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Hillary Clinton's Fear Tactics; McCain Endorsement Uproar; Will Barack Withstand Pressure from the Competition

Aired February 29, 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, Texas ad attacks. Hillary Clinton plays to voters' fears for their children's safety and Barack Obama fires right back with an ad of his own and charges of scare tactics.

Bill Clinton as help mate -- he's trying to put the spotlight on his wife and keeping his own profile a little bit lower.

And John McCain refusing to break with an evangelical leader critical of Catholics. Will it cost him votes as he focuses in on the fall election?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with the best political team on television.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

High anxiety on the presidential campaign trail right now heading into Tuesday's pivotal round of primaries. The usual back and forth over national security is being punctured by a dramatic new Hillary Clinton campaign ad in Texas, and now a quick response in a brand-new Obama ad.

Standing by in Texas right now, the best political team on television, Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux, Jessica Yellin, and, in the other primary hot zone, Ohio, we have John King, Candy Crowley, and Carol Costello.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin first, though, in Texas with that eye- popping new Clinton ad.

Jessica, this is a powerful and controversial ad. Let's get the ad and the response from the Obama camp. What's going on?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Obama camp is saying that Senator Clinton is playing to voters' fears, and Barack Obama insists it won't work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NARRATOR: Tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. YELLIN (voice-over): A fierce volley from Senator Clinton.

NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

YELLIN: Obama turning the attack on his national security credentials back on his opponent.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is not about picking up the phone. The question is, what kind of judgment will you exercise when you pick up that phone?

YELLIN: His point time and again, Clinton voted for the war with Iraq; he opposed it. The ad is a clear allusion to another emotional wartime commercial.

EVAN TRACEY, CAMPAIGN MEDIA ANALYST: Again, these are the kind of messages you put out at the very end and you try and plant that seed of doubt with undecided or independent voters. And you hope it sticks with them through Election Day.

YELLIN: Facing must-win primaries, Clinton is trying to break through the blitz of Obama advertisements. Change the channel in Texas and Ohio, and you see this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama opposed this war in Iraq from the start.

OBAMA: Washington has talked about health care reform and reformed nothing.

YELLIN: In the ad war, Clinton is being extravagantly outspent. In Ohio, she has spent $1.5 million on ads. He rang up $1 million more. In Texas, she's poured $3.5 million into ads. He spent $2 million more. And it's not just how much, but where.

During "American Idol," the nation's most popular show, there were 38 political ads aired in the states that vote this week, six of them for Clinton, the other 32 all for Obama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, now there's a new ad from Barack Obama, this one responding to Senator Clinton's ad. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: It's 3:00 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone ringing in the White House. Something is happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one, the only one, who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start, who understood the real threat to America was al Qaeda in Afghanistan, not Iraq, who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons around the globe?

In a dangerous world, it's judgment that matters.

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The Obama campaign says that ad will hit the airwaves in Texas tomorrow. So, the back and forth is escalating -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks.

We are going to have a lot more on this, ad wars, coming up with the best political team on television.

Let's get to Hillary Clinton's number-one surrogate right now out on the campaign trail in Ohio. These days, Bill Clinton is acting less like a former commander in chief and more like a very helpful husband.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in Ohio watching this story for us.

And if you watch closely, I take it, Candy, as you have, you're seeing a little bit of a different Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail now, as opposed to only a few weeks ago?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You do see another Bill Clinton. It is very clear that he's had a little trouble adjusting to this role as spouse of, but nonetheless, he now seems to have it down pat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Bill Clinton was born to the spotlight, a natural headliner. But there are no headlines here in the small rural towns of Ohio.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My first argument for her to you is that she will get this country on its feet again, moving forward again.

CROWLEY: The South Carolina Bill Clinton, the one who made news, not all of it good, has been replaced by Ohio Bill Clinton, all Hillary all the time.

B. CLINTON: Hillary has been working on school reform for more than 30 years. She really cares about this. And here's what she wants me to tell you about this.

CROWLEY: The Ohio Bill Clinton flies mostly below the radar, talking Hillary on genome research, Hillary on health care, Hillary on alternative energy, Hillary commander in chief.

B. CLINTON: She was the only senator asked by the Pentagon to serve on a small commission to modernize the military. She has more support from retired senior military people than anybody else running. They trust her to do this. And this is important. You ought to vote for her on this ground. You will be a safer, more secure, more prosperous country if you do it. CROWLEY: The town halls in the high school gymnasiums are not always packed, the crowds not only always wild. It's not like the old days. He is grayer and slower than he was 16 years ago when he burst on the national scene. But Clinton can still deliver a great speech with flashes of a man seen as the best politician of his generation applying his trade for his wife.

B. CLINTON: I was in Texas the other day and a woman in the back of my crowd had a homemade cardboard box sign that said, "Persuade me, Bill."

(LAUGHTER)

B. CLINTON: So, after the speech, she came over to her box and she said, OK, you made the sale. Now sign the box.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: By the time the day is done, he will have given hour- long speeches in five towns. And aides who were in grade school when Clinton was president tell stories with a familiar ring, like the night they arrived at a hotel at midnight and Clinton wanted to find a bowling alley to look for voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And even that, Wolf, was according to plan. I asked one strategist in the Clinton campaign how they are using him, and they said basically, we want him to reach as many voters as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy Crowley, in Ohio for us.

Out in Texas today, Republican John McCain is putting a new twist of his own on the national security debate. At the same time, he's confronting another controversy over an evangelical preacher who's endorsed him.

Let's go to Dana Bash. She's covering the McCain campaign -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, John McCain has spent the past few days campaigning here in Texas, hoping that Tuesday's primary here and in three other states that day give him the delegates to mathematically clinch the GOP nomination. But it was pretty clear once again he knows he has no time to waste in drawing distinctions with the Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator John McCain.

BASH (voice-over): Call this rebooting for the fall campaign. John McCain used an appearance at Dell Computer in Texas to chastise Democratic candidates for wanting to renegotiate NAFTA, saying it could imperil military support from Canada. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, how do you think the Canadian people are going to react to that, who we are having now their enormous and invaluable assistance in Afghanistan?

BASH: About 2,500 Canadian troops serve on the front lines in Afghanistan assisting the U.S. effort against the Taliban. McCain noted the controversy inside Canada about their deployment as he lobbed his latest question about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's readiness to be commander in chief.

MCCAIN: I think the Canadians would view that as a betrayal.

BASH: But even as he focused on Democrats, controversy is brewing over McCain's attempt this week to appeal to skeptical conservatives in his own party.

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: And John McCain is the right choice to lead America.

BASH: An endorsement from Texas evangelical Pastor John Hagee. The president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, says Hagee regularly impugns the Catholic Church, calling it the, "great whore" and a "false cult system."

Donohue wants McCain to embrace his retract his embrace of Hagee. He refused.

MCCAIN: When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes in.

BASH: Meanwhile, as McCain pivots towards the general election, fresh evidence of his huge financial challenge. In February, Hillary Clinton raised $35 million. Barack Obama's campaign says he raised more. But sources tell CNN McCain raised just a third of that, $12 million.

MCCAIN: We have got a ways to go to catch up. I think we have been doing better, but I must admit I give great credit to both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton for doing a very fine job at fund- raising.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: To try to make up for that big money disadvantage, McCain went from campaigning here to a private fund-raiser. In fact, he's been doing that nearly every day for the past few weeks.

But McCain advisers know his fund-raising deficit is just one illustration of a broader challenge, that the enthusiasm that is very much there for Democrats is just not there for Republicans right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana in Texas for us, thank you.

One further note to Dana's reporting on John Hagee and his endorsement of John McCain. CNN has tried repeatedly to reach Pastor Hagee to get his response to the criticism from Catholic leaders. His aide said he was traveling, was not available.

Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File." He is joining us now in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Music plays an important role on the campaign trial. The right song can rally the crowd, get them going, pump them up before the candidate gets on sage.

But several of this year's presidential candidates have had problems when it comes to picking their music. Hillary Clinton held an online contest to choose her song, came up with "You and I" by Celine Dion. That was fine, except Celine Dion is Canadian. Scrap that idea.

John McCain at one point was using John Mellencamp's hits "Our Country" and "Pink Houses," but the liberal rocker wasn't comfortable with the conservative McCain using his tunes and told him to stop. McCain also ran into problems using the theme song from "Rocky." And he opted against using "Take a Chance on Me" by the Swedish group ABBA because he ran into licensing and other concerns. I have no idea what music John McCain is using these days.

Mike Huckabee tried playing "More Than a Feeling" by the group Boston. They balked, said Huckabee didn't have permission to use their song and was "the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for."

As for Barack Obama, he flicks through his iPod at campaign events, picks out his favorite Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin tune. But on the night of the New Hampshire primary, they played Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed and Delivered." The problem is, he lost that night to Hillary Clinton.

If these people are no better at running the country than they are at picking out music for their campaigns, we're in trouble for the next four years.

Here's the question: What theme song would you suggest for any of the remaining presidential candidates?

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

BLITZER: See you in a few moments with the best political team, Jack. Thank you.

Staying in the race for the long run, Mike Huckabee says he plans to do that. So, why shouldn't Hillary Clinton do exactly the same thing if she doesn't win in Texas and Ohio?

Also, do you know Barack Obama's middle name? If you do, his wife says there's a sinister reason for that. Why does Michelle Obama think using her husband's middle name is -- quote -- "the ultimate fear bomb"?

And a special assistant to President Bush caught red-handed. He's admitting red-faced embarrassment for something he did. We will explain that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama is accusing Hillary Clinton of trying to scare up votes in a provocative new campaign ad that is now airing in Texas. It plays to voters' fears for their children's safety and to questions of which candidate has the most experience.

Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Howard, thanks for coming in.

HOWARD WOLFSON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: We have showed the ad to our viewers already. Here's what Barack Obama had to say when he heard about it. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We have seen these ads before. They're usually the kind that play upon people's fears and try to scare up votes. I don't think these ads will work this time, because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is, what kind of judgment will you exercise when you pick up that phone?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, first of all, tell us about this ad, because it does seem to suggest, you know, a dire scenario out there, and the implication, the upshot being Hillary Clinton would be good to have on that phone call, but Barack Obama would not be good.

WOLFSON: Well, you know, Wolf, every president faces a national security test during his or her tenure.

You get a phone call at 3:00 a.m. You have a split-second. You need to respond. Lives are on the line. Americans know that. This is not about playing towards fears. Americans aren't so fearful. But Americans also know that we're going to elect the most important person for the most important job in the world. And we need that person to be ready for whatever comes their way, 3:00 a.m. phone call, lives on the line.

Who do you want picking up the phone with the judgment and the strength and the experience to deal with that situation? You know, 25 flag officers have endorsed Hillary Clinton. There was some talk at the beginning of a campaign, would a woman be able to pass the national security test?

Well, Hillary Clinton has passed that test with flying colors. She's got support from generals and admirals, people who have served in the military, people who know... BLITZER: All right.

WOLFSON: ... that we need a president when lives are on the line and the situation matters.

BLITZER: Because he is -- his argument -- and he's made it many times -- is that, when it came to judgment, he had the right judgment back in October 2002 to oppose the authorization to go to war in Iraq.

WOLFSON: Well...

BLITZER: And she had the bad judgment to vote -- that is what he says -- to vote for that authorization.

WOLFSON: It is true that, when it came time to give a speech, he gave a speech. He consulted with consultants. He consulted with his friends and associates.

That's not the kind of situation that you have at 3:00 a.m. in the Oval Office when you have a split-second to make a decision when lives are on the line. And the reason why 25 different flag officers are supporting Hillary Clinton is because they know that she has the strength and the judgment to make the decision that we would need in that situation.

BLITZER: The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, issued a statement endorsing Barack Obama, among other things, saying: "What matters most is sound judgment and decisive action. It's about getting it right on crucial national security questions the first time and every time" -- a ringing endorsement for Barack Obama.

How disappointed is Senator Clinton that her colleague from West Virginia went with Barack Obama?

WOLFSON: Well, Senator Obama has strong endorsers in the Senate. We have got great endorsers in the Senate. We're particularly proud today, as I have said, that 25 different flag officers are supporting us, because they know that the person who is going to protect this country needs to be ready to do so on day one with judgment, with wisdom, experience, and strength.

BLITZER: Is Barack Obama not ready on day one?

WOLFSON: We think Hillary Clinton is ready. Voters will make a judgment about Barack Obama. I can go to sleep at night knowing that Hillary Clinton is ready if that phone call comes.

BLITZER: And you couldn't go to sleep knowing Barack Obama would be receiving that phone call?

WOLFSON: I'm more comfortable with Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: Because you're not answering specifically whether you would be comfortable with Barack Obama as well. WOLFSON: Well, I'm here -- I'm here to make a powerful case for Hillary Clinton. I'm here to make a case based on 35 years of judgment, and experience, and wisdom, and strength, backed up by the endorsement of 35 different flag officers, who say, you know what, when lives are on the line and the phone calls come in, whatever it is -- and there's going to be one -- there's always one in every presidency -- we want Hillary Clinton answering that phone.

BLITZER: The former President Bill Clinton says, if she wins Texas and Ohio, she will go on and capture the nomination.

But what if she only wins one of those states, let's say Ohio, and loses Texas? What do you do then?

WOLFSON: We're very optimistic.

We think we're going to have a very successful Tuesday in Ohio and Texas. And that's despite the fact that we are being massively outspent by the Obama campaign and its allies in both of those states. You know, Senator Obama has more or less declared the race is over. He's acting like the presumptive nominee.

Each week, his campaign says that there's no way we can catch up. The truth is that, if he doesn't win these races, it -- what it will show is that Democrats want this contest to continue. They want to see a vigorous debate between these two, and we may be seeing a little bit of buyer's remorse setting in.

BLITZER: Why do you say buyer's remorse?

WOLFSON: Well, look, right now, Senator Obama, in fairness, has had a very good post-February 5th. He's had a good month.

Now we have got Texas and Ohio, two big states, two critical states for deciding the presidency. He's throwing all of his resources into it. He's doing everything he can to win. And, if he doesn't come out and win, I think it says something very important about voters taking a look at these two and deciding maybe Hillary Clinton is maybe the right person.

BLITZER: Howard Wolfson, thanks for coming in.

WOLFSON: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: The U.S. military serving up a big blow to a U.S. campaign, Boeing. The airline giant manufacturing planes has been doing one thing for the Air Force for nearly 50 years. Now the U.S. Air Force decides to go the other way.

And check your piggy bank. Those pennies you have wouldn't be there at all if the treasury secretary could get his way -- lots of news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK) BLITZER: John McCain may be alienating an important group of swing voters. That would be America's Catholics.

Up next, should he reconsider accepting the endorsement of a controversial evangelical leader?

Plus, Barack Obama responding to Hillary Clinton's nightmare scenario. Can he defuse her message that he's not ready to lead in a time of crisis?

And Mike Huckabee isn't going anywhere, at least not yet. Should the other presidential candidates care? The best political team on television ready to take it all in -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, what should have been a welcome endorsement blowing up for the McCain campaign. We're going to show you why it's causing so much controversy right now, pitting one faith against another.

Also, the Clinton-Obama ad wars. She fires off the first shot with a brand-new commercial which critics say is nothing more than a scare tactic. We're going to talk about that and more with the best political team on television.

Plus, Barack Obama's wife breaks her silence on what she calls the ultimate fear bomb, the use of his middle name.

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

It's an endorsement that could wind up costing John McCain as many votes, if not more, as it wins. So, what did a leading television evangelist say that has some Catholics and a lot of other people calling on McCain to repudiate him?

CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us.

Brian, explain this controversy, what it's all about.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some Catholic leaders are furious that John McCain has accepted the endorsement of televangelist John Hagee, who they say has a long history of vicious attacks on their church.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): On the surface, it seemed like a much-needed conservative endorsement for John McCain.

PASTOR JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: John McCain will be a strong, courageous and effective leader from the first day he steps into the Oval Office. TODD: Pastor John Hagee, a popular televangelist from San Antonio with a 19,000-member church and a TV ministry seen around the world throws his support to the presumptive Republican nominee, who responds unequivocally.

MCCAIN: I'm very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement today.

TODD: Since that Wednesday event, one key part of McCain's potential voting base has turned on him, Catholic leaders calling on McCain to repudiate Hagee.

BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: This thing is out of bounds. And this is why McCain has to look at this. It's the totality of what the man stands for. He's been bashing Catholicism for decades and making a mountain of money over it.

TODD: In a letter calling on McCain to reject the endorsement and distance himself from Hagee, Catholics United, an online group that advocates strict adherence to Catholic teachings, says: "You are probably unaware of Pastor Hagee's longstanding derision of the Catholic Church."

Here's what they're talking about. In his book "Jerusalem Countdown," updated last year, Hagee writes that the Roman Catholic Church "plunged the world into the Dark Ages" and "Adolph Hitler attended a Catholic school as a child and heard all the fiery anti- Semitic rantings from Chrysostom to Martin Luther.

We tried repeatedly to reach Pastor Hagee to get his response to the criticism from Catholic leaders. His aide said he was traveling and not available.

McCain had this to say...

MCCAIN: When he endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for and believes in.

TODD: McCain's campaign also issued a statement saying he hopes Catholics and all people of faith share his vision for defending innocent life and traditional marriage. But McCain's campaign didn't respond when we asked if he knew about Hagee's writings before accepting the endorsement. Analysts say that may not move the ball far enough with Catholic voters in key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So if John McCain is saying or accepting an endorsement that is offensive to Catholics and doesn't repudiate it, he risks alienating a crucial swing group.

TODD: This comes just after McCain did repudiate talk show host Bill Cunningham for an incendiary speech against Barack Obama and after Obama rejected this endorsement from Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan.

LOUIS FARRAKHAN, NATION OF ISLAM: Who can lift America? TODD: Do the candidates bear the ultimate responsibility for the brimstone of their endorsers?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ADVISER: The candidate bears a lot of responsibility for what goes on at his own rallies. If someone comes out of the blue and endorses you and it turns out in their background they have said something which is offensive or insulting, you continue to have some responsibility. It's less, but you do need to disassociate yourself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But John McCain getting some key backup in this story Republican Senator Sam Brownback, who is Catholic, issued a statement a short time ago. Brownback said McCain would never condone anti- Catholicism or even the slightest whiff of it.

Still, there is considerable pressure for McCain to move further away from John Hagee than he has so far. The leader of the Catholic League says they are going to be relentless in calling attention to this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.

Let's get some more on this endorsement and the controversy surrounding it. For that, we're joined by our senior analyst, Jeff Toobin. He's in New York. Along with Jack Cafferty and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here in Washington. They are all part of the best team on television.

What do you make of this -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The word that comes to mind is sloppy. This is not going to be helpful. It's the second time in a week that McCain has got himself embroiled in some controversial endorsement. First that moron talk show host in Cincinnati and now this guy, who apparently has the Catholics fired up over some of the things he's written.

You've got to have people, I would think, who do a little vetting on these endorsements before you let your guy stand on the stage with someone who is going to -- pardon my French -- piss off the Catholic Church. That's just sloppy.

BLITZER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, to Barack Obama, reject or denounce. I think this is a difficult problem for McCain if his staff can't figure out whether he should be on stage with somebody. And you cannot vet the credentials of everybody who wants to endorse you, nor should you.

But you have to understand the proper way to distance yourself. You're not going to see Barack Obama on stage with Louis Farrakhan anytime ever. And John McCain's staff probably thinks now that he shouldn't have been there, either. BLITZER: I got an e-mail just a little while ago, Jeff, from a Catholic friend of mine who says that McCain just lost the election. He thinks the Catholics are going to be outraged by this and there are a lot of votes out there. I don't know how you feel about this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's probably a little premature to say he lost the election.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: But I think it reflects a bigger problem that McCain has, is that, you know, he needs to appeal to the conservative religious right. He's not a part of the religious right. They don't particularly like him. He doesn't know a lot about these people.

And he is -- he's feeling his way. And he doesn't, you know, know the history. And so now he looks bad either way -- renouncing him or embracing Hagee. So, you know, this is the kind of thing that happens when you're trying to align yourself with a group that fundamentally you're really not a part of.

CAFFERTY: I saw a poll today that said...

BORGER: You know, it just gives you a...

CAFFERTY: ... forty-nine percent of Republicans -- 49 percent of Republicans think Huckabee ought to stay in the race. That's an indication of where McCain stands at this moment.

BORGER: ... Well, it just gives you a sense of how divorced he is from this world -- from the world of the religious right and/or the cultural conservatives at all, if you will, because another cultural conservative might have known about this particular endorser.

BLITZER: You know, we've been talking a lot about this, this new Hillary Clinton ad -- Jack. And now we've got a Barack Obama response, a new ad of his own.

Let me play a little clip -- the beginning of both of these ads -- and then we'll discuss them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HILLARY CLINTON)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it's someone...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BARACK OBAMA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3:00 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone ringing in the White House. Something's happening in the world. When that call gets answered, shouldn't the president be the one -- the only one -- who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq War from the start? Who understood...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The battle of the ads.

What's your take on this one -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: This is virtually the same commercial -- and it was produced by the same guy -- that Walter Mondale used against Gary Hart in 1984. A couple of differences between then and now. The cold war was in full swing and we had all been raised ducking under our desks in school to be afraid of the incoming ICBMs from Russia. That's not as big a threat certainly now as it was then.

The other bigger difference is that I think -- this is only my opinion or feeling I get from reading thousands of e-mails -- I think that the public is beginning to see through the fear mongering and the attempts to frighten us into compliance that we have been dealing with for the last seven years. This could backfire on her.

BLITZER: Gloria, let me play a few seconds from that 1984 ad --

BORGER: OK.

BLITZER: Just a little flavor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Powerful responsibility in the world lies in the hand that picks up this phone. The idea of an unsure, unsteady, untested hand is something to really think about. This is the issue of our times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You get the point, Gloria.

BORGER: The more things change --

BLITZER: You and I -- all of us are old enough to remember that campaign in '84.

BORGER: -- The more things change, the more they remain the same. Obviously, even then in Hart versus Mondale, it was the question of change versus risk. And that's what Hillary Clinton's been talking about throughout this campaign.

One thing I want to point out about her ad, which interested me as a woman, is instead of the red phone, there were children sleeping. And I think it was a sense of appealing to women, saying we want to keep our families safe. These are our children. And maybe it's a great idea to have a woman handling the problems at 3:00 in the morning, because women do that. So I think there was a not so subterranean gender appeal here in this ad, too.

BLITZER: Jeff? TOOBIN: Well, I think, you know this exchange of ads is just a recapitulation of the whole Clinton/Obama contest because you have Hillary Clinton saying experience and intelligence and Obama saying well, if you're so smart, how come you voted for the Gulf War -- for the Iraq War?

And, you know, Obama keeps winning that argument with the voters. And I don't see why he's not going to win this argument, as well.

BORGER: You know, I think it's a legitimate argument that she's raised. She raised it throughout the campaign, as you say. It's the same old same old argument. I think it would have had a lot more potency right now if it had been raised a month or two ago. Now, being raised right before these two big primaries coming up, it looks a little like we're throwing everything against the wall and see what's going to stick.

TOOBIN: You know what I like?

BLITZER: All right --

TOOBIN: I like that red phone. I hadn't seen a phone looking like that in a long time.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: I wonder if it had a dial on it instead of a red light.

BORGER: No, it's just a hot -- it's just a light.

BLITZER: What are those dials? I'm not familiar with what you're talking about, Jeff.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, stand by...

TOOBIN: I'm not -- you know --

BLITZER: ... Stand by.

We're going to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about.

It could be a battle that would make the primary season look like a tea party. Can Barack Obama withstand a Republican onslaught if -- if he gets the nomination?

Plus, his wife Michelle speaking out about her husband's middle name. You're going to find out why she calls it and I'm quoting now -- "the ultimate fear bomb."

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Our poll of polls shows Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by seven points in Ohio, but with a considerable number unsure who they want to be the Democratic nominee.

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

Jack, there was a story on the front page of "The New York Times" today saying if Obama gets this nomination, get ready, because the Republicans, their opposition research, they're gearing up.

And Mark Penn, the top strategist for Hillary Clinton, was quoted in the story as saying this: "The truth is, if he is ever in a general election, a lot of positions he took in 2003 and 2004 will come back to haunt him in a big way and a lot of the vetting that didn't happen will happen. The Independent and Republican support that he has had will evaporate really quickly."

What do you make of this?

CAFFERTY: Well, I think -- I'm sure Mark Penn hopes that will be the case. Barack Obama seems like a big, strong guy. He's probably able to take care of himself. And they're missing the point about what's going on, I think.

Barack Obama is running on the palpable rage against the status quo in Washington, D.C. . The reason that 20,000 people turn out to hear Barack Obama speak and 200 show up at some school auditorium to hear Bill Clinton talk about his wife is that the public is up to their eyebrows in the status quo of Washington, D.C.

The stock market is down another 3.25 today. The dollar is approaching the value of those pennies somebody had in a report a few minutes ago. We're $9 trillion in debt. Kids dying in Iraq. We've got two wars going on.

And if there were ever two poster children for the status quo in Washington, D.C. , they are John McCain and Hillary Clinton. And that's why Barack Obama will probably be just fine.

BLITZER: Gloria?

BORGER: A lot of Democrats I talked to today, Wolf, privately worry that Mark Penn is actually right. And that whatever the Clinton campaign could dig up on Barack Obama, perhaps from his early years as a community organizer, things he might have said, that maybe they decided to hold back on it because in the Democratic campaign.

They didn't want to anger the Democratic base. And so maybe some of the stuff they didn't want to use against him and the Republicans can run with it. So there is some unease, you know, among Democrats.

BLITZER: Jeff, is that unease, as Howard Wolfson, the Clinton communications director told us just a little while ago, bordering on this whole notion of buyer's remorse?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the Clinton people are betting on buyer's remorse because the Democratic Party, at least, is clearly buying Barack Obama. But I think what we're going to see in the fall, if Obama is the nominee, is a classic sort of anti-liberal campaign. Every word from the Republican is going to be he's a liberal, he's liberal, he's out of touch, he's so liberal. And that's worked very well over the past 20 years in American politics.

But you know what? Maybe it won't work anymore. Maybe that list of disasters that Jack just gave is enough for people to say, look, you know, liberal doesn't sound so bad to us now. And change of any kind sounds good. But, certainly -- I mean Mark Penn is right that there is going to be assault on Obama that he is simply too liberal.

BLITZER: If Mike Huckabee stays in this race, Jack -- and he's staying in the race, even though McCain has an overwhelming mathematical advantage -- why shouldn't Hillary Clinton stay in the race as long as Barack Obama doesn't reach that magic number, even if she loses Texas and Ohio on Tuesday?

CAFFERTY: I don't care if she stays in the race. I mean I -- you know, at some point, the Democratic Party, if they think the opportunity they sense is there is real, is going to have to make up their minds, get behind somebody and get about the business of winning the general election. The longer the race is unresolved, the more money gets spent fighting each other, et cetera, et cetera.

The thing with Huckabee is he's got the support of a whole bunch of Republicans and John McCain is this close to being the nominee. Neither Clinton nor Obama is that close to being the candidate. But at some point, the Democrats are going to have to decide what they want to do.

BORGER: Wolf, Hillary just has a lot more to lose by staying in, if she were to lose Texas and Ohio. She has a great reputation, could be Senate majority leader some day, doesn't want to be seen as a spoiler dividing the Democratic Party. There's also the question of her husband's legacy.

If they could be seen as the people that bring the party together, that would be very, very good for Hillary Clinton in the future. Mike Huckabee, what does he have to lose? Nothing.

TOOBIN: Right. And unlike Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton actually has a job right now.

BORGER: Exactly. And has --

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: That she could go back to. And she's, by all accounts, very good at it and enjoys it.

BLITZER: All right --

TOOBIN: And, as Gloria says, has a considerable future, certainly in the Senate, and perhaps as a candidate for president.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, guys. Thanks very much, Jeff and Gloria. Have a great weekend.

Jack, we're not done with you yet. We've got "The Cafferty File" coming up.

John McCain's middle name is Sidney. Hillary Clinton's middle name is Diane. Surely both nice names that you might not know. But you likely have heard Barack Obama's middle name.

And here's the question -- why? Barack Obama's wife thinks she knows why.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York -- Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, his political opponents on the right step up the use of Senator Obama's full name. His wife Michelle says they're doing it to play on fears.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): His middle name, Hussein, has never been a secret. But twice this week alone, Senator Barack Obama's full name has been used in two attacks drawing scrutiny. Obama's wife Michelle says it's a fear tactic she witnessed in past campaigns.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: They threw in the obvious ultimate fear bomb that we have been hearing now. They said his name. They said look out for his name. When all else fails, be afraid of his name and what that could stand for because it's different and let me play on your fear of difference.

SNOW: Reporters who covered Obama's 2004 Senate race say a Web site went up with Obama's name, along with a picture of Osama bin Laden. It eventually disappeared.

In this election, conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham, for one, is emphasizing Obama's middle name, Hussein. It was part of a broader attack on Obama. And Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain publicly apologized for Cunningham's attacks since they happened at a McCain event. But Cunningham remains defiant.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Hussein is a great Muslim name. I meant no offense and none was taken.

SNOW: The Tennessee Republican Party issued a press release captured by some newspapers titled "Anti-Semites for Obama" that included his full name. The Republican National Committee denounced it and it's been retracted. While McCain has vowed to run a respectful campaign, some observers say they expect the attacks to continue if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee.

JIM WARREN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": There's a whole world out there in the blogosphere and conservative talk radio that will not be beholden to what Senator McCain wants to do and what might be considered general notions of impropriety.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Michelle Obama told a crowd on Thursday that despite political opponents trying to raise fears about Obama in 2004, she said he prevailed in what she called a climate of negativity and doubt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thank you. Mary Snow reporting.

A White House assistant admitting now to plagiarism. We're going to show you who he is and what it turns out he didn't write.

Plus, it's an issue some say should disqualify John McCain from becoming president. How now lawmakers are coming to his defense, including Barack Obama.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our political ticker this Friday, a senior White House official now admits to plagiarism. And we've just learned he's resigned because of it. Tim Goeglein says he copied large sections of an essay he wrote for an Indiana newspaper.

He says he's apologized to the author whose writings he stole and he mailed the "Fort Wayne News-Sentinel" to say what he did is wrong. The White House calls the plagiarism not acceptable and says the president was disappointed to learn of it.

The Missouri senator, Claire McCaskill, is introducing legislation to clarify that John McCain and anyone else born to U.S. military personnel serving outside the United States can run for president. The Constitution states that a president must be a natural born citizen.

McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was stationed there -- he was a Navy admiral -- prompting questions over whether he qualifies. McCaskill is a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, who will reportedly cosponsor the legislation.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. That's also where you can read my latest blog post.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What theme song would you suggest for any of the remaining presidential candidates?

As you know, a lot of them have had some problems with the songs they tried to pick themselves, so our viewers are trying to help out here.

Robert writes from Rhode Island: "For Clinton, 'I Guess That's Why They Call it The Blues' and 'She's A Maniac.' McCain, 'War Pigs' and 'Help.' Huckabee, 'Spirit in the Sky' and Naderite song (ph), 'Here I Go Again.' Obama, 'Imagine' and 'We're Not Going to Take it Anymore.' And, finally, Obama to McCain and Hillary -- 'Stuck in the Middle with You.' And Obama to McCain, 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.'"

M. Writes: "For McCain, 'Flintstones, Meet the Flintstones, The Modern Stone-Age Family.'"

Sher in Maryland writes: "McCain, 'I'll Be Watching You,' Obama, 'Born in the USA,' Clinton, 'I Will Survive' and Ron Paul, 'Is Anybody There?'"

Brian in Columbia, Maryland: "All Tom Petty songs. For Obama, 'Running Down A Dream,' Clinton, 'Freefallin,' McCain, 'The Waiting,' Huckabee, 'I Won't Back Down' and Nader, 'Don't Come Around Here No More.'"

Leticia writes: "For Mike Huckabee, 'Livin' On A Prayer,' John McCain, 'Born in the USA,' Hillary Clinton, 'Can't Get No Satisfaction,' Barack Obama, 'A Change is Gonna Come' and Ralph Nader, 'Never Gonna Get It.'"

R.C. writes: "'Runaway Train' for Obama, Clinton, 'What Do I Have to Do to Make You Want Me?' ; McCain, 'If You Could Only See,' Huckabee, 'Dreams,' Ron Paul, 'No Chance in Hell.'"

Ruthie in Georgia: "Nader, 'Oops, I Did It Again,' Clinton, 'It's So Hard to Say Good-bye to Yesterday,' Obama, 'Solid, Solid As A Rock,' McCain, 'Only A Fool Believes' and Huckabee, 'High Hopes.'"

Almost finished.

Christiane: "Obama, 'Yes, We Can,' Hillary, 'Cry Me A River,' McCain, 'Toy Soldiers.'"

Robin in New York: "Obama, 'We Are the Champions,' Hillary, 'These Boots Were Made for Walking' and McCain, 'Old Man River.'"

And, finally, Seth writes: "A fitting theme song for the whole election, 'Welcome to the Jungle'" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love our viewers, Jack. Thanks very much. Have a great weekend. See you back here on Monday.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, THE SITUATION ROOM favorite -- Hot Shots, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hour's Hot Shots.

In South America, a frog covered in oil sits on a plant after a major oil pipeline broke.

In Pakistan, a demonstrator shouts slogans as he tries to get past barbed wire.

In Mexico, a man holds torches as he dives off a cliff in Acapulco.

And in L.A. (ph), a zookeeper gets a smooch from the zoo's newest giraffe.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures often worth a thousand words.

Among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Remember, "LATE EDITION" airs Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 8:00 a.m. Pacific.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou -- Kitty.

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