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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Bush to Unveil Economic Stimulus Plan; South Carolina's Winning Record
Aired January 17, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. And welcome to CNN ELECTION CENTER, where we convene the best political team on television to bring you more from the candidates, so you can make smart decisions on your Election Day.
Tonight, we are in Columbia, South Carolina. We're at the Flying Saucer Restaurant, as we continue our nightly countdown to Super Tuesday. That's when nearly half of the states in the country hold primaries or caucuses.
And, in just two days, there are early contests in Nevada and right here in South Carolina.
The economy being the talk of the state today, and that was even before President Bush started calling for a short-term stimulus package to try to keep America from falling into a recession. That package might put a rebate check for your several hundred dollars in your pocket.
But, here in South Carolina today, Fred Thompson sounded like he's not interested, and John McCain is sounding skeptical of any plan, except his own.
Meanwhile, my "AMERICAN MORNING" colleague, Kiran Chetry, is holding down the fort up in New York this evening.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We meet once again, 8:00 p.m., instead of 8:00 a.m., here on the East Coast.
But we also are going to be talking in this hour about the party faithful, some Christian evangelical leaders and why values voters are having a hard time making up their minds about their candidate this year.
Also, Senator Hillary Clinton gets personal on "The Tyra Banks Show," even talking about Bill and Monica. We have some of that tape to show you.
It's a full show, so we go back to John in Columbia, South Carolina, this evening.
ROBERTS: Hey, Kiran. Thanks very much. If you look at the pictures in the ELECTION CENTER wall, you will see why South Carolina's Republican primary is so important. Going back to 1980, when they first started have primaries here, every single Republican who has won has gone on to win the party's nomination. In South Carolina, they sure know how to pick a winner.
Senator John McCain knows that all too well. He was on the receiving end of a knockout punch from the Bush campaign here back in 2000.
Our Dana Bash is watching the Republican battle for South Carolina this time around.
And it's not quite as knockdown and drag-them-out as it was in 2000 between two candidates, but there's still a lot of fur flying down here.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of fur flying.
You know, we still have more than 24 hours left, so you never know what's going to happen. But what's really interesting about this process is not just what you were talking about, that South Carolina does traditionally, at least in recent history, pick the Republican nominee. It's also the first critical test for how these Republicans are going to do in the South.
It's the first Southern primary. And that is really important when it comes to electability, John, because these Republicans, you look at the recent history, they need the South in order to get elected to the White House. In fact, four years ago, President Bush, he won the White House with only one big Northern state. And that's Ohio.
So, that's really important for these candidates. Right now, what they are doing, as they are campaigning here, they are talking about all of the traditional issues for the South, but especially right now, because of the dominant issue around the country, the economy is something they have been talking about nonstop.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH (voice-over): Just before this South Carolina primary he needs to win, it's clear what John McCain learned from the Michigan primary he lost: Focus on the economy.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, we're seeing the news. We're seeing the concerns that people have out there.
BASH: Unveiling a new economic stimulus plan.
MCCAIN: I will cut your taxes. I will encourage the growth. I will eliminate the wasteful and unnecessary spending. BASH: Specifically, McCain says he would lower the corporate tax rate, allow a tax write-off for equipment and technology investments, establish a new tax credit for research and development.
McCain has stopped warning voters that lost jobs aren't coming back. That didn't work in Michigan. Now it's optimism.
MCCAIN: This is still the most powerful and greatest nation on Earth. We are the greatest innovator, the greatest exporter, the greatest importer, the strongest economy.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be releasing soon my economic stimulus plan to give the economy a short-term boost.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: In a hurried appearance before he left South Carolina for Nevada, Mitt Romney promised he will soon announce an economic plan of his own.
ROMNEY: I do believe it makes sense for Congress to take immediate action. The consequence of the economy falling into a recession is one which can be calculated in large numbers for the government, but in very important, heartfelt changes for the families of America.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to say to you, I was probably the one candidate, particularly in my party, who started seeing that we had some economic challenges.
BASH: As for Mike Huckabee, no talk of stimulus, just, I told you so.
HUCKABEE: Now, a few months later, all of them are saying, boy, we have got some economic challenges. Well, they would have known that a little bit ago if they had gotten out of Washington and out of the ivory towers.
ROBERTS: So, Dana, Mike Huckabee obviously going after that huge swathe of voters down here that themselves Christian conservatives, evangelicals, very similar sort of percentage here in this state as there was in Iowa.
Today, he was talking about amending the Constitution and putting more language that would be along the lines and in line with the word of God in the Constitution.
Is that getting a little close to the separation between church and state for some people?
BASH: Probably not the people he's trying to appeal to, to be honest with you, John.
I was with him at a Baptist university not too far from here in Greenville. And he, you know, sat with the students, and sat with one of the leaders of the school, and he very comfortably was asked whether or -- or when he found Christ.
And he, without missing a beat, started talking about when he was 10 years old, and here's how it happened. This is a constituency -- it's really interesting. He says: I'm trying to appeal beyond the evangelical base. I have appealed beyond the evangelical base because of his populist message and other things.
But, when you get down to it, if you really watch what he does, these are the kinds of people he appeals to. And just in talking to Republicans outside of the Huckabee campaign, talking to Republicans particularly in Washington, who are very skeptical of him, they are worried about that kind of message hurting the Republicans when it comes to the general election.
ROBERTS: Hey, do me a favor. Stay around for just a couple of minutes here, because we want to get you to talk a little bit about Fred Thompson as well.
At a campaign event across the river in West Columbia today, Fred Thompson looked up at a television set that was on and saw Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke telling Congress that the country needs a short-term play to stimulate the economy.
Thompson's reaction, to say the least, was a little bit surprising.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, as we sit here, we can take a look at the monitor, and Chairman Bernanke is talking right now, I would imagine you would probably say that the economy, perhaps, is the most important issue that's facing us?
FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, that's right.
But, you know, you could probably get a "Law & Order' rerun on TNT there if you really wanted to switch that around a little bit.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I don't know if you want to do that. Chairman Bernanke is from South Carolina.
THOMPSON: Well, that looks a little boring to me. I don't care.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Well, when Fred Thompson first jumped into the presidential case, he jumped right to the top of the polls with South Carolina Republicans.
But since last summer, the former senator from Tennessee has done something of a disappearing act. Still, Thompson is hoping that he can pull off a political surprise.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, spent some time on Thompson's campaign bus today.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rolling through small-town South Carolina, hoping the jumbled Republican race is about to take another turn.
THOMPSON: And we're going to shock the world on Saturday here with your help.
KING: This is the first state where Fred Thompson is a factor. Just how much is the question.
THOMPSON: Good to be back among folks who don't think I talk funny. I will tell you that. But...
KING: He talks experience and judgment, like John McCain...
THOMPSON: I served on the Intelligence Committee. I have been in those countries and talked to CIA officers in closed rooms. And it's no time to have a president who needs training wheels.
KING: ... and urges social consumers enamored with Mike Huckabee to look again.
THOMPSON: It's the reason I received the endorsement of the National Right to Life folks.
KING: Social conservative support is critical to Thompson. But, while Thompson was mulling the race last year, Huckabee was making dramatic inroads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He may have missed his opening. I mean, politics is a process very much tied to timing. And that window seemed to open this summer. He may have waited a little bit late.
KING: Now Huckabee is his urgent target. Thompson criticizes governors who support giving tuition breaks to children of illegal immigrants.
THOMPSON: And some of them are running for president this year.
KING: And he says fiscal conservatives should beware of Huckabee's economic pitch. THOMPSON: Usually, that kind of language and that kind of rhetoric, especially the populist kind of rhetoric, winds up in bigger government.
KING: He also questions his rival's nice-guy image. This show of hands is people who say they have received calls supporting Huckabee that distort Thompson's record on abortion.
THOMPSON: Half the people in here have...
KING: Huckabee says the calls are from an independent group with no ties to his campaign. Thompson says, that is not good enough.
THOMPSON: You can't just wash your hands of this, when you have made a special effort in his case of saying he's above all this, this is a new day, he's a new kind of guy, he's a values guy, and then walk away from something like this.
ROBERTS: That's a report from John King on the road today with Fred Thompson.
Dana Bash here with us again.
So, President Bush tomorrow is expected to outline his plans for an economic stimulus plan to try to keep this economy from going into a recession, or at least soften the blow.
How is a plan like that resonating with the Republican candidates here in South Carolina?
BASH: You know, it's interesting. So far, none of the Republican candidates has said anything about what is likely to come out tomorrow from the White House.
You heard John McCain give his plan. Mitt Romney is apparently going to give a plan as soon as tomorrow. Fred Thompson late in the day seemed to suggest maybe he could be open to some kind of rebate perhaps for low-income Americans. And that is -- looks like where the White House is going, some kind of rebate.
But it's really interesting to watch what they do here, because, over and over, what you hear, particularly here in South Carolina, is, we want to help the economy, but we don't want to do anything to increase the deficit.
BASH: And that is the big problem.
The other problem they have is that they don't want to increase the deficit when it comes to the Republican base they're appealing to now, but they also realize that, if the economy continues to tank, it's going to be Republicans who get blamed, because it's a Republican in the White House. So, in a lot of ways, they want President Bush to do anything that he can to fix the economy now, so they don't have to deal with it if they actually get the nomination.
ROBERTS: And a very fine line that they are walking in terms of supporting the president.
ROBERTS: Dana Bash for us -- Dana, thanks very much.
BASH: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Now let's kick it back over to New York. And here's Kiran.
CHETRY: Well, as we have been talking about all day today, from Wall Street to Main Street, alarm bells are going off about the economy, the Dow Jones today plunging more than 300 points, closing at 12159. And it's down more than 1,100 points for the year.
And even before today's news on the Dow, a CNN poll showing the economy the number-one issue now for registered voters nationwide. It's up from just a month ago, and falling in behind, Iraq, health care, immigration, and terrorism, in that order.
On the campaign trail today, as we have been saying, a lot of the GOP candidates weighed in on the economy.
So, what do their plans look like, and who makes the most sense?
Joining me now from Washington is senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
Gloria, good to see you tonight.
CHETRY: And also with me in New York, we have "New York Post" associate editorial page editor Robert George.
Robert, great to see you.
ROBERT GEORGE, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK POST": Good to be here.
CHETRY: As well as Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky.
Great to see you as well, Julie. Thanks for being with us.
JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to see you.
CHETRY: Gloria, let's start with you.
We did hear a lot of talk about economic issues and some of the candidates really coming out and saying what they wanted to do.
Let's hear from John McCain as he talked about what the answer isn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Can we cut spending to make -- get that $70 billion? Can we sell something? What is it? Just that money, as I said, doesn't come off printing presses. It comes -- so, that's why I'm a little skeptical, is because I want to see where that money is going to come from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: What is John McCain -- what is his plan, Gloria, for how he would help the economic crisis many seem to believe we're in right now?
BORGER: Well, I think what you just heard John McCain say is that he's very worried about any kind of programs that are not going to have offsets.
John McCain says that the Republican Party has lost its way because it's been spending too much money, and the deficit has gone up. And he's saying, look, if you are going to have some kind of a bailout here to help people -- and, by the way, McCain says this is not a recession -- then you have to find a way to pay for it.
And you have got Democratic programs that are $70 billion, $75 billion. So, all the Republican campaigns I talked to today, Kiran, are saying they are a little nervous about what the president is going to propose tomorrow, because they might have to disagree with him.
ROGINSKY: Go ahead.
GEORGE: I think that's right.
I think McCain specifically was referring to Senator Hillary Clinton's stimulus package, which was the $70 billion figure that he was alluding to. And, in a sense, politically speaking, Senator Clinton made an interesting move, because, right out of New Hampshire, she pivoted the campaign into the economic area, and has put the Republicans on the defensive, because I think, on the one hand, they are -- as you said in the earlier report, they are a little bit nervous about the fact that the country may be sliding into a recession, and how do they deal with it, since it's a Republican president.
But, on the other hand, they don't want to necessarily increase -- increase the deficit. So, I think they want to try and strike some kind of a balance.
ROGINSKY: There's two points here, too, that I think are really interesting. The first is that the president might propose tying any sort of stimulus package to a permanent extension of his tax cuts. We will see if John McCain, who is running as a tax-cutter, is going to be able to buy that. That is tremendously tied to any -- against any offsets that he wants to propose.
The second issue, more troubling for the entire Republican field, is that none of them have come out of the gate, like the Democrats have, with a stimulus package. But John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton were of the gate two weeks ago, if not longer, with their stimulus packages.
The fact that the only person is John McCain in the entire Republican field to be even talking about this, I think, is sort of troubling for the Republicans, and shows that they may be a little bit more of touch than everybody else.
GEORGE: However, though, the Democrats have been talking about the deficit problem for years. And they certainly don't have any offsets. I mean, it's legitimate that the Democrats should try and come with some kind of -- if they are really seriously concerned about the deficit.
CHETRY: And, Gloria, I want to ask you about this as well, because its seem that the theme of the day was that, we can't wait. We can't wait for things to happen down the road, that some of this has to be immediate.
But it was interesting to hear from Governor Mike Huckabee said, because, as everyone was talking about the immediate plans, he was talking about his FairTax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: And if you can't fix it with duct tape and WD-40, partner, it can't be fixed. And, folks, I have got to tell you something. You can't fix the current tax code, even if you had WD-40 and duct tape. It takes more than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: All right. So, he's talking about this FairTax plan, which would be more a consumption and national sales tax, not an income tax. Even if everybody was on board, which they're not, how many years down the road would we be talking?
BORGER: That's right. People want some quick fixes right now, because the economy is in trouble. Even the president has said that.
What Mike Huckabee is talking about is a tax that lots of Republicans themselves consider a regressive tax, kind of a national sales tax. And that's somewhere down the road. But he's got Republican groups campaigning against him because they don't like that tax, and that's causing him a lot of problems in South Carolina and in other states.
But, when you see Mike Huckabee right now, you are saying, gee, this is someone who's looking at a long-term answer. People want short-term solutions right now. And that's the problem that the Republicans do have. But one more thing, Kiran, what's going to go on Capitol Hill is going to be really, really important, to see if the Democrats can actually work with this president, and then see how the political candidates position themselves on the stimulus package.
All right, well, Gloria, stay tuned. Please stick around, as well as Robert and Julie, because we are going to talk about the Democrats and their plans, and how you pay for the stimulus package that some of them are proposing, coming up in just a few minutes.
Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Clinton is opening up about a subject that she normally doesn't talk about at all. You will want to hear what she is saying about how she kept her marriage together during those dark days at the White House.
And now we're going to head back to John with some more on what's going on from South Carolina.
ROBERTS: We have got lots coming up here from South Carolina, Kiran, new voters, lots of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One vote makes a difference. It makes -- everybody makes a difference. And I'm excited. I'm really excited. I'm just -- I'm enjoying it. It's interesting. And I think I will be able to make a difference. Even though one vote is just out of a million, I will be able to say I had my part in the vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: It's democracy at work. Watch out for their enthusiasm, because you just might catch it, too.
Also, South Carolina's perfect record at predicting the Republican nominee. I will ask the state's GOP chairman if this could be the year that voters get it wrong.
ROBERTS: South Carolina's record of consistently picking the Republican nominee may be in danger this year. People can't seem to make up their minds. The graph on the ELECTION CENTER wall shows how the candidates' fortunes have risen and fallen over the past few months. Last August, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were on top, as well as neck and neck. By November, Mitt Romney was leading the pack, and Mike Huckabee was beginning to come out of nowhere. Now it's John McCain who has risen to the top, with Mike Huckabee still gaining.
Well, with me now is the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, Katon Dawson. Katon is in Washington tonight.
ROBERTS: And, Katon, you said after the Michigan primary, now is the time for the nation's first make-it-or-break-it primary contest. What did you mean by that? Because it would seem highly unlikely that South Carolina is going to finish this thing, as it did in the year 2000.
KATON DAWSON, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, John, it's been a very different cycle this year, certainly, with only 10 days between New Hampshire and South Carolina, with Michigan sitting in the middle, vs. 18 days in the year 2000.
But, with that being said, South Carolina voters have always been very indicative of the Republican Party and the rest of the country. We have got a lot of exciting campaigns there, as you are on the ground witnessing, a lot of different messages, and an exciting end to this primary on Saturday with us, with South Carolina voters making a big decision.
ROBERTS: Right. So, when you say make it or break it, I mean, quantify that for me. What do you expect is going to happen here in terms of the overall campaign? Might it whittle it down a little bit?
DAWSON: Well, I think that that's probably the least it will do, is maybe deflate some campaigns.
Right now, there are a lot of undecided voters in South Carolina, and that's -- I attribute that to the quality of our candidates. We have got a lot of really good candidates. And what's different in this cycle is, we have never had this many candidates coming into South Carolina with very positive messages, good campaign teams.
And that's made for some voter confusion of where they are undecided, but that's going to be finished on Saturday in South Carolina.
ROBERTS: So, Katon, you say that you have got a lot of very good candidates here. But, looking back over history, you had candidates like Ronald Reagan, George Bush, the first President Bush, who were able to unite the party here in South Carolina.
Is there a candidate out there now in this Republican field that can do the same thing as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did?
DAWSON: Well, I certainly think so.
Our candidates have very strong teams with very strong messages. I'm not worried about the Republican Party being united; 10 months from now, we're going to be running against a liberal Democrat nominee. There are going to be philosophical differences in parties, and I'm excited about the opportunity to show the differences in the candidates when the general election comes.
Right now, we're having a scrimmage among the party faithful. We're going to pick a nominee, and move through this process, and be very successful in November.
ROBERTS: Of course, South Carolina very famous as John McCain's last stand in the year 2000, and it seems that, even in 2008 now, there are echoes of that campaign.
Listen to what John McCain said on the campaign trail in Columbia today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I need your vote. I need it. This is a pivotal election. You know that a lot of nasty things are going on. Ignore that kind of stuff. My friends, I promise you, I will lead America in the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: So, John McCain is still complaining here in 2008 that there are people who are trying to submerge his campaign with these robotic phone calls. There are people out there with fax machines saying things about him.
How is it that, eight years after he got defeated here, that stuff is all coming back around again at him?
DAWSON: Well, John, campaigns in South Carolina are hard- hitting. You know, we're running for president of the United States.
It might be unfortunate and disappointing, but it's a part of the political process that sometimes -- over time, I think South Carolina voters will see through the smokescreens, especially of the groups that have moved into South Carolina to directly affect the election.
I think that everyone should be careful and pragmatic and take a real hard look at the information that's coming. And I'm encouraged by the amount of people who are telling me they are voting for somebody and not against someone. And that's refreshing in South Carolina this cycle.
ROBERTS: Well, certainly, people are taking a long, hard look at the candidates.
Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party in Washington tonight -- Katon, thanks.
The wide-open presidential races are attracting extraordinary numbers of first-time voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to have the belief in what they actually believe in. If it's what you believe in, go for and vote for, not just on what the race or the color is. That's what I believe in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: This is a special passion for us here at CNN. Hear more voters for the first time. It may convince you to join up with them.
And you can't talk about South Carolina politics without considering faith and values. We will look at which candidates and issues the voters find most inspiring.
CHETRY: Voters played a huge role in the primaries and the caucuses up to now, especially in Iowa and New Hampshire. But they will also make a big difference in South Carolina. Joining me now, CNN's Dan Lothian. He's in Columbia this evening. Dan, what is the feeling among these first-time voters out in South Carolina?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're really energized to be taking part in the 2008 presidential campaign. They care about the same kinds of issues as more seasoned voters, the health care, education. They care about the war in Iraq. But as I mentioned, particularly, education, for the younger first-time voters.
We met one of those younger first-time voters, 19-year-old Tierra Smith. She is a single mother, a mother of a 1-month old baby girl. She wants to go back to school. But she also says she's excited about taking part in this election. Voting for the first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIERRA SMITH, FIRST-TIME VOTER: One vote makes a difference. Everybody makes a difference. And I'm excited. I'm really excited. I'm just enjoying it. It's interesting, and I think I'll be able to make a difference. Even though one vote is just out of a million, I'll be able to say I had my part in the voting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: You know, there's been so much said about the personalities in this race in 2008, and so the question comes up, whether or not these first time voters care more about the personalities or care more about the issues. As for Smith, she says it's all about the issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Honestly, with Obama and Clinton, I think a lot of mentality with everybody, not just with the African-Americans but everybody, a lot of people's mentality is because Clinton is a female, I'm going to vote for her because we need a first female in the White House. And Obama with African-Americans, they'll tell you he's black. He's going to be the first black president. And I think that's just in my opinion that's the wrong way to think because you have to go by what their standings are. No matter what the race is or the gender is, you have to have the belief and what not they actually believe in. If this is what you believe in, go for it, vote for it. Not just on race or the color. That's what I believe in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now, she says that she's already made up her mind. She's supporting former Senator John Edwards because he touches on a lot of those issues that are important to her, and specifically along with education, that he's talking about bringing up the middle class and lifting people out of poverty. All of this resonating with this 19-year-old single mother -- Kiran.
CHETRY: So Dan, she's going with Edwards. Are there any clear delineations, lines, where these people are definitely voting for one candidate over the other, or for most it's still up in the air?
LOTHIAN: It really is still up in the air. You kind of have to wait to see which way these numbers of these first-time voters will break. We know that in Iowa, Obama really seemed to tap into those younger voters. It's unclear what will happen here in South Carolina. But clearly, as I mentioned earlier, they seem energized, excited about taking part in the political process for the first time.
CHETRY: And how about the makeup of the first-time voters?
LOTHIAN: Well, it really splits with, you know, those who are qualified or finally qualified, finally old enough to vote. Then you have those who suddenly feel like they need to take part in the process. They are unhappy with what they are seeing in Washington. They have not been politically engaged, so they're getting engaged for the first time. And then you have those who just became citizens, these new immigrants that become citizens, and they're getting a chance to vote in this country for the first time.
CHETRY: All right. Dan Lothian for us this evening in Columbia, South Carolina, thanks.
Still ahead, plenty of action on the Democratic side of the campaign trail today. Two of the top candidates are looking ahead to Super Tuesday's biggest prize. And, Senator Hillary Clinton looking back on the struggle to save her marriage. Opening up like you've probably never heard her before. We'll let you hear what she had to say.
Also, we're looking at born-again voters. For more evangelicals, no issue is more important than opposition to abortion. We're going to be taking a look at the Election Center wall and show you some of the candidates position, going into the break. Much more, when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Well, Rudy Giuliani's position on abortion has not won him many friends among conservative Christians, which is why it may be surprising that he scored an endorsement from televangelist Pat Robertson. Another interesting endorsement, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, gets the support of Bob Jones III, president of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. Meantime, Fred Thompson gets the thumbs up from the National Right to Life Committee.
It appears not only is the conservative religious community split, they're not necessarily basing their decision on religion alone. Joining me now to talk more about this are two prominent Christian leaders, Oran Smith, who is the president and executive director of South Carolina's Palmetto Family Council, and Tom Minnery is the senior vice president of the group Focus on the Family.
Tom, let's start with you there in Washington. What is it that evangelicals are looking for from this crop of Republican candidates, particularly here in South Carolina?
TOM MINNERY, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Hi, John. Nice to be with you. I think several things stand out. I think that people are looking for a candidate who has an understanding of biblical moral principles, and I mean several things by that. A candidate who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, who believes in the sanctity of human life. A candidate who believes that the declaration of independence means what it says. That our rights are a gift from our creator, not a gift from our government. Those are some of the things that I think are very significant, and there are quite a number of candidates to choose from this year.
ROBERTS: Yes. There's a big crop of candidates here. Which one can appeal to the base zone, and can any one candidate appeal to the base at large? Which means what? Some 40 to 50 percent, Oran, of the electorate here.
ORAN SMITH, PALMETTO FAMILY COUNCIL: Well, depending on how you account this. Probably between 30 and 60. This is an evangelical heartland, and we have a lot of voters, and they have a lot of opinions and a lot of choices this time.
ROBERTS: Oran, Mike Huckabee said something that was very interesting today. In a campaign event, he was talking about abortion, gay marriage, enshrining opposition to both of those in the constitution. Listen to what he said about the constitution and how he would amend it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is to amend the constitution so it's in God's standards, rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with something temporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: So, he's talking about, Oran, putting language in the constitution that's much more in line with the word of God than it is with perhaps with the founding fathers. Initially, put in the document that may play well to the audience in the room, but for the audience at large here, throwing the vote in this general election, does that getting a little too close for the separation between church and state?
SMITH: Well, I think, we probably have to listen to it in context, what he said in total and what he said in other places. I think maybe what he's saying is that the principles that are found in the scriptures are often consistent with some of the doctrines we hold in government. And that where we can, that those should be consistent.
I don't think he's saying that we should change our constitution or make as a truly Christian Republican, which religions are valued. I think he's just looking for consistency with biblical principles that maybe we have in our hearts that we vote into law, the democratic process.
ROBERTS: Tom Minnery, obviously, evangelicals are looking for a candidate that shares their moral principles, but our moral principles and not pointing about the idea of experience?
MINNERY: Well, that's very significant, John, and it's a good thing that you bring it up. I think that evangelical voters have been in the process now for a long time and they're getting to be quite sophisticated voters, and, I think, good, executive public policy experience is going to be very significant. And that's why the governors seem to be doing pretty well. And historically, why governors have done well in this presidential contests, as opposed to senators.
ROBERTS: Yes. Oran Smith, you said recently that there is no worst nightmare for people in South Carolina than Hillary Clinton in the White House. Do you believe that evangelicals here will vote for the candidate that best reflects the principles and as their guiding principles that they believe in? Or will they look for the person best able to beat Hillary Clinton?
SMITH: Yes. I think that right now there's a lot of division within the state because there's several candidates. Most of the Republican candidates values voters are very comfortable with. In fact, my own family is very divided. I talked to my relatives and inlaws today, and they're all over the spectrum because they feel relatively comfortable with all of these candidates, and I think that's something to be very happy about.
So, a lot of values voters. In South Carolina, it is difficult to untangle the values voter from just the average voter. In fact, maybe the story here would be, what is happening with the nonvalues voters?
SMITH: But I do believe that they're looking for someone who can stop the Democratic candidate.
ROBERTS: Well, it'll be interesting to see if they could go unless (ph) around one candidate or if there will be a split among evangelicals. We'll find out in 48 hours. Oran Smith, Tom Minnery, thanks for joining us tonight.
And don't think that Republicans are the only presidential candidates that are talking about the economy today. What's the Democratic prescription for what's ailing the economy? It's in our dispatches from the campaign trail. Coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE", "The View"'s Elisabeth Hasselbeck, talks about the presidential candidates and Britney Spears.
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DUGALD MCCONNELL, CNN PRODUCER: I'm CNN producer Dugald McConnell with the Edwards campaign in Reno, Nevada. Today, in Nevada, the Senator has been focusing on union voters in particular, telling them that more than 200 times he stood with the union picket lines and organizing drive. He also says that while President Obama will give a great speech and President Clinton would master the bureaucracy, President Edwards will bring some fight and some guts to the Oval Office. Today, in Los Angeles, he kicked off a three-day coast-to-coast tour aiming to prove that he is campaigning nationwide.
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CHETRY: All right. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also in California, actually today, where they addressed the struggling economy and called again for emergency action. Clinton telling the crowd in Compton that she wants a moratorium on foreclosures and tax relief for low income families.
While in San Francisco, Barack Obama talked about his plan to jump start the economy with a $75 billion stimulus package. Joining us once again, the best political team on television. We have Gloria Borger with us, as well as Robert George and Julie Roginsky. Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Julie, let me start with you this time. We've been talking about the mortgage meltdown and the problems with that. When we hear the term economic stimulus, which all three of the Democratic frontrunners have mentioned in some way, shape or form, what exactly are we talking about?
JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, we're talking about injecting the economy and giving consumers money immediately. I think Barack Obama was the first to propose giving money to almost all workers. I think he's proposed $250 as a direct benefit to all workers, just to have them start consumer spending.
You know, consumer spending has been down across the board in December both for high-end retailers and for retailers that target, which cater the middle class. So I think we're talking about providing a stimulus immediately. John McCain conversely is talking about providing a stimulus for corporations, which, if effective at all would really take quite awhile to trickle down to the average worker. And I think that's where the Democrats are really delineating between themselves and people like John McCain.
CHETRY: And the question is and in the criticism from the GOP, Robert, is, how do you pay for this?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: How do you pay for it. And that's true for Democrats, in general, who have been criticizing Bush's tax cuts because of its impact on the deficit. And it's also true, specifically for Hilary Clinton, who, when she started her campaign, she said, any proposal that I'm going to be putting out there, I'll show how to pay for it so we don't increase the deficit.
But now, she put this one out and she says, well, because it's an immediate stimulus we don't need to pay for it. So, I mean, I think it's fair for the average voter or observer to say, well, you know, are you being straightforward now or are you deviating from what you said before?
CHETRY: And Gloria, how do you balance that? How do the Democrats get passed the programs that they want, yet find the way to pay for it?
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the key was delivered by the chairman of the Fed today, Ben Bernanke. He said any economic stimulus package and, by the way, he's not opposed some kind of stimulus, has to be short-term. It has to be temporary. It can't be something that's open-ended because we can't afford to pay for it, and it will upset the economic balance that he's trying to achieve in this country.
And so, I think what you are going to see from the president tomorrow and from Republicans and perhaps some Democrats, if they can all get on board, is a program that's not open-ended. Just a short- term fix that injects that money into the economy that we need right now that gives people some money in their pocketbooks.
ROGINSKY: But if I might add, you know, the president wants to tie a permanent tax cut, a permanent extension of his tax cuts to this that obviously goes to the point that you're trying to make.
BORGER: He's not going to do that.
BORGER: He's not going to do that.
ROGINSKY: Exactly. Because I think he realizes politically this is completely unpalatable.
GEROGE: One of the problems we are facing though is that I'm not so sure that even if you have this stimulus and you put money into people's pockets, I'm not sure whether they are going to start spending because the whole credit crunch is also a factor in this, and people who are just starting to realize, a lot more people, middle class people, as well, are realizing that a lot of them have overextended themselves on credit cards and things like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
GEORGE: And any money that they have, they may just -- they may just save, which means it's not going to be going back in the economy.
CHETRY: You know, Gloria, the other interesting thing, so the president will come out with his stimulus package and they've been talking about how he wants to work with Congress on this. Where did the sitting senators, you know, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, where do they, you know, sort of tread this ground so that their plans don't seem to be overshadowed by something that gets passed immediately?
BORGER: Right. And I think the presidential candidates on both sides are going to pick this stimulus package apart because the Republicans are afraid that it's going to be too much government intervention. The Democrats are going to be afraid. The Democratic presidential candidates are going to be afraid that the Democrats in Congress are compromising too much because they've got a public out there that disapproves of the way Congress does business. And the public wants to see the Democrats work with the president, but that doesn't work so well for the Democratic presidential candidates. So, they may have some different goals here. We're going to have to watch that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that's all been translated into a quick fix. It obviously won't.
GEORGE: And inevitably, in an election year, when you've got such parties controlling the White House and the Congress...
GEORGE: ... separate parties, you never want to give the other guy a victory. So, I think, getting any kind of a fix is going to be difficult.
ROGINSKY: No one would argue, honestly, that I think people are so fed up that I would caution both the Democrats and the Republicans. We all know that sausage is not pretty when it's made, but this got to come up with a product because people are really hurting. They're losing their houses. So you know --
Enough with the politics. I think in this case, people are really hungry for some sort of solution. Partisan or nonpartisan.
CHETRY: Forget seeing it made. They want to eat the sausage.
ROGINSKY: They want to eat the sausage. They don't care how it's made anymore.
GEORGE: We'll believe it when we see it.
CHETRY: That's true. All right. I want to thank all of you on the panel for being here. Robert George as well as Julie Roginsky and Gloria Borger out in D.C. this evening. Thanks, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
CHETRY: Hillary Clinton's brought up a subject that she almost never talks about in public. How her marriage survived the Monica Lewinsky scandal. We're going to hear what the senator is telling Tyra Banks about why she decided to stay and what helped her get through it.
And also with the Dow Industrial down 1,100 points in less than three weeks. You can't afford to miss Larry's panel of money experts, all coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE."
ROBERTS: The CNN Election Express tonight in Columbia, South Carolina, outside of the Flying Saucer restaurant, which is where we are right now, and our thanks to them for hosting us this evening. You might recall that Senator Barack Obama also enjoys the support of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey. But now, Senator Hillary Clinton has found her own daytime television outlet.
Tomorrow, Clinton will appear in a tape interview on the "Tyra Banks Show." Apparently, the two discussed everything from Bill and Monica to a potential White House reality show. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley has got the details for us. She joins us now. And Candy, this is not the sort of thing that we expected Hillary Clinton would want to talk about on the campaign trail.
CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It isn't. You know, John, they go on these daytime talk shows because it's an easy atmosphere, and because they want to show a side of themselves that doesn't always come out in news conferences or during policy speeches or even in those town hall meetings. This is the more personal side of the candidates that comes out.
And certainly, I must say, this is the most detail that I have heard Hillary Clinton talk about her husband's infidelity and she, in fact, seemed to open up.
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SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really had to dig down deep and think hard about what was right for me and what was right for my family.
TYRA BANKS, HOST, TYRA BANKS SHOW: Yes.
CLINTON: And I never -- I never doubted Bill's love for me, ever. And I never doubted my faith and my commitment to our daughter and our extended family. BANKS: Yes.
CLINTON: But I had to decide what I had to do. And I think it's so important to be able to hear yourself at a moment when it's hard.
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CROWLEY: Now, Clinton was asked further by Tyra Banks, do you have any advice for other people who may be going through the same thing, and their husband's infidelity? And Clinton said, listen, you know, no journey is like another person's journey. I don't know what your world is like. You don't know what mine is like. I would only tell you to be true to yourself.
Other things we learned, John, is that she thought jokingly that perhaps there should be a contest as to what Bill Clinton would be called, should she become president. She said, some of his Scottish friends think first laddy would be nice. So there were other little details and again, as you said, tomorrow on Tyra Banks.
ROBERTS: I like that idea, the First laddy. Candy Crowley for us tonight. Candy, thanks very much. We'll be right back to tell you what's on the political agenda for tomorrow. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: Well, the politics keeps rolling on. Tomorrow, join Kiran and me and wake up to the most news and the most politics in the morning. We're going to have interviews with Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. We're also going to have lots of other news, including news on health care, Kiran.
CHETRY: That's right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be joining us for a closer look at the health care crisis hitting across the south, cancer rate. He's also taking an interesting look at one of the toughest jobs, which is the job of being president and the toll it takes on your health. Thanks for being with us. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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