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Clinton Trounces Obama: Obama Still Leads in Delegates; Clinton: 'Dream Ticket' With Obama Possible; President Bush Endorses John McCain

Aired March 5, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, excitement and tension building. Hillary Clinton snatches momentum from Barack Obama, but he could claim a partial victory as we await more voting results in Texas. They're coming in.
John McCain is eager to battle whichever Democratic candidate ultimately prevails. He sealed his delegate deal. Now he stands with President Bush. Both of them essentially telling Democrats, bring it on.

Where will all the twists and turns turn to next? You're going to find out what prospects and pitfalls could lie in the immediate road ahead.

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

There's fresh drama and an element of suspense between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton had bragging rights after winning three of the four states. One is Texas, but Texas also held a primary and a caucus, and the results of those caucuses are unclear right now.

Sixty-seven delegates are at stake in the caucuses. The vote counting continuing. But there's no doubt about Clinton's primary wins.

In Texas, she edged out Obama by three points. In Ohio, 10 points. And Clinton trounced Obama in Rhode Island, serving him an 18 point defeat. Obama did win Vermont by a very wide margin of 20 points, and he does lead the overall delegate count.

CNN reporters are covering every angle of this exciting race.

In Texas, we have Jessica Yellin and Suzanne Malveaux. Mary Snow is in Arkansas. Candy Crowley, Brian Todd and Bill Schneider, they are all in Washington. Here in New York, Deborah Feyerick and John King.

Let's begin with Jessica Yellin. She's in San Antonio.

Jessica, how's the Obama camp reacting to Hillary Clinton's victories?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I talked to Barack Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, today, and he maintains that Clinton won Texas and Ohio basically by going negative. His term, the Clintons went for a "search and destroy" tactic, but he insists that he's confident Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee in the end.


YELLIN (voice over): This much is clear...

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you.

YELLIN: ... the race is far from over.

CLINTON: We're going forward here. This is a close, close contest.

YELLIN: Senator Obama is portraying yesterday's results as a wash...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We end up emerging with essentially the same delegate count that we had going in.

YELLIN: ... and a reflection of a Clinton campaign grown desperate.

OBAMA: There's no doubt that she went very negative over the last week. She's yet to cite what experience in fact prepares her for that 3:00 a.m. phone call.

YELLIN: Today, Obama is taking a page from the Clinton playbook, prodding the media to turn its lens back on his opponent.

OBAMA: Many of you in the press corps have been persuaded that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me. And so, you know, complaining about the rest (ph) apparently worked.

YELLIN: His senior advisor saying, "The vetting of Hillary Clinton has yet to begin," and pointing out she has not released her 2006 tax returns, the donor list to the Clinton Library, or her papers as first lady, though those years in the White House are the basis of her argument about experience.

Now both campaigns are primed for a long fight. So far, Obama has won 28 primaries and caucuses. Clinton, 16, including most of the biggest states.

Next up, Wyoming and Mississippi. Then it's on to Pennsylvania, which could end the race, or maybe not.


YELLIN: Now, Clinton -- Senator Clinton's communications director, Harold Wolfson, responds to these charges from the Obama campaign saying that Senator Clinton's tax returns have been in the public domain for years, and her most recent tax returns will be released sometime after April 15th. And he, in turn, is calling on the Obama campaign to release more information about Barack Obama's relationship with that former donor who is now charged with corruption, Tony Rezko.

So, Wolf, this race is growing increasingly personal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I suspect that will only escalate. Jessica, thank you very much.

Let's take a closer look at the race where it really counts. That would be the delegates.

Barack Obama right now has 1,520 delegates by our estimate. He won 137 of them in yesterday's primaries. Hillary Clinton has a total of 1,424 delegates. She picked up 155 yesterday. There are a few dozen delegates yet to be allocated from yesterday's four contests.

With the race between Clinton and Obama razor thin, many people want to know if either candidate is wondering if you can't beat them, should you join them? The question was put to Hillary Clinton today.

She was asked if she would consider being part of what Democrats call a dream ticket of her and Obama. Listen to her very interesting response.


CLINTON: That may, you know, be where this is headed, but, of course, we have to decide who's on the top of the ticket. And I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me.


BLITZER: Let's go to Candy Crowley, our senior political correspondent. She's watching this story for us.

What do you make of this -- the response she gave to that question about the so-called dream team or the dream ticket?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you have been in those audiences in those arenas, Wolf, when they're debating, and the dream team ticket is brought up and the Democrats all go wild. They think this would be really wonderful.

The problem is that when Hillary Clinton brings this up, there's some strategy behind it. She knows that when people are wavering, that the real soft spot for Obama has been the experience thing.

So if she can indicate in some way that perhaps there would be this dream team, then she gives those voters an out. Oh, if we can have them both, won't that be great, let's vote for Clinton. So there's some strategy there.

You know, it is so hard for me to believe at this point that there would be a Clinton/Obama ticket or an Obama/Clinton ticket for a variety of reasons. But honestly, Wolf, as you know, we've done a lot of assumptions here in this campaign so far, so you know, it's possible. I just think it's unlikely.

BLITZER: Stranger things, though, as you point out, have happened, indeed, Candy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Let's talk a little bit about the delegate count right now. There are some suggestions that as far as the pledge delegates, as opposed to the superdelegates, neither of these two candidates is going to reach that magic number of 2,025.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And that's why they are both arguing their really opening positions. And that is, Barack Obama says, boy, the person with the most pledged delegates, regardless of how razor thin that margin is, the person with the most pledged delegates -- and those are the delegates elected by the voters -- ought to get the superdelegates.

Whereas the Clinton campaign says, listen, these superdelegates were put out there so that they could do what's best for the party, and that's why for the next six weeks, you are going to hear a lot from the Clinton campaign about electability, who is the most electable, who would be the toughest against John McCain. So you will hear all of that, because that's always aimed at the superdelegates.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

Just eight years ago, President Bush and Senator John McCain were bitter foes. Today, Mr. Bush welcomed John McCain to the White House with the kind of ceremony he accords to visiting heads of state.

Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She's back in Washington for us watching this.

This endorsement for McCain, is it really good news for McCain or could it actually backfire?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you can imagine, that depends on who you ask. And remember, this is march, not late October or even early November, and things could change.

Regardless, today's event was once unthinkable. Eight years ago, as you just said, after George W. Bush crushed John McCain's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the sometimes awkward but always pragmatic political partnership they built from the bitterness of campaign 2000 came full circle today.


BASH (voice over): An early president was left to awkwardly shuffle his heels in front of the cameras. An anxious wait for John McCain. Then a formal White House greeting meant to show his respect and the changing of the GOP guard. After a private lunch, the one- time bitter rivals appeared side by side for a political blessing.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John showed incredible courage, strength of character and perseverance in order to get to this moment. And that's exactly what we need in a president, somebody who can handle the tough decisions.

BASH: Unprompted, the new presumptive Republican nominee answered a key question of his candidacy. Would he enlist the unpopular president to help? Yes.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I intend to have as much possible campaigning events and -- together as is in keeping with the president's heavy schedule. And I look forward to that opportunity.

BASH: McCain plans to use the president to raise money for what is still a cash-strapped campaign. His advisors hope Mr. Bush, still popular with the GOP base, helps rally a dispirited base around a nominee many do not trust. But Mr. Bush's approval rating with Independent voters McCain is courting is only 26 percent, and Democrats promise to use this embrace against McCain.

BUSH: It's not about me. You know, I've done my bit.

BASH: The president may not like it, but he gets it. There will be times McCain will keep his distance.

BUSH: If by showing up and endorsing him helps him, or if I'm against him and it helps him, either way I want him to win. I'm going to be in Crawford with my feet up. He's going to be sitting in there behind that desk making decisions on war and peace.


BASH: Now, McCain advisers say they hope to get the president out raising money as soon as possible, and even insist they do welcome his help making the case for staying in Iraq. But those same advisers also tell CNN not to expect the presumptive nominee to appear much side by side with Mr. Bush -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you for that.

Let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File."

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, outside of making Hillary Clinton feel better about herself, it's a bit of an open question how much progress the former first lady actually made against frontrunner Barack Obama yesterday.

Clinton says her campaign has turned a corner after last night's wins in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island. Says she's going to go all the way to the White House now. She was even on national television this morning talking about her and Obama being on the same ticket. She may be a little ahead of herself. The problem is, when it comes to the number of pledged delegates, Clinton is still almost as far behind Obama as she was before yesterday. Barring landslides in all the remaining primaries, she can't catch him. In fact, neither candidate will likely have enough delegates in the remaining primaries and caucuses to win the nomination without the help of the nearly 800 superdelegates. In other words, this could become a very, very ugly situation.

Meanwhile, the Republicans find themselves in a much different position from the unsettled Democratic race. John McCain wrapped up his deal yesterday, as you just saw, went to the White House today, picked up the endorsement from President Bush.

The Clinton wins yesterday which serve to prolong the Democratic battle are good news for the GOP, because while Obama and Clinton continue to battle each other and spend tens of millions of dollars for who knows how much longer, John McCain can look ahead to the general election, begin raising much-needed money, and start framing the race against the eventual Democratic nominee.

So here's the question: How will extending the battle for the nomination affect the Democrats' chances in November?

You can go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: I just wrote one for myself about John McCain. Our viewers can go there and read my blog as well.

CAFFERTY: What did you say about it?

BLITZER: You'll see. You'll have to go read it. I'm interested to hear what you think though.

CAFFERTY: I'll go do that right now.

BLITZER: Do that now. Jack, thanks very much.

There's a former insider who has a unique perspective on the Clintons, the former chief of staff, Leon Panetta. He's standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about the candidate, her husband, and what comes next.

Plus, could this be why the Texas results are still being counted? Our viewers show you exactly what went on in some of those caucus sites last night in Texas.

Plus, a flood in the Grand Canyon. But this one on purpose. You're going to find out how it happened, why it happened.

All that and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get some analysis now on what exactly happened last night from someone who knows the Clintons inside out. That would be the former White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta.

He's joining us now from Monterey Bay in California. A former congressman, former chief of staff, former head of the budget office. A lot of Washington experience.

You know the Clintons very well, Mr. Panetta. Tell us how this happened, because a lot of people were writing her off only days earlier. What do you think occurred?

LEON PANETTA, FMR. CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, if there's anything that the Clintons are about, it is winning. And it's really fighting to win. And I think that's what they did.

They obviously had some problems. They lost 11 primaries in a row. I think they basically got better leadership with her campaign, they used their targeting a lot better in terms of theme.

I think using the commander in chief theme was very effective for her, and I think a combination of all of those things, plus just tireless effort to go after these votes, that's what won it for them yesterday.

BLITZER: You were quoted in "The New York Observer" February 26th as saying this -- I'll read it to you -- "It seems to me like they rolled the dice on Super Tuesday thinking that would end it, and when they didn't end it, they didn't have a plan. And when it came to the caucus states, they did have a plan which was to ignore them. I think those were serious mistakes."

What happened? Did they have a midcourse correction that you saw?

PANETTA: I don't think there's any question that one of the mistakes they made was to take the caucus states for granted and just go after the big states, and the name of the game when you're running a national campaign for president is to go after the delegates. And you have to go after them wherever they're at. They should have made a good fight in all of those caucus states.

BLITZER: Because this Saturday -- this Saturday, there's a caucus in Wyoming. Should she ignore it? Because the suggestion is he does so much better in the caucuses than she does.

PANETTA: I don't think they can afford to take that for granted. You've got about 10 more primaries left. You can't just assume that you can't put up a fight.

When she shows up some place and she makes a fight for it, the reality is she picks up votes. And that's what it's all about. So I would not ignore any of these remaining states. I would go after them. She's in a close race. Nothing should be taken for granted.

BLITZER: Was her strategy in raising doubts about Barack Obama as a potential commander in chief, was that appropriate?

PANETTA: Well, you know, people are voting on the president of the United States. That person is going to be the commander in chief, and there's no question in my mind that John McCain is clearly going to make that an issue. If Barack Obama is the candidate, that's the principle issue he's going to use against Barack Obama.

So the real question is, who would be the stronger commander in chief? I think the American people have every right to look at the qualifications here and make that decision.

BLITZER: Should he take the high road and continue to talk about the lofty goals that he wants, the whole notion of change, or should he get down in the pit and fight it out with her along these tough lines going -- you know she and her campaign are talking about the Rezko investigation in Chicago, this former fundraiser for him, about some of these other aspects. Or should he -- would he be better off simply taking the high road, because he always talks about he doesn't want to get into that silly season?

PANETTA: Well, let me put it to you this way, Wolf, from a Democratic point of view. The one fear all Democrats have is that we're going to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. And if everybody keeps fighting everybody and this race gets very personal, then that will hurt.

I hope that the candidates keep this on a high level, that they talk about the issues, that they talk about what John McCain will be all about, what George Bush has been all about, that they make that the issue, and that in the end, whoever loses, loses with grace. If they do that, I think this race will have been worthwhile and the Democrats will be stronger for it.

BLITZER: And your former boss, Bill Clinton, how visible should he be right now?

PANETTA: You know, he's handled himself pretty well over the last few weeks. I think he's been very controlled. He's been obviously involved.

He's working very hard to try to help his wife out, as he should. But I think in particular, he's been much better at talking about the issues that count, and I hope they continue to use him in that way, because I think he can be very effective.

BLITZER: I hear you saying keep him -- keep him more on the sidelines, don't make him front and center, as he was going, for example, into South Carolina. Is that what I'm hearing?

PANETTA: Well, you know, he obviously is going to be involved. He cares a great deal about what happens in this race. But he himself knows that when he speaks, he's going to have to speak carefully.

BLITZER: Leon Panetta, thanks very much for joining us.

PANETTA: Thank you. BLITZER: The Democratic race as we now know is neck and neck, so just how do those delegates work? John King is standing by at the big board to explain.

Plus, OPEC says don't blame us. Why it's pointing the finger at the U.S. for those record high oil prices.

Much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Happening now, a do-over for Florida or Michigan? Those states were punished for moving up their primaries, but now their governors want the state's delegates seated. We're going to tell you what they're doing to try to make that happen.

The U.S. election is drawing the attention of young voters in Iran. It's becoming a hot topic over there. We're gong to go there. We're going to tell you which American candidate is getting the seal of approval from some of these young Iranians.

Plus, the retired U.S. Marine Corps general, Anthony Zinni, he's standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll ask him about the speculation he -- he -- could be tapped as Barack Obama's potential running mate.

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

Hillary Clinton dodged a knockout blow in yesterday's primaries and reversed her losing streak to Barack Obama. So what turned things around with the voters?

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's looking at all the poll numbers, all the exit polls, all the evidence that is out there.

Bill, what are you finding?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: A two-pronged strategy: populism and toughness.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): January, New Hampshire. February, Super Tuesday. March, Texas and Ohio. Hillary Clinton, the comeback of the month kid. How did she do it? A two-part strategy. First, she expanded her populist base.

Barack Obama inspires...

OBAMA: Can we send a message to all those weary travelers beyond our shores who long to be free from fear and want that the United States of America is and always will be the last best hope on Earth? We say, we hope, we believe, yes, we can.

SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton delivers...

CLINTON: The question is not whether we can fulfill those dreams. It's whether we will. And here's our answer.


CLINTON: Yes, we will.

SCHNEIDER: In Ohio and Texas, Clinton expanded her support from constituencies that need government to deliver for them. Seniors voted 57 percent for Clinton on Super Tuesday last month. This Tuesday, her senior support grew to 67 percent in Texas, and 72 percent in economically hard-pressed Ohio.

Among non-college-educated blue-collar voters, her support rose from 58 percent to 62 percent and 65 percent. Her support grew among rural voters as well. Voters worried about their financial situation gave Clinton double-digit margins over Obama, no small group. Sixty- eight percent of voters in Texas and 77 percent in Ohio had financial problems.

She also had late momentum. Voters who decided in the last few days of the campaign voted about 60 percent for Clinton. Among voters who made up their minds earlier, the race was much closer. What did she do in the last few days? She got tough.


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


SCHNEIDER: Democrats in Texas and Ohio said Clinton was more qualified than Obama to be commander in chief. And that may have boosted her support from one of the toughest constituencies of all, white men.


SCHNEIDER: Democratic voters in Texas and Ohio were more likely to say Clinton has a clear plan to solve the country's problems than Obama. But they were more likely to say Obama inspires them about the future of the country. She delivers. He inspires -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thank you.

Before yesterday's primaries, many people, even Bill Clinton, said, if Obama won Texas and Ohio, he would likely become the party's nominee. Since that didn't happen, what happens next?

Let's get some analysis from our chief national correspondent, John King. He's watching this story for us.

On the Democratic side, they both face an uphill battle to reach that magic number of 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you might visit Maine, and they say things like, you can't get there from here. This is a hard one.


KING: I want to start with the Republican map, just to show you the difference. This is clarity, 10 contests still left to go. John McCain is across the finish line. He is assured of the Republican nomination.

Well, this, Wolf, is the Democratic map. And chaos might be the good opposite of clarity. Here is the race right now. These numbers are still subject to some change, as the Democratic caucus numbers come from Texas, still some adjusting to do. But, roughly, Barack Obama is slightly ahead of Senator Clinton. She's up here. The finish line is way out here.

So, you would think, OK, well, if Obama keeps winning, he will get there, or if Clinton keeps winning, she will get there. Well, let's game it out, Wolf. And let's just, for the sake of argument, we are going to say that Senator Clinton wins the rest. There's no reason to believe she will, but let's say she wins the rest, all of them. And, by this margin, she is winning at 55-45, narrow victories in every state.

Look what happens. She gets out here. She roughly catches up with Senator Obama at that perspective among the pledged delegates, but she doesn't make it to the finish line, which is why you hear a lot from the Obama people today saying, well, she can't win, so why doesn't she get out? Well, guess what? He can't win either.

And I am going to show you this more dramatically. By the double lines around there, I am going to give him these states 65-35. If Barack Obama won everything else -- and, again, there's no reason to believe he would win them all or win by such a big margin, 65-35, Wolf, look what happens. He's still short, which brings you to the question you have been asking for weeks and months and the big issues in this campaign. What happens to the rest of the superdelegates?

They then would be in a position to put him over the top or, if I flip the scenario, Senator Clinton would be out here. The superdelegates would be key. Or the question you will be asking Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on and on and on, and especially today, because the two governors of Florida and Michigan have said, our delegates should count.

They voted in violation of the Democratic National Committee rules. Those delegates don't count right now. If somehow a compromise is reached, that would be enough delegates to put somebody over the top. But, right now, if you look at this game, it's -- if you look at the map, and play it out either way, play the game out, Obama wins, Clinton wins, near impossible, unless one of them starts winning 70-30 or 80-20, to get to the finish line. BLITZER: And that's why they presumably came up with that whole notion years ago of superdelegates, to help in the process, to make sure that they try to get to that magic number.

KING: Nor did they anticipate they had two giant pools of delegates in two big critical states that are right now essentially outside of the rules outside of -- you can't -- they don't count.

BLITZER: Millions of people voted in those two states. And, on the Democratic side, their delegates are not going to be seated, unless something changes. And that's obviously still up in the air.

KING: So, we play this one out, and we see who's ahead at the end. And then the pressure would be for the superdelegates to decide who's ahead, but, Wolf, a long way to go. And, of course, you know, Mississippi and Wyoming coming up first, then Mississippi, and then, as Senator Clinton says, right here in Pennsylvania is the next place where she is going to try to draw a line.

BLITZER: April 22nd in Pennsylvania. See you there.

For many Democrats, the excitement that is part of a historic journey does not end. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama now eying the next state with that bonanza of delegates. We have been talking about it. It's Pennsylvania. We are going to go there.

Also, Rush Limbaugh is known for being outspoken, but something he said about Obama and Clinton being African-American and female is raising fresh eyebrows. You are going to hear what he had to say.

And it's a fight over Florida and Michigan. And it involves an earlier political punishment and a desperate attempt to right what many see as a wrong.

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


BLITZER: For Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the road remains long. The potential pitfalls are steep, each, though, determined to fight.

One place they will soon be meeting is Pennsylvania. Let's go there.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in Pittsburgh right now.

Let's get a little sense of the strategies, how they're going to deal with this critically important state, the primary there coming up April 22nd -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with the Pennsylvania primary set for April 22nd, both campaigns are just now drawing up their battle plans for places like Pittsburgh. It's a big blue-collar city that could play right into Hillary Clinton's hands.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Less than 12 hours after the ballots were counted in Ohio, Hillary Clinton's volunteers at this Pittsburgh union hall were already taking her blue-collar message from the Buckeye State to a Steel City that's showing signs of rust.

COURTNEY PELLIGRINO, CLINTON CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: I feel that people in Pennsylvania, like the people in Ohio, are looking for a hard worker. They're looking for a fighter. They're looking for someone who can really get results for the working people.

ACOSTA: Across town, team Obama is also just getting warmed up.

MARK ELLERMEYER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: What I don't get is the way Senator McCain and Senator Clinton criticize him. I'm glad to be inspired. I'm looking to be inspired.

ACOSTA: But there are still plenty of undecideds. Take Pittsburgh's 28-year-old Democratic mayor, Luke Ravenstahl. He wasn't old enough to vote for Clinton's husband in '92 or '96, but that doesn't mean he's Just another young voter leaning toward Barack Obama.

LUKE RAVENSTAHL (D), MAYOR OF PITTSBURGH: While I am a young mayor and -- and represent certainly the youth of our city, I also represent the entire population. And I need to make sure that, before I make a decision, my decision is based on what I think is going to be best for Pittsburgh.

ACOSTA: That could mean another race that turns on the economy. While three-quarters of the population is urban and could go Obama, a quarter of the work force is blue-collar, a number that may favor Clinton.

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME": Pennsylvania, on paper, is a good state for Clinton. It's a lot like Ohio demographically. Like in Pennsylvania -- in Ohio, she has the support of the very politically active governor, Ed Rendell. So, I think Obama's got his work cut out for him there. And...


ACOSTA: When it comes to gaining some delegate ground, Pennsylvania's a good bet for Hillary Clinton. There are 158 pledged delegates up for grabs here, making it a bigger prize than Ohio -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, reporting for us in Pennsylvania. We will watch that state, learn a lot more about it in the coming weeks.

Now that John McCain is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will Barack Obama face scrutiny from two sides? Is the negative campaigning having an impact? We are taking a closer look.

Plus, Rush Limbaugh speaking out about the possibility of Obama and Clinton on a joint ticket. His opinion, though, is some raising eyebrows. You're going to hear what he had to say.

That and a lot more coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Barack Obama facing some tough questions after his rival, Hillary Clinton, criticized what she called the news media's soft touch. So, how will he respond to that and more?

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us, our CNN political analyst the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's editor in chief of Cybercast News Service.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

And, Donna, I want you to look at the monitor, because we're going to put some numbers up there, show you how Barack Obama had been doing, at least until yesterday, among four groups that had been critical for Hillary Clinton. White men, you see down in New Hampshire, early January, he was at just below 40 percent., went up to a high in Wisconsin on February 19th, but then he came down in -- on March 4th in Ohio.

Same for white women. He moved up to his peak with Wisconsin, but then went down again yesterday in Ohio. Let's move on and take a look at the next group, income. People making $30,000 to $50,000 a year, he reached his peak in Maryland February 12th, but then crashed as well in Wisconsin and then Ohio, according to our exit polls.

And, finally, among the -- the last category, white women, he -- excuse me -- age 50 to 64, a key constituency for Hillary Clinton as well, he went up at -- reached his high in Maryland and Wisconsin, but you see how it dropped in Ohio.

What happened here? Why -- why was he doing so well -- he was building and building -- then, all of a sudden, in these four categories, he began to slip in mid-February?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's clear to me that he didn't close the conversation. Rather, Senator Clinton controlled the conversation. She put -- put Senator Obama on the defense.

He had to answer a number of charges, his fitness for the position of commander in chief. He had to answer his association with someone who's on trial in Chicago. He also had to talk about the fact that he had not been able to convene a hearing in Washington, D.C., on an important subcommittee.

So, I think that took a toll on Senator Obama's campaign. But, look, Senator Obama is still leading in the delegates race. It's all about the delegates. Senator Clinton now has new momentum. She has a new groove, a new sound. So, her campaign is -- is feeling this revival. Senator Obama will now have to answer these charges, fight back. And, of course, I ought to mention the 3:00 a.m. ad that also took a toll on him. I'm not concerned that he has lost some support with these key -- key groups in the Democratic Party. I'm concerned that the party sticks together and that the -- the candidates focus on the issues and not get distracted by other diversions.

BLITZER: All right.

Why do you think, Terry, he lost support among these four key categories?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, I think the short answer may have something to do with Hillary casting doubt about his credibility to be commander in chief.

Let me turn it around, Wolf, because, after Wisconsin, I went and looked at the male/female break in the vote for Clinton -- for Clinton and Senator Obama. And I saw something very interesting, which tracks with what your -- your chart showed, that Senator Clinton was doing poorly among men. In fact, in some of the states where she won, where she beat Obama, he actually was getting the majority of the male vote, and she was getting a supermajority of the female vote, and it really was the female vote that was sustaining her.

Even in her home state of New York, which she won, she only got 50 percent of the male vote. So, the ability of Senator Clinton to reach out and start to bring male voters into her camp is a very good sign for her, because that was a vote that she was weak in before. And I do believe it may have something to do with the fact that she successfully is casting doubt on Barack Obama's ability to be able to -- to answer correctly and prudently emergency questions about national security if he were president.

BRAZILE: But, you know, Senator Obama is not the only one that needs to answer that question. Senator Clinton needs to answer it as well, and Senator McCain, because -- let's be honest -- none of them have served as president of the United States. And we don't know what crisis will befall the next president, although we pray that we don't have any crisis. But, look...


BRAZILE: ... the question is -- Terry, it's a legitimate issue. And Senator Obama must answer the question. But to somehow or another assume that Senator Clinton or Senator McCain has the "right experience," we need to have a conversation.

That's what this debate is all about and the debate will be about this fall. That's why Senator Obama must answer the question and not be afraid to challenge, you know, to take on his -- his doubters.

JEFFREY: Well, I agree with you, Donna. But I think, to the degree that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have an argument in which each of them is trying to depict the other as not being credible as commander in chief, that is certainly going to help John McCain. And I think they're going to have a very difficult time in the general election trying to suggest that John McCain is not credible as commander in chief.

BLITZER: You know, Donna --

BRAZILE: But there are a lot of questions that we can ask about John McCain, but, today, let him enjoy just a couple of weeks of honeymooning.


BRAZILE: And, after we finish up the honeymooning, you know the best is yet to come.

BLITZER: I'm sure there will be plenty of tough questions for all of these candidates.

She was on the -- all the morning talk shows, all the morning shows this morning, Donna, Hillary Clinton. She was asked about the possibility of that so-called dream ticket, Clinton/Obama, Obama/Clinton. She -- you know, she was certainly open to it, assuming she is running for president, he's running for vice president.

But Rush Limbaugh picked up on it on his radio show. Listen to what he said about that possibility of the so-called dream team.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Put Hillary at the top of it. Put Hillary on top. It's a position she's familiar with.

Therefore, you have got a woman and a black first time ever on the Democrat ticket.


LIMBAUGH: They don't have a prayer.


BLITZER: Is he right, that a woman and a black serving on the Democratic ticket wouldn't have a prayer in getting elected in a general election?

BRAZILE: You know, Wolf, I'm an American. And I'm proud to be an American. But I think that comment is, as far as I can tell, a very un-American conversation, because African-Americans and women fight for this country. We have died for this country.

And to suggest, somehow or another, that we are not capable of serving this country in the capacity of commander in chief is just, in my mind, mind-boggling. So, with all due respect to Mr. Limbaugh, just wait. Let the people decide. And I guarantee you, the people will make a better decision than Rush Limbaugh.

BLITZER: Terry? JEFFREY: Well, Wolf, I'm a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. I try to tune into his show whenever I can. I did not hear his show this afternoon.

I would be interested in hearing what Rush was talking about before that comment and before and after that comment. I know, on his program, where he has an opportunity to speak for 16, 17, 20 minutes in a row sometimes, he makes very sophisticated arguments, lays out an argument that takes more than a sound bite to get across.

But, addressing the question, the substantive question of whether or not a Clinton or Obama ticket could be elected, I -- I do believe a Clinton or Obama ticket could get elected or an Obama/Clinton could get elected. I don't want that ticket elected because of their views on policy issues, which are way to the left.

And I do have questions about whether Barack Obama is qualified to be commander in chief. But I think, quite frankly, that Americans would like to see the first woman president, would like to see the first African-American president. And that is something that is working to the advantage of Clinton and Obama.

And I also think it is working out to the -- to this point -- and it may change now...

BLITZER: All right.

JEFFREY: ... that people have laid off Obama and not have scrutinized him as closely as they should precisely because we, as a nation, are enthralled with seeing the first potential -- the first viable black candidate for president emerge.


BRAZILE: Hey, Terry, no one has laid off Obama. No one has laid off of Clinton. It's just these sucker punches are just below the belt. And perhaps we should just call a time-out.

And, by the way, Terry, I just want to say, I respect what you just said about Clinton/Obama, Obama/Clinton, because, quite frankly, I'm sick and tired and disgusted that, somehow or another, women and minorities, by virtue of our gender or race, we are not qualified for the positions. But thank you. I appreciate that.

BLITZER: All right, guys, on that note, which is a positive note, let's leave it, and we will continue this conversation. Both of you will be back many times around. Thanks very much, guys, for coming in.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

JEFFREY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The two-step voting process in Texas causing problems for people late into the night. You are going to see first-hand what happened. Plus, two states that could make the difference in the Democratic race, now their two governors are getting together to take on the Democratic Party.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In today's political ticker, the results are still being tallied from last night's caucuses in Texas. The turnout was huge. And that caused huge problems.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She has been getting in a lot of I-Reports.

Abbi, what are we seeing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, big turnout, and people who hadn't experienced the caucus system before, and this is what you get.

Let's go to San Antonio, Texas. This is a suburb of San Antonio. At one caucus precinct, after hour one, people waiting. Now let me take you now to hour three. The people there still waiting for this to start, so they can sign in.

Waiting outside, Jennifer Hackworth said that no one really knew what was going on. The older people had left. The parents with kids had left. She finally got home at about a quarter to midnight, but at least that she was -- she was outside. This caucus here was happening inside. But this is a precinct that, the last time they held a caucus, had three people show up. And you can see the numbers there last night.

Heidi Rogers said that no one seemed to know the rules of what was going on. She managed to sign in for Barack Obama after an hour, but there were a couple of hundred people behind her. A spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party says, when you see turnout in these numbers, you are going to witness some problems -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

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

CAFFERTY: You know, they complain about people don't show up to vote and they don't participate in the elections. When they do turn up, the state mechanisms aren't in place to handle them. We don't know how to count the votes. What is it, 5:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday. We still don't know the total from the Texas caucuses.

BLITZER: In fairness to state of Texas, the caucuses were organized by the parties.

CAFFERTY: Well, it doesn't matter.

BLITZER: The Democratic Party. CAFFERTY: The democratic process ought to be set up so that, if people are interested enough to go vote, we can know who they voted for...

BLITZER: That is correct.

CAFFERTY: ... in a reasonable amount of time, regardless of who's in charge.

BLITZER: Totally agree.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: How will extending the battle for the nomination affect the Democrats' chances in November?

Mike in Georgia writes: "As long as it doesn't get too negative, it's actually good for the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, one of the candidates is Hillary Clinton. And going negative is the only thing she knows. If the superdelegates steal this from Barack Obama, the party will be permanently ruined."

Doug in Indiana writes: "The longer the Democrats battle, the easier it is for John McCain to redefine himself. It buys time for McCain to pander to the right, while trying to bolster his recently abandoned maverick reputation to everyone else. The Democratic voters need to get over their attention-deficit disorder and decide who our next president should be. If they don't, we'll have four more years of George Bush-lite."

Bob in Pennsylvania: "Bill/Hillary Clinton pardoned 140 convicts, drug-pushers, tax-evaders, international frauds, et cetera, during the final hours of their presidency. You people in Texas and Ohio forget about how they lied to us about a vast right-wing conspiracy, what the definition of is is, and, oh, the lost documents are right here in the living quarters. They were so unpopular when they left, Gore couldn't use them. Nobody wanted to listen to their lies again."

Albert in Missouri: "It gives them more time to slander each other, alienate each other's Democratic voters, so they stay home in November, and dig up dirt on each other to be used against them by Republicans in the general election."

And W.B. writes from Las Vegas: "I feel the same way about Hillary's wins last night as when the groundhog sees his shadow: six more weeks of misery in our future" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Some people think it's exciting. And I do. I'm among those. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: Well, but you're -- you're a political junkie. I mean, you just can't enough. I was watching you at 2:00 in the morning. You're running up and down this thing.


CAFFERTY: You're all jazzed up about --



BLITZER: Some of us love this kind of stuff.



CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.