, we got a product that is not cloned. Buy our products instead. Of course, that's going to be expensive, more expensive for them to do. There may be some difficulty in that, but you may see labeling sort of the opposite, if you will, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Yeah, as you said. Companies will take it upon themselves to say this is not from a cloned animal. Very interesting.

GUPTA: And let me say one more thing as well. When you think of cloning as brand new, but it's really not. If you think about a lot of fruits, for example, such as bananas, such as grapes, we've been cloning those for a long time. We eat those products all the time. They call it vegetable propagation. It's a fancy term for cloning. But I guarantee you, most people watching have already eaten some sort of cloned product before, Kiran.

CHETRY: For some reason a cloned tomato doesn't gross you out as much? Does it?

GUPTA: Not as much as a cow. You're right.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay, thanks so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Tony Harris is at the CNN Center. Hi, John.

Sorry about that. I heard Tony laughing and I jumped the gun. Were you laughing, Tony?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this whole idea, vegetable what?


HARRIS: Just a funny notion. Hey, Kiran. Hey, John. Good morning to both of you on the NEWSROOM rundown for you.

It is still wide open. Mitt Romney wins big in Michigan. Now he and his Republican rivals zero in on Saturday's primary in South Carolina. Newspaper report links several big named musicians to human growth hormone. Is it a safe way to stay young or what do think a quack's remedy for wrinkles? And strange doings in the skies over Stephenville, Texas. Dozens of people claim they saw UFOs. Let's get you back to John. John, good to see you.

ROBERTS: All right. Good to see you, too. We'll see you coming up at the top of the hour there, Tony.

It's an all-out scramble to get new voters out to the polls here in Nevada. How are the candidates doing it? We'll see how the campaigns are reaching out in teaching voters coming right up on AMERICAN MORNING. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's coming up on seven minutes until the top of the hour, as we look at a shot of downtown Las Vegas at the strip. We're at the Trader Vick's outdoor patio. Thanks to them for hosting us this morning.

For years the west was excluded for being a significant part for nominating presidential candidates. But now Nevada stands to be a major player. Democrats have seized on a growing west, a large Hispanic population heavily unionized work force and used the influence of Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid to push up the day of the caucuses here and let Nevada play an important role in choosing the next president.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Will Wooten is not your typical Las Vegas tourist. Instead of hitting the famous strip, he's canvassing neighborhoods, hoping to drum up votes for Barack Obama, in Nevada's caucus this Saturday. What brought you here? Why did you want to come all wait from Texas to participate in this process?

WILL WOOTEN, OBAMA CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: Obviously, the four early states are really important for the process, and Texas, their primary is not until the end of March. So, by then it will be decided. So I had to come out to one of these states, and I decided on Nevada.

ROBERTS: Now, can I just ask, have you decided who you'll be caucusing for? After the dramatic outcomes of the first contest in Iowa and New Hampshire, the top Democratic campaigns are focusing on Nevada bringing in hundreds of extra staff and volunteers, including people like Michelle Gill and Jordan (Bigg.)

MICHELLE GILL, OBAMA CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: I could be hanging out at the mall, but how will that help my future? I might get some new clothes but then send someone I don't the president who's running our country.

ROBERTS: Nevadans are excited as they prepare for the first time to help shape the presidential race.

LLOYD LITTLE, EDWARDS CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: You see signs all up and down the roadways, and you can hear in conversations just by you know, walking by different people. We're excited about it. We're going to take advantage of our opportunity. No doubt about it.

ROBERTS: Nevada is one the fastest growing and most diverse states in the country. One of every five people is Hispanic, and the state is a heavily unionized work force.

DAVID DAMORE, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNLV: Demographic changes have worked to the advantage of the Democratic party here, and now we've seen the Democratic party opening up a sizable voter registration increase over the Republicans. That's something they have not had here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Barack Obama campaign --

ROBERTS: But even with volunteers working multiple shifts on the phones and out in the fields, they campaigns wonder if they can count on Nevadans to come out and vote. Only 9,000 turned out for the caucus in 2004, which was much later in the election cycle.

ADAM BOZI, NEV. PRESS SECRETARY, EDWARDS SUPPORTER: People aren't used to being one of the states that decides. We had to explain what a caucus is. We had to explain what you do at a caucus and why it's important. We don't know what the turnout is going to be.

ROBERTS: And for the candidates, that makes Nevada anything but a sure bet.


ROBERTS: Well, last night the Democratic candidates for the nomination tried to put the issue of race to bed for good, but it did dominate the headlines this week. Leading up to the vote here in Nevada where minorities could be the key to victory. To show you, Kiran, just how interested people are here in participating in this new caucus process. They are holding nine caucus sites, nine at-large caucus sites, in the casinos here to give workers who wouldn't be able to leave the casino, to get to those caucus locations, a chance to participate.

CHETRY: Hey, it's a good idea, and there's a lot of room. Sounds good. Thanks, John.

Well a quick look at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Mitt Romney wins Michigan's Republican primary. Democrats keep it simple in a Las Vegas debate. North Carolina police find a fugitive marine's truck. Bombings kill six people in Iraq. President Bush flies home after visiting Egypt. Last stop on his Mideast trip, and what strange thing did people see in the skies over a small Texas town?

NEWSROOM just minutes away at the top of the hour on CNN.


CHETRY: And before we say goodbye, a quick look at the morning's quick vote question. We asked -- do the winners in the early voting states make a difference in who you'll vote for? 15 percent of you saying yes, 85 percent of you saying no. You'd like to make up your own mind, and to all of you who voted, thank you -- John.

ROBERTS: Hey, back one more time here from the outdoor patio at Trader Vick's. Our thanks again to them for hosting us this morning, giving us what little warmth they could through the use of these patio heaters, out there. It took a little bit of the edge off.

Remember, our political coverage in primetime tonight. I'll be joining Lou Dobbs at the CNN election center and again here from the patio on the Las Vegas strip, that's at 8:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And remember as well for all the political news that you need to know to help you make up your mind, make an informed choice about who you want to see as president, go to our show page, That's going to wrap it up for us here for this morning from Las Vegas. See you again tonight. Thanks so much for joining us here on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHETRY: And we'll be watching tonight and of course, you'll be with me bright and early tomorrow morning as well, John.

And meanwhile, CNN NEWSROOM with Tony Harris and Heidi Collins starts right now.

HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins. Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday.