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America Votes: The Potomac Primaries

Aired February 12, 2008 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to have to wait the old- fashioned way and see the votes come in, in the nation's capital, in Washington, D.C. And then we will let you know how the Republican and Democratic contests are unfolding.
We can tell you there's a very competitive race under way in Virginia right now on the Republican side between Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Let's take a look at Virginia first on the Republican side right now. With 24 percent of the vote now in, almost a quarter of the vote in, McCain has take an slight lead over Mike Huckabee, 47 percent to 45 percent, Ron Paul with four percent.

Let's take a look at the actual vote as it's coming in. Even as we saw that change, it's now 25 percent of the precincts in, 46 percent, 46 percent. Look at how close this is in Virginia right now with a quarter of the precincts reporting, 51,249 for McCain to 50,410 for Huckabee, 4,497 for Ron Paul. It doesn't get much closer than that. We're watching this every step of the way.

Let's take a look -- well, on the Democratic side in Virginia, we have projected that Obama is the winner. In Maryland, the polls were supposed to close at this hour. But, because of bad weather, a judge has ordered the polls to remain open for another 90 minutes. So, they won't be closing for another hour and 28 minutes or so from now. We will watch Maryland closely. That's an important contest on the Republican and Democratic side.

Let's go over to John King, because he's watching what's happening in Virginia right now between Romney -- excuse me -- between McCain and Huckabee. I see Romney's name up there. He dropped out a while ago. He's already got three percent of the vote, though, so I guess he can't complain too much. But look at how close this is between McCain and Huckabee.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's incredible close, Wolf. Senator McCain has just pulled away in the last few minutes. We're up to about 25 percent of the vote now.

But I can tell you, as they watch these results come in, they're beginning to breathe a bit easier in the McCain campaign. And let me show you why. Out here is -- the peach color is Mike Huckabee. And he is winning where he needs to win out here in the evangelical areas, out in rural Virginia.

But I'm just going to hit one of these counties randomly. It's Smith County, a very small population. But, look, 86 percent of the vote is in here. Governor Huckabee's winning big. But most of the votes have already been counted. And I was just looking at all of these counties out there. And they are in the 60, 70 and 80 percent of the vote already reported.

So, the Huckabee vote is in, in this part of the state. And if you look here, where McCain's winning, you see him winning here, right in here, is this where the people are. And so as we watch these votes start to come in, in the Richmond area here, Richmond County, only 16 percent of the vote in, Senator McCain winning by a huge margin.

So, Wolf, if he can hold those numbers there, and another key area for Senator Clinton is up here is Northern Virginia. I'm going to pull the map down and then pull it out a little bit. Right here along the Washington border, Arlington County, pull it out, it's about 3 percent of the state population, is the Washington suburbs.

Look at this, 45 percent of the vote in. Senator McCain getting 69 percent of the vote there. Let's move next door over here to Alexandria City, Senator McCain getting 70 percent of the vote there with 88 percent of the reporting.

So, as the vote starts to come in, in Northern Virginia and in the D.C. suburbs, where more people live, Senator McCain is running up the numbers. So if he can keep that trend going as the vote count happens right along here, this should be McCain's best area of the state.

If these numbers keep coming in like that, that is why they are responsible for the changing numbers statewide. Now up to 27 percent and Senator McCain has inched ahead. About 2,000 votes, a little less than that, separating them. But as these results start to come in, Wolf, that's where McCain has passed -- caught up and then passed Governor Huckabee.

If he can maintain this red right here, he will be in OK shape. But this is still a wakeup call to John McCain, no matter the final result, that rural conservative evangelical Republicans are voting for Mike Huckabee all up the western part of the state.

BLITZER: Now, you have a population feature. You can show us where the people in Virginia actually live.

KING: Absolutely. We can. We can touch this right here. And it concentrates. You see all this, this has nothing to do with who's winning. This is where you see the red. But this is where the people are. These dots are concentrations of population up in the state.

So, where Mike Huckabee's getting most of his vote, there's less populous areas of the state. Where John McCain is getting his vote tends to be in the northern part of the state, right in the D.C. suburbs, and then down this stripe here. This is the more populated area, Virginia, right here, Senator McCain is doing well so far as that vote continues to come in.

BLITZER: And now 27 percent of the vote is now in, in Virginia -- 28 percent. There it is. And look at how close it is, John. It doesn't get much closer than that, 56,704 for McCain, 56,554 for Huckabee.


BLITZER: It's incredible close with 29 percent of the precincts reporting.

What's important is that the delegates in Virginia on the Republican side is a winner-take-all. There are 63 delegates; 60 are elected based on this result. Three are superdelegates. So, whoever gets one more vote is going to get those 60 delegates.


KING: Winner-take-all. So, if John McCain wins, his campaign will say, we get the delegates. That is what matters in terms of getting toward the nomination. But this will still be considered across the Republican Party a bit of a wakeup call to John McCain that he is in the early days of trying to consolidate the party behind him as its nominee.

And he clearly still has a sales job to do, especially to those conservative evangelical voter, Wolf, who are critical not just here in Virginia. The campaign is going on to Wisconsin. There are a fair number of rural evangelical and rural Republican voters there. And pick your battleground state across the country in a presidential election. John McCain needs these votes in November.

So, no reason to believe Senator McCain won't get them in the end. But as long as Governor Huckabee is in the race, clearly, Governor Huckabee is their favorite out here over John McCain. And to the point Dana Bash was making earlier, Governor Huckabee is campaigning harder at the moment.

I was out with him here yesterday, where he had events yesterday in Virginia. He had events down here. He had events here in the central part. He was down here courting people. Senator McCain had one event down here later in the day. So, Governor Huckabee is outworking Senator McCain right now. That might be a wakeup call to the McCain campaign.

KING: But if you see those white counties, no results are in yet. And those presumably will be stronger for McCain based on what we're seeing with the red over there. So, we will watch it very closely. We will see how this unfolds.

BLITZER: Quickly show us what happened on the Democratic side, because we have projected that Barack Obama is the winner in Virginia. How did he do it?

KING: He did it by winning where the people are.

We're still waiting for the northernmost Washington suburbs. But right down here is the vast bulk of population of the state of Virginia. You see the dark blue. That's Obama. He's winning by a huge margin at the moment, Wolf, 62 percent of the vote in -- I'm sorry -- 30 percent of the vote in -- Senator Obama at 62 to 37 percent for Senator Clinton.

But he's winning where the people are. This is where most of the people of Virginia live. She's winning out here. And this is still a reminder for Senator Obama of works he needs to do as the campaign goes on.

She is -- in a sense, what Huckabee is in the Republican race, Senator Clinton is in the Democratic race. She is winning right now out in these rural areas, where people tend to be lower income. They feel left out of the economy, Senator Clinton doing well there, but Senator Obama running up impressive numbers up here. And again the northernmost Washington suburbs have not come in just yet.

BLITZER: And I want to remind our viewers, John, at, you can get all the latest information county by county, state by state, as it's coming in., that's where you want to go.

We're beginning to get some numbers from the District of Columbia, where the polls just closed. In Maryland, they won't close until 9:30 p.m. Eastern because of bad weather. A judge ordered the polls to remain open for an extra 90 minutes.

Let's send it over to Campbell Brown. She's watching this story with the best political team on television.

Hi, Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf. Thanks very much.

And looking at Democrats first, all the mojo, I guess, is with Barack Obama, at least coming out of Virginia, and with what's expected to happen in Maryland and D.C.

What does Hillary Clinton do to stop him, looking ahead, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you talk to her campaign, they're sort of putting all the chips on the table for Texas and Ohio. It's all-in on Texas and Ohio.

And not only does she have to win those states, but she has to win them now by a very high margin, because you have got to -- we're talking about allocating delegates. And so I think that we may be seeing tonight the beginning of a real momentum for Barack Obama. But, obviously, Texas and Ohio, big states for her, very doable.


BROWN: I read today, someone called it sort of the inadvertent Rudy Giuliani strategy.



(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: No, in fact, I was just going to say, the two words that strike fear into her heart are Rudy Giuliani, because Giuliani spent the entire beginning of the campaign saying, pay no attention to New Hampshire, to Iowa, to South Carolina.

And you know what? Voters do pay attention. You can't lose primary after primary and not expect it to have an impact. So, I think she ought to spend some time in Wisconsin, because that's next Tuesday, a state where she's more than competitive at the moment, and try to break this string of losses, because losses have a consequence in and of themselves.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We haven't seen that much momentum in this race so far.

We have seen a win followed by a loss for Barack Obama, a win followed by a loss. So, we have yet to determine that momentum really exists in this unusual presidential contest.

One of things Senator Clinton is banking on is the fact that she has enormous strengths in Texas, for example. It borders Oklahoma, where she trounced him. And Arkansas, where she has a very familiar base, and Ohio, the voters who come from a demographic that suits her. So, she has a significant lead there.

And then there's a question of buyer's remorse. Will people start to say, well, now that we see Barack Obama might be a front- runner, we want to reconsider this and take a second look at her.

BROWN: But the counter to that is she doesn't lot of time to change the dynamic, to change the topic of conversation between now.

She really is waiting for Texas and Ohio. Really, the only opportunities may be these two debates that are scheduled between now and then. How important are they going to be?

BORGER: Very important.

If it were up to Hillary Clinton, she would have a debate a day with Barack Obama. She does very well in these debates. And they're going to be very important. But at this point the voters have a sense that they know both of these candidates.

And what you have seen with Barack Obama is, the more he appears in front of voters, the more they seem to like him and to warm up with him. People have very set opinions about Hillary Clinton. And now you see her talking about whether he's tough enough to beat a Republican candidate.

She says the Republicans are going throw everything at him. I know that what's like. Will he be tough enough? Her answer obviously is not. But you're going to be hearing a lot of that.


TOOBIN: My sense is the debate on CNN will be the most important one.



BROWN: An excellent point.


TOOBIN: February 21, I believe, is the date on that.


BROWN: Let me bring in Donna Brazile, who is joining us down in Washington.

And, Donna, let me ask you, because she's changed her strategy a little bit just in the last 24 hours, a recent interview. She's gone back on attack. Is that a sign of desperation even?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she has to really put a message out there to ensure that, one, she can hold on to voters that clearly have supported her in the past, women, Latinos, working people.

If she gives Obama an edge with any one of those demographic groups, it's very tough for her to accumulate the kind of delegates that he's accumulating. Look, Obama's now winning big states and small states. And you need both states to win this nomination.

And, remember, Texas has a real strange system. There's a primary, as well as a senate caucus and all of those state senate caucuses. So, again, Senator Clinton's people are downplaying caucuses. But in Texas you have both the primary, as well as a caucus system. So, she should. I think she needs to hit her message, bread- and-butter issues, continue to talk about the economy, and try to go after some of Obama's strength, like young people.

BROWN: OK, Donna Brazile for us in Washington.

We're going the take a quick break. Be sure to check out You can follow everything going on here, there, online, on your laptop.

And also, when we come back, we are going to have some numbers coming up shortly from Washington, D.C.

Stay with us. We will be back.


BLITZER: The results from Virginia are coming in rapidly now. We're watching this very closely, very competitive on the Republican side.

On the Democratic side, we projected a while ago that Barack Obama the winner, the winner of the Virginia Democratic presidential primary; 38 percent of actual vote is in, a hefty 62 percent for Barack Obama, only 32 percent for Hillary Clinton.

If you take a look at the votes that have actually been counted so far, 177,736 or so for Obama, 106,000 for Hillary Clinton. But Obama wins in Virginia.

A very different picture on the Republican side in the state of Virginia; 38 percent of the precincts have reported. McCain and Huckabee right now virtually tied, 46 percent each, Ron Paul, 4 percent. We will show you how close this race is with 38 percent of the precincts reporting, a slight lead for McCain, 74,900 for McCain, 73,800 for Huckabee, a difference of about 1,100 or so.

But we're watching this very, very closely. We were expecting results from Maryland at 8:00 p.m. Eastern at the top of the hour. But because of the bad weather in Maryland, a judge ordered the polls to remain open for another one hour and 13 minutes, until 9:30 p.m. Eastern. The polls remaining open in the state of Maryland. So, we don't know what is happening there.

The polls have closed in Washington, D.C. We're awaiting results there. We didn't take any exit polls in Washington, D.C. So, we will wait to get the actual tally as it comes in.

But the big story right now is Virginia, an incredibly close race, surprising in many aspects.

A lot of the so-called experts, John, thought McCain would walk away with Virginia. But Huckabee's making a showing. In the end, it might not be enough, but he's showing a considerable strength.

KING: A very strong showing.

And John McCain -- you mentioned the experts. John McCain picked up the endorsement of John Warner, the senior senator, picked up the endorsement of former Senator George Allen, who at one point was going to be a Republican president candidate himself, a conservative, a former governor.

The endorsements not translating as yet, though, Wolf, into grassroots Republican support, especially among those who would closely associate themselves with former Governor and Senator Allen. Those are the more conservative voters.

Look at the strength of Mike Huckabee out here. In rural western Virginia, southwestern Virginia, that is the evangelical base of the state. Governor Huckabee running very strong out here. But Senator McCain -- and the reason they might feel a little bit better in the campaign of John McCain, just under 40 percent of the vote. That's still a very narrow margin. Senator McCain running ahead by, gosh, just a little more than 1,000 votes here. It's very, very close.

But the reason they can start to feel perhaps a little better in the McCain campaign, Wolf, is this. Look at some of these rural counties. I'm going to pull up these rural counties. They're relatively small, small, 12 percent of vote in there. You move back over here, 76 percent, though most of these counties down here, 86 percent, most of the counties where Huckabee's running strong tend to be small. And most of the votes are counted.

Now let's come over to this part of the state, down in Richmond, John McCain running very well in the capital city of Richmond, only 29 percent of the vote counted, John McCain running up big margins.

Let's pull it back out to the wider state and come up here to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, out here in Fauquier County, not all that much of the population, but John McCain again running up big margins up there.

And, Wolf, as you get in closer to the Washington, D.C., suburbs here, Alexandria City, look at these margins for John McCain. Now, most of the votes counted there already. But move next door. Arlington County went away on me. Let's bring it back out. Gets a little tricky sometimes. We will pull it out. Arlington County comes out with 77 percent of the vote in there. John McCain starting to run up numbers in the northern Virginia suburbs.

And while it's very close right now, if you notice, the areas that are still white on the map, most of them are up here in the more populous Washington suburbs, where John McCain expects to do well.

So, if you're looking at those statewide margins right now, you're still a bit nervous in the McCain campaign, 39 percent of the vote in, a tie in the percentages, John McCain with a very slight lead in the vote count.

But where he is winning, Wolf, where more of the people live in this part of the state, and so they're probably breathing a little bit easier in terms of perhaps pulling out a victory. But they have to be worried about this. This shows you continued strength by Mike Huckabee among conservative rural Republicans.

And just one quick footnote. Watch this. This is the Republican race. That's Mike Huckabee's strength.

Let's go over to the Democratic race. It's also Senator Clinton's strength out -- rural white voters out here in southwestern Virginia, where Barack Obama is running the board in the rest of Virginia. So it's quite a fascinating dynamic in terms of the appeal of Senator Clinton and Governor Huckabee.

But come back to the Republican race here, and this is what matters for John McCain. And where he need to win, Wolf, right down here along the seacoast, so far, the votes still being counted, John McCain running ahead down in the areas where there are evangelical votes, but also military voters here. He is running ahead there by decent margins, as the votes continue to come in, up to 42 percent now, Senator McCain starting to inch ahead just a little bit.

But we will keep watching this one. It's a very competitive race. BLITZER: I'm surprised it's as close. I didn't think it was going to be the close. But even if McCain wins by one vote, he gets all 60 of those delegates. This is one of those states on the Republican side where it's winner-take-all, and there are 63 altogether.


KING: Compared to Governor Huckabee.


KING: So, if he gets 63 more, he starts pulling closer to the finish line.


BLITZER: Sixty elected delegates, three so-called superdelegates.

I want to remind our viewers,, you can get all this information as it comes in to CNN state by state, county by county, in real time,

We're waiting for the first results in Washington, D.C. Those should be coming in soon. The Maryland polls, they are staying open until 9:30 Eastern. A judge made that ruling because of bad weather.

Let's go back to Campbell Brown.

BROWN: All right, Wolf, thanks very much.

Let's check in now with Dana Bash. She is in Alexandria, Virginia, covering the McCain campaign.

And, Dana, we just heard John and Wolf talking about the numbers, a lot closer than McCain would like.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about that. And just to give you some illustration, a little bit of color of how much they understand that inside the McCain campaign, some of his senior advisers, they're not here. They aren't here at the so-called victory party yet. They're over nearby at the John McCain's headquarters, which is in Crystal City, Virginia, not too far from here.

They're poring over models. They're poring over results, trying to figure out exactly what's going on here. They are very, very concerned, Campbell, as you can imagine, because their whole strategy with these three primaries, especially after the big loss that John McCain had in Kansas, was to not just win, but win big in these Potomac primaries, to keep that sense of momentum going for John McCain.

And they were relying on, they said, this adviser I just spoke to, public polls that showed John McCain very far ahead here. That clearly is not panning out here. So, they're, as you can imagine, watching these results very, very closely, very carefully. They might inch across the finish line, and just like Wolf just pointed out, what they're saying at the McCain campaign, that's OK with them, they say, because they will get all of the 63 delegates if they do win -- Campbell.

BROWN: OK. Dana, thanks very much.

And, quickly, we're going to check in with Mary Snow. She's in Little Rock, Arkansas, covering the Huckabee campaign.

And, Mary, I know you spoke just a short time ago to Governor Huckabee. He must be feeling pretty good about how the numbers look now.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is certainly pleased, Campbell, saying that he's already surprising people.

And Huckabee's camp is saying this is going to be a big night for him, because, even if he doesn't win, the fact that he's been so competitive with Senator John McCain is a sign of strength for Mike Huckabee, as he continually courts conservatives and also keeps saying that there's a message there for voters, that they have a choice.

And he's been hammering away at themes like abortions, same-sex marriage, speaking to those conservative voters in Virginia. And they are really hoping that he will come out ahead tonight.

BROWN: OK, Mary Snow for us from Little Rock, Arkansas.

And we should let people know that, in the delegate count, Barack Obama about to overtake Hillary Clinton.

We're going to have a lot more coming up, including numbers coming in shortly from Washington, D.C.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: We want to welcome back our viewers. We're at the CNN Election Center. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

In Virginia, we have projected that Barack Obama is the winner; 47 percent of the precincts have now reported. Almost half of the vote has been counted, 62 percent for Obama, 30 -- now it's moved to 61 percent for Obama, 38 percent for Hillary Clinton.

If we take a look at actual the numbers in Virginia, 219,700 for Obama, 134,304 for Clinton. But Obama wins decisively in Virginia.

A very different picture on the Republican side right now -- 47 percent of the precincts have reported. McCain has a slight advantage, 47 percent, to Huckabee's 45 percent. We will show you the actual numbers. And you can see how they're coming in, 96,800 for McCain, 94,300 or so for Huckabee, 8,600 for Ron Paul. You can also see a lot fewer Republicans are voting in Virginia than Democrats. I think that's been a consistent pattern going out throughout all of these primaries and caucuses, because the Democrats seem to be a lot more energized -- 47 of the precincts reporting, almost half, McCain with a slight advantage over Huckabee. We're watching this very, very closely.

In the state of Maryland, the polls were supposed to close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, about a half-an-hour or so ago, but they have kept the polls open in Maryland -- a judge made that decision -- until 9:30 p.m. Eastern. One hour and two minutes from now, the polls will close in Maryland, the reason being the horrible weather, bad traffic conditions.

And, as a result, they're keeping the polls open in Maryland for another hour or so. We will watch that closely.

The polls did close on time in Washington, D.C., the Republican and Democratic primaries there, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We don't have any results in yet. Once we do, we will share those results with you. We didn't take exit polls in Washington, D.C. As a result, we're not making any projection right now. We don't want to do just based on some guesswork or previous polls that were done in Washington, D.C.

Let's go back to Campbell Brown. She's watching all of this with our analysts -- Campbell.

BROWN: Wolf, thanks very much.

We want to bring everybody up to speed on the delegate count, where things stand right now. And we are going to put the numbers up at the bottom of your screen. This is for the Democrats. For Hillary Clinton, she has a total of 1,064 delegates now; 930 of those are delegates that she won in primaries and caucuses; 234 are superdelegates.

Now, look at Barack Obama, total of 1,159; 1,003 are delegates that he won in contests; 156 are superdelegates. So, right now, Clinton ahead by five delegates. But, as we watch these numbers come in tonight, that could definitely change, and Barack Obama could move into the lead in terms of the delegate count.

I want to move back here and talk a little bit about the superdelegates, the all-important superdelegates. Right now, as we mentioned, Hillary Clinton leading in terms of the number of superdelegates that she has.

But, given the week she's had, and what it looks like tonight in terms of momentum -- she had a big shakeup on her campaign staff, shortages of money -- do you think many of the superdelegates who are supporting her may be getting cold feet?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first and foremost, as per Democratic rules, they can change who they're supporting.

BROWN: Right. MARTIN: So, they have pledged to vote for her. They can indeed change.

Also, I think the superdelegates will be looking at something as well. The Clinton campaign is making the argument that she is more electable. I keep saying, wait a minute. It's a little difficult to make the argument that you're more electable when you keep losing states in your own party.

BROWN: It's premature to say you're electable or you have a better shot against John McCain if you haven't beaten Barack Obama yet.

MARTIN: Right. Still, what she has is a large-state strategy. She's saying, hey, I can win the big states. Forget the small states, they will never come our way. But the problem is she's really trying to play a 271 electoral college vote strategy. But she's saying, look, if I'm the nominee, I'll win New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, maybe Florida. We may pick up Ohio, but the problem there is, she's depending upon frankly, one state flipping in the general campaign. Obama's trying to say my strategy is moving national campaign. So when he says, I have won more states, he thinks that's going to cause the superdelegates to say, you know what, this got to be a better national candidate than Clinton.

BROWN: Can you guys ever imagine a scenario to where Barack Obama might win the popular vote or the number of pledged delegates, but then the superdelegates would essentially defy the popular vote?


AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, conservatives are sitting back and --

BROWN: I mean, it reminds us all of 2000.

HOLMES: Yes. That the rich irony that the Democrats might be facing. Campbell, I talked yesterday to one of Clinton's top fundraiser about the strategy. Where does she go from here? And he said, you know, that they think that they'll be ahead with the superdelegates, but he also said that if Barack Obama is ahead with pledged delegates, and I quote, "There could be a war." This would be a terrible divisive thing for the Democratic Party. It wouldn't make anybody happy.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, what's fascinating about that is even if you look at the models, which I know everybody is. I think Republicans are looking back and saying, if there is a civil war on the Democratic side, that could very much lead to depressing the vote in a lot of areas. And we are talking about a series of 50/50 too close to call elections like we've seen in the last two, and especially the last two. It's clearly an advantage for Republicans. I mean, that's kind of a given.

BROWN: Or when people say, you know, the superdelegates are going to decide it anyway. Why do I need to go out and cast my ballot?


MARTIN: No, no. I don't think so.

SANCHEZ: I think if you're looking at the pressure that they have, it's really hard to say if you have the popular vote that is so tremendously, you know, in line with where American voters are right now, or at least the Democrat votes can go against them.

HOLMES: With the superdelegate argument, it's in a total contradiction of the way the Democrats have set up their primary process, with all this proportional representation. The whole point of it was that no one could walk away with the elites. And if this decided by superdelegates, I think the Democratic Party morally is going to be looking at each other and say what did we just do.

MARTIN: And keep in mind, superdelegates, they put Walter Mondale over the top in 1982.


MARTIN: That's how he beat Gary Hart. So it's not like it hasn't happened.

BROWN: OK. We got to go to Wolf. We're going to make a projection -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN can now project that John McCain will -- will win the state of Virginia, narrowly beating Mike Huckabee in what was a very close competitive race. But based on the exit polls, based on the actual votes that are coming in, based on the numbers still to come, CNN projects that John McCain, the longtime senator from Arizona, will capture the state of Virginia. I assume they are breathing a lot easier because until now, all of the results coming in showed an extremely competitive race in Virginia between John McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Mike Huckabee showing surprising strength in a state where a lot of people thought McCain would win decisively. He will win Virginia. This is a state that has 63 delegates, three of those superdelegates, 60 elected delegates, a winner-take-all state. Add 63 more delegates or at least 60 more delegates into John McCain's column. He will be very, very happy, even winning by a relatively modest size.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's watching all of this very closely. Dana, you're there in Alexandria, Virginia. You're covering McCain. I assume, though, that they're breathing a lot easier right now, but it was a little touch and go over the past hour and a half.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. As you can probably hear, Wolf, they're watching CNN behind me. So they know the results as well. And as CNN reported the fact that we're calling Virginia for John McCain, you can really feel, literally feel the tension come out of the room because there has been a lot of tension in this room as this race in Virginia has looked so incredibly competitive over the past few hours.

And you know, we're waiting for John McCain to get here, waiting for his advisers to probably sort of lift their heads out of the computer models that we understand that they were looking at back at his real headquarters, which is in Crystal City. They're worried all night about this particular race because John McCain didn't just need to win, according to his advisers, in Virginia, in Maryland and in D.C. He needed to win very, very big in order to show that this sort of sense of momentum is going to continue. No, it doesn't take away from the fact that Virginia was a lot closer than they expected, that Mike Huckabee really did very, very well in some of the areas where he appealed to voters that he has done well with all along.

So it doesn't take away from that warning sign and that sort of, you know, big question mark for John McCain about whether or not, despite all of the endorsements, Wolf, that we have been talking about over the past couple of days, whether it would be former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or evangelical leader Gary Bauer, all of those doesn't -- they don't really change the reality on the ground that there are a lot of conservatives who still want anybody but John McCain, and that anybody has been Mike Huckabee.

BLITZER: I assume Dana, that John McCain will speak, address his supporters after the results from Washington, D.C. and Maryland are in. Is that the game plan?

BASH: That is the game plan right now. It might be a little bit later given the fact that Maryland as we've been reporting is going to go a bit later. But we'll keep you posted on when John McCain is going to come out. But the teleprompter is ready. The podium is ready. We're going to see him at some point early this evening.

BLITZER: Now, we'll watch very closely. We're going to carry those speeches. Not only McCain's speech, Obama's speech, Clinton's speech -- all of that coming up. Still a lot more to watch. Let's go back to John King because you have been studying the state of Virginia, John. As you've studied a lot of other states, you've learned a lot about the geography of these states. And in the process, you've covered a lot of these states over the years as well. But, we projected that John McCain will eke out this win tonight.

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You look at all these counties, Wolf, it's one of the few advantages of being old or experienced, we prefer. As we discussed earlier, look at Governor Huckabee. He is winning so big out here in this swathe of Virginia. The problem for Governor Huckabee is this is a largely rural area. Not that many people live out here. So he's winning big in these counties and his margins are quite impressive, Wolf, but he's not -- there aren't simply enough people out here.

Let's pull on these counties. Now, Bedford County, look at that. He's winning 67 percent to 28 percent. The problem for him is this county is not very popular. So while he's posting huge margins there, let's take a look what John McCain is doing over here in the city of Richmond, the capital city of Virginia. John McCain posting similar margins here, only 29 percent of the vote in, and that is how John McCain pulled ahead.

Remember just a short time ago, it was Governor Huckabee who was leading in Virginia. But as this vote has come in, along the eastern side of the state, the Washington, D.C. suburbs, down through Richmond, and now further down here into the naval and military areas down here, he is pulling ahead. I want to clear this so I can show you just a little bit.

Governor Huckabee is giving Senator McCain a bit of a run for his money right here along the coast. Why? You have some Christian evangelical voters and organizations based on here, as well as this naval military communities. So you have Mike Huckabee's base, John McCain's base living side by side. It's about the only part in the state where you see them sort of trading counties. But where the votes are, most of all, are up here in the Washington suburbs, and this is where, as these votes have started to come in, John McCain is running up very impressive numbers leading almost two to one there. Not quite two to one there up in the Washington suburbs.

Let's move over. Come in closer to Washington, D.C. Prince William County, 52 percent for Senator McCain, 36 percent for Governor Huckabee. Let's come up right up against the D.C. border. Arlington County, 68 percent for Senator McCain, 17 percent for Governor Huckabee. And one of the reasons we know John McCain will build his lead just a bit, Wolf, is they are still waiting for Fairfax County, one of the largest suburban counties. And there we go. It just came in. Some of the votes in Fairfax County coming in as we speak. And again, Senator McCain, 63 percent. Governor Huckabee, 25 percent. Only 16 percent of that vote counted.

So if this margin stays anywhere in that ballpark as the rest of that vote comes in the northern Virginia-D.C. counties, well, then Senator McCain will owe his victory to right up in here as we post the numbers. And that's why we know we were able to make that projection because as he starts to win in these counties, the vote is just coming in, and he's winning by very sizable margins.

So as that continues, his final victory margin is likely to be a little bit more comfortable than where we see it statewide right now. It may come back out to statewide, and you can see the numbers. Fifty-seven percent of the vote in, only 47, 44, based on everything we see coming in, especially the fact that most of the rural counties are at or near 100 percent of the count. Senator McCain's lead is likely to grow some, but this is still a wake-up call.

I've been exchanging messages all night long, not only within the McCain campaign as Dana was just noting. Another Republican strategist saying, if John McCain needed any evidence that even though he is the presumptive nominee, that he cannot take the Republican vote for granted, you see it right out here in rural western and southwestern Virginia. Where if this will be a competitive state in the general election, if John McCain is to win it, he needs these people to vote for him.

BLITZER: Sort of reminds me of what happened here in Virginia for John McCain. Getting this win tonight reminded me a little bit of Missouri...

KING: That's true. BLITZER: ... because remember that night on Super Tuesday, they were back and forth. Huckabee was doing surprisingly well. In the end, John McCain eked out a win in Missouri, but it could have gone either way. And very similar geographic and population trends in that state as what we're seeing here in Virginia.

KING: Exactly the same reasons. The rural areas came in first for Huckabee, but as the votes came in where the people are, especially in a lot more moderate Republican suburbs, that's were John McCain pulled it out in Missouri. That's where he's pulling out of Virginia tonight. It shows a strength for him. Those are areas we have a lot of independents, too. The McCain campaign will say, that shows how we're competitive among Democrats, conservative Democrats and independents. But, as much as they can have bragging rights about this area, that's a problem.

BLITZER: We'll see how John McCain and Mike Huckabee do in Washington, D.C. We're waiting for those numbers to come in and Maryland as well. The Maryland polls aren't going to be closing for under an hour now until 9:30 p.m. Eastern because of bad weather. A judge ordered the polls in Maryland to remain open for an extra 90 minutes.

Let's go back to Campbell. And as we do, Campbell, we remind our viewers, our viewers can find a lot of information there, county by county, state by state.

BROWN: All right. Wolf, thanks.

Also ahead, the candidates. We're waiting on both of the candidates to speak. And as Wolf said, you can follow everything at We're going to be back with a lot more analysis from the best political team on television. Stay with us.


BROWN: And we are back with a big win for John McCain tonight in Virginia. Or not a big win. It was actually a pretty competitive race, but a win nonetheless. We want to go now to Bill Schneider for more on the numbers, the latest exit poll data. And, Bill, explain to us how and why he won.

BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was a close one, Campbell, but he did win Virginia. The top issue in Virginia as it is in state after state for both Democrats and Republicans is the economy. How did McCain do among voters who said that was their biggest concern? Now, McCain has said he's not an expert on the economy, but he appears to do better than Mike Huckabee. Fifty-two for McCain, 39 for Huckabee, among voters who said their concern was the economy.

He also did very well, speaking of the economy, among high-income voters. Lower-income voters went for Mike Huckabee, the self- described populist who had a populist economic program. But McCain beat him by 26 points among voters with incomes over $100,000 or more. How many are there? In the Republican Party in Virginia, a pretty wealthy state, there were almost 40 percent of the Republican voters, and that's where McCain really swept Huckabee away.

Now, among those voters who said their biggest issue was Iraq, that's an issue McCain talks about a lot, he says he wants the United States to win in Iraq. There, the Republicans followed him. McCain, 57. Huckabee, 34. Among those voters who said -- Republican voters who said their top concern was Iraq, a little smaller than the economy, but still a significant number. And this is shaping up as a big issue for the general election if McCain is the Republican nominee.

But probably the most important single thing of all, we asked Republican voters, who do you think is the most qualified to be commander in chief? And look at this. McCain, 63. Huckabee, 23. A 40-point margin. McCain is readily seen by Republicans as qualified to be commander in chief. Mike Huckabee has many fine qualities that Republicans admire, but they don't see him as a commander in chief compared to McCain -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Bill, thanks. And let me go to our panel now. I've got to be relieved for the McCain campaign, but there's still a battle under way for the hearts and minds of the Republicans Party.

KING: I think if anything, this showing tonight by Governor Huckabee should convince Senator McCain, don't do one campaign event, and don't do a campaign event in which you say, look, she's endorsed me and she's endorsed me. Tell the voters what it is you want to do for them, and I think they realized this at the McCain camp right now. They're having a transition. They're having meetings now, Campbell, talking about how do they fund-raise more money for the primary campaign, but essentially spend a campaign against the Democrats.

And they're bringing together a very impressive list. They're bringing in the Giuliani people. They're bringing the Romney people. George Bush's number one fundraiser has signed on today, and he's reaching out to other top Bush fundraisers so they are doing the organizational things that are necessary to run a general election campaign. But they better not look all the way past Mike Huckabee in the convention just yet. They need to convince Republicans...


KING: ... look he's going to be their nominee. That is near inevitable. But you can't take people for granted. This has been a year of surprises. And if he ignores people, he may pay a price.

Part of this is just gave them a turnout.

BROWN: Hold that thought for one second. We want to check in with Wolf with an update on the delegate count -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Campbell, thanks very much. We've been crunching the numbers. Our statisticians are experts. And now, for the first time since Iowa, he was ahead when we won the Iowa caucuses, we are now showing, estimating that Barack Obama has actually come up, caught up to Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, and actually surpassed Hillary Clinton. We now estimate that Barack Obama has 1,170 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 1,168 delegates. That includes the elected delegates as well as the superdelegates.

This is how we break it down. Obama has won 1,014 delegates. He has 156 superdelegates we've estimated. That comes to a total of 1,170 based on what we know in Virginia, which we have added to this equation right now. Senator Clinton has won 934 delegates. She has 234 superdelegates. That brings her total to 1,168. So he is ahead right now by two delegates over Hillary Clinton.

Remember, the all -- the all-important number of 2,025, that's what they need in order to be the Democratic presidential nominee. That's what will have to happen at the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of the summer. But right now, right now, we estimate that Barack Obama has moved ahead of Hillary Clinton in this all-important delegate count. I guess that number will continue to change, Campbell, as the night goes on, once we start getting results from Washington, D.C. which we don't have yet, and then later once the polls close in Maryland.

BROWN: Both expected to be strong states for Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Expected, but let's wait and see.

BROWN: Let's wait and see. All right. Let's check in actually and get some reaction from Donna Brazile, who's joining us from Washington on the change in the delegate numbers, Donna.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not surprised. Again, Barack is racking up a lot of votes out there, and that, of course, would translate into pledged delegates. And that's a great thing because I think the pledged delegates, 80 percent of the people who will nominate the next president of the United States really need to have a strong voice in this process. And it's clear tonight they will have a strong voice.

Look, Senator Clinton is not out of it. She is going to now build a firewall in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in Texas, and she is going to try to continue accumulate delegates to keep this thing close. But right now, tonight, Barack Obama will be on a roll. I don't know what the results in D.C., in Maryland, of course. But just looking at the numbers in Virginia, knowing what their strategy is to accumulate pledged delegates, Obama is now moving beyond the latte drink in Starbucks type and to the Dunkin' Donuts type.

BROWN: Yes. All right. Donna Brazile in Washington. And really quick to our panel. We don't have a ton of time. Is it fair to call him the front-runner now?


BROWN: I mean two delegates.

TOOBIN: Well, no. But that number -- that number is misleadingly close because it includes the superdelegates who overwhelmingly favor Clinton at the moment. But they will be like birds off a wire if this starts to be a roll towards Obama in the primaries and in the caucuses. So in the pledged delegates, he's already substantially ahead and will wind up even more ahead at the end of tonight.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The big thing we have to look at in these votes tonight is whether the established patterns remain of each of their coalitions. And from looking at this particular Virginia vote tonight, we can see that Barack Obama did very well with white voters. He did well with women. He did well with low-income voters. Those are her people, so we'll have to see if this is just a one-state wonder or if it holds.

BROWN: OK. We've got to take a break. We have some news when we come back. A resignation to report on in the Clinton campaign. We'll have all the details. Stay with us. And all the information -- follow it as We'll be back right after this.


BLITZER: Just want to update you on the all-important delegate count which is constantly changing. Based on our estimate right now, Barack Obama has pulled ahead, ahead of Hillary Clinton. He now has 1,170 to Hillary Clinton's 1,168. Those are pledged delegates. Those are the delegates elected in the primaries and the caucuses as well as the so-called superdelegates.

So far tonight, we projected 25 delegates going for Obama, mostly obviously from Virginia. Eleven going for Senator Clinton. But he is slightly ahead now in the overall delegate count. On the Republican side, McCain maintaining his advantage. He gets all 60 of those delegates from Virginia since he's carried Virginia based on our projection. Virginia, being one of those winner-take-all states on the Republican side, he has 783 delegates to 217 for Huckabee, 16 for Ron Paul. One thousand one hundred ninety-one, that's the magic number. That's the magic number for the Republican presidential nominee.

We're waiting for the numbers to start coming in from Washington, D.C., where the polls closed almost an hour or so ago. We didn't take any exit polls in Washington, D.C., so we don't have any exit polls to project a winner on. As soon as the numbers come in, we'll share those with you. And we're waiting for the state of Maryland.

Maryland -- the polls were extended for 90 minutes because of horrible weather in parts of the state. The polls will close in Maryland at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, a little bit more than half an hour or so from now. Once they close, once they close, we'll be able to tell you what's going on in the state of Maryland. Important states.

I want to go to Candy Crowley and Suzanne Malveaux. They're both standing by. Candy, there's been a shakeup in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Yet another departure of a top official. What are you learning?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning the deputy campaign manager in the Clinton campaign, Mike Henry, has indeed resigned. He's telling I think here is not that he resigned because it was somewhat expected. He was brought into the campaign by Patti Solis Doyle, who was the campaign manager, and she left over the weekend. But I want to read you something from his note to the staff which tells you a little bit about the sink (ph) he was in the Clinton campaign at this point. He wrote, "As someone who has managed campaigns, I share the unique understanding of the challenges that this campaign will face over the next several weeks. Our campaign needs to move quickly to build a new leadership team, support them and their decisions and make the necessary adjustments to achieve the winning outcome for which we have all worked so hard."

So, obviously, a lot of recognition inside the Clinton camp, which we have been told by sources before. That they really need some new energy in there and a little bit of new direction. Obviously, they see that the Obama threat just grows stronger as the evening wears on. Now, we're also told that his resignation, we could say, did not come tonight. It came a couple of days ago. It's just coming out tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. The campaign manager and the deputy campaign manager, both of them from the Clinton campaign now are gone. Others are coming in. Maggie Williams, a longtime Clinton aide, the new Clinton manager. That was announced a few days ago. Thanks, Candy, very much.

Suzanne Malveaux is over with the Clinton camp in El Paso, Texas, which has its own primary coming up on March 4th. What are you hearing, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one of the reasons why you have this campaign shakeup is that many insiders say that they really did not anticipate that this campaign was going to last this long. They believed that it was going to be wrapped up by Super Tuesday, and essentially that she would go forward.

And so, a lot of the things that you're hearing of the complaints from the campaign itself was that the money was spent too quickly in January. They didn't have the same kind of funds to put out the advertising to be competitive with Barack Obama in the first couple of months of the year. And that is because they really thought that they would be a lot stronger up to this point. So what they're saying is really a protracted fight with Barack Obama, a much stronger foe than they ever imagined. So they are looking forward.

Why are they are looking forward? They haven't done so well this evening. They didn't do so well back at Super Tuesday. Relatively speaking, they thought they'd be in a much stronger position. So they're looking at March 4th as really kind of the next firewall, if you will, states like Texas and Ohio, even on to April, looking at Pennsylvania. That is what they're hoping for -- the big states here.

But, Wolf, you can believe me, they did not expect that this was going to be something that they would have to pour the kind of resources and to have this kind of campaign shakeup at this point in the game -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. I want to go back to Campbell who's watching all of this with our analysts. You know, a major shakeup happened in the McCain camp a bit last summer when there was a shakeup. It's a little late to start shaking things up at this late moment right now.

BROWN: No. Not a lot of time between Texas and Ohio ahead for them to sort of get in gear. And let's talk to Jessica Yellin about that, because you have been covering the Democrats on both sides since the beginning. What's your reaction?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is something that really signals to Senator Clinton's donors and her endorsers that they're trying to do something to improve the scenario. It's not really likely to change much in her actual campaign and the way it functions. We're not giving any indication that we'll hear a different message from her or that her strategy will be different in any way.

What this really says is, look, we know that there's issues and problems and we're going to try to focus on fixing them. I want to point out one important data point that I think this is the one thing the Clintons are hanging their hat on right now. Who decided to vote today? If you look at the late-breakers in Virginia, 51 percent voted for Clinton or 51 percent of Clinton, 48 percent Obama. That's positive news for her.

BROWN: OK. Hillary Clinton coming out to speak, so we want to go back to Wolf and take a look.

BLITZER: All right. She's going to be speaking here in Texas at this Clinton rally, Campbell.