Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

High Stakes in Four States; Interview With Ohio Governor Ted Strickland

Aired March 3, 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: Happening now: Barack Obama under a barrage of questions and political attacks. There are claims his campaign says one thing to voters, but something else behind closed doors, and questions over Obama's ties to a man accused of fraud and corruption.
Also, crisis management. Hillary Clinton says she's the one you want picking up an emergency phone call in the middle of the night. I will speak with a Clinton supporter, the Ohio governor. We will talk about that and more.

And John McCain could soon move from presumed nominee to actual nominee. But Mike Huckabee says there is a way to stop McCain in his tracks -- all that, plus the best political team on television.

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

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

Only hours from now, the presidential race as we know it could dramatically change. Tomorrow, voters head to the polls for primary day. The states, Vermont, Rhode Island, Texas and Ohio. The stakes, 370 delegates for the Democrats, 256 for the Republicans. And the popular take? Hillary Clinton must do well to stop Barack Obama's momentum. And if John McCain does well, he could actually become the Republican nominee. CNN is watching all of this.

Ali Velshi, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash, Suzanne Malveaux, Mary Snow, they're in Texas, where all the candidates are visiting. Susan Roesgen, Candy Crowley, Carol Costello, they're watching things in the other big state, Ohio.

Let's begin with Jessica Yellin. She's in San Antonio. She's watching this right now.

Obama, Jessica, saw some rough times, some rough questions being hurled at him today.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

Just a day away from the voting that could make Barack Obama the Democratic nominee, he finds himself in an unusual position. Instead of defining his own message today, he is instead responding to two potentially damaging stories. And there's a new attack ad from Senator Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): Barack Obama answering questions about a former top backer who was today in court on corruption charges.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think it's fair to suggest somehow that we have been trying to hide the ball on this.

YELLIN: And acknowledging that a campaign adviser did discuss NAFTA with a Canadian official, something the campaign did not admit last week.

OBAMA: It turned out that the Canadian Consulate in Chicago contacted my -- one of my advisers, Austan Goolsbee, on their own initiative.

YELLIN: This comes as Senator Clinton intensifies her attacks on Obama with a new negative ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CLINTON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: Barack Obama says he has the judgment to be president, but as chairman of an oversight committee charged with the force of fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he was too busy running for president to hold even one hearing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And an assault on his record.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House, and Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

YELLIN: In the big prize, Texas, the two candidates have spent more than $11 million on advertisements. The secretary of state predicts more than two million Texans will have voted even before the polls open tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's great that the voters are coming out in droves. The electorate is really energized.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, all of this could be moot in just over 24 hours. In what have become standard dueling conference calls with the press, today, the Clinton campaign said that Barack Obama has to win both Ohio and Texas to be a strong Democratic nominee, and the Obama campaign said that Clinton has to win both those states by huge margins just to stay in the race. So, the expectations game is on -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're watching closely. Thanks, Jessica, very much.

Let's take a little closer look right now at a man that Jessica just mentioned. That would be Tony Rezko. His ties to Barack Obama could prove rather embarrassing to the candidate.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He is taking a closer look at what's going on.

And what's going on, Brian, is that the trial of Tony Rezko actually started today, not great timing for Barack Obama.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not great, Wolf.

That trial did start today with jury selection. This is a trial that, while it doesn't implicate Obama in any way, certainly doesn't help his campaign much.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): On the very day of the crucial Texas and Ohio primaries, Barack Obama's longtime friend and former fund-raiser Tony Rezko will be in the second day of jury selection, a federal corruption trial that pries open the back rooms of Illinois politics.

Rezko has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, influence-peddling, demanding kickbacks. Obama is not accused of wrongdoing, but is having to answer questions about his associations with Rezko.

OBAMA: Those charges are completely unrelated to me. And I don't think anybody disputes the .

TODD: But Obama again admits it was a mistake to have entered into a 2005 deal to buy this Chicago area house the same day Rezko's wife bought the lot next door. Obama paid several hundred thousand dollars less than the asking price. Rezko's wife paid full price. Six months later, Rezko's wife sold a sliver of the land to Obama. The candidate has always said the deals were above board. But at the time Obama bought that land from Rezko's wife, it had been widely reported that Rezko was at least under suspicion for corruption.

JAY STEWART, BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: At that point everybody in Illinois knew Tony Rezko was being looked at by the federal government. It was a poorly-kept secret that he was going to be indicted, and yet, Senator Obama, in that context, still moved ahead with a real estate transaction.

OBAMA: I have said that was a mistake, because, at that point, there was already a cloud over Tony Rezko.

TODD: At the time he bought the house, Obama was already in the U.S. Senate and Rezko had been a past fund-raiser for him. Does it call into question one of Obama's most important campaign claims?

OBAMA: I have shown the judgment to lead.

TODD: Analysts say Obama could get past the question of judgment on this issue as long as what comes out in Rezko's trial is consistent with what Obama has presented.

JIM VANDEHEI, "THE POLITICO": The key is always to make sure you're not saying something that can be disputed in the public records. When you have a trial, if something that comes up that calls into question his version of his relationship with Rezko, that's when it could become problematic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: So far, nothing in the court case has been inconsistent with what Obama had claimed or has tied Obama to Rezko's alleged illegalities. Also, Obama's campaign says that they have given about $160,000 that Rezko raised for them to charity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Hillary's campaign, though, Hillary Clinton's campaign, Brian, is still jumping on Barack Obama over this issue.

TODD: They really are, Wolf. The Clinton campaign is pressing Obama to release all documents related to his relationship with Rezko, including that land deal. The Obama people have cited an e-mail from the seller saying that this whole thing was above board. But we will see if any more documents are released in the days ahead.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to have more on this they coming up. Thanks, Brian, very much.

It's not nearly as tight a race on the Republican side, but the two top candidates spent the day stumping for votes. John McCain is close to getting the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and he's about to hold another event in Waco, Texas, this hour.

Dana Bash is there. She's watching all of this.

Dana, he's sounding very, very confident today.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf. And you can just look and get the sense of how confident John McCain is by watching his schedule. He was off the campaign trail this weekend. Instead, he hosted some of his supporters, some of his political friends at his ranch, even hosted some of us in the press corps back in Arizona.

But he is back on the trail today. But this is his very first event, his first town hall here in Texas, even as his campaign is holding its breath, hoping that tomorrow is the day he seals the deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): John McCain's main event of the day was in an airport hangar, an appropriate venue for a campaign in a holding pattern.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, we are guardedly confident that we can get a sufficient number of delegates with victories in Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio, and Texas tomorrow, and move onto the general campaign. BASH: According to CNN's count, McCain now has 1,047 delegates, very close to the 1,191 to clinch the Republican nomination. To get that, McCain only needs to win about half the 256 delegates at stake Tuesday.

Until then, he's trying to use world events to show how things would be different under a McCain presidency, tougher talk than President Bush about Russian elections, calling them rigged.

MCCAIN: Obviously an election that would not pass the smell test.

BASH: And the 71-year-old running on his experience couldn't resist jumping into the Democrats' debate over who voters want responding to a middle of the night crisis.

MCCAIN: If the phone rang at 3:00 a.m. in the White House and I was the one to answer it, I would be the one most qualified to exercise the kind of judgment necessary to address a national security crisis. I have been involved in every major national security challenge for the last 20 years.

BASH: Meanwhile, McCain's last viable GOP rival, Mike Huckabee, campaigned intensely five Texas cities in one day, trying to stoke conservative skepticism about McCain.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only candidate left in this race who believes in the Human Life Amendment, the only one in this race left who leaves in the federal marriage amendment that would say that, when you get married, it has to be somebody of the opposite sex, not the same-sex.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: McCain advisers admit that Mike Huckabee could do well in some rural parts of the state in Texas, but they won't say this publicly, Wolf. Privately, they are very much hoping that tomorrow, if Mike Huckabee loses, he will quit the race. That will allow McCain to formally transition to become the Republican nominee.

But at every single stop today, Huckabee was asked what if. What if he loses tomorrow, and at every single stop, he insisted he would not even entertain the idea of losing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The presidential primary campaign has been going strong for 14 months now. I know. It just seems longer. There don't seem to be many signs, especially on the Democratic side, that it is going to be over any time soon.

At the beginning of 2007, remember back, people lining up to run for president. At the height of the silliness, we had a total of 18 candidates between the Democrats and the Republicans. There are still four major candidates in the running, although the argument could be made that, after tomorrow, there really should only be two. It's not likely to happen.

The voters have been through dozens of primaries and caucuses, as dozens of debates. There are the countless mind-numbing TV reports, armies of correspondents, pundits tripping over each other all around the country in the race to come up with something profound. Mostly, they don't.

Millions of us have been bombarded with TV commercials, fliers, mailings, pleas for donations, e-mails, phone calls from the candidates and their supporters.

Russia got a new president in about eight minutes: Vladimir Putin picked his guy. He said, let's vote. They voted. He's in. We're not suggesting that's the way it ought to be done here, because God only knows what President Bush would come up with if we did it that way.

But, still, here's the question: How can you tell if you're suffering from primary election fatigue?

The campaign has been going on for 14 months now. I know it seems longer. Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're not suffering yet, because they're watching in huge, huge numbers. Let's hope they continue to watch and they don't suffer from that fatigue yet.

Jack, thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Sure.

CAFFERTY: Voters in Ohio and Texas have polar opposite views of a free trade deal. Are the candidates trying to please both sides?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WILHELM, FORMER CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's Senator Clinton's position in which she has kind of bounced back and forth that I think raises questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That criticism from a Barack Obama backer. We spoke with David Wilhelm in the 4:00 Eastern hour. We will get a response coming up from a top Hillary Clinton supporter, the governor of Ohio.

Florida Democrats lost their convention delegates, punishment from an early primary. Now is the state's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, encouraging a new round that may pit Democrat against Democrat?

And this extraordinary video shows what happens when an airliner tries to land in the face of, get this, 155-mile-an-hour winds.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Neither is exactly a grizzled veteran when it comes to national office, but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are battling it out on the issue of experience.

Earlier, we heard from David Wilhelm, a top Obama supporter, on this subject.

Joining us now, the Ohio governor, Ted Strickland. The Ohio primary is tomorrow. He backs and backs strongly Hillary Clinton.

Governor, thanks very much for taking some time out to join us.

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Wolf, it's good to be with you.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about a main criticism of Barack Obama in these -- the battle of these 3:00 a.m. ads that we have been hearing. Listen to this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We're still waiting to hear Senator Clinton tell us what precise foreign policy experience that she is claiming that makes her prepared to make that -- to answer that phone call at 3:00 in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you have an answer for Senator Obama?

STRICKLAND: Well, I want Senator Clinton to answer the phone whether it's 3:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m. She obviously is a person with great experience.

She's a mature individual. She has had lots of life experiences working in the former administration, the former Clinton administration, that I think gives her superior credentials when it comes to foreign policy and, quite frankly, domestic policy.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He says, though -- excuse me for interrupting, Governor -- he says that, when it came time for what was arguably the critical decision, namely authorizing President Bush to go to war in Iraq, she made the wrong call.

STRICKLAND: Well, you know, it was easy for Senator Obama. He was not in the Congress or the Senate at the time. He didn't have to cast a vote. He didn't have to listen to the arguments coming from the administration.

So, it's easy for him to say what he would have done had he been there and heard all those arguments and gone to those briefings and so on. So, the issue that we're facing now, Wolf, is not what happened three or four years ago, but what are we going to do with the current situation? How are we going to bring our troops home safely and responsibly?

Senator Clinton has said, within 60 days of taking office, she will begin bringing our troops home. That makes me really happy as Ohio's governor, because we have the greatest deployment of Ohio National Guard men and women that we have had since World War II. A lot of Buckeyes are over there fighting these battles, and we need to bring them home. And I think Senator Clinton has the plan to do that. She's a very credible person.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: What if the generals tell her, if you quickly withdraw those troops too quickly, all the gains that have been achieved over the past shall we say year will have been for naught?

STRICKLAND: Well, that's why I like her plan.

By the way, it is thoughtful and reasoned. She says she will begin within 60 days, but she also understands that it must be done in a thoughtful, planful way. And I have heard her make speech after speech, and she always emphasizes that it is dangerous, dangerous to withdraw troops, that it must be done thoughtfully and planfully.

And, so, I think she exhibits real maturity in the way she addresses this issue. And that's why I believe that some 30 retired generals and admirals, including General Wesley Clark, are strongly supporting her to be the next commander in chief.

BLITZER: All right.

Let me give you a chance, Governor, to respond to a really tough editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" today going after Ohio, among other things, saying this, over the debate over NAFTA: "Ohio's economy has been struggling for years, and most of its wounds are self- inflicted. Ohio now ranks 47th out of 50 in economic competitiveness, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Ohio politicians deplore plant closings, even as they impose the third highest corporate income tax in the country, 10.5 percent, and the sixth highest personal income tax, 8.87 percent."

They go on and cite a lot of other statistics in saying, as bad as the economic situation in Ohio is, it's the fault of Ohio, not NAFTA or any other -- any other fault.

STRICKLAND: Well, Wolf, let me say very respectfully that "The Wall Street Journal" should do their research before they write their editorials.

We are in the process of significantly reducing taxes for the business community in Ohio. And we are reducing the personal income tax by 21 percent. Surely, "The Wall Street Journal" would have investigated what we have done in the very recent past in Ohio before they would have written such an editorial.

But the fact is, Ohio has suffered manufacturing job loss, some 240,000 to 250,000 jobs in the last seven years. And we need a fighter for us. That's why I believe Senator Clinton will be elected here in Ohio, because she has traveled. You know, we were at the jeep plant in Toledo at 5:30 this morning. She talks very explicitly about what she will do to revive and to save manufacturing in Ohio and in America.

She has co-chaired the Manufacturing Caucus in the Senate. Senator Clinton's not going to give up on manufacturing.

BLITZER: All right.

STRICKLAND: And we're not going to give up on manufacturing in Ohio. I can assure you of that.

BLITZER: Governor Strickland, thanks for joining us.

STRICKLAND: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck tomorrow. Good luck to everybody in Ohio.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck to all the people voting tomorrow.

A warm welcome in Iraq for one of America's adversaries. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about the U.S. role in Iraq and whether his country -- that would be Iran -- is helping the insurgents.

And an unbelievable moment caught on videotape that would make any flyer nervous, a passenger jet vs. strong winds. It's something you have to see.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton wants to do some housekeeping over at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We are going to have to go in and clean up after George Bush. And I don't know about you, but it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush. It's going to take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But before she can clean up after President Bush, she will have to try to find a way to end Barack Obama's candidacy. That won't be easy by any means.

Also, Hillary Clinton essentially accusing Barack Obama's campaign of trying to fool voters to win votes. It involves a secret memo, a private meeting with a foreign government and jobs for Americans.

And your money vs. your security. How will fears of recession and questions over who best can protect America weigh into your vote? The best political team on television is standing by for that and a lot more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: Barack Obama facing the last thing any candidate wants on the eve of two crucial primaries, growing controversies stealing the spotlight from his campaign.

Also, they will decide the outcome of tomorrow's critical votes in Texas and Ohio. That would be the undecided voters, at least based on the polls right now. You're going to find out which way they might be leaning only hours before those polls open.

Plus, what to do about Florida's Democratic delegates. The party refuses to seat them. But they could also decide this race. Now the state's Republican governor is weighing in -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

Only hours from now, four states hold their primaries. The collective results could be a game changer. As we mentioned, there are 370 delegates at stake for the Democrats, 256 for the Republicans. With so much at stake, the claims and the accusations are flying right now.

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's at Columbus, Ohio. She's watching this story for us.

Candy, the Hillary Clinton campaign is making some pretty scathing accusations against Barack Obama right now.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

The Clinton campaign is all over a couple of things of Barack Obama, in particular, today, what happened in the Obama campaign concerning a Canadian official and trade.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice over): The last thing you want in the 24 hours before an election is a story you have to explain. It is where Barack Obama finds himself now.

A memo written by a Canadian official obtained by "The Associated Press" outlined a meeting at the Canadian consulate in Chicago with Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee. The memo says the conversation including discussion of protectionist sentiment in the U.S. and Goolsbee cautioned that the message: "should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

The Obama campaign says there's nothing in the offending draft which suggests that this refers to Obama's position on the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Clinton was happy to connect the dots.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors.

CROWLEY: While pointing out that the memo also takes note of Obama's commitment to strengthening labor and environment portions of NAFTA, the Obama campaign is in a yangst (ph) moment. They are trying to douse the flames.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So this notion that Senator Clinton is pedaling that somehow there's contradictions or winks and nods has been disputed by all the parties involved. What's not disputed is that Senator Clinton and her husband championed NAFTA, worked on behalf of NAFTA, called it a victory, called it good for America until she started running for president.

CROWLEY: But this is not just about NAFTA. It's about the core of a campaign that promises a different kind of politics -- no Washington speak.

The story first surfaced more than a week ago on Canadian TV. It was shot down then across the board by the Canadian embassy and the candidate.

OBAMA: The Canadian government put out a statement indicating that this was just not true. So I don't know who the source is. It wasn't true.

CROWLEY: The meeting did take place. Top Obama officials say the candidate was not denying the meeting but the gist of the story that his opposition to NAFTA is political.

Still, several officials asked repeatedly over the last few days if a meeting took place. He certainly implied it had not.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY: This afternoon, Wolf, the Canadian embassy put out a second statement saying that nothing in that memo and nothing that has been said to Canadian officials should be taken to mean that Barack Obama is saying something different in private than he is saying in public. The embassy apologized and said that's simply not the case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy, thank you. The Obama camp trying to put out two potentially damaging fires on this, the eve of the Texas and Ohio primaries. That trade memo that Candy just reported on plus the trial of Obama's friend, former fundraiser Tony Rezko.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Jack Cafferty and our chief national correspondent, John King.

You know, I was looking at these poll numbers, on the eve of these primaries in Texas right now in our poll of polls, the average, Jack, Obama, 47; Clinton, 45; unsure, though, 8 percent.

In Ohio, 48 for Clinton, 43 for Obama; 9 percent unsure.

Normally, obviously, those unsure ones, they could make the difference one way or another. You don't want, on the eve of a contest like this, questions being -- raised serious questions about the integrity of one of the candidates.

CAFFERTY: No, obviously, you don't. And the information about the meeting at the Canadian consulate isn't helpful. If there are 9 percent of voters in any state that's voting tomorrow, after 14 months of this campaign, that aren't...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: ...that don't know what they're going to do, they should not be allowed to vote.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: That's all. When you show up at the polling place, just go home, because if you haven't made up your mind by now, we're not interested in what you think.

BLITZER: But the poll, the exit polls showed that even people who have a position...

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

BLITZER: ...they change their minds very often on the day of an election.

BORGER: They do change their minds. And that's what the Clinton campaign is doing right now. They're trying to knock Barack Obama down off the mantle. They're trying to say he's not who you think he is or he's not who he tells you who he is. In fact, he uses Washington double-speak, as Candy put it. He is a regular politician. He's not telling you the truth all the time. And, by the way, I've got more experience, I'm more competent, I'll be the one to answer the phone at 3:00 in the morning -- throwing everything against the wall at once to see what's going to stick.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's an inspiring campaign -- you can't trust him either. (LAUGHTER)

KING: You know, we're all traditional politicians.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: Right.

KING: You can't trust him.

You know, Wolf, I spent some time last week, when I was out in Ohio, with the director of the Ohio poll. And he says a good number of unsure voters are John Edwards voters. And they wanted John Edwards because he was a populist on economics and he was not in Washington anymore, because they don't like what's going on in Washington. And even though Edwards was a senator, they viewed him as the guy -- the rural populist, not a Washington insider. And the director of the poll said they're hanging out there because they're undecided between these two candidates. And the trade and the jobs issue is what matters to them.

BORGER: But if it's actually about the trade issue, you know, Hillary Clinton, in her own book, talked about the trade issue. Bill Clinton was the one who passed it and forged it. And even though she may not have been enthusiastic about it during the Clinton years. She didn't go out there and say I oppose it. And that's Obama's point.

BLITZER: Is the Rezko trial, his former friend and fundraiser, Tony Rezko, that starts today -- it started today -- is that potentially more of a headache for Barack Obama than this NAFTA memo that the Canadians released?

CAFFERTY: I don't think we know until the trial starts. My gut tells me if there was a smoking gun in regards to Rezko, we'd have heard about it by now. My guess is the Clinton people have been looking for one.

He did he donate a lot of money to his early campaigns. That money was given to charity. He did make that funny little land deal, which he has acknowledged that it probably wasn't the best judgment he ever showed in his life. But that seems to have kind of drifted away and off the radar screen.

If there's anything else there, we've got to wait for the trial. And as -- they say the trial is going to take three months, so we'll see.

BLITZER: What do you think, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think funny little land deal, political contributions from strange people, who does that sound like?

It sounds like the Clintons. You know, if the -- if Obama were to turn this back on the Clintons, which the campaign is starting to do now that they're throwing at each other, it's why don't you release your records... CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: ...about who's contributing to the Clinton Library and who contributed -- Norman Hsu, who gave $800,000 -- or bundled $800,000 to the Clinton campaign.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BORGER: So, you know, this can go both ways. And, by the way, I think it's what the public is really tired of.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

KING: You remember, Wolf, the days of the Lincoln Bedroom and the White House coffees and the videotapes coming out of the Clinton White House. You were there at the time. And Hillary Clinton and President Clinton at the time said, hey, wait a minute, don't play guilt by association. When you're in power, when you're in influence, a lot of people come toward you. They gravitate toward power. They want to give you money. And after the fact, you find out some of them are the people you don't want around you and you push them away.

But now they're saying the same thing. And Obama -- Jack is right, though. Look, he deserves scrutiny and criticism for the house deal.

BORGER: Sure.

KING: And Obama has said that was stupid and he shouldn't have done it.

Will something else come out in this trial?

It's the same prosecutor who did the "Scooter" Libby case. He's known as a straight-laced guy.

But guess what?

The trial is going to take three weeks or more. They vote in Ohio and Texas tomorrow.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have a lot more to talk about.

It's one of her toughest attacks yet on his experience. You're going to hear for yourself what Hillary Clinton is now saying about her rival, Barack Obama, with their showdowns in Texas and Ohio now only hours away.

Plus, what to do about Florida's Democratic delegates now that the state's Republican governor is weighing in. You're going to find out what he's saying.

Stick around.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow, pretty tough words from Hillary Clinton on Barack Obama.

Jack, that's the kind of statement, if she loses and he's the Democratic nominee, that could come back. And the McCain folks, you know, are ready to use that if they want against Barack Obama.

CAFFERTY: Doesn't the Clinton campaign understand why Barack Obama is doing well?

It's because of all the Washington experience that he's running against. The public is up to here with Washington, D.C. and all of the people who have lots of experience there. That's why they're voting for Barack Obama. I mean that's plain tone deaf.

BORGER: You know, it's interesting to me, she's going back to the themes that she used at the beginning of the campaign -- experience and competence. The experience to take the phone call at 3:00 in the morning and I'm competent. I'm the one who's made decisions. I'm the one who can get things done. And all Barack Obama has done is give a speech.

His answer to that is do you think my supporters are delusional, right?

He said that in the recent debate. We'll have to see...

BLITZER: I wasn't surprised about this slam against Obama as much as the praise for John McCain at this point, saying he's got the experience...

BORGER: Yes, yes.

BLITZER: ...I've got the experience, Obama's got a speech.

KING: It's the same point of the ad 3:00 a.m. in the White House. She's trying to convince Democrats -- think about the general election, I'm a tougher candidate. Now, she's tried that from the beginning, too, and it hasn't worked. But that's her -- that's what she's trying at the last minute.

But, Wolf, consider what she just said there. She's essentially saying Barack Obama is a fraud -- he has a speech, I have a record. And that's taking it to a new degree.

And there are a lot of people -- what if she wins the nomination?

She needs the African-American vote to be a competitive Democratic nominee. That's why you hear a lot of people saying if she doesn't win the big states tomorrow, she need to get out, because they're worried this is getting more and more raw and more and more bitter and it's going to hurt the Democratic Party.

BLITZER: I've always felt that if she does win the nomination, she would have no choice but to ask him to be her running mate, because that would rally the Democrats and bring the party together, although I'm not convinced he necessarily would have to ask her.

BORGER: No. Definitely not.

BLITZER: I don't think...

CAFFERTY: The answer to that would be real interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I don't think that will happen.

I want you to listen, also, to Charlie Crist. He's the popular governor of Florida. He's a Republican. I spoke with him yesterday. And he made it clear that he would support another redo -- a redo of the Florida primary for the Democrats, if it comes down to needing that. It may be all moot, depending on what happens tomorrow.

I'll play you a little clip of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: I think it's very important, though, that those delegates are seated. And I'm hopeful that the national Democratic Party -- the Democratic National Committee -- comes to the conclusion it's the right thing to do. Every vote must count. Every vote should count. And for the Republicans, as well. They're not counting half of ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think about that, if it comes down to having to redo a primary in Florida?

CAFFERTY: If, as the governor says, it's so important that these votes count, then the election should have been held when the Democratic leadership told them to hold the election. They did this to themselves.

Now, if we're going to have another primary, guess who pays for it?

Governor Crist?

No. The taxpayers in Florida. I mean Florida -- let's keep them in Union, but let's don't let participate in the elections, because, I mean, they just don't know how to do it, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: I think the governor was hedging a little bit, though, Wolf, because obviously he wants the delegates that were elected to be seated now. And then if that can't happen, then maybe, you know, there should be a redo.

But let me say, if we get a split decision in Texas and Ohio, then this question of Florida and Michigan and seating those delegates is going to come to the fore again. And the Democratic Party is going to have a decision to make about whether that is something it really wants to go through -- a redo, extend this election, give John McCain a couple of months to run unopposed, free and clear.

CAFFERTY: Plus, when they get done, they probably wouldn't be able to count the votes. I mean...

KING: There's a reason Governor Crist is popular. Some Democrats support him. And he's trying to keep friends in the Democratic Party by saying I'm open to whatever you want me to do, but it would cost $15 million to $18 million to $20 million.

Who would pay for it?

But, Gloria is right, if Hillary Clinton can win one or two of the big states tomorrow and the Democratic race is reset again and it goes on forward, lawyers are going to decide this. Someone -- this is going to be litigated in court or they're going to have to do something about Florida and Michigan. And I think the governor is essentially saying that if you have to do something, you know my number.

BLITZER: Because if Hillary Clinton wins two out of the four -- let's say she wins Ohio...

BORGER: Rhode Island.

BLITZER: ...and Rhode Island, and Barack Obama wins Vermont, which he's probably going to win, and Texas, and they're all relatively close, then I suspect she's not going to give up. She's going to want to go to Pennsylvania.

BORGER: You know...

CAFFERTY: Despite the fact that she -- that she will still be prohibitively behind in the pledged delegates. She's got to win 65 to 70 percent of the votes in all four of those states in order to catch him.

KING: The husband's words will come back if she doesn't win Ohio (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: And there's...

BLITZER: Well, we'll see if she listens to her husband or not, guys.

All right, thanks very much.

BORGER: Well, that's a tough question to answer.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it there.

Jack, don't leave.

We've got The Cafferty File coming up.

So how can you tell if you're suffering from primary election fatigue?

That happens to be Jack's question this hour.

He's going to be standing by with your e-mail.

Also, you're going to find out which candidate's hometown government is about to implement a huge tax increase.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Checking our Political Ticker this Monday, when November rolls around, Barack Obama's hometown -- that would be Chicago -- will have the highest total sales taxes of any major city in the nation. The Cook County Board has voted to double the county's sales tax -- raising the city's cumulative rate to 10.25 percent. The increase means someone buying $100 worth of merchandise in Chicago will pay an extra dollar in sales tax.

Dennis Kucinich facing a tough reelection just to keep his Congressional seat in Ohio. His well-financed challenger says that Kucinich -- and I'm quoting now -- "is not a congressman, he's a showman," and he's criticized Kucinich for missing votes while he ran for president. Voters will decide the Democratic nominee in Ohio's primary tomorrow.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com. The ticker is the number one political news blog out on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post, as well, CNNPolitics.com.

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?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, I'm working on, right now, understanding how Chicago could put up with a 10 percent -- better than a 10 percent tax. That's crazy.

Coming up at 7:00 p.m. we'll be talking about a lot more that's crazy. The presidential campaign -- a defiant former Governor Mike Huckabee declaring he has no intention of quitting the presidential race. Governor Huckabee will be my guest here tonight to tell us why he's staying in the contest and what he expects to accomplish despite overwhelming odds.

And presidential candidates battling over who has the best plan to defeat Al Qaeda and end the war in Iraq. Three distinguished former generals join me -- each of those generals supporting a different presidential candidate. We'll hear why.

And law enforcement agencies stepping up the hunt for criminal illegal aliens. But pro-amnesty and open borders advocates are simply furious with the government, because the government is actually trying to enforce our laws. Imagine that.

And three of the best political analysts in the country join me to talk about this campaign and what's in the national interests and the common good -- if anything

Join us for all of that at 7:00 Eastern, for that, the day's news and much more -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in nine minutes, Lou.

DOBBS: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Jack Cafferty joining us once again for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is how can you tell if you're suffering from primary election fatigue?

Nick says: "Instead of counting sheep at night, I find myself counting delegates."

Sabrina in Las Vegas: "When you actually want to spend more time with your family."

Dustin writes: "Your wife no longer accepts a simple denial that you have the toilet seat up, but rather insists that you both denounce and reject said action."

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: Emily in Kentucky: "When you look forward to a presidential news conference."

Dave in Oregon: "I know I have primary fatigue if I no longer find Cafferty's comments on the primaries incisive or amusing. It hasn't happened yet."

Eric: "When I get home from work and turn on MTV instead of CNN."

Yvonne in South Carolina: "When you can recite a candidate's stump speech better than he or she can, you know you've had enough."

Matt in Missouri: "When you find delegate math on random note pads and sticky notes all around the house."

Michael in Indiana: "Thank you for defining it as primary election fatigue. I thought I had the flu."

And Greg in Pennsylvania says: "I know I have primary election fatigue when I look into the mirror in the morning to shave my face and I see you looking back at me."

And A. writes: "I know I have it. I know it. I'm having nightmares about Hillary tripping around over Bill to get to that phone at three in the morning and the person calling asks to speak to Barack Obama."

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You've got to admit, our viewers are great.

CAFFERTY: They're good people.

BLITZER: They really creative out there.

CAFFERTY: Very good.

BLITZER: In the old days, you know, before this whole Internet thing, you didn't get that instantaneous feedback. You had to wait for letters to the editor to be published in the newspaper.

CAFFERTY: I would have been doing F.M. Radio in Flagstaff, Arizona without the Internet.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Jack...

CAFFERTY: I may be doing that anyway.

BLITZER: You're not doing it. You're here. You're here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thanks very much.

It's 3:00 a.m. the phone rings in the White House. But wait until you hear who Jeanne Moos has on the other line. Coming up, a Moost Unusual report. You're going to want to see this.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In India, a woman offers a prayer inside a shrine. In Pakistan, a police officer runs away from tear gas thrown back at him by demonstrators. Protesters are calling for the release of the nation's chief justice from house arrest.

In Russia, troops keep an eye on the crowds protesting the presidential election results.

And in Iraq, a child watches a U.S. soldier patrol past his home.

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

So what do you really want -- who do you really want answering that phone in the White House when it rings in the dead of night?

CNN's Jeanne Moos has this is Moost Unusual look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not since this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX/J&R MUSIC WORLD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 10:00 p.m.

Do you know where your children are?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Have kiddies and time combined to result in so much parody. All Barack Obama has to do is make like he's picking up a phone.

OBAMA: To answer that phone call at 3:00 in the morning.

MOOS: And his audience snickers. What started as a very serious Hillary Clinton campaign commercial...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN AD)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...has launched a torrent of YouTube parodies. And most answer this question with anything but Hillary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you want answering the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ghost busters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you want answering the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack Bauer for president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you want answering the phone?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That old Beach Boys song Bomb Iran -- bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: They make fun of how Hillary stumbled over the name of Russia's new president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Med ve -- Meda...

TIM RUSSERT: Medvedev.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Medvedev. Whatever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: They make fun of how put together Hillary looks answering the phone in the wee hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wears pant suits at 3:00 a.m.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: And, of course, they make fun of Bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No Bill's not here. Like I said, it's 3:00 in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Sure, Obama gets a jab -- harkening back to his kids saying he's all snory in the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama doesn't hear the phone. Barack Obama snores too loud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But as usual, the Clintons take the brunt of the parodies.

Just for the record, we called the White House switchboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House.

MOOS (on camera): Hi, there. I wonder, if I called the White House at 3:00 in the morning, who would answer the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the White House operators.

MOOS: So even in the middle of the night, you guys answer the phone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am.

(voice-over): One of the most professional parodies is by a comedy group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A phone rings in the White House. We're being attacked by terrorists, by rogue nations or a faceless (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad!

Oh, what the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you know what? Get out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kids never hear me. I don't socialize (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out now!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Don't be afraid of their narrators anymore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daddy, why do narrator people keep coming in my room and scaring the crap out of me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's election season, son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: The parodies seem to favor cheesy red hot lines, though Hillary herself answers a white phone. Candidates generally must approve their own message. The parody 3:00 a.m. Call, just leave one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Hillary Clinton. Please leave your message. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: A big night of election coverage tomorrow night. We'll be here for hours and hours, right at the CNN Election Center. Please join me and the best political team on television. Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be in THE SITUATION ROOM starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Remember, 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 CNNPolitics.com.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com