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Presidential Candidates Campaign in New Hampshire, Iowa

Aired December 24, 2007 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas Don. Happening now, hours before Christmas all the presidential candidates know what gifts they want, to unwrap wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Two are on the trail today but one is making a sacrifice unlike any of the others.
Also, a newspaper slams Mitt Romney. It not only tells people do not vote for him, it suggests that Romney is a, quote, phony.

And Mike Huckabee's rapid rise makes him the newest target for political attack. I'll ask how he intends to fend them off and win. He'll be here. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are exactly 10 days before the first major presidential contest shoots this race to a totally new level, but a democratic presidential candidate has a gut feeling that much of what we've heard about who's ahead in Iowa is wrong. Right now Chris Dodd is the only candidate campaigning there this Christmas Eve, it's just a part of a big sacrifice that he's making hoping for a big payoff. Our CNN's Jessica Yellin is in Des Moines, Iowa. Jessica, Dodd's family as well, as you know, you've sat down with him, they're making a big sacrifice too.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The whole family is making the sacrifice, Suzanne. As you know, Chris Dodd has accomplished a great deal in the U.S. senate. In fact he's largely responsible for making sure that working Americans have family and medical leave. So after this storied career, he wants to be president, and he is so far at the back of the pack that he decided he has to do something extreme, something no other candidate is doing. So he picked up and moved his wife and two daughters right here to Des Moines.


YELLIN: Stockings from Connecticut, an improvised tree, a homemade creche from a supporter, Senator Chris Dodd and his family are making Des Moines their home away from home for the holidays.

CHRIS DODD: Well, I get to see my family. That was the motivation behind this.

YELLIN: 6-year-old Grace is in a local kindergarten and 2 1/2- year-old Christina is a big fan of the Des Moines Science Center.

JACKIE DODD: They have human growthology there right now, they've been having fun with the body.

YELLIN: The five-term U.S. senator barely ranks in the latest CNN poll of Iowa, but insists the media is wrong about this race.

DODD: Four years ago if polling had dictated what would have happened, then Howard Dean should have won this race hands down.

YELLIN: Dodd's campaign message? After nearly 27 years in the senate, he's got a track record of making good on promises and is ready to be president.

DODD: This may be the only job in America where prior references aren't required. You wouldn't remodel your bathroom without asking the contractor if he had ever done it before.

JACKIE DODD, WIFE OF SEN. DODD: You want to be a change agent, actually get something done. That's what a change agent is.

YELLIN: He's not shy about criticizing his democratic opponents.

DODD: Look I think people are so sick of the bickering and this idea, turn up the heat, fire up the crowd, I'll fight harder than anybody. Are there any adults running here?

YELLIN: And questions whether the front-runners could beat a Republican.

DODD: There's a lot of concern, candidly, about the so-called top-tier candidates doing that.

JACKIE DODD: She wants the parrot, a webkins, that's another animal.

DODD: But this week the Dodd family have some pressing concerns of its own. Dad left a sign for Santa at the family's home in Connecticut and here in Des Moines. And he's hoping for a little holiday magic himself.

DODD: There's a chance to come out of here and all of a sudden it be a new story here on January 4th. I think we have a shot being that new story.


YELLIN: Dodd has wrapped up his last campaign event here in Iowa before Christmas, but he is not down for the holiday. He is taking his staff ice skating right here in Des Moines. He's going in a ice skating rink tomorrow, but I think he could find plenty of places outdoors to do it, too. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Great Jessica, thanks so much. I know he's heading to New Hampshire next. We'll probably be with him as well. Thanks Jessica.

In the Republican race, Rudy Giuliani delivers a message to children and to voters. The presidential candidate read a Christmas story to some young people in Harlem today. He was asked about his health after suffering a severe headache last week that prompted a brief hospital stay. The man who beat prostate cancer seven years ago told reporters that he is cancer free. Giuliani says that his doctors will soon issue a full report on his health.

It can hurt when you're the most popular person in the class and rivals come along and steal some of the spotlight. That is the situation that Republican Mitt Romney is in right now. Not long ago, many said that Romney had strong chances to win the first two presidential contests. Now some have strong concern about the impact of rising rivals and Romney's own recent struggles. Our CNN chief national correspondent John King is in Manchester, New Hampshire with that. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, don't blame Mitt Romney if he skips reading the newspapers today. He woke up yesterday at home in Boston to this, a Boston Globe poll showing John McCain has pulled roughly even here in New Hampshire. When he arrived in the grand state to campaign, there was this, a "Concord Monitor" editorial that not only says Romney should not be president, but calls him a phony. Not what you want to hear, when you're already struggling.


KING (voice-over): A sign of the times. For Mitt Romney, the glow of summer is a distant memory.

How are you doing? Good to see you.

KING: Gone are once strong leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire. The candidate's wife hoping aloud the current tide will change.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I know he is the best candidate and I have all the confidence in the world the other voters will wake up and see that, too. So thank you.

MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, sweetheart.

KING: Romney is hardly the first to learn Iowa is a four-letter word for "surprise." Here in New Hampshire, the growing threat is the candidate who personifies stubborn persistence. Romney has only himself to blame for some of his recent struggles. Providing fresh fodder of late for critics who call him loose with the facts and forgetful of his own record. This in Iowa last week.

ROMNEY: In my state when I was governor, we made it tougher for people with meth labs.

KING: Hours later he conceded he proposed tougher penalties, but they never became law.

ROMNEY: So I'm making sure that that's correct as quickly as I can.

KING: Normally, enough said. But it came within days of claiming an endorsement he never received. But as he also backtracked from saying he saw his father march with Martin Luther King.

ROMNEY: You know it's a figure of speech. I saw my father as a champion of civil rights.

KING: He is clearly chastened with his Sunday after talk of improving schools as governor.

ROMNEY: These principles made a difference, the Massachusetts kids and these kind of principles were in place even before I got there as governor.

KING: Yet critics still see hypocrisy here.

ROMNEY: Reagan 101 said if you lower taxes that helps build the economy. Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan/Bush, I'm not trying to return to Reagan Bush.

KING: Romney still voices confidence. And aides say in private meetings he shows a sense of urgency, but not panic. The strategy is twofold -- keep watch on all his rivals, but attack the main threats.

ROMNEY: He voted against the Bush tax cuts. He voted against eliminating the death tax forever.

KING: And look to his strengths, resources -- and what even rivals concede are deep organizations in both Iowa and New Hampshire.


KING: The McCain campaign calls those attacks on taxes a sign of Romney's desperation, saying the senator opposed those tax cuts only because they're worth also spending cuts to keep the deficit from ballooning. The bigger picture at the Republican race is this -- more volatility than ever at the Christmas break. Romney's once big leads in Iowa and New Hampshire are gone, and the big national lead Rudy Giuliani held for months, a thing of the past as well. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks John. Carol Costello is off today. Zain Verjee is monitoring the stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Zain, what are you watching?

ZAIN VERJEE: Suzanne, a fierce winter storm is making holiday travel treacherous across the upper Midwest. At least 19 deaths are blamed are the storm. And places like Buffalo, New York, are in for a nasty wallop. Forecasters are predicting up to 10 inches of snow there.

It's a jolly Christmas on Wall Street and Santa himself was there to witness it. Stocks rallied back from a volatile week they closed in positive territory. Investors can thank good news from Merrill Lynch for the extra stocking stuffers. It's getting a $6 billion cash infusion from foreign investment capital to deal with deep losses from the global credit crunch. The Dow rose 98 points to close at 13,549.

For the first time in several years, tourists are headed to Bethlehem in droves as fears subside. About 65,000 people are expected to visit Jesus' birthplace this Christmas, that's four times the number that made the trek two years ago when peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are reassuring many tourists that things are a little safer.

Do you think the queen of England is a little bit stuffy and behind the times? Well if you do, think again. Queen Elizabeth II is launching her own video site on Youtube. Apparently the 81-year-old monarch is getting hip on how to reach her younger subjects. Yesterday the palace started posting old and current film snippets of life as a royal. So Suzanne that includes things like garden parties and state visits, and the day in the life of Prince Charles.

MALVEAUX: That's amazing. She's way ahead of me that's for sure. Thanks again, Zain.

Jack Cafferty is off today. Up ahead, celebrity teens getting pregnant, talk of sex around young people. One candidate says it's time to decide how the government handles those issues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't have it both ways. We're going to have to decide, do you want a moral government or one that's amoral that doesn't take a stand either way.


MALVEAUX: Does Mike Huckabee support sex education programs that support contraception? We'll discuss that and many other issues.

Also, the campaigns bear gifts that some people, well, they don't want. Find out why some in Iowa can't wait for the holiday and campaign season to be over.

Traditional rules ruled out, even if you can't vote in it, we'll tell you why you should care about the first major presidential contest.


MALVEAUX: Well, he's the ordained minister who hopes to become president, who some have criticized for openly talking about his faith. Mike Huckabee is not backing down from that subject. Right now he even uses a very interesting phrase to describe what he sees as happening to people like him.


MALVEAUX: Governor Mike Huckabee thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you Suzanne, great to be with you.

MALVEAUX: Obviously it's the holiday season, a lot of talk about your ad as well as Christmas. You made some news when you were lieutenant governor in a proclamation of Christian heritage week. You coined the phrase Christophobia, and you had said before that some people talk about homophobia, well I've been hearing Christ-ophobia. Do you believe that Christians are under attack today?

HUCKABEE: I don't know if I would go that far to say they're under attack, although they're destined to be sort of a level of almost a form of bigotry toward the Christian faith. Let me give you an example, I did that proclamation, but 37 other states did too, and there wasn't a big deal about it, except that when I did it there was. I think, for example, when I said Merry Christmas in a Christmas ad, if I had used the Lord's name in vain, I don't think anybody probably would have thought much about it, but I used it in a proper sense in referencing Christmas and people thought there was something maybe sinister about that. It's bizarre to me.

MALVEAUX: You had actually made a comparison when you talked about homophobia. Were you trying to equate the persecution of gays with the persecution of Christians or evangelicals?

HUCKABEE: Not at all. I'm just simply saying that there is sometimes this seeming fear that any time a person of faith speaks up, someone thinks he's trying to push his religion down the throats of other people. It's not that at all. It was an innocent way to try to change the discourse of what had become a rather nasty political environment. There are all the attack and nasty ads and I'm thinking you know, here at Christmastime, we're really supposed to be more about peace on earth, Goodwill toward men, not taking people and tearing them up into pieces, and hopefully try to raise the level of the discourse a bit.

MALVEAUX: Governor, let's talk a little bit about what role your faith would play if you were president and how it would affect your policy. In one of the debates, you did indicate that you did not believe in evolution but rather creationism. How would that position impact your policies, say, on education?

HUCKABEE: It wouldn't at all, any more than it did the 10 1/2 years I was governor. People knew me for the fact that we reformed education, we raised standards, we had careful measuring. We had accountability. We raised teacher pay. The kids in our state had some of the most significant improvements in the nation in terms of their test scores in math and science and reading. We added music and art to the curriculum. That's why I was education commission of the state's chairman for two years, chairman of the national governor's association two years. What I focused on was improving the curriculum for every student, making sure the teachers had pay. Nobody ever questioned. All the time I was governor, how faith was going to maybe impact the curriculum because I didn't design the curriculum as governor, and I shouldn't wouldn't be designing it as president.

MALVEAUX: Would you not at least use the bully pulpit the power of the presidency to at least push that forward?

HUCKABEE: If people hear me talk about education, what they hear me talk about is weapons of mass instruction. One of the focuses I have is on music and art education. We need to be developing the right side of the students' brain to balance out the left side, the logical side. I've never made a speech on education and tried to push a particular scientific viewpoint. But I have unapologetically pushed the need for a curriculum that touches the talent of every student and that's what I would do as president.

MALVEAUX: Well governor let's talk about abstinence-only programs. The Bush administration has really pushed for that, but we are seeing very recently even that teen birth rates rising the first time in some 15 years, really that there is a great deal of debate over whether or not the abstinence only sex education is working in the first place here. Obviously this is something that people are talking about. Would you support sex education programs that support, say, contraception use?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think clearly when people say the teen pregnancy rates are up, you can't say that's because we have had abstinence only. It's because we have a moral culture that's spiraling out of control. When you have celebrity teens who get pregnant and sex is pushed at kids when they're 6 and 7 and 8 years old, you're probably going to have some results from that. I think that's what we're seeing. The one thing we know about abstinence education it's the only way that you can be 100 percent certain that a person will not get a sexually transmitted disease or have an unwanted pregnancy. It's the only thing that's 100 percent effective. So it makes sense if you're going to talk about what's best, to make sure that's a very important part of the discussion, because it's the only thing that absolutely works 100 percent of the time.

MALVEAUX: What about the discussion of contraception, would that not be a part of the curriculum as well? Education, because obviously what studies are showing is that teens armed with that information certainly are at less risk of becoming pregnant.

HUCKABEE: It sure would be nice if mother and father were involved in this rather than the schools having to tell kids about contraception. I think one of the real problems that we face is that if we see the breakdown in the family, the breakdown in the home, then somebody always wants to say ok, let's let the government step in and try to raise the morals of our children. Now here's the interesting thing, on the one hand I get criticized most often because I'm trying to inject faith, morality into the discussion, but then when morality breaks down, it's like well let's let the government bring morality. We can't have it both ways. We're going to have to decide, do you want a moral government or one that's amoral that doesn't take a stand either way.

MALVEAUX: I want to talk a little bit about the message you've been really pushing for on the campaign trail. This is about redemption, the fact that you point to a lot of people in the audience and you say perhaps your kid would need or deserve a second chance if they had committed a crime. You've gotten a lot of heat for commutations, pardons as governor, more than a thousand or so. Do you feel that your predecessors have been too lenient? If you become president, can you see yourself using that ultimate pardon power more broadly? HUCKABEE: I wouldn't use it more broadly. I would use it responsibly. The point that I would make is that you shouldn't make those decisions based on what's good for your own political future. Quite frankly, Suzanne, if you really want to do something that never hurts your politics, never, ever, ever give a commutation. Nobody ever gets in trouble, no one ever loses a vote for saying no to every one of them. So it's always risky to grant one, but if that power is granted by the constitution, it must be granted for a reason so that you actually take the time to read through each request. I had over 8,700 of them during my tenure as governor. The opponent of mine complains most only had 100 in his entire career as a governor. I denied about 90 percent of them. But many times it was an issue, for example, a 35-year-old single mom raising a couple of kids trying to get a job. When she was 18, she wrote a hot check. She never served a day in jail, never once had anything other than maybe a probated sentence, but it's still on her record. Because of that she can't get a job. Now what I ask sometimes in an audience, with that case in front of you, what would you do?

MALVEAUX: And that was -- obviously that was your answer, that you would pardon.

HUCKABEE: Well I would look at every case. If there was some reason not to, if the person had continued to be irresponsible. But if they made a youthful mistake writing a hot check when they're 18 and since then they have gotten an education, they haven't had a single arrest, they've not done anything criminal, in fact they've tried to be as responsible as they can and now they're trying to better themselves with a job or getting an advanced education, how long can you punish somebody for something they did when they were 18 that didn't hurt anybody?

MALVEAUX: Governor, you mentioned your opponent Mitt Romney, you talked a bit about I know that he's been very critical of the pardoning and commutations.

HUCKABEE: Among other things, yeah.

MALVEAUX: Among other things, I know there's an ongoing battle here. Saturday "New Hampshire's Concord Monitor" broke with tradition. They're not endorsing someone but they certainly took a slap at your opponent, calling him a phony that must be stopped. Do you think they went too far?

HUCKABEE: You know, I would never jump in and try to criticize a newspaper when they are having every right to write whatever they wish. I've run a very positive campaign, I've not run the negative attack ads. In fact I've gone out of my way to talk about why I should be president, not why my opponents shouldn't be. I think that's one of the reason's that my numbers are up, and despite being out-spent 20 to one in Iowa, we have a lead there. It's a lead I hope we keep and a lot of it depends on whether the people of Iowa and for that matter the rest of the country want a president who's for the future of this country or who just runs a bunch of ads saying here's what's wrong with the other guys. I think people are looking for a leader, and leaders don't look around and try to tell you what's wrong with everyone else. Leaders say here's my vision, here's what this country can be. Here's how we can get there. That's what I think they're looking for.

MALVEAUX: You don't think he's a phony do you?

HUCKABEE: I'm not even going to get into that. Because he's certainly had many things to say about me. I will defend my record, but I'm not going to try to jump in on what the concord monitor says. I haven't read the full text, I heard about the story, I haven't read it so I don't want to evaluate their article. Hey, they may want to endorse me next week, so why would I jump on them?


MALVEAUX: More of my interview with Mike Huckabee coming up in our next hour. I'll ask him about Iran, Pakistan and how he would tackle those foreign policy issues if he wins the oval office.

Many say the presidential race is not given to the swift or the strong but who ends up enduring. Now many are wondering if Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani's early front-runner status came too early. We'll discuss that in our strategy session.

The first major presidential contest is just 10 days away. In it, some of the traditional rules of voting have been ruled out. There's a big reason you should care about that.


MALVEAUX: They're defending the nation's freedom, helping to spread democracy, and are away from their families, during a season largely being about with family. For that and more, U.S. troops serving abroad are getting a special message from President Bush, our CNN's Kathleen Koch is at the White House. Kathleen, President Bush delivering a very personal message to some of those troops today as well?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite so, Suzanne. This is a long-standing tradition of President Bush's. Every Christmas Eve he reaches out personally and calls 10 U.S. service members serving around the world this year. He reached out to troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on ships in the Persian Gulf and in the Bering Sea. Press Secretary Dana Perino says that the president told the soldiers, sailors, air men and marines that he was proud of them, he thanked them for their contributions to the country and for serving a cause that she called, quote, very noble. Back to you Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Kathleen thanks. Have a good holiday.

KOCH: You bet.

MALVEAUX: Do they know it's Christmas? That's what some in Iowa are asking about the presidential candidates. Voters are inundated with phone calls and political Christmas cards from the campaigns. Is that hurting holiday cheer and could it hurt the candidates. You might not be voting in it, but you should certainly care about the first major presidential contest. What happens in Iowa could very well affect who you get to vote for in this election.


MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now -- are billions of U.S. dollars that were supposed to fight al Qaeda being squandered in Pakistan? U.S. officials suggest Pakistan has not delivered on a deal to train its military to beat back emerging al Qaeda strongholds.

And new tension along Iraq's border with Turkey is demanding attention from world leaders. President Bush got on the phone with the Turkish prime minister and Iraq's president today. Over the weekend Turkish war planes pounded Kurdish separatist targets in north Iraq.

Plus an FBI hit list and plans to detain 12,000 Americans suspected of disloyalty. We have newly declassified documents detailing J. Edgar Hoover's audacious plans. Wolf Blitzer's off today, I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Most presidential candidates are not campaigning today or tomorrow, but for the most part they haven't been letting the Christmas holiday slow them down at all, especially in their dash to win over independent voters. Our CNN's Dana Bash is in Iowa and Dana how are the voters reacting to all of this hustle from all the various candidates' campaigns?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know Suzanne, four years ago there were three weeks between Christmas Day and caucus day, and even that was a lot less time than in years past. This time it's just nine days, and there is some tension here in Iowa between the political process that they really cherish and the Christmas spirit, the holiday spirit they cherish just as much.


BASH (voice-over): The Christmas lights are up, wreath is hung, the tree stands proudly in the living room. With an angel above, presents below, a classic Christmas scene that could be anywhere in America, until you see all the mail from presidential hopefuls on the table. This is Iowa.

I don't even know if you can count how many are here? How many pieces are here? Probably 20 pieces?


BASH: That came in just two days to the Allen household. And with Christmas approaching it's barely read.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest think is a lot of it gets ignored right now. Because we're all focusing on the Christmas cards on the refrigerator. You know we put all those Christmas cards up there and they are just shuffled paper that we didn't get rid of.

BASH: It's not just the mail, it's the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 60 calls since December 1st.

BASH: 60 calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's just the campaign calls that get recorded.

BASH: Unknown name, unknown name, but you know who these are.

MAYOR CHAZ ALLEN, (I) NEWTON, IOWA: For the most part we know that this campaign is calling.

BASH: Chaz Allen isn't just any undecided Iowa voter, he's the mayor of Newton, Iowa, an independent. He gets special calls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello Chad, this is Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Clinton campaign. If you could please give me a call at 703 --

ALLEN: I explained to me that I have just seen Huckabee and I just talked to Edwards and Obama and things like that.

BASH: Allen says he won't decide who to vote for until after the holidays.

ALLEN: Oh, she's not in right now, can I take a message?

BASH: One of many hawkeyes not thrilled that the deluge of calls, mail and TV ads that come with their proud political tradition collided with holiday tradition.

ALLEN: There's such an incredible process that we should all be a part of. Maybe the parties should think about what's going on around the times they do this.

BASH: For the next couple of days it's family time. Mail from candidates may be on the table, but the focus is Christmas.


BASH: Now, that is not just a story of one person here, Suzanne. Trust me, you travel around Iowa, you talk to voters and they tell you that they are certainly privileged to be able to meet candidates, to be able to ask them tough questions, but getting inundated with those calls, with those mailers and with those TV ads, especially this time of year, is something that they can do without. And I can tell you, Chaz Allen, one of his neighbors, he got so aggravated, he just turned his phone off. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: We can never turn it off. Happy holidays.

BASH: You too.

MALVEAUX: 'Tis the season for bearing gifts, even political ones. All the candidates know what they would like from Iowa and New Hampshire, but will their stockings be stuffed with the ultimate prizes? Our CNN political analyst Bill Schneider joining me. Maybe they've been good, maybe they've been bad, maybe they want that hat of yours, Bill. What are they looking for?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's see what we have here in the sack. 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land, little children were asking, where does this race stand?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What do you think Santa's been doing all year at the north pole? Polls, of course. North polls for nice little candidates, south polls for the naughty candidates. Let's take a look at Santa's polls to see who's been naughty and nice. Here's the national poll of polls for the democrats, an average of four national polls taken in the last two weeks. Nationally Hillary Clinton has a healthy 19-point lead over Barack Obama, with John Edwards running third, but the democratic race looks very different in the early states. Four Iowa caucus polls average out to a very close three-way race -- Clinton 29, Obama 28, Edwards 32. Any of them could win. The four latest New Hampshire polls show Clinton narrowly ahead of Obama, two polls show Clinton leading, one shows Obama slightly ahead. One shows a tie in New Hampshire. Again, anything could happen. And South Carolina, another close one. In two South Carolina polls, Clinton averages a narrow three-point lead over Obama. Just one poll in Nevada, where Clinton leads Obama by eight. Clinton's front-runner status looks shaky in those early voting states.

Rudy Giuliani's ahead if you average the four latest national Republican polls. Four other candidates, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson are all bunched together behind Giuliani. But in the early states, a different story entirely. In Iowa, Huckabee's ahead with Romney running second. Giuliani is a weak third. In New Hampshire, Romney is ahead, with McCain breathing down his neck. Giuliani is third. And Huckabee, a weak fourth in the granite state. But Huckabee is leading again in South Carolina, the first southern primary. Thompson needs a win badly in South Carolina, but he's tied for third with Giuliani. Nevada's the only early voting state where Giuliani's ahead, and not by much.


SCHNEIDER: So are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani the front- runners? Only in national polls, but there is no national primary. Voters in those early states have seen the candidates up close, just like Santa. So who do they think has been naughty or nice? You know what? They can't seem to make up their minds, but you know what, Suzanne? Santa has something for you.

MALVEAUX: What do you have there?

SCHNEIDER: It looks very nice. It rattles. You have to open it tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: Ok. I'll do that. Maybe it's one of those hats. Thanks, Bill.


MALVEAUAX: Thanks again. They were once seen as their respective party's inevitable nominees. Are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani now facing a backlash because of it? We'll talk about it in our "strategy session."

Also, they could make a difference for some candidates in the Iowa caucuses. White House hopefuls reaching out to young voters. But will their efforts pay off?

Plus, presidential candidates send Christmas greetings from the campaign trail. But is there a hidden message in one of them? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: January 3rd could be pivotal. It's when Iowans caucus to say who they think should be the next president and how they vote could very well affect how you get to vote as well. Our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explains.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): Imagine an election with no secret ballot, no all-day voting, the age requirement only 17, and finally you can vote for more than one candidate. If that sounds un-American, it's actually how the Iowa democratic caucuses operate, and listen up, you care because those folks in Iowa may actually choose your next president. In fact, the rules here are so strange that the campaigns in Iowa run training sessions on how to vote. Step one, stand up and be counted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you'll do is then you will get up out of your seat and you'll go walk to the corner or space by the wall designated for the candidate of your choice, ok ready, go.

TOOBIN (on camera): At Obama's Iowa rehearsal caucus, they practice without candidates. Instead they use winter activities, we've got ice skating here, drinking hot cocoa, snowboarding, building snowmen, and of course snowball fights.

(Voice-over): After the first round, anyone who's standing for a candidate, well activity in this case -- that doesn't meet the threshold of 15 percent of the room is out of luck. It turns out on this night, not enough snowboarders, very sad. So what happens now? If the snowboarders want their votes to count at all, they have to pick a new candidate before the second and final tally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each group that is viable gets to send one ambassador over to the snowboarding group and try to persuade them to join your group.

TOOBIN (on camera): Now it's let's make a deal. The other groups all send someone over to the snowboarders to say, come on, join our side. A little arm twisting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you skating, you feel free, you can go on one feet, two feet, you can twirl around.


TOOBIN: The snowboarders decide ice skating is their second choice, and they all make the switch. Understanding that the persuasion period and how to win over second-choice voters is so important, candidates have web videos to explain it.

JOHN EDWARDS: Don't just go to the caucus, bring your friends.

TOOBIN: And even highlight it on the stump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hit that floor and work it and try to get them and it's like a fun game, it's like monopoly. You go over you say hey, well your man isn't going to make it, come over here, remember I loaned you that snow shovel?

TOOBIN: Because the rules are so complicated, organization is key. You need to get your supporters to the caucus locations by 7:00 sharp or they can't vote. And this is Iowa in the wintertime. Sometimes the weather is a factor. By comparison the republican caucuses are pretty simple, though the campaigns, here Fred Thompson's, are also training their supporters. It's a secret ballot and there's no viability threshold. Every vote counts. The complicated rules make for one sure thing, that the results here are very hard to predict. So after all this, who wins? Well, that's not simple, either. The party keeps the popular vote totals at the caucuses a secret. They only announce the percentage of delegates each candidate will receive at the state party convention later in 2008. And there's more, of course. The caucus rules are 72 pages long. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: And a newspaper slams Mitt Romney. It tells people not to vote for him and flat-out calls Romney a, quote, phony. We'll talk about what Romney says about that and if it will hurt his campaign.

And a newspaper headline blares, U.S. officials see waste in billions sent to Pakistan, but is money to help fight Al Qaeda really being misused? We'll tell you what Pakistan says and what some U.S. officials are cited as saying.


MALVEAUX: A major New Hampshire newspaper is giving Mitt Romney a resounding thumbs down, saying the republican presidential candidate, quote, must be stopped. Joining us now, democratic strategist Peter Fenn, and republican strategist Dan Ronayne. Thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. First of all, I want to start off by pointing out this is New Hampshire's "Concord Monitor," this is a paper that traditionally will go ahead and endorse a candidate. This time they're not doing that, but they've slammed Mitt Romney. This is what the paper had to say, this is just a segment of it here. It says, "If a candidate is a phony we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it. Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no." Now we have heard from Romney's folks. They came back, they're really trying to downplay this. They came out saying, "The Monitor's editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it's not surprising that they would criticize Gov. Romney for his conservative views and platform." Dan, if you're on his campaign, how worried are you about this?

DAN RONAYNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A newspaper editorial, probably not all that much. I think their focus is going to be on Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is somebody who said that we're going to fund the troops in harm's way, of course I am, then she was one of 13 democrats, most of which are running for president, to not do that. If you want to look at credibility issues I think we have a lot to point out on the democrat front-runner.

MALVEAUX: Peter, do you agree?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well I think this really hurts Romney. I mean its his neighboring state, it's the capital newspaper. They are a democratic paper, but you know he suffered not only in New Hampshire, but in Iowa, and I think he's trying to spin this. But when you call somebody a phony, that is really harmful to a candidacy.

MALVEAUX: Dan, that goes directly to his character. He has really been building up, he's been talking about social issues and his record, he's been talking about his faith as well. Is he making a mistake in emphasizing that? Should he not be emphasizing, perhaps, his business experience?

RONAYNE: I think the governor's doing an awful lot of those things. I think what we need to look at is that when everyone's doing the mental gymnastics for this race, and probably the greater problem for Governor Romney is they're thinking how do we get to the nomination. People weren't thinking where Mike Huckabee would come in. And Mike Huckabee suddenly had a surge. It reminds me of a great movie, "Raiders of the Lost Arc", well this guy jumps up with a sword and does all this stuff and Harrison Ford looks at him, shrugs his shoulders and shoots him. That was how the campaign seemed to looked at Huckabee, like we can just turn our fire on, this guy will be out of our way, we can get back to things and now he's been hit, but we'll see if he can get up.

FENN: I think one of the problems he has is if he loses Iowa to Huckabee, and then loses New Hampshire say, to McCain, he's in deep trouble. He can't survive a double whammy. Just can't do it.

MALVEAUX: Now, I want to turn here for a moment, if we could. We've been talking a lot, nobody knows what's going to happen in Iowa and New Hampshire, but much of the year people have been really painting two front-runners here. Obviously Rudy Giuliani as well Senator Hillary Clinton, perhaps an image of inevitability here. Obviously that seems like goodness, this might be a strategy that has backfired, at least that's what some of the major papers are saying, can we twist this? Is it too late to turn that around?

RONAYNE: Well see at the start of this campaign I thought the front-runner on the Republican side was going to John McCain and then it was Rudy Giuliani and then I think it was Governor Romney and now I think we're sorting things out. On the democrats' side, everyone thought it would be Hillary Clinton. It looks like that race is tightening a bit now. It's anyone's guess. I guess that's why this is so exciting 10 days out.

MALVEAUX: Did they make a mistake here?

FENN: I think that the notion of inevitability with Iowa voters, New Hampshire voters, is a big mistake. They don't like to be told who to vote for. I do think that Rudy was artificially high from the beginning. He was Mr. 9/11, he was a rock star. A lot of us said he peaks the day he announces which is exactly I think what is happening if you look at his trajectory. And his negatives have doubled in a month, which is devastating. I think Rudy's in deep trouble. The only way Rudy wins this is if there's so much confusion in the first couple of primaries in South Carolina that February 5th does loom very large. But on the democratic side, you know, Hillary, I think her negatives were already out there, were already well known. So the question now is, can she come back and do well in Iowa and can she come back and do well in New Hampshire?

RONAYNE: Dan and in 2004, everyone said Iowa was Howard Dean's and polls two weeks before the election, Howard Dean first, Wesley Clark second, Joe Lieberman third. I believe John Kerry was at 7 percent. Edwards was around the same place. Iowans don't like getting told who they're nominee's going to be and who they're going to vote for.

FENN: Absolutely, on both sides.

MALVEAUX: The democrats, obviously the republicans have various issues, different issues that show their strength. The democrats for the most part seem to be pretty much in lock step. It's a nuance to differences in their positions, it's mostly anti-war, it's mostly universal health care. What is going to make the difference? What's the factor here when we talk about just days away from the Iowa caucuses? Is it going to be personalities? Is it going to be someone who's been married to the former president? What's going to jump out, what has to stand out, Dan?

RONAYNE: It's going to be interesting to see what that turns out to be. If you look at the democrats' side, I agree. They all have come together on the issues. I think part of that is going to be a problem for them in the general election because there are some behavior modification from groups like Moveon. You may recall about two years ago, Senator Clinton addressed them in D.C. and was booed. She is changed her positions to be more in line with the left and I think Edwards, Obama and Clinton have all come together on an agenda that the far left can support. The challenge for them to be, once we get into the sprint. FENN: I disagree with that, thinking. Because I think Hillary's campaign is based on seizing the middle. That's one of the problems that she has had in this primary, which is more liberal, but to answer your question, Suzanne, I think it is coming down to winnability. I think that both parties, but especially democrats, when they know -- they're very happy with the field, they like all the candidates, they want the candidate that can win in November. They're trying to sort through that right now.

RONAYNE: I think if you're a democrat, you've been through what you think are seven very tough years.

FENN: They're in the wilderness.

RONAYNE: They have to win. The argument the candidates are making is that I can win. Tom Beaumont, a great reporter for Des Moines Registry had a piece on Sunday. That's what the democrats, that's what their surrogates are out arguing. We'll see, but I think both sides and Hillary has my side pretty excited too. So we want to make sure we get a candidate that can win.

MALVEAUX: We have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks again.

Presidential candidates courting teenagers in Iowa. We'll show you what they're doing and will it be enough to get young people to show up at the caucuses?

Also a major complication in Iraq, Turkish war planes bombing the northern part of the country, a move that has world leaders now scrambling.

Plus declassified documents reveal shocking details of an FBI plan to detain thousands of Americans at the start of the Korean war. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


MALVEAUX: Here's a look at some of this hour's hot shots, pictures of Christmas Eve from around the world. In India, children gather on the beach around a sand sculpture of Santa Claus.

In southern Germany Bavarians fire guns to celebrate the coming holiday. In the West Bank, a boy watches catholic clergy read hymns outside the church of the nativity. And in Tokyo, this polar bear isn't exactly spreading the Christmas spirit, after getting a salmon as a Christmas treat. That's this hour's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

Right now, Barack Obama has a message for college students in Iowa -- help me win. The democratic presidential candidate is urging them to do whatever they can to participate in the state's all- important caucuses. Our CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Des Moines, Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Josh Mahoney, a junior at University of Northern Iowa is caucusing for Obama. It's a logistical nightmare.

JOSH MAHONEY, UNIV. OF NORTHERN IOWA: I'm going to drive four and a half hours from Sioux Falls, South Dakota in my Toyota Camry 1993 model, it's terrible and I'm embarrassed. I'm going to come all the way down here, and I'm going to caucus.

CROWLEY: If they'll be 18 by the 2008 election and are registered to vote where they will caucus, Iowa college students, regardless of where they're from, can participate.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're going to be out of state for the holidays, come back on January 3rd.

CROWLEY: Counting on students to trek back to college in the middle of winter break two days after New Year's is an iffy proposition. Even in-state students who can caucus at home are a tough get.

PROF. ARTHUR SANDERS, DRAKE UNIVERSITY: You have to identify where they're going to be on January 3rd and somehow communicate that to your field offices there. Here's some people who you won't be able to contact now, because they're not there yet, but they're going to get there soon.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama is a hit on college campuses. He campaigns against status quo politics. More than any other campaign, Obama-ville counts on the Joshes of Iowa.

MAHONEY: I think we're at the right age where we tend to get on board with a new strategy. One Obama strategist says the under 30 crowd is possibly the most highly motivated block of Obama supporters. The campaign has spent a better of the year collecting cell numbers and email addresses. John Edwards is targeting proven caucus goers. Hillary Clinton is aiming at middle aged women, considerably safer bets than the under 30 set. Twenty two year old Kris Hasstedt, an Iowa state senior is a Clinton man himself, but he doesn't sense that maybe the younger vote is coming of age.

KRIS HASSTEDT, IOWA STATE UNIV. STUDENT: I work at one of the grocery stores here which is mainly college students and a lot of them, every time I go in there it's abuzz about the candidates, who they're supporting, where they're going to caucus and stuff like that.

CROWLEY: Some Iowa colleges are planning to open up part of campus over the break so students can caucus.

OBAMA: Thank you so much, Cornell.

CROWLEY: At camp Obama they believe, they hope if colleges open, they will come.

(On camera): A cautionary note of which the Obama campaign is well aware. In 2004, just 17 percent of caucus goers were under 30. Candy Crowley, CNN, Des Moines.