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BALLOT BOWL 2008

Candidates' Passport Files Breached; Richardson Endorses Obama

Aired March 22, 2008 - 16:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Both of the other candidates had their passports breached. And suddenly all that conspiracy theorizing went up in smoke. CNN's Kate Bolduan is joining me now with the latest news. And Kate, it does seem like there's a new wrinkle in all of this.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It has been very interesting, just last night the State Department released the names of the contracting companies linked to the unauthorized access of the passport files, as you mentioned, of all three presidential candidates. Now, the companies are the analysis corporation, known as TAC, and Stanley Incorporated, and they're both based here in suburban Washington. But today we find out the company's top executives themselves have political ties.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Phillip Nolan, the head of Stanley, contributed a thousand dollars to the Clinton campaign in January. And according to a source familiar with TAC, its president, John Brennan is an advisor to the Obama campaign on intelligence and foreign policy issues. Brennan also contributed $2300 to the Obama campaign this year. Now, the source says at the request of the State Department, no administrative action has been taken against the TAC employee caught accessing both Obama's and McCain's passport files.

The source says TAC has never had any problems with this employee in the past. In fact, the person has extensive experience inside the State Department and is known to be a terrific employee. Now, this source says they believe the motive was nothing more than idle curiosity, this echoing the State Department's comments yesterday. State Department spokesperson Shawn McCormack used the Clinton file incident as an example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Last summer when we were training new people to come online to help work through that backlog of passports that we had, we brought somebody online. Usually in these training circumstances people are encouraged to enter family members' names just for training purposes. This person chose to enter Senator Clinton's name. It was immediately recognized. And they're immediately admonished and it didn't happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: As these stands, two contractors who accessed Obama's files have been fired, and on the issue of the political contributions, a State Department official today tells CNN's Zain Verjee that it awards contracts on a competitive basis adding that political affiliation is not one of the factors they check. Jessica.

YELLIN: Kate, what a story. Is there any indication of where this is going next and if the State Department plans to take anymore steps to see if there's other instances like this or to enact further disciplinary measures on these two companies?

BOLDUAN: Well, right now the State Department, they say that they're going to be doing a full investigation. And what they honestly say is now they're going to look and see if there are some systemic problems of why this information, when these files were accessed, wasn't passed up to the higher-ups, the officials that really should have gotten wind of it. But they say right now they don't know if there will be actions against the companies. They don't know if this was -- they have to establish if this was a sole action of these people or if there was something more.

But right now, as we keep stressing is they've made no connection between these employees' actions and any political affiliation of their bosses.

YELLIN: All right, Kate Bolduan, thanks so much for keeping us up to date on this story. I bet we'll check in with you in a little bit on it as well. Thank you. And I'm going to toss it over now to my co- host Candy Crowley. I got to say, Candy, the worst thing I'd want out in my passport files is the photo.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Every once in a while the birth date would give me quivers. But nonetheless, it is supposed to be private information. And that's the point.

Moving now, we want to go from passports to patriotism, a new dust up on the campaign trail. It involves comments made by former President Bill Clinton in North Carolina yesterday before a group of veterans. He was in Charlotte campaigning for his wife. An adviser to the Obama campaign is comparing the former president to Joseph McCarthy saying Mr. Clinton questioned Barack Obama's patriotism. We want to give you this from the start. So, here is what the former president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it would be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people who love this country and were devoted to the interests of the country and people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues instead of all this other stuff that seems to intrude itself on our politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, senior Obama campaign adviser and former air force chief of staff Tony McPeak pounced on that. He had this to say to an Associated Press reported, "it sounds more like McCarthy, I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traders. So I've had enough of it. Today in Medford, Oregon, McPeak touched again on the subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. MERRILL 'TONY' MCPEAK, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): President Clinton was speaking to a group of veterans yesterday in North Carolina. And he said something that, frankly, astonished me. He said in promoting his wife's candidacy, "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who love this country and were devoted to the interests of the country and the people. The people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself in our politics."

Well, let me say first, we will have such an election this year. Because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots, who love this country and are devoted to it. So is Hillary Clinton. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong.

And so as one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these kind of tactics. He, of all people, should know better, because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactic when he first ran 16 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: General McPeak there is talking about 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for president. His passport files were also breached. There was an effort there to cast Clinton as a draft dodger. So that's what he's talking about there. I will tell you that the Clinton campaign has said anyone comparing what Bill Clinton said to McCarthyism is absurd. They also said it is a mischaracterization to say that Bill Clinton was questioning Barack Obama's patriotism. So we have passports. We have patriotism. We had race all this week.

We're going to sort it out here in Washington with Beth Frerking. She's with politico.com. Joe Mathieu with XM Radio's Potus '08 in New York, Democratic strategist Keith Boykin and in Los Angeles, Republican strategist and CNN political analyst Amy Holmes.

Heavens, I hardly know where to start. Let me first go to you Amy about the Bill Clinton comments. So you heard them. Is he questioning Barack Obama's patriotism?

AMY HOLMES, CNN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I have to say, Candy, that's how I heard it, because he was there as an advocate for Hillary Clinton. Clearly when he says this is going to boil down to two people, he doesn't mean John McCain and Barack Obama. He means John McCain and Hillary Clinton. I thought that the clear implication there was that bill Clinton was saying that his wife, his candidate was the patriot and Barack Obama was not. Now, once again, the Clintons are a war shack test and you can project onto them what you will. But for my part, that's what I heard.

CROWLEY: Joe, let me ask you, is this a clear swipe? I mean, given the week we had, given where he was, south of the Mason Dixon talking to veterans, was this a swipe by Bill Clinton at Barack Obama's patriotism?

JOE MATHIEU, XM' RADIO'S POTUS 'O8: Well, it's hard to argue that it was not. I think everybody needs to take a deep breath here. I mean, McCarthyism? That's pretty extreme. It seems to me the Obama campaign has nothing to win by getting in this fight right now. With all due respect to General McPeak's service, I think you have to really look at what's going on here. If that's an insinuation that Bill Clinton wants to make, let him go off and hang himself with that.

You can't win that argument. Anybody in America who believes that Barack Obama is not a patriot or maybe a Muslim in disguise, as we continue to hear, is not going to be swayed by this kind of back and forth.

CROWLEY: Gale, let me ask you, both on the McPeak response and the original statement by Bill Clinton, so it seems to me the major questions are here, is Bill Clinton suggesting that Barack Obama is not a patriotic American? And is it over the top to suggest this is McCarthyism. Beth, I'm sorry, Beth.

BETH FRERKING, POLITICO.COM: Well, I think definitely, I'm sort of with Joe on this. I think if the Obama campaign had not said the word McCarthyism, it would probably be better for them. I think it was clear, as Amy said, that they were certainly insinuating something about Obama's patriotism. Bill Clinton was smart enough not to use his name. He didn't have to. And given the questions that have arisen about Obama's patriotism in terms of whether he pledged allegiance and put his hand on his heart, whether he wore a flag on his lapel, you know, those questions have come up about him before. But I think they took sort of one step too far when they talked about McCarthyism. You know, it's simply not the same thing. So it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

CROWLEY: Keith.

KEITH BOYKIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think I may be the only one who sees it a little differently. I worked in the Clinton campaign in 1992 and worked in the Clinton White House. I remember when they accused Bill Clinton of writing, when he was at Oxford, a student at Oxford, that he loathed the military. And that was used against him to suggest that he wasn't patriotic. I also worked in the '88 campaign when they accused Michael Dukakis of not wanting to pledge allegiance as well. I think that these tactics worked but I don't think that Bill Clinton was actually saying what everybody thinks that he was saying. I really think he was saying that his wife and John McCain would be two patriotic candidates.

I think General McPeak reacted a little bit, overreacted a little bit in response to that. But there's a great deal of sensitivity that is borne out by the previous aspects of this campaign. I mean, Hillary Clinton got up there and said a few weeks ago that John McCain has a lifetime of experience and she has a lifetime of experience but all that Barack Obama has is a speech. I can understand why people would react that way. Every single word is being interpreted through the lens of offense.

HOLMES: Well, Keith, you do have to admit that Bill Clinton has been throwing out these, you know, possibly baiting remarks in the past. We saw in January when he was comparing Barack Obama's win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson, to say that it was merely a racial win, not a win where actually Barack Obama won, you know, significant numbers in the white population. We've seen that Barack Obama has done well in mostly white states. And we've seen the Clintons doing this. So, if there's a sensitivity, I think it's because the Clintons have been trying to open these wounds.

BOYKIN: And I'm not defending Bill Clinton, what he's done in the past. I'm just saying in this particular instance and this is really what's going on here, Amy, and everyone else, this campaign has become so heated and so divisive that every little word is analyzed and reanalyzed and digested by the 24-7 news media. We really don't give people an opportunity just to make an honest mistake from time to time. I think Bill Clinton knew what he was saying but I don't think he was trying to cast aspersions on Barack Obama's patriotism.

CROWLEY: Beth, let me draw you back into this and ask you, it seems to me, the two words that come to mind to me are plausible deniability, that there was a, you know, enough sort of question in what Clinton said that you could come away thinking both things. Isn't that a little bit about what politics is about?

FRERKING: Absolutely. And I think that, you know, as we said, had McPeak not used the word Mccarthyism, I don't know that we would be talking about this today. It would be interesting to see. But on the other hand, Bill Clinton is an extremely shrewd politician. And by not saying Obama's name, but by talking about two leaders that were very patriotic, by the very absence of one other person, we assume that he means Obama. And then you get into the argument of is he saying Obama isn't as patriotic? Or is he simply saying I'm talking about John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and they are both very patriotic. So, you know, as Amy said, a lot of this boils down to what the listener hears.

MATHIEU: That's why the Obama doesn't necessarily need to get involved in this. If Bill Clinton said something that's offensive and it's going to be interpreted that way, it will take care of itself as we saw in South Carolina and in a number of other places on the campaign trail, let the voters interpret this. There's no need for the Obama campaign to try to frame or characterize what Bill Clinton was saying, and certainly calling him, comparing him to Joe McCarthy is not going to help anybody, including themselves.

CROWLY: Let me ask all of you to hold your fire just a little bit. We're going to take a break but we will be right back with our panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLY: Hi, I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Welcome back to CNN's "Ballot Bowl," a Saturday edition and Easter weekend edition, if you will. This is your chance to hear from these candidates, sometimes live and sometimes taped, but always unfiltered. You're going to hear more tape this weekend than not because these candidates are taking a little time off over the weekend. But it is our chance to get you caught up on a lot of the things that have happened over this week and believe me, a lot of things have happened. And to get some expert analysis which brings us back to our panel, Joe Mathieu, Beth Frerking, Amy Holmes and Keith Boykin, all with me today. I want to do a quick kind of round robin here to talk about the passport story. I refused to call it a scandal at this point because I don't really get it. So, let me start with Joe Mathieu, what is your take on it? What does it mean?

MATHIEU: I'm not sure I get it either. I mean, as Jessica was saying earlier this hour, it was one thing when we thought it was just Barack Obama's files that issue here. But now that we've found out that all three candidates are involved, it's kind of hard to start putting political motivations into the story. The fact of the matter is though in about a 24-hour span we learned that all three presidential candidates had their files sorted through. I think if anybody has to worry right now, it's probably the Bush administration and more specifically the State Department. If these three people have had their files breached and their social security numbers are bouncing around, how many more are there? We'll have to wait for the investigation to run its course but something tells me there's more to this story.

CROWLEY: Beth, what's your immediate reaction? And do you think there's stuff out there that we don't know? I mean, is it unraveling story or do we know it?

FRERKING: Well, I think we'll hear more as time goes by. Certainly as Joe said, it was worse early in the week when we thought it was only Senator Obama. We've since learned that McCain and Hillary Clinton also had their passport information looked at. But remember, I believe that Obama still had it looked at by three different employees. That's what I read this morning. That still does raise some questions. And certainly, as you said, if it hurts the Bush administration, what's going on there that, you know, employees are not taking care of these things and passing it up to the political levels of the agency earlier than they did? Then that raises questions.

And clearly, that's going to be an issue that the Democrats are going to jump on. I mean John McCain has, too. He seems concerned about this. But if it reflects badly on the Bush administration, that's going to help the Democrats.

So, Keith, is this a story about politics, or is this a story about how things run at the State Department what we know so far?

BOYKIN: I think it's probably more a story about competence than it is about politics. I remember when I worked in the administration in the Clinton years, there were a lot of conspiracy theories out there about everything from Vince Foster to Whitewater. And the truth is most of those stories -- I think I just went dark here, most of those stories weren't conspiracies. That might be the conspiracy right here.

I think the truth is a lot of things get told and portrayed as conspiracies in the context of politics but they're really not. Usually the people in Washington, the White House don't have the competence to pull off the conspiracy. And I think what's really going on in this case is a bad reflection of the Bush administration after Hurricane Katrina, after the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. And now, this was supposed to not happen because there were measures in place to prevent this. It shows that there's really a competency problem with the Bush administration.

HOLMES: Oh, I don't think this is a Bush administration competency story. We know these were low-level guys. Maybe there's some Tom Clancy conspiracy having to do with contractors and going into people's files. I think this story will be over by the end of the weekend. It might be kept alive in the fever swamps of the internet. But in terms of this going all the way to the top, I think that's you know totally over blown.

BOYKIN: But the point is, you hit the nail on the head, it was supposed to have gone all the way to the top. There was supposed to be measures in place whenever someone's passport file, a high profile person's file was breached, it was supposed to be reported to the top.

HOLMES: Which suggests the top was not involved with it. That was maybe the part of the problem, that there wasn't proper oversight.

BOYKIN: Exactly.

HOLMES: But you know, This story is overblown to be talking about the Bush administration or political conspiracies. I think a lot more reporting needs to be done before people, you know, are heading off in those direction.

MATHIEU: ... dies today. The fact of the matter is, Condoleezza Rice had to personally telephone all three of the presidential candidates to apologize. And that's an embarrassment for the White House.

CROWLEY: Joe Mathieu, let me. Go ahead.

FRERKING: I wanted to say let's also remember that the issue of citizen privacy has been raised a lot with Homeland Security. You know, we're getting looked into more when we go through airports. I think it is going to have some resonance with voters, not so much, you know, was there a conspiracy theory, but what does this mean about what the government does with its citizens? And I think it does raise questions in that respect.

CROWLEY: Beth Frerking, Joe Mathieu, Amy Holmes, Keith Boykin, I've just gotten the good news that you're all going to stick with us for a while here. So, Jessica Yellin wants in on this action. She wants to talk about the popular vote, who really is winning there. We'll be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back to CNN's "Ballot Bowl." Candy Crowley has been discussing with the panel some of the big points of tension on the campaign trail. One of the issues that can't be forgotten is where does the vote actually stand? Who is ahead, not just in the pledged delegates but in the popular vote. So, I want to bring in CNN's Josh Levs who is in Atlanta. And Josh, we keep saying that, you know, Barack Obama is very far ahead, he has the lead in pledge delegates and in the popular vote. But it's actually a lot closer than we all might realize.

JOSH LEVS, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: It's very close. It is. And we'll go through that. Not only is it very close but you know, one thing that we've been looking at is the fact that it doesn't always match the whole pledge delegate system. There are so many complexities in this race. And here's what we want to do. Just popping in here pretty quickly to show you what we do know about where the popular vote stands.

Let's go to our first graphic here. What I'm going to show you here before we put out any numbers, I want you to take a look at that note at the bottom because it's very significant. This is a caveat. Folks, we will never know the total popular vote in this race because some states don't report it. Among them caucus states, Iowa, Nevada, Washington, Maine. They don't report what the popular vote is. So, we don't know. So, among those we do know from realclearpolitics.com, this is the best place to get these numbers. Realclearpolitics.com. The total is right there.

Of the states where you can calculate, I know these are really big numbers. I'll summarize it for you. 13.3 million for Obama, 12.6 million for Clinton which means that of about 26 million votes that you can count, OK, 700,000 total separating them. That's very, very close. And look at those percentage figures, 49 and 46. They're so close. One more thing I want to do, in order to emphasize how important the discussions are about Florida, look what happens if you were, let's say, to toss in the vote that happened in Florida. All of a sudden, the total difference in these votes is down to 400,000.

Obviously, we can't know what would happen if they had decided to have a whole new race, and let's leave that up there for a second. I want to give people - I wanted you to see that because, I'll tell you something, some people say toss in Michigan. There you go. Thanks, bring it back. I'm not putting Michigan on there because in Michigan Obama's name was not on the ballot. Clinton's name was, Obama's name was not. The expectation is if there were new votes in Michigan and in Florida, they would benefit Clinton, and that 700,000 separating them would shrink even more. But the total figure we know and what you're going to hear a lot is what it says right there, total, 13.3 million and 12.6.

Now, that's a very slim margin in the scope of things given how big this race is. Also, keep in mind, next race, April 22nd in Pennsylvania is expected based on polls to benefit Clinton. So, what we are seeing is a very tight race in the popular vote. Obama says he'll hold on to his lead. Bill Clinton the other day told CNN he thinks by the end of this the popular vote will be on Hillary Clinton's side. Now, we have no way of knowing that. But what he was saying to us is that he thinks she'll have the popular vote and Obama will have the pledge delegates.

Then you go into the convention and delegates have to figure out what to do in a case like that. Do you go by the popular vote or do you go by the pledge delegates? A lot of ifs ahead. Jessica, it's just like you were just saying to me, while he does have a lead, while he does have an edge, it is a slim lead. And the fact is we have yet to see -- enough people have yet to vote, popular vote itself could go either way.

YELLIN: Very, very complicated and you made it very clear. Thank you, Josh.

LEVS: Thank you.

YELLIN: We'll check back in with you later. I'm going to turn this over to our panel now and discuss some of these issues Josh brings up in some more depth. One of the questions he raises is what happens if, for example, let's say Senator Clinton gets neither the popular vote nor the pledge delegate vote. Let me ask Democratic strategist Keith Boykin, can she still win the nomination if she gets neither the popular nor the delegate vote?

BOYKIN: It's very difficult to see how she could. She'd have to go to the superdelegates and try to cajole them, to support her. And I know that Josh said it was close because only 400,000 votes might separate them if you include Florida. Remember it only takes one vote to win. You have to get one more vote than the other person. And the truth is in this situation, you look back where we were eight years ago in 2000, Florida was decided by just 537 votes and that was considered to be definitive. The fact that 400,000 votes separate them is actually a pretty significant difference.

YELLIN: Let me put that to Beth Frerking with politico.com. Is this a narrow gap, 400,000, or is that significant?

FRERKING: Well, I think it's still significant at this point, and I think definitely if she doesn't win the popular vote and she's behind in pledge delegates, it's really almost an impossible case for her to make. The trick is going to be if she actually does come up in the popular vote and gets beyond Obama. Now, we had a story this week by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in which they said that it would be very difficult. She would have to actually get more than 60 percent in all the popular vote contests from here until the end. That would be a very big push for her. She's only been above 60 percent in three states, New York, her home state, Arkansas, arguably her other home state, and Rhode Island. Those are the only three states where she's been above 60 percent in the popular vote. So, she's got quite a job ahead of her if she's going to win in the popular vote in the long run, I think.

YELLIN: Amy Holmes, you're both a CNN political analyst and a Republican strategist. You remember the year 2000 very well.

HOLMES: Oh, I sure do.

YELLIN: Florida is going to be the death of the Democratic Party, they just can't ever get it right there. Is it fair to say it's a 400,000 gap vote? Should we be counting those Florida votes when we tally the popular vote difference between Clinton and Obama? HOLMES: That's entirely up to the Democrats if they want to get deeper into a mess. Looking at it from my perspective. We know there's not going to be a Florida do-over. There's not going to be a Michigan do-over, as our own reporter pointed out, in Michigan Barack Obama was not even on the ballot. It would be hard to say that 40 percent that went to Obama and to Edwards should then all go to Obama. It's a complicated mess.

But looking also at these numbers, our own John King has said she needs to get 60 percent, over 60 percent and sweep every single state to overcome Barack Obama in pledge delegates and the popular vote. It's really hard to see how she's going to do that. Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen's piece is really reverberating at least inside the Beltway that Hillary Clinton has such a steep hill to climb, why does she keep fighting? Is it for more Jeremiah Wright moments? Is she hoping Barack Obama is going to explode with political Tourette's? What does she think is going to make the difference here for her between now and June 3rd.

YELLIN: I like that. Political Tourette's. Let me ask you Joe Mathieu, do you think that's what she's doing? It's sort of a campaign of attrition in a sense, hoping that Barack Obama really does something devastating in the next few weeks that will give her the nomination?

JOE MATHIEU, HOST, XM RADIO'S "POTUS '08 LIVE": I don't see what the other solution would be as Beth was saying Senator Clinton would have to run the board in a very meaningful way in all of the remaining states, 65 percent or more with what we've seen that's essentially impossible, save a major meltdown by Barack Obama. Let's say somebody comes up with a video of him in the same room as Reverend Wright while he's delivering one of these inflammatory speeches. But this still comes back to Michigan and Florida which I think is the point of this discussion really. It is the story. I hate to sound like Bob Dole. Where is the outrage here? Why aren't people protesting in the streets in these two states? Are you telling me these two critical states are not going to involved in choosing the next president of the United States. This is not "American Idol" here. People showed up in great numbers, showed up to vote when they were told.

And all the talk of punishing the states, rules are rules, the kind of things that we've been hearing from both the state officials and the Democratic National Committee I think is absolutely ridiculous.

KEITH BOYKIN, EDITOR, "THE DAILY VOICE": I disagree.

MATHIEU: I think that's immoral at best.

HOLMES: Joe, those states had choices.

BOYKIN: I think Amy pointed out something earlier which is that she was saying Republicans are -- the Florida situation might resolve everything. But the Republicans in Florida are the ones who help to contribute to this problem. I think the Democrats who went along with it in Florida should be held responsible and the Democrats in Michigan who went along with changes the system should be responsible. Those are the people who should be protesting against, not against the Democratic National Committee. Every party has to have rules and the rules were violated by two states. Forty-eight other states had no problem complying with the rules. But these two states did not. I think they should be seated at the convention, of course. I will be at the convention. But I don't think they should be seated based on the allocation from the votes in January which were clearly not fair.

YELLIN: I've got to wrap it for right now. We will get back to this conversation, I promise, after a break, including are the Democrats hurting themselves by continuing this primary for so long? On the other side of this break, we're going to take a check of other news including a big snowstorm that's hitting Cleveland and some other parts of this country. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. BALLOT BOWL '08 continues in a moment. But first a look at the headlines.

Thousands of people in the Midwest facing the fear that their home will soon suffer this fate, being completely covered by water. Several days of heavy rain triggered this massive flood from Arkansas to Ohio. Emergency crews have sandbagged communities near swollen rivers. And officials are keeping a close eye on overburdened levees. At least six people have died in the flooding and storms.

And to the north this is the weather threat, a spring snowstorm has slammed into Wisconsin and Ohio dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas. Milwaukee's airport shut down last night stranding hundreds of travelers trying to get out of the town -- out of town for the Easter weekend. And some of them were out of luck again today when their flights were canceled.

Let's check in with meteorologist Bonnie Schneider for the weekend weather forecast. How is it shaping up for the rest of the weekend?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's going to be cold for the rest of the weekend. First I want to talk about the flooding. The flood threat continues from Missouri, Illinois, down through Arkansas. And we take a look at some of the flood gauges tabulated here by the USGS. You can see the numbers here, the dots here you see in black, that's where it indicates flooding is occurring at its highest point. We have the drought in north Georgia and Alabama you can see this is the driest area indicated by the color red. It's interesting not too far away we have such a contrast in areas that are so drenched and saturated and others that are dry and needing rain, needing water.

But let's talk about where we're getting rain right now. Luckily we're not seeing too much of it in the floored areas. A little of precipitation towards Kansas and into southwest Missouri. But right now the heaviest precip is coming from the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa St. Pete to South Florida. It's South Florida is getting hit hardest with the heavy downpours, currently we're seeing very heavy rain on I- 95 from Coral Springs through Ft. Lauderdale into Miami. And actually there is urban flood advisories in place for places like Hialeah, up through Hallandale into areas like Pembroke Pines where we're seeing the flooding occur. Look for it on the high side, three inches as we go into the evening hours. So it may be tough to travel tonight in and around that region.

So we do have some airport delays at Ft. Lauderdale, about 25 minutes. Light delays in Colorado and some very cold temperatures in the forecast for the evening hours as we go towards Sunday. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Bonnie. Workers cleaning up after last week's tornado which hit Downtown Atlanta found a body today. Police say the body of a man was found under the rubble of a collapsed brick wall. It could prove to be the city's first tornado- related death from the March 14th storm.

And with the help of UNICEF, some women in Yemen are taking a stand working to further girls' educations. CNN's Betty Nguyen has more on a story impacting your world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For most girls in Yemen, this is daily life, doing chores in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Yemeni)

NGUYEN: But these girls want to go to school. In Yemen becoming a teacher or doctor is less likely for a woman.

Cultural and religious restrictions do not allow girls to be taught by male teachers after they reach a certain age, and male teachers dominate the education system. With such challenges, female teachers are taking a stand and protesting for the right to teach young girls, and they're getting help from UNICEF.

"Education is like light. If they send their girls to school, they will help their families, their communities and the country."

And just outside of Hodaida (ph), this UNICEF school is a sign of change and an example of progress.

ABOUDOU KARIMOU ABJIBADE, UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE: Education is key here. When you have a huge number of women illiterate. When you have girls who are not going to school, that is the cycle of poverty.

NGUYEN: A cycle that may be broken with the help of ambitious women willing to teach. And young girls who aspire to learn. Betty Nguyen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And to check out stories about more people making a difference go to cnn.com/impact. Yoga for your face next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: In our health for her segment today, a new wrinkle in the fight against sagging, drooping skin. CNN' Judy Fortin examines happy face yoga.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They stand tall and proud, warriors facing an ancient enemy, battle cry at the ready. Welcome to Happy Face Yoga, one of the latest weapons in the war against aging.

GARY SIKORSKI, FOUNDER, HAPPY FACE YOGA: This is another one that will help to de-stress the face. Readjust your smile to make sure you're looking up. Don't straight yourself.

FORTIN: A series of facial toning exercises are deployed against crow's feet, laugh lines and deep wrinkles.

SIKORSKI: It helps move the bags under the eyes. It strengthens both the upper and lower eyelids and also openings the eye sockets, creating bigger, brighter eyes. This is great for toning up saggy cheeks and droopy jowls and strengthens and prevents droopy eyelids. Cheek pushups.

FORTIN: Done daily, these exercises according to Happy Face Yoga founder Gary Sikorski can make you look years younger, but you're going to have to work at it.

SIKORSKI: Take your hands and you are going to raise those hands past your face. All the muscles following your hands up to the sky, all muscles lifting up. As small as possible. Lift. And release. Lift and release. Remember to breathe. Stretch it up to the sun, Judy. Stretch it up. Feel that burn right here.

FORTIN: Or work pretty hard at not cracking up about it.

SIKORSKI: Did Simon say fingers?

FORTIN: And in the end, even if you can't completely keep that enemy known as aging at bay, spending a few hours locked in battle while probably also locked in laughter might make you the bigger winner anyways. Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.

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WHITFIELD: OK. Learn something new every day. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. More news, headlines. Coming up next hour we'll get back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL '08 right after this.

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CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And welcome back to CNN's BALLOT BOWL. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington along with my co-host Jessica Yellin. We're bringing you back this week in politics and quite a week it was. Trying to give you these candidates, sometimes live, sometimes taped, but always unedited, giving you large chunks of these candidates.

We're also trying to catch you up on this very newsy week. New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama this week instead of long-time political ally and friend Hillary Clinton. Why did he do it? According to Governor Richardson, Obama's speech on race was pivotal. Here is his reasoning unfiltered.

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GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D) NM: Senator Obama could have given a safer speech. He is, after all, well ahead in the delegates count for our party's nomination. He could have waited for the controversy over the deplorable remarks of Reverend Wright to subside, as it surely would have.

Instead, Senator Obama showed us once again what kind of leader he is. He spoke to us -- he spoke to us as adults. He spoke to us as adults. He asked us to ponder the raid (ph) of our rationally divided past, to rise above it and to seize the opportunity to carry forward many patriots of all races who struggled and died to bring us together.

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CROWLEY: So what does the Richardson endorsement mean? Will it help Barack Obama attract Hispanic voters, or is there something else at play here? We went to check back in with our panel of analysts. We have Beth Frerking, Joe Mathieu, Keith Noykin and Amy Holmes. Thank you all so much. Well, I have to tell you, when I first saw that Richardson was going to endorse Obama, I thought, boy, this might have been helpful pre, say, New Mexico or pre Texas. And I suspect there's more going on here than helping Obama with the Latino vote. Joe, let me go to you first.

MATHIEU: You're right. Where have you been? We could have used you before Texas, before Super Tuesday is what I imagine the Obama campaign has been saying. But a couple of things come to mind here. And I think it says more about the Clinton campaign than the Obama campaign. James Carville in "The New York Times" earlier today referring to Bill Richardson as Judas which I thought was interesting on this Easter weekend.

But the fact of the matter is I think this really is story about superdelegates. Richardson is one. By making the endorsement, it think it gives the green light, gives the go ahead to other superdelegates who may have a long past or allegiance with the Clinton family. It says, you know what, it's OK to roll with Barack Obama if you want to. If you're leaning in this direction, I'm paving the way for you. Also, when we get into a general election, if Barack Obama is the nominee, I think Bill Richardson will help quite a bit in securing the Hispanic vote.

CROWLEY: Beth frerking of politico.com, what kind of actual voter help do you think Richardson can be at this point in the primary?

FRERKING: Well, I think that again Hispanic leaders will be looking to Richardson and thinking, maybe it's OK if I go that way instead of with the Clintons. Clearly Hillary Clinton has had a lot of significant Hispanic support in places like Texas, but I agree with Joe, I think this is less an issue of the general voter and much more an issue of both superdelegates -- after all, this was a man who served in Bill Clinton's administration, in top senior positions. He was ambassador to the UN and he was secretary of energy. That is quite a change for him to go to Obama. And I think that gives -- two words, political cover, to other superdelegates. The other thing is that, you know, the timing, although he didn't help them before Texas and Ohio, what a week for them to have him come forward. It's sort of stopped the negative news about Jeremiah Wright and enabled them to focus on someone who they didn't necessarily expect to endorse him, come up and give him really good news at the end of this week.

CROWLEY: Keith, how big a blow is this to camp Clinton? Certainly we've all seen that picture of the two of them, Richardson and Bill Clinton enjoying the Super Bowl -- I almost said Super Tuesday, I'm in the wrong world -- the Super Bowl together. This seems to me to be a fairly big blow at least in the P.R. sense to camp Clinton.

BOYKIN: I think it is. Richardson himself said he dreaded making the phone call all day. I can imagine, it's probably like telling your wife you're filing for divorce or something. The conversation must have been a very unpleasant one. The truth is I think this story is bigger than the Hispanic issue which several people have focused. It's about experience. I think what this shows is that the guy who was running in the Democratic Party nomination, who had the most experience of any of the candidates running, is deciding to support Barack Obama. That gives Barack Obama some credibility at an important time. I also agree that this is a perfectly timed endorsement. Some people, like Mark Penn in the Clinton campaign are saying this is a horrible time and doesn't mean anything. Absolutely not. Barack Obama just finished what was perhaps the worst week of his presidential campaign and he comes out with the biggest, most coveted endorsement out there.

And secondly he also comes out showing he did really well in the polls. The polls are showing the race speech really had a positive impact. I think Barack Obama somehow managed to salvage what was a horrible week into something very positive because of this.

CROWLEY: Amy, big net plus here for Obama?

HOLMES: Absolutely. We're talking about Bill Richardson's connection to the Clintons in terms of being UN ambassador and so forth. Let's not forget he was also Monica Lewinsky's job search captain during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. His relationship with the Clintons was very intimate and very close. For him to be breaking with them at this point I think is doubly significant.

But again, Barack Obama started this week with a disaster, he's ending with an endorsement. Not only does it cut off the Jeremiah Wright story, it then puts the ball in Hillary's court to say, explain why you're still in this. Richardson is saying Barack Obama is ahead in the pledged delegate count, he is ahead in the popular vote, he also told his fellow Democrats, we've got to stop this infighting. We've got to stop all the bitterness and negativity and have a strong nominee going into the general up against John McCain. So it really puts Hillary Clinton on the defensive to justify why she's still campaigning. CROWLEY: Thank you all so much. You are going to stick with us, we're coming up to the top of the hour. We will have more with our panel. We'll have the latest development in the passport snooping case. All up next on BALLOT BOWL.

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