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THE SITUATION ROOM
Candidates Make Final Pushes Day Before Super Tuesday
Aired February 4, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, turf wars -- the candidates make a final push for that massive haul of delegates. Why winning tomorrow may still not be enough to win the nomination, though.
He's the candidate you love to hate -- John McCain's success is leaving some conservative radio talkers sputtering with rage.
Could a strong Super Tuesday leave them speechless?
And Super Tuesday could stretch into Wednesday in California. Why the state with the biggest prize could leave everyone in success.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing. Voters will turn out tomorrow in nearly two dozen states, and between the two parties, thousands of delegates are potentially at stake. On the eve of the big day, polls show the Democrats are apparently running about even right now -- nationally, at least.
Hillary Clinton says it's all about the results, not the race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Politics is a means to an end. It's not an end in itself. It is intended, in a democracy, to give voice to all of us. Everyone's vote counts exactly the same as anyone else's -- to set priorities, to elect people who will fulfill those priorities and to understand that decisions that are made have real life consequences. It does matter who our leaders and what they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barack Obama today offered voters a long list of things he would do as president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to go before the world community and say America is back. (APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: We are ready to lead. And we will lead, yes, on terrorism. We will lead in locking down loose nuclear weapons. But we will also lead in bringing an end to the genocide in Darfur. We will also lead...
OBAMA: We'll also lead on climate change. We'll also lead on helping poor countries deal with the devastation of HIV/AIDS. We will close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus. We will lead on human rights and civil rights.
If you believe, you will elect a president who has taught the Constitution and believes in the Constitution and will obey the Constitution of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I sat down with the Barack Obama while he was in New Jersey earlier today. That interview coming up in our next hour -- my interview with Senator Barack Obama.
On the Republican side, John McCain has momentum and seems to be a clear frontrunner right now. He's betting heavily on his pledge to keep Americans safe and secure and suggests that means staying the course in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But Americans are happy that we're in Turkey. Americans are happy that we're in Kuwait. Americans are happy we're in Italy. Because they know that America, as the world's superpower, has to have power around the world.
But what Americans are frustrated and saddened and angered by was the mishandling of this war, which caused so much unnecessary sacrifice. And now we are succeeding. And that success -- the Democrats, motivated by MoveOn.org, who insulted our greatest general, General Petraeus, want to pull the rug out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mitt Romney says it all begins and ends with economic security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can't be the world's most powerful military and have your economy become a second tier economy. And so I bring to this battle a life-long experience in bringing people together to accomplish things that seem very, very difficult. And that's what I want to do for the country. It's what I believe can be done for our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: When it comes to delegates, a big pot of gold lies at the other end of the country, out in California. And the Democratic candidates are letting some celebrity surrogates take the spotlight out there.
Let's go out to Jessica Yellin.
She's in Los Angeles watching this story for us -- as usual in L.A. , Jessica, the stars are coming out.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sure are, Wolf. It's the battle of celebrity surrogates here. Even just a few weeks ago, Senator Clinton had a healthy lead in this state. But now that's vanished. And Barack Obama is fighting to win in what has long been known as Clinton country.
OPRAH WINFREY: Thank you all.
YELLIN (voice-over): While the candidates on the East Coast stumping for votes...
H. CLINTON: Tomorrow, we have another super contest.
YELLIN: ...their mega wattage supporters are fighting to gain ground in the ever tightening race in California.
OBAMA: Come on, Saginaw (INAUDIBLE).
YELLIN: On one side, the man who made California Clinton country. He told parishioners at three different African-American churches...
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All my life I've been waiting to vote for an African-American for president.
B. CLINTON: All my life, I've been waiting to vote for a woman for president.
YELLIN: And explained to a young crowd of community college students...
B. CLINTON: She just wants to get you back on your feet again so we can go forward together into the future.
YELLIN: But the other side sees a chance to make California Obama country.
OPRAH WINFREY: I'm just following my own truth. And that truth has led me to Barack Obama.
YELLIN: Oprah joined a line-up of power women wooing female voters, who tend to favor Hillary Clinton. The audience went wild over a surprise guest -- the first lady of California.
MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY, CALIFORNIA: So I am here today as a woman and as a Californian.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: And the race remains tight today. Wolf, I'll tell you, there's something unusual about California. As many as half of all the votes here could already be cast by absentee ballot. And another thing, the person who wins the most votes might not win the most delegates in the end. So even though California has long been thought to be decisive in this nominating contest, it turns out with a race this close, it could leave everything still up in the air after all the votes are counted -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the first lady of California, Maria Shriver, endorses Barack Obama. Her husband, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorses John McCain.
I wonder how their conversations are going right now.
Thanks very much for that, Jessica, out in her home town of L.A. .
As Republicans have made their final push today, John McCain moved into Mitt Romney's backyard, as Romney headed south, into Huckabee territory, as some are calling it.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is in his hometown of Boston -- John, everybody is in their hometowns right now.
Let's talk a little bit about the Republicans going after each other on this day.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a fascinating begin here in Boston. The McCain campaign views this foray behind enemy lines, if you will, as a sign of strength. But as the votes are counted tomorrow night, especially in places like Georgia, Oklahoma and California, the Romney camp is hoping that McCain's visit, in hindsight, turns out to be a foolish gamble.
KING (voice-over): Historic Faneuil Hall is in Mitt Romney's home turf -- this, a John McCain show of confidence.
MCCAIN: Thank you all. Thank you for being here.
KING: And a defiant rebuke of Romney and others, who suggest his eagerness to work with Democrats betrays the conservative cause.
MCCAIN: I will preserve my proud conservative Republican credentials, but I will reach across the aisle to the Democrats and work together for the good of this country.
KING: McCain sees a big Super Tuesday in the offing and knows an upset victory here would be devastating to Romney.
MCCAIN: I believe we have every good shot at carrying the State of Massachusetts tomorrow...
MCCAIN: ...and winning the state and sweeping these (INAUDIBLE). Thank you. Good to see you.
KING: Romney backers, though, dismiss McCain's chances in Massachusetts and mock him as too fond of liberal Democrats -- a message Romney himself echoed as he campaigned in Tennessee, Oklahoma and here in Georgia.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you want as our nominee somebody who fought for McCain/Kennedy, which is an amnesty bill for illegals?
UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: No!
ROMNEY: And so you guys, we're going to -- we're going to hand the liberals in our party a little surprise on Tuesday evening when we take California and we take Georgia and we take states across the country and we get this nomination.
KING: But Romney's Southern strategy is complicated by more than a rally around the McCain movement.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Mr. Romney has been trying to do a little voter suppression by telling people that a vote for me is really a vote for John McCain.
KING: In Tennessee and elsewhere, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee vowed to fight on and yet again took sharpest aim at Romney.
HUCKABEE: A vote for me is exactly what it is -- it is a vote for me -- a vote for somebody who hasn't just decided this year where he stands on the Second Amendment. I've stood there, always have, always will. It's a vote for somebody who knows where he stands on the sanctity of life. It's somebody who knows where he stands on the Federal Marriage Amendment.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: And as Governor Huckabee vows to fight on, Wolf, Senator McCain, who began his day on the East Coast, is heading out to the West Coast. Wolf, both Senator McCain and Governor Romney racing out to California to make one last pitch in that hotly contested state that is Super Tuesday's biggest prize -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John.
Thanks very much.
Let's check back with Jack.
He's got The Cafferty File here at the CNN Election Center.
CAFFERTY: A busy place we have here.
BLITZER: Yes. A big election tomorrow.
CAFFERTY: The next 36 hours or so are going to be frantic around here.
John McCain is sounding increasingly confident that he's going be the nominee for president for the Republicans. Not everybody is ready to place McCain at the top of the Republican ticket.
"The Washington Post" did a story today about several of McCain's Republican colleagues who are warning that McCain's tirades on and off the floor of the Senate suggest a temperament unfit for the Oval Office.
Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran says: "The thought of McCain being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic, he's hot-headed, he loses his temper and he worries me."
Another Republican, former Senator Rick Santorum, describing McCain as being "very rough in the sand box," saying that he hasn't built up a lot of goodwill. Witnesses citing several examples of McCain cursing and belittling Senate colleagues in front of other people.
His supporters insist that McCain's fiery personality is a good thing, saying his capacity to get outraged shows how much he believes in something. One top aide dismissed the idea that McCain isn't fit to be president and said most stories about his temper are "wildly exaggerated."
They would be expected to say that.
When it comes to House Republicans, McCain has had a strained relationship with a lot of them for a long time -- years. But Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole says this: "You'll have more Democrats running away from Hillary Clinton than you'll have Republicans running away from our nominee."
McCain has been endorsed by 13 of the 100 senators, which is more than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.
So here's the question -- what does it mean if some of John McCain's Republican Senate colleagues question whether he has the temperament to be president?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And a lot of people will.
CAFFERTY: I hope so.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.
BLITZER: It's called Super Tuesday, but we may not know the answers in some of the states until Wednesday, including in California, where officials are warning their results may not be in until the day after the polls close.
We'll show you why.
And John McCain's poll numbers are climbing despite some increased attacks from conservative radio talk show hosts.
Why does that seem to be their worst nightmare?
Also, Dana Bash spoke with John McCain. A little bit of that interview. That's coming up, as well.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here's a thought -- Super Tuesday could actually stretch into Wednesday in California, where officials are warning ballot results may not necessarily be known until long after the polls close.
What is going on?
Let's go out to L.A.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us now with details of a possible -- and I stress the word possible, Ted, delay.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Election officials have their fingers crossed. They do say that the results out of California will be accurate. What they are not saying is when we are going to find out who actually wins the Sunshine State.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): People hoping to stay awake Tuesday night to see if their candidate can win in California may be out of luck. County registrars are warning that because of potentially record- breaking voter turnout and a change back to paper ballots, Super Tuesday results may take some time.
Because of concerns over reliability, California decertified many of the states' electronic voting machines. So in places like San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, where more than 3,000 voting machines will be sitting in a warehouse, it's back to paper ballots.
KARI VERJIL, REGISTRAR, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY: We are processing paper ballots for this election instead of our touch screen voting. And paper ballots are much more time-consuming because they are larger and require more handling.
ROWLANDS: Los Angeles County never stopped using paper ballots, but poll workers still spent time this weekend on a dry run -- getting ready to handle the expected high volume of ballots.
More than 700,000 more Californians are registered to vote Tuesday than were four years ago. Two hundred and forty thousand signed up in December alone.
DEAN LOGAN, LOS ANGELES COUNTY ACTING REGISTRAR: All signs are that this is going to be a very high turnout election. There's a lot of interest and a lot of activity. We know that California is at play in the presidential nomination process.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROWLANDS: And the other thing in play here, Wolf, is the millions of absentee ballots and the early voting ballots that people are holding onto. Because the races are so close, they say a lot of people are expected to just drop those ballots off at their polling places here in the Golden State on election day.
BLITZER: Ted Rowlands, thanks very much.
Let's see what happens in California tomorrow. Super Tuesday could become Wednesday.
They don't wear capes, tights or masks, but they might as well. They are the so-called super delegates. And when it comes to the Democratic nomination, they may have some super powers.
Let's to go CNN's Brian Todd.
He's watching this story for us.
What makes the delegates super -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's put it this way. If the race is so close that it comes down to a brokered convention this summer, these folks will be the brokers.
TODD (voice-over): Exhausting themselves pushing for those Super Tuesday popular votes. But in the end, their race could be so close that super delegate votes may be more crucial.
Who in the world are super delegates?
When Democratic voters go to the polls, they'll select standard delegates committed to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Super delegates are different -- an elite and influential group, often with more name recognition, allowed to vote just because of who they are.
CHRISTOPHER ARTERTON, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Public office holders, senators, members of Congress. TODD: And former members, as well as former presidents, vice presidents. Bill Clinton is a super delegate. So is Tom Daschle. But the former Senate majority leader is also now courting them as co- chairman of Obama's campaign.
TOM DASCHLE (D), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: What you've got to do is one-on-one talk to these people, call them, call them frequently, have the candidate call them, do as much as possible to try to influence their judgment.
TODD: Unlike standard delegates selected in a primary, who, in most states, have to be committed to a candidate based on that primary's vote, super delegates have free range.
ARTERTON: Those people can go and vote at the convention and they're not bound by the state party results.
TODD: Meaning even if they say they'll commit to a candidate, they can change their minds at the last minute and support someone else. Analysts say the Democratic race could be so close heading into the conservative, that super delegates -- with 20 percent of the total delegate count -- could put one candidate over the top.
STUART ROTHENBERG, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: You've got to figure that right at the end, they're going to make a decision, in part based on electability -- based on the candidate they think that can unite the party and beat the Republicans.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: So if the Democratic nomination comes down to the super delegate vote for the first time in decades, who's got the edge?
Right now, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama in the super delegate count, according to a CNN survey, even though Obama leads in standard pledge delegates. But as we mentioned, super delegates change their minds, sometimes hold out until the last minute. So this could get very interesting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: There are some -- shall we call them super, super delegates out there.
BLITZER: Some really huge heavyweights in the Democratic Party who have not yet endorsed any.
Who should we be watching right now?
TODD: Well, two names that keep popping up when you keeping having these conversations, Wolf, right now, John Edwards and Al Gore. It's not clear now where either of them are leaning. So they, you can assume, are getting lots of calls right now from all the campaigns.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.
Brian Todd reporting.
Conservative radio talk show hosts are ganging up -- at least some of them -- on John McCain. You're going to find out what they're saying right now, why they dislike him so much. And then John McCain will talk about that. He spoke with our Dana Bash just a little while ago.
And will Super Tuesday put Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton over the top?
We'll talk about that with a supporter of each campaign -- the Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and James Carville -- they're standing by to joins us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: 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, New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte was deposed today as part of the Congressional probe into steroid use in baseball. His interview will likely play role in a hearing next Wednesday expected to focus on teammate Roger Clemens, who is named extensively in the Mitchell Report. Pettitte has admitted using human growth hormone. Clemens has denied it.
Aruba's chief prosecutor says he is reopening the Natalie Holloway case in light of stunning new undercover video which aired on ABC's "Good Morning America." It shows the former prime suspect, Joran van der Sloot, detailing how Holloway started shaking and fell unconscious after the pair had sex on an Aruba beach. Van der Sloot says he panicked and with the help a friend, dumped her body at sea. Van der Sloot tells Dutch television his comments are lies -- lies he thought his friend wanted to hear.
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints has named their new leader. As expected, Thomas Monson has become the sixteenth president of the Mormon Church. The 80-year-old Monson had been the second most senior leader -- a position traditionally in line to assume the presidency. Monson replaces Gordon Hinckley, who died last month at the age of 77.
And super ratings for the Super Bowl. More than 97 million people tuned in to watch the Giants beat the Patriots. That tops the previous record of the 1996 Super Bowl by more three million viewers. Yesterday's game now ranks as the second most watched television program ever. Number one -- the final episode of "MASH" in 1983. That brought in 106 million viewers, as I'm sure Super Tuesday will bring to THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm not sure about that.
BLITZER: But I do remember watching the final episode of "MASH," as well as yesterday's Super Bowl. So I was one of those millions and millions of people. I assume you were, as well, Carol.
COSTELLO: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
John McCain's lead in the polls is apparently growing in spite of some stepped-up attacks by some of the most influential conservative radio talk show hosts. Carol has got a piece that's coming up. You're going to hear what they're saying today.
Also, the Super Tuesday showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- will one of them walk away the clear winner?
And Israel's first suicide bombing in more than a year. There are new details emerging on the deadly attack.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Bush has sent his new budget to the United States Congress. It's the first budget in U.S. history to top three trillion -- trillion dollars. It contains big increases in defense, big cuts in health care and predicts deficits topping $400 billion for the next two years. Mr. Bush says it should balance the budget by the year 2012.
Also, thousands of foreigners right now fleeing Chad. The U.S. Embassy there has now been abandoned, on this third day of fighting between government forces and rebels trying to seize power. An aide worker described the situation in the oil-rich African nation as "simply horrible."
And Iran is launching a new research rocket, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself giving the launch order. Iran also unveiled a new space center. The State Department calls it -- and I'm quoting now -- "another troubling development."
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
John McCain is the talk of talk of radio -- but most of it not necessarily all that positive. Many top conservative radio talkers are aghast at his rise in the polls, despite -- despite their stepped-up attacks.
Let's go back to Carol Costello.
She's watching this story for us.
So what are these radio talk show hosts all concerned about -- Carol?
COSTELLO: Wolf, you know, if you're John McCain, the talk on talk radio is pretty darned vile. It's gotten so heated, former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole wrote a letter to talker Rush Limbaugh, assuring him McCain is a mainstream conservative.
But that didn't stop the hostile talk.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Super Tuesday is shaping up to be more like Super Doomsday for conservative talkers.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: McCain will kill conservatism as a -- as -- you know, a dominant force in the Republican Party.
COSTELLO: They're pulling out all of their best auditory shots to hurt John McCain's candidacy. But they appear to be loosing. McCain -- the man conservative talk hosts love to hate -- owns the latest Republican poll of polls. He gets 45 percent of likely Republican voters. Mitt Romney gets 24 percent. Although the radio rhetoric is at its most hostile now, it's been a loosely organized campaign for a few weeks. Talkers have tried to persuade republicans McCain is dangerously liberal. Look, they say. There he is being endorsed by liberals. Look, there he is with Joe Lieberman, and, look, "The New York Times" endorsed him. That means John McCain is like Hillary Clinton. In a last-stitch move, radio personalities Laura Ingraham have invited Mitt Romney supporters to launch another line of attack.
LAURA INGRAHAM, TALK RADIO HOST: If you have to say something now to those supporting Mike Huckabee, what do you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Huckabee is a fine person. He's in there as a spoiler helping McCain.
COSTELLO: Huckabee is not too happy about that.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's incredibly presumptuous and even arrogant to suggest that the voters who are voting for me would automatically gravitate to them. I think they quite frankly would not.
COSTELLO: McCain's campaign has been fighting back. It's released this ad. For some the whole anti-McCain war has been baffling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans are acting more like democrats. They're at each other's throats. The party is fracturing into various sects of ideologies and various groups that oppose each other.
COSTELLO: At least one conservative talker noted the danger in that today.
NEIL BOORTZ, THE NEIL BOORTZ SHOW: Well, you conservatives out there looking for purity, are you willing to hand over the White House to Hillary Clinton, because you can't find purity in your candidate? (END VIDEOTAPE)
COSTELLO: Well, as you know, Mitt Romney is using all of this to campaign, you know the anti-John McCain rhetoric and I guess, Wolf, we may know tomorrow or maybe Wednesday if McCain will, indeed, be hurt by all the talk.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see how influential they are among conservative republicans. That will be one indication. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
Our own Dana Bash is covering the McCain campaign. She had a chance just a little while ago to speak with him. She asked him about the problems some of these conservative radio talk show hosts have with John McCain. Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I road the Straight Talk Express, which is, of course, John McCain's bus from the Super Tuesday state of New Jersey right here to delegate rich state of New York. I asked him right since he's such a superstition man and since this GOP race has been anything but predictable, his strategy seems to be like he's got the nomination all locked up.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have every reason to be optimistic. I think we're going to do very well in most of the states. I think there's challenges in some of them. There's a large number of states. Overall I'm optimistic. But I don't think that to predict victory when we don't know until tomorrow night is something that I want to do.
BASH: We're on the Straight Talk Express. You like to say you like to give straight talk. Why do you think in your heart of hearts some of these conservatives who have been so vocal against you, why do you think they dislike you and they distrust you so much on their issues?
MCCAIN: All I can tell you is that I'm very pleased at the approval rating I have among conservatives, which is 80 percent. We have very large percent of the conservative voters, who identify themselves as conservatives. I'm proud of the way we've been doing in the campaigns. I know the primaries are tough. I know that people support other candidates. We wouldn't be winning these elections if I had any significant opposition anywhere in the party. But I'll unite the party. And I have a proud conservative record.
BASH: Barack Obama said recently he doesn't think there's any difference between you and he on the issue of immigration.
MCCAIN: I don't know what his position is, but I know that my position is that we secure the borders person. As president I would have the governors secure the borders. Then we go onto other things. I've made that very clear. We have to secure the borders first. Frankly, Rudy Giuliani and I, most of the candidates are in agreement. I know how to do it. BASH: I know you don't like to reflect and that's sort of not your thing. I've covered you long enough to know that. But looking back, what do you think changed and had to break your way for you to be where you are right now given where you were back in July?
MCCAIN: I think we have to have an hour-long show. But I think one of the big items was when Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Baghdad and saw 688 young Americans re-enlist and stay and fight in Iraq. We came back and said we have to help these young people. The best way to do it is not have a dangerous surrender and we went on the no surrender tour. That was the beginning of our comeback.
BASH: If Iraq had not changed, would you be where you are right now?
MCCAIN: I don't think that I would have political viability. I think most experts agree with that.
BASH: That's about as reflective as John McCain gets. At this point, on the eve of Super Tuesday, McCain is trying to walk a fine line. On the one hand trying to calm the concerns of conservatives whose votes he really needs but on his bus he also made the point he can get votes from independents and even democrats. He said that's crucial for republicans in order to win the White House and help compete in states they haven't done well in recent years from California to right here in New York. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very much.
It's the biggest showdown yet in the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Will Super Tuesday produce a clear winner? James Carville and Jamal Simmons, they are standing by with their predictions, their assessments.
Also, my one-on-one interview with Senator Barack Obama, that's coming up. He'll tell us where he believes his position differs from that of his top rival.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Super Tuesday only hours away, but will these 22 state contests put a candidate from either party over the top? Joining us now two democratic strategists; Jamal Simmons is a Barack Obama supporter. James Carville supports Hillary Clinton.
James, let me ask you, what do you think is going to happen tomorrow?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know what? I don't know and I kind of like the fact that I don't know. I talk to ten or 15 people a day and none of them know either. It's sort of refreshing. I think most people think it will seesaw back and forth and be pretty close. I got to tell you I've been surprised at a lot of junctures in this campaign and the only thing that would surprise me tomorrow night is if I'm not surprised.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jamal?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think James is mostly right. We're not going to know what happens here. Senator Clinton has got some built-in advantages. She has high poll numbers in a lot of states. Barack Obama is coming up, so he may be able to take her out.
In California, I think there's in particular Senator Clinton has a built-in advantage because of the early vote where she was leading in the early vote. So he probably won't be able to take California even though on Election Day he may come ahead on the people who actually vote tomorrow. But in the overall vote, I still expect Senator Clinton to win.
BLITZER: I think both of you agree, we will not know who the democratic presidential candidate will be when all the votes are counted on Super Tuesday. Is that right, James?
CARVILLE: That's what we think. We've thought things before that turned out not to be right. I'm a little humbled after New Hampshire and some of the other things I've seen in this campaign. But I do think the overwhelming likelihood is that this race will continue beyond tomorrow night.
BLITZER: You agree with that, Jamal?
SIMMONS: It certainly will continue to be on tomorrow night but I think what's happening is we are seeing momentum for Senator Obama. I think voters around the country recognize that there are other people like them that want change. They're now seeing the vehicle they have for change in Barack Obama actually has a chance of becoming the president of the United States. People are showing up and they're starting to change their minds to support him.
BLITZER: Let's talk about strengths and weaknesses, James. I know your support Hillary Clinton, but take a look at Barack Obama. You're an excellent political strategist. Give us his major strength and his major weakness.
CARVILLE: Well, I think his major strength is he's a very charismatic guy. He's out there. He campaigns very well. He has a lot of energy in his campaign. He's a very bright man. He's -- look at his fundraising. He has any number of real strengths that he brings bear here.
BLITZER: What about the weakness?
CARVILLE: One thing is -- his expectations are rising. He has all this momentum. If he falls short tomorrow, he runs the danger of sort of deflating his expectations because he was improving in the polls. I also think there's probably some doubt that he's a little short, he has three years in the United States senate. There was an article today a very good thing, an MIT study about how Senator Clinton's health care plan is superior to Senator Obama's. But both of these candidates have enormous strengths. I wouldn't deny that. By and large, democrats are very satisfied with their choice. 80 percent of the democrats are like both of these candidates. I'm kind of a Hillary supporter. But as a democrat I'm pleased at the choices.
BLITZER: All right. Jamal, I know you like Barack Obama. What do you think Hillary Clinton's strength is and her weakness?
SIMMONS: Well, her strength is clearly that she's got the institutional advantage. She's got the name I.D. advantage. She has a gender advantage, although it's narrowing. I think that she does have the advantage of people knowing who she is and being very familiar with her after 16 years of being in the public spotlight. So that's been an advantage.
On the weakness side, I think you've got to take a look at where she sells. She sells in some of the big states like California and New York, maybe Massachusetts and New Jersey. But when you look at Kansas and you look at Georgia and you look at some of the other states where Barack Obama -- like in 2006 for instance he campaigned in a lot of these states. He campaigned in 30 states in 2006 for candidates. Senator Clinton only campaigned in 14 states. And she in six of those states, she only had fund-raisers, no public events. So I think candidates, when they look and say who do I want at the top of the ticket? They're going to say Barack Obama. That's what democrats are going to want.
CARVILLE: He could have said she's a smart and accomplished woman which would have been fairly gracious. But at any rate I think that New Hampshire is hardly a big state, and Nevada is hardly a big state. I think to be fair to Senator Clinton here. But I think it's going to be a close exciting election tomorrow. But she has demonstrated ability to carry states other than really big states so far in the election.
BLITZER: Jamal, you want to be gracious? You want to be nice?
SIMMONS: She is certainly smart and accomplished. I will tell you from personal history I found her to be very warm as well.
BLITZER: You know, we're almost out of time. We saw you in the Super Bowl yesterday, James. That was a quite a little commercial that you had.
CARVILLE: That was a lot of fun. It's the only thing, Jamal as a parent, any parent can understand, it's the only thing I've ever done in my life that my children were actually excited about and proud of. That was the really crowning achievement there is the kids got very excited when they saw the ad.
BLITZER: We'll show a clip of that later. I guess there must have been some people who missed it. James was out there with Bill Frist. And you were drinking some sort of soft drink and having a good old time.
CARVILLE: It's called a Coca-Cola.
BLITZER: Jamal Simmons, James Carville, guys, thanks very much for coming in.
A host of celebrities lead by a hip hop star have gotten together to support candidates but this time Barack Obama is their candidate. The result is a song version of Barack Obama's speech after the New Hampshire primary. It's one of the most popular videos on the web right now.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's here. Abbi, who is in this video?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, more than 30 celebrity supporters of Barack Obama all lead by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. He said in a blog post today that he put it together in just a couple of days. And today, just the day before Super Tuesday, you can't miss it online. Take a look.
That's played of will.i.am's web site but you're going to find it all over the place. On You Tube, it's racked up a million or so views in various different versions. It's on social networking sites, on blogs and it's also on the front page now of BarackObama.com. This comes at a time when the democratic candidates are really spending on television advertising, trying to reach as many people as possible. You might have seen Barack Obama's Super Bowl out there, reaching out, showing crowds of young people reaching out to young voters. This video has a not dissimilar message, but made by a supporter and spreading virally online. Didn't cost a thing. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.
Mission, creep and timetables; Senator Barack Obama talks about Iraq and much more. My interview with him, that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And Jack Cafferty is asking what it means when some of John McCain's republican senate colleagues are questioning whether he has the temperament to be president of the United States.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty File. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is what does it mean when some of John McCain's republican senate colleagues question whether he has the temperament to be president of the United States?
Dave writes from California, "McCain's temper has rumbled under the surface in some news interviews. However, I don't think we'll have to take other senators' word for it. We might be able to see it for ourselves in later debates with either an aggressive moderator or a strong opponent."
Daniel writes from Oregon, "That the followers of the drug-addled Rush or the Chicken-hawk Hannity don't like Senator McCain is reason enough to vote for him. We've had a draft dodger and a chicken-hawk for president and it's time we get one with a spine. If he makes the panty waste members of the senate and house run and cry, well that's just gravy on the potatoes." I love these viewers.
Mike in New Jersey writes, "So let me get this straight: Senator McCain's flashes of anger may be a sign of how strong his convictions are? Wonderful, just what the country needs after 8 years of George Bush. George Bush on steroids!"
Dan writes, "I can't think of a better endorsement of McCain than to have dunderheaded 'colleagues' like Rick Santorum whine about being scolded by John McCain. He doesn't suffer fools easily and that's just the quality a president needs to operate in the yes men environment of the White House."
Kevin in Illinois writes, "Well, my friend, this should be the least of our concerns about, my friends, Mr. McCain's rhetoric. My friends, his tired, cliched expressions, belie, my friends, a tired cliched set of solutions, my friends."
And Josh in Vienna, Virginia writes, "The fact that a group of congressman are complaining about Senator McCain's temperament only serves to validate his maverick credentials. I personally prefer a candidate who isn't afraid to ruffle feathers to get things done. I only wish the Maverick McCain would select Cranky Cafferty as his running mate."
BLITZER: You interested?
CAFFERTY: No. Absolutely not. What and leave this? Too much fun.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
Let's check some news from around the world right now.
A shattering explosion today marked the first suicide bombing in Israel in more than a year. It comes just two weeks after Palestinians blew open the border between the Gaza and Egypt. That has many Israelis very concerned right now. CNN's Atika Shubert is in the desert town of Demona.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a deadly blast, but it could have been much worse. Israeli police say two suicide bombers planned the attack, but only one detonated. The other was knocked out by the force of the blast. But he was still trying to detonate his explosive belt when a police officer who was on the scene shot and killed him, apparently preventing a second attack. Now several Palestinian groups have claimed responsibility, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. They had a press conference in which they claimed responsibility saying the bombers came from Gaza, that they slipped into Egypt when the Gaza/Egypt border was blown open last month by Hamas militants. They crossed from Gaza into Egypt and then into Israel. That confirms the worst fears of many of the residents here. We spoke to a number of Demona residents who told us they fear that more bombers crossed the border from Gaza into Egypt, from Egypt to Israel. And for that reason, they say they fear there will be more attacks. Atika Shubert, CNN, Demona.
BLITZER: The countdown to Super Tuesday. Lou Dobbs is getting ready along with the rest of us. He's going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM in just a moment.
Plus, Barack Obama is also in THE SITUATION ROOM. How would he take on John McCain when it comes to national security? I'll ask him.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Lou Dobbs. He has a show coming up in one hour. But you have an important issue you're talking about tonight among other things. Obviously, you're looking ahead to Super Tuesday but the National Council of La Raza. You've got one of the leaders coming in to debate you. I guess you disagree on some of these issues involving illegal immigration.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: The National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguia, their CEO, has started a campaign saying that anyone who's opposed basically to illegal immigration, trying to stop it, trying to secure the borders, they've declared that to be hate speech, which is absolute propaganda and nonsense. La Raza being joined in the effort by the Southern Poverty Law Center which in its history was a great civil rights organization. It's become an advocacy organization. It is nothing more than that now, that and a fundraising organization and we're going to have a debate tonight. We're going to find out how an organization called La Raza can accuse anyone of being ethnocentric given that their entire focus is one ethnic group and only a sliver of that ethnic group to boot. We're going to have a spirited discussion I suspect on freedom of the press. By they way, she wants me fired if ...
BLITZER: Fired from what?
DOBBS: Fired from CNN.
BLITZER: If what?
DOBBS: If I don't agree to support illegal immigration and open borders and her nonsense and that of her organization. So you know this is a great socioethnocentric debate and issue brought by an ethnocentric organization that wants to kill free speech in this country. It's an amazing turn of events.
BLITZER: We're going to look forward to it.
What did you think of the exchange that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had on the issue of illegal immigration? He supports driver's licenses for illegal immigrants like Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. She says she opposes driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. What did you think of the exchange they had on that issue?
DOBBS: I thought, again, I thought you did a great job. I thought it was a civil debate. I think on that issue it's becoming clear. Two things are becoming clear. The democratic candidates for president are all for comprehensive immigration reform, which is amnesty. I think on that particular exchange Senator Clinton showed a greater judgment, rationality and a comprehension of this society's laws than did Senator Obama and he is clearly pandering. They're both pandering. But he's clearly pandering with great vigor to the votes he needs which are Hispanic votes in his judgment.
BLITZER: And one of those two are going to get the democratic nomination. If McCain gets the republican nomination, since he was one of the authors of the McCain/Kennedy comprehensive immigration reform together with President Bush and a lot of democrats, would this be an issue or would this issue go away if McCain were fighting either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?
DOBBS: This is going to be a central issue of this campaign for the very simple reason that illegal immigration is one of the top three issues for all American voters. It's not going to go away.
BLITZER: If the democratic nominee and the republican nominee basically are in the page on this issue of comprehensive immigration reform, how does the issue get played out?
DOBBS: That won't happen because of two things. One is Senator McCain has already said he has gotten the message of the American people. It will be security first, taking the man at his word.
BLITZER: But he supports down the road comprehensive immigration reform.
DOBBS: Yes but what you want down the road and what you - first the issue is to secure our ports and our borders for national security to stop illegal immigration, to win the war on drugs then deal with immigration reform. He has exceeded to that priority on the part of the American people. Then at some point, you can begin to talk substantively and I think honestly about immigration reform but not until that point.
BLITZER: Lou, I'll see you back here in an hour.
DOBBS: And Romney may have something to say too. We shouldn't forget about him.
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