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CNN Live Event/Special

Republican Presidential Debate: Winners and Losers

Aired January 30, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let's look at more of some of John McCain's responses tonight, particularly on taxes.
Let's watch.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think lower- and middle-income Americans need more help. Obviously, I think that's the case today. That's one reason why we're giving them rebates.

I was part of the Reagan revolution. I was proud to be a foot soldier, support those tax cuts, and they had spending restraints associated with it.

I made it very clear when I ran in 2000 that I had a package of tax cuts which were very important and very impactful, but I also had restraints in spending. And I disagreed when spending got out of control. And I disagreed when we had tax cuts without spending restraint.

And guess what? Spending got out of control. Republicans lost the 2006 election not over the war in Iraq, over spending. Our base became disenchanted.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate his response and appreciate the fact he was part of the Reagan revolution. I think that the Bush revolution and the downturn that we faced when he came in office suggested that we needed a tax cut.

There's no question in my mind that Ronald Reagan would have said sign it and vote for it. And Senator McCain was one of two that did not.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Now, here's what was interesting.

Romney says Bush tax cuts. He pulls us out of the recession. Ronald Reagan would have signed it.

Even when McCain was saying that, you didn't have spending caps and spending limits to go along with those tax cuts, he never explicitly said, look, it was our Congress, our president, so sort of danced around it.

But the bottom line is this here. He's saying, I'm a fiscal conservative.

I think where the GOP has to be is, look, either you can't say -- keep saying having tax cuts, and then you have record spending by your own party, and you don't deal with that issue. And I think, at some point, McCain has to stress even more that we put ourselves in this position.

COOPER: Right.


BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think we needs to watch the asides, the things that give away something.

There were two cringes I -- I felt, and I think conservatives felt. He says, I went for my country for patriotism. I went abroad for patriotism, not for profit. Everybody assumes patriotism. What's wrong with profit? I mean, party of business, the party of small business. We have got a whole line of Republican businessmen up here.


BENNETT: Did you notice?


BENNETT: Boone Pickens, what does he -- what did Boone Pickens think?


COOPER: Profit is not a dirty word in this room.


BENNETT: Profit is a not a bad thing


BENNETT: And then, when Romney talks about being an executive, he says, well, you laid people off.


BENNETT: Well, you might have to lay people off once in a while.

BORGER: I think he just doesn't like Romney.

BENNETT: Oh, it's Romney; it's not business. It's not business.

COOPER: We're now -- we're at the -- we're now at the top of the hour. And I just want to reset where we are.

We are getting a lot of people just coming in at the top of the hour. We're at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, site of the final Republican debate before Super Tuesday.

And a bit of breaking news as well -- word late tonight the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be endorsing Senator John McCain. That comes after a mainly civilized, but sometimes very contentious debate, the flash points being Iraq, taxes, spending, and who is really a conservative.

John McCain riding high, Mitt Romney hanging on -- the stakes could not be higher. We're going to explore those stakes tonight, the issues that mattered, and how each candidate addressed them. If you did not see the debate or in full, we're going to be playing significant chunks for you tonight.

Also tonight, the undecided voters -- what undecided voters thought about this debate tonight, beat by beat, moment by moment. It's called dial-testing. And it can sometimes surprise you when it comes to how different voters -- or how different the voters' take on the pundits -- or the voters' take can be from the pundits.

More coming up as well on the two who left the race today, Rudy Giuliani endorsing John McCain, and John Edwards endorsing no one for now, but ensuring that the Democratic nominee will either be the first woman or first African-American major-party candidate in presidential history -- a big news day today. And the news continued tonight.

We begin with perhaps the toughest exchange of the night between John McCain and Mitt Romney -- and there were a bunch of them -- this one over the war in Iraq, the surge, and Senator McCain's allegation that Governor Romney favors a timetable for pulling out, something the governor vehemently denies.


ROMNEY: Every single debate that I have attended...

COOPER: Senator...

ROMNEY: ... 15 debates. I do not propose nor have I ever proposed a public or secret date for withdrawal. It's just simply wrong.

And by the way, raising it a few days before the Florida primary, when there was very little time for me to correct the record, when the question that was most frequently asked is, "Oh, you're for a specific date of withdrawal," sort of falls in the kind of dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible.


COOPER: Senator McCain, tough words.

MCCAIN: Well, of course, he said he wanted a timetable. Before that, we have to understand that we lost the 2006 election and the Democrats thought that they had a mandate. They thought they had a mandate to get us out of Iraq.

And I was prepared to sacrifice whatever was necessary in order to stand up for what I believed in.

Now, in December of 2006, after the election, Governor Romney was asked what he thought about the surge. He said, at that time, "I won't weigh in. I'm a governor."

At the time, he didn't want to weigh in because he was a governor, I was out there on the front lines with my friends saying, "We not only can't withdraw, but we have got to have additional troops over there in order for us to have a chance to succeed."

Then in April, April was a very interesting year (sic) in 2007. That's when Harry Reid said the war is lost and we have got to get out. And the buzzword was "timetables, timetables."

Governor, the right answer to that question was "no," not what you said, and that was we don't want to have them lay in the weeds until we leave and Maliki and the president should enter into some kind of agreement for, quote, "timetables."

"Timetables" was the buzzword for the...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote, Senator?

MCCAIN: ... withdrawal. That...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote? Why do you insist on...

MCCAIN: I'm using the whole quote, where you said "I won't"...

ROMNEY: ... not using the actual quote? That's not what I said.

MCCAIN: The actual quote is, "We don't want them to lay in the weeds until we leave." That is the actual quote and I'm sure...

ROMNEY: What does that mean?

MCCAIN: ... fact-checkers --

ROMNEY: What is the meaning?

MCCAIN: It means a timetable until we leave.

ROMNEY: Listen, Senator, let's...

COOPER: Let me jump in, because the quote that I have...

ROMNEY: Is it not fair -- is it not fair to have the person who's being accused of having a position he doesn't have be the expert on what his position is?

How is it that you're the expert on my position, when my position has been very clear?


I will tell you, this is...

MCCAIN: I'm the expert. I'm the expert on this. When you said...

ROMNEY: This is the kind -- this is the kind -- this is...

MCCAIN: ... "I won't weigh in. I'm a governor." You couldn't weigh in because you were a governor...

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: ... back when we were having the fight over it.

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: The fact is...

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: ... that I have fought for this surge. I have said we need to have this succeed. I know the situation in Iraq and I am proud to have supported this president and supported the fact that we are succeeding in Iraq today.

I say to you again: The debate after the election of 2006 was whether we were going to have timetables for withdrawal or not. Timetables were the buzzword. That was the Iraq Study Group. That was what the Democrats said we wanted to do.

Your answer should have been no.


COOPER: Well, throughout the hour, we are going to be getting the insight and perspective of parts of the best political team on television.

Let's go to New York right now, where Amy Holmes is standing by, CNN political analyst, as well as CNN political analyst and contributor David Gergen.

David, let's start off with you.

First of all, big picture. You're in Boston tonight, David. Big picture, your thoughts on the night?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my sense of it was, Anderson -- I may be wrong -- others will disagree -- but that this was the last debate before Super Tuesday for the Republicans. Mitt Romney came into this needing a couple of touchdowns, to score a couple of touchdowns. At best, he got a couple of field goals.

I think that John McCain maintains the momentum coming out of this. The Schwarzenegger endorsement tomorrow, coming on top of the Giuliani endorsement today, makes him look very formidable going into this. I don't think that Mitt Romney got what he needed tonight, even though he did score occasionally.

COOPER: Amy Holmes?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wouldn't disagree with that.

But I don't think that John McCain got the best of that whole exchange. It's clear that he believes that Mitt Romney was hedging when it came to the issue of timetables, but he became surly, I thought unpresidential. Mitt Romney was able to stay smooth and affable through that whole thing of being attacked.

And then McCain came in at the very end in your Reagan question, Anderson, and got in a final swipe at Mitt Romney by saying that Reagan would never -- would not approve of someone who would change his opinion depending on what year it was.

I think McCain will be helped, obviously, by the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is endorsing him. But, also, to put this performance, I think, a little bit in the rear-view mirror. I don't think it was John McCain's best night.

COOPER: Let's talk about the Rudy Giuliani endorsement for John McCain today.

David Gergen, it was here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, clearly, the symbolism of that not lost on anybody. As I said earlier, if you squinted your eyes during the endorsement, I mean, it looked like it was almost in the White House press room here at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Let's play some of what Rudy Giuliani had to say at that endorsement today.

We don't have that yet? All right. We will -- we will get that shortly.

How significant the endorsement? I mean, Rudy Giuliani, David Gergen, talked about being willing to go out campaigning for -- for John McCain wherever John McCain wanted.

GERGEN: It's a very important endorsement in two ways, one, the timing, coming just before Super Tuesday.


GERGEN: But, secondly, Rudy Giuliani is -- is -- does have a strength in popularity in three big states that matter on Tuesday.

One is New York. Another is New Jersey. And the third is California. And, you know, in going to California to do that and helping him back there -- the big story in California today, of course, is Rudy's fall. But coming out of this, where Rudy bounces back and supports John McCain, that's going to help him just, as Schwarzenegger is going to help him a lot in California. So, I think, if you look at the mega-states, these are -- these are important endorsements from two major figures from each coast, Giuliani on the East Coast, Schwarzenegger on the West Coast.

HOLMES: I would also add that the Giuliani...

COOPER: Amy Holmes, let's -- go ahead.

HOLMES: Sorry.

I would add that the Giuliani endorsement helps McCain in terms of, you know, coalescing Republicans around McCain, giving him momentum. And, also, Republicans, you know, contrary to a lot of conventional wisdom, they liked Giuliani. They liked America's mayor after 9/11. They didn't necessarily agree with him when it came down the line.

Obviously, he lost Florida. But, in terms of the esteem with which -- with which he's held in the party, I think it's very high. And let's remember that Republicans give him a lot of credit for when he was mayor of New York City, a liberal city, and he was able to clean up that city, bring down crime, clean up Times Square, for some of those social conservatives, to get rid of the porn shops. That was a really big deal.

I don't think they necessarily -- they didn't want him to be the president of their -- you know, the -- the nominee of their party, but they do like Rudy Giuliani.

COOPER: Another issue we -- we covered was the Supreme Court, and in particular Ronald Reagan's support of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Let's play the exchange about her.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: History will have to determine that, and I'm not going to come to the Reagan Library and say anything about Ronald Reagan's decisions. I'm not that stupid. If I was, I would have no business being president.

I think we need to talk about why the issue of right-to-life is important. For many of us, this is not a political issue; this is an issue of principle and conviction. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a country.

If we value each other as human beings and believe that everybody has equal worth, and that that intrinsic value is not affected by net worth, or ancestry, or last name, or job description, or ability, or disability, then the issue of the sanctity of human life is far bigger than just being anti-abortion.

It's about being pro-life and exercising that deep conviction held by our founding fathers that all of us are equal and no one is more equal than another. REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't have appointed her, because I would have looked for somebody that I would have seen as a much stricter constitutionalist.

MCCAIN: I'm proud of her.

The judges I would appoint are along the lines of Justices Roberts and Alito, who have a proven record of strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America.

ROMNEY: I would have favored justices like Roberts and Alito, Scalia and Thomas. I like justices that follow the Constitution, do not make law from the bench.


COOPER: Amy Holmes, obviously, important issues to conservatives.

HOLMES: Oh, absolutely.

That was sending up, you know, a red flare for conservatives to say, I will be your guy when it comes to the Supreme Court.

But I have to tell you, Anderson, in hearing Roberts and Alito, Roberts and Alito, I thought, poor Scalia and Thomas. Don't they get any love anymore from conservatives?


GERGEN: Anderson...

COOPER: David Gergen?




GERGEN: I thought I heard Romney talk about Scalia and Thomas as well.

But the -- but, even so, there's a very interesting -- it's very interesting, what's going on here. There's a controversy going on right now among conservatives about this question of the court and whether John McCain, who was, after all, the co-author of the McCain/Feingold bill, which is now before the courts, and is coming under attack from some conservative jurists.

The question is whether John McCain would appoint justices like Alito and Roberts, who might bring down McCain/Feingold, one of his very pet projects, and one of the things he most believes in, in life, would he -- whether he would appoint conservative enough jurists who would do that. Would he do that? And, so, conservatives were looking for that signal. And what was interesting, Anderson, was that, last night, in his acceptance speech in Florida, and now tonight in this debate, John McCain has gone out of his way to say, I would -- I would appoint justices like Roberts and Alito.

HOLMES: Indeed, he -- he needs to do that.

COOPER: We have got to take a short break. We're going to -- when -- we have got to take a short break, Amy.

When we come back, we will have more from New York and from Boston and from here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

And we're also going to cross over the aisle and look at John Edwards' announcement today, dropping out of race, no endorsement from John Edwards yet. We will obviously be talking about that.

We will also -- that's John Edwards making the statement in New Orleans today, where he also launched his campaign.

Also, we will looking at some dial-testing, how some undecided voters viewed tonight's debate minute by minute, literally second by second, some fascinating results -- when we come back.


COOPER: And welcome back to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is Simi Valley, California, a remarkable night of politics, both for Republicans and for Democrats, a very active day on the Democratic side.

Today was the day we saw John Edwards dropping out of the race in New Orleans, the city where he first announced his run for the presidency.

Let's show some from his statement earlier today.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you once again.

And we will lift you up with our dream of what's possible: one America -- one America that works for everybody.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. But I want to say this to everyone, with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support. This son of a mill worker is going to be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, this obviously changes everything for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Most notably, tomorrow night's debate at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles is now just a two-person affair, toe-to- toe, head-to-head, Hillary Clinton talking straight to Senator Barack Obama. Should be a fascinating night.

Candy Crowley is down at the Kodak Theatre right now.

Candy, it really does change everything for these two front- runners.


First of all, there is that debate, as you noted. And this is the chance, frankly, that Hillary Clinton has been waiting for. They really want this one-on-one with Barack Obama. They think that they can set her up as this policy wonk, a person that's really in charge of the facts.

As you know, that goes to what's perceived as Barack Obama's weakness, that is that he has rhetoric, but doesn't have a lot of specifics behind him. On the other hand, it also sets up him, because there's been a lot of worry among Democrats, you know, is he tough enough? Can he take on Hillary Clinton?

So, you have got a dynamic going into this. And there's no one in between them anymore. There's nobody to kind of cut through the tension and say, well, wait a minute, I'm a part of the adult wing of the Democratic Party.

So, with him gone, it sets up a really interesting dynamic.

COOPER: Who do his supporters go to? I mean, do we know?

CROWLEY: We don't.

And here's what -- what we're kind of looking at, at this point. You would you think that you would look at the Edwards pool of voters and say, OK, they are anti-Hillary. They know Hillary Clinton. They must have known her for a long time. She's been around forever. So, these are voters who didn't want to vote for Hillary.

But look at John Edwards' voters. They are generally rural. They tend to be on the lower side of the educational sphere. They also tend to be working-class. Those are Hillary Clinton voters. So, this is going to be something that will be fascinating to watch.

I mean, probably, the one who can best channel John Edwards at this point probably will have an advantage, but the voters that he had are not natural constituents of Barack Obama. So, I think you're going to see (AUDIO GAP) all the rest of them.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, appreciate the reporting.

Let's go to Carl Bernstein, CNN contributor, who is standing by in New York. Carl, let me ask you that same question.

From what you are hearing, the people you are talking to, who benefits the most from John Edwards dropping out?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly, the Clinton people think that they do, because they have been wanting this one-on-one debate. At the same time, Obama's people see this as an opportunity for him to perform differently than he has and to be quite specific in his plans, spell them out in a way that he can match Hillary Clinton one-on-one, without being just inspirational.

At the same time, they have really wanted this in the Clinton camp, but they still have a great fear that John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards might, in the long run, endorse Obama, perhaps before the Tuesday super primaries, perhaps not.

That's their one remaining fear, aside from being in a situation where so much is riding on one debate. There's a very interesting aspect to this, though. And that is this Hillary Clinton's real economics, the one that -- the ones that she preached in the White House to her husband, are much closer to John Edwards than you would think.

She argued with Bill Clinton when she was first lady that her husband -- she said, Bill, you are doing Republican economics when you're for NAFTA. She was against NAFTA. And, if she would somehow come out and tell the real story of what she fought for in the White House and failed, in big argument with her husband, she would end up moving much closer to those Edwards followers.

COOPER: You were saying that people you're talking to believe that it may benefit Hillary.

Does anyone actually believe that John Edwards might endorse Hillary Clinton? I mean, that -- he was calling her the status quo candidate and -- and siding with Barack Obama for months.


BERNSTEIN: There is fear in the Clinton campaign that, if there is an endorsement, it will go to Obama, not -- not to Hillary.

At the same time, there is some great relief in the Clinton campaign that they finally have got themselves in a one-on-one situation with Obama, where they think that, if -- if Bill Clinton can keep himself restrained and Hillary Clinton can go out there and be the kind of person that she was in New Hampshire, there's a belief among Hillary's aides, as opposed to Bill's aides, that she won New Hampshire for herself, and that Bill has since been a hell of a drag on the campaign.

And, at the same time, this whole question of truthfulness -- as I wrote in my biography of Hillary Clinton, she has a difficult relationship with the truth historically. And -- and that has hurt her. The question is, can she move past that if Bill is in the background? And can Obama still exploit this difficult relationship to the truth that she has had, without making himself look small?


COOPER: We are going to have a lot more on that with the folks here at the Ronald Reagan Library.

Carl Bernstein, from New York -- appreciate it, Carl.

When we come back, the dial-testing, minute-by-minute reactions of voters to the debate tonight, always fascinating results. We will have that when we come back live from Simi Valley.

Also tonight, at 11:00, a special "LARRY KING," "The Ronald Reagan I Knew," a look back at the life and the legacy of President Ronald Reagan. That's at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, in about 35 minutes from now.


COOPER: Dubbed the flying White House, the retired Air Force One jet here at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library served seven commanders in chief. It is quite a backdrop for tonight's Republican debate.

As for the Democrats, Senators Clinton and Obama have their share of support on Capitol Hill -- of course, both sides insisting their candidate is better suited to lead their party in the election. Let's find out why.

Joining me now is Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She is backing Senator Obama, and, for Clinton, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio.

Senator McCaskill, thanks so much for being with us.

John Edwards' suspension of the campaign tonight, how do you think that changes the race?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think those voters are going to have to make up their mind that had thought that John Edwards was their candidate.

I think most of them want change. And I think, clearly, it is evident that America realizes, Barack Obama is different. He hasn't -- as he says, they haven't stewed the hope out of him in Washington. And he realizes we have got to change the way we do business here.

I haven't been here very long. It's obvious to me this place is broken. And I think that that desire for change is going to motivate a lot of those Edwards voters to come to the side of Senator Barack Obama.

COOPER: Representative Jones, do you think Hillary Clinton can pick up those Edwards supporters? REP. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D), OHIO: Absolutely.

Senator Clinton represents some of the same things that John Edwards has talked about. If you listened to Candy Crowley earlier, she specifically said that the voters are really Hillary Clinton kind of voters, blue-collar workers who have been hurt by the economy, hurt by the loss of their homes, hurt by the loss of their jobs, dealing without health care.

So, I believe that many of those voters will come right over to support Hillary Rodham Clinton.

COOPER: Representative Jones, Clinton and Obama, they have been zipping around the country. Clinton was in Arkansas and Georgia campaigning. Obama, I think, was in Colorado and Arizona today.

I want to play part of a speech that Barack Obama gave today and talk to you about it.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who's nominated is not by having the Democrats nominate someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq, who agreed with him in voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, who agrees with him in embracing the Bush/Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like.


COOPER: That clearly seems to be a message he is hammering home. He talks about himself as a candidate of the future, her as a candidate of the past. How does she fight against that?

TUBBS JONES: You know what? I'm so happy that Senator Barack Obama has had a great job -- or done a great job at -- in his campaign, but the reality is that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has concrete alternatives to work through the process.

And, you know, what's very interesting for me as well is, Senator Obama keeps talking about, he's not an inside-Washington player, he's not part of the old guard. But, every day, he parades out someone from the old guard to endorse his candidacy. So, it's kind of hard to play one side and play the other at the same time.

So, I would say -- and I'm confident that...

COOPER: Senator -- Senator...

TUBBS JONES: ... Senator Clinton is going to take the high road and do the best job that she can in addressing those issues.

COOPER: Senator McCaskill, the Clinton folks are saying the speech today by Obama was one of the toughest speeches that he has given. He -- he -- says that it goes against his -- his desire to run a positive campaign. They said it was distorting, misleading.

Is that true?

MCCASKILL: Well, here's -- the deal is, is that Barack Obama, at a time that was very politically dangerous, when he was running for office to replace a Republican senator, he had the courage of his convictions and his -- the judgment to realize the war in Iraq was a mistake. And he should be credited for that. And it is a difference.

COOPER: Yes, but the question is, though, do you feel he's running a misleading campaign, or do you think he has gone away from a positive message?

MCCASKILL: Oh, absolutely not.

I mean, it -- believe me, there's all kinds of negativity that could have started in this campaign months ago. And, frankly, some of the advisers and some of that old guard was telling him to go after her, go after her, way back in May and April.

And you know what? He said, I'm not doing it. I'm going to win this campaign by appealing to our better angels, by reaching out to moderates, reaching out to independents, and saying, we can do this differently. We don't have to demonize the other side.

TUBBS JONES: But, you know, what's interesting is, if you look at the vote in Florida just yesterday, Senator Clinton got more Democratic support than all the support that Senator Obama got in Iowa, in New Hampshire.

MCCASKILL: Now, Stephanie...

COOPER: Yes, but -- but that -- come on. Let's -- let's...

TUBBS JONES: And, so, it's great.

COOPER: The vote in Florida was a stunt.

MCCASKILL: I was going to say, that was a...


COOPER: The vote in Florida was a stunt. The vote in Florida was a stunt, I mean, there was no one campaigning there. I know clearly the Clinton side is claiming victory. The Obama side says no delegates involved.

JONES: Give me a beauty contest like that. Give me a beauty contest. Give me almost a million votes, and I'll be happen with it. And sooner or later we're going to have to address the issue of delegates in Florida and Michigan.

COOPER: All right. No doubt that will be addressed. Senator Claire McCaskill, appreciate it. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Thanks very much.

When we come back, we're going to take a look at that dial testing of what happened on this stage tonight, how undecided voters responded, second by second, to the words of the candidates tonight. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. It is a beautiful facility, as can you see from that outside shot. We are here on the stage where just a short time ago the top Republican candidates were battling it out at times, a civil exchange for most of the times. It did get contentious. We'll be playing some of that throughout -- throughout the hour.

We're also going to look at some dial testing, minute-by-minute accounts from undecided voters, how they viewed it. First let's check in with CNN's Tom Foreman -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, when you look at what's happening right now, there's a tremendous upswell happening here when you look at Super Tuesday. No candidate can afford to run a full-on campaign in all of those Super Tuesday states, 22 of them or so, so they're picking their targets, hoping to rack up as many delegates as they possibly can.

For the Democrats, let's look at this. Hillary Clinton has focused a lot of energy on these five states, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Boy, these are naturals. That's her home turf where she's a senator.

Fly over here to Arkansas, that's where she came from. She hopes to show up well over there. And, of course, in California. Boy, this is a huge powerhouse state. She's popular there. She's especially popular with the Latino population. These five states account for 40 percent of all the Democratic delegates available that day. She is going to gamble on big showings in those states.

Obama, on the other hand, is going to try to chew away at districts in those states, knowing that every time he picks up some extra delegates, he's also denying those delegates to her.

He'll play hard for Illinois. That's his home territory. And then he's going to look at states where there are large black populations in the south, for example, hoping he can show well there. And he's going to play hard for the states that hold caucuses, especially with a lot of new independent voters who might like the idea of coming together and helping him along, just as they did in Iowa.

Now on the Republican side, the winner-take-all format makes it much simpler to follow. Watch for Romney to work very hard on the most conservative states, where bear in mind, he is still competing with Huckabee, even though Huckabee is far behind. They'll be fighting over the votes there. Romney is also going to count on his home state, of course, Utah, where he's very popular. And all those Reagan references you've been hearing, not just tonight but before. He's made all of those aimed at once again winning this powerhouse of California.

What's McCain going to target? Well, he'd love to ruin that California dreaming for Romney. He'd like to step in and grab some people there. He's counting on support in his home base, Arizona, and because he knows many traditional Republicans are wary of him, he'll be looking to states where there may be more voters who see him as a moderate or a moderate conservative, and he's hoping that that may be in the northeast, among other areas.

But this is the overall picture here. Obviously, you're going to have Ron Paul out there working the Internet hoping to get whatever support he can. The wild cards in all of this, right now they're Giuliani and Edwards, because we don't know where their delegates are going to wind up or where their money is going to wind up, but that's where we stand right now in the great big delegate chase -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is confusing, to say the least. Tom, thanks for trying to straighten it out.

I'm joined again by Roland Martin, Gloria Borger, Bill Bennett and John King.

It's confusing, John, for those who, you know, don't live and breathe for this kind of stuff.

KING: It's especially confusing on the Democratic side, because of the proportional rules the party has. You get 15 percent. You're viable and then you go through congressional districts. It varies a little bit state by state. But roughly, the Democrats you get pretty much the proportion of your vote in a state and, if you can win a congressional district you get delegates.

But the rules are confusing. But where we are in the campaign, I think that's what makes tomorrow night's debate so important for Senator Obama in the sense that he can't be everywhere. Yes, they have a strategy to organize this district and that district, go to this state, buy TV there.

But what he needs to do tomorrow night, for all those places he can't go is to say, "Take a risk on me. Make me the leader of the Democratic Party. Go forward. Don't go back to the Clinton Democratic Party." That's his big challenge.

COOPER: And Gloria, they have experts who are -- how does this work? I mean, how do they figure -- do -- who is an expert in this kind of stuff, the delegate count?

BORGER: You know, there are people sitting in front of their computers who give micro-targeting new definition. They're looking at congressional districts -- this is on the Democratic side -- and saying, well, if we can get three delegates, if there are three delegates, we're going to go there, because if it's a tie, it's 1-1. But maybe we could win one extra delegate in this particular congressional district, so it's worth sending the candidate or sending a surrogate. This is where surrogates come in really handy.

And on the Republican side, as we've said earlier this evening, the Giuliani endorsement may -- is just so important because the state of New York, New Jersey, winner-take-all states, very, very big.

COOPER: It's interesting. Early on in this campaign, everyone had those discussions, do endorsements really matter? People talked about that with Oprah Winfrey. Now you're saying clearly, especially the way things are going right now, endorsements matter.

BORGER: It's interesting, the big endorsements have really mattered. When you see Governor Schwarzenegger tomorrow for John McCain, that's going to really matter for him. Governor Crist in Florida really made a big difference for McCain, because he could help -- he could use his apparatus to get out the vote. The big endorsements have mattered in this election, Ted Kennedy for Barack Obama. We'll have to see.

MARTIN: The endorsements also matter because certain people bring organizational infrastructure. That is critical in terms of winning these various congressional districts. That's what's most important.

Now when you look at -- we get e-mails all day about the Clinton campaign saying certain people are going to this state and this state and Obama folks going Kyra (ph) is going to go here, Candy (ph) going here on both sides. That's what they're really targeting, this whole issue, but to John's point about tomorrow, you know, I think about that famous political pundit, Drew Bundini Brown, who told Muhammad Ali, "Rumble, young man, rumble."

Obama is going to have to do that. He is going to have to show people, "Look, I can take her on, just like I can take them on in September, October November and leading up to the general election." It is critical tomorrow.

She wants to deliver a knockout blow to him. He has to step up for the first time, frankly, in the debates. He's been average at best in these debates. He doesn't like them. He has to man up and take it from her tomorrow night.

BORGER: Man up.


BENNETT: I'm for that. I'd stay an extra day to see the rumble in Hollywood. I'll participate in that.

Let me say the endorsements are important, too, because in the Republican side you didn't have an obvious candidate. So people are trying to figure out who these candidates are. The endorsements help tell you.

And by the way, we were talking on the break here, what are the major endorsements for Romney. They're just not there. And McCain is really starting to stack them up now.


BENNETT: You've got Giuliani. You've got Schwarzenegger. He mentioned Kemp. He mentioned Graham. He should mention Tom Coburn. He keeps forgetting to mention, keeps talking about the conservatives.

And this very interesting thing on the Democrat side. You've got the insurgent. You've got the young idealist. But, boy, when you get Daschle and Kennedy and Leahy, it's interesting.

COOPER: When we come back, we'll have more moments from the debate, the highs and lows and also the dial testing. Viewers' response, undecided voters, second by second. We'll be right back.



MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to just say that I agree with something that Governor Romney said. He talked about that governors are well prepared to be presidents, and I think he's right about that. And if that's the case, then I appreciate his endorsement, because I've been a governor in a state longer than anybody running for president, Democrat or Republican. I've actually managed a government for ten and a half years.


COOPER: That, of course, Governor Mike Huckabee joining tonight's debate. Now all during the debate here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, with its remarkable backdrop of Air Force One that President Reagan actually used, we asked some undecided registered Republican voters to watch the debate at a room in Oxnard, California, with meters in their hand.

It's called dial testing. You get, really, a second-by-second response to what the candidates are saying. It's always kind of a fascinating look to see how some undecided voters thought, compared to maybe what you at home or what the pundits thought.

Let's check in with Erica Hill, who was watching along with the dial testers.


ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): At least with these voters, it was Mitt Romney's night. He scored a 90, nearly the top of the charts, defending President Bush on Iraq.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He did something for our party that was important to do, which is to show that, when someone attacks America, there will be consequences.

HILL: Touting his own record on health care as governor, again, almost 90. ROMNEY: But they shouldn't be allowed just to show up at the hospital and say, "Somebody else should pay for me." And so we said no more free riders.

HILL: And then again on energy independence.

ROMNEY: So a unilateral action to get ourselves off of foreign oil makes all the sense in the world: nuclear power, biodiesel, biofuel, all the renewables, liquefied coal.

HILL: John McCain struck a chord on the housing crisis.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that there's some greedy people that -- in Wall Street that perhaps need to be punished.

HILL: A tense back and forth between the two on Iraq sent the testers flying, shooting high for Romney as he accused McCain of mischaracterizing Romney's position on Iraq.

ROMNEY: I do not propose, nor have I ever proposed, a public or secret date for withdrawal. This is simply wrong.

HILL: The dial diving sharply south as McCain countered.

MCCAIN: At the time he didn't want to weigh in because he was a governor, I was out there on the front lines with my friends, saying we not only can't withdraw, but we've got to have an additional -- additional troops over there.

HILL: And it kept going.

ROMNEY: How is it that you're the expert on my position?

HILL: Romney back up, the numbers only getting worse for McCain.

MCCAIN: ... dollars of attack ads you -- attacked against me in New Hampshire and have ever since. A lot of it's your own money. You're free to do with what you want to. You can spend it all. But the fact is that your negative ads, my friends, are -- have set the tone, unfortunately, on this campaign.

HILL: When the dust settled and Mike Huckabee weighed in on Iraq, our undecided voters liked his answer, one of his best scores of the night.

HUCKABEE: And I want to make sure everybody understands this isn't a two-man race. There's another guy we'd like to say down here on the far right of the stage. You want to talk conservative credentials, let me get in on that.

I created the first ever broad-based tax cuts in the 160-year history of my state when I became governor with a 90 percent Democrat legislature. I also balanced the budget every one of the ten and a half years.

HILL: But despite that bump, this debate seemed to really be about Romney and McCain.


HILL: And if you're wondering, Anderson, particularly, why those numbers went so low for Senator McCain. We asked the voters. A lot of them came in. And they said we were really looking for something from John McCain tonight, because we feel like he's the guy who could carry this nomination.

We wanted him to give us a reason to get behind him. What they didn't like his tone of voice. They found him to be negative and found him to be a little bit snarky in their words, and so that's why he scored so low with them.

Romney did a lot better, although they're still not sure he can carry the nomination.

At the end of the night, Anderson, out of these 24 undecided voters, they said they're getting a little bit closer to knowing who they'll vote for on Tuesday, but they're still not 100 percent there.

COOPER: Hmm. It's always fascinating to watch that dial testing.

Want to talk about the results, also, with Bill Bennett and Gloria Borger in a moment. But we've got to take a short break.

Our coverage continues, though. A lot more politics to talk about in this hour. And then at the 11 p.m. hour a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE": "The Ronald Reagan I Knew," remembrances from those who served with President Reagan, friends and family, a fascinating special, 11 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Stay tuned. We'll be right back.



REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a trillion-dollar foreign operation to operate our empire. That's where the money is. You can't keep borrowing from China. You can't keep printing money. We have to cut some spending. And that's what nobody here talks about. Where do you cut spending if you want to spend some money?

We need lower taxes, less regulations, and we need to free up the market. We can't allow -- expect the government to do everything.


COOPER: And that was Ron Paul from earlier in this evening. A lot more to talk about, a lot more clips to show you from the actual debate in our remaining ten minutes or so before "LARRY KING LIVE" special, "The Ronald Reagan I Knew," a remembrance of the life and the legacy of President Ronald Reagan. I'm joined now by CNN's Gloria Borger. Bill Bennett is here as well. David Gergen is in Boston, and Amy Holmes joins me from New York.

Let's talk a little bit about Iraq. Senator McCain was asked if he thought -- about leadership, if he thought Romney could be a military commander in chief. Let's play his response.


COOPER: Is Governor Romney ready to be a military commander?

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sure that he's -- as I say, he's a fine man. And I think he managed companies, and he bought and he sold. And sometimes people lost their jobs. That's -- that's the nature of that business.

But the fact is -- but the fact is the -- we're at a time in our history -- we're at a time in our history where you can't afford any on-the-job training. And I believe that my experience and background qualifies me to lead.

And that's why I've gotten the support of four former secretaries of state, two of them in the Reagan administration. That's why I've gotten the support of General Norman Schwarzkopf. That's why I've gotten the support of over 100 retired Army admirals and admirals.

Literally, every national security expert in the Reagan and other administrations are supporting my candidacy, including the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, my friend Governor Tom Ridge, who believed that I have the qualities necessary to lead.

COOPER: Congressman Paul...

MCCAIN: Some people judge me by those who are supporting me.


COOPER: What did you think of his answer, Bill?

BENNETT: Well, again, there's a little tone problem. I agree with the dial-testing folks.

COOPER: You mean, as needs of -- Romney fired people. People lost their jobs.

BENNETT: Again, the magic of Reagan: he didn't do it. He always did it with a smile. Even Mondale laughed at Reagan's joke about the age. But you don't laugh at a lot of John's shifts.

But the title commander in chief seems to fit John McCain, doesn't it? I had a fleeting moment, before you jump on me, where I thought interesting ticket, John McCain commander in chief, Mitt Romney, economy, business.

BORGER: No. BENNETT: No, I know. Fleeting, it's gone, before you said no. It's gone. But can I just say...


BENNETT: ... this. We have talked about music. The Putin question was great, and Mike Huckabee says, "I looked at his eyes, I don't know if he's lying." He can't hide those lying eyes. I thought he was ready to get the bass guitar and do the Eagles.

COOPER: I'm sure he would have loved to have done that. David, Governor Romney was asked if he thought McCain would be a better leader when it came to the economy. I want to play his response to sort of the twin question.


COOPER: Governor Romney, I've got to let you in on this. Is Senator McCain a better leader in terms of the economy?

ROMNEY: No. He's a fine man, and a man I respect. And I particularly respect his service in the military and his integrity and courage for our nation. I do believe that, as people over the centuries have considered who ought to lead our country, they don't look to senators. They look to governors.

And they look to governors because they have the experience of being executive leaders. They're actually leading something. They're making something happen, and they're running something. They're leading an organization.

Senators and congressmen are fine people, but they're legislators. They sit in committees. They're committee chairs, and they call that leadership.


COOPER: David, it's interesting. In Florida it did not seem like the economy was an issue which helped Mitt Romney as much as it had, say, in Michigan. The last exit poll I had shown -- seen last night around 10 p.m. was that -- that McCain actually scored higher among voters on the economy than -- than Mitt Romney.

GERGEN: You're right, Anderson. That's exactly what it showed. And it -- I thought he was better tonight talking about his business record, his record with the Olympics.

And if anything, I think the surprise of this campaign and one of the reasons why he's now second and not first, is that he ran as -- in some ways he never really promoted his record as a business leader, as a leader of Bain and Bain Capital and then of the Olympics and as a governor.

All the way through the campaign, he ran as somebody he wasn't. He pandered off to the right. It looked phony. People sort of got onto that. And now when he comes back and is really himself, he's having a hard -- a harder time connecting.

But he has a good record, actually, as an executive. He's got many years of executive leadership experience that have been effective. But it -- but he hasn't been able to promote that very well. And I think that Bill Bennett is right, that the crown of commander in chief sits more easily on the head of John McCain than it does upon Mitt Romney, I think, in the eyes of many viewers.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, Governor Schwarzenegger plans to endorse John McCain tomorrow. How big an impact is that going to have, and even does it have any impact among conservatives?

HOLMES: It has a huge impact, as Roland said in an earlier segment. It's not just symbolic in terms of that he's the governor of California and he's throwing his support. It's also tactical. It's on the ground. You know, Governor Schwarzenegger's rolodex, the supporters that he brings to the table, the phone calls that he can make, the, you know, voters that he can rally. That's hugely important for McCain.

But I would go back to this commander in chief question. And as conservatives, you know, we all understand that our Founding Fathers put civilians in charge our military. So the idea that because McCain was in the military therefore makes him a better commander in chief isn't necessarily a conservative idea.

I do agree that role, that title, that crown sits more comfortably on McCain's head, but I don't think we should go too far down that path. I thought Mitt Romney went a little too far when he said that you need someone who, you know, conversely has all the CEO experience. You know, we lead -- we elect the person who we best think will lead.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, David Gergen, appreciate your perspectives tonight. Bill Bennett, as well, and Gloria Borger.

That's it for us here at the Ronald Reagan Library. We'll have a little bit more coverage ahead. And also, at 11 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, in just a few minutes from now, a "LARRY KING LIVE" special, "The Ronald Reagan I Knew," a remarkable look back at the life and the legacy of President Ronald Reagan. We'll be right back from the Ronald Reagan Library.


COOPER: Let's get a quick check of the day's other headlines, the "360 Bulletin," Gary Tuchman -- Gary.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, will another rate cut help stimulate the economy? Well, the Federal Reserve certainly hopes so.

For the second time in just over a week it slashed a key interest rate by another half point. Reaction from Wall Street was mixed, with the Dow closing down 37 points.

On Capitol Hill, the new attorney general faced tough questions on a controversial interrogation technique. Testifying before a Senate committee, Michael Mukasey said he would consider waterboarding torture if it were being done to him, but he officially refused to label waterboarding as torture.

High above earth a dangerous spacewalk. Two U.S. astronauts left the International Space Station to install a new motor to help restore power. NASA is not calling the mission a success until the engine can be tested.

And dramatic video from Hinsdale, Illinois, of a train slamming into a minivan. Just moments before the fiery impact, the driver was standing on the tracks. Apparently, his vehicle was struck. A passerby pulled the man to safety. Nobody was injured.

A very close call, a very lucky man, Anderson.


COOPER: Wow, lucky indeed. Gary Tuchman, appreciate that and the "360 Bulletin."

That's it for us from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. A special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," though, starts in just a minute, "The Ronald Reagan I Knew." We'll be right back.