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Look Ahead to Beltway Primary; Huckabee Accuses Washington State GOP of Soviet-Style Tactics

Aired February 11, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Jack, thanks very much.
Michelle Obama will be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, as well.

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

Happening now, a weekend sweep and a campaign shakeup -- the Democrats are nearly dead even in delegates.

But does Barack Obama have the advantage in the days and weeks ahead?

Mike Huckabee is still fuming after Republican officials call a state caucus in favor of his rival, John McCain. Why he is accusing them of Soviet-style tactics.

And when you enter the country, your laptops and cell phones can be seized, along with your e-mail, photos and banking details. What the federal government wants with your information. We have details. That's coming up.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Well, we begin with breaking news this hour. Chilling echoes of the cold war -- word that the United States Navy intercepted Russian bombers flying very close to a U.S. aircraft carrier.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's watching the story for us -- Barbara, when and where did this happen?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. military officials, a short time ago, confirmed a story appearing on the Associated Press that on Saturday, Japan time, in the Western Pacific, the U.S. military -- the U.S. Navy intercepted Russian TU-95 Tupolev strategic bombers flying over the deck of the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier operating in the Western Pacific.

There were four Tupolevs in the area. One of them flew 2,000 feet twice over the deck of the carrier Nimitz. The U.S. Navy says that there were -- they are aware of the incident. U.S. military officials -- U.S. defense officials saying that four F-18s from the Nimitz launched into the air and trailed the Tupolevs in the area. There were no shots fired. There were no incidents. There is believed to be some pictures of the incident.

This is very disturbing, of course, to the Pentagon but it is not the first time, of course. This often happened back in the cold war. And for the last several months, the Russians had been sending these bomber flight out over the Western Pacific. You may recall, it was late last year when an F-15 intercepted a Russian Bear bomber flying very close to the Alaskan shoreline.

So the U.S. military keeping a very close eye on all of this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: President Bush is going to have to call President Putin and say to his pal, what is going on?

All right, Barbara, stay on top of this story and we'll get back with more information.

But as Barbara points out, very disturbing information -- echoes -- echoes of the cold war. This kind of stuff is not supposed to happen any longer.

Moving on to some politics right now. John McCain getting another big campaign boost and an endorsement today from the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. The president's brother calling McCain -- and I'm quoting now -- "a devoted conservative." And he said the Arizona senator -- once again quoting -- "is beholden to no interest other than the public good."

Meantime, Democrats remain in a virtual tie. After sweeping five contests this weekend, Barack Obama still trails slightly in delegates, with 1,121 compared to 1,048 for Hillary Clinton.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of us will make history. We both already have. But one of us will go on to make history as the Democratic nominee.

The real question is, who will change the country and who will give us the leadership we so desperately need at this moment in our nation's history?

I obviously believe the answer to that is me, or I would not be going through this campaign.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now... (APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ...the fierce urgency of now. Because I believe there's such a thing as being too late and that hour is almost upon us. We are at a defining moment in our history.

Our nation is at war.

Our planet is in peril. The dream that so many generations fought for feels like it's slowly slipping away.


BLITZER: Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, is still fuming at Washington State GOP officials for declaring John McCain the winner in a weekend caucus before all the votes were counted. Wait until you hear this.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is not what we do in American elections. It may be how they used to conduct it in the old Soviet Union, but you don't just throw people's votes out and say well, we're not going to bother counting them because we kind of think we know where this is going. I mean I -- I was just stunned. And it's the kind of thing that Republicans across America -- not just in Washington State -- ought to be outraged over.


BLITZER: Evangelical voters have helped Huckabee make it this far, but they're far from united behind the former Baptist minister.

Let's go out to Mary Snow.

She's watching this story for us -- Mary, what is Huckabee saying about this Evangelical backing?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he's certainly counting on his Evangelical backing to help him in Virginia's primaries Tuesday. And he's also trying to seize on what has been some lukewarm support for Senator John McCain among Evangelicals. And among the stops Huckabee's made in Virginia, the Thomas Road Baptist Church, founded by the late Jerry Falwell.


SNOW (voice-over): Mike Huckabee received an embrace from Jonathan Falwell, son of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell -- but not an endorsement. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is backing the Republican underdog over Senator John McCain, who in 2000 called Jerry Falwell "an agent of intolerance." The two men later made amends.

It speaks to a complicated relationship between McCain and Evangelicals, who are divided in the 2008 race.

Jonathan Falwell says this division is healthy. JONATHAN FALWELL, THOMAS ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH: And I think what we're seeing today is the culmination of his dream. When he started the Moral Majority in the late '70s, it was not simply that we have one organization, but we have thousand thousands of organizations. Because he knew that strength comes in numbers.

SNOW: Strength in numbers among united Evangelicals helped elect George W. Bush as president in 2000 and 2004. In 2008, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, for one, says he can't vote for McCain against a Democrat. Among the gripes, McCain hasn't supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and same-sex marriage.

Despite that, McCain is emerging as a likely Republican nominee.

JEFFERY SHELER, AUTHOR, "BELIEVERS": To the extent that Evangelicals will not -- have not made the kingmaker role in the nomination fight, I think that suggests that there is not as much influence as some people thought they might have in this election cycle.

SNOW: Author Jeffrey Sheler says a new guard of Evangelical leaders like Rick Warren is having influence by emphasizing issues such as the environment and the war. But some conservative leaders say, in the end, McCain needs Evangelicals.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I do not think that a Republican nominee for president can successfully capture the White House without the active, motivated support of Evangelical voters.


SNOW: Now McCain is courting conservatives. And today, he picked up the endorsement of Evangelical leader Gary Bauer.

But author Jeffery Sheler, who we just heard from, said as issues among Evangelicals expand, he expects them to have a big say not just on the Republican side in the '08 race, but on the Democratic side of this race -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary.

Thanks very much.

Let's come back to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: This just in -- Barack Obama has got some serious momentum. He swept Hillary Clinton in the weekend contests -- Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington State, Maine and the Virgin Islands. His winning margins ranged from large to absolutely crushing. I mean he just blew her away in some of these deals.

Obama has now won about two-thirds of the state contests that have been decided so far. He's now taken over the lead in pledge delegates -- 986 for Obama, 924 for Hillary -- and trails Hillary Clinton by only 27 when you include the super-delegates.

Meanwhile, Clinton's campaign had its biggest shakeup yet over the weekend, as she replaced Patti Solis Doyle, her campaign manager and long time aid. The switch came during a rough patch for Hillary. After the split decision on Super Tuesday last week, the weekend losses to Obama and a setback over money. After Hillary acknowledged loaning her own campaign $5 million last month, her campaign has since been pointing to a $10 million a month and many new donors.

But Clinton's campaign was never able to build the online base that Doyle had promised to create and that Barack Obama has been reaping with great joy for a good long while in this campaign.

Looking ahead now to tomorrow's Potomac primaries, all the polls suggest that Obama has a commanding lead. Clinton strategists have said they're pessimistic tomorrow about her chances in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton is looking forward to March 4th and what she hopes a firewall in the delegate-rich states of Ohio and Texas.

But if Obama continues to build on the momentum he has and continues to rack up additional victories, it might be too late.

Here's the question -- is Hillary Clinton's campaign in trouble?

You can e-mail your thoughts to, where you can post a comment on my blog.

And, of course, she would say no, they're not in trouble. The delegate race is about even. But she's in trouble.

BLITZER: It's a tight race. It's about as tight as it can possibly can be.

CAFFERTY: But I mean he's come from nowhere. You know, six weeks ago she owned this thing and last summer, it was I've just got to waltz in and get the nomination and then move into the White House.

BLITZER: He's got -- as you said, he's got a lot of momentum going for himself right now.


BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

Jack, thanks very much.


BLITZER: Charges in the 9/11 terror attacks -- six Guantanamo detainees could face the death penalty. You're going to find out why it may come down to the next president to deal with this issue.

Also, a surprise trip to Baghdad and a surprise announcement about troop cuts. Details of the defense secretary's change in thinking.

Plus, Barack Obama is facing increasing attacks. Hillary Clinton is facing fresh losses.

What do their campaigns do now?

Candy Crowley is standing by with more.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Barack Obama may have an advantage in the weeks ahead, beginning with tomorrow's Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. (ph.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's joining us now live from a rally there in Baltimore -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, we all know one thing from this campaign so far -- momentum is momentary. But for the moment, it goes to Barack Obama.


OBAMA: It looks like we're having March madness a little early.

CROWLEY: Working off the adrenaline of a clean sweep weekend and the possibility of a Tuesday trifecta, Barack Obama pounded through Maryland, arguing his issues and his electability.

OBAMA: They call them Obamacats. We can get some Republican votes. That's how we're going to win, is to build a winning coalition, not just Democrats, but Independents and Republicans, who have also lost trust in their government, have lost faith in their leaders, who want to move in a new direction. That's what we want -- everybody getting on the change bandwagon, the change express.

CROWLEY: One hundred sixty-eight delegates are at stake Tuesday in the Potomac primary -- Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. All have sizable African-American populations, as well as significant numbers of affluent, well-educated white voters, the so-called "latte liberals" who, along with young voters, form the core of Obama's voting bloc. The momentum for the moment is his, built, in part, on wins in all five weekend contests -- caucuses in Washington State, Nebraska, Maine, the Virgin Islands and a primary in Louisiana.

In the midst of her winless weekend, Hillary Clinton got a new campaign manager and tossed off Obama's streak.

CLINTON: In the case of Louisiana, you know, a very strong and very proud African-American electorate which I totally respect and understand. And would expect that you know, by the fall, we would be united and going forward to victory against the Republicans. You know my sense of caucus states. They are primarily dominated by activists. They don't represent the electorate. We know that. As I said, my husband never did well in caucus states, either. So it doesn't surprise me. It doesn't affect me one way or the other.

CROWLEY: Clinton sources say they hope the new campaign hierarchy will bring energy and focus to a campaign criticized for too many messages and not enough attention to fundraising. She was out raised and outspent by Obama in January.

Her campaign concedes it may lose all three contests tomorrow. But she's looking to grab a good share of delegates with a strong play for her most loyal supporters -- campaigning with home and hearth issues to older women, working class and Latino voters.


CROWLEY: Some Clinton advisers who unofficially advised this campaign fear that Clinton cannot wait until the March primaries in Ohio and Texas before she has another win. But inside the campaign, they are looking, Wolf, toward Wisconsin next week, where right now it looks as though she's doing very well. And that's where they'd like to pick up the next win -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what can happen in a week.

Thanks very much.

Candy Crowley reporting from Baltimore.

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls in those states -- Maryland and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C. , in what's being called the Potomac primaries. Our coverage begins right here in THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and then continues at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll go all the way until midnight and beyond, if necessary. We're watching this story closely. Remember, CNN equals politics. We have the best political team on television. We'll try not to let you down.

Democrats living outside the United States are participating in the first ever global primary. They can vote by mail, fax or the Internet in 33 countries. Sponsored by Democrats abroad, the eight day event began on Super Tuesday with speeches, mock caucuses and a lot of old-fashioned hoopla. Republicans have no such event. Those living abroad are expected to vote by mail in their home states.

Six men held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are about to be charged in connection with the 9/11 terror attacks. And the Pentagon says it will seek the death penalty. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks. It's a case that will stretch well into the next presidency.

So where do the candidates stand when it comes to Guantanamo?

We've asked Brian Todd to take a closer look at their respective records -- Brian, what are you finding? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from the current president to the next one, there seem to be no easy answers on how to handle the detainees.


TODD (voice-over): Solemn promises from military prosecutors -- they want the death penalty for six alleged masterminds of 9/11, but they'll let the overseer of the military commission make that final call. That official, a former judge, will also decide whether to allow evidence gathered from waterboarding or other harsh interrogation methods. And despite the fact that they'll be tried at Guantanamo, the suspects will have legal rights.

BRIG. GEN. THOMAS HARTMANN, PENTAGON LEGAL ADVISER: Every stitch of evidence, every whiff of evidence that goes to the finder of fact, to the jury, to the military tribunal, will be reviewed by the accused.

TODD: With all that and the fact that the Supreme Court may still declare this military commission unconstitutional, analysts say it's likely a long way from Guantanamo to the death chamber.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Given the pace we've been going, there is no doubt that the fate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the fate of Guantanamo will not be in President Bush's hands, but in his successor's hands.

TODD: How will that turn out?

As senators, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both voted against the creation of the military commission.

Mrs. Clinton's reason...

CLINTON: The bill allowed the admission into evidence of statements derived through cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogations.

TODD: Obama's aides tell us he was against it because it limits the suspect's ability to legally challenge their detention.

OBAMA: We're going to close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus.

TODD: An Obama aide says he favors seeking the death penalty, but wants to try the suspects publicly in civilian courts.

John McCain has long been outspoken against torture, but voted for the military commission.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would declare the closure of Guantanamo Bay and move those prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and proceed with tribunals -- not fair trials, but tribunals.

(END VIDEO TAPE) TODD: Analysts say it all adds up to an uncertain road ahead -- maybe even a different legal system in place after the next president takes office. Even Guantanamo's fate is not all that clear. Hillary Clinton, Obama and McCain favor closing it. Mike Huckabee's chief adviser tells us he favors keeping it open as long as President Bush does. But the president has said he'd like to close Guantanamo at some point.

Huckabee's adviser says he also favors the military commission, as long as there's a death penalty provision attached along with it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian Todd.

Brian Todd reporting for us. Defeat and endorsements -- details of new backing for John McCain and serious setbacks at the hands of Mike Huckabee.

Plus, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, threatening to cut off oil to the United States. We're going to show you why he's calling it economic war.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Car bombs blew up nearly simultaneously today in Baghdad. The Iraqi government says at least 19 people were killed. The blasts came at the end of a visit by the U.S. defense secretary, in which the future of American troops topped the agenda.

Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has details from Baghdad -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when it comes to the war in Iraq, there's probably no subject more on the minds of Americans than when and how many U.S. troops can come home. And that's one thing that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was discussing with his top commander here in Baghdad.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Defense Secretary Robert Gates emerged from a meeting with his top commander, General David Petraeus, and endorsed Petraeus' idea of a pause in troop withdrawals after the surge ends in July.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: A brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does makes sense.

QUESTION: How brief would that be?

GATES: Well, that's one of the things that we're still -- we're still thinking about. QUESTION: Has General Petraeus explained to you his thinking on that subject?

GATES: Sure. And I must say that, in my own thinking, I had been kind of headed in that direction, as well.

MCINTYRE: Gate's unannounced visit to Baghdad lasted less than 24 hours. He arrived on a weekend when attacks, particularly a deadly bombing north of Baghdad, claimed more than 50 Iraqi lives.

But in private briefings, Gates was showered with charts showing dramatic declines in violence. And at an awards ceremony for an outgoing commander, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, Gates congratulated his troops for a job well done.

GATES: What a difference you made and much more -- Al Qaeda routed, the insurgents co-opted and levels of violence of all kinds dramatically reduced.

MCINTYRE: The latest attacks underscore the tenuous nature of the security gains and why U.S. commanders are weary about further cuts.

MAJ. GEN. JEFF HAMMOND, U.S. ARMY: We're not going to give back any terrain. We're not going to do that -- not in Baghdad.

MCINTYRE: The key question now is, how long will the pause be and whether the hope of reducing U.S. troop levels to 100,000 by the end of the year remains realistic.

Secretary Gates says that will be decided by President Bush.


MCINTYRE: Wolf, when we're traveling with the defense secretary, we don't get a chance to really get out of the bubble and see what's going on in Baghdad. And while there's a lot of signs of improvement here, one sign that after five years after the war things are still difficult is the fact that you don't go anywhere without wearing body armor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We want you to be safe over there, Jamie.

Thanks very much.

Weekend wins give Barack Obama some fresh momentum.

How will Hillary Clinton defend her campaign and what about increasing attacks with Obama?

We're watching this story. Democratic strategists James Carville and Jamal Simmons they're standing by to weigh in.

Also, travelers' laptops, cell phones, even their Blackberries, searched by Customs and Border Protection agents.

Is your personal information at risk? Plus, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, threatening a move he says will send oil prices to $200 a barrel.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, three people are charged with spying for China, including a civilian Pentagon employee. The other two are natives of China now living in the United States -- all accused of passing along defense secrets.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is announcing plans to step up his country's space program. He says Iran will launch two more research rockets in coming months in preparation for the first Iranian satellite launch -- possibly this summer.

And this is cold even by their standards. International Falls, Minnesota, often the country's coldest spot, sets a new record,, with a low temperature today of 40 degrees below zero. That's three degrees colder than the previous record, set back in 1967.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Republican presidential candidate John McCain has picked up another high profile endorsement, the former Florida governor and presidential brother, Jeb Bush. That comes in the wake of some harsh losses to his rival Mike Huckabee.

Let's bring in our Dana Bash. She's on the campaign trail with McCain in Maryland. Dana, how big of a deal is this Jeb Bush endorsement?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a big deal because his name is Bush, and that name still carries a lot of weight in republican circles, especially those circles that John McCain is trying to court. Jeb Bush called McCain a devoted conservative leader. That is exactly the kind of thing that they want to have come out from leader after leader in the republican, particularly the conservative movement, to make the case that he is inevitable, despite the fact that he had some big losses this weekend.


BASH: No big rally, no music, not even voters here. John McCain's only campaign event ahead of Maryland's primary was as low key as his strategy now, look ahead and look unconcerned.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're doing fine. We have seven hundred and some, close to 800 delegates. The last time I checked, Governor Huckabee has very few. I think I'm pretty happy with the situation that we're in.

BASH: But he got crushed by Mike Huckabee over the weekend in Kansas, by republican voters not ready to accept McCain as their nominee. Lost Louisiana, too. Why does he think Huckabee is still winning?

MCCAIN: Because they like him. You know, I never expected a unanimous vote.

BASH: The McCain campaign knows full well he's losing votes from conservatives who don't like him. And they're rushed to trumpet the endorsement of well known evangelical, Gary Bauer, who briefly sought the GOP nomination himself eight years ago. "John McCain has dedicated himself to defending human rights around the world, including the rights of the unborn," Bauer said in a statement. Still, McCain deflected questions about his lingering tension, outright rebellion among some conservatives, instead making it seem like a broader republican problem.

MCCAIN: Our party is dispirited because of spending and corruption as we all know and we've got to reenergize our base. And also, primaries are tough.

BASH: But skeptical conservative leaders warn that if an already depressed GOP base isn't energized by McCain, it will hurt him in November.

DAVID KEENE, CHMN. AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNIONS: If he did nothing, most conservatives would end up voting for him. The question is how enthusiastically would they campaign for him? If he works at it, he'll get the great bulk of them, I think.


BASH: And there is a bit more evidence that the McCain campaign is feeling a lot more confident about their stance right now and their status right now because, Wolf, the McCain letter wrote a campaign to the FCC saying they are not going to take public funding or matching funds for the primary. What that tells us is that he is, in fact, doing better when it comes to fundraising. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana, thank you.

On the democratic side, it was a weekend sweep for Barack Obama. Today, Hillary Clinton was cleaning up some of the damage with a campaign shakeup of the eve of more primaries.

Let's bring in our two democratic strategists. James Carville is a Hillary Clinton supporter. Jamal Simmons backs Barack Obama. Guys, standby for a moment because Barack Obama is speaking right now in Baltimore and I want to briefly listen in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You remember that? Being hoodwinked. They wanted some straight talk from their elected officials, some honesty from their elected officials. They're tired of spin and PR. They want common sense. Most of all, I was betting on you. I was betting on you, the American people because as some of you know, I now live in Chicago. I moved to Chicago right after college. After I was -- right after -- chi-town. South side! I moved to Chicago because I wanted to work at a grass roots level, and I worked at a community organizer with churches that were trying to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had been closed. Thousands of people were laid off. Communities were fallen on hard times. Commercial strips boarded up. So working with these churches, we set up job training programs for the unemployed and tried to bring in economic development for communities that have fallen on hard times. It was the best education I ever had. It taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they're given a chance.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor what he's saying. Obviously, one of the stump speeches in Baltimore, Maryland, right now; together with Washington, D.C. and Virginia holding their primaries tomorrow, the so called Potomac primaries.

Let's go back to James Carville and Jamal Simmons. James, what do you make, and I know you support Hillary Clinton, of this staff shake up that we've seen over the weekend.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Obviously I think it means something administratively. I don't know if it means very much strategically. The truth is that Senator Clinton has to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If she wins those three, she's probably the nominee. If she loses one of those three, then Senator Obama is probably going to be the nominee. That's a fact.

We have a lot of debates left to go. This has been a very close contest. Democrats want to hear from both of them. I've seen the Clintons counted out before. I would be very reluctant to count the Clintons out. Having said that, I think she wants to be sure that she has got the kind of staff going in to what amounts to political hat trick she has to pull off here.

BLITZER: So what you're saying, just correct me if I'm wrong, James, March 4th there is Ohio and so that's really going to be the super duper Tuesday, if you will. It could be all over after that day.

CARVILLE: If she doesn't do well in Ohio or Texas, I think it's going to be very damaging to the candidacy. If she wins in Ohio and Texas, then they go onto fight in Pennsylvania. If she wins Pennsylvania, she's in a commanding position to win the nomination. It will be a great story of redemption there.

But Senator Obama -- they're having debates coming up. Democrats are very interested in this. Both candidates have high favorables within the party. There's big problems in this country and I think they want to hear from their candidates. I think they will. I think we're going to have a unified party going into Denver one way or the other.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment, Jamal? JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Mr. Carville's math might be just a little bit off. It's not just that she has to win those states, she's got to win them by some convincing margin. I mean Barack Obama won by extraordinary margins last weekend, winning the majority of delegates. If these states come out virtual ties, I think you have a delegate math where Barack Obama is still ahead in delegates. He'll be ahead - by some counts, he's ahead in delegates today. He may be ahead certainly in delegates by tomorrow. She's got to try to catch up to him.

I think you know Patty Solis Doyle and Maggie Williams I've known for most of my adult life. I think Senator Clinton is lucky to have them on her staff. All of this shake up right before a big stage of the election is never really a good sign. I think Senator Obama is in a pretty good place. They've got a good cohesive campaign team. They have a good road ahead of them. I think Senator Clinton has some catching up to do.

BLITZER: Because the point is, James, as you well know, you know this better than anyone, that in these democratic contests even though there's a political gain by winning that state, in terms of dividing up the actual delegates, given the proportionate nature of how they do it through congressional districts, they could wind up with basically the same number of delegates, even though one candidate wins.

CARVILLE: They could. But Wolf, if you go in three big states like that and Senator Obama has this momentum, if he's unable to capitalize on this, then the super delegates and people conclude that he doesn't have a knock-out punch. That's why people understand that they have big problems, and that's why they engage in this election. I'm saying that Senator Clinton has to pull this political hat trick. Clearly the pressure is on her. I think Senator Clinton is going to respond to this kind of pressure. And I think she's going to step up.

I think Senator Obama is a very talented candidate. I really look forward to these debates. I look forward this discussion. If she wins these three big states, it's going to be very hard to deny that nomination.

SIMMONS: Wolf, let me get in here really quickly. I think that that's the kind of thinking that, you know, maybe worked in the '90s. We tried it in 2000 with Al Gore. We tried it in 2004 with John Kerry. These big states, these big democratic states are the states we have to win. What Barack Obama has shown, he's won 19 out of 29 contests across states. In some states, the democrats won't win the general. But in some states we have a chance like in Colorado and Missouri and some of these places. So I think you know we've got to take a look at the breath of this. It's not just about the big states. It's about winning states that we don't necessarily -- we haven't necessarily won in previous campaigns. I think Barack Obama has a good leg up in a lot of states right now.


CARVILLE: I guess getting votes doesn't count in this post-2000 mentality but I think the average democrat wants their vote to count. I mean excuse me for being so retro looking here but I think we ought to count the votes first and then when we come in we'll unify as a party but let's hear from the democrats first before we start writing off people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

SIMMONS: We're not writing them off. We're saying it's not just about winning the big states. It's about also winning some of these purple states that we haven't been winning in the past. Barack Obama can do that a lot better than Senator Clinton.

CARVILLE: I don't want to tell you this but Texas is a very red state. It's not very purple.

BLITZER: Well, I think what he's saying, James, what he's suggesting is that maybe Barack Obama can go into some of those so- called red states and do better than Hillary Clinton could in those states.

CARVILLE: You know what? It's about democrats voting. It's not about us strategizing. It's about these democrats getting out there and voting and as much as we may like to discount and they may vote for Senator Obama. If they do, that's fine. I'm completely enthusiastic about his candidacy. My point is let these democrats hear from these candidates. Let them go out and vote. Let's don't devalue their vote. That's the point I'm making. They understand that this country has big problems. After every juncture they signal they want the race to go on. It's their election and their party. Let's hear from them.

SIMMONS: And the good news is, democrats have been voting and Barack Obama has been winning. So that's good news.

BLITZER: Can he withstand, Jamal, the republican attack machine? The Clinton campaign put out a memo saying she could withstand it, but he can't. I wonder if you've seen that memo that Mark Penn put out and I wonder what your response is.

SIMMONS: Well, I read about it and I think, look, as Senator Obama has said himself the Clinton campaign has been no cake walk. I mean you had Bob Kerry in the last year as a Clinton surrogate identifying Barack Obama as close to a Muslim as you can probably get. He's not. He's a Christian. There's been a variety of things that have been said in the campaign which we don't need to go back over. So Barack Obama has had to fight his way out of this corner. And now he's in a pretty good stride and I think if the republicans come he'll fight his way out of that corner also.

The one thing we do know is Barack Obama starts off with independents who are very favorable toward him. Senator Clinton doesn't. She just doesn't have that marketability right now. We look forward to Barack Obama actually having a pretty good contest in the fall.

CARVILLE: Accused of being retro, I would point out that in June of 1992, we were running third. In March of 2004, I think the gallop poll had John Kerry up 14 points. My point is the real argument is that Americans are struggling. There are big problems out there. Democrats are going to be voting. Let them pick their nominee. Whoever it is, let's all get together behind that nominee and restore this country and help the middle class out. And I'm willing to accept whatever their fate is, but if she wins these three big states it's going to be a great political comeback for American history.

BLITZER: James Carville and Jamal Simmons, we've got to leave it there, guys. We'll continue tomorrow. Hopefully you're both available then as well.

Mike Huckabee still fighting and still winning primaries. In the end, it may not necessarily matter much to his chances but what does it mean right now for John McCain?

And seizing laptops and cell phones from U.S. citizens; why your personal information, email, photos, may be at risk at the airport.

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


BLITZER: Let's take a closer look around the world right now. Government agents have been seizing the laptops and cell phones of some American citizens when they return from around the world to the United States. Could you be next?

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, what's this all about?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, your banking information, e-mail, business contacts, music choices all can be examined, copied and kept by the government when you enter the country if it's stored on an electronic device.


MESERVE: Computers are Amir Kahn's business. The Pakistani born U.S. citizen is an IT consultant and always travels with at least one. But on five occasions, he says Customs and Border Protection agents searched his computer when he returned to the U.S. from overseas. He says they even forced him to give him access to confidential company data.

AMIR KAHN, TRAVELER: He said even you deny to me in, I will force you to log in. you know so I had no choice. I said can you at least show me what you're doing. He didn't listen to me. He just turned the laptop in a direction that I can't see.

MESERVE: Other travelers tell similar stories. Some even had electronic devices confiscated and never returned; laptops, cell phones, Blackberries, often chock full of highly sensitive or personal information.

DAVID COLE, GEORGETOWN UNIV. LAW CENTER: Is it really like the same thing as opening someone's luggage or bag and rifling through to see if there's any contraband in it? Or is it more like a strip search? MESERVE: To search your house, the police need probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. Not so with custom and border protection searches of computers. A spokeswoman says the agency has "Broad search authority at the borders to determine admissibility or look for anything that may be a violation of criminal law." She insists the agency does not racially profile, but will not say how it picks which electronic devices to search or what is done with the information inside. Some civil liberties groups are suing for answers.

MARCIA HOFFMAN, ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION: Who they share it with, whether it's ever destroyed, whether citizens have any ability to get that information back.

MESERVE: Amir Kahn wants those answers, too, because traveling without a laptop is simply not an option.

KAHN: It's like a wallet, right? You need your wallet everywhere you go.


MESERVE: While the balance between security and civil liberties is sorted out in the courts, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives recommends that you limit the personal or proprietary information on any computer you travel with. If like Kahn, you just can't leave home without it.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne, very much.

The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, is threatening to cut off oil to the United States, a move he says could send prices soaring to $200 a barrel. It's retaliation for what he calls an economic war against his country by the United States, specifically Exxon Mobil, which got a British court to freeze billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets. The company says it is trying to recover investments it made in Venezuelan oil ventures before Chavez kicked it out.

As Barack Obama sweeps state after state, Jack Cafferty is asking if Hillary Clinton's campaign is in trouble. Your e-mail and Jack coming up.

And Ron Paul has been piling up money, but he's not piling up delegates. Should we start worrying more about his congressional seat?

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


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty file. Let me lower my computer for you, Jack.


The question this hour is Hillary Clinton's campaign in trouble? There are some signs out there that would indicate perhaps there's a problem. Obama sweeping all of the elections this past weekend. She won zero for five. He won everything.

Alex writes this from Illinois. "It seems as though her campaign is shaky at the moment. I'm referring to her loaning her campaign $5 million and replacing her manager. What's next? The Obama campaign and its millions of supporters have the Clinton campaign on its heels. Several thousand large donations are no match for millions of small donations. He's funded by the people and the people are speaking."

John writes, "Of course it's in trouble. Even if Hillary manages to survive until the convention, if Obama maintains a lead in pledged delegates, the super delegates would have to think long and hard before giving Hillary the nod. Her only hope is winning states, unlikely to happen given Obama's momentum and uplifting message."

Anthony writes, "It scares me to think we'd already be worrying about whose campaign is in trouble and whose isn't, being that there is still a lot of time left. Obama is doing well, but either candidate can pull away as the front-runner with another good sweeping weekend like the one Obama just experienced."

Alice in North Dakota, "Yes. Coming into Super Tuesday I was impressed that Barack cares about North Dakota. Today I was embarrassed as a long standing democrat to hear Hillary actually list a number of states that don't matter to her in the race. North Dakota does matter. And I matter. I was so taken aback by her arrogance, I just processed my first ever financial political contribution to Barack Obama."

Landon writes, "There's nothing wrong with Clinton's campaign. It's just that Obama's campaign is finally showing how strong it actually is. This will be a close race all the way to the finish."

And John writes from Michigan, "Electing Hillary Clinton is sort of like going back to an old relationship after a bad breakup. It's comfortable and familiar at first, but then you start to remember why you broke up. Best that we should put the past behind and focus on the future."

BLITZER: Very clever e-mails.

CAFFERTY: Pretty good stuff, right? These are my peeps.

BLITZER: And you do more of it in the next hour, too.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs standing by to join us live. We're going to talk about what's happening in the race for the white house.

Plus, democratic leaders are picking political sides one day ahead of the Potomac primaries. The governor of Maryland, the former Governor of Virginia, they're standing by. We're going to be hearing from both of them.

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


BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's check in with Lou Dobbs. His program starts in one hour.

Lou, let me pick your brain on what's happening in the race for the white house right now. What do you, first of all, make of Mike Huckabee's impressive wins over the weekend and his determination despite the math to stay in this contest?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: As you know, Wolf, I love watching the unexpected unfold on this campaign trail. I love it when the experts are wrong. I love it when somebody shows great grit. Mike Huckabee is doing that. Irrespective of your politics, who you're polling for, Mike Huckabee is showing a lot of class. He's showing a lot of personal strength, I think. And he's showing that he can gain votes. I say power to him.

BLITZER: Did you notice in Washington State, you know he's asking and Ed Rollins, our old friend, they're asking for a recount that the state GOP leadership basically stopped counting with 87 percent. It was 26 percent for McCain, 24 percent for Huckabee, 21 percent for Ron Paul. It was pretty close. What do you make of this?

DOBBS: Well, I make of it a couple of things. One, the folks in Washington State who did that are complete idiots. The idea of coming up with a result before you count the votes, you know that's back room politics at its worst and they picked on the wrong guy. I don't know whether Huckabee wins or not. I don't know what the future holds obviously but I do know this and I think you do as well. No campaign, no candidate has a tougher, smarter chairman than Ed Rollins and if I were the folks in Washington, I think I would try to get myself in order there before Mr. Rollins shows up with his lawyers.

BLITZER: Yes, he knows politics. I'm not sure necessarily it's going to make much of a difference for Mike Huckabee in the long run.

DOBBS: It's all about truth, justice and the American way, partner. Let's do the right thing wherever it is.

BLITZER: I mean I absolutely agree. You count the votes until 100 percent of the ballots are counted, not 87 percent. Lou, stand by. You've got a show to get ready for in one hour.

DOBBS: Thanks for reminding me, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot more on this coming up. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.