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McCain Wins Florida; Interview With New York Senator Hillary Clinton

Aired January 29, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And less than 24 hours from now, John McCain will be on this stage here at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, sitting where right now the best political team on California is sitting. Bill Bennett, as you listened to that speech, he talked about Ronald Reagan. He talked about judges. He talked about the road ahead. The work begins tomorrow. What work does John McCain now have to do to reach out to conservatives?
BILL BENNETT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He has to talk to conservatives. From The line about judges, it sounds to me as if that was an effort to begin that conversation. The anger and bitterness at John McCain is extraordinary among a lot of conservatives. There are, I think, one or two conservative talk show hosts -- I'm one of them -- who have said nice things, praised John McCain, certainly where it's deserved, though noting disagreement.

But many of the talk show hosts and many of the people who listen are just angry.

COOPER: Rush Limbaugh famously --

BENNETT: Right, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity has been pretty tough on him. I went an hour and 20 minutes on my talk show this morning, basically a center/right audience, before someone called and said something nice about McCain.

COOPER: An hour an 20 minutes?

BENNETT: Yes. He has got to -- we were pretty much restricting it to folks who had been involved in the process, who are active in the process. He's got to reach out. You don't want the prospect of a convention...


BENNETT: He will -- of a convention where a lot of the conservative base is unhappy. He has to make the distinction. It's John McCain, so you know you're not going to get everything you want.

But he can say, I'm willing, on principle, to compromise. I'm not willing to compromise on principle, but let's talk.

COOPER: I also want to bring in Donna Brazile for the first time this evening.

Donna, it's good to have you here. John McCain, as he considers running against Hillary Clinton or running against Barack Obama, what are the different calibrations he has to make?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, John McCain has too unify the Republican audience and ensure that they won't attack him for his position on immigration and perhaps his non- support of the Bush tax cuts.

I think, going forward, the Democrats clearly can talk about the economy, whether the party has an edge on not just the Republicans, but also Senator McCain. And whether it's Obama or Clinton, I think the Democrats are well positioned to have this fight.

Look, there is no question that John McCain has a strong resume. He is seen an effective leader. He is seen as maverick. He is seen as someone who can draw independents. So, it will be an uphill battle. But I'm convinced, at the end oft day, the Democrats could still carry the day.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, when John King was going through that map, what I keep looking at was coalition building.

I kept seeing in terms of what kind of coalition can he build in November? Absolutely he must be able to reach out to conservatives who have a problem with him. I was getting some text messages from conservatives who said, look, tonight did not clear up that answer.

But the wild card here is this. If Senator Hillary Clinton is the nominee, she serves that purpose.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

MARTIN: She serves a purpose to harden conservatives. I just think they dislike her more than they dislike McCain.


MARTIN: Now, granted, he still must reach out to them, but conservatives also must answer their critical question. Do you want to be hard-core and principled that you don't hold on to the White House?

BORGER: This isn't a fight that just started yesterday with John McCain and conservatives.

This is a fight that has sort of gone on a long time. And he's not a fellow who sort of says, OK, your way. He fights his fights. And sometimes he makes people really, really angry. We noticed tonight sitting around this table that he didn't seem to mention Mitt Romney in that speech. And that -- unless we missed something.

MARTIN: Right.

BORGER: But is a little bit of John McCain there.

BENNETT: That's right.

BORGER: And he has got that fight in him. And you know he is going to reach out. You know he is going to try and build those bridges. But the question is, will conservatives trust him? And the other question is, of course, where do they go?

COOPER: John King in New York, John, what does the road ahead for John McCain look like?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the road ahead is Super Tuesday.

But I want to quickly look at the map of Florida, because to the very point you're talking tonight, there is no question John McCain faces a skeptical conservative base.

But I want you to look at the sweep of his victory here tonight. These are the counties won by John McCain in Florida. Now, we're at 76 percent. There's still some vote coming in.

But many thought Governor Romney would win in here. There are swing voters, conservatives in the Republican primary. But this is the part of Florida that will settle a very close, competitive election, if it is a competitive election, in November. John McCain did very well along the I-4 Corridor, incredibly well, including winning up in the Orlando area, down through the Tampa area.

This is what settles Florida in a close general election. McCain did very well. Now, you're talking about his problem with conservatives. This is not liberal country. This is just south of Georgia, just south of Alabama. John McCain is winning all the way across. Romney wins Jacksonville. McCain wins everything else, all the way over to Pensacola.

Those are conservative voters. They are Christian conservatives. They are evangelicals. They are rural Republicans. And, so, he not completed the sale tonight. He has a great deal of skepticism to come ahead. But that is a fairly sweeping win for John McCain.

And we're looking at Florida right here tonight. You are all talking about what comes next. And there is, on Super Tuesday. There are more states like Florida, in terms of the composition of the Republican Party on this map, than there are states that are more, say, like Georgia and Alabama, where you have a much more conservative base, fundamental conservatives base. And the problem for Mitt Romney going forward, they view this -- the Romney campaign views this as a two-man race now.

Well, the most conservative states on this map are the states where Mike Huckabee is going to play. He was in Missouri tonight, the right-to-life movement in southern Missouri, these Southern states, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee.

So, as Romney tries to establish himself as the conservative alternative to John McCain, number one, we expect Giuliani to endorse McCain as early as tomorrow. And, number two, Governor Romney, in trying to seek the conservative territory, not only will have to deal with McCain's outreach to conservatives, but will still have to deal with Governor Huckabee across the South.

BENNETT: Very tough for Romney, very tough.

COOPER: Very tough for Romney, Bill Bennett is saying.

We are going to take a short break.

On the other side of this break, Wolf Blitzer will be talking to Hillary Clinton. Interesting. She canceled a number of interviews last night, both with CNN and the other networks. Apparently, tonight, she feels she wants to be available, touting no doubt what she calls her big win in Florida. We will from her shortly in a moment.

Stay tuned.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're here at the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Joining us now from Florida is Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate. She's got a big smile on her face because of Florida.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Wolf. It's great to talk to you.

BLITZER: Well, Barack and a lot of other Democrats say, you know what, you won in Florida, but, really, it has no significance because no delegates from Florida will be going to the Democratic convention in Denver. The candidates, you, yourself, you couldn't campaign there. Barack Obama couldn't. John Edwards couldn't.

So, why is this a big deal?

CLINTON: Well, it's a really big deal, because Florida is a big deal, just like Michigan before it. These are two states that Democrats have to try to win in November.

And I am thrilled that so many Floridians came out to vote today, you know, several million, apparently. And we had a tremendous turnout in the Democratic primary.

Obviously, the people of Florida thought this counted. And I have said that I will do everything I can, if I'm the nominee, to make sure that the Florida delegates are seated, because I want people in Florida to feel empowered and part of this process.

We're going to need people to be excited about this election, and I'm going to do everything I can to convince my delegates and others to vote to seat the Florida delegates, as well. BLITZER: If it's a very close contest in Denver at the Democratic convention, a brokered convention, as they call it, and those Florida and Michigan delegates could be decisive, would you go to court to get them seated?

CLINTON: Oh, Wolf, this is all pretty premature. We don't even know who the nominee is going to be yet.

But I just want to underscore the principle here. It is both a matter of principle that we let people have their voices heard. And I think that, in the case of both Michigan and now Florida, people turned out.

Nobody campaigned. We didn't have the opportunity to ask for their votes, but they obviously felt so strongly about this election. And the reason is because there's so much at stake.

You know, the challenges are huge. And I think we need every American to feel a part of this year, because, as the election moves forward, we're going to hopefully have a huge turnout in November which will give us the support we need to make some of the tough decisions that will await the next president.

BLITZER: John McCain is the winner on the Republican side. You know him quite well. In fact, your husband, the former president, says if it were, if it were a contest between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, it would probably be the most cordial in history, given your very good relationship with him, the fact that you don't necessarily disagree on a lot of the substantive issues.

Is Bill Clinton right about that? Do you have such a great relationship with John McCain?

CLINTON: Well, I have a very good one. And I look forward, if that is the case, to campaigning on the issues. There are big differences between us. Obviously, we have different approaches about what we should do here at home and around the world.

But I think the American people are hungry for an election about specifics. I want to be held accountable, Wolf. That's why I talk very specifically about what I want to do when it comes to the economy, and education, energy, health care, because I want people to know that, when the cameras are turned off and the speeches are done, I'm going to do everything I can to deliver for the American people, to help us fix our problems, because, otherwise, I think we're going to continue to drift. And I don't think that's healthy for our country.

BLITZER: Is former President Clinton, your husband, since South Carolina, taking a sort of kinder, gentler tone now? Have we seen a shift in your strategy and his?

CLINTON: Wolf, you know, he has always been a great promoter and defender of mine, as the spouses of the other candidates are, as well. And he has certainly a record that proves his commitment to civil rights, and human rights, and women's rights, and so many of the other big issues of the last decades.

I take responsibility for my campaign. If anything was said by anyone that caused any offense, you know, I certainly am sorry for that, because it was certainly not intended. But what is intended is that we stay focused on the big issues affecting the American people. You know, I think Americans remember that, when Bill was in the White House, he got up every day, went to work on behalf of the people of this country.

That's the kind of president that I want to be, representing everyone, you know, rolling up my sleeves, solving problems, and bringing the country together.

BLITZER: We heard President Bush last night tell Congress -- and you were there -- that the state of the union remains strong.

What is your assessment of the state of the union right now?

CLINTON: Well, the state of the union is not a speech once a year by the president. It's, you know, what's in the hearts and minds of the American people.

And, of course, we are a resilient country, but, as I travel around, talking with people in their homes, in restaurants and other gathering places, I have a lot of -- you know, I hear a lot of insecurity. I hear a lot of people worried about losing their homes to foreclosure, or losing their health care, or not getting their insurance company to pay for what the doctor says they need, or, after having saved, still not having enough to send their child to college.

So, I think that the president's view of what's happening in the country is not the one that I have. And that's why, again, in this campaign, I have talked very specifically about how we're going to get the economy going and create new jobs, with rising incomes, how we're going to have health care for everybody and a new energy policy that will make us independent and more secure, and deal with global warming.

And, you know, all of these matters are not ones that, you know, I sit in a room and say, "Well, this is a good idea." It's what people tell me. I listen, and I learn from what's going on in the lives of the American people.

And I don't think that what we heard last night really reflects the real concerns that Americans have today.

BLITZER: All right, one final question. I know our time is brief.

You're president. Let's assume you become president of the United States. Day one in the Oval Office, what's the first thing -- what's your top priority? What's the first thing you do?

CLINTON: Well, I have outlined -- number one, I will ask my Joint Chiefs and secretary of defense and security advisers to begin working immediately on a plan to bring our troops home within 60 days. I will reverse a lot of the executive orders that I think gave too much power to the presidency, at the expense of the rest of our government and the rights and civil liberties of the American people. I will immediately ask the Congress to send me bills that President Bush vetoed, like the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, and stem cell research.

And I will send a message around the world that we're going to start working to find common ground and rebuilding our relationships and alliances, and, of course, begin to work with Congress on the agenda that I have put forth in this campaign that I think would make our country, you know, safer and stronger and richer and fairer as we go forward.

BLITZER: It sounds like you would have a very, very busy day on that first day in the Oval Office, Senator.

CLINTON: I would, Wolf.


BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much for -- for coming in. Congratulations on your win in Florida, even though you don't get any delegates. We will see what happens next Tuesday. We will see you at the Democratic presidential debate that I will be moderating in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theatre Thursday night.

Thanks very much.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, joining us.

Let's get some analysis on what we just heard from another Democrat, Donna Brazile, who is joining us in Washington, the campaign manager for Al Gore back in 2000, a friend of the Clinton, friend of Barack Obama.

Does Senator Clinton have a point when she says she will try to get those Democrats seated, the delegates from Michigan and Florida seated, at the Democratic Convention in Denver? Does she have a point? Is she on solid ground? Because you're a leader in the DNC. You basically stripped those two states of the right to seat delegates.

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, the two states can come to the credentials committee once that committee is put together to appeal to have their delegates seated, once they come up with a process to select delegates.

In previous election cycles, 2000, in Washington State, they had a beauty contest. And, a few weeks later, they held a caucus, so that they could come up with a delegate selection process. So, I think Senator Clinton and others should encourage the state of Florida to comply with the rules and to go ahead and come up with a process, so that we can seat those delegates come this summer.

Look, the Democratic National Committee did not prohibit the candidates from campaigning in Florida. The candidates signed a pledge to the four early states that they would not campaign in Florida. But, going forward, I do believe that the party will encourage all of the states, not just Michigan and Florida, to comply with the rules, so that we can seat all of the state conventions and ensure that we will have a unified convention and a unified party going forward.

BLITZER: Senator Clinton says her win in Florida is a big deal. Senator Barack Obama says it's no deal no big deal at all, because he couldn't campaign there. She didn't campaign. John Edwards didn't campaign. And they all basically got the same number of Florida delegates, which is zero.

BRAZILE: Well...

BLITZER: They all emerged tonight with zero delegates in Florida.

Where do you where do you come down on this?

BRAZILE: Well, it gives Senator Clinton bragging rights. It energizes her supporters in the states that will hold contests next Tuesday. It will help her raise money.

And, quite frankly, it has enabled her to get back on message. What we heard tonight was Senator Clinton's voice. She was talking about the economy. She was talking about what she would do on day one.

I think that is what Senator Clinton hoped to accomplish tonight, and she did. So, I think, going forward, Senator Obama, Senator Edwards and others, of course, Senator Clinton, must continue to talk about the issues, galvanize people.

One other point I wanted to make, Wolf and I haven't seen all of the turnout figures but it appears that the Republicans had an edge tonight; 1.6 million Floridians showed up. But, with no contest on the Democratic side, over 1.3 million Democrats. That is pretty impressive. That says that the Democrats are still in the game and still in the hunt for those 27 electoral votes this fall.

BLITZER: Our CNN analyst Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, Donna, thanks very much. We will get back with you.

Once again, "The Big Story" tonight, John McCain the winner of the Republican presidential primary, beating Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani coming in maybe third, maybe fourth, with 80 percent of the precincts now reporting, Rudy Giuliani still third with 15 to Mike Huckabee's 14 percent.

But it's clear that this is a huge, huge loss for him. We're standing by to hear what he has to say.

Anderson Cooper is coming up right after a quick break with the best political team on television.

And we're going to take the road ahead to next Tuesday, Super Tuesday, when perhaps 50 percent of the country will have an opportunity to get involved in the Republican and Democratic presidential contests.

Much more ahead on our special coverage right after this.


COOPER: One of the many questions tonight that we are following is what happens to Rudy Giuliani.

Let's check in with John King, who has some more information on that.

John, what have you heard?

KING: Well, Anderson, two Republican sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell CNN that the former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, will endorse John McCain in California tomorrow.

To do that, of course, he will end his presidential campaign and drop out of the race for the Republican nomination. Again, this information comes from two Republican sources who are involved and familiar with the discussions about making all this happen.

You heard Mayor Giuliani tonight conceding the race in Florida, most of his speech delivered in the past tense. He did not, though, say in that speech that he planned to end his campaign. But we are told, again, by these two sources, reliable sources familiar and involved in the discussions, that the arrangements have been made between the McCain campaign and the Giuliani campaign.

The mayor will fly to California. And we are told he will endorse John McCain in California. We're trying to get the exact details of the event, but, obviously, this would be a big boost for McCain coming off his big win in Florida tonight to get that endorsement before the big Republican debate you will be hosting out in California tomorrow night.

Obviously, it removes Rudy Giuliani from the stage once he drops out of the race. But the McCain camp believes it will help in California, where Giuliani was running third, I believe around 13 percent in our most recent polls. And it will give him somebody with a national profile who, we are told from the McCain side of this equation, is likely to campaign for McCain in the days and weeks ahead.

So, Senator McCain emerges from Florida not only considered by all in his party, but also by most in the Democratic Party, as now the clear Republican front-runner, and these sources telling us he will get a big endorsement from Mayor Giuliani tomorrow, as Giuliani ends what has to be a very disappointing campaign, Anderson, at least $35 million in spending and no victories to show for it.

COOPER: John King saying it removes Rudy Giuliani from the stage -- here in the Reagan Library, quite literally removes him from the stage.


BORGER: Right.

COOPER: We have a table built for five candidates.


COOPER: Obviously, we will take one chair away. I'm not sure if we can saw off the end of the table or not.


COOPER: But we will see what we can do by tomorrow night.

Gloria Borger, you wanted to clarify something you said earlier?

BORGER: Yes, I want to clarify something, because I stand corrected.

John McCain did indeed offer his best wishes to Governor Romney and his supporters. He was quite gracious about it. As you know, that is probably the last nice thing he's going to say about Governor Romney.


COOPER: It has been very contentious between the two over the last couple days.

BORGER: But, on the Giuliani front, those two are friends. They have liked each other, obviously, as John was talking about, Super Tuesday, New Jersey, New York, two very big winner-take-all states that Giuliani can help McCain with.

However, there is a little bit of a downside to this, which is, what are conservatives going to think? Because Rudy Giuliani is no conservative hero. And they might say, oh, this is a great team, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain? Not so much.

COOPER: Let's check in with Bill Bennett, a conservative right here.

BENNETT: I have got to be at a radio studio at 2:30 this morning.



BENNETT: So, I will answer that question, and then I will go to bed. Or I will try to answer that, because -- advice to John McCain, advice to conservatives.

To John McCain, start to do the following kinds of things. Start to talk about people like Senator Coburn from Oklahoma as someone you're thinking about. Have him travel around, very strong fiscal conservative.


COOPER: As someone you're thinking about for...

BENNETT: Sure, for vice president.

COOPER: For vice president.

BENNETT: Get the word out.

Go to the border. Stand there and say, I know people disagreed with me on immigration, but we are going to seal this border. We're going to get this thing right. And then we will talk about other things to do.

That's a condition of credibility, seal the border. And then continue to say, as he has been saying, I will defend the country and win this war. And stop talking so much about Rumsfeld and talk more about Democrats, who were never for this war or who wouldn't support it.

To conservatives, they need to be reminded that John McCain is pro-life. He is a hawk on spending, pork-barrel spending. And he is a strong defense conservative. And the other things conservatives need to realize is, he is likely to be the candidate, so they need to think hard about that. And both sides hopefully can meet in the middle.

COOPER: Roland Martin.

MARTIN: Of course, that line in the speech when he mentioned judges.

I mean, look, I know conservatives that like the guy, but they are right now sitting one seat away from having a majority on the Supreme Court. And if Clinton is the nominee, or even if Obama -- let's say Democrats win -- the next president may very well appoint three choices to the Supreme Court. I just don't think conservatives are going to be that hard-core, recognizing that they could potentially lock up the Supreme Court for the next generation.

COOPER: Bill Bennett's radio program is "Morning in America."

BENNETT: Thank you.

COOPER: I know he's got to take off for that.

We will listen tomorrow morning. We will hear from the tomorrow night after the debate here on the stage.

BENNETT: Roland made a very good point. And, notice, in his very short speech...


BENNETT: ... he mentioned judges.

MARTIN: Right. That's going to be key.

BENNETT: Roland is on to something very important.


COOPER: And a lot of talk about Ronald Reagan as well.

BORGER: But -- right, but this is all about the way the Republican Party is changing.

Here we are, at the Reagan Library, but it's moving post-Reagan. And the party is not quite sure where to go. And that's what this is about.

COOPER: Let's bring in -- in New York...


COOPER: ... let's bring in David Gergen, who has joined us for this hour.

David, good evening to you.

This is the first time we have heard from you tonight. Your thoughts.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I hesitate to disagree with Bill Bennett, but I would like to make one point about John McCain.

It seems to me, more important than whether he makes gestures to the right or to the left, is to be himself. What is really working for John McCain is, he seems more authentic tonight. And I think people are looking for authenticity. It makes him a stronger candidate in the fall.

He went off to his right at one point and seemed to be pandering to the conservatives in a variety of different ways early on in the campaign, when the campaign spiraled downward, not upward, so that, in that sense, I think the notes he struck in that speech tonight were terrific for him, both with the party and with the broader electorate.

You know, Churchill had this motto: in defeat, defiance, in victory, magnanimity. And John McCain was extremely magnanimous in that speech tonight, you know, saluting Mitt Romney, saluting the others, having special words of warmth for Rudy Giuliani.

And I think, in that sense, what McCain is presenting himself as is a person who can be the uniter. And it was interesting tonight that Hillary Clinton, in talking to Wolf, went back to her warmer, more gracious self, because I think she now sees that that contentious, combative self that she sometimes displayed and her husband displayed is not very helpful in this kind of campaign.

COOPER: At this point, though, with all that has been said between Mitt Romney and John McCain over the last several days, the battles back and forth over Iraq, their positions on that, the battles back and forth over who is a real conservative, allegations of each of them -- by each of them that the other is a liberal, can they go back now to a more civil tone, or is the die cast on this one between those two?

GERGEN: I have to say that I think that, for John McCain, if he thinks he has the edge in California and New York, as he problem will, and, very importantly, if he can bring in the money -- that is going to be the big, big question, because he hasn't been able to open the spigots so far.

But tonight's victory should help a great deal in that. If he has the money and he has the edge, I would think that he does not want to get too down and dirty in a campaign to get -- you know, let Romney be the one who seems highly combative. He can go above it and still -- and use a stiletto, and not a sledgehammer, when he goes after Romney.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, also in New York, you agree with that, Amy?


But I -- there -- we do know there is so much bad blood between these two candidates. And I think tomorrow night is going to be a pretty sharp discussion and sharp debate, especially that we saw that the voters in Florida thought that McCain was stronger on the economy. So, we know Mitt Romney is going to try to regain that ground.

But I would also like to point that, tonight, in John McCain's speech, while he was glowing with the thrill of victory, right at the very top, he took proud ownership of winning among Republicans in an all-Republican primary. That was very important for John McCain.

And while we talked about his conservative outreach, his conservative appeal, he has started the process, back in 2006 he gave the commencement address at Liberty University, at Jerry Falwell's invitation. So he is trying to make those overtures. But you look at the polling data in Florida, and it is very interesting when you look at conservatives.

We know that Romney won among conservatives. He won among evangelicals. He tied with Huckabee. Romney won the pro-lifers, even though John McCain has a 100-percent pro-life record.

As everyone has said today, what pushed McCain over the edge is that he won big with the people who looked at personal qualities. And in that all-important area that John King was talking about before on the map of Tampa, the "Tampa Tribune" and the "St. Pete's Times" both endorsed McCain precisely because of his personal virtues.

COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, it was interesting watching Rudy Giuliani speak tonight, though. It was not officially a concession speech. He has not officially announced that he's leaving the race, although reporting by John King says he will, based on two sources close to the camps.

Rudy Giuliani appeared more relaxed and having more fun than I think anyone has seen him on the campaign trail in quite some time.

TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, this campaign was a wall-to-wall disaster for Rudy Giuliani. I mean, there was nothing good that happened to him after -- after the fall. And he did not seem all that interested. He seemed somewhat more interesting than Fred Thompson, but that's not saying much.

And the campaign, you know, was precipitous downhill all fall. And, you know, a big problem is his Republican Party doesn't really exist anymore. There used to be pro-choice people in the Republican Party. There used to be pro-immigration rights -- immigration rights people in the Republican Party. They're gone. This is a southern and western party now that has a real orthodoxy in it, and it -- there's no room for people like Rudy Giuliani.

HOLMES: I do have to disagree with that point about the pro- choicers. In fact in Florida, 44 percent of those Republican voters were pro-choicers. They think abortion should be legal. And John McCain did very well among those voters.

But you know, watching Giuliani tonight, it reminded me of Bob Dole back in 1996. I don't know if you remember. He went on Letterman the night after he lost to Bill Clinton, and all of a sudden, he was funny. He was relaxed. He was terrific. And Letterman looked at him. He said, "Why didn't you do this before?"

So unfortunately, for Giuliani tonight, it was too little too late.

BORGER: Giuliani's problem, I think, was that he had to run way to the right, and he's just not a way-to-the-right candidate. At the end in Florida, he was running as someone who would cut your taxes more than any of the other candidates.

And that's not what Rudy Giuliani's campaign was about. It was about terrorism. It was about 9/11, and that's his bond, of course, with John McCain. I think this is fight inside the Republican Party right now that Bennett was talking about. And we're going to see it played out in this election.

COOPER: And John King, just for those of us -- for those viewers who may just be joining us, what are you hearing from your sources about Rudy Giuliani going out on the campaign trail? Is it just going to be in the northeast? Is it more widespread? Do we know? KING: We know that that is part of the discussion tonight, Anderson. The sources who tell us about these discussions say the endorsement will come in California tomorrow and that in the conversations the McCain camp, as part of the encouragement to Giuliani, has said that Senator McCain would very much like Rudy Giuliani to become part of the campaign, to become a campaign surrogate.

Where that would take place is an interesting question going forward. You've had all the conversations with Bill, and Gloria, and David and others about Rudy Giuliani has appeal among voters who put terrorism first. He has great personal appeal. He is obviously not known as a cultural conservative, a social conservative. But could he be an asset? Of course, he could be, in some areas. He could also help with some fundraising that John McCain very much needs right now.

So as to specifically where, we know it will begin in California, where you have a more moderate Republican Party, a strong conservative base but also a moderate wing of the Republican Party. And then we'll see where it goes from there. And part of the calculation here is, remember, 20 states vote on February 5.

Still, the more high-profile surrogates you have to go to the northeast, to go to the south, to stay out on the West Coat, the mountain states, the southwest and on and on, the more high-profile surrogates you have, the better.

TOOBIN: There is just one...

COOPER: I've got to take a quick break. But we'll have more of this just after the break. is where you can follow county by county the numbers coming in are we are seeing the numbers coming in in the state of Florida. A lot more coverage continues. We'll be back in a moment.


BLITZER: Here is the big story tonight: John McCain the big winner in the state of Florida. He captures the Republican presidential nomination with 82 percent of the precincts now in. McCain with 36 percent. It's been a steady lead for him now for several hours; 31 percent for Mitt Romney; 15 percent for Rudy Giuliani. A huge loss. He's about to drop out of this contest. And Mike Huckabee, 14 percent.

In terms of the numbers that have come in, 646,000 for McCain to 556,000 for Romney, only 264,900 or so for Giuliani., 242,800 for Huckabee, Ron Paul with 57,818.

But here's the important number: 57. Fifty-seven Republican delegates at their convention in St. Paul at the end of the summer were up for grabs. Winner takes all. Winner takes all in the state of Florida. All 57 of those delegates will go to John McCain. Zero for Romney, zero for Giuliani. Zero for Huckabee. John McCain, the big winner in Florida tonight.

Let's go over to Abbi Tatton, because she's taking a look online to see what John McCain, the big winner in Florida tonight, is saying to his supporters online.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what the campaign is telling them right now: "Thank you, Florida. For the rest of you, we need you to get into gear." Tonight, literally, they're asking for campaign donations. This evening, before you go to bed. They can be used tomorrow. They're saying, "We immediately have to expand into a nationwide campaign."

And you can see, on the Web site here, it's now focused on Super Tuesday.

Now, this campaign that has had limited resources has been hitting up these supporters pretty hard. We got an e-mail after South Carolina, after the win there, saying, "Come -- literally pack your bags. Come to Florida and come and help us out." So they're asking them again for more donations.

He's got the win in Florida. And to look and see how that went down. This is where all the results are, coming in county by county. We've got pretty much 100 percent reporting across the board there at

BLITZER: Big win. Big win by McCain. He had some significant support. The governor, specifically, in Florida, Charlie Crist, supporting him. Mel Martinez, one of the Republican senators. There's a Democratic senator, Bill Nelson, who supported Hillary Clinton. But a big win for John McCain right now.

Let's go over to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider, because they're taking a look at how he did it. I guess that's a big question that we're going to be analyzing over the course of the next days. But you've got some information.

O'BRIEN: You know, the exit polls always really give you a lot of insight on that. Hillary Clinton, when you were talking to her a moment ago, she was saying now the election is moving forward. And so we wanted to look forward, too, and talk about opportunities and obstacles for Senator McCain. What have we learned from the exit polls about what he has to face ahead?

One important question from the exit poll, in fact, was what's more important to you. Personal qualities or issues? What do we see?

SCHNEIDER: And the answer is, for voters who said they voted for someone on personal qualities, John McCain came out way ahead, 44-28, over Mitt Romney. David Gergen just mentioned authenticity as one of McCain's real attributes that people responded to. That was a personal quality, and that helped him win, certainly. It was a very personal vote. Not issues, not ideology.

O'BRIEN: Well, here is something that needs some work, I would say. "Shares my values" was a question that was put to people who were voting, in the exit polls. Horrible number for McCain.

SCHNEIDER: Very bad, and these are values voters. It's a problem for John McCain as he goes forward. Only 20 percent of the values voters said they voted for John McCain. Romney and Huckabee both beat McCain in this category. He's got some work to do to shore up his support among the values voters in the Republican primaries.

O'BRIEN: He did well among people who had a negative opinion of President Bush.

SCHNEIDER: You know, all the candidates are talking about change. It's the Obama theme. Hillary Clinton talks about change. Can a Republican talk about change?

How about this: among the Republicans who don't like President Bush, and that's about a third of the Florida Republicans -- there are a lot of Republicans who want change, too -- they voted for John McCain. That could be a problem as he goes forward in the Republican primaries, because a lot of Republicans do like President Bush. But if he becomes the Republican nominee, it just might happen that he could run as the candidate of -- believe it or not -- change.

O'BRIEN: The guy's been in the business for quite a while. Candidate of change. And you were talking earlier about electability. Who has the best chance come November? And McCain does well there.

SCHNEIDER: Take a look. Among all the Florida Republican voters, we asked who do you think has the best chance of winning in November? McCain dominated that category. That might have been Rudy Giuliani. He was supposed to be the most electable Republican.

O'BRIEN: He's got 11 percent.

SCHNEIDER: Eleven percent. That's why he lost. McCain is beating him 4 to 1 when Republicans are asked who has the best chance of winning in November. They picked McCain. They do not pick Giuliani by a clear margin.

O'BRIEN: Isn't it a contradictory number, though, when you consider that the core of the -- the Republican core doesn't like him.

SCHNEIDER: They don't like which?

O'BRIEN: They support John McCain. I mean, that's where his struggle is, we've seen. He's got to reach out to...

SCHNEIDER: He -- even a lot of people who don't support or agree with John McCain believe he just might be electable, because he's shown so much support form independents and even some Democrats. There are some Democrats who love him, some Democrats who hate him. Some Republicans who love him and some Republicans who hate him. He's a very interesting character.

And one more thing, Soledad and Wolf. Here's a little reminder. The primary season actually has not yet begun.

O'BRIEN: It doesn't feel like that.

SCHNEIDER: It doesn't begin until next week. That's when the window opens. That's why the Florida primary is being penalized, because everything that's happened so far is early. It begins next week on Super Tuesday, which might be the day it ends.

O'BRIEN: At least that's...

BLITZER: It's a good point, because the Democrats stripped Florida of all the delegates. The Republicans stripped Florida of half of their delegates, because they moved up before Super Tuesday next week.

But 21 Republican caucuses and primaries next Tuesday; 22, I think, Democratic caucuses and primaries next Tuesday. Half of the country is going to be voting. That's going to be huge. We're counting down to one week from today.

Soledad and Bill, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you with more information.

You remember, we're now reporting, thanks to our John King, that Rudy Giuliani is going to be dropping out of this race. Now there will be four -- four Republican candidates at the debate tomorrow night in -- in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library.

There you see Anderson Cooper and Gloria Borger, sitting there. Roland Martin, our contributor, as well. Before a replica of the United States of America Air Force One, the actual plane that Ronald Reagan used to fly in when he was president of the United States.

There were supposed to be -- there were supposed to be five, but now there will be four. Four Republican candidates left. Three Democratic candidates left. They'll be debating the next night at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.

When we come back, Anderson Cooper will pick up our coverage. Much more coming up. A big night, though, for John McCain. You can't belittle his win in Florida tonight.


COOPER: And a remarkable evening of politics. We've been watching from the CNN election center and also here from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

If you have not been here, it is a remarkable facility, and the stage is set, literally, for tomorrow night's debate between -- well, we're not sure exactly who's going to show up. I mean, all the candidates will. Whether or not Rudy Giuliani will still be in the race at that point -- it seems like he will not be, based on our reporting this evening. But of course, that remains to be seen. We will be ready for whoever it is who shows up. We do know McCain, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, of course, and Governor Mitt Romney all will be here on this stage. The backdrop for it is probably one of the more remarkable backdrops of any debate so far in this election year. It is the original Air Force One jet that Ronald -- President Ronald Reagan used while he was in office. This hangar has been built, this facility built around it.

You're looking at some of the shots inside the Air Force One. You're looking back at where we are sitting from inside Air Force One. Truly a remarkable room. This will be the backdrop for an entire night of debate and politics, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and 5 p.m., of course, here on the West Coast.

Gloria Borger, what -- what does -- how does the strategy change with Rudy Giuliani probably not here tomorrow night?

BORGER: Well, I think...

COOPER: How does the debate itself change?

BORGER: You know, when you think about it, it will probably be the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And so I think you'll see a love fest between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, and I think Mitt Romney will be the odd man out there.

Whether McCain and Huckabee will go at it, as they have in the past, remains to be seen. I mean, here we are in what -- Bill Bennett earlier referred to this as the Vatican, you know. He said it might -- are these folks going to want to mix it up here on this hallowed ground? We'll have to see.

On the other hand, everything is at stake at that debate. Everything is at stake for John McCain, who's going to be a conservative -- I can guarantee that -- tomorrow night. And everything is at stake.

COOPER: If -- Roland Martin, if John McCain has received an endorsement from Rudy Giuliani before that debate, does Mitt Romney then try to use that against John McCain, saying, "You're not a real conservative. You have this man who's aligned -- who is, you know, to the left of conservatism now endorsing you"?

MARTIN: The moment he does that -- first of all, he's going to do it. I think McCain is going to come right back and say, "Guess what? You said that you are going to be even more liberal on the whole issue of gay marriage than Ted Kennedy when you ran against him." He's going to use his own words against him.

What you have here is a battle, frankly, between old GOP and new GOP. It's no different than 1992 with Democrats when they were a party completely confused, lost three consecutive presidential elections. And they were trying to break the hold of liberals in the party. Bill Clinton comes in, southern governor. He does that.

In this case here, you have evangelicals, you have hard-core conservatives who have been really running this party. But this party right now has no leader. You don't have a VP running. And so the difficult now is where does the party go? I think McCain is really going to stress this inclusive message by saying, "Look, you might be conservative, but I'm with you. You might be fiscal conservatives. I'm with you. We need to have a coalition building." He's going to push that issue, as well.

COOPER: David Gergen, we heard in John McCain's speech tonight, we heard him talk about judges and heard him talk an awful lot about Ronald Reagan. You anticipate, obviously, he will talk about Reagan tomorrow night. But a message to try to reach out to conservatives?

GERGEN: I think he will try to reach out to conservatives but not pander. I think that's really, really important, that he not go too far. But he will -- but he will remember Reagan.

You know, there's a wonderful book written called John McCain and some others. It's called "The Nightingale's Song." And -- by Bob Timberg, used to be of the "Baltimore Sun." And Timberg used (ph) that a nightingale doesn't actually sing until he hears another nightingale sing. And that's what sort of awakens it. And that was true of John McCain. He became -- Ronald Reagan was his nightingale. He heard Reagan singing, and that lit him up. And he heard that tribute to Reagan tonight. There's a very genuine warmth in John McCain about Ronald Regan. I think we will hear that tomorrow night.

COOPER: Amy Holmes, your anticipation for the debate tomorrow?

HOLMES: I think it's going to be sharp, as I said. I think that Roland is right, that McCain is going to be pointing out some of the flip-flops. We saw him doing it all week leading up to Florida.

And I think you're going to hear, as others have said, that McCain is going to try to get back to those core, conservative principles. That was one thing that was sort of oddly missing with Giuliani, when he was asked, you know, "What are your core principles?" And he would talk about his 12 commitments.

Well, for conservatives, that's sort of meaningless. And you can hear Fred Thompson, however, speak a lot more eloquently about that. I think you're going to hear that from McCain tomorrow night.

And on the Romney side, you know, as we discussed before, here we hear Romney trying to re-own, get back the ownership of being the economic conservative, the true conservative. You heard that in his speech tonight. He started out with a sort of homespun, traditionalist, "I'm a grandfather, kissing my children before they go to sleep at night" and hearkening back to the 1950s, this golden era of America's greatness and how he wants to bring that back to our country. And he's going to make that appeal tomorrow night, as well.

TOOBIN: Anderson, you know, there's a paradox about McCain's success so far. You have what I think is an unstoppable path towards the nomination, as Dana Bash heard from a McCain staffer. I think the word unstoppable is correct.

Yet at the same time, he has not won even 40 percent at any primary so far. Not even 40 percent. So he has a long way to go to bring the conservatives into his -- into the fold.

But to do that, he's got to go in directions that the rest of the American people don't share. He's got to deepen his already profound commitment to a very unpopular war. He's got to move right on -- on immigration. He's got to move right on abortion. And that's a difficult thing when he's got to be thinking about the general election soon.

HOLMES: Actually, I'm not so sure that e has to necessarily move right on immigration, in particular. That issue was, you know, bringing down his candidacy last summer, when we thought that McCain was just not going to be able to make it. He seems to have neutralized that issue by, of course, emphasizing border security. The question is, are conservatives going to believe it?

KING: And Anderson, most Republicans, even Republicans who don't like John McCain, believe in this field, Romney, McCain, Huckabee. And McCain is by far the strongest general election candidate. Even many conservatives who say they do not like John McCain, they wish he were not on this path now. But he is clearly the frontrunner in the full. They believe he is a much stronger general election candidate, because he holds the Republican base on security. He would have issues with conservatives when it comes to taxes and the like.

But they also believe, and McCain will now make the case because of what he did in Florida, the state that made George W. Bush president. He can reach out to Democrats and independents. And Democrats and Republicans concede that, even though conservatives still don't necessarily love McCain.

COOPER: The road ahead to Super Tuesday. We're going to look at that after a short break. Lou Dobbs will also be coming on the set to carry forward our coverage. We'll be back. also the site you can follow along at home during commercial breaks. We'll be right back.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Tonight, Senator John McCain can claim unequivocal front-runner status in the Republican race for the presidency after his win in the Florida primary.

Senator Hillary Clinton certainly can claim victory. It is a victory, however, that brings few -- in this case no delegates whatsoever, but it does give her bragging rights. And I'm sure we're going to hear a lot from her campaign about momentum as we approach Super Tuesday.

For now, Senator Clinton and Senator McCain the winners in Florida. We're going to turn to my colleagues now, Wolf Blitzer and John King at the tally board to bring us up to date with all of the numbers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. John and I, we're going to take a look at what's coming up one week, John, from today. And this is, I think it's fair to say, in terms of a primary we've never seen anything like this before.

KING: Not anything like this at all, Wolf. Twice as many states as you normally have had on a Super Tuesday in the past. Senator McCain called it tonight, essentially, a national primary. And that's what it is.

And look at the sweep of it geographically. You have New York, obviously the home state of Senator Clinton. Massachusetts, the home state of Governor Romney. You come down through the south here, Tennessee and West Virginia, then into the heartland of the country, Minnesota, Missouri, then out to the west. Oklahoma, the big daddy of them all. Of course, California. And so different candidates have to decide on their different strategies.

Now, McCain is winning on the Republican side. McCain is leading in most of these states now. And he will try to run the board. Most of the Republican contests, winning take all.

If you're Governor Huckabee, you're you going to focus down here in the Southern state. You're going to focus here, where there's a strong anti-abortion movement. Up here in Minnesota, as well. Those are places to look for Governor Huckabee to be as he tries to reassert himself in this race.

Governor Romney, of course, his home state is out here. He has performed well in the mountain west area out here, and he will contest very aggressively out in California. That will be the big challenge on the Republican side.

On the Democratic side again, you have Senator Clinton's home state, Senator Obama's home state, California, the biggest prize. Watch Edwards looking for congressional districts. The Democratic rules are different. Fifteen percent is viable in most states, and then you go through a congressional district.