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Potomac Voters Head to Polls; Does Race Factor into Potomac Primary Results?; Will Huckabee Continue With McCain as the Front- runner

Aired February 12, 2008 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, three new tests for the presidential candidates. Voters in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. are having their say. Will they push this marathon race for the White House much farther along?

Democrat Barack Obama is setting his sights on wins tonight. But his rival, Hillary Clinton, can't stop thinking about tomorrow.

And Republican John McCain returns to his Senate stomping grounds. Can he persuade his colleagues to rally behind him while Mike Huckabee keeps the pressure on?

I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center, along with the best political team on television, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The presidential candidates are awaiting the first results from the Potomac primaries. And so are we. Polls will close in Virginia less than one hour from now.

In the close Democratic race, 168 delegates are up for grabs in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. -- 113 delegates are at stake for the Republicans in the voting that's still going on right now. Let's begin our coverage with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fighting for every vote and especially for every single delegate. Let's go to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's watching the story for us.

Jessica, what's going on, on this very important day?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, there's this big voting going on in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. But Senator Clinton isn't even there. The Clinton camp is not planning any victory parties tonight. They say they do not need to win today in order to get the nomination, but they know Barack Obama is riding a winning streak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our goal is to win the most delegates from the voters. And if we have accomplished that, I think we're going to be able to lay fair claim to the nomination. YELLIN (voice over): And today's primaries are expected to give the senator from Illinois a boost. With a large number of African- American and affluent white voters in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, the demographics appear to favor Obama. He's done very well with such voters in caucuses and primaries so far this year. But he's lowering expectations.

OBAMA: I don't win until I win. I was expecting to win in New Hampshire. We lost. I remember that. I remember exit polls showing me up by two in Massachusetts. I lost by 15. We're never expecting to win.

YELLIN: Hillary Clinton isn't waving the white flag in today's contests, but she appears to be downplaying them.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. I have been through all of that.

YELLIN: The senator from New York is looking ahead to delegate- rich Texas and Ohio, which vote March 4th. Ohio, with its working- class voters, and Texas, with a large number of Latino voters, seem like friendly territory for Clinton.

CLINTON: You know, I have a very strong campaign already on the ground in Ohio, in Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Texas and Ohio don't vote for three weeks, and a political hat trick by Obama today following his sweep of five contests over the weekend, it could give him some powerful momentum, that is, if momentum even exists in this usual presidential contest -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you.

Let's go to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux right now. She's joining us in El Paso, Texas.

Suzanne, it sounds like the Hillary Clinton campaign wants to put today's primaries behind them. They're looking ahead to Texas, and Ohio, for that matter, which is, what, March 4th.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, we have kind of seen this pattern before, this strategy. You remember when she was losing badly in South Carolina, she didn't stick around for the results. Rather, she made a trip to Tennessee where she started to campaign immediately. So it's no surprise that she obviously is on her way here to Texas.

Now, what they are arguing here, several insiders in her camp, they are acknowledging they do believe that Barack Obama is going to basically sweep the Potomac primaries. They say he ran a good campaign, but they say that is not necessarily going to get him the nomination. They are very clear that they're looking at three big states, Texas, as well as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They believe, if she can get those three, it's a lot more representative of the traditional Democrats that are needed to win the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: (voice-over): Anticipating another bad night at the polls, Senator Hillary Clinton is saying goodbye to the Potomac primaries. She's already in Texas with her eye on the big prize.

H. CLINTON: As we now move into this two-person race with the big states up ahead, Ohio, Michigan, obviously -- I mean, Ohio and Texas -- we're going to see a real focus on the differences between us.

MALVEAUX: One hundred and ninety-three delegates up for grabs here, where she's counting on the Latino community to deliver. Latinos could make up anywhere from a quarter to a half of the Democratic voters in Texas. Hispanics helped put Mrs. Clinton over the top in primaries in California and New York. While both Clintons have strong support here, the senator's biggest challenge will be to blunt Barack Obama's momentum.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator Clinton has to win Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If she wins those three, she's probably the nominee. If she loses one of those three, then Senator Obama is going to probably be the nominee. That's a fact.

MALVEAUX: Campaigning in this state of 23 million people is expensive.

H. CLINTON: What I try to do every day is figure out how to help somebody.

MALVEAUX: There are more than two dozen TV markets in Texas where Obama and Clinton have dueling ads competing for voters' attention. All eyes will be on their next face-to-face debate in Austin next week for a high-stakes Texas-sized showdown.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, as you know, that debate being hosted by CNN and Univision, that is a week from this Thursday. Advisers inside of her campaign realize this is a fight over the delegates but also it is about perception and momentum. They realize what is going to be the real challenge in the next two weeks is to make sure that those nearly 800 superdelegates, those party officials that get to vote one way or the other at the convention essentially think and believe that she's electable, that she's still a winner.

Same thing with those who could possibly endorse her, that it is worth it to wait those couple weeks to see what happens, what plays out in those big states in the weeks ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you.

John McCain is hoping to move closer to clinching the Republican presidential nomination when the Potomac primaries are decided tonight, but he still has Mike Huckabee on his back and he still has to convince many conservatives he's their candidate. Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She is watching the story for us.

He had an opportunity to reach out to some of his colleagues today, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He did, and for the first time in a very, very long time, Wolf, he attended the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon. There, we are told that he got -- that he was able to speak, that he got a warm reception, even a round of applause and a standing ovation.

But we're also told that behind the scenes John McCain's message is very similar to what it is in public, that he hopes his colleagues on the Republican side are behind him. He hopes to unite the party behind him, but knows he has a lot of work to do.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice over): Off the campaign trail and back to a familiar place, his day job in the Senate. But John McCain's first face-to- face encounter with Senate GOP colleagues in a while is a prime chance to overcome his biggest challenge now.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Party unity, all work together, get our candidates elected and re-elected. You know, kind of a get-together and talk about their agenda, as well as mine.

BASH (on camera): Are you going to encourage them to get behind you and talk about...

MCCAIN: Oh, yes. But they know me well enough. I just need to talk about how we want to move forward and how we need to continue to try to unify the party.

BASH (voice over): McCain is now in campaign Never-Never-Land. Not yet the GOP nominee, but mathematically almost there. Ahead of three Tuesday primaries he must win, his campaign schedule is remarkably light. McCain tells CNN he's quietly working on his transition -- how to keep his edge and find a clear message.

MCCAIN: One of the things I spent the day doing was talking about, if I'm fortunate to get the nomination, to keep doing what I did in the primary -- the bus, the town hall meetings, the kind of environment that we were able to create. You don't want to get into one of these detached, you know, kinds of things where you lose touch with people, and you lose, frankly, the way you got to the dance.

BASH (on camera): How do you do that?

MCCAIN: Well, we will have town hall meetings. And we will have a bus for jerks like you to come on and spend time with us.

BASH (voice over): Meanwhile, showing up on the Senate floor means encounters of all kinds, even with Democrat Barack Obama. The two men chatted it up during crucial national security votes they could use against each other in the race for president, if either gets the chance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Wolf, you heard John McCain talk about "jerks like you," talking to me. We should clarify to our viewers, if you couldn't tell from John McCain's smile on his face, that he was definitely kidding there. In fact, that term, jerk, and a couple of others are, if you can believe it, terms of endearment that he uses for reporters who travel with him on his bus and elsewhere. So, that definitely was a joke from John McCain.

As far as Mike Huckabee goes, Wolf, Mike Huckabee didn't have any campaign events today. In fact, he's not even here in the area. He's now back in his home state of Arkansas. He will be watching the returns tonight from there. On his plane on the way to Little Rock, he insisted again, once again, to reporters that, despite his long odds, he is going to be in it until somebody reaches that magic number of 1,191. That is the number of delegates needed for the nomination -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Alexandria, Virginia -- thank you, Dana.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's here in "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Mike Huckabee has to be a source of some discomfort, I would think, to John McCain. Every state that he's in where he does reasonably well, that has to be a kind of a source of embarrassment to the presumed nominee, I would think.

BLITZER: Right, just a little bit, yes, sure.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

Hillary Clinton promising -- promising -- that in her White House there will not be any new scandals involving her husband, the former President Bill Clinton. She was asked in an interview how people can be certain that a new personal or business scandal won't erupt that Republicans could use to blow her agenda and administration out of the water.

And Hillary Clinton said this, "You know, I can assure this reader that that is not going to happen. You know, none of us can predict the future, no matter who we are and what we're running for, but I'm very confident that that will not happen."

History suggests otherwise. Bill Clinton's eight years in the White House plagued by one scandal after another, Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, his impeachment. In the same interview, Hillary was asked what kind of role her husband would play in her administration. She said he wouldn't be a shadow prime minister or secretary of state.

But she did point to a couple of other roles that he could play, that of a sounding board, which is a traditional role for family members of presidents. And Hillary says that, as a former president, Bill Clinton would be well-suited to help repair America's image overseas.

So, here's the question: Hillary Clinton promises no new scandals involving her husband. Do you believe her?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment there on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much. Stand by for the best political team on television as well.

CAFFERTY: Are they here tonight?

BLITZER: You, too.

CAFFERTY: Oh, OK.

BLITZER: You're part of that team. Jack Cafferty will be back.

And we're less than 50 minutes away from the first poll closings in today's Potomac primaries. Barack Obama hoping to add to his recent wins, but might Hillary Clinton stop that? I will talk to her former White House press secretary, Lisa Caputo.

And a Russian bomber buzzes a U.S. aircraft carrier. We told you about the story yesterday. U.S. fighter planes stepped in to act. Now we have some new pictures.

And what's helping voters pick their candidate? We have results of the exit polls from today's races. Bill Schneider going to share some of those numbers with us -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Barack Obama is on a roll right now, and the Hillary Clinton camp is trying to roll with the punches. They're already looking ahead to some big-state primaries which are coming up. They're now seen by the Hillary Clinton campaign as must-win contests.

Let's talk about this and more with Lisa Caputo. She's Hillary Clinton's former White House press secretary. She's joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Lisa, thanks for coming in.

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, my pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: How much trouble is the former first lady, the current senator, in right now?

CAPUTO: Well, I think no one in the campaign expected to do well tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Why? Why is that? Because Maryland is a state where there's a lot of Democrats, obviously. It's a pretty Democratic state. Virginia, especially in the northern part, a lot of Democrats there.

CAPUTO: I think, post-Super Tuesday, it was abundantly clear Obama going into the states post-Super Tuesday, they were Obama states. And what the Clinton campaign is focused on are the big states on March 4th, Texas and Ohio, and then Pennsylvania. If she captures those big states...

BLITZER: Which is at the end of April.

CAPUTO: Yes. So, you're going to have that lag.

BLITZER: And so you're writing off Wisconsin and Hawaii next week?

CAPUTO: Wisconsin -- I wouldn't write off either of those. But I think, if you have to prioritize, those are the big three, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania. And don't forget, she has the endorsement of Ed Rendell. That's key in Pennsylvania. She's got the endorsement of Ted Strickland and John Glenn in Ohio. That's key. And she does hugely well with Hispanics. And that's key to Texas.

BLITZER: But the fact that Obama is going to go into those contests with, what, winning nine or 10 or 11 straight contests, that's a lot of momentum, as they say in the political world.

CAPUTO: It's a lot of momentum for those in the media world. Let's not forget the process of how you elect a nominee. It's all about delegates. And the delegates are key to this equation. It's not just the popular vote and how many states you win. It's all about the delegates you capture in these contests. And that is what elects the nominee.

BLITZER: Tom DeFrank, who is a well-known reporter for "The New York Daily News," he wrote this. He said, "Suddenly, against all odds, the once mighty Clinton campaign is beginning to feel like the last days of Pompeii."

(LAUGHTER)

CAPUTO: As an Italian, I don't feel like it's the last days of Pompeii at all. I will say this. When the going gets tough, the Clintons get going. And, Wolf, you have covered both Clintons for a long time. She is fighting this right down to the wire. And, you know, I think that they are pouring all the resources into those key states. Don't forget, she just raised $10 million online in a very short period of time coming out of Super Tuesday. So, I think it will be a contest certainly over the next couple of months.

BLITZER: Because, you know, you see the fact that she had to lend her campaign, what, $5 million. Now some money is coming in. But he's outraising her, by some estimates, 2-1. CAPUTO: But you know what, Wolf? I have to tell you, I talked to a couple of fund-raisers today and also yesterday. If anything, they have grown more stalwart in their support and are out raising money big-time. So, I think that don't count anybody out, certainly, but I think this is a contest that's going to go on for quite a while.

BLITZER: So, you think it could go well beyond March 4th and into the end of April, when Pennsylvania is going to have their primary?

CAPUTO: I think we will be having a different talk about momentum after March 4th if Hillary Clinton captures Texas and Ohio, where she has very strong labor roots, very strong Hispanic roots, as I said earlier, in Texas.

BLITZER: What do you want, as somebody who clearly supports Hillary Clinton, to happen with the voters, the Democrats, in Michigan and Florida who were stripped of any delegates because they moved up their primaries before Super Tuesday?

CAPUTO: Well, I look -- Hillary Clinton has been very clear about that. I mean, she went to Florida and thanked them for their votes.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: She didn't campaign there and he didn't campaign there. And his name was not even on the ballot in Michigan.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO: Right, because of the Democratic National Committee situation there. But I think that, look, we just have to wait and see.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Do you want them to have caucuses now, those two states? Because it's unlikely they could organize a primary, given the expense.

CAPUTO: No, I think they have spoken. I those states have spoken.

BLITZER: Well, they haven't really spoken because no one campaigned there. Her name and Dennis Kucinich's name were on the ballot in Michigan. Barack Obama's name was not even on the ballot.

CAPUTO: But she won those states.

BLITZER: I know, but that's not exactly fair, considering his name wasn't even on the ballot or that they couldn't -- none of them could even campaign there.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO: That's a Democratic National Committee process issue.

BLITZER: But you can't say she won those states.

CAPUTO: But she did win the states.

BLITZER: With all of his hands tied behind his back?

CAPUTO: Well, you could make the same argument in caucuses, where Hillary Clinton perhaps didn't invest any money.

BLITZER: But she could do whatever she -- she had a lot of money. She had $100 million. She could do whatever she wanted in those states.

(CROSSTALK)

CAPUTO: Well, I think watch for March 4th.

BLITZER: Why does he do so much better in caucuses? He's won almost all of them, as opposed to Hillary Clinton.

CAPUTO: I think, with Senator Obama, don't forget what his roots are. He is a community organizer by trade. And he is a very exceptional political organizer. And I think that's what you see. You see a lot of grassroots organizing. I think it's been the real centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency.

In the last -- earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM, we spoke to John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, who's a huge supporter of Barack Obama, and now Lisa Caputo. She's a huge supporter of her former boss, Senator Clinton.

CAPUTO: I'm sorry that Senator Kerry didn't deliver Massachusetts for Senator Obama.

BLITZER: What are you going to deliver for Hillary Clinton?

CAPUTO: We're going to deliver Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Well, you should say...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Say, "I delivered New York."

(LAUGHTER)

CAPUTO: I delivered New York?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Because you live here in New York.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPUTO: OK, Wolf. BLITZER: Lisa Caputo, thanks very much for coming in.

CAPUTO: Nice to see you.

BLITZER: The government throws out a lifeline. Homeowners drowning in mortgage debt, they now get some more time to deal with creditors and try to stave off foreclosure. We're watching the story.

And echoes of the Cold War -- a Russian bomber buzzes a U.S. aircraft carrier, intercepted by U.S. jets. We told you about the story yesterday, but now we have got the pictures.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: We're waiting to find out who voters in the Potomac primaries like best. We're also going to find out why. Still ahead, another round of exit poll numbers will give us some early and important clues. We're going to be hearing momentarily from Bill Schneider. He's crunching these numbers.

Plus, could Hillary Clinton beat John McCain in the general election? The best political team on television standing by for that and more.

And, instead of a celebration, the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of the summer could turn out to be an ugly fight among the superdelegates. People are bracing for the worst online by demanding names.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, we're just a little bit more than 30 minutes away from the first poll closings in the Potomac primaries. We're getting new exit poll information. The polls will close in Virginia at the top of the hour. We're going to show you what's on the voters' minds right now and what it may mean for the candidates.

And John McCain's vice presidential running mate if -- and it's still an if -- if he wins the nomination. We will take a closer look at who might be on the short list and who should be on the short list. That's coming up.

Plus, they could turn the Democratic race upside down. We will tell you and we will show you what you need to know about the party's so-called super-delegates-- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. But first, new exit polls coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now from the Potomac primaries. They give us a good sense of what's on the voters' minds as they're casting these ballots today in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching all of this for us.

What are we learning from these exit polls -- Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, on Saturday in Louisiana, we saw a striking racial split in the Democratic vote. Whites went strongly for Hillary Clinton, African- American voters in Louisiana went strongly for Obama.

Is that trend continuing today in Virginia and Maryland? Let's take a look. These are the Clinton voters in Maryland. They are still overwhelmingly white voters. Three quarters of her vote is white, only 11 percent African-American.

But now let's look at the Obama voters today in Maryland. You get a very different picture. You get a much more even split than we saw in Louisiana. Just 52 percent of the Obama voters are African- American. He gets a very strong vote from whites. Forty-one percent of the Obama voters in Maryland today are white voters.

Now let's look at Virginia, which, like Louisiana, is a Southern state. Let's look at the Clinton voters in Virginia. Again, overwhelmingly white -- 84 percent of the Clinton voters are white.

What about Obama voters in this Southern state of Virginia? Look at this -- white, 49; African-American, 43. The Obama vote is split just about evenly between black and white voters -- very different from what we saw in Louisiana. Virginia is not a Deep Southern state. And what it suggests is that Obama is creating a very biracial coalition. We haven't seen that this strikingly before and it's happening in a Southern state.

And finally we asked the Clinton voters in Virginia, what quality were you looking for in your candidate? Number one, by far, they were looking for a candidate who could bring experience to the job. Change much lower. Electability a negligible quality.

Now let's look at the Obama voters in Virginia. What were they looking for? He said he wanted to bring about change, guess what? They got the cue. Seventy-five percent said they wanted a candidate who could bring about change. Again, electability is a very minor consideration for both Obama voters and Clinton voters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bill, thanks very much.

Let's talk a little bit about what's happening today in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Hillary Clinton's campaign, as we just heard from Lisa Caputo, her former White House press secretary, clearly lowering expectations for tonight. Joining us are three experts -- in fact, the best political team on television -- Jeff Toobin, Jack Cafferty and Gloria Borger. What's going on, Jack, because you're looking at this is pretty closely. And we're going to soon be getting some results coming in, first from Virginia, then Maryland and D.C.

CAFFERTY: Well, one of the things that jumped out at me watching those polls that Bill was just doing is the amount of white support that Barack Obama is getting in Maryland and Virginia. It's not just African-Americans that vote for this guy. I think the key to watching these Potomac races is look for the margins of victory.

If the polls are right, if it's going to be a good night for Barack Obama, look at the margin of victory. He absolutely crushed her last weekend in places like Nebraska and Washington. I mean it wasn't even close. It was two to one, two-and-a-half to one. If you see those kinds of numbers begin to reemerge, this is a -- it's a runaway train.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. And I also think the thing we have to look at tonight is whether the coalition that's been voting for Hillary Clinton and the coalition that's been voting for Barack Obama starts to shift, whether -- if he wins tonight -- if he gets some of the voters that she has been gaining handily. And that's going to be interesting, because then it would mean that he would be making inroads that you could see in races to come. We have to look at that -- Wolf.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think the Clinton campaign would be wise to stop talking about the process, about expectations and all that. I mean they have to win elections. And because, you know, this is one of the things -- Hillary Clinton was talking about well, her supporters don't come out for caucuses because they have jobs and they're hard-working. Well, these three are primaries. So, so much for that argument. I just think, you know, when campaigns start talking about the process, they rarely make any good points.

BLITZER: You know, that's a good point that Jeff makes, because if you take a look at like I know well, Maryland and Virginia -- because I live in that area -- by all accounts, she should be pretty competitive in these kinds of states.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It was interesting to me, too, you interviewed her former press secretary. When you begin grasping at straws like she won Michigan, where Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: This is not a good sign.

BLITZER: No. And in Florida, too, where nobody could campaign.

CAFFERTY: No.

BLITZER: And so it's -- it's a serious situation. CAFFERTY: I mean as it stands right now, none of those delegates will be seated and will have absolutely nothing to say who the nominee is anyway.

BORGER: You know, I think this is a campaign -- the Clinton campaign -- that expected to wrap it up on Super Tuesday. And what we're seeing is a campaign that was kind of surprised by the results they received and really didn't have a plan beyond wrapping it up on Super Tuesday.

And the Obama campaign did not expect to wrap it up, so they've been working in all of these states, like the ones we're seeing tonight. And I think that makes a difference.

BLITZER: You know, Jeff, when you look at the generic poll, without any names attached -- do you want to support a Democrat or a Republican -- in all these recent polls, the Democrats crush the Republicans. But then when you attach names to it -- and let's give you these hypothetical examples in this latest "USA Today"/Gallup poll on Clinton versus McCain -- 48 percent for Clinton, 49 percent for McCain, well within the four percent sampling error. Obama/McCain -- Obama, 50 percent; McCain, 46 percent. That's also within that four point sampling error. What does it say to you that when the names are attached, it's very competitive. When there's no names, the Democrats win.

TOOBIN: It says two things. One, John McCain is a very well- known politician, he's well respected. The other thing it says is I don't believe any general election polls in February.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean these polls will change a lot. What matters are polls of elections that are coming up in a week, in a day. You know, if you look at any election -- general election over the past 20 years, they change so much over the last 10 months, I really wouldn't put a lot of stock into it.

BORGER: Can I just say one thing? Rudy Giuliani number one in the national polls among Republicans in mid-December. What did that do for him?

CAFFERTY: And the other thing that's not in that equation is the independents. And the independents traditionally are the ones who decide these things anyway and they're not being measured in that particular methodology.

BLITZER: All right guys, stand by, because we want to talk about the Republicans. They have contests coming up tonight. We're going to be getting some numbers pretty soon in Virginia. The polls closing at the top of the hour, then an hour later in Maryland and D.C. .

When we come back, we'll talk about the thorn in John McCain's side. That would be Mike Huckabee. It's virtually impossible for the numbers to fall his way. So how long will he stay in the race? We're watching this story very, very carefully. Plus, super-delegates, they could decide the Democratic race. We're going to show you who they are, why they have so much power. Who are these people?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee -- he's vowing to stay in this race all the way through. Let's talk about that and more.

Jack Cafferty, what's it going to take for Mike Huckabee to drop out of this race?

CAFFERTY: It will take -- John McCain needs to call him on the phone and say look, if you want to be on the short list of vice presidential nominees, get the hell out and let me win this thing. Otherwise, I'll get somebody else to be on the ticket with me. I don't know why he's staying in. I mean, mathematically, he can't get there from here, but he's hanging out.

BLITZER: He could do well in Texas...

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: Even if he doesn't do well tonight in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. , he could do well in Texas, where he's got some following.

BORGER: Right. Can I just say, from Mike Huckabee's point of view, he's having a lot of fun. As he points out, he doesn't have another job. This is not a nasty campaign. As long as he and McCain don't keep -- don't go at each other, it's perfectly fine.

CAFFERTY: But it's embarrassing.

BORGER: No, it's fine. It's perfectly fine.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Why is it fine? I mean when he may do well in Texas...

BORGER: It's fine.

TOOBIN: This is not an event where you get a silver medal.

BORGER: Fine...

TOOBIN: You know, I mean this is not something where...

BORGER: Yes, but if...

TOOBIN: ... it matters if it you finish second.

BORGER: But at some point he anoints John McCain and says I'm with John McCain and he's had a lot of fun and he does fine.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And it's no problem.

CAFFERTY: Wait a minute. The other thing in this is that...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I think he's starting to look ridiculous, frankly.

CAFFERTY: Well, he is. I mean, you know, McCain has got to unify the Republican Party. And if we go week after week after week and Huckabee is sucking the conservative votes away from John McCain, it's just drawing attention to the fact that McCain doesn't have a lot of...

BLITZER: Is it embarrassing, though? It could be embarrassing to McCain.

CAFFERTY: Of course it is.

TOOBIN: It could be. Well, particularly like last week, when he did very well in Washington -- although we still don't know the who won in Washington. But he won in...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: He won in Louisiana. And then he won in...

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE).

TOOBIN: And he won by a wide margin in Kansas. So, you know, that's not embarrassing. But if he starts to lose (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: It's embarrassing for McCain, though.

TOOBIN: It's embarrassing for McCain, of course.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

TOOBIN: But -- and that's why, if he really believes that the goal is to elect a Republican president, embarrassing the nominee of his party is not a very good strategy.

BORGER: But, you know, I don't think it embarrasses McCain. I mean these...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well, they're not fighting with each other.

TOOBIN: Wait, the non --

BORGER: They're not, because it's just...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Because when Huckabee then endorses McCain, it's going to be a bigger deal. And, by the way, Huckabee wants to go to the convention with more delegates than Mitt Romney.

TOOBIN: Is he really that petty?

CAFFERTY: Why?

BORGER: He does.

CAFFERTY: I mean, why?

BORGER: He does.

CAFFERTY: What difference does that make?

BORGER: Because he'll be a bigger deal.

TOOBIN: Really?

BORGER: He'll be a bigger deal. And he's having fun. I don't think it's -- I don't think it's that terrible.

TOOBIN: I'm glad you're so pro-fun, Gloria.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: I mean that is a value that we need to...

BORGER: I don't think it's that -- I don't think it's that terrible.

BLITZER: I mean we talked about it earlier -- would McCain consider Huckabee seriously as a running mate?

BORGER: No, I don't think so.

BLITZER: Because a lot of conservatives -- they may have problems about McCain, but they also have problems with Huckabee.

TOOBIN: Have problems with Huckabee. That's the problem for Huckabee.

BORGER: They do. They do. He's not a tax cutter. He's not conservative enough for them. I think if he can get Huckabee on the campaign trail for him, that would do him a lot of good.

BLITZER: Do you agree?

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. And it may just come down to nothing more than the endorsement and him saying look, here are all my delegates and you're a terrific guy. Maybe Gloria is right. But there aren't a whole lot of Republican who have the kind of cachet and popularity out there that I see that Huckabee has enjoyed. People like Mike Huckabee. BLITZER: All right guys, don't go anywhere. You're going to -- we've got a long night ahead of us. We're going to be talking throughout the night. We've still got "The Cafferty File" coming up, as well.

So who exactly are these super-delegates that we're hearing so much about? Can we get information online about it? Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

She's taking a closer look at this -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, who are they, where are they throughout the country and which way are they leaning?

Well, those are questions that are attempting to be answered on this site here. This is from SuperDelegates.org, a new site which is through Google Maps, trying to pinpoint where these super-delegates are across the country and asking people who update the site with information anyone can edit about which way they're leaning. It's by a tech executive who says he's a supporter of Obama, but anyone can go in and change this. And it's about 60 percent populated right now and more coming in all the time.

Of course, CNN is this constant contact with the super-delegates, constantly updating our site with the totals. Right now, Hillary Clinton out front, with 234, by our count. Barack Obama is behind Hillary Clinton. This is a site you're going to be wanting to watch tonight, as well, as the information from the Potomac primaries comes in. It's going to be happening starting from about 10 minutes from now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. Let's go back to Jack.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Hillary Clinton told an interviewer that there would be no concern at all in an administration of hers about any sort of scandal involving her husband.

So that's the question: Hillary Clinton says no new scandals involving Bill. Do you believe her?

Nick writes: "She shouldn't be making promises she can't keep. Who knows what her husband is doing behind her back right now? If he was capable of hiding previous offenses, he might be doing the same now, and she's got her eye on the White House. She might wind up having to eat those words."

Kat writes: "Really, this is unfair. True, scandals and problems riddled Bill Clinton's presidency. However, Hillary has not had an administration, so there is no basis for this question. She should be judged on her own history."

Shane in Maryland says: "Scandals or no scandals, bring back the Clinton days. I could care less what the Clintons did in their private lives, they're darned good at running this country. And right now, we need people who know what they're doing to clean up the mess that Bush has created."

Clay in Oregon writes: "Considering her husband has already been at the center of a full small scale scandals since the beginning of primary season, it's hard to believe that Senator Clinton would be able to reign him in for four years of non-stop scrutiny."

Carmen says: "I trust Hillary when she says that Americans need not worry about scandals unfolding behind her White House doors. But, really, I think the issue at hand is how unimportant that it. Hillary is running for president not Bill."

Sandra writes: "I absolutely don't believe her. This is my big problem with the Clintons -- I don't trust them. They've shown us time and again they don't deserve our trust. I think they would use every dirty trick in the book if they thought they could get away with it."

And Anne writes: "A leopard doesn't change its spots. History doesn't agree with what Hillary is saying." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

We're only minutes away from the polls closing in Virginia. Coming up, we're going to share with you what we know about Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. We're taking a close look at these states on this Potomac primary day.

Stick around. Lots more coming up. In fact, our coverage is only just beginning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by for the polls to close in the State of Virginia in nine minutes and 20 seconds. Once they're closed there, we'll be able to start reporting how voters in Virginia -- Democrats and Republicans -- responded today's presidential primary.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

We're also standing by at the top of 8:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour later, for the polls to close in Virginia and Maryland. Democratic and Republican primaries there, as well.

What will happen? Will Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue on this even keel or will one of them pull ahead decisively tonight?

We're also watching the John McCain story involving Mike Huckabee. He's still in this contest. He says he's not going away.

Let's turn to Lou Dobbs. He's going to be with us tonight. We're watching all of this, Lou, with the best political team on television and the excitement is there for those political news junkies, as well as for a lot of average Americans and people around the world. They're fascinated by what's going on.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, indeed. And the reality is that these -- these primary contests tonight -- these Potomac primaries, including D.C. -- all are likely to give us a suggestion -- not a decisive determination in any way, but to see whether or not we can see a substantive increase in the delegate count for one of these two candidates, either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama.

In the case of Mike Huckabee, can this substantial underdog surprise, and, in many cases, delight -- delight, for all of us who love an underdog irrespective of the contest, whether political or in sports. I think -- and there's a real possibility here for at least one surprise for Huckabee and it's going to be interesting what happens in the Democratic race.

BLITZER: You've got to give him a lot of credit. He doesn't have the money. He certainly didn't have the money of a Rudy Giuliani or some of the other Republican candidates.

DOBBS: Yes.

BLITZER: And he certainly doesn't have the money of John McCain. But, you know what, he's still fighting. He's still struggling.

DOBBS: Yes.

BLITZER: He's still in.

DOBBS: And once again, all of the savants, the gurus, all of those mental giants who analyze carefully and try to put together the perfect understanding of what's happening in partisan politics a little surprised, because there was supposed to be this tight spiritual and political allegiance between Senator McCain and former Governor Huckabee.

And, oh my goodness, to everyone's delight, they were wrong. He actually wants to be president of the United States. And this is providing an interesting contest. And there were even a few naysayers. I may even point out one or two of them who are at this very, very table.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: They're not at that table, they're at that table.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: And over here.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Depending upon the spirit of generosity that descends upon me, I may or may not point them out. But we'll see. And it's just a terrific race.

BLITZER: And on the Democratic side, it's about as close as possible, despite the fact that Obama has been scoring victory after victory after victory. DOBBS: Yes. It's hard to imagine where we were just a month ago, as we look at what's happening. And we keep saying that every few weeks. It's hard to imagine we're here.

But the reality is Senator Obama has won important contests, has strengthened his lead in terms of state contests. Senator Clinton possessing still, of course, a small lead in terms of delegates. That is at stake here tonight. We'll see what happens.

BLITZER: There's no doubt, as we watch all of this unfold, that the Hillary Clinton campaign -- we spoke to her former White House press secretary, Lisa Caputo. They are a lot more nervous, I suspect, right now, than the Barack Obama campaign.

DOBBS: I would have to imagine because their polls are every bit as good as anything that we're looking at and perhaps in some ways better. They know whether or not to be nervous and they know what they have to contend with here, both this evening, as we march ahead into the primaries that remain this month and into the next. Critically important, the process now well underway. Democracy, if you will, in action, as best the primary process can reflect it.

BLITZER: We have reporters covering all of these campaigns right now.

Candy Crowley is watching what's happening. Let's talk to Candy for a moment.

Set the scene -- Candy -- where are you, and give viewers a sense of the mood over there.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm in Madison, Wisconsin, which is where Barack Obama is headed, because this is the next test. Next week there will be a Wisconsin primary. Look, they feel really good about today. They went into it knowing that Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. are fertile territory. It has a lot of the Obama voters that we have seen sort of flock to him in these exit polls in all these other elections.

There are African-American -- large African-American communities in all three of the Potomac contests. There are, as well, those sort of upper affluent white voters, who tend to be highly educated, who have flocked to Barack Obama. And young people -- the kind that filled the stadiums from Baltimore to College Park. So they feel very good about tonight, because they thought going in, it really was his territory.

BLITZER: Wisconsin a week from today, the primary there.

Let's go to Texas. March 4th there'll be a primary there.

Suzanne Malveaux is watching all of this unfold. Set the scene -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Senator Clinton is looking ahead, certainly not behind. They want to put this evening and this day behind them as quickly as possible. So they're looking forward to Texas -- a big battleground state. They certainly hope to gain some momentum here. But that's not until weeks away, a March 4th contest. They are relying on the heavily Hispanic community. Anywhere from a quarter to a half of the Democratic voters expected to be from the Latino community. And they certainly hope they will come out and support her.

They certainly did when this came to California and New York. And the way that they are basically playing this out tonight, Wolf, they are saying congratulations to Barack Obama for those primaries -- the Potomac primaries. But the states that really make a difference -- this is what they're saying to the super-delegates -- are Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If she can win those three states, she's got it locked up. But she's got to make sure she convinces the super- delegates it's worth it to stick with her for another couple of weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Texas and Ohio, March 4th. Pennsylvania later in April. Thanks very much for that.

Let's go over to John King. He's watching tonight's contest -- Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. .

Give us a little flavor of what we're seeing.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's pull out Virginia first, Wolf. This is the map. You see it's all white. That's because no results are in yet. The polls close soon, though, and those counties will begin to fill in.

Let's look at the Democratic side first. One of the things we want to look early, on Richmond, Virginia, right here, it's the capital. An African-American population there, key to Senator Obama in the State of Virginia.

Some of the competitive spots in the state will be up here in Northern Virginia. Several counties up here, including Fairfax County, which is right here south. This is a populace area where Barack Obama has upscale Democrats, more affluent Democrats, but, also, a large population of professional working women that Senator Clinton will be hoping for.

Another key, if Senator Clinton is to win Virginia, she has to do it right out here in rural Virginia, where her economic message, in the past, has sold to lower income, more blue collar Democrats. That's where they live in the State of Virginia.

And, Wolf, if you switch over and look at the Republican primaries for president, a couple of places to watch early on. One key battleground -- right here along the coast. Chesapeake is the home of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, right down here in Southern Virginia. Norfolk is a naval area, military bases here. So a competition, if you will, between the Huckabee base and the McCain base right along the coast in this part of Virginia.

Out here are your evangelicals. If Mike Huckabee is going to surprise us in Virginia tonight, it will be with a lot of votes right out here. And John McCain needs to run up the numbers in the Washington suburbs -- more moderate Republicans. John McCain needs big margins here to offset what we expect to be Governor Huckabee's strength out here in the more rural areas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When might McCain be able to clinch this nomination?

KING: Well, Wolf, we'd have to go do our other map. That's a long way to go. Let's pull up the delegate map. You look at the Republican maps right here now, and we're -- we've got to clear that out and come up to another map.

This is where we are right now coming into tonight. Senator McCain is out here. He's on his way, but he's not quite there yet. If he keeps winning, he'll do fine. But let's assign McCain the wins tonight. If he wins Maryland and Virginia by decent margins, Maryland -- Virginia, excuse me -- is a winner-take-all state, he moves out some. But there's a long way to go.

Now, let's -- let me flip the question for you this way. What if Huckabee won everywhere else? Let's give these states to Mike Huckabee. There's no reason he's going to do that. But John McCain essentially would win the nomination ultimately anyway, Wolf, even if Mike Huckabee wins them all the rest of the way out, because if he -- if Mike Huckabee were to win -- if Mike Huckabee won 55-45, John McCain would still be the Republican nominee at the end of the process. There's still a long way to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John. John is going to be working those maps and working those numbers throughout the night. A lot of useful information on what's going on in these three states -- these three -- excuse me -- two states and the District of Columbia. Virginia momentarily, within in a few seconds, actually, about to close its polls at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

An hour from now, the polls will close in Washington, D.C. , as well -- as well as in the State of Maryland. 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 -- 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 a 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.

DOBBS: No.

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