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Interview With Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; Can Hillary Stop Obama?

Aired February 13, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, one against two. After sweeping big races, Barack Obama targeting Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Wait until you hear what they are saying about Obama.
And Does John McCain see Mike Huckabee as a thorn in his side? Huckabee says his staying in the race actually helps McCain. But McCain reveals what he really thinks about his longstanding rival and his holding out.

And could Democrats see an ugly fight on the floor of the Denver convention? The former San Francisco Democratic Mayor Willie Brown says prepare for sparks to fly over delegates. He's here, along with the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Right now, Barack Obama is essentially saying who is afraid of Hillary Clinton or John McCain? He's stepping up his criticisms of both rivals. And neither Clinton nor McCain is responding in kind. All this after Obama pulled off a clean sweep in last tonight's primaries.

In the all critical delicate count, Obama slightly leads Clinton as they try to reach the 2,025 mark. Obama has just more than 1,250 delegates, Clinton just more than 1,200. But Clinton is ahead in the number of superdelegates, Democratic lawmakers, party insiders, party leaders, who could sway this race. Clinton has 234 of those super delegates, Obama 157.

On the Republican side, John McCain inching closer and closer to reaching what he needs to clinch the nomination. He has 827 delegates to Mike Huckabee's 217.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is following the Obama campaign. She is joining us from Wisconsin right now. There's a big primary coming up next Tuesday.

What's the latest, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Wolf, is that by almost all mathematical formulas, as you mentioned, Barack Obama really is the front-runner. But the problem with being the front-runner is you have got to keep running. And he did that today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Barack Obama campaigned his way through Wisconsin Wednesday, courting modest-income working-class voters in the towns buffeted by factory closings and a downward economic spiral.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should not be giving tax breaks to corporations that make their profits in some other country with some other workers. Before she started running for president, Senator Clinton actually voted for this loophole.

CROWLEY: He's going after Hillary Clinton's base.

OBAMA: Good to see you.

CROWLEY: Touring a GM assembly plant in Janesville, he hits Clinton in places that resonate in living rooms, her early support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, her support for bankruptcy bill seen by many pro-big business, her support of the war.

OBAMA: John McCain and Hillary Clinton voted for a war in Iraq that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, a war that's costing us thousands of precious lives and billions of dollars a week that could have been used to rebuild crumbling schools and bridges, roads and buildings. They could have been invested in job training and child care, in making health care, or putting college within reach.

CROWLEY: He's leading now in number of states won, in the overall tally of votes, and in pledged delegates. So, it is a two- front battle. Obama also has an eye on John McCain.

OBAMA: He took me on, on economics, because he has admitted -- and, by the way, John McCain is a great American hero, a war hero. And we honor his service. But economics is not his strong suit. I mean, he said: I don't understand economics very well. And, after what he said, it shows, because his main economic philosophy is to continue the same tax breaks.

CROWLEY: As Obama tries for his ninth straight election victory in Wisconsin, his campaign is busy building up his inevitability, with top campaign advisers telling reporters the math in the primaries ahead makes it -- quote -- "all but impossible" for her to beat him in pledged delegates.


CROWLEY: Now, Clinton is not campaigning as much here in Wisconsin as Obama is, but she did put some ads up on the air, one of them challenging Obama to debate in Wisconsin. The campaign says thank you very much, but there have already been 18 debates. He has agreed to two more, and he would rather meet the voters of Wisconsin -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy, for that -- Candy watching this story. Straight ahead, we will have some live coverage of Hillary Clinton as she campaigns in Texas. That's where next week's second Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton debate will happen. It takes place on Thursday night, February 21st, in Austin, Texas. It's co-sponsored by Univision and the Texas Democratic Party. It will air here live on CNN beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It will air later that night in Spanish on Univision.

Journalists from CNN and Univision will ask the questions. A CNN anchor will moderate the debate.

Meanwhile, today, John McCain is doubling up his work. He is asking for Republican help in courting conservatives. And he is serving them some red meat by attacking Democrats. Let's go to Dana Bash. She's watching the story for us in Washington.

They are trying to shore up some critical support for the McCain camp right now, Dana

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are. And one way that John McCain is continuing to do that more and more is by slamming Barack Obama. In fact, he did that today, saying that he has one of the most liberal voting records and that he's -- quote -- "singularly lacking" in specifics on the campaign trail.

Now, attacking a potential Democratic rival is a tactic towards getting Republicans behind his candidacy. And, today, his audience was House Republicans looking for their own way out of political doldrums.


BASH (voice over): For the Republican presidential candidate desperate to rally his party behind him, this helps.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Clearly, I have had some disagreements with Senator McCain over the years. But I have got to tell you, I have watched this presidential race unfold and I have watched John McCain be a strong advocate for the principles that I believe in.

BASH: So does this.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MINORITY WHIP: This contest is over, and I think it's produced the best possible nominee for us to take back the House.

BASH: A show of support from formerly skeptical House GOP leaders on the heels of a Potomac primary sweep. And John McCain's patience for Mike Huckabee is wearing thin.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course I would like for him to with draw today. I mean, it would be much easier. But I respect and have repeatedly said I respect his right to continue in this race.

BASH: But McCain has moved on, test-driving his general election message.

MCCAIN: The Democrats, who want to raise your taxes, or me, I want to lower your taxes, whether it will be a health care system run by the federal government, or whether families in America will make their choices about health care.

BASH: In efforts to convince GOP lawmakers maverick McCain is a team player, CNN is told behind closed doors a supporter read data on how much he's campaigned for House candidates.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: The next election is going to be fought in the middle.

BASH: The congressman in charge of electing House Republicans this year says McCain topping the ticket will help.

COLE: I think Independent voters are going to be the most important voting bloc going forward. And I think John McCain has a demonstrated appeal to that group.

BASH: But some are still wary of McCain on issues like immigration. Congressman Tom Price wants to hear...

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: That border security first is of paramount importance to this nation. I need to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and get that assurance from him as well.


BASH: Even skeptical House members told us McCain was warmly received and got a standing ovation today, perhaps because they are growing to like him or perhaps, Wolf, because reality has set in, and that reality was laid out by McCain's own campaign in a memo this morning, arguing that, mathematically, it will be almost certain that he is going to be the nominee right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you are getting some new information on Mike Huckabee. What are you picking up, Dana?

BASH: This comes to us by way of our producer with the Huckabee campaign right now, Alexander Marquardt. He says that Huckabee's campaign manager just came to the back of the plane and told them that, after finishing his campaign in Wisconsin on Friday, he is going to the Cayman Islands. Now, you are not missing anything. There is no primary in the Cayman Islands.

He's going actually to give a paid speech. Now, his campaign manager did not know or at least did not say right now how much he's going to make and to whom this speech is going to be. But it is not new that Huckabee is still giving paid speeches even on the campaign trail. It is very, very unusual that a candidate does that while still -- while actually running for president.

But his campaign argues that this is his only livelihood, that people like Senator McCain and Obama, they are continuing to get paychecks from the federal government. So, they make no apologies for the fact that he's going to give a paid speech, but it's quite interesting that he is saying that he is going to be in the race. He is leaving the campaign trail to go to the Cayman Islands to give a paid speech. And of course when we find out who he is going to speak to and how much he's going to make, we will of course get that to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You can't knock him for that. He's running this campaign on vapors. He probably needs the money, right?

BLITZER: He does. He doesn't have much money.

CAFFERTY: It's not a big budget that he's doing.

All right. Barack Obama has won 23 of the 35 Democratic contests held so far. He is leading Hillary Clinton among pledged delegates. But, it's Clinton who leads the race when it comes to the ever- important superdelegates.

There are 796 of these. Many are members of Congress, other political bigwigs in the Democratic Party. And if the race remains as tight as it's been, they could wind up being the deciding factor.

Right now, Clinton leads Obama in super-delegates234 to 157. Part of the reason is because of her husband, the former president. Bill Clinton has been calling in all the favors he's done for the Democratic Party over the last 16 years. But consider this: Obama has won the last eight contests in a row. You can bet that he'll use these victories to try to change the minds of the Clinton superdelegates. Some super-delegatesare already saying that party insiders should be careful about overturning the collective decision of Democratic voters across the country.

There's some wisdom worth listening to. The Obama camp insists that whichever candidate has the most pledged delegates will be the nominee, which suggests that they're going to put a lot of pressure on these super-delegatesto fall in line. super-delegatesalready backing Obama say their peers should support whoever wins the most pledged delegates.

But Clinton's advisers say the super-delegatesshould back whomever they think would make the best nominee and the best president. Translation: Never mind that the voters say. You guys pick me to be the president.

Here's the question, then: If the Clinton/Obama race remains unresolved, what will the super-delegatesdo, do you suppose?

Go to You can post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: I wrote about that, sort of, on my daily blog as well.

CAFFERTY: I read that today, yes.


CAFFERTY: I read it. I read it every day.

BLITZER: The number-one political Web site out there,

CAFFERTY: If I have enough time, I try to memorize some of it. These are words that I live by.


BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: And I try to take some with me each day.

BLITZER: Stand by.

Will millions of Democrats from Florida and Michigan be left without any delegates at their party's national convention?


WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Oh, yes, they will be represented, because the Democratic Party is not so foolish as to write off those two states, and then try to rely upon the other 48.


BLITZER: I will speak with the man who led the last big convention floor fight more than three decades ago, the former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Also, he traveled into the world's -- some of the world's most dangerous regions with no problems at all. But something actually happened to Defense Secretary Robert Gates right outside his own home.

And Hillary Clinton makes what may be her last stand in Texas. Can she make a clean start after a clean sweep?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As things heat up on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama step up their criticisms of each other, each hoping to rack up more endorsements from Democrats. But some of the party are deciding not to pick sides. Earlier, I spoke with the former Democratic Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown.


BLITZER: Why haven't you endorsed one of your fellow Democrats for the presidency? BROWN: For two reasons. There were five in the contest of nine that were good friends to whom I had an indebtedness and a relationship. And secondly, I'm on the air quite often as an analyst, and if I had a preference, obviously it would ruin my credibility in terms of trying to be objective about the affairs being discussed.

BLITZER: But what do you think about the prospect of an African- American man becoming president of the United States right now?

BROWN: I think it is fabulous. I think that the Democrats are really blessed this time around. They have two incredibly qualified candidates, each of whom will be of historical significance if either one of them ends up being the president. That is just an embarrassment of political riches.

BLITZER: So you could go with either one. You would be happy with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

BROWN: Absolutely. I would be equally as happy, a woman being the president of these United States, and a person of African descent being president of these United States. You can't write that kind of chapter of that kind of a story.

BLITZER: Would you be happy if the so-called super-delegatesin the Democrat Party, almost 800 of them, if they were the deciding factor in determining who the nominee was going to be at the convention at the end of the summer in Denver, as opposed to the pledged delegates, those actually elected in caucuses and primaries?

BROWN: That's exactly why you have the superdelegates. You have the super-delegatesbecause this is the Democratic Party. You don't want the bleed-over from the Green Party, or from the independents or others, deciding who your nominee will be.

Each one of those super-delegateshave been selected as super, fitting the criterion set up by the party, either an office holder or an icon, or a state chair or a national member. And in that category, they are the keepers of the faith. They are the people who...

BLITZER: So you like this system, Mayor? And I remember a lot of our viewers probably remember the last time there was a floor fight at a Democratic convention was back in 1972, when you effectively led the California delegation and got George McGovern that nomination.

BROWN: Absolutely. And it was a winner-take-all fight. It was a credentials fight. I don't think there's been a significant credentials fight since then. This time in Denver, you may see such a fight over those who are the delegates from Michigan and those who are the delegates from Florida. And I hope...

BLITZER: How do you want to resolve those issues? Because there are millions of Democrats who are not going to be represented from Michigan and Florida at this convention. They were stripped of their delegates because they moved up their primaries.

BROWN: Oh, yes. They will be represented, because the Democratic Party is not so foolish as to write off those two states, and then try to rely upon the other 48 to get them the victory.

BLITZER: How do you do it then? So what's the solution?

BROWN: Well, I don't have at the moment the formula. But I can tell you this -- if asked and given an opportunity to be the mediator, I bet you I could come forward with a proposal that each of the sides would buy, Hillary and Barack.

BLITZER: Because Hillary Clinton says she won those primaries even though she didn't compete, even though Barack Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. She says she won and she should get those, whoever they happen to be, she should get those delegates.

BROWN: But, Wolf, the rules were very clear. The rules said neither of the respective parties can campaign in those two states. And believe me, when that happens, obviously anybody who's not well known isn't going to be identified.

Anybody not on the ballot isn't going to be identified. So you have got to work that out. You can't just ignore the fact that the rules put Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in the situation they're in.


BLITZER: Willie Brown speaking with me earlier.

Meanwhile, the top official over at the Pentagon had to cancel an important appearance on Capitol Hill today. Coming up, you are going to find out what forced Robert Gates to go to the hospital today and what he is doing right now.

And a prominent pastor says the IRS is investigating him because of Mike Huckabee and a single letter -- that story and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is charging ahead, the focus tonight, Texas. She says she's energized and ready to go. And guess who is coming back to fight for her on the campaign trail?

Plus, the head of the NAACP finds himself in the middle of some unusual controversies over the voting in Florida and Michigan. It started with one letter. You are going to find out what's causing all the furor.

And John McCain is appealing to members of Congress for help with his presidential race. But will it be enough to bring conservatives to his side?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, Hillary Clinton moves on to Texas after sweeping losses in the Potomac primaries. What does she have to do to turn around her losing streak?

Also, John McCain is speaking out about the rival who just won't go away. You are going to find out what he is saying about Mike Huckabee. We will talk about that and a lot more with the best political team on television.

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

Hillary Clinton is looking to make a clean start after that clean sweep she suffered in the Potomac primaries. She is campaigning in Texas today. That's where we find our Suzanne Malveaux. She is watching this story for us.

Suzanne, what's going on in the effort by the Clinton camp to recover?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, this is a very big race. It is a Texas-sized showdown between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Advisers say she has got to grab Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania to get this nomination, that everything is resting on this particular state. The other thing that she has to do is try to create some sort of momentum in next three weeks, before the first race.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): If you are going to lose three primaries and the delegate count overnight, one way to do it, simply ignore the results.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't think of any better place to start our campaign for Texas than right here in El Paso.

MALVEAUX: With no mention of her recent string of losses, Senator Clinton burst forward in an all-out blitz to win Texas. Just over 12 hours later, she acknowledged the obvious.

CLINTON: I want to congratulate Senator Obama on his recent victories and tell him to meet me in Texas. We are ready.

MALVEAUX: She is leaning heavily on Hispanics, traveling to Latino strongholds like El Paso, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Advisers call Texas the last stand, the Alamo. In the weeks to come, Clinton will campaign heavily in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Her husband, the former president, will again emerge as a regular presence on the trail. And Senator Clinton is baiting Obama for more debates.

NARRATOR: Maybe he would prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions.

MALVEAUX: Despite Clinton's recent campaign staff shakeup, she has denied...


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, there seems to be a technical problem with the piece. But, clearly, what her advisers are saying is that Texas is very important. You have 193 delegates. How are they going to win over this state? Well, they are relying heavily on the Hispanic community. We are also going to see the resurgence of the former President Bill Clinton. He is going to be crisscrossing Texas, as well as Ohio.

We also understand, as well, that you're going to see those kinds of ads that are on TV that are going to be a little bit more critical of Obama, that they are challenging him to more debates in Wisconsin. They believe that that is one of his weaknesses. And so you're going to see the Clinton camp really hone in on that, trying to bait him with the debates. This is going to be a lot more of an aggressive type of campaign, as you know, in the weeks to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much.

So can Hillary Clinton end her losing streak and make a comeback in Texas and Ohio?

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, our own Jack Cafferty, and our chief national correspondent, John King. They are all part of the best political team on television.



So, Jack, can Hillary Clinton turn this thing around?

CAFFERTY: In a word, I don't think so. That's three words. Rudy Giuliani tried this -- you know, I'll go to a big state and wait for the voters to come to me. And Rudy is looking at a car wash now or something to occupy his time. I don't know if this strategy works. But even if she wins Texas and Ohio, she's got to win by -- she's got to get 70 or 75 percent of the vote to stay in it. I don't think she can do it.

BLITZER: I don't understand, Gloria, why can't she do better in these -- Maryland, for example, why couldn't she do better? And next Tuesday in Wisconsin, that would seem state almost tailor-made for her.

BORGER: You're asking the same question that her fundraisers are asking and a lot of her supporters are asking. And that's -- the answer is that this was a campaign based on a Super Tuesday strategy. They put all their effort, all their money into those states, because they thought they were going to wrap it up. Well, Super Tuesday turned to be pretty much of a draw. And Obama had grassroots organizations going on beyond Super Tuesday and that really served him very well.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She can stop him. There's no question the demographics of Texas and Ohio are better, if you look at what has happened over the past month of this campaign. However, Obama is going to come into this perhaps with, what, 10 wins?

CAFFERTY: In a row.

KING: And her without winning in a month. So the question is, how big is that wave? The fascinating thing about this campaign is there has been no momentum so far. There has been no wave that crashed someone else's state. A state Jack was supposed to win, I come in with momentum and Jack gets wiped out. That has not happened.

Is this the beginning of it? Well, we're going to find out when we get to Ohio and Texas. But you're absolutely right -- why not (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Are they giving up on Wisconsin already?

KING: No, but, yes.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

KING: They're making an effort, but it's a half-hearted effort. They're not putting the resources in because they understand because he beat them in on the ground there, it's a very difficult state to turn around.

CAFFERTY: There -- there's also -- there has been some momentum in this sense. Three months ago, Hillary Clinton was a double digit leader in every poll in the country -- the national polls, the state by state match-ups. Obama didn't have a chance in any of the polls.

And to the degree that he not only now is ahead of her in the hypotheticals in all of the polling that's done, he's won more states, he's won more delegates. So there's been momentum that way. But there hasn't been, as John said, that sense of political momentum, although we may be seeing the beginnings of it.

BORGER: The question is what happens to the undecided voters -- are they affected by what's gone on before? We've seen in this race that on many occasions they have not been affected by that. But it's kind of getting later in the game here...

BLITZER: Because she made a nice comeback after Iowa in New Hampshire.

BORGER: Yes, she did.

BLITZER: And I suppose that that history is encouraging the Clinton supporters.


KING: Encouraging them, but because this has gone on like this and because Obama has put this string together and passed her in the delegate match -- just narrowly, but he's passed her for the first time -- does that change the psychology of the race?

He's winning. He has more delegates. He has more money. The guy who is the newcomer on the scene has structural advantage now over the former first lady of the United States, who had the best fundraiser in Democratic party history -- in recent history.

So will the psychology change enough to have a wave? Or if she stops him, Wolf, what you then get is back to stalemate. They're so close in the delegate map, unless somebody starts winning 80 percent of the vote in the remaining primaries, neither one of these candidates will get enough delegates to clinch it.

BLITZER: And, you know, Obama is already looking ahead to John McCain.

Let me play this clip for you, Jack.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It turns out that yesterday -- or maybe today -- John McCain started attacking me on economic policy, which I thought was flattering. It's clear that he knows who his opponent is going to be and I'm looking forward to a great debate...


OBAMA: ... on the issues with John McCain.



BLITZER: Now, what do you think of that strategy?


CAFFERTY: Well, I think...


CAFFERTY: I think it plays very well. I mean it was exactly the right way to respond to John McCain saying something about Barack Obama on the issues. The guy is, you know, the guy is smooth. And he's glib and he's funny and he's dramatic and he's emotional. And his message is resonating.

BLITZER: And as Jack's...

CAFFERTY: And the other message...

BLITZER: One of Jack's viewers e-mailed him earlier today. He's already a movement, if you will, not just a political candidate.

BORGER: You know, Obama declared it a movement, actually, last night, I think -- I think officially. You know, I think it's very difficult right now for Hillary Clinton, but doable. We can't sort of say that it's...

CAFFERTY: You want to bet a couple of dollars on that?

BORGER: No. But we just -- we can't say that it's over.

KING: Right.

BORGER: It's not over. This year has been way too crazy to make those kind of predictions.

BLITZER: Can her husband make a difference in Texas and Ohio?

KING: Sure. He can help. He's still very well liked among the Democratic base, as long as he stays out of the problems he walked into, stepped into, talked himself into in South Carolina. You know, Bill Clinton was George McGovern's campaign manager in Texas back in 1972. The state has changed a lot since then.

But he's a very energetic guy. In the Latino community, he has very high credibility. He has a lot of friends. This is a state where most of the local polls on the ground -- the ones that have committed, have committed for her. So organizationally, it helps.

But, Wolf, their argument is getting tougher. Obama is doing a strategic thing there by saying, look, John McCain is after me. Look at the national polls. I'm running stronger now than Senator Clinton. That was supposed to be her strength. She was the tougher general election candidate. In the polls today, he's the tougher candidate.

CAFFERTY: There's a desperation that's beginning to come out of the Clinton organization, too. Yesterday, you had her former press secretary on this program...

BLITZER: Lisa Caputo.

CAFFERTY: ... saying, well, she won in Michigan. Hillary won in Michigan.

BORGER: Oh, here we go.

CAFFERTY: Hillary was the only name on the ballot in Michigan and everybody said going in Michigan wasn't going to count. But there's -- there's that. Last night, what does she do? Does she go to any of the states on the Potomac and thank the people who voted for her?

No. She flew to El Paso, Texas. He went to Wisconsin, which is where the next contest is. And she's down in Texas with barely a look over her shoulder at people in three states who took the time -- some of them in lousy weather -- to go out and vote for. And there was no acknowledgement whatsoever. BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by.

I just want to correct one little fact. Yes, her name was on the ballot in Michigan. Barack Obama's name was not on the ballot. But Dennis Kucinich's name was also on the ballot.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: I just wanted to make sure you knew that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: I'm not reading your blog anymore.


BLITZER: Stand by.

When it comes to casting ballots, Democrats are eclipsing the Republicans at the polls in huge numbers. Are they more motivated? And, if so, why? What does it mean?

And the Internal Revenue Service is investigating a Baptist pastor. He says it's because he's supporting Mike Huckabee. We're going to show you what this is all about.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: John McCain is making his case to conservatives. We're back in a moment with the best political team on television.


BLITZER: Let's talk about what's happening on the Republican side of the race for the White House.

Jack Cafferty is here with the best political team. Listen to what McCain said about Mike Huckabee earlier today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't pretend that Governor -- that I wouldn't like Governor Huckabee not in the race. I mean, but look -- but I respect his commitment to do so and his commitment to continue in the race. Of course, I'd like for him to withdraw today.



CAFFERTY: You know, John McCain would have given a different version of that answer if the cameras hadn't been on him. Yes, he'd like him to withdraw today. It's embarrassing to McCain every time somebody votes for Huckabee and doesn't vote for McCain.

BLITZER: How embarrassing is it?

BORGER: It's embarrassing within the Republican party. However, in a general election, it's not such a bad thing. I mean for Huckabee, it works. And for McCain, it works in a general election.

For Huckabee, he gets to go to the convention and be the standard bearer for evangelicals and conservatives. Maybe he gets more delegates than Mitt Romney. And for John McCain, in a general well, you know, he starts to look a little bit more acceptable to Independent voters because he's beaten the evangelical conservatives.

BLITZER: You talk to the campaign camp all the time. What do they say?

KING: And you notice, Senator McCain was being very careful there. He did not say get out, Governor Huckabee.

BORGER: Right.

KING: He said it would sure be nice.


KING: He's sort of offering to hold the door. There's a debate even within the McCain campaign and across the Republican party -- is it a good thing or a bad thing?

As long as Mike Huckabee is relatively positive -- and he has been. He is criticizing John McCain's issues his positions on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on the -- you know, the constitutional amendment question. He's not criticizing him personally and he's calling him a good conservative and he's saying he would support him once he is the nominee.

BORGER: Right.

KING: So, right now, most of them think it's OK. They're getting a little tired of it. The large conservative vote in Virginia last night was proof -- if you needed anymore -- that John McCain has a lot of healing to do and that many of those Christian conservatives are never going to be happy with John McCain. The calculation in the McCain campaign now is that they'll vote for him, even if they're not that happy about it.

BLITZER: In our...

KING: And the thing that holds them up is in national polls right now, he's still doing quite well.

BLITZER: In our exit polls we did in Virginia yesterday, we asked Republicans who went to the polls, "Will you be satisfied if McCain wins the Republican nomination?" Seventy-seven percent said yes, twenty-two percent said no.

CAFFERTY: Of Republicans.

BLITZER: Of Republicans.


CAFFERTY: Said no, they wouldn't be satisfied.

BLITZER: Of Republicans overall -- will you be satisfied...


BLITZER: And we asked the same question about Huckabee, "Will you be satisfied" -- among Republicans who voted for Huckabee -- "Will you be satisfied if McCain wins the nomination?" Sixty percent of those Huckabee voters said yes. Thirty-eight percent said no. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Those numbers indicate that John McCain has much bigger problems than Mike Huckabee hanging around for another state or two.

BORGER: He does. He has problems -- look it's not a -- it's not a secret. John McCain has problems with the base of the Republican Party.

BLITZER: But when you say that, in terms of getting the Republican nomination -- which he's almost certainly going to get...


BLITZER: But doesn't -- don't those exact problems he has with the conservative base help him in a general election...

BORGER: Well, that's the point. Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... where Independents and moderate Democrats...


BLITZER: ... Joe Lieberman types will say you know what...


BLITZER: ... I don't trust these Democrats on national security. I trust John McCain...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And that could help them.

BORGER: Absolutely. And in the end, as John was saying, Mike Huckabee is going to endorse McCain. And in the end, this fight might help McCain appeal to those Independent voters. And that's going to be a fight. Should Barack Obama be the Democratic nominee, they're going to be fighting for those Independent voters.

KING: And some problems can be healed quickly. Others take longer. If it is Barack Obama, they believe it will take a longer time to heal the wounds on the right and that it's a tougher calculus about Independent voters. If it's Hillary Clinton, most believe the Christian conservatives will say oh, John McCain, don't love him, but, you know, if the alternative...

CAFFERTY: We'll hold our nose and vote for him.

KING: ... if the alternative is Hillary Clinton...

BORGER: She'll unify.

KING: So part of the dynamic here is who will the Democrats nominate? And to your other question, sure. If some conservatives don't like McCain, does that help him with Independents? It does today in this conversation. But we don't know who the Democratic opponent is and we don't know what the net is.

BLITZER: See, Karl Rove used to say you have to have that conservative base energized, because that's going to be the deciding factor. I think some of the McCain folks believe you know what, that may not necessarily hold true anymore.

CAFFERTY: Well, Rove's point was there aren't enough Republicans. If you don't have the evangelicals and the conservatives turning out in force for you, you're -- it's a numbers game and you lose.

BORGER: But they might, as John was saying, if it's Hillary Clinton, because they don't like Hillary Clinton.


BLITZER: She would energize that base.

BORGER: She would -- well, this is what Republicans are saying, that she would do a lot to energize Republicans.

KING: Yes. But look how close the past two presidential elections have been.


KING: He cannot afford to lose much of George Bush's base. He might grow some in the Independents. He might -- so he might be able to trade some of it, but, Wolf, he can't trade much of that.

BLITZER: Especially if you're talking Florida and Ohio...

KING: Right.

BLITZER: ... and a few other so-called pivotal states.

KING: Right. BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Gloria, See you back in Washington.

John, see you, as well.

Jack, see you in a moment with "The Cafferty File."


KING: Right here.

BLITZER: You're not going anywhere.

BORGER: Don't go away.

BLITZER: You're stuck with me, Jack.

A baseball superstar versus a Congressional committee -- Roger Clemens like have you've never seen him before when he faces a spotlight on Capitol Hill. That's coming up.

Plus, a prominent pastor endorsing Mike Huckabee. Now he says the IRS is investigating him.


BLITZER: In our political ticker, he's been named the best pitcher in baseball seven times. Now, like others before him, Roger Clemens finds his record tarnished by allegations he used performance- enhancing drugs. Together with his former trainer and chief accuser, Clemens today faced a Congressional panel and denied ever using steroids or human growth hormones. Lawmakers say one of them is lying.

A pastor in California says the IRS is investigating him because he's endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. The man is a prominent in the Southern Baptist convention and he's using church stationery that has Huckabee's name on it. The pastor telling the A.P. that the IRS notified him last week he's being investigated.

Federal law says if church officials endorse candidates or parties, their tax-exempt status could be at risk.

Remember, for the latest political news at any time, you can always check out The ticker, by the way, number one -- the number one political news blog on the Web. That's where you can also read my latest blog post, at

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

What are you working on -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, a lot of things.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the federal government planning to grant permanent visa status to tens of thousands of legal immigrants without, however, completing background checks -- a case of speed over security. This administration is just full of great ideas. So we'll have that special report for you.

Also, new protests over Mexican trucks on American highways. The Bush administration is being accused of ignoring a federal law designed to keep those trucks out of this country. We'll have the latest for you.

And an unequivocal denial from one of baseball's greatest pitchers. Roger Clemens today somehow managed not to try to lift some of those sawed off shrimps in Congress right off their feet. It kind of makes you wonder why those Congresspeople weren't talking to the ownership of Major League baseball -- some of those, folks. Maybe they'll show up next time. We'll have the story on what happened today and more.

Please join us, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for all of that, all the day's news and more -- Wolf, right back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

Let's check back with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File."

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, if the Clinton/Obama race remains unresolved, what the super-delegates eventually do in all of this?

Alix writes: "The super-delegate system is un-democratic. Why should the votes of the party elite count for more than ordinary Americans? If the super-delegates don't agree to back whomever the people have chosen, it will totally destroy the credibility of the Democratic Party and disenchant millions of voters."

Doug writes: "I'm a Hillary supporter. But if she doesn't win the popular delegate vote, she should back off and admit defeat. If she wins because of super-delegate shenanigans, I, for one, will no longer be a fan of hers."

Gigi in Alabama: "Hopefully, they'll follow the voters in their respective states. Next go around, why not just abolish the stupid idea of these super-delegates? There's absolutely nothing super about them. They're just people who probably think they know more than the rest of us."

What's the matter?

BLITZER: Your mic.

CAFFERTY: Oh, all right.

BLITZER: I'll take the mic.

CAFFERTY: There, is that better? I've got it.

BLITZER: Oh. CAFFERTY: It's on. You want me to start over?



CAFFERTY: Zach writes: "Quite frankly, and unfortunately, the vast majority of the American public is not qualified to decide who should run the country. The delegates will choose the candidate they feel will best run the country according to their educated, informed and experienced opinions."

Go back to sleep, Zach.

Greg says: "The super-delegates may owe a lot of favors to former President Clinton, but I doubt they would support someone who will not win the general election. If the polls indicate Obama can win and Clinton cannot, I don't think they would commit political hari- kari."

Antonio writes: "The Democratic Party should simply divide the super-delegates in half -- 398 for Obama, 398 for Clinton. For the delegates in Florida and Michigan, divide them in half, too. This will remove any possibility of an unfair treatment. Keep the people in power to continue to vote and all this will get done without compromising the democratic process."

Candace writes: "If the super-delegates don't decide with the American people, I will vote for John McCain."

So there.

BLITZER: Do you like that name, super-delegates? It gives them almost superpowers.

CAFFERTY: That -- yes. And the woman is right. They're just people who think they know more than the rest of us. She had -- that one woman was -- she has it down.

BLITZER: We're learning a lot about these super-delegates.


BLITZER: Almost 800 of them.

CAFFERTY: I know. It's going to be interesting if some political hanky-panky rears its ugly head and this thing becomes a dead heat and they finish, you know, close to a tie and these people have to decide. It could get very ugly, I think.

BLITZER: In Denver.

CAFFERTY: In Denver.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. See you tomorrow.


BLITZER: A stunning victory by an underdog -- a beagle, to be precise. It sounds Moost Unusual and it is. But Jeanne Moos drawing some parallels between this pooch -- look at it -- and the presidential race. Only Jeanne could do this and you're going to want to see it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.


BLITZER: Next week, the second Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton debate will take place in Texas. It takes place Thursday night, February 21st, in Austin. And it's co-sponsored by Univision and the Texas Democratic Party. It airs live right here on CNN, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It airs later that night in Spanish on Univision. Journalists from CNN and Univision will ask the questions. A CNN anchor will moderate the debate next Thursday night.

It was a stunning triumph by an underdog -- a beagle, to be accurate. CNN's Jeanne Moos is finding parallels between this pooch and the presidential race. And it's Moost Unusual.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's an outsider who victory was an historic first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what a dramatic win last night.

MOOS: He's known for his oratory.

MOOS: Not Obama, but Uno. He may not the first African-American or first woman to run for president, but he is the first beagle to win at Westminster ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May I have the beagle? Yes, the beagle!

MOOS: And Uno's story has some uncanny similarities to this year's presidential race. The traditional frontrunners...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beautiful Vicki (ph).

MOOS: Upset by an underdog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a first, young man.

MOOS: An underdog that had Madison Square Garden under his spell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have never had a reaction like this in the Garden -- a standing ovation for the beagle.


MOOS: Showing off with a silver-tongued victory speech. Sure, Barack Obama gets louder chants. MOOS: But Uno had fans shouting out his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last chance to rock them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, wait for me.



MOOS: Even the commentators sounded like they were analyzing the presidential race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was it the beagle's year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's got this presence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the rock star. He's just been mobbed.

MOOS: And like a presidential contender, Uno's got a handler.

(on camera): Which candidate is Uno most like?


MOOS (voice-over): Uno's handler wasn't making any suggestions, but one of his co-owners was.

EDDIE DZIUK, CO-OWNER, BEST IN SHOW: We think he looks like Fred Thompson.

MOOS: Not exactly a dead ringer. But this lowly beagle has something that's the envy of politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's just a happy dog. I mean he's -- he's the people's dog.

MOOS: Like a presidential candidate, Uno is drawn to the lens of the TV cameras.

MOOS: Uno did interview after interview.

(on camera): Twelve satellite interviews, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve today, yes.

MOOS (voice-over): And though the human candidates are dog tired from running, at least they don't need steak treats and a yellow ducky to keep them focused during interviews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's falling asleep up here on the table so we're just trying to do anything to try and keep him settled yet keep his eyes open.

MOOS: Barack may have romped, but the beagle has landed, making the Madison Square Garden on the morning shows. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This dog is charming.


MOOS: No presidential candidate gets this treatment. Down on your knees for the beagle who's numero uno.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And you've helped make our politics pod cast one of the most popular on iTunes. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at or iTunes.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.