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Elder Bush Endorses McCain; Interview With Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle

Aired February 18, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, happening now: Hillary Clinton's campaign accusing Barack Obama of a controversial act, stealing another person's words. How does Barack Obama explain what he's been doing?
Also, the first President Bush saying the man who should succeed his son is the man who at times has been quite critical of his son. George Herbert Walker Bush endorsing McCain, and the elder Bush has a special message for conservatives who remain skeptical of the candidate.

And Bill Clinton lets loose on hecklers. What got the former president so mad?

All that, plus the best political team on television.

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

We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world.

Hours from now, the presidential race as we know it could change. It concerns winning delegates. By our estimate right now, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton remain locked in a neck and neck race. Obama has a slight edge with 1,262 delegates to Clinton's 1,213. But Clinton has 75 more of those superdelegates, the party leaders, the insiders, the members of Congress, whose support could sway this race.

For the Republicans, a very different picture. John McCain is close to getting the number he needs. He has 830 delegates to Mike Huckabee's 217.

Tomorrow, all of this could be very different on the Democratic side. There are major contests in Hawaii, Washington State, and Wisconsin. At stake for the Democrats, 94 delegates. For the Republicans, by the way, 56 delegates.

As this race heats up, things are getting nasty. Hillary Clinton's campaign now accusing Barack Obama of a scandalous act that's been known to derail a presidential campaign in the past. That would be plagiarizing. At issue this time, passages of a speech Barack Obama recently used and speeches Deval Patrick used in 2006 as he sought to become Massachusetts' first African-American governor.

They match almost word for word.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Chicago. She is watching this story.

Candy, two sides to this story right now. Tell our viewers what's going on.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going on is, as you mentioned, it is a very close race, and we are on the eve of the Wisconsin primary.



CROWLEY (voice-over): That 8-0 record since February 9 means Barack Obama is under the burden of great expectations and under heavy assault from Hillary Clinton, who is trying to define him as all rhetoric and rally.

OBAMA: If you are not involved, if young people especially are not involved, so that we can form a working majority for change, then nothing's going to happen. So, I make no apologies for being able to talk good.

CROWLEY: In need of a win, she's attacking his plans as copies of hers and this prose as someone else's.

OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter. I have a dream, just words. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, just words.

CROWLEY: This is now Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick responding to his opponent in 2006.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Just words. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, just words.

CROWLEY: In an hour-long conference call pushing the issue with reporters, the Clinton campaign said for Obama to use Patrick's words without attribution -- quote -- "calls into the question the premise of Obama's candidacy." Governor Patrick says he doesn't care. Obama says the two are buds.

OBAMA: That would be carrying it too far. Deval and I do trade ideas all the time. And, you know, he's occasionally used lines of mine. And I, at a J.J. dinner in Wisconsin used some words of his. And, you know, I would add that I know that Senator Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well.

CROWLEY: Things got slightly more voter relevant later in Youngstown, Ohio, when Obama talked jobs and the North American Free Trade Agreement put together in the Clinton era.

OBAMA: One thing I do have to say about Senator Clinton, she says, well, speeches don't put food on the table. Well, you know what? NAFTA didn't food on the table here in Youngstown either.

CROWLEY: During this campaign, Hillary Clinton has said all trade deals should be reviewed.


CROWLEY: As you noticed, Wolf, Barack Obama was in Ohio, Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, but these two campaigns very much engaged -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thank you.

Regarding Republicans, a former president who's the father to the current president decides who he wants to be the next president. The elder George Bush sending a message to voters about John McCain. And he has some choice words to conservatives critical of the candidate.

Our Dana Bash is in Houston. She's watching this story.

It's a major endorsement for McCain, Dana.


And, you know, Wolf, you're just like me. You on your BlackBerry, you probably get messages about once every hour these days from the McCain campaign talking about some Republican official somewhere endorsing the senator. But as you know, there are endorsements and then there are endorsements.


BASH (voice over): A Presidents' Day embrace from the only living former Republican President and GOP patriarch.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And no one is better prepared to lead our nation at these trying times than Senator John McCain.

BASH: John McCain's advisers hope this endorsement from the man who personifies the party establishment helps with McCain's challenge of uniting Republicans behind him.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is viewed with respect and affection by all Republicans.

BASH: But George H. W. Bush also reminds conservatives that promises aren't always kept...

BUSH: Read my lips: no new taxes.

BASH: ... a day after McCain reiterated virtually the same pledge on ABC News.

MCCAIN: No new taxes.

BASH: That's an attempt to mollify conservatives still distrustful of McCain for voting against the current President Bush's 2001 tax cuts -- anger boiling from a GOP base eerily similar to that aimed at then President Bush in 1992, fueling a debilitating primary challenge from the right.

BUSH: No, I haven't forgotten '92 now.

BASH: The former President Bush brushed off his own troubled past with conservatives, but said he gets annoyed at attacks from the right on McCain.

BUSH: I think the criticism on this conservative or not conservative is absurd.

BASH: The elder Mr. Bush came armed with writings of Ronald Reagan, whom he served as vice president, to show even the now mythical Gipper had problems with conservatives.

BUSH: They seem determined to paint me as a kind of turncoat conservatives.

BASH: Conservative leaders in Texas, which hold its primary March 4, say Bush's endorsement helps, but McCain still has a long way to go.

TOM PAUKEN, FORMER TEXAS GOP CHAIRMAN: He's been more identified with the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican Party. There's a real anybody but McCain faction in Texas.


BASH: And that Bush endorsement event here at this airport in Houston really underscores a big tug of war inside the McCain campaign. On the one hand, they do want to show with these big events that the Republican race is simply over. But, at the same time, Wolf, McCain advisers say by doing that they worry that their supporters simply won't be motivated to vote while Mike Huckabee supporters will be. And, of course, those Republicans, some conservatives, who just don't want McCain, that anybody but McCain vote you just talked about, they could be motivated as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Houston, OK, thank you.

Too close to call, that's what CNN's new poll from the Opinion Research Corporation is saying about the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Texas, that contest coming up March 4.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is tracking the numbers for us. He's joining us.

So, right now, where do things stand, based on these new numbers?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, Texas is all tied up like a heifer in a rodeo, one might say.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Two weeks to high noon, the big face-off -- in Texas, of course.

Ma Clinton...


SCHNEIDER: ... faces the Illinois kid.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think we will do well in states like Texas, and Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which I know Senator Clinton has suggested somehow she has got a built-in edge.

SCHNEIDER: Does she? The new CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation shows the Democratic race in Texas just about tied. Democratic voters are picking sides, women for her, men for him. She's got Latinos. He's got African-Americans -- whites closely divided, older Democrats for Clinton, younger Democrats for Obama. Didn't go to college? Clinton. Went to college? Obama.

And, since it's an open primary, you have got Democrats for Clintons, independents for Obama. Evenly divided? Yes. Bitterly divided? No. Seventy-nine percent of Texas Democratic voters say they would be satisfied if Clinton wins. And 79 percent say they would be satisfied if Obama wins. But who do they think will win? Seventy-nine percent say Clinton is likely to be the Democratic nominee. Yet, 82 percent think it's just as likely to be Obama. He may have a slight edge in momentum.

What's at stake in Texas? Everything, her people say.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The truth is, is that Senator Clinton has to win Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If she wins those these probably if nominee. If she loses one of the three, then Senator Obama is going to probably be the nominee.

SCHNEIDER: This race ain't big enough for the both of them.


SCHNEIDER: McCain the maverick and preacher man Huckabee will also be facing off in Texas. And it looks good for McCain. He's leading Huckabee 55 to 32. And McCain might wish to emit a yee-haw, because for the first time, he's carrying conservative voters in a Southern state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Texas, by the way, is the scene of our next Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton one-on-one debate. That will take place Thursday night in Austin, Texas, co-sponsored by CNN and Univision. It airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN, airs later, by the way, later that night in Spanish -- in Spanish -- on Univision. You're going to want to catch that.

Jack Cafferty is joining us once again with "The Cafferty File." JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, as the candidates continue to go hammer and tong on the campaign trail, President's Day today, the candidates have their eyes on the grand prize. They all want to be the 44th president of the United States.

Seventy percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, so it's clear that we're hungry for a leader who will change course from the past eight years, get us back on track, if that's even possible at this point. And, of course, while looking forward, sometimes people also look back. And we tend to remember the past as better, or more prosperous or easier.

A new Gallup poll asks people if they could bring back any U.S. president, living or dead, to be the next leader of this country, who it would be; 23 percent of those surveyed said John Kennedy; 22 percent said Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton was next, 13 percent, Abraham Lincoln, 10 percent, Franklin Roosevelt 8 percent. The current president, George W. Bush, 1 percent, less than a rave review.

The possibilities this time around are exciting if for no other reason than the possibility of electing the first woman or the first African-American president ever. But what if we could turn back the clock?

Here's the question: If you could choose any former U.S. president to lead this country right now, who would it be and why?

E-mail your thoughts to You can post a comment on my blog, if you so choose.

BLITZER: And thousands of people will, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes, a lot of people do.

BLITZER: I know they do.

All right, stand by. Thanks.

Jack's coming back with the best political team on television as well.

Countdown to the Wisconsin primaries. The state's governor is backing Barack Obama. I will be speaking with the governor, Jim Doyle. We will talk live about why he's endorsing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton and Obama's chances in his state tomorrow.

Mike Huckabee shooting down calls to drop out of the race for the White House. What he's also saying about suggestions he's got his sights set on the nation's number two slot.

And a huge explosion closes schools and a major highway. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by with your I-Reports.

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


BLITZER: A few hours from now, voters in Wisconsin will actually start heading to the polls for that state's primary. The prize for Hillary Clinton could be significant, 74 delegates at stake.

My next guest surely hopes Barack Obama wins that contest. Jim Doyle is the governor of Wisconsin. He's a Barack Obama supporter. He's joining us now from Madison.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

GOV. JIM DOYLE (D), WISCONSIN: I'm glad to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: The polls show it both ways, a very close contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tomorrow. I know you're supporting Barack Obama.

But what do you do personally as a superdelegate to the convention in Denver at the end of the summer if Hillary Clinton were to get a majority of the Democrats in Wisconsin? Where would that put you?

DOYLE: Well, I strongly believe that this should be decided by the who has the most committed delegates. I don't thinking it necessarily means state by state or district by district or each person, but at the end of the day, I believe that the superdelegates as a group are really going to have to decide that we would divide in a way that would respect the choice of the voters, the people who have gone to primaries, the people who have gone to caucuses.

There are some governors of states that one candidate or the other has won who have announced one way or the another, and that will continue to be. But I think, in the end of the day, we simply cannot as Democrats have this decided by the superdelegates. It really has to be decided by the people who have shown up and voted in primaries and caucuses.

BLITZER: But, you know, the rules of the game are the rules that -- they have been established by the Democratic Party.

So, I guess the question -- I will rephrase it -- do you go with the majority of the votes around the country, or do you stick to your own Democrats in Wisconsin?

DOYLE: I go -- I believe where you go is with the majority of the committed delegates, picked in a lot of different ways in a lot of different states, but that, in the end, the superdelegates really should ratify what the count is of committed delegates.

BLITZER: So, if Hillary Clinton were to get the majority of the pledged delegates -- forget about the superdelegates right now -- you would then decide to flip from Obama to Hillary Clinton?

DOYLE: I really think so. I mean, I just think it would be a terrible thing for the Democratic Party to go against the pledged delegates. And so, as a practical matter, I think that's the way it's going to have to work out. I just think it would be a terrible thing for us to go against what has been the delegates that were selected through the electoral process.

BLITZER: And, so -- and what do you do with those Democrats in Michigan and Florida, who are going to have no say in this election whatsoever? Your fellow Democrats in Michigan and Florida, they participated, but they really were punished because they moved up their contests.

DOYLE: Well, they certainly knew what they were doing and they knew what the consequences were for that. It's not like this was a big surprise. You certainly cannot accept the results of those primaries. Barack Obama wasn't even on the Michigan ballot. He didn't even campaign in Florida. So, I mean, there's no way you could accept those results. I think everybody agrees with that.

Whether the party is going to agree to some other process of caucuses in those states, that remains to be seen. But I think everybody recognizes it would be really unfair to change the -- to change the rules now. So, I mean, I just -- we better do this the right way as Democrats. And Michigan and Florida made a very clear choice on what they were going to do.

BLITZER: One quick question. Hillary Clinton's running an ad in Wisconsin going after Barack Obama for declining invitations in Wisconsin to do a debate one-on-one in Wisconsin. And she's suggesting that either he was afraid or whatever.

But do you see this as a snub to the people of Wisconsin, the Democrats, that there was no real debate there in advance of tomorrow's contest?


And, in fact, let me just say that's the kind of accusation that gets thrown out. In fact, Barack Obama has been in this state every day but one since the Potomac primaries. Hillary Clinton just came yesterday. So, the whole time she was talking about a debate and putting this ad up, her only presence in the state was that negative ad. She hadn't even been here personally.

I have been with Barack Obama. He's been in front of enormous crowds in this state, not only 20,000 people in Madison, but 7,000 in Oshkosh and 8,000 in Green Bay and 6,000 in Eau Claire. They're having to turn thousands of people away.

I have been with him as he's had town hall meetings across the state. So, Barack Obama has come to Wisconsin and has put himself out in front of the voters. They have had 18 debates. They're going to have two more.

This was really -- you know, this was the first negative ads run in the campaign.

BLITZER: All right.

DOYLE: ... happened here in Wisconsin, run by a candidate who was not even -- had not even been in the state yet against a candidate who was devoting almost all of his time over the last week to Wisconsin.

BLITZER: Barack Obama is fortunate to have you, Governor, as one of his supporters going into the primary tomorrow. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Wisconsin in the race. We will be having special coverage throughout the night. Thanks very much.

DOYLE: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.

Tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, by the way, we will be speaking to a key Hillary Clinton supporter at this time as well.

An endorsement for one and a few words of advice for the other. President Bush's father weighing in on the Republican presidential race.

And the U.S. military sets a date to try its first shootdown of a deadly spy satellite before it hits Earth. We will tell you what's going on.

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



BLITZER: Our I-Reporters in Texas have been sending in their views of this massive explosion.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's standing by.

What are you looking at, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, residents said that doors popped open, windows were blown out. This is about three miles away from Larry Bates, who sent this into I-Report, saying that his whole house shook this morning when he was in bed, thought immediately of the refinery.

And this is what he saw when he went outside. But we're seeing pictures coming in for as much as 40 miles away. These pictures here from Clyde Himes. He was driving in the area nearby. We just spoke to him again 10 hours after the explosion. He said the smoke is less intense, but there's still thick black smoke there. The mayor says that's going to be the case for a period of time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush has a message for Mike Huckabee.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It can take a while for any candidate to read the handwriting on the wall.


BLITZER: But is Huckabee listening to calls he should actually drop out of the race for the White House? Why he's telling CNN he's staying put.

Accusations of plagiarism. Barack Obama fires right back at allegations from the Clinton campaign he lifted part of a speech. We will check it out in our roundtable.

And Bill Clinton on the defensive -- what hecklers are saying about his wife, Hillary Clinton, that have him downright angry.

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


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

Happening now, the Clinton campaign making some serious charges of plagiarism, accusing Barack Obama of directly lifting part of a speech. Obama says the accusation goes way too far. What impact will all this have on their race?

Also, John McCain gets the endorsement of Bush the father while he walks a fine line with Bush the son. How much should McCain use an unpopular president on the campaign trail? We will talk about that and more with the best political team on television.

Plus, we will take you to Hawaii, where Barack Obama's sister and Hillary Clinton's daughter are campaigning for their loved ones and residents are all fired up.

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

Barack Obama is explaining himself, but Hillary Clinton's campaign flat-out accusing Obama of stealing another person's words.

Let's get some more right now on our top story. At issue, passages of a speech Barack Obama recently used and speeches Deval Patrick used back in 2006 when he ran for Massachusetts governor. Their speeches match almost word for word. Listen to this.

OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter. I have a dream, just words. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, just words. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, just words.



DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASS. GOV. CANDIDATE: "We hold these truths to be self-evident"...


PATRICK: ..."that all men are created equal."


PATRICK: Just words. Just words. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."


PATRICK: Just words.


BLITZER: CNN's Jessica Yellin is watching all of this in Milwaukee. There's a primary in Wisconsin there tomorrow.

All right, you followed the back and forth today.

What's the latest -- Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is, Wolf, the Clinton campaign is fighting aggressively to win as many delegates here in Wisconsin as they can. And they're looking for any chink in Barack Obama's armor. So Obama says that words matter. Well, now the Clinton campaign is saying it also matters if the words he uses aren't his own.


YELLIN (voice-over): Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick says he's glad Barack Obama used his words to argue that rhetoric matters.

PATRICK: "I have a dream." Just words.

OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter. "I have a dream." Just words.

YELLIN: Governor Patrick is an outspoken Obama supporter and Senator Obama dismisses this as a petty controversy.

OBAMA: Deval and I do trade ideas all the time and, you know, he's, you know, occasionally used lines of mine.

YELLIN: But the Clinton campaign, stepping up their attacks, insists it calls into the question the very premise of Obama's candidacy, which they say is lofty rhetoric and, in this instance, isn't his own. They also charge this isn't an isolated incident and that Obama borrowed from Clinton's economic plan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama still won't agree to debate in Wisconsin. Now he's hiding behind false attack ads.


STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: They're really making kind of a where's the beef argument. And that is an argument that could, over time, sell. Unfortunately for Senator Clinton, she doesn't have a lot of time.

YELLIN: The argument begs the question -- in politics, is there a difference between imitation and verbal plagiarism?

This might sound familiar from Obama rallies.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we are fired up and we are ready to go.

YELLIN: And remember who said this first?

CLINTON: Well, I say yes, we can and...

OBAMA: Yes, we can.

YELLIN: It's from Cesar Chavez, who rarely seems to get credit.


YELLIN: And today, Wolf, Barack Obama also made the point that he has written two books and many of his own speeches. His press secretary says the Clinton campaign has their facts wrong about borrowing from Clinton's economic stimulus plan and they say overall, the Clinton campaign is just trying to score cheap political points. The back and forth continues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it will.

All right, thanks, Jessica, very much.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's watching all of this in Chicago.

Here in New York, CNN's Jack Cafferty, and our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin.

They are all part of the best political team on television.

How big or little of a deal, Jack Cafferty, is this?

CAFFERTY: It's probably not Barack Obama's finest hour. He probably should have said hey, I made a mistake. On the other hand, plagiarism is a crime. And if Governor Patrick said that he didn't care about Obama doing this and that they had suggested that he maybe use a couple of these lines, then that's a far cry from plagiarism. What's more important is I got an e-mail from a viewer this afternoon. Howard Wolfson, the same one that was quoted in the speech -- he's the communications director for the Clinton campaign -- was asked on a conference call earlier today by a reporter for ABC News, "Will you guarantee that Hillary Clinton has never done the same thing -- used someone else's rhetoric without credit or attribution?"

He wouldn't go near it. He said no, I won't.

BLITZER: All right.

Jeff, what do you think?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I think it's kind of a small embarrassment. But look, politicians all have speechwriters. There is no pretense that they all write their own material. All Obama was doing was using someone else's material with permission. That's what Hillary Clinton does with her speechwriters. Yes, it's a little embarrassing. Yes, he should probably give credit. But I really don't think it's a very big deal.

BLITZER: You've been doing, Candy, a lot of reporting on this subject today. We noted it at the top of this hour.

What are they saying behind-the-scenes?

What are you hearing?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is an attempt by the Clinton campaign to put another drop in this bucket, if you will. Here is the premise going forward. Hillary Clinton, the person of ideas, the person with specific plans. Here's my 13-point brochure. And Barack Obama, they want to paint as someone who has empty rhetoric -- now someone else's rhetoric -- and no ideas that are original.

So if this feeds into that, then I suppose it helps them. I think on the Obama side -- and I know on the Obama side -- they think that this just looks petty and desperate.

So I think it's another Rorschach Tests, that when you look at it, you see what you were going to see before -- before you actually walked into the room. I mean, the fact of the matter here is that Obama supporters are going to say it's petty and Clinton supporters are going to say you see, he's nothing but an empty suit.

BLITZER: And everybody is looking to see if there are other examples on the Clinton side or the Obama side of "plagiarism" or lifting passages from other speeches. We'll watch this story unfold.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, what about Barack Obama going ahead and meeting with John Edwards, trying to get his endorsement. Hillary Clinton did it a few days ago.

How important would that be if John Edwards were to formally endorse either Clinton or Obama? CAFFERTY: Well, there are a couple points to take into consideration. It would be important from the delegate standpoint. Obama has 26 delegates that he got before he dropped out of the race. It is...

BLITZER: Edwards. Edwards.

CAFFERTY: I'm sorry, Edwards -- extremely close between Obama and Clinton.

So who knows?

Twenty-six delegates might make the difference.

More importantly, Edwards was a voice for some of the disenfranchised lower middle class workers in this country who have been victimized by the big corporations that John Edwards has done legal battle against all of his life.

If one of these candidates can enlist that dialogue on their behalf, I can't see it could do anything but help them.


TOOBIN: Well, there's another factor here. You know, John Edwards is one of the few Americans who has watched all 18 debates among these candidates -- because he had to. He was there. He's had a lot of close up exposure to these two. And I think a lot of people would say, look, you know, he's probably got a pretty good sense of who these people are and what they stand for. So I think it's a significant thing. It would be a real bonus in a race that is very close, by any definition, if he would support one or the other.

I think it's a wasting asset. I think the longer he waits, the less it matters. But it's still a good thing for whoever gets it.

Do you agree, Candy?

CROWLEY: I think it's always a good thing. At least, at the very least, it gives you a day's worth of publicity. The Clinton people have always felt that going forth, John Edwards was always taking votes away from them -- those sort of working class, blue collar voters. So think they're going to take the lion's share of Edwards' voters anyway. But I think it does give a day's worth of publicity. If there's someone still on the fence, it might help.

I still feel the same about an Edwards endorsement as I have others -- I'm not so sure it helps. And he can also hold onto those delegates. He doesn't have to hand them over.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys. We're going to continue this conversation.

John McCain's campaign dilemma -- with President Bush's popularity so low, how much should John McCain actually use him on the campaign trail? Plus, he's certainly used to hecklers, but this one set him off. Bill Clinton loses his cool to a certain degree. We're going to show you what happened.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Former President George Herbert Walker Bush is endorsing Senator John McCain and offered an explanation as to why Mike Huckabee may still be running, despite McCain's near lock on the nomination.

Let's get back to the best political team on television.

Jack Cafferty, what do you think?

How big of a deal is this -- 41 endorsing McCain?

CAFFERTY: Well, it will be easier for him to accept and put into his portfolio than the endorsement of the son. I think it's fine. You know, as Candy said, these things are good for a day's worth of ink. Bush 41 is the, I guess, the titular head of the Republican Party. He's certainly the party's elder statesman. He's much beloved. And this is an easy one. And it would be a surprise, I suppose, if he didn't endorse John McCain.

BLITZER: And, Jeff, here's what the former president had to say, putting in sort of a little hint to Mike Huckabee what he should do.

Listen to this.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I did not come here to tell any other candidate what to do. After so much time and exhaustive effort by so many friends, it can take a while for any candidate to read the handwriting on the wall and that certainly was true of me.


BLITZER: All right, was that an implied suggestion to Mike Huckabee, you know what, it's time to go?

TOOBIN: I don't think it was implied, I think it was explicit.


TOOBIN: I think, you know, Mike Huckabee is becoming a real irritant because, you know, in the polls, at least, he's getting 40 percent of the vote in some of these upcoming states. If the all but certain nominee can't get more than 60 percent of the vote in any given state, I think that's embarrassing.

Plus, he's costing John McCain money, which he can't afford. McCain is advertising in Texas, advertising in Wisconsin. That's money that he needs to be safe to use against the Democrats.

So I think the establishment of the party really wants Huckabee out now.

BLITZER: Candy, weigh in on this.

What do you think is going on?

CROWLEY: Well, I think what's going on here, with the endorsement of the former president, is as much aimed at Texas as it is aimed at conservatives. As we all know, the former president was not a total conservative faith.

But this is about Texas, where the former president is popular. They're very worried about Texas in the McCain campaign, because he's in this never-never land. He is the presumptive nominee. Everyone thinks he will be the nominee. Mathematically, he's going to be the nominee. And yet there's still someone in this race.

So you have people going oh, well, it's already John McCain, so we don't have to show up for this primary. And then you have the Huckabee people, who are very fired up and want to send a message.

So they don't want a total embarrassment here in Texas. And I think this was George H.W. Bush saying folks, you need to get out to the polls and vote for this man. So I think it was every bit as much a message for Texas as it was for conservatives and Mike Huckabee.

CAFFERTY: Yes, Huckabee is only a few points behind down there in the polls going into this primary tomorrow.

BLITZER: He could -- he could embarrass John McCain, as he has in several other states.

Jeff, when they go out on the campaign trail, when the dust settles and McCain is campaigning, how should he use the current president -- the sitting president?

TOOBIN: Well, certainly, he's got to use him for fundraising. I mean George W. Bush remains a powerfully successful fundraiser. Other than that, frankly, I think the less the better. He is so unpopular that the only state in which he would help are states that McCain is going to win anyway. So I simply think that he is toxic at this point and there is not much of his help in public, other than fundraising, that McCain needs.

CAFFERTY: Jeff had the best line of the last couple of weeks -- the last week or so. He said, if you're the Democratic nominee, you offer to pay for the gas for Air Force One to fly the president into wherever John McCain is, because that will help the Democrats as much as anything.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by, because we've got leave it right there.

Candy, thank you very much Jeff Toobin, thanks to you.

Jack's got The Cafferty File still to come.

They're normally laid back, but residents of Hawaii are getting all fired up about their caucuses tomorrow.

Plus, if you could choose any former U.S. president to lead this country right now, who would it be and why?

Jack with your e-mail in The Cafferty File.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?


Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN, we'll have much more on the presidential campaign, including charges today that Senator Obama plagiarized a speech by another top Democrat. And we'll also be telling you what his wife Michelle had to say about this country.

Also, new evidence of the federal government's failure to understand one of the principal causes of the crisis over dangerous imports. A top federal government official saying the Bush administration's so-called free trade policies have nothing to do with imported goods and consumer safety.

And the biggest recall of potentially tainted beef ever -- incredibly, much of that has already been eaten. That's your government at work. We'll have the full story.

And working men and women and their families reeling from our mortgage crisis. One city helping struggling middle class families fight back. We'll be telling you about that and a great deal more.

All the day's news coming up at the top of the hour.

Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, we'll see you in a few moments, Lou.

Thank you.

With the Democratic contest so tight, Hawaii's caucuses tomorrow could actually play a significant role in picking the nominee.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Honolulu.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Aloha. Think Hawaii, you normally envision moonlit luaus, sun-kissed bodies, monster surf. Yes, there is that. But think again. In the frantic race for the Democratic nomination, where every delegate counts, Hawaii matters. This is Senator Barack Obama's home turf. He was born in Honolulu and spent much of his childhood here. His secret weapon on the campaign trail -- his younger sister, Maya Soetero-Ng.

MAYA SOETERO-NG, OBAMA'S SISTER: Hey people, how's it going?


SOETERO-NG: I'm an Obama mama.

MALVEAUX: Maya lives in Honolulu, where politicking nearly 5,000 miles away from Washington has a different feel -- rallying supporters with a potluck in the park.

SOETERO-NG: I'd like people to understand that he is, without a doubt, precisely what he says he is. He really has the power to do this.

MALVEAUX: But lest you think Hillary Clinton is giving up on Obama's backyard, think again.



MALVEAUX: Daughter Chelsea was dispatched for three days to campaign across the island. While she refuses to talk to reporters, she spends hours greeting and answering supporters' questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's going to do for us women what nobody could.

MALVEAUX: For many Hawaiian voters, this election is giving them a real role in the politics of the mainland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that Barack Obama is for homeboy and Hillary -- but I'm for Hillary. I believe she has the experience and all the things that are needed to be a president. I just am so inspired by all of this. It's overwhelming for me. It's hard for me to even talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's -- he represents kind of like an image of my family because he -- I see my kids' future in his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hawaii is a very special place and we have something here called the aloha spirit. And I really think that Obama embodies the aloha spirit.

MALVEAUX (on camera): Do you think that Senator Clinton has that same aloha spirit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. No. I don't see that at all.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Honolulu, Hawaii. (END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Let's get to someone with the aloha spirit. That would be Jack Cafferty.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely not.

BLITZER: He's got The Cafferty File and the aloha spirit.

CAFFERTY: Yes, all in one.



CAFFERTY: How lucky can you get?

The question this hour -- if you could choose any former U.S. president -- it's Presidents Day, so we did this kind of corny question -- choose any former president to lead the country now, who would it be and why?

Gallup did this and the two top guys were Kennedy and Reagan.

Elliot writes: "Eisenhower. He had the experience of someone who actually was in a war and yet had the vision to warn about the corruption of the military-industrial complex. Ike was a fairly non- partisan president. He would turn down the hateful politics that we suffer through these days."

Joe writes: "Kennedy was a great orator, but too inexperienced to be president. Witness the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which almost got us into a nuclear war. Roosevelt would be too big government for today. Bill Clinton had it about right."

A. Writes: "I'd choose Harry Truman. He knew right from wrong, didn't split hairs. Although he was a man of faith, he didn't use it for his political advantage. He made tough choices -- the atomic bomb on Japan -- to cut down the length of World War II and the number of U.S. combat deaths. If he made a mistake he admitted it, then corrected it. He didn't hide behind executive privilege or put his no- nothing cronies in high positions."

Ted in Denver: "While I'm a Democrat, I, too, would choose either of the top two from the poll -- JFK or Reagan. The poll shows the popular desire to have a president who inspires us to be a better nation and instills the belief that it's possible, regardless of ideology. Isn't that at the very heart of what it means to be a leader?"

Duncan in Kentucky writes: "I'd go with Teddy Roosevelt, staunch conservative, environmentalist, a proponent of speaking softly, carrying a big stick. Let's have a president willing to actually lead, like Teddy did when he took the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill."

And Sameer writes: "How about George Washington? I think the country needs to look at its roots and reconnect with what started this great nation -- no better than the original architects. Washington urged his countrymen against excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions. I think we need a reminder of both of those right now." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Happy Presidents Day.

CAFFERTY: Why, thank you, sir.

And you, too.

BLITZER: A lovely day it is.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Which president would you go back and put in office?

BLITZER: I don't know. You know, I...

CAFFERTY: Herbert Hoover.

BLITZER: I've got some of my personal favorites. You know, there were two presidents from my hometown of Buffalo, New York.

CAFFERTY: And they are?

BLITZER: Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland.

CAFFERTY: Were either of them any good?



BLITZER: They were lovely guys.

CAFFERTY: Nice guys.

BLITZER: I'm not sure we'd want them back.


BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

Bill Clinton let's a heckler have it.

Jeanne Moss has the story.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Campaigning for his wife, Bill Clinton hasn't had an easy time on the campaign trail. Our Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look at what got the former president worked up again.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He may be the man with the mike, but he he's catnip for hecklers. In a single day, Bill Clinton got heckled by anti-abortion protesters...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We disagree with you.

MOOS: And repeatedly interrupted by a guy yelling, "Obama!"

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think it's great that he has...


B. CLINTON: So we can rebuild the American dream again.


MOOS: And then the same heckler made a bee line for the rope line, where he got Bill so worked up, the former president wagged his finger.

But according to our favorite lip reader...

(on camera): You didn't hear any swear words?


MOOS: He's not saying you (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE)?


MOOS: You'd see that if you...

OBERLANDER: Yes. I think everyone would.

MOOS (voice-over): Though Clinton's lips are hard to read because they're...


MOOS (on camera): Rigid?

He has rigid lips?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can't read smiling lips.

MOOS: Smiling lips?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot read smiling lips.

MOOS (voice-over): Well, Bill wasn't smiling. Heckler Robert Holeman told MSNBC the former president even gave him a little pop on the head -- though a Clinton spokesperson said there was no physical contact.

A conservative blog colored the president red-faced. Tongues wagged.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, MSNBC'S "MORNING JOE": You've had some of the top political reporters in America whispering what's wrong with Bill Clinton, why is he so out of control?


MOOS (on camera): Probably because he keeps hearing stuff like that from the media. We are far more annoying than hecklers.

(voice-over): Remember how he blew up at Fox News' Chris Wallace?


B. CLINTON: You've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever.


MOOS: Clinton is a heckler magnet, attracting a university professor dressed up as a robot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The robots of the world want you to apologize to Mr. (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: Attracting protesters who think 9/11 was an inside job.


B. CLINTON: What are you screaming about?

Let him talk. We've heard from you now. Now you hear from me. I let you be rude and interrupt me.



MOOS: Sometimes Bill Clinton starts gentle, say with AIDS protesters.


B. CLINTON: And I don't mind listening. You can talk.


MOOS: And ends rough if they keep it up.


B. CLINTON: You make snotty-nosed remarks about how I haven't done anything in my life and it's all driven by ambition. That's bull.


MOOS: He's the master of the kiss-off as they're let off.


B. CLINTON: But you ought to go. It would be good for you. You'd get some fresh air.

So we heard from you. You go away.

MOOS: There is something that's even harder to handle gracefully than hecklers -- dancing Masai warriors.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I'll be back in one hour with CNN's Election Center. That's coming up at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Don't forget, 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.