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Economic Stimulus Plan; Green-Collar Jobs; Talkers Vs. McCain; Gore on Same Sex Marriage; Clinton on Immigration Reform

Aired January 24, 2008 - 17:00   ET


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, putting tax money back in your pocket. The White House and Congress teaming up right now to treat an ailing economy. We're going to find out if the presidential candidates think it's the right medicine.

In a campaign that gets nastier by the day, both Clintons are battling Barack Obama.

His spouse takes a kindler, gentler approach, but could Michelle Obama soon jump into the fray?

And conservative radio talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh have talked up a storm when the Bush administration was riding high Republicans, controlled Congress.

But could -- could John McCain's candidacy soon leave some of them speechless?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A check could be in the mail later this year for more than 100 million American families. House leaders have reached a bipartisan deal on a massive economic stimulus plan whose centerpiece is a tax rebate of up to $1,200. President Bush is calling it the right set of policies and the right size. Democratic leaders say it's not perfect, but it's a good start.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The incentives in this package will lead to higher consumer spending and increased business investment this year. Importantly, this package recognizes that lowering taxes is a powerful and efficient way to help consumers and businesses.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let us praise it for what it does, not disrespect it for what it does not. This -- I think this is a remarkable package because it is about putting money in the hands of America's working families.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Our senior business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is on the CNN Election Express right now. He's traveling west, together with a whole team, across Texas right now on Interstate 30.

Let's go to Ali Velshi -- the bottom line, Ali, who's going to be getting the checks, how much and when?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, like you said about 100 million Americans, Wolf. They're going to be getting them no earlier than April and it could be as late as June. After Congress passes it, the Senate passes it, the president signs it into law and the checks are cut. You'll get about -- more than 100 million Americans will get some sort of a check. It will be $300 per person -- $300 -- up to $1,200 per couple -- $300, in addition, per child. But once you start making more than $75,000 a year, that number will decrease until nothing.

The idea is that people will take that money and they'll spend it. That will create demand. Businesses will hire people and those people will create more demand.

There are a lot of critics, though, a lot of economists who say that just won't work. People won't spend it -- they may pay off their credit. People are having a hard time (AUDIO GAP).

BLITZER: I think

VELSHI: ...making ends meet. The fact is by April, May or June, it might just be too late, Wolf. We'll have to see whether this actually plays out and has the effect that it's supposed to have, in terms of stimulating the economy. It's not a sure thing. That's one thing we know.

BLITZER: Well, some critics say it's sort of like dropping money from planes -- that it's really not going to have much of on impact at all in stimulating the economy.

What's the basis for that argument?

VELSHI: Well, the basis for the argument is that, first of all, it's more than $100 billion for the stimulus package.

Where does that money come from?

It's got to come out of something else. Otherwise, it just increases the deficit. So unless people actually take this money and go out and spend it -- as opposed to paying off credit cards or paying down debt, it doesn't stimulate the economy.

And if you just money out of the system, give it to people and they don't stimulate the economy with it, that's wasted money. That's like dropping money out of the airplane.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. It's probably not as great as some people would like you to believe it is, but it probably does stimulate some spending. And if it does, that could help us avert a recession -- if it's not too late by the time you get the check -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I just want to clarify, Ali, individuals who make $75,000 a year -- up to $75,000 -- they would be eligible for the smaller amount of the rebate. Couples with incomes up to $150,000 and even more, they would be able to get -- they'd be getting some of this rebate, as well, is that right?

VELSHI: That is correct. And, again, each additional child will get a $300 check. They do decrease as you get past that $75,000 income level and $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly.

BLITZER: The bottom line, if you make more than $174,000 for a couple, you're not going to get any rebate at all.

Ali is on the Election -- the CNN Election Express.

Thanks very much for that.

We're getting some instant reaction from the campaign trail.

Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's going to put money back into people's pockets. That's fine. But I really think that we've got to make the tax cuts permanent. We have to get rid of this alternate minimum tax, which could attack 25 million American families.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am pleased to see that the Republicans and the Democrats have apparently reached a tentative agreement on an immediate stimulus package. Obviously, everybody has been concerned about the economy. As I've traveled around South Carolina, people have expressed great concern about their jobs, their homes, the prospects of a worsening economy threatening their retirement.


BLITZER: Some of the candidates are also touting what they're calling "green collar jobs" as a way to try to help the economy and the environment at the same time.

Our CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, has some details -- Gerri.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Wolf, the topic of jobs has always been a key issue in an election year. But this year, the candidates are pushing a new kind of job "green jobs".


WILLIS (voice-over): As the presidential race heats up, a new buzzword as emerged on the campaign trail.


MCCAIN: I just want to emphasize again that green technologies...

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I have proposed for "green collar jobs"...

WILLIS: They're all saying it but what is it?

BRACKEN HENDRICKS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: And what we're talking about with a "green collar job" is a job that both reverses the impact of global warming, that improves our energy dependence, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and polluting forms of energy. And also investing in creating career ladders and pathways into the middle class -- rebuilding our middle class and rebuilding our cities and our rural communities.

WILLIS: Some of the top presidential candidates are saying that going green can help save the planet and help save the economy.

H. CLINTON: We need to make sure that we start jump-starting the jobs in this country again. That's why I want to put money into clean energy jobs, "green collar jobs".

MCCAIN: Green technologies is what's going to reduce this dependence on foreign oil. It's going to give us a cleaner planet.

EDWARDS: What I have proposed for "green collar jobs" will create jobs within 30 or so days. So we will have an immediate impact on the economy.

WILLIS: But does the issue resonate with voters?

One think tank says yes.

HENDRICKS: There was a recent poll that asked what Congress could do to improve its image in the public's eye. The leading answer was reduce dependence on oil by improving the fuel economy of our cars. People are very concerned about over reliance on gas, about being -- having our economy be dependent for its very lifeblood on the most unstable and un-democratic regions of the planet.

WILLIS: With oil around $90 a barrel, the idea of a green economy that reduces the need for foreign oil and creates jobs at home sounds too good to be true -- and maybe it is.


"Green collar jobs" are probably overall a net loss to the economy. If the government is saying that people have to use wind power or have to use ethanol, that means that they'll be using less electricity or less gasoline from conventional sources. So those new jobs in those new industries will be displacing old jobs in old industries.

WILLIS: Whether "green collar" workers is this year's campaign buzzword or the cornerstone to a new direction in U.S. energy policy, voters will have a say in this come November.


WILLIS: These jobs will likely come from the white collar and blue collar sectors, as you need people to work on high end technology and those on the ground installing solar panels. The critic we talked to in the piece also said, hey, don't forget, for every "green collar job" you create, another one in a different sector will be taken away. So, we have to wait and see how and if this will be implemented -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Gerri.

Thanks very much.

Gerri Willis reporting.

While candidates might be supporting "green collar jobs" to help the economy and the environment, the cars they drive perhaps tell a different story.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is the least fuel- efficient, with his flex fuel Chevy Tahoe, which averages about 16 millions per gallon. Mitt Romney and John McCain are only slightly better, with a Ford Mustang convertible and a Cadillac Sedan, respectively.

The Democrats' car choices are more eco-friendly, as they say -- as they like to say. Barack Obama and John Edwards both drive Ford Escape hybrids, which get about 22 miles per gallon. Hillary Clinton is the most fuel-efficient of all. Her Mercury Mariner hybrid gets 29 miles per gallon.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File. -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I wonder when the last time she drove it was?

BLITZER: Probably a long time ago.

CAFFERTY: That would be my guess.

BLITZER: But she owns it. She owns it.

CAFFERTY: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I know. I know. I pay close attention to what you say. I got it.

Rudy Giuliani is slipping in the state that's considered crucial to his presidential chances. An average of three polls taken in Florida show Giuliani is now third. John McCain, Mitt Romney neck-and- neck -- 27 percent and 25 percent respectively. Giuliani is way back, at 16 percent -- practically tied with Mike Huckabee, who gets 15 percent.

And it's looking more and more now like Giuliani's dream of being president of the United States is headed for the scrap heap.

Two months ago, Giuliani the prohibitive favorite in Florida, at 38 percent to 17 for Romney and 11 percent for McCain. One pollster is quoted in "The Miami Herald" this morning saying Giuliani has virtually no chance to win in Florida. Another says: "If he can't make it there in Florida, he can't make it anywhere." I guess the words of that famous song don't always ring true.

And Florida, of course, winner take all -- if you don't finish first, you get bookus -- you know, from bookus?

Giuliani's campaign, of course, disputes all this, insisting he's going to win. He argues his message just needs a little more time to sink in.


It's really quite stunning when you think about it. Giuliani, the national frontrunner for months. In a decision that strategists will probably talk about for years to come, he chose to virtually ignore the early states -- a huge mistake. He goes into Florida 0 for the election -- 0 for six in states that have already voted. And, apparently, the people in Florida don't like a loser, either. If Giuliani loses in Florida on Tuesday, it could be the beginning of a collapse that will go down in political history, since he won't have the momentum going into Super Tuesday.

You know, kind of like he hasn't had any momentum coming out of Iowa or New Hampshire or Wyoming or Nevada or Michigan or South Carolina.

Here's the question -- what went wrong for Rudy Giuliani?

Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog.

It really will go down in the books as one of the great collapses ever if he doesn't win down there in Florida and go on to do something in this race.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're probably right, given where he was, what six months ago?


BLITZER: Even three months ago.

All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Michelle Obama out on the campaign trail.


MICHELLE OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: So our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.


BLITZER: Toe to toe with the former president, Bill Clinton -- this potential first lady holds her own to back her husband.

Plus, conservative talk show hosts targeting John McCain. They're sparing no criticism of the Republican -- arguably, he's the Republican frontrunner right now.

Is a bitter feud ahead within the GOP among conservatives?

And al Qaeda reloaded -- they allegedly planned to blow up subways in Barcelona last weekend. Now Europe on higher alert.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: You won't see her on the bitter battlefield between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but Michelle Obama is becoming increasingly important to her husband's presidential campaign and offering a stark contrast to the other leading candidate's spouse. That would be Bill Clinton.

Let's go to Brian Todd.

He's watching this story for us.

All right, tell us about Michelle Obama, what she is doing for her husband.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, by most accounts, she was reluctant to get into this race at first, but is now seen as a campaign asset that her husband seems to need now more than ever.


M. OBAMA: Are you all hungry for some change?

TODD (voice-over): In a campaign getting nastier by the sound bite, she strikes a tone of civility.

M. OBAMA: My deep hope is that people will base their decision on who they think they can trust, who's got a vision for the country, who's bring -- who's bringing a different, you know, tone to politics and who's going to really take this country in a different direction. And, quite frankly, I think the only person who comes close to that is Barack.

TODD: Seen as inherently decent, down to earth, straightforward and tough, Michelle Obama says she can talk about her husband in a way he never would. It's certainly not how Bill Clinton is talking about her husband.


TODD: Analysts say Michelle Obama's striking contrast to that kind of attack is a huge boost to her husband. And with Barack Obama getting drawn deeper into verbal combat with both Clintons, they say she's crucial to keeping his message in play.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: To be able to have somebody on the campaign trail who is consistently emphasizing unity, emphasizing one nation, one voice, one agenda, that is critical.

TODD: Harvard Law grad, successful attorney in her own right, Michelle Obama was reluctant to get into the race, friends and aides tell us. At first, didn't want her husband to run. She's fiercely protective of their young daughters back in Chicago.

M. OBAMA: Our kids are hilarious, just like many people's kids. They keep us grounded.

TODD: Her platform -- helping people balance family and work. Aides say she won't delve into policy if she becomes first lady.

But will she go on the offensive if her husband keeps taking body blows?

VALERIE JARRETT, OBAMA FAMILY FRIEND: I've never seen her in attack mode or anything like that.

TODD: But this remark was seen by some as a dig at the Clintons.

M. OBAMA: If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.


TODD: Michelle Obama's chief aide says she was only talking about her own family, about the partnership between she and her husband, not insinuating anything about the Clintons. Analysts say it's crucial now that she not go negative. It'll not only make the campaign look bad, but the Clintons will likely counter her very directly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

Should a former commander-in-chief be a campaigner-in-chief?

Bill Clinton is giving it all that he's got for his wife, Hillary. But he's taking some heat -- a lot of heat, in fact -- for the attacks on Barack Obama.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

What's the issue being raised about Bill Clinton's role in this campaign right now?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the issue is whether it's important for a former president to go negative on a candidate.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It's certainly appropriate for Bill Clinton be an advocate for his wife.

KIKI MCLEAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: He's been a biographer of Senator Clinton. He's been able to tell the story of her work of the last 35 years.

SCHNEIDER: It's also appropriate for the Clinton campaign to criticize Barack Obama's record.

But should Bill Clinton be the one who does it?

B. CLINTON: This is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

SCHNEIDER: He says he was simply defending his wife.

B. CLINTON: The only thing I pointed out was there was no substantially no difference in her record and his on Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: But the Obama campaign sees the criticism as something much bigger.

DON BYER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: I think it went to the heart of peopling saying that it was unrealistic to elect Barack Obama.

SCHNEIDER: Obama's irritation came out in the debate.

H. CLINTON: I did not mention his name.

OBAMA: Your husband did.

H. CLINTON: Well I'm here, he's not and...

OBAMA: OK. Well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes.

H. CLINTON: You know, well...

SCHNEIDER: Bill Clinton's hard ball politics raises risks for the Clinton campaign, like the role the former president would play in his wife's administration.

BYER: Many people are concerned that if Bill Clinton has trouble controlling his attacks on the campaign trail, what will he will like as the first lad?

SCHNEIDER: The Clinton campaign's response?

MCLEAN: I think the Obama campaign is probably demonstrating their real frustration with not being able to move their own ideas forward. And so, in fact, they've -- they've decided they want to run against somebody they're not running against.

SCHNEIDER: Obama supporters believe Hillary Clinton could pay a price for dredging up bad memories of the Clinton wars.

BYER: It makes it much more difficult for Hillary to present herself as the candidate that brings the country together.


SCHNEIDER: We're hearing a lot of anger among Obama supporters over Bill Clinton's role. Mr. Byer, who is a fundraiser for the Obama campaign, told me many people are so angry about it, they're eager to write another check -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks very much for that.

Bill Schneider reporting for us.

He's been asked a lot about marriage over the years, but today the question to Bill Clinton came from a 5-year-old during a campaign stop in South Carolina.

Listen to this.


B. CLINTON: What do you do when you get married?


B. CLINTON: Look at that.

See all the press people back there?

They put me through the ringer this morning. And everything I said is about to pale compared to what I'm now facing.

Well, first of all, when you get married, if you're really lucky -- if you're really lucky, then your husband or wife becomes your best friend and you get to live with your best friend for life. Like Hillary is my best friend. That's really important, you know?


BLITZER: And we've just learned that will Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States, has now formally endorsed gay marriage, in marked contrast to his earlier positions, in marked contrast to all the Democratic presidential candidates. They support civil unions, but not gay marriage. Al Gore, the former vice president, now supports gay marriage.

We're going to roll the sound bite for you. That's coming up shortly right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

John McCain's rise in the Republican race -- it's outraging conservative talk show hosts. It's also revealing how their influence may -- at least their critics are saying -- may be waning. We're going to show you what's going on.

Plus, a joy ride in space for a hefty price.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're following developments in New Jersey's Newark Bay. Three ships have collided there -- two dredging vessels and a tanker carrying orange juice. The Coast Guard says one of the dredgeers is taking on water and there's been some oil spilled. The tanker is a 668-foot Liberian ship. No report of injures so far. Of course, we'll keep following this one for you.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is naming former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to head a high profile arms control panel. Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq War, left the World Bank last year amid a scandal over a promotion he arranged for his girlfriend.

British billionaire Richard Branson is unveiling a model of a new spacecraft he hopes will soon be offered to wealthy tourists for a joyride in space. About 200 people have already reserved a spot -- shelling out $200,000 each. The specially built airplane will carry the craft part way up, then it will separate and rocket off into suborbital space -- for only $200,000 a ride -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I think I'll pass, even if it were for free.


BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Carol, for that.

The conservative radio talk show hosts are taking direct aim -- at least some of them -- at the Republican frontrunner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The anti-conservative is John McCain. He's a phenomenally weak sort of second coming of Bob Dole without the charisma or the affection.


BLITZER: Will talk radio take down John McCain or will conservative voters go their own way this election?

There's a fight -- a rift that's brewing on the right. We're following it right now.

Also, on the issues, immigration -- a look at how it's playing in Florida.

And al Qaeda reloaded -- plans to attack subways in Spain put European cities on full alert right now.

Stay with us.



To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has an accepted an invitation by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, to visit Baghdad. No date announced yet. It will be the first visit to Iraq by an Iranian president since the eight-year long Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s that killed an estimated one million people.

Also, tens of thousands of Palestinians are moving freely between Gaza and Egypt for the second day in a row. The U.S. and Israel are pressuring Cairo to reseal the border. It was overrun yesterday. The Egyptian foreign ministry says it will be open "as long as this humanitarian -- as long as this is a humanitarian crisis."

And the Ohio congressman, Dennis Kucinich, is bowing out of the Democratic presidential race. He's telling the Cleveland "Plain Dealer" he'll make a formal announcement tomorrow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Conservative radio hosts talked up a storm back when the Bush administration was riding how. But now the possibility -- possibility that John McCain could become the GOP standard-bearer is almost enough to leave some of them speechless.

Let's go to Carol Costello.

She's watching this story for us.

So what's going on -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, what's going on, some believe those radio talk show hosts have lost influence, in large part because of who is running in the Republican primary and who happens to be hot right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me god.


COSTELLO: Those were the days. Conservative radio talkers bragged their influence helped put George W. Bush in office. How times have changed. Now leading many republican polls, John McCain and those same talkers aren't bragging anymore. Voters have betrayed them, despite what's playing on Rush Limbaugh's show. The syndicated talkers are fuming.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The anti-conservative is John McCain. He's a phenomenally weak sort of second coming of Bob Dole without the charisma.

COSTELLO: But Mr. So-called charisma challenge pulled off wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina and leads in Florida.

BOB BARR, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: I think it is a sign that no one or two talk show hosts really weal the influence that they did two or three cycles ago.

COSTELLO: Because it's a different world in the land of republican politics, the party is fractured. Conservative talkers do realize that but they blame John McCain. They accuse him of being covertly liberal, for working with democrats on immigration and campaign finance reform and for voting twice against President Bush's tax cuts.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm a republican primary voter. I would like to hear some straight talk on those issues. Will I?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't count on it, Limbaugh.

COSTELLO: But Barr says the fracture came not because of McCain, but because of the man the talkers helped put in office, George W. Bush. Perhaps another sign of diminishing power, John McCain himself. He appears unfazed by them. Ask about Limbaugh ...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know. Oh yes. He seems a very influential person. I'm confident I can secure the base of the party and win the nomination and win the election.

COSTELLO: And maybe he can. There he is on the cover of "Time" magazine as the new comeback kid. The only image likely to drive Limbaugh crazier is if McCain and Huckabee where the "Time" cover boys.

LIMBAUGH: I'm here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, it's going to change it forever, be the end of it.


COSTELLO: Hugh Hewlett believes McCain is doing so well because he's a darling of the liberal media, including CNN, says Hewitt. He believes we've put McCain on top but thinks Mitt Romney will prevail in the end.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll get a better clue on Tuesday when they have their contest in Florida. Thanks very much for that; Carol Costello reporting. Martial arts star Chuck Norris shadows republican candidate Mike Huckabee so closely that you would think he's actually his bodyguard. But today John McCain unveiled his own action hero, one of them from the desert storm battlefield and the other from the movies.


MCCAIN: I just got Norman Schwarzkopf's endorsement and Rocky and Sylvester Stallone. How can I miss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can sick Sylvester Stallone on Chuck Norris.

MALE: He'll get him.


BLITZER: You're going to want to watch the candidates battle in California, by the way, in our upcoming debates. They'll face off just before Super Tuesday. The republicans go to head to head on January 30th; the democrats the next day, January 31st. Both of those debates at 8:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Former Vice President Al Gore is endorsing same-sex marriage, unlike any of the other democrats out there on the presidential campaign trail. Abbi Tatton has got the video for us. All right. Show it to us. Abbi, what happened?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is Al Gore's video posted to his website, Current TV, last week.

FORMER V.P. AL GORE, UNITED STATES: I think that gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women to make contracts, to have hospital visiting rights, to join together in marriage, and I don't understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage to allow it by gays and lesbians.

TATTON: That's Al Gore on Current TV. Al Gore not campaigning for anything right now, but that position going further than any of the democrats that currently are. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that; Abbi Tatton reporting.

Florida farmers are keeping a close eye on the race for the white house. We're going to show you what's at stake for them just days ahead of their state's primary.

Plus, how a suicide bomb plot in Spain is raising new security concerns across Europe.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The economy may matter most to a lot of voters but immigration is still a key issue in this campaign. It's becoming a rallying cry for republicans, but democratic candidates are also mindful of immigration's impact in several of the upcoming primary states. Senator Hillary Clinton was talking reform today in New Jersey.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we've got to bring people out of the shadows. I believe that having people, 12 to 14 million of them here undocumented is just a recipe for exploitation for abuse. We need to tell people, they come out of the shadows, we register them. If they have committed a crime in this country or the country they came from, they should be deported. That is absolutely what should happen. But you know, that is a very, very small percentage. Most people get up every day and they work hard.


BLITZER: In some states, the economy and immigration are closely intertwined. Florida depends heavily on seasonal farm workers especially in the citrus groves. Immigration reform is on the minds of lots of voters with the critical primary only a few days away. Let's go to John Zarrella. He's down in Florida right now; Dover, Florida, where growers I take it, John, are pretty worried.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf. I am in Dover, Florida, near Tampa. Nearly all of the men who pick this field, about 150 acres, are from Mexico. The grower says that it would be impossible. For him to continue picking this field, he would probably go out of business if he didn't have those workers. So as you might expect, the most important issue that farmers and growers in Florida, and they are a lot of them, want to hear the candidates address is on immigration reform.


ZARRELLA: Since 1933, they've been picking oranges off the trees at Smokey Groves in Lake Placid, Florida.

MASON SMOAK, FARMER: They will be ready to harvest in two to three months.

ZARRELLA: But these days Mason Smoke is worried, afraid immigration reform could destroy the industry, and there may not be anyone to pick next year's crop.

SMOAK: This country relies on a work force that is not necessarily from this country.

ZARRELLA: According to the Department of Labor, 65 percent of farm workers nationwide are illegal. With the Florida primary just days away, smoke and strawberry grower, John Stickles are paying as much attention on where the candidates stand on immigration as they do their groves and field. The next president they believe must support a guest worker program. JOHN STICKLES, FARMER: So I want to hear from a president is them saying I'm going to secure the border, but at the same time, I'm going to institute a friendly guest worker program.

SMOAK: It's more than closing the borders and sending everybody home. We will be crippled as an industry and a nation if everybody was sent home and we did not have a guest worker program.

ZARRELLA: Agriculture is the second biggest industry in Florida behind tourism. Citrus alone brings in $9 billion. A lot of votes in Florida are tied to agriculture. But based on what they've heard so far, neither man is sure who he is voting for. All the candidates want tighter security, but while some support a guest worker program, none has talked enough so far to satisfy Smoak or Stickles.

STICKLES: Looking for somebody that is open minded, realizing that they're going to shut down agriculture by removing these people.

ZARRELLA: If that happens these growers fear workers won't be coming from other countries in the future, but much of your fruits and vegetables will.


ZARRELLA: Now Smoak and Stickles both tell me that they employ legal seasonal farm workers. What's interesting is it's under a Department of Labor program, very much like a guest worker program, called the H2A, but it's very costly. These farmers, Stickles and Smoak, they have to pay for the transportation to and from Mexico, have to be able to house these guest workers and they arrange for visas for them to come and go. Most farmers and growers in this country, particularly the small ones, Wolf, can't afford those costs. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Zarrella, thanks very much. Good explanation. We'll see you back tomorrow with another issue that you're concentrating on.

Rudy Giuliani is gambling on winning the Florida primary next Tuesday. He's concentrating much of his efforts, in fact, all of his efforts there right now. The former New York City mayor once called Florida crucial to his presidential hopes. New polls show him trailing just days before the vote. Giuliani today says he picked the right strategy.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that it was politically correct to focus on Florida. It was the best choice when you consider all the circumstances that were presented to us about resources and about strengths and weaknesses in a place where you can make your case the most effectively, and the fact that this is a wide- open race means that no, I don't think it was a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: If you would like to watch any of the candidates, by the way, out on the campaign trail you can always go to to watch their rallies and events. They're streamed live at

The former New York mayor, as we've been saying, was once seen as a favorite in Florida, in fact nationwide. Jack Cafferty wants to know so what went wrong for Rudy Giuliani? Jack is coming up with your e-mail.

And al Qaeda reloaded. Authorities say they've foiled a major bombing plot and that's raising fresh concerns that the terror network may be ready to strike again.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The Bush administration today said it is prepared to send some U.S. combat troops to Pakistan, but only if Pakistan asks for them.

Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. It's a politically charged issue right now, whether or not the U.S. should send what are called counter insurgency troops to help the Pakistanis. What's going on?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. These would be special operations commandos. The U.S. is frustrated with the Pakistan military's inability to take control of the tribal regions to the west and the north. That's where al Qaeda has been operating as a safe haven. Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled the U.S. would welcome the mission to go in and help the Pakistanis. Listen to how he put it.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We remain ready, willing, and able to assist the Pakistanis and to partner with them, and to provide additional training to conduct joint operations should they desire to do so.


MCINTYRE: Now the U.S. has conducted cross-border operations in the past, mostly U.S. military and sometimes CIA air strikes. The U.S. role is never publicly acknowledged because the fear of the backlash it would create in Pakistan that could undermine the government of Pervez Musharraf. The Pakistani military is quite proud of its abilities. Some of the leaders scoff at the idea that the U.S. commandos would be able to do much more. But the U.S. believes its high tech edge especially with night vision goggles would make a big difference. Right now, as you said, it's up to the Pakistanis. The U.S. is not pushing the idea too hard. If Pakistan should ever decide it's worth it to have the U.S. help, the Pentagon says, in Robert Gates' words, it's ready, willing and able to join the fight. BLITZER: At least until now, Musharraf publicly has said thanks but no thanks. We'll see if he changes his mind. Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre for that report.

Is al Qaeda now fully ready to strike again? Spanish authorities say they have just busted up a plot for mass transit targets. That's led to fresh security concerns across Europe.

Our CNN international security correspondent, Paula Newton, has the details from London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, with all the newspapers and television controlled by the government, there aren't many outlets for critical thinking in Cuba. We met one woman who is determined to push the limits, using her blog.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, that was not Paula Newton in London. We're going to get to Paula in London and update you on her piece.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty while we sort out some technical problems. Jack, it's live television.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, pictures were not meant to fly through the air. It's carved in some mountain somewhere.

The question this hour is what went wrong for Rudy Giuliani? He's in trouble in Florida, big trouble. He has some political experts now saying there's no way he's going to win down there. If he can't win there, well it might just be all over.

Delane writes, "To quote Joe Biden, a noun, a verb and 9/11. Best analysis of Rudy since he joined the race."

Michael in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, "Rudy's problems began the day he decided to run. He was always perceived as a single issue candidate, and unfortunately for him, that issue wasn't the economy."

Ed writes, "Rudy was known initially as a solid crime fighter and most, including I, believed a political moderate but then he went pro- Bush, pro-Iraq war, and hawkish to the right side of the bald eagle (pun intended). That's when I wrote him off. We don't want another Bush rubber stamp clone."

John writes from Tempe, Arizona, "Giuliani had the deck stacked against him. The arcane process that we have for primaries put all of the states that Giuliani could not win ahead of him. I believe if we would have a national primary in this country, Giuliani would have been the nominee."

David writes, "Nothing went wrong. Just like any election, the voters get to know the candidates. Rudy is not a likeable person, he has no foreign policy experience, and he is a horrible speaker and debater. The republicans have no one that fits the bill exactly but he came up short time and time again."

Elaine writes, "Too bad. He should have seen that little cartoon about the turtle and the rabbit. The one opportunity the states had burned to a crisp."

And David writes, "Rudy mistakenly believed after 2000 that Florida determines who the president is instead of campaigning in the other 49 states." Wolf?

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thanks very much.

Let's get back to that security alert; a high security alert in Europe right now. Paula Newton reports.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stepped up security, more spot checks, precautions in London mirror those in other European capitols this week as an alleged suicide plot in Barcelona unnerves Europe. Ten suspects, nine of them of Pakistani origin, allegedly were planning suicide attacks on the transit system there this month. If the suspicions of a Spanish judge are true, that the attack order came directly from Pakistan, it could prove al Qaeda is now fully reloaded and dispatching bombers to the streets of Europe. Spanish court documents allege the attackers were making bombs. They had instructions, batteries, detonators, the only thing missing, a lethal amount of explosives.

FERNANDO REINARES, ROYAL ELCANO INSTITUTE: For the rest, everything was in place it seems. This plot involved not only individuals who were legal residents in the country but also individuals who apparently came to Spain explicitly for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist attack.

NEWTON: Evidences laid out charge that two of three possible suicide attackers arrived in Spain within the last two weeks directly from training camps in Pakistan. This could be an indication al Qaeda has rearmed to pre-9/11 levels.

Officials here say they're not panicking, but the extra security measures are a rational response to what they say is now a more complex threat coming from al Qaeda.

JACQUI SMITH, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: That's why we have looked at the way in which we protect our public places. We've looked at what we need to do to make sure the public remains vigilant about what that threat may be.

NEWTON: This week Britain proposed more terrorism laws to defend against a threat that it says keeps changing. It comes now not just from home-grown radicals inspired by al Qaeda but militants, once again, directly under its command. Paula Newton, CNN, London.


BLITZER: Are we looking at another do nothing Congress? Is there a do nothing Congress under way right now? find out what Lou Dobbs thinks. He's standing by live. He joins us in a moment.

Also, Chelsea Clinton finds her voice on the campaign trail. We're going to have details of what she's saying as she stumps for her mom.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Barack Obama met with a cheering crowd today in South Carolina. But tongue in cheek, Obama says he wasn't the reason for the rousing reception. Listen to this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would like to take credit for all the turnout and the excitement that we've been seeing. Let's face it. Part of the reason that people are paying so much attention to this election, they know that in November we're going to be selecting the next president of the United States. And they know that whatever else happens, when they go in that polling place, the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot. They know that.


BLITZER: From Barack Obama, let's go to Lou Dobbs and talk to Lou a little bit.

Hi, Lou. I know you're getting ready for your show that begins in one hour. Give us your immediate reaction to this economic stimulus package that was announced today by the president and the democratic and republican leadership in the Congress.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: When you say bipartisan, I think it's important to note first off, Wolf, that it was a bipartisan effort that got us into this mess as well. But I have to give the president and this Congress, the democratically-led Congress in particular along with this president, credit for moving this package through as quickly as they did. There was no hiding place for the folks, so I fully expected they would do so. They at least found a way to get out of one another's way and start moving in the interest of the people. That's important. They haven't done that in a very long time.

BLITZER: This package is clearly aimed at the middle class. The wealthy not going to get much out of it.

DOBBS: Hallelujah.

BLITZER: The poor people are going to get something out of it. They are going to get a few hundred dollars in the mail, checks, these tax rebates. But the question is this, will it actually work, by the time these checks get there in April, May, and June, will it actually stimulate the economy?

DOBBS: Wolf, these partisan idiots are trying to say it's too little, it's too late. You know something for folks who need this money this is important and it's as timely as it can be. We're talking about government here. This certainly isn't in perfect, but what in government approach is good? Let alone perfect. I think we have to put away the chattering nonsense. Give these people credit for at least getting this done. Now we'll get to the real issue over the course of the next ten months as we go into the presidential campaign deeper and elect a president. We have to get to the bottom of these policies that are destroying working men and women in the country. Their families are middle class and bankrupting this nation.

BLITZER: Let me ask you this, Lou. I'm going to be speaking to Senator Max Baucus. He's the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. They're going to have to approve this. What's your message to him?

DOBBS: Get off your butt and get it done and save the partisan positioning and posturing and forget it. Just get to work, Senator, along with all of your colleagues in the Senate, get this help to the folks who need it. It's not perfect. It's far from perfect. So what? Nothing that any of you have done in this Congress or the previous Congress has been good either. So let's at least get this money to the people who are going to need it, try to minimize and to mitigate the pain that millions of Americans are already feeling.

BLITZER: I know you're going to be talking about this on your show. What have you got coming up?

DOBBS: We're going to be looking at school districts in this country that are paying $8 an hour, Wolf, for students to stay longer in class, imagine that. I can't imagine what they're paying the football team. We're going to also be taking a look at what is happening with the conference of mayors. They want to expand illegal immigration amnesty.