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Interview with Presidential Contenders

Aired January 6, 2008 - 11:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.
An historic vote.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: At this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.


BLITZER: And a Huckaboom.


HUCKABEE: Tonight we proved American politics is still in the hands of ordinary folks like you.


BLITZER: The Republican Iowa caucuses winner, Mike Huckabee, joins us for an interview.

On to New Hampshire.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: How are you?



(UNKNOWN): Sign up! Help Hillary.


BLITZER: We'll speak with Republican candidates Fred Thompson and Ron Paul and Democratic candidates Bill Richardson and John Edwards.

Plus, insight and analysis on the voters and the candidates with three of the best political team on television: John King, Gloria Borger and Jeff Toobin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: The crisis is because of the outpouring of temperament and emotion on the assassination of (inaudible) Benazir Bhutto.


BLITZER: And Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, discusses the turmoil in his country. "Late Edition's" lineup begins right now.

It's 11 a.m. here in New York, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles and 9 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for this special "Late Edition" from the CNN election center here in New York.

We'll be going to my interview with Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee in just a moment, but we have a major program announcement to make first. Tonight, on the eve of New Hampshire's primary, stay with CNN for back-to-back presidential debates.

First, the Republicans, then the Democrats. It's the ABC News/WMUR/Facebook debates, an unprecedented CNN special replay. Don't miss them tonight. It all begins at 7 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Mike Huckabee's hoping his win this past week in Iowa gives him the momentum he wants into the New Hampshire primary. And on Tuesday, he hopes to do well but more importantly, he hopes that momentum will carry him beyond New Hampshire. He's facing a whole new ball game though in the first U.S. presidential primary, as opposed to what happened in Iowa.

I spoke with Mike Huckabee just a short while ago from the campaign trail in New Hampshire.


BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, welcome back to "Late Edition." Thanks very much for joining us.

HUCKABEE: Well, thank you, Wolf. It is always a pleasure to do this.

BLITZER: Congratulations on the big win in Iowa. Let's look ahead, though, to New Hampshire right now. Last night in that debate, you got it on with Mitt Romney. And you had a little exchange. And I want to play this little clip.

Listen and watch.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Governor, don't try and characterize my position. Of course, this war has not been... HUCKABEE: Which one?

ROMNEY: You know, we're wise to talk about policies and not to make personal attacks.


BLITZER: All right. The policies you were talking about were the war in Iraq, his position versus your position. What is the fundamental difference, as you see it, between what you would do if you were president as far as Iraq is concerned, and what he would do?

HUCKABEE: I'm not sure that there's a big difference on what we would do going into the future. There is a big difference on how we looked at it in the past.

I supported the surge. He had questions about it. There were times when he believed that there should be a timed withdrawal. He denied that last night on television and said that he had never taken that position.

But ABC News reports on April 3rd of this year that that's exactly the position he took. It was reported on April 4th this year in The Hill newspaper in Washington that he supported that, in fact, that his position was like that of Senator Mark Pryor from my home state of Arkansas. And that is why I was familiar with the position that he had taken.

The position was a timed withdrawal that would not be somehow linked to the public, that it would be a secret plan. And last night he categorically said he had never done that. But the record reflects otherwise. So...

BLITZER: Here is what he said, Governor...

HUCKABEE: ... it is interesting to me, Wolf...

BLITZER: Yeah, here is what he said last night.


BLITZER: And I'll just play that little clip and then we will talk.

HUCKABEE: All right.


ROMNEY: And my policy is, I have never talked about a timed withdrawal with a date certain for us to leave. That's not the case. Simply wrong. I have also supported the troop surge, Governor. And I supported it on the same day the president brought it forward.


BLITZER: All right. So he's flatly denying what you and other news organizations are now insisting is the other side of the story.

HUCKABEE: Well, I'm just reporting what two different credible news sources, ABC News and The Hill, clearly reported and quoting him. And I will let him try to explain why what he is saying now isn't what he said then.

But it was interesting to me that he thought that every time John McCain or Fred Thompson or even when I said something about his record, he immediately bristled and said, well, we don't need a personal attack.

You know, I just came out of Iowa, Wolf, and he spent millions of dollars specifically targeting me in television ads, radio ads, and filling up mailboxes with negative attack ads, misrepresenting my record on a number of things. And when asked, was it a negative attack, he said, oh no, it is not personal, it is just a policy difference.

But if someone brings up the fact that he has had major changes in his position on the Second Amendment, or on the sanctity of life, or on taxes, or on same-sex marriage, or any number of issues, then it's a personal attack.

And I think it was one of those things where last night in the debate, it was not a good night for him because it was very clear that he is free to spend millions of dollars attacking any- and everyone that gets in front of him, but anyone who tries to correct the record, somehow that's supposed to be a personal attack. And it just didn't come across as authentic at all.

BLITZER: He went after you also on that article you wrote in Foreign Affairs, in the magazine in which you used those now famous words about President Bush's policies, "an arrogant bunker mentality."

And he said this, and I will play this clip about what he said.


ROMNEY: The president is not arrogant. The president does not subject -- is not subject to a bunker mentality. The president has acted out of his desire to keep American safe.


BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond? Because he also wants you to apologize to the president.

HUCKABEE: Well, I find that amazing. First of all, I never said the president was arrogant. And he said he read the article. I wonder, because he certainly didn't quote it very accurately. I said some of the administration's policies were arrogant bunker mentality.

And then I last night explained exactly what I meant when I spoke of how our Defense Department specifically ignored Department of Defense and major general recommendations on how many troops we needed to actually successfully bring stability to Iraq. And it was interesting that yesterday, here in New Hampshire, news media reports that he said that his foreign policy would not be a "my way or no way" philosophy. I'm not sure how that differs with what I said.

And again, it's a matter of, I've been consistent with my views. I've not backed down or apologized. I've been very explicit in what I meant by it. I've been very complimentary of the president. I've worked very hard for him. I think he's been right far more than he's been wrong.

And he probably would say he's not been wrong about some things. I just felt like that in the Defense Department's assessment of what we were going to do rather than what we needed to do, we made some fundamental errors.

I think what we have done right is the surge. And General Petraeus's leadership of that has been brilliant. Civilian deaths now are down 76 percent. Military deaths down 62 percent since the surge. That is a remarkable turnaround.

And we are seeing what we had hoped to see all along, and that is local governments begin to form, bring stability and peace to neighborhoods. Oil production is moving back up to prewar levels. There are a lot of signs of progress.

It's not perfect yet, but we are in a far better position in Iraq than we were a few months ago and certainly a year ago.

BLITZER: All right. And just to be precise, you spoke about the Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality. I guess that's not necessarily specifically the president. You see a difference between the Bush administration and the president, is that the nuance, the difference that you are suggesting?

HUCKABEE: No. I'm simply saying that he said that I called the president arrogant. I did not. I think the president is an outstanding person. I consider him a friend. I have stood by him when others didn't. I stood by his tax cuts in 2002 when Mitt Romney didn't. I was not a latecomer to that.

I was with the president on the war. Never wavered on that. We all recognized some things could have been done better. But I have been a staunch defender of his actions in taking steps to get into Iraq because of the need to protect America.

And I have been very clear in saying for six-and-a-half years we haven't had a major terrorist attack in this country. And you have to give President Bush a lot of credit for making this a serious focus.

I appreciate what he has done. And he's done many more things right than not. And for me to make -- mention that there are certain things that I disagree with is why I'm running for president.

I'm not running simply to say, let me just have George Bush's third term.

HUCKABEE: People are looking for a leader that's going to stand on his own. That's what I'm trying to reflect, not only in that article but in my campaign.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of these so-called establishment Republicans in Washington, Governor, are nervous about you. They're not sure where you stand on some of the issues.

The Club for Growth, for example...


BLITZER: They put out a statement on Thursday. And they have been going after you, now, for a while. They said, among other things: "The Club for Growth PAC New Hampshire voters to reject Mike Huckabee and his big government policies next Tuesday. Republican voters should nominate a leader who will return the party to the principles of economic conservatism, not an economic liberal who wants to be the John Edwards of the Republican Party."

All right. There are a lot of accusations there. Why do you think they are going after you?

Because you are making them nervous right now.

HUCKABEE: Well, look at where some of their money is coming from. This last week, it was revealed that most of those several hundred thousand dollars -- in fact, half a million dollars spent against me by the Club for Growth, just in Iowa, and most of it coming from strong Romney backers, some in Boston, some in Texas who were his major financial people.

And they can give unlimited amounts to this Washington special interest group. And then they can just shoot at me at will.

It's one of the real problems of campaign finance today. If you are wealthy and have wealthy friends, you can just pour all kinds of money into these special attacks through interest groups based in D.C., these 527s, showing a clear fact that, despite all of that -- you know what is really wonderful about this last week?

The people of Iowa -- and I think the people of New Hampshire -- are going to completely say, no thanks; you know what; we'll make up our own mind.

And that's one of things I'm loving about New Hampshire. These are some wonderful people who are independent. This isn't their first rodeo, Wolf. They have been through presidential politics before. And they're not necessarily so swayed because somebody shows up with a lot of slick advertising from Washington, attacking somebody.

They want to know, where do you stand and do you have your own views?

And when they look at my record, cutting taxes 94 times, holding a line on government growth, despite what the Club for Growth says. That was verified by an interesting article in The New York Times recently that showed that some of the attacks by the Romney campaign were totally off the mark.

I'm very comfortable that, when people look at my record as a fiscal conservative, they are going to find one that's consistent with the conservatives that we have always held up. People forget, when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he raised taxes a billion dollars his very first year.

If he were on the ballot today, the Club for Growth would be out there attacking him. You know, that is just the nature of what they are. They are a special interest group. You pay them money and they'll say anything you pay them to say. That's the way it works.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Governor, but how are you going to do on Tuesday in New Hampshire?

HUCKABEE: I think we're going to have a good day. I mean, obviously we came into New Hampshire with some momentum from Iowa.

Let me put it this way. The last couple of days, we've had rallies where we couldn't get people into the room. And these weren't people just coming in to kick the tires. These were people with checkbook in hand, ready to buy the car.

I'm pretty pumped about the way our crowds have been, not just in size, which has been amazing, but also the energy that they bring to the rallies.

We see real momentum -- don't know where we are going to end up, but I think we are going to end up better than a lot of people ever thought we would, especially if they had looked back a month ago and had written me off as not able to compete in New Hampshire.

We'll surprise some folks on Tuesday.

BLITZER: We will see what happens. Good luck, Governor. Thanks very much for joining us.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you, always.

BLITZER: And we checked this little dispute between Huckabee and Romney over Romney's comment that he made last night when he said, I have never talked about a timed withdrawal from Iraq.

What Huckabee was referring to, and others, was an interview that Romney gave on April 3 to ABC News.

He was asked by Robin Roberts on "Good Morning, America," "Do you believe there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?"

And this is what he said. Romney said, "There's no question but that the president and the prime minister, al-Maliki, have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about but those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."

All right, that's precisely what Romney said on April 3.

Just ahead, he barely survived Iowa. So why does Bill Richardson think he can do well in New Hampshire?

We'll talk about it with the Democratic presidential candidate. That's coming up next.

And if you missed ABC News' debate last night with all the major players, Republicans and Democrats in the presidential race, it's not too late. You can catch the entire thing, the Democrats and the Republicans, right here on a special CNN replay tonight. That begins 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Election Center in New York. Coming up in our next hour, presidential candidates Fred Thompson and John Edwards.

But first, Bill Richardson says he wanted to finish no worse than fourth in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. It turned out he made the cut, finishing behind Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

But is New Hampshire make-or-break time for the Richardson campaign?

I spoke with the New Mexico governor just a short while ago.


BLITZER: Governor Richardson, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

RICHARDSON: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Pakistan. The story -- the lead in The New York Times today, saying there is serious consideration in the Bush administration under way right now to expanding covert operations in the western part of Pakistan, in part to try to help shore up President Musharraf's government, fearing there could be some sort of Islamist takeover, but also to go after Osama bin Laden and his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. What do you make this?

RICHARDSON: Well, I don't have the details on it. But it sounds like a strategy that makes sense. However, I would want to be sure that Musharraf is doing his bit, because we have given him $11 billion to go after terrorists, to go after Al Qaida, to go after the safe havens on his border, and he has done an ineffective job.

But obviously, we've got to stop Al Qaida, the Taliban, the entire network of terrorists that seems to be gaining.

So the report is fine.

RICHARDSON: I don't have all the details, but, certainly, if we're targeting terrorists, and Musharraf is not doing his bit, we have got to take whatever action is needed.

BLITZER: You have suggested that Musharraf should step down, that the U.S. should squeeze him to step down as president of Pakistan. And Hillary Clinton has a different position that she spoke about last night at the debate.

Listen to this.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: If you remove Musharraf and have elections, that is going to be very difficult for the United States to be able to control what comes next.

I would try to get Musharraf to share the security responsibility of the nuclear weapons with a delegation from the United States and perhaps Great Britain so that there is some fail-safe.


BLITZER: All right. Do you want to respond to her?

RICHARDSON: Well, I disagree with point of view. Let's say what serves America's interest the most, and that is for Musharraf to step aside. There is a provision in the Pakistani constitution and a precedent for a caretaker government of technocrats to take over until the next election, which would be in February.

What serves the United States best is a broadly-based elected government, a democratic government.

Nawaz Sharif called me two days ago. I was campaigning here in New Hampshire. And he commended me for calling for Musharraf to step aside and to insisting that there be free and fair elections. That is the best option.

Now I also disagree with her comment about others taking care of Pakistani nuclear weapons. The Pakistani military will do that. The intelligence services will do that. What we need to do is ask Musharraf, push him, push him to step aside for the good of the country, because he is widely unpopular.

BLITZER: All right. RICHARDSON: Al Qaida gets stronger when he still governs. You have seen what has happened with Benazir Bhutto.

BLITZER: But you know the counter-argument, Governor, and it is sort of similar to what happened in the late '70s with the shah of Iran. As imperfect as he was, the argument goes, he was better than the ayatollahs who took over.

As imperfect as Musharraf might be, he is aligned with the U.S. He is the target of al Qaeda and the Taliban. And you could open a Pandora's box and get an Islamist Taliban/Al Qaida-linked regime with a nuclear arsenal.

What do you say to that fear, that rejection of your proposal?

RICHARDSON: Well, I also say that one of the worst mistakes we ever made was backing the shah of Iran. We're still paying for it by not having aligned ourselves with more democratic forces at the time. So similarly, in Pakistan, Wolf, what is in our best interest is a broadly-based democratic government in Pakistan. Musharraf is a source of tremendous support for al Qaida and terrorist elements.

We've got to remember, Islamist parties in Pakistan are only 12 percent of the vote. So having Musharraf there is an incentive for that to grow, for terrorists to get stronger. We have got to think of what is best for the United States.

And I believe a broadly-based government with free and fair elections, Benazir Bhutto's party, Nawaz Sharif's party, duking it out, having the military be the controller of those nuclear weapons.

I believe the military -- the Pakistani military, which as you know, is very strong there, is getting very tired of Musharraf being so unpopular. There being so much unrest; now this question about whether Musharraf was involved in Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

I don't know if that is the case, but we need an independent investigation of that to move forward.

BLITZER: The surge in Iraq, as it's called, General Petraeus' strategy, at least as far as U.S. casualties, Iraqi civilian casualties are concerned, seems to be paying off, seems to be working. Albeit the political progress is not where it should be with the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Are you prepared to concede, though, that if -- if the U.S. had done what you wanted six months ago or a year ago, simply start pulling out, there would have been no prospects of any sort of political resolutions, any political stability in Iraq?

RICHARDSON: There is no military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. This policy is flawed. It's not working.

Has there been any progress in political reconciliation in Iraq? No. Has there been any progress in distributing oil revenues equally? No.

Have there been any regional elections? No.

Is the Iraqi government moving toward training their own people more effectively? No.

This is a quagmire.

BLITZER: You were the peacemaker last night, a familiar role for yourself, in the debate. You were trying to make peace between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards. They were going after each other.

Give us the explanation. Why do you think that that should be such an important role for you, right now, in the midst of this very, very tough fight among the Democrats?

RICHARDSON: Well, I made the final four out of Iowa and into New Hampshire and then the next primaries.

I believe the American people and the Democratic voters want somebody that's positive, not somebody that's fighting and attacking each other's character and motivations.

And so I want to stay positive and talk about what I want to do about universal health care and creating jobs and getting us out of Iraq. So I just try to be the adult here and get everybody to talk about issues...

BLITZER: There were...

RICHARDSON: ... instead of personalities.

BLITZER: There were a lot of rumors circulating in Iowa that, if you didn't make that so-called 15 percent threshold, you were quietly urging your supporters to support Barack Obama. Was that true?

RICHARDSON: That is totally untrue. I don't know where that came out of. You know, for me to be able to tell Iowa voters, one of the most sophisticated in the world, what to do after they support me is incredulous. That is totally not the case.

I don't know where these rumors surface, because we -- look, we did a lot better than what people say, 2 percent delegates. I got over 20,000 votes. We got close to 10 percent of the vote.

But you're right, we didn't meet the threshold of the 15 percent because, to Senator Obama's credit, he got a huge amount of voters participating that had never participated before.

Hardly anyone anticipated that, at least the huge numbers that he brought forth. So that's why, you know, there are all of these rumors. But that rumor is totally untrue.

BLITZER: How well do you have to do...

RICHARDSON: And I'm just...

BLITZER: How well do you have to do in New Hampshire in order to stay in the race?

RICHARDSON: Well, there are four of us left. I'd like to be in the top three. But you know, Wolf, if you look down the line, we have got some primaries in some regions that are good for me -- the West; we've got Nevada coming up; then February 5th, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.

But you know, I'm staying in this race because I want to end this war and I want to get all the troops out. That is the fundamental reason why I have been campaigning.

I think that, until we end the war, we can't deal with universal health care and education and creating jobs and making us the clean energy nation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So I'm in this for the long haul. BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: And I hope to do well here in New Hampshire. This is the first real independent test and we'll see what happens.

BLITZER: Good luck, Governor. Thanks for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up next, we're going to go live out to the campaign trail, to New Hampshire, for updates on the campaigns of Senator Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Two of the best political team on television are standing by.

And this programming note; tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, tune in to CNN for a special replay of last night's dramatic ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates: first the Republicans, then the Democrats -- only here on CNN. It all starts at 7:00 p.m. tonight.

And look at this picture. This is what you saw -- if you didn't see the debate last night, you'll see it tonight. At halftime after the Republicans, before the Democrats, all 10 presidential candidates, the Democrats and the Republicans, were up on the stage making very nice.

Stay with "Late Edition." We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Only two days to go before the very important New Hampshire primary. Let's head out to New Hampshire. The best political team on television fanning out across the state today. First to Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Nashua. She's following Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign. There seems to be a new get-tough strategy emerging from that campaign, Suzanne. Update our viewers on what's going on.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Make no mistake about it, they are on the offensive now. I want to show you for a moment here, thousands of people who are lined up outside of this high school waiting to get inside to listen to Senator Hillary Clinton.

And the way it's going to work today is very much the way it worked yesterday. That is, a totally new format. She is going to be taking questions from the audience, as many questions as they can possibly throw at her. Yesterday it lasted for about two hours or so, so she's basically abandoning her stump speech,going directly for the questions.

That is because the campaign believes that she needs to highlight that she can answer any of the issues, any of their concerns. And just this morning, we had a conference call with some her top aides, and here is what they're rolling out. They say it's talk versus action. They want action, not talk. They say it is not about rhetoric, it's about results. One of her aides saying talk is cheap. What they are trying to show here is that she has the experience to bring about change.

They specifically are going after Senator Barack Obama, saying there are some inconsistencies in his past that they want to address, that they want to highlight. They also note yesterday, we saw a flash of anger from Senator Clinton when she was essentially taken on by both of her opponents, John Edwards as well as Senator Barack Obama.

They say they believe that it just shows her strengths, that it highlights that it takes two against one and that she is going to be fighting back here and essentially giving very specific examples to voters about why she believes she has this experience, the things that she's accomplished to bring about this change. Obviously, this is quite a fight in New Hampshire. Wolf? BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you. Let's see how the Republicans are doing right now. Dana Bash is out in Salem, New Hampshire. She's watching the front-runner in New Hampshire right now. That would be John McCain. He seems like he's increasingly, Dana, the man to beat in New Hampshire.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly does. And if you could be here to feel sort of the excitement and electricity, frankly, in this room, you would kind of get the sense of why that's happened.

You can see behind me, this is an absolutely packed gym here in Salem, New Hampshire. This was not the case not too long ago for John McCain, where he was sort of, you know, left for nowhere as somebody who was not going to have any kind of chance in New Hampshire or anywhere else.

But he has stayed. He has persevered. And you know, if you want to get a sense of how confident they are, John McCain's campaign, they have dubbed his bus tour starting tomorrow the "Mac is Back" bus tour.

He's got seven stops across the state of New Hampshire. Now, obviously, one of the main reasons why John McCain fell in the polls, though, not too long ago was because of his stance on immigration. He of course supported the idea of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That hurt him.

That was a big part of the crackling debate between him -- particularly between him and his chief rival here in New Hampshire, and that is Mitt Romney, last night. Mitt Romney said something, Wolf, that was quite interesting. And it raised a lot of questions.

He said that he does not believe that John McCain's plan was technically amnesty. That was sort of surprising, because even as he said that, he has ads that -- Romney has ads running right now against John McCain calling his plan amnesty. I have this mailer sent out by Mitt Romney's campaign also calling John McCain's plan amnesty.

This morning he was asked about it and he said, well, he didn't realize that he had those ads running. That's sort of caused a little bit of dismay inside the Romney campaign because they know, Wolf, that Mitt Romney is really presenting himself as somebody who is a detail- oriented CEO who understands the very specifics of how to run things, including his own campaign.

So, him sort of not knowing necessarily or saying he didn't know that he had an ad up against John McCain calling it amnesty is causing some heartburn inside the Romney campaign and is certainly telling us where this campaign, particularly between the two front-runners on the Republican side, Mitt Romney and John McCain, is going to be going in the next 48 hours or so. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana Bash, thanks very much. John McCain came in fourth in Iowa but he's atop the polls right now in New Hampshire. Very different picture there.

Just ahead, despite his underdog status, is Ron Paul prepared to go the distance in this presidential campaign? We'll talk about it with the Republican presidential candidate. That's coming up next.

And you can hear from Ron Paul and all the other candidates, Democrats and Republicans, later tonight when CNN presents a special replay of the dramatic ABC News/WMUR/Facebook Republican presidential debates. That coverage starts at 7 p.m. eastern right here on CNN. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: He's been languishing in the polls, finished fifth in the Iowa Republican caucuses, wound up with some 10 percent of the vote. But Congressman Ron Paul has been doing remarkably well, amazingly well, in fact, when it comes to Internet fund-raising.

Will Tuesday's New Hampshire primary provide a breakthrough for the maverick candidate? I spoke with Ron Paul just a short while ago from the campaign trail in New Hampshire.


BLITZER: Congressman Paul, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "Late Edition."

PAUL: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: You were thoroughly attacked yesterday by several of your Republican rivals for the presidential nomination, specifically over your contention that the U.S. has itself to blame for its policies around the world, in the Muslim world, for some of the terrorist attacks, some of the hatred of the United States. Listen to what some of them said about your position on this.


MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ron, you need a thorough understanding of what radical jihad is, what the movement is, what its intent is, where it flows from.



RUDOLPH GIULIANI, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ron's analysis is really seriously flawed. The idea that the attack took place because of American foreign policy is precisely the reason I handed back a $10 million check to a Saudi prince.


BLITZER: All right, Congressman. What do you say to the criticism that you're blaming the victim, the United States, for the policies?

PAUL: Well, that's not correct. Because I don't blame the American people, and I don't blame somebody who gets murdered for the murder. You have to look for the cause and the incentive and the motive.

And the motive is that our foreign policy does aggravate a lot of people. You don't blame the American people, but you have to understand what's going on.

It is interesting that they attacked me, but I really was defending my position with the George Bush's position in the year 2000, when he didn't want to get into nation-building, he didn't want to police the world, he wanted a more humble foreign policy. In those two statements, you just heard it wasn't really very humble. It was really a vicious attack on Muslims.

And they say that, oh, no, it's only the radicals, but they paint a picture where you have to attack the Muslim world and you blame the Muslim religion. And I don't think that's true whatsoever.

I know there's radicals there, and I know they will attack us, but if we don't understand the motive, if we continue to believe they attack us because we're free and prosperous, we can't win this fight. We have to understand the issue of blowback. We have to understand the issue of unintended consequences.

And if we have a presence in the Arab world and in the Muslim world, there are consequences. And I point it out to them, and they don't listen to this, is how would we react if somebody did the same thing to us? The American people would be outraged.

BLITZER: What about the contention that if somebody wants to go out and kill you, you have to, I guess, have a responsibility to kill them first before you die. What do you make of this notion there are people out there who want to kill Americans and that if the United States doesn't go out and attack them first, they're simply going to go ahead and kill us.

PAUL: Well, that's sort of like saying there's a lot of murderers in the country, and we have to go out and start killing people that we think potentially might commit murder and just go shooting people. I mean, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. There was no Al Qaida in Iraq.

The insanity of a change of foreign policy to a pre-emptive war position where we start the wars under the pretense that Iraq had something to do with 9/11 is just a preposterous idea and has gotten us into trouble.

And the same way with the Iranians. The Iranians were actually helpful after 9/11, and we just turned our back on them, and we made them an evil empire, and we threatened them with actually a nuclear first strike. This makes no sense whatsoever, and I think the American people are very frightened by this.

BLITZER: You also had on domestic economic policy this exchange with former Senator Fred Thompson last night. I'll play it.


PAUL: We tax, we borrow, we borrow from the Chinese. We can't borrow enough. Then what do we do? We print the money, and then you wonder where the inflation comes? We don't need anymore money.

THOMPSON: So if we would stop printing so much money, we could get out of the war and provide health care to everybody.

PAUL: We could get out of the war, and we wouldn't have to print the money.

THOMPSON: OK. I just wanted to make sure I had this right.


BLITZER: All right. I want you to explain what you mean, because a lot of Americans are probably confused. What do you mean when you say the U.S. should simply stop printing dollars?

PAUL: Well, that's an old cliche for -- when they used to print dollars, they used to dilute the metals for fighting wars. In this day and age we use a computer to create billions of dollars. This is how you can afford, on a short-term basis, financing war.

We did this in the 1960s. We argued you could have guns and butter. And we had a very, very serious problem in the 1970s, with the breakdown of the monetary system and inflation of 15 percent and the interest rates of 21 percent.

We're doing the same thing again except we are in worse shape today. But all wars essentially throughout history have been fought through inflation. Inflation is when you increase the supply of money, dilute the value of money, and when the dollar goes down, prices go up.

So, this is what I'm arguing. It is because of the inflationary monetary system that we are allowed our politicians to get way overextended. And they do this overseas. We borrowed to the hilt from the Chinese, and we couldn't even fight the war without the Chinese, but the market is telling us we can't continue to print and create money out of thin air to fight this war and run the domestic welfare state because it will ruin the dollar, and that's what the dollar is telling us today.

I mean, the Canadian dollar is more valuable than the American dollar. And our dollar is down like 60 percent against the Euro. This cannot be ignored. This will bring our economy down.

BLITZER: You've raised an incredible sum of money over the last three months, about $20 million. You're in league with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They both raised about $20 million as well.

Scott Reed, who was the campaign manager for Bob Dole back in '96, he said this the other day. He said, "Ron Paul's only option is to buy as many flat-screen TVs as he can, put 'Ron Paul' bumper stickers on them and hand them out to voters in New Hampshire. I just don't see where he goes. He will probably be the only presidential candidate ever to have a surplus when he drops out because he has an incredible amount of money and no campaign strategy to win."

You want to respond to Scott Reed?

PAUL: Well, we have a major task. When you think about returning this country to the Constitution, we have drifted from the Constitution in the past 100 years. The Congress ignores it, the courts ignore it, the executive branch ignores it. But there's a large number of dedicated Americans who believe that America was a great country when we obeyed the Constitution, that liberty was more important than largess and special-interest government.

This is a major undertaking, to take on the military industrial complex, the medical industrial complex and all the special interests by individuals sending in money. So I think we've done a tremendous job, but we also know what we're doing.

We're not tinkering with the system. We aren't talking about mismanaging the war in Iraq. We're talking about the change in foreign policy that was established by Woodrow Wilson, our pretense that we're able to make the world safe for democracy and forever spend ourselves into oblivion.

I mean, this is a major undertaking, but the revolution toward this goal has actually begun. And how far we go in the campaign, we don't know. But I'll tell you what, the American people, and there's this large segment sending in the money to our campaign that are determined that this revolutionary spirit will continue.

BLITZER: Ron Paul, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Still to come, my interviews with Fred Thompson and John Edwards.

But up next, who's responsible for Benazir Bhutto's assassination? Pakistan's surprising accusation. The ambassador of Pakistan to the United States is standing by live. We're going to talk about that. And remember, later tonight, starting at 7 p.m. eastern, CNN replays the ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates. First the Republicans, then the Democrats. All of it begins 7 p.m. eastern.

You're watching "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York.

This week Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf postponed elections in response to the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He also asked Britain for help in the investigation. Many serious questions, though, remain unanswered.

Joining us now from Washington is Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to "Late Edition."

DURRANI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Musharraf gave an interview to "60 Minutes" on CBS, which will air later tonight. They released some excerpts. And I'm going to play one clip because it, sort of, jumped out at me, involving the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Listen to this.


MUSHARRAF: There is no proof whatsoever that he's here. We are not particularly looking for him, but we are operating against this -- and Al Qaida and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, it is combined. Maybe we are looking for him also.


BLITZER: Now, the notion that -- two things, that there is no proof he's in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, and that Pakistan is not particularly looking for the most wanted terrorist in the world.

Explain what your president is suggesting.

DURRANI: Well, first of all, I think the president is suggesting that neither we nor the U.S. has any intelligence where exactly Osama bin Laden is. He may be in Afghanistan. He may be in the border regions. If we knew where he was, we would have taken him out.

BLITZER: And the notion that he's not particularly looking for him...

DURRANI: No, no... BLITZER: Because most of the intelligence organizations, including the U.S., suggest that he is some place in the tribal area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

DURRANI: Wolf, that's just speculation. Believe me. If they knew or we knew, we would have taken him out.

And when Musharraf says that he's not specifically looking for Osama, what he really means is that we are totally focused on destroying Al Qaida and the Taliban network and not just one person. We are looking at a broader issue and we want to destroy all these negative institutions.

BLITZER: The other thing that, sort of, jumped out from the interview he gave "60 Minutes" was this very blunt statement about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister.

He said this about who was responsible. He said, "For standing up outside the car, I think it is she to blame alone, nobody else. Responsibility is hers."

That's a pretty blunt statement, that she had no business getting up through that sun roof and standing up in that vehicle, because, in the end, she was killed as a result of that.

DURRANI: Well, one, you don't expect me to take on the president of Pakistan, one. But I would certainly say that the investigation is ongoing and we should not jump to conclusions.

But it is a fact, also, that she was a great leader, a very charismatic leader of Pakistan, which we are very sorry we have lost her.

But it is also true, if she had not come out of the vehicle, the protected and armored vehicle, maybe we would have seen her smiling face again today.

BLITZER: Are you among those who are convinced that it was Al Qaida or the Taliban, that they were responsible for her assassination?

DURRANI: Wolf, I would not be convinced 100 percent. The investigation is going on. I mean, we've called Scotland yard. But it seems so. It seem so. If we prejudge everything now, why have an investigation?

BLITZER: Because her husband, the widower, Asif Ali Zardari -- I spoke with him earlier in the week. And he said, look who gains from her assassination.

I'm going to play this little clip from the interview. Listen to this.


FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER NAWAZ SHARIF: Musharraf must go immediately. He is the primary and principal source of discord in the country. He is a one-man calamity. He is responsible for all the trouble in Pakistan. The country is burning.


BLITZER: All right. That was the wrong clip.

DURRANI: I know.

BLITZER: That was obviously the wrong clip. That was Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister...


BLITZER: ... blaming President Musharraf for all of these problems.

Let me see if we can get the right one, right now, from the widower, Mr. Zardari. Let's play that.


ASIF ALI ZARDARI, HUSBAND OF FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER BENAZIR BHUTTO: I think whoever has to gain from her death, and definitely the sitting government has to gain from her death, they should be held responsible.


BLITZER: All right. He says the sitting government -- that would be the government of President Musharraf -- gains from her death. And he's pointing a finger right there. You want to respond?

DURRANI: Yes, I do want to respond to that. And he is welcome to say what he likes, but I think the point that, initially, he's made is very good: who gains from that; what is the motive?

I disagree on this conclusion that, automatically, it becomes the government. I think we need to search into that question, who is gaining out of that, who has a motive of killing Benazir?

BLITZER: The ambassador from Pakistan, Mahmud Ali Durrani, thanks very much for joining us.

I know you're going to be going over on a fact-finding mission yourself. Be safe over there. We'll see you when you get back to Washington.

DURRANI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And there's much more ahead, coming up on "Late Edition," including my conversations with the presidential candidates Fred Thompson and John Edwards. That's coming up. And stay with CNN for back-to-back presidential debates later tonight, first the Republicans, then the Democrats. It's the ABC News debates, the CNN special replay. Don't miss all of them, beginning 7 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. "Late Edition" continues at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: This is "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk.

The candidates turn to New Hampshire as the dust settles in Iowa.


THOMPSON: Everybody said that Rudy was inevitable, and then Mitt was inevitable.



EDWARDS: Now they're going to have to choose in New Hampshire and subsequent states between myself and Senator Obama.


BLITZER: We'll talk with two candidates, Republican Fred Thompson and Democrat John Edwards. Plus, we'll assess the message from the Iowa vote and look ahead to the New Hampshire primary with part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television: John King, Gloria Borger and Jeffrey Toobin.

"Late Edition's" second hour begins right now.

Welcome back. We'll get to my conversation with Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson in just a moment. But we have an important program announcement to make first. Tonight on the eve of the New Hampshire's primaries, stay with CNN for back-to-back presidential debates. First the Republicans, then the Democrats. The ABC News/WMUR/Facebook debates, an event that provided important insights into the candidates and where they stand.

As a result, we've decided to present an unprecedented CNN special replay. Don't miss them tonight. Both of the debates beginning 7 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

Former Senator Fred Thompson came in third in Iowa, enough to keep his presidential hopes alive. We spoke about that and a lot more just a short while ago from the campaign trail in New Hampshire.


BLITZER: Senator Thompson, welcome back to "Late Edition."

THOMPSON: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you again.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about a little exchange you had with Mitt Romney last night on the issue of health care, health insurance, where his position might differ than yours. And he made it clear, he does support mandates, forcing people, in effect, to buy health insurance. Listen to what he said.


ROMNEY: I like mandates. The mandates work.



ROMNEY: If somebody can afford insurance and decides not to buy it, and then they get sick, they ought to pay their own way as opposed to expect government to pay their way.


BLITZER: All right. You disagree with him on that or you agree with him on that?

THOMPSON: No. I disagree with him on that. And you know, he disagrees with himself on that, because when it came time to put together his plan for the nation, he didn't have those mandates in it because he knew it wouldn't fly.

It might fly in Massachusetts, like a lot of other things, but it wouldn't fly in the rest of the country. So he took that portion out of his health-care bill. I simply don't think it is a good idea to tell Americans what they've got to do -- and that includes health care -- when it has to do with themselves.

If we lowered health-care costs, if we trusted the market economies and changed our tax system so that the market could work more efficiently, give people more power to make their own decisions and open up the market, prices would go down, and that would help people who want insurance to buy insurance.

There are a big number of people out here that qualify for government assistance that choose not to avail themselves of it. A lot of people who can afford insurance that don't avail themselves of it. That's the world that we live in. We can't force things down people's throats.

BLITZER: Well, but what his point, though, is that if somebody can afford health insurance and they don't buy health insurance, that's negligent, let's say, but, he says, that taxpayers could get stuck paying the bill because in the end the expenses might be so great, the person never had health insurance, and you and I will be paying for a guy who should have been able to have health insurance.

THOMPSON: Who is going to set up the bureaucracy, and how big is it going to be to determine which Americans can and cannot afford health insurance? And the government is not obligated to come in and take care of everybody.

Sure, if you have an emergency or something like that, regardless of what kind of system we have, we're always going to take care of people in the medical -- in the emergency room, but that is not where most medicine is practiced.

You know, people have to know that they are responsible, essentially, for looking out for their own day-to-day situation. And it's the government's obligation to make it so that they can purchase for themselves in a free market, at lower prices, insurance that will cover them.

You can't depend upon the government to make a determination as to what everybody should do with regard to something like that, in my book.

BLITZER: Another issue that came up, illegal immigration. And some of the Republican candidates were going after John McCain because he, with Ted Kennedy and others, and including President Bush, supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for at least some of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Here is what McCain said last night. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: It is not amnesty. And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it still won't be true.


BLITZER: All right. John McCain denies he supported amnesty. Mitt Romney and others keep going after McCain on this issue. It's a sensitive issue, obviously, as you know. They say he did support amnesty. Where do you stand? Did your friend John McCain support amnesty for illegal immigrants?

THOMPSON: Well, of course, it's not just John. I mean, it looks like that was a position that Mitt took early on. Mitt was quoted as saying that the Republicans are making a terrible mistake if they separate from the president on this illegal immigration issue.

And now, last night for the first time that I know of, he says he was misquoted with regard to that. But he said things very much in support of the approach that was coming down at that time, which was Kennedy and Bush and McCain and others who joined in.

I look at it this way, Wolf. You know, you can call it anything you want to as long as you have your own definition. Here is my definition of Amnesty, if you get something that you otherwise didn't have, to the extent that you get it, that's amnesty.

If you steal a television and a radio and get caught and have to give back the television, that's amnesty to a certain extent. That's not as much amnesty as if you got to keep everything. But if you get citizenship or you -- a pathway to citizenship and get to remain in this country because of your illegal activity, that's amnesty to that extent. BLITZER: So what do you plan on doing if you were president with those 12 million illegal immigrants? Would you force each and every one of them to actually physically leave the United States before they could perhaps go back to their own countries and then reapply, get to the end of the line, as you say, and go through the process?

THOMPSON: No, Wolf, there would be self-deportation. There would be -- enforcement of the law would bring about an attrition. We would reverse the process that's coming -- people talk about the 12 million illegal immigrants now, what about the next 12 million?

Under the present circumstances, we're adding to that number all along unless we do some things differently. If we enforce the borders, couldn't go back and forth at will, if we required employers to do the right thing on the front end and provide them with the assistance necessary to check about their employees on the front end, and if we stop sanctuary cities and things that would induce people to come across and bring those innocent children into this country illegally, we stop that, the situation would begin to reverse itself.

It wouldn't solve itself overnight, by any stretch of the imagination. But we didn't get into this problem overnight either.

BLITZER: So -- but you are not -- so, just correct me if I'm wrong, Senator, you're not saying you would deport all 12 million illegal immigrants?

THOMPSON: If, in the process of enforcing the law, law enforcement officials run across people who are illegal, yes, they would have to leave. But a massive program of saying by X day we're going to round up everybody? No.

BLITZER: Let's talk about a foreign policy issue. There's a front page story in The New York Times today saying the president is considering with his top advisers expanding a covert operation in the tribal areas, the western part of Pakistan, as part of the hunt for not only bin Laden, but to deal with the Taliban and Al Qaida.

There's deep concern right now that Pakistan potentially could be on the verge of an Islamist fundamentalist regime with a nuclear arsenal already in place. Would you support an expanded U.S. covert operation in western Pakistan right now?

THOMPSON: Certainly, if it's necessary. That's why I have been talking about the need for stability in Pakistan. You know, I was on the Intelligence Committee. I was the Republican floor manager for the homeland security bill. I've been to Pakistan. I have talked with Musharraf. I understand what is going on over there. And I understand the nature of the problem.

And you just touched on the crucial part of it. The Taliban in western Pakistan is still there. They are in those mountainous regions there. Osama bin Laden undoubtedly is in that area. They very well may have played a part in the Bhutto assassination.

THOMPSON: People are in the streets. People are wondering what's going to happen with regard to the government. And they have a nuclear arsenal. And there are even some people inside the government with relationships with radical Islam.

So it is a very, very important consideration. I must say I'm a little concerned that the discussions in the White House concerning a covert operation, something this sensitive, is on the pages of The New York Times.

But that's something that we have almost gotten used to, I suppose, in this country.

BLITZER: Because it's obviously a very sensitive issue for President Musharraf in Pakistan right now. If there are indications that the CIA is about to step up activities in Pakistan -- within Pakistani sovereign territory...

THOMPSON: Well, I think the real...

BLITZER: ... that could undermine his regime even further.

THOMPSON: Well, the relevance of it is not with regard to him personally, because he would probably be a part of what was happening. But if it comes out with regard to his people that he is allowing something like this to happen, it's something that he has got to manage, you know, between the radical elements in his society, those who are preaching hatred of the United States in his society, and the United States.

So it's a delicate matter for Musharraf to handle. And it is not helped any when have a discussion over here of the highest sensitivity with regard to his country, when it's on the pages of American newspapers.

BLITZER: You told me the other day, you're not going to do well in New Hampshire, but you are hoping for a rebound in South Carolina and beyond. Do you still stand by that?

Do you think you -- do you see any change in New Hampshire right now?

THOMPSON: No. We had a good debate last night and actually got to talk about some substantive issues, like I do with you. But it's all about South Carolina. Iowa was about getting a ticket out of Iowa and getting to South Carolina and beyond. And if we can raise the money sufficient to hold our own on television -- and that's why I'm asking people to check on, if we can do that, we'll win South Carolina and we'll be in good shape.

Everybody said that Rudy was inevitable; then Mitt was inevitable; now they are on to McCain, you know. Everybody said I would come in fourth in Iowa. I didn't. I came in third. So steadily, despite the expertise in the news media, we're getting to be exactly where we wanted to be at this point.

And I'm very optimistic about South Carolina.

BLITZER: Good luck, Senator. Thanks for joining us.

THOMPSON: Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: And coming up, I'll speak with another presidential candidate, the Democrat John Edwards. He came in second in Iowa. He's scrambling, right ,now to try to beat Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

My interview with him -- that's coming up. Plus, our political panel on the race in the granite state. The best political team on television is standing by live.

And if you missed any of last night's ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates, you can see them both, the Democrats and the Republicans, right here on CNN later tonight; first the Republicans, then the Democrats. Our coverage begins 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And if you missed that debate, you missed this.

This was an incredible shot in between the Republican and the Democratic debates. All the presidential candidates walked out on that stage, the Democrats and the Republicans. They shook hands. They exchanged some pleasantries. They actually smiled. And then they went back to their respective corners.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from the CNN Election Center here in New York City.

The former U.S. senator John Edwards finished second in the Iowa caucuses. But he's fighting, now, to keep the Democratic race from becoming a two-person battle between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I asked him to distinguish his positions from theirs when we spoke in "The Situation Room."


BLITZER: And joining us now from Nashua, New Hampshire, former Democratic senator John Edwards. He's a Democratic presidential candidate.

Thanks, Senator, for coming in.

EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm trying to help people in New Hampshire have a better understanding where you stand, as opposed to your two main rivals right now, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, on the three big issues that Democrats in Iowa said were atop their agenda, the first issue being the economy.

If there's one single difference between you versus Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the economy, what would that be?

EDWARDS: Well, I proposed, Wolf, a whole series of tax cuts for the middle class; a different trade policy for America; changes in trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA that have cost America so many jobs.

I did come out first and led the way with a universal health care plan. And I've proposed very aggressive, substantive policies on predatory lending and payday lending.

I was the first, and, I think, the only -- I'm not 100 percent sure of that, but I think the only one who's proposed a national predatory lending law.

So I think there are substantive differences between us. But I would just tack onto that, Wolf, I think the big difference is on change versus status quo.

Because in my mind, Senator Clinton, in many ways, represents the status quo. And Senator Obama and I both represent change, but we have a different view about how to bring about that change.

BLITZER: All right. Now, the second issue that they identified, Iowa Democrats, was the war in Iraq.

Is there any significant difference, right now, between you and your two main rivals when it comes to ending the war in Iraq?

All of you want to end it.

EDWARDS: Yes. I think there are differences. It's a little hard for me to tell, sometimes, exactly what Senator Clinton is saying. I have proposed we have -- I will have all combat troops out of Iraq in the first year of my presidency, in combat missions, and have no permanent military bases.

At least in the past few months, I've heard her suggest keeping combat troops there for some longer period time and continuing combat missions. And if that's what she's still saying, then we have a real difference on that front.

BLITZER: Is there any difference on the issue of universal health care, that you would underline, between where you stand and they stand? EDWARDS: Yes. There's a big difference between Senator Obama and myself. My plan is actually universal, which means everyone is required by law to have health care coverage.

Senator Obama's plan could leave as many as 15 million Americans uncovered. And it's not universal.

And there are also differences with Senator Clinton, primarily that I've never taken money from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs, because I think you have to be willing to take on drug companies and insurance companies to bring about universal health care. And she's in a different place.

BLITZER: So you don't think she could really deliver, given that relationship she's had with those PACs?

EDWARDS: Well, I'll let her argue for herself. But I don't think you can take money from these special interest PACs and Washington lobbyists for drug companies and insurance companies and sit at a table, Wolf, and make deals with them. I don't think that works.

If it had worked, we'd have had universal health care a decade ago.

BLITZER: Why do you think Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses?

EDWARDS: You know, he spent almost $10 million advertising on television, far more than I spent. Senator Clinton also spent far more than I spent. And I think what happened was that Iowa caucus -- I was among the three of us, I was the little guy. I was the guy who didn't spend as much on television.

I just did grassroots, town-hall meeting kind of campaigning. And I think the fact that I finished ahead of Senator Clinton and her pretty strong political machine and all her money, that I finished a strong second to Senator Obama, what it means is that this message of standing up for jobs and the middle class and fighting for change, I think that the voters there responded to it. And I think they will in New Hampshire, too.

BLITZER: It was less than half of one percent that separated you and Senator Clinton, which is obviously not a lot. But you're suggesting, correct me if I'm wrong, that this is now emerging as a two-man race between you and Obama. You think Hillary Clinton is no longer all that formidable a candidate?

EDWARDS: Well, I don't underestimate anybody, Wolf. And that would certainly include Senator Clinton. But I think it was a blow for her. And I think what happened was, the Iowa caucus-goers just said, we want change. They rejected status quo.

And I think in many ways Senator Clinton represents status quo. And now they're going to have to choose in New Hampshire and subsequent states between myself and Senator Obama about who's best at bringing about that change.

And we have different approaches. I think you have to fight for change, and fight for -- fight against these entrenched interests that are standing between America and what it needs.

BLITZER: And you don't think he can do that?

EDWARDS: I think he has a more philosophical, more academic approach to it than I do. I think we've got a battle on our hands. And that battle is not with politicians, but it's with, you know, the trenched money interests, oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, that are preventing the change.

BLITZER: I know you're looking forward to going to not only New Hampshire but to South Carolina, which is the state where you were born. But how well do you have to do in New Hampshire first before you move on to South Carolina next Tuesday?

EDWARDS: Well, I think as a practical matter, Wolf, there are three of us who are relatively strong here. Both of them have enormous amounts of money and they've poured enormous amounts of money in here. And I think if I do reasonably well and I'm competitive, it will be surprising to people.

I think, oddly enough, outside the small world of the media, most of America was shocked that I beat Senator Clinton last night. They had no idea.

They thought that it was senator Clinton, Senator Obama, they had no notion that somebody like John Edwards could be ahead of Senator Clinton in Iowa. So I think anything I do here could surprise.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see how you do, Senator Edwards. Thanks very much for joining us and good luck.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Wolf, very much.


BLITZER: All right. We've heard from a lot of the candidates. Up next, we're going to go live to New Hampshire, where our reporters are standing by to give us the latest on the race, what's happening today.

Then, our political panel, they're standing by as well to analyze all of these contests. It's the best political team on television.

And on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, only two days away, stay with CNN for back-to-back debates. First the Republicans, then the Democrats. It's the ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates, a special CNN replay tonight. Our coverage begins 7 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

"Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: The best political team on television covering all the events across New Hampshire. Right now, only two days before the New Hampshire primary. Our Boston bureau chief, Dan Lothian, has been covering the Democratic field, standing by in Manchester, New Hampshire right now. Give us a sense what's happening today, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, what we're seeing out there on the ground is that these leading Democratic candidates are going out and having these rallies and attracting these large crowds, especially Barack Obama. More than 1,000 people lining up to hear them.

That's sort of evidence of what the voters here in New Hampshire like to do. They like to have that up-close relationship with the candidates. They want to see them, essentially feel them before they make up their mind, at least for those undecided voters. Certainly, Senator Obama trying to build on the momentum that he started in Iowa. And today announcing the key endorsement for him that Senator Bill Bradley, who won a very -- or rather ran a very strong campaign for president in 2000 here in New Hampshire, is now endorsing him.

On the other side, his other contender, Senator Hillary Clinton, continues what we heard so much of last night in the debate, that she is the candidate who's ready to become president, and that it's not just about words. It's not just about change, but that she has the experience to become president.

And beyond that we're seeing her taking a very aggressive approach. In fact, right now, just a few minutes ago, she was out in a neighborhood in Manchester canvassing that neighborhood, going door to door. Clearly what we see here is that these Democrats are trying to reach out to those undecided voters which could make the difference come Tuesday. Wolf?

BLITZER: And they're still spending a ton of money on commercials, advertising. I take it you can't turn on the TV if you're in New Hampshire without seeing a political commercial.

LOTHIAN: That's right. You see the political commercials that are being broken up by a television show. So, it's just running nonstop, all of these commercials. They really want to meet as many people as possible.

Hillary Clinton said this, and continues to say this, that she wants to go out, meet people face-to-face. She wants to answer the questions of all these people showing up to rally. Something that she didn't do quite often, certainly in Iowa, on the campaign trail.

So she's really trying to reach out to these voters. Specifically those who are undecided. Again, they could be the difference in this campaign.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian in New Hampshire for us. Dan, thanks very much. And we'll be back in just a moment with some analysis from three members of the Emmy Award winning best political team on television. That's coming up.

And you won't want to miss a special CNN replay of the ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates. First the Republicans, then the Democrats. Our coverage of that begins at 7 p.m. eastern tonight.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Only two days to go before the New Hampshire primary. There's a lot of talk about -- lot to talk about. So let's get right to it with the best political team on television.

Our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here at the CNN Election Center in New York, along with our senior analyst Jeff Toobin. And up where the action is in New Hampshire, our chief national correspondent, John King. He's in Portsmouth.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

You know, they seemed to gang up on Mitt Romney, on the Republican side, in that debate last night. I'll play this little montage.


HUCKABEE: Governor Romney, you yourself, on "60 Minutes," said that we had left Iraq in a mess.



ROMNEY: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred, which is this...

THOMPSON: The ones you come up with.




ROMNEY: ... which makes -- my point...


ROMNEY: I mean, it was...


ROMNEY: That does happen from time. But let me -- but let me... MCCAIN: When you change issues from -- positions on issues, from time to time, you will get misquoted.


BLITZER: All right, Gloria...


BLITZER: ... what do you think? Because it's -- they were coming -- at one point, I think, he was calling him the candidate of change. I think McCain was calling Romney the candidate of change. And he didn't mean it in a very nice way.


BORGER: No, he didn't. He didn't. Look, Romney is an easy target right now. He's a key target. He's the guy that every one of those fellows has to knock down. And they were trying to do it last night. You know, they all had the same goal, which is make Mitt Romney fall even lower so that they can rise. And he's easy.

TOOBIN: I thought, you know, both debates were interesting because they reminded us that these candidates are actually human beings. You know, they were tired. They were, kind of, grumpy. And they really just don't like Mitt Romney. They don't like the guy.

BORGER: McCain, in particular, does not like Romney.

TOOBIN: McCain just can't stand him. And that was -- that was, sort of, bracing and interesting to see.

BLITZER: Clearly some bad blood.

John, you're there in New Hampshire. Is it possible -- I mean, there's a lot of speculation that Romney didn't do well in Iowa; he came in second, that if he doesn't do well in New Hampshire, the neighboring state to his home state of Massachusetts, that this could be the beginning of the end for his campaign?

KING: Well, Wolf, he says he will stay in. And if he loses in New Hampshire, the next key challenge is in the state where he was born and where his father was governor. The state of Michigan comes up next, after New Hampshire.

The McCain campaign thinks, if it can beat Romney here, and it is very optimistic it will do so on Tuesday, and then can beat him in Michigan, that Governor Romney will have nowhere to go. Because he is struggling in South Carolina, right now, and beyond.

And the question facing Governor Romney, at that point, would be he's already spent more than $20 million of his own money and the McCain camp believes, at that point, he would look in the mirror and say, is this investment worth it? If you lose Iowa, lose the neighboring state of New Hampshire when you were the governor of Massachusetts and then lose your birth date of Michigan, is it worth going on?

So that is the McCain camp's knockout strategy: win in New Hampshire and win in Michigan. That's a lot for Senator McCain to deliver on. But there is no question that Governor Romney, at the moment, is the pinata in this race. He had the big leads, early, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

And they just don't like him. Fred Thompson and John McCain are great friends. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain are good friends. They tend to get along. Governor Huckabee is new to these people, but they like him, too. Why is an interesting question. But they simply do not like Mitt Romney and that is showing more and more.

BLITZER: And Mike Huckabee, the big story coming out of Iowa, for the Republicans, he won the Iowa caucuses, beating Mitt Romney.

In our new CNN opinion research -- CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll, right now, this poll taken after the Iowa caucuses, McCain still atop at 33 percent; Romney, 27 percent; Giuliani, 14 percent; Huckabee, 11 percent; Ron Paul, 9 percent.

Let's talk about Mike Huckabee for a second. Some are already suggesting, you know what? It was a one-state wonder for him, Iowa, and he's really not going to be able to take that momentum and do much with it.

What do you think?

BORGER: Well, New Hampshire is not a state tailor-made for Mike Huckabee. There are not a lot population of evangelical Christians, which, of course, helped him, substantially, to win the state of Iowa.

There's 45 percent independent voters. Those voters are going to be split between Obama and McCain. So Huckabee has to run on his shtick, on his authenticity, on being an outsider, on being a different kind of candidate. But this isn't his state. South Carolina, however, might be. So don't count him out.

TOOBIN: But the other thing about Huckabee is that you know, having listened to the entire two hours -- and it was a pretty long two hours for the Republicans. I didn't think it was a lot -- it was terribly scintillating. But there were not a lot of issue differences among the candidates.

And I think that's to Huckabee's benefit. You know, the idea that he's some sort of outsider, you know, very different from the other candidates, if you didn't know a lot about their backgrounds and just listened to what they said, there were not a lot of differences on the issues, and all you saw in that case was his charm, which is considerable.

BLITZER: Do you think, John, in New Hampshire, he's going to get a momentum bump out of Iowa? KING: There's a great deal of fascination about him. Because he is Iowa's winner and he is relatively unknown because he has not spent as much time here in New Hampshire as many of the other candidates, although he is drawing big crowds.

The test for him here, Wolf, is can he jump ahead of Rudy Giuliani and place third here?

If Mike Huckabee could do that, he would consider that at least a moral victory. And he's drawing good crowds. And that would be a defeat for Giuliani if that happened.

Gloria is right. South Carolina is the next fertile territory. But there also are a lot of Christian conservatives in the state of Michigan. So, look, he could potentially surprise there, as well.

The interesting question, going forward, perhaps the most interesting question in the race right now, is, if McCain wins here in New Hampshire and becomes essentially the alternative to Huckabee, as you go South, down into South Carolina, these two men have gotten along nicely; they have teamed up to beat up on Mitt Romney.

They have big differences on national security and other issues. Will they do that politely or will they end up turning into a more bitter, contentious back and forth?

I talked to McCain about this the other day. He says it will be polite. He believes Huckabee will be polite. He believes that will be good for the party and good for the country.

But a McCain-Huckabee match-up, heading South, in the state where McCain went off the tracks in 2000, could be fascinating.

BORGER: I think -- I agree with John. I think it's going to be polite. But the issue is going to be experience. And McCain against Huckabee will be, with all due respect -- I love you, Mike Huckabee, but I have the experience in foreign policy, in particular, to be the president of the United States.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of people thought that Rudy Giuliani would do really well -- this was months ago -- in New Hampshire, sort of, tailor-made, a lot of independents, moderate Republicans.

He's not necessarily going to do all that well in New Hampshire.

TOOBIN: He's almost written it off. He put on commercials and then went down in the polls.

He also, for awhile, was campaigning pretty hard in South Carolina; appears to be writing that off, now, as well and putting all his chips on Florida.

But that's not out of the question for him. I mean, the incredible thing about the Republican race is that there are still five candidates, including Fred Thompson, who are still in the game. And you know, that's really never happened before in our lifetime. BORGER: But if Giuliani had played in New Hampshire, it might have been a smart thing because there are those independent voters that are ripe for the picking for like someone like Rudy Giuliani who is considered more moderate, although he doesn't say that.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask John, and then we'll take a break.

John, why did Giuliani basically walk away from New Hampshire?

KING: Such a fascinating question, Wolf. Because he could play off the support for abortion rights here, because Republicans here are more pro-choice than even Democrats across most of the country.

He could play up his fiscal conservatism here because this is the anti-tax state.

Many believe he chose not to invest heavily here because he was worried about a fight with a very active group in the state of New Hampshire, the gun owners of New Hampshire.

KING: Many believe he did not want to have that fight early because he was worried about the price he might pay in later states in the South. But, you know, maybe Rudy Giuliani will prove his strategy brilliant. But he has been slipping and slipping from the mix, if you will. He's not involved in the debate and his numbers nationally have fallen precipitously, especially among conservatives. So, he's in a lot of trouble.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We're going to take a look at the Democrats. What happened out of Iowa, what's likely to happen in New Hampshire. That's coming up, as well. The best political team on television. And up next as well, our "in case you missed it" segment. If you missed some of the other Sunday morning talk shows, we're going to present some of the highlights.

CNN, by the way, later tonight will present back-to-back presidential debates, the Republicans, the Democrats. The ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates. Our special CNN replay 7 p.m. eastern. "Late Edition" continues right after this.


BLITZER: Check back with our reporters out covering the campaign in New Hampshire. Mary Snow has been looking at the Republican candidates. She's outside a Nashua town-hall meeting where Mitt Romney is scheduling an event. I guess it's supposed to begin any minute now, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. And Mitt Romney arrived just a few minutes ago.

And he arrived to a group of supporters cheering him. A very different reception or scene than last night when he was at the debates. The heated exchanges you've been talking about, particularly with his chief rival here, Senator John McCain, over the issue of illegal immigration.

It's been such a heated issue here in New Hampshire. Also, Mitt Romney admitting this morning that he really didn't know that the word "amnesty" was used in an ad that attacks John McCain on his immigration reform bill. This, as Mitt Romney's trying to put the best spin on what happened last night, being the target of so many barbs from not only John McCain, Mike Huckabee, even Rudy Giuliani.

He says the guy with the ball is the one they're trying to tackle, trying to say look, I am the front-runner. However, he's been coming under enormous pressure. Polls show that he may not keep -- he is in second place to John McCain. That is not a position he was banking on when he came in with his strategy.

He was hoping to take Iowa and then New Hampshire. He says in terms of his personal fortune, he's spent more than he had hoped for, but not more than he's willing to. So certainly he's trying to stay in this race. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching the Republicans for us in New Hampshire. Thanks very much. And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here in the United States.

On Fox and NBC, Republican presidential rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney who have been trading some serious verbal jabs lately, offered their assessments of each other. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I frankly don't think that the Republican Party is going to nominate John McCain. I don't think they're going to nominate a person who voted against the Bush tax cuts and who consistently says he would do that same vote the same way again. He'd continue to vote against the Bush tax cuts. We're a tax-cutting party. He's not a tax-cutting leader.



MCCAIN: But I think he's a good man, a good family.

TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Has he been consistent in his views?

MCCAIN: He has changed his positions on almost every major issue. That is a fact. I can chronicle it for you. But that doesn't mean that he isn't a good person.


BLITZER: On ABC, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made it clear he thinks his party's contest is down to him and Senator Barack Obama.


EDWARDS: The voters here in New Hampshire and in all the future states need an unfiltered debate between the two of us about who can best bring about change.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want a two-person race.

EDWARDS: I want a debate with -- listen, I like Senator Obama very much. We do have basic general view that's very similar. But I have a very different view than he does about how we bring about change.


BLITZER: Highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows here on "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. We'll take a quick break. We'll be back with the best political team on television in a moment. We'll talk about the Democrats. What's going on?

And on the eve of New Hampshire's primary, stay with CNN for back-to-back debates. First the Republicans, then the Democrats. The ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates. It's an unprecedented CNN special replay. Our coverage begins 7 p.m. eastern, later tonight on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Once again we're joined by Gloria Borger and Jeff Toobin. They're with us here at the CNN election center in New York. And John King, he's in Portsmouth, New Hampshire watching all of this unfold.

BLITZER: Here's a little clip from the ABC News presidential debate from last night, involving Senator Clinton. Listen to this.


CLINTON: Well, that hurts my feelings.

(UNKNOWN): I'm sorry, Senator. I'm sorry.

CLINTON: But I'll try to go on.

In 2000, we unfortunately ended up with a president who people said they wanted to have a beer with. Who said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. Who said that he had his intuition, and he was going to, you know, really come in to the White House and transform the country.

And you know, at least I think there are the majority of Americans who think that was not the right choice.


BLITZER: The senator responding to surveys suggesting that Barack Obama was more likable than she was, and she said, well, that hurts my feelings. John, what do you think about this whole issue of likability versus experience versus the person who could bring change?

There's a lot of stuff going on out there that are clearly affecting a lot of voters.

KING: And it's unclear whether Senator Clinton can turn the tide, Wolf. She is a remarkable politician. She has up to certain points run an effective tactical campaign.

But there is momentum in politics, and there are moments in politics. There's no question that Barack Obama has the momentum right now. But sometimes you can stop momentum. It is hard to stop a moment.

And he has inspiring crowds. He is telling them, let's do something different. Let's bring the parties together.

And if you watch what is happening right now, this has been a long campaign. The candidates started early because there were so many candidates and the stakes were so high. And people are getting tired of the campaign, and who is rising up? The candidates who appear different, and the candidates who talk about reaching across and working with the other party, compromising and getting things done.

Whether it is Obama or Huckabee or McCain, the three guys moving up right now are the three guys who say they would do things most differently. And Senator Clinton is trying to tactically stop somebody who has not only the momentum at the moment, but the spirit of the voters in Iowa, and increasingly you see it on the ground in New Hampshire. So, a very tough task for her, and it's not all her fault.

TOOBIN: There was a moment in the debate which I thought was so real, when Hillary Clinton, in an almost angry way, said you want to talk about change. I got 7,000 kids insurance, health insurance in New Hampshire. I got 2,000 veterans health insurance. That's real change.

And it was almost like she was speaking in prose and Barack Obama was speaking in poetry. Maybe it's a poetry moment. But you know, that is not a trivial thing that Hillary Clinton is raising. Real accomplishments for real people.

BLITZER: Was she too aggressive, though, last night in terms of going after Barack Obama and John Edwards for that matter?

BORGER: Well, there were two Hillary Clintons at this debate last night. The first half of the debate was the angry, frustrated Hillary Clinton who said, look at me, look at me. I embody change. That's a quote.

I'm a woman, if that isn't change, I don't know what is. I've enacted change. And all the rest.

The second half was somebody I think must have told her to smile a little bit when she got that likability question. She was sort of smiling.

TOOBIN: It was a charming answer.

BORGER: Very charming. Oh, you hurt my feelings. You can sense the stresses on her campaign in her performance last night because she was trying to be two people. And that's tough, because Obama has been the same person from the start of this campaign to the point we are now.

BLITZER: Let me play a little clip of what Barack Obama said Thursday night after he won the Iowa caucus.


OBAMA: They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, John, he won in Iowa. If he wins Tuesday night in New Hampshire, and he wins decisively, similarly to what he did in Iowa, what does that mean? Where do we go from here?

KING: It means he's the overwhelming front-runner and would be incredibly hard to stop, Wolf. Senator Clinton is very tenacious. Senator Edwards says he will go on.

But you move from here to Nevada, where you have the first significant minority participation in the process. And then you move to South Carolina, where roughly half the Democratic electorate will be African American. Senator Clinton has significant institutional support among African Americans in South Carolina.

But you tell me how an African American politician goes into the community, after Barack Obama has won in Iowa and won in New Hampshire, and says you have to work against Barack Obama. Nobody thinks that dynamic can happen.

So if he wins New Hampshire and goes out of here with a head of steam, it's very hard to see how tactically she stops him. Wolf, he has a remarkable moment right now. The question is, does he have the stature and the skills to sustain it?

If you look at our new poll here in New Hampshire, his numbers are off the charts among Republicans. They like him. They think there's something interesting going on, and they're coming to his events, even Republicans who say they'll vote for somebody else are coming to see Barack Obama.

Stopping that is very hard to do. And Senator Clinton has two days here in New Hampshire and then maybe an even tougher fight if she loses here to do it. It will get even tougher after New Hampshire.

BORGER: You know, John, actually, I think the most interesting fight that's going on in New Hampshire, tell me if you agree with me, is the one between John McCain and Barack Obama.

Because they're both going for those independent voters. And they're both trying to sound post-partisan to attract these independent voters. And I think that's where the most interesting fight is right now.

KING: It is fascinating. I talked to McCain about this briefly yesterday. I said, how would a Barack Obama/McCain race be different than a Hillary Clinton/McCain race. And on camera, all he wanted to say is they're both left-of-center liberals.

But they are fascinated by this. And what Senator McCain is saying is that he thinks it would be good for the country because he promises it would be civil.

But McCain is in an interesting spot. If he is the resurgent candidate out of here, and he says you want change, look what I did. I changed the campaign finance laws in this country. You want change, look what I did. I changed the Iraq strategy in this country. But he's a 71-year-old man. Can he be the candidate for change, up against the 40-something Barack Obama? That would be an amazing and remarkable general election.

BLITZER: Very quickly. We have 10 seconds.

TOOBIN: You say that Barack Obama hasn't changed. I think he's changed a lot. I think he's a much better candidate than he was earlier. I mean he's very good at these debates. And I thought it was a very impressive performance by him.

BORGER: But he's emphasizing the same issue set. He hasn't tried to morph what he stands for. He's just better.

TOOBIN: He was presidential last night, which he had not been in earlier debates. He was very imp...

BORGER: And tired.

TOOBIN: And tired. They're all tired.

BLITZER: We've got to go, guys. Thanks very much, Gloria, Jeff and John.

If you'd like a recap of today's program, by the way, you can get highlights on our "Late Edition" podcast. Simply go to You also don't want to miss our CNN special replay of the dramatic ABC presidential debates. That airs tonight, 7 p.m. eastern. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer at CNN's election center in New York. For our international viewers, world news is next. For our North American viewers, CNN's special election coverage of the ballot bowl begins right now.