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Obama Staff Member Makes Controversial Comments Then Resigns; McCain's New Web Ad; Gay Iranian Teen Seeks Asylum

Aired March 7, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the Obama campaign faces a major political problem after a senior adviser calls Hillary Clinton -- and I'm quoting now -- "a monster." That adviser is gone, but will the problems linger?

Stripped of their delegates for holding early primaries, Florida and Michigan voters want a do-over. But there may be no money and no time. Could that throw the Democratic convention into deadlock?

And a CNN exclusive -- they're called in when a bus is likely to get bloody. We're going to take you inside one of the most elite law enforcement units in the country.

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

It's a remark that cost the top adviser to Barack Obama her job. She called Hillary Clinton a monster. But it turns out that's not the only controversial thing she said.

Let's to go Brian Todd. He's working this story for us.

Brian, who is the former adviser, what was said, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's was Samantha Power, a well-known activist and author on world crises. Well, today, the Obama campaign had to deal with a political crises created by Miss. Power.


TODD (voice-over): Under intense pressure to stick to what he promised would be a civil tone in this race, Barack Obama quickly accepts the resignation of a high profile adviser. Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power, featured in documentaries and numerous TV interviews for her activism on Darfur, apologizes to Hillary Clinton, then resigns for the Obama campaign.

Speaking to a Scottish newspaper, Power says of Clinton, "She's a monster, too. That is on the record. She is stooping to anything."

The off the record backpedal is too late and the paper publishes it.

Senator Clinton said Obama did the right thing in distancing himself from Power, but Power is drawing fire from Clinton over remarks she made about Obama's position on Iraq. In a recent BBC interview, Power was asked about Obama's plan to get U.S. combat brigades out within 16 months of taking office.


SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER OBAMA ADVISER: He will, of course, not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a U.S. senator. He will rely upon a plan, an operations plan, that he pulls in consultation with people who are on the ground.


TODD: Power also said Obama would try to get U.S. forces out as quickly as possible and that 16 months is the best case scenario.

But for Hillary Clinton, that raises the question of whether Obama is promising one thing on troop withdrawal and planning to do another.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While Senator Obama campaigns on his plan to end the war, his top advisers tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president.

TODD: Obama's campaign says that's a false attack. On the monster remark, this context is offered by Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, who hasn't endorsed either candidate. Cutter was spokeswoman for John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: At any given time, you've got hundreds of people speaking for the campaign across the country. And they need to know what the daily talking points are, what the message is and you need to enforce discipline as much as possible. But things do happen.


TODD: Now, does this mean that as president Obama would move this quickly away from other advisers in trouble?

Well, not necessarily. One analyst says this race is so tight right now, the pressure is so intense to strike the right tone, that Obama really had no other option here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And she's also said other controversial things in that same newspaper interview, right, Brian?

TODD: She has. You've got a quote here saying that the Obama campaign messed up in Ohio. And the word she used was not messed.

Another quote from Power in that newspaper, "In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it because she knows Ohio is the only place they can win."

Now, the Obama campaign says that those remarks have no place in this campaign. They've quickly moved away from that.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian. Brian Todd reporting.

Bill Clinton stood in for his wife and an Iraq War veteran backed Barack Obama today, as the Democrats battled in the City of Brotherly Love.

Let's go to Mary Snow. She's in Philadelphia watching all of this.

Mary, the campaigns are wasting absolutely no time gearing up for the April 22nd primary in Pennsylvania.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right, Wolf. You know, President Clinton was here at this Penn State campus just a short time ago holding a rally. But Philadelphia really is going to be key for Democrats. It's the state's largest city.

It's also a place where Senator Barack Obama stands to do very well. And both campaigns scrambled in the last couple of days to get a chance to try and win the endorsement of the city's Democratic leaders.


SNOW (voice-over): A routine meeting of Philadelphia Democrats turned to a battleground in the race for the White House. Former President Bill Clinton went before 69 ward leaders seeking their political blessing for his wife's candidacy. The meeting was closed to the press.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Clinton supporter, says the president received a warm reception.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: There's still no one better delivering a message and explaining what's going on in this country.

SNOW: Those who attended say the former president stuck to issues that included the economy and health care and did not attack Senator Barack Obama. Following the president came the paratrooper, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy, also an Iraq veteran, making his case for Senator Barack Obama. With Clinton already feeling the endorsement of the city's mayor and the state's governor, Murphy is bracing for a tough fight.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: This is going to be a dog fight. But the fact that Senator Obama continues to be the underdog all over, in every state across America, has won more states, has got more volunteers, has generated enthusiasm that we have not seen in a generation.

SNOW: Congressman Bob Brady is the city's Democratic chairman. He's staying neutral. He says the committee voted not to endorse anyone for now and says the Democratic leaders remain split. REP. ROBERT BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: There are friends sitting in that room with an Obama button, sitting right next to a Clinton button. And they had some back and forth. And they're still walking out there, laughing back and forth. When you endorse somebody in this tight of an election, they may not be doing that.

SNOW: Temple University political science professor Michael Hagen says securing the endorse of the city's Democratic leaders carries weight, as winning support in Philadelphia is key to winning the state's primary.

MICHAEL HAGEN, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: It's an extremely Democratic city. It's certainly the most Democratic part of Pennsylvania.


SNOW: And there's such intense interest, Wolf, that the Democratic chairman here in Philadelphia is saying that he is now reaching out to both campaigns to have both candidates appear before Democratic leaders. Perhaps there will be an endorsement.

Also, what they're trying to do now is to secure a date for a debate, saying there's seven weeks to go. They feel that they can fit it all in and certainly the interest is there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much. Mary is watching this story in Pennsylvania.

Does the presumptive Republican nominee have a presumptive running mate in mind? Senator John McCain today was asked if he'd cross the aisle to pick a vice president.


QUESTION: John Kerry approached you in 2004 about being his running mate. Would you be open to returning the favor and considering him as your running mate?





MCCAIN: You know, a lot of times I get the same question at different town hall meetings. That's the first time I've ever gotten that question.



BLITZER: Another possibility being mentioned in the V.P. stakes is Mike Huckabee. Would John McCain turn to the man who showed the most staying power among the Republican candidates?

Huckabee himself isn't ready to hazard a guess. He's focusing on adjusting to life after the campaign trail.


MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You'll have to ask Senator McCain because that will be his choice to make. I don't have any illusions that that's going to happen. I'm not, you know, sitting by the phone waiting on that call.

I'm going on with my life. I've got a lot of things I've got to sort of out. And taking a couple of days to decompress and sort of go through a re-entry. And, you know, then I've got to figure out what am I going to do when I grow up?

And so that's the next stage of this whole process. But I'm not sitting around saying oh, boy, I think I'm going to get called, you know, to be the backup.

I don't think that's going to happen. After 14 months of non- stop campaigning and being on the trail and spending a different night in a different hotel, it's kind of weird going home to my home, seeing my three dogs two nights in a row.


BLITZER: For the latest political news any time, you can always check out our Political Ticker at The Ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. That's also where you can read my latest blog post.

Jack Cafferty once again joining us with "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What did you write about today?

BLITZER: I wrote about Hillary Clinton and mojo.

CAFFERTY: And mojo?

BLITZER: Enough said. Let the people go out there and read it. Let them comment. I'm anxious. I always love to hear what the viewers think. Hillary Clinton and mojo.

CAFFERTY: Who's mojo?

BLITZER: Mojo. Has she regained her mojo?


CAFFERTY: I'm just kidding.

One of the three remaining presidential candidates is going to have to figure out how to address the tinderbox that is Middle East, which exploded again yesterday. In Iraq, twin bombing attacks tearing through a Baghdad commercial district, killing 69 people, wounding 120 more. This was the deadliest attack in the Iraqi capital city in more than a month.

These bombings remind ordinary Iraqis that although this kind of violence has decreased, it is still a risk day to day some five years after the U.S. invasion of their country. In Israel, a gunman opened fire on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, killing eight people, including an American, and wounding nine more. It's thought this attack was planned by a group with ties to Hezbollah.

It seems to lower hopes, doesn't it, for that peace deal that President Bush is holding out for before he leaves the office. The headaches in this part of the world are many. John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will have their hands full.

Remember Afghanistan? Six years after the U.S. invasion of that country, President Hamid Karzai controls about 30 percent of the country. The tribes rule the rest of it. And Osama bin Laden is still at large.

Iran's president continues to cozy up to the Iraqis, while refusing to halt uranium enrichment and accelerating that country's nuclear program.

The Bush administration's policy in the Middle East has been nothing short of a disaster. There have been no consequences for him, of course, for all of the problems he has caused there. Instead, he will leave office and leave the Middle East and the deteriorating economy and the rest of it all for somebody else to clean up.

Here's the question: What should the next president do about the ongoing crises -- plural -- in the Middle East?

Go to, where you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A very popular blog it is, indeed. All right, Jack, thanks very much.

No one wants to pick up the tab and time may also be running out for the primary do-overs in Florida and Michigan.

Will millions of voters have no say at the Democratic convention?

And Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and John McCain -- the Republican candidate is out with a brand new ad touting leadership in tough times.

And a new movie about the life of Jesus doesn't exactly follow the gospel. It's told from a Muslim perspective and it's made in Iran. You're going to want to see this report.

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


BLITZER: The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, has a brand new Web ad out. His campaign says it's designed to highlight his leadership in "these historic and dangerous times."

Listen to this.


WINSTON CHURCHILL, FMR. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

MCCAIN: Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay stronger. Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. We're Americans. We're Americans and we will never surrender. They will.


BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about McCain's new ad and more is the former U.S. senator, the former defense secretary, William Cohen. He's president and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington.

You can see in that ad what his -- the thrust of his strategy is going to be...


BLITZER: appeal to the voters out there on national security issues.

COHEN: John McCain has been writing about this for years. He's always pointed to the importance of character and courage and he has an abundance of both. And I think this ad is going to play to that.

But in addition to his war record and such, and the fact that he endured five-and-a-half years of torture and never gave up, I think that's a very major selling point on his behalf. But the economy is still going to loom as the largest issue for him.

And so I would -- I would recommend that he take some time now to put his economic team together, that he put a proposal together that he is going to want to implement, if he should be elected, from day one, as they like to say. What's going to be his plan to help pull the country up out of the morass that we're in right now economically?

BLITZER: Because if the economy continues to deteriorate, or at least stays as it is right now, which is pretty poor for a lot of American families, a lot of them will say you know what, eight years of Republicans in the White House -- they're going to blame him, in effect. He's going to be wedded to the Bush economic problems and they're going to say give somebody else a chance.

COHEN: Well, that's one aspect of it. But, also, it will have a major impact upon his position on Iraq. To the extent that he wants to continue as long as necessary in order to defeat Al Qaeda and others in the insurgency in order to stabilize Iraq, the lower our economy goes, the harder it's going to be for him to persuade the American people to stay the course. So the people -- BLITZER: To pay $100 billion a year...

COHEN: Exactly.

BLITZER: ...if not more, $2 billion a week, when the other side will be saying, you know what, we could use that money for health care, for education, for housing, for a lot of other things to fix right here in the United States, as opposed to trying to help the people of Iraq.

COHEN: Exactly right. And in addition to getting his economic team together and maybe his cabinet -- at least proposed cabinet, in his own mind, I think what he has to do is to make a tour of the region in the Gulf states and to say that we need your help. We need your help financially. We need your help from a security point of view. Because otherwise, it's going to be difficult for me as leader to persuade the American people to stay the course.

If we don't stay the course, this is the impact upon you. So now is the time for you to help out, because our economy is going south for the time being. We can't afford to have this kind of price in oil at $104 a barrel and spend $100 or $200 billion a year going into Iraq and into Afghanistan. The two -- the transfer of wealth is going to play very heavily against John McCain's campaign if that's going to be the case.

BLITZER: We see the battle lines being drawn right now on these issues.

Thanks very much for coming in.

COHEN: It's nice to be here.

BLITZER: A top Obama adviser resigns after calling Hillary Clinton a monster. But what does it say about the Obama campaign?

We're going to talk about that with two top Democratic strategists. James Carville is here. David Wilhelm is here.

Plus, an exclusive look inside an elite force -- we'll take you to the front lines of fighting crime with a special response team.

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


BLITZER: Carol Costello is off today.

Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Hi, Fred.


The record price for oil shattered again. The price of a barrel of crude hit $106.54 in trading today, before closing slightly lower. That comes as the dollar hit a new low against the euro, which some analysts say is contributing to the oil price spike.

Meantime, tornadoes in Northern Florida. Emergency officials say at least two touched down, including one near Tallahassee. Two people are dead. Several homes were destroyed and there are numerous reports of damage.

And a sweeping ruling impacting tens of thousands of home schooled children. A California appeals court says parents who teach their children at home must have a teaching credential or possibly face criminal charges. Previously, parents were only required to file paperwork establishing themselves as a private school hire a credentialed tutor or link with an established school independent study program. An estimated 166,000 students in California are home schooled.

And then take a look at this on the wide screen right there. It's a lava flow from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano. This one cut through a nearly abandoned neighborhood and has now reached the ocean. But it also cut off access to a popular viewing site.

And local officials say they expect as many as a thousand people a day to come see this latest volcanic spectacle. The crews are building a road to a new viewing site. It is a phenomenal scene via video and, of course, always in person -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing, amazing pictures.

WHITFIELD: It really is.

BLITZER: All right, Fred, thank you.

A gay teenager from Iran is waiting for the Dutch high court to answer his latest plea for asylum. He fears he'll be executed if he goes back to Iran.

Now joining us now is our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. She's watching it.

It's a pretty shocking story, Zain. What's the latest on the case and does the U.S. have a role to play here?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, two Iranians are now in Europe and both of them could be sent back to Iran and face execution, like you said, because they're gay. Mehdi Kazemi is a teenaged boy. He's only 19-years-old. And he says his boyfriend was executed by the government and now he's worried he could be killed himself if he goes back.

Kazemi is caught in limbo now. The British government rejected his asylum request. He then fled to the Netherlands and he's now looking for an asylum there.

We asked the U.S. State Department about this case today. Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey says the U.S. feels that everyone should be able to speak out, pursue their beliefs and just be who they are. He also criticized President Ahmadinejad's persecution of Iranians.


TOM CASEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I am tempted to note that in his remarks at Columbia University, President Ahmadinejad asserted that they were no gays in Iran. Maybe he meant that he's kicked them all out of the country.


VERJEE: There's also another case in Britain where an Iranian woman could be sent back to Iran. Now, her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death by stoning. So far, she's also been denied asylum by the U.K.

BLITZER: How much pressure is there in Britain on this case?

VERJEE: Well, there's been a huge public outcry. There's something like more than 60 members of Parliament who have also sent a petition to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, saying, look, you've got to reverse this decision on the teenage boy. So there is a lot of pressure, but no decision has been made.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story and you'll help us. Appreciate it.

Growing talk of redoing the primaries in Florida and Michigan; but how?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess we can go one, two, three, four. But we're going to run out of fingers and toes pretty quickly. We have no way of counting the ballots because we don't have voting machines.


BLITZER: We're going to show you the very real obstacles election officials say they're facing and why overcoming them is easier said than done.

And the uproar over name-calling -- was it a rookie mistake on the Obama campaign?

And what if the Democratic contest lasts all the way to the party convention in Denver?

We're going to show you some very serious potential fallout.

Lots more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, stocks tumble as the Labor Department reports the biggest decline in jobs in five years. News that employers cut 63,000 jobs last month badly rattled Wall Street. The Dow plunging 145 points, to its lowest level since October, 2006.

A fiery meeting of Latin American leaders over the crisis enveloping Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. It ended with a grudging agreement to end the confrontation over Colombia's cross-border attack on rebels hiding out in Ecuador.

And a violent clash in the waters near Antarctica between a Japanese whaling ship and a ship belonging to an anti-whaling group. The whalers say people on the other boat threw acid at them and the anti-whalers say they were targeted with flash grenades and shot at. Each side denies the other's claim.

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

They were stripped of their delegates as punishment for holding early primaries. Now both Florida and Michigan -- the voters there want a do-over. But there may be no money. There may not be enough time to organize it all.

Let's go to John Zarrella. He's our man in Miami. He's watching all of this unfold .

John, here's the bottom line question -- is there a way out of this mess?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line -- answer well, maybe. You know, we've spent a lot of time, Wolf, talking to the politicians and pundits the last week or so about what should be done about Florida and Michigan.

But what do the voters say? What do the people have to say? We spent time with them, as well, today. But you know what, it turns out that it doesn't matter what anybody says. At least as far as a primary in Florida goes, it may be impossible.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): What did voters in Florida and Michigan do wrong? Was it their fault the votes didn't count? At a popular breakfast spot in North Miami the talk often turns to the delegate mess in Florida and Michigan.

The consensus? There's only one way to fix it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only way to do it is to have a re-vote.

ZARRELLA: But the folks here say, not with my nickel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they want another election, let the Democratic Party pay for it. That's the bottom line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as they pay for it. It's their party. It's their club. They can do whatever they want. They shouldn't ask the taxpayers to pay for that. ZARRELLA: With Obama and Clinton raising money hand over fist, there's even this sentiment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want those delegates, let them pay for it. Let them fight it out. That would be fair.

ZARRELLA: But guess what? Even if some good Samaritan came up with the $20 million for a re-vote in Florida, it probably couldn't happen. Forgotten in all of the re-do hullabaloo, the calendar.

The Secretary of States' office says it will take 90 days from the moment someone says go to be ready for a primary. But the party's window for holding primaries closes June 10th. If you don't say go by, oh, say Monday, you don't make the window and perhaps the greatest stumbling block.

STEVE GELLER, FLORIDA STATE SENATE: I guess we can go one, two, three, four. We're going to run out of fingers and toes pretty quickly. We have no way of counting the ballots because we don't have voting machines.

ZARRELLA: Fifteen counties are changing to optical scanners with paper trails required by law to be in place by July 1st. Too late and the law that requires these new machines, it's the same one that moved the primary up to January 29th and caused all this mess.

In Michigan, the move has been toward a caucus. A deal appeared close until state Democratic Party leaders apparently baulked at the cost, eight to ten million.

MARK BREWER, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We would have to find thousands of election sites, train thousands of workers, print thousands and millions of ballots. So daunting logistical problems.

ZARRELLA: The money for the caucus would come from fundraisers, the two campaigns, and the party. Not taxpayers. That's one thing everyone agrees on. Taxpayers in the two states won't split the bill.


ZARRELLA: Now the talk here in Florida, the latest, Wolf, is a vote by mail balloting, which would cost maybe $5 million. The governor, in fact, today told the Miami Herald that if the Democratic National Committee would pay for it that he thinks the state should oversee it. The problem is the National Committee has already said they're not paying for anything -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see who blinks in this game of chicken. All right. John, thanks very much.

So far, more than 29 million Democrats have voted in the 2008 primary election. That's already almost double the voter turnout from the 2004 primaries, and there's still more contests left.

Even in Florida where Democratic voters knew their votes wouldn't count probably, more than twice as many people cast ballots on primary day, 1.7 million voted this year compared to 750,000 back in 2004.

Let's get some more now on a possible do-over for the Florida and Michigan primaries. We're joined by two top Democratic strategists. CNN contributor James Carville, who supports Hillary Clinton, and David Wilhelm, a former Clinton campaign manager, who now supports Barack Obama.

Guys, stand by for a moment.

Hillary Clinton is speaking right now. Earlier we went live and took some of Barack Obama's speech out in Wyoming. I want to listen briefly to Hillary Clinton, and then we'll discuss. Stand by.

H. CLINTON: We can start working with people again and maybe get something done that actually is good for America and the world.

Well, those problems are ones that we just can't ignore. They have to be dealt with starting on day one. Because we've got to show ourselves and the world again that we're back, that America has rolled up its sleeves, that we are serious about meeting our challenges and seizing our opportunities.

And, yes, we do have repair work to do, but we can handle that. You know I've said many times, you may have heard me say it, it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush. I think it's going to take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush.

And so here's what I'd get to work on because I have thought a lot about this. I think it is an advantage that I've been there. And I know what happens on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. I have a full term in the senate under my belt. And I was so honored when the people of New York looking at the work I had done reelected me with 67 percent.

A lot of Republicans and a lot of independents said, you know what, now, you know what they said. They said, you know she's not as bad as we heard. Come to think about it that was sort of a left- handed compliment I guess. But when you actually do things for people they can see you in a different light. When you get up every day and you work to help them, that makes a difference. And so I want to go to work on behalf of you.

You know, I've already done some work that affects people in Wyoming. Though you may not necessarily realize it, but the children's health insurance program that takes care of thousands of children right here in Wyoming ...

BLITZER: All right. Hillary Clinton speaking out in Wyoming. They've got their caucuses for the Democrats on Saturday. Mississippi coming up on Tuesday.

James Carville, I know you love Hillary Clinton. There's no doubt about that. You've worked with her. David Wilhelm once worked with the Clintons, but he now supports Barack Obama.

I want to get back to this do-over in Michigan and Florida. You heard John Zarrella's piece where here's laying out object obstacles that may not be overcome. Can the Democrats get their act together in these two states and redo the elections there?

JAMES CARVILLE, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, of course they can. I heard a guy say we don't have voting machines. How did Abraham Lincoln get elected president? You can have paper ballots. You can count them.

By the way, in terms of the funding I've talked to any number of Democratic funders, they're ready to put up serious money. Senator Obama raised $55 million this past month. Senator Clinton's raising money. Let's let these candidates get a little skin in this gain. Let's go around, raise some money and let's show the world we can do this.

I mean we're telling people all over the world to have elections and the United States of America is saying, well, we can't afford to have an election in Florida and Michigan in the most exciting, hotly contested, important presidential election probably in the history of this country. We look ridiculous.

I mean let's just get together and have the DNC put some money up, have Senator Obama put some money up, Senator Clinton's people put some money up and let's go out and raise some money. We can do this easy. Pass the paper ballots and count them.

BLITZER: All right. You're ready to accept that offer, David?

DAVID WILHELM, BARACK OBAMA SUPPORTER: I hope we can figure this thing out. What I'm glad about it that I think it sounds to me like Senator Clinton's campaign is finally getting off this notion that the illegal election, or the election that was run in contravention of party rules should not stand, and that is a very good thing.

The posture of the Barack Obama campaign is tell us what the rules are. We'll play by the rules and we'll --

CARVILLE: We'll put up $15 million. I'll guarantee $15 million and have the Obama people put up $15 million. Let's go to the polls on June 7th. I got fundraisers that are lined up ready to go.

I think the Democratic Party is going to look absolutely absurd if they don't have primaries and let these people in Florida and Michigan vote. And I tell you what. They're going to take it out on us in the general election if they don't do it.

WILHELM: You know ultimately I don't think this is up to the campaigns.

CARVILLE: Sure it is.

WILHELM: The campaigns are part of the discussion, but it's up to the people of Michigan. The state party of Michigan, the national party, the state party of Florida, and I'm sure we can all --

CARVILLE: David -- WILHELM: We all -- all we want to do is know what the rules are, play by the rules.

CARVILLE: No, the rules are these campaigns we can put on a primary. I just left Florida. Every person that I talked to in Florida wants to participate in this process.

It's been racked by this sub prime crisis and foreclosures. Look at Michigan. We have rules here. We can go and have a primary and let these people weigh in. This is the United States of America. Let people vote.

WILHELM: We have nothing to fear from a primary if that comes to it. Let's have the debate. Let's talk about the economic issues that matter.


WILHELM: I'm in total agreement.

CARVILLE: I'll pledge $15 million.

WILHELM: I'm praying and hopeful that we can figure out a way to make this happen.

CARVILLE: It's easy. Print some ballots, let's raise some money and let's get going. Tell this guy in Florida, I don't have any voting machines. Then get some people in and count. One ballot here. One ballot there. Count them. That's the way they used to do it. We can do that.

BLITZER: So basically what the challenge is 15 million he says the Clinton campaign and their supporters can raise. David, do you think the Obama campaign can raise $15 million? You have $30 million. That's more than enough to handle new primaries in both Michigan and Florida.

WILHELM: I'm not here -- I'm sitting here in Columbus, Ohio. I think this is something that can get worked out, that will get worked out. I think the state party and the national party need to come together.

I would be a little suspicious of the various attitudes of the campaigns are on this. This needs to be done in a judicious, mindful way that is fair --

BLITZER: But, David, let me interrupt because Howard Dean says he's ready to oversee new primaries in both states. He just doesn't want to pay for it.

The governors of Florida and Michigan say they're ready, but they don't want the taxpayers in those two states to pay for it. So James has just come up with a proposal whereby individual supporters of your campaign, supporters of Hillary Clinton's campaign say you know what, we'll come up with the money. We can organize this. WILHELM: I guess that would be one of the options on the table that needs to be worked out in conjunction with the national party and the state parties. You know I don't think the right place to hammer this out is on your show here today, but I think it's one of the options.

No one has - you know, the attitude of our campaign from day one has been to play by the rules, whatever the rules are. The last I heard from Senator Clinton's campaign was that they were insisting on the seating of the delegation that was not elected several months ago.

CARVILLE: Listen to what I'm saying.

WILHELM: So what are we talking about here?

CARVILLE: Listen to what I'm saying. Is it all right? A very simple thing. I've talked to people today that are ready to go. We put up $15 million. Senator Obama puts up $15 million. We go to post and we let Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan decide this thing.

We don't need a backroom negotiation. We need sunshine. We need to show the world that the Democratic Party is ready to go. And we can do this. In a country this rich, you're going to tell me that we're going to exclude people from Florida and Michigan from participating in this most important election in history?

WILHELM: I want every state to be a participant in this process and to let the process play out. We are more than happy, I am sure as a campaign, to sit down with the people of and the Democratic leadership of both states and the national party and help try to figure this thing out.

I'm thrilled -- I am thrilled if today we're finally getting off this notion that has been pressed by Senator Clinton's campaign that we would try to -- that they would try to seat the delegation that was elected contrary to the rules of the party --

CARVILLE: David, listen. I've talked to some of the biggest fundraisers that we have. They are ready to go. They don't want people in Florida who are being hit left and right by policies of administration, their mortgages are being for foreclosed, people in Michigan that have been decimated, we don't want to deny these people the right to vote or participate.

You've got $55 million. Give me $15 million, get some skin in this game and let's go to post and have a debate and talk about it.

WILHELM: Fine. Every step of the way that has been what Senator Obama's campaign has tried to do. Let's figure it out. We're not going to figure it out on the show today. That sounds like a reasonable position.

Let's go. Let's work with the leadership of the state. Let's work with the leadership of the national party and God willing we will find a solution that makes sense and can allow these votes to count in a fair.

BLITZER: David, on that very upbeat note, because I think you guys are getting close to an agreement here on a way out of what seemed to a lot of people intractable. You guys look like you're getting close to an arrangement.

The people of the -- the Democrats at least in Michigan and Florida, get ready in June after Puerto Rico for elections. It looks like you're getting close to a deal.

CARVILLE: Wolf, CNN makes enough money on these election nights. Maybe we can get CNN --

BLITZER: In the scheme of things, $30 million is not necessarily a whole lot of money to make sure that millions of Democrats in Florida and Michigan have a say at their convention in Denver.

Guys, continue to your discussion. Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to us with the deal. We'll report it. Thanks very much for that.

CARVILLE: All right.

BLITZER: James Carville and David Wilhelm, a good, good discussion.

And news right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's the scenario many Democrats fear. So what really happens if the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama goes all the way to the convention? We're going to show.

Plus you're going to find out which candidates are attracting the most voters from the other party.

Stick around. Lots more still to come right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Neither of the Democratic candidates may be able to round up enough delegates to clinch the nomination before the convention in Denver at the end of the summer.

Our special correspondent Frank Sesno takes a look at why they may be in for the long haul.

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this week Clinton and Obama and what a prolonged bitter campaign could mean. Let's start by looking some of the trends out in Texas, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and how they won in Texas.

Hillary Clinton in a big way among white women, among Latinos, and among older voters. Barack Obama split the mail male vote, but he won in a big way among African-Americans, of course, and younger voters. So they've got their troops. They've manned the barricades and now the Democrats are bracing themselves.


SESNO: What if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight to the finish, fight on through the remaining primary states, maybe all the way to the Denver convention in late August? That's certainly the way it's sounding now. After winning this week she said --

CLINTON: We're going on. We're going strong, and we're going all the way.

SESNO: But still leading in the delegate count, he said --

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are on our way to winning this nomination.

SESNO: It's not a sprint. They know that. It's a marathon. But marathons are exhausting, and they take a toll. What if this goes on for months? Voters may suffer from campaign fatigue. But this these two will keep going.

They may create their own economic stimulus package in the process. Think of all the spending on phone banks, polling, charter jets, and ads, ads, ads. According to one estimate, the two campaigns have spent more than $85 million to air some 137,000 ads through March 1st. And according to the Washington Post, Obama could spend another $10 million campaigning going into Pennsylvania.

What if past is prelude? Expect the negatives to get more negative. Clinton's 3:00 a.m. phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your vote will decide who answers that call.

SESNO: That ad sewing doubt about Obama's judgment and readiness. Maybe get a 4:00 a.m. phone call, more ads, because that last one worked. She'll hammer away at his experience and what she describes as his inconsistencies.

He'll be under intense pressure to retaliate. So what if the attacks intensify? The media will love it. It's a good story. Political junkies will stay with it. John McCain will benefit.

MCCAIN: The contest begins tonight.

SESNO: But the Democratic Party which once saw the campaign as a call to arms against an unpopular war and president will face the prospect that as history is made historic wounds and resentments.


SESNO: Because if those wounds and resentment open along race and gender lines, which is how a lot of the Clinton and Obama support breaks down, then the Democratic Party faces a nightmare scenario and they know it because African-Americans and women are pillars of the party's base which is precisely why a lot of Democrats are asking what if they were a unity ticket featuring both candidates? We're a long away way from that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno, thanks very much.

The straight talk express hits a few bumps in the road. Jeanne Moos notices that things haven't exactly gone so smoothly since John McCain became the presumptive Republican nominee.

And they are highly trained and heavily armed and they go into action when the going gets tough. We have an exclusive look at an elite law enforcement unit.

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


BLITZER: Uncovering America. We have a CNN exclusive report for you. An inside look at one of the government's most elite law enforcement unites.

Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena is here with the story -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms created a special response team to deal with the most violent criminals. They swoop in to help local law enforcement when things are looking particularly dicey. And CNN has got exclusive access.


ARENA: It's 5:00 a.m. in Baltimore, Maryland, a city that has already seen 30 homicides this year. These are the guys you call when a bust is likely to get bloody, the ATF's elite special response unit.

They're heavily armed, accompanied by negotiators, search dogs and medics just in case. Guided by the most up to date intelligence, they're traveling in an 18,000 pound armored vehicle noun as a bear cat to literally rip the bars off windows. The target, members of a violent street gang known as TTP.

GERRY ARENA, TEAM LEADER: The weaponry that these individuals possess now are far superior to what they've had in the past thereby the need for us to constantly improve our tactics, our equipment.

K. ARENA: They do it again and again. And when the dust settles, 12 alleged gang members are in custody. But it hasn't always gone this well.

Fifteen years ago the ATF was involved in one of the worst law enforcement disasters in U.S. history, the deadly assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. But agents say this is the new ATF.

Rich Mariano, who leads the five special teams, says the key is training. It's intense. About 50 percent of the agents don't make it through. RICH MARIANO, ATF SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION: What we try to address things such as children at the location, elderly relatives. There's a lot more than just going after this criminal that we take into considering.


K. ARENA: Since 2001 the teams have arrested more than 1,000 people. Most without incident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thanks very much. Kelli with that exclusive report.

They've been called Obama-cans and McCain-ocrats. But how many are really crossing party lines in the race for the White House? We're going to show you the numbers and what they mean.

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


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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What should the next president do about the ongoing crises of which there are several in the Middle East?

Jeff writes from Missouri: "Let's see. I'd say they need to 1) do what they can to calm the region in the short term, 2) get all American troops out of the Middle East, not just Iraq, because the simple fact that they are there only inflames the hatred and violence, and 3) turn our country's attention to renewable, alternative fuels."

Pardon me.

Gary writes: "Turn the international problems over to the organization that we helped create for this purpose, the U.N. They couldn't do any worse of a job than we have."

Mary in California: "Regardless of what is done, the conflict will always be with us. Their culture is thousands of years entrenched and we will never bend them to our will. The best we can hope for is non-nuclear solutions."

Leffry in Baltimore: "I think Obama has this one right. When did talking with your enemies become a bad move? We need to sit down at a table and hammer out these differences."

Ian in Canada writes: "Only one thing you can do to a fire: take away the oxygen. Cut off all aid to any Middle Eastern country, including Israel, and put a cap on import quantities, including oil, until these children pull their collective heads out of their butt and sign a peace agreement. Well, you asked."

And Mike in New Orleans writes: "Apparently the Republican nominee plans on bombing Iran and committing U.S. soldiers in Iraq for the next hundred years. That ought to fix everything" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you in a few moments.