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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Guns & School Violence; Gun Control: Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand?; Terrorism Law Set to Expire; Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics; Latino Vote: Clinton and Obama Divide; Black-Brown Divide

Aired February 15, 2008 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN ELECTION CENTER.
Tonight, issues vital to your safety and security, terrorism, wiretapping, school safety, and guns.

Today's headlines have changed the presidential candidates' agendas even as the clocks tick down to the next round of primaries and debates. Gun control and school safety are front and center tonight because of the deadly shooting at Northern Illinois University. Federal officials now say the graduate student who killed five people and wounded 16 others before taking his own life bought all four of his guns legally.

On the terrorism front, President Bush and the Republicans are furious with congressional Democrats for allowing a wiretapping law aimed at catching terrorists to expire at midnight Saturday. The president says it will leave the country vulnerable. The Democrats accuse the president of playing politics with terrorism.

We're going to explore all of that, starting with the tragedy in Illinois. Police today identified the Northern Illinois University gunman as a 27-year-old former student. Investigators say Stephen Kazmierczak had four weapons during his rampage, three handguns and a shotgun. People close to him have told police he was taking medication but had stopped and had become somewhat erratic.

Kazmierczak left behind no explanation for why he opened fire on a crowded biology class and then took his own life. However, records show he bought two of his six guns only six days ago.

Both Democratic presidential candidates are talking about the shooting. Senator Barack Obama who represents Illinois told reporters he phoned the university's president after the shootings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I told the president that I would obviously make my office available if anything could be done to help deal with the situation with the families and ongoing investigations and discussions about improved security.

We hear about heartbreaking mindless acts of violence like this day after day and week after week. They come in and out of the headlines. And after a while, most of the world goes on, but for all the loved ones who are left behind, the pain and sorrow, I can only imagine, remains for a very, very long time. So, today, we offer them our thoughts and prayers.

But we also have to offer them our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets, from our schools, from our neighborhoods.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak and grief that racks the families who send their children off to college and wake up to see what has so senselessly intruded into their lives.

They're all in my prayers. And we just have to figure out how we're going to get smart about protecting our kids, because, obviously, we have to first and foremost do everything we can to take reasonable steps to keep our children safe. And while safeguarding and respecting our Second Amendment rights, we have got to figure out how to get guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, gang members, and people with mental health problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, obviously, the shootings have put gun control back on the presidential campaign's agenda. Let's take a closer look where the candidates stand. In 2004, Senator Clinton voted for a 10- year extension of the assault weapons ban. She voted to require extensive background checks at gun shows, and she supports mandatory trigger locks for handguns.

Senator Barack Obama also supports extending the assault ban, although he wasn't in the Senate when it passed in 2004. He supports a national law against carrying concealed weapons, with exceptions for retired police and military personnel. And he's for mandatory trigger locks on handguns.

Senator John McCain voted against the 10-year extension of the weapons ban, but he sponsored legislation requiring background checks at gun shows. He opposes mandatory trigger locks.

Mike Huckabee opposes extending the assault weapons ban. He opposes waiting periods for gun purchases. And he opposes mandatory trigger locks for handguns.

Joining me in the ELECTION CENTER to talk about guns and presidential politics, Republican strategist Kellyanne, who is president of the Polling Company, Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein, who has endorsed Barack Obama, and independent WashingtonPost.com columnist Chris Cillizza, who writes "The Fix."

Let's start off here. This is five school shootings in one week. Parents are obviously concerned. This is obviously something that a lot of people are talking about. Is this going to be a part of the dialogue?

DAN GERSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, I think it will be temporarily, but, you know -- Kellyanne can probably speak to this as well -- the pattern on gun politics has been, when there's been a shooting, it pops up, it flairs up. People try and do something, and then it fades away.

One of the reasons it fades away is because it's a politically hot-button issue that scares a lot of Democrats. But the other reason is, it's an incredibly complex challenge, 280 million guns in America, 80,000 legal gun store owners and sales. There's not going to be an effort to take away people's guns. And so the problem is, what do you do about that? How do you prevent a situation like this? And I think what you heard from both the candidates today is, there's no easy answer.

MALVEAUX: Kellyanne, is this going to resonate with voters? Obviously, people are talking about this. Is this something that the candidates have to address and have to answer?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: They do, and I think in better ways than they have today, frankly. Even Mrs. Clinton only said, as a mother, I can't imagine the way the other mothers feel, which of course is the way anybody would react. But she's running for president, so we need something a little bit more firm and solid than that.

I think that she dodged the real questions here because she is trying to win Texas. And Texas has more firearms per household than it does pets or children. And she probably also realizes that in the United States Senate right now, a bipartisan amicus curiae brief was authored by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican of Texas, Jon Tester, a Democrat of Montana.

It has 53 senators having signed on to that, 250 congressional representatives. And that went to the United States Supreme Court. They're going to listen to a landmark case about what the Second Amendment right to carry firearms really means. And I think she's just trying to stay out of this now to get through some of those gun- owning states.

MALVEAUX: Chris, I want you to weigh in here. We have got a poll, a CNN poll from November. It shows that voters rank gun control low on the agenda when it comes to the presidential election.

If you take a look at this, this is really quite amazing. You see the economy is first. Iraq is second, very predictable, health care and terrorism. Gun policy all the way down to number 12.

Do you think that this tragedy this week, just the extraordinary week that we have had in terms of violence, is going to change that? Is that going to move up?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Suzanne, I hate to sound cynical, but I tend to agree with Dan on this, which is what we have seen in the past in high-profile incidents like this is that, for a week, maybe two weeks, things change, and then they go right back to normal.

Remember, in the wake of Virginia Tech and then going all the way back to Columbine, there were real talks that something was going to change, that this had broken the impasse in this country.

Why hasn't it changed? I think, frankly, because Democrats have largely abandoned this as an issue because they know, to win those rural voters, to win those moderate voters, most of those people believe in the Second Amendment, believe they have a right to own a gun, whether or not they actually do so.

So, it's not a winning political issue for Democrats. And the reality is, especially in an election year, I don't think you're going to see Democrats adopting too many things that they know aren't -- aren't winners on the election.

MALVEAUX: Dan, is Chris right, that the Democrats, they want to avoid this at all costs? They just don't want to talk about this.

GERSTEIN: It has been a big problem area. I went back and looked at the election results for 2004. And President Bush dominated the counties, if you looked at the vote by county. And one of the most staggering statistics was, if you look at the counties by mile, President Bush won 2.5 million miles, compared to John Kerry winning 500,000.

You have to look at the expanse of the United States. That's leads to that red map dominating over the blue map. And I think, for Democrats, guns have become a values issue.

And if they push too hard on gun control, it disqualifies them with a lot of rural voters, who won't listen to anything else they have to say, because people -- one thing we know about the NRA, and gun owners, is they vote on the issue. I think, though, there's an opportunity here for Barack Obama on this issue to talk about how this is an opportunity to break this impasse, as Chris said, and to try and find common-ground solutions.

MALVEAUX: Kellyanne, I want you to jump in here. Governor Huckabee, he's pro-guns. He's a member of the NRA. He is a hunter. He's a member. He also has a concealed weapon, he says, a permit for a concealed weapon. McCain gets a C-plus from the NRA. How much of a problem is Huckabee for McCain on this issue?

CONWAY: Oh, not a big problem at all because Arkansas is a concealed-carry state. A majority of states now have concealed-carry. And even Illinois, where two tragedies have happened in the last couple of weeks, first at the shopping mall, now here, they have a -- sort of a kind of concealed-carry law. You need -- there's a three- day background check you need.

MALVEAUX: But could he take away the support from those die- hards?

CONWAY: No, I don't think so, because the reason that Senator McCain's rating by the NRA is a C-plus, as opposed to a higher grade, has a lot to do with McCain-Feingold. The campaign finance reform law really would have put a complete muzzle on groups like the NRA. And Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, was a very vocal critic of John McCain when that first came out. Where I think this issue could have some longstanding resonance is, what we have seen in our polls for the last six to eight months, particularly among suburban women, is an uptick in the increase of concern about crime. But that's got more to do with pedophilia and teen drug use.

But I think, when you overlay that with random violence like this, what the candidates should do is take it away from the gun debate and into the local communities and talk more about crime.

MALVEAUX: OK.

And we're going to stay right there, another safety and security issue that is reverberating on the campaign trail. It involves terrorism and domestic wiretapping. The Protect America Act expires on Saturday at midnight. It allows the government to intercept e-mail and phone calls by foreign terror suspects when the signals are transmitted through the United States.

Democrats say existing laws, especially the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA for short, will keep the surveillance going while lawmakers work out concerns over legal immunity for the big telecommunications companies that cooperate with the government surveillance.

But President Bush says the delay could put the country at risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we have got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to, so that we can stop it.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: The president is saying something radical is going to happen tonight at midnight. It will not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Terrorism and national security are among John McCain's top issues. The Protect America Act passed the Senate this week. And on the campaign trail today, McCain is blasting the Democrats for not acting on it or on a final revision of FISA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The House of Representatives decided to go onto recess for a week without passing a bill called FISA. It's our ability to monitor the telecommunications of the enemy.

I don't have to tell anybody here we're in a dangerous world. I don't have to tell you that it's important, particularly with the tremendous, revolutionary changes that have taken place in telecommunications, that we be able to monitor and detect and track down the evil people that want to destroy America and everything we stand for.

And the Democrats decided that they would leave town without passing that bill. My friends, that's wrong. That's wrong. That is wrong. That is wrong. They should come back to town and reconvene and pass that legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, Senators Clinton and Obama miss this week's vote on extending the Protect America Act, but both issued statements saying that they are against it. Senator McCain voted yes.

Well, with me once again, Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway, who is president of the Polling Company, and Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein, and WashingtonPost.com columnist Chris Cillizza, who writes for "The Fix."

I want to start off with you, Kellyanne.

FISA is in the news. We read about it. Obviously people on the Hill, they understand what's going on. A lot of voters might not really be paying attention to the fact that this thing expires tomorrow. And it might be a reason why we see Senators Obama and Clinton didn't show up for the vote, didn't bother to vote. Are people even paying attention to this?

CONWAY: Well, it may be true that the average American wouldn't pass a quiz about FISA what stands for or the particular process at hand here.

However, Americans have made it very clear in everybody's polls, including CNN's, Suzanne, that their first priority is national security. Even securing the borders, if you will, on a hot-button like immigration seems to coalesce 80 percent-plus support.

So, if we know that the American consensus, tripartisan support, indeed, for keeping our nation secure, what could be more important than that, including running for president? I think that these two folks who are running around on private jets to campaign could have taken one back to Washington to cast a vote, even if it's a vote against the Protect the America Act.

That's as much playing policy as anything else. I think this is a serious issue that probably could have more of an impact on congressional races, because you can picture the ads of showing your member of Congress leaving town while this is about to ticktock and expire.

MALVEAUX: Dan, does Kellyanne have a point here? Is this politically damaging to them?

GERSTEIN: I think the whole issue is very complicated for them. And I think that's one of the reasons they didn't vote is because they're in an impossible situation.

The base of the party is not just anti-war. It's not just anti- wiretapping. They're anti everything George Bush does. And so even if the president had the scintilla of a point here, they can't be seen as siding with the president. It will alienate the base.

At the same time, they're trying to position themselves to be acceptable to a broad electorate, the centrists, the independents, the moderate Republicans, as being -- passing the test as a commander in chief.

And if they go out front and are vocal and visible on this issue, they run the risk of being seen as caring more about privacy than protecting people and their security.

MALVEAUX: And, Chris, I want you to weigh in on this. Clearly, as Kellyanne mentioned, I guess they could have taken planes back.

And is there any way that they can satisfy the liberal group, the liberal wing of the party that they are doing enough to go against President Bush and to protect civil liberties? Are they really going to satisfy that group?

CILLIZZA: You know, I think they're going to try to because remember the primary is still going on. I think, if you saw one nominee becoming clear, I think you would see a movement back towards the center to try and appease moderates, who are really trying to balance privacy vs. security. I think that's an axis that you have to continue to watch as the election goes on.

One quick other point, though, Suzanne. In 2002 and 2004, when you asked voters who do you trust more on national security, there was a huge gap, broader in 2002 than in 2004, but a wide gap, Republicans winning.

In 2006, that gap really faded. Kellyanne mentioned this might come up congressional races. In my home state of Connecticut, there was a race in which Nancy Johnson, a longtime incumbent, attacked her opponent for a similar thing, that he was opposed to this warrantless, this domestic wiretapping plan.

He wound up -- Nancy Johnson wound up winning. It didn't necessarily work. So, I don't know, because we started off I think in the early part of this decade with Republicans having a lot of the American people's trust on national security. Whether that's the war in Iraq or something else, I do think public opinion polling suggests that's eroded won't. It may not be the clear winner it once was for Republicans.

Who knows. Obviously, a lot of time between now and 2008, but I think 2006 sent a warning sign that this is not just an obvious winner every time for Republicans.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you so much, Kellyanne Conway, David (sic) Gerstein, and Chris Cillizza. Thanks, again.

And the drama over who will take the Democratic nomination is bringing some other topics front and center tonight, campaign cash for superdelegates. These key elected officials have received nearly $1 million from the Clinton and Obama camps. Is it improper or above board?

Plus, for years, African-American leaders stood shoulder to shoulder with and even and marched with the Clintons. See how Barack Obama is changing the alignment.

And Obama collects black votes. Clinton is popular with Latinos. We look at what some are calling the black/brown divide.

Those stories, plus Tom Foreman's "Raw Politics" -- when CNN ELECTION CENTER continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The Democratic contenders' race is too close to call. Even with dozens of primaries and caucuses remaining through June, there's a chance that neither Clinton, nor Obama will get the required 2,025 delegates to win.

So, that means it's very likely that powerful surrogates, the so- called superdelegates, could end up picking the nominee. And now there is this, new report out today about campaign contributions being made to superdelegates by Clinton and Obama.

Since 2005, superdelegates have received at least $900,000 in campaign contributions from the two candidates. Obama's political action committee has given more than $698,000 in contributions to superdelegates. Clinton's political action committee has given more than $205,000.

Now, that same study reported that campaign contributions have been a generally reliable predictor of those -- of whose side the delegate will actually take. And that's from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.

Now, the obvious question, of course, then, is, could campaign cash influence superdelegate votes at convention time? Well, joining me now, the center's communication director, Massie Ritsch.

Thanks so much for joining us here. I want to start off by giving you the reaction, the response, from both the Clinton and the Obama campaign, who look at the study and really don't give it much credence.

From the Clinton campaign, Jay Carson: "She has made a few donations to candidates who are also superdelegates," The Obama campaign had clearly launched a concerted plan to funnel money to superdelegates to get their endorsement."

And then you have got the Obama spokeswoman saying that it is "laughable," that "Barack Obama has helped most of the House and Senate members who have competitive races, many of whom have endorsed Senator Clinton." So, they're saying that they don't believe that this influx of cash to the superdelegates really makes any difference.

MASSIE RITSCH, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Well, and we will see if it does in the end. We may be making a big deal out of nothing, but when we looked at the data, we could predict with about 80 percent certainty who would make the endorsement and how that would go down based on how much money they had gotten in campaign contributions. So, there's certainly a correlation.

I don't think there's necessarily causation. Both of these campaigns, the Clinton and the Obama campaigns, have exhibited strokes of genius in this election. But I think we would be giving them too much credit if we said that, three years ago, in the 2006 election, that they were planning on superdelegates possibly being the determinant at the convention and laying the groundwork by giving money to them.

But this is what politicians do. They scratch each other's backs and contribute money to each other, so that, when they need the favor, they can call it in. And it's a fairly common practice.

MALVEAUX: So are you saying they're doing anything wrong? Does the study conclude there's something that is inappropriate that is happening here?

RITSCH: We thought it was something that people should at least be aware of, because I think the public has suddenly become aware that there's this small group, 20 percent of the delegates at the Democratic Convention, who might have great sway over the ultimate outcome, and that there is a financial connection.

Think about whether -- what would be the reaction if Senator Clinton or Senator Obama were traveling around the country and handing out thousands of dollars to voters. Well, they're not doing that, but they have been handing out thousands of dollars in the past to delegates who will be voting at the convention and can vote any way they choose. And the study we have on our Web site, opensecrets.org, shows that, with 80 percent certainty, they tend to side with whoever's given them the most money.

MALVEAUX: So, how do they change this perception then that the delegates are being bought? If voters look at this study and see they have contributed, their PACs have contributed all this money, and now that the superdelegates are going to make this critical decision, how do they change that perception?

RITSCH: Well, I think voters should also realize that there's a lot of history here, that the money may just represent a relationship. It may be a measurement of a friendship, of a past that either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama have with the various superdelegates and that, in that way, it is an indicator of how these superdelegates might align themselves, not so much that the money itself is swaying people's minds, because, after all, these superdelegates who have gotten these campaign contributions are politicians themselves. And they're very mindful that they're going to be up for reelection, if not in November also, some time in the future.

MALVEAUX: Let's take a look at one of these numbers. It breaks down. It says Barack Obama has given a lot more money, according to the findings here, $698,000, Hillary Clinton much less, about $205,000. When you look at those numbers, could this not be just a sense of Barack Obama needing to form those relationships, establish those relationships in supporting those Democratic officials throughout the years, Senator Hillary Clinton, having the name recognition, the brand, doesn't necessarily need to weigh in when it comes to the political action money?

RITSCH: Right. I think you hit the nail on the ahead, Suzanne. That I think probably explains it. Barack Obama had more work to do to introduce himself to the leaders of the Democratic Party if he were planning to run for president several years ago.

And so that I think would explain it. And, also, Hillary Clinton has been able to lend her value over time by appearing on behalf of candidates, not necessarily giving the money herself, but by showing up or otherwise endorsing them and helping them out that way. And there's value in that, too.

MALVEAUX: All right, Massie Ritsch, thank you so much, an interesting study. Thanks, again.

RITSCH: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Those superdelegates can shift their support really at any time. Some have already done just that.

After the break, we will look at Hillary Clinton's apparently eroding support among African-American superdelegates. That's part of CNN's special series "Uncovering America," the impact of race and gender on the campaigns.

Plus, looking ahead to next month's Texas primary, we will have a full report on what's on the minds of Latino Democrats, an important voting bloc in that contest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN PRODUCER: I'm Alex Marquardt, producer of Governor Mike Huckabee, who had a single campaign stop on Friday to meet reporters at a Pancake Restaurant just outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He then headed to the airport to fly to the Cayman Islands for Saturday night, to deliver a paid speech. He'll be back on the trail on Sunday. But much has been made of the fact that Huckabee will be leaving the country in the middle of an intense campaigning effort to stay in the race. This is how he defended his decision to reporters.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person that doesn't get paid by the taxpayers to campaign. Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, Senator McCain campaign every day, and I'm paying for their campaigns. I'm paying because I'm a taxpayer, and I have to pay for their Senate salaries even if they're not on duty. The taxpayers aren't paying a dime for me to campaign, and I don't take anything from my campaign. So I have to make a living. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to the CNN ELECTION CENTER. Tonight, CNN is launching a special series. Every Friday from now on, our series, "Uncovering America" will focus on the impact of race and gender on the election. Tonight, we look at possible new troubles for Hillary Clinton, eroding support from powerful African-American superdelegates.

Today, "The New York Times" reported that Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who's a veteran of the civil rights era, one of the most senior members of Congress and a long-time Clinton supporter, is now backing Senator Barack Obama. Lewis' office, however, tells CNN that "The Times" misrepresented his intentions, and said Lewis had not decided to switch his support. Earlier today, reporters asked Senator Obama what he knows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I put in a call to him after the report to find out what he was thinking. But I have not received word from him yet. But you know, I think the broader point is that there are going to be a lot of superdelegates who are examining this race as it moves forward. I think increasingly, the superdelegates that I talked to are uncomfortable with the notion that they would override decisions made by voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Well, Congressman Lewis' endorsement apparently remains up in the air. Several other black superdelegates say they have either switched to Obama or dropped their endorsements of Clinton and are now undecided. Christine Samuels is a New Jersey superdelegate as well as a member of the NAACP, and she has decided to switch, I understand.

First of all, I want to get your reaction to Congressman Lewis' announcement today. I want to read something that he said here in "The New York Times." He said, "In recent days, there's a sense of movement and a sense of spirit. Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap. I've been very impressed with the campaign of Senator Obama. He's getting better and better every single day."

CHRISTINE SAMUELS, NEW JERSEY SUPERDELEGATE: That's great.

MALVEAUX: Do you agree? Do you agree with this? And --

SAMUELS: I agree with it.

MALVEAUX: How does this explain your own choice, your own decision? You went from Clinton, supporting Clinton, to now Obama.

SAMUELS: Yes. I agree that there is an energy that's just rushing through your body, wanting you to partake in Senator Obama's campaign. It's lifting our young people who are really happy to have this role model, someone who is interested in their education, interested in stopping the war, and it's Senator Obama.

MALVEAUX: When did you make the switch? Did you feel any sense of betrayal towards Clinton that you've changed your position?

SAMUELS: I didn't make it spontaneously. The last two months, I've been giving deep thought to would I continue with my feelings, with my heart felt obligations to myself. And that's when I decided to switch.

MALVEAUX: Was there something that triggered it? Was there one final thing where you said that's it, I'm switching?

SAMUELS: Well, we had a straw poll in Montclair, and it was a landslide for Obama. And then Super Tuesday came, it was another landslide from Montclair. And it just put it all together in prospect what I wanted to do.

MALVEAUX: Is it because he's winning that you're jumping on the bandwagon?

SAMUELS: No, no, no. I heard Senator Obama in Boston in '04. I thought his speech was terrific. I like his movement with the young people mostly. I'm an educator, and I love to see our young people having hope, hope for the future, hope that they will not be left behind.

MALVEAUX: Now, your state, New Jersey, went for Clinton.

SAMUELS: Yes.

MALVEAUX: So is there a sense that -- as a superdelegate, do you have any sense of unease that you're not representing the will of the people from your state of New Jersey?

SAMUELS: I have a sense of loyalty to myself. I feel like I can't be a follower. I have to do what I feel is right for my way of living.

MALVEAUX: What do you think of Hillary Clinton's recent strategy? It just evolved in the last 24, 48 hours where she says she's the candidate of solutions, but Obama is simply full of promises. He's got nothing to back it up?

SAMUELS: I don't think that's correct at all. I think he has a lot to back up. And I'm finding out in this election there's so much talk between the two other candidates and it's something that it's up to the public to sift through it, sift through it, and do whatever their heart feels.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Christine Samuels. I appreciate your time coming in.

SAMUELS: Thank you for having me.

MALVEAUX: Thanks again. A vitally important Democratic primary is just a little over two weeks away. Everyone wants to know what Texas Latinos will do in the presidential race. We're heading there to ask some about what they're thinking. We'll also explore what some people are calling a minority divide, blacks gravitating toward Obama, Latinos leaning to Clinton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Welcome back to the CNN ELECTION CENTER. We are continuing our "Uncovering America, Look at Race, Gender and Politics." Back on Super Tuesday, exit polls in California showed that 71 percent of Latino Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton while only 29 percent voted for Barack Obama. Latino Democrats will also be an important voting block in next month's Texas primary. Well, we sent Ted Rowlands to Texas to gauge the mood.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a rally in San Antonio this week, it was clear that a lot of Latino Democrats love Hillary Clinton. Some experts say Clinton's appeal among Hispanics is based on her family's long political history, including a Latino- friendly Clinton White House. Anita Arredondo says she likes Clinton in part because she's a woman and also because of health care reform which Arredondo says, she wants the next president to deal with.

ANITA ARREDONDO, TEXAS VOTER: I have faith that Clinton -- Hillary will do it, so I'm voting for her.

ROWLANDS: Another reason thrown out to explain Hillary Clinton's advantage over Barack Obama with Latinos is that because Obama is African-American, Hispanics are reluctant to vote for him. San Antonio playwright Max Parrilla believes there is some truth to that.

MAX PARRILLA, TEXAS VOTER: There are a lot of Latinos who don't get along with African-Americans and that can be an issue.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Would that translate to the voting booth. though?

PARRILLA: It may, but I think the youth is going to make the difference. And I don't think that's so much of a concern with the young voters.

DR. HENRY FLORES, DEAN, ST. MARY'S UNIVERSITY, SAN ANTONIO: In Texas, she's been ahead for a long time. You know, I don't know how much he can cut into that.

ROWLANDS: Dr. Henry Flores is a dean at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. He specializes in Latino voting trends. Flores' says support for Clinton among Democratic Texas Latinos is solid. He also believes that the white vote, which in Texas is the overwhelming majority, may split between Obama and Clinton, making Latinos the swing vote.

FLORES: Latinos could have a big significant voice in the whole nomination process for the first time in the history of this country.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): In an effort to reach Texas Latinos, the Obama campaign has started Spanish language radio ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

ANNOUNCER: [Speaking in foreign language]

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: The ads which tout a life of public service are an attempt to sway people like Maria De Leon, a grandmother who runs a program for Latino artists. De Leon says she wants to hear more specifics on issues like education and immigration before she makes a decision. She also thinks the Latino vote will be split.

MARIA DE LEON, TEXAS VOTER: I have three children. One is for Obama, one is for Hillary, and the other one is undecided, you know. And I'm just glad that they've taken such an interest in this election when they didn't in past elections.

ROWLANDS: In this election, the candidates are taking a keen interest in them, as well. Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Antonio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: So Latino voters are likely to have a major impact in the Texas primary, but some people think Latinos are on a collision course with black voters. "Uncovering America" continues with a look at what could be a black/brown divide.

And at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE" takes a hard and sometimes a humorous look at the campaign.

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MALVEAUX: Now back to CNN's special series "Uncovering America," how race and gender are impacting this presidential election, now an apparent divide between black and Latino voters. Now, could tensions between the minorities' communities be contributing to a black/brown divide?

Joining me now, Gregory Rodriguez, "LA Times" columnist and author of "Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds, Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America," and Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of "The Ethnic Presidency, How Race Decides the Race to the White House."

Thank you very much both of you for joining us here.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON, POLITICAL ANALYST: My pleasure.

MALVEAUX: I'd like to first start off with you, Earl. You told "Newsweek" that you believe that there is racial tension between African-American voters and Latino voters. Why? HUTCHINSON: Well, I think in some areas we've seen that over the past. I'm in Los Angeles, California, where we've seen some problems in the streets, with gang violence and the prisons. Schools, obviously, some competition over jobs and even public services. However, I think we need to be clear on one thing. Just like African- Americans are non-monolith. Latinos, obviously, are non-monolith. You have some that do have problems in this election as we heard in the interviews in Texas with Barack Obama, and you also have some that have problems with Hillary Clinton. They're supporting both on both sides, depending on age, depending on gender, depending on education, depending on a lot of variables.

So I think what we see here is a combination of some tensions in some areas, I don't want to overexaggerate that. And in other areas, we're also seeing the lack of a monolith or divisions even within Latinos just as we've seen it with African-Americans.

MALVEAUX: Well, Gregory, do you believe that there is a sense that at least had it been put out before this notion, this idea, the Latino voters were not going to vote for Barack Obama because there was some sort of historic -- some sort of trend that had happened before that they don't vote for black candidates?

GREGORY RODRIGUEZ, "LA TIMES" COLUMNIST: I believe that's absolute nonsense. I believe that the media embraced this nonsense unthinkingly. There's a long history of Latinos supporting black candidates in every major city you can think of in the United States. David Dinkins in New York, Wellington Webb in Denver, Harold Washington, Chicago, Ron Kirk in Dallas, and in the four reelection campaigns of our own, Tom Bradley here in Los Angeles.

So, it is -- Earl is right. These are not monolithic populations nor are they monolithic electorates. These are heterogeneous groups of people, and you can't really boil them down and somehow say, it was essentially the belief that Latinos wouldn't vote for Barack Obama or that belief that was spread, was in essence saying Latinos are racist en masse. And it was an absurdity and we're seeing now, despite your reports that you just showed, the American Research Group poll that came out from Texas today showed that Obama has now cut Hillary Clinton's lead among Latinos to only two points, 44 to 42. It really doesn't hold up. The black/brown divide in my mind is perhaps the most exaggerated social problem in America today.

MALVEAUX: And just to be clear here, this wasn't something that the media just kind of conjured up. Even you talked about it in your article. It came from "The New Yorker," Sergio Bendixen, a Clinton pollster, who said, "The Hispanic voter - and I want to say this very carefully - has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates." Do you believe that it was the Clinton campaign that injected this notion, this idea?

RODRIGUEZ: From what I know, it was a whispering campaign for a while. That this quote was given to Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker." And it's hard to believe that a man who was paid by the Clinton campaign and a man for his knowledge about the Latino electorate did not know of previous, several, many previous examples of Latinos supporting black candidates. So, I can only guess, I can only surmise that it's suspicious that perhaps it was part of a strategy.

MALVEAUX: Earl Hutchinson, I want to follow-up here another point, recently that the Clinton campaign replaced its campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle. And obviously, she was the highest ranking Latina in the campaign with Clinton's former chief of staff, Maggie Williams, who is African-American. There were some who immediately jumped on this and saw this as an offense, as a slight in the Latino community. Do you think this exacerbates the problem at all?

HUTCHINSON: Well, no, I don't, and I'll tell you why. Anytime you have any campaign, we've seen this time and time again, you're going to have changes. You're going to have a shake-up. You're going to have an adjustment. You're going to have shuffling. I mean, that's just endemic to any campaign.

I mean, obviously, when you look at Clinton, there's been a string of losses over the last week or so, in other primaries. So I think now, it's an attempt to reenergize the campaign. Unfortunately, and maybe even fortunately in some ways, the diversity that we're seeing in Obama's campaign, the diversity that we're seeing in Clinton's campaign, is reflective I think of the position of these individuals.

You have a lot of Latinos that are ranking in the Clinton campaign. You have a lot of African-Americans that are ranking in the Clinton campaign. So I would expect at some point as they move around and make readjustments, some of the heads that might be falling, some of the heads that might be shifted are obviously going to be black and Latino.

MALVEAUX: OK. We'll have to leave it at that. Thank you so much. Gregory Rodriguez and Earl Ofari Hutchinson, thank you once again.

And stay with CNN for a full hour of "Uncovering America" on tonight's "AC 360." That is at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And just ahead on the campaign trail, a coveted endorsement, an angry rock dinosaur and hemlines. Yes, that's right. Hemlines. It's all "Raw Politics" tonight.

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MALVEAUX: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes. Larry, who's going to be with you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Suzanne, we recommend they do not touch the dial. We've got a great show coming your way. Kathleen turner will join us with an inside look at her incredible life. The word wow does not do justice.

And our political panel is back. If you're starved for great election talk, I don't know how you could be you've had so much, but you will not go away hungry as we continue what we've been doing it seems episodically around the clock on CNN. Lots of great stuff coming. "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Great stuff. Thanks, Larry. We'll see you at 9:00.

And believe or not, the '70s band Boston figures in tonight's edition of "Raw Politics." Here's Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republican frontman John McCain is being pounded by conservatives, but he has friends in high places.

The first President Bush is expected to endorse him in Texas next week, not long before the big primary vote there. And some analysts say this is a message to Repubs, it's time to stand by your man.

Mike Huckabee, far behind in the voting, is far from the campaign trail now, too, because he needs money and quick. Hitting the Cayman Islands for a paid dinner speech. Not sure how much he's making, but it's $250 a plate, 500 seats sold. He says, hey, got to make a living.

President Bush to Africa. He's already backed record levels of American funding to fight AIDS there, and he would like to double it.

An old theory for recession-minded voters. When hemlines go up, so does the economy. So, during fashion week in New York and London, guess what was headed down.

And more than a feeling, it's a strongly worded request to cease and desist. The founder of the '70s rock band Boston, Tom Scholz, is upset that Mike Huckabee has played one of his hit songs on the trail without permission. Scholz fears some people might think that Boston is endorsing the Republican. And while he's impressed that Huckabee learned the bass line to his song, his guy is Obama. That's "Raw Politics."

MALVEAUX: And that's our Tom Foreman. We'll be right back.

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MALVEAUX: The political news continues all weekend on CNN. Be sure to check out into the latest on the campaign trail. CNN CENTER, ELECTION CENTER back on Monday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The next big test for the candidates is in Wisconsin, Hawaii and Washington State. That's on Tuesday. And on Thursday at 8:00 Eastern, Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama hold what could be a make or break debate in Texas.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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