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Hillary Clinton Grabs Momentum; McCain Gets Bush Endorsement; Superdelegates: Deciders in the Democratic Nomination?

Aired March 5, 2008 - 20:00   ET

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


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us, everybody.
Barack Obama's momentum comes to a screeching halt. But the math is still with him. And as Hillary Clinton clocks three out of four primary wins, it is a new campaign yet again. And it may come with do-overs in Florida and Michigan. The governors of both states are calling for their delegates to be seated.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean is putting it on both states to come up with a plan. And we have learned that Florida and Michigan lawmakers are meeting right now to hash things out.

Ahead, Democratic contests in Wyoming, Mississippi, and of course, the big one, Pennsylvania. And in terms of the numbers, here's where things stand right now. By CNN's estimate, Barack Obama has a mere 96-delegate lead. And given the closeness of this race, it is now looking more and more likely superdelegates will decide the Democratic nomination.

So, what happens next? Does Barack Obama need to go negative to stop Hillary Clinton? And, on the Republican side, a passing of the torch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got a lot to do. But I'm going to find ample time to help. And I could help raising money. And if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I will be glad to show up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. BROWN: Will President Bush help or hurt John McCain? The members of the best political team on television aren't getting much sleep these days because the story is just too good.

So, we're going to start tonight with senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who is in Washington, home at last after many, many days on the road.

So, Candy, what does Hillary Clinton have to do now to build on the momentum of last night's win?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, another win would help. It always helps as you roll into these things. It's a long seven weeks until Pennsylvania. They have a couple in between. It doesn't look like particularly friendly territory for her.

Wyoming is not considered friendly territory. Mississippi looks like Obama land. But I can tell you that they believe the last three days leading into yesterday's primaries is a nice template for them to work with.

She was aggressive. She went after him with whatever went out there, be it the NAFTA memo, or the trial of a longtime friend of his on public corruption, or be it that ad that we saw, the so-called red phone ad.

They believe all of those things worked and focused voters on two things, first of all, what's at stake here, and, second of all, the kind of underlying message for the Clinton campaign, and that is, Barack Obama is not who you all think he is. So, they will continue to try to define him in a lot of ways and go after him pretty aggressively.

C. BROWN: They were having some problems, though, over the last week, infighting within the campaign, a lot of finger-pointing, a sort of blame game that seems a bit premature now. Has that all been put in the past moving forward? Did they sort of get a clean slate last night with the wins she had?

CROWLEY: There's nothing like a win to kind of settle down all that crosstalk about who's to blame. You saw the same thing in New Hampshire, lots of talk about a senior adviser and who was to blame and who wasn't to blame. She won New Hampshire. It settled down for a while. I see no signs that she isn't sticking with this crew at this point.

C. BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley for us in Washington, who will hopefully get some sleep and be able to go home tonight.

Well, Senator Obama is telling reporters that in spite of losing three out of four primaries yesterday, his lead in delegates is still -- and this is his word -- insurmountable. He's only ahead by 96. And he's also hinting that he may join Senator Clinton in going negative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that this week she made a series of arguments about why she would be a superior candidate. She made the experience argument that she's been making repeatedly, particularly around foreign policy and her ability to handle a crisis.

And so I think it's important to examine that claim and not just allow her to assert it. If the suggestion is somehow that on issues of ethics or disclosure or transparency, that somehow she's going to have a better record than I have, and will be better able to withstand Republican attacks, I think that's an issue that should be tested.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Well, you know -- so, I think that, over the coming weeks, we will join her in that argument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. BROWN: Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama campaign. She's joining us from San Antonio.

And, Jessica, you have been talking to Obama's advisers. I'm guessing that they're now considering a change in strategy as they go forward.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, yes, they are. They know that Senator Clinton -- well, in the words of David Axelrod, his chief adviser, Senator Clinton won the primaries last night by engaging in a mission of what he called search and destroy. They feel that the last-minute attacks she made came at such a late hour that they didn't have ample time to respond, in particular that 3:00 a.m. call Candy and you were talking about.

And they know that going forward they have to put the pressure on Senator Clinton, they have to fight back. So, already today they have turned it on the press, calling on the media to ask why she hasn't released her 2006 tax returns, why they haven't released the list of the Clinton campaign, the Clinton Library donors, and especially why those Clinton papers are still locked up from her years as first lady, when she's claiming all this experience came from her White House years.

They say it's time to explore all this. And they're pushing the press to be the bad guy in this, to make us ask the questions, so they don't have to. But in sum, they really think do that they have to hit back harder than they were this last round to stop any momentum she might pick up between now and the next contests.

C. BROWN: But, Jessica, even just listening to him in that sound bite from the airplane, he sounds like a different candidate. He has been the candidate of the positive message. We're going to run a different kind of campaign. So, isn't there a risk that going negative, that sounding like he did just a moment ago could backfire?

YELLIN: Absolutely. And it is a careful balancing act he will have to achieve, pushing the media to, in their words, hold her to the same yardstick that we're measured by. That's how they put it. Press the media to do the work, so that they don't have to seem like they're going negative.

But it's really for the Obama campaign a question of tone, because if he sounds like he's on the attack, he really loses the whole basis of his campaign, which is this new kind of politics. It will be tricky.

C. BROWN: All right, Jessica Yellin -- Jessica, thanks very much.

It is beginning to look like the Democrats could run out of primaries and caucuses before either gets enough delegates to lock it up. So, let's take a closer look at the math. We have got chief national correspondent John King with us.

So, this is Obama's argument, that it's all about the numbers. Crunch the numbers for us.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of Obama's argument is that should get out, this is all desperate now, because she can't win. And he has a point. And let's look at it from that perspective.

This is where we are tonight, Campbell. And we start here. Senator Obama with a lead. I'm going to draw the red to put him out here. Senator Clinton here. The finish line is way out here. They're closer to it but boy it's still a long way out.

And let's for the sake of argument say that Hillary Clinton runs the board. Now, we don't expect her to do that. Senator Obama's favored in Mississippi. Senator Obama's favored in Wyoming. But let's just test the Obama campaign's argument, and say Senator Clinton wins them all, and not only wins them all -- that would be 55-45. I'm going to give her every remaining state 65-35. Under the Democratic rules, she should get 65 percent of the delegates.

So, here's the order they vote. They begin with here. Then we go up here. Now I'm going to go out of order and just give these all to Senator Clinton. And watch what's happening up here. She's catching up to Senator Obama. But let's keep going. There's north Carolina. Let's go out through the Mountain West. Let's give her Oregon. We're done.

We have done all the states. And she has passed him. She has passed Senator Obama if she wins them all. And again that's 65-35, which is no reason to believe she would win that big. But if she did, 65-35 -- not on here are Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They're not on our map. They are down here in the water. But they would add a little bit more to it.

If she did 65-35, she would get out here. So, even if she ran the board with huge margins, again, that's a hypothetical, unlikely to happen, she would end up short. She would be ahead of him, but she would be short. She would have passed him at that point in pledged delegates, Campbell, but that is a dream scenario for the Clinton campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

C. BROWN: Sixty-five/thirty-five is pretty --

KING: Sixty-five/thirty-five, no reason to believe it would happen. So, the Obama campaign's argument that, mathematically, she can't win is a factual one.

C. BROWN: OK. Any possibility either of them can get beyond that little red line at the end? KING: Well, that is the flip side, because the Clinton campaign's response to that is, well, guess what? You can't win either, Senator Obama.

So, let me take us back to the default. Let me clear the top. Let me just remind here's where we are today. And here's where we are today. And let's do the same thing. Again, there's no reason to believe Senator Obama will win them all. But let's give them all to Senator Obama and let's give them all to him again by that same margin, 65-35.

Let's just run the board. This is not the order these states would vote. And, again, there's no reason to believe he could win them all and win them all by that big of a margin. And look where he gets, Campbell. He gets close. Now, if he could do this, obviously, he would be the Democratic nominee. The superdelegates at this point would say, well, he's well ahead of Senator Clinton. She's back here. He's out here.

But, again, that's an unrealistic hypothetical. But even if Obama wins 65-35, and goes all the way out, he can't get to the nomination. So, what most people expect, real quickly, is something like this.

Obama is favored in Mississippi. He's favored in Wyoming. Let's for the sake of argument -- and this is now 55-45, a more traditional margin. Let's for the sake of argument say Senator Clinton wins in Pennsylvania. And let's even say she wins here and here. Let's give her this one. And now we're just going to play a little bit.

And let's give Obama -- he's been strong here -- let's give him this. Let's for the sake of argument say he wins North Carolina. That would be a very competitive state if it comes to that. Let's give it to Obama. And look what you get here, Campbell, almost where we start today. Here's where they would be after swapping some states out like that. Here's where they are when they started the day, about the same distance.

So, this is going to come down to the superdelegates, assuming they trade states all in, and the question of revisiting Florida and Michigan, which I know you're going to discuss a bit later in the program.

C. BROWN: We are going to talk a little bit later and we're going to bring you back a little bit later with a lot more to talk about as well.

OK, John King, thanks very much.

We do want to get some reaction from key supporters of each candidate.

Joining me from Washington, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is an Obama supporter, and Senator Menendez of New Jersey is backing Senator Clinton.

Welcome to you both. Appreciate your time.

(CROSSTALK)

C. BROWN: And, Senator Menendez, let me start with you.

You just heard John King do the math for us and basically say that, from the board, it looks like it is virtually impossible for her to pass Senator Obama in terms of the pledged delegates. So, how do you make a case for her becoming the nominee?

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Very simply. First of all, she had great victories that said that the public believes that she can be the best commander in chief, as well as a steward of the economy. Secondly, neither Senator Obama -- one thing John King said I totally agree with, neither Senator Obama, nor Senator Clinton can win the goal of 2,025 delegates without superdelegates.

So, the question of saying pledged vs. other delegates is not significant. The reality is, neither one of these two candidates can win without superdelegates. And, so, the question becomes, who can win in the general election?

And having won in the Southwest, having won Ohio, places like Florida, these are the key states necessary to win in November. And I think Senator Clinton stands in a great position in that regard.

C. BROWN: But, before I go to Senator McCaskill, isn't it fair to say that any Democratic nominee would win those big states? Those are blue states.

MENENDEZ: No. No, the Southwest, the reality is that Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, those are swing states. Ohio is a swing state. That's not going to happen automatically for the Democrat.

C. BROWN: But, certainly, Senator Obama is winning plenty of swing states as well.

MENENDEZ: The bottom line is those are the states that we need to win in the general election, the ones we keep losing in general elections on the presidential elections.

And the reality, if you can't win them in the primary, how do you expect to win them in November? She has won them in the primaries, and she is best poised to win them in the general.

In Ohio, no one who has not won Ohio has not won the presidential election. She won that contest very handily. And I think she's best poised to bring Ohio in the Democratic column come this November, as well as Latino voters across the country, who are a very significant part of this electorate that will be up for grabs.

(CROSSTALK)

C. BROWN: All right.

Let me let Senator McCaskill respond to your argument -- Senator? SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, I think what you have to do -- I'm from Missouri. I'm from a swing state. And let me tell you who decides elections in Missouri in November. Independent voters.

They decide whether they're going to vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate. And, by the way, we have picked the winning president in every election but one for 100 years.

We had an open primary, an open process, and Barack Obama won narrowly on the strength of the independent voters. And that's what we need to look at. He has played by the rules. He's kept his head down and inspired a nation. And in the process, he's won the most primaries and the most delegates. And if he continues to do that, I think our party will do the right thing and embrace him as our nominee in Denver.

C. BROWN: But you have certainly no guarantee, Senator McCaskill, that that's the case. You know the rules. And the rules are that superdelegates can vote however they choose.

MCCASKILL: Well, I think that's true. But I have confidence in our superdelegates.

I believe, if Senator Obama continues to dominate with the independent voter, which we all understand we have to have in November to beat John McCain, if he represents the kind of change that this country is looking for, and if he has the most delegates after millions of people have participated, I have confidence our superdelegates will do the right thing and pick a leader who is ready on day one to be a strong and confident chief executive.

C. BROWN: Let me change the subject a little bit, Senator McCaskill, and ask you about what Senator Obama had to say today, which is basically that he intends to turn up the heat on Senator Clinton. Where do you all believe that she is most vulnerable?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think he is only I think intent upon showing that he's not going to be pushed around unfairly. He is not going to have his record misinterpreted or skewed or frankly spinned in a political way.

He's going to say, wait a minute, wait a minute. I am proud of the transparency and the ethics reform I have done. I'm proud of the way that we have run this campaign.

And, by the way, if you're going to do that, I have got to stand up and say some of those same criticisms about you. And I think that's fair, especially if you look at the way the campaign was conducted over the last few days before the primary on Tuesday.

C. BROWN: Senator Menendez, let me turn to you.

She certainly had a great night. I wouldn't take that away from you. But what do you do now to continue the momentum, especially given the fact that the next couple of states we're looking at prior to Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Wyoming, are states where Barack Obama is currently favored?

MENENDEZ: Well, we're going to compete in all of those states. And we're going to move on to -- we're going to take those states first. We're going to compete in them. We're going to move on to Pennsylvania, where Governor Rendell is strongly supportive of Senator Clinton, where the demographics that we saw in many of the states -- yesterday's election are going to play to Senator Clinton's strength in terms of national security, be a commander in chief on day one, in terms of being a good steward of this economy and moving in a direction that works for working families.

And we think as this campaign moves forward, time is on our side. The reality is, is now there's a thorough vetting going on of Senator Obama. There has already been a thorough vetting of Senator Clinton. And I think that the reality is, is voters will have a sharper contrast as they move forward in these elections. And certainly, as we see the results of the elections and the demographics that came out of those elections, we know what's headed towards the next series of contests. And we think we stand in a great position in that respect.

(CROSSTALK)

C. BROWN: Senator Menendez and Senator McCaskill, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being with us.

MENENDEZ: Good to be with you.

MCCASKILL: You bet. Thank you.

C. BROWN: And a quick break ahead.

But when we come back, there is no question about who will be the Republican nominee. But will the endorsement John McCain picked up today help or hurt?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: If my showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I'm against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. BROWN: Get used to this picture. You're probably going to be seeing it a lot between now and November. But who does it help?

And we haven't finished with the Democrat superdelegate math. You will want to hear from one major Democratic player who is joining me in a little bit, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

And what exactly is going to on here? We're going to explain right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: Well, this isn't your typical Washington song and dance. This is President Bush before John McCain's arrival at the White House today. He was amusing himself and amusing the reporters with a few dance steps and a little shuffling around. Later, the president gave McCain his official and enthusiastic endorsement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: A while back, I don't think many people would have thought that John McCain would be here as the nominee of the Republican Party. He's going to be the president who will bring determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt.

And I could help raising money. And if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I will be glad to show up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. BROWN: CNN's Dana Bash is joining us now from Washington.

And, Dana, we all know that John McCain, President Bush were once bitter rivals. Given that, you were there today. What was the feel? What was the mood in the Rose Garden?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Campbell, you know this, that over the past eight years, their rivalry has really changed to kind of a pragmatic partnership and I think even more so over the past four years.

And I think genuinely they're over that rivalry. But what really struck me, first of all, I spent a lot of time with Senator McCain. He seemed a little bit shell-shocked in that Rose Garden today. Perhaps, in some ways, he was trying to be respectful and kind of quiet, respectful of the president and the praise he was heaping on him.

But also it was kind of like he had a pinch-me moment, like, is this really actually happening? Am I standing here?

And it was almost like a surreal quality. You could sense that from him. And as for the president, Campbell, you know this. You have covered George W. Bush. He loves this game. So, he was like a political animal just finally let out of his cage. He was spirited. He was energetic. It was almost like he was waiting to say all of these things about this race.

And he just touched on them here in the Rose Garden. It's clear he's going to be very, very engaged or at least wants to be very engaged in this process and in this story that is absolutely, absolutely fascinating.

C. BROWN: And maybe a little bit happy on some level to hand off the baton. He did seem exuberant today.

BASH: Oh, yes, exactly.

C. BROWN: But let me ask you also, how much does McCain really need him? We know what his poll numbers are. He has the potential to be a real liability in many ways.

BASH: He does. You know, here's what McCain advisers say. They say they need him for a couple of reasons, first of all, money. He is an unbelievable fund-raiser. And the McCain campaign is still incredibly strapped for cash. So, they are hoping that he can get out there and start raising money as soon as possible.

The other thing is we have been talking for so long about this idea of McCain needing to reach out to the base, the base that really is not -- they don't trust him. They're distrustful of him. Well, George Bush is still very, very popular in the base. So, they hope that helps.

But the reality is, as you said, Bush is very -- is not popular right now in the country. And it was almost as if, Campbell, George Bush got that today. He understands that he is a liability.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: If my showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I'm against him and it helps him, either way, I want him to win.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: You know, look, this is the same age-old question that every president has had to answer, and there's an appropriate amount of campaigning for me to do.

But they're not going to be voting for me. But I'm going to find ample time to help. And I can help raising money. And if he wants my pretty face standing by his side at one of these rallies, I will be glad to show up. But they're going to be looking at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, he's trying to make the case, it's not about me, it's about him. Really, it's clear that he may not like it, but he understands the politics of the moment, that he is a bit of a liability.

And what's also interesting, Campbell, in talking to McCain advisers, they say that they want him to get out, they want him to campaign for the senator, but don't really look for the two of them to be together very much on the same podium at the same event. We will see if that happens -- Campbell.

C. BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us from Washington tonight -- Dana, thanks much.

BASH: Thank you.

C. BROWN: So, what does all this mean? Will the president's endorsement help or hurt? We're going to turn that all over to tonight's panel. We have got CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who is with me here in New York, in Washington, Michelle Cottle. She's the senior editor of "The New Republic." And also in Washington is Kevin Madden. And he was Mitt Romney's national press secretary. He's now supporting John McCain.

Welcome to everybody.

And, Kevin, let me start with you.

We heard John McCain today say that he was I think I read -- quote -- "honored and humbled" by the endorsement and by having President Bush at his side. Does he mean it?

KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Oh, sure. I think, you know, Dana made a good point earlier when you guys were speaking about the need to consolidate the base right now in the Republican Party. And the president is very popular with the base.

And if you're looking at the national security issues that are going to dominate this election, I expect that Senator McCain is going to be able to run on a very firm national security posture. And he's going to be able to look toward the president to raise the money and help him make that case on national security against a Democrat world view which has always been fundamentally queasy on issues like national security.

C. BROWN: And, Michelle, how would you use President Bush? Is it mostly for fund-raising? Or would you have him there standing at your side at events?

MICHELLE COTTLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, I think it depends on who the crowd is at the event. As you point out, he's great with the base. Those national numbers aren't that hot.

But with the people who already are a little queasy about John McCain as their nominee, Bush would be a great endorsement. And then it all does come down to money, money, money. The Democrats are raising the like crazy, and McCain needs it. So, Bush can really help in that department.

C. BROWN: And, Jeff, Michelle touched on this. John McCain still does have a conservative problem. Does Bush help him with that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: He helps him a little, but, overall, John McCain views him as a liability. And we know that already, because you just listen to John McCain on the stump. What does he say? I'm from the party of Reagan. I'm from the party of Lincoln. He never mentions George Bush on the stand.

C. BROWN: No, I don't that name has come up at all.

TOOBIN: No. And remember he's only talking to Republican audiences.

C. BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: So, he's going to be dealing with people who really dislike Bush in the fall. So, I think this is a major liability for John McCain. And, if you put aside the money issue, George W. Bush is a tremendous albatross.

C. BROWN: Kevin?

MADDEN: Yes, well, look, to Jeffrey's point, every single contest, every single election is fundamentally at its core a contest between individuals. So, John McCain is actually going to be able to make this campaign a choice between him and the Democrat, whoever that would be. And they're going to have fundamental different world views on the direction they take this country, whether it's national security or the economy.

So, the most important thing that the McCain campaign is going to do, if they're going to be successful in this campaign in a general election, is make it a choice about -- between John McCain and the Democrat world view. If it's a referendum, like the Democrats will try and make it, then it will be much more of a challenge.

But I think that, fundamentally, voters don't look at a referendum from somebody who was in office the last eight years, but, instead, they look at this as a contest between those two individuals.

C. BROWN: OK.

TOOBIN: Certainly, that's the plan. But, already, both Democrats are saying, John McCain is running for George Bush's third term. So, they're trying to make this a referendum on Bush.

C. BROWN: It's going to be part of the argument.

Michelle, I will get to you when we come back.

And as wonderful as the pageantry is of a White House endorsement, it's still the undecided race that everyone is talking about. So, we're going to deal with that when we come back, turning our attention back to Democrats.

Is a Clinton/Obama or an Obama/Clinton ticket really the dream ticket that some Democrats say it is? Is either one even possible?

Plus, how the voters in Ohio may help us read the minds of Democrats in the all-important state next door, Pennsylvania.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: So a bit of breaking news tonight suggests it is going to continue to be a bumpy ride on the way to the Democratic nomination. Let's hear from our panel again.

Here in the studio with me, CNN analyst Jeff Toobin. And in Washington, senior editor of "The New Republic," Michelle Cottle. And former Mitt Romney national press secretary, Kevin Madden, who is now supporting John McCain, we should say.

So, guys, let's talk about what's going on with Florida and Michigan. Here's the story. Basically, the governors in both states have said that they want their delegates seated. They want them participating in the nomination process. Tonight, Democratic members of Michigan and Florida Congressional delegations are meeting at the Capitol to try to thrash out ideas for how to resolve this problem.

Jeff, let me go to you. What does this really mean? I mean, Hillary Clinton wants this to happen but sort of on her terms. What could play out here?

TOOBIN: Well, what Howard Dean released is a statement, and he said, look, the current status quo is they have zero delegates. But if you want to come to me with a proposal for a new election or a new caucus, I'll consider it. So what that means is a big new chunk of delegates in Florida and Michigan could be up for grabs.

In caucuses, that could help Hillary Clinton catch up. She's behind. Those states look like they're pretty good for her. So I think this whole possibility is something that the Clinton campaign is going to want to have happen.

C. BROWN: Michelle, what's your take on this?

COTTLE: Well, I don't think it's very surprising that we saw Governor Crist on TV talking about how Florida delegates should definitely get their chance at being seated. I mean, the Republicans want to have this extended and have this hashed out and have us, you know, have us watching the Democrats savaging each other in these states again.

So I think definitely there's going to be a lot of talk about, you know, kind of where to go from here. But, you know, that said, they do need to get this worked out because it's going to be an issue the tighter the race gets. And we don't want to see this kind of waiting until the convention rolls around and then have them shrug their shoulders and go -- ahh.

C. BROWN: So is it possible that -- I guess my real question is, is Howard Dean going to be able to take whatever plan there is and sort of work together with everyone else? He doesn't exactly get along with many of the establishment Democrats in the party or many of Hillary Clinton's supporters. Are they going to be able to resolve this in some way? Kevin, what do you think?

MADDEN: Well, I hope not. From the Republican standpoint, Campbell, we're going to sit here --

C. BROWN: Fair answer.

MADDEN: Yes, we're going to sit here and we're going to sit on the curb and clap as the parade goes by. More lawyers, more guns, more money. And this is going to be -- this is actually going to draw it out. It's going to have a lot of internecine warfare within the Democrat Party. And that will give John McCain all the time he needs and the Republicans need to build the organizations in the states and to raise more money. So this is perfect for us, and it's exactly what many Republicans predicted would happen with the Democrat calendar.

TOOBIN: But you know, I think Dean recognizes that the current status quo is unacceptable. Two huge and important states, Michigan and Florida, have no say in the Democratic nomination. That's absurd. How to get them back into the process in a way that's fair to both Obama and Clinton is what they're struggling with now, and I think it's possible.

C. BROWN: And, Michelle, I don't think we've heard from the Obama campaign about this yet. But is he likely to not be supportive given certainly Clinton's strength in Florida, at least?

COTTLE: Well, I think what they will do is they will make it very clear that everybody has to agree on a way that is fair. I mean, what they don't want is you don't want the spectacle of somebody just saying, oh, we're going to go ahead and seat the delegates that were picked from the last primaries even though they weren't supposed to count. That's going to smack too much of, you know, insiders deciding that they're going to, you know, rig this race. And it makes it very, very, very touchy.

I think you've heard a lot of people talking about this already. You especially don't want that to happen when you're dealing with, you know, a pillar of the Democrat base, which is the black community. If they think that there has been any kind of funny business on this, then the Democrats stand to really, really get hit hard on this. It could be devastating for them if they lose that support.

TOOBIN: But Dean said that's off the table. Dean said that the primaries that took place will not be counted. But a new primary, that's fair. I mean, you know, everybody gets to vote. I don't see how black, white, anybody, could be much upset about that. I'll tell you --

C. BROWN: And you could make a case that Obama has done better in caucus states anyway. So if that's what they're suggesting at least in Michigan --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: If that's the suggestion, he might jump at that possibility.

C. BROWN: Kevin, go ahead. Sorry.

MADDEN: I think the bottom line is that the voters are going to be sitting. All they're going to be really seeing is Democrat infighting. That's going to be a real big problem for the Democrats.

I mean, if you look at the exit polls from last night, something like 60 percent of these Democratic voters in places like Texas and Ohio said that they would be upset if the other person that they didn't vote for got the nomination. So now, we're starting to see the breaking point in the Democratic Party. So the longer this hashes out and the more that voters are picking up the paper and seeing Democrats fighting over party rules, the worse it is for the Democrats, the better it is for Republicans.

C. BROWN: All right. Well, I'm sure you're happy about it. I guess that's what they're trying to do is to get it resolved.

Thanks very much to our panel, Jeff Toobin, Michelle Cottle, Kevin Madden.

We should mention that that meeting we were talking about is still going on. We'll bring you an update if we get any more information on that.

So moving on, the next big state on the Democrats' calendar is Pennsylvania on April 22nd. So what is the mood there now? The exit polls from neighboring Ohio provide some interesting clues.

After this year's record-breaking turnout, should the Democratic nomination come down to what the voters say or the superdelegates?

And OPEC says don't blame us for sky-high oil prices. So, who are they pointing fingers at?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: Welcome back.

So, imagine you're in the war rooms of Obama and the Clinton campaigns right now. Experts in both camps must be poring over yesterday's exit polls to try to figure out a winning strategy for the next primaries. And we're going to do the same thing right now with chief national correspondent John King.

And, John, I want to start with Florida and Michigan. We were just talking about it. There's a meeting going on in Capitol Hill. They're trying to figure out a plan to seat those delegates. That could change the map a lot if that happens.

KING: It could change the map enormously. And as you were just discussing with the panel, look, both the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaigns, they don't need spies in the room. They have friends in the room, and they are trying to figure out, can this happen? Should this happen? And if it happens, can it happen in a way that each campaign can agree with?

Because if you look at this map, this is our map of the Democratic race so far. The dark blue is Obama. The light blue is Senator Clinton. Now, she is on this map as having won in Florida and Michigan because this map is election data that comes in from the states. We don't control it, the states do. It's data that comes from them.

C. BROWN: Right. KING: And she won the votes, but she doesn't get any delegates. If we switch to our delegate map, which we were looking at earlier, it's a different scenario. They are blank here because the delegates don't count. So if they can come up with a new way, obviously, you know, she'd have to feel optimistic if it was another primary. She won in both states.

But Obama didn't really compete so it's hard to compare. It would not be apples and apples if they ran again. Michigan is a state like Ohio, so she might argue, but it also has an African-American population in Detroit. It would be an enormous campaign. And look, they're big states. They're expensive states --

C. BROWN: And they're talking about caucusing in Michigan, too, which tends to favor Obama.

KING: Caucusing tends to favor Obama. But this is -- this is the kind of thing they're going to haggle out. And if, you know, the Clinton or the Obama campaign doesn't like it, well guess what? The lawyers are ready.

C. BROWN: This is going to be painful. OK. Let's pretend like that's not going to happen and go back to where we were. I think, maybe, you know, --

KING: Happy democracy.

C. BROWN: Yes, happy democracy. Exactly, that's a good way -- that's a good way to call it. OK. Let's look at what's happening over the next couple of weeks in the states that we're going to be focusing on...

KING: Right.

C. BROWN: ... leading up to Pennsylvania.

KING: Quickly, it will be this coming weekend. You have the Democratic caucuses out here in Wyoming. Dick Cheney's home state.

C. BROWN: Yes.

KING: Guess what? It will be Republican in the fall. We won't be talking about the Democrats in Wyoming much longer past Saturday. Barack Obama has done very well. This is Obama's color. Look at it. He's done very well out this way where the states have tended to be caucusing.

Bill Clinton's heading out there. I think Chelsea Clinton is also heading out there. The Clinton campaign is not ceding the state, but Barack Obama is favored out there.

Look again down here. There's a reason all these states are blue. And while Mississippi, which comes next Tuesday, will likely be dark blue for Obama as well. A very high African-American percentage, one of the highest in the country, a state that will go without a doubt for Barack Obama. The question is what are the margins? Because of the proportional Democratic rules, can Hillary Clinton do well enough to come out with a decent chunk of delegates?

And then, Campbell, we'll get the bright green out of there then we go right here. And you mentioned it, it's not until the end of April. We have so long, almost two months until they fight over Pennsylvania.

And Pennsylvania is a state worth watching and a state where we can apply some lessons from Ohio. Because they're right next door,...

C. BROWN: Right.

KING: ... Hillary Clinton has done well in a neighborhood like this. And here's one thing if you're in the Obama war room, you mentioned the war room tonight, look at this. The light blue is Senator Clinton. She won hugely in all the rural counties, especially down here along the Ohio River. These are white working class voters.

C. BROWN: Right.

KING: The Obama campaign needs to learn to speak to those voters in a better way. That is one lesson he needs to apply. Here's another one. Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is, Barack Obama won the county. But, Campbell, that's not good enough.

In a place where there is a significant African-American population, like as we move over, we come off this and move back over to the state of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is over here in the corner. The city -- he has to run up the numbers in the African- American community here. There's a smaller African-American community here. He has to run them up by a much bigger margin than he did in Cleveland...

C. BROWN: Right.

KING: ... or he's in trouble.

C. BROWN: OK. Some interesting parallel. John King, always good to have you here. Thank you very much.

KING: Long way to go.

C. BROWN: All right.

Just about any way you do the math, it does add up to the superdelegates. At least theoretically picking the democratic nominee, we think, anything could happen at this stage, it seems like. But is that train wreck waiting to happen? We're going to ask former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown if he can think of a way to avoid it. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes. And, Larry, who do you have with you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, what a difference a day makes. Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island keep Clinton in it and Obama from sealing it. And we'll examine the primary picture with some Washington insiders.

Senator Bob Dole who's been at the top of the ticket and the bottom of the ticket in his career. Plus, Tony Snow, Dee Dee Myers and Ari Fleischer. Three, count them, three former White House press secretaries all in one show. All at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE." I'm excited, Campbell.

C. BROWN: I am too, Larry. Not to be missed. Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.

C. BROWN: We will see you at 9:00.

So given the way that things stand right now, it's more likely than not that the Democratic presidential nomination will be decided by those who turned out not by those, rather, who turned out for caucuses and voted in primaries. Instead, it's the superdelegates who will most probably choose the nominee.

Of the nearly 800 superdelegates, CNN estimates as of now, 199 are backing Barack Obama, 238 are committed to Hillary Clinton. So get ready for some good old fashioned back room political lobbying as both Clinton and Obama line up the rest of the superdelegates to try to cinch the nomination.

Joining me now, Willie Brown, an experienced hand at Democratic Party politics. First, as speaker of the California State Assembly, and then as mayor of San Francisco. And we should say, he has neither endorsed a candidate nor contributed to a campaign. And Edward Espinoza. And he has worked for Bill Richardson's campaign and is now an undeclared superdelegate from California.

Let me start with you, Mayor Brown.

Just talk to us generally about this concept of the superdelegates. Why the democrats came up with it. Why you think it's the route to go, that it should be up to the superdelegates to make this final decision.

WILLIE BROWN, FMR. CALIF. STATE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: The business of the superdelegates evolved over a long period of time. It was first put in place in 1984. And it was for the expressed purpose of making sure luminaries in the Democratic Party would not be required to run in caucuses or run in primaries, because many times single issues determine who shall be the person going to the convention.

It was a means by which you could put what should be the trustees of the party in place. Those who are there regularly, day in and out, year in and year out, Congress people, U.S. senators, governors, important legislative leaders, national party membership leaders...

C. BROWN: Right.

W. BROWN: ... on the national committee, as well as state chairs. That's what it's for.

C. BROWN: And do you believe they should be able to vote their conscience, as opposed to going whichever way their state goes or their district?

W. BROWN: Absolutely. The rules make it very clear. That they are delegates to the convention like any other delegate, except that they're unpledged, which means that they can use whatever standard they may wish. Hopefully it will be a standard that's in the interest of the Democratic Party.

C. BROWN: Let me bring in Mr. Espinoza.

And as you know, I just want to get your take on the position of the campaigns. Essentially Hillary Clinton agrees with Mayor Brown that the delegates should vote their conscience, whereas Barack Obama is arguing since he is ahead in terms of the number of pledged delegates, that they should go with their district or states. What do you think?

EDWARD ESPINOZA, UNDECLARED SUPERDELEGATE: Well, I think that superdelegates play an important part in the process. But that's the key is that we are part of the process. We're participants. We should not be the ultimate deciders.

So while there is a place for party activists and party leaders to participate in the nomination, I don't think it's our role to make our own decision and choose the nominee that may go against the will of the people.

C. BROWN: So --

ESPINOZA: There's a lot -- go ahead.

C. BROWN: To be clear, for example, you're from California.

ESPINOZA: Right.

C. BROWN: So Hillary Clinton won California, does that mean that you will support Hillary Clinton?

ESPINOZA: Well, now, as you mentioned at the top, I was a superdelegate for Bill Richardson a couple of months ago, and a lot has changed in this race. You know, there were 56 days between New Hampshire and Texas. And there's 51 days between Texas and Pennsylvania. We're right in the middle, and you can't predict what's going to happen.

But not only do I represent California, I represent the National Democratic Party, and I prefer to support the will of the voters. If that's Hillary, it's Hillary. If it's Barack Obama, then it's Barack Obama. Ideally, we have a green ticket --

(CROSSTALK)

C. BROWN: So just to be clear because I'm not quite clear on your position. Are you telling me that we're going to let this play out to whichever point it does? If they finish out the rest of the primaries, and whoever wins the popular vote, and at that point has the most pledged delegates, that's who you would support?

ESPINOZA: Well, I think at this point the superdelegates should stay out of it and let the primaries run their course. There's no way we can predict what's going to happen over the next 50 days. Now, we go through these scenario generators.

John King's got his giant iPhone where he does all the maps and such. The truth is we don't know which way it's going to go. I've stopped trying to predict what's going to happen in each election each day. There's a long road in front of us.

C. BROWN: Right.

ESPINOZA: All the supers who have endorsed up until now, that's one thing. But for them to get involved in a race that's closer than two coats of paint, I think it's best to let the states participate...

C. BROWN: And -- OK.

ESPINOZA: ... and let it run its course.

C. BROWN: Mayor Brown, let me go back to you. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, has essentially said the same thing. That superdelegates should stay out of it for now and let this process play itself out. Do you agree?

W. BROWN: It is not a matter of whether superdelegates get in or out. Let me tell you, politicians are weird people. I'm one of them. We always say what we think is in our best interest at that moment, and that's exactly what this young man is saying on television. He is telling you. And he won't answer the question, are you for the will of the people in California determining how the California superdelegates vote?

If you're for the will of the people, it's got to be the will of the people in your state. He's opting out to say the will of the national. That doesn't make any sense. When we as a party put together superdelegates, we said, you are an unpledged delegate. You can make your decision based upon whatever you believe to be in the best interest of the party.

(CROSSTALK)

ESPINOZA: You know what? What doesn't make sense -- what doesn't make sense is that superdelegates represent 20 percent of all delegates needed to begin with. So if we're going to pick and choose what makes sense, let's say that we're a 50-state party and not a one by one state party, and go with the will of the people at the polls. C. BROWN: OK. We've got to end it there, gentlemen. A debate I wish could go on much further and we may have again. Thank you very much for your time, Mayor Willie Brown and Edward Espinoza. Appreciate it.

W. BROWN: Thank you.

ESPINOZA: Thank you.

C. BROWN: Coming up next, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with a lot more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: Oil versus ethanol. It's the stuff of "Raw Politics," and here now is our Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some crude talk from President Bush. He is pushing OPEC for more oil.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): He says soaring gas prices are hurting the economy, and he's talking up alternative fuels like ethanol.

BUSH: I'd rather have our corn farmers growing energy than relying upon some nation overseas that may not like us.

FOREMAN: OPEC says oil speculators, not supply, are behind high prices and production will not increase. If the American economy is hurting, OPEC says it's not their fault.

Congratulations to Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. Both beat primary opponents last night who wanted their Congressional seats. Paul is still in the presidential race. A little something to fall back on in case that Congress gig does not work out.

And President Bush and his vice president better watch it in Vermont, where two small towns have voted to indict them for violating the constitution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Police are supposed to arrest the pair on sight. But town officials admit they don't really have that kind of muscle. That's "Raw Politics."

C. BROWN: Our very own Tom Foreman. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

C. BROWN: Remember, for the latest political news any time, you can check out the political ticker at CNNpolitics.com. That is it for us tonight.

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