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Interview With John Edwards; Presidential Candidates Head to Nevada, South Carolina

Aired January 16, 2008 - 20:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from the balcony of Trader Vic's with the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip stretching out below us.
This week, Nevada's big draw is presidential politics. We're counting down to Super Tuesday, when voters in nearly half of the states in this nation make their choice for president. But there are crucial contests before then.

On Saturday, voters in Nevada and South Carolina's Republicans have their say.

On this program, we convene the best political team on television to bring you more from the candidates, so you can make smart decisions on your Election Day.

Tonight, I will ask John Edwards how he would head off a recession and help you keep your job.

Plus, Lou and his guests will tackle which candidates will help you keep your home, important, particularly in a state, Nevada, with the worst foreclosure rate in the country.

It is also a state where unions and Latinos have got an awful lot of clout. At least one in five Nevada residents is Latino. And they could make up more than one-fourth of caucus-goers on Saturday.

Our Chris Lawrence has been looking into the issues that they care out and their reaction to the candidates.

Chris, what did you find out?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, with all the foreclosures here in Nevada, Latino here voters are like anyone else. They're looking for a candidate who can help revive the state's economy.

I also spoke with a man who said he plans to caucus for Hillary Clinton this weekend, specifically because her health care plan provides and mandates coverage for everyone.


JAVIER BARAJAS, RESTAURANT OWNER: Most business don't have insurance. We are afraid to get sick. And that's one of the most important things that I'm worried every day that one of my kids going to get sick or that I going to go to the hospital. And how I going to pay?


LAWRENCE: Immigration is also a huge issue here.

I spoke with a young woman who said she was undocumented before Ronald Reagan's amnesty plan. Now she is a U.S. citizen, a college grad looking to go to grad school.

She wants that same opportunity for other immigrants. She plans to caucus, very excitedly, for Barack Obama this weekend and plans also to hold him to some of his promises.


DANA RAMOS, FIRST-TIME VOTER: I expect him to deliver on what he wants to do, is open path to undocumented workers and families to become legalized here, whether it be just a resident program or attaining a path to citizenship.


LAWRENCE: Barack Obama won the endorsement of the state's largest and most powerful union, the culinary workers. And that is a huge, huge deal here in Nevada.

You think that's the end of the fight, think again. Coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," we are going to tell you why Hillary Clinton is fighting tooth and nail for every one of those voters.

ROBERTS: Looking forward to that.

A lot of Latinos in the state of Nevada work in the service industry. They work in these hotels, these casinos. Many of them may not be able to get out to caucus on Saturday. How are they looking at approaching that problem?

LAWRENCE: I think what they are doing is, they are actually going to set up some of the caucus areas in some of the casinos themselves, kind of a revolutionary idea, if you don't live here in Las Vegas.

But a lot of these workers are shift workers, meaning they will be working during the time of the caucuses. So, they are going to bring the caucuses to the actual places where they work.

ROBERTS: Political process inside the casinos.


ROBERTS: Only in Las Vegas.


ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence, thanks very much. Well, the top three Democratic candidates debated in Nevada last night, then campaigned here today. Senator Hillary Clinton was asked how she intends to appeal to Hispanic voters here in Nevada, as well as across the country.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As you know, I have got a very large Latino constituency in New York that has supported me very strongly. It is diverse.

It has a lot of same concerns that my other constituents do, as well as some very specific ones that go right to the heart of economic and educational opportunity and access to affordable health care, dealing with some of the problem that the Hispanic community face, like a very high dropout rate, something I have addressed for more than 10 years, starting in the White House years, looking at ways we could create more support for young people to stay in school.

So, I have a long history.


ROBERTS: Senator Barack Obama also took on another Nevada issue that has nationwide implications, illegal immigration.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are some folks who say they ought to deport them.


OBAMA: Now, listen, I just want to explain sort of realistically what this would mean. We would have to take all of our law enforcement and we would say, don't stop arresting people for burglary and rape and murder, because you have to go get undocumented workers.

So, we send them into (INAUDIBLE) and restaurants and Mitt Romney's lawn.


OBAMA: It would cost billions of dollars. We would have to empty out our jails to fill them all up with undocumented workers or build these thousands of new detention centers across the country.

We would have to line up buses, get people on. Think about what that would look like on television, us shipping millions of people out of the country. That's not who we are.


ROBERTS: And, for his part, John Edwards held town hall meetings in Reno and Las Vegas today. Before he departed for Reno, I sat down with the former senator and asked him what he would do about the looming recession and the mortgage crisis.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was actually the first of the three of us to come out with a really aggressive stimulus package and a plan to do something about the mortgage crisis.

Stimulus package is green infrastructure, building our green infrastructure, which is a great jobs creation mechanism, modernizing our unemployment insurance laws, so we get more help to people who are being left out, more help to the states, who, unfortunately, are cutting budgets and as a result keeping money out of the economy. And it needs to be in the economy, not out of the economy.

And, on the mortgage crisis, I think we need a home rescue fund to help with some transitional financing and some counseling from people who are struggling. We need to give bankruptcy courts the authority to restructure these loans. We need to put pressure on lenders to give -- make more refinancing options available.

This is a huge issue here in Nevada, because they have an enormous foreclosure rate in this state.

ROBERTS: You have proposed tax cuts for middle-income Americans to try to stimulate the economy.

EDWARDS: I have.

ROBERTS: Yet, at the same time, your overall economic plan, and your position on taxes, is to roll back the Bush tax cuts on people making above $200,000 a year.

EDWARDS: That's correct.

ROBERTS: Is this the time to be raising taxes on anyone?

EDWARDS: What we ought to be doing is, we ought to be helping middle-class families, helping provide them with some financial security. This economic stimulus I just talked about will do that -- dealing with the downside, which the foreclosures is a piece of it.

But we also have just got to give direct help to middle-class families. That's what my tax cuts are for.

ROBERTS: But you are not putting more money. You're just keeping the amount of money that they have got now.

EDWARDS: But they're going to pay the same tax rates that they paid in the 1990s, when the economy was booming, by the way. So, I think what makes sense is roll back those tax cuts, give more for the wealthiest Americans. Give...

ROBERTS: Even in the face of a recession? EDWARDS: As long as we are doing what we need to do for middle- class families. Now, it would be a huge mistake to raise taxes on middle-class families. They need help. They don't need to be carrying additional tax burdens.

ROBERTS: In the Michigan primary, which your name was not on the ballot, nor was Barack Obama's -- Hillary Clinton was the only one of the major candidates who was on the ballot -- 68 percent...


ROBERTS: ... of African-Americans in Michigan voted uncommitted in the primary.

EDWARDS: Really? I had not heard that.

ROBERTS: What kind of signal do you think that sends to Hillary Clinton?

EDWARDS: Well, that would indicate to me that they are looking for another candidate. That's the only way to read it, I think.

ROBERTS: On the issue of Iraqi reconciliation, Nouri al-Maliki finally seems to be gaining some strength in his position, perhaps as a result of the fact that the surge appears to have reduced the amount of violence in Iraq.

However, the United States, General Petraeus and his advisers are concerned that al-Maliki is not going to use the power to reconcile the differences between the Shiites and the Sunnis.


ROBERTS: In fact, he may just entrench his partisan sectarian power.

EDWARDS: Yes. Yes.

ROBERTS: If you were president, what would you tell him right now?

EDWARDS: I would tell him, we are going to start leaving. I would start drawing out 40,000, 50,000 troops immediately. And I would say, we are going to be gone from here in nine to 12 months -- nine to 10 months -- and if you are going to ever make an effort, you better do it now, because otherwise you are going to be left with the consequences.

ROBERTS: Senator Edwards, it is always great to catch up with you.

EDWARDS: Thanks, John.


ROBERTS: Well, when you think of union towns, Las Vegas probably isn't the first place that comes to mind. Surprise. Unionized casino workers are a big force here. We're going to take a look at which candidates are betting that they will come through on caucus night.

Plus, what's chillier, South Carolina's weather today or Mitt Romney's reception there?

And my colleague Lou Dobbs is now down in the CNN Election Center in New York.

Lou, what have you got coming up for us?


We just heard Senator Barack Obama say we can't round up and deport all of the illegal aliens in this country. I'm about to convene a special panel here tonight on which presidential candidate will really secure our borders and really bring illegal aliens out of the shadows and which candidate will stop the nonsense about what this country can and cannot accomplish.



Obviously, illegal immigration, border security dominating among the issues that are dominating on this presidential campaign.

Tonight, we are focusing on the next big contest, which of course is South Carolina, the Republican primary there, the Nevada caucuses, both coming up Saturday. The candidates face a new and different selection of voters in Nevada now. Hispanics there make up at least 20 percent of the population. And Nevada is on the front line of the illegal immigration crisis.

Joining me now is Miguel Perez, syndicated columnist, journalism professor at Lehman College here in New York.

Good to have you with us, Miguel.

Luis Valera from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Luis, thanks for joining us.

And, Dan Stein, he's president of the Federation for Immigration Reform.

Dan, thank you for joining us.


DOBBS: Let me begin, Miguel, if I may, with you.

The issue of Hispanic voters, all the attention that is being focused on Vegas because of the culinary workers, half of whom are reported to be, as many as half, reported to be illegal aliens. What's going on in this political contest?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you know, some people call it pandering.

When you come to my community, Lou, and you are a politician and you come to the Hispanic community and you tell me -- you mispronounce a few words in Spanish, and you really, you know, talk very superficially, and you don't deal with the substance, then you are pandering.

DOBBS: Right.

PEREZ: But if you are coming into my community and you're doing what you are supposed to do, which is talk about the issues that interest me, that's what you are supposed to be doing.

DOBBS: Luis Valera, you are getting exposed, I would guess there, in Las Vegas to pandering and to effective politics as well by these candidates.

What's your reaction to the candidates so far? How big a role should we expect here for identity and group politics, in this case Hispanic votes, in Nevada?

LUIS VALERA, LAS VEGAS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, I would dare say that it's going to be pivotal to either candidate.

Senator Clinton has been successful in securing the endorsement of a couple of key legislators here in Nevada. One of them is Ruben Kihuen, who got elected from a grassroots campaign. The other one is John Oceguera, who is the majority leader in the state assembly.

And I think that those are key endorsements among her other endorsements from leaders in the Hispanic community. On the other hand, I don't know that it can be overstated the importance of Senator Obama's endorsement of the powerful culinary union. That is going to -- that's going to be a battle royal, if you will.

DOBBS: A battle royal.

VALERA: Absolutely.

DOBBS: And to what degree -- and this is where I'm having a lot of trouble.

And Miguel and I talk about it from time to time. And we focus on it of course on my broadcast.

What in the world is the difference in the issues for Hispanic Americans and all Americans of any ethnicity, any national origin, any heritage? What is the difference in their interests? And why aren't they the same as anyone else's?

VALERA: The -- quote, unquote -- "Hispanic issues" are the same issues all Americans face. From the construction worker that helped build these beautiful buildings behind me, to the working mother who comes and turns the rooms at midday, those folks are worried about their jobs. They're worried about the economy. They are worried about the health of the tourism industry. They are worried about making sure that their kids get a good education. Those are the same issues that I think all Americans are concerned with.

DOBBS: Right.

So, why do we have something called Hispanic interests here? What are the Hispanic -- can you define an interest among Hispanic voters that's different from any other American?

PEREZ: I agree...

VALERA: Well, I think -- I think...


VALERA: I was going to say, I think that's the gorilla in the room, which is, obviously, the Hispanic community is going to be a little bit more sensitive to the immigration issue, more so than most other communities. And that's obviously what it comes down to.

DOBBS: So, we are using codewords here in this country right now and in this campaign. When we are talking about Hispanic issues, we're talking fundamentally about illegal immigration. Is that right?


PEREZ: No, not necessarily. I mean, illegal immigration is definitely a huge issue in the Hispanic community. But we want to know about how the candidates feel about U.S. relations with Latin America. That's an issue that perhaps other Americans are not that interested in.

It is important to us because that's where we come from. It is like if you, you know -- when they campaign in Florida and when they campaign New York, they are going to be talking about Israel. And you are not going to be able to tell the Jewish community that's pandering, because it is not. It is talking about the issues.

DOBBS: Well, if you are not Jewish, and you are you are sitting there looking at broad national issues, it is pandering. It is pandering. It is pandering.


PEREZ: It is a legitimate issue for the Jewish community, something they want to know about. They want to know where the candidates stand on those issues.

DOBBS: No, no, I'm not saying that.

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: ... differently to ethnic or religious voting blocs, whether it's evangelicals or Jews or Catholics, the fact is, it is pandering, if it's different.

PEREZ: It's all voting blocs in this country.

DOBBS: Dan -- I'm sorry?

PEREZ: It's all -- everybody. Everything is a voting bloc in this country. It's the farmers In Iowa. It's the carmakers in Michigan.


DOBBS: My point is, Dan Stein, I think we have got to rise above this.

But your views. You know, Luis Valera says the codeword here is, when you talk about Hispanic or Latino politics in this presidential contest, you are talking about illegal immigration.

Is there anything that suggests to you...


VALERA: If I may, though...




DOBBS: Let me ask -- please. I will come back to you in just a moment, Luis. But let's let Dan will speak to this issue.


DOBBS: He says it is more than immigration. But that seems to be the focus initially. Your reaction?

STEIN: Well, and what you see in polls in Nevada is that immigration is one of the -- is the major issue. And yet you don't see candidates really talking about it, not in a substantive way.

So, the question is, you know, what are the dynamics of the culinary union? And Mr. -- Senator Obama, what did he promise the union in the way of say an amnesty program to get the endorsement? And what does it mean ultimately if, in fact, the people illegally -- illegal aliens working in the industry don't vote, what would be the motivation?

If Senator Obama really wanted to improve working conditions for legal Latino workers, he would control illegal immigration, stop it, and induce a tighter labor market to get employers to raise wages. So, what's the real motivation? It must be an institutional interest to try to actually increase, I guess, the size of Hispanic voting bloc over time because of the poverty rates that skew so heavily Democrat. It's a rather cynical way of looking at it, Lou, but politics is the art of pandering, I'm afraid, in this country.

DOBBS: All right, well, I'm going to fight the way we have been practicing politics. I will probably lose. But we are going to fight it.

Luis Valera, I had to let Dan Stein in for his opportunity to speak. You were about to say something.

VALERA: Well, no, I was going to say that it is more than just the immigration issue. I think Hispanics are also concerned about what kind of dialogue the United States is having with our -- not just our neighbors to the south being Mexico, but we need to start paying attention to what's going on in Venezuela, what's going on in Argentina.


DOBBS: I think it's sad that we would...


VALERA: ... more dialogue on those issues. And it's not just immigration.

DOBBS: I take your point. Miguel's point, in point of fact, was precisely that.

But hemispheric politics should not in any way, ever -- in my judgment, we have ignored hemispheric relationships in politics. The idea that that should be of more concern, however, I think to Hispanic Americans, you and I will argue about another time, Miguel.


DOBBS: As always, good to have you here.

PEREZ: Same here.

DOBBS: Miguel Perez, Luis Valera, they're in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dan Stein in the nation's capital. Thank you all for being here.

John, over to you.

ROBERTS: Lou, thanks very much.

Mitt Romney may have won the Michigan primary, but his reception in South Carolina today was a whole lot chillier.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be with you. And I'm not going to take questions because I don't want you to freeze any longer.



ROBERTS: We are looking at whether South Carolina Republicans are warming up to any of this year's crop of candidates.

Stay with us.


ROBERTS: CNN ELECTION CENTER comes to you live from the Las Vegas Strip tonight as we count down to the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.

The giant casinos all up and down the Strip here and even off the Strip are the engine that drives the economy here. And the people who keep them humming, from the games tables to the shows to the kitchens, make up a significant political force.

CNN's Ted Rowlands reports on the voters in the heart of Las Vegas.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're the army that keeps the Vegas Strip churning 24 hours a day and, if they take part, what they say could have a big impact on Saturday's Nevada caucuses, people like Jimmy Beckham, who deals blackjack at the Hard Rock Casino.

A registered Republican, Jimmy says the war in Iraq and the immigration issue are his biggest concerns. He says right now he's supporting Fred Thompson.

Leila Sweeney works retail at Wynn Las Vegas. She is an undecided Democrat who says her biggest issue is the economy, specifically minimum wage.

Executive chef Paul Bartolotta is a registered Democrat. For him, the Iraq war in and the economy are at the top of his priority list. More than 200,000 employees work on the Las Vegas Strip. And Saturdays are their busiest days, and that could create a problem for some voters on caucus day.

JIMMY BECKHAM, CASINO DEALER: I would love to participate in the caucus. I still have to check with the bosses on whether or not I am going to get the time off.

ROWLANDS: Beckham has to find time to leave work and make it to his neighborhood to participate in the Republican caucus. Democrats, on the other hand, want to bring the caucus to the casinos, they say, to make it easier for employees to have a voice.

LEILA SWEENEY, CASHIER: It is just work is so convenient because you are here.

ROWLANDS: So, nine glitzy casinos for a day will become at-large caucus sites in conference rooms and at places like the Bellagio, Paris and the Wynn, open for any employee to join during lunch breaks.

PETER EARLY, WYNN HUMAN RESOURCES: These at-large caucuses facilitate a group of people that are critical to our community, they're everyday working people, that they should be allowed to participate.

ROWLANDS: But, at the 11th hour, the casino caucus plan has turned into a political battle among Democrats. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the Nevada teachers union is challenging the caucusing, saying it is somehow unfair to other workers who won't have the same conveniences.

But Strip employees say casino caucusing is the only way for them to participate.

PAUL BARTOLOTTA, EXECUTIVE CHEF: How else are we going to get a real sense of what the public is thinking about such an important issue, which is who is going to be our next president, you know, than to have it at a place where everybody can participate?


ROWLANDS: Now, a hearing is set tomorrow morning in federal court here in Las Vegas, where a judge is expected to rule whether or not this plan for casino caucusing will go forward.

John, they have been working on this for the better part of a year, a lot of very disappointed people if this judge says they can't do it.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, what would the reaction be here among these casino workers?

ROWLANDS: People are convinced that it is dirty politics behind this lawsuit, a lot of people, and if this does not go through, you can bet there's going to be some ramifications, very upset people.

ROBERTS: Great look behind the curtain at downtown Las Vegas tonight.

Ted Rowlands for us -- Ted, thanks

Now let's go back to New York, and here's Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, John.

So far, no Republican has managed to win two primaries in a row. Of course, we have only had a couple. That trend may continue. Some people even think Ron Paul has a chance of winning in Nevada. How about that? Wide-open politics, America as it ought to be. We will be checking on the state of the Republican race.

We're also looking at whether any of the presidential candidates actually care about this country's middle class.

I'm in the Election Center for the entire hour tonight here in New York.

John Roberts will have more for us from Las Vegas, Nevada. Stay with us.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm pleased that we won Wyoming. Now, we've won Michigan. I have more delegates than anybody else in this race. I have a lot more votes for president than anyone else in this race. And there are a lot of contests going ahead. I think South Carolina is a lot tougher for us. I'm not looking at a first place finish there necessarily, but we are looking at Nevada as a key state for us, and then on to Florida. So I'm cautiously optimistic.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Four down, 46 to go. Mitt Romney picked up a second gold in his campaign for the Republican nomination, following up on Wyoming with a solid win in Michigan. But with three different winners in four states, the GOP race is nothing but wide open. Today, John McCain was in South Carolina with a message designed to appeal to evangelicals.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud of my pro-life record. Twenty-four years I have never changed. I have defended the rights of the unborn. I have fought. I have fought for the rights of the unborn. And I believe the noblest words ever written are that all of us are created with certain equal and endowed with certain alienable rights, among these are life.

I have struggled for the rights of the unborn around the world from Burma to Uzbekistan, from China to some places in the Caribbean. My friends, I will continue my advocacy and fight for the rights of the unborn.


ROBERTS: CNN's John King joins me now from Spartanburg, South Carolina. And John, the Iowa caucuses prove that Christian conservatives are definitely the realm of Mike Huckabee, but are they the same for John McCain in South Carolina?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORREPONDENT: Well, John, the McCain campaign doesn't think it will do as well as Governor Huckabee among evangelicals. But evangelicals will make up somewhere in the ballpark of 40 percent of the vote here in the Republican primary on Saturday. So if you want to be competitive, you need to get your slice. The McCain campaign says he is talking about abortion. His opposition to abortion at the beginning of his speeches here in South Carolina because they say there have been some phone calls to Republicans in recent days suggesting that he favors abortion rights. So they say they are doing this to counter the phone calls that are being made here.

But look, the evangelical community is not John McCain's strength, but you have to at least do fairly well or else you can't be competitive in a conservative state like South Carolina.

ROBERTS: Yes. A lot more conservatives in South Carolina than there are in New Hampshire where John McCain racked up his first win. Are they still skeptical of McCain on some of the issues?

KING: And you just hit on the defining question. Can John McCain win in a state where conservatives dominate the Republican electorate? He can't count on independents. He can't count on Democrats. He has to win among conservatives here in the gateway to the south primary.

And yes, evangelicals are somewhat skeptical, and so are other conservatives. He scores well with fiscal conservatives when he says he would use the veto pen to wipe out all that pork barrel spending. But the immigration issue continues to come up here in this state. People who think the bill he supported with Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts back in the summer amounts to amnesty, so there is still skepticism for Senator McCain and he has to answer those questions twice today. At events I attended, he had to deal with the immigration issue. It continues to come up, and it continues to affect his support, his standing among conservatives.

ROBERTS: And John, some ghosts from the year 2000 campaign still around for John McCain there in South Carolina.

KING: And South Carolina is a place of ghosts for John McCain, John. He was campaigning today and outside his first event, a number of people demonstrating with the Confederate flag. Now, what was that all about? The Confederate flag used to fly above the state capitol in Columbia here. It was a source of racial tension for quite some time. Finally, a compromise was brokered to take it off the top of the capitol, the dome, and put it at a monument just in front of the capitol, on the ground.

John McCain had supported taking it down from the dome back in 2000. The protesters out there today saying they do not forget that and that those specific protesters, a relatively small number but very vocal, say they will not support John McCain this Saturday, John.

ROBERTS: John McCain, John King for us tonight from Spartanburg. And John, we'll be joining you down there in South Carolina tomorrow night. We'll see you soon -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: John, it got a little heavy with Johns there for a while. John King, John Roberts, John McCain. Thank you, John. Right now, it looks like a two-person race for the Democrats, but I hope that's wrong because I like the suspense and the Democratic process. But the Republicans have four or five candidates all still in the fight. Joining me now to analyze the Republican battle for president, our CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, former adviser to Presidents Reagan, Nixon, Ford and Clinton. Now that is a resume. David, great to see you.



DOBBS: And our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let me turn to you first, David Gergen. I'm struck by the idea that there should still be ghosts, as John King put it, in dealing with the Confederate flag in the state capitol still hanging over a 2008 presidential election. My God, haven't we come farther than that?

GERGEN: You would think -- you would think we have. And, in fact, you know, the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton race illustrates that. I think we have made a lot more progress. We'll give ourselves credit for. There are pockets in the country that's not true. But I do think there are residues from 2000 that are ghosts from that 2000 campaign that are coming back to haunt McCain, and there are smear efforts going on against McCain.

But what has happened in South Carolina this time is very different is John McCain and his wife both argued that South Carolina, I talked to him about this a year and a half ago, the effort he was making. He got Lindsey Graham on his side down there. He is one of the big senators. He's got a lot of the establishment with him. He's also got a lot of military down there. As you know, Lou, there are a lot of retired military as well as active duty. They'll be voting heavily for him, so he'll be very competitive.

DOBBS: And in terms of the middle class, Bill Schneider, are these candidates speaking directly to them, particularly on the Republican side with an adequately strong and substantive voice?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the answer to that question is no. But they have to figure out some way to do that because the middle class in this country is everybody. With most people when you ask them, are you middle class? They say of course I am. I'm not rich and I'm not poor. They are the voters. They are everybody.

So, you know, they are listening to these candidates. And they want to know what is this candidate saying that is going to affect me? And they don't hear a lot of it from these Republicans, particularly when it comes to economic issues. The Republicans don't like to talk about government economic programs. They like to talk about the private sector and the Republican -- the voters out there wonder what is that going to mean for me?

DOBBS: And in this case on the Republican side, it seems, David Gergen, that Huckabee has gone the greater distance in defining consideration on tax, the fair tax proposal that he is talking about, signing an amnesty pledge today that there will there be no amnesty to illegal immigrants into this country. He's taking on some of these issues. He has -- his voice is that of a populous in many instances.

GERGEN: He's kind of Lou Dobbs-type campaign going on up there. That's no question about that on some of these issues. I do think that where they are missing the boat, though, is in not talking about the current crisis that's coming down on people so hard with the subprime mortgage mess and the stock markets going down.

DOBBS: Right.

GERGEN: And jobs going down. And now you've got this issue, Lou, that I would just assume you are going to be jumping all over about the sovereign wealth funds.

DOBBS: Oh, absolutely.

GERGEN: And buying up this large interests in the banks. And you just don't hear the Republicans talking about that.

DOBBS: Right.

GERGEN: You do hear Hillary Clinton. She was very aggressive by this issue last night. But you know, you look at "The New York Daily News" today and "The New York Post." Pick them up, you know. They're really front page selling the country the kind of questions.

DOBBS: Yes. We are going to come back with Bill Schneider and David Gergen in just a moment. And David Gergen's right. We're all over the issue of sovereign wealth funds. That is the investment of foreign corporations into the balance sheets of American corporations to save them. We are a nation totally dependent right now on foreign capital. We are going to be right back.


ROBERTS: Live on the Las Vegas strip tonight, and if there is going to be a recession, the housing market is leading us there. There is a flood of foreclosures all across the country, and Nevada is the hardest hit state in the nation with the highest rate in the U.S.

CNN's Dan Lothian reports from the frontline of the fight against foreclosure.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in the state where fortunes are won and lost every day, the bad bet on real estate and risky mortgages is extreme in Nevada.

KIM CANEDA, EXTREME REALTY: This is bank owned. You see the yellow flier in the window.

LOTHIAN: We drove around North Las Vegas with real estate agent Kim Caneda who showed us house after house currently in foreclosure.

CANEDA: This, I would say, is a foreclosure. It's just the worst I have seen it since I have been dealing in real estate.

LOTHIAN: In fact, there's one foreclosure filing for every 152 households in Nevada. More than four times the national average, according to Realty Track. Surf the Las Vegas "Craigslist" and you'll find a seemingly endless list of foreclosures. The Consumer Credit Counseling office is feeling the pressure.

MICHELE JOHNSON, CONSUMER COUNSELING CREDIT SVC: The number of people that we touched in December of '07 was 70 percent higher than what we did in December of '06.

LOTHIAN: At this home in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas, there's a name behind all the statistics.


LOTHIAN: Eva Marie Bugarin and her family, which includes her handicapped mother, are struggling to hold on to their four-bedroom home. The foreclosure process is already under way.

BUGARIN: I go to bed at night, and I cry myself to sleep. There's been several times I do that because I really don't know where I'm going to go with my family.

LOTHIAN: Caught in a loan with fine print that sent mortgage payments from $1,500 to $3500, too expensive for her part-time job and her husband's salary.

BUGARIN: I keep thinking maybe there might just be a little bit of hope somewhere. That's why I haven't packed yet.

LOTHIAN: That hope isn't being placed on any of the presidential candidates. This is a problem Bugarin doesn't think any of them can fix.

BUGARIN: No matter what kind of president we get, I think it's going to be a while for, you know, the turnaround to happen. I mean, we're so down.

LOTHIAN: Caneda, the real estate agent, feels the same way. And for her, it's just as personal. While she was busy trying to sell homes in a difficult market, she lost her own. This one.

CANEDA: I got behind in the payments due to the real estate had really slowed down. My income had really declined.

LOTHIAN: The bank is now selling her former home, as she and others like her wait to see if Washington can help fix the mortgage mess, and if motivated buyers will again return. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Of course, the mortgage meltdown ties into the economy. People here, especially concerned about that, specifically those who have lost their homes. And John, one lady telling me today that something really has to be done to turn this economy around.

ROBERTS: And when the real estate agents are losing their homes, you know we've got some serious problems.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

ROBERTS: Dan Lothian, thanks.

Back in just a few minutes with more from the Las Vegas strip. But right now, to New York and Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, John. The middle class facing attacks from every private (ph) scene, inflation, unemployment both raising. Job growth, wages, static or declining. And the crisis in our housing market cuts to the very heart of the American dream.

And joining me now to take a look at what the candidates, these presidential candidates, are offering for our besieged middle class, David Gergen, Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky, and Bill Schneider back with me.

Julie, let me turn to you. I heard -- I thought, frankly, Senator John Edwards eloquently described a program to take on some of this issue, but the fact is, nothing that he's saying will be done certainly by him should he be elected president for a year. And the impact of that is frankly, too little too late. What's going to be the reaction? Do you think the voters --

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think voters are obviously fed up with all of these problems. You have Barack Obama proposing a $250 rebate which he says is going to be instantaneous. But that's also a proposal in theory. Of course, he's not going to be able to do anything about it.

Hillary Clinton is proposing a stimulus package that she's going to introduce in legislation. But, of course, voters are hurting right now. We just saw in Las Vegas, one of the fastest growing housing markets in the country, people are really hurting and there is nothing to be done by any of these candidates until one of them takes office a year from now.

DOBB: Bill, your reaction to the idea that these candidates are talking, not in real and urgent terms. Neither of these parties, Democrat or Republican, is talking about the crisis that is upon us in real and urgent terms. We hear from the administration they're going to do -- the Republican administration will take it up soon. We hear from the Democratic leadership of the Congress while, you know, we'll have some thought. But not one of them is talking about the policies that led us to this terrible tragic situation for so many fellow Americans. SCHNEIDER: That's right. It is a crisis, and our country really only functions with the sense of crisis. And for some reason that I can't quite figure with the politicians, the candidates are not treating it as an issue with the magnitude of a crisis. It is to ordinary Americans.

I might have been a bit unfair to Republicans. They do talk about tax cuts, but that's the sort of issue that Americans listen to. They say well, tax cuts we welcome. What is it going to do for me now? That will happen some years down the road.


SCHNEIDER: It will only be a minor improvement to my life.

DOBBS: And in point of fact, and Julie is going to cringe as I say this, as a Democratic strategist. And David Gergen, I'm going to turn to you. But the reality is, all of these candidates, with a few exceptions, have been a participant in the policy journey that has led us to this mess. I'm talking about faith-based trade policies that have added $6 trillion to our trade debt. I'm talking about irresponsible fiscal policy with these tremendous deficits on the part of the federal government, and $9 trillion in a national debt. A declining dollar in a world market that is, frankly, in turmoil because of the housing crisis in this country.

GERGEN: Well, Lou, I think it is perfectly true that the candidates have not done very much about what's happening and what got us here. I also have to say I don't think the administration has done much about the subprime mess and how we got into it. You know, it is looking -- it's starting to look a lot like the S&L thing we went through before.

DOBBS: Exactly.

GERGEN: The crisis we went through before. A lack of, you know, strong federal oversight, trying to understand this. You know, a lot of secrecy and a lot of people out to make a fast buck. Now, beyond that, though, I have to say, I think the Republicans who have been very silent about what needs to be done this year, you have to give credit to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for having packages they put on the table now. A lot of Democrats are putting packages on the table. Get them passed in the next three to six months in Washington.

You know, the president is going to come forward in the State of the Union with some sort of package. But I'm amazed at the Republican candidates who've been so silent on this when their own president, their own White House, wants to come forward with the stimulus package. And I do think, we got to hold Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as members of the Senate, not as campaigners, but as members of the Senate to get together there and fashion something that's real, that's immediate, that will help in the short term because obviously, something -- some help is needed.

DOBBS: All right. Julie, the idea that the Democrats are -- and I quite agree with David Gergen. Both Obama and Clinton and Edwards, all three have addressed the issue. I personally believe that Edwards has a far more complete approach and a more thought out approach. I don't believe that this president -- he wants a legacy. I think he's going to have one of the most embarrassing legacies of any president short of Herbert Hoover because of -- whether it be in the issue of foreign policy or whether it be in terms of this economy.

But when all we can throw off is nonsense, these policies have been followed by both the Democrats and the Republicans for now nearly 20 years have led us to this. And there's no -- these, we're talking about giveaway programs. We're talking about handouts, if you will. We are talking about tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Surely, these two parties can go beyond this kind of thinking and return this country to prosperity and sense.

ROGINSKY: Lou, this country both in a macro and a micro sense, is addicted to borrowing like it's crack. And the problem is now the bill is coming due both on the housing market, where people borrowed mortgages they obviously couldn't afford. And in the global sense that our country keeps on borrowing and borrowing to feed this deficit. That bill is going to come due soon.

Also, we're paying, you know, those incredible money for that now nationally. So the problem here is that this president, in my opinion, is so afraid to use the "r" word, recession, that nobody wants to take a serious approach to how we avoid getting into a very deep long-term recession.

DOBBS: Right.

ROGINSKY: We've got banks, the Goldman Sachs out. You know, they are now saying, look, we're obviously in the middle of a recession. Nobody wants to admit it. Nobody wants to look this country in the eye and say look, we got to stop being addicted to the senseless, irresponsible fiscal responsibility.

DOBBS: Well, it will be interesting to see whether we hear from any of these presidential candidates about how this nation can intelligently share burdens and take on a new standard for our conduct and our national behavior. Julie, thank you very much.


DOBBS: Julie Roginsky. And David Gergen and Bill Schneider. We thank you all. We appreciate it. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Lou, the whole point of holding primaries and caucuses is to choose delegates for the party's nominating convention. Could that mean that the conventions could be as unpredictable as the process to get there? Jeffrey Toobin is here with some possibilities. And at the top of the hour, "Today Show" anchor Meredith Vieira and her husband Richard Cohen open up about his battle with MS.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know that we have just a few days left to wrap things up and get folks out to the polls on Saturday. And I'm really hoping that you won't let anything keep you from going out and voting this Saturday. You know, some politicians will say -- it does not matter who you vote for as long as you go vote. I don't happen to feel that way.


ROBERTS: The candidates are campaigning hard because we've got a wide-open race for president in both parties, and the wide-open primary is mainly to wide-open conventions. It would be the first time that's happened in decades. Our Jeffrey Toobin breaks it all down for us. He is at the CNN Election Center board tonight. Hey, Jeffrey.

JEFFRREY TOOBIN, SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, John. You know, all these primaries are really about picking delegates. I just want to focus on the issue of delegates tonight. These two pie charts represent all the delegates here in the Democrats side, all the delegates on the Republican side. And so far, we've only picked about five percent of the delegates. We had four states -- Wyoming, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire. Those are the only states that have picked delegates, and it's just a fraction of the delegates that are to be chosen.

But let's look ahead to Super Tuesday. We've got a few more primaries in between them. But by Super Tuesday, all these states will have picked their delegates and this is how many -- and this is how many delegates will be picked -- will have been chosen.

But keep this in mind, John, and this is what I think people don't realize. To win the nomination, you have to get half the delegates. So you have to win all these delegates in order to get the nomination. All of these on one side or the other. That means you have to get virtually all of those that have been selected. But at the rate we're going, no one is going to have that many delegates because they are being divided up.

We had three different candidates win on the Republican side. We had two different candidates win on the Democratic side. So on February 5th, we may not have a candidate that has a majority of the delegates, and that means a few more primaries and then maybe a convention, where that's where the nomination will be decided.

ROBERTS: Wouldn't that be something? That's something that we haven't seen for an awfully long time. Jeff Toobin for us tonight. Jeff, thanks very much.

We are just minutes away now from the top of the hour, and you're not going to want to miss it because we've got a king, Larry. A queen, Latifah. Plus, Academy award-winning actress Diane Keaton.


ROBERTS: We're back live on the Las Vegas strip. And Lou, the reason why the Nevada caucus was moved up was to give it a diverse state, like the silver state and one in the west, the chance to participate in the process for picking a president. What kind of an impact do you think it's going to have?

DOBBS: I think it's going to have an unexpected impact with the law of unintended consequences at work here, John. The reality is that Nevada is hurting financially, economically, foreclosures, as Dan Lothian just reported, just screaming across that market. Illegal immigration and now lawsuits between two unions over that caucus, so it's going to be quite exciting.

ROBERTS: Yes. We'll be watching and reporting on that lawsuit tomorrow. Lou, good to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight. Before we leave, a word of thanks to the folks at Trader Vic's who have been our gracious hosts this evening. We very much appreciate how they've helped us out.

I'm John Roberts, for Lou Dobbs in Las Vegas. I'll see you tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. for CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING." Chris Lawrence has got a much closer look at Nevada's Latino voters for you.

And join me every night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." That's all from the CNN Elections Center. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.