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THE SITUATION ROOM
Super Tuesday Vote Under Way
Aired February 5, 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: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, millions of votes in two dozen states with thousands of delegates up for grabs. It all adds up to Super Tuesday -- a crucial series of contests in the race for the White House. The best political team on television will bring it all to you.
Long lines, broken voting machines and no paper trail -- why problems at the polls may bring late vote counts and put some results at risk.
And just minutes from now, we're going to brick you the first Super Tuesday exit polls. Voters share what's on their minds as they cast their ballots, giving us a good sense of where things may be heading.
I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The first Super Tuesday results are in.
Mike Huckabee has won West Virginia's state Republican convention. He received almost 52 percent of the votes cast, 47 percent for Mitt Romney. Huckabee has been doing some counting and tells voters across the country not to count him out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Other candidates had bigger budgets, but you know what? I'm almost tied in delegates with those who have spent 10, 15, 20 times what I have and it kind of tells me something -- that it may be that it's time for the people to elect a president and not just the national media and the pundits to pick our president for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'll be speaking with Mike Huckabee in the next hour live.
John McCain was not competitive in West Virginia, but nationally, he's the frontrunner, and he's feeling it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are the greatest nation on Earth. We will continue to lead and we will be, as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill. We're going to win today and we're going to win the nomination and we're going to win the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But with more than a thousand GOP delegates up for grabs today, Mitt Romney is hoping to put up some roadblocks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am the candidate who can stop John McCain. I can do that because of the strength I've got across the country -- the Midwest, Florida, California, Nevada -- all of -- Maine...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: West Virginia
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: West Virginia.
ROMNEY: And you guys, you guys are key. I'm glad you said that because you guys are key. It's important -- if you want to become the nominee of our party, you have to show the nation that you can become the winner in the general election. And for that to be the case, you've got to be competitive all over the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On this day of coast to coast contests, nearly 1,700 delegates are at stake for the Democrats -- more than 80 percent of the total needed to clinch the nomination. In a very tight race, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton today made sure their own votes counted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It feels really good. It's a very humbling and overwhelming experience to cast my vote today. And it's great to be home and to see so many people whom I know here in the community and to have a chance to talk with them. But it's a really extraordinary day. It's a great tribute to our country. I hope a lot of people come out and vote today. I hope everybody will take the time and trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Barack Obama cast his vote back home in Illinois. Despite all the delegates up for grabs today, Obama is not necessarily looking for immediate gratification. It sounds like he may be looking well beyond Super Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still think that Senator Clinton is the favorite. You know, she had 20, 30 point leads in many of these states. We've been closing some ground. And my guess is we'll have a good night and we'll probably have end up having a split decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now from Chicago with more.
She's covering the Obama campaign -- what's his strategy, Suzanne, right now?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, already, Wolf, we're hearing the Obama campaign trying to lower those expectations. They already say they fully expect that Senator Clinton is going to win more states and more delegates. But they say if Obama can get within 100 delegates of Clinton and win some states, they will have reached their threshold for success and positioned themselves to win the nomination in the months to come.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): The grand finale for the push ahead -- a thunderous rally in Boston, winding up a multi-state blitz. Obama is counting on his message of change to deliver voters in more than 20 states. He's also already positioning himself to take the likely Republican nominee, John McCain -- blasting him for his stand on Iraq, while touting his own Iraq policy.
OBAMA: I will not have us setting up permanent bases and a permanent occupation in Iraq for decades, which is not only what George Bush has suggested, but also John McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Obama, good to see you this morning.
MALVEAUX: He began at 5:00 this morning with a media blitz -- 15 interviews across eight states, including the Spanish network, Univision. He cast his vote in his home state of Illinois and took a break to play hoops. Now, he's closely awaiting the returns.
Aides say he's expected to win Illinois and has a good shot at Alabama and Georgia. They're also counting on the six caucus states to deliver, where open voting and strong ground organization will likely benefit Obama. The goal today -- to keep the race going after Tuesday by splitting the vote, including the delegate rich state of California.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, another goal is to try to win some of those Republican-dominated states, the red states, some support from those states to actually prove and demonstrate to voters that he would be stronger in winning the general election. But the general feeling among Obama's camp is that the longer this race goes, the stronger he'll be and he'll be able to perform in some of those states that are continuing -- Washington, Maryland, Virginia -- that this is going to work in his advantage if they keep this race going -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much.
Suzanne is in Chicago watching all of this.
Mitt Romney says he is the one to stop John McCain the Republican race. But he watched Mike Huckabee grab all of West Virginia's delegates today -- hardly an auspicious start to Romney's Super Tuesday.
Let's go live to Boston.
CNN's Mary Snow picking up this part of the story.
How is Romney handling his loss in West Virginia to Mike Huckabee?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, it's clearly a disappointment. Mitt Romney returned to Massachusetts and was voting here at his home when word came that Mike Huckabee had won West Virginia. Mitt Romney did not take any questions and react to it publicly. But behind-the-scenes, his campaign released a stinging statement suggesting that John McCain had cut a deal with Mike Huckabee in order to try to stop Romney.
This is because in West Virginia at the convention, Romney was winning in the first round. And then in the second round, Huckabee emerged as the final victor.
Mike Huckabee says there was no such deal that was cut. But earlier in the day, Mitt Romney had said that he went to West Virginia and addressed that convention, hoping that he would get an early contest in his corner.
His biggest hope now will be out West. He went out there late last night on a last minute trip for a rally. His campaign is enthusiastic about some -- some of the results that they have been seeing in California. He believes that his conservative message is resonating with voters there.
But, you know, he refused to engage today in any kind of "what if" scenarios. He's been repeatedly asked how many states, how many delegates do you need to win in order to stay viable in this race.
He said there are a whole bunch of scenarios that he and his staff will be looking at and take a look at that tonight and tomorrow. But he's refusing to really lay it out on the line -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be speaking with the winner of the West Virginia contest, Mike Huckabee. That's coming up in our next hour.
Thanks very much for that, Mary.
Let's go back to Jack.
He's got The Cafferty File here at the CNN Election Center.
CAFFERTY: This is interesting. This was in "The Wall Street Journal". I hope it's interesting: "The economy, the war in Iraq, health care, immigration, terrorism -- those are the issues on the minds of Americans as they cast ballots on this Super Tuesday."
But the issues are not the issue this particular election day. "The Wall Street Journal" did a great piece this morning: "Voters are placing a higher priority today on intangible qualities, like leadership ability and governing style, instead of ideas on issues. It's a reflection, apparently, on the country's mood at the moment. People are sick and tired of the partisan wars and the gridlock in Washington, D.C. . They're looking for someone to rise above it all and lead."
Now there's a good idea. This is part of the reason why candidates like Barack Obama and John McCain are doing well.
"The Journal" says -- quoting now -- "To many voters, precisely what gets done seems less important than the prospect that something actually will get done."
One pollster says, "On the Democratic side, there's be no correlation in exit polling between the issues people say are important and the candidate they vote for. And as for Republicans, a recent poll found that the characteristic on which McCain, who is now the frontrunner, ranked the lowest was "shares you position on the issues."
Go figure. Of course, once we get past the primaries, this will all likely change -- assuming that there are significant differences on top issues between the Republican and Democratic nominees. And if there aren't he, they'll create some. That way we can have a fight.
But for now, it looks like the American people are hungry for a candidate who can bridge the partisan divide and lead this country back onto the right track.
The question is this -- what matters more to you in this primary election -- the issues or character, and why?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment there on my blog. We'll read a few of them in a bit.
BLITZER: Are you surprised by the vitriol coming out against John McCain from some within the conservative base?
CAFFERTY: Yes, a little bit. (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: That they would actually prefer Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to John McCain.
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't understand the psychology of making statements like that. You know, I can see the fact that they object to John McCain. He is liberal on some issues for a Republican. But to make a statement I'd rather see Hillary as president so that a Democrat can take the rap, a Republican has been president for the last seven years and we're not exactly problem-free around here. Now, where -- you know, where do those dogs lie?
On whose porch do they belong?
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
CAFFERTY: Oh, you're most welcome.
BLITZER: Did you head my blog today?
CAFFERTY: I've been very busy, Wolf.
BLITZER: OK. Go back and read it.
CAFFERTY: But I will. Yes.
CAFFERTY: Actually, I did. You ran five miles this morning. I did read it.
BLITZER: So you did read it. OK.
CAFFERTY: You ran five miles this morning.
BLITZER: I did.
CAFFERTY: They should get you a car.
BLITZER: No, I ran on a treadmill.
CAFFERTY: Oh, oh, oh. I'm sorry. OK.
BLITZER: On a treadmill. It's very soft.
CAFFERTY: I misunderstood.
BLITZER: It's good for my knees.
CAFFERTY: I thought they made you run to work.
BLITZER: In just a few moments, we're going to be getting the first Super Tuesday exit polls. We're going to find out what voters are actually thinking as they're casting ballots across the country and the driving issues behind today's turnout.
Broken voting machines no backup paper trail in case a recount is needed.
Are Super Tuesday results at risk?
And will it hurt the Democrats if they have to keep fighting it out for the nomination long past Super Tuesday?
I'll be speaking live with the party chairman, Howard Dean.
That's coming up and a lot more on this Super Tuesday, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Despite all the dealings up for grabs today on this Super Tuesday, it's quite possible that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will grab enough to win the nomination. The Democratic race is close and it could stay that way for quite a while.
Joining us now is the chairman of the National Committee, the former governor, Howard Dean.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Wolf, thanks for having me on.
BLITZER: How worried are you that there could be a prolonged battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at a time when the Republicans might get their nominee in place and they can start looking ahead?
DEAN: I'm not worried yet. You know, we have two great candidates left in this race. And I daresay this is not going to be over, certainly, tonight, and maybe not until -- for a month from now. But, you know, I think we need to let the voters choose before there's any machinations about deal making or any of that stuff.
This is a greater -- a great time in politics right now. This is out of the hands of the pundits and out of the hands of the pollsters and ordinary Americans get to vote on who their next president will be. I think it's wonderful and I'm enjoying watching it. We -- you know, we're pretty unified. Our dilemma is we've got people who like both candidates a lot and they can't make up their minds. And that's a good dilemma to have.
BLITZER: Would it be a problem, though -- when you say not yet -- would it be a problem, let's say, if the Democrats are still fighting amongst themselves up until the convention in Denver, at the end of the summer...
DEAN: Yes, that would be...
BLITZER: ...while the Republicans have their nominee in place?
DEAN: That would be a problem for either party. And it's possible all...
BLITZER: Explain what the problem would be.
Why would that be a problem, let's say, for the Democrats? DEAN: The conventions are very late. We did that on purpose for a lot of arcane reasons having to do with the federal matching funds. But you don't want to have a divided convention. There have been two divided -- three divided conventions in my political lifetime -- in '68, '72 and '80. And they resulted in losses each time. So you don't a bitterly divided convention and a lot of contentiousness.
But now is not the time to have to -- you know, obviously, you think about that. But, you know, the first crack is the voters get to choose the nominee. And I think the voters will chose a nominee. I don't have any idea who it's going to be. And then we'll resolve some of these other difficulties and so forth and so on.
But I -- you know, people always talk about a brokered convention, particularly when you've got two really strong candidates at the end here. But we haven't had one since 1952. And I think it's -- the odds are not that we're going to -- are that we won't have one this time, either.
BLITZER: Explain how it's possible, governor, that American citizens in American Samoa will have a say in selecting the Democratic presidential nominee, but millions of Democrats -- people who showed up to vote in Michigan and Florida -- will have zero say in making that selection.
DEAN: Well, that's two completely different issues. People in America Samoa are American citizens and...
BLITZER: No, I'm not questioning their citizenship. I'm saying that they will select delegates, but Florida Democrats and Michigan Democrats won't.
DEAN: There's a timetable that everybody agreed on. And America Samoa kept the timetable...
BLITZER: And you're saying...
DEAN: ...as did 48 other states.
BLITZER: And the Democrats in Michigan and in Florida, they decided to move up their contests, their primaries. As a result, they're being completely punished.
How worried are you that this disenfranchisement of these Democrats will hurt the party in these two critically important states, Michigan and Florida, going toward to the general election in November?
DEAN: Look, at the end of the day, we want to unify the party, including Michigan and Florida. And that's -- that will be my job. But right now, that's not on my horizon. Right now, we've got to get through the next couple of months of this continuing contest.
And, the end of the day, you know, the Credentials Committee will take another look at this. And -- because they'll be asked to by Michigan and Florida. And that's a huge committee of 180 people that will be elected at large from the whole country.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong, governor -- is that when the dust settles, if it's a really close contest, it is still possible that Democrats in Florida and Michigan will be able to play a role in selecting the party's nominee.
DEAN: Well, I say -- that's exactly what I didn't say, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, well, go ahead and...
DEAN: But I notice you have a propensity for...
BLITZER: ...well clarify what you said.
DEAN: I'll say what I said again. I'll say it's -- in my understanding, a unified party, including Michigan and Florida -- and I daresay Michigan and Florida will ask for reinstatement. And the Credentials Committee, which will not be under my control, will make that decision at the time, later on down the road.
BLITZER: So it will be up to the Credentials Committee?
DEAN: It will be up to the -- and the convention as a whole.
BLITZER: Because, you know, the Republicans, they punished their states that moved up early by stripping them of half of their delegates to the convention.
BLITZER: The Democratic Party stripped them of all of their delegates.
BLITZER: With hindsight, governor, should you have gone...
DEAN: There was a...
BLITZER: ...the route of the Republicans?
DEAN: The reason that we chose to do it our way -- first of all, the Republicans' rules are set every convention, so they had no flexibility.
The reason we chose to do it our way is we had actually expected our candidates to campaign in those states and the rules say that if you campaign in a state, you can't get any delegates out of it and your delegates go to somebody else.
So we actually thought that we were doing a favor by stripping all the delegates, because if you had campaigned in a state where there were delegates at stake, then you couldn't have gotten any.
So it's an arcane rule and I think what everybody has learned is the next time we have a timetable, people will keep the timetable. But I also think that, you know, you want everybody on board, including Florida and Michigan, at the end of the day.
So, you know, we'll -- this will be revisited by the Credentials Committee, which I won't control, way down the line.
But right now, you know, this is not the time to revisit it. Right now, we're focusing on all these states that are voting today. And then next week we'll be having Nebraska and Democrat -- and D.C. -- the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland. The week after that it will be Wisconsin and Washington State and so forth.
So there's a lot of states that have to have their say. They haven't all had their say.
But I think you've got to be careful about making fun of American Samoa. You know, those folks, they're American citizens. They serve in our armed forces. They die for America. And I think every American ought to be represented at the convention (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: I totally agree. And we have a lot of viewers in America Samoa watching us right now.
BLITZER: They are American citizens just like you and me, governor.
Thanks very much for coming in.
He's got a tough job, the chairman of the Democratic Party. Not easy at all.
Thanks for coming in.
DEAN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just coming in, we're getting the first Super Tuesday exit polls. You're going to find out what they are telling us about the biggest showdown yet in this race for the White House.
Plus, crossing party lines -- we'll show you which candidates claim they're bringing in voters from the other side.
Stay with us.
Lots more coming up on this Super Tuesday, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: And just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now, the first Super Tuesday exit polls. This information usually gives us a pretty good sense of what's going on in the minds of voters as they cast their ballots.
Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill, what are we learning from this first batch of exit polls? WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, we're learning that there are some interesting divisions going on among Republican voters.
Now, we're looking at Republican voters around the country in all the primary states that were having contests today. We put them together into one national poll of primary voters. Now these are Republicans.
We wanted to find out -- there's a lot of competition for the conservative vote.
So what percentage of each candidate's supporters call themselves conservatives?
Well, look at this. Romney voters -- 80 percent say they are conservatives around the counted. Huckabee voters, just about the same -- overwhelmingly conservative -- 75 percent. But McCain voters, ah, they are different. Only half -- 49 percent of McCain voters -- describe themselves as conservatives, even though McCain made a very strong pitch to the conservative vote.
So it looks like Romney and Huckabee are competing for conservative voters. So is McCain, but he didn't so well with that constituency.
Let's take a look at Democrats.
What about Democrats who decided in the last three days?
You want to know why this Democratic race is so close?
Look at this. The last three days, Obama, 47; Clinton, 46 -- right down to the wire. So it looks like if the Democrats are as divided as they've been in just the recent deciders, this could be a very split contest and a very late vote.
Now, how bitterly divided are Democrats?
Are these two candidates' supporters polarized so that there's virtually a civil war going on in the party?
Actually, no. We asked Democrats, "Would you be satisfied if the nominee was Hillary Clinton?" Seventy-two percent said sure. Fine with them.
What about if the nominee were Barack Obama? Seventy-one percent -- just about the same number -- said Barack Obama, fine with them.
You know, Wolf, when voters are split, as Democrats seem to be, 50/50, it could mean that they're bitterly polarized or it could mean that they like both of them and they're choosing a little bit at random. You know, both of them are OK.
The latter looks like the case more than the former -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bill.
Thanks very much.
And Bill is going to be crunching a lot more of these exit poll numbers. He's going to be sharing all this information out there with you out there. As soon as it comes in, we'll share it with you. And remember, you can always go to CNNPolitics.com for more information.
Bipartisan support -- many of the candidates want to claim it, but who really does have the power to draw voters across party lines?
We'll have details of what they're saying.
And find out what's next for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama if -- if neither of them emerges as the frontrunner after today's critical vote.
And we're talking to election officials all across the country right now, as we track some reports -- there are some reports coming in -- some voting problems out there. We're going to show you what's happening right now.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Wall Street's worst day in more than three months -- the Dow and the Nasdaq losing almost 3 percent each. The sell-off is triggered by a report showing business activity falling in January for the first time in five years. Plus, a Federal Reserve official sounding new alarms about recession and inflation.
Also, the international Red Cross says hundreds of civilians have been killed in the attempted coup in the oil-rich African nation of Chad. And thousands of people trying to flee the violence are now trapped -- with two bridges into neighboring Cameroon now blocked by soldiers.
And a federal judge says President Bush cannot -- repeat -- cannot exempt the Navy from sonar restrictions off the California coast designed to protect whales. Environmentalists are cheering the ruling. The White House disagrees with the decision.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're just about two-and-a-half hours away from the polls closing in several key states, including delegate-rich Illinois and New Jersey and Massachusetts. Only one-and-a-half hours or so until they're closing in Georgia. We're watching all of this unfold with the best political team on television, including CNN's own Carol Costello. She's looking at the candidates' bipartisan claims.
Carol is joining us now.
What are they saying about this sensitive issue -- Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, how times have changed, Wolf. Reaching across party lines is suddenly a beautiful thing, unless, of course, you're Mitt Romney. It's a strategy that if you listen to some candidates it's so appealing, it's attracting defectors.
COSTELLO: It's a strategy Barack Obama plays beautifully. He claims republicans fed up with their own party are defecting.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They showed up one after one. And they weren't whispering anymore. They said I'm a republican. I've never voted democratic in my life. But the country feels off course. That's why I'm changing registrations, and I'm going to vote for you.
COSTELLO: After the Iowa caucus, Obama's camp sent out a list of 268 Iowa republicans and 68 New Hampshire republicans who changed their party registration and promised to vote for a democrat. But analysts say big deal.
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Obama is drawing a lot of independents. That is a legitimate claim. But to suggest that an enormous number of republicans are changing party registrations and coming to his banner really just isn't true. I think he's confusing favorability ratings with votes.
COSTELLO: But that isn't stopping him or Hillary Clinton, for that matter, from trying to convince voters they are such unifiers, republican voters are not only willing to listen to them, but to vote for them. Here's Clinton on David Letterman.
DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: You are dressed in red state red.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's because I'm bringing the country together.
LETTERMAN: There you go.
COSTELLO: Even John McCain, who is struggling to win over conservatives is playing the game. His supporters are more than willing to say enlightened democratic voters will vote McCain.
GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: No one can bring the American people together in these challenging times better than Senator John McCain. COSTELLO: But while the strategy may be brilliant for Obama or Clinton, McCain is being criticized by his GOP opponents for it. Mitt Romney disparagingly mentions McCain's bipartisan appeal every chance he gets.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want a person as our nominee someone who fought for McCain/Feingold, for McCain/Kennedy, for McCain/Lieberman?
COSTELLO: It's hard how say how the strategy will play out today but here's some food for thought. According to the University of Virginia, 5% or 6% of voters switch affiliations in every election. Example, in 2004, 6% of republican voters cast a ballot for John Kerry.
COSTELLO: And a sizeable number of democrats, 11% in fact, crossed party lines and voted for George W. Bush. You forgot about that, didn't you? Also keep this in mind. You might think the Republican Party is so fractured, that republicans would cross over and vote democrat. But they are far more likely, Wolf, to not vote at all.
BLITZER: Interesting, Carol. Very good piece. Thank you very much.
With polls showing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a very tight race, what does each of them need to do to declare Super Tuesday a success? Let's get some analysis, talk more with two democratic strategists. Paul Begala is a Clinton Supporter. Jamal Simmons is an Obama supporter. Guys, thanks for coming in. Before we talk about that, do voters, do you think democrats and republicans right now really want their nominees to be able to work with the other side, the thrust of Carol's piece?
PAUL BEGALA, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Carol's piece is very smart. I think democrats do. Hillary Clinton, I love her. I don't advise her. But I was advising Bob Casey when he ran for the Pennsylvania seat in the U.S. senate in 2006. It drove me to distraction. She was introducing legislation with Rick Santorum who's like three clicks to the right of Attila the Hun. He's the most conservative republican out there. She was co-sponsoring bills with him, with Lindsay Graham, who helped impeach her husband. Barack tapped into that very early. He's running commercials, a very good one, where he has an Illinois state senator who is a republican saying I worked with Barack. He really did a good job in the state senate.
BLITZER: You think democrats want it? Do you agree?
JAMAL SIMMONS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I think democrats want it. That's one of the reasons Barack Obama has gotten to be so popular. People think he's going to go out there and do what he thinks is best. Sometimes he'll work with republicans. Sometimes it will be just democrats. It will be what he thinks is right.
BLITZER: Define, success, Paul, for Hillary Clinton tonight.
BEGALA: Well I think each of these folks want to kind of dip into the other folk's basket. In other words, can Hillary hold her own, say, in Massachusetts where the Governor Deval Patrick, Senator John Kerry and most importantly, Ted Kennedy are all supporting Barack? Can Barack dip into Hillary's backyard in New Jersey? I've talked to New Jersey democrats today. They say the turnout looks very high. Who knows? Maybe that's really good for Barack. Maybe he can surprise her in her backyard. So I think the big thing is California. Whoever wins California, we're going to say won the night.
BLITZER: Not only the popular, but more importantly, the delegates. Is that what you're saying?
BEGALA: Yes but both. One follows from the other essentially. But democrats want to know who can play there. It's far from home from both of the candidates. Who win California's is going to win.
BLITZER: All right. Jamal, define success.
SIMMONS: By all indications, Senator Clinton should be winning all of the states. I won't say all, but she should be winning the majority of the states. Senator Obama is going to do well in places like Georgia, Alabama, and maybe Idaho where got 20,000 people the other day. Senator Clinton should hold California. She's got a bunch of absentee ballots that probably will come in her favor. Although I think if you look at today, you probably will see Barack Obama do very well in the election polling.
BLITZER: If Hillary Clinton were to lose California, popular vote and delegates, what would happen?
BEGALA: A huge blow to her campaign.
BLITZER: Would it be over?
BEGALA: It's not over. She's still Hillary Clinton. If we have world enough in time. I suspect she still has world enough in time. It's an enormous thing. Our viewers know. I support her because I love her and I worked for her president. I think she would be a great president. But her campaign strategists have to be about as nervous as a hooker in church today about whether they're going to win California because they've got to win it.
BLITZER: And what about Barack Obama? What happens if he loses California?
SIMMONS: I don't think anybody expects him to win California. You'll see how he does in delegates. You'll see how he does in the popular vote. I think if he stays within 100 delegates of her he'll be fine. And for the next four weeks then he has a good calendar from front of him from Wisconsin to Hawaii to the D.C., Virginia, Maryland primary, all those states that roll out. He ought to do very well in those. He has to survive today.
BLITZER: We'll put the schedule up on the screen. February 9th, February 10th, February 12th, March 4. They are a lot of contests coming up out there. Which ones, assuming it's a relative tie today, no decisive clear-cut front runner emerging among these two democrats, which ones are you looking at down the road?
BEGALA: I think in broad sweep I think the next couple weeks probably favor Barack. Louisiana, which has a huge African American population. Maybe Nebraska goes for Hillary. Who knows? Then there's the Potomac primary, Washington, D.C. and Maryland.
BLITZER: A week from Tuesday.
BEGALA: Right. I think Obama is in a position to sweep those three. He has the governor of Virginia. Very popular. He's got a lot of support in Washington, D.C. then Maryland more liberal democratic state than some of Hillary's states.
BLITZER: And if it comes down to March 4, you have Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont.
BEGALA: Hillary's people think they're stronger there.
SIMMONS: You have Ohio and Texas which is going to be a big huge contest for both of the candidates. If Barack Obama can plot a victory out of Ohio, this is about over. You look at Texas where he got 20,000 people in Austin the end of last year during the last campaign. You see they are places where he has a foothold, but he has to win the primaries and keep gathering the delegates.
BLITZER: Paul and Jamal, thanks guys very much. We're going to be watching this. If it goes on another month, you know what, it's not so bad.
Some problems at the polls happening. We're going to show you where those problems are. Issues are being discussed right now. What that could mean for today's crucial contest. Brian Todd is watching all of this.
Plus, you're going to find out why today's vote has the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger recalling his wedding vows.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Mike Huckabee got a boost today with an early Super Tuesday victory in West Virginia where he picked up all 18 delegates.
Let's go to CNN's Dan Lothian. He's watching this part of the story if us from Huckabee headquarters down in Little Rock, Arkansas. What's the mood where you are, Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're obviously feeling very good about the win in West Virginia. What's interesting is there's already some controversy about the win. The Romney campaign is accusing the McCain campaign of cutting some kind of a back room deal with Huckabee in order to keep Romney from winning in West Virginia. Huckabee calling all of this nonsense. He said the reason he was able to win there is because there were a lot of hard working volunteers.
LOTHIAN: Former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, beaming after his first win in West Virginia.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a great win for us. I think it gives us some real wind to our backs as we go into tonight.
LOTHIAN: Huckabee, a minister, knows better than anyone how important it is to close out his message with a powerful argument. Today it's simple. Don't count me out.
HUCKABEE: Other candidates have had bigger budgets. But you know what? I'm almost tied in delegates of those who have spent 10, 15, 20 times what I have.
LOTHIAN: At the GOP convention in West Virginia, Huckabee stressed his conservative credentials, laid out his vision for the country, and tried to give undecided voters a reason to support him.
HUCKABEE: It's time for the people to elect a president, and not just the national media and the pundits to pick our president for us.
LOTHIAN: Huckabee, who then flew to his home state of Arkansas to vote, is fighting to keep the republican contest from becoming a two-man race. In the past few days, he's been challenging Mitt Romney after the former Massachusetts governor suggested that Super Tuesday would narrow the field and give him the advantage.
LOTHIAN: Huckabee obviously will be watching some key southern states. That's where he believes he can do well tonight. Again, his campaign feeling good about the delegate count up to this point, about the crowds that they're seeing out there on the campaign trail. They're hoping all that will translate to votes tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll be speaking live with Mike Huckabee. That's coming up in the next hour from Little Rock. Dan Lothian, thanks very much.
Super Tuesday may slip into Wednesday. Voting problems could spark some controversy that could last even longer. Let's go to Brian Todd. He's looking into this part of the story. What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, a couple of prominent citizen rights group are concerned about potential irregularities. They're monitoring the process very closely. They flagged six states which they say are at high risk specifically for problems with voting machines.
TODD: 6:00 a.m. on Super Tuesday. Engine Company number two in Hoboken, New Jersey. Early bird voters show up to avoid the morning rush and cast their ballots. But the two machines are down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one is not doing anything at all.
TODD: These frustrated voters had to wait along with their governor, John Corzine, for one machine of the machines to be booted up. A state official tells us one machine was back up in 25 minutes but one stayed down for two hours until a replacement arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Machines don't work. No one knows what they're doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always come early to vote. I have plans tonight which I need to cancel, because I want to vote.
TODD: Some of these voters had to use emergency paper ballots, but state officials say no votes were lost. Still New Jersey is one of six Super Tuesday primary states listed by the citizen's lobbying group Common Cause as being the most as risk for having results compromised because of problems with machines.
BOB EDGAR, COMMON CAUSE: I think today the most urgent issue is machine malfunction. But we're also concerned about tampering. I think there's a lot of fear out there that some of these machines can be hacked into, particularly if you don't have some verifiable paper trail that goes along with it.
TODD: No paper trail and says Bob Edgar, if machines in those states break, there's no other way for officials to retrieve voting data. Another state listed as high risk, Georgia. In Atlanta, bloggers posted with a local paper to complain about machines not working, electronic registration problems and long lines.
TODD: But officials in Georgia say things are mostly running smoothly with voting machines. No major problems. A couple of isolated incidents there of long lines and problems with check ins. We did contact officials in all six of the states flagged by Common Cause as high risk. Most of them dispute that designation. They say they're having no widespread problems with voting machines. They say they've tested these machines thoroughly. They've made them as tamper proof as possible, Wolf.
BLITZER: I spoke to some people who waiting for at least an hour in line in Brooklyn earlier today to be able to cast their vote. But they were anxious to do so. Brian, thanks very much for that.
Some interesting news coming out of Virginia right now where enthusiastic voters appear to have jumped the gun.
Let's go back to Carol Costello. What's going on, Carol? COSTELLO: Well you know, we just have to share this with you because this is how exciting people find this election. In Virginia, people have been turning out in polling places across the state. The only problem is the Virginia primary isn't until next Tuesday. The Board of Elections in Virginia got 400 calls by noon from angry people wondering why their polling place was closed. And, of course, they had to explain to them that democrats and republicans vote on the Virginia primary next Tuesday. Not this Tuesday.
BLITZER: And next Tuesday in Maryland as well. I know that's where you live. That is where I live. And the District of Columbia. They're calling it the beltway contest next Tuesday in Washington. Not this coming Tuesday. A week from Tuesday.
BLITZER: Sorry. Thanks for that. We'll get back to Carol shortly.
A republican governor married to a member of the Kennedy clan. They're voting for different candidates on Super Tuesday. Is that a problem? We're going to hear what the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has to say.
And I'll ask Mike Huckabee about his big win in West Virginia. What did that add up to? Did this create some more bad blood between him and Mitt Romney? My interview with Mike Huckabee coming up shortly.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Like many married couples, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, have a politically mixed marriage. He's endorsed republican candidate John McCain. Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy, she's backing democrat Barack Obama. Schwarzenegger joked about it as the couple cast their ballots in L.A. earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: There's never an argument. I think that Maria has always been a democrat. She has always chosen her candidates. I have always been a republican and chosen my candidates. We respect each other's point of view and remember when I got married I made it very clear when I was in front of the alter. I say I take this woman in sickness and in health. That's her sickness. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's going to be in trouble for that.
All right. Let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's Arnold Schwarzenegger. He can say whatever he wants. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I guess. I know what would happen to me if I said something like that.
The question this hour is what matters more to you in this primary election; issues or character and why?
Carl writes, "Character is far more important than issues. In addition to character, our next leader needs to have curiosity, be creative, be able to communicate, have courage, conviction, be good at alliteration, charisma, be competent and have common sense; all lacking in the current White House. Select your candidate carefully this time."
Bill writes, "On the democratic side, a vote for one candidate's issue is essentially a vote for the other's. What citizens should be looking for is each candidate's leadership character. Obama will bring a passive leadership that he thinks will spark change through unity and compromise. Clinton realizes the truth and promises a fight against our conservative government. At this point in time, Clinton's leadership character wins her my vote."
Andrew writes, "I'm a conservative. I voted for George Bush. I count myself as a person who's dismayed and disgusted at the state of the U.S., in the world and in our capital. I disagree with Obama on most issues. But I am supporting him because I believe it is more important to have someone in Washington with whom I can civilly disagree than continue to see the nonsense that's been our national direction and leadership."
Kristy in Missouri writes, "This time around, I'd have to say character and I don't mean he's a nice guy or does he like interns. I mean, can he work with all these crazy factions and achieve some sort of consortium that can begin to heal the nation and get some issue, any issue resolved. We don't need a democrat or republican. We need an American who can sell the hell with these bratty party clicks and represent all of the people."
Jonathan writes, "The character of a candidate very important detail which is more than likely why Rudy Giuliani is no longer running. However, character doesn't make the economy any better than it is now, and doesn't bring our troops home any sooner. By far a candidate's stance on the issues is more important."
And Darren writes, "If you ask me, Jack, they're all characters and they all have issues."
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. Don't go far away.
Lou Dobbs is watching all of the late developments unfold on this late Super Tuesday. He's standing by to join us live. We'll get his take on what's going on.
Plus, Mike Huckabee, he is also standing by to talk to us live. We'll talk about his victory today in the West Virginia republican contest.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Lou Dobbs. Get his take on what's going on. It's a Super Tuesday. You know what the great thing about this Super Tuesday is? Lou, we don't know what the results are going to be. We have no clue who is going to be a winner or loser. That's exciting.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: That's the ultimate excitement and we know that each one of these candidates, they are on pins and needles right now as we approach if first closing in Georgia now a little over an hour away. But the reality is that this election looks so close that we're going to perhaps see this in both parties, despite what Senator McCain says on the republican side and Senator Clinton and Senator Obama try to manage expectations. It looks like a very real possibility, perhaps an outside chance, that both of these races could move to the convention. That would be startling history indeed.
BLITZER: Haven't seen that in a long time. You know if somebody would have said me I live in Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. or in Virginia or in the District of Columbia, your primaries are going to take place a week from today. They potentially could actually have a role to play in selecting delegates, I would have thought it was crazy because they front loaded it so much. We thought for sure it would be over by today.
DOBBS: Everybody has been, all of the pundits, the savants, the gurus have been whining and moaning about all of these early primaries and all of the votes that are going to come on Super Tuesday. Guess what? We're at Super Tuesday. Nothing is clear. It looks like a tight race. It looks like the system is going to work. Perhaps for the first time in a long time, we're going to see a presidential process, a presidential campaign process, actually work to create national consensus around some issues. Now these candidates may just have to start focusing out loud, talking to directly to the American people about the real issues we face.
BLITZER: I know you and your team have done a lot of reporting on voting irregularities and the ballots and the machines and electronic voting. We all remember what happened back in 2000. It seems a long time ago with the butterfly ballots and hanging Chads.
Over the past seven years, based on everything you know, have the problems that we witnessed over the years, have they been worked out basically, or is there still a fundamental problem out there after all this time?
DOBBS: They are huge issues that remain, Wolf, as we've been reporting on my broadcast. The fact is Colorado decided to just decertify the electronic voting machines without paper trails. Other states are following suit. Right now it looks like 13 states, well, potentially are going to be facing problems because they don't have verifiable paper trails. In 2008 that's simply unacceptable. Some of these states will have the opportunity to fix it by November of this year for the presidential election. But right now 13 states in the primary contest, their results could be -- BLITZER: Why is it possible that we can always get a little paper trail with our Visa or MasterCard, but we can't get a paper trail with a ballot?
DOBBS: I suppose the answer is when the last time the federal government worked? It's not working any better on this level because it set standards and put together the process by which these electronic voting machines were pushed out to the voting districts, to the states. The state voting officials, in most states, have been very, very responsible but right we're facing a real problem.
BLITZER: You're worried about this.
DOBBS: I'm definitely worried about. I think merely everyone who's following this issue is extremely worried about it because the vulnerability to our system, the integrity of our electoral system is at stake.
BLITZER: Lou's going to be with us throughout night. We got a lot of coverage coming up. I hope you worked out today. You got your exercise because this is going to be a long, long night.
DOBBS: I just want to stay within hailing distance of you because you set the standard for the hours.
BLITZER: Pace yourself. We've been there before. We'll do it again. Thanks very much, Lou's not going very far away. Part of the best political team on television.
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