Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Obama Projected as Winner in Virginia Primary; Exit Polls Show Tight Race for Republicans in Virginia
Aired February 12, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But within a second or so Virginia will close. And with the polls now closed in Virginia, based on the exit polling we've done, we project Barack Obama wins, wins Virginia. He wins the Democratic presidential primary in Virginia, Hillary Clinton does not. Another win for Barack Obama.
On the Republican side, we can only tell you based on the exit polls that are coming in that a competitive race is underway in the state of Virginia between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. This contest is competitive right now. Ron Paul the third candidate in this race. He's not necessarily a factor in Virginia right now, at least the factor to win that state, but a competitive contest between Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
The big news though within -- at this hour, at least is that Barack Obama wins Virginia. An hour from now, the polls will close in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. We'll see what's happening right there.
Lou Dobbs is here watching what's going on. Not a huge surprise that Barack Obama wins Virginia, but what is somewhat of a surprise, Lou, is that it is competitive based on the exit polls we're getting between John McCain, who's by all accounts the far away front-runner, and once again, this little thorn in his side, Mike Huckabee.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: You know this thorn in his side, as you put it, the reality is he is showing himself to be a vital and effective candidate to run against McCain. McCain is not only having a problem with the conservative side of the party, he is having a hard time getting those votes in a primary contest here of late, and that is going to burden him should the unthinkable happen. The unthinkable being at least, according to many that he would have enough delegates, he being Huckabee to create a problem going into that convention.
Gloria, your thoughts?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very unlikely that Huckabee would become the nominee. I do think John McCain is the presumptive nominee. One thing I want to say about Huckabee and McCain is they are not running a nasty race against each other. Huckabee is running a very positive, uplifting, likable campaign.
He's a likable candidate. He's doing himself a lot of good nationally. He hasn't been known nationally. This is not bad for Huckabee and I think in the end, he will endorse McCain and it will be good for McCain.
DOBBS: Will Romney endorse McCain?
BORGER: Yeah, I think in the end he will.
DOBBS: What would happen in if those delegates were to move with McCain, with -- from Romney...
DOBBS: ... to Huckabee and Senator McCain run into some head winds, a very popular term...
BORGER: You're talking at the convention?
BORGER: Well that would be a great story, Lou.
DOBBS: Yes, it is...
DOBBS: I know the man who would love to see that story happen.
BORGER: Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Well I certainly would. I want a great story out of this campaign -- I don't have a dog in the hunt as an Independent. But I know Jeffrey Toobin is pulling for Mike Huckabee all the way -- I'm kidding.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I -- a model of objectivities, especially when it comes to Mike Huckabee. I mean I think Mike Huckabee is showing that John McCain has problems in the Republican Party. (INAUDIBLE) imagine we had a primary in Washington last weekend where 75 percent of the Republican voters didn't pick the presumptive nominee.
McCain only got 25 percent of the vote. That is terrible. But if you just look at the numbers as John King showed, it is impossible for Mike Huckabee to get the nomination, still this is a divided Republican Party and Huckabee is staying in. It is simply a reminder of those divisions.
DOBBS: Well let's go to Dana Bash who is at the McCain headquarters.
Dana, give us your thoughts.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The fact that this is so competitive in Virginia is a pretty bad sign for the McCain campaign, Lou. And it really sort of interesting to see how the McCain campaign is going to reassess what they did or more importantly didn't do over the past several days. John McCain has had a very, very light campaign schedule. He campaigned only twice in the state of Virginia really for this -- for the primary, once yesterday. He only had two campaign events totaled yesterday.
Today he was in the Senate doing Senate business. He was voting. But you know that was not unintentional. The McCain campaign had a very light campaign schedule for him because they are in this Never- Never Land. They want him to appear to be the nominee and not to have to work very hard at it, but the fact that he didn't work very hard at it means that it is perhaps a lot more competitive in Virginia than they thought it was going to be and they might have to change. In fact I talked to a McCain adviser who said that if it continues to be like that they might have to change the way the approach that they have to campaigning from now on.
DOBBS: Yes, we have seen what trying to establish an aura of inevitability and certain futures can do to a candidate in the case of Senator Clinton. Dana Bash with the McCain folks, we thank you. We'll be going back to you obviously throughout this evening.
Let's go right now. We are getting -- in the exit polls we're getting a better idea of what voters in Virginia have been thinking on this Election Day there.
Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst has the analysis -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, we have some interesting results from Virginia Democrats, where we just announced Barack Obama has won that primary in a southern state. He got an overwhelming number of African-American votes. They voted 90- 10 for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.
But here's the big surprise. What did white voters do in Virginia, a southern state? Well they split almost evenly and according to this, you know, Clinton got 51, Obama, 48. He is splitting the white vote with Hillary Clinton, a very substantial white southern vote, southern white vote for Barack Obama. That is something of a breakthrough.
Men voted for Obama, they usually do, but what did women do? Did they vote for Hillary Clinton? No, women in Virginia voted for Barack Obama 58-42. Barack Obama carrying women is another breakthrough. And then finally the issues, the economy has generally been Hillary Clinton's issue. But in Virginia today, nope, those who said the top issue was the economy voted for Obama, 60 percent, Hillary Clinton about 40 percent, so the economy did not pay off for Hillary Clinton.
The Iraq issue is Barack Obama's issue and among those voters who said that was their top concern he did a lit bit better, 65 percent for Obama, 35 percent for Clinton. What we're seeing here is Obama carrying all the top categories, the issues, even women, and most strikingly splitting the white vote in Virginia with Hillary Clinton -- Lou.
DOBBS: Basically, Bill Schneider, what you're reporting here is that Barack Obama on every demographic slice that we have taken to this point from those exit polls has won in every category?
SCHNEIDER: Well not quite won among whites, but he is splitting the white vote for Hillary Clinton. It does show that he has momentum and that is cutting across all those demographic divisions. He seems to be a candidate who is picking up support across the board.
DOBBS: All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
Let's turn to Roland Martin. Let's get your thoughts on what you're seeing here.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Several things, Lou. First and foremost Hillary Clinton has problems. Whites made up of 36 percent of those folks who are voting in Virginia, African Americans, 29 percent. That does not bode well for her.
She has to confront the reality that you cannot continue to let somebody win and then you bank on Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Because you're talking about significant momentum, even Wisconsin, now of course the Clinton folks are going to spin this by saying well we thought we were going to lose.
No, they campaigned very hard in Virginia. She had a serious problem. I think she is going to have to get down to basics and get back on the ground and stop with this nonsense I'm more electable in November. You know what? You better win the nomination first before you start thinking about November.
DOBBS: The electability issue has been pushed aside by the issue of winning an election.
MARTIN: It's kind of hard to be electable when you keep losing.
DOBBS: Your thoughts?
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well that's two points. Usually voters are looking at two things, likable and electability. We already know Hillary Clinton has a likability problem. But what's interesting -- I voted in Virginia today -- 30 percent of the vote is coming out of northern Virginia. These are people that we were just talking about, have a very strong understanding of who Hillary Clinton is.
But there was such tremendous excitement about Barack Obama and you have an open primary where Independents have been critical in the last two gubernatorial races, the last Senate race, and they also pushed George W. Bush over the line in 2000 -- 2004. They were swinging I think in larger numbers we're going to see for Barack.
DOBBS: And Amy, the issue here of the competition between Huckabee and the presumptive nominee of the Republican party, Senator John McCain almost coroneted now.
What's happening there?
AMY HOLMES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well a few things. And there are a few things that the McCain campaign was a little worried about going into Virginia. I spoke with one of his senior advisers that his supporters, they would have low voter turnout because of all this talk that McCain is the presumptive nominee, so they don't have to show up.
Also Virginia is an open primary, so was John McCain going to be able to get all those Independents who might be energized by Obama and going to cast their vote for him? And thirdly, there was this mumbling and rumbling. I'm not sure how influential or consequential it was, but some Republicans were thinking about voting for Hillary and casting a vote for her because they think that she would be easier to beat in a general, so they wanted to do her a little favor.
MARTIN: You know, Lou, I'm tired...
MARTIN: ... and I know we have some (INAUDIBLE)...
MARTIN: No, what I'm tired of are these well he should drop out, clear the way for McCain. It's like anything else. You need to win all your delegates. Now I'm not saying anything about McCain's health, but just keep in mind, when Senator Paul Wellstone (ph) done was running for reelection, unfortunately he died in a plane crash, OK. You stay in to keep going. You have no idea what's going to happen. You don't know if somebody is capacitated (ph) is going to get sick...
MARTIN: You just don't know.
HOLMES: ... jump in on Hillary side, which I didn't get to talk about is we saw that Hillary tried to spin Louisiana as again the African-American vote, but in fact of all those states this weekend, Louisiana is where Obama had the narrowest margin. He did much better against Hillary in Nebraska and Maine, so this -- you might hear coming out of tonight that the Hillary Clinton camp, well there was a big black population in Washington, D.C. and in Maryland and that's what put him over, that's not what happened this last weekend. Don't let them spin you on that.
DOBBS: We're not going to hear any more Jesse Jackson stuff, is that what you're saying?
HOLMES: Well we heard...
HOLMES: No pun intended.
SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting also and don't forget, if you talk to college students, conservative college students, they are very excited about John McCain. They like his strong principle leadership. They like the fact he's a war hero. And they can't get away from that, so I think John McCain is building that momentum on both ends in terms of the age bracket.
DOBBS: I will just throw my two cents in before turning it over to my colleague Wolf Blitzer. It looks to me like we are seeing a lot of interesting dynamics at work in both parties right now and there are all positive dynamics, which further (INAUDIBLE) a lot of folks who have been wanting to analyze this race a lot of different ways.
Wolf Blitzer, bring us up to date.
BLITZER: All right, let me recap, Lou what's going on. Barack Obama, we here at CNN have projected he will win the Virginia Democratic primary tonight. Barack Obama, yet another win for the junior senator from Illinois over Hillary Clinton in Virginia.
Remember at the top of the hour, the polls will close in Maryland and Washington, D.C. We will see what's happening there. On the Republican side, it's competitive, it's competitive between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul is still in this race, but McCain and Huckabee find themselves in what we're calling a competitive contest in Virginia right now. We will see what happens on the Republican side in Maryland and Washington, D.C., once those polls close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern a little while from now.
Candy Crowley and Suzanne Malveaux are watching all of this unfold. Candy is in Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin where Barack Obama is going to be having a rally tonight. One week from today is the Wisconsin primary. He is clearly looking ahead to that state.
Set the scene, Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well absolutely he is looking ahead. He is planning on spending most of the week here, as a matter of fact except for Valentine's Day where he says he is going to go back to Chicago and be with his wife. But nonetheless, he is working this state.
Interesting to me that Hillary Clinton sort of left ahead, now she is going to be here, but I've talked to some people here say it doesn't look like she is going to spend a lot of time, but in fact Wisconsin has the kind of voters that she has been seeking.
Union voters, working class voters, that people say well you know Wisconsin can be really quirky, but if you sort of look back over history, it has some very sort of main line results here for the Democrats. So there's some question as to whether she's going to play hard here.
I'll also tell you that what we have been saying all along as we've watched these races go by is that at some point, one of these candidates is going to have to reach into the other's base and it appears as though Barack Obama did exactly that in Virginia. We heard Hillary Clinton over the weekend sort of tossing off Obama's wins over the weekend, saying well they were mostly caucuses and I don't really that, those are just activists, it's really not representative of the electorate.
And in Louisiana, there was a large African American population quite proud of him and I understand that. But now you have, you know, two, three straight on primaries. They're not caucuses. There is sort of a wide gap and he's cut into her base, at least as far as we know in Virginia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: At some point later tonight, once the results in Maryland and D.C. are known, we know that Barack Obama will win in Virginia. At that point we'll be hearing from Barack Obama, I take it. He's going to be speaking where you are at that rally in Madison.
CROWLEY: Exactly. He's coming here. They wanted to be obviously a step ahead of the game. This is his first rally here. The other thing is they have a network here. That's one of the things that we sort of overlooked in the kind of change versus experience argument is really the ground organization.
Obama has had a really good ground organization in Maine. He won those caucuses over the weekend because his ground organization was good and her's was almost nonexistent, so they believe that's also at play here in Wisconsin and they have a good shot at it, Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll be bringing those remarks live to our viewers from Madison, Wisconsin. Candy, stand by. I want to go to Suzanne Malveaux. She's at a Clinton rally in El Paso, Texas. March 4th, that's when the Texas competition, the Texas primary takes place, so Suzanne give us a little sense. Hillary Clinton is already spending a lot of time in Texas.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're right Wolf, they are singing the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance as we give this report, so I want to give a certain deference to that. But it is clear that they are moving ahead here in the Potomac primaries, putting that behind them, obviously...
BLITZER: Suzanne, could I interrupt for a second, Suzanne, while they're singing the National Anthem and doing the Pledge of Allegiance, we'll hold off. We'll continue this conversation, you and me as soon as they're done with that. But once again, Hillary Clinton getting ready for the Texas primary on March 4th. Texas, an important state, obviously together with Ohio. Both of those states, Hillary Clinton focusing her attention right now, even as Barack Obama is focusing his attention on Wisconsin.
Let's go back to Lou. I hate to force Suzanne to be speaking while they're singing the National Anthem.
DOBBS: Very good choice, Wolf, thank you. Let me turn if I may to Jessica Yellin who has been, who has got a few thoughts on what's happening in the Democratic race that Wolf has just given the CNN projection as the winner.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look the Clinton campaign never expected for her to win in Virginia. They know that tonight is not going to be a night of victory parties for her. The question is obviously what comes next. They really believe Lou that she can win this thing by winning Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Not having a single win in the entire month of February, they say she can still pull out the nomination.
The question is, does Barack Obama get so much momentum, something we have not necessarily seen in this race yet...
DOBBS: We should probably -- not a single win after Super Tuesday.
YELLIN: That's true, not a single win after Super Tuesday in the month of February, good. If he can get enough momentum in this month that he can knock down her lead in those three big states, then he's got it. But right now she has a substantial lead and if she gets Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, she says, I'm gotten all the big states. I'm the nominee.
SANCHEZ: But now if he has wins tonight, and if he wins handily, it's not going to just be whether she wins Texas and Ohio, it's by how much.
DOBBS: Well let's find out...
SANCHEZ: That margin is going to make a real difference in terms of delegate allocation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And who she wins.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: YeS.
TOOBIN: No, I'm sorry you were about to say...
DOBBS: I was about to say and find out by how much. We are going to be coming back with the early vote totals coming in now from Virginia where again CNN has projected Senator Barack Obama to be the winner. And we are going to take a very close look at those results as they now are adding up and adding to what is already a close and competitive race between Senator John McCain and former Governor Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary.
Stay with us and be sure to go to CNN.com for the interactive primary evening. Stay with us. We're coming right back.
BLITZER: Thirty-nine minutes until the polls close in Washington, D.C. And neighboring Maryland where there are Republican and Democratic presidential primaries underway. Voters are still at the polls right now. But the polls are closed in Virginia and CNN has been projecting since the polls closed at the top of the hour that Barack Obama is the winner of the Democratic presidential primary in Virginia, but get this.
On the Republican side, a competitive race shaping up between John McCain and Mike Huckabee, a competitive race in the state of Virginia. We've actually got some numbers that are coming in, early numbers we're going to be sharing them with you, about one percent of the precincts in Virginia now reporting Barack Obama with 57 percent to Hillary Clinton's 42 percent.
If we zoom in on the actually vote tally right now, we can get a closer look at how many people so far have voted, 2,036 for Obama the winner, Hillary Clinton 1,525, but another important win for Barack Obama in Virginia right now. That is our projection.
It's a competitive race on the Democratic side although you wouldn't know it -- on the Republican side excuse me. You wouldn't know it with one percent of the precincts now reporting, Huckabee with 64 percent of the vote so far, John McCain with 30 percent, Ron Paul with three percent.
If we zoom in on the actual numbers, 1,688 for Huckabee; McCain, 789; Ron Paul 69; but we don't know where this one percent of the precincts we're reporting from, whether the southern part of the state, the northern part of the state Virginia has a different voting block in both parts of the state. The more moderates in the north, the more traditionally conservative in the south.
Let's go back to Lou Dobbs, he has got the best political team on television. By the way, Lou, are all of our viewers who want to get these numbers minute by minute, county by county, state by state.
BLITZER: CNNpolitics.com that's the place to be and I keep telling our viewers, watch us but have your laptop with you if you want to get the specific information whenever you want it.
DOBBS: I think that that is an entirely reasonable piece of salesmanship.
DOBBS: You've convinced me, I am on board. I've got a monitor here...
BLITZER: You've got your laptop, I got my laptop...
DOBBS: John King's over here, we're ready.
You know as you point out, Wolf, it's a very close and competitive contest. And there's no one better to go to on this best team on television than Bill Schneider for analysis as to why looking at those exit polls, why this is such a competitive race on the Republican side -- Bill Schneider.
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. Let's take a look. Virginia Republicans split now between McCain and Huckabee. Now let's look at those voters who in the Republican primary who are seniors age 65 and older. Those are McCain's peeps, he's carrying them but only by four points, McCain, 49, Huckabee, 45. That's one of McCain's better categories. Another category for McCain, veterans, a lot of them in Virginia and they are going also but by a very narrow margin close here, too, for McCain over Huckabee. But Huckabee is carrying some important categories in Virginia the southern state. One of them is those famous conservatives.
McCain needs to carry conservatives. He's still only getting about one-third of the conservative vote as the perspective Republican nominee. Huckabee is dominating with the majority of conservative voters still not voting for John McCain. And Huckabee is also carrying born again and evangelical voters who are majority of the voters in -- among Virginia Republicans. Huckabee clearly dominates with two-thirds of the vote among born again and evangelical, McCain down to only about one quarter of the vote.
So among born again voters and evangelical voters and among conservatives in the Republican Party, the Republican Party base, McCain in Virginia is not doing too well -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much. Bill Schneider.
Roland Martin --
DOBBS: ... what are we watching here in terms of the Republican side, these votes so competitive, as you've heard Bill Schneider analyzing it, but this isn't supposed to be happening right now.
MARTIN: No, it's not. The Republicans they were supposed to rally around John McCain. Huckabee was supposed to simply go away and he was supposed to be their nominee. What you're showing is dissension among the party. They are still not comfortable with John McCain. And so we can sit here and talk about well he's going to be the nominee. It's going to happen. They'll all come together. No, he stills has to bring his party together...
DOBBS: Does he have to win Virginia?
MARTIN: I think he has to win Virginia and that is a critical state. Remember George W. Bush won Virginia in the last election and the Democrats now have a Democratic senator in Jim Webb, a Democratic governor in Tim Kaine, Mark Warner could potentially be the Democratic senator, so you see a state that is trending Democrat. They need to hold on to that to win the White House.
DOBBS: What is driving, if you will, the dissidence here in the Republican Party on the issue of McCain versus Huckabee?
SANCHEZ: I think also you have a lot of social base conservatives who want to ensure that their voice is heard. They want to put the pressure on McCain to make sure that he's -- to clarify his positions on things that are very crucial to them and see if they can put some pressure on his position on judges, you know.
No doubt about that, but what is interesting if you look at Virginia, Independent voters according to "The Washington Post", a big study they did last year, about 47 percent of them are Protestant. You have a lot of evangelism and excitement in these voters and those are folks who will probably look at Huckabee. I think it's a good thing for the party.
MARTIN: Just think of Jerry Falwell.
SANCHEZ: Also to this point that this has not been a blue state in terms of voting for presidents since 1964 with LBJ. There's definitely a split, but that split is Independent voters who can move either way and right now they were frustrated with the war a year ago. They're going to coalesce, I believe, fundamentally around national security and John McCain.
DOBBS: Now you mention excitement, and Amy, the excitement as we look at the turnout here, those early vote totals show and it is ridiculously early, let's be very candid about that...
DOBBS: We're talking about...
DOBBS: Right. It's actually less, but 3,500 votes on the Democratic side, 2,500 approximately on the Republican side. These are significant at least in showing a ratio that should be uncomfortable for Republicans and reflect perhaps a lack of excitement.
HOLMES: Well there is certainly an excitement gap and conservatives and Republicans are concerned about that, but that's also because you know the conservatives haven't coalesced around John McCain yet. We don't know who the Democratic nominee is going to be as everyone -- you've heard many, many time if it's Hillary Clinton, you can see enthusiasm among conservative Republicans going way up.
But looking at Virginia, again the pattern repeats itself that John McCain got only 30 percent of self-described conservative. He only got 33 percent on Super Tuesday. That shows you he's not drawing those people yet to him. He has been trying to roll up these endorsements.
George Bush said that he was a true conservative. He has Ted Olson on his team. John Bolton gave him an endorsement. But he's going to have to keep doing that work. Some conservatives have a very good idea for him is to put together a policy council and it doesn't have to be all of these public statements. I think...
DOBBS: That sounds like a good idea for anybody.
(CROSSTALK) HOLMES: Sure, but in the media...
HOLMES: But it's a lot of behind the scenes work that he can do.
SANCHEZ: I think that there was a lot of behind scenes work with John McCain and conservatives that maybe didn't come to fruition. You have Paul Weyrich come out in favor of Huckabee recently, Dr. James Dobson, big leaders in the conservative movement.
DOBBS: Does it seem to you, Leslie, that we are watching people trying to smear paint all over Senator John McCain to kind of buff him up as something that he isn't generally regarded as being?
SANCHEZ: Well look at the fact that he gets 16 to 17 percent of support from Democrats right now, if you just do a general ballot on that. There are a tremendous number of people who respect him and it's going to break on economy and health care...
DOBBS: Amy told you to hold on, Roland.
HOLMES: Thank you, Lou. Thank you.
HOLMES: In fairness to John McCain, his voting record he gets an 80 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. So in his voting record, he is a steady ally in the conservative movement.
MARTIN: I have some for Newsbusters.org for tomorrow. These are the extremists of a party who want to continue to hold on to their power. The bottom line is you're losing it. Your party is changing. Deal with it.
DOBBS: And while we're trying to deal with that and absorb Roland's counsel here, we are going to go to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Lou, very much. Let's recap what we know right now at the bottom of the hour.
In Virginia on the Democratic side, CNN projects that Barack Obama is the winner, he's got four percent of the vote now in, four percent of the precincts reporting, 62 percent, 37 percent for Hillary Clinton, 13,800 for Obama, 8,200 for Hillary Clinton, 101 delegates are at stake right now.
Let's take a look at Virginia where a competitive race is underway based on the actual numbers coming in, as well as the exit polls. Right now with three percent of the vote in Virginia, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, 49 percent to John McCain's 44 percent, Ron Paul, three percent.
Let's look at the actual numbers. Huckabee with 7,600, McCain, 6,900, Ron Paul, 546, 63 delegates at stake for the Republicans in Virginia, 60 elected delegates, three superdelegates. This is one of those states where the winner takes all.
We're watching this very closely. Let's walk over to John King because he's watching Virginia. Competitive contest between McCain, by far the front-runner and all of the sudden Mike Huckabee is not just a thorn but he's potentially a serious embarrassment at least in this state of Virginia.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You hit the nail right on the hit, a serious embarrassment if these numbers hold up and let's be careful and note again as you just did, only three percent of the vote in so far. And as we've gone from one to three, Senator McCain has actually narrowed the gap and now as you see, Wolf, it's a very narrow gap, 49 to 44.
What are we looking for as these results come in? Let's look at the map of Virginia. I'm going to turn the telestrator off for a minute and pull it out just a little bit here. The peach color you see -- whoops, come on back down. Sometimes it gets a little ahead of itself. The peach color you see on your screen is Mike Huckabee and as you can see, he's winning out here so far in the rural areas.
That's where you have rural populous, rural evangelicals. Mike Huckabee needs to run up the numbers here. You see one county where John McCain is ahead at the moment but the peach is Mike Huckabee and to win Virginia, he needs to sweep out here and run up some pretty impressive numbers.
Now I want to come over here to along the coast. We're in a county setting right there at the moment. Come over here along the coast, take this out and right here along the coast, Wolf, this is where we expect to have a key battle ground. I'm going to stretch this map out just a little bit so you can see a little bit. This is Norfolk area right down here. You have you the Norfolk Naval Station down, a military community down here but you also have Chesapeake, Virginia is the home of the Christian Coalition so you have evangelicals and military vote.
Essentially, the Huckabee and McCain vote living side by side right here along the coast and as you can see, just a very tiny bit of the vote coming in so far. So if this is a close race throughout the night, this is one place we want to watch in here and I'm going to shrink the state back down a bit and take us back up to northern Virginia. This is where John McCain must absolutely must --
BLITZER: These are the Washington suburbs basically.
KING: The Washington suburbs. He must run up the numbers there among those who are more moderate Republicans, among the military community that lives in the Pentagon area right in here. You see some numbers starting to come in the Richmond area down here. That just lit up for McCain. We're up to four percent. Still a very competitive battle McCain needs to run up the numbers here.
Huckabee needs to run them out here Wolf in the western part of the state and we expect right here along the coast, John McCain's camp thought that would be all his category, but Huckabee so far we are told doing well in the area again where you have some evangelical Christian Coalition voters right next door to military voters. So both bases, if you will, competitive right along the coast.
BLITZER: But in those counties in northern Virginia, outside of Washington, like Arlington County, Alexandria County, those populations have exploded over the past 20 or 30 years. That's a big chunk of the population in the state.
KING: A huge chunk and if they're Republican, they tend to be more moderate Republicans, conservative military population right into Arlington County. We can actually look a little more closely at it with our map function there and pull out Arlington County. That's Fairfax County, come into Arlington County here. You can pull it out.
The population explosion here has been enormous, Wolf, as you well know. And this is one of the reasons that John McCain needs to do well. Some of his voters, those more military, that's the Pentagon right there just across the river in Virginia. John McCain needs to do well here.
You talk about the population growth. Look down here right along the river. You can pull out our Google map a little bit more. Look at all these, these are all apartments and condominiums. Wolf, 15 years ago most of that was not there. That is part of the population explosion in northern Virginia.
If they are Republicans, they tend to be McCain style voters but this is one of the reasons, Wolf, that Democrats think Virginia could actually be a battleground state in November because northern is more and more trending Democratic. Virginia has had two Democratic governors in a row. Quite a fascinating state to watch.
BLITZER: And they've got a Democratic senator in there right now as well, Jim Webb. That's Crystal City right near National Airport.
Let's quickly take a look at the Democratic side in Virginia. What's happening? We have projected that Barack Obama will carry the democratic primary in Virginia. Show us what we have with about five percent of the precincts reporting.
KING: Five percent of the precincts reporting and that is what you call a big lead, 63 percent to 36 percent and look where Obama is running it up, Richmond, right here, the African-American center of the state, former governor of the state and the mayor of Richmond, Doug Wilder, a big Obama supporter. This is where it gets interesting. Central part of the state here, Senator Clinton doing well out here so far in the early returns where she needed that to. That is rural Virginia, the economic voters, more lower income Democrats where she has done well all along.
But this, Wolf, is where we want to watch throughout the night because if there is a change in the Democratic race and Obama is winning big in Virginia, it could happen in places like this, the suburbs farther out from Washington, D.C. as you start moving in, Prince William County. This is Fairfax County. This was viewed as a key battleground, more affluent Democrats.
Obama has done well with them in previous states but also a large population of professional women. That should be Hillary Clinton's base. It will be interesting to watch as these results come in here. We project Obama a big winner. We'll see if we can learn something from his big win tonight. It might carry over to future states.
BLITZER: A big win for Barack Obama in Virginia. Remember, coming up at the top of the hour, the polls will be closing in Maryland and Washington, D.C. We will wait to see what's happening there.
Remember, CNNpolitics.com. That's the place to go. You can watch all of the numbers come in real time county by county, state by state. That's the best place to go, CNNpolitics.com. Let's go back to Lou for more analysis.
DOBBS: And as you pointed out, Wolf, Maryland, D.C., those polls about to close in 24 minutes, 24 and a half minutes and as you suggested and I want to continue the clarion call for CNN.com. We invite you to take advantage of CNN.com and its treasure trove of information on tonight's election.
We also are going to be analyzing the superdelegates at stake in Virginia tonight, where Senator Barack Obama has won those superdelegates as well, how will they be apportioned and how important will they did be in determining the ultimate nominee of the Democratic party in particular. I will be talking a Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign leader back in 2000, a prominent democratic leader and she will be with us as we return.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
BLITZER: Another win for Barack Obama, this time in Virginia. We've projected that Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton in the state of Virginia. Right now with eight percent of the precincts actually reporting, 62 percent for Obama, 37 percent for Hillary Clinton.
If we take a look at the actual numbers and zoom in, you can see how the contest is unfolding. 38,400 for Obama, 23,000 or so for Hillary Clinton with eight percent of the precincts in but once again, we have projected Barack Obama is the winner in Virginia.
On the Republican side, a very competitive race unfolding right now, surprising a lot of people. Right now with eight percent of the precincts reporting in Virginia, Huckabee is ahead with 48 percent; McCain 45 percent; Ron Paul three percent. Let's take a close look at the numbers, 16,200 for Huckabee; 15,000 for McCain; 1,100 for Ron Paul. But Mike Huckabee, refusing to go away and doing well so far in Virginia. We will see how well he does as the night goes on but based on the exit polls as well as the actual numbers coming in, we can only say this is a competitive race in Virginia between Mike Huckabee and John McCain.
Coming up in a few minutes at the top of the hour, we will see what's happening in neighboring Maryland and D.C. We'll see if there are any surprises there on the Republican and Democratic side.
In the meantime, let's go back to Lou who is watching this unfold. I think Mike Huckabee is probably as surprised as anybody that this is turning out to be as competitive in Virginia as it obviously is.
DOBBS: You know it's easy to think that. I tend agree with you. And at the same time I keep thinking about the fact that our friend Ed Rollins is the campaign chairman for Huckabee and he's a pretty clever operator. We maybe watching a strategy emerge here. Now we'll see whether or not that strategy ultimately prevails.
BLITZER: I just want to be up front with our viewers. He used to be a regular on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Is that right?
DOBBS: That's what I said. I said a friend. As a matter of fact, the reality here is, with Huckabee competitive right now, the McCain forces are probably starting to think maybe they should be doing something a little differently perhaps campaigning. I don't know but let's go to our colleague, Dana Bash at Alexandria and our colleague Mary Snow out in Little Rock.
Dana Bash, what do you think? Should this get more competitive inspire a little different approach on the part of Senator McCain?
BASH: It very well could be and I can tell you that the McCain campaign is going to be looking at that. In fact, they probably already are looking at that whether or not the approach they took over the past several days of John McCain simply being for the most part out of sight. Now he did have one event in Virginia last night in Richmond. So that's one campaign event compared to I think four or five that Mike Huckabee had.
So this is a very, very interesting approach that they took. It was intentional. He intentionally did not campaign very hard because he wants to have, as we talked about so many days in a row now Lou, this sort of aura of inevitability. But by not campaigning hard and succeeding the territory to Mike Huckabee who was very, very intense, you know they might have sort of miscalculated what's really going on in a state like Virginia where Mike Huckabee, just like he did in every other state where he's done well, he went into the rural areas.
He went into the churches and he got out the people who are passionate for him. John McCain might not have that passion factor right now despite the fact that he is way ahead in Virginia and even if he loses at the end of the night, 63 delegates won't make a big difference but in terms of the perception, a huge difference.
DOBBS: Now that aura of inevitability looks a little bit like, if you will, the early Clinton strategy which didn't work out or the late Fred Thompson strategy, which didn't work out too well either. We're going to go to Mary Snow in Little Rock in just a moment.
First, let's go to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Lou, we are getting important information from the state of Maryland, which was supposed to close its polls at the top of the hour at 8 p.m. Eastern, a little bit more than 15 minutes right now but the head of elections in the state of Maryland has just announced they are keeping the polls open in Maryland for an extra 90 minutes because of traffic problems resulting from bad weather throughout the state of Maryland.
There's been some snow, some other serious bad weather. As a result, it won't be until 9:30 p.m. eastern when the polls close in Maryland and that's when we will be able to start reporting results, start reporting what we know based on our exit polls. We never tell you what we know about the exit polls until all the polls in a state are closed.
So once again, the headline right now, we're not going to be able to report at the top of 8 p.m. Eastern in about 15 minutes what we know about Maryland but at 9:30 p.m., an extra 90 minutes, we will be able to report that. In the top of the hour, Lou, we will be able to tell viewers what we know is happening in the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C. where there are Republican and Democratic presidential primaries taking place right now. So this is a bit of a surprise in the state of Maryland -- Lou?
DOBBS: Absolutely and weather, of course, playing a part throughout the region. Ice and snow hitting the municipalities in the metro areas across those Potomac primary states.
We're going to go out now to - well as soon as we make the break time, we'll be going out to Little Rock, Arkansas. We'll hear from the Huckabee campaign, our correspondent there, Mary Snow. We're going to continue, a reminder, CNNpolitics.com. Interactive primary experience and information throughout the evening and we invite you to go there while you stay with us. We continue in one moment.
BLITZER: They're closing the polls in Washington, D.C., at the top of the hour, in 11 minutes or so. We will let you know what we know in 11 minutes, Republican and Democratic primaries in the nation's capital.
In Maryland, a judge has just ruled they will keep the polls open for an extra 90 minutes or so, 90 minutes until 9:30 p.m. Eastern because of bad weather in Maryland, traffic problems. So 9:30 p.m. Eastern, that's when the polls will close in the state of Maryland, one hour and 40 minutes or so from now.
We're watching all of this unfold. Here's what we do know so far. In Virginia, among the Democrats, the winner is Barack Obama. Barack Obama will win the Democratic presidential primary in Virginia. Right now with 17 percent of the precincts reporting, he's got a hefty 61 percent to Hillary Clinton's 38 percent.
A total of 101 delegates are at stake in Virginia including those superdelegates. If we look at the hard numbers, the tally coming in, 74,500 or so for Obama, 45,500 for Hillary. But once again, we have projected Barack Obama wins in Virginia. But it's a very competitive contest, very different on the other side in Virginia.
On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee now with 17 percent of the precincts, maintaining his edge over John McCain, 48 percent to 44 percent; Ron Paul with four percent. He's still a candidate. Huckabee with 38,300 to McCain's 35,500 or so, 3,000 for Ron Paul. Sixty-three delegates are at stake in Virginia, 60 of those are elected delegates, three superdelegates. Virginia, Lou, is one of those states for the Republicans where it's winner take all. So whoever carries Virginia whether it's Huckabee or McCain would get those 60 elected delegates.
DOBBS: And that competitive race, as you suggest, has got to be delighting to folks out at the McCain headquarters in Little Rock.
Let's go to our Mary Snow for the latest -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, certainly welcomed news at the Huckabee headquarters. You know Mike Huckabee has been keeping expectations in check saying he didn't want to predict anything but certainly he was hoping that conservatives would turn out and help chip away at Senator John McCain's edge.
He was been counting on conservatives consistently making the point on the campaign trail that there is a choice for voters, saying that this is a fight for the soul for the country and he keeps getting reminded about the math. He becomes more defiant that he is going to stay in this race until someone gets 1,191 delegates and certainly on the heels of two victories over the weekend, to do well here is certainly welcomed news for Mike Huckabee, who is planning to go on to Wisconsin tomorrow.
DOBBS: At Mike Huckabee's headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. John King, the early results, a competitive contest, a close contest, the lead for Huckabee not expected to stand up perhaps but nonetheless competitive.
What do you make of it?
KING: Well it is a reminder, Lou, of the tug of war within the McCain campaign. Are they running a Republican primary, still competing against Mike Huckabee or are they transitioning to run against the democrats? They don't know which one just yet, either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama and look Dana Bash was reporting it earlier. I spoke to several people inside the McCain operations who think perhaps they should have done two or three events as opposed to just one event. I was with Governor Huckabee yesterday and your friend Ed Rollins out in the Shenandoah Valley, conservative rural Virginia, where Mike Huckabee was going across the state, saying they say your vote doesn't count. They say this race is over. They say John McCain is the nominee. Send them a message. Not hitting McCain all that hard so the McCain campaign thinks no lasting damage but it diminishes his power as the front-runner if he cannot consolidate the party and he is essentially hoping that he will win tonight.
And remember Mike Huckabee may have a strong showing in Virginia tonight but unless he wins, he comes away with zero in terms of delegates and the math is already near impossible but the question is, does it diminish McCain? They didn't spend any money. They say they're going to save their resources but if Huckabee performs this strongly tonight, if he wins, it'll be a rocket into the McCain campaign. If he performs strongly, it's still a wake up call to the McCain campaign that you cannot in this year particularly you can't take anything for granted.
BORGER: Right there is nothing. I just got off the phone with somebody in the McCain campaign because I sent him an e-mail saying, so what if Huckabee wins? And he said we respect his role in the process but it's not going to prevent us from our planning. It delays the inevitable.
DOBBS: How stuffy. We're going to be back in a moment and see if the McCain headquarters can come up with a better statement than that, a little more excitement and we'll be also going to those D.C. results, those polls closing in six minutes and 32 seconds. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Just a little over three minutes before the polls close in Washington, D.C., and we will be bringing you those results as they do close. I want to turn now to our friend and contributor, Donna Brazile, who's in Washington, D.C.
Donna, what do you make of the superdelegates at stake here and what will be the role, how important will be the role in determining the outcome of the nomination?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well if we continue to have nights like tonight, I don't think superdelegates will play that large of a role, will be in the mix but not stand out anymore than in previous electoral cycles. Look Lou, after tonight, there are 18 more contests with about 1150 more delegates at stake. These are pledge delegates, delegates that will be decided upon tonight in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia. So I believe that there are enough delegates out there to put one of the candidates over the top.
The Obama campaign believed tonight that they would pick up 20 delegates. I think they will pick up close to 30, perhaps 35 delegates. This is a good night for Obama. I saw the victory here in Virginia. Let me tell you about those roads out there because I got here late. It's treacherous. You know I'm from the south. I don't walk on water and god knows ice is pretty tough.
DOBBS: Well, indeed it is. Folks in Maryland are getting a little extenuating circumstance relief thanks to a judge there. The race, on the Republican side, Donna, are you surprised to see this thing this tight in Virginia between Huckabee and McCain?
BRAZILE: No, Mike Huckabee left the CNN studio on Saturday night and I'll tell you. He had this glow about him. I said, we're are you going? He said, I'm going to church and I looked at my watch and I said, you're starting already? He said absolutely. I think he hit every church in Virginia.
Look, he's excited. He thinks that he can pull off a miracle and some of us do believe in miracles and perhaps the miracle right now is for John McCain that he is holding the conservatives at bay so that McCain can really work for them.
DOBBS: All right. Donna Brazile, we will be back to you. I want to go to Gloria Borger right now who's got a few thoughts on the McCain side of it and the Huckabee side.
BORGER: You know the McCain people are trying to downplay this close race in Virginia but I think it does raise a storyline which is how dissatisfied are republicans or unenthusiastic about their presumptive nominee and that's something we're going to have to watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just add one point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The turnout in among democrats in Virginia is almost double that of republicans. Again, a sign of enthusiasm and also a sign that some independents may be voting for Obama because this is an open primary. I mean again, McCain doesn't just have a problem on the right. He has a problem on the left with moderate republicans being alienated from a party that's moved very far to the right and they may be voting for Obama tonight.
DOBBS: Let's find out about that vote right now and turn to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much. It's approaching the top of the hour and the polls will be closing in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. None of the news organizations did what we call the exit polling in Washington, D.C. As a result, we're not going to be able to project a winner based on anything other than guesswork right now.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com