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Pre-debate Analysis of Remaining Candidates

Aired January 30, 2008 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: She's OK to be my mother, lover, mother of my children, but not president. A black man? Definitely not. Whether we like it or not, in the end, whoever runs against the Republican will have to face these issues. We are so close-minded we would rather have a dog run the presidency, like we do now, or rather than a woman or an African- American. Society makes us fear everything and it's time that we elect a woman or a black man. Let's get insubordinate here."
Vince writes from Carson City, Nevada: "Probably because the only the comfortable -- only the comfortable generally tend to vote. The poor don't bother because somehow they know that if voting really made a difference, it would be illegal."

And Karen writes: "Why don't we vote to change things? Because change is difficult, messy, painful. It requires us to not only step out of our comfort zones, but to get involved. And we don't want to bother, to be honest with you."

And she's probably right -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

See you in a few moments.

Thank you.

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

Happening now, dropping out of the race -- unable to gain on the frontrunners Democrat John Edwards calling it quits. He's not ready to jump on anyone's bandwagon yet, but sources say Republican Rudy Giuliani is ready to throw his support to his GOP rival. Giuliani expected to announce his withdrawal shortly. We'll take his comments live once they happen.

That would leave more room on the stage for tonight's Republican presidential debate over at the Reagan Library here in California. That's three hours from now, right here on CNN.

And one U.S. diplomat is already calling it ethnic cleansing. Our Zain Verjee is on the scene of the carnage in Kenya -- where it's neighbor against neighbor right now, tribe against tribe.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. It's suddenly getting less crowded out there on the presidential campaign trail. Democrat John Edwards, stuck in third place, today said it's time to step aside. He made the announcement just a few hours ago at the place where he began his campaign -- a New Orleans neighborhood still being rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.


JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me -- and more importantly, through me to America -- that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.


BLITZER: Now when the Republicans debate later tonight over at California's Reagan Library right here on CNN, there may about bit more room on the stage. Within the hour, Rudy Giuliani expected to formally announce he's dropping out of the race. Giuliani gambled his political future on the Florida primary and he lost that bet. Now everyone, including rival Mitt Romney, expecting him to throw his support within the hour or so to John McCain.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think Rudy Giuliani's endorsement will help somewhat, although I think Rudy's people will not necessarily follow where Rudy's picking him. I think they're going to look for a person who's more like Rudy. And I think that Rudy's executive experience and leadership is something they're looking for. And that's going to get me some of their votes and some may go to McCain.


BLITZER: Please stay with us here on CNN for the Republican presidential debate over at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley in California. Our coverage begins for the debate 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific.

And remember, coming up also, we'll be speaking with the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, just before the debate. His interview with me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's coming up.

Let's get to the Democratic side right now, though. John Edwards saying he's happy to talk about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but that's as far as he's willing to go for now. Edwards did speak with our own Suzanne Malveaux right after he announced he is leaving the race.

Suzanne is joining us from New Orleans -- all right, Suzanne, what did he have to tell you?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is really the candidate who spoke to the working people -- the working class, talking about two Americans, the haves and have-nots. Ultimately, that message could not save his campaign, but he did successfully shape the debate.


EDWARDS: Today I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Full circle -- John Edwards ending his campaign where it began -- the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, devastated by Katrina.

EDWARDS: I say to all those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.

MALVEAUX: His central themes -- fighting poverty and corporate lobbyists -- in the end, didn't gain the traction he needed to win. I asked him why bow out now.

EDWARDS: I think we've pushed issues that otherwise would not have been prominent in the campaign. And I thought we had come to this point -- this historical point where it was time for me to step aside, as I said in the speech, and let America make history and let my party make history.

MALVEAUX: Aides say he and his wife Elizabeth decided together Wednesday morning to call it quits, acknowledging he didn't have the votes or the delegates to make a difference. He made the announcement with her and his children by his side. He reassured supporters he was not stepping down because of his wife's battle with cancer.

EDWARDS: But Elizabeth's health is actually very good. And she feels good. Her spirits are good. My kids are doing well. I just thought we reached the place where this was the right thing to do.

MALVEAUX: Tuesday, Edwards called his two rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to tell them he was considering bowing out. He says they agreed to his request to make fighting poverty central to their campaigns. Now he says he's deciding whether to endorse one.

EDWARDS: This is a conversation that needs to take place in private. This -- this cause is the cause of my life and I need to be satisfied about -- if I'm going to endorse -- which one will be committed to the cause.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, I asked what is next for him. And he said he's got to figure all of that out. But one of the things that's not likely is that he would accept being either candidates' running mate -- kind of been there, done that. But he still remains a powerful player as long as he has that potential endorsement in his hand -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We wish him the best of luck in whatever he decides to do next, together with his family.

Thanks very much, Suzanne, for that.

So why would Rudy Giuliani, on the Republican side, now decide to stop campaigning, drop out of this race and throw his support to John McCain?

Let's go to Brian Todd because he's looking at this story. There's some history there.

What are you learning -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, for two political heavyweights who have competed for this nomination, there has been a decided lack of fireworks between the two during the primaries. Observers say that's a reflection of genuine respect.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to congratulate Senator McCain.

TODD (voice-over): Politically, personally those who know Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say this endorsement makes almost perfect sense. This is a bond solidified in the aftermath of 9/11. From a World Series box, a simple but vital image of resolute toughness for a jittery public.

Colleagues and GOP strategists say the friendship was forged by their draw to national security policy and by personal styles that mesh well.

TORRY HOLT, FORMER RNC ADVISER: There is a straight talk that can come from both men that sort of binds them together. I think that it's important to remember that in this political climate, people are looking for something different. They're looking for something more than a blow dried politician. And in both of these guys, you get somebody who doesn't fit that mold.

TODD: They genuinely enjoy each other's company. Former aides say both men much looser behind-the-scenes. Not taking themselves too seriously in public, either -- like at this event in 2000, when McCain stumped for Giuliani's short lived Senate bid.

MCCAIN: We need more mild-mannered, even-tempered individuals like Rudy and myself...


MCCAIN: ...who will never rock the boat nor say anything that's controversial in nature. So, I look forward to having a soul mate in the United States -- in the United States Senate.

TODD: The closest they came to attacking each other during the debates was when McCain said Giuliani's leadership after 9/11 didn't constitute national security experience. Ideologically, analysts say this is a very close fit -- putting aside McCain's more conservative stance on abortion. STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: On other cultural issues and on questions of fiscal responsibility, they're more concerned with balancing the budget rather than simply cutting taxes. So on a full range of issues, I think, they don't play to the more conservative elements of the Republican Party.


TODD: Still, most observers say there's no way McCain would pick Giuliani as his running mate if he gets the nomination. They say McCain probably will need to go to someone in the conservative wing of the party to patch up his vulnerability there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd looking at this relationship.

Thanks, Brian, very much.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: It's probably too soon to compare him to Secretariat, but as John McCain moves toward the back stretch in this presidential horse race, he's starting to open up a lead that's going to make him tough to catch. Giuliani is gone -- a casualty of one of the biggest miscalculations in American politics. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are still around, but they're irrelevant. And only Mitt Romney has a shot -- and it's a bit of a long shot at that.

Nevertheless, Romney is vowing to carry his campaign into the 21 states where Republicans will vote on Super Tuesday of next week. In his concession speech last night, Romney called on conservatives to support him, as he promised to cut federal spending and illegal immigration and teach children that before they have babies, they should get married.

With the Republican field now smaller, Romney's campaign thinks they'll be able to better highlight the differences between his business background and McCain's Washington insider status. But Romney has got his work cut out for him.

Heading into Super Tuesday, McCain now has momentum -- lots of it. And he has the most delegates. And it's possible that Huckabee could hurt Romney by staying in the race and thus drawing some conservative voters, especially in the South, away from Romney. This all means that the next week will probably get even nastier between McCain and Romney than it's already been. And you can look forward to probably starting tonight at the Republican debate out there in California.

Here's the question -- what does Mitt Romney have to do now to catch John McCain?

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

BLITZER: Good question, Jack.

Thanks very much.

New tensions between Mitt Romney and John McCain, with Rudy Giuliani apparently ready to drop out. We're going to take his comments live. That's coming up.

Which rival stands to benefit the most?

And it sounds like a movie -- he's backing Barack Obama, she's helping Hillary Clinton.

What's that doing to their marriage?

And carnage in Kenya, where an election dispute has blown up into what a U.S. diplomat is now calling ethnic cleansing.

Our own Zain Verjee -- she's on the scene. She's watching the story for us.

We're live here at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, site of tomorrow night's Democratic presidential debate.



BLITZER: As John McCain edges into the lead in the Republican race, is the party becoming more polarized?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to really have a united party. I mean we -- we all know that the party has got great challenges. I see the polls that show that the Democrat -- the Democratic Party has more favorabilities on issues. We've got a lot of work to do and a united party is really vital to do that.


BLITZER: In just a few hours right here on CNN, the Republican candidates will debate over at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

Already on the scene for us over there, CNN contributor Roland Martin.

And joining us from Washington, Tony Perkins. He's the president of the Family Research Council.

Tony, let me ask you, if John McCain gets the Republican presidential nomination, will that divide up the Republican base?

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think in order to get the nomination, he has to unify the Republican base. As he talked about, we've got to have a unified party speaking to both fiscal, social and defense issues.

What we've seen so far is really the Evangelicals -- the social conservatives have been split three ways in most of these contests. The winner -- the one who's going to get the nomination -- is going to have to get Huckabee's share of those Evangelicals to succeed.

BLITZER: I guess the question is can all of the Republicans unite around John McCain?

PERKINS: Well, I -- it's yet to be seen. He's going to have to aggressively reach out to social conservatives, express to them he not only understands their issues, he cares about them and is willing to advance those issues. When you look at what's happening on the other side, in the Democratic turnout, their turnout is almost double of what it was in 2004. The Republicans not only have to have a unified party, they have to have an energized and mobilized party, I think, to win this fall.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Roland the same question on the Democratic side -- either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama -- they're the two candidates left standing on the Democratic side.

Can either of those -- given some of the acrimony -- can they unify the Democratic Party going into a contest against John McCain or any other Republican nominee?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Wolf, I think so, because you have candidates, frankly, that the Democrats are enthusiastic about in terms of Clinton. Obviously, she has a long track record in terms of being first lady, of being in the United States Senate. Where you have Obama, who is bringing in younger voters. He's also bringing in disenfranchised voters. So you've got a lot more enthusiasm on their side. They are more unified, frankly, than the Republicans.

Look, here's the problem with the Republicans. They face the exact same problem, Wolf, as the Democrats faced in 1992. The Democrats had lost three consecutive presidential races and so they were looking for an identity. They chose a Southern governor, frankly, who was not liberal or progressive. And so it caused some friction there and liberals had to deal with that.

The Republicans have got to own up to the fact that they don't have a natural leader. There's no V.P. Running. You don't have the president unifying this party.

And so I think conservatives, especially Evangelicals, are going to be facing a very difficult situation. If McCain gets the nomination, they have to say wait a minute -- do we support him or do we allow a Democratic nominee potentially to win and...

BLITZER: All right...

MARTIN: ...appoint three Supreme Court justices.

BLITZER: All right. All right, guys, listen to this, because only seconds ago, minutes ago, Rudy Giuliani made his formal announcement.

Listen to this.


GIULIANI: ...which is that I'm going to endorse John McCain. It's disappointing to lose a race for president, because you believe you're the best candidate. And -- but I had made it clear before I had to make this decision who I thought the other best candidate was. I think I made it clear in a debate that had I not been running, I'd be supporting John McCain.


BLITZER: All right, Tony Perkins, Rudy Giuliani not only saying that he's dropping out, but also saying he's going to endorse John McCain. Some conservatives have suggested that that's almost a mixed blessing for John McCain -- sort of like getting the endorsement of "The New York Times" editorial page.

What do you think?

PERKINS: Well, I think it is. I think endorsements are mixed, because you get both the negatives and the positives. I mean the news out of last night out of Florida was that Rudy Giuliani, with his, you know, Big Apple value -- abortion rights, gay rights -- turned voters sour to him. And they dropped away from him.

Will he be able to bring to John McCain votes without distracting or detracting from his positions on the social issues?

I mean John McCain has already established himself as one strong on defense. It may make some conservatives a little nervous that he is too close to Rudy Giuliani, who got a lot of push back. That's why he avoided the early states, because conservatives just were, you know, very aggressive in their opposition to him.

MARTIN: But, Tony -- BLITZER: He says that John McCain, Tony...

MARTIN: Tony, here's the issue, though.

BLITZER: Yes, hold one second, Roland, because I want to just ask...

MARTIN: Sure. Sure.

BLITZER: ...Tony a question on this -- the social -- the social issues. John McCain says he's got a decades' long record opposing abortion.

What specifically would you want him to do to reassure social conservatives that he's committed against abortion rights for women?

PERKINS: You know -- well, it's not just that, Wolf. I mean that is a good point. He does have a long track record of being pro-life. He did oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment, which is -- which is an issue of great concern to many social conservative. But it's not just where he has been in the past, but it's also that they're not -- these issues have not been really incorporated equally with his other messages in his campaign.

I think he can pull together the coalition, but he's got to -- he must address those issues and make people understand that he is comfortable in dealing with them.

I do think this is far from decided. I think Mitt Romney still can give him a very good run for his money next week, because Mitt has been out there on all three these areas of conservatism, speaking to them.

What is really holding back Mitt Romney, I think, is the fact that Mike Huckabee continues to do well with Evangelicals across the country. And if he stays in through Super Tuesday, he'll continue to draw that vote, as well.

BLITZER: So they'll split that vote...

MARTIN: You know, (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: All right, Roland, go ahead. I know you want to weigh in.

MARTIN: Well, sure. Man, look, as a husband of an ordained minister, somebody who is involved in the church, it amazes me when value voters only seem to look at the whole issue of abortion and homosexuality. McCain is, indeed, pro-life. That is his position. Now, he voted -- you know, the whole issue of the marriage amendment, he's also saying he's a man (INAUDIBLE).

Isn't it interesting that Republicans are always talking about state's rights, yet on that particular issue they have a problem because he did oppose the whole issue of a federal amendment?

At the same time, look, the guy is a fiscal conservative. But you have to ask that question, as, not always about tax cuts, but the deficit going on. And so I think value voters need to also expand their idea of what the values are McCain...

PERKINS: Well, I mean...

MARTIN: ...speaks to them...

PERKINS: ...Roland, there's...

MARTIN: There's not just two issues.

PERKINS: No. And I'm not saying that that is. They are -- they give priorities to certain issues. But can you tell by the fact that Evangelicals have been evenly split among the three candidates -- really going three ways, between Romney, McCain and Huckabee -- they are -- they are much more complex in the issue sets that they deal with. They're concerned about security and terrorism. They're concerned about the economy. They have jobs. They have pay -- they pay taxes. But they do prioritize the issue with life.

MARTIN: Right.

PERKINS: And you're right, John McCain is pro-life. So he is not just disqualified. The problem with Rudy Giuliani is that he was not pro-life and so that disqualified him from the beginning.

MARTIN: Right.

PERKINS: So I'm not saying social conservatives...

MARTIN: No, I understand that. I...

PERKINS: I'm just saying he's got to make them feel more comfortable with him.

MARTIN: Oh, I got you. But, also, I think what's going to make them people more comfortable with him, if he is the Republican nominee and Senator Clinton or Obama, if they're the Democratic nominee, I think those value voters are going to look and the fact that the next president will likely choose three Supreme Court justices. They're going to sit there and choose folks for the federal bench. I think that probably is going to unify Republicans more so than, frankly, any one of the candidates.

BLITZER: All right...

PERKINS: It will, but...

BLITZER: Unfortunately, guys, we've...

PERKINS: It will. But you've got to -- you've got to it be for something as opposed just against something. It will be a motivating factor, but they've got to go to work for somebody they really believe in.

MARTIN: Got you.

BLITZER: Tony Perkins and Roland Martin, a good discussion.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

He says Obama, she says Clinton. You're going to meet a political odd couple actually working for rival campaigns. We'll show you how they keep it from hurting their marriage.

Plus, this surprising cause of this train derailment.

We're live at the Kodak Theater here in Los Angeles.

We're also standing by to speak to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.


BLITZER: Look at these live pictures coming in. This is Simi Valley, California. Shortly, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani will be there. Rudy Giuliani has already announced he's dropping out of this presidential race. He's about to endorse formally John McCain. They have an event coming up. We'll go there live once it starts.

Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a showdown over waterboarding, as Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He declined to say whether or not waterboarding is torture, saying that the comment would be inappropriate since the CIA no longer uses it. The subcommittee of Democrats accused Mukasey of ducking the question.

A warning -- this video is very disturbing and the Agriculture Department now says it will investigate. The hidden camera images show sick cows in a Southern California slaughterhouse being kicked and dragged and shocked with electric prods -- even rammed with forklifts. I mean it's awful video. The company, Hallmark Meatpacking, says two employees have been fired as a result of this video and operations are suspended until it can meet with all employees.

Powerful winds are being blamed for this freight train derailment in Northern Ohio. Officials say it sent about 10 cargo containers plunging into Sandusky Bay near Port Clinton. Most of them were empty, but one contains hazardous material. The local sheriff says it's not leaking and does not pose a threat.

And two American astronauts have wrapped up what NASA is calling a very risky spacewalk. They replaced a motor that tilts a solar wing on the International Space Station. The astronauts faced the risk of being shocked by light-generated electricity. As a precaution, most of the work was done while the station was in the dark part of its orbit. Everybody is OK -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

A marriage straddling a political divide. She's for Clinton, he's for Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I think, frankly, we are trying our best to provide some form of communication between the two campaigns, just to try to make sure that -- that things don't get out of control. And -- just as we're trying to keep things from getting out of control in our own household.


BLITZER: So how do they do it?

We're going to show you.

Carol Costello has the story.

Also, new images of deadly violence rocking Kenya right now. Our own Zain Verjee -- she's on the scene. She's reporting from her homeland. This is a horrible story underway right now. Zain with details.

Plus, what the Fed about interest rates and how the markets reacted. We're live at the Kodak Theater here in Los Angeles, getting ready for tomorrow's Democratic presidential debate. There's a Republican contest and a Republican debate underway tonight, as well.

Stay with us.




Happening now, the Federal Reserve cuts a key interest rate by half a percentage point only eight days after an emergency three quarters of a point cut. The fed is moving aggressively to ward off recession. Wall Street responded with a brief rally but the major indexes all ended today in negative territory.

Also, the staggering loss from severe winter weather that's paralyzed China's transportation and power systems; the government says it's cost the economy $4.5 billion so far.

And former presidential candidate Ralph Nader is now launching an exploratory committee for a possible White House run. He tells CNN with John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich out, he's likely to enter the race if he can get the resources.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They're political odd couple. She's an adviser for Hillary Clinton. He's advising Barack Obama, but is it taking a toll on their marriage? CNN's Carol Costello joining us with more now. Carol, who are they and how do they make it all work?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, man, they are longtime political players, best at the game, as it were but imagine being on opposite sides of what has become a contentious race and living in the same house. It's all in what you choose to share and what you don't.


COSTELLO: Love and politics do mix, really. Maria Echaveste and Chris Edley are proof. They met while working in the Clinton White House. They got married. But now they play for different teams. He is an adviser for Barack Obama; she for Hillary Clinton. MARIA ECHAVESTE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: It's surprising how many people actually called after each you know, Iowa and New Hampshire. How are you guys doing?

CHRIS EDLEY, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I did have a -- I do have a history.

COSTELLO: Well, there's been nothing like this since Clinton adviser James Carville and Bush staffer Mary Madeleine tied the knot. Edley and Echaveste are amazed Carville and Madeleine can live together. They say their marriage works because both are democrats who in the end want the same thing, a democratic president.

EDLEY: It's also, frankly, we are trying our best to provide some channel of communication between the two campaigns, just to try to make sure that the things don't get out of control, and just as we're trying to keep things from getting out of control in our own household.

COSTELLO: Lately, that has been a struggle, especially when Bill Clinton went on the attack in South Carolina.

ECHAVESTE: We certainly had some very intense discussions about what was appropriate language. In my case, how do I challenge the qualifications of Senator Obama? You know, what words set off a trigger?

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON, UNITED STATES: Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.

EDLEY: I've often questioned, as, some of the things that Bill Clinton has said or that others have said and I react negatively. Is it my paranoia?

CLINTON: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and '88 and he ran good campaign and Senator Obama is running a good campaign here. He's running a good campaign everywhere.

EDLEY: Or is it actually legitimate to be concerned that he's sending out messages, not necessarily intended, and inflamed racial mistrust?

ECHAVESTE: What this election has shown is that we have unresolved issues of race and gender, but particularly race, but also the subtle forms of -- of being dismissive, of Hillary as the first female really viable female candidate for president.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.

ECHAVESTE: In many ways, she represents something that people across the country are increasingly facing. How are you, both a person in your own right, with skills, a career, ambitions, ideas and also be part of a couple? COSTELLO: Edley believes when a winner emerges there could be lasting cultural damage. Both say it's up to Clinton and Obama, and those who speak on their behalf to make sure that doesn't happen.

ECHAVESTE: We describe it as, you know, we're trying to model with children you try model. We're trying to model good behavior, which is we're going to be unified. You can have disagreement but can you do it civilly.


COSTELLO: A tall order. Both have learned a lot about one another through this. She's Latina. He's African-American. Both discovered new sensitivities about one another's ethnicity, sensitivities they didn't realize were there. Wolf?

BLITZER: Excellent piece, Carol. Thanks very much. I covered both of them when they both served in the Clinton White House. Good reporting.

As the field narrows, the candidates' base start picking up more endorsements. Hillary Clinton has now won the backing of an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Joining us, that member, Representative Maxine Waters of California. Good to be on your home turf here in Los Angeles.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm delighted to be here.

BLITZER: Tell us why when all the dust settles you decided that Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Barack Obama?

WATERS: I've been watching all of the candidates very closely. I've been following everything they say, everything they do, watching all of the debates, and I determined that there are really two campaigns going on here. One is the campaign about hopes and vision and making people feel better, and the other is a campaign about getting things done, concrete proposals, and I decided that Hillary Clinton not only has the experience, but she's got concrete proposals. She's worked on reforming health care for a long time. She understands it, and I decided the people that I represent need access to a president who's about the business of moving proposals, getting things done, and doing it quickly.

BLITZER: You don't think Barack Obama has that?

WATERS: Well, he hasn't talked extensively about proposals and concrete ideas in the way that Hillary had. A lot of people wake up every day with hope. They go to bed at night perhaps with nothing but wake up thinking things could be better, will be better. They need action. We need action.

BLITZER: So what I hear you say, she has the experience, he's not yet ready for primetime.


BLITZER: Is that what you're saying?

WATERS: What I'm saying he hasn't expressed that. He's talked more generically. He's talked more about vision. He's talked about hope. He's inspirational, but I want concrete ideas and proposals and I want to know that you have the ability to implement concrete proposals.

We should not have let Katrina devastate the gulf coast in the way that it's done and not repaired it. I want somebody to talk about getting that done.

BLITZER: How much pressure were you under personally because you're an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus, from both of these camps?

WATERS: I talked to both of them. I don't think it was tremendous pressure. I think they both talked about what they'd like to do and they'd like to have me supporting them, but it has been very well. I don't think there's been a lot of pressure.

BLITZER: What's going to happen here in California next Tuesday, Super Tuesday?

WATERS: We're going to have a big turnout, and that has been happening all over the country and in other campaigns.

BLITZER: But you feel Hillary Clinton will win?

WATERS: I think she will. I think that she's ahead. I think people know her a lot better here. Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in this city an awful lot over the years, and I think they're better known.

BLITZER: With Edwards dropping out of the race, you're a key political observer. How does that impact this contest? In other words, who's he going to help, with his decision to leave, and who's he going to hurt?

WATERS: You know there's a lot of speculation about that. He was viewed as someone on the very, very less progressive edge of everything. So you would think that they would be looking for a candidate that would mirror his kind of thinking. And I'm not so sure that either of them really do, and now I think it's about whether or not Hillary is going to be able to basically tie into that base that's been a Clinton base for a long time.

BLITZER: Did what former President Bill Clinton say, you just heard from Carol Costello's piece. I assume you know both the married couple she was ...

WATERS: Yes, I know them.

BLITZER: A portrait of -- did that irritate you? Some of the comments he was making? We spoke to James Clyburn from South Carolina, the congressional, the house majority whip, and he told Bill Clinton to chill, if you remember? WATERS: The fact of the matter is, I think the press has made more of this. I think the whole discussion has been fueled by you guys. I think that you just don't let it die. You just keep bringing it up. You keep talking about it. Let's put it behind us and go on with positive proposals and ideas and find out what these candidates really want to do.

BLITZER: So despite some of the tension that we saw in the last debate, another debate tomorrow night, that's why we're here at the Kodak Theater. Can the Democratic Party unify?

WATERS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: One or the other, or will there be lasting bitterness that will prevent that from happening?

WATERS: I think if the press will help us to put this behind us.

BLITZER: You can't count on the press. You've been in politics --

WATERS: I know, but I like to tell my friend this so that I can get them thinking about it. I think certainly the candidates are willing to put it --

BLITZER: You think they are?

WATERS: Oh, sure, yes.

BLITZER: Is it feasible that they could be on the same ticket?

WATERS: Oh, my goodness now --

BLITZER: Is that reasonable to think of that?

WATERS: I don't know if that's reasonable or not. I think the presidential candidate must have the room to choose the person that they think will best serve with them. They've got to click. They've got to be able to work together, and I think much of that thought is going to come from the president's nominee, him or herself, about who they'd like to see and, of course, their advisers will play in on that. I just don't have any idea whether these two would end up being on the same ticket.

BLITZER: Maxine Waters, democratic congresswoman from here in Los Angeles. Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it very much.

Just hours from now, our own Anderson Cooper will moderate the republican presidential debate from the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. That begins 8:00 p.m. eastern, two hours and 20 minutes or so from now only here on CNN. I'll be hosting our democratic presidential debate tomorrow night here at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. Our coverage then begins tomorrow night for the debate, 8:00 p.m. eastern as well.

So what does Snoop Dogg think about the leading democratic candidates? The rapper sounds almost lyrical as he raps with CNN Larry King saying he likes what's he sees. Listen to this.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What do you make emotionally as a black man about the Obama/Clinton race?

SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: To me, I feel like they're both great candidates, because they both have strong situations to support and as far as Ms. Clinton, her news office. When her husband was in office, everybody knows every strong man needs a woman to be the backbone. She probably was the mind and soul behind him as president.

KING: Don't you emotionally though have some -- a tie to Barack Obama?

DOGG: I do. I do because I am a black man in America and know he relates to everything that I'm going through, but politically correct, I just want to see somebody win that's in the best interests of America, whether it be him, the black man, whether Hillary, a woman, either one, to me, 1 a great move for America, because we need change. We need somebody in there that's going to be about listening to the people and resting the people and I feel both of those candidates will do that.


BLITZER: You can see Larry's full interview Friday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE;" Larry King and Snoop Dogg, Friday night.

The California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is standing by live to join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk with him about the race for the White House, tonight's republican presidential debate, his meeting today with President Bush and a lot more of my interview with Governor Schwarzenegger, that's coming up live.

Plus, political violence turns into ethnic warfare. Our own Zain Verjee takes us on a shocking tour of her native Kenya.

We're live at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We'll get back to the race for the White House momentarily. We're waiting to hear from Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. There's other news we're following including some news from around the world. One U.S. diplomat already is calling it ethnic cleansing. Post-election violence turns into a tribal slaughter pitting neighbor against neighbor. CNN's Zain Verjee is on the scene of the carnage in Kenya.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At 3:00 in the morning, this town's neighbors of a different tribe came in and set this place on fire. 60 percent of this town has been razed, completely burned to the ground. People would have been asleep at night, and they fled not knowing what hit them. You can see here this is somebody's home, and you see some maize that's been completely burned, potatoes. This would have been really to feed the family from the fields nearby and the excess would probably have been sent off to the market to make a little bit of money, but as we just here walk around the home and the ash here, you can see the shattered plates, broken glass everywhere.

Oh, my goodness. Look at all of this.

We just landed in this town. There are a number of homes on fire here in the Rift Valley. We're going to take a look and see exactly what's happening over there. We've seen a few refugees just packing up their things and leaving, but we're going to take a look and see what's happening. We've also put on these flak Jackets. The reason is, a lot of people have been shot by poison bows and arrows. So we're putting them on for our protection.

It seems like this, in the Rift Valley, the Kenyans are shaking their heads in disbelief. The tribe on tribe violence in this part of the Rift valley is intense. We've been to see two different tribes in two different areas. They are neighbors, and both sides are telling us how much they hate each other, and in many instances, that they want revenge.

This is a house belonging to people from the Kikuty tribe. In fact this whole area I'm standing in belongs to the Kikuyu. Most of it is smoldering and many villages are on fire. Just across the road is a different tribe. The people we've spoken to here say that they have come over and attacked the homes, taken all of their possessions and set the place on fire.


BLITZER: Zain Verjee reporting for us from her native Kenya. What a story. We'll continue to monitor it for our viewers.

Also coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, as republican candidates gather and in Governor Schwarzenegger's state, I'll ask if he's ready to endorse one of them. That's coming up. My interview with Governor Schwarzenegger, that's live here in California.

And we're live at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty File. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, Wolf, is what does Mitt Romney have to do now to try to catch John McCain?

James writes, "Apparently talk more about terrorists. Here in Florida, every ad I've seen by McCain starts with him saying I know Floridians are worried about radical Islamic terrorism. Personally that's the last thing I'm worried about with all the other problems facing the country. But apparently he was right, because he won Florida. Romney should tell us how afraid we are of terrorists and then publicly support Bush in everything he does just like McCain and maybe he has a shot."

Ruth writes, "Bring up McCain's stand on the war, and the war, and the war."

Kevin in Illinois, "If Mitt Romney wants to catch McCain he needs to switch parties and be Obama's vice president."

Dan writes, "I disagree with the premise of the question. Paul and Huckabee are far from irrelevant and this race is far from over. See you at the Republican Convention, Jack."

Dennis writes, "There's nothing Romney can do. The writing's already on the wall. McCain/Huckabee is the only ticket to give the democrats a run for their money. McCain knows it. Huckabee knows it and it's time Romney realizes it."

And Beth, "Mitt should stop the attack routine on McCain and simply stretch his decent business record on how he would help our country economically."

Diane from New York, "Maybe he could let out some of that hot air out of his over-inflated ego."

And Karyn weighs in with, "Romney will never appeal to most Americans as long as he keeps touting his managerial experience. Do you love your boss? I didn't think so." Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.

The California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, which of the remaining presidential candidates will he be endorsing? I'll ask him. He's standing by live. He'll be joining us in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're also standing by for Rudy Giuliani the formal announcement of his endorsement of his formal rival, John McCain.

We're live here at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's standing by. His show begins in one hour at the top of 7:00 p.m. eastern. A couple questions, Lou. First of all, John Edwards' decision to drop out, do you think it helps Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: I think that his populist message and he was the closest of all the candidates in terms of his populism, I think ultimately should help him more with, frankly, Senator Clinton, in my opinion, because she is more aligned with labor. She has been talking about the working man. I have obviously some rather skeptical questions and issues with some of the positions she's taken. Perhaps it's early in her formulation of those positions. We can hope. But I think ultimately it benefits her.

BLITZER: It helps her. What about Rudy Giuliani's decision? He's momentarily going to formally endorse John McCain. How big of a deal do you think this is?

DOBBS: I think it's a bigger deal than most people think and actually in both parties. I've been talking with a number of folks. This is going to have an impact in the proportional distribution of delegates, because as you reduce the number of candidates and we see that 15% threshold, you're going to see a little different take here than we might have experienced otherwise. In the case of the democratic side, no question that Edwards helps Clinton and on the republican side, the Giuliani's endorsement for McCain will be significant for him.

I don't think the race isn't over by any means, some of the pundits, I've been saying both to you and me, we're in for a pretty good campaign on the republican side, despite everything we're hearing from the so-called savants.

BLITZER: What was Giuliani's big blunder?

DOBBS: His big blunder, I don't know. It was a series of blunders. One is he never made a connection with the people whose votes he sought. And the strange idea of going to Florida in the -- and the money spent both by Giuliani and Romney in Florida, my gosh! You know, when you spend that kind of money, it would be smarter to put it in t bills and call it a day. This makes no sense. This is terrible, terrible political strategy. It's terrible politics, and they were appropriately rejected because they simply didn't have a message and a philosophy and a vision that was in any way attractive. I'm not too thrilled with the visions that are being expressed by the surviving candidates, but these certainly were simply inadequate.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs, getting ready for his show that begins in one hour. We'll be watching, Lou. Thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf. Have fun out in Star City.

BLITZER: All right. Hollywood, it's a lovely place out here.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.