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THE SITUATION ROOM
Straits of Hormuz Showdown; Kenya Situation
Aired January 7, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Jack in West Virginia: "I'm and Obama man, but I thought Hillary was entitled to step it up and belt it out on her record. People praise Edwards when he gets testy, Obama when he has a vision. At least give Hillary points for being on point about her record. And good grief, don't compare here to George Bush. Are you groggy from a weekend of really good football?"
Alan in Indianapolis: "Hillary Clinton is an angry woman. We saw that when her husband ran for office. She's not going to be a woman who bakes cookies -- or something to that effect. Bill's election team had to put her in seclusion until Bill was elected. She can run, but she can't hide. Her outburst reflects her personality -- frustrated, angry feminist. She'll never be elected."
And Brian writes: "One minute she's angry, another minute she's crying. Is she bipolar or just cold and calculating? Either way, she doesn't belong in the White House. I see the true colors shining through now and I think America is starting to see it, as well." -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
See you in a few moments.
Happening now, just hours to go until the crucial New Hampshire primary and our latest poll shows voters' favorites.
As Barack Obama builds a lead, tears building up in Hillary Clinton's eyes -- a rare moment of emotion as she makes a comeback effort.
"You will explode" -- that ominous threat in the Persian Gulf leads to fingers on the triggers as Iranian speedboats swarm around U.S. Navy warships -- a confrontation that came very close to a clash.
And as Democrats and Republicans get nasty, some top politicians make a pitch for bipartisanship.
Could that open the door to a third party candidate?
Names being mentioned, the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and even our own Lou Dobbs. I'll ask Lou about that.
I'm Wolf, Blitzer at the CNN Election Center in New York.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. The first voting of the New Hampshire primary now less than seven hours away and we have brand new poll numbers just being released right now. It's a CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
Take a look at these numbers.
The Democratic contenders first. Barack Obama with 39 percent right now. Hillary Clinton with 30 percent. John Edwards with 16 percent. But get this -- with 6 percent undecided right now and a 4 point sampling error, the Obama/Clinton race may be somewhat closer than it looks. We're watching that.
And on the Republican side, we have John McCain right now with 31 percent, Mitt Romney with 26 percent, Mike Huckabee with 13 percent, Rudy Giuliani down at 10 percent. But here, too, when you factor in the undecided and the sampling error, anything could still happen at the top -- at the top of this race.
We're going to have a lot more coming up on the race in New Hampshire, on the politics. That's coming up shortly.
But we want to get to another very important story we're following right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It was dangerous and it could -- could have been very deadly. The U.S. Navy says five small vessels from Iran's Revolutionary Guard rushed around three U.S. warships at very high speed. The U.S. Navy says the Iranians harassed the Americans and made a very ominous threat.
Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's watching this story for us -- it sounds like a very dramatic development, Barbara, but what exactly happened?
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it came close as you can get to a shootout -- a game of provocation, chicken and aggression. It all happened yesterday morning in the Persian Gulf when three U.S. Navy warships were trying to make their way through the Strait of Hormuz -- that vital chokepoint for a good deal of the world's oil supplies.
Suddenly, five small attack boats from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps rushed them, began to swarm around them.
The Navy tried to warn these Iranian attack boats away. It flashed lights at them. It blew whistles. It -- but the escalation continued.
Suddenly, there was a radio message that the U.S. Navy monitored that said -- and I: "-- "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes."
Then one of the Iranian attack boat boats dropped a number of white boxes into the water. The Navy was ready -- at general quarters -- ready to launch weapons against these Iranians. It was all just about to happen when the Iranians finally, at the last minute, turned away.
Today, the top U.S. Navy admiral in the region had a tense comment on the entire situation.
Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICE ADMIRAL KEVIN COSGRIFF, U.S. NAVY: I take this incredibly seriously and I expect that the commanding officers will successfully defend their ships and their crews at all times in this theater. It's important to remember, we have been attacked by small, high speedboats in the Gulf -- in the region -- the Cole and in the Northern Gulf a few years ago. We have suffered casualties. And we take this deadly seriously. So I expect that the commanding officers are going to follow their procedures and they're going to step through them with discipline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: The question may be, of course, why didn't the Navy shoot when one of those Iranian boats came within 200 yards of it?
It was a very threatening situation. The Navy says that basically they were, at the very last minute, able to make the Iranians turn away by pointing their weapons at them and making it very clear they were about to shoot. But make no mistake, there is a lot of concern about this incident. What the U.S. doesn't know really, Wolf, is what the Iranians were up to, why they decided to engage in this game of high stakes poker to begin with -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Barbara Starr watching this story for us at the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, two U.S. Navy fighter jets went down in the Persian Gulf earlier after a mid- air collision. Navy officials say the F-18 Super Hornets were from the aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman. One was a two-seater, the other a single seat aircraft. The three pilots were recovered safely. Officials say there's no indication of hostile fire. They say the incident is not tied to yesterday's confrontation between the U.S. and Iranian naval vessels.
A U.S. envoy has persuaded Kenya's president and opposition leader to sit down and discuss the disputed election, which threatened a brutal wave of violence there. Nearly 500 people have been killed in that carnage in Kenya. But Kenyans are also focusing in right now on another election campaign -- and that would be right here in the United States.
CNN's Zain Verjee is in Nairobi, Kenya.
Zain, all eyes are on Barack Obama. At least a lot of Kenyans are watching what's happening here -- Zain. ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Even with the election disaster and turmoil here in Kenya, Wolf, many people here are paying attention to the U.S. election race and what's going on back in the United States. And they say that they want their man to win.
VERJEE (voice-over): This was the scene when Barack Obama came to Kenya, to his family's hometown -- the same area now on fire -- much of it being destroyed. And Kenyans are fleeing the area for safety, fearful they will be targeted because of their tribe. As Kenyans reel from the election bloodshed, they're also keeping a close eye on the U.S. election and their favorite son -- Barack Obama. The editorial in today's "Daily Nation" shows Obama knocking John Edwards and Hillary Clinton out of a boxing ring. "It looks like the only person that can defeat Obama is Obama," it says.
Kenyans are definitely rooting for their nation's most famous American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Obama is in good relationship with the Kenya. He's just like our brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be happy if Obama wins the elections.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama. Barack Obama.
VERJEE: But some don't think an Obama win will change anything here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it will make any difference to Kenyans. Kenyans have got their own problems.
VERJEE: The top U.S. diplomat to Africa arrived here in Kenya this weekend to help the country resolve its disastrous election. A stable Kenya is vital to the U.S.
JENDAYI FRAZER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: It's been a very strong partner of ours over the years. And, so, absolutely. It's a key -- you know, it's a key country in supporting that the global war on terror. No doubt about it.
VERJEE: Terror attacks in Kenya, like the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy, have pushed both countries closer on counter-terrorism efforts and intelligence sharing on Al Qaeda. The U.S. also relies on Kenya to help with logistics when sending aid to the entire region.
So whoever becomes U.S. president, he or she will need Kenya to fight the war on terror. It's always been a friend to America in a region that often brings hostility toward it.
(END VIDEO TAPE) VERJEE: It's not just the United States that wants a stable Kenya, Wolf. Kenyans really want it, as well. What they're doing now is pressuring their own leaders. They're holding them accountable and saying you've got to end this election disaster, talk to each other and end the violence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, you're from Kenya. You've had a chance to visit some of the hardest hit areas today. Give us your impression.
VERJEE: Wolf, I was born and brought up here in Kenya. My family lived here. I've been here only for a few hours. And, really, the sense that I get is something that I have never seen before in my entire life. The atmosphere is really poisoned. There is a huge amount of ethnic hatred and hostility. The tribes here have lived together side-by-side for years. And yes, they've had their differences, but it was not like this.
I had a chance to go on the outskirts of Nairobi today, near a slum called Mavarah (ph). It's a big slum. And I talked to a lot of people who said that they were really scared to stay at home. And what they had done is just packed up all of their belongs and they're sitting out in the open air, waiting for food, waiting for help, and wondering when it will all be over. They appealed to me. They appealed to the leaders of Kenya to get their act together and to stop it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope they do, Zain.
Be careful over there.
Give our best wishes to your parents and family, as well.
Zain Verjee doing some excellent reporting for us from Kenya.
Let's bring in Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File.
She was in Pakistan doing excellent reporting last week, now in Kenya. Zain's doing a great job.
CAFFERTY: She's our globe trotter.
CAFFERTY: THE SITUATION ROOM globe trotter.
Barack Obama told cheering supporters in New Hampshire today: "You're the wave and I'm riding it."
And, boy, is he ever. Polls show him with a commanding lead over Hillary Clinton ahead of tomorrow's New Hampshire primary. Now whether or not Obama winds up riding this wave all the way to the White House, it seems that he will accomplish something extraordinary along the way -- and that is to leave an indelible mark on the age old dialogue about race relations in this country. Obama is black, but experts think that his win in Iowa -- which is whiter than the North Pole -- and rural -- shattered what many people think about black Americans in national politics. Think about when Al Sharpton ran for president, for example.
Conservative commentator George Will suggested the two big losers in all of this are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who Will says have an investment in the "traditional and utterly exhaustive narrative about race relations in United States."
Will says Americanized are tired of so-called identity politics -- where people are defined by things like their ethnicity and their gender.
Another sign that Obama's candidacy is something more -- Fox News reports a lot of big time black celebrities have not yet announced their support of Obama -- people like Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Quincy Jones, BET chairman and founder, Robert Johnson, Motown founder Barry Gordy, Jr., authors Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, and rappers Diddy and Jay-Z.
So here's the question -- how does Barack Obama's success so far in the campaign change the debate about race in this country?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
A good question.
Hillary Clinton getting emotional today out on the campaign trail today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The former frontrunner trying to make a comeback in New Hampshire while Barack Obama rides a wave of momentum.
Plus, the third party X factor.
Could an unexpected candidate turn the race to the White House on its head?
I'll speak with one man whose name is actually being floated out there, including in today's "Wall Street Journal" -- our own Lou Dobbs. He's standing by.
And presidential affair -- France's first girlfriend and a possible marriage two months after the divorce. Politics, Paris style. Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In New Hampshire today, change is the campaign buzz word. But Hillary Clinton may be feeling like she's running into a buzz saw as Barack Obama builds the lead.
Today, Senator Clinton showed some emotion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You know, I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards. You know -- so...
CLINTON: You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening. And we have to reverse it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Suzanne Malveaux is in New Hampshire right now -- Suzanne, the nerves and the tempers fraying out there a little bit.
What are you seeing?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
I mean it was interesting, that debate, as well as the results out of Iowa, dramatically changing how this race is shaping up. And it is changing on a day to day basis.
I spoke with Senator Clinton. She lost the young voters in Iowa. She lost the women voters. She says she's not looking in the rearview mirror, but her message is being retooled. And each one of the top three candidates is fighting more aggressively for those Independent voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yeahhhh!!!!
MALVEAUX (voice-over): It wasn't the Howard Dean scream, but it was a moment.
CLINTON: I want to make change, but I've already made change.
MALVEAUX: The Democrat's weekend debate was a turning point for the race's top three -- John Edwards joining Barack Obama in painting Hillary Clinton as the status quo.
JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack.
MALVEAUX: While some politicos saw her flash of rage as a sign she was losing it, Clinton used the moment to get back her mojo.
CLINTON: I did respond very passionately, because I've been a change agent. And, you know, I want people to know that I'm a fighter.
MALVEAUX: Game on.
Obama is fighting back.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what the people of Iowa understood was the real gamble is to have the same old folks doing the same old things over and over and over again and somehow expecting a different result. That's a risk we can't take. That's a gamble we cannot afford.
MALVEAUX: John Edwards continue to cast himself as the candidate more like Obama -- just a bit tougher.
EDWARDS: That choice, that decision between two change candidates is something we need to be able to have -- a debate between those two candidates in an unfiltered way.
MALVEAUX: With polls showing Obama's lead widening, Clinton is now dismissing her opponent as all talk, no action.
CLINTON: Bring about change by making sure we nominate and elect a doer, not a talker.
MALVEAUX: Clinton is also trying to paint Obama as inconsistent on the issues.
CLINTON: It is significant that if someone is going to rail about lobbyists and claim that, you know, they are above all of this kind of special interest influence, that the fact that Senator Obama's chairman here in New Hampshire is a lobbyist is a relevant piece of information.
MALVEAUX (on camera): Why do you think it's relevant, that he's a lobbyist?
Because his own campaign says that they think that that's an act of desperation on your part, on your campaign, because it had never come up before.
CLINTON: Well, there's a time for things to come up, when people know about them and when the contrasts are being drawn, when voters are paying attention.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, make no mistake about it, voters are paying very close attention. Obama's campaign said that his chairman does not lobby for the federal government or for Obama, that he has been fully vetted. But what was interesting today is it was the Edwards campaign that picked up on this story, used it out on the stump to try to make the case that Obama is tied to special interests -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Suzanne.
Thanks very much.
Among Republicans, our latest poll conducted by the University CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows John McCain holding onto a lead over Mitt Romney, with the other candidates bunched well behind. It seems GOP voters know who they want.
But do they know who they want?
Let's go out to Mary Snow.
She's in New Hampshire.
She's watching what's going on. What are the voters telling you on the Republican side -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of them are saying they just haven't made up their minds yet.
We're here in Bedford, New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney is going to be having a town hall in about an hour from now. A lot of people have been going to these kinds of campaign events the throughout the day, for all the candidates, to try and get more information to make a decision. You know, that poll that you just mentioned also finds that 27 percent of Republican primary voters are still undecided.
SNOW (voice-over): In the Republican race, voters are clear on their choices, just not their decisions. Take Karen Whitaker (ph). She says she's an Independent. She supports a woman's right to choose, but has decided to support Republican Mitt Romney -- who does not support abortion rights.
Her main issue?
The economy and taxes.
KAREN WHITAKER: ...talking about who is the middle class, what income range.
SNOW: Whitaker says she was satisfied with Romney's answer that he tried to reduce the tax burden for people making $200,000 and less. But the issue of illegal immigration was also key to her decision making.
WHITAKER: I'd like to see the illegal -- the illegal immigrant situation fixed and resolved.
SNOW: A tug of war between conservative and moderate positions among Republicans, say some political observers, has left many voters split.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no center to this race. It's really just dividing and people are going their separate ways.
SNOW: Republican Elizabeth Fornay (ph) is still mulling her favorite.
(on camera): What's your main issue?
ELIZABETH FORNAY: My main issue right now is Iraq -- where do they stand on the troops in Iraq and how are they going to deal with terrorism and Al Qaeda and all that stuff in Iraq.
SNOW: But social issues are also very important to Fornay, and she says she's considering Mike Huckabee.
Mark Motley (ph), who says he's an Independent, is divided between Senator John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.
MARK MOTLEY: Giuliani is a little bit more liberal on the social issues, which I'm not -- I don't bank to the far right on the social issues whatsoever. But it's a very critical time in this nation, I think, in foreign relations right now. And so I must admit, I lean a little bit more toward McCain.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And, Wolf, in addition to these issues, some pollsters here in New Hampshire say another big factor these voters are weighing is who can win against a Democratic nominee -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow watching the story in New Hampshire.
He drew only 1 percent of the Iowa Republican caucuses. He has dismal poll ratings in New Hampshire and he's being left out of televised debates. But the California congressman, Duncan Hunter, says he's in the presidential race to stay. Hunter said today that no matter what happens in New Hampshire, he'll move on to South Carolina.
Their experienced to make the difference in New Hampshire. That would be Independent voters.
Which way are they leaning?
We're on the ground talking to them. We'll take you there live.
And take a look at this -- a volcano forcing thousands of people to flee. More of this amazing video coming up.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this just coming in to us now, Wolf.
Our Dan Simon breaking this story. You know those -- that tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo?
Well, the lead investigator tells CNN no criminal charges will be filed against two of the young men involved in that tiger attack. As you know, there had been allegations that those boys were taunting the tiger and that somehow the tiger leaped out of his pen and attacked the young men because they were taunting him.
Well, the lead investigator tells our Dan Simon there is no evidence of any taunting, so no criminal charges will be filed. So the investigation continues.
Also in the news this afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court appears divided after hearing a landmark death penalty case today. Moderate justices seemed open to arguments that execution by lethal injection should be banned as cruel and unusual punishment because prisoners could suffer pain if the sedative wears off too quickly. Conservatives appeared more concerned about delaying executions.
The violent crime rate in the United States appears to have turned around last year and started heading lower again. According to a brand new but preliminary study from the FBI, murder, rape, robbery and assault were down in the first half of 2007. And this reverses a disturbing trend. After declining for more than a decade, the violent crime rate had turned upward in 2005 and 2006.
One look at these spectacular pictures from Ecuador and you won't have to ask why at least 1,000 villagers who live on the slopes of this volcano headed for safer ground over the weekend.
Isn't that spectacular?
This is the second major volcanic eruption in South America during the past week. A volcano in Chile blew its top last Tuesday.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much.
Campaigning down to the wire -- presidential candidates making their final appeals to New Hampshire voters. We're going to take you live to Barack Obama's rally. That's happening right now.
Also, it could change everything we know so far about the '08 race -- that would be if a third party candidate got into it. Some people want to know would that third party candidate -- would it possibly be CNN's own Lou Dobbs? Well, we're going to ask Lou. That's coming up live.
Plus, a major league baseball star sues over allegations he used steroids.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, a major winter storm hitting Arizona, bringing rain and flash flooding; more than an inch of rain, in fact, falling in parts of the Phoenix area and more than a foot of snow in the northern mountains.
Also, President Bush urging Congress to reauthorize his no child left behind education reform plan. Critics say it's focused on the standardized testing, sacrificing real learning. But Mr. Bush says he knows the program has worked.
Baseball star Roger Clemens is suing his former trainer for defamation for telling major league investigators he injected Clemens with performance enhancing drugs.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
White House hopefuls taking New Hampshire by storm; they'll be campaigning into the night as we count down to the nation's first primary. Here's what some of the republican presidential candidates are saying today.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The key fact is to recognize that 80 percent of our healthcare expenditures are going to chronic disease. So we have to do is start moving towards a prevention system rather than an intervention system because we really don't have a healthcare system, John. What we've got is a disease care system. We need a health system that focuses on being healthy, not waiting until people are really desperately ill, and then trying to figure out how to put them back together again.
REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The whole point is why is our government so big? Why are we policing the world? Why do we have a runaway welfare state, and why is our dollar crashing? It's because of our economic system here that we have been spending too much and not only do we tax too much and borrow too much and then we turn around to the Federal Reserve and to expect the Federal Reserve to bail us out by printing more money. Then we wonder why our dollar is weak and why inflation is coming back. I mean it's astounding that they nitpick over who raised or who lowered taxes ten years ago.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a to-do list we've been talking about for years. I'm going to get it done. There's no way that somebody inside Washington, a Washington insider, is going to be able to turn Washington inside-out. It's one reason why I'm running. I don't have years and years of favors I have to repay, lobbyists who've raised all sorts of money for me.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to win tomorrow, and I'm going to win because of the judgment that's made by the people of this state and they may not agree with me on every issue, but they know they can trust me to do the right thing, and what I do will not be driven by any poll. It will be driven by principle that I have served this nation since I raised my hand at the age of 17 to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America.
BLITZER: By the way, if you would like to watch any of the candidates today in their final push for votes in New Hampshire, just go to CNN.com/live to watch their rallies, their events. They're streamed live. You can always do that.
Hillary Clinton showed early strength among black voters, but are African-Americans moving towards Barack Obama after his very impressive showing in Iowa and the New Hampshire polls? Let's bring in our CNN contributor, Roland Martin. He's got his ear to the community.
What is going on? What do you sense based on your conversations and your radio program?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we talked about it this morning on my show. What is it about Obama that is causing this reaction? What is happening is somehow white voters in Iowa have validated Obama. So therefore African-Americans now feel that Obama is acceptable to vote for. I even asked the senator that question on Friday. He had a good laugh about it. That's really what it boils down to.
There was a lot of concern that he simply was not electable because they said I just don't think white voters in America are going to accept Obama. Now that's changing. The Obama campaign said on Friday they have a huge number of volunteers flooding their offices. People have been e-mailing, have been calling and saying hey, I want to get involved. I want to do something. What can I do? People were sitting here asking who do you even talk to? So they're getting lots of emotion and energy that's driving this.
Another story that's really interesting story, Wolf, there was a woman in South Carolina, a very elderly woman, and she was hoping to live through November to see him elected. She died a couple of weeks ago. She was an Obama volunteer. So the volunteers who were around her, they have made it their mission to get him elected because they want to fulfill her legacy and say, hey, at least she can possibly smile down from heaven in seeing him win.
BLITZER: That's a fascinating phenomenon because Iowa predominantly white, 95, 98 percent. The same with New Hampshire, very few minorities in New Hampshire. So if white voters in New Hampshire, quote, validate him, it's onto South Carolina where it's a very different mix over there because of what half of the democratic vote expected to be African-American.
MARTIN: Absolutely. Here's what's very interesting. It kept me up all night Friday and I bounced this question off several Obama folks but also folks on the political campaign. What would happen if African-Americans still split their vote between the two and somehow it is white voters who put Obama over the top? Because conventional wisdom says he should get 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent of the black vote. That may very well not happen. He has been successful in being able to appeal to a wide variety of people. So in really thinking about it, he doesn't necessarily have to grab a lion's share of the black vote to continue winning. That would be an interesting dynamic. It would certainly go along with how crazy the campaign is.
BLITZER: But the Clintons are very popular in the African- American community especially Bill Clinton.
MARTIN: Very popular but also they're very worried because on Friday after Iowa, they were trying to lock up their funders, making sure they don't go across the street. Also, those early endorsements. In South Carolina, there are a lot of people who are very concerned that they might be on the wrong side of history and what they don't want is to five or ten years from now, tell their children and who asked where were you when the first black African-American was elected as president, they would say I wasn't with him. That's a serious concern for a lot people. If he wins New Hampshire you're going to see a lot of dancing take place and you very well might see some people leave the Clinton camp and go to the Obama camp.
BLITZER: Roland Martin, thanks very much. Good analysis.
MARTIN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: On our political ticker, we're going to take you inside New Hampshire in tomorrow's high-stakes primary. Let's bring in our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's watching this for us.
All right. Take us inside, Jeff, and show us what's going on.
JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: OK, Wolf.
New Hampshire is a very distinctive state. In one respect it's very similar to Iowa, where we just had the caucuses. It's evenly divided between democrats and republicans. Last time, John Kerry barely defeated George Bush. Four years earlier George Bush barely defeated Al Gore.
The way the vote is structured in New Hampshire is that the northern part has almost no people in it. Almost all of the votes are here in the southern part of New Hampshire, and here we have Boston down here. And the southern part of New Hampshire is almost like a suburb at this point of Boston. A lot of people have moved up for the low taxes. That's why taxes are always a big issue in New Hampshire; although the state in recent years has become much more liberal. Concord the state capitol, look John Kerry won 60 percent of the vote. That's a sign of how things have been going. Both seats went over to the democrats last term. It now has a democratic governor. You're going to see tomorrow night, everybody is going to be looking at Manchester, which is the biggest city, which is look at that, 50/50 evenly divided. And that's a thumbnail of where things stand in New Hampshire.
BLITZER: And that tiny little state is going to have a significant potential impact on the race for the White House. Jeff, thanks very many much.
TOOBIN: 41st biggest state, 0.4 percent of the population but out sized influence.
BLITZER: And Iowa, too. Just goes to show you, that's the system. All right. Jeff, thanks very much.
Here's a question for you. Lou Dobbs for president? Guess what? He's going to be joining us to talk about an effort under way to actually draft him. We're going to show you what the New York Mayor, by the way, Michael Bloomberg, is doing today that had some people wondering if he, Bloomberg, may still make a third party bid.
Plus, the lover affair scandalizing much of France right; will the president remarry just months after his divorce?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Forget democrats and republicans. It's independents who may hold the key to winning the New Hampshire primaries. So where do they stand with the first voting in the granite state only a few hours away. Let's go out there. Dan Lothian is standing by.
Dan, New Hampshire's independents are very famous. Who are they backing?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now they're paying a lot of attention to Obama and McCain. This is, as you mentioned, a key group because 44 percent of registered voters in the state identify themselves as independents; more than democrats, more than republicans.
LOTHIAN: First time New Hampshire voter, 18-year-old Sheridan Cudworth, is what every candidate wants, a registered independent. And with just hours to go, she says she's still undecided.
SHERIDAN CUDWORTH, FIRST-TIME VOTER: It's a really big choice for me. I feel like I have to do a lot of thinking to make that right choice.
LOTHIAN: Eight years ago, independents overwhelmingly leaned republican and helped Senator John McCain win his party's primary. But a new CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire now shows them leaning towards democrats, 60 percent compared to 40 percent planning to vote for a republican.
PAUL MANUEL, ST. ANSELM COLLEGE: We expect a fluidity among independents.
LOTHIAN: St. Anselm professor of politics Paul Manuel says candidates can't win here by only appealing to their own parties.
MANUEL: Everyone's reaching out but two are resonating.
LOTHIAN: And that's McCain and Obama.
MANUEL: That's McCain and Obama.
LOTHIAN: Setting up a critical challenge for Senator Hillary Clinton and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who are both fighting to rebound after losing in Iowa.
The Obama campaign says it has been reaching out to independents much like they have to everyone else, by listening and responding. Senator McCain is hoping his independent streak that boosted support among independents eight years ago will work for him again.
18-year-old Cudworth who is getting ready to attend college is split between republican and democrat; McCain and Senator Edwards, education among her top concerns. What will help her decide in these final hours?
CUDWORTH: Someone maybe saying that one right thing that will sway me; someone acting human, instead of just being a campaign drone.
LOTHIAN: Independent voters obviously do care about the issues, but they're turned off by what they see in politics. What they are attracted to are candidates that they believe have the best message of change. Wolf?
BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks very much.
Let's get some analysis now on these independent voters out there. Lou Dobbs is here with us.
Before we do that Lou, I got to get you to react. There was a story in the "Wall Street Journal" today, a new story, not an editorial, not a letter to the editor, not someone, a relative of yours. A real reporter wrote a story saying that they are people out there who really want you to run for president, as an independent, third-party candidate, and that you refuse to rule that out.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I refuse to say never. I have said I am not a candidate for president. I am not contemplating running for president. I'm very flattered by the fact that there are lots of people trying to get me to run for president. I'm an advocacy journalist and I'm having a great, great time right now focusing on these issues and trying to come to terms with the reality that I'm not sure that the other candidates in this race and we just heard about the independent candidates. Michael Bloomberg said the same thing I've been saying. These are not the strongest -- this is not the strongest lineup of candidates in either political party. I mean I hear this thing about Obama. Everybody is fascinated by Obama. I mean, on what position? These people, it's fascinating to me to watch this process right now.
BLITZER: Well, do people actually - are people coming to you, whether political strategists or average folks, are they saying, Lou, we want you to run?
DOBBS: Well, absolutely. As a matter of fact, over Christmas break during my vacation, I was approached by a number of people and a number of organizations, and I have got to say, you know, this is just not my interest. And as I've said, as you well know as a long- standing colleague, I don't have the nature or the personality to put up with the nonsense that these candidates have to put up with. You know, I'm not one who is given to putting up with circular reasoning and a lot of blabber.
BLITZER: People are going to press. So why can't you say I will never run for president? That's what caused the buzz.
DOBBS: It's a very simple thing.
BLITZER: You can't say never.
DOBBS: Are you suddenly and absolutist, Wolf?
BLITZER: I could say I would never run for president.
DOBBS: Tonight I'm going to ask you to come onto my broadcast and I'll ask you if you're going to run. But unfortunately I can't say never. Every time I've said never in my life I found that perhaps I overstated a bit.
BLITZER: Okay. So there's a tiny, tiny little.
DOBBS: There is the same tiny, tiny bit, as you put it, that exists for nearly all of us who understand that life is not always entirely predictable or predicted.
BLITZER: All right. So let's talk ant about Michael Bloomberg.
BLITZER: Because he's certainly spooling speculation. He's out there in Oklahoma today with a lot of moderate democrats, moderate republicans, who say they're not necessarily happy with what's going on, the partisanship all over the country, and they're looking perhaps towards him, because he has billions of dollars.
DOBBS: He has billions of dollars. He can cut out the middleman. He can buy that office directly. BLITZER: He can take a billion and not really feel it.
BLITZER: What do you think about that?
DOBBS: I think that if Michael Bloomberg, I'll say exactly what Michael Bloomberg said of me. I think if he wants to run he should run. We need some choice in this. I'm not sure to the degree which he represents choice in terms of elitism and the establishment, but we need choice in this race.
I mean look at the differences amongst these democratic candidates. Look at the differences among these republican candidates. We're talking about the slenderest of reeds that we without put between them.
And the national media, my gosh, we should just have the dickens slapped out of us. We're just sitting here analyzing, trying to digest and shape and form a conclusion to each one of these races. Wolf, the American people out there, at least instinctively understand something that we don't intellectually in the national press corp. 120,000 votes make up Obama and Huckabee to this point. 120,000 votes and my God, we've got people talking about momentum. We've got people talking about is this candidate out or is this candidate? It is absolute sheer nonsense. And we need to have the guts, the intellectual honesty and the imperial awareness to say to our audience, folks, there's a long way to go here. Only 120,000 Americans have made a difference right now; a little over 40,000 voting for Mike Huckabee, a little over 80,000 voting for Barack Obama. We're talking a difference of second and third place in Iowa. Sports fans, we're talking two tenths of one percent the difference between second and third and on this we base the conclusion that Senator Hillary Clinton's political is ended. Amazing.
BLITZER: Fair point, Lou. And you're going to be doing a lot more of this I'm sure at 7 p.m. eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM. Lou Dobbs speaking his mind. Thanks very much.
DOBBS: Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
How does Barack Obama's success so far in the campaign changed the debate about race in this country? That's Jack Cafferty's question this hour. He is standing by with your e-mail.
Plus, first it was divorce. Now the French are being fascinated by the prospect their president may soon remarry.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty file. Jack? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is how does Barack Obama's success so far in the campaign change the debate about race in this country?
Ruby writes, "I'm a 61-year-old African-American woman who has seen the worst of America's race relations. I did not support Obama at first because I thought his candidacy was sheer folly. But after Iowa and maybe New Hampshire, I'm beginning to believe the America I learned about in school may finally be here."
Essie in North Carolina, "I don't think Obama's race has been an issue at all. Color is not what comes to my mind when I see him. What I see is hope, change and opportunity."
Janice writes, "It's a great question. Finally, somebody's talking about what Barack's success really means. Yes, it's America and people of all races, religions and gender have equal opportunity! The "Jesse Jackson" race card group needs to find something else to fuss about or maybe get a real job! Uncle Tom died a long time ago. Good ridden and may he rest in peace."
C. writes, "People would like to believe race is no longer an issue in America but sadly, it still is. That said, I think the support for Obama from all races and both genders is promising! I think the support for Obama is telling of how much the country is in trouble and the fact that people are willing to put personal prejudice aside and vote for a candidate they believe will do what's best for the majority of middle class Americans."
Steven weighs in with, "I haven't really thought much about race as it relates to the Obama candidacy. I'm a Clinton supporter. However, if getting him elected would mean pushing a racist rabble- rouser like Al Sharpton deep into the oblivion he deserves, I might be persuaded to vote for him. It's refreshing to have a black man, OK half black, on the national stage without blaming the rest of the world for all of black society's problems."
And Joanne in Boston writes, "Barack Obama has changed the debate about race this way. We are judging him by the content of his character, not the color of his skin." Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jack. See you in a few moments.
Take an Italian model, add a French president and a recent divorce, and you have an affair that the French perhaps love to hate. We're going to take a closer look at politics, French style.
Plus, it's the most popular word on the campaign trail. Maybe it's time for a change.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: His divorce made front-page news just weeks after his election. Now, so is speculation about a possible new wife. So what do the French make of their president's love life? Our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, is in Paris.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One recent day months after French President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected, several opposition news editors vowed to go 24 hours without mentioning his name. They found it impossible. And such a thing would have been especially unthinkable this weekend. There he was in Jordan very publicly on tour again with top model/singer/girlfriend, Carla Bruni and what's more, there was new life being pumped into old rumors. A Sunday paper said it was true what Bruni's Italian mother reportedly said before Christmas. The couple are going to get married. The paper says the date is in early February. The president's office has not commented. Out on the streets, the reaction seemed at first to follow closely the line of Red Butler to Scarlet O'Hara.
CHARLES, RETIRED ENGINEER: I don't care. I don't give a damn.
BITTERMANN: You don't give a damn?
AURELIEN BOYER, ARCHITECTURE STUDENT: I don't want to know if he's getting married to Carla Bruni. I don't want to know
BITTERMANN: But there are signs people are beginning to care more about the jet setting image of their president than they initially let on.
MARC SIAKA, CREDIT ANALYST: When he goes in the private jet and the average French have struggled to earn a good living, it's not really good.
BITTERMANN: Also not good for Sarkozy were stories in the weekend rpess which show his popularity diving in the public opinion polls and some connect that with his very public bachelorhood.
LOIC DORGERET, MARKETING ASSISTANT: We do believe that Nicolas Sarkozy care much more about Carla Bruni than France.
BITTERMANN: Do you think that?
DORGERET: Yes, I do think that.
BITTERMANN: No matter what the popular analysis, political specialists say a presidential marriage would at least clarify things. The pictures of the president and his companion romancing along the Nile not only raised eyebrows in France but among devout conservatives in Egypt.
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