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American Morning

Primary Day in Indiana and North Carolina; Delegate Duel: Obama Still in Lead; Oil Prices Surge; The League of First Time Voters: Mennonite Students; Why Today Matters: Game Changer or Game Over for Clinton?

Aired May 06, 2008 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: The polls open in North Carolina. When the day is over, there will be more delegates up for grabs in the proverbial backroom than there will be in the states themselves. One hundred and eighty-seven delegates will be handed out tonight, 115 from North Carolina, 72 in Indiana. Both states actually received more delegates as a reward for moving their primaries back.
Right now, Senator Barack Obama leads Senator Hillary Clinton by 143 delegates. Both candidates gave their closing arguments to voters.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've offered specific solutions about all the issues we are facing, because I want you to join with me in helping to solve America's problems. It's time to quit wringing our hands and start rolling up our sleeves. And we can do that once we have a leader back in the White House who says, you know what, America, there is nothing we can't do. There is no problem we can't solve if we start acting like Americans again. That's who we are, and let's go do it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't buy into this electability argument. You know, go with who you think best represents your vision of where America needs to go. And if you do that, I'm absolutely confident that that person will win. I think this is our opportunity to make a clean break from the past.


ROBERTS: The best political team on television is covering every angle of the race today. Dan Lothian kicks off our coverage. He is live from a polling place in Indianapolis. Good morning, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John, and the polls did just open here. Take a look over here to my right where a line is now forming as folks are showing up to vote. What's interesting about this location here it is a park and a community center, is that we have two rooms next to each other which represent two different precincts, so we presume some of those folks will be followed into this room here because some will be voting in that room next to me. Some will be voting in this particular room.

Now, the type of voting machines that they're using here, they'll have those paper ballots that will be scanned. They also have one- touch screen machines also that's available for voters there. What's interesting is that, you know, Secretary of State's office really expecting a heavy voter turnout obviously because of the competitive nature of this race.

They've never really sort of been in the spotlight this late into the race, so a lot of people have been energized. They're expecting big numbers. Secretary of State's office saying that about 75 percent of the counties have printed extra paper ballots in order to handle what they are expecting to be heavy demand, John.

ROBERTS: Dan Lothian for us expecting a very exciting day there in Indianapolis and across the state of Indiana, North Carolina as well. Here's the current breakdown of delegates.

According to CNN estimates, Barack Obama has 1,745 now, putting him ahead of Hillary Clinton by 143. But Clinton leads in superdelegates by 14, however, that margin is way down from where it was earlier in the season.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a tighter race. Well, voters going to the polls right now have one issue that clearly separates the candidates. That, of course, would be the gas tax. And the Clinton campaign is launching a last minute attack ad against Barack Obama for not supporting a plan to suspend the federal gas tax for the summer.


NARRATOR: What's happened to Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, we're living paycheck to paycheck.

NARRATOR: He's attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one.


CHO: Barack Obama says the so-called gas tax holiday will only save Americans about $30 over the summer, and he wants voters to see Clinton's plan as same old Washington politics.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every time we have tried this, what ends up happening is the oil companies end up just jacking up their prices by the same amount as the tax is lowered, then you know that it's a gimmick. You know you are being tricked. You know politicians are saying something just to get through the next election.


CHO: Well, most people say high gas prices are a hardship. Take a look there. In the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, an overwhelming majority say yes. Eighteen percent, to break it down a bit further, say it's a severe hardship. Forty-one percent say it's a moderate hardship. Thirty-nine percent say it's not a hardship.

Meanwhile, John McCain wants the EPA to ease rules expanding the production of ethanol. McCain and nearly two dozen other Republican senators are urging regulators to roll back requirements for a five- fold increase in biofuels. Now, they blame increased ethanol production for higher food prices. The White House says it's only had a small impact -- John.

ROBERTS: We've got some political heavyweights who are weighing in this morning. Coming up at 7:25, Ann Lewis, the senior adviser to Senator Clinton and David Wilhelm, an Obama supporter, will be joining us. At 7:55, Bill Bennett gives us the conservative point of view on all of this. And at 8:25, Clinton supporter, Governor Mike Easley from North Carolina, and Obama supporter, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel from Evansville, Indiana.

Breaking news from Myanmar this morning, the numbers are just completely staggering. According to the military government, up to 15,000 people now feared dead in the aftermath of the cyclone that tore through the country over the weekend. As many as a million people have been left homeless and much of the country is without power and clean drinking water.

First lady Laura Bush attacked the ruling military junta for failing to provide an early warning of the storm. She also promised that aid is on the way, but so far the State Department says permission to get some of that aid into Myanmar has been denied.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: So I hope that there will be one good thing that comes out of such huge destruction and that would be the government's realization that the people of Burma need help, and they need more help than they can give them or that they've been able to give them. And the country is just been totally decimated with both education, agriculture. All of the things that made Burma one of the richest countries in Asia have now been dismantled.


ROBERTS: A real startling look at what happened over the weekend. These are images from NASA. The first taken in 2004 shows the area of impact during Myanmar's dry season. And take a look at this.

The second image is taken on Monday morning more than 24 hours after the storm slammed ashore. You can see the massive flooding and swollen muddy rivers, and not much dry land left.

The United Nations moving at full speed to tackle the world food crisis. Here's a look at the Philippines today where residents were lining up to buy rice. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the food crisis grew out of more than a decade of neglect and ineffective development policies. A special task force will meet next Monday to try to figure out what to do.

And more deadly riots in Somalia over high food prices. Witnesses say Somali soldiers killed two protesters in Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of rioters including women and children threw rocks at shops and smashed car windshields. They're angry at shopkeepers who refuse to accept Somali currency and instead are demanding payment in U.S. dollars. Hundreds of shops and restaurants in the capital city are closed for fear of looting.

CHO: Well, Iran this morning is calling off talks with U.S. officials after new accusations emerged this morning from the U.S. military. U.S. officials say detainees in Baghdad said they were trained by Hezbollah fighters, the camps run by Iran's revolutionary guard. Iran's foreign ministry says discussions won't resume until the U.S. ends its crackdown on Shiite militias.

And a new warning about troop levels. The head of U.S. Special Operations Command says Green Berets and other elite military squads are being stretched too thin. A top military official says his commandos are being used so much in Iraq and Afghanistan they simply can't complete missions in other parts of the world.

ROBERTS: Breaking news overnight. The price of oil approaching $121 a barrel. Ali Velshi is back and so is the drum.

And the voters are having their say right now. Does Hillary Clinton's gas tax plan give her an edge over Barack Obama? We'll have a Republican's point of view in the upcoming race coming right up on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." The "ELECTION CENTER" up early and humming along. There we go. Polls open in North Carolina just a little more than 20 minutes from now.

On the left side of the screen, you're looking at a shot from Indianapolis this morning where the polls are already open. They open at 6:00 a.m. They start early there in the Midwest. Most of the states, almost all the states...

CHO: Good for them.

ROBERTS: ... in the Eastern Time Zone just a couple of small parts including the city of Gary, Indiana, which is in the Central Time Zone.


CHO: Yes.

ROBERTS: So polls will be opening in that city about 15 minutes from now.

We're going to be breaking down the primary races with our John King, coming up. He's going to be at the magic wall, and he's got all kinds of information.

CHO: And it's really interesting when he breaks it down in certain sections of the state where Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, how well they expect to do and so tight. So we're watching all of that very closely.

Meanwhile, Ali Velshi here "Minding Your Business," looking at the price of oil again.

ROBERTS: Do you have a magic wall where you can make that barrel disappear?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John King is the future. I'm definitely the past. I have this old barrel with stick- on numbers, but we got to change those numbers. $120.93 is where oil hit this morning. It's about $120.

Remember, we were just talking about how oil had pulled back so nicely. It was going for about $110 a barrel. You know, these gas prices and oil prices are a major part of this primary campaign. We've heard and we'll hear again in a little while from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and John McCain about their proposals to deal with gas prices.

Oil is up for a couple of specific reasons right now. One of them is that the U.S. dollar has weakened again. And as John has pointed out many times, the direct relationship between the U.S. dollar and oil, when the dollar is down oil goes up. Also, there is some U.S. interest threatened by Kurdish guerrillas, and in Nigeria a Shell facility was attacked. So there are real reasons now where production has been cut down.

However, those of you out there think that oil is going up and gas is going up. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll we're just unveiling has shown that you think the gas is going to $5 a gallon. Well, yes. Is it going to $5 a gallon this year?

Forty-four percent of you said very likely. Thirty-four percent said somewhat likely. Less than a quarter said not likely. And then, of course, the issue is we can speculate about gas prices, but what's the effect of it on you. Take a look at these numbers.

We asked whether gas -- rise in gas prices have caused hardship for you. Sixty percent said yes. Nineteen percent of those said severe hardship, moderate hardship for 41 percent. Not a hardship for 39 percent. So all I can say is there's some good news in there that it hasn't caused hardship for 39 percent of Americans.

CHO: We're already talking about $5 gallon gas.

VELSHI: Unbelievable.

CHO: That's scary.

VELSHI: We just totally skipped to four. AAA, by the way, is still saying $3.90 by Memorial Day. ROBERTS: People are driving around. My daughter's girlfriend was driving around looking for a station where gas was cheaper and finally had to buy it like --

VELSHI: Right.

ROBERTS: At some point, that equation just doesn't (INAUDIBLE) anymore. You're about to run out of gas.

VELSHI: You know, just to remind people, there are Web sites out there trying to use some gas buddy Web sites like that. They try and show you in your neighborhood because this kind of money it's not worth driving around.

ROBERTS: Did I say my daughter's girlfriend? My son's girlfriend?

VELSHI: Your son's girlfriend. Whatever works.

ROBERTS: There you go.

Just 17 minutes now until the polls open in North Carolina. They are already voting in Indiana, and polls have been open there since 6:00 this morning. We're talking to first-time voters about the issues that they're passionate about. Plus, we're hitting the airwaves to hear what they're saying on talk radio.

And Rob Marciano watching the extreme weather for us this morning from Atlanta. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. We had some tough thunderstorms across the Carolinas yesterday. They're trying to slide out of the area for clearer skies in North Carolina, but rough weather in Texas. We're going it through it all when AMERICAN MORNING comes right back.


CHO: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning" on this key primary day, and here's a live look at the polling place in Indianapolis where the polls have been open for about 16 minutes now. And in just another 14 minutes, the polls in North Carolina will open. We're going to have updates all morning long with the best political team on TV.

ROBERTS: Of course, weather is always important when it's primary day. Rob Marciano down there in Atlanta tracking that and some storms in Texas for us this morning. Good morning, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, guys. Yes, we're going to break down North Carolina. I'll talk about Indiana as well. First off, Texas, Oklahoma, rough weather typical this time of year and they're getting it this morning. Check out this cluster of thunderstorms rolling across the Red River right now, driving down to the south and east, holding together fairly well for this time of the day. Oklahoma City into Tulsa mostly rain north of Oklahoma City and a little bit more on the way of thunder and lightning south. We've had reports yesterday and during the evening hours in Garden City, Kansas, of softball-sized hail and heavy rainfall across parts of southeast Texas, upwards of seven inches north of Houston. But this cluster of thunderstorms heading towards the Dallas area, and there is some rough weather in there.

Anytime you see that squally line or anytime you see a bowing (ph) of that echo there, it typically means there's some gusty winds so be aware of that. Laredo, Texas, yesterday, you had some heavy rain that led to some flooding and water rescues and all that kind of jazz. Now, you got more rain heading into Webb County, one or two inches possible with these cluster that is heading eastward towards Corpus Christi.

All right. North Carolina here you go. You had some thunderstorms yesterday especially in the eastern half. It should be smooth sailing today. It's mid-70s to right around 80 degrees, partly to mostly sunny skies. And Indiana, a little action maybe in the afternoon in the way of thunderstorms. About a 30 percent chance of seeing that happening. Temperatures in the mid to upper 70s.

A far cry from the weather back in Iowa in New Hampshire just a couple of months ago. Back to you in New York.

ROBERTS: That's not fun to vote unless you got to trudge through the snow though.

MARCIANO: You got to show you're conviction.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

CHO: And your commitment.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks.

MARCIANO: See you guys.

CHO: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning." Voters in Indiana are heading to the polls this morning. Polls have just opened there. We're talking to one group there you rarely hear from, Mennonite students. And you may be surprised what issues are important to them. We're coming right back.


CHO: Welcome back to the "Most Politics on the Morning" in this key primary day. Polls are already open in Indiana, and there you see the line at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the polls will open in less than 10 minutes.

This year there are more voters than ever before. A new survey by the "AP" says 3.5 million people have registered to vote. And CNN's Rick Sanchez has been traveling the country to talk with these new players on our ongoing series we like to call "The League of First Time Voters," people of different faiths and political persuasions. Today Rick is Indiana for a discussion with the group we rarely hear from, Mennonite students at Goshen College.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Mennonites, we can see ourselves not unpatriotic but more than patriotic citizens of both of this world and of another world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think being patriotic is also being a neighbor to those actually in our country and those far away.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Barack Obama said when he was asked in one of our CNN debates, whether he would talk to people like Chavez and Hamas, both other candidates, McCain and Hillary Clinton, said no, we wouldn't talk to them. Barack Obama said sure, I would go talk to them.

He was called naive for having that position. Would the Mennonite position -- would your position be that he was naive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My position would be that we need to talk to the people regardless of whether or not we like them. How else do you fix the issues that you have between countries if the leaders don't even talk to each other?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the diplomacy? Where is the creative thinking, the alternative solutions? I think engaging in that kind of diplomacy and trying to find alternative solutions is something that involves a leap of faith. But if you're willing to take that risk and to have that faith, you find hope in something greater than yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't just think about what you want. You have to think about other people's well-being as well. And maybe some of the choices they make aren't the greatest but they're still human beings and they deserve the respect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in Iran three months ago, and the welcome I received there and the incredible warmth from Iranian people, which I've never experienced traveling anywhere else to be welcomed as an American was absolutely shocking, and the stereotypes coming in and fears were just blown to pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you go to another culture, you learn that the way that you were raised isn't the only way and that maybe not even the correct way or the right way. And so, you learn how to respect other people's views and other people's ways of thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're so aware of what's going on in the world and we become this interdependent world, and that's why this idea of global citizenship and becoming a part of that is so important. And people are energized by their want to connect with people and to understand our world.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHO: And you too can join our growing communities, "A League of First Time Voters." Go to Express yourself and connect with other voters.

Next week, Rick is on the road again. He's going to meet with a group of college Republicans and Democrats at Auburn University in Alabama -- John.

ROBERTS: Rising gas prices on the minds of voters and the candidates have certainly been vocal with their ideas to help the situation. Hillary Clinton and John McCain support the national gas tax holiday that should begin in three weeks if they were doing anything about it. Clinton wants to tax the profits of oil companies to pay for it. Barack Obama is against the holiday from gas tax.

This morning we want to hear from you. Is the federal gas tax holiday A, good economic policy or B, is it political pandering? Cast your vote at We'll keep on checking on those results throughout the morning.

And we want to have a conversation with you about this as well. We like your thoughts on this important issue. Send us an e-mail at We would love to hear what you think. We'll take some of those thoughts, and we'll put them on the air this morning.

CHO: That's right. Within issue number one, it is issue number one. So people watching that very closely. We look forward to your e-mails.

Meanwhile, polls in North Carolina opening in just about six minutes from now. People are already lining up. Should be high turnout today. So is today the day that Barack Obama knocks out Hillary Clinton, or the day she convinces the superdelegates she is more electable?

We're going to hear what they're saying on talk radio. Plus, taxicab politics. What they're saying on the road too.

And breaking news, new calls this morning for aid after a cyclone kills thousands of people in Myanmar. CNN is the only network inside the country. We're going to have a live report coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Twenty-seven minutes now after the hour. Live picture in Indianapolis of a polling place that's open, and the polls open in just three minutes in the state of North Carolina. Results from North Carolina and Indiana tonight could be a game changer. We'll have to see.

Tara Wall is the deputy editor page -- editorial page editor at the "Washington Times." She's also the former director of outreach for the Republican National Committee, and she joins us live in the studio this morning. Good morning to you.

TARA WALL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Good morning. Glad to be here.

ROBERTS: So I'll tell you. It's just that there's an awful lot of argument back and forth on the economy. Hillary Clinton has really taken on this idea of gasoline...

WALL: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... being way too expensive for most Americans to afford, and she said last night that she wants to now take on OPEC.

WALL: Yes.

ROBERTS: Let's listen to what she said.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to go right at OPEC. They can no longer be a cartel, a monopoly. They get together every couple of months in some conference room in some plush place in the world. They decide how much oil they're going to produce and what price they're going to put it at. That's not a market. That's a monopoly.


ROBERTS: So it's probably a very popular topic there in Indiana and across the nation for that matter. But missing out of that speech was what she plans to do to break up this cartel.

WALL: Well, she doesn't have to plan to do anything. All she has to do is talk about the issue and put it on the table to, you know, help voters understand that she cares about the middle class. She cares about their pocketbooks. She cares what's happening, and it really is trying to make this contrast between herself and Barack Obama to say I'm the one that understands your pain.

She talked about not caring about, you know, what the economists say but the truck drivers that have to fill their tanks at a thousand dollars, you know, a pop. So these are the things that are very appealing to voters in those areas, and quite frankly, whether she delivers on them or not, it works. Just like this gas tax repeal, she introduced legislation that the Democratic leadership won't touch.

Well, if doesn't matter if they won't touch it. It matters to those voters that she's talking to Indiana right now.

ROBERTS: Right. Barack Obama, after those words came out of her mouth last night, all but ridicule what she was saying about OPEC. Let's listen to what he said.

WALL: Sure.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You say you've been in the White House for eight years. You've had two terms as the United States senator and haven't said a word about OPEC. And now suddenly, you're going to take it right to OPEC. When you've opposed fuel efficiency standards that would actually reduce demand for oil and put OPEC in a bind, that's not being straight with the American people.


ROBERTS: What's this all about for Hillary?

WALL: Actually, he's quite right there. They've both been in the Senate. All three candidates have been in the Senate for sometime when all of these issues really started percolating, and they all had opportunities to do something about it. He still has opportunities to do something about it, and probably would be wise to spend a lot of his time actually focusing on what he's doing in the Senate, more so than, you know, making up some of these things as he goes along on the trail.

The other point here is there are some issues that he and Senator Hillary Clinton do agree on as it relates to the economy and oil and energy and those issues. But again, they're trying to distinguish themselves from one another and say I'm the candidate that cares. I'm not the one that's as liberal as the other one.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Right. They're also distinguishing themselves on Iran and this issue of if Iran attacks Israel.

Hillary Clinton is saying we could obliterate Iran.

WALL: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Barack saying -- Barack Obama saying not so fast. We shouldn't be talking of obliterating anybody. Is she trying to out McCain-McCain here. What's with all this tough talk?

WALL: Well, you know what, she wants to say I'm the one that will obliterate them. Barack Obama will be the one that will sit and have tea with them.

I mean, she is playing on voter's emotions. She is painting a picture for them on what kind of candidate they will get. And she wants to just paint that picture.

So she can say I'm the one who is going to run up against John McCain. Here's what you'll get with me. Here's what you'll get with Barack Obama. Which one is going to be stronger on these issues?

ROBERTS: So where do you see this all gone. If you want to make a prediction about what happens today and how that affects the race going forward?

WALL: You know, I tried not to make predictions. Although, I will tell you, I'm usually right. But in this case, look, you know, the odds on favorite right now in North Carolina of course are for Barack Obama. He's got a slight lead. She's got the slight lead in Indiana. I think that they've been doing a number of things that have helped them. He has been appealing, you know, to --

ROBERTS: So if they split, where does this go?

WALL: I think that -- well, I think what's going to happen is one of two things. Either one will get both states or it will be split. I don't think -- but I really don't think that both one will get both states. I really do think it's probably going to end up being split.

And the party is going to have to make up its mind and make some really hard tough decisions. She is working really hard to prove to superdelegates that she can keep the momentum going, but the numbers are in his favor.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, when you look at the number she is going to win like 80 percent of the superdelegates if she wants to get this nomination.

WALL: Absolutely. You know, it's almost a mere impossibility, you know.

ROBERTS: Tara Wall, good to see you this morning.

WALL: Likewise. Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: Thanks for dropping by.

WALL: Sure.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks, John. Happening now, voters in Indiana have been casting ballots for more than a half hour. Meanwhile, the first polls just open in North Carolina. Lines of people now filing in there.

187 delegates up for grabs today. 72 in play in Indiana but the biggest prize is North Carolina, 115 delegates for the taking.

And our CNN Susan Candiotti, live, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Susan, I understand they've literally just open the doors where you are right now and it's a good thing because there's quite a line.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did. That's right. The line extending all the way out into the parking lot here at St. Marks Episcopal Church. Poll workers are ready to go and as you said they just open the doors.

Look how many people have shown up at this early hour. You know, Barack Obama's double digit lead has now down to eight points but he is still expected to win here. However, issues here are no.1 and there is expected to be a heavy turnout.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): It's their turn now and North Carolinians are relishing their chance to sound off at the gas pump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy. They have to do something about this gas prices. You know, I can't think of what they can do but they have to do something.

CANDIOTTI: He likes Barack Obama, but this man prefers Hillary Clinton's quick fix to lower summer gas prices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something should be done for the charter bus company and the trucks.

CANDIOTTI: We found voters weighing in on all kinds of issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a former school teacher. I feel that teacher's are not paid what they deserve.

CANDIOTTI: In North Carolina, home to Camp Lejeune, one military wife says neither Democrat is spending enough time addressing the war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one speaking of the 4000 plus military personnel that have died. Nor the families back home that goes to day-to-day troubles and tribulation because their service number is away.

CANDIOTTI: Health care, education, the war, taxes it all matters in North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd like to have more on my money to figure out what do to with my money. I may screw it up but I'd like to spend it right a little bit of my own.


CANDIOTTI: Now we have someone here who has never voted before. Is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED FIRST TIME VOTER: That's correct. I've never voted before.

CANDIOTTI: We're not going to ask you who you will vote for, but what issue is most important to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FIRST TIME VOTER: Right now, gas prices and the economy is really important to me.

CANDIOTTI: Looking forward to casting your ballot?

UNIDENTIFIED FIRST TIME VOTER: Yes, I am. I'm very excited.

CANDIOTTI: All right. Thank you very much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED FIRST TIME VOTER: Thank you. CANDIOTTI: We want to tell you that most of the people that we spoke with who are undecided, most of those people were women. How will this all turn out in the end? But we'll have to wait for those exit polls to tell us.

Alina, back to you.

CHO: Susan Candiotti live for us in North Carolina on this key primary day. Susan, thanks.


ROBERTS: After today's voting, 217 delegates will be up for grabs in the weeks to come. West Virginia votes one week from today. 28 delegates at stake there.

In two weeks, it's Kentucky and Oregon with a total of 103 delegates available. Then on June 1st, which after today will be the richest remaining primary. It's Puerto Rico with its 55 delegates.

Who knew that Puerto Rico this late in the game could be a game changer. And on June the 3rd, it's Montana and South Dakota. 31 total delegates up for grabs in those states.

Don't forget to tune in again tonight, 7:00 Eastern for a special election center. Best Political Team on Television will break down the results from Indiana and North Carolina.

And wake up earlier with us tomorrow. We'll be on starting at 5:00 Eastern, bright and early for a special Election Center edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: That means an afternoon nap, then we wake up and we watch some of the early returns, and then we go back to sleep.

ROBERTS: You know, this thing is so exciting. I think I'm just going to stay up.

CHO: You think so?

ROBERTS: All the way though. This is just great.

CHO: Oh, men. Well, you're a better man than I am a woman. All right, John, thank you.

ROBERTS: It's (INAUDIBLE) on that one.

CHO: Oh, yes, exactly. All right. We want to get to some international breaking news this morning and a CNN exclusive.

Fears of a widespread humanitarian crisis after a devastating cyclone in Myanmar that may have killed up to 15,000 people and that number could grow.

As many as a million people are homeless. CNN is the only network with a reporter inside Myanmar. Dan Rivers filed this report from Southern Myanmar. One of the hardest hit areas a short time ago.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This family is typical of those who have survived Cyclone Nargis. They're living in what remains of their house. But as you can see it's completely destroyed.

A lot of their possessions got swept away. They have some food. You can see they got some eggs and some rice that's been handed out by people in the town, but not very much. They say only this can allow them to eat for a few days.

But just have a look at the level of destruction over here. This is typical right across this region that we've driven through Bogaleigh (ph) District. It's one of the hardest hit. There's talk of 10,000 people having been killed in this district.

And many of the houses are made of this very flimsy material, which is no match for cyclone Nargis. We have passed quite a lot of army convoys coming down here. Obviously, the authorities are doing what they can. The Red Cross is being out here as well. But generally, every single house that we passed pretty much has been like this for the last, I guess, 30 kilometers.

Just total destruction. Almost 100 percent of the house is completely flattened. The weather is still pretty bad as well. It means some pretty heavy rainstorms. So it's just miserable for this people having to survive under a bit of tarpaulin and gather what food they can.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Southern Myanmar.


CHO: Just incredible. And CNN has been in touch with a top American diplomat in Myanmar. We hope to hear from her in the next couple of minutes.

And if you'd like to help the people in Myanmar and impact your world, head to Find the aid agencies that are helping out. Do some good. They need it.

ROBERTS: Coming up on 38 minutes after the hour. And of course, the economy is issue no.1 here.

How would you like $3 a gallon of gasoline? Might be a place to get it. It might be a place to get it. Here's Ali with that.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: What a fantastic idea. You know, the talk amongst voters right now is about the economy and when we pair that down on our polling, it turns out that it's about gasoline. Now look at that.

Oil hitting 120.93 this morning. And a lot of you think gas is going up to a $5 a gallon. But one car company is saying if you buy a car from them, they'll lock the price of gas in at $2.99 a gallon. I'll tell you about that when we come back. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Up with an early edition of Election Center. The polls now open in Indiana and North Carolina. You see pictures from Raleigh, North Carolina. People lining up to go into the polling place and it's quite a lining out there, too.

CHO: Look at that line. That's really great.

ROBERTS: It set another record there. No question about that. And then in Indianapolis, in the left hand side of your screen, people there at the polling place casting their ballots. 187 delegates up for grabs today in the two crucial primary contests. The last poll is close at 7:30 Eastern Time, tonight.

CHO: Yes, plenty of time so get out to vote. Chrysler is offering its customers a break on high gas prices.

Ali Velshi with us now to explain. So how does that work. They'll give you a card, right?

VELSHI: Yes. This is a promotion by Chrysler that goes from now until June the 2nd if you buy a Chrysler or Dodge or a jeep vehicle. Now this is -- obviously, oil is the big thing on everybody's minds. Gas prices both in the campaign and amongst Americans.

So Chrysler is saying and it's, by the way, done its own polling that says 75 percent of its customers are very concern about the price of gas.

So here's how it works. You buy one of these cars and they give you a gas card that you can use at any gas station. And the price you will pay for gasoline is $2.99 a gallon.

Now, depending on the car you'll get, you'll get a different allowance. But it's averaging to about 700 gallons per year and it will be for the life of the least which is three years or if you're buying, you'll get it for three years.

Now, we've sort of calculated that. At $2.99 a gallon for an average of 700 gallons. Over the course of one year, if the gas is $3.50 -- if the price of gas is $3.50, you save about $350.

If it's $4, you save about $700. If it's $4.50 -- if the gasoline up to $4.50, you're saving a little over $1000. And if it goes to $5, which by the way many of you think it will, we all save about $1400 a year.

I should remind you Chrysler is in the roughest shape of the three American-based automakers. We just saw this sales numbers a little earlier. These are for April. General Motors, you see truck sales are down. Car sales are just down a little bit. Look at Chrysler. Truck sales compared to last April are down 25 percent. Car sales are down 19 percent.

So it is having a very, very rough time. This is a way to kick start its sales. But interesting concept with gas at $3.61 a gallon. The idea of going back to the future for three full years can be very attractive. I think it might actually for them.

CHO: Yes. I mean, it's like getting a rebate on the car and something like that. (INAUDIBLE).

VELSHI: And where are we that with $3 a gallon gas is the promotion. That's the good news.

ROBERTS: So where do they take the cost from this?

VELSHI: Well, that remains a remarkable question with the automakers. One never minds.


VELSHI: Back in 2001, they were giving you zero percent interest forever. It's a tough industry to be in.

ROBERTS: All right. Ali, thanks.

A humanitarian catastrophe after the cyclone in Myanmar. When will the military government let in help from the outside? It's asking for it but the border is still closed.

We'll talk to the top U.S. diplomat inside the country. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Welcome back to a special primary day edition of AMERICAN MORNING. Polls are open now in North Carolina and Indiana. You are looking, live, at a polling station in Indianapolis where the polls had been open there for about 46 minutes.

72 delegates up for grabs today in Indiana and 115 in North Carolina.

ROBERTS: While we were hoping to get the top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar on the phone, Shari Villarosa at the U.S. embassy there. But unfortunately, real problems with the phone lines as you can imagine after this cyclone blew through there. We're having difficulty trying to contact her but we'll continue to do that.

But meantime for the first time ever First Lady Laura Bush held a news conference at the White House blasting the ruling military junta in Myanmar for the lack of warning about the cyclone. It has so far left nearly 15,000 people dead.

Elaine Quijano has got more on that. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She has spoken out before on Myanmar but never quite like this.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I urge the government to accept aid from the United States and from the entire international community.

QUIJANO: In the wake of the deadly cyclone in Myanmar also known as Burma, First Lady Laura Bush did not mince words decrying the ruling military junta on camera from the White House briefing room.

BUSH: The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the Junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs.

QUIJANO: And for the first time ever, Mrs. Bush held a mini-news conference there with reporters.

BUSH: So I'm happy to take questions.

QUIJANO: For 10 minutes, the first lady fielded question on Myanmar followed by a few on a lighter topic. Daughter Jena's upcoming wedding Saturday in Crawford.

BUSH: We're very, very excited, yes. Very interesting passage of life when you get to that time in your life when your child -- first child is getting married and we're getting -- for us, our first son.

QUIJANO: Mrs. Bush even joke about names for possible grandchildren down the road.

BUSH: George or Georgia, Georgina, Georgette.

QUIJANO (on camera): Aids to the first lady say today's briefing room appearance was originally scheduled for Tuesday. That's when President Bush is expected to sign legislation awarding the Congressional gold medal to Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Price winning Democracy activist currently under house arrest in Myanmar.

But officials say Mrs. Bush decided to push up her appearance in light of the deadly weekend cyclone in that country.

Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.


ROBERTS: The voice of the voters in Indiana. What do they really think about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? We're going to hear from two radio host who have certainly heard it all. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


ROBERTS: Nine minutes to the top of the hour now. Rising gas prices certainly on the minds of voters and the candidates have been vocal with their ideas to help with the situation. Hillary Clinton and John McCain support a federal gas tax holiday. Clinton wants to tax the profits of oil companies. Barack Obama is against the whole idea.

This morning, we're asking for your thoughts on the federal gas tax holiday. So far, 10 percent of you say it's good economic policy. 90 percent of you think it is political pandering.

No question how people are feeling about that this morning. Head to We'll keep tallying the votes throughout the morning.

We'd like your thoughts on this as well. Send us an e-mail to We'll read some of those coming up in our next hour here.


CHO: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Primary voting underway this morning in both North Carolina and Indiana. 72 delegates are up for grabs in Indiana and we want to know what voters there are saying.

Jake Query and Terri Stacy host the "WIBC MORNING NEWS" radio program in Indianapolis.

Hey, guys. They're joining us. Now, we should mention we're simulcasting on WIBC Radio.

So, good morning Indiana. Good morning Jake and Terry.

Hey, Jake. I want to ask you first. You know, Indiana is the reddest of the red states in the Midwest. You've only supported a Republican or a Democrat, rather, four times since 1900. So, there's so much excitement around this Democratic primary race. What are your listeners saying about this?

JAKE QUERY, CO-HOST, "WIBC MORNING NEWS": Well, Alina, I think that -- first off, by the way, I'm glad that you took your (INAUDIBLE) history class (INAUDIBLE).

This is probably the first time really that Indiana in a primary has seen this kind of attention. We never really thought that Indiana would have this kind of focus.

Last time we're this important in a presidential election was when Wendell Willkie here. He ran in the 1940. He was opposed to the New Deal, by the way.

But Benjamin Harrison was from Indiana. He ran for president. We're trying to forget the date but he was the winner, OK?

But anyway, it's an interesting question, Alina, because certainly we didn't think that Indiana would have this kind of a focus. And I think the thing that would be interesting today, as you said, this state is so red and so Republican, is how many people, who are actually registered Republicans, will now switch over for this primary and vote, perhaps, for Barack Obama.

Because I think there is a large thought, a big constituency here in Indiana in the GOP side that feel that Barack Obama would be a more formidable opponent for John McCain. And so as a result, there could be some (INAUDIBLE) over voting in voting for Hillary Clinton today.

So, we're not used to this. We're not used to the primaries particularly in the Democratic side of thing. Things being so important but it's going to be a very interesting day. I think Hillary will carry Indiana but Obama perhaps will carry --

CHO: Well, it's very close. The latest poll of polls says that Hillary Clinton has a slight edge, 48 to 44 percent.

Terri, I want to ask you, and Jake touched on this. Indiana does have open primaries, which means that Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary. You touched on that, crossover vote there.

Based on what your listeners are saying, are you sensing that this is really happening, that this is real. And is there -- you know, there's a lot of talk in your state about that spoiler vote -- that people might vote per se Hillary Clinton because, as Rush Limbaugh says, she's the weaker candidate in the general election.

So, what's going on? What are your listeners saying?

TERRI STACY, CO-HOST, "WIBC MORNING NEWS": You're talking about "Operation Chaos." Yes and there is some talk about that. There really is. I tell you what.

(INAUDIBLE) are very important. We've had these candidates here. Now, it seems like the entire month, they've crossed, crisscrossed the state back and forth.

The Clinton camp has been over a hundred stops here in the Indiana area and it's just been exciting near and form. And if you have not had an opportunity to see one of the candidates, then I don't know what you've been doing because they have been here.

People are excited. There was absentee voting that went on yesterday that ended. And the lines were huge. That tripled the amount that we had in the last elections.

So, if that is huge and people are patient in waiting because they know very much that it counts. So, yes, we are excited and I think we're going to stay (INAUDIBLE) when it's all over


CHO: I think you hit on it. That people really care about it because it finally counted for once. You know, I want to give you, guys, a plug because I know you spoke with Barack Obama yesterday and Hillary Clinton is going to Cowan at 8:07 a.m.

So, what are your listeners saying about what they want to hear from the candidates? QUERY: I think jobs. I mean, like anywhere else in the United States, I think Indiana is very represented to be -- this is the heartland and you have a lot of jobs that have move. Particularly, there's a lot of criticism about that in this area because so many -- especially, northern Indiana so many union jobs and so many jobs have moved to Mexico.

I am certain the two biggest issues would be jobs -- no.1. No.2 would be probably gas prices.

CHO: Yes. And Jake, what are your listeners saying about the gas tax because that's the one issue that really separates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?

QUERY: I think that -- and you touched on it earlier, Alina. You know, the state is so red that anytime anybody from the Democratic side comes out with something like that. There's always going to be people that say, this is just political posturing.

I think a lot of people believe the proof is in the pudding. We believe it when we see it. Admittedly, they had somebody on the GOP side promote that probably in the state it will be more immediately embraced, but I think people are certainly open to it. But they'll believe it when they see it, for sure.

CHO: Jake, I got to get this question and I know you have to go, but I know you're a huge sports fan. You've been to the Indy 500 22 times. So, which way is much better, the Indy 500 or this primary race. Terri, you can answer for him.

QUERY: You know what? We were talking about that earlier. In fact, the 2006 Indy 500 when Marco Andretti and Sam Hornish Jr. were back and forth in the last two laps. That's what it's like here. One day, it's Barack Obama. The next, it's Hillary Clinton.

It's certainly been exciting. But I tell you this. Because the day after the Indy 500, I always think then, I can't wait for the next 364 days more to come back.

And I can tell you this. Because tomorrow I'm going to think to myself, well now, we can go back to just talking about what the traffic (INAUDIBLE) here in Indiana.


CHO: All right. Jake Query, Terri Stacy --


CHO: Yes. Hosts of the "WIBC MORNING" radio news program in Indianapolis. Terri and Jake, thank you so much.


QUERY: All right. Thanks, Alina. Have a great day. ROBERTS: Just crossing the top of the hour now. The polls are open right now. The two biggest prizes left, Indiana and North Carolina, both up for grabs today. And we are counting down now to closing time.

It could be a brand new race at the end of the day if Hillary Clinton can sweep. 187 delegates would be handed out tonight. 115 from North Carolina, 72 from Indiana.