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Super Tuesday Election Coverage; McCain Ahead; Romney and Huckabee Vow to Keep Fighting; Clinton and Obama Neck and Neck

Aired February 6, 2008 - 02:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage continues from Atlanta with Fredricka Whitfield and T.J. Holmes. Let's turn it toss it down to them.
Guys, take it away.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.

Yes, it's two in the morning.

WHITFIELD: Don't remind us.

HOLMES: We are not done, no. We are not done.

Hello there, everybody. Our presidential race goes on and, yes, we go on here. The contenders continue to fight.

The big story for Super Tuesday, not necessarily who's winning, but there are really no big losers right now.

WHITFIELD: That's right. ON the GOP side, John McCain scored in a string of delegate-rich states but his rivals, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, remain defiant, especially Huckabee, who nailed some big wins across the south.

HOLMES: Democrats -- a real horse race on that side. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama trading victories and splitting the delegates.

WHITFIELD: And this just in. We have the results from Super Tuesday's biggest prize -- California.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

HOLMES: And I'm T.J. Holmes, continuing our round-the-clock coverage of this virtual nation-wide presidential primary that we've been eyeing. Yes, we're going to start with the big dog of them all, the big prize today in California.

McCain gets a huge victory there. Votes still being counted out there, but you can see here -- and a big deal for him here as well as that, this is not a winner-take-all state like so many of the others states on the Republican side. They do get to split it so still a big prize for him. You can see 44 percent of the vote that he did take in here. 173 total delegates up for grabs in California. But a big win and a big margin so far.

WHITFIELD: And nor is California, a winner-take-all prize, but on the Democratic side, it is Hillary Clinton getting this huge state. The voter totals as they come in, you're seeing right now. Pretty remarkable turn out there. Total numbers of delegates, 441. But Clinton overwhelmingly getting the majority there. We understand, Los Angeles, being the city representing 23 percent of the state's population -- she wins Los Angeles so she'll be garnering quite a few of those delegates there.

HOLMES: We've got several others. We're still waiting on a few races to be called, about 30 percent reporting. Clinton and Obama neck and neck in New Mexico's primary. Those numbers are changing, could change, probably will change. We'll continue to watch those.

Also, in Alaska, Obama has won the Democratic nod there. As for the Republican caucus there, it ended a little while ago. The results still being tabulated so we'll get those to you when we see them.

Huckabee, that's got to be the story.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. Folks were ready to write him off. Big surprise tonight for many folks.

HOLMES: For a lot of folks. He is now being called the spoiler. He could be in the position to be a serious contender even, Huckabee. He's talking to very enthusiastic supporters in Little Rock, Arkansas. We heard from him earlier. He talked to them earlier after racking up a string of wins in the south. Take a listen.


MIKE HUCKABEE, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Over the last few days, a lot of people have been trying to say that this is a two-man race. Well, you know what? It is. And we're in it.

One of the things you're seeing across this nation is that people are saying the conservatives do have choice because the conservatives have a voice. Tonight, they're getting a chance to express that. From here, they'll get to continue expressing that choice and that voice.


WHITFIELD: Once considered an underdog, now the Republican frontrunner, John McCain proves time and time again that he's a force to be reckoned with. On the heals of his Super Tuesday victories, he had plenty to say.


JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you. Tonight, my friends, we've won a number of important victories in the closest thing that we've ever had to a national primary. We've won some of the biggest states in the country. We've won primaries in the West, the South, the Midwest and the Northeast. And although I've never minded the role of the underdog and have relished as much as anyone come-from-behind wins, tonight we must get used to the idea that we are the Republican Party frontrunner for the nominee.


HOLMES: Yeah, he's calling himself the frontrunner. Mitt Romney probably having a tough time hearing that.

It's not over until it's over. But Romney says despite a string of major Super Tuesday wins by John McCain, a strong than expected showing by Huckabee, he's going to ride this thing out. Here's what Romney told his supporters earlier.


MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not just about the heart and soul of our party, it's not just about which party will win in November, this is about the future course of our country. This is about whether Washington will finally deal with the challenges we face, whether Washington is up to the task or helping solve these problems, taking advantage of opportunities, making sure that our kids and their kids live in an America that's the greatest nation on earth. It must be. It has always been. The world depends upon our sacrifice, our commitment and dedication to peace and prosperity and liberty. This is the greatest nation in the history of the earth. We will keep the hope of the earth. With your help, we'll do it together.


WHITFIELD: Back now to the Democrats. Clinton won the biggest prize in the Super Tuesday contest, California. She's still gearing up for a tough and historic fight ahead after strong showings by her rival Barack Obama.

Here's what Senator Clinton told her supporters in her state of New York.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After seven years of a president who listens only to the special interests, you're ready for a president who brings your voice, your values and your dreams to your White House.

Together we'll take back America. Because I see an America where our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top where prosperity is shared and we create good jobs that stay right near America. I see an America where we stand up to the oil companies and the oil producing countries, where we launch a clean energy revolution and finally confront the climate crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Senator Clinton may have taken Super Tuesday's biggest prize, California, but Barack Obama posted some impressive wins as well. He says that's more evidence that voters are looking for what he has to offer.


BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to speak directly to all those Americans who have yet to joins this movement but still hunger for change. They know it in their gut. They know we can do better than we're doing. They know that we can take our politics to a higher level. But they're afraid. They've been taught to be cynical. They're doubtful that it can be done. But I'm here to say to all of you who still harbor those doubts, we need you.


WHITFIELD: Our Super Tuesday coverage all day, all night, that continues. And we're going to also break down for you what has taken place throughout the South. Not just Super Tuesday, the primaries, et cetera, but tornadoes touching down in some of those primary states. Chad Myers will be joining us later. All that straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Much more Super Tuesday coverage with the neck and neck races between the Dems and the Republicans.

But first, super tornadoes sweeping through many states in the South. Chad Myers is keeping a close watch on all this -- Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Fred, it has been an ugly evening here, 23 fatalities. We have 13 in Arkansas, three in Kentucky, seven in Tennessee.

Here's what you're about see. What's happening in Franklin, Tennessee; Memphis, Tennessee, and around Nashville? We have some video that's really -- well, we'll just start from scratch.

This is just to the northeast of Nashville. A tornado went through here. Hail, thunder and lightening as well. I'm not sure what caused this. This is an explosion at a natural gas pumping station to the -- you can actually see this fire from Nashville tower cam from WSMV. This fire was 400 feet in the sky. There were also other people injured in surrounding areas because it's in a little bit of a neighborhood, so to speak. And there's the video from the top of the tower cam. That's over 40 miles away. You can see the flames. People seeing it. They're going to shut the gas off at the pump farther to the north and it will burn itself out so it'll be out quite quickly.

Back into Jackson. Jackson, Tennessee, a university was hit. Union University, the girl's dorm was hit there. The dorm, when it was hit, was totally destroyed, trapping some people in it, covering nine girls in that dorm. But the men's dorm is OK. Injury and damage there but not really all that bad. We are still getting people out and we're learning about how much they're injured and how they're doing right now. So far, Jackson, there is no fatalities. There are some criticals, but no fatalities in Jackson.

Now into Memphis. We had a building collapse not too far from the Memphis airport. That collapse killed three people inside.

In Arkansas, it was a devastating night with 13 killed with seven or more tornadoes.

Let's go some radars. We still have some tornadoes on the ground at this point in time. Typically at this point, it's all over. It's not hot anymore. Not so for today. South of Richmond, in Cincinnati, down towards Maysville and east of Lexington, all these purple squares you see, those are tornado warnings still in effect.

Now we're going to take you toward Centerville, Tennessee. Believe it or not, there is still another storm headed to Nashville. It's south and southwest of Nashville now, heading to Nashville at 50 miles per hour. More storms to the north of Hendersonville. That should stay away from the area that was hit with that gas explosion, but you can begin to see how strong these storms still are. And now popping up into Mississippi proper. Yazoo City all the way down to almost Tupelo with these storms, all those purple boxes still tornado warnings.

There are watches everywhere. I'm not showing you the watches. A warning means a storm is strong enough, it's rotating enough that it could have a tornado. A watch just means some of these storms might rotate. All of these storms are rotating and some are rotating stronger enough that we're still getting tornadoes on the ground at what was two-something in the morning, which is unheard of. This should be all over by now. It is still going -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Wow, scary stuff. You're giving us the warnings now, but given the death toll and number of injuries earlier, something tells me a lot of folks are caught by surprise. No one expected, anticipated this?

MYERS: It isn't spring. But this was a spring-like storm. And even tonight, if you hear a thunder storm coming, stay away from the windows. All of these storms could still spin tonight. Get inside. Stay in the smallest room, the basement if you can. Sleep in the basement if you can. If you've got a nice place down there, it's just the safest place to be in a thunderstorm that happens in the middle of the night. You can't see it coming. By the time you hear it coming, it's too late.

WHITFIELD: Right, basement. But if you don't have that, a bathroom or a closet in the middle ground-level of the house.

MYERS: When you get a tornado to hit a house, the outside walls are often gone, but the inside walls are always always still standing. That's where you want to be, in those inside walls.

WHITFIELD: Chad Myers, thanks so much.

MYERS: Sure.

WHITFIELD: We'll check back with you.


HOLMES: We turn it back to the Super Tuesday coverage. And Mitt Romney vowing to fight on. We want to head to Romney headquarters in Boston. CNN's Mary Snow is there.

MARY SNOW, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mitt Romney's biggest set back came in California. He went there Monday night in a last-minute attempt to court conservatives, hoping a backlash against Senator McCain would hand him a victory. It didn't. Now his camp will take a look at the delegates it can pick up in California as it decides how to move forward.


ROMNEY: Ann came to me and said, you know, the one thing that's clear tonight is that nothing's clear. But I think she's wrong. One thing that's clear is this campaign is going on.


SNOW: Romney is vowing to move forward even though he suffered a big set back in the South because of Huckabee who won several states there. Romney did win states like Massachusetts and Utah, North Dakota and Colorado. Those are states that he was banking on.

But the question looms, just how much further can he go on. He'll meet with his advisors, staff on Wednesday to decide what to do next. He's expected to go to D.C. on Thursday as planned for a conservative meeting. But the question looms, how much further can he go on.

Mary Snow, CNN, Boston.

HOLMES: That's a question he has to be asking himself. It's the question a lot of people are asking and questions that will be asked of him, how long will he stick around in this race.

I want to move ahead to our Mark Preston, one of our political gurus. Always good to see him.

Good morning to you, kind sir. Good to see you. Appreciate you're staying up late with us.

Please tell us, he's sticking around in the race, why?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I'll tell you what, I'm not surprised that Mitt Romney tonight didn't say he would get out of the race, T.J. I think he wants to evaluate where he's at. He wants to see where the delegate count is.

This race isn't over. Tonight was John McCain's night. But there's several more contests at this point. I think Romney want to wake up in the morning, look at the map and see if he can perhaps overtake McCain down the road.

HOLMES: How do you see that map working out? How could it possibly work out in his favor that he wakes up in the morning, it's going to be the same as it was when he went to bed tonight?

PRESTON: Absolutely. But Romney's looking at today and saying, look, I lost West Virginia because McCain supporters went to Huckabee and helped Huckabee win. Huckabee won the South, the four southern states. But we're out of the south right now.

A lot of people are saying that Huckabee probably is a regional candidate. Romney might say, look, I might win Maryland, Virginia, I might have a chance in some other states, Louisiana, what have you. So I think Romney wants to evaluate where things are going.

HOLMES: You mentioned Huckabee. Are people still not giving him enough credit in some ways? Every time he seems to pull off a big win, they call him a regional candidate or something like that. But is he for real yet? And how big of a night was this for him?

PRESTON: A huge night. And he is for real in the sense that he won four big states in the South. There's not a question about that.

Let me tell you a figure I found extremely interesting. Romney spent $30 million on TV advertising in this presidential election. Huckabee spent $3 million. And Huckabee is the winner tonight. So if that says anything, it certainly says money isn't always going to win elections. Mike Huckabee did very well tonight, but I think he needs to think of where he can go next and how could he perhaps overtake McCain. I don't know if that's possible.

HOLMES: We don't know if that's possible. Let's turn to the other side, the Democrats. Are we in the same spot we were before? We can't -- everybody seems to want to crown some frontrunner, somebody's got momentum. Nobody seems to be able to do it. Every time it comes around -- we've got Super Tuesday now, nothing is clear, so we just keep going on and on and on.

PRESTON: And on and on and on. Absolutely. Months ago, we were looking at Super Tuesday as the finish line. This was going to be it. We would have a Republican nominee. We would have a Democratic nominee.

On the Democratic side, arguably, we're only half way there at this point. I will tell you, the Obama people, just getting off the phone with them minutes ago, were telling me, look, we've already invested money in states past Super Tuesday. We've already bought TV advertising.

I was in Maryland and Virginia this past weekend. I was hearing ads from Obama on the radio, trying to drum up support, trying to get out the vote.

This race will go on certainly into March.

HOLMES: How can you -- you step in for us as an impartial observer. You know both sides, of course, could spin this evening and show why their side came out victorious and why it was a good night for them. But you, tell us, looking at it from the outside, in, tell our viewers who really did come out on top tonight?

PRESTON: I know this sounds like I'm dodging your question, but honestly I think Hillary Clinton really scored big by winning California. In the end it'll be interesting to see how many delegates she takes out of California just by virtue of winning the state. That's a very big win.

Obama won more contests tonight though. That's what he people are saying. They're saying, look, we've done well in the Northeast, in the South, in moving out to the Southwest.

So they're both going to claim victory. I think they both can at this point.

HOLMES: Our political editor, Mark Preston. I know you're not trying to dodge my question. You'd never do that.

PRESTON: I'm tired, T.J.

HOLMES: I know. I know you're tired. You're not used to staying up this late working, at least.

PRESTON: That's for sure.

HOLMES: Mark Preston, good to see you. We'll see you again soon.

PRESTON: Thanks, again.

HOLMES: Fredricka, we'll hand it back over to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, T.J.

Coming up, breaking down the votes based on gender and race. How are all these votes doled out?

Also, candidates now shaking hands, but also updating web pages.

Plus, we're also tracking severe weather, tornadoes in the middle of the night.


WHITFIELD: And also Alabama, we're able to project the winner of Alabama, but not all of the south. Tennessee went to Hillary Clinton. So some surprises there in terms of a split of some southern vote there. Tennessee with 85 total Democratic delegates at stake there.

Let's talk more about this Democratic race. Whichever way it turns out, it makes history.

Joining us now from Washington is political analyst Mary Francis Berry, former U.S. civil rights commission appointed by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed by Bill Clinton. She is a registered Independent.

And we're glad you're able to stick with us through these early morning hours.


WHITFIELD: Ms. Berry, all I can think about is -- I think about my parents and their generation and how they lived through Jim Crow, civil rights movement, wars, beginning with World War II, segregation, desegregation. And now they're witnessing another part of history, to see a man of cloth, a POW, a black man, a white woman, all as frontrunners. How extraordinary is this piece of history?

BERRY: Well, history has already been made no matter what happens from now on. It's quite extraordinary that most of them had a good night tonight.

Romney, I can see, just won something in Alaska. But Huckabee, the evangelical, had a good night, Barack Obama did, Hillary Clinton did.

I think it's really great and it shows how the whole country has changed and how the whole civil rights revolution has paid off.

WHITFIELD: America really did share the wealth then, as you put it. Everyone won a little bit of something. In your view, what was America saying on this Super Tuesday?

BERRY: It's saying that we -- anybody can run for president who wants to and can be taken seriously and can go forward and receive some votes someplace, and that no one is excluded.

WHITFIELD: Tonight was one thing. Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama -- already thinking about the next race, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia next Tuesday, March 4th. They're already positioning themselves to really duke it out. In your view, is there anything these candidates need to do differently or is it maintaining the kind of momentum they take from Super Tuesday?

BERRY: The first thing they need to do is not pay that much attention to polls because the polls, most of the time they turn out to be wrong. When they predict that something is going to happen, don't count on it in your campaign. Keep arguing the case for the issues that they care about and keep pressing that and keep campaign hard with the ground game. I think if they do that, we're going to see a fight. The next couple of weeks should be very good for Obama, given where the races are going. There won't be much good news for Hillary Clinton, so...

WHITFIELD: Particularly, you're talking about Maryland, D.C. and Virginia?

BERRY: Not only Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, but the race is going to be Louisiana where he should do well, out in Nebraska, which is right next to Kansas where he did well. He should do well. So he should be doing well right on into Maryland and Virginia. She will start -- she will probably do fairly well in Virginia. But in Maryland, he's going to have good news consistently. So she needs the cushion of having come out ahead tonight. Even though it was by a small margin, she did come out ahead. But he will go forward from there. Then she will have to figure out how to keep up the momentum so she can go into March 5th with Ohio and with Texas to see where we go.

But this is going to end -- don't forget though, Florida is still handing out there. Florida voted. Michigan is still hanging out there. The DNC, Democratic National Committee, has to figure out how what it's going to do about those votes because if this goes right up to the convention, the Democrats want to win this time so they don't want to have a deadlock convention with people fighting each other on the floor. So that has to be resolved too. There are those delegates out there.

WHITFIELD: And let's talk about the Republicans. Even though he may not have the majority of states, Mike Huckabee, to me, comes out the star of the show tonight. He says this dog still has a lot of fight in him. Don't write me off. Contrary to what Romney says, he's not a hindrance. He is not a spoiler, he says. What did he do right to stay in this race?

BERRY: He has personality, charm, a straight message, whether or not you agree with him or not, he's very clear about what he's doing. He seems -- he's a very pleasant person who seems happy. He's a happy warrior. There's nothing -- he's optimistic. He doesn't have much money, but he doesn't seem to need it. So he had a very good night and I can see why he wants to stay in the race. And he should stay in the race.

WHITFIELD: It's remarkable. You mentioned money, underscoring, he hardly had any money -- so little money, he wasn't even able to afford any ads in these primary states and look what happened. It seemed to pay off for him anyway in the long run.

All right, Mary Francis Berry, thanks so much from the nation's capital. Enjoyed talking to you.

BERRY: Thank you.


HOLMES: Super Tuesday rolls on every though -- it's Wednesday now. The blogs are rolling on as well. So much of the campaign season being battled online, of course, on the blogs. We'll be talking to them.

Also, severe weather causing problems across the southeast, even at this late, late hour. A lot more on that ahead. Don't go anywhere.


HOLMES: And, just a short time ago, CNN here, just minutes ago, able to project that Mitt Romney has picked up Alaska. He has put that in his win column for the evening. Twenty nine delegates up for grabs up there in Alaska in a closed caucus up there. Mitt Romney, just a short time ago, CNN able to project, in fact, the winner of the caucus in the Alaska.

Earlier in the evening, we were able to project that Barack Obama would pick up the win there in Alaska on the Democratic side. Eighteen delegates up for grabs there. He won that pretty handily. At least 75 percent of the vote going his way in Alaska.

Now on any election night, as we've seen really over the past several elections, bloggers playing a big role. Certainly a big night for them getting involved. Our Josh Levs keeping an eye on what they're keeping an eye on this election night. We say good morning to you, sir.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, technically it is. Good morning to you, T.J. I have been looking around tonight. There is so much spin going on on the blogs, I need Dramamine right now just to surf. Of course, they're being provocative, as always.

So what we're going to do right now, we're going to bring our own experts, liberal -- at least from the left, Rachel Sklar from the "Huffington Post." Hello Rachel. And conservative David Freddoso. He's joining us from the National Review Online. David, good to have you tonight.

Let's start with you, because I want to ask you, you recently said that John McCain has the nomination to lose. After tonight, is he home free?

DAVID FREDDOSO, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I absolutely think so. Tonight was a disaster for Mitt Romney. You know, the fact that we're talking about him winning Alaska at this point is rather telling. He really needed to win Georgia. He needed to win Missouri. He needed to win in other places, as well.

He won in Massachusetts and Utah, where everybody thought he was going to win. That's not very impressive.

LEVS: Can he be the one candidate now who's left in the race who finally gets to get some sleep?

FREDDOSO: You know, Mike Huckabee is going to be able to make a very good argument tomorrow, and say, Mitt Romney is costing me this nomination. This is what Romney has been saying about Huckabee all along. The question is, can Romney be the guy who needs to drop out because he's costing Huckabee the nomination.

LEVS: It does seem like it is shaping up that way.

FREDDOSO: That's rather embarrassing. When you're the guy who spent all those million dollars, it looks very bad.


LEVS: Rachel, jump to the Democratic side for me. Look at the Dems tonight. Is there a winner, yes or no?

RACHEL SKLAR, "HUFFINGTON POST": Both sides are going to spin it that they won, that they -- that they exceeded expectations, that they did well. Clinton picked up California. She picked up Massachusetts. Obama had more actual states. They're both going to spin it and there's no clear winner, absolutely.

LEVS: Right, it looks like there's something for everybody. I want to talk to you about the youth vote. These numbers are really interesting. There's been a lot of talk about young people being energized by this campaign, obviously a lot going for Obama. I looked at our exit polls, and it looks like Hillary Clinton in California actually edged out Barack Obama among young people, over all, especially with help from young Latinos. What you're seeing in the blogosphere, particularly at "Huffington Post," what kind of impact, realistic impact, do you think young people had on the races today?

SKLAR: I think that so far, at least being seen on the blogs, you definitely see the conventional wisdom being that the youth is coming out for Huckabee -- not Huckabee, for Barack Obama, and they are actually coming out.

I was at a Huckabee even, and I saw some youth there. They were actually pretty psyched about Chuck Norris. So that's the conventional wisdom. That seems to have been born out. Voter turn out has been swelled on the Democratic side for everybody. But we've seen this new constituency burgeoning.

But yes, I believe Hillary Clinton also edged out Obama in college aged kids in Massachusetts as well. So I think Hillary might be sort of the guilty pleasure of people on the left. Everybody swoons in public over Obama, but maybe secretly nurses a flame for her, because the numbers don't bear out the talk of movement and the talk of soaring hope crushing boring practicality that you have seen being spun in the press.

LEVS: It's true. You hear a much simpler story. When you actually look at the numbers, it's really not playing out the way that the punditry kind of shrinks it down.

David, I want to talk to you about that too, because young people also having an impact on the GOP side. We rarely hear about that. You are seeing young people energized by this race. Is it, though, a deficit on the GOP side, or are young people as excited about the Republican race as they are the Democrats?

FREDDOSO: Well, Josh, I haven't had a chance to look at the exit polls for all that have been decided tonight. But I would say this, I hate to throw a bucket of cold water on this, but young people, when you look at exit polls, how much of the composition do they make of each state's Republican voters, Democratic voters, young people don't tend to vote.

Every four years in every presidential race, people talk about how the young peoples' vote, the youth vote is going to be the big thing, and they don't vote. (CROSS TALK)

FREDDOSO: When Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, I'll believe it that young people are voting.

SKLAR: There's engagement. There's an additional level of engagement. Particularly on the Democratic side, it is not going to take so much to edge it in one direction or another. I think either Obama or Clinton would want any constituency they can get, however small.

LEVS: We have to tie it up here. Before I let you go, I want to give you each a chance to tell me what's the biggest that we in the conventional media, mainstream media, are missing. Rachel, start with you, if there's one big message about what is going on in the Democratic races that you think isn't getting mentioned in the mainstream media, what's that?

SKLAR: I don't think it's things that aren't getting mentioned. I think that spin is being paid attention to a little bit more than actual fact. I think that when you clear it all away and look at the data, sometimes it's not quite as extreme and dramatic and filled with conflict as the spin likes to make it. That's sort of what I've noticed.

LEVS: You're taking away a story. No, you're right. David, what about your side? Is there something big that the mainstream media is missing about what's really going on in this GOP race or what has led to John McCain's victory so far?

FREDDOSO: Mike Huckabee tomorrow needs to make the argument that Mitt Romney is costing him the nomination against John McCain.

SKLAR: Absolutely poetic.

FREDDOSO: After today's results, that is the big missed thing. Today has been the worst day ever for Mitt Romney. There's no nice way to put it.

LEVS: That far we got. But if Mr. Huckabee's listening, maybe he'll take your advice, bring that message in tomorrow. Rachel and David, thank you so much. We'll be talking with you again soon.


WHITFIELD: Guys and gals, speaking of John McCain, what a night for the Republican senator. Look at the incredibly important victories that have catapulted him to a front runner spot. Look at the numbers, right there, those states he clinched. Our Dana Bash is at McCain headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, John McCain finally used the F-word, front runner, to describe himself after a big night for the McCain campaign, winning from the east coast to the west coast, doing very well in some states that they expected to do well in, like New York and New Jersey and Connecticut, but also in states that were real biters, like Missouri and, of course, the biggest state, the most important, and that is California.

What John McCain is trying to do at this point is still make people think and understand that he absolutely has the momentum to carry on, even though there are two other Republicans in this race who are saying that they are not getting out. But the big challenge for John McCain, even as he revels in his big victories here on Super Tuesday, is still to, as he puts it, unite the party.

In his speech here in Phoenix, he talked about the fact that he wanted to make clear that he is a Republican, kind of an odd thing for a Republican candidate to say. But he had a refrain in his speech, I'm a Republican because. He said, I'm a Republican because I want lower taxes, a Republican because I want less government in your life, a Republican because of your values.

The whole reason for that is because, despite these big wins that John McCain has had, and despite the fact that his campaign insists that they are on the fast-track now to the Republican nomination, he still has to mend fences with many conservatives in his own party who simply do not want him to be their nominee, because they say they think he's too liberal on many issues that matter a lot to them, like stem cell research, even campaign finance reform.

So what John McCain is going to do, even as he counts up his many, many delegates that he won here on Super Tuesday is to look forward. He is going to look forward to a big speech back in Washington, where he is going to be headed next. That speech on Thursday is going to be to the Conservative Political Action Committee. That's a big gathering of conservatives. That, the McCain campaign thinks, is his chance to really reach out to those people who he really will need if he wants to unite the party.

At the same time, the McCain campaign is making the point that he did exceptionally well in some of the traditionally blue states with moderate voters. That, they say, is evidence, and should be evidence, to the Republican party that he is a nominee who could widen the Republican party and perhaps make some of those so called blue states, like New York and New Jersey, that haven't had really competitive contests in the general election, competitive for Republicans for the first time in a very long time.

Dana Bash, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.


HOLMES: We do want to turn for a moment to continue to bring you the latest on severe weather that's been rolling across sections of the country this evening. These are some of the latest pictures we're getting out of Louisville, Kentucky, as we're seeing here. We're seeing for the first time as you're seeing them.

But Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, all three hit and hit hard this evening. In those three states, a total of 23 people confirmed killed. In Kentucky alone, three people confirmed killed. This is just some of the latest video we are giving you. These storms certainly came upon people, like we heard form our Chad Myers a little earlier. These are spring like storms, even though it is not spring time. Still, nothing here we are necessarily surprised about. It threw people off guard, not expecting, sure enough. But still, we have seen storms like this time of the year before.

But three people killed. Here's some of the damage, some of the latest video we're getting in, but some of the damage we're seeing in Louisville, Kentucky. The word though, we have over 20 people killed, over 100 injured in three states, after tornadoes ripped through Kentucky, Tennessee, as well as Arkansas this evening.

We will continue to keep an eye on the severe weather situation this evening as we continue with our coverage of the Super Tuesday election. A lot of folks maybe just are joining us here right now, even though this coverage has been going all night. Not everybody has been watching all night. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, huge victories for them tonight in California. We'll take you there live next. We'll be back with a whole lot more on this Super Tuesday coverage, as we roll on.


WHITFIELD: Well, as Super Tuesday numbers came in tonight, so did details on another big story that we're following this hour. About two dozen tornadoes ripped across Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Look at the pictures right there. At least 23 people dead. This footage is from Jackson, Tennessee, which is about 75 miles north east of Memphis. That's where some of the worst damage is being reported. At least 60 people were injured in that area alone.

Again, the storm damage is wide spread, spanning several southern states tonight. You saw the images we just got in recently out of Louisville, Kentucky, just some of the images of some of the damage that has cut a great swathe, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, all of that.

Our Chad Myers is keeping a close watch on all of this.


HOLMES: All right guys, we will turn back to California, the big prize of the evening on the Democrat and Republican side. Those two prizes have been awarded. On the Republican side, John McCain pulls out a victory in delegate rich California. On the Republican side, 173 delegates up for grabs, 170 of those so called pledged delegates, three of those the unpledged delegates, so called Super Delegates. We don't know the breakdown of how many delegates are going to go to him.

The person who came in second place was actually Mitt Romney, came in with 29 percent of the vote, McCain at 43 percent. Right now we just have about half of the precincts reporting in California. But based on the projections, based on the numbers, we are able to predict that, in fact, he will pick up California. On the Democratic side, big win for Hillary Clinton, who did pick up the victory there. She picked it up with over the half of the vote, 53 percent to 38 percent for Obama that we see right now. Again, about half of the precincts reporting right now. About 370 of those delegates are pledged, as you see, of that total. And then some 70 super delegates.

But there are the numbers right now, at least. About half, again, of the precincts reporting at this point, but she has well over a million, about 1.2 million votes to his 880,000, to Obama's 880,000. Don't know again, on that side either, how the delegate breakdown is going to go once those delegates are proportioned, based on how many votes they each get. Still, more numbers to get done. But she can, at least, claim a moral victory there with California.

And California, of course -- we know it's the crown jewel of this day, of Super Tuesday. It's delegate rich. Going into the primary, everybody knew it was going to be close, but didn't know exactly how it was going to work out in the end. So our Richard Quest set up shop at Mel's Diner in Los Angeles, checking out what people have to say. It's barely midnight in California right now, so that means the night is still young out there.

What do you have on tap for the evening, sir?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you've got to remember, T.J., that Los Angeles is an early to be city, by and large, because of the movie industry. Historically, bars and clubs close at 2:00 while the rest of the country might still be partying at that time of the night. But I am at Mel's Drive In, which is a very good place in the heart of Hollywood to actually gauge some reaction to those people who voted on this super Tuesday, which is almost at an end.

Also, an excellent place, T.J. I know you're stuck in the studio in Atlanta. So I'll just let your mouth water as you enjoy the sight of my late-eating meal.

Let's talk to some of those people, particularly on the Clinton and Obama side. Because the Democrats, with that vote this evening, far more interesting in many way to what happened.

With me is Christina, a Clinton supporter. Move your water out of the way. Annie, an Obama supporter. OK, Hillary Clinton came into Super Tuesday in California in the lead. It was a lead that to some extent was whittled away. She endured, but can she sustain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she most certainly can, because I think she's a stronger candidate right now. We need to look at who's going to make the president and start from day one and be ready to lead this country where it needs to go.

QUEST: Annie, are you encouraged by the way Barack Obama performed in California?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely, and I think it has to do with the fact the undecided voters are leaning more towards him than Clinton.

QUEST: Hasn't she got a point that if undecided voters are moving towards Barack Obama, then Hillary Clinton suffers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't say that undecided voters necessarily move towards Obama. I think that people are influenced by the media when they fixate on a candidate and they want to try to tell people who to vote for --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I think if they look at policy and substance --

QUEST: Yes, but -- hang on. If we look at the national poll tonight, as much as we can, Hillary Clinton had 49 percent of the vote, Barack Obama roughly 48 percent. It is a divided party, the Democrats, and she is the dividing issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't say that she is the dividing issue. I would say that if you look at a poll like that, they're both in the margin of error. So it's a dead heat right now. I think what you have is two really strong candidates that are going to different voters and you just have a really good competition. I don't think one candidate is ahead or one is an under dog. They're just in a dead heat.

QUEST: Who is better when we go to the general election, because is -- the fact is, Hillary Clinton may have taken California tonight, but Barack Obama did extremely well. But she probably has the more experience to go forward into the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they both can be really good. It really depends on the middle states, if they will vote for an African American. It's really difficult to vote for a female as well. But I think either way it goes, I'll be happy.

QUEST: Final question, tonight, in California, by the results, are you more encouraged or less encouraged?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely more encouraged. We have the most delegates right now and we're moving forward.

QUEST: She's right on that, but you are moving forward. That is the issue tonight, T.J. and Fred, who has the momentum? Because what we know so far from California is that, by and large, Hillary Clinton came into California in a strong lead, a lead that was whittled away by Barack Obama. So she may be enduring, but who has the momentum? As they go into the next primaries California has given a strong lead into which way that may go.

HOLMES: What is everybody else saying? I guess those aren't the only two you've been able to talk to, I'm sure. You find a lot of Hillary Clinton folks and some of that same sentiment, that they're happy with Obama or Clinton. They'll be happy with either one of them.

QUEST: I think the Democrats know that they have a strong candidate, although controversial because of the unique position of both candidates. They know that going into the general election, they will have a strong candidate, which ever one gets it.

But the issue seems to be, if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, does the fact that she is divisive within the country -- what does that do to the independent voters? Do they gravitate back to the Republican party and to John McCain? Or -- and those Republicans who might have been tempted towards Barack Obama, do they also go back to the Republican party. That is going to be the big issue, I think, when you look at Hillary Clinton going forward in the next few weeks.

HOLMES: We will see the next few weeks. Richard Quest, enjoy the rest of your evening out there, sir. Enjoy your dinner.

QUEST: What would you like me to order you? I can order you something from the menu and have it sent down to you.

HOLMES: Sent down to Atlanta? If it can get here by 5:00 am, that would be outstanding. Richard Quest, we appreciate you Richard. We'll see you. Thanks so much.

Folks, of course, our coverage is rolling on right here on Super Tuesday. Yes, it's 3:00 in the morning on the East coast, but still, things are still being added. Things are still being decided. The presidential race goes on. It continues. Many of them vowing to fight on.

The big story from Super Tuesday really not who was winning, who won this, who won that, but what we realized that there are no really big losers. So this thing, Fredricka, just rolls on and on and on.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and I'm still hanging on the thoughts of Richard Quest there at Mel's Drive In. I want to put my order in. I'll take a milk shake.