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Crunch Time For Clinton and Obama; Arkansas Storms Kill Seven

Aired May 2, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have got breaking news tonight: more dangerous, potentially deadly weather, dozens of new tornadoes hitting the country tonight after a day that was already destructive enough to begin with, destructive and deadly. And, apparently, it is not over with yet. This is all part of a storm system that spawned tornadoes, killing seven people in Arkansas. You see some of the damage there, reducing parts of 11 counties to rubble.
Now, there's another twister on the ground right now.

CNN's Chad Myers following the system. He joins us with the latest -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, you can see the hook echo right behind me. There it is, right there, right on the monitor behind me. Now, that is northwestern Alabama now.

We haven't had any tornadoes in Alabama yet tonight, but this is the first one on the ground. It was south of Riverton about five minutes ago, moving to the northeast at 25 miles per hour. There's so much going on tonight. And it's even -- it's nothing compared to what we had earlier today.

I want to show you some pictures from Arkansas, because, actually, they're -- they're hard to believe at times. The tornadoes on the ground early from Benton County, then one life lost in Hensley, Damascus, three lives lost there. And in Birdtown, Arkansas, two lives lost there.

Damage all over the state. Little Rock really was surrounded by tornadoes today, but did not get hit at all. Great news there. One storm did hit Earle -- E-A-R-L-E -- Earle, Arkansas. And Jim Belles from the National Weather Service -- and I quote -- said, "It is a miracle there were not fatalities in this storm. An EF-3 with winds of 160 miles per hour destroyed many homes in this town. I can't believe everyone walked away with their life."

There were four serious casualties, four serious, people injured, but, right now, no fatalities from a storm that literally wiped homes off the foundation -- Anderson.

COOPER: That is unbelievable.

Now, the storm we're looking at right there, where did that touch down? Do we know?

MYERS: That right there looks like the storm that was from Damascus. And it ran up. This is the storm that actually killed three people when it was on the ground, that storm right there. Obviously, that's just a funnel, but you can't tell sometimes. Anderson, when it gets behind the trees, there could be a part that is actually touching the ground.

A way to know is if actually things are falling from the sky. A tornado will actually pick up insulation, pick up bits of the homes, and then throw them miles and miles away. And, there, you can see that tornado just touched down there as it moved away from that three.

COOPER: Unbelievable. So, do we expect more tonight, or is this -- the one that is on the ground right there, that is it?

MYERS: Well, it's winding down. That's the good news. There's probably three tornado warnings going on right now, but only one on the ground. For a while, Anderson, we had five on the ground at a time.

COOPER: All right, Chad Myers. There's the picture right there. There's the storm watch for folks in that area.


COOPER: Chad, we will check in with you throughout this hour, tracking -- tracking these storms.

Now on to politics.

It is crunch time, the final push for Indiana, North Carolina, and the growing possibility of a campaign surprise -- the candidates on the trail, battling for the hearts and minds of undecided voters, who still number in the double percentages in a lot of polls.

Barack Obama today, there you see him, trying to shake off a week of political hell, campaigning in Munster, Indiana, Charlotte, North Carolina, and finishing a day at a dinner in Raleigh.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We may be from different regions, from different parties, from different races, from different religions, but one thing that we all are is Americans.


COOPER: Earlier, he slammed Hillary Clinton and John McCain's proposed federal call gas tax holiday, calling it an election gimmick that would benefit big oil and eliminate thousands of highway construction jobs in a slumping economy.

Senate Clinton, meantime, there she is, barnstorming across North Carolina, pushing harder. She's now calling for a vote in Congress on the gas tax, saying lawmakers should go on record. And she put it, they're either for the people or for the oil companies, for us or against us, she said, borrowing a phrase best known to have been used by President Bush post-9/11. She too finished her day at that dinner in Raleigh.


CLINTON: If you listen closely, you can almost hear it in the distance, the sound of the moving van pulling away from the back of the White House.



COOPER: Bill Clinton is hitting nine towns in North Carolina on Monday. And, instead of lowering expectations, her campaign is actually raising them in that state, calling North Carolina a game- changer, as if they expect a surprise victory.

No sign of it in our new poll of polls, but clear signs of a tightening race, 50-40 for Obama. That's down from blowout margins before Pennsylvania and before Reverend Wright, 10 percent still unsure now. As we said, targeting that 10 percent, that audience in both North Carolina and Indiana, that's what these last three days are all about, crunch time.

As you will, the candidates are doing it zip code by zip code, block by block, issue by issue, starting with jobs.

The "Raw Politics" from Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A John Deere service center in North Carolina, an aging steel plant in Indiana, heading toward a primary day that will be watched for both who wins and who votes, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton move from one working-class backdrop to another.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I'm here in the middle of this street in front of the courthouse, and just feeling so much at home, because small towns, whether they're in North Carolina, New York, or Arkansas, are really the base of this country. Small towns gave us our values.

CROWLEY: Clinton wants a big showing from working-class and rural voters to bolster her superdelegate argument that he can't win that key Democratic voting bloc. Obama wants to cut into her strength to show he can.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that one of the ironies of the last two or three weeks was this idea that somehow Michelle and I were elitist, pointy-headed intellectual types.

CROWLEY: They will go down to the wire arguing over a bottom- line working-class issue, the price of gas, specifically, lifting the federal gas tax for three months. Yes, even a little break is better than no break.

CLINTON: I want the oil companies to pay the federal gas tax for the summer.

CROWLEY: No, it would save consumers a grand total of $30 and would likely drive prices up.

OBAMA: This is not a real solution. It's a political stunt.

CROWLEY: Economists largely agree with him. Political types think she's on to something with voter appeal.

Clinton and Obama go into this final weekend before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries from two different places. He's coming off a loss in Pennsylvania and Wright week, the worst seven days of his presidential bid. Losing both states will send a massive shudder through his campaign, not to mention the Democratic Party. He's up 10 in North Carolina, dead even in Indiana.

"I think we have a terrific chance," he says. But what of the Wright effect? He doesn't know, but there is a perceptible hedging of bets.

OBAMA: What I don't spend a lot of time doing is obsessing about what ifs and should-have-beens. What I will do is we will see what happens on Tuesday and then we're going to keep ongoing to the next -- next contest.

CROWLEY: She's coming off a nice win in Pennsylvania, but two losses for her is a doomsday scenario. Two wins, and she still can't catch him in pledged delegates but, oh, what a superdelegate argument she would have.

CLINTON: You know, this primary election on Tuesday is a game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, and probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.

CROWLEY: For all the policy, all the polls, all the pundits, politics is still an art of the unknown.


COOPER: There are a lot of unknowns, Candy, but do they think -- do the Clintons think they can win North Carolina?

CROWLEY: Well, they certainly are hoping they can.

Listen, they -- they know they have made strides. As you know, Anderson, on the day after an election, there are many ways to look at the numbers. Clearly, they're feeling hope. And I can tell you what -- because she's spending a little more time down there than we had expected she would.

So, they are seeing at least the right trajectory, and they are hoping they can close that 10-point gap, not much time, but, remember, Hillary Clinton has been the one that really is -- she's a crunch player. She really has been the closer. When we have seen a large number of undecideds -- we saw it in New Hampshire...

COOPER: That's right.

CROWLEY: ... we saw it in Pennsylvania -- we saw it in Ohio -- she's the one that tends to pick up the most of them.

COOPER: Candy, stick around. We are going to talk with you and David Gergen in just a moment.

Politics may be the art of the unknown, as Candy was talking about, but the people who practice it do know a little something, namely their base and where to find it.

Tom Foreman takes us up close.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you are an Obama supporter, if you like the senator from Chicago, then keep a close eye on the northwest part of Indiana. This area is heavily influenced by Chicago TV, particularly Gary, which is only about 25 miles from downtown Chicago.

These folks have known about Obama for years and he's built a lot of support here. But if you are a fan of Senator Clinton, you will find much of the rest of Indiana tilted demographically in her favor. Indiana is 89 percent white. That's above the national average. Just a bit more than half the state is female, 52 percent. That's another tiny edge that she might be able to exploit.

And this is could hurt him -- 42 percent of the voters consider themselves conservative Democrats. So, they may not buy his message of change. They may prefer Clinton's message of experience.

When we fly over to North Carolina, the other primary state on Tuesday, however, the tables and the demographics turn. The African- American population rises to 26 percent, more than twice the national average. North Carolina voters overall are slightly younger.

That matters because the age gap has been profound in this race. Simply put, people under 45 more often vote for him. Above 45, they go for her. And North Carolina is a little bit better educated than average, in large part because of the presence of some top universities.

And more educated voters tend to back Obama. But even if Clinton does not win there, she needs to do pretty well, because North Carolina is by population one of the 10 biggest states in the country. And her sales pitch for weeks has been, I can win the big states, and he can't -- Anderson.


COOPER: And that's the pitch to the superdelegates, of course, which Candy was talking about.

So, will Obama close the deal on Tuesday or will Clinton keep it going? We are going to dig deeper with the best political team on television and talk about that.

And you can join the conversation online. I'm blogging when I can at

Also ahead, a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton shakes up the political landscape today. The video that's going around all around the Internet, maybe you have seen it. The problem is, it's not true. What it says and who's behind it -- coming up.

Later tonight, this:


REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: African and African-American children have a different way of learning. They are right-brained, subject-oriented in their learning style.


COOPER: That's Reverend Wright's theory, but is it true? We're "Keeping Them Honest."



CLINTON: This primary election on Tuesday is a game-changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country, probably even a lot of the world, is looking to see what North Carolina decides.


COOPER: Hillary Clinton playing the expectations game, crunch time for both candidates, 218 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday.

Digging keeping now, CNN's Candy Crowley and CNN senior politics analyst David Gergen.

David, North Carolina, Clinton called Tuesday's primary -- primary there a game-changer. We just saw that. If she loses, but only by single digits, can she call that a victory?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. No. If he wins, he wins. Just like in Pennsylvania, the Clinton people were saying, a win is a win is a win. The same is true in North Carolina.

I think she is right that it could be the game-changer. It has become the epicenter. And I will tell you why, Anderson. Both these contests are important, but she has been moving steadily into -- into a bigger and bigger lead in Indiana. Indiana has moved from tossup to Clinton heavy favorite, whereas North Carolina was heavy favorite Obama, and moved -- and that lead was cut in half, down to around six or seven.

And, so, she has had a shot at winning North Carolina. And that would be a game-changer. I must tell you, in the last 24 hours of polling, he has been doing a little better. He's actually lifted his average lead up to around eight, eight-and-a-half points. And the bottom seems to have stopped dropping for him. And that would be a huge change for him, and a very important one, if he can pull it out, and pull out a victory seven, eight, nine, 10 points.

COOPER: Candy, how much of that is due to media coverage on the Reverend Wright issue? I mean, it has tapered off the last day or two, I think.

CROWLEY: It has tapered off.

I mean, how -- look, he knows that it hurt him. He's said so. He said, I don't know how much it's hurt me. But, obviously the whole controversy has hurt him, particularly in these last seven days. Now, remember, this has been going on literally for a week. Last Friday was when we first saw Reverend Wright on PBS.

So, it has been going on for a long time. You know, but add all those other things. He's literally been pounded since Ohio. We have had Wright. We have had the bitter comments. We have got the loss in Pennsylvania. I mean, there are so many things, and he's been unable to get up off the mat.

So, it's not just a game-changer if she could win. I think it's a game-stabilizer if he should win. If they split it, we just go on.

GERGEN: I agree with that, Anderson. I think, if he wins North Carolina, it's going to be even more difficult for her to take it away from him.

But I -- to add to what Candy said -- and, by the way, when you look at everything that's happened to Obama, the -- part of the story is the fact that he's still surviving. I mean, he's more durable than one would have expected, given this -- this barrage of assaults he's experienced.

But I also think that this gas tax question is one which is playing a role, both in North Carolina and in Indiana. When I was in North Carolina earlier this week, it was interesting to me. The papers were full of the gas tax proposal. And I think, as -- as much as I think it is a pander, as much as I think it's...


COOPER: You have no doubt -- you have no doubt it's just a political pander?

GERGEN: Oh, absolutely.

Listen, if you -- if you or Hillary Clinton believe, as she does, in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and getting -- and having less carbon in the air, as she does, then the last thing you want is people buying more gasoline and making it easier for them to buy it. It's completely hypocritical.

But, even so, it may work politically. And I think it works. People less than $50,000 in this country say their biggest concern is the rising cost of living. And right square in the middle of that is gasoline.

COOPER: So, on the ground, Candy, I mean, they're battling for these undecided voters, but how important at this point is the popular vote, compared to -- to the battle for the superdelegates?

CROWLEY: Well, it's -- it's another of the links that Hillary Clinton is trying to make with the superdelegates.

If she can come to the end of this primary process -- here's what we know. It is very unlikely she's going to catch him in pledged delegates, which, after all, is what this whole process is about. It is very unlikely she's going to be able to catch him in number of states won. In fact, I think it's impossible.

So, what's left there is popular vote. They're also arguing that she would have more electoral votes, if you count the states she's won. I think that's going to be a little farfetched for the superdelegates.

But I do think that they want very much to be able to argue the popular vote. The thing is, North Carolina is her last, best chance to kind of rack up some -- some votes there, so -- because it's the last biggest state.

COOPER: Three days left to go, definitely crunch time.

David Gergen, Candy Crowley, have a great weekend. Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, we're keeping them honest -- an explosive campaign video with ugly language about a certain group of voters. Just one thing -- it's actually a phony. Campaign smear tactics, who is behind them? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also, Chad Myers updating our breaking news: killer tornadoes, at least seven dead, more deadly weather, where to expect it -- when 360 continues.



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Connecticut's fine. Delaware is fine.


JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Wait, wait, wait, Georgia is fine.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Georgia is good.

Iowa's done. Illinois is done.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Indiana, we're ahead.



COOPER: Familiar faces, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. That's a scene from "The War Room," the documentary of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

This week, the clip is making news. You may have heard about it or probably seen it on the Internet, popping up just days before Tuesday's Indiana primary.

Well, the video in question shows then Clinton campaign manager and current Hillary adviser Mickey Kantor -- that's him there in suspenders -- uttering what sounds like a derogatory term for the people of Indiana.

Now, we don't know who released this tape. We do know that it's not true. The audio was actually doctored. We are going to show you the proof in a moment.

Like we said, we have no idea where the fabricated version came from. And, frankly, we debated even airing this story tonight, but we think it's important that you to know the facts. This thing is all over the Internet.

And the facts really about not just this video, but how dirty tricks, those smear campaigns, ugly and slanderous, are part of the political season and how truths are twisted into lies.

CNN's Gary Tuchman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the documentary on the 1992 campaign known as "The War Room." This scene on the Internet features Bill Clinton aides George Stephanopoulos, James Carville and Mickey Kantor.

Much of what Kantor then says is hard to hear. On the original documentary, it sounds like he's saying something about being in the White House right now. But, on the doctored sound clip, a voice describes residents of Indiana as -- quote -- "worthless white" and then adds the N-word.

The clip rocketed around the Internet after it was posted on some leading political Web sites. It has now been taken down. But coming this close to the Indiana primary, it smells like a political hit job.

STEPHEN MARKS, AUTHOR, "CONFESSIONS OF A POLITICAL HITMAN": Any wacko has, you know, the same access as a legitimate person or a legitimate reporter or a legitimate politician to just put anything out there.

TUCHMAN: Stephen Marks is the author of "Confessions of a Political Hitman." He does opposition research against Democratic candidates, but claims he doesn't make things up.

MARK: If you lie and make up things that aren't true, like saying Barack Obama is really a Muslim in secret, that's -- that's -- that's totally off-base. And we do not do that. Campaigns sometimes do that. And, of course, because the Internet is so unsupervised, there's no laws against this stuff. Anybody can put out anything on the Internet.

TUCHMAN: Mickey Kantor, who is a current adviser to Hillary Clinton, is outraged and shocked. He and the filmmakers say it's a lie and he will explore legal steps against the person or persons responsible.

But the Internet is so anonymous, he may never found out who did it. Marks says campaigns wouldn't be so stupid to do this, but individuals and interest groups sometimes are.

MARKS: It's both. We have -- there's a lot of people out there sitting at the Internet that have nothing better to do that do this stuff.

TUCHMAN: This is certainly not a first. Barack Obama has been the subject of untrue Internet gossip that he's a Muslim.

OBAMA: I want to make sure that your viewers understand that I am a Christian who has belonged to the same church for almost 20 years now.

TUCHMAN: In 2000, phone calls were made to South Carolina voters stating John McCain fathered a black child, something McCain talked about just before the recent South Carolina primary.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What happened eight years ago is over. And I know that the people of South Carolina are not going to have such a thing happen again as happened then.

TUCHMAN: And then there were the false and doctored photos of John Kerry at an anti-Vietnam War rally with Jane Fonda.

A man who is an expert at digging up what he calls legitimate dirt says that, with the Internet cranking away, don't expect to see any decrease of this sort of illegitimate dirt.

MARKS: It's just because it's a free country and because the Internet is -- has no -- no laws really regulating it, this stuff just flies out there. And some of it sticks. Some of it doesn't.

TUCHMAN: So, the age-old advice still holds: Don't believe everything you read, hear or see.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Especially -- it's just amazing, with the Internet, how this stuff just immediately spreads overnight.

Up next, we are going to update our breaking news -- at least 25 twisters across four states, at least seven dead today. We will check in with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

And later: race and the brain. This week, Reverend Jeremiah Wright said, among many other things, that white and black children learn differently. Those comments kind of got lost in a lot of the coverage of his other remarks, but is what he said true? We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- tonight.


COOPER: Updating our breaking news, killer tornadoes hitting the heartland. This damage that you're seeing is in Damascus, Arkansas. At least seven people across the state have been killed today. Other twisters spit out by a punishing storm system have struck in Oklahoma, and Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. At the top of the hour, there was another one on the ground in Alabama.

CNN meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers joins us with the latest -- Chad.

MYERS: Anderson, that seems to have lifted in the past few minutes -- no tornadoes on the ground since that last report. And that was about 10 minutes to 10:00.

But look at this storm, all the way from Canada, all the way down to the Gulf Coast, all the way to Louisiana. And in the warm sector, where the hot air was today, that's where the tornadoes were and still are. There's still a tornado warning for that storm in northwestern Alabama, although I don't think it's rotating as much as it was, and then back out here into parts of Mississippi and Alabama, right there on the line between Louisiana.

And take a look at some of the stuff that came out of Arkansas today, just really devastating tornadoes today, large EF-2s, EF-3s. I haven't seen any 4's yet, but the Weather Service office is just getting out there to look at the damage.

And the numbers really don't matter at all. But there are 51 different and separate reports of tornado damage today, damage to homes, damage to businesses, to cars. And seven people lost their lives today.

From the Weather Service office in Memphis, Jim Belles said it's a miracle there were not fatalities in the town of Earle. Earle had an EF-3, 160-mile-per-hour tornado right throughout downtown.

Carlisle, the town of Carlisle is about 30 miles east of Little Rock, Anderson, had three separate tornado warnings...


MYERS: ... on three separate storms. And the third one finally hit it. And the third one finally went through downtown with an EF-2, flipped cars over on I-40 and did a lot of damage to downtown in Carlisle as well.

This was a day for the books, I'm afraid, 51 separate numbers. Now, those numbers will come down. There weren't 51 tornadoes, but 51 separate places where at least a tornado made damage. And for the long-lived tornadoes that may have been on the ground for 15, 20 miles...

COOPER: Hey, Chad...

MYERS: ... obviously, many of those produced more than one damage.

COOPER: Chad, I know I should know this by now, but, when you talk about an EF-2, what does that mean?

MYERS: EF-2, it's the Fujita scale, now it's called the Enhanced Fujita scale. Don't get me started why somebody had to do that, but anyhow -- because that's a long story -- but about 120 to 140 miles per hour.

And the storm that went through Earle, 150 to 160, now, that's a 3. Now, that means almost all of the building is gone, but you can still make out that it was a building. EF-4, above that number, up into the 180-mile-per-hour range, means that you can still find an inside wall, but you can see some of the slab. And an EF-5 means you can't even tell that a house was there ever. All you can see is the concrete or the basement.

It's a complete wipeout storm.


MYERS: And there was nothing EF-5 strong today, but they happen.

COOPER: Well, the bottom line, seven people lost their lives today.

MYERS: That's right.

COOPER: Chad Myers, thank you very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

COOPER: There's a lot more happening.

Gary Tuchman joins us with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Gary.

TUCHMAN: Anderson, a possible new showdown over Iraq.

Today, President Bush outlined his latest request for $70 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressional Democrats are considering tying the cash to a withdrawal timeline and adding domestic spending to the bill. President Bush says he will veto those moves.

Minnesota lawmakers say they have reached a deal to compensate the victims of last year's Minneapolis bridge lapse. Under the $38 million plan, victims would get up to $400,000 each. Thirteen people were killed and 145 others were injured in the collapse.

And a Texas man has been arrested for trying to cash this $360 billion check. Yes, look at all those zeros. Cops say he stole the check from his girlfriend's mother and wrote out the cash amount to start a record business. And, Anderson, that had a great chance to succeed.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. He's very ambitious but maybe he should have scaled it down a little bit. Not that I want to give advice to guys making big check, but $360 billion?

TUCHMAN: Maybe $360 million would have worked, but definitely not $360 billion.

COOPER: Maybe he was watching 360 and got inspired. Hey, Gary, here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo. Hillary Clinton meets with some fourth graders during a campaign stop in Graham, North Carolina.

And congrats, actually, Gary Tuchman has the winning entry from our stuff. A child inexplicably bites a stunned Hillary Clinton on the right leg.

Oh, that's not funny. If you look at the photos, actually it does look like this little girl is biting. Anyway, viewers, if you think you can do better, go to Send us your entry and we'll announce the winner at the end of the program.

Up next, just days -- (INAUDIBLE) blog again -- just days before the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, we want to look beyond the sound bites and give you an up-close look at the candidates. Their roots, what made them the people they are. Tonight, we take you up close with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

And later, blacks and whites in the classroom. Do they really learn differently? This week, Reverend Wright claimed they did. We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues. And join the conversation online at


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Television ratings for Reverend Wright, through the roof.

Folks are engaged. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think they're making up their mind, they're weighing it, they're trying to figure it out. But I think for the presidential campaign, they want to know more about what I'm going to do about gas prices, to be blunt.


COOPER: Talking gas prices and the Wright controversy. That was Hillary Clinton's interview this week with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. Her answers were force folded tone talk. They were not however exactly surprising. We've heard them before in sound bites from the campaign trail.

But tonight, just days away from the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, we wanted to look beyond the sound bites and beyond the headlines. We wanted to give you a sense of what led both Senators Clinton and Senator Obama to run for president.

Our profile of the Illinois senator in a moment. But first, up close with Hillary Clinton.


COOPER: (voice-over): Hillary Rodham Clinton is the oldest child of Dorothy Rodham, a homemaker, and Hugh Rodham, a fabric store owner. Constantly challenged, she was taught to work hard, stick up for herself, and to always compete.

BETSY EBELING, FRIEND: Her mom really did tell her she could do anything she put her mind to. And her dad said, prove it to me. Maybe that's the difference between Dorothy and Hugh. And she constantly did. She constantly proved it.

COOPER: (on camera): Do you think she still hears her dad's voice?

EBELING: Oh, yes.

COOPER: (voice-over): Hillary Rodham grew up in the '50s in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, where almost everyone, her father included, was a staunch Republican.

EBELING: It was just pretty much expected you'd be a Republican. That was the stronger party.

COOPER: Hillary was an active young Republican and in her teens became a Goldwater girl, volunteering in support of conservative Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

But along the way, she had met Methodist youth minister Don Jones who urged young adults to look beyond the conventional wisdom of Park Ridge.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: No man is free if he fears death. COOPER: Even taking them to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in downtown Chicago during Hillary's junior year in high school.

EBELING: That was huge. And you know, that -- they're this incubator, I guess, in a way, you would call it that allowed us to see first hand so many things that really did change us.

COOPER: In the fall of 1965, Hillary left Republican Park Ridge and headed east to Massachusetts and the all-girls school Wellesley College.

ALAN SCHECTER, FORMER PROFESSOR & THESIS ADVISER, WELLESLEY COLLEGE: Hillary was a very serious student. When I say serious student, I mean serious about her work. I don't mean serious about her personality because she was very likable and outgoing.

COOPER: True to her Park Ridge roots, Hillary was president of Wellesley's young Republicans during her freshman year. But by the late 1960s, Hillary, like so many in her generation, began to question the conventional wisdom of her parent's generation.

SCHECTER: Intellectually, she was quite interested in what I would describe as progressive change within our society, towards a more egalitarian society.

COOPER: In the summer of '68, she snagged an internship with a House Republican conference under then Minority Leader Gerald Ford and attended the Republican National Convention in Miami.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The voting on the convention floor went according to the Nixon plan.

COOPER: Where the party adopted the infamous southern strategy, exploiting racial tensions to win white voters.

SCHECTER: The experience there pushed her away from the Republican Party. One would have to guess if the Republican Party hadn't moved to the right at that time, whether she might have stayed as a Republican.

COOPER: In the spring of '69, Hillary Rodham became the first student Wellesley College history to speak a commencement. Her fiery speech on the struggles facing the country branded her a trial blazer.

SCHECTER: It seemed to me it was much more of an example of what one might call the new woman that was emerging in the 1960s.

COOPER: In the fall of 1969, she headed to Yale Law School where she was one of just 27 women in a class of 235 students.

EBELING: She always wanted to be a doctor but discovered she couldn't stand the sight of blood. So I guess being a lawyer was the next best thing.

COOPER: At Yale, she focused on issues concerning children's rights and in 1971 found another interest, fellow Yale law student Bill Clinton.

EBELING: He was great. He fit right in, he was lots of fun. My mother said to Hillary, "Don't let this one get away. He makes you laugh."

COOPER: After graduating in 1973, Bill asked for Hillary's hand in marriage, but she declined.

EBELING: I don't think she figured she'd get married that young. And I'm sure she thought she would stay out east.

COOPER: Bill left for Arkansas, while Hillary stayed in Massachusetts to be an attorney for the Children's Defense Fund.

At just 26 years old, she joined 44 other attorneys in Nixon's impeachment inquiry. But after Nixon resigned, she left D.C. for Arkansas to be with Bill.

(on camera) Did it surprise you when she decided, rather than to become a trial lawyer in Washington, to go to Arkansas?

EBELING: Oh, yes. But when she called me to say she was going to go to Arkansas to see if this was really going to work, I remember thinking, "Arkansas, exactly where is it? It's one of those 'A' states" somewhere out there.

COOPER: Not sure where it was?


COOPER (voice-over): On October 11, 1975, the couple exchanged vows in a small ceremony in their living room.

EBELING: I think she was kind of amazed that it was actually happening.

COOPER: When Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978, Hillary became the first, first lady of the state to continue working, as a lawyer at Rose Law Firm, and in 1979 she was named partner.

A year later, Hillary reached a personal milestone when she gave birth to their daughter, Chelsea Victoria.

EBELING: I think what she decided was the best identity she had was Chelsea's mom.

COOPER: Even with motherhood, Hillary's career continued to rise. And in 1991, she was named one of the 100 most influential U.S. lawyers by the "National Law Journal."

But her husband's career would eventually take precedent. Thrusting Hillary into what would become a long, yet turbulent journey in the world of politics.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Fascinating road she has taken. Up next, up close with Clinton challenger, Barack Obama, and the making of a presidential candidate.

And later, race and education. Is there a difference in learning between blacks and whites? That's what Reverend Wright suggested earlier this week. We're "Keeping Them Honest."



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you will vote for me, then I promise you I will not let you down. I will fight for you every single day. I will win Indiana. I will win this primary. I will win this election, and you and I together we're going to change this country and the word.


COOPER: A confident Barack Obama speaking today at a town hall meeting in Munster, Indiana. Obama is trying to move on of course from the Reverend Wright affair and hoping to put the comments his former pastor made behind him.

It has taken a toll on his campaign, no doubt about it. How much of a toll? Well, perhaps we'll find out Tuesday night. Still Obama appears certain he will be the next president. Tonight, just days before the critical primaries, we continue to look beyond the sound bites to try to give you a look at what drives the candidates.

Now Barack Obama up close, beginning with the moment that made him famous.


COOPER (voice-over): It was Boston four years ago at the Democratic National Convention when Barack Obama burst onto the national scene. His speech electrified the crowd.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That in no other country on the Earth is my story even possible.


COOPER: That story begins an ocean away from Boston, in Hawaii, with a boy named Barry.

REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE (D), HAWAII: We all remember when he was born. And, at that time, we knew him as little Barry.

COOPER: Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. He was named after his father. Barack means "one who is blessed by God" in Swahili. Barack Obama Sr. grew up herding goats in a remote village in Kenya, but won a scholarship to study at the University of Hawaii. The woman who would be his mother moved with her parents from Kansas to Hawaii, where she met Obama's father in a Russian language class.

DAVID MENDELL, AUTHOR, "OBAMA: FROM PROMISE TO POWER": By all accounts, it was love at first sight. They -- much to the chagrin of her parents, I think.

COOPER: When Obama was 2, his father won a scholarship to study at Harvard. He left his young family behind and returned only once, when Barack was 10. It was Obama's mother's influence, as much as his father's absence, that would shape his life.

MAYA SOETORO-NG, SISTER OF BARACK OBAMA: She really did a marvelous job of looking past superficial differences and understanding people at their core. And I think that that's an important part of who he is.

COOPER: When Obama was 5, his mother remarried an Indonesian man, and, a year later, moved the family to Jakarta.

MENDELL: I think what he saw in Indonesia was the other kids who didn't have the privileges that he had. And he played with these other kids, but there was always an out for him.

COOPER: At 10 years old, Obama returned to Hawaii to attend one of the state's most elite prep schools, Punahou School. He lived with his grandparents in a cramped two-bedroom apartment while his mother stayed in Indonesia.

KEITH KAKUGAWA, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND OF BARACK OBAMA: He struggled more with himself than anything, because he felt abandoned. He felt left out.

COOPER: He got mostly B's, sang in the choir, and wrote poetry. But his true passion was basketball.

KAKUGAWA: You could tell that. He wanted to be accepted. And, at the time, basketball was a place where it could be done.

COOPER: It was off the court that he struggled with his identity.

MENDELL: He channeled his rebellion into his racial identity in trying to figure out how to cope with being a black American and having been raised in a primarily white household.

COOPER: Obama says he tried drugs to numb his confusion, but he kept his grades high enough to get into college and in 1979, he left Hawaii.

JERRY KELLMAN, FORMER BOSS, DEVELOPING COMMUNITIES PROJECT: Anybody in their early 20s is trying to work with a lot of identity issues, and Barack was no stranger to that. Barack wanted to live in two worlds in a society that up until that point was telling you, "No, you choose. You know, you're going to live in a black world or white world."

COOPER: He graduated from Columbia and then took a job as a community organizer for a church-based group serving Chicago's public housing projects. But after a few years, he'd grown frustrated.

KELLMAN: I think Barack made a decision that he wanted to do some good, he'd have to have some power.

COOPER: Obama applied to Harvard Law School and was accepted.

KENNETH MACK, HARVARD LAW CLASSMATE: There was a certain quality of maturity that he projected that really impressed people in a place where everyone was quite impressive.

COOPER: After his first year of law school, he became a summer associate at this Chicago law firm. Michelle Robinson, a Harvard grad and a lawyer, was assigned to be his mentor. Obama asked her out. She finally agreed.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: One of the reasons why I respect Barack is that he understands to whom much is given, much is expected.

COOPER: Obama would go on to become the first African-American president of the prestigious "Harvard Law Review."

OBAMA: I think people can say that my election symbolizes some progress, at least within the small confines of the legal community.

COOPER: Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. He went to work for this civil rights law firm in Chicago and finally started to put down roots. He married Michelle Robinson and they had two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha.

MENDELL: There certainly is a sense of he wants to fit into a community, but there isn't any community that he neatly fits into. So he eventually chose the African-American community on the south side of Chicago by marrying a black woman and moving into that world, settling into an African-American church.

COOPER: It's now well known, Reverend Jeremiah Wright became his pastor. The sometimes angry gospel of Black Liberation Theology was at times controversial, but for Obama it was a place to belong.

(on camera): In Reverend Wright's church, he -- he found a community of African-Americans that he felt a part of?


COOPER: And it helped him understand what it meant to be African-American in America?

MENDELL: I think so. I think both of those things. But he's also an extraordinarily intelligent and charismatic guy, and Obama wasn't drawn to that. So this guy had extraordinary influence on Obama and probably in a positive way. COOPER (voice-over): But that relationship would come back to haunt him. When just a decade after Obama began his political career as an Illinois State senator, he announced --

OBAMA: My candidacy for president of the United States of America.

COOPER: That young man who was searching so hard to find his identity would find himself on a journey toward the White House.


COOPER: Up close with Barack Obama. Among his other controversial statements this week, Reverend Jeremiah Wright also said that black and white kids learn differently. He said it's a fact.

Coming up, we'll check those facts and come up with some surprising answers. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also Tom Cruise back on "Oprah." The first time since the now famous couch bouncing incident, there it is. Talking about scientology and psychiatric drugs. Details after this on 360.



REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: Two different worlds have two different ways of learning. European and European American children have a left-brain cognitive object oriented learning style. African and African-American children have a different way of learning.


COOPER: That was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Sunday, in a speech to the NAACP in Detroit. Tonight, on "Uncovering America," we focus on the issue he raised. Do kids have inherently different learning styles because of their race?

If the issues of poverty, class and environmental racism were not part of the mix, can a case be made that African-American kids should be taught differently solely because they are African-Americans?

CNN's Soledad O'Brien is "Keeping Them Honest."


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The James Baldwin School in Lower Manhattan boasts an incredible graduation rate, 94 percent. It's a new public school and very small, just 17 seniors last year.

But what's most amazing, before transferring here, many of the students were failing out. Some, like Mark Garriques, were on the verge of dropping out. (on camera): How bad were your grades?


O'BRIEN: Really?


O'BRIEN: So you came here as a failing student?


O'BRIEN: What are your grades now?

GARRIQUES: It's like B minus.

O'BRIEN: Your graduation rate is significantly higher than the average rate in New York City public school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having your voice heard can equate to passing a class.

O'BRIEN: Almost half the students are African-Americans. They are success stories but research shows black children start falling behind academically by age three. In urban areas, black children in ninth grade read at a fourth or fifth grade level. So why the gap?

Reverend Jeremiah Wright raised the issue in his speech to the NAACP.

WRIGHT: African and African-American children have a different way of learning. They are right-brained, subject-oriented in their learning styles.

O'BRIEN: He cited author and professor of early childhood education Janice Hale in his speech. She agrees that black children and white children have different learning styles.

JANICE HALE, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY: There are different cultural differences in the way African-American children develop the way they approach academic tasks.

O'BRIEN: Those cultural differences she says can be seen in the classroom.

HALE: Black children cling to the teacher too much, engage in too much attention seeking behavior, will not stay in their seats until the teacher tells him to get out.

O'BRIEN: So is there really a difference between the brains of black and white children? Do they learn differently? Researchers we talked to say no. Freeman Hrabowski has been studying this achievement gap for more than 30 years.

FREEMAN HRABOWSKI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, BALTIMORE COUNTY: I don't know of any evidence that would suggest that children of one race learn according to one side of their brain or using only one side of their brain. Children learn using both sides of their brain. As much of their brains that they can use quite frankly.

O'BRIEN: Teachers at James Baldwin, on the front lines, focused on the individual, not genetic or cultural differences.

SHELLY OCTOBER, TEACHER, JAMES BALDWIN SCHOOL: I don't really understand what race means anymore. I don't know if there's anybody who is pure black, pure white, pure anything. Clearly, almost all of our students have multiple backgrounds. So where do they lie? Middle brain.

O'BRIEN: They focus on personal attention and experience, like the mandatory week-long camping trip where students overcome challenges, then apply that to academic success.

ELIJAH HAWKES, PRINCIPAL, JAMES BALDWIN SCHOOL: There's a lot of pushing and cajoling that leads up to students taking that trip and taking that leap of faith. And it's transformative for so many of them.

O'BRIEN: So transformative that even one failing students start planning for college.

GARRIQUES: I grew up a screw up. So I'm not going to like -- I'm going to change the pattern. I'm going to do something with myself and go to school and make something out of my life.

O'BRIEN: From failure to success, by focusing on individuals, not race. Soledad O'Brien, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Looks like a great school. Gary Tuchman joins us again with a "360 Bulletin."


TUCHMAN: Anderson, in Las Vegas today, a man charged with possession of a deadly toxin Ricin pleaded not guilty. Back in February, police have found four grams of Ricin in Roger Von Bergendorff's hotel room. The unemployed graphics designer will go on trial June 17th. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.

A welcome bit of economic news tonight. The unemployment rate dropped to five percent in April, which was better than anticipated. While the economy still lost jobs last month, the decline was not as severe as the job losses in February and March.

That D.C. judge who lost a $54 million lawsuit against a drycleaner that lost his pants is back in court. This time he's suing to get his government job back which he said he lost because of the negative publicity he got during the trouser trial. He likes to sue.

And Tom Cruise revisited that infamous sofa jumping moment with Oprah today, while giving her a tour of his Colorado home. Cruise said he had no regrets about that. But he goes regret about his views on treating post-partum depression that medication on his words came out wrong.

And for the record, Anderson, he did not jump off on the sofa again today.

COOPER: All right. Thanks, Gary. Up next, we've got the "Beat 360" winner. Later, crunch time for the candidates. Four days to go until the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. New polling shows the race drawing closer by the minute. We've got the "Raw Politics" ahead.


COOPER: Time now for you to take on our staff. "Beat 360," the daily contest pits you against our talented staff to see who can come up with the best caption for picture that we post on our website everyday, so you got to check out the website.

Today's picture from the campaign trail. Senator Hillary Clinton encountering some fourth graders at an event in Graham, North Carolina. A little hard to see in that image. But tonight, our staff winner is none other than Gary Tuchman. Congratulations, Gary.

And the caption you came up with was "A child inexplicably bites a stunned Hillary Clinton on the right leg." And our viewer winner is Katherine who wrote, "Wait, don't get up, I'm just getting to the part where they open fire on me."

TUCHMAN: Much more provocative than mine.

COOPER: They are both very good actually. I thought it was a very good night. As always, you can check out the -- all the competition at Just follow the link to the blog.

Coming up to the top of the hour, we're going to check in with Chad Myers and the latest string of tornados to hit the country. Seven dead today.

Also, crunch time for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama going to a pair of crucial primaries. And later, it was an award-winning documentary years ago. And a video hit job today. The audio doctored. How did that happen and why are we seeing so many smears on the campaign trail these days? "Keeping Them Honest" ahead on 360.


COOPER: We've got breaking news tonight. More dangerous, potentially deadly weather. Dozens of new tornadoes hitting the country tonight after a day that was already destructive enough to begin with.

Destructive and deadly and apparently it isn't over with yet. This is all part of a storm system that spawned tornadoes killing seven people in Arkansas. You see some of the damage there. Reducing parts of 11 counties to rubble. Now there's another twister on the ground right now. CNN's Chad Myers following the system. He joins us with the latest.