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THE SITUATION ROOM

Dems' Marathon Ahead; McCain as Front-Runner; Interview With Republican Party Chairman Mike Duncan

Aired February 6, 2008 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Democrats take their Super Tuesday wins and run with them. The Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama face-off is as close and uncertain as ever. We're taking a closer look at where the presidential marathon goes from here.
Plus, John McCain tells his conservative critics to simply calm down. Now that McCain is the clear Republican front-runner, are his rivals going anywhere. We're going to tell you about some closed-door talks that are under way right now.

And shocking scenes, truly shocking scenes, across the South. We're getting new glimpses of the devastation from killer storms.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On this day after millions of Americans voted, the Democrat presidential race still is a two-person fight to the finish. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are running neck and neck, no matter how you slice the Super Tuesday results.

Take a look at this. They each got more than seven million votes in contests in more than 20 states, and they each picked up about the same number of delegates, giving Senator Clinton only a minimal edge in her delegate advantage to date. Senator Clinton goes before reporters this hour to give all of us her take on what happened last night and what could happen next.

We're going to bring you some of her remarks. That's coming up later this hour.

For his part, Senator Obama suggests he's the underdog after Super Tuesday, but one who can win in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton is a formidable opponent. She's got a familiar and well- appreciated name. She's got a political machine honed over two decades. And so from my perspective, this makes her the front-runner in every single contest.

I have no doubt that I can get the people who voted for Senator Clinton in a general election. It is not clear that Senator Clinton can get all the people that I'm getting in this process. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM watching all this unfold.

There are suggestions out there now, Candy, that Senator Clinton is about to lend her campaign, some of her personal money. What's going on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In fact, she did lend herself late last month $5 million, according to her campaign. They say, look, this is, in fact, a way to show that she is committed to this campaign and that this campaign will have the resources that it needs to go forward. And they are looking, really, Wolf, for the long haul.

BLITZER: What are they saying about last night, about the outcome? It was incredibly close in terms of the popular vote, as well as the even much more important delegate count.

CROWLEY: I mean, you know what they do. This is about emphasize the positive.

Right now, we're not really sure where this delegate count is going to go. Both campaigns say they think it might be between five and 10 delegates apart. The popular vote, very, very close, as you know.

Here's what they're doing. They're saying look at California.

Obama had the endorsement of the Kennedys. They went into the Latino voter areas and tried to get votes there. They sent Oprah in. Look at Massachusetts, Teddy Kennedy was there. And the Clinton campaign won both California and Massachusetts.

Having said that, you and I know that we thought she was going to win those anyway, 10 days to two weeks ago. But they also say there were lots of things inside the polls that showed, A, she does have appeal in rural areas and in red states, that she can attract young voters. So they are cherry-picking some information and seeing some real hope there.

BLITZER: All right. Let's look ahead right now. There are elections this Saturday, then next Tuesday in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Where are they looking right now at the key contests that are coming up?

CROWLEY: Would you believe Pennsylvania, in late April? Look, that's -- we hear a lot of talk now in the Clinton campaign about Pennsylvania and about Ohio. Two states with older populations, with a lot of working class Democrats that should favor her, because they kind of mirror her base voter. But in between now and then is a very long time, and, in fact, what the Clinton people are talking about is kind of trench warfare from here on out, as are the Obama people.

We have a lot of caucuses that are coming up at this point, and those caucuses have always favored Barack Obama. He's had the organizational skill in six of seven of the caucuses we've had so far to pull out wins.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, thanks very much.

It's a different ballgame for the Republican presidential candidates. Right now, John McCain emerged from Super Tuesday finally willing to publicly call himself the GOP front-runner.

He won the bulk of the states up for grabs last night and he won the lion's share of the delegates as well. And that puts him about 400 delegates ahead of Mitt Romney so far this primary season. Let's go out to Phoenix. Dana Bash is there.

Dana, is McCain sounding any different after Super Tuesday?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He definitely is, Wolf. And, you know, this difference, the stark contrast between what we saw here in Phoenix and what went on in Boston, was really amazing.

Here in Phoenix, John McCain had a lot of optimistic talk. He got on his campaign plane that was decorated with festive bunting. But back East, Mitt Romney met with his advisors at his headquarters. He wouldn't even answer questions or talk to the press who were waiting outside, while his advisors privately admit stopping McCain now is a daunting challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): After a night that delivered more than half the delegates he needs to be the Republican nominee, John McCain decided to act like he already is.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will unite the party behind our conservative principles and move forward and win the general election in November.

BASH: Yet, with victory also came a flash of classic McCain defiance aimed at GOP critics blasting him as too liberal to be the Republican standard bearer.

MCCAIN: But I do hope that at some point we would just calm down a little bit and see if there's areas that we can agree on for the good of the party and for the good of the country.

BASH: Because of his record on issues like taxes and immigration, distrust among some conservatives runs deep.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: McCain's never been part of the club when it comes to the conservative movement.

BASH: But after winning big GOP primary states like California and Missouri, he's returning to Washington to tell a conservative conference rich with skeptics that he's no heretic.

MCCAIN: Our message will be that we all share common principles, common conservative principles, and we should coalesce around those issues.

BASH: To conservatives who say they just won't vote for John McCain, an assist from the candidate who surprisingly swept the South.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no way that they can call themselves conservative and do that. You know, some people need to switch to decaf.

BASH: Still, Huckabee, buoyed by his Super Tuesday wins, says he's staying in the race. So is Mitt Romney. After huddling all morning with advisors, poring over data, Romney aides say he will press on to the next battleground states, despite now trailing McCain nearly two to one in delegates.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, although privately Romney's advisors admit Super Tuesday was very disappointing for them, publicly their line is they won almost as many states as John McCain. And they say looking forward, some of the contest states like Ohio and Texas are tailor- made for Romney's message of trying to turn around the economy. But, Wolf, McCain campaign aides, they say they are crunching the numbers, too, and they say it is now virtually impossible for Romney to catch up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, thanks very much for that.

Coming up, by the way, later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to be speaking with Mike Huckabee. We'll get his take on what's going to happen for his campaign next. He beat expectations yesterday, did a lot better than most of the pundits thought he would do.

And as all of you know, Dana Bash and Candy Crowley, they're both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television. Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our political ticker at CNNPolitics.com.

That's also where you can read my daily blog. I just posted something a few moments ago.

Other news we are following, including parts of the southern United States right now reeling from the deadliest tornado outbreak in this country in years. Fierce storms ripping through five states, tearing apart homes and flipping cars into the air. At least 50 people are dead, and rescue crews are searching door to door for more victims.

President Bush is offering support to those hard hit by the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a bad storm that affected a lot of people in a variety of states. My administration is reaching out to state officials. I just called the governors of the affected states. I wanted them to know that this government will help them. But more importantly, I wanted them to be able to tell the people in their states that the American people hold them up -- hold those who suffered up in prayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to go there live. We'll have a report from the southern storm zone. That's coming up.

In the meantime, let's speak to Jack Cafferty. He's here with "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I am.

Apparently, Wolf, it's not a fairy tale. Any way you slice it, Barack Obama won last night. He said it would be a split decision. It was.

Hillary Clinton won the big states, but he won more states. And because the delegates on the Democratic side are divided up in each state, they wound up in a virtual tie.

Obama had said if he could come out of last night within 100 delegates of Clinton, he would consider the night a success. He did better than that.

According to CNN's latest estimate, Clinton's leading at this point overall in delegates, with 818 to Obama's 730, but the Obama campaign insists when the last delegate is counted -- they haven't all been yet -- that Obama will be in front by a handful of delegates. And some news organizations agree with that assessment, saying that when it's all over, Obama will finish on top.

The one place that Obama went nowhere was Massachusetts. Now, if you can't win there, despite an endorsement from Senator Kennedy and his family, and the state's other senator, John Kerry, and the governor, well, so much for endorsements.

So this titanic struggle between experience and change moves on with another round of primaries and caucuses first this weekend -- Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington State -- and then on February 12th in the so-called Potomac primaries, in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., where Obama is expected to do quite well.

When you look at the polls from just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama has traveled great distances. Certainly, he's still not as well known as Hillary Clinton in many parts of the country, but it seems like the more time Obama has to campaign in a particular state, the better he tends to do there.

Here's the question, then. What will ultimately decide the outcome of the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: An excellent question. And the answer is, we don't know.

But you know what? We have learned a lot this campaign seasons. There's a lot we didn't know, and we only discovered it after we realized we didn't know it.

CAFFERTY: That's a great story. It really is. A terrific story.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to talk a lot more about this over the next few hours. Thanks very much for that, Jack.

John McCain is trying to bring the Republican Party together, but can his conservative critics accept McCain as the likely GOP nominee? I'll ask the Republican Party chairman, Mike Duncan, if he has a fight on his hands right now.

Also, Super Tuesday lessons. Is the old adage that money is everything in politics a thing of the past?

And Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama move beyond their very clear pockets of support. Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they're standing by for our "Strategy Session."

Lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John McCain is urging his critics on the right to calm down in the name of party unity, but Super Tuesday exit polls suggest conservatives aren't ready or willing to rally behind him as the GOP nominee, at least not yet.

Let's go to the Republican National Committee headquarters. The chairman, Mike Duncan, is joining us.

We should note that yesterday we spoke with the Democrat Party chairman, Howard Dean.

Mr. Duncan, thanks very much for coming in.

MIKE DUNCAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Wolf, thank you. It's good to be with you. Yesterday was a great day for those of us who love politics.

BLITZER: Millions of Americans voted on Super Tuesday. We have done a little math.

Approximately 14.4 million Democrats showed up yesterday, 8.7 million Republicans showed up yesterday. This is pretty consistent with what we have seen since Iowa. A lot more Democrats are voting than Republicans.

Does this suggest that the Democrats are much more enthusiastic this time than the Republicans?

DUNCAN: Well, it doesn't suggest that. And let me tell you why, Wolf.

As you know, I have been studying things like this. And I congratulate everyone that voted. And we want more people to participate.

But in looking at the last nine elections, there is not a correlation between who shows up and who wins in the fall. Typically, it's the party that's out of power, that has more people show up in their primary.

But if you go back and look at what happened in 1980 with President Reagan and the first President Bush in 1988, in both those instances the Democrats had more people participating in the primary. But then in the fall, we were able to get our message out.

And one of the things that I'm seeing now is people are seeing that there's a bright line distinction between the two parties. It's the difference between tax and spend and the party of personal responsibility, individual freedom, strong national defense. So in some ways, this is helping us because it's letting people see the difference between the parties.

BLITZER: There is a deep division, though, among conservatives within the Republican party right now over John McCain. Some of the radio talk show hosts, like Rush Limbaugh, are really saying, you know what? You're better off voting for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama than John McCain if he's the Republican nominee, to which Mike Huckabee told me this yesterday. Listen to this little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE: It really does show that if you would go vote for Hillary or Barack Obama before you would John McCain, then you can't say that you're truly committed to a conservative viewpoint or to the conservative cause or to the Republican Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: At what point do you think party unity suffers as a result of these attacks on John McCain from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and others who have normally supported Republican candidates?

DUNCAN: Well, over the long haul, Wolf, we're going to come back together. We're going to be unified.

I remember the same kinds of arguments that were being made in 1980 about Ronald Reagan at that time. The same thing in 1988, when people were saying that we had different wings of the party going in different directions.

At the end of the day, it's going to be that bright line distinction between the Democrats. You have Barack Obama. Is he ready to be commander in chief? A big question there with his thin experience record.

And then you have Senator Hillary Clinton. Can she be trusted? Many Americans think she will say or do anything to get elected.

BLITZER: So what's your message, Mr. Duncan, to Rush Limbaugh?

DUNCAN: My message to all Republicans is enjoy the spirited contest that we are having, but come home in the fall because it's going to be a great distinction between our candidates and their candidates.

BLITZER: And you think that they will? You think Rush Limbaugh and these others will come around and finally say, you know what, I'll hold my nose and vote for John McCain, as opposed to voting for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, or simply not voting?

DUNCAN: I think that people that believe in the philosophy of the Republican Party -- lower taxes, less government, individual responsibility, and a strong national defense -- will be there for us this fall. Because the distinction with the Democrats is so strong.

Can you trust Barack Obama to be commander in chief? Can you trust Senator Clinton as a candidate in their party? And I think the bright line distinction is what will bring people home.

BLITZER: Mike Duncan is the chairman of the Republican Party.

Mr. Duncan, thanks for coming in.

DUNCAN: Wolf, thank you. It's good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

The United Nations is calling it torture, but the White House says it's perfect legal. Coming up, for the first time, the Bush administration is officially talking about waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques.

Plus, it's already an historic election, and now the Democrat race is incredibly tight. What exactly is happening?

We're breaking down the vote for you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, Super Tuesday causes a sad Wednesday for some radio talk show conservatives. They say they see John McCain's wins as a threat to Ronald Reagan's legacy, but is McCain's record really as liberal as they say?

Also, is there really a difference in who African-Americans are supporting and who Latinos are voting for?

And fresh off impressive wins, Mike Huckabee will be right here. What's his strategy going forward? And is he spoiling Mitt Romney's chances at helping John McCain, as some of the so-called experts suggest? I'll ask him.

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

Hillary Clinton is speaking this hour in Virginia, a key battleground coming up next Tuesday. Just a short while ago, she told reporters that she loaned her campaign $5 million late last month after being out-raised and outspent by Barack Obama. She also spoke about the Super Tuesday results, effectively a split decision between Clinton and Obama.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had record-breaking turnouts. I was obviously very pleased at the results in many of the states, particularly the large states that voted for me. And I was also very pleased at some of the results in these states.

I won the youth vote in both Massachusetts and California. We obviously have geared up and really done a lot more in recent months to reach out to young people, to let them know that I'm not just worried about the next election, I'm worried about the next generation.

We also won 110 out of 115 counties in Missouri in what was basically a tie at the end of the night, but sweeping across rural Missouri, which is considered usually pretty red territory for people in the Democrat Party, was a great vindication of my belief that I'm running a campaign that appeals broadly, that brings in people from all different walks of life and background. And once again, we proved that.

So it was a terrific -- a terrific victory for everybody working on the ground, all of our volunteers and our staff. And I just went down and thanked the staff here at the campaign headquarters who have literally been working around the clock.

So now we're getting geared up. It's, you know, a fast move forward for the states that are around the corner starting on Saturday -- Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. And then on to Wisconsin, and then on to Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island. So we are very pleased about where the campaign is and how we're being able to make our case to the voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: With Super Tuesday now behind us, we know John McCain hopes to appear unstoppable, and that the race is unsettled right now between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But we are also looking at what your votes really say about these candidates and what it might mean for the races ahead.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Are there any messages that we're getting from these poll results?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, here's one. And Mitt Romney found this out -- money isn't everything.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Some big wins, but no knockouts. That's the bottom line for both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Both contenders face the same problem. They are running against a movement. And that's never easy.

Look at the split in the Democratic Party among voters polled in 16 primaries on Super Tuesday. Men voted for Barack Obama. Women voted for Clinton. Young voters were for Obama. Older voters were for Clinton. Whites and Latinos were for her. African-Americans were for him. Non-college-educated were for her. College-educated were for him.

Obama is the successor to a long line of new-politics Democrats, who want an idealistic, post-partisan approach to politics. Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, none of them got many black votes. That's what makes Obama different.

A movement that allies new-politics liberals and black voters is powerful and it has an issue. Democrats who said their top issue was the economy went for Clinton. Democrats who said their biggest concern was the war in Iraq went for Obama.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was opposed to Iraq from the start. And that...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And I say that not just to look backwards, but also to look forwards, because I think what the next president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely.

SCHNEIDER: John McCain is also facing a movement, the conservative movement, which has controlled the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. McCain argues he's part of that movement.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I enlisted as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution.

SCHNEIDER: But McCain won most of the Republican primary votes on Super Tuesday without carrying conservatives. Southern conservatives voted for Mike Huckabee. Northern conservatives voted for Mitt Romney. Happiness in politics is a divided opposition. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: McCain did best with moderate Republicans. He carried the roughly one-third of Republican voters who support abortion rights, even though he's always been staunchly anti-abortion. He carried the roughly one-third of Republicans who are anti-war, even though he is an enthusiastic supporter of President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love studying these numbers. Bill, thank you very much for that.

Much more coming up on the presidential contests, but we are also watching the deadliest tornado outbreak in the United States in years. In the South, dozens of people are dead. Many others are trying to put their lives back together. We're going to have a live report from the scene.

Also, many women and older people like Hillary Clinton. Many men and younger people seem to like Barack Obama. How do they attract broader support? That's coming up in our "Strategy Session."

And, after impressive Super Tuesday wins, Mike Huckabee looks ahead. Does he want that future to be free of Mitt Romney in this race? Mike Huckabee will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to that breaking news for a moment: the search for more victims in the South after a powerful and deadly string of tornadoes. CNN's Dan Lothian is joining us from Arkansas right now.

How bad is it, Dan, where you are right now in Atkins?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, it is really bad.

We always point out that the camera really can't capture the devastation. You only see part of the picture. When you get here, you realize how massive this devastation is. I'm standing in front of an area where a number of large trees were just cut down by the tornado, but, of course, it was much more than just trees.

Here in this particular area, in Atkins, four people lost their lives. There have been multiple injuries. Emergency management could not give us an exact tally on the injuries, but they said multiple injuries. Some 70 to 80 homes were destroyed. Some people lost everything.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): On this street in Atkins, nothing was spared. The tornado crushed homes, flipped cars and wrapped trees in sheet metal. This is the aftermath. Imagine what it was like as the tornado passed overhead. Blake Martin saw it coming. BLAKE MARTIN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: And you could see the tornado taking out a house over there.

LOTHIAN: So, he ran to his grandmother's house, along with his friend.

B. MARTIN: We all ran to the bathroom. And I was the last one in. And, as soon as I shut the door, pretty much, my house was like ripping apart.

LOTHIAN: Three generations of the Martin family live on this property. All three of their homes here were destroyed.

CAROL BROCK, TORNADO SURVIVOR: You see it on the news every day. And you never think it's going to happen to you.

LOTHIAN: But it did. And it also happened to the Atkins (ph) family across the street. Six family members, including a four-month- old baby and a disabled teenager, huddled in the bathroom, which stayed intact as the house blew apart.

BROCK: They survived. No one was injured.

LOTHIAN: Volunteers swooped in to help clean up and assist the victims, many of whom were picking through the rubble, searching for pictures, clothing, furniture, a devastating loss, but the Martin family, unsure if they will rebuild, says not everything was taken by the tornado.

MARK MARTIN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: That's really all I'm worried about is my family. This stuff, we can replace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Governor Mike Beebe toured the area earlier today. He flew over the area as well. And he pointed out something that a lot of people here have been saying. They can't believe that more people weren't killed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: My heart goes out to all those families down there. Thanks, Dan, very much.

I-Reporters from the areas hit by this deadly tornado outbreak are giving us a glimpse inside their devastated communities. Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

These pictures are so powerful, Abbi. Show us some of them.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are all from Highland, Arkansas. We are going about 100 miles away from where that report just came in from.

But, really, these -- the pictures are coming in from communities that are all devastated in similar ways. This is the firehouse there in this community of about 1,000 people. Tina Harris sent this in. Look, you can barely make out what is a wall, what is the roof. There's a vending machine at the bottom, but the rest is just destroyed. Tina Harris said she was hiding in a closet when this passed through.

And then these pictures from Beverly Hanner, who was trapped in her house after trees fell down and she couldn't get out until rescue services came. This is what's left of the housing -- I'm sorry -- the shopping center along the highway there in Highland, Arkansas. And these pictures just go on of everything in the community ripped apart.

This is the church -- this from Kore Colwell here. You can see the entire wall there ripped aside, but, if you look at this, some of -- there are other pieces like further away. This is the steeple of the church.

Kore says that she is not at her high school today, at Highland High School, because that's been turned by the emergency services into a command center for this community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: These pictures are simply devastating.

Our -- as I said, our hearts go out to these people. Thanks for bringing them. Thanks to our I-Reporters as well.

In our "Strategy Session," while Mitt Romney -- Romney contemplates his next tactics, John McCain talks about unity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I know that the "independent" voters and, frankly, the old Reagan Democrats will come our way, because I think we will have a message that will appeal to all of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, after Super Tuesday pushed him behind in the all the important -- the all-important delegate race, that is, what's Romney's rationale for going on right now?

And Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they both seem to have found the winning formula, but how do they expand their electoral bases?

Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they're standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The candidates are already eying contests this coming Saturday, as well as next Tuesday. Here to tell us about those races is our chief national correspondent, John King.

John, there are some of those races in the South and some elsewhere. Tell our viewers what to expect next.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's show you where we're going. And what's flashing now on the map is what happened last night. The 24-state swathe, if you will, from east to west and north to south, that is all over. And we are counting up and allocating the delegates. Let's look ahead to this coming weekend. Now you see what's flashing.

You have the primary down here in Louisiana. You have the Republicans in Kansas, the Democrats in Nebraska and also caucuses out in Washington State, so a fewer number of contests this Saturday, but still important contests, a test in the South, a test up in the Pacific Northwest, two tests out in the Heartland.

Then we move on. On Sunday, you have Maine caucuses, Democratic caucuses. Remember, Barack Obama has been doing well in caucuses so far. We will see if he can carry that over into the Northeast, and then, next Tuesday, one week from yesterday, what you might call the Potomac primary. You have Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, very interesting contests there. And that will be a key test, Wolf, as we go on.

Can Barack Obama turn his support among African-Americans? That should help him in the District of Columbia. It also should help him in Maryland because of Baltimore and Prince George's County. Virginia is a very interesting test, typically a red state, but Democratic governor now, places for Senator Clinton to play, but also Richmond area, places for Senator Obama to play.

And, on the Republican side, Wolf, Virginia shapes up as fascinating. There are parts of this state down here where you can expect Mike Huckabee to match the evangelical support he won across the South yesterday. There are military bases for John McCain to play in, more affluent Republican communities for Mitt Romney, who, as you know, has said he is staying in the race.

So, the calendar, looking ahead, is quite fascinating. And when they get to these states, they will of course be going off the delegate math from yesterday.

BLITZER: And they are already looking beyond what is being called the Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. They are looking toward not only the rest of February, but March and maybe even April.

KING: It is fascinating, Wolf, especially on that Democratic race. And I will show you the delegate count in just a second on the map, but let's go through what you were just talking about on the calendar. You have Wisconsin, and then you have the primary out of Washington State, and you have Hawaii. I think I should rush out and cover those caucuses out in Hawaii as soon as possible.

And then you move into March, and you are looking at some key contests here, big states, big industrial battlegrounds in Ohio, obviously, a huge contest in Texas. And, Wolf, as these contests go on and on, potentially beyond march and into May, remember what it's all about. It's about delegates.

And this is where we are in the race right now. This is our Republican math. But we are still allocating delegates. And look what could happen as we start counting the these congressional districts in California. Watch that number for John McCain. If he picks up more delegates, as we sort out the congressional districts, that could happen there.

And let's close by showing you this, because this is what it's all about right now on the Democratic side. Look at how close they are. Clinton and Obama -- I will use a different color, so you can see it -- they are so close, Wolf. Again, we are still allocating delegates. Could shift as we go. But they enter this next stretch almost in a dead heat, based on our count right now. And we are still working on it, Senator Clinton with a slight advantage.

BLITZER: Who would have thought, John? Thanks very much -- John King reporting for us.

For Mitt Romney, Tuesday was a day of campaigning, but Wednesday is a day for big considerations. How will his campaign move forward after suffering some stunning losses? Let's talk about it in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our political analyst, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's editor in chief of Cybercast News Service.

Let's talk, Terry, first of all, about Mitt Romney. Some are asking, what's the rationale for him to continue right now? What do you say?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, listen, if -- everybody knows Mitt Romney has changed his positions on some key issues in the last few years, and now he's on the opposite side, really, of some of those issues than John McCain. He's on the opposite side of the immigration issue. He's gotten very tough on immigration.

There is also the pro-life issue, Wolf. As it was pointed out earlier in this broadcast, McCain is getting the vote of the pro- choice Republicans. Mitt Romney now supports the pro-life plank in the Republican platform. Conservatives need a champion in this race. Everybody knows that Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, other conservative radio voices are out there talking about the ways that John McCain differs from conservatives.

But I think conservatives would like to see, if McCain is going to be the nominee, driven to define himself on conservative issues more than he has, and make more commitments than he's already had. And, by the way, I would say that Mike Huckabee could help in that regard, too.

BLITZER: Mike Huckabee, a lot of pundits are suggesting he's already helping McCain a great deal.

How do you assess the Republican contest, Donna, right now?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I find it just as exciting as the Democrat contest. Mike Huckabee was able to pull out a large Christian evangelical vote down in the South.

He was able to connect with voters in Missouri. There's no reason why Mike Huckabee should drop out of the race. He needs money. Perhaps he needs to go on some guitar tours, so he can put some more money in his coffer. But I don't believe that Mitt Romney should drop out.

He has the resources. There is still -- as Terry mentioned, there is still a vacuum there for a real conservative. And, if he believes in the views that he now holds on abortion and many other issues, conservative positions, then he should continue to fight.

BLITZER: Do you believe that -- Terry, that, when all is said and done, if McCain does get the Republican nomination in the coming weeks, effectively wraps it up, that he will manage to unify that Republican conservative base out there, including the radio talk show hosts?

JEFFREY: I think it's going to be very difficult for him, Wolf. And here's one reason. Over the last seven or eight years, on most of the big fights on domestic issues, where conservatives were trying to get something or trying to stop something, McCain effectively ended up being on the other side in the United States Senate. He was on the other side of the Bush tax cuts, clearly was on the other side of the illegal immigration issue.

He was even on the other side of the judges, because the Republicans wanted to get rid of the rule that the Democrats could stop a judge and require a 60-vote majority in the Senate, McCain effectively sided with them. He has got to come a long way to convince conservatives to really rally behind him.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Democratic contest, Donna. Is there an end in sight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely.

What Hillary Clinton needs to do right now is to try to figure out how to tap into some of the voters that Barack Obama is drawing to his campaign. She also needs to go into those caucus states and slug it out, do some grassroots organizing to prove that she can win in caucus states.

And, look, Washington state, Maine, some of those states are very important. She needs more delegates. She cannot rely just on superdelegate, who, in my judgment, should not decide this election. The last thing we need is politicians and insiders deciding this election. We need to let the voters decide this election.

And I think Barack Obama has -- has not just money, but he has momentum. And he will do very well in Louisiana. He will do very well in the Potomac primaries. But don't count out Hillary Clinton. Just a few weeks ago, she was the national front-runner, leading Barack Obama by 25 points in some states. Barack had to come from behind. Hillary's still on top, as far as I'm concerned, with delegates, as well as with the ability to coalesce the Democratic coalition, but she needs to reach out. And Obama needs to reach out to the Latino community in Texas to let them know that they share the same values as other people in this country, including Barack Obama. He gets their votes, he will also do well in the coming weeks.

BLITZER: And, Donna, speaking out against those superdelegates, you are one of those super-delegates, aren't you?

BRAZILE: I'm one of them.

BLITZER: You're one of those. But you're not a committed super- delegate yet?

BRAZILE: Well, I think, if 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this.

BLITZER: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: There's no reason why we should decide this election. I feel very strongly.

BLITZER: All right.

JEFFREY: Donna can start an independent party with Ann Coulter.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: She's not going to go that far.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: I'm not going that far. I will just spend more time with Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Yes, that's right. You can be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Well, what do you think, Terry? How do you see this contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama unfolding in the next few weeks?

JEFFREY: Well, look, Wolf, I think, if you step back and look at this as a two-year campaign, which it really is, Barack Obama has tremendous momentum, and Hillary Clinton continues to slide.

The campaign on the Democrats' side really started out with Hillary as the candidate of inevitability, the former first lady married to Bill Clinton, ahead in all the national polls, ahead in the polls in all the key states, including, at one point, in Iowa. Barack Obama has come all the way up to where he's almost equal with her on the delegate counts. He's got Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Tom Daschle supporting him.

All of the momentum really, on the mega-side, is with Obama. And I think, at some point, the dam could break, and the whole Democratic Party would say, we're with this guy.

One thing, if I were a Democrat I would think about, the one thing that can unite conservatives behind John McCain is if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

BLITZER: Very quickly, wrap it up, Donna.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: And, Terry, we are not going to give you any frosting on the cake. Hillary Clinton is strong. She is committed. She's principled. She's passionate. She cares deeply about this country, its future. She has really worked hard for this nomination. And we shouldn't deny it just because you don't like her.

BLITZER: Much more important -- much more...

JEFFREY: Republicans would like to see her as your nominee.

BLITZER: Much more important than Donna Brazile...

BRAZILE: I have no problem with her being the nominee.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Much more important than Donna Brazile being a super- delegate, she's just a super human being. That's all I want to say.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks to both of you for coming in.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: With Super Tuesday being behind us, the campaigns are now looking ahead to what we are calling the Potomac primary. And now two candidates are trying to get their message across in Virginia -- that story coming up in our Political Ticker.

Plus, the battle on the Democratic side isn't just for delegates. There is also a fierce fight over the -- the minority vote. The difference that African-American and Latino voters might make, that's coming up as well.

Plus, children heavily armed, in training for al Qaeda? That's what the United States military says right now. And they have videotape to back it up -- coming up, the unusual role that kids may be playing in terrorist groups.

Much more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Kenya, a boy with his face painted smiles at a camp for displaced residents.

In Kentucky, an official with the National Weather Service stands on the foundation of what used to be someone's home.

In Florida, a Catholic school boy receives ashes from a pastor.

And, in England, a young Asian elephant calf snuggles up to its mother at a wildlife conservation park. It was born three weeks ago at a healthy 220 pounds.

That's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words.

On our Political Ticker today: John McCain is joining Barack Obama as the only presidential candidates not running TV ads in Virginia. CNN has learned McCain is recycling ads he used during Super Tuesday and other previous contests. McCain could benefit from the fact that Virginia holds an open GOP primary, allowing Democrats and independents to cast votes, as well as registered Republicans.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. You can real my little daily blog there as well.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He has got his own daily blog someplace else.

CAFFERTY: What did you write on your little daily blog today?

BLITZER: I wrote a little about Mike Huckabee, how he has managed to really outlive so many of these other Republican candidates who had a lot more money, great name recognition, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson...

CAFFERTY: Sure.

BLITZER: ... the star "Law & Order." And he's still a survivor out there. He's still one of the finalists, and a limited staff, a limited amount of money. I wrote about -- I wrote a little bit about that.

CAFFERTY: Somebody said his campaign has been running on fumes for weeks.

BLITZER: You have got to give him...

CAFFERTY: No money.

BLITZER: You have got to give him credit.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes, absolutely. I think Iowa did a lot for him.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Kind of get him on the map, give him some recognition.

All right, the question this hour is: What will ultimately decide the outcome of this intense fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

It was amazing. The popular vote last night in all the states when it was all said and done, I think she got 50,000 more votes than he did out of more than 14 million cast. So, it's -- it's a close race.

David writes from Washington: "What will decide this race is the same thing that has made it close. In the eyes of the media, Barack Obama can do no wrong. Hillary can do no right. When you pundits get your way and install him as our candidates, the Republicans will begin the attack campaign, and what carnage it will be. Hillary has withstood this barrage for 15 years. She is still standing. Anyone who thinks Barack won't be swift-boated is living in a dream that all too soon will become a nightmare for all of us Democrats."

Brad writes: "It appears to be quite simple. The more time that goes by, the higher the numbers go for Senator Obama. For him, it's sort of like the Rolling Stones said. Time is on our side. It seems that, as soon as people actually have a chance to hear Barack Obama, they tend to support him. I think this is truly a phenomenon or wave that we are seeing. Remember, Hillary was way ahead throughout the country just a few short weeks ago."

Jim writes:' "Clinton/Obama, old vs. new, traditional vs. rational, experience vs. vision. Ultimately, the decision will be based on how much the counter-reaction there is out there to President Bush. The more people understand the damage caused by Bush, the more they will want to try something different. That's Obama."

Jacqueline writes from San Diego: "The super-delegates might make the decision for all of us, like the Supreme Court judges did in 2000, or a late comer candidate with fresh ideas. Or one of these two will make a big mistake."

And Steffany writes: "It's the experience, stupid."

Is she talking to me, do you suppose?

(LAUGHTER)

"Hillary has far more experience than Obama. I have already gone through eight years of inexperience in the White House. And I'm not voting for another four years of a learn-as-you-go program."

Thank you for that.

BLITZER: Thank you to you, Jack. Stand by. We have got more coming up. To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: One turned himself into a clear front-runner. Another put himself in position to become a front-runner. Super Tuesday lived up to its name.

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