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Will Conservatives Accept McCain?; Can Clinton Compete With Obama Financially?

Aired February 6, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: The Democratic presidential race, it keeps on going and going and going. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama come out of Super Tuesday with fresh wins, but without a lock on the nomination. Now new signs Clinton may be feeling the strain on her campaign finances.
Plus, the long, drawn-out hunt for delegates, but what does it say about the candidates? And does the primary and caucus system actually need an overhaul?

And John McCain tells critics on the right to simply calm down. After his Super Tuesday haul, are conservatives willing to accept McCain as the likely GOP nominee?

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team in television. And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

Now that Super Tuesday has come and gone, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can't escape the fact running for president is, in the end, a numbers game. And neither has what it takes at least not yet to clinch the nomination. Each Democrat picked up about the same number of delegates last night, giving Clinton only a minimal edge in their delegate tallies to date.

It's a very, very different situation, though, for the Republicans. John McCain now holds the lion's share of GOP delegates, after his Super Tuesday haul.

We begin with the Democrats, though, and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She is here.

Candy, what are you hearing from the Clinton and Obama camps today?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that both camps agree on a couple of things, first of all, that this is a very murky picture at this point. And, second of all, it is going to go on for a while.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): They have been at it for a year, raised more than $200 million, competed in more than 30 contests. Nothing is settled, not even what they think happened night.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were writing the story, what would I say would be, Senator Obama came in as a challenger who two weeks ago I think nobody thought would come out of February 5 standing.

CROWLEY: Turning the campaign dynamic on its head, Clinton advisers say she's actually the insurgent now , that he with the backing of some big party names is the establishment candidate, making her wins in California and Massachusetts sweet.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We had a great night last night with victories around the country and ending up once again with, you know, a total of more votes and more delegates.

CROWLEY: She may have more delegates, but he won more states.

OBAMA: We are turning out to be a scrappy little team.

CROWLEY: But there is no longer a David and Goliath story here. These are two powerhouses. And today is the first day of the rest of their campaign, tougher and more expensive than anyone thought it would be.

CLINTON: I loaned the campaign $5 million from my money. That's where I got the money. I loaned it because I believe very strongly in this campaign. We had a great month fund-raising in January, broke all records. But my opponent was able to raise more money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And she will need that money. Her campaign is digging in for the long haul, eyeing big states with lots of delegates offering the friendlier terrain of older, more traditional working- class Democrats. That's Ohio and Texas in March, Pennsylvania in late April.

But between now and then there are some Obama-looking states that threaten to slow her movement. In Nebraska, Washington State and Maine, there are caucuses coming up, a forum he has excelled in. And both campaigns think upcoming primaries in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia also look like Obama-friendly turf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Obama is raising so much more money, at least in January, than Hillary Clinton. And she is, as you say, forced to lend herself, her campaign, $5 million. What does that say about this race?

CROWLEY: Well, that says that it's, you know, now competitive at every level. He's proven all along that he can raise money. But now it is really beginning to matter here. And she does have a place to go to get this money.

But the longer this goes on, the more both of them frankly are going to face this. But it is also a signal that the people with the money, that some of the power-brokers in the Democratic Party have kind of drifted over to him. And they have got to pull them back in.

BLITZER: I remember four years ago when John Kerry took a mortgage on his house in Boston to lend his campaign some money. It wound up helping him get that Democratic nomination.

CROWLEY: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thanks very much.

John McCain emerged from Super Tuesday finally willing to publicly call himself the GOP front-runner. And his rivals are trying to figure out what if anything they can do to stop him now.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash -- Dana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there was a striking contrast between what we saw here in Phoenix and the scene back in Boston. Here, John McCain was full of optimistic talk before he got on his campaign plane that was decorated with festive bunting, and back East, Romney would not even talk to the press after an urgent meeting with his advisers who privately concede stopping McCain now is a daunting challenge.

(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 use like taxes and immigration, distrust among some conservatives runs deep.

SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: McCain has 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 conservatives 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. Some people need to switch to decaf.

BASH: Still, Huckabee buoyed by his Super Tuesday wins says he is staying in the race. So is Mitt Romney. After huddling all morning with advisers, poring over data, Romney aides say he will press on to the next battleground states, despite now trailing McCain nearly 2-1 in delegates.

(on camera): Although privately Romney aides admit Super Tuesday was a big disappointment for them, their public line is that Romney won almost as many states as McCain and the upcoming contests, like Ohio and Texas, are tailor-made for his economic message.

McCain campaign officials say they have been crunching the numbers, too, and that it is virtually impossible now for Romney to catch up -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much -- Dana Bash in Phoenix for us.

And we are going to get back to the presidential race in just a moment. But we are following some breaking news in the South, at least 54 people killed, hundreds others injured in the deadliest cluster of tornadoes to hit the region in years.

CNN's Brian Todd has been monitoring the story. He's talking to state authorities, trying to understand the full extent of this devastation.

What are you hearing, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just one example will give you an idea, one of many stories from all of this. A sheriff's official told me that, in the town of Castalian Springs, Tennessee, very hard hit by one tornado, a woman was found dead in a creek bed not far from where her house once stood.

About 250 yards away, rescuers found her infant baby alive, no one else around. We are told the child is not seriously injured.

These accounts of close calls and lives disrupted seem to get more dramatic by the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): From the air, you can see where a tornado came right down on these dormitories, then twisted out, blasting the buildings wide open. On the ground vehicles are tossed upside down like discarded toys, a pickup truck almost knocked right into the dorm. ANDREW NORMAN, UNION UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Then the windows exploded. And this dirt came flying in. And it was -- I have never been through anything like it, for sure.

TODD: This is what's left of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, where at one point more than a dozen students were trapped. Some were injured. But it could have been so much worse.

TIM ELLSWORTH, UNION UNIVERSITY SPOKESMAN: It's just utter astonishment that not only was nobody killed, but that there were not dozens or hundreds of people killed.

TODD: Luck did not prevail in many other places in Tennessee which recorded the most fatalities from a series of storms that ripped through five Southern states.

GOV. PHIL BREDESEN (D), TENNESSEE: You're always supposed to love your neighbor. Love them a little extra over the next few days, especially those who have been impacted by this. And just pray that it never happens to you and your family.

TODD: Near South Haven, Mississippi, this video from an eyewitness captures one menacing twister gathering strength -- this aftermath in Atkins, Arkansas, repeated all over the mid-South. Residents start to pick through debris of houses where there's so little to find.

A state official there tells us one storm system wiped through six counties. Of more than a dozen people killed in Arkansas, three were from one family. Other families, like one in Lafayette, Tennessee, barely escaped.

JEFF STEVENS, TORNADO SURVIVOR: I just start hearing a rumbling and ran and got my daughter off the couch. She was asleep. Got my wife out of bed. And within seconds, the house was just destroyed. We just ran into the hallway and laid down, and laid down on top of them, and ears started popping like you was in an airplane, and just debris started flying everywhere.

TODD: Listen to this man in Jackson, Tennessee, describe driving down the street when a twister hit with almost no warning.

JAMES BASKIN, TORNADO SURVIVOR: And it just hit us. It just blew all the glass out and swooped us up in the air. And the next thing I knew we were flipping and flying and landed over here across from the intersection. And we are alive. We're alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The federal government is now scrambling to the region. FEMA is sending several teams to the five states to help with response and recovery. And we are also told National Guard and reserves are on hand helping with rescue efforts and deploying helicopters and other heavy equipment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Let's get some more on this story from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She has been looking at some I-Reports sent into us from communities simply devastated by the deadly tornadoes.

Abbi, what are you seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, let's just focus in on one of them. This is Highland, Arkansas, and we have got dozens of pictures from this community, population 1,000, that didn't seem to escape anything of this damage last night.

This picture from Tina Harris. This used to be the fire department. But as you can see from what she sent us through I- Report, it is very hard to make out what used to be a wall, what used to be the roof.

This is the shopping center along the main highway, sent in by Beverly Hanner. This one fared a little better, but you can see that the damage is extensive.

And pictures coming along from all along this main road through town of cars tossed aside, tossed onto buildings. We have one picture here of the church. Look at this. The entire side of the church disappeared there. You can see the chandelier seems to be still hanging there. But other parts were just thrown along the road.

This is the steeple of the church sent there. That's from Kore Colwell, who says she is not at her high school today because it has been turned into an emergency command center -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What devastation. All right, thanks very much for that, Abbi.

Let's bring back Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, this is perhaps, at least to my way of thinking, the most fascinating statistic to come out of yesterday's voting, Super Tuesday -- 14.5 million votes cast in the Democratic race; 53,000 is all that separated Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

It does not get much closer than that. In case you are interested, there were about 73 percent more Democratic voters than Republican voters, 14-plus million for Clinton and Obama to just 8- plus million for McCain, Romney and Huckabee.

Now, first off, this shows how much more interest there is on the part of the Democratic electorate than on the part of the Republicans. And it also shows how incredibly close the race between Obama and Clinton continues to be. These numbers mean that it is likely this thing will become a long, protracted battle, continuing on into states like Ohio, Texas, maybe even as far as Pennsylvania. It is even possible the Democrats won't formally elect a nominee until the convention in August.

Then what? With millions of enthusiastic supporters backing Barack Obama, millions more backing Hillary Clinton, what happens if only one of them winds up on the ballot for November?

Here's the question. In order to unite the Democratic Party come November, will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to be on the same ticket?

You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog.

They posted this little gizmo here, this question and introduction on CNN.com. And they got some inordinate number of -- 125,000 in an hour people reading and responding to this. So, it is a high-interest deal.

BLITZER: And a lot of Democrats call it the dream ticket.

CAFFERTY: Yes, oh, yes.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Depends on who is top. Barack Obama said that when they were asked during the debate as well.

BLITZER: Right.

CAFFERTY: It depends on who is on top.

BLITZER: He likes Obama-Clinton. She likes Clinton-Obama.

CAFFERTY: That figures.

BLITZER: We will see what happens.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Do you buy what some Republicans are saying about the only female running for president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DUNCAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Then you would have Senator Hillary Clinton. Can she be trusted? Many Americans think she will say or do anything to be elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The chairman of the Republican National Committee is questioning Hillary Clinton's credibility. But what does he say about the criticisms of his own party's candidates?

Also, this race is largely about one thing. That would be winning the necessary delegates at the conventions. But you might be surprised at how much that's turning this race on its head.

And New York's mayor is conducting what he compares to a grand experiment. Does that mean Michael Bloomberg is actually considering -- considering a presidential bid?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama is looking at Super Tuesday as a big win for his presidential effort. But he's also mindful of the very rough road that lies ahead.

Let's turn to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after it was called a draw, Senator Clinton is itching for four more debates. Senator Obama said he would accept at least participating in one.

But he says Clinton has the advantage of 100 percent name recognition and also the Clinton brand. He says he needs to spend time on the campaign trail getting voters to know him. He believes that that is going to help him get the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: The whole calendar was set up to deliver the knockout blow on February 5. And not only did we play them to a draw. We won more delegates and we won more states.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Barack Obama lives to fight another day. The self-described underdog who claims victory for Super Tuesday is still playing the low-expectations game.

OBAMA: We are less of an underdog than we were two weeks ago. No, I think that's fair. I think that two weeks ago we were a big underdog. Now we are a slight underdog.

MALVEAUX: The Obama campaign says it won 13 states and has more delegates than Senator Clinton, a claim her campaign disputes.

But Obama's numbers still show he lags behind Clinton among Latinos, white blue-collar workers and older women. Even the Kennedy clan's endorsement could not clinch a win in Massachusetts, but did help elsewhere.

OBAMA: I don't think that we would have won Connecticut, for example, without Senator Kennedy. I don't think we would have done as well in California without Senator Kennedy. I think he and Caroline provided an enormous boost to our campaign. I was extraordinarily proud to have their support.

MALVEAUX: But Obama admitted the fight for delegates may be so close, snatching the nomination may come to down to who wins over the coveted superdelegates, party officials who vote outside the state contests.

Obama addressed them directly, making the case he's the only candidate who can steal independent voters away from Republican front- runner John McCain.

OBAMA: 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 VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Obama traveled back to Washington, D.C., to vote for the economic stimulus package that was proposed by the Senate. And then it is back on the campaign trail to those critical states, Washington, Louisiana, and Nebraska -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much -- Suzanne Malveaux reporting.

Conservative radio talk show hosts have been slamming John McCain for weeks. But what are they saying now that it looks, it looks like he is the front-runner? That story coming up next.

Also, the Democratic Party has already punished Michigan and Florida for holding early primaries. Now the party is pressuring those states to make nice. What impact could all of this have on the race?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Conservative radio talk show hosts have been burning up the airwaves with condemnations of John McCain. But his latest success is enough to leave some of them perhaps speechless, almost.

Let's go back to Carol Costello. She is watching the story for us.

What are you hearing about all of this, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if they were speechless, but they were certainly grumpy, Wolf. But they were unbowed.

Despite John McCain's super Super Tuesday, they are not throwing their support behind him now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It was like watching their view of the world slowly die for conservative talkers. There he was, Mr. Maverick, not only celebrating, but congratulating that other undesirable Republican, Mike Huckabee.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I salute you. I salute Governor Huckabee.

COSTELLO: The talkers called McCain's big night a win for liberal Democrats, since part of John McCain's platform is reaching across party lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What we want is to defeat those people. We view those people as threats to the American way of life as we have always known it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: On Laura Ingraham's show, she lamented McCain's victories, reminding her listeners Ronald Reagan would not have been happy, especially today, on what would have been his 97th birthday. She then urged them to go to a Heritage Foundation Web site called "What Would Reagan Do?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, in the kitchen, I hope the talking begins.

And, children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let them know and nail them on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Thank you and God bless.

COSTELLO: Still, Ingraham was not ready to declare McCain's win meant the death of Reaganism or conservative talk radio just yet.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Before people start writing again the obituary, whether it is the talk radio, blah, blah, blah -- we heard that before -- or the obituary of conservatism, remember what was happening last night. In state after state, John McCain wasn't winning conservative votes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: McCain did come in third among conservatives. But Huckabee won in five states on Super Tuesday, even though talkers told their listeners a vote for Huckabee is like a vote for McCain.

HUCKABEE: People across this country are saying that, yes, we heard what the pundits said. But this is our vote, not theirs. This is our election, not theirs. This is our presidency, not theirs.

COSTELLO: And with Huckabee's success came talk of a McCain/Huckabee ticket, something conservatives cannot stomach.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

INGRAHAM: McCain has been -- has so radicalized key conservatives that some have vowed to turn themselves into suicide voters next November by pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton. (END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: It was a common theme in the world of conservative talk, although some eventually admitted if it came down to a McCain/Huckabee ticket, conservative voters would abstain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: That's right. They would just stay home and they wouldn't vote at all.

Now, the only consolation for the talkers, Wolf, is Mitt Romney, despite his less than super Super Tuesday, is staying in the race. And he will target Kansas, Washington State, and he will campaign here in D.C. later this week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol, thank you -- Carol Costello reporting.

It is the day after Super Tuesday, but there's still no closure in this presidential race, just plenty of contests and uncertainty ahead. John King is standing by at the map. He is going to show us where the campaign stands right now and what we can expect in the immediate days to come.

Plus, Hillary Clinton acknowledges dipping into her own cash to try to fund her campaign. Can she compete financially with Barack Obama? I will ask the best political team on television.

And we will also tell you about the grand experiment Michael Bloomberg says he is conducting.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, the delegate count is painting a new picture of the race for the White House. It's tighter than ever for the Democrats, but it's becoming clear for the Republicans.

Is it time to overhaul the entire delegate system?

Also, Hillary Clinton is reaching into her own pockets to fund her campaign. We're going to show you what her $5 million loan really means.

And Mike Huckabee beats expectations and lives to fight another day. But he's still facing very serious challenges.

How long can he last?

All of this plus the best political team on television.

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

With this presidential race far from actually being settled, all the candidates are eyeing contests Saturday -- this coming Saturday and then next Tuesday.

The goal?

Rack up more delegates needed to become a presidential nominee.

Joining us is our chief national correspondent, John King.

He's looking closely at what's going on -- John McCain says he's the frontrunner. Mike Huckabee says he's back in this race.

Where does it stand right now?

What do the delegate numbers actually show?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's show it.

On the board right now, this is the Republican race for president and this is where we began last night. So you look, you see essentially pretty much a dead heat -- McCain and Romney tied, Huckabee a little bit back. That's last night when we began the night.

Well, now let's look at roughly where we are now. Look at McCain way out here, past the halfway mark. Governor Huckabee did have a good night. He has almost caught up roughly even with Mitt Romney. But I want to caution you, this is our projection now. This could change dramatically.

Let's look at the State of Georgia. Mike Huckabee won that state. We've only allocated, so far, about 48 of the delegates so far, because you have to go through every Congressional district and figure it out. We know John McCain did OK down there. We know Mitt Romney won a couple of Congressional districts in the Atlanta area. So there are more delegates there for them to get.

And the biggest prize still we're working on, Wolf, is out here in California, where we thought this was going to look something like this. Mitt Romney spent a lot of money out there. We thought maybe we'd have something -- McCain wins a little bit more, Romney gets a lot. But right now, we're seeing Mitt Romney only winning maybe two Congressional districts. So, California, in the end, could look at something like that, which moves McCain's number even more out toward the finish line and will push Romney back of it.

So it's quite interesting, Wolf, as we go. The Republican race, especially as we count the delegates in California, will change.

BLITZER: John, the remarkably close Democratic race is showing some people sweating.

What about that? KING: Well, it is amazing, Wolf. Here we go and let's look again. And, again, I'll use red here, because the Democrats are in blue.

This is where we start the night, right around here -- a pretty close race. Senator Clinton w an edge.

But where do we end up at the end of Super Tuesday?

Here's where we are now. They're out here again. And look at this -- they're still pretty close. Now, again, we have to go back and count because -- let's stay on California, where we just were with the Republicans. Forty-hundred and forty-one delegates on the Democratic side, Wolf. We've only allocated about 100 so far, because again, you have to go through Congressional district by Congressional district.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, Senator Clinton, she won that state. She won with a pretty good margin. She could keep coming out here -- something like that. She gains a lot of delegates and moves more out. We're still looking also at the State of Missouri, a state where Obama won narrowly, but did win in Kansas City and St. Louis, where the people are and the Congressional districts are. So his math could change, as well.

We have a pretty good sense now, Wolf, that it's close between the Democrats. And we know where McCain is way out front. We still have a lot of counting to do. Our delegate team is working incredibly hard.

BLITZER: All right. So in the immediate days and now weeks ahead, what are the big prizes out there?

KING: Well, then you'd have to come out of this map, Wolf, and come up to -- save that and come out. Add it all. And here's where we're going to look, out here. We still have, in the short-term, you have down here. You have Louisiana coming up. Let me take you out of this state. And you have Louisiana coming up.

It doesn't want to work for me. We'll get that to go. It's still coming up with Louisiana. Sixty-seven delegates on the Democratic side. It's so close, those delegates matter. Remember, you're on the proportional side there. The Republican primary strategy, 47 delegates down in Louisiana.

We have the -- what we call the Potomac primary coming up in Virginia. Sixty-three delegates for the Republicans. And if you switch over to the Democrats, you'll see it's got 101.

Now, if the Democratic race is so close right now, you would expect it will go late into the month -- even into next month.

What do you have coming up there?

Big states, Wolf -- Ohio, 161 delegates for the Democrats; Texas on March 4th, as well, 228 delegates for the Democrats. So this race is going on and on and on. And it could conceivably go beyond March and into April. And off and off we go as we move on, Wolf, way out here.

BLITZER: No rest for the weary, John.

KING: No rest at all.

BLITZER: Indeed, for those of us who are political news junkies.

John, thanks very much.

Is it time to overhaul this entire delegate system?

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. They're part of the best political team on television.

I suspect I know what your answer to that question is.

CAFFERTY: This is just insane. I mean all afternoon I'm looking in my office at all the different news sources that I have access to on the computer. Nobody knows how many delegates these people won -- super-delegates, regular delegates, apportion contest, non-apportion contest. It's just -- it's insane. They need to simplify it in some way so dumb guys like me can understand it.

BLITZER: And you heard Donna Brazile here in THE SITUATION ROOM a couple of hours ago say -- she's a super-delegate -- that if it comes down to the 700 or so super-delegates making the decision, she'll leave. She doesn't want the super-delegates to determine who the Democratic nominee is.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, in a way, it's sort of back to the smoke-filled room. Because if it's up to the 800 or so -- 796 super-delegates, they're going to have their arms twisted by party leaders, by -- over who won in their state, over who won in where they live, etc. Etc. So it's kind of back to the smoke- filled room if that becomes the case.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But that's...

BORGER: That's not what they wanted.

TOOBIN: Well, but that is reform that they want to put in...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...was to get the politicians back in the system. The leaders of the Democratic Party said, look, the McGovern disaster in 1972, he was outside the mainstream, he was too liberal, we have to get people involved who will nominate a candidate who can win. So let's bring the politicians back into the system...

BORGER: Oh, good, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Well, that was what the idea was. BLITZER: I spent the last few days reading the rules for nominating presidential candidates. And I've got to tell you, Jeff, only a lawyer...

TOOBIN: I know. It's very complicated.

BLITZER: ...could really, first of all, understand or appreciate this arcane system that both of these parties have put together.

TOOBIN: Well, remember...

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: It's not an accident that it's arcane and difficult to understand.

BORGER: Well, it -- but it was designed to allegedly make it more fair...

CAFFERTY: Right.

BORGER: ...so that the candidate with the most amount of money, who could run the most amount of ads, wouldn't automatically win a state...

TOOBIN: Well, it's actually...

BORGER: ...like California. You have to do it by Congressional district by Congressional district.

TOOBIN: The Republican rules were set up differently. The Republican rules, because of the winner-take-all system...

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: ...was designed to accelerate the finding of a single leader and get the thing over with. That's what their goal was. Democrats have proportional representation -- one person, one vote...

BLITZER: All right...

TOOBIN: It's a different philosophy.

BLITZER: Jack...

BORGER: So let's shoot each other as long as we can and keep it going.

TOOBIN: Right.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the now known issue that Hillary Clinton had to give her campaign a $5 million loan...

BORGER: I hate when that happens.

BLITZER: ...take it out of her own pocket. Let's listen to how she explained this.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Listen to this.

CAFFERTY: This is rich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. I loaned the campaign $5 million from my money. That's where I got the money. I loaned it because I believe very strongly in this campaign. We had a great month fundraising in January, broke all records. But my opponent was able to raise more money. And we intended to be competitive and we were. And I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And we're also learning here at CNN, Jack, that -- confirming, if you will, that some of the senior staff members in the Clinton campaign have now been asked, effectively, to avoid getting a paid salary for a month so that that money could be used -- voluntarily. This is all voluntarily...

CAFFERTY: That's the Giuliani approach to running for president.

BLITZER: Yes. Because they need the money to buy ads or whatever.

CAFFERTY: He's now running a bowling alley somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: I mean what do -- how do they try -- with a straight face -- to spin, she's got to reach in her pocket for $5 million of her own money to keep this boat afloat and she wants us to believe that this is an expression of her conviction that the campaign is sound and we're going all the way. Poppycock.

BORGER: Look at Mitt Romney.

CAFFERTY: Poppycock.

TOOBIN: But...

CAFFERTY: When a campaign starts reaching in their own pocket for money, they're broke.

BORGER: Well...

CAFFERTY: They're in money trouble.

BORGER: Well, John Kerry did it -- or Teresa Heinz did it, one or the other.

BLITZER: Right. He took a mortgage on his house in Boston to lend his campaign some money.

BORGER: To lend his campaign...

CAFFERTY: How did that work out?

BLITZER: He got the nomination.

BORGER: He did get the nomination.

TOOBIN: He got the nomination, yes.

BORGER: He did get the nomination.

CAFFERTY: Where is he now?

BLITZER: Jack is (INAUDIBLE)...

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Endorsing Barack Obama.

TOOBIN: As wealthy as the Clintons now are, they can't keep up with Obama. She raised $14 million last month. He raised $32 million. Five million doesn't make that kind of impact. And he's got small donors who are going to keep going back and back. She's got real money problems in this race.

CAFFERTY: You know what some people are suggesting, that this is a great big billboard -- that the Clinton machine is tapped out and that there isn't no Clinton machine that's going to ride to the rescue of these folks...

BLITZER: All right, well...

CAFFERTY: ...anymore.

BORGER: So maybe Bill Clinton will raise his speech fees.

CAFFERTY: Well, I mean they don't have Romney money.

TOOBIN: They don't.

CAFFERTY: They've got somewhere less than $50 million.

TOOBIN: You know, they really don't.

CAFFERTY: I mean, you know (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Stand by, guys.

TOOBIN: And they don't have Obama money. I mean they don't have the money that he's able to raise.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. But stand by, because we have a lot more to talk about, including on the Republican side, he's leading the Republican pack despite some fierce attacks from conservative talk radio.

Can John McCain unite his fractured party?

Plus, Mike Huckabee defying the pundits, racking up some Super Tuesday wins, beating the expectations -- though this question remains -- can he still stay in the race for the long haul?

Please stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Let me put some numbers, Jack Cafferty, up on the screen for you. The total number of Americans who voted yesterday -- at least this is our best estimate right now -- 14 -- almost 14-and-a-half million Democrats showed up to vote on Super Tuesday, 8.7 million Republicans. This has been a consistent pattern. Since Iowa, a lot more Democrats are showing up than Republicans.

What does that mean?

CAFFERTY: Well, 73 percent more Democrats voted yesterday than Republicans. What's interesting is inside those Democratic numbers, there was a difference of 53,000 votes between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So not only is there tremendous interest, but the popular vote was cut right square down the center line.

BORGER: Talk about a crazy system. That goes back to our previous conversation. They spent how many tens of millions of dollars trying to get 50,000 voters and maybe a few...

BLITZER: The difference is not that significant...

BORGER: ...and maybe a few delegates?

BLITZER: But what does it say to Republicans when so many more Democrats are voting in these contests than Republicans?

Because it would seem to suggest to me that Democrats are simply much more enthusiastic this time around.

TOOBIN: It's a demoralized, fractured party. And even more extraordinary than those turnout numbers are the fundraising numbers. The Democratic Party is almost defined by being the poorer party.

CAFFERTY: Poverty.

TOOBIN: Yes.

BORGER: Not anymore. TOOBIN: I mean that's sort of why the Democratic Party exists. Democrats are out raising Republicans in the Senate, in the House and in the presidential races. This never happened before.

BORGER: And if you looked at the exit polls last night, when Democrats went, they were more than 70 percent happy if either candidate won the nomination. So they're happier with their candidates. The Republicans not so much.

BLITZER: Well, many...

CAFFERTY: And then it's young people turnout, too, which is something we haven't seen in years and years and years. There is tremendous interest on the part of young people. A lot of the credit for that, they say, goes to Barack Obama. He hits these college campuses and thousands of these kids come out of the woodwork.

BLITZER: He's inspired -- he's inspired a lot of people.

Let's go down the panel, starting with you, Jeff.

McCain -- does he have this Republican nomination effectively sewn up?

TOOBIN: Locked up, done, over. He's the nominee.

CAFFERTY: I'm with him.

BLITZER: Really?

CAFFERTY: I came with the same bus he's on.

BLITZER: Yes.

BORGER: Yes. I think it's John McCain. And I think lots of conservatives are going to have to hold their noses and vote for him...

CAFFERTY: Just like his mommy said.

BORGER: ...which Robert McCain said.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Exactly.

TOOBIN: Yes, that's Mother McCain.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: His mother was -- his mother was very blunt.

BORGER: And what's going to be really interesting about McCain is when he goes to the Conservative Political Action Committee later this week and speaks. We'll see if he starts making nice.

BLITZER: So is Mitt Romney going to simply -- what?

What is he going to do?

CAFFERTY: You know, it's like a guy standing at the roulette wheel in Vegas all night long. I mean, if you can't catch a number, there's at a point you quit reaching in your pocket and you go on home, or else you're just a bad gambler.

BLITZER: If he were to drop out, Mitt Romney, but Huckabee stayed in, is there any conceivable way Huckabee could, in some of these states coming up, come up with a delegate number?

TOOBIN: John King's demonstration just before we did this, I mean, showed how big a lead McCain now has in delegates. And even if it's a one-on-one contest where Huckabee is competitive, he can't make up a 400 or 500 delegate lead that McCain has. It's just -- just the numbers aren't there.

BLITZER: How critical is this performance or appearance that McCain is going to have before this conservative group in Washington this week?

BORGER: Well, you can be sure that, first of all, all of us are going to be watching it very carefully. And McCain is going to say what he says all the time, which is that he's a conservative, that he won't appoint activist judges, that he's...

BLITZER: Opposed to abortion.

BORGER: ...opposed to abortion. And, you know, he'll lay it out there and they'll politely applaud him. And the conservatives who hate him, the ideologues, will continue to hate John McCain.

CAFFERTY: You know what's happening?

The country is moving forward without the conservatives. This is all taking place, the conservatives are grumbling and grousing and griping. Their candidate is in third place. The talk radio people are going nuts because if things don't change appreciably pretty soon, nobody is going to be paying any attention to them, either. But the conservatives are not relevant, at the moment, to what's going on in the United States in this particular political race.

TOOBIN: You know, Karl Rove won two elections for George Bush by mobilizing the base. That was his philosophy. John McCain, he may get some votes in the base, but he is going to need a different strategy to win.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see how he does...

TOOBIN: And that's going to be a dramatic change.

BLITZER: You can't write out this guy. He's come from nowhere and all of a sudden, he looks like he's going to get the...

BORGER: And who is he going to be running against? BLITZER: We don't know yet.

TOOBIN: No, we don't.

BORGER: No.

BLITZER: We'll find out. The beauty of this process.

CAFFERTY: Both of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Jack, don't leave. You've got The Cafferty File coming up.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is coming up at the top of the hour.

He's standing by with a little preview.

What's in store -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": You weren't afraid Jack was going to forget, were you there, Wolf?

BLITZER: No. Jack would never forget.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: He's devoted to The Cafferty File.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: And THE SITUATION ROOM, as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he is. He's loyal.

DOBBS: As are we all.

Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have the very latest on those tornadoes. More 50 people were killed. A trail of destruction across five states -- the worst tornado disaster in nearly a quarter century. One of the nation's leading authorities on climatology and weather joins us.

Also, the federal government finally beginning acknowledge what we've been reporting on this broadcast for years -- that Communist China is now the number one spy threat to the United States. We'll have a report.

And the Bush administration wants to make it easier for big agriculture to legally hire foreign workers. It's another huge concession to corporate America and the corporate elites -- another major setback for American workers. We'll have the story.

And we'll examine the aftermath of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. The presidential campaign, folks -- Jeffrey Toobin, are you listening -- is far from over.

Join us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and far more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: He's listening, Lou.

Thanks very much.

So will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to be on the same ticket in order to unite the Democratic Party?

Jack Cafferty will be back with your e-mail.

And is New York Michael Bloomberg trying to influence the presidential race?

We're going to show you what he's doing right now.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our Political Ticker, death, disaster and a concerned president. Storms stampeded across Southern states, leaving 54 four people dead. Now, President Bush will see the devastation up close. He'll travel to Tennessee on Friday. That state had the most fatalities in the storm.

And he's not a candidate, but that's not necessarily stopping Michael Bloomberg from trying to influence the presidential race. The Independent New York mayor says he's engaged in an experiment to see if a non-candidate can spark debate on campaign issues.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out our Political Ticker at CNNPolitics.com. That's where you can read my daily blog, as well. I posted one a little while ago.

Jack Cafferty is here once again with The Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: We mentioned 14 million votes cast for the Democrats yesterday. Fifty-three thousand of them is all that separated Clinton and Obama. Very tight.

So the question is, in order to unite the Democratic Party in November, will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have to be on the same ticket?

We got thousands -- plural -- of letters on this question. We got hundreds of them before the question ever even went up on the Internet. "Mr. Cafferty, your analysis is right on the mark."

I love when the letters start that way.

"The presidency is the Democrats' to lose. The unity ticket is the key. The barrier is pride for all of us. I favor a Clinton-Obama ticket, because it sets the stage for 16 years of Democratic leadership in the presidency. But I'll happily support an Obama/Clinton ticket if it develops." Andy writes from Indiana: "This combination is not a dream ticket. Clinton's name anywhere on the ballot would be a field day for the Republicans. Obama inspires, challenges each of us. Clinton keeps pointing to the past. And as long as her husband keeps lurking around her campaign, he compromises any sense of character and integrity in her campaign."

Zoey writes: "A Hillary/Obama ticket would disenfranchise all the people who have stood with Barack Obama for change. Obama stands for more than just his policies, which are more specific than people give him credit for. He represents the America we were taught to believe in as children."

Mel writes: "This is the only way Obama will get my vote. Hillary is the next president."

D.B. Writes: "The smartest ticket would be for either of them to have John Edwards as the V.P. candidate. That puts a Southerner on the ticket, while simultaneously giving white males a presence on it, too, not to mention paying homage to the traditional populist message of the Democratic Party."

Sammy rights: "Yes, but only if Hillary wins. If Obama wins, he can pick anybody he wants to. She needs him way more than he needs her."

And Erin writes from California: "Not only will Hillary and Barack need to be on the same ticket to unite the Democratic Party, they need to be on the same ticket to unite my marriage. I'm an avid Hillary supporter. My husband likes Barack Obama. We voted yesterday in California. We argued right up to the polling place about which candidate we were going to vote for."

I recognize those potential pitfalls in the matrimonial situation.

BLITZER: I can tell you, at the Kodak Theatre when I moderated that Democratic debate and I raised the possibility of that so-called dream ticket, the crowd there loved it.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. It's got a lot of pizzazz, as they say.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: In the primaries, everyone is losing -- losing their voice, that is. It's so bad that some candidates would probably trade a few delegates for a cough drop.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As primary follows primary, the candidates are all afraid of losing their voices.

CNN's Jeanne Moos is feeling their pain and it's Moost Unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With her voice...

H. CLINTON: Can I get some lozenge or something?

MOOS: ...Hillary Clinton put the hoarse into the presidential horse race.

Remember back when she told New Hampshire voters she listened to them?

H. CLINTON: I found my own voice.

MOOS: Yes, well, then she lost it.

H. CLINTON: (COUGHING)

Go ahead.

MOOS: And Hillary is not alone.

OBAMA: Let me apologize for my voice.

ROMNEY: I've never gone to bed yet. My goodness.

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (COUGHING)

Excuse me. I've been a little under the weather.

MOOS: For those who remain in the race, losing their voice is nothing to sneeze at. Barack Obama had a doctor come to his hotel room in New Hampshire to check out his throat.

OBAMA: And so I asked a doctor yesterday what -- what they would prescribe. And they said shut up.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: So I can't do that.

MOOS: And Hillary couldn't do it leading up to Super Tuesday.

H. CLINTON: This comes and goes.

MOOS: It really came when she was doing an interview with a San Francisco TV station.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will you use your husband, Bill Clinton, in the administration?

(COUGHING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We assume you won't...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The coughing fit got coughed up on YouTube.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what?

I won't hold you on here any longer...

H. CLINTON: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...because you probably could use some water there.

H. CLINTON: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, thank you.

Hillary Clinton live from New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Just barely live.

Hard core Hillary haters suggested the coughing fit was contrived to avoid answering questions -- a theory that's enough to make us choke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, " COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: You sounded a little froggy.

Are you coming down with a thing?

H. CLINTON: Well, I think every New Yorker has a sore throat after last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: From cheering the Super Bowl champion Giants.

Bill Clinton was always talking himself hoarse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 1992) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may have lost my voice, but with your help, on Tuesday, we will win a new day for America.

MOOS: "The Wall Street Journal" reported Bill's throat specialist used to make him hum to reduce vocal strain.

John McCain takes a tablespoon of olive oil.

Of course, reporters aren't immune.

BLITZER: Suzanne, what might have happened...

MOOS: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux had a coughing attack while covering Barack Obama. Dr. Wolf to the rescue.

BLITZER: I want you to drink a little water. All right, clear your throat. Take a deep breath.

MOOS: Those on Hillary Clinton's press plane describe it as a hotbed of colds and flu -- Typhoid Mary. Imagine all the germs exchanged during all that handshaking and hugging.

(on camera): So, candidates, suck those cough drops, wipe your nose -- only nine months left until election day.

(voice-over): Forget Decision '08. Make way for Infection '08.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: That's it for us.

Let's go to Lou -- Lou.

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