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McCain and Romney Battle For Florida; Interview With Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Aired January 29, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: primary day. Huge numbers of people are voting in Florida. John McCain and Mitt Romney have been running neck and neck. Rudy Giuliani hopes to defy what some consider long-shot odds.
Was it a snub or not? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton near each other, but did not acknowledge each other, that question as Obama wins another endorsement.

And Florida's governor wants John McCain to be president. Why? And would be Charlie Crist consider a vice presidential bid? I will ask him.

All that, plus the best political team on television. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

It's the biggest day so far in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In just one hour, most of the polls in Florida will close, and the winner of this race could become the GOP front-runner.

This is a primary where the winner takes all among the Republicans. All the polls in Florida will be closed by 8:00 p.m. Eastern, in two hours. We have the best political team on television standing by live across the country.

Let's begin, though, in Miami with CNN's Dana Bash.

By all accounts, this is going to be a close one.


And with 57 delegates at stake here, it is the biggest prize so far. That is why, on TV, on radio, and in sometimes negative calls to voters, the two men vying for the top spot have been going at it and until the bitter end.


BASH (voice-over): At a polling station in Saint Petersburg, one last chance for John McCain to convince Florida Republicans their security matters most, and Mitt Romney is not their man. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real key I think here in Florida is, who can keep America safe? Who is it that has got the experience, and background and knowledge to take on the challenge of radical Islamic extremism? Governor Romney has no experience there.


BASH: In nearby Tampa, Romney said the struggling economy trumps all else, closing the deal as the businessman who can help, warning, McCain cannot.

ROMNEY: One of the candidates out there running for president said that the economy is not his strong suit. Well, it's my strong suit.


BASH: The biting personal jabs evidence of Florida's high stakes, the winner likely the GOP front-runner. But for voters asked to choose between one candidate for the economy and another on national security, it's not that simple.

BUNNY COLLINA, UNDECIDED REPUBLICAN VOTER: For myself, it's the economics. I do believe the war is also, you know, a deep consideration, our boys over there and women, and families, what they're giving up.

BASH: Cue Rudy Giuliani.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only that has also managed an economy and been table to take it through a crisis.

BASH: But after putting his eggs in Florida's basket, he sat with a bowl of Raisin Bran and deflected questions about whether a dismal finish will bring his demise.

GIULIANI: We're not going to deal with any hypothetical questions. It would be counterproductive to do that. We're going to win. We're going to win today.

BASH: As for Mike Huckabee, he isn't expecting a strong Florida showing, yet used a voter handing him a golf club to take a primary day swing at a rich rival.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't know what -- now, which -- let's see. Do you hold this end?


HUCKABEE: It will be like Mitt Romney eating fried chicken, right?



BASH: But the battle for first place here really does seem to be between Mitt Romney and John McCain. That is, they're the two men who are hoping to get momentum out of the state of Florida.

And, Wolf, for John McCain, since this is just Republicans who can vote in Florida, this is a chance for him to prove he can do well among conservatives.

And, for Mitt Romney, it is also a prize. If he gets, it will help reset the race for him one more time and it would also put him way ahead so far in the delegate count, delegate count of course that each of these men need in order to get the nomination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

Dana Bash, she's going to have a long night tonight. We all will, maybe.

As the Republican candidates spend time campaigning, the Democrats are doing something very different.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us now with more on this part of the story.

Bill, what are the Florida Democrats doing?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, they're doing something very unusual. They're having an election where the candidates did not campaign and the results may not even count.


SCHNEIDER: Florida Democratic voters are doing something amazing. They are having a spontaneous primary.

KAREN THURMAN, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC CHAIR: This is all a grassroots effort. And it is fabulous. I have actually heard some comments where people said, you know, isn't this what campaigning is supposed to be about? It's about talking to our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues at work. It's about us taking the initiative to say why we are for somebody.

SCHNEIDER: The national Democratic Party says Florida's votes won't count because the state is holding its primary too early. The Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida. How can you have an election where the candidates don't campaign?

THURMAN: Our voters in Florida have been innovative. They have been out here with their cardboard cutouts. They have been doing debate parties. They have been having their teas. They have been -- I mean, they have been doing the campaign themselves.

SCHNEIDER: Like Democrats around the country, Florida voters are excited about the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election is about Hillary Clinton. And she stands for what I care about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you vote for him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think he has the vision, the curiosity, the intellect, the capability, the everything to lead this country in a new direction.

SCHNEIDER: They want to be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope we still vote for something, not for nothing.

SCHNEIDER: Are they disgruntled?

THURMAN: We have tripled the amount of absentee ballots that we have had in since 2004. That's huge. That's not disgruntledness.

SCHNEIDER: Florida Democrats are confident that whoever the Democratic nominee is, he or she will not want to lock Florida out of the party.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: We are going to go all the way to the convention to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear on that convention floor.


SCHNEIDER: Without a campaign, who wins? Hillary Clinton expects to as the best-known contender. She will even be in Florida tonight to collect her prize. Which is what? That's momentum, she hopes, heading into Super Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One week from today, Bill. Thanks very much.

Bill Clinton was back on the campaign trail today. His earlier efforts in South Carolina featured some sharp attacks on Barack Obama, which critics say did little to help Hillary Clinton's campaign. But in New Jersey today, the former president showed a kinder, gentler side and stuck to the issues, said his wife wants Americans to be able to help themselves by helping their community.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She wants to do something that we have not done in a very long time. She wants to say if you borrow money for a college education and later you go into public service, if you become a teacher, a nurse, a police officer, a fireman, a mental health worker, even if you're a doctor and you go out someplace that has no medical care, the service itself will be loan repayment, and every year you serve, you will get your loan knocked down.



BLITZER: Barack Obama meanwhile visited the Midwest where he picked up yet another endorsement, but it comes as some people are talking about what happened between him and his chief rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, last night back in Washington.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's in Kansas City, Missouri, right now following the story.

You have been looking at those pictures. What are you coming up with? What are you seeing, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really is amazing. It's all the buzz.

The Obama campaign of course trying to keep the focus and build the momentum on the Kennedy endorsements. They just released an ad, a TV ad, today featuring Caroline Kennedy comparing Barack Obama to her father, the late John F. Kennedy.

But everybody, the buzz seems to be about what happened last night at the State of the Union between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The headline was all about the so-called snub, this picture of Senator Barack Obama turning away from Senator Clinton as Ted Kennedy, Obama's new best friend and key endorser, extended his hand. The moment captured and dissected, reflecting the atmosphere of high tension and drama in the campaign. Today, Obama denied any slight, saying he was distracted by another senator.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Me turning away, I was turning away because Claire asked me a question as Senator Kennedy was reaching for her.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was not a snub. I had a ringside seat. It was one of those accidents that just happened and caught and film. And, frankly, everybody's spoiling for a fight.

MALVEAUX: Out of Washington and on the road, his first stop his grandfather's hometown of El Dorado, Kansas, where he picked up a key endorsement from its governor.

OBAMA: We're among friends here. We're -- we're family.

MALVEAUX: Not just a trip down memory lane, but for strategy. Kansas is one of several Republican-dominated states he's targeting to convince Democrats he can compete where others have traditionally failed.

OBAMA: We're going to have to bring the -- not just Democrats, but independents and some Republicans together into a working majority.

MALVEAUX: Obama dismissed Senator Clinton's strategy of recognizing Tuesday's Florida primary, where delegates won't count.

OBAMA: It's a beauty contest. It's similar to a poll, in terms of where people currently are at in Florida.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, later tomorrow, Barack Obama will head to Colorado, as well as Arizona, to campaign, obviously trying to win over those independents, those Republicans to build not only the base of young voters, but new voters, before he heads Thursday for the CNN debate in California -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Suzanne.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Wolf, thank you.

The race between the two Republican front-runners, Mitt Romney, John McCain, is getting ugly. The stakes in today's primary are huge in Florida. The winner there might well wind up as the Republican nominee.

And reflecting the pressure and like two kids in a schoolyard, they have resorted now to calling each other names. You're a liberal. You're a liberal. That's not a word you hear among Republicans very often. Romney went after McCain for some of his liberal answers to the country's problems, including campaign finance reform, his view on illegal immigration, and his support of an energy bill that Romney says would raise costs for consumers.

McCain shot right back, accused Romney of wholesale deception of voters and flip-flopping on the issues. McCain says Romney was a liberal governor of Massachusetts who raised taxes, worked with Ted Kennedy on a massive government-mandated health program, and did a poor job managing his state's economy.

The angry tone between these two has spread onto the airwaves in Florida. McCain launched a new negative radio ad mocking Romney's economic record as governor and questioning his electability. The Romney campaign said of the new ad, this is the McCain way, sinking to a lower level when a race is close.

Here's the question: What does it mean when the two front- runners for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney and John McCain, are calling each other liberals?

Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog.

There's a new surprise in this thing every day.

BLITZER: Here's what it means. Anderson Cooper, when he moderates the Republican debate tomorrow night, he is going to have his hands full.

CAFFERTY: Yes, he will.

BLITZER: That's what it means.

CAFFERTY: I wonder if Giuliani is going to be there.

BLITZER: Well, we will see. We will see what happens.


BLITZER: He says he's going to be there, but we will find out fairly soon.



BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

A late boost from Florida's governor. Is it enough, though, to push John McCain over the top? I will ask Governor Charlie Crist what's behind his endorsement.

Also, we're going to bring you the latest exit polling numbers that are coming in right now from Florida. We will show you what's on the minds of voters as they cast their ballots -- Bill Schneider crunching the numbers right now.

And winter storms knock out power in parts of China, stranding hundreds of thousands of holiday travelers. It's a major embarrassment for the country's leaders.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're counting down to poll closings for Florida's primary right now. Voters are making their picks along -- among the presidential candidates, that is.

And my next guest certainly has already made up his mind.


BLITZER: Charlie Crist is Florida's governor. He's joining us now from St. Petersburg.

Governor Crist, thanks very much for coming in.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: Wolf, great to be with you, as always. Thank you.

BLITZER: Tell us what the differences were on the issues, that you decided to support John McCain, for example, over Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney? Specifically, what issues influenced your high-profile decision?

CRIST: Well, trust, integrity, his statesmanship, his integrity, the fact that he has been so long a true statesman, a great patriot, a great American hero. All of those things really come to mind when you talk about who you want to be your public servant, your next president.

And it really came down to trust. I mean, I had to go through the, you know, very personal decision of who I'm going to vote for during the past week. And when I came to that decision John McCain was my choice, and I decided to share that with the people of Florida. I think it's important to do so.

BLITZER: Was his stance though on the domestic, economic issues, the money-related issues, or national security that was more important, that you liked where he stood, as opposed to the other Republican candidates?

CRIST: Well, both national security, certainly. It's hard to have the kind of credentials that John McCain does as it relates to safety and security and his strength, really, as it relates to that. But also economic issues.

I mean, having served as chairman of the Commerce Committee, working for years on trying to cut taxes, supporting the president's initiative to make permanent the tax cuts, all of those I think are incredibly important when you come to a decision like this. And then there's a gut feel, too, Wolf. I mean, I just like the guy. I think he's a good man. I know he's a good man. I know he will be a great president. And that led me to my decision.

BLITZER: He wants to make those Bush tax cuts that were implemented in 2001, 2003, permanent. They're set to expire in the year 2010. But he was one of only two Republicans who voted against those tax cuts back in 2001.

Do you have a problem with that actual vote as opposed to what he's saying right now?

CRIST: Well, not when it's balanced with the rationale behind it, that he wanted reduced spending, reductions in our spending. That's very important. As a governor, I understand how important that is, because we had to reduce spending here in the Sunshine State. You have to be responsible. You have to prioritize your spending, just like families have to do every single day. John McCain understands that. And that's why I have such enormous respect for him.

BLITZER: But that was only part of his rationale in voting against those tax cuts. He also didn't like the fact that the rich were going to get the tax cuts, as opposed to the middle class or the poor. I will read to you what he said on the Senate floor on May 21, 2001.

The principle that guides my judgment of a tax reconciliation bill is tax relief for those who need it the most -- lower and middle income working families. And then a few days later, on May 26th, he said, I cannot in good conscience support a tax cuts in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief.

Now, to a lot of observers out there that sounds like the same argument the Democrats were making against the Bush tax cuts. Do you have a problem with that?

CRIST: I don't have a problem with standing up for the common man and the common woman. I think it's awfully important that anybody who aspires to public service understands the wants, the needs, the desires, and the challenges that everyday people have to live with. We understand that here in the Sunshine State, and that's why I think Senator McCain is going to do very, very well tonight.

BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani supported what you really want in the state of Florida, given its history of hurricanes, a federal disaster fund to come in and help the people in Florida and elsewhere around the country deal with national emergencies. Rudy Giuliani supports it. Does John McCain support such a federal disaster fund?

CRIST: Well, he supports it more on a regional basis, which I can understand and I certainly respect. I mean, the gulf states have had a lot to deal with, with hurricanes of late. And I think he understands that it's important to take a progressional step towards trying to have more help for more people in a way that's responsible, prudent, and makes common sense. I respect that. And as Ronald Reagan used to say, Wolf, if you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you're probably my friend.

I trust this man. He's not going to say things just to appease me. He's going to say the things that are in his heart, and I think that's exactly what the American people want and deserve.

BLITZER: As you know, Governor, there's a lot of buzz out there, especially in your home state of Florida, that -- which is a critical state, as all of us know, in the contest in November -- that you could potentially be a vice presidential running mate. Is that something you have been thinking about?

CRIST: No, it's not. I mean, it's very flattering to hear that kind of talk, but my focus is Florida. Florida is what I care about. The people of this state have been very, very kind to me. I want to do honor their public trust and their confidence, do everything I can to fight for them every single day.

That's what my focus is. That's what the focus is today, to reduce their property taxes, to elect a great guy who is going to be a great president, John McCain. These are the kinds of things that Floridians care about. That's what I'm focused on, the things I'm sure your mother cares deeply about in South Florida.

BLITZER: A lot of mothers living in Florida care about all those things as well.

Governor, thanks very much. I appreciate you joining us.

CRIST: It's a pleasure to be with you, Wolf, as always.


BLITZER: President Bush has just signed an executive order designed to rein in pork-barrel spending. So, what's going to happen to the thousands of pet projects in the massive spending bill he signed last month? You might be surprised by the answer.

And polls are still open in Florida's high-stakes Republican primary. But they're going to be closing, all of them, in the state at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour and 40 minutes from now or so. We're going to give you the first peek at what some of the voters are thinking. Bill Schneider starts breaking down the exit polls. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The latest exit poll results coming in from Florida right now. We're about to show you what matters most to the voters as they cast their ballots. Guess where the economy ranks?

Also, when the results start coming in, about an hour-and-a-half or so from now, the best political team on television will show you just what to look for.

And from YouTube to GodTube -- a presidential candidate finds a new forum online.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: the first exit polls now coming in from the Florida primary. They're giving us an inside look at what's on the minds of voters there. But there are no delegates at stake for Florida's Democrats. They're being punished by the national Democratic Party for moving up their primary without permission. So, is the primary anything more than a beauty contest for the Democratic candidates?

Plus, John McCain's conservative gap. You're going to find out what he's been saying about taxes that makes some Republicans so angry at him -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We have been getting some exit poll information coming in from the voters in Florida. And it gives us a good sense of just who is voting, what's important to them as they cast their ballots.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is going through the numbers right now. Bill, what are you learning?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, Florida is having an early primary because they claim they're more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire. How diverse are those Florida primary voters?

Let's take a look first at the Republicans. They are very heavily seniors. Florida -- no surprise here -- half of the Republican voters are 60 years old and older. White evangelicals, born-again Protestants -- almost a third of the Republican voters are born-again Protestants. Twenty-eight percents are veterans. They have served in the military -- a constituency that John McCain paid a lot of attention to. And among Republicans, 13 percent -- that's about -- 13 percent of them were Latino voters. And most of the Latino Republican voters are, in fact, Cuban-Americans.

Now let's take a look at the Democratic voters. Also a claim for diversity. Almost as many are seniors -- 44 percent aged 60 and over. Eighteen percent of the Democratic voters are African-American. Twelve percent are Latino. But only 3 percent of those are, in fact, Cuban- Americans. So most of the other Latino voters in Florida are voting in the Democratic primary. And 9 percent of the Democratic voters are Jewish.

So it does, indeed, represent a highly diverse electorate in both political parties.

Now, the top issue to both Republicans and Democrats -- the economy.

And what is their judgment?

Actually, quite similar. Take a look at the Republicans. Sixty- three percent of the Republicans say the nation's economy is not good or poor. It's an overwhelming negative judgment.

What about the Democrats?

How do they feel about the nation's economy?

For them, it's the number one issue. Ninety-one percent -- almost unanimously the Democrats say the nation's economy is bad. So on this point, there is no party division. Republicans and Democrats agree the economy is lousy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

Thanks very much.

Bill Schneider.

It's a crucial contest expected to shape the Republican race, what's about to happen in Florida.

Let's get some analysis from the best political team on television. Our coverage, by the way, of the actual voting starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight. The polls close a little bit more than -- a little bit less than an hour-and-a-half from now, all of the polls. Most of the polls, by the way, in Florida close at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. All of them will be closed at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

With no delegates at stake for the Democrats in Florida, will tonight's results, though, make any difference in that contest?

Let's talk about that and more with our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin; our own Jack Cafferty -- they're here in New York -- as well as our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's out on the campaign trail in Davie, Florida right now.

They are all part of the best political team on television.

Let me just pick your brain, Jack.

What -- what are you looking for?

Obviously, we're all looking to see who's going to win in Florida on the Republican side.

But are there any other nuggets that you're really interested in?

CAFFERTY: Yes. I think with McCain and Romney calling each other liberals, it will be interesting to see who the conservatives, the right-wing of the Republican Party, support in the election. And the other thing that was interesting, based on Bill Schneider's exit polling there, 91 percent of the Democrats -- and I forget the percentage of Republicans -- it's the economy, stupid. I would think that might auger well in Florida for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney -- Hillary because her husband had some success managing the economy when he was president and Mitt Romney because of his business experience, which he touts at every opportunity.

BLITZER: Some are accusing Hillary Clinton, Candy, of sort of playing hanky-panky with the agreement not to campaign in Florida, even though, you know, a lot of Floridians -- a lot of Democrats down there, they went in good faith to vote today.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And the fact is, she is not going to be here at this victory rally until after the polls close. As you know, there are no delegates at stake here tonight. The Democratic Party stripped Florida of its delegates in a primary calendar dispute.

So what is happening here and what the other campaigns say is, listen, this is a beauty contest. The delegates are zero, so this is an attempt by the Clinton campaign to kind of gain some traction in the headlines.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff, about this maneuver?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly gamesmanship on the part of the Clinton campaign because, remember, the whole reason they didn't campaign in Florida was to try to ingratiate themselves with the voters of New Hampshire. They kept saying to New Hampshire oh, no, no, we're going to respect you being first and the schedule as it was, so we agree not to campaign in Florida.

Now Hillary Clinton knows that she's probably -- or at least she thinks she's going to win tonight. So she's going to try to take advantage of that.

Frankly, I don't think it's going to have a great deal of significance. Michigan, which was a similar situation, didn't have much significance. So, you know, I can't blame the Clinton campaign for looking for some advantage, but I don't think they'll find much here.

BLITZER: Well, the difference, Jack, between Michigan and Florida, for the Democrats, was that in Michigan, only Hillary Clinton's name and Dennis Kucinich's name were on the ballot. There was an uncommitted. There was no Barack Obama on the ballot. There was no John Edwards on the ballot. In Florida, all of these three Democrats, their names -- and some other Democrats -- their names are actually on the ballot, as Democrats have been going in large numbers to the polls today.

CAFFERTY: Well, I would think, too, depending on how this stuff plays out in the weeks ahead -- or even in the week ahead, Super Tuesday -- there's going to be some pressure put on Michigan and Florida to reinstitute these delegates at some point.

If the race is close and there's 300 or 400 delegates out there that would rightfully belong to Florida and Michigan, somebody is going to start squawking to, look, let's change the rule, let's reinstate these delegates so that they can be part of this process. And I suppose that that's fair in terms of the people in Florida. I mean they're going to the polls in good faith. Their vote ought to count for something.

BLITZER: And there's no doubt, Candy, that when you take a look at the general election in November -- November 4th -- these two states, Michigan and Florida, are about as important as it comes for the Democrats.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And, you know, it's really up to a committee of the DNC and the convention to decide whether to seat these delegates.

But you have two scenarios here. If you have a nominee that comes in and they're the certain nominee, that nominee is going to say let's seat them, because why would you want to tick off Florida and Michigan?

If they come in and they're very close and there's no certain nominee, there is going to be a brawl over whether to seat these delegates. TOOBIN: Absolutely. And another thing to keep an eye on is turnout tonight, because the Democrats have literally not campaigned one day in Florida. Yet it appears a lot of them are voting, which is consistent with what we've seen in primary after primary this season, which is enormous Democratic turnout. And that may even happen here with literally no campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, the Democrats -- the Democratic base out there, Jack, they are energized in all these states, as Jeff accurately points out. They've come out in almost record numbers in state after state after state. The Republicans seem to be somewhat demoralized.

CAFFERTY: Well, that has, I think, a lot to do with the situation the country is in. People feel the economy is in trouble. People are opposed to the war in Iraq. And the polls that have been done over the last couple of years, two-thirds to three fourths of the country say we're headed in the wrong direction. They want change. They want something different.

And so the Democrats feel like perhaps they -- by winning the White House -- can bring that change to the country and the Democratic voters seem ready to, you know, go out in huge numbers and try to get that done.

BLITZER: Well, let me just quickly Candy -- because then we're going to take a break -- have you felt that energy on the part of those Democrats, because you've been all over the campaign trail?

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you see it not just in the crowds and not just in the numbers who come to the polls, but you see it in the money race. I mean the Democrats are raising a lot more money than Republicans. And I will tell you that the Clinton campaign, and, in fact, the Obama campaign, as well, say listen, this has already been a national race. I mean I think we see that in our ratings numbers, whenever we have, you know, an election night or a ballot bowl or whatever it is. So we see and they think that these voters in Florida -- regardless of whether they've had a campaign -- have been paying attention.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We've got a lot more to talk about, including this -- the Republican candidates some conservatives say they love to hate.

What's their beef with John McCain?

Plus, Mitt Romney and John McCain are calling each other liberals.

What does that mean?

Jack, Cafferty with your e-mail. A lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Some conservatives call him tool liberal. That would be John McCain. He's a favorite target of some Republican commentators, including radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt. Hugh Hewitt was a guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour.

We're back now with the best political team on television.

Do you understand, Jack, why these conservatives -- they really don't like John McCain, I think because he's worked with Democrats on some sensitive issues.

CAFFERTY: Well, it's not only that. He voted against the tax cuts twice and now he says he's in favor of making the tax cuts permanent. And he has to say that, because if he says I'm in favor of letting those tax cuts that I voted against expire in 2010, I'll get more votes than he will. So he's got to flip-flop on that issue.

Plus, immigration. Plus, health care. Plus, campaign finance reform. It's easy to see how the conservatives in the Republican Party think this guy is riding something besides the Straight Talk Express.

BLITZER: What do you think, Jeff?

TOOBIN: Well, I just think the Republican Party has changed so much. You know, it used to be that there was such a thing as a Rockefeller Republican -- a liberal Republican. That was a big part of the party. And you had senators like Everett Dirksen in Illinois and Hugh Scott in Pennsylvania. And they were for civil rights and for the environment. And now you have largely a Southern and Western party that is very much more conservative than it used to be. And liberal has become a swear word in that party.

BLITZER: Well, they don't say liberal Republicans but, Candy, there are some moderate Republicans out there. And I guess you could you include John McCain in that category; certainly, Rudy Giuliani on some of the social issues in that category; Olympia Snowe; Susan Collins. You've covered them on the Hill.

Are they making a comeback of sorts within the Republican Party, to the irritation of the hard line conservatives, shall we say?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean we'll see. But John McCain has sort of a special problem with conservatives. And it's not -- it hasn't been so much the fiscal conservatives. But across the board, he's been too much of a maverick for them. They don't quite believe him when he says things. There's nobody more socially conservative in this race than John McCain is.

But what did he do?

He joined that gang of 15 that made it harder to filibuster judges. This is huge in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Campaign finance reform -- they thought that shut down their voice in the conservative wing of the party.

So it was those things. And now sort of add on top of that that Romney is bringing up the Bush tax cuts, to which McCain says, listen, they weren't offset. I mean nobody has been more forceful in the pork barrel spending than John McCain has.

So I think his problem predates all of the things that you're hearing about now. They just don't trust him to stay kind of true to the Republican line.

TOOBIN: Well, Wolf, there's also a personal dimension to this. John McCain has horrible personal dealings for many years with people like Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell. You know, he made up, to a certain extent. But his contempt for them and the fight in the 2000 primary in South Carolina was very bitter.

So, you know, the religious right and John McCain -- it's not just about policy. A lot of these people simply can't stand him -- and vice versa. At least that used to be the case. And I think that has a lingering influence.

BLITZER: Jack, you live up here in the New York City area. You've been here a long time. You go back to local television. You've been a Rudy Giuliani watcher for a long time. I wonder if you could share your thoughts right now.

What happened?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think he made a big miscalculation. You know, everybody said that it was a gamble to take those first four, five, six states and not aggressively campaign and to go down to Florida and set up shop and say, well, I'll ambush everybody else in Florida.

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for a second, Jack, because he did campaign in New Hampshire and Iowa...

CAFFERTY: Well, yes...

BLITZER: But it really wasn't working for him. At that point, he picked up his bags and left.

CAFFERTY: And he made it very clear that had he less than a burn interesting in those states and they got, frankly, a little steamed about it.

What did he get, 4 percent of the vote in New Hampshire?

You can't be president of 44 states. You've got to be president of all 50 states and you've got to make people feel like they're included. And I just think it was a gamble that didn't pay off.

His -- the big mantra from Rudy is 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. He was a good mayor of New York City. Whether he's got the tools to be president of the United States, I certainly don't know. But he was kind of a one trick pony when it came to his campaign. And I think the miscalculation with the early states has caught up with him and it's going to bite him big time tonight.

BLITZER: Candy, what do you think?

CROWLEY: Well, I think they took a look at this election. They thought it was different. You know, he sort of dabbled in Iowa. He sort of dabbled in New Hampshire. He knew that his particular brand of Republicanism -- particularly on the social issues -- was not playing in those states. There are still hard core conservatives inside the Republican Party in New Hampshire and Iowa.

So they took a look and they figured, boy, if we could just make it, you know, sort of bounce off Florida to Super Tuesday, we go to all these states where Republicans are more moderate.

But he took himself out of the conversation. He became like the asterisk. Everybody was talking about Romney and McCain's come back and Mike Huckabee's boom. So there was no place for Rudy Giuliani in the news and he just sort of faded down here in Florida.

BLITZER: Guys...

TOOBIN: And there's also...

BLITZER: Hold on, Jeff. We've got to run. But, you know, you're not leaving, because you're going to be with us all night. It could be a long night, for all we know.

TOOBIN: It could be.

BLITZER: Candy is certainly not leaving.

Jack's got The Cafferty File coming up.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.


Much more, of course, on the Florida Republican primary and those Democratic votes, as well. Most polling places in Florida will close at the top of the hour and the first results out shortly afterward. We'll have live coverage for you from Florida -- all the results, reaction from the campaign, of course, and the best political analysis anywhere.

Also tonight, the FBI investigating 14 companies for fraud in the mortgage crisis.

Did some of those companies use inside information to profit from this crisis that's devastating working men and women across this country?

We'll have that special report.

And a Chicago church is at it again -- offering sanctuary to another illegal alien fugitive. The church once again defying courts and our laws, with the full support of the pro-amnesty lobby and socio-ethnocentric interest groups. Of course, there may be something of an agenda here that is not being reported in the press -- perhaps something like a left-wing radical agenda. We'll have that report.

All of that, all the day's news and much more, 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Join us at the top of the hour, please -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: This will be a wild night. Exciting times for all of us who are political news junkies.

Lou, thanks very much.

You've probably heard of YouTube. But now one presidential candidate is taking advantage of a new site called GodTube. We're going to show you what's happening.

Plus, the insider chitchat you didn't hear at the State of the Union speech.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Today in our Political Ticker, the presidential candidates are no strangers to the online video site, YouTube. But now one presidential candidate is taking advantage of another site called GodTube.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

She's here.

So what is GodTube all about?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is video sharing, but with a Christian message. So what you find is popular on GodTube is very different than what you find, for example, on YouTube. This is the most popular video online on GodTube. It's a 4-year-old reciting "the lord is my shepherd" by heart to the camera.

This is a Web site that launched last year. It claims three million visitors to the site every single month. And vying for their attention with the new video is presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee -- Republican candidate, former Baptist preacher, who taped this message for the site, saying that there should be more organized activity -- Christian activity -- in politics.

He's kind of preaching to the choir on this Web site. GodTube recently polled all their users to find out which presidential candidates they like. Huckabee was way out ahead.

But I talked to the founder of the site, who pointed out that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton found support on the Web site, as well. And he'd like all the candidates this cycle to be playing on the site -- Wolf. BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

Let's come back to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is, what does it mean when the two the frontrunners for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney and John McCain, are calling each other liberals?

Mike writes: "What does it mean? It's the first truthful thing that either one of these bought and paid for government mules have ever said. The truth is they're all big government liberals. There's only one true conservative. That's Ron Paul."

Chris in Las Vegas: "Why are the Republican candidates doing the Democrats' dirty work for them? The Republicans need to stop beating up on each other and start putting forth a strong, consistent, conservative agenda for the future of our country."

Geo writes: "The only thing liberal about these two jokers are their liberal use of insults."

Frannie says: "It means they are not aware that many of us realize we're never going to find a candidate we agree with on every single issue and we're just looking for one who doesn't make himself look like an idiot with no manners."

Roxie writes: "It means at a time when this nation most needs a rational-minded adult leader, we're made increasingly aware that we have neither adult nor rational-minded candidates."

Ruth writes: "McCain and Romney calling each other liberal reminds me of a 5-year-old who drops the "F" bomb in front of his parents. He's not real sure what it means, but he loves the attention he gets from it."

And Jim writes from Wisconsin: "What does it mean when the Republicans call each other liberal? Simply this -- Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty.

Behind the scenes at the State of the Union address, a Moost Unusual look, coming up next.


BLITZER: President Bush seemed to be having a pretty good time at the State of the Union address last night.

But was everyone happy on the Democratic side of the aisle?

CNN's Jeanne Moos has a Moost Unusual look behind the scenes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrate or mourn...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madame Speaker, the president of the United States.


MOOS: It's the last time you'll see this guy making this entrance -- rubbing bald spots, signing copies of his speech.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's about the third one I've signed for him.

MOOS: Do not expect the next president to greet lawmakers like this.

BUSH: Shays, you're an awesome dude, man. Thank you.

MOOS: But already, the spotlight was shifting to the new dude and his rival.

H. CLINTON: How are you?

MOOS: Oh, they were friendly -- just not to each other.

But was it a snub?

The same day Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama, Senator Kennedy and Hillary nevertheless managed to shake hands before taking their seats. But look who's not looking. Obama denies giving Hillary his back, saying he was just distracted.

OBAMA: Sort of me turning away -- I was turning away because Claire asked me a question as Senator Kennedy was reaching forward.

MOOS (on camera): One of our favorite things to do at State of the Union is to eavesdrop -- to listen in on the chitchat between well-wishers and the president, as the president leaves the chamber.

(voice-over): President Bush loves using nicknames.


BUSH: Bad News, how are you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to come back next year?

BUSH: I doubt it.


MOOS: There was chatter about weddings.

BUSH: How's the little bride doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's the wedding planning coming?

BUSH: Ooh, man.

MOOS: That would be planning for the wedding of Jenna Bush, seen here in black at the State of the Union.

BUSH: Thank you.


BUSH: How you doing, buddy?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: You know my sister, Sarah Tucker!

BUSH: Yes, I do.

MOOS: The president also joshed around with openly gay Congressman Barney Frank after Frank brought up his boyfriend.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It was my boyfriend.

BUSH: Good. I'm glad.


BUSH: I'm sure he'd appreciate an open-minded guy like me.

FRANK: I told him that. Absolutely.

MOOS: All this touchy feely stuff next thing you know, a guy will be kissing President Bush.


MOOS: Whoa!

Did you see that?

Republican Congressman Christopher Shays gave the pres a peck. The last time something similar happened, Senator Joe Lieberman's opponents used it against him. And already, Shays' opponent has posted the kiss to YouTube as if it's the kiss of death.

Forget the State of the Union -- it's the state of their union and their union that seduces the press.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: There must be something about those Connecticut lawmakers -- Chris Shays, Joe Lieberman and the kiss with the president. Only Jeanne Moos has these reports and we feature her here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You've helped, by the way, make our political pod cast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at

I write a little column there, as well. You can go to and read what I have to say and offer me a comment of what you think, as well. Remember,

And please be sure to join us one hour from now, when our special coverage of the Florida primary begins. Some of the polls will be closing at the top of this hour, but all of them in Florida will be closed at epee. That's when we'll be back with our special coverage.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.