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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Kerry Wins Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland; Edwards to Drop Out

Aired March 2, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The polls have now closed, 8:00 p.m. on the East Coast. In Massachusetts, CNN will project John Kerry overwhelmingly carrying his own state of Massachusetts. In a landslide John Kerry carries Massachusetts.
In Connecticut also, John Kerry the projected winner, in a neighboring state in Connecticut, John Kerry will carry Connecticut once again in a landslide.

And in Maryland by a two-to-one margin we're projecting John Kerry will win in Maryland, three states closing right now, Judy Woodruff, three more wins for John Kerry.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: They are, Wolf. These are reliably Democratic states, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut. These are states that in the last presidential election went something like 16, 17 and I think 27 points in the case of Massachusetts for Al Gore over George W. Bush. These are states; I hate to say it, where you may not see much of the candidates going forward because they typically vote Democratic.

BLITZER: Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Yes. What's interesting about these states is they are reliably Democratic and, like every Super Tuesday state, they are governed by Republicans.

It's one of those weird things. All ten states that are at stake tonight are governed by Republicans and yet in the presidential race these were states that John Edwards essentially conceded. That's John Kerry's home state in Massachusetts.

He made a little bit of an effort in Maryland but none of these states have much of a history of supporting insurgents. I guess Connecticut thought maybe, I guess Connecticut decided not to do for Joe Lieberman what Vermont did for Howard Dean.

BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our correspondents, Candy Crowley and Kelly Wallace. They're covering John Kerry and John Edwards. Candy, first to you, you're at Kerry headquarters which happens to be in Washington, D.C. tonight. I understand there are some developments unfolding.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, that sources tell CNN that there has been a phone conversation between John Edwards and John Kerry. We are working hard to get a characterization of that phone call.

I must tell you that they have talked previously on election nights but it's pretty early. A lot of those polls are not closed. You know I can't go any farther than that because we just simply haven't found out what the details were but that a phone call would take place this early in the evening to me seems to be (unintelligible).

BLITZER: Well you've been covering politics, like all of us, for some time. Candy, they must be pretty happy, four more states, four more wins for John Kerry, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and now Maryland. How happy are they?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, this is tough because this has been kind of a slow roll to the nomination. It had the feel of a campaign that knew it was going to make the grade but when someone else is in the race you have to be respectful. You don't want to look like you've already got it because some people might vote against you.

So, you know, what they've done obviously is ignore John Edwards at least in the stump speech they've been quite respectful of him when you ask about him but they have known for some time that they were headed towards this and when you think of where this campaign came from, I mean this is a campaign that has gone from front-runner to, oh my gosh he's going to have to get out to front-runner again.

So, it has been, you know, a true roller coaster. There's not that many campaigns I've seen that have had a trajectory downward that was able to pick itself up and come this high back up again. So, you got to believe that they're feeling pretty good tonight.

BLITZER: All right, I suppose they are. Candy we'll be getting back to you.

Kelly Wallace is covering John Edwards' campaign. It's headquartered tonight, at least for the time being, here in Atlanta, Georgia. You told us a little while ago we might be hearing from John Edwards fairly soon. Do you have any update?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I do, Wolf. We are told we should hear from John Edwards moments from now. You can see behind me some supporters are gathering. Senator Edwards is expected to stand in the middle of those supporters and talk to them.

We are still told not to expect any "news" in this speech that he wanted to talk to his supporters, people who have been behind him every step of the way and aides are continuing to dodge questions about next steps in this campaign.

We can tell you that earlier in the evening the plan, of course, has been that we will go to Dallas, Texas tonight and that Senator Edwards would campaign in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

At this point, aides are just not saying any more. They're not stressing the travel tonight. All they will say is the Senator will be speaking here to his supporters and they won't say anything else -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is the mood subdued where you are Kelly?

WALLACE: It seems subdued, Wolf. You know these advisers certainly are privy to all the exit polls that we are. They have been seeing this throughout the day. They had been looking at Ohio certainly as one place they hoped to score an upset. They were also looking, of course, looking very hard in Georgia and Minnesota.

The messages continue to be that even if John Edwards didn't pull off a victory tonight he would continue. He would say that he wants to stay in this race until he wins the nomination but you're sensing some tension on the part of aides.

There's really a little bit of concern, don't want to read too much into that but you definitely sense this is a campaign that so far things haven't exactly gone the way it hoped it would go tonight.

BLITZER: All right, Kelly thanks very much. We'll, of course, stand by to hear from John Edwards as soon as he emerges behind you there here in Atlanta, Georgia. We'll go there live to hear what he has to say.

Let's take a look at the numbers that we're getting, real numbers coming in here in Georgia in the race. We cannot project the winner yet with seven percent of the vote now in John Edwards maintaining a slight lead, early numbers, 47 percent for John Edwards, 42 percent for John Kerry.

Judy Woodruff, there's a tendency for us to jump to conclusions based on what we've seen so far but that's a dangerous proposition.

WOODRUFF: It is a dangerous thing but you're right, Wolf, all the signs and we've heard it from Kelly, we've heard it from others, the signs are pointing to John Edwards taking a serious reassessment after these results come in.

But you know we don't want to, I think, get lost in all of this the fact that John Edwards has had an enormous impact over this race over the last weeks. John Kerry really has John Edwards to thank for giving him the aura of a winner the fact that he's been on the headlines, in the headlines every Wednesday morning for the last number of weeks thanks to John Edwards and the other candidates who stayed in the race so much to be said tonight about what John Edwards has brought to this race.

BLITZER: Jeff, go ahead.

GREENFIELD: Well, having been on the other side of this situation many decades ago in a losing campaign more than I like to remember, you know what the would-have could-have should-haves are going on now.

If only Wes Clark has entered Iowa he would have taken veterans' votes away and maybe Edwards would have finished first. If only we'd gotten 1,250 more votes in Oklahoma, Clark would have dropped out of the race and we'd have had a shot at Kerry in Tennessee, would-have, could-have, should-have.

BLITZER: Jeff, hold on one second because we're getting this word from the Associated Press, the Associated Press now reporting that John Edwards will quit his quest for the White House, the Associated Press quoting sources as saying that John Edwards based on what the information he's getting right now will quit the race for the White House.

You're looking at these live pictures coming in from a hotel here in Atlanta, John Edwards emerging to speak to his supporters tonight. We don't know what he will say.

We have been told by our Kelly Wallace, who is on the scene there covering this that his aides are telling her that he will not make news. The AP, though reporting, the Associated Press reporting that John Edwards has decided to quit this presidential race.

If the AP, Judy, is right, and we have no reason to believe it's not right, this is not going to be a huge surprise given the setback that he suffered in Ohio for example.

WOODRUFF: Not at all, Wolf. Tonight, the signals have not been good. He put, he invested time and money in Ohio. It didn't pay off. We've projected -- we may, do we want to listen here, Wolf? I don't know if there's a microphone there if we can.

BLITZER: Let's listen to see if we can hear him speaking already.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (Unintelligible.) I want to thank all of you, all of you for making it also. There we go. Thank you for coming. You know throughout this campaign I've talked about building one America that allows every single American to have the opportunity to take advantage of their God-given talent.

This is the America that you and I believe in. This is the America you and I will build together and this is the America we will fight for as Democrats come November you and I together.

I also want to take a moment and congratulate my friend Senator John Kerry. He's run a strong, powerful campaign. He's been an extraordinary advocate for causes that all of us believe in, more jobs, better health care, a cleaner environment, a safer world. These are the causes of our party. These are the causes of our country and these are the causes we will prevail on come November you and I together.

And, you know, it wasn't very long ago that the pundits and the pollsters were saying that come Super Tuesday there wouldn't even be anybody named John competing for the nomination. Well, the truth is John Kerry and John Edwards have both proven those pundits and pollsters wrong and we're proud of that. You and I did that together.

You know in the past two weeks while I've been campaigning across this country I've heard from the American people and what I've heard is they believe the best is still in front of them and they know that George Bush has no idea what's going on in their lives.

He's out of touch, has no clue what's going on day to day in their lives and that's the reason come November he will be out of the White House, not just out of touch.

The American people are also hungry for leadership, leadership that will build one country that works for everybody and I have seen this over the last two weeks. I was at Pomona College in California where I met with hundreds of young people to talk about an issue that still tugs at the soul of America, 35 million Americans who live in poverty every single day.

And all of us together committed to build an America where we say no to kids going to bed hungry, no to kids who don't have the clothes to keep them warm, and no forever to any American working full time and living in poverty, not in our America, not in the America that you and I will build together. You and I can change that.

I also met with very good men and women in Youngstown, Ohio who had lost their jobs and they are so desperate for a president who understands that a job is about more than a paycheck. It's about dignity. It's about self respect. It's about men and women who have spent their entire lives working every single day to build a better life for themselves and their family.

Well, let me tell you what's going to happen come November. They're going to have a president of the United States who wakes up every single day fighting for them, standing up for them, standing up for their jobs, who understands their lives.

Also, right here in Georgia, in Augusta, I met with leaders from around this state to talk about an issue that's so important to so many of us, the issue of race and living in an America that's still divided by race.

And we made a commitment not to follow but to lead, to have an America where our children and our grandchildren are the first generations to grow up in a country that's no longer divided by race, where we stand up and fight for economic equality, for educational equality, for judges who we know with a certainty will enforce our civil rights laws.

This is not an African American issue, an Hispanic American issue, an Asian American issue. This is an American issue and we will fight for it every single day because the truth is that all of you know it. Our campaign has never been about the politics of cynicism. It's about the politics of hope. It's about the politics of what's possible.

And I am proud of the fact that you and I together have brought these issues back to the American debate, race, equality, civil rights, poverty, all these issues that the American people care deeply about. We have touched their souls again. They feel these issues. We have been the little engine that could and I am proud of what we've done together you and I. And so I thank all of you and everyone across America who has joined in this cause to change America because the truth is this. What we believe is we believe we should never look down on anybody. We ought to lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing them together.

What we believe, what I believe is that the family you're born into and the color of your skin in our America will never control what you're able to do. You and I will build one American that works for every single person in this country no matter where they live, who their family is, what the color of our skin.

Thank you for being here tonight, thank you for joining us in this cause. It is my honor to be here with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: John Edwards will drop out of this race. He's just finished speaking here in Atlanta, Georgia, speaking to his supporters, not formally saying what CNN has now confirmed.

John Edwards has decided to quit this race for the White House after an impressive round of primaries and caucuses but simply not enough happening for him tonight. He's drawing the conclusions. We're told he will head back to his home state of North Carolina, to Raleigh, and make it all official tomorrow.

Judy Woodruff, John Edwards has nothing to be ashamed about.

WOODRUFF: He sure hasn't, Wolf. He burst onto the scene as a serious contender in Iowa. He won 32 percent of the vote coming in right after John Kerry. Since then he has put in an impressive performance in a number of states. He's only won one of them, the state where he was born, South Carolina, but he has come in a strong second in a number of states.

And I think more important than all of that his staying in the race has allowed John Kerry these last several weeks to look like a winner. That has helped the Democrats immeasurably. It has given them a chance to say here's our story and frankly it's knocked George Bush out of the headlines for several weeks.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that Jeff that he's made John Kerry potentially a better candidate?

GREENFIELD: Yes because John Edwards is the most compelling rhetorical figure in the Democratic Party now. I mean it was that sign we talked about or that button "dated Dean, married Kerry." But we should amend that for a lot of (unintelligible) "dated Dean, married Kerry, thought about fooling around with Edwards and then came home."

This is a fellow who people felt, Democrats at least, felt attracted to, felt expressed what they wanted to say in non-Senatorial language and one of the things it will be interesting to see is whether John Edwards not only helped John Kerry by staying in the race but whether he has given Kerry a sense of how to talk to the country at large. These numbers Bill Schneider told us about that Edwards appeals to Independents and Republicans more than Kerry, part of it is substance. Part of it is rhetorical. Part of it is an emotional connection that we last saw with another southern politician named Clinton.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Kelly Wallace. She's over at the Edwards campaign headquarters on this night, which happened to be right here in Atlanta, Georgia. You're in the room where we just heard from the North Carolina Senator, Kelly. Give us the latest information you're getting.

WALLACE: Well, Wolf, to give you a sense of how this all played out, campaign aides told us that Senator Edwards would, in fact, come here and talk to his supporters. Then they said that we could not report until he finished that the Senator would, in fact, be going to Raleigh, North Carolina and that he would have an announcement tomorrow in Raleigh at 4:00 p.m.

The campaign officially on the record is not confirming that John Edwards has decided to get out of the race. Even privately some of these aides say they will not confirm that but, of course, CNN has independently confirmed it from other sources that he has decided to step aside.

We also do know that John Edwards and John Kerry did speak this evening. A campaign aide here telling us that John Kerry and John Edwards had a very good conversation, this source saying that Senator Kerry congratulated John Edwards saying he ran a very positive campaign that all in all it was a very positive message. Also throughout the day, Wolf, we've been asking advisers privately what would happen if they (unintelligible)...

BLITZER: All right, Kelly hold on. Hold on a second, Kelly. We're getting some tape in right now, some videotape of John Kerry watching, John Kerry watching John Edwards speak tonight.

You'll take a look. That's Mike (unintelligible) one of the Kerry strategists in the foreground. You see John Kerry walking in congratulating some of his supporters, some of his aides, his wife standing nearby John Kerry.

Jeff Greenfield as we see this videotape coming in he's going to be watching John Edwards make that speech. He's got a broad smile on for obvious reasons.

GREENFIELD: And that white-haired woman you saw behind him I believe is the person who may get a lot of credit for what happened tonight. That is Mary Beth Cahill who was brought into the Kerry campaign.

Kerry released or fired his campaign manager Jim Jordan when he was at single digits in the polls and people were trying to guess when he was going to withdraw.

She came in right at that shift very quickly and she's not very publicity hungry at all but that quiet woman behind the scenes has a lot to do with what happened.

BLITZER: You see Senator Kennedy there as well. He's been very important in helping his colleague from Massachusetts -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I was going to say it's Ted Kennedy who in many ways, Wolf, in the early days of this campaign gave the blessing to the candidacy of John Kerry, gave him the kind of lift that he needed when he was still a struggling also-ran if you will.

I mean in those early days, as we know, before Iowa people had written off John Kerry. Teddy Kennedy came along. He campaigned with him, campaigned hard in Iowa, again in New Hampshire and that made a difference.

BLITZER: Our Candy Crowley is there at the John Kerry campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C. tonight. Candy, bring us in on the information you're getting.

CROWLEY: I wanted to let you know a little bit about the phone call that took place between Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry. I was told it was sort of largely congratulatory one to the other, both of them congratulating each other for sticking in there.

They recalled that both of them last summer were nowhere and that they persevered. There was also a promise that would get together soon and talk about the campaign. So make of that what you will but that it was, in fact, a conversation about how well they felt they did sticking to it and it coming to this end.

So, again, John Kerry getting the word fairly early that John Edwards was pulling out and the promise of a meeting between the two sometime in the future to talk about the Kerry campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Candy, I want to just alert our viewers. What they're seeing now, what all of us are seeing is videotape. This was shot just a little while ago. John Kerry is applauding. They're watching Senator Edwards deliver the speech that we carried here live on CNN.

Judy Woodruff, as we look at this tape you can see the live coverage over there of the Senator watching the Senator and Mrs. Kerry watching. Teresa Heinz has played an important role helping her husband.

WOODRUFF: She has, Wolf. This is significant because campaigns don't release these kind of pictures. They don't let the cameras come in and shoot something like this unless there's a reason. This sends I think a loud signal, number one that John Kerry is acknowledging the important role that John Edwards played in this campaign.

I think they may also be trying to tamp down some of the speculation about hard feelings, tension between John Kerry and John Edwards. A big story in "The New York Times" this morning talking about the fact that the two of them are not that close. John Kerry is trying to knock that down. And you heard John Edwards just praising John Kerry and his candidacy. I think what you're watching right now is a little bit more of that, John Kerry acknowledging John Edwards.

BLITZER: As we look at this video, Donna Brazile, we see the Senator, the two Senators from Massachusetts. I don't think we can overestimate how important Senator Kennedy has been for his junior colleague.

DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, he's been campaigning non-stop for Senator Kerry in Iowa, of course, All throughout the past week he's been in Connecticut and all the other states trying to help John Kerry clinch the nomination.

Look Jack Kennedy is beloved by Democratic activists and Democratic leaders across the country. He's a standard bearer for Democratic values on many fronts and to have Ted Kennedy by his side is a real asset.

BLITZER: What are you hearing tonight about this mood between Kerry and Edwards?

BRAZILE: You know I think it's a pretty good mood. The campaigns get along very well. The campaign managers talk all the time. I think it's a lot of hype out there in the media that these two guys somehow or another are not, you know, kissing cousins.

They are good friends. They know each other. They know each other very well and I wouldn't be surprised if John Edwards will not emerge as one of the key players to look at in terms of the VP sweepstakes.

BLITZER: All right, Donna Brazile thanks very much.

We're going to take a quick break. As we go to break, let's take a look at some numbers that we're getting in in Georgia. We can't yet project a winner in Georgia but with 22 percent, almost a quarter of the vote in, 22 percent of the actual vote in, John Edwards 46 percent, John Kerry 43 percent, much more coverage.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN has now confirmed from multiple sources close to the John Edwards campaign and the Democratic Party that the Senator from North Carolina has decided to drop out of the race after not doing very well in these ten states tonight, these primaries and one caucus. John Edwards will announce tomorrow he will drop out.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons why. Here's one very important reason. In Ohio, we've projected that John Kerry will carry the Buckeye State. Only one percent of the vote is now in, a very small number, John Kerry right now with 57 percent of the vote, 23 percent for John Edwards. In Vermont, Howard Dean will win his home state of Vermont. He's got 58 percent of the vote so far, 33 percent going to Kerry with about 26 percent of the vote in. Edwards was not on the ballot.

In Connecticut, John Kerry we have projected will carry Connecticut. Right now with about eight percent of the vote in, he's got 58 percent to 24 percent for John Edwards.

In Georgia, though, we cannot yet project a winner here in Georgia, 46 percent so far the actual vote going to John Edwards, the 43 percent for John Kerry with 25 percent of the actual vote in.

Let's bring in our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider who is taking a look at all these developments. John Edwards will drop out of this race. That effectively means, of course Bill, that John Kerry will be the Democratic nominee.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it certainly does and what we're finding in state after state, Ohio being one of them, is there wasn't really a serious anti-Kerry vote.

Look at Ohio here. Would you be satisfied if John Kerry wins, 76 percent yes, only 21 percent said no. That was all there was in Ohio for an anti-Kerry vote for Edwards to build on.

But they also liked John Edwards, satisfied if Edwards wins, over 60 percent said yes. These voters like both John Kerry and John Edwards. If Edwards were to win he would have to do so on anti-Kerry votes and there just weren't very many of them.

Why do they prefer Kerry to Edwards, because Democrats saw Kerry as a man with experience and qualifications who could stand next to President Bush and talk with credibility about protecting the nation and keeping it safe?

Edwards didn't have those same credentials but they liked him and when they looked at these two candidates they said, you know what, we see a ticket, Kerry first, Edwards in second place.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens on that front. Bill, we'll be getting back to you.

Let's go over to the White House. Our Senior White House Correspondent John King is there. John, we know already that the Bush-Cheney campaign has done a lot of research on John Kerry.

He will be the Democratic nominee now that we've learned that John Edwards will drop out. Give our viewers a little bit of a sense of how this is shaping up from the White House perspective.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House will paint Senator Kerry as a Massachusetts liberal. They will make the case that he has waffled on big issues like taxes, like the war in Iraq. Senator Kerry, of course, disagrees with that assessment. The president will make the case that he has been a decisive leader. Maybe you might agree or disagree with some of his decisions, but that he is a decisive leader, whether the issue be pursuing tax cuts to pull the country out of a recession or responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center and in the broader war on terrorism. The president will make the case and his argument will be that he is a trusted, proven leader and that Senator Kerry is someone who has waffled on key issues -- zigged and zagged, as one senior official put it here at the White House earlier today.

So that will be the administration's case, and they believe that they can make a strong case, but they also believe that this will be a competitive election. And the president is known to believe that while he doesn't know Senator Kerry very well, he is, of course, a student of this process, both from his own campaigns and his father's campaign, and he believes that a candidate like Senator Kerry, who a few months back was written off as out of the race, almost, in the Democratic primary, has fought his way back -- and if you ask the president, what he tells his senior aides is that is someone who needs to be reckoned with, someone who has proven his toughness and someone who has proven he very much wants the job.

BLITZER: Will the Bush-Cheney campaign ads, which will begin this week, directly attack John Kerry, or will they, on the other hand, try to simply promote the record of President Bush?

KING: They will try to promote the record of President Bush. And the early first two or even three Bush campaign ads, we are told, will be positive. And again, they will say that the president inherited a recession, that he helped lead the country out of that, that he had to deal with the attacks on the World Trade Center. The president's approval rating is hovering right around 50 percent. And Wolf, that is the traditional danger zone for an incumbent. You don't want to fall below 50 percent.

Sometimes, if any candidate for political office launches negative ads, their approval ratings drop a bit more. So the Bush campaign wants to get the president's approval rating up several points. They'd like to get it up above 55 percent before going negative. They will go negative -- they would call it "contrast" -- when they believe they have to, but they also think they have enough time and enough money to go positive first.

BLITZER: All right, John. We'll get right back to you.

CNN has now confirmed that tomorrow morning, 9:30 AM Eastern, John Edwards will drop out of the race. He'll speak to his supporters, his friends in his home state. He'll go to Raleigh, North Carolina, to make that announcement.

Judy, it'll be a dramatic moment.

WOODRUFF: It will be, Wolf. A lot of emotion. This is somebody who -- you know, people looked at John Edwards and they said he's too young, he's too inexperienced. He's only served one term in the Senate. Who does he think he is? And yet look at what he accomplished. As we mentioned, he came in second in Iowa. He had a hard time in New Hampshire, but he's done well in some of these other states. But more than anything else, he has proven himself to be a charismatic, effective campaigner. I think Jeff Greenfield said it a few minutes ago. He's widely acknowledged to be the most compelling speaker, the most compelling pure politician out on the trail and...

BLITZER: Hold that thought for a second because Candy Crowley is over at the Kerry headquarters in Washington. She's got some information for our viewers -- Candy.

CROWLEY: The battle is joined. I can tell you, Wolf, that President Bush about a half an hour ago called John Kerry to congratulate him. This thing obviously moving forward. Looks like we're kind of in a general election, even though, obviously, mathematically, John Kerry doesn't yet have enough votes to give him the nomination. That's only a matter of time. So again, the president calling John Kerry tonight.

BLITZER: Sort of the equivalent, Candy, of boxers before a big match. They sort of go into the ring, they shake hands and they come out fighting, a nice gesture on the part of the president to call John Kerry at the beginning, what certainly is shaping as going to be a very serious campaign. Candy?

CROWLEY: Yes. I'm sorry, Wolf! They're beginning to sort of warm up here. Yes, I mean, this -- this campaign, at least verbally, John Kerry has been engaged with the president for some time. As you know, it was just about a week ago that the president at least intimated that John Kerry would be his running mate. (SIC) I think this is going to be a very tough campaign.

When you listen to John Kerry over time, his words are -- a lot of military jargon and a lot of very muscular language. They feel that no one has ever really stood up to George Bush, taking a page from Howard Dean. They feel that because of his credentials, this is a man who really is not going to take anything sitting down. They will -- they have responded -- if George Bush says something, they're out there with three or four responses before you can turn around, John Kerry himself responding. They also have others out there responding for them.

So expect this to be a very fast-moving, as well as a very tough campaign. Some of the stuff that Kerry has said on the trail has been pretty rough. And he said yesterday, when we were at an event Ohio, this is not going to be one of those mealy-mouthed campaigns. And I think he's right -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much, the president of the United States calling John Kerry only within the past half hour or so to congratulate him. Effectively, he will be the Democratic nominee, now that John Edwards has dropped out.

Bill Schneider is looking at these poll numbers, giving us a little assessment of what happened.

SCHNEIDER: Well, here's just an observation, Wolf. If President Bush called John Kerry, John Kerry should thank President Bush because President Bush has achieved a miracle. He is more responsible than anyone else for uniting the Democratic Party and creating the Kerry nomination. Democrats are relentlessly determined to beat President Bush this fall, so they have united in a spectacular way that I haven't seen in decades of covering politics. They refuse to be polarized between Kerry and Edwards. They are uniting. They are relentlessly determined to defeat President Bush. So if I were John Kerry, I would have said to President Bush, Thank you very much for uniting our party.

BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider. We're standing by also. The top of the hour, three more states will be closing their contests, New York, Rhode Island and a caucus in Minnesota. We'll have coverage of all of that. We're also standing by to hear directly from John Kerry at some point. He'll be speaking, and CNN will have live coverage. We're covering all of these developments. Our "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts -- they're itching to get into this conversation.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John Edwards, the 50-year-old senator from North Carolina, the Democratic presidential candidate, will formally drop out of this race tomorrow. He'll be heading back to his home state. He'll be in Raleigh tomorrow to make it official he no longer is seeking the presidency, at least this time around.

Let's take a look at some of the information that we've been getting. Here in Georgia, with 31 percent of the actual vote now, it's still a very close race. CNN has not been able to project a winner -- 46 percent so far for Edwards, 43 percent for Kerry.

But a very different situation unfolding in Ohio. CNN has projected John Kerry the winner in the Buckeye State. Right now, with only 4 percent of the vote in, he's getting 56 percent of the vote to 29 percent for John Edwards.

Jeff Greenfield has been watching Ohio specifically for us. You're looking at this Vote Trak system to see how this win for Kerry in Ohio happened.

GREENFIELD: And if you want to know what happened to John Edwards and his jobs and trade issue, Ohio is the perfect place to look. And thanks to our spatial logic Vote Trak (ph), we can show you exactly what has happened.

Now, what we've isolated here are some of the high-employment areas of Ohio. For instance, Toledo, where 19,000 jobs were lost, down here in Youngstown and Steubenville, big job losses. We've picked out Putnam County, where the L.G. Phillips plant closed, putting a thousand people out of work, and the Appalachian region, long a rate of high unemployment. But watch what happens when we show you how the votes did.

You will notice that, Wolf -- actually, not too many of these votes are in, but we can tell you John Kerry carried Putnam County. Edwards and Kerry split up in the Youngstown area. I should also mention John Kerry overwhelmingly carried Cuyahoga (ph) County -- that's where Cleveland is -- where there were massive job layoffs. And even in those areas up here, in the middle of Ohio, with very high job losses and high unemployment, John Kerry seems to be winning virtually every county. In other words, the jobs and trade issue was powerful in Ohio, but it worked for John Kerry, not John Edwards.

And Wolf, as we start looking toward November, when the candidates will be spending oodles -- that's a technical term -- of time and money in that battleground state, you can bet that these issues are going to be front and center on the Ohio electoral map.

BLITZER: Oodles? Can you define that for us?

(LAUGHTER)

GREENFIELD: Yes. It's a lot more than a little bit. It's a lot.

BLITZER: I didn't...

WOODRUFF: New York terms.

BLITZER: I didn't see any colors for Dennis Kucinich, who's -- that's his home state. He's a former mayor of Cleveland.

GREENFIELD: He is, indeed. He was the boy mayor of Cleveland in the '80s. His battle with a bit utility put the city close to bankruptcy. He was more or less driven out in an election, and he slowly made his way back, having first on the city council, now a congressman. But the people of Ohio, a state that Dennis Kucinich might be flirting with a statewide run in, in a couple of years, does not seem to have been overwhelmed by Mr. Kucinich's campaign.

BLITZER: Dramatic developments tonight. We're now looking forward to a Bush-Kerry campaign. I guess it's -- it's all over but something.

WOODRUFF: Well, Wolf, everything is changed, in other words, with John Edwards getting out of the race. I had a major Democrat say to me today, Think of this election as a four-quarter game, to keep up the sports analogy. We've just finished with the first quarter. Tomorrow begins the second quarter. It goes through to the convention. The convention's the third. The debates, the fall, the fourth. And the point this person made to me was that the second quarter is when this election is going to be won or lost, that the Democrats can't wait until the convention, they can't wait until the fall. They've got to raise the money. They've got to compete with George W. Bush. You are going to see or you're not going to see a serious effort on the part of the Kerry campaign to make sure that they nail this thing down in...

BLITZER: All right...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: Even though we -- even though we -- go ahead, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Just a point. The Bush campaign has raised, we think, $150 million, $170 million. That all has to be spent before the convention. That is technically money for his renomination, even though he's unopposed. And everybody remembers in 1996, Bill Clinton put Bob Dole away in the spring, long before the convention. And the Democrats don't want that to happen...

WOODRUFF: And that's what they don't want to have happen...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's what you call oodles of money.

GREENFIELD: They had this...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Oodles, oodles of money...

GREENFIELD: Mega-oodles...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to cover. Coming up at the top of the hour, three more states will be closing their contests, New York, Rhode Island and the caucus in Minnesota. We'll continue to cover that, of course. Our "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts, all four of them -- they're also anxious to weigh in on what has just happened here in the United States. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John Edwards wanted to do well tonight. He's not doing well. He has now decided to drop out. He's returning to his home state of North Carolina, will make the announcement formally tomorrow in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Our "CROSSFIRE" co-hosts are standing by. They want to weigh in, as well -- Paul Begala, James Carville, Bob Novak, Tucker Carlson. Paul, let me begin with you. The decision by John Edwards to drop out.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: A smart decision, Wolf. Today is March 2. We Texans know it's Texas independence day. It's also the day, guys, that the fall of the Alamo began. Texans got slaughtered there, but they recovered to fight another day and win. Maybe that's what John Edwards is doing -- lose the battle but have a chance to survive to be a part of the team that can win the war. I think he believes that Bush is beatable. He clearly made it clear in his speech this evening that he thinks John Kerry is the guy who can do it. And maybe he wants to sign up with Kerry. Would not be a bad move.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: And also, the word had come from Kerry that if he was going to have any chance to be on the ticket, he better get out now. They didn't want to spend money on the Southern primaries coming up next week. You know, there's so much gushing by the media and by the liberal establishment about -- about Edwards that I'm almost having a sugar fit from it.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: But let me tell you about John Edwards. John Edwards campaigned on this "two Americas," which is a very un-American concept. There's one America. And the interesting thing is that the voters didn't like it. The dogs didn't like that dog food. He got beat 20, 30 points in state after state, and that divisive kind of rhetoric -- and it is divisive, even though with the sweet face and the sweet smile, it really doesn't work.

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: I think what he's saying is, is he wanted to have one America. Let me tell you, this is a great night to be a Democrat. I understand why you're sour and you're angry. And let me tell you...

NOVAK: I'm not sour and angry!

CARVILLE: ... I think -- I think that John Kerry...

NOVAK: I'm myself!

CARVILLE: ... if he picks John Edwards, he's going to -- it would be one hell of a ticket. And now that the Republicans are opening up the canard that middle-class people have to have their Social Security benefits to -- cut to pay for the rich -- tax cuts for the rich, I think we're going to run with that. I think you're going to hear that from John Kerry. I think you're going to hear that from John Edwards. I think it's going to be a big issue in this campaign.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: I don't -- I don't think...

CARVILLE: A huge issue.

CARLSON: I'm not sure you hear it from John Edwards.

CARVILLE: I know you will.

CARLSON: I don't think it's likely he's going to be the nominee for vice president. But I do think it was smart of him to get out early and to get out on a pretty graceful note, rather than dragging it out, as Howard Dean did, and also to get out now. I think there's some evidence that his popularity -- Bob is right. He's very popular, particularly among people who don't have to spend a lot of time with him...

CARVILLE: Oh, he's a very popular Democrat.

CARLSON: ... who want -- with some Democrats. He's not that popular. He got... NOVAK: He lost every...

CARLSON: ... crushed by John Kerry.

NOVAK: He lost every primary!

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I will say there's a lot of evidence...

CARVILLE: ... popularity's 80 percent among Democrats.

NOVAK: Well, no, no, but...

CARLSON: Well, if he's that popular...

NOVAK: Then why didn't he win primaries?

CARLSON: ... he would have won, and he...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Because it's not a popularity contest!

CARVILLE: It's not a popularity contest.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I guess my -- I guess my point is, I think he's done it in a fairly stylish way. I think there's some evidence he doesn't wear that well, the televangelism does get old after a while. And at this point, he gets out now, he looks -- he looks pretty good.

CARVILLE: I see no evidence of that.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Guys, hold on one second. A very quick one -- a quick answer from each of you, beginning with James. We'll go around the table. Right now, who do you think John Kerry will select as his running mate? James?

CARVILLE: John Edwards.

BLITZER: All right. You heard it, John Edwards. Go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: Yes, Edwards, maybe Gephardt.

BLITZER: All right. Tucker?

CARLSON: I -- I don't think it'll be John Edwards. I think it'll -- Bill Richardson is more likely.

NOVAK: I think it'll be one of the two Florida senators, Bob Graham or Bill Nelson. BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens. Obviously, the guessing game is already beginning.

Carlos Watson is watching all of this with us, as well. Carlos, you're looking ahead to the next few days.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think next week is going to be huge. While we all have focused on Super-Tuesday, two big things will happen. First we'll get the unemployment numbers for February. And remember, if these numbers aren't in the 200,000 news jobs created and instead are in the 112,000 that we saw in January, that's going to be tough for a president who's getting out there and trying to say that he's steadied the economy.

The second thing, watch March 9 in Florida. While there's no longer a serious contest, that is ground zero for the general election. And make no mistake about it, the Kerry people are smart enough an serious enough to stage a major event. And what we've seen in Ohio and other places is that where the Kerry people go, the Bush people follow suit. And so the general election won't take two or three months to break out. We'll begin to see more.

And by the way, Wolf, what's interesting to me is I don't just think we'll see TV ads. We'll see more direct mail. We'll start to see phone calling. We'll see more White House events, including the interview you did today with the vice president. And you'll see more surrogates come out and start to speak.

BLITZER: We'll hear from the vice president, Dick Cheney. That's coming up later tonight, as well. I was over at the White House, speaking to him earlier today.

We're going to take a quick break. As we go to break, you're looking live at this picture of John Kerry headquarters in Washington, D.C. We're told he will emerge shortly to speak to his supporters, a huge night for John Kerry tonight. He is going to go on to be the Democratic presidential nominee, now that John Edwards has decided to drop out. Our coverage will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Certainly been a super Tuesday for John Kerry. He's going to go on and become the Democratic presidential nominee, now that John Edwards has decided to drop out. He'll make it official tomorrow in Raleigh, North Carolina, his home state.

We're still going to cover all the contests tonight. In Georgia, for example, we have not yet been able to project a winner, a close contest emerging between Edwards and Kerry, 41 percent of the vote now in, 46 percent going for Edwards, 43 percent for John Kerry, but Kerry doing exceedingly well so far in all the other states where the polls so far have closed, and where at the top of the hour in about seven minutes or so, New York, Rhode Island, Minnesota, the polls will close there, as well.

Joe Klein, a very astute political observer, has been watching all of this, a "Time" magazine columnist, a CNN contributor. Joe, give us your thoughts on what this is -- what's happened today?

JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, Wolf, let's talk about Georgia -- very, very interesting. Bob Novak was just saying before that -- that Democrats didn't like the Edwards message so much. But there was a group of voters in Georgia who did -- Republicans. According to our exit polling, Republicans represented 10 percent of the electorate, and they favored John Edwards by 74 to 11. People who said -- 8 percent of the electorate in Georgia said that they were enthusiastic about the Bush administration. They favored John Edwards by 70 percent to 9 for John Kerry. That's enough to tip this election.

And so one of the -- you know, strategic voting has been one of the great urban legends of American politics. People have never really thought it existed. Tonight we have very clear evidence that there were -- about 1 in 10 voters were voting on mischief grounds. Republicans were voting to make mischief in the Democratic primary, and they may have -- they may have moved it into Edwards's column.

BLITZER: Are you among those, Joe, that thinks a Kerry-Edwards ticket is now inevitable?

KLEIN: I don't know that it's inevitable. I mean, if you're -- if you're John Kerry, the thing that you most want is a running mate who is going to be an attack dog, who is going to -- who's going to do your bidding and go after the Republicans very strong. John Edwards emerges from this wearing a very nice, clean, white suit. And I don't know whether he's going to want to get that white suit dirty by, you know, slinging mud in the fall election. And that's a consideration that John Kerry's going to have to think about.

BLITZER: Joe, I want Jeff Greenfield to weigh in, as well. Go ahead, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: Joe, if you're the Kerry campaign right now, what are you most worried about?

KLEIN: What am I most worried about?

GREENFIELD: Yes.

KLEIN: I'm most worried about the Bush administration coming after me as an elitist, a wine drinker, a quiche eater. I met my wife at a global warming conference. Someone in the White House a year ago said that John Kerry looked French. Well, I think that the White House is eventually going to try and go after John Kerry personality, his aristocratic demeanor, and try and say, This isn't the sort of guy you -- who's going to be hanging out at your local diner.

BLITZER: You know, we're looking at these live pictures, Joe, of the Kerry headquarters, at least tonight in Washington, D.C. Judy Woodruff, as we look at these pictures, set the scene. We expect John Kerry to emerge fairly soon and speak to his supporters at the Washington at least campaign headquarters on this night.

WOODRUFF: And a big celebration. And Wolf, we've been talking about it, many layers of meanings. Yes, he's celebrating his victories in the primaries he's winning tonight, but he is also, in effect, tonight acknowledging, after that phone call from George W. Bush, that he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. So there's much more going on here. And frankly, the burden has now settled on the shoulders of John Kerry. He now has to figure what does he do between today, March the 2nd, and the Democratic convention at the end of July in order to keep this momentum, keep the kind of positive news he's been getting. It's not going to -- it's not going to be as easy as it has been.

BLITZER: Carlos, the whole thing has basically changed, as of now.

WATSON: It has changed. And Wolf, what I think's going to be extraordinarily interesting is the whole new set of conversations and issues we talked about. Gay marriage is not going to go away. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by the way, out in California, has just said that if voters support he, he would support gay marriage and is opposed to a constitutional ban. So that issue's not going to go away. Haiti's a hot issue. And over the next month, the issue that I think will become front and center is Social Security. As we move towards Florida, where you have lots of senior citizens, you heard Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, say that he thinks we should cut benefits there. It's going to become an extraordinarily hot issue. Big fight over a new set of issues.

BLITZER: Jeff, New York is about to close, the polls in New York, your home state, my home state, as well, Rhode Island, Minnesota. We'll be watching that. Larry King will have a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." That's coming up right at the top of the hour. But as we go to "LARRY KING LIVE," and as we look at these live pictures of John Kerry headquarters on this night in Washington, D.C., your thoughts on how this has all changed tonight.

GREENFIELD: The words John Kerry speaks tonight will be watched by, I think, several million people in a way that they haven't been watched before. They now know, barring some horrible accident of fate, John Kerry will be one of the two people who'll be likely only (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to people to be elected president. And what he says tonight is the first time you will hear him in that role. And I have a feeling they worked on what -- I would think they would have worked on his words tonight with very special care. These words begin to weigh. You know it's said that every president's word weighs a ton? John Kerry's words now start to weigh several hundred pounds.

BLITZER: And as we await to hear from John Kerry, Joe Klein, how important will his speech be in the coming moments?

KLEIN: Well, it's -- it's an important speech. But I want to add on to what Carlos said before. I think foreign policy is a very interesting and important question this time. There hasn't really been a foreign policy debate in these Democratic primaries. And John Kerry has to make a really important decision here, which is what his position on the war in Iraq is going to be. He's going to have to answer a very simple question: Was it worth it? And he's going to have to be very clear about that.

BLITZER: All right...

KLEIN: And so far, he hasn't been.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. Joe Klein, we'll be getting back to you. As we await to hear from John Kerry, let's throw it over to Larry King, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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